Ford and Toyota win in the Free State

The Harrismith 400, Round 5 of the 2018 South African Cross-Country Series (SACCS), saw Toyotas as the first three cars across the line , but it was Ford that claimed the victory in the hotly contested Class T category.

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Victory in Harrismith went to former champion Chris Visser, with Philip Herselman beside him in the Atlas Copco-supported Toyota Hilux. It was a first overall victory for Visser/Herselman since joining the fray in Class FIA of the SACCS this year, and the burly farmer was ecstatic with his win.
“It has been a long time coming, and we’ve gotten close on a number of occasions,” said Visser from the Designated Service Park (DSP) at the Eeram Farmer’s Complex, to the west of the Freestate town of Harrismith. “But today everything came together. The Hilux ran like clockwork, Philip was an ace on the notes, and I really gelled well with the terrain.”

Visser/Herselman brought their Toyota Hilux home just 01:34 ahead of Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Henk Lategan and Barry White, who were fresh from their maiden win at last month’s Atlas Copco 400 in Bronkhorstspruit. The factory crew had won the qualifying race for the Harrismith 400 on the Friday before the main event, but found the going tough during the remainder of the race.

“Opening the route was really difficult, though I think we might have been just a touch too cautious on the opening loop,” said Lategan after finishing the race. “We tried to push a bit harder during the second loop, but Chris drove like a man possessed, and in the end, we just couldn’t catch him.”

Third place, 04:54 behind Lategan/White, came the 4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux of Jason Venter, with Jaco van Aardt beside him. The pair had last raced at the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1,000 Desert Race in June, but it was a clear return to form for the former Class T champions.

“It was a good race for us,” said Venter after the event. “We came out here with the sole aim of having some fun, and maybe the relaxed attitude helped us go faster. Whatever the case may be, we had a great race and we’re very pleased to be on the overall podium.”

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Things didn’t go quite as smoothly for Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy, in the factory Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux. Their weekend started with a broken tie rod during the qualifying race, forcing the pair to drop way down the order for the main race.

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With Lategan/White finishing second, and De Villiers/Murphy not scoring points in Harrismith, the Production Championship is wide open. While the official standings won’t be updated until the results from the Harrismith 400 become official, it is likely that only ten points will separate De Villiers, at the top of the Production Category standings, from teammate Lategan in second place.

Class S saw championship hopefuls, Jannie Visser and son Chris, retire near the end of the race, handing the class championship to David Huddy and Gerhardt Schutte (Nissan Navara) in the process. The Vissers were 15 points behind Huddy/Schutte going into the penultimate round, but a DNF means that they are now out of contention, making Huddy and Schutte the new Class S champions.

The Free State proved a happy hunting ground for the Ford Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) team for the second year in a row as Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer scored their second consecutive Harrismith 400 Class T victory at the weekend.

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Having earned their first career win at this event last year, it was once again a stellar performance from the young pair in the NWM-built and run Ford Ranger, catapulting them from fourth to third place in the South African Cross Country Series (SACCS).

Team-mates and current Class T championship leaders, Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable were not quite as fortunate in the second NWM Ford Ranger but still managed a solid fourth place.

With their title rivals, Johan and Werner Horn (Toyota), encountering troubles and only managing sixth, it gives the Ford crew a bit more breathing space with their lead extended from four to nine points – thus setting the scene for yet another thrilling two-horse race for championship glory at the season finale.

Qualifying

With this year’s Harrismith 400 featuring an almost entirely new route, the primary objective for the Ford NWM team was to score maximum points without taking any risks that could sideline them in the fierce battle for the 2018 Class T Production Vehicle title.

As the SACCS Class T leaders, Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable were the fastest of the NWM Ford Rangers on Friday’s extremely windy and dusty sprint-style 39km qualifying session. They set the third-fastest time, which gave them an ideal starting position for Saturday’s main race without having to sweep the road – and, crucially, they were two places ahead of the Horn brothers.

Making the most of their local knowledge, Harrismith residents Jacques van Tonder and Sammy Redelinghuys caused a stir by powering their NWM-built privateer Ranger to the fastest qualifying time, 40 seconds ahead of Woolridge/Huxtable and 13 seconds quicker than second-placed Richard Leeke/Danie Stassen (BMW).

Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer were fourth quickest, just 7 sec behind their team-mates, perfectly placed to pounce as the race progressed.

Race

This year’s new Harrismith 400 route featured a challenging mix of fast farm tracks and gravel roads, keeping the crews on their toes throughout the two 177 km loops.

Lance and Ward started off well and were pushing hard, but despite the extremely dry and dusty conditions, they quite unexpectedly found themselves stuck in a mud hole located in a small forest section, just 65 km into the race. Several other crews were nearly caught out by the same hazard, which cost the Ford team around two minutes to extricate themselves – thus undoing their early charge, resulting in them holding station in fourth at the end of loop one.

Gareth and Boyd were setting a blistering pace and fortunately had no major issues on the first loop, other than one of the right front shock absorbers breaking towards the end of the opening stint, which only hampered them on the big bumps. They came into the pits leading Class T by more than two minutes over Leeke/Stassen in second place, and almost three minutes ahead of Van Tonder/Redelinghuys who had dropped back to third.

