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Archive for August, 2016

Guard Rails And Crash Barriers

Car-lamp-postOne of the hazards of losing control when travelling at speed is that you’re going to hit something. What usually springs to mind if you dare to let your imagination linger on this is hitting another vehicle. However, this isn’t the only thing that you can hit – there is a reason why they do the lamppost test while crash testing, after all. Sometimes, if you lose control and/or let your attention wander (or, in most accident cases, first letting attention wander and then losing control), you don’t end up on the other side of the road but going off the edge of it. This might be somewhat better for the people in the oncoming vehicle but it’s definitely not good news for you. In fact, according to ARRB Transportation Ltd., 30–40% of all serious and fatal crashes in Australia are caused by someone going off the road and colliding with a fixed object such as a lamppost, rock or similar.

Let’s just say that hitting a rock, lamp-post or similar in real life is nothing like hitting one in a computer game, where these obstacles simply disappear after being struck while your virtual car carries on at 200 km/h.  Need For Speed games have a lot to answer for… (though I kind of like the special Porsche edition of the game with the nice scenery).

Vehicles come with a range of systems to stop the car drifting off the side of the road.  Traction control and ABS braking help to prevent skidding. ESC (electronic stability control) kicks in to prevent oversteer or understeer. Lane departure warnings detect that you’re drifting towards the side of the road where treacherous gravel lurks (in the case of rural roads). If things do go to custard, many cars have side impact protection beams, curtain or side airbags and pretensioned seatbelts to keep you safe, while the car itself usually has crumple zones to absorb the impact.

Absorbing the impact is key in any crash. It’s the shock of impact where all the force of Object A (the vehicle) gets transferred to Object B (a lamppost), so if Object B is hard and unforgiving, Object A takes the forces and gets damaged. If Object A is also hard and tough, all that force has to go somewhere and often gets transferred to the occupants of the vehicle… and humans tend to be soft and easily broken. There are heaps of examples in everyday life where we apply the principle of absorbing impact to prevent damage. We wear shoes with nice thick soles to protect our feet when walking or running (or at least we should). We lie down on mattresses rather than bare boards. We use mats when exercising on the floor and boxing gloves if we like slightly more aggressive forms of exercise. And there’s a reason why a scrum machine is padded like heck.

Guard RailIt’s not just the cars that have to absorb impact, either. Guard rails are becoming quite a common sight around many roads in Australia, especially in high-risk areas where the amount of traffic and/or the design of the road is likely to lead to a car going off the road. You also see them in places where going off the road is going to lead to something much worse than hitting a lamppost. You can miss a lamppost if you go off the road and may end up hitting a nice forgiving bush instead. You can’t, however, miss a cliff very easily…

Guard rails and crash barriers will stop your car going off a cliff or skidding onto the wrong side of the road and into an oncoming B-train if you hit a patch of ice or oil. However, you may have spotted the wee problem looming here: if they haven’t been designed right, they become hard, rigid objects in their own right and also cause problems when you hit them.

Road designers and road safety buffs are not stupid and are aware of this problem. People around the world are thinking up ways to make guard rails and crash barriers even safer. It’s a bit of a balancing act. Make the barriers too soft and flimsy and you’ll just plough through them and end up going through into that rock or off the cliff.  Make them too hard and they’ll have the same effect as hitting a lamppost but with less chance of missing it.  Make them springy (e.g. piles of old tyres like you sometimes see at car races, or tyres strung along like very ugly Christmas tree decorations like you see on the side of docks for big ships) and you get the problem of being bounced back in the other direction far too quickly.

What the designers like to do is to make a crash barrier that’s soft enough to slow you down but tough enough to stop you going off the road… and will allow you to slide along it so that you come to rest somewhere safe (and free from lampposts). Those fences made of very thick “wires” (more like metal cables) can do the trick, but they’re pretty nasty if a motorbike hits them, so some road safety experts don’t like them much. W-beams are “semi-rigid” structures that tend to the job a lot better.

