Much hype has been made about the new Volkswagen Tiguan. This excitement is warranted though, because the car looks and drives amazingly. So far the car has won the Family Car award from Cars.co.za’ Consumer Awards. It is also a finalist for the Wesbank SAGMJ South African Car of The Year 2017, so things seem to be going pretty well for the new model. We’ve spent some time driving the models offered in South Africa during the launch, so we could confirm that the new Tiguan is indeed a revolution compared to the old car. There was nothing wrong with the model preceding it, but there was neither anything outstanding about it as well. A two day launch allowed us the opportunity to get a feel of the car, in order to report if it was good or bad. A month long test however helped us to better understand the true consumer experience of the new Tiguan. This is what Volkswagen gave us the opportunity to do during the month of December. As a result, we can highlight the following about the car:
It may not be enormous, but it sure is comfortable. The new Tiguan has been designed for those looking for space and comfort. Most compact SUV’s are comfortable when occupied by four people, but the new Tiguan seats five in such a way that there will be few complaints in the rear. For those extra long journeys, the foldable trays behind the front seats will come in handy, provided eating is allowed in the car. The leather seats are optional and come highly recommended as they are easier to clean and give the car a much more premium interior look.
Stares come standard:
Because Volkswagen is a favoured brand in South Africa, the new Tiguan is a car that attracts a great deal of attention. Much to our surprise, people from varying backgrounds and ages had questions to ask and looks to give. This is due to the completely redesigned exterior of the car. The added R-Line Package makes matters worse as the car will not go unnoticed. Often compact SUV’s look like knock-offs of their larger siblings, but in the case of the new Tiguan, the radical design changes that recipe.
Automatic is the way to go:
Most people looking to buy a new Tiguan have added space as a priority on their shopping list. This means that you may have a little one or three. This may also mean that traffic is a reality for you. If this is the case, we recommend you spend the extra bucks on the DSG derivative of the car. The problem with the manual is that it firstly requires more effort to operate and secondly, it tends to bog off the line which may cause unnecessary stalling. In all honesty, this somewhat annoying “niggly” is the only fault we can find on the car. Besides that, nothing negative jumped out during our four week test. As small as the engine is, the 1.4 litre TSI has enough power for both city and long distance driving, which is surprising considering the size of the car.
An excuse to road-trip:
An extended test of the Tiguan would not be complete if we didn’t take the car on a road-trip. Like most “vaalies” we did the 1500km+ trip to Cape Town from Johannesburg. This trip allowed us to use features like Adaptive Cruise Control as well as the Head-Up display, both optional in the Tiguan. The biggest highlight of this car on a long trip is the comfort levels. Despite the larger rims from the R-Line package, the long trip was not back breaking at all. The inclusion of the DYNAUDIO Excite sound system was also able to drown out snores from the passengers to and from Cape Town. It took a total of two tanks of fuel to cover the journey one way, which was very reasonable considering the size of the engine. The boot space was also more than accommodating. Having friends that don’t know what the meaning of “packing light” is, I was worried that my rear view mirror would be blocked by silly items during the drive. This wasn’t the case though as the 615-litre trunk swallowed up all the bags with ease.
Again, we cannot find anything to deter someone looking for a compact SUV from buying a new Tiguan. Instead, there is much to encourage a buyer to consider this car. What was once a more feminine car has been redeveloped into something even the most manliest men could drive with pride. The car maintains its premium feel inside and out, making it comparable to brands much more expensive to it. At a starting price of around R380 000 it’s also not financially out of reach for many. Therefore it comes as no surprise then that this car has won the hearts of many of those who have driven it. It’s a very good package, probably one of the best cars Volkswagen has produced in this segment. It drives like a slightly larger Golf but will fit more and do more. What more do you want out of a compact SUV? If it’s more power, but the 2.0-litre TSI. If it’s more efficiency you’re after, the 2.0TDI may do the trick, but overall the entire range has something that will keep you happy.
The first ever Porsche Carrera GTS was born in 1964, when Baron Antonio Pucci and Colin Davis won the famous Targa Florio race, spending over seven hours driving at the absolute limit. To win a race like this, a car needed to have the performance characteristics to succeed, but also the safety and comfort features for a driver to concentrate under such an environment.
Today, the GTS or Grand Turismo Sport Porsche, now represents a sportier driving experience. The GTS variant provides a more aggressive look and racier trimmings with an increase in power.
A few days ago, Porsche announced the latest GTS models to the 911 range. The Carrera, Carrera 4 Coupe and Cabriolet variants as well as the Targa 4, all have the privilege of the donning GTS badge.
What is the Difference?
All GTS models will feature more power, 355 kW or 450 BHP to be precise. This is 22kW/30BHP more than the 911 Carrera S. Along with the increase in horsepower, the car also has an increase in torque, with the GTS providing an extra 48Nm, bringing the total to 526Nm. This extra power enables GTS models to hit 100kph in under 3.5 seconds with PDK.
