Entry-level cars do get overlooked by most automotive fans because life is all about horsepower and speed, but without these cars most manufacturers would fail in the market. These cars are known as the 'bread & butter" models, which basically means they will sell in such large numbers that they help keep the brand running and making all the other high horsepower, low volume models possible. Luckily these days cars in this segment are actually damn good now with features and technologies that used to only be available in more expensive models. As an entry into the Honda brand, a new offering is the Honda Amaze, a budget car in price only.
The all-new Amaze replaces the current Brio range, and it is definitely an upgrade in terms of of the bits that make people want a car. It looks a little different thanks to a very flat front end, presumably for that whole pedestrian safety thing, and while it's not repulsive, it'll take some getting used to. The design does make the car look more like a smaller Ballade though. The Amaze is just 5mm longer and 15mm wider but has a 65mm longer wheelbase which allows for better manipulation of the cabin space. There's a lot of chrome trimming for that upmarket look, but I'm not a fan of chrome so I kept imagining the car with the chrome bits in a brushed ally look or satin black or even better, piano black - but that's just me. The wheels chosen for the Honda Amaze are pretty decent, I'd love a set for the wife's Jazz - they're 15-inch hoops with a great design. The ride height looks a little too high for the boxy nose, but again, this won't bug most people and will probably be better out there considering the state of many roads.
The interior is much improved, a better dashboard design and layout is in play, and the finish is more upmarket, a selling point in this class. There's also piano black detailing seen, which as I said, would be great on the exterior chrome trim too. The speedo cluster looks good and includes a driver information screen, and with a multifunction steering wheel most things can be safely controlled on the fly. The entertainment system is basic, you have radio, AUX, Bluetooth and streaming capabilities which also means there's hands-free telephony. There's enough storage space to have a spot for all your stuff, and with no need to hide your weed anymore, you'll make good use of them. The rear gets cup holders too. Seats are cloth, but there's a free upgrade on all new Honda Amaze models where pleather fitted seat covers can be had for free. When you hear covers, you picture that flea market stuff, but they're fitted so well that they look like factory seats, it's actually rather impressive. There is one thing inside that bugs me, and it's a small thing but I'd change it ASAP if I were to own an Amaze. The rear parcel shelf is covered in beige, and while it looks ok and matches the rest of the interior, when you're looking out the rear view mirror on a sunny day you see nothing but reflection of the parcel shelf in the window. Not a fan.
Powering the all-new Honda Amaze is a 1.2-litre 4-cylinder with the usual i-VTEC system in play to help with the power delivery and to keep the fuel consumption low - very low in fact. There's just 66kW on tap with 110Nm, and while that's not a figure to brag about down the pub, the Amaze tips the scales at just 900kg. This does mean there's 73kW per ton though, so it makes the little sedan feel pretty nippy. Of course clever ratios in the 5-speed manual transmission do help with this. Even the CVT transmission exploits the power properly - but that's because Honda is the ONLY manufacturer that knows how to make a CVT gearbox that doesn't make you want to commit sewerage pipe and jump off the coffee table. Manual will take the amaze to 100km/h in 12.3-seconds and 13.5-seconds in the auto - both versions top out at 160km/h. Honda claim 5.6-litres/100km for the Amaze, but on the launch with launch driving, it was on 5.4 for most of the drive. If you drive consciously and hyper mile the thing, it'll likely stick in the high 4s. With the way the petrol price is rising these days, the fuel consumption is a definite selling point.
While it's an entry-level car, it drives great. The road noise and wind noise are way lower than expected, and the roadholding and handling are also more solid than you'd think. Overall it's a great little runner that won't break the bank, will keep you up to date with the Jonses and will see you ferrying the family around in a reliable, safe car. The car will do well in the segment, I think buyers looking at this kind of car will have a tough choice deciding between this and the new Suzuki Dzire. It will likely come down to the marketing, and Honda have roped in local rapper JR to help promote the Amaze which is pretty cool and may be able to sway the brand loyal.
There are two trims available, the Trend and the Comfort, and the CVT is only offered on the latter. The base 1.2 Trend starts off at R179 900, the 1.2 Trend Comfort comes in at R193 900 and the 1.2 Trend Comfort CVT is at R208 900. The range is comes with 5-year/200 000km warranty, a 2-year/30 000km service plan, and a 3-year AA Roadside Assistance package. For more info, head on over to the Honda SA website.
Check out the new Honda Amaze advert with JR
First off, I know you've noticed that these images aren't what you usually see in my reviews, I had to go with the press stuff because I'm currently between cameras. I can, of course, still tell you all about the new Opel Grandland X, the latest SUV to hit our shores from the German automaker. It's been seen overseas for a while now, and in the hotly contested SUV market, it's a good seller with a good reputation and a bunch of awards to its name. While there are underpinnings shared with Peugeot, it's received enough changes to not be just a rebadged french SUV, Opel have given it a typically Opel identity and it now shares the same design cues as the rest of the range. A good thing if you're an Opel fan. The Grandland X SUV is of the mid-sized variety, a bigger brother to the Crossland X and also a step above the Mokkas. The looks are pretty good, although if you want to stand out and be noticed, this isn't that kind of SUV. It does look a lot more striking when it's in the right colour though.
Inside the fit and finish is good, the tactile feel of all the buttons and switches is good, nothing feels cheap and plastic. The steering controls will see you being able to control most functions needed for a hassle-free drive, no real need to reach over to the Intellilink infotainment system to fiddle around. Intellilink is still one of the easiest and most intuitive to use out there, it's always a good selling point for the brand. Said system is headed up by an 8-inch touch screen that's able to connect to various devices to stream media via Android Auto or Apple Carplay and the like, it's also (in the Enjoy trim I had) the screen for the navigation. One feature I quite like is the ability to tailor the ambient lighting in the cabin to your mood. The layout of the cabin is good, and the seats and steering wheel can be adjusted to get a comfortable driving position that allows easy reach of whatever controls and buttons need to be, well, reached. There's a rather thick A-pillar and also a thick C-pillar, and this made me feel like I couldn't see enough around the car, my spacial awareness wasn't happy, but I can attribute this to my statuesque 5ft7 frame because I've noticed it before in cars where taller people were happier than myself.
