Page 1

NEW

LAUNCHED: New Clio

JUNE 2013

TESTED

Infiniti EX37 Volvo V40 T4 Audi A3 1.8 TFSI VW Golf 7 1.2 TFSI Mercedes-Benz B180

TOP 5 PASSION RATINGS Every Car Category Rated Monthly!

ACES HIGH! New A-Class Distinctively Different


NEW

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CONTENTS

46 12

A LITTLE TORQUE

5 Real Versus Hype Our Ed is pleased to note the subtle easing of interest in EVs, and delves into the reasons behind this cooling-off.

18

WORDS FROM THE WISE

8 A Natural Hero Bruce Bennett gets treated to a double-dose of championshipwinning race driver Stephane Peterhansel and gleans a glimpse of the stuff it takes to be a natural-born hero.

DRIVE FEATURES

12 Hypercar (R)Evolution! From the birth of this uniquely captivating breed through to the release of the latest entrants to the market, Drive examines where this unique niche is going and details the fantastic machines that will be taking it there. 14 McLaren P1 Billed as the replacement for the legendary F1, McLaren’s new range-topping performance monster has been unveiled. 18 Ferrari LaFerrari Likely to become the defining hybrid hypercar of the decade, the new LaFerrari is with us at last!

60

22 Porsche 918 The Germans answer to the hybrid hypercar conundrum is, as usual, exceptionally well-realised and rounded, with an added twist just for fun. 26 Lamborghini Veneno While the “other” Italian supercar maker has done it again, going completely in the contrary direction with the ultra-rare Veneno! 30 Hennessey Venom GT A hypercar born and bred on the tarmac, and not the glitz of auto show stage lights, the Venom GT record-breaker secures itself a leading role in the current generation.

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JUNE 2013

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26 30

74

70

DRIVES LAUNCHES

34 Big Hitter - Renault Clio 4 40 A New Dynamic - Mercedes-Benz A-Class 46 New Beginnings - Toyota RAV4

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DRIVE TESTS

54 A3 1.8 TFSI vs Golf 7 1.2 TFSI 66 Volvo V40 T4 70 Infiniti EX37 74 Mercedes-Benz B180

22 D RIV E M AG AZ I NE J U N E 2 0 1 3

TOP

5S - EVERY MOTORING NICHE THAT MATTERS

Check out our Top 5 selections of just about every motoring niche that you could be interested in. Updated monthly from our own enthusiastic angle. 3


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TORQUE EDITORS LETTER LAUNCHED: New Clio

NEW

MAY 2013

TESTED

Infiniti EX37 Volvo V40 T4 Audi A3 1.8 TFSI VW Golf 7 1.2 TFSI Mercedes-Benz B180

TOP 5 PASSION RATINGS Every Car Category Rated Monthly!

ACES HIGH! New A-Class Distinctively Different

EDITORIAL EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Russell Bennett DESIGN STUDIO James Clark, Brent Fisher TRAFFIC Juanita Heilbron FINANCIAL MANAGER Marisa George WEB ADMINISTRATOR Russell Bennett

write to us:

editor@drivemagazine.co.za ADVERTISING National Russell Krynauw: russellk@realemedia.co.za Roy Lategan: roy@realemedia.co.za Andre Evans: andre@realemedia.co.za Material & Traffic Juanita Heilbron juanita@realemedia.co.za

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REAL VERSUS HYPE

E

lectric cars, the world is at last realising, are no replacement for the absolute freedom of personal mobility we’ve gotten used to with crude old fossilfuel burning machines.

Of course, there’s so much investment already sunk into this pit that this isn’t the official word. Manufacturers, and therefore their stooges in mainstream press, continue to punt electricity as effectively our climate-change saviour. And yet, despite all of this spend, media reports on the subject continue to include the hollow ring of utter nonsense about them. Just this weekend I read a very nicely-written piece from a widely-regarded motoring journo describing how his Tesla Roadster experience resulted in one 4-hour commute turning into an 8-hour ordeal desperately seeking some spare voltage to complete the journey. And that in a first-world country with a very developed infrastructure. And yet, the writer blithely ignores the mountainous inconvenience and blatant range rubbish fed to him by the manufacturer’s PR squadron. And proceeds to announce that despite the setbacks the technology represented by this vehicle is undoubtedly the future of motoring as we know it. That the car itself is exceptional, exemplary, amazing, and more besides. That the EV experience is an enviable and unforgettable one. Fortunately we’re also seeing a serious disconnect between what the great and good of global motoring journalism feed their audiences and actual sales data. Even while motoring pages of all shapes sizes and formats try to stuff this failed solution down the throats of the masses, actual EV market penetration appears to have hit a very early ceiling. The public is actively choosing the new breed ot small turbocharged petrol and diesel engines cars over EV options in markets where they even have this choice to make. Less-developed nations can’t even choose to go with EVs yet, with any sort of widespread roll out first requiring an enormous and slow-moving infrastructure investment be made to support the upstart tech. Perhaps, by the time this work has been tendered out and actually completed, the EV will have ironed out its numerous wrinkles, clearing the path to mass adoption. But it’s more likely that a workable technology with more impact on the environmental credentials of personal mobility will sideline these products before that ever materialises. Don’t believe everything you read, and don’t be suckered by the appealingsounding EV sales pitch. Buying-in to the trend now would be a costly mistake.

Russell Bennett Editor-in-Chief D RIV E M AG AZ I NE J U N E 2 0 1 3

5


WORDS FROM THE WISE

By BRUCE BENNETT

A NATURAL HERO

T

o anyone with the vaguest interest in motorsport, being driven by Stephane Peterhansel in his Dakarwinning car on an offroad course is an awesome experience. It’s up there with sparring with Muhammad Ali, kicking a ball with Lionel Messi or being given golf or tennis lessons by Tiger Woods and Roger Federer. Peterhansel is a legend of the Dakar Rally, having won the world’s toughest motorsport event six times on a bike and five (so far) in a car. He was a surprise guest at a MINI launch in Gauteng recently and took journalists for a flying spin around the offroad track at Gerotek, outside Pretoria, in his Dakar X-Raid MINI Countryman. Because my brave colleagues pushed me to the front of the queue I got two laps – Peterhansel wanted to warm the tyres – and I got extra time to chat with him while the “track” was being checked. The ride was a memorable experience, with the brutal toughness of the vehicle and the skills of the driver leaving passengers breathless in the short time it took to complete the 6-km circuit. Some of us got breathless just getting in and out of the car. It was hard to imagine Peterhansel and his rivals doing this sort of thing for 15 days, up to 800 or 900km a day, over some of the roughest, hottest terrain around. To round things off, the Dakar king proved to be a downto-earth and modest French dude, sort of a Gallic Clark Kent who becomes a Superman (or should that be Asterix?) only when he’s behind the wheel of an offroad monster. He’s so laid back it was no surprise to find out he had been a champion skateboarder as a teenager. Asked about his early Dakar successes on Yamahas, he said: “I must emphasise that I have fun in the cars but the bike is closest to my heart.” He is proud of the fact that he has had a contract with Yamaha for 27 years (he turns 48 in August) and added that he had recently ridden in an off-road event in Italy for the Japanese bike-maker. 6

He confirmed that he would be back in the Dakar Rally in January 2014 but would not be drawn on his chances of a 12th win and a sixth car victory to go with the six motorbike titles. “Anything can happen on the Dakar,” he said. “It’s two weeks of intense racing over thousands of kilometres.” Next year the event will be expanded to include Bolivia. This year it was run through Peru, Argentina and Chile. Peterhansel turned professional at 18, entered his first Paris-Dakar in 1988 and took his first win in 1991. Then followed an incredible run for the young Frenchman and Yamaha, with victories in 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997 and 1998. He switched to cars in 1999 and after a spell with Nissan, won the Dakar with Mitsubishi in 2004, 2005 and 2007. After 2008 (when the rally was not run because of violence on the Africa section) the event was moved to South America. In 2010 and 2011 he was fourth, in a BMW. In 2012 Peterhansel won in a MINI that bore a strong resemblance to a BMW X3, and this year he and the MINI triumphed again. It was an incredible achievement after a 25-year association with the event. This man of steel also has a bootload full of honours from other endurance events all over the world. Yet at Gerotek he seemed nonchalantly surprised that people wanted his signature … D R IV E MA GA ZIN E JU NE 2013


NEWS

Beautiful ladies and stunning cars Meet Joburg, an innovative online dating site, was established in early 2011 by the dynamic duo of Suzette Leal and Matilda Loots. The site currently boasts a paid-up a user base of 2000, all of whom are single professionals seeking partners while enjoying the electric vibe of South Africa’s busiest metropolis. What makes Meet Joburg (www.meetjoburg.co.za) unique is that date-nights are packaged outings fitting in with one of four general themes - Restaurants & Dining, Sports, Arts & Culture and Adventure. Adventurous singles get together for canopy tours or biking trails, party animals join in on night club soirees, and food lovers can enjoy moonlight picnics or sushi-making lessons. The Meet Joburg team organises several of these interesting occasions a month, with members able to select ones they’d enjoy the most already knowing that the other attendees will share their interest. “Our tagline is ‘outsource your social life,’ as we essentially do the organising for people who are too busy to do

8

it themselves, but who still want to meet interesting people and discover new activities and places,” explains Leal. “Unlike Internet dating, which has been successful in terms of numbers, it’s not successful in actually connecting like-minded people. Also, with internet dating and speed dating there is a connotation of desperation, which is partly why these models haven’t worked.” The result is a claimed 70% success rate, by far exceeding any internet dating service which has come before. This remarkable success has led the team to replicate the model and launch other niche get-together platforms such as Meet Gayburg and Meet Durban, which have been franchised out to similarly energetic and vivacious business partners. In addition to growing this successful Internet business, Suzette is also an avid fan of the motorcar, regularly driving her and hubby’s (sorry lads, she’s spoken for) tasty collection of sporty metal on trackday events. Suzette’s favourite track toy is their 1969 Porsche 911 RS,

D R IV E MA GA ZIN E JU NE 2013


while when not in her daily-driver Range Rover Evoque she enjoys their Aston Martin Vantage for getting around town. To become a member, visit: www.meetjoburg.co.za and complete the application process. If successful, you will be invited to your first event (R350). Should you enjoy the experience of your first event, you can sign up to become a member for R1, 200. Membership is valid for a year and guarantees you two invitations per month. The cost of events are standardised at around R300 – R350 per person per event.

FROM TOP: Suzette adores the svelte style and raucous punch of the Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster, but finds it a bit soft on track. Unlike this 996-generation Porsche 911 GT3 which, conversely, is a tad stiff for daily driving. The ‘69 911 RS however is perfect for trackdays, even if it isn’t road-registered, because it feels “so light and chuckable”. D RIV E M AG AZ I NE J U N E 2 0 1 3

9


FEATURE

Hypercar (R) Evolution The background of the breed

T

he supercar had been all-but perfectly defined in the 70s already, and although brand loyalists may disagree, largely dominated by a single, upstart Italian manufacturer. At the very least, for exuberant flair, rampant passion and quintessential street theatre, Lamborghini has been king since the Countach. With the Diablo simply sealing the association. The maddest of a crazy breed. And so it was that Ferrari and Porsche set off in a whole new direction in the early 80s - to create cars which were even more focussed, rarer, and costlier than their runof-the-mill supercars of the moment. Specials dedicated to pushing the envelope, featuring fabulously bespoke engineering solutions and experimenting with new ideas for a strictly limited number of customers with unfeasibly bulging wallets. It was from this new platform of competition that the first of the hypercars was born. The Ferrari 288 GTO, which was to form the basis of the legendary F40, and the Porsche 959 are surely the originals of what we now refer to as a hypercar. Ferrari went all race car with a carbon-kevlar tub and bodywork, and a small-capacity but high-output twin-turbo V8 to motivate this minimal mass. Porsche on the other hand 10

threw every technological trick they could muster at the 959, which featured everything from full-time roadbiased AWD to built-in tyre pressure monitors. Both went a clear and definite step beyond what the then-pinnacle of supercar design could achieve, with a significant cost attached to the privilege of experiencing this cutting-edge evolution first-hand. The only checkmark against the F40 being that in the end it sold in considerable numbers, after Ferrari just kept the production line open for as long as they could manage.

“THE NET RESULT BEING A STRING OF INCREASINGLY MORE EXTREME AND MORE EXPENSIVE MACHINES HITTING THE STREETS.� These two pioneers in turn spawned a series of competitors boasting similarly hyped performance D R IV E MA GA ZIN E JU NE 2013


potential. The Jaguar XJ220 for instance, Bugatti’s EB110 SS, as well as what would become the ultimate, definitive hypercar, the McLaren F1. The F1 was all carbon fibre. Built on a central driving position, in total disregard to conventional norms. With a BMW-sourced V12 producing somewhere around 460kW and a top speed pushing 400km/h. It’s engine bay was lined with gold. And it cost almost a million British Pounds. At a time when everything else even the most extreme and focussed of supercars, sold for just over 100,000 of the same currency. In the end, production of the F1 was limited more by the number of applicable buyers than anything else. The astonishing engineering that bred the F1 ruled the hypercar roost throughout the 90s. But that didn’t stop the competition trying, with the net result being a string of increasingly more extreme and more expensive machines hitting the streets. Ferrari went for F1 connections in its F50, Porsche found a masterpiece of a V10 and squeezed it into the Carrera GT, and Lamborghini built a stealth fighter for the road. New companies sprung up into this burgeoning, ludicrous space. Pagani became the Faberge of motoring, and Koenigsegg grabbed on to the biggest D RIV E M AG AZ I NE J U N E 2 0 1 3

stick it could find. Until finally, the competition was suddenly over. In a stroke, Bugatti snatched the crown the EB110 never quite managed to come that close to with the introduction of the Veyron. Another machine of impossible credentials. A quad-turbo, 8-litre W16 engine pushing 750kW as standard to all four wheels. A top speed smashing the 400km/h barrier, a price tag of a million quid straight, and yet somehow lacking the raw and uncensored assault on the senses such extreme digits usually accompany. It was, and largely still is, the ultimate example of speedobsessed engineering. Not that that’s stopped anyone from trying. The current contenders not examined in the subsequent pages, in no particular order, are the Koenigsegg Agera R, Pagani Huayra, Aston-Martin One-77, Hennessey Venom GT, Zenvo ST1, Noble M600, Gumpert Apollo, even the Corvette ZR-1 in many respects. Now entering the market however, is a whole new breed of this insanely intoxicating animal. In fact, so monumental a step-change are they, we might need a whole new niche to slot them into. How about Ultracars, think that’ll catch on? 11


FEATURE

McLaren P1

The King is Dead! Newest Hypercar not so Hyper

W

ay back in 1992, the McLaren racing team had had plenty of success on circuits across the globe, but when the company launched its first road car it simply rewrote all the rules of engagement. In fact, the company seemed to wilfully toss the rulebook out the window, and the result was genuinely world-beating.

