Tag: Driven

McLaren 570S Driven Review

If one word could be used to sum up the year for us at TheMotorist, that word would be fantastic . As the newest and youngest members in an industry filled with people who have decades of experience, we had to learn how to swim in deep waters.  Thank goodness none of us drowned. In order to celebrate this, we decided to end the year off with something special.  A vehicle which none of us have driven before would do the trick, preferably something special. After poking our noses around with some manufacturers, we found exactly what  we were looking for.

Our answer can in the form of a McLaren, one that makes up part of their newly formed Sport Series. By now you would’ve read, seen or heard about the McLaren 570S. We kept up with all the buzz around this car, but none of us had the pleasure of driving it yet.  How better then to sample such a car at the Zwartkops racetrack, which we had at our disposal for an entire day. It must be said that the days leading up to this test gave us feelings of excitement but equal amount of nerves too. These feeling got worse day by day. As a new publication, the 570S would be the first supercar to be tested by the entire team. Yes, we’ve driven the likes of the Mercedes-AMG GTS, but this is a step up. With everything planned, all we needed to do was fetch the car at the Daytona showrooms on a windy Sunday morning. When that day eventually arrived, anticipation grew as we heard the 3.8 litre V8 bounce sound waves against city buildings in Melrose Arch shopping centre.

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If you’ve only seen images or videos of this car, we can confirm that it doesn’t do justice to what this vehicle really looks like in the flesh. It resembles a mini McLarnen P1 with its sharp edges, wide body and typical McLaren teardrop headlights. This is complemented with many carbon fibre bits and pieces. It’s an exquisite looking thing. Following the car on our way to the track was mesmerising but challenging considering that I was behind the wheel of the new Renault Megane GT.  I had 151kW at my disposal but next to the 570S, I may as well have been peddling a bicycle. Richard had a better chance of keeping up in the BMW M3 he was driving, but even then our cars were overshadowed by this machine. A few kilometres into our journey to Zwarkops, the evitable happened. Francisco was pulled over by the “fuzz”. He claims to keeping to the speed limit, something I highly doubt. In the end, the police just wanted to look at the car and they suggested he pay a R500 fine because it “sounded” like he was travelling very fast. Unfortunately sounding fast doesn’t cut it, so he politely declined the suggestion and we were on our way.

What makes it tick?

As previously mentioned, the 570S features a 3.8 Litre V8 twin turbocharged engine, producing 419Kw (650bhp) and 600Nm of torque. It’s slightly longer and wider than the than the 650S, which makes it more “everyday friendly”. That being said it only weighs approximately  1300kg, due to its carbon fibre tub. Sitting inside the McLaren is a cosy experience, but quite snug . From the driver’s perspective, you feel very much a part of the car. Packing a lot of power and very little weight means the 0-100 km/h time of the car is 3.2 seconds.  0 – 200km/h is taken care of in 9.5 seconds, for us that was the more scarier figure.  All this performance doesn’t come cheap because depending on what’s happening with the Rand, you’re in for around the R3.5 million mark if you would like to be the proud owner of one.

Francisco summed up his experience of the car in this way…“ If you were to personify a traditional supercar, you could easily picture a slick playboy with an ego bigger than his bank balance. The McLaren 570s on the other hand doesn’t quite seem to fit that disposition. Instead, the whole brand for me is like Apple. I could see a young tech innovator hopping into a McLaren in a white T-shirt and sneakers. It’s just such a smart and nerdy car, that’s the impression I get. Perhaps because it’s the newest player in the major leagues, it kind of reminds me of the recent emergence of many young tech millionaires.”

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On the Track

After shooting the pretty stuff for our video, we each had a chance to take the vehicle out on the racetrack. What was meant to be a short stint, ended up being over an hour and many litres of fuel. At first, the 570s came across as quite a scary vehicle to drive because of its sheer acceleration and twitchy backend. I received quite the wakeup call in the beginning as I didn’t expect it to be as fast as it was. After first accelerating, my thoughts were something along the lines of “I really don’t want to push this car, it’s going to kill me”. Understanding how the 570s reacts after a few laps put me more at ease though. I soon felt comfortable enough to push it around this tight circuit. A few things that stood out to me, the first was how good the front end of this vehicle is.  You can enter a corner at a tremendous speed and it just allows you to carry on. Other cars under-steer, but the 570s just grips.  The brutal acceleration on this car is also a force to be reckoned with, one feeling I will never forget is the brute force of the final revs when in 3rd gear. Coming out of a corner in second gear, a harsh and fast change up into third and the car screams up to its 8500rpm limit in an awe inspiring way.

