Tesla Looks Further Towards The Future.

Tesla has announced a new, over the air, software upgrade, for the Model S and Model X. This brings a new, redesigned, User Interface (UI) to the massive touchscreen. With the upgrade due in Australia sometime from October 2016, here’s what Tesla Australia had to say:

tesla_model_s_profile-1-980x420Tesla makes the only cars on the road that continue to get safer, smarter, and more capable over time, thanks to free, over-the-air software updates. While traditional cars have static features, a Tesla is more akin to a smartphone, adding new functionality and enhancements throughout the life of the car.
Software update 8.0 kicks off a significant over-the-air overhaul of the Tesla touchscreen and introduces the biggest UI revamp since the launch of Model S. Customers who purchased their car in 2012 will receive the same value of functionality and improvement as customers who purchased vehicles last month. 8.0 combines a modern look with updates to Autopilot, Navigation with Trip Planner, Maps, and the Media Player for a safer, more advanced driving experience. In an industry-first safety measure, we’re also introducing Cabin Overheat Protection, focused on child (and pet) safety. This feature keeps the car at a safe temperature, even when the car is off, and is made possible by our uniquely large battery packs.
Intuitive media player
The media player has been redesigned and personalised to put your favourite content front and center. Search is now simpler to access and more powerful, accessing streaming radio, live stations, podcasts, and any USB device to help you quickly find what they’re looking for.                          
                              
Voice commands
Voice controls are now easier and clearer to use. Initiation is quick, and clear visual feedback lets you focus on the road without compromising convenience or control.
  • Voice commands initiate with a single tap
  • Feedback in the form of a transcript now appears on the instrument panel to confirm your command
  • Visual tips remind you what commands are available tesla-update
Maps and navigation
Maps have been updated to span the entire touchscreen, displaying the most important details of your trip. The control bar fades automatically for an uncluttered navigation experience.
  • Search for destinations with a single touch or voice command
  • Zoom adjusts based on location to display what you need to see most
  • Navigate to home or work with a single swipe
  • When at home, swipe the navigation button down in the Maps app and navigation will automatically route you to work. When away from home, swipe down and navigation will route back
Cabin Overheat Protection
In an industry-first safety measure, we’re also introducing Cabin Overheat Protect, focused on child (and pet) safety. This feature keeps the car at a safe temperature for hours, even when the car is off. This feature is only made possible by an electric vehicle with Tesla’s uniquely large battery packs.
Trip Planner
Trip Planner provides a clear overview of your journey before you leave, with maps that zoom out to show your entire route. Putting your Tesla into Drive automatically starts navigation to your first waypoint.
Autopilot Enhancements
Advancements in signal processing use the Tesla’s onboard radar to persistently capture snapshots of its surroundings, creating a 3D picture of the world. Learn more about seeing the world in radar.
Displays now show angled vehicles as they enter a curve and the Autosteer indicator has been updated to more clearly indicate when Autosteer is engaged. We won’t list all 200 improvements to Autopilot in 8.0, but here are a few additions:
  • Autopilot has been tuned to be more responsive and smoother in stop-and-go traffic
  • Enhanced safety requirement which disables Autosteer during trip when safety warnings are ignored
  • Autosteer now navigates highway interchanges
  • Redesigned Autopilot indicators
  • Curve speed adaptation now uses fleet-learned roadway curvature
  • Autopilot now controls for two cars ahead improving reaction time to otherwise-invisible heavy braking events
  • Car offsets in lane when overtaking a slower vehicle driving close to its lane edge

Head to http://www.tesla.com for further information.

