Tag: car news

New Mercedes-AMG C43

Mercedes-AMG

New Mercedes-AMG C43 First Drive

For those not in the know, the Mercedes-AMG and Mercedes-Benz range can become quite confusing. Walk into a dealership and ask for a “fast Mercedes” and you will most likely find yourself presented with a myriad of models and a vast range of numbers – such as 65, 63, 53, 45 and 43. Fortunately, it’s articles like these that’ll hopefully provide a little insight – so that if you do go looking for a “fast Mercedes”, you’ll have done the math and know which number you’re looking for. Or at least have an idea.

Mercedes-AMG C43

 

Today we’re talking about the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class. It’s a facelift, so it’s not entirely a new vehicle, but they call it new – so let’s roll with it. To start the launch off, we embarked into some countryside areas around the outskirts of JHB, to sample these new models in a quiet setting. The model I focused on was the C43, naturally.

The 43 range offers a 3.0l V6 Twin Scroll Turbo, which produces 290kW and 520 Nm – reaching 100km/h in approximately 4.7 seconds. Driving not only a C43, but the “43” motor in general, was a first-time affair for me. While this vehicle could be classed as a “baby” AMG when compared with the mighty C63, it certainly doesn’t sound like it. In a good way.

This V6 purrs like a Cheetah being scratched by a very large garden rake. Again, in a good way. There was never really a time when I wanted to turn the Active Exhausts off, as chasing this noise through the higher rpm range through a total of 9 gears was becoming just short of addictive. Plus, it’s also slightly quieter than its V8 older brother, so when pottering around town you can leave the active pipes on and not get a headache. Do I prefer it? I haven’t yet decided.

Mercedes-AMG C43

While I could bark on about this all day, it’s time to discuss some of the new features found on the C-Class in general. While snapping at the gears and chasing that sweet V6 sound, you’ll find yourself holding onto a new steering wheel – one which was first found on the S Class and E Class. I love the finish, styling and premium feel it gives you, as it features metal, leather and these hi-tech thumb touch-pads for scrolling through various menus on the digital display. It’s also a standard feature across the whole range, not just the AMG models.

Turn you attention to the fascia and you will also notice the new 12.3-inch instrument cluster. As common as they are becoming on new premium vehicles, each manufacturer has their own take on these digital consoles. Through this system, the driver can browse and adjust most settings and features on the vehicle. AMG variants provide a striking yellow design with a layout that simulates the classic round dials that we all know and love. The display can show you pretty much anything the heart desires regarding the vehicle and while live tyre pressure and the ambient temperature is…cool? Viewing live power, torque and boost levels were something that interested me more.

Mercedes-AMG C43

From the outside, a new redesigned front bumper and diamond grille differentiate the C43 compared to other models. The new 84 LED multi-beam headlights add subtle changes too. With the option of the Ultra Range system, these provide light for up to 650m and also feature the blanking out technology which means Hi-Beam can be selected all the time without dazzling other road users. New tail-lights are also apparent, as well as various rear bumper designs – depending on the package you select.

So, what’s it like then driving the face-lifted C43? Apparently, it’s just like the pre-facelift variant, only prettier and faster. Even though it’s an “AMG”, the vehicle is pretty comfortable when the driving modes are relaxed and set to comfort, dial in the sport modes and the C43 comes alive and provides the sharp AMG driving feel. There is more power on tap, which means the trees blur quicker on a straight line. The car still features Mercedes’s 4Matic system but this time sending 69% of the power to the rear wheels which improve the vehicle dynamically. This provides a nice balance as the power is still accessible all the time, unlike it’s older brother the C63, which likes to wiggle around corners. This is actually a good thing, because only those who know how to do the “AMG dance” should try going toe to toe with one, should they be brave enough. The C43 then is the safe bet among the fast C-Class variants, so if you want to just get on it, this may be the one you should ask for at a dealership.

The new Mercedes-AMG C43 Vehicle Pricing in South Africa:

Sedan                       Coupe                                  Cabriolet

R948,500                  R983,500                             R1,100,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Volkswagen Touareg: First Drive

Volkswagen Touareg

We Drive the New Volkswagen Touareg

It’s amazing what happens to us when we get older. In my twenties, what was important in a vehicle was its looks, my friend’s opinion and of course, what members of the opposite sex would say when I rocked up in my sweet wheels. Now, in my thirties, with a seven-month-old in tow, what I want out of a vehicle is completely different.

Volkswagen Touareg

 

My daily “run around” is an SUV. I’m that guy who has, besides some dirt roads on a friend’s farm, never taken it off-road. Why? I don’t hunt or do “outdoorsy” stuff, simple. I’m a city dweller who is very happy to be eye level with taxi drivers. I also have the rear seat filled with toys to amuse a very cute human. So,  when the invite for the local launch of the new Volkswagen Touareg came into TheMotorist inbox, I was the first to put my hand up, naturally.