Powering the Opel Grandland X is a turbocharged 1.6 4-cylinder with 121kW and 240Nm of torque available, and it's enough to get the SUV up to a decent gallop. While it is a good motor, it's a Peugeot lump and while that's not really any kind of disadvantage, I do prefer the Opel-only engines. They feel like they have a little more urgency when you hoof it. This motor is mated to a 6-speed auto transmission and this is also pretty smooth in it's operation. I never found it hunting for the right gear and it seems to have decent software on it to keep the Grandland X in the right gear for the right occasion. Don't expect lighting fast changes, but then again in a family SUV that's not something that would dissuade you from putting in an offer to purchase. The setup is claimed to use a decent 7.0-litres per 100km on the daily commute, but in my few hundred kilometres behind the wheel with my usual driving style, the lowest I managed to spot on the driver information screen was 10.3.
As with all new Opel models, there's plenty tech packed in when it comes to safety systems and driver aids. Trim dependant, you'll find things like lane departure warning, side blind spot alert, a 360-deg camera, Bluetooth, voice recognition, advanced park assist that parks the car for you, hands-free intelligent liftgate, and of course dual zone climate control and heated seats.
The new Opel Grandland X is a good offering, perfect for a family on the move, it looks good, it's stylish and and it has space for days. All manner of luggage, even for a family holiday, should easily fit in the 514-litres behind the rear seats (expandable to over 1650-litres if you leave the family on the curb and fold down the rear seats). There's plenty storage space for everyday carry items and little goodies here and there. The centre console between the seats has space for two cups, but they need to be skinny, two medium McD's McFizz cups don't fit side-by-side.
My week spent in the Opel Grandland X was pleasant enough. The car runs well, handles well and does all the duties expected of it with no problems at all. As said, it's not exciting by any means, but you don't really want any excitement when you're karting the little ones to their horse riding lessons though. I'd be hard-pressed to choose between this and a Mokka if I wanted an SUV from Opel, but I don't need quite as much space as the Grandland X offers up. If you're in the market for a C-segment SUV, it's a good idea to get to your nearest dealership or book online on the Opel website so you can get in one. There are three models in the Grandland X lineup and they all use the same engine/transmission combination, the 1.6T A/T Essentia from R 429,000, the 1.6T A/T Enjoy from R465,000 and the range-topping 1.6T A/T Cosmo from R565,000.
If you claim to be a fan of motorsport and you don't immediately break out with a wave of goosebumps at the mention of Grave Digger or Bigfoot while imagining over-the-top, big-wheeled trucks crushing cars and launching across a stadium, then I'm afraid your Man Card is now invalid.
Why am I telling you this? Because Monster Jam is coming to SA! Yeah, that's right, the biggest, loudest and most action-packed arena motorsport event will be in SA for three insane shows. The events kick off in Durban on the 20 April at Moses Mabida Stadium, followed by Cape Town on the 27 April at the Cape Town Stadium and then lastly, the madness descends on Jo'burg on 4 may at FNB Stadium. As a kid I used to imagine being at a monster truck event, it's actually one of my motorsport bucket list items, so when I heard about Monster Jam heading to our shores I was sure it was just a rumour, but thanks to US-based Feld Entertainment (the guys who have brought Disney on Ice to SA for the last 5 years) and local promoter Showtime Management (in association with SuperSport and a host of local radio stations) it will be here in a little over 6 month's time.
What is Monster Jam?
THIS IS MONSTER JAM!
While Monster Jam events are packed with insane action and are supported by some of the most popular lifestyle brands in the world, a major selling point is that it's still very family orientated and will make for an amazing day out. We've seen similar high profile events here in the past few years like Gymkhana GRiD, Nitro Circus and Top Gear Live, and they drew serious crowds. I think Monster Jam will be just as good too because it's actually very well priced, so there's no need to start a diet of 2-minute noodles and Salticrax, or to ship the kids off to grandma's house for the day to save up some going out money. To make things even more exciting, attendees have the opportunity to meet the drivers and see the monster trucks up close at the Pit Party - not to be confused with a Pity Party, which is what everyone who misses out on a ticket will be having. In every city, prior to the Monster Jam performances, a pre-event Pit Party is held at the stadiums and arenas, which is something that separates this event from the others. No other live entertainment franchise provides such intimate access. The only catch here is that a combined event and Pit Party ticket must be purchased to gain access, but it's a mere R150 extra, basically the equivalent of a litre of petrol these days.
These Monster Trucks have an apt name because they're around four metres tall and four metres wide and can weigh up to 4,500kg. With the way they seem to defy gravity, you just know there's herds of angry horses somewhere in the setup. Most churn out in excess of 1500hp thanks to seriously worked supercharged V8 lumps, which is pretty much a must-have when the tyres are 1.7m tall. In the confines of a stadium these Monster Jam trucks can reach up to 110km/h, enough to launch them as high as 9 metres and as far as 36 meters, or 14 side-by-side cars! Some of the trucks have been around for many years and so some of the names should do a bit of a Quasimodo; like El Toro Loco, D-Max and of course GRAVE DIGGER!
While there are always new trucks entering the fracas, one of the most famous is Dennis Anderson's Grave Digger, probably because the first incarnation of it appeared way back in 1982. It was first created as a mud bogger, but by 1986 had transformed into the iconic monster truck that's been crushing cars and wrecking competitors since. At the time Bigfoot was the most well-known of these monsters, but Grave Digger soon amassed it's own cult following, and things just got better after defeating Bigfoot in a widely televised event in 1987. I had a little Hot Wheels Grave Digger toy from when it used to run in the full black livery, it was well-used to the point that most of the paint had chipped off and the left rear wheel went missing after squishing my sister's Barbie dolls in an EPIC front garden flower bed monster truck event, hosted by my G.I Joes. Over the years Grave Digger evolved of course, seeing a new one introduced in 1989 as Grave Digger 2, and then 1991 saw Grave Digger 3 appear. More followed, up to 12 versions hired out to be driven by other drivers. Anderson retired in 2017, but the Digger lives on AND IT'S ON THE LIST OF TRUCKS COMING TO SA!
Check out this clip from when I was 12 years old in 1991, back then things were way more dangerous because the trucks still used metal bodies and had no tearaway parts like they do now. When I was a kid seeing these trucks in action on TV was super rare, I was limited to watching major wipeouts on the Havoc series of VHS tapes, or in gap fillers between sports shows on TV4. Ahhh, bless the interwebz!
