The end of a rails run for the Stinger GT
A little-known fact about the Stingerí twin-turbo engine is that ití the first V6 to feature a sodium-filled stem and head on the exhaust valve. Sodium-filled valve stems have been around for decades, the tech helping them dissipate heat and stay cooler. A solid valve in this engine would run in the mid-800ļC range; by sodium-filling both the stem and head, the operating temperature of the exhaust valve can drop as much as 200ļC, allowing for significant spark advance without having to worry about keeping valves cool.
JONI MITCHELL, itís reasonable to assume, probably wasnít thinking about returning her Kia long termer when she wrote ĎBig Yellow Taxií. Nevertheless, that line ďdonít it always seem to go, that you donít know what youíve got ítil itís goneĒ seems to have been my earworm ever since the Stinger went back.
Not that I took the car for granted. There wasnít a day when I didnít smile when I started it up, grinning at the thought that for this serendipitous six-month spell, I had a 272kW rear-driver in the garage and some twisty country roads within five minutes of my front door. That said, itís possible to become blasť about some of the Stingerís lesser-appreciated qualities.
The biggest surprise for me was how adept the Kia was as a refined GT car. Through a fluke of timing, the Stinger arrived just as the Aussie-built Commodore V8 was bowing out, so it was only natural that the GT would be seen as the inheritor of the mantle; the lucky countryís ball-tearing sedan of choice. It can bag up the rears with the best of íem but, if anything, the Stinger GT does what Commodores of old used to do so well, namely click over big distances in effortless comfort but with plenty of potency in reserve.
Dial the dampers to their softest mode, switch the drive mode to Eco, flick the active cruise and lane-keep on, chuck your mobile onto the wireless charging pad, pull up a favourite playlist on Android Auto and then tune that perfect balance between climate control and seat heaters/coolers. Australia then becomes this gently scrolling Pantone palette of browns; a slowly morphing box-set of weathered geologies.
Thus engaged, I saw a tankful of fuel go past in a 600km round trip between Melbourne and the New South Wales border at a rate of little over 7L/100km, contributing to an overall fuel economy figure over six months of 9.9L/100km, bettering Kiaís combined figure of 10.2L/100km. If youíre concerned that the Stinger V6ís fuel thirst will be prohibitive, rest easy.
Because it seemed so well suited to loping cruises, I never really felt tempted to exercise it at a track day. Besides, Iíd already seen one pair of rear tyres cremated in about two-minutes of overexcitement and was determined to demonstrate some kind of responsible adulting and return the car with some semblance of tread on the back tyres. Or at least no visible canvas. On the one occasion that I did decide to go berserk on a wet roundabout, the Stinger instantly threw a tyre pressure warning at me, quickly curtailing the oversteer antics.
All too often these long term tests read like a litany of petty gripes. We try to bring you our real-world experiences of cars once the showroom sheen wears off and that can manifest as the worst sort of nitpicking. In the case of the Stinger, hereís a car thatís big, comfortable, quick, practical and which neednít cost a fortune to run. Best of all itís likeable. You want to turn down the air con, dial up the heated seats, change drive modes or switch off the stability control? There are big buttons and switches in easy reach. You donít like idle-stop? Kill it once in a menu and it never reintervenes. All these things get the big Kia onside. You feel itís been designed by people like you.
As the Stinger departs, its place in the Enright garage has been replaced by something broader and brasher, which youíll be able to read about next month. Itíll have some big boots to fill.
Date acquired: April 2018
Price as tested: $60,685
This month: 2,380km @ 8.2L/100km
Overall: 9387km @ 9.9L/100km
Of the seven colours available for the Stinger GT in Australia, two of which (Aurora Black and Snow White Pearl) are exclusive to that model, the pearl finish Deep Chroma Blue would probably be my last choice. Having seen a Ceramic Grey Stinger GT with deep red nappa leather trim, thatí be the combo that would get my vote had configured the vehicle. The other colours available are Micro Blue, Hichroma Red and Silky Silver.
Date acquired: April 2018
Price as tested: $49,680
This month: n/a
Overall: 2693km @ 9.5L/100km
After a few weeks without the 3008 it was a relief to come back to its sophisticated parking aids and surround view camera system, something rely on every time get home. A mark on the ground at the front of my car park is visible in the camera lens and displayed on the infotainment screen, meaning can slot the 3008 into the perfect position for another car to park behind me without any need for guesswork or adjustments after getting out of the car.
Fault in the fuel system sees Pug on the sidelines
FOR THOSE just tuning in, letís recap. During the last few months Iíve become friends with the 3008. Itís a good car. Weíve bonded over almost 3000km of day-to-day toil and had some fun on the side, but since last update things have taken a turn for the French.
