Category: launch

MINI JCW Countryman and Clubman Experience

John Cooper Works MINI Countryman

MINI JCW Countryman and Clubman

George is a small South African town, located on the east coast of South Africa. Wedged in between Knysna and Plett, this area is one of my favorite spots to visit while experiencing its endless forests and gracious mountain ranges. It’s also pretty cold this time of year and I very quickly realised this as I stepped off the plane, unprepared. Hoping my not so tough english skin would bare the brunt was probably a long shot, but heading inside to meet my friends at MINI SA and grab a decent cappuccino certainly helped!

After the usual formalities, we brunted the cold again (well just the english lad in the t-shirt) to meet the new John Cooper Works Clubman & Countryman. A total of six cars were lined up – 3 of each variant. Two routes were planned for each model, as even though they both feature the same 2.0-litre engine with outputs of 170 kW and 350 N.m, the Clubman & Countryman have their own appeal and are suited to different kinds of adventures. What better way to experience these vehicles than driving them in a place where they are most at home.

Up first for us was the the MINI John Cooper Works Clubman. Now, I must admit, when this car was first revealed some years ago, I really was not its biggest fan. Seeing the model now, wind swept in George, featuring a new design, additional JCW styling and a 10mm drop in ride height changed my opinion of the once dubbed “MINI Hearse”. Maybe as I advance in years my taste is becoming more accustomed. Let’s be honest, the Clubman definitely has that “Hipster appeal” and I rather like it.

 MINI John Cooper Works Clubman

A dynamic route was picked for the JCW Clubman, and as we headed towards the mountains, I was slowly customising to the JCW setup. I found the Clubman to have quite a little bit of road noise and a firm suspension – even in its softest driving mode. However, I did remind myself that this is a John Cooper Works, designed for the non-conformer and based on over 58 years of racing heritage, it really should not be any other way. Anyone looking for a comfortable drive should be looking at Cooper S down.

 MINI John Cooper Works

There was much to take in on the morning drive and being an avid photographer, I enjoyed the picturesque landscapes that surrounded us. In terms of driving, I was impressed with how the Clubman performed on Robinson’s pass. It handled the tight and twisty sections of tarmac with ease and provided a very enjoyable driving experience, especially in sport mode, which also provides a lovely audio track of pops from the exhaust system. MINI’s unique All4 system, which transfers power between the front and rear axles instantly to suit the driving situation and provide as much grip as possible, worked well in getting the Clubman out of corners. We experienced the JCW Clubman in a way inline with its purpose, to explore the great outdoors while also providing a spirited driving experience.

John Cooper Works MINI Clubman

With 250 km down and with the rain starting to pour, we headed into the wonderful town of Knysna. Even with the golden and brown textures that glace the hillsides from the recent fires, it is a still a beautiful location to visit and the MINI’s stood out nicely against the backdrop. We pulled into the Turbine hotel for a spot of lunch and judging by the dirt and dust covering the Countryman’s, we were in for a treat in the afternoon.

John Cooper Works MINI Clubman

I touched on MINI’s ALL4 system earlier, but this system really stood out on our second driving route which consisted of long, rough dirt roads bending through the mountains with pretty treacherous drop offs on the side. These were the kinds of roads many probably don’t know exist and while driving and I could not help think of the many who travelled these ways many moons ago with other means of transportation.

MINI John Cooper Works Countryman

The Countryman rides higher than the Clubman and is much more suited to the cross-country, rugged terrain. Considering the fact that these JCW models are more sports emphasized, I was pretty impressed with the comfort levels across this rough terrain which was only made worse by the very wet conditions. If the front wheels lost grip and understeer was starting to occur, the ALL4 system would transfer power to the rear wheels to maintain grip and control. This system was definitely emphasized on the wet, loose conditions as traction is lost much more easily and happens in what could be described a slow-motion, allowing us to experience the system in action.

MINI John Cooper Works Countryman

The climbs and drops on these tight roads were definitely a fun experience, however, I did have to remind myself not to stare at the glorious scenery and snow topped mountain tips for too long but I learned that the Countryman is not as fragile as I thought it was, and can definitely handle itself when the going gets rough.

Tech & Systems

Technology is at the forefront on the MINI brand- the recently updated MINI connected system enables a wider and easier user experience. Vehicle data is transferred to the driver’s mobile device providing information such fuel, range and even live ETA’s to destinations and meetings marked in your calendar. It is very similar the BMW System but with a MINI spin and I enjoy the way the systems and menus are set out and designed. It is not just a menu or a graphic, it is a MINI menu, totally unique. This is consistent throughout the system and design, even through to the driving modes in which Green, Mid & Sport all have their own graphics and displays. It’s very well thought out and plays in line with the brand nicely.

MINI John Cooper Works Countryman

Overall

A very well planned day resulted in great driving experiences from two similar but very different cars. Both variants have ample space for family, luggage and anything else you might want to pack. Which car you pick really depends on your location, are you an intrepid traveller who keeps to the open road but is looking for a distinctive, eye catching vehicle? Or do you like to a live a little on the dirty side and have the freedom and confidence you can go off the beaten track whenever you feel like it? Well, only you know the answer to that, but rest assured which ever JCW you pick, your road ahead will be a fun one.