There's plenty more information to share in the coming months, but for now you have the dates, and so I'll leave you with the pricing. There are a few affordable options; R150, R250, R350, R450 and R600. The Pit Party is an extra R150 on top of that, unless you opt for the top-of-the-range Premium Lounge ticket at R800 which includes Pit Party access. Families can buy ticket packages for four, five and six persons on selected price categories offering savings of R30 per
event-only ticket and R40 per Event & Pit Party Combination ticket. You can even save some money if you get all your mates to tag along with you; there's a 10% discount offered on groups of 20 and more (valid only for selected ticket prices based on full-priced tickets and Event + Pit Party tickets). Tickets will be available through Computicket and special packages through Showtime. The Pit Party kicks the event off at 13:00 and closes at 15:00 and the main show starts at 18:00 and runs for around 2.5 hours.
Keep an eye on the various social media pages for cool competitions and giveaways, you can start by following the hashtag #MonsterJamSA. You'll also want to do a bit of research on the various Monster Jam trucks so you can cheer on your favourite at the event, but if you have any sense, you'll be Team Grave Digger like me!
Sometimes being in the right place at the right time can set you up for an amazing experience, and this was one of those times. To set the back story... I was at Kyalami Racetrack for the Festival of Motoring Media day where I was finally going lay eyes on the all-new Suzuki Jimny, a 4x4 that everyone who's ever spoken to me knows I have an unnatural obsession with. Not long after arrival, I not only saw the Jimny, but I touched it, sat in it, poked and prodded it and imagined owing it, so to say my day was going great is an understatement. Miles away from the pit lane there was another Suzuki display at Kyalami's 4x4 section, and so I cycled up (as one does at events) there to take a look for a bit, and when I had enough (caught my breath) I headed back, but the security decided it was time for a power trip and said I couldn't use the walkway tunnel under the track with my bike and I had to take the long way around. Cue some choice swear words before taking the scenic route. The thing is, as annoyed as it was this unplanned extension on my trip lead me around the outside of the track, and in a few spots I found that I had access to the raised platforms usually reserved for the TV cameras at the big race events. Just like a cat can't ignore catnip, a photographer can't ignore a good vantage point.
At the first platform I managed to snap some pics of the many different cars doing hot laps of the track, from little Korean econoboxes to Chinese SUVs, RS model Renaults to M-Division BMWS and more. As I was about to move along I heard something that sounded very different from the rest, sort of like the end of the world, but angrier. The car was so loud, so fast and had so much presence that I didn't even raise my camera on it's first pass. After snapping out of it, I readied myself for a few shots of the beast, which turned out to be a Mercedes-AMG GT4 in full race spec with legendary Mercedes-Benz ambassador and four-time German Touring Cars (DTM) championship winner Bernd Schneider at the wheel. I moved along to the other platforms for a few more pics and then made my way home. After a bit of a siesta followed by some editing, I posted some of the shots to my Chris Wall Media Facebook page because I thought they were good enough to show off. It seems I wasn't the only one who thought so, Kevin Rohrscheidt came across them and made contact to get permission to use the images on his social media pages. Seeing as Kevin was one of the top chaps on the AMG GT4's crew, I agreed and sent them across. These guys see pics of their racecar all year round, so that was a pretty cool request. Kevin said I should pop past the pits on the Saturday to say hi in person, but I wasn't going to be going. As (good) luck would have it, Chad Wentzel from Sportech Cars asked if I could get to Kyalami on the Saturday to get some shots of his newly completed Hamann-kitted Mercedes-Benz GLE 63s.
As you can see from the pics above, I did make my way back to Kyalami, and after getting some shots of the Sportech car, made my way to the AMG pits to take Kevin up on his offer of seeing the car up close. I met Kevin who thanked me for my photos and immediately introduced me to Bernd Schneider as"this is the man who took those photos yesterday". When a man like Bernd shakes your hand and thanks you for your "great photos" it does put you on a high of sorts, I won't lie. While I was letting that sink in, Kevin chatted to a few important looking people and turned to me with a "so when Bernd takes the car out again, you go with". When I thought it couldn't get any better, everyone cleared out from around the car for roughly 20 minutes to give me access to shoot the the amazing AMG GT4 with no one messing up my shots. Usually shooting in such a small space isn't ideal, but I soon found that it was actually hard to get a bad shot of the car and I certainly made the most of it.
This Mercedes-AMG GT4 is a beast, put together with the best of the best parts available making it super fast, safe and reliable. Usually the word reliable isn't used to describe a racecar, but this one needed reliability because even though it's rather expensive at roughly €200 000.00, it can be part of your garage. The car conforms to GT4 rules and regulations making it a great option for wealthy gentleman racers or even those wanting a shot at a championship title. There's a Customer Racing Program available that offers comprehensive vehicle support that includes technical training, on-site services, as well as an online order system for spare parts. Country dependant, there's also an internal championship, test days, and a driver pool that completes the Customer Racing program features. The standard specs of an AMG-GT4 are mighty impressive with the twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 producing up to 375kW and 600Nm, and mated to a sequential AMG 6-speed racing transmission the car can hit 100km/h in less than 4-seconds. Top speed will see the GT4 racer surpass the 250km/h mark too, which is more than fast enough for just about every racetrack on the planet. It's not the power and the speed that makes the car special, it's the suspension and brakes, well at the hands of Bernd Schneider anyway. The suspension is made up of aluminum front and rear double wishbone axles with shock absorbers that have adjustable rebound and compression allowing precise set up for the track on hand. Massive 390mm discs up front and 355mm discs in the rear combined with calipers the size of my office desk means that the AMG-GT4 can stop on the proverbial dime. When you add a Bernd into the system, jumping on the clamps produces almost enough force to relieve your eyes from their sockets.
