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Archive for October, 2019

Kia Goes Back To Black And Offer More Protection.

Kia Motors Australia has added a pair of distinctive Special Edition models to its showrooms, providing standout options to Sorento and Stinger buyers. The Sorento Black Edition offers outstanding value to buyers wanting to make a bold styling statement with their lifestyle-choice large SUV. Sitting on 19-inch gloss black alloy wheels the Sorento Black Edition also boasts a gloss black grille, gloss black roof racks, dark chrome door garnish and black side mirror covers. There are distinctive “Ice Cube” LED fog lights, black front and rear skid plates, panoramic sunroof and privacy glass to complete the street-wise look.

Available in both 2.2 diesel ($52,490 drive away) and 3.5-litre petrol ($48,990 drive away) the Black Editions are trimmed to sit between SLi and GT-Line. They are available in four colour options: Clear White, Silky Silver, Aurora Black and Snow White Pearl.

For Stinger, the Carbon Edition, based off the 3.3-litre bi-turbo GT, brings a deck of exclusive carbon fibre exterior trims to set the Special Edition model apart from its siblings. With carbon fibre door mirrors, grille surround, fender vents, rear skid plate and hood vent the Carbon Edition is easily identifiable as something special. For the interior there is a special Carbon Edition badge ahead of the gear lever and a sporty Alcantara steering wheel. At $67,990 (drive away) the Carbon Edition is available in the new Neon Orange, Micro Blue, Hichroma Red, Snow White Pearl and Aurora Black.

All models benefit from Kia’s industry-leading 7-Year Warranty, 7-Year Capped Price Service and 7-Year Roadside Assist program.

KIA is also leading the charge to improve the customer purchase experience with Australia’s first vehicle protection products sold as a genuine factory branded accessory. The KIA branded range will provide customers the opportunity to protect their new and pre-owned vehicles with the highest quality surface protection using ceramic coatings developed exclusively for KIA. KIA have partnered with MotorOne, Australia’s leading aftermarket supplier, to ensure their customers get the most technologically advanced protection formulas coupled with a comprehensive lifetime warranty.

The ceramic exterior surface coating is sourced from Korea, using state-of-the-art technology to protect the vehicle’s paintwork whilst maintaining the showroom shine without the need for waxing and polishing. Available only from dealerships, the treatment is professionally applied to new or used vehicles up to five years old. The treatment is especially important for car users that are plagued by the effects of bird and bat droppings when parking their car outside.

The complete interior surface protection formula uses an advanced polymer technology that maintains the condition of leather, vinyl, carpet and fabric surfaces. The treatment creates a dirt and liquid repellent coating, protecting the vehicle’s interior from stains and marks. KIA, in conjunction with the MotorOne product development team, has undertaken extensive product durability testing on all vehicles in the KIA range to ensure customers experience outstanding performance, durable protection and a vehicle that stays cleaner for longer.

Each KIA dealership is undertaking comprehensive training for the sales teams, covering education and treatment of paintwork and interior fabrics and, more importantly, extensive product application training for the technical team to ensure a premium delivery on every vehicle fitted with KIA Car Care products.

Are Skinny Lanes the Solution to Congestion on our Roads?

There’s no escaping it, our roads are congested across the country. It’s a nightmare for all of us. After all, nobody takes joy being stuck in traffic. It extends our commute and leaves us with less time for the things we actually want to do. We should be wondering, what’s being done about it?

Sure, we have tolls. There are also proposals for congestion charges to reduce demand for road use, or otherwise share the road in more efficient ways like giving priority to car-pool vehicles. Governments are also investing billions in infrastructure, much of which is dedicated to roads and highways. However, does that all go far enough? Is there another simpler solution sitting right under our noses?

One of the more radical ideas floating around in the news this past week was ‘skinny’ lanes. That’s right, it is exactly what it sounds like. The idea being, our road network remains largely the same. But in place of laying down new bitumen, space would be squeezed from existing lanes to create a new, narrow lane designed specifically for motorbikes and / or smaller cars.

Contrary to what you might be thinking, the idea isn’t one that was hashed out by two high school students. Nor was it conceived with the inspiration of a couple Friday night beverages. In fact, this has come straight out of the well-known and highly regarded think tank, the Grattan Institute.

 

 

Is it really feasible?

