Category: Technology

Volvo’s Pilot Assist in South Africa – Does It Work?

Volvo's Pilot Assist

We test out Volvo’s Pilot Assist on South African roads.

With autonomous driving being the latest technology craze to enter the automotive industry, many car manufacturers are jumping on the band wagon and giving it a go. In South Africa, the likes of Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Volvo all have vehicles on the road with semi-autonomous driving features.

I recently spend over 1 000 km behind the wheel of a Volvo S90, which has their semi-autonomous driving system called “Pilot Assist” fitted as standard.

Volvo’s Pilot Assist works in conjunction with the Adaptive Cruise Control and controls speed, braking, the distance from the vehicle in front and steering, with the latter being for 15 seconds before it requires human intervention.

As long as there are clear line markings on either side of the vehicle, Pilot Assist will work very well. The driver still needs to keep proper attention to the road and after 15 seconds, a hand needs to be placed on or touch the steering wheel for the system to remain active. The system also works on slight bends that one may encounter on the road, but it is best to keep the your hands steering wheel as on a slightly sharper bend the vehicle tends to drift wide.

The Pilot Assist system is very effective for long distance driving. I used it extensively on a road trip from Durban to JHB and found that the Adaptive Cruise Control, which works in conjunction with Pilot Assist, is probably one of the best I have used. For example, when using ACC and planning to overtake, enabling the indicator causes the vehicle to prepare itself for acceleration. As the move is made, the car begins to accelerate smoothly and efficiently . I’ve tested systems before that would not begin accelerating until the car has completed its move to the next lane with no obstruction ahead. This results in waiting for what seems like hours before the vehicle kicks down and gets going. If the road is busy, it also results in other drivers flying up behind, headlights flashing… you know the sort. So, this is a feature which I greatly appreciated.

Pilot Assist also excels when stuck in traffic – think of the commute to work in one of our busy cities. This system removes the obligation of constantly being on the accelerator or brake pedal while crawling along at 20 km/h. Pilot Assist will also make slight steering adjustments as the car creeps forward so one can sit back, relax and enjoy Swedish luxury.

It is not just a gadget, it’s something a driver can use everyday to make their journey that little bit easier. Adaptive Cruise Control works up to 200 km/h with Pilot Assist having a 130 km/h limit. The system isn’t perfect, but it definitely is a giant leap in the right direction.

 

Watch an animation of Volvo’s Pilot Assist below:

The Harvey Specter of cars: Volvo S90 D5 Review

Volvo S90 D5 AWD Review

Volvo S90 D5 Review

Over the past few years, the Volvo brand has undergone a regeneration. Combining their reputation of driving safety with swedish luxury has seemed to be their main goal, making sure the vehicles they build are the last word in safety, as well as beautiful in every way. The first vehicle to receive that treatment was the XC90, a luxury SUV which quite frankly blew a lot of people away with its design, styling and technology.

The Volvo S90 is the next vehicle in Volvo’s line up to receive this treatment, a luxury sedan bringing the fight to the likes of BMW’s 5 Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and having driven both of those vehicles, the Germans should be worried.

My first thoughts when entering the cabin of the Volvo S90 were how similar the it felt to the XC90. It has a very clean and elegant feel. High quality materials emphasise the crisp finishings and buttons which are all centered around the 9.3” Sensus Connect Touch Screen. There are few buttons in the S90 thanks to this system which controls everything from the colour of the interior lights to the A/C system and like the XC90, it works very well, it almost feels natural.

Volvo S90 D5 Review

If the XC90 is the younger more beefy teenager, than the S90 must be the older man. It’s very elegant, a trait can be seen through the exterior design. It looks beautiful with its long and sleek style. The front end of the vehicle houses a large chrome grill which harkens back to that of the Volvo P1800, as well as the trademark Thor’s Hammer daytime running lights and while the rear end has received some criticism regarding its design, mainly that it looks sad, in the flesh it looks pretty good. A BMW 5 Series looks aggressive and sporty, whereas the S90 has an elegant and executive feel. It is very Harvey Specter – clean and crisp with nothing out of place.