 

MINI John Cooper Works  Pricing in South Africa 

 

John Cooper Works Clubman ALL4 6-Speed Manual: R558,612

John Cooper Works Clubman ALL4  8-Speed Sports Auto: R584,516

John Cooper Works Countryman ALL4 6-Speed Manual: R610,612

John Cooper Works Countryman ALL4 8-Speed Sports Auto: R636,510

 

We drive the new Suzuki Ignis

Suzuki Ignis

On launch with the new Suzuki Ignis

I would have loved to have been in the room when the briefing on the new Suzuki Ignis was created. It would have been quite the meeting when the car designs came in. It would have been a shock, but a good one, I thought as I sat on a flight from Jozi Town to the beautiful, but waterless Cape Town for the local media launch of Suzuki’s latest vehicle!

We arrived in a semi-wet Cape Town in the evening and then made our way to a studio which could only be described as a “watch this space” moment for SA television where the Ignis launch happened. Besides the culling of a few local beers from the waiter, the night ran without glitch and when the Ignis was revealed halfway through a light supper, we were greeted by a design that is nothing short of amazing and youthful, backed by one of my favorite tunes, “Hey Hey” by Dennis Ferrer danced to by some “Panstula dancers”.

So, what do you get with this new offering from our Japanese friends? For a price of R169 000 of your hard earned Madiba’s, you get a Crossover hatchback with the 1.2-litre four-pot, an engine from the Suzuki Swift, with a power output of 61 kW and 113 N.m and yes, this won’t get you a new quarter mile record, but will keep up with traffic surprisingly well, and that is aided by having a kerb weight of just 850 kilograms. This translated into some good fuel numbers too, but to be honest, pointed into some curvy roads in the Cape, that went out of the window as we wanted to see what this little offering from Suzuki could do. This little car has a design that is robust and harks back to Suzuki’s from yesteryear.

In the Cape air, the little Suzuki Ignis immediately blazed its way from the beautiful accommodation in Tableview towards wine county. From a convenience perspective, you immediately feel at home as all you need is your phone cable and the vehicle comes alive as you have connection with ease. Being six foot and still carrying weight from December, space is not an issue but I did fail the “sit behind you test” thanks to my awkward torso to leg ratio. The model that we had was the GLX version which is the top of range model. The motor is the same but the changes are the spec level and for the extra amount of R20 000, you get among other things, LED headlights, as well as daytime running lights, folding electric mirrors, auto aircon, you get the drift. For an entry level vehicle, the Ignis is very well specced and you find yourself lacking for very little. Chasing the Suzuki Ignis through some very windy roads, highlighted that you will not be getting a dull drive. Most cars in this segment suffer from a surprising amount of understeer dialed into the chassis for safety reasons but we found this little car to be very flat though the corners and would welcome more power to explore the chassis a bit more.

There is an auto variant of the Ignis which Suzuki does stress is not a conventional Auto with a torque convertor but rather, a manual clutch system that has it clutch operated by robotics. All I could hear here was BMW’s SMG gearbox that had you nodding all over town and almost crashing while trying to parallel park. Hopefully, this will not be the case with the Suzuki Ignis and we will get to sample this gearbox in due course. We ended up at a wine farm which was a lunch and wine tasting (read responsible) were at the backdrop of one if the oldest family run wine farms in South Africa, the Ignis was right at home. We left the venue running slightly behind schedule heading direction airport and this spirited drive through some glorious roads proved that this will be a loved little car that will be fun to drive on a daily basis.

Knowing the South African market, Suzuki needs to market this little car well as if people get to experience it, they will sell loads of these. Being a car community that is very brand conscious who tends to favour the hijack favorite Polo Vivo, people need to look at other makes and realise that there is life, and awesome cars outside Germany and this little Ignis proves that. You get Japanese reliability, cheeky and quirky design and the 2017 European World Urban Car of the year and you have a recipe for success. Open your eyes SA, you have and awesome little car right under your noses. Test-drive one and see what we are talking about!

Our first drive of the Facelifted VW Golf 7.5 GTI

VW Golf 7.5 GTI

South African Launch: Facelifted VW Golf 7.5 GTI

 

Whenever a new Golf is launched, there is excitement beyond belief. First and foremost, it’s been widely regarded as the benchmark in its class and for good reason. Its brilliant! Whether you are starting a new job, transporting kids to and from school, or want a car so that you can have space for your grandkids, it’s the best all-rounder and has remained that way for the last couple of decades. The latest version, or “facelift” in normal terms may be a slight improvement on the current Golf 7, but those small changes make for strides in comfort, luxury and of cause, sportiness.

Updated VW Golf GTI

We flew out to Port Elizabeth to sample the latest version and more specifically, the GTI and my oh my. It’s like your hot friend that was already a looker but decided to go and get a trainer  for a full year, and has come back looking like a model for GQ magazine.

The changes to the new  VW Golf 7.5 GTI are small, but they certainly make you notice it. The “GTI Line” in red now gets broken up and hugs the new LED headlights. Traces of the honeycomb grille finish off the bottom of the LEDs and give the eyes a more aggressive look. The front and rear bumper have also been tweaked for a sportier appeal with the cherry on top being  the new lights with progressive indicators. Small changes as mentioned, but overall, a more svelte athlete.

