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Should the Germans be worried? The Alfa Romeo Giulia is flexing on them.

Lap times prove that Alfa Romeo Giulia means business.

For months now we’ve been hearing all sorts of hype about the Alfa Romeo Giulia, especially the crazy version called the Quadrifoglio. This car has one aim and one aim only, to kick some German butt, namely the BMW M3/ M4 and Mercedes C63. Will this be possible? Well so far, with power figures of 380 kW being stated, the car could cause a spot of bother for our German friends. Now to add to that at the Frankfurt Motor Show, Alfa Romeo confirmed that the car did a lap time of 7 mins 39 seconds at the Nürburgring. If this is true and the car Alfa Romeo used was using road tyres, the Giulia will have lapped the ring a full 13 seconds faster than the BMW. Now if you’re not a big car person, you may think “why is the Nürburgring time so important?”

Why is the Nüburgring a big deal?

The Nürburgring is the place where all the manufacturers take their fast cars and test them for various things such as handling and dynamics. The reason for this being that the Nürburgring is an extremely demanding and long circuit which forces any car to utilise its handling setup the best it can. So the “big boys” spend months testing and fine tuning their cars here. The possible fact that the Giulia did the circuit 13 seconds quicker than a car that is known as the benchmark in this segment, is a noteworthy thing and shows that Alfa Romeo aren’t here for a picnic. Should the Germans be worried? We think so. Have a look at the video below to see a short video of the Giulia going around the ring.

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A unique little hatch: The Mazda 2 1.5 DE

The Mazda 2 1.5 DE is a surprising little car.

The Mazda brand is one that has won the hearts of many South Africans over they years. Decades ago, when currently middle aged people were younger, they raved over cars like the 323 and the 626. As a young person now, the brand to me has always been somewhat under the radar from a youth perspective. This is strange as their offering is quite good. Being that as it is, if I think small hatchback of course the first car that comes to mind is a Volkswagen Polo. That is why I was pleasantly surprised when I got behind the wheel of the Mazda 2 1.5 DE, a car with quite an interesting character.

What’s it up against?

First off I found it quite difficult to compare this car to anything in its segment, because there aren’t many small diesel hatchbacks that offer an automatic gearbox. If you don’t believe me, look at Volkswagen, Opel, Renault, Peugeot and Ford’s offerings. Between all of them, the choice of a diesel engine has been replaced by tiny three cylinder petrol engines with turbochargers. Volkswagen and Peugeot do offer diesels in their Polo and 208, but with manual gearboxes not automatics. So this revelation has made the Mazda 2 1.5 DE a unique car to drive and experience.

Does an automatic gearbox make it better than its competitors?

The automatic gearbox is a joy to have in the city. I felt this as I was stuck in traffic in Johannesburg CBD. Usually I would have wanted to scream bloody murder but because I had less work to do, I enjoyed my music. Speaking of music, this particular test unit had the MZD Connect system in it, which is a delight to have in terms of quality and features. Bluetooth and USB are included but the way the system works is what makes it a winner. Even the ergonomics of the system are very well designed, allowing you to navigate through options with minimal distraction.

Whilst on the topic of what’s inside the Mazda 2, I must mention how well built the cabin is too. Leather seats were fitted in this test unit and the seats are comfortable due to good bolstering. The only thing I would do without is the red striping on the seats, since the car I drove was metallic purple. If you buy a Mazda 2 with an exterior colour that would match the red striping, it could work. Space is adequate in the car, but the back seats can feel cramped depending on how tall your friends are.

How does the car drive?

The 1.5 litre turbo diesel engine fitted in the Mazda 2 produces 77 kW and 250 Nm. That torque is definitely what makes the driving experience of the car. The gearbox also works well with the engine, keeping you in the torque band with each shift. The only frustrating thing is that the car does suffer from turbo lag at times, leaving you waiting for the boost to kick in. As annoying as it can be, it doesn’t happen enough for it to ruin the driving experience. When in a rush, I found it best to keep the gearbox in manual mode and control the up shifts and down shifts myself. Overall, the feeling of a boosted diesel engine in a car that weighs very little is always a fun encounter, something I enjoyed about the Mazda 2 1.5 DE.

Is it value for money?

