Month: July 2017

Mercedes-Benz S-Class Facelift

Mercedes-Benz S Class

Mercedes-Benz S-Class Facelift

The mac daddy of the large, luxury sedan segment has always been the Mercedes-Benz S-Class with its pioneering ways and exceptional comfort. Seatbelt pretensioners, airbags, ABS, EBD, voice recognition, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, night vision cameras etc, were all seen on the Mercedes-Benz S-Class before almost any other vehicle and so it came as no surprise to us, then, when the current W222 generation S-Class blew its competition out of the water with innovations such as Active Body Control, which scans the undulations of the road ahead and adjusts the suspension accordingly, a 50% aluminium construction and seatbelt airbags for the rear seats.

Mercedes-Benz S Class

As with any vehicle, however, there is always room for improvement and as the world advances, so does vehicle technology. While changes to the W222 generations S-Class might not seem too drastic, there are certainly enough changes for us to stand up and take notice, so here are a few of the highlights!

An all-new engine range
Consisting of six and eight-cylinder motors, the new engines have been developed to allow for electrification of the powertrain. Six-cylinder diesel and petrol motors benefit from an in-line arrangement, much like you’ll find in a BMW, with impressive outputs across the board. The S450 produces 270 kW/500 N.m from electrified and turbocharged straight six petrol motor and the S400d will have an impressive 250 kW/700 N.m from its straight-six diesel motor – the most powerful diesel car motor in Mercedes-Benz’s history. The S560 has outputs of 345 kW/700 N.m from its all-new BiTurbo V8 petrol motor, and also makes use of cylinder deactivation to reduce consumption and emissions. A plug-in hybrid with a range of 50 km is on the cards, along with technology which we first saw from Audi in the form of a 48 volt electrical system.

Autonomous Driving
Somewhat of a buzz-word at the moment, autonomous driving is the bowl of pudding that every brand would like a spoonful of. Some are doing it better than others, but we can all rest assured that Mercedes-Benz are undoubtedly one of the brands, along with Volvo, who are at the forefront of this. Top-of-the-range S-Classes will benefit from ‘Intelligent Drive’ which works hand-in-hand with Distronic and Steering Assist to provide further assistance to the driver in maintaining a safe following distance and remaining within their lane. The system also adjusts vehicle speed ahead of intersections, traffic circles and bends.

Mercedes-Benz S Class

Multibeam LED
An update of Mercedes-Benz’s already brilliant adaptive headlight system, this allows for over 1 Lux of light to be transmitted over the road when conditions permit, providing a clear line of sight in low-light conditions for up to 650 metres. Surface Scan also works in conjunction with headlights, recognising road bumps and curve inclination.

Energizing Comfort Control
Perhaps a gimmick, this allows for the smell, climate control, seat massage and ambient lighting functions to be adjusted to suit your mood. I’d be intrigued to find out what angry smells like but alas, it isn’t one of the modes offered…

Mercedes-Benz S Class

Three torches of light
In top-spec models, in conjunction with the Multibeam LED headlight system, three torches of light make up an interesting design element within the headlight cluster. These are what we usually refer to as Daytime Running Lights or “DRL’s”.

Amongst all of these features, one can also expect visual changes such as enhanced bumpers and headlight clusters, a new steering wheel, different trim, wheel and paint options and different pricing. The updated S-Class goes on sale in South Africa in the fourth quarter of 2017.

The New KIA Picanto

KIA Picanto

New KIA Picanto Driven Review

To many, the big and burly Range Rover Sport SVR currently in my basement is the ideal “dream car” with its high driving position, head-turning looks and thunderous soundtrack to accompany all 405 of its force fed kilowatts. However, the idea of running around in it on a daily basis is somewhat terrifying when one considers the indicated 42 l/100km fuel consumption figure I managed between my apartment and the highway. That’s not a typo – 42, as in 21 + 21 ….

KIA Picanto

It is at this point then, that I start to hear the murmuring voice of sensible John in the back of my head, reminding me of usable power and practicality and realistic blah blah blah. The fact of the matter is this – YOU DO NOT NEED A RANGE ROVER FOR YOU AND YOUR GYM BAG!

This brings me to the KIA Picanto, the sensible bastion of all things small, frugal and good valuey. “You made that word up” shouts a font of knowledge in the background, and yes, I did, but it’s done as much harm as KIA has by packing sturdy build quality and appealing design into the all-new Picanto – none! From the not too radically different exterior design to the interior consisting of materials bordering on premium, the entire package is a master class in the sub-B Segment and proves that you don’t need to spend silly money on a stylish and “nice” car that will get you and some things from A to B, wherever those A and B might B.

