A Wheel Thing once sold cars. One brand was Suzuki so it is a genuine pleasure to have the 2016 Suzuki Vitara RT-S diesel AllGrip in the garage. For the second car of five from Suzuki that A Wheel Thing will review, the Vitara with the torquey 1.6 litre diesel was the one supplied, coinciding with a weekend away that included a visit to the Australian alps and to the home of one of Australia’s most recognised cheese brands, Bega.First up, the RT-X looks exactly the same outside as the RT-S tested previously bar different painted alloys and the discreet AllGrip badge on the rear door. Well, unless you’re a train-spotter and notice the LED/xenon headlights, electric folding mirrors with LED flashers for the indicators, the different shade of plastic inserts for the front and rear bumpers, and are tall enough to see the panoramic sunroof. There’s also Parking sensors fitted to the RT-X.Inside you’ll see suede cushioning on the leather seats, effectively making heating elements redundant, a light metallic grey plastic trim on the dash console with AllGrip badging, Auto headlights and rain sensing wipers, a push button for the Start/Stop which is out of the driver’s eyeline and sometimes not easily found intuitively, with the Parking sensor button (located in a strip just above the driver’s knee) being pressed instead. What the Vitara (and most cars) needs are the extensions to the interior sunshades when pulled over to the driver and passenger windows. In between the front seats, you’ll find the selector for the six speed auto and a simple yet effective dial for the drive mode selector, being Auto, Sport, and Snow, with a tab saying Lock as well. These show up on the (still monochrome, why not colour?) centre screen in the binnacle facing the driver. There’s also an extra stalk for the tripmeter, compared to the single in the RT-S.Closing the doors sometimes needed an extra push, as a “normal” closing move had the last door to be closed not fully sealing, indicating an extra bit of venting to equalise pressure is needed. There was also unexpected interior fogging, as in too much too often, especially when the exterior temperature was showing double digits.Normal driving is left in Auto, Sport holds the upward gear changes longer (along with the paddle shifts on the steering column being called more into usage) and Snow looks after Mud and Gravel as well.
Even the Bluetooth streaming capable sound system gets an extra tickle, with a pair of tweeters fitted to the A pillars, improving the presence and soundstage. It’s not a vast improvement over the RT-S overall, but substantial enough to be a more comfortable listening environment for the office.Up front is Suzuki’s chattery and throttle sensitive 1.6 litre diesel. Power is rated at 88 kilowatts (@ 3750 revs) but it’s the 320 torques at only 1750 rpm that make it the cracker it is. It’s also superbly efficient, with a final consumption figure, after 1450 kilometres of driving in just over two days, of just 5.0 litres per one hundred kilometres covered. It’s a smallish 47 litre tank on board yet it was after a sensational 773 kilometres from full when the tank was topped up.If there’s a niggle for the driveline, it’s the dual clutch transmission that is the only gearbox option for the diesel. It’s prone to the same “lemme think” pause when going to Reverse from Park, with the roll forward or back and at a stop in Drive, the brake pedal needs a firmer push otherwise there’s the lurch as first gear is in then out, kinda like the hokey-pokey. To counter balance this, Suzuki fit Hill Hold Control, which isn’t always effective. Underway, it’s slick, smooth and mostly imperceptible in its shifts. Push harder and there’s an increase of chatter from the front and a longer, more linear surge of torque as the speedo numbers climb.Otherwise, what you drive is a responsive, frugal, sounds bigger than it is, engine. That economy is helped along by a body weight that tips the scales at around 1200 kilograms, so it’s a fantastic torque to kilogram equation. It’ll surge forward from a standstill at the lightest touch of the pedal and will kick down readily enough for overtaking on the long open highways south of Canberra and on the Hume and Federal highways between Sydney and Canberra. Naturally it’ll run out of puff at revs where a petrol engine is just hitting its stride but only rarely did it feel that a 2.0L may have been a better option.Ridewise, it feels tauter all round but has the same short/hard and long/soft suspension combo of the RT-S, even