Month: June 2015

Tech Tuesday: Volkswagen’s Trailer Assist

Once upon a time, my mother decided to move her business premises. Instead of hiring a moving company, she did what any mother with two sons working in the motor industry would do, she exploited us. My brother and I both had access to Bakkies that we could use for personal use, provided we bought the relevant manager some lunch.  I used a Volkswagen Amarok, a bakkie that can tow at ease and my brother used an Isuzu KB, another great workhorse. I needed to tow a large trailer, which I thought would be a cinch and it was in fact. I felt like such a hardcore guy in my big Volkswagen Amarok, which was then fitted with higher suspension and a Taxi proof nudge bar. My hardcore feelings of manliness were ruined when the time came for me to park this man truck that was lugging fridges and washing machines.

I had never parked a car towing a trailer before, let alone a two ton Bakkie. I then did what any other man would do, I tried anyway.  In hindsight, I should have admitted to my shortcomings before attempting the manoeuvre and allowed my brother who had parked a car pulling a trailer before to take over. The sound of a trailer knocking into something isn’t good, nor is the sound of the people watching all this happen. So you can be sure that I was quite pleased when I heard that new Volkswagen Passat will have an option called “Trailer-Assist”. As the name states, this option will be brilliant for people like myself to avoid embarrassment and even emasculation. The system uses the Park Assist option as its base but makes it better. The great thing is that Trailer Assist even helps you when it comes to matching up the hitch and the car, ensuring that you look like a professional all the time. My gripe with Park Assist is that it seldom works the way you want it to, so I hope the folks at Volkswagen will get this feature right. The video below has given me the confidence to say that this will be a very useful option to those who pull trailers frequently. Happy Tech Tuesday Motorists.

Modded Monday: Akrapovic Exhaust Systems

Some of us aren’t particularly terrible singers, we feel that we can hold somewhat of a tune. This may be in the shower, amongst close friends, or if we’re confident enough at a function. South Africa recently hosted a live act called One Republic and if you had the pleasure of attending that concert, you would have heard what real singing sounds like. It often takes a professional to make you realise that your singing is mediocre and that your fans are generally from the same gene pool as you. After making that realisation you may not feel as inclined to sing again but don’t be dismayed, there are certain factors to consider. Many professional singers are trained to do what they do. There is a host of breathing exercises and other tricks that are taught by professionals to get the singer to sound the way they do. It is true that some possess raw natural talent, but a large number of stars today have employed someone to help them sound better.

The same goes with after-market exhaust pipes. You may have fitted a set on your car and thought “Hmm, I have a ferrari engine under my bonnet”. Your exhaust tips may even look like something that came straight out of PininFarina. As a result you feel the need to make the world listen to your modification by means of a rev or two when there are large crowds. All may seem well, until you are passed by a car fitted with an Akrapovic exhaust system. Thereafter you won’t be the same. See Akrapovic exhausts are the Adele’s and Whitney Houston’s of the exhaust world. For instance, the quality of the exhausts. Akrapovic exhausts are made from Titanium composites which is a very lightweight and strong material. Secondly, the design of Akrapovic exhausts is such that many hours of have been put into making the exhausts in a certain way to improve power and sound. Lastly, the sound of Akrapovic exhausts. Like that voice coach, Akrapovic exhausts are sound engineered to create a distinct sound, not too loud, but just enough to make you giggle little a small child.

The thing is, if you wanted your voice to be better, you could employ a voice coach, but that costs a lot of money. The same goes for Akrapovic exhausts, you’re not going to get that Adele sound for cheap. I guess it’s relative to your budget and the car you drive, if your car is not meant to be a thoroughbred performance machine, perhaps shower singing is for you. If your car is a special item that is a thoroughbred performance machine and it cost you a pretty penny, then Akrapovic may be for you.

*Image taken from european auto source.

Thought Thursday: Good guy Alfa Romeo and why people love it…

We all have a favourite place to buy certain things, be it coffee, bread or vegetables. If you give it thought, there is a reason why you have decided that your favourite place, is your favourite place. There was a specific lunch spot I used to go to when I worked in the east of Johannesburg. The food was average, the place was relatively clean and the prices weren’t all that cheap. Yet most days in the week, I would find myself eating lunch there. I looked forward to going there because I knew that each time I go there I would have a conversation with Mr. Chen the owner. Mr. Chen was an honest and simple man and the conversations we had were always very interesting. Whether it was cars, business or even love and marriage, Mr. Chen always had an insightful outlook on everything. I learned some valuable things from Mr. Chen and I am very thankful that I took the time to ever walk through his doors.

