Friday, 27 November 2009


“BMW South Africa have lost their marbles” I thought upon discovering that a famed racing track was the main venue for the launch of the X5 M and its coupe SUV brother, the X6 M. Everyone knows that sport utility vehicles – SUVs - (or sport activity vehicles in BMW speak) are not for venturing into the roadless unknown, let alone cornering at high speeds.

Yet these folks from 1 Bavaria Avenue in Midrand saw it fit to hang out with Ras Dumisani for a moment and take in whatever natural material he was on themselves, I figured. It turns out these two belong on the track, inasmuch as a boat belongs on water when compared to a fish. But I’m jumping the queue.

The X5 M and the X6 M are the first M cars to feature twin turbo technology. Both share the same powertrain which includes a 4.4-litre petrol V8 with double-VANOS camshaft adjustment making 408kW at 6000rpm and 680Nm between 1500rpm and 5650rpm. They have the M Drive control system which can be actuated through the iDrive and can change the cars’ characteristics to suit the driver’s needs.

Although the xDrive 4x4 system is permanent, torque can be varied along the axles and according to a BMW spokesman, up to 100% of it will go to the rear wheels, making these cars extremely drivable indeed.

I found this out myself along the stretches of Port Elizabeth and through some challenging mountain passes. The wheels are driven by a 6-speed Steptronic gearbox and gears can be changed by using the paddleshifts behind the steering wheel. Thankfully these aren’t fixed on the rack but move with the wheel itself.

A slight shock awaited me as I entered the cockpit, pushed the START/ STOP button on the dashboard (the car detects the key if in close enough proximity) and heard the roar from the four chrome pipes at the back. The best was yet to come as I adjusted the seats using the electronic adjuster on the sides. Tapping the right foot immediately brought about a wide smile out of me, followed by a quiet laugh as I planted foot and scuttled away. BMW says both SAVs can overpower the 0 – 100km/h sprint within 4.6 seconds, which is supercar territory.

Telling the twins apart from inside is damn near impossible. The cockpits are identical with features such as a surfboard-shape dashboard with a driver bias, my favourite shifter, full leather upholstery, an M sports steering wheel with red, white and blue stitching. Buyers can specify brushed aluminium, piano finish or carbon fibre. Most features are standard such as air conditioning, cruise control, iDrive, front seat heating, Bluetooth, 6-DVD changer and satellite navigation.

On the track these beasts come into their own. Dynamic Performance Control was introduced with the X6 and basically allows the driver to push further with hard cornering than he normally would. Its aim is to turn the average jo into a cracking track meister without putting him through years of driver training. Of course laws of nature are still that, laws of nature, and should not be tested beyond the boundaries of reason.

Lapping the Aldo Scribante track in the X5 M and the X6 M was a task I was all too happy to accept. Although the main straight was closed off as matter of precaution, no unwelcome nannies were ever on board as I ate up corner after corner in a free-spirited manner. At times the cars would tend to oversteer like a rear-wheel-drive sports car but the DPC would come to the rescue and ensure safe passage. I had trouble stopping at the Honda hairpin, probably the most deceptive corner on the circuit, after hitting a high speed of 150km/h. Fortunately only one tyre tasted gravel and I was able to paste more fun-filled laps. The rest of the time, apart from the obvious extra bulk, it felt like I was piloting an M5 around Aldo which is a testament to these exceptionally-handling machines.

Safety is a major priority for anyone so these vehicles come fitted with some of the latest and greatest systems in the world. That includes ABS brakes with brake assist, airbags galore, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), Datadot security tracking system and Park Distance Control.

There are motoring media ditractors who still don’t “get” the X6 and so the X6 M will completely fly over their little heads. I love that car, its concept – marrying an SUV with a coupe, the shape, its presence, all that power. Anyone who wants an SUV that truly thinks it’s a sports car need look no further. Just don’t send it on a serious off-road excursion; it really belongs on tar. The X5 M is the same, just more spacious.

Don’t ask which one I’d pick because that’s entirely up to one’s needs. If pushed into a corner I’d probably start a heist gang and buy both!

