Month: December 2016

Renault Megane GT :The most confusing warm hatch I’ve driven

Renault Megane GT Driven Review

Motorist Digital Magazine – Edition 08

After driving the new Megane GT for a week, I was left slightly baffled. I found myself asking fellow journo’s if it was just me, or is the car one of strangest fast hatchback out there? Let me explain. Renault for years been good at making quick and visceral hatchbacks that appeal to the senses. With the new Megane that has been recently launched, the recipe seems perfect. The current range topper for now is the GT version, as the hardcore RS has not yet arrived in South Africa. A power figure of 151kW and 280Nm for the GT is enough to pique the interest of any person who loves some exhilaration. The looks of the GT adds to this as the large grille, sporty styling and sharp lines make you believe that you’re going to be in for some fun.

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Step inside the car and you get even more amped, because you’re presented with some bucket seats and a stylish cabin with dark bits and chrome. A weird heart beat type of sound plays though the speakers as you enter, almost to tell you that this car means business. The fascia is modern and features a large touch screen system that allows you to operate media and even air-conditioning in the car. I still enjoy old school switches and nobs but if you’re tech savvy, operating everything via a touch-screen may come naturally. The GT features the 7-Speed EDC gearbox and is fitted with fixed gear paddles, the same as you would get in older Ferrari’s. Hmm. Start the car up and things get interesting. The car is very quiet, unnervingly so. I looked around for a “sport” button in the hopes of livening things up and voila, I found the RS button. This lets you choose different modes in the car via a system called MULTI-SENSE. Neutral, Eco,Comfort, Sport and Perso mode are available. In Sport mode, you would expect this to unleash some sort of animalistic side to this car, but all it does is sharpen things up as well as change the dials from blue to red.

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Acceleration in the GT is also surprising because the first half of the Revs are linear and then all of a sudden there’s an extra surge of torque. When all this happens, there is a strange whirring sound which is meant to be the engine noise and the gear changes are so quick, you realise often too late that you’re travelling at an illegal speed. Driving the car in Sport mode on a straight line is something I couldn’t figure out if I liked too much, because it’s not all that exciting. Earlier we spoke of how these cars appealed to the senses, yes my sense of sight was happy because it looks good, but my sense of hearing was hampered because the cars’ engine tone doesn’t sound glad to go fast. This messed with me. What about my sense of feeling? This is the GT’s redeeming factor, it handles very well.

The Megane GT features suspension technology called 4Control, which is a four-wheel steering system. At lower speeds, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front wheels to make cornering faster and nimbler. As you travel at higher speeds, the inside wheels corner the same direction as the front wheels, creating the feeling of a longer wheel base. This system ensures that the Megane GT handles like a beauty, which it does. The driving position of the car and the bucket seat quality is one of the best in the segment. The only thing I would get rid of are the fixed paddles, as it gets confusing to change up and down whilst cornering. And yes I know one shouldn’t be changing gears mid corner anyway, but I’m no racing driver and neither are most people who will buy this car.

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Personally, I enjoyed driving the Megane GT in the normal mode. As a quick daily commuter, you get more joy from it as a regular car than a hot hatch. If you divorce yourself from the hot hatch mentality the car sells you, you start to like it more. It’s firm but not back breaking, it has plenty torque for overtaking and it has enough space for you, your friends and shopping bags. The concept of a “sleeper” is always appealing, which is what I think Renault should’ve done with the GT. Take for instance the new Opel Astra 1.6T. On the outside it looks like a slightly fancier standard Astra, but underneath the hood there’s a quick engine that shocks you as you accelerate. With the Renault, you look at it and expect it to be a baby RS, but it’s not. It’s a quick Megane that handles well and looks very good. It’s not a snarling beast that you can hear from a distance like the older cars. We’ll have to wait for the new RS to fulfil those fantasies.

 

Lexus LC & IS updated models

20 years ago, Lexus (plural Lexii) were little more than dreary Toyota’s covered in a veneer of luxury which was clearly lost in translation. Very little was wrong with the products bar the fact that they made you feel old and miserable, because you and your grey shoes were not driving around in a German.

