Hyundai Accent 1.6 – 2010

Europcar graced me with the Hyundai Accent 1.6 this last weekend in Cape Town. It’s not Hyundai’s newest offering, and the accent has been around for a while, this being it’s second guise. I have had no inclination to drive this car at any point, but seeing as I now have, I thought I’d put it on ‘paper’

Looks wise – I’d rather watch paint dry on a hot summers day in the Nevada desert.

Interior and build quality– Plastic, plastic and more plastic. They’ve made an attempt at soft touch materials here and there with not much success. On the plus side, there’s a lot of little storage areas, even a sunglass holder in the roof – all these little places probably for you to store your dignity as it would have peeled off with every friend that noticed you in the car.
Seats have that lovely 80’s velour/fake velvet touch. How very GM of you Hyundai. They have been gracious in backlighting the dials in the VW blue and white, how very VW of you Hyundai. The worst part of the whole fit and finish is the tinny sound when you close any of the doors, and the boot, something they really have improved in more recent Hyundai’s but this one doesn’t seem to have come under the same spotlight.

Engine – Probably the only part of the car that won’t have you sticking sharpened bamboo under your fingers. It’s a gutsy little 1.6, I’ve gotta give them that. I easily got her up to 185, and 1st and 2nd gear get the little Accent moving pretty quickly. As usual though, in a 1.6, there’s very little torque when wanting to overtake, so you need to really work the gears like a Russian working the pole.

Handling and brakes – Handling is mcaverage, there’s way too much body roll into corners, leaving passengers raising their hands for the grab-handles as they slide all over the unsupportive seats. I’m not expecting german saloon handling, but the VW Polo and Yaris trump it on the handling front. Brakes, well they are ABS assisted, and they work.

Steering – solid feedback from the suspension and steering over the terrible patchy roads through Newlands. The steering does however get ultra light at some points, and this catches you out when making quick movements. This, and the sloppy as soup suspension, really gets the Accent bobbing around. On the highway, things are all good, except there’s a lot of play in the steering wheel, leaving one with American sitcom style driving. (If you know what I mean here)

Pricing around R160 000

Value for money – I’d probably give this a skip, there are better offers from VW, Toyota, Kia & Chev on this front. It’s ok, if you don’t give two shits about what you drive, and in that case you don’t give a shit about how you drive, and shouldn’t be on the road in my view.

Interior - CaptivatingEven more captivating

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Audi A8 2011 Update

I am a huge fan of Audi’s ‘new’ look. The LED eyelash daytime running lights really attract attention on the road. I actually think no other manufacturer has come close when it comes to mimicking the Audi’s LED lights. Unless of course they set the front of the car on fire…that would probably attract more attention.

You may not have known, but Audi released their new 2010 A8 recently. I doubt you’ve seen the previous A8 on the road, as it’s a hugely underrated car, especially in SA where it hasn’t taken off. There are numerous reasons for this, but in my view, the previous A8 was just downright ‘yawn’. Square, large, square and… large. Nothing that made it stand out from the A6, or the Ford Sierra, for that matter.

What makes a super-saloon a super saloon is that it stands out from the rest of the range. It stands out because it costs a shit-load more. It stands out because its owners are not blue-collar workers, they do not frequent drive-thru’s, or park their cars themselves.

So obviously they took this all into account and decided to pull the current great looks from the rest of the range and create a look for the A8 which makes it it’s own. Hell they’ve done it with the R8?!

No, no they did exactly the opposite. They basically took the A4 (read A5, A7 or A6) and stretched it out a little. They’ve actually managed to make the A8 even more boring than the A4. That’s like saying they’ve made Gordon Brown even more boring … impossible.

Below is a picture of the A8, somewhere, it’s there I swear. I just can’t remember which one out of the range it is, or tell the difference for that matter.

Now excuse me, you’ve paid R1 096 000 (Starting price) for a super-saloon and you get a car that looks, not similar, but identical to the R300 000 Audi A4, or the A5 or the A(insert number here)? Are you high?

Imagine, partner of Liebovitz & Malpractovitch arrives at the One&Only in Cape Town in his brand new Audi A8, but they mistake it for the rental A4, and wave him on to the parking lot around the back by the kitchen. These are the types of atrocities that no man who spends a bar on a car can have happen.

