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Archive for January, 2017

Kia Stinger To Come Down Under & Kia Picanto Gets A Facelift.

A talking point of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit event before the doors have been thrown open, the new Kia Stinger has been confirmed for Australia.

The sleek, powerful rear-wheel drive GT fastback sports sedan is expected to make it into Australian showrooms by the end of the third quarter this year.

“This is a car you cannot help but be excited by,” Kia Motors Australia Chief Operating Officer Damien Meredith said. “It has all the attributes to appeal to the Australian enthusiast: exciting design, a high-tech performance engine and gearbox combination and rear-wheel drive.“The Stinger is the right car to take Kia, and the brand’s perception, to the next level in Australia. It is the type of car to add desire and excitement to Kia’s core values of style, reliability and value.”

The Stinger will arrive in Australia with the 3.3-litre V6 twin turbo driving the rear wheels through an eight-speed transmission.While final specifications are still to be settled the Stinger is expected to produce 272kW of power at 6000rpm and an impressive 510Nm of torque from 1300rpm through to 4500rpm. There is an expected 0-100km/h sprint of 5.1 seconds.

“Those are the sort of performance figures which will give the Stinger credibility in any company and add an emotional element to the already compelling practical reasons: 7-year warranty, 7-year capped price service and 7-year roadside assist, for considering a Kia,” Mr Meredith said.Designed in Kia’s European studio in Frankfurt under the hand of Kia’s head of design Peter Schreyer and developed over extensive testing on the grueling Nurburgring under the watchful eye of KMC’s performance and engineering guru Albert Biermann, the Stinger is an uncompromising rendition of the true gran turismo ethos: nimble and fast, luxurious and quiet, with the perfect balance of ride and handling.“I think for the Kia brand, the Stinger is like a special event,” Biermann said. “Because nobody expects such a car, not just the way it looks, but also the way it drives. It’s a whole different animal.”To further define the car for Australia, the KMAu ride and handling team will refine the suspension and tuning to ensure Australian buyers are presented with a local tuning package which best suits Australia’s testing roads. This news comes on the back of the release of information for the revamped Picanto, Kia’s entrant into the almost micro car class.

Created by Kia’s design centres in Namyang, Korea and Frankfurt, Germany, the new Picanto brings youthful and energetic character to the A-segment. The new model – revealed in Kia’s sports-inspired ‘GT-Line’ specification – conveys a more assertive stance through bolder body lines and subtly sculpted surfaces. A 15 mm-longer wheelbase (2,385 mm to 2,400 mm) also pushes the wheels further out into each corner for a more confident appearance. The Picanto’s colour palette is more vibrant than ever, with a choice of 11 bright paint options designed to make the car stand out.Inside, Picanto’s suite of high-tech comfort, convenience and safety features is underscored by a modern and refined new cabin design. At the heart of the cabin is a new ‘floating’ touchscreen infotainment system, making the latest in-car technology available to occupants. The Picanto offers greater potential for customer personalisation, with buyers able to choose from a range of colours for trim and upholstery.Buyers of the all-new Picanto will enjoy smarter packaging efficiency than ever before, with more cabin and cargo space than rivals in the segment. In spite of its extended wheelbase, the Picanto retains its characteristically compact dimensions. With a shorter front overhang and longer rear overhang, the all-new model is the same length (3,595 mm) as the car it replaces.Kia will reveal the all-new Picanto in public for the first time at the 2017 Geneva International Motor Show in March, and will go on sale in Australia in the second quarter.

(With acknowledgement to Kia Australia for information.)

Speed’s Not Always A Factor: Why Not All Crashes At The Nürburgring Are Serious

Well, happy New Year to all you readers out there!  I hope you’ve had a good break away from work and didn’t have any close encounters on the road.  It’s a shame that they always spoil holidays by announcing the road toll for the season in just about every news snippet.  Guess it’s horrible for the relatives of those involved in the crashes but the rest of us don’t really need to be reminded continually.

They’re fond of telling us that speed was a factor in those crashes.  However, thanks to something that I spent time watching with the family online during quiet bits of the holiday period, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not just speed per se that causes serious injuries and the like. OK, it is a factor and most of us who did high school physics remember that the forces involved in something travelling at 30 km/h are lower than the forces involved in something travelling at 100 km/h.  But there must be other things at play.

