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The Things We Do in Our Cars

I was thinking about the different demands that we all put our vehicle through on our daily drives throughout a year.  It got me thinking about all the changes that can happen to us inside 12 months – whether the weather seasons change dramatically, families get larger or smaller, job promotions happen, we can change jobs for whatever reason, building renovations happen, moving house occurs, we make new friends, we start a fitness schedule at the gym, we try out a new sport across town, go fishing, go for that caravan trip around Australia and what not…  Our lives are fun and full of regular tasks that we both love or put up with, have jobs that we stick with or change, are full of people that come and go and people that we just love to be around and who will always be a part of our life.  The cars we drive regularly, are often a reflection of our lifestyle and can tell us a story about who we are and where we are in life.

With this ticking through my thought processing, I started to think about the changes that may or may not happen to our cars as we drive them, and how the lifestyle changes and choices that we make can affect the cars we drive.  In essence, a car is a very adaptable machine (or at least should be), and it has to be fit for purpose to cater to our own individual needs.  Often, I find myself needing to hitch up the trailer to grab some more compost for the garden, take a load to the recycling centre or help out a mate who is shifting house.  I like to make use of my drive into town to charge my mobile phone up on the way and listen to my favourite music with the volume wound right up.  Some days the temperature outside can get so cold in wintertime that I need to wind up the heater in order to thaw my fingers out and demist the rear window.  But then in summer, when the temperatures soar, I’ll have the air-conditioning wound up to maximum to keep the family inside the car nice and cool, particularly when we have the tiny grandchild travelling with us.

We have different drives that we frequently make in a month, and they all take different roads and cover varying landscapes.  Some journeys require us to drive up steep streets to get us to our friend’s house on top of the cliffs overlooking the sea, other roads have us in the middle of congested city streets and then another drive may take us for an hour or two north into the wild blue yonder through flat and undulating scenery to visit family.

We’ve learned to trust our cars to get us from A-to-B whatever the weather, whoever we have onboard, whatever we have to tow or carry.  Can a new EV manage all the lifestyle changes and demands dependably?  I’d hate to be late for my daughter’s graduation because my EV ran out of power halfway there, or that I missed the ferry because the EV had to be topped up at a charging point that had a long queue, and what about the police who aborted a chase after a dangerous criminal because he spent too long with the heater on and the siren going at the same time.

We need a car fit for purpose, a car that is cheap to run, nice to the environment and above all dependable!

Two of the Most Beautiful Cabriolet Speedsters

Aston Martin V12 Speedster

Two of the most beautiful cabriolet speedsters of recent times cost a king’s ransom and go like stink.  Because most of us will only ever get to read about them, I thought I’d give them a plug here just so we’re all aware that there are still some very extraordinary cars being made.  Arguably, and rightly so, these two cars may in your opinion not be quite as exceptional as a McLaren Elva, Chevrolet Corvette Convertible, a BMW Z4 convertible or even a Ferrari SF90 Spider, however if I had a Bentley Mulliner Bacalar or an Aston Martin V12 Speedster parked in my garage I would be especially pleased.

Bentley Mulliner Bacalar

Only 12 of the Bentley Mulliner Bacalars will ever exist, so, as you can imagine, the price tag of one of these is eyewatering (2.8 million AUD).  Eighty-eight Aston Martin V12 Speedsters aren’t that many either; they fetch close to 1.5 million dollars new.  It is almost inevitable that these two cabriolet cars will sell for more on the second-hand car market just because they are so rare and desirable.  However, if you happen to be reading this, and are a squillionaire, then here are two of the most attractive cars on the planet.

Born out of the Bentley Continental stable, under the hood of the Mulliner Bacalar lies a W12 engine that has been fettled to produce 485 kW of power.  It sits hunkered down on wider tracks and mesmerizing new wheels, and it boasts carbon-fibre front and rear wings, new light clusters (which look really cool) and a super glitzy centre console.  Inside the Bentley Bacalar is a world of luxury and fine materials, as you would expect.  Exclusive patterns on the switchgear knurling, for example, are only ever found on the Bacalar models.  Then there are the uniquely quilted seats, where each seat boasts as many as 144,199 stitches.  The veneer inserts that are used in the wrap-around cabin are from old river-wood trees from East Anglia peat bogs and are 5,500 years old (don’t tell the greenies this!).

