Thursday, 24 December 2009


While General Motors is yet to complete the sale of one of its previously proposed sell-offs (Opel, HUMMER and SAAB), its neighbourhood rival Ford Motor Company has just announced the sale of its Volvo division. In 2008 the Blue Oval got rid of Jaguar and Land Rover to the delight of new owner Tata. Prior to that it sold off Aston Martin to a British consortium.

Volvo Cars will be taken over by Chinese automaker Geely for the estimated sum of US$1.8 billion (R13.6 billion). Ford does not plan on keeping any part of Volvo for itself, meaning Geely takes 100% ownership. However the two companies will cooperate on certain issues.


Aston Martin’s most extravagant car ever to be made is well on its way. The One-77 (so named because only 77 will be built) was testing at a high-speed track in Italy recently and attained a very high speed of 354.86 km/h (220.007mph). AM representatives say the conditions were dry and windy. I can’t say therefore there was no wind assistance, but even if there was, that’s still a good speed for any car. Mind you Astons are not merely speed machines.

Bucking the recent twin turbo trend, power comes from a naturally aspirated 7.3-litre V12 said to make over 520kW and 700Nm of torque. The 0 – 100km/h dash should be achieved under 4 seconds.

The two-door ultra-luxury sports car will place AM among the very elite supercar makers of our time when it goes on sale in 2010. Prices are anybody’s guess but it’s estimated that a cheque of just over €1 million will suffice.

Friday, 18 December 2009


Tuning house VÄTH of Germany is known for its outrageous interpretations of the Mercedes-Benz genre. They’ve taken a standard CL 65 AMG whose V12 bi-turbo engine makes 450kW and 1,000Nm to places not even AMG thought were possible. I lie. They’ve probably been there and back themselves.

Back to the story at hand. The VÄTH CL now makes a heady 548kW and 1,150Nm of torque. They say it can accelerate from 0 – 100km/h in just about 4 seconds, making it a stupidly quick 2-ton machine. Top speed is said to be around 340km/h for those who dare General Cele and co.

Added bits include a carbon front lip, 20-inch wheels, a carbon diffuser, boot and rear roof spoilers. And the pricker? A tag of €57,490 (R624 000) over and above the R2.3 million you’re already sticking out for the CL 65 AMG. Too bad VÄTH has no offices in Mzansi.


Here’s something that looks like it might become yet another MINI derivative. Called the BeachComber Concept the car is a hark back to the old Mini Moke of 1964 which was like the beach Bug that we sometimes see on the roads and beaches today.

It pretty much doesn’t have a roof nor doors so that occupants may feel as close to nature as possible. Should it start raining a foldable roof can be extended and some plastic doors with windows clubbed on. Other styling features include a chrome frame on the grille, a large air intake, foglights and a power dome on the bonnet.

Off-road runflat tyres are fitted to the 17-inch alloy wheels, all of which are driven by a supposed turbocharged engine. We don’t know what kind of engine but we can only assume the range’s 1.6-litre worth between 128kW and 155kW is in use. Chrome frame, a large air intake, foglights and a power dome on the bonnet to symbolise the potency of the engine.

BeachComber can swallow up kit like surfboards while taking up four passengers. Interior materials used ensure that water doesn’t damage any of the equipment.

MINI will exhibit the concept at the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month. Should they decide to produce it the BeachComber will then join the current hatch, Clubman and Convertible, as well as the three others; Crossman SUV, Coupe and Roadster.


GM SAYS: General Motors announced today that the intended sale of Saab Automobile AB would not be concluded. After the withdrawal of Koenigsegg Group AB last month, GM had been in discussions with Spyker Cars about its interest in acquiring Saab. During the due diligence, certain issues arose that both parties believe could not be resolved.  As a result, GM will start an orderly wind-down of Saab operations.

“Despite the best efforts of all involved, it has become very clear that the due diligence required to complete this complex transaction could not be executed in a reasonable time. In order to maintain operations, Saab needed a quick resolution,” said GM Europe President Nick Reilly.  “We regret that we were not able to complete this transaction with Spyker Cars. We will work closely with the Saab organisation to wind down the business in an orderly and responsible manner. This is not a bankruptcy or forced liquidation process. Consequently, we expect Saab to satisfy debts including supplier payments, and to wind down production and the distribution channel in an orderly manner while looking after our customers.”

