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Archive for February, 2017

2017 Peugeot 2008 Lands On Aussie Roads.

The French Revolution continues, with Peugeot unveiling its revamped 2008 SUV. There’s been a streamlining of the range, a change to a sole engine/transmission combination, and some trim changes. Here’s the way the range shakes down.

The engine is a turbocharged three cylinder, at 1.2 litres of capacity. That’s bolted to a Japanese sourced six speed auto and it’s this combination that will be the only engine and transmission available in a three model range. The names will be Active, Allure, and GT-Line, with the latter replacing the Outdoor that also offered a diesel and manual.peugeot-2008-suv-allure-4peugeot_2008_suv_gt_line-3The undersquare 12 valve engine will produce a peak power of 81 kilowatts at 5500 rpm, and peak torque is a healthy 205 Nm at 1500 rpm. That’s good enough to see a 0-100 kph time of 11.3 seconds for the near 1200 kilogram vehicle. Peugeot rate the fuel consumption and tested in the real world as 4.8L/100 km for the combined cycle from a 50L tank using 95RON. There’s also an adaptable drive system, with Normal, Snow, Mud etc available via a dial in the centre console.peugeot-2008-suv-allure-24peugeot-2008-suv-active-18The facelift isn’t extensive but side by side it’d be noticeable compared to the outgoing models. There’s a new grille which will be a signature look for future models. Peugeot’s design team have imbued the headlights with a feline look, with a black and chrome finish. The tail lights have been slightly revamped, with a more noticeable claw look. All cars will be fitted with roofrails, adding some extra height and topping out at 1556 mm. Ending the roof on the 4159 mm long 2008 is a roof spoiler and the range will be enhanced by a new colour, Ultimate Red.peugeot-2008-suv-active-5peugeot-2008-suv-allure-3Standard equipment will cover items such as reverse camera, parking sensors, Stop/Start, MirrorLink and Apple CarPlay. The Allure and GT-Line will also be equipped with Active City Brake and City Park, a self parking system, plus auto head lights and rain sensing wipers. The Active will roll on 16 inch alloys, with 195/60 rubber, whereas the other two go up an inch and slightly wider at 205/50/17. There’s a full sized spare but at odds with the others in 185/65/15 profile.peugeot-2008-suv-active-16peugeot-2008-suv-allure-20peugeot-2008-suv-active-21At the time of writing, the GT-Line will be made available some time after the release of the Active and Allure. What the two cars at launch will offer is comprehensive. Hill Start Assist, Emergency Brake Assist, all power windows are one touch, heated and folding door mirrors, and seven inch touchscreen. The Active dips out on satnav as standard but can option it in. Leather trim for the tiller is common but on the park brake in the Allure only. A panoramic glass roof is also an option for the Allure as are heated seats (no ventilation for the Aussie market is an oversight.) Cargo is reasonable, with 410L which increases to 917L with the seats down.peugeot-2008-suv-active-21peugeot-2008-suv-allure-21Pricing remains, understandably, sharp, at $26490 for the Active, an increase of $1000 but with extra equipment. The Allure remains the same price at $30990 and gains extra kit, and the GT-Line is slated to come in at $32990, with all prices at a Recommended Retail Price. Head to for details and to book a test drive.peugeot_2008_suv_gt_line-4 peugeot_2008_suv_gt_line-3

Fact Or Fiction: Headrests Were Designed To Be Detachable

A number of you may have seen that meme buzzing around Facebook and other social media platforms letting you know that headrests were deliberately designed to be detachable so that if you are trapped inside the car and need to break a window to get out, you have a useful tool for smashing the glass.  As we’re interested in quirky facts, great designs and safety features here at Private Fleet, I thought we’d check this one out.  Is it, in fact, true that this is what the designers were thinking when they designed headrests?

OK, in a nutshell, here’s the results after a quick bit of research:

  • Yes, head rests tend to be detachable.
  • Yes, head rests are a safety feature.
  • Yes, you can use a detached head rest to break glass if you need to exit via a window.
  • No, this was not a deliberate part of the design.

(Thanks to  and Truth Or Fiction  for doing some of the hard yards of research here).

The primary purpose of a head rest is to protect the occupant of the seat in question from whiplash injuries, as they prevent the head from lashing back suddenly during a collision or if the car is rear-ended. Your head is quite heavy, after all, and the momentum and G-forces involved in a whiplash inducing collision puts one heck of a strain on your neck vertebrae and muscles.  It’s the weight of the head and the strain on neck muscles that has been the primary concern of designers right from the beginning.  The first US patent for head rests in vehicles was issued in 1921, although the designer’s main concern was driver fatigue.  It wasn’t until 1969 that they became mandatory in the US.

If we have a quick look at the original patent issued to Benjamin Katz of Oakland, California (another inventor a lot of people ought to be grateful to), there’s no mention anywhere of the importance of being detachable so that occupants are able to use the headrest supports as a tool for breaking glass.  The patent is more concerned with reducing driver fatigue and hopes to provide something that allows the driver to “rest his head, relax the tired neck muscles, and still maintain his alert vigil.” Of breaking glass and even of whiplash, there is no mention.

The new, improved patent from 1930, issued to Sverre Quisling of Wisconsin, mentions the ability to use a head rest as a hanger for jackets and the like.  The 1950 patent granted to Lawrence Schott of Detroit certainly mentions detachability but has no mention of using the headrest to break glass.  The designer had folding seats in mind, as removing the headrest made it easier to fold the seat.  Various other designs were developed and put forward over the years between 1950 and 1969, all aiming to either prevent whiplash or to reduce driver fatigue. The patent that I can find that resembles the modern head rest design most closely was issued to Rachel L Rising in 1958.  One could spend quite a while trawling through all the different designs and all the different patents (somebody’s written a whole book on the topic – fact!), but you’re not going to find a mention anywhere of using the supports of the headrest to smash glass for an emergency exit.

