Tag: Tech

New Mercedes-Benz A-Class – Setting New Standards

New Mercedes-Benz A-Class in Matt Grey, Overlooking Ocean and town

New Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Some car models evolve like a fine wine; slowly over time, each incarnation just a little better than the last. Not at Mercedes-Benz though, if other technologies progressed as fast as the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, we’d be living around in a rather futuristic world. Twenty-one years ago, just after the first A-Class was launched, it made motoring headlines for failing the Moose Test, but that was actually a blessing in disguise rather than a setback. This problem forced the men in white coats to re-engineer the suspension as well as to add electronic driver aids never before seen in a compact car, forcing other manufacturers to follow suit. This was the start of a brilliant track record, amassing sales of three million A-Class cars (6 million compact cars in total) to date, each new model featuring improvements and upgrades that you’d only expect to find in top tier models.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class is now in its fourth generation, and it’s no facelift, this technological marvel is an all-new affair from the ground up. The compact Benz is longer, higher and wider resulting in a sportier looking hatchback, especially when fitted with the optional 19-inch wheels. The front-end subscribes to the latest Mercedes-Benz design architecture and this new design also sees the car being the most aerodynamic in the segment. Much of this is attributed to the front and rear wheel spoilers that result in low airflow losses, in addition, wheel arches are insulated from the engine compartment and the radiator surrounds are sealed. The design of the A-pillars and the new wing mirrors also has an effect on drag, but most noticeably on wind noise. This all-new A-Class is easily the quietest hatch I’ve driven to date.

Cabin space is improved thanks to the new dimensions; so taller drivers have more comfort with better elbow and shoulder room. The boot receives a 29-litre increase in capacity, now totalling 370 litres and the taillights are now sectioned in two, meaning a 20cm wider load aperture giving your favourite set of Callaway clubs a perfect entry. Besides space, the interior of the all-new A-Class is a very premium place indeed. The retail price of these cars (which we’ll get to later) does seem high, but when you see the fit and finish of the materials and the amount of technology crammed in, things become a lot more palatable.

MBUX – Mercedes-Benz User Experience – is an intelligent multimedia system that adapts to your inputs and voice commands which is not only great to keep you company on long roads, it also keeps your eye focused ahead to keep you safe. All manner of things can be done via the voice control, such as turning vehicle systems on and off or finding you a better route through traffic.  To access this function, simply blurt out “Hey Mercedes” at any point and she’ll answer you back – sound familiar?  It’s also easy to use, however when you want your fingers to do the talking, the touch controls for all the systems are easy and intuitive, once you learn what does what of course.

Powering the all-new Mercedes-Benz A-Class are two new power plants; for the A200 there’s a turbocharged 1332cc 4-cylinder with 120kW and 250Nm on tap. The A250 Sport features 1991cc, also a turbocharged 4-cylinder, and produces 165kW and 350Nm available. Both engines are mated to a sublime, smooth and lightning-quick 7-speed dual clutch transmission (7G-DCT). A variety of drive modes are available, including Comfort, Eco and Sport, the latter being very responsive and firm. We were only able to sample the A200 on launch, and the responsiveness and available power from such a small capacity motor boggles the mind. It’s claimed to reach 100km/h in 8-seconds with a top speed at 225km/h, but it feels faster. Combined fuel consumption is claimed at 5.2l/100km which I’m sure it can manage, just not on launch. In this initial launch drive the A200 was put through its paces and it must be said that there’s not really any way to fault the car. With the technology on board, the new A-Class sets new standards, once again forcing others to follow. The automaker wants to target a younger, more tech-savvy buyer, and offerings don’t get much better than this. A diesel variant and the halo AMG version will come in time.