Volvo S90 D5 Review

There are various engines available in the Volvo S90 and this was the first of two variants I was testing, the D5 AWD Inscription.  This is most powerful diesel engine currently available in the S90 and provides 173 kW and 480 N.m from its 2.0-litre Twin Turbocharged engine, which also features PowerPulse.

PowerPulse is a system currently exclusive to Volvo. It consists of a 2.0-litre canister which forces compressed air into the turbo to decrease spooling times dramatically, thus reducing and eliminating turbo-lag. This system seemed to work well when accelerating hard.

Volvo S90 D5 Review

Here’s the thing with the S90 D5, it didn’t make me feel like I wanted to accelerate hard or drive progressively at all. The Volvo made me feel very relaxed behind the wheel, I sort of pottered around everywhere, taking it nice and easy. The calm and quiet D5 gave of a very relaxing aura

At times I felt like a chauffeur, trying to give my passengers the most comfortable ride possible, even though most of the time I was the only person in the car. It was a fantastic feeling, as though I had escaped the South African road rush – I was in my own little luxury bubble and felt like I had all the time in the world. I could not even hear the chaos that usually consumes South African roads, but that probably had something to do with the 19 speaker Bowers and Wilkins sound system (Short video on the system here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSd5KcR0qf4)

Volvo S90 D5 Review

Add this to Volvo’s Pilot Assist, which needs an article for itself (find it here), and you have a fantastic vehicle. Driving a car for long distances can add to one’s stress and tension, but driving the Volvo S90 does the exact opposite.

The S90 D5 AWD isn’t badly priced either at R821,200 and also comes with some very good features as standard. One will find features as LED Headlights, Electric seats, Adaptive cruise control with Pilot Assist, climate control and Navigation. For an extra R65,000 a buyer can add the Premium Pack, which offers the following:

o Heated front seats with power-adjustable side supports

o Powered boot lid

o Power-folding rear seats

o Auto-dimming side and interior mirrors

o Visual Park Assist incl. 360-degree HD camera

o Bowers & Wilkins premium audio, 19-speaker

o Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with Cross Traffic Alert

o Park Assist Pilot incl. Park Out function

o Keyless entry and starting, incl. hands-free boot lid opening & closing

Other options I would recommend are the smartphone Integration with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto – a R4 000 option.  The Volvo I tested also had a Head Up Display (R14 500) and Air suspension with the Active Chassis system( R17 500) expensive extras, but are most likely worth it and notably cheaper than equivalent options from competitor manufacturers. Spec an E-Class or 5 Series to the same level as this car and you’ll be truly shocked at the price difference. In terms of value for money, the S90 rules this segment.

Overview

The Volvo S90 is a wonderful machine and there isn’t much I can fault. The key could perhaps be made with higher quality materials , but that is the only item that felt a little cheap on this car.

Then there is the issue of who this car appeals to. Have Volvo done enough to attract a younger audience? Maybe. I still feel many buyers around 35 years of age and looking for a vehicle in this segment would still opt for a BMW 5 Series. This does not necessarily mean it’s a better car, because it isn’t. Everything about the S90 would appeal to a younger person, but the brand itself still has to work off its older appeal. Time will tell how this works out. For me, I would take an XC90 everyday of the week because it just has that younger feel.

How does the S90 D5 compare to  it’s more powerful sibling, the fiery,  235 kW S90 T6. Find out here:

 

 

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Semi-Autonomous Driving Features in the New Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Semi-autonomous Driving In The New Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Autonomous driving is a technology which is rapidly growing in the automotive industry. On the road today, we have semi-autonomous driving vehicles which are able to accelerate, brake and steer, for short periods of time, without any human input. One doesn’t even need to turn to the upper echelon of motoring to find this sort of technology as vehicles such as the Volvo S90 and BMW 5 Series are able to tootle along all by themselves.

Even Though fully autonomous driving is still a way off for mainstream car makers, more and more vehicle manufacturers are spending increasing amounts of money and time developing technologies this field, making their cars more intelligent and less dependent on the driver. The Mercedes-Benz S-Class has always stood at the forefront of automotive technological advancements, so the updated S-Class promises to be a bit of a spaceship, due in South Africa later this year.

