Wheels February 2020

Wheels is Australia’s original motoring magazine. Launched in 1953, we’ve been trusted by generations of Australians to provide entertaining and forthright opinions on the good, the bad and the ugly of new and used cars. A world-class car mag with a formidable international reputation, Wheels covers the full gamut of cars – from sports cars to four-wheel-drives, economy to family cars – but it also covers the people, personalities and the power plays behind one of the world’s most dynamic industries.

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in this issue

3 min

AS AUSTRALIA BURNS and we watch – or experience – the loss, death and devastating hardship, it’s only natural to apply our own frame of reference as we try to make sense of it all. For car lovers, it’s likely your interest has been piqued by the footage of the many trucks, cars and aircraft deployed to fight the fires. These machines are fundamental tools for those brave enough to face the flames, though the news has been both eye-opening and horrific. Shaky camera-phone footage from inside a truck that was overrun by the rampaging fire front is likely to stay with me forever, as will the shocking account of RFS volunteer Samuel McPaul being killed by his firetruck when it was blown over in extreme winds. Human nature dictates we need…

3 min
how sony shocked ces

IT’S HARD TO keep a secret in the automotive world. Everybody now has a camera on their person, once privileged testing locations are now plastered all over the internet, and spy photographers with drones can now surveil even the most locked-down proving grounds. Therefore it came as a huge surprise when Sony unveiled its Vision-S Concept electric vehicle at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this January. The Japanese were at pains to stress that the vehicle was, for the time being at least, merely a rolling shop window for an impressive suite of Sony sensors, but dig a little deeper and the company’s ambitions are obvious. At CES in 2015, then-CEO Kazuo Hirai made an off-the-cuff remark. “This growing automotive segment has enormous potential,” Hirai told the crowd that January.…

3 min
a heavy toll

THE BALD FIGURES make for some sobering reading. In 2019, the number of lives lost on Australia’s roads jumped by 53 to a total of 1188, an increase of 4.7 percent compared to the previous year. Victoria’s figures were notably ugly, with 266 deaths in 2019, according to the state’s Transport Accident Commission (TAC) – 53 up on 2018. Jaala Pulford, Victoria’s minister for fishing, boating, roads and the TAC, described the result as heartbreaking. “It’s been a devastating year on Victoria’s roads with every loss of life someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife or friend who will not come home tonight,” she said. “That’s why we’re cracking down on dangerous driving, building safer roads and working on the next road safety strategy – but every Victorian has a role to…

1 min
how are we doing?

At 4.2 fatalities per 100,000km, Australia’s 2019 stats aren’t stellar. Japan aside, we’re still the safest major non-European nation but we nevertheless record double the deaths of Norway, a country that typically suffers far more adverse weather conditions than our relatively benign meteorology. For the first time since WWII, not one child under 16 died on Norwegian roads in 2019. Wheels has campaigned in the past for flexibly higher speed limits to combat deaths caused by fatigue at the wheel, and the single vehicle fatality statistics last year underscore our national problem with drowsy driving.…

2 min
30 secs

15,664 That’s the power-to-weight ratio (in kW per tonne) of the Bloodhound LSR jet car. To put that rocket-assisted figure into perspective, it’s double that of the fastest Top Fuellers, while an F1 car makes a mere 1200kW per tonne. A Bugatti Chiron, by comparison, makes a paltry 553kW per tonne, which means that the Bloodhound is around 28 times more potent than Bugatti’s best. BRING OUT YOUR DEAD Lexus sold three new LFAs in 2019, despite production ending in 2012. Unregistered vehicles had sat in dealers for that long, waiting for values to peak. According to Lexus’s own figures, there are still four brand spankers left for sale in the States. If the screaming LFA doesn’t appeal, how about a box-fresh Viper? That went off sale in 2017, but clocked up five…

2 min
the market

PAIN FOR MANY; PLEASURE FOR FEW The market endured a tough calendar year with overall sales slumping to the lowest recorded by VFACTS since 2011. That’s despite cracking the magic million mark (1,062,867 sales, or 7.8% down on 2018). A tough economic climate, with restricted lending, unfavourable exchange rates and wage stagnation, has impacted the market, according to FCAI’s Tony Weber. And there’s likely more strife ahead as the effects of bushfires hit home. However, it wasn’t doom and gloom for all. Kia had a stellar 2019; the Korean marque is the only brand inside the top 20 to increase its sales year-on-year with 61,503 vehicles sold – 4.6% up on 2018, when it sold 58,815 cars in Australia. The Cerato is the star model, finding 21,757 homes in 2019, a 16.8% jump…