Tag: themotoristsa

New BMW M5 driven – Bigger, faster, better?

New BMW M5 Driven

The definition of a purist according to the trusty internet is someone who, “insists on absolute adherence to traditional rules or structures, especially in language or style”. That would best describe most BMW aficionados to the letter. It is for this reason why there was a huge outcry from BMW fans when the brand first decided to turbocharge M products. Over time, the anger subsided and the die-hard fans soon saw the benefit of the new direction that BMW took.

 

A resurgence of this panic ensued recently, when the configuration of the new BMW was announced. Not only would it carry on with a forced induction motor, but now – it would be the first thoroughbred M saloon car to have all-wheel drive (The M760li is not an M Performance vehicle). Did the public miss something? Did we wake up in a strange alternative universe straight out of Black Mirror? No. And for good reason.

BMW M5 Generations

You see, for you to understand this new thought process you would have to go back to the previous generation BMW M5, the F10. Having had the privilege of driving one every day for some time in the past, this M car was one that demanded great respect. The relationship between your right foot and the accelerator pedal was normally where the tension brewed. One a cold day, with the rubber at odds with broken tarmac on our infamous roads, the vehicle would snap into oversteer or simply bog down with the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) intervening and stopping that tree from humbling the often over-eager driver. But catch the vehicle on a warm day, with the right amount of tyre tread and the M5 would come into its own. It would gladly come along for the school run, and then change into Mr Hyde whilst leaving 295 section black lines at will – often accompanied with a trailing sports car in its cloud of smoke. It was a weapon, but a weapon that needed all the checks and balances in place, for you to get the best out of it. One of those checks was a huge bravery pill as the mass of an M5 and the power it produced could easily become a handful for most. It was a matter of time then, when the limit of power that could be sent to the rear axle, would reach its limit for a car such as this. Many would agree that the limit was reached with the F10 and its last iterations, such as the Competition Package. I’m sure the Audi guys sent out their “we told you so” emails to both Mercedes and BMW when they decided to go the all-wheel drive route.

Enter the F90 M5 with M xDrive. Kyalami raceway made for the perfect backdrop for the new M5’s local introduction. Cars like these often don’t need much of a press briefing as journalists have read up on all the specifications way before the time of launch. From an engine technology perspective, the revisions are just that, revisions. Even aesthetically, the F90 is not a major departure from the F10. The new car has followed in the footsteps of its predecessor of being a silent bruiser. The quad tailpipes, three-piece front air dam, rear spoiler and more pronounced wheel arches are tasteful, but discreet signs that you are not about to get behind the wheel of a regular 5 series with M sport package. Power driving this new M5 is the tried and tested 4.4l twin turbo V8 – this time producing 441kW/750N.m.  Mated to this motor is a ZF 8 Speed single clutch gearbox. Having experienced this configuration on the current X5/6M, you would be hard pressed to tell that this wasn’t a double clutch gearbox.

We went out on the first sighting laps just to get the various temperatures up and make sure that there weren’t any nasty surprises on Kyalami’s pristine asphalt. Warm up laps done with, Sport Plus was engaged – sharpening throttle response, dampers as well as steering feedback. Letting all this power loose came with a natural expectation of drama, but the weirdest thing happened. A sense of purpose that’s never been experienced in an M5 took over. The balancing act of keeping an almost two tonne beast on the black-stuff was no longer required. The sense of impending death was gone, replaced with no-nonsense straight line performance. In 4WD Sport, the new BMW M5 has reached a new level of grippy performance. With a road long enough, the vehicle gives you that tunnel vision experience, that you get from a supercar. The ability to shorten straights and have corners appear much sooner than you anticipated is nothing short of frightening. Should a vehicle this big be able to do this? The Bavarians certainly think so, especially since their friends from Affalterbach have done the same with the Mercedes AMG E63 S, but that’s a story for another day. The 0-100km/h sprint in the new M5 is claimed at 3.4 seconds. Yikes. The 0-200km/h run is achieved in 11.1. You read that correctly. What’s most impressive is the manner in which the vehicle does this. This performance is now accessible. All the time.

