Jaguar XF 2.2 Diesel

Jaguars. Detailed

Jaguar’s are old people’s cars. If I had 5cents for every time I’ve heard that line this last week I’d be close on R18 richer. This is something Jaguar wants to banish…and fast.

The long and short of how this 2.2litre oil-burner Jaguar came about is simple. Volumes for Tata, the now parent company of JaguarLandRover. Jaguar needs a model to compete in the sub R500K (And more importantly the small-diesel premium market in the UK). This is the cheapest Jag since the X-Type (vomit) left the scenes (and thankfully so). This 4cylinder 2.2litre (140kW and 450Nm torque) is a watercooled turbo and is the most fuel efficient Jaguar yet. Goodey.

How fuel efficient? Well, after a media briefing at Lanseria Airport, we hauled the Jaguar’s all the way to Limpopo to the beautiful Legends Golf Course, at speed, and returned 8.0l per 100km/h. For the type of “spirited” driving we were doing I’d call that a job very well done.

Look at that nose.

The changes in the XF include, most notably, the changes to the front lights, grille and then rear light cluster, bringing the range more in line with the XJ. There are also new alloy wheels, which actually do quite a bit to compliment the look of the car, a new 8-speed (yes EIGHT) ZF Automatic gearbox and revised 1200Watt Bower & Wilkins sound system. The basic just of it, is that there are 2 different spec levels for the XF 2.2. Luxury and Premium Luxury. Jaguar (like Lexus) takes the approach of speccing the car up with pretty much everything, and leaving only a few very individual options for the buyer to chose from. I like this, it’s what differentiates them from the Germans with their extensive options lists, and they can stay. They do this to help smooth out the wildly varying second hand market for Jaguars, so they can drive better long-term value for these vehicles.

Jaguar in the bush. Fancy that.

The XF, in its new refreshed look makes the rivals look like trolls. The sculpted lines and beautifully detailed lights give this car a totally unique and beautiful look. As always, looks are a wonderfully contentious topic, but you’d have to be a peasant not to know that this XF is a beauty.

The interior is a similarly exquisite place to be. The leather looks like it’s been hand stitched by someone’s grandfather in the North of England, and most materials and dials used are exactly what I would expect in a Jag. Only a few parts lifted from LR here and there, but those not really in the know wouldn’t notice. A main touch screen system dominates the dashboard and this is used to navigate most of the car’s electronics (audio, nav, aircon, etc) Thankfully traditional buttons for the main functions sit right below this which is a welcome addition.

Beautiful.

Quality wood, aluminum and leather are used throughout then interior. I’m 26, and I can say that I’d happily live with that interior. I never, not once, felt like this should be my dad’s car. What I find wonderful about the interior is the unique touches of swiveling air vents, rising dial-like gearshift and stitched leather dash. The Audi, Merc and Beemer might have slightly newer interiors but you don’t get the sense of establishment, of exclusivity, and of luxury as you do in the Jag. Jag happily announces that the new revised XF features the very premium Bowers & Wilkins sound systems. I happily smile and say that I didn’t notice the 1200Watts.

Moving on to the showpiece, and the dollar signs for Tata…the 2.2litre diesel engine. When you look at the figures, you’d expect some serious ass-hauling, but don’t get exactly that, and Jaguar doesn’t pretend that this is going to haul around town. There’s quite a bit of turbo lag when pulling off, but once you’re on the boil the torque mated to the 8speed gearbox makes it a gem on the road. I can’t believe that this is the original 2.2litre diesel that’s been making its way around the LandRover-Jag stable. There isn’t that heavy diesel turbo shove when you’re pulling out to overtake, but the gearbox takes over there making sure it keeps the engine in the right rev range to pull the speed up quickly enough. Small diesel engines in bigger executive saloons never blow your hair back, but it does what it’s made to do so very well. It cruises comfortably, and returns great fuel economy (5.4l/100km claimed).

Gearshift Dial. Different.

The 2.2 also employs start-stop system (although we couldn’t get it to work in our car at all). Apparently Jag’s start-stop system shows a 40% improvement on start-stop timing than its direct competitors. I couldn’t comment because ours never worked.

I was quite surprised at how balanced the Jag was on the road. It’s not as dynamic as the 5-series, but it doesn’t pretend to be. It strikes a beautiful balance between a luxury cosseted ride and still has great dynamics. We pushed the car through the twisties and on some very badly tarred B-roads and I can say that it handled everything pretty damn well. Getting up to very illegal speeds I didn’t feel as confident as I do in the rear-wheel Germans, but this is so negligible I shouldn’t even be writing it. But did. Where I think this Jag hits the nail on the head is for those who want a comfortable ride, without being saucy. I would however say that if ride is your thing, I’d opt out of the larger low-profile rubber and get something a with a little more cushioning.

