Thursday, 25 February 2010


Tata Motors of India has appointed former GM Europe CEO Carl-Peter Forster as its new CEO.

“Tata Motors expects that Mr. Forster's induction will greatly facilitate its ambition towards being a truly international company,” said company Chairman Ratan Tata.

Industry fundis will remember Forster as a former BMW South Africa MD. Not long thereafter (2001) he joined GM in Europe where he was responsible for all Opel/ Vauxhall, SAAB and Chevrolet operations.

Forster left GM soon after the company failed to agree on terms with a consortium that included Magna of Canada on the sale of Opel. Some believe he didn’t agree with the way GM wanted to conduct the deal.

Tata is of course the owner of brands that include Tata Motors, Jaguar and Land Rover.


General Motors has announced that it will wind down HUMMER after months of attempting to sell it to various interested parties. GM SA released a statement earlier today explaining that existing HUMMER customers will continue to be supported by their local dealers in the same way as before.

“While we will no longer distribute and sell HUMMER vehicles in South Africa,” the statement said, “we remain fully committed to looking after our customers through our network of HUMMER approved dealers. HUMMER customers can be assured that we will continue to offer full after sales support and that we will honour all warranty agreements.”

It went on to say that production of the H3 in South Africa was halted in May 2009 already. GM is concentrating on the Chevrolet, Opel, Cadillac and Isuzu brands for the time being. SAAB, which has been bought from GM by Dutch supercar maker Spyker, may also continue being supported by GM SA.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010


Even before a facelift has started selling, BMW is already upping power and performance on two of its X6 models. The X6 xDrive50i and the straight-six in the X6 xDrive35i are set to be offered with extra go and aero kits to improve both performance and fuel efficiency.

Old buyers of these models (I’m no ageist, just talking about those who bought their cars before this announcement) should not fear, for all the parts are individually retrofittable. What I mean is that as a current owner you’d be able to take your petrol X6 and have it installed with the Aerodynamic as well as the Power Kits at an approved dealership near you.


JOULE SAYS: South Africans visiting the Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland next month can look forward to seeing their very own all-electric car – Joule – proudly showcased at one of Europe’s most important automotive industry events.

A plug-in, zero emission vehicle, Joule on show gives a very strong indication of the final design and layout of the car when it goes on sale early in 2013. However, South African motorists can also expect to spot Joule on our roads within months, as a fleet takes to our roads to gather technical feedback on the car and also to gauge public response. These cars, like the show car, will be hand-built in Port Elizabeth.


“I don’t get it,” I said to myself when the BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo was first unveiled to the public in 2009. “Is it an MPV? Is it a proper grand tourer? Will it replace the 5 Series Touring (station wagon)? I don’t get it.”

Yesterday I met up with the 5 Series GT at the two-day local media launch event in partly cloudy Cape Town and hoped to “get it” once we’d touched base in the flesh for the first time. One can’t help but notice the hulky rear end before anything else, even before the sharky front end which was no doubt influenced by the CS Concept. There’s a reason for that rear end and it became apparent during my few hours behind the wheel.

The first question one might ask regarding this “the first of its kind” is probably “why?”. And BMW’s answer would be “because we are constant innovators, we have to create new models to meet market demand and expectations, and ultimately to grow as a business”. While it’s true that only about a decade ago BMW had the 3 Series, 5 Series, 7 Series and the Z4 as making up its entire model lineup. Some companies might have rejoiced and praised their gods and ancestors at the thought but BMW realised the future would be conquered in new markets.


In order to celebrate its successes on the World Rally Championship circuit, Citroën has announced the DS3 Racing edition based on the DS3 sub-compact like the one we spotted in Jozi last week. Only 1 000 units will be produced of the car and I can’t say for sure that SA will get it. Nevertheless Citroën fans everywhere should be doubly delighted with this car.

Powered by a 1.6-litre THP engine that makes 147kW and maximum torque of 275Nm, the car can only be described as pocket dynamite.

Deeper beneath the skin are systems to assist the driver make the best choices when it comes to turning the wheels. That includes stiffer suspension springs, adapted front and rear shock absorbers as well as wider front and rear tracks. The suspension also sits 15mm lower than a standard DS3.

