Parents of P-platers will be able to buy their child a luxury turbo-charged car after a ban on previously restricted cars for first-time drivers is lifted at the end of June.
Transport Minister Terry Mulder announced on Tuesday that VicRoads would allow P-plate drivers to drive cars that have a power-to-weight ratio of up to 130 kilowatts per tonne. The cars must be built after January 1, 2010.
There is a blanket ban on all turbo-charged vehicles for P-plate drivers before July 1 and the ban will continue for cars built before 2010.
Coming off the banned list are luxury cars from Audi, BMW, Toyota and Nissan, although some on the list are at the more affordable end.
In 2007, P-plate drivers were banned from driving turbo cars, but Mr Mulder said a national database was now available which showed power-to-weight ratio data for all vehicles built since 2010. VicRoads will use this database to assess a car's suitability for young drivers. The turbo ban was put in place after young drivers were found to be frequently losing control of powerful cars, with tragic results.
Mr Mulder said changes to the prohibited vehicles guidelines for P-plate drivers would allow them to drive more modern, fuel-efficient cars.
“In the past, all eight-cylinder cars and any petrol-powered cars with a turbo or supercharger were banned,'' Mr Mulder said.
''These days, many manufacturers are using small or medium sized turbocharged or supercharged engines to deliver improved fuel consumption,'' he said.
He said some smaller cars had turbo as standard, limiting car choice.
“It will not matter how many cylinders the vehicle has, what fuel type the vehicle uses, or whether the vehicle is turbo or supercharged. What matters is the engine size relative to the size of the car," Mr Mulder said.
He said young drivers potentially missed out on employment opportunities in the rural and agricultural sector because of their limited car options.
“Changing the guidelines will open up better job opportunities for P-platers in regional areas, by removing restrictions on vehicles such as the Toyota LandCruiser, which are preferred by the agricultural sector. This is about practicality, as many eight-cylinder vehicles are heavy and therefore lack the ability to accelerate quickly,” Mr Mulder said.
Mr Mulder said the new power-to-weight ratio definition will also cut red tape by removing the need for process exemptions for low-powered turbocharged vehicles.
Michael Case, the RACV's manager of vehicle engineering, said the new system was simpler and easier to understand and provided greater choice to P-plate drivers.
He said the public often equated turbo-charge and super-charge vehicles with ''high power'' but this was not necessarily the case.
''People have equated turbo-chargers and super-chargers to 'high powered', well, yes, you can use them for high powered output but manufacturers are more typically using them to make an engine much more efficient and, particularly, in the quest to improve fuel consumption,'' Mr Case said.
He said the new turbo-charge and super-charge cars on the list often had top safety features and ratings.
Mr Case said concerns about V8 engines being allowed were unfounded.
''There are some V8 powered vehicles (on the list) but they are also typically in quite heavy bodies and that reduces the peformance of the vehicle to a more acceptable level for a P-plater,'' he said.
Mr Case said some P-plate drivers could afford the cars on the list but more often would be assisted financially by parents.
He said the changes would also free up some family cars built after 2010, that had made the power-to-weight ratio cut on the database.
After July 1, drivers can search a database at vicroads.com.au to check makes and models of available turbo cars.
In the interim, drivers should use the power-to-weight ratio specifications of a vehicle as a guide, consult a dealer, or ring VicRoads on 131 171.