December 2013 archive

Happy New Year

HappyNewYear

It’s been an amazing year this year. So much has happened, and so much has changed. While I’m embarking on new adventures that I’m so passionate and rev-heady about, I wish you all a fabulous New Year’s Eve, and all the best for a cracking 2014. First cab off the rank is to settle down to watch the Dakar. It’s about my favourite thing in the world, aside from The Deadliest Catch, before the world goes all crazy busy again. Bring on the crazy busy! What are you guys up to for New Years, and what are your epic plans for 2014?

I hope 2014 brings you everything you wish for and more! Cheers, Row xx

HappyNewYear

Getting Royally Giddy in the Bentley Flying Spur

Photo by Mark Cuthbert

William and Kate have a new car – the stunning Flying Spur – a new, £250,000 armored Bentley.

Photo by Mark Cuthbert

Photo by Mark Cuthbert

A Kensington Palace spokesman told the Daily Mail: “The Bentley is being leased by the Duke and the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry for official engagements, which is no different to any other member of the Royal family.”

The Flying Spur boasts a top speed of 200mph, wi-fi internet, an immaculate walnut interior, and being fully armoured, has triple glazed, bullet-proof windows with 1.5inch glass, hardened steel armour and tyres that don’t deflate when punctured. It will also be incredibly heavy, so while it will handle beautifully, their driver probably has excellent biceps and triceps. Shame he probably wears a Zegna suit every day instead of a singlet.

The Bentley Flying Spur Lipstick and gearsticks

The Bentley Flying Spur

How safe is safe?

Image from the movie Jumanji
Image from the movie Jumanji

Image from the movie Jumanji

Safety has moved far on past the “an elephant could use that car as a trampoline & the people inside would be fine. Why? It’s a Volvo!” thinking. A lot of people have decided that “bigger is safer” for their families, & this has contributed hugely to SUV sales in Australia. But it’s not necessarily the case. So how do you make a decision – a rational one – about which car is a safe option for you?

In Australia, the ‘benchmark’, as you will, is The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), who market themselves as “Australia’s leading independent vehicle safety advocate”.

In a nutshell, ANCAP operates a vehicle safety rating program, where instead of giving five choc tops out to Sharknado as film of the year, they give out a star rating out of five. They also recommend that if a car you’re looking at doesn’t have a five choc-top, sorry, star, rating, you simply shouldn’t buy it. It should be outside of your consideration set.

ANCAP are all about a combination of independent crash testing and safety features (like ABS brakes, seat belt warnings & the like) to determine a car’s rating. To get the 5 star rating, a car has to hit best international standard on every item. There are four crash tests – pedestrian, pole, side impact & frontal impact.

So what is important to look for when you’re looking to shop savvy for your car?

  • Structural integrity and a solid body. You do not want your car doors flipping open in a crash situation.
  • Stability control, which is the car’s electronic brain being capable of reading when (for example you’ve swerved) you’ve lost control and it electronically ‘takes over’ the driving to get you out of a hairy spot. This is extra-important in SUVs, which have a higher centre of gravity. Stability control is called lots of things, depending on the car brand, but it could be ESP, ESC, DSC, ASC or VSC.
  • Anti-lock brakes (ABS) which are brilliant at avoiding loss of control from hitting the brakes hard. ABS works hand in hand with other stability control systems to keep you safe and sound.
  • Airbags (look for front, side, curtain & knee bags)
  • Seat belts. Duh. Actually, no, I take that ‘Duh’ back because in 20% of Australia’s road fatalities, seatbelts were safely tucked up in their storage roll instead of strapping someone in safely. And dovetailing neatly into this, child restraints please. Suitable ones.
  • And look out for the ANCAP rating. Five Sharknados please.

There are currently 242 cars in Australia with a five star ANCAP rating, so mosey on over here and see if yours (or one you’re considering) is one of them.

The Blush Ball

Image by Mark Cuthbert

Here is how you make an entrance. Dita Von Teese arriving in immaculate style as always at The Blush Ball, at London’s Natural History Museum. It’s one of the rare occasions when the car captures the attention.

Image by Mark Cuthbert

Image by Mark Cuthbert

Image by Mark Cuthbert

Image by Mark Cuthbert

Got to love a Road Trip!

