Beware the overseas test drive
My wife and I did a fourweek road trip through England, Scotland and Wales in a rental Mercedes-Benz E220. In Blackpool I tried to film the wonderful illuminations on a dashcam for the grandkids but the power outlet was dead. Thinking it was just a fuse I visited the local Mercedes dealer and explained the situation. A particularly rude service manager gave me many excuses as to why they couldn’t help at short notice, a task I thought would have taken a couple of minutes. The choice of vehicle was intended as a long-term test drive but if this is the attitude of Mercedes dealers I think I’ll stick to Ford. Lee Pratten, email You might have to reconsider. Mercedes-Benz spokesman David McCarthy replies: “Even rental Mercedes-Benz cars have roadside and servicing assistance in Australia.”
My 2014 Nissan Pulsar turbo has only 28,000km on the speedo. At the last service at 20,000km, the dealership said I had a tyre with a non-fixable puncture. I took the car to my tyre guy who checked it and said there was nothing wrong with it. I don’t want to go back to the dealer, so if I get the service done by a mechanic I trust, will my warranty be OK? Jim Cummings, email Provided the service is done “by the book” and with manufacturer-standard parts, there will be no effect on your warranty.
Regarding SUVs’ towing capacities, are you aware that the Ford Everest is unable to tow despite a tow kit being available due to module issues when the wiring loom is attached? Poor performance, given the Titanium comes standard with the tow kit. Michael Cramp, email Ford says there was a hold up with towing module kits earlier this month but this has been resolved and the company is filling back orders with the kits to dealers.
SUBARU SAFETY NET
I’ve been retired for 10 years and recently stopped caravanning to do more overseas holidays. We’ve owned several 4WDs, including a Land Rover, two Range Rovers and five LandCruisers, the best still being our current 2006 100 Series ’Cruiser, which just clicked over 140,000km. We’d consider an all-wheel-drive Kluger but have been spoiled by the constant AWD of the later ’Cruisers. Toyota says the Kluger is predominantly front-drive with rear coming in when slip is detected. I’m not looking forward to the natural understeer evident with front-drivers, particularly in wet conditions like roundabouts. Brian and Karen Whelan, email With modern stability control systems and on-demand allwheel-drive you are far less likely to get caught out with understeer (where the nose of the car pushes wide) than you once were. Having said that, the Kluger — and the LandCruiser for that matter — aren’t city-friendly vehicles. If you no longer need to tow but still like the safety net of all-wheel-drive, why not look at a Subaru Outback or Forester?
RONDO FOR YOU
I need a car that is not low or too high and will fit a wheelchair in the cargo area. Any suggestions? I’ve been happy with a Kia Carnival but the family has grown. What about a Kia Rondo?
Leigh, email The often-overlooked Rondo is a good car that would definitely do the job for you.
MADE FOR AUSTRALIA
I travelled thousands of kilometres as a surveyor mapping NSW for 20 years. The dirt roads and distances we travelled required safe driving at speeds up to 120km/h to minimise travel time. The suspensions in the Fords, Holdens and various 4WDs that safely carried us — in comfort — all those years ago were then taken for granted. It came as a shock to recently drive a low-price bubble car on dirt roads. Its suspension could not cope with corrugations and gave a harsh, noisy, shuddering ride above 25km/h on a road I’d have expected to drive at 80km/h. This is apparently common to low-priced cars that are never required to leave the bitumen. This design fault would explain what I thought was a strange restriction on hire cars in Australia of not being allowed on dirt roads.
John Sherwin, email Locally made cars are indeed uniquely capable on dirt roads. We’ve pounded many a Commodore or Falcon along some pretty rough Outback roads with few problems. Unfortunately with the end of the local industry, we’ll be relying more on cars that have been made for autobahns and congested cities, although the locals will still tweak their imports for local conditions. Kia and Hyundai also test locally.
FIGHT THE FLAWS
When will motoring journalists stop fawning on manufacturers and inform readers of the big flaws in modern cars? Among them: shrinking windows, especially the rear ones (children can no longer see out and become carsick); bigger and bigger rims, which mean less sidewall and a bone hard ride; runflat tyres, which are unsuitable for Australian conditions (no roadhouse stocks or can fix run-flat tyres so a dear replacement has to be flown in plus motel costs during the wait); painted bumpers assure that the smallest scratch now costs thousands to repair; diesel cars, whose emissions are as cancerous as asbestos (diesel belongs to mine sites and trucks where the fumes dissipate, but not into cities); busy and hard to operate satnav and infotainment setups, which distract drivers and are a danger to road users.
Gunther Jank, email All valid gripes, which we have mentioned in past road tests. But with more than 50 brands to choose from, buyers can still avoid what they don’t like.
MENACE TO SOCIETY
The amount of promotion for 4WDs and SUVs is becoming boring. Such vehicles and their drivers are a menace on the road and in carparks. For magazines, TV, radio and newspapers to continue to push them is counterproductive to sanity and road safety. Please allow us to read more on different types of vehicles.
Phil Bradshaw, email We have had a rush on SUVs in the past few months but, like it or not, that is what the Australian public is buying. Sales of SUVs have grown by 16 per cent this year while sedans and hatches are down 3 per cent.
Think again: Mercedes E-Class