Month: June 2016

Super Car or Super Saloon?

How would you spend your R1.9M?: Mercedes Benz AMG GTS tested.

Years ago, a supercar was the pinnacle of automotive excellence. Driving such a car was not only an indication of wealth, but a symbol of success for those who have been afforded the opportunity to make such a purchase. Brands such as Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche were always the top tier supercar “must haves” for the rich and powerful. This all changed when niche brands entered into the market, take McLaren for instance. In a relatively short period of time, the brand has clawed away market share from the aforementioned brands, creating an unbalance in the supercar hierarchy.

Interestingly, mainstream car makers have also dipped their feet into the supercar market, adding further to the confusion of the consumer. As a result, cars like the Mercedes Benz SLS and the Audi R8 V10 made buyers think twice before going to the “big three” brands. Now with inflation playing a major role on the prices of everything, gone are the days where you can buy a new Ferrari for R2 500 000 or a Lamborghini for that matter. This has opened up the entry level supercar category, for those not wanting to spend upwards of R4 000 0000. Porsche has always dominated that market, with cars like the 911 Carrera. We now have cars like the new Mercedes Benz AMG GT and GTS which seek to seduce Porsche’s clients to their offering.

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All that and a big V8:

Mercedes Benz have brought a nuclear weapon to a gun fight with the power-plants offered in the AMG GT and GTS. A 4.0 litre Bi-turbocharged V8 offering 350kW in the GT or 375kW in GTS guise. We had the lovely pleasure of sampling the latter, which so happens to propel its driver from 0-100 km/h in 3.7 seconds. Needless to say that this car is as fast is it looks, another factor which shows Mercedes’ seriousness to compete in this segment. Visually the car makes no mistake to prove that it’s here to do damage, it’s low and hunkered down and it snarls and barks at onlookers oogling it. The soundtrack is one of thunder and lightning especially when the exhaust valves are open, allowing eight cylinder expletives to escape from the exhaust pipes. All this drama for a cool R1 910 000.

Is it good enough?

Is the new AMG GTS competent enough to face off with the Porsche 911 in a dual? Most certainly, but for cars such as these we feel that the biggest fight is not an internal one, it’s from a different segment all together. A segment that has plagued Porsches and Ferrari’s for years, the super saloon. It’s no secret that cars like the BMW M5, Mercedes Benz E63 and Audi RS7 all have the ability to annoy and at times humble some supercars. These saloons also have a different appeal to that of a supercar which is space, most times lots of it. Price wise, the most super of super saloons won’t cost anything less than R1 600 000, in fact the BMW M5 we tested alongside the AMG GTS cost a staggering R1 780 000 with all the extras. The most notable extra on the car being the Competition package and Carbon Ceramic brakes, which bumps up the power to 423kW, 57kW more than the GTS.

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Pros vs Cons:

We slipped into wealthy executive mode to weigh up the advantages of both cars versus the disadvantages. For the AMG GTS, you have a unique experience visually due to the way the car looks and feels. The car is also a different sensory experience because you’re so close to all the action. You feel as if you’re sitting on the rear wheels as the car takes you to a different dimension. The downside to this is that the cabin can be lonely at times, a very special person has to be chosen to share your supercar experience with you. If you’re a family man, chances are the GTS will only be used on a weekend, especially if you have the school run to do.

This is where the M5 appeals to the same client, the car is simply more usable for day to day activities. With five comfortable seats available mixed with those power figures, the car truly is a family supercar. Not to say that one would do the school run at warp speed, but after the kids are dropped off, if the opportunity allows, one can enjoy the car’s capabilities. The sacrifice one makes for buying a super saloon over a supercar is that the rawness of the AMG is replaced by refinement, making the super saloon not seem as fast as a supercar, even if it is.

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The not so mature test: The drag race.

To fully convince ourselves what we would choose between the two, we had to put theory into practice, so we found a quiet space to test the cars. Could Bobby’s dad in the BMW M5 win over Bobby’s cool uncle in the AMG GTS? On paper the GTS’ 0-100 time had it in the bag. With sweaty palms we jetted off, not using launch control as the GTS would have the advantage, but something interesting happened. The 650 Nm of torque in the GTS made for a tail happy start, whereas the heavier rear end of the BMW M5 got the car off the line cleaner. Obviously the GTS’ supercar strengths would reel the M5 in right? Well no…See 423kW is a difficult number to catch up to when it’s going and going and going. To our surprise Bobby’s dad won.

