Month: November 2017

Mazda MX5- RF: Best weekend car, worst weekday car.

Mazda MX5-RF

Mazda MX5- RF Driven Review

Weekend vehicle:

Definition: “That car that makes you forget about all your problems and dependants for a period of time, preferably early mornings when the kids or the wife is asleep.” TheMotorist Dictionary

Let us begin…

“Ah, two seats, low center of gravity, a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre engine and a targa top roof. What more could you want” was just one of my thoughts, as I eagerly awaited the arrival of Mazda’s MX5-RF. I’d heard great things about this car and after driving it, I’m here to tell you why it may be the perfect weekend car for someone on a reasonable budget.   

From the outside, the MX5 is a looker. It’s low, features a long front end with sharp striking details such as shark-like headlights and grille. Add the meteor grey paintwork to it and it really does look sublime and sporty. It’s near perfect for a  South African Sunday summer drive. Affordable sports cars are a rarity today, so there’s not much to compare the MX5 RF with, hence why it’s difficult to call it affordable. R532 800 may not be a cheap, but it’s cheaper than what you would pay for one of its few rivals. In fact, it’s over R100K cheaper than a Fiat 124 Spider.

So it looks the part, but what makes it extra special? It’s funny, what makes me love it on the weekends is what makes me dislike it during the week. Let’s start with the obvious – it’s small. I’m not what you would describe as a tall person, I am actually on the shorter side of life (as much as I hate to admit it). I am also pretty youthful at 25, and my BMI is probably in the normal range, depending on how much time I’ve spent with my colleagues. Still, getting in and out the MX-5 is a mission, partly due to how low it sits from the ground coupled with the tight interior cabin. I found myself panting as if I haven’t kicked a soccer ball in years each time I had to get in. So then, getting in and out of the car, is a maneuver you probably don’t want to be doing at least twice a day. Doing this everyday of the week, in bad weather, when your back is sore, or when you are late for work is not going to leave you feeling thrilled. On a very bad day, this entire procedure will just make everything worse, a “straw that broke the camel’s” back scenario could easily ensue. You may not strike the nearest person to you, or quit your job out of anger, but you will make use of many expletives and remember why your wife said this vehicle won’t work.  

Once you have finally acrobatically seated yourself, the cabin is rather snug too. It’s not particularly comfortable either. What it is though, is very engaging. You feel “at one with the car” At least that’s what the brochure of the vehicle says. This feeling maybe not be what you want to experience everyday of your life. Traffic is traffic, so it’s rather pointless feeling like you’re in a go-kart if you can’t do anything about it. The interior storage space is also fairly limited, there is a cubby hole in the centre and behind the seats. In order to use the rear one, you need the neck skills of an owl. I also didn’t know where to put the key, my wallet and even my phone, thus wedging them in between my legs, thus increasing my risk of testicular cancer. Once again, not ideal.

Then comes the issues of driving on the road, I found that because the mX5 is so small and low, taxis, trucks and buses struggled to see me. Careful attention and the odd maneuver, helped me avoid getting sideswiped or frankly squashed – not a worry you need on the daily run to the office. So then when is the perfect time to use this car?

Imagine now you only needed to deal with these issues once a week, on quiet roads with the wind in your hair and the sun beating down on your forehead. Suddenly it doesn’t seem so bad. These problems all disappear as your chase the next best road, something the MX5 loves doing.

The Mazda MX-5 RF excels as a weekend car, or even a vehicle you drive to work on the odd occasion. It’s fun and sporty demeanor means that these everyday issues are just blips on the radar, when the car is used for what it was built to do –  be driven hard.

As much as the MX-5 may have many little annoyances, driving is one area it excels. It’s not about its engine, it’s the package as a whole. What makes it exasperating everyday is what makes it great when the right time comes. The low ride height gives it sense of fun and a “go-karty” feel. The 2.0 litre naturally aspirated engine is also punchy and free revving. All of these attributes combined, make for a very fun driving experience.

What’s funny is that the MX-5 isn’t mind blowingly fast. Even though it’s rear wheel driven, it doesn’t feel like it’s going to throw heaps of oversteer at you when you least expect it. Instead it makes you work for it. Working for it is the best part, as we live in a world where power in most cars is so accessible, it can take the fun away.  That is what stood out about the Mazda MX-5 RF for me. It can also be driven enthusiastically and enjoyed by drivers who may not have that much experience handling powerful rear wheel drive cars. It’s fun, but accessible. I’d love to say it’s perfect, but it’s not. Where Mazda missed the off ramp with this car is the gearbox. Had they left the 6 speed manual found in the MX5 roadster, the RF would be damn near perfect. Unfortunately, gear changes are made via an automatic gearbox, which can get in the way of your experience.

Put that aside and the Mazda MX-5 RF provides great summer fun. As a daily, I’d have something else, but if I had some monies lying around, it would park in my garage as a toy. Being in the city, convenience and ease of drive is a big thing for many of us. One can’t just “get up and go” with the MX-5. You would need to “get up, try get in, eventually get in, get comfortable, drop your phone, get annoyed and then go”. On a weekend however, for those moments alone on a blissfully quiet road and less worries, you’ll love it.

