Friday, 13 February 2009


Welcome PAS! BMW’s Progressive Activity Sedan has now been officially unveiled as a concept car. The unveiling happened at an event in Munich, Germany and it previews the car BMW now calls the 5 Series GT. GT stands for Gran Turismo. The images you see are CGI (computer generated images).

The BMW PAS was first talked about by BMW two years ago and we thought they were going after MPVs with three rows of seats and sitting space for at least seven. We thought wrong. The car is based on the 5 Series platform but has a higher ride height. It’s not as high as an X5 though. Four doors are featured as per normal sedans but a fifth rear door is where the magic lies.

As you can see in some of the pictures, the rear door opens two ways, first opening up a smaller storage compartment without letting air into the car. It can also be opened conventionally so people can actually enter through it. The rear seats are said to be flexible to allow rear passengers pretty much the same kind of room that an airline would give its Business Class clients.

Our minds are already running amok imagining exactly what type of engines will power the 5 Series GT. We have a few ideas, like the 3.0-litre twin turbo petrol of 225kW or the 3.0-litre twin turbo diesel with 210kW and 580Nm. These two are obvious. Another obvious one is the 4.4-litre turbo V8. We also expect a brand new engine currently not used by any other vehicle in the BMW stable.

The BMW 5 Series GT will be shown at the Geneva International Motor Show during the first week of March.

Thursday, 12 February 2009


We’ve seen official exterior shots of the Porsche Panamera. Now we can enjoy the view from inside as Porsche releases these clear pictures of the four-door super coupe. It shows seating space reserved only for two at the back and the leather-clad seats are of a sporting nature with immovable unadjustable headrests. Although there are two DVD screens at the back of the front headrests I’m pretty sure these will be an optional extra and not standard.

The cockpit is sporty, if not quite busy with plenty of buttons to keep the front passengers clicking away for every action. The PDK gear lever is highlighted in a blue hue. PDK is Porsche’s new double-clutch gearbox which is said to change gears quicker than Volkswagen’s highly rated DSG and as quick as BMW’s new 7-speed M-DCT. I had expected the sat nav screen to be a touch-screen affair but from these pictures I can’t tell if it is or not.

To emphasise the Panamera’s sportiness the most prominent dial is not the speedometer but the rev counter. The steering wheel features gearshift buttons. The Panamera is expected in South Africa in the third quarter of 2009 and it will compete with upper-level versions of the Mercedes-Benz CLS.


Mercedes-Benz is replacing the current baseline C180 KOMPRESSOR with a new model. Hot off the press is a C180 BlueEfficiency version which is still a C-Class as it’s known. But this is a different car, it’s one that is optimised for better fuel efficiency and a kinder attitude to the environment. Mercedes-Benz seems to be taking the “green” stance quite seriously indeed. All their models from the A-Class to the S-Class boast some kind of eco-friendly powerplant or system.

The C180 BlueEfficiency has dropped the old 1.8-litre motor in favour of a new 1.6-litre four-cylinder motor. A new supercharger has been installed resulting in the same power of 115kW and 230Nm being kept, although the torque now comes at a higher rpm. Improvements in weight saving technologies have resulted in the cars shedding an average of 25kg depending on specifications.

Changes in its exterior build are made to make it more aerodynamic so that wind and air resistance is minimal. These include sealed joints on the headlights, a longer rear axle ratio, a smoother underbody and a smaller body. In other markets different tyres are fitted as well but these only reduce fuel consumption by 0.1 litre per 100km, which Mercedes-Benz SA reckons is a small enough figure to let go.

As a result of these and other changes, the car is said to average 6.7 litres per 100km with a 9 litres per 100km under traffic conditions. It’s fitted with a mechanism that shows driver when to change gears (for the manual option) for the best results.

I got a chance to take the C180 BlueEfficiency around for a spin in the Gauteng area earlier today. I didn’t feel differences between it and the outgoing C180 KOMPRESSOR in terms of performance. The fuel consumption seemed to be good as well although we’ll only be able to certify this under everyday road testing conditions.