New Mercedes-Benz A-Class Pricing in South Africa

Pricing for the all-new Mercedes-Benz A-Class sees the A200 comes in at R499 000 and the A250 lists at R593 300.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio – fast, fun but expensive.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Driven Review

If you are familiar with the team here at TheMotorist, you will know it consists of myself, Francisco and Richard. While the latter two happen to be brothers, Francisco and myself are born within a month of each other. Unfortunately for Richard, he has passed the “fun part” of his life already. What I mean by that is, he’s older than us and he has entered a stage of life that consists of nappies and mortgages. More often than not on some of our recent video projects, a good man who goes by the name of Andrew joins us. Andrew is the editor of Top Gear Magazine SA and happens to be the same age as Richard. Together, they share notes on child rearing and finding the best family doctor.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio

So I feel it’s no coincidence then that the younger two of the group fell head over heels for the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, while the older bunch really didn’t fancy it that much. Maybe bigger issues in life have made them lose their sense of fun? Who knows. I’m not insinuating that the older you get, the more boring you become, I would never do that…never ever…

However, it seems that maybe the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is the SUV for the younger person even though you need older person money to afford it. It’s a catch 22 really. The Stelvio throws things at you, that you don’t expect – hot hatch driving dynamics being one of them. It’s quite surprising to be fooled into thinking you’re driving a Golf GTI, when you’re actually in a midsize SUV. Another thrilling factor about the Stelvio, is the fact that it’s rather quick. Put your foot down and you notice the digital speedometer climb rather quickly, much faster than expected – especially since it’s powered by a 2.0l turbocharged engine. Turn a corner and notice the front end turn in quite sharply. Again, more than expected. In the end, you find yourself becoming quite giddy in this vehicle, like when your parents would step out the house for some milk and you could be naughtier than usual. That’s what happens when you’re in a 206kW/400N.m Italian SUV with some heritage behind the brand.

You see, while many ( Richard and Andrew ) see SUV’s as only needing to be large vehicles with lots of space for your children, your friend’s children and the expensive bike you use once in a blue moon – the Stelvio offers more. Yes, it ticks the boxes when it comes to safety, it has a quality interior and offers modern technology. Above that, it’s also quite fast which makes it quite exciting – something other vehicles in the Alfa Romeo Stelvios league don’t offer. They may even be better than the Stelvio in other ways, but the Alfa brings with it a fun personality.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio

The performance SUV segment is one that often causes debate. Some lament that they “don’t need to be SO sharp, or be THAT fast”, but the question is why not? Why can’t certain SUV’s offer both the practicality and space, whilst also being a little invigorating too? In the age of extensive choice, there’s a place for an SUV such as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. It’s not a full-blown eye-watering performance SUV (the QV variant will fill the gap). What it is however, is a good middle ground option.  

The thing is, the Stelvio will set you back R834 000, which is not exactly cheap. If you do some scratching around, you’re bound to find more value for money products. That being said, buying into the Alfa brand is never a purchase based on practicality, but rather one based on emotion. So, if you’re an Alfa lover, this SUV is for you because it does evoke emotion and kudos to them for staying true to their brand ethos. For me, the Stelvio is a great SUV. It looks the part, feels the part and drives the part too. As a future young dad, I’d appreciate a good thrill once in a while, when the princes and princesses are tucked away in bed of course. Now it’s just a matter of convincing Richard and Andrew.

 

Theta S 360 Camera

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

Design

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

Usability – fool-proof?

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

Tech

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

To buy or not to buy?

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

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

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

 

Grown up yet young at heart: Audi’s new Q7 driven.

Slimmer, smarter and better.

Getting older is a funny and weird thing. You start to notice changes in not only how you view the world but also, how you use it. Not only do I not drink beer any more (let’s be completely honest, it doesn’t taste nice and most of us drink it to fit in) but my choice in cars has swayed a bit too. Not only do I look at performance and how the car makes me feel, but I find myself looking at the boot space of a car and asking my wife strange questions like, “do you think a pram will fit in the boot?” and “does it come standard with ISOFIX” I mean ISOFIX, really!?

