There's a few motoring categories that are hot stuff right now, and the compact SUV is one of them. Many automakers either already have a poker in the fire, or one is in the works. Volkswagen has the popular Tiguan, Jaguar has the E-Pace, BMW has the X2 (and X1 I guess), Audi has the Q3, and even the Chinese have the Haval H2 bringing up the rear. New from the Swedes is the Volvo XC40, and it has to be one of the best looking options available, but as usual there's so much more than just good looks going on. Volvo already offers the large XC90 and it's smaller sibling, the mid-sized XC60 that shares a lot of the same design cues which are really pleasing on the eye. The XC40 isn't just a shrunken XC60 though, it's an all-new creation from the ground up built on the CMA platform, Volvo's new modular vehicle architecture, such is Volvo's commitment to take on the segment. The automaker is clearly on the right track because while the XC40 has just reached SA soil, the stylish SUV has already been named as the European Car of the Year for 2018 - this has what it takes to knock a Porsche out of the running.
The Volvo XC40 has an interior designed around the driver, so everything is there for a reason, the cabin (and the rest of the car) has everything you need, and nothing you don't. The Swedes are a clever bunch and they've made sure no space is wasted and so there are numerous compartments found around the cabin to cater for the modern day driver's everyday carry items. Smartphones, laptops, just about anything you would have, has a safe place of it's own. Added to this there's the brilliant infotainment system headed up by the 9-inch Sensus Connect touchscreen that's fitted in a portrait orientation making it look larger than it is, which isn't a bad thing. This screen is home to many functions and settings screens along with the usual things like navigation, reverse and 360-deg. surround camera and the audio system. For the XC40 the optional audio upgrade is a little different from the others in the Volvo range in that it's no longer that amazing Bowers & Wilkins system, but an equally brilliant Harman/Kardon system. There's plenty more tech packed in, enough to make some German rivals blush.
There's a few trim levels planned for the Volvo XC40 range, but at the time of the local launch there's only two that can be had, but worry not, this compact SUV is a winner no matter which you choose. The available range kicks off with the Momentum trim, but don't mistake this an an entry-level offering, it simply has too much included for it to have that classification. The two models already in SA are the T5 Geartronic AWD with a petrol-fed turbocharged 4-potter that produces 185kW and 350Nm of torque, mated to that brilliant 8-speed automatic transmission (R610 900); and the D4 Geartronic AWD with a diesel-fed turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-potter that's also mated to the 8-speed auto (R600 300). The second trim level that's available straight away is the one I'd sell a kidney for, the R-Design. The R-Design trim makes use of the same go forward bits leaving the differences to be mainly centred around the aesthetics and options, and they look bloody good, if you dispute that then you have no taste. The diesel will set you back R642 600 and the petrol sits at R649 700. Another trim on it's way is the Inscription which offers a sort of balance between Momentum's more businesslike attributes and the R-Design's sports aesthetics, when these arrive you're looking at R632 100 for the diesel and R639 200 for the petrol. In Q3 of this year you'll be able to get a T3 in manual with front-wheel drive that's set to upset rivals with an entry price tag of just R489 500.
These very, very good-looking compact SUVs simply HAVE to do well here in SA. I don't have any facts or figures to back it up, but just from the people I know and people I speak to, many seem to be looking to the smaller, more niche brands to fill their motoring needs, and Volvo has some absolutely brilliant solutions in the popular segments. Besides the pricing and great products, all new Volvos come with a 5-year/100 000km warranty and maintenance plan as well as a 5-year/unlimited mileage roadside assistance package. Oh, and if Vördnadsbjudande doesn't mean what Google Translate says it means, let me know. I just hope its not PG.
Yeah, I'll tell anyone who listens that the Chinese auto brands are on the rise, and fast too. Take this new Chinese-built Haval H6 C, to me it's a sign that manufacturers in the Far East are reaching that point that needs to be crossed before people will consider the brand worthy of consideration. The Korean brands took a while to get there yet they now have models regarded as class and segment leaders. This Haval H6 C comes from Chinese automaker GWM and I reckon it's got the goods to get the right attention, and more importantly, convince buyers to at least take a genuine look at the offerings before making a purchase. The other day I was in the Haval H2 and if you read that post you'll know I was mighty impressed with how good it is, but this H6 C is even better - in every way. The spec I rocked for a week wasn't the top spec model, so a few things were missing like leather seats, a sunroof and some functionality on the driver information screen in the centre of the instrument cluster but they honestly weren't missed. The thing is, even with all the bells & whistles present, the Haval H6 C still comes in at a healthy chunk under R400k. Yeah, I know many will rather look for a second hand (insert German/Japanese brand here) but there are equally as many who want to own a brand new car, and this is for them.
The feature list for the Haval H6 C is good, this Chinese SUV can be had with things like a panoramic sunroof with an electric sun blind, a blind spot monitoring system, hill-descent control, a few drive modes, front and rear park assist with rear-view camera and kerb side camera, mood lighting for the cabin, a tyre pressure monitoring system, dual zone climate control, electronically adjustable heated front seats, electric foldable side mirrors, anti-glare rear-view mirror and an 8-inch head unit that's home to the infotainment system (that can have an optional subwoofer added). There's steering-mounted controls to help you navigate the driver information screen and the infotainment system without taking your eyes off the road, and added to the safety there's ESP, Collision Fuel System Shut Off, daytime running lights and a full array of front and side impact airbags - this SUV quickly dispels thoughts that Chinese cars may be unsafe. There's actually plenty kit in the H6 C, more than the pricing suggests, which is what may end up making people take that closer look I mentioned.
So how do the various things operate? Pretty damn good I reckon. Everything in the cabin is bolted together properly and so there were no squeaks or rattles anywhere. I mean sure, the car was new with less than 5000km on the odo, but if nothing made a noise over some deeply rutted and corrugated roads at 80km/h, then things bode well for when the SUV has the mileage racked up. The function buttons for the various controls are also devoid of that cheap feel that you may expect, there's adequate resistance so you know you've actually used / pressed / switched something. The infotainment system is good, but it is probably the only place that the H6 C has a clear divide from the competition. It does have all the stuff you need though, but if I could nitpick I'd still want a better all-round system more akin to what the rivals offer. That said, I don't see it taking too long for Haval to get this part of the build on par with the competition.
Still, in the cabin you'll find comfortable seats both up front and in the rear. This model I drove had cloth seats, but you can option the SUV with leather if that's your thing. The front seats are comfortable enough to see you through long trips without an aching back creeping up, and they can be had in 6-way or 8-way power adjusting guise. The rear seats are, well, rear seats and are as comfortable as rear seats can be. The best part of the Haval H6 C interior is the space - there's sooooo much! I'm not tall but I can easily have a 6ft+ mate sit behind me and still have space to stretch out. Boot space is great, a set of luggage will fit, as will all the gear needed by those with an active lifestyle. The rear seats can fold flat to expand the space, but then you're probably using the H6 C to help a mate move house.
With great exterior looks, a good cabin and a healthy feature list, it comes down to the drive. This is where the Haval H6 C does rather well. All three trim levels (City, Premuim and Luxury) all share the same powerplant and drivetrain, while the 6-speed transmission can be had in both manual and auto (the latter has a dual clutch setup). Drive is to the front wheels only, but the internationally available all-wheel drive version can be arranged by special order. The model I drove featured the manual transmission and as with the drive in the H2, I was more impressed than I thought I'd be. The clutch action is light and easy and the gears slot into place with the same feel and purpose you'd find in any of the German rivals - Getrag gearbox FTW. The ratios are set up great too, the engine's power delivery vs throttle input is as good as it gets which means no unnecessary cog-swapping leaving you to enjoy the drive more.
All three trim levels also share the same powerplant, and it's pretty damn decent. A turbocharged 2.0 with direct injection does duty and it's rated at 140kW with 310Nm of torque, which is great power in anyone's books. The engine is quiet and smooth and it does feature a bit of turbo lag, but not enough for it to be a problem, more like just enough to that you can feel good and well when the boost comes in - not a bad thing for me. The Haval H6 C isn't small but the power delivery, the light steering and the surprisingly good dynamic handling combine to fool you into thinking the SUV is smaller than it is. Performance figures show the SUV can hit 100km/h in 9-seconds, and is billed to use just 9.8-litres/100km of liquidised dead dinosaur, although during my week the best figure seen was 12.0-litres/100km. If there was a way to get that figure in the low 9s or high 8s there'd be little to fault the thing on.
