Buick Avenir

Buick avenirFew people would look at the Buick Avenir, the latest concept car from GM that was unveiled at the 2015 North American International Auto Show, and think that GM’s Australian design studio could have had anything to do with it but they certainly did.

t only did the design for the body of the Buick Avenir come from GM’s Australian design studio but the vehicle itself was built here in Australia and that raised some interesting challenges because the unique interior was designed in the United States.

And if you’re looking at the exterior of this concept and wondering where you’ve seen it before then step back to the 1971 -73 Buick Riviera and think of that unusual boat-tail design. There are many other design features in the Buick Avenir that clearly mark this car as a Buick yet at the same time some of those features have been modernised.

The grille is a modern interpretation of another Buick concept car, the 1954 Buick Wildcat II and designers suggest that the Avenir could be just as ground-breaking as the WildcatII

The interior
Inside the Buick Avenir the premium leather seat covers, ambient lighting and the unusual four-place seating leave no doubt that this concept was designed to be a luxury car.

The Avenir is also big on technology and the simple dashboard layout clearly shows that this is a vehicle that takes a lot of the hassle out of driving. The most important information is displayed in front of the driver while less important information is kept out of sight till it’s required.

The information systems in the Avenir are also designed to be accessed via smart phones and that information is available and synchronised within seconds of the vehicle being started.

Buick Avenir Interior

Engine and transmission
The Buick Avenir features the latest direct-injected V6 engine with Active Fuel Management that deactivates cylinders when they are not required. The transmission includes a nine-speed automatic gearbox with paddle shift that transmits power to all four wheels via a twin-clutch system but under normal operation the vehicle is rear-wheel drive.

Will we ever see the Buick Avenir in production? I think that it’s quite likely that we will see a car with a similar body shape roll off the production line but I doubt that things like the seating will be quite so cutting edge. If the Avenir does hit the streets then GM Australia will have played quite a large part in getting it there.

By | January 12th, 2015|Featured, Holden|0 Comments

Hydrogen Powered ix35 Fuel Cell Arrives in Australia

hyundai-ix35-fuel-cellWhile several other manufacturers have had hydrogen powered vehicles in Australia on a short-term basis Hyundai has now imported the first hydrogen powered vehicle that will remain here permanently.

It comes in the form of a Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell that will be used for testing and demonstration drives starting in early 2015. It will be fuelled from Australia’s first purpose-built refueller that will be installed at Hyundai’s headquarters in Macquarie Park, Sydney.

How it works
Hydrogen, stored in the fuel tank of the Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell, is mixed with air and converted to electricity by what is known as a fuel cell stack that is located in the engine compartment at the front of the vehicle. The electricity that is produced then powers the ix35’s electric motor.

The combination of hydrogen and electricity develops 100kW of power and 300Nm of torque and gives the current vehicle a range of over 590km with no emissions. The only thing that comes out of the exhaust pipe is water.

While the ix35 Fuel Cell that has been imported into Australia will be used for testing fuel cell powered ix35s are already being used by private customers across Europe and across parts of America.

Technical details
The ix35 Fuel Cell that has come to Australia uses a Proton Exchange Membrane or Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) in the fuel cell . The membrane separates two electrodes (an anode and a cathode) and oxygen is passed over one electrode while hydrogen is passed over the other.

The hydrogen reacts to a catalyst on the electrode anode and is converted into negatively-charged electrons and positively charged ions. These electrons flow out of the cell to be used as electrical energy while the hydrogen ions move through the electrolyte membrane to the cathode electrode where they combine with oxygen to produce heat and water.

ix35-fuel-cell

Safety concerns
There has always been some risk in using hydrogen, just as there’s a risk in using petrol but there are arguably less risk in using hydrogen than using petrol.

Hydrogen is a gas that dissipates quickly when it comes into contact with the air and even though it is stored in the fuel tank under pressure as high as 10,000psi the tanks are specially constructed to handle that pressure and Hyundai has crash-tested over 30 vehicles to ensure the safety of the stored hydrogen.

Of course you can say that all these tests were conducted under controlled conditions but there have been a number of unplanned tests that involved heavy rear-end collisions in city traffic where the fuel tanks remained intact.

hydrogen-powered-ix35

Performance
The ix35 Fuel Cell accelerates from 0-100km/h in 12.5 seconds and has a top speed of 160km/h. Because it is electric it produces very little drive noise and does not have a conventional gearbox. Refuelling takes about the same time as filling a normal petrol tank and, while 594km is the rated distance the vehicle can travel without refuelling, a distance of 700km has been achieved under test conditions.

Hyundai is already the first car manufacturer to mass-produce hydrogen powered vehicles that are in daily use in the United States and Europe and now they are keen to test one of these vehicles under Australian conditions.

By | December 28th, 2014|Featured, Hyundai|Comments Off on Hydrogen Powered ix35 Fuel Cell Arrives in Australia

The Hyundai Veloster Mid-Engine Concept

If the Hyundai Veloster mid-engine concept car was being graded on looks then you would have to say that it’s not going to score very highly … and I’m not just talking about the paint scheme here.

hyundai veloster-mid-engine conceptAlthough Hyundai have built this concept with the idea of exploring the possibilities of the Veloster chassis, the mid-engine concept car is 75mm wider and 59mm lower than the current model while the length remains the same.

That tends to make the Hyundai Veloster mid-engine concept look a bit too chunky for a sports car. Of course that’s just my opinion … I’m sure that others would have an entirely different view and if Hyundai ever decides to turn this into a production model it may sell in big numbers.

The mid-engine concept has certainly been given more power than the current tubo Veloster. The current model cranks out 150kW from a 1.6-litre engine while the concept has a 2.0-litre turbo charged engine that produces 220kW.

Interestingly Hyundai have opted to include lightweight aluminium wishbone suspension combined with a high-rigidity body structure and that might not be a such a good idea if for the rough roads we have to deal with.

But of course Hyundai says that this vehicle is not related to any future production model but if it were then we could expect to see the high performance shocks and brakes continued through into production.

hyundai veloster mid-engine-concept

There’s no indication of what the top speed might be for the Hyundai Veloster mid-engine concept but you can be sure that it will be fast and it’s going to need something special in the braking and handling department.

By | May 30th, 2014|Featured, Hyundai|0 Comments

Fiat Abarth 50th Anniversary Model

fiat-abarth-50th-anniversary-modelOk … so what I want to know is how on earth do they keep this thing on the road? It’s not much bigger than a pregnant roller skate and it has a top speed of 225km/h!

Maybe it’s a good thing that there’s only going to be 50 Fiat Abarth 50th Anniversary models brought into Australia and you’re probably going to be slightly crazy just to fork over $45,000 dollars (plus rego and government charges) for what is basically a four cylinder 1.4-litre car.

Oh of course the Fiat Abarth 50th Anniversary model is  turbo-charged and features an overboost function that takes the power up to 132kW at the press of a button. It also just happens to have a special exhaust so you can really hear the power.

And if that’s not enough the interior is designed to take you back … in a very modern way … to the Abarth of 50 years ago. There are rather vivid red and white leather seats and the interior panelling is a rather vivid red too.

There’s also a sunroof, automatic climate control and a bunch of other stuff including a hi-fi system with controls mounted on the steering wheel along with litany of other minor features that makes the specs for this car sound impressive.

Among the more important specs is electric power steering with a “sport” function, gear shift paddles on the steering wheel, sports tyres, rear parking sensors, a car cover, special edition sunglasses and luggage too.

abarth-595-anniversary-model

I’m not so sure about the luggage … but then I prefer to travel light … one backpack and my packing is done … but I do like the idea of the car cover. Not everyone has the luxury of off-street covered parking and if you’re going to shell out $45k+ on this little monster then you’re going to want to protect it.

