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Car Review: 2019 Kia Sportage SLi Petrol & GT-Line Diesel

Kia updated their Sportage range in mid 2018 and although mainly cosmetic in nature, it keeps the range fresh. The new for 2019 Kia Sportage SLi with petrol and the diesel fueled 2019 Kia Sportage GT-Line graced the driveway for a week each and both showed why they are ideally suited for their respective target markets.The GT-Line is listed at $48,210 plus on roads, the SLi at $37,310. There is a very well specified equipment list for both, including Autonomous Emergency Braking and Lane Keep Assist now standard across the range, and a suite of GPS linked voice alerts for speed cameras, narrow roads, schools, and more. Apart from the different energy sources there are two different transmissions. Kia has kept the six speed auto for the petrol with its higher rev points for power and torque, The diesel has a new eight speed, and It’s a cracker. The 2.0L diesel has 400Nm of torque and the eight ratios are well spread to take advantage of the power and torque delivery. Torque is on tap from idle with that peak available from 1750 to 2750 rev. Peak power is 136kW and that’s at 4000rpm. The SLi is a front wheel driven unit, the GT-Line an all wheel drive setup and comes with a centre diff lock for soft-roading.The Sportage is a four model range, being Si, Si Premium, SLi, and GT-Line. The first three have a choice of 2.0L petrol engine or 2.0L diesel. The GT-Line is 2.4L petrol or 2.0L diesel. The 2.0L is a nice enough performer, with 114kW and 192Nm. This comes standard with the six speed auto. The petrol is a free revving unit and its own power and torque curve has the six speed auto running slick and smooth. Power for the 2.4L petrol is virtually identical to the diesel at 135kW however that’s at 6000rpm. Torque, naturally is a lesser peak figure and higher up the rev range, with 237Nm at 4000rpm. Kia quotes 7.9L/100km for the 2.0L, 8.5L/100km for the 2.4L, and 6.4L/100km in the diesel. The SLi finished on 8.3L/100km and the diesel finishing on 7.1L/100km, with both results from a 98% urban run. All models have a 62L tank.Driving the diesel and the new auto sees a new level of refinement from Kia. There is a distinct lack of the agricultural sound, a real feeling of smoothness, and a wave upon wave surge of torque from the engine. Cogs swap swiftly, quietly, and smartly, with the throttle sensor responding instantly to both pedal movement and information from the drive system itself. Kia has stayed with the three mode drive choice which, for both, is superfluous. From a standing start the diesel pulls the 1700kg machine away with minimal effort and minimal noise. Although front drive biased, there’s a noticeable shift of torque to the rear when the go pedal is punched. The result is rocketship acceleration, with a flicker of the needle on the tacho at around 3200 revs for the change. The extra two cogs over the six add so much extra flexibility and helps get the GT-Line to 100kph rapidly. Stopping power comes from 305mm and 302mm discs.Inside the SLi the petrol’s sound is a distant thrum, barely audible, and feels smoother than silk on ice. From a standing start it’s quiet and sometimes so inaudible there’s a glance at the tacho to ensure it’s actually spinning. Punched hard enough there’s a chirp from the front, but otherwise it’s a friendly, forgiving, machine to drive, Steering on both is a delight, with a beautiful balance and heft on the pair. There’s the barest hint of torque steer from the diesel and only under load in corners.Suspension on both is tuned to suit the audience. The SLi and GT-Line share McPherson struts and a multi-link rear, but the dampers are slightly softer on the GT-Line. Rubber is different at 225/55/18s for the SLi, 245/45/19s on the GT-Line. That extra width on the GT-Line provides a more sure footed and tenacious feel on road too. Not that the SLi is any slouch. It’s a fun car to drive too. Hit it up into a tight corner and speed and it’s flat, composed, almost begging to see more numbers on the speedo as it dares the driver. Both settle even more with a week’s worth of shopping in the 466L cargo space. That increases to 1455L if the superbly comfortable pews are lowered.

There’s a modicum of extra space inside the Sportage, with an increase of wheelbase and overall length. Wheelbase is up, from 2640mm to 2670mm. Length grows by 45mm, to 4485mm but that includes a front overhang increase of 20mm to 905mm and a rear overhang decrease of 10mm to 910mm. Overall internal measurements have headroom up by 5mm to 997mm and 993mm from 977mm front and rear. Front legroom has grown by 19mm to 1129mm, and 7mm to 970mm in the rear.

There are few changes to the exterior, the driving lights in the lower corners of the front bumper now have a horizontal line spanning the insert, and in the case of the GT-Line, splits the LED cluster. The headlight surround in the GT-Line also looks slimmer but that may be down to the LED lights and indicators. The rear of the GT-Line has LED lights, and a powered tailgate, with the tail light cluster on all models freshened up whilst adding extra visibility for safety.

There is ample leg, shoulder, and head room in the Sportage, even with the full length glass roof as fitted in the Fiery Red painted GT-Line. There are the standard pair of 12V sockets up front plus a USB. The GT-Line adds a wireless charging point for compatible smartphones and a 12V & USB socket for the rear seat passengers. The front windows in each are one touch.Equipment wise there’s little between the two. Or all four, for that matter.Consider this: standard across the range is Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist, Downhill Brake Control, Hill-start Assist Control, Reverse sensors, and rear camera with guidelines. The Si dips out on front sensors, and only the GT-Line gets Intelligent Parking Assist System. Specific to the GT-Line is Blind Spot Detection/Lane Change Assist/Rear Cross Traffic Alert, which complement the Advanced Smart Cruise Control. All four have High Beam Assist, dusk sensing headlights, 2 ISOFIX seat mounts, and six airbags.