Overall we're looking at an SUV that's got some great looks, seating for five nightclub-in-the-North-sized bouncers, a good interior fit and finish, a healthy spec list, good safety and a great engine/transmission combination all for under R400 000. In the mid-sized SUV segment there's plenty competition but all the models from various rivals that fall into the same price range come up short on included spec and features, which is a huge plus point for Haval. I enjoyed every drive in the Haval H6 C, the only faults that warrant mention would be the heavier than claimed fuel consumption and an infotainment system that feels like it's a couple of years behind what others offer these days. One enthusiastic standstill start saw the Haval H6C leave an unsuspecting Toyota 86 a hard time, I laughed. A lot.
Would I have one? Yeah, I actually would. For the things I get up to for work and play these days, it's a really good option if a new car purchase was needed. As mentioned, before buying in this segment, be it new or used, you really need to have a closer look at the Haval H6 C. You will be doing yourself and your bank account a serious disservice if you don't.
Haval H6 C 6MT City R329,900
Haval H6 C 6MT Premium R339,900
Haval H6 C 6MT Luxury R359,900
Haval H6 C 6AT City R359,900
Haval H6 C 6AT Premium R369,900
Haval H6 C 6AT Luxury R389,990
The Haval H6 C comes standard with a 5-year / 100 000km warranty and a roadside assist package.
These days it’s become the norm for a dealership to throw in a driving course to try and clinch the deal on a car, be it a fast streetcar or a capable off roader. For those shopping around for an affordable 4x4, it’s pretty much a guarantee that Suzuki’s diminutive Jimny will end up on the shortlist, and in 9 out of 10 cases these buyers will end up at a Suzuki dealership. If you’re based in or around Jo’burg you can pretty much rest assured that a 4x4 course at Bass Lake will either be recommended or offered - this is both a good and a bad thing. It’s good because driving off road has its own set of rules and regulations that you simply must learn, and it’s bad because once you’ve taken a Jimny out on a 4x4 trail you WILL want one. The picturesque Bass Lake is located on the Glen Douglas dolomite mine in Henley-on-Klip and is a mere 45-minute drive from the Sandton CBD. Over and above being a 4x4 training facility, Bass Lake is one of the top dive-training spots in the world thanks to a 23-metre deep, 10-hectare lake fed by clear water from a natural spring.
While all 4x4s are welcome at Bass Lake, it is the de facto training ground for Suzuki Auto South Africa’s off road models, which explains the fleet of Jimnys and a Grand Vitara or two you’ll see around the venue. These super capable little 4x4s are used when you attend one of the various 4x4 courses on offer at the lake, like the full day’s 4x4 training that comprises of Level 1 (Introductory) and Level 2 (Intermediate) courses. You can use your own vehicle if you prefer, but we highly recommend using the Suzukis, if not for any other reason than to blow your mind at how amazingly capable they are. Over the years some of these Jimnys have racked up nearly 20 000km of pure off road driving with the only item needing attention being a tear in one of the driver’s seats – another reason to use them.
The main man behind Bass Lake is Alan Pepper, a well-travelled outdoorsman who’s forgotten more about 4x4 and off road driving than I could ever hope to learn. Alan stepped into the world of 4x4 before I was born back in 1975 and over the years has been instrumental in training over 9 000 local and international drivers to handle themselves off road. He’s the kind of man you want on your side when that zombie apocalypse happens, he’s been there, done that and has a closet full of T-shirts to prove it. Not only is he the boss, he’s also hands on and will be the one giving instruction and training during the offered courses. We were there for the aforementioned full day course that kicked off with Level 1, which covers the basics of 4x4 driving and includes explanations of the various terms, a breakdown of how a 4x4 system works and what that means for the way they handle on and off road. What I like about this first part is that Alan manages to teach you all the relevant bits without getting too technical, yet nothing is really left out either – many a schoolteacher could take a lessons from Alan.
It’s the second part of the instruction where things get fun, the Level 2 part of the course sees you head out on to one of a few trails scattered around the 75-hectare property. These range from “mild” to “no thanks” and a stock-standard Jimny can pretty much handle them all, which usually catches most people by surprise. The Jimny only has the basics in terms of creature comforts, but this just shows you that it was built with a singular purpose – to go anywhere. If YouTube were anything to go by you’d swear a 4x4 needs a thundering V8 with a few hundred horses saddled up, but the Suzuki Jimny makes use of a 1300cc, 16-valve 4-potter that produces just 63kW and 110Nm of torque. With a dedicated low range available at the push of a button, it works out to be more than enough to cross a continent without using tarred roads. One of the things that makes the course more interesting is that Alan insists that it’s done with the tyres at street pressures, because if you’re in the middle of nowhere and you let the tyres down to help improve traction you don’t always have access to a pump to get things back to normal – and that can leave you stranded.
Before you know it you’ll have covered up to 7km of off road terrain and hopefully learned to read the land to pick out the best route to follow, how to approach and traverse obstacles and how to do it all while also looking after the 4x4. One thing I battled with was letting go of the clutch and using the accelerator or engine resistance for control, but of course the automatic Jimny eliminates this problem – even Alan reckons the auto is at least 10% better than the manual. One thing to note is that some obstacles the Jimny can manage with ease will actually be harder in a bigger 4x4. The little Jimny’s short wheelbase and 4.9m turning circle means it can do things that can often see longer wheelbase 4x4s beach themselves.
The best part of the trail is when Alan announces that you’re headed to an obstacle called Instructor’s Revenge – trust me, like you’ll have to trust the Jimny, it’s brilliant. In a sort of cross-axle turn to go down a steep ledge, the driver’s side rear wheel lifts as high as a meter off the ground – before Alan gives the car a shove to show you that it won’t fall over. Look at the size of a Jimny, and now imagine just how high a meter is in relation. If you can do this without swearing, you’re a better person than me. The course ends off with a demonstration of how a car behaves on gravel roads when power is directed at just the rear wheels as opposed to all four wheels. If you think these cars can fall over thanks to their low weight and tall ride height, this is the section you really need to see. Suffice to say, the Suzuki Jimny isn’t just a capable 4x4 - it’s downright exceptional!
If you’re in the market for a 4x4, even if it’s not a Jimny, the Bass Lake 4x4 training courses are a must. There are various courses and levels available, and they can be booked directly with the venue over at www.basslake.co.za. It’s a great idea for corporate team building days too, and the facilities are top-notch, as is the lunch that’s included in the price. You’ll also receive a certificate to prove to all your mates how awesome you are - I have two now, and in another two years I'll add another one to the collection. A huge shoutout goes to Suzuki SA’s Megan MacDonald and Brendan Carpenter for arranging a spot on the course for me - and of course to Alan Pepper and the Bass Lake crew for another amazing experience – thanks guys! Oh yeah, you can catch an album of pics from the day over on the Chris Wall Media Facebook page, but you know that already.
I would have brought you news and details of the new Haval H2 when it launched last year at that massive motoring show at Kyalami, but someone messed up my event accreditation and so while the rest of the journos were taking a close look at this new Chinese offering, I was fuming at the gate trying to sort out access. So yeah, I’m a little late to the party on this one, but I can promise you that it was worth the wait. Chinese auto brands have been around for a while now in SA, but Great Wall Motors is the one import that has managed to keep up a steady flow of sales in the country and seems to have done pretty well, although their footprint has mostly consisted of bakkies. The company has done a bit of a shuffle and the result is a range of premium SUVs that will be sold under the Haval banner, and so far there are three available in SA, the H1, the H2 and the H6 (plus a bigger H6 C variant). This time round, I take a closer look at the Haval H2, a midsize SUV that not only looks good, it’s got a great feature list, a punchy turbocharged engine and a price point that is guaranteed to elicit a “Is that all?” response.