Launch Drive : All-New BMW X3 in South Africa

All New BMW X3 in South Africa

The mid-sized SUV market is fast becoming one of the most hotly contested segments in South Africa and for good reason. For the family, it’s a perfect combination of space, versatility, ground clearance and all the weekend activities rolled into a sleek package that can climb pavements, swallow the kid’s kits bags and the weeks shopping. What else do you need? In this segment, you get the usual spilt of affordable and premium vehicles as you would in most segments and this has been dominated but the big three Germans with the Swede making a name for itself in the last couple of years with its XC60 iteration. One of the major players, and the topic of this article, is the BMW X3. It’s led the pack in-terms of being the right blend of functionality, Sportiness and looks and with the latest generation, chassis code G01, it’s looking to add to the 1,5 million units sold from its first-generation introduction in 2003.

New BMW X3

Our introduction to the latest addition to the BMW X family is the 20d xDrive adorned with Luxury line. One thing that stands out from the first time you open the door and have a seat is the cabin and the materials used. Taking a lesson from the new generation Q5, the cabin is a luxurious place to be. From the light contrast seats – not advisable if you go by the name Mom or Dad- to the dark oak, the cabin gives you the right feeling for making you way to the premium shopping isle. Like the Q5, and to be honest most of the players at this price bracket, you feel like your hard-earned money bought you a lovely place to be in and you don’t feel short-changed at any time.

As is my preference on launch drives, I elected to be passenger for the first stint as this give me a chance to really get acquainted with all the new gadgets and really come to grips with the new technology, something that modern BMWs seem to be doing well. This variant seemed to have all the gizmos that your heart would want but your rational mind would decline as this would mean a second to third mortgage on your home. Straight from its older sibling’s spec baskets, our test vehicle had, amongst many standard features, the full LED lights, professional navigation, multifunction instrument display, Harmon Kardon sound, drive assist, and and and. We told you about the second to third mortgage. In terms of safety features, most of the features are non-cost and come standard, so that means that you get the full alphabet soup to keep you and your loved ones safe. The one thing that we must mentioned is that the partnership between BMW and Harmon Kardon has been a long and fruitful one and if you are a family that enjoy your sing along trips, this option is one to tick off.

I couldn’t stay riding shotgun forever and at one of our scheduled stops, it was time for a driver change. This new 20d motor married to the tried, tested and loved ZF 8 speed gearbox, is a little bit more eager and with vast use of weight saving materials, isn’t slow out the gate as well. The 0-100km/h sprint is dispatched in a claimed 8,0 seconds, and the feisty diesel will run all the way to a 213km/h top end. This sportiness is thanks to a hike in power and torque to the tune of 140kW and 400Nm respectively. We got some twisty bits in a damp and foggy Knysna and the BMW DNA came to the forefront very quickly. With 50/50 weight distribution cornering becomes very enjoyable and predictable. With the revised xDrive system, power and torque gets distributed seamlessly to all four corners without hesitation and never did we see the DSC light flash to warn us that we are trying a bit too hard for road conditions.

Off the beaten track, the X3 remains composed and well damped to the point of thinking that the footprint is courtesy small wheels on water balloons underfoot. On closer inspection, we found that the 20d Luxury Line was shod with 19” alloys with 245/50 section tyres. Not really off-road kit then and tell us that the Bavarians spent a decent amount of R&D on the suspension. Being a BMW and having off-road capability, we were impressed that it didn’t cower on the lose stuff and inspired confidence to the point that we started steering the vehicle via the rear axle. Not that anyone who buys this car would have this high on the importance list, but it’s good to know that should the mood take you, and you have some muddy roads on the way home, you could have some fun without working up much of a sweat.

New BMW X3

We all met up at the superb Conrad Pezula hotel where we were to spend the night. The media briefing highlighted a very important fact for BMW South Africa and that is that this new vehicle will be built locally. This is thanks to a R160M investment upgrade to the facility in Roslyn to make sure that all is in place for the new vehicle. This does however mean that the new X3 will be replacing the locally built 3 series though. This new upgrade was done while still producing the aforementioned 3 series and new X3s are expected to roll of the production line after the last 3 series from South Africa towards the middle of 2018.

The next day, we were greeted by the previous day’s rainclouds, ever so keen to show us the handling capabilities of the new M Performance variant of the X3. Named the X3 M40i, it sports the in-line 6 cylinder with numbers squarely aimed at the Audi SQ5 and the Mercedes GLC 43, it produces 265kW and 500Nm. Claimed performance figures are 0-100km/h in 4,8 seconds and the autobahn nanny comes to halt lift off at the familiar 250km/h. Nursing this “340i with xDrive X3” variant out of hotel and through the busy centre of Knysna was like walking a very strong but lovable mature pit bull terroir. With a careless extension of the right foot, the M40i lunges forward in a fashion not fit for school run vehicle. We finally got out to the country toad and could let the M40i off its leash. This B58 in-line 6 motor is one of the best out there and with soundtrack from the exhaust, it was common to see the needle chase the redline in most of the lower gears. My fun was halted by my co-pilot who mentioned something about a Driver swop. What a kill joy! It was then I saw his cruel but genius plan of doing the second leg of the driving. See, the second leg of the driving roads had some of the most beautiful switchbacks and esses that I have seen and knowing the area, he saved them for himself. It was from the passenger seat that I had a sense of how quickly the M40i can cover ground and the pops and bangs from the exhaust on lift off and overrun are just simply sublime.