The C180 BlueEfficiency is but one model in a range of Mercedes-Benz cars whose main purpose is to keep drivers as far away from fuel pumps as possible. Merc’s fuel-saving technologies are called TrueBlue Solutions and they are BlueTec, Blue Hybrid, BlueTec Hybrid, Fuel Cell and the future Diesotto. As our fuel quality improves and the economy picks up again we’ll be able to start getting some of the vehicles that showcase these technologies. An important one for Merc is the upcoming S400 Hybrid whose powertrain has been developed in conjunction with BMW. Yes, BMW.

Prices for the C180 BlueEfficiency are R314 000 for the sedan and R323 000 for the Estate. It comes standard with the Mercedes-Benz Mobilo 120 maintenance contract and a 2 year unlimited full vehicle warranty.


Blows your hair off this one doesn’t it?

It would if I had any hair to speak of. But I do get your point and yes it certainly has the ability to throw back some hair strings. It also has the ability to mess it all up as well.

How do you like the styling?

I must say this is an area of some contention even amongst my friends. They either loved it or hated it, which is a typical reaction to most of Chris Bangle’s designs. A few have commented that it looks too “chopped-off” at the rear and that a better option would be the hard-top coupe version. I see no real issues here but I’m sure a convertible hard-top would be more interesting. I liked the butch look of the 135i, those wide wheel arches and convex lines that make it look like a real man’s car. That comment might get me into trouble but I feel this car is just not in touch with its feminine side at all, even with the roof down.

Any differences between it and the coupe?

Not major. But slight feelings of handling compromises can be felt here and there owing to the roof structure and extra weight brought on by the same thing. The roof itself is operated entirely by an electronic button and it opens/ closes within 20 seconds.

Could it be considered a family car?

That depends on what you consider to be “family”. Firstly four adults can sit comfortably inside as long as none of them are over 1.8m tall. The boot as well is not ideal for the larger family as it can only accommodate smaller items. I didn’t try and fit in a golf bag in there so I can’t say if it fits or not. Lastly entry into the rear cabin, although restricted by two doors, is easy enough. Even easier when the top is down.

How does it go?

Very fast!


Yes. Very fast. The BMW 135i Convertible is almost as quick from 0 – 100 as the M3.


Yeah. We were able to attain a time of 5.9 seconds and a top speed of 250km/h at Gauteng altitude. This means anyone with an E49 M3 would have a really tough time getting rid of the 135i Convertible in a straight robot to robot “fight”. We’ve never tested this particular car but TopCar did around 2003 and they got around 6.1 seconds out of it. The chunky short-throw gearshift helped as well and I quite liked how it felt on the left hand as you go through the gears. It’s thanks to the M Sports Package which also extends to the chunky steering wheel with tiny holes that assist with grip.

How’s the twin turbo engine?

In one word, damn strong! That’s two words. Two turbos, 3.0-litres and 225kW. It has won the prestigious World Engine of the Year Award and for good reason. There’s almost no turbo lag at high altitude as the turbos fire instantly, giving the driver the freedom to do pretty much anything he fancies. The other area where the car excels is in handling. Its rear-wheel-drive layout works very well with the 3.0-litre twin turbo but can become a handful to the novice who switches off DSC. Rather keep the thing on, especially in these rainy and wet days.

Massive fun?

Absolutely. The 135i Convertible combines the thrill of driving a car with a brilliant chassis with eye-catching open top motoring. It may not be the most spacious car around, neither is it the prettiest, but where it delivers the most is in the driving experience. Sheer driving pleasure.


BMW 135i Convertible


ENGINE: 3.0-litre straight six, twin turbos

POWER: 225kW / 306hp at 5800rpm; 400Nm at 1300rpm

0 – 100KM/H: 5.9 seconds

GEARBOX: 6-speed manual

TOP SPEED: 250km/h limited

FUEL AVERAGE: 11.8 l/100km

CO2 e: 261 g/km

PRICE: R468 000


*PRICE RIVALS: BMW 525i manual, Audi TT Coupe 3.2 V6, Mercedes-Benz C350 auto, BMW Z4 2.5si, Nissan 350Z Coupe