Blowing money out the exhaust?

Posted on November 11th, 2008 in Driving Emotion,Opinion by Julian Edgar

Looking at how astonishingly badly the Australian-manufacturing car companies predicted car buying habits, one wonders if they should be rewarded by being given even more of our money…..

Taming throttles

Posted on November 11th, 2008 in Engine Management,Mitsubishi,Opinion,Turbocharging by Julian Edgar

A while ago in a reply to another blog post, I wrote about the current Lancer Evolution that:


“The Evo should use far improved throttle mapping where blade angle is mapped against foot position and the calculated instantaneous tractive effort value. It should also use a smaller turbo. ”


At least one reader was so excited by this notion that he wished to “quietly roll up into a foetal position and rock back and forth on the floor”. However, leaving aside bizarre responses, it’s a concept sure to interest some.


I won’t discuss the ‘smaller turbo’ bit because most of you will have a good understanding of this idea. But what about the throttle mapping?


In electronic throttle cars, the relationship between the accelerator pedal position and the throttle blade opening no longer needs to be linear. In a linear system, the throttle blade would be half open at 50 per cent accelerator pedal travel, three-quarters open at 75 per cent accelerator pedal travel, and so on.

Initial thoughts on driving the FG Falcon XR6

Posted on November 6th, 2008 in Driving Emotion,Ford,Opinion by Julian Edgar

Day #1, Urban

Power steering heavy, good (apparently variable) ratio, good feel

Suspension gives firmly damped ride

NVH very good

Performance at full throttle nothing special – air con switches off at merest hint of lots of throttle and seems to stay off for a long time (relatively speaking eg 5 secs)

Cabin feels surprisingly enclosing, not spacious – cf colours of trims, width at driver’s knee level poor, distance between back seat and rear of centre console poor

Speedo and tacho have stupidly fussy markings + silly ‘XR6’ colouring

Central instrument panel LCD is model of clarity – good range of selectable options, including digital speedo

I-phone connectivity (including charging) but no on-LCD display of tracks, etc

Around town fuel consumption with air con on – 12.5 – 13.5 litres/100km – this is progress?

Teaching yourself new ideas

Posted on November 6th, 2008 in Driving Emotion,Opinion by Julian Edgar

I make a living doing what I have taught myself to do.


When I first started writing and selling magazine articles – they were about photography – I was writing about a topic on which I was entirely self-taught.


When I started writing articles about modifying cars (and again selling those articles, but this time the ‘selling’ took lots of attempts before it was successful!), I was again writing about a subject on which I was largely self-taught.


My formal qualifications at that time were in teaching; my Bachelor of Education degree has double majors of Geography and Sociology – nothing remotely to do with automotives, mechanical engineering, physics, maths or technology.


Or for that matter, English, journalism or writing.

Air or steel springs – the Porsche Cayenne

Posted on November 4th, 2008 in Driving Emotion,Opinion,Suspension by Julian Edgar

The other day I was given some interesting Porsche books.

From any other car manufacture, they wouldn’t be ‘books’ but instead be new car brochures, but Porsche really do produce full books on their models. (Incidentally, these are always worth buying – a friend who sells them on has the user name q993.)

One of the books was on the Porsche model that I believe to be a complete sell-out of everything that Porsche has always stood for – the 2.2 tonne Cayenne.

(And these thoughts were confirmed when I looked at the car’s quoted fuel economy – a combined cycle of 15.8 litres/100km for the manual Cayenne S. Even the 306 km/h 911 GT3 is quoted at 12.9 litres/100km!)

Anyway, be that as it may, what interested me in the Cayenne publication were the details on the suspension. Two different types of springs are used – air suspension on the Cayenne Turbo and conventional steel springs on the other Cayenne models.

I am happy to be biased

Posted on October 30th, 2008 in Driving Emotion,Opinion,Reviews by Julian Edgar

Many articles that I write are subjected to accusations of bias. For example, whenever a new car test appears, I will always see in our referrer’s list a discussion where someone calls me biased.

One dictionary defines bias as:

a particular tendency or inclination, esp. one that prevents unprejudiced consideration of a question

which, in the manner of dictionaries, takes us to a definition of ‘prejudice’, that includes:

any preconceived opinion or feeling, either favourable or unfavourable

Now as academic Grant Banfield makes beautifully clear in this piece, the only unbiased person is one who is fundamentally ignorant of the subject: if you know nothing about the subject, how can you be biased regarding it?

