AUSTRALIA’S GUIDE TO ECO FRIENDLY, FUEL EFFICIENT CARS
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UP TO A OLT
Issue 18 October / November 2012
IN A FLURRY
A new importer, improved distribution, and a stronger resolve, may turn the fortunes of Fiat Group in Australia
f you thought Fiat was just a quirky Italian carmaker that specialised in making small and funky town cars, then it might be timely to review your opinion. When we mention the Fiat Group, we are now talking about a vehicle manufacturing conglomerate that encompasses Alfa Romeo, Fiat cars, the Fiat commercial vehicle division marketed as Fiat Professional, Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge, Lancia, and Iveco light commercials and trucks. For its flagship brands, the group also includes Maserati and Ferrari.
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The supply of engines for the Group is handled mainly by the Fiat Powertrain division, and technology by Magneti Marelli. The Teksid division is the largest producer of grey and nodular iron castings for use in engine blocks and cylinder heads, while a further division operating under the Comau brand name is the supplier of “machines that make machines” – such as robotic welders and vehicle assembly equipment. The financial results also indicate the extent of the group’s activities, showing revenues of 21.5 billion Euros in the last year, from which it procured a net profit of 358 million Euros. Having now established the breadth of the Fiat Group business, we’ll now look at how its presence in the Australian market has changed in recent months. As part of a major restructuring throughout its global operations, Fiat Group has now taken over the responsibility of distributing its Fiat, Chrysler, Alfa Romeo and Jeep brands
FIAT IN A FLURRY in Australia, ending a long standing agreement with independent distributor, Ateco Automotive. With that restructuring comes a greater commitment to gain market share, backed by serious investment. The existing dealer groups will largely continue, unchanged, but additional dealers will be welcomed into the fold to improve reach and sales ability to a greater audience. As the new regime got their toes in place under their desks, ECOcar spent a delightful day around the border country of NSW and Victoria in a bevy of different Fiat 500 models, as we reacquainted ourselves with this delightful model range. Starting with the entry-level 500 models, our first mount was the TwinAir that can produce very frugal fuel consumption figures as low as 3.6 l/100 km. This two-cylinder engine replaces the previous four-cylinder model and stems from research and development by Fiat Powertrain, which provides the TwinAir design for the basic 500 and the 500C convertible. I love the technology contained within the engine, which, with its 62.5 kW of power, has the lowest CO2 emissions level of any production engine, at 92 g/km of C02. The peak torque of 145 Nm is rated at 1,900 rpm. It weighs just 85 kg. Unfortunately, for Fiat, I reckon the previous 1.4-litre, fourcylinder engine was more fun to drive and better matched to the manual transmission. However, we live today in a world where statistical claims tend to rule the day. The TwinAir, with its turbocharger, has reduced emissions levels, by comparison to its predecessor, and is 30 percent more fuel-efficient. The current obsession with claiming records in fuel economy sees the 500 TwinAir sporting an ECO button on the dashboard. When depressed, it cuts maximum torque by 45 Nm, back to 100 Nm. It also comes with ECO stop/start that cuts the engine when stationary in traffic. In line with most of these systems, depressing the clutch and flicking the gear lever into first spins everything back to life.
By the way, in case you were wondering, the engine has moved to the front, from the rear position it held in the original 500. Being somewhat deprived when it comes to external sizing doesn’t mean any of the occupants miss out on safety. With seven airbags, the 500 scores a full five-star safety rating and comes with ABS braking and electronic brake force distribution. Other bits, such as hill start assist and electronic stability control, are also included. Optional is the decision to choose the five-speed manual gearbox over the five-speed AMT that Fiat calls Dualogic. Personal preference here is for the manual gear shifter, but there are many buyers in this category who never progress to wiggling a lever, and rely on their transport under the auspices of an automatic–only drivers licence. Small capacity engines and AMT shifting doesn’t always work well, and the compromise always appears as a clunky shift quality under certain conditions.
The Fiat 500C combines all the appeal with a powered folding roof to enjoy the best of our climate.
Fuel-efficient it may be, but the loss of 45 Nm of torque, basically one third of what’s on offer when practicing the ECO mantra, does tend to destroy any spare oomph. But then again, it might make you feel, personally, more eco-friendly. The 500C is my pick for the fun stakes, as, with the top down, it makes the car even more appealing than its steel-roofed relative. All versions are surprisingly spacious, even for drivers and front seat passengers in the 1.85 m height bracket, and above. There’s also enough space in the rear compartment that calls itself a luggage boot to handle the daily shopping.