Road Trip Beer

Lipstick & Gearsticks is on the road this weekend. We’ve got a zippy car we’re reviewing (keep your eyes peeled for our post when it lands next week) that we’re just loving, along with the amazing driving, food & hospitality. We’re down in East Gippsland, and crossed paths with this bad boy when we stopped at the Yarragon Alehouse for supplies. Have a great weekend!

Road Trip Beer

Photo taken at Yarragon Alehouse

Why would you share a car with 50 strangers?

Dolce & Gabanna Bowler available for rent at Love Me & Leave Me

There is a major trend afoot. Starting in Europe, the lack of parking & garages & condensed city living led to very successful car-sharing schemes. Why share a car? Because it’s smart. Having a car-share membership is cheaper than catching taxis, much cheaper than owning a car full-time, & much less hassle than renting a car. It’s also very environmentally friendly & responsible. Instant green-cred!

Car-sharing is for the savvy girl-about-town. Outfits like Love Me & Leave Me who rent designer gear & handbags give us the freedom to rent the hottest bag or an amazing dress for that cocktail party & hand it back for minimal outlay. We’ve been doing it with fashion for years. Now we can do it for cars – that cost a fortune to keep on the road – leaving much more disposable income for the smart ducks among us so we can invest in shares, shoes & properties instead. A pint-sized hatchback costs an average of $7K a year to keep on the road*, and that’s not even considering the purchase price, which is often around $30K. That’s a brilliant share portfolio, or fabulous overseas trip, massive home deposit contribution, uni fees or a Kelly Bag, every year.

Dolce & Gabanna Bowler available for rent at Love Me & Leave Me

Dolce & Gabanna Bowler available for rent at Love Me & Leave Me

In Melbourne, there are three key outfits running car sharing. They are GoGet, GreenShareCar & Flexicar.

This weekend, I decided to take Electron, a Flexicar Hyundai i30 out on a road trip. Let’s have a look at the nuts & bolts of it, shall we? Flexicar name all their cars (mainly so muppets, who book the wrong car by accident, remember which one is which).

With names like Giant, Noodle, Coyote, Rookie, Treasure & Igloo, there’s really no excuse to be all gormless & ring Flexicar in a panic because my swipe card wasn’t opening the car. Because. Uhm. The car I’d actually booked was a few blocks away.

So. Cough. Moving on. There’s a really simple sign-up process, but you do want to get it started, as it takes around 5 days before you can get your swipey card. Hop on the website, choose your plan, sign up, you DO need to verify your drivers license & driving track record, & wait. Once you’ve got your card, you’re good to go.

Flexicars come complete with fuel cards & keys in the car, so you roll up, access the car with your swipey card, hop in & you’re off. Words fail me at how much easier it is to use Flexicar than hire a car, with the forms & insurance options & the blocking out chunks of credit card space & all of that palaver. You can book on the spot once you’re set up. It’s just so easy & brilliant.

ROAD TRIP! I took Electron & travelled from Melbourne to Echuca, around 220kms each way of highways and dirt roads of varying quality. It was a very comfortable ride, especially when I got over the original horror of starting the car up and having the dulcet tones of SmoothFM battering my delicate ears. Karma will dictate that person shall be assulted by FoxFM or something when they next use the car. You’re welcome.

The tail end of the Hyundai i30

The tail end of the Hyundai i30

The little Hyundai was basic, but great. Flexicar doesn’t ‘do’ exciting cars, but there’s something exciting about hopping into a car – any car – when you don’t have one on a day-to-day basis. I gave it a solid go up hills, down dales and across country dirt roads at high speeds. Aside from some heart-stopping braking moments on the dirt road (the i30 has a slow & steady approach to braking, when sometimes you need to feel like you’ve just driven into a brick wall), it delivered. Electron did the job, and I have to say, a much better job at high speeds, up hills, and overtaking, than my wildest dreams. Three trucks in a row needing overtaking? It did the job.

The Flexicar "Electron"

The Flexicar “Electron”

I’ve been using Flexicar a lot this year as I put a lot of pressure on my car, & subsequently it’s spent a bit of time in pieces at the mechanics, the poor old thing. The car, too. Flexicar has definitely filled the gaps when I need to get around & the motorbike just isn’t going to do the job.

