Renault GT220: A Delicious Hatch That’s Just on the Boil

banner Mégane Hatch GT220  gaycarboys

 

Yes Yes Yes oh YES: sexy, fast, ultra smooth engine, great gearbox, fabulous ride

Oh dear me no: no reverse camera on pov-model, hard-to-use muti-function control stalk, poorly placed cups holders.

I love French cars. I love their quirks, which in any other cars would be annoying. They are full of Gaelic charm and are either reviled or celebrated for their unusual-ness.

 

I kept waiting for the Megane GT 220 to commit an automotive felony. I thought she would come over all French and pull up lame and until I’d had “un baguette et un vin blanc s’il vous plait”, but she didn’t miss a beat. I worked hard to find something I didn’t like, lest my story reads like an Alan Jones Cash For Comment, perish the thought. There was nothing I didn’t like except for the hideous control stalk. You could get used to it but never like it. More on that later.

The rest of the Meganes have new smaller engines but the GT 220 gets hairy chested 162KW turbo 4. Mégane Hatch GT220  gaycarboys (3)Think of the GT 220 as a slightly less mental R.S. 265. The voluptuous metalwork squats on a set of sexy 18” alloys looking every bit the rally champion that she is. Renault sprinkled her with a list of the snazzy gadgets with the best being the auto locking doors. Leave the key in your pocket permanently, and unlike most other brands, you’ll never forget to lock your car again. Just walk away and wait for the “beep, clunk” and she goes about her security regime.

The daytime LEDs round of a deliciously menacing look. We had the pearly white but the moody black looks positively lethal. That’s a great shame in aMégane Hatch GT220  gaycarboys (2)n Aussie summer where white has more je nes se quoi.

Touch the rubber pad on the door handle to enter comfy cabin. It isn’t luxurious by and means. Still, where else are you going to get a tourer that does 7.6 seconds to 100 without rearranging your internal organs and breaking teeth, and all for 40 grand? I’ve no doubt that hefty 1326kgs stops her from being even quicker. For me, the important thing is comfort which I’m not prepared to give up for speed. The idea of living with bone jarring suspension for the possibility that one day I might want to ruin a set of tyres, a clutch, and possibly the brakes, just to have a few spins on a track is ludicrous. I’ve driven cars whose ride was like sitting on a besser brick bbq, covered in a bed sheet with 4 brass casters for wheels. The misery of driving on even the smoothest suburban roads in such awful buckets can’t be overstated. In comparison, the GT 220 rides like a limo that’s magnetically glued to the road. That seems to be Renault’s secret, a sophisticated feel to the suspension that corners with psychotic grip which doesn’t get all bent out of shape the moment a mid-bend bump is encountered.

Our test car had “leatherette”, aka vinyl, as partial seat trim. It looks the part and I’m not that fussed on burning my bum on black leather fully covered seats anyway. Fabric always feels more luxurious to me.

Mégane Hatch GT220 NEW gaycarboys (8)Mégane Hatch GT220 NEW gaycarboys (5)

 

The sweet little engine is so willing, and while there is the merest smidge of turbo lag, it’s like a puppy that’s bouncing around wanting to do anything it can to please. There’s a nice note to the exhaust but the cabin is so quiet most of the sound is lost. Shame, but at least pedestrians will be entertained. I particularly love the notchy feel to the gears. You always know which gear you’re selecting, and because the clutch has the most beautiful feel to it, the need for the “hill start assist” is almost negated. Although I hanker for manuals, I spend most of my time in automatics so it takes a while to get comfortable with the feel of the set up. It was here that I discovered a bit of French quirk I could get very fond of, and it’s a by-product of the stop/start feature. Once you’ve pressed the start button and set off, you’re engine will stop whenever you stop at lights out of gear with the clutch out. If you’re rather ham-fisted and snuff it when you move off again, simply push the clutch back in and the fabulous little Megane relights the engine for you. Never again will you be left red faced when trying to impress that bare-chested hottie in the ute next to you.

We always like to mix the Coles and Liquorland runs with a spin in the country to make sure we expose any unwanted inclinations. This is where the parking assistants would have come in handy as we are all getting very lazy and like reversing cameras to guide our way.

Narrow single lane section – Old Pacific Highway

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The only thing I’d like banished is the stalk that is crowded with buttons that I mentioned earlier. It sits behind the steering wheel and duplicates audio controls. You can’t see it, so unless you know what all the buttons do, you have no hope of getting what you want first go. It’s similar to the loathed Peugeot controls which they are gradually replacing with steering-wheel mounted buttons. You have your audio controls sure, but faffing about at 110 to find them is maddening. While you’re on the motorway you’ll also want the speed limit/cruise control, and unless you’ve read the manual, you won’t notice the on/off button is located down near the hand brake, well of course it is. Only the set/resume/increase/decrease buttons are on the wheel. There is plenty of room for the audio controls to face the driver but in a fit of Frenchness they are hidden from view. All of this matters not once you’ve spent a few days getting into the part of a beret-wearing, baguette munching, red wine swilling continental.