In August I mentioned an overdue service I was planning to book. The 2500km check is a dealershipís way of building customer relationships by transitioning buyers from the salesperson they connected with initially to the technicians who will maintain their vehicle. Itís sometimes referred to as a runin service or a second handover, and allows owners to voice any early concerns and get help with functions theyíre struggling to master (typically adaptive cruise control and self-parking features). Itís also a good opportunity to check for software and satnav map updates. In an effort to properly emulate a normal customer experience, I wanted in.
But on the day I was to make those arrangements, the 3008 clutched at its shins and took a dive. An amber Ďcheck engineí warning lit up the digital dash display less than two kilometres from home. It was a weird one, with no sign beforehand that something was awry, but at that moment the throttle went long and the idle turned rough and there was barely enough drive to move out of traffic and pull over. Sacrebleu!
I called for roadside assistance, which is part of Peugeotís warranty program, and was offered a tow rather than actual help at the roadside, but that was more inconvenient than trying to limp the rest of the way to work in the ailing SUV and hope the amber warning didnít turn red.
A man from the dealership came to pick it up later that day. He swapped me for a 5008 I could use in the interim and told me Iíd hear something soon. Sure enough, a day or so later the techs had found a fault with a one-way valve in the fuel tank breather set-up near the filler neck that had allowed fuel to dribble back down into somewhere it shouldnít and caused the engine management to throw an error code. I had given the car a full tank near home in the evening before the issue started, and it was that fill that had set it off.
Of the 70-odd 3008s delivered by the salesman I spoke to, only one other had suffered the same plight. Peugeot told me a revised part was now available, but it needed to come from France along with a whole new fuel tank. The inevitable transport delays meant the car was out of action for almost three weeks before coming back to me, but the process of getting it fixed under warranty was relatively painless.
Fuel systems are particularly sensitive in modern cars as manufacturers hunt for ultimate efficiency. For example, there are reports of Ďcheck engineí lights in Mazda vehicles that havenít had their fuel filler caps tightened properly. Otherwise insignificant components can have large repercussions, and though Iím yet to do any meaningful distance in this 3008 since its repair, the remedy seems to have it solved. Time will tell.
Date acquired: July 2018
Price as tested: $120,000
This month: 718km @ 11.6L/100km
Overall: 1219km @ 11.4L/100km
We apologise for a production glitch last month that saw the Jagí fuel figure appear as 6.6L/100km. Talk about error in your favourí the actual number should have been 11.3L/100km, which has since risen to 11.6 for this month.
Thatí reflection of the heavy urban driving, but still, ití well above the official urban figure of 8.5 (6.6 on the combined cycle.) The carí consumption meter caní be trusted; it claimed 12 percent lower at 10.2L/100km
Because whatís inside does count
MORE God-fearing men than myself may be well-advised to follow the ninth commandment; the one that decrees thou shall not covet thy neighbourís wife. But what about coveting the interior of thy carís cousin? Surely thatís not off limits?
See, I recently fell under the spell of the stunning, game-changing interior of the Land Rover Velar, with its dual-screen lushness and high-end touch points. As I sat there making lame little cooing sounds, it brought into sharp relief the generational gap between it and the perfectly adequate, but rather less-stunning interior of my XF. I admit to a few improper thoughts, Lord; those of the lustful kind.
Yes, different brands, and models from different eras. The reality is that interior design and in-cabin technology is one area of the automotive world thatís been on a sharp upswing in recent years, so itís inevitable that design and features considered seductive and cutting edge in 2015 may appear a little passť as 2019 looms.
Specifics? The pop-up rotary gear selector in the XF Ė which actually debuted in the first-gen XF (X240) from 2007 Ė never feels as intuitive nor as satisfying to use as a conventional lever.
And the air vents that rotate into the open position as the ignition is switched on Ė another carry-over from the X240 Ė now feel a little gimmicky.
But Iíve been diligently noting more practical shortfalls, such as the front door bins that arenít designed to take a water bottle, or the fact that thereís nowhere to store the key if the cupholders are in use. Then thereís the USB ports mounted high in the rear of the lidded centre console, meaning that the cablesí plugs block you from either placing or retrieving anything from within the box.
But Iíll stop my first-world whinging right there because while the XF stumbles on a few details, it nails the fundamentals comprehensively. The front seats strike a sweet balance between pliant comfort and essential support, the electric column adjustment allows the wheel to glide into an ideal position, and Iím not missing an SUVís Ďcommandí driving position at all.
