Lexus continue to make inroads into the luxury car market, against established players from Germany, England, and Italy. Spread across sedan and SUV vehicles, Lexus pitch the GS sedan range right into the middle of their models, including the “entry level” $83K plus GS 200-t. A Wheel Thing was thrown the keyfob to a blue metallic painted version, with a sumptuous black and cream interior, for a week.The centerpieces of the car are the turbo four cylinder engine (180 kW and 350 Nm, 5800 and 1650 rpm peak) and the drive system. It’s a seven speed auto, with F1 style paddles inside, along with a dial for Eco, Normal and Sport. Although there’s more than suitable response in Eco, it’s in Sport, unsurprisingly, where the GS 200-t really sings. From a standstill, it’s a “seat of the pants” six seconds to 100 kmh, with the official figure being 7.3 seconds. There’s a touch of hesitation, turbo lag, from stand still, with silky smooth, almost double clutch auto shifts, with a barely audible but perceptible sound from the transmission as it does so.It’s so good it almost makes the paddles redundant…almost. There were times when they were needed to get the transmission to change ratios, from fifth to six to seventh, plus there’s always the fun factor of being involved in telling the gearbox what to do. Having said that, it’s still not a fully manually operated device, changing up or down irrespective of the driver using the paddles when in Sport mode.
Economy wise, with mostly around town driving, A Wheel Thing finished on a reasonable 8.2L of 95RON gogo juice consumed per 100 kilometres. That’s from a 66 litre tank and up against Lexus’ own consumption figures of 8.0L per 100 km for a combined cycle.It’s certainly one of the nicer workplaces to be in. From the powered steering column adjustment, to the DAB enabled radio tuner, analogue clock, and four auto up/down windows, the heated and vented electric seats support and cosset the driver and passenger up front whilst rear seat passengers get a ski-port, with built in cup holders, accessing the boot. The dash itself sports a leather look with stitching, with the ergonomic mistake of placing the trip meter buttons down out of sight, behind the steering wheel near the driver’s right knee. Not a major issues in the greater context of a single driver usage, but pointless when it could and should have been incorporated into the onboard and dash displayed information and considering the sensible placement of the Start/Stop button to the left of the driver’s eyeline.That information in the dash is accessed via a four way tab system on the tiller’s right spoke, with a graph displaying turbo pressure and G forces adding to the sporting flavor of the GS 200-t. The dials are mechanical, with a hue of metallic grey. It complemented the interior trim and certainly adds class. Of course there’s Bluetooth streaming, auxiliary inputs via USB and 3.5mm plug as well. All of these plus climate control, apps etc are accessed via the centre console mouse and Enter pad, with the mouse centreing itself when the Stop button is pressed.
It’s devilishly simple to use and has the added touch of being the only way to make the climate control a dual or single zone operation, as there’s no button apparent otherwise. The numbers in the temperature displays roll up or down as they change, as opposed to simply changing as you press the red or blue tabs. Simple and elegant, it adds to the cabin ambience. What doesn’t is the placement of the heating and venting controls for the seats, stuck at the bottom of the centre stack and ahead of the fold up lid for two drinks holders. It’s an awkward placement and not in step with the rest of the layout for the supplementary controls.
Isuzu. It’s a brand name perhaps more familiar to truck owners and drivers than car owners, however it’s a name that’s been part of the Australian automotive landscape for over four decades. Of late, Isuzu is known for the two tier range of D-Max and MU-X, a ute and SUV pairing. A Wheel Thing spent a week with the Isuzu MU-X.
Isuzu have aimed for a market, it seems, that go for functionality. That’s the initial feelings upon getting inside the vehicle. The seats are of a vinyl look, the plastics are hard but smooth in texture in the centre stack, there’s some contrasting silver highlights in the fluid looking, the centre console has an eyecatching circular cluster design with a bold, red, LED display for the temperature and there’s a DVD player (sans headphones in the review car) that didn’t appear to be able to not play the audio separately for the rear seat passengers. The audio screen itself is surrounded by control tabs, which were legible and soft touch however the screen itself had a colour screen and font at odds with the modern look of the housing. It did, however, sound clear and punchy through the six speakers fitted to the LS-T, plus there’s Bluetooth and auxilary connectivity. There’s an copper-ish hue to the silver look plastic trim on the tiller, and a hard feel to the tabs as well, needing a little more cushioning.
It’s the usual problem with new sustainable fuels*. On the one hand, the inventors have come up with a great new technology that’s renewable but still produces lots of lovely energy that we can use to get our cars whizzing around the road. What’s more, it would be a piece of cake to install this in the typical production car (well, in some cases, anyway!). On the other hand, using this technique requires a fair bit of infrastructure to be in place. You need to have bowsers that pump out the biodiesel or the ethanol, you need charging points for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles (and you thought finding a charging point for your smartphone was bad enough), and you need hydrogen refuelling stations for fuel cells. It’s a real Catch-22 situation: the powers would be would install more of the infrastructure if there was more demand for these sustainable energy sources created by people like you and me buying vehicles than need the charging stations, etc. However, I, for one, am not going to buy a vehicle, no matter how eco-friendly it is, if I can’t give it the juice it needs to get moving because the infrastructure is lacking.
Things are slowly changing in the electric car and plug-in hybrid department. We’ve already got an electrical grid that works pretty well most of the time and at least a chunk of the power is generated from renewables. Charging stations are popping up all over the show, which makes buying a hybrid or electric vehicle more attractive. We’ve also got a fairly good history of using ethanol blends in our fuel thanks to our sugarcane industry, so it won’t take that much to increase the amount of ethanol or biodiesel we use.