Comfort comes with heated and vented front seats for the GT-Line, ten way adjustable seats in both the SLi and GT-Line, an eight inch touchscreen with DAB audio, JBL speakers, Bluetooth, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay. The latter two have voice recognition to boot. All four models have dual zone aircon systems with Kia’s proprietary CleanAir Module. Trim is soft touch plastics, with an alloy look to door and dash inserts. The SLi and GT-Line also receive a 4.5 inch full colour binnacle display.Kia continues to offer its seven year warranty and capped price service. The diesel is marginally more pricy per year for servicing, with the full price over the seven years at $3580 against $2742 for the SLi’s petrol. Premium paint is a $520 option.

At The End of The Drive.
Kia’s growth in the Australian market continues to go from strength to strength on the back of the Stinger, Sorento, and Sportage. the Cerato sedan is due to be joined by a revamped hatch soon, and the recent news of turbo engines for that overseas, and for the Picanto and Rio will add extra spice to the range. In the case of the diesel GT-Line, it’ll happily be welcomed back at any time. They’re both family friendly,, roomy and comfy, and pack plenty of tech. The SLi , perhaps, should have the 2.4L as an option or even as standard, to bring it closer to the GT-Line and separate it just that bit more from the Si pairing. Either way, both are immensely good value but for the win it’s the 2019 Kia Sportage GT-Line diesel.

 

MINI Adds A Royal Edition.

In line with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex arriving in Australia for The Invictus Games, MINI has announced a limited edition with royal overtones. The Kensington Edition is a proper limited run with just 60 cars to be made available. The option will be on the Cooper/Cooper S three and five door models, with fifteen each for the four trim levels. Mini are also using the internet in the order process, with an online ordering and allocation process specifically for the Kensington.The cars will be painted in the eyecatching Pure Burgundy metallic paint that MINI has showcased previously. Extra features such as an illuminated door sill and Kensington specific badging are complemented by the extensive standard features list. The Cooper S gets a sports oriented double clutch transmission, an 8.8 inch touchscreen with Mini Navigation Plus, and a well specified safety package. The Kensington will see a Driver Assist Package, featuring City Collision Mitigation, Forward Collision Warning, High-Beam Assistant and Speed Sign Recognition. Then there’s the Active Package, featuring LED Headlights with Union Jack tail lights, MINI Excitement Package, White Indicator lenses, automatic climate control and Wireless phone charging (already standard on Cooper S).There’s a pair of different wheels, with the Cooper receiving 16 inch Victory spoke alloys, the Cooper S rolling on 17 inch Cosmos spoke alloys, with both painted black. These are matched by the blacked coated mirror caps, roof, and spoiler. Inside there is a Panoramic sunroof, black leather seating in a diamond quilt weave for the Cooper, and the “MINI Yours” carbon black package for the Cooper S. Piano black and chrome highlights are featured and the Cooper S receives heated front seats also.

Warranty is a three year and unlimited kilometre package with optionable extra warranty and servicing.

Pricing starts at $41,990 driveaway for MINI Cooper 3-door Hatch Kensington Edition. The MINI Cooper 5-door Hatch Kensington Edition is $43,150, with the MINI Cooper S 3-door Hatch Kensington Edition at $52,900 and the MINI Cooper S 5-door Hatch Kensington Edition $54,150. Order your new MINI Kensington here: 2019 MINI Kensington

2019 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Ready For Your Driveway.

Ford‘s 2019 Mustang range has had the EcoBoost engine added and it comes with extra spice. Sitting alongside the grunty 5.0L GT, the EcoBoost offers more torque than the previously available version. There’s also a new, optional, ten speed auto with paddle shift, extra safety features such as Autonomous Emergency Braking, the updated exterior, and a B&O sound system with 12 speakers with a total power of 1000 Watts. Warranty is now up to five years.
The fuel injected alloy engine with twin scroll turbo produces 224kW and a ripping 441 Nm of torque. That compares favourably on a kW/Nm per litre factor when looking at the 5.0L’s figures of 339kW and 556Nm. Standard transmission is a six speed auto. The turbo has been tuned to deliver a beautifully smooth torque curve which enhances the overall driveability. Strength and durability comes from forged conrods, lightweight pistons with steel rings, and variable valve timing for better upper end performance.
The interior features a new 12.4 inch instrument cluster that is heavily customisable thanks to a large involvement from ex games developers. Three modes are available, being Normal, Sport, and Track with adjustable layouts and colours. A new memory function, Mustang MyMode, allows a driver to set drive settings, steering preferences, and exhaust note preferences. A brand new active exhaust features four distinct modes, being Normal, Track, Sport, and Quiet. An electronic control system enables the note to suit the drive mode and rev range, and there is even Track Apps to allow the recording of data for analysis.Ride and handling prowess has been upped thanks to new shock absorbers, and a new cross-axis joint for the rear suspension provides a higher level of lateral stiffness for extra stability. Redesigned stabiliser bars also factor in the increased handling capability. Magnetic damping has now been provided as an option. With an adjustment speed of up to 1000 times a second, the Ford MagneRide suspension was previously available in the Shelby GT350.
More tech for the Mustang EcoBoost comes from the Ford DAT, or Driver Assist Technology. Pedestrian Detection technology partners with Autonomous Emergency Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control, plus Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keeping Assist. Auto high beam and auto levelling headlights are also on board. Ford’s renowned SYNC3 interface is standard on the EcoBoost and features Emergency Assist which will dial emergency services should the car’s telematics detect a crash has occurred. There’s an eight inch full colour display, reverse camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The EcoBoost will be available in the two body shapes, Convertible and Fastback, complete with reprofiled bonnet and grille for a harder. edgier, look. LED headlights are standard across the Mustang range, along with tri-bar daytime running lights. The LED taillights feature a revamped design, as do the bumpers, and there are black painted 19 inch alloys. Brembo supply the brakes. Inside the materials have been updated for a higher quality look and feel, with a new “spun alloy” llok for the dash panel.
Complete with a five year warranty the 2019 Mustang range starts from $49,990 (manufacturer’s list price) for the Fastback manual, $52,990 (MLP) for the Fastback auto, with $59,490 being the MLP for the EcoBoost convertible auto. The 2019 Mustang range including the EcoBoost is available from Ford dealers now.

