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Azerbaijan F1 Postponed, Where Now For 2020?

The latest update for the 2020 F1 season is that the round scheduled for Azerbaijan in June has now also been postponed. This is the round that the organisers had tentatively penciled in as the start round after the Australian, Bahrain, Vietnam, Chinese, Dutch, Spanish and Monaco Grands Prix had all been sidelined.

However, Baku City officials have been working with F1, FIA, and World Health Organisation staff, and have concluded that this date appears to be no longer suitable as a starting point for 2020. Given that this takes the season close to the halfway point, a decision on what will happen in regards to the structure must be made soon.Chase Carey, the CEO of Formula 1, said in a statement released on March 19, said: “At the meeting there was full support for the plans to reschedule as many of the postponed races as possible as soon as it is safe to do so. Formula 1 and the FIA will now work to finalise a revised 2020 calendar and will consult with the teams, but as agreed at the meeting the revised calendar will not require their formal approval. This will give us the necessary flexibility to agree revised timings with affected race promoters and to be ready to start racing at the right moment.

What this means for the rules and regulations that were set to be implemented for 2021 have now been pushed back to 2022. It also puts a cloud over the mooted driver and team swaps. One thing that has come out as almost certain is that the drivers for 2021 are very likely to be the same as those in 2020. There had been talk that Lewis Hamilton may have gone from silver to red, however this appears to now be virtually impossible. The key reason is simple: the cars to be raced in 2021 have to use the same chassis as those developed for this year’s season. With early testing seeming to forecast the Mercedes chassis would be superior to the Ferrari’s, it would make no sense, apart from potentially a huge financial incentive, for Ferrari to open the door to the current world champion. This is crucial in the context that Hamilton is out of contract with Mercedes at the end of 2020, and it’s rumoured that the team would aim for a two year deal to carry Hamilton through the time required to stabilise under the forthcoming regulations.

Adding to the confusion is the constant murmurs that Ferrari will drop Sebastian Vettel, also out of contract come December 2020, and say hello to Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian is on a two year contract at Renault and after a sub-standard, by his standards, 2019, the lure of a top tier team surely must be strong. However the crux of this is what Ferrari would wish for Vettel. If talk that Ferrari’s Mattia Binotto has stated Vettel is their choice to drive alongside Charles Leclerc is true, then this would appear to lock down Ferrari for 2021 at least.Red Bull have no such issue as both Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon are pencilled in for the next couple of years.McLaren also appear to be stable with Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris however the Ferrari equation comes into play with Sainz. His name also has been floated as a possible for the Italian team but there’s not much else to suggest anything other than simply conjecture.

Alfa Romeo are another team with a question mark and that is in the form of Kimi Raikonnen. He’s out of contract at year’s end, and turns 41 in October. This combination, plus a lacklustre 2019, may be enough for the Finnish driver to call time on a stellar career. What this means for Alfa Romeo is who to select to slot next to Antonio Giovinazzi, and could they throw a rope to Nico Hulkenberg? Or, even more intriguing is the possibility of signing one M. Schumacher. Mick has been driving well and has been garnering attention.

2020 F1 Undergoes More Rescheduling.

As the Covid-19 situation continues to dominate world news, it’s also affected the once-tight schedule for Formula 1 in 2020. The new suite of regulations that were expected to come into play for 2021 has now been sensibly postponed until 2022. This allows all teams to be on an equal footing as possible and it’s also hoped that it will minimize the economic impact on the lesser funded teams.

The FIA released a statement that read in part: “Due to the currently volatile financial situation this has created, it has been agreed that teams will use their 2020 chassis for 2021, with the potential freezing of further components to be discussed in due course. The introduction and implementation of the financial regulations will go ahead as planned in 2021, and discussions remain ongoing between the FIA, Formula 1 and all teams regarding further ways to make significant cost savings.”

The schedule for this year has also been updated with the Dutch GP, Spanish GP, and the marquee Monaco GP all being canceled. With a current mooted restart date for 2020 being put forward as the end of May 2020, this is by no means a certainty due to the Covid-19 spread. This news also means that the Dutch GP, due to return to the schedule for the first time since 1985, will have to wait, along with the Spanish GP in Barcelona, says the FIA, until sometime later in 2020.

However, it’s also been declared that the Monaco round has been canceled and will not be rescheduled. A key part of the reasoning is the amount of infrastructure required to run such events in the tiny principality, with the end result is the Automobile Club de Monaco saying: “To all the fans, spectators, partners and our members, the Board of Directors wishes to express its sincere regrets that these two events cannot be postponed and under no circumstances, will it be possible to organize these events later this year.”

