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Archive for February, 2019

HiAce Goes Out Of The Box.

Toyota’s venerable HiAce light commercial van has gone from a smooth, ovoid, mid sized van to a boxy and bigger version. Although not in the same capacity range as a Sprinter from Mercedes-Benz of a Trafic from Renault, its more compact size has allowed thousands of people to become a courier delivery driver, a taxi, or a people mover.Due for a mid 2019 release, the latest version has had one very noticeable design change. Gone is the long standing blunt nose, finally replaced with a semi-bonneted design. This has the end effect of engineers providing a stiffer chassis that offers an improvement in straight line performance and stability. Manoeuvrability from a range of more pliant suspensions is an extra bonus with new MacPherson struts being part of the uprated suspension system. The rear has newly designed leaf springs, with an increase of length of 200 mm adding an extra 30 mm of travel for a more compliant ride.Seating will range from a two seater version on a long wheelbase (LWB) and super long wheel base (SLWB), a five seater LWB van, and a super long wheelbase (SLWB) 12 seater commuter van.

Motorvation has changed as well. There will be two new engines – a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel or a 3.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol poweplant, both available with six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. Confirmation of power, torque, and consumption will be made available closer to the release date.A hallmark of the HiAce has been its cargo carrying ability and has been maintained at a maximum of 6.2 cubic metres for the lLWB wheel base and 9.3 cubic metres for the SLWB thanks to the redesign that offers clever packaging which increases internal width by 215mm and height by 5mm without altering overall exterior width. The SLWB two-seat van is capable of accommodating Australian standard pallets (1165mm x 1165mm) through its wider sliding side doors. Inside will be a range of mounting points to help secure cargo.

Sean Hanley, Toyota Australia’s vice president of sales & marketing, says: “Importantly, we anticipate even better whole-of-life costs with excellent reliability and resale value along with minimal downtime and affordable maintenance. The semi-bonnet design makes it significantly easier and quicker to replace parts such as the oil and air filters, battery, and coolant. In addition to being highly capable right off the showroom floor, all-new HiAce has been designed to offer immense flexibility through conversions and customisation to meet varied business and personal needs.”

The expected safety rating is five stars, thanks again to the redesigned chassis, and with up to nine airbags being fitted depending on version. Pre-collision warning with cyclist and pedestrian detection, autonomous emergency braking, and reversing camera are complemented by a digital rear view camera that can be fitted as an option.

Extra design features make the new HiAce just that little bit more human friendly too. The doors have a lower edge and sit over a wider step for easier access. The window glass is larger for better vision and a lower beltline means better side vision.Pricing for the 2019 Toyota HiAce is yet to be confirmed.

In Praise Of Old-School Windows

I’d find myself rather pushed to find a car that’s new onto the market that doesn’t have fast glass or automatic windows or whatever else you want to call them. You know the ones: the ones that have a little button, one on each door for the appropriate window, which gets pushed one way to make the window go up and the other way to make the window go down.  There’s usually an array of similar buttons on the door of the driver’s seat, which controls all of the windows in one handy place.  And if you push the button in the right way, it whizzes all the way up or down in one go.

If you remember electric windows when they first came out, they were very, very cool.  The early types, however, had some snags, especially if you had small bored children (or slightly older bored children) in the back seat. If you weren’t careful, small children could operate the buttons and put the windows down all the way, letting freezing cold blasts of air into the cabin of the car and allowing the possibility of precious objects being dangled outside of the window and eventually dropped, requiring sudden halts and U-turns to retrieve Teddy after Teddy had had a flying lesson.  The other snag was that small fingers could get pinched very easily as the window closed.  Not so small fingers could get pinched as well.  This happened to me and gave me a very painful insight into what the Medieval torture device known as the thumbscrew felt like.  Had a black thumbnail that couldn’t be covered properly by polish for at least a week.

These problems were overcome by a few simple tweaks.  The problem of small children opening windows was overcome by the driver’s side override button that shut off the other buttons, meaning that Mum or Dad was the one who controlled the level of the rear windows.  The other important development was the introduction of a pinch-sensitive mechanism that detected if something was stopping the window going all the way up and wouldn’t keep trying to squeeze all the way home.  These stopped fingers getting pinched but this mechanism is no good at all for long hair that’s been blowing in the wind or for silk scarves.  Believe me, suddenly discovering that your hair is trapped in the closed window when you try turning your head is pretty painful, though not quite in the league of the old thumbscrews without pinch sensitivity.

