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Archive for May, 2018

Private Fleet Car Reviews: 2018 Subaru Liberty 3.6L and 2.5L.

Subaru‘s Liberty sedan continues to be a pillar of the Japanese brand’s sales success. The current three tier range has the 2.5L engine in the 2.5i and 2.5L Premium before a 3.6L flat six trim. Private Fleet goes back to back with the Subaru Liberty 3.6L and 2.5L Premium.The Liberty range itself received a mild facelift in early 2018, with a change to the front lights and bar, the rear lights, and a freshen up inside. Software such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto was added to a touchscreen that was slightly larger than before, Lane Keeping Assist was added to the safety package, plus the Premium gains a updated safety package. Premium variants add a suite of Vision Assist features including: Steering Responsive Headlights, Adaptive Driving Beam, Side View Monitor, and Front View Monitor.Underneath there were changes to the suspension and drivetrain. There’s a smoother and more refined feel to both engines, and the seven speed CVT autos in both also feel crisper and smooth in the changes. However, in this driver’s opinion, the suspension is a backwards step, being floaty, soft, far too short in travel and banging quickly to the bumpstops on even the smaller speed inhibitors in shopping centres. There’s more noticeable skipping sideways as well, with a two and a half day trip to the Kiama and Illawarra region, south of Wollongong, finding plenty of spots where the rear would suddenly move sideways and too easily on the Dunlop 225.50/16 rubber and alloys.The two different engines require, like all petrol engines, plenty of spin to see the maximum power. The 2.5L four sees 5800 rpm for 129 kW, and the bigger six 6000 rpm for 191 kW. However real driving relies on torque, and it’s here the six wins with 350 Nm at 4400 revs. The smaller donk has 235 Nm and 4000 revs, a still not inconsequential amount for its size. Both do a sterling job of pulling the 1577 and 1655 kilo machines around, however the four suffers in comparison on the uphill runs. There’s noticeable drop-off quicker which requires a firmer right foot. That relative lack of torque in a vehicle that weighs as it does sees a zero to one hundred time of 9.6 seconds, and a full 2.4 seconds quicker for the flat six in an eighty kilo heavier car.Economy on the 2.5L shows that it’s otherwise a brilliant highway performer, with the return figure from the Illawarra standing up at 6.4L of standard unleaded per 100 kilometres from the sixty litre tank. That’s on par with Subaru’s claimed 6.2L/100 km for the highway. The 3.6L is quoted as 7.5L per 100 km and driven in a more urban environment wasn’t far from the quoted combined figure of 9.9L/100 km. It’s the quoted figure of over fourteen litres for every hundred kilometres for the urban cycle that’s the concern.In profile it’s a handsome machine with a full 4800 mm length, and with the LED C shaped tail lights glowing at night, the auto swivelling headlights at work, and the white metallic paint glinting in the night, looks eye-catching and appealing. There’s also door mounted puddle lamps which cast a LED light over a broad area. Inside, the bigger touchscreen is easy to use, is well laid out, and features satnav, apps, and compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The powered seats are heated but not vented, and lack enough side bolstering for genuine comfort. There’s no shortage of shoulder or leg room though, thanks to a wheelbase of 2750 mm, width of 1840 mm overall, and a long but height shallow 493L boot. There piano black trim on the steering wheel looks and feels cheap and is at odds at the otherwise classy interior.There’s a good level of tech on board with Active Torque Vectoring, and the Premium & 3.6L feature the Vision Assist package which is Front View Monitor, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Side View Monitor, and Adaptive Driving Beam. Seven airbags including the driver’s knee bag means occupant safety is high. Height adjustable seat belts enhance that level. Reverse camera is standard across the range. But, and this is a big but, neither car had rear sensors and in an age where these are virtually mandatory this level of oversight is simply not good enough. What is good enough is Subaru’s Eyesight system. Stereo cameras mounted alongside the rear vision mirror, which is auto dimming by the way, rear the traffic ahead and are part of a safety bundle.Adaptive Cruise Control, Brake Light Recognition, Pre-collision Braking (which occasionally threw out some false positives), Pre-collision Brake Assist, Pre-collision Throttle Management, and Pre-collision Steering Assist work with the other driving aids to provide as much warning and support to drivers to avoid a crash as possible.But it’s the ride and handling that distinguishes this version compared to the previous and that’s not necessarily a good thing. It really does float, waft, and roll, and that suspension crash at low speeds just simply doesn’t feel good nor does it inspire confidence. It’s a chassis feel that a neighbour with a 2013 model Liberty said would turn him off from buying a new model. And it’s a chassis tune that feels aimed at more…mature drivers.