Further to this, PASM – Porsche Active Suspension System in standard on all GTS models. Apart from the performance benefits, PASM also lowers the ride height by 10mm to add to the GTS’ extra sportiness.
A GTS model would not be complete without the exterior elements. A black front-end spoiler lip, tinted rear taillights, rear grille strips in Satin Black and Gloss Black and different rear exhaust tips, separate a GTS model from the other 911 variants in the range. That’s not all; a GTS model also features 20 inch Black Satin Wheels, Sport Design mirrors and black GTS badges to complete the aesthetic appearance. On Targa models, the Targa bar is also finished Black Satin for the first time. It is also worth noting that the rear spoiler on GTS models now extends further, to provide aerodynamic benefits.
The attention to detail on the new GTS models go way beyond than before. A light or dark trim strip is present between the taillights to differentiate between rear wheel drive or all wheel drive models. Rear wheel drive variants feature the dark strip and all wheel drive has the light strip.
On the GTS, sports seats are standard with a combination of Alcantara and leather. This follows through with the rest of the interior, as the steering wheel is also finished in Alcantara, along with the gear lever and armrest. Anodised black brushed aluminium also plays a role in the interior design. Standard on the GTS is the Sport Chrono Package, with the stopwatch present on the middle of dashboard of the GTS’ interior.
In our opinion, the new 911 GTS variants look fantastic. The additional black elements are subtle, and the vehicle looks very sleek and clean in its appearance. As subtle as these changes may be, they give the model an extra edge over the other 911 models. The same follows through with the changes on the interior, it’s subtle, classy and beautifully finished off with a deep red tachometer. The “average joe” may look at this car and not realise what variant of 911 this is, but this car is not for the “average joe”. It’s understated as most Porche’s are, but for those aficionados who know what this model is about, they will understand what the GTS represents and will be able to pick it out from the rest of the range. Those who own the standard 911 may consider contacting their dealers soon before many models hit the streets, because as the old adage goes “jealousy makes you nasty”.
Nearly one month into 2017 and it would seem that Ford is off to a hot start. Having been around in South Africa for all of about 5 minutes, the Ford Mustang is already receiving its mid-life update and along with its rather sad new face comes a host of technologies and three new colours.
One of the highlights of the updated Mustang is its new 12-inch LCD instrument cluster. Offering various personalisation options and three separate views, it’ll surely appeal to the younger generation of Mustang owner as opposed to the older, die-hard fans. A vast array of driver-assist technology can now be had with your ‘Stang with features such as lane-keep assist, driver alert and pre-collision assist, making your prancing horse all the more aware of what’s going on around it.
If you hate the current Mustang’s speaker delivered engine note then you’ll be pleased to know that “a fully variable soundtrack to match the entire acceleration range” has somehow made a comeback. The engine note can be “adjusted” which makes no sense and an all-new active valve exhaust is optional on the Mustang GT, which does.
Ford SYNC stays and will probably work just as Ford SYNC always has and FordPass is now available which allows owners to start, unlock, lock and locate their vehicles at the swish of a smartphone.
MagneRide adaptive suspension can now be had with the Performance Package and improvements to the lateral stiffness and stabiliser bars along with new shock absorbers across the range improve handling.
To match the improved handling, the 5.0-litre V8 motor has been reworked and delivers more power and is more fuel-efficient thanks to Ford’s new dual-fuel high-pressure direct injection and low-pressure port fuel injection which delivers meaty low-end torque and high-rpm power. The 2.3 Ecoboost 4-pot puts out a little more torque thanks to some fettling of the overboost function.
The V8 Stang’s 6-speed manual has been completely redesigned, making use of a twin-disc clutch and dual-mass flywheel which increases torque capability and delivers more efficient modulation of the clutch. Automatic Mustangs now come with too many gears so while you’re trying to find the reason why you bought an automatic Mustang, at least the gearbox has enough time to decide which of its 10 ratios it feels like using.
New interior trims and finishes and slightly better build quality should give the Mustang a slightly more upmarket feel than before and if that’s not enough for you, it has a new key with a different looking horse on it. Innovation, you know.
The new Mustang goes on sale in Trumpland in fall, whenever that is, but judging by how long we had to wait for the last one, America might have a new president by the time it arrives in South Africa.
Nearly 6 months ago I sang the praises of the Opel Astra and while it was certainly one of the best of 2016, Opel South Africa thought it wise to remind us just how good the Astra really is. With COTY adjudication just around the corner, we were hosted at the world-class Kyalami Circuit for a morning of reminders. Firstly, we were reminded of how rich our motorsport heritage is in South Africa and just what an important part Kyalami played in this, and secondly, Why the Astra holds a 20% stake in its segment.
While this isn’t the praised Superboss of Mike Briggs fame and it’s unlikely that many Astra K’s will ever find their way onto a racetrack, it was comforting knowing that even when thrashed around this historic circuit, lap after lap, the Astra was able to entertain us with its polite handling and punchy motors. This just stands as testament to the impressive build quality and durability of this product. Great spec, an engine for everyone and spot on looks are the reasons the Astra, already a World Car of the Year winner, is a SA COTY 2017 Finalist.
