The rush is in the rear

That it is a rear drive front engine layout gives Toyota’s new Rush SUV a big tick in the checkbox list even before looking at any of the other specifications attached to this small, entry model to the segment.

That it is the company’s chase to attract first-time SUV entrants is borne out by the modest 1,5-litre four-cylinder DOHC engine, with outputs of 77 kW at 6 000 r/min and 136 Nm of torque at 4 200 r/min. The engine utilises Toyota’s VVT-i system to boost efficiencies and buyers have a choice of either a 5-speed manual transmission or 4-speed automatic.

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Toyota claims the manual-equipped Rush uses 6,6 l/100 km with the automatic version 6,7 l/100 km, with the CO2 figures 156 g/km and 158 g/km respectively.

Following the front engine, rear wheel drive layout (FR), the suspension system consists of McPherson struts up front and a Multilink design in the rear. The suspension setup has been engineered to offer good rough-road damping and be complaint on mixed surfaces (tarmac, gravel and dirt).

One of Rush’s key features is the 220 mm ride height, which combined with a 31-degree approach and 26,5-degree departure angle, allows easy traversing of mixed surface roads – and wading depth is 600 mm.

The 17-inch alloy wheels are shod with 215-60-R17 tyres and a full-size spare wheel is also provided.

It is no secret – and the monthly sales figures bear this out – the SUV has morphed from speciality niche vehicle to sought-after mainstream with buyer comment usually referring to raised seating position and better handling over increasingly potholed roads as primary purchasing decision factors.

Starting at the front, the new Toyota Rush features a prominent angular design with pointed, upswept LED headlamps and large trapezoidal grille. The grille features wide horizontal slats finished off in dark grey and a centrally mounted Toyota emblem. An inverted contour line separates the upper and lower air-dams and creates a triangular space which house the fog lamps. A silver-hued skid plate and twin hood bulges round off the front façade.

 

The side design has a noticeable crease line that flows from the front wheel to the rear tail lamp edge while matching black roof rails and body-colour rear roof spoiler create a cohesive image.

 

The rear design centres on the LED-equipped rear lamp clusters, which carry strong horizontal lines and a similarly inverted contour line flowing from the bumper to the rear diffuser area.

 

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The interior layout sees the upper dashboard house a touchscreen audio system, equipped with Bluetooth, USB and Android Auto Plus Show/Apple CarPlay functionality. The lower dashboard contains the dual-zone electronic climate control, 12-volt accessory connector and storage area.

 

High-contrast taupe trim and chrome accent pieces are utilised on the facia and door panels to add an air of brightness to the cabin and create an inviting space. A 3-spoke leather steering wheel with tilt function and remote switches provide the driver with a firm grip of the road.

 

The instrument cluster features large, highly legible graphics with a cool blue semi-circular motif and chrome surrounds. A centrally-mounted multi-information display relays user-selectable information to the driver, which includes a colour Eco indicator.

 

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The seats are finished in patterned black fabric with complementing black fabric inlays on the door panels. The rear seats feature three independently-adjustable headrests and 60/40 tip-forward function. 

 

Some 609 litres of luggage capacity is provided, whilst offering seating for five. The rear seats can also be folded forward independently to further boost cargo space.

 

The exterior features list includes power adjustable and retractable exterior mirrors, auto-off LED headlamps, roof rails and fog lamps.

 

The 6-speaker touchscreen infotainment system not only offers the Android Auto Plus Show, Miracast and CarPlay functionality, but features built-in Satellite Navigation. An integrated Reverse camera and Park Distance Control (PDC) add both convenience and safety.

 

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A broad array of safety features are included in Rush; the active safety systems include Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and Hill Assist Control (HAC).

The passive safety systems comprise a total of six air bags – driver, passenger, side and curtain air bags are provided.

 

A six-service/90 000 kilometre service plan comes standard, backed up by a 3-year/100 000km warranty. The service intervals are set at 15 000 kilometres.

