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What you get for R3M: Range Rover SVAutobiography

Range Rover SVautobiography

Range Rover SVAutobiography

A short while ago, Jaguar Land Rover introduced their 2018 Range Rover model. Now they’ve released another variant of this model, the SVAutobiography. Let’s just say it’s very, very nice.

The SVAutobiography is a variant developed by SVO, ( Special Vehicle Operations) Jaguar Land Rover’s “tuning” division. With the fast coupes, they make them faster and with the new Discovery, they made it  more adventurous. With the Range Rover being the staple of luxury in the brand, it would only make sense for SVO to make it, well, more luxurious.

There are many “Luxurious” cars on the road, but few fall into a certain class. We can call this the “Chauffeur Class”, where one sits in the rear and gets driven, rather than driving themselves. The Range Rover SVAutobiography definitely fits into this class, I mean what’s the point of spending in excess of R3m if you can’t enjoy it right?

In the rear one will find executive seating, which offers 40-degree recline, a hot stone massage function, heated calf and foot rests as well as a 22-way seat adjustment. This is perfect then for the 1.2m of legroom the SVAutobiography offers, if you opt for the long-wheelbase model that is.

There is no room to squeeze a person in between the rear seats either, as a fixed central console runs the length of the interior cabin. From this central console one will be able to carry out functions such as power close the rear doors, or access the hidden fridge which can hold two wine bottles. Electrically deployable tables are also a feature which graces the rear cabin, and the right-hand rear seat folds to accommodate long items, if you’re a CEO who likes a spot of surfing.

Range Rover SVAutobiography

Every Range Rover SVAutobiography will be hand-finished exclusively at the SVO Technical Centre in Warwickshire, UK. Three engine engine derivatives will be available, including the Jaguar Land Rover’s hybrid engine, the P400e, along with a 4.4l SDV8 and the 5.0L V8 Supercharged engine. No offical pricing for South Africa has been released, but with UK pricing starting at £168k, don’t expect anything elss than a R3m price tag.

Mazda MX5- RF: Best weekend car, worst weekday car.

Mazda MX5-RF

Mazda MX5- RF Driven Review

Weekend vehicle:

Definition: “That car that makes you forget about all your problems and dependants for a period of time, preferably early mornings when the kids or the wife is asleep.” TheMotorist Dictionary

Let us begin…

“Ah, two seats, low center of gravity, a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre engine and a targa top roof. What more could you want” was just one of my thoughts, as I eagerly awaited the arrival of Mazda’s MX5-RF. I’d heard great things about this car and after driving it, I’m here to tell you why it may be the perfect weekend car for someone on a reasonable budget.   

From the outside, the MX5 is a looker. It’s low, features a long front end with sharp striking details such as shark-like headlights and grille. Add the meteor grey paintwork to it and it really does look sublime and sporty. It’s near perfect for a  South African Sunday summer drive. Affordable sports cars are a rarity today, so there’s not much to compare the MX5 RF with, hence why it’s difficult to call it affordable. R532 800 may not be a cheap, but it’s cheaper than what you would pay for one of its few rivals. In fact, it’s over R100K cheaper than a Fiat 124 Spider.

So it looks the part, but what makes it extra special? It’s funny, what makes me love it on the weekends is what makes me dislike it during the week. Let’s start with the obvious – it’s small. I’m not what you would describe as a tall person, I am actually on the shorter side of life (as much as I hate to admit it). I am also pretty youthful at 25, and my BMI is probably in the normal range, depending on how much time I’ve spent with my colleagues. Still, getting in and out the MX-5 is a mission, partly due to how low it sits from the ground coupled with the tight interior cabin. I found myself panting as if I haven’t kicked a soccer ball in years each time I had to get in. So then, getting in and out of the car, is a maneuver you probably don’t want to be doing at least twice a day. Doing this everyday of the week, in bad weather, when your back is sore, or when you are late for work is not going to leave you feeling thrilled. On a very bad day, this entire procedure will just make everything worse, a “straw that broke the camel’s” back scenario could easily ensue. You may not strike the nearest person to you, or quit your job out of anger, but you will make use of many expletives and remember why your wife said this vehicle won’t work.  

Once you have finally acrobatically seated yourself, the cabin is rather snug too. It’s not particularly comfortable either. What it is though, is very engaging. You feel “at one with the car” At least that’s what the brochure of the vehicle says. This feeling maybe not be what you want to experience everyday of your life. Traffic is traffic, so it’s rather pointless feeling like you’re in a go-kart if you can’t do anything about it. The interior storage space is also fairly limited, there is a cubby hole in the centre and behind the seats. In order to use the rear one, you need the neck skills of an owl. I also didn’t know where to put the key, my wallet and even my phone, thus wedging them in between my legs, thus increasing my risk of testicular cancer. Once again, not ideal.

