Friday, 2 April 2010


FORD SAYS: New vehicle sales enjoyed their third consecutive month of growth this year according to figures released by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa).

The new vehicle market broke through the 40 000 units threshold to total 43 591 units in March. “The reassuring results indicate a positive ongoing trend to sales recovery, despite the March figures being buoyed by reasonably substantial rental sales ahead of the World Cup,” says vice president Marketing, Sales and Service, Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa, Jacques Brent. March sales grew 20.1% year on year, 10.9% ahead of February results.

Market growth was fairly evenly shared by passenger car and light commercial vehicle (LCV) sales. Passenger car sales rose 9.6% on February to 28 478, while LCVs increased 12.1% to 12 954 units. Their segment performances were up 21.9% and 14.5% respectively on the same period last year.


The year 2010 will forever be etched in the great halls of Volkswagen as one which brought the company not only good financial results but industry accolades like none before. The new Polo has been announced as the 2010 World Car of the Year at the 2010 New York International Auto Show. It beat the other two finalists, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Toyota Prius.


TOYOTA SAYS: Toyota South Africa has enhanced the popular RAV4 model line-up with the introduction of a new GX-grade derivative with an automatic gearbox.

The new RAV4 2.0 GX Auto will offer a four-speed automatic gearbox, mated to the well known 112 kW two litre petrol engine that is available on the petrol models in the range. To date the only automatic version in the range was the higher spec RAV4 2.0 VX Auto.


PEUGEOT SAYS: Peugeot’s stylish and funky 107 runabout has become even more affordable thanks to a realignment of the range, including new names even better suited to its fun-loving personality. An additional model has been added with the two derivatives badged Urban and Trendy, and their tantalising mix of specification and practicality – not to mention a good dose of spunk – looks set to confirm the 107’s popularity for both the young  and young at heart after a great deal. Priced at R110 500 and R121 500 respectively, consumers after a car which punches above its weight will find it right here.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010


RENAULT SAYS: The launch of the Renault Laguna Coupé in South Africa introduces an entirely new level of exclusivity, style and dynamism to the local Renault range – and the market as a whole.

Combining clean-cut coupé styling with exceptional levels of comfort, luxury and advanced technology, the Laguna Coupé stands out as a thoroughly contemporary offering, aimed at individuals that demand the ultimate in terms of sophistication, class and performance.

"The Renault Laguna Coupé expresses timeless beauty, linked to absolute driving enjoyment. The result is an athletic two-door flagship coupé with strong allure and a unique position in the local market," explains Renault SA managing director, Xavier Gobille.

"While we have already introduced 11 new Renault models in the past 12 months, most of the newcomers have been positioned in the budget, the compact and the midrange  segments of the market.”


VOLVO SAYS: The new Volvo C70 is the ideal car for people who reward themselves with the best in life. It is as much an elegant coupé as it is a sporty convertible – two exhilarating cars in one sleek package, with the same elegant, clean lines in both versions.

The new Volvo C70 has the same smart three-piece steel roof, practical seating for four adults and world-leading convertible safety as before. With an updated design and elevated premium feel, the C70 delivers an "I want" aura of absolute world class. 

"The Volvo C70 has classic convertible lines and a strong identity of its own. What we have done is to carefully redesign the front and rear so they harmonise more with both today's and tomorrow's Volvo models. We have also increased the exclusiveness of the materials and trim details to enhance the atmosphere of luxury and enjoyment inside the car," explains Fedde Talsma, Exterior Chief Designer at Volvo Cars.

With its new front, the Volvo C70 reveals traces of the all-new Volvo S60, which was recently unveiled in Geneva. As a result, the new C70 now blends in with the larger models in the Volvo range.

"The new C70 has a clearer, more pronounced face. The car's natural elegance has been modernised so it blends seamlessly with the most up-to-date, the most sophisticated backdrops," says Fedde Talsma.

Bodywork details such as the front wings have been redesigned, which gives the new C70 a fresh, stylish new look. The nose is more wedge-shaped and the headlights have been repositioned to give the new C70 a more dynamic appearance. The new headlights and the décor around the foglamps, for instance, have been angled up and to the rear, while the detailing of the lower grille is more pronounced.