With respect to the regulations, it means all teams will need to use this year’s chassis design in 20

21. Again, this ensures as level a playing field as possible. “As possible” being the keywords here, like McLaren, for example, who were due to change powerplants in 2021. The team was due to switch from Renault engines to those from Mercedes, and with different designs for the blocks means the chassis itself needed to be modified.

Sitting on top of all of this, however, is a cost cap for each team and that’s $175 million per team from next year. This also means, and the catchwords here are “in theory,” that teams should still be able to develop their now 2022 cars under that cap.

Covid-19 Strikes Formula 1, Melbourne’s Round Gets Cancelled.

A statement from motorsport’s governing body, the FIA, has confirmed that the Melbourne F1 event, and all of the support events, has been cancelled. This link has the relevant information as of 10.45am March 13.

Update: it seems that the FIA may have had its hand partially forced by Mercedes. The team has advised the FIA of their desire to not participate in the scheduled first round in support of McLaren’s decision to withdraw after a member of their team was found to be Covid-19 positive. There is also the common sense part of this, with Mercedes stating as part of their notification: “We share the disappointment of the sport’s fans that this race cannot go ahead as planned. However, the physical and mental health and wellbeing of our team members and of the wider F1 community are our absolute priority. In light of the force majeure events we are experiencing with regards to the Coronavirus pandemic, we no longer feel the safety of our employees can be guaranteed if we continue to take part in the event. We empathise strongly with the worsening situation in Europe, most especially in Italy, and furthermore we do not feel it would be right to participate in an event where fellow competitors such as McLaren are unable to do so through circumstances beyond their control.”

It does appear that another and as yet unconfirmed reason was a decision by two drivers to depart Australia prior to the official announcement.It can only be presumed that their teams had notified the FIA of their intent if this is in fact the situation.

Comments from drivers include veteran Valtteri Bottas and rookie Nicholas Latifi. Bottas said via Twitter: “All I want to do is race. But safety and health comes first. Hope to be racing soon again! Stay safe everyone 🙏🏼” whilst a disappointed Latifi said: “It goes without saying that I was extremely excited to finally make my debut in Formula 1 this weekend but it will have to wait. The safety and well being of everyone involved has to be the priority. Stay safe everyone and hopefully we can go racing sometime soon.”

Australian hopeful, Daniel Ricciardo, echoed those thoughts with: “I’m devastated I can’t compete at my home GP here in Melbourne & get the season started. Ultimately though the right decision has been made & I think everyone can understand this is something we’ve never seen before. Sorry to all fans who came out for the support. Much love.”

The issue for many is the timing. Up until around 9am on Friday morning, March 13, it appeared that the day’s schedule would run, but unbeknownst to many and including F1 commentator Martin Brundle, the decision to cancel had in fact already been made, it simply hadn’t been communicated effectively.

The fallout from the decision is expected to be huge.

2020 Toyota Supra GT: Private Fleet Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: A car that is heavy with legend and officially reborn, for the Australian market at least. Toyota’s Supra was last available only in Australia as a special import with limited numbers, however the fifth generation is a “properly approved” model and developed with markets such as Australia in mind. There are two trim levels, GT and GTS.

How Much Does It Cost?: Our driveaway price starts from $91,640 for our location. That’s in plain non-metallic red. Go for the pearl white as supplied and that jumps to $92,165. The Recommended Retail Price is $84,990, and as prices state by state vary thanks to dealer and government charges, check out the Toyota website for your location’s pricing.

Under The Bonnet Is: An engine that continues the legacy. It’s a 3.0L straight six with twin-scroll turbo, and it’s got some serious mumbo. 250kW and 500Nm with the latter available over a broad 1,600rpm to 4,500rpm range. There’s some contention, though, as Toyota haven’t elected to use an engine from their own catalogue. And in honesty, it’s a bit of a storm in a teacup as Toyota don’t manufacture a straight six, so BMW was called in. There’s more than a few hints of that brand’s DNA in the bodywork, interior, and the car’s heartbeat. The transmission is an eight speed auto, and when warmed up, allows a 0-100 time of 4.4 seconds. VMax is limited to 250kph.Incredibly it somehow produces those numbers using standard 91RON unleaded, and produces a combined fuel economy of 7.7L/100km. Our best was an incredible 6.3L/100km. This was on a run from our HQ to the home of Australian motorsport, Mt Panorama and back. What was noticeable was the starting expected range figure and the expected range on return. In real terms, we managed to travel 300km and see an expected range change of just 120km.