Updated VW Golf GTI

In the interior, you are immediately greeted by the new LCD electronic display in the instrument binacle which can be adjusted to suit. The examples that we sampled featured  the Discover Pro Navigation, in which the maps and directions sit right in between the rev counter and tachometer for easy viewing. The Discover Pro Navigation also comes with a 9.2-inch screen for vehicle operation with full touch and gesture control. With my basketball player hands, I couldn’t master the system but my driving partner, being a lady with lady like hands, operated the system with ease and I’m sure that with enough practice, I’d soon get the hang of it. The system is iPhone ready with Apple CarPlay and is as easy as 1,2,3 to use. Android Auto has been enabled but South Africans will have to wait until their phones are ready, as the software on android devices has not been enabled yet.

Updated VW Golf GTI

We drove the cars from the airport and stopped over in Jansenville for some lunch. This was a  relatively short drive, thanks to the uprated 169 kW instead of the current 162 kW from the familiar 2.0-litre TFSI motor. Torque has stayed the same at 350 N.m but the vehicle feels more peppy and angrier than what the figures suggest. The GTI 7.5, as it’s locally known, has no problem with bumpier roads, even at more  illegal speeds and turns in like a GTI should. Seats are just the right mix of sporty and let’s-drive-to-Cape-Town-this-weekend comfortable. Even though I have a back that could have come from a 95-year-old war veteran, not once did I reach for the Myprodol.

Updated VW Golf GTI

After reaching the venue and reflecting on the very short drive of 247 kilometers, we settled in and I tried to find fault with the VW Golf 7.5 GTI as there must be at least one black mark and yes, I did find it. It no longer comes with a manual gearbox! The urban warriors having to deal with Sandton traffic have got to VW and convinced them that the manual was redundant and only DSG boxes are on the cards for sunny South Africa. Train smash for a stubborn mule like myself but in the long run, it’s the better decision.

Updated VW Golf GTI

With the whole range being refreshed, it called for some engine changes as well. The 1.2 TSI has been dropped in favour of the new 1.0 TSI in both Trendline and Comfortline packages. This motor should be very nimble at 81 kW and 200 N.m of torque. Next is the 1.4 TSI with the same torque figure but with a bit more juice at 92 kW. This has the option of the DSG gearbox and I’m sure from a comfort, power and pricing perspective, this will be the pick of the bunch. Next would be the GTI and added from July will be the GTD – the 130 kW & 350 N.m diesel 2.0 TDI, as well as the R version. We weren’t given the exact figures for the R but expect more from the flagship Vrrpha!

Once again, the standard has been set and to be honest, many cars will run the Golf close and one or two will be faster, but none can come close to what the Golf and specifically the  VW Golf 7.5 GTI can offer as an everyday package. Expect it to stand head and shoulders above the competition.

South African Launch: 2017 Mazda CX-5

2017 Mazda CX-5

Our First Drive of the New 2017 Mazda CX-5

The automotive space is an interesting one, one in which manufacturers are able to express themselves and the particular traits of their brand which has inevitably been influenced and shaped by the environment in which they were established. Take a look at several vehicles on the market in South Africa and devoid of all branding, one would probably still be able to pin point the origin of a vehicle based purely on elements such as build quality and design. The Italians have their, wait for it….flair and emotion (vomit) and the Germans their no-nonsense and near flawless balance between form and function.

The Japanese, however, have always had an approach which perhaps mirrors their vastly different way of going about life. This is great in that variety and diversity is great, but consumers are unlikely to buy a car painted like a panda bear with a Hello Kitty shaped steering wheel so expression in moderation is a good idea.

New Mazda CX-5

The new Mazda CX-5 is undoubtedly a car with a Japanese design, but it’s certainly more of a geisha than a beckoning cat. Mazda’s KODO: Soul of Motion design language has evolved somewhat from the previous CX-5 and as such, the new model is both distinctly Japanese, yet more mature than the outgoing model. It’s silhouette, a haunchy rear end with a stretched out bonnet, somewhat reminds one of the Maserati Levante and Infiniti FX/QX. Its convex grille, flanked by thin and striking headlights, gives the CX-5 a striking rear-view mirror presence, especially when finished in their new Soul Red Crystal colour which has been fine-tuned to highlight the shadows and curves of the vehicle’s bodywork.

New Mazda CX-5

While Mazda’s have always managed to remain somewhat abreast with advancements in vehicle technology and industry development, their interiors were always a bit of a disappointment. Cheap plastics and the smell of glue come to mind but thankfully, there will be no glue-sniffing in the cabin of the CX-5. Mazda’s long term projection of becoming a viable alternative to the “German three” while ambitious, seems more attainable than ever with this new model really upping the game in terms of perceived quality and finish. The CX-5 really does feel like a premium product and impressive NVH levels also do well to cement this.

As with all things in life, though, it’s not all gentle summer rain and bubble baths as the engine line-up (carried over from the outgoing CX-5) is unchanged. 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre petrol engines and a 2.2-litre diesel are the three engines to choose from and while on paper Mazda’s SKYACTIV Technology works well, in the real world it just feels lacking in certain aspects. This sort of vehicle benefits hugely from the low-down torque on offer from forced induction and while the diesel motor is able to deliver this, the petrols have to be pushed beyond 3 000 rpm to access their not insignificant amounts of torque. Power figures are 121 kW/210 N.m for the 2.0-litre petrol, 143 kW/257 N.m for the 2.5-litre petrol and 129 kW/420 N.m for the diesel and while these seem like decent figures, in practice I couldn’t help but imagine how well a turbo motor would work here. Anyway, Mazda has heard this time and time again, yet they still stick to their N/A ways so rather than complain about it, just get the 2.2-litre diesel – it’s my pick of the bunch anyway.