After taking a ridiculous amount of photos and waiting for the next driving session to come up, it was soon time for me to suit up for my hot laps in the passenger seat. You should know by now that Mercedes-AMG don't play around, and so instead of jumping in the car and having the driver tell you to buckle up, you first have to put on a full fireproof race suit, a pair of proper race shoes, a helmet complete with comms to the driver and lastly a HANS device to make sure your neck stays happy in the case of the unimaginable. With the suit and helmet on, and the Schroth harnesses tightened so much that you can barely take a full breath, things feel very claustrophobic and I won't lie, I was about 35 seconds away from a panic attack freak out situation, but as soon as the helmet comms were connected and I could chat to Bernd I calmed right down again. The boosted V8 fired up and we slowly moved to the front of the pit lane to head out. When the green light was given, the AMG-GT4 warped forwards and all of a sudden I wanted more. As mentioned, the handling and brakes in the AMG-GT4 are properly mad, but when you're heading down the mineshaft at silly speeds and you see the 200m braking board fly past, followed by the 150m, and the 100m before even thinking about touching brakes, you start to understand just what you're sitting in. The G-forces generated make you understand why you're strapped in so tight too, it's mind boggling as to how the Michelin slicks maintain the levels of grip that they do. My favourite part about the shotgun ride, apart from getting an extra lap in, was when Bernd pointed out a car ahead of us that was already accelerating out of the corner; "You see that GTR? They say it's 800hp. Watch this." We passed that Nissan like it just seized the motor, which caused an involuntary "Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck yeah!" to escape my mouth. Best passenger track experience to date, hands down!
As you can tell, this was one for the books. Taking a few photos of an amazing car lead to an unforgettable Mercedes-AMG experience that not many people get to do. It's one thing going in one of these cars, it's another doing it with a legendary driver at the wheel. I'm humbled at the opportunities I've been given just by wielding a camera at events, and this Mercedes-Benz-filled day ranks among the best days I've had at a racetrack. A huge thanks goes to Kevin, Bernd and the rest of the AMG team that was here in SA for the Festival of Motoring. When I win that European lotto, I'll have one of these bad boys in my garage, that's a promise.
Oh, and I'll add in a full album of pics on the Chris Wall Media Facebook page in the coming days.
Well, I don't know who "they" are, but they obviously weren't talking about the all-new Suzuki Jimny or myself. Ok, sure, it's a car, not exactly an idol, but still. Everyone and his dog knows that I have an unnatural love for the Suzuki Jimny, and as a result, every single leaked image, video and spec sheet of the new one that's been shared on social media has seen my name tagged in it at some point or another. Even if I tried to pretend an all-new version wasn't on the way, I'd have to be living under a rock with Vodacom-like signal in the middle of Tweebuffelsmeteenskootdoodgeskietfontein. So yeah, over the last year I've seen it all, I know a fair amount about the new Jimny, all that was left was to see the retro-styled 4x4 in the metal. Queue the media day at the latest instalment of the Festival of Motoring at Kyalami.
The awesome folk at Suzuki SA extended an invite to a pre-launch reveal of the car at FOM, the first time outside of Asia, and there's not much that would have kept me away. Actually, even if I didn't manage to crack an invite, I may or may not own some wire cutters and I may or may not know a dark corner of Kyalami where the surveillance cameras can't see short people... It wasn't long before the covers were pulled off two brand spanking new Jimnys and Suzuki's Charl Grobler gave a full history of the game-changing 4x4. In 50 years this model has just entered it's 4th generation, unlike some cars that have a new incarnation every 18 months, basically because when you have a perfect recipe from the get-go, there's no need to fix what ain't broke. Charl's intro wasn't too long, but it felt like HOURS, I just wanted touch one of the two models on display. Why? Because over the years there have been a few cars I was looking forward to seeing after following all information from inception to release and when I eventually managed to see them up close, it was more of a case of 'meh' than 'whoa'. This all-new Jimny was 110% WHOA. Seriously, every angle, feature, surface, line and accessory was better than any pics could show. Yeah, you know I'm a little (a lot) biased here, but judging from everyone else's reactions, I wasn't alone.
This all-new Suzuki Jimny is all that and a bag of chips. It's much bigger, yet it's not. This automaker has a talent for making small spaces appear larger than they are, and so while all dimensions have grown a little over the outgoing model, the available space is much better. The retro design of the Jimny is great, and with the way the world is loving old new things, this little 4x4 is going to be an international best-seller, I'll bet anything on that. Like with the new Vitara, the Suzuki designers have incorporated design cues from the previous generations. So that angular design harks back to the very first generation LJ and second generation SJ; the round headlights with seperated round orange indicators come from the first generation LJ10, the side bonnet slits, angular windscreen and steel wheels are taken from the second generation SJ and the clamshell bonnet and upright grille come from the 3rd generation Jimny. There's a few more things too, but will leave that for the launch (fingers and toes crossed for that one).
There will be two versions available in SA, a lower-spec GA and higher-spec GLX, both of which have a full-sized spare wheel, ABS brakes, brake assist, electronic stability control, dual front airbags, the AllGrip Pro® 4x4 system with low range and a brake LSD traction control system with limited slip differential. AllGrip Pro® allows the driver to comfortably switch between 4x2 (front-wheel drive), 4x4 high and 4x4 low range via a secondary gear lever. The all-new Jimny gets an all-new powerplant too. It's up in capacity to 1500cc from 1300cc with the new K15B motor in play, and so power is now at 75kW and 130Nm. This engine is 15% lighter than the old one, and with a few other tweaks it uses over 14% less fuel than both the manual and automatic versions of its predecessor. As with outgoing model, there's a choice of a 4-speed auto or a 5-speed manual transmission, spec-dependant. The GA-spec is aimed at the guys who will be doing serious 4x4, so some of the luxuries have been removed, like the touchscreen infotainment system, alloy wheels and there's no auto option, among a few other things. Indicative pricing guestimates that by the time it hits showrooms in November, this version will cost around R265 000. The GLX-spec has a chunky leather-covered multi-function steering wheel, electric windows, colour-coded door handles and mirrors, 15-inch alloy wheels, LED projector headlamps, remote keyless access, central locking, front fogs, cruise control and a 50:50 split rear bench with two headrests. For the first time ever in SA, the new Suzuki Jimny features a 7-inch touchscreen with smartphone connectivity, something I hope will filter to the rest of the Suzuki range. This GLX can be had in manual or auto and should hopefully retail at an estimated R300 000 and R320 000 respectively.
This is usually the part where I say something like "it's expensive, but if you take a close look at everything, it's worth it" because I think I need to help justify a price that should really be lower. In this case though, the all-new 4th generation Suzuki Jimny is a bargain and worth every cent. There's plenty more details to list, especially with interior spec and features, but I'm leaving that for a more in-depth review at a later stage or you'll have no reason to read that upcoming post. While I know you expect some fanboi ramblings from me, I can tell you that others I know are as impressed as I am and they're not die-hard Suzuki fans. To replace the outgoing Jimny, the new version needed to be absolutely brilliant in every way, and that's definitely the case. I'm willing to bet that within 18 months, this little 4x4 will already have cult status and will be sold in more markets than ever before. The all-new Suzuki Jimny is my favourite car ever, and I'm yet to drive it.
