Thursday, 12 November 2009


When the Mercedes-Benz E 55 AMG broke cover back in 2002, no one had seen it coming. Not only did it whip king BMW M5’s comfortable ass, but it also went after the supercars of the time. Having snuck in through the backdoor without rivals noticing, the E 55 AMG became an icon, a legend during its own lifetime. Ask any motoring hack who drove one and the one thing they will all agree on is how bloody quick it was. I had one in 2004 and the only description I could come up with was “sledgehammer”; it just hit and hit hard. Unfortunately because of its maker’s philosophical disposition, handling was just not part of its brilliant powertrain package.

Things have apparently improved and to prove it Daimler SA invited us to the legendary Kalayami race track to check out the brand new E 63 AMG. The 6.2-litre naturally aspirated V8 kicks out 386kW and 630Nm of torque. Driving things to the rear wheels is the same 7-speed MCT transmission found in the SL 63. Changes are notably quicker than in the 7G-Tronic and can be actuated through paddles behind the sports steering wheel.

Though my nanny – a driving instructor from the Mercedes-Benz Advanced Driving Academy – didn’t say much during my laps around the famed circuit, one always plays extra cautious when a passenger is around. So I can’t say how quick the car can really go there, suffice to say handling is tighter than in a normal E-Class and improved on the E 55 AMG and its successor the previous-generation E 63 AMG. There’s definitely over-assistance from the Ride Control sports suspension which puts some distance between driver and machine. It kinda reminds you that this is after all, a Merc.

A nice feature is the launch control system that although quick off the block, produces no drama at all. Mercedes-Benz says unlike other rivals’ systems, this one can be activated over 20 times in succession without any mechanical over exposure. The process is simple enough; wait for engine temperatures of at least 82 degrees Celsius, step on the brake with your left foot, engage D (Drive) on the gearbox, toggle the round switch through C, S, S+ and M into RS mode, confirm through the right paddle, push right foot on accelerator, release brake and go. Oh, also the steering wheel needs to be 100% straight. Phew.

They say it will go from 0 – 100km/h in 4.5 seconds and reach a limited top speed of 250km/h. But an optional AMG Driver’s Package will add another 50km/h on that for a restricted top whack of 300km/h. You probably wouldn’t reach that in most Gauteng areas lately, thanks to all the road construction.

Comfort is a big issue with Merc and therefore the interior is loaded with plush features (some of which are optional) such as power steering, individual air conditioning, COMAND, leather-covered steering wheel, nappa leather, alcantara panels, and aluminium foot pedals.

The E 63 AMG distinguishes itself from run-of-the-mill Es through a number of exterior kit pieces such as wide wings, large air intakes, a sportier front grille, 6.3 AMG lettering on the sides, AMG side sill panels, an AMG rear apron with a black insert and four chrome-plated tailpipes. Lightweight forged 19-inch AMG light-alloy wheels with size 255/35 R 19 tyres at the front and 285/30 R 19 at the rear are fitted. You can check the sweet AMG-branded brake callipers through these. Stopping was no biggie around Kayalami and through four laps the brakes never once showed fade or smoked.

Safety is a priority for Mercedes-Benz so the E 63 AMG is fitted with all manner of keep-me-on-the-road gadgets like ABS brakes with BAS, lane keeping assist, attention assist, blind spot assist and a host of airbags if all else fails. Advanced Driving Dynamics training is available to buyers at the Zwartkops race track west of Pretoria.

This is the best overall E-Class AMG sedan based on the best E-Class ever. I can’t wait to put it through its everyday paces, or maybe even against a worthy competitor...

Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG Pricing
Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG (R1 150 000)


At a ceremony held in Beijing on Thursday, the BMW Group and Brilliance Automotive Holdings Limited signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to build a second production plant at the Shenyang site. The investment volume for the new plant amounts to €560 million. Construction work is scheduled to begin in 2010, with the start of production slated for early 2012.
“Brilliance Automotive Holdings Limited is a reliable joint venture partner with whom we have already worked successfully for more than six years. Our plant has reached its capacity limit – so we are now taking the next step. The decision to build a second plant demonstrates that we are investing in our future in China and that we intend to participate in the strong growth in the Chinese market,” stated Friedrich Eichiner, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, responsible for finance and vice chairman of BMW Brilliance Automotive (BBA). “It is also an important strategic step towards reducing our exposure to currency fluctuations,” Eichiner added.
The joint venture has produced BMW 3 Series and 5 Series vehicles since 2003. A total of approximately 150 000 vehicles have so far rolled off the assembly line, with €450 million invested since the joint venture was founded. In a first step, the annual production capacity will be increased from 41 000 to 75 000 units. Upon completion of the second plant there will be a total annual production capacity of 100 000 units. Around 1 000 further jobs will be added to the 3 300 existing jobs in Shenyang.
China is the BMW Group’s fourth largest market. The company has maintained its growth in the country throughout 2009 and in October reported an increase of 81% over the same period last year to 9 558 units. The BMW Group sold 71 952 vehicles (52,622 / +36.7 %) in the first ten months of the year, already exceeding the retail volume for 2008 as a whole. Eichiner: “We are aiming to set a new sales record in China in 2009.”

