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Archive for August, 2016

The Driverless Audi At The Racetrack

Driverless AudiWell, I guess we saw this one coming as soon as the driverless car concept started becoming more than being reserved for use by science fiction authors.  Audi has been doing some tinkering to find out if a driverless car can get faster lap times than a conventionally driver car.

For most of the designers and other boffins playing around with driverless cars (i.e. Google, Volvo and Toyota), safety is the main idea.  Human error is the main cause of car accidents, so by getting technology to do it, the human error is thus eliminated (although I’m reminded of the saying that came out in the 1980s: To err is human but if you really want to stuff things up, use a computer).  However, when Audi started modifying an Audi RS7 to make it into a driverless car, the idea was to see if a fully computerised driverless car could do it faster than a real person.

The first thing that Audi did was to put loads and loads of sensors all around the body of the car – an absolute must for any driverless car or, indeed, just about any production car worth its salt these days. (Those of you who have read Anne McCaffrey’s “The Ship Who” sci-fi novels may wonder if we really are heading towards a world where humans can mesh completely with a machine and its sensors. OK, no more speculative sidetracks…).  These ultrasound sensors on the Audi RS7 check how close the vehicle is to the side of the track and other objects, and the front camera can read road signs as well. Just for fun, they threw in an infrared camera to give the car night vision.  These sensors are designed to work in with a super-precise GPS navigation system.  Most of the navigation systems you’ll find on good cars are pretty precise and can pinpoint your location to within about 15 m – enough to get you home or to help you find the nearest public loo or café.  However, the one on the driverless RS7 is much more precise, tracking and pinpointing locations within 10 cm or 1 cm (one of the videos shown below says 1 cm; the .  Add in a mapping programme showing the road ahead that can work at really high speeds (up to 240 km/h) and the car’s ready to roll.  All this information gets fed to the central computer that controls the steering, the brakes and the throttle. And here’s the result, as demonstrated at the Hockenheim track:

This wasn’t the only public outing for the driverless Audi RS7. They also got it out to race against a human at the Ascari circuit in Spain, with the result that the driverless car beat the human:

One of the big secrets behind why this driverless car gets such good lap times is that the tracks are pre-programmed into its system. We all know that the one thing that computers do a lot better and quicker than humans is to carry out complex mathematical operations. This means that a driverless car doing laps can calculate the perfect lap line, probably with a bunch of quadratic equations (see, they are useful in real life rather than a torture inflicted on you during high school mathematics). It can also calculate the perfect time and level of braking and acceleration to get around the curves perfectly. What’s more, the car probably doesn’t have to worry about driver discomfort and the amount of G-force involved, meaning that if it needs to brake hard or swing around a corner hard, it can, even though this would feel ghastly for the human body.  And the car can adapt itself to the conditions.

It’s pretty amazing; there’s no doubt about that.  Part of me loves the idea that the effect of any momentary distractions and bad habits can be eliminated just like that.  However, there’s another part of me that’s just a little bit technophobic and doesn’t like the idea at all.  I mean, we’ve all seen how computers and other electronic equipment can throw wobblies and do what you didn’t intend them to do at awkward moments.  Take my electronic keyboard (of the musical type), for instance.  After being in storage for a month, it developed the habit of suddenly making a loud “WOP” noise at random and resetting every single tone to plain piano (including the preprogrammed drumbeats), which means that we can’t take the out to perform in public because it’s got faulty electronics that cost a bomb to fix.  Imagine if the circuitry in a driverless car failed at a critical moment – it would be a lot worse than merely embarrassing. And we all know how spell checkers, autocorrect and speech recognition software can get things badly wrong.  One clanger I’ll never forget that happened to me were when Microsoft Word decided that the British slang for gumboots, “wellies”, should really have been “willies”.  The other was when my phone decided that instead of texting my brother “Dropping off hay bales at your place,” it should have been “Dropping off gay baker at your place.”  Check out the website for worse examples.  Again, if simple things that think for themselves can get it so badly wrong, then can you imagine what would go wrong with a fully driverless car?

The other objection I have to a driverless car is that it takes all the fun out of car ownership and driving.  Remember the day when you first got your car licence and could actually be in charge rather than merely sitting in the passenger seat being driven?  Driverless cars seem to be a bit of a step backwards.  If they become really common, why bother learning to drive at all?  For that matter, if all you want on your commute is to sit back and check out your social media feed, read a book or just daydream, then why not just take public transport?

However, if they manage to iron out any electronic kinks that are the equivalents of autocorrect fails and other gremlins, then it is kind of exciting to think of a world where drunk drivers, idiots who can’t keep their eyes off their mobile phone and other distracted drivers won’t be a problem.  I know I’ve got a few bad driving habits myself that an autonomous car would probably correct.  I guess that people felt jumpy about automatic gears when they first came out; they certainly thought that the internal combustion engine was black magic when Herr Benz first developed it.

So what do other people think of the driverless car?  A great idea or a bit of a party pooper?  Would you ride in a driverless car?  Own one?  Or would you rather stay firmly in charge of things?