So all’s well, right?  Modern automatic windows are safe and convenient, aren’t they?  So why am I hankering for the old-school windows that wound down with a handle?

The first thing that I miss about them is their precision.  You see, when you had to wind it up or down manually, you could stop at the precise point where you wanted.  OK, this was a pain when you wanted to go all the way from fully up to fully down – which is what fast glass is good at doing – but there are times when you just want a little bit of window open.  Getting it exactly right so that you can let a bit of ventilation into the car while you nip into the supermarket but without offering an invitation to sneak thieves was pretty easy with manual windows but it can get frustrating with fast glass.  You poke the button and it moves down to about three centimetres from where you want it, then you poke the button again and the window flies all the way down to the bottom.  Then the reverse happens when you try to ease the window up again to stop at the right place.  It probably takes a couple of goes until you get it right.  Similar things happen when you want to do things like let enough fresh air in but not so much that a gale buffets the people in the back seat or you can’t hear what the other people in the car are saying.  This really makes me wonder if it’s really worth having a mechanism that goes from top to bottom in one hit after all.

Next comes the fact that automatic windows work by electricity, not by magic. This means that in order to make the windows up or down, the key needs to be in the ignition so the car knows that it’s all systems go.  If you are in a parked car and want to put the windows down to stop them fogging up (oh, put that dirty imagination away – I’m talking about waiting in the car while your kids are at football practice on a freezing cold day) then you have to switch everything on to do this.  It gets even more annoying when you find that you’ve left the back window wide open and you’ve just locked the door. OK, even with old-school cars, you had to unlock the door (which you could do by reaching through said window if there wasn’t any central locking) and wind up the window but now you have to unlock, put the key back into the ignition and then put the windows up.  Then as soon as you’ve dealt with that and locked back up again, you realise that there’s another window open…

The driver’s window lock switch can also be a nuisance at times.  They are wonderful things when your children are small because you don’t want Teddy to have flying lessons, the interior to receive an Antarctic blast and the mechanism to be worn out as the windows go up and down and up and down during a traffic jam.  However, if your rear passengers are teens or adults, the window lock is a pain.  Uncle Alfie in the back seat has just let off after a meal of cabbage and pickled onions, and by the time Uncle has tried to surreptitiously let the fart out of the cabin, discovered that the window mechanism is locked and asked “Excuse me, can you open my window?  I just farted,” it’s too late and the car cabin will smell of Eau De Uncle Alfie’s Fart for the next hour.  It’s kind of like leaving the kiddie locks on the doors and is rather insulting to the adult passenger in question.

The other thing that really makes me hanker for old-school windows is when I drive along roads that have a sharp drop-off into water or deep water below a bridge.  You see, if your car goes into deep water, you only have a very, very small window of time to open the windows before water hits the electrics and the fast glass won’t budge.  In this case, you have to try breaking the window, which is easier said than done, as car windows are tougher than, say, your windows at home.  The windscreen is especially tough, so don’t even try this.  (They say that the edges of the window are easiest to break and that at a pinch, you can use the metal spikes of a removable headrest to do this).  Manually operated windows keep on winding in water, so breaking the glass isn’t necessary.  I’m getting the heebie-jeebies just thinking about this, as having the car going into deep water is one of my worst nightmares.  Just so you know (and to remind myself), here’s what to do if it happens to you:

Lastly, if you or someone in your family is into doing their own car repairs whenever possible, it’s a darn sight easier to repair a manual window mechanism, as this is a screwdriver-type job.  With an automatic window, you’ll need to know something about electrics and wiring things up, which most of us don’t, so it’s down to the local mechanic you go!

Besides, what on earth do younger people who have seldom seen manual windows do if they want to mime opening a car window during a game of charades or when playing theatre sports?

Safe and happy driving, especially near deep water!

AEB. What Is Autonomous Emergency Braking?

A recent announcement that says Australia has signed off to have all vehicle brought to the country fitted with Autonomous Emergency Braking has some far reaching implications for how people drive and the potential for lives to be saved. But what exactly is AEB?

Autonomous: the system acts independently of the driver to avoid or mitigate the accident.
Emergency: the system will intervene only in a critical situation.
Braking: the system tries to avoid the accident by applying the brakes.

Most AEB systems use radar, a pair of cameras and/or lidar-based technology to identify potential collision partners ahead of the car. This information is combined with what the car knows of its own travel speed thanks to internal sensors and direction of travel to determine whether or not a critical or potentially dangerous situation is developing. If a potential collision is detected, AEB systems generally, though not exclusively, first try to avoid the impact by warning the driver that action is needed.