Hyundai and Caltex Offer Fuel Savings

In a time where fuel costs seem uncontrollable in their rise, Hyundai and Caltex have come together to offer a deal where a an app-coupon will save four cents per litre at up to 120 litres per day. The combination works with 665 Caltex service stations offering the discount to buyers and drivers of selected Hyundai vehicles from October 15, 2018.

Hyundai Auto Link Bluetooth and Hyundai Auto Link Premium are required and the current generation i30, Kona, Tucson, and Santa Fe should have these fitted. For customers who wish to claim the fuel discount, it is as simple as downloading or updating their Hyundai Auto Link app, logging in using MyHyundai, and presenting the QR code (available in the Coupon section) at a participating Caltex service stations. The app itself will locate the nearest participating Caltex station by opening the Hyundai Auto Link app and tapping on the Caltex icon.

The fuel discount covers diesel, Caltex Vortex Premium 98, Vortex Premium 95, Vortex Premium Diesel, standard unleaded, E10, and standard diesel.

Hyundai Auto Link Bluetooth presents a multitude of information, including:

Driving Information – Displays current distance, current travel time, today’s distance, today’s travel time, fuel efficiency, and fuel consumption
Tyre Pressure Monitoring – Displays the individual pressure of each tyre on the vehicle – if the tyre pressure is not within tolerance of the recommended pressure, the tyre pressure will be displayed in red
Driving History – Provides the owner’s driving history including arrival time, maximum speed, average speed, average fuel efficiency, fuel consumption, rapid acceleration and hard braking events, distance and travel time
Crowd comparison – Allows the user to compare their efficient driving with other owners
Parking Management – Provides parked vehicle location and parking time reminders
RSA (Roadside assistance) – Allows the user to contact RSA directly
Statistics (ECO Driving) – Provides statistics of the user’s driving pattern – results can be viewed either daily, weekly or monthly
Statistics (Speed) – Provides statistics for the vehicle’s speed pattern
Vehicle Health Check – Checks the vehicle’s status and, if a problem is detected, it can connect the phone to Hyundai Customer Care Team
Vehicle Health Report – Provides a vehicle health report (listed in date order)
Maintenance – Tracks the wear of consumable parts and provides service reminders
Hyundai Dealer Network – Displays dealer information on the map and allows the user to select their preferred dealer
Message Box – A messaging system to allow contact from user’s preferred Hyundai dealer or Hyundai Customer Care Team
Map – Provides your current or searched locations on a map
myHyundai – Hyundai Auto Link is linked with the user’s myHyundai website to provide them with convenient functions for their vehicle.

Hyundai Auto Link Premium

Highlander variants offer Hyundai Auto Link Premium (SIM module) as standard. Hyundai Auto Link Premium is also available as an optional accessory on all compatible push-button start Hyundai vehicles for $495 (incl. GST).

Hyundai Auto Link Premium includes previously available Hyundai Auto Link Bluetooth® features, with the addition of new advanced convenience and comfort features.
Hyundai Auto Link Premium (SIM) features:

Remote engine start and stop from smartphone
Remote control of door locking and unlocking, climate control temperature and defroster
Remote activation of hazard lights and horn
Sets geo-fencing alerts
Sends emergency alert messages upon vehicle accident

Contact your local Hyundai dealer for more information.
(With thanks to Hyundai Australia)

Peugeot Goes Touring With The 508.

Peugeot continues its renaissance with the announcement of the revamped 508 range and the addition of the Tourer variant. This is currently scheduled for a release in the second half of 2019. The Tourer will be released along with the “Fastback” and is based on a brand new from the wheels up design. Known as the EMP2, or Efficient Modular Platform 2, the design enables Peugeot to strip up to 70 kilograms from the mass of the Tourer. It also features a more compact design, a reduced height, yet without compromising interior packaging. There’s a sharper, edgier design, and the interior has also been given an update which will feature the third version of Peugeot’s i-Cockpit.

Motorvation will come from a new driveline combination; for Australia there’ll be a newly designed Aisin eight speed auto and will be paired with a 1.6L petrol engine producing 168kW. A slightly less powerful version, with 135kW, will also be available and paired with the same auto. This will be seen in the Fastback and sedan versions at launch. Built into a chassis that will be at around 1420kg, it means a better power to weight ratio than most of the competitors the vehicles will be up against. Variants fitted with the 169kW engine will boast an 8.41kg/kW power-to-weight ratio while 133kW variants will also be competitive with a 10.67kg/kW power-to-weight ratio.

Ben Farlow, Peugeot Australia Managing Director, said the all-new 508 range’s arrival signifies the complete reinvention of the Peugeot line-up and heralds a new focus for the marque in Australia.

“Over the past five-years, Peugeot has completely reinvented its product range and the all-new 508 will challenge segment norms, while delivering a vehicle that is not just enjoyable to drive, but great to look at. The Peugeot ‘5-series’ has always held a fond place in the hearts and minds of generations of Australian motorists and this all-new 508 is set to reignite the passion for Peugeots that stretches back almost 100 years locally.”