An unlimited top speed of 390km/h instantly made the F1 the fastest car in the world. In fact, it was so much faster than all other fast cars, that it took Bugatti years of concerted effort as well as billions of the VW Group’s Euros to create the car which would eventually dethrone the F1 - some 15 years later! What’s more, to achieve this feat, Bugatti had to go way beyond extremes. The result of course is equally legendary 16 cylinders, 8 litres of capacity, four turbochargers, and 10 radiators! The result was 1001 PS, or 736kW, powering all four wheels of a weighty 1,888kg car to a top speed of 408km/h. Result, but as it turned out, hardly much to be proud of in engineering terms.

12

D R IV E MA GA ZIN E JU NE 2013


Overdressed For Success Knowledgeable commentators of the day pointed out that the Veyron was severely over-engineered. The complex solutions the company had to employ simply to defeat a car famous for its purity and simplicity, beggared belief. The McLaren was lighter, had a smaller naturallyaspirated engine, was RWD only, and eschewed modern reigning-in mechanisms like ABS and DSC handling full control of the destiny of both man and machine over to the driver fastened-in to the centrally-located hot seat. And in the end, it wasn’t all that much slower than the big Bug either, off the line or at full tilt. Bugatti may have claimed the silverware, but the moral victory remained with McLaren. With the proof of the pudding being the drive. Whereas the F1 was routinely described as “the greatest driving machine ever built”, those fortunate enough to test a Veyron found their write-ups peppered with words like “inert”, “heavy”, and “aloof” thanks to the combination of hardware and software necessary to tame that brutal power. But this article isn’t about the F1, nor the Veyron for that matter. This brief history lesson serves merely to reinforce a Drive belief that with the new P1 unveiled at last to expectant crowds in Geneva, McLaren has officially lost the plot. The numbers of the company’s latest “ultimate hypercar” simply don’t add up.

A Hypercar, Limited!? The one figure which grabbed not a single headline (except our own), is the top speed. Although McLaren claim to have limited the P1 to 350km/h flat-out for some arcane and no doubt politically-correct reason of its own, the fact that it was so much slower than an F1 was hardly trumpeted from the ramparts. Score one for the old stager. And that’s despite the new car making prodigious power - a total of 673 kW when the tweaked twin-turbo V8 D RIV E M AG AZ I NE J U N E 2 0 1 3

familiar to MP4-12C owners output is added to that of the electric motors. Yes, the P1 is a hybrid, and if you didn’t know that by now well you probably aren’t very interested in this type of vehicle... At least the P1 is quicker off the mark than the legend it’s trying to replace, with McLaren claiming 0-100kph in under 3s. That’s positively blistering of course, but is actually more a product of dilution of purity than it is of unbridled engineering focus. The P1, rather than shying away from the standards of the day, embraces all the latest forms of technology and is therefore blessed with very sophisticated traction-control subroutines in its vast computer brain. With computers controlling its launch, the F1 could probably have dipped under the 3s mark as well, but of course that’s pure conjecture.

“...THE P1 IS THE AUTOMOTIVE EQUIVALENT OF THE IPHONE 5.” Tech For The Sake Of Tech And under the skin? Well, the theme continues, with just about the only similarity to the F1 being the gold leaf liberally employed to line the engine bay. It’s a conventional two-abreast cockpit, which includes all the mod-cons today’s technology can throw at you. There’s no obvious bi-plane style rear wing either, because even the aero is active and constantly adjusted by those self same computers managing your traction for you to deliver optimum cornering grip under all conditions. Where the F1 was a driving tool for purists, the P1 is the automotive equivalent of a an iPhone 5. Or unobtainium. Propulsion is provided by both the electric motor and 3.8-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 simultaneously, just like Formula 1 cars of today. In fact the technology employed 13


FEATURE

McLaren P1 sounds remarkably familiar to a KERS-powered Push To Pass setup, with the P1 featuring a button that you have to press for the full electric-and-petrol beans on-demand. But it isn’t the cleverest of hybrid solutions, despite all the hype. There is an electric-only drive mode, but this won’t even get you as far as 10kms, which clearly indicates just what the battery capacity employed must be. Which is to say, not a whole lot. This we assume will lead to the embarassing situation of being beaten away from the lights by its own smaller, cheaper little brother, the MP4-12C. Which is lighter, but is always capable of producing its full power output, while the P1 will at times have no energy left to power the electric motors, leaving an only somewhat more powerful petrol V8 alone to lug a substantial wedge more weight.

Surface Solution All in the name of efficiency, of course. Except, how efficient is it really to drag extra weight around with you for no reason quite a lot of the time? Necessitating that the petrol V8 be tuned-up further from the already generous power output it produces in the MP4-12C, and therefore consumes even more fuel, naturally. No, the P1 has been built as a “Car of the Day”, rather than using the “Car of the Century” approach behind the legendary F1. If anything, the MP4-12C is a more fitting sequel to this epic car than the P1, as it brought insanely fast motoring to a far larger audience by virtue of being more reasonably priced. The P1 on the other hand is merely a surface-deep solution to a global problem which still no-one is talking honestly about. And as such, is not the automotive milestone it claims to be.

McLaren P1 Quick Stats: Engine: Transmission: Layout:

7-speed dual-clutch Mid-engined RWD

Combined Power:

673kW @ 7000rpm

Combined Torque:

900Nm

0-100km/h: Top speed: Chassis: Body: Kerb weight: Braking: Aerodynamics: Price: Production run: 14

3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol

2.8s 350km/h Carbon MonoCell safety structure Carbon fibre Approx. 1,800kgs Akebono carbon-ceramics Active R12,1-million 375 units D R IV E MA GA ZIN E JU NE 2013


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FEATURE

LaFerrari

La Ferrari r a i l i m a F y l g n i Sta r t l Quick Stats: Engine:

6.2-litre nat-asp V12 petrol

Transmission:

7-speed dual-clutch

Layout:

Mid-engined RWD

Combined Power: 708kW @ 9000rpm Combined Torque:

900Nm

0-100km/h:

Sub-3s

Top speed:

350km/h

Chassis:

Carbon monocoque

Body:

Carbon fibre

Kerb weight: Braking:

Approx. 1,800kgs Brembo Carbon-ceramics

Aerodynamics: Price: Production run:

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Active R13-million 499 units

D R IV E MA GA ZIN E JU NE 2013


D RIV E M AG AZ I NE J U N E 2 0 1 3

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FEATURE

LaFerrari

s if to prove just what cookie-cutter hypercar making is all about, at the same show where McLaren unveiled it’s P1, motoring royalty Ferrari released its own latest pinnacle of an already pretty lofty lineup. And it’s just about the same car as the competitive machine from Woking.

Trendy? Or Lazy? Maranello’s entry is called, in an almost ludicrously unoriginal pastiche of trendy originality, the LaFerrari. And although I could write volumes on the shockingly low opinion car-makers who give their cars names like this must obviously have of the buying public, let’s just leave it at that for the moment. The technical specifications are eerily familiar, particularly considering we’d all been drinking in the details of the P1 just the day before the LaFerrari (LF) broke cover. It features a carbon fibre body draped over a super-stiff monocoque of the same aerospace-grade material. It has a mid-mounted petrol engine, in this case a naturally-aspirated 6.2-litre V12 effectively lifted out of the FF, as well as a KERS-like hybrid drivetrain sending some 708kW combined to the rear wheels only. The 0-100kph sprint is dispatched of in sub-3s, and all-in it’ll see 350km/h. Hmmmm....

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The Death Of Engineering Purity There are a couple of very minor differences. The LaFerrari, for instance, doesn’t have an electric-only driving mode (yet). And then there’s that naturally-aspirated V12 of course... and that’s literally about it. Both cars weigh in at nearer to 2 tons than any hypercar worth its salt should be straying towards, both are limited production runs, and both will cost you around R14-million. It’s a massive letdown for fans of engineering purity and functional elegance. Like McLaren, Ferrari has simply bowed to the pressure being exerted by global anti-car lobbyists and produced a vehicle which at least on the surface appears to be doffing its cap towards a more environmentally-aware future. It’s car design for the sake of producing a new product,

D R IV E MA GA ZIN E JU NE 2013


not for the sake of moving the game on, or bringing new ideas or technology into play. Just a “me too” car really. Naturally, all 499 examples of the LaFerrari have already been sold. Primarily to existing customers, as is the tradition with Ferrari hypercars. And all 499 obscenely wealthy owners are no doubt going to be well pleased with themselves for finding a way to still drive insanely fast while convincing themselves that they are also helping to save the planet in the process. It’s all so very droll.

Two Steps Behind If these elite motoring manufacturers aren’t the houses of innovation any longer, then who is? When global mainstream giants VW can stun everyone with their amazing XL1, and actually get the results into production today,

and small European players like Citroen can innovate to the tune of the C3 HybridAir concept, the fact that the hypercar producers are some four year behind everyone else doesn’t fill one with pride or confidence. The rest of the motoring world has already come to the conclusion that neither hybrids nor full EVs are the answer being sought, while the supposed leaders in the field trumpet their “new direction” with pride and abundant fanfare. There’s no doubt that, technologically, these new hypercars will sweep all that went before them out of the way with ease. They’ll establish new track records, new economy records, and new profit records for their respective manufacturers. They’ll be fawned at and drooled upon by countless numbers of young adolescents with car fetishes (although this number is dwindling each year), and oh so achingly desired by all car enthusiasts bar the Lucky Ones. But on an emotional scale, they’ve already lost. In terms of pushing out the limits of what human ingenuity can do, they’re far from the lead. In fact, if anything, they’re running in the Special Olympics now, having left the Real Deal to the few Real Cars still standing without the corruption of Direct Current.

D RIV E M AG AZ I NE J U N E 2 0 1 3

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FEATURE

Porsche 918 Spyder

Along Came A Spyder

The one that started it all? 20

D R IV E MA GA ZIN E JU NE 2013


A

nd finally, it’s Porsche’s turn, although it’s difficult to say if the Stuttgart specialist released the details on its hybrid 918 Spyder first, or if the McLaren and/ or Ferrari teams unveiled their plans before anyone else. When first released, the details of the 918 Spyder literally stunned the automotive globe, even if today it does look almost as though they’re actually playing catch-up with this car.

Yet Another Hybrid Hypercar Again however, the specs won’t be eye-opening in the present company. The 918 makes a total of 614kW, driving all four wheels via the 7-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission. A mid-mounted 4.6-litre petrol V8 makes the lion’s share of this power (430kW), while a larger electric motor good for 180kW sits between the rear wheels, and a smaller unit making 85kW is placed between the fronts. The chassis is of CFRP (carbon-fibre reinforced plastic), as well as the bodywork, while extensive use of magnesium manages to keep the weight down to 1700kgs. The benchmark sprint is over in 2.8s, top speed a seemingly inadequate 325km/h. There’s an EV mode to the hybrid transmission as well, although this one at least should be able to get you a maximum range of around 40km on voltage alone suggesting a substantially larger battery pack is in place. Price? In the region of R13-million, the sweet spot for crazy-car pricing it seems this year, and the 918 will also be produced in limited numbers.

Race-Derived V8 What does perhaps set the 918 Spyder apart somewhat, is the choice of petrol engine installed. Although it wouldn’t have been too difficult to tinker with the flatsix of the 911 Turbo to make the same horesepower and undoubtedly a mountain more torque, Porsche has gone with a V8 derived directly from a race car motor specifically the RS Spyder LMP (Le Mans Prototype). And that, surely, has got to be pretty good news.

“PORSCHE HAS ALL BUT ADMITTED CREATING THE 918 HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH DRIVING DOWN EMISSIONS” Of course by fitting a high-revving naturally-aspirated race engine, Porsche is all-but admitting that creating the 918 Spyder has nothing to do with driving down emissions, even if figures for this car certainly suggest that’s been a significant side effect. What the full story doesn’t mention, however, as that these quoted fueleconomy numbers no doubt include the maximum number of electric-only miles which the machine-driven EU combined-cycle testing regime will allow. When those batteries are low and it’s only the race V8 scudding you up the road, expect far, far worse results than what the manufacturer is claiming. D RIV E M AG AZ I NE J U N E 2 0 1 3

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FEATURE

Porsche 918 Spyder

Having an electric motor at both ends will also help the cars traction, effectively providing an AWD setup which constantly and intelligently vectors torque to the wheels that need it the most - a sort of electronic 4WD limitedslip diff but with a lot more precision. Despite the shortage of firepower, this trick could keep 918 in touch with a P1 driver on a challenging race circuit, the McLaren’s active aero having yet to prove its efficacy.

Carrera GT Reborn The Porsche, to my eyes, is easily the prettiest of the trio

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too. It looks like a modernised evolution of the spectacular Carrera GT, another epic chunk of perfect German engineering. But with more flowing, organic lines even though the GT wasn’t the most sharply-creased product in the landscape. Whether wrong or right, relevant or not, slavish devotion to one-upmanship or genuine ecological statement, these three cars will be the highlight of just about the entire year for most enthusiasts. The fact that Porsche unveiled its new GT3 at the Geneva show, with 7-speed PDK as the only transmission choice and a new 3.8-litre

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straight six which can’t trace its lineage directly back to the hallowed grounds of the Metzger racing team, was all but forgotten even though the company didn’t actually officially unveil any new 918 tidbits during the glamorous international event. However, if I had more money than sense right now and wanted a car to tickle my fancy in those fleeting moments where such romantic notions might be entertained, there was a genuine surprise in store for the world at Geneva which would get my utterly irrelevant vote....

Porsche 918 Spyder Quick Stats: Engine: Transmission: Layout:

4.6-litre nat-asp V8 petrol 7-speed dual-clutch PDK Mid-engined AWD

Combined Power:

614kW @ 8500rpm

Combined Torque:

780Nm

0-100km/h: Top speed:

2.8s 325km/h

Chassis: CFRP Body: Kerb weight:

Approx. 1,700kgs

Braking:

Carbon-ceramics

Aerodynamics: Price: Production run:

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Carbon fibre

Active R11-million 918 units

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FEATURE

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Lamborghini Veneno

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Quick Stats: Engine:

6.5-litre nat-asp V12 petrol

Transmission: Layout:

Mid-engined AWD

Combined Power:

559kW @ 8250rpm

Combined Torque:

690Nm

0-100km/h: Top speed: Chassis: Body:

2.8s 359km/h Carbon monocoque Carbon fibre

Kerb weight:

Approx. 1,450kgs

Braking:

Carbon-ceramics

Aerodynamics: Price: Production run: D RIV E M AG AZ I NE J U N E 2 0 1 3

7-speed ISR

Passive R35-million 3 units 25


FEATURE

Lamborghini Veneno

hile their biggest competitors got to grips with Voltmeters, serial automotive psychopaths Lamborghini have gone and done it again, with the surprise unveiling at the same Geneva show where the hybrid hypercars appeared to be the order of the day, of this utter nut-job of a car. Welcome to the Lamborghini Veneno.