Since then, though, Lexus has come a very long way and now the average motorist will be hard pressed to actually find Toyota bits in a Lexus. In more recent times they even decided to have a performance division like the big boys, complete with a letter of the alphabet and shouty noises. The letter they chose was ‘F’ which can mean either fast or something else but regardless, the IS F, LFA, GS F and RC F gave the Germans a proper scare with their left-of-field design and stonking performance.

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The grey shoe brigade will no doubt be elated then at the news that not one but two whole new Lexii will be making their way to South Africa! One of them is already here, in fact. It’s the updated IS and it comes with a re-fettled face, now with standard LED headlights, as well as new wheel designs, new colours and interior finishes and a big, fat 10.3 inch multimedia screen. The engine line-ups remains the same which isn’t a bad thing and consists of the IS200t (180kW/350Nm) and the IS350 (233kW/378Nm). Both power plants are silky smooth and while the 3.5l V6 might feel slightly asthmatic on the reef, especially when pitched against its turbocharged rivals, its induction noise will have your hair stand up. This, of course, is incredibly important when on the daily toil…

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The second of the two, the LC is due in South Africa in the first half of 2017 and from the looks of things, we’re in for one cracker of a cruiser. Look at it this way – if ever there was a recipe for success, a 351kW N/A V8 motor, Lexus interior and rear wheel drive was that recipe. And if that wasn’t enough to touch you where you wee, just look at it! Hubba hubba. It also has a 10-speed transmission but that’s silly.

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There will also be a hybrid model with a similar setup to the RX450h but unfortunately/fortunately we will not be afforded the opportunity to save the earth one LC at a time.

Expect prices of around R1 million for Lexus’ SL/6 Series rival, although you can be guaranteed that it will be a lot more exclusive than those two.

Fiat Fullback: Can it cut it with today’s bakkie market?

Fiat Fullback Driven Review

Motorist Digital Magazine – Edition 08

That awkward moment when people ask you if you’re driving a Toyota Hilux, but your response is “no, it’s a Fiat”. This seemed to happen often whilst we had the Fiat Fullback on test, and the truth is that you can understand why people kept making this assumption. The side profile of the new Fiat Fullback does bear a resemblance to the iconic Hilux. People’s reaction to the realisation that this is a Fiat bakkie differed significantly though. Some were disappointed while others were intrigued, we, on the other hand, were more nervous than anything else.

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Knife to a gun fight?

The reason for this nervousness was because this car is in the ring with some fantastic heavyweights and naturally you want the underdog to win. With Toyota, Ford, Isuzu and Volkswagen dominating the market, can the same people that make the Fiat 500 produce something that can please the local Bakkie market? The thing about all the newer Bakkies is that they work well off-road, but it’s their on-road “car-like” personas that make them so popular. The traditional bakkie has been turned into a lifestyle vehicle, and we wanted to see how good the Fullback will do as an everyday car.

The Fiat Fullback is not an entirely new car though; it is very closely related to the Mitsubishi Triton. Although not SA’s favourite bakkie, it has proved itself as tough and reliable over the years. Styling wise the Italian influence works for the car as it looks modern and somewhat good looking. The interior is still more in tune with a pick up rather than a passenger car. The infotainment is pretty average, but so are most of the competitor’s systems too. As long as we can pair a phone and plug in a USB, we’re happy, and thankfully both were possible in the test unit we received.  The Fullback’s interior is large and roomy, and one would be able to fit some adults in the front and rear with ease. The ride of the car is also very good for on-road use, even with the rear unloaded, often you tend to bounce around in an unloaded bakkie, but the ride quality was quite supple in the Fiat and on par with the some of the big guns.

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The double cab gives you two options, a 4×2 with 100kW/324Nm and a 4×4 producing 131kW/400Nm. Both use a 2.5-litre turbocharged diesel engine; we had the latter at our disposal. The 4×4 has plenty torque and will no doubt not disappoint those looking for a powerful bakkie. The cars shortfall is the manual gearbox which is reminiscent of an old school truck. The gear changes really need some muscle to engage and when missed, the grinding noise makes you feel like you’ve failed at life. After a few days of understanding the way the car drives, it became easier to operate and more enjoyable as a result.