Saab will continue to honor warranties, while providing service and spare parts to current Saab owners around the world.

As part of its efforts to become a leaner organisation, GM began seeking a buyer for Saab’s operations in January.  Last week, Saab Automobile AB announced that it had closed on the sale of certain Saab 9-3, current 9-5 and powertrain technology and tooling to Beijing Automotive Industry Holdings Co. Ltd. (BAIC).  GM expects today’s announcement to have no impact on the earlier sale.

As the company continues to reinvent itself, GM has been faced with some very difficult but necessary business decisions. The focus will remain on the four core brands – Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC – and several regional brands, including Opel / Vauxhall in Europe.  This will enable the company to devote more engineering and marketing resources to each brand and model.

Thursday, 17 December 2009


Car designer Donato Coco has left his employ at Ferrari in Italy for a new job as Director of Design at Lotus Cars in Hethel, England. Coco joined Ferrari in 2005 and was responsible for designing cars like the Ferrari F430 Scuderia Coupé and Spider 16M, California, 599XX and the 458 Italia.

Before that he worked at French manufacture Citroen’s headquarters, churning out models like the C1, C2, C3, Xsara and Picasso.

“Lotus has a reputation for designing evocative sportscars and it is a great honour to take on these responsibilities and challenges,” said Coco. “[Head of Lotus Design] Russell Carr and the rest of the Lotus Design team have already elevated Lotus Design to a globally recognised level and the increase in our third party design work for clients around the world is proof of our capabilities. I am looking forward to building on these foundations to deliver beautiful and relevant Lotus cars designs whilst at the same time acknowledging the peerless heritage and core values of this wonderful British brand.”

The Italian has an MA in Automotive Design from the Royal College of Art, London, England.

At Lotus he will take charge of the final designs of the next Elise and Exige, as well as the rumoured reincarnation of the Esprit. Lotus, under the ownership of Proton of Malaysia, has said it wants its name back at the top of sports car enthusiasts’ minds. The ultimate aim is that Lotus must be mentioned in the same breath as Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini once again. A tall order but one I’m quite sure can be attained.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009


The Mercedes-Benz ML 63 AMG, third most powerful series production SUV in the world (after the 408kW BMW X5/ X6 M and the 405kW Porsche Cayenne Turbo S), is getting a special edition in celebration of its 10th Anniversary. Having started the performance SUV genre back in 1999 with the 255kW ML 55 AMG, the soft-roader really paved the way for what is now quite commonplace in the market.

Nothing at all was done to the engine; it remains a 6.2-litre naturally aspirated V8 worth 375kW and 630Nm of torque. Changes are restricted to the aerodynamic and cosmetic sides.

What strikes the eye first is that dominant front grille which has fins painted in something called Himalaya grey. Matching fog lamps, shaded bi-xenon headlights and a bonnet with power domes give it an even more aggressive stance.

Mercedes-Benz didn’t shy away from extra bling on the shoes as this ML 63 AMG takes up exclusive 10 x 21” AMG light alloy wheels. Fitted to them are massive 295/35 R 21 wide-base tyres.

The interior features electronically-adjustable AMG sports seats in a two-tone nappa leather upholstery. Colour combinations available are black/alpaca grey and black/light brown. A charcoal poplar wood trim applies to areas like the centre console, giving it a classy/ sporty mixture. The sports steering wheel matches whatever colour scheme is chosen and ensures optimum grip. AMG badges are splashed across the surfaces including the speedometer, entry skirts, carpets and seats.

The ML 63 AMG 10th Anniversary Edition is priced at R1 239 000 and will be sold in limited numbers.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009


Mercedes-Benz plans to showcase the new E-Class Cabriolet based on the E-Class body and C-Class platform at the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, but not before we give you these details. The topless E keeps the traditional soft-top approach to hair- blowing motoring, unlike some competitors like BMW and Volvo which have gone for tin top options.

Its motto is “four seasons, four personalities” which means they’ve made the car drivable all-year around. That’s important for markets like Russia and Canada where temperatures can drop into the dark zones of the sub-zero categories. For Mzansi it’s also good news since lately our weather patters are quite unpredictable and tend to slide towards the extremes.