The Mazda 2 1.5 DE is the higher specification version of the Mazda 2 range. As a result, you will look at R259 000 for the car. For that price you do get a lot of car I must be honest. The Mazda’s competitors are similarly priced excluding the automatic gearbox, so one can say that Mazda has priced the vehicle fairly. Is it the car to choose against its competitors? That is totally up to you, all I can tell you is that the Mazda 2 1.5 DE is a good choice in its segment. The fact that in the diesel derivative, you will be looking at an average claimed fuel consumption of 4.4 l/100 km’s, definitely makes it a car to consider. If a diesel hatchback is what you desire and it must have an automatic gearbox, I guess you have no choice but to choose the Mazda 2 1.5 DE do you?

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Bentley’s new Bentayga: Has the world gone super SUV mad?

Are super SUV’s getting a bit out of hand?

As is, customers looking for a good quality SUV have many choices to choose from. So much so, you don’t have to be a member of a political party to own one, as there are SUV’s priced for people looking for something not too expensive as well. The world of premium SUV’s is one that is the most interesting though. In this segment, there seems to be an internal war going on which I think is rather pointless to be honest. This is the war for power, power and more power. The new Bentlely Bentayga is going to join that war in the very near future. The car will feature a 450 kW, 900 Nm  W12 engine, capable of doing 0-100 km/h in 4.0 seconds.

Isn’t it a little bit strange to know that a large two ton SUV can keep up with super saloons and even beat some sports cars? Don’t get me wrong, power is great and it’s a thrill to drive a super SUV because the concept of it defies physics. Experiencing the power of such a car is something special but living with such a car is a different thing. I can’t help but ask myself, does it really matter if my SUV can beat your sports car?

What’s the point of a super SUV?

Large cars such as the BMW X5, Mercedes GLC, Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q7, Volkswagen Touareg, Volvo XC90 (The list goes on) are all aimed at families. Even the marketing material of these cars shows the cars in picturesque surroundings, Billy and Sandy at the back and maybe even a dog in the mix. Then you get the “hot” versions of these cars, namely the BMW, Porsche and Mercedes. The brochures of these cars are different, the backdrop is something that resembles a circuit and the tag lines are all similar, something alluding to the fact that it’s “The world’s fastest SUV”. Why is that important? I’m really baffled. The new Bentley Bentayga is in the same boat. It’s already one thing that one group makes three of the most popular SUV’s and are adding a fourth in the mix. It’s another thing to market the car as the fastest SUV made, even if it is.

When I think Bentley, I think luxury, comfort and prestige. I don’t think apex, tyre screeches and lap times. I think this whole fast SUV thing is getting taken to a whole new unnecessary level. If I want to go drive on a race track and I have over R1,8 million to spend, I don’t think my first choice will be an SUV. I don’t think many people’s first choice will be a super SUV. It’s all marketing rubbish really. In my opinion, there’s nothing better than driving a meaty diesel SUV with great torque and a decent fuel economy. With the savings I will have for opting for that version instead of the super version, I could even sneak in a quick sports car for weekends.

There is no doubt in my mind that the new Bentley Bentayga will be a great car. It certainly looks striking and sharing the same DNA as the Touareg, Cayenne and Q7, it has a good gene pool too. The interior of the car is exquisite as well, it’s exactly what Bentley represents, opulence. I just find it strange that it seems like Bentley are focusing a great deal on speed. There is more to an SUV than speed, especially for the majority of SUV buyers. Call me crazy but when I’m on a road trip with my family in an SUV, my biggest worry is not how fast I’m going to get there, it’s how comfortable the trip will be. Happy Thought Thursday Motorists.

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Ashley Fiolek: A true inspiration.

Women Wednesday: Ashley Fiolek

At the young age of 24, Ashley Fiolek has achieved a great deal. She has won the WMX championship four times and has made quite a name for herself in the sport of Motocross. She has been riding since age three and racing since age seven. Throughout her career she has won many races and represented women amazingly in the world of motorsport. She was the first women to be featured on the cover of TransWorld Motocross, one of the largest Motocross magazines in the world. Let’s not forget the fact that she has won two gold medals at the X-Games and was signed by Honda racing too. She’s even been nominated for an ESPN ESPY Award for all her achievements.

Ashley Fiolek has managed to do all this despite being deaf from birth. If that’s not inspiring, that we don’t know what is. She is an amazing example of not allowing our imperfections or disabilities to stop us from doing what we love. With the right support structure and determination, Ashley was able to be successful in her career despite being having a disability. Often times we allow ourselves to let our doubts or insecurities get the better of us, but people like Ashley help us learn a great life lesson. No matter who you are and what your circumstance is, you can do great things if you focus on the positive and forget the negative. So next time you’re feeling sorry for yourself because you feel limited in your abilities, think of the story of Ashley Fiolek and remember that anything is possible, it all depends on you. Happy Women Wednesday Motorists.