BELOW: Sweeping bends- Old Pacific Highway

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I packed a small care package and headed up the old Pacific Highway. I’ve only recently discovered the allure of the great north and have abandoned the Grand Pacific Drive for the time being. I can’t imagine what The Old Pac Hwy must have been like to have buses and trucks on such a treacherous track. After the motorway went in, the old road was all but abandoned.

 

 

 

We headed through the Harbour Tunnel, along the M2 then up the Pacific Highway for a bit. To save time, we took the M1 as far as Ku-Ring-Gai Chase Road. Off-motorway is where you find the best drives. Public servants like to be chauffeured along on straight smooth roads, so they make new roads featureless but fast. That doesn’t make for an interesting Sunday drive.

The sandstone escarpments surrounding Sydney have an excitement about them. The old road is now the scenic tourist drive but few tourists use it and locals make straight for the motorway. The only people driving this road are beefy boys in beefy V8’s, jaunty-capped twinks in hot hatches, and leather-clad gents straddling big butch bikes, so all are like-minded, and very very hot.

BELOW: Pie in the Sky – Cowan

Mégane Hatch GT220 wisemans ferry gaycarboys (5)Mégane Hatch GT220 wisemans ferry gaycarboys (6)

After a quick tasty lunch at Pie in the Sky, the serious work began. It was one joyous sweeping bend after Mégane Hatch GT220 wisemans ferry gaycarboys (2)another keeping the motor singing at 4 grand. They were intermixed with switchbacks, undulating straight-aways, and breathtaking views. The scenery is stunning. We opted to the Wiseman’s Ferry run which takes advantage of the riverside drive along the gorgeous Hawkesbury River. As I said, after you pass through sleepy Cowan, the serious driving begins. The problem is the speed limits which are low low low. It is 80 part of the way with the rest being 60. The Megane begged for more of a day out but men in government offices have deemed us all far too stupid to drive sensibly so have nannied us to within an inch of our lives. Such is life.

The tightest bends showed how fabulous the GT 220 could be. It switched directions like queens at a Boxing Day sale. Unlike the queens, the Renault didn’t need big hugs and vats of gin-and-tonic to be calmed, just a deft flick of the wrist got her round corners without drama. It was almost psychic.

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LEFT: A pit stop on the road to Wieseman’s ferry

 

The lack of Satnav in the base model meant relying, rather stupidly, on “maps” to guide me. For the record there is no audible warning when you lose signal in the map Apps. The signal in those sandstone canyons is little more than wishful thinking but for a change I didn’t at all mind an extra hour added to my journey. I switched to Satnav apps and all was well.

BELOW: Sandstone Canyon near Wiseman’s Ferry, The ferry

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I’d consider is paying the extra $3,700 for the Premium because the package is well worth it. You get an electric glass roof, Satnav, Leather, reversing camera, and lane departure warning amongst other things. This puts it up against the granddaddy of Hot hatches, the MK VII Golf GTi, and it compares favourably. The Renault has a vastly superior ride and with similar engine outputs, the Golf is a only second quicker to 100.

It’s not a decision I’d want to make, but I’d probably find myself leaning towards the Megane, purely for the useability day to day. The Premium would be my choice even if just for the nifty LCD replacing the standard audio unit.

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In short, Renault should be had up on charges for keeping the Megane GT 200 such a closely guarded secret.

Would I buy one? Yes.

Price: $39,790 – $43,790

Engine: 162kw/340Nm 2.0L turbo petrol

Econ/perf: 7.3L/100k, 7.6 0-100kph

 

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Jeep to launch world’s toughest car in grueling Australasian Safari

 

Banner gaycarboys jeep wrangler rubicon X

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gaycarboys jeep wrangler rubicon X (1)

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gaycarboys jeep wrangler rubicon X (9)

 

  • Special-edition Rubicon X –  Jeep’s most capable off-road car ever
  • Four-door Unlimited, five-speed automatic transmission priced at $52,000 (MSRP)
  • Two Rubicon X to compete in grueling Australasian Safari

Jeep’s special-edition Rubicon X adds even more off-road ability to the already unstoppable Wrangler, and will mark its arrival by tackling the country’s toughest off-road race – the punishing Australasian Safari.
The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon X brings added off-road capability above the already legendary Rubicon gaycarboys jeep wrangler rubicon X (7)model, with wider rock rails and higher level of standard content.
Available as a four-door Wrangler Unlimited, the Rubicon X is the most capable Wrangler in the line-up. Based on the Rubicon model, it is equipped with Wrangler’s part-time four-wheel-drive system that has electronic-locking front and rear Dana 44 axles that receive power through a Rock-Trac transfer case with a “4-Low” ratio of 4:1. A 4.10 axle ratio, front and rear, is also standard as are Tru-Lok locking differentials.

