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AC and Keeping Cool in the Car this Summer

Crikey, we’re having a hot summer, for sure.  The heat outside can be unbearable some days.  Thanks to Willis Carrier, a 25-year-old engineer from New York, who in 1902 invented the first modern air-conditioning system we now have an invention developed further into what we now have for cooling our buildings and automobiles.  Willis’s system sent air through water-cooled coils, and was designed to control humidity in the printing plant where he worked.  People in Iran, Australia, Egypt and the Middle East know all about the benefits of having water held around dwellings so that any breeze passing over the water will be cooled thus providing a very pleasant space for people on the downwind side of the water source.  This cooled space is delightful on a very hot day.

The concept of pushing hot air over cool water and cooled refrigerant has also been developed in cars, and thus we have what is known as the air-conditioning unit, used in many of the cars that we drive.  More fancy cars use a climate control system which can automatically adjust the system to keep the cabin at a pre-set temperature.

It makes sense to keep your vehicle’s air-conditioning unit in good shape, so make it a habit to get it checked over every couple of years prior to summer kicking in – particularly when you sense that the air-conditioning system is running a little below par.  In Australia, where it is common for the temperatures to soar well into the high 30’s, and beyond, having a car with a properly functioning air-conditioning system is a must.  It becomes a safety issue, really!

The main reasons your air-con won’t be working are: a blocked condenser, the compressor no longer works properly, there is no more gas in the air-conditioning system, there could be a refrigerant leak, a relay problem or any other electrical issue.  Automotive air conditioning professionals can diagnose why your car’s A/C system isn’t working and fix or replace the required components.  Using the system more frequently helps it to keep ticking over for longer.

It’s also good to travel with plenty of water handy for hydration, and there are also some other simple and practical ways that will help you to stay cool in your car this summer.  Did you know that tinting your car’s windows makes travelling on hot sunny days more comfortable?  Window film cuts UV by 98% to protect your car and its occupants.

Sunshades are also very effective at keeping the sun and heat out of your car.  They can be placed on the front and/or rear inside windows and keep the direct sunlight out of your car.  Sunshades that attach to your side windows are also available from car accessory stores, nationwide.

Buying a car with reasonable engine performance and torque also ensures that the air-conditioning will run freely without taking too much away from the car’s overall performance and responsiveness.  Every time you activate the air-conditioning it draws power from the engine.

The performance impact may only be small, but it is there – and over time it adds up.  There are quite a few smaller, compact cars on the roads these days, and it’s worthwhile knowing that the effect of AC on engine performance is greater in these smaller vehicles than in those with larger engines – V6’s, diesels and V8s, for example.

Just so you know…

For All Mobile Phone Users

At last a serious move has been taken to nab the drivers using mobile phones illegally while driving.  New South Wales, Australia is the first place in the world to introduce mobile phone detection cameras, and these will be mounted without any warning signs saying that they are operating in the area.  The technology was invented by a University of Melbourne engineering graduate, Alexander Jannink, after a cyclist friend of his was killed in late 2013 by a driver suspected of being on a mobile phone.

During a three-month trial of the new camera at two locations in Sydney, 100,000 drivers were detected using a mobile phone illegally.  These motoring offences valued more than $34 million in fines.  Those caught in the trial were found to be browsing Facebook, text messaging and one driver was also caught allowing his passenger to steer the wheel.  Distracted drivers are very much a factor in motoring accidents, and placing the high-tech mounted cameras on our roads is a wonderful way to combat the habitual mobile phone actions of those who just can’t seem to leave their phone alone when behind the wheel.

It’s unsettling to notice drivers coming in the opposite direction with their eyes downward while on their phones.  The new cameras have been developed with sophisticated software that automatically detects if a driver is handling a phone.  The filtered images are then checked by a human eye before the weighty fine is issued.

I totally get what the NSW minister for roads and transport, Andrew Constance, recently remarked while on radio: “We want to create the same environment that we have around [random breath testing] because quite frankly using a mobile phone is equivalent to driving drunk behind the wheel.”  Other Australian states are to follow the NSW lead.