Then comes the issues of driving on the road, I found that because the mX5 is so small and low, taxis, trucks and buses struggled to see me. Careful attention and the odd maneuver, helped me avoid getting sideswiped or frankly squashed – not a worry you need on the daily run to the office. So then when is the perfect time to use this car?

Imagine now you only needed to deal with these issues once a week, on quiet roads with the wind in your hair and the sun beating down on your forehead. Suddenly it doesn’t seem so bad. These problems all disappear as your chase the next best road, something the MX5 loves doing.

The Mazda MX-5 RF excels as a weekend car, or even a vehicle you drive to work on the odd occasion. It’s fun and sporty demeanor means that these everyday issues are just blips on the radar, when the car is used for what it was built to do –  be driven hard.

As much as the MX-5 may have many little annoyances, driving is one area it excels. It’s not about its engine, it’s the package as a whole. What makes it exasperating everyday is what makes it great when the right time comes. The low ride height gives it sense of fun and a “go-karty” feel. The 2.0 litre naturally aspirated engine is also punchy and free revving. All of these attributes combined, make for a very fun driving experience.

What’s funny is that the MX-5 isn’t mind blowingly fast. Even though it’s rear wheel driven, it doesn’t feel like it’s going to throw heaps of oversteer at you when you least expect it. Instead it makes you work for it. Working for it is the best part, as we live in a world where power in most cars is so accessible, it can take the fun away.  That is what stood out about the Mazda MX-5 RF for me. It can also be driven enthusiastically and enjoyed by drivers who may not have that much experience handling powerful rear wheel drive cars. It’s fun, but accessible. I’d love to say it’s perfect, but it’s not. Where Mazda missed the off ramp with this car is the gearbox. Had they left the 6 speed manual found in the MX5 roadster, the RF would be damn near perfect. Unfortunately, gear changes are made via an automatic gearbox, which can get in the way of your experience.

Put that aside and the Mazda MX-5 RF provides great summer fun. As a daily, I’d have something else, but if I had some monies lying around, it would park in my garage as a toy. Being in the city, convenience and ease of drive is a big thing for many of us. One can’t just “get up and go” with the MX-5. You would need to “get up, try get in, eventually get in, get comfortable, drop your phone, get annoyed and then go”. On a weekend however, for those moments alone on a blissfully quiet road and less worries, you’ll love it.

Updated Nissan X-Trail First Drive.

The mid-size compact SUV is fast becoming the most popular choice for most people, and for good reason. You get sedan-like space and ease of parking cocktailed with SUV practicality and versatility. This recipe gives you the perfect family vehicle for shuttling the kids to school during the week, as well as the weekend family getaway. The Nissan X-Trail has been a favourite for many, even though it looked like it was straight out of a Lego set at the turn of the century. That car, paired with “mom and dad jeans” created the makings of a perfect Parkhurst family back then.

Fast forward to 2014, the jeans as well as the Lego set were traded in for a PS3 and fitted jeans from Country Road. The X-Trail was now a good-looking car with sharp edges and a more rounded off shape. Was Nissan going to make a mess of this with its update of its third generation X-Trail? Fortunately, the greeting that we got of the new car, on a VERY windy and cloudy Port Elizabeth morning was an improvement on the fitted jeans. You get a nip and tucked front end complemented by LED daytime running lights with the optional Intelligent headlights. The rear too sees some lighting changes which are in tune with 2017.

The first vehicle that we drove was the 1.6 dCI Tekna 4WD version with a healthy 320Nm of torque and 96kW. This engine is mated to an easy to operate manual 6 speed gearbox. In a sea of automatics, CVTs, DCTs, PDC, 123s and so forth, it was refreshing to operate a vehicle with an H-Pattern. Especially in a quiet town, on country roads where K53 and clutch control isn’t on the top of the to-do list. Stick the same car in Johannesburg traffic however and I may have felt different about it. The top of the range Tekna specification vehicle has all the bells and whistles that you would expect from a vehicle of this class. For instance, one gets the aforementioned Intelligent Auto lights, Climate control with dual control. You also get Intelligent Around View Monitor, a 7” touch screen with Nissan Connect apps and navigation, Intelligent lane Intervention, Intelligent Emergency Braking, Intelligent Front Collision Warning and Cross Traffic Warning. As you can see this vehicle is intelligent!

