Road Impressions – Mahindra Pik Up Double Cab S10 4×4

Idioms and expressions – in the English language certainly – can sometimes be unfair or even politically incorrect and the (oft) used ‘so ugly he/she/it is beautiful’ comes to mind when referring to the all-new Mahindra PikUp.

It is unfair because the designers have made significant changes to the styling, especially at the front, and even if it does look as if it were carved from a brick, the return on that is excellent front and rear headroom – often compromised on the more svelte looking opposition.

Although it retains much of the look of the original Scorpio bakkie, the most compelling changes are to the front of the Mahindra Pik Up, where the grille, headlights, bonnet and fog lamps have all undergone a substantial redesign.

The new grille design is smarter, utilising a glossy black finish with subtle chrome accents, as well as a more prominent Mahindra badge, while the lower air intake has been reshaped to provide a stronger visual integration with the grille.

Black mesh inserts are consistently applied to both the main grille and the lower air intake, creating a more consistent appearance.

The headlights on either side of the grille are also completely new, with a cleaner, more resolute appearance and a new curved LED daytime running light signature for the S10 Double Cab.

Bolder fog lamps are mounted in restyled apertures that are linked to the lower edge of the headlights. The redesigned front-end styling is accompanied by 16-inch alloy wheels.

These, however, need a redesign and the protruding wheel centres are ugly and cheapen the overall outside appearance.

Inside, the most obvious improvements are the upholstery and the large six-inch, full colour touch screen display on the S10 Double Cab models located in the centre console.

The Mahindra Pik Up’s cabin is also comprehensively equipped. As the flagship model of the range, the S10 Double Cab gets remote central locking, cruise control, navigation and a multifunction steering wheel.

Safety features such as anti-lock brakes, EBD, Dual air bags, crash protection crumple zones and collapsible steering column are standard features.

The management system provides vehicle related information, while the automatic temperature control maintains the cabin ambience.

On the driver’s side the easy to read instrument cluster provides the vital statistics of the drive and journey and the new steering wheel incorporates  cruise control, audio and telephone controls.

Other advances include the introduction of Micro-hybrid technology that enables the engine intelligently to switch into standby mode when not in use, saving on both fuel and the environment. Rain and light sensors automatically turn the lights on in adverse lighting conditions and the wipers on in the rain.

There are three headrests in the rear and three-point seat belts for all seats along with two ISOFIX anchors in rear seat. Static bending headlamp technology improves the comfort of driving during the night.

The Pik Up has an updated 2,2-litre four-cylinder mHawk turbo-diesel engine, which makes use of a variable geometry turbo-charger to produce 103 kW. The torque peak of 320 Nm is reached at just 1 600 r/min and sustained to 2 800 r/min,.

The turbo-diesel engine is linked to a six-speed manual gearbox driving the rear wheels and  features ‘on-the-fly’ switching from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive. The entire range is fitted with an Eaton MLD (Mechanical Locking Differential) as standard.

Initial impressions on the launch drive were of a quiet engine, much improved ride and handling, less deviance in cross winds – in short, a capable vehicle that should have huge fleet appeal, especially in the small business sector.

This is emphasised by its 1 000 kg maximum payload and 2 500 kg braked towing capacity – supporting the pay off line of ‘Loves Work, Loves Weekends’.

It offers a load space measuring 1 489 x 1 520 x 550 mm and even with some intrusion from the rear wheel arches, the additional depth of the load bed compared to other double cabs on the market is some level of compensation.

Comparisons are inevitable, if possibly a little unfair as the PikUp has no garden party aspirations where the only ‘off-road’ experience likely are urban speed humps and the odd pothole.

The PikUp is designed to work and play and most weekend off-roaders will be a lot happier to press this into more demanding ‘donga-diving’ with the chance of a couple of dings and scrapes than they would their vastly more expensive kerb-crawlers.

Against vehicles such as the Hilux 2.4 GD6, Amarok 2.0 BiTDi, Triton 2.4Di and Ranger 2.2, it does give away a fair bit in terms of both power and torque – the Hilux offering 110/400, the Amarok 132/420 and the Ranger 118/385 for example. It is, however, a tad stronger than the Isuzu KB 2500 D-Teq, which has 100 kW and 320 Nm.