From head-on, the front forms an open, inviting "V". The enlarged iron mark and the new, larger air intake reinforce the self-assured stance. Owners who want even more individuality can opt for the stunning new colour, Flamenco Red Pearl.

"The new C70 is a more elegant coupe, and a more exhilarating convertible than ever before. It's simply fantastic to drive," says Michelle Naudé, Marketing Director Volvo Car South Africa.

Sleek new rear design
The exclusive high-tech LED lamps, of the same type as found on the Volvo XC60, are the most noticeable update at the rear. The entire lamp unit is clearly integrated with the oval that frames the new C70's rear panel.

New lines and details in the rear bumper and elsewhere have been integrated to emphasise the depth and dynamism of the design language.

The interior has been updated in several respects to create a unique ambience in the new Volvo C70. The instrument panel has been redesigned, giving it a wider, sleeker look and the surface of the panel has a new texture that enhances the feeling of quality.

The exclusive new instruments, with gauges and graphics that are specific to the C70, are yet another example of how the car's premium feel has been emphasised still further.

"We've focused the new interior features around the driver to give the owner a stronger perception of being rewarded behind the wheel. The seats are upholstered in a new type of soft hide and there is even better detail finish to make driving a more pleasurable experience than ever before," continues Fedde Talsma.

The new Volvo C70 has been engineered as one of the safest convertibles on the market, with regard to both preventive and protective safety. The car has an advanced body structure and several solutions that are unique in the world of open cars. The lack of a fixed roof has been compensated for by structural reinforcements and sophisticated technology.

The Volvo C70 has sturdy metal hoops that shoot up at the rear of the vehicle, behind the rear seat passengers, that creates a protective "compartment" should the car roll over. These hoops, which are part of Volvo's Rollover Protection System - ROPS - are activated by a gyro-sensor. Since the Volvo C70 has a proper glass rear window, the hoops shoot up through the glass if the roof is up. They have therefore been fitted with small hardened metal spikes that break the glass in order to function properly.

One important part of the side-impact and rollover protection is the inflatable curtain, IC, which is installed in the door since there is no roof rail in which to fit it. The curtain has an extra-stiff design featuring twin rows of panels that are offset slightly in relation to one another. As a result, the curtain can remain upright and help protect occupants effectively, even if the window is open. What is more, the curtain deflates slowly, which provides added protection should the car roll over.

In addition to the inflatable curtains on either side, the front seat occupants also have side-impact airbags. These are designed to shield both the chest and hips. The inflatable curtain also interacts with the belt pre-tensioners to provide the best possible protection for front seat occupants in a side impact or rollover situation. All four seats come with safety belt pre-tensioners.

The Volvo C70 transforms smoothly from a cosy coupe into an open convertible. Just press a button and the three-part steel roof folds quickly and silently away, disappearing neatly into the boot.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010


Porsche South Africa has done us a huge favour by telling us exactly how much its new Cayenne range will cost. Yes, we have all the details of which models are coming and where in the pricing order they will stand.

The biggest news is probably that a diesel and a hybrid are on their way, not only for the first time in the world but of course in Mzansi as well. A look at the models then which all come fitted standard with the new 8-speed Tiptronic gearbox.

Bottom of the pile is the Cayenne which has a normally aspirated 3.6-litre V6 engine producing 220kW at 6300rpm and 400Nm at 3000rpm. Following that is the Cayenne Diesel sporting a 3.0-litre turbo diesel V6 with a power figure of 176kW at 4400rpm and 550Nm at 2250rpm. A little higher is the Cayenne S featuring the 4.8-litre V8, naturally aspirated, kicking out 294kW at 6500rpm and 500Nm at 3500rpm.

The Cayenne Hybrid is positioned even higher than that with its supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine at the forefront. Total system output is 279kW at 6500rpm and 580Nm at 5250rpm. Top of the list, for now anyway, is the Cayenne Turbo with its 4.8-litre bi-turbo engine shooting out 368kW at 6000rpm and maximum torque of 700Nm at 4500rpm.

And now, for the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Prices are as follows:

Cayenne (R645 000)
Cayenne Diesel (R680 000)
Cayenne S (R775 000)
Cayenne Hybrid (R830 000)
Cayenne Turbo (R1 430 000)


Ford has released details and pictures of the new Focus RS500, a car seemingly for those with balls as big as their wallets. Although prices are not available (the car is not coming to South Africa anyway), it should be quite devastating to the pocket. Come to think of it that’s why Mzansi is not getting the normal RS either, both situations quite pitiful if you ask me. Only 500 units will be sold in Europe, hence the name.