On The Outside Its: Shorter than it looks. It’s just 4,379mm in length, but an overall height of 1,292mm makes it look longer, especially in the pearlescent white the review car had. It’s wide too, with 1,854mm overall, whilst the wheelbase is 2,470mm.There’s some BMW hints, particularly around the rear. Think Z4 and the upturned bootlid spoiler, a svelte and curvaceous rear, a double humped roof, and long nose in proportion to the rest of the body. There’s a sine wave line that starts at the base of the deeply scalloped doors, heads rearwards to form the broad rear wheel arches, and goes horizontal to form the tail light clusters. The long nose has a gentle and increasing radius curve from the base of the windscreen to form a broad snout, including an almost F1 style nose cone. There are plastic faux-vent inserts in the front and rear guards, bonnet and door skins. They’re not airflow positive, as in they have no actual holes for flow. Both ends have black diffusers, with the nose emphasising the F1 styling by blacking out the centre section under the nose to highlight a pair of angles airfoils.Wheels are 18 inches in diameter and have ultra sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber. Profile is 255/40 and 275/40, front and rear. During our time on the road, the whole package proved to be an eyeball swiveller, attracting positive attention everywhere the Supra GT went, including a couple of thumbs up from pedestrians and truck drivers alike.On The Inside It’s: Snug, efficient, and somewhat 1990s, all at the same time. It’s a strict two seater, with absolutely no storage space other than a pair of console cup holders, door bottle holders, and a cramped cargo area with 296L. It is a sports car, after all. There’s some visual reminder of that thanks to a carbon-fibre look inlay in the console itself. Aircon controls are minimalised, as are the headlight controls, oddly placed as buttons above the driver’s right knee.A push button for Start/Stop is hidden somewhere above the driver’s left knee, there are a pair of paddles on the steering column for manual gear selection, and the console houses a dial for accessing information on the smallish touchscreen. The layout isn’t instantly user friendly and on start-up, will not move from an initial driver warning screen until a OK button is tapped.
Buried within the menus are options for car settings where a driver can select suspension, steering, and engine modes, along with audio and navigation. A Sport mode button changes the engine and transmission settings, plus opens the exhaust system for that extra rumble and snap/crackle/pop.

Behind the beautifully supportive, heated, seats is a strut brace that provides extra body rigidity. This takes up a little bit of room and also makes reaching rearwards into the cabin somewhat awkward. To access the cargo area there is a button in the driver’s door and a tab in the hatch itself. The low overall height also makes entering and exiting the Supra GT a little difficult for those not as flexible as others.Ahead of the driver is a dash screen that looks lifted from a 1990s design. It’s not a modern look and is at odds with the car’s ability. The defining feature is a rev counter dial in the centre, leading off to the right like a keyhole. There is quite a bit of wasted space in this area, with a small LCD screen showing limited information on the far right, and effectively only which gear and drive mode right in the centre.The audio system is loud and clear, operated via the touchscreen, yet there is a strip of station storage buttons on their own above the aircon buttons and below the centre air vents. This is spite of the steering wheel audio selection buttons.

On The Road It’s: A revelation. Firstly, there’s that sledgehammer engine. 500Nm across a rev range that most drivers wouldn’t exploit in normal usage makes for an incredibly tractable driveline. The engine fires into life at the press of the starter and settles quickly into a quiet thrum. The eight speed auto needs some time to warm up in order to achieve maximum smoothness. When cold it’s indecisive, hesitant, jerky. On song it’s razor sharp and millimetre perfect in its crisp changes.The steering is the same. Although weighted to the heavy side, the rack is ratioed to a two turn lock to lock, meaning a bare quarter turn has the front end responding rapidly. The broad rubber, unfortunately, brings in a phenomenon known as tramlining. Anything in a road’s surface in the direction of travel that resembles a rut, a gap, a tramline, also grabs the front end and steers it where the ruts head. The rear end isn’t left out, with a few noticeable hops and skips on broken surfaces.

We took the Supra GT on a run out to Bathurst and a couple of laps around Mt Panorama. On coarse chip tarmac there’s considerable road noise. The newer and smoother tarmac reduces that considerably but there’s still considerable audio jam. The ride quality in Sport mode is jiggly, bouncy, and there is just enough compliance in Sport mode to ensure teeth aren’t shaken loose.

Hit the Sport button in the console and this opens up the exhaust’s throats. There’s a subtle change to the change of gears, but the more noticeable change is the soundtrack. There’s now the rasp, the crackle of the overrun as gears change on deceleration. Standing start acceleration is stupendous, and the rev range for those torques also means rolling acceleration is as easy as thinking about it. Look, squeeze, warp speed.It’s this kind of engine delivery that is, unfortunately, very necessary for Australian roads given the generally average driving standards allowed to pass as safe driving. On the overtaking lanes and still well within the posted limit, the Supra GT proved that a car of around 1,800kg will take those 500Nm and put them to appropriate use, moving past the line of slower vehicles almost as if they didn’t exist. Naturally, this kind of forward moving ability needs stoppers to suit. With 348mm amd 320mm discs front and rear, and a pedal calibrated to move with a breath and tell you how many microns of steel are on the disc’s surface, safe stopping is guaranteed.