This could be in the form of a visual warning such as dashboard mounted flashing lights, or physical warnings. If no action is taken and a collision is still expected, the system will then apply the brakes. Some systems apply full braking force, others may be more subtle in application. Either way, the intention is to reduce the speed with which the potential collision takes place. Some systems deactivate as soon as they detect avoidance action being taken by the driver. However, some vehicles provide false positives, where the system reads an object not in the path of the vehicle as a collision potential.

But wait, there’s more. Most early systems were configured to warn of larger objects such as cars. Developments have seen these being finessed into providing pedestrian warning as well, a boon considering the semeing rise of those under the thrall of smartphones and screen time as they walk blithely unaware into the path of oncoming traffic.

The aforementioned agreement now means that it won’t be just passenger vehicles such as a sedan or wagon being fitted with AEB, it means that SUVs and vehicles such as 4WD capable utility vehicles must also receive the upgrade. ANCAP and Euro NCAP found in 2015 that the inclusion of AEB led to a 38 per cent reduction in rear-end crashes at low speed. That will change under UN requirements which set strict minimum standards requiring vehicles to be able to take action from speeds up to 60km/h, and come to complete stop when traveling at 30km/h or less. Therefore the expectation is that the percentage will increase. However the technology will not stop one crucial part of the driving equation occuring: the idiot that believes road rules don’t apply to them.

Jaguar Land Rover Six Straightens Up

Jaguar Land Rover is expanding its Ingenium engine family with a new six-cylinder petrol engine designed and engineered in-house, and manufactured at its £1 billion Engine Manufacturing Centre (EMC) in Wolverhampton, UK.

The 3.0-litre straight six cylinder petrol engine, which will debut in 2020, is available in 265kW and 294kW versions with a torque capable of up to 495 and 550Nm, is more responsive and better balanced than the outgoing V6 petrol.

It features a unique combination of an electric supercharger to deliver immediate response supported by a twin scroll turbocharger and Continuous Variable Valve Lift, which boosts power and help the engine to breathe with maximum efficiency.These performance-boosting technologies, combined with Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle (MHEV) technology, optimises performance, fuel economy and reduces emissions. The MHEV 48V system uses a small integrated electric motor to harvest energy lost during deceleration, and then intelligently redeploys it to assist the engine to maximise efficiency.

The in-line six-cylinder petrol engine is 20% more fuel efficient than the V6 petrol engine it replaces and is fitted with a Gasoline Particulate Filter, reducing particulate emissions by up to 75%.

Nick Rogers, Executive Director of Product Engineering said: “From the outset we always intended Ingenium to be a full family. That is why we chose to engineer our own flexible engine architecture to meet our bespoke needs, allowing Jaguar Land Rover to adapt and stay ahead of changes in regulation and technology. This second wave of engines, with a Mild Hybrid 48V system and performance-boosting technologies, is engineered to be cleaner and more efficient than ever before.”

The new Ingenium engine has been designed and developed in-house and will be manufactured at Jaguar Land Rover’s £1 billion EMC in Wolverhampton, alongside the current four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines.The 200,000 sqm site is a ‘zero waste to landfill’ facility with everything used being recovered and recycled. Jaguar Land Rover sources 100% renewable electricity for its UK facilities and over 21,000 photovoltaic panels are installed on the roof of the EMC plant, allowing it to generate up to 30% of the site’s energy.

The EMC is fitted with state-of-the-art equipment featuring precision manufacturing technology, including machinery that can work to tolerances of three microns (a human hair is 50 microns).

In addition to being committed to delivering clean diesel and petrol engines, Jaguar Land Rover is investing in electrification with next-generation Electric Drive Units (EDU) starting production at the EMC from 2020.

JLR wants to enable customers to make an informed decision on the best Ingenium engine technology for how and where they drive, whether that is fully electric, hybrid, petrol or diesel.

The company’s latest diesel and petrol cars are amongst the cleanest in the world and meet the new regulated laboratory and real world tests (WLTP and RDE). They are EU6 compliant and can be driven anywhere, and are, for example, exempt from London’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) daily charge, which applies from April 2019.

Fiat Goes Rare With 500C Spiaggina ’58 Edition.