This is why the Mercedes S-Class, and BMW 7 will continue to outsell the Audi Cream 20:1. Why, because they stand out of the crowd, not only within their own family, but also on the road between the general riff raff.

Sadly, you will also probably never see the 2010 A8 on the road. Oh…it’ll be there…you just won’t notice it.

Spot the A8 ... or the A5

Mercedes Benz C63 AMG (2010)

I must admit, that I’m very worried about the motoring world. Not because Kia seem to be making better looking cars than BMW can muster up these days, or that Lamborghini reports it will be making an SUV…no no, this is much more disturbing.

Global warming and all that Al Gore propaganda seems to be taking its toll on the motoring fraternity the world over. GM and its Volt, Mitsubishi has put its hydrogen car on the market, and according to a recent report, sales of Hybrid cars have nearly doubled in the US, year on year.

I’m worried, that in a couple of years, I’m going to have to buy a car, that runs on water, and has a synthesizer in the “exhaust”, that I get to tune to different settings “V6, V8, Straight 6”…the list goes on. I’m sorry but if I prefer my cars burning fuel and emitting CO2. I want to hear a growl when I drive into an underground parking lot or feel the rumble through the pedals when I put my foot down. Or is that too much to ask? Apparently the polar bears floating on the only two ice-caps left, say, yes it is.

How does this relate to what I drove? Well, the Mercedes Benz C63 AMG makes long dark smoky stains at the feet of Al Gore and the ever-shrinking rainforests. And making those stains, are oh so easy as I found out.

The C63 is AMG’s overhaul of the C-Class. They are the muscle car equivalent of Extreme Makeover.  For starters, this is the first Mercedes that AMG designed from the ground up, lumped with a 6.3 litre naturally aspirated V8 developing 336Kw and 600NM of torque, it boasts a claimed 0-100km/h sprint time of 4.5 seconds and an electronically governed top speed of 250Km/h. This is all very impressive stuff for a car that can easily accommodate 4 adults and their baggage. But we’re not into that family jazz, so let me tell you what thrills…

The sound of that V8 is the most intoxicating sound I’ve ever heard. Things get all kind of Benoni when you stop at a traffic light. Car in Neutral, and drop the accelerator. People literally grab their children and run. Needless to say, doing this in an underground parking lot, or tunnel, leads to immediate orgasm.

The engine is pure, and mated to the “7 Speed AMG SPEEDSHIFT 7-Gtronic” transmission (I shit you not, that’s what they call it) 3 Modes for the gearbox (Comfort, Sport & Manual) Sport makes gear shifts 30% faster, and manual 50% faster than comfort. A nice touch, when in manual, (and it REALLY is manual) is there is no shifting up for you when you reach the limiter – what you get though is one very loud pop, red warning lights, and a binnacle full of “ACHTUNG – SHIFT UP”…very subtle.

This is what I love. A big burly V8, that guzzles petrol at a rate faster than BP can pump it out into the Gulf of Mexico. A big V8 that makes beggars turn and run, and sets off car alarms in underground parking lots.

Another novel touch, is when downshifting in manual (paddle shift), it automatically blips the throttle for that ‘pop’ in the exhaust. Sheer hair raising stuff. Let me tell you something. No hydrogen powered-hybrid-battery-eco-friendly sedan will EVER raise the hair on your neck like that…unless of course you happen to touch the plug after charging.

Handling? It’s superb, it has 3 settings for the ESP (ESP ON, ESP SPORT and OFF), however I wouldn’t recommend even giving a glance in the direction of that button. I managed to spin the back out turning into another road at about 50km/h. Thankfully ESP intervened, or I’d be writing about the airbag deployment. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not out of control handling, but you need to learn how to drive this car. Throttle feel and reading the steering feel is incredibly important at every point.

Ride is, well…firm, enough said. The vehicle’s steering is balanced between assisted electronics in the parking lot, and weighted feel through the corners – which makes handling the power of the vehicle manageable throughout the rev range.

Interior, is very well appointed. Every amenity is there, within reach, and some within speaking distance. The model I drove had so many optional extras I can’t really comment on standard features, however a very nice add on was the COMAND Languatronic (speak and it does everything) function. It makes handling all the COMAND system functions a breeze.

