Beware the over­seas test drive

Herald Sun - Motoring - - ROADSIDE ASSIST -

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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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

Kia Rondo

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