2016 MY17 Subaru Levorg GT & GT-S: Car Review

Subaru has gone back to the future for the 2017 MY (model year) Levorg. It’s a name from the past applied to a modern mix of turbo charging, boxer engine, all wheel drive. Available in GT and GT-S spec with manufacturer’s pricing of $42990 and $48890 plus ORC (plus an optional Spec B configuration package from $52890 plus ORC), A Wheel Thing drives the Subaru GT Levorg and Levorg  GT-S.2017-my-subaru-levorg-gt-s-frontFirst impressions are of from the front. Looks like a WRX, complete with angular headlights, low set indicators, LED backlit DRLs surrounding the headlights and air intake in the bonnet looking like a whale shark skimming plankton. At the rear it’s a blend of Forester and Outback and a slightly heavy looking bumper, dragging the rear visually close to the tarmac whilst the roofline tapers gracefully downwards. Front and rear bumpers on the GT are not fitted with parking sensors however.2017-my-subaru-levorg-gt-rear-quarter2017-my-subaru-levorg-gt-s-rear-quarterIn profile, there’s tidy looking 18 inch alloys wrapped in 225/45 Dunlop rubber for the Levorg, in full alloy for the GT and black painted machined alloys on the GT-S. There’s an odd choice of exterior styling for the window trim, with a sole strip of chrome on the lower window line whilst the rest is blacked out. The GT-S follows a similar styling theme and it’s not entirely cohesive in look. Personal choice would be to have all blacked or all chromed. There’s a bit of aero design in the rear flanks, with a crease from the rear door handles to smooth air flow.2017-my-subaru-levorg-gt-s-wheel2017-my-subaru-levorg-gt-wheelIt’s elegantly packaged overall, with a balanced proportion in look, with a total length of 4690 mm giving the Levorg a low and slinky look thanks to the 1490 mm height. An overall width of 1780 mm makes interior space cosy, with enough room on the rear pew for two passengers comfortably but a tad tight for three. Dry weight is 1538 kilograms.2017-my-subaru-levorg-gt-s-profile2017-my-subaru-levorg-gt-profileInside it’s standard Subaru in the GT; cloth covered manually adjusted front seats, the GT-S goes leather with blue piping plus heating up front with two memory seats, sunroof and heated wing mirrors. There’s the triple screen display in dash and console, dash dials limned in a brilliant aquamarine, push button Start/Stop and a surprise.2017-my-subaru-levorg-gt-front-seats2017-my-subaru-levorg-gt-s-front-seatsA Wheel Thing has long bemoaned the seeming wacky choice of lighting the button that says Dual for the aircon but it’s lit when actually only operating as a single zone. This has finally been rectified. Huzzah! For portable device charging and music playing there’s USB and Aux up front and a USB port for the rear seat passengers.2017-my-subaru-levorg-gt-dash-console-screenThe GT misses out on some of the touchscreen features the GT-S gets; satnav, for example, is not fitted and also dips out on Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alerts. There is a reverse camera and you’ll still get the side/front/curtain and knee airbags plus the mandatory assortment of electronic driver aids and that marvelous Eyesight forward collision avoidance system. Safety rating, as a result, is five stars.2017-my-subaru-levorg-gt-dashSubaru’s made sure the Eyesight system is easy to use. There’s a tab on the steering wheel to adjust how far ahead the system scans for traffic and will beep stridently when it senses an object plus will apply braking force if the computers deems the human component is not reacting fast enough. It’s a brilliant system but sometimes a tad fussy when sensing stationary objects. At least the alarm keeps the driver on their toes. The GT-S adds a visual element by fitting a series of red LEDs in the dash where one might find a HUD.

The tiller also has the SI Drive buttons; these offer three driving modes, with the more user friendly being the Sports, the in between mode ahead of Intelligent. This sharpens throttle response and engages the Lineratronic CVT noticeably quicker and imbues the transmission with a more traditional auto change feel. Sports Sharp (S#) takes it a step further; the dash shows the gear ratios, not just D, and further improves the gear change feel. It’s also this mode that the paddle shifts become relevant, as there’s now eight preset gear points to play with, and makes this gear perhaps not the one for most.

