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Some of this week's Letters to AutoSpeed

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Our A8 Assault

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Just a little remark in regard your Audi A8 4.2 test (Audi A8 4.2 Test)... It is funny how the rest of the world puts the A8 in front of its main competitors. Even in Australia it was voted Luxury Car of the Year, but all you do is compare it against Holden - it’s like comparing a Hyundai Sonata against a Holden Caprice. Nobody by their right mind would do that unless you judge cars by how much metal they have.

In regard to the Holden price being four times cheaper – well, it’s a dinosaurus of a car with very old technology and bad fit and finish. You only have to drive a Holden to experience the ultimate rattle machine that they become after only a few years of usage. And I am sorry that Audi did not explain the car properly to you - it is clear to me that you don’t understand it at all.

Goran Dekich (Audi Centre Brisbane)

As stated in our test, the A8 offers great build quality and – yes – it has far more technology than a Caprice. However, the fact remains that the A8 has flaws not found in a vehicle costing around a quarter of the price. Being from an Audi dealer, we’re sure you’re aware of the A8’s awkward sideways lurch when driven over sharp bumps...

Re Slow Bikes #14

Re Driving Emotion... It's always a bit of a giggle to hear a non motorcyclist comment about bikes - particularly when it's the rather typical "why are they so slow" or "they are not that fast" type of comments. You tend to come across that a lot depending on what crowds you socialise with and, to be honest, it's a fair enough question when it's coming from someone who really just does not know better.

I'd like to say it’s simple to answer but unfortunately it isn’t. You can bang on about rider ability or tyre contact patch, but there’s a lot more contributing to why bikes are/are not slower in any given situation.

Yes, bikes are very open to slow in, fast out types of situations due to lots of power and insane brakes - but not all bikes and not in all situations. Likewise, rider ability has a lot to do with it. Many years ago you had to be far more hardcore to want to ride so generally most riders were a lot more competent - but alas, in the age of cheap transport and for want of being trendy, there are plenty of people out there now who really just can barely ride. This is unfortunately true of any form of transport these days.

Will a 2004 Nissan 350Z corner faster than a Niki? Yeah sure - but is there a 90 year old, half deaf and blind person driving the Nissan and F1 driver in the Niki? Answers are not really simple and neither are the types of vehicles out there.

All I can really suggest is if you really want to know, go out and get a motorcycle licence, buy a bike and ride. The worst case scenario is you may find the real answer to your question, the best is that you find a new joy in life - that is the world of two wheeled transport.

Kerry Novak

Wayward Warrior

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I knew you would miss a car from your Weekday Warriors article ... I kinda think it was because after the 350Z responses, Nissan owners are, probably rightly, good sport!  Nissan SSS Pulsars have a tad more power and are lighter than Ford/Mazda duo and have a larger interior. And, yes, I do own one for a number of reasons - a balance of all you mention in the article. The Pulsar can carry heaps in the back - 3 mountain bikes (1 wheel off each... and the third person walks!), a 68cm TV in its box and a 6 burner BBQ (not all at once!). It's great on the open road, cheapish to run and insure and is reasonably stealth (maybe a pitfall, looking like a Mum’s taxi). I really think at least it deserved a mention.

Shaun Miller

Fiat Fun

Info for the Fiat nut Response... Why doesn't he look at motivation from within? Fiat turbocharged some of their early 2.0 litre cars. Alfa and Lancia also have a raft of turbo’d engines – sadly, most not seen here. An absolute firecracker of an engine for the 124 would be an engine from an Integrale.

Or why not turbo the Fiat engine locally? Many Alfas have been done here. And I'm betting there will be much less hassle getting another Italian engine into the front of a Fiat 124.

Better yet, I just did a Google search for "Fiat 124 turbo" and found lots of leads.

Simon Brown

Silvia Savings

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Hey guys, I am looking to purchase a Nissan S13 Silvia non turbo automatic. I only have about AUD$5500 – 6000 to work with. The dealers are quite expensive, so I was thinking of a direct import. I was wondering if you could give me details on how to go about this - how I could speak to a Japanese agent about a personal import or who could show me how.

PS - with regard to Julian Edgar's article on being in an automotive toyhouse with 3 to 4 thousand dollar imports... Where are these places and how do I find ‘em! I’d love to see such a yard.


Well timed! We have a 3-part series on the ADR-ing and registration of a 15 year old Nissan S13 scheduled to appear very soon. The “automotive toy house” mentioned in Julian’s article belongs to John Verban of Yahoo Motorsport in Adelaide – see John’s site currently lists pre-ADR’s NA Silvias at around AUD$4000.

Fuel Feelings #1

I enjoyed your Driving Emotions article on the price of fuel.