Mercedes-Benz claim that the updated S-Class will be able to support its driver considerably better than all systems which have been available to date, but whether this means all systems currently on the market, such as Volvo’s Pilot Assist or just Mercedes-Benz’s systems remains a mystery. Anyway, let’s take a look at the details of Mercedes Semi-Autonomous driving systems. 

 

Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC

This system uses the route ahead to increase or decrease speed. For example, if the vehicle detects a bend, junction, roundabout or toll both in its path, it will slow the vehicle down accordingly.

The S-Class will also use information from the driver’s navigation input. If the route informs the driver to leave a highway and the car is in the slow lane, the vehicle will automatically reduce speed for the off-ramp. This also applies to junctions.

Semi-autonomous driving

Semi-autonomous driving

Active Lane Change Assist

Hitting the Indicator stalk when driving at speeds between 80 – 180 km/h actives this system. The vehicle’s sensors use the next 10 seconds to check all the vehicle safety zones and whether or not the relevant lane is clear. It also monitors the speed of other vehicles to see that all is ok, and if so, the S-Class will change lanes.

Semi-autonomous driving

Semi-autonomous driving

Active Speed Limit Assist

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class will pick up on road signs and temporary speed limit signs such as one would find when approaching road works. It also knows recorded limits from the navigation system.

Following vehicles in a tailback

This feature is perfect for the road users in Johannesburg. The new S-Class is able to stop and then restart and follow vehicles in traffic if the stops are shorter than 30 seconds. No more on and off the brake and accelerator in stop/start traffic, then!

Active Emergency Stop Assist

One to put your mind at ease if you are an easy sleeper! If the S-Class detects no response from the driver while using Active Steering Assist, the vehicle prompts the driver to take action. If no action is taken ( because you are dreaming peacefully or in a medical emergency) the vehicle will then slowly bring itself to a stop in its current lane. Once stopped, the parking brake is engaged, Mercedes-Benz Emergency Call System is activated and the doors are unlocked.

Active Brake Assist & Evasive Steering Assist

This features aids the driver in avoiding collisions with other vehicles and pedestrians. It first starts with warning the driver if there is adequate distance to do so. If not, the vehicle will apply the brakes.

Further to this, Evasive Steering Assist will support the driver and apply extra steering torque when taking evasive action because a pedestrian is in the vehicle danger zone. The vehicle will then stabilize itself after the maneuver has taken place.

Semi-autonomous driving

Active Keep Lane Assist

Between speeds of 60 and 200 km/h, the S-Class will warn the driver via vibrations if the vehicle drifts out of its lane and can apply vehicle brakes on one side to bring the driver back into its lane. If this happens on a road with broken white lines, the vehicle will only take action if there is a chance of collision with another vehicle (for all you lazy non indicator types).

Active Blind Spot Assist

A system found on many new vehicles today and similar to that above – the Mercedes-Benz S-Class will apply brakes on one side of the vehicle to avoid an impending side collision.

Traffic Sign Assist

This system, which works along with Active Speed Limit Assist using image recognition and information from the road map in the navigation system, displays road signs on the instrument cluster.

It will bring up any overtaking restrictions for the route, such as zebra crossings, and will provide a warning if pedestrians are found in said crossing. “No entry” signs are also recognized and the vehicle will prompt you to check your direction of travel.

Semi-autonomous driving

Car-to-X Communication

This is basically talking cars! A technology first seen in the form of Volvo’s Vehicle-to-vehicle communication, if a vehicle ahead has detected a hazardous condition, this information is then relayed back to other vehicles to provide an early warning. A voice warning may also be given to the driver depending on the situation.

Developers are currently trying to get this system in use with as many vehicle manufacturers as possible, thus creating a very effective system. A car plus kit will also be available for drivers whose vehicles do not support Car-to-X so they can also benefit from this system.

Active Parking Assist

Cars that park themselves are no longer a big surprise, and this system is very similar to others. The S-Class can also apply braking automatically when parking if it has noticed a hazard or possible collision.

