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Archive for April, 2021

Will we see new types of cars after COVID?

There is sufficient reason to believe that cars of the future may well incorporate new design principles in the wake of COVID-19.

At least, that’s the view according to various car manufacturers, who have begun to envisage a different future for the automobile after the disruption caused by the pandemic, as well as the impact on supply chains that are so critical for vehicle production.

 

What changes are being touted?

Vehicle design could be in for a significant overhaul it would seem…albeit perhaps not just yet. Nonetheless, what will be a key driver, at least based on early discussions with car designers thus far, is how the mindset of drivers will influence tomorrow’s generation of new cars. And amid the changes of the last year, there can be no denying that the mindset of the modern driver now has other needs that would have seemed inconsequential 12 months ago.

More specifically, however, things like anti-viral coatings could become standard on interior surfaces. This is an area that both Kia and Hyundai have identified as a potential need in the future as they work on “virus-proof” cabins through the use of self-sterilising materials. What’s more, there is even some talk that the way to achieve this could be through the possibility of using temperature and ultraviolet light to sanitise surfaces.

Will the format of the car change as we know it?

At first there was also some train of thought that social distancing behaviour could also give rise to a new breed of vehicles, which would be short-range micro electric vehicles. These would effectively act as a supplement to other forms of transit such as public transport, bicycles and walking. Rather than an all-in-one motoring solution that many brands have tried to embrace through SUVs, and more recently, crossovers, this type of vehicle would be designed more simply as functional units, without the necessary frills that we’ve come to expect in all of the latest-release cars.

However, the trend of new car buying throughout the pandemic has almost universally opposed this notion. In fact, buyers continue to flock to bigger and bigger cars, perhaps spurred on by the fact that they now want to travel longer distances and in more diverse environments. Naturally, it’s no surprise then that SUVs and dual-cab utes are dominating the market with their 4×4 capabilities, let alone spacious cabins and large cargo holds.

There is no denying that recent trends up until COVID-19 were all about shared mobility and peer-to-peer service. With that turned on its head in recent time as we stay at home and keep our distance from others, there is also likely to be some attention shift towards how the internal cabin connects all of the vehicle’s occupants. It is distinctly likely that cars will need to prioritise a more deliberate design when it comes to shared mobility, at least for the purposes of helping us uphold the momentum as far as the shared mobility trend.

 

Now a full year on from the onset of the pandemic, new observations keep leading to new possibilities. What do you see ahead?

History Made: Mercedes-Benz EQS

Mercedes-Benz has long been seen as the leader in trickle-down technology being seen in cars some years after featuring in the brand’s higher end saloons such as the S-Class. And with the release of their first all electric luxury vehicle, the EQS, this tradition is set to continue.

The EQS will offer ranges of up to 770 kilometres and will pack a powertrain of up to 385kW. A performance version is said to be in development and with up to 560kW. It will sit within the expectations of the S-Class saloon segment. The vehicles will be rear axle driven however the models fitted with the 4MATIC will have a front axle engine also.

Mercedes-EQ, EQS, V 297, 2021

Mercedes says the initial models will be the EQS 450+ with 245 kW and the EQS 580 4MATIC with 385 kW. The rated power consumption rates are quoted as 20.4-15.7 kWh/100 km, and 21.8-17.4 kWh/100 km. New technology for the batteries has them enabled with a higher energy density. Of the two batteries to be available, the larger will have a usable energy content of 107.8 kWh. Mercedes says this is around 26 percent more than the EQC, their EV SUV.

It’s tech that is bespoke for M-B, with the software having been fully developed by the company and allowing over the air updates. This keeps the management system up to date, and for the life cycle of the battery. In respect to the charging rates, the DC fast charge stations pump in 200kW( and 300km in around 15 minutes. On a home charger system the EQS charges up to 22kW with AC power. The software will also allow intelligent charging programs and battery-saving charging.

A key component of EV technology is is energy recuperation. The EQS uses a program called DAuto, which can recuperate energy from deceleration to zero without the need for the brake pedal to be utilised. Smart cruise tech employs the same mechanisms with vehicle traffic ahead of the EQS. Intelligent energy recovery is situation-optimised with the aid of ECO Assist and acts with foresight, taking into account traffic conditions or topography, among other things, and up to 290kW can be generated. The driver also can set three energy recovery levels and the coast function via paddle shifters on the steering wheel.

Mercedes-EQ, EQS, V 297, 2021

Also available as OTA or over the air will be the activation of vehicle functionalities. This includes two driving programs for younger aged drivers and for service staff. Light entertainment in the installation of games will also be available. Plus the updates will allow personal preference settings such as changing the steering angles for the rear wheel steering from the standard 4.5 degrees to the maximum 10 degrees. Planned is the activation of subscription services and testing on future programs.

Aerodynamics plays a big part in vehicle fuel efficiency and the new EQS has plenty of aero in the design. in fact, it’s currently rated as the most aerodynamic car available with a drag coefficient of 0.20cD. In conjunction with that slippery body is the reduction of wind noise at speed, improving comfort levels.

The need for aero is due to the EQS being on a new chassis architecture to provide a home for the powertrain. Mercedes-Benz calls the design language Sensual Purity, with smooth, organic, lines, a reduction in the join lines in panels, the fastback styling. The front end is a “Black Panel” look with the headlights running seamlessly into the grille panel which can be optioned with a 3D star pattern to complement the three-pointed Mercedes star.