down to the underside of the chin belting the road coming off a road calming bump. Being a constant four wheel drive, you’ll notice more weight in the steering as the centre diff works with the rear to apportion drive and handling is affected as a result.It’s less prone to being knocked around by cross winds, unlike the RT-S and feels more sure footed. In the wet and greasy conditions found near Thredbo and Mt Selwyn, some judicious driving was called for, more to ensure the capabilities of the drive system were met rather than exceeded. A light dab of the throttle to get underway, traction to the ground and you’re away.It’s more easily settled by throttle application as well; the transmission will kick down a gear or two on a down hill run on a long turn, using the engine to assist braking and the front can then be pushed back onto the ground with a flex of the right foot. The power comes back in and the car recomposes itself. On the straight runs, there were times when the steering seemed lighter, as if the drive system was pushing more torque to the rear. In tight cornering, the 2500 mm wheelbase again proves handy, endowing the Vitara with a nimbleness many will enjoy, including a sub six metre turning centre.There’s little doubt that the niche the Vitara aims for is soft roading; the Vitara gets an approach angle of just 18 degrees, departure angle is a decent 28 degrees but the rollover point is also just 18 degrees. That’s good enough for most people and there’s Hill Descent Control built in to give an extra bit of courage and confidence for those in need. The Continental tyres fitted to the polished and painted 17 inch alloys are the same 215/55 profile type you’ll find on the RT-S, more attuned to tarmac than serious off roading.Pricewise, it’s up there, with $35990 plus ORCs, but you do get that wonderfully efficient diesel, plenty of room and driveability, the sunroof (normally a 2K plus option elsewhere), satnav, the techy dual clutch gearbox and paddles and the Continental rubber as standard. But you don’t get a full sized spare tyre.At The End Of The Drive.
What makes the Suzuki Vitara diesel RT-X a winner is the engine. Flexible, unbelievably economical (that figure was achieved with four aboard and luggage as well), it pulls like a train and gets the dual clutch auto singing. The cloth inserts on the seats negate a need for heating, which was a HUGE benefit given the morning temperatures. Yes, there’s a couple of niggles but they’re livable. It certainly is an almost ideal chariot for a weekend away for a family and has a good feature set for the price.
Head to 2016 Suzuki Vitara range for extra details.
In the last 10 or so years, ESP has become almost as standard in new cars as seatbelts. OK, the manufacturers may not call this feature ESP, which stands for Electronic Stability Program(me) (the preferred term for Audi and a few others). It could also be called Electronic Stability Control (ESC – the original term used by Mercedes Benz and BMW) or some fancy marque-exclusive name like “Advance Trak” (Ford) or Porsche Stability Management (guess which marque uses that one!). ESC is the most common abbreviation but ESP has a tendency to stick in the mind a bit more, what with the mental images of psychic cars. Or maybe this only sticks in my mind because I’m weird.
No apologies for the bluntness of the title. However, I’ll clarify that the following is specific to New South Wales, with information provided courtesy of the NSW Government’s Transport for safety site.
Why this, though? It’s simple. In NSW, the most populous state in Australia, there’s been an unexpected and unwelcome spike in road deaths for 2016 compared to 2015 and what’s called the three year average. Naturally, the road safety organisations, police and government are left scratching their heads as to why. Although it’s been a downward trend, the rise that’s concerning the relevant bodies started in mid 2015.
A Wheel Thing welcomes Suzuki to the garage, with the first of five in a row being the entry level Suzuki Vitara RT-S. It’s a 1.6L engine and five speed manual transmission combo driving the front wheels and with prices starting at just $23990, it’s a great way for a new driver to get out on the road. Here’s why.Suzuki’s Vitara range is part of a stable of cars that come from the niche Japanese automotive manufacturer. This particular vehicle, the RT-S, is, in A Wheel Thing’s opinion, one of the most ideal cars that a recently licensed driver can get into to hone their driving skills.