It’s this part of the drive experience that showcase the engineering ability and power/torque delivery perfectly. As tractable as the Supra GT is for around town running, the highway is a better place to exploit its mightiness, and then there’s the economy. With the powerhouse in cruise mode, it equals the more passenger oriented cars for fuel usage.On the public road that is Mt Panorama when it’s not a motorsport weekend, the Supra GT can be eased through the super tight and falling away from under you section just after passing through Skyline. The posted limit is 60kph, and the Supra is simply unfazed by that requirement. The torque is more than sufficient to haul the car upwards along Mountain Straight just as easily as it does on a flat road. It’s unflappable here and in day to day driving, making the Supra GT one of the best all round sports intended cars we’ve tested.What About Safety?: It is, as the Americans like to say, loaded for bear. Active Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert, Reverse Camera with Back Guide Monitor, Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, plus Adaptive LED Headlamps and Adaptive High Beam. There are seven airbags. The Forward Collision Alert system was jittery, with a couple of warnings related to parked cars on corners, not moving traffic.

Warranty And Service?: Capped price servicing and a five year warranty. Information on those can be found here.

At The End Of the Drive. Toyota’s marketing research team are worth every cent they’re paid. Like almost all of the cars available from the Japanese giant, the Supra is a car for a market. I’m not in that market, but by no means immune to the Supra GT’s allure and beckoning 3.0L finger. It’s a performance powerhouse, a superbly tuned chassis, has a cabin that says sports car (bar the retro driver’s display), and positions itself as a more than worthy successor to the legend and history of Supra. Check it out for yourself here.

2020 F1 Season Preview.

The Formula 1 season gets underway this weekend at Melbourne’s Albert Park. This year marks the 25th running of the F1 in Melbourne, a city that has hosted the opening round for all but two of those 25 years. Melbourne, a city of culture, coffee, and cool took over from Adelaide with the city hosting its first F1 GP in 1996.

2020’s season start has been overshadowed by the spread of the coronavirus or Covid-19. News came through on March 9 that Bahrain, the location of the second round, has closed the doors to paying punters, electing to host their round on a closed track.

2020 also sees some subtle changes to the car designs which will lead to bigger changes from 2021. There also has been some reshuffling of drivers and a name change for one team. Here’s how the season start will look.

Mercedes-AMG: The Silver Arrows will continue to run with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas for this year. Hamilton will come to Melbourne as the 2019 champion and hunting for eight wins this season. That’s important because to do so will have him equal and break Michael Schumacher’s record. The German driver totalled 91 wins and seven world championships in his stellar career. Hamilton himself is out of contract at the end of 2020 and is said to be holding off on discussions for the early part of the season.Ferrari: Sebastian Vettel came under friendly fire in 2019, with that coming from his new team mate, Charles Leclerc. The younger driver had his sights set firmly on the back of Vettel’s helmet, and racked up two wins and a number of podiums. Vettel is out of contract at the end of this year and it’s this that has some rumours about who may replace him in 2021.Red Bull: Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon will partner for 2020, and it’s a season that will have Verstappen wanting to improve even more on what was a solid performance in 2019. He claimed three race victories, nine podium finishes, two pole positions and three fastest laps. Albon was promoted from Toro Rosso to the main seat midway through the 2019 season and ended the year with a highest finish of 4th at Japan in round 17.

Renault: Perth born Daniel Ricciardo is one of the most talked about players in F1. After a solid if unrewarded stint with Red Bull, the Australian surprised many in 2018 by announcing a step that was seen as a sideways and backwards one. The move to Renault has thus proven frustrating for the publicly amiable Aussie, and this year, his second of a two year contract, is the one that has the rumour fingers pointing towards the Prancing Horse for 2021. Rumours only, at this stage. Esteban Ocon is his co-driver and elevated back to the main game after being punted from Racing Point at the end of 2018.AlphaTauri: Formerly known as Toro Rosso, the second tier team has a new sponsor and a new look. Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat are the drivers for 2020. Officially known as Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda, the team’s new look is a spectacular black on white look. The name itself is still part of the Red Bull family, with a fashion brand based in Salzburg, Austria. Gasly was placed into the team after failing to fire in the main Red Bull team in 2019.Haas: The drivers for 2020 are again Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen. The pair have campaigned together since 2017 and have proven to be a capable force, challenging hard in the mid-pack of the twenty car field. 2018 was their best year whereas 2019 proved to be a showcase of what happens when a car simply doesn’t do what the drivers want. Owned by Gene Haas, the American team has shown, in 2020 pre-season testing, that they may regain their mid-pack pace.

McLaren: A long way from their heyday and, after a frankly lousy season in 2017, the team moved from Honda engines to Renault for 2018. The initial results were promising with forty points from the first five races of 2018. The rest of the season would see just ten points awarded. The drivers are Carlos Sainz and young Briton Lando Norris. The improvement in the 2019 season was slow but always upward, with a 3rd place at Brazil in 2019 for Sainz.