At The End Of The Drive.
Subaru’s list price for the 2.5L Premium is a reasonable $36,640. The six comes in at $43,140. Factor in on roads and those prices suddenly don’t look quite so attractive compared to the new Commodore and on a par with the Mazda 6 2.5L. The ride quality isn’t as good as expected, the lack of rear sensors may outweigh, in some buyer’s minds, the excellence of the EyeSight packagae, and the thirst around town of the six may also counter the positives. There’s always the Outback, though….Book a drive and make up your own mind, here: 2018 Subaru Liberty range

Why We Shouldn’t Phase Out ICE Vehicles Yet

 

Hello, I’m a mule – the very first hybrid form of transport.

In certain parts of the world – Europe, to be specific – governments have pledge to stop the sales of new cars that are powered by internal combustion engines only (aka ICE vehicles, where ICE stands for internal combustion engine).  This means that any new cars sold in these countries will be hybrids or pure electrics.

First, before we all panic and start stockpiling petrol and diesel because we aren’t ready to ditch our favourite sets of wheels yet, let’s clarify a few things.   Firstly, Australia hasn’t made any such pledge yet, although certain political parties are starting to talk about it.  Secondly, what will be phased out is the sale of NEW cars only.  Presumably, second-hand car dealers will still have ICE vehicles sitting out in the yards (possibly quite a few of them if all the ones that have been kicked off UK roads make it over here).  And they’ll still have to sell petrol and diesel to run (a) the older cars, (b) the diesel or petrol parts of the hybrids and (c) things like motorbikes that haven’t really caught onto the whole electric thing yet.

Nevertheless, I don’t really want to jump on the “let’s phase out ICE cars” bandwagon.  I don’t think we’re quite ready for that yet.

First of all, there’s the issue of range in pure EVs.  Mercifully, we now have enough charging points along the A1 highway so you won’t get stranded in the middle of the Nullabor, but even so, it takes at least half an hour to fully charge an EV.  This means that your Great Australian Road Trip is going to take even longer than it would otherwise.  Plan accordingly.  However, although the main highways around the perimeter are pretty well provided with charging points, there are bits of the country where the charging points are spaced out further than the typical range of an EV.  This is not good news for, say, park rangers, farmers and rural nurses.  The developers are going to have to really, really work hard to get better range for EVs before these groups are going to even think about buying one.  I keep getting this mental picture of some rural midwife trying to head out to some rural woman going into labour but being held up by (a) detouring to the nearest charging point and (b) waiting for half an hour to charge her vehicle.  Don’t even think about what would happen with emergency service vehicles.

I kind of hope that the Powers That Be who are going to make the decisions about our national vehicle fleet go out and spend a day riding shotgun with some of the folk in our rural communities to get an idea of the distances they drive… and at least put in a few more charging points before they decide to kit out all the nurses with EVs.  Not sure what they’ll be able to do for the park rangers.  Carrying about a diesel generator to power up a vehicle in the middle of nowhere kind of seems to defeat the purpose of promoting EVs in the first place.

Anyway, there’s another issue, and it’s one that affect those in cities as well.  Now, the majority of EVs and hybrids are smaller vehicles.  When it comes to practical commercial vehicles that your typical tradie can use, it’s a different story.  Yes, there are some great hybrid SUVs available, such as the Volvo XC90  and the BMW X5 , but these aren’t your typical choice for a tradie.  As for the Tesla X SUV…  I, for one, would start wondering how much my plumber or electrician charges per hour if I saw him/her driving around in a high-end SUV.  At least Mitsubishi and Nissan have some offerings, including a 2WD version of the Nissan Pathfinder  and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV  (which is reported to be the most popular hybrid/EV in Australia).