Remote Parking Assist

A system we first witnessed on the new BMW 5 Series, the S-Class can now be parked into spaces or even driven out of spaces when the driver is outside the vehicle. The BMW 5 Series uses the vehicle key for this, whereas the Mercedes system will be controlled using an app on a smartphone.

The major benefit of this is being able to park the vehicle in tight spaces without having the issue of the driver trying to exit the vehicle afterwards. This system also works well if the driver has been parked in. The system will allow manoeuvrability of the vehicle by up to 15 metres and will also avoid obstacles, for those who were never good at R/C cars as a child or adult.
So there you have it, another step in the right direction for autonomous driving for Mercedes-Benz. No news yet on whether these features will be standard or optional extras, but if you can afford an S-Class, chances are it won’t matter much either way.

Mercedes-Benz Straight Six Engines Are Back

In days gone by, Mercedes-Benz were the last word in refinement. Silky smooth straight sixes were the order of the day and while slightly less practical to package than a V6 motor of equivalent capacity, the inherent benefits of a straight six over a V6 made it worth the long bonnet. Because people hate long bonnets.

It would seem, however, that BMW are the only big manufacturer to produce straight six motors these days. Ford Australia did for a while, but they don’t exist anymore and neither do TVR…

This is strange because while a V6 motor makes packaging a breeze thanks to its compact dimensions, it becomes very complicated due to the inherent vibration issues caused by two banks of cylinders with yaw moments on different axis. Balancing shafts can easily cancel out these vibrations but this means that more inertial mass is required to spin the engine – ie: you need more power.

The great news, then, is that Mercedes-Benz are back on the straight-six train as announced towards the end of 2016 and the new M256 promises to be a powerhouse of note. A part of their new range of modular engines, the new six will arrive alongside petrol and diesel straight-fours, straight-sixes and a petrol V8. They all have identical bore spacing and interfaces to vehicle which cuts production costs.

Back to the M256, it features a host of new technology, most notable of which is the Inline Starter Generator or ‘ISG’. The ISG is a 15kW electric motor which drives the crankshaft, starts the internal combustion engine when start/stop is enabled, recovers energy during coasting and braking and acts as a generator for the 12v electrical system. It can also reduce the load on the engine which aids performance and economy.

It is also part of the 48v electrical system which comprises an electric air-conditioning compressor, electric auxiliary compressor and electric water pump which means there is no need for a belt-driven accessory drive. This means that engine length is reduced which, as I have already mentioned, causes packaging issues with the straight-six motor.

Another brilliant up-side to the whole electrification thing is that the 48v compressor is essentially a supercharger which doesn’t have a parasitic effect on the combustion engine. So at low RPM’s, the compressor kicks in and provides boost up until the big exhaust driven turbo kicks in. Expect figures of around 304 kW (407bhp) and 501 N.m and remarkable efficiency, we hope.

Expect to see this exciting new motor in the updated Mercedes-Benz S-Class before trickling down into the rest of the Mercedes-Benz stable.

Not just a pretty face: Jaguar’s new F-Pace

Tech-Tuesday: Jaguar’s new F-Pace.

The Jaguar F-Type is a car that many people love, from its looks, to its appeal and its sweet sounding engines. The problem with a car like the Jaguar F-Type is that it can be a tad limiting if you little creatures called children. These cute creatures tend to not allow many to enjoy certain luxuries such as sports cars. So Jaguar have decided to create a solution to those seeking the class and sophistication of an F-Type but require some rear seats and a raised suspension. Enter the new F-Pace, a beautiful 4×4 by Jaguar. Not only does this car look very good, it has some brains on it too.

How it’s made:

The Jaguar F-Pace is built using Lightweight Aluminium Architecture, this ensures that the car is as light as is can be so it can sting like a bee. How bad is its sting? 280 kW produced by a V6 Supercharged engine makes the F-Pace sprint to 100 km/h in 5.5 seconds. Not bad for a 4×4 right? The fact that Aluminium is used means that the F-Pace is quite rigid too, making it more dynamic in its handling characteristics.