BMW M5 Dash

This begs the question, is this still a proper M car? Aren’t M’s meant to shred tyres and behave badly all the time? Things have changed. The target audience of an M5 is a mature audience, one that requires safety, luxury and refinement. When all that is taken care of, the vehicle then needs to perform like a sports car. Tough ask, right? The M5 now gives you that. During the cool down lap, the vehicle in its most normal mode is as docile as a 530d. However, engage 4WD Sport and you will find the DNA of its predecessor coming to the fore. Around corners, the front end turns in sharply, allowing you to accurately place the vehicle where you want it. The front wheels are not obtrusive, but rather pull you out of corners – working with the rear wheel biased setup of the vehicle. As a result, you can carve a better line and feel confident whilst doing it. In 4WD sport, the rears are still keen to light up, but in a very controlled fashion. For someone handy, this may be your favourite setting. But wait, there is more – 2WD mode. At the launch, the journalists weren’t allowed to use this mode as driving skills differ, which means the risk increases too. In this mode, DSC is automatically switched off, which is a scary thought.

BMW M5 Drifting

To demonstrate this, BMW very wisely brought in GTC BMW driver, Gennaro Bonafede, to show what the super sedan could do. In this mode, you’ve basically got a more powerful F10, one that is followed by a cloud of smoke. That being said, the vehicle still possessed tons of grip as Gennaro proved. So as much as that the setting is meant for fun, 2WD mode, doesn’t make the car undrivable.

BMW M5

Overall impressions.

The BMW M5 has for long been hailed as the benchmark in this segment. The competition has closed the gap over the years, especially with the likes of the new E63s around. Will the new BMW M5 remain the king? A more thorough test will be needed to conclude that. For now, we can tell you that this is the most accessible M5 since the e39. With a starting price of R1 732 300, we’re not referring to price but rather performance. The addition of M xDrive adds a new dynamic to the car, a welcome one for the average driver. This change has not ruined it for the enthusiast too, as the vehicle can still be exploited via the rear axle like M5’s before it. Altogether, you have a large nimble and blisteringly fast M5.

 

New BMW M5 Pricing in South Africa

The new BMW M5 starts at R1 747 500 and is available now.

 

 

Hello New VW Tiguan

The previous Volkswagen Tiguan suffered from a bit of an identity crisis in our opinion. It was meant to be like a smaller Touareg, but it didn’t pull off the masculinity of its older brother. What it did have was many modern technologies for that time. Under the hood was the option of a combination of supercharging as well as turbo charging. The car also had the ability to park itself, which at the time was a very cool feature to have. Since its inception, what the Tiguan has proved is that smaller displacement engines that are boosted can work in mid-sized cars. If only it looked a bit more butch, then many men wouldn’t have felt that they were driving a school taxi each time they stepped inside.

All that has changed:

Speed up to present day and we now have a new Tiguan on our hands. To say that there is even a slight similarity between this version and the one it replaces, would be a complete lie. Visually this new car is larger, boxier and much more aggressive looking. Gone are the softer looks of the old car. The standard package alone is a vast improvement, but the R-Line Package is the one you want if you’re looking for to turn heads. The interior of the new Tiguan also keeps to the car’s overall modern theme.

In typical Volkswagen fashion, the layout is functional, well built and logical. As a result, though, functionality has replaced a bit of creativity so the interior is not the most exciting to sit in. The Composition Media infotainment system is as good as all modern VW’s and thankfully the new Tiguan also has the option of the Active Info Display. The digital screen of the Active Info Display is one of the greatest things that has come from the VW Group, and its good to see it feature in more cars.

What makes it tick:

On launch we had two models at our disposal, both petrol, and both 1.4 litre turbocharged engines. The one model offers 92kW’s whilst the other offers 110kW’s. The former had a manual and the latter a DSG gearbox. The cars ride very similarly with the obvious difference being the power, something that makes the 110kW derivative the choice car between the two. The combination of the DSG gearbox and the added power work very well together, especially considering the larger size of the new car. That being said, the manual 92kW version is good at what it does, but you do long for more power at times. Comfort levels are good in the Tiguan considering that the cars we had were riding on 19-inch wheels. For maximum comfort, though, a smaller wheel size may be preferred as the ride may be firm for some. For its purpose as an everyday medium sized SUV, ferrying the little ones around or going on a long holiday will be a pleasure.