There is not a lot in it – on the highway the PikUp will easily chortle along at the speed limit with enough in reserve for most overtaking requirements without the need to drop a cog and it runs with an overall fuel consumption of 7,9 l/100 km. Carbon emission are 211 g/km.

In 4×4 country, it offers more than enough low rev grunt to weasel its way through pretty much any obstacle. Perhaps its biggest downfall in really tight situations is its 5 175 mm length but compensation for this is the good height of the driver’s seat and the forward vision over the shortish bonnet.

The 6,7 metre turning circle radius could, I believe, be improved and it needs a rear parking distance sensor – but definitely needs to lose the audible shriek every time reverse gear is engaged.

The pricing – well below that of its opposition – includes a 4 Year /120 000 km Warranty and roadside assistance, and a 5 Year / 90 000 km Service Plan. Services are at 20 000 km intervals or every 12 months, whichever comes first.

In the world of double cab off-roaders, the Mahindra PikUp is the unsophisticated sophisticate.

What the difference in Retail price is really worth:

  Mahindra Hilux Amarok Ranger
Retail Price R354 995 R570 700 R596 200 R586 900
Lease Repayments

(4 years/120 000km

R7 253 R11 660 R12 180 R11 990
Insurance – Monthly R1 509 R2 425 R2 534 R2 494

 

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Wasted hours

Cape Town is South Africa’s most congested city and number 48 on the world rankings with Johannesburg number 70 in the world – and South Africans are wasting an extra 119 travel hours a year on the roads.

According to TomTom Telematics research, South Africa is reported to have an average congestion level of 27%, resulting in 14,8 lost business days a year. This will come as no surprise to business owners and fleet managers who lose time and money to traffic jams daily.

Cape Town is once again the country’s most congested city,and the 5% congestion increase experienced over the 2016 period resulted in 163 extra travel hours a year – that’s 20,3 business days lost to traffic and congestion. Johannesburg, ranked 70 in the world, saw a 3% increase resulting in 141 extra hours a year, or 17,6 business days.

The report found Monday morning from 7am to 8am is the worst time to travel in five of the six most congested South African cities, although if you live in Bloemfontein, Tuesday mornings between 7am and 8am see the heaviest traffic. Cape Town experienced the most significant evening traffic, with congestion levels peaking from Tuesday to Friday.

East London, Pretoria, Durban and Bloemfontein have all seen an increase in congestion, according to the new report, with commuters losing out on between 8,5 (Bloemfontein) and 15,3 (Pretoria) extra business days a year.

Justin Manson, Business Development Manager at TomTom Telematics South Africa, says, “Traffic congestion is a reality we all have to face, and it will not be going away anytime soon. Businesses that rely on a mobile workforce are impacted most negatively by congestion.

“In most cases the impact relates to loss of billable hours, fuel wastage, overtime paid, a negative impact on customer service, and of course the frustration and irritability that congestion causes the drivers.”

“It is imperative any business with a mobile workforce, whether this entails deliveries, sales, maintenance, merchandising, etc, make use of a telematics solution that will keep drivers out of traffic congestion,” says Manson.

“The benefits are massive, less time spent in traffic means better customer service, more billable hours, less overtime and wasted fuel, and just as important – a less stressed mobile workforce.

“Knowing and understanding traffic patterns and congestion peaks will also help office staff to plan and dispatch drivers more efficiently.”

An effective telematics solution, such as Webfleet, helps fleet drivers avoid the most heavily congested routes. Real-time data gathered from thousands of devices across the country ensures drivers and fleet managers are able to plan the most cost- and fuel-efficient routes, avoid congestion and major traffic incidents, re-route quickly when necessary, and manage realistic ETAs.

This results in time, fuel and cost savings, as well as an increase in service delivery efficiency, despite the ever-increasing congestion facing drivers today.

The TomTom Traffic Index can also help fleet managers plan routes and times that avoid the heaviest congestion – a win for drivers and business.

South Africa’s’s Top 6 Most Congested Cities

City Congestion Level Extra Travel Per Year (Hours)
Cape Town 35% 163
Johannesburg 30% 141
East London 29% 121
Pretoria 26% 123
Durban 22% 100
Bloemfontein 18% 68

 

 

 

Efforts rewarded

Nissan South Africa managing director, Mike Whitfield, has warned that although the company will continue to invest, industrial action could lead to decreased international support making other countries better manufacturing propositions.