On paper, it sounds novel to expand capacity on our roads, without actually expanding physical capacity. The urban planning side seemingly checks out.  From a financial perspective, it’s definitely a cheaper proposition than building new roads. Plus, roads wouldn’t need to be closed anywhere near as long as they would if extensive construction were to be required to upgrade roads and interchanges.

But there is one important thing being overlooked here. Australians are increasingly shifting away from smaller cars to mid-size vehicles. Some experts point to these larger vehicles being at fault for the congestion, although that really is debatable. Small cars still represent a huge portion of fleet, but if we do not remain cognisant of the clear trend, then we could be jumping to a ‘solution’ that won’t align with the way we are actually using our roads.

One could argue that such an initiative has the potential to shape car selection among new car buyers. There is some merit to this argument, but at the same time, that is also what has been said for electric vehicles – we all know their adoption has been underwhelming at best. Then you also have the issue of giving exclusive priority to certain road users, when at the end of the day we all still pay car registration to be afforded the same access on public roads.

Comparisons are inevitable with European markets, where narrow lanes and smaller cars correspond with fewer road fatalities. What is missed in those examples is the greater access they have to public transport, in addition to the compact size of their cities. On the other hand, our commute extends much further, both geographically and by purpose.

As novel as the idea may be, it’s clear it is one that needs a rethink. What do you think of proposed skinny lanes to reduce congestion?

 

Toyota Updates: New Yaris and Corolla Hatch for 2020.

After a break of a few years, Toyota’s baby car, the Yaris, has been given a substantial makeover. In a both surprising, and unsurprising move, there’s a solid resemblance to the recently released Supra. There are muscular guards, a sharpened look to the nose, and more room thanks to an increased wheelbase of 50mm. 40mm of height reduction adds more to the sporting look as do new LED lights front and rear. Adding to the looks are two new powertrains. Both are 1.5L in size, with one being a three cylinder and the other a hybrid. The new 1.5-litre is big for a three-cylinder, Named “Dynamic Force”, the petrol engine is coupled with a direct-shift CVT with mechanical launch gear. This helps get a car with CVT off the line quicker and easier. Toyota also fit their new-generation hybrid system with an Atkinson-Cycle version of the engine and a high-density lithium-ion battery. It’s a new system for Toyota and can trace its roots to what is already found in cars such as Camry and Corolla. There’s been some solid refinement work put into this. Toyota say that thermal efficiency runs at 40% and improved internal friction, plus reduced energy losses.The tried and proven MacPherson struts system underpins the front front section of the new Yaris. The rear is a refined version of the previous torsion beam setup. This should help in improved dynamics and reduce body roll. Internal reinforcements, in areas such as the cowl, rear pillar, transmission tunnel, and inside the rear structure and rear wheelhouse, along with a stiffer dashboard panel will add to the stiffness and stability factor.Toyota has gone minimalistic, too, with an increase of spaciousness thanks to a paring back of the space used by the trim and equipment. The inside is refreshed, with a new 10-inch Head Up Display the centrepiece. Naturally there are screens for the driver’s binnacle and the centre console. Safety goes up a notch too, with an advanced version of pre-collision safety. The latest system can potentially prevent crashes at intersections by detecting oncoming vehicles as well as pedestrians crossing the road.

Toyota have also provided some updates to the Corolla hatch. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are now standard. The SX and ZR versions have been given Rear Cross Traffic Alert plus what Toyota calls “Parking Support Brake”. It’s a low speed function, working at velocities of up to 15 kilometres per hour, and uses the car’s sensors to read static and mobile traffic at the rear. The ZR’s seats are now eight way powered, and also now have lumbar support. Outside is a new two-tone paint option, with a black roof being made available to order alongside the colours for the main body which includes a new Feverish Red shade.

The range has this pricing structure, with all prices not inclusive of dealer and government charges. Ascent Sport petrol manual starts from $23,335, Ascent Sport petrol CVT from $24,835, and Ascent Sport hybrid CVT $26,335. The SX petrol CVT starts from $28,235, whilst the SX hybrid CVT starts from $29,735. The top of the range ZR starts at a petrol CVT price of $32,135 and ZR hybrid CVT from $33,635.

4 Essential Driving Apps

As Australians come to depend on their mobile phones for just about everything we do, developers have sought to capitalise on that trend by extending it to our daily mobility and driving. With apps covering the spectrum from navigation to parking, safety, entertainment and saving money – there is usually a solution for whatever you are searching.