KIA Picanto

Rather cleverly, we were forced (yes forced) to drive the previous generation KIA Picanto to Philadelphia (in the Cape amen) where we would then exchange the old for the new, a back-to-back comparison if you will. Immediately, it was noted that the tactile quality of everything has improved drastically. Add to this the impressive NVH( Noise, Vibration and Harshness Technology), especially for this segment, and mature road manners and what you have is, by far, the best car in its segment. Interestingly, it’s boot is just 1-litre smaller than that of the Hyundai Grand i10 which competes in the segment above, and KIA are hoping that with competitive pricing and the good old “bums in seats” principle, they are going to capture some of that larger B Segment.

The motor lineup remains unchanged with the 1.0-litre (49 kW/95 N.m) and 1.2-litre (61 kW/122 N.m) petrol motors still the only options, although some fettling and tweaking has been done to further improve what are already perfectly suitable motors. South Africa might be lucky enough to see a little turbo motor somewhere in this Picanto’s lifetime, too… The 1.0-litre variant wasn’t available on the launch, but the 1.2-litre 4-cylinder motor was more than capable of hauling the snazzy little KIA Picanto around the streets of Cape Town and around the Cape Countryside.

KIA Picanto

Pricing is hugely competitive (R134 995 – R195 995) and makes one wonder why some of the competitors have similarly priced or more expensive products with worse quality and specification, although KIA’s have always been known for their lovely standard spec offering.

Four models are on offer – Start, Street, Style and Smart, and the cheapest model still comes standard with Bluetooth connectivity and a driver’s airbag. No ABS, however…
Mid-range vehicles receive other wonderful luxuries such as ABS, electric windows and another airbag and those with not so much money but the urge to splurge get foldy mirrors, a 7-inch touch screen infotainment system, leather here and there and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, amongst others. There are also three automatic models, which can be had in Style trim with a 1.2-litre motor or 1.0-litre motor and Start trim with the 1.2-litre motor.

KIA Picanto Pricing in South Africa

Picanto 1.0 START Manual –    R134 995
Picanto 1.0 STREET Manual –  R149 995
Picanto 1.0 STYLE Manual –     R159 995
Picanto 1.0 STYLE Auto –          R172 995
Picanto 1.0 SMART Manual –   R179 995

Picanto 1.2 START Manual –   R150 995
Picanto 1.2 START Auto –        R163 995
Picanto 1.2 STREET Manual – R165 995
Picanto 1.2 STYLE Manual –    R175 995
Picanto 1.2 STYLE Auto –         R188 995
Picanto 1.2 SMART Manual –  R195 995

BMW 7 Series Edition 40 Jahre

BMW 7 Series Edition 40

BMW 7 Series Edition 40 Jahre

The number ‘7’ in the Bible represents perfection and wholeness. I’m sure when BMW first made the 7 Series 40 years ago, they took that into mind due to the fact that the 7 Series is what BMW calls perfection and have never faltered on that principle. Now fast forward 40 years ahead – BMW celebrates their iconic flagship car in making the BMW 7 Series 40 Year Edition and it is dripping with luxury, driving pleasure and innovation.

Let’s start with the innovation part. Over the years, BMW has assumed a pioneering role for technological innovations that ultimately enhance driving pleasure. To give a few examples: the first 12-cylinder engine in a German post war automobile (1987); the first integral navigation system in a European production car (1994); the premier of unrestricted internet usage inside a vehicle (2008) and more. With all these innovations, you would think BMW have a time machine and go back and forth in time stealing future designs to enhance the 7 Series.

“What does this car do differently then?” you might ask.

Well this 7 Series has laser light headlamps, which help increase the range of the headlamps to as far as 600 meters! In plain English, that is roughly 6 soccer fields put next to each other. Amazing!

The 40 Year Edition 7 Series will be available in South Africa exclusively as the M760Li xDrive derivative. It’s a car, then, for the ballers to climb in the back and recline and think about their millions and for the bodyguards to fight over who rides shotgun. 200 units have been made and South Africa is only receiving 5, the M aerodynamics package, high gloss Shadow Line and 20-inch light alloy wheels will come as standard.

BMW 7 Series Edition 40

To top all of this exclusivity off, it only comes in two colors: Petrol Mica metallic and Frozen Silver metallic. With various color combinations on their Full Merino fine-grain leather trim offered, you can only expect that the seats are more comfortable than your bed at 6am on a cold winter’s Monday morning. The fascia finishes are crafted from the finest wood to bring the luxury level to its optimum.

BMW 7 Series Edition 40 pricing in South Africa

Now, there are more options available but these will be released to the brave souls who can stomach the cost of this precious beast. Here in South Africa, the car will set you back some R3 085 900 and should be available in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Jaguar’s XJ Range updated and includes a 300 km/h performance model.