The Jimny Heritage Walk
The folk at Suzuki arranged some old models for display at FOM, including that first little LJ model that made the world realise that bigger isn't always better. It's the first time I've seen one in the metal, it's size is just too damn cool, I'd love me one, but they're as rare as an influencer who'll say something bad about a product. The various SJ models are also something I'd love to have in a collection one day, take a look at the small gallery below.
I'm lucky enough to get invites to some amazing events, and this last one from the folk at Motul was one for the books. You'd think that being involved in all things racing and motorsports for close on 20 years now, that I'd have experienced just about everything out there. Oddly, I'd never attended a cross country event though, and now that I have, it's surely not going to be the last. As I've said in previous posts, Motul South Africa has been on a massive branding offensive since OEM Lubricants have taken charge, and it's been working. I'm yet to attend a professional race series that's not strewn with Motul banners and logos, and in the world of offroad cross country racing in the South African Cross-Country Series (SACCS) the premium lubricant company has a pretty firm imprint. Besides sponsoring events, the company also sponsors some race teams and also individual sportsmen, and that brings me to Red-Lined Motorsport. Also known as Red-Lined Adventures, the team competes in the SACCS in a monster of a Nissan Navara piloted by experienced wheelman Terence Marsh. Every driver needs a navigator, and for this race that seat was reserved for Joey Evans, a man who needs no introduction but will get one anyway.
First off, we know that Joey can only be a great guy because he attended the same high school as me, but besides that the man really is a legend. Seriously, Joey is a self-confessed adrenaline junky and has one of the most amazing stories to tell, which he often does as an inspirational speaker. A keen racer of off road motorbikes since he was young, Joey set his sights on competing in the one of the toughest races on the planet - The Dakar. Back in 2007 he was in a serious accident that crushed his spinal cord and left him paralysed from just below the chest, and as expected, his dreams were shattered, on hold. Yes, I said on hold. Doctors gave Joey a 10% chance of ever walking again but 10% is still not a 0, and instead of the accident stopping Joey from achieving his goals, it made him more determined than ever. After years of painful and intensive therapy, Joey not only managed to walk again, but was eventually fit enough to ride his bike and compete in the Dakar. Joey didn't just enter the race, he was the ONLY South African to finish. You don't really get a better story than that; all the amazing successes and hardships are covered in detail in his book - From Para to Dakar.
There's plenty info available about Joey Evans online, but I thought I'd get you some different information by asking ten quick fire questions instead of doing an in-depth interview.
First off, in what year were you a baby owl in Norkem Park High?
I started there in 1998 and managed to klap high school in just 5 years against the betting man’s odds.
You’ve always been a two-wheel man, how different did it feel being in the Red-Lined Motoring Adventure roaring four-wheel drive V8?
It was insane! Racing 2-wheel KTMs will always be my first love but that car is like a four-wheel motocross bike! I was blown away with what the car and Terrance were capable of.
On the KTM, you’re in charge and you decide when and how to apply the gas. How different is it being in the navigator seat with someone else in control?
At first I kept looking out the windscreen picking the best lines and obstacles the whole time. It took a bit of practice (and losing my place in the roadbook) to realize I needed to just focus 100% on the navigation and trust Terence to keep us alive. His life was as much in my hands as mine was in his.
Was it easy to learn the language of navigation?
Because of the bike racing I fully understood the roadbook and where we needed to go. The challenge was definitely trying to put all the pictures into words. The fact that that the car is much faster than a bike just put the pressure on even more. I felt like that old Leon Schuster skit where the cakes keep coming off the conveyor belt faster than the guy could catch them.
Did you have any scary moments out there?
Hell yeah. About 400km of them. But seriously Terence has some proper driving skills and so we fortunately never had any close calls serious enough to cause soiled linen.
How did you feel physically during and after the race?
Pretty good. I worried about getting motion sickness but fortunately that wasn’t a problem. There was one really rough section that shook me up good and proper but otherwise nothing that a few anti-inflammatories didn’t sort out.
Have you tried racing one of these Nissan monsters yourself?
On the day we went out for a quick pre-race test run, Terence gave me a chance to take it out for a lap. Now THAT was a once in a lifetime experience! I’m also pretty sure that Terence has never felt that nervous in the car before. I also think we owe a farmer for a couple rows of mielies.
Has this experience inspired you to try your hand at race in a car, or are you sticking to the KTM?
This boy's blood is orange, but man if I won the lottery I’m pretty sure you would find a Red-Lined Nissan nestled amongst the orange sea of bikes.
What’s next for Joey Evans?
My main focus at the moment is growing my corporate speaking business. My goal is to share my story all over the world and at the same time hook up with some locals for a ride too! I have a cool idea for another big adventure too but it’s early days on that still....
As well as being an accomplished racer, you’re also an inspirational speaker. Let's end off with an inspirational Joey Evans quote.
Haha - let’s keep it simple - “Do the things you think of.”
On to Red-Lined Motorsport then... The company specialises in not only building Dakar-spec off road vehicles, but it offers corporates, or anyone else that wants to try, high-speed passenger rides and driver training in the Namibian dunes. The company also races in the aforementioned SACCS where driver (and company CEO) Terence Marsh campaigns one of their specially prepared Nissan Navaras. These things are monsters fitted with Nissan's VK50VE lump, which is a 5.0-litre V8 that kicks out 390hp and 500Nm and that's mated to a sequential 6-speed Sadev transmission. The suspension is obviously the best of the best too, including a double wishbone setup in front with a live rear axle and Reiger shocks all round. Seeing one of these blast off the line is mind-blowing, but the BF Goodrich tyres manage to afford an unbelievable amount of traction in the dirt.
