Mesmerised by the small screen

At the launch of the HSV E2 a while back, we were treated to some time at Holden's Lang Lang proving ground. Testing die new Launch Control system was a highlight (especially when NZ Autocar Editor Cassidy scored die quickest time, beating die Aussies), but my other key memory was of spotting a soft-top Camaro being tested. The All-American muscle car is, if trudi be told, more Monaro dian Camaro, since it is essentially a Commodore Coupe.

So if die USA can have 'Bumblebee' starring in die Transformers movie, why are we Antipodeans denied a 'Red Back' of our own?

And speaking of screens, what the E3 GTS does with its six inches is well wordi a look. Widi help from Mo TeC, HSV has created a data display dubbed 'Enhanced Drive Interface' (EDI). Enhanced Distraction Instrument more like, because trust me, this screen , turns viewer heads more than Scarlett Johansson.

Apparently even the Holden Barina could feature EDI, but I don't imagine it would have die same viewer appeal. Take die time to browse through die sub-menus, and you'll discover diat die good folk at HSV have mapped all seven of our permanent race circuits. However, as well as the legal, if uninsured, fun that may encourage, there are also a few 'blank' tracks. So while you're waiting for the GP circuit to be finished at Hampton Downs, the EDI can help you create your own circuit By recording the GPS data, your daily commute can be turned into a fully logged racetrack.

Until now, 1 thought Ilolden's (and Ford's) biggest crime against car safety was its failure to install Isofix brackets in dieir cars.

So if the USA can have 'Bumblebee starring in the Transformers movie, why are we Antipodeans denied a 'Red Back' of our own?

Now, die rascals at HSV have developed a way of turning any piece of sealed land into a fully logged Super Special Stage. "IVying not to sound like too much of a bore (or a bogan, because let's be honest, I couldn't wait to try diis out), I asked New Zealand's HSV boss why introduce such a feature? His reply was so brilliandy slick and tongue in cheek: 'It's a great way of comparing fuel economy.' 'Nulf'said.

When I wasn't comparing fuel economy', die kW and Nm gauges proved die most endiralling. Sure, it qualifies me as a total geek, but what a concept: turning any road into your own rolling dyno. Unlike die track creator, diis feature is legal. In die same way diat holiday times induce a road-building frenzy by Transit NZ, it allows you to see some tax dollars at work; die gauges let you know not just how much power is being created by dial 6.2-lilre lump in a lower gear as die revs do dieir work, but you can also witness 550Nm of torque prevail in sixdi gear at low revs.

'Driver', a full race-car-style display and die one I fixated on die most, was arguably die most useless. A fair chunk of what it told me was already displayed on die dashboard. What kept me hooked were die sliifl lights. In eco-mode the red lights started blinking well before 2000rpm, equaling to about 50kW on screen, which seemed a bit of a waste. But dien we humans only use about one-tenth of our brains so who can really question how the GTS uses its grunt? It's a shame that HSV couldn't have put more effort into the rest of the interior. Directly under a display which makes the Nissan GT-R's effort seem a little Commodore 64 is a GTS badge that appears stuck on with Blu-Tack. Heaven only knows how die Aussies cope with cabin heat because those tiny air vents and the gudess air conditioning could barely keep up with Auckland's summer daze. But that's the price you pay (along with S100K) for getting to wield such a hefty sledgehammer.

It's worth the sweat, though. Sure it's no Bumblebee, but we can at least call it a small screen success. PC

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LETTER OF THE MONTH: Congratulations Michael Charslund, you've won an AUTOart 1:18 Ducati GT 1000

. Keep it simple

The AUTOart Porsche 911 CaiTera 1988 has compelled me to send in my thoughts concerning the lack of simplicity in the modern car. In my humble opinion, car manufacturers have strayed away from the simplicity and allure of what a car is meant to be. Nowadays, cars are inundated with stop-go cruise-control systems, complex driver aids and overly adjustable steering-wheel settings. This technology rat-race merely detracts from a purer driving experience.

The Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 S, 3.2 S and 964 S are die epitome of driving excellence. Buttons for the fog lights and windshield heating play centre stage on die dash, not a 12-inch TV screen or ail ¬°Drive system that even we teenagers struggle to understand. These Carreras had no means of distracting from what matters most: the drive.

A 4000w suiTound-sound system? That belongs in your living room. By simplifying the technology the driver is provided with a more focused and involving experience. When you read a typical car review, it often gives more detailed information about how die seat can be adjusted than how well the car drives.

I have a simple wish: that manufacturers, including Porsche, return to their roots, where cars are driven by people, not a computer, as I already have one of those on my desk.

I agree. Sort of. For the person who enjoys driving, the increasing complexity of new cars, particularly luxury liners and all their added gizmos can distract from the driving experience. But then, without some of them, the modern car simply wouldn't be as good as it is. Or as safe. The task for engineers is to make cars that are not so utterly efficient as to be a complete bore to drive.

It's a similar situation with safety features. Some, like ESP, should be mandatory; its benefit is unquestionable: others, like radar-assisted cruise control, can create lazy drivers, who will become more and more dependent on the computer to get them to their destination.

Hope you like motorcycles as well, as the Ducati is on its way to you - Ed.

The EV debate

Paul Owen's Beware of pedlars of snake oil and electric vehicles left me puzzled on several points:

Why will the charging time have to be extended to 10.6 hours in New Zealand? The i-MiEV charger delivers 15A at 200V. Any single-phase domestic supply in the country can be wired to supply that easily.

