The Car Club
There seems to be a dedicated minority of drivers displaying a flagrant disregard for the laws pertaining to mobile phone use while driving.
Why this should be is unclear, though I have my suspicions. Virtually all new cars these days have inbuilt Bluetooth connectivity, or retrofit devices, and for older cars aftermarket Bluetooth devices aren't expensive.
For those without or unwilling to buy a Bluetooth device, why not simply pull over and then answer the phone? Generally it's not an issue to do this, unless you're in a no-stopping situation, and if you miss the call you can always phone back. Chances are if the call is important and you miss it, the world will still continue to turn, and you won't have lost your job. And if it really is important the caller will leave a message about your impending redundancy.
Clearly, some feel the need to talk while driving outweighs the threat of an $80 fine and 20 demerit points if they're caught. Lots are, but some must reckon the chances of being nabbed are slim. We don't have many law enforcement officers on patrol in our city streets. Most of our traffic officers are on motorway or highway patrol, and police are too busy with murder and mayhem to bother with dealing to errant phone yakkers. So the practice continues.
I don't know about you but I think I saw fewer cases of maniacal or high-speed driving during the official summer holiday season, and perhaps the lowest road toll for decades reflects that.
On the other hand, I experienced more slow driving than ever. People moan and whinge about slow driving but the upside is that it results in fewer road deaths and less carnage.
Still, there's slow driving and then there's criminally slow driving. Like most of you, I don't mind being part of a line-up ambling along at 80kmh during the summer season. You're on holiday; you're meant to be in a relaxed frame of mind. With loads of vehicles on the road, and occasional nose-to-tail traffic out of town, 80kmh seems rather sensible, no? There's no point getting impatient; overtake one vehicle and you're immediately on the tail of another, and for what gain? If you don't want to be part of the 80-kay set, pull over, keep a weather eye on your rear view mirror and create your own "breathing space", to coin a phrase used by the authorities. If you've waited for a minute or two and had a stretch, you can then resume but at a better pace, cracking along at 100kmh for a bit. It takes a surprising amount of time before you've caught up with the pack again.
I rose early on New Year's Day, and headed off to golf at 6am. The roads were utterly deserted. So was the golf course; I was through nine holes before any others had even teed off. Not that the golf was any better; worse really with all the dew on the greens, but you sure can motor around 18 holes when no-one's ahead of you. Like on the road, it's a case of you setting the pace, and taking control, if that's what you want to do.
Criminally slow driving, where to begin? With the road code which states that if you are travelling slower than the speed limit and there are vehicles following, you must keep as close to the left side of the road as possible, and pull over when it's safe to do so, letting others pass. Moreover, you mustn't speed up on straight stretches of road because it prevents following vehicles from passing easily.
Ford trotted out its new pony car in an orchestrated, simultaneous global release last night, and NZ Autocar attended the Sydney event.
The new car, known as the 2015 Mustang, is the first "One Ford" Mustang, a halo product for the Blue Oval the world over. To that end, it's a little different fromthe Mustang we know down this end of the globe. For starters, it will be offered in a right-hand drive configuration from the factory for the first time and it also rides on a new chassis, complete with an independent rear suspension set-up for all models.
To appeal to a global market, a turbocharged 2.3-litre inline-four will be offered, which, with 227kW and 407kW, sounds like it will deliver sound performance credentials, particularly when compared with the 'rental spec' 223kW/365Nm atmo V6 for the North American market.
But the Mustang's still a muscle car and will also be offered with a 313kW/529Nm 5.0-litre V8.
In what has been a busy year on the new vehicle scene, more than a few have stood out from the pack, but before going there it's probably worth mentioning that right now it is very much a buyer's market.
In some sectors, like compact car and utility, the major players are waging a price war. And it is this activity rather than a robust economy that is driving the new car market to record levels. You can buy a compact car with a list price of around $33k for $25k if you're prepared to haggle a little or threaten to walk down the road and buy the competitor's product (which will be on sale for a similar price). All good for Christmas shopping then.
So what took our fancy this year? In the light car sector it was rather a slow 12 months, introductions limited to the Jazz Hybrid and Mirage. Oh, and lest we forget, the Fiesta ST.
This is a truly remarkable little performance hatch; there is very little on the road that this wee tearaway won't keep pace with, and its exhaust noise above about 4500rpm is very much in a racer's mould. Not only is it quick in a straight line but with torque vectoring it is also a rabbit in the corners, and its fast steering is among the best of the electric set. We liked it very much, and so did Top Gear reviewers, who felt it was the best new introduction for 2013. It may not seem inexpensive at $35k compared with regular Fiestas but you need to consider how much you'd pay for similar performance and dynamics elsewhere.
We may feel embarrassed about the average age of our vehicle fleet, around 13 years, thinking it's among the worst in the developed world, but despair not.
Having taken a few days downtime in Italy and viewed the streets of the main tourist traps there, I reckon we can hold our heads high.
Well, a bit higher perhaps.
For over there the car is treated more like a dodgem than something in which you can take pride. Most cars, the vast majority seemingly, are ratty old superminis, with plenty of evidence of crash and bash encounters. Next to nobody can be bothered to clean their vehicles.
Many cars seem to get very little use. Perhaps that's because the traffic jams at rush hour in the bigger cities are appalling, and there are good public transport alternatives.
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