But what is delivering the most day-to day satisfaction is the dynamic polish. The steering is slick, ideally weighted, and has real nuance either side of centre without ever feeling over-reactive. On this measure alone, the Jag easily beats the multi-mode rack fitted to BMWís 5 Series. Likewise the ride, which is mostly calm and absorbent, thanks in part to the rear air-springs and adaptive dampers. Itís not what youíd call plush Ė itís too disciplined for that Ė but it dispatches Sydneyís battlescarred bitumen with just a muted thudding from the 19-inch Goodyears that rarely jars.
Then thereís its enthusiasm for corners, which is constantly leading me into temptation, especially in the eyes of the law, if not the Lord.
So we opted for an automatic Swift Sport in place of my manualequipped former long termer, which to most car enthusiasts probably sounds like a backward step. Is it though? Despite there being no third pedal to interact with, the autoí shift paddles are a neat consolation. Ití also shorter-geared in first and second so that should counter the 20 kilos of extra mass the automatic has to lug around, and its taller gearing in fifth and sixth makes it much less buzzy at highway speed. Thatí not a bad trade-off.
Date acquired: April 2018
Price as tested: $25,600
This month: 667km @ 8.5L/100km
Overall: 5929km @ 6.6L/100km
Notice the cleanskin appearance of my missoí Pure White Suzuki? Yeah, she wasní as enamoured with the retina-scorching Champion Yellow hue of my long termer as was and elected for something a little less extroverted. Thatí alright, though Ė Ií got a plan to add some visual spice to her new whip and have been busy browsing wheel catalogues and investigating lowered suspension options. Her car is going to look sick, but shh. Doní tell her.
As this Swift Sport returns, another arrives; itís a brotherís keeper
FAMILIARITY breeds contempt, so they say, but like so many well-worn maxims that phrase doesnít apply to everything. It certainly doesnít apply to the Swift Sport Iíve been driving for the past five months.
I donít want to give it back. Thatís the summary of how I feel about it. Can you blame me? Itís light, chuckable, looks cool, is a cinch to park and sips fuel. The seats are great, it loves to be driven like a hooligan, and even the stress and duress of a trackday wasnít enough to make it wilt. Itís a Jack Russell of a car, bursting with energy and playful to the extreme.
But this isnít Stockholm Syndrome. Iím not going to ignore its flaws. For starters the gearshift action could be more precise (I just drove the new Corolla in base-model manual form and it has a tighter gate), and the exhaust note could be improved with some raucous bangs and burbles. The new Fiesta ST thatís coming our way next year sounds wicked, but sadly the Suzuki does not.
There are other niggles like some hard plastics where they should probably be soft, but it seems mean to mark down a mainstream B-segment hatchback for being built to a price. Even so, none of these issues were enough to dilute my enthusiasm for the Swift Sport. Iíd hold onto it forever if I could, but sadly AQH532 is the property of Suzuki Australia and needs to be returned.
So I did the next best thing and persuaded my other half to buy one.
She didnít take much convincing. Having the Swift Sport in my driveway for nearly half a year made it an easy sell Ė itís a known quantity, after all, and given sheís spent many hours in the passenger seat sheís had plenty of time to decide whether she likes it or not. Other factors were at play too, namely the ability to run a novated lease through her work and the fact her existing car decided to fry its ECU.
To my eternal dismay my dear girlfriend is anything but a car enthusiast, but she nevertheless wanted something with a bit more attitude than the average hatchback, and that was also available with an automatic and priced somewhere in the mid-$20K region. Taking those criteria into account, itís actually surprisingly slim pickings. The Clio RS200 Sport is an animal when put in Race mode, but costs north of $30K, the Mazda3 SP25 is too sober in its current generation, the Hyundai i30 SR is a smidge too expensive at $29K with an auto, the Fiesta ST is manual-only and Honda rudely refuses to act on my suggestion that it should produce a Jazz Type R.
The planets were clearly in alignment then Ė the Swift Sport was the sweet spot. There was just one more hurdle Ė facing a car dealer.
If you believe the stereotype, car salesmen are greasy-haired, fork-tongued, slick-talking charlatans. Much like car journalists, in fact.
The truth is somewhat different, at least as far as Suzukiís sales staff were concerned.
They ignored me almost entirely, but thatís because they homed in on the fact that it was my partner who was buying and not me. For an industry that doesnít have the greatest reputation when it comes to serving women, it was encouraging to see. Kudos, Suzuki.
After a test drive and some fairly painless bargaining, we had an order in for a white automatic Swift Sport. The timing is perfect: as I wave goodbye to my Pikachu-yellow Swift, a vanilla-white example rolls in to take its place in the OíKane garage. Except this time, this oneís going to stick around a lot longer.