Full pricing and safety features are yet to be confirmed, but it’s expected that now common safety technology such as Autonomous Emergency Braking will be on board. For further information and to be in the mailing list for updates, contact peugeot.com.au

Mercedes-Benz A-Class On The Way For 2019.

Mercedes-Benz is due to release an updated A-Class range before the end of the year and it’s set to receive a healthy boost with the introduction of the new A 250 4MATIC. Available for a limited time, the A 250 4MATIC arrives with the same generous levels of standard equipment as the A 200, but adds more power and all-wheel drive traction. The new A 250 4MATIC will be available from all authorised Mercedes-Benz dealerships in November 2018 and is priced from $49,500 (Manufacturer’s Retail List Price)

The M 260 four-cylinder engine in the new A 250 4MATIC is essentially a further development of the previous M 270. It will produce 165 kW of power and 350 Nm of torque. Combined with the standard 7G-DCT dual clutch transmission, the A 250 4MATIC is able to sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in just 6.2 seconds. Combined fuel consumption is 6.6L per 100 km.

The 4MATIC system has been developed further by Mercedes-Benz, and offers even more driving pleasure and efficiency. Using the DYNAMIC SELECT switch in the cabin, the driver is able to influence the 4MATIC characteristics more than before. 4MATIC components include the power take-off to the rear axle, which is integrated into the automated dual clutch transmission, and the rear axle differential with an integrated multi-plate clutch. This is no longer electro-hydraulically powered, but instead electro-mechanically.

Drive torque distribution between the front and rear axles is fully variable so depending on the driving situation, 100 per cent of the drive torque can be directed to the front axle (e.g. when driving straight ahead with no increased slip at the front axle), or in borderline cases up to 50 per cent can be directed to the rear axle if the friction coefficient suddenly changes such as wet or snowy roads.

Using the DYNAMIC SELECT switch, the driver is able to influence the characteristics of 4MATIC even more than before. In the A-Class there are two characteristic curves available for clutch control. Models equipped with 4MATIC have a four-link rear suspension for enhanced ride and handling characteristics.

As with the A 200, the Mercedes-Benz A 250 4MATIC comes with 18-inch aero alloy wheels, the Mercedes-Benz MBUX multimedia system with widescreen cockpit (2 x 10.25-inch digital screens), TOUCHSCREEN Central Display with NTG 6 MB Navigation, standard LED headlights with Adaptive High Beam Assist, keyless start, and wireless charging fo compatible smartphones.

The A 250 4MATIC also arrives with a host of standard safety equipment such as nine air bags (front, pelvis side, and window bags for driver and front passenger, side bags for rear occupants and knee bag for driver), Active Brake Assist with semi-autonomous braking function, Active Parking Assist including PARKTRONIC, Active Lane Keep Assist, Blind Spot Assist with exit warning, Traffic Sign Assist and reversing camera. The exterior has also been refreshed and brings the 2019 A-Class into line with the majority of the passenger car range from the iconic German manufacturer.

Contact your local Mercedes-Benz dealer to organise a test drive when the vehicles hit the showrooms.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Lexus RX-450h

Take a mid to large sized SUV, add a smattering of real leather, toss in a pinch of hybrid technology attached to a 3.5L V6, and pin on a badge that says L. Voila, it’s the 2019 Lexus RX-450h. It comes with a choice of non-hybrid or hybrid V6, a turbo 2.0L, and either five or seven seats. Private Fleet has the hybrid and showcased it at a superb location, Dryridge Estate, in the Megalong Valley, on the western fringes of the Blue Mountains.The RX 450h mates a pair of electric motors to the petrol engine. That’s good for 230 kW to power all four wheels on demand with a torque split system. Peak torque for the 2270 kilogram (dry) machine is a somewhat surprising 335Nm at a high 4600 rpm. It feels as if there should should be more though. Transmission is a CVT and for the most part it’s hard to pick it as being one. A dial in the centre console allows the driver to choose different drive modes, and picking Sports/Sports+ changes the left hand LCD dial in the driver’s binnacle from a hybrid information screen to a tachometer. And although it’s a heavy machine with a load on, at just under three tonnes, economy is very good. Lexus quotes a better than impressive 6.0L/100 kilometres on the combined cycle, a figure that we didn’t finish all that far away from in a real world, lifestyle, testing drive.The Lexus RX-450h, for the most part, was driven in the environment it’s most likely to be seen: around town. Here it copes admirably, with the comfortable interior featuring rear seat climate control, superbly padded real leather pews front and rear, powered rear seats, and a power tail gate. There’s a full length glass roof which was at odds with the junior members of the review team preferring the Toyota Kluger Grande’s sunroof and blu-ray player. The actual dash design is the somewhat heavy horizontal layer look that Lexus favours, with most switch-gear easily seen from the driver’s seat. The trip/odometer are hidden behind the right hand tiller spoke, and the Start/Stop button behind the left hand side. The trim in the RX-450h supplied was black and chocolate plastic, counterbalanced by cream leather with a distinctively different feel to machine made leather.There’s the traditional Lexus multi-function controller in the centre console that allows the front seat passengers to access an array of information such as the audio, climate control, and Lexus information, which requires a smartphone to be paired in order to deliver the info. This pops up on a 12.3 inch widescreen display high on the dash, ensuring it’s at eye level and provides a better measure of safety, rather than looking downwards. There is also a relatively bland looking HUD or Head Up Display. A Mark Levinson audio system with DVD-Audio capability and DAB tuner is installed, and it’s worth the time to set it up for your preferred style of audio. Unusually, a Time-Shift function is added, where a user can rewind live audio thanks to a small hard drive running streaming storage. All windows are one touch up/down, and a soft touch at that. There’s a better quality material for the windows themselves to run on, with an almost silent mechanism as a result. Wireless smartphone charging is gradually making its way into more cars and it’s here too, albeit hidden in an awkward forward position ahead of the cup holders.Ride and drive is a mixed bag. The steering can feel heavy when it’s just the front wheels being driven, but lightens in proportion as drive gets shunted rearward. Lateral stability is high with only the occasional rear end hop/skip over unsettled surfaces in corners. It’s the suspension that raises and eyebrow sometimes, with a feeling that the tune, although compliant, has the body feeling as if its moving around more than anticipated and this happens at the top of the suspension, almost like a mattress with a pole and springs supporting it at each corner.. There’s more pogoing than expected but does damp itself quickly enough.

