Month: April 2019

Here’s why we’re disappointed by the new BMW Z4.

All-new BMW Z4 Driven Review

“Zukunft”. If like myself you don’t speak fluent German, then a quick Google translate will reveal that the strange word “Zukunft” actually means future when translated into English”. Funnily enough, It also happens to be the naming inspiration behind BMW’s range of Z vehicles, one of those being the all-new BMW Z4. Unfortunately, BMW’s latest roadster must have got lost In translation because for me, the new Z4 has only gone one way, and it isn’t forward.

Allow me to explain.

The new Z4 has undergone much refinement inside and out. You’ll find some of BMW’s latest tech inside the vehicle including digital displays and BMW’s personal assistant. All packaged in a cabin pretty much identical to that of the new 3 series – albeit a little smaller.  From the outside, a host of nips and tucks bring the Z4 in line with BMW’s latest design language, narrower lights, sharper lines, you get the vibe.

Now while my opinion on the design of the Z4 is somewhat positive, I can’t help but feel the overall appeal has shifted. What was once a sporty roadster suited for dawn and dusk Sunday runs now feels rather superficial. Its similar to the whole craze of dressing up in sporting gear fit to set personal record’s, however instead of going to the gym you’re actually just dropping the kids off at school. The Z4 doesn’t appeal to the driver at heart.

I say this for two reasons.

The first being that as we drove the new Z4 through the bustling city centre of Cape Town with the roof down and the sun just dipping behind the mountains, many pedestrians passed comments. The comments were all positive, albeit all from the wrong target market…

On the road things didn’t improve either. The 20i variant lacked the punch a sporty roadster needs, the steering felt limp and lifeless and while the Z4 showed at times that it has plenty of grip to offer, dialing that grip in, gauging what the front wheels are doing and trying to find a rhythm proved extremely difficult.  After being impressed by the handling characteristics of the new 3 Series and M850i, I left the driver’s seat of the Z4 feeling frustrated and disappointed. I didn’t, however, get the chance to sample the M40i variant, which produces 250 kW and 500 Nm. It will be interesting to experience the performance characteristics of the more powerful model and see if things improve.

Frankly, I feel the new BMW Z4 has lost its personality. If you’re looking for a two-seater convertible with a sporty nature, but plan to doddle around, enjoy BMW’s finer luxuries and technologies all while looking very pretty, though, the new Z4 is a very good vehicle.

However, as a vehicle marketed for an exhilarating driving experience on said Sunday morning, it really doesn’t make the cut. There’s too much. Too much fluff, too much leather and too much tech. Who really needs “ Hello BMW” when you’re thundering down your favorite stretch of tarmac? I wish BMW had really dialed this vehicle back and simplified the approach, the interior and the tech. Less leather, fewer buttons, more Alcantara and a greater focus on what was supposed to be truly important – the driving experience.  But sadly, that doesn’t sell to the masses.

BMW Z4 Pricing in South Africa

BMW Z4 xDrive 20i Sport Line: R755,900. 

BMW Z4 xDrive 20i M Sport: R779,100. 

BMW Z4 xDrive 20i M Performance: R1,030,500.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next generation grand tourer? Meet the BMW M850i

BMW M850i Driven Review

Most of the motoring launches we attend are often for the facelift of a vehicle or a new generation model, such as the 7th Generation 3 Series launch we attended a few weeks back. It’s not every day, however,  that a manufacturer resurrects a vehicle line that could only ever be described as iconic. Meet the new BMW 8 Series.

With 390 kW, 750 Nm and the letter “M” before the Series number, you may expect this to be another brutal, aggressive, exciting ruthless and unforgiving BMW M Performance car which we’ve come to love in vehicles such as the M3 and M5, you’d be wrong. However, like the rest of the BMW M Performance range, the M850i is not quite that…

The 8 Series range is aimed at providing the full essence of BMW. The power, performance and acceleration of an M vehicle but with the comfort, luxury and refinement of a 7 series, all while providing the sporty nature of 6 Series coupe and the host of tech found in brand new models such as the 3 Series and X5. Confused? No. Flagship? Yes.