Fast forward to today and car designers are still working on head rest design. They’re height and tilt adjustable, they’re provided in rear seats as well as front seats and they come in special active whiplash-preventing designs.  Saab was the first to come out with an active whiplash protecting headrest, with marques from the upper and lower end of the prestige spectrum following suit, from Toyota and Subaru through to Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar.  It’s passive safety and protection of the occupants that are the key concerns of the designers.

So why are head rests removable?  In the case of rear seat headrests, they’re removable for better visibility – if the driver wants to and there’s nobody in the back, the head rests can come out to allow the driver a clearer view of what’s behind.  In the case of front seats, they’re detachable so you can fold the seats flat should you want to sleep in it, or so you can put a car seat cover on easily.  Removability also had the possibility of making sure that all seats were compatible with child safety seats. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standards on the topic  make it clear that if head rests are removable, you can only remove them deliberately with two hands to prevent idiots monkeying about and whipping the head rest out if they don’t like them.  Not a word about using them as a tool for breaking glass.

So where did the idea of using a head rest to break the glass if you get your car into deep water come from?  According to, it goes back to a Japanese TV show that demonstrated this survival tip:

Using a head rest to break a window is a fine example of human ingenuity and quick thinking in an emergency.  Certainly the person who first thought of doing this is something of a genius. If you are unlucky enough to drive your car into deep water and the car is sinking, you are going to have to exit via the window, and modern fast-glass cars with electric windows make this a problem, as the water shorts out the system if the car goes underwater – but it won’t do so straight away, so this should always be your first move, along with taking off your seat belt.  Car glass is also very tough, especially on the windscreen (don’t; bother smashing this – go for the door windows).  Other tools can be used if you can’t get the window open in time: special tools bought for the purpose, stiletto heels, spark plugs, hammers, etc.  Certainly, the detachable headrests are handy but this is an added and unintended bonus rather than an integral part of the design.

If you can’t get the technique right for busting the window, the recommendation is to wait until there’s enough water in the car to equalise the pressure inside and out (try not to panic), take a deep breath and open the door as soon as you can.

Of course, if you have an older car with older windows that wind down manually, you are probably feeling smug at this point, as the issue of window mechanisms shorting out isn’t a problem.