Up front is a frugal four potter, with Suzuki claiming consumption of just 5.8L per 100 kilometres. A Wheel Thing backs that up, with 5.6L/100 km from 560 kilometres worth of most urban driving, from a 47 litre tank.No, it’s not a firecracker, with Suzuki reserving the fuse lighting for the 1.4 Turbo engine (which will be reviewed in August 2016). There’s 86 kilowatts at 6000 revs and a reasonable 156 torques at a highish 4400 revs, but not unexpected for this size engine. It’s partly why the manual transmission is “only” a five speed, not six, as the fifth gear ratio of 0.725:1 sees around 2800 rpm on the tacho at 110 kilometres per hour. That’s reaching the bottom limits of effectiveness for torque to twist a sixth ratio. Another positive which aids consumption is the light weight for the size of the car; just 1075 kilos kerb weight for the manual.
As such, it’s a free revving unit, if somewhat buzzy at high revs and from the line does need a bit of rowing through the gears. Happily, that’s not a chore as both the gear mechanism and clutch are smooth, well weighted and the pickup point becomes instinctive very quickly, again ideal for new drivers. Under way and around town, fifth is mostly fine, but some may find fourth a better choice. The dash screen does indicate what gear you’re in, unusual for a manual transmission. Finding some hills to climb such as the Great Western Highway or the zig zag for the Old Bathurst Road at the base of the Blue Mountains will see a need to drop back through the gears, down to first at one point on the zig zag whilst the highway climb should only need a drop to third.
If you’ve been following motoring news of late, you may have noticed a heightened level of discussion surrounding vehicle recalls. This comes off the back of over 1.6 million cars being recalled across Australia during the first six months of this year. To put this number into perspective, last year 1.3 million vehicles were affected – a number that, at the time, was a record in its own right. With the year just over half way, and the seemingly inevitable prospect of further announcements ahead, do Australian motorists have reason to be concerned by the sheer number of recalls?
With nearly 600,000 new vehicles sold within the first six months of the year, the earlier figures suggest that recalls considerably outpace sales – something that wouldn’t seem too far-fetched given they cover a breadth of years. However, it hasn’t always been this way. 10 years ago, the number of cars subject to a recall were 339,000 – while for the same year, over 962,000 new vehicles were sold. A contrasting story to today’s picture. So is it a case of auto manufacturers cutting back on quality? Are they instead being more pro-active? Is vehicle technology causing us more grief than we anticipated?
Ford’s research and development engineers must have something in the water they drink. From a long history of sporting oriented cars and with a continued push to extract every erg of performance from their four cylinder range, the recent unveiling of the Focus RS model to the Australian motoring media has taken the superlatives to a new level, thanks to their latest work.
Here’s Ford Australia’s PR release:
The hugely anticipated 2016 Ford Focus RS brings Ford’s most advanced and capable performance hatch to Australian customers. With more power, as well as a driver-focussed Ford Performance All-Wheel Drive, the RS brings scintillating performance and technical innovation at a lower Manufacturer’s List Price than its predecessor.“The all-new Focus RS is a very serious machine with high-performance technology and innovative engineering that sets a new benchmark for driving exhilaration,” said Raj Nair, group vice president, Global Product Development, Ford Motor Company. “The RS line has a proud history of technical breakthroughs that have gone on to benefit all Ford customers, and the new Focus RS is no exception.”