New BMW X3

We got the airport and felt that BMW has organised the rain, fog and mud. It certainly highlighted the strength of the new vehicle and has variants to appeal to all needs and driving styles. At launch, two petrol and two diesel variants will be available being the 20d, 30d and the 30i and the firecracker M40i. Engines are an evolution of the familiar BMW drives trains with a bit more power and torque here and there but with economy being better than the last generations.

We have no doubt that BMW will continue being successful with this latest generation of the X3 and being a local vehicle now, I’m sure there will be some attractive packages to get more bums in seats. From what we have briefly seen, they are not bad seats to be in.

New BMW X3 Pricing In South Africa

X3 xDrive20d: R684 200

X3 xDrive30i: R739 800

X3 xDrive30d: R868 300

X3 M40i: R991 100

Range Rover SVR – Mixed emotions and loud exhausts.

Range Rover SVR

Range Rover SVR – Mixed emotions and loud exhausts.

A Range Rover is known for its British heritage, uncompromised build quality, modern luxury and all-round driving elegance. It’s a vehicle very popular with old money, understandably so because it gives off a certain feeling of class. This class isn’t earned by producing one vehicle, but years of pursuing excellence, and delivering it.

Range Rover SVR

When it comes to the Range Rover SVR however, take all of the above and simply throw it out of the window. I say this, not because the SVR Range Rover doesn’t possess most of the qualities above, because it does. These qualities are just hidden behind quite a few “in your face” features.

The looks:

Our Range Rover SVR was white in colour, with other black design elements and of course, 22” wheels. Apart from the slight front and rear bumper changes and the placement of “SVR” badging around the vehicle, it wasn’t painstakingly obvious that this was not a normal Range Rover Sport. It looked great and while it is attention seeking, it isn’t on the “stare at me” level of those awful yellow Hummer H2’s, thankfully.

Range Rover SVR

There are stand out features about the car that set it apart from a normal Range Rover aesthetically. For instance, a not so subtle black and white interior upholstery and racing style seats are hard to ignore. Yes, racing seats in an SUV. As you can expect, they were not particularly comfortable, but they looked the part. Looking the part is top priority in any sport variant of an SUV. The SVR does that and then some. After spending more time in the vehicle, I realized that the SVR had a very unique appeal about it. As much as I hate to say it, I felt like I had become the leader of an underground syndicate for the day. It’s got a “badass” feel to it that other cars in this segment don’t have.

Then came the noise from the exhausts. My word, what a noise. With the “pipes turned on” as my colleague Francisco likes to say, the 5.0-litre supercharged V8 bellows out a sound that is actually hard to comprehend. I would go as far as to say it could be one of the loudest cars on the road. Volume isn’t everything, but it does also sound fantastic whilst being loud. If it becomes a bit too much, it can be toned down to a much more reasonable level with a touch of a button, while still maintaining that V8 purr.

 

Not too sure about it…

The first few days in the car had made me reach a tentative conclusion of the vehicle. So far, the SVR simply felt like an obnoxious version of the standard Sport. If I was to stereotype this car to a human personality, it would be one of those rude teenage boys who knows everything and thinks he is the next Conor McGregor. Like Conor McGregor, the SVR has a trick up its sleeve.

Driving Dynamics:

The time soon arrived in the week for me to drive the SVR on roads which allowed me to exploit its performance. This included some straight roads as well as sweeping corners. The result? Let’s just say my opinion on the car changed completely.

What I didn’t mention before was that with the glass shattering V8 sound produced by the SVR, came acceleration which was quite unbelievable. If you have ever seen an Airbus A380 or a Boeing 747 on the tarmac at an airport, you stare at it in amazement that something so big can actually fly. Similar thoughts processed in my mind when I planted my foot in the Range Rover SVR. There are very SUV’s that can accelerate this quickly, the SVR is one of them. On paper, it boasts a 0-100 km/h time of 4.5 seconds, which is certainly believable.

Range Rover SVR

One may expect the SVR to possess the same body role you get in a standard Range Rover Sport, but you’d be wrong.

The words “body roll” very seldom make an appearance in the Range Rover SVR’s vocabulary. Of course, understeer will present itself in any vehicle large vehicle should you carry too much speed into a corner. Respect the SVR and it will respect you. However, corners at good speed are taken with marvelous ease and grip, inspiring confidence and leaving unwanted vehicle dynamics behind. Bundled with fantastic acceleration and you have a very fast and capable performance SUV. The racing seats suddenly don’t seem so stupid now.

Sometimes unexpected situations happen in cars. We had a moment like that in this car, when we experienced an surprisingly sideways moment. Pulling off from a T-Junction on a damp road surface, turning right with a heap of acceleration, resulted in just over half a lock of smooth, glorious oversteer. “What!?” we thought to ourselves, leaving Francisco and myself looking at each other in complete amazement. This was by no means planned, as we just wanted to see how good this 4×4 system was, pretty good it turns out, if going sideways is your thing. Which is probably not the case in an SUV.

What does SVR mean by the way?

SVR is a division of Jaguar Land Rover’s performance division SVO or Special Vehicle Operations, similar to that of BMW M or AMG. They fine tune and adjust their vehicles to provide more performance and driving enjoyment with unique styling, all while being covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. Further to this, SVO offer extended levels of customisation and personalisation with extended paint options and a further range of interior leathers, trims and styling.