Aston, on the other hand, has created a sweeter front end that looks sharper than the more muscular Bentley.  Seated down low in the cockpit, the Aston also has the more futuristic dash design, with the chrome-rimmed air vents on the vertical either side of the digital driver’s display.  3-D printed rubber is used throughout the cabin, and then the bar that runs between the seats is a superb feature that looks exciting as well as ensuring strength to the open-top speedster’s on-road rigidity.

Aston’s V12 Speedster uses a potent 5.2-liter twin-turbo V12 that produces 515 kW and 752 Nm of torque.  This power is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox and a mechanical limited-slip differential.  A 0-100 km/h sprint can be completed in around 3.6 seconds and the top speed arrives at a limited 186 mph (298 km/h).  It sounds stunning when the throttle opens out.

The stats are that the Bentley Bacalar can run through the 0-100 km/h sprint in less than 4 seconds, and the 6-litre W12 twin-turbo engine packs 900 Nm of breath-taking torque, capable of hurling you to speeds well in excess of 200 mph (320 Km/h).  AWD ensures maximum grip for all occasions, of course.

Where is Motorsport Currently Found on the EV Map?

Formula E racing car.

Traditionally, the latest cutting-edge technology finds its way into road cars via the heat of motor racing.  We are seeing EV racing going big quickly with the relatively recent Formula E championship, but how many motor racing championships are looking to EV technology for their future racing blue-print?  As yet, EV motor racing technology hasn’t made its way into the everyday life of most average Australian motorists.  Most of us still drive a motor vehicle with a healthy internal combustion engine, and most of us won’t be intending or even considering buying an expensive EV as an everyday means of transport anytime soon.

Supercars are continuing to investigate implementing hybrid technology into its racing schedule.

Formula One has had its engine regulations tweaked further with the aim of promoting closer racing and more balanced competition, as well as bringing economic and sporting sustainability to Formula 1.  So, the cars are now flashier and more visually alluring, with the reshaping of the front and rear wings looking good.  Formula One has a target to be net zero by 2030, and the way this is to be achieved is by removing single use plastics from its events, in collaboration with its circuits.  Formula One won’t be going electric but will stay hybrid, and this has been a definite decision that the ‘powers that be’ have taken for the good of the automotive industry as they keep their racing car platforms relevant for future road cars.  Formula One does not see electrification as the new world-religion, and it has stated that EVs are definitely not the only way to move forward with cars.  Hybrid technology is Formula One’s current future objective, where the 2025 engine-unit will be hybrid and using 100 % sustainable fuels.  Formula One sees a need to reduce the costs of this new engine-unit and platform so that it is affordable and less complex, which will open up huge potential for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to use in other applications for road cars.

In the World Rally Championship, current hybrid engine regulations from 2022 through to 2025 is all go, which introduces hybrid technology to the fastest cars on gravel.  The hybrid technical regulations are a long way from being finalised, but initial talks have mooted a ‘supplementary hybrid system’ which controls components and software.  The proposed hybrid units would allow WRC cars, which will retain the 2017 aero and engine package, to run as full EVs on transit stages, while providing a power boost on competitive special stages.  Following 2025, the plan is to open up the rules to allow manufacturers to use their own electric systems for racing.

Formula E

Formula E is going from strength to strength, with Mercedes-Benz and Porsche recently joining the grid.  Formula E, officially the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, is a single-seater motorsport championship for electric cars (EVs).  The series was conceived in 2011 in Paris.  Formula E is the biggest motor racing event solely focussed on EV racing alone, where it is the proving ground and platform to test new ev technologies, drive development to the production line, and put more EVs on the road.

Using the sport as its showcase, the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship is sending the biggest message out to the world that may help alter perceptions and speed-up the switch to electric, in a bid to counteract the so-called “climate crisis” as well as addressing the effects of air pollution – particularly in cities.  Sure, Formula E is the fastest-growing series in motorsport because its also the newest; however, it is certainly going to help put EV technology out there on the roads, even if most current EV buyers are either famous and or high-end earners.