Some Chinese cars have been an abomination when it comes to looks, “borrowing” styling from various manufacturers and often mashing them together in a Picasso-esque lump that offends the eyeballs. In the case of the Haval H2, the SUV shares similar styling and sizing to the previous generation VW Tiguan and I have to say that it looks pretty damn good, there’s not really any way to fault it if you ask me. The car rolls around on some good-looking 18-inch wheels, there’s daytime running lights, fog lights all round and some rather sturdy roof racks that tell you the SUV will be suited to those with an active lifestyle. That large front grille really does give the thing a premium look and feel, along with the dual exit exhausts and the rear lower diffuser. Argue with me as much as you like, but thanks to the amount of comments I received during my test week I’m convinced that this is one of the best-looking Chinese cars on the market. Interestingly, the other one that I like a lot is the Haval H6, so these guys are on to something.
Inside the cabin things are equally as good, there’s a decent basic layout with a dashboard, centre console and seating that’s all easy on the eyes with not much by the way of hard plastics. The instrument cluster looks good and the 3.5-inch driver information screen in the centre displays all the relevant drive information needed, plus a little extra, and before you reach that you have yourself a multi-function steering wheel with easy to navigate buttons so you can keep your eyes on the road. If I must criticize, the steering could be a little chunkier, but that's nitpicking. The centre console and the screen heading up the infotainment system looks good too, the screen is crisp and bright and functionality is good too. It does feel a little older in terms of layout and the operating system, but cars at thins price point usually have a basic head unit with no features. It took a few seconds to connect it to my Samsung S8 for phone and media connectivity though and I was able to play my weird list of music flawlessly. The screen is also used for the reverse camera display as well as the kerb-side camera that’s rather handy in tight parking situations. Other features include a tyre pressure monitoring system, push button start, keyless entry, a 6-way power adjustable driver seat and a sunroof. There’s also dual-zone climate control that works well too, a real plus for my wife who likes to drive in a fridge. She can freeze while I chill at 25-degrees. It’s Chinese, but it has good safety in place with front active headrests to save your neck from whiplash as well as an array of airbags including those all important curtains for side impact. Space is great too, 5 adults will fit with ease, and the boot space is decent, although having a full size spare wheel and a fire extinguisher does take up some space, but that’s a great compromise if you ask me.
The mid-sized SUV makes use of GWM’s GW4G15B powerplant, a small capacity (1500cc) turbocharged 4-potter with 105kW and 202Nm on tap. This was a surprise for me, I’ll admit I had low expectations to start but the motor is genuinely good. The power delivery and noise is comparable to any Japanese or European manufacturer’s offerings and when you boot it the H2 will run way ahead of the traffic. The model I drove was the range-topping H2 1.5T Luxury AT, fitted with the 6-speed auto transmission. Again, it impressed. The shifts are smooth and quick and I didn’t find it hunting for gears. It’s programmed with a Standard Mode, Economy Mode and Snow Mode and while I didn’t feel the difference, Economy Mode was where I mostly left it to see how the figures match up to the claims. Haval claim 8.6-litres/100km but I had it at 7.5-litre/100km for most of the 500km I did in the car, but the last few school runs were in silly traffic and it rose to 8.1-lites/100km – still rather good. There was a few times that I had no power when I wanted to pull off, but lifting off the accelerator completely and then trying rectified it again – quite possibly a minor issue that can be solved with a software update on the transmission’s ECU. Overall the Haval H2 was a pleasure to drive, the handling was what you’d expect from a taller car, the braking was good (a little sharp even) and the steering was light and easy. It's tall enough for gravel roads and basic sort roading, but it's more of an urban cruiser thanks to the all-wheel drive trim not being available in SA so far.
The Haval H2 is a pretty good offering from the automaker; it feels solid, there were no rattles or noises that shouldn’t be there, it’s got a great feature list and the engine and transmission are good too. Remember some years back when all the journos were telling us that the Korean cars are getting better and better and would one day rival the European offerings? Well I think the Chinese brands are on that same track, especially at Haval with these H models. Sure it will take a while before they make a dent in sales of the usual suspects out there, but the time is coming, especially with the pricing as good as it is for a feature-rich SUV. I do hope that buyers in this segment take a closer look at these cars before signing an OTP with the well-known brands.
There are three products in the Haval H2 lineup with three trim levels, and each of these can be had in manual or auto. All Haval H2 models are come standard with a 5-year/100 000km warranty; a 5-year/60 000km service plan and 5-year unlimited mileage roadside assistance package. For more info and detailed specs, head on over to Haval SA.
Haval H2 1.5T City R244 900
Haval H2 1.5T City AT R279 900
Haval H2 1.5T Premium R254 900
Haval H2 1.5T Premium AT R289 900
Haval H2 1.5T Luxury R274 900
Haval H2 1.5T Luxury AT R309 900
While most people were sorting out romantic dinners and gifts for Valentine's Day a few weeks back, this lucky couple (myself and Cat, my much better half) headed out to Redstar Raceway for some driver instruction and a bit of high speed driving. Sure it's not the normal thing to do for couples, but chaps, take it from me when I tell you that the aphrodisiac power of a bunch of roses doesn't quite hold up to the supercharged V8 growl of Jaguar's F-Type R Coupe. Sure, I know I'm a car guy, but there's summin' rather special about being let loose on a racetrack in a 405kW supercar. While I was the one who fully benefited from this experience, thanks must go to Dean Knoop and the rest of the crew from Jaguar Land Rover Midrand for inviting myself and Cat along for their Valentine's Track Experience. As a motoring journo and photographer I get to attend events like this often but it was something completely new for Cat, so over and above all the awesomeness that took place, it was even better for me because Cat got to see what a day in my life often looks like - that rocked!
Before heading out on track the instructors showed us all how important braking systems and tyres are with a few demonstrations on the pit straight. In the practical demonstration one of the advanced driving instructors launched a car from the end of the straight and got it up to 60km/h, and we all had to guess where the car would come to a stop during emergency braking. Let's just say that if we were standing in the road, I'd be typing this from a hospital bed. Most of the car guys were close, but those new to these kinds of demonstrations had their minds blown. When the same test was done with the Jaguar kicking it at 120km/h the results drew many gasps of disbelief thanks to the distance being more than triple that of 60km/h. I'll leave out the exact facts and figures, mainly because I can't remember them, but it certainly gave everyone something to think about. Also the fact that the demonstration was done in premium cars with all the best safety systems available, high performance tyres and advanced driving instructors at the wheel sort of makes you weary of that cone filter-fitted 2000 Opel Corsa barreling down the road behind you on the daily commute . In the real world out on the road with pavements and trees and taxis things can be rather scary if you don't have a good following distance and a modern, roadworthy car.
With all the demonstrations out of the way, it was time to head out on track to experience the safety systems on various Jaguar models. The first test was a demonstration of how ABS works, for this one we lined up at a designated start point and nailed it until we reached a pair of cones that were set out to mark the braking point. Depending on the car, speeds reached around the 100km/h mark and that's when we had to jump on the brakes hard enough to engage ABS, Thanks to the life-saving system the car slowed to a stop in as short a distance as possible in a dead straight line. Without ABS you're likely to see the car swing out of it's lane, which as you can imagine is rather dangerous. The next test was related to this one, but instead of simply slamming on brakes when we reached the cones, we had to do an emergency lane change at the same time. This was to show that ABS not only affords the car maximum traction while coming to a stop, it allows turning of the steering wheel to get out of the way of danger without having the front wheels lock up - if you're locked up you ain't turning - if you ain't turning you could find yourself up close and personal with the car/tree/robot/obstacle up ahead. Again, something that surprised most who attended.
Once everyone had experienced the tests in the full range of cars it was time for some laps of Redstar Raceway with the driving instructors alongside in the passenger seat giving, well, instruction. It's amazing to feel how the cars behave and respond when they're on the right line and you're applying the right amount of accelerator and brakes at the right time. Driving aggressively may well by heaps of fun, but driving smooth is where it's at. This was second best part of the experience (I'll get to the first just now) thanks to being able to drive a few of Jaguar's awesome new models at speed on track, we had the opportunity to drive the Jaguar XF S and R-Sport, the Jaguar F-Pace S and R-Sport, and the Jaguar F-Type Coupe and F-Type R models. Of course the last car was the best - it's not everyday you get to drive a supercar worth over R2,000 000, especially one from a manufacturer that you have a rather healthy affinity for. Of course the fact that the F‑Type R is powered by a roaring 5.0-litre V8 with a supercharger bolted and power figures of 405kW and a whopping 680Nm of torque is just an added bonus, as is launching from 0‑100km/h in 4.1-seconds thanks to a brilliant all-wheel drive system.