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T COMP H E
PACK olden has made it very easy to order a Volt. Each vehicle comes fully charged with every available option already included in the one price, one-spec-fits-all attitude to purchase.
At $59,990, it sounds expensive, but is it worth it? A resounding YES on that one, as this car is an absolute game changer in the quest for a new and interesting car to drive, which is capable of being driven without adding any exhaust emissions to this already polluted world in which we live. The Volt effectively changes all preconceptions about living with an electric car. Our concern, at ECOcar, has always been with the available range. With most electric cars, once you reach the magic distance of around 130 km, you stop –because you’ve run out of electricity. The manufacturers of these cars can give you route maps and satellite navigation system that tell you where to find a charge point. But the fact remains, unless you recharge, you stop. The Volt is different. It will go for as long as you want. The only difference is that when the available charge in the battery is exhausted, a little engine under the bonnet starts running all on its own, and powers a generator that recharges the batteries as you drive. This generator kicks in automatically – most drivers will never notice the transition – and the car feels exactly the same to drive as it did when you were running on battery power only. On a full charge, the standard batteries in the Volt can power the car for around 80 km. According to most statistics on commuting, that covers the urban worker’s requirements for getting to work and back home. When you get home, you plug in the car to a standard powerpoint (10 Amp), and leave it overnight to recharge. In the morning you unplug the car, jump in and drive off. You can even programme the heater to warm up the interior before you leave. What could be easier? I must admit to having been very skeptical about the Volt, largely due to the massive amount of hype that preceded our being able to drive one, and the stupid description applied by General Motors who called the Volt a range extender.
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Does the average buyer understand the term “range extender”? We think not, so why not just explain what happens, rather than hide behind some supposedly clever marketing phrase?
In our driving of the Volt, we intentionally ran out of battery power to see what differences occurred when driving a long distance. The answer, to all intents and purposes, is that nothing noticeable happens at all. The generator motor kicks in, producing the necessary electricity to drive the electric motors that turn the wheels. The change from a mechanical
When you buy a Volt, you only have one decision to make – the colour! perspective is that, when this happens, you are not emissions-free, but are polluting away with the enthusiasm of a typical 1.4-litre petrol engine. You put petrol in the petrol tank, and the car drives normally. When you get the chance to plug the car back into a mains socket somewhere, it recharges the battery, and off you go again, with an electric car that doesn’t pollute at all until it again runs out of charge. Electric power for a car’s performance is actually better by comparison to that of a conventionally-engined car. This is because an electric motor develops 100 percent torque from zero. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, think of a typical car engine. It turns faster as you accelerate, and, during the course of the drive, it is always changing its engine speed
THE COMPLETE PACKAGE
CKAGE as it matches the road speed and the gear selected. The electric motor in the Volt doesn’t connect to a five or six-speed gearbox. It drives the front wheels through a planetary gear system that just spins faster as the road speed increases. When travelling over 80 km, a second electric motor assists the first in order to maintain speed and not suffer acceleration losses as the car pushes its way through the increasing aerodynamic resistance. At this level, you’ll be using more electricity than when travelling under 80 km, but, again, you won’t notice this as the driver. In our driving exercise, using the petrol onboard generator, and without any electricity stored in the battery, we found that, on a return run between Sydney and Newcastle, the Volt consumed fuel at the rate of 5.6 l/100 km. This is an extremely good fuel consumption figure for a mid-range sedan at freeway speeds.
Had we left Sydney on a full charge in the batteries, the first 70-80 km would have been purely on battery power, with the final 50 km of each leg of the drive running on the petrolpowered generator. Under these circumstances, the fuel economy would have averaged 3.1 l/100 km. An excellent economy figure in any vehicle.
We live in a very electronically-challenged world, with iPads, iPods, iPhones, MP3 players and whatever else, all giving us information options. If you want to know about everything going on in the Volt, the on-screen displays can tell you. You can monitor the electrical charge coming out of the battery, used to drive the car, plus the regeneration of electricity returning to the battery every time you brake or use over-run when heading downhill. You can see the ebb and flow of the charge rate, the amount of distance remaining to run on electricity only and how far you’ll get on the fuel tank with
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erhaps we have this hybrid technology thing all wrong. At ECOcar, we actually thought the whole principle of Toyota pursuing hybrid technology was to sell the idea of fuel efficiency. The combination of hybrid synergy drive and a fuel-efficient 2.5-litre petrol engine was the foundation on which buyers made their purchase decision. Apparently, we were wrong.