Is A Hybrid Vehicle Right For You?

hybridEver since Toyota came out with the landmark Prius, the first hybrid car to really capture public attention, more and more manufacturers have been coming out with hybrid engines. Everybody’s doing it, from Mercedes-Benz to Nissan (well, not quite everybody, but you know what I mean).  You might be running your eyes through the reviews we have here at Private Fleet and wondering if a hybrid will be right for you. Surely, you ask yourself, a hybrid will be cheaper to run and better for the planet.  Why shouldn’t I buy a hybrid car?

The answer to this question is yes and no.  It really depends on you and your situation, just like it does for any other vehicle.  To help you find out whether you should consider a hybrid, ask yourself the following handful of questions:

Do you live in the city or in the country?

Hybrid cars do best if they are driven around town. The stop–start style of driving and the low speeds are the moments when the electrical motors in the hybrids are designed to kick in. If you do a lot of round-the-town driving, then a hybrid engine will improve your fuel economy figures.  However, if you live out in the back blocks and/or do a lot of open road driving, the electric part doesn’t quite get the same chance to do its thing and you may get similar fuel economy figures with a regular petrol or diesel engine (of course, this depends on how you drive but that’s another story).

Are you a petrolhead?

By a petrolhead, I mean someone who likes to hear the roar of the engine and chooses vehicles based on their performance.  As hybrids tend to be quiet (electric motors are whisper-quiet) and tend to not quite have the performance flair of their petrol and diesel equivalents – although the designers are working on this one – they might not press your buttons.

How big is your family?

On the whole, hybrids tend to be smaller vehicles rather than larger ones that fit in the kids, their friends, the sports gear and the dog.  Again, this will probably change in the future, but it can be very hard to find a hybrid vehicle that has seven seats. But not impossible: you do have a choice between a Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid and a Prius V . It may be tricky finding a second-hand version if you can’t afford to buy new, especially as the Pathfinder hybrid has only recently been released.  If you’re like my sister-in-law and have six kids plus a dog, then you may need to postpone getting a hybrid.  On the other hand, if you’ve only got a couple of kids or if you can afford to buy new, then you can probably find a suitable hybrid.

Do you need to tow trailers, caravans or horse floats?

If you do a lot of towing, then the extra demand made on the engine by getting that load on the back up to speed will mean that you won’t get the main benefits of having a hybrid engine. What’s more, as mentioned above, hybrids tend to be on the smaller side and small vehicles don’t quite have the towing ability of bigger brutes (not to mention making you look a bit silly if you are a contractor or tradie).

If you are thinking about a plug-in hybrid, do you know where your nearest charging station is?

For some reason, Northern Territory doesn’t seem to be too well supplied with charging points, at least according to . However, most other main centres in Australia and a lot of minor centres have charging stations for plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles.  However, if your nearest charging station is miles out of your way, then don’t get a plug-in hybrid. If you can’t recharge it properly, you aren’t going to get the benefits of going plug-in.  Either stick to an ordinary hybrid or go for fossil fuels – or put up with the higher power bills of at-home charging (you thought your mobile phone was bad…).

Holden Racing Team Lose Out As Holden Drinks Red Bull.

Holden has confirmed its commitment to Supercars and motorsport in Australia, announcing a new three-year deal with Triple Eight Race Engineering to form the Red Bull Holden Racing Team from 2017.


Holden also announced that the next-generation Commodore will be on the Supercar grid from 2018. The new factory-backed Red Bull Holden Racing Team will develop, build, race and win with the next-generation Commodore Supercar from 2018.

This announcement also confirms that as part of Holden’s ongoing brand and business evolution, it will move to a single factory-backed race team from 2017 onwards.

Holden Chairman and Managing Director, Mark Bernhard, said he was thrilled to be confirming that Holden is committed to Australian motorsport and Supercars for the next three years, and is proud to be partnering with Red Bull and Triple Eight Race Engineering.

HRT Commodore

“Motorsport has played a significant role in Holden’s heritage and we’re proud to be carrying on that tradition with the new Red Bull Holden Racing Team, while reshaping our brand and presence in the market and in motorsport. We’re taking our company forward.

“I’d also like to thank and pay homage to Walkinshaw Racing with whom we have shared a proud history over many years,” said Mr Bernhard.

HRT logo

“We’ll also continue to help Walkinshaw wherever we can. We support every Holden team in pit lane through various avenues such as marketing support, technical support, sponsorship acquisition, even down to helping design certain race liveries. We’ll continue that with Walkinshaw and I wish them all the best. Our relationship with Walkinshaw remains strong and we are working closely on future road vehicle initiatives as part of our ongoing partnership with HSV.

“Fans around the country will see the new Red Bull Holden Racing Team on the grid from next year but I’m especially excited about our next-generation Commodore hitting the racetrack in 2018. Australia can rest assured that our next-gen Commodore will live up to the iconic nameplate, on and off the track.