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Francisco had this to say about his track experience. “ You literally have a razor blade for a vehicle. Pick a cornering line and its yours, pick a braking point and it stops and then for the brave, turn off the traction control and you can slide the hell out of it. The whole experience of the car is quite special. It feels alive, it feels focused and yet it’s not tiresome like other sports cars that offer the same level of performance”

Not just a pretty face.

The 570s is very technical and electronic, and I know for Richard as much as he enjoyed the car, it didn’t make him giggle. He mentioned that  after getting used to the vehicle, no longer felt like it was going to kill him, it is a very fast and very predicable vehicle. This may sound negative but it’s really a compliment because the average man can’t trust the car to bring him home safely after a track day. Personally I enjoyed every minute in the car. The way it made me feel and how I could brake later and later and clip all the apexes, gave me a very big grin.

Overall then, the McLaren 570s is a vehicle which got the unanimous nod from all of us, it is a fantastic performance vehicle. The argument between us  was if we would choose it over the likes of a Porsche Turbo S? This is where Richards opinion different from Francisco’s and myself. He would not take the 570s home purely for the reasons he mentioned earlier. For him, he finds much more enjoyment in a vehicle that isn’t so predicable, one that will try and kill him coming out of the apex from time to time (strange we know) . The McLaren 570s will do that, but you really have to try hard to get it bent completely out of shape.

Francisco on the other hand said that if you are looking for something  special ,that can still be used every day, the McLaren is the way to go. His exact words were “The McLaren 570s has that special appeal that a supercar is supposed to have. As much as they may say it’s a sports car, everything about  begs to differ. It’s only when you use it on the road, that’s when you see it’s sports car attributes. If you asked me to choose for you, I’d offer the following advice; if you’re an introvert and would like to blend in, buy another car. If however you like a bit of attention and still want something usable on the road, give McLaren a call.

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For me, The 570s is definitely a car I would take home. I understand where Richard is coming from as this car is a serious piece of kit and you may feel like it doesn’t like to play. As much as I like something that’s completely wild, I also love a vehicle that can perform extremely well on the track. Its not just the performance that gets me, the way the McLaren feels when inside makes me feel like a little boy. The interior styling, extremely low driving position and PlayStation-like controls really make it stand out for me. The McLaren 570s is called a sports car, but it is so much more than that. The ride is firm but livable and even out of Track Mode, it doesn’t feel much different to when it is in Normal Mode. There is something about a car with technology derived from F1 and packaged as a daily drive. I buy this car if I had the means, and compared to the prices you pay for other McLaren products, you can convince yourself that it’s good value for money. Now I just need to find R3.5 million. Any donations will be accepted.

 

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Mazda CX-5 Driven Review

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The Mazda CX-5 is a great looking vehicle, albeit slightly feminine. Climbing into the CX-5 for the first time was a pleasant experience – I was welcomed with black leather, a clean and classy interface and aluminium trim. It’s a lovely interior and what stood out to me in this car was the build quality of the little things like volume adjustment and the menu scroll. Milled from metal, they both felt well built and using them was luxury esqe. A small but notable feature was the dual USB ports sitting under the display in a small cubby hole – I can’t remember how many times this would have been extremely useful when on road trips with family and friends but it would have been many!

The CX-5 I’ve been driving is the 2.2L Akera Diesel, AWD and automatic. This is the highest spec that Mazda offer and it comes with its fair share of features such as a Bose Audio System, Sat-Nav, Power Lumbar Support, LED Adaptive headlights, blind-spot assist and much more. It’s a very long list, and even the entry-level model has a few nice extras, so I’m not going to list them all here. I did find myself on more than one occasion hitting the boot handle and waiting for it to open, only realising soon after that it’s manually operated. It would have been nice to have had an electronically operated one, like many of its competitors and its something that is probably expected for the R533 400 price tag.

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The diesel engine on this CX-5 in an interesting one, it almost feels like it is Naturally Aspirated, but it does, in fact, have a two-stage turbocharger. The Mazda engine features a lower compression ratio which means they can use lighter parts while reducing friction. This is seen in the performance as it has a very linear power delivery and doesn’t mind working in the higher RPM ranges.  Producing a very acceptable 129Kw and 420Nm of torque which enables the CX-5 to pull quite nicely, and once it gets going, it flies.

