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Fifield out as Communications Minister as Fletcher fills role and gains cyber



Long serving Coalition Minister for Communications, Mitch Fifield, is out of the ministry, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday afternoon, with former Optus director of corporate affairs Paul Fletcher to move into the role.

Fletcher will take on an expanded portfolio that is now labelled as Communications, Cyber Safety, and the Arts.

“As the National Broadband Network nears full roll out and social media becomes an even more prominent front in the fight to keep Australians safe, Paul Fletcher, as Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts brings extensive experience and insight to the task,” Morrison said. 

Senator Fifield became Communications Minister in September 2015 following the elevation of its former occupier, Malcolm Turnbull, becoming Prime Minister.

Fifield is set to be recommended to the Governor-General to become Australia’s Ambassador to the United Nations. The Prime Minister did not provide a timeline on when this recommendation would occur.

The Prime Minister said Fifield chose not to be part of the ministry.

“I would have been very happy for Mitch to continue to serve in Communications and the Arts,” Morrison said. “I think Mitch has done an outstanding job in what has been a very difficult task in the NBN, and Paul Fletcher comes to this role [as] no stranger to these issues.

“He has a deep experience when it comes to ICT in this country.”

Among other changes to the ministry are the inclusion of Senator Jane Hume as Assistant Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services, and Financial Technology, and Stuart Robert as Minister for Government Services, as the federal government looks to adopt the Service NSW delivery model.

The new ministry will be sworn in on Wednesday.

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2020 Mazda6 Review – Poised and Practical



My first surprise when the 2020 Mazda6 arrived was the color. Mazda sure does love its Soul Red – and with good reason – but the Signature-spec sedan was a far more sober Machine Gray metallic. The second surprise was the price.

At $36,620 – including $300 for that handsome, if subtle, paint job; $100 for trunk mats; and $920 destination – the Mazda6 Signature lands right about the average new car spend in the US. In fact, it’s slightly under that figure, which according to the calculators at KBB is now almost $38k.

Sedans, of course, aren’t the auto industry’s rising star. Crossovers are where the retail money goes, though as car companies like to point out there’s still plenty of sales to be made among those looking for something more traditional. Mazda isn’t immune to the SUV trend – the new CX-30 is a particularly good example of that – but the Mazda6 still holds a special place in its line-up.

The styling certainly helps, muscular and swooping, with just the right amount of chrome to feel premium without edging into fuddy-duddy. Signature trim is the Mazda6’s top spec, so you get 19-inch wheels, a rear lip spoiler, LED lights front and back, and dual exhausts with extra brightwork. It also adds Mazda’s turbocharged engine under the hood.

That’s the Skyactiv-G 2.5T, paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. It’s rated for 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, though feed the gas tank with 93 octane and you unlock a further 23 hp. Mazda’s regular engine, still 2.5-liters but no turbo, packs just 187 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque.

Front-wheel drive is your only choice, sadly; unlike the Mazda3 there’s no all-wheel drive option. Still, while the bigger sedan may not fit the mold of a sports car, it punches above its weight from behind the wheel. The suspension is tuned for more eager drivers, and combined with the eager engine you get an unexpectedly engaging experience. Other cars may have more gears, but the Mazda6 proves it’s how you use them that counts, dropping down enthusiastically to keep you in the midst of all that power, while the steering errs on the meatier side.

The downside to the mechanical simplicity is that, when it comes to wafting, the Mazda6 isn’t quite as placid. Without clever adaptive dampers or anything as complex as air suspension, there’s only so much the drive modes can do to soften the ride. You’ll notice it most at highway speeds, where things are just a little less compliant and forgiving than competitor sedans.

Inside, Mazda’s cabin is restrained and has a refreshingly old-school feel. Swathes of clean surfaces – with real wood and metal trim on the Signature spec – along with pleasant Nappa leather and an admirable willingness to not plaster everything with needless detailing and patterns. The HVAC system is a straightforward row of readily-twiddled knobs and buttons, while drive modes get a simple toggle.

Mazda’s infotainment system, unfortunately, is one area where a little more fussing would have paid dividends. The 8-inch touchscreen isn’t small, but the UI looks tired; the low-resolution reversing camera is a particularly crunchy throwback. While Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are onboard – as they are in every Mazda6 unless you pick the entry-level Sport – they’re wired-only.

Adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alerts, lane-departure warnings, lane-keep assistance, and forward collision warnings are standard across the board, though, which is great. All models get keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, and push-button start; whiz up to Signature and you’re sitting on heated and ventilated front seats, too, plus listening to a Bose 11-speaker audio system, while those in the back get heated seats too.

The trunk is a reasonable 14.7 cu-ft, and both rows have no shortage of head, leg, and elbow space to play with. The rear seats drop down with a 60/40 split, too. Mazda quotes 23 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway, and 26 mpg combined. My own, mixed driving fell short, though only by a few miles.

There’s a lot to like about the Mazda6. The line-up kicks off at $24,100 (plus destination), though you need to spend $32,300 or more to get the much-preferable turbo engine. That’s a lot of space, style, and driving engagement for the money, and while the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord may have moved ahead in refinement and technology, Mazda’s sedan still has the prestige edge in design.