Sales statistics tell us that in July, a solid 271 Equinoxs found homes, bringing the run rate to 2956 so far this year; which seems reasonable until you note that the segment-leading Mazda CX-5 out-sells it roughly five- i(1603), Hyundai Tucson (1490) and Honda CR-V (1058).
Holdenís betting $500 youíll buy, if it can just get some bums on seats
AT THE end of an extended test period with any car the question must inevitably be: Ďwould you buy one?í So to Holdenís Equinox, GMís flag-bearer in the mid-size SUV class, and a vehicle designed to steal market share from a list of competitors as long as your arm and growing at a pace.
Chief among these are the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Nissan X-Trail, all accomplished vehicles with strong reputations, loyal followings and double-digit market share.
The Equinox arrived on our shores in late 2017 as an unheralded new model, bearing a name plate no-one knew or recognised, to compete in a segment where Holdenís previous offering had been the unloved Captiva.
Whatís more, it launched into a pall of negativity surrounding Holden, thanks to the impending end of local manufacturing and legitimate questions about the brandís future.
One year on, Holden is still here and looks to have survived its annus horribilis, though not without some collateral damage, and the Equinox has established a vital toe-hold in the SUV-dominated Aussie market.
The Holdenís 2.1 percent market share places it roughly mid-field in a crowded 23-car category, with plenty of work to do to better its nearest rival, the Ford Escape on 3.5 percent share.
Which means precisely what if youíre considering buying one? Simply, that popular cars tend to have better resale value on the used-car market. Industry experts Glasses Guide reckons the Equinox will be good for circa 55 percent of its purchase price after three years, which is about five percent off the pace of the similarly priced and equipped Mazda CX-5 Akera On the plus side, Holdenís recent move to an unlimited five-year warranty brings it towards the top of the class in this regard, with only Kia and Mitsubishi offering longer warranties. Thatís great peace of mind for any new-car owner and shows up rivals like the VW Tiguan.
In this top-spec LT-Z V trim, the Equinox also comes terrifically well appointed, with an impressive suite of safety and convenience features that makes it at least the equal, if not better, than the best-in-class.
Here weíre talking goodies like 19-inch alloys, 8.0-inch touchscreen, panoramic sunroof, heated/cooled leather seats, power tailgate, wireless phone charging, and Bose premium audio among others.
Equinox doesnít skimp on the safety kit either, with six airbags, AEB, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, forward-collision alert, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and a safety-alert vibrating driverís seat, to name a few notable features.
Car-makers sometimes throw such extra fruit at a car to mask a second-rate powertrain, but thatís not the case here, with the 188kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo petrol fourcylinder outgunning pretty much all its rivals.
The engine is mated to an impressive ninespeed automatic, which is two or three more cogs than rivals offer, delivering tangible benefits in terms of responsiveness and fuel consumption.
Holdenís local chassis development work means the Equinox ranks above-average for dynamics, its confident handling combined with an impressive drivetrain making it one of the more rewarding mid-size SUVs to steer.
One slight downside to this dynamic discipline is the fact the Equinox, as equipped here with 19-inch alloys, is firmer than some rivals. The Holdenís 12.7m turning circle is also poor, tracing a 1.7m wider arc than the Mazda CX-5.
Of course, interior space is the first and often the final frontier in any SUV race and here the Equinox offers generous front and rear seat accommodation, and a decent-sized luggage bay thatís flat and easily accessed via an electronic tailgate.
So, to the burning question: Ďwould you buy one?í For me, the answer must remain equivocal, because there are so many factors specific to individual buyers. However, I can say unequivocally that the Equinox should be on your shopping list.
When measured against its mid-sized SUV rivals itís right on the money in a number of key disciplines, and ahead in several others. Plus, right now Holden is offering a $500 incentive for anyone who tests its wares and then buys a rival brand. That sounds to me like thereís nothing to lose by test driving the Equinox, as we just have, although in our case the cheque is most definitely not in the mail.
Date acquired: March 2018
Price as tested: $46,290
This month: 2378km @ 12.6L/100km
Overall: 6477km @ 12.4L/100km
Retained value is an oft-overlooked aspect of new car ownership, despite it being the single biggest cost after purchase. Glasses Guide tells us that the Equinox should retain 55 percent of its new price after three years. But a quick online search located an identically specified version to ours in suburban Melbourne with 4300km on the clock for a keen $35,990. Given an RRP of $46,290 and a Victorian drive-away of $51,123, thatí a fair haircut, suggesting resale might not be a particular strength.