Toyota Prius – The Consumption Challenge

The Toyota Prius Consumption Challenge

When mentioning hybrid vehicles the first car that still springs to my mind is the Toyota Prius. The fact is that hybrid technology has been around since 1665 with a priest and an astronomer at the forefront, even Austrian born Dr. Ferdinand Porsche had a go at creating a hybrid. Over the years Toyota has done their research and improved the hybrid technology, which has been cleverly integrated into the Prius.

The most obvious and important feature is the improved efficiency of the new power plant over the old. Toyota has taken it a step further with some additional “earth friendly” features. Let’s start with the solar sunroof, which helps keep the car cool when parked in the hot African sun. To make the vehicle even cooler you can use the immobilizer remote to switch the air conditioning on before getting into the vehicle. Love that feature.

Driving the Prius made me feel like I was doing something for the environment, but was I? A challenge was set by Toyota on twitter to get the vehicle to 4.2 l\100km as claimed by them. After clearing the trip I was ready for the challenge. I set off on electric or EV mode. A few kilometers in, I was on 3.2 and thinking this might be possible. Freewheeling as much as possible and using the regenerative braking system I managed to keep the batteries at full capacity. Being very frugal on the accelerator, trying to use the EV mode as much as possible, by the time I reached the half way mark of my 20km journey, the batteries where empty. That’s when the petrol motor kicked in. I had to use Eco mode, which meant a combination of the electric, and petrol engine. This did not help the consumption, but at the end of the day when I reached my destination I had managed to get 3.8 l\100km. To achieve 3.8 was no easy feat though, I had to select my route carefully and drive at about 40 when not freewheeling. So yes the figures are achievable, however if you trying to keep up with the flow of Joburg traffic it makes it a bit difficult.
On average my consumption was around the 5.0 to 5.5 l\100km under normal driving conditions in traffic traveling from Nortcliff to Sandton every day. That’s not bad considering it’s a 1.8 petrol however, this got me thinking with all this great technology why not run a smaller turbo diesel or petrol motor for better consumption? The other reason would be for power on the open road, the engine sounds like its straining when you need to overtake or go up a hill, which again does not help with consumption.

On the positive side, the Toyota Prius is very surprising when it comes to space. We managed to get the following in comfortably: two bags of organic fertilizer and a few plants, four shopping bags and a pram, two kids and the wife ready to direct traffic and still had space for the aunt in the middle. With the car loaded the drive home was still very comfortable.

The Prius definitely has its place as one of the greats when it comes to the advancement in hybrid technology, but at R381 100,00 it’s a bit heavy on the pocket. There are other options out there if you are looking to save fuel. The one that stands out for me with similar consumption figures would be the VW Golf Blue Motion 1.6 TDI priced at R284 000,00. 

The Toyota Prius is still a technological masterpiece showing off how far the world has come in hybrid technology and efficient motoring. But it's no longer alone. 

Follow me on Twitter @Weso506

BMW 116i 3-door Sport Line

BMW 116i SPort Line Car Review
BMW 116i Sport Line

I drove the old 1 series BMW 5-door a few years ago and I really hated it. The overall design was flawed in that everything seemed to be packaged with the lack of space in mind. The rear was cramped, as was the boot and even the front was cosier than I would expect from BMW’s first foray into hatchback-land. I liked the departure from traditional hatchback styling and I liked that it was rear wheel drive but that was it really.

Taking delivery of the new 116i Sport Line 3-door model, I wasn’t going to make the same comparisons of space. I was going to judge this Crimson Red 3-door hatch on its own merits, of which it has plenty.

First off, it looks fantastic. I love the unmistakeable ‘waistline’ that extends from the rear tail light clusters all the way to the fenders. I also love the double spoke 18 inchers that give the car its sporty presence. If you don’t know, BMW offers the new 1 series in either Urban Line; Sport Line & M-Sport Line packages. The Urban line is supposedly more metropolitan and offers exterior aesthetic options such as white mirror caps, white slats in the grille, different wheel options and more trendy body colours from which to choose. The interior options also include similar optional appointments and I assume this Urban Line package appeals more to art directors and food stylists than people like me. I am not a big fan of the Urban Line package but what is great about the options is that it gives the 1- series a broader appeal which is great for people like you and me...and the art directors.

Exterior Styling appointments on the Sport Line 

If you’re in it for the love of the drive, then this entry-level 1 series won’t disappoint. It’s purposeful and dynamic and produces 100kW from the 1,6 TwinPower Turbo unit. That’s the same power as my Peugeot 307 but it’s so much faster. (Yes, we matched them up). It’s also so much more fun and a genuinely thrilling drive. The steering is perfectly weighted as is the solid gearshift action and the engine in Sport mode feels strong and aurally exciting. The BMW 50:50 weight distribution and the rear-wheel drive make swift changes of direction a lot of fun particularly in Sport mode. I’ve come to expect this level of driver-joy from BMW but to experience it from a 116i entry level car is extraordinary.

