If you call yourself an automotive photographer, as I do, and you only shoot one thing then can you really call yourself that? I do loads of events, if they're not the static park-off kind then they involve motorsports in some form or another like circuit racing, gymkhanas and drag racing, but there's a lot that I don't have access to. So when I received an invite from Castrol SA to spend the day with Ford SA and the crew from Neil Woolridge Motorsport for the final round of the SA Cross-country Championship Series, of course I made sure to attend. Not even plans to watch the Rugby World Cup Final would get in my way, this was another rare chance to shoot OFF ROAD STUFF! Luckily these racers and all the sponsors are patriotic AF and so the day was set up so that the two race route loops would have a big enough break in between for us all to be seated in a huge marquee to watch the rugger live. How could it then not be one of the coolest day at the office for 2019?
The NWM Ford Rangers are built at their facility in Pietermaritzburg and are the current SACCS Class T Production Vehicle Champions. They run crate Coyote engines, the same 5.0 V8 found in the Mustang, mated to a Sadev 6-speed sequential transmission with permanent all-wheel drive running off a Motec management system. You're looking at 260kW and 560Nm, and in this composite body that makes for 0-100km/h in 7.1-seconds with a top speed of 185km/h . NWM is contracted to Ford South Africa to compete in the South African Cross Country Championship, one of the toughest and most competitive national championships in the world - and awesome to shoot!
After meeting up at the Castrol offices at the crack of dawn, a bunch of us were shuttled to the race headquarters in a fleet of Ranger Raptors, and the white one I was in was also going to chauffeur me to various points along the race loops to watch the action, but of course I was only going to be seeing the action through a viewfinder. There were a few spots that were a little dodgy (that I put myself in) but I know how hard metal hits so I made sure I was outta harm's way, mostly. As we arrived at the first spot I waited for the number 34 Ranger of Lance Woolridge and snapped my first pic - not bad upon review. So I was in the right spot and started taking more pics, buuuuut my 70-200mm lens upped and died on me which meant the rest of the day I'd be using a 24-70mm lens. It's a fast, crisp lens but there's not much reach, so I had to get close to the action to get decent shots. Yes!
After checking out the viewing spots for the 1st loop we headed back to the main camp and pits for a bit of a chow (buffet in the veld is ALWAYS cool) and then to watch the Springboks absolutely thrash the Poms. After a few pints and some celebrations the racing kicked off again and we were herded back to the Raptors for the next chase session. Again, so much fun, but it's much cooler when you have a Raptor and a driver helping out. Everyone who joined was wearing team shirts and caps, it was brilliant to see them supporting, and it had to have been noticed by the drivers. In around two hours (that felt like max 30 mins) the race was done and we headed back to the pits. There was an hour until prize giving and the race team took us back to a section of the track for some ride-along action. I was the only one who didn't go for a drive but I've been in similar before and you can't take photos if you're a strapped in passenger - and I wanted photos! I'm happy with the results, and of course, the memories behind the images.
After the suicide rides, we kicked back to the main pits to watch the prize giving. The teams we were there with rocked Parys, and the preceding year too. resulting in class podiums. Ranger T34 was piloted by Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable and they competed in Class T. For this 2019 season, they finished the season in number one position making the duo the 2019 Class T Champions in the Production Vehicle Category, again. Ranger T20 was piloted by Marcos Baumgart and Kleber Cincea who hail from Brazil, and their 2019 season was most definitely one to write home about with a Class T victory at this final event. Woolridge and Huxtable also took 2nd place overall in the Production Vehicle Championship, beating some of the biggest names in the sport competing in the faster FIA category too. Added to that, Ford also received the Manufacturers Award for the third time. Being there to see the Boks kick ass and also the success of the Ford team was just brilliant - the best Rugby World Cup Final day ever. You can find out all the proper class information and results over on the SACCS website.
A huge thanks to Castrol, Ford SA and the NVM race team for an absolutely brilliant day out! As said, I took some pics, you'll see a bunch below, and the rest will be popping up on Facebook at some point in the near future.
So Citroën is back... Yup, after leaving SA in 2016, the company has regrouped and has re-entered the local market with a new spring in it's step. As with Peugeot being under new management and starting a fresh attack, Citroën is under that same new boss and will be subjected to the same new stringent business strategies. Xavier Gobille and an all-new team are so fired up that it almost made me wanna get online and buy some shares. Almost, and also I have no clue how that works.
As with the reinvigorated Peugeot side, there's three new models to relaunch the brand here in SA, and they're flipping brilliant. The French are known for having quirky cars, and these new models are the very definition. Before sampling these cars, the previous winner for the quirkiest car was the Citroën Cactus around four years ago, so it's fitting that the title is snatched by another Citroën. Also, lemme clarify that I say quirky, I mean it's the usual definition with a fat heap of cool thrown in the mix. The three models here to relaunch the brand are the Citroën C3, the Citroën C3 Aircross and the Citroën C5 Aircross, and all of them have what it takes to make the masses happy, body styling, properly funky colours and exterior trim/cladding unique to the Citroën brand.
The C3 is the first one on the pricing scale, and it's also the one that has that signature air-filled rubber strip called the Airbump along the sides. Of course that's not all it has, there's that in your face styling combined with some great colour options that's a welcome break from the norm. Unlike many cars on the market these days, you can identify a new Citroën at 100 paces in any lighting conditions. Climbing inside is just as cool, the dash design and layout is unmistakably Citroën, it's so different, but in a good way. Again, that may depend on where you are on the introvert/extrovert scale because this styling is out there. The design is dubbed Citroën Advanced Comfort and this involves "Soft-touch contact areas and refined acoustics create a sense of calm, while interior space has been designed to be stylish and versatile. The overall ambiance ensures journeys feel effortless and intuitive technology gives you instant access to advanced features and practical driving aids." is what the brochure says. It really is cool though, and the fit and finish definitely has a premium feel beyond what the price tag implies. Even though it's just 3.99m in length, there's some voodoo added that sees interior space being bigger than you'd imagine.
The B-segment Citroën C3 has plenty features like a lane departure warning system, coffee break alert, cruise control, a speed limiter, hill start assist, a driver attention warning, over and above the usual safety systems. There's also Mirror Screen technology via Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink, so you can be fully connected, an important feature these days. The C3 sees two trim levels introduced; the 60kW 1.2 C3 Feel that starts at R239 900, and the 81kW 1.2 C3 Shine that starts at R289 900.
The Citroën C3 Aircross is a step up on the model run hierarchy and the first difference is the size, the Aircross climbs out of the B-segement and into the small SUV ranks thanks to being longer (158mm), taller (163mm) and with 100-litres more boot space (400-litres). You'll notice the front bumper has a different layout, the Airbump is missing, the wheels are an inch bigger (optional) and roof runners now appear. Interiors are much the same but the steering becomes multifunction, airbags total 6, climate control becomes automatic (trim dependant) and ESP is added to safety systems. There's two variants here too, the Citroën C3 Aircross SUV Feel starting at R339 900, and the Citroën C3 Aircross SUV Shine at R359 900, both of which come with the same 81kW 1.2 and 6-speed auto transmission.
The top dog of the launch was the Citroën C5 Aircross, the star of the show. Maaaan this thing is cool. In this segment one of the best looking options is the VW Tiguan, but this French creation works even better, I love everything about it. There's strong lines that manage to flow well, it has quite the presence and on the short launch drive we found more than a few phone cameras pointed at the thing. The floating roof design is carried over from the C3 range but adds a panoramic sunroof, and the black accents in the bodywork work on all paint options. Interior design is just as cool as in the C3, if maybe a little more grown up if anything. There's still a definite funkiness around the cabin though, the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is another component that looks like it was created a few years from now. There's space for five adults in comfort, and the interesting bit is the rear seat isn't a bench style, it features three individual seats because there's no ways all your passengers will be the same height. The Advanced Comfort seats really are ridiculously comfortable.