Embedded throughout the EQS is a network of sensors, up to 350 of them, depending on specification. Amongst the types of information recorded are distance travelled, ambient lighting conditions, acceleration rates and speeds achieved. AI then utilises these datasets to adjust the car on the fly. This includes monitoring the battery charge levels in respect to the distance required to see the next charging point thanks to the onboard Navigation with Electric Intelligence.

Mercedes-EQ, EQS 580 4MATIC, Interieur, Nevagrau/ Iridescentblau, AMG-Line, Edition 1; MBUX Hyperscreen; ( Stromverbrauch kombiniert: 20,0-16,9 kWh/100 km; CO2-Emissionen kombiniert: 0 g/km) // Mercedes-EQ, EQS 580 4MATIC, Interior, neva gray/ iridescent blue, AMG-Line, Edition 1; MBUX Hyperscreen ; (combined electrical consumption: 20.0-16.9 kWh/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 0 g/km)

Being a class-setting EV, the EQS packs in some high-end green technology for the passengers. An example is the HEPA filter than can be set to fully clean the air inside the cabin before passengers enter with the onboard data system, MBUX, able to display particulate levels inside and out. Recycled materials are used in areas such as the carpets. The manufacturing process is fully carbon-offset as well.

The MBUX Hyperscreen is the absolute highlight in the interior. This large, curved screen unit sweeps almost from A-pillar to A-pillar. Three screens sit under a cover glass and appear to merge into one. The 12.3-inch OLED display for the front passenger gives him or her their own display and control area. The entertainment functions are only available there while the car is being driven in accordance with the country-specific legal regulations. Mercedes-EQ relies on an intelligent, camera-based locking logic: if the camera detects that the driver is looking at the front passenger display, it is automatically dimmed.

As part of its Ambition 2039 initiative, Mercedes-Benz is working on offering a carbon-neutral new car fleet within 20 years from now. By as early as 2030, the company wants more than half the cars it sells to feature electric drive systems – this includes fully electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. In many areas, Mercedes is already thinking about tomorrow today: the new EQS is designed to be correspondingly sustainable. The vehicles are produced in a carbon-neutral manner, and resource-saving materials such as carpets made from recycled yarn are used. This is because Mercedes-Benz considers the entire value chain, from development and the supplier network to its own production. Mercedes-Benz AG has had its climate protection targets confirmed by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTI).

Mercedes-EQ, EQS, V 297, 2021

Farewell To the Queen of the Nürburgring

As a female motoring blogger, I was very sorry to hear that one of my motoring heroines, Sabine Schmitz, passed away recently.  It’s particularly poignant when I realized that she was only a few years older than me.

If you aren’t sure who I’m talking about, I’m referring to the German motor show presenter who appeared frequently on the British motoring show Top Gear.  We first met her in a 2004 episode, where she became Jeremy Clarkson’s nemesis, as she was a German (groan!) woman (gasp!) who beat Jeremy Clarkson around the Nürburgring (ouch!) in a diesel (eek!) van (aaagh!).  I know I definitely loved it when she made it around the Ring in less than 10 minutes.  This wasn’t her first appearance on a Top Gear show (she appeared briefly in a 2002 special) and it wasn’t her last, either. In fact, after the ousting of the Unholy Trinity of Clarkson, Hammond and May, she was selected by the BBC as one of the new presenters.

Sabine was one of three daughters of restaurant owners who lived near the famous Nürburgring.  She and her sisters all participated in motorsports, but she was the most successful of the three. During her racing career, she won the 24-hour Nürburgring challenge twice (both times in a BMW), as well as placing third, ninth and sixth in Porsches (if you’re looking it up, you’ll find her under her married name of Sabine Reck).  She operated a “taxi service” professionally in the Nürburgring, and later added driver training to her company portfolio.  It’s probably no exaggeration to say that she knew the Nürburgring ring like I know my neighbourhood roads. The track was her neighbourhood road.

As she was known not only for her driving skills but also for her sparkling personality, she appeared frequently on the German equivalent of Top Gear, a show called D Motor. She also provided commentary for motorsports from time to time, becoming known for her sense of humour.

I always enjoyed watching the episodes of Top Gear when she appeared, and it was fantastic to see a woman succeeding in what has traditionally been a very male-dominated area – which is odd, when you come to think about it, given that it was a German woman, Bertha Benz, who brought the motorcar to public attention in the first place. She was a great role model for girls learning to drive and showed the public that driving well is not necessarily a “boy thing”.

She was, unfortunately, diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer in 2017, although this was not made public until last year. She fought it hard, but lost the battle a few weeks ago.  I’m sure I won’t be the only one who misses her and will be disappointed not to see any more of her.

One more time, let’s enjoy one of her iconic Nürburgring laps in a van for Top Gear that we loved so much:

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Kleva Kluger Is A Hefty Hybrid.

Toyota’s near twenty year old Kluger nameplate is joining the Toyota family of Hybrids. The big petrol powered machine, which has never had a diesel option, weighs in at a hefty two thousand kilos (dry) in its forthcoming Hybrid form. It will become the eighth Hybrid for the Japanese company.