For those looking to get dirty, the Fullback is capable of climbing up and down rocky passes, as it has a 30-degree approach angle and a 22-degree departure angle. It can also travel laterally up to 45 degrees, so you can rest assured that the average city dweller who likes to go on excursions will be able to do so. The biggest question then with this car is why? Why buy this car over the competition? People buy the Hilux because of its reputation and the fact that you can generally get parts even in the most remote places. Others buy a Ford Ranger because it is the coolest bakkie hands down and it can still perform. The Amarok, on the contrary, is probably the best car-like bakkie you can get and even though it doesn’t sell as well as the others, it still has its place. An Isuzu buyer has probably grown up with KB’s in the house from an early age, so again we ask what makes the Fullback so special? Yes it looks good, and it’s comfortable, but unfortunately,  it’s not better than its competitors. In a segment where brand loyalty is probably at its highest, all we can do is wish Fiat the best with this car.  It’s not a bad product, but they will have to do much more to take on the best.

Prices:

Single Cab Petrol

:R 232,900

Double Cab 4×2

:R 402,900

Double Cab 4×4

:R 468,900

 

BMW 340i with the PPK pack

BMW 340i  Driven Review

Motorist Digital Magazine – Edition 08

When we first started our online magazine, we first did a section “Modded Monday”. This article is the same, but different.

Throughout the year we have sampled BMW’s fantastic 340i and love it.  It had the right power, the right feel of comfort and overall a brilliant vehicle for everyday use.  Now, we get to sample the car again, except this one is slightly modded.  BMW South Africa now offer a sound and power kit for the vehicle, which now has a new B58 inline 6-cyclinder motor and can be operated on, from your local dealer. Power jumps up from 240kw to 265kw and torque from 450nm to 500nm.  Now this doesn’t sound like much, but in the real world, it goes from a very fast and capable 340i to “do I really need an M3.”  Now before you fall off your chair, and rush to the comments section, hear me out…

The M3 is a fantastic, in fact, an iconic vehicle.  For road use every day the car does become challenging.  It doesn’t like being driven slowly; it urges you to explore the rev range and basically wants to get you arrested in every short burst.  The 340i with the PPK kit is just easier to live with on a daily basis. Yes, it still does 0-100 in +/- 4.7 seconds, but with its suspension setup and slightly less aggressive temper, I find myself wondering if this is not the perfect sedan in this guise.

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What got me thinking about this was the actual noise from the new M performance back silencer, yes this is from the standard PPK kit.  The noise is addictive and holding the vehicle in over run at just before 4 000rpm gives off a snap, crackle, and pop from the exhaust tips that’s sure to give your neighbours something to talk about at their weekly neighbourhood watch meeting.  I even got a message from my body corporate for “incessant revving”.  Standard feature on the PPK kit. The best one in my opinion.

In a world where most people want more performance, more sound and more kilowatts, BMW South Africa now offer something for the petrol heads who haven’t made the mental jump to spend over a million rand on their daily commuter. It’s the perfect midsize sedan with enough performance only to leave a car length between itself and its older brother, the M3 Sedan.  This was proved in a safe environment on Rivonia Road late at night.

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Pricing on the power and sound kit on the 340i is R 53 000 incl. VAT for the system with the carbon fibre exhaust tips and R 48 000 incl. VAT for the chrome tips and the kind people at Club Motors Randburg BMW very generously waivered the fitment charges of this fantastic system.  Question is, will this be an optional extra from the standard ordering guide as it should be?!

Mercedes-AMG GT updated range

We recently posted an article about the new Mercedes-AMG GT R setting a fantastic lap time around the infamous Nurburgring, well you will be pleased to know that the AMG GT R and other new AMG GT models have been added to the South African range.d304452

Apart from the Mercedes-AMG GT R Coupe, which produces a staggering 430Kw ( 576BHP) Mercedes have introduced two roadster models, the first being the AMG GT Roadster, which features the same 4.0 V8 powerplant but power is limited to 350KW(469BHP) which is 10kw more than the entry level Coupe model.