In case you were wondering, she stops on a dime, with no fade, and with supreme confidence.

Rear end.

If you’re in the market for an executive saloon that’s comfortable, has a supremely up-market interior and an efficient engine, then it’s going to be a tough call between the Germans and the Jag. The new 5 does everything supremely well, but the Jag is special and unique and that’s got to count for something. The Audi’s interior is a technological masterpiece but the front wheel drive can’t dynamically compete. The Mercedes is for the guy who just sold his 1997 Camry and I couldn’t think of anything more boring to drive, or look at.

They have a big job to educate that a Jaguar is now within the German marquee price bracket. This XF 2.2 starts at R452 000 for the Luxury specification, so don’t overlook the Jaguar, because it really isn’t just an old man’s car.

For more information visit www.jaguar.co.za

Jeep Patriot 2.4 Limited CVT – 2011

I spent two weeks with ‘a’ Dodge Caliber in the US. It was, and still is, my worst car of all time. During the period, I had 3 of them from Hertz as one after the other had to go in due to some form of problem. The CVT gearbox, underpowered engine, vague steering and terrible interior was the summation of the parts. You might be thinking I’ve made a huge mistake on this review as it’s of the Jeep Patriot, but these two vehicles share a common family DNA…They were built on a shared GS platform engineered by the then, Daimler/Chrysler & Mitsubishi. Goes to show that too many cooks do spoil the broth. We’re off to a bad start.

 

Typical Jeep Grille.

I’ve always been very confused by the proliferation of models from Jeep. Lately they have started consolidating this offering, but the shared Dodge / Jeep platforms of previous years made no sense. Way too many offerings, with too many of them that don’t stand out in any one way, nor make a groundbreaking niche of their own.

 

The Patriot has recently been “updated”, giving it a refreshed exterior look (new bumper and integrated foglamps) new 17inch mags and a much improved interior. The interior update brings it in line with the rest of the fleet and you can feel the upgrade in quality materials. The interior is much the same as the Wrangler, mostly plastic, with SOME very plasticky bits, but overall, the interior is of a much higher quality than before. The gearshift sits rather awkwardly (A-la Calibre) on the dash, but is easily within reach. (even though you don’t need it much as the model on test was a … vomit … CVT)

The interior sees reasonable spec, with heated seats, on-board computer (a fairly confusing arrangement in the instrument binnacle), Automatic climate control that blows so cold it could no doubt solve global warming if the doors are left open, and a Radio/CD/Aux sound system (the option of a Uprated Navigation system is there). Sadly the sound is not as epic as the system in the Wrangler, which made me sad.

Interior - Improved

Get into the Patriot and you literally sit IN, and not ON the vehicle, which you can clearly see when getting into the vehicle. Passengers sit rather low with the small windscreen and extremely limited exterior and B pillar rear views giving limited visibility out of the car. Front seats are fairly comfortable (With six-way adjustment), but space in the rear and boot leaves much to be desired.  As said before, the interior is quite a step up from previous model, with loads of space to store bits away from prying eyes.

 

Taking a view from the outside, and it looks typically old-school Jeep. Squared look with a prominent Jeep grille, the updated Patriot does with some plastic bits on the doors and moves the fog-lamps in a bit on the nose of the vehicle. I actually like the original classic Jeep looks, but as always, exterior is a very personal opinion.

 

What I can give some opinion on is the engine and drivetrain. The Patriot is the moffie in the Jeep off-roader family, even though it employs the “Freedom Drive I” (Not making that up) which is an active AWD system. Jeep does state it’s a light-off roader, so they’re not making any claims that this is a direct descendant of the Wrangler family, and I respect that. The system really is more for the northern hemisphere, with Freedom Drive giving confidence in the snow and occasional mud / forest road it might encounter. The system proportions torque to the axle that needs it most through an Electromagnetic Controlled Coupling (ECC). I didn’t get to test the system out, but I’m guessing around 95% of buyers won’t neither.

Boxy

On tar the vehicle handles well, the fairly stiff suspension set up allowing limited lean into corners, however that could also be attributed to the low centre of gravity and ride height. The steering is typical Jeep, with a little bit of play in the centre, but overall it feels detached from the front wheels. The retuned suspension (Four-wheel independent MacPherson strut front and multilink independent rear) does show notable improvements, but that’s much like saying your grandmother looks a little better in her purple knit than the blue one.

 

Speaking of grandmothers, the 2.4litre dinosaur being used in the Patriot is a Jeep favourite. I’ve got to be honest and say that this engine needs a serious refresh, or just throw it out and start again. Hell, throw them all into a volcano and melt them down. With 125kW and 220Nm of torque, the Patriot was never going to haul ass down the blacktop, but this engine just doesn’t cut it. On its own it’s underpowered for litre capacity, but it was then cursed by being mated to a CVT gearbox.