Isn’t she pretty? The new Discovery Sport Dynamic

New Discovery Sport Dynamic revealed at Frankfurt Motor Show

The Land Rover Discovery Sport already looks twice as nice as it’s predecessor, the Freelander. One can see design cues from the Discovery, the Range Rover Sport and Evoque. The prestigious Frankfurt Motor show gave the people at Land Rover the perfect platform to showcase a new addition to the Discovery Sport family, this new model is called the “Dynamic” version.

What makes it Dynamic?

Most of the changes on the car are aesthetic, giving the car a more aggressive appeal. This has been done by adding stylish black bits to the mirrors, bumpers and wheel arches too. The front bottom grill even looks angrier, with is gaping wide mouth that looks like its telling people in front of it to get out of the way. A new set of 19 inch wheels have been added to, giving the car a more menacing stance. The point of the car is to give customers the choice of something sportier in terms of look. Think of it as Land Rover’s version of a Sports Package.

Anything else?

Yes. From next year the Discovery Sport will offer a feature called “All Terrain Progress Control”, which basically allows you to set and maintain a speed of 2 km/h to 30 km/h when travelling off-road. Why is this useful? Through smart technology, it helps control the car in conditions that are not-so-controllable, like on a gravel road. Thankfully the most amount of gravel that many Discovery Sports see in Johannesburg, is when there’s a bit of construction happening in Sandton. (We joke but it’s true). Anyway, we sure we’re going to see a few of these Dynamic versions of the Discovery Sport on the road soon in SA, as it is quite the looker. Good job Land Rover, good job.

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Facelifted BMW 3 Series in South Africa: What has changed?

What’s different with the facelifted BMW 3 Series now available in South Africa?

A BMW 3 Series is arguably one of the most seen cars on the road in South Africa, especially in Johannesburg. The reason for this is simple, South Africans love BMW’s and the 3 Series is a very good car. The F30 3 Series is on its third year of production, so as always when the car reaches past half way of it’s life cycle, it needs to splash some water on it’s face. Only this time with the facelifted BMW 3 Series, they decided not only to reapply some make up on the car, it decided to take it to the gym too.

New lights and bumpers.

The car’s visible changes are apparent, the headlights in the front and rear have undergone surgery. The new headlamps make use of new LED technology in the rear and front, giving the car a very modern look. New bumpers add to the modern feel of the facelifted BMW 3 Series too. Unlike most updated versions of cars, the biggest change though, is under the bonnet.

New engines for all ranges.

Out with the old and in with the new. BMW has replaced the 316i, 328i and 335i, but the 320i badge remains. The 328i and 335i are a simple change in badges and power. The 328i is now badged 330i and produces 185 kW/350 Nm of power and the 335i is now called the 340i which makes a good amount of 240 kW/450 Nm. The 320i has also had its power figures updated to 134 kW and 290 Nm, more torque has been added to it. What interest us the most though is BMW’s use of a 1.5 litre 3 cylinder petrol engine in the 318i, a first for a BMW 3 Series. Many manufacturers have utilised the fuel savings of a three cylinder motor and BMW have also done so in their “I” products and now in their 3 Series range too. The engine although small, produces 100 kW/ 220 Nm of power which should be enough to get you around town and on long distance  trip comfortably.

Verdict.

We welcome this fresh face facelifted BMW 3 Series and we’re sure South Africa will too. It’s scary that going back one generation of 3 Series, those cars now seem so outdated in terms of technology. One can only imagine what the next five years hold for BMW and every other brand actively embracing new technologies. Happy Tech Tuesday Motorists.

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The new iPhone 6S: Is it worth the upgrade?

Is the new iPhone6S worth the upgrade?

Like cars, cell phones are constantly being changed and upgraded with names like “S” and “Edge” being added to the end. So one can’t help but ask if these changes are really worth replacing the current phone with the new one. This has just happened with the new iPhone 6S. So is the S any different to the current one?

What has changed?

A lot. Firstly they have changed the glass of the phone, making it stronger to avoid those “night- out” breaks that leave your phone looking like Spiderman webbed it. Secondly it’s faster, it has a 64bit chip that makes the phone 70% faster at CPU tasks and 90% faster at graphics task. So hopefully gone will be the days of playing hang-man with your iPhone as you look at a bitten apple whilst the phone reboots. Thirdly, the Touch ID has been upgraded too, giving a faster response to the finger.

