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SUV

SUVs and Utes Globally Unstoppable

Toyota RAV4 SUV

This year is shaping up to be an exciting and interesting year for car sales in Australia.  Currently, the Toyota Hilux is selling well above even the second biggest seller: the Ford Ranger.  With over 4,500 sales in March, Toyota and there owners are loving life.  Ford Ranger during the same period sold 3721 units.  But take a look at this list and you’ll see that of the top ten models sold in Australia six of them are utes and SUVs.

  1. Toyota Hilux
  2. Ford Ranger
  3. Mitsubishi Triton
  4. Mazda3
  5. Toyota Corolla
  6. Mazda CX-5
  7. Hyundai i30
  8. Mitsubishi ASX
  9. Mitsubishi Outlander
  10. Kia Cerato

What about in the rest of the world?  Well, it continues to be true that more SUV and utes are being purchased than any other type of car in Australia and around the world.  In fact, the world’s most popular ute was not the Hilux but the Ford F-series (light truck).  Sorry Toyota lovers, but Ford takes you out globally!!  With well over 1 million F-series sold last year, that’s very impressive!  In New Zealand, Kiwis have a taste for the Ford Ranger more so than the Hilux, too.  But this isn’t about Ford being better than Toyota – just saying…

Ford F-Series

Now for redemption time for me, so as to get back on side with Toyota fans.  Last year the world’s most popular SUV was the Toyota RAV4.  It was also the most popular SUV in New Zealand.  Maybe all the rental car companies that love the robust and reliable nature of the RAV4 make up a big swag of those RAV4 global sales numbers.  The roads between Christchurch and Milford Sound are teeming with RAV4s!

So why do you think that the SUV and utes are growing so much in popularity here and around the world?  It could well be because a decade or so ago utes and SUVs were vehicles that had a bit of a hard nose to them, with a more practical bent to them.  Some utes were tremendously good at carrying loads but hideously uncomfortable to travel any longer distances with.  Today your SUV and ute still has huge practical merit but they are way more comfortable and sophisticated.  And who can argue with the SUVs ability to accommodate seven occupants?  It gets a bit difficult putting seven seats inside a stationwagon with room to spare; and just totally impossible trying to fit seven seats inside a sedan.

With these sort of stats rolling off car sales yards, one could easily say that SUVs and utes are very much taking over the world, and this regardless of rising fuel prices.

Car Review: 2019 Tesla Model X 100D

This Car Review Is About:
One of the two vehicles currently available from Tesla. The Model S and Model X are very closely related and come with a choice of drive combinations. A new model, a smaller car called Model 3 is scheduled for Australian release from July 2019. The vehicle tested is the non-P 100D. P for Performance, 100 for the kiloWatt hour drive, D for Dual motor (or, if you will, all wheel drive). The Model X can be specified with different seating configurations and the test vehicle was fitted out as a six seater. What About The Dollars?
Cost for the car tested started at $129,500. Metallic paint is $2,100, with the big black wheels $7,800. The seating colour scheme was $2,100 with the dash trim, a dark ash wood look, a standard no-cost fitment. It’s the electronic bits that add on, with the full self driving option and auto-pilot $7,100 and $4,300 each. With options fitted, Luxury Car Tax, and GST, plus charges such as government taxes, the car as tested came to $186,305.

Under The Bonnet Is:
Empty space. Yup, the Tesla Model X has a “frunk”, a front trunk, or in Aussie speak, a front boot. It’s big enough for a travel case of hiding the home charge cable that Tesla supplies. The engines for the 100D are located underneath at the front and rear, and engage via a single speed transmission. It’s this combination that gives the Tesla Model X startling acceleration, and in Ludicrous mode, a drive option available in the “P” designated cars, it’s quicker again. Call it three seconds to 100kph and you’d be on the money.On The Inside Is:
A choice of seating options. The test car came fitted with a white leather covered set of six seats. The three pairs all have their own form of power adjustment. Up front the driver has fore and aft movement, seat back adjustment, and lumbar support. The middle row are also adjustable for fore and aft, allowing access to the rear seats. However they do not have seat back adjustment. The third row are powered in a slightly different way, with a button locking or releasing them for raising or lowering.

Tesla fit a massive, vertically oriented, 17 inch touchscreen that houses virtually all of the functions. Audio, navigation, music access, air-conditioning, doors, car features, settings, online user manual, and some special features are all here. The map system is from Google and rendered in superb high definition on the screen. Drive orientation is in the upper right corner and can be set to swivel in direction or North as a permanent upper orientation.The overall front section presence is clean, uncluttered, traditional even. The driver’s binnacle has a full colour LCD screen that shows information such as energy usage, map, radio, and more. The steering column is perhaps the weakest part ergonomically. A left hand side indicator sits above the cruise control lever and both can be easily confused for the other as they’re very close together. The drive engage lever is on the right and is simple in operation.The centre row seats move forward and as they close towards the front seats gradually nose downwards to allow access to the rear. The rears are not adjustable for anything other than folded or not. Behind them is another storage locker with a lift away cover that otherwise provides a flat floor.The touchscreen itself houses “easter eggs”. At the top centre of the screen is a “T” symbol. Hold that for a second or two and a graphic that describes the individual car shows. A second or two later a screen appears above that and has an Atari games symbol, a Mars map symbol, a reindeer, a Christmas tree ornament and others. The Atari symbol brings up five games including Asteroids and Missile Command. The reindeer has the car’s driver display show a Father Christmas and sleigh, and rings Christmas bells on the indicator stalk. There is also an “emissions testing” icon that brings a grin to every ten year old boy when a sub-menu of different farts comes up.