Regarding driving dynamic, I was expecting a little more. The initial turn in response is a little slow, and at times I found the CX-5 experienced a little too much body roll in the corner. Apart from this, though, the ride quality is good, and after taking the CX-5 on a little off road adventure, it soaked up the lumps and bumps there as well. It surprised me because the CX-5 can come across a little soft from the exterior, but it’s actually a robust vehicle which holds itself well and can handle some rough terrain.

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During the time I had the CX-5 on a test, the new facelifted model was released, which is expected to arrive in South Africa around mid-2017. The new CX-5 features the same engine variants but has an updated, more aggressive design. This new model also features G-Vectoring Control, a new technology under Mazda’s SKYACTIV-VEHICLE-DYNAMICS which controls adverse vehicle motions during cornering.

If you’re interested in purchasing a CX-5, there are a few things to consider – you could very well get a great deal on the current model, but you may want the latest facelifted CX-5, in which case you are just going to have to wait a little longer.

 

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BMW X1: Breaking New Ground

It may seem like a strong headline, but it’s true. The current BMW X1 is the first X model to send its power to the front wheels. Shock and horror right? Wrong. It would be shock and horror if this was 2001 but it’s 2016 and things have changed. For one, BMW has come to the realisation that many people who buy modern day SUV’s aren’t going to be sliding around corners anytime soon. As a result, the most logical option when it comes to configuring these cars is to provide a setup that will give optimum space. That is why you’ll notice a vast difference in rear legroom when sitting in a new BMW X1 compared to the previous model. So BMW have decided to listen to its target market, a market that is moving from sedans into larger cars such as the X1. So more space is essential.

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City slick:

Who is this car most suited for? The BMW X1 is a car that works well for young families. It completes everyday tasks with ease, allowing for ample space to fit kids, bags and groceries. The specific model we tested was the S Drive 20i Sport Line, the most balanced of the petrol engines in our opinions. Besides the frugal diesel option, there is the choice of a more powerful 2.0 litre turbocharged engine, an option we feel is unnecessary for this type of vehicle. The 141kW power plant has more than enough grunt to get you going in the city or on a long road trip. As previously mentioned, the X1 feels much more roomier inside as the older model felt more like a station wagon than an SUV. From an outward aesthetic point of view, the X1 shares similar lines to the X5, which is a great compliment considering the handsomeness of its older sibling.

As with most modern cars, the X1 is not lacking when it comes to technology. The standard BMW infotainment system is available, which equips with Bluetooth connectivity, USB functionality and auxiliary input as well. Connected Drive is another feature that may come in handy but will probably not be used as much as expected. Yes itis good to know that you can call into Germany and get directions to your destination, but we have smartphones for that don’t we? Besides with the exorbitant price of navigation systems on cars, the old iPhone or Galaxy is the more cost effective option.

Compromised handling?

The biggest fear for many BMW traditionalists is the fact that the dynamic attributes of the car change when you make it pull instead of push. Again, for the application of this car, having a FWD setup certainly does not make you feel like you’re not in a BMW. As a brand known for its dynamic handling and nimbleness, the X1 is still confidence inspiring at higher speeds. What may be most noticeable are the firm seats on the car, especially on a long distance excursion. Besides that, it ‘s hard to find anything terribly out of place in the car.

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Should you buy one though?

Overall the X1 is a great offering in this segment. Unlike the previous version which wasn’t so pleasing to the eye, this current version offers charm and sophistication. The biggest problem that is faced by the X1 is the competition. This is a segment that has many players looking to convince buyers to sign up. One of the biggest talking points is price, and the X1 may fare badly in this category. With a starting price of R476 400, it’s not cheap considering that you’ll be driving a “bare bones” car if you don’t add all the right things. Our advice would be to keep it simple if you’re going to go the X1 route. Pick the right options that you will need but don’t go overboard because depending on the model you buy, you may be looking in the R700 000’s if you’re not careful.

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Smaller engine, more power: New Volvo S60 Polestar

Normally a model refresh or “face-lift” comprises of some subtle visual changes. With performance cars, the manufacturer usually adds some extra power to keep buyers happy.  In the case of the Volvo S60 Polestar, Volvo have taken a slightly different approach. They have done away with the original 3.0 litre in-line six cylinder turbocharged engine and replaced it with a four-cylinder supercharged and turbocharged Drive-E version. A car that produced 258kW now makes 270kW. This sounds a bit drastic for a mere 12kW gain in power. The changes don’t end there, though. The 6 Speed automatic gearbox on the original S60 Polestar reminded one of performance cars from yesteryear and we lamented how that was the cars biggest flaw. Now, however, an 8 Speed fast shifted gearbox has taken the reins to make the car feel more modern.