A conversation with a Toyota marketing person responsible for briefing their advertising agency, showed us the error of our ways, and attempted to correct the suggested incorrect thought processes we had, surrounding their advertising campaigns. We had thought the whole appeal and attraction of buying a Camry Hybrid was firstly the better fuel economy and secondly the warm and fuzzy feeling gained by reducing pollution at tailpipe level. Not so, said the marketing person. The key to selling more Camry Hybrids lies in selling the performance aspect of the car, not the fuel economy.
ay w h g i H e Will th r in your ca r be Patrol o r r i m ew rear-vi on hybrid running ology? techn
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POLICE PURSUIT Well, after a certain amount of head scratching on our part, we set about considering their view and determining whether, indeed, the clever marketing people at Toyota are on the right track.
And, on the subject of rapid pursuit of the bad guys, the Camry Hybrid is no slouch. With a kerbweight of 1,610 kg and a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 8.0 seconds, it’s actually quite quick off the mark.
Taking their premise that a Camry Hybrid buyer is only interested in performance, we took a different attitude to how we perceived the car. Why not, we thought, propose that, instead of driving the traditional Commodore V8 sedan, our Highway Patrol officers should swap to Camry Hybrids.
Not as quick perhaps as a Commodore V8, but as Holden doesn’t release acceleration figures for its range, we must rely on some early timing completed by our colleague Paul Maric. In a series of test runs, he achieved a mean (average) time of 6.43 seconds for the 0-100 km/h sprint.
There’s actually quite a lot of merit in the suggestion. Most of the apparent reasoning behind the purchase decision of the Police using Commodore SS sedans is: (a) they are quick off the mark for pursuit purposes, and; (b) they are made in Australia.
Now to the Camry Hybrid, where the combination of two electric motors and a 2.5-litre petrol engine produce some quite impressive power and torque output statistics.
Well, the Camry Hybrid is also made in Australia, and, with all the testing behind it to prove its ability, we can vouch for the fact that this Toyota is certainly tough enough for Australian conditions.
The petrol four-cylinder engine puts out 118 kW of power and 213 Nm of torque. Not all that awe-inspiring. But, when you dial in the additional power output of 105 kW and torque delivery of 270 Nm that comes from the electric motors, you end up with a combined figure of 223 kW and 483 Nm.
There’s always been a problem with the standard Commodore having to produce enough electricity to power flashing lights, sirens and warning signs. Well, on that score, the Camry Hybrid wins hands down, as it comes fitted out with more batteries than a Duracell rabbit.
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eople always give me odd looks when I am consulted about a new car purchase and I suggest a flavour of Volvo for their consideration.
When I sat down to have a think about why this happens – it dawned on me. People picture an indestructible box with four wheels attached, when the word Volvo is uttered.
Nowadays, the Volvo design language has changed, but the brand philosophy remains. Volvo is designing some of the most stunning cars on the road, but is still sticking
to its safety guns, ensuring that every car produced is safe to the finite degree. Sitting above the entry-level V50 wagon, the V60 wagon delivers beauty in spades, with sweeping lines that run from the front right through to the rear. The window envelope shrinks toward the rear, giving the car an image of speed and agility. 48
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The rear of the V60 harks back to Volvo 850 days, with a vertical light stack consuming most of the boot. An array of LEDs flanks the front and rear of the V60, giving it a futuristic look at nighttime.
Open the driver’s door to be presented with an organised layout of buttons attached to a floating centre console. Volvo’s trademark floating centre console ingeniously characterises the driver to help select air-conditioning directions, while the elevated layout of the console offers storage room and a talking point amongst passengers.
THE SAFETY FACTOR Volvo has finally upgraded the multimedia system, with higher quality graphics and greater ease of use. The satellite navigation is no longer clunky, with a brisk button-driven system, as opposed to the steering wheel mounted controls of yesteryear. One thing that hasn’t changed is the cost of some options – how does $4,175 sound for satellite navigation? Or $2,075 for an electric passenger’s seat? Build quality and fit and finish is absolutely exceptional. Every surface around the cabin is soft to the touch and gives the car a very upmarket feel. Following on from Volvo’s trend to protect the environment, the V60 is 85 percent recyclable, with all interior surfaces 100 percent allergy free.