The Kluger will come in 2WD or AWD petrol, or AWD Hybrid, and the Hybrid has the Toyota 2.5L petrol, whilst the Kluger stays with the familiar 3.5L V6 capacity in a new engine block. There willbe three trims levels, with the GX 2WD petrol starting from $47,650, the GXL 2WD petrol from $56,850, and Grande 2WD petrol from $68,900. Move to AWD and pricing runs at: GX AWD petrol from $51,650,
GXL AWD petrol from $60,850, and Grande AWD petrol from $72,900. The Hybrid range starts from $54,150 for the GX AWD hybrid, $63,350 for the GXL AWD hybrid, and $75,400 for the Grande AWD hybrid. Premium paint is a $675 option, with the Grande offering a rear seat entertainment system at $1,500.Sean Hanley, the Toyota Australia Vice President Sales and Marketing, said the addition of a hybrid option to one of Australia’s favourite family SUVs demonstrated Toyota’s commitment to driving sustainability forward. “The popularity of SUVs continues to grow and the new Kluger hybrid models mean that families can have all the space, comfort, refinement and versatility of a large SUV with a low environmental impact. In addition to that, the stylish new look, improved safety and high level of advanced technology makes the Kluger the perfect SUV for the modern family.Power comes from the 2.5L four and a pair of electric motors up front, backed by a single rear mounted engine. Toyota says the Hybrid’s combined power is 184kW, with the petrol engine contributing 142kW itself. Torque isn’t quoted for the Hybrid, however 242Nm is the 2.5L petrol engine’s figure and emissions of 128g/km. Jump to the 3.5L and 218kW is backed by 350Nm with drive being passed through a new eight speed auto.

The Hybrid has an electronic continuously variable transmission (e-CVT). The e-Four AWD system allows up to 100 per cent of drive to be sent through the front wheels or up to 80 per cent through the rear, depending on the conditions being driven in. This Dynamic Torque Control AWD system, which effectively disconnects the rear diff when AWD isn’t required, will be available in the GX and GXL. The Grande also receives a torque vectoring system, splitting torque to left or right as required. There will be three driving modes too, with Eco, Normal, and Sport offering a breadth of choice. Also included in the AWD models is a terrain adjustable program for Rock and Dirt, Mud and Sand soft-roading.Underneath the wheelhouse, the new Kluger is built on an updated chassis, called Toyota New Global Architecture or TNGA platform. The wheelbase is increased by 60mm longer wheelbase as is the overall length. It’s also somewhat broader than the current 2021 model for more interior room and stability on road. The suspension has been redesigned with multilink front and rear setups, with better overall ride quality, better handling, and better behaviour under braking conditions. Bigger discs at 340mm front and 338mm add their presence.

An exterior revamp sees a lessening of the heavily squared-jaw look, with slim LED headlights and taillights, with the front fenders rolling inwards slightly at the top for a visual weight reduction. There is a new line for the rear wheel arches, with a sinuous curve rolling up from the doors that reminds of the current IndyCar rear structure. Wheels themselves will be 18 inch alloys on the GX and GXL, and bespoke Chromtec 20 inch alloys for the Grande.The increase in space means increased comfort and Toyota adds in sliding and 60/40 split centre row seats, with the seven seater having 60/40 split fold also. Trim material finish has gone up a grade with soft touch dash materials, a higher quality cloth trim in the GX, and faux leather for the GXL. That grade also has gained heated front pews. GX and GXL have an 8.0 inch touchscreen, Android and Apple compatibility with DAB and Bluetooth, plus satnav for the GXL along with tri-zone climate control. Grande adds in a sunroof, HUD, and an 11 speaker audio system from JBL.

GX has dual zone, auto headlights and rain-sensing wipers as standard. Five USB ports make for family friendly smart usage. The increased wheelbase adds up to increase the cargo and third row space as well. Also upped is safety, with Toyota’s Safety Sense gaining traffic sign recognition, intersection turn assist, and emergency steering assist across the three, backing up the already substantial safety package.

The current expected release date for Australia is June.

Overseas model shown, courtesy of Toyota

What happened to Park Assist Technology?

Park assist technology was talked up as the next big feature for many of our cars, particularly as a pre-cursor to fully autonomous driving. However, despite much hype, and after what is now 20 years of development and fine-tuning, the feature is still rather uncommon as far as being an inclusion in today’s cars.

 

Looking in the rear-view mirror

The push for park assist technology stemmed from the day-to-day frustrations of parking.

Forget the dreaded issue of parallel parking –with the metaphorical flick of a switch, you’re all good. The notion behind it all was that you need not worry about the prospect of a fender bender in a tight spot – after all, computers will control your vehicle’s movements with precision that even the best drivers wouldn’t be able to match.

How does it all work?

Using a simple touch-screen activated system, sensors scan the sides of the road, parking lots, garages and the like in search of spots that a motorist would be able to park their vehicle.

Once a vacant parking spot has been identified, a series of sounds and on-screen images will be used to illustrate the particular situation.

At this point the vehicle’s automated system will be engaged, which relies on the power steering system to override the steering wheel and direct the car into position.

If the system is used for guidance instead, the screen will display a series of projectories for the driver to use to align the vehicle into the space -designating control to the driver. In either case, however, the driver will be required to adjust the throttle to move the vehicle, and will also have the support of cameras.