Active LED headlights, heads-up display, power-lift tailgate and a 10-speaker Bose sound system, lane keep assist, navigation and smart city braking with pedestrian detection all come standard on higher-specced models but standard specification across the board is also impressive featuring self-levelling auto LED headlamps, Bluetooth and a 7-inch full colour touch screen with reverse camera.

MazdaCare comes standard across the range which comprises of a 3 year/unlimted km service plan, warranty and roadside assistance.

A premium product from a brand who are heading in the right direction, the CX-5 is another reminder of how Mazda has benefitted from the Ford split, having come leaps and strides in the past few years. The CX-5 faces tough competition from the likes of Volkswagen’s stellar Tiguan and the Hyundai Tucson, but with bang on pricing and a properly good product, they shouldn’t have much to fear.

Pricing is as follows:

Mazda CX-5 2.0L Active FWD                  R379 900
Mazda CX-5 2.0L Active Auto FWD        R391 900
Mazda CX-5 2.0L Dynamic FWD             R404 900
Mazda CX-5 2.0L Dynamic Auto FWD   R416 900
Mazda CX-5 2.2L DE Active Auto FWD  R459 400
Mazda CX-5 2.5L Individual Auto FWD  R491 900
Mazda CX-5 2.2L DE Akera AWD             R557 500

 

 

 

 

 

 

Volkswagen strikes back: Volkswagen Amarok V6 launched in South Africa

Volkswagen Amarok V6

Volkswagen Amarok V6 launched in South Africa

Back in 2010 when Volkswagen announced that the Amarok will only feature 2.0 litre engines, bakkie lovers were up in arms. “We need more power! We need more displacement!” the angry hoards and picketers screamed, forming a mob and carrying flaming objects whilst protesting toward their local VW dealers. Well that’s what we assume happened in certain parts of town where anything under 3.0 litres is an insult to someone’s manliness. This burning issue however was not really about power, because despite the Amarok 2.0 TDI producing 132kW and 440Nm, what people had a problem with was the size of the engine. So much so, the Amarok didn’t really take off as well in South Africa as VW had hoped it would. People are still buying the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger in droves, don’t forget the Isuzu KB as well. As a result Volkswagen have seen the need for change, drastic change at that. What, then, could be more drastic than a bakkie that produces 165 kW/550 N.m? How about a bakkie that produces 180 kW and 580 N.m on over-boost? Yes the new Amarok V6 is in a different performance league when it comes to pick-ups available in South Africa.

Bakkie SUV?

To be honest, the Volkswagen Amarok has always had a few advantages over its rivals, but it seems as though those advantages weren’t ever enough. Take for example the cabin and ride quality, there is nothing agricultural about the car. Instead, the Amarok is arguably the best dual purpose lifestyle bakkie out there. People don’t care however, people want power. That is why the combination of the updated cabin and the engine are a match made in bakkie heaven as you get the best of both worlds. A large touch screen infotainment is now offered in the Amarok, giving you features like Apple CarPlay as well as Bluetooth and other smart features. Ergonomically you feel like you’re in a Golf up front, of course the rear seats are still more “truckish” but purely because you have a load bin behind you and nothing’s going to change that. The overall interior and comfort levels in the V6 are fantastic, you’d swear you’re in an SUV, especially without the rackety noise of the 2.0 TDI.

 

Is all that power necessary?

No. There is no real need for all that power, unless you plan on ploughing the fields in the morning or towing your mobile home with you. Quite honestly, the power offered in the 2.0 TDI is sufficient for the average bakkie owner. The thing is though, once you put your foot down in the V6 and you feel the surge of torque – you realise that this is not power you need, it’s power you want. Once you’ve experienced it, you don’t want it to go away. The powertrain offered in the V6 Amarok can be best described as a very rich dessert, a chocolate mousse even. If you’re not a lover of chocolate mousse, you need to rethink your entire life and maybe even see someone about that.
Oh by the way, it’s not only power that’s changed in the Amarok, the front end looks different too…slightly. The entire range has been face-lifted, with minor changes giving the car a fresher face. The choices are as follows: Comfortline, Highline, Highline Plus and Extreme. The engines range from a 103kW 2.0 TDI to the 132kW 2.0 TDI and then of course, the V6 we’ve been crushing over. If money is no object and you only want the best, the top of the range Extreme model is available. This will equip your Amarok with Satellite navigation, 20 inch wheels, Bi-Xenon headlights and even 12 way adjustable “ergoComfort” seats as some of the standard features.


