Category: Tech

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).

 

If you don’t know what to do with your money, we have just the car for you.

If you don’t know what to do with your money, we have just the car for you.

Mercedes-Maybach is the brand of choice when you want something utterly lavish. If it’s not limousines they’re supplying then its drop top G-Classes. What!? Yes, you read correctly. If you have enough money you can get a drop top G Class! If the current G-Class range was not braggadocios enough with its exhausts on the side, you can now get it without a roof. What a time to be alive.  This is the first Mercedes-Maybach SUV to be created and what a way to make an entrance.

Being the owner of a car like this means you’ll have something super exclusive as only 99 of these models will be made. The name of this convertible G Class is the G650 Landaulet, which means “a car with a folding hood over the rear seats.” The G650 is powered by a V12 engine so you can only imagine the kind of power this tank will have. If you really want to know you’ll have 463kW (620bhp) and 1000Nm at your disposal. Not too shabby huh?

This car only seats four, so you’ll have to pick your friends wisely. Those you choose to ride with you will want to sit in the back as the Landaulet has S-Class seats in the rear. If your occupants are thirsty, they can use the individual cup holders which can either cool or heat a drink up. How insane? But wait there’s more, the rear seats also have their own table and a business console which has controls for you to operate the glass partition that can separate the rear of the car and front. Last but not least there are two monitors in the rear and a feature called the G Cockpit which operates various features like the soft top mechanism.

This is not the first Landaulet created by Mercedes as they have been other types of this car in the past. One thing is for sure, there hasn’t been one with this kind of glamour in it. The funny thing about this car is that it can still off road like any other G-Class, you’ll simply be more stylish as you do it a G650 Landaulet. With 450mm of ground clearance you’ll be able to look down on the peasants in their cheap 4×4’s as you drinks are kept cold and your V12 sings your praises. Oh, how we wish we owned a mine or something that will give us many millions. Even if we did, as South Africans the G650 will not be available here. No worries then, we would park it in our Monaco home.

Theta S 360 Camera

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

Design

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

Usability – fool-proof?

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

Tech

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

To buy or not to buy?

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

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

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

 

6 Reasons why N/A is better than a turbocharged setup.

In 1962 the first ever turbocharged passenger cars came to the market, some of you might remember them. The Chevrolet Corvair Monza and the Oldsmobile Jetfire. These vehicles didn’t last long due to reliability, over coming years after their release turbocharged cars would come and go and many manufacturers went down the turbo route. This came to an end though because they were not yet as efficient as naturally aspirated engines and turbo lag was also very prominent.

Things started to change when the first Turbo Diesel came to the market In 1978, the Mercedes- Benz 300 SD, followed later by the turbodiesel VW golf in 1981.  Since then, turbocharged vehicles have steadily become more popular, especially in performance based cars as it is much easier to produce more power. In more recent times as technology has improved, turbocharging is now being used as a way to reduce emissions in our everyday vehicles.  Smaller engines can be utilized, and exhaust gasses provide a way to spool turbos.

Even with the turbocharged setup producing more power and becoming increasingly popular, here are six reasons why the naturally aspirated engine is still a much better choice :
 

  1. Noise – To this day, there is nothing better than the sound of a naturally aspirated performance engine. It’s generally louder and quite frankly sounds better. With the addition of individual throttle bodies, the sound gets even better. Turbocharging reduces the noise and brute of an engine; Formula 1 is a prime example. Give me an naturally aspirated  V8,V10 or V12 engine any day!
  1. Revs – N/A engines can rev much higher and produce power much higher up in the rev range, meaning longer gear ratios and less time spent shifting. Only very recently with the improvement of technology have we seen turbo engines starting to rev a little higher. The noise of a V8 at over 10,000rpm is something dreams are made off.
  1. Throttle Response – even with the reduction of turbo lag is recent times, you cannot beat the throttle response of an N/An engine, it gets even better with a fly by wire system!
  1. Fastest Nurburgring lap time – the fastest ever production car lap time was set by an N/A car – the Radical SR8 LM. Its peak power comes in at 10500rpm and hit the limiter at 12500rpm.
  1. Fewer things to go wrong – With turbocharged setups comes more technology, more moving parts, more pipes, more sensors and more complex electronic mapping. More chance of things breaking and going wrong!
  1. N/A is special – There may have been a time when a turbocharged car was special, but times have changed. Everything nowadays is being turbocharged, and it’s just not unique anymore, it’s common. No one likes common, hence why Porsche built the 911 R, a truly special N/A vehicle. Stick a turbo on it and It kind of loses its mojo.