He was speaking at a function at which Nissan was rewarded for its efforts with regard to economic growth and job creation by the Capital City Business Chamber (CCBC) in the form of the 2017 CCBC Award for Manufacturing.

The CCBC, which was established in 2008, aims to encourage business development in the greater Tshwane region.

Nissan Group of Africa MD, Mike Whitfield, accepted the award and participated in a panel discussion about smart cities being a driver for economic growth.

“Nissan South Africa has been committed to skills development and job creation for decades with our Rosslyn, Pretoria plant and we are proud of this award that recognises our much-needed contribution to economic development,” he says.

The automotive industry is the largest manufacturing sector in the local economy and contributed 7,5% of South Africa’s GDP of R3,99-trillion in 2015. Vehicle and component production represents about 30% of SA’s manufacturing output.

“While we will continue to invest in the country, it must be said there are potential stumbling blocks in our future as frequent industrial action combined with a decrease in domestic and international support could make other countries a more lucrative option for vehicle manufacturer.”

He went on to highlight that South Africa remains a strong manufacturing destination for a variety of reasons that include access to Africa, a sophisticated financial services and business sector, relatively low production costs, well-developed logistics, government support, skills development programmes and excellent quality of locally produced vehicles.

In recent years, the Rosslyn plant, which employs 2 000 people, has been running an engineering training programme after Nissan realised there was a shortage of core skills in the motoring sector. Roughly 50% of the students selected to participate in the training programme are black women.

“There is great potential for growth locally and throughout Africa. We are optimistic about the long-term future of the automotive and manufacturing sectors, and Nissan will continue to do its part to stimulate economic growth and job creation well into the future,” says Whitfield.

Check it out

The autonomous car has come to South Africa and Cape Town drivers may spot the S-Class Mercedes-Benz on roads in and around the city until the end of January.

Road traffic in South Africa presents some special challenges with different road surfaces, wildlife on rural roads and many pedestrians in the city as well as in the interurban traffic who often cross lanes completely unexpectedly.

Automated and autonomous vehicles have to be aware of these peculiarities and respond in a reliable manner. In the fourth leg of the Mercedes-Benz Intelligent World Drive, the test vehicle – based on the current S-Class series-production saloon – is facing up to South Africa’s idiosyncrasies with automated test drives on the roads of the Western Cape and in the city of Cape Town.

Mercedes-Benz started the Intelligent World Drive at the Frankfurt International Motor Show (IAA) in September to adapt more highly automated driving functions to national traffic and user practices. The aim is to gather global insights into real-life traffic conditions for the advancement of the technologies.

As part of this, up until January 2018 the test vehicle is collecting comprehensive information in a variety of complex traffic situations on five continents and in doing so is sounding out the limitations of the current systems.

The focus of the test drives on the Western Cape is on pedestrian detection in many unfamiliar situations in particular, both in dense city traffic as well as on rural roads. Furthermore, the test vehicle based on the S-Class is collecting information for detecting road signs specific to the country, validating the digital map material of HERE MAPS and testing out a prototype of the innovative light system DIGITAL LIGHT.

In the extremely dense urban traffic in Cape Town, driving is truly a precision task – particularly in narrow streets, where the pavements are mostly overflowing with parked cars on both sides. But even on national roads outside of towns, and on the motorway too, drivers always have to expect to encounter crossing pedestrians.

Cameras and radar systems have to detect passers-by and interpret their movement correctly so that the vehicle can react within milliseconds in the event of an emergency.

 Further special features include traffic signs, which are only found in the 15 Member States of the Southern African Development Community, such as South Africa, Namibia, Botswana or the Seychelles.

For example, the no stopping sign shows a crossed-out letter ‘S’ in a red circle, while the sign for no entry is made up of two black horizontal bars in a red circle. In addition, the road traffic signs in South Africa are often incomplete.

Intersections where you have to stop are not always indicated by a stop sign – in some cases they only have wide, white lines across the road surface. Warning signs before the commonly-found speed bumps are also not always present, or are positioned close to the obstacle that there is insufficient time to react.