On The Outside Is:
The extended roof version of the Model S. Extended as in the Model S formed the basis for the Model X. A higher roof line houses the famous folding gull wing doors, and there’s another part of the delight. When the Christmas ornament is pressed from the easter egg list, it invites the passengers to exit, and close the doors. A few seconds later if it works, as it’s sometimes hit or miss, the front windows roll down, the superb sound system pumps up, and the exterior LED lights up front flash in synchronisation. The doors themselves open and flap in unison and it is one unbelievably entrancing sight to see.The rear view sees an embedded airfoil otherwise the same looking tail lights at Model S. The nose is slightly different but unmistakeably Model S. The footprint is huge, with fan shaped alloys painted in black spanning 22 inches in diameter. Rubber is Goodyear Eagle and are 285/35.

The doors are normally hinged at the front, gull winged for the rear, and the driver’s door can be set to open on the approach of a person carrying the Tesla key fob. Unlike the Model S the door handles don’t extend out from the body, and require a firm press on the handle or via the key fob individually. A tap or two on the top can open or close all doors.

On The Road It’s:
A mix of elation and mild levels of meh. The meh is the steering feel. Although there are three drive modes that change the weight of the steering, it feels artificial and isolated. That’s not unexpected in such a technologically oriented vehicle. But that’s the worst of the on-road feels.

The time with the Model X coincided with a trip from the Blue Mountains to Bega via Canberra. Door to door it’s just on 500 kilometres. The full charge range of the Model X is knocking on 480km. An app that can be installed into your smartphone shows, once the car is linked to your account, the range expected, and when charging, the charge rate and charge distance. The AMOUNT of charge can also be adjusted, from zero through to 100%, with 80% being the default.

All Tesla cars come with a charge cable to hook the car up to a home’s electric network and Tesla themselves provide a higher output charge station to their buyers. These charge at 7 to 8 kilometres of range per hour. The first stop was at the supercharger portal in Goulburn. That’s a two hour drive with a supercharger near Canberra airport approximately another hour away. Superchargers will add in somewhere between 350km to 400km of range in an hour according to the app.Cooma is the next supercharger stop, another hour or so from Canberra, and this one is in an off the main road and not entirely welcoming location. It’s a set of six in a carpark entrance for a shopping complex, and on our visit half of the supercharger bays were taken up by non electric cars. The drives gave us a chance to properly evaluate, in a real world, family usage situation, and although the range expectations were one thing, proper usage delivers another.

Cargo was two adults, two children, a small dog, and a few overnight bags. Then there is the weight of the car and the topography to consider. Autopilot and cruise control were engaged and a small point on the autopilot. The lever needs to be pulled toward the driver twice to engage, and the cameras strategically embedded around the car will then “read” the roadsides in order to keep the Model X as centred as possible. The autopilot function itself was in “Beta” testing mode and again accessed via the touchscreen.The biggest appeal of the the Model X, and Model S, for that matter, is the sheer driveability of the chassis and drivetrain. Electric motors deliver torque constantly, as per this and acceleration across any driving condition is stupendous. The “P” designation adds in “Ludicrous” mode, which amps up the “get up and go” even further. Engage the drive, and it’s a double pull to bring the car out of hibernation mode, and plant the foot. That mountain you could see on the horizon is suddenly there before you.

The braking system can be set for two energy harvest levels and on the ten kilometres worth of downhill running at Brown Mountain, some forty kilometres west of Bega, added an effective twenty kilometres of range. It’s the uphill runs that pull the range expectations downwards, and severely at that. The ever-growing network of destination chargers alleviate range anxiety and a visit to the beautiful coastal town of Merimbula found a destination charger at a bayside motel. The navigation system can provide locations of chargers and when a destination charger shows, a tap of the screen advises the usage, as in in this case, passing through holiday makers. A big thanks to the good people at the Albacore Apartments, by the way. There are two Tesla destination chargers and these add range at 75 to 80 kilometres per hour.

The return trip was via Cooma without stopping and heading to Canberra’s Madura Parkway charge stop. Handily located next to a major fast food store and a number of other shops, an hour’s break saw the Model X arrive back at its Blue Mountains lair with perhaps 70km worth of range left.

Actual ride quality is on the high side of decent considering the size of the wheels and low profile rubber. Ride height can be ajusted via the touchscreen but a high ride setting lowers the car back to its standard height once a preset speed is reached. The Model X is stiff but not bone-shakingly so, taut, but not uncomfortably so. It’s flat, exhibits minimal body roll, and is surprisingly compliant on unsettled and rough surfaces. And although the steering lacks “humanity” it also points the Model X exactly where the wheel tells it to. Naturally, brake feel is spot on too.