It’s an amazing piece of machinery, and even more impressive as it was built as a showcase, marking Mercedes and AMG’s 40th year of collaboration. A match made in motoring heaven if you ask me.

I stick by it, I will drive every V8, V10, V12 and buy big large petrol engined cars right up until we either run out of black stuff, or they ban ‘em from the roads.

This Mercedes stands testament to what visceral connections can be made from a piece of metal to flesh and blood.

Hyundai ix35 GLS

The east is doing something right. Not only have they drastically refreshed the the Kia and Hyundai vehicle offering, but also seem to be doing a good job at what they release. This is partly due to the fact that they are making huge inroads in the US market, and will continue to create fuel-efficient, reliable vehicles for the US, that US carmakers can’t compete with on price.

This said, I dragged my family man persona over to Hyundai after the ix35grabbed my attention on the road one morning. (it also features on the front page of August Car Magazine but this is neither here nor there)

The 2010 ix35 replaces the Tucson, and as you might know, is built on the same platform as the new Kia Sorento. This is not all bad news, as they have kept design and engineering costs down, which related to sale price.

The cost of the vehicle is definitely a strong point. I drove the 2.0 litre GLS ix35 natural aspirated 6 Speed Automatic (2×4). The GLS specification is probably what most buyers will go for as it comprises of nearly every amenity a much more luxurious german marquee would provide at a much higher price.

Looks? Well, that’s always a personal issue, but it’s a lot better looking than the previous Tucson. Smoother lines, and a “gaping whale-shark” type front end, with light clusters that flare upwards front and rear. It’s called their new “fluidic design language.” So it’s not the ugliest specimen in the world, it has been compared to the new revised Porsche Cayenne…but that’s like comparing Liz Hurley to the troll under the bridge.

Engine? Well, to be very frank, I’m not a huge fan of the 2.0 litre. It seems to struggle and the gearbox hunts for gears when driving uphill, making it sound incredibly whiney (something like a blender on full tilt they day after new years) It puts out 122Kw@6000RPM and 197Nm@4600 (There you have the problem – the Nm being only slightly up from the Kw) This is going to make it a real slow-coach to drive when fully laden. I’d probably opt for the 2.4 Petrol (130kw and 227 Nm) or the 2.0Diesel with 130kw and 383Nm. The latter really is a much better combination in my books. Unfortunately they didn’t have one to drive, but from my experience, a car with this much weight needs more torque than 197Nm.

An interesting touch is the new “ECO-Coach”. A system designed to monitor your driving style and tell you either when to change (in the manual) or whether you are driving economically or not, using either green, white or red annotations of eco lettering in the information binnacle. Sounds a bit preachy to me.

Ride and Handling? Featuring a new multi-link rear suspension and Macpherson strut front set up, allows not only weight and cabin space savings, but also pretty good handling. It really performs well, but this could be because of the lower ride height and firmer suspension set up. I would definitely make it known, this is a soft roader (read crossover) with acceptable ground clearance to either ramp the sidewalk in Sandton or cross the occasional dirt track at the game reserve. So please don’t be fooled by the HDC (Hill Decent Control) and venture off behind a Landy off the beaten track.

Fit and Features? Here’s where the Hyundai really impressed. The GLS designation gives a host of standard features; leather seats, Dual Zone climate control, MP3 and Aux Jack, Satellite controls on the steering wheel, and reverse park camera,which is built into the rear-view mirror. The reverse camera will come in handy because the rear window is about the size of a window in a shed. Materials seems to be of a high quality with an excellent fit (no panel gaps or rattles) The interior also seems of a durable material when considering it might be for a mom with kids, there’s about 6 cupholders, child lock windows and doors, and the reverse camera really comes in handy here. Speaking of using this car for a family, there really is a lot of space in the back seats. I’m quite a tall guy, and there’s still ample legroom and headroom in the rear. The tailgate is also not too high when considering shopping/prams/dead hookers might make there way in the boot. There’s also a parcel cover and mesh parcel hook-set which can be used to tie down items from rolling around in the back. Novel.

Safety and seating? It was easy to find a comfortable position, with manual controls for front seats, as well as tilt and height adjustable steering wheel.