“Triple Eight is the most successful team of the modern era, they are simply the best at what they do. We’re very proud to continue our partnership with them,” said Mr Bernhard.Red+Bull+Racing+Australia+V8+Supercar+Launch+nWL0v7aaGxhl

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What's Driving the Push for Ethanol Fuel?

Despite years failing to gain traction at the bowser, the NSW government recently paved the way for changes that will renew its efforts to increase the availability and uptake of E10 petrol across the state. For those unfamiliar, in 2007 the NSW government set a mandate for 6% of all fuel sold across the state to be E10.

To date however, uptake has been limited to well below 3%, as motorists shun the product in favour of premium fuels. Through laws, which are expected to come into effect from September, businesses which were previously exempt from selling ethanol-blended fuel will now be required to sell the product. It has also been announced that in 2017, $4.5m will be spent on advertising to clarify the “myths” surrounding E10.


While larger fuel businesses have long been stocking ethanol-blended fuel, small and mid-tier retailers are those who will be most affected. The Sydney Morning Herald was one of many to draw attention to the seeming inequality of the proposal, arguing smaller retailers “will be forced to spend an average of $140,000 a site to upgrade their storage tanks”, while the annual profits of such sites are only in the vicinity of $60,000.

With the product failing to make inroads within the market, why then is the government persisting and spending more to promote it? It’s hard to know the exact reasons, but reports have confirmed ethanol producer Manildra has made sizeable contributions to the Coalition party. At one stage, its representatives even met the NSW government 20 times in the space of just over a year.

Behind these dealings, the government claims the action will shore up employment within the biofuels industry. The problem however, is the lack of consideration for smaller businesses who may be required to close – up to 542 of them according to the Australian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association. And if that happens, you can bet the oil majors will be eyeing those sites, flush with the cashflow their smaller peers are ill afforded. The result? Job losses, less competition, and higher petrol prices for motorists.


Smaller businesses have made it clear, as they did the last time the government tried to phase out unleaded petrol, they won’t take the changes lying down. It has already been claimed, in the absence of any redress from the government, smaller retailers will be forced to increase petrol prices up to 8c per litre. Allowing bigger companies room to increase their own prices, consumers appear set to lose out. With this in mind, one has to question the legitimacy and true rationale behind this latest push.

Given the last effort to change these laws in NSW failed dismally, as well as the shift in consumer preferences since then towards premium grades of fuel, it’s hard to conceive how such measures will help increase sales for a fuel demonstrating minimal evidence of environmental gains, as well as no certainty it is the most fuel efficient option or guaranteed to be the cheapest once you refuel. Government initiatives should be about finding win-win solutions – this however, has the hallmarks of a lose-lose solution, save for a select few.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2016 Suzuki Vitara Turbo 2WD

2016 Suzuki Vitara Turbo 2WD profileSuzuki’s Vitara range has been given some extra spice with the addition of the 1.4 litre BoosterJet turbocharged engine. Available in AllGrip 4WD or front wheel 2WD, it also comes in a range of eye catching colours and subtle differences to the standard Vitara range. A Wheel Thing gets intimate with a fiery metallic orange and black 2WD version of the Suzuki Vitara Turbo.2016 Suzuki Vitara Turbo 2WD engineThink 1.4L engines and you’d be forgiven for thinking that there’d be less pull than oil on an iceblock. Instead there’s a surprisingly useful 220 torques from the BoosterJet powerplant, plus 103 kilowatts. You get a choice of one automatic transmission and that’s a six speed too. It’s a mostly well sorted drivetrain however there’s a couple of bumps: there is bump steer, a measure of torque steer but only if pushed, the transmission drops down gears too readily when descending hills and there is some indecision when it comes to finding a gear on upshifts on certain throttle settings.

When everything works together, it’s a smooth and linear acceleration, typical of turbo engines and the pace certain belies the engines relatively small size. However, the Vitara is not a heavy car at 1160 kilos (2WD, 1235 kg AllGrip) so it’s a fabulous torque to weight ratio. Final fuel consumption figures were 5.7 litres of 95 RON unleaded for every one hundred kilometres, from the 42 litre tank. Suzuki quotes 5.9L/100 km for the combined cycle.

From standstill and asked gently, it’ll move away quietly but there’s some hesitation. Prod a bit harder and the shifts smoothen, becoming less noticeable and the speedo dial’s travel is seen with more alacrity. The torque steer is quickly brought under control and there’s further mitigation thanks to the limpet grip of the 225/55 Continental tyres on 17 inch black painted alloys.

As a result, steering response is rapid, with a good weight and in reality, very little understeer under most driving conditions. Suspension is the tried and true combo of MacPherson struts up front and torsion beam rear. Again there’s some rear end movement on bumps and curves, but again only momentarily noticeable. But it is noticeable.2016 Suzuki Vitara Turbo 2WD frontOutside there’s minor but obvious changes to the trim compared to the “regular” Vitaras. There’s a different grille insert, with plenty of chrome and hexagonal print to the plastic but there’s no air intake in the grille. That’s left to a small slot at the base of the front bumper, allowing air to pass over the engine’s intercooler. There’s black shrouding along the sides which joins the black painted wheels and wraps around into a black and grey valance in the rear. There’s also a prominent, perhaps too overt, Turbo badge on the right side of the non powered tail gate plus parking sensors all around. The black roof is a $995 option, however Suzuki says 60% of the Vitaras coming to Australia will already have the black roof.