There is something special about relationships, they make you forget about other things, such as great tasting food or cheaper prices. That’s how I felt about Mr. Chen’s place, the feeling I would get each time I left his place was better than knowing that I’ve saved a few Rands or had a great meal. It was the feeling of knowing that someone actually took the time to get to know me better and advise me and enjoyed my company, that’s a good feeling. Anyone who has driven an Alfa V6 can agree that you get the same feeling when you drive one. There is something special about some Alfa’s, the feeling of having a relationship with a car is what it is. The brand itself has some negative stigmas but somehow people just don’t care, people still love Alfa’s.

This love was very evident this week when journalists everywhere were losing their minds in excitement about the launch of the new Giulia. It was almost as if they had heard that Mr. Chen had opened a new place after being out of business for years. Not to say that Alfa Romeo has been “out of business”, in fact they have recently made some cars that made men and women feel like boys and girls again, particularly cars like the 4C. The new Giulia is a BMW 3 series, Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4 rival. We don’t have many details right now, all we know is that the hardcore version, the Quadrifoglio will develop around 370Kw and will be powered by a 3.0l V6 twin turbo. Any enthusiast is very happy about the launch of this car, chances are it won’t be much better than its rivals, probably won’t be cheaper too but like Mr. Chen’s shop, people will buy…

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Wheel Wednesday: Pink Valve Caps for Cancer

I’m sure we’ve all seen those artsy types that wear colourful socks? You know, those green ones with yellow Polka dots. I knew a man who loved dressing this way, even in a suit. He was a very serious person, grey suit, white shirt, black tie and shoes. As he walked though, yellow, pink or baby blue socks could be seen, screaming at you saying “look at me”. I decided to ask him why he chose to wear such loud socks and he’s reply was simple, “it makes me happy” he said. Such a simple reply and yet very profound. This man didn’t worry about what others deemed fashionable, as long as it brought joy to his heart, he was happy to dress in a way he felt was right. Some are nervous of the thought of standing out, even if they like brightly coloured socks because it reminds them of their childhood, they would rather choose stick to the greys and blacks because it’s the “normal” thing to do.

For those who want to stand out but are on the shyer side of life, you have a unique opportunity. Bridgestone have partnered with an initiative called Pink Drive which is an awareness campaign for breast cancer. If you go to a Supa Quick around the country, you will be able to purchase a set of pink valve caps for your wheels for a mere R50. That money will be donated by Bridgestone to the Pink Drive institute to go toward the mobile mammogram units which assist to detect breast cancer in men and women. Bridgestone has put it’s money where it’s mouth is by already donating R1 000 000 toward the initiative,  so in the month of October, go to a Supa Quick store, get a set of pink valve caps. When someone asks you why your valve caps are pink, tell them it makes you happy.

Tech Tuesday: Samsung’s Transparent Truck

Your’e late for work and nothing is going your way. For starters, the alarm “failed” and you didn’t wake up when you were supposed to. Secondly, all your socks were missing their right partner, so after searching for a matching pair for what seems like an eternity you decided that no one will notice that black and blue are different colours. You skipped breakfast to make up for lost time and merely gargled three seconds of Listerine before you jumped into your car and headed out. To make up for lost time, you drive faster than usual, only two find a truck larger than your mother in laws friend blocking your way. Trying to overtake it seems is basically like playing Russian roulette, the only difference is that instead of a possible bullet, a moving piece of machinery could be the cause of death. At this point, your inner voice tells you to choose wisely and live another day, so instead you scream obscenities in your car and carry on at 20Kph until its safe to overtake. Does this scenario seem familiar? Samsung understands. That is why they have adopted a very nifty set-up that could save your life and even your job.

What happens when you place a camera in the front of a truck and transmit what it sees to four large screens in the back of the truck? A transparent truck is what you get. Cool right? This is all part of an initiative that Samsung is piloting to see how they can help with road safety. We think it’s brilliant! In a perfect world, if a system like this was rolled out, imagine the amount of happy motorists there would be? Especially in big cities where trucks are the bane of many drivers lives. There is a problem though. Money. Last we checked, four large screens weren’t cheap and expensive is not a word that accountants of big businesses like. So the likelihood of technology like this coming to fruition on a large scale is probably slim. The concept of it is awesome though and for that, Samsung, we salute you. Happy Tech Tuesday Motorists.