And maybe that’s going to be the selling point for Fiat Abarth 50th Anniversary model … not that it’s some fancy reminder of a bygone era … but that it is a little monster that will do 225km/h and sound like it at the same time.

By | May 29th, 2014|Featured, Fiat|0 Comments

Volvo Estate Concept

Volvo Estate ConceptThe Volvo Estate Concept has me worried … either that or I’m getting old … because I’m beginning to like the look of the latest vehicles coming out of Sweden.

Of course the yellow box has been gone for years (although my brother-in-law still owns one). Despite the fact that it was so last century it still lingers in the back of my mind and sends cold shivers down my spine whenever I hear the word ‘Volvo’ mentioned.

It’s hard to accept that such a sleek looking piece of the car maker’s art could possibly be related to those ugly yellow boxes … but they are and the Volvo Estate Concept is the latest offering.

But you do have to ask yourself … who would want a 2-door station wagon?

volvo-estate-concept-dashboardPerhaps the answer to that one is that this concept will probably never see the production line and it’s not the body that’s important here but the interior … and more particularly … the dashboard.

Gone are the usual buttons, switches and knobs … and that’s got to be a good thing because they become confusing … distracting … and downright dangerous.

In the last couple of years there seems to have been some sort of competition running between manufacturers to see just how many buttons they could add to the dashboard of each new car but perhaps Volvo has called a halt to all that.

In the Volvo Estate Concept almost all those buttons are gone … they’ve been replaced by one large tablet-like touchscreen in the centre console. Sadly that could be just as distracting but what can car makers do … apart from introducing voice control that’s more than just cosmetic?

The only buttons that remain on the dashboard of this concept are the volume and play/pause on the sound system (something that Volvo describes as “crucial), hazard warning lights and window heaters.

And what’s that in the back of the Volvo Estate Concept? It’s all the pieces you need to play the Swedish game called ‘Kubb” and if you don’t know the rules then you will find them printed on the transparent floor.

volvo-estate-concept-boot

As I said at the start, it’s not the body … or the game of Kubb and its transparent floor that we’ll see in the near-future … it’s the dashboard and that touchscreen that we may see in Volvos on the production line.

By | February 28th, 2014|Featured, Volvo|0 Comments

The Proton Exora

proton-exoraI would hate to be trying to raise a family these days. The cost of living is rising at an incredible rate while income levels are not keeping up with those costs that families simply cannot avoid.

The cost of transporting a family is one of those unavoidable costs … if you have more than two kids then finding an affordable vehicle that will fit them all in is a real challenge but now Proton’s new people mover … the Proton Exora … delivers an affordable people mover back within the reach of many families.

Of course there are going to be some people that remember the low safety ratings of some early Proton offerings but those days have gone and the Proton Exora comes with a four-star ANCAP safety rating.

A look at the safety features on the Exora shows that this is a vehicle worth considering if you have a family to move but there’s no doubt that there’s still room for improvement in the safety department.

proton exora side view

The Proton Exora is a five-door, 7 seater with a stylish body and a flexible interior that comes in two variants. The entry level model is the GX with a drive-away price starting at $25,990 and for an extra $2,000 you can drive away in the top of the range GXR … although the extras that boost the price of the GXR may be features that most families will pass on.

The engine
Both variants are powered by the same turbo-charged 1.6-litre DOHC 16-valve engine that produces 103kW of power at 5,000rpm and 205Nm of torque between 2000rpm and 4000rpm. The engine is coupled to a six-speed CVT auto box … a manual transmission is not available in either variant.

This engine/transmission combination returns 8.2L/100km on a combined cycle and that sounds quite reasonable but most people movers spend their time doing short trips around the ‘burbs so the average fuel consumption for most owners will be higher.

The fuel tank holds 55 litres and the engine is tuned to run on standard unleaded petrol.

The body/chassis
Proton makes much of the fact that they now own Lotus and Lotus suspension specialist have had a lot of input into the design of the chassis on the Proton Exora. The front suspension includes McPherson struts and coil springs with gas dampers and a stabiliser bar while the rear suspension features a torsion beam.

At the front the Proton Exora features large triangular headlights and a contoured front bumper while at the rear the large tailgate ensures that there’s easy access if you have large items you want to squeeze in.

proton exora dashboard

The interior
Seating in the Proton Exora is what has become almost standard for small people movers … two-three-two with 50/50 split-fold on the rear seats and 60/40 on the middle row. When in the upright position the backrests on the rear seat are fixed while the backrests are adjustable on the second row.

Upholstery in the GX is cloth while the GXR gets leather trimmed upholstery.

The middle row of seats can be moved forward to allow easy access to the rear seats and Proton says that, unlike some other smaller people movers, the Exora offers good leg room for rear seat passengers.

Both the second and third row seats fold flat to increase the luggage space.

As you would expect, air conditioning is standard across the Proton Exora range and there are a total of eight vents throughout the cabin. Also standard across the range is a roof-mounted DVD player that takes an SD card or USB stick.

Only those who have tried to keep a large family entertained on a long trip will appreciate the importance of that DVD player.

Other features that are standard across the range include height adjustable steering wheel with audio and mobile controls, multiple storage areas including two big glove boxes, non-glare material on the top of the dash and a recessed fold-away hook that can be used for tethering bags.

Safety
Standard safety features across the Proton Exora range include:

  • Electronic stability control
  • Traction control
  • ABS with EBD
  • Seat belt pre tensioners (front)
  • Speed sensing door locks
  • Dual front and dual side (front) airbags
  • Remote keyless entry and central locking
  • Alarm system and immobilizer
  • Rear fog light
  • Turn indicators on side mirrors
  • Collapsible steering column
  • Rear parking sensors

Additional safety features on the Proton Exora GXR include:

  • Rear view camera
  • Daytime running lights
  • Folding side mirrors
  • Cruise control
  • Follow-me-home-lights

exora rear view

The bottom line
We’ve already looked at the price that is sure to make the Proton Exora attractive to families but that’s not where the value stops. Buyers also get five years or 75,000km free servicing … five years or 150,000km free roadside assist … and five years or 150,000km warranty.

 

By | December 8th, 2013|Featured, Proton|0 Comments

The Audi Sport quattro

Audi Sport quattroAudi quattro … the name and the car dominated the world rally scene for years. The first Sport quattro appeared in 1983 and with 225 kW of power and four-wheel drive there was nothing that stood in its way.

An Audi Sport quattro even conquered Pike’s Peak in 1987.

Since then Audi have moved on to other things and the Sport quattro has faded into history but now Audi have revived the name with a stunning plug-in hybrid drive coupe that produces more than twice the power of the old Sports quattro.

The body
The original Audi Sports quattro was a boxy short-wheel based little monster that was definitely eye-catching for its time. Back in those days the box was THE design but of course these days the box is so dated s to be almost quaint so while Audi may have revived the Sports quattro name they certainly haven’t revived the design.

The box has been replaced by a sleek low-slung design that is just as eye-catching as the original Sport quattro. This concept in 4,602mm long, 1,964mm wide and 1,386mm high. It has a wheelbase of 2,784mm.

A feature of the Audi Sport quattro concept are the headlights that feature Audi’s new Matrix LED technology. This technology uses individual LEDs working in tandem with lenses and reflectors to always deliver the right amount of illumination.

The door handles on the quattro concept are also interesting. They sit flush with the door but extend when … as Audi puts it …”a hand approaches”.