CVT gearboxes are to cars, like being neutered is to a dog. I genuinely want to meet the man that engineered the CVT gearbox. It makes no sense in any car other than a Hybrid, so I hope he’s perished in a CVT related incident. In layman’s terms, the CVT gearbox runs a chain on a cone, instead of a chain on individual gears. This means when you mesh your foot against the floor the revs climb up to 6000RPM (or as I found, far past the redline into the black) as the chain runs up the cone, and stays there as the ear piercing whine from the 2.4litre engine increases the speed. There are no ‘thunky’ gear changes, which is also something any driver would have to become accustomed to. I will come and hold a gun against every Patriot buyer’s head, to make sure he/she buys the manual version. I’ll be saving them a lifetime of pain, and will no doubt be added to their Christmas card list.

 

Surprisingly Jeep is quite a bit smaller than Freelander

Sadly, the Patriot just doesn’t make much sense. It doesn’t do any one particular thing very well, and the competition has it trumped.

For R309 990 for the 2.4 Limited CVT, the Kia Sportage, Hyundai ix35, Subaru Forester or even Nissan Xtrail shows more value and better on road dynamics, which is no doubt where this vehicle will spend most of its time. Yes the Jeep is the only car in this price (bar the Subaru) that features full time 4wheel drive, which may count for something if you can justify it, but considering the low ride height I doubt you can.

 

My advice – if you’re hellbent on a Jeep at this price, go for the brand-new Compass. If you’re not loyal to any Patriotism, or Americanism, then have a good long look at the competition above.

 

For more information visit www.jeep.co.za

Lexus RX450h

Effects not included.

Until not so long ago the RX450h was the worlds first and only hybrid SUV. As you may or may not know, Lexus does very well in the United States, and for quite some time, it outsold its competitors Mercedes and BMW. The SUV is obviously very popular with the yanks, and so putting two and two together, the Lexus RX is the best selling luxury SUV over there, and I can see why.

The RX is in its 3rd generation and the model on test was the 450h LXE (R805 100). Now before you stop reading and think that’s a horrendous amount of money for a car, let me tell you that it’s worth every single cent and more.

There’s two main things that sets the RX apart from its competitors.

  1. The amount of standard specifications
  2. No doubt, the hybrid drive train

Glowing doorsills. ooooh.

I’ll get into more detail on those later, so let’s start with the exterior styling. Styling is always really a personal matter, however the move to less clunky SUV and more “raised car” look helps this Lexus look a lot smaller than it actually is. The model I had came in a very attract pearlescent white finish, and seems to be quite a popular colour for this model. The hybrid model is distinguished from the regular models by the blue tint Lexus badge, rear lighting and hybrid nameplates under the doors, but that’s about it. No in your face I’m driving a hybrid stuff. You’d never know, until of course it sneaks up on you in the underground parking lot. Then you know.

 

Luxury. Done.

Moving inside, things are on another level. The only level of sophistication and utter opulence close to this would be the Porsche or Range Rover. Its direct competition cannot compare on fit, finish, quality materials and ergonomics of the Lexus. Standard equipment levels are incredibly high and the car is literally bursting with technology. The Lexus multimedia interface is one of the best systems on the market today. It’s intuitive because it works the same as the common “Mouse”. It also features HUD (heads up display), smart access that not only locks and unlocks but also switches on the exterior lighting when the driver and key gets close to the car. Heated and cooling seats, an excellent Mark Levinson sound system with 40gig HDD and voice activation, and the list goes on. It’s a fantastic place to be inside. One of the little things I really appreciated was that the cabin was 100% dedicated to RHD. So many international cars see the switch over to RHD but certain buttons are left out of reach and hard to come by because the car was designed with LHD(left hand drive) in mind. There’s no indication of this here, with every button in the “right” place. The seats are superbly comfortable, with quite a bit of rear head and legroom, and still considerable room in the rear.

The LXE model I drove also featured active bi-xenon headlamps, sunroof, 10way adjustable driver and passenger electric seats with memory function and an electrically powered tailgate.

Power Display. Distracting.

The hybrid RX features a 3.5litre V6 mated to two electric motors (On fore and other aft). It’s hard to quote exact figures but there is around 220kW and just over 670Nm of torque on offer. This is obviously a flat torque curve as the e-CVT gearbox brings the power to the front or all wheels depending on what is needed. Lexus has been perfecting their hybrid drive train for quite some time now and it is probably the best in the business. Added technology to help efficiency is an exhaust heat recovery system to reduce engine warm up periods. Provided the car is warmed up, the vehicle can run on full electric mode up to 45km/h. If you’re in eco-mode (There are 3 modes, ECO, EV and ‘ECO Off = Sport’) and you pull off from the traffic light I found myself trying not to get the engine to kick in however eventually you’ll have to plant the pedal and get moving as those behind you get impatient. When you do plant your foot there is plenty of power and torque to get this beast up to 100km/h in just over 7seconds.