But to truly test the mettle of its metal, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon X will tackle the country’s most demanding off-road race – the Australian Safari. The grueling event will kick off in Wanneroo, WA, on September 19 and finish in Kalbarri, WA, on September 27.

gaycarboys jeep wrangler rubicon X (4)Jeep has entered two examples of the Wrangler Rubicon X in the event, to be driven by journalists from motoring.com.au and 4X4 Australia – both paired with experienced co-drivers.
The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon X is loaded with special features, and is officially Jeep Australia’s most off-road capable Wrangler. Goodyear tyres are mounted on 17-inch Rubicon aluminum wheels painted satin black with polished faces and a red Jeep Wrangler “icon” logo on the inside pocket.
A dual-intake Power Dome hood helps aid in engine cooling and gives Wrangler a more menacing appearance.  Mopar rock rails give added protection from trail damage. Mopar also supplies the black fuel filler door. A red-silhouette “Rubicon” decal, on both sides of the hood, adds the finishing exterior touches to distinguish the Wrangler Rubicon X model’s added capability.

gaycarboys jeep wrangler rubicon X (11)gaycarboys jeep wrangler rubicon X (10)

The interior has special touches as well. Black leather seats are standard, as are seat heaters for the front passengers. A unique gauge cluster features Rubicon X exclusive styling and also features a premium Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC) with added read-outs such as oil pressure, transmission and coolant temperatures, digital speed and tyre pressure. The passenger grab handle features Quick Silver accents are also found on the vent rings, steering wheel spokes and door pulls.
All examples of the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon X come standard with the durable 5-speed automatic transmission.  Adding to the already impressive list of standard equipment is the award winning UConnect multimedia system, featuring a 6.5 inch (16.5 cm) touch screen with navigation.
The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon X has arrived in limited-edition numbers and is priced at $52,000 (MRSP) and is available in dealerships now.

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Jeep Wrangler Rubicon X Specifications

Engine:

3.6-litre Pentastar V6

Power:

209kW at 6,350 rpm

Torque:

347Nm at 4,300 rpm

Displacement:

3604cc

Bore x Stroke:

3.78 x 3.27 (96 x 83)

Valve System:

Chain-driven DOHC, 24 valves and hydraulic end-pivot roller rockers

Economy:

11.9 combined

Kerb weight:

1541kg

Lexus ES300h: A Magic Flute Experience

 

2013 Lexus ES 300h gaycarboys BANNER

2013 Lexus ES 300h Sports Luxury (right) and ES 350 Luxury

2013 Lexus ES 300h gaycarboys (31)2013 Lexus ES 300h Sports Luxury

2013 Lexus ES 300h gaycarboys (26)

 

2013 Lexus ES 350 Sports Luxury (ECO mode)2013 Lexus ES 350 Luxury

2013 Lexus ES 300h Sports Luxury2013 Lexus ES 300h Sports Luxury

2013 Lexus ES 300h Sports Luxury

2013 Lexus ES 300h Luxury2013 Lexus ES 300h gaycarboys (28)

2013 Lexus ES 300h gaycarboys (27)2013 Lexus ES 300h gaycarboys (29)

Yes Yes Yes oh YES: limo-like feel, well appointed, economical, spacious cabin

Oh dear me no: woodgrain looks cheap, no cut-off for rear controls

Do you remember an ad for Lexus from many years ago featuring “The Magic Flute” playing in the background. We watch the huge LS 430 taking bends much faster than it has any right to go, then it stops. The door opens, and a pair of posh black shoes step onto the pavement. He pops the boot where a vintage turntable is seen playing a record. The driver impeccably dressed carefully lifts the needle off. I can’t imagine why Bang and Olufsen didn’t invent some weird in-dash record player, it make you long for instant gratification of your Iphone. With it, you can stream music straight to the cars audio system while your phone sits in your bag, and you can carry your entire collection in your pocket. Had you taken that many records with you, you’d have needed to own a school bus.

Lexus has taken a different design direction of late and as a result, the frumpy frocks are gone. Now there are luscious exteriors, and impeccable cabins which have been lavished with obsessive care and attention. The ES makes a return to Australia after a hiatus of some years and fits between the IS and the GS. It is a big car with big presence.