2. How will the 'vast distance' from generator to homes increase die charging time? We all get electricity at the same voltage, within a small few per cent.

3. The suggested 0.1 per cent reduction in C02 is only one of many possible scenarios presented in the EFTE report. It's not relevant to diis country. There is general agreement, both in that report and elsewhere, diat EVs can potentially reduce overall C02 emissions by up to 70 per cent compared to ICE-based vehicles. The key factor is how the electricity is generated. About 70

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per cent of our electricity conies from renewable sources, and if the vehicle charging is done at night, the additional generation is likely to be almost entirely renewable. The bottom line is diat the overall C02 emission from an EV in New Zealand will be around one-Uiird of the equivalent ICE vehicle. 4. A single tree can indeed absorb the C02 generated by 18 mondis use of a family-sized ICE vehicle, but it will take between 80 and 100 years to do it. Then, unless die tree is somehow preserved for eternity, die C02 comes back to repeat die cycle we are trying to avoid in the first place.

My daily runner, which is a high-performance car I really love, has to take me to and from work four limes a day and never gets past 40 degrees. This is typical of most cars in diis country. Bring on affordable EV commuters! Dave McLean, Wellington

Mr Owen responds:

You raise some good points, Dave, so I'll respond accordingly.

1. As Mitsubishi has yet to give journalists the opportunity to recharge the iMiEV, the full charging claim of seven hours remains unconfirmed. As you mention, any single-phase

3. As stated in the column, the 0.1 per cent reduction in C02 output applied to Germany's target of putting one million EVs on its roads by 2020. New Zealand is likely to experience a higher reduction if EVs are widely adopted here: however, given the reduced environmental impact of future ICE-based technologies, a 66 per cent reduction appears highly optimistic, and the figure is quite possibly based on current ICE-related C02 outputs.

4. Your comment here won't prevent me from caring for my trees, nor from supporting any effort to preserve native forest or promote the greening of our cities.

I, too, look forward to days when we can buy and drive affordable EVs. Unfortunately, nothing so far has been produced worthy of the tag 'affordable'.

Less speed, more quiet

Whilst I continue to love fast and sporty cars, I now find that one of die most interesting stats you publish in your road tests to be the ambient cabin noise reading. Zero to lOOkm/h times hold less allure, because I would willingly trade off the odd tenth or * two for a quieter ^

Zero to lOOkm/h times hold less allure, because I would willingly trade off the odd tenth or two for a quieter car domestic supply 'can be wired' to ensure the car's charger delivers 15A at 200V. My point was that there may be a hidden cost to owning an EV: the need to get the home garage rewired.

2. Fluctuations in transmission efficiency may affect the recharging times experienced by EV owners in different parts of the country.

car, particularly on our course-chip roads, which seem to be getting harsher and noisier with every resurfacing.

It would be great if you could manage to include this stat in the table of statistics at die end of the mag. If room is an issue, perhaps drop somediing where the info is generally available. With our uniquely awful roads, your measurements offer real-world comparative information not available elsewhere. Tills is an area where the differences between odierwise similar cars can be quite significant. Murray Harden, Via email

Space is the limiting factor in the price pages what do we include, and what to leave out? Hopefully, we'll be able to remove the ESP column in the near future when the likes of Honda match Suzuki in offering it across the entire car range. And you're right about our uniquely dreadful roads. Anyone travelling north on SH2 can expenence the huge difference in noise levels when the road changes to smooth, quiet-running hot mix just before joining SH1 at the bottom of the Bombays. It's such a soothing experience after the many kilometres of near-deafening coarse chip - Ed.

Pedal power

Kyle, well done on venturing out into the human-powered two-wheel world. While I understand that k free transport ^ in press cars will always be your better option, I applaud diat you at least tried the treadly. After all, by getting exercise on your commute, you saved all that dme diat you would odierwise have wasted going to the gym.

While I agree widi most of what you said, as a 15-year veteran of commuting along Tamaki Drive in Auckland, 1 must dispute your

suggestion diat die lycra-clad brigade slow down to aid life preservation. One of die key issues facing a cyclist is speed differential. In some cases faster is indeed safer, as it can allow you to match your speed witii die surrounding traffic.

I much prefer doing 40km/h widi die Tamaki Drive traffic, dian say 30km/h widi vehicles going past me at a relative speed of 15 to 20km/h. I can take my space in die traffic flow, which means diat cars need neidier to squeeze past me nor force tiieir way into die next lane to go around me. When I can't keep up (I'm not diat good), sure I move left again, hut if I can match die flow, I feel much, much safer.

Yes, slower is better when die hazards are stationary (car doors, trees, random motoring journalists widiout press cars), but moving traffic presents by far die bigger (and most frequent) risk, and ifl can minimise die speed differential, I reduce die risks and irritation for all.

And quickly, Paul, I know you don't care, hut baldly slating the Irullis about EVs is not going to win you friends in Coromandel. And you didn't even venture into the 'whole-life' issues around vehicles with a big battery pack: Where do you mine lidiium from? How do you deal with an obsolete pack of hightech batteries? Who can I get to do my'ioning'?

Keep up the good work, team. This is all good evidence that while Autocar is a great car mag, you still look at those other options - all in the interests of ensuring that the ICE-powered automobile remains one of the world's best inventions and favourite pastimes.

Trevor Yates,

Via entail

Increasing the speed to reduce the risk is an interesting concept. It would certainly reduce the irritation-to-motorist factor. Clearly I'm going to have to invest in a new. faster bike - Ed.

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