As usual, with the hybrid drivertrain the only thing the driver really has to get used to is the flat torque and constant engine note when accelerating. Surprisingly the V6 can get quite throaty when pushing on, not something I expected! My combined consumption (40% highway 60% city traffic) saw just on 11l/100km which in my books is excellent for a SUV of this size and considering I didn’t doodle around. Claimed is just around 7l/100km, which I’ve heard is actually achievable.

Ride and handling is excellent considering the hybrid seat up. The 3rd generation model replaces the MacPherson strut rear suspension set up for Double Wishbones, greatly improving handling. The car feels planted when pushing on, yet supremely comfortable on every day speed, which is probably the more important of the two. Braking on a hybrid as always sees less pedal feel as always you can feel the brake regeneration working, but you’ll get used to this soon enough. This said, there’s no issue with the effectiveness of the brakes, and the RX sees a host of other safety features (VDIM – Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management) such as VSC (vehicle stability) ABS, Hill assist, TRAC (Traction control) and front active head rests as well as 10 airbags.

Heads up Display. Brag factor.

There was not a person that didn’t get into the car that was not immediately impressed. There is a certain heir of quality within and out that puts it above the X5/6, ML and Q7. I would probably rather compare the Rx against the Cayenne (the only model here to also feature a hybrid) and the Range Rover Sport (or HSE Discovery), considering the exclusivity and trim levels.

Lexus prides themselves on offering near everything standard and the Rx isn’t left out of the party here. The website even supplies a vehicle comparison calculator which adds up what the extras would cost on the competitors (not named) vehicles, and really does show that even though the Rx is sold at a premium, it’s WELL worth the extra money in comparison.

Currently Porsche is the only other manufacturer to offer a hybrid luxury model to compare (however it does not offer the technical specification under the hood that the Lexus does). I would then have to compare it to diesel models that offer similar balance of efficiency and performance. When you go and look at that, the Lexus trumps on value hands down. It definitely doesn’t offer the driving or off-road dynamics of the X5 or Range Rover, but they don’t offer the incredible technology and let’s be frank, there aren’t very many of those models that ever see a dust road.

Overall it’s an incredible vehicle, however pricey, it offers more value than its competitors at the same price, has one of the most luxurious interiors I’ve ever been in, and an incredible hybrid drive train. If you’re shopping in this price range it’s definitely worth a look.

More info on http://www.lexus.co.za

Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design

Diffuser on a Volvo?!

Well you don’t often hear people saying the words sporty and Volvo in the same sentence. It’s kind of like hooker and virgin or Art and great-national-anthem being in the same sentence together. So it’s not something that sits comfortable in ones mind, and look at what Volvo delivered…the S60 T6 AWD R-Design

I have reviewed a normal S60 T6 AWD before so I’m not going to go into much detail about the S60, but rather focus on the specifics around the R-Design changes.

So let’s start off with the exterior, which is what differentiates this Volvo from any other. The R-Design kit, which is essentially a cosmetic and accessorized performance / racing pack, ads some very attractive and sporty cues to the traditional S60 looks. There’s a black front grille, modified bumpers, rear spoiler, and most noticeably the rear diffuser with prominent twin tail pipes. I say let’s make every Volvo look like this, it’s a damn good start to getting the already quirky Volvo to stand out and most people, including myself were pleasantly surprised at how sporty they had made it look.  Included in this pack were 18inch wheels that would give you some good street cred in the Vale, as well as aluminum mirror covers. Hooray!

Stop. Staring.

Interior changes include aluminum interior trim, which was actual aluminum and not some sprayed milk bottle plastic. R-Design seats looked like they were fashioned out of a diving suit, and would be at home on a performance boat. They were, as always, supremely comfortable and more supportive than the traditional S60 seats. Steering wheel and some other bits are given the R-Design leather treatment. As I’ve said time and time again, it’s a pleasant place to be in a Volvo, the S60 being no exception to the rule. Some commented on the dashboard being a little daunting in size, however I can fault very little of the interior.

Swedish interiors. Pretty.