While restrictions obviously prevent us from using our phones behind the wheel – and definitely don’t do this – we still have so many ingenious apps to choose from. But which ones deliver the most bang for your buck? Here we take a look at 4 essential driving apps.

 

Waze (iOS/Android/Windows)

Recently in the news for what some might classify as controversial reasons, Waze is a free, community based GPS and maps app. Peer-to-peer information sharing has led to a surge in its use and value. The purpose of the app is to allow road users to advise one another of hazards, delays or impediments on the road.

Of course, it was only a matter of time before users would start sharing information on mobile police locations. Nonetheless, Waze allows you to plan your trip according to real time information. When you have so many eyes out there doing the planning for you, that’s as good as any computer simulation can achieve.

 

PlugShare (iOS/Android/Windows)

This is a niche app dedicated to electric vehicle owners, or at least those who intend to venture down that path in the not too distant future. It is another peer-to-peer community app, albeit instead of just sharing data, here you are also sharing access to the electric grid network.

That’s right, not only can you see the charging network across the country, but you can view the location of users who have offered their own power supply to keep you going on the road. The search filter allows you to hone your focus to any specific needs you might need, including charging network, charger type, whether it is a free or paid charging station, and much more.

 

Fuel Map Australia (iOS/Android)

Making it three from three, Fuel Map Australia (formerly FuelMap) is a “crowd-sourced database of petrol stations and fuel prices from all across Australia”. It allows any user to add and edit the location of fuel maps wherever you’re located, as well as add pricing details as well. With filters allowing users to sort by pricing, you’ll have few issues finding the cheapest fuel in your neighbourhood to save yourself a pretty penny. As a bonus, you can also monitor your fuel economy and log purchases.

 

Google Trips (iOS/Android)

A tech list would not be complete without the addition of Google, so it’s little surprise we round out this selection with its Trips app. Perfect for the travel-oriented driver, or weekend adventurer, the real benefit here is the integration of plans and itineraries. You can track your destinations and identify tourist attractions nearby, as well as sights, activities and entertainment options as well. Even better, if you have reservations lined up in your calendar, they’ll flow through seamlessly.

 

Make sure you install these apps on your phone before you head out onto the road.

 

Mercedes-AMG says GT Up!

Updates have been given to the premium range of two door Mercedes-AMG vehicles. In coupe and convertible forms, the Mercedes-AMG range are positioned as the premium versions of premium cars. Pricing reflects this too. The Mercedes-AMG GT S Coupé starts the range at $311,142 (MRLP, Manufacturers Recommended List price), with the Mercedes-AMG GT C Coupé at $329,843, Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster $355,242, and Mercedes-AMG GT R Coupé $361,042.Power is supplied via a 4.0L V8, complete with a pair of turbos, with the GT S delivering 384kW. The GT C and GT R respectively have 410kW and 430kW. Torque runs at 670Nm, 680Nm, and 700Nm, between 1,900rpm (GT S)/2,200rpm to 5,500rpm. Economy is quoted as 9.5L/100km for the GT S, 11.5L/100km and 11.4L/100km for the GT C and GT R respectively. Top speeds max out at 310kmm to 318kmh.

Equipment has been given a wave of the magic wand. Drivers will enjoy a new centre console that has AMG Drive Unit controls placed in a stylised V8 arrangement plus there are display buttons to select the drive programs and control dynamic functions. A bespoke AMG Performance steering wheel now has a rotary controller for quick switching between drive modes, and an additional controller allows the driver to nominate two performance shortcuts. These can be toggled during performance driving without a need for the driver to take their eyes off what lies ahead.The driver faces a fully customisable digital instrument cluster of 12.3 inches in size. There is a 10.25 inch media display, with the leading smartphone apps. Vision is improved up front courtesy of a camera and Traffic Sign Assist pairs with it. Illumination is courtesy of new LED headlights, whilst updated alloy wheels and paint colours add to the on-road presence. The addition of the MercedesMe Connect system allows the driver to control key functions plus view relevant vehicle data and service information via a linked smartphone.Comfort and luxury are standard, with powered and heated Nappa leather seats sat underneath a sunroof. The tiller is clad in Nappa and microfibre, whilst sounds come from a 640W Burrmester system. Drive safety is in the form of the Distronic cruise control whilst sporting drivers can track progress via the AMG Track Pace system. This leads to a drivetrain underpinned by AMG’s Ride Control Suspension and electronic limited slip diff, and AMG’s high-performance composite braking system inside 19 and 20 inch alloys. A retractable aerofoil sits over a hands-free operating system for the boot in the GT S. The GT R coupe has a carbon fibre roof and a static aerofoil. The GT C Roadster goes for a fabric soft-top roof and keeps occupants warm with the bespoke Airscarf system.
The vehicles should be in dealerships in the next few weeks.