What the future holds:

The two cars we drove are not the only derivatives that will be available. Three diesel options will be present soon, as well as a high powered petrol engine. Both the petrol and the diesel will be 2.0 litres in displacement, with the top of the range diesel featuring 130kW’s and the petrol making 162kW’s. We look forward to sampling the diesel models, as these cars generally work better because they offer more torque and are therefore more usable.

Verdict:

Based on our brief encounter we had with the new car, we can conclude the following about the new Tiguan: On the outside, when fitted with the R-Line package, it looks very good. The car also has enough interior space for a family and a large boot (615 litres). Overall the new Tiguan experience is one that is premium, luxurious and appealing. Most appealing, however, is the price of the new Tiguan which you can read below.

Our in-depth review will be available in Edition 05 of TheMotorist magazine.

Prices:

1.4 TSI 92kW Trendline Manual R378 000
1.4 TSI 92kW Comfortline Manual R419 000
1.4 TSI 110kW Comfortline DSG R457 680

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Grown up yet young at heart: Audi’s new Q7 driven.

Slimmer, smarter and better.

Getting older is a funny and weird thing. You start to notice changes in not only how you view the world but also, how you use it. Not only do I not drink beer any more (let’s be completely honest, it doesn’t taste nice and most of us drink it to fit in) but my choice in cars has swayed a bit too. Not only do I look at performance and how the car makes me feel, but I find myself looking at the boot space of a car and asking my wife strange questions like, “do you think a pram will fit in the boot?” and “does it come standard with ISOFIX” I mean ISOFIX, really!?

This was worsened when we had the new Audi Q7 on test. To be honest, when our editor said, “you need to drive this car!” I was a little taken back by just looking at it. The previous Q7 had left me feeling underwhelmed and it was just too big. Sure it could do what the other SUV’s could, but in my opinion it wasn’t as refined as its competitors, and it felt dated too.

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So off I went, leaving my BMW 435i in the basement and into the boxier new Q7. Man, was I surprised. What immediately struck me were the proportions of the car. Yes it’s big, but the car seems to have shrunk from its predecessor. Visually, it’s sleek and understated, it also has those lovely day time running lights due to the optional Matrix headlights that seem to have been taken straight out of the movie Tron. I walked around the new Q7 and felt like Joey from the sitcom Friends as I asked the car “How you doin?” (If you don’t get that joke, you’re too young.)

The surprises kept on coming as I got more acquainted with the car. The premium interior trim, long dashboard, ease of controls and most importantly, Audi’s biggest party trick the Virtual Cockpit all impressed me. Despite all of this I was still sceptical because I still remember how the old girl drove, surely it’s still a tank that’s an absolute mess to park? Wrong again Richard.

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This latest model, with its 3.0 TDI producing 185kW and 600Nm, made me think of the “as smooth as a hot knife through butter” cliché. It glides and gets up to speed very quickly. After a few hours, I didn’t miss my 225kW daily drive at all. There are some back roads on my adventurous route home and I decided this was going to be a good challenge for the new Q7. I dove in aggressively to the first of many sharp corners and the steering feedback as well as the suspension setup surely hides the cars’ weight and it proceeded to devour the bends in a way a 4×4 shouldn’t. It seemed to look back at me and say, “is that all you’ve got?” All of this is due to the lower centre of gravity on the new Q7 compared to the previous car, as well as a weight reduction of 325 kilograms.

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Another test was the “wife test”, since most wife’s have the biggest influence in car choices. So I picked up my wife and found an excuse for us to go out for dinner and I pleasantly found out that I wasn’t the only one to be bitten by the Q7 bug. The feature that she liked the most? The fact that the car does not feel big inside and is therefore not intimidating to drive or to be a passenger in. What didn’t she like? The fact that new Q7 didn’t look as exciting as other SUV’s on the road, something we agreed to disagree on. So the car had so far passed some key tests.

To say I was impressed by the new Q7 is an understatement. My current favourite SUV was the not so new Range Rover Sport TDV6, but this new Q7 I found was more exciting and dynamic. I’m glad that the ugly duckling now has a chance of becoming the “prom queen”, but we can’t give it the crown until we drive the new Volvo XC90, a car that is the current SA Car of the Year. That being said, the new Q7 is better at everything than the car it replaces and yes it can fit a pram in the boot and it does have ISOFIX. The good thing is that despite it making me indulge in my mature desires even more, it still made me feel young. Which is a lot to say for a car intended for families. Starting at R907 000, it’s competitively priced in its segment too.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

What would your “One Car For Life” be?