The passenger cell combines high-strength steel panels and cast aluminium for structural elements while the other panels are made from either carbon fibre-reinforced polymer or aluminium.

audi-quattro-concept-rear

The engine
The Audi Sport quattro features a plujg-in hybrid drive that produces 515 kW of power and 800 Nm of torque. All that power is transferred to the rear wheels via a 8-speed tiptronic auto transmission and a sports diff.

Audi suggests that fuel consumption for this vehicle will be around 2.5L/100km which is rather amazing considering that the combustion engine in this vehicle is a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8.

However that engine is fitted with a cylinder on demand system that shuts down four of the eight cylinders when the load on the engine does not require full power and there is also a stop-start system that shuts the engine down completely when the vehicle is stopped in traffic or at lights.

And located between the V8 and the transmission is a 110 kW electric motor that is charged from a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery that will give the Sport quattro range of 50km running only on electric power.

Drivers have the ability to choose between three different modes … electric, hybrid and sports. In sports mode the car operates on the combustion engine alone.

When both the electric motor and the V8 combustion engine are configured to operate together in hybrid mode the Audi Sports quattro lives up to the image that goes with the name and can hit 100kmh from a standing start in just 3.7 seconds and has a top speed of 305kmh.

audi-quattro-concept-dash

The interior
The interior of the car is all about the driver and all important instruments and displays are all clearly visible and some of the information can also be shown as virtual 3D displays

Perhaps too much has been done to simplify the dashboard. Just look at all the controls that are now located on the steering wheel and think about how you would handle that at high speed or in heavy traffic.

The bottom line
Will we see the Audi Sports quattro concept go into production? We just might because there’s not a lot of technology in this car that’s ground-breaking … the headlight technology is reportedly going to appear in the coming mid-life upgrade to the Audi A8 … so perhaps next year or the year after we’ll see the Audi Sport quattro name appear on a production model once again.

 

By | December 4th, 2013|Audi, Featured|0 Comments

2013 Nissan Micra Road Test

Nissan Micra road testDoing a full road test on a car the size of the Nissan Micra ST-L is not a lot of fun for anyone here at AussieMotoring HQ.

You see … we’re all tall and we’re not located in a capital city … in fact we’re about three to four hours drive from the city … and cars this size are usually not built for tall drivers on long trips.

So road testing something the size of the Nissan Micra is not very high on the list of cars we want to road test and we try to avoid them.

However, when one just magically appears in your driveway and you have to actually drive it somewhere to get it back to the person who left it there … well you can always fit in a quick road test can’t you?

The Nissan Micra ST-L that I drove was the latest 4-door manual sedan and it had just over 4,o00 km on the clock.

Overall Finish
The 2013 Micra ST-L comes to us from India … previous models were built in Indonesia … but the overall finish of the car I drove was excellent and the finish was equal to anything I’ve seen on Nissan’s coming from Japan.

There were however, two issues that I did notice about the car I drove. It had been thoroughly cleaned inside and out in Brisbane and yet, by the time it drove up the Bruce Highway to our location, there were quite noticeable signs of dust across the dashboard and on the instruments.

The second issue was the inset rubber mat on the driver’s side. The stitching that holds the mat to the carpet is inset by perhaps 10 millimetres from the edge of the mat and that allowed the edges of the mat to start rolling up. It made the floor in front of the driver’s seat look a little shabby.

The engine
The Nissan Micra is powered by a 1.2-litre 3-cylinder petrol engine that produces 56kW of power and 100Nm of torque. That was coupled to 5-speed manual transmission in the car I drove (a constant velocity auto transmission is available as an option).

I found the car surprisingly fun to drive with the manual transmission although the 1.2-litre engine quickly runs out of puff on any sort of hill when you’re in fifth gear. On the flat it’s fast … on the hill in any gear it becomes a little slower so expect to be busy with the gear lever in anything but flat terrain.

I can only guess at what it would be like to drive the automatic version of the Nissan Micra but I wouldn’t expect it to be a lot of high-adrenalin fun.

The clutch in the manual Nissan Micra caught me off guard too. It’s very … and I mean very … light and fortunately no one was around to watch as I backed out of the driveway and then tried to proceed in a forward direction.

If anyone had been around they would have seen the Micra I was driving trying to emulate a kangaroo and it’s been many a long year since I last managed to do that. By the first corner I had mastered the clutch … at least I thought so … but I did have a quite a few revs on and maybe I spun the wheels … just a bit.

I didn’t get to spend long enough in the car to get any useful fuel consumption figures but the economy gauge that’s part of the dashboard was telling me that I was running at about 8L/100k.

Nissan Micra ST-L

Handling
On good tar the ride was wonderful … smooth … comfortable … just what you would want on a town car. But city roads are a far cry from some of the main roads around here and I soon discovered that the ride of the Nissan Micra on the average bumpy road around here was somewhat choppy … and hard … and I didn’t like it.

Despite that the car handled well … you can point it into a curve or corner at a reasonable legal speed and know that it’s going to come out the other side still pointing in the right direction and your passenger won’t be looking for the escape hatch.

As you would expect in a vehicle this size, the turning circle is tight … just nine metres according to Nissan.

The body
I’m neutral about the body shape. It seems to me that the designers wanted to be just a little bit quirky with the look of the Nissan Micra but still have something that was conservative enough to appeal to older drivers … and let’s fact it … not every Nissan Micra is going to be sold to a trendy young thing.

Older city drivers are going to be interested in the Micra because of its price tag, it’s size and it’s fuel economy and Nissan wouldn’t want to scare them away with something that was too quirky.

Whether it’s quirky or not you do get good all-round vision from the driver’s seat and big rear-view mirrors let you see what’s behind you too.

nissan-micra-stl-dash

The interior
The Nissan Micra I drove was a 4-door so there’s not going to be a huge amount of legroom for the driver. When I jumped in the car I found that the seat was fairly upright and already set all the way back and even though I felt as though my knees were almost up around my ears I left it the way it was.

I wasn’t uncomfortable and the driver’s seat certainly supported me everywhere I needed it to but … for me … it’s definitely a city car. I would not take it on a long trip.

The dashboard layout is simple and easy to read. All the important gauges are right where you can see them and the fuel gauge is incorporated into the driving computer so it will even tell you when it’s time to fill up … and how many kilometres you’ve got left till you run out of fuel.

Don’t expect big things from the boot in the Nissan Micra … remember, this is a small car however it does hold a surprisingly large amount of stuff if you pack it correctly. The Micra I tested arrived with enough luggage for two adults for four nights … and it was all packed neatly in the boot.

If just two of you are travelling in the car you can always fold the back seats down for even more luggage space.

And tucked in a well under the boot is a full-size spare.

nissan-micra-boot

The bottom line
If I was getting on in years, didn’t do any driving outside of the city or town limits and I wanted a car that was both economical and cheap to buy then maybe I would look at the Nissan Micra … and if there was just a bit more legroom for the driver I might actually buy one.

By | December 1st, 2013|Featured, Nissan, Road Tests|0 Comments

Holden Barina RS Hatch

Holden Barina RS HatchWhile the Barina has been a fun car it’s always been lacking a bit of grunt straight off the showroom floor but now that’s all changed … now we have the Holden Barina RS and if you were looking for something in the light car segment with a lot of get up and go then the Barina RS hatch is for you.

While not a whole lot has changed on the outside if you look under the bonnet you’ll see that this is a Barina on steroids … turbo-charged, fuel-injected steroids … and at the same time you’re going to get great fuel economy too.

The engine
The Holden Barina RS is powered by the same 1.4-litre turbo-charged fuel injected engine that you will find in the Holden Cruze. Holden have coupled that fiery little engine to a six-speed manual transmission (a six-speed auto with Active Select is available as an option).