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With the damaged shock absorber replaced, Gareth and Boyd had a perfect run through the second loop and claimed their second Harrismith 400 win in a row with a total race time of 4 hours 35 min 10 sec – more than 6 minutes ahead of Leeke/Stassen and a further 1 min 21 sec clear of third-placed Van Tonder/Redelinghuys.

As the Ford NWM team’s third win of the 2018 season, the maximum haul of 30 points powered the young duo into third place in the championship, ahead of Gary Bertholdt and Geoff Minnnitt (Toyota) who crossed the line fifth.
For Lance and Ward, their second loop was also a fraught affair. They set blistering times on the first part of the stage and were within 20 seconds of second-placed Leeke/Stassen with 80km to go, only to lose the front brakes on their Ranger. A cautious drive to the finish saw them claim a hard-fought fourth place.

With rivals Johan and Werner Horn also experiencing a difficult weekend and finishing sixth, Lance and Ward are now nine points ahead of the Toyota crew going into the last race, scheduled for 2-3 November in Westonaria, Gauteng.

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Thanks to three Rangers finishing in the top four places, Ford won the coveted Manufacturers Award for the second time this year, to go along with the season-opener in Dullstroom.

The final race of the 2018 SACCS season will take place on 2 and 3 November in Glenharvie, Westonaria, Gauteng. The event was originally planned for Sun City, but had to be relocated due to landowner authorisation not being granted for the race route.

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Taking hold

Toyota Gazoo racing will be looking to consolidate its lead in the 2018 South African Cross-Country Series (SACCS) in Round 5, the Harrismith 400, that takes place around the Free State town of Harrismith on September 14/1.5

For Toyota Gazoo Racing SA it offers an opportunity to cement its standing at the top of the championship table.

Giniel de Villiers, partnered with Dennis Murphy, currently leads the Production Category standings by 33 points over teammate Henk Lategan, who races with Barry White beside him in the Class FIA Toyota Hilux.

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“Giniel is still in the lead at the moment, and if all goes to plan he should be able to bring the championship home,” says Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team Principal, Glyn Hall. “But Henk and Barry are fresh off a victory at the previous round, and will certainly be pushing hard to keep Giniel and Dennis honest.”

With 30 points on offer for a win, the battle between the two Toyota Gazoo Racing SA crews is certainly one to watch, and even a minor slip by De Villiers/Murphy could close the gap considerably before the final round of the 2018 series.

Both Class FIA Toyota Hilux race cars have already been prepared for the Rally of Morocco, which takes place from October 3, 2018. As such they feature numerous upgrades including tweaks to the engine, transmission and suspension.

“As much as we need to win in Harrismith, we also need to look after the cars, as they will be shipped to Morocco directly after the race,” continues Hall.

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In the Class FIA championship, it is an all-Toyota podium as things stand at present. The two Toyota Gazoo Racing SA crews lead the charge, with Chris Visser and Philip Herselman (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) in third place, 34 points behind Lategan/White.

The battle for Class T supremacy is set to continue at the Harrismith 400, as defending Class T champions, Johaan and Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Hilux) fight to regain the lead in this season’s standings.

The pair are currently just four points behind log leaders Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable (Ford Ranger), and with only two races to go, the Toyota lads will be going all-out for victory in the Free State.

With that said, Gary Bertholdt and Geoff Minitt, in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux are not out of the Class T title fight either, and find themselves just ten points behind the Horn brothers, thanks to victory on the Atlas Copco 400 in Bronkhorstspruit last month.

Class S will see Archie Rutherford and son Kent back in action in their Toyota Hilux, with 4×4 Mega World’s Heinie Strumpher and Henri Hugo also joining the fray in their Toyota Hilux. Strumpher is currently in third place in the championship, 19 points behind Class S leader David Huddy (Nissan Navara), but a good performance in Harrismith could put him right back in the title fight.

The Harrismith 400 gets under way at 13:00 on Friday, September 14, with the qualifying race to determine the start positions for the main event. This short, sharp race takes place over only 40 km, but may play a pivotal role in the outcome of the main event, which starts at 08:00 from the Earam Farmer’s Market Complex, on the Johannesburg side of Harrismith.

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Road Review – Renault Clio RS 18 F1

There is a whole legion of jokes that start with “What is the similarity between…?”, and this one, which is no joke, queries the similarity between a Bumble Bee and the Renault Clio RS18 – the most obvious and immediate response being both are black with yellow markings.

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However, that is not the main one. The Bumble Bee is aerodynamically anatomically incorrect for flight – in other words, it should not be able to fly but simply does not know that, so goes ahead and does it anyway.

While not intended to fly per se, the Clio does some serious low flying as one of the most exciting of the small pocket rockets on the market – and the similarity here is both punch well above their respective fighting weights.

Renault’s best-selling model now moves into its fourth generation and is one of the first Renault models to sport the brand’s new visual identity featuring a bolder version of its trademark diamond-shaped logo at the front.

This small car has consistently achieved Top 5 performer status in the extremely competitive AB New Hatch segment.