So the best part? Instructor's Revenge! This is where you get to go out on the full track as a passenger while the team of advanced driving instructors take the cars to 10/tenths to show off what they can really do. This was Cat's favourite part of the day too because she got to ride shotgun in the aforementioned supercharged V8. She's a nervous passenger at the best of times but the instructors are such a great bunch that make you feel perfectly safe and comfortable so when the car returned to the pits after the hot laps a very happy, smiling Cat emerged from the car - that's when I knew this completely random Valentine's Day experience was a clear winner. Finishing off with a brilliant catered lunch meant one truly memorable Valentine's Day.
Once again, a huge thanks goes out to the Jaguar Land Rover Midrand team for this amazing opportunity, not forgetting the team of instructors, and of course Dean Knoop - you guys rock!
It was around two years ago that I attended the launch of the much talked about Honda Civic Type R, it was billed to be a front-wheel drive car with handling far superior to many all-wheel drive offerings, not to mention straight line speed that defied physics. The turbocharged hatchback was garish in the looks department and had a price tag that seemed rather ludicrous thanks to an initial list price close on R600 000, but the fact that it was being brought into SA in limited numbers meant that it's desirability was quite high and it didn't take long for the few models to be snapped up by performance enthusiasts. As with anything, time and money can see improvements being made, and in the last while Honda's engineers have been hard at work figuring out how to extract even more from the power on tap and also improve the handling dynamics, resulting in improvements to the 2017/8 model that don't make sense - how do you improve on something that was already brilliant? As hard as it is to believe, the new Honda Civic Type R is a better car in every single way, aesthetics included, although the latter is subjective of course. Some rave about the looks while others are blaming Honda for damaged retinas and a persistent gag reflex. Me? I'm from Kempton Park. This thing has God-like status in my eyes. I'd happily sell everything I own to afford one and then I'd just live in the car. After all, you can sleep in your car but you can't race your house...
There's a million and one technical things that have changed with this new Type R, and most of that information won't help you in your day-to-day missions - it's just too technical for a basic blog. There are, of course, key changes that you need to know though, like it's still considered a hatchback even though the dimensions make it look more sedan-like; it's now 165mm longer and 35mm lower than before. While vents and spoilers abound, the front fenders look a little tamer thanks to losing the vents atop the wheel arch, but the extraction vents at the rear of the fender remain - these reduce air pressure build-up in the wheel arches. The font bumper remains similar with large air dams for engine cooling and the new lower splitter runs the length of it - this is functional and creates an air cushion that boosts downforce over the front axle. There's also the addition of a vent on the bonnet, it's actually rather subtle but it's there for a reason, along with every other part of the exterior design. All of the "offensive" parts are an ingredient of the of the magic recipe that keeps the Type-R planted on the tarmac even when physics says it shouldn't be.
Another ingredient is the suspension which has actually been improved, something I refused to believe until I got behind the wheel of the car. Honda call the suspension sophisticated, I call it supernatural. Up front there's an "advanced, dual-axis front setup specifically designed to address torque steer while enhancing turn-in and steering feel..." and it keeps the nose where you point it, sort of like the 400Nm on tap is insignificant somehow. The rear suspension is a completely new milti-link design, which will have current Type R owners questioning if what they have is good enough (it is). I couldn't tell the difference myself, all I know is that on track I tried to initiate some lift-off oversteer and both Type Rs said no with much authority. I reckon only professional race drivers will be able to tell the differences in handling, but 99% of the people I know would not. As with the previous model, there's a cracking helical limited slip differential that makes sure the power directed to the wheels is always used optimally; wheel spin is eliminated for the most part, as is any sign of torque steer.
The steering has also been improved, which once again boggles the mind. In the media briefing some engineers told me that they've managed to improve on one the best steering systems ever when it comes to feel and feedback, and I just sat there and nodded sagely in agreement, yet 20 minutes later I was on the track and I could actually feel the difference. It's light when needed and heavy when needed, and a personal choice can be made when selecting the different drive modes. So adding the clever suspension to the clever steering on the stiffer chassis makes a world of difference, but it's the Adaptive Damping System that brings it all together. In this version you now have three drive modes: Comfort, Sport and +R, and each one offers up exactly what you'd expect. In Comfort mode the suspension is a lot more pliant and it's a lot more comfortable than you expect, even on the 30 profile tyres that look more like a thick elastic band than a tyre. Driving a Civic Type R to Durban will be a breeze and you'll even make it on a full tank if you behave yourself. Sport is the default mode and as expected is the middle ground, so things are stiffer, tighter and more responsive all round.
+R... well that's like waving a giant red flag in front of a steroid-addicted bull that stepped on Lego. Nudge the mode selection button forward and things switch over to the dark side; the edges of instrument cluster turn to a more sinister shade of red and the white edge of the digital tachometer follows suit and changes to a thick red arc with a redline naring 8000rpm. The best changes are hidden from sight, the real witchcraft happens under the skin. The adaptive suspension stiffens up like it popped a little blue pill, the accelerator turns into more of an on/off switch, the steering becomes a little more weighted and my favourite part - the exhaust gains 2dB. Ok, so that's not really caused by switching to +R though, this is just a bonus from the smaller 3rd exit pipe of the exhaust that has the sole purpose of making more noise when the engine speed rises - and rise it will when you're in +R, you can't help it.
+R is for weekend track days, or midweek track sessions if you're lucky enough to have a job like mine. Actually the track is really the only place you can properly (and legally) exploit the Civic Type R. Added to all the above changes, Honda's Vehicle Stability Assist system loosens the reins on the yaw and slip rate so that you can get a little more silly before it intervenes to save your ass. For the brave, +R mode also allows you to switch the system off completely, along with the traction control. I'd honestly only do this for a lap or two to feel the Type R in hooligan mode, but then I'd let +R mode do it's thing because that little ECU can think a lot faster than I can ever hope to. That and the fact that replacement tyres will likely need to be financed from your bond - a set of 245/30 R20 premium brand tyres will be around R20k, and this is one thing you cannot skimp on because good rubber is also part of the Type R's insane traction.
So then, how does the 2017/8 Honda Civic Type-R actually drive? Well I drove it along some of KZN's sweeping highways en route from King Shaka to Dezzi Raceway and I'm happy to repot that the car is more than competent as a daily driver. Comfort mode offers up a great drive and as said, it even manages to mask any bumps that may arise from the ridiculously low profile tyres. The steering is light and smooth, things are quiet-ish enough that the on-board entertainment need only be at normal volume to drown out the engine and it makes the car a rather pleasant place to be. The default Sport mode is pretty much the same in terms of drive comfort, it's sort of a combination of the two drive modes offered in the previous Type R and is more than good enough for acting like a chop on the road while keeping you sort of safe. While this isn't the kind of car that will end up with owners that care about fuel consumption, the Type R actually returns very reasonable figures in the region of 8.6 l/100km, if you can manage to stay on the good side of the law. But it's +R that you really want to know about, and that was saved for Dezzi Raceway when I was allowed some hot laps in the car under the watchful eye of instructor and all-round nice guy Reghard Roets. Now look, I don't profess to be a great driver by any stretch of the imagination, but I have had my fair share of track driving over the years in some wicked cars and I used all of that experience combined with Reghard's instruction on this day and the result was the fastest and smoothest session I've ever had on track (with me at the wheel).