It’s always a good feeling to slip back into a Subaru Forester. Think of catching up with an old mate at your favourite pub, after you’ve pulled on your comfy boots and decided on having your favourite meal and a pint of your favourite suds. That’s what it was like in late June for A Wheel Thing, with the updated 2.0L (177 kW/350 Nm) petrol and CVT equipped XT Premium.Outside it’s been a minor set of changes, with the tail lights and head lights now equipped with LEDs and lit in a squared off C shape. There’s xenon headlamps up front and swept back into the fenders to accentuate the eagle eyed look Forester has had over the last couple of models. The grille has been reprofiled as has the front bumper.Out back the tail lamp clusters stand proud of the rear fenders and have a nicely chamfered design to the edges. Above the driver is a sizable sunroof, covering both front and rear seats. The test vehicle was clad in silver, necessitating the auto headlights to be flicked on manually as their sensitivity under Sydney’s grey skies wasn’t enough to illuminate automatically.There’s black painted 18 inch alloys (new aero efficient design for the 2016 model), with rubber supplied by Bridgestone in a 225/55/18 profile. They were grippy enough and added an extra level of comfort to the suspension setup, modified slightly from the 2015 model. There’s a touch more comfort, a touch more luxury in the ride quality, plush even, leaning towards the luxury side the XT is aimed at, rather than an out and out sports style.It’s surprisingly twitchy on road, this particular vehicle, affected by cross breezes and passing trucks, needing a keen sense of attention from the driver in wet weather. I have to say it was an unusual situation to experience, as it’s so rare for a Subaru car to be suchlike in its driving. Otherwise, it’s a neutral handler, with the faintest hint of tight corner understeer (dialled out by the Vehicle Dynamics Control, for the most part), with Subaru’s famous all for the driver all wheel drive system playing its part.The SI Drive system has also been fettled, with an eight step programming for the CVT and receiving throttle input information, going from a continous drive mode on light throttle input to the eight speed feel when under heavy load. Underneath, that ride quality has been helped by minor but noticeable changes to the spring and shock absorber settings, a more rigid front suspension cradle and rerated suspension bushes.Inside, it’s more of the same; familiar dash layout, familiar instrumentation, familiar ergonomics. It’s as easy to deal with as the aforementioned comfy boots and bucket of suds for anyone that’s spent time with a Forester over the last few years. It’s certainly an easy place to get accustomed to for anyone that hasn’t, with clearly laid out switchgear, good ergonomics and sensible design cues apart from that damnable prediliction for lighting up the climate control’s dual zone button when in fact it’s only blowing into one zone. But you will also get Subaru’s much vaunted Eyesight system, which only once failed to work, due to direct sunlight shining directly down the camera barrels.There’s, of course, electric seats. Comfortable, slip into ’em like your favourite shoes, electric seats with two heating settings (no cooling), clad in black leather, with thicker underside cushioning and with split fold rears accessing the cargo space. There’s Subaru’s X-Trac system underneath for softroading, accessed via a button in the front centre console. Even the vanity mirrors are now lit. What the XT Premium doesn’t get is a DAB equipped tuner. What the Forester has been given, however, is a good working over with the refinement brush. Both suspension (adding to the ride quality experienced) and the NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) levels have been further refined (by five percent, says Subaru) thanks to slightly thicker glass and changes in the body’s structure plus increasing sound deadening materials. It’s evident by the lack of exterior noise making its way into the cabin. Apple’s Siri voice interface has been added, the tail gate is powered, and there’s memory seating as well.It’s a good size, the Forester, with a compact 4610 mm length hiding a 2640 mm wheelbase. It’s tall, at 1735 mm and spans 1795 mm thanks to the heated wing mirrors extended. Weight is deceptive, with the XT Premium tipping the scales at 1657 kg, a full 157 kg heavier than the entry level 2.0L manual. Unsurprisingly, as a result, it’s also the highest in fuel consumption, with Subaru quoting 8.5L of unleaded being used for every 100 kilometres on a combined cycle. A Wheel Thing saw consistent nine plus around town. Warranty wise, you’ll get three years and unlimited kilometres.All this adds up to be a reasonable ask in dollars; the range starts at just under thirty thousand, with the XT Premium auto ten dollars shy of forty eight thousand. Given the company it keeps, such as the Sportage, Tucson, Kuga, Captiva, RAV4 and the like, it may seem up against it but the sales numbers tell a different story, with the Forester range a consistent sales chart topper.
For info, to book a test drive and for enquiries, head here: 2016 Subaru Forester range and follow Subaru on social media.