 

Pricing:

Rush 1.5 MT – R299 900
Rush 1.5 AT – R 313 500

 

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Beetle mania hits town

Beetle mania is coming to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown (soon to be renamed Makhanda) in the form of six Volkswagen Beetles, each with its own special history.

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Nestled on the university lawns between Lucas Avenue and the Albany Museum, is the ‘Meet the Beetles‘ installation where six, carefully selected Volkswagen Beetles are on display at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

“The purpose of the installation is to provide festival goers with a taste of the treasures of Volkswagen’s museum, the AutoPavilion in Uitenhage. The Beetles each have a story which appeals to fans of the iconic ‘love bug’ also crowned the ‘Car of the 20th Century’,“ says Matt Gennrich, Volkswagen Group South Africa (VWSA) General Manager for Communications.

‘Meet the Beetles‘ showcases Jan, the oldest Beetle in South Africa, film star Herbie, Delilah with her super low mileage, Jeroen the Mexican-built, Trans-Saharan Traveller from Amsterdam, Matti – the last Uitenhage-built Beetle and Nomhle the most beautiful Beetle with her bling!

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The National Arts Festival, which opened on Thursday, 28 June features a wide variety of performances and installations, including ‘Meet the Beetles‘ and its art installation.

Four of the six Beetles were positioned counter to the lay of the land with Delilah positioned on a popular thoroughfare ensuring the public can walk around the ivory beauty with her fuchsia pink number plates.

Jeroen the Beetle who travelled the length of the African continent has sidled up to an Acacia – the most African of trees. Central to the installation is Jan, the oldest Beetle in South Africa, placed carefully on ramps by the VWSA Product Engineering Team who assisted in positioning the valuable collection.

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Rounding off the setup is a collaborative artwork for kids of all ages – a classic hippie Beetle to be computed in using wax pastels. And to end every day is an illumination of the exhibits and T1 tents which glow into the evening enticing festival goers to a second visit.

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‘Meet the Beetles‘ runs for the duration of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. It is open 24 hours a day, but staff is on site to assist guests between 9am and 5pm. It is located on the university lawns between Lucas Avenue and the Albany Museum.

There is also unique branded merchandise on sale at the stand which includes winter favourites like beanies, scarves, gloves, hoodies, and much more.

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Ford EcoSport upgraded

The updated Ford EcoSport arrives on the local market hot on the heels of the new Figo and amid changes at the company that see former marketing boss, Neale Hill taking over as managing director.

In that sense, exciting times for the company and sorely needed.

Borrowing from the design styling of the new Kuga, launched late last year, the EcoSport also receives a completely new interior look and design.

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“Ford has sold more than 45 000 EcoSport models in South Africa since it was launched in 2013 and it has been a major player in its segment ever since thanks to its great looks, impressive space and versatility, superb all-round performance and exceptional value for money,” says Tracey Delate, General Manager, Marketing at Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa.

“The new Ford EcoSport offers customers even more style, comfort, capability and choice – blending rugged SUV functionality with unrivalled city car practicality.”

A large trapezoidal grille and angular headlights, incorporating LED daytime running lights on the Trend and range-topping Titanium models, dominate the revised front-end design.

I suppose if the original Renault Megane’s design was influenced by a kid wearing his cap backwards, there is no fault in taking the straps of rucksack and turning that into the inspiration for the front fog light housings and three-quarter profile of the EcoSport.

At the rear, the bumper and tail light designs also are revised to deliver a cleaner, more sculpted appearance. New alloy wheel designs offered in Gunmetal grey five-spoke 16-inch versions on the Trend series, or 17-inch rims on the Titanium. The entry-level Ambiente model is fitted with 16-inch steel rims with wheel covers.

Inside, new seat designs offer greater front and rear occupant comfort with full leather on the Titanium derivatives. The interior features a host of smart stowage solutions, including a new height adjustable boot floor that can be raised to provide concealed storage, or lowered to increase luggage capacity to 334 litres.

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A new centre console features a built-in folding, sliding armrest (Titanium models) with an integrated storage compartment that is ideal for tablet computers or snacks. Buyers will also enjoy the practicality of under-seat storage underneath the passenger seat (Titanium models).

