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How motorists could play a key role in car-tax decisions

It is easy to get lost in the sea of words over the potential impact of the Budget and Brexit on motoring.One thing that is often assumed, or indeed overlooked, is the role played – or not played – by the consumer.They/we are the ones paying all the bills, ultimately, but seem to have little say on the whys and wherefores of having to do so.Yes, the Society of the Irish Motor Industry can claim, with some justification, that the customer always comes first.And yes, the Government can affect family driving with taxation – or incentives as is the case with electrified cars.But while the powerful lobbies – from farmers to builders to motor businesses – focus on trying to persuade ministers to pursue or change policies, your ordinary motorist is largely left to stand and helplessly watch the drama unfold.Only it doesn’t have to be that way any more – on a number of levels.Fact: most people own a car or van; that makes us part of one of the major groups in society.Fact: we can individually influence the decision making process at local politics’ level.How? By letting those we elect know what we want and how we feel about how private transport is being treated and planned.Admittedly, we haven’t been good at that. VRT, for example, is not a raging topic in your councillor’s/TD’s clinic. Far more pressing issues abound.But is now not a great time to change that?A moment when we are not, as SIMI’s Brian Cooke said yesterday, “in normal times”. A good time to flex our muscles as motorists and show we feel the need to have our say where it matters.While Brexit and Budget fears are creating confusion, this is a real challenge for motorists.You may not want to hear it but it goes something like this: we want to have cleaner air, a healthier environment, so we are becoming hugely interested in ‘green’ motoring, especially hybrids and electric vehicles.The Government is encouraging us to be that way.At the same time 100,000-plus of us are buying used imports, the majority of which are much ‘dirtier’ than new vehicles sold down here, and more likely to damage our air and environment.We buy them because imports are less expensive.So while we want clean air and a slowing of global warming, many of us are not prepared to pay for them.I’m not saying all 100,000-plus who buy an import this year would have bought a cleaner, greener car in the Republic.But, under a certain set of circumstances, a decent percentage might have.And that could have made some contribution to the drive to be so-called ‘greener’.The problem is that the current tax system is geared towards you buying imports and not cleaner new cars.Nobody seriously expects you to forgo your savings.But if we really care about how much damage a car spews out the tailpipe should we be telling the policy makers that they should be making it possible for you to get cleaner cars for a reasonable price too?Essentially it all boils down to one simple question: how much are we prepared as a country and as individuals to pay for being ‘green’.Over to you.Tell us what you think? Do we really care about the environment?

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Toyota’s new Supra: a matter of how sweet you want your sports car to be