The law states that fully licenced drivers are not allowed to use any physical function of the phone while driving.  Making or receiving a call, playing audio, or using navigation maps can be done while the vehicle is parked and the engine not running.  Voice controlled smartphone mirroring apps such as Apple Car Play and Android Auto, which uses the vehicle’s infotainment technology makes things a little safer.

The reality is that nobody wants to share the road with a driver who isn’t paying attention.  When we’re driving, our focus should be on the road and getting everybody in the car to the destination safely.

Here are the mobile phone fines currently enforced in Australia:

NSW mobile phone fines: $344 and five demerit points, $457 and five demerit points in school zones, points doubled during double demerit periods.

Queensland mobile phone fines: $1000 and four demerit points from 1 February 2020, currently $400 and three points. Repeat offenders receive double demerit points if caught again within 12 months from the previous offence.

Victoria mobile phone fines: $496 and four demerit points.

Australian Capital Territory mobile phone fines: $480 three demerit points for handheld phone use, $589 and four demerit points for driver using mobile device for messaging, social networking, mobile application or accessing internet.

South Australia mobile phone fines: $554 and three demerit points.

Western Australia mobile phone fines: $400 and three demerit points.

Northern Territory mobile phone fines: $500 and three demerit points.

Tasmania mobile phone fine: $336 and three demerit points.

Are PHEVs Set for a Boost?

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, or PHEV for short, have been pushed to motorists as a more ‘sustainable’ driving option. Boasting an on-board engine and generator that can power a rechargeable battery, advocates have argued that they offer emissions benefits and potentially lower operating costs for drivers.

Not everyone remains convinced however. Popularity for PHEVs has largely meandered along in recent years, despite this growing push for ‘eco-friendly’ driving. Although the category is starting to account for a larger proportion of electric passenger cars, if you ask many motorists, one of the prominent concerns for the technology has been limited driving distances (range).

In what could be welcome news for some, one development may see an improvement in this area.

 

ZF EVplus concept

The ZF EVplus concept was unveiled at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, incorporated within a BMW 330e. Having stripped the existing 7.6kWh battery, ZF installed a 35kWh replacement unit to provide power to the vehicle.

As you might guess, this corresponds with a decent bump up in power, but also a marked increase in the vehicle’s driving range when placed in all-electric driving mode. The jump takes it from approximately 30km range to more than 100km, which is a sizeable improvement, particularly considering this incorporates real-world operating conditions.

This new driving range is said to exceed the sort of performance milestones achieved by some of the latest competitors, including the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, as well as other electric models from the Mercedes-Benz and BMW stables.

 

 

Will it make driving more practical?

This is ultimately the million dollar question. Although 100km might not sound like an extensive driving range, let’s not forget this is when the car operates as an electric vehicle. PHEVs still have an internal combustion engine that can work as required, which is not the case for fully battery electric vehicles (BEVs). On top of that, most drivers don’t actually commute these sort of distances each and every day, or at least without an opportunity that they might be able to plug in the vehicle to top up its range.

So with either option to fall back on, for most motorists, some would say the concerns are overblown, and driven by behavioural conditioning. That is, we’ve become accustomed to driving the way we do, so we’re reluctant to change that to other methods.

This sort of development opens the way for a new era of PHEVs to enter the market in the not too distant future. However, the key obstacle for manufacturers’ lies with breaking through perceptions, and creating affordable PHEVs. If motorists cannot understand nor appreciate the appeal and attractiveness of PHEVs, then it is naïve to think that such cars can command the price premium they currently do.

Tech Torque: What Is An Electric Water Pump?

Life sometimes gives us questions to ponder. Why is the sky blue, are The Rolling Stones a better band than The Beatles, should I have pineapple on a pizza, and what is an electric water pump?
Unlike the others, the answer to what is an electric water pump is surprisingly simple to divine.

An electric water pump, or EWP, is a mechanical device, powered by electricity, and pumps water. There. Sounds simple. But wait, there’s more. One immediate benefit of an EWP is in the name, the electric bit.