Dezzi Raceway is a mindf#*k of note with the corkscrew and rises and falls, it's super technical but once you're in a flow it's simply beautiful. The Type R did exactly as instructed at every corner, when I wanted brakes, they were there in full force with zero fade, when I wanted speed I had it, when I wanted a sharp turn-in it obliged and when I wanted to tackle a sweep at pace it stayed in the I wanted. I tried to induce lift-off oversteer but the car just gripped. I tried to induce understeer and as it felt like the nose might push out, the electronics and the limited slip diff turned my silly inputs into a neat, fast turn. It's not easy to put into words, I have so much to say but it will sound like the ramblings of a madman or a Honda fanatic whose favourite brand can do no wrong - but the car really is that damn good. Acceleration is brutal for a front-wheel drive car with a 0-100km/h dash coming in at a claimed 5.7-seconds and after some vicious cog-swapping in the close-ratio 6-speed manual gearbox it will run up a top speed of 272km/h. It's hard to believe that a turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine is responsible for this kind of performance but that Earth Dreams Technology is absolutely brilliant. Don't take my word for it though, the engine has already been awarded the 2018 Wards Best Engine award. It's rated at 228kW with 400Nm and that equates to 168kW/ton.
The interior is worthy of a mention - it's just as loud as the exterior. There's carbon look trim splashed around along with red trim and inserts to keep the race theme going. There's a brilliant infotainment system that's intuitive to use and offers up every feature a modern tech junkie would want (Apple CarPlay / AndroidAuto are also available). The instrument cluster can display an array of different screens relating to what the car is busy doing in real time, mine would stay on one of the performance screens though, maybe the boost readout. The seats are adjustable race-spec pieces with high bolsters to keep you firmly in place when the G-forces get a little pushy (and they will) and they also feature the obligatory Type R logo embroidered on. The shifter is the signature round brushed aluminium piece with red lettering and the pedals are in the usual sportscar drilled aluminium with rubber studs guise. All Type-Rs have a tag just below the shifter showing which production number Type R you're sitting in. There may or may not be a rear seat, I won't kid you, I never even looked at it. I never plan on being in the back seat of one and even if I did decide to try it I know I'll fit comfortably because I'm compact like that. There's also a boot that I never looked at, well I did put my camera bag in it but I didn't really take notice because reasons. This is a car that you either love or hate, and if you managed to read this far, you know where I stand...
There's not much else to say about the new Honda Civic Type R. It's garish, in your face, over the top, ridiculously fast, awesomely cool, absolutely bonkers and it makes me want to do something completely illegal to raise R627 900 (includes a 5-year/200 000km warranty; 5-year/90 000km service plan & 3-year AA Roadside Assistance). You can have the new Honda Civic Type R in Championship White, Crystal Black Pearl, Polished Metal Metallic, Rallye Red, Brilliant Sporty Blue Metallic, and the new Sonic Grey Pearl.
One of the most important things on any car is without doubt the tyres. No matter what car you drive and no matter where you drive, all that keeps you connected to Terra Firma is four patches of rubber that measure in at roughly the size of the palm of your hand. Ok, some tyres are wider than others and so are some hands, but the point is that the traction between you and the road is rather tiny when compared to the size of your car. The odd thing is that tyres seem to be a grudge purchase for most people and so they often skimp on costs by either getting tyres in the wrong size or by buying terrible quality tyres. There are however options that offer up great quality at a price point that won't break the bank, and the latest additions to the range at General Tire are exactly that. I was lucky enough to make my way to the Cape with the Altimax crew to sample these new additions, the Grabber AT3 and the Grabber X3.
When you take a close look at tyres you'll find out that every groove is there for a reason; on street tyres a lot of it is for dispersing water, but for all terrain or more off-road focussed tyres the grooves actually work to expel sand or mud that can cake up on the tyre and negatively affect traction. With these two new tyres, one is made for all terrain purposes and one has more off-road focus, but is able to offer a decent drive on tarmac. The Grabber AT3 is, as the AT part of the name suggests, the all-terrain tyre. This tyre is destined for use on bakkies, SUVs or off-road oriented cars that will spend at least an equal amount of time on tar and on gravel, a 50-50 split. The Grabber X3 is meant to spend the majority of its life off-road, but is capable enough on tar to keep you cruising safely. For this tyre the usage split is 80-20. Of course I fully expect to see Sandton Jeeps running around with this off-road rubber even though the biggest obstacle they're likely to face is climbing over a centre island to do a U-turn when Maps sends them down the wrong road into traffic. With aggressive-looking tread being one of the deciding factors when people buy tyres these days, that's not a bad thing, the Grabber X3 looks properly mean.
To test the Grabber AT3 we were sent on a route with amazingly breathtaking views of the Cape while driving a fleet of the new 2.4-litre Fiat Fullback bakkies. It was my first time sampling of a Fullback and I must say I was quite impressed with it. It's powerful and smooth and has all the mod-cons you expect in a new bakkie, although the interior did feel like it was a few years old in look and feel, but that has nothing to do with the tyres. On tar, and a few gravels roads, the Fiat performed flawlessly, hoofing it on a few bends showed that there was good grip on the roads and as far as road noise is concerned it wasn't really noticeable. The same when it came to the sand roads. It must be said that it's hard to figure where the tyres are showing off or the bakkie's traction control settings. Still, the ride was good. At one of the waypoints we swapped over to Jeep Wrangler Unlimited models fitted with the Grabber X3 tyres. Again, even though they're meant to spend just 20% of their time on the tar, they gave good grip and feedback, even on some wet roads it took a bit of silly buggers to try get the Jeep to lose traction. That's a win.
After a few hours traversing the best driving roads the Cape has to offer, tar and gravel, trying to rescue a poor duiker that we witnessed breaking it's back while jumping through a fence it didn't see, and falling just a little bit in lust with a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, we arrived at our accommodation for the night at the Klipbokkop Mountain Reserve. Apart from being an amazing lodge, it's also the home to Mountain Brewing Co and is also the base for the General Tire Adventure Academy where you can learn the ins and outs of off-road driving - see attached .pdf at the end of this article for great off-road driving information. Dinner (an awesome one), drinks (made on the same mountain we were on) , chats (about all sorts) and bed was the order of the night.
Just after sunrise and a great breakfast we headed into the valley to do some more testing. The first part saw us heading out in the Fiats again on an amazing scenic off-road route made up of hard sand, beach sand and your average medium grade off-road trail. The Grabber AT3 tyres got us through all of it without any issues. In some parts the electronics of the bakkie intervened to regain traction, but the tyres are the main ones responsible for the grip. After having more fun than should be legal in a bakkie, we swapped over to the Wranglers to put the Grabber X3 tyres through their paces. The trail we were lead on this time was way more technical and a lot more demanding on the cars and tyres, but thanks to the skilled instructors we managed to do the course without falter. There were some instances when I thought we'd be in a little trouble, but the grip of the tyres and the amazing agility of the Jeep got us through. I did get to see what the tyres look like up close when they're crawling over obstacles and you can actually see how the different sections grab on to the various rock surfaces and how they expel the water and sand and mud, quite fascinating really.
The new additions to the General Tire Grabber range are what the market needs right now. They are great tyres that come at an affordable price, and they have also made them available in the most popular replacement sizes to manufacturer spec. The Grabber AT3 features three innovative technologies developed to enhance all-round performance and durability: TRACGEN, DURAGEN and COMFORT BALANCE. The standard Grabber AT3 tyre range is available in 13 sizes catering for 15 to 20-inch rim diameters. Later this year, the Grabber AT3 range will be bolstered with a further nine reinforced light truck (LT) offerings in 15 to 18-inch sizes, which are designed for heavy duty applications. Compared to its highly-rated predecessor, the new Grabber AT3’s on and off-road performance has improved in several key areas, including noise levels and irregular wear. Traction in snow, muddy conditions and on wet grass has been improved, along with cut-and-chip resistance. The Grabber X3 is an extreme terrain tyre ideally suited to three of the most challenging off-road driving conditions, comprising mud, dirt and rock – as the name suggests: X3. The Grabber X3 relies on an enhanced version of General Tire’s DURAGEN Technology, using a three-ply construction across the range. This guarantees exceptional durability and puncture resistance and the new Grabber X3 raises the bar in virtually every sphere of off-road performance, while on-road capability has been similarly improved. This mean-looking tyre is available in a total of five sizes for 15 to 17-inch rims.
