Tag: review

The New KIA Picanto

KIA Picanto

New KIA Picanto Driven Review

To many, the big and burly Range Rover Sport SVR currently in my basement is the ideal “dream car” with its high driving position, head-turning looks and thunderous soundtrack to accompany all 405 of its force fed kilowatts. However, the idea of running around in it on a daily basis is somewhat terrifying when one considers the indicated 42 l/100km fuel consumption figure I managed between my apartment and the highway. That’s not a typo – 42, as in 21 + 21 ….

KIA Picanto

It is at this point then, that I start to hear the murmuring voice of sensible John in the back of my head, reminding me of usable power and practicality and realistic blah blah blah. The fact of the matter is this – YOU DO NOT NEED A RANGE ROVER FOR YOU AND YOUR GYM BAG!

This brings me to the KIA Picanto, the sensible bastion of all things small, frugal and good valuey. “You made that word up” shouts a font of knowledge in the background, and yes, I did, but it’s done as much harm as KIA has by packing sturdy build quality and appealing design into the all-new Picanto – none! From the not too radically different exterior design to the interior consisting of materials bordering on premium, the entire package is a master class in the sub-B Segment and proves that you don’t need to spend silly money on a stylish and “nice” car that will get you and some things from A to B, wherever those A and B might B.

KIA Picanto

Rather cleverly, we were forced (yes forced) to drive the previous generation KIA Picanto to Philadelphia (in the Cape amen) where we would then exchange the old for the new, a back-to-back comparison if you will. Immediately, it was noted that the tactile quality of everything has improved drastically. Add to this the impressive NVH( Noise, Vibration and Harshness Technology), especially for this segment, and mature road manners and what you have is, by far, the best car in its segment. Interestingly, it’s boot is just 1-litre smaller than that of the Hyundai Grand i10 which competes in the segment above, and KIA are hoping that with competitive pricing and the good old “bums in seats” principle, they are going to capture some of that larger B Segment.

The motor lineup remains unchanged with the 1.0-litre (49 kW/95 N.m) and 1.2-litre (61 kW/122 N.m) petrol motors still the only options, although some fettling and tweaking has been done to further improve what are already perfectly suitable motors. South Africa might be lucky enough to see a little turbo motor somewhere in this Picanto’s lifetime, too… The 1.0-litre variant wasn’t available on the launch, but the 1.2-litre 4-cylinder motor was more than capable of hauling the snazzy little KIA Picanto around the streets of Cape Town and around the Cape Countryside.

KIA Picanto

Pricing is hugely competitive (R134 995 – R195 995) and makes one wonder why some of the competitors have similarly priced or more expensive products with worse quality and specification, although KIA’s have always been known for their lovely standard spec offering.

Four models are on offer – Start, Street, Style and Smart, and the cheapest model still comes standard with Bluetooth connectivity and a driver’s airbag. No ABS, however…
Mid-range vehicles receive other wonderful luxuries such as ABS, electric windows and another airbag and those with not so much money but the urge to splurge get foldy mirrors, a 7-inch touch screen infotainment system, leather here and there and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, amongst others. There are also three automatic models, which can be had in Style trim with a 1.2-litre motor or 1.0-litre motor and Start trim with the 1.2-litre motor.

KIA Picanto Pricing in South Africa

Picanto 1.0 START Manual –    R134 995
Picanto 1.0 STREET Manual –  R149 995
Picanto 1.0 STYLE Manual –     R159 995
Picanto 1.0 STYLE Auto –          R172 995
Picanto 1.0 SMART Manual –   R179 995

Picanto 1.2 START Manual –   R150 995
Picanto 1.2 START Auto –        R163 995
Picanto 1.2 STREET Manual – R165 995
Picanto 1.2 STYLE Manual –    R175 995
Picanto 1.2 STYLE Auto –         R188 995
Picanto 1.2 SMART Manual –  R195 995

Fiat 500 0.9 TwinAir Pop Star

I have spoken about cult cars before and how they somehow manage to attract both car-nuts and car-nots. There is one car, though, that I feel manages to attract more car-nots than car-nuts – the Fiat 500. In 2007, Fiat decided to go the same route as BMW with the MINI brand and Volkswagen with the New Beetle. They reinvented a vehicle which was incredibly popular back in the day, but with modern engineering and, don’t vomit, “retro” styling. I hate that term, but that’s exactly what it is.

As you can imagine, the 500 was an instant hit and while it may have taken South Africans a moment to warm to the little newcomer, the rest of the world went bananas for it. Barring the Americans, of course. While it never really appealed to those of us who enjoy driving briskly, the trendy and fashion conscious set loved how adept the 500 was at karting their quinoa salad take-away home from Tashas.

