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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!!!
Aaahhh the Sunday session. Finding a snuggly, sun-dappled beer garden, or a sticky carpet venue, buying terrible beer by the jug and whiling away a day and night in one big go. Heaven. When we emerged from the parental cocoon to get on with our lives, needing to get a car all of our own, boy did we see some interesting choices. While few of us had budgets worth even opening the piggy bank for, we sure managed to make do but still ended up with cars that were a part of our personality.
I mean, heck, what did we have to lose when we only had two grand to spend on a car that was probably as old as we were?
My Sunday session mates in my very late teens and early twenties had pretty eclectic taste in their formative vehicles. There was the modified old-skool Volkswagen bug (cut down to become a convertible) complete with glittery lightning-bolt paintwork that to this day reminds me of David Bowie. Driven with great aplomb by a guy. There was the white Ford panel van with a stereo system & floor-to-ceiling black carpet. The blue Torana affectionately named the arse-mobile (first three letters of the numberplate? ARS). The Subaru all-wheel-drive wagon that we used a wooden dustpan brush to smack the battery with when it started to leach electricity everywhere. My fabulous but cantankerous Mazda 323 hatch covered in TUSA stickers. I scuba dive, therefore I am. Another Mazda that was bought for less than a grand, but with a four grand sound system and equally large security system to keep the sound system safe (it worked). There were mountains of Datsun 120Bs and 180Ys in the ever popular (spew) mustard yellow. The list goes on.
But if there’s one thing these cars all had, it was personality, a devil-may-care attitude to modification, and my goodness we had some massive adventures in them. Road trips, nefarious plots, sneaking beer into the Falls Festival, camping, more road trips, and a million house moves where we all rucked in to get the worst job in the world over with, fast.
It was a time that wasn’t destined to last as we got more responsible jobs and started to upgrade. We started to buy cars that were suitable for our jobs, our ‘lifestyles’, and the image we wanted to project. And the cars, well, they started to be less about who we were as individuals, and more of an investment that got us around with the minimum amount of breakdowns and shame. Some people can keep it fun and insist on putting two kids and a dog in a 1969 Mustang, and others are all about the easy people carrier. Which brings me onto the good old four-door sedan. It’s the ultimate in sensible car shopping.
There’s been a bunch of burly truckers and dockworkers organising a bunch of deliveries to Nissan dealerships, with sales of the new Nissan Altima kicking off this first week in December. It’s a four door sedan. It’s definitely going to appeal to people who want a 4-door that looks sleek and, frankly, like it cost a lot more than it actually did. We personally know people who will rate that very highly, not mentioning anyone by name in case they never speak to me again while they’re off doing the school run. And Nissan’s are a great car, so you can’t go too wrong.
It’s value for dollar, with pricing kicking off in the low $30K range and with all of the full fancy options (including a very growly V8 engine, very pretty allow wheels & leather seating) you’re looking at the low $50K range. We haven’t personally seen the interior yet, but those who have, have rated it highly as very sexy, utterly sophisticated and very sleek. The non-leather interior option has been described as “velourish”. Not by us, we’re just reporting. Truly.
Nissan is rather famous for its V8’s and the Altima has a V8 Supercar racing pedigree. In a conventional sense, this means if you’re going a 4-door mid-size sedan as your vehicle choice, you can choose between a reasonable (but not outstanding) fuel economy in the V6, or a ripper of a V8 to make your sensible sedan so much more fun. Cue rummaging in knickers. While we’re talking about a 4-door sedan, we know that this is going to be popular as a family vehicle so let’s get realistic about the electronic side of things. You’ve got Bluetooth & iPod connectivity, you’ve got USB inputs, you’ve got between six factory speakers or nine BOSE ones so it’s what you’d be wanting – and frankly expecting – in a car like this.
Comfort is important, especially when you’ve got kids and dogs (or your crazy mates) in the back. The cabin is well thought out, and the cabin was built with the help of NASA research and the seats are designed to hold you in the ‘weightless’ position of an astronaut in zero gravity. I could rabbit on for days what it means and how it was done, but all you need to know is that it keeps you cradled in comfort, reduces driver fatigue and apparently increases blood flow. The less fatigued you get while you’re running about town or on long haul trips is a very good thing.