Tech abounds, you'll find everything, the list includes Active Safety Break, Active Lane Departure Warning System, Driver Attention Alert, Active Blind Spot Monitoring, an array of parking sensors, Coffee Break Alert, keyless entry & start, reverse camera with top rear vision, Hill Start Assist, cornering fog lights and the rather cool ConnectedCam. This last one is a camera found at the base of the interior rear view mirror that uses full HD and GPS technology with a built-in 16gb memory card that allows you to take photos or video footage that can be downloaded by email and shared to your social media. Great in the event of an accident, unless you were the chop that caused it of course. With all these systems, the solid build and brilliant insulation, the C5 Aircross offers up a brilliant drive. But like seriously, it's super smooth, the short and bumpy gravel road on the test route would have rattled my car's fenders off, but this "Flying Carpet" effect in the C5 Aircross makes bumps disappear. Citroën is known for innovations in suspension, and there's no slowing down yet. This French SUV is fitted with Progressive Hydraulic Cushions that redefines driving comfort and quite literally smooths out bumps and imperfections. In short, PHC is described as follows: "Ordinary suspension makes do with a shock absorber, a spring and a mechanical bump stop. With Progressive Hydraulic Cushions® you get special hydraulic cushions on either side, for rebound and compression. The result is a ride that takes everything in its stride, smoothly.
When big bumps are encountered, the hydraulic cushions keep suspension movement controlled
and progressive. With minor road imperfections, the cushions simply absorb it all, giving that relaxing flying carpet ride".
As with the C3 Aircross, the C5 Aircross also gets two trims; Feel and Shine. Feel lists at R469 900 and Shine lists at R509 900 and both make use of the 121kW 1.6 PureTech Turbo and 6-speed auto transmission, the difference is in the details of course, which you can find more about if you clicky here. They also come with peace of mind in the form of a 5-year/100 000km warranty and service plan, a 24-Hour Customer Contact Centre, a Licence Renewal Reminder and Roadside Assistance. Citroën have a brilliant product here, and there is quite literally no reason that it cannot do as well as the segment rivals.
The only thing needed is for people to start trusting the brand, and the new management heading up Peugeot SA look set to do everything possible to make it happen. I'd keep an eye on Peugeot SA, change is coming.
...Ain't that stealthy. This is one of those times when the name is quite ironic, like naming your Pitbull Tinkerbelle or your Chihuahua Zeus. The current Nissan Navara can be many things, but stealthy isn't one of them, especially in this new dark theme. With the way the bakkie market is going, we'll soon be on par with the States where bigger is better, and things are pretty hotly contested. Everyone is trying to think outside of the box to help shift units, and we're starting to see special editions of. many regulars we already know. On that note, while the Stealth is a dressed up Navara LE model, it's set to be a permanent fixture on the list of available options and not just a one-off run. Nice!
The Stealth package is available on the 2.3D Stealth 4x2 AT DC as well as the range-topping 2.3D LE 4x4 DC, so the two-wheel and four-wheel needs are covered. The spec levels of these bakkies is really good, and nothing under the hood is fiddled with when going Stealth. The changes that have been made include some new alloys in 18-inches with a black finish, a black grille, black-backed headlights and new accents to match on the front bumper. A black rear roll bar and black roof rails are the last exterior changes, well besides the paint colour. The Stealth can be had in this here gunmetal paint, but also in black and white too. Inside the bakkie it's all very much the same with the exception of an orange accent fabric and leather combination, which will suit all exterior paint options luckily. The Navara Stealth also has Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies in play, like the Intelligent Key System, the Intelligent 4x4 System (that assists drivers in smooth cornering by adjusting power output to the front and rear wheels) and Hill Start Assist. There's also a new Intelligent Around View Monitor that makes use of four cameras positioned the bakkie to give you a 360-degree aerial view of the bakkie and its surrounds. Trust me, this is a very good thing, especially if you're used to driving something like an Opel Corsa. Trying to manoeuvre a comparative behemoth can be quite the mission, and surround camera will save both the bakkie and your surroundings from unwanted parking dings.
The Nissan Navara is great to drive, and the one problem I had the last time I drove one, isn't a problem in Stealth guise. It was a silly problem, at my statuesque height when looking out the windscreen I looked straight into the back of the rise in the bonnet, essentially giving me an annoying black spot to look at. It seems that was only when the thing wore orange paint because it wasn't even noticeable in this gunmetal paint. Go figure. So yeah, kicking around the 'hood in a Navara Stealth is brilliant, just brilliant. With a collection of tattoos and different cars all the time, the neighbours already think I'm a drug dealer, and this thing stepped that up a notch. This meant people stayed out of my way, and when I approached an empty parking at the same time as a Mazda BT50 at my local Spar, I simply gave a bit of a stare and the chap motioned me to take the parking. That wouldn't have happened if I was in anything else. This carried through to the highway too, which was most amusing. All you have to do is set the cruise control to 123km/h (screw you Metro!) and steer. Literally EVERYONE moves out of your way, you can sit back and watch your ETA on Waze start shaving off minutes.
This thing is good fun to drive, it's really good option for those wanting a double cab 4x4 (or x2). On board tech is good, engines and transmissions are good and pricing is good. The bakkie market is tough, and choosing one above them all is nigh on impossible, but if Nissan is my choice, it WILL be in Stealth trim..
The Nissan Navara Stealth starts at R591 00 for the 2.3D 4x2 MT DC, hits R608 900 for the 2.3D 4x2 AT DC and finally R669 800 for the 2.3D 4x4 AT DC. All models come with a 3-year/ 90 000km service plan and a 6-year/150 000km warranty. For more, head on over to Nissan's main site.
Peugeot is on the offensive here in SA, which is a good thing in a couple of ways. It shows there's still trust in the country in terms of investment and it introduces some more great products to the market. There's been a serious relaunch of the brand and with that comes a new management structure and a man in charge with a proven rack record of turning business around - Xavier Gobille. At the local launch of the Peugeot 5008 and 108, Xavier took us through the new structure, ideas and processes planned. While it's easy to say these things, there's a certain enthusiasm behind what he says that tells you he's going to do what he did to Renault and turn things around. Dealerships have been given an overhaul too, those not doing what they need to do have been cut out and there's a new promise in place to sort out any backlogs of repairs and complaints in an attempt to regain customer favour too. The brand has a deep history on this continent, often being credited with helping build, well, everything. You'll still find classic Peugeots doing duty in the most remote towns and villages. Here in SA Peugeot's footprint dates back to 1902 when the first one was imported by Benjamin & Lawton. By 1973 the brand was a top-seller and in that year had over 17 000 registrations, mostly the 203, which had been produced here since 1950 . Mad numbers, even by today's standards. In '85 the political climate saw the company retreat, returning in '95 with McCarthy as the importer. This arrangement lasted until 2002 when PMSA was formed. Now in 2019 we see the aforementioned relaunch of the brand with a fresh approach to everything.
Accompanying the relaunch of the brand was the introduction of two new models to the Peugeot lineup, the diminutive 108 and the rather beefy 5008. One is an A-segment competitor that in typically French fashion brings a lot to the table albeit in a rather small package. The other is a premium SUV that doesn't only have it all on paper, it has striking looks and offers up some serious competition to the usual suspects.
The 108 is the company's entry into the A-segment, where it's a budget car war that's being hard-fought. If you want to compete in this segment you can't just chuck anything in the mix, it needs to be rather good these days, even though they're sub-R200k cars the level of spec is starting to rival much more expensive offerings in other segments. Spec includes LED daytime running lights on the exterior safety side, while inside the lil thing offers up six airbags, something I'm sure no other car in the segment has. More safety comes from ABS, hill start assist and stability control. Still inside we also find a 7-inch touch screen heading up the infotainment system that features bluetooth as well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Powering (almost) the 108 is a 1.0-litre 3-cylinder with 53kW and 93 NM of torque that's mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. Luckily it's a light car, tipping the scales at just 840kg, because up at the reef it does feel like it needs more. On the drive, it proved to be a competent lil thing, decent steering feedback, good brakes and good handling. We were two up and the aircon was off, and slowing down at a yield sign while keeping it in 2nd to pull off again, it almost stalled. Probably why most launches involving small motors are at the coast, 17% more power is noticeable. It's not a bad thing, just something to be mindful of and I'm sure driving styles will adapt to accommodate smooth drives. The claims are 5.2-litres/100km and it will do that if you feather it. That said, the test drive was quite short, a longer stint would see better numbers. The thing is, at the price point and what you're getting in the package as a whole, this little Peugeot is hard to beat. At R179 900 there's also a 5-year/100 000km warranty PLUS a 5-year/100 000km service plan, and that makes this entry into the Peugeot family a pretty damn good deal.