This was worsened when we had the new Audi Q7 on test. To be honest, when our editor said, “you need to drive this car!” I was a little taken back by just looking at it. The previous Q7 had left me feeling underwhelmed and it was just too big. Sure it could do what the other SUV’s could, but in my opinion it wasn’t as refined as its competitors, and it felt dated too.

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So off I went, leaving my BMW 435i in the basement and into the boxier new Q7. Man, was I surprised. What immediately struck me were the proportions of the car. Yes it’s big, but the car seems to have shrunk from its predecessor. Visually, it’s sleek and understated, it also has those lovely day time running lights due to the optional Matrix headlights that seem to have been taken straight out of the movie Tron. I walked around the new Q7 and felt like Joey from the sitcom Friends as I asked the car “How you doin?” (If you don’t get that joke, you’re too young.)

The surprises kept on coming as I got more acquainted with the car. The premium interior trim, long dashboard, ease of controls and most importantly, Audi’s biggest party trick the Virtual Cockpit all impressed me. Despite all of this I was still sceptical because I still remember how the old girl drove, surely it’s still a tank that’s an absolute mess to park? Wrong again Richard.

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This latest model, with its 3.0 TDI producing 185kW and 600Nm, made me think of the “as smooth as a hot knife through butter” cliché. It glides and gets up to speed very quickly. After a few hours, I didn’t miss my 225kW daily drive at all. There are some back roads on my adventurous route home and I decided this was going to be a good challenge for the new Q7. I dove in aggressively to the first of many sharp corners and the steering feedback as well as the suspension setup surely hides the cars’ weight and it proceeded to devour the bends in a way a 4×4 shouldn’t. It seemed to look back at me and say, “is that all you’ve got?” All of this is due to the lower centre of gravity on the new Q7 compared to the previous car, as well as a weight reduction of 325 kilograms.

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Another test was the “wife test”, since most wife’s have the biggest influence in car choices. So I picked up my wife and found an excuse for us to go out for dinner and I pleasantly found out that I wasn’t the only one to be bitten by the Q7 bug. The feature that she liked the most? The fact that the car does not feel big inside and is therefore not intimidating to drive or to be a passenger in. What didn’t she like? The fact that new Q7 didn’t look as exciting as other SUV’s on the road, something we agreed to disagree on. So the car had so far passed some key tests.

To say I was impressed by the new Q7 is an understatement. My current favourite SUV was the not so new Range Rover Sport TDV6, but this new Q7 I found was more exciting and dynamic. I’m glad that the ugly duckling now has a chance of becoming the “prom queen”, but we can’t give it the crown until we drive the new Volvo XC90, a car that is the current SA Car of the Year. That being said, the new Q7 is better at everything than the car it replaces and yes it can fit a pram in the boot and it does have ISOFIX. The good thing is that despite it making me indulge in my mature desires even more, it still made me feel young. Which is a lot to say for a car intended for families. Starting at R907 000, it’s competitively priced in its segment too.

The New VW Caddy: Test Driven

As we were driving through the Valley of a thousand hills on a beautiful Durban morning, the road ahead swept and as we turned the corner, we noticed the green lush scenery swooshing by.  As we turned into another corner and applied some power, “this Caddy is fun!” we thought. Sorry what, a Volkswagen Caddy being fun? Yes, you read correctly.  It’s not the kind of vehicle you would imagine having fun in on the road, but the Caddy 4 took us by surprise.

Our test run of this vehicle started at King Shaka International Airport with our destination being deep in the Natal Midlands, a beautiful countryside area with some of the best scenery in the country. It’s the type of place you would imagine enjoying a hot hatch or sports car on, due to its twisty roads. The VW Caddy, though, was also very enjoyable. We drove two Caddy’s, the first being a manual 81kW 2.0TDI. Let’s be honest, 81kW is not much power but that  being said, the Caddy 4 did not feel underpowered at all, mainly due to the torque from the turbocharger.