2017 Jaguar F-Pace R-Sport: A Private Fleet Car Review

If one were to hop into the fabled time machine of H.G. Wells and travel back to the early part of the 21st century, you’d find that the letters S, U, V, were part of the alphabet and hardly seen in each other’s company. You’d also find that many luxury car makers would sniff at the idea of an all wheel drive capable vehicle being part of their stable. Note “all wheel drive”, not “four wheel drive”. Flash back to 2017 and there’s hardly a car maker of any decent size that doesn’t have an SUV. One such maker, a British brand known more for the slogan of “Grace, Pace, and Space”, has joined the SUV party albeit one with a slightly odd name.Built around the basic looks of their two seater sports car, the Jaguar F-Pace has the leaping cat well and truly poised to make a serious indentation on the SUV market share. With four standard models and one limited edition run (as of early 2017), a range of engines, and a list of options almost too big to comprehend, the Jaguar F-Pace R-Sport was the vehicle supplied to Private Fleet in February 2017.There’s a lot to like, up front, about the R-Sport. Captain of the team of likes is the monstrous 700 torques being twisted out by the diesel fuelled 3.0 litre twin turbo V6 fitted. There’s a 2.0 litre diesel as the standard with 132 kW and a not indecent 430 torques, or a supercharged 3.0 litre petrol, with 250 kW/450 Nm. Sir will take the 700 Nm, thank you. Along with the torque that’s enough to rip the cape from Superman’s shoulders, you get a surprisingly good fuel economy. Surprising because although the F-Pace looks a mid sizer, there’s a gross vehicle weight of 2570 kilograms. Jaguar quotes a combined figure of 6.0L of dino juice for every 100 kilometres driven from the 66 litre tank, 5.6L/100 km on the highway and a still better than impressive 6.9L/100 around town.Private Fleet’s time with the F-Pave R-Sport coincided with a visit to the central west NSW town of Dubbo. Some 340 kilometres from AWT HQ, a country drive with four aboard and luggage seemed an ideal way to test the mettle of the Jaguar metal. The return was 7.3L per 100 kilometres, a fair result considering the cargo inside. That also involved some necessary overtaking and it’s here where that torque comes into its own. It kicks in, as a peak figure, at just 2000 rpm, with something like ninety percent available at around 1600 rpm, and that’s about where legal highway speeds sees the engine’s revs. However, there’s some conditions here. The starting point is the eight speed auto the F-Pace has, then factor in choosing either Drive or Sports via the vertically rising dial in the centre console. THEN you have four drive modes including Dynamic Plus, accessed via two console toggle switches. Not only does it tighten up the suspension, the gearbox and engine settings are changed to provide a quicker response, a sharper response, a surge of warp speed response. It’s exhilarating and breath taking and makes for a far safer driving experience than a leisurely “I think I can” move.It’s a well packaged car, the F-Pace, with an overall length of 4731 mm, with a wheelbase of 2874 mm. Front and rear track sit well inside the overall width of 2070 mm with 1641 mm and 1654 mm. Inside there’s plenty of usable room with front headroom at 1007 mm and rear heads get 977 mm. That cargo space has a nifty trick, with the floor on one said the standard interior carpet, but when rotated 180 degrees has a firm plastic surface for items such as scooters or bike.The F-Pace also techs up with Adaptive Dynamics, which measures up to 500 times a second the driving style and body movement of the car You can then option up the Configurable Dynamics system, allowing a deeper measure of personalisation for gearbox changes, throttle mapping and steering feedback. Technology is a hallmark of Jaguar nowadays, with (optional) configurable mood lighting, keyless entry which includes waving a foot under the rear bumper to raise the powered tail gate leading to 508 litres of cargo, adaptive headlights, InControl Touch Pro (as fitted) which is a pair of widescreen oriented LCD screens at 12.3 inches for the multifunction driver’s screen and 10.2 inch console touchscreen which includes smartphone/tablet style pinch and move for the navigation.There’s famed British audiomaker Meridian onboard, with 825 watts of thumping audio along with digital radio, a CD/DVD drive, and 10 gb hard drive space for your tunes. Ahead of the driver is the (optionable) super clear, laser lit, Head Up Display, showing speed, speed zones, driven gear and even navigation. The laser tech makes it both easier to read and easier on the eye. Aircon is controlled either via the touchscreen or, smartly (and something a few other makers should take note of) via soft press tabs which are clear and beautifully legible.There’s a downside, though: the rear seat passengers get their own controls which, in the test car, seemed to control the front seats…and a major bugbear in that the superbly comfortable and looking sports style seats DON’T. HAVE. COOLING. Any and all Australian spec cars with leather seats should have ventilation. Even Renault’s Koleos Intens has ventilation. Also, the door, dash, and centre console plastics are hard, with nary a touch of give. Then there’s locating the seat’s memory buttons where, logically, the power window switches should go, and vice versa.The touchscreen has icons laid out across the bottom, allowing a quick access to a certain function, unlike manufacturers that have everything hidden inside a primary folder. It makes using the screen far easier. There’s also a screen for when you’re in full Dynamic, offering extra information such as a G-Force sensor and allows for more personalisation.Where the F-Pace R-Sport will win your heart is on the road. Let’s start with that number, 700. That torque figure makes driving in all dry conditions an absolute pleasure. Even with a light foot the torque simply reaches out and grabs the eight ratios by the neck, bending them to its need. It’s almost effortless, and wonderfully quiet inside the cabin, as the tacho swings around as does the speedometer. That’s in Eco and Normal modes. Gently push the selector down and clockwise into S, tap the drive mode button into Dynamic, sit back, press the go pedal, and feel your soul compress into a neutrino as the F-Pace gathers its thoughts for a nano-second before launching itself towards the horizon. Dynamic also firms up the steering and suspension, which has the effect of providing even more feedback and flattening the road further.Under normal conditions, the R-Sport is sure footed, adept, with each corner riding over road irregularities with minimal bodily intrusion. Sure, you’ll know what each wheel and tyre is doing, and you’ll feel the movement of the suspension as each corner works alone. Dynamic ups that feeling, with shorter travel yet an unexpected decrease in bumps and thumps. On the twisted and bent road surfaces west of Bathurst, this quality became invaluable and has an unexpected but very welcome side effect: it decreases the tiredness level of the driver. These same roads showed how well tuned the engineers have the car. Although sitting up high, as you do in an SUV, there’s no feeling of that, and you’ll feel confident in the way the car hangs on in long sweepers, unsettled and corrugated surfaces, and when the need is called for, how effective and quick the brake pedal tells you the pads are on the disc. All round, the F-Pace R-Sport stamps itself as a driver’s car.At The End Of The Drive.
The F-Pace has garnered acclaim and plaudits world wide, and with good reason. It’s a heavy-ish car, but superbly agile; the diesel is mutely powerful and will hasten the F-Pace along at indecent speed; and it’s beautiful to look at both inside and out. The technology on board is user friendly and non-confrontational, which is both appealing and amps the safety factor by not having eyes off the road for longer than neccessary.
What niggles there are, are just that. Niggles. It’s a comprehensive package and in R-Sport trim, provides a balance between economy, luxury, and room. The modern equivalent of Jaguar’s old calling phrase, perhaps?

For further information on the Jaguar F-Pace, go here: 2017 Jaguar F-Pace

Tech Talk: How Power Torques.

When car makers advertise their products, apart from price you’ll probably notice or hear xxx kilowatts. Great. Wonderful. Fantastic.


A kilowatt is, unsurprisingly, one thousand watts. You’re probably familiar with the term via your home theatre system or perhaps in kilowatt-hours for your power bill. But what does it mean in car talk, and, how does it relate to the more important yet ignored part of an engine output, torque?

Kilowatts and torque are produced by an engine spinning, be it electrical, petrol, or diesel powered. Kilowatts or horsepower are a measure of power, as defined here: It is the amount of energy consumed per unit time. Having no direction, it is a scalar quantity. In the SI system, the unit of power is the joule per second (J/s), known as the watt in honour of James Watt, the eighteenth-century developer of the steam engine.

A petrol and diesel engine work by ingesting fuel into cylinders and either igniting (petrol) or compressing (diesel) those fuels in the cylinders. Those explosions rotate a crankshaft which spins at so many times per second. By their very nature, petrol engines will spin to a higher rpm (revolutions per minute) than diesel, and it’s a high revolutions that petrol powered engines make their peak amount of kilowatts. Motorbike engines, in particular, make their power at well over ten thousand rpm, but are limited, in a sense, as to the outright capacity of the cylinders.