The Safety Systems Are:
A solid list of 360 degree cameras, parking sensors that measure in millimetres and show on the driver’s screen, distance sensing radar cruise control, AEB, overhead and knee airbags, plus the usual electronic driver aids. The cruise control can be set to one to seven seconds of distance between the Model X and the car ahead. It’s worth noting that the braking can be on the hard side so driver involvement is still required to watch the road ahead. The same goes with the autonomous steering. Hands on the tiller are recommended at all times.

And The Warranty Is:
Four years for the body and structure. The drive systems and battery get eight years. Extra information is here.

At The End Of The Drive.
The timing of the drive came just after the leader of the Australian Opposition party put forward a proposition that by 2030 fifty percent of cars to be made available for sale be electric. Naturally this sparked the conversation about costs, range, and the time taken to recharge versus refueling a petrol or diesel car.

There’s an undeniable time factor in regards to recharging. But there is a welcome upside. The Goulburn stop provided an opportunity to visit a street mall, the Cooma break a visit to a park with historic significance. The Merimbula stop provided a chance to sample the local lifestyle and the Canberra stop a welcome half way point, lunch, and a leg stretch. The Model X itself is not a tiring car to drive meaning driver fatigue is minimised.

Therein, as the saying goes, lies the rub. The return trip from Bega took as much time as a normal petrol/diesel powered trip, even allowing for the hour or so to recharge. The upside was the break allowing a safe, straight through, return drive and the lack of fatigue from driving a comfortable vehicle. The downside was the evidence that range expectations versus the real world have some way to go before the two meet with a lesser margin in between.

And yes, the cost is significant, especially with the extra Australian government charges involved. However there are plenty of cars that start at the same price and offer an extensive option list. And there is the fluctuating cost of fuel. Depending on location it is theoretically possible to not pay a cent in recharge costs with an electric car.

Tesla will be releasing a lower cost version, effectively, of the Model S, and a new, smaller, SUV called the Model Y is in development. With battery technology improving and the uptake of solar power and batteries for home usage also on the upswing, plus the promise of further electric cars as standard from makers, they all mean that for the Australian market our driving future is in for an undeniable change.

Model X information and more on the other cars from Tesla can be found here.

Tesla Unveils Model Y SUV.

 

Tesla has released details of their Model 3 based electric SUV. Dubbed the Model Y, it slots into the mid-sizer SUV space and will be priced from USD$39,000. That price is applied to the Standard Range version. It will also come in Long Range, Dual-Motor All-Wheel Drive, and Performance variants.Tesla say the Model Y will be able to reach 62mph/100km/h in 3.5 seconds, and should see a top speed of 150mph/240km/h. Range expectations are 230 to 300 miles for the Standard and Long Range versions.

The Model Y will be available for sale in the U.S., according to current expectations, in the autumn of 2020 in the northern hemisphere for the Model Y Performance, Long Range Rear-Wheel Drive, and Dual-Motor All-Wheel Drive variants, with Standard Range vehicles due in 2021.

Model Y will feature a panoramic glass roof to provide an extra sense of space inside the mid-sizer for the seven passengers. A single 15 inch touchscreen will provide driver and passenger information and comfort. There is an application for smart devices that can be installed also, allowing a driver to enable pre-airconditioning, remote unlock, and a Summon mode. Notable, however, will be the Model Y using the normal door method with vertically aligned hinges, and not using the costlier Model X gull-wing system.Naturally the Model Y will be compatible with the extensive charger network and will be able to take advantage of the forthcoming V3 charging rate system, which will provide a rate of up to 1,000 miles worth of charging in an hour.

Expected release dates for the Australian market are yet to be confirmed.

Tesla Reveals V3 Superchargers

Fresh from the success of his Space-X mission to the ISS, Elon Musk‘s other love, Tesla, has released information on a change to their car charging system. Called V3 Supercharging, it brings a massive change in how Tesla cars are charged, and drastically lowers the charging time.

To be rolled out in the U.S. initially, V3 Supercharging moves to a different charging point, with a solitary charging cabinet, as Tesla puts it, with a 1 MW (megaWatt) capacity able to provide a new Model 3 Long Range car with up to 75 miles worth of range in just five minutes and the equivalent of one thousand miles of range in just an hour.The cabinets themselves will now provide one car with one power source, with the previous method a power-share model meaning if two cars were attached to the one charge cabinet, charge rates were slower. By providing a single stream, Tesla anticipates average charge times to drop to 15 minutes for a full charge.

Another innovative change to the Tesla charge system is a pre-warming of the batteries as the car approaches a charging point. Called On-Route Battery Warmup, the onboard system recognises the car’s proximity to a Tesla or compatible car charging point. By warming the battery on approach, it means the chemical makeup of the battery is more respondent to the incoming charge. This is anticipated to reduce charge time by up to 25%.

The overall changes are anticipated to reduce the overall charge time by 50%, and increase the number of cars being charged in the same amount of time.

Tesla will add more to their existing charging system too, with their current V2 superchargers, numbering over 12,000 worldwide, to be updated to a 145kW charge rate. The improvements are forward planning for the release of the recently re-priced Model 3 and the forthcoming Model Y. Asia-Pacific stations are currently scheduled for a Q4 2019 update.