A Wheel Thing is not a massive fan of CVTs and this doesn’t escape scrutiny. There’s lag sometimes between engaging Drive from Reverse, sometimes a lag between hitting the accelerator and having forward motion engaged. That indecisiveness off the line is frustrating and potentially, in the wrong situation, dangerous. When it’s underway and hooking up, it’s a different story.

From a standstill, the Sports # is the pick for seeing 100 kmh in the quickest way….6.6 seconds, thank you. The brakes were up to the task, with a smooth bite and feedback almost from the moment of touching the pedal. Given the newness of the GT (built in May 2016) there was more than a hint of brake pad smell around town, with the stop/start traffic flow.

Moving to the rear and we’ll see the raison d’être for the car and where the Levorg shines. There’s 60/40 split fold rear seats, operated by both a pull knob on the seat’s corner and in the cavernous 522 litre cargo section, a simple pull switch to the left and right of the cargo wall. This drops the seats flat and opens up the cargo area to a whopping 1446 litres. There’s the lift up floor to access the spare wheel which is a space saver and hides a couple of extra storage pockets.2017-my-subaru-levorg-gt-s-cargo2017-my-subaru-levorg-gt-cargoUp front and below the gaping air intake is the square bore and stroked (86.0 mm x 86.0 mm) boxer four with turbo. It’s an engine that sings its best party tunes between 2500 and 4500, especially when at velocity. The lightest of extra pressure on the throttle sees the turbo boost gauge creep upwards however the numbers of kilometres per hour climb faster as a seemingly endless push in the back is applied.

Subaru quotes peak power and torque as 197 kilowatts @ 5600 rpm and 350 torques between a table top flat 2400 – 5200 from the 2.0L engine. Economy? Well, this was an engine with around 1600 kilometres on the clock when tested in the GT, so would still be bedding in. Final economy was 9.5L of 95 RON from the 60L tank for every 100 kilometres covered and this was in a driving environment of 95% urban. Given Subaru quotes 11.9L per 100 km for the urban, 6.9L/100 km on the highway and 8.7L/100 km, that’s come out quite well.2017-my-subaru-levorg-gt-engineWhen punched hard, there’s the hint of turbo whistle from the front. It’s a sound that’s been virtually eradicated from production petrol turbo cars, sadly, and even some diesels now miss out on that. There’s the thrum of the boxer engine and the almost silent whoosh from the twin exhaust tip. There’s no doubt some aftermarket companies will already be working on replacements.2017-my-subaru-levorg-gt-s-dash-buttonsIt’s a typical turbo delivery, with that feeling of “here it com………there we go!” and is only slightly hobbled by the characteristics of the CVT. There’s that slipping clutch feeling before the system grabs hold of the engine’s torque and then makes full use of it. Again, the CVT works best when everything is already happening, especially when at freeway speeds.2017-my-subaru-levorg-gt-rear-seats

Road holding was, as expected, superglue in its grip. Point, shoot, apply throttle, brake, and the Levorg did as asked. You wear, rather than drive, the Levorg. Unexpected was the variance in ride quality. Subaru have fitted the Levorg with two suspension setups: for the GT there’s KYB and for the GTS, Bilstein is the supplier. Bluntly, speedhumps are not the friend of the GT and to a lesser degree the GT-S, with front and rear crashing into the bumpstops even at low and appropriate speeds. The chin would bang the tarmac and the rear would bang around, moving the spare wheel assembly and tools audibly.2017-my-subaru-levorg-gt-rear-seat-flipThe GT-S was a bit tighter but disappointed in not matching expectations. Compared to Skoda’s Octavia wagon, the suspension was softer, less accommodating of undulations and bumps, less tight and taut. The rear still felt soft, bouncing more than expected coming off speedbumps, and whilst the front in the GT-S was tighter than the GT, the Octavia felt more settled and composed as a package. There’s also some clunks from the driveline in parking and turning, as the all wheel drive system deals with the input the sensors send to the onboard computers.

Underneath the Levorg are coil springs and McPherson struts up front, while the rear sits on double wishbones. The combination keeps the Levorg flat and level on the freeway, adding to the perception it’s a sports car with a big boot. Steering is a rack & pinion system, with electric power assistance. It’s firm, well weighted, and doesn’t feel over assisted regardless of slow, parking, acceleration or highway velocities.2017-my-subaru-levorg-gt-s-rear-seats

Included is three years worth of road side assistance and three years warranty with unlimited kilometres. Service intervals are six months or 12500 kilometres. For towers, the Levorg is rated at 1200 kilos, enough for a small trailer, for who’d want to tow a caravan with a sports wagon?

At The End Of The Drive.
The Levorg offers a quality alternative and fits well into a niche, Subaru’s forte. A medium sized, non diesel, roomy, non SUV vehicle with good looks, punchy performance and efficient in its simplicity stands it in good stead. With Subaru expecting to shift somewhere in the order of north of 250 units a month, it’ll add to Subaru’s already well stocked arsenal. The GT’s Achille’s heel is the overly soft suspension in the real world or car parking and road based speed humps, leaving the GT-S to look as the winner but not by much, with both dealing with a CVT that seems to need more polishing. For A Wheel thing, it’s a case of Levorg, Lelike, not LeLove.
Subaru can help you book a test drive and provide information here: Subaru test drive link

2016 Kia Optima Si: Car Review.

Kia’s big mid sized car, or mid sized big car, the Optima, has proved to be a stayer in recent years. For 2017 Kia has streamlined the range, with it now compromising the Si and GT, with the latter now packing a turbo engine and replacing the Platinum nameplate. A Wheel Thing takes time with the entry level Kia Optima Si.2017-my-kia-optima-si-profile-smpThere’s a good reason why the range is now just two: the Si gets crammed full of standard equipment found as options elsewhere. Apart from the standard, mandated, safety equipment such as ABS, airbags and the like, there’s Hill Start Assist, the flashing brake lights Emergency Stop Signal, parking sensors front & rear with dash display, rear view camera with guidelines, Lane Departure Warning, Autonomous Emergency Braking, auto headlights and with auto levelling. Straight up, that’s an impressive features list from a $38500 driveaway (no options or metallic paint) priced car.2017-my-kia-optima-si-engineWhat you’ll get up front is Kia’s 2.4L, with 138 kilowatts and 241 torques at 4000 rpm put to the front wheels via a six speed auto. It’s an engine that needs a rev to get the 1540 kg car going and that’s reflected in the consumption. The combined figure is quoted as 8.3L/100 km on standard unleaded, with an urban figure of 12.0L. That’s simply too high in today’s eco aimed environment and has been the Optima’s weak spot since the current shape was released in 2013. Take it out on the freeway and expect just over 6.0L/100 km from the huge 70 litre tank.2017-my-kia-optima-si-profileIt weighs a bit because it IS a big car but not as much as similar sized competitors. It’s big car in length at 4855 mm, big car in width at 1860 mm but has a low 1465 mm to show why in profile it’s seen as slinky and sensuous. It’s a good sized wheelbase, too, at 2805 mm, which translates into plenty of internal space, including a huge 510 litre boot space that is more than adequate for a family shop or a holiday away.2017-my-kia-optima-si-wheelDesign wise there’s subtle but crucial changes, keeping the Si’s looks fresh. It’s a more defined tiger nose grille, the LED lights in the lower quadrants of the intake inside the reprofiled bumper, the slimmer tail lights, extended boot lid, and the Continental rubber on the 17 inch alloys. A good looker? Absolutely. The test car came in Clear White, one of five colours available for the Si, with Silky Silver, Platinum Graphite, Gravity Blue and Temptation Red also available as an optionable cost (check with your dealer for pricing).2017-my-kia-optima-si-front-seatsInside it’s black cloth for the Si, on well sculpted, supportive and well bolstered, manually operated seats. For the Si, that’s the sole trim choice available. The driver and front seat passenger see a fluid, flowing, dash, with an ergonomically smart layout. The upper section, nearest the window, has a curve not unlike that seen in a premium British brand and the dash plastic has an almost leather look to the texture.2017-my-kia-optima-si-dashTabs have a soft feel and are of Kia’s semi matte finish. The overall effect is of quality and presence and wouldn’t be out of place in some more expensive Euro spec cars. And although the window line is high in proportion to the sides, there’s still plenty of all around vision. If you have portable devices or smartphones, there’s four 12 Volt sockets; two front and two for the rear seats, mounted at the rear of the centre console.2017-my-kia-optima-si-centre-dashEntertainment is courtesy of a 7 inch touchscreen with navigation, complete with USB/Auxiliary/Bluetooth streaming and a Speed Dependent Volume Control. It’s AM/FM only with limited RDS (Radio Data Service) capability, leaving the Si Optima behind some competitors. Sound quality in FM is good enough, however, with tuner sensitivity only rarely showing a dropout.2017-my-kia-optima-si-bootWhere the Si further shines is on the road. Think of the suspension tune as “sporting luxury”. Punted over a broken up tarmac surface at Sydney Motorsport Park, there’s plenty of absorption, compliance, plushness before firming up rapidly but not uncomfortably. Kia Australia works very closely with Kia’s headquarters to work on suspension tune for Australia and again that effort shows and pays off. Even being front wheel drive there’s barely a hint of that, with no torque steer yet an appreciable weight and heft to the steering feel. Speedbumps? Not a problem? Dive under brakes? Not enough to worry about. Dealing with undulations? C’mon, why ask!2017-my-kia-optima-si-rear-seatsPushed hard into a certain roundabout which has a direction of travel change of over 180 degrees, there was no understeer and the rear followed the front around without question. Nope, no tyre squeal either, before you ask. The electrically assisted steering is not overdone in how it works with the three steering modes, and the Motor Driven Power Steering Module is steering column mounted, allowing Kia to tune towars the more luxury side as opposed to the GT’s rack mounted setup.

It’s quiet, too, on the road, with the 2.4 litre engine only intruding slightly and that only when pressed hard. Wind and tyre noice are negligible at best and only mildly noticed at worst. Combined with the seating, you will emerge from a long drive without the subconscious stress outside noise brings in.

At The End Of The Drive.
At the time of writing, the Optima Si was priced at $34490 plus ORCs. Along with the seven year warranty, Kia offer capped price servicing over those seven years, starting off with $331.00 for the first service at one year or 15000 kilometres, with a maximum of $769.00 at the 60000 kilometre service for the Optima Si.
What a new buyer gets for their hard earned is a thoroughly well sorted car, with plenty of Australian input, a huge boot, plenty of standard features and astoundingly good value for money.

For more information on the Australian spec2017 MY Kia Optima go here: 2017 model year Kia Optima

Audi Q2 Unveiled At Sydney’s Barangaroo.

Audi’s stable of Q cars will see another addition in early 2017, with the Q2 being added to the lineup. In a low key event, prior to its official launch, in the centre of Sydney’s redeveloped Barangaroo district, a version of the new Q2 was showcased.audi-q2-front

Here’s how the range, with a starting price of $41100, shakes down:
There’s three engines, with a 1.4L TSFI petrol and 110 kW/250 Nm, 2.0L turbo diesel with 110 kW and 340 Nm and a forthcoming 2.0L TSFI powerplant 140 kW/320 Nm.audi-q2-interior

There’s a solid feature list which includes Autonomous Emergency Braking, MultiMedia Interface Navigation, smartphone interface with voice interface or natural language control. The system offers a data sim card wifi hotspot and incorporates Google Earth maps and Google Search functionality. For the drivers there’s a virtual cockpit, added safety for all in the Audi Presense Plus crash avoidance system, which will recognise objects in front of the vehicle and emergency brake the car from speeds of 85 kmh. This backs up the adaptive cruise control with Stop and Go, lane departure warning and rear cross traffic.audi-q2-rear-quarter

A highlight of the Q2 is the exterior design; it’s compact yet assertive, with a low profile accentuated by width, a sloping roofline with spoiler and an expansive C pillar. At the front os a reinterpretation of Audi’s signature grille, with a polygonal design setting the theme. The flanks have an angular form, almost as if a swathe has been shaved and drings a further distinctiveness to the look, terminating in T shaped LED lit tail lights.audi-q2-taillight

Inside there’s adaptive LED mood lighting, shining through cleverly designed cut throughs in the dash plastic, providing a unique ambience for the Q2. Belying the size of the Q2 is a 405 litre cargo space, going to 1050 litres when the rear seats are folded.audi-q2-headlight

Orders for delivery in February 2017 are now being taken (late September 2016) via http://www.audi.com.au

Audi A4 Avant Quattro S-Line: Car Review

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.2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-profileUp 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.2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-engineBeing 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.2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-dashShould 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.2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-front-quarterIt’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.2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-lower-dashHowever, 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.2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-wheelBeing 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.2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-front-seatsThe 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.2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-rear-seatsIf 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.

The test vehicle came clad in a delicious metallic blue paint, wrapping the slinky Avant and showing off its subtle curvature, and was complemented by a power blue colour for the seats. Yes, they were electrically operated. Yes, they were comfortable. Yes, they were a sports bucket style. Yes, they came with two tablet devices attached for the rear seat passengers. No, this car did not come fitted with the data enabled SIM card allowing certain usage options such as in-car wifi hotspot. No, it did not come with switches in the cargo area to release the 40/20/40 split fold seats.2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-dash-screenWhat the test car did come with was some of the vast array of options Audi has for the A4, both as options and fitted as standard for the Quattro. The folding and heated external mirrors for example, the sports suspension which drops ride height by 20 mm, Audi’s virtual cockpit including HUD, and parking assistance ($2735 and $1255), with the S-Line package covering the 19 inch wheels with V spokes/stainless steel pedals/matt brushed aluminuim inlays and more for $4160.

The Drive Select, Side Assist Blind Spot Warning, Cruise Control, Rear Cross Traffic Assist, and space saver spare are standard fitment, as are the LED headlights with self levelling and dynamic (inside to out in motion) indicators. Heating and venting, however, are optionable and are a questionable cost at $2600. And although Bluetooth streaming and digital radio are standard, the Bang and Olufson sound system is a $1950 option.2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-rear-seat-tabletIn the upper centre of the dash is an 8.3 inch multimedia screen, operated via a control dial ahead of the gear selector. It’s not a retractable screen either, making it look oddly out of place. The system displays a hi-res map, the fact you’re listening to a radio station but won’t simultaneously show the RDS (Radio Data Service) information. The twin screens on th erear of the seats are a $4680 option in the Avant Quattro yet are a thousand dollars cheaper in the sedan version…2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-space-saverAt the stern is a powered tail gate, with plenty of LED lighting (a nice touch to have one directly overhead when open), with a rear camera that’s part of the 360 degree system. It’s 1025 mm from the rear of the car to the rear axle line, with the lip of the gate just 630 mm above the ground in normal trim. Overall length is 4725 mm with a wheelbase of 2820 mm, track is 1575 mm/1550 mm front and rear.2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-rear-quarterInterior room benefits from good packaging: 1476 and 1446 mm are the numbers for hip room front and rear yet there’s a massive 505L for the cargo section (once you remove the cargo blind) with the rear seats up. Fold them, they don’t go completely flat, but you’ll still get 1500 or so litres.2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-cargoSafety wraps the A4 Avant Quattro in eight airbags, including full length curtain airbags, pre-tensioning seatbelts (which provide a somewhat eerie feeling as they slide up your shoulder by themselves), the excellent presense crash avoidance system and pedestrian friendly active bonnet. Peace of mind comes with a three year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

At The End Of The Drive.
It’s testament to Audi that, although they make a range of SUVs, they recognise that the station wagon still has a measure of appeal. With a starting driveaway price of just over $70K, it’s also priced reasonably fairly for the huge amount of standard kit, although Aussies used to the humble Kingswood or Falcom wagon might snort in their coffee.
It offers up a wonderful ride and handling package, a comfortable and well appointed interior, a plentiful tange of options however with some question marks over price and value for some.
Head over to Audi Australia and follow the links for information on the A4 range including the A4 Avant Quattro S-Line.

The Rarest Cars In The World.

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.lunar_rover_diagramThe 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.

In the mid 1960s two conferences, the Summer Conference on Lunar Exploration and Science in 1965 and 1967, assessed the plans that NASA had for journeying to the moon and exploration around the landing sites. Further design studies and development resulted in NASA selecting a design in 1969 that would become the LRV. In a small piece of history, a request for proposals for supplying and building the LRV were released by MSFC. Boeing, Grumman, and others were eventually selected as component builders; Boeing, for example, would manage the project, the Defense research Lab section of General Motors would look after the driveline componentry and Boeing’s Seattle plant would manage the electronics.apollo_16_lm_orionThe first budget cost for Boeing was nineteen million. NASA’s original estimate, however, was double that and called for a delivery date in 1971. As seemed normal for the time, cost overruns ended up being at the NASA end of the estimate and out of this came four rovers. Three would be used for Apollo 15, 16, and 17, with the fourth cannibalised for spare parts when the Apollo program was cancelled.

Static and development models were also created and built to assess the human interactive part, to test the propulsion and training models were built. None of these would make it to the moon. Barely two years after Armstrong and Aldrin first stepped on the moon, Apollo 15 used a LRV for the very first time.1280px-apollo15lunarrover2Bearing in mind the cost per kilo to lift an item from the surface of the earth, the LRV’s weight of 210 kilos must make one of the most expensive vehicles per kilo to have been shipped to its final destination. However, this equals just 35 kilos of weight on the moon. Part of this of course can be attributed to the four independent electric motors that moved the LRV around, with a designed top speed of just 13 kmh. Astronaut Eugene Cernan, on the Apollo 17 mission, recorded a top speed of 18 kmh. 1024px-lunar_roving_vehicle_wheel_close-upEach wheel had a motor powered by the on board battery system, with a total rated out put of just 190 watts, or a quarter of a horsepower. The tires themselves were the work of genius: a wire mesh design combined with a set of titanium chevrons for the “tread”, with a footprint per tyre of nine inches on a 32 inch wheel. Steering was electrically powered as well, with motors front and rear.

It was a unique design situation to get the LRV on board; with a total length of ten feet and wheelbase of 7.5 feet, a fold was engineered in, allowing lesser overall space to be taken up aboard the lunar module. A system of ropes, pulleys, and tapes was employed enabling the two astronauts to lower the LRV from its bay, with the design automatically folding the vehicle out and locking itself into place.1024px-nasa_apollo_17_lunar_roving_vehicleThe range of the vehicles was limited by an operational decision; should the LRV have broken down at any point, it would have to be in a distance where the astronauts could still have walked back to the lunar module with a margin of safety. Each LRV was built to seat two astronauts, plus carry equipment such as radio and radar, sampling equipment and tools, plus the all important tv cameras, which were later used to show the ascent of the final Apollo mission from the moon.

The second and third missions using the moon buggies saw range vary substantially from the first with Apollo 15. LRV 001 covered a total of 27.76 kilometres during a total on moon driven time of just over three hours and reached a maximum distance from the landing module of five kilometres. Apollo 16’s mission saw more time but less distance, with 3 hours 26 minutes for 26.55 kilometres. Apollo 17 upped the ante, with an extra hours worth of travel time and a whopping 35.9 kilometres driven and a maximum distance from the landing module of 7.6 kilometres.apollo-17-lunar-module-landing-siteAll up, in a space of seventeen months, these craft were designed and engineered and built with a 100 percent non failure rate. Even with a wheel guard coming loose after Cernan bumped it during Apollo 17’s mission failed to cause any real issue, apart from the two occupants being covered in more dust. And with four being built, the fourth being cannibalised once the Apollo program at Apollo 18 was scrapped, the three survivors, located at the landing sites for Apollo 15, 16, and 17, must be, indeed, the rarest cars in the world. Only when mankind eventually colonises the moon will they then be touched again by human hands.