Range Rover SVR

Overall

Under the aggressive design and bold styling, the Range Rover SVR is a true performance SUV. It further encourages the “I don’t care, I drive a Range Rover” attitude, and you really don’t have to because well, you drive a Range Rover. It’s a hall pass to be as loud or obnoxious as you want. For many people, driving this type of vehicle is exactly what you want from it. In a few words the SVR is “Luxury with attitude”. You either love it or loathe it. Either way, if it comes behind you on the highway, chances are, you’ll move out the way.

Range Rover SVR Pricing in South Africa

The 2018 Range Rover Sport SVR and starts at a tasty R 2 080 100

Opel Crossland X – Launch Drive.

Opel Crossland X

We drive the Opel Crossland X

The Mokka X having proved itself to be a worthy contender to the likes of the Mazda CX-5, Suzuki Vitara, and Renault Captur, will now be joined by the all-new family focused Crossland X. The recent accusation of the Opel brand by the French through the PSA group has resulted in a culmination of minds and the two have promised an onslaught of a total of nine PSA based models in the pipeline before 2020. The first of these collaborative efforts is the Opel Crossland X, based on the same  PF1 platform that underpins the Peugeot 2008. The Crossland X joins the ever popular B-SUV segment and thus aims to be a serious contender in this very competitive game.

Opel Crossland X

Interior

The inside of the Crossland will be rather familiar to the owners of modern Opel products. Much like that of the Corsa, the interior is simple and comprehensive with standard equipment like the Intellilink 4.0 system, which offers a 7-inch touchscreen screen, Apple CarPlay and the usual Bluetooth and USB connectivity options to supplement the radio. The list of standard features on the Crossland also include Hill start assist, attractive LED driving lights, Auto headlights and traffic sign recognition. The Enjoy model adds auto wipers, rear-view camera, front and rear PDC and front fog lamps.  

Opel Crossland X

The top spec Cosmo completes the package with a list of driver aids and safety assistance systems that Opel calls a Safety Pack. This encompasses Forward Collision Alert, Automatic Emergency Breaking, Blind Spot Assist and Driver Drowsiness systems. Finally, the upgraded 8-inch Intellilink 5.0 system with navigation replaces the smaller unit.

Engines

The base Crossland will be the only atmospheric engine in the line-up. Offering 60kW and 118N.m at 2 750 rpm, from a 3 cylinder 1.2-litre engine. The higher spec models will gain some turbo induction and boasts  81kW and 205N.m. The naturally aspirated motor is said to return 5.2l/100km and 4.8l/100km with the turbo engine. All models are linked to a 5-speed manual baring the 6 speed automatic Cosmo. All models drive the front wheels exclusively and highlight the family orientated market it aims to occupy

Opel Crossland X

Driving Impressions:

On launch journos were ushered into the Crossland experience with the full range of models on display, and ready for testing. TheMotorist was presented with a rather handsome machine in the form of the Enjoy variant of the Crossland X. The overall dimensions suggest it to be a bit of an elevated SUV like drive, yet it doesn’t make the car feel large or cumbersome. The Enjoy will likely be the most popular model given it falls above the lower spec base Crossland X and in between the Cosmo and Automatic Cosmo, whilst not feeling sparse in equipment and spec.

The launch route was a good combination of the typical traffic and city driving that the Crossland X will mostly be subjected to. Longer, faster single lane country roads that are a part and parcel of any road trip were also included. The Crossland X offers a very well dampened suspension that offers a rather comfortable ride and well-weighted controls that are light and ideal for this class of vehicle. The transmission action is smooth and the clutch is light and easy to modulate in traffic. Shove from the engine proved to be ample, with the turbo model pulling nicely all the way up to the national limit, whilst also doing a good job of providing enough torque to overtake slower moving traffic. Space in the rear is impressive, given I can sit comfortably behind my 183cm self, and have enough head and shin room even in this position.

Summary

Overall the drive, build and feel is impressive from the not so little Opel and the package it offers will prove to be highly competitive if consumers give it the attention it deserves.

Opel Crossland X Pricing In South Africa

The based model Crossland X starts off pricing at R265 000, with the Enjoy raising this to R305 000. The top Spec Cosmo comes in at R345 000 and R365 000 for the auto. All models are sold with a 120000km/5 year warranty and a 3 year/60 000km service plan.  

Audi Sport Launch – A day with the RS3, RS5 and TTRS

New Audi RS5

Audi Sport Launch in South Africa

When a launch comprises of three different vehicles, all of which produce over 290kW and reach 100km/h just over 4 seconds, one tends to give off a childlike giggle. As car enthusiasts, these type of days don’t come around often – contrary to popular belief, but when they do, we get excited.

The Audi Sport launch in Cape Town put us behind the wheel of three Audi RS models. The facelifted RS3 Sportback and sedan, the aggressive TTRS and a car which many have been waiting for – the new Audi RS5.

Starting a Monday morning on a red-eye flight out of Durban is something I dread, but even with just a few hours of sleep the night before, my mind was buzzing because of what lay ahead. Upon arriving, a beautiful array of vehicles were set before us, like a lovely high-performance buffet. I must say, Audi’s RS colour pallet is something I’m fond of. While many may be put off by a bright yellow or a bold green, 0-100 km/h in three point something seconds just doesn’t justify black or white in my opinion.