What we were watching that told this story was a collection of crash videos from the Nürburgring. This one, for example:

Watching these, you’d think that all the drivers in every single crash would be hurt badly. Knocked out at the very least in some cases (e.g. the little black hatchback in #6 – possibly he/she was). However, at least according to the blurb accompanying the video, nobody was seriously injured, with the worst one being a broken wrist.  OK, yes there are deaths and serious injuries at the Nürburgring (these aren’t shown – apparently, the ethics of Nürburgring filmers prohibit posting any crashes that result in death or serious injury). However, all these crashes (and near crashes) happened at reasonably high speeds and didn’t automatically result in horror.  Unless you consider the resulting financial and insurance issues to be horror (like the crash involving the Koenigsegg – a car that costs more than my house and the neighbours’ houses put together).

So why aren’t the crashes at the Nürburgring creating as much carnage as all the road safety ads would have us believe?  Discussion with my fellow-watchers and a few moments of reflection suggest the following reasons why:

  1. Cars are built better these days. They have crumple zones to cushion heavy blows, tough impact protection systems and lots of airbags and seatbelts to protect the driver (I doubt anybody goes around the Nürburgring with kiddies in the back seat, so back seat protection probably isn’t a factor).
  2. Crash barriers are built better these days. Given this sort of footage, the Nürburgring (and similar tracks) go through quite a bit of crash barrier. This means that they have the chance to update to the newest, safest designs, which also involve impact absorption.  Your local council doesn’t have the same turnover rate as the Ring and probably has the same barriers that they put up in the 1980s or even earlier thanks to budget reasons.  These barriers tend to be a bit less forgiving.
  3. There are no (or very few) head-on crashes at the Nürburgring. It’s head-ons that are the real nasties.  At the Ring, everyone’s going in the same direction (at least most of the time).  On the road, though, there is that other lane with people coming the other way.

  4. The Nürburgring has a singular lack of street furniture at tricky corners. Instead, they have nice wide grass berms, rather than lamp posts, parked trucks, planters made of brick or concrete walls. This means that if you do take that corner a little too fast for your car, the conditions and the camber, sending you spinning out beyond what your stability package can handle, there’s nothing for you to collect on the way.  What’s more, the camber of the track is at the perfect angle for a high speed around that particular corner.  Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of our local roads all of the time – there was one particular corner on a road near where I lived when I was a teenager learning to drive that had negative camber (i.e. it sloped the wrong way for the direction of the turn). Were there heaps of crashes at that corner?  You betcha.  Have they fixed the problem even after 20+ years?  Well, they hadn’t last time I went back there.
  5. The drivers aren’t distracted. This means that crashes involving more than one vehicle aren’t as frequent.  People at the Nürburgring are there to do one thing: drive.  They aren’t eating, trying to console a wailing kid in the back seat or texting.  At least I hope they’re not texting, though they may be trying to film their lap on their phone.

The video also awoke a sneaky little desire to actually drive the Nürburgring.  Not to set or equal any record lap times or anything like that but to say that I did it and survived.  I doubt that I ever will – economics and the worry that some idiot would take me out dictate that, so I’ll be sticking to the simulators (a.k.a. motor racing computer games).  However, if you’ve ever been lucky enough to have driven the Nürburgring, please share your story with us!

2017 Volvo V40 D4 Inscription Polestar Enhanced: Private Fleet Car Review.

Volvo are advertising that they one of the fastest growing luxury car makers. There is no doubt at all that they are well and truly on the march upwards when it comes to their luxury aspirations and they’re also bringing along their Polestar compatriots for the ride. But how does the Volvo V40 D4 Inscription with Polestar enhancements work?

When one thinks of a luxury car, they’ll think of features, comfort, and perhaps the word “cossetting”. They may even tie that word to the ride quality and handling, where one may “waft” along, with the road seemingly endlessly flat and without bumps.
This is not what the V40 D4 Inscription Polestar Enhanced delivers. It rides on wonderful looking 19 inch alloys, shod with superb Pirelli 235/35 rubber. Herein lies the problem. Combine ultra low profile tyres with sporting suspension (Polestar adds bespoke coils and shocks) and the result is a rock hard ride that magnifies every crevice and expands every pebble. Harsh is one word that can be used. Comfort can not, nor can cossetting. Then there’s the steering rack ratio; it’s en pointe when out on the road, but try a three point turn and it feels as if there’s something blocking the rack either side.