The S60 R-Design does absolutely no changes to the engine, the flagship T6 (a 3litre turbocharged six cylinder petrol engine) pushing out 224kW and 440Nm of torque through Volvo’s All-wheel drive system. That’s more than a BMW 335i and 20kW short of the Audi S4. To be frank, it’s fucking fast. 0-100km/h is dealt with in 6.2seconds … It’s deceptive as you really don’t realize how fast you’re picking up speed.. There is probably a little more perceived involvement in drive due to the sporty suspension, tyres and AWD system, however it’s definitely not as much a drivers car as the other two above. That said, it is lighting quick in a straight line, so quick in fact that the engine will easily pull up past 200km/h before you even notice it in wind noise or drive. Excellent stuff that.

The AWD system features something called “Instant Traction” which shifts power to the front or rear wheels dependant on the need in “lightning speed”. I must be honest, it’s not exactly as “lightning quick” as they claim it to be. I’m no tosser, I understand it’s not exactly an M3 track competitor, but pushing into a hard corner you’ll find it running wide, the traction control come on, the power being transferred to a wheel that has some of it, and then the power being cut. It’s not a very smooth system and seems to react at the speed of the dial up modem, and not lighting-zeus-speed. The problem with the S60’s has always been that the engine sits so far ahead of the front wheels which means there’s a lot of weight in the nose of the car, which immediately sends the nose wide and the stability systems in attack mode to fix that. This is really only when pressing on really hard, and you wouldn’t notice this in daily relaxed driving.

Airbags=Volvo

Sigh… another shortcoming is the Geartronic automatic gearbox, which leaves quite a bit to be desired when it comes to sporty shifting. It’s unfortunately (as I said about the traditional S60) the biggest weakness of the car. It does a great job when you’re just cruising along, however when pressing on it hunts for gears and you’ll be so irritated that you end up just putting it into manual. However, when that happens, you’ll wait while the car puts in a request for the shift to Swedish headquarters, the shift is than approved by the team, and then gear engaged. Not ideal.

Overall, it’s a very good-looking car…almost too good looking for what it’s going to deliver. This said, Volvo is already seeing a bias towards male drivers in the S60 range, which is against their traditional female bias…and this is good news. They are obviously hoping to attract some more macho to the range with this R-Design kit … yeah … guess it’ll work

In my eyes, it unfortunately just doesn’t come together nicely. Sporty and Volvo come together, but just not too well in this S60. It’s not water and oil, but it’s not strawberries and cream either. With great sporty looks and a beast of an engine, it’s kind of just let down as it’s not really that involved, nor really excellent in handling, nor really snappy in the gear changes. I understand what the sport kit is about, much like the guys with a 320i BMW slap on an M-Sport kit, but here it’s got half the goods, and then just seems to not really bring it all home.

Nice in Red.

Pricing, you’re looking upwards of R460 000 in this guise. So if you’re looking to just spruce up any of the S60 models, it’s worth the extra bit of cash if you can handle a sportier ride and want that sporty look.

You can find more information on this vehicle at www.volvo.co.za

Jeep Wrangler Sahara 70yr Edition

I must admit, every time I’ve seen one of these on the road I’ve been slightly envious wondering what it must be like to drive. It’s one of those iconic cars that everyone seems to love. I become slightly more enamored to it at the coast, when you see the group of teens sailing past with the roof off and the music blaring, there’s something very “cool” about that.

Wheels. Bling.

Jeep celebrates 70years of existence this year so the near brand new unit I received had little over 800km on the clock and was one of their 70year special editions. It still has iconic Wrangler looks, the boxy silhouette and 2 short doors, however there is a new model on the cards next year, so should be interesting to see what they do to update this iconic shape.

The model on test was the 3.8l V6 developing 146kW and 315Nm of torque, with massive chromed 18inch rims, brushed aluminum sill plates, and special interior treatment, which I’ll get to later. Oh yes, the website also lists that it has, wait for it, a 70year anniversary badge! Raise the roof!

The Jeep, unlike the Land Rover defender, is loved by both men and women. I found it strange at how many girls swooned over the car, something they definitely don’t do over the Defender…unless they have crew-cut and a toolbox. It’s unfortunately a little out of its environment on the road, being such an incredible off-roader, it’s a little like bringing high heels to do the Otter Trail.

I say this because of a couple of factors:

Yes they made the 70year edition a little…nay…a lot more special. It’s a LOT more civilized than I thought it was going to be, with the rapper rims, and the very well specced interior, but it’s the drive that’s not exactly something every city girl would enjoy. The V6 produces enough grunt to get you around, but due to the massive circumference of the tyres and heavy drive mechanics there’s no urgency in its movements, you kind of just urge it along. The model I drove was an automatic, and the claimed 0-100km/h time of 10.4seconds is ambitious to say the least. The initial pull off grunt is good enough, but once it’s on the move, overtaking and speeding up needs to be carefully negotiated or you could land yourself in trouble. (Thankfully it achieved a 5-star safety rating and boasts dual airbags, ABS, RMC & ESC.