Why hasn’t it completely caught on?

There are stumbling blocks here on a couple fronts.

First, the system has really been leveraged in a way where drivers have been encouraged to use it as means of providing guidance, and therefore, ultimately navigating the parking process themselves. Not only that, not every driver is still comfortable in the idea of giving away that control.

Meanwhile, because the full-suite of autonomous technology has historically been limited to high-end vehicles, and only recently been filtering down the ranks, it has still yet to find widespread adoption, which can only be achieved through its integration in mainstream, accessible cars.

All the while, despite improvements after multiple generations of development, the autonomous component of the technology is still not fit for every circumstance, nor every car. That said, the guidance mechanisms have proven to be invaluable for everyday drivers.

But the notion of a complete hands-off parking experience might be some time away, for there is still much progress to be made here before you might find it in your next entry-level model. Now, manufacturers are so focused on an all-encompassing autonomous experience, parking alone just won’t cut the mustard!

 

New Internal Combustion Engine Technology

Are the days numbered for the internal combustion engine?  With ever stricter emission standards becoming the norm and all the talk about electric vehicles being the current rave, you would have to be forgiven for thinking that the future for the internal combustion engine is looking rather bleak.  However, here are some findings that suggest that the internal combustion engine might just be around for quite some time yet.

Let’s start off with one of the world’s biggest automotive manufacturers: Toyota.  Toyota continues to employ their hugely effective hybrid technology in many of their current models.  Even the little Yaris has just recently had its own special hybrid motor become available to its line-up.  Toyota’s hybrid systems are so successful at being efficient and they are proven in everyday, real-world situations to be reliable.  You only have to look at the incredibly low fuel consumption figures of the latest Camry Sedans and RAV4 SUVs to get an insight into how effective Toyota hybrid engines are at lowering fuel consumption and reducing pollution levels in and around CBDs.

But there are also other areas of the internal combustion engine that haven’t been pushed quite to the boundaries of exploration and these are in the areas of compression ignition.  ‘Engineering Explained’ host Jason Fenske has recently talked about homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI) being a big gain area for the internal combustion engine, particularly for the engine’s burning efficiency.  The HCCI engine burns gasoline but uses compression ignition like a diesel engine rather than a spark plug.  So, in theory, gasoline/petrol HCCI technology provides huge efficiency gains like you find with some of the current diesel motors; however, the huge efficiency gains would be without the soot and high levels of nitrogen-oxide (NOx) emissions.  HCCI does require much finer controls in the area of fuel intake temperature, as well as the timing of ignition to get spot on.

Another vicinity that Fenske sees as being a big gain aera for internal combustion engine technology is the area of pre-mix charge compression ignition (PCCI).  What PCCI does is inject some of the fuel early to let it mix with air in the combustion chamber, before injecting more fuel later on in the combustion process.  This method of combustion provides more control over the engine’s ignition timing than HCCI, however it can also create pockets of unburned hydrocarbons.  The key here is to limit the unburned hydrocarbons but access the higher efficiency potential that PCCI offers.

Then there is reactivity-controlled compression ignition (RCCI), where Fenske suggests that this technology uses two fuels, where one fuel is a low-reactivity fuel (like gasoline) that is port injected, and a high-reactivity fuel (like diesel) that is direct injected.  “Reactivity” refers to a fuel’s tendency to ignite under compression.  RCCI is a method that leads to big gains in fuel efficiency, where Fenske says that some lab research has shown 60% gains in fuel efficiency.

Something else that is being worked on by researchers from Valencia’s Polytechnic University (UPV) is that of a new internal combustion engine that does not generate carbon dioxide and other harmful gases.  According to the engine’s designers, it is a “revolutionary” engine that meets the regulation on emissions planned for 2040 and also has excellent efficiency.  There master stroke is in using special ceramic membranes in the engine’s design, these membranes enable the selective separation of oxygen from the air to produce ‘oxycombustion’, where pure combustion gas is generated.  This pure combustion gas that is composed of water and CO2 can be captured inside the vehicle and stored, without having it expelled from the exhaust system.

Motoring big wigs, Toyota and Ferrari, still have an extensive long-term plan for using internal combustion technology into the future.  Hybrid technology is delivering impressive gains in fuel efficiency and emission reduction, particularly in built up, congested areas.

2021 Subaru XV S & Premium: Private Fleet Car Review.

Subaru in Australia positions itself as a niche player. That may well be the case but it also does the brand a disservice. For example, March of 2021 saw 4,212 Subarus sold, with over 10,700 on a year-to-date basis. That puts the brand, for the month and YTD, ahead of Volkswagen, Honda, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz, and just over 300 shy of Nissan. It’s one of the brand’s best set of sales numbers.It’s an astounding result for the company here in Australia given the range is Outback, BRZ sports coupe, Forester, Impreza sedan and wagon, WRX, and Impreza wagon-based XV. There is no large SUV nor a two or four door, two or four wheel drive ute.We were able to drive, back-to-back, two examples of the late-2020 updated XV. In honesty, the naming system needs work, with a base model simply called XV, then L and a hybrid, Premium, then S and a hybrid version. S and then Premium is what we were supplied with however it would make more sense to change S to Premium and vice-versa.

