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Archive for November, 2016

Private Fleet Car Review: 2016 Peugeot 2008 Outdoor Diesel Manual

Peugeot’s 2008 kicks off a month of French chic at A Wheel Thing, with the Citroen Picasso, Peugeot 308 GTi and the 508 sedan pencilled in as well.
The 2008 is a small to mid sized SUV, with a diesel and an unexpected five speed manual. Unexpected in that it was a manual and unexpected in that it was “just” a five speed, not six. It’s here that mentioning it’s a three level range and the manual is the TOP of the range (the other two are the Active and Allure) puts this into a different perspective. Power from the 1.6 litre capacity engine isn’t bad, at 68 kilowatts, but there’s a wealth of torque, with 230 of them at 1750. Redline for the Outdoor starts at 4500 and it feels like that torque runs through to 4000.That’s why the surprise at just five cogs, not six, as there’s enough twist to deal with an appropriately geared extra ratio. Whatever Peugeot’s reason, you can’t fault that the five do a good job on economy. Peugeot quotes a combined figure of 4.0L per 100 kilometres and just 3.6L of the good oil for every 100 klicks out on the highway. Around town, it’s still frugal, sipping 4.6L/100 km. Tank size? 50 litres, so, theoretically, Sydney to Melbourne or Sydney to Brisbane on a tank and then some.

It’s also very refined, with barely a chatter under load and almost imperceptible when not. Even when punted hard from standstill, the characteristic noise expected was muted. It’ll pull nicely, with those five ratios well spread and matched with a well balanced clutch & pick up point, offers the driver a joyful experience. But if you’re expecting a rocketship, forget it, as an 11.5 second run to the century is….leisurely, at best.The 2008 Outdoor also rides, as you’d expect, pretty well and handles, as you’d expect, pretty well. There is a notable measure of understeer, as if the steering rack ratio needs some tightening up It’s also slightly numb on centre and never feels as if the turn you do is quite enough to pull the nose around as tight as you expect. As a package it’s liveable with, as it’s firm without being excessively taut, compliant without excessive softness and barrels over the usual speedhumps and bumps with only minimal intrusion, thanks to a torsion bar rear and Macpherson strut front.It’s not a terrible place to be either, inside the 2008 Outdoor. It’s a mostly ergonomic dash but the dials placed above the rim of the tiller takes some getting used to. The overall look is of high quality, easy to use buttons, plus a lack of reflection of the plastic in the windscreen is a pleasant bonus. There’s some silver/chrome trim that does catch the sun and reflect into eyes to deal with however. The dash design itself is a smooth curve, both into the binnacle directly ahead of the driver and to the downwards curve of the centre console housing the touchscreen (housing DAB, satnav and music streaming), centre vents, and aircon controls. You’ll also get a dial to change the drive settings, such as Snow, Mud, and Sand, a system Peugeot calls Grip Control.

The seats were suberb to sit in; a mix of leather (soft, supple, real leather) and cloth for the centre of the squab and backrest meant that a need for heating wasn’t as crucial as a need for ventilation. That appears to be something found across the Peugeot cars tested (more on those separately) and it certainly makes for a comfy office to be in. Having a thick, chunky, feel to the steering wheel didn’t go astray either. There’s also blue LED lighting in the surrounds for the sunroof and for the dash; it looks good, adds class and isn’t distracting. There’s also plenty of room for rear seat passengers and more than enough cargo space for a four member family, ranging from 410 to 1400 litres.Outside, the 2008 is a svelte looking beastie. Sitting in a size range above the 4008 (which is based on the Mitsubishi ASX platform) it looks more compact that the interior space would have you believe. It’s just 4159 mm long, would you believe, but manages to cram in a 2537 mm wheelbase, meaning there is plenty of interior space. It’s curvy, with few hard edges, but does sport shark fin line design features into the headlights and a similar motif into the rear. A steeply rising window line follows the crease from the front wheel arch through to the tail lights, providing a definitive visual balance to a good looking profile. Rubber is Goodyear 205/50/17 and they’re some good looking alloys, just quietly.You’re covered when it comes to safety, with front, side and curtain airbags, the usual suite of electronic driver assistance aids, cornering front lamps and Hill Assist, which locks the brakes momentarily when you’re on a slope and the engine’s running. In regards to the body, Peugeot offers a 12 year anti perforation corrosion warranty, 24 hour road side assist, capped price servicing and that’s every 12 months or 15000 kilometres. Warranty? Three years or 100000 kilometres.