On the outside
The ride height of the Holden Barina RS is 10mm lower than the others in the Barina range and there are new 17-inch alloy wheels that are only available on the RS along with unique front and rear fascias fog lamps and a new exterior body colour called ‘Orange Rock’.

Barina RS interior

The suspension on the RS has also been tweaked with stiffer shocks absorbers and performance-tuned dampers with increased spring rates.

On the inside
The Holden Barina RS has a piano black finish to the interior, heated leather trimmed front seats with RS branding, leather gear shift knob and sports pedals.

Holden Barina RS rear

The bottom line
The Barina RS is only available as a hatch and the starting price for the manual version is $20,990 plus dealer and government charges. If you want the auto you’re going to be looking at a price that starts at $23,190.

The Holden Barina RS went on sale this week.

By | November 16th, 2013|Featured, Holden|0 Comments

The Chrysler 300S

Chrysler 300SIf you’re looking for a new car that makes a big, bold statement then one of the few remaining cars that will do that for you is the Chrysler 300.

It’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea and some may think that it’s a little too big and bold but it certainly sells well in Australia.

And for those who find the Chrysler 300 a little on the conservative side … those who want to make an even bigger and bolder statement … we now have the Chrysler 300S.

From its 20-inch gloss black alloy wheels to its bright red leather upholstery there’s nothing subdued or under-stated about the Chrysler 300S

The exterior
On the outside Chrysler has taken the standard 300 body and added a black chrome grill with platinum surround, black headlamp bezels, body-coloured door handles and side mirrors, a boot lip spoiler and badging with black accents.

Chrysler 300S interior

The interior
If you can look beyond the bright red upholstery … why bother with red highlights when you can just splash that colour all over the upholstery … you will find that the centre console, steering wheel and door panels are finished in Piano Black. The burl wood highlights found in the standard 300 range have been replaced with a matte carbon hydrographic accents in the 300S.

Other unique additions to the interior include sports pedals and heated sports front seats.

The Chrysler 300S also comes with bi-xenon headlamps with automatic high beam control, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, heated and cooled front cup holders and heated rear seats.

There’s also a memory system for the driver’s seat, exterior mirrors, steering column and radio. A navigation system and reversing camera are incorporated in the 8.4-inch screen at the top of the centre stack.

300S rear

The engine
The Chrysler 300S is powered by Chrysler’s 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine that produces 210kW of power and 340Nm of torque. This engine is coupled to a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters on the steering wheel.

The bottom line
And if the Chrysler 300S makes the statement that’s right for you then you can have one for just $47,500 plus dealer delivery and government charges.

Actually that’s not such a bad price for what you get … although not everyone wants to make that much of a statement when they’re driving down the road.

 

By | November 13th, 2013|Chrysler, Featured|0 Comments

Kia Soul EV

Kia Soul EVBack in 2011 Kia announced the Kia Ray EV … Kia’s first electric car … but it was only for domestic consumption and not much of that.

To help Kia gather some real-world experience in electric vehicles the Kia Ray EV was supplied to government departs to be operated as just another part of the government fleet.

Kia hasn’t said a great deal about electric vehicles since then but now things are about to change because we’re about to see the Kia Soul EV … an electric car that has been developed for the real world … including overseas markets.

The Kia Soul EV is based on the new 2014 model which Kia says is going to be quite different to the first-generation Soul. The basis of the new Kia Soul will be the latest Kia cee’d with a longer wheelbase, stiffer body shell and upgraded suspension.

An electric car from Kia

While the photos show a heavily wrapped vehicle Kia says that the Soul EV will have “head-turning styling and exterior features that project a cutting-edge image and discreetly highlight it’s electric powertrain.”

What that hype translates into in reality is yet to be seen but what we do know that the Kia Soul EV will come with projection type headlamps, LED positioning lamps, LED rear combination lamps and aerodynamic 16-inch alloy wheels

electric Kia Soul

On the inside
There’s a special Supervision instrument cluster and centre stack with an 8-inch display screen. Recycled materials will be used inside the vehicle wherever possible

Under the hood
The Kia Soul EV is powered by an 81.4kW electric motor that produces 285Nm of torque and drives the front wheels via a single speed constant ratio gear reduction unit. 0 to 100km/h in something less than 12 seconds is not mind-blowing but it’s certainly not mind-numbing in a vehicle that is obviously designed for city driving.

Power for the electric motor comes from a high-capacity 27kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack that will give the Kia Soul EV a range of around 200km.

Charging time for the battery is quite reasonable too. the Soul EV can be charged from a normal 240 volt household supply in five hours if the battery is fully drained. If you happen to have a 100kW power outlet you can fast-charge the Soul EV in just 25 minutes.

Kia Soul Electric - side view

Safety
These days car makers are thinking more about safety for pedestrians who may not hear an electric vehicle approaching and Kia has decided to add some noise to the Soul EV.

A Virtual Engine Sound System has been included in the Soul EV and this system will emit an audio alert at speeds below 20kim/h or when the car is reversing. At higher speeds there will be no extra noise and Kia says that the Soul EV is “extremely quiet inside.

At the moment the Kia Soul EV is being tested in Korea, Europe and the USA and Kia plans to put the car into production early in 2014

Details such as price and when we’re likely to see the Kia Soul EV in Australia have yet to be announced.

electric soul

By | November 12th, 2013|Featured, Kia|0 Comments

Renault Master High Roof Van

Renault Mast High Roof VanJust when you thought that van roofs couldn’t get any higher the Renault Master High Roof is added to the Renault range of commercial vehicles.

Not only do you get 36% more space in the Renault Master High Roof van but you also get rear-wheel drive and dual rear wheels … a first in the Master range. The rear axle rating in the new Master High Roof van is 3,200kg and the vehicle can tow another 3,000kg.

Load space in the Renault Master High Roof van has been increased to 17 cubic metres and the payload has been increased to 2134kg which means this van can really carry a big load.

Despite the size and the carrying capacity the unladen weight of the vehicle has been kept down to ensure that the gross vehicle mass is just 4,500kg which means that the vehicle can be legally driven by anyone who holds a normal passenger car licence.

Although just because they can doesn’t necessarily mean they should. Based in a tourist town we see a lot of people driving big campervans who are way out of their comfort zone.

high roof Renault Master

The engine
Let’s face it … in a van this size you’re probably not going to want sports car performance but you are going to want plenty of grunt and that’s what you get with the standard 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine that produces 110kW of power and 350Nm or torque between 1500rpm and 2750rpm.

This engine is coupled to your choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or a new ZF six-speed auto that uses an electric actuator to engage the clutch so that you get a better level of control when moving at very low speeds in tight situations.

Dimensions and Loading
We’ve already mentioned some of the dimensions but here are a few more of the ones that are important to commercial users.

The Renault Master High Roof van shares the same wheelbase as the normal LWB model in the Master range but the overhang has been increased by 650mm and that gives you an interior load length of 4,383mm, a width of 1,765mm and an internal height of 2,048mm.

The rear doors open to 270 degrees and that means that a forklift can be used to load the van. The passenger side sliding door is 1,270mm wide and 1,684mm high. A driver’s side sliding door is an option.

Renault High Roof Master

Safety and other goodies
The Renault Master High Roof van comes with an Isringhausen suspension seat as standard equipment for the driver. There’s nothing quite like a good seat when you’ve got to travel long distances in a commercial vehicle.