Inside it’s a mix of cloth and leather on the seats (driver and passenger non electric), flat and piano gloss black plastic on the dash, with noticeable upper console reflection into the windscreen, an aluminuim look plastic insert on the left side of the dash structure (which is an interchangeable option) and features the same Turbo badge as seen outside. Safety wise, there’s seven airbags included.2016 Suzuki Vitara Turbo 2WD front seatsThere’s colour coding on the air conditioning vent surrounds and clock but disappointingly Suzuki hasn’t chosen to add some extra sparkle to the dash by placing a colour LCD info screen, instead keeping the same monochrome one as seen in other Suzuki cars. There are auto headlights as a positive, as are rainsensing wipers, but only a driver’s window Auto down as a negative. Bluetooth controls on the steering wheel are tucked away at the seven o’clock position and a push button is employed for the Start/Stop.2016 Suzuki Vitara Turbo 2WD dashThere is the touchscreen though, mounted centrally in the dash, to add some extra colour appeal and has the four quarter home screen allowing a driver to easily access from the start the radio, satnav, app screen (with Apple CarPlay but not Android Auto) or Bluetooth menu. The satnav is simple to use but the audio completely blanks the radio when giving directions. The radio’s tuner is not as sensitive as some, with more noticeable dropout in some areas. I’d also like to see a proper centre console, not just the no elbow support/cup holder style.2016 Suzuki Vitara Turbo 2WD cargoRear leg and cargo space (375 litres, seats up) is fine for a four passenger setup but three in the rear would be a touch squeezy. The cargo area itself is smartly designed, with two plastic pockets bracketing the lift up shelf, which access the space saver spare. They’re just big enough for cans of liquid refreshment by the half dozen and handily stop cans of pet food rolling around too.2016 Suzuki Vitara Turbo 2WD wheelRoadwise, it’s a competent handler, with minimal body roll, sits flat on the road and is composed over mildly unsettled surfaces if going straight ahead. The Vitara Turbo has, as mentioned, that rear end skip and is also afflicted with the same, somewhat odd to feel, shorter suspension travel crash and bang and occasionally the front end felt as if the strut towers were about to fall out after coming off the larger speed reduction humps. Otherwise, a driver can expect a well sorted ride, a quiet ride and a responsive steerer.2016 Suzuki Vitara Turbo 2WD rear seatsTransmission selection for the Sports or manual mode is unusual in that there’s no left or right movement of the lever, rather a further pull back to select M, then allowing the steering column mounted paddle shifters to be employed. On the dash screen, Suzuki has elected to show, next to the ratio, a dot if the computer says it’s the right gear or an arrow for upshift. It’s different but effective.

The brakes, interestingly, seemed to have more bite once the pads had warmed up. On downhill runs on a tight and windy road, behind some gently moving traffic, the brakes were applied with just a dab on the pedal here and there. Once out of this and on a flatter road, the grip was more noticeable on the discs.

At The End Of the Drive.
Priced at $28990 plus on roads for the 2WD (and $32990 plus on roads for the AllGrip), the Vitara Turbo 2WD offers surprisingly good performance from the engine. The transmission and ride quality deduct points though, but as a package and with the fuel consumption figures being so liveable with around town, they’re minor issues.
Along with Suzuki’s three year/one hundred thousand kilometer warranty, there’s the comfort of the cabin, with supportive seating, that user friendly touchscreen and decent audio. For further details, click here: 2016 Suzuki Vitara Turbo 2WDBTW 2016private_fleet_logo

Suzuki Goes Back To The Future For The Baleno.

Suzuki has resurrected a nameplate that, in its day, managed to sell solidly. The Baleno has returned, bringing with it both a familiar yet updated look and splashes of modern technology. There’s a two model range with a GL manual and auto and the range topping GLX Turbo.Baleno GL 1

Here’s the skinny on the revamped Baleno.

Key Features including Apple Carplay, Satellite Navigation, Reversing Camera and DRLs standard across all grades.
GLX Turbo with powerful 1.0L Boosterjet turbocharged engine, with 16” Alloys, HID Headlamps, Digital Climate Control & more.
Outstanding fuel economy of only 5.1L/100km (GL Manual).Baleno GL profile

Suzuki Australia is pleased to announce that the all new Baleno is officially on sale in Australia. Suzuki’s new small hatch competitor redefines great value compact motoring in Australia, with the Baleno GL Automatic starting from just $17,990 Drive Away.

The all new Baleno small hatch features more passenger space and legroom than the smaller Swift, whilst having a large cargo area with 355 litres of boot space, similar to a Corolla hatch boot and bigger than Mazda3 hatch’s boot.Baleno GLX bootThe stylish Baleno, with flowing lines customary of small segment hatchbacks, will also be available with Suzuki’s Boosterjet turbo engine. The Baleno GLX turbo boasts a better power to weight ratio than the Corolla, whilst returning outstanding fuel economy of just 5.2L/100km.