As a rule, bigger capacity engines are able to make more power however some aren’t physically able to rev as high as some smaller capacity engines. A great example is a car from Honda in the early part of the 21st century. The S2000 was initially powered by a two litre capacity engine, which was extended to a two point two litre size. Its peak power in Japan was quoted as 184 kilowatts. However, in order to produce that amount it had ro rev to 8300 rpm. Holden’s Chevrolet sourced V8, with a capacity in excess of six litres, produces 304 kilowatts, at between 5500 and 6000 rpm, somewhat less that the peak rpm of the smaller engine.

Torque is the forgotten part of the equation and is actually the part of driving that’s initially and constantly more important. To go back to the initial part of this, about how makers quote a kilowatt figure, it’s simple marketing to have those numbers in your headspace, but it’s torque that gets your car going and, especially in towing, becomes vital. Here’s the balance: torque is always produced at a lower rpm than power and it’s here that its useability is what you’ll notice.It’s been said that torque is what gets you going and power is what keeps you going. In acceleration tests as seen in a certain British car oriented TV program, it’s the torque that will launch the cars off the line, but it’s the power (leaving out the weight of cars and the gears in their gearboxes) that garners the attention as they cross the finish line.

One of the characteristics of diesel engines is where, in their rev range, the peak torque is made. Because the crank is spun by the reaction of fuel being compressed to explosion, there’s torque being produced far lower in the rev range than petrol. Torque is also a measure of force, a twisting force Think of loosening a stuck screw; by twisting the screwdriver you’re exerting force or torque to (hopefully) start twisting the screw, before power takes over to finish the job. Torque’s also visible in a physical form. We’ll presume you’ve seen a car do a “burnout”, where the tyres are spun to a point that they produce smoke. It’s torque that will eventually break the traction of the tyres.

Power is also a gradual climb before fading off, but torque can be found within a rev range as a constant number between two points on a rev range. Measured in either foot-pounds or Newton-metres, a flat torque delivery will make the sheer driveability of a car easier and safer. This graph shows one example of a “table top flat” toque delivery.

So when shopping for your next car, consider HOW the car will be used. Will you be towing, will it be a tradie’s ute, are you driving around town more than driving on freeways, are you driving the under 8’s netball team around? Although a peak power of 200 kilowatts might sound attractive, consider that in order to have that figure you’ll need to have your engine constantly at 6000 rpm…everywhere you go. Torque is what will get you going and is a real world more usable figure. Check out the information available on company websites for the car you’re looking at.


(Burnout figure thanks to Street Machine, info sourced from online sources).

ACCC Addresses Car Insurance Concerns.

Stratton Finance CEO Rob Chaloner has backed the ACCC’s stance to oppose a 20 per cent cap on commissions paid to car dealers who sell add-on insurance products, arguing that a commission cap will lessen competition and ultimately harm consumers.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has issued a report named “A market that is failing consumers: The sale of add-on insurance through car dealers”

, which claims consumers are being sold expensive products that often provide little to no benefit – and are sold at a time when the consumer is often buying a new car and distracted. It recommended a 20 per cent cap.

Chaloner argues: “Removal of competition has always resulted in a bad outcome for the consumer. In this case, the competitive nature of provision of insurance products to dealers means if commissions are the same industry-wide, insurers won’t compete for business and premiums will rise. This means higher costs hitting consumers’ wallets.

“If commissions are capped at 20 per cent, premiums will rise to bolster the dealers’ income to make it viable. There is no way around it, the consumer would suffer. Markets need to find their own level and free competition does that.

“Well done to the ACCC for not going along with this commission cap. It would simply hurt the people it purports to help.”

Chaloner also contends that a number of add-on insurance products are in fact highly valuable to customers, contrary to the ASIC report.

“GAP in particular saves consumers from harm in the real world. It can cost as little as $600-800 over a 60 month loan to know that if you write off your car, you won’t have to write an expensive cheque. Currently a dealership may earn a $240 commission from this. It takes considerable time to offer the product, inform the customer of the features and benefits and complete the contract. Let’s be realistic, if the service commission is capped at $120 nobody would bother and consumers would be harmed as a result,” notes Chaloner.

Add-on insurance is usually associated with consumer credit insurance, gap insurance, walk away insurance, and trauma insurance. Alternatively, it may relate to the vehicle itself, such as comprehensive insurance, extended warranty insurance, or tyre and rim insurance.

Uh-Oh, I’ve Used the Wrong Fuel. Now What?

As humans, we’re prone to an error or two from time to time. In fact, we could hardly consider ourselves human if we were perfect and not making the odd mistake. And while it’s not common to mix up different fuel types when putting them into your vehicle, it can and does happen. After all, for those pump nozzles to be colour-coded, and even slightly different fits, someone must have realised there was a problem. However, even if you end up making this surprisingly not so uncommon mistake, you can rectify the issue and minimise the prospect of any long-term damage to your vehicle.

When petrol is inserted into diesel vehicles, the more common mix-up, the engine and fuel injector system are most prone to issues. Petrol acts as a solvent to reduce the lubrication within a diesel fuel pump, in turn creating weakness within the diesel fuel pump. Where metals make contact with each other, a lack of lubrication can mean that tiny fragments are created. The impact of these fragments can be notable as they make their way through the rest of the fuel system. Engines potentially may also be exposed to damage as a result of the extreme and ill-regulated compression of petrol fuel.