 

There you have it, some of my  reasons as to why naturally aspirated engines trump the turbo setup.

N/A  all the way folks.

 

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VW Polo Beats – Great sound for your travels

The VW Polo is probably one of the most popular cars on South Africa roads, especially with the young generation.  It’s a small hatch, its German – which makes it extremely reliable and its reasonably priced.

A problem that I find with these little hatchbacks is that the audio quality is never great. The majority of people that drive these cars are young adults, many young adults love music, especially when cruising around and on road trips. Whether it’s hip-hop, Jazz, Pop, Dubstep, Classical ( everyone has room for a little bit of classical), there is nothing worse when you pump up the volume and with that increase comes distortion, crackle, and hiss. You wanted to listen to your favourite tracks on your way to work. Instead, it sounds more like firework show on New Year’s Eve, not great.

VW have fixed this issue by teaming up with Beats Audio. You know, those bright pink, red, yellow, orange, black, and white colored earphones you see the hip kids and “cool Dad’s” wearing. Beats Audio knows their stuff when it comes to sound and in conjunction with VW, has introduced the Polo Beats – a VW Polo with seven speaker – 300 Watt sound system.

Here is the not so good part, The Polo Beats differs from other Polo’s with different 16” wheels, red door mirrors, dark red tail lights, beats side film and a beats badge on the b-pillar.  After looking at the images, it doesn’t look as bad as first thought. The interior also has changed with  Beats sports seats and a few other bits such as a leather steering wheel and coloured seatbelts. In fairness, it looks pretty good.  Personally, this should have also been available as an option extra rather than a sperate model; I’m sure the whole Beats branding might put a few people off.

It will, however, be an optional extra in the new VW UP released later this year. We may see it as an optional extra in future Polo models. Not everyone wants red wing mirrors.

 

The Polo Beats comes in at R260,700

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iPhone 7 – You may want to wait

The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are Apple’s latest devices to be released to the market. As always, there are new features which may tempt you into purchasing the 7. But you may want to wait…

We have the iPhone 7 here at our offices and I can tell you it is a beautiful phone. Design wise, it’s similar to the iPhone 6, but with the removal of the headphone jack and a newly designed rear camera. Apple also released new colors in the form of matte black and jet black to go along with the current gold and rose gold options.

Updates

Technical updates include a new 12mp rear camera, with the iPhone 7 now also being able to capture and edit raw images. The front-facing camera has also been upgraded to 7 megapixels from 5 megapixels (The iPhone 7 Plus includes 2 rear cameras: one wide and one telephoto lens) The iPhone 7 is now water and dust resistant, has an extra 2 hours’ battery life and can be purchased with a maximum storage size of 256GB.  Other upgrades include a faster A10 Fusion chip which makes the iPhone 7 twice as powerful and a new wide colour display which gives an extra 25% in the brightness department.  Add these features to a new touch sensitive home button, stereo speakers and IOS 10, and you have yourself a nice, new upgrade. It is worth it.

 

Using the iPhone 7 is very similar to its predecessor, there is no difference to how this model feels when holding and using the device. The biggest difference is the new capacitive home button, which feels great as it gives a little vibration through the bottom of the phone when pressed. You will notice when the phone is off; the button can’t be pressed. This happens because it is no longer a physical button but a pressure sensitive pad. When setting up the phone, the user is given a choice of three click options, ranging from what I would describe a soft, medium and hard click.

As expected, the Camera produces a higher quality and more vivid; there is a marked visual improvement over the iPhone 6 when comparing the same scene captured on the iPhone 6 and 7. Other things you will notice is that the Audio from the stereo speaker setup is improved and the fact there is no earphone jack. If you want to use earphones other than Apple, then an adapter is provided in the iPhone 7 box, just don’t leave this small, white adapter at home. (This is bound to happen, its already happened to me)

 

Why you should wait 

I have been telling you to hold on, wait for what? Well, 2017 is Apple’s 10th anniversary of iPhone. Many are saying that Apple will skip the S updates, which usually come after a new model, and will go straight to releasing an iPhone 8 with some significant improvements and updates. Apple employees have apparently confirmed this to The New York Times which would explain the lack of visual design changes. You might want to consider your options and hold on to your current phone before you sign a new 24-month mobile contract. If money is not an issue, go ahead and get yourself a nice new upgrade.