 

BMW Says Diesel Do Just Fine For The X7.

BMW has released details of the soon to land in Australia X7. For the time being, power will come from only diesel engines, with petrol to follow later. It’ll be a two model range to start, with the BMW X7 xDrive30d starting from $119,900, and the BMW X7 M50d from $169,900. The BMW X7 xDrive30d will have a “TwinPower” twin-turbocharged inline six-cylinder diesel engine with variable turbine geometry. It’ll pack 195 kW of power and 620 Nm of torque, meaning that can reach 0-100km/h in just 7.0 seconds.The X7 M50d goes up a notch, with an uprated TwinPower quad-turbocharged inline six-cylinder diesel engine with two variable-vane turbines and two conventional turbines. There’s a more than impressive 294kW and a startling 760 torques. 0 – 100 is a very decent 5.4 seconds. Both will power down via BMW’s eight speed Steptronic transmission. This has been recalibrated to feature a wider gear ratio spread. BMW’s much vaunted xDrive will be on board. xDrive is a smart drive system that varies drive torque split between front and rear wheels to optimise traction and power efficiency. Both will also have, thanks to xDrive, a rear biased drive feel. BMW’s tuning house, M Sport, offers a differential on the rear axle to ensure a smooth power transfer in the BMW X7 M50d, maximising traction and ensuring optimum handling on all terrains. It’s available for the X30d as part of the xOffroad package.The BMW X7 xDrive30d will have 20-inch alloy light wheels as standard. The BMW X7 M50d has 22-inch M light alloy wheels for extreme road presence. Ride will come courtesy of a two-axle air suspension with automatic self-levelling. The system is smart enough that it can adjust the height of the car with the engine off and will go up or down by 40mm. There is some smart tech in the X7, it’s able to adjust the suspension for each individual wheel to achieve balance in an unevenly loaded car. More smarts come from Executive Drive Pro, and Integral Active Steering. Both will showcase exceptional cornering abilities and standout agility.Seating is flexible, as anticipated. A 40/20/40 split for the second row seats is one option, a 60/40 split is also available. Standard cargo load is 326L, and that goes to 750L when the third row is flattened. All seats down offers up 2,120L, and a powered tailgate makes rear access easy, especially with the wave of a foot underneath the rear bumper.Extra luxury comes from a panoramic glass roof, aluminuim roof rails and aluminuim window surrounds, BMW Head Up Display, 3D camera system that shows a top down/360 degree, and a 12.3 inch dash display.

Head to BMW Australia for more details and to lodge your inquiry.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Holden Acadia LTZ-V

This Car Review Is About:
The 2019 model year Holden Acadia LTZ-V. The engine of choice is a 3.6L petrol V6, and the transmission is a nine speed automatic. There are three levels, being the LT, LTZ, and LTZ-V, with two or all wheel drive. Prices start from $42,990 driveaway with the top range a substantial $67,990. That’s for 2018 plated cars.Under The Bonnet Is:
The more or less same driveline as found in the unfairly maligned Commodore. A V6, petrol fed, of a 3.6L capacity. That drives the front wheels via a truly superb nine speed automatic. Consumption is rated as 8.9L per 100 kilometres on a combined cycle. We finished on 11.2L/100km on a mainly urban cycle. Peak power is 231 kilowatts, with peak twist of 367Nm coming in at 5000rpm. Make a note of those figures.

It’s a keyless start, as expected. The engine itself is almost noiseless from inside, both on idle and underway in normal driving. Like all engines, push it and you’ll hear it. Even then it’s not the most aurally engaging engine going.Being the AWD version means a selector dial is fitted in the rather staid looking centre console. Choices are Snow, Towing, and the ubiquitous Sport. Sport was trialled and discarded as being needed rarely.

A potentially handy item is Remote Start. Lock the car using the key fob, hold the tab that has a circle with an arrow cursor icon, and the Acadia starts up. Great if it’s been hot or cold and the aircon has been set appropriately prior to starting.

On The Inside Is:
Boredom. Plenty of average looking plastic, a squeaky centre console near the driver’s right knee, unappealing faux wood inlays, and seven seats. All windows are powered but, disappointingly for a top tier vehicle, only the driver’s window is one touch up/down. Where the driver and passenger knees rest in the console are the switches for heating and, blessedly, venting for the leather seats up front. Centre row passengers get a pair of USB ports, the front seats a wireless charge pad for compatible smart phones and a USB port plus 12V socket. Cold? Use the steering wheel’s heating function.Rear seat access is via a powered tailgate with selectable opening positions or via the tiltafold centre row seats. The centre row have a one touch lever to move the seats forward and folding at the same time. Cargo is 292L with the third row in place, and that goes to a much more user friendly 1042L when they’re folded. Lay the centre row down and that virtually doubles to 2102L.