Back to lecture at hand. The RS500 is the most powerful Focus ever made for the road and features the same 2.5-litre 5-cylinder turbo engine, probably Volvo’s hardest working engine so far. This time power is upped to 257kW at 6000rpm and peak torque is 460Nm between 2500 and 4500rpm.


VOLVO SAYS: Ford Motor Company has entered into a definitive agreement to sell Volvo Car Corporation and related assets to Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Company Limited.

The sale is expected to close in the third quarter of 2010, and is subject to customary closing conditions, including receipt of applicable regulatory approvals.

The purchase price for Volvo Cars and related assets (primarily intellectual property) is US$1.8 billion, which will be paid in the form of a note in the amount of US$200 million, and the remainder in cash.  The cash portion of the purchase price will be adjusted at close for customary purchase price adjustments relating to pension deficits, debt, cash and working capital, the net effect of which could be a significant decrease in the cash proceeds to Ford.


Volvo has refreshed the C30 3-door and gave it the company’s new face. A new front end as well as rear end give the car a new lease on life in times when a recession has dug deep into consumer pockets and left them helpless. Volvo need a star performer in its midst and the C30 is poised to be it.

A redesigned front grille kicks off the facework, followed by new upward-slanting headlights and front wings. A bigger air intake looks like it’s straight from the XC60.

“The fact that the C30 has enhanced its visual volume and self-confidence is entirely in line with Volvo Cars' design strategy. At the same time, the C30 has a one of a kind expression. The new honeycomb grille, for instance, means it takes just a quick glance in the rear-view mirror to see that the car filling your view is the new Volvo C30,” says Fedde Talsma, Exterior Chief Designer at Volvo Cars.

The rear has also gone under the scalpel, gaining a new lights cluster and bumper. High end models receive a visible tailpipe as well. Volvo is offering white wheels as an option and they look quite hot with the R Design option. At the launch in Cape Town there was a car adorned with these special wheels and it really stood out, although I do admit that this is not everybody’s cup of tea. The C30 is of course aimed at the young at heart, or those who have the inclination to drive a compact Volvo. It was the car that continued the new Volvo funk started by the current S60. Therefore making it as funky as possible is part of its appeal, hence the white rims and catchy colours. In fact, a total of 12 paint colours are available to choose from.

As far as the interior, nothing has changed expect a few more options to pick from. The interior is now available in an all-new Espresso/Blond combo, consisting of a dark brown upper section and a blond, fresh shade on the lower door sides. The Volvo centre stack is also offered in something called Oyster Burst Déco which changes the texture of the stack and makes it feel quite funky.

Engines remain the same with the 1.6-litre making 74kW and 150Nm, the 2.0-litre worth 107kW and 185Nm as well as the 169kW, 320Nm T5 with a 2.5 turbo engine. Average fuel consumption is quoted at 7 litres per 100km, 7.4l/100km and 8.7l/100km for all three respectively. Matching C02 emissions are 167g/km, 177g/km and 203g/km. While I understand the 1.6 and even 2.0 form the bread and butter for C30, these two motors are underpowered compared to some German and French competitors with smaller, turbo power.

Changes have been made to the suspension system in line with the idea of improving handling performance. The sport chassis is optional on the lower models but standard on the T5 R Design and makes handling a little crisper. I felt it during the short stint in the car and it really was an improvement over the pre-facelift model. Steering is also sharper.

Speaking of R Design, the new models are simply smarter than the old ones and really accentuate the C30’s wild child personality to the fullest. Outside R Design features the related badge on the front grille, new body kit, 17-inch five-spoke aluminium wheels and a tailgate spoiler among others.

The R Design interior includes an embossed R-Design emblem in the front seats, sports steering wheel trimmed in leather with an R-Design emblem, a blue speedometer and rev counter gauges, as well as an R-Design centre stack and panel inserts.

“With the new sport chassis, the new R-Design builds further on the success of the sport chassis introduced in the Volvo S80 earlier in 2009. Although the actual properties differ between these two car categories, we've had plenty of good experience on which to build further in the Volvo C30,” says Stefan Sällqvist, manager Vehicle Dynamics.