Because it utilizes that amazing and invisible power, an EWP isn’t reliant on the spinning of a crankshaft, the rise and fall of conrods, and the pulsing of injectors. They work as long as there is juice in the battery. This means that if a car or truck or bus has been running for a while and the ignition gets switched off, a control device can keep the EWP running afterwards. This is especially crucial in automotive high load areas or in motorsport.Consider a drift car, running a high revving petrol engine and fitted with a turbo. A talented driver can pound a drift car around a circuit and the engine will be constantly working hard. The driver gets to the end of their run and switches off. A mechanical water pump them immediately stops working. This means cooling fluid is no longer pushed through the engine internals and through the radiator. This can lead to severe damage to the engine and potentially the radiator as well.

Another benefit of an EWP is the constant pressure and flow rate. An easy comparison is a child’s toy fan. Blow gently upon the vanes and it’ll spin slowly. Give it a good huff and it’ll spin hard before winding down. That’s a mechanical water pump, rising and falling with engine revolutions.

An EWP suffers not from this, and EWPs from an Australian company called Davies, Craig, with flow rates of up to 150 litres per minute, will CONSTANTLY deliver flow, as they’re not dependent on a crankshaft and belt to spin. And because they’re electrically powered they’re not sapping energy from a mechanical system. This means less strain, better fuel economy, and longer lasting mechanical parts. And they’re a lot smaller, which means less weight, better efficiency, and can be mounted in certain positions to help tidy up an engine bay. Digital controllers can assist here. These allow fine tuning of how an EWP works, including running a pump after a car’s engine has been switched off.Along with moving a cooling fluid through a radiator and engine, moving air across the vanes of a radiator, or heat exchanger, is crucial to keeping an engine as cool as possible.
Cars come with a belt driven fan, and those belts are attached to pulleys which are attached to the engine. Quite a few designs have a mechanically driven fan attached to the nose of the mechanically driven water pump. The fan has a kind of clutch that allows the fan to spin up to speed or spin down to a stop by itself.

In a cooling sense, these fans are only effective if the engine is running. And due to their source of power, they’ll not be as energy or fuel efficient, plus they’ll sometimes not be as aerodynamically efficient due to the design of the fan blade, their location in respect to the radiator, or lacking a shroud to assist in directing airflow. When it comes to electric fans for cars, or thermatic fans, there’s a different range of possibilities to explore. Because they’re powered by the vehicle’s electrical system, they’re far more energy or fuel efficient. A digital controller can be fitted to allow the fan to be on all of the time, only when needed, or to run after an engine is powered off.

A driver can choose to fit one fan or, two fans, and in an upstream (ahead of the radiator) and/or downstream (between the radiator and engine) configuration. If going for a two fan, upstream/downstream configuration, it’s recommended to have one fan on one side of the radiator (left or right) and the other in the opposing side. Let’s say one fan is on the engine’s side and mounted ahead of the driver, therefore the other would be on the headlights’ side and ahead of the passenger.

When it comes to finding and fitting the right electric fan or fans to suit your particular car, there are a couple of areas to look at. The thickness of the radiator is the first point of call. This is due to the amount of airflow required to pull or push air through the vanes. Then there is the shape of the radiator itself. As a rule, one large electric fan will do as good, or a better, job than two smaller ones. However, a wider than taller radiator may negate a single fan fitment, therefore two smaller diameter fans can be mounted side by side. It’s here that the research teams have provided a different solution. Davies, Craig electric fans for cars are built to have reversible blades and hubs.

When it comes to the design of the blades themselves, these are shaped to be both more aerodynamically efficient (reducing drag) and less likely to vibrate and cause supersonic shock. This is literally where the ends of the blades reach a velocity approaching the speed of sound, and therefore, not unlike many WW2 fighter planes that crashed due to the phenomenon not being understood, shake uncontrollably.The blade design A Davies, Craig uses has them straight out from the hub, and by curving the struts that are inside the shroud housing, airflow is increased and airflow noise is decreased. Also, when it comes to the tips of the blades, we’ve looked at the aerospace industry and the work put into the winglets on the ends of the wings on aircraft. Those stubby little winglets decrease air turbulence and balance air pressure as the tips rotate past the shroud. And because not every engine is the same, Davies, Craig offers six different fan diameters, from 8 inches to a whopping 16 inches. This means that there will be one or two electric fans, at least, that will be ideal for your engine and radiator size. Couple these with their extensive range of digital controllers and there is a package that will do a lot to be far better than an existing mechanically driven package.