Although the rear seats are the much easier to deal with pull strap style, where a strap gets pulled and the seat easily swings up or easily pushed down, there doesn’t appear to be as much room laterally as Holden’s own Trailblazer. All seats in the review vehicle were a simple mix of black leather and white stitching.The touchscreen is simple to read however the digital audio broadcast tuner had hiccups. Sometimes on start it would instantly show stations, on others it would would be as if it were in a permanent loop scanning. It does come with the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto pairing. Speakers are from Bose and they sounded as if the DAB signal was a compressed FM sound. Some DAB units offer a separate FM tuner to a DAB tuner, others combine the two. Even with sound adjustment the system simply couldn’t get the same depth as similar systems in other brands.A HUD wasn’t offered, but GM’s vibrating seat and strip of red lights for collision warnings were fitted as standard. Other standard equipment as fitted is a reverse camera, satnav, and a pair of sunroofs. One would have been fine, with either a roof mounted screen or seat back screens more appropriate for a top tier vehicle. On the upside is a rear seat reminder and a traffic sign recognition system for the satnav.

Things such as the centre console, a narrow one at that, seemed too high for the left arm and too forward with the overhang almost fully blocking the drive selector dial, and the indicator and wiper stalks seemed at a too high angle off the steering column, and the A pillar is more an AA pillar. At least the indicator and wiper columns are Aussie configured with right hand for the flashers.Actual leg room was suitable for front and centre, with really tall people probably the only ones that would find the third row an issue. Shoulder room was the same, in that the front and centre rows would accommodate adults well enough but the third row was moderately ok. And it’s those last two words that define the interior of the LTZ-V. It’s moderately ok. There isn’t anything that stands out, and it’s not unappealing. It’s simply ok.The Outside Has:
A very American look. A bluff Superman like chin with a black grille above it which replaces the over the top GMC bling, slightly unfocused eyes as headlights with eyebrows that run back into the leading edges of the fenders, and fat hips over the rear wheel arches. In profile it seems as if there are three distinctly different designs. The rear has a separate window box to the centre, and then the front from the A pillar is seemingly unrelated to the rest. The A pillar is huge, way too huge for genuinely safe three quarter forward vision.Rolling stock stands out, with 20 inch allys on 235/55 Continental Cross Control rubber. Overall length is deceptive; it looks long but not as long as the 4979 mm length it is. Wheelbase is 2857 mm. There are eight colours to choose from with Mineral Black, Blue Steel, and Nitrate Silver amongst them, and potentially a better colour choice than the Dark Shadow that faded the Acadia into obscurity. A couple of splashes of chrome and rectangle shaped exhaust tips give the LTZ-V a little more visual difference to the other two models.On The Road It’s:
A weird mix. Off the line, from a standing start, the front driver rubber will easily chirp with no more than a gentle push of the go pedal. But thanks to its bulk, that’s about as exciting as it gets. That peak torque needs a lot of spin to really be effective in pulling the front wheel drive machine around, and as good as the gearbox is in utilising the torque, there simply needs to be either more of it, or have it come in lower. There is actually an easy fix for that, though, and it’s a one word answer. DIESEL. Yup, there is no oiler in the range and that’s thanks to the country of origin.Underway it’s super quiet, refined, and smooth in its operation. Go for an overtake and again that dearth of torque become apparent. The same applies for anything remotely uphill, and soon the cogs are nine, eight, seven…..

Although Holden’s own engineers have worked on the suspension tunes of the Acadia range, with “FlexRide” dampers on the LTZ-V, it’s more an American floaty, wafty, spongy ride, even with the big rubber. On the up side, it never bottomed out in the suspension travel, but the plastic strip on the chin did scrape too often on mediocre intrusions. Rebound is well controlled, it’s simply a matter of feeling the springs are too soft up and down.Handling is, well, like the interior. It’s ok. Response is not slow, and it’s not sports car rapid either. The latter isn’t surprising, of course, but the front end could do with a quicker how d’ye do when the tiller is twirled. Body roll is experienced but is also not as bad as expected.

Another weak spot is the way the brakes respond. Or, correctly, don’t respond. There’s dead air for the first inch or so, it seems, then a not spongy but not hard travel and retardation is simply too slow for a vehicle that weights around the two tonne plus mark.

What About Safety?
Autonomous Emergency Braking, bundled with pedestrian and cyclist detection, starts the list. The LTZ-V has a higher sensitivity when kit ncomes to reading the road ahead that the LT and LTZ. Blind Spot Alert is standard, Rear Cross Traffic Alert is standard, and Lane Keep Assist and Lane Departure Warning are also standard. A driver’s kneebag, along with front, side, and curtain airbags complement the five standard and two ISOFIX seat mounts. Pack in 360 degree camera views, semi assisted parking, and front sensors, and the Acadia LTZ-V wants for nothing in regards to keeping the internals safe.

The Warranty Is:
Five years or unlimited kilometres, with 5 years roadside assist if serviced at Holden dealerships. Website has a capped price quotation system.At The End Of The Drive.
For a car that is intended to be Holden’s saviour, it falls short of lighting the candle. Having an interior plastics look that is outweighed by entry level cars half its price, no diesel, a lack of genuine tech appeal, a softish ride that may not be to the liking of potential buyers and a rear cargo that simply doesn’t look as wide as Holden’s other seven seater (which comes with a diesel and is therefore more suitable for purpose), plus an exterior unrelated to anything else in the family, means the 2019 Holden Acadia LTZ-V has a very sharp stick with which to push stuff uphill. It does nothing bad, but it simply does nothing special.