On that point, Francisco and I jumped into a Sonoma Green RS5 and headed to a small airfield where some petrol headed antics awaited us. Initially, the new RS5 gave me an impression of a slightly beefed up S5. Even so, it made one hell of a sound and went like the clappers. The Quattro system gives the car a softer edge. It certainly doesn’t feel as aggressive as a BMW M4, but with power figures of 331kW and 600Nm it did give us something to think about. How does the new Audi RS5 compare to its biggest rival, the BMW M4 and Mercedes’ C63? Francisco goes into detail on that very subject here.

Nothing gets grown men worked up like a gymkhana challenge and that’s exactly what we were going to do in all these RS’s. Before that, a quick chat and interview with Audi Sport racing driver Kelvin van der Linde and DTM driver Mattias Ekstrom kept us entertained as war stories were told. Hearing these stories inspired most of us, as we prepared to tame the gymkhana styled time trial and the 200m drag race. Cue the childlike giggles once again.

First in order for us was the drag races and after having our fun with like for like models, we decided to pitch the Audi RS3 up against the new Audi RS5. What happened next caught our attention. The RS5 simply had better off the line traction each time and won most of the time, This didn’t stop the underdog RS3 from sticking to its coattails however and at times even closing the gap.

There is no doubt about it, the new Audi RS3 is an absolute weapon. It features a power increase of 24kW over the previous model, bringing the total output to 294kW from a new 2.5l five-cylinder engine. This now makes it the most powerful production five-cylinder engine on the market. It’s also transversely mounted, weighs 24 kg less and sounds as good as ever thanks to the unique 1-2-4-5-3 firing order.

Next, we each had the chance to set a time in each of the vehicles around the Gymkhana styled time trial. This consisted of slaloms, hairpins, a chicane, all ending with a high-speed breaking challenge, which required us to stop in a box. As much fun as this was, this allowed us to experience the dynamic ability of each car and quite frankly, the TTRS took the cake here. Stepping inside the racing styled cockpit was enough to make you go faster, but its lightweight agile chassis and ridiculous power from the same five-cylinder engine featured in the RS3, definitely helped. I was never a huge fan of the TT, perhaps due to my “younger” days when the previous generation was known as a “hairdressers” car. I now look at the new  TTRS with newly found respect. One would need to be a bloody good hairdresser to afford one of these.

After our fun and games at the track, we headed out to drive the cars where most would experience them, the road. It’s pretty obvious to all that these cars are pretty quick, but the realisation of how fast they really are becomes a reality when driving them on tight roads instead of wide open spaces. All three vehicles feature 0-100 km/h times of just under or just over 4 seconds. The RS3 has an official time from Audi of 4.1 seconds, but it’s broken the 4 second barrier in local other tests. These aren’t supercars either and it raises the question of how much faster are cars going to get? Due to advances in technology and smart all-wheel drive systems, these cars can all be enjoyed and experienced fairly safely, by drivers who probably aren’t highly skilled.  A great deal of self-control is needed to not to boot it on every journey, because the sheer acceleration and noise from these cars is pure delight. This is especially the case in the RS5, which gives you the right blend of comfort and speed. If you’re not careful you find yourself aimlessly chasing the next gear, the next engine blip and the next corner. in terms of everyday performance, these are fantastic drivers cars.

The RS3 exudes a young, hooligan, supercar disrupter type of feel. This would be my pick of the bunch, in Sportback guise. Each RS model offers something unique and exciting. Audi Sport have really done well with these new models. It’s evident that Audi are on a mission to break stereotypes and we are excited to see what comes of the next 12 months.

Audi Sport Pricing in South Africa

Audi RS5: R1 285 500

Audi TTRS: R963 000

Audi RS3 Sedan: R 925,500

Audi RS3 Sportback: R 895,500

New Audi RS5 First drive: Better than the competition?

New Audi RS5 First Drive

“Let it not be a disappointment, let it not be a disappointment” was the phrase going through most of our minds when we first laid eyes on the new RS5 at the recent Audi Sport media launch. The previous one simply didn’t live up to the extremely high standards that the B7 RS4 set. Compared to the C63 coupe and M3 of that time, it didn’t capture us the same way the competition did. The likes of BMW and Mercedes AMG haven’t made it any easier for the new RS5, with their current weapons of mass destruction. The C63 is the muscle car of the segment with its boisterous V8 BiTurbo, whilst the M4 is a precise track tool. Where then does this new RS5 fit in?

Aesthetically, it’s right up there. Oddly enough, in a normal colour with non-glossy wheels you can easily mistake it for an S5. However, throw in a loud colour, the glossy bits and the extra special shiny aluminum 20 inch wheels and you’ve got a knuckle bitingly beautiful car. The interior also makes you feel like you work very hard for your money. It’s plush, luxurious yet understated. Overall, just looking at the car would make any potential M4 and C63 coupe buyer think twice.

Starting the car gives you a welcome V6 growl from its 2.9 litre bi-turbo. It’s not very loud but loud enough to make passersby look. The exhaust note of the RS5 almost sets the tone for the persona of this car. It can be likened it to a smooth-talking individual, who is more about action instead of just talk. A claimed 0 – 100 time of 3.9 seconds is a whole lot of action and you would expect it to explode your senses when you put your foot down. It doesn’t though strangely enough. We’re so used to the theatrics from the BMW and Mercedes – which scamper and squirm off the line due to immense torque being presented the rear wheels very quickly. The RS5 doesn’t do that, it caresses you to illegal speeds, allowing you to keep your coffee intact as you zoom into the land of the detained. Was I disappointed? Initially, I wanted more. More drama, more playfulness, more edge of your seat kind of stuff. But no, instead I was given comfort, refinement and a sweet sounding V6 with enough torque on tap to not even warrant a downshift, when I needed to move a slower driver. Is that it then? A nicer looking S5 with more power? Surely there must be more to this car.