Luxury For Sale With F1 Relationship: RBR Edition Aston Martin At Pickles.

Noted Auction house, Pickles, sometimes has cars available that have we would-be wannabe lotto winners salivating and wondering why the numbers didn’t drop for us. One of the latest is a 2017 Red Bull Racing Edition Aston Martin Vantage V8. One of just 17 made available for the Australian market, it’s clad in the iconic Red Bull colours of deep Mariana Blue, with contrasting bright yellow and red accents such as the brake callipers and air intake inserts, with Red Bull Racing embroidered headrests, and features scuff plates by a Formula One driver as special additions.

Power is provided by a 4.7L V8, with a reasonable 321kW of power and 490Nm of torque. They’re put to the ground via a six speed manual and driving the rear wheels. And with a kerb weight of around 1600kg, a zero to one hundred time of 4.8 seconds is possible. The exhaust system in these cars was given a bi-modal switch, allowing a deeper, more grumble oriented note throughout the rev range.

Inside the smallest of the Aston Martin range is an interior that shows the era its roots were based in. But to raise that level, there have been detail touches such as the steering wheel being covered in Alcantara with a racing stripe at 12 o’clock, the dash highlighted with carbon-fibre trim, and the Red Bull Racing logo adorning the seats. The RBR Vantage also has Apple CarPlay added to the user friendly entertainment system which includes Bluetooth streaming.

It’s a proper driver’s car too, with a heavy but communicative hydraulic power steering system. It’s one that connects the driver to the road via the tiller, telling the driver just what the front wheels are doing and which part of the road they’re in contact with. The manual transmission is along the same lines, with a high pickup point balanced by a shifter mechanism that is smoother than a lothario’s pick-up line.

And although perhaps a little dated in the suspension technology, it’s nonetheless a comfortable, enjoyable ride, yet still allows a driver to exploit the sheer Aston Martin-ness of the RBR EditionVantage’s heritage.

When originally released, the RBR Edition Aston Martin Vantage was listed as a fiver under $260K driveaway. One lucky buyer via the Pickles Auction will have this in their collection after the 14th of October, when this, and a sterling range of other hi-po cars such as a 2015 Ferrari California, go under the hammer. Stay up to date by visiting the Pickles website.

Ford Mustang R-Spec.

When it comes to high performance engines, Australia can stand up and be counted. Ford Australia has unveiled its supercharged V8 Mustang R-Spec. The car has been developed in collaboration with Melbourne-based Herrod Motorsport, owned and run by Rob Herrod. His specialist group is the largest Ford Performance parts supplier in the southern hemisphere.

Power is not specified but guesstimates hover around 522kW, with torque somewhere in the region of 830Nm. Those figures are based on the similar American specification. Standard figures are 339kW and 556Nm. It will be sold exclusively as a six-speed manual.

500 cars will be made available, and for those with an eye for colour, there will be two new ones to choose from, Grabber Lime and Twisted Orange. Tradition plays a big part in the presence with Boss Mustang stripes, a gloss black rear spoiler, and bonnet vents.

What will help in a customer service sense is that the Mustang R-Spec will be sold via Ford dealerships and will have the unlimited kilometres, five year Ford warranty. It’ll also be built in Broadmeadows, north-west of Melbourne and close to a Ford factory that built Falcons.

The R-Spec has engine components developed by Ford Performance in the United States as well as upgraded suspension and an active muffler. Herrod’s workshop has ensured that all ADRs have been met too, meaning that if Ford decides to go ahead and build more to meet the expected demand, it won’t have to undergo further testing. Fuel economy testing has shown expected figures of 14.0L/100km as an average figure for the combined cycle. Punt it around town and it’ll see a plus 20.0L/100km, whilst the highway run is circa 9.8L/100km.