The lack of signs presents a major challenge for the performance of the camera and radar systems as well as the quality of the digital maps, which enable automated driving functions such as the Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC with route-based speed adjustment to function reliably.

Validating the latest digital map material from HERE, particularly with regard to intersections where the vehicle would need to stop and traffic obstructions such as speed bumps, is therefore a particular focus of the test drives on the Western Cape.

 In addition to the features specific to the country, Mercedes-Benz is testing a headlamp prototype featuring the innovative DIGITAL LIGHT technology. This is because light equally has a central role to play on the road to automated and autonomous mobility.

The non-dazzle continuous high beam in HD quality uses chips with over one million micro-mirrors, and therefore pixels, per headlamp. As such it achieves ideal light distribution in any driving situation – without dazzling other road users.

Furthermore, this  lighting system makes functions possible that were unveiled as a vision of the future in the F 015 Luxury in Motion research vehicle in early 2015. Among other things it is able to project light corridors onto the road in order to communicate with its surroundings.

In the past seven years, Mercedes-Benz has conducted 5 100 test drives around the world with 175 test vehicles for validations of driver assistance systems in the field alone. The majority of these have taken place as part of near-launch road trials.

The performance of the driver assistance systems has been assessed some 9,5-million kilometres in Europe, the USA, China, Australia and South Africa, and more than 1,2-million measurements have been made in real-life traffic situations in particular for their continuous enhancement.

 

 

Road Impressions – Toyota Land Cruiser Prado 3.0D VX-L

Change, they say, is as good as a holiday. While it is often unwise to question the wisdom of those wiser than ourselves, change often comes at a price.

Stepping back in time a little there once was the Toyota Land Cruiser presented in a range spanning several models, specifications and engines with the behemoth VX at the top of the pile. Although technically a Land Cruiser, the original Prado stood to one side, different enough for most people not to even realise it was family and to identify it simply as the Prado.

Now, there is the Land Cruiser 200, two models from many and the Prado with five variations. Land Cruiser is the most widely available model in the global Toyota product range – being sold in more than 190 countries worldwide.

That is not the major change. This comes in the fact the Prado is now bulked up and loses its niche slot along with the cuteness of the previously much smaller – and often – more practical offering especially for those only intending the thrill of parking lot kerb crawling.

Indeed, I parked my test Prado at the airport, deliberately choosing a spot between two other large size SUVs and really battled to open the door to get out! (Admittedly, the designers of most parking lots appear to have to share a single brain cell between them).

Parking lots aside, the new Prado is truly a formidable beast and would probably climb a vertical wall if pressed to do so.

I just think Toyota could have kept the status quo with Prado a smaller, high-end version of the Land Cruiser family.

The overall length is now 5 010 mm, width 1 885 mm, wheelbase 2 790 and height 1 880 mm and it has a GVM of 2,9 ton – so, certainly no midget.

The Prado range traditionally consisted of two grades, the mid-level TX and high-grade VX. For the first time, a new third grade, called VX-L has been added to the model line-up that combines all the features of the VX whilst adding a power-operated tilt-and-slide moon roof and comprehensive active safety assistance package to the mix.

The exterior design of the new Prado is unmistakeably Land Cruiser and maintains the core strengths of that brand in providing practicality, with headlamps and cooling openings positioned to maximise protection and wading depth, durability, with the powertrain and all functional parts well protected and capability, with a tight turning circle and generous ground clearance, essential for the most demanding off-road driving conditions.

The bonnet has been shaped to improve downward visibility at the centre and it is sandwiched by the sides of the bumper to help protect the engine bay. The corners of the lower part of the bumper have integral fog lamps and kick upwards, while the centre section is shaped like a skid plate for easier manoeuvring off-road.

The top section of the wings has been raised so that it is easier for the driver to pinpoint the vehicle’s extremities.

The front grille apertures have been made as large as possible for optimum engine cooling, while the headlamp main beams are positioned inboard to avoid damage when driving off-road.

In keeping with Land Cruiser Prado heritage, the grille itself features broad vertical bars with slit-shaped cooling openings, finished in chrome. The headlamp clusters comprise high and low beams, front turn indicators and daytime running lights, contained in a distinctive housing. VX-L models feature high brightness LED units. All models have LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL) and fog lamps, in addition to automatic light control system, as standard.