Rare indeed will be the Fiat 500C Spiaggina ’58 Edition, as just 30 units will be be released. Priced from $25,990 (manufacturers list price) the car pays tribute to the 500 Jolly Spiaggina, the first special series of the Fiat 500 which was on sale in the late 1950s through to the mid 1960s. It was the embodiment of ” La Dolce Vita”, with its quirky styling, 22 horsepower engine, and doorless body.The 2019 version will feature both manual and auto transmissions, and will come with $3000 worth of extras at no cost. Outside will be the brilliant Volare Blue body colour, 16 inch white painted wheels in a classic and vintage look, and a white “beauty line”.Splashes of chrome add extra “bling” on the bonnet, mirror covers, and inserts in the bumpers. Bespoke Spiaggina branding is part of the look, with a rear quarter badge, plus “500” logos shown inside the compact yet comfortable cabin. Extra airiness comes courtesy of the beige fabric folding roof.The design itself is based on a concept car which featured no roof, a roll bar, and no rear seat.Power for the 2019 version is rated as 51kW from Fiat’s peppy 1.2L engine. The manual is a five speed, with the auto also a five speed. That option will be priced at $27, 490 (manufacturer’s list price). A seven inch Uconnect touchscreen will be standard, as will Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, climate control, and rear parking sensors.

Fiat Australia has the car on sale as of February 12, 2019. Contact them here.

BMW Unveils 1 Series M140i Finale Edition

Rear wheel drive and a front mounted engine has been a BMW hallmark for decades. The 1 series hatch has been a comparitively new part of the configuration’s history for the iconic German brand, and with the model’s end in sight, the company has signed off on the Finale package for the 2019 BMW 1 Series M140i.

The Finale package on its own is worth $3000, and with the M140i priced at $62,990, it’s a reasonable ask. Here’s what the spec list, built on an already well specified car, looks like.

M branded alloys of 18 inch diameters in 436 M Orbit Grey will underpin the Finale, whilst on top is a glass sunroof. At each end are darkened lights with the front end getting a high gloss blackout look that complements the black chrome tail pipes. Bespoke badging sets off the colour work outside. An extra tech piece is added in the form a smartphone charging pad.

Motorvation is from the 250kW, 500Nm, straight six engine of 3.0L capacity. Hooked up to an eight speed auto there’s enough grunt to see one hundred klicks in 4.6 seconds. Fuel consumption is rated as 7.1L for every one hundred kilometres driven. And the standard equipment list is pretty good too. Blue painted calipers hold the M Sports brakes, there are adaptive LED headlights with BMW Selective Beam, and Adaptive M Suspension.

There is BMW’s Navigation System Professional with the built-in 8.8-inch display, plus BMW ConnectedDrive system which can be enjoyed from the seats complete with Leather Dakota upholstery, along with BMW’s Comfort Access System.

Contact your BMW dealer for more details.

 

2019 Jeep Wrangler Getting Ready To Roll In Oz!

The 2019 Jeep Wrangler range is on its way to Australia, with a current expected date of early April being when showrooms will have them on the floor. Starting price is set as $48,950 with on road costs to be added.The range starts with the Jeep Wrangler Sport S, followed by the Overland, and Rubicon. The Sport S and Overland will have a choice of two or four doors, and Rubicon a choice of two engines in four door configuration only.4×4 capability will be standard on all models, with the Rock-Trac 4×4 System fitted to the Rubicon, and Selec-Trac 4×4 System available on all other models. Power will come from Jeep’s 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 Petrol Engine which will be bolted to the new TorqueFlite 8 cogger automatic transmission. Stop-Start (ESS) technology is standard also. A diesel will be available for the Wrangler Rubicon, with the option to specify a 2.2L MultiJet II Turbo Diesel engine. It’ll pump 146kW of power and 347Nm of torque.

Safety features are extensive: Auto Emergency Braking (AEB) kicks off the list, with Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop, Blind-Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path detection complementing ParkView Rear Backup Camera with Dynamic Grid Lines. Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Electronic Roll Mitigation (ERM) add to the well specified package.Inside the Jeep Wrangler has a 7.0” Uconnect touch screen display housing the fourth-generation Uconnect system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be available as standard in the Sport S, and an 8.4-inch display standard on all other variants.