I only have great memories of the Mitsubishi Triton. A while back, when living in the UK as a 17-year-old motorsport student, my father owned one. In England, the model is known as the L200. Ours was the Raging Bull Edition; it featured bright red paint, lots of chrome and Raging Bull embroidery on the door panels and seats.
My driving progressed quite a bit during the process of my father owning that vehicle. I went from learning to drive, to “ drifting “ it around roundabouts ( traffic Circles) with my college mates in the back during lunch time. Take “drift” with a pinch of salt, although the rear would come loose when RWD was selected. This shenanigans stopped after the front wheels went sliding with the rear on one occasion, lamp-posts became too close for comfort that day. We came very close to losing it, but never did.
Why am I telling you this story? Well, Mitsubishi has recently released a newly designed Triton, and reading up on the specs threw me back to 2009. The all new Triton features visual changes from all angles and although I like the updated tailgate, the front end of the Triton has yet to appeal to me, maybe this will change with time.
Tech and Interior
The new Triton comes with a nice standard spec list, which includes features such as Touch Screen Infotainment and Keyless Stop/Start system. Further to this, you can accept cruise control, dual-zone air-conditioning, reverse camera and leather interior. These are nice, but for the price of the new Triton, its expected as other manufactures operating in the same market offer the same.
Mitsubishi have aimed to give more space to the interior cabin by extending it by 20mm and improving shoulder room in the front and rear. Further to this they have also incorporated a higher density foam to increase seat comfort on long distance drives.
The changes don’t stop there; a new 2.4 MIVEC Diesel engine has been introduced, producing 133kw and 430Nm. Mitsubishi states that the engine weights 30kg less thanks to features such as an all aluminium block. It also provides much less vibration due to new mounting points. They also state that an upgraded turbocharger provides faster spooling and in conjunction with a lower compression ratio, aids a more responsive torque delivery.
Power delivery will be provided through either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic, with the choice of 4WD or 2WD (Drift mode). For the 4WD, power is delivered as a 40:60 split rather than the conventional 50:50 method. This apparently has many benefits, especially on gravel, which will be interesting to test.
The new Triton also has an improved power steering system, providing 3.8 turns of the wheel lock to lock, compared to the 4.3 turns of the previous model.
Models and Price
Fancy one? Four double cab models in 4×2 and 4×4 variants are available immediately, with either a manual or automatic gearbox. Other models will be available at a later date. Prices are as follows:
KIA isn’t the first brand which comes to mind when discussing performance cars and that’s probably due to the fact that their most sporty offering up until mid-January was the Koup. It’s lovely, but you won’t be taking on any 440i’s or Golf GTI’s anytime soon – it’s just not that sort of car. Desirability, I feel is something that KIA’s of old lacked, but as I mentioned in my review of the new Sportage, KIA are on a roll at the moment and very soon, KIA’s will become poster cars. Mark my words.
So it came as no surprise to me, then, when KIA unveiled the Stinger – an all-new model for them, set to take the fight straight to the BMW 4 Series GranCoupe, Audi A5 Sportback and the Mercedes-Benz CLS at a stretch. It’s big, bigger than all of those. It’s even longer than a Lexus GS and that’s…long.
The design team have certainly done their bit here – the Stinger is swoopy and swishy in all the right places and has a rakish stance, much like I’d expect its target market to have. These young, wealthy, vehicle-conscious and stylish beings will be pleased with the interior, too, which looks a lot like a Mercedes-Benz CLA…but who cares really? The whole thing oozes desirability but the deal-breaker with any snazzy Coupe sedan is the way it performs. You can’t have a car that looks like Heidi Klum but runs like Oprah.
Albert Biermann, ex-Vice President of Engineering at BMW M, has settled in nicely with the Koreans and his work has apparently resulted in a car that is properly good to drive. MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension are designed to let the driver know what’s happening and for the first time in a KIA, ride-damping and vehicle handling can be changed by the driver thanks to an electronically adjustable suspension – Dynamic Stability Damping Control. It has five modes which is a lot of modes, but judging by the engine line-up, we suspect the best on will be the fast one.
Still under development, the powertrains have to live up to the rest of the grand-tourer, too, so it comes as no surprise that they are both rather pokey. 190kW and 350Nm from a 2.0-litre turbo four and 272kW and 510Nm from KIA’s 3.3 Litre twin-turbo V6 Lambda II motor give you stonking performance – 5.1 seconds to 100km/h and a top speed of 270km/h. Vented Brembos are standard on the 3.3-litre model featuring 4-piston callipers up front and dual pistons at the rear.
The gearbox is fancy too and is an 8-speeder which makes use of aviation technology in the form of a Centrifugal Pendulum Absorber which helps reduce torsional vibrations through the drivetrain. The Stinger can be had as either an AWD or rear-wheel drive, the rear-wheel drive model coming with a proper mechanical limited-slip differential.