Turn-in is easily controlled via throttle application. There’s little predisposition to a nose heavy attitude in corners but on the rare occasion there was a tendency to run wide, a gentle lift of the go-pedal would tuck the front back in before a judicious squeeze would have the car settle into the desired arc. The excellent brakes also help, with a brush of the pedal enough to feel the mass of the RX-450h respond in kind, and certainly assisted in the run out to the spectacular views from Dryridge Estate. Naturally they feed kinetic energy back into the hybrid system and it can be a little mesmerising watching the dash display with arrows feeding in and out of the various car driveline components..This small vineyard, Dryridge Estate, is at the southern end of the road leading from Blackheath, a small village on the way out to Lithgow and Bathurst as one drives from Sydney. Located on the escarpment of the massive Megalong Valley, a former sea canyon, the drive starts with a series of tight and downhill oriented turns through a fern lined and barely sunshine lit set turns that will test and delight the enthusiastic driver. That’s presuming one isn’t caught behind another driver that brakes every couple of seconds. They specialise in small and intimate gatherings, provide a wonderful variety of cheeses to sample, and of course their own produce. The fact that the background should entice car companies to host launches there is a bonus.Once at valley level the forest and ferns disappear, with a broad valley floor offering uninterrupted views of the canyon walls. It’s about a twenty minute drive from the highway to Dryridge, with a couple of kilometres worth of unsealed road taking you to the estate. Facing eastwards the estate then allows driver and passenger a chance to stop and drink in the stunning view. The RX-450h was neutral and easily controlled on the downhill run, with the brakes recharging the hybrid’s battery along the way. On the flat the V6 opens up and emits a throaty roar under acceleration, and the steering seems to loosen up, almost as if it realises that it’s time to relax and back off on assisting, yet keeps in touch with the driver.On the gravel that softer upper end travel comes into its own, with that absorption level flattening out the corrugations found on the way in and back out. Heading back to the highway brings with it a similar yet different feeling. Being front wheel drive oriented there’s a subtle shift in chassis feel thanks to the now uphill run. The nose is a little harder, tighter, as each flex of the right foot has the front tyres biting into the tarmac. The torque split feels more noticeable as it pushes the rear along into the turns uphill and makes for a more nimble and exhilarating package. The multi-purpose Dunlop SP Sport Maxx rubber provide a decent enough grip across both types of surfaces and at 235/55/20 provide a huge footprint too.

If there’s a signature for the Lexus range it’s the exterior design. It’s better than fair to say that Lexus has a unique styling ethic and it’s unlike any other luxury oriented maker. There’s a plethora of lines and angles and very few true curves outside of the wheel arch and behind the passenger doors. The sedan range, all of the SUVs, and even the Land Cruiser based big beastie have a strong family design ethic, particularly at the front end. There’s the distinctive hour glass grille, slimline tapered headlights, and in the RX there are a pair of triangular clusters holding the halogen driving lights. The overall presence is one of a standout on the roads.

At The End Of The Drive.
The Lexus range showcases and highlights a strong desire to take on and beat the Europeans and with possibly a better hybrid range, currently, does so. There’s little to dislike about the RX-450h on the inside as it’s a beautifully comfortable place to be in. Perhaps the only “downside” would be the full size glass roof rather than offering the blu-ray set up as found in the Kluger Grande. But there is that Mark Levinson DVD-audio system to compensate. Outside the exterior is a matter of choice. The drive itself is mostly one of beckoning towards those that enjoy the balance between sheer grunt and technology. The fuel economy is certainly a winner however AWT’s preference for how a fuel engine/battery system works is at odds with Toyota and Lexus’ way of doing it. The fuel engine cuts in far too early for AWT’s liking and the apparent lack of torque is a Mr Spock eyebrow raiser.

It’s a very good highway and freeway cruiser but also distinguished itself on the type of unsealed roads found in the lower mountains and elsewhere. This dual capability adds to the allure of the RX-450h, and with the hybrid economy pairing with the luxury interior, the combination add up to be a worthwhile consideration. Here is where you can find out more.

Cloth Versus Leather

There are two main choices these days when it comes to what the interior designers of new cars put on the seats: cloth and leather. Leather is definitely the material of choice for luxury cars, but if you ever find yourself in a situation where one of the key differences between two variants is what’s on the seats, is it really worth it going for the leather just because it’s posher?  If you’re into keeping up with the Joneses, then this one’s a no-brainer – you go for the more expensive one with the leather – but what if you’re a bit cannier with your cash?