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Raging Bull Lives On! Although these days owned by the rather staid VAG Group, the spirit of the Raging Bull remains unquenched. Clearly, if this Veneno is any measure of judgement. It’s positively bonkers, and yet a wickedly on-point jibe at the state of the hypercar market today. You see, Lamborghini has figured out that, more than costly reengineering, or special propulsion setups, or even iconically poor names, what customers in this segment really want, is raw exclusivity. No-one paying R15-million-plus for a special car wants to see their own similarly well-to-do neighbours in the same wheels. It just won’t do, apparently.

Most. Extreme. Ever? So Lamborghini has chosen to deliver just that, but in typical fashion, in a positively extreme style. There will only ever be a total of four Venenos in the world, and that includes one shabby development mule which the company hasn’t yet decided the future of. That allows the manufacturer the freedom to peg an equally ludicrous price tag. The Veneno has cost it’s three new owners GBP 3-million each (approx R41-million). Apparently the price of individuality has shot up of late just like the prices of everything else. What you get for your money isn’t a high-tech hybridised hypercar however, but the ultimate incarnation of Lamborghini’s new Aventador road car, itself a supremely accomplished machine already.

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The motor is sparingly tweaked to liberate a practically negligible amount of extra horses, while weight has been shed by reforming everything which wasn’t previously in carbon fibre to this incredibly strong and lightweight material. And by everything, yes we mean everything. Including the fabric covering the sports seats. Yep. The result is a 100kg weight saving. And other than these two adjustments, the Veneno is effectively an Aventador, with an extreme makeover that can’t be mistaken for anything this side of a Eurofighter. It’s really the fact that there are three, then, that give the Veneno it’s ludicrous value. Incidentally, that number was chosen so as to make one example in each colour of the Italian flag, so it’s suitably partisan too. Clearly, while McLaren and Ferrari took their lessons from Toyota, Lamborghini has been studying at the feet of an even madder Italian thoroughbred, Pagani. Which pretty much did exactly what Lamborghini is doing with the Veneno, with the Zonda Tricolore.

Passion Trumps Technology So it might not be entirely original, but I adore the message. Lamborghini is pointing out that the rarefied atmosphere which is home to the hypercar is not populated exclusively by Walter Rohrls. It’s actually predominantly made up of people for whom the 515kW Aventador, which incidentally sprints from rest to 100km/h in 2.9s, and on to a top speed of 350km/h, already represents more than enough useable power. However, this tiny slice of the globe’s population will pay the equivalent of a small town’s worth of utility bills for a year on pure individual expression. Which might be crazy to most of us, but Lamborghini’s job is to make cars which sell. Not correct the lopsided society we find ourselves struggling with in the modern world. For many, us included, this I think will go down as the pinnacle of the 2013 hypercar, and almost certainly the last of a fabulous kind.

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FEATURE

Hennessey Venom GT

Poisoned

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by Power W

hile the other new contenders for the hypercar crown languished under the lights of the international auto show circuit, one small American tuner turned manufacturer was taking the traditional route to the hypercar hall of fame. It was out on the tarmac setting records. On a NASA airstrip deep in the US, the Hennessey Venom GT smashed the Guinness World Record for the 0-300kph sprint, setting a scarcely-believable benchmark time of 13.63s. It also claimed the hypercar world record for 0-200mph at the same time, stopping the clock at just 14.51s. A Bugatti Veyron, by comparison, takes over 17s for the same feat... But just how has the American tuner most famous for taking stock 8-litre V10-powered Vipers and packing them with monstrous forced-induction power turned the base platform of a Lotus Exige into a record-breaking hypercar? The answer is really quite simple. Massive power, minimal weight.

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FEATURE

Hennessey Venom GT

The Exige is a perfect place to start if this is your recipe. This agile, lightweight British sports car adheres strictly to the Colin Chapman maxim, what the great man refers to as “Virtuous Circles of Engineering” - a focus which has won it deep-seated respect and admiration in the hearts and minds of petrol heads across the globe. However Hennessey adds a lot of bespoke additions to the donor car. The front and rear bodywork are all custom, made entirely from carbon fibre to keep weight reasonable, and stretched to accommodate the 7-litre petrol V8 from a Chevrolet Corvette. There’s also the small matter of including enough aerodynamic aids to keep the monster rear 345/30/20 Michelin Pilot Super

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Sports in contact with the tarmac at top speeds in excess of 430kph, while each wheel itself houses 6-piston carbon-ceramic brakes for consistent and face-stretching stopping power. Although from the front, there are certainly strong Exige reminders, the side profile and rear view are entirely alien to Lotus spotters. Much wider, much longer, and several times more brutal than the little British lightweight, the Venom GT is without a doubt a very serious piece of equipment. One look at the huge vents exiting from behind those pumped-up front arches is enough to convince you of how serious this car’s intent is. It was built to be a hypercar in the most traditional sense of

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the word, delivering unmatched performance in any company it may find itself in, bar none.

“IT MANAGES THIS WITHOUT ANY CLEVER, OVERCOMPLICATED AND EXPENSIVE ELECTRIC MOTORS.”

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Weighing nearly 500kgs less than the big ‘Bug at 1,244 kgs, that’s also a good 400kgs up on the donor car. A lot of that mass has to be in the incredible engine. The 7-litre LS7 V8 may have originally come from GM, but like the platform Hennessey has reworked the unit so significantly that it now plays in a whole different league. How does 928kW sound - again for reference an original Veyron made 746kW, and deployed it through all four wheels! The Venom however is unashamedly retro. It’s rear-drive only, and according to media reports full power at 160kph still calls in the traction control to tame wheelspin.

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FEATURE

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Hennessey Venom GT

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It manages this without any clever, over-complicated and expensive electric motors augmenting the output of the petrol unit too. And yet it’ll still pull 0-100kph off in 2.7s of primal fury. It has passive suspension as well, albeit adjustable with up to 60mm of ride-height adjustment thrown in for good measure. There aren’t any trick aero flaps, no flappy-paddle gearbox (a Ricardo 6-speed manual is your only option), and there aren’t any expensive techie gizmos available even on the options list. You can, however, spec your Venom GT out with even stickier Michelin Pilot Sport Cup ZP tyres, a bespoke interior by Stefano Ricci, a high-end stereo setup designed by Aerosmith front-man Steven Tyler, and right-hand drive.

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In standard trim, a Venom GT will set you back around R12-million, excluding import duties, taxes et al. A relative bargain compared to a Veyron, but surely worth it for the kudos and rarity value - we doubt there will ever be even as many as half the number of Veyrons currently on the road produced. If you’re wily enough to have those kinds of funds lying around, check out www.venomgt.com. While companies with bigger marketing budgets might have stolen the limelight at the auto shows, the Venom GT personifies the “talk softly and carry a very big stick” credo in the metal. A true petrol head dream car.

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DRIVE LAUNCH Renault Clio 4

BIG FOR ITS BOOTS

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fter a 3 AM start to the day, we finally clap eyes on the new Clio 4 at around 10AM, where they fill an entire row of the Lanseria airport parking lot in vibrant yellow and red. There are more colours available of course, but Renault SA has chosen the launch hues well, as the contrasting shades complement each other while highlighting the details of this stylish new hatch perfectly. Still, not one for dallying, I quickly partner up and set off in search of its core appeal, and ended up finding a lot more than expected!

Seductive... The seduction begins with that new Clio 4 body, which features all the highlights of 2013 design. From the standard LED DRLs at the front to the sporty, coupelike profile around to the rear hatch whose shape is dominated by the trailing edges of those significantly flared haunches, with just a hint of the Bootylicious Renaults of just a few years ago. The new Clio looks just right. Although bigger than the outgoing model, it looks more compact and wieldy than ever, while the lovely 17” alloys fitted to most of our fleet examples leave little doubt that this is a car for which style really matters.

“A TAILORED, INNOVATIVE AND HEAD-TURNING VEHICLE, THE NEW RENAULT CLIO IS THE CAR YOU ARE GOING TO FALL IN LOVE WITH!” “Cars are not just for getting us around, they can also inspire dreams and desires”, says Laurens van den Acker, Renault Design Director. “From initial concept through D RIV E M AG AZ I NE J U N E 2 0 1 3

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DRIVE LAUNCH Renault Clio 4

to production, the sensual lines of New Clio have been focused on total seduction. It is so gorgeous that it makes you want to eat it.” And you know what, although dripping with hype and marketing-speak, I actually tend to rather agree with the sentiment. It’s a delectable little hatch in the mould of the Alfa MiTo. The mainstay of the new Clio 4 range comes in the form of an all-new 0.9l turbocharged 3-cylinder petrol motor, representing what Renault has dubbed the “next level” of the downsizing trend. This tiny motor manages to churn out 66kW of power and 135Nm of torque, and yet will apparently 4.5l/100km on the combined cycle!

F1 Tech for the Road Part of the launch proceedings includes a detailed technical analysis of the engineering which went into creating this new motor, which apparently incorporates more than its fair share of input from the Renault F1 power train team. Far more than merely a deletion of a cylinder and addition of a turbo, this motor features DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) on the cam followers with graphite-coated piston skirts to minimise internal friction, while combustion is optimised through a carefully induced “High Tumble Strategy” on the intake stroke. On the road, it’s the meaty low-down torque that makes the biggest impression, endowing the just-over 1000kg Clio 4 with a sense of urgency beyond what could reasonably be expected from its on-paper stats. It’s by no means blisteringly quick off the line, and struggles to deliver much fire higher-up in the rev range, but it’s certainly not as asthmatic and disinterested a motor as the crop of 1.2- and 1.4-litre entry-level engines of yesteryear. Particularly at the Reef, where the artificial atmosphere created by the turbocharging process really pays off, blessing the Clio 4 with the kind of verve a natasp 1.4 could only dream of in the thin air. 36

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For the record, the official performance claims for the 0.9l Clio 4 are 0-100km/h in 12.2s and a top speed of 183km/h, although independent SA testing at Gerotek pegs the acceleration run at a more sluggish 13.8s. Although the response is impressive, the latter figure sounds the more accurate as there’s ample turbo lag despite the low-inertia 250k rpm blower installed. It’s also, typical for a small turbo petrol, got no peak to the power delivery, with acceleration seemingly staying flat from pull-off right round to max rpm. Still, the feisty 3-cylinder motor does emit an encouraging growl across the rev range making driving enthusiastically a nicely emotive experience despite the lacklustre pace. It’s also easy to forget the diminutive capacity of the motor as you watch the speedo climb with relative ease up to the 180kph mark and even (slightly) beyond. For a 0.9-litre car, that’s really not bad going.

Magic Carpet Ride Typically for a French-engineered hatch, the new Clio 4 features an almost magical combination of superb ride quality and confidence-inspiring road holding even at major speeds. The tarmac on the roads between Krugersdorp and Pretoria isn’t in the best of shape but the little Renault skips over road imperfections like a far pricier vehicle without compromising trajectory even when running at V-Max, where you’d normally expect a lightweight like this to start bouncing about worryingly and spearing off of bumps a bit too laterally for comfort. There’s none of that in Clio 4, it just soaks up the bumps and regains purchase with a deft calm that belies its lightweight nature. On twistier roads the 17-inchers dig deep for traction, while the modest power output means there’s absolutely no worry of torque-steer to lead you off the beaten path. With the far punchier 1.6 planned for the RS model and some choice RenaultSport chassis and suspension tweaks, this is going to make for one cracking hot hatch. D RIV E M AG AZ I NE J U N E 2 0 1 3

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DRIVE LAUNCH Renault Clio 4

Inside you find a nicely-designed package filled to the brim with technical addenda. The two higher-specced Clio 4 models are, according to Renault, the first in this class to offer built-in Navteq GPS while Bluetooth, USB and Aux ports, a Renault-engineered Reflex Bass sound system, cruise control and Smart Key are standard across the range. Windows are all electric on the top 0.9l Turbo version on offer at launch, with manual rears for the more affordable spec levels. There’s a wealth of safety equipment as well, including ABS, ESP, EBA and ASR systems. Four airbags deploy to protect the occupants in the case of collisions, while in addition to ISOFIX mountings Clio 4 includes Fix4Sure anti-submarining. All of these features as well as Hill Start Assist are fitted as standard to the entire range, earning Clio 4 a full 5-star Euro-NCAP rating. Engineering this car to be as efficient as possible went beyond merely the downsizing the engine and fitting a Stop Start system, with Renault taking a full life cycle view of efficiency in designing Clio 4. The cam chain for instance will apparently last the life of the vehicle, while the oil filter features an element-only replacement regime.

Priced To Sell Most surprising of all, however, is the price. In a market in which other brands are pushing 1.0-litre turbocharged motors at around the R210k mark, Renault is launching Clio 4 at as little as R149,900. That’s for the 1.2-litre naturally-aspirated model we didn’t get to drive at launch, while the 0.9-litre turbo starts at R169 900. The highest-specced Turbo Dynamique weighs in at R179 900 including eye-catching 17” alloys and full-house spec sheet. Although downsizing and modest power are more or less anathema to us here at Drive, we just couldn’e help 38

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but come away deeply impressed by the new Clio 4. On the road, it always feels like you’re driving a car a class above where the value-oriented pricing pitches it, with that 0.9-litre turbo motor doing a commendable job in most conditions. Ride quality is truly excellent for a car of this size and road holding decidedly fun, while the generous amounts of modern kit should help cement the deal for many. If you’re in the market, it’s definitely worth taking advantage of Renault’s clear instructions to its dealer network - “Don’t let the customer leave without taking it for a drive!” It will undoubtedly surprise and delight you from behind the wheel, and given the appealing price you’re unlikely to need to look any further for better value for your money. Russell Bennett As is the case across Renault’s entire product range, the three New Clio variants come standard with a 5-year/ 150 000km mechanical warranty, a 3-year/45 000km service plan and a 6-year anti-corrosion warranty.

PRICING: Clio 4 - 55kW Authentique 5-door

R149 900

Clio 4 - 66kW Turbo Expression 5-door

R169 900

Clio 4 - 66kW Turbo Dynamique 5-door

R179 900

OPTIONS: Manual air-conditioning:

R10 000 (Authentique)

Fixed glass roof: R 8 000 (Expression& Dynamique) Climate control:

R 5 000 (Dynamique)

Rear park assist:

R 2 000 (Dynamique)

Metallic paint:

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R 2 500 (Range)

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DRIVE LAUNCH Mercedes-Benz A-Class

A revolutionary turnaround

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By Neale Petersen

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verything you thought about what the new Mercedes A-Class would be is not what you get. Gone are the days of the first generation A-Class versions whose usage profile were predominantly as mummy taxis, or for elderly men and women. This has now been handed over to the current sister B-Class category with more boot space and legroom. Think of a hatchback in a sporty and sleek new style with a powerful compact performance pack under hood - that is the new A-Class, a completely new luxury look that will appeal to far more younger profile drivers seeking individuality.

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Late Bloomer Merc is one of the last manufacturers to enter a seemingly ever- growing category, strongly contested by BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 who have been established in this market for quite a while. Mercedes Benz research highlights the fact that this category is poised to grow dramatically from 6,6 million units sold worldwide in 2011 to exceed 10,6 million units by 2021. Merc are obviously taking these stats seriously and they say the ‘A’ in A-Class stands for attack, which confirms their intentions to be market leaders in SA’s premium car market by 2016.

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DRIVE LAUNCH The new dynamic Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Mark Fetherstone the mastermind designer and creator of the new A-Class design, who also attended the lavish Cape Town launch, created a sporty new look from a blank piece of paper instead of just knocking off other similar competitive vehicle shapes. His creation is a masterpiece of defined body contours with aerodynamics to reduce drag and associated inefficiencies. Defined edges and tautly drawn surfaces mark out the exterior design of the new A-Class. The constant interplay between concave and convex surfaces creates a characteristic play of light, particularly along the sides of the car, which contributes to its unique appearance.

Driving the Cape I was fortunate enough to test-drive the top of the range A250 Sport around the most scenic parts of the Cape Peninsula including both freeway and town driving. All

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the models of the A-Class that I drove were impressive. Although starting with the A250 made me feel spoilt as I moved on to the lesser endowed models. The acceleration, powerful torque and automatic transmission, leather seats and all the electronic gadgetry of the A250 make it an all round winner. It also has 18” AMG alloy wheels, a flashy body kit and custom made diamond-look grille, which lends it a properly flashy appearance from the front. The A250 Sport is actually a 2-litre turbo with a healthy 155kw and 350Nm and is a hot buy for the hot hatch class. There was lots of rubbernecking from pedestrians along the test drive route as people wowed at the new look A-Class. Most A-Class models have six-speed manual or seven speed dual clutch transmissions. Some of the standard safety equipment includes radar based Collision Prevention Assist, which brakes automatically if activated for those emergency braking situations, Electronic Stability Program, Acceleration Skid Control, Blind Spot Assist, Attention Assist and the Pre-Safe system. The interior of the new A-Class represents a big step forward in terms of quality of materials and design. The interior trim reflects typical Merc quality finishes mostly in the form of real metal vents and beading. The ergonomics of feel and touch materials gives it a feeling of pure class. Seating is created for 5 people with foldable seats to increase cargo space from 341l to 1,157l. Designer Jan Kaul sums it up: “If you were to take a seat in the A-Class with your eyes closed – you would never think, upon opening your eyes that you were sitting in a compact-class vehicle.” D RIV E M AG AZ I NE J U N E 2 0 1 3

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Take Your Pick A wide choice of petrol and diesel engines meets every power requirement and reaches new heights in terms of efficiency and environmental compatibility: the A 180 CDI will be the very first Mercedes-Benz to emit only 105 g of CO2 per kilometre. The turbo diesel comes in either a 1,5 litre automatic or 1,8 litre manual and a 2,2 litre automatic tops the oil-burning range. Power output ranges from 80 to 125kw and 250 to 350 Nm with claimed consumption of 3,8 to 4l per 1000km. The direct injection petrol versions are understandably slightly more powerful, 90 to 155kw and 1,6 to 2.0-litres capacity with consumption averaging 5,8l per 100km. My limited time with the new A-Class left me with an impression that this is a worthy contender and it provides an incredible driving experience, which puts it firmly into top place in Drive’s Top 5 Hatchbacks. From this first impression, I’m certain the A-Class is set to make a huge impact in this segment.

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Prelude to the Bonkers

Mercedes Benz A-Class models and pricing

In order to firmly cement the new A-Class as a leading contender in the hard-fought hatchback wars, Mercedes will also by the end of the year be putting its new monster, the A45 AMG, on SA roads.

Petrol

Although the A250 is already pretty handy posting 6.6s for the 0-100km/h run and 240km/h all-in, the AMG version will be completely off the hook. With Mercedes’ own in-house performance specialists on the job, the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder unit has been bumped up in power to almost 270kW, setting a new benchmark in the power-per-litre of capacity stakes. The rampant performance this engine will deliver isn’t confined to the front wheels only for the A45 Mercedes has sagely decided to make the A45 AWD to give the rubber contact patches some chance of actually deploying all the grunt. Should also help make the vehicle nimbler too of course, with the weight penalty of this drive train being shrugged off with ease by the heavily tweaked motor.

A180 BE

R273 718

A200 BE

R296 632

A250 BE Sport

R392 606

Diesel A180 CDI BE Auto

R310 000

A180 CDI BE Manual

R300 000

A220 CDI BE

R355 000

Fuel Consumption (tested):

10.3l/100km

Naturally the A45 comes with an even more striking body kit to ensure it isn’t mistaken for an “average” new A-Class. And the price? Mercedes SA hasn’t confirmed it as yet, but it’ll be comfortably over half a million Rand, playing in the same sort of bracket as the limited-run Audi RS3 and BMW 1-Series M Coupe. I have a feeling that this car is going to be setting new standards though, with a sub-5s 0-100km/h run and the kind of outright exuberance which is synonymous with any car bearing the AMG branding. We can’t wait!

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DRIVE LAUNCH Toyota RAV4

Original Baby SUV Grows Up

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By BRUCE BENNETT

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HE R339 that runs from just north of Knysna, through the mysterious haunted forests and over the mountains to the aptly named village of Avontuur, is a wonderful road to drive.

It varies from slippery mud under the forest trees to rocky gravel over the mountain passes, so you won’t want to try it in a sportscar. I recently drove it in a new RAV4 and found it a lot of fun, from sliding around in the forests to enjoying the spectacular views of valleys and peaks as well as some scary drop-offs. You can drive this road in a normal car but you’d have to take it slow. Much better if you can do it in something like the new RAV4, especially if you’re in a hurry to catch a flight home. There are three engine derivatives in the updated range – a 2-litre petrol, 2.2-litre diesel and 2.5-litre petrol. I found myself in the diesel on the R339 and its power and torque (110kW and 340Nm) proved useful in the muddy corners and up the steep slopes of the mountains. Even with enthusiastic driving the fuel consumption stayed below 7.5litres/100km.

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DRIVE LAUNCH Toyota RAV4

Although the ground clearance on the RAV4 has been dropped to only 160mm, this was not a problem on the R339, and this is probably as adventurous a road as Toyota intends its compact SUV to tackle. Although the diesel and the 2.5-litre petrol model are 4x4s – that is, all-wheel-drives when thy need to be - there is no lowrange gearbox so the RAV4 is not intended as a serious offroader. If you wanted that you might look at a Suzuki Jimny, which has earned a reputation for being able to go anywhere. Of course, if that anywhere happens to be at the end of a long tar road, the RAV4 would kick the Jimny’s ass … The RAV4 does have an AWD lock button, allowing drivers to lock torque distribution in a fixed, 50:50 ratio at speeds up to 40km/h. There is also an improved dynamic torque control AWD system, so it will not look silly under difficult conditions and is certainly not confined to climbing pavements.

“CERTAINLY NOT CONFINED TO CLIMBING PAVEMENTS.” Come a Long Way The Toyota has come a long way since it was launched to the world in 1994 as a three-door all-wheel-drive fashion icon with its spare wheel on the side-mounted rear door. Worldwide it has sold 4.5 million units since then and the latest version is the fourth generation. Over the years it has grown bigger and got more expensive. But things have changed since it was the only compact SUV on the block. Now rivals crowd it on every side, from Germany to Korea and elsewhere, and something had to be done. 48

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Toyota’s solution, boosted by the state of the Japanese economy, has been to keep the prices of the latest RAV4s surprisingly low. They range from R279 900 for the 2-litre GX manual (R279 900 for the CVT) to R359 900 for the AWD 2.2-litre diesel GX and R399 900 for the AWD 2.5-litre VX with six-speed auto. This is going to make prospective buyers and rival manufacturers sit up and take serious notice. Toyota were delighted that, in the week of the launch, an increase in the price of a Korean rival meant the RAV4 2-litre was now the cheapest in its class. Making for an even better value proposition is the fact that the vehicle has got even bigger. It is now 4.57m long, against the 3.69m length of the original. Interior space is outstanding with the rear leg room a real pleasure.

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I did not get to drive the 2-litre CVT model at the launch but deciding between the other three was not easy, when it came to choosing which one I’d buy if I had the money.

Impressive Spec First up was the range-topping 2.5-litre AWD GX auto. For a large, all-wheel-drive five-seater family car costing less than R400 000, this vehicle has an impressive list of extras. The motor (132kW, 233Nm) proved pleasantly powerful with a sexy growl plenty of oomph for safe overtaking on highways and the six-speed gearbox was efficient and quick. Fuel consumption is claimed at 8.5litres/100km but a more realistic figure would be around 10l/100km. The tank holds 60 litres Back to those goodies. In the 2.5-litre VX you get an electrically operated rear door, and you can program a memory as to how high it opens,

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DRIVE LAUNCH Toyota RAV4 depending on such things as the height of your garage door. The upward-opening rear door is possible thanks to Toyota moving the RAV4’s spare wheel to a more conventional spot under the luggage compartment.

All models have 17-inch wheels The VX’s luxury features include a moonroof, cruise control, heated leather seats, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, pushbutton start, down-hill assist control, headlamp cleaner, “follow me home” lights, auto aircon with pollen-removal filter, rearview camera and many others. Although the VX costs about R120 000 more than the entry-level GX it is such a comfortable vehicle, and one feels so pampered, that it feels like a good proposition anyway. The auto gearbox has a Sport mode and one can, of course, change the gears manually. Both the engine and gearbox of the 2.5 VX are new. Next in line was the GX manual and although it is very much an entry level you still get a good-looking, large, five-door, five-seater vehicle with great interior space, comfortable seats, a good feeling about the build quality as well as the Toyota name and widespread dealer network. Fuel consumption is given as 7.7l/100km but we were seeing 8.5l/100km – not that far off when one considers how wildly exaggerated some manufacturers’ claims are in this area. Toyota say the drag coefficient is now a mere 0.31, which must help the consumption.

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Unlike the other two models, the GX is driven through the front wheels only. The motor, with 107kW and 187Nm, is not exciting but is willing enough and at the price one could get used to it. The six-speed manual gearbox was slick and easy to use. The RAV4 impressed on long-distance tar-road countryroad driving at high speed, while we were rushing to George to catch our flight home after tarrying a little too long at a little fruit-selling shop in the middle of nowhere. On this long stretch under the landward shadow of the Outeniquas, the diesel proved to be a wonderful engine, with plenty of power for overtaking and climbing yet another spectacular pass, and pleasantly quiet.

Exceeding Targets Toyota say they hope to sell 300 RAV4s in SA every month, about double what the previous generation was delivering. I’d be surprised if they don’t exceed that target. This may not be a huge seller in terms of numbers, when compared to the Hilux or Corolla, but it will give them a big slice of the important compact-SUV market. Also, it will allow RAV4 owners to be as proud of their vehicles as they have been at any time in the past 19 years. Another point. Considering how the vehicle has grown, and how much interior space it has, does it still fit into the compact-SUV category? Or is Toyota creating another niche – say, a super-compact, or a light-heavyweight, SUV? Something for Springbok rugby forwards and their sumo-wrestler friends? Just a thought, but you saw it here first.

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Seriously, Toyota have done their homework and the RAV4 is a continuation of the move away from solemn and boring. We have seen the trend in the two-door 86 and, before that, in the outrageously funky FJ Cruiser. Imagine taking an icon of seriousness like the Land Cruiser and turning it into the modern equivalent of the toy-car original RAV4. Yet that is what Toyota did with the FJ. They are doing it again, in a slightly more grown-up way, with the new RAV4. New Toyota RAV4 Details Toyota RAV4 GX 2-litre manual with choice of sixspeed gearbox and CVT; 2.2-litre diesel with manual six-speed gearbox; 2.5-litre VX with six-speed auto gearbox Prices: R279 900 for FWD 2-litre GX manual; R289 900 for 2-litre GX CVT; R359 900 for AWD 2.2-litre diesel with manual gearbox; and R399 900 for AWD 2.5-litre VX with six-speed auto Power: 107kW for 2-litre GX, 110kW for 2.2-litre diesel, 132kW for 2.5-litre VX Torque: 187Nm for 2-litre GX, 340Nm for 2.2-litre diesel, 233Nm for 2.5-litre VX Fuel consumption (claimed): 7.7l/100km for 2-litre petrol manual, 7.4litres/100km for 2-litre CVT, 5.6l/100km for 2.2-litre diesel and 8.5l/100km for 2.5-litre VX Co2: 179g/km for 2-litre petrol models, 149g/km for 2.2-litre diesel, 198g/km for 2.5-litre petrol

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Contents: DRIVE TESTS Here at Drive our take on the cars coming through our testing program are usually very different to mainstream views. However, we do understand that old adage about variety being the spice of life et al, so to whet your appetite here’s a selection of other viewpoints from the Web on the cars we test this month.

Audi A3 Sportback

The official launch promo of the new Audi A3 Sportback.

Volvo V40 T4

Official Volvo promo of the new V40. There’s even some rugby in it... and at around the 4:30 marker, you can see the adaptive LED instrument cluster at work, although this T4 test car didn’t include this option.

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Infiniti EX37

RPM TV Road Test - although the opinions of RPM differ substantially from our own as per usual.

Mercedes-Benz B-Class Probably the more likely target market for the B-Class reviewing this new model. Note how excitement isn’t mentioned once... a trait usually pretty high on our own review scoring. To us, the presenter is quite a bit more appealing than the car.

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DRIVE TEST Audi A3 1.8 TFSI S-Tronic

Family Feud

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I

t’s unfair to the new Audi A3 that one of the most exciting things about getting a booking for a press unit is that it’ll be our first taste of the Golf VII platform, a vehicle which according to the hype is likely to dominate car-discussion circles in 2013.