What does all this mean? 

The question this test answered was where do you spend your R1.9M if you had the choice of one special car? Do you A: Buy a supercar like an AMG GTS or a Porsche to use on special occasions or when the kids are visiting their grandparents? Or do you B: Buy a ridiculously fast saloon that can be used daily for R100 000 less?

The answer lies with who you are and your vehicle usage. If like us you have no children and spend most of your time working very hard, reward yourself and buy that special supercar. Chances are you’ll find any opportunity to drive it. On the other hand, if you have a family, what’s the point of spending so much money on a car that will spend most of the time in the garage? Rather buy something you will use which offers the same type of performance as a supercar, but is a normal road car too. Unless you have enough resources to have both cars, in that case we congratulate you and envy you at the same time.

These two cars are from different ends completely and they wouldn’t be traditionally put up against one another from a motor journalism point of view. From a consumer point of view though, many who are looking to spend this kind of money for a car often wonder what is the best choice. As mentioned it all boils down to your lifestyle. Whatever you choose, as long as the car doesn’t live in the garage, you won’t regret it. The AMG GTS is a superb vehicle indeed, in its segment it is a definite podium choice, but if your lifestyle does not allow it, it’s good to know that you great have options such as the BMW M5.

 

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Volvo’s new XC90 T8 Hybrid: A moving paradox.

Electric Drive: New Volvo T8 Hybrid Driven.

The 4×4 is the one car that has always been hailed as the big bad wolf in the industry. This is because cars of this nature normally use large fuel guzzling engines. Times have changed recently though and Volvo has helped shape the change, by using one of the largest cars in the market. Since the launch of the all new XC90, the public’s reception of this car has been nothing but good. Awards such as the Wesbank COTY 2016 and the Cars.co.za “Best Premium SUV” award proves this, as well as numerous other international awards.

The use of 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol and diesel engines in such a large car is one of the most important features of the XC90. These small engines have drastically improved the fuel consumption of the range. Now to be even more efficient, Volvo have thrown in an 9 kWh Lithium-ion battery pack to their powerful 235kW petrol engine. As a result, a combined power output of 300kW from both engines gives the car immense power and a claimed fuel economy figure of 2.1 litres/ 100km! (Sounds crazy right?) Realistically, we achieved around 5.5 litres/ 100kms but that was toggling through all the modes and driving in the city. Even at that figure, that is a remarkable number to achieve in a seven seating SUV.

Regarding aesthetics and design, the T8 keeps the same look and feel that its siblings have. It’s available in Momentum, Inscription and R-Design Package. What is standard in the T8, apart from other things is a sunroof and a crystal gear knob (fancy right?).

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How does is drive?

Silently. When the car is in “Pure” mode, you can hear the passengers swallow, which may be disturbing but quite amazing too. The car is still as comfortable as any other XC90, the only difference is that it’s much quieter. You can travel up to 43km in full electric mode and when you put the car in “Hybrid” mode, you get a combination of both petrol and electric power. If you’re in a hurry and you’re fully charged, you’ll be happy to know that in “Power” mode you can use all 300kW to get going quickly. Even in “beast mode”, the T8 maintains a level of civility and sophistication through smooth power delivery.

When you’ve hit a load shedding situation and you’ve run out of electric power, you can charge up at home to give your car life again. The good news is that if you do travel longer than the 43km electric range, you do have internal combustion to get you home.

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What does the future hold?

Cars like these are very important to the industry, because they represent the future. Obviously as systems progress, this technology will keep getting better and more affordable to the general public. Soon we’ll even be able to go further with hybrid cars and it’s nice to see that Volvo are once again at the forefront of the change. That being said, other companies like BMW now offer a competitor, such as the X5 40e. This car uses a similar setup and we’re sure that it’s only a matter of time until other brands join the club. The T8 XC90 is still as good, still as pretty and still as elegant as it’s always been, only now it’s more efficient. It’s awesome to see the biggest car use the least amount of fuel, it’s a moving paradox.

Prices: 

Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine AWD Momentum                     R1 053 400

Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine AWD Inscription                         R1 092 100

Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine AWD R-Design                            R1 117 700

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