Modded Monday: The WOT Box

The what box? The WOT Box is an interesting piece of hardware built for the racer who wants launch control in his “sooped up cabby”. It has two features which are noteworthy. A “no lift” shifting mode that allows for “okes” to not lift of the accelerator pedal when changing gear. The WOT box temporarily cuts the power of the car when you clutch in whilst your foot is still on the accelerator, which allows you to shift perfectly without sacrificing your gearbox in the process. This also allows you to hold your boost if you car is turbocharged or supercharged because you’re not lifting off to change gear. Another nifty feature is that the WOT box can be set to launch the car at your desired rev’s by messing with the coils to cut power at the specific rpm you want to launch that car at. This makes for entertaining noises and sometimes flames to come out of your exhaust depending on your air/fuel mixture and other fast and furious modifications that you may have installed. Trust that when you have a WOT box installed, you will feel the need to activate your launch at all times, especially where there are large crowds involved. Just make sure that when you do, you are far away from anything flammable because if your car is one of those flame throwing types, you will most likely cause a small fire or burn someone. Any of which being very bad indeed. Happy Modded Monday Motorists

Thought Thursday: No roofs, stain free shirts and the BMW M4 Convertible

Winter time in the BMW M4 Convertible

Why do many people find it strange to eat ice-cream in cold weather? I understand ice-cream is generally enjoyed in the hot summer whilst wearing T- shirts and shorts, with beautiful girls wearing colourful dresses and the sounds of Goldfish playing melodic tunes. Sounds like a perfect ice-cream commercial doesn’t it? The part of the commercial they don’t show you is the part where the ice-cream starts melting rapidly down your hand and onto your shirt, making you look like a silly three year old who insisted that he can feed himself. Winter curbs all these problems right away. Firstly, your ice-cream will not rapidly melt by the time it is opened and secondly, if you did manage to mess on your clothes, you could cover it up with a jersey or scarf. “It’s still too cold to eat ice-cream in winter” you may think. Well to be honest, at times this may be true but cold or not, ice-cream tastes great whatever the weather and besides we have heaters and socks don’t we? I have yet to see someone from Durban say, “I can’t eat this curry because it’s too hot”, all they do is crank up the air conditioner and get stuck into that spicy meal.

The same applies to convertible cars, if you’re from the Southern part of Africa, driving one in winter is definitely the better time. You must think I’m mad. “Summer is definitely the best time for a convertible car”, you may be thinking. The scene is in your head already, you’re with your mates , there’s laughter, music and fresh air above you. What about the sun stroke you’re going to get from the 35 degree African sun? Or the rain that will ruin your interior before you can slow down to 20kph to put your roof up? It’s all fun and games until you’re lobster red or Kiwi black begging for some aloe vera gel at your nearest Dischem. Which brings me to my point, with all that accounted for, convertibles make for the perfect Johannesburg or Durban winter cars. Cape Town winters are too temperamental so we won’t include it in this conversation.

I recently spent some time in a very impressive convertible. The sound of a straight six engine producing 317kw of turbocharged power and making funny popping noises as you accelerate or lift off is quite entertaining by itself. This entertainment is further amplified when you don’t have a roof over your head and the sun is at a moderate heat coupled with a cool winter breeze. That was part of my BMW M4 convertible experience, a very exiting one I must say. Having driven the coupe version of the car as well as the sedan M3, I found myself troubled in deciding which one I liked most. They all have different appeals and yet all of them manage to make you smile. I’ve summed it up like this. If you have a family but still long for the feeling of a single mans sports car, buy the M3. If you don’t have a family and you want to impress women by telling them your roof is made from carbon fibre, buy a coupe. If you’re like me and you don’t have a family but want the versatility, get the convertible.

Now to my enthusiast friends, before you moan, yes the car does not feel as dynamically responsive  as the coupe or sedan, but you need ask yourselves a question before jumping on that bandwagon.  Are you a race car driver who spends most of his time at the track? If your answer is yes, I envy you, but if your answer is no then you have no real reason to feel that the convertible is not as capable as the coupe from a dynamic point of view. I think it’s nice to have a hard roof in the summer such as the M4’s, when it’s up I can gladly eat my ice-cream even when it’s hot since I’ll have on the thing that blows cold air into the car. Then come winter time, I can have no roof and still enjoy the sun without the risk of getting skin cancer, the best of both worlds indeed. That’s what you get in the BMW M4 convertible. It feels just as fast, looks even nicer with the roof down and makes funny fart noises when you change gears, what more could you ask for?