Your typical electrician, plumber, builder or landscape gardener usually prefers to drive a ute or van, preferably one with lots of torque to tow a massive trailer as well as lots of load space.  I know this all too well, as the other half is a landscape gardener and I’ve seen the amount of gear he carries in the trailer and carts around in various bits of the trusty dual-cab Navara ute.  Given what your typical tradie charges per hour – which has to be affordable in order to be competitive – new cars aren’t usually on the cards.  A phase-out of ICE vehicles would mean that second-hand vehicles would still be an option for your tradies… but what happens further down the track?  If nobody’s bought brand new hybrid/EV utes and vans then there won’t be any second-hand ones for your small-scale tradies to purchase.  Let’s hope that if the phase-out happens, larger operators will get themselves a fleet of hybrid utes and vans that can then go on down the line.  Either that or the banks are going to have to be nicer to owner-operator tradies so they can finance something brand new.

Tradies also clock up quite a few kilometres just around town, which means that even if pure EV commercial vehicles were available yet, your tradies would have to spend ages charging up possibly at least once a day. This means that you could be left waiting for the plumber (assuming he or she does emergency call-outs) for that little bit longer while your toilet refuses to flush and/or overflows.  Half an hour can be a long time when you’re waiting for the dunny…

At the moment, there aren’t a whole lot of hybrid or electric vans and utes out there on the roads – at least not yet.  Renault  has one electric van that’s going to arrive very soon, Haval has plans for a hybrid ute and there’s even talk about a hybrid version of my favourite tradie’s beloved Nissan Navara.  But they’re still in the future (we’ll let you know when they arrive). Even if a big construction company wanted to kit all of its builders out with hybrid or electric commercial vehicles as soon as they hit these shores, this would still be some way off.

There’s also the issue of all the investment and research into biofuels, but that’s worth taking another whole post to discuss.

In short, it’s too soon to talk seriously about phasing out ICE vehicles in Australia simply because we don’t have enough suitable new replacements for the current vehicle fleet that have the range and the practical ability of the petrol and diesel units currently available.  Although your Green Party members living in the city could probably make the switch to purely electric vehicles tomorrow and not be affected (and I hope they’ve already made the switch and put their money where their mouth is), there’s a significant proportion of typical Aussies who can’t make the switch yet and will have to stick with ICE vehicles for a while yet.  Be patient, folks.  Although there may come a day when hybrid vehicles and EVs triumph, today is not that day.

Car Review: 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Exceed AWD and LS.