A vast array of safety features are available too, as expected in this segment, and a heads-up display, wireless phone charger, adaptive cruise control and optional Harman/Kardon sound system will keep the tech-weirdos happy.
There’s no word yet on local availability but should there be enough interest, don’t expect to see it on our roads before 2018.
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Gas flowing, or porting of cylinder heads, is viewed by most laymen as being more mysterious than the US foreign policy. What does it actually mean? How is it done? Does it even work? Of course, there’s no short answer. But hopefully, this article will serve to clear the murky waters somewhat.
The function of the cylinder head, and the inlet ports in particular, is to introduce air from the inlet manifold into the combustion chamber with as little restriction as possible, and hopefully take advantage of the velocity of the fast moving air in some way. The exhaust ports must do the same as they get rid of the burnt products of combustion.
Now, a mass produced cylinder head will have ports which are left “as cast”, so they have a rough finish and various casting flashes which will all cause a disturbance to airflow. They will also often be of a less than optimal shape. This is particularly true of the older designs like the Ford Kent Crossflow or cast iron Chev V8 heads, which have all sorts of undesirable lumps of metal in the wrong places. And you only need a brief glance at an MGB head to see that it’s about as free flowing as a blocked drain. So, with these older heads, it’s a relatively simple matter to remove the offending lumps, and gain a heap of airflow. This is normally done with a pneumatic handheld porting tool or die grinder turning at 5 or 6 thousand RPM, and is extremely easy to make a complete mess of, which would result in the cylinder head being chucked in the bin. For this reason alone, it’s worth leaving it to a professional cylinder head shop. Outfits which habitually do large numbers of the same heads might CNC mill the ports, but in this country, we never see these volumes, so it’s all done by hand.
Generally, after removing metal with an abrasive mounted point or tungsten carbide burr, the ports are polished with fine grit sandpaper, again mounted in a die grinder. The ideal finish of the ports is the subject of much debate – some tuners prefer to leave the intake ports slightly rough, and some prefer a smooth, almost mirror finish. Bench testing seems to indicate there is not much difference to airflow either way.
But what about the size of the ports? Does it make sense just to make them as big as possible before one goes right through the port into the water jacket? No. There is definitely an optimal size, based on the intended speed range of the engine, the capacity of the engine, the valve head size, the camshaft, carburation, etc. In fact, some standard ports are already too big, and more adventurous tuners have filled in these ports with special epoxies. The problem with very large ports is that gas speed drops as a result of the increased port area, and bottom-end power suffers. This may not be an issue in a racing engine which never goes below 4000rpm, but it certainly is in a road car.
The shape of the port is equally important. Material may need to be removed in some places and not in others. Generally one would try to “straighten out” the port as much possible, removing material from the roof of the port and leaving the floor more or less untouched. The area just below the valve seat, called the throat, is also important as it needs to accelerate the gases as they enter the chamber, taking advantage of the venturi effect caused by slightly reducing the cross sectional area of the port just before the exit into the chamber.
The valve seats are then cut using a specialised machine (usually known as a Serdi), giving it a smoother profile and a narrower valve seat which will aid gas flow at small valve openings.
The valve itself is also reshaped to aid gas flow – a particularly critical area, as all the gas must pass over the back of the valve. If one compares a typical valve from 20 years ago to a valve from any modern high-performance car, it is obvious how much development there has been in this regard.
So if all this works on older cars, does that mean it doesn’t work on newer engines? No, of course, it works; it’s just a bit harder, and the gains may not be as big. And if the application is totally different, for example, building a full race engine from a normal road car engine, then bigger valves and bigger ports will be needed to allow the engine to breathe at the higher RPM it will be operating at. There are some exceptions, like an E90 M3 V8, for example, which has big, beautifully-shaped CNC-machined ports, which most sane tuners wouldn’t dare touch.
Measuring the changes in airflow can be done using a device called a flow bench, which measures the flow rate of air through a port at a constant vacuum. It provides a useful yardstick, but is by no means a sure way of predicting the power increase, as the actual conditions in the engine are quite different to what is happening on the flow bench. For example, the vacuum in a combustion chamber is nowhere near constant. It’s also a very time-consuming exercise. And there’s always the infamous story, no doubt greatly exaggerated by now, of a 1950s works Jaguar Le Mans team, which measured each gas-flowed six cylinder head on the flow bench and obviously kept the higher-flowing heads for themselves, selling the others to the customer teams. Imagine their surprise when the customer cars turned out to be faster than the works cars down the Mulsanne straight! Back to the drawing board…
There are other aspects to gas flowing or modifying a cylinder head; one may want to impart a circular motion to the gas as it enters the combustion chamber which will aid cylinder filling. This is known as “swirl”, and is most often associated with 2 valves per cylinder heads.