Outside, LED headlamps and tail lamps also feature as standard on the Overland and Rubicon. The grille and windscreen have been given a slight tilt, the bonnet has venting, and the C-pillar has been reprofiled. Wind noise has been reduced and a whopping 13% increase in fuel efficiency has been provided as a result.Sport S will roll on 17 inch wheels, and passengers will enjoy an eight speaker sound system. Towing capacity varies between the two and foor door chassis for all models, with 1,497kg and 2,495kg capabilities. The Overland goes to 18 inch wheels and will feature bespoke interior trim. The hard top roof is removable and features Jeep’s “Freedom Panels”. Alpine provide the sounds via a 9 speaker audio system and 8.4 inch touchscreen. Rubicon goes further with a Front Stabiliser Bar Disconnect system for when down and dirty driving is the go, and will roll on 17 inch alloys with dedicated off-road spec rubber from BF Goodrich. The steel front bar is designed to allow a winch to be fitted without issue. To complement all of the range, over 130 MOPAR accessories can be optioned.Guillaume Drelon, Head of Jeep Brand at FCA Australia, said: “The all-new Wrangler may have evolved, but its core DNA remains unchanged, making this the most capable production SUV on the planet. The Jeep Wrangler sets a precedence by offering renewed levels of style, advanced technology and safety features while remaining true to its rich heritage.”

Contact your local Jeep dealer to organise a test drive.

2019 Jeep Wrangler Hits The Dirt!

The 2019 Jeep Wrangler range is on its way to Australia, with a current expected date of early April being when showrooms will have them on the floor. Starting price is set as $48,950 with on road costs to be added.The range starts with the Jeep Wrangler Sport S, followed by the Overland, and Rubicon. The Sport S and Overland will have a choice of two or four doors, and Rubicon a choice of two engines in four door configuration only.4×4 capability will be standard on all models, with the Rock-Trac 4×4 System fitted to the Rubicon, and Selec-Trac 4×4 System available on all other models. Power will come from Jeep’s 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 Petrol Engine which will be bolted to the new TorqueFlite 8 cogger automatic transmission. Stop-Start (ESS) technology is standard also. A diesel will be available for the Wrangler Rubicon, with the option to specify a 2.2L MultiJet II Turbo Diesel engine. It’ll pump 146kW of power and 347Nm of torque.

Safety features are extensive: Auto Emergency Braking (AEB) kicks off the list, with Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop, Blind-Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path detection complementing ParkView Rear Backup Camera with Dynamic Grid Lines. Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Electronic Roll Mitigation (ERM) add to the well specified package.Inside the Jeep Wrangler has a 7.0” Uconnect touch screen display housing the fourth-generation Uconnect system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be available as standard in the Sport S, and an 8.4-inch display standard on all other variants.

Outside, LED headlamps and tail lamps also feature as standard on the Overland and Rubicon. The grille and windscreen have been given a slight tilt, the bonnet has venting, and the C-pillar has been reprofiled. Wind noise has been reduced and a whopping 13% increase in fuel efficiency has been provided as a result.Sport S will roll on 17 inch wheels, and passengers will enjoy an eight speaker sound system. Towing capacity varies between the two and foor door chassis for all models, with 1,497kg and 2,495kg capabilities. The Overland goes to 18 inch wheels and will feature bespoke interior trim. The hard top roof is removable and features Jeep’s “Freedom Panels”. Alpine provide the sounds via a 9 speaker audio system and 8.4 inch touchscreen. Rubicon goes further with a Front Stabiliser Bar Disconnect system for when down and dirty driving is the go, and will roll on 17 inch alloys with dedicated off-road spec rubber from BF Goodrich. The steel front bar is designed to allow a winch to be fitted without issue. To complement all of the range, over 130 MOPAR accessories can be optioned.Guillaume Drelon, Head of Jeep Brand at FCA Australia, said: “The all-new Wrangler may have evolved, but its core DNA remains unchanged, making this the most capable production SUV on the planet. The Jeep Wrangler sets a precedence by offering renewed levels of style, advanced technology and safety features while remaining true to its rich heritage.”

Contact your local Jeep dealer to organise a test drive.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Renault Megane RS 280 Cup Chassis

