Category: Bakkie

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.

 

Bakkie Dual: Ford Ranger 2.2 vs ISUZU KB 300

Ford Ranger 2.2 vs ISUZU KB 300

Ford Ranger 2.2 vs ISUZU KB 300 – Which is the best bakkie?

Choosing the right bakkie is something that was a simple task a decade ago. Do you want the Hilux, the KB or the Navara? Now however there are many players, all with great products. It’s really become a preference related choice, no longer a “better than” thing since most modern pick-up trucks can do similar things for the average consumer.  The two bakkies we want to focus on in this article are the updated Isuzu KB 300 Double Cab DTEQ LX 4×4 Auto and the ever so popular updated Ford Ranger 2.2 TDCi Double Cab XLS 6AT 4×4.

bakkie slide

What makes them tick?

The Ford is powered by a 2.2 litre turbocharged diesel that produces 118kW/385N.m. The KB on the other hand has a 3.0 litre turbocharged diesel that makes 130kW/380N.m. So despite more displacement, the Isuzu is down on torque, but by a mere 5N.m. Both vehicles have great power delivery and usable torque throughout the rev range, but the Ford is definitely the smoother of the two. Since both cars are 4×4’s, they offer the choice to drive in 4×2 mode, as well as diff lock and low range mode too.

If weekends away in the bush are your thing, both these trucks will do a sterling job at getting you to your destination safely with ease. Both can also tow up to 3500kg so your Venter trailer won’t be a problem, nor will a horse box for that matter. Being double cabs, you do have the least amount of space compared to a single or super/extended cab. The space you sacrifice however is made up by the fact that your family can accompany you on an excursion.

Bakkie Lifestyle.  

Gone are the days when the ol’ bakkie was just a car for work. The car now needs to work during the week and play in the weekend. As a result, comfort it crucial. This is where you start seeing differences between the two trucks we had on test. The KB is a natural born hard worker. Known for decades of its ability to run businesses, it has come a long way to evolve as a car that can comfortably accommodate the family. This is especially the case when you drive the facelift version. Leather seats, a touch screen infotainment system and a great sound system make the car very liveable. The only time you start noticing anything in terms of comfort is when you drive the Ford Ranger. You would swear that Ford had a spy at Volkswagen, taking tips on how to make a bakkie feel like a car. The Ranger is definitely the most comfortable between itself and the ISUZU. Noise levels from the engine are also considerably lower compared to the ISUZU, as you can hear that engine working hard in the KB. If comfort is what you’re after, the Ranger is the best choice despite it having cloth seats. The Ford is also equipped with the SYNC infotainment system which gives you access to features like Bluetooth and USB capabilities.

Who’s the fairest of them all?

Contrary to popular belief, we feel the Ford Ranger is a tricky car to judge its beauty. Without fancy wheels and roll bars, it looks quite plain. The updated KB has a prettier face and actually looks better than the Ranger. However when a Ford Ranger is equipped with the right bits on the outside, (no we’re not referring to the infamous Raptor kit), it looks very good as well.

Overall, both vehicles had their pro’s and con’s. The KB is the rougher bakkie between the two but looks the best. The Ranger is the nice bakkie to drive everyday and feels less cumbersome, yet less visually appealing in standard spec. The KB comes in more expensive at a price of R563 500, whereas the Ranger retails at R529 900. The Ford Ranger also has a 5 year 100 000km service plan whilst the ISUZU KB has a 5 year 90 000km one. If we had to choose, we’d opt for the Ford Ranger and use the extra money to make it look more rugged. Either way, both bakkies are great choices, they all offer great off-road and on-road attributes while giving you every day driveability and practicality.

Volkswagen strikes back: Volkswagen Amarok V6 launched in South Africa

Volkswagen Amarok V6

Volkswagen Amarok V6 launched in South Africa

Back in 2010 when Volkswagen announced that the Amarok will only feature 2.0 litre engines, bakkie lovers were up in arms. “We need more power! We need more displacement!” the angry hoards and picketers screamed, forming a mob and carrying flaming objects whilst protesting toward their local VW dealers. Well that’s what we assume happened in certain parts of town where anything under 3.0 litres is an insult to someone’s manliness. This burning issue however was not really about power, because despite the Amarok 2.0 TDI producing 132kW and 440Nm, what people had a problem with was the size of the engine. So much so, the Amarok didn’t really take off as well in South Africa as VW had hoped it would. People are still buying the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger in droves, don’t forget the Isuzu KB as well. As a result Volkswagen have seen the need for change, drastic change at that. What, then, could be more drastic than a bakkie that produces 165 kW/550 N.m? How about a bakkie that produces 180 kW and 580 N.m on over-boost? Yes the new Amarok V6 is in a different performance league when it comes to pick-ups available in South Africa.