Standard equipment includes dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, electronic stability control with ASR traction control, cruise control and speed limiter, steel bulkhead with window, remote central locking, multifunction trip computer, Bluetooth and reverse parking sensors.

You can add to those safety features in the Renault Master High Roof with the Safety and Security Pack that includes auto headlights, rain sensing wipers, fog lights and alarm.

From there you can step up to the Premium Pack which gives you sat/nav, a reversing camera (something that really should be standard equipment in a vehicle this size) and some extra storage compartments.

Price
Well the Renault Master High Roof is a big commercial vehicle so the price tag fits the size To get into the manual version the price starts at $50,990 plus dealer and government charges and you can add another $2,000 for the auto.

The new High Roof Master is here in Australia and ready for delivery.

 

By | November 7th, 2013|Featured, Renault|0 Comments

The 2013 Volvo XC60

Volvo XC60Time flies and we’ve already reached the point where we are looking at the half-life upgrade for the current model Volvo XC60 and the this upgrade offers some interesting new features … most of which are either under the hood or in the interior.

The exterior
On the outside the Volvo XC60 gets a new headlight design and a free-flowing, uncluttered panel surface while the XC60 R-Design gets a redesigned nose, slightly different paint on the grill and a “refined” R-Design emblem.

All-new 20-inch Ixion II wheels are also now available on the XC60 R-Design.

The interior
The Volvo XC60 gets new upholstery colours, new wood inlays, a new headliner and silk metal frames around air vents and light controls. The option of sports seats has also been added to the new XC60 and now there are three different ways of opening the power-operated tailgate.

The XC60 R-Design comes with the new sports seats as standard. The standard upholstery is full leather or there’s a free option of cloth and perforated leather

Safety features
Corner Traction Control is now standard across the range but oddly Hill Descent Control remains as an option.

The XC60 R-Design chassis has been stiffened and the shock absorber springs and anti-roll bars have been tweaked to make them firmer and more balanced

Volvo XC60 front

The engine
There are four engine options (two petrol and two diesel) for the Volvo XC60 starting with the T6 petrol engine that delivers 224kW of power and 440Nm of torque. This is coupled to Volvo’s second-generation six-speed Adaptive Geartronic transmission.

The XC60 R-Design has the same T6 petrol engine but it has been Polestar-optimised and now has a displacement of 3.0 litres and produces an extra 20kW of power and40Nm of torque

The XC60 is also available with the 2.0-litre GTDI T5 petrol engine that produces 177kW of power and 320Nm of torque.

From there the Volvo XC60 moves into diesel propulsion with a Polestar-optimised D5 engine for the R-Design that produces 169kW of power and 470Nm of torque that drives through a six-speed Adaptive Geartronic gearbox.

The standard D5 diesel engine is used for the lesser Volvo XC60 and it delivers 158kW of power and 440Nm of torque.

There is also a five-cylinder D4 diesel engine available for the XC60 that delivers 120kW of power and 400Nm of torque at just 1500rpm.

Volvo XC60 interior

Technology
Volvo’s Adaptive Digital Display which first appeared in the new Volvo V40 now makes its appearance in the XC60. This display uses a Thin Film Transistor crystal display to give the driver personalised information and drivers have the choice of three different themes for the display.

XC60 R-Design owners have a different set of themes to what appears in the XC60.

The XC60 now comes with permanent high beam thanks to Volvo’s new Active High Beam Control. This system save the driver from having to switch from high to low beam if a car is approaching at night and it works through a projector module integrated into the headlamp.

This module assesses how much of the high beam needs to be shaded out when there is an approaching car or when the XC60 is closing on a car travelling in the same direction.

There’s also new software that extends the Volvo XC60’s ability to detect and slow the car if there is a cyclist in a dangerous area ahead of the car. The system will even bring the XC60 to a halt if a cyclist swerves in front of the car and a collision is imminent.

The same technology can also detect pedestrians who step in front of the car. If the driver does not respond by applying the brakes the system will do it for him.

Volvo’s City Safety system is also standard across the XC60 range. This system works at speeds up to 50km/h and automatically applies the brake if there is a danger of rear-ending the car in front.

Volvo XC60 rear

The bottom line
The entry level Volvo XC60 starts at $58,990 and you can add another $2,000 for the entry level diesel while the top of the range petrol XC60 starts at $61,990 and you can add another $8,000 for the diesel version.

The Volvo XC60 R-Design diesel version will set you back $73,990 and you can add another $5,000 for the petrol version. While Volvo’s press release did not mention dealer and government charges I believe that the above price points do not include these charges.

By | November 4th, 2013|Featured, Volvo|0 Comments

The New Citroen C3

Citroen C3The New Citroen C3 has arrived in Australia and if you were expecting something a little quirky … a little different … and maybe a lot more fun than all the other small cars out there then you’re not going to be disappointed.

Citroen has always delivered something different and, while you won’t see a Citroen C3 cruising down the expressway on three wheels you will see something that certainly does stand out from the crowd. Even the way Citroen mix and match the engine and transmission options is a little different in the C3

Range
The Citroen C3 is available in two equipment levels and two engine/transmission levels. The entry level C3 is the PureTech Seduction Manual and it comes equipped with a 60kW 1.2-litre, three-cylinder (yes … just three cylinders) engine that delivers 118Nm of torque at 5,750rpm

The 12 valve multi point fuel injected engine is matched with a five-speed manual gearbox and that combination delivers fuel economy of just 4.6L/100km on a combined cycle.

If you want auto transmission then you will start with the Auto Seduction C3 and you’re going to be sitting behind a 88kW, 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine coupled to a four-speed sequential auto-adaptive auto transmission.

This combination develops 160Nm or torque at 4,250rpm and returns 6.6L/100km on a combined cycle.

The same engine powers the top of the range C3 … the Exclusive.

citroen c3 side view

Equipment levels
Even the entry level Citroen C3 is well equipped and features a Zenith windscreen, LED daytime running lights, front fog lights, full-size spare, cruise control with speed limiter, manual air conditioning, leather steering wheel, multi-function trip computersix airbags and more.

If you move up to the C3 Seduction automatic you get all of the above plus special rims and a space-saver spare tyre. I’m not sure if you could class a space-saver spare as something worth having but but it’s there anyway.

When you step up to the exclusive you get everything in the base model plus the dinky toy spare, 17-inch rims, a front centre armrest (it may sound strange but personally that’s something that is definitely worth having) automatic air conditioning, rear-view camera, rear-park assist, satellite navigation, automatic wipers and automatic headlights.

citroen c3 dash

Safety
Safety features on the new Citroen C3 include ventilated front disc brakes, ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, emergency braking assistance, electronic stability control and six airbags

So what’s quirky and different about the Citroen C3? Just take a look at the photos taken inside the car and imagine driving down the street with all that expanse of glass over your head. That’s not a sunroof … that’s the Zenith windscreen.

I’m betting that you won’t want to call Windscreens O’Brien if you get a crack in that expanse of glass … but I still think that it’s worth having.

citroen c3 windscreen

The bottom line
If the quirky Citroen bug has bitten you then be prepared to pay a reasonable price for your car. The Citroen C3 Seduction Manual is $19,990 plus dealer and government charges. The Seduction Automatic is $22,990 plus dealer and government charges and the Exclusive Automatic is $25,990 plus all those nasty charges.

However … if you’re quick Citroen has a special deal going on the entry level C3 and until December 31 you and drive it away for just $19,990.

Would I do it if I wanted a small car? I would certainly be tempted and it would be on my test-drive list.

By | November 2nd, 2013|Citroen, Featured|0 Comments

The BMW i3

bmw i3The BMW i3 is the company’s answer to what comes next in a future where more and more people are going to electricity to power their cars and free them from the grip of the petrol companies … and it’s here in Australia right now.