Ford’s SYNC3 communications and entertainment system is fitted as standard on the Trend and Titanium models, and incorporates Bluetooth and Voice Control. SYNC3 is supported by the new floating colour touchscreen, which can be operated with pinch and swipe gestures.

A 6.5-inch screen is fitted on the Trend models, while the Titanium features an 8-inch version as well as embedded turn-by-turn navigation.

EcoSport for the first time provides Cruise Control with Adjustable Speed Limiter on the Titanium derivative that helps drivers keep within speed limits, while rear parking sensors are provided on all models to make parking manoeuvres more efficient and safer.

Active driving safety has been stepped up across the range with standard fitment of Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with Traction Control (TC), as well as Roll Stability Control (RSC) in the EcoBoost range, which adjusts engine torque and braking to help drivers maintain control. Additionally, the 1.0 EcoBoost-powered models gain Hill Launch Assist (HLA) that makes pulling off on steep inclines easier, along with Ford’s Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS).

On the top-spec EcoSport Titanium, there are automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers.

Six air bags are fitted as standard on the EcoSport Ambiente, comprising dual front, side and curtain air bags, while the Trend and Titanium models are additionally equipped with a driver’s knee air bag. The side air bags have been redesigned to provide extra thorax protection and direct the occupant away from an impact and new curtain air bags provide increased side-impact coverage.

Ford’s 1,0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine takes centre stage in the revised line-up, exclusively powering the Trend and Titanium models.

It produces 92 kW of power matched to a peak torque output of 170 Nm all the way from 1 400 r/min to 4 500 r/min.

Trend and Titanium customers have the choice between a six-speed manual gearbox or the latest-generation six-speed automatic that recently made its debut on the all-new Ford Fiesta.

The 1,5-litre TDCi turbo-diesel engine remains part of the line-up, offered in Ambiente trim, linked to a five-speed manual gearbox. It delivers 74 kW and a substantial 205 Nm of torque between 1 750 r/min and 3 250 r/min.

Prices (incl. Vat and CO2 emission tax):
EcoSport 1.5 TDCi Ambiente 5MT R 264 500
EcoSport 1.0 EcoBoost Trend 6MT R 287 500
EcoSport 1.0 EcoBoost Trend 6AT R 300 700
EcoSport 1.0 EcoBoost Titanium 6MT R 327 800
EcoSport 1.0 EcoBoost Titanium 6AT R 339 900

All models come standard with Ford Protect, comprising a 4-year/120 000 km comprehensive warranty, 3-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance and 5-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty. A 4-year/60 000 km service plan is included, with 15 000 km service intervals.

 

Hilux Dakar – talking tough

Toyota South Africa has an established history of commemorating Hilux models with special edition offerings – usually branded Legend – but its latest version is an aggressive looking interation aptly called the Dakar in honour of the racing vehicles it produces.

The Dakar limited edition sports an all-new face, featuring a more prominent trapezoidal grille and ‘squared-off’ design. The central focal point is the large gloss-black-honeycomb grille, which incorporates two horizontal sections – creating an image of strength.

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The inner grille area is bordered by a metallic grey surround with three-dimensional appearance, which blends into the LED headlamps. A matching gloss-black accent strip on the bonnet and stylised Dakar insignia attached to the grille, complete the design.

The lower bumper also features a large honeycomb mesh pattern, extending to the sides of the vehicle, creating a sense of width. The new bumper design additionally includes intersecting horizontal and vertical fog lamp garnishes decked out in matching gloss black. The fog lamps themselves utilise LED elements for superb illumination. A metallic grey ‘skid plate’ provides the finishing touch to the bold new front facia.

In addition, the exterior sports a number of distinctive touches such as gloss-black treatment for the door handles and power-retractable side mirrors. The rear bumper is fashioned in grey, to tie in with the front design.

The interior features all-black treatment, with a black roof headliner (versus light grey on normal Raider), metallic black trim accent panels (silver on Raider) and black leather upholstery with light grey contrast stitching (fabric on Raider) – creating a sporty, premium space for occupants.