Jaguar XJR575

Jaguar updates its XJ Range in South Africa

The Jaguar XJ has been with us for quite some time now, but not many would notice this due to fact that it was mostly overshadowed by brand conscious consumers seeking the gratification of the Germans and their brands. This by no means meant it was terrible rubbish, in fact quite the opposite, as it took a quintessential British “Jaaag” like approach to the typical Luxury salon. The XJ was a far more than just an interesting prospect for the clean cut suit types that could afford the house-like pricing that it occupies.

After some time on the market, Jaguar has brought about the updated version with changes both to the dynamic elements, technological and safety updates.

Jaguar XJR575

 

The MY2018 model that will arrive later this year will feature changes to the infotainment system with a 10” touchscreen with high definition graphics and user interface, that when specced with the Touch Pro system offers door-to-door navigation, IOS and Android connectivity and 4G Wi-Fi connectivity.  The TFT instrument cluster now offers full-screen navigation and a customizable setup. Externally, the changes include full LED lighting and unique ‘double J-Blade signature’ day time running lights. The optional Black Pack offers enhanced exterior styling cues including blacked out grill and trim pieces. In the interest of luxury and offering the right product for varying consumers, the XJ is available in both Short and long wheel bases.

Jaguar XJR575

The overall safety in both passive and active assistance systems has also undergone some changes, with the addition of Adaptive Cruise Control with Queue Assist, Reverse Traffic Detection, Blind Spot Monitoring, 360-degree Camera Systems and semi-automated parking being added to the options. The All-surface Progress Control traction system has to be revised in the interest of keeping in times with technological advances, with the control of traction and throttle in slippery surfaces now becoming automated, requiring only directional inputs from the driver. Further assistance includes Forward Traffic Detection, Lane Keep Assist, and Driver Condition Monitoring, which is able to identify lapses in steering activity followed by sudden or excessive inputs from the driver.

Jaguar XJR575

XJR 575

The flagship performance model will be replaced with the more powerful XJR 575. The 5.0-litre supercharged V8’s power output having been enhanced to 423 kW and 700 N.m. These figures are enough to blast the XJ to 100 km/h in just 4.4 seconds and all the way to 300 km/h.  Available in just two bespoke SVO or Special Vehicle Operations colours, the XJR will be identifiable by the either blue or grey paint. Performance orientated enhancements include the rear spoiler, black front air intakes and side-skirts. The XJR 575 badging and twin bonnet louvres also help to remove from the image of the standard model and hint as to the vehicle’s sporting prowess. Standard fare are the 20” Farallon gloss-black wheels and red brake callipers with the interior receiving diamond quilted leather buckets, embossed with the 575 logos finished in the choice of either black or white.

Jaguar XJR575

Luxury, Premium Luxury, Portfolio, R-Sport, XJR 575 and Autobiography models will be powered by the same range of petrol supercharged V6 and V8 and engines with varying outputs and displacements. The 3.0-litre V6 will offer 250 kW, with the V8 offering either 375 kW or 423 kW in the XJR. Fans of the oil burner will have the option of a 3.0-litre V6 diesel, with 221 kW 700 N.m.

Alternatives

The XJ faces off with the highest standard in premium luxury sedans with the likes of the BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Audi A8 providing stiff competition. The other less mainstream alternative is the Lexus LS460

Jaguar XJR575

Jaguar XJ Pricing in South Africa 

Prices start at R1.13 million and climb all the way to above the R2 million mark for LWB top spec models.

  • XJ Luxury – R1,132,300
  • XJ Premium Luxury – R1,627,500
  • XJ Portfolio – R1,925,400
  • XJ R-Sport – R1,854,500
  • XJR575 – R2,524,500
  • XJ Autobiography – R2,713,100

The Chevrolet Lumina SS Ute – the Australia-American love child.

Chevrolet Lumina SS Ute

Chevrolet Lumina SS Ute Driven Review

Fewer things scream “Merrrica” more so than the fabled V8 motor. Large, boisterous and incredibly charismatic, all combined with the warm fuzzy feeling you get inside, knowing that you have very angry and deaf neighbours. This is the stuff of petrolhead dreams, in theory at least. The enormity and thirst of a V8 in a country like South Africa is a rather silly notion to the average person. This primarily due to the underlying fact that at around R12.86 for a litre of 95 unleaded, it’s rather hefty on the pocket. More so if you have the joys of 16l/100 km while driving your noise machine around town. But nonetheless, the V8 is simple, uncomplicated and rather cool.

So what happens when you combine a 6.0-litre V8 shafted from a Corvette and another uncomplicated thing, the ute, or half-ton bakkie to you and I. This sounds like a rather ponderous mess, but GM didn’t think so when they introduced the Chevrolet Lumina SS UTE, as a performance variant that cost far less than the typical German alternatives. Years later, I have finally sampled this machine in its final SSV rendition and have managed to compile some rather interesting thoughts.