Some electrification in motor racing is happening, where we’re seeing classes like the British Touring Car Championship, IndyCar, IMSA, NASCAR and World Rallycross Championship having some sort of hybrid or fully electric rules etched into the near-future pipeline.  This is all good, but the reality is that most motorists in the general public will still be driving a car with a combustion engine, or combustion engine with hybrid technology, or a car with a combustion engine running on bio fuels in a decade because of the price of a new EV being way too steep, the lack of an EV infrastructure another, the cost of developing a country’s power grid worthy of supporting the power drain of a big EV fleet, EV battery life span, and the list goes on…

All of the many negative attributes that can be accredited to EVs aside, there are some fascinating new technological developments in hybrid and ev technology unfolding within motorsport itself.

Leaving the Past Behind

Over the last decade an array of features has been evolving expeditiously in automotive circles.  New cars that we drive today are vastly different to the cars that were driven 10 to 15 years ago.  Technology has come on very quickly, and so too has the world that we live in.  Today we have amazing things like online streaming, extensive EV models, the invention of the Android phone, accident avoidance, adaptive cruise control, infotainment everything, GPS tracking, Rover on Mars… The list is long.  What big features are found in today’s new cars that weren’t part of the package in an equivalent new car bought back in the noughties?

Here are just some of the changes:

Parking Assist

With the introduction of cameras around the outside of the car (the most common, of course is front and back), backing into small spaces, parallel parking or even just checking your blind spot have all become much easier tasks to perform about town, at home and up the neighbour’s tricky driveway.  Rear-view cameras have made a big impression to the level of satisfaction enjoyed by customers across all car models for some time; it has been a real winner.  360-degree cams, a bird’s eye view camera and integrated dash cams are also making their way on-board.  Citroen C3’s Connected-CAM gives you a recording through the dash cam, which, should you be involved in a collision, may vastly help in making your insurance claim run smoothly.

Information and entertainment

Put these two words together and we get ‘Infotainment’, and this word originated from the infotainment systems that we now find as standard features of almost every new car on the market.  Our huge desire to be connected with the internet and with others seems insatiable, and 10 to 15 years ago the luxury of a CD player and cruise control are now pretty standard items for new base level cars.  The impressive growth in Social Media and instant messaging has created a huge vacuum for car designers to fill, so developing systems inside their cars to keep up with this growing trend to satisfy their customer’s hankering for media and phone connections is a must.  The Auxiliary socket, the Bluetooth connectivity feature, built in hard drives and now the ability to stream our library of music through our entertainment screens have all become pretty common on a new current model of car.  Voice activated controls, bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are all recent features that have been designed to keep a vehicle’s driver and occupants constantly connected to people and information.  I don’t think it’s such a great thing to have mobile phone connections inside a car, but then I like driving for driving sake, so who am I to pass judgement.

Crash Avoidance Systems

Since the 1st of November 2014, Europe took a major step forward in mandatory safety features.  In addition to standard electronic stability control systems, all new cars sold in the EU had to be equipped with new safety features like the driver’s seatbelt reminders and ISOFIX child seat anchorage.  As of March 2018, all car manufacturers were required to install eCall, an automatic emergency call system, which reduces the time it takes for an emergency response team to arrive at the scene of the accident.  And, since 2014, auto manufacturers has picked up even more so on the importance of top safety credentials being a consumer’s expectation, and so massive developments in driver assistive technology started to find their way into new cars.  Collision Warning Systems, Pedestrian Alert, Automatic Braking, Blind Spot Information and Cross Traffic Alerts were incorporated to avoid common causes of road traffic accidents.  These are features I do applaud, though I wish there was a way to stop people being so fixated with their mobile phones when travelling in the first place!

Keyless entry, keyless Start and Stop systems, alarms and warning systems are all examples of ever-developing security systems that we find on the new cars today.  And these days you will be struggling to find a vehicle without some sort of satellite navigation connection (a possible cause of many car accidents).  Platforms like MirrorLink, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto all allow you to display your maps on your actual car display screen in the centre of the dash (as well as the digital driver’s display on flash cars like an Audi or Mercedes Benz) and the phone’s audio connectivity allows for verbal instruction via voice commands and control.