The blower is a Ford Performance positive displacement item, has a capacity of 2.65 litres and runs a 12 pound per square inch boost.  The whole package from Herrod has been engineered to deliver a smoother throttle response and driving experience.  The air intake is a bespoke item and feeds into an aluminuim intercooler. Ford Performance also supply the suspension components. Ride height is 20mm lower, the adjustable stabiliser bars are bigger by 5mm and 3mm and the suspension is a magnetically adjustable setup capable of adjusting the damping rate at up to 100 times per second. Rubber is the Michelin Sport at 255/40/19 front and 275/40/19 rear on 9.5 inch and 10 inch width alloys.

Kay Hart, Ford Australia’s President and CEO, said: “Working with Herrod Performance, we’ve been able to bring this special edition Mustang to Australian customers through our extensive dealership network, and with the peace-of-mind of five-year, unlimited kilometre warranties backed by Ford and Herrod.” Service intervals are six months or 10,000 kilometres.

Impact to the hip pocket nerve? Call it $100K plus on roads.

Things You Need To Know About Hydrogen As A Fuel

In the quest to achieve more sustainable motoring, there are three main players: biofuels (i.e. producing petrol and diesel that will run in conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles from renewable sources rather than fossil fuels), electric vehicles (we’ve heard heaps about these) and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCV).  Electrical vehicles seem to be the hottest of the hot at the moment and they grab quite a lot of the attention from the media and from the government.  To take one hot off the press example, they’ve just given the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this year to the guys who invented the rechargeable lithium-ion battery, even though this tech has been around for a fair few years now and first got onto the market in 1991.

However, let’s not completely overlook the other two members of the sustainability team. If you asked me to take my pick of the three, I’d go for HFCVs. This is because it gives the best of both worlds: the zero-exhaust factor of EVs and the ease of refuelling of ICE vehicles.

Hydrogen is the lightest element on the periodic table and it’s one of the most common elements on earth – actually, make that THE most abundant element in the universe.   As we all learned in school, good old water is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. In fact, you could say that all energy is, technically speaking, hydrogen powered.  Our sun is one great big ball of hydrogen undergoing a massive nuclear reaction (fusion rather than fission), and it’s the energy given off by this that is ultimately the source of all energy on Earth – even the fossil fuels, which are ancient forests that once trapped sunlight through photosynthesis.

If we could somehow replicate this process on Earth at a smaller scale, most of the world’s energy problems would be solved and it would generate all the electricity to meet our needs and more. However, the problem would be to stop it getting out of hand or an H-bomb would be the result. Cold fusion is the dream of many a scientist…

The first thing you need to understand about HFCVs is that when you put hydrogen fuel into the vehicle, the fuel isn’t burned the way that the fuel in an ICE burns. NASA uses this tech in rockets but it’s far, far too explosive for more down to earth uses. Instead, the hydrogen is used to generate electricity, which is released when hydrogen combines with oxygen to produce (you guessed it) water. This takes place in fuel cells, which do the job of converting good old oxygen and hydrogen to water.

Quite a lot of vehicles around the world use hydrogen fuel cell tech already. These are mostly forklifts and buses; however, cars are coming onto the scene and they’re beginning to get a fair bit of interest.

The big question about any sustainable energy source is to ask where it comes from and how one gets it – a question that people aren’t quite asking enough in the case of EVs, if you ask me.  In the case of hydrogen, there are two main sources. One is from electrolysis of water and the other is from steam reformation of methane. Of the two methods, electrolysis of water (where the water molecule is split into H2 and O by a current of electricity) is the cleaner of the two – as long as the electricity used comes from a sustainable source, such as wind, solar or hydro (using hydro to produce hydrogen seems appropriate). The other method uses methane – thus busting up and reducing something that is both a waste product and a greenhouse gas – but it also produces a bit of carbon monoxide during the production stage.  There are quite a few other methods out there but these are the most common.

Hydrogen is produced for commercial use already on quite a large scale. It’s used quite extensively in, of all things, the petrochemical industry during the process of refining petrol. You could therefore think of a switch to hydrogen fuel cell tech as cutting out the middleman.  The other major commercial use of hydrogen gas is in electrical power stations, where it acts as a coolant.