Thankfully, the days of vinyl have gone, so that’s not an option. Those of us who are old enough to remember vinyl seats or who have ridden in classics with this type of upholstery know perfectly well why vinyl seats aren’t found in modern vehicles.  About the only good thing you could say about vinyl was that it was easy to clean. It was slippery when cold or if you had long trousers on. In hot weather and for those wearing shorts, vinyl became sticky but not like spilt jam – more like clingfilm on steroids grabbing bare skin.  It also got really hot on a summer day – add in the hot seat belt buckle on old-style seatbelts and you got your very own personal torture chamber.  I’m shuddering with the memory.

However, back to today.  There you are evaluating two models that are more or less the same apart from the upholstery.  What do you need to say before you say “I’ll go for the one with the leather seats”?

Leather is, of course, a natural material.  It’s the skin of some animal, probably a cow, sheep or possibly a goat.  Given the popularity of beefsteaks around the world and the size of a cattlebeast, what you see on the seats of a luxury car probably came from a cow.  If you’re a vegan or a PETA supporter, then this fact might be the deciding factor for you and you’ll go for the cloth.  However, if you’re omnivorous, then you may see the use of leather as car upholstery as a wise way of using meat byproducts and a sustainable choice (yes, cloth seats are usually acrylic or nylon sourced from plastics).

Here, you might have questions about the difference between Nappa leather and ordinary leather.  Nappa leather is a natural animal skin leather that has been tanned and dyed in a particular way to make it smooth and even.  Nappa leather tends to have a more durable finish and is softer and more pliable.  It’s the softness that adds the extra level of luxury and why the really top-end models are trimmed in Nappa leather rather than common or garden leather.  It also tends to come from something more delicate than cowhide, such as goat or sheep.

Alcantara, however, is an artificial leather – OK, it’s cloth!  It’s stain-resistant and flame-retardant, and it has a scrummy finish that feels like suede.  The flame-retardant properties of Alcantara mean that it’s widely used in racing cars, and this is why it’s popular in sports and supercar models, similar to other racing-inspired accessories and styling.  Alcantara is a brand-name, unlike Nappa leather and all the other seat materials, and it’s produced by one single factory in Italy, which means that it’s a bit more exclusive and more expensive than other cloth.

There are other synthetic leathers around the place.  They’re called things like “PU leather”, “pleather”, “leatherette”, “vegan leather” and “faux leather”.  One company produces a leather substitute made from pineapple fibres but this isn’t used for car seat upholstery – or at least not yet.

The sort of cloth used for upholstering vehicle seats is usually some sort of synthetic material because this tends to be more durable than natural fibres such as wool, linen, tencel or cotton.  Car manufacturers haven’t tried upholstering seats with natural plant-sourced fibres in an attempt to be more sustainable… at least not yet.  Cloth is cheaper than leather because it doesn’t need quite as much cutting, stitching and shaping as leather.  Synthetic cloth comes out of the factory in nice regular shapes of an even and predictable width.  Cows and goats aren’t quite such a nice, regular shape, so leather seats require more work; hence the extra cost.

So what are the pros and cons of each upholstery material type?

Leather:

Pros: Natural material from a renewable source, soft (especially in the case of Nappa), durable, looks amazing, smells nice, doesn’t give off nasty chemical gases

Cons: Stains easily, gets scuffed and scratched by doggy paws and small children’s shoes, absorbs bad smells, comes from a dead animal that may have been killed for the skin, doesn’t like getting wet and especially hates salty seawater

Cloth:

Pros: Cheap, comes in a range of colours and patterns, more forgiving of children, dogs and seawater

Cons: Synthetic material from a non-renewable source, can give off weird gases when new, doesn’t look quite as upmarket as leather.

Alcantara:

Pros: Flame-resistant, stain-resistant, comes in a range of colours, racing heritage, nice suede-like feel, exclusive and upmarket

Cons: A beast to clean, synthetic material from non-renewable sources

To sum up the bottom line about what sort of fabric you want under your bottom, it really depends on your lifestyle and your values.  If you’ve got messy small children or dogs that jump on the seat, then leather isn’t for you.  If you love to spend heaps of time at the beach and you are likely to get salt water on your clothes and other bits that you are likely to chuck onto the back seat, leather probably isn’t for you either.  Cloth is also going to appeal to those who want to save a few bucks, as it’s cheaper.  Leather looks gorgeous and is a natural material from a renewable resource, but if you’re more of a vegan-and-PETA type, then you’ll steer clear of it.

And if you have a classic car with a vinyl seat, do yourself a favour and buy a set of seat covers if you haven’t already!

SUV, Hatch or Wagon?

SUVs like the Volvo XC40 look really cool!

 

The ever popular Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Station Wagons like the new Ford Focus are brilliant.

 

Why do most women like the SUV, wagon or hatchback shape?  These are the preferred vehicles that women are driving.  SUVs definitely offer that extra status not to mention size.  It seems too that Teal coloured cars are the ones that most excite the ladies.

SUVs are hitting our road on mass, thanks to the buyers, female and male, preferring their practicality, safety and room.  You can buy FWD only SUVs, which if you never go in search of the wide open spaces outside of Suburbia then these types of vehicle will do all your townie jobs nicely, and often with plenty of room to spare.  AWD equivalent SUVs are more expensive anyway!

SUVs are bigger than anything else on the road besides trucks and buses, so anyone will likely be attracted to the safety aspect of owning an SUV.  Many guys will like the fact that their special other half drives a big safe SUV, which often ends up carrying the kids too.  Having a higher ride height does give you a commanding view of the road ahead, and generally speaking, the extra ground clearance works wonders should you be into off-roading.

SUVs are easier to get in-and-out of, and for loading child seats, child accessories, and library book and shopping bags.  Generally speaking you step inside an SUV, rather than sink down into them- like in a hatchback.  When it comes loading cargo into the boot the space is usually large, higher and easier to access.  That said, there are some nicely designed station wagons and hatchbacks that are very practical.