Here is where you can find out more.

Should You Buy Your Teen A Safe Car?

I recently came across a couple of articles that had been inspired by some research put out by the British Medical Journal’s Injury Prevention* .  This research looked at the type, size and style of cars driven by teenagers who were killed in car accidents over 2008–2012, and ended with a recommendation that “Parents should consider safety when choosing vehicles for their teenagers.”  Automotive bloggers seemed to break out with the advice that parents should buy cars for their teenagers that had absolutely every safety feature, active and passive, under the sun.

Now, I am the parent of teenagers and young adults, both of whom drive.  I know that heartwrenching feeling when you know that your beloved son or daughter is heading out solo onto the roads, where horrible things can happen.  I’ve also had two of those phone calls that begin “Hi Mum, I’m all right but the car…”  (In both these cases, the car in question was owned by the teenager in question.)  I would be the last person to be reckless and to advocate putting your teenager in a tinny little piece of aluminium. Nevertheless, I’ve got one or two issues with those articles that other automotive bloggers have put out.

First of all, let’s look at that assumption that the parents are going to buy the car for the teenager – and the best thing is that you buy them one of the latest models with all the gadgets.  My reaction to this was “What?”  I don’t know what circles you move in, but even among the more well-heeled of my friends and acquaintances, very few of them, if any, are going to go out and plonk down a sum with five digits for a brand new SUV that will have the teenager’s name on the ownership papers although Mum and Dad are the ones forking out.  Do people actually do that?

Society is seeing a few problems coming from young adults entering the workforce with the idea that they can get the latest, best and most expensive without having to work for it, also known as an entitlement mentality.  My teenagers won’t and didn’t get something expensive of their very own without having to work for it and pay for it.  This was my first issue with a lot of those other articles out there.

Buying a car for the family that’s a new one and that’s got the right safety features, that’s another story, however.  I know that in our family, we did indeed go and purchase a big 4×4 with good safety features that our teenagers could learn to drive on.  However, the purchase of this car came with a little speech that stressed the following points:

  • The car in question is ours, not the teenagers’.
  • Use of the car is a privilege, not a right.
  • With privilege comes responsibility, such as keeping to the conditions of your provisional licence and paying for your own fuel.

Other families might like to add other things to this speech if following this course of action, such as expectations regarding running errands. You don’t want your teenager to turn out a spoilt brat who expects everything to be handed to him/her on a plate, so this sort of set-up is necessary.  Even if you are paying for the car for your teenager or young adult, they should contribute in some way so that they understand the value of that vehicle and treat it with respect (especially in the matter of things like servicing, changing the oil, etc.).

There will, of course, come the time when your teenager or young adult wants a car of their very own with their names on the papers.  Exactly what happens here will depend on your individual family and your circumstances.  Some parents buy the new car for their teen or young adult outright – usually something second-hand.  Others provide the funds for said car from the First National Bank of Mum and Dad with no interest.  Others leave their teen or young adult to make his or her own way, which is what my parents did.  I used bike, foot and public transport all through my tertiary education years, then once I was out in the big wide world of work, I took care of my own transportation needs.

If your teen or young adult (there really needs to be a word for your sons and daughters when they reach this stage of life – let’s refer to them as “young drivers”) is buying his or her own vehicle, it is very likely that this will not be one of the newest vehicles on the market for the simple reason that on the salary that one gets when leaving home and entering the workforce isn’t going to be enough to handle the repayments.  This leads to my second problem with those articles that recommend that parents buy a car with all the active and passive safety gear for their teenagers.

You see, during the early years of driving, you’re developing habits that might stick with you for life or at least a very long time.  If your car has blind spot monitoring, your young driver might get a bit slack about doing a head-check to make sure nothing’s in the blind spot.  If the car has front and rear parking sensors or cameras, your young driver might rely on these completely for parallel parking and not know how to do this manoeuvre relying on just the mirrors (double this in the case of parking assistance).  If your young driver learns how to drive on a car that “does it all for you”, then what’s going to happen when he or she purchases their own vehicle that doesn’t have said features?  Your young driver won’t know how to drive without all the aids, and that really is an accident waiting for happen and, in the long run, is more of a hazard.

So what’s a concerned parent to do?  How do you help your young driver not only stay safe but also learn how to be a good and skilful driver?

Let’s take a look at the original research again.  This research found that the majority of teenagers in question who were fatally injured were driving smaller cars – little hatchbacks.  Now, let’s face some facts: firstly, younger drivers are more likely to crash than older, more experienced ones (that’s biology and psychology); second, in a collision, a smaller car is going to come off worse than a larger one (that’s physics).  Straight away, this lets you know that if you’re helping your young driver choose a car in any way, from buying it outright to merely offering advice, then steering your teenager towards a larger vehicle such as an SUV, ute or stationwagon is a safer option.  There are the issues of fuel costs to consider, but there are some frugal SUVs out there.