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


Daimler South Africa, producers of Mercedes-Benz cars and trucks will sell the new SLS AMG in 2010. Company executives confirmed to IN4RIDE that the “gullwinged” supercar is coming this way some time in 2010. Since new dedicated AMG “centres” are being launched countrywide in dealerships like Bedfordview, Menlyn, Umhlanga and Century City, the car would likely be sold through these rather than normal dealer floors.

No prices were mentioned but the US as a comparative is to offer the SLS at a minimum price of US$190,000 (R1.4 million). Trust me the SLS will not cost this low in Mzansi! Expect at least R2 million a piece here.

The SLS AMG is entirely built by the AMG Division as a replacement for the old SLR McLaren. It sports a powerful 6.2-litre V8 making 420kW and 650Nm of torque.


VOLVO SAYS: Volvo has just released the first official photos of its all-new S60 – the most dynamic and aggressive Volvo to date.

The new Volvo S60, due for local launch late next year, is designed to bring a new level of elegance and dynamism to the Volvo line-up.

"The all-new Volvo S60 is sculpted to move you. It looks and drives like no other Volvo before and the car's technology will help you to be safer and more confident behind the wheel," says Stephen Odell, President and CEO of Volvo Cars.

The Volvo S60 can be equipped with Pedestrian Detection - a groundbreaking safety feature that can detect pedestrians in front of the car and brake automatically if the driver does not react in time.

The all-new Volvo S60 will be unveiled to the public for the first time at the Geneva Motor Show in early March next year. Production of the sporty sedan model will start in mid-2010 at the Volvo Cars plant in Ghent, Belgium.

"Customers in this segment want emotional appeal, sporty design and dynamic driving properties. The S60 has it all. We are convinced that it will be one of the strongest contenders around," says Stephen Odell.


BMW has released this teaser image of the 2010 5 Series. It looks like the car will be unveiled at the 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show during the first week of December for the first time. More official details are to be released on the 23rd of November but that doesn’t stop us from speculating…

We think the 5 will look like a cross between the 7 and the 3, with undertones of the Z4 splashed in. Executives at BMW SA swear this is the most beautiful contemporary car in their stable, which as much as it is a loaded PR statement, says a lot about its design. Chris Bangle may be gone but his style lives on in a number of current models. We expect the 5 to keep some of that spirit alive but with a toned-down demeanour.  

As is BMW tradition at least one all-new engine will debut with the 5 series. What that engine is remains to be seen but I’ll bet my special Johnny Walker green bottle that it has a turbo fitted to it. The rest should include the 3.0-litre turbo diesel worth 180kW and 520Nm (or a bit more), that almighty 4.4-litre V8 twin turbo making 300kW and of course the M5 which I suspect will cover about 440kW from a twin turbo V8.


Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., today announced it will license its breakthrough “Scratch Shield” paint to NTT DoCoMo, Inc. for mobile phone application in Japan. The self-healing paint, currently applied to certain Nissan and Infiniti vehicles worldwide, was developed in collaboration with University of Tokyo and Advanced Softmaterials Inc. 

The Scratch Shield, a world first in paint technology, was commercially introduced in December, 2005.  The Scratch Shield paint self-heals fine scratches and is capable of restoring the vehicles’s paint surfaces overnight or up to a week’s time in more severe cases. The Scratch Shield paint is also more scratch-resistant than conventional paint, therefore, contributing to a more durable and long-lasting paint coat.

This unique self-heal quality of the paint is ideal for mobile phone application, which is susceptible to scratches over daily use. NTT DoCoMo, Inc. will license the Scratch Shield for its mobile phones to be introduced in Japan, which will be a value-add feature for customers.