Although diesel used in petrol engines still has the chance to create catastrophic damage, petrol engines tend to suffer immediate performance issues that are symptomatic of a fuel mix-up. This may include a poorly running vehicle, or one that won’t start at all.

If you’ve realised you’ve made a mistake, the most fundamental rule is to refrain from starting the ignition. As soon as you switch that key, fuel is circulated right through the system, extensively expanding the areas at risk.

Your first point of call should be to ask a licensed towing agency to transport the vehicle to a workshop premises, or alternatively, you will need to put the car into neutral and push it away. The problem with the latter approach however, is that there are few places immediately near a service station where it is appropriate to syphon fuel. Doing this on the side of a road, particularly major roads where service stations are located, is not the most logical location. Furthermore, you also run the risk of polluting the environment via waterways and the ground.

If on the other hand, you don’t immediately realise your error and only start to notice performance issues a short time after fuelling up, stop immediately and arrange for your vehicle to be towed away. The damage at this point, and certainly beyond, is more likely to be meaningful if left longer without being addressed. Diesel systems are likely to require a rework of the whole fuel system or worse, while petrol engines are more likely to need the fuel drained, lines flushed and filter changed.

Using the wrong petrol grade however, is of less concern. Although a lower grade still has the potential to have wider implications for a high-grade system, this is more reserved for specific vehicles. Even some high performance vehicles will slug away on a lower grade without any lasting damage, only a temporary reduction in performance levels. And if you fill up with a high grade fuel in your 91ULP vehicle, learn from your mistake and appreciate that the only damage was a few dollars difference between the cost in fuel grades – certainly not a few thousand dollars in repairs!

How Not To Use A Phone While Driving

They say that driving distracted is as bad as driving drunk when it comes to reducing your reaction times and making smart driving decisions.  Some distractions are beyond our control, such as half a swarm of bees flying through the open window (not making that one up – this happened to someone I know), a screaming child or a busting bladder.  However, using the phone is something that you can control.

We all know the rules.  Handsfree is the only way that you can do this legally and safely.  Putting the phone on your lap and glancing down so nobody knows that you’re using the phone is not an option. In fact, this is probably worse than having the thing openly visible up by the steering wheel in your hand – at least that way, you have half an eye on the road even if you do risk being spotted by the cops.  When the phone is on your lap, you have to take your eyes right off the road to look at it. Bad idea.

You’ve got to think beyond the stereotype of teenagers compulsively stuck on smartphones madly using social media, too.  Often, it’s adults who are at fault and who cause the accidents: “I can do it because that text, tweet or email might be really, really important for my work/family, and I’m a good experienced driver and I know the road and it’s not really busy and I’m used to multitasking and…”

Why do people compulsively check their phones while driving?  A lot of it probably comes down to standard cellphone etiquette: it’s considered bad form to not respond to someone who’s texted you, preferably as promptly as possible.  There’s always the thought at the back of our minds that the text that’s just come through might be something urgent – your significant other saying that he/she has locked the keys in the car and needs your help urgently, the school saying your child is sick, or a client from work trying to rearrange a meeting.

On the one side, you’ve got the fear of missing something urgent plus the desire to be polite.  On the other side, you’ve got the law and the desire to drive safely.  How are you going to resolve this one?

Go cold turkey

Even if the call is an emergency, you can wait a few minutes until you find a suitable place to pull over.  It is possible to leave the phone alone and not respond instantly.  Nobody is going to die.  If the situation is that urgent, the person in question should have dialled 000 rather than you.  Anyway, emergencies are few and far between, and there’s a chance that the text in question is going to be something along the lines of “3oclock Monday fine for meeting”.  Put the phone on silent and put it in the glovebox or somewhere you can’t reach it or see it, then ignore it.  It won’t kill you. However, texting while driving can kill you or someone else.  This is also one of the only two options for L-plate and P-plate drivers.

Hand it to the passenger

If you’ve often got people in the car with you, the person in the front seat can be your hands while you get on with the driving.  Your passenger can read out texts, send texts for you, look things up and give you information such as “Shirley’s sent you a hilarious picture on Instagram that you’ll have to look at later.” A strong-minded front seat passenger can also growl at you if you make a grab for the phone, or even physically stop you grabbing the phone, as suggested by this road safety ad from New Zealand:

Driving apps

Some apps solve the etiquette problem, meaning that the person on the other end of the text doesn’t think you’re rudely ignoring them.  These apps are similar to the automatic reply emails that you can set up when you’re on holiday but are more short-term.  Just before you start the engine, you turn the app on.  If someone texts you while you’re driving, the app will auto-reply saying that you are driving and will reply as soon as possible.  You can get them for iPhone and Android and several are free. Even the ones that aren’t free are a hang of a lot cheaper than a fine.  This is the other solution for L-platers and P-platers.

Other apps go a bit further than merely auto-responding.  Some block cellphone use while driving, are linked in with another device belonging to someone else for accountability purposes (e.g. a parent, significant other or boss, who get a notification if you do text and drive) and dish out rewards for appropriate behaviour (i.e. not using the phone while driving).


Going handsfree isn’t as hard as you think, especially if you have one of the newer Apple devices (which I don’t – I’ve got an older Android machine, so this isn’t an endorsement; however, I’ve seen my 19-year-old son’s Siri in action, especially after I started growling at him for texting while driving, which prompted the demo).  Siri and the Android equivalent (e.g. Robin) can read out your texts and you can dictate texts to them, all while your hands stay on the wheel and your eyes on the road.  This can lead to some interesting typos, or whatever you call the equivalent of speech recognition glitches, especially if you use that very common shorthand for seconds, “secs”.  Pop your phone in a suitable cradle and turn on the loudspeaker, then you’re good to go.