Expecting the vehicle to be on the slightly sluggish side, we set off and I immediately introduced my right foot to the go pedal, which passed on my greetings to the firewall. The Introduction was short as I immediately had to ease off the pedal as the wave of torque came to the rescue and carried the new X-Trail comfortably without having to chase the diesel red line. The steering is also good, translating what the tarmac has to say with ease and you never feel that you are lost in translation with the front end of the vehicle. (What is that beep?) The suspension handles undulations in a fine manner, as well as broken tarmac without a threat to your fillings. Long trips with the family will no doubt be a breeze. Ergonomically, the X-Trail does well with placement of obvious control and you don’t find yourself wondering where items and functions are. (There’s that beep again, where is it coming from?)

After a vehicle swop, I found myself behind the wheel of the 126 kW, 233Nm 2.5 Petrol CVT version. Now, I’ve never been a fan of the CVT gearbox as I find it doesn’t suite my driving style. I’m simply don’t like how every CVT sounds like the engine is going to explode when you accelerate. A conventional automatic would have done a fantastic job, in my opinion. (There is that beep again!) You definitely feel the reduction in torque from the diesel to the petrol but this isn’t a racecar and as a kiddy friendly vehicle, it has enough power to see to Hannah and all her Barbie’s. (The Beep!) Eventually I had to stop and find this darn noise. Turns out, it’s the Intelligent lane Intervention. Each time it detects that you’re going off course, it beeps at you – something I picked up hours into our journey. Maybe I’m not as smart as I thought…

Our first drive impression of the updated X-Trail is one that was very positive. We would definitely take the diesel with the manual gearbox as our top pick. Pricing is very good and starts at R369 000 for the petrol version. A 90 000 km/3-year service plan is standard as well as the 6 year/150 000 km warranty. We look forward to spending more time with the car and put it through some real family tests, babies and all.

2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe and Cabriolet Facelift

Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe

2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe and Cabriolet Facelift

Not too long after its introduction Merc has recognised the need to update and sprinkle some new life into their flagship Grand Tourer, The S-class Coupe and Cabriolet models. The Sedan having received the same treatment a few months ago, the life has now reached the two door counterpart.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe

The largest and most announceable differences are to the exterior where a new front and rear bumper design with air channelling air ducts which replace the chrome front splitter and add a far sportier flair to the overall front end profile. The facelifted models also gain the new “Panamericana” grille with vertical chrome stakes and revision to the rear end. The twin tailpipe finished in chrome that was exclusive to the V12 now extends to all models and replaces the dual exit exhaust of the previous model. The other changes to the external look include redesigned side skirts and sills and a greater selection of Wheel designs. The Lights have to be treated with the paint brush as the OLED units have now been redesigned and have varying degrees of brightness depending on the driving condition. The addition of two new lower spec models which have joined the line up with the S450 being powered by their new V6 turbo and the S560 uses the new V8.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe

Under The Hood

The S450 will be powered by their 3litre turbo V6 producing 270 kW and 520 N.m of Torque. In line with the AMG move to the smaller more efficient engines, the 4.0 Litre V8 will replace the now ditched, older 5.5 V8 and add additional 20 Kw’s over the older model. The new Nine-speed automatic we saw in the New E63s will lift to turn over a combined fuel consumption figure of 9.3L/100km. The top brass S65 will keep the 463 kW, 1000 N.m V12 and still use the same Seven-speed automatic.

Tech and interior

The S-class cabin remains a rather well appointed and statesmanly with the only new edition being the new steering wheel and seats. The twin 12.3 digital dashboard and display remains the same and options will include carbon fibre trimmings, Carbon-ceramic brakes and even a Track pack with lap time recording.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe

Mercedes-Benz S-Class Pricing in South Africa

Prices for the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe and Cab start at an eye watering R2.3 Million, that’s before all the fancy options.

The MINI Countryman Diesel Arrives in South Africa – We Drive It!

MINI Countryman Diesel Driven Review

The new MINI Countryman launched in South Africa earlier this year and TheMotorist team attended that launch, we even shot a video on it, and we were very impressed with how the Countryman had grown up.

Not just figuratively either, the New Mini Countryman is bigger, smarter and overall, much more family orientated. Historically in South Africa, all MINI variants, Countryman or otherwise, were only available in petrol derivatives. Well now that has all changed, with the introduction of the new MINI Countryman Diesel. There is better news, we managed to get behind the wheel of the Countryman D and find out what it is all about.