At 4.699 metres long, 1.79m wide and 1.4m high the E-Class Cabriolet is more or less similar in dimensions with the Audi A5 Cabriolet and the BMW 3 Series Convertible.

One of the main features is called AIRCAP whose purpose is to stop the unwelcome draft brought in by open-top driving, especially for the rear passengers. It basically puts up a wind deflector that can be extended by around 6cm with a net in the windscreen frame and a “draft-stop” between the rear seats. The system is fully automated and can be operated by the simple push of a button. Opening and/ or closing the roof takes 20 seconds even at speeds of up to 40km/h. AIRSCARF is also included and has apparently been improved.

Other features include ATTENTION ASSIST drowsiness detection, PRE-SAFE anticipatory occupant protection, Adaptive Highbeam Assist, and DISTRONIC PLUS proximity control.

European launch models will count models like the E 220 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY Cabriolet (125kW), E 350 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY Cabriolet (170kW), E 350 CGI BlueEFFICIENCY Cabriolet (215kW) and the V8-powered E 500 Cabriolet (285kW). In an exclusive we previously reported that Mercedes-Benz was testing a new 4.0-litre twin turbo V8 that should make northwards of 400kW. Maybe that engine will make its way into the this car as well.

South Africa will probably get only the last two plus the E 250 CGI BlueEFFICIENCY Cabriolet making (150kW).

Daimler SA is expected to launch the new E-Class Cabriolet before June 2010.


Audi’s upcoming baby A1 will have an internet launch some time in February 2010. This was confirmed by the company’s Chairman Rupert Stadler. A live, personal appearance can only happen at the 2010 Geneva International Motor Show in March, but at least by then we’ll know exactly what it looks like.

“The new A1 has Audi design in its genes,” says Head of Design at Audi Mr Stefan Sielaff. “Like all Audi models, the ratio of greenhouse to body is between 1:3 and 2:3. The front overhang is short, but the wheel wells are pronounced, giving the A1 a wide road stance.”

The A1 is a competitor to the Alfa Romeo MiTo as well as BMW’s MINI. Two versions, a hatchback and a Sportsback, are initially expected. Later on around 2012 we should see a Cabriolet model and an SUV. Engines will be shared with the rest of the Volkswagen Group including small 1.2 TFSI, 1.4 TFSI and 1.8 TFSI versions. Turbo diesels are to be used as well. Being a youthful brand means the A1 will also be performance-oriented. In keeping with Audi tradition an S1 worth over 150kW is rumoured.

Audi South Africa starts selling the A1 in June 2010.

*Pictures show Audi MetroProject Quattro Concept and A1 Sportback Concept


BMW keeps saying they are not going to produce a Z4 M based on the new roadster, but we keep hearing whispers that something is quite possible depending on market demand. For now though fanatics can take solace in this brand new Z4 sDrive35is which comes standard with the M Sports Package.

Visual differences from the standard cars include a new front bumper that looks straight out of M Division, silver side mirrors, matt aluminium outer air intakes, 18-inch light alloy wheels (there are optional 19s available), new rear bumper, two-piece rear diffuser and a sportier exhaust note. The suspension has been lowered by 10mm so as to improve handling and balance.

Engine-wise BMW stayed with the 3.0-litre twin turbo motor already doing duty in the Z4 sDrive35i but made a few changes. The two turbos are made from special steel and each one pumps compressed air into three cylinders.

Basically those changes have resulted in power hikes that put the car on par with the previous-generation Z4 M but give it much more torque. It produces a hefty 250kW at 5800rpm (just 2kW less than the old 3.2-litre powered Z4 M) and a massive 450Nm of torque between 1400rpm and 4500rpm. Wait, there’s more. During short bursts of time an overboost function kicks into place and kicks out 500Nm! They say the Z4 sDrive35is will run from 0 – 100km/h in just 4.8 seconds (as quick as the M3) and stop running at 250km/h. Putting all power and torque on the rear axle is the trusted 7-speed double clutch gearbox.

Apart from the M exterior the interior is also M-style with an M-badged steering wheel, entry strips, gearlever knob and aluminium carbon on the dash. Other lesser Z4s will also have access to the M Sport Package (but without the special engine of course).