Full integration

In a heap of recent vehicles, the makers have realised that people want to stay connected and get those important calls and the like while on the road, especially in the case of contractors and people who travel for business.  Most vehicles come with full Bluetooth preparation and/or smartphone integration, basically turning your car into an extension of your device, so you can make those handsfree calls, send private messages on Facebook and get your texts read out by Siri or Robin.  Some of them also work in tandem with the driver aids and will shut down (so you’re less distracted) if it senses from your driving and all the other sensors that the traffic is getting heavy and things are getting a bit hairy.  These fully integrated “smartcars”, to coin a term, are also smart enough to refuse to let you go online and watch YouTube videos while the car is moving.

Jamming devices

Mobile phone jamming devices are illegal in Australia, so don’t even think about them.  Yes, you can block your own phone use while driving but you can also block everybody else’s phone use, including all the people who are using handsfree and Bluetooth integrated calling, and all passengers in your vicinity. You could also block someone’s emergency call to 000.

The Guy We All Need To Thank: Nils Bohlin

What would you call a guy who has saved approximately 11,000 lives every year in the US alone and way more than that around the world?  You’d probably think that you were reading a cracker of a superhero comic but this guy is for real.  Was he a war hero?  An emergency response guy like a medic, firefighter or cop?

Nope – he was an inventor.  What he invented was the three-point seatbelt.  His name was Nils Bohlin. In later life, he looked a bit like Father Christmas. Which is kind of appropriate, considering the gift he’s given to the world.

Bohlin was born in 1920 in Sweden, the country where he worked after graduating with an engineering diploma.  His first significant employer was SAAB , but he wasn’t working on their cars; his area was on the planes.  Specifically, he got to work on ejector seats, which were in hot demand at the time, the time in question being World War 2 when pilots were getting shot down and needing to bail out ASAP.  At the time, there was a bit of competition going on, and the German aircraft manufacturer Heinkel got the idea at the same time as SAAB and managed to get an operational ejector seat first.  (Did they really independently get the same idea simultaneously?  Or was there some skulduggery going on?  Plot for a WWII spy thriller here.)

After the war was over (and SAAB had got a good working ejector seat), a new problem was cropping up.  The demand for masses of fighter and bomber planes had died down but in the post-war period of prosperity, the demand for and use of the car had soared.  It wasn’t just a toy for the rich any more.  With a lot more cars on the roads going faster thanks to all the technology developed during wartime, there were a lot more accidents.  A sort of seat belt had been invented: a two-point lap belt with a buckle that did up in the middle over your stomach.  If you’ve been in some classic cars, you may have seen them (I have some very dim memories of using one of these, possibly in the ancient Mini  owned by my grandparents when I was little… I think).  While these two-point jobs were a heck of a lot better than nothing, they were not ideal.  For a start off, they didn’t stop your head pitching forwards during a crash thanks to all that momentum with the end result that the driver whacked his/her head on the steering wheel.  You also had the problem of sliding up and out of the seat belt.  Then there was the belt itself.  At high speeds, that meant all the momentum and force was caught and stopped by a band across your tummy.  With a heavy metal buckle right in the middle where the force would be greatest. At best, this would make you puke.  At worst, it would cause nasty internal injuries.  Don’t even think about what would happen if the person wearing the lap belt was a pregnant woman.  Something had to be done.

The something was done by Volvo, who hired Nils Bohlin to try to improve the design.  This was 1958 and Volvo had decided that one of their key design principles was going to be safety, safety, safety, rather than merely concentrating on power and speed (one of the CEO’s relatives had been killed in a car crash).  Bohlin was the perfect choice.  After all, he’d had to think about stresses on the human body at speed, restraints and sort of thing when developing ejector seats.  Ejector seats had four-pointer restraints but Bohlin knew that this wasn’t going to work in a family car.  He wanted a design that could be put on with one hand.  As he had four stepchildren and one child, he probably knew all too well that getting multiple straps onto a wriggly child was pretty tricky!  On top of that, he had consumer attitudes to contend with.  As he said, “The pilots I worked with in the aerospace industry were willing to put on almost anything to keep them safe in case of a crash, but regular people in cars don’t want to be uncomfortable even for a minute.” The restraints had to be comfortable.

It took him a year of testing, going back to the drawing board, retesting, tinkering and general improving until he came up with the three-point system we are all familiar with today: a belt running from shoulder to hip that attaches to a fixed point at hip level on the opposite side from the shoulder-height anchor points.  It was simple.  It could be done up with one hand.  It was comfortable for men and women (this was the 1950s when the ideal female figure was very, very curvy…).  This spread the force of impact across the ribcage and abdomen, which reduced the risk of internal injury dramatically and made slipping out over the top less likely.

His new design was patented in the US in 1959 and you can see it here.  However, even though Bohlin and Volvo held the patent, Volvo was public-spirited enough to allow other manufacturers to use this life-saving design for free, putting people ahead of profits (and giving their company image and reputation one heck of a boost).

Nils Bohlin demonstrates his invention to the public.

It took a while for the new invention to catch on.  After all, people just weren’t used to wearing seat belts on buses or the like.  They weren’t planning on crashing (who does?) so why on earth did they need to wear a seat belt.  Seat belt use wasn’t mandatory (and belts were only installed in the driver and front passenger seats at first), so a fair bit of PR work was needed to educate the public.  At first, seat belts were just nice accessories in a car.  However, a demo using eggs in rolling cart, one with a seatbelt and one without, got the message across, along with a bunch of other stunts presented in a world tour.  In 1969 in the US, seatbelts (in the front seats at least) became compulsory.  Today, in all developed economies, seat belt use is mandatory front and back.  On top of that, even the centre rear seat lap belt that most of us grew up with is being phased out, with more and more cars offering three-point seat belts for all five (or seven) seats.

