A lot of parents look forward to the day when their teenager can finally drive him/herself. However, before you can enjoy the relative freedom of the P-plate days, you have to do through the L-plate stage – and the stage before the L-plates. You may already have a few ideas up your sleeve about whether you’re going to be the one to teach your teenager how do drive, whether you’re going to sign him/her up for professional driving lessons or whether you’re going to go for a combination of the two.
But what about the stage before that? How are you going to help your teenager prepare for that? They certainly do need your help preparing for this, as you’re the expert driver that they see driving on a daily basis (and don’t you just know it!). What’s more, this is usually a time of life for them when the homework from school increases like nothing else (Talk about stressful for them! I wouldn’t want to go back to my teen years).
Long seen as a pioneer of all wheel drive vehicles, Audi’s Quattro system is possibly one of the best of its kind available. Couple it with a torquey turbocharged four, a mostly user friendly DSG transmission, and with Audi’s S-Line trim inside the wagon or Avant body, it’s an iron fist in a velvet glove. All up, it’s the Audi A4 Avant Quattro S-Line.Up front, behind the LED lit headlights, lies a 2.0L four cylinder turbocharged engine in an in-line configuration, fed on a diet of 95RON petrol. When prodded with the angry stick, the 1615 kilogram machine (thanks to a weight reducing aluminuiom chassis) will be hauled away to 100 kilometres per hour in just six seconds to a limited top speed of 250 kmh, seeing maximum torque of 370 nm (1600 to 4500 rpm) being applied via the seven speed dual clutch auto to all four wheels. Keep the foot buried and the tachometer on the full LCD dash screen will swing around to over 6000 rpm, delivering peak power of 185 kilowatts between 5000 to 6000 revs.Being the beast it can be, it’ll drink and drink hard when continually pushed. Consumption of the good fluid can be over 12.0 litres for every one hundred kilometres covered. However, it can also be docile, averaging around 7.0L per 100 km for normal around town work. Audi’s figures are 6.6L/100 km on the combined cycle for the Avant from a 58 litre tank.
Drivewise, punch the accelerator whilst on the freeway and the torque spread shrugs aside any opposition, watching the numbers change with alacrity. It’s a situation that well trained drivers will appreciate and understand.Should one wish to drive with a touch more verve and a little more zing, Audi has a drive mode selector, offering four options including Dynamic. This holds the gear shift point for longer, changes the engine’s ignition mapping to suit and provides the driver a more assertive driving experience. This would be ideal for an owner to take to a track day and find out the true limits of what this very capable machine can see. The downside to this is a lack of anything welcome stroking the ears. Although you can hear the engine working, it’s muted, lacking a real sense of buzz and excitement, whilst at the rear there’s a faint “phut, phut” as the transmission changes up.It’s a little too easy to confuse it at times; it’s not a fan of very low throttle applications such as those coming out from your driveaway, or in city traffic. The engine takes a moment too long to telegraph what it’s doing and the transmission furthers that lag. It’ll all too easily change down to an unwanted ratio on some downhill runs, especially at lower speeds required due to the road itself or traffic ahead, necessitating a flick of the paddle shift to get it to a more appropriate ratio. There was the occasional indecision in traffic and a clunk as the gearbox and AWD system talked to each other momentarily before reaching a decision on what to do.However, it’s as easy as breathing in regards to engaging the system. A rocker style gear selector is what Audi uses; foot on brake, press the Start/Stop button, pull lightly back for Drive or push forward for Reverse. Park is engaged by a push button at the top right and it couldn’t be more simple to use. Manual mode is simple tip to the right and rocking forward or back or using the paddle shifters.Being all wheel drive is one thing, but if the tyres aren’t up to the game, you’ll be hard pressed to fully appreciate what it does. Thankfully Audi has wrapped all four 19 inch wheels with rubber from Pirelli in a 245/35 profile. On the curvy, winding, roads A Wheel Thing uses every day, the Avant simply hunkers down, hands the driver a note saying “I’ve got this” and powers through as if Velcro, superglue and liquid nails have held the chassis to the rails it’s on. In one of the roundabouts near home, which to access the desired road requires a change of direction of over 180 degrees, there was no under or oversteer at all.The well weighted and pin sharp responsive steering had the Avant planted firmly, squarely, confidently, in this kind of situation and worked hand in glove with the sports suspension. Think of one of the hard erasers you had a school; squeeze it and there’s a touch of compression before it shops the squeeze. Close your eyes and imagine that’s the ride quality of the A4 Avant Quattro; firm but not hard, compliant enough to not dislodge the teeth but solid enough to let you know it’s just eaten a ripple in the road for breakfast. Helping with front end and overall chassis stability is the alloy strut tower brace.If there was a design quibble, it was something constantly mentioned by the junior members of A Wheel Thing: Daddy, why do the door handles open upwards? I don’t like it.