What the New Mandatory Data Sharing Law Means for Motorists

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently took aim at car manufacturers. This time it wasn’t in relation to any specific mechanical controversies like the Dieselgate saga. Instead, it was about the after-purchase period concerning maintenance and repairs, where a lack of data sharing with independent mechanics has been said to ‘hurt’ everyday motorists. 

 

How did we get here?

Before we try to make sense of it all, let’s take a step back to a few years ago. In 2014, auto-makers agreed to a voluntary system where data sharing would be placed in the hands of manufacturers. Provisions were put in place that were designed to help independent mechanics access computer codes and calibration data among other information.

However, the voluntary nature of this program meant there were no formal obligations or requirements to comply with the intended aim of the program. More recently, in 2018, the Federal Government paved the way for a more structured approach to data sharing. Despite the matter being earmarked as part of ‘priority’ sector reform, it was largely overlooked amid more pressing issues until late last month when the Australian Government announced a mandatory data sharing law.

 

Why did it take so long?

For most of this discussion period, car manufacturers have continually expressed concerns about the idea of being compelled to comply with data sharing requirements. As such, you can imagine they were firmly opposed to any measure that would force them to provide your local independent mechanic with technical information about their vehicles.

Representatives regularly cited safety reasons for their reluctance to share data with independent mechanics. One of the key concerns was providing independent mechanics with access to complex information that may prompt them to undertake repairs beyond the scope of their training, or where they may otherwise be without the appropriate tools.

 

What impact might the new law have?

Independent mechanics have pointed to the increased sophistication in today’s cars to reinforce the need to access vehicle data. Jobs that were once a simple and easy fix in years gone by, have become increasingly complex if you believe the words of many independent mechanics.

In the eyes of the ACCC, this means motorists have been getting a raw deal on their servicing and repair costs. They estimate that drivers have been paying as much as $1 billion per year more than necessary on account of independent mechanics not having access to data that would make their jobs easier.

Meanwhile, in backing the call for greater data sharing, the Australian Automotive Aftermarkets Association (AAAA) noted that the US and European markets have established programs in place to facilitate data sharing. In the US alone, these measures are estimated to save motorists US$26 billion per year. It appears the government has the notion of consumer savings in its sights, which could help drivers save a pretty penny. However, will it prove wise to dismiss manufacturers concerns?

Hiccups And Glory: Tesla Cybertruck Revealed.

Mid afternoon Friday 22nd November (Sydney time) and Tesla has unveiled a surprise.

Called the Cybertruck it’s fair to say it’s unlike anything seen from any manufacturer, both in looks, and in specification.Tesla says: it will have a range of 500+ miles, and will see a zero to 96kph (60mph) time of around 2.9 seconds. The body is made from a sledgehammer resistant “Ultra-Hard 30x Cold-Rolled Steel”. The window glass is also intended to be shatter and impact resistant as evidenced by a few ball-drop demonstrations. Somewhat embarrassingly, a short range throw of a small steel ball like that used in the drop test broke the supposedly shatterproof glass in the vehicle shown.The cargo section is big enough to house an electric ATV, also shown during the launch, and has a payload capacity of up to 3,500 pounds or 1,587 kilos. There is 6.5 feet of length in the bay and there are extendable ramps and a charging point built in. An estimated 100 cubic feet of storage space is available inside the sci-fi looking wedge shape. There is also room for six adults and a 17 inch touchscreen to access the vehicle’s main controls.The ramp that allows cargo access showed the flexibility of the suspension with up to four inches of travel. The drivetrain will be a rear mounted engine, front and rear, and a triple motor configuration. The exterior is striking, to say the least, with a distinctive wedge shape and eye-catching LED strips front and rear. And in an alloy sheen reminiscent of a De Lorean, it should be an all-weather capable vehicle.
Pricing is slated to start at around $40,000USD.