Volkswagen Touareg

In its third generation, the VW Touareg has grown up. Sharing its DNA with some of the biggest names in the field, namely the Bentley Bentayga, Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q7. The new Touareg has all the underpinnings of a superstar. Having done my homework before the launch, to say that I was excited and had big expectations would be an understatement. On arrival, what strikes you from your first introduction is the presence the vehicle has. From its imposing grill accompanied with its vast use of chrome, the face of the Touareg is one that would be quite intimidating to see in your rear-view mirror. You take in its profile and you are greeted with a vehicle that clearly shows that good looks run in the family, as you see bits of the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne in its design.Volkswagen Touareg

Open the door and you’ll be very impressed. Its interior is one that is just sublime. From the materials used, to the layout of the infotainment screen, you may just find yourself thinking “what’s the lounge TV doing in the dashboard?” It’s that big. The screen is also angled toward the driver, cocooning you in tech – with minimal buttons to add to the very modern look. As stunning as this all this however,  you do wonder how many times you will have to wipe the screen to maintain this chicness. It’s a sacrifice worth paying however because it does make the cabin extra special.

Volkswagen Touareg

Under the bonnet:

Powering this new generation Touareg is a 3.0 V6 turbocharged diesel, the only engine to be offered by Volkswagen South Africa and for good reason. With 600Nm and 190kW, this power-plant isn’t shy when you call on the power. It arrives in waves, giving you the muscle you need to perform any overtaking manoeuvre, big or small. The reason for one engine to be offered? Demand. For a very long time, I have held the opinion that there isn’t a need for ridiculously powered SUVs. As fun as it may be to have all that power at your disposal, these are cars are meant to do the school and shopping run with entire families in them – so the real chances of exploiting that performance is minimal. As a result, VW have opted to go the practical route with its engine offering.

Volkswagen Touareg

My driving partner Sam Ayres and I got acquainted with this new vehicle in the leafy green province of Port Elizabeth with our end destination being Plettenberg Bay. We took off in the top of the range Executive with R-line package which was shod with the 20” wheels and tyres combination. With its air suspension (standard equipment on the Executive), ride was compliant and positive. Steering feedback is electric, but easy to place and the vehicle has a natural way of hiding its mass. After a few kilometres, the vehicle seems to shrink around you dynamically, giving you the impression of driving a rather spacious sedan – something the likes of BMW have done well over the years in their X5. This is a great compliment as a “tall SUV” doesn’t inspire confidence, whereas the new Touareg certainly does. With buttons being a thing of the past, you also find that the optional but very worth it “Innovision Cockpit” very intuitive. Especially after you’ve found the perfect way to personalise your Touareg. When nightfall happens, it looks like you are driving a vehicle from a sci-fi movie. With thirty interior colours to choose from, your young ones will have you planning your family trips at night, so that they can enjoy the show.

The Drive:

The drive to Plettenberg Bay included some forty kilometres on gravel roads with sharp hairpin corners to allow us to test the suspension. A simple switch over to the gravel/dirt setting on the air suspension and you’re good to go. The mighty diesel engine comes into its own and the suspension damping softens enough to not make you feel like you are doing something out of the ordinary.

Volkswagen Touareg

Along with offering just the one engine, you also only get two options of specification level. The Executive with the R Line package, as well as the Luxury. Both these packages come with a good amount of standard features, giving you a brief options list to choose from. My choice would be the Executive with the optional twenty-one-inch wheels to give it the “gangster look” a young dad would like. As mentioned, I don’t go off-road, so don’t worry about me getting a flat tyre in Sandton. This package comes with the host of driver assist features that are as long as the vehicle, namely Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Assist, Side Assist, Night Vision, Panoramic Sliding Roof, Discover Pro Navigation and and and.

Volkswagen Touareg

The result?

What we have now is a Volkswagen SUV that can take on the mighty BMW X5, Range Rover Sport as well as the Mercedes GLE in all aspects.  From a quality, performance, technology and overall appeal. It is still more understated than its rivals, but in a classy way. Being a Volkswagen, it won’t shock you from a price point of view either, which is good considering what SUVs cost today. Impressed is an understatement, Volkswagen have truly outdone themselves. We’ll take a Black one please!

 

New Volkswagen Touareg Pricing in South Africa

Touareg 3.0 V6 TDI 190kW (Luxury)                    R999 800

Touareg 3.0 V6 TDI 190kW (Executive)                R1 088 200

The new Touareg comes standard with a 5 year/100 000km Maintenance Plan, 3 year/120 000km warranty, 12-year anti-corrosion warranty and space saver spare wheel. Service Interval is 15 000km.

Here’s why you should buy the Alfa Romeo Giulia

Alfa Romeo Giulia

Alfa Romeo Giulia 

I know what you are all thinking, how does the Italian stallion compare to the ever so popular BMW 3 series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class or the third German moustache – the Audi A4?. All giants of the same segment.

This article isn’t going to be a long-winded and unnecessary comparison, the seats are like this, the wing mirrors are like that…if that’s what you came for you can copy and paste the above paragraph into the mighty Google search. This article is simply going to give you the reason why one should consider the Giulia- summed it up in one word: Difference.