If you hold your head just right, you can see a touch of the four-door sports coupe which Mercedes, BMW and Audi have cashed in on, except Lexus is doing it for half the price. The exterior is classy and elegant with the top hybrid getting Xenon headlights and our base model making do with halogen. It isn’t as though you would notice. Try as I might, I just can’t think of the base ES, the 300h, as a pov-model. Interestingly, the bottom of the range ES is a hybrid. I’m a fairly recent hybrid convert and Toyota/Lexus’s Synergy drive is the grand-daddy of them all. You can run your car silently just on batteries up to about 30-ish KPH if there is enough charge. The system will tell you if the power is insufficient. All kinds of flashing happens, and noises come then without further fanfare the petrol motor cuts in. Unless you’re unless max power, the cabin is as silent as it was solely on electric power. The battery charges when you coast, and ramps up that charging when you brake. The rest of the time the system switches between charging and driving the wheels. Once upon a time naysayers pooh-poohed hybrids and the environmentally disastrous batteries. Much was made of the amount energy taken to manufacture the batteries, then to get rid of them when they are depleted. They had apoplexies from the cockpits of their 6 litre V8 SUVs but after a few gins they calmed down. There were also criticisms made of the life span of the batteries too, I know, I was one of those critics. However, with the benefit of hindsight, we can say that most of the batteries in the earliest hybrids in Australia are still performing as they were intended. The warranty is now 8 years, up from 5 years but most packs are lasting far longer.

The claims of fuel use are usually exaggerated beyond all recognition, but in this case it is pretty close. For a start, the Lexus runs on budget-priced 91 ron fuel according to the launch-day press release, which is unheard of in a luxury car. I note with some concern that the website states 95/98 ron. Perhaps one was a misprint.

The claimed economy is 5.5 l/100k which again is unheard of in a large luxury car. The 151kw output seems modest, but you’ll get to 100kph in 8.5 seconds, almost Hot-Hatch territory. The torque on the electric motor is available from the second you put your foot down so is almost a second quicker than the old petrol Gen 4 ES. The steering is uber-light with an ethereal feel at parking speeds, and sharp with loads of road feel at highway speeds. I could imagine doing a long leisurely road trip of a few thousand K’s without feeling like I’d been beaten with a baseball bat. I’ve done such trips in luxury Euro-snobs and was near crippled upon reaching my destination.

2013 Lexus ES 300h Luxury2013 Lexus ES 300h gaycarboys (30)

 

There are many things to like about the classy interior. The leather feels good to touch and it has been 2013 Lexus ES 350 Luxury boot spacelavished on almost every surface. The knobs have that gentle resistance you get from quality European audio gear. It isn’t the obvious that gets my vote though, it is the thoughtful way it is all put together that is most endearing. For example, the analogue clock looks almost art deco and the large LCD screen is set back into the dash so that reflection from the sun won’t obliterate your view. You input data via touch or the “mouse” joystick. I’ll admit the joystick takes quite some getting used to but once you do, selection is as quick as a flash. And, with no fanfare or crowd waves, the seat slides back when you press the “stop” button. It gives you all the space you need to get in and out, especially appreciated by those who have previously been crippled on long distance journeys in Euro-snobs. Even the boot lid is electric on the base model.

2013 Lexus ES 300h Sports Luxury2013 Lexus ES 300h Sports Luxury

 

We drove lots of highway K’s and only occasionally does the CVT make the petrol motor protest. The rest of2013 Lexus ES 300h Luxury the time you don’t know if you’re on battery power or not because the double glazing keeps all but the most persistent noises outside where they belong. You can view which motor is doing what via a small graphic in one of the menus which will be displayed on the driver’s LCD monitor. I wouldn’t bother because you’re meant to be watching the road. If using a phone, or watching tv, makes the state nannies spin, the synergy monitor would make their heads come away.

I started to read all about the platform, and transmissions, and planetary gears and it was all double Dutch, but it was the suspension description that made me giggle like a school girl. I had no idea what a “counter-wound coil spring” was but the OMG prize for “what are you talking about” goes to “rose-joint mounted stabiliser bar”. I stopped reading the ridiculous gobbledygook at that point. After you’ve done a few thousand kilometres, a rosebud joint isn’t going to seem important.

We had a variety of passengers on board to source as many opinions as possible. By far the least 2013 Lexus ES 300h Sports Luxuryentertaining was my hubby who came with me on a school run. He and an 8 year old found the rear controls. It made the trip home akin to Chinese water torture because you can alter far too many functions from back there. On several occasions I was heard to say “Don’t make me come back there” and I realised I sounded like my parents. I was less than amused. The 8 year olds mother chuckled and said “it comes to us all in the end”. I got very grumpy.

Everyone who rode in the ES loved it, especially the gay ones. One, who works as an I.T. guru in banking, insisted on being dropped at his head office’s main door. He said it was just because of the short walk to the lifts, but I suspect it’s because the managers take their morning coffee just around that time.

Many thought it was as good as a BMW or Mercedes Benz and some thought it actually was a BMW or a Mercedes Benz. Whilst I realise Lexus would like to be admired in her own right, she could do worse than to be compared favourably to the premium Germans. I’ll bet the premium Germans would be far less happy about it. They are terribly precious, if you know what I mean.