18 inch double spoke alloys create a sport, purposeful presence

Is it fuel efficient? Is it considerate towards our environment? I am not best suited to say but it continues BMW’s Efficient Driving Dynamics thinking with Brake Energy Regeneration; Start/Stop system and ECO pro mode. Driving with this in mind, I managed to do 7,6l/100km after 220km of driving in urban Johannesburg which is really good considering I wasn’t testing this car solely based on its fuel consumption.

The BMW 1 series is what the marketers at BMW would use to lure younger buyers to the brand and then hopefully keep them brand loyal and track them into bigger and more expensive Beemers as the years roll on. I’ve never met any more brand loyal people than BMW drivers so what they’ve managed to do with this new 116i Sport Line is brilliant. It’s 100% BMW and the Sheer Driving Pleasure motto is completely fitting for this car in the same way that it is for a BMW Z4. You can also buy a new 1 series according to a host of options so that the car you end up in is exactly you. So there’s many reasons to visit a BMW dealer to talk about this car.

Sport Line / Urban Line M135i 116i
In BMW fashion interior appointments are functional and simple
The base list price for this particular model is R283,000 but you could spec this car to cost more than R400,000 if you wanted absolutely everything on the options list. The car I drove was specced with niceties like Lane Departure Warning, the BMW Professional SatNav package and reversing camera.

I really didn’t like the first 1 series but I really do like this one. It looks the part, plays the part and in typical BMW style it does so in impeccable fashion. I haven’t driven the new M135i that everyone is raving about but so far, I would say this 116i Sport Line is possibly the best value car in the range.

AM -

Citroën DS5 – Aesthetic Genius

If you watched Avatar in its opening weekend before other people could tell you about it, you probably walked out of the cinema a little dumbfounded? It’s because you had just witnessed something never-seen-before; something that was extraordinary film genius.

Every now and then the world experiences these breathtaking moments of brilliance. Think on icons like Usain Bolt & Felix Baumgartner; or on unexplainable phenomenons like Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga. These examples are all people, but they all have the ability to take your breath away and make you feel alive even if just for a few seconds.

The Citroën DS5 is the same. I have never laid eyes on a car that inspired so many thoughts and dare I say it, emotions. From every angle the car is a remarkable prodigy that seems so ahead of its time. It’s a designer’s wet-dream turned into an even better reality. And it’s a real car in production and on sale in South Africa right now.

When the drama settles (it never quite ends) you realise the detail with which this car has come off the production line. Starting from the rear, the twin chrome tailpipe surrounds are like nothing you have ever seen. They’re dramatic and shapely and remind me of those on a Lamborghini Aventador. They sit on either side of a black strip made of a glossy material that is also used on the rear spoiler that juts out the top of the rear. It’s beautiful. The side profile continues the use of chrome detailing just below the doors that is accentuated by the mix of black and chrome 19” alloys. From the A-pillar to the front bumper, pronounced chrome ‘swords’ extend to separate the bonnet from the fender and it is here that I found myself the most gobsmacked. It’s just so different and detailed. 

This car was based on a concept car first shown to the public in 2005 and I must say, the real car is so much better looking than the concept. That doesn't happen often. 

While the exterior is bewildering there’s no letting up when you open the door. If anything, the interior detailing is even more 'awe' some. The leather seats feature a very cool watch-strap design with colour coded stitching to match. They’re supple and as always feature heated, electric, massage function comfort. The facia design and cabin in general was inspired by the aero industry but I get a sneaky suspicion that some plane manufacturers have probably taken a note out of the Citroën book. It’s properly beautiful in here with distinctively crafted buttons and switchgear for the windows and traction control. Look up and there are a few more switches, 3 of which operate the electrically adjustable blinds revealing an awesome glass roof. That’s one blind each for the driver and passenger and one larger one for the rear seat. It’s insanely brilliant.

There are some problems with the DS5: the car I drove was the THP 200 Sport version and it featured the brushed metal ‘grey aluminium’ trim. In all honesty, this was just too much. It was too polished and a little brash in my opinion. A simpler, more plain brushed metal would have been fine, but that is a personal preference and this option is not standard by any means. I would spec my DS5 differently.

There are more problems when you wipe your mouth, realise this is a car and actually drive it. The first issue is that the ride is way too hard. The 19 inch low-profile wheels don’t help and I cannot say the drive is comfortable on anything less than very good roads. If the car was blisteringly quick and handled like a sportscar, then I wouldn’t mind but it doesn’t handle exceptionally at all which brings me to the next problem. The steering is very dead and putting down 147kW of power to the front-driven wheels doesn’t inspire any confidence. The engine is the same high pressure 1,6 turbo unit that is used across the cars in the stable as well as by Mini and Peugeot. So it's a good engine with the typical qualities of a turbo, but it's the way it puts that power down that was disappointing. I didn't enjoy the drive.