Alfa Romeo Giulia

Let me expand this over a few hundred words.

You see, a BMW 3 series is a great proven product, likewise a C-class, they sell in droves partly because of this, but also because these brands are huge in this fine country of South Africa. Consumers buy BMW/Mercedes/Audi products for the same reason they buy Apple- because of how it interprets them and how they are viewed by their friends. I have happened to fall for this clever marketing ploy, you don’t sell the product, you sell the experience, the lifestyle…

Alfa Romeo Giulia

The first Alfa Romeo Guila I drove happened to be the QV, its fast and nimble front end caught my attention, so did the faulty electronics, and then a day later it ended up in a tyre wall ( through no fault of my own) It’s safe to say I didn’t get to spend much time in that specific vehicle, but after spending a good amount of time in the “standard” model, the Giulia just happens to also be a very good motor vehicle – shock horror.

However, I can’t just leave you with that to break the mould. We can all see its beautiful, but above that, it drives very nicely from both a comfort and performance perspective, it’s darn comfortable, the interior is fairly splendid and features technology which belongs in 2018. The Giulia’s 2.0 Petrol with 147 kW 8-speed automatic transmission offers just a good if not a better driving experience than its direct competitors. So here is what you need to ask yourself, why not be different?

Alfa Romeo Giulia

You see, life isn’t always what your friends think. While on route to test drive the “you know whats”, break the stereotype and pull into your nearest Alfa dealer. You never know unless you try and let’s be honest, if I had a Rand for every 320 M-Sport I passed on the morning commute, I wouldn’t be making a morning commute…

Take Off Your Blinkers – Volkswagen Arteon Driven

Volkswagen Arteon

We Drive the New Volkswagen Arteon

Let’s face it, VW’s Passat was one of its least-loved vehicles. It reminds me of those movies which feature that one workmate which no one gets along with. However, when given the chance, you find out that Gwendoline has a wicked sense of humour and has stories from all her travels around the world. She is awesome and you wish that you had given her a chance all these years.Well, just like in Hollywood movie, Gwendoline has a life makeover, changes her appearance, loses a ton of weight and changes her name to “G Money” and the office is a buzz with the new staff member that they have. All the girls want to be her and the guys want to date her. Well, ladies and gentlemen, we give you the new Volkswagen Arteon.

Volkswagen Arteon

Brand new from the ground up, the “Sport Coupe GTE” wowed the crowds at its premiere in 2015 but normally, when vehicle looks that good, you expect the manufacturer to tone it down with the final production model and give you something that was in-line with the design cues but not the car that caused you to have it as a screen saver on your laptop. No, not this time my fellow car people! If you pull up the pictures from 2015, the vehicle looks 99% identical to the vehicle that is now in front of me.

We got the grips with this brand-new vehicle at Volkswagen’s head office in Sandton and after the media briefing, which I missed as I was in awe as to how stunning this car is, we were thrown into peak hour Sandton traffic on route to our drive event, hosted at Swartkops raceway. Two engines are on offer from launch and my driving partner and I were in the 2.0 TDI DSG, with 350Nm of torque and 130kW. This ensured that we not only kept up with traffic, but also ushered people out of the fast lane as the diesel motor has a wide spread of torque in any gear, and was a peach to drive. I must say that I am one of the petrol heads that has seen the light, for a daily commuter I see the benefit of the diesel motor and with this current crop of diesels around, it’s amazing that people still have a petrol vehicle for the daily commute. But then again, I do understand why this specific petrol motor was included in the fold. With 206kW and with the same torque as the diesel, this is for the corporate racer that wants the Golf R feel in a premium skin.

Volkswagen Arteon

As is my custom, the first drive was handled by my co-pilot and was thoroughly impressed by the infotainment system and layout of the whole cabin. Its beyond spacious and due to it being front wheel drive, it lacks the transmission tunnel which plagues most of the vehicle in this class-it was refreshing to find so much space in the rear. On arriving at Swartkops, we were given a breakdown of the design features of the Arteon and saw how the designers have stayed so close to the concept. Tip from VW, if your concept receives as much praise theirs did, don’t stray and then you keep your clients base happy. Speaking of clients…

The Arteon is aimed at the mid exec class so it comes into the BMW 3 series, Mercedes C Class and Cousin Audi A4 fold in terms of product placement. Now this is where we as South Africans need to strip our biases aside. Traditionally, in the buying cycle of a client, we go from the first car, into a mid-sized hatch or small sedan. VW has no problem with those clients as that’s where the first introduction happened and Polo Vivo and Golf sales speak for themselves. The issue happens when clients go from say a Golf GTI to something else as normally, circumstances necessitate a sedan and the “German Three” are the default. This is where the Arteon comes in. With the Arteon being such a formidable contender VW need to do all that they can to showcase that as they now have a vehicle that can stand toe to toe with the stalwarts of this segment, but its also up to the consumer to take off their blinkers and look at what other options that they have in this segment.