MINI Countryman Diesel

Is this a bold step for MINI? Maybe, but from where I was sitting, I think it is a very good step indeed. The MINI Countryman Diesel still possess everything the MINI brand is about, it not only looks ‘cool’ and has a great road presence, it also feels ‘cool’ as well. The interior features that typical MINI style with the large central interface with bold designs and colours, which is further emphasized through lighting effects. The technology is present as well with the MINI Connected system which enables the owner to access the vehicle’s location, its fuel level, how far it has been driven, and even send destinations to the navigation system, all from a mobile app.

This leads me onto one point I love about the MINI brand, whether you are a young singleton looking for a sporty 3-door hatch, or a growing family needing more space and size, you don’t need to compromise on style in exchange for practicability. In essence, the MINI Countryman has those same attractive elements, such as the young and hip feel which draws you to a MINI Hatch, just in a bigger package. Diesels don’t have to be boring, and the Countryman D is everything but.

MINI Countryman Diesel

As one would expect, when behind the wheel there are many similarities to the petrol variants of the Countryman, such as driving dynamics – it handles really well and has minimal body roll, but there is one big difference. The Countryman Diesel is so effortless to drive, it’s wonderfully quiet and quite noticeably smooth. It implores you to take it easy and dwell on the money saved thanks to it’s sipping of fuel – 4.0l/100kms to be exact.

Don’t get me wrong, it many certainly be able to handle itself like its petrol siblings, but this isn’t the MINI for a sporty or performance minded individual. It’s 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel produces 110 kW and 330 N.m and while these figures are decent, it is also a big car. There is a good kick of torque from pull off and in the lower RPM range which enabled decent in gear acceleration when cruising, something this car feels like it was built to do.There is little point of searching the higher RPM range of this car because little will be found, most of the power and torque is found lower down and the 8-speed automatic gearbox, which is a pleasure, makes great use of this.

MINI Countryman Diesel

The MINI Countryman Diesel does feature the various MINI driving modes, Green, Mid and Sport. The latter gives better throttle response, slightly sharper steering and a host of visual elements such as lighting and dials. Personally, I mostly enjoyed the Countryman Diesel in the Green mode, elements such as the throttle and steering are relaxed and even more fuel saving features are introduced such as a coasting feature which drops the transmission into neutral. My personal feeling is that this MINI is better suited for this mode, if we were driving a JCW on the other hand, that would be a different story.

Who best suits this MINI?

As you may know, the Countryman is a good option for young families and also buyers who are already in the MINI brand but are looking to size up for whatever reason, without losing the MINI Appeal.

This still stands with the MINI Countryman Diesel, the difference is that with for example, the Cooper S, there is always the option to have a spirited drive when the kids are not around. The Diesel does not give off that appeal, it’s  kind of sensible all the time. It would be a fantastic choice if you’re adventurous and love long coastal drives to Cape Town, or maybe you travel fair distances to work and want to reduce fuel costs, you could even possibly just prefer a diesel engine over a petrol. You can tick any of those boxes without having to choose the usual ‘boring car’. The MINI Countryman Diesel is your answer.

MINI Countryman Diesel

If, on the other hand, the Countryman makes plenty of sense with what it offers, but you still want to have a spirited weekend drive through the Midlands on the odd occasion, or you take fancy to exploring the higher rev ranges and driving pleasures that a petrol engine can offer, head for the Countryman Cooper S. If you want all of the above and more, the 171 kW Countryman John Cooper Works is also now available.


Part 2: Which Luxury BMW do you choose? BMW M760Li

BMW M760Li South African Review

Why the new BMW M760Li can be a frustrating car to own…

BMW 760Li South African Review

Read Part One: Which Luxury BMW do you choose? BMW 750Li

Having copious amounts of money comes with certain perks. Unlike us common folks, you don’t really have to deal with things like budget anxiety, traffic and even tax. Speaking of traffic, cars like the BMW 7 Series have longed serviced the needs of wealthy clients, but for many years the segment has been dominated by Mercedes Benz. Whilst Merc kept introducing longer faster and more opulent models, BMW didn’t seem too interested in the competition. For long BMW lovers begged for an M7 as the people of Mercedes Benz had vehicles like the S63 and S65 AMG to combine absolute power and absolute luxury. Eventually, BMW cracked. The answer? A long wheel base 7 Series called an M760Li. Using the G12 platform, the car offers enough legroom at the back for a man in stilts and enough power to render an industrial generator useless. With a power figure of 448kW/800N.m, it is the most powerful BMW ever made. That may seem ludicrous because the car weighs over 2 tons and it’s a 7 Series for Pete’s sake. The Germans are clever as the car has a traction advantage over its competitors. xDrive allows the BMW M760Li to propel from 0-100 km/h in 3.7 seconds. Yikes.