Have we moved on?  Yes we have, but then the hard task master applying the pressure to always having to come up with something new in order to make more money is an evident presence in all of this.  I wonder if a simple crash avoidance system for those nasty severe head-ons would be a simple barrier down the centre of most major highways and to stay off the phone…

When ADAS Features Fail

I don’t quite know why I’ve become more attentive to learning about a car’s ability to protect its occupants in the event of a collision, along with its ability to avoid the collision altogether in the first place.  I expect it has a lot to do with having close family members who occasionally need to drive themselves places.  Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) are growing in popularity.  ADAS systems can help prevent accidents not only at speed, but also when parked as a stationary car.  ADAS features are designed with one purpose in mind and that is to increase driver and occupant safety.

ADAS features include things like automatic emergency braking, blind spot detection, collision warning systems, cross-traffic alert, forward and rear collision warning, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, park assist, pedestrian detection and avoidance systems, cyclist detection and avoidance systems, road sign recognition, active radar cruise control… and the list goes on.  ADAS employs cameras and sensors to detect a potential collision or event and then proceed to activate systems of avoidance if necessary.  These are important safety features which help prevent accidents.

Research on insurance claims that was carried out by LexisNexis Risk Solutions showed that vehicles involved in incidents that had ADAS on-board exhibited a 27% reduction in the frequency of claims made for bodily injury.  The results also showed that vehicles that had ADAS on-board exhibited a 19% reduction in the frequency of claims made for property damage.  Obviously, this would suggest that the systems must be doing some good.

A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) revealed that the crash involvement rate for vehicles with blind-spot monitoring was 14% lower than for the same vehicle without the equipment.  Researchers also stated that the study also suggested that if every vehicle sold in the US in 2015 was equipped with blind-spot monitoring, 50,000 crashes and 16,000 crash injuries might have been prevented.

At present, one of the big downsides of the ADAS features is that they are darn expensive.  Not only do they put the price of a new car up, they also make the car costlier to insure because if any of the systems gets damaged the insurance and repair bills are usually eye-watering.  Hopefully, ADAS features will come way down in price and become similar to standard computer software and technology which is, on the whole, a dime-a-dozen now.

The other thing is that I hope ADAS will function 100% of the time correctly as intended, because vehicles designed to be able to automatically brake for objects such as other cars, pedestrians, and cyclists, and to drive themselves inside highway lanes without driver input, is not an exact science.  A slightly frightening example of my concern here is when Volvo was demonstrating its pedestrian AEB technology to journalists in 2016.  Volvo used their V60 model in the demonstration, where it was travelling toward a dummy named Bob.  The V60 didn’t detect Bob being in the way, and so Bob was hit in what was a controlled environment.  An alert driver in the V60 may well have returned a better outcome.

Then shortly after, another Volvo V60 was demonstrating its collision detection and avoidance system where it was to avoid hitting a stationary truck.  The failure to detect and avoid the collision can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNi17YLnZpg

Again, an alert and competent driver could well have resulted in a better outcome, should this have happened in the real world.

In 2018, the IIHS took five new vehicles and tested them.  The Tesla Model 3, the Tesla Model S, the BMW 5 Series, the Mercedes E-Class and the Volvo S90 were the test vehicles.  Each vehicle’s AEB, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist systems were tested.  Some of the problems IIHS encountered was that the AEB didn’t actually work in some vehicles in some circumstances.

In other tests, the IIHS observed: “The BMW 5-series steered toward or across the lane line regularly, requiring drivers to override the steering support to get it back on track.  Sometimes the car disengaged steering assistance on its own.  The car failed to stay in the lane on all 14 valid trials.  The Model S was also errant in the hill tests.”

Sadly, just a couple of years ago an autonomous Uber fitted with even more sensors than any standard ADAS-equipped road car killed a pedestrian at night in the US.  This happened while researchers and designers were conducting public testing.  What this suggests is that the ADAS technology is amazing and good enough to be placed into new cars.  However, it doesn’t mean ADAS will always work as intended, and it does point to the fact that drivers must still always be fully alert at the wheel.  If the driver is not fully alert, the outcome from these system fails can sometimes be way worse than if the driver was fractionally slower to manually override the systems detection time and action times.

I’ve heard of numerous occasions when vehicles have falsely detected situations.  A more common fail is when accident emergency braking (AEB) engaged on-board a car when it shouldn’t have, which meant that the AEB stopped the vehicle abruptly and unexpectedly on a clear road.  At the time, traffic is still coming up behind the vehicle.  Lane keep assist isn’t always that great either, and the results of a high-speed mishap on a main highway is tragic.