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.

2019 Tesla Model 3 Performance: Private Fleet Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: The Tesla Model 3’s middle specification car. There is the “entry level” Standard Plus, the car tested called the Performance, and the Long Range AWD to top the range.What Does It Cost?: The Performance has a starting price of $93,900. There are the usual government and delivery charges on top. Our review car came in a lovely multi-layered Pearl White, There are four other metallic colours and they are a $1,500 cost option. It’s also almost completely ready to drive autonomously with the “Autopilot” facility as standard. the full self drive is $8,500. All up, the review car prices out at just under $120,000.

On The Inside It’s:A mix of stark minimalism, hi-tech, and whimsy, with plenty of comfort. The Performance has the Premium Interior which is sumptuous black leather clad seats that are heated and powered for plenty of positioning options. There’s the same wood strip for the dash and the 15 inch landscape oriented touchscreen that has Google well and truly as its heart. This controls everything the car does; from steering wheel and mirror adjustment to tracking vehicles around the Model 3, from providing audio options such as TuneIn and Spotify (with the first year’s subscription free if you don’t already have it) to providing hilarity from the “Gas Emissions” tab in a entertainment submenu, and will even allow a name to be given to the car. The whimsy inside Tesla is highlighted by the “caraoke” option. You read that right. It’s exactly what you suspect and is intended to be used when the car is stationary. We can attest it will provide access when the car is stopped, but will play whilst underway. There is also access to Netflix, YouTube, and Tesla instructional videos.

The touchscreen is, oddly, the weak link in the chain.It’s a solid sheet of glass with a metal surround. As such, it becomes a heat sink and on warmer days readily absorbs heat to the point the bare finger gets singed. Perhaps a vent behind the screen or an embedded loop would do the trick.

When not barbecuing fingers, it’s a high resolution display, with the default being a monochromed look Google maps, with the option of displaying the satellite image, and the graphics that the car’s cameras and ultrasonic sensors read to show surrounding vehicles. The lower section has icons for menus, which then bring up the audio options, the entertainment options, the settings for the vehicles. Compared to the Standard Plus, the entertainment goes up a notch, with Netflix, YouTube, and Tesla instructional videos being made available.The steering wheel is devoid of anything bar two roller dials and the Tesla logo, and the dials manipulate some of the information provided via the touchscreen.One of the small yet user friendly things about Tesla is how the doors are operate. Here there are small tabs on the top of the door grip which are pressed to release the doors. And unlike the pricier Model S and Model X, there is no remote key fob with which to remotely open the doors. Everything is operated via a smartphone app. This remotely opens the charge flap, releases the charge cable, can summon the car, or prestart the air-conditioning system which includes dog mode. This allows those that wish to keep Poochie cool and stay in the car to do so, plus it flashes up on the screen a note to advise of this function being operated. Should the car need to be moved without the owner, a Concierge card is provided.

There is also the sound system. There are 14 speakers spread around the cabin, with the front setup not unlike a soundbar for a TV. It’s loud, punchy, clear as crystal. It’s that attention to detail that really appeals. USB ports? Four, thank you. Embedded information about charge locations? Indeed. Safety features? Lacks for nothing.On The Outside It’s: A condensed version of the larger Model S. Slimmer in all dimensions, and sitting slightly lower than the Standard Plus, it nonetheless has a very strong family look to the other two models, not unexpectedly. The windows, profile, the lines that join front and rear, a line over the hip, are all common for the Model 3, Model S, and Model X. The Model S and X have similar looking headlights, whereas the Model 3 goes its own way with a design that evokes Porsche. At the rear the tail lights are essentially identical. Michelin supply the Pilot Sport tyres and are 235/35/ZR20. Wheels on the car supplied were subtle looking alloys in a ten spoke design. Dry weight is not unexpectedly hefty. It’s 1,847 kilos. Boot capacity is 542L and of course there’s “frunk”. This is the front trunk, also accessed via the smartphone app, and provides extra space up front.Out On The Road It’s: Delightful in many ways. It’s rapid, in both standing start and overtaking. Intoxicating, endearing, stupid grin inducing rapid. But it’s this sheer muscle car power that makes it safer than people expect. Think coming up a merge lane to a freeway and the car that is oncoming behind you has the room to move right but doesn’t. A quick check of available space, a gentle press on the go pedal, and tomorrow is in front of you. Tesla quote 3.4 seconds for the sprint from standstill to 100. There is absolutely no reason to disbelieve that at all.