Nissan has been licensing its unique technologies for various non-automotive applications since 2004.  Other technologies that have been licenced include the around-view monitor and far infrared image sensor. Nissan will continue to research and develop breakthrough tehcnologies that can benefit other industries, and promote these non-automotive applications globally.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009


The latest instalments of the critically acclaimed Grand Theft Auto series come to Xbox 360 in an exclusive limited edition bundle. The blockbuster offering includes an Xbox 360 Elite Console and Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City & Grand Theft Auto IV. With the exclusive new games contained in Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City, it makes Xbox 360 the only place to play and enjoy the full GTA IV experience.

Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City comprises of the two latest Xbox exclusive games in the GTA IV saga - The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony. In The Lost and Damned, players experience Liberty City as Johnny, a veteran member of The Lost, a notorious biker gang, as he finds himself in the middle of a vicious turf war with rival gangs for control of a city torn apart by violence and corruption. The Ballad of Gay Tony injects Liberty City with an overdose of guns, glitz, and grime. As Luis Lopez, part-time hoodlum and full-time assistant to legendary nightclub impresario Tony Prince (aka "Gay Tony"), players struggle with the competing loyalties of family and friends, and with the uncertainty about who is real and who is fake in a world in which everyone has a price.

Available in stores from 13th November 2009 for a limited time, the bundle represents great value at an Estimated Retail Price of R3 499


The Volkswagen Group has become the biggest motor manufacturer in the world, overtaking the current incumbent Toyota which itself had overtaken General Motors just two years ago. Mind you we aren’t talking sales here but production. VW has built 4.4 million cars so far in 2009 while Toyota has only managed 4 million. Of course the Japs could claim they only build cars they can sell while the Germans will insist that they will sell the cars they build.

Volkswagen owns brands such as Audi, Lamborghini, Porsche, Skoda, Bugatti and Bentley.


Driving skills company,, has unveiled a new online calculator that enables motorists to work out what they could be saving by changing their driving habits. The calculator, available online at, enables drivers to enter their annual kilometres and average fuel consumption, as well as whether their vehicle is petrol or diesel.

They then have a choice selecting potential savings between ten per cent and 30 percent and seeing the results. For example, a driver doing 25 000km per annum who averages 10 l/100km of petrol will save over R3800 per year if they reduce their fuel consumption by 20 per cent. They’ll also reduce their CO2 emissions by over 1100kg, which is the equivalent of planting 34 trees per year.

“People are surprised to see how much they could save just by changing their driving habits,” said Rob Handfield – Jones, MD of “But it’s a fact, supported by fleet management data. In one company, about a quarter of all trainees cut their fuel bill by ten per cent or more after going through our training course. Several trainees exceeded 20 per cent savings,” he added.

He said that even a conservative saving of seven or eight per cent pays for the cost of eco-defensive training in under eight months in fuel consumption alone. “Any company with a big fleet should consider what an eight per cent saving on their annual fuel bill would mean to their CO2 emissions and bottom line,” he explained.

He said that in the current economic times, such savings could mean the difference between profit and loss. “Of course, there are also other cost reductions like longer brake and tyre life, and fewer crashes,” he concluded.

Monday, 9 November 2009


FIAT SAYS: After a run of 10 years and 33 000 sales, Fiat’s evergreen Palio will retire at the end of 2009. Next to Volkswagen’s Citi, the Palio has the honour of being the car with the longest lineage currently on sale in South Africa.

First introduced onto the local market in 2000, the Palio enabled Fiat to expand its product portfolio in many directions. From a company that had exclusively marketed the Uno, Fiat was now perceived as purveyor of a whole range of passenger cars as the original Palio line-up included the Weekend (station wagon) and the booted Siena sedan.

Over time, however, the Palio assumed its rightful role as an affordable, entry-level hatch in the Fiat range – its most recent incarnation being the five-door 1.2-litre Palio Active. Although the basic design has stayed the same, the Palio has benefited from ongoing improvements and refreshers, the most notable being the major facelift it underwent in 2005 which involved a complete rework of the front and rear. Over the years too, there have been several versions and limited editions that have helped keep the Palio top of mind. These have included the Palio Go!, Palio Eco, Palio Racing and Palio Special Series. (With reference to the Palio Special Series, this was the first car in its segment in South Africa to feature Blue Tooth hands-free connectivity.)

“The Palio has been a consistent performer and has helped put Fiat on the map in South Africa. So while its passing is tinged with nostalgia, the future for the Fiat brand in this country is even more exiting. Without wanting to give too much away, all I can say is watch this space because some great things are going to be happening in 2010. The one involves the Punto, a model that is synonymous with world class quality, safety and comfort, while the other involves our jewel in the crown – the inimitable Fiat 500,” said Oscar Rivoli, Managing Director of Fiat Group Automobiles South Africa.