ANCAP is Australian’s big car-safety tester, and a recent representative suggested that AEB and lane-keeping assist technology, which is where the car will steer itself, was beginning to be put under the microscope.  This would test for how accurate the system actually is, and if it would actually do the opposite and steer the vehicles into a dangerous situation.  Testing ADAS features should take priority over just saying that the technology is available in the car at the time of crash testing, whereby the appropriate ADAS feature box is ticked and the job done.

ADAS mostly works for the better.  It does raise obvious safety problems, particularly when manufacturers have all the pressure to pack in as many ADAS features into their vehicles as possible for as little cost as possible to remain competitive on the sales front.  This pressure would suggest that these systems could be prone to potentially become unsafe.

With cars loaded with ADAS features, you could also say that drivers of these new vehicles might be tempted to hop on the mobile phone to check messages once they have activated the adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist systems.  Essentially, it becomes easier to break the law; which takes us back to the point that we shouldn’t rely heavily on ADAS technology because it can fail to work.  We don’t often hear this preached at the car sales yard or on new-car adverts.

In Australia, features such as antilock brakes (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC) are mandatory in new vehicles that are sold to the public.  These mandatory requirements are set to be pushed to the next level, where automatic emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist would have to be on-board any new vehicle being sold to the public.  Even alcohol detection devices may well be part of these standard requirements.  Europe is set to introduce some of these requirements over the next few years, and Australia is likely to follow the lead.  Newly imported European cars would end up with these features anyways, a win-win for us new-car buyers.

ADAS is good, but we still need to drive our cars.

Small Overlap Crash Test

The influx of all the amazing new electronic safety aids and crash avoidance systems found on-board new cars has been exceptional.  There is no doubt that these systems are helping save lives and minimising injury.  There has been one part of the latest car crash testing regime that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has brought in as part of their testing in order to help make cars safer.

The IIHS is an independent, non-profit scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing deaths, injuries and property damage from motor vehicle crashes through their ongoing research and evaluation, and through the education of consumers, policymakers and safety professionals.  The IIHS is funded by auto insurance companies and was established back in 1959.  Its headquarters is in Arlington, Virginia, USA.  A lot of what the IIHS does is crash test cars in a variety of ways to gather data, analyse the data, and observe the vehicles during and after the crash tests to quantify how safe each car is.  The results and findings are published on their website at IIHS.org.  Car manufacturers have been forced to take these tests seriously because, at the end of the day, these results matter and will affect car sales as the public become informed about how safe their cars will likely be in the event of an accident.

Since 2012, the IIHS has introduced a couple of new tests that they put the vehicles through to see how safe they are in an event of small overlap collision.  The driver-side small overlap frontal test was brought about to help encourage further improvements in vehicle frontal crash protection.  Keeping in mind that these IIHS tests are carried out using cars with left-hand-drive, the test is designed to replicate what happens when the front left corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole.  This crash test is a challenge for some safety belt and airbag designs because occupants move both forward and toward the side of the vehicle from the time of impact.  In the driver-side small overlap frontal test, a vehicle travels at 40 mph (64 km/h) toward a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier.  A Hybrid III dummy representing an average-size man is positioned in the driver seat.  25% percent of the total width of the vehicle strikes the barrier on the driver side.

Most modern cars have safety cages encapsulating the occupant compartment and are built to withstand head-on collisions and moderate overlap frontal crashes with little deformation.  At the same time, crush zones help manage crash energy to reduce forces on the occupant compartment.  The main crush-zone structures are concentrated in the middle 50% of the front end.  When a crash involves these structures, the occupant compartment is protected from intrusion, and front airbags and safety belts can effectively restrain and protect occupants.

However, the small overlap frontal crashes primarily affect a vehicle’s outer edges, which aren’t well protected by the crush-zone structures.  Crash forces go directly into the front wheel, the suspension system and the firewall.  It is not uncommon for the wheel to be forced rearward into the footwell, contributing to even more intrusion into the occupant compartment, which often results in serious leg and foot injuries.  To provide effective protection in these small overlap crashes, the safety cage needs to resist crash forces that haven’t been amplified, concentrated on one area or aren’t tempered by crush-zone structures.  Widening these front-end crash protection structures does help.