For 2021 there have been some minor changes to pricing. The base model starts from $29,690 (up $450), with the L from $31,990. That’s an increase of $380. The Premium jumps by a heft $1,170 to $34,590, with the S up by $760 to $37,290. The Hybrids, now a pair rather than a single offering are unchanged at 435,490 and $40,790. These are not inclusive of on-road costs.Externally there are minimal sheetmetal differences between the two. The wheels themselves are different in design, plus have an inch of diameter in difference. The Premium has 17s, the S has 18s and a more striking design. The Premium sources rubber from Yokohama at 225/60, the S has Bridgestones at 225/55. A mid-life update in late 2020 saw minor tweaks to the front bumper and around the driving lights in the lower sections, plus a refresh of the grille.The Premium now has folding wing mirrors and they’re heated as well. The S has self-leveling headlights and they are auto on, as are the wipers. Unfortunately the Premium and below don’t have auto on lights, a safety issue in our opinion.

There is an extensive colour palette too, including Lagoon Blue for the Hybrids. There is Crystal White, Dark Blue and Horizon Blue, Magnetite Grey and Crystal Black, along with Cool Grey, Ice Silver, Plasma Yellow and Pure Red.On the road the pair have gained suspension updates too, with a change to the front providing a slightly more precise handling. The front has MacPherson struts & coil springs, with the rear having double wishbones. Although ostensibly there’s been no change to the rear it feels slightly softer and more compliant over the smaller ruts and bumps. It’s quick to damp out any intrusioons from the road however we did notice some bump steer and a slight skip sideways over road joins.Drivewise the engine and transmission are unchanged, with the 2.0L flat four working quite handily with the CVT. It’s modestly powered at 115kW, with torque a handy 196Nm. The trick to extracting the best from the CVT is to not go heavy and hard from the start on the accelerator.A light but progressive press seems to extract the best overall acceleration, with a linear growth in speed, rather than the more traditional feel of slipping under pressure.

There is manual shifting available via paddle shifts, which can be quite handy in certain driving conditions such as uphill traffic, providing the driver with more overall control. Having said that, the CVT in both did display some of the traits they’re known for, with sensations of surging at low speed, but we also have to say that they weren’t as noisy as we’ve experienced.The drive system now has the SI Drive, an electronic program that adds some sporting spice to the engine’s mapping and the the changes in the CVT’s seven preset ratios. The S mode sharpens the throttle response and the XV feels sprightlier, zippier, and makes for better highway manouvering. The steering itself has some weight to it, but not so that it’s fighting the AWD system. It’s quick in response, and is ratioed for a tight 10.8 metre turning circle. The AWD system is naturally well sorted with no noticeable pull from either end but the grip levels are noted when hunting corners at speed.

Economy on both finished smack on 7.0L/100km, equaling the quoted economy figure on the combined cycle. However, our figures were on a our traditional 70/30 urban to highway, with Subaru quoting 8.8L/100km for the urban cycle. It’s a reasonable highway cruiser, with the revs ticking over just below 2,000 at Australian limits. It’s quiet, too, with the engine only showcasing its metallic keen and the boxer warble from the exhaust when pressed.

Safety for the Premium sees the “Vision Assist” package added in, with the Blind Spot Monitor, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, automatic braking in reverse if an object is sensed, and a front view monitor via a left wing mirror camera. The whole range has seven airbags including a kneebag. All but the entry level version have the Eyesight package which includes Adaptive Cruise, Brake Light Recognition which alerts the driver to say the vehicle ahead has moved on, Lane Departure Warning, and Lane Keep Assist. The latter is less aggressive in its workings than that found in the two Korean brands. Tyre Pressure Monitoring is standard, however, across all models.The S ups the ante thanks to Subaru’s X-Mode, a preprogrammed soft-road mode for snow or mild off-roading. There’s a bit of extra “looxshoory” with memory seating for the driver, heating but no venting for the front seats, good looking stitching across the dash and binnacle, piano black gloss trim, and auto dipping wing mirrors.

The expected user controls such as Info on the lower left of the steering wheel remain, showing a multitude of options on the dashboard’s upper screen. The 6.3 inch main screen stays with its frustrating lack of information being fully displayed as in artist and song title, whilst otherwise remaining easy to read and use.Premium has cloth covering in the centre of the seats and it’s a funky mix of bright yellow stitching contrasting with the light grey cloth and black leather. The interior door handles have a faux carbon-fibre inset, with the S having a higher quality sheen. The S also has alloy pedals and footrest. The rear seats have a fold-out centre section with two cupholders.Neither have a charge pad for smartphones nor a powered tailgate. There are 12V sockets up front but no rear seat ports. Cargo space is 310L with the rear seats up, 765L when they’re folded. The spare is a temporary or space saver. With the XV being the same body as the Impreza hatch, but raised in ride height, it makes for loading the cargo bay just that little bit easier thanks to less bending down.There’s a five year and unlimited kilometre warranty on the XV range, with capped price servicing with prices available via your dealer. There is also 12 months complimentary roadside assistance, and three years satnav maps update.At The End Of The Drive. It’s an axiom of driving a car that you’ll suddenly see “thousands” of the same car all of a sudden. That was so true during our fortnight with the S and Premium, with an XV seemingly on every corner.