Technology:

Like most modern day premium cars, the new F-Pace will allow drivers to change the responsiveness of the car and the feel of the steering wheel through the Configurable Dynamics system. Damping is also adjustable, allowing the car to stiffen up or soften up depending of the situation. A notable dynamic feature of the new F-Pace is that it uses the same AWD system found in the F-Type AWD. This system is bias to the rear wheels but will send torque to the front wheels when needed. This is great as it is a fact that rear wheel drive cars feature a distinct driving feel on and off the limit so the F-Pace enjoys the best of both worlds.

Like the Discovery Sport Dynamic featured recently, the F-Pace will make use of All Surface Progress Control (ASPC). This feature basically works as off-road cruise control which allows the car to modulate throttle and breaking on its own from a speed of  3.6 km/h to 30 km/h. The car will also feature a heads up display unit and a great infotainment system similar to that found in current Jaguars. The coolest technology in the new F- Pace will be the Activity Key, a James Bond type of device that allows you to control the car via a wristband. Yes a wristband! Let’s say you’re going mountain biking or surfing, you can lock the normal key in the car and it will disable it allowing the wristband to be the main key. Once you’re back from your activity, simply place the wristband close to the “J” in a Jaguar and voila the car will unlock. If you don’t think that’s cool then you need to watch more science fiction movies.

Verdict:

The new Jaguar F-Pace looks like an F-Type, has the same engine as an F-Type, has a lot of great features and can seat five people comfortably. All this in an AWD 4×4 package. Need we say more? Happy Technology Tuesday Motorists.

JAGUAR_FPACE_LE_S_Studio 02JAGUAR_FPACE_LE_S_Studio 04JAGUAR_FPACE_LE_S_Studio 08

Apple CarPlay gives a new meaning to “Hands-Free”.

Apple CarPlay: If you can’t beat them, join them.

The amount of people using their phones while driving is ever increasing, weather 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 cant beat them, join them”. Apple has adopted this phrase with their new CarPlay feature in IOS 9. Apple say 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 of 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 (thank goodness).

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 whilst 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?

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.

CarPlay

 

 

Facelifted BMW 3 Series in South Africa: What has changed?

What’s different with the facelifted BMW 3 Series now available in South Africa?

A BMW 3 Series is arguably one of the most seen cars on the road in South Africa, especially in Johannesburg. The reason for this is simple, South Africans love BMW’s and the 3 Series is a very good car. The F30 3 Series is on its third year of production, so as always when the car reaches past half way of it’s life cycle, it needs to splash some water on it’s face. Only this time with the facelifted BMW 3 Series, they decided not only to reapply some make up on the car, it decided to take it to the gym too.

New lights and bumpers.

The car’s visible changes are apparent, the headlights in the front and rear have undergone surgery. The new headlamps make use of new LED technology in the rear and front, giving the car a very modern look. New bumpers add to the modern feel of the facelifted BMW 3 Series too. Unlike most updated versions of cars, the biggest change though, is under the bonnet.

New engines for all ranges.

Out with the old and in with the new. BMW has replaced the 316i, 328i and 335i, but the 320i badge remains. The 328i and 335i are a simple change in badges and power. The 328i is now badged 330i and produces 185 kW/350 Nm of power and the 335i is now called the 340i which makes a good amount of 240 kW/450 Nm. The 320i has also had its power figures updated to 134 kW and 290 Nm, more torque has been added to it. What interest us the most though is BMW’s use of a 1.5 litre 3 cylinder petrol engine in the 318i, a first for a BMW 3 Series. Many manufacturers have utilised the fuel savings of a three cylinder motor and BMW have also done so in their “I” products and now in their 3 Series range too. The engine although small, produces 100 kW/ 220 Nm of power which should be enough to get you around town and on long distance  trip comfortably.

Verdict.

We welcome this fresh face facelifted BMW 3 Series and we’re sure South Africa will too. It’s scary that going back one generation of 3 Series, those cars now seem so outdated in terms of technology. One can only imagine what the next five years hold for BMW and every other brand actively embracing new technologies. Happy Tech Tuesday Motorists.

bmw-3-series-sd32ew-2015-007BMW-3-Series-Seadan--F30--LCI-5431_47

Range Rover Sentinel: Not the average Range Rover.