Best of all, they supply the tyres in OEM fitment to the Suzuki Jimny that I will own one day. A huge shoutout to the Altimax crew, the Xtramile crew and the guys from Klipbokkop/MBco. This was an amazing, unforgettable experience. Oh, and one last note - I decided to try something different on this event, all images taken were with my Samsung Galaxy S8. I wanted to see if it was possible to get quality pics without lugging a full camera kit around. I'm happy with them, but I still think it's worth the extra hassle to have my Canon DSLR with me.
A few more images, because I can...
Mountain Brewing Co.
Just a quick mention of Mountain Brewing Co because the venue, and the team behind it and most importantly, the craft beer itself is brilliant. While staying over we had a few drinks at the Klipbokkop Brewhouse Pub as you do, and we got to sample the wares. They have a great craft beer menu, and I tried two of them while there; Loadshed and an MBco original called Fynbos. The latter was made with fynbos instead of hops, and the only way to describe it was like a liquid veld. Seriously, the way a veld smells after rain is what this beer sort of tastes like, and that's a good thing. Loadshed was great though, I could happily put a 6-pack away. The brewerie gave us a takeaway pack of beer containing all six flavours, and as soon as the first real Saturday of summer comes around, they're doing down like a cheap Chinese watch.
CAPE KRAKEN BELGIAN AMBER ALE
BLACK OR WHITE HY SMAAK ORAAIT: VANILLA PORTER
COPPER DAWN LAGER
SHARING THE TASTE: MBCO ORIGINALS
The latest incarnation of the Land Rover Discovery has just been launched in S.A and yours truly was lucky enough to attend the launch of the brand's iconic nameplate. As usual, the Land Rover crew introduced us to the new model by adding in some amazing driving roads (both on and off road), breathtaking views and a spattering of light adventure. Land Rover is all about the lifestyle after all. I've been on a Land Rover launch before when the Discovery Sport was released in SA, and so I knew we were in for a brilliant time off the beaten path.
The contingent of journalists met at the Land Rover training centre for some much needed coffee and breakfast that lead into an introduction to the 5th generation Land Rover Discovery with a run down on some of the new tech features that have been added to the premium SUV. If what those internet memes say about your smartphone having more computing power than what NASA used to send Mr. Armstrong to the moon are right, then the new Discovery has enough tech packed into it to land humans on Neptune. Now comes my problem, what do you need to know about and what can I leave out? If I add in everything available in the new Disco then I'll be here for an age and a day, there's just that much going on.
What you do need to know about the tech is that all of it is there to make your life a lot easier, from accessing the boot, arranging the seating to expand the storage space, through to planning your journey and navigation - you can even hitch up a trailer with no help from anyone, just the onboard technology. The powers-that-be have named seven wonders of the new Land Rover Discovery, the list is as follows:
1 - The Magnificent Seven: every seat is the best seat in the house
• Flexible interior provides seven full-sized adult seats, instantly configurable from your smartphone using the world's-first remote Intelligent Seat Fold technology.
2 - A much loved member of the family: keeping you safe for the last 26 years
• Semi-autonomous safety technology provides the family peace of mind.
• Premium interior combines leading design with durable, high-quality materials and space for the whole family.
3 - King of the hill: unstoppable on all surfaces, all terrains and in all weathers
• Land Rover’s full-sized SUV architecture delivers world-beating all-terrain capability.
• Lightweight aluminium construction saves up to 480kg, delivering enhanced efficiency
• Towing king: best-in-class 3,500kg towing capacity and semi-autonomous Advanced Tow Assist take the stress out of difficult reversing manoeuvres.
4 - British creativity: designed with charm and sophistication loved by the world
• Design retains key Discovery family cues, adding optimised proportions and sophisticated surfaces.
5 - Storage addiction: discover the space for everything
• Up to 2,500-litres of luggage space and clever storage for 21st century family essentials.
6 - Connects every generation: Ingenious features that make life easier
• Digital Discovery equipped with up to nine USB ports, six 12-volt charging points and an in-car 3G WiFi hotspot for up to eight devices.
7 - After the roads end: reaching threatened habitats and vulnerable people
• All-New Discovery will continue Land Rover’s work in humanitarian aid and conservation projects around the world.
Much of the tech in the new Land Rover Discovery is found in the outgoing model, but there have been tweaks and improvements throughout, as expected. One new addition we were shown in the tech centre was the Intelligent Seat Folding feature, which received a host of negative comments when I Tweeted about it from the launch. The general consensus was that it wasn't needed and an extra thing that could go wrong. I must admit that when I first read about it I thought similar, but seeing it in action changed my mind. The seats can be folded and moved in various configurations with the touch of a few buttons on a panel in the boot or via the infotainment screen. It can also be done via Land Rover’s InControl Remote app. Comments were that spiteful people or kids could mess around with it and possibly cause damage or harm, but there are safety parameters set up so that any resistance to the seats moving will stop the operation. I like this feature, sure it can be called gimmicky, but I'd find real world use for it when needing to load the SUV with larger than normal items (up to 2,500 litres of space). You can have the seats fold to the config you need while you're still in the queue at Builders.
Adding to the versatility is a new single-piece tailgate. It opens wider than before and can offer shade or shelter from the elements when fiddling in the boot. It can be opened with a swipe of your foot too so that there's no need to put your shopping down to fumble with access. Another nice feature is the Powered Inner Tailgate. This is an extra fold-down section that opens when the tailgate is accessed. It looks thin, and is lowered and raised by a thin wire coupled to a motor. While the wire looks to be thin, it's strong enough to support up to 300kg. This can be raised and lowered independently of the tailgate making it quite the handy feature. To test it, I sat on it with a rather well-known Land Rover ambassador, I'll get to more on him a little later.
Another great piece of tech has been carried over from the sister brand's Jaguar F-Pace, is the Activity Key. For the active types, or those wanting to show off new tech, this is great. You can lock everything in the car, including the key fob, to keep it safe. With the durable ( withstands 30m water depths and temps ranging between -50 to +125 degrees celsius) activity wristband worn, you can lock up and go off to do all sorts of things and know that you won't lose your keys. It's a simple procedure, you just hold the wristband up to the D on the tailgate. This locks the Landy and disables the conventional keys.
From the tech presentation we bundled into the fleet of new Discovery models and headed out on a nigh on 300km trip to an amazing makeshift camp site near Thabazimbi in the Waterberg biosphere. Ok, campsite is misleading, it wasn't your normal kind that your wife hates, it was a luxury setup with each tent having electricity and an en-suite toilet and shower. Also known as glamping - glamourous camping. Anyway, this route gave us a chance to feel what the new Discovery is like on the open road with your normal, everyday traffic, as well as a chance to sample the SUV's off road capabilities. Firstly, the tarmac drive is perfect. The power delivery, the gear shifts from the 8-speed auto and the handling is second to none, but that really is expected from a car with this kind of heritage and price tag. This stint saw us in the 3.0 V6 turbodiesel-equipped HSE Luxury model that produces a cool 190kW with a monstrous 600Nm. As expected, these specs make for some interesting performance figures. At just about 2300kg, the powertrain is still able to return claimed figures of an 8.1-second 0-100km/h dash with a top speed of 209km/h. It's quite easy to get there too, the drive is so smooth and quiet that if you don't pay attention you'll easily find your mugshot on Metro's website. The drive is much the same from the petrol derivative that offers up 250kW and 450Nm from a supercharged V6. As with the same setup in the F-Pace range, I'm a fan of the torquey feel of the diesel and the growl of the supercharged petrol. Choosing between the two is a hard task that I luckily don't have to make.
When we made it to the Waterberg area, we had the chance to experience what the new Land Rover Discovery offers off road. It's a lot. It has to offer a lot, because while many will only really use this as a city commuter, there are those that will put it through it's paces in some rather unfriendly environments. Before hitting the short and technical trail, we were introduced to another great feature of the new Discovery - Hitch Assist. Want to go camping, tow a car or do anything else that needs to be hooked up to a tow bar? With the new Discovery you can get everything set up on your own, because technology. The Hitch Assist system allows you to guide a trailer into position with trajectory lines and a sort of target circle that appears on the screen to guide the Landy's electrically deployable tow bar to be directly under the trailer mounting point. Once connected, you can make sure you're safe on the road thanks to another industry first - the Trailer Light Test feature. This allows you to make sure all the lights are working on the trailer with the Landy pulsing them on and off them while you stand outside so check. The Rear Height Adjust feature allows the you to lower and raise the rear height of the rear of the Landy to make the process even easier. I think the new Discovery may lead to owners putting on weight, easy also means lazy. Of course, once up and running, there's more technology like the Trailer Stability Assist that will make sure your towing experience is a safe and pleasurable one.