Bakkie SUV?

To be honest, the Volkswagen Amarok has always had a few advantages over its rivals, but it seems as though those advantages weren’t ever enough. Take for example the cabin and ride quality, there is nothing agricultural about the car. Instead, the Amarok is arguably the best dual purpose lifestyle bakkie out there. People don’t care however, people want power. That is why the combination of the updated cabin and the engine are a match made in bakkie heaven as you get the best of both worlds. A large touch screen infotainment is now offered in the Amarok, giving you features like Apple CarPlay as well as Bluetooth and other smart features. Ergonomically you feel like you’re in a Golf up front, of course the rear seats are still more “truckish” but purely because you have a load bin behind you and nothing’s going to change that. The overall interior and comfort levels in the V6 are fantastic, you’d swear you’re in an SUV, especially without the rackety noise of the 2.0 TDI.

 

Is all that power necessary?

No. There is no real need for all that power, unless you plan on ploughing the fields in the morning or towing your mobile home with you. Quite honestly, the power offered in the 2.0 TDI is sufficient for the average bakkie owner. The thing is though, once you put your foot down in the V6 and you feel the surge of torque – you realise that this is not power you need, it’s power you want. Once you’ve experienced it, you don’t want it to go away. The powertrain offered in the V6 Amarok can be best described as a very rich dessert, a chocolate mousse even. If you’re not a lover of chocolate mousse, you need to rethink your entire life and maybe even see someone about that.
Oh by the way, it’s not only power that’s changed in the Amarok, the front end looks different too…slightly. The entire range has been face-lifted, with minor changes giving the car a fresher face. The choices are as follows: Comfortline, Highline, Highline Plus and Extreme. The engines range from a 103kW 2.0 TDI to the 132kW 2.0 TDI and then of course, the V6 we’ve been crushing over. If money is no object and you only want the best, the top of the range Extreme model is available. This will equip your Amarok with Satellite navigation, 20 inch wheels, Bi-Xenon headlights and even 12 way adjustable “ergoComfort” seats as some of the standard features.


All these features sound like items you would get in an SUV, but that’s what the bakkie market wants. Thankfully you can still go into Africa and see the dusty sights in your Amarok. The car features an Electronic Differential Locking system for great traction but a diff lock button is still available for those really sticky situations. An Off-Road button can be selected for hardcore terrains and this allows for features like hill descent control to be activated and other nifty features such as off-road ABS as well.
If your Amarok is equipped with ESC, you get a feature called Electronic Trailer Stabilisation which assists when loss of traction occurs whilst towing. Speaking of towing, you’re good for 3300kg, which is great especially for those who enjoy a spot of caravanning. Depending on which Amarok you get, there is the choice of a 6 speed manual gearbox for the 103kW and the 132kW, but the V6 is only offered with the 8 speed automatic gearbox and only in 4Motion as well. The 2.0 TDI’s can be opted as RWD or 4Motion, with the 4Motion being the best off road choice, as it uses a Haldex system to utilise all four wheels for better traction.

Best bakkie out there?

Answering that question with a yes or no depends on your needs. As a lifestyle bakkie for the city and open road, the Amarok has always been a leader when it comes to comfort and trim levels. For the real hardcore off-roaders, some still prefer the likes of a Toyota Hilux. You can’t blame them because there are very few bad bakkies out there. The addition of the V6 engine has made the Amarok the best bakkie in terms of its powertrain. The new Nissan Navara still has one of the best chassis out there but again, it’s all subjective. The biggest problem facing bakkies today is cost and the Amarok V6 is not cheap. Nor is any other top of the range pick up either. An asking price of R748 600 for the Extreme is a hard pill to swallow. If it makes you sleep better at night, think of these fancy bakkies this way: if you own one of them, you don’t really need an SUV anymore. You have all the creature comforts of an SUV but the off road attributes of a bakkie, giving you a car you can do more with. Who would’ve thought that one day this segment would be so demanding? The fact that Volkswagen actually went ahead with the development of this car proves that if people complain enough, eventually they get what they want.

 

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Limited Edition Fx4 Ford Ranger in South Africa

Limited Edition Ford Ranger Fx4 in South Africa

Limited Edition Ford Ranger Fx4 has been added to the South African range.