Ground clearance is 215 mm, with 31-degree approach, 25-degree departure and 22-degree ramp break-over angles.

VX and VX-L derivatives ride on 18-inch wheels and tyres and it comes with an 87-litre fuel tank.

New elements at the rear include a redesigned lamp cluster (featuring two stacked C-shapes) with an LED stop light, a smaller rear garnish plate and a restyled bumper.

I was unable to join colleagues on the official launch activation where the new Prado took on Sani Pass, the mightiest of all South African mountain roads but based on Instagram and Twitter activity coming from the event, it appeared Prado turned this into a ‘doddle’.

My own off-road test route is far less scenic, but has a few good really technical sections and the advantage of repeatability in terms of comparing like vehicles against each other.

At a few Rand short of R1-million for the VX-L, this route is significantly more strenuous than the average owner is likely to choose for such a luxury vehicle – a sad reality for most SUV sales with massive ability unrealised by equally massive under use.

How good is the new Prado? Well, if the ‘Crawl’ function is activated, the clever systems in the car will analyse and assess the obstacle, deciding how much power is needed at each wheel and move the car along with a perfect combination of throttle and brake.

All that is left for the driver is to steer – and, possibly, to die of boredom.

I cannot fault the technology but it does take all the fun out of off-road driving.

Inside, he top of the centre console tower has been set lower (by 25 mm) for a sleeker appearance and better front-on visibility when driving off-road. It is fitted with a new 8-inch, full-colour multimedia screen, a flush-fitting air-conditioning control panel and the drivetrain-related instrument cluster.

The controls for driving and comfort functions are located in separate panels for ease of use, positioned behind a new, leather-trimmed gear lever. They include switches to operate new integrated heating and ventilation for the front seats.

The redesigned instrument binnacle has a four-gauge layout with precision Optitron (high-definition backlit) meters with a metallic base panel and polished dials with raised scale markings. The meters flank a 4,2-inch TFT colour multi-information display (VX and VX-L) which presents comprehensive vehicle and infotainment data, controlled using switches on the steering wheel.

The top-tier VX and VX-L models are outfitted with Satellite Navigation and an enhanced surround-view Multi Terrain Monitor camera system, which also includes Panoramic and overhead view modes.

The standard convenience specification list includes automatic dual-zone climate control, audio system, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, illuminated entry, cruise control, park distance control, keyless entry, three power outlets, Bluetooth connectivity, USB, 3rd row seating and reverse camera.

High-grade models add memory function for the driver’s seat, a 14-speaker Premium audio system with woofer, multi-information display, power tilt-and-telescopic steering adjustment, rain-sensing wipers and power-fold-down 3rd row seats.

 The VX-L retains the 3.0 D-4D engine, offering 120 kW and 400 Nm available between 1 600 r/min and 2 800 r/min. This is mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission with gear ratios optimised for low-speed tractability and off-road use.

All Prado models feature Toyota’s Active Traction Control system (A-TRAC), which actively regulates wheel-slip, by directing torque to the wheel with the most traction. The system is capable of applying braking pressure to wheels individually to maximise traction. A low-range transmission with user-selectable rear and centre diff-locks and Hill Assist Control (HAC), naturally forms part of the standard ensemble.

The Multi-Terrain Select (MTS) system (VX and VX-L only), operated by a centrally mounted rotary knob, allows the driver to select the correct mode depending on the ‘road’ ahead. The system has five pre-configured modes (mud & sand, loose rock, mogul, rock & dirt and rock), to tailor the vehicle’s traction control, transmission characteristics, power delivery and suspension settings to the terrain at hand. Downhill Assist Control (DAC) is included on VX and VX-L models.

VX-L grade versions of the new 2017 Prado are equipped with Toyota Safety Sense active technologies to help prevent accidents from happening, or mitigating the consequences if an impact does occur.

The package includes a Pre-Collision System (PCS) with pedestrian detection function, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Lane Departure Alert (LDA) and Automatic High Beam (AHB).

Further driver support is provided in the form of a Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (both VX and VX-L) and an upgraded tyre pressure warning system – with digital read out in the multi-information display.