BMW 760Li South African Review

All this performance does create a problem for the owner of this car. Do you drive, or do you get driven? Traditionally an Li variant of a 7 Series would be the car your driver takes you from point A to point Z with. Now with all this exciting performance offered in the BMW M760Li, you may have to reconsider your arrangements. Sitting in the rear seat is a fantastic space to be. A middle partition makes the car a four seater only, which also creates a “first class” feel in the car. I have access to infotainment, seating adjustment, air conditioning and more whilst in the back. One can really forget their troubles in the back of this car. Up front however I have all the gadgets we’ve come to know and love in the current 7 Series. Gesture control, various safety options and driver aids makes this car a moving tech machine. Most excitingly though is access to the 6.6 litre V12 TwinPower Turbo engine. In Comfort mode, it’s as silent as a 740i. In Sport and Sport Plus it’s a different story…

BMW 760Li South African Review

You would think that the car would be a wild animal, screeching tyres and exhibiting a hooligan-like personality. This isn’t the case however. The car is mind blowing in terms of acceleration but very composed. The aim of this vehicle is to keep your suit looking suave, even under extreme driving conditions. The steering is near perfect for a car of this nature as it is not like the feeling you get on an M car. Depending on the mode you’re in, the weight of the steering changes but never enough to feel cumbersome. Quite frankly “visceral” is not the word you want when explaining what your high performance 7 Series feels like. Rather the word you want to use is “stately”, and stately it is. Another word you wouldn’t expect to use is nimble. The fact is in Sport Plus, the M760Li hides it’s weight better than a fat person in a corset. It’s a real engineering feat.

BMW 760Li South African Review

My quandary with this car though is what do you choose? If I were to be have the budget for it, I would love to exploit the capabilities of this car as the driver. At the same time traffic is a reality and like I said, rich people don’t have to sit in traffic. I’d rather be in the back seat for that. So what do you do? Keep a chauffeur on stand-by? It’s a real “first world problems” frustration. A gentleman from BMW at the launch of the car said that if he owned one, he would stick the chauffeur in the boot during the weekend and take him out in the week. The legalities around the concept are difficult, but he makes sense. BMW have a built a car that’s so good at being dual purpose, you’ll battle to pick where you want to be.

BMW 760Li South African Review

So then is the BMW M760Li worth the hype? In many respects yes, purely because they’ve created a healthy balance between luxury and performance. A bit too much power perhaps? There’s never such a thing as too much power. As long as it’s usable then so be it and the addition of xDrive makes this car much more usable than its rivals. For R2.6 million is it worth it? The figure is not what matters here. The statement is the key thing. For those looking to make a statement, what more do you want than an extra long Matte grey 7 Series with 20inch wheels and V12 badge on the C-Pillar? The M760Li is not the car you buy for just the luxury or the performance, much like a Mercedes – AMG S65, you buy it to say “I’m the best”. Period.  


Hyundai Tucson Sport overview

Tucson Sport South Africa

Hyundai Tucson Sport in South Africa

The Hyundai Tucson seems to be a very popular car in South Africa, it looks good, offers a good range of options and has an industry leading warranty. Those reasons alone maybe why Hyundai have sold over 7500 models in the last 13 months – not too shabby at all.

Tucson Sport South Africa

More and more vehicles nowadays feature a sports model with more aggressive styling and performance as there is a demand for these types of cars. So what if you loved the look and style and Tucson but wanted a little more mmph? Well up until recently Hyundai didn’t have an option, but now they do and it’s called the Tucson Sport – How imaginative.

Tucson Sport South Africa

With the Tucson Sport you get more power, 150 kW and 290 Nm of torque to be exact which are some very nice figures. Additionally, the Tucson Sport comes with a full body kit which doesn’t look great at all; it seems to have been stuck on the original body and comes across as a massive after-thought – the side skirts emphasise this. Matched to this are 19” black alloy wheels, unique to the Tucson Sport with low profiles tyres for better handling characteristics and visual appeal. Finally, Hyundai has added a new exhaust system which features four chrome pipes and an increase in engine noise to finish off the sports appearance.

The Tucson Sport will cost R499 900 which includes standard features such as the 8-inch infotainment system, navigation, Bluetooth, USB and Aux interfaces and a rear view camera. Auto A/C, cruise control and electronically adjusted leather seats are also included in the price along with Hyundai’s 7-year/200 000 km warranty, roadside assistance for 5 years or 150 000 km, and a 5-year/90 000 km service plan.

Personally, parts of the Tucson Sport look a little cheap and it feels like a rushed idea. As always, a full review will come soon.