Wait, there’s more…

The two biggest new features on the new iPhone 6S is the camera and a new feature called 3D Touch. Let’s start with the camera, it’s a 12MP camera that can shoot in 4K (YES 4K!!!) and the front camera is a 5MP that is made specifically for FaceTime (long distance relationships ftw). There is a nifty feature called Live-Photo which allows a normal photo to show movement in it when pressure is applied to it.

3D Touch is a game changer as it is an entirely new feature which allows you to do more on your phone through by applying pressure on the screen. For instance you can preview an image by applying pressure on it to show it in full screen, when you let go the image will go back to it’s normal size. Or on your home screen when pressure is applied to the screen, more options are populated the same way right clicking on a mouse does on a PC. This feature can be used in various apps on the phone as a multi-tasking tool. From a software point the new iPhone 6S uses IOS9 which is obviously the best IOS currently.

Verdict.

If you’re someone who is technology crazy, it’s obviously worth the upgrade. The new features will definitely be useful to you. From a performance perspective too, having a faster phone is always better than a slower one, especially if your current iPhone is prone to hanging. If you’re about to upgrade, wait for the iPhone 6S to hit South Africa. The iPhone 6S will be available in the normal size and the Plus version too. If you’ve just gotten into a current iPhone 6, be happy with what you have because you can’t keep up anyway.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s an RS6 Avant.

There’s a new super wagon in town: Audi’s new RS6 Avant.

The chance of owning a super car on top of other necessary vehicles, such as a family car and an everyday run around is unfortunately not accessible to many. As a result, there was a need among many people for a car that serviced both needs. On one hand the car needed to be practical, allowing for enough space for the kids to argue in the back and spill yogurt and sweets on the seats. On the other hand the car needed to make you feel like you’re young again when the kids are in school, giving you that much needed “daddy-time” of performance and excitability.

Is that even possible?

This was a tough ask for a car, basically asking it to have a split personality. To get this right a manufacturer needed to get creative and think outside the box. Years ago BMW solved this problem by introducing the M5 and down this day that car is one of the top in its segment. Of course the other manufacturers developed their own answers to the M5, think Mercedes E63 and Audi RS6, very good answers too. Audi though decided to take it to another level and develop something the other manufacturers have neglected, the station wagon. Mercedes and BMW’s fast station wagons never took off the way they were meant to in South Africa, as a result the brands don’t even bother marketing them. Audi on the other hand have actively marketed their fast station wagons and as a result they have created the best looking ones yet.

What sets it apart?

The sheer presence of an RS6 Avant approaching can be likened to when Victor Matfield enters a room. You can’t help but be in awe of the size of the man and what he could do to you if you made him angry. The same goes for an RS6 Avant. The length of the car and the flared wheel arches make you wonder what it could do if you made it angry. The difference between Victor Matfield and an Audi RS6 is that you actually want to make the RS6 react. When you do, 412 kW and 700Nm from a 4.0 litre turbocharged engine respond very quickly. 3.9 seconds to 100 km/h to be exact. Those are the power figures of the updated RS6, a car that turns mommy and daddy into a superheroes.

Can it handle all that power?

All that power in a big body can get a bit scary to control, that is why Audi have had the car fitted with the Quattro suspension. On top of that the car utilises a smart centre differential which sends power to the wheel that needs it most depending on the situation. The car is kitted with an 8-Speed Tiptronic gearbox, which until a few years ago would have been a bad thing but the automatic gearboxes of today have in many ways rendered the manual obsolete, as sad as that is. If you really want to have a good time in your RS6, you can take the performance to the next level. This can be done through a dynamic package that gives you ceramic brakes and raises the top speed of the car to 305 km/h. This package only makes sense for those who will use their cars on the track, perhaps after fetching the kids from a sports game.

Verdict.

This segment of car is one that has some good choices to choose from. The Audi is a winner in terms of practicality since it is a station wagon. In terms of performance, the numbers from all competitors are very similar. The RS6’s price of around R 1.4 mil mark it also very similar to its German counterparts. It all boils down to preference at the end of the day. One thing is for sure, if you’re looking for something different, the RS6 has a definite edge to it. The stance of the car oozes aggression, it really looks like it’s about to attack. When it drives past you want to ask, is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a super wagon.

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Audi RS 6 Avant Interior

Audi RS 6 Avant
Interior

Audi RS 6 Avant  Static photo

Audi RS 6 Avant
Static photo

Drive in comfort: Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars 2.

Road-tripping shouldn’t affect your feet if you have the right shoes.