Let’s look at the topline list of things to know:
- It’s two-wheel drive across the board.
- Altima is available as a petrol model only, so no diesel, turbo or hybrid options here.
- It’s automatic transmission only, so manual-heads need not apply.
- It ticks all of the safety, airbags, and security boxes.
- BYO satellite navigation.
- NissanConnect is in a few of the higher-end Altima models, which links your smartphone and handsfree technology to get you onto your favourite apps like Google Maps.
- There are a total of four models (the St, ST-L, TI & TI-S) that are pragmatic with what you get at each price level. You get what you pay for.
The colour range is wide, sophisticated, and a nice blend of cools and warms. The colour names are even nice, including Mineral Blue, White Diamond & Titanium. The colours will be popular and are quite lovely, but no-one in their right mind would find the colour palette challenging or especially interesting. They are definitely elegant, don’t get me wrong. But anyone looking for Micra Glasgow Green or Amsterdam Orange will be disappointed.
The Altima is unashamedly a car about being sensible. It’s a car you buy when you’ve got a shopping list of things to tick off. It looks sleek, it’s Nissan-reliable, it’s elegant, and it’s an un-embarassing car to be getting around in. We like it a lot. It’s well thought out, quick, comfortable, will be reliable, is capable of more than you’ll ever ask of it, and has enough extra accents in the speed and looks department to remind you of the days you went broke to buy something secondhand and turbo-charged. Because, you know, life.
You might think we’re being cheeky calling it un-embarassing. But it’s true, and we’d decided that before we even saw the TV ad out of the USA. Get on with the sensible part of your life, without embarrassing yourself or making a car-buying mistake. And know you’ve got a few little secrets under the bonnet that will put a cheeky smile on your face.
Visit the Nissan website to find out more about the Altima here.
If this ad was made with your favourite female comedian in the driver’s seat, who would you nominate and what four things would their Nissan Altima save them from doing?
Porsche has just unveiled the new Macan Mini SUV at last week’s LA Auto Show. The mini SUV is fast taking off as a style, size and body shape that we want to be driving. 4WD options, good boot space, a bit of height, a bit of heft and plenty of room for your life (such as my neighbour who has a dog, three really cool kids and works as a homewares stylist, so you can imagine what she manages to fit into her car) and a lot more style than the ‘tanks’ is what these models are all about.
Let’s look quickly at the detail:
- The Porsche Macan is hotly tipped to be the biggest-selling Porsche in Australia within the year. This is going to be THE car to drive.
- It’s name is derived from the Indonesian word for Tiger. RAWR.
- The Macan is 1.5 metres smaller and 200 kgs lighter than the Cayenne (who is getting a facelift next year).
- It’s arriving in Australia in early 2014.
- There are three models in the Macan range, all 7-speed and all 6-cylinder. These three hotties will comprise the S, Diesel S, and Turbo.
- It’s pretty fast, with the Turbo having nailed the Nurburgring in the low-eight-minute range, which pitches it up against the BMW M3 for pace.
- There are unconfirmed rumours that the Macan will come out in a 4-cylinder, lower-cost model, but no formal announcement has been made.
- The buzz is that the interiors are what you’d expect from Porsche.
- The price for the Australian market is yet to be confirmed.
So shall we perv on the Macan? From the images provided so far, glossy black, charcoal, cobalt and ruby red look to be the colour range, although final specs haven’t been released, and we don’t know if all options will be available in Australia yet.
So what is the Macan, at the luxury level, lining up against? The Range Rover Evoque, the Audi Q5 (the Audi Q5 and Macan will be sharing a body platform), the BMW X3 and the yet-to-be-released Jaguar SUV.
Looking at the day-to-day major brands doing a good job of the fast-growing mini-SUVs, the Nissan Dualis is brilliant and a huge personal favourite of ours. I’ve got a creepy feeling the Dualis will be the next thing in my driveway. The brand-new Suzuki S-Cross is another goodie and the Skoda Yeti has definitely carved a place for itself. These three cars are similar in size and dimension to each other, and at just one foot longer than the Dualis, the Macan is undeniably Porsche in its styling.