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Big changes, little gains?

Volvo’s efforts to please its target markets needs did not go wasted. The reduction in weight from the smaller engine surely adds a different feel to the car. There is a reinvigorated zeal in the new model to do things faster, where the old model suffered from delayed reaction times. The shift speed of the new gearbox is also most welcome in this new model. Up-shifts are quicker and the new ratios have made for a more exciting driving experience. As a whole, this new setup is very good. Yes, we miss the noise of the old girl but the hot hatch sounding engine tone in the new car is not bad, especially when Sport mode is engaged via the gearbox. The move from turbo-charging to twin charging (supercharging and turbo-charging) may seem slightly old school in a time where twin-scroll turbochargers are the preferred choice by many, but in this case, it works as there is minimal lag.

Comfort first, performance second

In my opinion, the most enjoyable aspect of the new S60 Polestar is how it doesn’t compromise on providing a comfortable driving experience. After all, being a large sedan a car like this will usually be bought by someone who has a family. For that purpose, the ride quality and ample legroom and boot space, will surely keep that client happy. Even as a childless single adult, I could appreciate driving in the standard mode, knowing I have the power to overtake without having to use it. That being said, the Polestar is still a Volvo and modern Volvo’s come standard with enough technology to rival Apple. This is not a bad thing, but it can become intrusive. Lane departure assist is great, but seeing a quick gap on the highway and taking it may be problematic as the car will veer the car back into the line, thinking you’re falling asleep. Being in the city also means that cars naturally travel closely behind each other. When approaching another vehicle from behind at speed,  the anti-collision system beeps at you, to alarm you of a potential rear ending. For someone on the move and in a rush constantly, you may want to turn off some of the systems to cope with the fact that your car thinks you’re a bad driver. Besides that, you can sit back in the leather and Alcantara seats, play your music through the fantastic sound system and revel at the fact that your car is more blue than most people’s.

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Great for its age.   

The fact that we can compare an S60 Polestar to its competitors and still enjoy it is a huge feat for Volvo. The reason for this is because to put it simply; the entire S60 range is old. The exterior and interior design has not been changed in a while whilst the competition’s cars are much newer. One looks forward to the new S60, especially since cars like the XC90 and soon to be launched S90 look and feel great. We hope to see the model that will replace this car emerge soon. For now, though, Volvo aficionados and eccentric individuals looking for something different have something, fast, blue and nimble to enjoy.

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Peugeot 308 GT-LINE Automatic Review

The more time you spend with a vehicle, the more you get to know it and learn about it.  In issue 04 of TheMotorist, I tested the Peugeot 308 GT-Line, the manual variant. I recently got behind the wheel of the Automatic variant, which features the same three cylinder- 1200cc turbo motor. After my bad experience in the Peugeot 208 Auto I was slightly worried that the same faults with that vehicle would follow on into the 308. The 208 Auto was not a great box at all, the issues with that vehicle arise when pulling off, but mainly also when coming to a stop in traffic or at a junction.

More than 90% percent of the time I experienced a juddering feeling, much like when the engine speed is too low for a certain gear. Imagine slowing to a stop while in 3rd gear, that was feeling. It bothered me so much that at certain times I even went for the none existent clutch pedal, giving my wife minor whiplash as I proceeded to hit the brake pedal with left foot force. You may say this is driver error, but after driving manual vehicles for the few weeks before driving the 208, your instinct is to head for the clutch pedal when a car feels like its going to stall.  From then on I had to constantly remind myself that this an automatic vehicle, just with a gearbox fit for a kids fisher price trike.

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Fortunately, the 308 Auto does not suffer from this problem; it provides a comfortable drive, smooth gear changes and decent all-around performance. This, though, is expected of course as the Peugeot 308 is a much more expensive vehicle. Many features are the same, the tachometer travels in the wrong direction, A/C controls are still digital, and you can’t connect Bluetooth devices unless the vehicle is stopped. They don’t tell you that, though. So you end up fiddling through the menus trying to figure out how to connect your mobile device. Still, with no luck, you pull out the manual, picture the scene. Now you are flicking through a paper book as big as a Harry Potter novel while trying to negotiate a complex digital screen. Added to the fact that you are travelling at speed on your way to work, sleepy-eyed, just wanting your Bluetooth connection to work so you can be a “safer driver” and call your wife. That might be an exaggeration, but the point I’m making is that little things like this don’t need to be over complicated, especially in today’s world of connectivity.