It may be easy to dismiss the new Volvo C30 facelift as a mere facelift but it will go a long way towards infusing a new life force into the youthful, funky car.

2010 Volvo C30 Pricing
Volvo C30 1.6 manual (R227 400)
Volvo C30 2.0 manual (R255 700)
Volvo C30 2.0 Powershift (R271 200)
Volvo C30 T5 R-Design manual (R328 500)
Volvo C30 T5 R-Design Geartronic (R341 000)

Monday, 29 March 2010


South Africans are generally not known as station wagon buying people. We seem to mimic the Americans in that aspect, although they weren’t always this way. I guess the advent of the Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) really changed the dynamics for the station wagon/ estate/ tourer market.

Consider that of the roughly 180 E-Class, BMW 5 Series and Audi A6 combined units sold every month, only about 1 or 2 are station wagons. Internationally about 240 000 E-Class Estates have been sold since it was launched last year. Thus it seems Mercedes-Benz SA is taking a hell of a chance launching the E-Class Estate, especially in this currently depressed market.

Company logic is that the car will be niche yes, but very soon customers will grow to appreciate the type of value/ utility proposition offered by premium wagons. The other reason stated is the relative success enjoyed by the C-Class Estate in its segment, the trend towards smaller SUVs and the demand for space. Mercedes-Benz SA has no plans to launch the GLK compact SUV which competes against the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60.

One cannot accuse this car of being compact though, not by any means. It weighs in at about 1.7 tonnes (E 200 CGI) and measures 4.9 metres long, 1.85m wide, 1.5m high and has a wheelbase of 2.9m. Maximum boot capacity is 1950 litres, which means it can swallow well over 300 6-pack boxes of long-life milk. Or a space shuttle. Good news if you’re a farmer off to the moon. For the rest of us it means you can take all your buddies’ golf clubs plus their caddies and still make it in time for tee off.

That’s because the engines are powerful as well. At the bottom is a 1.8-litre 200 CGI with direct injection (fuel goes straight into the combustion chamber for improved efficiency all around), and a turbocharger. It produces 135kW at 5250 rpm and 270Nm at 1800rpm, has a claimed 0 – 100km/h sprint time of 8.8 seconds and runs out of breath at 222km/h. Average fuel consumption is between 7.9 and 8.1 litres per 100km and C02 emissions range from 183 to 189g/km.

The rest mirror the E-Class sedan; the E300 with a naturally aspirated 3.0-litre V6 worth 170kW and 300Nm, the E350 making 200kW and 350Nm, and the E500 with its 5.5-litre V8 of 285kW and 530Nm. MBSA says customers who are interested in the E 63 AMG Estate can certainly order one and get it delivered, though we weren’t given any indicative pricing on it. However, these cars are generally R25 000 more than their sedan equivalents, so you are looking at northwards of R1 194 000 for the fast mama wagon.

Speaking of which, gone are those days when the Estate looked like a bloated whale. This one is very streamlined, quite sleek on the sides and has an almost coupe-like rear profile. In the metal, and I saw one standing in front of me, it looks much smaller than in pictures.

As far as luxuries are concerned, this is an E-Class after all, so this is not in question at all. Being in South Africa also means a lot of the gadgets and fittings are already standard, things like 9 air bags, adaptive brake lights, ambient lighting, Bluetooth connectivity, ESP, Hill Start Assist and the Easy-Pack tailgate system which opens and closes the boot electronically through the touch of a button. You can even set the thing to rise as far as you want, which is useful for low-roof parking bays. Standard wheels are 17-inch types but there is an optional 18-incher which unfortunately because of its depth, does not come with a full-sized spare wheel.

Some sweet options are available however, including the Distronic Plus, bi-xenon headlights, leather seats, child seat recognition, keyless go and rear seat entertainment in the form of DVD players. Only the Elegance and Avantgarde options are being sold here, which is good for resale values and more understandable customer options.

I didn’t get a chance to drive the new E-Class Estate but will do so in the next couple of weeks, by which time you’ll know exactly what I think of it. In the meantime check out the pictures and pricing.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate Pricing
E200 CGI BlueEfficiency (R507 000)
E300 (597 000)
E350 (672 000)
E500 (833 000)