BMW X5 M, X6 M Pricing
X5 M (R1 225 000)
X6 M (R1 260 000)

Thursday, 26 November 2009


GM SAYS: The Chevrolet Cruze (global compact sedan) has earned the top rating of five stars from the European New Car Assessment Program (EuroNCAP), which released its latest safety ratings today. 

According to EuroNCAP, the Cruze scored 79 points out of 100, making it one of the safest models in the passenger car class.

The Cruze received a maximum 16 points in the frontal offset collision test and a maximum 8 points in the side impact crash test against a moving deformable barrier. The Cruze is the first passenger car to receive maximum scores in both tests since EuroNCAP began providing crash test ratings in 1997.

The independent European testing organization also awarded the compact sedan a high score of 7.3 out of 8 points in the more severe side pole test, indicating that the Cruze’s reinforced side shell helps protect passengers in the event of a side collision. The Cruze’s headrests were well positioned to absorb crash energy against whiplash in a rear-end collision. The Cruze was also given high marks for child and pedestrian protection during testing.    

“We are pleased with the Chevrolet Cruzes outstanding safety rating,” said Malcolm Gauld, GMSA Vice President – Sales & Marketing, “Today’s results confirm that the Cruze offers benchmark safety. This complements its bold exterior and interior styling, excellent ride and handling, and outstanding value for money.”

The Chevrolet Cruze had earlier also received best-in-class, five-star crash safety ratings in Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) testing in Australia

The Cruze’s safety begins with its solid body structure. The Cruze features a new body-frame integral (BFI) system supplemented with finely tuned chassis components. With the BFI system, the upper body structure and frame are engineered as a single unit, offering a heightened sense of solidity and stability.

Sixty-four percent of the structure is constructed of high-strength steel, offering a high level of protection. Reinforcing the door and locker seal applications, the use of ultra-high-strength steel for the B-pillars and the efficient aluminium bumper application further ensure maximum safety.


One minute you’re driving along nicely and the next you are ditched up inside a hole. That’s probably what happened to this guy who, two weeks ago, went down a road towards Kayalami/ R55 road but never quite made it. Recent heavy rains have clouded an otherwise sunny summer Johannesburg sky and many motorists are not equipped to deal with such slippery conditions.

When I arrived at the scene I took these pictures with my NOKIA 6210 Navigator then went to the breakdown operator who told me what happened. Basically the guy came down the straight, tried turning left into the R55 and lost control. Because of some construction going on there at the moment a hole had been left open. His white Nissan Almera went over the low concrete barriers and straight into it.

I reckon he didn’t have ABS brakes, went too fast, realised his mistake and braked at the turn. Of course you can’t brake and turn at the same time without ABS (unless you’ve been trained) so the car will just go straight no matter what you do with the steering wheel.

But the guy came out fine, in fact he was sitting in that green Peugeot that you see on the right in one of the pictures. I didn’t attempt to speak to him for fear of the unknown and I’m sure he was still quite shaken as well. I’m just wondering how he got out of that car from the driver’s seat!


Leverkusen, 25 November 2009. The new Mazda3 has been awarded the five-star maximum rating by the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) on its 2009 combined safety performance test.

For 2009, Euro NCAP has implemented a new evaluation system that awards a single overall vehicle safety rating combining the scores achieved in four areas of assessment: Adult Occupant Protection, Child Protection, Pedestrian Protection and Safety Assist.

The first-generation Mazda3 combined dynamic and sporty styling with exhilarating driving performance. The new Mazda3 inherits and evolves these characteristics and, with this recognition from Euro NCAP, is among the safest cars in the important European compact segment.

Mazda3 is the second Mazda model to be awarded the five-star maximum rating under the new Euro NCAP evaluation system. The new Mazda6 received five stars in February 2009. Mazda2 and Mazda5 received a maximum ranking of five stars for Adult Occupant Protection from Euro NCAP in December 2007 and 2005 respectively.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


Our long-term Chevrolet Cruze is cruising along quite nicely. Ever since the launch we have been impressed with the car’s comfort levels, its stylish appearance and the handling. More on these aspects later, but first we can chat about the powertrain.