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All in all though, the 308 is a great car. Personally, I don’t like the Ruby red color as I feel it does show off the GT-Line body kit as well as the Nacre White, but that is all down to personal preference. Not only is the exterior styled well, but the interior is also a great place to be, nice lines and a very sporty feel, most of all it doesn’t feel cheap. One of my favorite features on the 308 GT-Line is the seats, they look sporty and hold the driver and passenger well but on top of that, they are extremely comfortable. A massaging function is also included, it’s a kind of gizmo that gets used a few times and then forgotten about, but it something to tell your friends about right?

The other issue that nags me about this vehicle is the lack of space in the glove box, they are obviously not designed to fit your overnight bag, but in the 308 the design is very strange and leaves little room for small items.

The 308 GT-Line starts at R357 900, if you don’t feel like the fancy spec you can opt for the Active line. It is not only the spec that is different on this vehicle, there is also a reduction in power from 96kw to a mere 81kw. The final option in the 308 range is the GT – featuring a 1600cc 151kw Motor, the only transmission option here being a 6-speed manual.

Peugeot 308 GT-Line
1.2 3 Cylinder PureTech Turbo
96 kw/230Nm
4.8l/100km
Starting from R357,900

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Jaguar XE Driven: Is there space for a big four?

The C-segment has been going through a war for many years now. The majority of those years have been ruled by one brand, the BMW 3 Series. During this time, Mercedes’ C-Class has been in competition with the Bavarian dictator and they have always come off second best in terms of driving dynamics and excitement but have always led in terms of comfort. Meanwhile the Audi A4 has always been the conservative’s choice amongst the lot and as a result, has had a specific audience to itself. With technology progressing and cars getting better and better, the distinct differences in cars within this segment have lessened, making brand loyalty the biggest decision maker for the consumer.

All of a sudden, though, a smaller more exclusive brand has entered the war and their offering has narrowed the gap even more. That brand is Jaguar and the new XE is their contender in this segment. After spending a week behind its wheel we were left wondering if the big three may need to make space for a fourth.

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Is it really that good?

Yes, the Jaguar XE is a lovely vehicle. From the way it looks to the way it drives, makes it a very appealing package indeed. Add that to the fact that the nameplate it bears is one that denotes sophistication, class, and luxury. The engine line-up is similar to that of its competitors too, ranging from small 2.0 turbocharged petrol and diesel engines to a brutish 3.0 V6 Supercharged power-plant in the top of the range S model.

We had in our care the 177kW 2.0 i4 Turbo with the R-Sport package, a magnificently beautiful car that is as refined as it is good looking. It’s not all looks with the XE though, the car can manoeuvre its way around bends in a confidence-inspiring way. Dynamically the XE is without a doubt one of the best cars in its segment. It’s comfortable too, our Bavarian friends have often sacrificed comfort for dynamics in their Sports Packages, whereas the XE has a better sense of balance between the two.

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Elephant in the room:

It is a fact that all car prices in South Africa are reaching a point where most of us will have to take up cycling in the future. Being that as it is, the price of the Jaguar XE is its proverbial 6th toe. The car is simply too expensive compared to the competition. We were distracted by its looks and charm but when we eventually looked at the price of the car, we were astonished at the base price of R695 000 for the model we drove. That is the only flaw we have for the car, besides that one would be nit-picking to fault anything else about the car.

So we’ve established that it’s good, but is it good enough to justify the price? It depends on two things. Firstly and most importantly, the depth of your pockets and secondly what you’re personally looking for in a car. It is a fact that the Jag is the most exclusive car to own in the segment, especially since every second car you see is a 3 Series and every third is a C-Class. So if you want to put your keys on the bar counter and feel special, then the XE may sway you quite a bit. At the same time, as we previously mentioned the gap is so narrow and the competition’s cars are great, so the majority of people would rather save some money and buy the competition.

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So is there room for a fourth space in the club? From a volume perspective unfortunately not, the top three will most likely outsell the Jaguar XE purely because of South African brand loyalty. What is nice though is knowing that there are options out there for the consumer and that the German’s products aren’t the only ones that are well built, stylish and exciting. What the Jaguar XE has done is throw a spanner in the works for the segment. It has elements of all the big three mixed with some Jaguar sauce and packaged very well. The result? A gourmet C- Segment car, but like all things gourmet you pay a premium for it.