Obviously, this subject could have several postgraduate theses written about it, so it’s only possible to lightly scratch the surface on these pages, but hopefully it’s enough to enlighten the average armchair enthusiast. Just don’t be tempted to get out your Dremel and start hacking away at your ports on the weekend…
A few years ago, I was the guy that your girlfriend thought of as a bad influence. Every social group has that guy Gary. The guy that gets everyone into trouble, takes you out for a beer and promises to have you home by 11 pm latest! Only to have you find yourself wondering why the door stopper is blocking your way to your bed of luxury, the couch, so loving prepared by your significant other.
Fast forward that to the prime of my ‘responsible age’, my early thirties, and I’m the guy now that your wife wants you to be. I help around the house; I give FANTASTIC foot rubs, I watch romcoms. Yes, I’ve now matured to Responsible Richard, the guy your mother and spouse adore. That, though, has not translated into the cars I prefer driving. We go through a lot of vehicles here at TheMotorist, and I have been “type-cast”, so to speak, when it comes to what keys end up in my hands.
Fast forward to one sunny winter morning when Samuel says, (insert English accent here) “Mate, you have to try this car out. It’s perfect!” Now, knowing that Sam’s perfect and my perfect are sometimes opposites, I was not too excited about sampling Audi’s new family rocket, the RS6 Avant.
Look, the RS6 is, and will always be, a rapid car, but on my first outing in this “family wagon”, it honestly hit me square in the chest with its enormous power, 412KW to be precise. What it doesn’t do is warn you of what sort of beast it is, and I blame modern advancement in sound-deadening and built quality for that. The cabin is so quiet and so well-built and finished that you can’t whisper, mumble or sneak in a comment about your friends Carla and Steve, who organised the lunch you are driving to, without fear that your toddler, Sarah, will repeat your glowing remarks about how they got you out of your fat pants and into chinos on a cold, winter Saturday afternoon. So inconsiderate.
It blows you away in that it can swallow your family, your luggage, the mother-in-law and your roof box with such ease that I kind of get the “perfect car” story from Sam. I do wish it was louder, though, as the quiet exhaust note from the 412KW, 700NM, 4.0 litre TFSI motor is throaty enough, but the way that this car reels in the horizon, I would have appreciated a reminder from the drain pipe size tail pieces that jail is for criminals, and not for well-heeled drivers who don’t know that they are way above the speed limit.
The rest of it is typical Audi: spacious, top-notch and beautiful bucket seats that give that classic “sit in” and not “sit on” feeling. The dynamics of the car are that of a bullet train on rails. Throw that chassis and a well-known road (without the kids and the Labrador of course), and you will be surprised by your entry and exit speeds from corner to corner. Try a little bit too hard, and the nose will push wide, giving that famous under-steer scrub, but then again, if the front-end is pushing, you are driving way too fast on public roads. I would have loved to see what this car would have done in a safe circuit environment, but I had to give the keys up to the other kids to sample this thundering German. Responsible Richard to the rescue.
There lies the line that is being blurred by these family movers with supercar engines nestled in their noses. You will find yourself happily doing the school run and the monthly grocery shopping in the RS6, but when the mood takes you, and you have a group of young boy racers on William Nicol wanting to show you what their modified hatchback can do, simply obliterating them from standstill (did we mention that this two tone family car does 0-100 in 3.9 seconds?!), and see what their faces look like at the next set of lights. Is their need for a conventional supercar?
What I love about this car is that, drive it like a sane human being, and it’s a standard Avant with all the modern conveniences that you would expect, bar the claimed 9.8l/100kms. We got an average of 13.5 litres, but then again, the hooligan in us came out every time we found some empty tarmac. I sadly must say that I agree with Sam. It is the perfect car. It has space, the looks, the enormous boot and enough get-up-and-go to embarrass most sports cars. The only fault of the new RS6? It’s not in our parking lot!
NAMIBIA. A place few in population but vast in space, a location which holds some of the largest sand dunes in the world, it’s an eye opener to the new visitor and it’s definitely a location that should be included on anyone’s bucket list, it has always been in mine. Apart from cars, landscape and adventure photography has always a great passion of mine and over the past year Namibia had moved itself up on my bucket list to somewhere in the top 5. So When Francisco called me and asked if I would like to attend the Isuzu launch in Namibia I got very excited, he already knew my answer. The original plans intended on us staying in Namibia for one night, but that would not do for me. I arranged to remain in Namibia for a further two nights so I could get out into the open and explore this great part of the world.
Isuzu would be providing accommodation for the first night, but after that, I would be on my own. I went and purchased an incredibly cheap and pretty useless two man tent, so small that I could not lie down flat inside it without stretching and busting the seams. It might also worth noting that I’m only 167cm tall, it may fit two men wide, but the only person lying down in that tent was a sall child. Good job I didn’t plan on spending much time at all in inside it.