The VW caddy 4 comes under the commercial vehicle range, but it doesn’t really feel like a commercial vehicle. For starters, the interior is clean and crisp, extremely spacious and stylish. The steering wheel felt and looked like something you would find in a passenger car. Most noticeably the large infotainment system finished things off nicely, a very nice cabin indeed.When it comes to handling, one can turn in quickly into a corner and you don’t end up with a heap of body roll. This vehicle has the capacity of carrying eight people and considering all of that, one wouldn’t expect it to handle very well, but it does a good job. The car took the Midlands’ sweeping bends in its stride, it’s safe to say that this is not a boring commercial vehicle at all. Heading back to Durban the following day after a fantastic evening, we had the chance to drive the other more powerful automatic 2.0 TDI. The manual vehicle was good, but we wouldn’t recommend it over the 103kW DSG variant.  The extra 21kW really makes a difference, when cruising and overtaking it gets up to speed that much  faster, making for an easier and more comfortable drive. The DSG gearbox is smooth and precise, sport mode was also perfect for the windy route. You will have to part with an extra R40K for the DSG gearbox, but it’s definitely worth it.

At the end of the day, this is a commercial vehicle and one sees that due to how Volkswagen have made it incredibly easy to remove all the rear seats. A simple pull on a lever and the whole seat system slides out, fantastic if you need to load equipment or you’re going away for the weekend. Adding to the versatility is the option of either a tailgate or twin doors, each come with their own advantages and based on user preferences. The Caddy 4 also features some nifty technology systems, such as driver fatigue systems, reversing camera, advanced infotainment, and our favourite, anti-collision braking. This is a system which applies full braking power after the vehicle has been in an accident, which helps eliminate the chance of a secondary collision. There are various models of  the Caddy ranging from a stripped-down panel-van and Crew bus aimed at the commercial market to the Trendline and Alltrack aimed at the more private user. Longer wheelbase Maxi versions are also available which differentiate themselves by adding a generous 469mm of length.

Overall we enjoyed our experience with new Volkswagen Caddy, we were pleasantly surprised with the comfort levels in the car. The exterior looks fantastic and it really wouldn’t look out of place sitting next to passenger Volkswagens which are more sporty. It looks more like a sibling rather than an ugly cousin and fits into the entire range well. It’s also worth noting that VW South Africa have not been affected by the emissions saga at all so don’t let that discourage you from buying a diesel. The panel vans start at the R230 000 mark, crew buses come in at a similar starting price of R226 000 while the Trendline and Alltrack will cost you around R350 000 depending on specification.

Zooped up: Hyundai i20 Sport

Remember the time guys would buy ordinary hatchbacks and slowly but surely turn them into something more radical? Most car lovers have gone through a time where a go faster kit, bigger wheels and a loud exhaust pipe was all you wanted. Well Hyundai have realised that this is an inevitable phase in a car lovers life and as a result they have created something to appeal to this market.

What happens when you take an i20 and give it some boy racer treatment? You get what they call the Hyundai i20 Sport. A set 17 inch alloy wheels, a sports kit and a cat back exhaust later and you’re ready to hit the streets. By hit the streets we don’t mean that you’re going to go out there and win races, after all you only have 85 kW/ 160 Nm coming out of that 1.4 litre engine, even though the car has been given a performance chip. So don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a powerhouse, it’s not.

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How does it drive?

The Hyundai i20 Sport is solid in terms of ride quality. The lower suspension and firm damping means that it corners well too. Even though that little engine is not that fast, it’s not terrible slow either, but with the exhaust screaming along, you feel like you’re going much faster than you are.

What does it cost?

This is where the Hyundai i20 Sport will face a challenge, because it costs R 253 900. That puts it up against the Suzuki Swift Sport and the Opel Corsa Sport. The Suzuki is an exciting little car but the Opel Corsa Sport is the most appealing in this segment because unlike its normally aspirated competitors, it has a turbocharger and much more power. The Corsa Sport is also more refined than both the Hyundai and the Suzuki.

Verdict.