Strangely, Volvo still hasn’t managed to come to terms with automatic headlights. The driver must still manually turn the headlights on at night. While they do switch off if the car is turned off, operating at full brightness during the day works against the vehicle’s impressive fuel economy, but of course does increase daytime visibility. Naturally, I was itching to test the most efficient vehicle in the V60 line up. The D3 is Volvo’s designation for the entrylevel diesel. The 2.0-litre five-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine produces an impressive 120 kW of power and 400 Nm of torque, sending it all through a six-speed automatic transmission. One of the first things you hear when the car is started is the noisy diesel engine. It’s one of the noisier diesels in this segment, but, luckily, the cabin soundproofing drowns out all but some of the diesel clatter.
Volvo retains its safety mantle, and the V60 continues the accolade. Words by Paul Maric ECOCAR ISSUE 18
o matter how you look at it, the Chrysler 300 creates an impression. In white, it looks like a wedding car; in black, it looks like a car for the mobsters. But, if you look beyond the bling and its dominating appearance, it actually has a lot to offer.
The latest version of the 300 is not just a return to the market under a new distributor. As well as offering some new engine and powertrain options, there are differences to the platform that reduce the wallow of the ride quality and improve the performance response over the previous version. If anything, the ride quality is erring on the harder side rather than limo-like, and, with a stiffer frame, there’s a clear indication of how things have improved. Approximately 67 percent of the lower structure and 53 percent of the upper structure of the 300 is constructed of high-strength or advanced high-strength steels. This benefits safety, a fact reinforced by the claim the 300 body structure can now carry four-times the weight of the vehicle in the event of a rollover.
Returning to our market, the 300 brings with it three different engine options – a V6 petrol or diesel and a V8 petrol – plus availability of an eight-speed transmission matched to the V6 petrol. Our test vehicle came with the new 3.0-litre, V6 petrol engine, which is manufactured by VM Motori in its Centro, Italy, plant. With 210 kW at 6350 rpm and 340 Nm of torque rated at 4,650 rpm, it features dual overhead camshafts, variable valve timing and multi-port injection. The other alternative for ECOcar readers, disregarding the thirst of the V8 petrol engine, is the V6 diesel. Again sourced from VM Motori, this engine produces maximum torque of 550 Nm through from 1,800 to 2,000 rpm and maximum power of 176 kW produced at 4,000 rpm. You could be forgiven for thinking that a 3.0-litre petrol engine in a car weighing up around 2.0 tonnes is going to be a huge disappointment, but the reverse is actually the case. The V6 petrol can provide the goods, and it can do so with a surprising fuel efficiency that saw ECOcar returning consumption figures as low as 5.6 l/100 km when cruising on the freeway.
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This sort of fuel economy comes from the engine being matched to a new eight-
PIMP MY RIDE speed automatic transmission, but it is only available in that specific powertrain option. When driving around the city, or getting the car moving from stationary, the fuel thirst increases, and we regularly saw consumption figures hovering around the 11.9-14.6 l/100 km areas. The official claims for highway cruising show the diesel beating the petrol by 1.0 l/100 km, at 5.7 l/100 km, and hitting
surprising fuel consumption results that can be achieved for those running a longer commute. We are looking here at a pricing structure that starts at $43,000 for the V6 petrol, and $48,000, rising to $51,000 and $56,000 respectively, for the absolute top-of-the-line 300C Luxury version. Compared to anything else on the market of this size, this pricing represents exceptional value.