The plans were for me to stay the night at JHB airport and fly out with the other Journalists the next day, which I did. Isuzu put me up in the “ airport hotel “ which I was fairly impressed with and got a goods nights rest. The next day involved the usual, an early rise, an easy check in and pass through JHB international security. The first issue I encountered was the small plane, no I’m not a nervous flyer. It was more the fact that I was lugging two camera bags onto a 40 seater plane with overhead storage so small I would struggle to fit my lunchbox in it. It was amusing to see the flamboyant air steward trying to force close the door, nearly bringing down half the ceiling fascia in the process. I opted to keep the drone on my lap, if the paper plane did go down, at least I would die with my memories.
Looking out the window when Coming into land at Walvis Bay International Airport emphasises the vastness of this land. For as far as the eye can see, it’s sand, with the odd little town coming into view as your eyes adjust and pick out the details. The first treat of this trip was unexpected one as we taxied, looking over the wing we noticed an unusually looking plane. After some consultation with the other guys, we realised that this was a legendary ER-2 high-altitude aircraft, used by NASA for atmospheric tests. An awesome sighting indeed, we even watched this machine go from standstill to airborne in somewhere around 400 meters.
After a few minor issues at the airport, such as a fire and loss of luggage, we were greeted by the Isuzu team and finally on our way. We partnered up and headed down the dusty road in the brand new Isuzu KB 300; this vehicle was the top of the range spec, apart from suspension updates, all the other updates to this vehicle are purely visual, the drivetrain options remain the same. The KB 300 features a 3-Litre turbo diesel producing 130kw and a meaty 380nm of torque. The facia changes to the KB include a newly designed bonnet, radiator grille and front fog lamps. New projector headlamps conclude the changes to the front of the vehicle, with LX models featuring LED daylight running lights. The updated design continues to the rear of the vehicle with an updated rear tailgate, and the introduction of a reverse camera integrated into the tailgate handle on LX models. The LX model also gets updated 18″ alloy wheels, with the rest of the range receiving updated 16″ alloys. Interior changes the same throughout the range with an updated instrument cluster, gear change indicator on manual models to help keep the planet green and finally, roof mounted rear speakers.
All in all, these little changes make a considerable difference and produce a refreshed KB. Heading along the dirt road to our first stop at the Swakop riverbed, it was easily noticed that the KB had a great ride and handled the terrain well. This was most likely due to the time and effort Isuzu has put into refining the suspension on KB models, 4 x 2 models receive updated front and rear dampers with the 4×4 models just getting changes to the rear dampers. Isuzu has refined the rebound control of the damper, which is when the damper is on the down stroke after being bumped or compressed up by a bump or road surface. The dampers primary job is to control the suspension spring and the speed in which it reacts, an integral part of a suspension system.
Dune Driving Day One.
We soon arrived at the tempory white marquee set up near the riverbed before our first exploration. After restoring energy levels, rehydrating and a fantastically exciting briefing, we lowered tire pressures to 0.8 Bar and headed off into the unknown, for the instructors and tour guides, it was their back garden.
It was a fairly easy route with small and moderate climbs and descents, the path through the riverbed twisted and turned as massive dunes towered on either side of us. This run was to help us find our “sand feet”, it was pleasant and an extremely enjoyable drive until we finally stopped off at one random pipe sticking about 1 meter out of the ground. A few meters behind the pipe were the remains of an old truck, mainly the steering column and suspension lay rusted and half buried in the sand. The story goes that in the 1970’s, a team came here to drill for water, the truck broke down and they left, never to return to collect it. It takes around 8 seconds for a mere R1 coin to hit the bottom of the pipe, making it roughly 170m deep! After the break, we swapped drivers and headed back the way we came, although I recognised nothing.
The evening ended with us checking in at the beautiful stand hotel which looks over Swakopmund beach, Along with everyone else, I still not have my luggage. Isuzu were fantastic at this point as they had arranged fresh clothes, deodorant and toothbrushes for all, even thought the lost luggage had nothing to do with them. We settled down for a hearty meal, banter and some good conversation before grabbing an early night; we had been told that the next day would be fantastic, 8 hours in the dunes, how could it not be?
The next day we rose early, full of anticipation and excitement. A quick breakfast with the team, a change of vehicles and we hit the road. We headed through Walvis Bay and-and onto the beach where we stopped and again, dropped our tires pressures to 0.8 bar. Stretched out in front of us was miles of beach, it was a very gloomy morning with lots of fog and soft light, adding to this was the 3-foot left-hander wave running peacefully just off the shoreline. It was all very surreal.
30 minutes later we were still tearing up the sand as we pelted across the beach, a line of Isuzu bakkies seemed headed for nowhere, every now and again the odd seal would sit up and screech as we passed. The heat of the sun began to burn off the mist as we headed closer to our destination. Slowly coming into view were the sand dunes we would soon be attempting to conquer, one of the only places in the world where sand dunes meet the ocean and man, it was beautiful. The morning light hit the dunes and turned the sea blue as we headed closer, as a photographer I’ve seen many beautiful sights, this was definitely one of the best.