There’s been no shortage of news coverage lately with regards to the next generation of technology that will power our cars. Between automotive companies, governments, community groups, and independent bodies, it appears the days of petrol and diesel powered cars could be numbered. But just how well equipped are the alternatives?
Among the manufacturers: Mercedes-Benz have recently announced plans to release a 500km, five minute recharge electric vehicle within the next five years; Volvo plan 1,000,000 electric vehicles before 2025; Volkswagen envisage 30 of their own electric vehicle variants on the roads across the next decade; and Toyota are targeting hydrogen power (consistent with the Australian government). Crucially however, manufacturers are not alone – as well as an increasing uptake among motorists, European countries like the Netherlands and Norway have led the way in committing to banish the future sale of petrol and diesel cars.
Kia’s Optima nameplate has been with Australian drivers for well over a decade, being launched under that nomenclature in 2001. Based on Hyundai’s Sonata, it’s been a quiet seller yet has a high level of loyalty. When the third generation was released to the Aussie market in 2010, it quickly gained recognition for its slinky, sexy, good looks. The latest version with a mild reskin, now comes with the standard 2.4L in Si trim or a turbocharged four cylinder 2.0L engine. Called the Optima GT, it’s this that A Wheel Thing spent an enjoyable week with.
Torque is the now seemingly standard 350 Nm for 2.0L turbo engines, available between an immensely usable 1400 through to 4000 revs. Peak power is 180 kW, at 6000 revs. The engine itself is a square bore design, with bore and stroke at 86mm x 86 mm. Drive is put to the ground via the front wheels, through a slick six speed auto, complete with paddle shifts.
The aftermarket industry for the automotive field is a multi-billion dollar industry. It covers items such as oil, filters, light globes, seats and seat covers, wheels, tyres, roll bars, roo bars, lights and more. And there’s a push to make sure that you, the buying motorist, gets looked after. The Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) submission to the Australian Consumer Law Review demands better protection for Australia’s 17 million vehicle owners.
The AAAA wants a special focus on protection of vehicle owners’ consumer rights because of the high value of the initial purchase and ongoing maintenance, and the vital contribution vehicles make to consumers’ working and family lives and to the Australian economy.
What the Australian car market has known as the Mitsubishi Challenger, for some two decades, is no longer. Enter the Pajero Sport, bringing us into line with the international naming system. Built upon the Triton platform but given Mitsubishi’s “shield” nose job to visually break away from the Challenger, the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport is currently available as a five seater only (the seven seater has been signed off for ADR) and is aimed fairly and squarely at the family.
Complete with a 2.4L diesel and new eight speed auto, A Wheel Thing reviews the top of the range Pajero Sport Exceed.
Straight up, it’s an imposing looking vehicle, standing 1805 mm high. There’s side steps adding to the visual appeal, plenty of chrome up front (burying the headlights in the look), a kicked up rear window line echoing the raked front window and an odd looking tail light design, almost as if the lights have melted and run down the tail gate’s sides.
Subaru’s Liberty sedan is an unsung hero in Subaru’s fleet, with the Outback and WRX getting all of the eyeballs That’s a shame because it’s big, roomy, nice to be in and not unattractive to look at. When the 3.6 litre boxer engine is slotted into the engine bay, it then becomes an entrant in the large car class, against Aurion, Commodore, Falcon…and so it should. In February of 2016, A Wheel Thing attended the launch of the updated Liberty, Forester and Outback and recently sampled the 2.0L diesel and 3.6L petrol powered versions of the Outback Premium.
The Liberty sedan with the 3.6L is, effectively and essentially, the same as the Outback wagon, bar the extra ride height and sheetmetal. It certainly has the same excellent ride quality and handling, with a lot to be commended. Of note were the subtle changes to the suspension in the wagons. It’s A Wheel Thing’s opinion that the Outback is one of the best in the medium wagon class for ride and handling and the Liberty sedan slots right in there. There is a bit of competition out there such as the Mondeo, Superb, and Octavia, just to mention a couple, but the incremental development work that Subaru Japan and Subaru Australia have jointly been involved in has paid off.
Tested on dirt and tarmac roads in South Australia during the launch, and driven hard in its most likely environment, suburbia, both sedan and wagon exhibited the kind of ride a discerning driver looks for. On undulating roads,there’s no sense of continuing the motion, with the Liberty Premium simply following the up and down movement while simultaneously isolating the cabin from it.
Have you ever been driving along a road at night and suddenly had that moment of disorientation as you realise that something has happened to the road markings? It’s pretty disconcerting and if you have been a little drowsy, that tends to snap you awake… well, it snaps me into full alert, anyway. It’s particularly alarming on rural roads, where there isn’t much other light from streetlights and the like around to guide you.
The safe and sane thing to do here is to slow down a tad and to look around you more carefully. Usually, you’ll be able to spot the white lines and yellow lines showing you where you ought to be and where the road is going. The posts marking the sides of the roads can be a different story. Although they’re vital for road safety, things always happen to them. Cows use them as scratching posts and snap them. People who tackle corners far too quickly clip them and take them out (there’s only so much all the active safety features in any car can do and the laws of angular momentum still apply). Idiots think that it’s fun to pull them out and do goodness knows what with them. Bushes and grass grow over them and obscure them.
Driving a car seems to be, for some people, one of the hardest things to do. Not necessarily the act of driving itself, but some of the legal requirements that will make your drive, and theirs, safer.
Some surveys state that the number one peeve of drivers is others that don’t indicate. That’s a fair point, as far too many drivers don’t do that on the straight road but did you know it’s also a requirement when merging from a freeway/highway on/off ramp? It also ties in with the relatively simple yet seemingly over complicated act of merging.