All these features sound like items you would get in an SUV, but that’s what the bakkie market wants. Thankfully you can still go into Africa and see the dusty sights in your Amarok. The car features an Electronic Differential Locking system for great traction but a diff lock button is still available for those really sticky situations. An Off-Road button can be selected for hardcore terrains and this allows for features like hill descent control to be activated and other nifty features such as off-road ABS as well.
If your Amarok is equipped with ESC, you get a feature called Electronic Trailer Stabilisation which assists when loss of traction occurs whilst towing. Speaking of towing, you’re good for 3300kg, which is great especially for those who enjoy a spot of caravanning. Depending on which Amarok you get, there is the choice of a 6 speed manual gearbox for the 103kW and the 132kW, but the V6 is only offered with the 8 speed automatic gearbox and only in 4Motion as well. The 2.0 TDI’s can be opted as RWD or 4Motion, with the 4Motion being the best off road choice, as it uses a Haldex system to utilise all four wheels for better traction.

Best bakkie out there?

Answering that question with a yes or no depends on your needs. As a lifestyle bakkie for the city and open road, the Amarok has always been a leader when it comes to comfort and trim levels. For the real hardcore off-roaders, some still prefer the likes of a Toyota Hilux. You can’t blame them because there are very few bad bakkies out there. The addition of the V6 engine has made the Amarok the best bakkie in terms of its powertrain. The new Nissan Navara still has one of the best chassis out there but again, it’s all subjective. The biggest problem facing bakkies today is cost and the Amarok V6 is not cheap. Nor is any other top of the range pick up either. An asking price of R748 600 for the Extreme is a hard pill to swallow. If it makes you sleep better at night, think of these fancy bakkies this way: if you own one of them, you don’t really need an SUV anymore. You have all the creature comforts of an SUV but the off road attributes of a bakkie, giving you a car you can do more with. Who would’ve thought that one day this segment would be so demanding? The fact that Volkswagen actually went ahead with the development of this car proves that if people complain enough, eventually they get what they want.

 

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The Bigger MINI Countryman is back in South Africa and it’s better

The New MINI Countryman is back – We attended the South African launch. 

The Countryman was the car that made MINI lovers question the brands direction. How can a MINI be a four door hatchback that wasn’t “mini” by any means? That question troubled die-hard fans that only associate the car with Mr. Bean and the overused “go-kart feel” line the brand used for many years. The reality however is that the MINI audience has changed. The people who fell in love with the reincarnated post millennium MINI, probably have different needs than they did when the brand re-launched approximately  15 years ago.

Those same MINI lovers now probably have children and need more space and comfort. Before the Countryman, those people had to move on to other brands. This wasn’t the case when the first generation MINI Countryman launched and now we’re on the second generation, which keeps the same recipe but bettered of course. For starters the exterior design has been individualised, making it distinct compared to other MINI models. This is great because all the MINI models looked the same, so some variety in design is welcome. What is most notable is the front headlights, which feature standard LED lights, giving the Countryman a modern presence. The rear sees the number plate section moved to the middle of the boot (Or trunk if you’re American) and the taillights have been revised too. The overall look of the car is fuller, longer and wider, giving the Countryman a crossover stance, which is what the cool kids want nowadays.

The chicness doesn’t stop on the outside, the inside is much roomier and dolled up too. The cramped feeling you get in a MINI is completely gone, but the signature MINI feel remains. A circular infotainment hub gives you various bits of information such as driving data and media. The choice of different screen sizes is available, with the option of navigation giving you the largest screen option and the nicest too. The rear legroom has been improved greatly and the rear seats are able to move backwards and forwards by 13cm.Nice.

Powering the MINI Countryman Cooper is the 1.5 litre turbocharged 3 cylinder engine used in the BMW 318i and other modern  MINI Coopers. This small yet powerful engine produces 100kW/220Nm. The big boy S variant uses a 2.0 litre turbocharged engine which is good for 141kW/280Nm. Both cars are available with manual gearboxes and the preferred ZF automatic gearbox. If auto is what you’ll opt for, be advised that the Cooper use a 6-Speed whereas the Cooper S uses an 8-speed Sport Automatic with paddle-shift. Both variants are very smooth compared to their smaller siblings and they also offer more refinement, something needed in this segment. We’re happy to state that sharp dynamic handling is apparent in the new Countryman, but in a more grown up way.

The vehicle still has that childish get up and go manner about it, but much more civilised. The added power of the S model is a nice to have, but the standard cooper won’t leave you sorely wanting, especially during the everyday commute. The most revolutionary model is yet to come however, this being the Cooper D, a first for the South African market. Better fuel economy and more torque will probably make this upcoming variant the Countryman of choice for many.

Overall the new Countryman is a great step ahead for the brand. The outgoing car had started to feel slightly long in the tooth, so this newer model came in the nick of time. With competition like the Audi Q2, the Countryman has got what it takes to square off with the rivals whilst maintaining a unique flair. MINI lovers needing more space can happily stay in the brand with the new Countryman. With more models on the way, we look forward to seeing how it sells in the SA market. Starting at R422 000, this price point is in not unattainable for those looking at the crossover market.

 

The Isuzu KB X-Rider In South Africa

Isuzu KB X-Rider

The Isuzu KB is what I would describe as a decent bakkie, in the same way that Pepsi is a decent alternative to Coca-Cola – there are many things I dislike about it, but overall it seems to do a good job in relation to its purpose.

Isuzu KB X-Rider

For me, the KB never had an appeal to a younger or even an adventurous audience, however, and came across as being a little boring. It needed a little something extra and by little, I actually mean a lot. We’ll now we might have it, in the shape of X-Rider.