Well … a pre-production version is but more of them will be in the showrooms in a few months time.

The BMW i3 also introduces BMW i … a new sub-brand that BMW has launched to cover their range of electrically powered vehicles. It seems that, while conventionally powered vehicles will be around for a while yet, BMW believes that electrically powered vehicles are going to grow in popularity and may not be a passing phase as so many seem to think.

The body
There’s no doubt that BMW haven’t been afraid to bring some futuristic concept car styling to the i3 and that goes way beyond the way the vehicle looks.

The BMW i3 is actually two modules … the passenger cell and the chassis and drivetrain… joined together. The body is made from light-weight carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic and features opposing doors and no B-pillar.

bmw i3 sedan

The carbon fibre is an extremely rigid material that can absorb a lot of the energy that’s generated in an accident and that enables the body to withstand some impressive impacts without getting bent out of shape.

A feature of the i3 is what BMW describes at its “black belt” The “black belt” runs from the bonnet, up over the cabin and down over the rear of the car.

The BMW i3 is 3,999mm long, 1,775mm wide and 1,578mm high.

i3 chassis

The chassis
The chassis of the BMW i3 has also been designed to be strong and light-weight. It’s made up of aluminium and other light-weight components and, as a totally electric vehicle, it’s curb-weight is just 1,195kg.

That’s a figure that BMW says is comparable to a similar conventionally powered vehicle that has a full tang of fuel.

The engine
The BMW i3 comes in two versions. The completely electric vehicle is powered by an electric motor that develops 125kW of power and is fed from a lithium-ion battery pack that sits under the floor of the vehicle.

It takes 3.7 seconds for the vehicle to accelerate from 0 to 60km/h and 7.2 seconds for the vehicle to accelerate from 0 to 100km/h

This combination gives a range of between 130 and 160km and BMW suggests that the average customer would only need to recharge their vehicle two or three times a week. The range can be extended by as much as 20km operating the vehicle in Eco Pro mode and a further 20km can be added to the range by operating it in Eco Pro+ mode.

BMW i will supply a wall-mounted box for charging and the i3 can also be charged from a conventional power outlet.

The BMW i3 will also be available fitted with a small petrol engine to extend the range to around 300km. The petrol engine is a 650cc two-cylinder unit that develops 25kW of power and is mounted close to the electric motor above the rear axles.

This engine is designed to begin recharging the battery as soon as the level drops below a specified point.

The electric motor also switches from drive to generator depending on what the vehicle is doing at the time. It also adds to the braking effect at low speeds and coasts when the vehicle is running at higher speeds.

i3 interior

The interior
Inside the car you will notice that there’s no centre tunnel for the transmission and, when that’s combined with the wide-opening doors, no B-pillar and specially designed seats, the result is a fairly spacious looking interior.

The interior of the BMW i30 features naturally treated leather, wood, wool and other renewable and recycled raw materials. The seats have a thinner backrest and the weight has been kept to a minimum to help keep the total vehicle weight down.

The driver’s seat is slightly raised to give the driver a better view in city traffic.

Most controls are mounted on the steering column while the instrument cluster and iDrive display are free-standing.

rear view of the bmw i3

ConnectedDrive and price
BMW will be offering new ConnectedDrive features with the i3 and the key to these will be a SIM card that will be fitted as standard. More information about these and other features along with the pricing will be released closer to the vehicle launch.

The BMW i3 is definitely going to be an eye-catching car. While the looks and technology may be a bit too futuristic for some I’m sure that this vehicle will have plenty of appeal.

 

By | October 3rd, 2013|BMW, Featured|0 Comments

The New Golf GTI

golf-gtiIf you’re a Golf GTI fan then this month in the one you’ve been waiting for because October is THE month the new Golf GTI will be released in Australia.

The very first Golf GTI was released way back in 1976 and it had just 81kW of power … the new Golf GTI has twice that power, a whole lot more torque and faster acceleration than ever before. The new GTI needs just 6.5 seconds to reach 100km/h

Technology has come a long way since that first Golf GTI and such features as Driver Fatigue Detection, Driving Profile Selection, Adaptive Cruise Control and Extended Electronic Differential Lock that are all included on the new GTI were just science fiction back in 1976.

The body
As you would expect the Golf GTI shares the same body with other models in the Golf range but of course there are some differences.

The GTI gets, red-painted brake callipers, smoked rear lights, a lower front spoiler with black aerodynamic louvres, chrome tipped exhaust tail pipes (left and right), red chrome strip and GTI badges on the radiator grill, black side sill panel extensions, rear bumper with black diffuser and a rear roof spoiler with black aerodynamic extensions

18×7.5inch alloy wheels round complete the GTI ‘look’ of the new Golf. There’s more to the body than just a hot ‘look’ … as with all models in the Golf range the GTI comes with side intrusion protection and a rigid safety cell that is further protected by front and rear crumple zones.

The GTI weights in at 1,380kg for the manual or 1,356kg for the auto.

golf-gti-side-view

The engine
The new Golf GTI is powered by a 2.0 litre 4-cylinder inline turbocharged direct injection petrol engine that powers the front wheels and delivers 162kW of power between 4500rpm and 6200rpm. Maximum torque of 350Nm is available between 1500rpm and 4400rpm.

Of course an engine like this is not going to run on anything but premium unleaded with a minimum of 98RON

Getting all that power to the road surface involves a 6-speed manual transmission as standard or a 6-speed dual clutch auto … with paddles … as an option.

More power and more torque often means more fuel consumption but Volkswagen have been able to achieve the exact opposite with the new Golf GTI. Internal engine modifications including a new thermal management systems have produced a 19 per cent improvement in fuel economy.

The manual GTI returns 7.7L/100km in city driving and 5.3L/100km on the open road while the auto version returns 8.3L/100km in the city and 5.5L/100km on the highway.

The engine on both the auto and manual version of the GTI is fitted with a Stop/Start system that automatically turns the engine off when the vehicle is stopped in traffic and the automatically turns the engine on as soon as the accelerator is depressed.

golf gti

Suspension
The suspension on the new Golf GTI includes what Volkswagen calls Adaptive Chassis Control and it’s only available on the GTI. This system incorporates electrically controlled dampers that constantly adjust to the road conditions, the driving situation and driver’s requirement.

There are three settings … Normal, Comfort and Sport … and this system is part of the Driver Profile Selection.

Interior
Once again Volkswagen have included a unique fabric in the upholstery in the new Golf GTI and there’s also a leather upholstery and door trim available as an optional extra. Of course sports seats with additional side support are standard in the GTI.

The rear seats split 60/40 to give you more luggage space. With the rear seat fully upright there’s 380 litres of luggage space and this increases to 1270 when the seats are folded.

Brake, clutch and accelerator pedals all have an aluminium finish, some switches have chrome highlights and there are decorative inlays on the instrument surrounds, centre console and passenger side dashboard and doors

golf gti dashboard

The Golf GTI dashboard displaying a warning from the Driver Fatigue Detection System

Dual zone automatic climate control air conditioning with air quality and humidity sensor and dust/pollen filters is standard on the new GTI.

The instrumentation includes all the usual displays incorporated in a multi-function colour display that includes screen transitions with animations and a lap-timer.

The sound system controls and satellite navigation system are incorporated into the centre stack that includes a 5.8-inch colour touch screen. The sound system includes eight speakers and the driver can also control it from buttons mounted on the steering wheel.

Controls for the dashboard displays, the cruise control and mobile phone are also mounted on the steering wheel. The GTI steering wheel features leather trim with red stitching and brushed aluminium inserts.