The Peugeot 5008 was the second car revealed at the brand relaunch, and as you can see it's an SUV with some rather striking visuals. This thing looks really good, it's tall, chunky and has curves in all the right places and I reckon it's one of the best looking 7-seaters on the market now. Well for me anyway, it's a fresh look, something different, something, well, French. The headlights split by an extension from the bumper, a lower spoiler, pronounced arches and door cladding and wheels that actually suit the shape of the body make this 5008 something worth looking at, especially the GT Line with the gloss black roof - yuuuus!
In typically French fashion, this thing is loaded with tech, which is why the brand has such a bog share of the European market. The 5008 has the Peugeot i-Cockpit in play, and it's brilliant. It looks like some futuristic rendering, except it's real and in front of you. The digital speedo cluster/display and the adjoining 8" touchscreen heading up the infotainment system is brilliant, and it's customisable so you can tailor it to be more you. The leather-bound multifunction steering wheel is smaller than most, but it feels great in hand and makes driving the big SUV feel more car-like. I'm a fan. As with many SUV, there's a few drive modes available via controls on the centre console, and with intelligent Advanced Grip Control technology and Hill Assist Descent Control (HADC) in play the 5008 take take you safely over a variety road conditions and terrain.
On the safety front there's an array of the things looking out for you; but the 5008 also features a multi-purpose camera at the top of the windscreen, 12 ultrasound sensors, a radar, and a pair if 180° video cameras. Driving-assistance features includes speed-limit sign recognition with recommendations, Active Safety Brake with Distance Alert, lane-departure warnings, active blind-spot monitoring, a driver-attention alert, and adaptive cruise control with a Stop feature. If parking the big SUV is a problem, there's systems to help with that too. If you option the premium audio you get some top quality Focal components, and in a Bluetooth audio test of some of my usual listening stuff, the system is just brilliant! With mood lighting, multipoint massage seats and a choice of three scents available via an integrated fragrance diffuser the cockpit of the 5008 is somewhere you WANT to be. If I had one of these I'd be constantly inventing reasons to go for a drive. Being a 7-seater means the seating can be configured in a few ways, and if you lay everything flat into a table-top config to expand the load space, you can free up as much as 780 cubic metres and items of up to 3.2m in length can be loaded.
There's two engines available in the Peugeot 5008 range, a 1.6 turbocharged petrol lump and a 2.0 turbodiesel. The 1.6 is great, it's a punchy engine with good power delivery, rated at 121kW and 240Nm. I've sampled it in other models and I like it. That said, I think if the car was 7-up it might feel like it needs more torque to shift that much weight. The diesel lump is bigger in capacity so over and above the usual higher torque it gives, the turbocharger sees the official claimed figure up at a healthier 370Nm with the kilowatts at 110. If you're a frequent people transporter, that's probably the one to get, but if you're doing the usual daily slog and only strapping the family in on weekend and getaways, the 1.6 will me more than adequate.
It's a great drive on both tar and gravel, and when the latter threw up those harsh corrugations, the 5008 soaked it up and the ride remained super smooth. You never feel like you're driving a bulky SUV and instead a solidly build big car, and it's just so damn comfortable that my drive home from the launch in my Corsa was torturous in comparison. Shame, she's an old girl, but I love her. The Peugeot 5008 has more than enough going for it to sway buyer from the usual premium SUV brands, and with the new drive to get the Peugeot flag flying high in SA again, there's no reason to not consider a French option.
As with the 108, the 5008 also has a 5-year/100 000km warranty as well as a 5-year/100 000km service plan, and the pricing looks to be competitive too. The first trim listed is the Allure 1.6 THP and that's priced at just R534 900 to start, while the 2.0 HDi jumps to just R554 900. The range-topping GT Line with the 1.6 THP lump starts at R579 000 and rises to R599 900 for the 2.0 HDi. Again, that's some good pricing, especially for fully imported, tech-packed SUVs. For more, head over to the Peugeot main site.
Quite possibly the most famous three letters to come out of Japan, and with good reason. For fifty years Nissan has been putting this badge on its performance cars, and for fifty years the GT-R has kicked ass and taken names in many legal racing series' as well as in the underground illegal race scene on a global scale. Most journos who attended the launch have only really seen the GT-R at similar events or at the racetrack, but in my circles I've been privy to some ridiculously powerful examples, stuff that would blow the mind of your average person. In the aftermarket side of life the GT-R quite possibly has the most fearsome reputation. If you're at a race meet, legal or illegal, and a GT-R pitches up, people take notice. It doesn't matter if other cars in attendance are of the supercar variety, all eyes will undoubtedly be on the GT-R. People who attend these events expect a GT-R to be monstrously fast, and they're usually quite right. There's a whole aftermarket industry dedicated to tuning these cars, even "basic" bolt-on parts can see the power figures circling 4-digit power figures, and more often than not the exterior of these cars look as stock as the day they left the showroom floor. This is the world I know well, I can rattle off more than 20 names of owners I know personally and I'd guesstimate that only 5% of them are stock.
While I've been offered the keys to a few of these cars over the years, I've never had the balls to accept. I'd feel too bad if something went tits up because any sort of repair job would be way more than my budget to fix. I'm not talking mechanically because these things are generally bulletproof, but bumping the car would see me in debt for life. When I received the invite to the launch of this 50th Anniversary Edition GT-R I did my happy dance until I fell over, I'd finally be able to drive one and I'd have the backing of the SA Guild of Motoring Journalists in case things went wrong. I often get asked what the benefits are of being a Guild member, well proper insurance is one of them - as long as you're not driving like a complete idiot and breaking the law. It just feels better knowing that if some chop changed lanes without looking and sideswiped the car, that my ass would be covered.
There's so much out there on the GT-R, any model, that I'm not gonna bore you with a bunch of technical stuff, instead you get the stuff that counts to me. Powering the 50th Anniversary Edition GT-R is the same powerplant that's been in this model for 12 years. That's right, the R35 GT-R is now 12 years old, basically a kid who started school when this car first launched could in theory still buy a brand new one off the showroom floor after passing Matric. If that doesn't tell you how damn good the R35 is, nothing will. When it launched back in 2007, the car was miles ahead of, well, everything. The technology packed in was not just class-leading, it was industry-leading stuff. It even became known as a Playstation car, meaning the drive felt too detached and more like you're playing a game than driving a car. Even if that was the case, it was a Playstation car that made the rest of the performance car automakers of the world wish there was a reset button. Like I said, I'd never driven one, but over the years that reported disconnected feeling has actually become somewhat of an industry standard if supercar and hypercar reviews are to be believed. As the competition started to catch up, they realised that the electronics and other systems on board that took the blame for that feeling of disconnect were actually very necessary, and so most of the fast stuff has started to quite feel similar. I'll say here that I didn't experience that feeling when driving this car, there was feedback for days.
So that powerplant that's still in play, it's the VR38DETT, a name that's like whispering Mufasa, it gives competitors the chills. It's a 6-cylinder in a V6 configuration with a pair of Hiroshima Hairdryers attached. When launched the engine pushed out 357kW (479hp) which was mad strong, and through the years the self-same lump has been tweaked and tuned to be not only more powerful, but smoother too. In this 50th Anniversary Edition GT-R the power is now rated at 410kW (550hp - possibly to make more sense for the 50th anniversary) with a stonking 632Nm of torque. There's one that makes even more power used in a very special edition NISMO GT-R, but I'll let you Google that coz it's not coming to SA. It's insane power, especially when it's available off the showroom floor to anyone with the money. Also, it's a little-known fact that these fantabulous power plants are each handcrafted by a single technician (no, not one guy making them all, each engine is built by a single person) much like the AMG engines are, and by that I mean the REAL ones, not the AMG-badged C200s and the like. These engine builders are called Takumi Technicians, and it was these guys who decided on new turbos featuring an abradable seal that helps low RPM response thanks to tighter clearances and a 5% efficiency increase. This equates to a sharper engine response in and out of corners - as if the GT-R needed it. But hey, sharp is good, scalpel-sharp better. There's been a tweak to the exhaust manifolds too that will make the aftermarket tuners rather pleased. The Takumis have optimised the turbo flange attachment points to allow for easier servicing and potential tuning, without touching the exhaust manifold. Since when does a manufacturer do something that aids in tuning? Since it's Nissan and they're awesome! The GT-R also has an exhaust note that a true enthusiast can pick out of a line of cars in traffic, and in this 50th Anniversary Edition GT-R a set of titanium-tipped end boxes have been fitted, and these give that engine note an even more special tone. So much so that on the launch drive we only played one song on the infotainment system just to hear how it sounds and the rest of the day was nothing but a 6-cylinder symphony and dodging NP200s with a death wish.