Ruts. Bring. It

It’s probably a good idea there’s not enough speed because the handling is something like trying to steer a waterbed across a sea of jello. Swerving for a pedestrian crossing the road, as I found, can get the car rocking and rolling until the ERM (Electronic Roll Mitigation) kicks in to keep it from landing on its roof. It’s by no means dangerous, but you really have to keep this in mind and rather just take a relaxed nature to driving the car, which I’m sure most people do. I’m no retard, I’m well aware that the combination of the car’s high centre of gravity and tyre size does not make it a Nurburgring time setter, it’s just a little disconcerting at first.

Not kak at all

Talk about a huge surprise, I thought the interior was going to be awash with shitty plastic and have the ability to hose the whole thing down. Much to my surprise it featured more creature comforts than many of the R400K+ sedans I’ve driven, and near everything was of a fairly high quality touch and feel. The 70year edition does add a few novel little chrome and leather bits here and there and let me tell you it makes the difference. Electric one touch windows, heated seats, voice control, steering wheel mounted controls, cruise control and a insanely powerful sound system was all standard. Seating is high up and access to the back is helped by the fact that the whole seat lifts and tilts to help ease access.

Downhill. Easy

I was very excited to find that the Sahara is equipped with the, and I quote, “Heavenly Hardtop” which allows the hardtop to removed in 3 easily manageable sections. Without the two front panels that cover the driver and passenger, the back of the hardtop can be “fairly” easily removed by 2 adults. Soft top is then also available to bolt on after the hard top is off. Insanely cool when you’re at the beach, as I found even the windscreen can be flapped down to really give it that open air feel. Great, if say, you’re cruising around in Mozambique.

That said, the real character and ability of the car comes out when you take advantage of the CommandTrac full time 4wheel drive system. This system allows for full time 4wheel drive with both diff-locks automatically engaged (however switched out the traction control, which is odd)

Nose first.

We took the vehicle to an off-road course and were genuinely surprised at every obstacle that the vehicle easily mounted. Due to the SWB (Short wheel base) nature of the car, departure and approach angles are astounding. It’ll crawl some of the steepest inclines with no drama (as you face the blue sky) and then crawl down the other side using the HDC (Hill Decent Control). The car is in fact so good off road, as commented by another car enthusiast that went with, that his Prado would definitely not have done half of what the Jeep did. A recipe for success off road with high ground clearance, skid plates and low anti roll bars giving loads of wheel articulation and lots of low down grunt from the V6. It’s definitely more than most people would ever need off road, and in that way it’s slightly too capable to the point of being compromising on-road.

I’m sure 90% of buyers will never use that full potential. That said, if you’re an off road enthusiast, it does give better everyday driving ability than the Defender or Toyota LC series. That said, both of those vehicles see parts readily available anywhere in Africa, something of which I’m not that confident with this Jeep. Jeep allows one to spec up or select models that are even more capable off road, including a 5door variant.

I can see this car make sense for 2 types of people

A)   Those that live in Cape Town / at the coast, and can enjoy the roof off fun nature of the vehicle, as well as the ability to tear up a dirt road here and there, or even as a 2nd car at the coast.

B)   The dedicated off-road enthusiast would be able to spec this vehicle out in full Rubicon spec with serious rubber and see it tackle the toughest of what mother nature can throw at it

Now that I’ve driven it, I don’t want to drive one every day, it’s too hard to park, too squishy to drive and thirsty as poor white car-guard. If I did fall into one of the two categories above – you bet this would be my first choice!

Pricing a very reasonable – R364 990 – more detail available here – www.jeep.co.za

Buying advice – the R150K mark

I was challenged by a mate of mine earlier this week to show him what he can buy at around the R150 000 mark, so here’s my thoughts.

It’s the pricing point for many people to buy their first car, and it’s a tough decision to make because it’s also a price point with a lot of second hand vehicles to choose from. So besides spending the money sniffing cocaine off a strippers tits, you need to decide between new or used. I’m assuming here that you’re going for a manual car and note that all of these models have power steering so I’m not mentioning that. I’ve worked up to the R160 000 mark.

Also, none of them are hot hatches, however I’ve put down the kW and fuel consumption to get a general indication of those. Most models coast up to 100km/h in and around 11seconds in case you’re wondering.

New – I’ve details my main choices, and given you the reasons I haven’t chosen the others below:

Please don't choose it in white

VW Polo Vivo Trendline 1.6 [77kW & 6.6l/100km, R150 320] – A natural choice for many, and VW has priced the last generation Polo in a fairly stripped out form to still remain part of the entry-level market. This model will give you central locking & alarm, ABS&EBD, dual airbags, a radio with SD / MD / MP3 / AUX input and of course, aircon. Don’t expect rear electric windows, or an on board computer. Big minus is there’s no auto-motion or service plan for this model, those come at an option of around R7K for a “bolt on” service plan up to 60 000km’s, a must get in my view.