Interior

This is by no means the best element of the bruiser, as it does consist of materials found in far cheaper cars, but the list of standard features is comprehensive, like the standard touchscreen radio with iPod/USB/Mp3 and Sav nav. The two power leather buckets are rather well bolstered and the list of safety and convenience features is long and inclusive. Auto-lights and wipers, Cruise control, six-airbags and storage behind the two front seats.

Driving Impressions

The V8 Swansong is where this big-ol’ girl comes to life, even cruising around town, you are constantly reminded by this deep rumbling baritone of whats lurking under the bonnet. A generous 6.0-litres, good for 270 kW and 530 N.m, all of these horses driving just the rear wheels, and after much searching, in the configuration of the test car, a ‘stick shift’, enough for a 6.5 second robot dash and a rather un-bakkie like 240 km/h. When driving spiritedly, the Ute is incredibly accomplished, both as a bakkie and more so as a proper full-cream sports car. The V8 provides very linear and constant power all the way to the red line and doesn’t really feel like you are standing on a bomb that explodes and vomits power at your spine, but instead a sustained machine-gun fire, it’s still rather good at ‘killing you’ so to speak. Silly metaphors aside, It’s quick, period. The steering is good, but feels strangely numb and is not the greatest at communicating the direction of the tyres, but does the job fairly well.  The brake pedal did get a bit soft when really pressing on, even with the 335 mm Brembo vented-discs hidden under the 19-inch chrome drug-dealeresque wheels. Getting this car to behave is the tricky part, turning off the driver aids is like strapping yourself to the tail of an excitable shark, eager to turn around and show its digestive tract. The rear end skids about and powerslides are initiated at the slightest touch of the loud pedal and the sheer brutality of the torque lets you pin its giant haunches way out there in fantastic hero like slides. It’s a complete laugh, and you’ll marvel at the amount of fun you can have and just how quickly it humbles many a 2-seater sports car.

Final Thoughts

The SS Ute could only be a product of a country that really loves beer because simply it makes no sense what so ever. Two seats, a thunderous V8 and all in all, a bakkie that can take corners far too quickly for most and makes rather rubbish drivers like myself look like DK’san himself Keiichi Tsuchiya, in mammoth smokey skids. Realistically, I think this would grow tiring, because the best consumption figure I managed was a rather high 11 l/100 km on the freeway in top gear, and the owner tells me the rear tyres are down to the steel belting after a rather scary 40 000 kms. This is a silly car; it would cost you more money than an aggressive cocaine habit and is just as likely to kill you.

Chevrolet Lumina SS Ute Pricing in South Africa

Early 5.7 models start from as little as R140 000 and range all the way up to R550 000 for the later facelifted  6.0 SSV.

 

The MINI Countryman Diesel Arrives in South Africa – We Drive It!

MINI Countryman Diesel Driven Review

The new MINI Countryman launched in South Africa earlier this year and TheMotorist team attended that launch, we even shot a video on it, and we were very impressed with how the Countryman had grown up.

Not just figuratively either, the New Mini Countryman is bigger, smarter and overall, much more family orientated. Historically in South Africa, all MINI variants, Countryman or otherwise, were only available in petrol derivatives. Well now that has all changed, with the introduction of the new MINI Countryman Diesel. There is better news, we managed to get behind the wheel of the Countryman D and find out what it is all about.

MINI Countryman Diesel

Is this a bold step for MINI? Maybe, but from where I was sitting, I think it is a very good step indeed. The MINI Countryman Diesel still possess everything the MINI brand is about, it not only looks ‘cool’ and has a great road presence, it also feels ‘cool’ as well. The interior features that typical MINI style with the large central interface with bold designs and colours, which is further emphasized through lighting effects. The technology is present as well with the MINI Connected system which enables the owner to access the vehicle’s location, its fuel level, how far it has been driven, and even send destinations to the navigation system, all from a mobile app.

This leads me onto one point I love about the MINI brand, whether you are a young singleton looking for a sporty 3-door hatch, or a growing family needing more space and size, you don’t need to compromise on style in exchange for practicability. In essence, the MINI Countryman has those same attractive elements, such as the young and hip feel which draws you to a MINI Hatch, just in a bigger package. Diesels don’t have to be boring, and the Countryman D is everything but.

MINI Countryman Diesel

As one would expect, when behind the wheel there are many similarities to the petrol variants of the Countryman, such as driving dynamics – it handles really well and has minimal body roll, but there is one big difference. The Countryman Diesel is so effortless to drive, it’s wonderfully quiet and quite noticeably smooth. It implores you to take it easy and dwell on the money saved thanks to it’s sipping of fuel – 4.0l/100kms to be exact.