Citroën has thrown out the design rulebook and made a car that is like a mobile piece of art. I wouldn’t even call the DS5 beautiful, but rather striking, breathtaking genius. It has 4 doors and a boot which makes it fairly practical should you be looking to buy a stylish, unique looking 'family car'. But they seem to have forgotten to use the same thinking in designing how this mobile flamboyance struts it’s stuff on the road. That's it's only shortfall. 

At just under R400, 000 the big question is, would I buy it or recommend you buy it? At this price range, this is the league of 3 series, C-classes and even VW GTi 35 editions and brand new B-Classes. My answer would be a NO. For me, the genius, exclusive design is amazing but I am most interested in the way a car drives and for this reason, I feel a little let down by this Citroën. The DS5 is not terrible to drive, but it lacks the lustre that is found in every other aspect of the car.

On the design and presence scale though, nothing comes close.

AM -

Nissan Pathfinder 3.0dCi V6 – The Mayor of Tough City

Nissan Pathfinder 4X4
Nissan Pathfinder - Mr Big! 
If I had to judge the cars I drive solely on the basis of how they make me feel, the Nissan Pathfinder would possibly be one of the best. If you’re surprised by that then you haven’t quite got the full picture of this car but in a nutshell, it’s big, chunky and powerful. What more could a man ask for? If Nissan needed a mayor for the folk and workhorses of Tough City, then this would him without a doubt.

Nissan is good at making tough cars of all sizes and in the Pathfinder, the philosophy seems to have been, ‘Size DOES count’. Everything about this car is big. The boxy design may come across as quite unimaginative but this design has made way for vast amounts of space in the cabin. The Pathfinder is a proper 7-seater if you need a tough people-mover. For the utilitarian in you, the cabin is practical enough for you to fold down all the seats transforming your car into a full on man-cave.

The bigness continues as you settle in to the driver’s seat. The entire facia that houses all the switchgear and multimedia screen is very big and extends well into the breathing space of the passenger side. I would generally think this would be a problem but the system is quite well arranged and as much as it may look over engineered at first, it’s fairly easy to operate and feels solid and chunky to the touch. The interface of this multimedia system is fully loaded with everything from touchscreen functionality, Bluetooth phone preparation, iPod connectivity via Bluetooth or Auxiliary inputs and even a Music Box storage system. This system allows for CD’s or even USB files to be transferred to the Music Box, and then played at a later stage without having to change CD’s all the time. The leather seats are also heated and electrically adjustable with 2 memory settings. To make parking this big guy easier, there is a fantastic reversing camera fitted to the rear tailgate.

On the safety front, this SUV has the full complement of front, curtain and side airbags. Dynamically, the ABS and EBD are standard as is Nissan’s Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and their Active Brake Limited Slip system (ABLS). Make no mistake; this car is a full house supersize package deal.

In keeping with the theme of toughness, the powertrain on this Nissan Pathfinder doesn't disappoint. This latest updated SUV features Nissan’s newest Diesel engine which is a 170kW mill. The 550Nm of torque is delivered from low down in the rev range(1,750rpm) which makes this machine the ideal tool for trekking over some tough terrain. As we like to do, we laid down some tough 4X4 obstacles for the Pathfinder on a wet and cold Saturday morning in the heart of Krugersdorp. The playing field was littered with Toyota Land Cruisers; Isuzu KB’s; Jeep Wranglers and yes, some Toyota Hilux and Fortuners were also in the mix. Everybody got a turn to show their muscle and thankfully, the Pathfinder didn't let us down. It wasn't the best in terms of approach and departure angles and we did have a few knocks on the undercarriage where the Fortuners and Wranglers didn’t have an issue. But other than that, the torque delivery in Lo range made the climbs very easy. Switching between 2WD, 4HI or 4LO was as easy as turning the chunky switch just above the gear lever. This switch also has an auto button that reads the terrain for you, and then changes the drivetrain accordingly to deal with it.

Rough terrain made easy
I love this car! I love the high driving position and the solid, robust design of everything. I love that it is fully loaded with high-end features and spec but still appears and feels tough and rugged. I love this diesel engine especially off-road and I love the man-cave space that this car offers for any lifestyle. Okay fine, on tar, the drive is not as refined as in some SUV’s I’ve driven and as heavy things go, it understeers very quickly. Okay fine, it's probably not the newest of cars on the road and the new one is already out and about in the USA. So what? This car makes me feel bigger than I am, like a mayor in a pretend-city of other wannabe tough people.

Some have raised eyebrows about the R681, 150 price tag and in some respects I understand. But the true competitor of this car is not the Toyota Fortuner but rather some higher end SUV players like the Jeep Grand Cherokee. So yes, it may seem quite expensive at first, but that’s a tough argument when you get into it. Literally.