Carbon fibre trim can be found on the dashboard, centre console, steering wheel embellisher, armrests and door side mouldings, contrasting the orange strips quite nicely.

The Citroën DS3 Racing will make its debut at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show next month. Were it to make it to Mzansi I suspect it would be priced at around R300 000. Look out MINI John Cooper Works!


What a beauty!
Jaguar is back to designing and building lovely fast cars, and the XFR is what this new image is all about. Brutal without being barbaric, brawn without the bad breath…

A sissy car then?
Never. Not in a million years. The XFR is based on the XF sedan which is shaped rather like a coupe than a sedan at the rear. Lines are clean and smooth, flowing from side to side, front to back, sweeping across through every angle. But there are elements that give away its top-of-the-range status. Like those two louvers on the bonnet for example, with the word “Supercharged” stamped hard on them. Move to the sides and discover wide side skirts that accentuate those massive 20-inch wheels. Check those R-badged brake callipers, signalling some serious stopping power.

At the back a slight aerodynamic boot lip, another R badge and four tailpipes round off what could only be described as an English stealth bomber. Owned by Indians. Whoa!

Monday, 22 February 2010


Porsche has announced the most powerful 911 model ever made, the new 911 Turbo S, in both Coupe and canvass-top Cabriolet. As you can tell, it adds S on the name Turbo, thus setting itself apart from the “normal” car. The new top-of-the-range keeps Porsche’s 3.8-litre boxer engine with two exhaust gas turbochargers with variable turbine geometry.

As a consequence the 911 Turbo S makes 390kW and 700Nm of torque. All that power and torque is sent to both the front and rear wheels through Porsche Traction Management (PTM) all-wheel drive. When coupled with Launch Control the car will fly out of a standing position to 100km/h in just 3.3 seconds. Top whack is 315km/h and the 7-speed double-clutch PDK gearbox helps it achieve a claimed 11.4 litres per 100km in average fuel consumption.

German prices start at €173 241 (R1.8 million) for the hard top and €184 546 (R1.9 million) for the Cabrio. Mzansi prices start at R2 215 000 and R2 315 000 respectively.


FORD SAYS: Ford enthusiasts from across South Africa will come together on 27 February 2010 in an attempt to set the world record for the largest Ford parade. The event will take place at Phakisa Freeway racetrack, Welkom in the Free State.

All Ford branded vehicles are invited to participate in the parade lap that will consist of one lap around the race circuit.

“This is set to be an historic event for Ford and we take immense pride in the loyalty and enthusiasm the Ford fans continue to show for the brand. There will be a vast array of Ford models coming together in support of the Blue Oval and we are excited at the prospect,” says Jacques Brent, vice president for marketing, sales and service.


Funny that most people, especially those young at heart types, are much more concerned with the exterior of a car rather than the interior. Funny because as a driver and a passenger you spend most of your time getting acquainted with what’s inside. Sure, outside things are also happening and observers are talking. But would you rather impress them or yourself?

Personally I go for the latter. And I vote the Chevrolet Cruze 1.8 LT as the one car which combines the best of both worlds and would never disinvite you from its comforts. The minute you step in after having pushed a button to unlock the door (s) it’s lushness for your journey. Seats are soft cushy leather, giving extra comfort for any type of travel.

I was lucky enough to be invited by the Cruze on a 1500km cruise (I couldn’t help that) to and from Durban. It brought out all its charm by dishing out comfort and poise the whole time. Start up the 103kW engine to hear a healthy motor under the bonnet and slot the large gear lever into D or R, depending on your inclination. The beautifully-designed dashboard reminds one of the Volt world car, cementing just how far the Chevy brand has come in terms of styling. All the dials are well-placed including the headlights switch on the right, but except the fan control which is sometimes turned unwittingly by the left knee when at rest. A feature normally found in much more expensive cars is standard with the Cruze 1.8 LT and that is the mirror-folding function that could mean the difference between a smooth exit and an expensive paint job. It’s obviously electronically controlled via the same exterior mirror adjustment knob.