The biggest issue with hydrogen fuel is storage and transport, as hydrogen is a slippery customer that can explode and burn with the ferocity of rocket fuel simply because it is rocket fuel. On the other hand, liquid hydrogen is super-cold (even colder than the liquid nitrogen the doctor uses to remove warts and low-grade skin cancers) and needs to be kept that way. It’s the storage and transport issue that our very own CSIRO is working on.  Nevertheless, the potential is out there and is being used in many parts of the world. In the US, for example, there are already 40 retail outlets for refuelling hydrogen cars just in a single state (California), with more in other states and more to come.

Over here, we’ve already got one public hydrogen fuel station in Canberra, with more being planned. As renewable hydrogen is a hot topic (or maybe a cool topic, given that liquid hydrogen has a temperature of about –250°C), there are a ton of hydrogen projects going on at the moment, and there are hopes that renewable hydrogen fuel will become one of Australia’s biggest exports.  Just a couple of days ago, there was news out that Siemens was launching a big plant in Western Australia to produce hydrogen fuel, and that’s just the latest one. We’re going to be producing it ourselves, so it makes sense that we should put it on our cars as well.

2019 Toyota Land Cruiser VX Diesel: Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: The current FJ200 Toyota Land Cruiser in VX specification. There are four models: GX, GXL, VX, and Sahara.Under The Bonnet Is: A hefty 4.5L diesel fed V8 and six speed auto. Peak power is 200kW @3,600rpm, and a whopping 600Nm of torque between 1,600rpm to 2,600rpm. The torque is needed as the dry weight is over 2,700kilograms, with a Gross Vehicle Mass of 3,350kg. Toyota fits two fuel tanks, a primary of 93L and a sub-tank of 45L. Economy is quoted as 9.5L/100km on the combined cycle. Our final figure, after a country drive loop of 1,300km, was way off at 11.5L/100km.What Does It Cost?: The GX in plain white starts from around $84,600 for our location. The Toyota website allows for a suburb by suburb pricing comparison. The VX comes up with a starting price of $107,600 and that’s with a folding pair of third row seats. In Silver Pearl, as tested, it’s $108,106.

On The Outside It’s:Big. And heavy. Bumper to bumper it’s 4,990mm in length and rolls on a 2,850mm wheelbase. Height is 1,970mm and overall width is 1,980mm. Stoppers are family pizza in size at 354mm front and rear for VX and Sahara. Rubber is from Dunlop and the Grand Trek tyres are 285/60/18. These were given a solid workout.With talk of an update to the body being released somewhere around 2021, and the current body based back in 2007, it’s a familiar look. Subtle curves to the flanks, a rounded nose with self-leveling headlights sitting above a chromed strip, that itself sits above a set of LED driving lights. In between is a massive air intake lined with three horizontal strips. Out back is a horizontally split non-powered tailgate and some eye-catching lights. There was also a towbar fitted and Toyota says there is a 3.5 tonne towing capacity.On The Inside:The VX is showing its age. Faux black leather seats look fine but up front there didn’t appear to be venting or heating controls for the powered seats nor is there memory seating. There is a 4 zone climate control system, however, with rear seat vents and centre row passenger access for temperature and fan speeds. Rear seats are flip to the side, not down into the floor, which means there is some cargo room accessible but not as much as there could be.The dash for the driver is full analogue for the dials (easy to read) and does feature the now ubiquitous info screen operated via the tiller tabs. To the left is a 9 inch touchscreen with access to climate control, navigation, Toyota apps, AM/FM/DAB, and a CD plus Bluetooth. There are 9 speakers and it’s an impressive system.

No wireless charge pad for a smartphone but a sole USB and 12V port. Somewhat disappointingly, the centre console storage box wasn’t a coolbox nor did it seem to cool down by running the rear centre console airvents which have their air channels run alongside the box. That same centre console houses a pair of dials. One is four going to 4WD low range, the other is for the crawler mode.The cabin is roomy but cramped. Roomy because of the sheer size but cramped due to the aging layout. However a white/grey rooflining against a contrasting black lower section does make for an airy feeling, along with the large glasshouse. A sunroof helped too.Out On The Road It’s: A legendary vehicle that, when driven in varying environments, shows why it’s a legend. The timing of the review allowed us to take the VX out to the dusty central north town of Coonamble, via Mudgee and Dunedoo.