- AM

2012 Mercedes Benz ML350 BE – 4MATIC FOR REAL

Mercedes Benz ML350 BlueEFFICIENCY 4MATIC
South Africans love cars. So much so that we give some of them nicknames that stand long past the car has stopped being manufactured. The old Toyota Corolla in coloured circles was called the ‘Vaunch’. The ‘Gusheshe’ 325is is an iconic car today. Other cars were the ‘Dolphin’ E36 3 series BMW. And so the list could go on. The previous generation M-class also has a name that caught on. It is sometimes called the ‘FORMATIC!’ I clearly remember many friends telling tales about people they knew who drove FORMATIC’s.

I laughed at these tales because I knew that not all previous-gen M-Classes had the 4WD ‘4MATIC’ spec. Some did of course, but I don’t think many people knew that.

Powerful 225kW V6 Motor coupled to an Intelligent 4 Wheel Drive Suspension

So in comes the new 2012, Mercedes Benz ML series of premium SUV and guess what? They are all 4MATIC spec cars. So the name, if it sticks will fit right in now. The car we drove was the ML350 BlueEFFICIENCY 4MATIC. It’s the bottom of the range V6 petrol engine derivative that pumps out 225kW and it’s no slouch. At this end of the motoring scale you wouldn’t expect it to be but it really has a huge surge of power the minute you touch the accelerator and it builds to a subdued howl as it climbs through the rev range. Considering that this is the base version of the petrol-engine derivatives it’s got a lot of punch but is also 15% more fuel efficient with a Mercedes Benz claimed figure of 8.8l/100km on the combined cycle. (according to Mercedes Benz)

A few of my friends commented that the car was too soft; too comfortable and not aggressive enough. All of these were boys who couldn’t afford the ML350BE in the first place. The M-class is a premium SUV and its meant to be talented at many things all in one package. It is definitely comfortable. The drive feels like premium comfort with a silent cabin. To add to the experience, the interior is a near perfect fusion of luxury needs in simple, functional and elegant packaging. The COMAND system easily allows you to control everything from your music and multimedia set up, to the phone and navigation via a Toggle control in the centre console. There is also more legroom front and rear and with the rear seats and backrests folded down, the loading space is a cavernous 2000 cubic decimetres. Once you have packed the load compartment, the ML features a one-touch Easy Pack tailgate button that closes the boot for you. Easy-peasy.

As always the SUV Merc is filled with technology and safety specifications of the highest standard but it never seems overwhelming or complex. The ML350 BE is so easy and simple and though you know the tech is everywhere you only really experience it when it is in use. Coupled to the V6 engine, the car also features a 7 Speed transmission, start-off assist for when you’re on an incline, electric steering, Active Blind Spot Assist (so you don’t change lanes in dangerous situations), Lane Keeping Assist (in case you’re getting low on concentration and veer off into another lane unintentionally), a driver drowsiness detection system(that warns you to take a coffee break after every couple hours behind the wheel as well the full complement of active braking systems and safety features.

So with all that said, don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a cushy SUV good for parking on pavements in Sandton and without any off-road skills. It isn’t. The 4MATIC system is a permanent all-wheel drive system but by pressing a few buttons on the centre console you can: raise the suspension; engage off-road mode; engage the Downhill Speed Regulation (DSR) and be on your way over some rough terrain. Driving off road is easier than driving on-road. Merc has made it so simple.

I put the Mercedes Benz ML350 BE 4MATIC through some tough off-road obstacles in front of Land Rover Defender and Toyota Land Cruiser owners who watched with gaping mouths. The Mercedes conquered without anything worse than getting a little bit of mud on its alloy wheels and onto its undercarriage. It made me look good and I didn’t have to try so hard.

So here it is: The Mercedes Benz ML350 Blue EFFICIENCY. It’s an all-rounder. It combines high levels of comfort and luxury with impressive off-road capabilities. It makes a good case as a family vehicle; a luxury vehicle; a utility vehicle and even as a lifestyle, off-road vehicle. It’s a complete package of a car.  

The ML350 BE 4MATIC costs R752, 000. All Mercedes Benz cars come with the 6year/120,000km MobiloDrive maintenance plan as standard.

Subaru XV - A Wise Decision

Spending some time in the Subaru XV made me realise the weight that the Subaru name carries. Subaru has become iconic in all vaguely familiar motoring circles for producing absurdly fast and planted all-wheel drive cars with BIG wings. Even my wife told me that. So I showed up in a bright Tangerine Orange Subaru with a raised ride height; roof rails and a cross over design: She was surprised...pleasantly so.