Outside it’s nearly standard V40, a five door hatch and a reasonable 4369 mm long, bar the Polestar supplied alloys and two winglets mounted just where the hatch’s hinge is. There’s Volvo’s signature “Hammer of Thor” headlights, a nicely sculpted profile, dual exhausts sitting under a sharply sloped rear and bracketed by two tail light structures that will catch the eye of following motorists. The car itself was painted in a metallic grey, a colour that melded perfectly into the roads around Sydney during storms. Volvo fit a Polestar diffuser at the rear, the alloys and roof spoilers, and go gloss black with the wing mirror covers.

Under the pedestrian friendly snout lies Volvo’s diesel 2.0L four, with 140 kilowatts and a stonking 400 torques on tap. That’s available from 1750 through to 2500 revs and there’s plenty available once you pass the higher number. Although it hesitates for a moment for the engine to spin around to 2000 and beyond, it comes on strongly enough below 1750 for the front driven wheels to imitate a canary. Once the traction control steps in, the front Pirellis hook up and then allow the eight speed Geartronic auto to do its thing, and do its thing it does nicely. Those eight speeds contribute to the claimed 4.5L/100 kilometres (combined) from the generous 62 litre tank; A Wheel Thing saw a best of 6.2 in mainly residential style driving. They’ll also whisk you to 100 kph in just over seven seconds on the way to a claimed top speed of 210. Emissions? 118g/kilometre.

Light throttle input has the setup slurring through, albeit with more than a hint of change. Crack the throttle and there’s some decent acceleration, a muted diesel thrum from the front and the LCD screen flicks away with a smoother change underneath. Silky smooth it is and allows the driver to pick and choose also, thanks to paddle shifts and the Sports mode manual change. Good? And then some. It really is one of the better changers out there, especially dealing with a torquey 2.0L diesel.

Inside it’s standard looking V40, complete with floating centre console, the LCD dash, leather covered seats (lacking cooling but had heating), storage trays to the left and right of the rear seats, a somewhat tightish rear leg room thanks to the compact dimensions of the V40, with Polestar adding the door sills, gear knob and sports pedals to the interior. Although it’s a comfortable enough environment, it is starting to show its age. Also, the multitude of buttons on the console coupled with the screen’s layout are fading as an area of attraction. The cargo space at 324 litres (smaller than Golf, A3, and A Class) barely coped with a week’s shop but there is the ever present folding rear seats.Airbags? Seven, sir, including kneebag for the driver. Other safety? Emergency brake lights, sir, with hazard flash. Anything else? Auto headlights and auto wipers, sir, plus reverse camera and parking assist. Bendy headlights? Does Sir NEED to ask?It’s typical safety first with the V40, with a bewildering array of acronyms stating the comprehensive list of features on board. DSTC, WHIPS, EBA and EBD are in there or, in longer form: Dynamic Stability & Traction Control, WHIplash Protection System, Electronic Brake Assist and Electronic Brake Distribution. There’s also fitted to the test car the Driver Support Pack and Convenience Pack, comprising BLIS, DAS, ACCCW, VGA, Keyless Entry and Drive with PCC. Confused? BLind spot Information System, Driver Alert System, Adaptive Cruise Control with Collision Warning, Volvo Guard Alarm, and Personal Car Communicator. Got it? Good. The Convenience Pack also incldes the heated seats (but no cooling for hot markets like Australia) and comes at a cost of $1500, on top of the $4K for the Driver Spport Pack. The Polsetar Performance Pack is a lick under $10K, taking the list priced car as tested from $44990 to $60472.50.

Being a diesel, the mid range pull of the D4 is stupendous. At freeway speeds, the tacho on the LED screen is showing around 1600 revs, just below peak torque. “Sink the slipper” and you’ll see the revs climb right along with the numbers that spell “license losing”, very quickly. The chassis is fitted with anti-dive and anti-squat componentry and my, don’t they work well! It’s flat on the road, flat enough to make a pancake stop and doff a hat in admiration. Although heavily weighted at low speeds, the steering talks back to you, answering the questions you put to it and responds adroitly at speed. Together the chassis and engine deliver a totally dynamic package.

At The End Of The Drive.

Bar the dating interior and lack of turning circle, there’s not a lot to dislike in the Volvo V40 D4 Inscription with Polestar’s extras. Except the ride. Compliance is not a word that that sits inside this car’s dictionary and when you can count how many ripples there are on the face of a coin you’ve just run over, then the luxury part of the equation is missing.
The range starts from $36k and with this test car asking $60K, a fair ask, it’s a fair question to ask, this one: is it worth it? If you like a hard ride, a smallish cargo area, but need something that pulls like a train, then this is your car. Here is where you can find more information: