Archive | August, 2014

Fight Back Down Under

Down under, on the far side of the world, Australian motor enthusiasts have had enough of being the whipping boys for all the swivel-eyed, health and safety, car-hating monomaniacs who for too long have, just as it’s been for UK motorists, done their level best to brow-beat the drivers of Oz into meek submission.

Australians like their freedoms. They like to quaff a few cold beers, grill shrimps, watch a bizarre form of sleeveless rugby and drive proper V8-powered cars. They are done with being interfered with. In Britain it seems like we just roll over and accept our lot, but in Australia in 2013 they formed their own political party — the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party and they are determined to have their say.

aus2 Fight Back Down UnderSee if this sounds in any way familiar: According the Party’s website, “with the rights and civil liberties of everyday Australians being eroded at an alarming rate, the Party aims to bring focus back to the notion that the Government is there for the people; not, as it increasingly appears, the other way around.”

The Party launched in response to widespread anti-hooning (hooning is the Aussie term for anyone taking place in racing, burnouts, joyriding, etc.) legislation passed by the Australian government, as well as the closing of many areas that off-roaders used in the past. The regulations passed last year were especially concerning to Australian petrolheads because a first offence for “wilfully starting or driving a motor vehicle in a way that makes unnecessary noise or smoke” could lead to an immediate ninety day impound of the allegedly offending motor. The Party are not condoning reckless or illegal activities; they are concerned about the potential over-zealous interpretation of the law.

The AMEP was formed and instead of just making a lot of noise, ran a candidate for Senate, and to a whole lot of peoples’ surprise, won a seat in the Federal Senate. “The success of the AMEP at a Federal level will open doors to negotiation which have previously been unavailable to us as motoring enthusiasts,” reads the AMEP’s website. “The unity displayed by supporters of the AMEP at the election sends a clear message to those who would see our culture dismantled – we are not a minority, and we will not give up the fight for our rights and freedom.” Senator Elect Ricky Muir takes his seat on last Monday. We watch with interest. Not to say envy.

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A Practical Choice

There are some very strong contenders in both the SUV and ‘crossover’ sectors and the Honda CR-V (pictured) needs to come up with the goods. Amazingly, it has been around since 1995 and has apparently has sold around five million units in that time. More of a soft-roader than a hardcore mud-plugger, it is absolutely biased toward on-road use so the much lighter two-wheel-drive models make more sense. The featured car is just that, equipped with a frugal 1.6 i-DTEC diesel engine.

1mb2 A Practical ChoiceAlthough it’s a handsome enough car Honda haven’t done much to break new ground in design, taking as they have the tried and tested route. No manufacturer really seems to want to take any risks with this sector and all their SUV’s are starting to look similar.

As time went on though Motor Blogger quite warmed to the CR-V. The 1.6 diesel lacks punch but is extremely frugal (officially 62.8mpg). That seems to be the point of this car. Efficiency and practicality are the watch-words here and in that Honda have succeeded. Despite reservations about the conservative styling, the company has done a lot of work on the CR-V’s aerodynamics to further boost efficiency.

There’s a stop/start system to help keep CO² emissions down. To make sure drivers don’t forget this car’s green credentials the dashboard features a large ‘ECON’ button. When pressed, it adjusts the engine mapping for a yet more efficient drive. It also changes the sensitivity of the air conditioning so it doesn’t have to work as hard. The CR-V even goes so far as to confirm economic driving via a logo on the dash, which becomes greener the greener you’re driving.

Performance would be enhanced by selecting either of the larger petrol or diesel engine options but this really is not why most folk would buy this car. This big five-seater is ideal as a family choice.  There’s tons of head and leg room all round with plenty of cubby space. The split rear-seat fold-down system is extremely easy to use. With one pull, the seat-back folds down with the headrest stored away very nicely to leave a flat load area making an already huge boot even more capacious. It’s like Kent’s Cavern in there and beats most of the opposition. A sign of good design. There’s a stout rubber boot liner over the carpet which is easily removed for cleaning. The interior light cluster above the front passengers has a handy drop-down box to stow your shades but push it back partially and a small convex mirror is revealed which gives a perfect view of the kids in the back seat. A thoughtful touch.4mb A Practical Choice

No driving horrors but not much driving fun either, but this is not the purpose of the car. The ride is built for comfort not speed and the leather/Alcantara seats have plenty of adjustment, including lumbar. There’s a five-star NCAP rating. Connectivity is as usual but the absence of sat-nav in this day and age on what is a £28k car in this spec is a surprise.

For people in the market for a reliable, all purpose, practical family car it is certainly worthy of consideration. Personally, we would look at the less expensive end of the range.

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Driving Between The Lines

It seems hard to understand but new research seems to show that removing the white lines down the middle of the road actually reduces speeding.

These findings have come out of government work to reassess road markings and street furniture generally because, they believe, drivers are being confused by the plethora of signage out there. For now, this page will ignore the issue that they clearly think that most of us are as thick as two short planks and look at what they are up to.

Transport for London – for it is they who are doing this work – believe that by removing central white lines that separate two lanes of opposing traffic will result in a significant decrease in the speed of vehicles. They are suggesting that rubbing out lines will ‘introduce an element of uncertainty into the minds of motorists’, thus causing us to slow down. It’s like some sort of reverse Pavlovian exercise.

They’ve tried it on three roads in London. At all three test sites it was shown that traffic slowed down. The biggest decrease on the Seven sisters Road was by just over four miles per hour.

Their psychology appears to suggest that we motorists think that white lines, hatching and the like, provide some sort of magical barrier over which cars on the other side cannot cross. They take no account of the fact that most drivers don’t trust any other drivers on the road to do anything right and are, therefore, alert to dangers, but there you are. Such is their opinion of the great unwashed public.

This all stems from finding out in the bosky avenues of Wiltshire in 2003 which appear to show similar reductions in accidents. If it was so good then, how come it hasn’t been picked up earlier? This is another knee-jerk reaction to the perils of speed because, as we know, officials like to blame speed for all motoring ills, seemingly forgetting about the phone users, texters and all the myriad other reasons why people have accidents.

Most drivers have mostly become inured to the constant fiddling with the rules of the road but pretty soon now they are going to take umbrage for being treated like idiots. Mind you, they have got one thing right – there are indeed too many unnecessary signs.

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We Need More Police

In a surprising turn and clearly bought on by the invidious use of heartless speed cameras, law-abiding motorists have become frustrated by the lack of a police presence on Britain’s highways and byways and believe there is little chance of law-breakers being caught and prosecuted.

Motor Blogger spends a lot of time behind the wheel and can confirm that driving standards are dropping. The purpose of indicators is to let other roads users know your intentions, for example, yet increasingly bad drivers are manoeuvring without recourse to that troublesome indicator stalk.

We’ve all seen idiots using mobile phones, sending texts and so on and sadly it is clear that many lazy brainless motorists in modern Britain think there is little risk of being caught breaking the law for anything other than speeding or running a red light – offences typically enforced via cameras – so why, they think, bother with the rules at all?

For the best part of the 20th Century, motorists bemoaned what they saw then as the draconian enforcement of traffic rules by actual human policemen. At every turn there seemed to be cops lurking in lay-by’s ready to catch the unwary, but here’s the thing: although there’s a bad apple in every barrel, for the most part the cops were able to judge each infringement on merit and act accordingly. Oftentimes this resulted in a reprimand and a stern warning rather than an instant penalty. As a motoring nation we moaned about this but now, perhaps, we are beginning to see the light.

It seems that forty percent of law-abiding car users believe anyone committing common offences such as texting at the wheel of either a moving or stationary vehicle, aggressive driving, tailgating, middle lane hogging or undertaking on the motorway would more than likely get away with it. Sixty percent of motorists surveyed believe this is because there are insufficient numbers of police officers on the roads to enforce driving laws.

The only offences that motorists truly believe are dealt with effectively are the ones that are enforced via cameras such as speeding and traffic light violations which is why we‘ve long since arrived at the ‘cash-cow’ debate. It isn’t just the roads either, there are simply not enough cops, period.

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Family Cruiser – The Peugeot 508.

To  give it its full name, this is the Peugeot 508 Allure Blue HDi 150 saloon. You don’t see many about and yet it is unquestionably a very good car. It drives well, looks good and has an absolutely humungous boot. The 508 is comfortable and the whole thing seems well screwed together. It’s hard to understand why this car doesn’t have more buyer appeal as if the public have taken against the brand.

1mb Family Cruiser   The Peugeot 508.The metallic ‘Alpine Blue’ paintwork helps the good looks. It’s as classy as the more business-like darker hues but without being quite so anonymous. Motor Blogger’s test car was fitted with an optional, clear and readable ‘heads-up’ display. This isn’t something that’s essential but if a driver think it helps then it will set you back an additional and rather hefty £310.

Peugeot have breathed efficiently on their engine range and their old 2.0L diesel is replaced with the new 2.0L Blue HDi 150PS unit, producing an extra ten horsepower while slashing particulate emissions and NOx. Our engine, with Stop/Start, was refined and returned well over 40mpg, and we were not striving in any way for hyper-mileage or eco-records.

It’s also very quiet once the initial growl of acceleration fades away and at motorway speeds you’d be hard put to notice that it was a diesel at all. VED is an abstemious twenty quid thanks to the low 109g/km.

Our test car was furnished with Allure trim, one step below the range topping GT. It loses that car’s full leather upholstery and 19” wheels, but otherwise there isn‘t much difference, although we’re not so keen on the part leather seat trim. There’s good space front and rear – easily enough for five grown-up people – and, as mentioned, a large and well-shaped boot. There’s very little wind noise and generally good visibility all around.2mb Family Cruiser   The Peugeot 508.

The dashboard layout is simple and quietly attractive with all the usual connectivity. The dials are clear and easy to read, and look smart. Sadly, especially in this day and age, the satellite navigation isn’t good enough. It’s not so much that it doesn’t work, it’s just that it seems dated and running behind the opposition.

Overall we were content. It would make a good business fleet car and for the private owner Peugeot offer their ‘Optiway’ service plan which looks like a very good deal. To summarise, the Peugeot 508 fits the bill in most areas as a long-legged cruiser and good all-round family motor.

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When Cars Were Simple

At the last count there are 8,176 original Minis rolling around on the ruined roads of Britain, whereas its unloved replacement, the Mini Metro – sold by the last vestiges of the Austin Rover disaster – has fared less well with just 3,262 left despite being produced later on.

The Mini continues to cast its spell fifty years on and the latest versions, great though they are, simply can’t match the simplicity and sheer fun of the original. Open the bonnet of the latest model and you will be none the wiser. Open the bonnet of an original Mini and you’ll find it is completely basic. Anyone can fix it.1 When Cars Were Simple

As with everything in life, we have to move forward but not necessarily when that which follows isn’t as good as that which has passed. This is why the ancient wrinkly rock bands of the Sixties and Seventies can still pull huge audiences today. The problem with the Metro was that it wasn’t introduced until 1980 and it arrived too late with too little. Also, it is generally agreed that the build quality was terrible.

This should have been obvious to the crumbling Austin Rover empire. Had they listened they would have heard – way back in 1971 – that a vessel bearing something called a Datsun was approaching our shores. Presumably they though it was one of those exotic new fruits and thought no more about it. They were wrong on so many levels.

Records show that there are thirty four different Austin Mini models remaining on our roads. Some models are the last of their kind; someone is driving around Britain in the last licensed Austin Mini ‘850 Van’ and there are just 3 Mini ‘SPL’ versions left.

Only 3,261 of the badly-built (thanks to the ruinous actions of Red Robbo and the total incompetence and lack of vision of the management) and unloved Austin and Rover Metros are left on the roads with an amazingly high 77 model versions. Some are facing total extinction; there is just one Austin Metro ‘HL’ left and two licensed Rover Metro ‘MG Turbo’ versions remaining, it seems.

BMW has been hugely successful worldwide with the modern massive Mini and there are nearly half a million registered for British roads. One stand-out fact is that there are 206 different modern Mini models registered thanks to the extremes of customisation now available. Some of these personalised cars are going to be hard to sell on the used car market. When the original Mini came out there wasn’t this problem. The choice was, in the beginning, a Mini, a Cooper and a Cooper S – that was it. Simple, effective and a hoot to drive, it remains today the iconic British car and, like the Rolling Stones and others, continues to appeal by doing exactly as it always has done.

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Mercedes-Benz C220 Sport Saloon – Driven

Taking a car out for a half-hour spin isn’t really enough time to form anything other than a first impression, but it’s nice when that first impression is a good one – as was the case with the C220 BlueTEC Sport Saloon featured in the images. This all-new and significantly lighter car is powered by the well-proven Mercedes-Benz 2.1L diesel motor that’s also used in the slightly more powerful C250 model. The Sport version is bracketed by the SE and AMG Line trim options and costs around £33,000. Our featured car additionally has full leather and the must-have ‘Premium Plus Package’ amongst other extras which brings the price up to a £37820.

2mb1 Mercedes Benz C220 Sport Saloon   DrivenMotor Blogger was impressed with how well the car sits on the road. The aero design is sleek and purposeful with ‘Agility Control’ suspension and a choice of driving modes – Comfort, Eco, Sport, Sport+ – the latter two especially changing the steering weight, throttle response and gear shift timing on auto models. The option to shift with paddles is there for ultimate control but we felt the seven-speed G-Tronic gearbox had most situations covered.

The steering is light but there’s enough weighting there to be confident about exploiting the agile handling. The C220 Sport really has the ability to crack on when needed and this model gets to the benchmark 62mph in a brisk 7.4 seconds yet Mercedes state that emissions are just 110g/km and that a combined fuel consumption figure of 65.7 miles for your expensive gallon is possible.

All buyers will appreciate the Band B VED and executive fleet users with be glad of the 16% BIK percentage, especially when they see the inside which is one of the smartest and most elegant interiors we’ve experienced in this class of car. The modern, cascading dash has robust switchgear and there’s a large high-sitting infotainment screen controlled by an intuitive combination of touchpad and control wheel mounted on the central tunnel.

1mb1 Mercedes Benz C220 Sport Saloon   DrivenThe seats are splendid; really comfortable with bags of adjustment. The interior is roomy with ample space for three in the back. As you would expect, the car is fully featured with the latest technology and connectivity with a list of standard kit that is way too long to publish here. As mentioned above the ‘Premium Plus Package’, although costly, brings with it a host of upgrades like a Burmester Surround Sound system, memory seats, ‘Keyless-go’ and other desirable features.

After our brief encounter, it is clear that this car would be very easy to live with on a day to day basis. It’s spacious, has a big boot and a versatile engine. As a true contender in the executive saloon sector it’s pretty hard to fault and it comes with the quality buyers expect from this brand. Recommended.

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Panasonic Provide Spark For Tesla

As the relentless march towards alternative automotive fuels continues, it has been announced that Panasonic and Tesla Motors, have signed an agreement that lays out their cooperation on the construction of a large-scale battery manufacturing plant in the USA, to be known, rather unimaginatively, as the Gigafactory.

Inside The Gigafactory

According to the agreement, Tesla will prepare, provide and manage the land, buildings and utilities. Panasonic will manufacture and supply cylindrical lithium-ion cells and invest in the associated equipment, machinery, and other manufacturing tools based on their mutual approval. A network of supplier partners is planned to produce the required precursor materials.

t1 Panasonic Provide Spark For TeslaTesla will take the cells and other components to assemble battery modules and packs. To meet the projected demand for cells, Tesla will continue to purchase battery cells produced in Panasonic’s factories in Japan.

The Gigafactory is being created to enable a continuous reduction in the cost of long-range battery packs in parallel with manufacturing at the volumes required to enable Tesla to meet its goal of advancing mass market electric vehicles. The Gigafactory will be managed by Tesla with Panasonic joining as the principal partner responsible for lithium-ion battery cells and occupying approximately half of the planned manufacturing space; key suppliers combined with Tesla’s module and pack assembly will comprise the other half of this fully integrated industrial complex.

The Electric Future

The Gigafactory is meant to represent a fundamental change in the way large scale battery production can be realized. Not only does the Gigafactory enable capacity needed for the Model 3 Tesla but it sets the path for a dramatic reduction in the cost of energy storage across a broad range of applications. Economies of scale, in other words.

Cost reductions will be achieved through optimized manufacturing processes previously unobtainable in battery cell and pack production. Further price reductions are achieved by manufacturing cells that have been optimized for electric vehicle design, both in size and function and also by co-locating suppliers on-site to eliminate packaging, transportation and duty costs along with other ancillary expenses. Anything that brings down the cost of EV’s in the medium to long term has got to be a good thing.

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The Selfish Selfie

The mobile telephonic device has developed until it has become virtually an extension of many peoples’ bodies, like some robot appendage. The trouble is that it has the potential to lead to road deaths. Research has revealed that young Brit drivers are the most likely to take a ‘selfie’ while at the wheel.

According to the survey, a third of British drivers were the most likely to photograph themselves while on the move, ahead of their counterparts in Germany (28%), France (28%), Romania (27%), Italy (26%), Spain (18%), and our more sensible neighbours in Belgium (17%).

This new survey of some seven thousand smartphone users aged between 18-24 – from across Europe – also showed one in four people had used social media sites behind the wheel; and that young male drivers were the most likely to ignore the risks. So no change there then. Amazingly, nearly all the drivers surveyed agreed the activities were dangerous yet still did it. The old adage that youth believes it is immortal still holds good it seems.

It has been shown that snapping a ‘selfie’ at the wheel could distract a driver for 14sec, whilst checking social media distracts for as much as 20sec – long enough, at 60mph, to travel the length of five football pitches. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for young drivers  and training programmes have been introduced that will highlight the dangers of taking a ‘selfie’ and other smartphone and social media activities behind the wheel.

Taking a ‘selfie’ has for many young people quickly become an integral part of everyday life – but it’s the last thing you should be doing behind the wheel of a car. It is deeply worrying that so many young drivers admit to taking a photo while driving and there is an urgent need to highlight the potential dangers through driver education.

As a nation we have known for years about the dangerous situations that young, inexperienced drivers tend to get themselves into. Despite corrective action – speed limits and the like – gung-ho youth continues to find new ways of digging themselves a hole only to realise – too late – that they should maybe stop digging. There is one hole you can never get out of.

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Avoid Buying Sports Cars If You Want Your Teenager Drive It

It takes time, money and planning to buy a new vehicle for families. There are a few things to consider before making the decision. Parents may want to buy a nice car even before their children comes to driving age. Children grow really fast and before you know they have their driving license and want to drive. Having a safe family car for them to practice on would reduce the immediate pressures to buy them a car of their own.

Even though you may be comfortable with your child driving your car this may prove to be problematic for certain models. One of the problems may be adding the newly qualified teen driver onto your existing policy. If you want to avoid such problems you need to think about who will drive the car when you are looking at certain models with high insurance ratings.

Sports cars and teenagers are two high risk combinations for auto insurers. They usually charge high rates for both owning a high performance vehicle and having a teenage driver in the family. When these two combined you may face serious problems. You may have to pay extortionate premiums if you want your teenager drive a sporty looking auto. In some cases, it may actually be impossible to insure the teenage driver.

There are cars that are clearly sporty and there is no argument about it. And there are the ones that have powerful engines but they may not be considered sports car by many people. In some cases, people buy those automobiles for family use and advanced safety and security features they come with.

For example, BMW X3 and Porsche Cayenne are great cars for families. They have spacious and luxuries interior, large boots and generally considered safe cars in terms of protection they provide in accidents. However, they have powerful engines and take off really fast.

You can understand why families buy them. In the same time you can see why insurance companies would consider them to be riskier.  Most companies not only wouldn’t want a teenage driver included in the policy but also they would impose a condition that any driver allowed should be over the age of 25 years old.

Keep this in mind when you are considering a new auto for your family. CheapAutoInsurance.net says “families should look for more modest automobiles when they want their teenage daughters or sons drive it, too”. It is always a good idea to look at insurance ratings of a new car and it is even a better idea to get a few quotes before making the final decision.

Otherwise, your insurer may exclude young drivers from driving the insured automobile. This will force you to buy another auto for your children to drive and improve their skills or you may have to accept that they cannot drive for some time. Understandably, this will result in resentments and disappointments within the family. And it would cost a lot of money to sort it out with another automobile and insurance policy purchase.

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