Personally, I’d double-down on that with the Soul Red paint job – perhaps a little cliched at this point, but no less striking for it – and embrace the Mazda6’s eagerness to play. In a market dominated by crossovers and SUVs, you can either give up or stand out, and the Mazda’s style shows there’s room for the sedan yet.

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Aston Martin Racing Vantage Legacy Collection is a car collector’s dream come true



Aston Martin Racing is celebrating the brand’s most successful Vantage racing cars with the Legacy Collection. It consists of race cars based on the 2005 Vantage and includes the V8 Vantage GTE, V12 Vantage GT3, and Vantage GT4.

“For a collector, this trio of Aston Martin Racing Vantages represents the ultimate tribute to a halcyon period for the brand in international sportscar racing,’ said David King, President of Aston Martin Racing.

“While Aston Martin has since gone on to record world championship titles with the current generation turbo-charged V8 Vantage, the foundations laid by the huge success of the original car won admirers around the globe and led to it becoming a firm favorite with racing fans,” added King.

British sports car maker Aston Martin has a knack for releasing limited-edition collection models, most notably the DBZ Centenary Collection unveiled last year. The previous collection includes a limited-edition DBS GT Zagato and a luscious DB4 GT Zagato Continuation model, collectively priced at around $7.2 million and change.

Included in Aston’s newest Vantage Legacy Collection is a V8 Vantage GTE. It became the most successful car in the FIA World Endurance Championship and won seven titles. It also won two Le Mans class victories, and it competed for the last time in the GTE Am class at Le Mans in 2018.

Aston only built six V8 Vantage GTEs. Additionally, the GTE car included in the collection bears chassis number 007 and is the seventh and final model to be made. The original car debuted in 2012 at Sebring and took its first win in Shanghai at the final round of the FIA World Endurance Championship that same year.

Also part of the collection is the Vantage GT4. It debuted in 2009 and is still competing as of press time. The GT4 has a tuned 4.7-liter V8 engine, adjustable double wishbone suspension, integrated air jacks for faster tire changes, and a six-speed Sportshift transmission with a twin-plate Cera-metallic clutch.

Last but not least is the V12 Vantage GT3, which made its first appearance in 2012 alongside the V8 Vantage GTE. It immediately became a strong contender in the British GT championship and racing titles in 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2018.

All race-spec, previous-gen Vantages included in Aston’s newest Legacy Collection are brand new and ready to hit the circuits. All three are sporting similar Sterling Green paint and yellow trim lines. Aston has yet to disclose the pricing for its new three-car collection, but we’re sure it’ll cost a significant amount of money.

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Ferrari 488 GT Modificata: Raising the Checkered Flag



The Ferrari 488 Pista is a unique racing-inspired supercar for the street, but the 488 GT Modificata is a different animal. This limited-edition, track-ready race car slots neatly between the hardcore 488 GT3 and 488 GTE.

And as such, the 488 GT Modificata is, according to Ferrari, transcending the limits imposed by the FIA Balance of Performance (BoP) regulations, allowing the Italian carmaker to unleash the car’s full racing potential.

Ferrari’s newest track toy combines the vital performance merits of both the 488 GTE and GT3 race cars. The ‘Modificata’ moniker points to a slew of modified everything, including the engine, aero bodywork, and even the paint livery.

It has a 3.9-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine (similar to the 488 Pista), producing 690 horsepower courtesy of ‘innovative solutions’ and ultra-high performance ECU mapping. This high-strung racing motor is connected to a carbon-fiber clutch in a gearbox that, Ferrari says, can be ordered with different gear ratios.

The most critical aspect of a racing car – specifically one with a modified racing engine – is how hard it sticks to the road. In the new 488 GT Modificata, Ferrari tinkered with the aerodynamics to further shift the pressure center forward, allowing it to generate more downforce at the front without increasing drag.

According to Ferrari, 488 GT Modificata produces over 2,200 pounds (1,000 kilograms) of downforce at 142 mph (230 kph). The lightweight body is crafted from carbon-fiber, while the uprights and the roof are made of aluminum to reduce weight.

Meanwhile, the suspension is derived from the 488 GTE while the brakes were developed in partnership with Brembo. The braking system features an ABS from the 488 GT3 Evo with race-specific settings. Furthermore, the low residual torque calipers are the same ones fitted to champion racing cars.

Standard equipment includes two seats, a high-resolution rearview camera, and a tire pressure monitoring system that measures both temperature and tire pressures. The Ferrari 488 GT Modificata has a standard V-Box acquisition system with Bosch telemetry data, making it effortless to download your track data onto a USB stick.

It’s safe to say the new Ferrari 488 GT Modificata is one of the most coveted track-ready racing machines to leave the gates at Maranello. If you want one, too bad: Only drivers/owners who raced in a Ferrari Competiozini GT or Club Competizioni GT event are entitled to buy one. Ferrari has yet to reveal the actual production numbers or pricing, but a hardcore Ferrari track monster is hard to ignore.

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