If the Hyundai i20 Sport cost less, it would be a much more appealing package. Unfortunately, it’s price is going to hinder it against the competition. On the bright side, though, at least it has a loud exhaust and some shiny wheels.

 

 

Five new features in the new Jaguar XF.

What you can expect in the new Jaguar XF.

jaguar-xf_040

The Jaguar XF was the first car in the brand to feature the modern lines we see in many new Jaguars today. Since its initial launch in 2007, the car has undergone some facelifts, making it look sleeker than what it already was. Now 2016 brings us a new XF in South Africa and you can expect to see these interesting new features in the car.

  • Jaguar’s new InControl infotainment touch screen system: This system features Bluetooth, USB and a feature called JaguarVoice.
  • Head-up display: This is a first for the Jaguar XF and it will feature useful information that will be projected to the drivers line of sight via the windscreen.

 

  • LED Bi-Xenon headlights: All XF models will feature this light design. Like it’s younger sibling the XE, the XF will have the beautiful  “J” design LED light strips.

 

  • Lane Keep Assist & Driver Conditioning Monitoring: These safety features are extremely important especially on the long trips that many XF drivers will be doing. The Lane Keep Assist stops the car from veering into another lane and the Driver Conditioning Monitoring will warn drivers and encourage them to take needed rests during a long trip.
  • Pedestrian Contact Sensing: The new Jaguar XF doesn’t only have the driver’s safety in mind, but the pedestrians too. The Pedestrian Contact Sensing feature uses air-bags to lift the bonnet in the unfortunate event of hitting a pedestrian. This will reduce the injury to the pedestrian upon impact.

Besides all these new technologies, the new Jaguar XF features some sharp lines, an aggressive front grille and large interior space. This car comes in at the right time as Mercedes will launch its E-Class soon and BMW will launch its 5 Series later this year too.

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Opel Corsa Sport: Baby boy racer.

We wish Opel’s reasoning as to why the Corsa Sport has wind-up windows in the rear was because of weight saving. That’s the only logical explanation we can think of, even if we know it’s not true. At least with that explanation, boy racers can use it as a bragging tool at meet-ups when the topic comes up.

It was a very annoying thing to realise, mainly because by the time we realised it, we had talked up the Corsa Sport so much to our peers. How great it drives, how economical it is and how well built it is are but a few of the praises we gave it until someone piped up and said “why doesn’t it have electric windows in the back?”. Then silence occurred, “your face has no electric windows in the back!” we wanted to say, but that wouldn’t have worked, so we had no come back.

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That’s the thing about the new Corsa’s, they’re very good so you end up growing too attached to them. Maybe it’s the looks, maybe it’s the comfortable hugging seats or maybe it’s because as a normal day to day car, it does such a fine job even when you’re driving like a civilised person. The Corsa Sport is not the fastest thing to come out of the brand and competitors like the Suzuki Swift Sport provide a better cheap thrill. But, thrills only last so long, as long as you have an empty road which isn’t often nowadays.

So it’s when you’re doing everyday things that you come to really appreciate the Corsa Sport. It’s when you need to overtake, or when that more luxurious German brand tries to move you off the right lane, but you decide to show him/her that you too can keep up. It’s also when you look at it, and those Bi-Xenon light’s give you a wink and that front end smiles at you. It’s then that you appreciate that this is a good all round package, the same feeling we had with Sunny, the Sport’s 1.0-litre sibling.

Maybe that’s why Opel didn’t bother with the rear electric windows and instead gave us PDC, reverse camera, City Steering and touch screen infotainment as standard. They knew that as irritating as it will be, it won’t be a make or break factor. Maybe it will be for non-boy-racers who knows? But for those that enjoy some fun behind the wheel, they can just say it’s for “weight saving”. So if you’re into a little excitement but at the same time want a good looking, quality car, then perhaps the 110 kW from the Sport’s 1.4-litre turbo is for you. At just under R260 000, it’s well priced for a junior hot(ish) hatch.

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