The starting procedure is simple. Foot on the brake, pull the right side steering column lever downwards and check that D is highlighted on the touchscreen. Floor the pedal. Take a breath because you’ll need it as suddenly your spine is somewhere in the back of the seat’s padding.Energy harvesting can add a bit more to the expected range, as the brakes have two settings. The standard is more than enough and in some situations mitigates needing the foot to hit the brake pedal, such is the power of the system. In some circumstances it’s enough to bring the car to a stop by itself and on a downhill run will grab the brakes and slow the car here solidly.

There’s also little to quibble about when it comes to the ride quality too. It’s up there with some of the better suspension combinations for suppleness, confidence building, and strikes an ideal balance between grip, sportiness, and dialing out intrusive road imperfections.A key selling point is the ability to drive autonomously. Most of our drive was done manually, and more so to fully enjoy the ability of the Model 3. To engage the self-drive, the car must first be able to clearly read the roadside markings and will show a grey steering wheel on the screen. A couple of gentle tugs on the right hand lever and this should then make that icon blue, indicating self-drive is engaged. Under no circumstances should the hands be fully removed from the wheel.

The steering on its own is spot on. It’s beautifully weighted, has only minimal feeling of being artificially being assisted, and is ratioed for two turns lock to lock.

At The End of the Drive. The Performance should be the pick over the Standard Plus for those that like to fully exploit a car’s abilities. The extra urge from the twin motors, the extra range, and perhaps even the extra entertainment features for some, make the Tesla Model 3 Performance a winner. Sure, it’s $120k in price but currently there are no other fully electric cars that come close to delivering what this car can: an all round powerhouse Performance.

 

2019 Toyota RAV4 GLX 2WD: Private Fleet Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: The second in the RAV4 range. It’s the GLX, and in 2WD, non-hybrid, specification.How Much Does It Cost?: In this specification, Toyota lists it as near as dammit $40K drive away. That’s in plain, non-metallic white. Add that red colour (or any of the metallics) and the price goes up by around $600.

Under The Bonnet Is: A naturally aspirated 2.5L petrol fed four cylinder. It drives the front wheels only via a Constant Variable Transmission. Peak power and torque are rated as 127kW @6,600rpm, and 203Nm between 4,400 and 4,900rpm. Economy is rated as 6.5L/100km on the combined cycle. We finished on 8.2L of 91RON per 100 kilometres for our 70/30 drive cycle.On The Outside It’s: Clad in a deep burgundy metallic red. It highlights the more aggressive and bulldog jut-jawed look the update has given the RAV4. Apart from the 225/60/18 tyre and wheel combination there isn’t a lot different on the exterior to the Hybrid GL we reviewed recently (2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.). There are oval shaped, not circular, exhaust tips, roof rails, and privacy glass.

On The Inside It’s: Much like the outside. There is the addition of a smartphone charging pad in the centre console, but that’s really about it. The audio system and apps are accessed via the same sized 8 inch touchscreen. Toyota has recently announced the addition of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for those that use such items. The seat materials themselves are a solid weave and have an embossed motif. Aircon is dual zone, which the GX misses out on.The plastics lack tactility by being hard and flat, not soft touch or textured. The centre console has the same motif in the cup holders and charger as the seats plus a splash of silver. That matches the airvent surrounds and grab handles on the doors.On The Road It’s: A substantially different beast to the Hybrid. Cats are the seeming choice for some makers and smaller engines, with the other option being a dual clutch auto. Both have strength, both have weaknesses.