Downsides to owning an SUV are that they cost more to feed; cost more to maintain, and they generally need more wizardry and expensive technology to defy the laws of physics should you want to drive them quickly around corners.  Still, manufacturers are beginning to build a wide variety of SUVs to suit your tastes.  You can even buy convertible SUVs or 2-door coupe SUVs – which pushes the contemporary envelope somewhat.

So if you are a lady on the lookout for a nice new SUV – perhaps Teal coloured or close to it, that is competitively priced then there are some models you may consider.  OK, you men could consider this as well – though you’ll probably prefer a silver, black or white colour (though flaming orange and buttercup yellow is said to get a guy’s heartrate up).  So, how about a Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, BMW X3, Ford Ecosport, Ford Escape, Ford Everest, Foton Sauvana, Haval H2, Hyundai Sant Fe or Kona, Jeep, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-3 or CX-5, MG GS, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross or Outlander, Nissan Qashqai, Peugeot 3008, Renault Koleos, Skoda Kodiaq, Subaru Forester or XV, Suzuki Vitara, VW Tiguan, or any of the Volvo XC models?  Modern, safe and great multipurpose vehicles, this list is a good mix to get you thinking.

But if you don’t go the SUV way, there’s plenty of savings to be had by sticking to a hatchback or station wagon instead.  If you spend most of your time travelling within the confines of Suburbia then the SUV size might not make so much sense if a Station wagon or Hatchback will do.  And even at their most practical, an SUV is a bit more difficult to park in the tiny city car parks – unless you have an SUV with all the self-parking aids.

If you think that a good small hatch or station wagon will suit your needs just as well, you will enjoy the benefits of this type of vehicle being cheaper to buy, cheaper to maintain, more fun to drive and, thanks to the swelling tide of SUVs on the road, you’ll be bucking the trend and looking pretty cool.

Here’s some wagons or hatchbacks you might like to consider: Volvo V60, VW Golf wagon or hatch, your good old Toyota Corolla wagon or hatch, Subaru Forester or Impreza or Liberty, Skoda Octavia Wagon, Renault Megane, Proton Preve, loads of Peugeots, Nissan LEAF (Electric Vehicle), Mitsubishi ASX, a Mini, MG3, Mercedes Benz B-Class or C-Class, a Mazda 3 or 6, Kia Cerato or Soul, Hyundai i40 or i30, Honda Civic, Holden Astra, Ford Focus or Mondeo, Citroen C4 or C5, BMW 3 or 5 Series wagon, Audi A3 or A4, and Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

2019 Toyota Corolla ZR & SX Hybrid.

Toyota has given its evergreen Corolla a substantial makeover. Inside and out it’s a new car and there’s also been a slight change to the way the range is structured. There’s three hatches: Ascent Sport, SX, and ZR, with hybrid technology featuring strongly. Private Fleet drives the 2019 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid and 2019 Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid with the Ascent Sport to come.The cars come with either a 2.0L petrol engine, or in the hybrid’s case, a 1.8L petrol engine. Sole transmission choice is a 10-step CVT in the SX and ZR, the Ascent Sport does offer a six speed manual alongside the CVT. Pricing is competitive, with the range starting at $22,870 + ORC for the Ascent Sport manual and finishing at $31,870 + ORC for the ZR Hybrid. Premium paint is a $450 option and the Ascent Sport offers privacy glass and satnav at $1000. Service intervals are 12 months or 15,000 kilometres with a new capped price service program at just $175 per service.Toyota says the economy of the cars is improved; the ZR Hybrid is quoted as 4.2L/100km for the combined cycle, a figure not reached by AWT but nor far off it at 5.0L/100km overall. A 1400kg dry weight is a good starting point. The engine itself is an Atkinson Cycle design and produces 72Kw & 142Nm by itself. Alongside the battery system that has a 6.5Ah output, the combined power is 90kW and 163Nm. The transmission features a three mode choice: Eco, Sport, and Normal. The CVT itself when fitted to the 2.0L has an innovative feature and one that Toyota claims is a world first. A “launch gear mechanism” Direct Shift is engineered in, allowing the engine and gearbox to work together and provide a fixed first gear ratio. Once the car has reached a preprogrammed speed it reverts back to the steel belt CVT mechanism. It does sound noisy but isn’t a thrashy note, rather a sound of refinement and “I’m working here!” Underway it works seamlessly and silently in the background, with the only time it reappears being when the accelerator is given the hoof.