My initial impressions when piloting the M850i for the first time, weren’t that of its performance, power or crackling V8 but rather the comfort and serenity I experienced in the cabin. Road noise was minimal, the interior was plush and the vehicle almost seemed to float across the surface of the tarmac – it really was that comfortable.

It became increasingly obvious that the M850i was built to devour up the road in front of it, it’s a vehicle in which you’d rather drive over long distances than short ones. A 3.9 second 0-100 km/h time makes the 8 Series rather quick, sorry, blistering quick, and it’s delivered through a rear-biased xDrive system in a linear, smooth fashion. Think the smoothness of Johnny Walker Blue over the bite of VAT 69. You’ll hit figures that will leave you phoning home from a prison cell in no time, while feeling like you’re still cruising under the law.

The M850i is a grand tourer” but that doesn’t mean the “M” stands for nothing. Two twin-scroll turbochargers are nestled within the V of the 4.4-litre V8 motor, while a new cooling system and changes to the crankcase make the vehicle lighter and more responsive.

Want noise? Just ask for it. A simple push of the sport button will bring the M850i to life in ways you wouldn’t expect. A symphony of noises erupt from the rear under acceleration, when downshifting and on the overrun which just weren’t present in comfort mode. Best of both worlds? Just maybe.

One mustn’t forget though that as sporty as the M850i is, it’s not exactly light on its feet weighing in at just under 2 tonnes. Dynamically, the M850i showed us on our driving routes just what was possible. It hugged some of Cape Town’s finest roads and even performed on the tightest of passes in a way that you wouldn’t expect from a vehicle with this mass.

As plush and as sporty as the cockpit styled cabin is, we would have liked to see a bigger differentiation between this and BMW’s other model ranges. Yes, the touches of glass on the gear selector, iDrive wheel and sound nobs are nice but you can have those in an X5 – could BMW have given the 8 Series a little more exclusivity? Probably. From the outside, the M850i makes a statement. Its gorgeous, aggressive and bold. From the rear, it may just be one of the best looking BMW’s I’ve ever laid my eyes on, which builds up excitement for what our eyes will experience when the full-blown M8 comes along.

I really do understand why BMW reinvented the 8 series. They’ve merged the lines between comfort and performance, creating a vehicle which rivals lets say, a Mercedes-Benz S63 Coupe, which for me has a very similar appeal.

 

BMW M850i Pricing in South Africa

BMW M850i xDrive Coupe:  R1,872.900

BMW M850i xDrive Coupe Individual:  R1,956.800

BMW M850i xDrive Convertible:  R1,994.300

 

 

 

Autonomous driving – Just a gimmick?

Semi-Autonomous Driving

Many of the motor vehicles we drive nowadays come with bucket loads of tech. Some of that technology is great, especially when it revolves around safety, lighting and better connectivity. However there are hordes of technology that comes across as being very “cool” but actually rarely gets used.

One piece of tech currently featuring on many premium vehicles hitting the market is autonomous and semi-autonomous driving. I’ve been using BMW’s system for the last week while driving their new 320d.

First things first, you need to get invested into the system and engrain it into your daily driving routine or it’s just going to become something you show to your friends. The system in itself is quite simple to operate, press a button, set your speed, distance and then feel confident enough to slide your feet away from the pedals. On most system,s the driver is required to touch the steering wheel every now and again just to let the vehicle know you’re still alive.

For me this system becomes really effective in slow traffic. It removes the need to make any driving inputs such as braking, accelerating and steering – which are especially mundane and frustrating when the traffic is crawling! Semi-autonomous systems in this regard work very well, they allow the driver to relax a little more and the chance of anything going wrong is reduced due to the lower speed. If you live in a traffic-laden city and spend much of your commute doing the above, a system like this will definitely improve your experience and your day. The key is, you just have to trust it!