The Renault Sport Clio is one of the most popular ‘hot hatches’, with a proven track record as one of the best handling and most rewarding cars on the market.

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The latest addition to the Clio RS Range, the RS 18 F1 was preceded by numerous derivatives including the 1st RS model, the Renault Clio Williams (1993) that was designed to celebrate the success of the Renault-powered F1 team at the time.

More powerful Renault Sport models emerged post the Clio Phase 2’s revamp, in the guise of the Renault Sport Clio V6, with the 3,0-litre V6 engine housed in the rear of the vehicle, with increased power output, making it the fastest model to this day. The limited edition Renault Sport Clio 182 Trophy launched in 2005 was also popular amongst Renault Sport enthusiasts.

The long line of Clio RS models was boosted with the local introduction of the Renault Sport Clio 200 and 200 Cup, the Clio 20th Anniversary model, which was launched in 2010 in celebration of Clio’s 20th year, was distinguished by its Pearl White paint, black alloys and black roof.

The model line-up was further complemented through the Clio RS Red Bull, with its distinct colour scheme and much larger 18-inch wheels.

Now comes the Clio RS18 F1 that bears the same name as the Renault F1 race car competing in the Grand Prix. It also features the same iconic colour scheme as the Renault Sport F1 Team car: its Deep Black cloak and accented Liquid Yellow.

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The feisty Clio RS 18 is powered by a 1,6-litre turbo-charged engine, generating 162 kW of power at 6 050 r/min with peak torque of 280 Nm at 2 000 r/min. This is good for a rest to 100 km/h sprint of 6,6 seconds and a top speed of 235 km/h. The 1-kilometre sprint takes up 26,4 seconds.

Exhaust emissions are 135 g/km of CO2 and the overall average fuel consumption is stated at 5,9 l/100 km but who are we trying to kid here? I could not find a single excuse in the time I had with the car to drive slower than the ‘whoopee’ zone unless caught in traffic.

Actual fuel consumption is going to be higher, probably much higher. Deal with it!

It features a lowered and stiffened Trophy chassis – front suspension featuring hydraulic compression stops – and an Akrapovic exhaust system, the New Clio RS 18 is a purebred sports car, designed to be driven.

Clio RS 18 boasts Launch Control that is activated with paddles at hand, right foot on the accelerator and left foot on the brake. Once the left foot is raised from the aluminium pedal, the New Clio RS explodes off the line, with breathtakingly dynamic gear changes.

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The RS Drive button gives you access to three modes: Normal, Sport and Race. According to the mode, RS Drive alters the mapping of the gearbox, ESC behaviour, steering and the sensitivity of the accelerator pedal.

Driving through a 6-speed auto gearbox, it is hard not to head for ‘hooligan’ mode every time the car starts up – the acceleration is gorgeous, the ‘whap whap’ through the gears music to the ears and the handling simply sublime, especially in Race mode where it will allow appreciable oversteer – but, beware, it does not tolerate incompetence.

I now await its bigger brother, the Mégane, with interest to compare and, talking of comparison, the closest I have driven to the Renault is the Toyota Yaris GRMN which is not available for sale in South Africa.

For ‘normal’ driving situations the Clio comes with onboard navigation on offer via a 7-inch touchscreen, with a range of other functionalities – multimedia, radio and telephone systems with Bluetooth connectivity. It also has cruise control/speed limiter, whereby regulated cruising or maximum speed can be selected, with steering wheel mounted controls to allow for speed adjustment.

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Finally, there are rain sensors, automatically regulating the frequency of the windscreen wipers according to how heavily it is raining and light sensors, enabling the headlights when the sensors detect a certain level of darkness.

The Michelin Pilot Super Sport 205/40R18 tyres fitted to the car play a huge role in keeping it stuck like whatever it is that sticks to a blanket and, like the car itself, are at their best when the pressure is on and they are being made to work.

Commuter driving is – as is always the case with lower profiles – not as much fun with most of the bumps and ripples from the road being transmitted through to the steering and driver. However, even that is survivable in anticipation of the glorious fun that awaits….

On-board safety and protection features and equipment include ESP, anti-lock brakes, EBD with Brake Assist, driver, passenger and side air bags.

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As with Renault’s entire range, the Clio comes standard with a 5-year/150 000 km mechanical warranty and a 6-year anti-corrosion warranty. The Clio RS has a 3-year/ 30 000 km service plan. Service intervals are 10 000 km.

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Road Review – Volvo CX40 D4

When my bum hit the seat, it knew, instantly, it was a Volvo. It did not matter what Volvo, just that it was – and that is rather important in several dimensions from Volvo making particularly good car seats to the actual importance of a good seat to the driving experience.

With that portion of my anatomy on a different car seat every week in the process of conducting road tests, it has grown – over many years – quite sensitive to the nuances of different seats as supplied by the various automakers.

There is a very good reason for the expression “driving by the seat of your pants” and all too many drivers fail to listen to the messages being conveyed by their rear ends.

In this particular instance, it was plonked comfortably in the Volvo XC40 R-Design D4 Geartronic AWD – a mouthful that takes about as long to say as the oil-burner needs to accelerate to 100 km/h.