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Apple Carplay Gives A New Meaning To Hands-Free

The number of people using their phones while driving is ever increasing, whether it’s taking calls, sending a Whatsapp or even recording a Snapchat. This is not good, but unfortunately, it will never be completely stopped. Since we use our devices all the time, when we step into our cars, it has become second nature to carry on using our phones for whatever reason. Cars have also become easier to drive nowadays and in a sense require less attention from the driver, due to various driver aids. These factors make using a device while driving something more difficult stop. We have all heard the saying,“If you can’t beat them, join them”. Apple has adopted this phrase with their new CarPlay feature in IOS 9. Apple says that Car-Play is a smarter and safer way to use your iPhone in the car. How so?

How does Apple CarPlay work?

Apple CarPlay takes the features you want to use while driving and puts them into your car display. Not every app is supported, but things like Maps, Phone, Messages and Music are all available in an IOS Style layout. CarPlay even allows you to use the knobs, dials and buttons in your vehicle for ease of use of the application. Siri is also available to control functions, so you don’t need to take your eyes off the road. You can even have your messages read out aloud, and you can reply using your voice.

Other available apps included in CarPlay are podcasts, audio books, Spotify and other internet radio applications. Social media apps are not currently supported, maybe they will introduce Facebook and Twitter updates through Siri at some point, but we can’t imagine Instagram ever getting compatibility. The whole point here is to help you keep your eyes on the road, and since Instagram is an image-based app, it’s probably not going to happen.

Well done to Apple for trying to come up with a solution for a problem that causes many unneeded deaths every year. Obviously, the best option is to have no phone at all while driving but that unlikely for many. This system merges the two worlds between your phone and your infotainment system, which is better than a simple hands-free system because it stops you from looking down and engaging with your cell phone.

How to connect with Apple CarPlay?

The connection is very easy, simply plug in your iPhone to the USB port or connect via Bluetooth. Head over to “Settings” – “General” and press the “CarPlay” option, and voila, your car and IOS are now one flesh. So how do you know if your car is supported? See the image below to see if your vehicle is part of the supported list.  If it’s not, you may also have support if you use an Alpine, Kenwood or Pioneer after-market System.

Remember guys as handy as these systems are, the best distraction is no distraction. Situations on the road can change in a split second, so keeping your phone off and keeping your eyes where they belong is always the best option. Travel safe and Happy Tech Tuesday.

NISSAN GT-R 2017

Way back in 2007 a car came along which changed everything. Performance wise, this vehicle destroyed almost anything that was put against it, its acceleration was blistering and it’s on track performance was mind blowing. This vehicle was probably one of the most technically advanced cars of that era, many called it “the supercar slayer”. Yes, I’m talking about the Nissan GT-R R35. Recently at the SA Festival of Motoring, the new 2017 Edition was released with some slight adjustments and Refinements.

 

Performance

In the performance area, the hand built 3.8L V6 twin turbo has a power increase from 397 KW to 408 KW and a small torque increase of 4nm, bringing the total to 632 NM. This power increase comes from increased turbo boost and individual timing control on each cylinder, Nissan say these upgrades will also provide more performance in the mid-high rev range.

Along with the performance upgrades, the gearbox and gearshifts have also been improved.  These two factors added with Nissan’s state of the art launch control system gives a 0–100kph time of under 3 seconds, that’s Porsche Turbo S territory. Nissan has also added a new titanium exhaust system which unfortunately is “enhanced” by Nissan’s Active Sound Enhancement System, fake sound does not do it for me.

Handling upgrades have also taken place with a more rigid suspension structure and chassis to further improve track performance, Nissan also claims they have improved the everyday drive and comfort of this 2017 model.

 

Interior

Nissan has also worked on the interior with their aim to make it more  “upmarket” and simplified. The upmarket feel has been introduced with Nappa leather and “real” carbon fibre,  sound dampening and an acoustic glass windshield has also been installed to keep unwanted exterior noises out. I do wonder though if the acoustic glass will improve my wife’s in car singing voice ? after all, it is acoustic.