Actually taking the new Land Rover Discovery on the trail was a revelation, all the technologies on the older models will still help you safely navigate and traverse some pretty mad terrain, but the chaps in white coats have added in even more tech, and one feature can turn even the most inept metrosexual city boy into bonafide Bear Grylls outdoor master. When you're on a mild trail and things start to get a little on the scary side, all you have to do is activate the new All-Terrain Progress Control (ATPC) feature. The best way to describe it is that it's like an advanced hill descent control but for going up and over stuff. When used, the Discovery autonomously maintains a crawl speed of between 2 and 30km/h leaving the driver with one simple task - steering. ATPC controls the brakes and accelerator effectively, it's been tuned using decades of Land Rover’s off road expertise. While for some this may take a lot of the fun out of an off road trail, it's a great way to make sure you don't end up as a fail video. It was pretty weird to feel though, the ATPC crawls along at the right speed to make the terrain passable. We drove through some deep water (not sure on depth but it was enough for me to drown in) and then up and over some rather large and slippery rocks. The power was distributed to the wheels that needed it most and the new Land Rover Discovery made light work of a pretty mean little trail.
There's obviously a lot more to the new Discovery, but those are some of the things I thought you needed to know before anything else. So, what does the Best of British cost then? Well, it ain't cheap, but I'm sure you knew that. There are three models available, the S, SE, HSE and HSE Luxury. The S kicks off at R980 000, the SE at R1 109 250, the HSE at R1 223 000, the HSE Luxury at R 1 314 000. There is one higher up, but it's a limited edition called First Edition and that's set at R1 440 000. The HSE Luxury I drove on the launch has various options fitted and this had the price up at just over R1 600 000.
A few people have commented online (and in person) that they're not sure how much sense this Discovery makes business-wise as it's pretty close to, if not on par, with a Range Rover in capability. The Range Rover is obviously the big daddy that comes with automatic baller status, but with the new Discovery being this good, will people be happy to fork over nigh on a million Rand more for the Range Rover? It would be a hard choice for me. On the other hand if I wanted a premium SUV in my driveway, I'd also be considering a Jaguar F-PACE. So it seems that either way, the same people would get my money. Once again we have a brilliant offering from Land Rover, and if you're in the market for something premium, you'll be doing yourself a disservice not to test drive one of these magnificent beasts.
Kingsley Holgate - The man, the legend.
I mentioned that a well-known Land Rover ambassador joined us on the launch, and if the pic didn't tip you off, it was none other than Kingsley Holgate. The man is just awesome, he's been there and done that and he doesn't just have the t-shirt, he made the material himself and mixed up the ink for the print using rare berries found in the wild. I've known about Kingsley and his exploits under the Kingsley Holgate Foundation banner for as long as I can remember, so when we had dinner and he sat at our table, I mainly just listened, too awestruck to ask anything. The man has so many stories based on real life experiences that you don't really want to speak to him, you just want to listen. In the near future, Kingsley will be heading into deepest, darkest Africa on another humanitarian expedition and he'll be captaining a fleet of new Land Rover Discovery vehicles on the epic journey. I did ask him what changes would be made to the cars for the trip, and they're basically going as is. Some will see a strengthened set of roof rails that will allow a sturdy platform to be built across and some will have the spare wheel moved from underneath the boot onto dedicated mounting points. Other than that they'll be wearing the smallest optional wheels to allow for tyres with a bigger sidewall. Robert's your mother's brother - the Land Rover Discovery fleet will ready for anything. If Kingsley trusts the car and it's capability, you should take note.
Thanks to this lasting collaboration between Land Rover and Kingsley's foundation, nearly 240 000 kids in unreachable areas have been taught the value of saving our rhino; over 265 000 malaria nets have been handed out with the result of drastically reducing occurrences of the sickness; nearly 12500 Life Straws have been given out to allow people to drink purified water from just about any water source found, and over 126 000 people have been given prescription glasses under the Right to Sight initiative. The man is a legend in every sense of the word. Click on the images below to visit the foundation website and find out more about this amazing man's initiatives.
The new Porsche 911 Turbo S Exclusive Series is the most powerful and distinctive 911 Turbo S to date. The coupé provides 607hp (446kW) and is strictly limited to 500 units worldwide. In addition to a power increase of 27hp, the exclusive model is distinguished from the standard 911 Turbo S thanks to its unique design features and luxurious details. The sports car is being intricately finished by hand in the new “Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur” at the brand’s headquarters in Zuffenhausen, Germany. Previously known as “Porsche Exclusive”, the in-house workshop specialises in customisation as well as limited-edition series. For the first time ever, Porsche customers can have the matching chronograph watch from Porsche Design configured in the same design as their sports car.
Increased power and performance
The 3.8-litre, six-cylinder biturbo flat engine with an exclusive power kit has a maximum torque of 750Nm, delivering between 2,250 and 4,000rpm. This means that the 911 Turbo S Exclusive Series accelerates from 0 to 100km/h in 2.9 seconds, and takes 9.6 seconds to cross the 200km/h threshold. The sports car can reach a top speed of 330 km/h. The new model comes with black-painted 20-inch wheels with central locking as standard; their design lines are carefully finished in Golden Yellow Metallic using a new laser technology. For the first time, the brake callipers for the PCCB ceramic brake system are available directly from the factory in a black-painted version with the Porsche logo in Golden Yellow Metallic. The active sports chassis, equipped with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) and Sport Chrono Package, is included in the standard equipment, as is the rear-axle steering and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) improving handling and stability.
Some of the most distinguishing features of this sports car include the exclusive Golden Yellow Metallic paint finish and various carbon components, such as the bonnet, roof and side skirts. The two carbon-weave strips that contour the roof and bonnet accentuate the sporty look of the car. The rear view is characterised by the rear wing of the Turbo Aerokit, the new rear apron, the ram-air scoop in carbon and the exhaust system with two twin tailpipes made from stainless steel in black. In addition to Golden Yellow Metallic, the vehicle is offered in a range of other special exterior colours.
Master craftsmanship in the interior
The model’s interior is both elegant and unique. The 18-way adjustable sports seats are covered in two layers of perforated leather, with the inside layer featuring two stripes in Golden Yellow, guaranteeing a distinctive effect. The seams and the Turbo S lettering stitched on the headrests are also in contrasting Golden Yellow, meanwhile the roof lining is finished in Alcantara, with a Golden Yellow double stripe. Fine copper thread is integrated into the trim strips of the carbon interior package. A plaque featuring the limited-edition number on the passenger's side underlines the car’s exclusivity. Finished in carbon, the door entry guards come with illuminated Exclusive Series lettering.
For more than 30 years, Porsche customers have been able to own customised vehicles. With the introduction of this new limited model, the sports car manufacturer is beginning a new chapter: Porsche Exclusive has now been re-branded into “Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur”. Specialising in bespoke Porsche modifications, this in-house workshop offers a range of services, including advising customers, developing special equipment options for each model range and producing limited model series.
Exclusive Chronograph from Porsche Design to match the vehicle
The optional Porsche Design Chronograph 911 Turbo S Exclusive Series represents the first time that Porsche Design has released a watch exclusively available to customers buying this limited model series. The made-to-order chronograph combines the characteristic features of Porsche Design watches with the character of the 911 Turbo S Exclusive Series. Just like the vehicle, it is limited to 500 units. Its housing is made of lightweight titanium, and its black titanium carbide coating emphasises its sporty design. The carbon dial is taken from the striking carbon weave stripes on the 911 Turbo S Exclusive Series and finished in the same exterior colour as the customer’s vehicle. The rotor design is modelled on the rims of the 911 Turbo S Exclusive Series and painted in the original colour. The winding mechanism features a typical Porsche central lock with the Porsche crest on the movement.