In just about every new car that comes out, you’ll find LED lighting somewhere around it, whether it’s in the form of daytime running lights, the tail lights or the interior lighting. Car manufacturers seem very proud of featuring LED lighting in the designs. You might be wondering what all the fuss is about. Is this just the latest fashion or is there some real advantage to having LED lighting in your car?
It’s as big as The Hulk, has more grunt than a GT3 race field, the poise on road of Nureyev in Swan Lake and the agility of a salmon leaping from an ice cold river. They’re flowery words to describe the latest iteration of Land Rover’s venerable Discovery V6 but it’s all that and more. A Wheel Thing takes the beastie for a solid on road stint and comes away wishing the keys stayed for longer.The Discovery TDV6 is blocky, squared off, seemingly hewn from a single piece of metal. It stands a massive 1891 mm tall (including roof rails) and has a face not unlike the sibling Range Rover, complete with LED driving lights and logo shone down to the ground from the wing mirrors. At the rear are the classic Land Rover tail lights (now with LED lighting) and split fold non powered tailgate with electric release for the lower section. In profile there’s windows large enough to be sails for an America’s Cup yacht. From 1890. Yep, the Disco is a big ‘un all round.And that extends to the beautifully appointed bone/beige and chocolate coffee( aka Almond and Arabica) leather interior, optioned in the test vehicle over the cloth covering normally found in the TDV6, with driver, passenger, mid row passengers and rear seat passengers (which fold flat into the floor) all having plenty of shoulder, leg, and head room. The Discovery did lack heating for the front seats (which were the optionable electric powered) and, to be honest, a heated tiller would have been nice too, but it’s optionable on the other two models. Such is the manner of companies differentiating between models in a range.The middle row seats have a solid mechanism to their folding; some middle rows simply feel as if they’ll fold with a slight breeze once unlatched, the Discovery’s give an impression of needing some muscle to do so. Of course that’s not the case, but there’s that implied sense of oomph required. They’re also separate seats, three seats, not a sixty to forty split fold and big enough for three average sized adults to be in. This configuration is also an option, with the 60/40 split the norm.Up front, well it’s just a beautiful place to be. The Arabica leather across the top, the symmetrically designed console (bar the Start/Stop button at driver’s left in a right hand drive vehicle) and the simple and elegant dash dial look. Not that it’s a major thing but the temperature dials adjusted by one degree stops, not 0.5 as seems to be the standard and a button or tab for dual zone operation to single wasn’t readily apparent either. Controls for the drive modes are button operated as is the variable height air suspension, giving up to 310 mm maximum ground clearance.
But there’s that sweet colour combination, the subtly supportive seats (subtle because although there was room to move you also feel safe and after a good stint behind the wheel there’s no feeling of tiredness) and the JLR touchscreen’s familiarly cluttered look. DAB is fitted and the sensitivity of the units that Jaguar/Land Rover/Range Rover again comesunder scrutiny, with drop out in areas other manufacturers systems don’t have. Meridian supply the speakers and it’s again a clean, well defined sound stage.As mentioned, the Discovery is big; there’s a wheelbase of 2885 mm inside a length of 4829 mm and with the mirrors folded ut, it’s 2200 mm wide. It’ll wade up to 700 mm in depth, on the 19 inch alloys and 255/55 Wrangler rubber and can climb and depart at 32.2 and 26.7 degrees without raising the body on the air suspension. Otherwise it’s 36.2 and 29.6. The size provides up to 1260 litres of cargo space and gives passengers 1020 mm of head room at the front, plus 983 mm to 1018 mm in the third row if fitted with the “Alpine roof”. Weight? Well, it’s more than it looks, at a hefty 2558 kilos…Although there’s a decent 155 kilowatts at 4000 revs, there’s an even better 520 torques at 2000. This contributes greatly towards the fuel economy figures, which Land Rover quotes as being 9.8L per 100 kilometres in the ‘burbs, 8.1L/100 on the highway (which is higher than expected) and comes from a 82.3L tank. A Wheel Thing finished on 9.0L after just under 670 kilometres. They’re good, if not great figures, considering it’s an eight speed auto connected to the constant 4WD (no transfer case in the base TDV6) system and there’s a 0-100 kilometre time of over ten seconds. Some weight loss work would see both figures improve.Although it’s a tad weighty, it doesn’t deter the Discovery from being agile and nimble. Also a strong advocate of road safety and driver education, A Wheel Thing sees far too much of what could be politely termed bad driving whilst out and reviewing cars. Thanks to Sydney drivers exhibiting said bad driving, it gave the Discovery opportunities to display its flair for handling, manouverability and mid range acceleration. The family pizza sized disc brakes 360/350 mm front/rear) also do a sterling job of hauling up the 2.5 tonne machine in anything from mild to wild situations.