The run commenced with an easy two and a half hours to Mudgee, a beautiful and thriving town. Immediately the VX impressed with its easy going, loping, style. But it also showed the aging architecture underneath and the sloppiness of the steering on centre. The suspension gives the impression of wafting the big machine, with the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, fitted as standard, absorbing the varying tarmac terrains easily.North of Mudgee is the road to Dunedoo and again the VX Land Cruiser would make this an easy run. What wasn’t easy was the feeling of helplessness from seeing the dead wildlife and the sheer dryness of the countryside. This would only get worse and we headed north from the village to Mendooran and then Gilgandra. from here one can head north-east to Coonabarabran and Siding Spring Observatory in the stark Warrumbungle Ranges, or cruise north west to Coonamble.Increasingly apparent was the struggle between the farmers and Mother Nature. It’s clear that there’s water, but it’s much like a famous line from a song by America. In “A Horse With No Name” there’s a line: “The ocean is a desert with its life underground, and a perfect disguise above”….This is complemented by: “After three days in the desert fun, I was looking at a river bed, and the story it told of a river that flowed, made me sad to think it was dead.” The lines of trees that stretched away into the distance, with some of a lush green, and others of a desperate sign of hanging on, tell the story. And a constant in most areas was the tortured, parched earth either side.Coonamble itself is around 230km from the NSW/QLD border and around 80km from Pilliga, home to a bore water hot spring bath that’s been in operation since 1902. Here, too, are clear indications of how the drought has hurt the bush.

Our hosts in Coonamble were Scott and Jenny Richardson, Blue Mountains residents and living an Aussie dream by having their own pub. With Coonamble’s main businesses being based on sheep and wheat farms, there’s a lot of locals looking to quench their thirst. It also gave AWT a chance to meet and talk about life in a remote town. One of the locals, a dapper gent that had lived in the town all of his life, declared he didn’t entirely believe in climate change, and readily stated that he thought that there is something wrong with the weather as he’d never seen conditions as bad for so long.The road between Pilliga and Baradine gave us a chance to test the gravel handling capability of the Land Cruiser. Rutted, compacted, and with the big footprint of the VX needing constant monitoring, the suspension showed its mettle. Here and throughout the 1300 kilometres covered in two and a half days, the comfort level proved high, with minimum physical fatigue thanks to the way the VX simply ignored the road conditions. That loose steering feel also showed why it was loose; a light grasp on the tiller allows the front end to look after itself and required only minimal input to keep the Land Cruiser on the straight.

Baradine is directly north of the Warrumbungles and here the handling of the VX was tested. Although there’s plenty of rubber on the road, the sheer mass of the Land Cruiser showed that judicious driving was needed when it came to the turns and curves. The upper body movement would prove disconcerting and needing a mental adjustment in where braking points and steering inputs needed to coincide. Some turns marked as 75kmh needed to be driven at that speed in the VX, with others allowing a more natural flow, leaving the car to find its own way through the line from entry to apex to exit.Coonabarabran is in the same need for rain as Coonamble. Surprisingly, with the Siding Spring observatory complex just a short drive west on one of the volcanic plugs that makes up the Warrumbungles, it’s also affected by skylight from Sydney. Siding Spring is the largest astronomical complex in the country, playing host to a vast array of internationally operated sites and is the hub to the Solar System Highway. This is a virtual model of the solar system, with the inner four planets just minutes away from the mountain top, and Pluto is three hours drive away.

Heading west from Coonamble through the national park this road also tests handling and ride quality. Once on the western side of the extinct volcano, the road becomes sandy, gravelly, and has moments of tarmac as it winds its way to Coonamble. The actual drive experience varies; acceleration can be easy and gradual when needed. And that 600Nm comes into play when required too, with a surprising alacrity when pressed.Again the distinction between underground waterways, the bore water that makes up some of the water supplies, and the drier than the moon’s surface farmland, was palpable. Lonely sheep and cattle wandered almost aimlessly in vast dusty paddocks, yet, occasionally, patches of emerald green shone thanks to hard working pumps tapping the subterranean water supplies. Back in Coonamble and the signs that encouraged the locals to shop local became more and more frequent. The VX shows why the Land Cruiser is so ideally suited for this kind of drive. The torque of the engine and the gearbox’s ratios has the tacho ticking over at just 2,000 at better than highway speeds thanks to the six speed auto, and simply hauls the constant 4WD beast through the sand and gravel without a second thought. There’s no doubt that one of the transmissions that have an extra two or three cogs would help economy and drastically change the driving behaviour.