As I pulled into the top secret Lexus HQ, in The Shire, I felt pangs of regret because I didn’t want to give it back. I don’t find many cars I don’t want to give back so make of that what you will. “Waft” is my word du jour and for the first time in a long time I can’t think of a single thing I’d change. I like the ES just the way it is thanks very much.

Would I buy one? Yes

Model

ES 350

ES 300h

Engine

2GR-FE

2AR-FXE

Capacity

3456cc

2494cc

Engine type

All-alloy 60-degree V6, 24 valves, double overhead cams (per bank) with dual VVT-i

All-alloy Atkinson cycle in-line 4 with double overhead cams, dual VVT-i and cooled EGR

Fuel type

95 RON (ULP) or higher (recommended)

Bore x stroke (mm)

94 x 83

90 x 98

Compression ratio

10.8:1

12.5:1

Max power

Petrol engine

204kW@6200rpm

118kW@5700rpm

Combined (hybrid)

151kW

Max. torque (petrol only)

346Nm @ 4700rpm

213Nm @ 4500rpm

Hybrid system

Type

Series/parallel, full hybrid

System output

105kW

Torque

270Nm

Electric generator (MG2)

AC synchronous, permanent magnet

Voltage (V)

650

High-voltage battery

Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH)

Voltage (V)

244.8

Transmission

Type

U660E six-speed automatic, electronically controlled with sequential shift

P314 electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (E-CVT) with sequential shiftmatic system

Gear ratios

First

3.300

Six-step CVT

Second

1.900

Third

1.420

Fourth

1.000

Fifth

0.713

Sixth

0.608

Reverse

4.138

Final drive ratio

3.458:1

Suspension

Type

Front

Double-wishbone with coil springs and gas-pressurised dampers. Adaptive variable suspension on F Sport and Sports Luxury

Rear

Independent multi-link with rear-located toe control arm and separate coil springs and dampers

Driveline

Driven wheels

Front drive

Brakes

Front

296mm x 28mm ventilated disc

Rear

281mm x 10mm solid disc

Additional features

ABS

Electronic Brake-force Distribution

Brake Assist

Active Traction Control

Vehicle Stability Control

HAC (on ES 300h)

Steering

Type

Road-speed sensitive electric power-assisted steering

Turns lock-to-lock

2.9

Minimum turning diameter – tyre (m)

11.4

Wheels and tyres

Rims

17x7J Aluminium

Tyres

215/55R17 93V

Body/exterior dimensions

Overall length (mm)

4900

Overall width (mm)

1820

Overall height (mm)

1450

Wheelbase (mm)

2820

Track front (mm)

1590

Track rear (mm)

1575

Weights/loads

Kerb weight (kg) (Sports Luxury)

1630-1665

1685-1705

Capacities

Fuel tank (L)

65

65

Seating

Five

Boot Space (L)

490

425

Performance

Max. speed (km/h)

210

180

0-100 km/h (sec)

7.4

8.5

Fuel consumption (L/100 km)*

Combined

9.5

5.5

Urban

13.5

6.0

Extra urban

7.2

5.2

CO2 emissions (g/km)*

Combined

224

130

Drivetrain

Model

Price

Enhancement Pack

Enhancement Pack Specification

ES 300h

Luxury

$63,000

+$3,000

Pre-Collison Safety System and Active Cruise Control

Sports Luxury

$72,000

N/A

ES 350

Luxury

$65,000

N/A

Sports Luxury

$74,000

Back in gravel mode – Shakedown completed: Volkswagen all set for Australian round of the WRC

Rally Australia 2014Rally Australia 2014

 

  • Latvala, Ogier and Mikkelsen fourth, fifth and eight fastest
  • WRC event down under boasts unique conditions on this year’s calendar

A rollercoaster ride through the forests of New South Wales, with the added difficulty of having to switch from asphalt back into gravel mode – Volkswagen used the shakedown ahead of the Rally Australia to prepare for the tenth round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) was the fastest Volkswagen duo on the 4.98-kilometre practice route, which the teams will tackle in the opposite direction on Friday as part of the opening “Hydes Creek” special stage. They ended the “free practice” session fourth fastest in the Polo R WRC, just ahead of team-mates Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) in fifth place. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N) clocked the eighth fastest time of the shakedown. First and second place went to Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg (Citroën), with Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) third fastest. Interestingly, just 4.4 seconds separated the top ten.

Despite the route becoming ever faster, the Volkswagen drivers each completed just three back-to-back runs of the shakedown, choosing to save their tyres – unlike the opposition. Only a limited number of Michelin competition tyres may be used per rally, including the shakedown.