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However, back to my butt. In the luxury segments of the market for both passenger cars and SUVs, manufacturers do pride themselves on high-tech luxury seating with the PR prose waxing lyrical about being ‘form-fitting’, ‘shaped to mirror the spine’ and ‘body hugging’ among the superlatives.

Throw in those offering multiple massage choices and it is clear seats do occupy a major space in the design process.

Some, however, just do it better than others do and Volvo is in this league. It just has an edge to making seats (for all it models) that combine the elements of shape, support and comfort a little better – certainly (as I do realise this is extremely subjective) when it comes to accommodating my specific shape and not very tall stature.

So why the discourse on seating? Simple really. While the XC40 will do the soccer Mom stuff and the grocery run with ease, it is designed to run the long kilometres, unbound of city traffic and able to roam freely across the country and back.

Not to do so would be to badly sully its DNA.

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So, no surprise it has the title of 2018 European Car of the Year under its belt.

As a new evolution of Volvo’s latest design language, the XC40 has an expressive and unique exterior, while a bespoke interior inherits all of Volvo’s latest design elements, including the 9-inch Sensus Connect touch screen and digital instrument cluster.

New design elements such as the optional contrasting black or white roof, white mirror caps and wheels, Oxide Red leather and ‘Lava’ carpets, which are made from 100% recycled materials, allow XC40 customers to express a more individualistic style.

Functional practicality has also been a major focus on the inside of the XC40, where smart features such as a removable rubbish bin, a cubby hole hook, a dedicated smartphone storage area with wireless (inductive) charging, and a multi-adaptable boot floor, transform a typically cluttered and sometimes messy car interior into a place of serenity and organised efficiency.

City Safety is included as standard in the new XC40. This system senses potential collisions, even when it is dark, and can activate the brakes automatically should you not react in time. City Safety provides three levels of intervention; warning, brake support and full autonomous braking, and uses a combination of instruments and sensors constantly to monitor surrounding conditions.

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The Pedestrian, Cyclist and Large Animal Detection technology detects and automatically brakes the vehicle in the event of a pedestrian, cyclist or large animal (such as cattle) stepping/swerving/jumping out in front of the car. The advanced sensor system scans the area ahead and will prompt you to act with a flashing warning light, along with an audible alarm. If you do not react to the warning and a collision is imminent, the car immediately brakes with full braking force.

Rearward facing radar detects if a rear impact is imminent and safety belts are tightened in advance in order to protect the occupants. Lights also start flashing to warn the driver behind and brakes are activated to help reduce the impact movement.

Lane Keeping Aid is a standard-fitted system that helps the driver keep the car in its lane by gently steering the car back if it is about to cross a lane marking, and if the car senses that the driver is not driving actively, or for example, not using their indicators. If the supplied steering intervention is insufficient, the driver is alerted by vibrations in the steering wheel. The system is active between 65 km/h-200 km/h.

Optionally available, the Adaptive Cruise Control feature (fitted to our test car) maintains the desired set vehicle speed but utilises radar to monitor the vehicle in front and automatically slows down or speeds up as necessary. In an evolution of this, Pilot Assist also takes care of the steering (up to 130 km/h and when lane markings are clearly visible) by continually monitoring the area in front of the vehicle, making the necessary steering, accelerator and brake inputs as required to keep to the desired speed, distance and within the lane markings.

All of this designed specifically to keep my precious rear safely in its comfortable seat.

The D4 twin turbo-charger engine has four cylinders and a capacity of 1 969 cc producing 140 kW at 4 000 r/min and 400 Nm between 1 750 r/min and 2 500 r/min. Driving all four wheels through an automatic gearbox, it is capable of 210 km/h and fuel consumption in the real world ranges on average between 5,1 l/100 km and 6,2 l/100 km depending on how robustly it is being driven.

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The AWD part is no affectation and the XC40 will be happy tackling most off-road conditions short of major ‘donga’ diving exercises – certainly for those wanting to take the routes less travelled, it is both comfortable and capable on rural dirt roads.

On road it reacts well to driver inputs, straightens bends with ease and is happiest stretching its legs over mountain passes and eating up the kilometres on the open road – the Harmon Kardon sound system in our test car providing crystal clear audio ambience whether it was heavy metal or Sinatra crooning quietly in the background.

With the design that led to the XC90, Volvo has rather re-invented itself – and we like it.

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Festival launches at Kyalami

Aside from all the automotive hardware worthy of ogling and the superb racing activity on the track, the Festival of Motoring at Kyalami at the weekend offered visitors a look at some of the new models making their way to market locally.

In no particular order:
SUZUKI JIMNY

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The radically restyled Jimny fills the very big shoes of its predecessors, which were responsible for creating a new market segment for compact, affordable, capable and – most importantly – fun, off roaders. In fact, this ladder-framed, low-range vehicle made Suzuki so iconic and loved that this is only the fourth all-new model since the LJ10 was launched in 1970.

The new Suzuki Jimny includes the most iconic signature elements of each of its predecessors.