Chryslerâ€™s luxury limo has street presence by the bucketload the 0-100 km/h figure at 7.8 seconds, against the 7.0 seconds of the petrol V6. The V8 puts itself out of contention with a combined figure of 13.0 l/100 km. The combined figures show that only the V6 diesel fits our parameters, attaining 7.1 l/100 km against 9.4 l/100 km for the V6 diesel. For V6 diesel buyers, the transmission used is the fivespeed automatic, but V6 petrol buyers score the excellent eight-speed ZF automatic, probably the finest automatic available on the world market today. This is the key to the quite
If you are looking for a semi-luxury car that pampers your senses, this really ticks all the boxes in terms of inclusions and pricing. Yes, it does look like a mafia staff car or something that would disgorge members of the FBI at a street corner, but it comes with all the safety features expected in a high value package. In addition to an upmarket trim level that offers Nappa leather seats, heated and cooled cup holders, LED lighting, heated front and rear seats and even a heated steering wheel, check out the safety items. Start with electronic stability control, adaptive cruise control, seven airbags, tyre pressure monitoring, rear vision reverse camera, adaptive forward lighting, hill start assist, antilock braking,
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otorsport and fuel efficiency are closely related. Success in almost every form of motorsport requires a clever fuel management strategy, and an essential part of that is the efficiency of the vehicle itself. Audi recently put its reputation in both motorsport and fuelefficient vehicles to the test at the LeMans 24 Hour, winning outright with the remarkable R18 e-tron Quattro, the first hybrid vehicle to win arguably the world’s toughest motor race. However, more remarkable than the winning performance of the V6 turbo-diesel racer with its front axle, electric-drive unit able to deliver (and regenerate) an additional 150 kW of power, is Audi’s commitment to bringing closely-related technology to its entire range of road cars by 2020. Yes, that means Audi aims to have an e-tron model in every segment of the market in which it competes. Now, in case you’re imagining the first of these will be some years off, and a ‘toe-in-the-water’ economy car, think again. Audi’s first e-tron model is arriving late this year and is a full-electric version of its R8 supercar, producing no less than 820 Nm of torque (and power of 250 kW) from its twin electric motors, driving the rear wheels. Already, the R8 e-tron has set a production car lap record for electric vehicles, around the 20 km Nurburgring racetrack, of 8 minutes 8.099 seconds – a time well out of reach of most road cars, regardless of powertrain. Its range is 215 km on lithium-ion batteries. While full-electric, e-tron versions of every model in Audi’s line-up will take between now and 2020 to eventuate, Audi is initiating ‘stepping-stone’ technology, meaning hybrid drivetrains, to bridge the gap between conventional cars and full-electric vehicles.
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The first of these to arrive will be full, parallel hybrid versions of the A6 and A8, in 2013. The power units will be a two-litre TFSI petrol engine and an e-tron electric motor producing combined output of 480 Nm and 180 kW, and an ability to travel up to three kilometres in full electric mode – useful in heavy traffic, for example. The hybrid technology will extend to other models and include plug-in hybrid versions, range extending technology (where the petrol or diesel engine charges the batteries) and eventually long-range, full electric. The strategy is to filter the technology from top-end models to the more affordable end of the range. A vital part of the strategy is to maintain focus on the efficiency of orthodox petrol and diesel engines too, just like in the LeMans racers where the diesel technology has been so highly refined. Again, this development extends to related technology, like innovative, lightweight construction, advanced transmissions and aerodynamics. It is Audi’s aim to make ‘efficiency as standard’, a high profile feature of every vehicle on sale, while also becoming recognized as no.1 for premium electric vehicles by 2020. Some of the technology is already available on cars like the A4 and A1. The latest A4 showcases fuel saving technology with petrol engines in the 1.8 TFSI version, which claims the best fuel efficiency of any petrol car in the medium luxury class. Compared to the 2.0 litre engine in the 2007 model, Audi has increased power by 30 percent while reducing fuel consumption by 28 percent. Five years ago, the A4’s petrol engine produced power of 96 kW and 195 Nm of torque, with a combined fuel consumption of 8.0 l/100 km. The equivalent model today has 125 kW, 320 Nm and sips just 5.8 l/100 km with its multitronic, continuously variable automatic transmission. There is a manual version rated at 5.7 l/100 km.
As part of itâ€™s long-term commitment to GreenZone drive events, where members of the public can drive the very latest, energy-efficient vehicles, Audi Australia held a remarkably candid media function, announcing its future plans - ECOcarâ€™s Ed Ordynski was there.
Much of that performance improvement has come from using a smaller capacity, turbocharged engine. However, the fuel-efficiency is enhanced by having both direct and indirect fuel injection (depending on throttle position and load); an innovative thermal management system to maintain the oil temperature at its optimum level; a focus on weight saving and reduced frictional losses; and, in addition to variable valve timing, variable lift on the exhaust valves. Combined with a stop-start system, high efficiency airconditioning, the clever multitronic transmission, and keeping the weight of the entire car down to a slim 1,470 kg, the fuel economy is quite remarkable for a petrol engine. CO2 emissions are 134 g/km. However, it is even more surprising to find that this petrol engine drives with the characteristics of a good diesel engine, in having very strong torque, low in the rev range and never needing to be operated at high rpm. It actually produces its 320 Nm of maximum torque at just 1,400 rpm and holds that maximum all the way to 3,700 rpm. The 125 kW peak power is achieved at just 3,800 rpm.