Don’t get me wrong, it many certainly be able to handle itself like its petrol siblings, but this isn’t the MINI for a sporty or performance minded individual. It’s 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel produces 110 kW and 330 N.m and while these figures are decent, it is also a big car. There is a good kick of torque from pull off and in the lower RPM range which enabled decent in gear acceleration when cruising, something this car feels like it was built to do.There is little point of searching the higher RPM range of this car because little will be found, most of the power and torque is found lower down and the 8-speed automatic gearbox, which is a pleasure, makes great use of this.

MINI Countryman Diesel

The MINI Countryman Diesel does feature the various MINI driving modes, Green, Mid and Sport. The latter gives better throttle response, slightly sharper steering and a host of visual elements such as lighting and dials. Personally, I mostly enjoyed the Countryman Diesel in the Green mode, elements such as the throttle and steering are relaxed and even more fuel saving features are introduced such as a coasting feature which drops the transmission into neutral. My personal feeling is that this MINI is better suited for this mode, if we were driving a JCW on the other hand, that would be a different story.

Who best suits this MINI?

As you may know, the Countryman is a good option for young families and also buyers who are already in the MINI brand but are looking to size up for whatever reason, without losing the MINI Appeal.

This still stands with the MINI Countryman Diesel, the difference is that with for example, the Cooper S, there is always the option to have a spirited drive when the kids are not around. The Diesel does not give off that appeal, it’s  kind of sensible all the time. It would be a fantastic choice if you’re adventurous and love long coastal drives to Cape Town, or maybe you travel fair distances to work and want to reduce fuel costs, you could even possibly just prefer a diesel engine over a petrol. You can tick any of those boxes without having to choose the usual ‘boring car’. The MINI Countryman Diesel is your answer.

MINI Countryman Diesel

If, on the other hand, the Countryman makes plenty of sense with what it offers, but you still want to have a spirited weekend drive through the Midlands on the odd occasion, or you take fancy to exploring the higher rev ranges and driving pleasures that a petrol engine can offer, head for the Countryman Cooper S. If you want all of the above and more, the 171 kW Countryman John Cooper Works is also now available.

 

VW Golf R & GTD First Drive.

Golf GTD

Golf GTI’s older brother and new sibling driven

The GTI is and will always be the star of the show. The “Vrrrpah” phenomenon was started by this very vehicle. It’s quite peculiar then the actual flagship of the Golf range doesn’t have as much street cred as its younger sibling, to non-car folk. Heritage comes a long way and that’s something the GTI has as an advantage. Those three letters have been engrained in our hearts and minds from a young age. That being said, everyone respects the Golf R and what it represents – a four wheel drive hatchback that can stick with some interesting cars that are more powerful. The Golf R has been a success locally and South Africans will be happy to know that it too has been face-lifted, giving it a more pronounced look and sharper design. Although subtle, the entire refreshed Golf range makes you forget that the 7th generation has been with us for a while. Making us forget even further is the addition of a new variant, the GTD, a sporty diesel version that is loved overseas. Let’s take a look at what’s changed and most importantly answer the question, “Can a diesel Golf really be exciting?”.

Golf R

Golf R:  The looks and drive.

The Golf R has always looked menacing. The updated model now has a different LED light design in the front and rear, as well as a more “smiley” bumper construction. The added black gloss bits are a big differentiator between the old car and the new one. The overall look is pleasing but falls on the slightly softer side compared to the previous car. The wheel design has also been changed, making keen observers look twice as the vehicle drives by. On the inside we have a stunning optional infotainment system to play with, fitted with Navigation and Apple CarPlay. The mind has to get used to not having a volume knob but rather touch sensitive icons to adjust how loud your music is, something you’ll be doing a lot if your car is fitted with the DynAudio sound system. Another new feature is the Active Info Display which gives us a digital dashboard, something all new cars seem to be coming with recently. The most important feature for Golf R lovers is not the trimming but rather the engine. Power is up to 213kW from 206kW giving the car some added oomph and excitement. As much as the GTI is the star child, the R is in a different league in terms of performance. All its power is exploitable, giving the driver confidence that other cars can’t. Since it uses the 4Mototion system, it has no problem getting up to speed, so much so if you’re not careful, you’ll easily break the law without realising. Being a car that uses all four wheels when needed through a haldex system, the car provides massive amounts of grip. If you respect it around corners and don’t come into bends at ridiculous speeds, you can easily power out of corners aggressively without any drama. Overall the car is properly fast, safe and exciting whilst still maintaining a sense of composure about it.

VW GOLF GTD

Diesel hot-hatch, really?