Mitsubishi have joined the ever growing band of car makers supplying a smaller mid sized SUV. The oddly named Eclipse Cross fits snugly between the Outlander and ASX in size yet packs a 1.5L turbocharged four cylinder and CVT. It’s a comfortable four seater, has a couple of nifty features inside, and comes with a cargo space big enough for a family of four’s weekend away luggage or a week’s shopping. It’s priced from the high $20K mark plus on-roads so it’s not a bankbuster either.The three model range has the LS 2WD, Exceed 2WD, and AWD. All three have the same 1.5 litre turbocharged four cylinder petrol engine that produces 110 kW at 5500 rpm and 250 Nm from 2000 to 3500 rpm, and CVT with eight steps. There’s a 60 litre tank that holds standard unleaded, and runs at a quoted fuel consumption figure of 7.7 litres per one hundred kilometres for the combined cycle. However, part of the dash display screen option list is expected range. On highway and freeway usage the range does extend and from pickup to home saw over two hundred kilometres being added.Exterior design is eyecatching; there’s Mitsubishi’s signature shield design for the front, free flowing sheetmetal for the wheel arches, and an angled scallop that reaches rearwards from the middle of the front doors that lines up the door handles. The rear is the question mark of the design but sets the Eclipse Cross apart from its competitors. It’s sharply angled from the arrow head tail lights to the roof in profile and both end lights are joined by a horizontal bar through the glass that also blocks some rearward vision. Rolling stock is standardised at 225/55/18 with rubber from Toyo being more dry land and tarmac oriented.An interior highlight for the range is the addition of a trackpad device located in the centre console. It’s intended to backup the seven inch touchscreen but in practical use, with a drag and slide and push down to enter, it’s not really that effective. The touchscreen and trackpad themselves seem to be Audi inspired, as the touchscreen is now housed in a pod that stands proud of the upper dash construction. The aircon controls are buried under a ledge that houses the centre airvents and a pair of USB ports.The Eclipse Cross Exceed AWD has a Bose speaker system that’s clean, crisp, punchy, and takes advantage of the DAB radio that’s fitted to all three variants. The touchscreen’s interface isn’t hard to use but sourcing stations in the digital realm was tricky and not intuitive. Naturally there’s apps that can be selected via the touchpad that include Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Alongside that is the variable information available on the driver’s dash display that gives you economy, trip, eco rating, but not speed.The cabin itself is spacious and airy in feel, thanks to an overall height of 1685 mm, a width of 1805 mm overall, and a wheelbase of 2760 mm inside the compact 4405 mm length. The black of the lower seat level section is contrasted by alloy plastic highlights, glossy piano black, and the roof lining in a cloth weave of an almost beige shade. The seats themselves are cloth with a sliver diamond motif in the LS and heated leather (no cooling, sigh) in the Exceed. The Exceed also has a Head Up Display that folds up from the binnacle. Although it’s easy to read and populates itself with information such as speed, crash alerts for the radar assisted cruise control, the screen itself is perhaps a couple of inches too low for ease of vision. Also, the rear tail gate in the Exceed AWD isn’t power operated, as expected. Cargo space is 341L to 448L and sits above a space saver spare. That capacity goes to 1136L with the seats folded.Where the Eclipse Cross claws back points is in the manners on road. The 1.5L needs a little bit of coaxing off the line when loaded up but once into its stride responds willingly enough. With one aboard it’s a sparkling performer, an adept handler, and a surefooted performer in ride quality. With four aboard and the cargo area full it’s less willing to get under way but still has some solid mid range urge. The multi-link rear feels tauter when not loaded up and the front is well balanced in comparison. Absorption of bumps and irregularities is smooth and progressive with even the short and sharp speed restrictors in shopping centres lessened in their crash into the cabin. Turn in is measured and precise, with no feeling of oversteer in the AWD and little understeer in the 2WD. Mass, or lack thereof, helps, as the LS and Exceed 2WD weigh 1490 kilos dry, the AWD 1555 kilos dry.The Eclipse Cross AWD was taken on a good country drive, from Sydney to Bega and surrounds and back, covering in all over 1600 kilometres. Some of that was through the soft, wet, coarse sand of a crossing at the Bega River. Although CVTs tend not to engage straight away when the accelerator is pushed, the development from Mitsubishi has lessened this to the point that engagement is quick and combined with the AWD system (which is switchable for Snow and Gravel) allowed safe, unhurried, and unconcerned crossings. Only rarely, too, did the 1.5L feel that more torque was required, and naturally this was moreso uphill and when overtaking. The CVT is smooth and well matched to the engine, and when the go pedal is pushed to the carpet, has a steady and progressive climb through the revs to 4000 where it plateaus.Safety is paramount here with seven airbags, Autonomous Emergency Braking and radar cruise control. This needs some work as the braking is far too harsh and sudden. Modulation down to a more progressive stop would make this a far better experience. A full set of parking sensors is complimented by the reverse camera, 360 degree view on the touchscreen, Lane Departure Warning, and Rear Cross Traffic alert.

At The End Of The Drive.
It’s somewhat of an oddity, the Eclipse Cross, both in name and looks. As a family car and a daily driver, it fits the bill. It’s fine for four but no more, isn’t unattractive, drives well enough to suit almost every application, and the AWD system is ok for some gentle soft-roading. But a few minor quibbles such as the way the HUD sits, the lack of showing speed in the driver’s display, and the compromised rear vision take some of the gloss away.

The LS is priced at the time of writing at %31,990 driveaway, with most of the paint options at $590. The gorgeous metallic red that Exceed AWD is clad in is $890 and tops out at $39,380 driveaway. Specifications for the 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross are available here: 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross specifications.