On the safety front, there are 6 airbags (front, side and head) as well as seat belt pre-tensioners on the front seats, active head restraints and the usual standard side impact protection beams and crumple zones. It seems that the ix35 scored the highest rating of 5stars in the stringent Euro NCAP front and side impact crash tests.

Brakes are sharp and responsive, without too much mushy pedal feel. The GLS spec gives you ABS, EBD and ESP (Electronic Stability Progamme) A nice touch is the emergency braking lights which flicker to alert the tailgating Datsun behind you that you’re stopping. And fast.

Overall, what makes this car a real winner is the pricing. The 2.0l GLS 4×2 Automatic retails for R275,000. My choice would probably be the 2.0 Diesel Manual at R300,000. The great part – no massive options list, which is a welcome sight!

This is exceptional value, if you consider you’d have to fork out quite a bit more for a Freelander or Rav4, or even an equivalent station wagon with the same standard features the ix35 offers.

This all said…here comes the spanner in the proverbial wheel. They are in incredibly high demand. So highly in fact that the dealership in Sandton had 150 of the 2.0 models on order, and 65 Diesel models, and they’re not exactly dropping off truckloads of them every day. Sad really, because many of these people will drop off and settle for something else because of the extensive waiting list.

Mini Cooper S Cabriolet – 2010

I’m not going to hark back to the age old mini, it mobilised a nation, and stood head and shoulders above its much larger rivals at many a rally. I’m not going to tell you how the closest thing they compare to are go-karts in an old underground parking lot, or tell you it’s exactly like you saw in the movie, The Italian Job.

Unfortunately, you’re more likely to receive a blow-job from an unsuspecting passer by in Sea-point in the Mini Cooper Cabrio, than represent anything as cool as any Italian job movie scene. (Especially not with Charlize Theron breathing heavily next to you) See, unfortunately, the Mini Cooper range is a largely emancipating range of vehicles for any man.

It’s a knife’s edge.

The car is a handling dream. Endless grip (go-cart like) and the engine screams louder than a bat outta hell. They really are the most entertaining little cars to drive. Incredibly engaging, fun … and will have a smile on your face no matter what Malema headline you pass.

The other side of that knife, however, is a little flamboyant, and feathery. See, unfortunately, you either go the full tilt, and purchase the Mini JCW (John Cooper Works) or you just don’t go Mini at all. Especially not a cabriolet. It’s the fastest way to the front seat of a Cher concert this side of the YMCA.

Speaking of things that shimmy and shake, there is the Mini’s interior. Unfortunately, and this is a general convertible problem, the structure loses its rigidity due to the fact that they’ve lobbed off the big steel part that is the roof and the C pillar. This causes one hell of a lot a body flex, and thus rattle and shake in the interior. I really noticed this over Johannesburg’s poorly tarred roads. What of course, doesn’t help, is the amazing compliment of rims on offer from Mini. The one I drove had a stellar pair of 17″ rims with some low profile rubber. Looks good, feels…well…like you’re shaking everything in the car to find an ounce of gold somewhere. Seriously, not comfortable.

This comfort however, is the sacrifice you make for superb handling. It must be one of the few cars I’ve driven that you can easily get the ESP to come on from 1st to 2nd, and then even on into 3rd. Flying down one very badly blacktopped road in the suburbia of Morningside, I found the Mini struggling to keep contact with the road, skipping over into the next lane as I made my way over into oncoming traffic. There is really so much power driven to the front wheels that you have to pay more attention than you ever did at Varsity lectures, because that steering wheel demands 1-on-1 focus from you at all times. But damn that makes it fun!

Overall, it’s an amazing car, incredibly entertaining and fun to drive, albeit a little uncomfortable…most of the time. The looks are a debatable topic, with the recent refresh, and many customization options available, you really can make it your own to stand out of the crowd. I have, and will never be a huge fan of convertibles because of the serious drawback to handling. It’s no different in this Mini, however I think for the sheer enjoyment of an open top drive, and if I lived in Cape Town, and had a small deli in Franschoek, and enjoyed wearing long scarves that draped in the wind behind me as I cruised along, then yes, I would buy one. However I do neither of those things….so I’d have to opt for the John Cooper Works…with the roof on thanks.