With Australians purchasing new cars at a record pace, a surge in the growth of SUV sales saw the category land fractionally behind the number of passenger vehicles sold during August. Which leads to a common, yet often misunderstood, question – what exactly is the difference between 4WD and AWD? In many instances, consumers are led to believe these two systems are the same. However, there is a notable distinction between the two, which will shape your driving experience.
Sydney Dragway plays host to a variety of high speed events but September 10th and 11th were a little different. The Australian Nostalgia Fuel Association took to the quarter mile track to both showcase some truly classic drag racing cars and their drivers.
The event was backed by “Cruzin” Magazine, a publication dedicated to the hot rod and modified street car scene, and was also a celebration of the drivers and pioneers of the sport. The event itself is part of a series being co-hosted between Sydney and Queensland’s fabled Willowbank Raceway.
Spending too long in the driver’s seat (or, for that matter, the passenger seat) can be hard on your back. One very good friend of mine suffered from mysterious back pain during a time that his job involved very long driving hours… and this “mystery” pain cleared up as quickly as leftovers discovered by seagulls when the driving hours reduced to just a few hours per day. Driving is fun, but do too much of it and it becomes a literal pain in the neck. Or backside. Or back. Or hips…
Yes, car seats are very comfortable, at least in more modern models (we’ll ignore the vinyl-covered horrors of the 1980s and 1970s, classics though they may be). Many have lumbar support and nice, supportive headrests, and allow you to adjust them this way and that. However, if you don’t have all the fancy features in your particular set of wheels or if you don’t take the time to adjust the seat to fit your body, apart from making sure that you can reach the pedals and steering wheel comfortably, you can be putting yourself at risk of back pain.
There’s been millions upon millions of motor vehicles built over the last century or so. There’s the bulk volume cargo vehicles, the popular and long lasting nameplates and then there’s the hand built rarities. One could toss in a name like Bugatti, or muse upon the Aston Martins built for the 2015/2016 Bond film, Spectre. However it’s arguable that the rarest cars in the world, of which there are three examples, and may never be touched by human hands in the first half of the 21st century, are the Lunar Roving Vehicle or LRV examples, left near the landing sites for Apollos 15, 16 and 17.The design for the LRV or “moon buggy” as they became popularly known, was part of the overall design brief for the Apollo missions as far back as the early 1960s. However, the idea for a manned vehicle that would traverse the moon had been discussed in the early to mid 1950s by people such as Werner von Braun.
In 1964 von Braun raised the idea again in an edition of “Popular Mechanics” and revealed that discussions between NASA’s Marshal Space Flight Centre, Boeing, General Motors and others. Design studies were put conducted under the watchful eyes of MSFC. In early planning, it was mooted that there would be two Saturn V rockets for the moon missions, one for the astronauts and one for the equipment. The American Congress squeezed NASA and, as a result, the funds for including two boosters were reduced to one, making a redesign of the Lunar Module assembly a priority if a LRV was to be included.
Would you like to have a hot butt? No, this is not an ad for some fancy-pants workout programme or weight loss gadget. Instead it’s all about one of my favourite driver conveniences, heated seats.