Subaru XV on Ground clearance
Class-leading ground clearance of 220mm

In all seriousness, the Subaru XV shouldn’t surprise anyone if you consider cars like the Forrester; Outback and Tribeca models. The XV is just a very natural progression in the Subaru stable to produce reliable, balanced and versatile cars. The XV is built with their acclaimed Symmetrical AWD system and I say ‘acclaimed’ because I’ve given it the thumbs up. I’ve always enjoyed AWD cars because of how balanced and forgiving they are especially when something goes wrong. The Subaru XV is so composed and seems to self-regulate as conditions of its driver’s idiocy increase.

The car arrived in the blazing Spring sunshine but a few hours later, low and behold, the Johannesburg thunderstorms struck and the rain pelted on and off for 2 days. I was grateful to be in the Subaru as I had never seen so much rain in my life and like all Jo’burgers I had forgotten how to drive in the rain.
I also took the car off the black stuff to test its ability on some gravel and muddy roads and once again, it was so calm. The ride height of this crossover means that even conquering some 300mm depths of orange coloured muddy water was the easiest fun I’ve had. Subaru claim class-leading ground clearance of 220mm which is starting to play in the league’s of some proper SUV’s. Subaru’s legendary Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) system is standard with ABS; EBD and BAS.

The cross over concept appeals to those looking for practically and versatility in a more stylish package. The 60/40 Split rear seats allow for easy access and accommodation of the dogs; shopping; mountain bike and wife, although possibly not all at the same time.  The interior is laid out with all the expected technologies and creature comforts including a proper Multimedia system that plays almost all content formats including the now tired CD’s and DVD’s PLUS Bluetooth, iPod Connectivity and SatNav. The multi-function steering wheel allows you to adjust most modes to suit your taste, and houses the cruise control function. The most important interior impression on this car was the leather seats embroidered in orange XV lettering. It’s not the aesthetics that I loved, but the sheer comfort of the seats. I know this seems a simple deal...seats are just seats right? Wrong, of all cars I have driven this year, these were undoubtedly the most comfortable seats I’ve sat in. I was also rather happy with the legroom in the rear of the car. It’s not astounding but certainly more comfortable to sit in the back of the XV than the BMW X1 we featured earlier in the year.

The crown jewel
The 6 speed Subaru XV is fitted with a 2.0 litre Boxer engine that produces 110kW and on paper that may seem fairly standard...which it actually is. The XV doesn’t pack STi performance. Not even close. I was actually a little disappointed with the lack of power from the engine even if you do rev the car excessively. BUT...and it’s a big one – what the engine lacks in straight forward power, it more than makes up for at the pumps. We’ve just had 2 petrol price increases in the past month and that is big consideration for anyone looking to buy a car. This car is the class-leader in fuel consumption in its class, having won the Economy Run in August 2012. We put the car through its paces and still turned up an 8,0l per 100km in the end that Subaru was ‘disappointed’ about. I wasn’t disappointed at all. 

The very frugal 2.0l Subaru XV's powerplant

So the Subaru XV is a flexible cross over vehicle with family-friendly appeal and a roomy, comfortable interior. It’s very capable on the open road or off it, in the most glorious picnic sunshine or the worst Joburg Thunderstorm. It’s very very frugal for a car of this size and weight and just when you think it can’t get any better it hits you with a R329, 000 price tag.

If this car suits your lifestyle right now, I have no counter against it. Yes, the engine is not hair-raising but it will save you in between fill-ups and that’s the trade-off. My wife didn’t like the looks, especially the black wheels but that’s very subjective which is what buying a car is about.

BMW 640d - A Coupé to look up to

The BMW 6 series is not what you’d call boring, understated or lacking in presence. It’s an almost perfect coupé that blends elegance and sportiness into arguably the best looking Coupé on sale in South Africa. The 640d model featured here is an uber luxurious tourer that is painfully close to being a perfect car. It is so close to being faultless and that in itself may just be its biggest problem.

The design language of the 6 series Coupé was inspired by the characteristics of water and the translation is evident in the smooth and flowing roofline with frameless doors; the fall of the bonnet towards that signature kidney grille and the subtly flaired wheel arches that spread over 20 inch V-spoke wheels. Bespoke but undeniably BMW, the LED headlights with two three-dimensional light rings feature smart and safe technology like high beam assistance when approaching oncoming cars as well as Adaptive Headlights that adapt to steering inputs and ensure the road ahead is always well lit. The 6 series is so well shaped and aesthetically appealing that it is almost imperceptible. It turns heads more from its presence than from an overtly striking design. People glare at it uncontrollably but only when it’s directly in front of them. I received so many looks of varying types that I could have written this article just on that.