Car Review: 2016 Kia Cerato S hatch

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, A Wheel Thing takes on the 2016 S hatchback with auto.2016 Kia Cerato S hatch frontEngine 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.2016 Kia Cerato S hatch engineBeing 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.2016 Kia Cerato S hatch rearWeighing 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.

Tyre grip from the 205/55 Nexen NBlue rubber is pretty damned good too, with superglue meets spider’s web when it comes to hanging on, and silently, when really thrown into turns. There’s minimal road noise as well, plus that softness can be enjoyed on the flatter roads with just a hint of float creeping in, rather than a nauseating up and down, again thanks to the springs and shocks being further calibrated for Aussie roads. The overall impression was of a slightly soft yet unfussed ride, matched with enough grip to suit most drivers in the market for this car.2016 Kia Cerato S hatch wheelOutside, the changes to the nose are reflected in the shape of the headlight assembly, grille, and lower corners of the bumper up front, with flow through vents. The effect is a sharper and edgier look and actually harkens back to the model before the one this replaces.

The rear in the S is unchanged. Not even the tail light lenses have been changed…The S is also the only version to get steel wheels and plastic covers but all four do get a full sized spare. The hatcg is also slightly shorter overall than the sedan, at 4350 mm against 4560 mm for the sedan, but both ride on the same wheelbase at 2700 mm. It also stands a fraction taller at 1450 mm, with 15 mm the difference between the two. Parking sensors? Front and rear, thank you.2016 Kia Cerato S hatch boot2016 Kia Cerato S hatch spare wheelInside, cargo space is over 620 litres, more than enough for a weekly shop for a family of four and houses a full sized spare. There’s the usual assortment of bottle and cup holders, the traditional placement of USB/Aux sockets for external audio sources plus Bluetooth as well. The S gets a non touchscreen head unit which can be optioned out to include a 7-inch touchscreen audio visual unit with reversing camera, Android Auto connection and dusk sensing headlights in a $500 option pack. The dash display is non colour and you’ll get the tried and proven dials for the aircon in a single zone set up.2016 Kia Cerato S hatch front seatsThe plastics themselves have a mix of textures, with the dash a ruppled design whilst the tabs and buttons have that almost suede look. Kia say that there’s been an improvement to the overall presentation of the plastics…personally you’d be hard pushed to tell. The interior is also Model T when it comes to colour choice; you can have black, black, or black. Outside one can choose from eight, including a pearl white, two shades of blue and a grey.2016 Kia Cerato S hatch dashKia don’t skimp on the safety, of course: airbags at the front, side and curtain, front seatbelt pretensioners, Hill Start Assist, Emergency Stop Signal, whilst niceties such as Land Departure Warning, Blind Spot Detection and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are left to the Si and SLi.
When it comes to warranty, there’s Kia’s standard seven years and there’s also their capped price servicing, staring at $289 for the first year or 15000 kilometres (at the time of writing) with a maximum cost of $487 for year four.2016 Kia Cerato S hatch rear seatsAt The End Of The Drive.
As always, Kia have provided a serviceable product. With a RRP of $22290 plus an optioned metallic paint cost of $520, (but a drive away price on introduction of $19990), it’s wallet friendly. Combine that with a user friendly chassis, a competent chassis, a comfortable enough office at the entry level, the only real downside is the niggling thorn of fuel economy. Ten litres per hundred kilometres is simply not good enough anymore.
More details can be found here: 2016 Kia Cerato hatch.