Of course you need a drivetrain that's going to extract the best from that monster of a V6 powerplant, and Nissan has one of the best, if not the best, in the game. I say this with authority because I've seen loads of these cars modified to all hell and the drivetrain components remain stock. Of course for the ones making more than double the power some mods are needed to keep things in one piece, but for the most part these drivetrains can handle more abuse than you'd think possible. The configuration is also a little different to how you'd imagine. In a conventional setup, you'll have the engine with a transmission bolted to it, then you'd have the transfer case that will have shafts attached to send power to the front wheels, then you'd find a propshaft to send power to a rear diff and side shafts. In the GT-R things have never been conventional, and so here we find the powerplant up front and the transmission at the rear, connected via a propshaft. This means shorter and stronger driveshafts at each end of the car, but most importantly it gives the GT-R that magical 50/50 weight split when hoofing it. When not hoofing it, it's a little under 50/50, but that's not when it counts. So that twin turbocharged V6 sends all 550hp to the wheels rather efficiently, and with the weight split and a fair amount of electronic wizardry there's always maximin traction. R-Mode has been refined, and oddly that means more aggressive downshifts to prognosticate fast cornering exits and the ability to cleverly select gears during ABS engagement, which means reduced understeer and a more driver-intuitive feeling. Nissan says: "The adaptive shift control is programmed to change shift schedules to fit the user's driving style" and that simply means if I owned one the safety systems would be permanently trying to stop me from offing myself because I'd have the thing constantly ready to pounce.
Then there's that launch control. I honestly thought launch control would see me fighting the steering and listening to the wheels scream for mercy, instead it's just a matter of holding on tight and aiming the thing where you want it to go. The wheels scrabble for traction but they have it in buckets, enough for silly 0-100km/h times. In a little over 3-seconds you've hit 100 (under 3-seconds at lower altitude and with better fuel) and in a mere 6-seconds you're literally going fast enough for jail time. In 20 seconds your mind is blown and you realise that there is no other car you'll drive in your life that will feel this damn good. Being new to the GT-R, I did that first launch in auto, letting the ECUs do their magic by shifting gears faster than any human possibly could. I told myself that I'd have to keep the car in auto because the only other flappy paddle cars I'd driven didn't give me the feeling that I needed or wanted to use them. I think I made it to the end of the road that I'd started my drive on, after that the rest of the drive saw manual mode engaged. Pulling back on the left paddle drops a gear, then another, and then another. Speed dependant, this puts the revs at the very spot where the whole mechanical concoction is ready to explode with performance, you can tell because there's pops and bangs from the titanium exhaust signalling you've dropped enough gears, and the little voice inside your head (not the good one) tells you to mash your right foot into the floorboard. This can happen at 80km/h in traffic. This can happen at 130km/h on an open road. This car tests your self-restraint to levels you didn't know was possible. Screw torture for getting information out of people - put bad guys in a GT-R and let them drive the kak out of it, one power run for every secret told. You'll have a giggling hostage, all the info you want and fuel bill you'll hate. Someone tell the CIA...
Add in some of the best suspension to ever be fitted to a factory car along with an array of buttons that allow switching between a few driving modes. None of them are of any consequence besides R Mode. I mean, if you don't keep your GT-R in R Mode, are you even a GT-R owner? R is for serious driving business, when engaged it firms everything up, the throttle response, the steering, the suspension and it also lets the transmission stay in the gear of your choosing and even allowing the limiter to kick in instead of automatically engaging the next gear. We drove on some roads that I'm familiar with, albeit it in slower cars. Actually seeing as this is the fastest road car I've ever driven, just assume anything else I ever talk about for the rest of my life is slower. So on these roads, I've taken bends in a well-sorted S2000, my old Focus ST, a 7.5 R GTi and a few other tasty lumps of metal, but none of them will even smell a GT-R, even at half throttle. One bend in particular is awesome at just over 100km/h on other cars, you have to feather the throttle and keep mind of the steering input and what the tyres are wanting to do. In the GT-R I took the same section around 30km/h higher and I didn't even realise it. I wasn't near my skill level limit and the GT-R was easily another 20km/h from even thinking about having any issues. This again cemented the fact that the GT-R is not only a Jack of all trades, but also a master of them all. If you ever see an R35 GT-R caning it somewhere and it's taking bends at speed and ripping up the straights, don't be too impressed by the driver - 80% of what you see is down to the car. I would love to be let loose on a track for a day with this car, all I'd need is a fuel sponsor, a tyre sponsor and an underwear sponsor. To reign the GT-R in, there's a new brake booster setup in play that increases the effectiveness and also offers up less travel on the pedal. Ever heard that "it can stop on a dime" saying? Well I can report that when you need the brakes in a GT-R, they're there and then some. After cresting a hill I was faced with a bakkie overtaking an 18-wheeler over a solid white line into a blind rise, at a lick over walking pace - fun times. I jumped on the clamps to avoid having an NP200 hood ornament, it clearly worked because I'm typing this now, but I'm convinced that if I was in another car things would have been decidedly different. Of course we would have climbed out without a scratch, but surgeons would have a hard time removing NP200 bits from our driver of the month. This is on video too, but it doesn't really show how close it was, which is again thanks to the brakes. What it does however show is that I swear like a sailor, just like me mum did.
The cabin of a Japanese supercar is great, this thing has it all and then some. You don't really expect all the creature comforts in something with this kind of performance but there really is nothing left wanting. The release says: "The distinct driver-oriented cockpit has comfortable yet supportive seats for both front and rear passengers. The dashboard is designed to convey a horizontal flow, delivering a sense of high stability for front seat occupants. It comes wrapped in a single, seamless piece of hand-selected Nappa leather, artfully stitched with Takumi-style precision. The centre dashboard integrates navigation and audio controls and an 8-inch capacitive touch-panel monitor. The large icons on the display screen inform the driving experience without distracting from it". That sounds great, but it's miles better than that. The seats are race-style buckets that fit me perfectly. A few guys commented that the high bolsters dig into their sides a bit. Luckily there's an aftermarket solution for this - LOSE SOME WEIGHT! Don't blame Japan's finest because you can't say no to KFC. The driving position took all of 10 seconds to set up, everything is electronically adjustable and I was proper comfortable. The cabin feels like it wraps around you, and with all the buttons strewn around the cabin and with a choice of informative displays for the touchscreen that heads up the infotainment system, it feels like a fighter plane cockpit. Well, A luxury fighter plane. That raised transmission tunnel in bare carbon fibre with the 50th Anniversary badge makes my man bits pay attention. How's the boot space then? Who cares? Like seriously? I didn't even open the boot. It's a GT-R. Buy new shit when you get to your destination. Luggage is weight, weight is bad.
The guys at Nissan are brilliant, they didn't want this launch to be all about the new car, instead it was also focused on the heritage of the GT-R. With that in mind, #OMGTR man Janus Janse van Rensburg organised every generation of GT-R for us to not only drool over, but also experience on the road. Seeing a Kenmeri and a Hakosuka in the metal is rare, especially in the same place at the same time. This legendary duo was for display only though, which is understandable. You can buy a few of the 50th Anniversary Edition GT-Rs for the value of the two old timers. The presentation on the history of the GT-R nomenclature, including the origins of the Godzilla nickname was pure awesomeness, there's just so much amazing race history behind the badge. To give a complete experience, we could have drives in the R32, R33 and R34 GT-R models. I only went along for one drive in the R32, but only because it's one I hadn't been in before. I've had a few mad runs in R33s and R34s over the years so I stood back to let others have a go, I'm cool like that. The R32 was 100% stock with the speed limiter removed, and it's just mad because many 2019 model performance cars will struggle to keep up with it.