Now my invite was to spend a day with all of the above at the 4th round of the SACCS called the Atlas Copco Bronkhorstspruit 400 where Terence would drive and Joey would switch from two wheels to four to try his hand at navigating. As I said, this was my first time attending one of these events, and once I had walked around the pics checking out the different cars in the different classes, I was going to watch the start of the race and then chill until they returned, hoping to snap one or two cool shots of the Navara in action. That was not to be, and the new Navara I'd been given for the weekend began to make more sense. While the racers well, race, the crews sort of run ahead on more direct roads to keep tabs on the cars and checkpoints. With a Navara at my disposal, I was able to get to a few of the checkpoints before the Red-Lined Navara and set myself up to get some action shots. The thrill of the chase, the convoy of 4x4s, getting into position for some photos and dodging dust clouds was absolutely awesome. It's something I could do for days on end.
The all-new Nissan Navara is pretty wicked I must say. It was my first time behind the wheel of one, huge thanks to Motul for hooking me up. I was given the 2.3D LE 4x2 DC AT to use as the chase car at the Bronkhorstspruit 400 and as expected, the harshly corrugated sand roads, mud and soft silt-like sand were all easily navigated, although in some sections I did have to be a little lighter on the throttle to keep it straight. Of course that wouldn't be a problem in the daddy 4x4 version, but unless you go offroad daily, the 4x2 is more than enough bakkie. There's 140kW available from the turbodiesel powerplant, but it's the 450Nm that's addictive with power coming in from as low as 1500rpm. The 7-speed auto box is good too, smooth and I never experienced it hunting for the right gear, changes were smooth and quiet and always matched my throttle input. The cabin layout is typical double cab, but that's not a bad thing. There's ample space, a good infotainment system with navigation and a great seating position on rear comfortable seats. The multifunction steering wheel is chunky in hand and behind that the new instrument cluster gives a nice, modern touch. One thing I liked a lot is the reverse camera that's incorporated into the rearview mirror. Overall, a really solid bakkie with a good engine and transmission combination that's great to drive on the long road or around town, although parking can be a mission sometimes because the Navara is massive, if you live in a complex this ain't being parked in a garage. Just two things bugged me, at my (lack of) height you can see under the bulges in the bonnet while you drive, and then at night the infotainment system shines directly into the centre of the rear window and then back into the centre of your rearview mirror, which I found somewhat distracting. I haven't seen anyone else bothered by these things though, so it could well just be me.
So back to the racing then. It seems like Mr. Evans takes to motorsport like the proverbial duck to water. During the first lap he admitted to a few late calls and one where the team overshot a corner, but other than that it was smooth sailing, so much so that round two was just brilliant. By sailing I mean racing and by smooth I mean rough and bouncy and harsh, but you know what I mean. By the end of the race the Evans / Marsh duo finished 4th in class and 8th overall. It was a top-notch effort from the team, and everyone involved that makes these events happen; Motul SA, Red-Lined Motorsport and Nissan SA. As said, it was the first time for me attending one of these events, and I hope it won't be the last. I had so much fun racing around to get photos, and I'm quite happy with the results too. The only downside to the whole affair? That super fine red dust gets in EVERYWHERE, including all the camera equipment, but I'll be better prepared next time.
As usual, the full album of pics will soon be available on the Chris Wall Media Facebook page - Like √ Share √ Tag √ A huge shoutout goes to Motul SA for this opportunity, very much appreciated, thanks guys!
The weekend of the 10th August was the date set aside for the 3rd instalment of the prestigious Concours d'Elegance hosted by Concours SA. The venue was to be Mandela Gardens inside the gated community of Steyn City, and it was pretty fitting considering the upmarket status of it all. The field of entrants was smaller than I expected, but the quality of the cars entered was absolutely bloody brilliant. Cars on display ranged from the early 1900s to modern day Ferraris with a host of things in between, each of them in the cleanest possible condition with owners hoping to walking away with an award or two, or possibly the coveted Best of Show. The defending title holder was a Ferrari F40, which arrived this year wearing new shoes, some 5-spoke OZ Racing wheels. Everyone loves an F40, but with black aftermarket wheels, the car managed to get at least five times cooler, maybe ten. Owner Keith Rivers was clearly not there to defend the title though because as I arrived and saw the car's new wheels, I could hear the judges scoffing at the break from originality from afar. While it looks amazing, it would lose the car some points on originality.
I didn't get shots of all the cars like I usually would, just the ones that looked like they wanted pics taken, so there will probably a few missing from the full gallery that will be on my Facebook page. I was there to cover the event for myself, as well as for Motor Magazine, and the latter is where you'll find all the details on the auction that took place after the concours event, and which is why I'm sharing these pics from the show now. Anyway, back to the cars, one of my favourites seen at shows is Gavin Roberts's absolutely minter of an Opel Superboss in the uber-rare maroon paint, the car is so damn good that it placed higher in the scoring than many other cars worth much, much more. Some of the older Porsches on display also gave me goosebumps though, like Marek Letowt's BMW E28 M5 and Chad Wentzel's '58 Corvette.
Like I said, there were less cars than I expected, which is not a bad thing. I think with the event being held at Steyn City, more people made the effort to check out the happenings than when the event was held at Sun City, so I think 2019 will see both the list of cars and the attendees increase. There were plenty car owners that I know with show-winning cars that would be able to compete with what I saw, which is great because the event can only get bigger and better from here. I also made sure to watch the judges, and to get close to hear some of the mutterings, and there's really not much difference between how a show like this is judged when compared with the aftermarket shows that I've judged. Having a pre-selection stage is obviously the best first step, but it also allows a list of cars to be compiled which will give judges a chance to do their homework on some of the rarer models. With this kind of show, you need to be really clued up on the cars entered so you can point out what's original and what's not and so proper research and homework needs to be done. Cleanliness is one of the factors judged too, although with the cars being parked outside on grass, I think a little fine dust would need to be forgiven. I do know that one of the E36 M3s on display was stripped down for a proper detailing, not just plastic covers and seats, the engine was dropped - that's the level of Concours SA. I'm not sure which of the two below though, but definitely one of them.
Overall, the Concours d'Elegance by Concours SA is a brilliant event that I was lucky to attend, thanks to Greg Marucchi for organising me access at the last minute. This is one that I've added to my annual "must attend events", and you should too if you're as passionate about cars as I am. I'd love to see more of the cars enter from the private collections I know of, there's hundreds of cars out there at this level, some even better too. Well done to all the winners (as seen below), I hope to see you all next year among some new cars and faces.
For more on the event, it's sponsors and supported charities, head on over to the Concours SA website, and for the rest of the images, head on over to my ChrisWallMedia Facebook page.