Williams: Formerly a glory team, recent years have seen very slim pickings for the once well respected name. Founded by Sir Frank Williams over forty years ago, it’s not unfair to say that 2019 was the lowest point in its history. In a 21 race season, just one single point was scored by drivers George Russell and veteran Robert Kubica. The Polish driver returned for one season however failed to make an impression. Russell partners with Nicholas Latifi this year, a Canadian born driver with F1 test and reserve driver experience.Alfa Romeo: Once known as Sauber, and a former host to Charles Leclerc, Alfa Romeo will have Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi again helming their cars. The pair performed solidly in 2019 yet were denied points for their efforts as the previous year’s good placings evaporated at the hands of a car that saw the team place 8th overall in 2019.

Racing Point: The former Force India team will also have a return of their 2019 drivers. Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll, son of team owner Lawrence, had a feisty 2019 and managed to finish 7th in the constructors’ championship. The previous year had the cloud of uncertainty hoerving over the team, and thanks to the change of ownership bringing a much needed financial boost, the team hopes to see 2020 end with better rewards than last year.

The first F1 GP for 2020 sees a race start on Sunday March 15 at 16:10 local time.

Toyota Yaris GR: Potency Is The Middle Name.

Toyota’s city car, the Yaris, has been a solid performer for the Japanese company for some time. For 2020, Toyota has shrugged off the cardigan and given the petite little thing a heart and soul transplant. Called the Yaris GR (Gazoo Racing), it’s due mid 2020 for Australia. The basis for the Yaris GR comes from Toyota’s extensive rallying history, and there’s been substantial input from Gazoo Racing and Tommi Mäkinen Racing, meaning the GR Yaris is to be the homologation model of its next WRC racer.Power is from a three cylinder engine, complete with single scroll turbo. 192kW and 360Nm are the figures quoted, with capacity a huge (for a three potter) 1.6L. Power goes to all four corners via a six speed manual, making it the first Toyota non SUV/4WD to feature all paws being driven since the Celica GT-40 of twenty years ago. A zero to one hundred time is around 5.5 seconds, and top speed is a very decent 230kph.The engine will feature piston cooling via oil jets and the exhaust valves are larger than normal to provide better breathing. A restyled body not only provides better aero but a lighter structure, meaning a power to weight ratio of 6.7kg/kilowatt from the 1,280kg (dry) weight. That restyling features larger wheel arches to cope with the 18 inch diameter alloys that will be standard. They’ll wrap 356mm vented brake discs. Dimensions are 3,995mm for length, 1,805mm in width, and 1,465mm in height. The wheelbase is a massive, for the overall size, 2,558mm. The front track is slightly narrower than the rear, at 1,530mm v 1,560mm.A 91mm lower roofline helps the Yaris GR slice through the air more effectively, whilst the engine has been moved rearwards for a better weight distribution. Compression moulded carbon-fibre polymer and aluminuim paneling (bonnet, doors, tailgate) for the three door shape are the main contributors to the lower mass. Frameless doors help too, and add a more aggressive look to the profile. Underneath there is a new platform (Toyota’s melded the GA-8 front and GA-C rear) which allows for a wider rear track and new double-wishbone rear suspension system. The development team responsible for the Yaris GR also devised reinforcements beneath the side members to ensure the suspension’s performance potential can be realised.Performance for the drive hasn’t been overlooked. Being an all wheel drive hatch, the driveline needs something to help the front and rear work together. Toyota have a “high response coupling” that joins the two but there’s a twist in the twist. This ingenious system uses slightly different gear ratios for the front and rear axles, which are mounted on double wishbone, not torsion beam, suspension components, which allows for a theoretical range of front/rear torque balance from 100:0 (full front-wheel drive) to 0:100 (full rear-wheel drive). This flexibility gives a performance advantage over AWD on-demand systems that use twin-coupling or permanent AWD systems with a centre differential. The GR FOUR system is also considerably lighter in weight.The driver has full control over the way the drive system works. An AWD mode dial switch allows: normal mode with the base front/rear torque distribution is at 60:40; in Sport mode the balance shifts more to the rear with a 30:70 distribution to achieve a “fun-to-drive” quality on winding roads and circuits; and in Track mode the base setting is 50:50 for fast, competitive driving on circuits or special stages. In each mode, the torque balance will automatically adjust in response to the driver’s inputs, vehicle behaviour and road or track conditions.Toyota Australia’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Sean Hanley, said the GR Yaris is the latest in Toyota’s rich heritage of sports cars that include the Toyota 800, 2000GT, Celica, Supra, Corolla AE86, MR2 and 86. “The GR Yaris is an exciting well-rounded vehicle that exemplifies Toyota’s commitment to producing ever-better cars, offering compelling performance that will appeal to a broad range of enthusiasts. It is a rally car for the road that pushes vehicle performance to the limit and will enhance the image of the Toyota and Yaris brands.” he said.Pricing for Australia is yet to be finalised.