The only thing I didn't do during this event was take my own pics, I did try but I decided to rather put the camera away and enjoy the experience, and I'm so damn happy I did. Watching events and things through a 2cm viewfinder can sometimes detract from the experience. Sometimes. Also Waldo Van Dr Waal absolutely rocked these official press images, well done there Sir! Once my time in the 50th Anniversary Edition was done, I did snap some pics of the older generation models that were brought out of hiding for us though, which you'll see in the gallery below. There's not much more to say about the latest incarnation of Japan's coolest motoring export, yet at the same time there's loads to say too. Got to hear loads of interesting info during an informal Q&A with Wilhelm Baard, a man with a long association with GT-R both locally and internationally. Not only was he part of the top brass at Nissan and heavily involved with the development of the car, he's also a world-class race driver. In fact, the first time I met him was about 11 years ago when I had a few hot laps as passenger with him at the old Kyalami - in a GT-R. Let's just say Horatio Cane's team would be able to find proof of my drive if they ever tested the passenger seat from that car.
The 50th Anniversary GT-R launch wasn't a launch, it was an experience. Launches are usually all bout making the journos feel special and spoiled so that they write nice things about the car in question. While this event had all that and more, it would have been equally as amazing if we arrived at a One-Stop for a Wimpy coffee and a lap of the N1. This is one car that needs no buttering up, it's the consummate supercar, everything a modern supercar owner could want. It's THE BEST car I've ever personally driven. It handles the best, brakes the best, sounds the best, accelerates the best and makes me feel like, well, the best. The 50th Anniversary GT-R hasn't just set the bar for my motoring experiences to date, it's forever etched in my memory, and I can't thank Nissan SA enough for including me on this launch.
The 2020 Nissan GT-R Anniversary Edition is not cheap, it's also quite a bit more than the original launch price, but that's expected after 12 years. There's currently three trims available, all mechanically identical, but as expected there's a bit of a premium for the Anniversary edition. The range kicks off with the Premium Edition at R2 250 000, then there's the Black Edition at R2 360 000, and then this Bayside Blue (there's red and white too) GT-R 50th Anniversary Edition at R2 405 000.
I've had the Nissan Micra on test review before, but it was during a week of terrible weather so I not only skipped on shooting it, I also gave driving around a wide berth too because torrential rain brings out idiot drivers. That meant a proper review wasn't possible. Luckily I managed to have a second session scheduled with the Turbo Acenta Plus Tech trim of the all-new Nissan Micra, and I'm happy I did. This hatchback surprised me, it's got a fair bit going for it on paper and I found that things translated into the real world just right too.
The older Micra models wren't bad looking little cars, but they ended up being a car you knew existed, but completely forgot when it came time to buy in that segment. There was nothing wrong with them, they just weren't on the radar. This all-new design is way different, the new and larger body conforms to the rest of Nissan's design architecture and so has really good looks and lines to it. The front is no longer a bubble, it's an angular car that has a bit of attitude thrown in. The same goes for the rear; more angles and strong lines make it one of those cars that may be able to get by on its looks alone. This version rolls on 17" wheels shod with 205/45R17 tyres, and for an OEM wheel they have a decent design and they actually suit the car well too. There is a bit of wheel gap going on, but that's the norm in SA because of the dodgy roads in some places, but that's just a first modification for the guys I know who'd rock one of these.
The floating roof design is really cool, more noticeable on the lighter colours than on this Echo Grey, but it's there. The angular lights up front and the boomerang-design taillights all just work. The only thing I'd change on one of these really is the ride height. I'd also like to see the car with aftermarket wheels in the popular styles seen on the Micra's JDM brethren. I reckon with the right wheels, window tint, a rear bumper with an exhaust cut out for a neat tail piece and some clever stickers, it could be made to look like a closer relative to a GT-R, especially on the Energy Orange painted cars.
Inside the Nissan Micra, things are pretty good too. The design is modern and pretty funky, indicative of the intended target market's taste. Seating position is great, everything adjusts to get my statuesque 5ft7 frame perfectly comfortable with a good view all round. Luckily even if viewing was a mission, there's surround cameras to save bumpers and curbing your wheels. The cabin does have a rather sporty way about it, the seats have a high bolster, there's a flat-bottom steering wheel, a high shifter lever and stitched leather dash trim. Adding the brushed aluminium-look trim was a good touch, the cabin looks more upmarket than the price tag suggests. The climate control knobs sit just above the shifter position, separated from the dash, and above that the 7-inch touchscreen heading up the infotainment system. It's great system that Nissan has here, easy to use and set up and the 6-speaker audio system plays great.
Mobile connectivity is tops quality, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are found as standard. Having my Samsung S8 connected to display Waze on the screen made my week as I was driving unknown roads a fair bit. The Bluetooth audio streaming was also hassle free and great quality, as was the hands-free part of it. Various information from the system can also be displayed in the centre of the instrument cluster so you can know what's going on while keeping your eyes on the road. That aforementioned steering wheel also features controls for the infotainment as well as the cruise control. It really is a decent place to be and it's a solid fit and finish as what you'd usually find higher up the rung.
The all-new Nissan Micra takes a little getting used to, when you first drive it you'd be forgiven for a little frustration creeping in. It's a small capacity motor that's helped along with a turbocharger. The thing is, when you have such a small engine there's not going to be much low down torque and so you sort of need to slip the clutch a smidgen to allow the revs to rise so you can have a decent pull off. A normal driving style will see you feeling a lot of turbo lag that will either have you scrabbling to pull back a gear, or bouncing your body forwards and backwards in an attempt to help the car along. As said, you quickly get used to the way it needs to be driven. I took a mate for a drive, and I ran it through the gear hard and we were both mighty impressed with how this little 1200cc powerplant performs. A few times we commented on how good it is for a 1200cc, and wringing it's neat is quite fun. It was only when I was checking the pricing for someone else who wanted to pitch the Micra to his employer as a fleet car option, that the new range of Nissan Micras all use a 3-cylinder 0.9-litre setup, or 900cc. Power is rated at 66kW and 140Nm. I immediately told my mate and his mind was equally blown. The transmission is pretty good, a tight and notch 5-speed 'box. It's claimed to sip just 5.1-litres/100km and on my week I only saw 5.8s for a few days, and when used on shorter drives it hovered around the 6.3 mark, which is also decent considering how the small lump likes to be revved.
This new platform is longer, wider and lower and with the 17's on it's a good drive. The chassis is taught and the suspension stiffens up well when put under pressure. Normal driving sees it being comfortable and smooth. If you could take the traction control off, it could be a fun car to play around in a weekend gymkhana event. If you manage to keep the motor in the sweet spot of the revs, you'd surprise a few people with what a 900cc can do. Driver aids include intelligent FEB (Forward Emergency Braking), BSW (Blind Spot Warning), hill start-assist and start/stop technology too.
Overall the all-new Nissan Micra is a great little package. It looks really good, it's feature-packed and it's a fun drive. There are four trim options available to try an accommodate various budgets. Things start off with the Turbo Visia at R247 800, then there's the Turbo Acenta at R273 900, the Turbo Acenta Plus at R289 600 and then the range-topping Turbo Acenta Plus Tech at R305 900 (as for Sept 2019). I think crossing the R300k mark shouldn't happen even though it is a well-rounded car. It doesn't quite have the performance to justify it. There's some good competitors in this segment at that price, and if you're a regular here you'd know that I'd rather throw another R10k into the finance and get me summit with more performance in the same category. That's just my choice, if you are in the market for a car in this segment, hit up a dealership and give one a go, there's no reason it shouldn't tick all your boxes.
I do think some clever marketing is needed for the car, I think this is a good option for young enthusiasts who want to do the whole aftermarket car show thing, but if these guys only get exposure to the usual brands then this Micra won't be a consideration. I reckon if Nissan SA pulled a Suzuki SA stunt and tarted one up a bit and took it to shows, there'd be some good interest in the car. There's the usual suspension/wheel/stickers route that would have great results, but if they dug in the parts bin and retrofitted seats from an older GT-R (there must be a set around that was removed from a racecar or under warranty etc), changed hubs to accommodate GT-R 18-inch wheels, some carbon interior trim bits, a downpipe and exhaust it would be a proper talking point. You know, just a thought...
When you introduce two new models to the market, and they both have the magick of a turbocharger attached, there's no better place than a racetrack. The team at Suzuki South Africa made sure the introduction of the all-new Suzuki Swift Sport and the updated Suzuki Vitara was not only memorable, but they also made sure to introduce the car at a venue that could properly exploit the products. You must know that when you're invited to RedStar Raceway, things will be about speed, and even if you're not accustomed to fast cars on track, that's it's still going to be a great day at the office.