Porsche and the female customer
Porsche is an iconic sportscar brand and has been actively been chasing the female driver (and enjoying record sales figures), having appointed Maria Sharapova as a global brand ambassador last year. While we’re talking marketing and branding, Porsche having moved into 4-door / SUV stylings with the Cayenne and Panamera has opened up the market for people who have always adored the brand and the excitement it stands for, but still have kids, dogs and groceries to deal with. The more female-centric, day-to-day approach has seen sales of Porsche’s to women nearly double from 8% to 15% in the last two years alone. The marketing has been all Porsche and stayed true to the brand.
We’d love to see more colour choice, actually scrap that, more innovative colours. Glamourous metallic red wines, or sexy petrol teals, or an Emerald green to drop jaws. Now that’s what would make the Macan a must-buy for me.
What do you think of Porsche heading into compact SUV territory? And what colour would you want to buy?
Convertible cars look and feel incredible. From an exquisite supercar to a major brand city runabout, the ability to take the top off and drive with the wind in your hair is intoxicating. Convertibles are stylish, head-turning vehicles that bring the driving experience to life in a way you just don’t get with a full-roofed car.
I know a fabulous girl-about-town who has always – really badly – wanted a convertible but she’s never gone ahead and bought one, concerned that the real thing would never live up to the dream.
I’m a big fan of following your dream, especially when it comes to buying a car, so let’s take a look at the pros and cons of convertibles. Keep them in mind when you shop (or rent, because there’s no better way to rock a road trip than to hire a hot convertible) and you’ll get a car you’ll love more than anything.
There are common things to be aware of when you’re choosing a convertible, but we have to say that lots of car brands have really picked up the pace and pulled in features to combat and eliminate these points, and of course every car is different.
The Pros of Convertibles
- They look amazing – there are few things as glamourous and stylish as an open top car. And it’s a great excuse to wear your most fabulous sunglasses. We recommend Prada & Karen Walker.
- Convertibles will help you pull faster than a gorgeous puppy or pair of killer heels. There are fewer cars with such a powerful pull factor as a convertible.
- 360 degree views of your drive – you can see everything around you.
- Open air whipping past you. I also ride motorbikes and usually ride with my helmet open because there’s just nothing more refreshing or life affirming than the breeze swooshing past you. Talk about making a girl feel alive! Heaven.
- Lighter weight, which can make the handling a touch easier.
- Less claustrophobic for people who find this bothersome.
- You can lock it up with ease, even when the top is down.
The Cons of Convertibles
- Bird poo and bugs. And cigarette butts. Motorbikists don’t wear bandannas over their face to rob banks: it’s to stop moths slamming into the back of their throats at 80kph. Convertible drivers run the same risks.
- Boot space is often sacrificed to house the roof when it’s retracted. Sometimes there’s almost no boot space at all. You might end up placing your Mandarina Duck luggage on the back sear. See: bird poo. I’d cry.
- Don’t forget to count the number of seats and doors available and make sure there’s room for everyone. You can’t forget to leave room for your awesome eccentric aunt, as much as you might like to. Although, it might just give you the excuse you’ve been looking for…..
- A car with a solid roof adds strength to the car body in case of a crash, which you lose a lot of in a convertible, and if you flip your car in an accident there’s no head protection at all. It might upset you more, however, to picture your favourite new-season Coach handbag flying through the air at 80kph.
- Aerodynamics can be compromised so make sure you’re comfortable with the ride.
- Convertibles are easier to steal, but there are more anti-theft protections than ever before so you just need to make a calculated decision.
- Higher insurance costs – get a quote first because some of the insurance costs can be breathtaking depending on your driver profile.
- I couldn’t tell you the last time I drank a chocolate McDonald’s thickshake, but every.single.time I see a convertible parked with the roof down and no-one in sight, I immediately visualise dumping said thickshake on the drivers seat. Just because. Yes, I’m incredibly immature. No, I’ve never done it. I like to think I’ve got SOME impulse control.
- The rear visibility tends to go downhill because plastic is just no substitute for glass.
- The roof mechanism is just one more thing that can go wrong.