The design has been tweaked a fair bit over the years, with pretensioners being added by Mercedes Benz in the 1980s, Audi adding height adjustments and those bra-strap style length adjusters being replaced by retracting inertia reels.  However, the basic design is still the same as Nils Bohlin’s original design.  Since its invention, it has saved over a million lives, and the US safety stats figure that seat belt use saves over 11,000 million lives every year.

Bohlin also invented the buckle design that is used on his seat belt, and he also worked on the Side Impact Protection System that has been another Volvo special that has since spread to other marques.

Bohlin became head of Volvo’s safety design team, and received numerous awards throughout his lifetime, including being inducted into the Health and Safety Hall of Fame and the Automotive Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the Inventors’ Hall of Fame in 2002 upon his death.

Despite his invention, seat belt laws and more, some people still don’t seem to get the point and insist on not wearing their seat belts.  Come on, folks!  To quote Winnie-the-Pooh’s Eeyore, “the funny thing about accidents is that you never have them until you’re having them.” Buckle up!

“My greatest pleasure comes when I meet people who tell me that a seat belt saved their life or the life of a loved one.  Many inventions make life better for people. I have been fortunate to work in the area of safety engineering, where innovation doesn’t just improve our lives; it actually can save lives.”—Nils Bohlin

2017 Renault Koleos Zen & Intens: A Private Fleet Car Review

Renault’s 2017 Koleos has undergone a huge transformation compared to the model it supercedes. Based on Nissan’s X-Trail it’s bigger, brawnier, smarter and a whole lot prettier. Built on a three model and four trim level range, being the Life 4×2, Zen 4×2 and 4×4, and Intens 4×4, Private Fleet backs up the mid spec Renault Koleos Zen 2WD against the top of the range Renault Koleos Intens All Wheel Drive.The heartbeat of the Koleos is a fuel injected 2.5L petrol engine. Yep, no diesel. And if you’re looking for a traditional manual or auto, fawgeddit. It’s a CVT and a somewhat seemingly slippery one at that. What you’ll get is 126 kW (6000 rpm) and 226 torques (4400 rpm), hauling a mass of between 1550 and 1700 kilos dry. Renault quote a towing weight of 2000 kilos as well, along with an urban cycle consumption figure of the Euro5 compliant engine of 10.4 to 10.7 litres per one hundred klicks. That drops appreciably on the highway, down to 6.4 to 6.9. A Wheel Thing found 7.7L/100, admittedly on longer and free flowing suburban drives, from the 60 litre tank.It’s around town that the CVT’s faults are, naturally, most apparent. They’re prone to feeling like an old school manual slipping clutch at the best of times but this one’s even slipperier. From a standstill it becomes a raucous and almost overbearing roar as the engine gets up to 4000 and then varies in note as the transmission’s built in steps kick in. Note, too, there’s no paddle shifts to ease the pain although there is the mandatory sports shift on the geat selector. It genuinely feels that there’s a lack of gearbox traction when really pressing hard, however the Zen seemed more amenable to a lighter pedal pressure than the Intens, possibly due to the weight difference. What is also baffling and contradictory is the sensation of watching the speedo numbers change faster than the seat of the pants says they should.It’s a handsome car, the 2017 Koleos, and far prettier than the previous model. Where that was sharp and angular, the incumbent is fluid, rounded, smooth. There’s LED tail lights and daytime running lights in a C shape, along with LED headlights for the Intens. In profile it’s well proportioned, with a pleasing balance from bonnet to tapered rear. the Intens gets a powered tailgate as well. In fact, it’s a hard thing to find any angle of the Koleos that isn’t good to look at. The Intens gets a full length glass roof adding to the airiness of the feel of the interior. Consider a 4672 mm overall length and 2705 mm wheelbase, along with over 1400 mm shoulder room front and rear plus 290 mm knee room for rear seat passengers.Both cars come with blacked out insides and vary in a couple of key areas. Renault, unlike far too many makers, include ventilation for the front seats, not just heating, inside the Intens. There’s mood lighting in the Intens, however both get changeable themes for the driver’s LCD screen and centre dash display, of which the Zen has a different look to the Intens to help differentiate. Both have a swag of controls built into the touchscreen, such as aircon, DAB radio, even Blind Spot Alert and Tyre Presure Monitoring. The overall look is classy, user friendly, but not without quirks. For example, Renault have located the Cruise Control buttons in the centre console and have a separate stalk for audio under the right side of the steering column. Although not exactly ergonomic to look at, once used a few times it becomes second nature to use. Both cars appeal with their looks, with a luxury feel that mirros more expensive luxury SUVs. Cargo varies from 458 litres to 1690 litres with the seats folded and Renault have recognised the value of family by having two USB ports and an extra 12V socket under the rear aircon vents.Another winner for both is the ride quality. For a car of its size, it’s surprisingly well damped, taut enought to hold corners without roll and compliant enough to absorb most road irregularities. There’s even, oddly, enough oomph initially to chirp the front tyres in the Zen, backed up by a modicum of squeal when pushed in corners compared to the Intens. It’s a fluid and well balanced ride, with even the cursed speedbumps dialed out nicely, whilst hilly switchbacks saw the pair almost in sports mode, such was the grip and ride quality. Steering itself was well balanced, with good weight although not overly communicative in the Zen compared to the Intens, even though both should feel the same as both are fitted with the same 225/60/18 rubber.To further sweeten the deal, Renault offers as standard a five year warranty, five year roadside assist and three services at a capped price along with an attractive starting price of just $33990 driveaway.