Tech Tuesday: Range Rover’s James bond inspired Sentinel.

Do you wake up in a cold sweat at night because you think people are coming for you? Do you suffer from paranoia? Do you introduce yourself by your last name then your first name, like James Bond? If so Range Rover has a vehicle for you, it’s called the Range Rover sentinel. Now maybe you don’t have the problems listed above, but you are somewhat of an important individual that people may want to kill, like a president or a member of the Royal family. If that is the case you will be happy to know that the Range Rover Sentinel is bulletproof, bomb proof and even grenade proof too. This is the first armoured Range Rover that has been developed in house by Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations.

How bulletproof is it?

From a scale of 1-bulletproof, the Range Rover Sentinel can withstand 7,62mm armour piercing rounds. It can also withstand 15kg of TNT and grenades thrown under the vehicle too. The car has a protective shell around it which is basically a fortress on its own. The glass fitted in the car can withstand the same type of armour, so you don’t have to worry about any potential threats getting at you through the windows. Basically when you close the doors of this car, you are driving in Fort Knox.

Isn’t the car heavier now that is fitted with all this armour?

Yes the car is definitely much heavier, but it can still manoeuvre through danger like a boss. This is because the brains behind the car have beefed up the suspension by strengthening the dampers and upgrading the braking system. If the attack on you is so bad that your driver needs to go off road, the vehicle won’t be compromised as it’s still a Range Rover and can do all sorts of great off road stunts. The tyres are even strengthened to handle this. If all else fails and the car can’t drive you can always escape through the trap door found in between the rear seats.

What is the point of the Range Rover Sentinel?

As ridiculous as this car sounds, it makes perfect business sense for Range Rover. Why sell a luxury car to politicians and wealthy business people who are going to take the car to get armoured by external companies, when you can do it yourself? This cuts out the middle man and lessens the work for the representatives of the people who buy these cars. Armouring a vehicle is already expensive so why don’t you pay a once off fee and buy a finished product from a reputable car maker?

How much does it cost?

Which brings us to the most important thing, the price. The Sentinel will cost around £400 000. Yes, that is a lot of money. Again though, if you’re a president, what’s £400K? If you’re a super rich business person who fears for his/her life, what’s £400K? That money is a lot for the normal person, but if you need a car like that, you’re not a normal person. The great thing about the Sentinel is that even though it’s James Bond inspired, outside it looks like a normal Autobiography, so no one knows how important you are. The blue light brigade are going to be so chuffed. Happy Tech Tuesday Motorists.

rr_sentinel_exterior-3 rr_sentinel_interior-3 rr_sentinel_interior-1

Bmw’s new 7-Series “Gesture Control” will be the best wingman in 2016.

Technology Tuesday: Bmw’s 2016 7 Series Gesture Control feature.

In South Africa, the term “last number” basically means the end all and be all of something, the greatest of the lot, the crème de la crème. For BMW, their “last number” figuratively and literally is the 7-Series, the epitome of luxury in the BMW world. The 7- Series has been a long favourite in South Africa amongst those who can afford such cars,  and even the president himself can be seen chauffeured in the current generation 7-Series. We feel that 2016 is going to be an interesting year for this segment of vehicles because the competition is definitely at it’s toughest.

The current offering from Mercedes Benz, has got to be one of the best looking luxury vehicle one can buy at the moment. There is no denying that the S-Class is gorgeous from all angles and drives beautifully too. The Audi A8 is no ugly duckling either, nor does the car drive in any way uncomfortably. There is no such thing as bad in this segment, only better. The question is, for the BMW 7-Series to be preferred choice how much more better will it have to be?

Time will only tell, all we know for now is that BMW have worked very hard to be ready. What we know is that from inside out, BMW have utilised new technologies to make the new 7-Series as light as a feather whilst retaining the presence of a weight lifter. How is this possible? Carbon fibre. The car uses carbon fibre in various areas of its skeleton, making it lighter than it’s predecessor. A lighter car is generally a more dynamic car, something that BMW’s are known for, so the philosophies haven’t changed with the development of the new 7-Series. Of course things like steering and damping are improved too, to make sure the car is as comfortable as possible.