Although just six in the number of cogs thou shalt count to, it’s a slick, smooth, shifter. It’ll hold gear nicely on downhill runs, using the engine as a brake, and on acceleration, and as slow as it can be at times, shifts are mostly invisible. And sometimes the slide into sixth was perceptible but not overtly noticeable. Naturally Sports Mode is available but was not used, and neither are there paddle shifters anyway, hinting at the intended usage of the driveline.All through the drives two things shone: the muted burble of the V8 and the sheer lack of fatigue often found in other cars. Noise insulation is high, that aforementioned ride and comfort level too must contribute to the lack of weariness unexpectedly felt.

The return journey gave the VX a chance to stretch its legs and again it showed that for all of its prowess it’s still restricted in a couple of ways. It’s a big and heavy machine, and prone to diving under braking. It’s a big and heavy machine and needs to be gentled, not hustled, through quite a few corners. And that six speed auto does sometimes need an extra couple of cogs.The same trip also showed why the focus by the NSW Government and Highway patrols on speed will never reduce the road toll. On a sweeping left hand corner south of Mudgee, a two lane section with double white lines, one particular driver took it upon himself to pass a line of traffic into a blind corner. There was oncoming traffic that could be seen from the head of the queue but not from where this boofhead started from. Somehow, somehow, nothing occurred. No, he wasn’t alone in his dangerous driving, with plenty of other examples seen.At least there is a decent amount of safety kit inside the VX. There are airbags front to rear. Blind Spot Detection is standard and is Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Front parking sensors are also standard.

When it comes to servicing and warranty, a driver can book a service via the myToyota app. Toyota offer a standard five year warranty which can be extended to seven if the car is serviced at a Toyota dealership.

At The End Of the Drive. It’s been said that Australia is largely responsible for the success of the Land Cruiser, and in a drive such as this that covered suburban and deep country, it’s close to heaven for this kind of vehicle. The low revving V8 is ideal for long distance hauls, the comfort level showcases just how important fatigue reduction is, and then there is the off road ability that is almost unquestionably a leader. However it’s that same soft and wafty suspension that counts against it in some areas, economy wasn’t close to the combined figure, and that mass…..Right here is where you can find more.

 

 

Who’s Hugh? An Aussie On The Rise Barters For The Future.

Go-karting is one of the avenues that many high level drivers have used to enter motorsport. Be they a V8 Supercar driver or in the F1 family, karting is in the bloodline of many. One of the high profile Australians in motorsport, Daniel Ricciardo, started in karting.There’s a “new kid on the block” in the form of Hugh Barter. Aged 13, Barter already has close to a decade’s worth of karting experience, and is looking to drive in the upper echelons of motorsport. Hugh was admitted to the AWC Motorsport Academy earlier this year. The academy has joined with former V8 Supercars driver Marcus Ambrose to help train and coach the “next generation” of drivers.

Hugh’s path to the academy has included the Rotax Pro Tour. 2019 sees him in his second year in the Junior Max class, a category recognised around the globe for junior drivers. The tour kicked off in Port Melbourne and proved to be a challenge first up. Round 2 of the tour and Round 1 of the Australian Kart Championship in Ipswich, Queensland, showed promise in each of the heats however mechanical issues arose and took Barter out of contention in most of the heats. These hiccups has Hugh start in 11th in the round’s final race, and it all came together with the chequered flag seeing Hugh across the line in 1st.

Rounds at Eastern Creek and Newcastle had good results, with high placings getting Barter up into the top 3 of the championships. Extra experience came with Barter running two different karts. KA4 Junior Light Class and KA3 Junior Class are configured for different weight and grip levels. This flexibility has paid dividends with the rest of the season seeing Barter improve and gain some valuable points to finish overall in 5th in the Pro Tour over halfway into the season and was in 2nd in the Karting Championships.Puckapunyal in Victoria played host to Round 4 of the Rotax Pro Tour and Barter was in a new kart from Praga. Immediately there was improvement and the weekend finished with Hugh up into 3rd overall.

Results in his career so far now have Hugh Barter ready to head to Italy this month to represent Australia in the Rotax World Titles. With his experience in both time and the different classes, Barter is looking to use this trip to further his ambitions in motorsport. You can follow his progress via hughbarter.com.au