Suzuki Baleno Driven Review

Long term test on the Suzuki Baleno in South Africa

Rewind to 1997 – Britney was fresh on the scene, George Clooney was Batman, Tony had just become Prime Minister and I had just learnt how to walk. These were all iconic events in their own right and while the world was marvelling at Mike Tyson biting off Evander Holyfield’s ear and some new book about a wizard named Harry was flying off the shelves, Volkswagen had just launched the Golf Mk. IV and the turd that was the first A-Class had just arrived, much to everyone’s dismay. “What a time to be alive” said nobody while looking at the A-Class’ obliquely mounted engine, a design so revolutionary that not a single car makes use of it some 20 years later.

One thing that was quite cool about the late 90’s, however, was how laid back the world was, relatively speaking, of course. Vehicle safety consisted of ABS for those who could afford it and motorists had only just started noticing the seatbelts in their cars, but atrocities such as the Daewoo Lanos and Hyundai Atos were also considered to be “fun and affordable” which we can all agree were complete lies. Living life on the edge was relatively simple, but being mollycoddled was a bit more difficult. Here we sit in 2017, however, and it seems as though the inverse is true – pampering and protecting has become the norm while wrangling a crocodile or playing with fireworks are just a few of the activities that are now frowned upon as they are either too dangerous or unfriendly to someone and their hamster.

I enjoy living life on the edge, which is why I switch the traction control off whenever I drive my boosty MINI in the rain – familiar, but frightening. It gives one a sense of what it would be like to share your own garden with a hungry lion. I do this, though, because it is difficult to find a car these days that exhibits what can only be described as old fashioned motoring. By this, I do not mean no seatbelts and oil leaks, but there used to be a sense that the human was integral to the operation of the vehicle, something that seems to be missing from almost everything built after 2010. I say almost, though because the Suzuki Baleno is the air-freshener in the change room that we have all been waiting for.

Launched towards the end of 2016, the Baleno is slightly larger than a Polo, but a lot cheaper than a Polo. Obviously it feels a bit cheaper too, but not bad cheaper – it’s good cheaper.

Having been handed the keys to a whole Baleno 1.4 GLX for the month of December, I wrapped the MINI up and left it in the garage, promising myself that no matter how tempted I was to take it for a spin, I’d turn to the Baleno for my thrills. A lot to live up to, then, but I was confident in the not-so-little Suzie’s abilities given the praise that the Baleno received when launched here in South Africa.

A supple ride, comfortable seats and a delightfully tactile steering wheel were a few of my favourite interior features while the silver plastic that swooshes its way along the dashboard was not. Bluetooth connectivity, a CD player, front and rear electric windows, cruise control and a trip computer all come as standard on the GLX model we had, as do the LED daytime running lights and BiXenon headlamps. So all in all, a wonderfully specced vehicle which, despite its compact dimensions, certainly has enough space for 5 as we discovered on our Christmas day jaunt to Rustenburg. The entire Whittle family, Christmas ham and all, piled into the Baleno and off we went.

Having embarked on much the same route, solo, the day before to Hartebeespoort damn, I was intrigued to see how the Baleno performed 5-up. Unsurprisingly, a sterling performance was delivered, achieving an average of 4.4 l/100km there and back. Thankfully, the 1.4-litre N/A four-cylinder petrol motor isn’t only good at sipping fuel, and has quite a bit of poke should you plant your foot and stir the gears properly. Power delivery is somewhat more akin to that of a 1.6-litre motor, despite the engine’s power figures of 68 kW and 130 N.m.

The Baleno is rather handsome and exhibits some interesting exterior design elements such as the swishy headlights with integrated DRL’s and flat bottomed taillights, but from certain angles it does look a bit…funny. A friend of mine’s mum even went so far as to describe it as being “beautiful” but her car history consists of a pistachio green Nissan Micra and an old-shape Murano so I wouldn’t listen to her. Our test unit was finished in Ray Blue metallic which does well to highlight the vehicle’s many chrome accents.

Priced from R199 900 (R229 900 for our test unit) the Baleno offers a good value for money product which won’t unnecessarily mollycoddle you, but it won’t leave you sitting at the edge of your seat either. It comfortably establishes itself in the “good old-fashioned” category, but without being old fashioned – something that few cars are able to do these days. It’s honest, it’s fun to drive, incredibly spacious and punches well above its weight, and while not even the ‘range’ reading on the trip computer allows you to live life on the edge – it reads ‘- – – ‘ once you hit 30 km of range – it was definitely able to feed me sufficient driving thrills for a whole month.

The Baleno’s challenge was simple – keep me away from the MINI for a month, and it did. Good job Suzuki.