Experiencing the GTD after the Golf R shocks the system at first. You almost need a palate cleanser to remove any expectations from the mind. When that is done, you can begin to appreciate what the GTD is, a diesel Golf with the GTI chassis. It only produces 130kW and 350N.m, but together the pairing is delightful. There is no DCC mode in the car so I can’t change from Comfort to Sport mode, it’s just a matter of sticking the DSG gearbox into Sport and riding the torque. On long stretches the GTD reacts like any old diesel, but it’s when things tighten up that you enjoy the constant boost. In town the power-train is also very useful, always ready to give you the torque when you want it. I can imagine the GTD being the car that is bought by the percentage of Golf buyers who previously owned a 2.0 TDI but wanted more. The appeal is understandable and the decision to bring it to SA soil is justifiable. A VW crazy country like ours will have a place for this car.

VW GOLF GTD

The recipe that works:   

At the end of the day what makes the Golf so popular is the fact that it’s not small. A young family can easily own a Golf and not feel compromised. The GTI has always fused two worlds together and the Golf R takes that fusion to another level. The GTD is a total spanner in the works as it has such a different appeal yet still manages to pull at the heart strings. The biggest issue people are faced with is the cost of new cars in general of late. With a sticker price of R507 700 for the GTD and R647 000 for the Golf R, these are not small amounts at all. Looking at the competition however, you’ll see similar figures. For many looking at a Golf R, the likes of a BMW M140i may be an option as well but it all boils down to preference in the end. Soon we’ll put the M140i and the Golf R head to head and weigh up what comes out on top. One thing is for sure, the Golf is a worthy rival, a car that punches way above its weight.

VW GOLF GTD

 

Golf R & Golf GTD Pricing in South Africa

VW Golf R: R647 000

VW Golf GTD: R507 700

Mercedes-Benz debuts their double-cab X-Class bakkie

Mercedes-benz X-Class

Mercedes-Benz X-Class released

After much anticipation, the cover has finally dropped off the Mercedes Benz X-Class double-cab bakkie. The focus of the X–Class is heavily on the combination of luxury and utility, all in a leisure focused package. The global launch held over the past two days revealed styling that was more conservative to that of the rather handsome concept model and covered the crucial details regarding the bakkie. The X-Class shares its base with the Nissan Navara – the underpinnings are the same and feature a car-like multi-link coil suspension setup, which proves for an improvement in ride quality over the traditional rear leaf spring setups found in the rest of the segment.

Mercedes-benz X-Class

The Mercedes-Benz X-Class will feature a high level of customization to create a level of individuality, suited to the needs of its owners.  Three trim variants will be offered, the top spec Power Line, the Progressive line and the Pure line, which offers a greater focus on specific elements such as utility or luxury, and thus are more catered to the uses of the individual consumers.

Powertrain

The X220d will be the entry level model, powered by a turbo diesel 2.3-litre engine that delivers 120 kW and 403 N.m, driving the rear wheels only. The X250d and X250d  4Matic both share a 140 kW/ 450 N.m bi-turbo version on the same 2.3-litre engine, driving either the rear wheels or all four. Later, a turbo diesel V6 will join the line up as the X350d 4Matic, the top spec model offering a healthy 190 kW and 550 N.m driving all four wheels exclusively. The transmission choices will be either a 6-speed manual or an optional 7-speed automatic.  A choice between one of five driving modes via a Dynamic Select toggle allows for Comfort, Eco, Sport, Manual and Off-road configurations to be selected.

Mercedes-benz X-Class

Interior

The level of equipment will be comprehensive with the Mercedes-Benz X-Class being a dubbed “the Mercedes amongst pickups”, the cabin is well appointed and includes an integrated command Online multimedia infotainment system, with voice control, smartphone based internet access and Satellite navigation. The lesser Audio 20 USB and CD systems are also available. The infotainment units are controlled by the same floating display found in the passenger cars.  Live traffic updates are communicated through the integrated SIM card and the Mercedes Me Portal account. The seats can be optioned with leather, electronic control and heating and offer ISOFIX attachments in the rear.

Mercedes-benz X-Class

Safety

The list of safety equipment is equally impressive as the X-Class offers 7 airbags, Active Brake Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Trailer Stability Assist, Traffic Sign Assist and Tyre pressure monitoring systems. The use of high strength steels also ensures the strong passenger cell and deformable front and rear sub structure are able to help reduce the effects of forces on passengers during accidents.

4×4 Toys

The higher spec 4Matic models come standard with a selectable or permanent Four-wheel drive system, offering low range and optional diff-lock on the rear axle. DSR or Downhill speed regulation is also standard on the 4Matic models. A 28.8-degree approach and 23.8-degree departure angles help to provide for sufficient clearance when off the beaten track with a ground clearance of 202 mm at the front and 221 mm with the optional raised suspension.

The X-Class hits European markets in November of 2017, with us South Africans and our ‘mates’ the Aussies only getting the X-Class in 2018.