Quotes after the shakedown at the Rally Australia

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“The stages at the Rally Australia are spectacular and the scenery is uniquely beautiful. Julien and I had a fantastic rally here last year, winning 19 of the 22 special stages. The car felt very good during the shakedown. Although the opposition is, in general, a lot closer in general this year, I still have a lead of 44 points over Jari-Matti in the World Drivers’ Championship. As a team, we are also in a position to secure the title for Volkswagen in the Manufacturers’ Championship here. I am looking forward to what will hopefully be a good weekend for us.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“To be honest, I come into the Rally Australia feeling very positive. The shakedown went very well for us. I like the routes and the scenery around Coffs Harbour. After driving on asphalt at the most recent rally in Germany, it was important to adapt quickly to the road conditions on gravel again. My Polo felt very good and I am determined to challenge for the win again here. I have not forgotten our retirement in Germany, but I have put it behind us. When you make a mistake, but learn from that mistake, it can only make you stronger.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9

“Good pace notes are essential at the Rally Australia. There are a lot of undulations, blind corners and unforgiving trees nearly everywhere along the narrow special stages. On top of that, we must adjust from driving on asphalt to gravel. For me, the shakedown was all about getting used to these specific conditions and getting a good feeling for the Polo. That is all I was focusing on for the first two of the three shakedown runs. Now the rhythm is back, I feel good, and I can’t wait to get started tomorrow.”

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director

“The shakedown always provides the perfect opportunity to stock up on confidence ahead of the rally and to get the right feeling for the conditions at that particular event. We come to Australia with high hopes and would ideally like to wrap up the Manufacturers’ Championship with rallies to spare. Today’s five kilometres showed that all the systems are running perfectly and that our drivers are in good shape and fully focused. We are ready.”

FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Rally Australia – TV broadcast

Western Europe
Andorra (Canal +); Austria (LAOLA1.tv, ORF, RTL, ServusTV, Sport 1); Belgium (Canal +, RTBF); Denmark (TV3 Sport, VIASAT); Finland (MTV3, YLE Sport); France (Canal +, France TV, Léquipe 21, TF1); Germany (Sport1, RTL, n-tv, LAOLA1.tv, ServusTV); Greece (OTE); Ireland (Setanta); Italy (RAI, Canale Italia, Sportitalia); Liechtenstein (RTL, ServusTV, Sport 1); Luxembourg (Canal +, RTL, ServusTV, Sport 1); Monaco (Canal +, France TV, Léquipe 21, TF1); Netherlands (RTL 7); Norway (VIASAT, Viasat Sport); Portugal (Sport TV, RTP); Spain (Canal +); Sweden (SVT); Switzerland (Canal +, RTL, ServusTV, Sport 1); United Kingdom (ITV 4); Wales (S4C)

Eastern Europe
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan (Auto Plus); Croatia (SPTV); Czech Republic, Slovakia (Czech TV, Sport 5); Poland (TV 4, TVP); Romania (Dolce Sport); Ukraine (First Automotive Channel, Auto Plus)

Middle East and Africa
Angola, Mozambique (Canal +, Sport TV, SuperSport); Benin, Botswana, Burkina, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, São Tomé, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe (Canal +, SuperSport); Lesotho, Liberia, Mayotte, Reunion, Socotra, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, St Helena & Ascension, Sudan, Swaziland (SuperSport)

Asia Pacific
Malaysia (Astro); Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Guam, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Laos, Macao, Malaysia, Maldives, Micronesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Caledonia, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam (ESPN Star); Japan (J Sports); New Zealand (Sky Sports); Australia (Speed TV); Thailand (Truevision)

North and Latin America
Argentina (Channel 12, Fox Sports); Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad & Tobago, USA (MAV TV); Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Latin America, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela (Fox Sports); Brazil (ESPN); Paraguay (Fox Sports, Telefuturo)

International
Worldwide (Reuters, SNTV)

The Semi Electric Camry is OK, if not exciting.

2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid - Camry HL (left) and Camry H

 

2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid - Camry HL2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid - Camry HL battery2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid - Camry HL interior

2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid - Camry HL rear blind2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid - Camry HL

2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid - Camry HL (left) and Camry H

Yes Yes Yes oh YES: fuel economy, tech inclusions

Oh dear me no: a bit dull

Things have changed rather a lot since the first hybrid landed here. The Prius is still seen world-wide as “a hybrid” and if you want to be green, and “seen to be green” then it is a Prius you buy. Of course there are so many semi-electric options now. Honda, Nissan and Lexus have hybrids but now the Germans have gotten in on the act. Sadly Holden’s costly version, the Volt, languishes unloved and unsold because Australians will not pay $65k for a small car. Whether a ranger extender or not, it is simply too expensive. Nissan’s leaf and Mitsubishi’s EV’s have been even slower sellers. We are not yet ready to completely abandon fossil fuelled transport.