However I continue to have a slight beef with the EV, Electric Vehicle, mode that the Hybrid tech has in Toyota cars. Select EV, hit the accelerator, and it almost immediately switches into both EV and petrol assisted mode. Move away gently and it stays in EV mode until the lowly speed of 20km/h is reached and again the petrol engine kicks in. Having driven purely electric cars, plug-in hybrids, and normal (non plug-in) hybrids, I would prefer the battery system to be more gainfully employed and have the petrol engine’s assistance lessened. It does assist in charging the battery as the levels drop but in a free-flowing drive environment is should be doing this, not driving the front wheels along with the battery system. As a result the mooted fuel economy should be further improved. However the centre console located gear selector is PRNDB, with the B being a stronger regenerative braking assistance. This means that the kinetic energy from braking is also harnessed and returned to the battery.The three drive modes work well enough in the real world, with Sport providing a crisper throttle response, faster acceleration and better high speed response. The ten speeds can be accessed via steering column mounted paddle shifts in the non-hybrid cars. The hybrid system itself in the ZR and SX is displayed in regards to its interaction via LCD screens in the driver’s binnacle. The SX has a small full colour screen mounted to the right hand side with the ZR’s seven inch screen a full colour display that shows a bigger version of that available in the SX. This includes a drive mode display showing the battery driving the front wheels, the petrol engine driving and charging as well. These are access via a simple four way toggle switch on the left hand spoke of the tiller which itself has been redesigned and is a new three spoke look. The look of the bigger screen though is busy and perhaps somewhat overloaded with info. It then points the ZR towards a younger, more tech-savvy, audience, and moves it away from the traditional mature aged buying base of the Corolla. Even the SX, perhaps?Toyota have followed the Euro route with a high centre mounted touchscreen for audio, apps (including ToyotaLink), and navigation. It’s smart and logical with a higher eyeline not distracting the driver from what’s ahead. The ZR amps this up by offering a HUD or Head Up Display with plenty of info such as speed zones, and soothes the ears with DAB via a well balanced JBL sound system. A voice activation system has been added, as has Siri Eyes Free. There’s leather accented seats in the ZR, cloth in the SX and Ascent Sport, but no electrical adjustment across the range, an odd omission in the ZR. However the ZR does have heated front pews and a wireless smartphone charging pad (as does SX), albeit hidden away under a dash section that perhaps protrudes too far into the cabin, counterpointed by a 24mm lower line. The dash itself is less busy and angular than before, with a more integrated and smoother look. Although not powered the front seats are comfortable and have plenty of under-knee support. Keyless start and dual zone climate control are standard in the SX and ZR. There’s also a higher grade feel and look to the textiles inside the ZR.There’s ample rear leg room and shoulder/head room is more than adequate. Boot space is just about right for a weekly family shop, As usual Toyota’s ergonomics are well thought out in where a natural hand movement would go, except in the case of the door grips. They’re forward of where a natural reach would go and in AWT’s opinion too close to the door’s pivot point. Safety is high in the ZR, indeed across the range, with seven airbags as standard as is a rear view camera. Adaptive Cruise Control is on board for all three, with a minimum speed of 30km/h and operates across a range of three preset distances to the car ahead. PCS or Pre-Collision Safety is here and works in a day & night environment range. AEB or Autonomous Emergency Braking is part of this and the ZR also has Blind Sport Alert and Lane Keep Assist or, in Toyota speak, Lane Tracing. Cameras around the car measure the car’s position in relation to roadside markings and gently tug the car into position, along with uttering audible chirps to alert the driver. There’s also an active voice guidance safety system that’s integrated with the satnav, providing warnings such as school crossings and speed cameras.Underneath there’s been plenty of changes. It’s part of the Toyota New Generation Architecture, TNGA, with a 40mm lower, 30mm wider, and 40mm longer body that looks more assertive and confident. A 40mm longer wheelbase gives the 225/40/18 rubber on the ZR (205/55/16 for Ascent sport and SX) a more planted feel however there’s a lot of road noise from the Dunlop tyres on the ZR. The SX’s rear is far quieter. Ride quality has been improved by ditching the torsion beam rear and building in a multi-link system. McPherson struts have been a staple of the automotive industry for decades and Toyota have stayed with a tried and true setup here. Springs, dampers, mounting points, die-cast aluminuim frames and more have transformed the handling of the Corolla. Although the rear is a touch soft in AWT’s opinion the overall ride and handling is near nigh spot on. In low speed turns there is no understeer at all, the steering response at speed on the freeway and urban road system is intuitive, and the whole chassis is worthy of applause. There’s negligible float at any speed, turn in is assisted by an electronic “active cornering assist” system, and even the dreaded bump-thump from the shopping centre speed reducing devices is minimalised.The exterior has been well massaged, with the metal between the hatch and rear passenger doors changed to a more, for the want of a better word, natural look, for a hatch back, moving away from the previous triangular motif. The tail lights are freshened and sit underneath a fourteen degree sharper window. The window-line itself draws the eye to either end, and especially to the redesigned front end. There’s a lower cowl and a cropped front by fifteen millimetres that lend a more assertive look. Being a Hybrid the Toyota logo is limned in a cobalt blue, bracketed by even more slimline looking headlights and LED driving lights in a sharp, linear, look. There’s no spare tyre in the Hybrid, but there is in the standard petrol engined version. A tyre repair kit is added for the ZR Hybrid. The Ascent Sport gets either a full sized or space saver (Hybrid) and the SX is a space saver only. The rear also has an X subtly embedded into the design, with a line from each lower corner curving upwards and inwards, as are lines from the top edge of the rear lights.Eight colours are on offer to highlight the fresh, new, look to the world’s biggest selling car. There are solid, pearl, metallic and mica colours headlined by four new hues of metallic Volcanic Red and Peacock Black. In mica there are Eclectic Blue and Oxide Bronze. As well as the three new colours, Corolla hatch is also available in a premium Crystal Pearl along with Glacier White, Silver Pearl and Eclipse Black.At The End Of The Drive.
Spanning fifty years and more, the Corolla is a mainstay of markets around the world and continues to be a top ten and top five seller here in Australia. With the Hybrid tech making its way into the mainstream model range for Toyota, in this case Corolla, it opens it up to a new market but begs the question of what will happen to Prius…As a driving package the 2019 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid is trim, taut, and terrific. It’s responsive to minor steering inputs without going overboard, it’s composed and unflustered across a broad range of environments, and is “let down” by excessive road noise, a couple of design quibbles, and a slightly softer than expected rear end. However it’s a very competitive price range and price point for the ZR Hybrid, and if the bells and whistles of the ZR don’t appeal, the 2019 Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid, at $28,370 + ORCs may be a better and lighter wallet biter. All information can be found here for the 2019 Toyota Corolla range