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The infotainment system is upgraded to include Satellite Navigation, whilst the standard Bluetooth, USB and CD/DVD playback functionality is retained. The touch-screen system also includes an on-board trip computer and customisable home screen.

Dakar models receive a different instrument cluster, using white-faced gauges with orange needle pointers and bespoke graphics, emulating a toothed gear (cog) – to distinguish the Dakar from its normal brethren.

The LCD multi-information display also features a bespoke start-up graphic showing off the Dakar model’s exterior façade.

All Dakar models are based on Raider models and use the 2.8 GD-6 powertrain or 4,0-litre V6 (double-cab only). The 2,8-litre, four cylinder turbo-diesel engine produces 130 kW and 420 Nm in manual transmission guise. Automatic transmission-equipped variants receive a boost to 450 Nm. The V6 variant delivers 175 kW and 376 Nm.

Both rear-wheel and switch-on-the-fly four-wheel drive transaxles are offered, each available in either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission configuration – creating a matrix of four 2.8 GD-6 variants.

The manual gearbox includes a selectable iMT function (intelligent Manual Transmission), which provides rev-matching downshift and hesitation-free upshift functionality. The iMT feature also helps prevent accidental stalling of the engine.

 

Buyers can choose between either Xtra – or Double Cab configurations.

Xtra Cab Price
Hilux XC 2.8GD6 Raised Body Dakar MT R 470 300
Hilux XC 2.8GD6 Raised Body Dakar AT R 488 300
Hilux XC 2.8GD6 4X4 Dakar MT R 535 600
Hilux XC 2.8GD6 4X4 Dakar AT R 553 800
Double Cab  
Hilux DC 2.8GD6 Raised Body Dakar MT R 535 000
Hilux DC 2.8GD6 Raised Body Dakar AT R 553 400
Hilux DC 2.8GD6 4X4 Dakar MT R 601 100
Hilux DC 2.8GD6 4X4 Dakar AT R 621 000
Hilux DC 4.0 V6 4X4 Dakar AT R 662 700

Toyota has increased the service plan period on 2.8 GD-6 models from 5-year/90 000 kilometres to 9 services/90 000 kilometres, whilst the 4.0 V6 model receives an increase to a 6 services/90 000 kilometre period (previously 5 years).

The Warranty period is 3-year/100 000 kilometres and applies across the Hilux range.

 

Update BMW i3 launched

Improvements to the electrically driven BMW i3 include a mix of aesthetics, features and new digital services along with an additional model variant.

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The BMW i3 has been the top-selling premium electric car in its class since 2014, although with just two units sold in South Africa in May and three in April, it has not yet established a foothold – so much so, the new model was launched in Johannesburg and Cape Town and not Durban because of the extremely low volume of sales in that city.

The new BMW i3 has a number of design tweaks and the trademark BMW i Black Belt running from the bonnet over the roof to the car’s rear end is now complemented by A-pillars and roof lines that also sport a black finish.

The front and rear aprons are restyled and there is a chrome-design trim strip running across the full width of the rear.

The new BMW i3 comes equipped with all-LED headlights as standard, which employ LED bulb units for dipped beam and high beam as well as the daytime running lights. The new turn signal indicators also feature LED technology and are integrated into the front apron in the form of horizontal strips.

The design principle of the four-seater model means there is no need for either fixed B-pillars or a transmission tunnel. Doors that open in opposite directions allow the occupants to get in and out with the greatest of ease.

The Loft, Lodge and Suite equipment lines are available for the new BMW i3 as alternatives to the standard Atelier version.

The Lodge interior design option includes a new covering for the seat surfaces in Solaric Brown that combines natural leather tanned using an olive leaf extract with a wool-based textile material. In fact, more than 80% of the surfaces visible to the passengers are made from recycled materials or renewable resources.

The synchronous electric motor powering the new BMW i3 generates a maximum output of 125 kW. Its peak torque is 250 Nm, all of which is available instantly from a standstill, as is usual with electric motors.