2019 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Review

New Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Review

To someone who knows nothing about vehicles, the name ‘Sprinter’ would likely fit into the ‘sportscar’ category of their mental filing system, and as such, launching this particular Sprinter at Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit makes complete sense. However, this parallel universe isn’t reality, so when one takes a look at the hard facts, a racing track really is an unlikely venue to host the launch of Mercedes-Benz’s latest iteration of their legendary commercial vehicle, the erm… Sprinter!

Lap times and clipping the apex were not on the agenda for the day, but rather hands-on demonstrations of the extensive safety features and driving aids that have now been developed specifically for the Sprinter, making use of certain sections of the track, as well as the skidpan where a slalom course was laid out.

The formalities kicked off with a novel and humorous enactment of a ‘nutty professor’ and his ravishing assistant envisioning the perfect vehicle for doing “things”. A nice twist to the usual death-by-PowerPoint presentations we are often subjected to, it gave a glimpse into the all-new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter’s standout features. At the end of the show, two vehicles emerged – a people carrier configured Sprinter and a freight carrier configured Sprinter.

Following this, we were then instructed to head off in groups which had already been assigned where we’d rotate through three different stations, all designed to give us an accurate representation of what the Sprinter stands for, as well as why it makes up such a significant majority share in its segment in South Africa.

Offering a complete transport and mobility solution, the Mercedes Benz Sprinter benefits from increased safety levels, improved total cost of ownership and enhanced Inkanyezi Taxi Specification.

An interesting one, that Inkanyezi derivative – set to continue its dominance of the long distance taxi market, Mercedes-Benz also hopes for it to make an entry into the everyday commuter sector having introduced three different grades with options ranging from three-point seatbelts and USB ports to air-conditioning and an electric sliding door.

By far, the most impressive set of skills in the new Sprinter’s arsenal is its array of safety features. Standard features include Cross Wind Assist and Hill Start Assist, as well as an impressive array of stability systems calibrated specifically for the Sprinter’s added weight and higher centre of gravity.

Perhaps the most impressive demonstration of this was down Kyalami’s famed mineshaft, where a series of cones were laid out and after a quick demonstration, we were then challenged to slalom between the cones as quickly and aggressively as possible. I am here writing this, so as you can imagine, all went well and the systems worked just as they were supposed to.

Visually, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has also benefitted from a makeover and as far as commercial vehicles go, it’s a rather handsome and clean looking thing. The dashboard layout has also been significantly changed and depending on how the vehicle is specced, it can even be had with a full leather steering wheel and Mercedes-Benz’s MBUX 7-inch infotainment system.

An interesting introduction to the range is the Sprinter 311 CDI which has a GVM of 3 490 kg, allowing drivers with a Code B license to drive them. In the past, only drivers with a Code C1 license could drive a Sprinter.

Mercedes-Benz has partnered up with six ISO 9001 approved bodybuilders who have to conform to strict rules, regulations and quality standards laid out by Mercedes-Benz. All 4×4 versions are now factory fitted with Mercedes-Benz’s 4Matic AWD system.

A huge focus has been placed on improving the servicing process through the Mercedes-Benz dealer network, and flexible servicing hours with servicing bays dedicated to Sprinter customers are to be introduced at selected dealers in order to reduce downtime for businesses.

Mercedes-Benz claim to have reduced the total cost of ownership by reducing fuel consumption (8.5% fuel cost saving) and reducing maintenance costs by 4.5%. Emergency and breakdown support is also included, and it was noted that while the Sprinter’s main competitors are the Iveco Daily and Volkswagen Crafter, the goal was to make improvements over the previous generation Sprinter rather than compete with other vehicles within its segment.

After a day of putting the Sprinter to the test, it was quite clear as to why it is such a key player in its segment – the product is brilliant and there’s no denying that, but Mercedes-Benz also offers unrivaled support which makes the whole ownership experience hassle-free and cost-effective.

For more information visit the official Mercedes-Benz Commerical website here.