Suzuki is continuing its position as a leader in Satellite Navigation, with every Baleno in the line up fitted with the same multimedia unit as Vitara, including Satellite Navigation and Apple CarPlay.Baleno GLX interiorSuzuki Australia General Manager Automobiles, Andrew Moore stated:
“The new Baleno provides Suzuki with a Small Hatch competitor that offers outstanding value and great styling. And with the addition of Turbo, loads of driving excitement too.”

Core to the Baleno’s development, was ensuring the vehicle was not only stylish but also spacious, with a focus on usable cabin and cargo space.. Whilst the vehicle length is just under 4m, the increase in cabin space especially when compared to Swift is considerable including 87mm of additional length from accelerator pedal to rear seat hip point (more passenger space), and 124mm from the rear hip point to the back of the vehicle, increasing boot space. Length of the front was reduced, to make the vehicle shorter overall thus easier to park.Baleno GLX profile“Baleno is amazing value at just $17,990 drive away and with its passenger and boot space should be considered by anyone looking at small hatches like Corolla or i30. And with Sat Nav, Apple Carplay and a reversing camera standard, it’s the best value on tech too.”

“Suzuki Australia Pty Ltd’s average monthly sales have grown by 19% since 2014, with the successful launch of Vitara and with Baleno I have no doubt this growth will build even further”.Baleno GLX rearIt’s keenly priced too, with Suzuki placing the GL manual at $16990, auto $17990 and the GLX turbo at $22990. These are drive away prices as well, making the Baleno a sharp entrant into an already crowded market. The features, size, room, and Suzuki’s fuel economy should make the Baleno a serious consideration. Check out the range here:
A Wheel Thing will bring you a review soon.Baleno GL interior

Private Fleet Car Review: 2016 Suzuki Swift GL Navigator

2016 Suzuki Swift Navigator night profileUnder the Suzuki banner, Swift is a nameplate that has been a staple of the brand and was, once, shared by Holden as a Barina. Allegedly, Holden had the lowest warranty return of any of their vehicles when using that car as a source…In the latter half of the “noughties” Suzuki revamped the Swift, giving it a look not dissimilar to a couple of well known smaller cars. They even released a sports version, with a (then) grunty 1.6 litre engine and a six speed manual as the only transmission option.2016 Suzuki Swift Navigator profileSince then there’s been some slight bodywork changes, such as headlights and tail lights faired back into the sheetmetal. A Wheel Thing takes on the mid spec GL Swift in 2016, called the Navigator.2016 Suzuki Swift Navigator engineUp front is a non turbo 1.4 litre engine, with 70 kilowatts at 6000 rpm and a reasonable, for the engine’s size, 130 torques at 4000 rpm. Suzuki, however, hobble it by fitting a four speed automatic (there is a five speed manual as standard) to the test car. It’s here where either a five or six speed auto OR a properly calibrated CVT would be a better option, as to get anything resembling overtaking speed requires a solid press of the go pedal. It drops from fourth to second in order to get something happening. A better spread of gears would help, one should think.

At least, like all of the Suzukis tested by A Wheel Thing, you can wave an oily rag at one and cover a fair distance. The Swift is no different, sipping 5.5 litres of 91 RON per one hundred kilometres of distance driven for a combined cycle, from a 42 litre tank in the manual and a slightly higher yet no less worthwhile 6.2 for the auto, says Suzuki. A Wheel Thing was in a mainly urban environment and saw 400 klicks at a half tank used.2016 Suzuki Swift Navigator front seatsInside it’s a mix of textured and shiny black plastic on the dash (visibly reflecting in the windscreen), cloth covered seats in a dark grey and charcoal weave, no centre console as such but a couple of bottle/cup holders, cruise and audio controls on the tiller plus Bluetooth for the phone and audio. The Navigator gts its name due to the stylish seven inch touchscreen with (surprise) satellite navigation and CD. 2016 Suzuki Swift Navigator dashIt’s intuitive to use, looks good but has a really odd programming where the warning screen you need to touch to view everything else stays on until you touch it. All. Of. The. Time. It doesn’t auto switch off, unlike other brands, to display the satnav or radio screens, for example, it’ll stay there until you turn the car off.