This Car Review Is About:
A vehicle with good looks, a fluid drivetrain, and a manual gearbox, a real rarity in cars nowadays. The 2019 Renault Megane RS 280 is a potent weapon, and with some extras becomes the Cup Chassis spec. It’s classified as a small car yet should be listed in the sports car category. And it’s well priced too, at $44,990 plus on roads and the Cup Chassis package of $1490. The dual clutch transmission doesn’t offer the Cup Chassis and is priced from $47,490 plus on roads.Under The Bonnet Is:
A free-spinning 1.8L petrol engine complete with a silent turbo. Silent, as in there is no waste-gate noise. What there is aurally is a muted thrum from the twin pipes located centrally at the rear. Peak power is 205kW or, 280 horsepower, hence the name. Peak torque of 390Nm is available from 2400rpm and is available through to 4800 rpm. An easy 80% of that peak is available from 1500rpm. Consumption of 95RON, the minimum RON requirement, is rated as 7.4L/100km on the combined cycle. Around town it’s 9.5L/100km and a wonderful 6.2L/100km on the highway. These figures are for the slick shifting, short throw, manual transmission.On The Inside Is:
Reasonable leg space for most people with a 2669mm wheelbase, but the limited shoulder room of 1418mm can result in the occasional arm bump. There’s black cloth covered, manually operated, seats front and rear, with the RS logo boldly sewn into the front seat head rests. Leather and alcantara coverings are an $1100 option. All windows are one touch up or down, and boot space is decent for the size of the car at 434L. There’s faux carbon fibre trim on the doors and fairly average looking plastics on the upper and centre dash. To add a splash of sports and colour, the pedals are aluminuim plates. There is a pair of USB ports, an SD slot, and a 12V socket for the front seats, a solitary 12V in the rear.There is plenty to like on a tech level, and certainly for anyone that is technically minded. The experience starts with having the credit card sized key fob on the body. Walk up to the car and the wing mirrors fold out. A slight touch of the door handle unlocks the car, and then there’s the pounding heartbeat and graphics to welcome the driver inside.Hands free park assist is on board, as is blind spot monitoring, and adaptive cruise control. AEB or Autonomous Emergency Braking is standard as well. The car’s electronics system holds some true delights that are accessible via the vertically aligned 8.7 inch touchscreen. Apart from the standard look of audio and navigation, swiping left or right brings up extra information. There are graphs that show the travel of torque, and power, with a line showing the actual rev point relative to the production of both. There are readings for turbo pressure, throttle position, torque, and the angle of the rear steering. Yep, the Megane RS 280 has adjustable rear steering, which will pivot against or in unison with the front wheels at up to six degrees depending on velocity. At speeds up to 60 kmh it’s 2.7 degrees against and above that will parallel the front wheels.There are five drive modes, accessed via the RS button on the centre dash. This brings up Neutral, Comfort, Race, Sport, and Personal. Selecting these imbues the RS with different personalities, such as changing the exhaust note, the ride quality, and the interior lighting. Naturally the LCD screen for the driver changes as well.But for all of its techno nous, the audio system is a weak link, a very weak link. The speakers themselves which includes a nifty bass tube, are from Bose and they’re brilliant but are paired with a digital tuner that is simply the worst for sensitivity AWT has encountered. In areas where signal strength is known to be strong, the tuner would flip between on and off like a faulty light switch, making listening to DAB a more than frustrating experience. It makes the $500 ask for the system somewhat questionable until the sensitivity issue can be remedied.The Outside Has:
A delightfully curvy shape. In truth, finding a hard line is near impossible. From the front, from the side, from the rear, the Megane’s body style is pert, rounded, and puts a field of circles to shame. The rear especially can be singled out for a strong resemblance to a certain soldier’s helmet from a famous sci-fi film franchise. Up front there’s Pure Vision LED lighting. That’s in both the triple set driving lights and the headlights that sit above and beside an F1 inspired blade. The iridescent amber indicators are set vertically and could illuminate the moon’s surface. Black painted “Interlagos” alloys look fantastic against the Orange Tonic paint ($800 option) as found on the test vehicle, and have super grippy 245/35 rubber from Michelin. Brembo provide the superb stoppers, and wheel arch vents bookend the thin black plastic strips that contrast and add a little extra aero.Exhaust noise, as muted as it is, emanates from a pair of pipes that are centrally located inside an impressive looking rear diffuser, and have a decent measure of heat shielding. The manually operated tail gate opens up to provide access to no spare tyre at all. There is a compressor, some goop, and that’s it. They sit in a niche alongside the bass tube that adds some seriously enjoyable bottom end to the audio system.On The Road It’s:
A suitably impressive piece of engineering. The powerplant is tractable to a fault, with performance across the rev range that combines with the genuinely excellent manual gear selector and clutch. Out test period coincided with a drive to Dubbo and perhaps an out of the comfort zone test for a vehicle more suited to the suburbs and track days.

The Cup Chassis pack adds the aforementioned wheels and brakes, plus a Torsen front diff, and revised suspension. Inside the dampers are extra dampers, effectively an absorber for the absorber. And along with the noticeable change in ride quality when Sport or Race are selected, the rough tarmac heading west made for an interesting test track.