The full-throated roar of high-powered V8 racing engines will combine with a King and Queen of Sound competition and the high-watts output of a bevy of top DJs to rock the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit when the Gauteng Motorsport Company presents the final round of the international Superstars Series on December 12 and 13.

The Superstars race weekend programme will include a free practice on Saturday from 11.00 to 11.30 and qualifying from 15.00 to 15.30. 

Sunday’s programme features the first of the two 25-minute plus one lap international Superstars races blasting off the Kyalami grid at 11.30.  The second Superstars race starts at 15.00.  An entry of 16 cars has been confirmed with at least two being made available to South African drivers who are able to raise the necessary sponsorship.  There will be a full programme of support races on both days featuring several of South Africa’s national circuit racing categories.

The DJs will be spinning the vinyl on stage at the Skid Pan from midday on Sunday, starting with Oskido and Zinhle from Yfm, followed by Milkshake, Yfm’s DJ Sbu, the announcement of the winners of the King and Queen of Sound at 15.30, DJ Fresh of 5fm, Sergio Marques (aka DJ Surge) and Arno Carstens and, completing the day’s entertainment, Erica Elle from 5fm at 18.30.  The performers will be on a stage on the grass banks of the skid pan with the actual skid pan a unique dance floor and open air auditorium for the day.  Yfm will be broadcasting live from the skid pan.

The King and Queen of Sound is the chance for fans to enter their car’s music sound system in a competition to find the best and most powerful sound.  Simply capture your car’s sound system at full volume on your cell phone or video camera and upload it on to Gauteng Motorsport Company’s unique web domain GP-GP.ORG on  Fans will be able to vote on the website for the best videos and a selection will be uploaded on YouTube and Facebook for fans to view.  The featured DJs who will be pumping out the sounds at Kyalami on December 13 are the judges and their decision will be final.

The King and Queen of Sound will receive two Gold Plus grand stand tickets with reserved parking and will have the exclusive opportunity to show off their winning equipment by playing a selected DJ song in their car at Kyalami on race day in front of all the fans.
Entry is restricted to members of GO-GP.ORG.  To register go to or and enter the competition or vote. Registration is free.  The competition closes on Friday, December 4 and the winners will be contacted by Tuesday, December 8.
Superstars is in its sixth year and one of the fastest growing international saloon car series with strong backing by a number of manufacturers of luxury, high-performance four-door saloon cars.  These include BMW (550i, M5 and M3), Audi (RS4), Jaguar (S-type R), Chrysler (300C SRT8), Chevrolet (CR8), Cadillac (CTS-V) and Mercedes (C-63 AMG).  The regulations allow for four-door V8-engined production cars with a capacity between 3.0 and 7.0 litres.  

Grandstand and general admission tickets can be obtained from branches of Cumputicket around the country or at

STORY COURTESY OF Peter Burroughes


Bring it” I said. “Porsche 911 Turbo, Lamborghini Gallardo, Ferrari F430. Whatever. Bring it.” My words an hour after dropping off the keys of the Nissan GT-R, otherwise referred to as Godzilla. If you saw the movie(s) you’ll know that Godzilla was a tyrant, a freak of nature spawned by excessive nuclear testing and subsequent exposure to radiation. Its basis was a normal-sized reptile, its product a beast towering skyscrapers. Nothing could stop it, not even the almighty US military and navy.

Godzilla is apt for the GT-R. Take for instance our rain-soaked sojourn at the back of Phelindaba, also apt for the occasion because it’s a former SA government nuclear facility. As we sloped down that 2km valley of tar the digital needle momentarily hit 276km/h. Had we not paused a moment a third of the way down the road and begun our run at the top of the hill that number could have been higher. I’d cautiously be bragging a 300km/h splash for the first time. In fact one Nissan SA tester confessed to achieving that number. And higher…

Forget what could have been, let’s stick to what was. And stick my friend is another apt word. That massive 20-inch spread of Dunlop rubber (R9 500 each) stays glued no matter what, bar an intervention from above. Nothing of that sort fortunately for us, even when the day’s gloomiest threatened to cause tsunami-sort flooding. At one sharp 90-degree turn the GT-R reacquainted itself with the black stuff so cosily they may have been on a honeymoon together. Lesson number two; grip is phenomenal, dry or wet.