Before we get to the big boast of the 640d, let’s hunker down and step into the driver’s seat where your senses are stroked by the lavish interior. There is a healthy dose of what money can buy including beautifully crafted leather sports seats imbued in Vermilion Red leather trim; a Bang & Olufsen sound system with 16 speakers each forged from aluminium and tuned to deliver the best balance of crisp 3D sound you’ve heard in a car before and the famous BMW iDrive controller from which all the vehicle information and connectivity is controlled. The large 10,2 inch HD display: Cooool!!!  

With the key fob still in your pocket, a firm push of the Start/Stop button and the magical Diesel engine roars to life. It’s a twin turbo 3,0l diesel motor that provides the muscle for the 640d. Whilst some may look twice at the variance from some of BMW’s naming conventions, this one is different. BMW TwinPower Turbo technology features two turbos of varying sizes that deliver the punch, one operating lower down the rev range and a larger one operating higher up in the rev range. The result when you plant your foot is a very small delay while the turbos start their work, and then an undramatic but very noticeable surge of power as you blast into the distance. For a diesel engine it’s something I’ve never experienced before. The sheer power of it is absurd but it’s not presented in a mess of smoke, noise and screeching tyres. It’s suave and composed like Usain Bolt when he steps over the finish line after his 200m world-record shattering sprint.

BMW 640d Coupe BMW Blog BMW review
Possibly one of the best diesel engines around
Via a button next to the shift selector you can also change the way you want the car to behave. 5 settings are on the menu from Eco Pro to Comfort, Comfort + to Sport and Sport +. From the former, these incrementally stiffen the steering, sharpen the throttle and change the gearshift patterns for a more and more performance oriented ride. In all except the Sport modes the BMW 640d Coupé is so comfortable on the open road and really does consume long stretches with envious alacrity. Switch the car to Sport + mode and the ride shapes up to be more purposeful and aggressive. It was in this mode and under some hard driving that I realised the full spectrum of this car’s excellence and it is here that I must reveal what excellence looks like in numbers.
The power in this BMW 640d Coupé is 230kW at 4,400rpm and a mesmerising maximum torque figure of 650Nm between 1,500 – 2,500rpm. That is more torque than the 650i V8 petrol motor. Top speed of 250km/h is hardly worth the mention and the acceleration reports a 0-100km/h time of 5,5 seconds by our measurement(BMW claims 5,3 seconds is possible). The car is not as razor sharp as an M3 and the response from the servo-assisted steering is not as direct as other more nimble BWM cars but let’s not forget that this is a GT car that tips the scales at more than 1,7tons – that’s heavy.
At speed you’ll also hear the wail of the engine. It sounds throaty and sporty and in diesel terms that is an oxymoron. As you flick through the gears, you soon realise that you are possibly driving one of the best diesel engines around. I mean that! You can enjoy the sound of it climbing through the gears, you can feel the punch of power it delivers and you can still enjoy a distance between fill-ups as BMW claim possible fuel consumption figures of 5,4l/100km on the combined cycle. I managed 7,8l/100km on the combined cycle but admittedly I wasn’t doing an economy run and that is unquestionably efficient.

The car I drove would hurt the pocket to the tune of R1, 150,000 and to date BMW South Africa has sold more than 121 units of the new 6-series Coupé model. The 6 series also comes in convertible guise as well as the most recent 6 Series Gran Coupé 4-door model. So you’re spoilt for choice should you want the more compact Coupé; the more dramatic convertible or the long-legged Gran Coupé. Either way, you’re good.

The BMW 640d is a sophisticated car with its nose in the air and is certainly in a league of its own. It does everything a GT Coupé should do in impeccable fashion and there is not much to say against it. There are few on our roads and that too has some snob appeal. There is little space in the back even for very small people. But then again, with this kind of car, who cares? 

Some say that when buying cars, you get what you pay for. In this car, that statement is right on the money.

Suzuki Kizashi - Something great has come!

What comes to mind when you hear Kizashi? Is it a Japanese word for “Gesundheit”? A new sushi dish made up of the best ingredients money can buy?

I was at a sushi bar over the weekend, sitting watching all the tasty parcels pass me by under their plastic domes and I thought to myself, should I take this one or wait for a sign that something greater is coming. Feeling like a Samurai I waited patiently to pounce on my next victim, and, there in the distance, coming around the corner, A WASABI parcel. I take a sip of water as my taste buds can’t take the suspense. I grab it! and boom an explosion of flavours, textures, and a zing to the brain leaving my body wanting more, a complete sensory overload.

Yes, I sometimes love my food like I love my cars, raw and explosive. This got me thinking… why? Why would people not try something new rather than settling for the norm, a frankfurter or Chinese sweet and sour pork? Leaving the Sushi bar, taste buds satisfied, my Japanese experience was not over. I was excited to start up a superbly crafted Japanese piece of machinery, Suzuki’s family sedan the Kizashi (literally meaning “Something great is coming”).