Choosing one car for the rest of your life is a daunting exercise.

If you could own any ten cars in the world, what would they be? Most of us car nuts have probably been asked something along those lines before. Maybe even your top five or even top three.

As a lover of cars, you will soon realise that is a tough question. What would you use as a daily drive? Or would you even have a few regular drive vehicles? Will you allow one or two spaces for your other half’s cars of choice? Questions like these will plague your mind; you will mentally scratch out and swap vehicles until finally, you have your own personal golden list.

 

But what if we told you that you could only choose one vehicle for the rest of your life? It could be anything your heart desires but would need to suit your own personal circumstances. This is where it gets tough. If you have kids, then it’s probably best to avoid a two seater. Maybe you spend a couple of hours a day stuck in rush hour traffic, so it would be a good idea to rule out a track ready beast. You would soon miss that soft air-conditioner breeze as the South African sun hit you, and the bucket seat and harness will probably crease your business suit. This is the part where the rational part of your brain comes into play, and you are going to have to make sacrifices you don’t want to make. I love old classics; I am also a massive fan of Japanese tuners, and I adore fire-breathing supercars. Fortunately (or unfortunately, whichever way you see it) I am to be married this year. I love road tripping, exploring, power, speed and comfort. I’ve also got a small soft spot for Dachshunds, which my fiancé has too.

So right now, if I had to go and purchase my “One Car For Life” I would head to the Audi dealership and buy myself an RS6 Avant. You may think this is strange, but I have my reasons:

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Firstly, it has five doors which are something my fiancé would demand. It also saves a lot of hassle when travelling with passengers or future children (maybe). The RS6 has tonnes of space, whether I’m road tripping with five people or going away to photograph landscapes, I don’t need to worry about space for people or gear. I also know my soon to be wife would be relatively safe if she were ever driving this vehicle, something I wouldn’t be so sure about in an 80’s classic with no traction control and ABS. Secondly, the RS6 Avant looks excellent. With many complaining that station waggons have a “mum’s taxi” appeal, this isn’t the case with this car. It also sounds pretty mean and to top it all off; it produces 447kW (600bhp) from a twin turbocharged V8. That’s more than enough performance and power to keep me smiling.

The RS6 Avant would allow me to enjoy everything I love doing without me compromising on a lot, which makes it my O.C.F.L. What would your O.C.F.L be? Let us know via social media and state your case.

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Smug life: Driving the Range Rover Sport

Our week with Range Rover Sport SDV6 SE

If you haven’t yet noticed, many Range Rover owners bear a similar facial expression when they’re in their cars. It’s a difficult look to describe. Is it one that says “I’m better than you?” or “I have more money than you?” Who knows, but it’s definitely an expression that gives off an air of superiority. Why is this the case? Why does almost every Range Rover driver don this mug? We had a recent opportunity to find out when Land Rover South Africa scheduled us to drive the SDV6 variant of the Range Rover Sport.

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The car in question was the SE model, which is slightly less fancier than the HSE in terms of aesthetics and specifications. Despite this, the size of the car still commands a great deal of presence whether it’s parked in a car park or driving on the road. The vehicle we had in our possession also had the air suspension which was a short man’s dream because you can add more centimetres to the ride height, allowing you to peer into the car stopped next to you at the traffic lights and proof read the drivers text message.

The most distinct feature about the Range Rover Sport is how the car drives like a hot knife in butter. It simply glides along whatever road surface it is faced with, accompanied by the slightly audible sound of the diesel V6 engine which produces 215kW.  The silence in the cabin is business class like and like business class, the car allows you to think long and hard about how much more better your driving experience is compared to the hatchback driving alongside you. What adds to this is the seating position created by the armrest that allows for maximum comfort behind the wheel. A simple yet luxurious dashboard with a touch screen infotainment is your interior view.