Here, Toyota have gone for a stepped approach for manual selection of gears. It results in a better drive experience than letting the CVT work by itself. In “normal” Drive, the CVT fitted here leans more towards the original style, with a planted right foot having the engine wail, revs climb, and no real sense of forward motion. However there are semblances of traditional self shifters with a feeling of cog swapping. Go manual and the electronic side kicks in, with faster responses to a change of gear and a more natural feeling as a consequence. But there is the related engine rev noise either way, but for drivability, the manual gear swap is the choice.Ride quality is nothing questionable, with agreeable levels of comfort, compliance, and road surface dampening. The steering is perhaps less artificial in feeling than the Hybrid, but perhaps because here it’s calibrated to deal with the two front driven wheels, not all four as the Hybrid had.

What About Safety?: This is where the model difference stands out in one aspect. The Reverse camera has active guidelines, over static lines. Otherwise, the whole range has the same safety package. Downhill Assist Control is offered only on the top of the range Edge.What About Warranty And Services?: Pretty much the same as the Hybrid. Five years standard, seven years if serviced at a Toyota dealership or approved venues following the logbook. Service costs are capped for five years.At The End Of The Drive. We couldn’t help but come away feeling a little disappointed. Visually there’s little to see the delineation between the GX and GXL, inside and out. Although CVTs have improved since their introduction a decade or so ago, they still, largely, don’t seem to heighten the drive experience to the levels they once promised. And as such, the GXL RAV4 2WD becomes an unremarkable proposition.

2019 Toyota RAV4 GX Hybrid AWD: Private Fleet Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: Toyota released a Suburban Utility Vehicle in the late 1990s. Named the RAV4, or Recreational Activity Vehicle: 4-wheel drive, it’s this car that’s to “blame” for the rise of the SUV. In mid-2019 Toyota released a new version and it’s been a substantial upgrade. For the first time the RAV4 has been given a hybrid driveline option and it’s available across three of the four model model range. There is the entry GX, then GXL, Cruiser, and up-spec Edge, the only one not available with a Hybrid.Under The Bonnet Is: Power is either a 2.0L petrol or 2.5L hybrid. The GX is the only version available with a proper gearbox, a six speed manual, otherwise there is a Constant Variable Transmission for all bar the Edge. Driveline options are two or all wheel drive for the hybrids. The Edge also has only the 2.5L petrol and comes with an eight speed auto. Economy figures are startling. The GX manual is quoted as 6.8L/100km, and 6.5L/100km for the auto. Go hybrid (as tested) and it’s quoted as 4.7L100km for the standard engine, 4.8L/100km for the hybrid. These figures are on the combined cycle using 91RON. We averaged on a purely urban cycle a brilliant 5.5L/100km from the 55L tank. Kerb weight for the hybrid GX is quoted as 1,705kg.Peak power for the standard engine is 127kW. The two and AWD hybrid system is rated as 160kW/163kW. Peak torque from the 2.0L is 203Nm. The hybrid engine quotes 221Nm from the petrol engine only, with no figure from the Toyota website showing a combined torque number.