Volkswagen Arteon

We have the pleasure of finding out the handling capabilities of the Arteon at the track and was pleasantly surprised as to how little body roll there was and yes, being front wheel drive for the diesel and 4Motion for the petrol, there was some understeer which that came to the fore when pushed hard, something that if you are doing on public roads, you deserve to have your tyres humbled by the pavement.

So, VW now have a serious contender for the premium segment and if marketed well and clients get to experience the vehicle, there will a lot more on the road and from the day and a half that we spent with the Arteon, you will be making the right choice. G Money will change your perspective for the good!

Another Mad McLaren! Meet the McLaren 600LT

McLaren 600LT

Another Mad McLaren. Meet the 600LT.

If you are anything like me, you probably had serious FOMO over the past few days, as your Instagram feed was filled with images and videos of the McLaren Senna – being driven around the Estoril race track for the launch in Portugal. And what a car it is, some say its ugly, but I say its capabilities make it beautiful. We are not here to talk about the Senna however, we are here to talk about the latest model to McLarens Sports Series range – the McLaren 600LT.

At first glance, your mind may fill you with images of the 570s and tell you that this vehicle looks remarkability similar to it. It does, until you start to stare and not simply glance. You see, LT stands for Longtail, and this is the fourth McLaren in history to feature this iconic name. What is a Longtail all about? Better aerodynamics, increased power, reduced weight, track-focused dynamics and enhanced driver engagement.

McLaren 600LT

While based on a 570S Coupe, the 600LT is 74mm longer and a staggering 96kg lighter. Weight reduction is achieved through carbon-fibre racing seats and carbon-fibre bodywork, even the unique top-exit exhausts offer a substantial weight saving. Let’s talk about the good stuff, 441kW and 620Nm from the 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine. This increased power output coupled with the weight saving and uprated aerodynamics go hand in hand with forged aluminium double-wishbone suspension, a lightweight braking system, bespoke track-focused Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tyres and quicker steering and throttle response setup.

McLaren 600LT

The McLaren 600LT on paper should deliver a fantastic driving experience on and off the racetrack, which is in essence what a LT is all about. Let’s just take a moment to admire the top-exit exhaust system…

McLaren 600LT

McLaren 600LT Pricing in South Africa.

Each and every 600LT will be hand built in the UK, while volume will also be strictly limited. Production will begin in October 2018 and last for around 12 months. Pricing is from £185, 500 – which at the time of writing converts to R3,3 Million.

 

 

 

 

Does the New Polo GTI mean the Golf is now obsolete?

New Polo GTI

Does the new Volkswagen Polo GTI replace the Golf?

So the new Volkswagen Polo GTI has a 2.0 –liter engine bru? It’s bigger man? So why then do I need to buy a Golf GTI?

Polo GTI

These are the types of questions that have been drummed in my ears every time the new Polo GTI comes up in conversation, and while many may think the new Polo GTI makes the Golf obsolete, it doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, the Polo GTI has come along way, it’s more refined, faster, produces more power, even better in the corners and cheaper than the model it replaces. Yet it’s still not a Golf, and that isn’t a chirp either…

You see, after Francisco and I spent the weekend in Cape Town with the GTI siblings, while chopping and changing vehicles and destinations, we really experienced what each model had to offer.

For example, jump from the Golf into the Polo and you will instantly notice a difference in build quality. A Golf feels sturdier, stronger and safer, while the interior trim has a certain solidness to it. However, when reversing the order, the younger brother highlights a sense of fun and nimbleness which isn’t as present in Golf GTI.  Added to this, the XDS differential which is fitted as standard and was originally found on the Clubsport, really does make it a treat in the bends.

So why would you spend the extra R172K on a Golf GTI. Well if you have a family the extra space is a gold mine, you will probably favour the added luxury and features too while knowing you have chosen a vehicle with more presence and solidness. It also produces more power and feels slightly more exhilarating in a straight line while quite frankly being more “grown-up”.

But, if you don’t have a family, are a young professional and looking to fly high on your way to work and fly off Chapman’s peak on the weekends (the XDS might save you), the Polo GTI takes the cake. It’s less of a car because you don’t need more, it’s extremely fun to drive and has a bunch of laka tech.

It’s quite simple really, ask yourself how many kids you have and use this simple formula.

  1. 0 kids = Polo GTI.
  2. 1-3 kids = Golf GTI.
  3. 3+ kids = You are reading the wrong article. Try here: Tiguan Allspace

Yes, if you’re a family man looking for a visceral GTI experience then you most likely already have the answer. For me, I’m rocking the Polo GTI, and my wife and I can roll around looking too cool for the school run.

New VW Polo GTI Pricing in South Africa

Polo GTI: R375,900

As standard, a decent spec is on offer which includes items such as Leather Multifunction Steering Wheel, Front fog lamps, Rest Assist, Composition Media with iPod/iPhone Interface, App-Connect, 2 USB Interfaces, Cruise Control.