This is where we feel the facial expression comes from. The car makes you and others feel very aware of the fact that you’re driving over a million rand worth of metal, rubber and leather. They say absolute power corrupts and it was safe to say that we had been corrupted during our week long test drive. Nearing the end of the week, we could feel that our noses were positioned more upwards and our overall demeanour had changed. “How dare that driver think he can cut us off?” “Can he not see our RANGE ROVER coming?” are but a few of the thoughts that featured in our minds. Any opportunity to use the 600Nm was not wasted.

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To say that the Range Rover Sport makes the driver feel good about himself is an understatement. Interestingly this is not due to the car being the absolute best in its segment. Of course it is highly capable but the competition’s products are very capable too. This car has two major things going for it, pedigree and class. For decades the words “Range Rover” have been associated with a specific lifestyle and elegance. Even though the word “Sport” alludes to a racing nature, the V6 diesel is more about sophistication and comfort than anything else. This is why the Range Rover Sport can be seen in many business parks around the world, it’s as much a statement than it is a car.

It’s easy to get caught up in the smug life of driving a Range Rover in the city. If it weren’t for the Land Rover Experience that we attended in the past, we would think that all the suspension settings were there for the drivers ego, which is really not the case. The various on and off road features in the Sport are all functional. Having driven the Range Rover Sport off-road, one really sees what a serious case of multiple personality syndrome the car has. On the one end, it’s wearing a business suit and condescending over other cars in traffic. On the other end, it’s wearing a Khaki shirt and climbing various ascents and descents.

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Considering all of this, assuming the drivers of most Range Rover Sport’s know this, one can understand why the expression is there. It is a fact that the Range Rover is a brilliant car in its segment. It offers space, luxury and performance packaged in a way that is very memorable indeed. It is the gentlemen’s choice in its class.

Price:

R 1,227,400

 

New MINI Convertible and Clubman driven.

New MINI’s added to the range for more fun and practicality

What happens when the roof of the MINI Cooper is cut off and replaced with canvas? Or when the car goes for a butt transplant and comes out with a much bigger rear? We flew down to sunny Cape Town to find out. The two cars in question was the new MINI Cooper convertible as well as the new MINI Clubman.

Already the new MINI is as popular as the car it replaced. The new vehicle definitely has a wider appeal to both men and women, whereas the previous model was generally seen as a “girly” car. We have always loved the MINI, not because of the way it looked but rather the way it felt. It’s always had this sense of “chuckability” that many hatchbacks didn’t. So starting off with the new MINI Convertible, we had to find out if the car still retained the “fizz” with the roof off.

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After an eighteen second wait the roof was down and we could admire the stunning Gordon’s Bay scenery whilst the exhaust pipes of the MINI Convertible S served as a lovely soundtrack. Accelerate for a few seconds and lift off to hear burbles, cracks and pops. Thereafter change up a gear and surprisingly the 6-Speed Steptronic gearbox obliges with ease. 141kW and 250Nm is what propels the Cooper S and despite added weight from reinforcing  the car to handle the lack of a roof, the vehicle still feels as nimble as its hard-headed sibling. Fitted with the JCW body kit, the Cooper S has great visual appeal and a sporty stance, again making it more masculine in appearance.

Enthusiasts always lament the loss of dynamic handling in convertibles versus hard tops, but you would really have to be an F1 racer to notice any real difference in the handling characteristics of the MINI Convertible against the hardtop. Besides, this car is not aimed at the “boy racer”, that’s what the JCW is for. If anything, one could say the drama of having the “wind blowing in your hair” whilst driving through Franschoek pass is more exciting. Colleagues who drove the normal Cooper Convertible also had no ill word to say about the car, in fact they loved the lively nature found in the 100kW 1.5 litre three cylinder engine.

What MINI have done with the convertible is simply give customers a different option. It’s still the same car you would buy three months ago, minus the roof of course. For those looking for a tan or perhaps looking for some attention, why not get yourself the MINI Convertible? We do have lovely weather in South Africa after all.

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Next up was the Clubman. Where the normal cooper sits, the Mini five door sits in the middle and the Clubman sits at the opposite end. This car should be called a Maxi because it feels completely different to the three door variant. Mature is the word to use for the car as it feels like the older brother of the lot. The most noticeable visual change is the rear end, with suicide doors making loading and unloading much easier. For once in a MINI there is an actual boot, one that can actually fit groceries, luggage and even a small dog. Not only is the new Clubman longer than the five door, it’s wider too. The interior is also different with a broader instrument panel creating more space inside the car.