However, there’s more to guardrails and crash barriers than just the actual barrier itself. The post the rail is attached to plays a role, as do the bolts holding the rails to the posts. The soil that the post is stuck into also affects how much energy the barrier will absorb for you.  Designers have also started thinking about putting things between the rail and the post – kind of like a washer sort of thing – to add an extra crumple zone.  They also have to think about what happens at the beginning and the end of the rail, and how easily a crashing car or motorbike can snag on the rail instead of sliding along to a safer place.

Public-Domian-W-Beam-4-1024x768It would be nice if they thought about making them look a bit more attractive, too.

Of course, it’s much better for everyone if you don’t get a very close acquaintance with a guard rail or crash barrier at all.  Let’s stop to think how you are most likely to whack into one. Cornering is usually involved, as is speed. Ice or other slippery substances can also play a role. On straighter bits, wandering attention is usually to blame.  The moral? Go back to basics and drive properly, rather than relying on driver aids, active safety systems, passive safety systems and crash barriers to save you.  This means that you need to slow down in the wet and cold, and don’t thrash your car at speed around the corner.  And for goodness sake, don’t try to play Pokemon Go while driving!

Private Fleet Car Review: 2016 Suzuki Celerio CVT

Suzuki have built their reputation on providing niche filling small cars. The Alto was one such car and the nameplate has now been retired, in 2015 and changed to Celerio. It drives straight into a crowded market, with cars such as Holden’s Spark, Ford’s Fiesta and Toyota’s Yaris to contend with. A Wheel Thing checks out the 1.0 litre engine and CVT version of the 2016 Suzuki Celerio.2016 Suzuki Celerio auto profileConsidered a “city” car, the Celerio fits the bill with that 1.0 litre, three cylinder, engine. It develops 50 kilowatts at 6000 revs and 90 Newton metres of torque at 3500 revs. Unsurprisingly, it’s also light on the juice, with Suzuki quoting just 4.8L/100 km on a combined cycle from its miniscule 35 litre tank. A Wheel Thing covered over 550 kilometres in the city cycle and still had just under a half tank left. That’s an impressive statistic, given the engine needs a good prodding to get the car moving and even more impressive given the hill climbing the car did.2016 Suzuki Celerio auto engineThe CVT is old school, in that there’s no preprogrammed steps or manual gearchanges. It’s purely plant the foot and go. Although, there is a “Sports” button on the selector lever which made no real apparent difference. As a result, you’ll se upwards of four thousand on the tacho before it slides back to around two thousand. There’s a hesitation in the transmission too, between pushing the go pedal and actually getting forward motion. Yes, it’s noisy and thrashy with the CVT, it would be interesting to see how it drives with the manual gearbox it also comes with.2016 Suzuki Celerio auto front seats2016 Suzuki Celerio auto rear seatsInside, it’s back to basics for the strictly four seater; dials for the aircon bar a button for fresh or recirculate (and getting heat into the cabin is quick), manual adjustment for the seats but you do get electric mirrors and windows. Only the driver’s window is Auto and that’s down only. Audio wise, it’s a non touchscreen setup, reverting to an old school red LCD screen and there’s no steering wheel mounted controls. You do get USB, Auxuliary and CD. The cloth seats are comfy but you can feel it’s that poly-urethane filling that will soon compress but for now, they’ll do.2016 Suzuki Celerio auto cargoThere’s a tiny cargo space, at just 254 litres, perhaps just large enough for a single person’s weekly shop, which is in keeping with the intended audience the Celerio is aimed at. That does increase to a maximum of 1053 litres, but that would also involve blocking rearward vision. Interior plastics are bland, shining into the front window, but there’s hints of brightwork in the cabin. There’s no centre console but spaces for two cups/bottles and again the sun visors are too short for true effectiveness.2016 Suzuki Celerio auto dashOut on the road, it’s an interesting and potentially entertaining drive. Yes, it’s slow with the CVT. Yes, it’s noisy with the CVT. It’s noisy, full stop, with road and wind noise very noticeable, especially on the coarse chip surfaces found in NSW. But it will eventually get you where you need to be. That lag between pressing the accelerator and getting forward motion is an annoyance, but at least the brakes haul up the Celerio well enough, with discs at the front and drums at the rear.2016 Suzuki Celerio auto rearIt’s a moderately good handler, will crash the front suspension and feel as if the front struts will fall out when going at a moderate speed over the bigger traffic calming devices. It’s oddly taut at slower speeds, with smaller bumps feeling bigger than they are.2016 Suzuki Celerio auto wheelIt’s also highly susceptible to cross winds, in part due to the boxy shape and slabby sides. having very narrow track tyres doesn’t do much for stability either, with “tramlining” also a feature of the Celerio’s handling. It, too, will skip across some unsettled and rough surfaces, with a solid beam, three links, rear axle. A huge bonus those, that’s directly related to its size, is just how easy it is to park, even lacking a reverse camera and parking sensors. Steering is quick enough for most driving situations yet also feels as if the assistance it has is somewhat underpowered, given the narrowness of the tyre tread, at just 165/65 on 14 inch diameter wheels.