(Pictures courtesy of Toyota Australia and Motor Magazine.)

2019 Hyundai i30 N Fastback: Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: Hyundai’s foray into the hot hatch arena. It’s not quite a hatch though, with its five door liftback/coupe styling, a body shared with Kia’s Cerato range. It’s the N badge that sets it apart from its lesser brethren.How Much Does It Cost?: Hyundai’s list price is $41500 plus on roads. The website lists it as $46,133 to $49,781 drive-away, depending on seeing the Luxury Pack (as tested) inside or not.

Under The Bonnet Is: A potent 2.0L petrol fed and turbocharged four cylinder, mated to a super slick six speed manual. In N spec it’s good for 202kW and a hefty 353 torques. There is an overboost facility that provides 378Nm. “Normal” torque is available from 1,450rpm to 4,700rpm. Overboost is 1,750rpm to 4,200rpm. They’re delivered in a very linear fashion, rather than a lightning bolt kapow. It makes for an extremely flexible drivetrain.Economy around town reflects the performance aspect though, with urban assaults seeing numbers north of 10.6/100km. That’s pretty much on the money for our drive. Hyundai quotes 8.0L/100km for the combined cycle. Our lowest figure was on the highway, not unsurprisingly, and clocked 7.5L/100km. That’s still above the 6.4L/100km from Hyundai’s official figures. Final overall was 9.4L/100km. Tank size is 50L and recommended fuel is 95RON.

On The Outside It’s: A somewhat subdued look. There are red painted brake calipers with the N logo clearly visible. A small rear spoiler sits above a curvaceous rump and lights that evoke Mercedes-Benz coupe and fastbacks. The front has a discreet N in the gloss black grille which sits between a pair of swept back headlights. Underneath is a chin spoiler that is perhaps too low. Every care was taken entering and reversing from the drive and it still scraped.Wheels are 19 inches in diameter and have a distinctive spoke design. Rubber is from Pirelli, they’re P-Zero and 235/35 are in size.

Paint is metallic red and highlights the longer than the i30 hatch body. The hatch is 4,335mm with the fastback getting 4,455mm. Maximum height is 1,419mm and that’s lower than the hatch. This means a slipperier, more aerodynamic profile.On The Inside It’s: An opportunity missed to stamp the N as a sports oriented vehicle. The air vents have red piping to the surrounds and that’s largely it in comparison to the largely otherwise unremarkable interior. The steering wheel has red stitching, and there is subtle red stitching in the seats. The look is subdued and dare we say, generic with unremarkable plastics, the standard looking touchscreen interface bar the N tab, and analogue dials where a full width LCD screen would have been better optioned.

The Luxury Pack is comprehensive. Push button Start/Stop, synthetic suede and leather seats (which are bloody comfortable and supportive) that feature a subtly embossed N logo, with both the front pews and steering wheel getting heating. There is a two position memory function for the driver’s seat plus 12 way power adjustment. Both front seats have extendable squabs for extra support available as an option. A wireless charge pad for compatible smartphones is also standard. Front sensors for parking and puddle lamps are part of the package too, as is privacy glass for the rear seats. The wing mirrors are powered and auto-dip for reversing.There is no tab for the central locking. This precludes anyone outside opening the door whilst the engine is running, meaning it has to be powered off to allow someone to get in. It’s a small but noticeable niggle. However Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, as is DAB audio. Curiously, the audio lacked bass, even with the equaliser moved up to full for that part of the sound stage. Mid-range and treble are clear and overtake the bass in in presence.The tiller has the drive mode switches; one for Sport/Normal/Eco, and one for the N performance package. The Sport engages the throaty rumble mode for the exhaust whereas the N selection firms up the steering and suspension, and offers a preset or customisable set of settings for exhaust, steering, engine and more via the touchscreen. Standard look is showing power, torque, turbo boost, and g-force readings, plus lap timings for track days.Inside the 436L cargo area is a brace bar to provide extra torsional rigidity. The cargo section itself opens up to 1,337L with the rear seats folded. A cargo net is standard, as is a space saver spare. A glass roof is an optionable extra. Shoulder and leg room, is fine and even rear seat leg room is good enough.On The Road It’s: A sleeper. Left in Eco and Normal mode it’s…normal. There’s a typical feel to the whole package in acceleration, noise, handling. The clutch is curiously heavier than expected and resulted in more than a few stalls. Hit the Sport mode and there’s a change of attitude. The exhaust suddenly gets more snarl, there’s an extra sense of weight to the steering, and sharper handling.