The dash design has a couple of built in storage spots, which are open to the cabin and have no material inside to stop items from moving around, meaning a phone or coins and so on are free to shake, rattle and roll. Underneath the touchscreen is another indentation, this being the aircon controls which are manually operated dials. One highlight here is that on full heat, the cabin gets toasty warm very quickly. Again, too, Suzuki eschew auto headlights and only the driver gets an Auto option for the power windows, being downwards only. The tiller is only adjustable for tilt, with reach being reserved for the GLX Navigator.2016 Suzuki Swift Navigator bootBoot space isn’t huge at 210 litres (seats up) and is somewhat hampered, initially, by having what first appears to be a high mounted shelf. This, though, is removable, adding some vital extra space, but then the question is where to put that removable shelf. Back seat anyone? With the seats down this increases to a more usable 533 litres. The wheelbase and 1510 mm height work together to endow the Swift with an agreeable amount of interior space for driver, front and rear passengers with just enough rear leg room for children, although adults might feel a tad cramped…

Being a small car, safety would be a consideration for buyers of the car for their children and Suzuki don’t skimp here. There’s front, side, curtain AND driver’s knee ‘bags, the suite of electronic aids such as traction and stability control, electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist and hill hold control for the automatic equipped Swifts.2016 Suzuki Swift Navigator front quarterOutside there’s nothing new for the Swift in regards to looks; no LED driving lights (it does get globe lit driving lights), head and tail lights faired into the guards (a design change a few years ago), with stylish 16 inch alloys clad in 185/55 rubber. It’s a good looking car and after ten years with the same basic design (the rear window line was also modified a few years ago), still looks good on the road.2016 Suzuki Swift Navigator rear quarterSpeaking of on the road, it’s a surprising harsh and hard ride in the Swift. There’s bang, crash, thump enough to please a Batman episode from the 1960s, such is the lack of compliance. This came as a surprise, and not a welcome one. The lack of give also contributed to the rear end skipping around on unsettled surfaces, such as broken tarmac or bumps in turns. It’s choppy and intrusive, deadening an otherwise quite reasonable handling package from the MacPherson strut front/torsion beam rear suspended car. Yet, there seemed to be more give over shopping centre speed restrictors….odd. It’s quick enough in the steering too, allowing the driver to move the 3850 mm long machine into some tight spaces, aided by the 2430 mm wheelbase, pushing the wheels to all four corners.2016 Suzuki Swift Navigator wheelAs mentioned, the four speed auto restricts performance but in normal day to day driving, it’s adequate enough. In fact, when A Wheel Thing sold Suzuki vehicles, it was the auto Swift that was most demanded by parents as a first car for their children, because it was auto and not seen as either quick nor hard to drive. It’ll respond well enough when really pushed but as an around town car, it’ll do the job if you don’t expect it to do much more. Brakes are discs up front, drums at the rear and also do a good job of pulling in the lightweight Swift. It tips the scales at just 1035 kilos (kerb weight).2016 Suzuki Swift Navigator rear seats

At The End Of The Drive.

It’s a firm favourite with younger drivers, the Suzuki Swift, thanks to its pert good looks, swag of safety features and, for parents of new drivers, the comparitive lack of urge. It happily swallows a family of four but is a bit light on for luggage space. It’s cheap to run, comes with Suzuki’s standard three year/100000 kilometre warranty and the sat nav in the mid range GL is a sweetener too. With the GL Navigator introduced to the Aussie market at a $17490 price (the Swift range starts at $15990) it’s also easy on the bank balance to buy.
For further information on the 2016 Suzuki Swift range, go here:2016 Suzuki Swift rangeBTW 2016Private Fleet Logo

Metal Beasts: Cars That Are Named After Animals

beetleWhen the marketing team for a new vehicle put their heads together, they put a lot of thought into the name. At least that’s the theory. With some marques, they stick with a system of numbers and letters that let you know some of the details about the car, such as the engine size (this is the preferred method of Mercedes-Benz and BMW).  Other manufacturers pick an actual name: a word that will stick in the memory of potential customers and possibly capture what the spirit of the vehicle is.  Often, the design team look to the animal world for images of beauty, speed and possible danger; alternatively, they give them cute, cuddly names that are likely to appeal to the more family-friendly segment of the market.

Here’s a selection of vehicles that have already been named after animals:

Cute, cuddly and pretty animals:

  • Beetle (VW) 
  • Bluebird (Nissan)
  • Rabbit (VW – in the US; it’s called a Golf )
  • Kitten (Reliant)
  • Escargot (French for “snail” (escargot) with a pun on “cargo” – Nissan)
  • Robin (Reliant)

    And on top of the other weirdness, the bonnet opens backwards.

    Reliant Robin

  • Panda (Fiat) 
  • Swift (Suzuki)

Fast animals:

  • Mustang (Ford) 
  • Impala (Chevrolet)
  • Colt (Mitsubishi) 
  • Starion (a Japanese mishearing of “Stallion” – Mitsubishi)
  • Pinto (technical term for a black and white or brown and white horse; Ford – probably about the worst vehicle they every made)
  • Marlin (AMC)
  • Stag (Triumph – although this could go in the “dangerous animals” category)
  • Falcon (Ford) 

Dangerous animals:

Ford Pinto

Ford Pinto

  • Ram (Dodge ) – some sheep aren’t just fluffy things that go baa
  • Bighorn (Isuzu )
  • Jaguar  (probably about the most successful animal name out there)
  • Spider (Alfa Romeo)
  • Viper (Dodge)
  • Cobra (Shelby)
  • Cougar (Ford, formerly Mercury)
  • Barracuda (Plymouth)
  • Stingray (Corvette)