Strange thing happening lately. I seem to be gravitating towards BMW content, not by choice, but that's not a complaint either. That goes for events and private shoots too. During one of my recent commissions, one car I saw that's both easy to shoot and also makes my nether regions all warm and fuzzy is the BMW M4 DTM Championship Edition. Of course the one I could see myself driving would cost a chunk over the R2 300 000 list price. That's if you could find one for sale, there's only 200 of these in the WORLD and just 15 in SA.
Powered by a twin turbo inline 6 with a 3.0 capacity, power is rated at 368kW with a stonking 600Nm and the resulting performance figures come in at 0-100km/h in 3.8-seconds with a top speed limited to 305km/h. I think that limiter can be removed too, but I'm not sure why you'd wanna.
This one is a member of the BMW Driving Experience for now.
#BMW #BMWDTM #DTM #ChampionshipEdition #M4 #RareAF #BMWDrivingExperience #OneOfTwoHundred #FastAF #TheHotness #LottoCar #SoMuchOfWant #ChrisWallMedia #CWM #Photography #AutomotivePhotography #ShootingCars #Photographer #ShooterForHire #Cars #Streets #Michelin #MichelinPilotSport #MichelinPS #StreetTrackCar
As many of you who follow my online shenanigans will know, I'm rather pro-Suzuki. So much so that I'm often asked if I work at the company. Alas, I'm just a lowly freelancer, but I have the opportunity to try out new cars from time to time (there would be more if a bunch PRs actually answered any e-mails) and this gives me a change to be able to compare plenty cars available out there. While many I know love the bigger cars, I've alway been a fan of the smaller ones for some odd reason, and this is a category where Suzuki excels. I don't think the company has ever made a bad small car, even the weirdly shaped Splash was pretty good. The company's '"bread & butter" model since 2005 is the Swift, a top seller for the brand in many markets, accounting for 30% of all sales in SA and racking up more than 6 million sales worldwide. When an all-new model was on the cards it had to be every bit as good as the outgoing model, or better. Thankfully the latter it is.
The automaker has the insane ability to make each new model lighter than before, and this means they can use smaller capacity engines and still have the cars feel quite nippy and manoeuvrable on the roads. For the new Swift, Suzuki has widened (40mm) and shortened (10mm ) the little hatchback as well as both the front and rear track and the overall wheelbase have been increased. Up front the track 40mm wider and the sees a 35mm increase - as a result the wheelbase has been stretched by 20mm too. So the car looks a little lower and more squat on the road, which is no bad thing, especially when you look at the effects on cabin space. Front passengers have 10mm more wiggle room in the shoulder width department and rear pPassengers now have 23mm more head room. Seating is also lower which not only creates space, but also adjusts the car's centre of gravity. The Swift has never had a boot you could describe as spacious, but this new generation sees space increase to 268 litres, a pretty hefty 58 litres more, and the 60/40 split with a foldable rear bench ( GL-spec) sees space increase a lot more.
Inside the all-new Swift things look good, a clear improvement from the outgoing model. This is a budget car, but the materials have managed to not look too cheap, and while there are plastics all around, they're pretty good and the tactile feel is ok. The gauge cluster looks more along the lines of what you see in the Baleno model with a handy driver information screen in between the speed and tacho. The dash layout is similar but the entertainment section of the dash is angles a little more to the driver now making things easier to see and use. My one bug bear with the Suzukis we get in SA is the infotainment system because the colour TFT screens as see in international markets are not an option in SA, and with the pricing and practicality of the car also aimed at younger tech-savvy buyers, this can make or break a sale sadly. That said, what is in play works as it should but connecting to Bluetooth (GL trim) can be a higher grade affair. I often get calls from new Suzuki owners asking for help to set it up, no word of lie. You also get a sporty D-shaped steering wheel (with infotainment controls on the GL trim) that feels good in hand. The seats have also been redesigned and are now firmer and more comfortable. All trim levels of the all-new Swift feature air conditioning, front and rear electric windows, power steering and remote central locking. GL-trim gets a better audio system with the aforementioned Bluetooth-connectivity, a USB socket and electronically adjustable wing mirrors. There's also a fair amount of storage space scattered around the cabin.
With a lightweight body and chassis, the engine could some in a little smaller and have the same effect on making the Swift move along, and even though the lump is normally aspirated, it actually does surprisingly well on the road. It certainly feels better than the numbers suggest. The all-new Suzuki Swift gets an all-new engine, and as with the rest of the car, it's also nice and light thanks to its all-aluminium construction. At a smidgen under 1200cc, the little engine is rated at 61kW with 113Nm, but I think the secret to the punchy feel is the high 11:1 compression ratio. It also helps with efficiency, something Suzuki is particularly good at, with a small 37-litre fuel tank in play, the new Swift is able to cover a massive 750km - the thing is rated to sip just 4.9-litre/100km on the combined cycle. Let me just put that into perspective quick; every single launch I've attended would have a car with a certain claimed consumption figure and with the way the journos wring the life out of the cars, the claims are seldom seen. On this launch the new Swift I drove returned 5.1-litres/100km. ON A LAUNCH! That's mighty impressive. It helps that the car is fitted with a nice, close ratio 5-speed manual transmission on the GA and GL models, although that AMT is also an option on the GL (I've still never managed to try this transmission). Overseas markets get a small capacity diesel lump, which no one here will miss I'm sure.
The all-new Suzuki Swift is a great drive, the men in white coats have worked some sort of magic into the build process because while everything is lightweight, the car feels pretty solid. Even with that small engine, you'll often find yourself ahead of the traffic if you drive like me, it's responsive and doesn't battle to rev up, even with a full compliment of passengers and a kitbag or two in the boot. The steering is direct and there's good feedback from the 14" wheels, and the brakes are sharp and tight, but it does take a lot to get the ABS to kick in, which is good. The transmission is smooth and the level notches into place almost as if it's pulled there, which I like a lot and makes me really need to sample the upcoming Swift Sport - that's gonna be a cracker! As for the test of the interior bits, the heater and aircon work fast and also don't sap power from anywhere, well if they do it doesn't feel like it. The seats are comfortable and visibility is good all-round, all in all it's a decent place to be.