The other thing that the research article found was that the teenagers who were killed on the roads tended to be driving vehicles that didn’t have certain features: ESC (stability control), airbags (especially side airbags) and side impact protection.  No mention of blind spot monitoring, cameras, autonomous braking or lane keeping assistance.  Just basic safety features that you’ll find in most vehicles from before 2006.  Even marques that aim for straightforward simplicity such as Great Wall  have these.

And that’s a relief in several ways.  It’s good to know that it’s not that hard to ensure that your young driver is behind the wheel of something safe – something safe comes in the form of a vehicle that’s sizeable and has basic safety features such as ESC, side impact protection and airbags.  And it’s really not hard to find a vehicle like this.  It’s also good to know that putting your young driver into a safe vehicle doesn’t end up producing long-term problems with drivers who haven’t learned how to drive without assistance but who own cars that don’t provide that assistance.

Of course, if you are not quite in the “parents of teenagers” stage but the years of having a learner driver in the family are looming, then maybe it’s time that you looked at your family vehicle and possibly upgraded to a nice new car (that will have your name on it!) so that you’re ready for those years.

 

*McCartt AT, Teoh ER. Type, size and age of vehicles driven by teenage drivers killed in crashes during 2008–2012. Injury Prevention 2015;21:133–136.

Car Review: 2019 Renault Koleos Life

Renault’s push to gain more market share in Australia is working well if the 2019 Renault Koleos Life is any standard to judge by. Model shared with Nissan (the X-Trail), the Life is the entry level model of the Koleos range. Renault have sharpened the pencil and it’s available at a driveaway cost of $29,990.Power comes from a 2.5L petrol engine which is mated to a CVT, or Constant Variable Transmission. Peak power of 126kW comes in at 6000rpm, with peak torque on tap at 4400rpm. There are 226 torques to play with and most of them don’t come out to play until around 3000rpm. The CVT is an old school style in that it feels like a slipping clutch on a manual gearbox under full load. The tacho swings around to the 4000rpm mark before easing off. Freeway speeds sees the tacho at around the 2200rpm mark. It’s also old school in that there aren’t any pre-programmed steps for manual shifting. This also means no paddle shifts on the steering column.Renault quotes 8.1L per 100km for the 1552kg front wheel drive Koleos Life from the 60L tank. AWT saw an average of 10.1L/100km in a purely urban drive and that near enough matches Renault’s figure of 10.4L/100km. It’s fair to say that a good portion of that consumption would come from the acceleration part of the drive as the Koleos needs a reasonably heavy right foot if any rapidity for forward motion is needed. Although CVTs do tend to work best with low torque engines, in the Life it works against the engine’s characteristics by not having the “steps” more commonly found now.Where the Koleos picks up bonus points is in the ride and handling. It’s got a sweet tune to the suspension with a suppleness and confidence to the ride rarely felt in this kind of vehicle. It’s a composed setup at worst, a delight to be in at best. Rebound is controlled quickly, road intrusions are damped rapidly, and sits flat on most types of surface. The steering rack is fast in the initial twirl, but there is a sense of numbness in between. It’s light and perhaps over-assisted to boot. As a driving package, it’s not quite the whole being bigger than the sum of its parts, but it’s also not far off that. Cornering is a doddle, again thanks to the steering, and it sits nicely as it does so. The 225/65/17 rubber from Kumho contributes to the comfort and handling.The exterior is smooth, with plenty of curves front and rear. It’s a pretty car, if such a thing can be said about a mid-sized SUV. The signature part of the Koleos is the swooping LED line around each corner of the upper front end, starting with the top of the headlights, that slides down into the lower corners. The indicators are LEDs and are integrated into the overall design. It’s a stylish look, visually effective, and is an ideal counterpoint to the similar curvature designed into the rear.It’s a non-powered tailgate in the Life, not unexpectedly, but it’s an easy lift and exposes a 458L boot (seats up). That has an increase to 1690L once the seats are folded, and with a 770mm sill lift, isn’t the most difficult place to get a load into. Seating is comfortable to a fault, there is plenty of space for four, five at a pinch, and the plastics, although not soft touch, look good. It’s a “proper” key start, not a wireless fob, and unusually it’s a foot operated parking brake, an anachronism nowadays.What’s also a standout, and not always necessarily in a positive way, is where Renault place items such as audio controls and cruise control buttons. Where some companies have a stalk behind the steering wheel for cruise control, Renault has a similarly designed and placed stalk for the audio. And where some may have cruise control buttons on the steering wheel arms, Renault place the on/off switches in the centre console.The driver’s dash itself is a simple and elegant affair. A centrally placed full colour LCD screen is bracketed by two almost semi-circle dials showing temperature and fuel, whilst inside on the LCD csreen is an understated display option, with the drive modes to the left and variable info to the right. The centre stack is dominated by a large touchscreen with one interesting feature. Renault has programmed in a Distance Without Fuel Consumption display, a unique idea indeed. The overall design is balanced, uncluttered, and user friendly.Safety at this entry level is decent. A full suite starts the party, with the mandated braking and traction systems on board backed up by the Advanced Emergency Braking System. The Life misses out on front sensors but does get rear sensors. Tyre Pressure Monitoring is standard across the four level Koleos range. Life dips out on Blind Spot Warning however does get Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning. It does get a five star safety rating in the EuroNCAP ratings system.