Dutoitskloof pass in Cape Town is a lovely stretch of road that allows you to get a feel of a vehicles capabilities. This pass was the RS5’s saving grace in my opinion, as it showed us its unique appeal – accessibility. In this segment, there’s “power” and then there’s “accessible power”. The BMW M4 and Mercedes AMG C63 have got immense power, but I could put money on the table that most of those vehicles drivers only access around 60-70% of that power in situations that allow for it, especially around corners. Put your foot down in the aforementioned cars and you’re met with the infamous traction control light, which reminds you that it’s keeping you alive. Powering out of corners and it’s the same thing, the traction control light is flickering away, keeping the car from oversteering. Of course, if you’re that way inclined, you’ll switch the systems off and manage everything on your own. If that’s your thing, this article is not for you. If not and you simply want “point and squirt” performance, read on.

The RS5’s ability of allowing the driver to drive the wheels off it with little drama is unmatched in this segment. This is simply because of its 4WD setup. If you’re not a knob and you respect the fact that almost all cars with this setup will understeer should you come into a corner too fast, you’ll love it. “Slow in, fast out” is the age-old recipe for an enjoyable RS5 experience, follow that rule and you’re set. In my layman hands, I felt that I could extract everything I wanted to out of the car, within my limits. No drama, just simple straightforward performance, all 331kW 600N.m of it. Steering felt good too, not extremely intuitive but enough for me to place the front end where I wanted, and exit out of corners with ease.

New Audi RS5

When it’s all done, put the car back in Comfort and continue your conversation as if nothing happened. It was after this that I realized what the new RS5 was about. It’s a great road car first and a stellar performance car second. It plays both fields very well, better than the competition to be honest. Where the Bimmer and Merc are more visceral, it’s more liveable, which is what many people want. Before considering any of the cars in this segment, you need to understand what you want from the car. You want to shred tyres? Then the RS5 is not for you. You want an excellent all-rounder? Then there’s something for you here. I’m just happy to report that the new RS5 is not a disappointment. When spending over R1 million rand in this league, you’ll buy what you like at the end of the day and in this segment, all of the cars are very good at what they do. Can’t I just have them all?

Audi RS5 Pricing in South Africa

The Audi RS 5 Coupé is priced at R1 285 500, standard with the 5 year/100 000km Audi Freeway Plan.

VW Tiguan 2.0 TDI vs Mazda Akera 2.2

VW Tiguan v Mazda CX-5: Which do you pick?

There are more and more options becoming available for buyers when it comes to the compact SUV. For many, they make perfect sense. Great looks, practicality and are what make these vehicles popular. The demand is growing and so is the market as more manufacturers release their version of a compact SUV.

2017 Mazda CX-5

This year South Africa has seen two vehicles in particular that offer very good packages. The first being Volkswagen’s new Tiguan which took the country by storm with its design and style and is now available in the 2.0-litre diesel variant. Offering a similar package is Mazda’s updated CX-5 Akera 2.2, which since its facelift also offers a very nice overall package indeed.

Both vehicles are similar in price, offer All-Wheel-Drive and also feature diesel power plants, but which is the best option for you?

Performance

The power output in both vehicles is nearly identical with the VW Tiguan producing 130 kW and the CX-5 coming in just 1 kW short at 129 kW. The main difference between these two engines in Torque, If this was a game of Top Trumps, the Mazda would take the card here with a 420 Nm output compared to the Tiguan’s 380 Nm.

What does this mean? In terms of outright pace, there isn’t much between them, the Torque difference, however, is noticeable.  If you’re one for towing or off-road adventures, the extra 40 Nm will probably come in handy.

4Motion v AWD

Things can get confusing when it comes to four-wheel drive technology, as many brands use different names and terms for their systems, in reality though, they all do the same job and this is the case here. 4Motion is simply VW’s name for their all-wheel-drive system and both vehicles use technology which deciphers which wheels have the most traction and thus supplying power to these wheels. In normal driving conditions, the vehicle remains in a 2WD setup which ultimately means less fuel consumption.

While AWD systems are not as capable as full-blown four-wheel drive systems, It definitely provides an advantage in the safety department, andy and if you find yourself on a rather loose surface from time to time.

Design and Styling

I once said that the Tiguan is possibly one of the most beautiful vehicles on the road, and I still stand by this. With all the nice bits and trimmings, I feel it oozes style and class with the right amount of aggression. On the other hand, the CX-5 is a really good looking car, it has a large front grill and narrow sharp headlights which really do my fancy. If I am picking a winner here, it’s Tiguan all the way, I think its a much sexier vehicle and definitely is more of a head turner. 

Interior

This is a close call, the interior found in the Tiguan is great and the optional technology does add that extra spice. Quite frankly though, the Mazda CX-5 takes the cake here. It may not have an Active Info Display to replace the classic dials, but I feel the Mazda uses better materials and more metals. The Tiguan may have slightly more practicality but in terms of luxury and style, it’s the CX-5 all the way.

2017 Mazda CX-5

So what do you pick?