The Cruze promises a strong drive thanks to a host of chassis refinements including a high level of torsional rigidity that helped in running refinement, suppressing noise vibration and harshness (NVH). About 65% of the car is made of very strong steel which helps it achieve rigidity and body stiffness not generally known in its segment.


BMW has taken the wraps off the all-new 5 Series sedan. Having watched its main rivals launching facelift and all-new models this year, the Munich manufacturer has been keen to test public reaction on the 5, and this is their chance.

Stylewise the 5 Series seems to be a combination of several design inspirations, including the 3, 7 and Z series cars. Some critics have observed that Chris Bangle’s old boot is gone with him, something which isn’t factual at all since he was still the chief sketcher at BMW when the car’s final designs were approved. Nevertheless there is a certain calm about it; yes there are “flame surfacing” elements as they should be but not as pronounced as previously. Its proportions seem very well-balanced, especially at the front where the kidney grille dominates but doesn’t overpower like in the 7, and in the uncluttered rear.

BMW says the new 5 has the longest wheelbase in its class at almost 3 metres long. It’s also 4.9m long, 1.9m wide and 1.5m high. This is not a small car at all.

Several engines are introduced for the debut. At the bottom end is the deceptively-badged 523i powered by a 3.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol worth 150kW at 6100rpm and putting out 270Nm of torque between 1500rpm and 4250rpm. They say it will go from 0 - 100km/h in 7.9 seconds and top off at 234km/h. Fuel consumption is claimed to be 7.6 l/100km while C02 emissions are 177 g/km.
Then there’s the 528i, also with a 3.0-litre normally aspirated motor making 190kW at 6600rpm and 300Nm between 2600rpm and 5000rpm. It appears instead of making it more powerful, BMW simply rebadged it down a model. Nevertheless 0 – 100km/h takes 6.7 seconds and top speed is 250km/h. Average fuel usage comes to 7.6 l/100km and C02 emissions are 178 g/km.

Another step up is the 535i which has a 3.0-litre turbo engine with output of 225kW at 5800rpm and peak torque of 400Nm between 1200rpm and 5000rpm. We’ll see the same engine in the 5 Series GT next year. The main difference from the current one is that it uses one instead of two turbos and torque comes in 100rpm earlier than before. The 535i does 6.1 seconds in the 0 - 100km/h sprint, averages 8.4 l/100km in fuel and emits gases of 195 g/km.

The last petrol on the list (for now) is the 550i which uses its 4.4-litre twin turbo engine to produce maximum power of 300kW between 5500rpm and 6400rpm, and thrusts out 600Nm between 1750rpm and 4500rpm. Its acceleration time is said to be 5 seconds flat and top speed is limited to 250km/h. Average fuel consumption is claimed at 10.4 l/100km while C02 emissions are 243 g/km.

The diesel flag is to be carried by the 520d and the 530d which push out 135kW at 4000rpm and 180kW at 4000rpm respectively. Respective torque figures are 380Nm between 1900rpm and 2750rpm, and 540Nm between 1750rpm and 3000rpm. As expected the 520d will be quite frugal, returning 5.2 l/100 km and provisional 137 g/km of C02s. Comparatively the bigger 530d has 6.2 l/100 km and 162 g/km

Some features to be offered include the standard 8-speed automatic gearbox, Parking Assistant, Surround View, Lane Change Warning, Lane Departure Warning, a Head-Up Display, BMW Night Vision with detection of individual persons, Brake Energy Regeneration, Soft Close Automatic on the doors, four-zone automatic air conditioning and a rear view camera.

BMW South Africa will sell all these models mentioned; 520d, 530d, 523i, 528i, 535i and 550i. All six, except the 520d, will be available at launch in May 2010. The 520d will only be available in August.

As for the long-awaited M5 the long will not be too long this time. Normally M models follow about two years after the regular cars are launched. This time BMW is making sure the M5 arrives quicker. Therefore expect it to start selling in Europe around September 2010. It will feature twin turbo V8 technology for the first time and produce what I think is about 450kW of power.