Positives – the car definitely has most of its bad traits ironed out this far in the model life, best handling of the bunch, great engine, and fairly good customer service

Negatives – not a lot of kit for the price, service plan isn’t standard, and it’s a fairly dated looks.

 

Decals. Tacky.

Toyota Yaris Zen3 Plus [63kW & 6.0l/100km, R150 100] – Another popular choice, however in Zen configuration you get the tacky decals, which I’d beg the dealer to leave off. A new model is on its way, however it’s still very competitively priced. There’s dual airbags, ABS, EBD & BAS, central locking and immobiliser (no alarm), Bluetooth kit, and steering wheel mounted controls for a MP3&Aux capable stereo. There’s also front and rear electric windows, multi function display (all the necessaries of fuel consumption etc) and colour coded exterior mirrors and door handles. Unfortunately, you’re looking at steel wheels with nasty plastic covers and let’s be honest, this isn’t exactly the butchest car out there. A massive plus however, is the 4year 60 000 service plan which comes as standard.

Positives – service plan, lots of kit & Toyota reliability

Negatives – looks are for the girlies & boot the size of a tissue box

Italians. Different.

Fiat 500 150 limited edition [74kW & 7.5l/100km, R152 480] – A very unique choice amongst the group. If you dare to be different and want to gamble on Fiat’s after sales service then this car is for you! The 500 has the most unique interior, exterior and by far most exciting drive of the group. It’s the choice of hatchback in Europe, surely 100 00 Italians can’t be wrong? Standard is ABS&EBD, 7 Airbags (yes … seven), Radio MP3 with Blue&Me, electronically adjusted mirrors & some rather cool 15inch (largest of the group) alloy wheels. Fortunately the South African’s haven’t taken up the new past-time of the Europeans to tipping these little beauties over. (Think Cow tipping) Disgraceful.

Positives – extremely unique, lots of kit & exciting drive

Negatives – not exactly the manliest looks, Fiat after sales service.

Swift. No relation to the speed

Suzuki Swift 1.4GL [70kW & 6.6l/100km, R152 900] – Suzuki is making some great cars, and this is one of them. Dynamically it’s actually quite good, and there’s enough space for 4. Standard specs are electric windows all round, ABS&EBD, Dual Airbags, remote central locking & an on board computer. Fortunately there’s a 60 000km service plan which makes this an attractive buy. It’s sadly not going to turn heads and looks a bit vanilla in white colour trim.

Positives – good specs & service plan. Negatives – not enough torque, no sound system & the looks aren’t going to give you a semi

Some vehicles I’ve left out

–       Hyundai Accent – public transport is an option

–       Ford Ikon – you are buying cars for Telkom’s fleet

–       Chery J5 – you don’t want to die in a ball of flames

–       Honda Jazz – you’re under the age of 55

–       Kia Rio – there’s newer better Kia’s out of your price range

So you’re still not enticed, let’s look second hand in the same range:

Careful for the rentals

Current generation VW Polo’s (1.4/1.6) – worth a look, however they are very popular so you’re going to have to hunt for those harder than the hunt for Red October. They also will have higher than average mileage and many will be defleeted from the rental companies. Remember, nothing revs like a rental.

 

 

Best looking of the bunch

 Current generation Ford Fiesta – a great car that looks cool and handles well. It’s comfortable, has some kit in it and if you can get one with low km’s it’s worth a look (Current generation Mazda 2 pretty much the same car just with more kit) – you’ll probably struggle to find one with low km’s though considering it’s been around for a little while longer than the Ford

 

Vanilla is more exciting

Toyota Corolla – there’s about a squillion of them out there at this price. Unless you recently got married and moved into a job as a banking teller, avoid. No singleton wants a car with a boot.

 

 

 

 

Decals. Boksburg

Current generation Renault Clio – there’s a few 1.6 model variants out there, that come with loads of kit, they haul ass, and it looks good too. I’d be weary that they’re not plagued with issues and the after sales service is still a not on par with VW and Toyota.

 

 

So overall, if it was my money, I’d go for one of the new models. I’m a guy, and as the safe bet I’d go for the Polo Vivo, however for something more exciting I’d go for the Fiat 500 if I had to bust out.

Volvo C30 D2

Green with Envy, or fuel consumption. Which ever.

Volvo has been on a rather aggressive drive to position their cars as a slightly more youthful brand than days of yore. No more station wagon safety connotations but rather aggressively styled and good value for money.

The C30 was even Edward Cullen’s mode of transport in the Twilight series, and if there was ever better product placement to reach the youth it’s probably having your product sleep with Justin Bieber. Sales for the C30 saw a significant increase since it made its appearance in the blood sucking saga. Edward however had the mental capacity to buy the T5, which no doubt is the model I’d go for after driving the D2 around.