This depends on two factors, Firstly,  what kind of person you are and the second and possibly more important factor, Price. If you like the limelight and love to stand out then the Tiguan is probably the one you would prefer, it has more road presence and will definitely turn more heads but it will also cost you more money. The Tiguan TDI 2.0 Highline 4motion starts at R566,900 and doesn’t include the Active Info Display, 8” Discover Pro infotainment system, DYNAudio system or leather Upholstery.

2017 Mazda CX-5

On the other hand, the CX-5 is definitely the more understated vehicle and while it comes in just shy of the Tiguan at R561,700, it includes a BOSE 10-speaker system, a head-up display, navigation, leather seats and an electronically sliding sunroof (R11,500 option on the Tiguan).   

In overview, the CX-5 is definitely providing the most value for money, whereas the Tiguan offers a different appeal of style and image, whilst also being backed by the VW brand, which as we know is extremely popular in South Africa. Either way, both cars offer great packages and whichever you pick you will be happy ( Unless you’re sitting in a Tiguan at the starting line of a trailer drag race.)

Toyota extends its Hilux and Fortuner Range

Toyota Fortuner

Updated Toyota Hilux and Fortuner

The ever-popular Hilux range has undergone the knife as a very mild refresher, the changes were very slight and more so to create a mild buzz over the introduction of the Xtra Cab model. Its no secret we love Toyota’s giant behemoths, the Hilux is fantastic at being a bakkie and does this very cleverly now with the added leisure element that the modern bakkie needs to have.

Whats new?

This leisure element has resulted in the updates to the interior of the range where the addition of more durable and soft touch leather armrests has replaced the material ones in the models before.

Toyota Hilux

On the outside, the front headlights have been updated to provide a more modern look, which secretly was the spec offered on European models from the jump but nevertheless, the addition of Xenon lighting with  LED driving lights provide better lighting and helps a great deal in the enhancement and creation of a “New Generation” look of the Toyota design mantra. A set of 18” alloy wheels fitted to 265-60-R18 all terrain tyres now come standard on the higher spec Raider models. No changes to the engines and transmissions but the addition of the 6-speed auto to the 2.4G4D engine should improve the drivability and everyday usability of the lesser diesel.

Updated Safety

The most important update to the Hilux range, is the offering of the safety features that where only exclusive of the more expensive models, with single cab SRX and Raider models now inclusive of the of Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) also incorporating Hill Assist Control (HAC) and Trailer Sway Control (TSC) safety systems.

Toyota Hilux

Xtra Cab

The new offering is the extended single cab version of the bakkie. The same variants of engines and transmissions will be offered and the range is completely identical. The addition of the 6-speed auto to the 2.4GD-6 engine is the only difference, and this should also improve the drivability and everyday usability of the lesser diesel.

Fortuner Updates

Much of the Fortuner remains the same but benefits from the same tech and convenience upgrades seen in the modern SUV. The major feature updates include the new electronic tailgate and a 220v electrical outlet on the 2.8GD-6 and V6 Petrol. The lights have been updated too and now feature LED lighting.

Toyota Fortuner

Again the lower spec 2.7-Litre petrol and 2.4 GD-6, received updated safety spec, with the addition of side and curtain airbags and will complement the range of passive safety systems.The New offering of the 6-speed mated to the 2.4GD-6 is translated to the Fortuner and will offer a good way to enter the range.

Toyota Hilux and Fortuner Pricing in South Africa

The Fortuner range starts art R 462,900, rising to R 675,600 with 8 model variants in between.

Single cab Hilux’s start at R243, 200 for the entry-level model, this rises to R435 700 with the top of the range Hilux SC 2.8 GD-6 RB RAIDER 6AT (NEW). In the Ultra Cab department, pricing starts at R365 300 for the Hilux XC 2.4 GD-6 RB SRX 6MT and rises to R525 500 for the top of the range 2.8 4×4 6 Speed Auto. Double Cab models start at R 394 700 rising to R 465 400.

 

BMW’s fiery M3 CS to storms into the front in 2018

BMW M3 CS

BMW M3 CS

BMW’s most acclaimed product in the art of fast M car shenanigans, the M3 has proven itself to be one of the most capable and dynamic driver’s cars in its class. This has acclaim been made clear with the sheer number of special editions available and the popularity of the models thereof. The variations being rather similar to that of the Nando’s range of Peri-peri hot sauces, offering a level of taste bud melting deliciousness to suit every pallet. Chief among which is the M4 GTS, this is the ‘Extra extra hot’, the most ridiculously track ready variant that is too much for most and is very much sold out in South Africa. Offering only two doors it’s somewhat less practical than the M3 and thus due to lifestyle doesn’t really appeal to as vast an audience. The lesser ‘Hot’ variants, proving to be the Competition Pack, which offers more power and revision to the suspension over the standard ‘Lemon and Herb’ M3, but still soft enough for everyday use. So, what if you need four doors but like your proverbial BMW Chicken pieces at tongue bending levels of heat intensity?

BMW M3 CS

Enter the ‘Extra Hot’ BMW M3 CS, showcased at the M Festival and due early next year, with only one Extra, it fills the void between the Competition and the GTS as a lightweight version of the saloon, with an additional 7kws and 50nm’s over the standard model. Power is increased to 338kw and 600nm. This boost in ponies is enough to drop the 0-100 time to the sub-4sec mark with a blistering time of 3.9secs. The top Speed is raised in accordance with the M driver’s package standard on the CS to a limited 280km/h. Thus, making it the most powerful and fastest BMW M3 Ever.