The IIHS also performs the passenger-side small overlap frontal test.  The passenger-side test is the same as the driver-side test, except the vehicle overlaps the barrier on the right side.  In addition, instead of just one Hybrid III dummy, there are two — one in the driver seat and one in the passenger seat.

Automotive manufacturers initially responded to these driver-side small overlap test results by improving vehicle structures and airbags, and most vehicles now earn good ratings.  However, IIHS research tests demonstrated that those improvements didn’t always carry over to the passenger side.  Discrepancies between the left and right sides of vehicles spurred the IIHS to develop a passenger-side small overlap test and begin issuing passenger-side ratings in 2017.

It is good that vehicle safety always seems to be on the improve and, with each new model, the new-car buyer can expect a safer vehicle.  Thanks to crash testers like the IIHS, ANCAP and Euro NCAP, we are experiencing safer cars on our roads.

Materials used for Seating in Modern Cars

If you’re looking to by a new car, one of the most important things to consider, aside from practicality, safety, and exterior looks, is its interior.  The interior is important because this is going to be where you spend most of your time with your new car.  You are going to want it to look great and feel comfortable, so, obviously, the seats are massively important.  Here are the types of seating materials and a bit of info on each type so that you may be better informed when it’s time for your new upgrade.

Nylon Car Seats

If the car has fabric seats, then it is more than likely going to be nylon or polyester material.  Nylon is one of the most common car seat materials that car upholsterers use, and you’ll often find it trimming the base and lower trims of the particular model of car that you are looking to buy.  Nylon has very good durability and is also resistant to heat.  Because of its stretchability, the seats can also be quite comfortable to sit in, but essentially the comfort comes down to how the car manufacturer has designed the seat’s internals.  Nylon materials aren’t that expensive to produce, so car manufacturers like to use this lower cost material.  A good vacuum cleaner with a soft-bristled brush easily tidies them up and, if a spill occurs, the nylon can be cleaned relatively easily with warm soapy water or a decent upholstery shampoo.  Nylon is porous, so what gets spilled on the seats can work into the cushion structure.

Vinyl Car Seats

Vinyl is also commonly used in car seat upholstery and it is also quite affordable to use in car manufacturing.  Vinyl is very easy to clean and maintain and it also mimics leather in its looks.  Vinyl is not very porous either, so dirt and dust doesn’t easily make its way into the seat’s internals.  You can usually just wipe the vinyl upholstery with a damp cloth in order to clean it effectively.  It also vacuums easily.  Vinyl will get hot in the summer, so darker colours will absorb the heat and transfer the heat very quickly onto your bum – you have been warned!

Leather Seats

Leather upholstery is what you will find in premium models.  It is an expensive material to use and looks amazing.  Leather is a porous material and also stays cooler in the summer than its cheaper vinyl cousin.  One of the drawbacks of leather upholstery is it does require the correct cleaning and maintenance products.  If the wrong products are used, then the leather will fade and harden.  Salt and leather don’t go well together – often a forgotten fact as people jump back onto the leather seats in wet togs after a swim at the beach.  Leather is a tough material and therefore durable, however when it does get damaged (e.g., damage caused by sharp objects or salt) it can be difficult to fix.

Faux Leather Car Seats

Faux leather or artificial leather is a commonly used material in modern vehicles.  It looks classy but is less expensive than the real thing.  Faux leather is also easy to clean and waterproof but doesn’t breathe like standard leather and can also get hot in the summer!

Alcantara Car Seats

Alcantara is a suede-like car seat material that is made from 68% polyester and 32% polyurethane.  Alcantara is a premium material, very durable and looks amazing.  It is also expensive, gets dirty relatively quickly, and can fade quickly.

Polyester Car Seats

Polyester is a material called microsuede, and it looks and feels similar to normal suede.  It is also similar to Alcantara.  Polyester is a cheaper alternative to Alcantara and is comfortable.  It isn’t considered quite as premium as Alcantara because it is not that easy to clean, and it is a fabric prone to picking up the dirt quite easily.  You have to gently use a soft fabric cleaner with a damp cloth to clean the seats otherwise it can damage.  Water and other liquids also stain the fabric quite easily.

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

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.