N mode lights the candle. There’s an extra depth to the anger of the exhaust and especially on up and downshifts. There’s a crackle, a sharp and hard edged note that’s evident on even light throttle. Go hard and the length and volume of the growl becomes longer thanks to some electronic assistance. Launch Control is standard and that’s activated via the disabling of the traction control system. Hold that button down, wait until a couple of lights flash to say things are happening, and then push down the clutch. Floor the throttle and somewhere around six seconds later it’s freeways speeds.There is torque steer but the electronic or “e-diff” makes a great fist of smoothing that out. Although hydralic in nature, the electron brains behind the scenes distrubute torque as per where the sensors say it should. It makes for a pretty much arrow straight line on a hard launch, and keeps both front wheels in contact with the ground. Steering is super precise and is just two turns lock to lock. This means input results in instant response. Rev-matching works on getting the engine to be in a rev range suitable for the cog selected on downshifts.

It’s slick and smooth, and gets the rumble and snarl from the rear happening. The selector itself is light, with Hyundai saying the actual feel was built in for “enthusiastic drivers”. For us, it felt accurate in throw, perhaps a little long, but also disconnected and remote from the driving experience. Braking is the complete opposite, with one of the best sensory experiences available. Think about where the pedal needed to be and it was, with instant response from the lightest of touches.

The N mode makes, as mentioned, for harder suspension. It’s noticeably different in quality and brings forth a benefit. That’s every corner, as firm as they become, being able to provide to the driver a picture of every ripple, every dent and ridge on a 20c coin without a feeling of being overly tight and taut. It’s a superbly tuned package and one honed by 500 laps of The Nurburgring. The torque spread makes for easy freeway driving, and overtaking is as simple as either squeeze and go, or drop a cog or two. There are shift lights and a shift indicator notification in the LCD screen in the driver’s binnacle.What About Safety?: There is no stinting here. The full Hyundai SafetySense package is available, with Forward Collision Avoidance, Driver Attention Warning, and Lane Keep Assist. The DAW in the liftback was overly enthusiastic, saying a break should be taken after just a few minutes worth of travel time. Quad sensors front and rear provide accurate parking measurements as does the clear view from the reverse camera which includes guideline assist. On the passive safety front there are seven airbags including the driver’s kneebag. Hill Start Assist was welcomed due to the vagaries of the clutch point.What About Warranty And Service?: Hyundai have done track day drivers a huge service here. Under most warranty guidelines, issues found to be as a result of track days aren’t covered. Hyundai disagree with that and do offer that coverage. Also, cars delivered by December 31, 2019, will have seven years warranty, instead of five. Service costs are capped (check with your Hyundai dealer) and items such as satnav updates can be done when a car is booked in for a service.

At The End Of The Drive. We must thank Hyundai Australia for the opportunity to drive the liftback version of the i30 N. It timed out well in one respect, one not made mention of This is your link for more information.until now. the car had well over twelve thousand kilometres on the clock when picked up, and there’s no doubt many of those would have been hard driven ones. No rattles, no squeaks, no unnecessary noises at all, indicating a very high level of build quality in the tolerances.

It’s an excellent all-rounder, family and enthusiast friendly, and bar the downmarket look and surprising lack of low end in the sound system, provides a wonderful environment in which to spend time in. Outside the liftback looked resplendent in red but didn’t visually yell it was an N spec. A matter of personal taste, one would suggest. This is your source for more info.

 