Added to the all-new Suzuki Swift is an all-new Suzuki Dzire. The small sedan is no longer just a Swift with a boot, it's a range all on it's own now with some key styling differences to differentiate it, along with the boot. Engine and transmission spec is the same though. These will be great in fleets and for things like Uber; affordable, light on everything and ample space. Of course, to be a top-seller in a brand, a car needs to have a price point that appeals to the market out there, and Suzuki are pretty damn good and putting bargains together. The base Swift, the GA model, starts off at just R159 900, but if you call now, you'll get the higher-spec GL trim at a launch special of R169 900 (usually R175 900). When compared to other cars in this price bracket, the new Swift is a no-brainer. Sure you can get yourself a Datsun GO or a Renault Kwid for similar pricing, but there's a clear difference between a well-spec'd small car with great safety features and an amazing track record, and a death trap disguised as a funky car.
The all-new Suzuki Swift (and Dzire) can only do well for the brand, not only in SA, but globally. I'll be keeping an eye on sales figures but I have no doubt things will improve over the previous generation's sales figures, I'll put money on it. All that's left now is to get that Swift Sport on to our shores...
1.2i GA MT SW14 R159 900
1.2i GL MT SW15 R175 900 - LAUNCH SPECIAL R169 900
1.2i GL AMT SW16 R189,900 Price includes 5yr / 200 000km promotional warranty
Retail price includes a 2 yr / 30 000km service plan
1.2 GA MT SD6 R161 900
1.2 GL MT SD7 R177 900
1.2 GL AMT SD8 R191 900
Price includes 5yr / 200 000km promotional warranty for as long as Suzuki SA feels like running the promotion, seriously. That's pretty damn cool of them. Retail price includes a 2-year / 30 000km service plan.
It's funny thing with the Suzuki Swift Sport. You can be at an event packed to the rafters with the most brand-blind enthusiasts who will happily get into a fist fight for dissing their preferred brand or saying another brand is good, yet when the Swift Sport is mentioned, you get a unanimous "Ja, those are good little cars hey?" There's a reason for this; the Suzuki Swift Sport is that damn good! This exact Champion Yellow one is the last to be sold new (demo) through a dealership in SA, and I was lucky enough to take it for a test drive before that happened. As many of you will know, I'm a huge fan of Suzuki products, I've driven every single one except for a Kizashi, but never at the coast. Thanks to Suzuki SA's Brendon Carpenter, I had the chance to drive the last of the last SSS cars in SA, in Cape Town. That's one tick on the bucket list.
At the coast, the little 1600cc powerplant comes alive. Sure, at the Reef it's a sprightly thing, but that extra coastal air pressure will see you swapping cogs fast enough on the short ratio 6-speed transmission to get the wheels to spin in 2nd, as opposed to the little chirp heard in Jo'burg. With a revvy normally aspirated 1600cc motor that produces just 100kW and 160Nm of torque, its miles behind when compared to the current hot hatches that everyone raves about. Bigger capacity motors with turbocharging is the way of the world now, but there are those out there (me) who still have a taste for the original hot hatch recipe that was made famous by the Mk1 Golf GTi from 1976. That car featured an 1600cc 8-valve lump with mechanical K-Jetronic fuel injection that was packed in a compact, lightweight body that afforded the car a decent power-to-weight ratio. It could hit 100km/h in 9-seconds. Add eight more valves and electronic fuel injection to that description and you could be talking about the Suzuki Swift Sport. It's easy to chuck a powerful motor in any hatchback, and with Suzuki's racing expertise it would have been quite easy, but the essence of the SSS would have been lost.
My afternoon with the car left me with smile cramps. Seriously, it's so much fun to drive but is just that little bit more special at the coast. The accelerator is nice and responsive, the steering is as direct as it gets and that "feel" that everyone makes a hoohaa about is there in spades. From puttering around at 1200rpm to thrashing the car to the redline, you always know what the car wants to do. The suspension geometry and a taught chassis make for an amazing combination, you can chuck the car around like a red-headed stepchild and it will obey every instruction you give it. If you want to go a little more balls to the wall, you can take the traction control off for a little lift-off oversteer fun but it's not really necessary as the nanny filters only kick in if you get things very wrong. The suspension also bugs me as I'd want the car to be lower because I'm from Kempton, but it's so good you don't want to mess with it in case you detract from it's capability. You also don't get chucked around in the cabin, some great seats are in play with high side bolsters to keep you firmly in place when entering hooligan mode. Also, there's some great dials to keep your eye on, it's actually a pretty good place to be seated. There is one single let down, and that's the old-school infotainment system that's really just a radio with Bluetooth functionality. That said, who wants an interactive touchscreen jobbie when you're carving up mountain passes or racetracks? You know how Toyota and Subaru were harping on about the 86 and BRZ making such low power because it's all about the drive? Well they can learn a thing or two from Suzuki. Personally I think they went boostless on those cars because those boxer motors like to eat ringlands for fun...
So why am I posting about the last of the last Suzuki Swift Sports? That's because today (6 June 2018) I'm headed to Durban with Suzuki SA to sample the new generation Suzuki Swift. I've seen plenty images of the car online, I've watched hours of reviews and while I'll miss this outgoing model, I'm looking forward to the new stuff. When news first broke about a new Swift, I was patiently waiting for details on the Sport model hoping that it would remain normally aspirated. Alas, Suzuki decided to turbocharge it. The reasoning isn't because it wants to try and play with the competition, it was purely based on efficiency and emissions and turbocharging is the answer to better figures all round. What I do like about the new Suzuki Swift Sport is that it's retained all the same ingredients made famous by that little Golf 42 years ago; it's compact, lightweight, has brilliant underpinnings, and still uses a small capacity lump, albeit with boost. Dropping 200cc but adding a turbo has seen the power remain much the same at 103kW but torque rises to 230Nm. On the plus side, for those who have more money than the need for a warrantee, boosted cars can make more power much easier than normally aspirated ones. I envision a future of plenty 200kW SSS cars running around soon.
While the new Swift Sport will only arrive later in the year (or possibly next year) it's time to say farewell to the last of the last proper fun cars. I'll report back on the new Swift range in the meantime of course, I'm just hoping they have given the local market enough blingy tech to look at inside so that no one even looks at competitor cars in this segment. I have my fingers crossed that the new Swift is all that's it's cracked up to be, but Suzuki hasn't disappointed me yet...
You can see an overview of the outgoing Suzuki Swift range over here if you like.
Author: Chris Wall
A slightly tattooed motoring fanatic, photography nut and avid collector of knowledge. Use the search bar to navigate through the archives.