I certainly agree with some points in your article, particularly from the manufacturer's point of view and SUVs. With another addition to the family on the way I've been toying with the idea of replacing our Forester XT with something that has more carrying capacity and some limited off-road and towing ability. After having a good look around, the Ford Territory seemed to fit the bill.

However, I haven't been able to get past the horror fuel consumption (vs what I currently drive) with the average performance. Yes, it's a bigger car than the Forester but does it really have to be 500kg heavier? Apparently (and I'm quoting something I read from a media release somewhere on the Territory from a Ford PR person), fuel consumption wasn't high on the list of priorities of consumers when they designed the car. I'm personally loathe to give up the fuel economy and performance I'm currently getting, so I'll probably just whack a luggage pod on the Forester’s roof when we go camping.

On a separate note, I recently purchased a Honda Accord Euro and was absolutely astounded at the fuel efficiency. On a trip from the Gold Coast to Dubbo - some 1900km return, which I have to do six times a year - I had previously taken a VT Commodore and BA Falcon and averaged 700km to a 70L tank. I got a little bit better with the Forester at 700km to a 60L tank, but with the Accord I was getting 850km to a 60L tank. It may not sound like a large difference but for that trip and with the price of fuel out there, it's a saving of around AUD$50 each trip - AUD$300 a year. And oddly enough, the only car that has a major straight-line performance advantage over the Accord is the Subaru - the second most economical car of the group...

When you're spending a little bit of extra money on fuel each week, the difference at the bowsers may not seem like much. It's when you add it up you realise how much of a difference it is, particularly if you're doing a long trip. Perhaps if those compulsory fuel economy labels on new cars showed dollars saved or spent a year (rather than outright fuel consumption) consumers might take a bit more notice – which, in turn, might make manufacturers notice.

Malcolm Schulstad

Fuel Feelings #2

In reply to you’re "let’s all happily increase fuel prices” Driving Emotion

I’m sure that you were jet lagged and failed to realise that not everyone has a decent and sustainable income to afford a new car every few years - let alone pay for the fuel that goes into it. With so many taxes now in our society, I don’t think we need another. Last financial year my income was AUD$32,000 and AUD$8000 of that was taxed. I received back AUD$280 from the ATO, of which AUD$80 paid for my accountant's fees. So in that year, I brought home AUD$24,000 to live, pay rent, food, power and phone bills, pay for my child’s day care fees, etc... I did not save one cent towards a house.

So, please, drop your self down a level to a "Real Australian" and open your eyes. Not everyone has money to burn on fuel. Why don’t you in your position write a letter to the Government and ask them to pump some money in to the development of a salt water driven engine that has suitable horsepower and torque?


Fuel Feelings #3

Re. Driving Emotion: I Think the Price of Fuel Should Go Up.

I agree with all of your arguments. I've watched more and more SUVs and large engine’d, heavy cars appear on the road and haven't been able to convince many people that they are the devil =).  They keep repeating the sales brochures back to me and I have been frustrated.   I especially object to the Humvee being a domestic sale vehicle. I only hope people don't use them as a daily driver. Your argument about the 4 litre Fords versus a 2.5 litre turbo coincided with a discussion I had earlier this week about buying a 4L V8 or a 2.5 VVT-i Turbo and the fuel consumption pros/cons. I think lack of information/good marketing is as much to blame as low fuel prices however (could get a circular argument going here so I won't continue).

M Machin

Fuel Feelings #4

I've just finished reading Julian Edgar's article on increasing the price of fuel as an incentive to vehicle manufacturers to make their cars more efficient (Driving Emotion).

While I agree with almost all of the views expressed by J.Edgar regarding creating incentives to build more efficient cars, I cannot agree that increasing fuel prices will have the desired effect. As an Economics and Finance student I know enough about the elasticity of demand for fuel to suggest that any realistic price increase will have little/no impact on the amount of fuel that is purchased and used. Subsequently there would be no incentive to the manufacturers to develop more efficient vehicles. Julian's other comments on taxing less efficient vehicles is far more accurate as the demand for inefficient cars would severely drop if the taxes imposed were severe enough, forcing manufacturers to used improved techniques/materials etc. to entice buyers back to these vehicles.

Furthermore, I'd like to raise another angle on the issue - and, while it is not entirely feasible, it is something that can be implemented in the future. That is, that the authorities have a responsibility to ensure that the transport systems in place allow cars to operate at their optimum efficiency. By this I mean that roads should be planned to reduce the amount of stop-start driving and limit the amount of corners, etc. This may sound far fetched but, as I'm sure you are aware, fuel consumption (as a general rule) tends to increase dramatically during 'city' driving. Anyway, the article just got me thinking and I thought I may as well toss a few ideas your way. Keep up the good work.


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