Safety
The new Golf GTI comes with a full suite of safety features including all the standards and a few you may not have seen before.

The Driver Fatigue Detection System is standard across the entire golf range. It automatically analyses the driving characteristics and warns the driver if those characteristics indicate possible fatigue. If the warning is ignored it is repeated after 15 minutes .

The Driving Profile Selection gives the driver a wide range of settings to choose from that adjust the way the car operates and handles.

Three-point seat belts are fitted for all occupants and the belts for the driver and front-seat passenger are height adjustable and fitted with pre-tensioners and belt force limiters.

The airbag system includes driver and front-passenger airbags and side airbags, driver’s knee airbag and side-curtain airbags front and rear.

centre stack in the new golf gti

Pricing
Pricing for the new Golf GTI starts at $41,490 (the manufacturer’s recommended retail that does not include dealer and government charges) for the 6-speed manual and you can add another $2,500 for auto and then there are a number of options that can really take the price up.

 

By | October 2nd, 2013|Featured, VW|0 Comments

Kia Picanto LPG

Kia Picanto LPGIn the past cars at the Kia Picanto end of the small-car category have been able to produce some impressive fuel economy figures simply because of their size.

Cars of that size don’t need big engines so you almost get great fuel economy by default but we’re starting to see that the market in some countries … especially Europe … are wanting even better fuel economy plus much lower emissions.

Now that can produce some problems for car makers … how do you pack more technology to produce those lower figures into a car this size?

Some car makers are looking at hybrid technology but Kia is going in a different direction … they’ve now released the pilot model of a new addition to the Kia Picanto range … and this Picanto needs two fuel tanks because it operates on petrol and LPG.

The engine
The Kia Picanto LPG is powered by a modified version of the standard three-cylinder 1.0-litre Kappa engine.

This modified version of the standard 1.0-litre engine comes with an additional fuel system to handle the LPG. The extra system includes a solenoid valve, vaporiser (that converts the LPG into a gas) a gas filter and an injector module.

The modified engine for the Kia Picanto LPG shares the same continuously variable valve timing, cast aluminium block, off-set crankshaft, long-life timing chain and low-friction valve springs as the normal fuel powered engine.

kia picanto lpg engine

Two fuel tanks
Obviously if the Kia Picanto LPG runs on two different types of fuel then it’s going to need to fuel tanks. The 35-litre tank for normal fuel is located just ahead of the rear axle … as it is in all Picanto models while a pressurised 27-litre tank for the LPG is located below the boot in the space that was once occupied by the spare tyre.

I guess when you have such limited space to work in if you want to add something extra then you have to take something out and in this case it’s the spare tyre. Instead of a spare tyre you get what Kia refers to as a “tyre-mobility kit” … let’s just hope that if you get a puncture it’s not a really big one.

The extra fuel tank and the extra equipment at the other end of the Picanto adds an extra 51kg to the weight of the vehicle and this much extra weight in a small car is obviously going to have an impact on performance.

To ensure that the Picanto LPG is a lively little performer Kia have lowered the final drive ratio by 8.6%. 0-100kph takes 14.5 seconds and the LPG version of the Picanto has a top speed of 150kph.

kia picanto lpg dashboard

Drivers can switch between fuel tanks on the Kia Picanto LPG simply by pushing a button on the dash and there are a couple of new additions to the instrument cluster on the Picanto LPG dash … two fuel gauges and two warning lamps when the fuel is running low.

Kia

Two versions
The Kia Picanto LPG will be available to three and five-door versions and two equipment levels … LX or EX. Fuel economy in LPG mode is 5.81/100Km with a CO2 emission level of 100g/km. Those numbers drop to 5.61/100Km and 97g/km if the vehicle is equipped with automatic stop-start.

The Kia Picanto LPG will go on sale in parts of Europe later this year. There are no Picanto models in the Kia range here in Australia so it’s unlikely that we’ll see the Kia Picanto LPG but we may see the technology at some time in the future in another Kia model.

And even if Kia doesn’t bring the technology to Australia it may only be a matter of time before some other car maker does.

 

By | September 12th, 2013|Featured, Kia|0 Comments

Toyota Yaris Hybrid-R

Toyota Yaris Hybrid-RI don’t know about you but when I see the word Yaris I begin to think of little old ladies … little old men … Sunday drivers …. and before long I’m yawning and nodding off for a Grandpa nap. But if I ever get to see this little monster … the Toyota Yaris Hybrid-R in the flesh … there’ll be no Grandpa naps for me.

Oh no … there’ll be nothing like that … just a burning desire to get into the driver’s seat and put the pedal to the metal and let the 1.6-litre 4-cylinder turbo combine with the two electric motors to lay rubber down the street.

Unfortunately, while I may get to see the Toyota Yaris Hybrid-R … and I might even be allowed to touch it … it’s unlikely that I’ll ever get to drive the thing because it’s a concept car and no manufacturer wants to see their concept car in the sweaty palms of a scribbler like me.

But I can dream and if this hybrid ever makes it into production then the only thing standing between me and a red-hot go would be my wife.

Ok so let’s put dreams aside and let’s look at the reality of the technical details.

Under the bonnet
To produce the Toyota Yaris Hybrid-R Toyota have combined their very popular Yaris hatch with high-performance engineering and advanced hybrid technology that Toyota developed for their Le Mans racing programme.

The direct-injection turbo has been adapted to racing conditions and ,when combined with the 1.6-litre 4-cylinder engine, it develops 224kW (300hp) of power and 420Nm of torque. Then when you hook that up to those two electric motors you get 313kW (420hp) of power.

The petrol engine powers the front wheels while the two electric motors power the rear wheels and just so a driver has some hope of staying below the legal speed limit in the Toyota Yaris Hybrid-R Toyota has thoughtfully given the car two driving modes.

These modes are controlled from a button on the steering wheel and with a push of that button the driver can select either “road” or “track” mode and in ‘track’ mode the rear electric motors can reach their combined maximum peak power.

Toyota Yaris concept

There’s also a third, smaller, electric motor located between the engine and the six-speed manual transmission that can operate as an advanced traction-control system.

At low speeds, or in a curve, when the engine power and torque exceed the grip potential of the front wheels, the motor can convert torque from the petrol engine into electric energy and direct it to the rear wheels.

The twin rear electric motors can also enhance handling characteristics during cornering by altering the distribution of torque between the left and right rear wheels, achieving the same effect as an intelligent torque vectoring differential.

Depending on the radius of the curve, the system can send more torque to the outside rear wheel, apply more braking force to the inside wheel or even brake and accelerate each wheel independently to promote a better driving line and to limit understeer.

If there is sufficient charge in the battery the Yaris Hybrid-R can even be operated in full electric mode for short distances.

2013 Toyota Yaris concept

On the outside
New headlights, a wider front grille and details picked out in black and blue are highlights of the Toyota Yaris Hybrid-R concept as are the BIG air intakes that direct the airflow onto the brakes for cooling.

The brakes themselves are grooved and perforated with six-piston callipers on the front and four-piston callipers on the rear.

If you happen to be at the Frankfurt Motor Show next week you’ll get to see the first showing of this hot little Yaris.

 

 

By | September 4th, 2013|Featured, Toyota|Comments Off on Toyota Yaris Hybrid-R

The Volvo Concept Coupe

volvo concept coupeDo you remember the Volvo P1800 coupe from the 1960s? Obviously these days that original P1800 design looks very dated but back in the days when it first hit the streets it looked almost futuristic and it certainly stood out in a time when car design was not all that exciting.