Styling elements include:
• An overall angular design that is reminiscent of the first LJ and second generation SJ model ranges;
• The round headlamps and separate round orange indicators of the LJ10, the first generation;
• Side bonnet slits and an angular front windscreen from the SJ series;
• Steel wheels similar to the SJ series on the GA spec level;
• A clamshell bonnet and upright grille like the SJ and previous generation Jimny;
• A moulded rear bumper with lights in the furthermost corners, like the SJ series.

The new Jimny adds some features of its own, which include a full drip rail around the roof, which is both functional in rain and off-road conditions and which allows for the easy fitment of a number of roof rails and other accessories.

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Inside the cabin, Suzuki’s designers have also added hints of the new Jimny’s forebears, such as exposed painted metal window frames at shoulder height, a speedometer and tachometer in separate square binnacles and the fit-for-purpose dashboard with many storage binnacles and three-layer design.

The new model is built on a new ladder-frame chassis with a patented ‘X’ member between the two rigid axles for 1,5 times the torsional rigidity of its predecessor. Both axles remain rigid, a boon in sand and mud driving; and with the addition of new coil springs and shock absorbers the Jimny now has a 210 mm ground clearance, 20 mm more than before.

The ladder frame benefits from Suzuki’s Total Effective Control Technology (TECT), which uses modern design, high-tensile steel and an integrated cabin and chassis system to provide greater collision protection.

The new ladder frame and TECT-enabled body has left the Jimny’s wheelbase unchanged at 2 250 mm, but has increased the front and rear track by 40 mm and the vehicle width by 45 mm. The overall vehicle length has been shortened by 50 mm, thanks in part to the new moulded bumpers.

Under the bonnet, Suzuki has fitted a 1,5 litre four cylinder unit that replaces the 1,3 litre M13A engine of the previous model and delivers 75 kW at 6 000 r/min and 130 Nm at 4 000 r/min.

The new K15B-engine is 15% lighter than unit it replaces. The lighter weight, higher compression ratio and overall improvement in efficiency mean that this engine uses more than 14% less fuel than both the manual and automatic versions of its predecessor.

The engine is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox and an optional four-speed automatic gearbox in GLX specification.

All new Jimny models are fitted with a 4×4 system called AllGrip Pro, which allows the driver to comfortably switch between 4×2 (rear-wheel drive), 4×4 high and 4×4 low range with a secondary gear lever. This system is supported by both the vehicle stability control (ESP) and a new Brake-enabled Limited Slip Differential system.

The Brake LSD and ESP-systems are further enhanced by the integrated Hill Hold Function and Hill Descent Control.

The Jimny’s approach angle has improved from 35 degrees to 37 degrees, the breakover angle is up to 28 degrees from 27 degrees and the departure angle has improved significantly from 46 degrees to 49 degrees.

The front seats are 55 mm longer than before, have wider seat cushion frames and an improved sliding range of 240 mm to accommodate longer drivers. Front occupants have 30 mm more legroom than before and the rear passengers have 40 mm more space and a higher hip point, for greater comfort.

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To widen the appeal of the all-new Jimny, Suzuki South Africa will introduce both a GA and GLX specification level.

Both specification levels will have a full-sized spare wheel, anti-lock brakes, brake assist (BAS), electronic stability control (ESP), ISOFIX anchors for child seats and dual SRS front airbags. Both models will also have the AllGrip Pro 4×4 system with low range transfer gear and the Brake LSD traction control system.

The GLX specification – available with the choice of manual and automatic gearboxes – include features such as a leather-covered multi-function steering wheel, power windows, colour coded door handles and mirrors, 15-inch alloy wheels, LED projector headlamps, remote keyless access with central locking and front fog lights.

GLX models also have the 7” touchscreen with smartphone connectivity and Bluetooth hands-free operation, cruise control and the 50:50 split rear bench with two headrests.

The all-new Jimny will be available to customers from November 1.

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PEUGEOT 5008 7-SEATER

The all-new Peugeot 5008 SUV includes the latest version of the Peugeot i-Cockpit, Efficient Modular Platform 2 (EMP2), and high-tech features that enhance comfort and safety.

The new Peugeot 5008 SUV is the third SUV to be unveiled by the Peugeot brand within a two-year period. So why make the new Peugeot 5008 an SUV, thereby abandoning the C-segment seven-seater people-carrier niche?

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The answer is, firstly because the people-carrier segment is almost exclusively a European phenomenon, while with the 5008 SUV PSA are looking at a worldwide market, and secondly, the incredible success of the C SUV appears to have been compensated by a reduction in demand for traditional saloons and people-carriers.

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Inside is the innovative, almost futuristic Peugeot i-Cockpit, which offers a compact steering wheel (the smallest on the market, across all segments), an 8-inch touchscreen, and a spectacular 12,3-inch high-resolution digital head-up instrument panel.

The seven central satin chrome dashboard toggle switches offer quick access to the main passenger comfort and safety functions: radio, air conditioning, satellite navigation, vehicle settings, telephone, apps, and hazard warning lights.

The vehicle offers occupants two predefined sensory environments: ‘Boost’, in tune with a dynamic driving style, and ‘Relax’, for a mellower ambience. Both can be fully customised, to accentuate the pleasure of driver and passengers alike, and guarantee a unique on-board experience.