So, to the Camry:

The exterior is a bit slab -sided. It’s a great shame we are not doing the review for the 2015 model. It is stunning. As for this one, I don’t actually dislike it, but doesn’t inspire me to break into choruses from the Sound of Music. Importantly, it is the “not offensive” design that is what has made Toyota so big. They go for mass market appeal being careful not to polarise anyone along the way. That safe attitude sells lots of cars but they will be bought for practical reasons, not because of desire. It’s a shame because they are so well and along with cockroaches, will be the only things left standing after the nuclear Armageddon. The head and tail lights are not particularly attractive and have been upgrade for next year so I’ll leave my dislike of them pass this time. There is a touch of the wedge going on so I can’t understand why the designers didn’t inject a bit more je ne sais quoi.

I sat in the new Camry for the first time, and liked the huge improvement in the cabin design. The previous model looked a bit wrong. Here, the switch gear is all in the right spot and is very easy to use. I particularly loved the JBL sound system which had the high-end sensation you expect from a premium German brand. The interface feels slightly awkward in places but is saved by physical buttons on either side of the screen. The touch-screen Satnav is easy to programme and Bluetooth easy to pair. The one thing I can’t tolerate is slow reacting systems that are impossible to navigate. I’m thinking of Volvo’s system which needs input from a dial like a 70 telecom phone. It’s positively 20th century and takes what feels like hours to respond to inputs.

I’ve mentioned the seating but it would be churlish of me not to mention how comfy they are. The poor passenger has to make do with few electric adjustments than the driver which is silly given that full adjustments are available. After all the Camry sells in left and right hand drive. Cheeky Toyota has cut a few costs unnecessarily but since they aren’t daily controls it doesn’t matter much. The glossy brochure describes the leather as “accents”. Does that mean there is also “pleather” sneaking in surreptitiously? Certainly the dash board reveals a man-made origin upon closer inspection. In order to test properly, the extra beefy lads were unavailable so I roped in my “honorary gay” friends and did a school run. Remarks were made on the spaciousness of the cabin and the “sunroofness” of the sunroof.

I’m pleased to see the plastics looking less poverty and more premium. That’s a bit mean because most car makers have improved their materials, so snaps to Toyota for taking full advantage. However the interior does not match the high quality feel of Holden’s VF Commodores.

We had the top model “L” for-luxury-model at $45.878. The pov model is $39, 607 so what goodies do you get for your 16 grand extra? Auto lights and wipers with keyless start and entry are standard. You not only have electric leather seats and climate control, but you also get driver aids like a rear camera and blind spot warning. One thing worth mentioning is at this price the L model competes with Holden’s Calais ($44,670). Calais is one of my favourite sedans under 100k. It feels premium from end to end, and it parks itself. Like most hybrids, fuel consumption is only part of the reason. Most of the reason lies in the fact that some people want to be seen to be green whether or not they actually are.

The real-life fuel consumption figures differ wildly from those claimed by the manufacturer. People get terribly bent out of shape about it, but unless the test conditions are the same from model to model there is no other way to truly compare apples and apples. The Calais uses 9.0L/100k compared to Camry’s 5.2. This means the Toyota uses 45% less fuel for a car similar in size to the Holden. More fuel means more CO2, more cost, more tax, and considerably more power.

The Camry drives reasonably well without being overly exciting. It has plenty of room and will easily do a long trip. You have to get used to the slightly floaty steering but Camry does go where you point it. The ride can be harsh at times. It tends to bump nastily on corners if you hit ruts on the way through. It’s not unpleasant as such, but it could be better. It’s the handling in hybrids that always makes me feel a little uneasy. You certainly notice the extra poke from the electric motor but you also notice the weight of the batteries. As you corner you feel like the back of the car is going to swing out rather awkwardly. It’s an uncomfortable feeling. I was never quite sure if the sensation was just in my mind, but it was a feeling I couldn’t shake. I got used to it, but I never accepted it.

The Camry is an attempt by Toyota to give its large car the “small hybrid” shine, and to a degree it is2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid - Camry H auto transmission successful. In fact a long drive in the Camry Hybrid left me with more questions than answers. The fuel consumption isn’t much better than city driving as is usually the case with Hybrids. The CVT transmission has no gears so is prone to make the petrol engine sound like

I’m a hybrid convert because where once I questioned battery life, I now admire the fact that decade-old batteries r still going strong. More importantly, I “get them” now. They are cars built for how we actually use cars, not for how we want to use cars. In other words we drive in cities, in traffic and are far more likely to fly any distances longer than a few hundred kilometres. Moreover, most of us don’t often make many journeys of that distance, so the hybrid is a product of its time. If you live in the country your needs will be different 2012 Toyota Camry HL blind spot monitorand a diesel or turbo petrol is going to be more up your ally.

There are lots of inclusions in this top model. The blind spot alert is a favourite, now I’m used to it. I could live with the Camry hybrid but it would only ever feel like transport.