Gen 3 vs 7 Of course, this A3 is only the third generation of hatchback from Audi, while the VW product is being birthed into its 7th life. So it’s only natural that the Golf represents the more established legend between the two. But the A3 is quite a car in its own right, and doesn’t actually deserve to be overlooked merely because of the size of the shadow cast over it by a more mundanely-badged sibling. In fact, if anything, the A3 really ought to be relished from certain points of view. Primary among the reasons is that this particular model, the A3 1.8 T we’re driving, doesn’t actually have a contemporary Golf as such. While Volkswagen has gone utterly mad on the downsizing, only offering a dismal-sounding smattering of 1.2- and 1.4-litre turbocharged engines of the petrolburning variety, Audi has only gone so far as to replace the 2.0-litre turbo of the old range-topper with this more efficient 1.8. The Veedub will only get an engine of anything like this capacity with the arrival of the new GTI later in the year. I know that it’s a good engine too. The same unit (just about) fitted to a “poverty-spec” A4 I drove last year really impressed - delivering a perfectly-judged balance between the economy demanded of modern machines and some vestiges of the power we motoring consumers used to crave. Hardly a rip-snorter, but also not a wholly emasculated limp-wristed Lite beer-drinker either. And it even manages to deliver the claimed efficiency improvements if your right foot isn’t attached to the robot programmed to drive the EU combined-cycle virtual test route which is genuinely commendable. For precisely R10 grand less than that manual-gearbox entry-level A4 (completely ignoring the wimpy 88kW version, as everyone should), you can have this almost range-topping A3 1.8T S-Tronic. There is a pricier model with quattro AWD if you fancy it, but I generally prefer cars with just two driven wheels anyway.

“ALSO NO A WHOLLY EMASCULATED LIMP-WRISTED LITE BEER DRINKER” Updated turbomotor For that money (R322k), the motor gains 7kW for a healthy total of 132. And although it only manages 250Nm as opposed to the muscular 320Nm in the A4, it’s still almost a second quicker to 100km/h (7.2). Turns out it isn’t quite the same motor after all, with this evennewer engine marketed as EU 6 ready, while the older version can only manage EU 5 compliance. D RIV E M AG AZ I NE J U N E 2 0 1 3

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DRIVE TEST Audi A3 1.8 TFSI S-Tronic

That performance is pretty good going, quicker on paper than a gen-6 GTI with a 2.0-litre turbo motor. Save R19k and go for a manual, and Audi claim you could shave another .1s off this time for a 7.1s run. Both will run on to a top whack of 232km/h. It feels that quick on the road too, and just as I discovered with the A4, the German engineers have somehow also married the modern efficiency with a relatively tasty engine note. There’s a nice raspy four-cylinder tharp when you crack the throttle wide and this classically mechanical soundtrack is never overpowered by the heavy-breathing whistling of a turbocharger working its magic.

there’s still more than on tap to power easily through the 200km/h marker. Pin the throttle long enough and the engine only starts to feel like it’s losing the battle at around 220km/h. But impressively even extended periods at the full 232 feel stable and composed - often the danger zone for quick little hatches because their light weight and short wheelbase can make things get a little floaty. The A3 just never throws any concerns your way even with unnoticeably crosswinds, with decent cabin insulation keeping the interior as calm as the platform keeps the dynamic responses.

Of course you can tell the nature of the induction system from the completely flat-as-a-board torque trace. From just off tickover right up to 5000rpm there’s ample, ready muscle on tap after a barely-noticeable moment of lag. This unobtrusive-looking little Audi hatchback runs away from a lot of far more stylised more openly sporting machines from the lights. And it’ll do it without the driver needing to know anything more about performance driving than how to fully extend their right feet - the fact of which is to me the bane of modern motoring. Nevertheless despite my personal feelings this manner of no-skills accessibility is the norm today, and in fact probably appreciated by most.

Speaking of the cabin, although some of the plastics have migrated somewhat further towards the more mainstream quality levels of the Golf product, it’s still a very typically Audi space. Which is to say it feels almost effortlessly classy with near-perfect ergonomics and blast-proof build quality. This A3 isn’t even excessively festooned with toys and gimmicks, which is quite a nice change, since that’s usually just about the only criticism I can level at the marque’s interior layout. It does lack leather upholstery though, although that’s becoming more common on a just-over R300k car.

It isn’t just sprinting that the A3 is quietly capable at either. On the open road, the car settles comfortably into a natural 160km/h in 7th, the motor unstressed at around 3200 rpm on the dial at this speed. Floor the throttle and the ‘box will almost unnoticeable slip down a gear, and

While it might not be bursting at the seams with consumer gadgetry however, the new A3 (like the new Golf) is literally jam-packed with efficiency innovations however. Switch the Audi Drive Select program over to the Eco mode and all of these small enhancements,

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Innovative Efficiency

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which individually save 0.5% on fuel consumption here, another 0.2% there, come together to do their best at achieving the claimed 5.8l/100km on the combined cycle. Impossible to achieve of course, but nevertheless any car which can return an average of low-9s when I’ve just spent the best part of three quarter of an hour with my foot flat on the highway chasing, and attaining, the claimed top speed isn’t half bad.

“IT ISN’T PARTICULARLY RADICAL, BUT THERE IS SOMETHING INHERENTLY HIGHQUALITY ABOUT THE LOOK.”

Most impressive of all these innovations, for me, is the new coast function built-in to the double-clutch transmission. It’s an oversight which I’ve been dubious of since these transmissions first hit the market - they claim

D RIV E M AG AZ I NE J U N E 2 0 1 3

to be more efficient everywhere yet like any auto as soon as your foot backs off the throttle the speed starts being scrubbed away by engine-braking since the motor cannot be decoupled from the drivetrain. Well, in this latest generation car, it can do just that, and does. As ever it’s a double-edged sword of course. What happens if you’re just turning-in to a bend at a brisk pace, absent mindedly shut the throttle down and suddenly find yourself with half the traction you expected because the driven wheels aren’t getting power any more? Well, fortunately, if you’re driving in this spirited fashion you’re likely to have the Drive Select in either Auto or Sport, which locks-out the coast function entirely. Finally we come to the styling of the new A3. It isn’t particularly radical, something of a mainstay of Audi design barring oddities in the lineup like the R8, but there is something inherently high-quality about the look. Perhaps, from my own perspective, it’s the closer link (in the nose particularly) between the A3 and A1 which really wins me over, as the latter car is one of my personal favourite mini cars. Particularly in twincharged form.

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DRIVE TEST Audi A3 1.8 TFSI S-Tronic VW or Audi? In fact here at the end I must confess - I’d still choose that little gem of a car over this A3, despite its displacement shortfall. It’s a genuine riot, whereas the A3 is far more polished and grown-up. Not quite as fast of course, but certainly more practical. The real question of course, is would I have this car over a Golf VII? For the moment, yes, in a heartbeat. At least Audi still understand that while the world might need to save a few bucks in petrol, that doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing fun and performance entirely. This excellent platform with a 1.4 turbo under the hood is I’m sure very capable, but has to feel a bit underwhelming. But this 1.8 is an ideal compromise for the enthusiast. There’s no doubt Audi have this one absolutely down.

Drive Ratings: Handling:

17/20

Ride:

17/20

Performance:

17/20

Fun Value:

18/20

Practicality:

17/20

Total:

89/100

Drive likes: Ideal efficiency/performance balance. Motor even manages to serve up some passion. Drive dislikes: Leather upholstery not standard. Key facts: Audi A3 1.8T FSI S-Tronic Pricing:

R322 000

Engine:

1798cc four-cylinder turbo petrol

Power:

132kW @ 5100-6200rpm

Torque:

250Nm @ 1250 - 5000rpm

0-100km/h: Top speed: Kerb weight: Transmission:

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7.2s 232km/h 1250kg 7-speed S-Tronic

D R IV E MA GA ZIN E JU NE 2013


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DRIVE TEST Golf 7 1.2T FSI Trendline

Family Feud

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Part 2

D RIV E M AG AZ I NE A PR IL 2 0 1 3

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DRIVE TEST Golf 7 1.2T FSI Trendline

T

he arrival of a new Golf is always an exciting time in motoring. The media is excited because it has a new benchmark, potentially, the punters excited at being able to buy something tried and trusted, yet fresh and modernised, and the industry itself excited as competitors get to try anew to knock the perennial icon from it’s entrenched perch as the number one all-rounder on the planet. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Golf brand has become legend. It’s for precisely this reason that the company has been comparatively conservative with its styling pens for this 7th-gen car. Maintaining the icon they say, like a 911 does with each successive generation. And in a way, they really do have a point.

Disappointing? Still it is nevertheless a bit disappointing, with ultramodern hatchback shapes now available from all and sundry, that the Golf 7 looks so much like... well oddly enough it looks a lot like the existing Polo, subtly enlarged, which itself certainly draws heavily on styling cues from the Golf 6. There’s a faintly menacing new face, massaged by the purposeful new stance (although the tall profile sidewalls on this entry-level model soften that effect somewhat), but otherwise the slab-sided shape really does nothing in a world of Astra GTCs and Meganes and even Kia Rios. It’s compact like a Polo as well, undoubtedly a fraction smaller a presence on the road than its immediate forebear. Of course we have to wait for the inevitable GTI to see just how a properly tricked-out incarnation of this basic recipe can look and perhaps this will ignite the passion sensors a bit more, but for now the Golf 7 looks almost entirely unremarkable from any angle. Step aboard, and although there’s definitely been more design work in here than in the 6, which isn’t that hard

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considering the old car always had an interior styled entirely by the ruler, it’s no Salvadore Dali either. There are a few more curves in the new car, but there’s still nothing like the satisfyingly perfect match of style and ergonomics which sister company Audi always seem to get so right. Still, there’s ample room, and the cloth-covered seats are comfy and feel durable. Which at the most elementary, is quite important in itself in a daily runabout of this kind. After almost being overwhelmed by the intrinsically ordinary, there’s nothing left to do but fire the little 70kW 1.2-litre turbo four-pot and take it for a drive.

Speak softly... Even the engine doesn’t seem to want to disturb your trance-like state, firing to such a softly-whispering idle that surely couldn’t ruffle a paranoid parrot. If you couldn’t confirm visually the tacho hovering at a rocksteady 800rpm, you could easily forget that this engine was running. In fact you only start to hear the motor as it sweeps past 2000rpm on the dial, which can make in-town clutch control a little tricky, with excess flares of revs on pull off being the usual result. You’d get accustomed to it over time of course. Everything about the Golf 7 is so light and easy and precise that you’re constantly reminded of the driving ethos behind 7 development - efficiency through lighter weight and reduced complexity. The clutch is the most effortless I’ve ever used, with the softest and most forgiving takeup action I’ve ever felt. The gearbox itself is similarly silkysmooth to use, with just enough weighting and definition to the throw for it not to feel vague, but nothing ever obstructive or even vaguely physical in the action. It must be to do with the Virtuous Circle of Lightness I once read McLaren great Gordon Murray espousing - something Lotus legend Colin Chapman also loved to push apparently. Which basically states, if you lighten one component (say, a wheel), it reduces the strain on others (brakes, for instance), allowing you to fit a lighter-weight part to handle these reduced duties, which in turn takes the strain off another component (wheel hub), etc etc.

Lightness = Goodness The end result, I have to say, is brilliant to behold. The new Golf feels every moment like a lighter car, so much so in fact that the still slightly weedy 1.2-litre turbo motor of our test model doesn’t feel entirely overwhelmed. It’s certainly not fast, but the torquey nature of this engine means that where it counts, the Golf 7 easily keeps up with the traffic.

There’s really never enough power to trouble the traction at the front, especially since now all Golfs are fitted as standard with the electronic slippy-diff setup we know from the old GTI called XDS. You can feel the effects of this system in the corners though, when the front end digs far deeper for grip than you’d expect of an entrylevel hatchback with tall tyres and squidgy suspension.

It can even be a certain amount of fun. Astonishingly, the engine under full throttle actually generates the cutest little growl - like a Staffie puppy with that typical excess of attitude over substance. Sure all the power is gone by this time, the torque mid-range only really stretching as far as 4000 or so rpm, but it’s still entertaining nonetheless.

This unflappable front end and lighter overall weight make the new 7 a pleasure over your favourite twisting road. Agile and biddable - it’s not the most throttle adjustable of course but then anyone expecting such dynamic nuance from a R230K car is asking a bit much try a Kia Koup maybe.

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DRIVE TEST Golf 7 1.2T FSI Trendline Most impressive of all however, is not how the Golf 7 goes or turns. The most common downsides of a lightweight car come down to two things - instability at speed and increased levels of cabin noise. The Golf 7, however, suffers from neither. In fact the cabin is superbly sealedup and silent even at speeds well in excess of the legal limit. So good are the NVH qualities of the car that, were it not for the cloth-covered seats, you’d swear you were in a vehicle at least one grade up on the price scale. It also suffers not a whit from stability issues at speed. The 1.2 turbo spins the speedo quite happily up to 180km/h and will easily cruise at that speed all day long, and despite high winds lashing the West Coast Road I’m just as unflustered behind the wheel. The little hatch tracks straight and true and doesn’t bounce over rougher tarmac or get easily deflected by high winds. It’s just effortless. And the fact that you can enjoy such a premium character, and even occasionally appreciate the performance on offer given the limited engine capacity, and still return average fuel consumption for a trip of 7.2l/100km, is pretty phenomenal. VW claim that this car should dip below the 5l/100km marker of course, but even if you aren’t chasing top speeds like I do it’s unlikely you could get below 6 even if your daily commute includes a bare minimum of stop-start traffic driving.