At The End Of The Drive.
At the time of writing (November, 2016) Peugeot Australia was offering the 2008 Outdoor at a wonderful driveaway price of $30990, a savings of $6000 from the normal driveaway of $37K. Given Australia’s seeming obsession with SUVs, this is one that slides under the radar yet deserves a better look. Head to Peugeot Australia for more information.

Transmission Types Demystified

220px-Manual_Layout.svgWhen I bought my first car (it was a second-hand Simca, known as the French equivalent of the VW Beetle ), there were only two choices when it came to transmissions: manual or automatic, with automatic being the cooler type (contrary to that Greased Lighting earworm from Grease, cars do not come with anything hydromatic or systematic).  You had ordinary gear change levers (for auto or for manual) that were located between the driver and passenger seats beside the handbrake but if you had a bench seat in the front, you had column change.  Bouquets to you if you can drive a manual with column change – not many cars have this these days, but in the words of one driving instructor, if you can drive one of those, you can drive anything.

Today, you have a few more choices that may leave you a bit puzzled. You get paddle-shifting, CVT, tiptronic, geartronic and dual clutch systems as well as good old manual and auto.  Just what are these different types and what do they mean for the driver?

transmission-5speed-gearsManual

This is the good old basic type.  You have three foot pedals and a gear stick to play around with.  To change gear, you step on the clutch, which sets the levers going that disengages one bit of the gear mechanism from the other bit it’s currently connected to. Then you shove the gear lever into the position indicated for the gear you want before releasing the clutch.  You decide when you’re going to change the gear, usually using the number of revs per minute as a guideline.  It’s possible to get it wrong with a full manual system: have the engine revs too low for the gear you’re in and you stall (easier to do in a petrol than in a diesel, which is why I would recommend diesel vehicles for those learning to drive a manual). Alternatively, get the engine revs too high for the gear you’re in and you put stress on the engine by making it spin madly (listen to it scream!) and put your fuel consumption through the roof.

Hands-on drivers of the old school like manual vehicles because the driver is in full control of the power, and an experienced driver who knows the torque and power specs of what they’re driving can get the right revs to get exactly the sort of power or torque they need for a particular situation, such as overtaking, towing or hill driving.

Manual is also the hardest to learn how to handle.  If you learn to drive on something with a manual transmission, going to an auto or some other system is easy.  However, doing it the other way around is hard.  This is why you drop your L-plater in a manual car without all the fancy driver aids so he/she learns how to do it for him/herself.

Automatic

Fully automatic transmission takes the problem of deciding when to change gears out of your hands.  As you decelerate or accelerate, when the engine gets to the right number of revolutions, it changes for you so you don’t stall or redline.  Having one less thing to worry about reduces driver distractions.  You don’t have to worry about pushing the clutch in and out, which means you’ve got a foot free, and you can also keep both hands on the wheel while negotiating a roundabout.

You do, however, get a gear lever.  Obviously, the car can’t read your mind about whether you want to go forwards or backwards if you’re at a standstill, so you have to tell it via the lever.  You can also set the maximum gear you want it to go to when you need to get the revs right to get the power and/or torque YOU want, rather than what the car wants (when overtaking, hill driving or towing, or any combination of the above, although you would be nuts if you tried to overtake while going uphill towing a trailer).  These gear levers also have a Park setting (for parking, obviously, so you don’t roll away when parking on a slope; don’t forget to put on the handbrake and turn the wheels to the kerb as normal) and Neutral (for when you’re waiting forever at traffic lights at a standstill or warming up the engine).

Semi-Automatic

Semiautomatic transmission goes by a multitude of names: manumatic, clutchless manual, automated manual, paddle-flappers, paddle shifters, trigger shifting, tiptronic, geartronic, etc. etc.  There’s nearly as many names as there are marques.  This is kind of like a manual system except you don’t have a clutch pedal to press on.  Instead, when you use the levers (usually mounted on the steering wheel; hence the term paddle shifting or paddle-flappers), the engine goes through the disengage-the-clutch-move-to-new-gear-engage-the-clutch routine by itself.  This gives you the best of both worlds: the ability to get the power and torque you want when you want it, plus a nice smooth gear change.  Many semiautomatics can also go fully automatic if you want them to.

Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT)

In your standard gearing systems (manual, automatic and semiautomatic), you have set discrete gear ratios. You’re either at one gear ratio or you’re at another, like keys on a piano.  Not in a CVT transmission.  This uses a collection of pulleys connected to a belt, and they can change and adjust very flexibly, so there’s no set ratio of gears – it’s more like a fretless bass or a violin than a piano.  Some mechanics have described CVT transmission as being a system that constantly changes gears to whatever’s most efficient.

Smoothness and fuel efficiency are the real benefits of CVT transmission.  I can’t say that I’ve ever driven a car with CVT yet, so I can’t describe what driving one is like exactly. However, they say that the more hands-on type of driver doesn’t like the experiences of the revs staying the same while the car accelerates – it’s been compared to being in a motorboat and they say it’s quite unsettling at first.

If you’ve driven CVT, tell us your experience in the comments.

Dual Clutch

This is not the same as double-clutching, which is something that my mother tried to describe. Instead, with dual clutch, you have what is essentially two gearboxes side by side, one with the odd-numbered gears (1, 3, 5 and 7) and another with the even ones (2, 3, 6 and sometimes 8).  It’s usually part of an automatic or semiautomatic system, so don’t worry – you don’t have two clutch pedals to stomp on.  The two gearboxes work as a tag team: when the odd side disengages, the even side kicks in on the next gear up (think of those dinky old-fashioned weather predictors with the little man and the little woman, where one goes in as the other goes out).  This makes for really, really fast changes, which is great for fuel economy.

Again, I haven’t been lucky enough to drive one of these yet, so I’d be keen to hear from those of you who have and want to share their experiences.

Are Driverless Vehicles Spooky?

It’s kind of spooky but exciting at the same time.  I think it’s a given that driverless cars are coming.  I’m not sure whether I really like the idea but it’s cool if it’s going to make our roads safer – at least I hope it will.  And if our roads will be safer, then I guess that’s a really good thing.  What doesn’t sit with me is that the fun of physically driving a car could be taken away, and I really like driving a car round corners, up hills and through the city streets.  I hope travelling doesn’t become boring and less of an adventure.

Then there are the thousands of drivers who make a living from driving a vehicle.  Just think of all taxi drivers, bus drivers or even truck drivers who could be made redundant.  That’s not very cool in my book.  Some people are driving their imaginary cars before they’re walking, and to have to deal with a loss of a job that you’ve built your life on would be a very hard pill to swallow.  Goodness knows what other job will give them a sense of satisfaction.  People might say they’ll find something else to do, but it’s not quite that simple having to start from the bottom up again – not to mention having to deal with the increase in job competition.

Self-driving cars are coming.  Tesla is aiming to have their fully driverless car ready by 2018, and that’s not that far away!  Many other companies have plans to produce some form of self-driving car by 2020.  Uber is another driverless car manufacturer leading the way.  I can see one hassle in the way, and that is that not everyone will be able to afford a brand new driverless car!

There is evidence that we are more likely to see a driverless truck in practice before a self-driving car.  In much the same way a passenger aircraft is flown automated, we’re going to see the big rigs automated on our roads.  If their speed is limited to the proper speed limits, that’s definitely a big plus in my book.  Make sure that driver aids like cycle and pedestrian warning systems are standard on all trucks – particularly in the blind spot areas that run along the side of the trucks.  If planes can be flown through fog and landed safely in auto mode, then that is a good thing.  The systems on-board the aircraft can fly the plane better than a pilot in pretty much all situations – particularly in fog.  Transfer that thought to a big rig steaming down our road in the wet, and the outcome for public safety can only be way better than a rig sliding out of control.

An alarm bell rings when I consider the potential terrorist risks that self-driven cars might bring.  I’m sure the gurus behind the technology are well aware of this.  When I think of that scary thought, my trusty old blue Navara TD23 double-cab doesn’t sound so bad after all.  At least I’ll still be able to enjoy the fun of driving the old girl down to the river to pick up some firewood and let the dog out for a run and feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.  I wonder if driverless 4x4s are on the agenda – that might be a test for the fancy radars!

driverless car cartoon