There’s a new version of the Ford Ranger and Ford describe it as “stunning.” Describing your new product as “stunning” is much the same as when a restaurant describes a dessert as being “delicious” on their own menu. I will be the judge of that, thank you very much!

I wouldn’t go so far as to say “stunning” but it is quite nice. And it’s certainly striking. Based on the Ranger 3.2 TDCi Double Cab 4×4, the Fx4 receives a number of visual only enhancements, as well as Ford’s latest SYNC 3 Navigation and infotainment system. The Ranger is arguably the benchmark in its segment with its “car-like” demeanour – its comfortable, refined and really is the kind of bakkie one can drive every day, in comfort.

Apparently the Fx4 nomenclature has something to do with the F-Series pickups in the US, but that’s about as far as the similarities go – Americans would consider this rather large vehicle a bit of a joke if parked up next to an F-250.

More specifically, the Fx4 gets black finishes for the grille, fog lamp surrounds, exterior mirrors, roof rails and door handles. The side steps, rear bumper and sports bar come in Panther black which should all go nicely with the aftermarket “Raptor” look-alike grille the Fx4’s owners will almost certainly fit the moment they take delivery, as most Ranger owners do.

Interesting side note – there have actually been reports of these “Raptor” grilles causing engine cooling issues on Ranger models. Not surprising, however, as these modifications are not OEM items and as such were likely never tested further than fitment, because they look kiff, bru.  

The Ranger Fx4 is available in just four colours – Panther Black, Moondust Silver, Sea Grey and Frozen White and can be had with either an automatic or manual transmission.

Pricing is R593 900 for the manual and R608 900 for the automatic. Both come standard with a 4 year/ 120 00km warranty and 5 year/100 000km service plan with 3 years/ unlimited km roadside assistance.

Stunning? Perhaps not. Relatively good value for money and a stealthy version of the best bakkie you can buy? More likely.

 

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Who said a half tonner can’t be cool?: Nissan NP 200 ICE Driven

 Nissan NP 200 ICE Driven Review in South Africa

 

Never in a million years would’ve I have thought a half tonne bakkie would be something that appeals to me. Honestly these kind of cars are usually bought out of need, not want. Perhaps you’ve started a small business and you need something that’s going to keep going and going. Or you’re the kind of guy that loves to spend time outdoors? Either way a half tonner can solve all your problems.

For me to fully understand the appeal of this car, I had to put myself in the shoes of someone who needed one. The ICE version of the NP 200 is what we were given and honestly, at first I thought it looked corny. It was only after five minutes of driving the thing did I appreciate not being behind the wheel of a plain white one, as there are some many on the road.

 

How Does It Drive?

The ICE edition comes with some nice features such as a front nudge bar to end move taxis out your way. It then has a sporty looking set of wheel, leather seats and blue paint to show the world how “cool” you are. It also comes in silver paint if the blue is too out there for you. The best thing about driving such a bakkie is that the size of it makes it very “get up and go”. It’s really a car that you don’t think too hard about driving because it’s so small. The ICE edition we drove was the 1.5 litre DCI engine which is like a little Jack Russell, it nips at the heels of other drivers in traffic. With only 62kW/128Nm, the lightweight body of the car makes it feel like more. It also seems to run on magic as I battled to get the fuel gauge to move, despite running around aimlessly trying fill the load bin. The ICE is also available with a 1.6 litre petrol engine which should be quite good, but won’t have the great torque spike that the diesel has.

 

In my attempt at trying to be a half tonne bakkie owner, I found myself with the urge to move stuff. I became a pest to my friends, offering to move a desk, dispose of the trash etc etc, to see how much stuff I can fit in. I do occasionally cycle so even my worn out ride bike got a chance to see how effective the NP200 ICE. The rubberised bin is a nice standard feature from Nissan as a scratched up load bin is the equivalent to a grandmothers cracked heels, not nice to look at and difficult to fix

Final Thoughts

Overall I can say I was quite pleased with this little bakkie. It’s the bakkie you’ll want if during the week you run a small business and in the weekend you need to live with the car. The NP200 has a  decent radio and air-conditioning system and a punchy little engine. It’s still very much a no frills car even though it offers all the frills in the range.

For those business orientated guys, you’ll be happy to know that you have a 6 year/150 000km warranty on the car, so you can put this little workhorse to work. I for one can see why some families have one of these half tonners in their garage. From a practicality perspective, it’s always handy having something small with loading capacity at your disposal. The NP200’s father, the iconic Nissan 1400 would be proud to see it’s kid following in daddies footsteps. It’s a great little thing indeed.  

 

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