BMW will present the new car at the 2010 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit in just over a month’s time. It may be at least six months before Mzansi people get their hands on it. Prices should start at around R800 000.

Monday, 14 December 2009


The name RDSport doesn’t ring as many bells as a name such as AC Schnitzer for example, but they’ve been in the BMW tuning game for over 25 years. Now they’ve taken a new M3 and made something more spectacular out of it. It’s called the RS46.

By increasing the capacity of the V8 from 4.0-litre to 4.6-litre, RDSport managed to increase power from the paltry 309kW up to 391kW. Torque is now 556Nm. They didn’t say what kind of performance can be expected but a close power example would be the Porsche 911 GT2 which goes from 0 – 100km/h in 3.7 seconds.

The car has also been lowered by 30mm at the front and 25mm at the rear. Some kit includes things like a carbon/Kevlar RDSport front bumper and a carbon fibre meshed rear diffuser.


BRABUS has gone a little insane by building this crazy Mercedes-Benz GLK-based SUV. It’s rear-wheel-drive and is said to be the fastest production SUV in the world. How fast exactly? Well, try a 0 - 100km/h time of 4.2 seconds, a 0 - 200km/h sprint in 12.8 seconds and a top whack of 322.3km/h.

The source of all this madness is a twin turbo V12 powerplant measuring 6.3-litres. Two massive turbos, more efficient intercoolers and a stainless steel exhaust system are just some of the parts that make it work.

And the result? Well 552kW at 5500rpm is nothing to be snuffed at and peak torque is rated at 1350Nm but limited to 1100Nm. Drive is through a 5-speed automatic gearbox and sent to the rear wheels as said before. You might wonder about the old 5-speed choice but if it works for the big S 65 AMG then why not for this BRABUS conversion? The figures speak for themselves.

BRABUS fitted size 10Jx22 wheels of varying designs and fat tyres of up to size 285/25 ZR 22 from either Pirelli or Yokohama.

How much can one expect to fork out for this stupendous thrust machine? A price of €397 000 (R4.4 million) has been set. Mzansi doesn’t even get the GLK so this one is simply just another dream deferred.

Friday, 11 December 2009


PEUGEOT SAYS: On 25 November 2009, the Euro NCAP car safety performance assessment programme awarded its maximum five-star overall rating to six PSA Peugeot Citroën vehicles for the most recent reporting period.

The all-new Peugeot 5008 and Citroën DS3 were both tested for the first time.

Other models include the Citroën C5 and C4 Picasso and the Peugeot 308 and 308 CC. Euro NCAP based its findings on test results published in previous years while also taking into account the integration of electronic stability and speed limitation systems, which are included in the programme’s new protocol. The Euro NCAP rating confirms the superior performance of Peugeot and Citroën vehicles since these four vehicles still receive the maximum five stars despite the introduction of a stricter protocol in 2009.

This outstanding accomplishment attests to the ongoing commitment of PSA Peugeot Citroën teams to cleaner, safer, more responsible mobility.

Thursday, 10 December 2009


MAHWAH, N.J., December 8, 2009 – Jaguar Land Rover North America announced today that Jaguar and Land Rover brands has achieved the 1st and 5th highest scores respectively in the industry for customer sales satisfaction in J.D. Power and Associates 2009 Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) StudySM. 

Jaguar is the highest scoring brand in the study for the second consecutive year, and the recipient of the inaugural Luxury brand award. Land Rover is ranked fifth among luxury brands in the study.

The study is a comprehensive analysis of the new-vehicle purchase experience and is based on responses from over 48,000 owners and lessees of new vehicles registered in May and June of 2009. Overall customer satisfaction is measured based on five factors: dealership facility; salesperson; paperwork/finance process; delivery process; and vehicle price.

"Jaguar and Land Rover dealers deserve individual and collective praise for delivering such a superb shopping and buying process for our customers," said Gary Temple, President, Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC. "The top goals of this organization are to deliver world class quality products to our customers with a world class dealership sales and service experience. These high rankings out of 37 brands in the industry coupled with recent dependability and customer service accolades show all of our efforts towards these goals are paying off."