In their aim to simplify, Nissan has reduced the number of buttons in the cabin from 27 to 11 with most of the functions moving to an 8” touchscreen display. As long as the audio and A/C controls are not digitally controlled then I’m happy, that really gets on my wick.

 

Pricing

The 2017 GT-R will be available from September with the first batch already sold out. The Premium Edition comes in at a price of R1 950 000 and the Black Edition at R2 050 000. The supercar slayer is edging towards supercar prices!

 

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New Volvo S60 Polestar coming, even more power!

Smaller engine, more power, better fuel economy.

A few months ago we drove the fiery Volvo S60 Polestar. This car’s throaty 3.0 litre in line six cylinder engine produces 258kW and definitely added excitement to the quite serious S60 range. Only 28 of these cars came to South Africa and were all accounted for, but now there’s a new version on the way…

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Less is more:

The new Polestar makes 270kW from Volvo’s 2.0 litre four cylinder Drive-E engine, to add to that, a whopping 470Nm will propel you from 0-100 in 4.7 seconds. Not bad for a car driven by many accountants. That’s the thing about the Polestar products, they have managed to create a “boy racer” feel to these cars, which can potentially open them up to a younger audience. People want individuality nowadays and the niche Polestar brand is doing Volvo a great service by providing just that.

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Twin Charged monster:

The 2.0 litre Drive-E engine has both a turbocharger and a supercharger installed, so the car will be boosting strong with minimal lag. Power will go to all four wheels through an eight speed automatic gearbox, ensuring great grip and quick shifts. Volvo’s priority is still safety and this can be seen through the setup of the current Polestar, which is very easy to drive in extreme conditions. Needless to say that the upcoming one should be the same. A smaller engine for the new S60 Polestar also means less weight for the new car (24 kg’s to be exact). This also means that the car will be better on fuel with a claimed combined cycle of 7.8 litres/100km’s which is very good for a performance car.

So less is definitely more with the new Volvo S60 Polestar, let’s hope it will be as nice to drive as the car we drove not so long ago. Most likely all 32 units coming to South Africa are also all sold already, if not, jump on one before it’s too late.

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Connect, Stow and Drive.

Is a Tweet, Text or Instagram post worth it?

Cell phones are a part of our lives, they are like a vital organ that we can’t do without. When we work, socialize, gym, go to bed and wake up, our phones are with us. There are also with us when we drive unfortunately. Using a phone whilst driving has been illegal for as long as we can remember, but it doesn’t stop the vast majority of us from texting, Whatsapping, calling or emailing while operating a vehicle. We have all been guilty of this offence at some point.

The chances of a person being caught using a cell phone while driving is very slim and similarly, we may think the chances of a serious accident are also pretty slim. What we may not realize is that 1 out of every 4 accidents are caused because of mobile phone usage. Take note of the true story below:

A delivery worker was driving on a busy highway called the A500 ,which is located in the Midlands area of the UK. While he was travelling in the outside lane at a speed of 60 mph (around 120 kph), the driver failed to notice the traffic ahead slowing down and stopping. Why? He was using his mobile phone. The Outcome? Sadly the delivery van ploughed full speed into a BMW 5 Series that was stopped in the traffic. This then started a “domino effect” and caused the BMW to hit the car in front and the forces killed the driver. The driver was not the only one affected, though, his wife of twenty-four years lost her husband and their two children lost their father.

The driver of the van didn’t wake up that day thinking he would ruin not only his own life but also the life of four other people. All this happened from a simple “mistake”. The van driver was not an evil person, he did not mean to kill anyone but he broke the law, and he had to face the consequences. A split second can change lives on the road and by using your mobile phone whilst driving, you are putting not only yourself but others in danger too.

If you have a Bluetooth system, which is very common in new vehicles today, then please set it up before you start to drive and stow your phone in a place out of sight. This will ensure that you’re not tempted to use it. Emails and messages can wait until you finish your journey and if it’s very urgent, you have the hands free system available to communicate. On long distance journeys, you can make regular stops at a fuel station if you feel the need to check your phone.

Why take the chance of ruining multiples lives for a message, a tweet or an Instagram post? You could be that driver that we spoke about in that story. Nobody wants an outcome like that weighing on their mind for the rest of their life. So please, connect it, stow it and drive safe Motorists

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