2010 BMW 5 Series Speculative Pricing
523i (R460 000)
520d (R505 000)
528i (R628 000)
530d (R632 000)
535i (R710 000)
550i (R810 000)


CHRYSLER SAYS: Chris Winkler, an SRT vehicle dynamics engineer piloted a black and red 2010 Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR (American Club Racer) to a lap record of 1:33.915 as recorded by Motech in-vehicle data recorder (1:33.944 - as unofficially recorded by trackside clock) around the 3.6 km, 11-turn course, shattering the previous lap record by more than 1.1 seconds.

“It was definitely exciting but a somewhat uneventful lap overall from behind the steering wheel,” said Winkler, who is still learning the intricate details of Laguna Seca raceway, having spent only one other session on the course. “The Dodge Viper ACR has amazing power and handles like a dream, so following my first practice here last month, I came away pretty confident that we’d be able to set a new record.”

In 2008, professional road racer Randy Pobst, drove a 2008 Dodge Viper ACR to a one-lap, production car record of 1:35.117 at Laguna Seca raceway while working with Motor Trend. That record stood until August 6, 2009 when the most recent record of 1:35.075 was established by a one-off exotic prototype.

Ralph Gilles, President and CEO, Dodge Brand and Senior Vice President, Product Design Office, Chrysler Group LLC, was impressed with the Viper’s performance. “I’ve been closely tied to this car my entire career and even after owning one myself for some time, I’m still amazed with what the Dodge Viper can do on and off the race track,” Gilles said. “After our record-setting lap at the Nürburgring circuit, we’re excited to set a second performance benchmark record at another world-famous road course.”

The Dodge Viper is going into the final year of production for the current-generation model. Approximately 500 Vipers will be produced in 2010. Powered by the venerable 8.4-litre, V10 engine with 450kW and 760Nm of torque, the Dodge Viper ACR continues to offer extreme performance, including 0 - 96km/h acceleration in less than 4 seconds, quarter-mile time in the mid 11-second range and 0 – 160 - 0 km/h in 11 seconds flat.

“We’re going to keep Dodge’s performance icon alive and well by not only producing some of the most special Vipers ever built, but we’re also investigating what the next-generation Viper is going to be,” added Gilles. “When we have partners across the ocean who are known as the best sports carmakers in the world, the future opportunities are huge.”


ALFA ROMEO SAYS: The MiTo has been a success for the Alfa Romeo brand in South Africa with an average of 30 new MiTos per month finding new homes. In 2010, the MiTo range will be expanded with a 100kW and 127kW engine version (both revolutionary Multiair 1.4 turbo units). The 127kW version will badged Quadrofoglio Verde and befitting its flagship status it will boast sportier styling, dynamic chassis mods plus a few other luxury add-ons. The newcomers are expected to debut in the 2nd quarter (April/ May).

Of course, though, the really big news for Alfa Romeo in 2010 will be the launch of the much-anticipated Milano. (You’ll have to wait until the 4th December to see the first official pictures of the Milano.) This Golf-sized, five-door will set the proverbial cat amongst the hatchback pigeons thanks to its exquisite architecture and Multiair-based engine line-up. The SA line-up is not yet finalised but will most likely include two models at launch - a 127kW 1.4 Turbo version and a range-topping 170kW 1.8 Turbo Multiair (likely to be badged Quadrofoglio Verde). ETA is between 3rd & 4th quarter (October) – after all we don’t want to steal any of the Soccer World Cup’s thunder!

Also currently under investigation for 2010 is the Alfa Brera & Spider with 1750 TBi engine – still not a certainty at this stage, but if it happens expect to see these stunners within the first half of next year.