The 500 recently underwent a not too insignificant revision and goodness has it transformed the 500. I was never the biggest fan of the pre-facelift’s asthmatic motors and while the 1.4 litre NA motor’s 74 kW might sound okay, the 131 N.m offered was not. I adored the concept of the 500 but always felt that there were a few shortcomings.

Enter the refreshed Fiat 500, now available with 2-cylinder sewing machine engine (not really) and a little turbocharger. The Pop Star model we had on test offers 63 kW and 145 N.m which is in fact less power than the previous 1.4 litre naturally aspirated motor and only 14Nm more torque, but said torque is now available from just 1 900 rpm as opposed the previous motor’s lofty delivery close to the 6 000 rpm redline. The higher-spec Lounge model has the same motor, albeit in a higher state of tune with 78 kW. This punchy motor, displacing a mere 900c, makes easy work of running around town and if you’re not too heavy footed, Fiat claim a combined average fuel consumption of just 3.8 l/100km which is impressive. Of course we didn’t achieve anything close to that figure which we put down to the fact that you still have to boot it a little to get moving, hence our average of 7.0 l/100km. A 1.3 litre turbo diesel motor is also expected to join the line-up at some stage.

Aside from the brilliantly characterful motor, the minor styling upgrades have done a world of good for the Cinquecento – it’s adorable. LED daytime running lights have now been incorporated into the smaller set of headlights which are actually the high beams and minor tweaks to the rear as well as an array of new colours and wheel options come together to create a rather endearing little thing.

Inside, the air vents have been redesigned and things have been moved around a little to incorporate FCA group’s all too familiar Uconnect infotainment system. It works just as well as the one found in Ferraris and Jeeps and should you go for the Lounge model with its 7” TFT instrument cluster, you’ll have quite the techy looking 500. Sound deadening materials have also been increased to minimise cabin noise and here too, different trim options can be had to best suit the trendy human who would buy this sort of car.

Prices start at a not too heady R179 900 for the Pop model and work their way up incrementally to R280 900 for the 500C 0.9 TwinAir Lounge Auto. I reckon the 500 TwinAir Pop Star is the sweet spot in the range with nice to haves such as xenon headlights and PDC should you be unable to confidently manoeuvre your 3cm long vehicle. All models come with a 3 year/100 000 km warranty and service plan.

A better looking seven seater: Honda’s BRV.

Why is it that people carriers are always terrible looking? Besides Uber drivers, suburban parents will find these cars quite appealing, so it’s important for these cars to have some sort of an aesthetic appeal. I’m sure those parents don’t want to be mistaken for taxi drivers after their kids have been dropped off? Take for instance the Toyota Avanza, it’s bland and brown. The Suzuki Ertiga is not as bland, but also brown…most of the time.  What are your other choices? Well,  Honda have recently replaced the Mobilio with the new BRV and we had it for a week to see if it’s any good. Here’s what we concluded.

It’s practical:

If you happen to not believe in birth control, this is the car for you. You can fit seven people inside with some boot space leftover. If you need the boot expanded, you can drop the third bench and add more groceries, or bags, or whatever people with large families carry around. Besides offering vast amounts of space, the BRV offers one of the most modern cabins in its segment. The Elegance model we drove featured leather seats, an infotainment system and a manual gearbox. Power is supplied by a 1.5 litre normally aspirated engine which pulled the big car with ease. It’s not fast but nor is it “I can’t go up this hill” slow.

Design:

The BRV doesn’t have the dimensions of a taxi, thank goodness. It’s long and quite high. It looks like a station wagon with a raised ride height. Compared to its rivals, it also looks the most modern of the lot and for the first time, the car we had on test was not brown. So it seems like there is some sort of hope for this segment aesthetically. Don’t get me wrong, the BRV is not the car young petrol-heads will have on their wall, but it may be on the mental wall of those looking for a large car at a good price.

It’s economical:

Every new Honda we’ve driven with a 1.5 litre engine seems to not like fuel. This is good because we don’t like spending money on fuel. The BRV has a combined fuel consumption of 6.2litres/100km. These figures are very seldom on the money with most cars but we can report that with daily driving around town as well as some longer trips, the BRV never bothered us for extra fuel. In fact, we returned the car with a decent amount of fuel for the people of Honda to return to their offices with and even stop by Pretoria if needed be.

It’s comfortable:

No the Honda BRV doesn’t have amazing steering feel, nor does it turn into corners in a phenomenal way, that’s because it’s not meant to. It’s a car meant to carry people in comfort, which it does. Commuting in the BRV gives you a quiet ride and a suspension that soaks up bumps and suburban humps, that’s all that matters. For those keen on the occasional family trip you’ll be able to do so with ease. Simply pair your phone and sing along to your streamed tunes.