- You will achieve more hair volume than you could have possibly imagined. Actually, I could move that sentiment into the Pro column. Hmmm.
- Convertible roofs can leak – secondhand and vintage shoppers note. If you live somewhere where the weather can be considered anywhere on the spectrum between ‘soggy’ and ‘manky’ then get a metal folding rooftop instead of a fabric one. But don’t use weather as an excuse to not get an convertible. Even if you have one awesome day a year driving it around with the top down and a grin on your face, it’s been worth it.
- There is more road and wind noise in most models (whether the roof is up or down).
- Wear sunscreen, because you’ll get sun exposure, and sunburnt ‘raccoon eyes’ in the shape of your favourite Prada sunnglasses is just not a winning look at The Emerson on a Friday night.
But at the end of the day, bird poo is good luck and convertible cars are gorgeous. Do it.
Palm Springs, California. Just over 100 miles east of Los Angeles and with a dry, desert sunny climate, Palm Springs has a sprinkling of stardust that came with residents that included Frank Sinatra & Lucille Ball, and stayed with a well preserved mid-century modern architectural style and streets lined with palm trees. The town (population 45,000) just makes me want a Pomelo Italiano, made with grapefruit vodka, Campari, and a splash of grapefruit juice, with a sugared rim.
Fittingly, Palm Springs recently hosted the global media launch of the Aston Martin Vanquish Volante, the convertible in the Vanquish range. The Vanquish Volante has a purr-inducing acceleration of 4.1secs and a blistering peak power of 573ps and is the most powerful convertible Aston Martin has ever produced. Top speed? 294 kph. So let’s get down to business, shall we? For those new to convertibles, most of them suffer the fate of anything that gets its roof pulled off – a lower level of stability than in the full-rooved models. The effects of this varies from model to model, but a typical symptom is reduced rigidity in the car body, and smaller boot size as the roof, when down, needs to live somewhere.
Aston Martin unveiled the stunning Appletree Green Volante at Palm Springs. It’s my favourite colour in the range. Aston Martin has engineered the Vanquish Volante from start to finish to be a convertible, and the result is the stiffest body they’ve produced yet in a convertible; this is a very good thing. Every panel has been made of carbon fibre plus the usual aluminum shell, so it’s light and hard. The fabric roof is pretty speedy too, taking just 14 seconds to fold down (which you can fold up and down on the move, as long as you are doing 30 kph or slower), and the boot capacity isn’t to be sniffed at either, clocking in at 279 litres of storage.
A sound system is business critical, and the Vanquish Volante doesn’t disappoint, with the Bang & Olufsen BeoSound – custom made for the Vanquish Volante – standard in every car. The interior is, as expected, nothing short of jaw-dropping.
There isn’t yet word on an ETA or price to Australia, but we’ll be sure to let you know when we do!
Discover the Aston Martin Vanquish Volante: http://www.astonmartin.com/vanquish-volante The Appletree Green exclusive images were provided by Aston Martin from the global media launch of the Aston Martin Vanquish Volante in Palm Springs, California.
Volvo has been aligning their truck brand with a series of stunt campaigns (think cranes and hamsters – but not in the same video). We were cynical about this one starring the Muscles from Brussels himself, Jean-Claude Van Damme. But… the verdict is in.
Respect. Brilliantly executed, and I have to say my jaw dropped for a moment or two there. This is worth a watch and proves that car advertising with truly excellent creative that is about the passion, style and soul that comes hand-in-hand with motoring is still being made. More please!
I’ve had my ups and downs. My fair share of bumpy roads and heavy winds. That’s what made me what I am today. Now I stand here before you. What you see is a body crafted to perfection. A pair of legs engineered to defy the laws of physics. And a mind-set to master the most epic of splits.
Three days of rehearsals culminated in the spot being filmed in one take, with only 15 minutes of morning light that would fit the brief. No wires, no CG, and some sensible safety precautions. I was a fan of JCVD from my teenage years, and have definitely decided I’m still a fan. Even though Volvo set the stunt up to ‘demonstrate the stability and precision of Volvo dynamic steering’ it has done much more. Consider me impressed.
Here is a behind the scenes video you might want to look at as well – and yes, the trucks were going backwards.
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