A friend of the family was renowned for his observation that life is like a cup of tea – it’s how you make it. Some like milk in their beverage (I like mine black – does that say something about me?). Some prefer to add the milk; others like it with sugar; and so on.Now I’m venturing to suggest the same goes, with particular relevance, for sports cars. Some people like them to be all growl and grunt; others seek understated athleticism.This week’s review motor, the Toyota Supra 2dr sports coupé, has a few flavours of its own blended in. I use the word ‘blended’ advisedly because there is a genuine mix of heritage here. Believe it or not, a good spoonful of BMW has been added.That’s due to a collaboration between the two companies which spawned the Supra from Toyota and Z4 from BMW. The two cars are even built alongside each other. Their big rival is regarded as the Porsche 718 Cayman.Naturally, the Supra goes its own way on how the suspension has been tuned, how the car feels, drives, handles and responds, how it looks and sounds, how it is equipped and much, much more.Yet there is no getting away from the fact that it is powered by one of the world’s great straight 6cyl petrol engines – yes, from BMW.And that is where I’ll start. It is a wonderful piece of work and I love it in its own right. But in this Supra it was almost too smooth. I wanted more growl and grunt: a matter of taste I suppose. Don’t get me wrong: in ‘Sport’ mode this flew, but I yearned for the accompanying signification of sound and that kick-in-the-back feeling when I snapped the foot down. I got it to a degree but I wanted more.It was hard not to like this car but hard to rave about it too, which is what I should be doing given its lineage and price (from €81,000 or so).With 50/50 weight distribution, the Supra is the epitome of balance. I loved the looks, the long bonnet, the short rear. I even liked the cockpit, though some feel it is far too BMW-ish. If you want to go looking for similarities, fair enough, but I took it as a comfortable ensemble. Getting in and out was awkward for my frame but I didn’t care. All I wanted was to drive it as legally fast and safely as I could – and did so over as many road types as possible.And my abiding memory was not the zip to 100kmh. It was the brilliance at pace over long, looping bends. Every car of this stature has a standout point. I reckon that’s where the Supra’s lies: I enjoyed the sense of grip, direction and velocity. Anything can give you straight-line speed these days. Nearly anything can give you a sharp, sport suspension. Not as many can dish out such power and still maintain equilibrium on long, awkward bends, where a car’s ability and stability are truly tested.I found myself repeating the exercise; all the more enjoyable as I liked the driving position, something not guaranteed in a small car either.I mostly kept it in Sport mode to get as much edge as possible. I think the 8spd automatic gearbox could do with a bit more life. The upshifts were smooth but I wanted greater tangibility. How about a dual-clutch auto? Or a proper manual? All sports cars should have a manual. That’s how you get properly ‘involved’. Yes, there was the token of manual with paddle shifts on the steering column. I used them a lot to hold high revs and low gears but still felt I’d welcome more oomph.There are all sorts of things you can do with the iDrive-based infotainment system which, like the digital instrument binnacle, was clear and easy to read most of the time – bright sunshine at an angle blurred them a little on one drive to the midlands.As with all good cars, the quality of handling and ride impressed the more I drove. This has great underpinnings.And yes I would probably buy it if I had the money. Why? Because it is the sort of car that grows on you as long as you realise it is more grand tourer than snorting hellraiser. For many that is a better proposition for comfortable everyday use on our roads, at our speed limits. I’d buy it all the quicker if it had a manual transmission – which would lower the price too.I recall being on a previous-generation Supra drive with F1 genius Eddie Irvine. He drove me around Mondello at pace, with a nonchalance born of, and blended with, precision (his and the car’s).Funny how that sums up my take on this new Supra: it’s a precisely impressive, rather than flagrantly awesome, drive.Facts & figuresToyota Supra sports car:3-litre (2,998cc) 6cyl petrol, 8spd auto, 340hp, 0-100kmh 4.3 secs. Launch Control, adaptive suspension, 19in alloys, Brembo front brakes.GR Spec (€81,260): black alcantara, 8.8in navigation/Apple CarPlay display, SupraSafety+ adaptive cruise control, pedestrian/rear-end collision alert.GR Premium (€84,335): leather interior, 12 speakers, wireless charger.

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Mitsubishi’s new L200 has the style to pick up more customers

WHEN one vehicle is responsible for a substantial part of its earnings, a carmaker has to mind the model. That is especially the case if it is a pick-up which, in this part of the world anyway, is a marginal segment for most automakers.
It’s not marginal for Mitsubishi, who have been making one-tonne pick-ups since 1978.
The L200, their second-biggest seller globally, is designed for work in some of the toughest environments.
Mining sites in Indonesia and Chile are just two among 150 markets where the L200 operates daily in the harshest of conditions.
So driving on gravel roads into the high mountains of southern Spain recently wasn’t exactly going to have the sixth generation L200 break into the pick-up equivalent of a sweat.
Still, it was a drive where I appreciated having a sure-footed and competent off-road vehicle under me.
And it has just, technically, gone on display for sampling in Ireland.
Dealers have only recently received their demonstration models. Prices start from €35,000 for the entry Business grade.
The best-selling L200 here is expected to be the Intense grade, priced at €37,850 (manual) and at €39,950 for the new six-speed automatic.
A new Instyle grade tops the range. It includes leather seat trim and other extras at €41,935.
With a new engine, a broad array of driver assist technologies and a completely new styling they hope to return the L200 to the top-three position in pick-up sales here.
General spec includes a “bird’s eye” monitor camera system, LED headlights, enhanced ‘Superselect’ AWD and 18-inch alloys.
Changes include new headlamps which are designed for better night visibility.
There are more substantial bumpers, but good approach and departure angles of the fifth generation model are retained.
The new pick-up is 40mm taller and marginally longer than the previous L200.
It is claimed to have the best turning circle in the class as well as the best cabin space.
It is powered by the new 150hp 2.2-litre diesel. The Superselect AWD has four settings for different terrains. An optional electromagnetic rear differential lock is available on all grades.
Increased spring rates and larger shock absorbers on the front suspension make it more comfortable to drive. The leaf-spring rear suspension has been retained to provide better cargo capacity, but now has an extra sixth leaf.
Inside, there’s a more integrated set-up of controls and instruments with more colourful graphics.
There’s extensive use of soft-touch materials while the seats have larger side bolsters.
And there is more storage while four USB sockets are standard.
Overall, the L200 is a big advance on the fifth generation and will put Mitsubishi strongly back in contention for more sales in this highly-competitive segment.

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