The second addition comes with the title of AMG GT C Roaster, the difference? Another 60kw, bringing the total power output to 410KW(549BHP). This model slips in between the lower powered AMG GT S which has 375kw (502BHP) and the newly released AMG GT R. The Roadster models also features slightly different designs from the Coupe’s, with the AMG GT C even more aggressively styled than its younger brother. Both models come standard with Nappa leather, the AMG performance steering wheel and the extra driving program entitled ” RACE”.16c822_003_d323397

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If your mind is a little flustered with all of the AMG GT variants, there are now five models in the range, listed below.

AMG GT Coupe – 340Kw (455bhp) – R1 776  000

AMG GT S Coupe – 375kw (502bhp) – R 2 142 600

AMG GT Roadster – 350kw (469bhp) – R 2 199 900

AMG GT C Roaster- 410kw (549bhp) – R 2 599 000

AMG GT R Coupe – 430kw (576bhp) – R 2 689 900

The practical choice: Suzuki Ertiga

The practical choice: Suzuki Ertiga.

Truth be told, there isn’t much in terms of appeal when it comes to people carriers. Cars that are built to fit as many individuals as possible normally look like taxis, and they’re often beige in colour too. Think of the Toyota Avanza, I haven’t seen a single one of them in any other colour besides beige and not once have I seen a happy family going on holiday in one. Instead, looks of fear and dismay are the expressions of occupants in an Avanza, purely because the taxi driver is normally attempting a life-threatening stunt.

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The smaller seven seating market is not one full of competition, though. If you were looking for something along those lines and you didn’t want the taxi driver stigma of the Toyota, you could choose a Suzuki.  The Ertiga is a car that can fulfil all your needs and the test car we received also happened to be beige. If I must be honest, when the car arrived at my offices I didn’t care much for it. The timing worked out that I had a fancier sports car with much more power at my disposal. Being young, you want to maintain a particular image, and the image of a crèche owner versus that of a successful businessman didn’t appeal to me. But it was only after a day of using all the fuel in my suave sports car, did the motor journalist in me kick in, and I did what all of us do…find the vehicle with the most amount of fuel in it. My personal car never has fuel in it because as mentioned, I am but a lowly journalist. So just like that, I had to swallow my pride and drive the Uber van.

Like any modern Suzuki, the Ertiga doesn’t scream excitement when you enter. What it does do is offer an ergonomically friendly setup. A radio that works easily, an air-conditioner that doesn’t require a degree and a Bluetooth system that easy to operate. After pairing up my phone and buckling in, I was set to find passengers, something the Ertiga needs for it to make sense. Naturally, I tried to find occupants that wouldn’t judge the fact that my social status had dropped immensely from the sports car driver to the delivery man. So I fetched my mother and siblings and off we went. The Ertiga’s 1.4-litre engine is not underpowered, but nor is it spritely. It’s around the middle where it’s just enough not to annoy you. It only has 70kW after all. The ride quality is as good as my couch, you don’t really know what’s going on under you, but you don’t care because it’s comfortable. Besides who wants to race around in a people carrier besides taxi drivers?

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The two most notable aspects of the Suzuki Ertiga is the practicality of the car and the fact that it runs on smiles and laughter. No seriously, in the week we had it, the car barely used any fuel. In fact, it’s so good on fuel I decided to park the sports car and use it every day because fuel savings over power win every day in the minds of cheap journalists. It’s not just journalists who think this way, though; the average person does too. This is where you see why this car makes sense for the person looking for its attributes. Some need a seven seater for business, others because of endless procreation. Whatever your reason is, surely you’ll want the car to be fuel efficient too. In the case of the Ertiga it’s fortunate to be more visually appealing than the Avanza, but maybe not as nice looking as Honda’s new BRV. The point we’re making is this, if you need the space and a measure of reliability at a reasonable price, the Ertiga is not a bad choice, it’s a practical one. You can also have it in another colour besides brown.

Prices:

Ertiga 1.4 GA: R189 900

Ertiga 1.4 GL: R215 900

Ertiga 1.4 GL AT: R231 900

The Mercedes-AMG GT R sets a very fast lap

The greenest car in the world has just lapped the ‘Green Hell’ in 07:10.9 minutes – that’s what us motoring scribes would call ‘very fast’ and I’m sure you’re all delighted by this news!