The New Audi Q2 : It Really Is Untaggable

You have probably seen the advertising campaign for the new Audi Q2 – #untaggable is what they call it and that is exactly what it is. The Audi Q2 is difficult to define, where does one place it? What do you compare it to? These were questions that all ran through my mind during the launch of the Q2 in Cape Town.

So what exactly is it?

Audi define the Q2 as a compact SUV, which fits into the premium A0 section of the market. It could easily be described as a crossover, or even a sporty hatchback. Audi South Africa don’t view this car as having a direct competitor and it’s easy to see why. Over the course of the launch, it started to become clear what this car is and the type of person it is aimed at.

The Audi Q2 has a very youthful feel about it, it’s hip, funky, extremely stylish and very “out there”- you could say.  This car is not aimed at the type of person who would buy a Q3 or Tiguan for example, those cars, although great, come across as vehicles suited for a small family, but more notably, they are not particularly exciting either.

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

The Q2 is aimed at the younger market, an audience in their twenties who are designers, creators and are starting out in the business world – these are the kind of people who I envision would be interested in being untaggable, or at least sitting in it on the daily commute.  The interesting thing about the Q2 is that it is very similarly priced to the bigger Q3, but appeals to a totally different audience. So in effect, the Q2 is not a lesser car, (albeit a little smaller) when compared with the Q3, it just has a different purpose.


The Q2 is nothing like you have seen before, it has edgy design and sharp features. Prominent design features which you will notice are the concaving lines along the side – a unique feature to the Q2 which gives it a different look to anything you will currently find on the road. An Edition #1 version of the Audi Q2 is due for release later this year, this model will feature a unique Quantum Grey Colour, which looks very similar to Nardo Grey, with a little bit of sparkle.

The Q2 is the first of new Audi models to feature this design style, and we can expect future models to follow a similar pattern. Audi have a big 2018 planned with a host of new and updated models, including the Q8.

Step inside the new Audi Q2 and it will feel very similar to the interior of the Audi A3 and other Audi models, there is nothing that would strike you as new or majorly different – it looks and feels very Audi-ish with a clean design and classy feel. The optional sports seats are a nice option to have and were comfortable, they also filled the cabin nicely and added to its visual appearance.

The Audi Q2 will also be available with Pilot Assist, which is the fully digital dash display which allows different views for Car Information, Music and Navigation. This is paired with the 12” TFT screen on the Dashboard. For the record, the Pilot Assist is one of my personal favourites. The Q2 is the only vehicle in its segment to offer a TFT binnacle and it’s an option I’d certainly tick.

The interior is let down slightly by the door cards, They look and feel a little cheap as the lower portions are covered in hard, black plastic. It would have been nice to feature some Alcantara or leather like other areas of the interior. I do understand the reasons behind it though, cost being one of them.

In terms of space, the rear seating area was limited in this regard so if you are tall, unlike me, you may find it quite cramped. The boot space is adequate though with 405-litres on offer, which expands to 1050-litres with the rear seats folded.

How Does It Drive?

The Q2’s we had for the day featured Audi’s 1.4 TFSI engine, which produces 110kw and 250Nm. This is a proven engine in other cars, such as the A3 and it performed as expected. Power delivery is smooth through both the 7-Speed S-Tronic Automatic and the 6-Speed manual transmissions. I did feel that it lacked torque at low RPM, especially in second gear, which was something that I also noticed on the 1.0L variant. This could also have something to do with the COD (Cylinder On Demand) technology which is built into the 1.4 Engine. This feature disables Cylinders two and three at loads of up to 100Nm from 1400rpm with the S-Tronic, and from 2000rpm with the manual variant.

The Chassis and the suspension is where everything comes together and the Audi Q2 really impresses, because it has a high design, one may think that handling would not be one of the car’s best assets.

The Q2 was rigid and as we drove along the bumpy Bainskloof Pass, the car did not feel unsettled with the suspension absorbing the rough surface, even under braking and sharp bends, the Q2 performed well. It has a sharp and accurate turn-in and a very neutral feel, only getting out of shape and providing just a little understeer on one heated occasion. You can enter a corner at speed and trust that the little Q2 will handle it well.

The 110kW produced by the 1.4 TFSI coupled with the great handling and chassis of the Q2 makes for a fun car, which suits its overall persona down to the ground. A young buyer will not have to be worried about getting bored with the Audi Q2.

Driver Assists

Audi have given the Q2 some of their driver assist packages as optional extras. The first of these is Pre Sense which uses a front radar system to detect hazardous situations with other vehicles and pedestrians and will apply braking if necessary. Park Assist is also available, which does a little bit more than the name suggests and will basically park your Audi Q2 for you. Further to this, Cross Traffic Rear Assist helps when reversing from parking spaces, by sensing other cars which could potentially cross your path. Audi also offer Side Assist and Adaptive cruise control on the Q2 to finalize the driver assist packages.