If you asked many people what are their favourite driving shoes, the Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars will definitely make the top 5 list. In our opinion, a good driving shoe needs to provide comfort but should not create a feeling of detachment between the driver and the foot pedals of the car. This is especially the case in a car fitted with a manual transmission. The driver needs to feel involved in the process, having full control of the vehicle. The Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars iconic shape has not changed but the way the shoe is made has been updated to give you a more comfortable shoe to wear, walk, party and drive in.

The Chuck Taylor 2’s are fitted with a Lunarlon Sockliner which gives added cushioning and support so your feet can go on for longer. The shoe is also fitted with a padded Non-Slip tongue which is great because there is nothing more annoying than the tongue of a high top moving around all the time. The inside lining of the shoe as well as the canvas has also been strengthened to be more durable so that your Chuck’s can last you longer. You know you have a winning shoe if you don’t have to change the design radically in decades. So next time you’re about to go road tripping, get your self a set of Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars 2’s for a comfortable ride.

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Do you love cars or do you want to get to work?: The new Suzuki Ciaz.

Feature Friday: Suzuki’s answer to those looking for an affordable Sedan, the Ciaz.

Keep-It-Simple-Stupid. This is a phrase that has been told to many and said by many, for good reason too. When things get complicated especially in cars, it detracts from the purpose of a car being a car. There’s nothing worse than a car that drives terribly but tries to distract you with gimmicks to hide the fact that it’s a rubbish car. Good thing nowadays there aren’t many new cars that are very terrible. Then again you do get some cars that make you wonder why the manufacturer put more emphasis on the sound system than the gearbox.

The Suzuki Ciaz 1.4 GL is a car that uses the K.I.S.S. philosophy. It doesn’t try wow you in any way, but it’s very effective in its purpose, that of being a good quality sedan. You get two types of people in the car buying world, those who love cars and those who want to get to work. The majority of people want to get to work but that doesn’t mean that they don’t require some creature comforts such as Bluetooth, a solid ride and good build quality. For those looking at those qualities in a car whilst needing some space at the same time, the Ciaz will tick all the boxes. The biggest box the Suzuki Ciaz will tick, is the price box. With a starting price of R180 000 you can’t disagree that this car is probably one of the best priced cars in its segment.

This makes me think of Pick n Pay’s no-name brand items. To be honest, If you gave me a glass of no-name brand milk versus a glass of Clover Milk, I wouldn’t be able to tell you the difference. At the same time if you placed both products in front of me and asked me which one I thought was better, I would probably say the Clover milk. Why? Because since I was little boy, each time I opened the fridge the only milk I would see is Clover milk, so automatically I think it’s the best. That’s the biggest problem in South Africa, we’re too used to brand names so in terms of sedans, we think something other than the “Big Three” isn’t any good. The reality is that there are good cars out there that are spacious and comfortable at half the price.

Obviously the brands that are regarded as the sedan staples in South Africa offer more in terms of performance, comfort and prestige. Those cars are in a different league, they are premium brands but the attributes they have don’t come for free. That is why you will pay double for those cars. The “big three” can be regarded as organic milk, yes it has more nutrients, but normal milk won’t stop you from eating your Corn-Flakes. Many health fanatics only drink organic milk, which is okay if you can afford it, but some may not be willing to pay R40 for 2 litres of milk, or it may be out of their budget to do so.

The same goes with cars, what about those individuals who aren’t in the market for a premium sedan? Those who simply want reliability and spaciousness at a good price? For those who want to simply eat their Corn-Flakes, they have great choices such as the Volkswagen Polo Sedan, Honda Ballade and Chevrolet Cruze. These cars offer just that and they compete directly with the Suzuki Ciaz in terms of price and specification. The Ciaz definitely holds its own against these cars. the fact is that the Suzuki Ciaz 1.4 GL or GLX will not implode if you drive it quickly, it responds well for a car larger car with a 1.4 litre engine. The car will also not refuse to turn a corner properly. The safety belts will not fall off in an accident and the large boot will not reject your groceries, in fact many things will be welcomed in the boot. This car is the direct answer to an affordable sedan.

If you’re looking in this segment of car, you need to decide what kind of client you are. Do you love cars or do you want to get to work? For some it may have always been a dream to drive one of the “big three”. If you part of that group and want the status that comes with driving a brand name, buy the brand and pay the premium. If you’re a more simple person and you want a car that operates in a different segment but is still spacious, comfortable and gets you from A to B, the Suzuki Ciaz should be one of your top picks. The choice is yours.

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