“I’m not worried about the car” said the Nissan executive before our run started. She clearly knew something we didn’t. At the time the clouds were gathering apace and fast losing colour. It was quite obvious that the angels would soon drop off gallons in sweat. But this is Africa and rain means good luck, so we reckoned we would need some. Another car would have baulked at the idea; 200km/h-plus in the wet is no play in the mud, not even if your name is Michael “rain master” Schumacher. Not Godzilla. All he said was “how fast and how smooth?” and it was delivered.

Standing by the Nissan GT-R at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show I realised Carlos Ghosn, Chief Engineer Kazutoshi Mizuno and co were on to something. Something phenomenal. It had been 5 years since the last R34 (Skyline GTR) was produced and fans had been begging the company for an R35. Who knows why it took so long, but I suspect the fact that Nissan virtually came from the brink of bankruptcy had something to do with it. They just weren’t ready. Neither was the public truth be told. I’m honestly not sure if the latter is today actually.

See I came straight out of another supercar of German origin before taking temporary ownership of that red GT-R that you see in these pages. I didn’t think Godzilla would stand up to the Hun given the latter’s pedigree of over 100 years standing. Ten minutes was enough to flip the script, change my mind and make me pledge allegiance to the beast from the east. That it shares some parts with other Nissans like the 370 Z and even the Qashqai, or that it rattles somewhat on uneven roads due to the stiff-as-Stallone’s-butt suspension didn’t faze me.

Most motoring media report that this thing has All-Wheel-Drive, which is partly true. Under normal circumstances the AWD system is not even in use; the car is employing Rear-Wheel-Drive instead. What circumstances have to be to turn to the safety comfort of AWD I’m not sure, for even through splashing puddles of standing water, against the backdrop of pissing Gauteng rain, the information display said “0% AWD, 100% AWD”. Yes, the car tells you where exactly the torque split is at any moment, from 100% RWD up to 50% RWD or 100% AWD. It tells you other things as well; how deep the right foot is planted to the floor, the G-forces being pulled at a turn, steering angle, fuel economy and a number of other bits and pieces.

I doubt the majority of GT-R owners in Mzansi – of which there are currently about 48 – have the inclination let alone talent to explore its full capabilities. Nissan even has a decree that owners who switch off the traction control (VDC) and end up in serious trouble because of that, will void their warranties. What’s been said about an instant voidance is untrue. Some leeway is given but jislik you have to know what you’re doing. Multiple off-road champ Hannes Grobler’s exploits behind the wheel are legendary and as one of the first owners it would be hard to dictate to someone like him how to steer his animal. The electronic nanny is not for the likes of him but for others who think the GT-R’s official Nurburgring time of 7 minutes 29 seconds is attainable in their suburban backyard as well. For them and for those trees and street poles we say bravo Nissan SA!

Two special dealerships, Melrose in northern Johannesburg and Hatfield in Pretoria, are fully equipped to sell and service GT-R. You can spot them by the fact that they have to display a GT-R outside their premises. They were fully accredited following months of staff training and capital investment. Apparently technicians authorised to work on the car had to, among others, pass an exam with a mark of at least 90%. You can then walk in a drop off your R120 000 required deposit, choose a colour (everything is standard except special carpets) and wait for four months. A short wait if you ask me, considering that only eight guys in the world assemble the engines in Japan.

IN4RIDE is not on the coveted list of publications carefully selected for an 8-day GT-R test. I had mixed feelings about this at first, but perhaps it’s for the best. Spending R1.175 million on a super mad Nissan is one thing, but having the manhood to reign it in every day of your life is quite another. I for one am not sure if I’m man enough for that.

ENGINE: 3.8-litre twin turbo V6
POWER: 357kW at 6000rpm
TORQUE: 588Nm at 3200rpm
0 – 100KM/H: [untested]
GEARBOX: 6-speed double clutch automatic
TOP SPEED: 310km/h
FUEL AVERAGE: [untested]
NATURAL RIVAL: Porsche 911 Turbo Tiptronic
SECONDARY RIVALS: Ferrari F430, Ferrari 458 Italia, Lamborghini Gallardo, Audi R8 V10, Aston Martin DBS

PRICE RIVALS: Audi RS 6, BMW 650i Convertible, BMW 750i, BMW M5 Touring, Jaguar XKR, Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG, Mercedes-Benz ML 63 AMG, Mercedes-Benz S500, Porsche 911 Carrera 4 PDK, Porsche Panamera 4S, Range Rover TD V6