 Overall:  

The BRV is a car that makes sense for those needing more space. It ticks many boxes and as a result, we think it’s a good car indeed. It may not have a strong visual appeal, but last we checked visual appeal wasn’t needed to drop the kids off at school, store more luggage and fit extra human beings. Practicality does all that, for that purpose the BRV works very well. At a starting price of R238 900, that’s a lot you’re getting for a good price.

 

 

Theta S 360 Camera

More tech firms are introducing 360° cameras to the market, making them increasingly available. One of those brands is Ricoh, and they have released the Theta S. The Theta S is capable of shooting 14mp images and full HD 360° video at 30fps.

Design

It is a unique-looking piece of equipment which features two fisheye cameras, one mounted on the front and the other on the rear. The Theta S is about as long as an iPhone 6 and about half as wide. It features one main capture button on the front and 3 smaller buttons on the side which control power, modes, and Wi-Fi connection.  Its long design does help when shooting and the Theta S also features a standard thread tripod mount. You will need a carry case for this camera though, as simply placing it on its front or back face will bring either lens into contact with the surface. Not great.

Usability – fool-proof?

The Theta S is extremely easy to use. Simply turn it on, select your mode and capture either a still image or video. The camera then connects to a mobile device via Wi-Fi and the user can select and download the media onto the app. There is no stitching or post processing required. Very simple indeed. The app will also let you share your capture to Twitter or Facebook via an online 360° image viewer.

Tech

As mentioned, the camera shoots in full HD at 30fps and provides 14mp stills which is pretty good quality. Above that, it features an internal 8GB memory for up to 25 minutes of continuous recording. Other features include live view which enables you to view the camera’s viewpoint in real-time via the mobile app with adjustable settings. Long exposures are also possible of up to 60 seconds and the camera also features a HDMI for Live HD streaming – probably its best feature.

To buy or not to buy?

The technology is great and the quality is excellent. If you are a consumer looking to create 360° video content then this is a good device to look at, greatly due to the simplicity of its use. YouTube also supports 360° videos, which is a massive plus, and you can also use captured footage with Virtual Reality headsets.

Facebook has also recently allowed 360 images to be used and shared natively online, which means you can now share your 360 degree photos online, easily.

If you travel a lot, you can upload your 360° images to the Google street view application for the world to see.

 

Audi RS6 Review

Audi RS6 Review

A few years ago, I was the guy that your girlfriend thought of as a bad influence. Every social group has that guy Gary. The guy that gets everyone into trouble, takes you out for a beer and promises to have you home by 11 pm latest! Only to have you find yourself wondering why the door stopper is blocking your way to your bed of luxury, the couch, so loving prepared by your significant other.

Fast forward that to the prime of my ‘responsible age’, my early thirties, and I’m the guy now that your wife wants you to be. I help around the house; I give FANTASTIC foot rubs, I watch romcoms. Yes, I’ve now matured to Responsible Richard, the guy your mother and spouse adore. That, though, has not translated into the cars I prefer driving. We go through a lot of vehicles here at TheMotorist, and I have been “type-cast”, so to speak, when it comes to what keys end up in my hands.

Fast forward to one sunny winter morning when Samuel says, (insert English accent here) “Mate, you have to try this car out. It’s perfect!” Now, knowing that Sam’s perfect and my perfect are sometimes opposites, I was not too excited about sampling Audi’s new family rocket, the RS6 Avant.

Enquire about a new or used Audi vehicle at Audi Centurion here!

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Look, the RS6 is, and will always be, a rapid car, but on my first outing in this “family wagon”, it honestly hit me square in the chest with its enormous power, 412KW to be precise. What it doesn’t do is warn you of what sort of beast it is, and I blame modern advancement in sound-deadening and built quality for that. The cabin is so quiet and so well-built and finished that you can’t whisper, mumble or sneak in a comment about your friends Carla and Steve, who organised the lunch you are driving to, without fear that your toddler, Sarah, will repeat your glowing remarks about how they got you out of your fat pants and into chinos on a cold, winter Saturday afternoon. So inconsiderate.

It blows you away in that it can swallow your family, your luggage, the mother-in-law and your roof box with such ease that I kind of get the “perfect car” story from Sam. I do wish it was louder, though, as the quiet exhaust note from the 412KW, 700NM, 4.0 litre TFSI motor is throaty enough, but the way that this car reels in the horizon, I would have appreciated a reminder from the drain pipe size tail pieces that jail is for criminals, and not for well-heeled drivers who don’t know that they are way above the speed limit.