To utilise the Megane RS 280 properly is to understand what synergy means. From a standing start and banging the gears upwards to sixth, or to press down on the go pedal at highway speeds and see the old ton appear (allegedly) in a few breaths is to feel what a truly well sorted engine package can deliver. Crack on, and the metric ton appears in 5.8 seconds. It all happens because everything works so well together. The steering is instinctive, as is the ride and handling. And using the drive modes makes a real difference in an unexpected way.Unusually but not unexpectedly, there is torque steer if booting hard from a standing start. However that Torsen front diff quickly dials that out, keeping the sweet looking front end on the straight and narrow. The clutch and gear selector are perfectly paired to complement the engine’s free revving nature. The clutch is smooth, well pressured, and the actual gear pick up point is ideally placed towards the top of the pedal’s travel. Selecting the six forward gears is via a beautifully weighted and sprung lever, with a lift up lock-out to engage reverse.

Normal driving conditions have the Megane RS 280 quietly doing its thing. Light the candle, engage Sport or Race, and the rough, pockmarked, tarmac past Bathurst changes from a minor annoyance in Neutral to a flatter, more enjoyable ride quality. Think of corrugations spaced apart enough for the wheels to rise and fall over them, then suddenly close up to the point that the car feels as if it’s riding over the peaks alone. Throttle response is sharper as well, and is perhaps more noticeable from a standing start.

With the final drive seeing peak torque at highway rated velocities, it also means that a simple flex of the right ankle has the Megane breathe in and hustle on with alacrity. The already communicative steering gains an extra level of vocabulary when changed to Sport and Race. There’s a weightier feel in the turns, imbuing the driver with a sense of real connectivity to the front end. Combined with the 4Control rear steering adjustment, corners become flatter and straighter.

One extra nifty piece of tech came from the GPS and satnav system. Between the towns of Wellington and Orange is a set of average speed speed cameras, and the GPS flashes up on the screen to advise what the average speed of the car is. Some judicious driving and watching the indicated average speed change, and that’s a good thing.

The Warranty Is:
Three years for any sports oriented model down from the standard five. Service the Megane RS 280 Cup Chassis at a Renault dealership and there’s up to four years of roadside assist plus up to three years capped priced servicing.

At The End Of The Drive.
Renault has competition on both sides of the price point. But having a six speed manual nowadays makes the Megane RS 280 a standout for those that like to be engaged and involved in the driving experience. The Orange Tonic paint is an eyecatcher, and unfortunately attracts tryhards like pollen to a bee.As a driving experience, it’s not unlike slipping into a tailor made suit and shoes, as everything just feels….right. But the lack of aural caressing, and the lousy DAB tuner, as part of the overall experience, dull the sparkle. But not enough to get out of the 2019 Renault Megane RS 280 Cup Chassis without a grin of pure pleasure.

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It’s School Time!

By now, all the schools around the country have re-started for the year, which means that a lot of us will have gone back to Mum’s Taxi and Dad’s Taxi duties again.  For some of you, your teenager has finally got their provisional license and can drive him/herself to school.

This means that there are going to be a lot more cars buzzing around schools, especially at the start and end of the school day.  Depending on where you live and what your school does, there may be school buses and shuttles involved as well.  In short, there’s a ton of traffic in a small area, and vehicle traffic isn’t the only sort around, as there will also be kids on bikes, kids on scooters and lots of kids walking.  In some cases, especially in rural and small-town schools, you can see other forms of transport being used – farm tractors, for example.

Nobody wants to make the news by being involved in a horrible accident involving school kids, so it’s probably about time that we thought about a few things we can do to make sure that our kids are safe as they go to and from school.

As a quick aside here, this is another area where autonomous cars are a real no-go.  Autonomous cars work by predicting what ought to happen or what is likely to happen.  Unfortunately, small children can be pretty unpredictable, especially when they’re all excited as they get out of school, and their erratic behaviour hasn’t been programmed into the control centre of an autonomous car.  So I’m thankful that the typical Aussie Mum and Dad still drive cars the old-school way!

First of all, although the designated school zones – the ones marked with flashy lights, road markings and signs – are the real hot spots, the activity around schools during the pick-up and drop-off times spreads further afield, so don’t just keep alert for kids in the actual areas. The precautions apply for at least a block further than that during busy times.

There are three general guiding principles that will help you negotiate this part of the school run safely:

  1. Slow down.
  2. Expect the unexpected.
  3. Don’t get in other people’s way.

Slowing Down

Slowing down to 40 km/h is the law in designated school zones, and failing to do so will (at least in New South Wales) get you double demerit points if the cops catch you at it.  The reason for this is simple: if you’re going slowly, you have more time to react and more time to stop when little Bella decides to rush across the road yelling “Mummy!  Mummy!  Guess what happened at school today!” or when the family dog who came along for the ride whizzes out of the car when little Charlie is putting his schoolbag in the boot.  What’s more, if the worst comes to the worst and an accident happens, lower speeds mean less damage.