The Enemy Within However, although I’m genuinely impressed by the engineering integrity and clever approach to the Golf 7 which VW has taken, something of a rarity these days, I still must conclude by recommending that you instead

beg borrow and steal an extra few thousand Rand and order an A3 from Audi - preferably the 1.8T FSI. The fact of the matter is that that car includes all the clever advances that this one does, isn’t all that much more expensive, and can deliver proper driving thrills when the mood strikes thanks to its far gutsier motor. But still won’t break the bank at the pumps. Naturally, the masses are likely to not see this simple truth, and will purchase the Golf 7 in droves, and that’s fine. Because it means we’re going to have a much easier time spotting real enthusiasts in future, as they’ll be the ones in the classier A3 while the Golf continues to do what it does commendably - provide daily transportation for the masses at the best possible engineering integrity for the cost. The Golf 7, in fact, does precisely that better than ever before. Drive Ratings: Handling:

18/20

Ride:

18/20

Performance:

14/20

Fun Value:

15/20

Practicality:

18/20

Total:

83/100

Key facts: Drive likes: Solidly built, superb NVH qualities. Light, effortless operation of controls. Good fuel economy. Drive dislikes: 1.2 turbo is weak high in the rev range. Audi A3 delivers all the benefits for not much more money with a decent motor. Key facts: VW Golf 7 1.2T FSI Bluemotion Pricing:

R233 800

Engine:

1197cc four-cylinder turbo petrol

Power:

77kW @ 5600rpm

Torque:

175Nm @ 1550 - 4100rpm

0-100km/h: Top speed: Kerb weight: Transmission: 64

10.2s 192km/h 1320kg 6-speed manual D R IV E MA GA ZIN E JU NE 2013


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DRIVE TEST Volvo V40 T4

ResurrectiNG a Forgotten Niche

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W

ith appetite thoroughly whetted from my taste of the V40 in D3 form last year, I was counting down the days to the arrival of the T4. After all, if a car is good with a diesel engine, it must be better still with some turbo charged petrol power, right? Well, that was my thinking anyway. Although it isn’t the full-on 2.5-litre 187kW of the T5, the 132kW 1.6 in this T4 consumes only about 75% of the fuel that model would, and that’s on the manufacturer’s own claims. In reality, the difference is probably even more severe, as we all know heavy drinking cars combinedcycle averages are fudged even more than light ones.

A Lost Niche With a nicely notchy six-speed manual transmission and practical yet sexy 5-door hatchback body, the V40 T4 looks like it could be just about the ideal modern warm hatch contender, a segment which has actually been thinning out a bit of late. More mainstream oriented cars are ignoring even mild performance and moving rapidly down the low power low consumption road with tiny petrol turbos or even diesels, while the minimum power output for a full hot hatch today is 160kW. Just take a look at Golf 7 - you can have a 1.2 turbo, 1.4 turbo, or the 2.0 turbo of the GTI. Fortunately Volvo has remembered that there are still a lot of people who do maybe want some performance at least some of the time, but might not have the budget to buy or more importantly run a fully-fledged hot hatch. The answer? The V40 T4. Even without the new-age aero wheel covers of the D3 we had, the V40 still certainly looks absolutely right, blending the well-defined flow which characterises modern Volvo design with the shorter hatchback dimensions of this car creates a compelling look. Very much like a V60 with a smaller load area. Which given the almost artistic appearance of this car, is no bad thing. D RIV E M AG AZ I NE J U N E 2 0 1 3

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DRIVE TEST Volvo V40 T4 Where Are My Themes? The T4 only comes in mid-spec Elite and top-end Excel variants, so that means leather upholstery, electric drivers’ seat, rear PDC, cruise control, auto wipers and more. It is lacking the very cool themeable digital instrument cluster however, which would have been even cooler on this cooking model than it was on the more lacklustre D3. T4s in Excel spec do have this feature as standard, for an extra R14k over the R317k list of this car. Of course, it’s really the motor you’re paying for with the T4. Producing 132kW and 240Nm, it should mean 0-100 in under 8s. Which while not thrillingly quick is enough to at least be entertaining. Which is what you really want from a car like this. Turns out the engine is fairly entertaining, even if it doesn’t actually translate into blistering pace. The blown 1.6 has a good repertoire of noises though, and even manages to throw some old-fashioned turbo charged torque steer your way when you unleash the full 240Nm. Not big-power wheel-wrestling like the original Renault Megane Sports of course, but enough of a wriggle to remind you you aren’t in a diesel any more. Although the power delivery is just as typically flat and linear as we’ve come to expect of this type of motor, it doesn’t blunt the enthusiasm. That’s not to say this motor continues to ramp up its energy on every charge to the redline - again in common with most engines of this type there’s little gain to be gleaned from revving each gear out to the red, but thanks to the multi layered soundtrack the psychosomatic effect is positive. Despite that occasional wriggle of torque-steer, the V40 is well planted. Again it isn’t a dynamically exceptional car, but the fine line incorporating both refined ride and adequate control has been well tread here. It’ll hustle you along a mountain road with a grin on your face, but

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also not break you on a five-hour highway trek. Which is always nice.

Drive Ratings:

Not A T5

Handling:

17/20

Anyone looking for T5 levels of performance is going to be disappointed, but then if you want T5 performance, buy the T5. A warning however, the 2.5 turbo in that car is thirsty. So with the fuel price spiralling out of control, the more measured approach to burning the pink liquid is appreciated if you’re using the car every day for commuting. The V40 T4 averaged an impressive 7l/100kms in its time with us, and that included several high-speed runs of the West Coast Road, without which we’re sure we could’ve hit 6.

Ride:

16/20

Performance:

15/20

Fun Value:

17/20

Practicality:

17/20

This T4 then is a just about ideal compromise. If you want more excitement than the little turbo diesels can offer but still don’t want to be completely crippled by fuel bills, it’s a perfect middle ground. Hot enough to be fun, sensible enough to be affordable. And still including all the accoutrements of Volvo practicality - decent space, a well-built and -appointed cabin, and packed with typically Volvo safety levels. There are no Golfs or Focii on offer in this particular niche at the moment, so the V40 has this playing field largely to itself. There are plenty of mildly-powerful coupe hatchbacks around but not all of them have more conventional 5-door versions, and nor do all pack as much as 132kW beneath their belts. The V40 T4 revives a niche which has been all but forgotten in the headlong rush towards ultimate efficiency, and we appreciate it for that.

Total:

82/100

Key facts: Drive likes: Very distinctive look. Some character in the motor. Notchy six-speed manual box. Comprehensive spec. Drive dislikes: Cool TFT display not standard. Easily mistaken for a V60 from frontal perspective. Not quite hot. Key facts: Volvo V40 T4 Man Excel Pricing:

R316,800

Engine:

1596cc turbo charged four-cylinder petrol

Power:

132kW @ 5700rpm

Torque:

240Nm @ 1600-5000rpm

0-100km/h: Top speed: Kerb weight:

240km/h 1474kg

Fuel consumption (claimed):

5.5l/100km

(combined)

Transmission:

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Mid-7s

6-speed manual

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DRIVE TEST Infiniti EX37

EXemplary?

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S

o, how do you respond when you’re cruising at a steady 130kph, and an Audi A4 2.0 TFSI that you just passed at the side of the road a few kms back, with one of the occupants relieving themselves in the dry West Coast scrub, comes blasting by at almost 200? OK, so perhaps I’m not the most grown up man ever. But my right foot wavered for a couple of seconds not due to an internal legal struggle, but purely because I was in an SUV and not a sports car. Nevertheless, inevitably, the hammer goes down and the chase is on!

A Proper Sporty SUV In these situations, this Infiniti EX37 feels like just the right tool for the job. The 370Z-sourced 3.7-litre naturally aspirated V6 responds immediately and with plenty of enthusiasm. In this form the motor might not have the crazy 7000rpm-plus rush that it does in that definitive Japanese sports car, but it sounds much nicer. A deep, throaty and irrepressible roar spews forth from the twin big-bore tailpipes, the rear end of this spaceship-like SUV squats convincingly, and the entire mass is propelled urgently up the road in pursuit. There’s enough power on tap here to surprisingly easily stabilise the growing gap between Audi and Infiniti and then start to rapidly erode the spaces between his rear bumper and my sleek but imposing front end. Before Audi-man even knew that a chase was on, this tarted-up Nissan is all over his rear-view mirrors. A puff of smoke from the exhaust shows the downshift and the turbo girding its loins for battle, but the far lither and more slippery A4 can’t pull away from the big-hearted grunt on offer by the 3.7-litre naturally-aspirated V6 again, well over the 200km/h mark. We run like this for about 30ks, occasionally interrupted by slower traffic, sometimes pushing into the absolute upper limits of what each car can do. The EX37 is imperious throughout. The silken but substantial shove from that V6 is nicely matched to a gearbox which isn’t too high-tech but also isn’t too slow-witted to suit the car’s nature. And when the throttle is flattened and the ‘box kicks down, this mid-size SUV leaps forward with instantaneous muscularity and a positively classic exhaust bellow.

Howling Beyond 200 There is a little bit too much wind noise at these speeds, which I hadn’t expected given the slippery-looking shape of the EX. The mirrors however make a serious howling noise at big speeds, they must be positioned right in an airflow eddie. Not that it’s likely to bug you all that often, of course. Otherwise the EX is practically faultless. This car does without much of the trickery of the big flagship, the FX 50 S. It has standard fixed-rate dampers for instance, and doesn’t have any rear-steering arrangement. And yet, it still manages to feel truly special. The sleek proportions of the exterior are to my eye the closest anyone has ever come to making a sporty-looking SUV, beasts like the X6 included. You feel like you’re sitting quite high, as you should in a car of this nature, until you D RIV E M AG AZ I NE J U N E 2 0 1 3

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DRIVE TEST Infiniti EX37 park up alongside a conventional SUV and note just how chopped the Infiniti’s roofline looks in comparison. Like a Hot Rod.

of a shimmer through the suspension reminding you that they represent a fair deal of unsprung weight, but it never feels scrappy or all about to come apart on you.

It literally draws crowds wherever it goes, the EX, mostly thanks to the spaceship-like design. As well as the scarcity of these machines, I’ve certainly not noticed a glut of Infiniti’s on SA roads since the brand launched here last year. Either way, it’s sure to get you loads of attention if that’s what you want.

Allied to that vocal 235kW V6 this excellent chassis allows the EX to shrug off it’s almost-1900kg kerb weight when you want it to, with the motor punching hard up the road (0-100kph in 6.4s, according to the manufacturer) and pulling with enthusiasm all the way round to the 240km/h top speed.

The interior is, very much like a Lexus, a peculiar blend of recognisable Nissan parts with a substantial veil of upmarket surfacing covering every inch. Our test car didn’t come with the family-unfriendly white leather pictured in the press images here, instead favouring a very smooth chocolate-brown, while the gadget-count which comes standard on this model is impressively comprehensive.

As you may have already gathered, I quite liked the EX37. In fact, I just about loved it. In common with the madcap but utterly awesome FX 50 S tested last year, the EX37 seems to have all the ingredients right, and it actually manages to remind you of why you love driving, and driving fast specifically. The noise is great, the dynamics involving, the punch ample, and it’s all wrapped in a lovely cocoon of luxury which on the surface at least doesn’t give much away to the German giants of this space.

So that means, electric everything including seats. Which are also heated. Satnav and a high-end entertainment system including a 2GB HDD called the Music Box which you can store MP3s to directly. Park Distance Control front and rear, Xenon lights with automatic high-beam functions, automatic wipers fill out the ease-of-use checkbox, while safety is catered-for by a myriad of systems including lanedeparture warning and prevention, a forward-collision warning, blind spot warning, intelligent cruise control and brake assistance.

Old-School Charm, New Age Kit Yet despite all of these gizmos and the speed-sensitive power steering, the EX37 surprises once more by being a car you can really connect with when you’re for instance chasing an A4 down the West Coast Road. You can feel there’s some weight being controlled, but it never feels hippo-like or like you’re taming freight-train levels of momentum. The large alloys do occasionally send a bit

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Letting Go That was, of course, until the gem of a 3.7-litre petrol V6 suddenly just let go. At just over 11,000kms on the clock. Given the fact that this particular Nissan engine is widely reported to be a costly exercise to work on, that’s not the most encouraging for the new brand’s sales efforts. When it is working though, the EX37 can only really be faulted in one regard. It’s quite expensive. You’re right of course, the sporty X5s and their ilk are priced higher still, but the brand does need to be careful of pricing itself entirely out of relevance in SA, like VW did to SEAT when it introduced this Spanish name to our shores. Briefly. Like the FX, in our opinion the EX deserves to sell strongly. However while the radical looks appeal to me, not everyone wants a car which so challenges the

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conventions of large automotive styling. Fewer still will likely be looking for a near-R800k Nissan. It’s going to be a tough sell, the exact opposite of what the budget-oriented Datsun products the company has just announced will be.

Drive Ratings:

Scratch beneath the skin, and if you appreciate sound engineering and a well-sorted platform, you’ll warm to the EX like I did. And to me, that makes the EX37 something quite special.

Handling:

17/20

Ride:

17/20

Performance:

18/20

Fun Value:

16/20

Practicality:

18/20

Total:

86/100

Key facts: Infiniti EX37 Drive likes: Totally unique looks. Gutsy, quick-responding nat-asp V6. Luxurious interior spec. Drive dislikes: Potentially weak motor? Costly. Pricing:

R626,000 (GT) R676,000 (GT Premium)

Engine:

3696cc V6 petrol

Power:

235kW @ 7000rpm

Torque:

360Nm @ 5200rpm

0-100km/h: Top speed: Kerb weight: Fuel consumption (claimed): Transmission: D RIV E M AG AZ I NE J U N E 2 0 1 3

6.4s 240km/h 1876kg 12.2l/100km (combined) 7-speed automatic 73


DRIVE TEST Mercedes B180

B-Grade?

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I

really didn’t understand the Mercedes B-Class when it was first introduced. Effectively a subtlystretched A-Class, the B is meant to plug the gap as the nomenclature suggests between the entry-level A and the mainstay C. But does it really, or is it just as the looks suggest more a slightly stretched-out A than the celebrated and widely-successful C?

Not Promising First impressions of our B180 demo unit weren’t very promising. There’s nothing very interesting about the design - it’s literally an A that has grown up a little. And when you step inside, the disappointment doesn’t abate. Although it’s quite nicely equipped and is about as luxurious as you’re likely to expect for this price, it lackes a key ingredient. The thing about a Mercedes, is that the badge is critical to the perceived value of the car. Like eternal rivals BMW and Audi, a Mercedes has a very particular feel to it. Even the C exudes “affordable” supreme luxury. But the B, never does.

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In fact, from behind the wheel you could be driving just about any of the several family-sized compact MPVs on the market today. The driving experience is as bland and anonymous as the styling. The 1.8-litre petrol four-pot doesn’t like being thrashed and never delivers any level of excitement, while the FWD chassis is dull and inert.

Never Beyond Naturally, many would argue that these are the qualities you want in a daily family runabout. Which is fair enough, they probably are, and the B manages to cover unflavoured anonymity comprehensively. But it never goes a step beyond that. The interior isn’t at all bad, with a suitably upmarket veneer thanks to the gloss black detailing on the facia, bold MB logo on the steering wheel and comfortable seats, but again there’s something missing. Some element of class which ought to go without saying in a product from this renowned German manufacturer. But instead of emphatically staking it’s claim as a member of this esteemed family, the B ends up mostly characterless.