There’s good reason for that; the Subaru XV is a willing performer, well priced, and not a bad drive once the vagaries of CVTs are understood. Economy is a plus too, so the hip pocket pain is minimised. Not unattractive to look at in the driveway is another plus, making the 2021 Subaru XV the smart choice.

With thanks to Subaru Australia.

Australian Car Sales Continue The Upwards Swing.

VFACTS and the FCAI have released the sales figures for March of 2021 and it’s good news. March 2021 saw 100,005 units moved, an increase of 18,315 over March of 2020. In a year to date sales sense it’s 263,648, up from 233,361 for the same time last year.

SUV sales were up 32 per cent and Light Commercial vehicles were up by 28 per cent. Eight of the top ten selling vehicles for the month were SUVs or Light Commercials, driven by increasing demand from the Private buyers.

Category wise, the passenger segment went down from 21,783 to 21,360. The SUV figures were 51,705 compared to 39,162 in March 2020. LCVs were 23,255, up from 18,165 in March 2020.

In the Passenger car segment Hybrids saw a slight increase, with 2,658, up from 2,441 in March 2020. Hybrid SUVs also saw an increase, with 2,190 in March 2020 up to 3,890 this year. PHEV SUVs doubled from 119 to 258.

For the Light Cars (under $25K), MG’s MG3 took the crown, with 1,238, an increase of over 30%. Third place was a real battle with Suzuki Swift (471), Kia Rio (452), and Suzuki Baleno (432) making a good sales fight, whilst in between was the Toyota Yaris on 636.

Small Cars (under $40K) and Toyota’s Corolla was under pressure from Hyundai’s i30. The Corolla moved 2,892 against 2,514. Third was tight with the Mazda3 just pipping the Kia Cerato, with 1,577 to 1,453. In the plus $40K range it was a battle between the German duo of BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The A-Class stole first on 358, just nudging the 1 Series on 340. The 2 Series Gran Coupe took third on 222.

For the Medium segment it was the Toyota Camry out in front in both the under and over $60K bracket. 852 units moved, ahead of the BMW 3 Series on 567, and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class on 364. Camry, though, was down substantially from 2020, with 1,332 last year.

Kia’s Stinger continued to win the Large Sedan, with 173, down by just two from last year. Porsche’s new Taycan, a fully Electric Vehicle, entered with 161, six ahead of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

Kia also outclassed the competition in the People Mover segment, with the Carnival reaching 616, up from 475 in March 2020. Honda’s Odyssey consolidates second with 162, up from 130.

Volkswagen snared third with its new Multivan for 121. In the over $60K segment it was Mercedes, Mercedes, and Toyota, with the V-Class (42), Valente (24) and Granvia (22), duking it out.

There’s been a change in the Sports car segment though. Ford’s Mustang still sold the most with 130 in the under $80K segment, however was outsold by the Mercedes-Benz in the over $80K by the C-Class Coupe and Convertible on 139. The 4 Series from BMW snared 110 for third in both segments.

Moving into the SUV segment and in the Light SUV category Mazda’s CX3 pummeled the opposition in the sub-$40K bracket with 1,744. Toyota’s Yaris Cross slid quickly into second on 846. For third it was another tight battle with Volkswagen’s T-Cross (655) edging out the Hyundai venue and Kia’s new Stonic on 636 and 624.

For the under $40K Small SUVs the Chinese made MG ZS stole the show on 1,510. Hyundai’s recently revamped Kona saw 1,462, just ahead of the Mazda CX-30 on 1,225. Nissan’s Qashqai was the only other entrant into the 1,000 club, squeaking in on 1,003.

Above $40K and Audi’s Q3 found 852 homes, ahead of the Volvo CX40 with 416. 279 and 249 went to Germany, with the X1 from BMW and GLA-Class from Mercedes. Mazda’s CX-5 gave the RAV4 a shake in the Medium sub-$60K, with Toyota selling 3,522 over the Mazda’s 3,022. Nissan’s X-Trail performed solidly for 1,932, just ahead of Subaru’s Forester with 1,439. Mitsubishi’s Outlander 1,085, just ahead of Honda’s CR-V on 972.

In the plus $60K bracket, only Mercedes cracked the 600 mark on 607 for the GLB. The GLC-Class wagon was a distant second with 374, with Audi Q5 on 336. The Lexus NX and BMW X5 went nose to nose on 295 and 291.

In the Large SUVs and under $70K it was Subaru’s outgoing and incoming Outback with 1,341, ahead of the 1,211 for Toyota’s Prado. 1,179 is the number for the Isuzu M-UX. Mitsubishi’s Pajero Sport sold 886, whilst their ancient Pajero, due to be cancelled at the end of the year, sold 292.

Over $70K and it was the X5 on 309. Behind it was some close infighting with the Lexus RX (185), Range Rover Sport (181), and GLE-Class wagon (176) providing stiff competition for each other. Above that it’s a two horse race in the Upper large under $100K, with the LandCruiser and Patrol on 2,244 and 305, selling nearly eight times as many than the full field in the over $100K bracket.

In the ute segment, the 4×4 pickup and cab-chassis bracket had HiLux on 4,068 ahead of Ford Ranger with 3,710, continuing the Japanese brand’s number one position. Mitsubishi’s 4×4 Triton moved 2,223 for third. Isuzu’s D-Max was fourth on 1,338, ahead of the Mazda BT-50 and sibling under the skin, on 1,177.