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The rest of it is typical Audi: spacious, top-notch and beautiful bucket seats that give that classic “sit in” and not “sit on” feeling. The dynamics of the car are that of a bullet train on rails. Throw that chassis and a well-known road (without the kids and the Labrador of course), and you will be surprised by your entry and exit speeds from corner to corner. Try a little bit too hard, and the nose will push wide, giving that famous under-steer scrub, but then again, if the front-end is pushing, you are driving way too fast on public roads. I would have loved to see what this car would have done in a safe circuit environment, but I had to give the keys up to the other kids to sample this thundering German. Responsible Richard to the rescue.

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There lies the line that is being blurred by these family movers with supercar engines nestled in their noses. You will find yourself happily doing the school run and the monthly grocery shopping in the RS6, but when the mood takes you, and you have a group of young boy racers on William Nicol wanting to show you what their modified hatchback can do, simply obliterating them from standstill (did we mention that this two tone family car does 0-100 in 3.9 seconds?!), and see what their faces look like at the next set of lights. Is their need for a conventional supercar?

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What I love about this car is that, drive it like a sane human being, and it’s a standard Avant with all the modern conveniences that you would expect, bar the claimed 9.8l/100kms. We got an average of 13.5 litres, but then again, the hooligan in us came out every time we found some empty tarmac. I sadly must say that I agree with Sam. It is the perfect car. It has space, the looks, the enormous boot and enough get-up-and-go to embarrass most sports cars. The only fault of the new RS6? It’s not in our parking lot!

Enquire about a new or used Audi vehicle at Audi Centurion here!

Volvo XC90 Excellence

Of late, the term ‘Swede Speed’ has been used more than Oral B in a nunnery but let’s not forget what the polar-neck brigade are best at…Swede tweed.

Ever since conception in 1915 as a ball bearing manufacturer, Volvo has become a by word for left of field design and superb quality. In 1927, the first Volvo rolled out of the factory in Gothenburg and straight into a wall of bricks. Not really, but if you were to ask anyone what Volvo is known for, they’d say safety, comfort and Swedish design. Safe and suave, then, are the reasons we like Volvos and while the general consensus is that Volvo’s are for yummy mummies, anyone who can look past that perception will know that it’s difficult to find a more rounded motor car. If you’re not getting my ball bearing puns by now then that’s your own fault.

Volvo XC90 Excellence 07

The Volvo XC90 when launched in 2002 was an instant success because it blended all the things people like about Volvos with seating for 7 and a shocking GM 4-speed gearbox. And despite the aforementioned gearbox being very woeful, the original XC90 is still in production today in China because it’s that good! It’s also very old, though, which is why the rest of the world grew bored of the XC90 with sales dwindling for a few years before the new XC90 rolled in. And boy did the XC90 roll all over its competitors, sweeping up countless awards internationally, one of which was South Africa’s prestigious Wesbank Car of The Year 2016. Well-priced, impressive looks and great standard spec are all things that we at TheMotorist love about the XC90 and following its local success, Volvo Car South Africa think it’s time for the Range Rover to roll over…

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The Volvo XC90 Excellence is now available in South Africa and you’ll be pleased to know that they have been inundated with an order. Yes, just one. Volvo promises one of the most luxurious models in the brand’s 89 year history and they’re probably right. It’s kitted out with everything bar a toaster and a swimming pool and is offered exclusively with the T8 Twin Engine powertrain. Snazzy kit includes ‘distinctive cup holders’ which feature heating and cooling, individual and fully adjustable, heated, cooled and massaging rear seats with footrests and little tables in the backs of the front seats. Special champagne flutes are also thrown in and are fashioned from the same Orrefors glass as the gear knob – something which I’ve always wanted in a car.

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Power comes from a 235 kW, 400 Nm supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder Drive-E petrol engine and is fed to the front wheels through an 8-speed transmission. The rear wheels are connected to a 65 kW, 240 Nm electric motor which allows for all-wheel drive should you feel the need to go off-roading in your lounge. Total output is an impressive 300 kW and 640 Nm which will be sure to propel you and your gear knob flutes with grace and pace to 100km/h in a brisk 5.9 seconds! All this while returning a claimed fuel consumption of 2.5l/100km.

As with any Volvo, a vast array of safety features comes as standard. ABS, EBD, BAS and HAS are some of the three-lettered delights thrown in for nothing and it’ll even drive itself up to 130km/h. The City Safety autonomous emergency braking system also caters for large animals and all isn’t lost should they be riding a bicycle in front of your moving Volvo. The XC90 is so safe, in fact, that it received a 97% score in its Euro NCAP crash test for adult occupants and 87% for child occupants – best in its class.

The features on this XC90 pretty much matches the spec of a Range Rover L Supercharged SVAutobiography, yours for a cool R3.6 Million.

So what does all of this Swedishness cost, you ask?

Oh, R1.5 Million.

 

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Volvo XC90 Excellence 06

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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