Suzuki has made a head turner. I had more people looking and asking questions about this car than any others I have tested. It has a unique fresh look in its class, with 18” wheels, twin tailpipes and xenon headlights, jutting sills and flared wheel arches. This all adds to the stocky, sporty stance of this beautiful car. 

For a sporty looking family saloon I would have expected more in terms of power but don’t get me wrong, it’s not a slouch. On the open road it speeds up in a gentle fashion and maintains its speed really well with the cruise control active. Don’t however expect to gap it in the traffic. The engine seems to come into its own in the higher part of the rev range so when you do need to make a quick pass, you need to make sure you’ve changed down sufficiently.
With eye-catching looks and good brakes, I feel a smaller turbo-charged motor would have completed the package. Maybe a diesel alternative would have done it as well? Although there is only the 2.4 petrol Manual and CVT to choose from, this car is equipped with plenty. 

One afternoon while on a very quiet road, I took too much speed into a very enticing corner. I had to turn sharply to make the corner but with minimum body roll and not much understeer the Kizashi brought itself under control in split seconds when all the acronyms came into action. Overall the Kizashi is a comfortable solid drive with plenty of road responsiveness and little road noise.

It might seem trivial, but I can’t get over how comfortable the steering wheel is which made long distance traveling a pleasure. It was like having gloves made of soft lamb skin with little Japanese ladies massaging your hands. Okay, not really but close. The leather covered electrically adjusted front seats are just as comfortable and the dash is bordered by satin silver accents, soft-touch textures and logically placed controls.
 Being a Short-ass I did not find a problem with the driving position, however a friend who is close to 1.9m found it a bit cramped, so I put him in the back. He was much happier as the rear leg room has not been compromised and he didn't chirp as much. The boot-space is also uncompromised with easy access. The only problem is: I would have liked the boot-lid to be hydraulically supported. It kept on wanting to close on me when I opened it? That being the only small issue, for the price, quality and build of this vehicle it is a definitely a competitor in its class. Something great has come, and the signs are on the wall. Watch out! There is a new kid in the block.


Renault Clio Yahoo!

What is this, a car sporting a well-known search engine badge?
Yahoo’s vision is to deliver your world, your way. Using technology, insights and intuition to create deeply personal digital experience to connect half a billion people! Wow, what a mouth full. How exciting, a manufacturer thinking about how it can connect the youth to the world and all of that in a cool hatch? It got me thinking, is it able to keep me connected to all my favorite social network sites, remind me to buy milk and show me the nearest store and notify me that my new album download is ready to be played?  What a world of possibilities.

Umm… well no! What it does come with is a parrot Bluetooth that works very well and a RCA aux input.

The Drive.

The low slung grille that contours to meet up with the outer lines of very well sculptured lights, helps complete the follow from the front to the back seamlessly. The rear end reminds me slightly of the Renault Megane 2, which had broad hips. The overall design of the car could have been more adventurous compared to its competitors like the i20, Ford Fiesta and Polo to name a few.

The manual gearbox is very smooth and coupled with a perky engine is a lot of fun to drive. There is not much of a selection when it comes to the Clio 5dr, it comes in a 1.6 manual with 83kW @ 6000 and 151Nm@4250, and a 1.6 auto.

Ride & Handling
Renault have made a comfortable car to ride, however the control could be better. The light steering makes it a pleasure around the shopping malls when getting into tight parking spots. The problem with that is at higher speeds it can be twitchy. This does not make you feel confident even though the Clio has loads of grip.

In the Drivers seat

Gizmos & Gadgets
It has all the creature comforts like cruise control, radio interface control and on board computer, but that’s not all… it also comes with speed limit and as mentioned Bluetooth and Aux and all of this for R 169 900.00. The i20, however which is closely priced, has all of the above mentioned. The most important for me is that it comes with neatly conceited mini jack and USB, to attach my iPod too, which I can control from the steering. That for me is Yahoo!, being connected to my music as you would expect in the 21st century, not with old school RCA.

Layout & Quality
The white vent surrounds give it a playful touch, which is complemented by the play design on the front seats. The rest of the interior has good quality materials and is kept simple.

On the Drive way

Final Thoughts
Renault has manufactured an amazing little town run about. The expectation the yahoo badge sets up inside leaves you a bit wanting, because you not as connected as you would like to be. I think for what is on offer out there in the small car segment the Clio should not be over looked however.


VOLVO S60 D3 – The KISS Principle

Volvo Cars Volvo S60 D3 car review
Snake eyes on the Volvo S60 D3
When you consider a Volvo, what are some of the immediate ideas that spring to mind? For me, words like boxy, Swedish and safety are at the top. After spending some time in the Volvo S60 D3 all those words have been thrown out of my mind, or perhaps, rearranged into a more suitable order.

The S60 is possibly one of the best looking Volvo’s on the roads today. It’s neatly packaged and there is no angle from which you look at the Volvo and say, mmm, that doesn’t look right. It’s a car that manages to look really small from the outside without actually being small.