I won’t bore you to pieces with the pricing, the who, what when where how, when you can just head on over to the website & find it out – probably more eloquently – than over here. But here are the headlines:

  • There is a big range of cars in different shapes & sizes, so there’s always something for the job available.
  • There are hundreds of cars in the fleets.
  • It is SO convenient. I can’t tell you. Can’t get a cab? In the rain? You can literally be in a Flexicar within five minutes & on your way.
  • Prices start from $10 an hour, & you can book it for just an hour. You can literally grab one for the weekly grocery run.
  • I can personally vouch for the customer service being epic & awesome – I’ve never been let down.
  • The cars are all automatics.
  • The cars are all clean, tidy, spotless & generally smell pretty. Is that the sign of a responsible car-sharing community? Maybe (I do hope so).
  • Fuel cards are in the car (you can go to Shell & Caltex outlets), good to go. So are e-tags, & you don’t need to pre-book the e-tag use. Just drive wherever you want & the tolls just end up on your invoice.
  • No smoking in the cars. Most cars are also pet-free, but there are some cars that you can use for your furry friends if you use a pet carrier & clean it out afterwards – check the car listings to find out which ones. As some people have animal allergies, being considerate is important, but it’s a brilliant option to have if you need to take one of the pupstars or Tabby Von Moonbeam to the vet.
  • The cars are simple, but well serviced. Mechanically, they are in good nick, & coupled with roadside assist, they are a smart, safe option for anyone who doesn’t want to be left on a dark roadside with smoke pouring out of an engine bay.
Flexicar signage isn't cringeworthy

Flexicar signage isn’t cringeworthy

I’m not the only person using these shared car services. A luscious redhead and girl-about-town, Natasha, is also a Flexicar customer so we had a chat with her. “I’ve never actually owned a car, and don’t need to. The low cost & convenience of Flexicar is just too good to make the change. I live waaay to close to the city to justify the cost of a full-time car”.

Natasha was living in Brunswick back in 2007 when she first signed up for Flexicar & didn’t need to buy a car as she cycles to work most days. The fact she had a selection of cars nearby made it a no-brainer. She now lives in Fitzroy & has more choice of cars, with the closest car being a mere 4-minute walk from her fabulous apartment. “The variety of cars is actually one of the most useful things about a shared car service, I’ve used Sunstreaker, one of the Nissan X-Trail wagons, to transport a DJ & his gear to a mate’s wedding, but the rest of the time I’m happy to peel about in an easy hatchback”.

No relationship is perfect, so we discussed the downsides; “If the closest car isn’t available it’s annoying, summer gets really busy, & sometimes you’ve got to pre-plan your booking a bit more than I like. But that’s just quibbles. I’ve had no administration issues, & they’ve always been available to take a query. I give it the thumbs up. And because I’ve been a member since about 2007 I’ve got a really low membership number, which I secretly like having.”

I do suggest, for the many mums who read this blog, to have a Flexicar membership as a backup for when car emergencies strike. It doesn’t cost a cent if you’re not using it. It’s also a fabulous option for uni students (or anyone, frankly) who has an old banger that is unreliable. If you’ve got to be somewhere and there’s smoke pouring out of your car, having a Flexicar membership in your back pocket is the smartest, most stress-free, safe way to roll.

It’s brilliant. And I can’t recommend it highly enough. Five choc-tops.

*Source: RACQ

The 2015 Mustang. Yes please!

Ford has released preview images today of the new Mustang that is being officially unveiled tonight at five events around the globe in Sydney, China, Spain and the USA.

The 2015 model is the sixth generation of an icon. Priced in Australia at around $45K, it will come off the factory line in late 2015 as a right-hand-drive.

The 2015 Mustang, heading to Australia

The 2015 Mustang, heading to Australia

I’m excited, officially excited, as this is actually a pretty big deal and puts the Mustang on the radar of a lot of shoppers who’ve always wanted one but didn’t want a converted car.

Famous since 1968 as a V8 muscle car, it will be available in the expected V8 plus a 4-cylinder turbo version, which frankly will probably be more powerful (and more fuel efficient) than the V8, which ticks my boxes big time. It’s going to be available as both a 6-speed manual (SHRIEK) and 6-speed automatic.

Ford also plans to bring out some limited editions after 2015 to keep interest high in Australia. Well, Ford. You’ve officially got me interested. Very, very interested.

The styling is inspired by the original 1968 classic, it comes with the driver’s seat in the right location, it’s available as manual, it’s …. look at me, I’m gushing. MWAH!!!!

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 4.45.14 PM Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 4.45.24 PM

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