Usually I like to put up a little disclaimer when it comes to Suzuki's cars, because I'm such a fan that bias creeps in. Most people who know me are aware of my Suzuki obsession to the point that any time an interesting Suzuki-related post is seen on just about any online platform I get tagged in hundreds of times. If you're bored, search my name and Suzuki together and you'll see what I mean. So yeah, expect some over the top flattery from me on both the new Swift Sport and the Vitara. The thing is, while I do this because I'm a long time fan who's followed the progression of the brand in SA, I'm not alone in singing my praises. If I had to round up every positive comment from my fellow motoring journos both locally and internationally, there'd be so much to go through that you'd swear we were all paid to be nice. We weren't of course, but such is the stack of accolades that it's thoroughly plausible.
I know you're eagerly awaiting details of the Swift Sport, so I'll start off with the Vitara, I'm cool like that...
Suzuki Vitara Turbo
The all-new Vitara was launched back in 2015, and it quickly became a favourite, as you'd see in my full review five months later when I had it on test for a week. So three years in and the Vitara has received some more attention to keep it current, which is pretty easy to do when the thing doesn't look like its aged at all. What the Suzuki engineers have done is equip the turbocharged Vitara with the the same spec of the current range-topping GLX grade, but have added a few changes to raise the visual impact. We now find the Suzuki Vitara Turbo sporting LED DRLs with LED headlights and taillights. Chrome always makes things look more larney, and so we now find chrome in the front grille and under the fog lights. In the cabin a 7-inch touchscreen was added to head up the infotainment system, which also includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Yes, included FOR FREE. Some mainstream manufacturers could take note of that, so I'll say it again. Apple carPlay and Android Auto is included for free. That means you don't pay extra for this tech. If that's not cool enough, it also features MirrorLink if you prefer to connect that way. Also inside is a unique leather and suede upholstery combination that looks way more premium than the price tag would suggest.
Then there's the powerplant, which was in my mind the only thing that counted against the previous Vitara. Well not for me personally, but the buying public. While the N/A 1.6 is nippy enough and the transmission features ratios that properly exploit the power, people want boost at altitude. With the new Boosterjet engine in play, there's a loss of 200cc down to a 1400 capacity, but with that little metal snail bolted on, power is up from 86kW to 103kW, and the torque rises to a healthy 220Nm from 156Nm. That's already a brilliant improvement, but the engineers tried hard for a Christmas bonus and so they chucked in a 6-speed manual transmission, and even went as far as millennialproofing the Vitara by also giving the option of a 6-speed auto, because it saves valuable energy which can rather be used for all the Instagram posing or whatever else influencers do. Basically what this new package equates to is eliminating any excuse not to buy a Vitara. The two things that were a concern to the people I recommended the Vitara to have been addressed, the infotainment has a touchscreen and there's now enough power to get you in proper trouble. The Vitara is also claimed to sip just 5.8l/100km in manual guise and 5.9l/100 in auto, and from my experience I can tell you the car will use even less in real world conditions with decent driving. The price tag remains favourable too, which in this current climate is almost unheard of.
Suzuki Swift Sport
When Suzuki announced the all-new Jimny and the all-new Swift Sport I lost my shit on an epic scale. I mean come on, two of my favourite cars having brand new models hit the market - can you blame me? So we (SA) got the Jimny pretty much as the model was launched internationally, even before some other world markets. This meant I could physically feel and touch one (don't judge) to make sure it was indeed a legit car and not some weird retro dream. Then there's this new Swift Sport that hit international shores sort of at the same time, but it's arrival in SA was delayed by about 119 years for something to do with fuels and things that don't make sense to me. This is both good and bad. Good because it builds the anticipation, and it gave me a chance to read every single online review ever written about the car, even finding basic driving impressions posted on Aussie Suzuki dealership blogs. Bad because all these reviews made the car sound like the Second Coming and that it is quite literally the best thing since, well, the last best thing. So hopes were high for it to be a cracker of a car that's much improved over the previous model.
When the new Swift shape launched, I was like "Hmmm, isss ok". I wasn't wowed by it, but it was all-new and an improvement over the previous model in every way possible. Good enough reason to like it as an overall package. Then the Sport version appeared, and again, it looked great but the previous generation is still rather pretty to me and so again I wasn't really sold. Jump forward 119 years to finally seeing one in the metal and things are very, very different. Photos simply don't do the shape justice, which is odd for a photographer to say but it's legit. The Sport features different styling cues to make sure onlookers know that it's the range-topper, all these things make this little hatchback rather desirable, and when added to a range of funky colours that help show off these changes, the Swift Sport rises to the top my Want-O-Meter. The little break in the C-pillar, the rear diffuser, and the side skirts that remain in black make the paint colours pop, but even the black option works. Visually, the new Suzuki Swift Sport is a clear winner for fans of hatchback. There is but one single complaint I have when it comes to the styling - SIXTEEN INCH WHEELS. What the actual fuck guys? There is no reason for anyone to ever use 16" wheels in 2019. They're kak, tyres are mad money for the size, they don't fill the arches enough, and they're also quite kak. They sit a little too tucked into the arches for my liking too, these teeny wheels make the SSS a candidate for spacers to bring the wheels flush with the arches. Of course things do look ok as an overall package, but slapping on the same 17" wheels that are available in other markets will take the new Swift Sport's look to an 11/10 for me. Maybe the bigger wheels will be available in the future, but until then I'm expecting to see new Swift Sport models queueing up at local wheel shops. Some JDM-style hoops along the lines of Volk's TE37s will be insanely wicked!
So like the Vitara, the new Swift also Sports (see what I did there) the same Boosterjet powerplant and it even makes the same power at 103kW, but it is 10Nm up at 230Nm. The outgoing 1600cc engine was rated at 103kW and 160Nm, and while those aren't big numbers they made the SSS a true hot hatch in the original sense of the phrase, and it was the last of the fun, high-revving sports cars available on the market before being retired. Many were worried that adding boost would change the dynamics of the car and affect the fun factor, but these are the kind of people you must ignore at braais because they're eedjits. Boost is ALWAYS better - it's even loosely referenced in the Bible. Nahum 3:2 reads: "The noise of the whip, the noise of the rattling of the wheel, galloping horses and bounding chariots!". If that doesn't describe boost kicking in, I dunno what does. As with the previous model, there a short-shift, close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission in play for the real drivers out there, and a 6-speed auto with flappy paddles for the Xbox generation - although there's no reset button. The men in white coats claim the all-new Suzuki Swift Sport can hit 100km/h in 8-seconds and it tops out at 205km/h. I think it's quicker if I'm to trust my butt dyno.
Of course adding boost was the easy part. Making the all-new Swift Sport a little bigger inside, a little fatter at the hips and and giving it a bigger boot capacity that measures at least two full Chelsy Pintos (if a little pretzeled up) all the while managing to shed a full 90kg of weight - that was the hard part. Actually, doing all of that and still having the car feel solidly built is quite impressive too. The doors close with a solid thunk, the fit and finish is tops and there's no rattles even at race pace on rumble strips. There's so many new things to mention in this all-new Suzuki Swift Sport, and they'll be attended to in detail when I do a full review. Right now I'm sure you just want to know how the little hatchback performs, so on to that then...