Having just stepped out of cars with quiet diesel engines like the C350 CDI and the BMW 640d, it was immediately apparent that the 2.0 litre, 5 cylinder turbo-diesel unit in the D3 was different. It was not as silent and didn’t seem as refined. Nonetheless, it’s an impressive plant especially when you aim it down a highway, set your speed to 130km/h and cruise for 420km non-stop. A Friday afternoon-evening trip down to the lowveld region quickly changed by apprehension about the engine to pure fascination. This is a frugal runner and in the time we spent with the car, we managed to do 1,117km on one tank of diesel. I am suitably impressed. The engine is not lazy either with 400Nm of torque available when you need it.

aMotion Volvo Cars floating console
Volvo floating console
Driving the car didn’t give off any surprises. The leather seats are soft and supple as are the head rests and I found a comfortable driving position quite easily which, of course, I programmed into the memory-functioned electric seats. The Volvo D3 is really at home on the open road but even in and through the busier streets of Jozi, it’s so easy and so undramatic. In general, this is an issue for me as I like the drama and attitude that comes from more nimble and powerful cars. I must say however, that I quite enjoyed the executive style of this car. The famous Volvo floating console was so simple to navigate. Everything is laid out for stupid people and I am not being funny here. Out of all the premium cars I’ve driven this year, this one was the simplest and quickest to navigate and set up to my liking. And I loved it.

Of all the car’s positive points I was very disappointed in the bootspace and what they’ve done here. The boot space is taken up by the spare wheel and accessories that come with it. Where you would generally find the spare wheel located into a sunken boot section, this is placed right on top, almost as an after-thought. There must be a good reason for this, but in terms of user-practicality, it really makes the boot much narrower and it was felt on our 900km plus road trip.

Volvo has not taken a note out of its competitor’s notebooks and made a car that delivers all the luxury and features that are expected in a compact executive car, in a simple manner. The styling is simple yet elegant. The interior is simply laid out but there has been nothing at the expense of the expected safety features, more than I would try to mention here. Let’s just say Volvo still spend a lot time thinking about the driver’s safety as well as the safety of passengers. Under a new company, this still has not changed.

Volvo has stuck to the KISS Principle and they've kept this car simple yet arguably very good. This simplicity will probably make it difficult for salesman to seal the deal, but after a week in this car, there is definitely a place for it in this segment in South Africa. When I think of Volvo now, the words that come to mind quite strongly are: Simple, Elegant, Comfortable and Safe.

For those who don’t know the KISS Principle -> Keep it Simple Stupid!
AM - 

Land Rover SDV6 SE - The Gentle Giant

I have deemed the Land Rover Discovery 4 the “Gentle Giant”. The reason for this is because this beautifully crafted large metal beast has the driving pleasure and poise of a luxury German sedan. Most people would say this car looks too boxy, but if anything that’s what makes it different. I love the shape of this car.

Almost everything is oversized which is brilliant! It’s difficult to tell the difference between the latest models from the previous. The bluff front end, signature LED lamps, and upper/lower split tailgate all give it a stylish and imposing presence.The 19-inch multi-spoke alloys are standard on this mammoth of a car, as well as rear view camera and PDC.

The Land Rover is like going to McDonald’s for a super-sized meal: you know you won’t finish it but you want it anyway. 

When I got behind the wheel the first thing that stood out for me was the huge windows and high driving position making visibility second to none. I felt invincible, like a super hero towering over everyone. The Hulk comes to mind, but with others being green with envy. At the push of the start button the 3.0 litre V6 turbocharged diesel motor roars to life. I only use this word‘roars’ for effect but if I am honest, there is hardly any engine cabin noise. I shifted thesix-speed auto box into sports drive and planted my foot. Wow! What a feeling as the giant moves off. 

Handling all this power and weighty body is surprisingly easy. The Discovery 4 is composed and responsive through the corners even at high speed. Having air suspension to cushion every bump. I don’t even think you would notice the difference between our freeways or dirt roads. 
The only issue I had was that I spent a lot of time trying to find parking space to park the Gentle Giant. When I did find parking it was easier to reverse in using the rear view camera. That’s when I realized why 4x4 drivers park on pavements: because they can.
The attention to detail that Land Rover have spent inside can’t go without mention. The soft electric leather seats,chunky controls and other high-class materials make you forget that you’re in a rugged off-roader. The luxurious Disco4 is packed with storage and goodies.There's no denying the fact that you pay for the premium Discovery 4 badge, with a price tag starting at R681 200.00 for the SDV6 S.

This gentle giant has plenty to offer and is still one of the best premium 4x4’s for me. I just wish I had more time to have taken it off road to get the giant into the place it was meant to play. All in good time I hope. 

Have you been anywhere interesting lately?