It is a great engine on the road, and, in our drive around Brisbane in a combination of city and freeway driving, it showed just 5.5 l/100 km on the trip computer while exhibiting the strong performance of a diesel and the quietness and smoothness of a petrol engine. I have been quite cynical about turbocharged petrol engines offering any real-world benefits in terms of economy, but this engine causes a rethink, because it is so cleverly calibrated to work strongly at low revs. The multitronic A4 1.8 TFSI is priced at $55,500, and, the manual version, $52,700. Audiâ€™s current diesel engine technology is displayed in the latest A1 Sportback, which in 1.6 TDI form is the equal most fuel-efficient diesel vehicle on the Australian market, at just 3.8 l/100 km. That figure is with a manual gearbox, the auto version having a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that uses, a still-miserly, 4.2 l/100 km. CO2 emissions are 99 g/km (manual) and 110 g/km (auto).
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s a new brand for Australia, it’s important to consider the history behind the marque as well as to look forwards to its future.
The original brand planning for Infiniti goes back to 1985, when Nissan established a task force called “Horizon” to research how it could move into the luxury and prestige markets with its products and set new standards with its customer service. The global brand of Infiniti today represents these qualities with a model line-up of sedans, coupes, SUVs and crossover
vehicles, all featuring a design aim to create a performanceoriented, luxury brand. The initial product offering for Australia is centred on two models: the FX SUV and the M Sedan. For the FX, there’s the FX37, the FX320d and the FX50S. For the M Sedan, there’s the M37, M30d and the M35h. Our task at ECOcar for review is made clear by our policy to consider only vehicles with a combined fuel consumption figure of less than 8.0 l/100 km, or those that use alternative fuel sources. This establishes a benchmark, which, in reality, is 1.0 l/100 km above the luxury car tax exemption. The FX SUV doesn’t fit our criteria for fuel economy, of consuming fewer than 8.0 l/100 km, or for those that use alternative fuel sources. In this early look at the Infiniti brand, we will, in this instance, take a brief look at what’s on offer
THE introduction of “Inspired Performance” Infiniti starts its push for the
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THE FUTURE UNFOLDS in both the SUV and sedan products, as there are many similarities between the inclusions in both model ranges. At the top of the range, the FX is powered by a V8 of 5.0 litres. With 287 kW of power and 500 Nm of torque, this flagship model is definitely out of our judging criteria, purely on the grounds of fuel economy. So too is the V6 petrol-powered 3.7-litre that achieves 235 kW of power and 360 Nm of torque. Whilst the expectation for the diesel FX30d would be that it might be the only FX model to fit under our combined fuel criteria, the statistics show otherwise. With a combined fuel figure of 9.0 l/100 km, it just doesn’t make the cut. There’s a high degree of similarity between both the sedan and the SUV, but the additional weight of the SUV, with its all-wheel-drive system, plus the extra componentry, is probably what puts its fuel economy over our upper limit. It’s only when you move to the M sedans that you’ll find two Infiniti models coming in for ECOcar consideration. These are the M35h, which features a full hybrid drive, and the dieselpowered M30d. The Infiniti FX and the M Sedan break with current competition, which relies mainly on front-wheel-drive, by placing the engine North/South rather than East/West to drive the rear wheels. From a weight transfer point of view, the engine is located in what Infiniti calls its “mid-ship design”, slightly further backwards than normal when compared to the front axle position. The FX and M Sedan, with diesel power, use the same 24-valve, DOHC, turbodiesel V6 that features in the top of the line Nissan Navara range. Maximum power produced is 175 kW, and, with peak torque of 550 Nm, it is matched to a seven-speed, automatic transmission featuring Adaptive Shift Control. While buyers of the FX can shift gears manually by two paddle shifters mounted on the steering column, rather than the steering wheel, manual shifting in the M Sedan relies on moving the gear shift lever to the left, then pushing forwards or pulling backwards. The front suspension is a double wishbone design, and, with a multi-link rear suspension, the tyres run on 20-inch alloy wheels. The MX Sedan has a conventional front engine, rear-wheel-drive system, whereas the SUV drivetrain is an all-wheeldrive system that apportions its power from a
bias of 0-100 percent rear-wheel-drive, and varying to a 50/50 split, dependent on traction. Using advanced electronic controls for the drive pathway to each wheel, this AWD system available on the FX can also divert power transmission from one side of the vehicle to the other, such as when the offside is on firm bitumen while the nearside is on loose gravel, thereby promoting maximum traction without wheel slip. The interior fit-out is definitely high end, with an 11-speaker Bose sound system, acoustic control, and sound dampening that’s inspired by noise cancelling headphone technology to remove unwanted engine noise intrusion. Not all engine noise is cancelled out. The driver gets to hear the level considered as inspiring, but not that deemed as annoying or intrusive. The front and rear parking aware system has been taken a step further by adding extra sensors to the system to create a birds-eye view around the vehicle. This highlights any likely obstacle risk from all sides of the car, and is highly desirable, given the increasing number of accidents involving small children and vehicles reversing from driveways. From a driving perspective, there’s a more common range of safety items, such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure assist, forward collision warning, emergency braking initiation and an integrated satellite
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STATUS POINTS We look at the Range Rover Evoque in manual format and find it equally as good as its auto sibling
t’s hugely satisfying to find a car that cuts across boundaries, and, in the case of the Range Rover Evoque, the designers have created a product where drivers of all ages succumb to its attraction.