X-Rider is a variant of the KB which was previously available as a limited option only, but has now been added as a permanent fixture to the KB range.

Isuzu KB X-Rider

What’s different with the Isuzu KB X-Rider?

Firstly, this model is based on the 4×2 KB 250, which features a strong 2.0-litre diesel producing 100 kW and 320 N.m.

From a visual perspective, the X-Rider features black accents on many areas of the vehicle such as the front bumper, side bars and sports bar, b-pillar and the 18-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels.

Isuzu KB X-Rider

Further to this, the Isuzu KB X-Rider features a heavy duty tow bar as standard which provides a braked towing capacity of 2100 kg.These are the main adjustments to the exterior and after looking at the images, it does look a lot more exciting.

The interior follows the same direction with a full leather appointment, including the steering wheel, and red accents found in the stitching and logo embroidered into the seats. A piano black finish can also be found amongst the trim to aid this less “workhorse” and more “twerkhorse” look and feel.

Isuzu KB X-Rider

In terms of Tech, the Isuzu KB X-Rider will come with keyless entry, steering wheel controls, projector headlights and air conditioning – nothing too fancy then, but then again, who turns to the bakkie segment when looking for “fancy”?

Overview

The X-Rider is definitely a more exciting version of the KB and does distance itself from the trusty workhorse feel that the Isuzu KB has come to own.

Although this vehicle will appeal to a younger more adventurous audience with it’s appearance, I feel that it’s missing one thing, 4- wheel drive.

Isuzu KB X-Rider

Currently only available as a 4×2 and with low-profile tyres as standard, it’s obvious that this vehicle will not be so suited to the Kingsley Holgate amongst us…Hopefully this is something Isuzu is considering for the future and will release an X-Rider based on the 4×4 KB 300.

The benefit of no 4×4 is the price, however, and the X-Rider is available from just R382 500 in the crew-cab variant. Not bad if you consider what you’re getting, but from a purpose point of view, it doesn’t really make much sense.

Nissan Navara Launches In South Africa

We Drive The New Nissan Navara With Its 5 Link Suspension System.

Can you remember the type of person you were, or what you were doing in your life twelve years ago? In twelve years, I have left high school, dabbled in higher education, moved continents and tied the proverbial knot. I am a walking example, then, that a lot can happen in twelve years. That is the same period of time that has lapsed since the launch of the original Navara, so one could say that it was high time that they launch a new one.

Things are always on the move in the automotive world – from a brand’s perspective, being left behind can happen in the flash of an eye should the manufacturer decide to rest on their laurels or even just cease to remain relevant. This is the biggest threat to the new Nissan Navara in South Africa – have their previous customers moved on? Have consumers forgotten about the bakkie that was once considered one of the best? Making the situation worse is the fact that the South African launch on the new Navara has come nearly 2 years after it was launched to the rest if the world, so the all-new Navara certainly had a mountain to climb, so to speak.

According to Nissan, the reason for this is that South Africa has much harsher road conditions and as such, the new Navara needed to be adapted. Interesting, then, that this doesn’t seem to be a problem for every other manufacturer…

It’s fair to say then that the new Nissan Navara needs to be an excellent product in order to regain the attention of the South African market. Nissan knows this, which is why the Navara is not just newer and prettier, it also has a trick up its sleeve.

This trick is 5-link suspension system, which is a very clever trick indeed. Traditionally on bakkies, the leaf spring suspension system has always been the option manufacturers headed for. It’s an older system which consists of large steel bands which compress under load and when under this load, they also provide more brake pressure. This sort of system does decent job, but only really when the vehicle is under load.

Many can attest, however, to the rather unpleasant and bouncy nature of that conventional bakkie ride that we don’t really adore, with rearward instability being the rotten cherry on top.

Bakkies are no longer just work vehicles and have become lifestyle cars that need to tick more than just the rough and ready box. Single athletes, adventurous couples, camping families and owners of sandals all love the versatility and perceived safety as well as the spaciousness of bakkies. So it’s only right, then, that as the market for these vehicles evolves, so does the technology behind them.

The Nissan Navara is the first in its segment to feature this type of suspension system and there are many benefits, such as better handling and a more stability – we experienced this on a high speed dirt road at the Navara local launch and it felt very stable and most notable was the absence of the loose rear end.

If you’d like a little in depth detail on the 5-link suspension system, Practical Motoring explain it very well here.

Other changes to the Navara included an optional new 7-speed automatic gearbox, with the 6-speed manual being the standard option. These are both mated to a 2.3-litre 4-pot diesel, producing 140 kW/405 N.m. It’s not the most powerful bakkie on the market, but those figures are plenty, especially with the torque peaking low in the rev range at 1 500 rpm.

Overall then, the Navara is a very attractive vehicle and just as its predecessor did 12 years ago, impresses with its interior and exterior design. It’s also bigger than before, has more interior space and has a total weight reduction of 176 kg.

Having spent many hours behind the wheel of the new Navara during the launch which involved a beautiful coastal route from Cape Town to Lamberts Bay, we can confidently say that the Navara took it all in its stride. The overall dynamics, styling and feel of the car most certainly bring to mind the characteristics of an SUV.