For just over R400,000 you can have a very nicely specced Polo GTI.

Get speccing: https://www.vw.co.za/app/configurator/vw-za/en

 

 

 

Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S

Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S

Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Driven

A mid-sized family orientated SUV with 375kW and 700Nm may sound quite preposterous, in fact, it can be likened to those superhuman toddler gymnasts you see on YouTube. At the age of four, their biceps are bigger than their little heads, causing you to ask, “why?”

Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S

Many may ask the same question when it comes to the new Mercedes AMG GLC 63 S. Personally, I didn’t ask why when learning about this car, because I’m a fan of speed and power in any shape or size. I can imagine many motorists share the same sentiments as me as well. What may seem like just a statement from Merc, is actually more than that, it’s a shift based on consumer behaviour. The reality is that many consumers who drive sedans are now changing their buying behaviour toward SUV’s, such as the GLC. Reasons such as safety, size and presence are all factors leading to this change. Then there are those who drive the performance variants of popular sedans, such as the burbling Mercedes AMG C63 or BMW’s M3. These guys need a replacement for the performance they’re used to, if they decide to do the SUV jump. The new GLC 63 S seems to be an answer, but can it provide the same thrills? Can an SUV provide as much fun, performance and driving experience as a sedan AMG, such as the C63 S? Let’s find out…

An early flight navigated me from Durban to Lanseria, where we jumped into a van and arrived at Zwartkops Raceway, which would be the base for our testing. The first few hours including a high speed “brake and steer” test, a slalom and drag races. While all this is was fun, it also showed us what we could expect from the GLC 63 S, when we would begin our full laps. Not only that, it showed us how much confidence Mercedes-Benz has in their vehicle. For example, our slalom runs started with ESP on, as we progressed we eventually were encouraged to switch of the car’s ESP system, allowing us to feel how the limited slip differential works when the vehicle is unencumbered by the safety systems.

Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S

It’s worth noting, the ESP system on the GLC 63 S is very sensitive, with good reason too – it’s still a family car. One with a lot of power. This vehicle also carries quite a bit of weight. In the wrong hands, it could lead to some not so desirable outcomes should an overenthusiastic overcook it. Back to the story.

So here we are, on the track and ready for some laps. We started with ESP on and gradually went through the modes until everything was off. Not half off, but “off off off” as we call it in the office. As you can imagine, with ESP in full force, throttle output is easily hampered coming out of corners, especially when power was applied sharply. From a safety perspective, it made sense but on a track, it can be annoying. Which sounds like a pointless statement because a track day in a GLC 63 S is more a treat for journalists, as opposed to a reality for an owner. Sport, Sport + and Race modes were also tested, which give you more freedom, more slip and more AMG noise on each mode – which by the way is fantastic. AMG have a whole division focused on exhaust sound – a great division if you ask me. I digress however…After a few laps toggling between various modes and even with ESP off, I became very frustrated with my track experience.  I wasn’t getting what I expected out of the vehicle and quite frankly, I was unhappy with my laps. At each apex, when I wanted to power out of the corner, the car was cutting power quite abruptly – arrghh. This is not what I expected from a car that uses the 4Matic + system, the same one that is in the highly regarded Mercedes AMG E63 S, less the drift mode.

All is not lost.

On our slow down lap, I discussed with Francisco and the AMG Driving instructor. I explained that perhaps my driving style is wrong for this extremely powerful SUV. The instructor agreed and like a good coach during half time in a bag game, he gave me a few pointers to get the most out of a car of this size. So, after pumping myself up, we headed back onto the track. The aim? Turning in later, getting more steering into the corner before the apex, allowing me to unwind the lock before accelerating out of the corner.  This would allow the GLC to not panic, causing the “fail safe” safety systems to activate even when they’re meant to be off off off. Again, a necessary measure for a family SUV.

Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S

The result? Pretty brilliant. The limited-slip diff worked well, sending power to the front when needed and pulling the GLC out of corners. After the little teething issues we began with, due to my driving style, the vehicle became the dynamic, fast and precise track weapon I wanted it to be. Not the words you expect to hear about an SUV – Merc is onto something with this setup.

So can an AMG SUV provide as much fun, performance and driving experience as a sedan variant, such as C63 S? Well, regarding performance,  the head of the AMG driving academy told us that he could probably set similar laps times in the AMG GLC 63 S as he would in an AMG GT S, which is quite the statement to make. The question of fun and driving experience still needs to be answered however. I may be a young journalist, but over the past few years I’ve done my fair share of driving on and off the track. Honestly, driving the AMG GLC 63 S fast around a racetrack was one the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had to date. You may not be able to do tyre smoking drift sessions in the car, but the reality is even most who own C63 S’s can’t either – even though their vehicles can. So there’s not much to miss in that department. That being said, the GLC does allow for a fair bit of a movement, since it sends its power mostly to the rear tyres.

Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S

I probably enjoyed this track experience as much as I did, because I wasn’t really expecting the car to be as good as they say it is, it is an SUV after all. Or perhaps it was due to the fact that I had to work harder for cleaner laps. Either way, it was exhilarating and a good glimpse of the future of smaller performance SUV’s.

Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Pricing in South Africa

Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S SUV: R1 572 602

Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupe: R1 689 067

 

 

 

New Aston Martin Vantage driven.

Aston Martin Vantage

New Aston Martin Vantage driven.

I must mention that one of my most memorable automotive experiences, involved an Aston Martin. The particular model was the Vantage N430, a car that I had the chance to drive – as a friend had close ties with the local importer in South Africa. Some context is required for me to justify why this vehicle is arguably one of my personal top 5 favourite cars. Firstly, it’s not an easy vehicle to drive. Especially if it’s fitted with the automatic gearbox, which it was. Knowing how to extract a linear experience out of those old school sequential/manual systems is something no millennial would’ve had to do with modern cars. Dual clutch systems have been around since most of us have been driving, so the “lift-off – shift up – get back on” routine is unfamiliar to many of us.

Aston Martin Vantage

This more tedious style of driving a sporty automatic vehicle was the only way of ensuring that the vehicle doesn’t choke on upshift. The N430, equipped with that gearbox felt imperfect, but in a good way. Would I live with the gearbox? No. Parking is a pain and creeping in traffic even more so. Driving in a spirited manner however and getting the shifts right, created a somewhat new sensation, especially with the astonishingly good V8 screaming to the redline. Which brings me to my second point, the engine. What a pleasure. No boost, no whoosh, no lag – just full on unadulterated and normally aspirated lunacy. Cars like the N430 prove that fast doesn’t always mean fun as the N430 can be called quick in today’s standards. A BMW M140i would probably beat it to 100km/h and even further. The guy in the Aston however, will forever be in a state of ecstasy as each revolution brings about a different type of aural pleasure. Lastly, what brings it all together is the chassis. Being a small car, the original Vantage offered nimbleness and rigidity as one of its main attributes. As a result, you have a positive front end and an antsy rear end, creating a giddy feeling, like an excited Jack Russell, eager to play. Taking all those three elements and putting them together, made for a visceral yet human experience for me – forever etching an impression on my mind.

Where to from here?  

It turns out that after speaking to older colleagues, I wasn’t the only one who felt this way about the previous Aston Martin Vantage. Many shared fond memories of the car, compliments and complaints but overall many positive sentiments – putting me at ease as a petrol-head’s mind can easily get infatuated. This experience helped me when the time came for me to drive the new Aston Martin Vantage, a car which has been revealed for some time now in luminous green paint. The sheer aesthetic appeal of this vehicle is enough to get you excited. The car we drove donned the same paintwork as the photos, but in person looked even better. As important as the outside bits are, the most important thing is what makes it tick on the inside? Interestingly, I drove myself to the meeting venue in a Mercedes AMG GTC, a car which the Aston Martin shares the same engine with. That being the case, it was a personal interest of mine to see how similar the engines felt. Before we get into that, let’s talk briefly about the actual inside of the car. Being a car from the early 2000’s, the original Vantage had a quality cabin, but age had caught up with it. Sitting in some of the final iterations of the car emphasized the need for change, as the competition was much further in terms of technologies offered. The new vehicle fixes that. The DB11’s DNA can be seen, with a central infotainment system giving you data, media and other information that can be useful to the driver and passenger. One of the most impressive aspects of the interior cabin was the overall quality of everything. The stitching and materials used, felt in line with the perceived driver of an Aston Martin – someone who doesn’t compromise on style and quality.

Aston Martin Vantage

Lift off:

Firing up the new Vantage is a cause for a smile. Engaging the sport exhausts, is a cause for a grin. Pressing the drive button and setting off was easier than expected, thanks to an eight-speed automatic gearbox – one that is more traffic friendly. In its most normal mode, the Vantage is comfortable. Being a petite vehicle, it doesn’t feel cumbersome in an “everyday” setting. Visibility is adequate, gear shifts are soft and damping is almost GT like. Spending time in the normal setting is not what you do when time is a factor in a car such as this. So off I went into Sport mode and proceeded to wake up the dead as the V8 noise increased dramatically. Sport, Sport + and Track mode of course liven things up by increasing throttle response, firming dampers and adding excitement. Toggling between these three modes allowed me to get to know the car slightly better. The engine is a peach. It screams, it barks on down shifts and the fact that it’s turbocharged means that it’s fast. 0 – 100 km/h in 3.6 seconds fast.