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This time we opted for the standard Clubman, not the S version. Despite a power decrease from the S, the way that little three cylinder engine performs is very good indeed. A Clubman client won’t be disappointed if they opted for the standard version over the S.

All in all, these new additions play very different roles and speak to very different buyers. The cars are equally impressive though with the same connectivity options and technological equipment available in both cars. One nifty option (standard in the S models) is the MINI Driving Modes which give you an option of Green, Mid and Sport mode, which changes the throttle response of the car and the exhaust note (on the S model). If you’re a die-hard Mini fan, they have created a different set of the same car so that you don’t ever have to leave the brand because of circumstance. Before a MINI was just a MINI, now you can have a MINI, a bigger MINI and an even bigger MINI.

Prices:

MINI Clubman: R343 000 (Manual) and R361 000 (Automatic)

MINI Clubman S: R415 000 (Manual)  and R434 500 (Automatic)

MINI Convertible: R368 000 (Manual) and R384 000 (Automatic)

MINI Convertible S: R433 000 (Manual) and R451 000 (Automatic)

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Exploring in the Chevrolet Trailblazer

For the explorer: Chevrolet’s Trailblazer.

If you and your loved ones are in the habit of exploring, you will know that a small hatchback or sedan might not get the job done for your needs. In most cases, a large vehicle is required in order to fit the luggage, the tents, the skottel-braai and of course the people. This is where a car like the Chevrolet Trailblazer comes in. With a high ground clearance, mansion like space and a good old reliable diesel in the front, it can make exploring look like a walk in the park.

How does it drive?

Being a large vehicle, the driver needs to be aware of the fact that this is no city car when it comes to size. A class in parking may be needed to learn how to park the car in small shopping mall parking spaces. Also if you happen to not be blessed with a basketball players’ height, get used to plummeting to the ground each time you get out of your Trailblazer. Besides that, the car drives very well, comfortable enough for day to day activities and of course very comfortable on the open road, presuming this is where you will spend most of your time in the car.

What we loved most about the way the Trailblazer drives, is how the car didn’t suffer too much from body roll, which is good for tackling sweeping bends on far away roads. The 2.8 litre Duramax diesel engine fitted in our test unit didn’t disappoint us one bit as well. The 500 Nm of  torque was delivered in a timeous manner and the automatic gearbox is well mated to the engine too. Interestingly, one would not expect a car of this size to use a 4 cylinder engine, but times have clearly changed and the engine in the Trailblazer is in no way underpowered for the mass of the car.

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Practicality.

One of the most appealing qualities about the Chevrolet trailblazer, has got to be vast amount of useable space that the car offers. The car is a real seven seater vehicle, with seven adults being able to sit comfortably in the car. Some seven seat vehicles merely pose as “seven seaters” but in reality the last two seats are as big as those found in a 911 Porsche.

Up front the dashboard in the Trailblazer is not exactly fancy, it’s more functional than luxurious. That being said, the lack of expensive finishes has not impaired things like connectivity since the MyLink infotainment system allows you to pair your cell phone and enjoy all your road trip music.

One cannot judge the Chevrolet Trailblazer on not having a premium feel, instead the car has a boy/girl next door appeal to it. It’s not meant for pavement climbing, it’s meant for proper exploring. For its purpose, the lack of low profile tyres and shiny wheels makes perfect sense because African roads and low profile tyres should never be in the same sentence, nor should burr wood trim and mud.

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Verdict.

After considering what Chevrolet’s Trailblazer is built for, one realises just why this car makes a whole lot of sense. Add all that to a starting price of R 451 000 and the car starts to make even more sense for an explorer or someone with an extended family. All that space and practicality for that starting price? We say for what you get, the Chevrolet Trailblazer is indeed a bargain.