With the pricing starting at R514 000, it is also very competitively priced within segment and I personally feel that even though there has been a very long wait for this vehicle, it has what it takes to recapture the attention of the market. This has already been proven by the fact that Nissan have sold over 300 Navaras since the launch in mid-march.

Full pricing is as follows, with the 4×2 double-cap expected to reach SA near the end of 2017.

Pricing and range

Nissan Navara 2.3 DDTT 4×4 SE Double Cab MT – R514 900 (incl. VAT)

Nissan Navara 2.3 DDTT 4×4 LE Double Cab –MT – R565 900 (incl. VAT)

Nissan Navara 2.3 DDT 4×4 LE Double Cab AT –R597 900 (incl. VAT)

 

Black leather seats with heater function optional on LE grade models for R13 000 (incl. VAT).

 

Aston Martin Vanquish S Released In South Africa

South African Launch of the Aston Martin Vanquish S

For as long as humans have lusted over motorcars, the question of whether or not a car can be considered to be art has existed. Silly as it may seem, many an art aficionado has gazed upon such beauties as the Jaguar E-Type, Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder SWB  and E60 BMW M5 (a personal favourite) and have thought, “Psh, this is not art.” What these dreary individuals seem to completely miss, however, is that these vehicles are but three examples of a pool of cars we consider to be greater than the sum of their parts.

Similarly, there has been ambiguity as to whether photography can be considered to be art ever since it became commonplace in the 19th century and arguments such as “photography is too literal to compete with works of art” and that it is “unable to elevate the imagination” do not help the cause. Thankfully, then, a charming fellow by the name of Clint Strydom has gone off, armed with his camera and an Aston Martin One-77, and much like a naughty child skipping Physical Education on a Friday afternoon, stuck it to the man. Commissioned by Aston Martin Lagonda to capture the essence of their iconic brand, what Clint has come up with is truly remarkable.

 

Apt then, that Dr Ulrich Bez, Chairman of Aston Martin once said that “The true value of a work of art lies in the unique relationship between the art itself, its creator and ultimately its owner.” He then goes on to relate this to the cars which Aston Martin produce, noting that each vehicle reflects the personality of its owner in its unique specification – unless it’s second-hand, of course.

The local unveiling of the Aston Martin Vanquish S took place in Melrose Arch on the High Street, between the Daytona Melrose Arch Dealership and The Melrose Gallery where an exquisite exhibition of both Clint’s Inspired by Aston Martin series and a series of Esther Mahlangu’s works were on display. The significance of this was noted by few as Esther Mahlangu is one of the very few artists in the world to have been commissioned by BMW on two separate occasions to create a BMW Art Car, another amalgamation of the automotive and artistic spheres. The presence of these two visionaries was a fitting setting, then, for the local debut of Gaydon’s latest masterpiece and the halo vehicle of the Aston Martin brand.

The differences between the Aston Martin Vanquish and Vanquish S

Very similar to the “standard” Vanquish, only the eagle-eyed will notice the subtle differences between the Vanquish and its S counterpart. Most notable is the new aerodynamic package with its extended front splitter and rear diffuser, both fashioned from exposed carbon fibre and designed to reduce front lift with a minimal increase in parasitic drag. New quad exhaust pipes also emphasise the Vanquish S’ performance oriented character, as do the subtle changes to Aston Martin’s signature grille and side strakes.

Carbon fibre bonnet louvres, forged rims and various graphics packs can also be fitted to the Vanquish S.

Inside the vehicle, options with long and confusing names can be had such as “Bridge of Weir Caithness” leather and a Chopped Carbon Fibre finish which again suggests the overtly sporty nature of this flagship model.

Most notable changes are found beneath the skin in the form of all carbon fibre bodywork and recalibration of the 8-speed Touchtronic III transmission which now delivers faster gearshifts and is more refined at low speeds. Alterations to the inlet manifolds ups the power of the sonorous AM29 6.0-litre naturally-aspirated V12 from 424 kW/630 N.m (2014 onwards) to 444 kW/630 N.m. The larger volume inlet manifolds allow for a greater volume of air to flow into the engine at high rpm’s, creating stronger pull all the way to the redline as well as notably improved throttle response. 0-100 km/h is dealt with in 3.5 seconds and top speed is 323 km/h if you’re the sort of person who is concerned with those figures.

All of these aspects combine to create a GT which offers a distinctly different experience to the DB11, yet one that is still notably a product of the Aston Martin marque. The question is, do you feel that the Vanquish S is a work of art? If looking at it as a piece of art, some would say that at its starting price of R4 950 000, it’s a steal, but those who see it as just a motorcar might argue that that is quite a lot of money…

I leave you with this sentiment, then – you can gaze in awe at the lines, craftsmanship and attention to detail found in an Aston Martin, but you can’t drag race a painting.

 

The Launch of the New Audi A5 in South Africa

Update: Watch Our LaunchDrive Video of the New Audi S5 Here

Hermanus is a beautiful seaside town with a vast mammal filled ocean on one side and  towering mountains on the other. Between us at Cape Town International Airport and Hermanus, though, was a driving route that involved great sections of tar, with long swooping bends, twists and turns. A fitting location, then, for the launch of the all-new Audi A5 and S5 Coupe.