So the car is lighter and more powerful, and there's that sweet-ass turbocharged rush of power. I was given the opportunity to drive one in anger (which is hard to do with a Joker-like smile plastered on your face) on RedStar Raceway's small track and it took just a single lap to feel right at home. The cockpit of the SSS is great thanks to a proper sports steering wheel and some tasty high-bolstered tombstone-style race seats, along with a great looking speedo cluster. It was easy to find the perfect driving position, and once in, I headed on track. Firstly, if you don't have an amazing dental plan, be super gentle when applying brakes. I tramped on them in the pit lane to see their bite rate and almost ate the steering wheel. They're sharp, and amazingly, after around 40 journos thrashed the four cars used for the track session all day long, they showed zero signs of fade. That's in stock trim with OEM brake fluid, which is flipping amazing. I left the nanny filters on for my first lap, and the traction control knows you're driving with lap times in mind because even engaged it lets you spin the wheels out of the corners somewhat, although that's not how fast times are posted of course. The steering is tight and precise with the perfect amount of feedback, you know when you're on the limit and when traction is going to break. The rack ratio is just right too, lock to lock is short and makes tight turns and hairpins a breeze The suspension is brilliant, just brilliant. It's stiff enough to make spirited driving fun and competitive, yet it's pliable enough for a comfortable drive even on the worst of SA's roads. That new Boosterjet engine is awesome, it's responsive, sounds really good and even when the car is nailed all day long it sips fuel. The one I had on track was in the mid 8s per 100km, which is just mad. The 230Nm comes in between 2500rpm and 3500rpm, and that will see you kill tyres out of corners if you're a little too eager. The way the power comes on song is also great, the car even chirped into 3rd a few times. One thing I didn't like was the soft limiter that comes in at 6000rpm or so. Sure past that there's no power anyway, but I'd just prefer that it could rev a little higher and give me the choice of when to change, because at flat taps on track you reach the 2nd and 3rd gear limiter rather fast and when it kicks in it can kill your flow through the gears. It's not a trainsmash though, and after a day of driving I'd be used to how it behaves and adapt accordingly I'm sure. On my second session I tried a bit of lift-off oversteer to see how things behave, and you have to work to get the rear to step out, but when it does there's no snapping around, things are controllable and, well, FUN! This little turbocharged hatch is the perfect weekend racer, and I'm fully expecting to see these cars gaining popularity at the various club-level motorsport events I shoot. Check out the vid if you feel like watching someone else have loads of fun in a car for a few minutes.
After the track session it was time to try the car on a dry skidpad for bit of a gymkhana session. Here all the journos were let loose on a basic mirrored course and timed to see who could properly make use of the Swift Sport's brilliant handling. Again, a great steering ratio, sharp brakes and boost make for good fun and better times. For this session the cars were in Millennial Spec, and I must say that 6-speed auto is properly smooth and it doesn't change gears just because, it lets you rev high under full throttle conditions. It's not a dual clutch setup but it's smooth and fast. I would like to try it out on a longer road and in a daily driving scenario where I can use the steering-mounted flappy paddles, but first impressions are great. Anyway, back to the gymkhana... The Swift Sport is great, and it also boosts confidence for drivers and I can prove it. Once I could remember the damn route on the gymkhana, I managed to post the fastest time for day one of the launch. In other words, I kicked some ass!
This all-new Suzuki Swift Sport has all the hallmarks of a cult classic, this car is a game changer that's going to see fans of other brands cross over, I'm sure of it. It's priced great, it's quick, it's fun and it has a power to weight that makes a Polo GTi blush. I'm hoping this car makes people see what I've seen in the Suzuki brand for all these years. In a perfect world we'd see the Swift Sport in a single-make race series, but I think SA isn't ready for that much awesomeness. I am also fully expecting to start coming across Swift Sports at all aftermarket the shows I shoot too, it simply MUST happen.
Suzuki have knocked it out of the park yet again, they have the coolest lineup of funky cars now. The Swift Sport is accompanied by the retro-cool Jimny, the cute AF Ignis and the turbocharged Vitara. There are others in the lineup too of course, but they're just a little less funky. If you're in the market for a new car, you HAVE To check out these new models from Suzuki or you'll be doing yourself a mahoosive injustice.
The Suzuki Vitara 1.4 Turbo GLX 6MT is priced at R378 900 all in, while the 6AT can be had for R397 900, which is brilliant, especially considering what you get in that package. The all-new Suzuki Swift Sport can be had for just R315 900 with manual cog-swapping, and Millennial Spec is set at R335 900, which is also pretty damn decent. There's no other new car on the market that gives so much at this price point, nothing, nada, zero and zilch.
These new Suzuki cars come with Suzuki’s promotional 200 000km/5-year mechanical warranty, a 6-year/unlimited kilometre corrosion warranty, a 4-year/60 000km service plan and a 5-year unlimited kilometre roadside assistance plan.
Those who follow my stuff will no doubt have seen my posts about the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb event, and that thanks to Castrol SA, I was lucky enough to actually attend and shoot it for myself. While it could be seen as just another motoring event I've captured, for me it's a tick off the Motoring Must Shoot bucket list. If I had the digital space and the editing time, I would have shot 10 000 images, but instead I shot what caught me eye. There's probably loads of cars and people missing from the album that's on Facebook (or will be soon, depending on how soon you read this) but I'm happy with what I shot.
On that note, I even managed to get in some time with a lens I'm lusting after thanks to the hillclimb organisers having the crew from Canon Professional Services in the media tent. As a Canon user, I was able to try out all manner of new Canon cameras and lenses (which I wish I knew about on the Friday when I arrived and not Sunday morning), but instead opted for just one lens, the 70-200mm f/2.8. I shoot on the f/4.0 which is brilliant, and event a little faster thanks to it's size, but this borrowed lens just moved to the top of my want list. I should have stuck to what I know because I battled to get the crisp panning shots I love thanks to the IS on the lens. My lens is non-IS and so it's, well, just different. I need a weekend to dial in a new lens I reckon.
There was a bit of a mix up with my airport transport, and so I missed the classic cars running on the Friday. This was quite the downer because the classics are the best to shoot. Luckily Castrol put us up in Protea Hotel Knysna Quays, which was pretty much across the road from where the much-anticipated parade was going to happen, so straight after check-in I was off to mingle. Oddly, before I even spotted any race cars, I met Shane and his RB-powered SX. He recognised me from my editor days, and was such a rad chap to meet, I did a mini shoot on his car. Went for a short drive, which was a good thing because the way the ass wants to overtake the nose thanks to stupid power at low boost, I would have finally used that extra pair of jocks I always back when I go away.
The parade last year was mad, as was the year before and even the year before that. This year there were only a few cars parked around and so from the time the parade part started to the time I got into a sniper-like position to shoot the cars, it was already over. I do blame the heavy clouds and the threat of rain though. A strange start to the weekend for sure, but that's why I love this kind of thing, there's no set script and adventures make great stories. The rest of the weekend ran great, Castrol had me rolling like a VIP with shuttles to the hill, access to everywhere I wanted access to and of course, the Castrol VIP tent. Besides the awesome view overlooking the start line, it was gourmet drinks, gourmet food and great chats with a bunch of motoring enthusiasts. The wet and dry Saturday was practice for everyone, and a dry Sunday saw qualifying and then the actual shootouts take place where everyone fought for top honours., it's all a blur (hahaha) when watching events through a camera lens.
Taking pics throughout the event was a mission, I know so many people at the event that I want pics of them and their cars but it just wasn't possible. In between trying to get to cool positions to shoot from, I spent hours chatting to people, some familiar old faces and some new - this alone was reason enough to call this an amazing weekend, but it just added to the awesomeness. There's just over 600 images from the event that made the cutting process, and they will be available to see on my Facebook Page, so choosing the pics I wanted for this post came down to rather wanting to share the ones that I think captured the spirit of the event, from lone cars ready to go, to popular cars surrounded by fans and curious onlookers ending with a few action shots.
Enough words, signing out. Once again, huge thanks to Castrol SA for making this happen for me, besides an awesome event to attend and shoot, it's the memories - priceless!
Let's not beat around the bush here, if you're on this blog, you've probably seen my content here or on my social media feeds before. That also means you're aware of my unhealthy obsession with Suzuki, in particular, the third generation Jimny. I first saw one of these things in 2008 when they were introduced to SA, and at that time it was already a long-running model. Once I'd actually sampled the little 4x4 that I first laughed at, it immediately moved up to the top of my Want List, which confused many people because at the time I was editor at a performance motoring magazine and things were all about being lower, wider, bigger and faster. When I left the magazine I started getting press cars for review, and these included all manner of vehicles that would make anyone happy, but I still always wanted a Jimny. Trust me to want a car with the longest model production run of all time (ok, that might not be true, but it felt like it). That first model I saw in 2008 started life in 1998, and it ran all the way until 2018 when this 4th generation entered the scene.