 

Driven: BMW’s new 7 Series

The art of luxury: BMW’s new 7 Series

In the world of art, artists often use their works to reveal what thoughts and feelings are going on in their creative minds. Their art becomes a means of communication between the viewer and themselves and how the artist wants to be perceived. For well acclaimed artists there is often that one work that most people remember them for. This work acts as a flagship for the artist, regarded as their best by the public. If cars were viewed the same way artworks are, the F-luxury segment would surely be regarded as the “pièce de résistance” for all car makers who participate in that segment. For BMW, the 7 Series has occupied that role as the flagship vehicle for the manufacturer.  After seven years, the outgoing 7 Series has been laid to rest and a new model has taken over the reign.

One word comes to mind when looking at the length of the car, the elongated nose and of course, the large chrome kidney grille. That word is presidential. Simplicity was of upmost importance when designing the car and it worked well to create an appealing shape that is both modern and classic.

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The most visually appealing exterior package is what BMW calls Design Pure Excellence. Chrome inserts around the whole vehicle and large shiny wheels make a statement that this is indeed a luxury car. The previous car had an understated look to it that was overshadowed by the likes of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Now with the new 7 Series, you can park the vehicle next to the current S-Class and battle to choose one, because they both have that parliamentary look to them.

One automatically expects to see drivers in black suits standing outside the vehicle, waiting to open doors for you. Interestingly, that is exactly what happened on the last leg of our journey in the car when we were chauffeured to the airport. This allowed us to envision a life as a one of the “one percent” and it helped us draw the conclusion that the back seat of the new BMW 7 Series is one of its most prominent features.

The blend of technology, beauty and comfort come together to create such a good experience you wouldn’t mind being driven in your 7 series all the time. Optional electrically adjustable seats, rear entertainment screens and a detachable centre tablet would undoubtedly keep you very entertained until you reached your destination.

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Should you wish to drive the car yourself, you wouldn’t be sorry. Large vehicles have a tendency to make the driver very aware of the mass that is being controlled by their hands. This is not the case in  the new 7 Series. The loss of 130 kg’s due to BMW’s Carbon Core design has made the new car feel nimble, direct and malleable enough to easily navigate through corners at high speeds. From a dynamic point of view, BMW’s formula has not changed in the new 7 Series. The biggest difference between this car and the one it succeeds are the technological advancements that have been made.

Semi autonomous driving is something BMW have taken very seriously in the new car. The best part is that it actually works. Small steering inputs can be felt at each corner, breaking is applied and acceleration too when Steering and Lane Control assist is activated as well as Adaptive Cruise Control. Having these two assists on whilst on an open road allow you to enjoy your music ever more so through speakers supplied by Bowers and Wilkins or Harman Kardon, the choice is yours.

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Obviously you can’t enjoy your sound system if your ride quality is poor. Hence why BMW have equipped the new 7 Series with various suspension damping settings. The double air suspension in the car allows you to toggle between two Sport Modes, two Comfort Modes and a completely new Adaptive Mode that adjusts itself between a sporty and comfortable driving setting depending on how you’re driving.

Another very exciting feature in the new 7 Series is the Smart Key. The larger than normal key features a small colour screen that informs the driver of some useful information about the car. Don’t you hate it when you enter a car that has been sitting in the sun for a few hours? 7 Series owners won’t have to worry about that since the Smart key allows the driver to activate the fan before you enter into the car. Fuel range and other information can be seen by the driver long before they enter the car. The coolest feature available in the Smart key is Remote Parking. One can reverse their vehicle out of a parking lot without physically being in the car. Unfortunately South African specified vehicles do not have that feature available yet, but be prepared to see it in the near future.

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The next few months will also bring us the most exciting power plant in the range, the 750i/750Li. At the launch we had available the 730d and the 740i, both extremely capable engines that never left us longing for more power or torque. So why would the 750i be necessary you may wonder? For the level of client buying a car like this, it’s often a case of having the best. So even though the 240kW/450Nm in the 740i may be enough power, or the 650Nm/195kW in the 730d may do the job,  having 330kW/650Nm in the 750i make the world of a difference when it comes to driving the best.

BMW as the artist in our illustration want us to see that technology is at the forefront of their new cars. Using technologies from their i-Products and incorporating them in all their cars is something we can expect to see in the future. At the same time BMW wants us to see that they have not lost sight of the dynamic aspects of their cars, even with a large car like the 7 Series. This car or “work” is an opportunity to show-off the brand to customers. It’s to show us where the future of BMW is going whilst keeping elements of the car that made customers fall in love with the brand in the past.