Aston Martin Vantage

Coming back to the Mercedes AMG power-plant, I’m happy to tell you that this car doesn’t feel like an Aston Martin with a Merc engine. The engineers at Aston Martin have tweaked a few things, including the way the engine sounds, so it’s very much “Aston-Martinized”. Having a great engine is one thing, but the chassis is the key and this is where the Vantage shines – as it’s 30% more rigid compared to the old car. What that means is that you’ve got a nimble ride and an eager front end. Even with systems on, one can feel that in the right setting – a skilled driver could easily manage some rear end slides. On the normal road however, the Vantage is a thrill to drive. Is it a worthy successor to the old car? Definitely. The segment it competes in however is very competitive, as Porsche is the staple when it comes to being an everyday sports car. What the Vantage offers however is slightly more exclusivity, but at a price – especially in South Africa. Pricing for this vehicle will be tricky, as the exchange rate varies frequently. At the time of this test drive, the new Vantage would cost a South African similar pricing to that of a GT variant of the 911. By the time the vehicles enter our market, it will be interesting to see where it’s positioned. Being that as it may, the heart wants what it wants. The Aston Martin Vantage does indeed offer a whole lot of “want factor.”

 

Tiguan Allspace – Because we all need more “space”

Tiguan Allspace South Africa

Who needs more space? We live in a world where we need larger “clouds”, more memory on our phones, a bigger Netflix library and for photographers, an endless amount of hard drives. In short, more space is always more welcomed.

We embarked on a drive from Durban to Karkloof Spa in the Natal Midlands in a vehicle which offers more of exactly that, space. Befittingly named, the new Tiguan Allspace won’t help if your 256 GB IPhone X has run out of memory, but if you always find yourself with one bag (or person) too many on a family road trip, it will probably come in handy.

VW Tiguan Allspace

So what is the Tiguan Allspace? Volkswagen used the wonderful base that is the standard Tiguan and simply made it 215mm longer. While there are ever-so-slight design changes, the overall look and feel is pretty much identical to the normal wheelbase Tiguan which most seemed to love.  While 215mm might not sound like much, it equates to an increase in boot space volume of 115-litres which provides much more storage space, or two seats – the Tiguan Allspace gives you the option to choose.

While the Allspace is 7-seater vehicle, anyone that resembles a teenager or adult will really struggle to fit. The rear seats are much more suited for younger children and while you may feel like this really narrows down the uses, there are many scenarios in which they will come in handy. When not in use the third row of seats fold completely flat and I feel this is a setup which many will enjoy – giving you spacious seating for five occupants and plenty of boot space.

As with the normal wheelbase Tiguan, the Allspace is lovely to drive with my favourite model being the Highline variant, as it is paired with a 2.0-litre 162kW petrol engine and VW’s world famous DSG gearbox. The vehicle is practical, but the powertrain offers the element of fun we all enjoy and sometimes crave. The 110kW diesel variant also on offer was really was impressive to drive. Smooth, quiet and “torquey” are all great words to describe this option – whilst also being a cracker on fuel. I however spent much more time with the new 132kW petrol option now available in the Allspace Comfortline, as we had a short but fiery love affair down the South Coast of Durban.  While shy on power when compared with the Highline, the performance on offer is plenty for most situations and is a really cool option for those a little more conscious of price and fuel economy.  There is also fourth option – a 110Kw 1.4 petrol which falls into the Trendline model. LED daytime running lights, the Lights and Visibility Package, Front Underbody Protection, chrome trapezoidal panels around the tailpipes and privacy glass, come as standard on the normal wheelbase Tiguan.

If I can sup up the Tiguan Allspace up in just a few words, it would be “Beautifully Practical”. It offers the vibe, looks and personality that the normal Tiguan offers, but just with more space. Honestly, I can’t see a reason why I would choose a standard Tiguan over the Allspace, as the extra space makes a big difference. While the only compromise would really be a slightly higher price if you opt for the Allspace, in the long term, I think it’s worth it.

Tiguan Allspace

Karkloof really put the Tiguan Allspace into perspective for me. Driving through amazing landscapes with your family or friends is what this car is about. Going further, more comfortably with the people that mean the most. While I would love to own a Tiguan,  the only reason I could justify purchasing one now is if I started a family…I will chat to my wife tonight.

New BMW M5 driven – Bigger, faster, better?

New BMW M5 Driven

The definition of a purist according to the trusty internet is someone who, “insists on absolute adherence to traditional rules or structures, especially in language or style”. That would best describe most BMW aficionados to the letter. It is for this reason why there was a huge outcry from BMW fans when the brand first decided to turbocharge M products. Over time, the anger subsided and the die-hard fans soon saw the benefit of the new direction that BMW took.

 

A resurgence of this panic ensued recently, when the configuration of the new BMW was announced. Not only would it carry on with a forced induction motor, but now – it would be the first thoroughbred M saloon car to have all-wheel drive (The M760li is not an M Performance vehicle). Did the public miss something? Did we wake up in a strange alternative universe straight out of Black Mirror? No. And for good reason.