The convoy came to a quick stop with dunes on the left and ocean waters on the right, many have been caught out here by the rising tides, causing them to be trapped and vehicles consumed the ocean. Nature doesn’t play games. As we carried on ploughing through the sand, the beach opened out and in the distance was an Isuzu bakkie, ready and waiting with cold refreshments before we started to sweat. The excitement was in the air as we stared on at the dunes we would be facing, small jackals could be seen climbing the steep sands. They made it look easy, would the Isuzu KB do the same?
No more child play and the speed hole.
There was no easing into this day, we turned off the beach and straight into a sharp drop with a steady, long accent which needed all the momentum we could muster. A few of us got stuck here, not realising the brute force sometimes needed. This style carried on for a while, steep accents followed by very steep descents. The Isuzu handled it well although we were told that it’s not about the vehicle, but the driver. This was my first experience off road dune driving and it amazed me at how aggressive one needs to be, we were informed to feed the throttle and use every ounce of power the 3Litre Diesel produced. Today made yesterday look as natural as a child making sand castles, more challenges lay ahead. Being here really helps to realise the beauty and sheer scale of the Namib desert, this is a place where appreciation for 4×4 systems rings true, it still blows my mind the things that man and machine can conquer.
If you asked me what was their highlight of my time with Isuzu, I would reply with a few simple words “Speed Hole”
After a few hours of negotiating drops and climbs, we pulled up on the top of a rise and jumped out of the vehicles, the view in front of us was what could only be described as a huge desert shaped breakfast bowl, steep on the sides and incredibly deep. Another briefing came, this one was a little more interesting. ” I’m going to give you a rollercoaster experience” was some of the words mentioned. The aim : drop down and climb up the other side of this huge sand bowl, We were all offered the opportunity to give it a go and the instructor gave us a demo. The Isuzu KB Charged up to the entrance of the speed hole at full tilt and entered the decent. Once on the decent it’s all about power and momentum, at no point during this do you even slightly back off the power. They say when the vehicle reaches the bottom of the hole, it is easily doing three figures on the speedo. The daunting bit comes when the vehicle enters the climb, speed slows dramatically and the throttle stays pinned. You hope and pray that the Isuzu keeps momentum and continues over the crest. You do not want to get stuck, be the one guy who left a brand new Isuzu KB in the bottom of a hole in the Namib desert, there is a very thin chance of vehicle recovery.
Not many attempted this feat, I was nervous, more to the fact that I didn’t want to be “that guy” especially on my first launch with Isuzu. I knew if I left the Namib desert without completing this task, I would be extremely gutted. Time was short; I teamed up with Andrew, we agreed he would do the run one way, and I would return. To this day it was one of the coolest things I’ve done, the speed, G-force and sense of accomplishment is a feeling I will hold onto, besides the fact that you feel like a badass and that you are part of 5% who had the gonads to do it.
Back to Deserting
The trip carried on, climbing and descending sand mountains, One of the warnings we had in our briefing was about cornering too quickly. Due to low tires pressures, there is always a risk of the tire leaving the rim. This happened to one certain Isuzu man, who merely sat back and chuckle as he proceeded to tell the team it was a good job they practised this procedure before hand. The off-road team quickly rectified this issue, and we were back on our way.
There was only one point in the trip where I got really stuck, 3 times. I don’t know what it was. Apparently I wasn’t using the “full power “of the vehicle. Well unless the other Isuzu’s had more travel in their accelerator pedals, that was not the case. It wasn’t even that steep, a steady accent with thick sand and at this point we had moved into low range mode. I feel I was too close to the Isuzu in front and could not build up enough momentum for the climb. I finally got out of the mess and enjoyed catching up with the rest of the crew, it was a benefit in disguise being left behind for a short while as I got to enjoy the path head, uninterrupted at a good pace. My partner and I had some fun moments when we needed to decrease speed quickly because the a sharp drop appeared out of nowhere. Visions of the Dakar rally filled our minds, well Dakar rally wipeouts. As good a car the KB is, I don’t think it was built or designed to slide across the sand on its front end.
As the day draws to a close and we could see a simple white tent in the distance the dunes progressively got smaller but more enjoyable, a few occasions came about with the rear of the vehicle sliding out during a cornered decent. The bigger dunes were great to tackle but the smaller ones are more technical and can be taken at a greater speed, which is also very fun.
On any adventure trip like this, there are always going to be a few challenges, apart from the time above when we got stuck, there were a few other challenging times. For me, I like to see where the vehicle is going, the path ahead, you could say. On steep descents you cannot see the dune below or where it flattens out until you have committed, it’s nice to plan ahead but this wasn’t always possible, and it takes a little faith in the vehicle to push over the edge and continue with the decent.
Another challenge was to remember which way the wheels are directing the KB in, when in the heat of the moment your attention is drawn away by other things such as the surroundings and the challenge ahead. At a quick glance it may seem the wheels are straight but more often than not you may find that you are a full wheel rotation away from the wheels facing straight ahead. This can affect you badly when out in the dunes as the front wheels scrape and sand builds up quickly in front of the wheels which can cause the vehicle to get stuck. It’s important to keep some attention on what you are doing with the wheel.