As an enthusiast driver I appreciated the sportiness of the leather-covered steering wheel with great amounts of grip thanks in part to the sporty thumb-rest. Satellite controls are well within reach and include the sound volume and cruise control at your fingertips. The cruise control is easy to activate; just flick on the dashboard switch to “on” and control it via the steering wheel. Because the naturally aspirated engine is a bit wheezy at Gauteng altitudes, getting up to the desired speed takes a little longer. But once you get there it’s a breeze.

Front seats can be manually adjusted to suit the tallest, biggest and shortest in no time. I was however, expecting some electrical assistance in this regard, given the price tag and the car’s status in the range. Storage facilities are plenty though and include a closable extra storage den on top of the dashboard itself. My personal experience with the sunroof in the Mzansi context is that it’s largely overrated because we have so much sun here and you don’t want it constantly blasting down your head. But if you really want one the Cruze 1.8 LT has it and it’s electrically adjustable, of course.

I found that when handed a long trip the Cruze will greatly reduce its fuel consumption which was one of my initial gripes. It’s currently averaging 8.9 litres per 100km, a far cry from the initial figures of over 11 litres per 100km. The trip computer will tell you about all those things, including how far the fuel currently on board is going to take you.

As a five-seater the Cruze is more than capable of gulping up five adults with ease. However as you may imagine, some families aren’t cut into perfect squares and so we found ourselves 6, sometimes even 7 up in the car! No one complained (or maybe dared to!) though since the rear offers good leg and headroom. And it wasn’t for long distances anyway.

Our Cruze is a Chevy unlike any other we’ve ever experienced as far as interior comfort is concerned. We haven’t had anything break or come loose as far as the interior goes, so it looks like build quality is also top notch. No wonder then it’s been selected as a finalist in this year’s edition of the massively important World Car of the Year competition.


Gennaro Bonafede and Devin Robertson got the Ferodo racing team’s 2010 season off to a great start with a race win, two second places and a third from five races in the opening round of the WesBank Super Series of national championships at Khayalami on Saturday.

Bonafede (Ferodo Volkswagen Golf GTi) made the best possible debut in the Bridgestone Production Car Championship when he finished second in class T in the two 8-lap sprint races and won the 10-lap race three.  The 19-year-old second-year university student from Dainfern in Gauteng made a confident move up from the Engen Volkswagen Cup championship to qualify third behind last year’s class T runner-up Graham Nathan (VW Golf GTi) and reigning champion Gary Formato (Ford Focus).

Sunday, 21 February 2010


By the time you have read this the interweb will be infested with these pictures and many more of the Audi RS 5, one of the most anticipated cars of the year. Truth be told we’ve all been waiting for this car for about two years now and finally it’s here.

These pictures were leaked by someone who’s obviously close to the Audi strong room and they confirm that aggression and brawn are going to be part of its DNA. Note the huge gaping front grille with mesh styling, dropping all the way from the bonnet down to the lower lip. Note also the absence of your average fog lamp casings, replaced instead by two air intakes in mesh as well. LED lights could not have been left out and are thus quite present.

The side profile is dominated by those massive wheels and side skirts. By the time you approach the rear, those two oval tailpipes that typify all RS models are just about ready to blow. The only thing standing between them and lift off is that air diffuser.

Audi didn’t throw the winged RS seats away with the RS 4 and RS 6. From these images it appears they are available but only as an option. I wonder how Audi South Africa will price them…

As for the rest it’s not too hectic, apart from the optional alcantara-covered steering wheel which can be had over the normal perforated leather one. It seems the square-bottom steering wheel fad is out, which would be a pity. I really liked that part myself but I guess at times it could get in the way of a quick lap, especially because of the brushed aluminium.

Sadly we couldn’t get under the bonnet. However speculations are rife as to what exactly lives under there. No doubt power will be well over 300kW, probably around 350kW or so. Where will it all come from? Possibly a 4.2-litre V8, or a 3.6-litre V6 twin turbo/ supercharged, or something else, who knows. The pictured model uses a double-clutch system. I’m not sure if this is the 6 or 7-speed option but I’d probably place money on the latter.

All I know is that very few cars, in and out of its class will be able to keep up with the all-new Audi RS 5 when it hits the market later this year. South African sales? We’ll ask Audi and let you know. But expect to part with at least R800 000

Thanks to WCF