Transport Minister Terry Mulder told News Limited the laws relating to probationary drivers and high-performance vehicles would be changed, switching from a near blanket ban on vehicles powered by eight-cylinder and forced-induction engines to a system based on power-to-weight ratios.
Under the new laws, P-platers will be allowed to drive V8-powered, turbocharged and supercharged vehicles built in or after 2010 if they have a power-to-weight ratio of no more than 130kW per tonne.
Vehicles built before 2010 will still be subject to the old system, however, as there is no national power-to-weight ratio data standard for those vehicles.
The current system, introduced in 2007, bans P-platers from driving vehicles with eight cylinders or more, certain high-performance six-cylinders, turbocharged or supercharged vehicles (with the exception of some exempted low-performance vehicles), and vehicles with engines that have been modified to increase the vehicle’s performance.
The current system has been widely criticised for keeping P-platers out of some of the safest and most fuel efficient vehicles on the market while allowing them to drive older, less safe and higher polluting models.
CarAdvice exposed some of the anomalies of the system more than three years ago, at which time the P-platers had to apply for an exemption to drive a 77kW Volkswagen Golf but could jump straight behind the wheel of a Caterham Seven that accelerates from 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds, has no airbags, no ABS and no electronic stability control.
Currently, P-platers are required to apply for an exemption to drive an entry-level Renault Clio, which is powered by a tiny turbocharged 0.9-litre three-cylinder engine that produces just 66kW of power. The new laws introduced on July 1 will lift the ban on the Clio and many other low-performance turbocharged vehicles.
Other vehicles banned under the current system but approved according to the new criteria include the turbocharged Peugeot 208 GTi (127kW/tonne) and Volkswagen Golf GTI (123kW/tonne), and the V8-powered Nissan Patrol (109kW/tonne) and Toyota LandCruiser (88kW/tonne).
Mulder told News Limited the power-to-weight ratio system was a more sensible way of deciding which vehicles P-platers could and could not drive.
“These changes are not about allowing P-platers open slather to drive fast cars, far from it,” he said.
“What they are about is sensibly recognising that some smaller cars have turbo as standard now, for example, while making sure P-platers don’t drive cars that are big and built for speed. It’s about the engine size relative to the size of the car.
“Many eight-cylinder vehicles are heavy and therefore lack the ability to accelerate quickly. Similarly, many manufacturers are now using small- or medium-sized turbocharged and supercharged engines to deliver improved fuel consumption.”
New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia are expected to follow suit shortly and announce a switch to the new power-to-weight ratio system.