What’s It Cost?: This is where it can be a bit messy due to the variants. In Glacier White, with 2WD and 2.0L manual, my drive-away price was just over $34,300. Tap the AWD button and the website automatically updates to 2.5L hybrid and CVT. Price jumped to $42,203…Choosing Eclipse Black and the price went to $42,821. GXL starts at $39,628 for the 2.0L auto in white. Metallic paint takes it to $40,246, then the hybrid option in black goes to $45,911.On The Inside Is: A long list of standard equipment. Playthings for the front seat passengers include DAB audio on a slightly fiddly to use eight inch touchscreen, plus Bluetooth streaming, and USB/Aux. The layout can be modified in look however the default, in a three screen layout, is to have the navigation screen as the primary or larger, allowing audio, eco, clock, etc, to be moved around in the other two smaller screens. Naturally the Toyota app system provides flexibility. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are coming… Wireless phone charging is available in the GXL upwards. The rear seat passengers have charge points and airvents, plus the subwoofer for the audio is behind the driver.In the hybrid there is a screen that shows the drive system, with the display showing power being apportioned between the wheels, battery, and petrol engine. There is also a usage page that shows distance and economy figures. The driver has a smaller info screen and this shows on-the-fly eco info amongst the usual radio, safety, and connected device information. If there’s a query about the interior it’s to do with the dash design overall. It mirrors the blocky exterior and offers no sense of cockpit or wraparound. However, there’s a nice touch with knurled rubber surrounds to a couple of the dials under the screen. The rear seats are 60/40 split-fold and cargo space is 542L. Lift the rear floor and there is a space saver spare.

On The Outside Is: Dual exhaust pipes featuring at the rear under a manually operated tailgate. The exterior is a more solidly engineered look, with a blocky, non-organic design. The front end has a bulldog-jowl stance, with the grille line on either side a downturned angle. This echoes the stance in profile, with a longish nose giving a head’s down appearance. The rear is also squared off and has plenty of angles and straight lines. The cargo section houses a space-saver spare, with a full sizer being an option. Black polycarbonate body mouldings feature on the sides and under the front & rear lights.Head inside and all four windows are dual touched powered. Heated seats don’t appear until the Cruiser nor do powered seats. The GX has 17 inch alloys and 225/65 Bridgestone Atenza rubber. Lighting is halogen fog lamps and LED Projector, dusk sensing, headlights for the Hybrid. The cluster is surrounded by LEDS and it’s a classy look. Wing mirrors are power operated and heated.

What’s It Go Like?
Like the proverbial off a shovel. Although noticeably front wheel drive in normal drive situations with a heavy feel to the filler, it makes it abundantly clear that it’s a front wheel biased setup when punched hard off the line. The traction control system has been tweaked to allow a driver to launch hard but with some front wheel scrabbling, even with those 225 width tyres. It quickly picks up the drive and sends power to the rear as needed. And it gets away quickly, with no sense of feeling weighed down. In gera acceleration is pretty good too, just quietly, with rapid picup and response from the pedal push.There is electric power only up to 20 to 25 kp/h if using a light right foot, but then brings in the petrol engine above that, or quicker for a heavier throttle input. There’s a few vibrations on engagement and these too disappear quickly. The petrol engine is muted in sound and when heard has a dulled metallic edge to its note. It’s a delightful highway cruiser and is as equally adept around the ‘burbs. Although the steering is front heavy it’s weighted enough to have the driver connected and aware of what’s going on with the MacPherson strut setup. On the highways it lightens enough to have lane changing feel natural, nimble, and confident, rather than imparting a sense of heaviness.Ride quality is fantastic. It’s supple and compliant, with well controlled damping. The trailing wishbone rear has a slightly tauter feel to deal with the 580L cargo space. This means slow speed bumps have the rear bang a bit harder but still not uncomfortably so.

Naturally the braking feel is en pointe, with instant engagement from the barest touch. It’s a natural and instinctive travel too, with the modulation as finely adjusted as you can get to read, via the foot, just where the pedal is and what it’s doing.What About Safety?: Passengers are wrapped in seven airbags, for good measure. Toyota crams its SafetySense package into the new RAV4 range and it’s a potent package. Lane Departure Alert, Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Trace Assist with the CVT model, plus Pre-Collision with pedestrian and cyclist. Then there is Rear Cross Traffic Alert, front parking sensor alert, Road Sign Assist, Active Cruise Control, and auto high beam.At The End Of The Drive. Toyota have gone hard on the hybrid philosophy, and it’s working. There’s a high level of standard equipment and safety, a dogged, assertive look, and it’s not a bad drive. Aurally it’s as dull as dishwater, the bulldog looks may not appeal to all after coming from a more angular and sharper exterior, and the fiddly touchscreen may also not be a winner. Head to the Toyota website for more, or check the spec sheet here.