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The 2,84-m wheelbase of the all-new Peugeot 5008 SUV is specified with a wheelbase 16,5 cm longer than the new Peugeot 3008 SUV, and is 11 cm wider than the original 5008, and second-row passengers, have 60 mm more knee room.

The new Peugeot 5008 SUV offers a third row of two extra seats that fold down into the boot floor. The two covers of the boot floor form a perfectly flat surface when folded down, and they can also be easily tucked away behind the third-row seats when these are in use.

Controls on the top of the second-row side-seat backs facilitate access to the third-row seats. In just one movement, the second-row side seats tilt and slide forward for easier third-row entry.

The vehicle’s design inspired Peugeot engineers to make these extra seats easily removable. Their modest weight (<11kg) and a single control make them easy to extract, so users can expand boot volume when needed. Each third-row seat that is removed yields 39 dm3 more space.

This makes for a huge boot capacity – 780 and 1 080 dm3 / litre. In 5-seat configuration, the boot is 100 dm3 larger than the original 5008. Its flat, uncluttered volume and low boot sill (676 mm), in combination with a foldable front passenger seat, allow the all-new Peugeot 5008 SUV to carry especially long loads (potentially up to 3.20 m).

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The all-new 5008 SUV engine is a 2.0 HDI 110 kW six-speed, Co2 at 124g/km on Auto, and 125g/km on

RENAULT DUSTER

With more than two million cars sold globally, the Duster remains entrenched as a flagship model within the Renault Range.

The All-New Renault Duster builds on and reinforces the Duster’s existing strengths, but the renowned DNA of the Duster remains at the core wrapped an all-new exterior styling.

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The Duster’s rugged stance is emphasised by its bold, more horizontal lines, new 17-inch wheels, new aluminium roof bars that are more prominent, and front and rear skid plates.

The New Renault Duster now has even greater off-road capabilities with enhanced ground clearance of 210 mm, the higher approach and departure angles, and the introduction of Hill Descent Control in the 4X4 model.

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The vehicle offers a step-up in quality with an upgraded interior for a more comfortable and user-friendly cabin experience. The dashboard has been totally redesigned thereby presenting a more status-enhancing and ergonomic interior.

Travelling comfort is also further heightened by the newly designed and more enveloping seats, numerous easily accessible stowage spaces and improved accessibility of controls, and amongst others, an enhanced Multimedia experience.

The new Duster offers drivers a multi-view camera; Blind Spot Warning; Automatic Climate Control; Hill Descent Control and Keyless Entry.

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The New Renault Duster will be available from October 1 in both petrol and diesel engines, with the diesel engines in Manual, EDC and 4X4 options.

HAVAL H9

Joining the South African range of its two-wheel drive small SUV derivatives, the 1,5-litre H1, H2 and H6, the large 7-seater H9 is powered by a 180 kW 2,0 Litre petrol turbo also found in the H6C.

“Haval arrived in South Africa back in May 2017 and we started 12 months ago with just three Haval dealers,” says Charles Zhao, Managing Director of Haval Motors South Africa. “By the end of June 2018 we had no less than 29 Haval dealers’ countrywide thanks to full factory back-up from our parent company in China.”

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The H9 is the fifth luxury SUV model in the Haval range to be launched in South Africa in less than 18 months.

“Our objective is to have 35 Haval dealers across the country by the end of this year,” says Zhao. “The arrival of our long awaited H9 is the latest addition to our powerful SUV range and will certainly assist us in expanding into the local market.

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The H9 is powered by the 180 kW version of the brand’s own 2,0-litre petrol engine with double-channel turbo-charging. The exhaust gas flow is transferred to the turbine via two channels, boosting engine power and torque delivery as well as improving fuel economy.

The engine delivers its maximum power output at 5 500 r/min, with maximum torque of 350 Nm at 1 800 r/min all the way up to 4 500 r/min, which allows superior pull-away and acceleration performance.

The 2,0-litre petrol turbo offers 90 kW of power per litre, achieving peak performance in all driving conditions with little input.

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Although the engine is an in-house development, Haval reached out to German engineering for the H9’s ZF 8-speed 4WD transmission. The transmission boasts Paddle Shift for precision off-road driving, allowing the H9 to tackle the toughest terrain with comfort and elegance.

The driver can select the most appropriate real-time road mode from 6 options (Auto, 4L, Sport, Sand, Snow, and Mud) via the multi-functional display knob on the secondary instrument panel so that the system can automatically control the driving and braking force to achieve the best performances.

The rear axle offers a limited slip differential where the driving force of the wheel at the traction loss side is distributed to the wheel at the other side via the electro hydraulic control unit, which maximises the vehicle’s ability to utilise traction effectively, greatly improving the vehicle’s driving stability and enhanced ability to get out of difficult conditions in complex on- and off-road conditions.

The engine, transmission, suspension, and body are installed on a high rigidity frame and multi-link rear suspension and independent double-wishbone front suspension ensure the wheels remain in contact with the road and deliver a smoother ride.

Active safety features include all-round ‘all-directional’ air bags, seat belt pre-tensioners, ISO-FIX child seat anchors, a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) and driver status detection system.