Warranty is five years and is backed by capped price serving, which gives Renault owners four years of 24/7 roadside assistance if Renault services the car.

At The End Of The Drive.
Although sharing some basics with its Nissan sibling, the Koleos can be considered to be a more appealing vehicle in the looks department, and would need to be driven directly against the X-Trail to fairly compare the ride and handling. Having said that it definitely is a cushy ride and a responsive handler. At at a driveaway price of the $30K the Life is a great starting point. You can find out more here.

The Electric Cat Wins EV Award

Infrastructure is expanding, understanding of the technology is increasing, and more brands are getting into the electric car field. Once renowned for sports cars and luxury cars, Jaguar is one of those companies. Their new i-Pace has recently been named Top Gear Magazine’s Electric Vehicle of the year, with the car racking up 19 awards in 2018.

It’s powered by a pair of bespoke electric engines that develop 400 horsepower and 696Nm of torque. 0-100 time is 4.5 seconds thanks to its all wheel drive and lightweight architecture. Getting the car underway with a drained battery takes just 40 minutes to an 80% charge level at a charging station, or, like virtually all buyers would do, a home charger will do that overnight. Expected range is 470 kilometres, enough to travel from Sydney to Canberra comfortably and take advantage of the charging stations there.

Available in Australia from $119,000 plus on roads, the i-Pace will also have the Touch Pro Duo infotainment system, capable of over-the-air software updates, and uses artificial intelligence to adapt to a driver’s personal preferences, ensuring driving and infotainment settings are matched to each individual using the car.

The legendary Ian Callum, Jaguar’s Director of Design, said: “We’re delighted to see the I-PACE named EV of the Year by BBC TopGear Magazine.

“As our first all-electric Jaguar we set out with a goal to make the I-PACE the world’s most desirable electric vehicle and recognition like this clearly shows that we are achieving it.”

Contact Jaguar for more details here.

 

Toyota Hybridises The RAV4 And Ditches Diesel.

Toyota‘s RAV4 has been given a hefty whack with the overhaul stick. A hybrid drivetrain, new AWD systems, and a revamp of the exterior, will see the 2019 RAV4 head twoards the third decade of the 21st century with the same verve it brought when first launched a quarter of a century ago.

Currently scheduled to hit Aussie showroom floors in the second quarter of 2019, the Recreational Active Vehicle 4 wheel drive will have both hybrid and non-hybrid drivetrains, new engines, and a new eight speed auto. Engine capacities will be either 2.0L or 2.5L, with the smaller engine producing 127kW and 203Nm. Pick the bigger donk and there is 152kW and 243Nm. The hybrid package is slated to produce 155kW and a as yet unannounced amount of torque. The battery system will be located under the rear seat so no loss of storage space will occur. However, there will be no diesel engine to be made available as Toyota moves across to a hybrid SUV future.

A CVT or “intelligent” six speed manual can be selected for the smaller engine, with the manual said to be able to rev match in order to assist in economy and smoother shifts.The non-hybrid 2.5L is the one that will bolt to the eight speed auto. A lower ratio first gear not dissimilar to that fitted to the hybrid Corolla’s transmission assists in getting the vehicle up and running. This engine and transmission combination will have a mechanical AWD system, with the same size engine and hybrid receiving an electrical AWD setup. It’s smaller, lighter, and more energy efficient that a mechanical system, and coupled with a generator attached to the rear axle with a specific drive ration, will generate more torque at the rear for better driveability. Up to 80% of the torque generated can be rearward directed.

Torque vectoring also comes in and looks to be specific for the 2.5L and mechanical system. This will not only direct up to 50% of torque to the rear but will, as deemed necessary, split torque between the rear left and rear right wheel. If the onboard sensors feel that all is good, then torque and power is primarily aimed towards the front.

Sean Hanley, Toyota Australia’s vice president sales and marketing, said the new drivelines and AWD systems will add to the RAV4’s spirit of adventure and driving pleasure by delivering enhanced performance, capability and control.

“All-new RAV4 will offer even greater appeal for people looking to re-energise in comfort and luxury, whether on the everyday commute or while enjoying weekend trips away. The new drivetrains deliver confidence-inspiring performance and agility and will result in a new perception of hybrid with electric AWD capability that enhances driving pleasure.”

Extra driving goodness comes from AIM. The AWD Integrated Management automatically adjusts vital vehicle systems, according to the drive mode selected, steering assist, brake and throttle control, shift pattern and drive torque distribution. There’s Eco, Normal, and Sport modes to choose from, with Eco backing off the torque for fuel efficiency. Sport changes the steering assistance level, the throttle control, and the distribution of torque.

Inside the mechanical AWD RAV4 will be a drive mode switch for different terrains; mud and sand, or rock and dirt, can be selected for easy going soft-roading. Go to the hybrid version and Toyota will fit an automatic Limited Slip Differential, which can be activated via a toggle in the cabin, for difficult driving circumstances.

All of this will be packaged in a new body, with final sign-off for Australia yet to be confirmed as which style. Contact your local Toyota dealer to register your intert.