    Corvette Stingray

  • Amarok (Inuit for “wolf” – VW)
  • Blackhawk (Jeep Cherokee – although they might have had the military helicopter in mind… which is named after the bird).
  • Thunderbird (Ford)
  • Gripen (Swedish for “griffin” or “gryphon”, a mythological cross between a lion and an eagle; Saab)
  • Golden Hawk (Studebaker)
  • Tiburon  (Spanish for “shark” – Hyundai)
  • Cayman  (variation of “caiman”, which is a small crocodile or the Spanish for crocodile/alligator –Porsche)
  • Puma (Ford)
  • Yeti (Skoda) 
  • Taurus (Latin for “bull” – Ford)

OK, so that’s cars that actually exist that are named after animals.  What are some other possibilities that could work for the cars of the future?  And what animal names definitely won’t work?

Cute and cuddly:

  • Labrador
  • Alpaca
  • Swan
  • Ladybird
  • Corgi
  • Koala
  • Dolphin
  • Racoon


  • Kestrel
  • Oryx
  • Appaloosa
  • Palomino
  • Peregrine
  • Greyhound
  • Elk (this would really suit a 4×4)
  • Saluki
  • Pegasus
  • Tiercel
  • Camel


  • Dragon (although SsangYong means “twin dragons”, so this might be already in use)
  • Alligator
  • Pitbull
  • Jararaca
  • Bear
  • Boomslang
  • Lynx – hang on, that’s men’s deodorant.
  • Orca
  • Taipan
  • Basilisk
  • Anaconda
  • Mamba
  • Komodo (as in Komodo Dragon)
  • Raptor
  • Osprey
  • Aquila
  • Mosquito (yes it’s a dangerous animal (spreads malaria) and it works for fighter planes, so why  not for cars?)

Ummm – perhaps not!

  • Hippo
  • Baboon
  • Slug
  • Dog
  • Emu
  • Cow
  • Gorilla (although this might work for a big commercial pickup – you never know)
  • Goldfish
  • Pig
  • Duck
  • Echidna
  • Whale
  • Turtle
  • Seagull
  • Bitch
  • Monkey
  • Octopus
  • Giraffe
  • Hyena
  • Platypus
  • Troll
  • Boa
  • Jellyfish

Any other suggestions for animal names that will work – or that definitely won’t? Let us know in the comments!

Red Centre Nats Continues The Street Machine Tradition

It’s said that the very first car race happened just a few minutes after the second car came off the production line. It’s also said that the first modifications to make a car go faster came just after that first race….by the driver that came second.

It wasn’t long after that when drivers began to modify their cars for looks, not just pace. And thus was street machining born. Aussie based magazine, “Street Machine” begat the now iconic Summernats, Australia’s largest street machine festival, in Canberra…that’s now given birth to an event that’s based in the centre of the country and has already been run once. September 2016 sees the return of the Red Centre Nats.

Street Machine came out of a magazine called Van Wheels in the very early 1980s. Dedicated to the then popular movement of painting and modifying the bodies of panel vans, as that movement faded and spread to non van based vehicles, the magazine morphed into Van Wheels and Street Machine before finally dropping the Van Wheels monicker.van wheels In 1987 the first Summernats was held in Canberra, and has grown to be the biggets event of its type in the country. There’s been some truly remarkable vehicles to have been anointed the Street Machine of the Year or the Street Machine Grand Champion, including Gary Myers and his 1966 Ford Mustang.

September 2015 saw the first running of the Red Centre Nats; with the solid backing of the Northern Territory government, all avenues were explored in order to provide a thoroughly enjoyable experience for the four hundred plus entrants, including special permits for the cars that would otherwise be excluded due to the non-suitability of road usage and for everyone that came along.Hot-rod-drags-Serge and David Bonetti“There was some great racing between Serge and David Bonetti, both racing ’32 coupes. Serge’s big-block powered 3-window always edged out the 5-window of nephew David, but the difference was David was running a small-block and a full exhaust. Of course, it didn’t really matter because Serge built the engine in both cars: “The big-block has been in the car for 29 years and it’s all old technology, but David’s small-block has is all new stuff.” Both were running in the low-10s all weekend, but both have run a best of 9.93 in the past. Putting the H-O-T back in hot rods, for sure!”

Events included drag racing, the ever popular burnout competition, a dyno competition and more. The inaugural winner of the Red Centre Nats Grand Champion Award went to a car that had won way back in 1993! John Curwen Walker showed up with his very tidy 48-215 (aka FX) Holden, featured in the October/November issue of Street Machine magazine in 1993. FX-Holden-John Curwen Walker“The Red Centre Nats Grand Champion award went to John Curwen Walker’s FX Holden. It was built by Ken Neilsen many moons ago and featured in the 1993 October/November issue of Street Machine back in the day! This is a car that has stood the test of time, but John doesn’t wrap the thing in cotton wool, he ran the car in the grass events and the drags while scoring a spot in the Elite Top 10.”