Well if you remember that original P1800 then Volvo has a treat for you … the latest Volvo Concept Coupe. Volvo says that you can think of this Concept Coupe as the next generation P1800 and I would suggest that we’re going to see this Concept Coupe go into production in the near or two.

Unlike most concept cars that are designed to really push design and technology limits the Volvo Concept Coupe seems to rely a lot on current technology while looking at the possibilities of Volvo’s new Scalable Product Architecture.

Volvo also says that their Concept Coupe is just the first of three concept cars that will explore Scalable Product Architecture.

volvo concept coupe dashboardVisual impact
What we see in the Volvo Concept Coupe is a change in proportion. The distance between the axle and the dashboard has been extended and the cabin has been moved slightly further back.

The bonnet and the cabin roof have been lowered and the Concept Coupe rides on 21-inch wheels and if you really want to get into the designers’ headspace as this car came together it might help to think of a lion … even at rest it’s obvious what a lion is capable of doing.

The grille is quite different to what you might expect in a Volvo but it still carries the unmistakable Volvo emblem and the headlights are certainly moving away from what we expect headlights to look like.

Interior
If the Volvo Concept Coupe is to make it into product it’s unlikely that we will see some of the same design elements in the production model. While a leather instrument panel and some high quality carpet could be carried into production I doubt that we will see the inlays of naturally aged wood or the handcrafted crystal gear-lever.

Technology
The portrait aspect of the touch screen in the centre console it certainly a step away from current thinking in just about every make and model of car where landscape or square screens are the norm.

In the Volvo Concept Coupe the touch screen interacts with the adaptive digital display and HUD in front of the driver.

The engine
As you would expect in a concept vehicle like this one the Concept Coupe is powered by something more advanced than just a normal petrol engine.

The Volvo Concept Coupe is powered by a petrol plug-in hybrid with supercharger and turbo and this is teamed with an electric motor mounted on the rear axle. With this combination the Concept Coupe has a combined output of around 400bhp and over 600Nm or torque.

This combination is a test of Volvo’s plans to use electrification to create the most powerful versions in the new 4-cylinder Drive-E group of engines. Volvo suggests that these engines will “take power figures up into V8 territory.”

Now if only the original P1800 had that sort of power to play with.

 

 

By | September 2nd, 2013|Featured, Volvo|0 Comments

The Holden Trax

The Holden TraxThe Holden Trax will be available in showrooms across the country from early September and it’s certainly going to add some interest to the small SUV market.

Not only is it coming into the market with a 5-star ANCAP safety rating but it’s also bringing a level of technology that Holden describes as “best-in-class” . Even the base model will have a suite of tech goodies that are usually reserved for models further up the range.

The Holden Trax will be offered in two trim levels starting with the LS that will carry a recommended retail price (not including dealer and government charges) of  $23,490 for the manual model and $25,690 for the Active-Select auto model. The recommended retail price for the Holden Trax LTZ will be $27,990.

When you look at the list of standard equipment in the Trax LS … which comes with a five-speed manual transmission as standard … and then compare it with the extras you get in the LTZ I think most people will happily settle for the LS six-speed auto option added in.

Even though the Holden Trax is built in South Korea an Australian engineering team from Holden has spent over two years working to produce a vehicle that is suited for Australian conditions. The suspension has been tuned and the engine calibrated for our conditions and the same setup will be used on the models that will go into the Russian, South African and New Zealand markets.

the instrument cluster in the Holden Trax

The body
The Holden Trax is 4278mm long and 1776mm wide. It’s 1674mmm high and it has a wheelbase of 2555mm. The kerb weight for the base model is 1356kg while the auto transmission adds another 15kg.

With all seats in the upright position there is just 356 litres of luggage capacity … remember, this is a small SUV … but with the rear 60/40 split-fold seats folded down the luggage capacity goes up to 785 litres and with the rear seats fully folded out of the way the luggage capacity increases to 1370 litres.

the luggage space in the Trax

Suspension and steering
The suspension in the Holden Trax features a McPherson strut arrangement at the front and a compound crank rear axle.

The mounting bushes on the rear axle have been tuned locally to reduce noise levels on dirt roads and the front struts and rear shocks have also received a lot of attention to ensure that the Trax can handle our rougher roads.

The Holden Trax is fitted with electric power steering that gives the vehicle a turning circle of 10.9 metres. The steering has also been tuned to handle our conditions. Particular attention was paid to the amount of feedback driver’s receive when travelling over dirt roads.

Urban drivers weren’t forgotten either and the steering at low speeds is quite light so it won’t be a chore to drive in tight urban environments.

Dashboard on the Holden Trax

The engine and transmission
The 1.8 litre double overhead cam, 16-valve, four cylinder petrol engine ECOTEC petrol engine is currently the only one available for the Trax. This engine produces 103kW of power and 175Nm of torque.  It’s not a new to Australia … It’s already been seen here in Australia in the latest Holden Cruze so local mechanics are familiar with it.

Despite having a cast iron cylinder block this engine is still considered to be lightweight thanks to a hollow frame. Other features of this engine include the double overhead camshaft with four valves per cylinder, dual continuously variable camshaft phasing, lightweight camshaft tappets with reduced friction, variable intake manifold, an electronically controlled cooling system, oil-water heat exchanger and piston-cooling oil jets.

Around 90 percent of peak torque will be produced in the 2,400 to 6.500rpm range and the fuel consumption figures are interesting. Usually the auto version produces better figures than the manual but not in this case. The manual version of the Holden Trax will produce 7.0L/100km on a combined cycle while the auto can only managed 7.6L/100km.

The fuel tank in the Trax will hold 53 litres.

Drive is through the front wheels and the transmission is via a five-speed manual box in the LS (auto is $2200 optional extra) and a six-speed auto box for the LTZ. There is no option for a manual box in the LTZ.

The interior and technology
seating in the Holden TraxThe front seats are contoured and obviously designed to offer support when cornering and the front seats in the Holden Trax LTZ are heated.

The passenger seat features a handy storage tray for things like your iPad or tablet. I’m sure that this is a feature that most buyers would be quick to use because there’s nothing worse than hunting for your iPad or tablet when you’ve slipped it under one of the front seats to keep it out of sight while you’re out of the car.

The dashboard features ice blue illumination and includes an instrument cluster that features a digital LED speedo and a very prominent analogue tacho.

The centre stack seems to dominate the front of the Holden Trax. It features a seven-inch touch-screen that’s linked to Holden’s MyLink infotainment system that gives drivers access to the widest range of apps available in an Australian vehicle.

Included in those apps is BringGo, a navigation system that has functions that include Google Places search … so now you can have Google right there in the car with you.

There’s also USB with iPod connectivity, Bluetooth etc. and of course air conditioning and ISOFIX child seat anchorage system are included as standard.

Safety
Of course the Holden Trax comes with all the safety options you expect to find in a vehicle that has a 5-star safety rating including Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist, Electronic Stability Control, ABS, EBD and traction control, six airbags, break-away brake pedal and three-point seatbelts

The Trax also comes with rear parking sensors and a rear view camera as standard … and the camera display appears on the screen in the centre stack where it is easy to see.

The Trax has been designed with a strong and stiff body that includes a multi-load path crash structure. The structure of the seat frames and the headrests have been designed provide added protection from whiplash injuries.

The rear of the Holden Trax

If the reality of driving a Holden Trax is as good as the hype says it is then Holden could be on a real winner here. A small SUV has certainly been missing from the Holden range and the Trax could be what a lot of people are looking for.

All images are of the LTZ and provided by Holden

By | August 14th, 2013|Featured, Holden|0 Comments