Have they executed their vision through this “artwork” effectively? After spending some time in the front seat, driving the car fast and slow as well as using many of its technologies. And then to change roles and be driven in the rear of the car and imagine what life would be like as a back seat passenger. We can definitely say that the new 7 Series is BMW’s Mona Lisa.

Pricing:

730d:  R 1 356 500

740i:   R 1 339 000

750i:   R 1 755 000

750Li: R 1 893 500

 

 

A Swift week: Suzuki family test.

What if you had to drive a Suzuki for the rest of your life?

 for fast food. But let’s for a moment use our imagination and picture a world where we only had one brand of cars to choose from. Imagine for some inexplicable reason, Japan ruled the world and the only cars they produced were Suzuki Swifts. We at TheMotorist had to imagine such a world for a week, when Suzuki decided to involve us in their “family test”. This entailed us driving a different model Swift every two days and the final one for the weekend.

Monday to Wednesday: Swift 1.2 GL Dzire.

The Swift Dzire is an interesting car. We won’t call the boot section ugly, we’ll rather say it’s functional. What you sacrifice in looks, you gain in practicality. This vehicle comes in handy in our “Suzuki Swift only” alternate universe because the start of the week is when most people decide to do some shopping, this where the extra boot space of the Dzire comes in handy.

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Besides the added space, the Dzire shares the same interior as its hatchback siblings. Which means a nice and neat dashboard is included, as well as features such as Bluetooth radio, CD and USB input. Electric windows and remote central locking are features this model was equipped with too.

The small 1.2 litre engine in the Dzire is extremely frugal on fuel, which makes it an even more appealing package for those needing some extra space. Priced at R 145 900 for the entry level GA variant, many small cars will battle to give you all that for that price.

Wednesday to Friday: Swift 1.4 GLS Hatchback.

Now this is a good looking little car. This vehicle has the right combination of cute in it not to feel too feminine or too masculine. What you lose in boot space over the Dzire, you gain in visual appeal. Interestingly the 1.4 GLS, apart from having a more powerful engine, is very taught on the road which gives you a great feeling of nimbleness behind the wheel. It’s no super hatch but it makes for some good fun around corners because you can chuck it around and feel safe at the same time.

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Again despite more enthusiastic driving, the 1.4 GLS was also very good on fuel, a feature which seems to be a recurring theme amongst the models. The comfort levels of the GLS are great and the LED lights on the exterior, as well as the larger wheels make this car a great package for an up and coming young person who wants something trendy to commute with everyday.

Friday to Sunday: Swift 1.6 Sport.  

Remember the 1.4 GLS we were discussing right now? Now take that car, give it some steroids and a caffeine addiction, then you get the Swift Sport. Suzuki South Africa planned this week well, because the Sport is a car that does well in the weekend atmosphere. During the week, you have work and errands so your time is limited, whereas on the weekend you have more time to be silly. The Sport is a car that brings out the silly in most people, it’s an involving car therefore it makes you work for your fun. When you’ve worked hard enough, you appreciate what the essence of the car is about.

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The car is all about feeling and revving that 1.6 litre engine all the way to 7100 rpm is a good feeling. The size of the car also has much to do with the experience it provides. Since it’s small and low and light on its feet, it can do things bigger cars can’t. It’s like a mouse. Mice aren’t the fastest creatures out there, but because they’re small and nimble, they can fit in many little nooks and crannies. Similarly, the Swift Sport allows you to explore every inch of its rev happy engine. The suspension setup also allows you to do things you shouldn’t do, and just when you think you’ve gone too far, you come out thinking “how did I make that gap?” or “how did I make that corner?”. For R253 900, you get a great deal of fun for the price you pay.

So at the end of the week we can say that an alternate world of just Suzuki Swifts wouldn’t be a terrible thing. The question is, in the real world if we had to choose one car from the models we tested, which one would it be? As practical as the Dzire is, we’re too vain to turn a blind eye to that boot. The natural choice then would be to pick the Sport, but truthfully no one drives like a hooligan all the time and even if you did, Jacob Zuma’s laws and traffic wouldn’t allow it. So as a result, the most logical choice would be to opt for the 1.4 GLS, and at R 212 900, it’s also very well priced too.

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