Notable in those figures is the rise of the sharply priced Chinese built MG range, and the continued growth of non-PHEV Hybrids. Overall for March 2021, Toyota sold 21,319, with Mazda on 10,785. They were the only two brands to see double-digits for the month. Hyundai continues to outpace its Korean sibling, with 6,852 over 5,802. Mitsubishi moved 6,430 whilst Nissan sold 4,559, under the 5,977 of Ford. MG? 3,303 and ahead of Honda.

X Marks The Spot For Genesis

Genesis has unveiled a new concept car. A stylish, low set coupe, the Genesis X is an EV and GT (Gran Turismo)for the future. Launched in a hi-tech media joint presentation with Jason B. Bergh with the location being a private rooftop in Los Angeles, and a showing of a film that brought together the Californian car culture to meet the vision of Genesis and its sustainable ideals, Genesis X highlights a different take on concept cars.A key visual identification of the concept is the Genesis Two Lines element. Seen in the company’s current vehicles, the Two Lines is extended on the concept, both on the exterior and interior, and the charging devices built in.

Exterior design work sees the bonnet a one-piece “clamshell” unit, presenting a harmonious and uniform surface. The unbroken appearance allowed the designers to highlight the Two Lines idealism with both fenders having an unbroken sweep of lights strips from either side of the signature Genesis grille towards the door lines.

The grille’s structure has been reworked for a deeper three dimensional presence, and the interior sections have been painted the same Lençóis Blue as the concept’s exterior. The colour is said to evoke the hue seen in the lagoons of the Maranhenses National Park in Brazil, where a lake forms only during the rainy season. This sits above a classically styled air intake and thinner lines for the grille structure.

This brings to the Genesis X concept a sporting look yet functionality isn’t overlooked, with air to cool the electrics and batteries, channeling air through a aero-designed undertray for efficiency and increased drag reduction for better range.Jay Chang, the Global Head of the Genesis Brand, observed: “The car that we are unveiling today is a concept car that embodies the essential elements that Genesis pursues in its designs. Please take a moment to meet the future of Genesis design through this concept car, which embodies our brand’s progressive and audacious spirit.” SangYup Lee, the brand’s Global Design Chief, echoes that with: “The Genesis X Concept can be described as the ultimate vision of Athletic Elegance, the inherent design language of Genesis. The signature Two Lines theme and sustainable luxury will be blueprints for the futuristic designs and state-of-the-art technologies that Genesis seeks to adopt in its future models.”

In profile it’s a classic GT motif, with long bonnet and truncated rear, joined by a gentle parabolic curve that in a quarter view highlights the tapering cabin and rear wheel flares. The rear has a dual parabola oval that houses the Two Lines taillights. There is no visible bootline seen in the concept though. The rear window has a pair of metallised strips that visually counterbalance the front and look to be, on the left side, the port for the charging of the battery. There’s more aero and tech with the wing mirrors eschewing the traditional glass mirrors. Here, Genesis goes slimline and embeds digital cameras. Aero and sportiness are combined in the bespoke, yet simple, five spoke wheels. These will cool the brake calipers whilst minimising drag at speed.For the interior Genesis highlight their “green” aspirations with “upcycled” leather trim. These are made from leftover materials, rather than sourcing them from new. In a weave pattern, the material is used on sections of the steering wheel, the safety belts, and the airbag cover. Also, to differentiate between driver and passenger for the four seater coupe, the trim designers took the unusual route of using two different colours. The passenger’s trim is Ocean Wave Green Blue, the driver’s a Scotch Brown.There’s further differentiation with the driver’s seat separated from the passenger via a solid looking floating console with a wrap around binnacle enveloping the driver’s section. This houses the Free-Form display, which manages various functions such as clusters, navigation and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems, and the Crystal Sphere Electronic Shift Lever, which integrates driving mode settings. Again, the designers have woven in the Two Lines ideal, with the binnacle drawing the lines to the air vents and side window mouldings.To debut the Genesis X Concept to consumers around the globe, the brand opened its digital motor show website (digitalmotorshow.genesis.com) with the unveiling of the concept car, offering visitors various interactive experiences and 360-degree views of its interior and exterior.

At the time of writing, Genesis had not released details of the EV drive.

2021 Hyundai Kona N-Line Premium: Private Fleet Car Review.

City SUV. It’s another terminology slowly yet inexorably making its way into the automotive language. In 2019 Hyundai unveiled the Kona, a slightly oddly styled machine and, at just over four metres in total length, ideal for city-based driving.Early 2021 and a mild facelift has given the range fresh looks without diminishing its funky appeal. Hyundai also added the N-Line variants, the upper end and luxury trimmed versions.

The N-Line Premium review vehicle kindly supplied by Hyundai Australia is priced at around $46,340 on a drive-away price point. That’s a big ask for something that covers less real estate than a Corolla or i30, however there is plenty on board to balance the books.Power is courtesy of the company’s familiar and proven 1.6L turbo four. 144kW and 265Nm of torque drive a seven speed dry dual-clutch auto driving the front wheels.

Unusual here is a centre differential which can be electronically locked for all-wheel drive. It’s a feature that had real benefit during its time with us as it coincided with the big wet that hit the south-eastern corner of Australia in mid-March.The exterior sees mild but noticeable changes to the front and rear in comparison to the standard Kona, with a more pronounced curve to the bonnet’s leading edge, three faux inlets, a broad grille in black chrome, and a pair of triple-lensed LED headlights.