Many a motoring journalist will bang on about how useless Nurburgring times are to the everyday motorist, and yes that is the case for most, but there’s definitely no denying the gruelling test that this track puts cars through. So while Mr Discovery and Mr Vodacom won’t really notice the hundreds of man hours that have gone into the chassis, it’s still there and golly does it show should they decide to stray from the Sandton traffic and onto a circuit. After all, you’re not just paying funny money for a green jobby with an OTT spoiler. It all works, and well at that.

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So, thanks to its impressive aero, obsessive weight reduction and a stonking 430kW 4.0l turbo motor complete with dry sump lubrication and turbos nestled within the ‘V’, the AMG GT R has gone straight for the Porsche 911 GT3 RS’s jugular and smashed its Nurburgring time of 07:20.00.

The question needs to be asked, then. Which of Stuttgart’s street-racers would you buy, a thoroughbred, track-tuned Porsche – one of the last properly fast cars with an NA motor – or a rip-snorting brute from the folk who brought you best-sellers such as the A-Class and CLC! Either way, you need neither, but you’ll want both.

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Opel MOKKA X: In tune with it’s siblings.

To be honest, I was not the biggest fan of the previous Opel Mokka. There was nothing particularly wrong with the car; it just felt much older than the current offering by Opel, which is very technology driven. Opel’s recent rebranding has completely changed the face of the brand. Cars which were beginning to become irrelevant have all of a sudden become the some of the smartest and best looking in each segment they operate in. The Adam, for instance, is a car that rivals more premium products and offers even more features than its competitors. That is why when I first drove a Mokka a year ago, I felt underwhelmed because I had already sampled the new Opel’s.

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Upping the standard:

The updated MOKKA X looks similar to the first model regarding body shape, but the front end has been completely redesigned. The design language used in the current Opel Astra can be clearly seen on the car. Edgy lines make the exterior modern and more in tune with its siblings. The interior has also been revamped, adding optional nifty touch screen infotainment systems that can be integrated with an Apple or Android device with ease.  The seating position in the MOKKA X is perfect for a family orientated car, which it is. It also offers plenty of space bags, groceries and of course, babies. The rear 60/40 split also make it easy to load larger objects in the car, so it makes a great deal of sense from a practicality perspective.  As much as the car looks more like an MPV, Opel claims the car to be a compact SUV. The “X” in MOKKA X will be seen more in the future in other SUV models to be launched by Opel.

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Tech it out:

Opel has become famous for packing premium technology in cars aimed at the masses. Again this was seen in cars like the Opel Adam and Corsa. The MOKKA X now joins the team. Like the current Opel Astra, lighting technology is one of the most prominent changes in the car. The optional system features full LED beams that are adaptive and 30% brighter than the halogen system. The system is similar to that used in premium SUV’s, whereby it can selectively illuminate specific things. It also features eight different modes for whatever driving scenario you’re in. Features such as Tourist Mode, Country light and Town light make for a versatile system for long distance trips and city driving. When it comes to media, the top of the range IntelliLink system, available on the Cosmo derivative features navigation and Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto integration.

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Same engine, different models:

Throughout the entire range, the MOKKA X features the 1.4 turbocharged engine that’s been doing the rounds in some of the newer Opel’s. It features 103kW and 200Nm which can be selected in either manual or automatic for both the Enjoy and Cosmo models. The average claimed combined fuel economy of the range sits around the 5.9l-6.5l range between the manual and automatic. The responsiveness of the engine is more than adequate for the target market of this car. I personally preferred the automatic over the manual, something I didn’t enjoy about the previous Mokka. The power delivery is smooth and gear changes are clean and quick. Comfort levels remain very similar to the lower specification Enjoy with smaller wheels, versus the higher specification Cosmo with its 19-inch wheels. The Cosmo is definitely the more visually appealing model, but the Enjoy can also hold its own.