Last but certainly not least, 2010 will be a milestone year for Alfa Romeo as it is the marque’s centenary year. Milan, Alfa Romeo’s birthplace, will be the centre of attention on the 23rd and 24th July when a whole host of centenary events are planned. In South Africa we will also celebrate this momentous achievement, but later in the year to coincide with the launch of Milano.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009


Come 2010 Cadillac will launch the CTS Coupe range of cars to the public. The baby CTS is gunning for the likes of Audi A5, BMW 3 Series Coupe and the upcoming Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe.

“CTS Coupe is the new focal point of Cadillac, expressing both our design and technical capabilities," said Bryan Nesbitt, Cadillac general manager. "It is intended to appeal to a new generation of car enthusiasts.”

The car is about 5cm lower than the CTS sedan and about 5cm longer. In terms of styling the two only share instrument panel, console, headlamps, front fenders and grille. Keeping the modern coupe look means the CTS has no window frames and no B pillar. It has touch-pad operation for the doors which means no need for door handles.

The standard powertrain combo consists of Cadillac’s current 3.6-litre V6 engine making 227kW (304hp), coupled with a 6-speed manual gearbox, an independent short/long arm (SLA) front suspension system and a multi-link rear suspension mounted on a fully isolated subframe. An optional 6-speed automatic will be available. There’s also a limited slip differential.

Some specifications for the US market will include 14-Way adjustable Recaro sport seats, integrated iPod/MP3 capability, a 40 GIG hard drive, Bluetooth connectivity, a rear camera system and a BOSE sound system.

Cadillac South Africa has not said a thing about the CTS Coupe so I can’t be sure they will bring it here. Nevertheless it would a lovely niche product for them to consider. If they did consider it I would venture a guess of between R480 000 and R505 000 for the price.


MERCEDES-BENZ SAYS: Tans Africa Holdings is a bus coach company founded almost 40 years’ ago by Mohamed Paruk in his home town of Dannhauser in KwaZulu-Natal.

Responding to the call from Tans Africa Holdings for sales offers on new buses, Jan Aichinger, Divisional Manager Bus & Coach, Mercedes-Benz South Africa, approached Paruk with a favourable deal.

“I was impressed by Jan’s tenacity and great sense of humour,” says Paruk. “I was also impressed with the technical specifications of the buses he wished to sell me.”

In the months following initial negotiations this year, Tans Africa Holdings took ownership of 50 Mercedes-Benz 1730 commuter buses and two Multego luxury coaches.

“The Multego coaches for Tans Africa are the first Mercedes-Benz branded coaches to be sold in South Africa with a further 20 units on order for several customers,” says Aichinger. “We are bringing the Multego to South Africa and we appreciate the fact that these first buses are going in to a prominent fleet such as Mr Paruk’s,” says Aichinger.

“The Multego was originally developed for the Mexican market and has proven over the last six years to be best suited for long-distance operations in tough conditions.  Mexico has similar typography and climatic conditions to SA, such as road conditions, altitude and temperature.  With these external factors playing a major role, we know that the MULTEGO will be a success,” adds Aichinger.

Both the Multego and the Mercedes-Benz 1730 commuter derivatives offer class-beating safety, performance and economy. The supporting Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicle dealer, Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles East Rand, has undertaken to supply fully-equipped onsite vehicle maintenance for these models which have a service interval of 20 000km.

Monday, 23 November 2009


GM SAYS: General Motors South Africa (GMSA) and METRO FM have joined forces to provide summer entertainment for scores of revellers with a national tour of the most famous Tshisa Nyamas (braai and party venues) in the country.

METRO FM DJs are currently driving the newly launched Chevrolet Cruze when they visit the eleven venues on the Cruzing eKasi tour. The tour will see METRO FM DJs, celebrities and artists visit nine cities throughout South Africa in the next two months starting in Bloemfontein at Mahungra on 14th November finishing off in King William’s Town at Kwa Man on 20th December. Cruzing eKasi is all about having fun under the sun while enjoying a traditional South African pastime: grooving to cool beats with friends at a Tshisa Nyama. In addition, Chevrolet dealers around the country will host smaller events in their surrounding communities.