Wednesday, 9 December 2009


Europe’s biggest car manufacturer Volkswagen has bought itself a 19.9% stake in Suzuki Motors of Japan. At the same time Suzuki will use up to half of the money received from VW to buy up VW shares. The German automaker said in a statement that synergies between the two companies were apparent and that the deal is a long-term strategic one.

VW and Suzuki while being different, also have overlapping products. These include the Tiguan and Grand Vitara, Jetta and the new Kizashi, and the Polo with the Swift. Suzuki has a great foothold in the fast-growing India market where, through its Maruti Suzuki venture, it commands a 50% market share. Of course cars are not its only forte; it also makes motorbikes, marine auto solutions and all-terrain-vehicles (ATVs).

The industry seems to be winding down and pretty soon we should see a few major giants. Recent marriages include Fiat / Chrysler, VW/ Porsche, while Mitsubishi Motors and PSA Peugeot Citroën are also talking courtship. The longest-lasting so far is the Renault/ Nissan alliance forged back in 1999.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009


Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says history can repeat itself as far as he is concerned. He was speaking to the Council for the United States and Italy in Washington where he said him turning Chrysler around would be no miracle but simply a commitment “to the execution of a few strong and precise choices that will trigger rapid change.” Three years ago he saved Fiat from a certain industry death.

Marchionne, who is also CEO of Fiat, will attempt to do what Renault/ Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn did which is to turn around two near-bankruptcy companies. Chrysler was already gone through all that and now needs extensive work to make things tick again. The charismatic Italian reckons him and his team are up to the task.

Under his belt are the brands Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep among others. I agree with Serge “Houdini”; Chrysler CAN be cured. But the only way to do it is to turn the company into a Mercedes-Benz. Laugh if you want but a high-quality premium Chrysler would make serious money. Think of it as a Lexus trying to be a BMW. Audi was in the same space 15 years ago and look where they are today. Jeep needs to go the Land Rover route, that is to say improve design, quality and customer service. Sceptics might argue that Alfa Romeo, Fiat’s premium brand, is still not competitive with the Germans so how can Chrysler? It’s a valid question but the main difference is that Alfa is largely niche and concentrated in Europe whereas Chrysler is a true international brand. More importantly Chrysler is American which gives it a major head start in terms of a sales footprint. Unfortunately Dodge doesn’t have much of a future unless it turns itself into a Volkswagen by going mass-market. Again, new high quality products would be needed, and fast.

Chrysler needs new, premium and great quality cars to compete head-on with the Germans. Anything less will not work, regardless of what Serdini says.


Let the games begin and never end! The all-new, long awaited Pajero Sport has just officially been released in South Africa, and whether you’re cruising through the city, or trying to get out of it, you can rest assured that this stylishly adventurous set of wheels has you covered!

And who ever said you couldn’t have it all? The Pajero Sport has no problem combining beautiful style and refined practicality, going above and beyond the ability to go anywhere and do anything, no matter where your journey may take you. Tested on the world’s toughest rally route, Dakar, the technology used to design the Pajero Sport is strong enough to keep on going no matter how rough the treatment. Whilst this rugged set of wheels is always game for even the toughest of adventures, its luxurious interior and spacious design guarantees that every journey is reassuringly comfortable.

Looking for more power and improved fuel efficiency? With a 3.2L diesel engine, the Pajero Sport delivers an impressive 120Kw at 3500-rpm output. Moving from tarmac to dust at 100km/h is as easy as changing gear; due to its unique Super Select 4WD with powerful 4-speed automatic transmission. In fact, the Pajero Sport GLS even makes tricky manoeuvring easy, thanks to an incredibly tight 5.6m turning radius.

But best of all, safety is always first… Behind the wheel of this sporty sensation, the world is your playing field, with all the safety gear to keep you and everyone joining you on your adventure in good hands. In addition to all the regular features like airbags, ABS and EBD (electronic brake-force distribution) to ensure fast, skid-free stops, this vehicle also offers RISE, a built-in safety system which stands for Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution. High tensile steel in key locations, combined with an extra-rigid frame of beams and supports, all of which directs impact away from the interior in the event of an accident.

With a design geared to leave you breathless, and toughness destined to conquer any terrain, it is safe to say that the new generation of 4X4 thinking has arrived… Will you be part of it?