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As a whole, the refreshed Opel MOKKA X is a welcome improvement. The car is sharper concerning look and feel, and it offers great features that are functional for drivers and passengers. At a starting price of R317 500, it’s also great value for money. For that price, you get a five year 90 000km service plan as standard throughout the range. Well done Opel, your nose powdering should go a long way to impress current Opel customers, as well as attract new ones.

 

Pricing:  

New Opel Mokka X Retail price incl. VAT
MOKKA X 1.4T Enjoy 6MT R 317, 500.00
MOKKA X 1.4T Enjoy 6AT R 328, 400.00
MOKKA X 1.4T Cosmo 6MT R 357, 400.00
MOKKA X 1.4T Cosmo 6AT R 368, 100.00

 

New MINI too mature for its own good?

Up until now, nearly every single one of my pieces on here has been a review or repost of some sort mostly cars, occasionally tech. Today, however, I write a desperate plea, a plea which I am 100% sure will go completely unnoticed by the group of people to whom it is directed…anyway!

Cult cars – people love them.The Jeep Wrangler, the Volkswagen Beetle, Fiat 500, Land Rover Defender, Mini Cooper, every single Saab, ever – the list goes on. Some of these vehicles disappeared into the abyss, only to make a retro and snazzy comeback 30 years later, except for the woeful New Beetle, while some just carried on and on and on with a bit of plastic being added to the dashboard here and there. They’re great, all of them, and each ‘cult car’ appeals to a different type of person for various reasons.

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I am a huge fan of Mini’s, and I even have one. It’s black, and his name is Sebastian, and yes he may have been made by the German’s but anyone with half a motoring brain will realise that modern MINI’s are great. Well, sort of… The original resurrection of the MINI name by BMW in the early 2000’s was a shot in the dark for them, but couple German engineering with a cheeky brand identity and you’re sure to find success. Part of this success, however, is down to how great MINI’s are at many things – they’re cute, fun to drive and have loads of appeal.

The original new MINI, the R50/R53 was BMW’s first attempt at this, so they played it safe and borrowed bits from other manufacturers. It was nippy and little and rattled a lot but golly it was a sweet looking thing and reminded us of why we loved the original Mini so. Engines from Chrysler were probably not the best idea but huge success meant that the next model, the R56, would see more BMW and less…not BMW.

Horrendously unreliable, plasticy, expensive to maintain, expensive to buy and, not to mention, VERY unreliable were certainly not the reasons why the R56 was such a success, but nobody cared. And to this day, nobody cares and R56’s are still regarded amongst MINIacs as MINI’s hay day.

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Francisco drives one too, it’s also black, and we both love how boosty and unassuming our cars are. They’re properly quick and just the right size to be thrown around, gripping in the corners just like MINI’s do., with a throaty growl and street-cred to match.

But now we arrive at the bit where I beg and plead. In my opinion, the new MINI Cooper S is too soft. The F56 is fast and reliable and finally has a BMW motor so it won’t break but it’s so big and too refined and to be honest, nowhere nearly as fun as an R56. There’s very little about the F56 that’s actually MINI and it’s a shame. As an everyday car, it’s great but having recently had the new Fiat 500 on test, I found myself lamenting in the fact that the new MINI is just too much. It’s too big, too expensive and too much (I never thought I’d ever say this) of a BMW.

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The time has come for MINI to make the Rocketman Concept – a little runabout with a punchy turbo motor, cheeky looks and MINI handling, not 1 Series handling. The 500 with its grumbly two cylinder motor, diminutive proportions and the reasonable asking price is an incredibly sensible town car. If your name is Fiona and you run a florist. I certainly do not fit that description, though and look ridiculous in a Fiat 500, especially in the sort of blue your gran would describe as ‘soothing’.

So please, MINI, make us a manly and sensible city runabout?

McLaren 570S Track Day

We may have been a little quiet this week on the site, but that’s just because last weekend we had our first true Supercar, the McLaren 570s.

The McLaren, featuring a 3.8 V8 and producing 419kw with 600Nm of torque blew us away. You will find the full article in our latest edition of TheMotorist, releasing next week.( Subscribe here: https://goo.gl/eGRLic) For now, we have some fiery images of the 570s for you gaze upon. Have an awesome weekend. 20161127_samayres_14348-edit-2

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