Mercedes-Benz X-Class Pricing

South African pricing is still unknown at this point, but as an indication the European prices starts 37,294 Euros, which for the sake of context is less than the 40 995 Euros needed for a base VW Amarok with a V6, let’s hope the South African pricing is just as competitive.

 

We drive the updated BMW 4 Series

Updated BMW 4 Series Launch

Mpumalanga is known by many for a variety of reasons, it has vast greenness, a large canyon and is the home of the Kruger National Park. This location then, might seem like a strange location for a sports car launch, but what many people may not know is that Mpumalanga is also home to something else, great driving roads.

These great stretches of twisting and turning tarmac are fairly pivotal when testing a car built for sporty driving. I was excited, the thought of putting the updated BMW 4 Series through it’s paces for the day didn’t seem too shabby at all…

The updated BMW 4 Series doesn’t receive a major host of changes, rather small elements which come together in an all-round better package. This starts with the headlights, featuring a hexagonal design for the day time running lights which surround the LED beams. Rear lighting is also upgraded and is now an LED system, with both updates giving the BMW 4 Series a slightly sharper appeal. One will also find minor changes inside the cabin which spruce up the executive feel, helped along by three new upholstery colours and interior trim strips to choose from. The biggest change would be the optional navigation system which has the same interface as the BMW 5 and 7 Series’, large style control pads feature on the screen to control different elements, with each one receiving live updates and information.

Driving

Lined up outside Nelspruit airport were an array of BMW 4 Series in a variety of colours and engine specifications. The vast majority of the fleet were either 420i’s or 420d’s in Convertible, Coupé and GranCoupé form – as these are likely to be the most popular models. There was one 440i convertible glistening in the sunlight in the new Snapper Rocks Blue colour – an exclusive for the 4 Series range. My driving partner and I decided that we would not run for the 240 kW/450 N.m 440i, but we ended up with it anyway, so the roof went down, the neck heaters went on and off we went.

The first thing you will notice about the 440i compared to the other 4 series models is the noise, it purs on idle and growls under acceleration. It’s not mind blowing, and it certainly doesn’t compete with the Audi S5 in the volume department, but this doesn’t mean it’s not nice, because it is, especially when coupled with the sport auto gearbox with gives a delightful thump on the upwards gear change.

In terms of performance, the 440i is comfortably fast. It provides beautiful, linear power throughout the rev range and it feels very controllable. A big selling point for the 440i is that it can be driven easily and comfortably on the morning drive to work, but has enough in the tank to provide bucket loads of fun on the weekend – it’s definitely the middle ground if you’re looking to buy an M4, but your other half  says no.

As one would expect, the 440i has plenty of grip and gives confidence in the corners. The driver can really lean on the outer tyres when cornering without the worry of being spat out and sent tumbling down the side of a mountain pass. It’s not as sharp you might think though. Being the convertible model, it’s aimed more towards comfort than performance and does not receive the suspension upgrades that the Coupé and GranCoupé have.

After 200 km in the 440i, we swapped vehicles and jumped into a 420d Coupé for the remainder of our drive. Automatically, you may think that the 420d is the boring model in the range, aimed at the fuel economy enthusiast who drives miles everyday. While the latter may have some truth, it is certainly not a boring car to drive. It produces 140 kW and a mighty 400 N.m of torque which gives it some fantastic low down grunt. The power does fade after 4 000 rpm, but your aim isn’t to beat land speed records in this model, it’s to have a comfortable, quiet and economical vehicle in the guise of a sporty, stylish and tech savvy 4 Series. That being said, if you come across a twisty section of road, there is no doubt that you will have plenty of fun. As mentioned, the Coupé models have received suspension upgrades which give a sharper, more dynamic feel, especially across the front end.

Also sitting pretty at the launch was the updated BMW M4 in Competition Pack form. This model receives updates as well, with the adaptive full-LED headlights coming as standard, along with full LED lighting for the rear. Further to this, the BMW M4 also features the technology upgrades mentioned earlier, which are available across the range.

Overview

Although only minor changes, the updated BMW 4 Series range definitely offers a better all-round package in terms of style, comfort and performance. The 4 Series was a great car to begin with and bringing it up to date with the latest technologies was all the TLC it needed for now.

The 4 Series has a broad range with the 420d, 420i, 430i and 440i models all available, meaning that there is a good offering for a wide variety of people who may be interested.

Alternatives

Audi A5 – The updated Audi A5 launched earlier this year and offers a fantastic all-round package, as well as a great range of engines. It is definitely the more stealthy option, but does lose out a little on driving dynamics.

Mercedes Benz C-Class Coupé – Arguably, it may not compete when it comes to looks or style, but it does have driving comfort tucked firmly under its belt and years of Mercedes-Benz experience under the shell.