BMW M3 CS

In terms of Dynamics, the CS comes standard with adaptive M, with adjustable dampening and suspension to ensure it carries the most grippy yet smokey drift like traits possible. The M differential has also been fettled and has been developed specifically for the CS. A staggered stance of 19” inch wheels at the front and 20” at rear mated to a set road legal semi-slick MICHELIN pilot sport Cup 2 tyres come as standard fare, with the more road-friendly Pilot sport 2 option fitted at no cost.

BMW M3 CS

The other changes being to that of the interior and exterior with extensive weight saving measures being taken, through the use of a plastic-carbon fibre composite roof, carbon fibre front splitter, rear diffuser, and a carbon fibre Gurney boot lip exclusive to the CS. Inside the car, the weight savings are less drastic with the CS still offering all of the creature comforts Typical of a car of this calibre, and the likes of Harmon-Kardon surround sound, dual-zone climate control and navigation included in the package, with the few hints of the cars driving prowess being clued in small touches, such as the Alcantara draped dash with CS embossing and the new two-tone Silverstone and black leather.

BMW M3 CS Pricing in South Africa

The M3CS will be South African shores in May of 2018, with only 15 of the 1200 worldwide being allocated to our Republic. Pricing will be realised closer to the launch in May, but with the M4 CS priced at R1.8m, we can expect to see the M3 CS going for a similar rate.

 

Updated Nissan X-Trail First Drive.

The mid-size compact SUV is fast becoming the most popular choice for most people, and for good reason. You get sedan-like space and ease of parking cocktailed with SUV practicality and versatility. This recipe gives you the perfect family vehicle for shuttling the kids to school during the week, as well as the weekend family getaway. The Nissan X-Trail has been a favourite for many, even though it looked like it was straight out of a Lego set at the turn of the century. That car, paired with “mom and dad jeans” created the makings of a perfect Parkhurst family back then.

Fast forward to 2014, the jeans as well as the Lego set were traded in for a PS3 and fitted jeans from Country Road. The X-Trail was now a good-looking car with sharp edges and a more rounded off shape. Was Nissan going to make a mess of this with its update of its third generation X-Trail? Fortunately, the greeting that we got of the new car, on a VERY windy and cloudy Port Elizabeth morning was an improvement on the fitted jeans. You get a nip and tucked front end complemented by LED daytime running lights with the optional Intelligent headlights. The rear too sees some lighting changes which are in tune with 2017.

The first vehicle that we drove was the 1.6 dCI Tekna 4WD version with a healthy 320Nm of torque and 96kW. This engine is mated to an easy to operate manual 6 speed gearbox. In a sea of automatics, CVTs, DCTs, PDC, 123s and so forth, it was refreshing to operate a vehicle with an H-Pattern. Especially in a quiet town, on country roads where K53 and clutch control isn’t on the top of the to-do list. Stick the same car in Johannesburg traffic however and I may have felt different about it. The top of the range Tekna specification vehicle has all the bells and whistles that you would expect from a vehicle of this class. For instance, one gets the aforementioned Intelligent Auto lights, Climate control with dual control. You also get Intelligent Around View Monitor, a 7” touch screen with Nissan Connect apps and navigation, Intelligent lane Intervention, Intelligent Emergency Braking, Intelligent Front Collision Warning and Cross Traffic Warning. As you can see this vehicle is intelligent!

Expecting the vehicle to be on the slightly sluggish side, we set off and I immediately introduced my right foot to the go pedal, which passed on my greetings to the firewall. The Introduction was short as I immediately had to ease off the pedal as the wave of torque came to the rescue and carried the new X-Trail comfortably without having to chase the diesel red line. The steering is also good, translating what the tarmac has to say with ease and you never feel that you are lost in translation with the front end of the vehicle. (What is that beep?) The suspension handles undulations in a fine manner, as well as broken tarmac without a threat to your fillings. Long trips with the family will no doubt be a breeze. Ergonomically, the X-Trail does well with placement of obvious control and you don’t find yourself wondering where items and functions are. (There’s that beep again, where is it coming from?)

After a vehicle swop, I found myself behind the wheel of the 126 kW, 233Nm 2.5 Petrol CVT version. Now, I’ve never been a fan of the CVT gearbox as I find it doesn’t suite my driving style. I’m simply don’t like how every CVT sounds like the engine is going to explode when you accelerate. A conventional automatic would have done a fantastic job, in my opinion. (There is that beep again!) You definitely feel the reduction in torque from the diesel to the petrol but this isn’t a racecar and as a kiddy friendly vehicle, it has enough power to see to Hannah and all her Barbie’s. (The Beep!) Eventually I had to stop and find this darn noise. Turns out, it’s the Intelligent lane Intervention. Each time it detects that you’re going off course, it beeps at you – something I picked up hours into our journey. Maybe I’m not as smart as I thought…

Our first drive impression of the updated X-Trail is one that was very positive. We would definitely take the diesel with the manual gearbox as our top pick. Pricing is very good and starts at R369 000 for the petrol version. A 90 000 km/3-year service plan is standard as well as the 6 year/150 000 km warranty. We look forward to spending more time with the car and put it through some real family tests, babies and all.