I pondered for the longest time whether or not I’d buy one, and the answer is no, but I could live with it if it came with the job.

Kombi Camper at Porsche price

fully-restored Californian built 1966 VW Kombi ‘E-Z’ Camper GAYCARBOYS banner

fully-restored Californian built 1966 VW Kombi ‘E-Z’ Camper GAYCARBOYS (4)fully-restored Californian built 1966 VW Kombi ‘E-Z’ Camper GAYCARBOYS (2)

 

• Rare surviving ‘60s VW Campervan
Exhaustive, documented restoration to better than new
• Multiple Show and award winner

When Professor Ferdinand Porsche designed his Volkswagen ‘People’s car’ in 1934, he never envisaged that 80 years on its variants might be worth as much, or more, than the sports cars carrying his name.

But that could be the case at Shannons Melbourne Spring auction on Monday, September 29 when an exhaustively-restored and multiple award-winning 1966 VW Campervan named ‘Buster’ is expected to sell for the price of a early Porsche 356.

‘Buster’ is a rare surviving ‘E-Z’ Camper conversion based on an increasingly collectible ‘Split-Window’ Type 2 Kombi.

fully-restored Californian built 1966 VW Kombi ‘E-Z’ Camper GAYCARBOYS (1)Introduced in 1949 with the same reliable running gear as the original Post-War VW Beetle, the Kombi soon carved a niche as a reliable, versatile and endearing workhorse and it was available as a van, a bus and as early as 1951, as a camper, with a conversion by the German Westfalia company.

As demand for these campers outstripped supply – particularly in North America – other campers entered the market, including  ‘E-Z’ Camper built in Littlerock, California that cleverly transformed the Kombi into a veritable house on wheels, with a folding bed, tables and chairs, kitchenette, 55-litre water system and wardrobe.

The ‘E-Z’ being auctioned enjoyed a long association with the original owner’s family before being inherited by their stepson who began the task of refurbishing the vehicle to better than new condition in the early 2000s.

The restoration was thoroughly documented by a detailed, step-by-step photographic record of all work fully-restored Californian built 1966 VW Kombi ‘E-Z’ Camper GAYCARBOYS (5)performed, along with a comprehensive receipt file.

A new 1915cc engine fitted with Twin Weber carburettors and electronic ignition was installed, along with a replacement ‘Freeway Flyer’ transmission and a CSP front disc brake conversion for added safety. Optimax deep cycle batteries were fitted, along with a discreetly-hidden Alpine sound system.

‘Buster’ also comes with its original canvas annexe, twin Coleman stoves (still in their original packaging), fully-restored Californian built 1966 VW Kombi ‘E-Z’ Camper GAYCARBOYS (3)the original (and still functioning) icebox along with various accessories such as anodised mugs, crockery and cutlery.

The factory left-hand-drive Volkswagen has only travelled a further 1,500 miles since its rebuild was completed in 2001 and remains in truly remarkable condition.

Since being imported to Australia from California in 2011, ‘Buster’ has been a hit at various NSW and Victorian shows, where it has won numerous awards for its stunning presentation.

Shannons expect this stunning reminder of the free-living 1960s to sell in $62,000-$72,000 range.

THE GORGEOUS LEXUS RC F DEVELOPS 351kW – NATURALLYLEXUS RC F DEVELOPS 351kW – NATURALLY

Lexus RCF gaycarboys BANNER

Lexus RCF gaycarboys (1)Lexus RCF gaycarboys (2)Lexus RCF gaycarboys (3)Lexus RCF gaycarboys (4)

LEXUS RC F DEVELOPS 351kW – NATURALLY

The Lexus RC F will launch a powerful assault on the luxury performance vehicle segment in early 2015, with the all-new coupe developing 351kW from its naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 engine.
The new engine will develop almost 13 per cent more power than the IS F engine on which it is based – making it the most powerful Lexus V8 engine in the marque’s history.
All-new cylinder heads and lighter moving parts have increased the maximum power of the 5.0-litre, 32-valve engine by 40kW, with maximum revolutions increased from 6600 to 7300rpm.
Lexus Australia chief executive Sean Hanley said the RC F will have a powerful presence in the Australian automotive market.
“The RC F will be powerful in every respect. From its design to the powertrain beneath it, the RC F has been designed to engage, excite and inject emotion into the Lexus brand,” Mr Hanley said.
“As our performance hero, RC F plays a very important role in highlighting our engineering and design capabilities, and just as importantly it also displays the passion and pride of our engineering team.
“RC F encompasses all of our learnings from LFA and wraps it up in Lexus’ latest design philosophy,” he said.
The RC F will also feature an intelligent engine management system that allows the drivetrain to switch between Atkinson and Otto cycle, conserving fuel while coasting or delivering maximum power when required.
The RC F is scheduled for launch in Australia during the first quarter of 2015.