Today though, we want to talk about something much simpler than damping and Carbon Fibre. We want to discuss a little feature on the new 7-Series called Gesture Control. This feature is available on some smart phones and it allows you to make certain commands without touching the screen. The same applies to the new 7-Series, by simply gesturing with your fingers, you can tell the I-Drive system to do something like turn up the music volume or pick a track. This is made possible through an infrared camera that picks up movement. A friend living in Germany has actually driven the new BMW 7- Series and has used this feature. From what he tells us, the feature works beautifully. It’s the little features like these that make nerdish boys like myself giggle because it’s not the essence of the car but it adds to the cool factor ten-fold.

Features like Gesture Control are going to make for impressive first dates, provided your father or boss allows you to drive his car. Imagine as you’re talking to your potential significant other, a call comes in. You simply swipe your hand in right almost to say “go-away” and the call rejects. Firstly you will look super cool and secondly you will be deemed responsible for not talking and driving, it’s a win win. Have a look at this video below to see how this feature works. Happy Tech Tuesday Motorists.

*image courtesy of www.extremetech.com

The new Jaguar XE is joining the technology war

Technology Tuesday: Jaguar’s new XE is ready to fight.

The XE is Jaguar’s answer to BMW’s 3 Series, Mercedes’s C-Class and Audi’s A4. This classification of car, the D segment is one of the most popular in South Africa. This means that the Jaguar is up against some strong competition and to make it worse, South Africa is an extremely brand loyal country. Jaguar is aware of this and that is why they have put their hearts and souls into producing something that can potentially make a client think twice before buying the more popular brands. One of the ways Jaguar has done this in the new XE is by giving the car some very tech savvy features, something that is no longer a want but rather a need for many clients.

Major brands have been driving connectivity between car and driver in the last few years and almost all the premium brands offer services that link one’s phone with their car. To keep younger target markets happy, even less premium brands offer Bluetooth pairing and touch screen infotainment systems in their cars as standard in some of their models. So what technologies will be available in the new Jaguar XE? The usual things like Bluetooth and USB will be standard in the car and although it seems mundane nowadays there are very handy features to have. What I have personally noticed about these systems is the way the manufacturer configures their Bluetooth systems is what counts. I have driven cars that stream audio poorly and I have also driven cars that stream Bluetooth audio that sounds better than a CD player.

One thing that I love is when manufacturers team up with well known audio companies to create excellent sounding systems. Think of Harman Kardon, Bang and Olufsen and now there is Meridian which is available in the new Jaguar XE. Excellent sound quality in a premium car is of utmost importance since a Jaguar XE client can have a variety of tastes in music. The Meridian sound system is a 380-watt, 11 speaker system which will be able to thump out a Justin Timberlake track straight after a Beethoven number. The new Jaguar is not all about entertaining though, ride quality is of utmost importance too. Jaguars like the XF and the XJ are known for their creamy rides and comfort and you can expect no less from the XE. The JaguarDrive system allows the driver to choose different characteristics in their car, ranging from a sportier chassis and steering to a more comfort orientated drive and even an ECO mode to save fuel. Last but not least the car will also have as optional a laser Heads Up Display which shows the driver vital information on the windscreen so the driver can keep his/her eyes on the road at all times.

As mentioned, the technology war is going strong and Jaguar made sure that they weren’t left out of it in the new XE. This car promises to be something to contend with the big boys and we’re convinced that it will be a worthy adversary. It doesn’t hurt that aesthetically the new Jaguar XE is not bad looking, rather good looking actually, but when have Jaguars been ugly? At the end of the day, the decision lies with the potential clients and if their willing to step out of their comfort zone and step into something different. The new Jaguar XE launched in South Africa this week, now it’s a matter of time to see how the market will respond. We wish it nothing but the best. Happy Tech Tuesday Motorists.

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