The Q2 is currently only available as the 1.4 TFSI variant. The 1.0 TFSI and 2.0TDi will be available from May, producing 85kW and 200Nm and 105kW and 350Nm respectively. Unfortunately, a Quattro option will be not available in South Africa due to market placement and cost of the vehicle, however it will be available overseas.


Here is where things get interesting, with a starting price of R434 500 for the 1.0L base model and rising to R565 000 for the 2.0 TDI model, the Q2 is not a cheap car. Yet, it is aimed at a young market.

Audi plan to solve this issue with attractive finance offers and a special guarantee buy-back specifically for the Q2. Audi have done their research and I am positive that the Q2 will work for them. The price is a big drawback for the younger market, especially with a well- specced vehicle. However, Audi do feel confident that it should not be too much of an issue – only time will tell.

  • Audi Q2 1.0T FSI manual: R 434,500
  • Audi Q2 1.0T FSI S tronic: R 453,000
  • Audi Q2 1.0T FSI Sport manual: R 464,500
  • Audi Q2 1.0T FSI Sport S tronic: R 483,000
  • Audi Q2 1.4T FSI Sport manual: R 511,000
  • Audi Q2 1.4T FSI Sport S tronic: R 529,500
  • Audi Q2 2.0 TDI Sport S tronic: R 565,000

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The young executive: Mercedes-Benz CLA 200

I must confess, the CLA is not my favourite Mercedes-Benz. I always found it to be oddly shaped and awkward – it looks like the uglier younger brother of the CLS. That being said, my opinion of the car changed after driving the face-lifted CLA 200, a car that I thought I would’ve hated. See, most of our interactions with Mercedes’ products have been with their hardcore Mercedes-AMG range. The likes of the A45, GTS and C63 are a lot to take in. The C63 was the best when it came to living with the car, but the others were just unpleasant from a daily driving perspective. So getting the “bottom of the range” CLA was a welcome idea and when it arrived – it looked much better in appearance than I expected. It had the optional AMG Line fitted to it, making it very sporty looking. The larger bumpers with red accents on the front and rear give the illusion of something much sportier than the 1.6 litre Turbocharged engine up front.

The interior of this specific car was also quite lovely. A combination of leather and cloth on the sport seats looked great and the overall cabin was a nice place to be. Being in this business of reviewing cars can make you feel rather numb as you hop in and out of various machines each week. When you drive a car that makes you feel good, you tend to remember it and funnily enough, the CLA made me feel this way. See, I’m a young person that lives in the North of Johannesburg, a part of town that measures status as a very important thing. In the week of me driving the CLA, I noticed that others’ perception of me was different to when I drive other cars.

Stepping out of a sporty looking Mercedes-Benz aimed at young people gives you a good feeling, as though you’ve achieved something others haven’t. That’s the thing about cars like the “ordinary young folks’ Mercs”. The A and CLA Classes are cars for young executives. If you drive the AMG variants of these cars, it’s not the same because the price tag of those cars often creates debate in the car world. If I drive a CLA 45, people would ask why I didn’t buy an RS3 Audi for instance, or even a used BMW M4. But if a drive a CLA 200 that looks great, people respect the fact that I chose to spend my R475 000 on this car with less debate. It’s strange.

For somebody who isn’t a performance freak or even a car enthusiast but still wants the feeling of exclusivity, cars like the CLA 200 make perfect sense. Even more sense than an A Class because it offers more practical value. The little engine is also quite punchy with 115kW and 250Nm. Although the AMG Line makes things firmer, the ride quality was not too compromised, but ever so slightly sportier. Considering all these things, my mental checklist started ticking things off. Does it look good? Yes. Does it have enough space for a little one? Yes. Does it say I’m successful? Yes. Lastly, is it affordable? Kind of. Well if you’re that young executive and you’ve got a good job, you’ll most likely be looking at cars within the R500 000 mark, so if that’s the case then, yes.

It was refreshing driving a regular Mercedes-Benz. The brand has come a long way to create products that appeal to a younger market. This is a tricky market that Mercedes has been able to appeal to in terms of status. Many things aside, the most important thing most young people wonder about driving a specific car is “what does it say about me?” In the case of the updated CLA range, it can make people say, “That person is doing well for themselves”. As vain as this sounds, we live in a vanity driven society and if that’s what the Mercedes-Benz brand appeals to, they’ve got a winning product.