On an overnight jaunt to Nowra, some 160 kilometres south of Sydney but a two plus hour drive, the tacho showed why an eight speed auto is a wonderful thing, with barely 1400 revs showing at 100 kmh. With something like 90% of that peak torque available at around that rev point, it makes for an easy, relaxed, cruising speed. There’s a well weighted steering system that can be moved with just one finger yet has real heft and feel to it, with plenty of feedback.
Haval is a new entry to the Aussie car market and is certainly, judging by the Haval H9, poised to make an impact on the sales figures. It hails from China but that doesn’t make it a non worthwhile consideration. Here’s why…Haval have loaded the H9 (the premium model from Haval) with more fruit than a grocer’s store. Tri-zone climate control, exterior night shining logo which doubles as a puddle lamp, glowing door sills, seven seats, leather, satnav via an eight inch touchscreen, sunroof with presets and LED lit surround, mood lighting (operated via touch tab at the sunroof operation area), swiveling and leveling headlights, plus dash mounted 4WD info such as inclination, compass and external air pressure. Not sure about that last one, admittedly. It’s a big car, too; think Nissan X-Trail meets Mercedes GL class for looks and size.Cloud to the silver lining? A surprisingly lacklustre turbocharged 2.0L petrol engine (Haval are reportedly working on a diesel) producing 160 kilowatts and 324 Nm between 2000 and 4000. Haval quote 12.1 litres per 100 kilometres for a combined cycle meaning urban consumption (not quoted) has to be something over 14.0L. That’s from an eighty litre tank and requiring a minimum of 95 RON. Haval don’t quote a kerb weight however it’s quoted elsewhere as being 2250 kilograms. Haval also states the H9 will tow up to 2500 kilograms. It may do but expect a hefty fuel bill and a glacial progress initially.The gearbox is a six speed auto that has options such as Auto, Sports and off road modes; in Sports mode which with the lack of torque the engine has, sees second gear held for too long under most normal accelerative conditions. Have to say, though, it is a smooth ‘box and engine combo, with most changes audible in revs but not physically felt.The steering rack felt as if something was loose, such as a mounting bracket or joint. There’s a noise and a feeling of untoward movement underneath. Minor, but worrying enough to be of concern.It has a good steering feel, however, with good weight and a turning circle of just over eleven metres. That’s good for a car that measures 4856 mm in length and has a 2800 mm wheelbase. And when not shifting about, it’s responsive enough also, with enough feedback to keep a modest driver informed about where they’re going. It does feel as if, though, the rack and pinion steering has too much of a requirement for a full lock to lock steering response, needing close to four turns. On road, apart from the leisurely acceleration, it’s good enough to please most people. Front suspension niggle aside, it’s a competent handler, points well and rides nicely. Over some unsettled surfaces it did skip more than anticipated, has some bump steer, yet isn’t overly firm in the overall ride. On the flat, it’s surefooted, compliant if a bit taut but deals with Sydney’s undulations by simply following the curvature and not pogoing.
There’s big Cooper Discoverer asymmetric tyres, at 265/60/18 underneath as well as double wishbone suspension at the front, multilink at the rear and certainly, overall, will be fine for all but the fussiest or sporting oriented drivers.