In our last issue, we looked at the automatic version with all-wheel-drive and heaps of options. This time around, we take the six-speed manual model and look at the two alternatives: those of front-wheeldrive only, and the higher specification of all-wheel-drive.
There remain, today, some major differences between the shift qualities of some transmissions, with some being notchy, others having too close a gate, which causes mis-shifting into the wrong gear. Some gearshifts are just underwhelming, so when you find one that’s just lovely, it’s a true bonus. The six-speed GETRAG manual gearbox of the Evoque fits into this latter category. The shift quality is light and positive, the ratios ideal, and the clutch is light and responsive. It’s also matched to an engine that feels just right in an SUV of this size – a 2.2-litre, four-cylinder, direct-injected diesel engine that offers 110 kW. There are two body styles: a coupe and a five-door. So far, both examples on test with ECOcar have been the five-door with rear hatch and flip-forward seat back, for the second row seating, to give a flat floor in the luggage area. The five-door version also has the benefit of a slightly higher (30 mm) rear roof line, to give better headroom for rear-seat passengers. Driving pleasure is a significant part of the ECOcar ethos, as we firmly believe that all driving should be an experience to enjoy, rather than to simply suffer. As the driver
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becomes accustomed to the Evoque, it is plainly obvious that the creators of the design and its execution also follow the same principle. The more you drive it, the more the Evoque stands out from the increasingly competitive mid-sized SUV market. The ride and handling sets a new benchmark for vehicles in the medium SUV category. The steering is direct and positive, without ever feeling disconnected from what is going on at the front end, and the damper settings correspondingly support the car through even tight and twisty sections of road. There’s no trace of wallow or uncertainty. The interior of the Evoque also sets a higher standard for the SUV market. Where, usually, one finds a sea of black or dark grey plastic, the Range Rover has light fabrics and colours, lifting
STATUS POINTS the appearance and suggesting a quality level of appeal that again is ahead of the pack. Seat comfort is excellent, but so too is the relationship of the driver and passenger to the control systems available on the dashboard. It’s easy to make your phone work on Bluetooth, not only once, but every time you use the car. It’s also easy to make the radio work and find your favourite channels. You realise finally that the designers of this area wanted you to be able to work out the controls, rather than entering an operating exercise of random confusion. Buyers have a plethora of choice for interior trim levels, handling and suspension alternatives, upgrades with leather facing on seats, and snazzy aluminium plates and pedals. Make sure you spend time to find what level suits you exactly. There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all, and that’s another real bonus for the buyer. Enjoy the ease of parking with front and rear sensors, plus a reverse camera with an image quality that is the best we’ve yet experienced. Choose the powered tailgate option just because you can, and why not have the heated seat option for those cold mornings in the country.
