Friday, 29 January 2010


New class leader. Three words, over and over in my head as I slice yet another curve on Franschoek Pass, the one feared and revered by every driving enthusiast who’s been on it. My driving partner doesn’t seem to be holding on to anything, so my lines must be clean. Well as clean as any line created by a two-tonne German.
Sure I’ve driven the BMW 7 Series before. Being wet behind the years and not having outside (or inside?) access means only two generations, including what’s perhaps the most controversial motor car of all time. Let bygones be bygones I say. A last word on that though. Some years ago I came across a spy picture of the 2002 7 Series before it was launched. That rear was smooth, flowy, looking almost like the 2010 Jaguar XJ’s. I guess some engineer realised it would be too unaerodynamic and promptly ordered changes, resulting in what’s perhaps the most controversial rear end of all time.
I doubt such concerns are being raised with the new car which was launched last year already in the form of a 730d, 740i and 750i. These cars exude massive presence. They don’t polarise like the previous- generation model. This week the flagship (sorry, there is no M7 coming) model arrived on our shores. You’ll recognise it by its 760Li nomenclature, V12 signature on the gills and four chrome-plated trapezoidal tailpipes. A choice of six wheel types can be had but my favourite of the lot is a radial-spoke styling coded 252, SA 2HL. Get the brochure for a clearer reference. An M Sport pack that turns the car into an M7 lookalike, whatever that mythical creature would have looked like, is available at R14 000.
If you know Franschoek Pass in Cape Town you know how close to a mishap you can get. In any car. One mistake and some emergency helicopter will be scraping you off the mountain cliff. That the 760Li cut it side to side with the precision of a sushi chef speaks volumes not only about the car but the driver’s balls as well. For without the latter one simply dismisses it as just another expensive limousine for some rich bastard with no driving skills. Which of course it isn’t. True, those tonnes are evident as they should; nature can be hoodwinked but never totally foiled.
The steering wheel with Servotronic assistance does come into its own without over-assisting. Rear tyres (275/40 R19 101Y RSC) and the rack (wire in this instance) are in constant communication with my hands, so I know with a high degree of accuracy exactly where the front wheels are. Actually at times I would have to look back and was only reminded that this is a 5.2 metre ship when I saw how much rear space there was. It grows by about 14cm from the normal short wheelbase model.
About four hours earlier I had been a rear passenger having been chauffeured from the airport into town, Cabinet Minister-style. Unfortunately I didn’t have much departmental running and only had the George Michael DVD player and my partner to keep me entertained. Those rear seats are electronically adjustable too so that one almost lies at a 45-degree angle when fully applied. They also slide forward individually. We activated the mandatory curtains (also electronically) so as to add further mystique to our already attention-grabbing drive. I quite enjoyed the seat-cooling function which as the name implies, cools down the seat when the car has been baking in the sun for too long. Your whole body can be massaged on request as well.
“This is the flagship of the 7 Series range,” proclaims the visibly proud BMW Public Relations chief. “In fact it is the flagship car for BMW. It represents everything that we stand for; power, driving pleasure, fuel efficiency and luxury.”
Tick, tick, tick and tick. Care for some details?
Ok. The 760Li is powered by a 6.0-litre V12 aluminium engine with high precision direct injection. Two turbos supply all the compressed air it needs to force out its maximum 400kW at 5250rpm. Peak torque is a highly handy 750Nm handed to your right foot from 1500rpm all the way up to 5000rpm. BMW claims a 0 – 100km/h time of 4.6 seconds. I tried testing this claim once or twice and I believe it to have real substance. The least it will achieve is a sub-5 second time under everyday conditions. Compared that to the M3’s claimed 4.9 seconds and the X6 M’s 4.7 seconds and you begin to see exactly what type of customer you’re dealing with here. Forget all about the slouchy old man in a grey suit; this is a stealth attacker of significant magnitude. Top speed is the usual 250km/h and getting there is no hard work.
An 8-speed automatic gearbox provides for creamy smooth changes which are complemented by a manual override function for the suit who’s feeling feisty.
A lot of the hard toil is absorbed by the rear suspension which reads like the who’s who of suspensions; integral Vmulti-arm axle, aluminium, separate streering with anti-squat and anti-dive…etc etc. driver assistant aids include Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) which works with ABS and ASC.
Though I haven’t driven the 760Li’s most direct rival the Mercedes-Benz S600 L, I know it will not take corners as confidently as the 7er. I know it will accelerate just as furiously and be as cosy on the bum, if not slightly more so than the sportier Beemer.
But for the super executive who loves not just a typing and cell phone session at the rear, who loves his curves as much as his kick, the 760Li provides what is probably the ultimate platform for personal expression. 