At The End Of The Drive.
Suzuki offer a three year/100,000 kilometre warranty and for most, that’s peace of mind enough. With the Celerio seemingly aimed at a market that would drive far less than thirty odd thousand kilometres per year, that’s more than enough.

The Celerio really is a city car, especially with the CVT. It’s definitely easy on the wallet, for economy and price, with the manual at $12990 driveaway and the CVT just one thousand dollars more. It’s roomy enough for two constantly and has a performance level that could just be described as adequate. And sometimes that’s all that people want. The Celerio is their car. Click here for details: 2016 Suzuki Celerio details

Lotus Cars Australia: Light Is Right

To go fast in a car, you can add power or lose weight. Or both. Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus said: “Adding power makes you faster on the straights, subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere.” Weight becomes an enemy, losing helps everywhere, such as braking and cornering. This philosophy is at the core of the Lotus Cars company and each car remains true to that philosophy.Lotus Evora 400 MY16 - Side Charcoal 1All cars are developed using what Lotus calls the Lightweight Laboratory Concept. All parts are looked at and measured in context to themselves and to the whole car, providing ample opportunity to be redesigned and re-engineered if needing to be. Items such as carbon fibre are weighed up, literally and aesthetically, needing to be seen as adding proper and usable benefits, not just to look good.Lotus Evora 400 MY16 - Black Front 1The benefits of weight reduction come down to weight distribution, suspension calibration, allowing sharper handling and body control. To assist, Lotus don’t just use the super strong carbon fibre, they’re a world leader in using aluminuim, in bonded and extruded forms.Lotus Evora 400 MY16 Chassis Side On 1 As an example, the chassis for the Lotus Elise and Exige weighs just 68 kilograms. This is roughly half the weight of the chassis if it were to be built in steel and being metal, less complicated than using carbon fibre.Lotus Evora 400 MY16 - Black Rear 1To that end, Lotus’ latest offering, the Evora 400, sees unladen wights of 1395 to 1425 kilograms, depending on a buyer going manual or auto. Behind the driver and passenger sits a supercharged 3.5 litre capacity engine, in V6 configuration. Lotus quotes power and torque at 298 kilowatts and 410 torques. These are bolted into a chassis so torsionally strong, Lotus rate it at 27000 Newton metres per degree for rigidity. Sir can specify a six speed, close ratio, manual gearbox or a slick six speed auto.Lotus Evora 400 MY16 - Interior Close Up Rear Seats Red 1But being a light weight doesn’t mean it’s a lightweight when it comes to features: ISOFIX child seat mounts in the rear two seats, heated and folding mirrors, leather trimmed heated seats, Alcantara trim as an option, Michelin Pilot Sport tyres in 235/35/19 &285/30/20 configuration and hiding Eibach springs and Bilstein dampers, bi-xenon headlights and to haul the lot in, AP Racing brakes. Lotus Evora 400 MY16 - Interior Black Close Up Dash RHD 1Needed when there’s a zero to one hundred kilometre per hour time of just 4.2 seconds. Consumption for the combined cycle is quoted as 9.7 litres of unleaded for every 100 kilometres driven.Lotus Evora 400 MY16 - Interior Black RHD 2For prices and extra information on the Lotus range, including the exciting new Evora Sport 410, please contact your local Lotus dealer or go here: Lotus Cars Australia