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DRIVE TEST Mercedes B180 Which is exactly how it drives. This entry-level B180 version is actually a 1.6 with a turbo, developing 90kW and 200Nm. But it never feels turbocharged, in fact it just at all times feels like it’s lacking in energy. I’m not expecting AMG levels of performance from this “bargainbasement” family hatch, but even so what the B180 delivers is downright disappointing. Dynamically. Well, I doubt I even need go there, really. The B180 doesn’t. So let’s just leave it at that. And this uninspired performance doesn’t exactly come cheap either. This entry-level model, ignoring some of the pricey optional extras fitted to our unit, weighs in at R309,000 including CO2 tax. Nor is it particularly fuel efficient either, despite the BlueEFFICIENCY badge tacked-on to the name. In the end, this B180 turns out to be so decidedly unremarkable and distinctively dull grey a vehicle (even in spangly black), that it’s really just about one to forget. It doesn’t even have any particular USPs that would encourage you to buy it over the growing crop of premium family hatchback competitors. So don’t. If you still have any passion for motoring in you whatsoever, look instead at the new Volvo V40, the T4 version of which we testdrive in this very issue.

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Key facts: Mercedes-Benz B180 Drive likes: Ummmm..... fairly frugal. Drive dislikes: Zero performance. Not nearly special or classy enough.

Drive Ratings:

Pricing:

R307,000

Engine:

1595cc turbocharged four-cylinder petrol

Power:

90kW @ 5000rpm

Torque:

200Nm @ 1250-4000rpm

Handling:

11/20

0-100km/h:

Ride:

14/20

Top speed:

10.4s 190km/h

Performance:

8/20

Kerb weight:

Fun Value:

6/20

Practicality:

18/20

Fuel consumption (claimed): 6.2l/100km (combined)

Total: D RIV E M AG AZ I NE J U N E 2 0 1 3

57/100

Transmission:

1395kg

6-speed manual 77


TOP 5

CAR CATEGORIES

What’s it all about?

PASSION RATINGS

The Drive Magazine Top 5s section isn’t a listing of the highest-scoring cars coming through our road-test regime. In fact, here the rankings have as little as possible to do with any empirical, data-driven evaluation of this passion called motoring, and everything to do with unchecked emotional appeal. Although we’re irrepressible, self-confessed performance freaks at this publication, making it into the Top 5s requires far more than just the smallest 0-100kph time. Any vehicles on these pages have left us deeply saddened to say goodbye to. They aren’t necessarily the priciest of machines, the most beguilingly beautiful, or the most pulverisingly potent. They’re simply cars which we, as petrol heads, absolutely adore - and think that you would too if motoring runs in your veins. Our very own passion-gauge for the hearts and souls of cars. One thing that you won’t find any of on the following pages, are electric cars. Only internal-combustion motors have soul, at least any soul that we can connect to as internal-combustion-based machines ourselves. If you strongly disagree, or wholeheartedly approve, drop us a line on Top5@drivemagazine.co.za. Next month, it could RIV Ecar M AG AZ I NE J U N Eaway 2013 79 beDyour choices walking with the entirely fictional prize-money. Lots of it. Tons. We promise.


TOP 5 HOT HATCHES Mercedes-Benz A-Class Highs: Merc quality in hatchback package.

1

Lows: Quite pricey.

Renault Megane RS 265 Highs: Class-leading FWD hatchback chassis

Quickie: The all-new A-Class is a huge step on from the upright, frumpy car it replaces with sleek new styling and some actual excitement in the engine-range available, even if you do have to pay quite handsomely for the privilege. Still, it’s a great drive and the new class of “executive hatchbacks”. Factoids: 2.0-litre petrol motor, 155kW, R392 606

2

Quickie: The original Megane RS is very nearly as redefining an experience as the exceptional special-ed Trophy, without the rougher edges. A spectacular hot hatch in every way. Does not lose to anything on pure performance alone. Factoids: 2.0-litre turbo motor, 184kW, 6.1 s sprint, R359 900

Lows: Not class-leading build quality. Drive Rating: N/A

Ford Focus ST3 Highs: Best-sounding fourcylinder petrol motor in ages.

3

Lows: Massive panel gaps.

Quickie: Ford may have dropped the 5-cylinder motor for the new Focus ST in favour of a lighter, cleaner 2.0-litre “four”, but it hasn’t diluted the appeal one bit. It still makes precisely the kind of noise you want your hot hatch to make, goes like the proverbial scalded feline, and looks sharper and more modern than ever. And, it drinks substantially less fuel. Really. Factoids: 2.0-litre turbo motor, 184kW, 6.5 s sprint, R353 700

Drive Rating: N/A

BMW 125i 3-door Highs: Proper RWD balance, in a hatch.

4

Lows: Even in 3-door form, it isn’t the prettiest.

Quickie: In the new 3-door 1-Series, the 2.0-litre turbo petrol currently flooding the BMW lineup actually fits – there’s no sixcylinder heritage here to row against. With 160kW and a mid-6s sprint time, this 1-Series attacks the existing hot hatch market directly, but adds the purity of RWD into an equation which largely excludes such an exciting variable. Factoids: 2.0-litre turbo motor, 160kW, 6.4 s sprint, R336 000

Drive Rating: N/A

Volvo V40 T-4 Highs: Fresh, striking design. Lows: A bit bulky from some angles.

5

Quickie: Through some clever, committed marketing Volvo launched the new V40 to tremendous fanfare and a market salivating for the product. Fortunately the Swedish company also engineered a package beneath the sexy skin to live up to this hype, with a wide range of power plant options available to suit any taste. Factoids: 1.6-litre turbo motor, 134kW, 7.7 s sprint, R316 800

Drive Rating: N/A

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TOP 5 4 X 4’s Quickie: Toyota’s Land Cruiser has been the mainstay of African expeditioning for a very long time, and there’s a very good reason for this. It’s unstoppable. Practically unbreakable. Can almost always be fixed with a hammer. And has dual fuel tanks for a range of comfortably over 1000km even on the roughest terrain. Now even available in a station wagon.

1

Toyota Land Cruiser Highs: The Toughest. Period. Lows: A very rough ride.

Factoids: 4.0-litre petrol motor, 170kW, R417 900

Quickie: The Defender might be the more macho, but the Rangie has off-road capabilities that even this legend struggles to keep pace with. And it’s all packaged into a vehicle which feels positively regal regardless of the surface being conquered, with bundu-bashing abilities which will flatter the beginner but beguile the expert off-roader. The new model adds even more power to the awesome TDV8 motor as well, which is always a good thing.

2

Range Rover Vogue SE TDV8 Highs: Effortless everywhere. Lows: Have been some buildquality issues.

Factoids: 4.4-litre turbo diesel V8, 250kW, 6.9 s sprint, R1 464 100

Quickie: We found the Pathfinder with the V9X turbo diesel motor to be lacking very little, especially at the price this thing sells for. It’s very well equipped, comfortable and refined on the road, and then strong and capable off. It suited the family just fine on long trips, and it even turns a fair deal of heads. It does struggle to fit in an average-sized garage however...

3

Highs: Mountains of torque. Lows: Feels seriously big all the time, and not that light on fuel either.

Factoids: 3.0-litre turbo diesel, 170kW, 8.9 s sprint, R652 000

Quickie: At the launch of the Jimny I remember looking at the offroad track and thinking the Suzuki guys were mad. Admittedly we did struggle a bit with some of the more technical obstacles, but some perseverance saw everyone through to the astonishment of everyone who hadn’t yet driven the car. A never-say-die attitude goes a long way in this activity.

4

Factoids: 4.0-litre petrol engine, 200kW, 7.6 s sprint, R457 600

Suzuki Jimny Highs: Much, much more capable than you’d ever expect. Lows: Noisy on the highway, and definitely lacking grunt.

Factoids: 1.3-litre petrol engine, 63kW, R201 900

Quickie: Toyota have pulled off some black magic with the FJ - it doesn’t ride anywhere near as rough as either a Hilux or a LandCruiser, and yet show it some challenging tracks and it’ll perform comparably to this daddy of 4X4s. Yet take it back onto the road, and it’s impressive there too. And to top it all off, it looks and feels like the toy it is.

Nissan Pathfinder 3.0dCi V6

5

Toyota FJ Cruiser Highs: Most of the ability of a LandCruiser, but much more charm. Lows: Quite heavy on fuel. Quite heavy generally in fact. Drive Rating: 88/100

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TOP 5 COMPACT SUV’s Range Rover Evoque Highs: The style, the class, the crushing all-round performance.

1

Quickie: The Range Rover Evoque, particularly this gorgeous 3-door Si4 Dynamic, deserves all the accolades and naked looks of appreciation it has received since being launched. It is quite simply a superb vehicle.

Lows: Cost reflects high style demeanour.

Unmatched class and style inside, a gem of a 2.0-litre turbo charged petrol motor, absolutely unmistakable appearance – it’s an unbelievable combination of talents.

Drive Rating: 91/100

Factoids: 2.0-litre turbo motor, 177kW, 7.6 s sprint, R615 400

BMW X3 xDrive28i

Quickie: After the mess that was the X3 xDrive35i, which we called “excruciating” back when we tested it, the 28i is a welcome to return to form. The lighter 2.0-litre turbo motor can’t match the power of the 35i of course, but the reduced weight in the nose actually makes all the power available useable. And tames the ludicrous thirst. It’s just a huge step on.

Highs: Might not be a straightsix any more, but goes like one, without the thirst.

2

Lows: Not the most eyecatching or distinctive form. Could easily be an X1.

Factoids: 2.0-litre turbo motor, 180kW, 6.7 s sprint, R569 900

Drive Rating: N/A Ford Kuga Highs: Feline looks, punchy engine.

3

Lows: Dated auto transmission, excessive fuel consumption.

Factoids: 2.5-litre turbo motor, 147kW, 8.8s sprint, R406 850

Drive Rating: 76/100

Citroen C4 Aircross Highs: Yet again French flair for compliant but not soggy platform shines

4

Lows: Downright tardy sprinting

Highs: S-Tronic gearbox still the best. Lows: Dismal delivery of power, crushingly expressionless.

Quickie: We may sometimes sound like bitter oldies at Drive, but there’s almost always tangible benefits to be gained by going “traditional”. The bum-basic 5-speed manual transmission on the C4 Aircross makes all the difference over the clever self-shifter on the almost identical ASX-based Peugeot, the 4008. The C4 Aircross is more engaging to drive, faster everywhere, and particularly the models which are FWD only are also measurably cheaper. Factoids: 2.0-litre nat-asp petrol motor, 110kW, 9.7s sprint, R269 900

Drive Rating: N/A

Audi Q3 2.0 TFSI 125kW

Quickie: The Ford Kuga combines athletic looks with bundles of honest charm. It also gets a characterful and fairly strong 2.5-litre 5-cylinder turbo charged petrol engine, even if this powerplant (in 147kW state of tune) is let down by the dull-witted automatic gearbox just about all the time. The downside of the combo of turbo motor, auto ‘box and full-time AWD is predictable – expensive fuel consumption!

5

Quickie: Why Audi would even make this detuned Q3 I don’t know, especially since it doesn’t seem to help very much with fuel consumption either. This sinful act not only excises all the potential excitement from the Q3 experience, it also deletes anything deemed unnecessary, like any vestiges of a poetic soul. Factoids: 2.0-litre turbo motor, 125kW, 8.2 s sprint (claimed – and unlikely), R421 500

Drive Rating: 61/100

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TOP 5 SALOON Quickie: The latest-generation 5-Series is a saloon so capable, that in a purely logical world it would be the car that all middle to upper execs would drive. It’s big and luxurious yet balanced and agile when pushed, with the 3.0-litre turbo motor delivering plenty of puff and the RWD layout endlessly entertaining. It’s a class act, pure and simple.

1

BMW 535i Highs: As agile as a 3, as comfortable as a 7. Lows: None.

Factoids: 3.0-litre turbo petrol motor, 225kW, 5.9s sprint, R679 900

Quickie: Lexus has been targeting the BMW 5-Series for so long with the GS, that I think even it was surprised when the latestgeneration model ended up coming so remarkably close to this perennial rival. The 350 might lack some of the firepower of the turbo charged 535i, but it makes up for that with a wonderfully vocal character and a naturally-escalating power curve that actually quickens the pulse sufficiently. And you get all the luxuries already in place for the price you pay.

2

Lexus GS350 Highs: Impregnable build. Lows: Can still spot the Toyota switchgear.

Factoids: 3.5-litre petrol V6, 233kW, 6.3 s sprint, R584 200

Quickie: Most people are unlikely to believe us when we tell you that the Kizashi is one of the most underrate cars on the roads today - we hardly ever see one despite knowing just how brilliant it is. It’s got a peppy, zingy 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine which can’t compete with larger competitors but is characterful and eager in its responses, a chassis which is sharp and yet fluid, and styling which is delectably unconventional. It’s a winner, even better than the very similar Honda Accord for lacking that cars oppressive, and expensive, new-age electronic safety gadgets.

3

Suzuki Kizashi Highs: Lovely, unique looks. Lows: Engine might lack a little top-end bite.

Factoids: 2.4-litre petrol, 131kW, R319 000 Quickie: The new 1.8T motor in the A4, which effectively replaces the old 2.0T, actually delivers what the manufacturer claims. That is, a thick wedge of low-down torque, sufficient power, and a useful saving at the fuel pump. You’re really not likely to miss the little bit of extra power from the old 2.0T, and the chassis is sharper than ever in vanilla FWD, manual format.

4

Highs: Sleeker than ever, and an example of downsizing actually working. Lows: Typically overservoed brakes.

Factoids: 1.8-litre turbo petrol engine, 125kW, 8.1s sprint, R333 900

Quickie: The Chinese-built MG6 might feel a little flaky and certainly isn’t all that polished technology wise, but it’s a lot of car for not a lot of money. Yes there are rumours of reliability issues but then when was the MG brand a paragon of virtue in this regard anyway? One of the best Chinese efforts we’ve yet sampled.

Audi A4 1.8T

5

MG6 Highs: Cheap yet distinctive. Lows: Old-school tech, and you will be the butt of jokes.

Factoids: 1.8-litre turbo petrol engine, 118kW, 8.4 s sprint, R239 900

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TOP 5 SUPERCARS Pagani Zonda F Highs: Rolling artwork.

1

Lows: Out of production.

Quickie: The Zonda may have been replaced by the Huayra already, but this turbocharged active-aero tech-feast hasn’t managed to replace the original in our hearts. Something about a 7.0-litre naturally-aspirated V12, minimal weight, a manual transmission and RWD just gets the purist in all of us slavering at the mouth. Ultimate pin-up car. Factoids: 7.3-litre petrol motor, 443kW, R20m

McLaren MP4-12C Highs: Monumental thrust.