I know we’ve discussed speed limits and whether or not speed is what kills in other posts, but nobody in their right mind should want to go at screaming high speeds around a school, even if their car is capable of it.  This is one place where the speed limits really do apply.  In fact, around the busy schools in my area, I’d actually prefer to go even slower than the 40 km/h limit during the active hours.  (The open road is another story.)

Expecting The Unexpected

Kids aren’t adults.  They are immature.  They are impulsive.  They are still learning that the world does not revolve around them (and some people seem to never learn this lesson!).  Some of them have been sitting down in school for the whole day and have serious ants in their pants.  This means that they can do some weird things and they can move quite fast.  We can drum the road safety message into them as much as possible, but there will be those moments when they forget it all and rush out into the road, or they’ll be so busy talking to friends that they don’t stop, look and listen.  This means that you, as the adult who’s got a driver’s license to prove that you’re responsible, have to be the one on high alert, ready for anything.  This means no phones, not even hands-free ones.  It probably means switch the radio off and get rid of anything else that could distract you.

You may need to be extra careful if your car is an electric vehicle or a hybrid (which will be using the electric motor at school zone speeds).  This is because a lot of EVs and hybrids are quieter than petrol and diesel engines, even if they have that little noise (which some older hybrids don’t have).  This means that the Listen part of the old Stop, Look and Listen is a bit harder.  Even adults can have near misses (that’s me with my hand up here) if they’ve looked one way, looked the other, thought it was clear and didn’t hear the oncoming hybrid/EV and started stepping out.

The flip side of this is that if you’re a parent, you should take a few steps to minimise the risk of your child running across the road.  This usually means parking on the same side of the road as the school, which is what the official advice says.  However, if everybody parks on the same side of the road as the school, the trail of parked cars will stretch well beyond the designated zone.  This might mean that your child will have to cross a road to get to where you’re parked.  It’s best if you get out of the car and walk to the school gate to collect Bella and Charlie (and the rest of the kids if you’re part of a carpool scheme).

You also need to make sure that you’re not the person doing unexpected things.  This means no U-turns, no sudden manoeuvres, no three-point turns, etc.  Plan your route so these aren’t necessary – and go around the block instead of doing U-turns, etc.  The only sudden manoeuvre you’re allowed to make is hitting the brakes if you see a child about to go where they shouldn’t.

Staying Out Of The Way

You can see some people doing silly things around schools, and I’m not talking about the children this time.  Yes, I know that you’re in a hurry.  I know that you think your child is amazing and you love him/her to bits.  I know that you’ve got to scream across town for soccer practice.  However, there is no excuse for parking in the school bus zone, double-parking or parking really, really close to the school crossing point.  It’s absolute chaos when every single Parent’s Taxi tries to park as close to the school gate as legally possible.

Congestion near schools during the busy times is a bit of a problem that councils and schools are trying hard to address because it can be chaos and an accident waiting to happen.  My preference (at least when my kids were still at school and didn’t drive themselves) was to park a bit further away, then walk that extra block or so.  After all, it won’t hurt you or your kids to walk a little!

In the case of picking up kids from secondary schools, you may have to park even further away, as a lot of the close parking spots are taken by the P-platers who drive themselves to school.  High school kids, however, are usually a bit more streetwise and are less likely to suddenly rush into the road without looking, although there are times when they’ve got their earbuds in or when they’re madly catching up on social media…

I’d also strongly argue for other initiatives as well as a way of reducing congestion around schools.  Setting up a carpool scheme with other parents who live near you is a popular option and it means that instead of four cars arriving with one child each, you get one car with four kids.  Walking school buses and “Kiss and Ride” drop-off spots are other options.  Of course, if you live within 2 km of the school, then walking to and from the school is an option (and it’s free!).  You’ll need to walk with your child until he/she is old enough to have the street smarts to do it solo – and this is usually the age when they are embarrassed to be seen with parents, so that works out well.

If you haven’t got school aged children and you’re not doing the Parent’s Taxi run, then it’s best to plan your journey so that you don’t have to drive near a school during the busy hours.  Go another way if you have to or make that trip at another time.

If we all do our bit, then our kids will stay safe as they go to and from school.