“With the Cruzing eKasi tour we want to capture the public’s attention through a different avenue. The Tshisa Nyama is a big part of township culture in South Africa where you will find socialites from all walks of life, covering a broad spectrum of income and social status, hanging out and simply enjoying being South African,” says GMSA  General Manager of Marketing, Brian Olson.

Cruzing eKasi will offer party goers music by METRO FM DJs backed up by local DJs and entertainers.  There will also be give-aways from Chevrolet and Darkie clothing at the live events as well as an opportunity for one lucky METRO FM listener to win a brand new Chevrolet Cruze worth R 244, 000. METRO FM listeners can enter the competition by SMSing ‘Cruze’ TO 34764. The lucky winner will be announced live on air on Christmas day.

Revellers can look forward to live music from some of Mzansi’s best DJs including Adil, Glen Lewis, DJ Nutty, Fistaz and many more. “This is a 360 degree partnership that benefits the listeners and both parties involved, and most importantly taking two brands to the people whilst providing entertainment. That’s what we call an urban lifestyle at METRO FM” said Victor Koaho, Marketing Manager METRO FM.


Volkswagen and Porsche may be in a careful courting phase at the moment but soon a mini-war will ensue between the two companies. The new Porsche bosses at VW want to increase annual production to about 150 000 in the next four years. To do that new products must be created and sold.

Porsche insiders have told IN4RIDE that their company is seriously considering adding a couple of new models to its existing range. The main car will be in a segment below the new Panamera.


RENAULT SAYS: On November 20, at the first global ministerial conference on road safety hosted by Moscow, Renault and a number of other manufacturers from the automotive industry who are also members of the GRSI, decided to pursue their shared commitment to road safety for another five years.

"By renewing our commitment to the Global Road Safety Initiative, Renault is continuing to work side by side with developing countries and regions as they strive to increase sustainable mobility while drawing on the experience of high income countries to lessen the negative impacts of transport" says Claire Martin, Renault Corporate Social Responsibility Vice President.

Set up in 2004 by seven leading groups from the automotive and oil industries including Renault, the Global Road Safety Initiative (GRSI) finances and encourages initiatives to promote road safety, in China, Brazil and the ASEAN region. This is because emerging countries frequently have insufficient levels of road safety. This is a stumbling block to their development and – more particularly – to the development of sustainable mobility.

The GRSI is part of the Global Road Safety Partnership (GRSP) set up by the World Bank in 1999, which brings together the private sector, civil society and the governmental agencies concerned by road safety in countries that are emerging or in transition. Renault is vice-president of the national GRSP associations in Romania and Poland and is a member in Hungary.

For Renault, committing to road safety worldwide is a natural step that reflects its core values. More than fifty years ago, Renault was one of the first manufacturers to address the active and passive safety of its vehicles right from the design stage. The results of this safety-aware approach can be seen today in the excellence of the Renault range, with 12 vehicles obtaining a five-star rating in EuroNCAP tests. Renault also believes that education is key to preventing road risk. Eleven million children and teenagers in 20 countries have been able to follow the educational programme “Safety for All”.


Mercedes-Benz is apparently planning on replacing the CLK 2-door coupe and convertible. Having launched the new E-Class Coupe as a supposed replacement for the CLK, Mercedes-Benz actually moved the car up a segment. Where it used to compete with the likes of the BMW 3 Series Coupe and Audi A5, the car now sits in a higher class.

At the bottom of the premium coupe pile are the Audi A3 and the 1 Series Coupe, as well as Merc’s own CLC. The CLC is too small to compete with 3 and A5 and so Mercedes is currently completely left out of that segment. The plan is to plug that hole with a new C-Class Coupe within the next two years.

Sunday, 22 November 2009


Kia’s bold new design is certainly raising eyebrows. At the South African launch of the all-new Kia Sorento, Kia chief designer Peter Schreyer explained his and his company’s new design philosophy as “simplicity, less is more, clear vision”. That certainly holds true for the Sorento and for other recent Kia cars like the current Cerato. The design language is new and young, reflected by the fact that Schreyer was previously at Audi and Volkswagen. He’s the guy that designed the original ground-breaking TT and the VW Concept R.