BMW M5 Generations

You see, for you to understand this new thought process you would have to go back to the previous generation BMW M5, the F10. Having had the privilege of driving one every day for some time in the past, this M car was one that demanded great respect. The relationship between your right foot and the accelerator pedal was normally where the tension brewed. One a cold day, with the rubber at odds with broken tarmac on our infamous roads, the vehicle would snap into oversteer or simply bog down with the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) intervening and stopping that tree from humbling the often over-eager driver. But catch the vehicle on a warm day, with the right amount of tyre tread and the M5 would come into its own. It would gladly come along for the school run, and then change into Mr Hyde whilst leaving 295 section black lines at will – often accompanied with a trailing sports car in its cloud of smoke. It was a weapon, but a weapon that needed all the checks and balances in place, for you to get the best out of it. One of those checks was a huge bravery pill as the mass of an M5 and the power it produced could easily become a handful for most. It was a matter of time then, when the limit of power that could be sent to the rear axle, would reach its limit for a car such as this. Many would agree that the limit was reached with the F10 and its last iterations, such as the Competition Package. I’m sure the Audi guys sent out their “we told you so” emails to both Mercedes and BMW when they decided to go the all-wheel drive route.

Enter the F90 M5 with M xDrive. Kyalami raceway made for the perfect backdrop for the new M5’s local introduction. Cars like these often don’t need much of a press briefing as journalists have read up on all the specifications way before the time of launch. From an engine technology perspective, the revisions are just that, revisions. Even aesthetically, the F90 is not a major departure from the F10. The new car has followed in the footsteps of its predecessor of being a silent bruiser. The quad tailpipes, three-piece front air dam, rear spoiler and more pronounced wheel arches are tasteful, but discreet signs that you are not about to get behind the wheel of a regular 5 series with M sport package. Power driving this new M5 is the tried and tested 4.4l twin turbo V8 – this time producing 441kW/750N.m.  Mated to this motor is a ZF 8 Speed single clutch gearbox. Having experienced this configuration on the current X5/6M, you would be hard pressed to tell that this wasn’t a double clutch gearbox.

We went out on the first sighting laps just to get the various temperatures up and make sure that there weren’t any nasty surprises on Kyalami’s pristine asphalt. Warm up laps done with, Sport Plus was engaged – sharpening throttle response, dampers as well as steering feedback. Letting all this power loose came with a natural expectation of drama, but the weirdest thing happened. A sense of purpose that’s never been experienced in an M5 took over. The balancing act of keeping an almost two tonne beast on the black-stuff was no longer required. The sense of impending death was gone, replaced with no-nonsense straight line performance. In 4WD Sport, the new BMW M5 has reached a new level of grippy performance. With a road long enough, the vehicle gives you that tunnel vision experience, that you get from a supercar. The ability to shorten straights and have corners appear much sooner than you anticipated is nothing short of frightening. Should a vehicle this big be able to do this? The Bavarians certainly think so, especially since their friends from Affalterbach have done the same with the Mercedes AMG E63 S, but that’s a story for another day. The 0-100km/h sprint in the new M5 is claimed at 3.4 seconds. Yikes. The 0-200km/h run is achieved in 11.1. You read that correctly. What’s most impressive is the manner in which the vehicle does this. This performance is now accessible. All the time.

BMW M5 Dash

This begs the question, is this still a proper M car? Aren’t M’s meant to shred tyres and behave badly all the time? Things have changed. The target audience of an M5 is a mature audience, one that requires safety, luxury and refinement. When all that is taken care of, the vehicle then needs to perform like a sports car. Tough ask, right? The M5 now gives you that. During the cool down lap, the vehicle in its most normal mode is as docile as a 530d. However, engage 4WD Sport and you will find the DNA of its predecessor coming to the fore. Around corners, the front end turns in sharply, allowing you to accurately place the vehicle where you want it. The front wheels are not obtrusive, but rather pull you out of corners – working with the rear wheel biased setup of the vehicle. As a result, you can carve a better line and feel confident whilst doing it. In 4WD sport, the rears are still keen to light up, but in a very controlled fashion. For someone handy, this may be your favourite setting. But wait, there is more – 2WD mode. At the launch, the journalists weren’t allowed to use this mode as driving skills differ, which means the risk increases too. In this mode, DSC is automatically switched off, which is a scary thought.

BMW M5 Drifting

To demonstrate this, BMW very wisely brought in GTC BMW driver, Gennaro Bonafede, to show what the super sedan could do. In this mode, you’ve basically got a more powerful F10, one that is followed by a cloud of smoke. That being said, the vehicle still possessed tons of grip as Gennaro proved. So as much as that the setting is meant for fun, 2WD mode, doesn’t make the car undrivable.

BMW M5

Overall impressions.

The BMW M5 has for long been hailed as the benchmark in this segment. The competition has closed the gap over the years, especially with the likes of the new E63s around. Will the new BMW M5 remain the king? A more thorough test will be needed to conclude that. For now, we can tell you that this is the most accessible M5 since the e39. With a starting price of R1 732 300, we’re not referring to price but rather performance. The addition of M xDrive adds a new dynamic to the car, a welcome one for the average driver. This change has not ruined it for the enthusiast too, as the vehicle can still be exploited via the rear axle like M5’s before it. Altogether, you have a large nimble and blisteringly fast M5.

 

New BMW M5 Pricing in South Africa

The new BMW M5 starts at R1 747 500 and is available now.