Electrically heated seats were the brainchild of the designers at Saab – those Swedes certainly come up with some great practical features. This isn’t surprising, really. We all know how cold it can get up there in a country that lies partly inside the Arctic Circle. Saab, like the other Swedish giant, Volvo, know how to build cars that are toasty-warm and can cope with cold conditions (perhaps a little too much so – in a Saab I once had, the soft lining on the inside of the cabin roof came away because the adhesive melted in the warmth of a summer Down Under).
https://www.soldieron.org.au/ is an organisation that’s dedicated to helping and working with our returned armed services men and women. There’s a good reason why: there’s been more returned soldiers take their own life in a year than in the thirteen years Australia has had service personnel in the Middle East. It’s a tragic number and a tragic situation.
Depression. Physical wounds. Just two of the issues the soldiers must deal with and Soldier On is there to help.
Kia’s Cerato underwent a mild nip and tuck in 2016; with a reprofiled nose the main visual change it’s freshened the look even though the now superceded model wasn’t in danger of looking dated. Available in a four door sedan and five door hatch with four trim levels, (S, S Premium, Si and SLi) plus a sole 2.0L engine for the range, Private Fleet’s Dave Conole takes on the 2016 S hatchback with auto.Engine and transmission have been left untouched and that’s not entirely a good thing. There’s a harshness, almost a grating vibration in the drivetrain up to medium throttle, plus a notable hesitancy, a lag, in gear shifting in the six speed auto fitted to this car. The Cerato’s accelerator responds better to being pushed hard and you’ll see that vibration gone, along with the speedo and tacho needles whizzing around the dials rapidly. Power peaks at 112 kW (6200 rpm) and maximum torque is a not indecent 192 Nm @ 4000 revs.Being a smallish capacity petrol fueled four, it’s typical that higher revs extract better performance, albeit at the cost of economy, to a point. Kia claims 9.8L/100 km of 91 RON from the fifty litre tank in the urban cycle and A Wheel Thing pretty much matched those numbers. Having said that, it’s a figure that’s too high for this sort of vehicle and is spanked by Suzuki’s new Vitara range for economy. On the highway, the six speed auto sees the figure drop to a more reasonable 5.7L/100 km. The S is the only model of the four to offer a manual, sadly.Weighing in at 1332 kilos (dry), the Cerato hatch proved nimble on its feet to counter the thirst. Although needing more steering lock than expected for low speed ninety degree turns, ie, coming into a non-stop required corner, it’s otherwise responsive, answering the call to move left or right in a freeway flow in a smooth and progressive move. The weight itself of the steering was heavier than expected, but a pleasant weight compared to the light, over assisted electrically powered systems in other cars.
Ride quality is something that Kia Australia has invested heavily on, and it shows. There’s revised springs at the front McPherson struts, a slightly stiffer setup to improve the already excellent balance between comfort and handling, plus improvements to the power steering unit, adding to the feel and weight, as mentioned. There’s even been a change to the steering’s computer processing, which enhances the three driving modes of Eco, Normal, and Sport.
City cars aren’t generally seen as a viable alternative to the medium and bigger cars here in Australia. There’s been attempts by big companies, such as the Mercedes-Benz backed smart car, which was more ridiculed than welcomed. There’s the slightly larger alternatives, such as the Mitsubishi Mirage and now Kia is now having a go, with a car called Picanto. In order to give the car a fighting chance, it’s been keenly priced at $14990 driveaway with metallic paint the only current option. There is a five speed manual available overseas.
It’s also been given some reasonable equipment in the sole specification model currently available, a good move given that it is due to be replaced by a newer model (it’s been available for five years overseas) in the next year and a half. You’ll get electric windows and mirrors, rear parking sensors, the full suite of airbags including curtain ‘bags, Hill Start Assist Control, Emergency Stop Signal (flashes the brake lights in a heavy or emergency stop) and halogen daytime running lights (DRL). It doesn’t get a reverse camera however.