At The End Of The Drive.
Renault is on a clear winner with the Koleos, especially with the Intens. A fabulous ride, a good looker, good mix of trim and equipment, a surprisingly quick mover, and good economy make the Koleo range a very attractive proposition and a worthy alternative to those seen as a more popular choice. To check out the four levels of Koleos, go here: Renault Koleos information

Fuzzy Dice And Other Watchacallums

Mascots?  Decorations?  Danglers?  Actually, the English language doesn’t have an actual name for those ornaments that hang from the rear view mirror.  Fuzzy dice are the iconic examples but the furry cubes aren’t the only things we’ve seen.  As this post is going to discuss them and it’s going to be boring to type out (and read) “fuzzy dice or other items hanging from the rear view mirror” every time, I’m going to make up a word: danglers.  Danglers will do.

The most important issue relating to danglers is whether or not they are legal.  The powers that be – and rightly so – take exception to anything that obscures the driver’s vision.  According to the Queensland police, anything that gets between you and the arc of the windscreen wipers is considered to block your vision and create a blind spot, and this applies to GPS units and mobile phone mounts as well as danglers (presumably, the heads-up displays that come in some luxury vehicles these days don’t count).  Roads and Maritime Services of NSW suggests that anything swinging and dangling will be distracting but doesn’t actually have any specifications beyond “the driver must have the clearest possible view of the road particularly in poor lighting conditions at dusk, night or while driving in rain.” In Victoria, they get a bit more specific: “Any vehicle presented for a roadworthy inspection with any dangling objects hanging from the rear vision mirror should not be issued with a RWC until the objects are removed.” South Australia’s spec sheet has plenty to say about tinting and TV/DVD screens but nothing about danglers.  It’s definitely illegal in Western Australia to have anything hanging from a rear view mirror (nice to have it spelled out so clearly and plainly!).  Across the ditch in New Zealand, it seems to be OK.

In short, it’s probably best to leave the danglers off.

However, I’m not a total killjoy.  If you can position the danglers where they won’t obscure your vision or hit you in the head, then you can have them.  This means that the danglers are going to have to be small, so those iconic fluffy dice are out.  Nevertheless, there are still plenty of other options.

Where did the tradition of hanging things from the windscreen come from?  Historically and psychologically speaking, the origins of adding decorations to your form of transport are lost in the mists of time.  Ancient Greek triremes had eyes painted on the front, old-fashioned sailing boats had their figureheads, warhorses were decked out with plumes and plough horses had collars covered with brass charms.  Tricking out a car with something for luck or just for fun is just an extension of this.  However, regarding the actual fuzzy dice, folklore has it that this was started by US fighter pilots in World War 2, who hung up the dice for good luck.  Those who came back from the war carried the tradition over to their cars, which is why the fuzzy dice are such a 1950s thing.

Danglers aren’t limited to fuzzy dice.  Even in places where it’s legal, you don’t see too many fuzzy dice, except on cars belonging to retro enthusiasts and a certain type of bogan.  Air fresheners are a lot more popular and come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, ranging from things shaped like pine trees and smelling of something described by advertising copywriters as pine trees (but doesn’t really smell like an actual pine tree) through to handmade ceramic or fabric potpourri bags redolent of essential oils.

After that, of course, you are limited only by your imagination, your sense of taste and what’s legal.   A quick glance through Pinterest and similar sites (from jurisdictions where they’re legal, of course) throws up a good range of ideas that fall into two main categories, those for supernatural protection or luck or blessing or something of that sort.  In other words, things that fall into the religious or spiritual category (and I’m including New Age spirituality in here).  Crosses, rosaries, crystals, angels, Native American spirit animals, Hamsa hands, Feng Shui mirrors, medallions of St Christopher (patron saint of travellers)… there are heaps of them to suit any set of beliefs.  Technically, dream catchers would fall into this category but I thought these were only supposed to work for letting good dreams through and keeping nightmares out when you’re asleep… If you’re asleep at the wheel, you’ve got more to worry about than a nightmare, mate.

The second category includes anything that’s hung up there just for fun because you like it and you think it looks nice.  Soft toys, bunches of dried flowers, skulls, you name it.  The powers that be get particularly snippy about these if they’re sparkly (disco balls, for example) because the twinkling and flashing in your eyes is distracting when you’re on the road.

A third category exists: safety signs and reminders.  These are especially understandable in the case of taxis. But make sure that they’re spelled correctly…


Focus on your driving… don’t look at this dangler!




My personal preference is not to have anything hanging on the rear view mirror because it can be annoying.  However, there are other places to hang things if you want to pretty up your car and make it yours.  The chicken handles in the rear, the back of the head rests (great if you want to hang up something for a baby to look at during a long car trip), attached to the rear passenger windows with suction pads, clipped onto the air vents… there are plenty of places if you look.  In this department, VW’s New Beetle has to be a winner with the flower vase, acknowledging that drivers might want to add something quirky and fun.

If you live in a place where you can get away with a dangler, do you have fluffy dice or other danglers hanging from your rear view mirror?  What do you have?  Or what have you seen?  If you live somewhere that doesn’t permit danglers, how do you customise your vehicle and where do you put things like air fresheners?