The Red Centre Nats is scheduled to be held over three days, for the 2nd to the 4th of September. Details on the event and how to enter can be found here: Red Centre Nats 2016

Pictures and quotes courtesy of Street Machine magazine, at Gary Nightingdale“Local Gary Nightingdale was at Red CentreNATS in his Weiland-blown SBC-powered FX Holden along with a bunch of other hot Holdens belonging to his tribe.”

Tesla Australia Releases Model X Pricing.

Tesla Model X 75DTesla recently unveiled the Model X, their fully electric SUV. There will be four models in the range: 60D, 75D, 90D and P90D. The latter is expected to offer over 460 kilometres of battery powered range, a zero to one hundred kmh time of 3.4 seconds, thanks to all wheel drive grip, and a top speed limited to 250 kmh.Tesla Model X interiorTesla Australia has released pricing for the Model X, on a state by state basis. Prices start with the recommended retail price (RRP), then include luxury car tax (LCT) and follow up with stamp duty (SD), registration costs (RC) and compulsory third party insurance (CPI).

For the Model X 60D:
Australia wide: $111900.00 RRP, with LCT $122812.20 starting price.
Victoria: $6396.00 SD + $376.00 RC + $503.00 CPI = $130087.20
New South Wales: $5425.00 + $575.00 + $623.00 = $129255.20
Queensland: $2458.00 + $366.40 + $329.60 + $125966.20
Australian Capital Territory: $0.00 + $1146.00 + No CPI + $123958.20
Northern Territory: $3687.00 + $613.85 + No CPI = $127113.05
South Australia: $4856.00 + $285.00 + $449.00 = $128402.20
Tasmania: $4916.00 + $241.03 + $338.00 = $128307.03
Western Australia: $7982.00 + $493.00 + $409.35 = $131696.55

For the Model X 75D:
Australia wide: $125000.00 RRP, with LCT $139842.00 starting price.
Victoria: $7280.00 + $376.00 + $503.00 = $148001.00
NSW: $6095.00 + $575.00 + $623.00 = $147135.00
Queensland: $2798.00 + $366.40 + $329.60 = $143336.00
ACT: $0.00 + $1146.00 + $0.00 = $140988.00
NT: $4197.00 + $613.85 + $0.00 = $144652.85
South Australia: $5536.00 + $285.00 + $449.00 = $146112.00
Tasmania: $5596.00 + $241.03 + $338.00 = $146017.03
Western Australia: $9089.73 + $493.00 + $409.35 = $149834.08Tesla Model X six seaterFor the Model X 90D
Australia wide: $143000.00 RRP, with LCT $163242.00 starting price.
Victoria: $8496.80 + $376.00 + $503.00 = $172617.80
NSW: $7265.00 + $575.00 + $623.00 = $171705.00
Queensland: $3266.00 + $366.40 + $329.60 = $167204.00
ACT: $0.00 + $1146.00 + $0.00 = $164388.00
NT: $4899.00 + $613.85 + $0.00 = $168754.85
South Australia: $6472.00 + $285.00 + $449.00 = $170448.00
Tasmania: $6532.00 + $241.03 + $338.00 = $170353.03
Western Australia: $10610.00 + $493.00 + $409.35 = $174754.35

For the Model X P90D:
Australia wide: $172100.00, with LCT $201072.00 starting price.
Victoria: $10462.40 + $376.00 + $503.00 = $212413.40
NSW: $9155.00 + $575.00 + $623.00 = $211.425.00
Queensland: $4022.00 + $366.40 + $329.60 = $205790.00
ACT: $0.00 + $1146.00 + $0.00 = $202218.00
NT: $6033.00 + $613.85 + $0.00 = $207718.85
South Australia: $7984.00 + $285.00 + $449.00 = $209790.00
Tasmania: $8044.00 + $241.03 + $338.00 = $209695.03
Western Australia: $13069.68 + $493.00 + $409.35 = $215055.03Tesla Model XWhat’s clear out of these figures is the disparity in stamp duty and registration costs charged whilst the ACT offers the overall best rates due to no stamp duty nor CPI.

Plus there’s this information from Tesla Australia:

And there are other advantages to owning a Tesla that add up over time, including:

Less maintenance – Tesla vehicles don’t require regular maintenance like oil changes or fuel filters. And our four-year/80,000 km bumper to bumper warranty and eight-year/infinite km battery and drive unit warranty come standard with Model S.

Ample charging options – for most Tesla owners, home charging provides plenty of range for daily travel, and with an NEDC estimated range of 400 plus kilometres, that’s still the case for Model S 60 and 60D. For long distance travel, there are many convenient Supercharger and Destination Charging locations throughout our network.

New features via free software updates – as with every Model S, the 60 and 60D will receive free over-the-air software updates that add functionality and continue to improve the driving experience for years to come.

To provide customers even more flexibility over time, Model S 60 and 60D owners may later choose to upgrade their vehicles to a 75kWh battery with a software update, should they want to add to their car’s battery capacity in the future.