2

Lows: Too quick for the road.

Quickie: The MP4-12C redefined the mid-level supercar category. It is so fast that the thought of a much more focussed version, the P1, seemed quite insane when you were behind the wheel and hanging on as the turbos lit fully in second gear. It’s savage, relentless power mounted in a chassis which is rigid and light. Stupendous. Factoids: 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8, 440kW, 3.2 s sprint, R3.2m

Audi R8 V10 Highs: Lamborghini V10.

3

Lows: Momentum and weight of the engine can catch you out.

Nissan GT-R Highs: Otherwordly deployment of all that power.

Factoids: 5.2-litre V10, 386kW, 3.9 s sprint, R1.9m

4

Lows: Not the most musical supercar ever.

Aston Martin Vantage S Highs: Best engine noise ever? Lows: Roadster version we drove not the most rigid.

Quickie: The R8 V10 is just mega - and you don’t have to have the violent R-Tronic transmission - there is a manual gearbox available as standard. The chassis manages to make the screaming 5.2-litre V10 accessible most of the time, although it can be caught out now and then, usually leaving the driver quite surprised indeed. Thanks to AWD however, these moments are usually catchable.

Quickie: Because we were badge snobs, we at first criticised the GT-R for having pretensions beyond its means, so to speak. This was no supercar we argued - not special enough, not expensive enough, not prestigious enough. However, what it is, is fast enough to destroy most of these more hoity-toity competitors. So it’s earned its place. Factoids: 3.8-litre twin-turbo petrol V6, 397kW, 2.9s sprint, R1.4m

5

Quickie: The original V8 Vantage was only really lacking in one area - power. While this tweaked Vantage S still isn’t a headlinegrabber in terms of outputs, it now feels like it has enough to justify full supercar status, albeit in a junior supercar role. The Vantage makes up for this with supermodel looks, an operatic voice, and a magnetism which only a rareified few might replicate. Factoids: 4.7-litre petrol V8, 321kW, 4.7 s sprint, R1.6m

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TOP 5 SPORTS COUPES Quickie: It’s the icon. The benchmark. The definition of a motoring niche basically. It’s also, sadly, about to be replaced, and it’s the last of the naturally-aspirated BMW M cars too. The new model might be returning to a straight-six, but there’s talk it could be tri-turbo too, which will mean more power yes but invariably less passion. A characteristic which still oozes from the existing M3.

1

BMW M3 Highs: All things to all men. Lows: End of life.

Factoids: 4.0-litre petrol V8, 309kW, R852 900

Quickie: The Renault RS nomenclature has a significant global fan-club, all of whom insist this is undoubtedly the fastest hyper hatch on the market because of some Nurburgring times. Drive the Trophy and you can see where the result comes from - the uncanny traction through the bends thanks to the Trophy chassis and suspension setup, which isn’t quite as uncomfortable as expected, and those special sticky tyres. Other than that, and the tacky sticker job, there isn’t that much to recommend over a “standard” RS.

2

Porsche 911 Carrera S Highs: It isn’t the power. It’s the cornering traction. Lows: Runs out of steam at the top end.

Factoids: 3.8-litre petrol flat-6, 294kW, RR1 192 000 Quickie: The C63 AMG is packing even more of a heavyweight punch than ever, but in latest form at least has a chassis with some chance of harnessing this savage force of nature. It still isn’t anywhere near as precise as the M3 of course, but at least it no longer tries to ride a bucking bronco on an ice-rink.

3

4

Lotus Evora S Highs: A classic recipe for the modern age. Lows: Sports Racer variant not for SA.

Factoids: 3.5-litre turbo petrol engine, 258kW, RN/A

Quickie: We did toy with doubling-up on BMWs in this category, and replacing the RS5 with the new M6. However although that car is a lot faster and RWD, the turbocharged V8 model will still always give best to a properly engineered naturally-aspirated V8, the 4.2-litre example of which situated in the nose of the Audi RS5 is quite simply a peach which will send shivers down your spine.

Highs: Sounds like the God of War. Lows: Drinks like the God of Winos

Factoids: 6.3-litre V8 petrol, 336kW, R977 100

Quickie: Lotus Cars seem to do such small volumes in SA, because they aren’t M, AMG, or Porsche, that you just don’t see enough of these flowing, feline shapes on our roads. Yet the Evora is a sublime car to drive. Fast, light on it’s feet and astonishingly compliant it’s a joy on any trip. Deserves to be seen more, really.

Mercedes C63 AMG.

5

Audi RS5 Highs: Another gem of a V8. Lows: Quite aloof.

Factoids: 4.2-litre V8 petrol, 331kW, R875 000

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TOP 5 ROADSTERS/COUPES Peugeot RCZ Highs: A consummate allrounder.

1

Lows: Does occasionally feel a bit girlie.

BMW 1 M Coupe Highs: Huge adrenaline spikes before even climbing aboard.

Quickie: The Peugeot RCZ is a genuinely delightful surprise to drive. It packs the turbo charged punch of a Cooper S into a sublimely shapely body with, most importantly, suspension actually capable of absorbing the occasional bump. It’s our favourite small coupe on the road today, simply bubbling over with joie de vivre. Factoids: 1.6-litre turbo petrol motor, 147kW, R419 500

2

Quickie: Perhaps the Z4 is more suited to this category, but there aren’t any in the current range that excite us enough. One thing the extremely limited-run 1 M Coupe never, ever comes up short on. What an absurdly desirable little machine, even if it will most likely spit you off the tarmac sooner or later.

Lows: Will almost certainly kill you.

Factoids: 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol, 250kW, R590 900

Porsche Boxster S

Quickie: Before I’d been behind the wheel of one, I scoffed at the Porsche Boxster for being the Porker for hairdressers and lady-boys. I did. But when you’re behind the wheel, even the entry-level version feels special. Communicative, absurdly precise, beautifully engineered and just raring to strut its stuff. And the latest incarnation is honed to perfection.

Highs: Driving purity.

3

Lows: It’s quite, erm, low. For getting in and out, you see.

Toyota 86 Highs: Pert, pure Japanesesportscar looks.

Factoids: 3.2-litre petrol flat six, 232kW, R699 900

4

Lows: Needs more grunt.

Quickie: Yes, it does need a touch more power, but nevertheless the 86 is basically a masterpiece. A performance home-run from a company who seemed to have forgotten everything it once new about performance. Light and therefore extremely agile, the 2.0-litre nat-asp engine tries hard enough and makes a nice enough noise, but never really compresses the seat-cushions behind you. Still, this car affirms that Toyota still has a heart dripping with driving passion. Factoids: 2.0-litre petrol engine, 147kW, R298 500

Audi TT RS Highs: Turbocharged inline-5 harks back to ur-Quattro. Lows: So grippy it can feel inert, cold.

5

Quickie: In actual fact, we were hoping to get the sleeper TT S in here, but that model is no longer part of the current range. It was the real pick of the TT litter, with the 2.0-litre turbo motor in S3 state of tune powering the front wheels only. The RS on the other hand, is way over the top in every way. OTT power from the OTT vocal 5-cylinder turbomotor, OTT grip from the famed quattro AWD, OTT price. Still, OTT fun too, and you can apparently still buy them new unlike the 1 M. Factoids: 2.5-litre turbo petrol inline-5, 250kW, R716 900

86

D R IV E MA GA ZIN E JU NE 2013


TOP 5 HYPER HATCHES Quickie: Yes it might not strictly be a hyper hatch, more a hyper city car really, but if you don’t need the bit of extra practicality you might get from a Focus ST, there’s little better way of spending R330k on some motoring fun. As quick as a GTI and even more nimble thanks to the low weight, this relatively unassuming car gives all the others here a pasting for pure driving fun.

1

Highs: Dynamite! Has to be. Lows: Not a one. Quite small. But it is an A1, did you expect a people-carryer?

Factoids: 1.4-litre turbo and supercharged petrol motor, 136kW, R312 000

Quickie: The Renault RS nomenclature has a significant global fan-club, all of whom insist this is undoubtedly the fastest hyper hatch on the market because of some Nurburgring times. Drive the Trophy and you can see where the result comes from - the uncanny traction through the bends thanks to the Trophy chassis and suspension setup, which isn’t quite as uncomfortable as expected, and those special sticky tyres. Other than that, and the tacky sticker job, there isn’t that much to recommend over a “standard” RS.

Audi A1 1.4 TFSI 136kW

2

Renault Megane RS Trophy Highs: It isn’t the power. It’s the cornering traction.

Lows: Runs out of steam at the top end.

Factoids: 2.0-litre turbo petrol, 195kW, R409 900 Quickie: Of the 2-line VW R range, it’s the Scirocco you want if you’re looking for pure driving thrills. Pumping 188kW through the front wheels alone makes for far more excitement than the heavier, AWD Golf R, and the Scirocco responds to this fact with a beautifully judged setup creating a front end almost as sharp as the Megane RS Trophy. But with a much more comfortable ride.

3

VW Scirocco R Highs: Razor-sharp front end.

Lows: Seriously expensive now.

Factoids: 2.0-litre turbo petrol, 188kW, R433 900

Quickie: Sadly the limited-run of these special cars is long over, and all the hype regarding the 2014 model is still just rumour, unconfirmed by Ford. Still the legend of this car, crafted by those retina-searing paintjobs and comically pumped arches, lives on. If you find one selling second-hand, just buy it straight away.

4

Factoids: 3.0-litre turbo petrol straight-6, 235kW, R445 500

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Highs: Embodiment of this over-endowed breed.

Lows: Long gone.

Factoids: 2.5-litre turbo petrol engine, 224kW, RN/A

Quickie: The new 3-door M135i has been billed by the motoring press as a 1 M with the option of an auto ‘box. It isn’t quite of course, but then it’s also much cheaper, and you can buy one right now, which has to be worth something. Either way, with a finally sorted RWD chassis and that creamy turbocharged straight-six powerplant, it’s difficult to go wrong with this one.

Focus RS

5

BMW 135i M Sport Highs:

Explosive power without corrupting the helm.

Lows: Everyone’s going to order it with the 8-speed Sport Auto

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TOP 5 BUDGET BUYS Renault Clio 4 Highs: Growly three-pot turbo.

1

Apart from the surprisingly enjoyable 0.9-litre turbo motor, the modern and funky styling, and the generous spec level on offer, probably the most pleasant surprise Renault SA delivered was the value-oriented price structure! It may not quite fit into the absolute price band of our “Budget Buys”, but it does represent the best-value car-purchase we can think of today.

2

Quickie: When Nissan redesigned the popular Micra, it went to great lengths to lighten the load, which in turn allowed it to fit a small, 1.2-litre three-cylinder motor without making it as slow as a geriatric snail. The result is a budget car which is actually a pleasure to be in.

Lows: Not as quick as it likes to think.

Nissan Micra Highs: Surprisingly willing for a three-cylinder Lows: Noisy cabin.

VW Polo Vivo Highs: Proper German buildquality.

Factoids: 1.2-litre petrol motor, 56kW, R112 900

3

Lows: Really, really sparsely equipped.

Renault Sandero Highs: Well, it is quite cheap.

Factoids: 1.4-litre petrol, 55kW, R110 500

4

Lows: Rough and ready build.

Chevrolet Spark Campus Highs: Cheap to own and run. Lows: Not the most stable highway cruiser.

Quickie: VW replaced the Citi Golf as it was based on 20 year-old technology, with the Polo Vivo, at the time built on the previousgeneration Polo platform but with new running gear. Whatever, it’s a great car to drive. Not very richly appointed no, but feels positively impregnable all the time. Easily worth the money.

Quickie: The Sandero quite frankly appalled us when we first drove it, with bad mouldings and exposed metal edges all over, not to mention a gravelly-feeling power plant. It sells very well however, because of the aggressive pricing, so for that it has to deserve a spot on this list. Seriously though, consider a Vivo or Micra please if you want to continue to enjoy driving. Factoids: 1.4-litre petrol, 55kW, R112 900

5

Quickie: Yes, you do get an even cheaper Spark, the Spark Lite, but that car is so devoid of anything it’s hard to recommend. That said, even at this price point, it’s not the most lovable machine. Weird looks (to us at least), no performance, and a bit of a wanderer when out on the highways. Factoids: 1.2-litre petrol engine, 60kW, R103 500


TOP 5 HYBRIDS Quickie: Quite probably the best hybrid we’ve driven to date, although we have been avoiding the Porsche Cayenne. Anyway, the GS450h even manages to squeeze a decent noise into the cabin when the 3.5-litre V6 is working hard, which is nice.

1

2

Highs: Fabulously built, Lows: Still drinks heavily.

3

Toyota Yaris HSD Highs: Very light on fuel. Lows: Very expensive up

Factoids: 1.5-litre petrol, 55kW (petrol only), R230 600

Quickie: This spot was meant to be for the Prius, but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to recommend that car. This is the same vehicle, sharing the same dreadful boredom the Prius provides, but at least it looks quite nice. Don’t get the F-Sport though, the standard one is the same price as the Prius and isn’t quite so much “all mouth and no trousers”.

BMW ActiveHybrid5 cheaper than the GS.

Factoids: 3.0-litre turbo petrol, 225kW (petrol only), R757 300

Quickie: It’s a lot of money to pay for a Yaris. Fortunately there will soon be a cheaper Auris HSD, bringing the technology further down the price scale. Anything particularly outstanding about the way it goes? Well, no. Not really.

Highs: Such a classy interior. Lows: Practically none.

Factoids: 3.5-litre petrol motor, 252kW (combined), R799 800

Quickie: Quite a silly one this. When you wake that performanceoriented 3.0-litre turbocharged six, the ActiveHybrid5 really starts to drink. And you have to, quite a lot, because of ridiculously limited battery capacity. Nice to drive though, even if it couldn’t so much save a minute little planetoid.

Lexus GS450h

front cost.

4

Lexus CT200h Highs: Not a Prius. Lows: Sheep in wolf’s clothing.

Factoids: 1.8-litre petrol engine, 100kW (combined), R370 500 R269 900

Quickie: All right, you got us, this isn’t fair because the 918 only exists as testing mules so far. Still, a hybrid powered largely by a rip-snorting V8s with motorsport roots - this could be the hybrid to finally change our minds. Although at a projected price of just on R20mill, maybe not.

5

Porsche 918 Spyder Highs: Race-derived V8. Lows: Well, it’s not yet real. As such.

Factoids: 4.6-litre petrol engine, 433kW plus 181kW electric power, circa R20m


Drive Mag July 2013  

This July 2013 issue of Drive Magazine marks a return to the digital shelves of this household name in SA motoring titles. From this month o...

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