Electronic driver aids include anti-lock braking, BA (brake assist) and ESP, HAC (Hill-start Assist Control), RMI (Roll Movement Intervention) and HAC (Hill-start Assist Control) as well as CTA (Cross-traffic alert) and LCA (Lane-change Alert).

From the leather seats in three rows, including an 8-way electrically adjustable driver seat with lumbar support and memory function and 4-way electrically adjustable front passenger seat with ventilation and massage, manually adjustable second row of three seats and the electrically foldable twin seats in the third row, to a long list of features including three-zone climate control air-conditioning, an advanced multi-media system with an 8-inch touchscreen and integrated satellite navigation, the H9 is, well, fully equipped.

The second row of seats have a 60/40 split while the twin seats in the third row can be divided 50/50 and folded into the floor to increase luggage space. With the rear seats folded down, the H7 boasts a luggage volume of 747 litres under the removable trunk cover.

The H9 boasts AFS (Adaptive Front-lighting System) which meets all illumination needs, including focusing the headlights around bends to improve safety.

The H9 has a 5-year/100 000 km warranty, a 5-year/60 000 km service plan, and 5-year/unlimited km roadside assistance.

FIAT 500 S

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The Fiat 500 S boasts a race-inspired spoiler, mags, red brake calipers and sports steering wheel. Further enhancing its visual appeal is its Italian Blue metallic paintwork that means drivers will certainly not go unnoticed on South Africa’s roads and parking lots.

Under the bonnet resides an 875 cc two-cylinder powerplant that churns out 77 kW at 5 500 r/min and 145 Nm of torque at just 2 000 r/min. This is enough for the car to hit 100 km/h in 10 seconds and go on to achieve a top speed of 190 km/h.

All this, while keeping fuel usage down to a mere 4,2 l/100 km.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) South Africa’s new CEO Graham Eagle, says: “We are incredibly proud to be showcasing our brands at this year’s largest and most exciting motoring and lifestyle event.”

Short goes long

The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class, launched to the South African market this week goes in the opposite direction of its forefathers – from short and tall, it now is low and long.

The new A-Class is also the first Mercedes-Benz model to feature the intelligent multimedia system MBUX – Mercedes-Benz User Experience – which also ushers in a new era in Mercedes me connectivity.

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“The expansion and rejuvenation of the compact car range are key factors behind the sustained market success that Mercedes-Benz enjoys. The Mercedes-Benz brand has also become noticeably more youthful since the introduction of the third-generation compact models,” says Johannes Fritz, Co-CEO of Mercedes-Benz South Africa and Executive Director of Mercedes-Benz Cars.

Merc say the design of the new A-Class is the next step in the Mercedes-Benz design philosophy of Sensual Purity. Its exterior is bigger than its predecessor – 120 mm longer, 16 mm higher and 6 mm wider – but, 20 kg  lighter.

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The vehicle is visually extended by the longer wheelbase and character line along the side and the larger wheel arches for wheels from 16 inches to 19 inches make it sit more squarely on the road.

The front and rear wheel spoilers have been specifically optimised to achieve low airflow losses around the wheels. In addition, the wheel arches are insulated from the engine compartment (depending on engine variant) and the radiator surrounds are sealed. This ensures more precise direction of the cooling air and a more efficient cooling system.

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Wind noise inside the cabin has also been significantly reduced in the new A-Class compared to its predecessor, as the A-pillars and new exterior mirrors on the beltlines were enhanced in shape and position.

The interior of the new A-Class is completely redefined it gets easier access to the rear and a larger, more family and recreation-friendly luggage compartment.

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The capacity of the luggage compartment behind the rear seats is 370 litres – 29 litres more than in the preceding model. Thanks to two-section rear lights, the loading aperture is 20cm wider than before, and the luggage compartment floor is 11,5 cm longer.

MBUX, the new multimedia system, offers intelligent voice control with natural language comprehension. By using the phrase “Hey Mercedes”, users can adjust the air-conditioning, send a text message, or find the quickest route out of the Cape Town city centre on a Friday afternoon.

“The new A-Class offers modern luxury at a level previously unthought of in the compact segment. It uses technology to create an emotional connection between the vehicle and driver,” says Selvin Govender, Marketing Director of Mercedes-Benz Cars South Africa.

“In many ways, our devices are extensions of our personalities and we are now extending this approach to your car. You should not have to adapt to your car, your car should adapt to you. In fact, your car should be just like you. With the new A-Class, achieving this is as simple as striking up a conversation. The new A-Class grows to understand your personal preferences then predicts your needs, making it the ultimate intelligent companion.”

New and improved Mercedes me connect services are launched with MBUX. These include navigation functions such as emergency braking, On-Street Prediction, Real-Time Information and Off-Street Information, which save time and reduce stress levels when searching for a parking space.

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The A‑Class is available in two variants – the A 200 and the A 250 Sport, with the diesel model expected in South Africa in early 2019.

Both models benefit from new engines. The A 200 is powered by a 1,33 litre unit that generates 120 kW and 250 Nm of torque with a 7G‑DCT dual-clutch transmission (5.2 l/100 km). The 2,0 litre engine of the A 250 Sport generates 165 kW and 350 Nm, and is available with the 7G-DCT dual-clutch transmission which provides a claimed fuel consumption of 6.2 l/100 km.