2020 Volvo V90 CrossCountry: Private Fleet Car Review

This Car Review Is About: The wagon or Estate or Tourer version of Volvo’s stunning S90 sedan. The CrossCountry raises the ride height from the sedan, goes all wheel drive, and adds exterior body mouldings. It’s fitted out with some lovely equipment too.How Much Does It Cost?: With no options fitted, and in metallic paint with the standard wheels & tyres, the Volvo website lists it as $91,200 driveaway.Under The Bonnet Is: A five cylinder diesel engine, with Stop/Start tech, producing 173kW and 480Nm. It’s rated as 7.2L/100km for the combined cycle. On our drive in a mainly urban setup, we averaged 7.8L/100km and it’s rated as EURO6 compliant. Tank size is 60.0L. Transmission is Volvo’s eight speed Geartronic auto driving all four paws. Volvo quotes a sub-eight second 0-100 kph time and a top whack of 235 kph from the 1,828kg (dry) machine.On The Outside It’s: Covered in a luscious Crystal White metallic, even pearlescent, paint with polycarbonate body mouldings. Rubber is 245/45/R20 with Pirelli supplying the P-Zero. The alloys are standard, with optionable 5 and 6 spoke designs on 19 inch diamond cut designs. It looks longer than the actual length of 4,939mm suggests, perhaps due to the low overall height of just 1,545mm. Wheelbase is 2,941mm. Front and rear exterior wheel to wheel is 1,879mm.The front is dominated by the glowing pair of “Thor’s Hammer” driving lights inside the slimline headlight clusters. These include the indicators as well. The bonnet is long, possibly a good third of the full length. It’s a very upright looking nose, and a pair of small aero wings sit close to the ground, just above small globes in the bottom corners of the bumper. The rear is equally dominated, this time with the signature “hockey sticks” for the lights, and here Cross Country is embossed into the upper section of the rear bumper, above an alloy look insert. The doors open wide too, making entry and exiting the V90 a painless experience.On The Inside Is: Standard sumptuous black Nappa leather pews. Two position memory for the driver’s seat. Rear seats with their own separate climate control and seat boosters for children. A powerful Bowers and Wilkins premium audio system including DAB. A powered tail gate that opens to a flat level and a capacity of 560L. It’s a long but not high cargo section though. There’s 1,026mm of head room up front, and 966mm for the rear seats. Front leg room is 1,071mm and the rear seats enjoy 911mm. What this means is that the V90 CrossCountry should fit most potential buyers. There’s certainly no shortage of a luxury feel. The Nappa leather ensures the occupants are cossetted and made to feel welcome. The aircon is touchscreen operated and is relatively simple to use. The touchscreen itself is vertically (portrait) oriented and is a swipe left or right to gain access to information on setup, apps, fuel, settings, safety features, etc. Naturally there’s Volvo’s variable LCD screen look too, with four different modes to suit the mood. For extra safety there is a 360 degree camera setup, with the only “downside” being the distortion of objects as the car gets closer to them. Drive modes are selected via the traditional knurled dial in the centre of the console. That also houses the rotate to the right Start/Stop dial. On The Road It’s: A typical diesel. Lag from a standing start before the torque explodes and launches the V90 forward easily and hurriedly. The low revving delivery of torque means that overtaking and highway acceleration is a doddle too. The eight speed self-shifter is a delight too, with a surety and confidence in its cog swapping up and down. Using manual shifting is almost redundant as a result.Handling was mostly on par, however there is understeer at low speeds and the extra ride height over the sedan and standard V90s can occasionally lend itself to a feeling of rolling slightly. However, this again appears more prominently at lower speeds. There’s plenty of grip, regardless, from the Pirelli rubber, meaning that is no issue with feeling the V90 will spear off into the undergrowth. At highway velocities, where the engine is ticking over at just 1,500rpm, the body firms and stiffens, with a very compliant ride yet feeling more tight and taut simultaneously. The steering becomes more intuitive and instinctive too, with no sense of being under or over-assisted. Whilst underway, the driver’s rear vision mirror lights up with a simple but effective compass direction. It’s placed and lit just so, with the font and brightness spot on as they’re both non-distracting yet very efficient. The Bowers & Wilkins audio system is also clear and punchy whilst underway, with bass providing a home theatre quality kick, and the dash mounted tweeter providing assistance in the changeable sound stage. The driver can select a presence where the sound is for all of the cabin or can be selected for the driver only. At any speed it’s a delight to experience.

What About Safety?: Volvo have loaded the V90 with a comprehensive safety package. Its Intellisafe System offers up Pilot Assist, a gentle lane keeping assistant. This shakes hands with the Oncoming Lane Mitigation system, that also assists in keeping the V90 in its own lane. Adaptive Cruise Control will measure the car’s distance to the one ahead and adapt to reduce or increase distance as required. Distance Alert goes hand in hand with the HUD or Head Up Display, and visually shows if the V90 has crept too close the vehicle ahead.

Airbags, naturally, abound, including one for the driver’s knees. These will come into play if the next feature isn’t successful. The Oncoming Mitigation by Braking is a Volvo safety world first that can detect if a vehicle heads straight towards your car on the wrong side of the road. If a collision can’t be avoided, it will brake your car automatically to further help reduce the effects of an impact. More about the safety features can been found here.

What About Warranty And Service?: Volvo lag here in the warranty stakes. There is a three year, not four or five or higher, warranty. That’s in comparison to the five years offered by BMW. Service costs though were slashed earlier this year, with a three year service plan for the V90 costing $3030 at the last available information.

At the End Of The Drive: Straight up, the Volvo V90 CrossCountry makes a worthy alternative to the over-saturated SUV marketplace. By offering a station wagon/tourer/estate in a luxury oriented vehicle, it provides buyers the chance to get into a vehicle that provides a more family friendly environment than a sedan yet isn’t bulky and road heavy like the bigger SUVs. It’s an easy drive, pulls like a locomotive, and is very well featured to boot. Get into your own V90 here.

Mercedes-AMG says GT Up!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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