 

The D2 is the first diesel in the C30 for SA, however only available in 3door.  A wise choice considering the popularity for diesel models in the hatch category in SA. Under the hood it sports a 1.6litre 84kW (@3600RPM) diesel motor producing a quite significant 270Nm of torque (@1750RPM). Compare it to a direct rival, the VW 1.6Bluemotion and the figures on the Volvo impress with more power and torque. The Volvo doesn’t do as much shouting about being a very “green” (excuse the pun) car, as much as the VW does. Sadly, it doesn’t feel like it has more power or torque than the VW. With a very delayed low pressure turbo and first gear ratio combining to give about as much shove in first as a toddler on a bike. First gear is dismal and requires a lot of effort (read rev guessing) to make sure you get over the light in time. There’s no problems once it gets going however, as the turbo spools up and the engine is on then boil its perfectly suitable to the daily commute.

Thankfully the interior is not a let down. The floating dashboard makes an appearance and it’s a typical Volvo affair inside. A typical Volvo affair is something I’ve genuinely come to like these days as there’s nothing you can fault them on. Everything is simply laid out, easily understood and materials, even in this bottom of the range C30, of a high quality. It’s not exciting, but I guess the Swedes would fall over and riot if the Volvo interior turned into a Mini, for instance.

That dashboard floats!

Some interesting thoughts around the interior, as with all 2doors, the doors are rather long making exiting in a parking lot quite interesting. The entry and exit to the rear of the vehicle is tight, and rear seats, with someone my length driving does not allow for an adult to sit in the back, unless diagonally across the seats (only 2 read sets just by the way) A friend of mine who drives one of these also commented that the cigarette lighter/power socket, is in an awkward spot, because when you have a sat-nav / car charger plugged in, changing gears is very challenging. I would definitely spec it with park distance for the rear and front as I still cannot judge a Volvo front properly, but maybe I’m just retarded like that.

 

Something that Volvo is pretty retarded at was the excuse for boot and boot cover. I’m not sure what size of ferret they expect you to fit in that tiny hole in the hard cover, but it’s not my bag for work.

No space for dead hookers here

It’s the most disappointing part of the car, I couldn’t even fit a bag for a 2day trip to Cape Town through the cover. The boot itself is not going to fit an entire dead hooker, you’d have to chop and dice to make her fit, but the real doozy is the cover to keep lurking eyes from seeing what’s in there that boggles my brain. Bad design Volvo. SMH.

There’s climate control for driver and passenger, the option of integrated Bluetooth with full controls on the dash as well as cruise control. A full on-board computer and gear shift indicator (e-driving indicator) is also standard. On the safety front there is no shortage of equipment with DSTC, Adaptive brake lights, ABS with EBA. A full compliment of airbags including side curtain and a whiplash protection system is also standard. Doing it the Volvo way even in the hatch.

Handling and braking were both good. Handling surprised me as I thought it could be rather boring but when eventually gathering up enough momentum to push into a corner there was some form of chassis there, and one that didn’t dull you. Let’s be frank, if you bought the D2 you’re not going to be tearing around corners anyway. Thankfully I never had to do any emergency braking but pedal feel on the brakes was as expected for Volvo.

 I didn’t return the best fuel consumption figures, getting around 8l/100km which is nothing to write home about. I drove it like I normally drive and if that’s what it’s going to return for my driving style (mostly city with limited highway) then I’d rather stick to a larger turbo engine and get 10l/100km. I expected it to be a lot better, as this friend of mine who does the jhb-pretoria commute (vomit) every day, achieved around 6.5l/100km, so it’s possible.

I was neither excited, not blown away by this Volvo, and I shouldn’t be, because that’s not what it’s there to do. It does its job very well, being a fairly frugal value for money city car. It does it even better when you consider the price of R252 000. (As Tested R260 000 with Essential Package – see http://www.volvocars.co.za for more info) It’s priced R10K under VW’s 1.6bluemotion which is its best competitor considering engine (a 5door though) and gives considerably more in terms of kit and equipment and looks a hell of a lot better than anything out there in this price range. I don’t think Edward cared much for value for money, or fuel consumption, and we know he rather liked the T5, so his view is out for now.

Competitors in the price range is the Alfa Giulietta 1.4, Mito 1.4T, Audi A1 1.6d, and A3 1.4T. It’s tough competition and to be honest I’d rather opt for a 1.4Turbo on another model or the Golf, but if you can’t handle the boring styling of the Golf and need more value for money than this is the car for you. Also it’s the model choice for vampires around the world, so if you’re one of those it’s definitely for you.