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Wheel Wednesday: Rays Gram lights wheels

Wheels you would leave your wife for?

Okay maybe not your wife, but possibly your girlfriend? I mean let’s be honest, line up your girlfriends photo with the picture above and tell me which one you look at for the longest. If you say your girlfriend then keep her close, she must be a looker.

So who makes these wonderful pieces of spinning art? Well that would be the Japanese company “Rays wheels” who also go by the name of “Volk Racing”. They make a wide range of wheels, forged and cast. There a few sets I cannot get enough of, the “Gram lights” (57JX, 57D, 57DR, 57C6). These wheels are very popular in the drifting scene, you will most likely see a few sets in the World Drifting Championships.

I just love the thick alloy design and colour variations, I mean how many other wheel manufacturers offer blue, luminous pink and yellow? Of course it won’t suit all cars, yellow wheels on my BMW 1 series wouldn’t look great, but on a black Rx7….hmm. They also do offer more sensible colours, such as black and gun metal grey. Happy Wheel Wednesday.

Rays Gram lights

 

Chris Evans announced as Top Gear’s new host

Chris Evans has been announced as the new host of Top Gear

Ever since Jeremy Clarkson decided to punch a man and our favourite motoring show’s bosses decided to fire him, we were all left to wonder what would happen next. Well we now have an idea of what “next” is since the BBC have announced that Chris Evans will be the new host of Top Gear. Chris Evans is a well known English T.V and radio personality, as well as a close friend of Jeremy Clarkson (awkward). As an avid watcher of Top Gear, I really don’t know what to expect. I watched Top Gear before Jeremy and his boys had their tenure, back in the days where Tiff Needell’s hair wasn’t so grey and Vicki…well Vicky is still quite a looker, so not much has changed there. The point I’m making is the same point that James May has been making. The show was there before them and it will continue after them. All we know is that Chris Evans definitely has some big shoes to fill, which I’m sure he knows just as much, so we can probably rest assured that there will be changes in style and delivery so that he won’t be labelled as a “copy cat”. At least that is what I’m hoping Chris Evans will do. I’m personally glad the reigns were handed to a man who loves his vehicles just as much if not more than “the three”. The best way to look at this situation is that if Chris Evans can pull it off, we as viewers will have two amazing programs to watch because I’m sure wherever Jeremy, Richard and James will end up, it will be awesome to watch.

Tech Tuesday: All that in an Opel Corsa?

It’s no secret that Opel has recently undergone some brand rejuvenation through its current offerings. Not too long ago you would look at the Corsa and think “meh”, but now you stop and think “hmm”. The Adam is a funky little car and I quite liked it. The Corsa seems a little more grown up but still maintains the funky persona found in its new sibling, the Adam. As I have mentioned in previous articles, a customer  looking for something entry level will struggle to find a terrible car when comparing between the major brands. The competition is tight, so manufacturers have to make sure that they’re on their “A” game to stay in the running. So much so that nowadays you can get an entry level car with more spec in it than a luxury saloon from ten years ago.

The new Opel Corsa is an example of this, the Cosmo (top of the range version) for instance has xenons, bluetooth, touch screen radio and rain sensors as standard equipment. This is on top of the spicy little 1.0l 85kw/170Nm engine it has. Now if that doesn’t get it’s competitors sweating than maybe the fact that you can even get Park Assist as an option will. We spoke about saloons from ten years ago remember? Forget those cars, the Corsa of that time itself was as basic as a loaf of bread, now I can get Park Assist in the current one? That’s progression I tell you. Is it overkill? I don’t think so, let me tell you why. If you’re a person who has been around for a while, certain features like a touch screen radio and park assist will mean nothing to you. It’s all gimmicks to that type of client. The older generation that grew up on cassette players and cigarette lighters don’t get ditsy about things like those. My dad often says “as long as I can send texts and make calls, that’s fine”.

I on the other hand, being part of a newer generation, want something that can text, call, email and Instagram at the same time. Why? Because that is what I am used to. So when it comes to cars, for the target market of the new Opel Corsa, it makes sense to throw in all the options because that is what that target market wants. We are the gimmick generation and gimmicks sell. I wouldn’t say that the new Corsa is full or gimmicks, I would refer to them as “luxuries”. As much as I don’t like Park Assist in any car, the fact that you can get it in an entry level car like the new Opel Corsa makes me wonder what will be available in 2025. Happy Tech Tuesday