BMW 4 Series Pricing in South Africa

Coupé and GranCoupé 

420i – R604 794

420d – R639 300

430i – R692 992

M4 – R1 227 376

Convertible

420i – R718 250

430i – R831 476

M4 – R 1 441 302

 

Nissan Navara Driven Review in South Africa

Nissan Navara

Nissan Navara Driven Review

The South African double cab bakkie market is easily on of the most tightly contested vehicle segments in SA, with South Africans being one of the largest fans of the utilitarian aspects of being able to lug around nearing one tonne of payload and three times that via a tow hitch.  This has allowed the top contenders, in the form of the Ford Ranger and Toyota’s iconic Hilux to constantly shift in the realm of 3 000 units each month, both over 3 times that of the third and fourth placed Nissan Hardbody and Isuzu KB.

This is overall contrasted with tough economic times, that have resulted in the underlying fact that the utilitarian aspects come with the typical bakkie bouncy ride, noisy diesel motors and cramped rear seats that are not ideal traits for the every day, especially since the second daily small car is fast becoming a dream. The packages are improving in line with this shift to more of an everyday usage focused vehicle, but still hindered by the use of load-friendly leaf spring set up, in all but one – enter the new Nissan Navara. Understanding this fluid use of the vehicle that mainly encompasses traffic jams rather than the extreme off-road expedition, Nissan engineers have ditched the traditional bakkie setup for that of a more driver friendly multi-link coil over set-up.

This has set bakkie aficionado’s up in arms, with the general consensus being Nissan ruined the Navara. Admittedly after getting very well acquainted with the bakkie, I must share, that they have indeed ruined the Navara, ruined the choppy ride, ruined the rough engine and ruined the ‘old school’ feel of the bakkie, all gone and replaced with a modern cabin, and a versatile package. The Navara is incredibly good at the everyday ‘leisurely’ activity that is traffic, driving to and from work and even gravel roads. The ride is easily the best in class, better than even the exceedingly German VW Amarok.  

CABIN

The interior of the Navara is incredibly well-appointed with standard features on SE models including a touch screen Sat Nav system with CD player, AM/FM Radio, AUX, USB and Bluetooth connectivity with steering mounted audio controls. Top spec LE models get leather interior, electric & heated seats, keyless entry and start, reverse camera, rear PDC and LED daytime running lights.

Nissan Navara

The interior is upmarket and comfortable. It feels comparable to a premium SUV rather than a bakkie and offers very good space front and rear, the level of standard spec is really impressive and does a good job of helping you forget about the bakkie roots. It’s incredibly refined and cancels out wind noise, vibrations and harshness – easily class leading in this aspect

DRIVETRAIN

Powered by a twin-turbo 2.3-litre engine that has 140 kW and 450 N.m, it’s happiest when cruising along at freeway speeds. Overtaking power is good and the low down torque from 1 500-2 500 RPM offers incredible tractability and in town, builds speed very quickly with little effort. The only complaint is the noise when overtaking as the engine does get a little loud when pressing on, but this is a very small gripe. The claimed fuel consumption figure of 6.5 l/100km is rather optimistic with a best of 9.1 l/100km in the combined cycle being more realistic. The 7-speed Automatic is also smooth and feels like a good match to the engine, although some adjustment must be made when cruising as the gearbox will often gear down when accelerating with anything other than ¾ throttle, even when you don’t intend on such, likely more orientated to accommodate 3.5-ton towing capacity.

Nissan Navara

4X4 TOYS

The new Navara is again class leading in the approach and departure angles offering 33 degrees, on the former and  27.9 degrees the latter. Ground clearance sits at 226 mm, which is impressive but may be hampered by the standard side steps. Low range, diff-lock, and selectable 4WD are standard fair and the electrical goodies like hill ascent and descent control come with the territory.

The New Navara is an incredibly good bakkie and with a starting price for R514 900 for the Double Cab 2.3 SE, offers very good value for money for those not overly focused on the bakkie aspects of the vehicle.  The range will expand later to include other offerings but at this point, the pick of the bunch is the top spec 2.3 LE 4×4 Auto.

ALTERNATIVES

Top sellers in the form of the Ford Ranger in its 3.2TDCI D/Cab XLT 4×4 guise – R588 900 the 2.8GD-6 4×4 Raider AT Toyota Hilux – R576 400, are the most direct competitors, but the most “car like” offering and possibly the most direct comparison would be the VW Amarok D/Cab BiTdi 4Motion Highline Auto – R590 600, as it offers the most comfortable ride and most leisure orientated cabin .

 

Nissan Navara Pricing in South Africa

2.3 SE 4×2 ManualR514 900

2.3 LE 4X4 Manual  – R565 900

2.3 LE 4×4 AutoR584 900