BMW 760Li Pricing
760Li standard (R1 632 500)
760Li M Sport (R1 646 500)
760Li Individual (R1 717 500)


This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Jaguar name, and 75 years of looking forward, designing and building cars that represent the very best of technical innovation, design leadership and sporting success.

Mike O'Driscoll, Managing Director of Jaguar Cars, said: "In 2010 we celebrate our past, and 75 years of designing and building cars that celebrate the art of automobile making. We're also celebrating the promise of the future, and the introduction of the all-new XJ.  In just three years we've completely revitalized the Jaguar line-up with the launch of three beautiful fast cars".


Honda SA yesterday announced a safety recall of the previous generation Jazz to inspect and modify driver door power-window switches that may, in some cases, short circuit as a result of water intrusion into the housing.
Following the tragic fire in September 2009, Honda Motor Co. has launched an extensive investigation to determine the cause of the incident. Whilst the cause of the fire remains indeterminable, the investigation has shown that water intrusion into the power window switch housing may, in some instances cause a short circuit, which in exceptional circumstances, may lead to potential damages.
As a precautionary measure, Honda has decided to implement a safety recall of all 2002-2008 year model Jazz units in South Africa.
Owners of 2002-2008 year model Jazz will be notified directly of this recall. Honda dealers will inspect the driver door power window switch and if water intrusion is observed, the switch will be replaced. In all cases a counter measure to prevent any water intrusion will be fitted.
Customers may contact Honda South Africa on 0800 HONDA1 or email

Wednesday, 27 January 2010


HYUNDAI SAYS: Hyundai’s H1 nine-seater luxury wagon, a runaway success since its launch in March 2009 and with sales peaking at 90 units in December, is now available with the option of effortless turbodiesel power.

The 2,5-litre common-rail unit fitted to this capacious carrier is rated at 120 kW at 3 800 revs/min and 392 Nm at 2 000 revs/min and slots in above the existing 2,4-litre petrol model. This highly refined and smooth-running powerplant is available exclusively with a five-speed automatic transmission, ensuring a level of refinement not normally associated with the class. Of all-aluminium construction, the engine has a 91 mm bore and a 96 mm stroke resulting in smooth operation from idle to redline, while the DOHC  16-valve cylinder head contributes to its exceptional fuel efficiency.


After being ditched (or was he accosted out the door?) by a probable suitor in supercar maker Koenigsegg, SAAB may finally (again) have a new owner. Internet reports suggest that a deal has been made between General Motors (current owners of the SAAB auto brand), Spyker Motors (the Dutch supercar maker) and SAAB.

Apparently the deal says that Spyker will pay US$74 million (about R561 million) in two cash installments. The money must be paid by this July. GM will keep $326 million worth of redeemable preference shares in the company. The General will also retain a great deal of say in the new entity in the sense that a number of cars designed and developed under GM, such as the new 9-5 and upcoming 9-4X SUV, will continue being supplied by GM.

The sale supposedly does not affect existing warranties in countries such as South Africa and the US.

Monday, 25 January 2010


Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen won the legendary Monte Carlo Rally in the new M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 rally car after leading from start to finish on its competitive debut.

Ford's official FIA World Rally Championship team drivers mastered treacherous winter conditions in the mountains of southern France to reach the finish at Monaco's famous harbour with a 1min 51.4sec advantage.

The Fiesta S2000 has been developed by Ford's rally partner, M-Sport, and the five-day Monte Carlo Rally offered the toughest of debuts.  However, the car never missed a beat over 405.01km of competition, to provide a perfect start to the 2010 campaign for Hirvonen and Lehtinen.


Audi is launching the all-new A5 Sportback this week to the South African motoring media, but already a few of these sport coupes are doing the rounds. We spotted this red one at a petrol station near Mogale City on the West Rand, Johannesburg. It has no number plates yet so we can assume it’s quite new. The model was the 3.0-litre TDI which at least confirms that version for the SA market.
The A5 Sportback is an extension of the A5 range which now consists of the Coupe, the Cabriolet and the Sportback. Engines expected for our dealerships include the 155kW 2.0T, the 3.2 V6 and the 3.0TDI. At some point a 3.0T with about 250kW should join the lineup.
We think prices will start from around R415 000 for the 2.0T, R500 000 for the 3.2 V6 and an extra R20 000 for the TDI.
Look out for our report on Friday after we’ve driven it around the KwaZulu Natal area.


BURCHMORE’S SAYS: If the first auctions of the year are anything to go by, 2010 is going to be a bumper year. That’s the verdict from Darryl Jacobson, managing director of Burchmore’s, who reports an “overwhelmingly positive sentiment” at the first vehicle auctions of 2010.

“We always expect the first auctions of the year to be good. The trade normally dominates proceedings because, after the holidays, they are stocking up. This year, we have certainly seen excellent attendance from trade buyers and enthusiastic bidding on their part,” he reports.