The 4th generation is this square lump of awesome you see before you. The amount of time this thing took to hit the market makes sense now, I reckon the men in white coats and the bean counters all worked together on this one, continually improving things, changing things, upgrading things - all the while biding their time. I think someone at Suzuki has their pulse on what the worldwide car buying public wants, seemingly knowing that retro styling would be the next big thing in this world of slanty, aerodynamic replicas of each other. Teaser pics of the all-new Jimny started doing the rounds a couple of years back already, and while every motoring site that posted pics claimed they were leaked, I think it was all strategic. The retro styling was pretty much all we could see, and that left industry experts all giving opinions on what the little 4x4 would have inside, underneath and powering it. I think the Suzuki engineers and designers kept tabs on a lot of this to make sure what they were doing would be what people wanted. Looking at the end product, everyone involved deserves a bonus.
The retro styling, the available colours, and all the right changes in all the right places have ensured the all-new Suzuki Jimny an instant cult status. Seriously, if you want one now in SA, you'll be put on a waiting list. Yes, that's right, a waiting list for a Jimny! It's also not a short wait, if you want to get your ass in the seat of a new Jimny, you have a 12-month long wait ahead of you. While that's not necessarily a great thing for Suzuki SA who have to try and calm impatient wannabe owners, I think it's absolutely awesome! I've already heard stories of people selling their spots on the waiting list to enthusiasts who are willing to fork out money to get theirs sooner. That's a problem that usually plagues limited edition high performance models and supercars. Like I said - instant cult classic. This little 4x4 appeals to so many people, in the many different circles I run in, there's at least a handful of people who want one. A client of mine has a collection of super impressive cars, including a Track Pack GT-R as well as the holy grail of JDM cars - a 1970 GC10 Hakosuka - and he's keen to get his hands on one.
Now I'm not going to get into all the technical details and changes and improvements, for that information I'll direct you to the initial launch impressions over here. What I am going to tell you is that the all-new Suzuki Jimny is brilliant, just fukken brilliant. Sure, there will be those that want it to have more power and more speed, but those are the people who don't really get what Jimny is all about. That said, the motor is bigger so there is a bit more power on tap than before. While I haven't looked at the nitty-gritty specs, I'm positive the gear ratios are different as is the power delivery, which in real world terms means the Jimny is much easier to drive. I took a 2017 model to Cape Town, and while I loved it because I was headed to an awesome destination in a car that I'll bite someone in the face for, it took a bit of work, it was tiring. You do have to pay constant attention to the gear you're in, the revs and the speed. Still, while the little 4x4 isn't fast, I never held up traffic and even managed plenty overtaking manoeuvres. That's not the same in the all-new Jimny though. It's an easier drive, like you're in a normal compact car. The steering is easier, the feel of the car on the road is better, the power delivery is better, the comfort is better - everything is better. That's just on the tarmac, if you start talking about going off road, then there's not much that comes close to what this 4x4 can manage in stock form, the new technologies employed make it untouchable . Of course, if you want more out of a Jimny, there's already so many aftermarket parts out there to beef the thing up into zombie apocalypse spec. This is thanks to the Jimny being the most popular vehicle at the recent Tokyo Auto Salon.
Many people know I get press cars, and when I get something different or special, a few get hold of me so they can have a closer look. After the launch and I posted pics, I had upwards of 50 people begging me to show them the car when the review week popped up. At every place I visited, every shopping centre I stopped at, someone wanted a closer look at the Jimny. I've never been in a car with this much interest from the public. At 4-way stops, robots, and in traffic I had so many hoots & waves and thumbs ups chucked at me you would swear I won the lotto. Lucky I'm not (that) paranoid.
With Suzuki, the Swift has always been the bread & butter model, selling great in all the markets it's available in, but I think the new Jimny will be adding some pretty damn tasty jam to that sandwich. It's never going to outsell the Swift, but it's going to hold its own for sure. Not only is it brilliant at what it does, it can out 4x4 just about any offroader you can think of, but it also has no competitors. That's right, this little 4x4 is in a class of it's own. Even if there was something in this class, you're looking at playing catch up to a company that's had a Jimny on the road since the first generation LJ10 in 1970. The practicality of the Jimny is brilliant, the single drawback being boot space, but if you leave passengers out of it, the rear seats fold down to free up enough space for serious holiday baggage. The all new Suzuki Jimny moves to the top of my want list, relegating the outgoing model to second place. I wouldn't even be picky about a colour for one, I'd take whatever is available because they're all that good, I actually couldn't choose a colour for myself anyway. With two trim levels and the option of automatic, there's a model for everyone, even freelance journalists like myself. The range-topping Jimny 1.5i GLX AT comes in just shy of R320 000, with the entry-level Jimny 1.5i GA MT just on the R265 000 mark.
If you want a second hand 2018/9 Jimny, be prepared to wait for a very, very long time. If you think having a new model out means you can pick up the outgoing model for cheap - think again. From what I'm seeing on the World Wide Web, most Jimny owners aren't selling to get this new model, they're simply adding the new one to the garage.
That's pretty damn cool.
Why did I shoot the Jimny in an urban setting? Basically, because I can. Mainly because every review out there sees the 4x4 in action off road, and I'm a fan of doing things another way.
With the Dakar over and a fair bit of worldwide hype about some local builds doing well, cracking an invite to the Motul offices in Kyalami to chat with some regulars involved with car building and support, as well as a privateer who competed was pretty cool. It's one thing hearing stories and anecdotes about life on Dakar in video clips and press releases, but hearing it first-hand and being able to pick up on body language and tone just makes it that much more exciting. The stars of the show were race driver and big boss of Red-Lined Motoring Adventure, Terence Marsh, and privateer racer and Morul Powersport Ambassador, Stuart Gregory, who competed this year in the Original by Motul class on a rented KTM 450 Rally. With Terence being a veteran of Dakar, having attended 8 of them while helping run the teams entered with cars built by his company, he had a lot of insight as to the running of the event and how it's all an intricate business model before anything else. On Stuart's side we got to hear the struggles of a lone privateer bike entrant in the toughest race on the planet.
The invite list saw about 70 or so people gather for a few drinks, some snacks and to listen to some great stories. Terence hosted no less than three teams racing locally-built Nissan Navaras on steroids at the 2019 Dakar, and with that experience comes a wealth of knowledge. There's a lot to it, but basically the event needs to be run like a business, and it's all centered around how the footage from the front runners is sent to the networks to air, well that and making money. This year's event was a bit of a weird one, the guys sort of looped a track in Peru because some deals didn't happen and so the event couldn't be run across borders as planned, other countries pulled out. This in turn made the event that little bit harder as the competitors had to try race across some very loose and hard to navigate terrain. This actually hurt Stuart's attempt at the Dakar. When the sand gets pummeled into a soft powdery dust they call it Fesh Fesh, it's super fine and gets in places dust has no place being, and in Stuart's case that seemed to be the engine and at Day 8 it lost all compression and forced his retirement. If the event ran as originally planned, the ground would have been more compacted as it would only have been the frontrunners loosening things up instead of the whole field. His stories about how tough the race is, along with how the camping and eating process is makes you glad he was there and you weren't. Before this event Stuart was quoted as saying that he wouldn't do Dakar again, but by the end of the night he'd confirmed that he's definitely headed back to get that elusive medal and the fund raising started then and there with someone buying the Fox / Motul shirt he was wearing. Seems a bug has bitten.
From what was told, this event really is for the toughest of the tough, that goes for the people as well as the machinery. The costs involved not only to enter and race, but all preparations before and after are mind boggling, and on a privateer level are almost impossible to fathom. I tell you what though, looking at the images looping on the screens, it really is an awesome race through some amazing countries (well one this year) and does have you thinking that if you could, you probably would. The Original Motul class is mad though, you compete on your own, no crew to help service, fix or prep the bike. You set up and break down your own camp and a single box of your belongings is shipped to the next way point for you. With Stuart making it strong to the 8th day on his own, I have no doubt that if he was backed by a team he would have collected a medal.
It was a real eye-opener to get all the facts and figures from people who had actually been there and done that. There's costs behind the scenes that you won't see in any published facts and figures, struggles and hardships raising capital that could pay off a house just to get a medal. I've learned two things from this; if you want to enter Dakar, you need lots of money, and if you do enter Dakar, you need Red-Lined Motoring Adventure in your corner. It's also thanks to companies like Motul that we have these great events. On that note, thanks for the invite guys, that was a good and interesting evening. Oh, and next time I'm winning in the lucky draw!
*Pics without my logo were supplied.
Author: Chris Wall
A slightly tattooed motoring fanatic, photography nut and avid collector of knowledge. Use the search bar to navigate through the archives.