The 4×4 experience was over, and it was time for me to part ways with the team, I picked up my hire car and headed out on my lone wolf mission. I would spend two nights at Spitskoppe, a beautiful campsite surrounding a mountain a few hundred KM’s away from Swakopmund.
These two days were spent photographing and videoing the vast landscapes and impressive night sky; it was during a new moon period which means the sky is extremely dark and the milky way shines brightly. This was a fantastic two days but can be a little lonely during the hot days, as there is not much to do. There is so much to see and experience in this part of the world; I experienced only a very small part of what Namibia has to offer and will be heading back. It’s a vast land with friendly people and it feels very safe to head out and explore. Many companies offer 4X4 Hire with endless camping equipment, if you have the chance to go, don’t hesitate, spend a good few weeks taking in everything this land has to offer.
Overview – The Isuzu KB
Overall the small changes to this vehicle make it a good upgrade, Apart from the NB 300, Isuzu has the NB 250, which is also a Turbodiesel producing 100kw and 320Nm. Also available are two workhorse models. The 250 Base Single Cab and 250 Fleetside Single Cab producing 58kw and 170Nm
I like to think of the Isuzu KB as a workman’s bakkie, it’s a workhorse, but it is not too fancy or luxurious like you might find in a Ranger Wildtrack, for example. It’s a solid vehicle, looks great and does the job. A big advantage to the KB is that it comes with Sat Nav, it’s a little finicky to use and has a terribly annoying speed warning system, that is deactivated when Navigation is not in use. Thank goodness.
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Of late, the term ‘Swede Speed’ has been used more than Oral B in a nunnery but let’s not forget what the polar-neck brigade are best at…Swede tweed.
Ever since conception in 1915 as a ball bearing manufacturer, Volvo has become a by word for left of field design and superb quality. In 1927, the first Volvo rolled out of the factory in Gothenburg and straight into a wall of bricks. Not really, but if you were to ask anyone what Volvo is known for, they’d say safety, comfort and Swedish design. Safe and suave, then, are the reasons we like Volvos and while the general consensus is that Volvo’s are for yummy mummies, anyone who can look past that perception will know that it’s difficult to find a more rounded motor car. If you’re not getting my ball bearing puns by now then that’s your own fault.
The Volvo XC90 when launched in 2002 was an instant success because it blended all the things people like about Volvos with seating for 7 and a shocking GM 4-speed gearbox. And despite the aforementioned gearbox being very woeful, the original XC90 is still in production today in China because it’s that good! It’s also very old, though, which is why the rest of the world grew bored of the XC90 with sales dwindling for a few years before the new XC90 rolled in. And boy did the XC90 roll all over its competitors, sweeping up countless awards internationally, one of which was South Africa’s prestigious Wesbank Car of The Year 2016. Well-priced, impressive looks and great standard spec are all things that we at TheMotorist love about the XC90 and following its local success, Volvo Car South Africa think it’s time for the Range Rover to roll over…
The Volvo XC90 Excellence is now available in South Africa and you’ll be pleased to know that they have been inundated with an order. Yes, just one. Volvo promises one of the most luxurious models in the brand’s 89 year history and they’re probably right. It’s kitted out with everything bar a toaster and a swimming pool and is offered exclusively with the T8 Twin Engine powertrain. Snazzy kit includes ‘distinctive cup holders’ which feature heating and cooling, individual and fully adjustable, heated, cooled and massaging rear seats with footrests and little tables in the backs of the front seats. Special champagne flutes are also thrown in and are fashioned from the same Orrefors glass as the gear knob – something which I’ve always wanted in a car.
Power comes from a 235 kW, 400 Nm supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder Drive-E petrol engine and is fed to the front wheels through an 8-speed transmission. The rear wheels are connected to a 65 kW, 240 Nm electric motor which allows for all-wheel drive should you feel the need to go off-roading in your lounge. Total output is an impressive 300 kW and 640 Nm which will be sure to propel you and your gear knob flutes with grace and pace to 100km/h in a brisk 5.9 seconds! All this while returning a claimed fuel consumption of 2.5l/100km.
As with any Volvo, a vast array of safety features comes as standard. ABS, EBD, BAS and HAS are some of the three-lettered delights thrown in for nothing and it’ll even drive itself up to 130km/h. The City Safety autonomous emergency braking system also caters for large animals and all isn’t lost should they be riding a bicycle in front of your moving Volvo. The XC90 is so safe, in fact, that it received a 97% score in its Euro NCAP crash test for adult occupants and 87% for child occupants – best in its class.
The features on this XC90 pretty much matches the spec of a Range Rover L Supercharged SVAutobiography, yours for a cool R3.6 Million.
So what does all of this Swedishness cost, you ask?
Oh, R1.5 Million.
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