With the launch of the new 911 Turbo S Exclusive Series Porsche customers can also enjoy an optional Exclusive Series luggage set made from leather. The visual details as well as the dimensions of the four-piece collection, consisting of two travel pieces as well as a day bag and a suit bag, are perfectly fitted for the luggage space available in the 911 Turbo S Exclusive Series.
Prices and sales launch
The basic retail price for the new 911 Turbo S Exclusive Series with a 3-year Drive Plan starts at R4 072000 in South Africa. It will be available to order from June 8, 2017. Price information for the optional accessories will be available at the nearest Porsche Centre.
First off, I need to let you know what a kei car is. In the circles I run in the term isn't uncommon when discussing JDM cars, but most out there, even car types, might not know the term. The phrase kei car (or k-car) is an abbreviation for kei jidōsha, which loosely translated from Japanese means: "light automobile". If a car is going to be light, then you can be sure it's going to be small, and that's the point of a kei car - not to take up space. Cars under a certain size (11.2ft x 4.9ft) with an engine under a certain capacity (600cc, although these days we're seeing them double that size) benefit from better tax and insurance rates, and when people can save money, they generally will. This has lead to a huge, hotly contested market in Japan, and over the years we've been seeing more and more kei cars hitting South African shores from a few manufacturers. The latest to arrive is the diminutive Suzuki Ignis, a car that will be marketed as a compact crossover, and if we're taking bets, I'll put money on it becoming one of the most popular cars in the segment and a best-seller for the brand.
If there's one thing Suzuki knows how to do, that's to make a good kei car. They have a few models that conform to the regulations in the Japanese market, and some of these have made their way to S.A. like the Alto, but the automaker has plenty more in their Japanese model lineup, one of which has been the best-selling kei car since 2003, the Suzuki Wagon R. Most of the model lineup in S.A. is made up of compact cars, but the Ignus is among the smaller offerings. Usually people shy away from the smaller stuff, often making the mistake of thinking the smaller size to mean inferior quality. Small cars made of lightweight materials can feel just as solid and purposeful as the bigger cars, and this Ignis is a perfect example of this. As small as it is, the Ignis can comfortably seat four adults, as hard as that is to imagine. There's not heaps of power on tap, but the 1,200cc 4-cylinder lump is sprightly enough to carry those aforementioned adults, although the sweet spot would indeed be with two occupants. 61kW and 113Nm won't exactly really win any races, but when the car tips the scales at just 850kg it certainly feels more than nippy enough and manages to get to 100km/h in 11.6-seconds, while being able to top out at 165km/h. The small capacity engine and lightweight, compact body equates to a rather frugal setup when it comes to fuel efficiency, something common to most Suzuki models. The Suzuki Ignis is claimed to return figures of 5.1-litres/100km for the manual version and 4.9-litres/100km for the AMT (auto) version.
Once inside the Suzuki Ignis, you'll see an interior that perfectly compliments the quirky exterior styling. It's colourful, futuristic, funky and sort of minimalist all rolled into one. It's mainly black and white, but the exterior colour comes through on the centre console and the inside door handles. There's a 3-spoke multifunction steering wheel that has a space for cruise control buttons, but they're absent because that's not an option on the local Ignis, but it may be one in the future. Another missing feature is the infotainment unit as seen in international models, but to keep locals happy there is an optional unit that can be had which greatly improves the stand-out section in the centre of the dash. That said, the base-spec model also looks ok, but I recommend that if you do want an Ignis, to take that optional extra unit. The dash layout looks great, and the gauge cluster is one of the better ones seen in a budget car - the big speedo and ambient lighting are great.
Seats are quite comfortable with the front being in a bucket-style while a bench is found at the rear, which features the usual 60:40 split to increase cargo capacity when needed. Even with the compact dimensions of the Ignis, there's a decent amount of boot space, a full 260 litres (469 litres with seats folded flat), enough for a full complement of photographic gear and an overnight bag. Spec differs between the GL and GLX models, but not by too much. As the names suggest, the GLX is the higher-spec version and it has a list of most of today's mod-cons that are expected in a new car, even one at this price point. The GL features electric windows all round, electronically adjustable exterior mirrors, remote central locking, manual air-con, a basic radio with a pair of speaker, a USB socket and a 12V power outlet. The GLX steps up to offer keyless start, auto climate control, six speakers and Bluetooth connectivity. Some trim pieces get paint matching the exterior too.
Of course, the point of every car is to drive it, and the Suzuki Ignis offers up a pretty decent drive. As mentioned, the car is put together very well, so even though it's light, it doesn't feel like it will bounce off the road when you hit a bump. The steering feedback is good, it's no Swift Sport but it's not totally devoid of feel either. Being touted as a compact crossover means it's meant to be able to navigate gravel roads, and it's rather good at that task. It sort of floats above the very soft sand and maneuvers great on the harder gravel, probably also thanks to the narrower 175 profile tyres. Both models feature the same engine and transmission setup with an automatic manual also on offer. On the launch I was only able to drive the manual version, and it's great, the 5-speed 'box slots into gear with purpose and ease. It's actually a fun drive, the way the Ignis looks inside and out makes you smile, that's never a bad thing. On roads through the Cape winelands, the little Ignis was the perfect runaround, and attracted a fair amount of attention. I guess that could have also been because there were quite a few of them in convoy too though. As for that claimed fuel consumption, once again it's wrong. I had the manual at 4.9-litres/100km more than once,and if we weren't on a launch sharing the car between two journos, that could get even better.
While the Suzuki Ignis is a small car, it's also a safe car. The base Ignis GL features dual front airbags, front and rear head restraints, and inertia seat belts for front and rear occupants. The middle seating position on the rear bench seat is fitted with a two-point lap belt. ABS with EBD and EBA is also standard equipment, as are IsoFix child seat anchors, child-proof rear door locks and an alarm and immobiliser. The GLX sees extras including PDC and a height-adjustable driver's seat for the interior while the exterior sees better lighting in the form of projector LED lighting. For those that want to win bets, the Ignis employs Suzuki's TECT (Total Effective Control Technology) with a rigid passenger safety cell and impact absorbing crumple zones to give the Ignis a great Euro NCAP 4-star safety rating - that's like a million points higher than a Datsun Go. Actually, you're probably safer using a skateboard on the highway than one of those things...
The Suzuki Ignis can be had in a choice of four colours and a pair of two-tone combos. The GL comes in Uptown Red Pearl Metallic, Arctic White Pearl Metallic, Silky Silver Metallic, and Glistening Grey Metallic, while the GLX is available in Arctic White Pearl Metallic, Silky Silver Metallic, and Glistening Grey Metallic, as well as Uptown Red Pearl Metallic with a black roof, and Tinsel Blue Pearl Metallic with a white roof. I can't pick a favourite oddly enough. Both models come with a standard 3-year/100 000km warranty, as well as a 2-year/30 000km service plan and services are at 15 000 km/12-month intervals. Yes, that could be longer, but these cars are intended for urban use, so racking up that amount of mileage should take quite a while. Pricing is good, better than I expected anyway. The base model GL comes in at R168 900 and the GLX at R189 900. For the lazy chaps, the GLX AMT will cost R204 900.
As far as kei cars go, the Suzuki Ignis is absolutely brilliant, and as far as affordable cars go, it's equally as brilliant. Someone mentioned that Suzuki SA would like to shift around 40 of these cars a month, but I reckon that once buyers become aware of the Ignis, it will quickly become one of their best selling models. I guestimate more than double of those projected monthly figures. The tagline for the car is: "Like no other" which is just about perfect for it. This thing is A-OKei!
Deetlefs Wine Estate
The main venue visited on the Suzuki Ignis launch was Deetlefs Wine Estate where we were treated to a tour of the facility as well as a wine tasting. I loved this, I thought I knew how wine was made, but there's a lot more to it. I learned a lot from the tour, not just about Deetlefs, but the Cape winelands and the market itself. Old places are always amazing to me, and this farm is one of the oldest. It's actually the second-oldest wine estate in South Africa to be owned by the same family, and so Deetlefs has been around since 1822. Click the link above for more detailed info, in the meantime, here's some pics snapped from the tour.
Author: Chris Wall
A slightly tattooed motoring fanatic, photography nut and avid collector of knowledge. Use the search bar to navigate through the archives.