The original A5 launched back in 2008 and it had a unique look with its tornado line running down the full length of the vehicle. The 2017 Audi A5 is still very recognizable as an A5, but does feature very nice enhancements in the design area. The Tornado line for example, is more defined and the headlights feature a sharper design with the “four eyes” to represent quattro. These headlights sit above a larger, flatter grill and below a bonnet which has large grooves, emphasizing its sportiness.

Audi have a new design philosophy which is inspired by the Audi prologue concept car. We have seen elements of this being introduced in recent models such as the Q2 and now the A5. One nod to this design language is flared wheel arches and larger rear shoulders, and we can see this in the 2017 models.

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

The interior has also undergone some refinement. I have always enjoyed Audi’s simplistic and uncomplicated style with regards to interior design and this is no different with the new A5.  The dashboard features a horizontal design which gives the cabin a very spacious feel and as always, the centre console features controls for audio, navigation and the like.  This console also features the drive selector, which one can only describe as looking like the thrust control in a jet – its large, bulky and fits in the hand nicely, giving a very commanding feel.

View 360 Images of the interior below. We apologize for the quality, as the light was extremely poor.

Audi S5

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Audi A5

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

In the design area then, the Audi A5 has undergone many refinements resulting in a big improvement. Another area in which the 2017 A5 has improved is in the powertrain department, with the latest engines now producing 17% more power with a 22% reduction in consumption, impressive.

The A5 coupe has four engines on offer with the S5 currently leading the way, producing a healthy 260 kW and 500 N.m. Following this is the 2.0T FSI Quattro producing 185 kW and 370Nm. We then have two 140 kW power plants, coming in the form of a 2.0T FSI which puts out 320N.m and a 2.0 TDI producing 400 N.m.

You would probably expect me to say that the S5 was my favorite variant but actually, the 185 kW A5 quattro was a car that really stood out. This car really shifts and has lots of torque from low down in the RPM range. It was just so enjoyable to drive through the twisty mountain passes but was then also very comfortable and quiet when driving in a relaxed manner.

The S5 is sharper, firmer and faster with 260 kW and 500 N.m but the difference is not night and day. It does give you a little more confidence in all aspects, though, such as high-speed cornering, as the S5’s suspension is firmer which can be felt quite a lot in the rear.

If you want more performance and styling, the S5 is a good option but it is by no means a “monster”  like an RS variant would be. What sold me on the Audi S5 is the song it sings from that beautiful 3.0-litre V6 Twin Turbo motor – wow!  It sounds absolutely fantastic throughout the rev range and this means that the S5 has a driving experience which is hard to match in its segment. It goes from being a car that is a little faster and sharper than the quattro, to a car that really makes you feel warm inside when driven – It’s not always about sheer acceleration and performance and this reason alone could mean the S5 pips the BMW 440i and Mercedes C43 to my top spot out of the three.

The higher powered A5’s are impressive, but we must not forget the smooth cruisers, the 140 kW T FSI and TDI models. These variants are very refined and easy to drive and while both cars were very nice, I feel that out of the two, the TDI is the one to go for. Power delivery is linear and it just feels like a smoother, calmer experience. Although not the most powerful variants, these two models should not be under estimated as they can really hold their own on some of the Cape Town passes against the bigger boys and are by no means boring. You can still have a lot of fun in these models and we can vouch for that.  If your main aim when looking at an A5 is not so much performance based but rather directed towards a quiet, comfortable and smooth vehicle, either of these two are the ones to go for. The  14kW T FSI comes only as FWD, but the TDI variant is available with quattro.

Which model would I personally choose? Well this decision for me is all about which rules first, the head or the heart. My consumer brain tells me that the 185 kW quattro is the vehicle to go for – it gives performance just a little short from the S5, but has the comfortable benefits of the T FSI and TDI Models and is also R170 000 cheaper. However, from a performance enthusiast’s point of view, my heart wants to hear that singing V6 whenever I drive to work in the morning, although I’m sure my wife would have something to say about that!

Its also worth noting that the A5 is available with its new driver assistance system -Traffic Jam Assist. This is Audi’s first step in the direction of autonomous driving. In conjunction with Adaptive Cruise control, the vehicle will accelerate, brake and steer the car up to speeds of 65 km/h.

Pricing

The A5 will comes standard with a range of equipment including  Audi Drive Select, Xenon Plus Headlights and Rear LED lights, 17” Alloy wheels and cruise control.

The A5/S5 Sportback will be following the same model and pricing structure below and will be available from May 2017. In June we can expect the arrival of the A5/S5 Cabriolet – we have no information on pricing as yet.

Audi A5 Coupe 2.0T FSI 140kW S tronic: R 589,000

Audi A5 Coupe 2.0T FSI 140kW S tronic Sport: R 623,000

Audi A5 Coupe 2.0 TDI 140kW S tronic: R 619,000

Audi A5 Coupe 2.0T TDI 140kW S tronic Sport: R 653,000

Audi A5 Coupe 2.0 TDI 140kW quattro S tronic: R 652,500

Audi A5 Coupe 2.0T TDI 140kW quattro S tronic Sport: R 686,500

Audi A5 Coupe 2.0T FSI 185kW S tronic: R 723,500

Audi A5 Coupe 2.0T FSI 185kW S tronic Sport: R 757,500
Audi S5 Coupe 3.0T FSI 260kW quattro S tronic: R928,000

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