While enjoying your drive, take advantage of the ECO button that brings in auto stop/start. Cutting the engine while you sit in heavy traffic helps the environment by cutting pollution. It also reduces your fuel costs. The hill/start control prevents roll back as you engage the clutch, and the low down torque of the diesel engine seems to prevent the risk of stalling, even for the less experienced driver. With pricing for the 2WD eD4 starting from $49,995, the Ranger Rover Evoque gets the ECOcar tick of approval from our driving team that sees an age variation from 22 years to 72 years. Not many cars can claim that level of crossover, and it exemplifies the great strength of design that comes from a company that has been making four-wheel-drives since 1948 – a true case of knowledge benefiting the breed. The price, as tested, for the Evoque Pure SD4 all-wheel-drive was $64,500, and the specification included the Pure Tech Pack 1 at $4,500, the 18-inch style alloy wheels at $1,000, leather seats at $985, and park distance control at $620. If you never intend to head off-road, you’ll be very happy with the eD4 in 2WD form with the six-speed gearbox. It’s just as well balanced as the 4WD sibling, has all the same appeal, but leaves you with more money in the bank.
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FEATURE f we told you that tyres are full of technology you might find it hard to get excited. After all, they look the same as they did when the first Model T Ford rolled off the production line. They are still round and black, they still hold up each corner of the car and they still occasionally get a puncture. But, for a tyre tragic like me, who actually finds the whole subject of the technology surrounding tyre ability incredibly interesting, there’s lots of news to tell, and it’s all good. The Bridgestone Tyre people are very clever. They launched the Ecopia EP100 a couple of years ago amidst a fanfare of publicity that explained all you might ever need to know about something in which most people have little or no interest. The tyre people call it “low rolling resistance.”
Whether you were interested or not, if your car came with Bridgestone Ecopia tyres, you probably got better fuel economy than a similar car running on tyres from a different manufacturer.
Now the tyre techies from Bridgestone have a new story to tell, and it’s centred on the improved low rolling resistance of the latest Ecopia tyre, the PZ-X. So, let’s start by explaining the term “low rolling resistance”. It means that the silica and compounds used in making the tyre enable it to roll more easily along the road. This uses less energy from the engine, which means the engine consumes less fuel than it needed
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when using other tyre designs. If you require less energy, you use less fuel, hence the correlation between tyre ability and fuel economy. We need to just stop at this point and explain that less rolling resistance doesn’t mean less grip or tyre control. It just means the tyre will roll along for a longer distance, with less effort involved to reach your destination. So, how does a tyre maker demonstrate whether their product is more efficient through having a lower rolling resistance than the next tyre in the rack? They do it on a closed road, with four identical cars, each with expert drivers at the controls. Four identical Toyota Corollas were selected, each fitted with a set of current low rolling-resistance tyres – one car with Goodyear, one with Kumho, one with Michelin and the fourth with the latest Bridgestone Ecopia PZ-X tyres. The four vehicles were driven side by side at 20 km/h then coasted to a stop. In each demonstration the cars came to a halt in the same order. In fourth place Michelin, third place Goodyear, second place Kumho and in first place the Bridgestone Ecopia. Round one to Bridgestone. The next exercise involved getting behind the wheel of each of the four vehicles and driving through a set of witches hats that formed a series of slalom configurations. In this way, it was possible to evaluate the different handling and steering characteristics of each vehicle and their tyre combination.
ROLLING RESISTANCE There is always a risk element of familiarity that grows with each lap around the course, and this can disadvantage the vehicles that were first up for evaluation through the handling section. The way to counter this is to repeat the drive of each individual vehicle, and then to continue repeating the drive in each vehicle until the driver is confident that any differences in driving ability have been evened out.
suddenly changing direction to pass through a slalom section. Another tyre design gave a far slower response; another provided a coarser feel to the steering response.
It’s an interesting situation, as the test procedure evolves with the four cars falling into a common ranking that becomes more obvious the more the exercise is repeated.
the chance to decide independently whether the claims surrounding the new Ecopia were justified.
Each of the different tyre tread patterns and casing constructions gave very different steering feel and handling response, and the differences continued to be maintained the more each car was driven. In one example, the steering response was far more aggressive, prompting a tendency to over correct when
It took a lot of faith by Bridgestone to front up with three of the country’s other top-selling brands and offer journalists
However, having put their own credibility on the line, the evaluation results fully supported Bridgestone on its claims. The new Ecopia PZ-X is not only an improvement over the previous EP100 model; it’s noticeably better than the competitive products from Kumho, Michelin and Goodyear. That’s the great advantage of technology, as the benchmark continues to shift upwards. Round two to Bridgestone.
Bridgestone shows technology can cut your motoring costs – Chris Mullett gets to grips with the rubber revolution
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