But, probably because it is so politically incorrect to say so, the corollary of that idea is not made by Mr Banfield: the more that one knows about a subject, the more one is likely to be biased.

And in my opinion, the more one can justify that bias.

Making an interesting mistake

Posted on October 28th, 2008 in Driving Emotion,Suspension by Julian Edgar

I made an interesting mistake the other day.

My Honda Insight has a ride quality and seats that are nothing fantastic. The Honda’s rear suspension is poor indeed and in general, the car rides like a badly developed, very lightweight car.

The seats are thin and not well shaped.

Over a long distance, the upshot is that the car is a bit uncomfortable.

So I thought I’d improve the ride and the seat comfort by installing new seats. But that’s easier said than done.

The main problem is that the car is unusual in that both lower anchor points of the seatbelt attach to the seat. That is, the seat belt loads are borne by the seat, and then by the seat attachments to the floor. Therefore, any replacement seats need to be of the same design – and this is very unusual.

Honda S2000 seats are apparently of much the same design – and some Insight owners have fitted these seats. But S200 seats are typically very expensive.

So one day I spent a full two hours browsing the local wrecking yard, looking at the seats in literally every one of perhaps 300 cars. And I found only two models that had similar seat and seatbelt designs – the Holden (Opel) Astra and Vectra.

Avoiding New Car Dealer Tricks

Posted on October 23rd, 2008 in Automotive News,Opinion by Julian Edgar


Top 5 car dealer tricks

Buying a new car can be a big decision and sometimes a stressful one. Going from dealer to dealer, getting the best price, working out trade-in value and arranging finance is not always a straightforward task and there are those who may prey on this confusion., Australia’s biggest online car buying service, can help to make car buying easy, offering independent advice on vehicle selection, a high standard of service and can save you approximately 15 percent off the dealer price.

“We do all the hard work for our customers,” said Private Fleet director David Lye. “We know all the tricks of the trade and like most industries there are dealers out there that don’t have customer’s best interests at heart.”

Private Fleet can help you to avoid the tricks some car dealers play on unwitting customers, however if you plan to go out there alone, here are the top five dealer tricks to be aware of.

1) The sacrificial lamb

This is where you see an advertisement for a car that seems to be priced very low, well below the competition. You then call up and are invited to go in and have a look, however when you get to the dealership, the car has strangely and coincidently been sold! Although the dealer is quick to assure you that they have other similar cars in stock, though not with the same low price tag.

Tip: If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

What we’ve got coming up!

Posted on October 21st, 2008 in AutoSpeed,Opinion by Julian Edgar

I’d like to tell you about some of the AutoSpeed content we have coming up over the next three or so months. (But as always, plans may change – the following is not set in concrete!)

Firstly, we have plenty of new car tests – amongst others, the Honda Jazz, Holden Epica diesel, Holden Captiva diesel, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, and no less than three hybrid Lexus cars.

In special features we look at some very interesting cars, including the forgotten 1960s Mitsubishi Colt Fastback; the cars that GM regards as their best of the last 100 years; and the amazing Messerschmitt KR200.

Science not a social panacea

Posted on October 16th, 2008 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

I have listened on and off the ABC Radio’s Science Show for many years.

My father – a retired research scientist – listens to it weekly, and while staying with my parents I’ve often heard bits and pieces of the show. Since podcasts have become popular, I download it to my iPod and, on the rare times I am on public transport, listen to it there as well.

The presenter, Robyn Williams, is erudite and accomplished.

The show is not averse to asking hard questions, but perhaps like any vehicle dedicated to the one audience, it can at times become lost in itself.

This struck me forcefully the other day.

Williams was interviewing Lawrence Krauss, Foundation Professor, School of Earth Space Exploration at Arizona State University. The discussion was wide-ranging: the CERN Large Hadron Collider, sending people to Mars – and the US presidential campaign.

It was in commentary on the latter that Krauss said something that I thought extraordinary, especially since it seemed to be completely swallowed by Williams. After talking about the positions on science articulated by presidential hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama, Professor Krauss said this:

But the main thing is to realise that sound public policy depends upon sound science, and as long as both candidates recognise that then from the point of view of addressing these important issues it really doesn’t matter who’s elected.

I think this statement is rubbish, premised on a falsehood. For starters, what exactly is ‘sound science’ in terms of a resulting ‘sound public policy’?