These active safety systems complement the standard seven air bags and comprehensive brake and stability control systems  and all Land Cruiser Prado models include a 5-year/90 000 kilometre service plan and 3-year/100 000 kilometre warranty.

Not particularly significant in terms of its market positioning but the VX-L will amble off from rest to reach 100 km/h in 12,1 seconds and reach a terminal velocity of 171 km/h. CO2 emissions are 224 g/km and Toyota claims an overall fuel consumption of 8,5 l/100 km.

My own experience – highway, rural and urban – came closer to 9,2 l/100 km, still an acceptable figure considering the overall mass of the vehicle.

On the road, it is hugely comfortable and, despite the size, easy to drive with the changes to the front improving vital visibility – augmented by the wide choice of exterior camera options. It is not a great fan of sudden directional changes at speed but has no really bad habits and, as mentioned, will probably scale a vertical wall if correctly cajoled.

Firing on all cylinders

A business icon in the Eastern Cape community of Port Elizabeth, the Ford engine plant at Struandale has produced 3,3-million engines since 1964 – and is gearing up for increased volumes.

This month, the Struandale Engine Plant assembled its 500 000th Duratorq TDCi turbo-diesel engine since the program was launched in 2011 for the new Ford Ranger, which is built at Ford’s Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria and exported to 148 markets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Ford has a long history in Port Elizabeth, having started its operations in the city in 1923. The Struandale Engine Plant has been a cornerstone of Ford’s South African legacy, evolving continuously over the past 53 years to become a regional centre of excellence for the Ranger engine export program.

“Reaching 500 000 Duratorq TDCi engines, and a cumulative 3,3-million engines since 1964, is a fantastic achievement for the Struandale Engine Plant which competes with some of the best Ford plants in the world,” says Ockert Berry, vice president of Operations, Ford Middle East and Africa. “It is one of the Eastern Cape’s top exporters, contributing to the success of the automotive industry and its supplier network in the region.”

Fully assembled 2,2-litre four-cylinder and 3,2-litre five-cylinder Duratorq TDCi engines are supplied to the Silverton Assembly Plant for installation in the locally-built Ford Ranger pick-up and the seven-seater Ford Everest SUV.

Engines are also exported to India and China to support their production of the Ford Everest, along with five-cylinder units being shipped to North America for the Ford Transit. A total of 34 engine derivatives are produced for the various vehicle applications.

Along with its assembly operations, the Struandale Engine Plant also machines components for the Duratorq TDCi engines, comprising the cylinder head, block and crankshaft, which are used for local engine assembly, as well as export to Ford engine plants in Argentina and Thailand. More than 1,3-million component sets have been produced since 2011.

“Due to its unprecedented global success, demand continues to grow, both locally and internationally for the Ford Ranger,” Berry states. “Accordingly, we have invested R3-billion for both product and capacity related actions to accommodate the increasing market volumes for the Ranger in South Africa and our export markets.

“The Struandale Engine Plant already achieved its highest-ever volumes for component machining and engine assembly during 2017, and we expect to set new records again in 2018,” he adds. “The R3-billion investment reaffirms Ford’s ongoing commitment to South Africa as a local manufacturer, exporter and key employer in the automotive sector, supporting a large number of direct jobs as well as indirect employment through our extensive supplier base.”

Additionally, Ford is preparing for the launch of the first-ever Ranger Raptor.

“The Ford Ranger is already one of South Africa’s best-selling vehicles, and we’re exceptionally proud to confirm that this highly anticipated performance model will be assembled in South Africa from 2019,” says Dr Casper Kruger, managing director of Ford Motor Company Sub-Saharan Africa Region.

“This is yet another fantastic achievement for our local team, and signals our ability to produce world-class products of the highest calibre.”

As an exciting new addition to the Ford Performance family, the Ford Ranger Raptor is a purpose-built, desert-racing inspired model that builds on the unrivalled heritage of Ford Performance’s legendary F-150 Raptor, the world’s most extreme production pickup.

Designed and engineered to deliver an adrenaline-pumping driving experience, the Ford Ranger Raptor sports a head-turning exterior look that exudes toughness as well as a level of capability and off-road performance never before seen in this segment.