There is a choice of suspension systems for the A-Class, depending on engine variant and driver preference.

DYNAMIC SELECT is standard equipment and at the touch of a button, provides an individual driving experience in conjunction with the suspension with active damping control (optional).

Like all its predecessors, the new A-Class has a McPherson front suspension. The more powerful A 250 Sport is equipped with adaptive damping in combination with larger wheels, giving it a sophisticated four-link rear suspension. The rear axle is mounted on a subframe isolated from the bodyshell by rubber bushings so that fewer vibrations are transferred from the suspension to the body. The proportion of aluminium in the suspension components is one of the highest of any suspension system in this vehicle segment.

Road Review – Renault Stepway Plus

Perception and reality are strange bedfellows, made even more so when the one transmogrifies (thank you Calvin and Hobbs) into the other in a seamless stream where reality is perception and perception becomes the reality.

This is the situation Renault in South Africa lives with on a daily basis.

In an earlier time, going back quite some years, the reality was the company had a fairly small local parts inventory, these were expensive and often there were service delays while parts were shipped in – a reality that gave rise to a perception this applied to all Renault models, all the time.

The reality has changed dramatically over time and management to the point the local company has a very significant parts stockholding and regularly has category wins in the annual Kinsey Report that surveys the retail prices of a basket of parts across a broad spectrum of cars.

Yet, the perception remains. And, it is wrong.

When Sandero first entered the South African market in February 2009, Renault’s key objective was to provide a high-value proposition in the entry level passenger car segment.

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Initially locally produced in alliance partner Nissan’s Rosslyn plant, the newcomer was perfectly in tune with customer needs and market trends. With its introduction of the Sandero range, Renault promised an unparalleled package that would meet the need for affordable motoring and outright value in a tense economic climate.

Since its inception in 2009, the Renault Sandero has evolved dramatically with numerous quality, feature and styling enhancements. The introduction of the First Generation top-of-the-range Sandero Stepway in 2011 set a tone for the crossover concept in South Africa.

Sandero has continued to enjoy ever-increasing success recording sales of 52 200 units to date, a notable achievement considering the aggressive competition within AB Entry Hatch, with the likes of Polo Vivo, Ford Figo, Toyota Etios, Suzuki Ignis, Hyundai Grand i10, a segment which represents the lion’s share of the PC market (YTD being 26%).

The flagship Stepway model has racked up sales in excess of 21 400 cars since 2011.

And now, the new Renault Sandero Stepway Plus.

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To bring it into line with other Renault models, it gains the lighting signature that sees headlamps that incorporate the characteristic C-shape Daytime Running Lights (LED) plus C-shape, while rear lights and both the front and rear bumpers are a new design.

Stepway’s crossover styling remains contemporary and refined with features and fitments that include an integrated roof spoiler, higher ground clearance than the entry Sandero Expression, roof bars, front and rear skid plates, wheel arch mouldings and front fog lights.

The interior is surprisingly generously proprtioned, providing comfortable and roomy seating for five occupants plus luggage while the boot space (292 litres) can be further improved upon thanks to the split rear bench.

Sandero is the only car in its class to include EBA (coupled with anti-lock braking) and ESP + ASR as standard across the range.

In addition to the front seat belts with load limiters and ISOFIX fasteners for child and baby seats, Sandero is the only car in its category to offer a three-point safety belt at the central rear seat.

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By electronically modifying the engine’s response at the push of a button, Eco Mode enables drivers to automatically optimise fuel consumption and correct energy-wasting driving parameters to achieve greater economy. It adjusts engine operation within acceptable limits and can reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by as much as 12% depending on driving styles and road conditions.

Powered by a three cylinder, 900 cc petrol Turbo engine, the Sandero has a maximum output of 66 kW at 5 250 r/min and peak torque of 135 Nm at 2 500 r/min of which 90% is available from 1 650 r/min.

This compact new generation Turbo power plant is standard across the Sandero line-up and highly efficient thanks to its lightweight 100% aluminium (HPDC) engine block, low inertia turbo, variable valve timing, piloted variable oil pump and lifetime engine chain.

To put it in context – the Sandero has the same power output as the Toyota Etios Cross 1.5 Xs but has a 3 NM advantage in torque and more of both than the Suzuki Ignis or Volkswagen Cross Up!.

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Mated with a manual 5-speed gearbox, the Sandero returns 5,4 l/100 km and produces 124 g/km of CO2.

The exterior of the Stepway Plus is distinguished by badging with specific two-tone 16-inch flexwheel covers and standard features include side air bags, front and rear power windows, power side mirrors, leather steering wheel and gear knob and rear park assist.

Cruise control and navigation are also standard while leather seats are an option.

In many ways it has more than its nearest rivals and, although more expensive (R11 900 on the Etios), does generate a perception of value for money.

Performance is not everything – and the Sandero will certainly not set the tarmac alight – and solid, reliable and inexpensive to run are active bywords considering the runaway price of fuel and crashing Rand.

Used in context, the Sandero is an easy-to-drive pleasing motoring experience – and that is reality, not perception.