A diffuser style insert for the rear adds a sporting finish and retains the lower set indicators. Wheels are 18 inch multi-spoke dark grey painted and machined alloys, wrapped in Continental Premium Contact6 rubber. They’re a truly distinctive design and accentuated the flame red painted exterior with black body panels perfectly.Inside, passengers sit on cloth seats with leather bolstering. The front seats are heated AND vented, something more companies should offer. The rear seats are also heated in the bolsters, a handy touch, and welcomed in that same cool period. No, the tiller isn’t overlooked for heating either and does so quite quickly.The driver faces a full colour 10.25 inch LCD widescreen that changes the look of the dials depending on drive mode. There is Sport, Smart, Eco, and Normal, chosen via a centre console jog dial to the front and right of the standard looking drive lever.Above the driver’s display is a colour Head Up Display, and there’s a sense of real 3D depth here, not normally seen in a HUD. It’s super crisp and clear, and by 3D we mean that literally. Image three levels of information, one above the other, and each seems closer or farther away than the one above or below it. For the rearward look, a crystal clear reverse camera and screen comination add plenty of safety.Sounds, driver controls, and extra info is found inside the 10.25 inch touchscreen for N-Line Premium. DAB audio, Bluetooth streaming, Android and Apple compatibility are all standard. Sounds are from a Harman Kardon eight speaker system. Below the screen and ahead of the drive lever is a nook for the smartphone charge-pad. Alloy pedals are standard.Head and leg room up front will suit most drivers that opt for the city SUV. Rear leg room isn’t quite as accommodating with Hyundai quoting 893mm. Like most vehicles of its size, it’s ostensibly a five seater but with 1,326mm hip room, it’s best for two or two baby capsules/toddler seats. cargo space is average-ish at 374L to 1,154L. A cargo net is standard with the N-Line Premium.

Safety comes from front, side (thorax), and curtain airbags. Notable is the omission of either a driver’s knee or a centre console airbag, with the latter slowly growing in popularity with manufacturers. The full SmartSense package is available as standard on all but the entry Kona and second level Active. They miss out on Blind Spot Collision Avoidance, Rear Cross Traffic Avoidance, and Safe Exit Warning. The Elite joins them with no front park sensors, and entry level Kona dips out on reverse sensors.Otherwise it features Forward Collision Avoidance Assist with Cyclist and Pedestrian Detection, and uses radar and camera sensing. Lane Following Assist, Lane Keeping Assist – Line/Road-edge (LKA-L/R in Hyundai speak), and Smart Cruise Control with Stop/Go Function are standard.

On road the Kona N-Line Premium displays the good and not-so good of a small turbocharged petrol engine with a DCT. The dry dual-clutch autos have time gaps in engaging drive; from Park to Drive or Reverse, from Drive to Reverse and vice versa, and from a stand-still. Combined with a turbo that needs time to spin up and provide boost to an engine, getting going is rarely a thought instant move. Then there’s the economy. It’s rated around town at 8.2L/100km, 6.9L/100km on the combined. We saw a final average of 7.9L/100km.

Once underway and the turbo is spinning, the N-Line Premium is a delight to drive. It’s a rocketship in overtaking, a rocketship in the sense that speed builds upon itself. It’s a process where acceleration grows in a linear manner, a prime example of the metres per second per second we learned of at high school. Engaging the centre lock diff, as needed during the torrential rain at the time, enhances grip levels and added that seat of the pants feeling that the extra grip made movement quicker.Dry grip levels, such as we had the chance to experience thanks to Mother Nature, is prodigious. Continental PremiumContact 6 is the rubber of choice, and the 235/45 tyres on the 18 inch alloys have some tenacious hold on tarmac. They’re pretty good at pumping out water too, and brought a lot of confidence to the handling abilities of the pert Kona.

Ride is firm, with a bent towards the sporting style as befits the performance of the turbo engine. MacPherson struts and a multi-link underpin the Premium and the Konas with the 1.6L turbo. Exhaustive Australian testing has the setup tuned for our varying roads and surfaces, and it shows. It’s pliant enough for the comfort people expect, hard enough to quickly damp out intrusions, and responsive enough in cornering and lane changing to delight the demanding driver. Body roll is invisible, and that brings extra confidence to the drive.The same is said of the brakes. They’re almost breath-on for response, and at 305mm x 20mm and 284mm x 10mm there is plenty of swept area for the pads to grab the discs and haul down the Kona’s 1,900kg (with fuel and passengers) mass.

Warranty is Hyundai’s standard five years and unlimited kilometres. A prepaid servicing plan is available, and you can lodge an inquiry with Hyundai as well as inquire as to their standard servicing costs.

At The End Of The Drive. The Kona sits in the same class as the Venue and its Kia siblings, Seltos and Stonic. The Venue is a willing performer and we grew to truly appreciate its charm. the Seltos has a different drive package and is perhaps closer to the Kona range in specification. The Kona N-Line Premium does ask a lot in regards to the price however its perky engine, solid equipment and safety list, and yes, the economy given its driveline, balance the ledger nicely.

Car courtesy of Hyundai Australia.