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!
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