This means 0-100 km/h is achieved in 7.3 seconds. Its top speed is limited to 150 km/h.

Located low in the vehicle floor, the lithium-ion high-voltage battery provides a range of 290 km to 300 km based on the NEDC cycle, 235 km to 255 km as per WLTP and up to 200 km in everyday use. The combined electric power consumption of the new BMW i3 on the NEDC cycle varies between 13,6 and 13,1 kWh for every 100 kilometres.

The handling characteristics of the BMW i3 are improved by the optimised Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system. This comprehensively revised, faster responding traction control system guarantees confident handling under all driving conditions.

The BMW i3 now features a globally unique form of wheel speed limiting that ensures increased directional stability, both under dynamic acceleration and on the overrun with strong regenerative braking.

A 28 kW two-cylinder range extender petrol engine is available as an option. The engine drives a generator that produces power as required while driving to maintain a constant level of charge in the high-voltage battery. This extends the car’s overall range in everyday use by 150 kilometres, increasing it from around 180 kilometres to a maximum of 330 kilometres. The all-electric range of the new BMW i3 with range extender is 225 to 235 kilometres as per NEDC and 190 to 200 kilometres as per WLTP.

On the NEDC cycle, the new BMW i3 with range extender returns combined consumption figures of 0,6 l/100 km.

The optional Parking Assistance package includes Park Distance Control, a reversing camera and the Parking Assistant. Once a suitable parking space parallel to the road has been selected, the Parking Assistant takes control of acceleration, braking, gear selection and steering.

The new BMW i3 comes with an updated version of the iDrive operating system, which provides an intuitive interface for controlling numerous vehicle, infotainment, communications and navigation functions. In vehicles equipped with the Navigation system Professional, the Control Display has a diagonal of 10,25 inches and an increased resolution of 1 440 × 540 pixels. The main menu is also presented in the form of horizontally arranged tiles with a live mode.

The voice recognition system has also been further optimised. With the aid of Natural Language Understanding, spoken instructions can now be executed more quickly and precisely.

Charging at home is extremely user-friendly thanks to the BMW i Wallbox which, in its most recent incarnation, can supply 11 kW of power to charge the high-voltage battery. This allows enough energy for an electric range of around 180 kilometres to be transferred in under three hours – five times quicker than with the standard charging cable.

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Drive better

For businesses operating between five and 30 vehicles the dichotomy is that, although it constitutes a ‘fleet’, the operation is often enough to justify the employment of a full-time fleet manager – even though all the elements of cost containment with regards to the vehicles remains the same.

The task then generally falls to ‘someone else’ – quite often within the finance department or even in procurement of human resources, none of whom generally have the requisite fleet management expertise to optimise vehicle operation.

Fortunately, technology keeps marching on and Ctrack has launched a new software package specifically aimed at the small to medium enterprise.

Drive is an affordable, feature-rich Software as a Service (SaaS) solution ideal for SMME’s and company’s with fleets of 30 vehicles or less. The mobile solution is perfectly-suited to companies whose vehicles are not their core business and who do not employ dedicated fleet managers.

Simple to use, the Drive solution provides the fleet management tools business owners need, without the prohibitive costs and complexity of current offerings.

Drive’s intuitive dashboard, for example, can be viewed and administered on desktop computers, laptops, tablets and mobile devices and provides a top-down view of all vehicles, drivers and tasks, simultaneously.

GPS integration locates vehicles and drivers in real-time through easy to use map software. Responsive mapping indicates a driver’s current location as well as where they’re headed to next, giving small businesses the ability to provide their customers with updated estimated times of arrival.

The solution can also provide a full overview of a company’s in-progress and scheduled tasks, with the tracking of deliveries and job statuses also performed in real-time. With Drive, it is possible to schedule jobs beforehand, assigning these to specific drivers and/or vehicles, as required.

After entering the tasks for the day, the built-in route optimisation function provides the most efficient routes for drivers to travel. This radically reduces the time taken and distances driven, as well as the amount of fuel consumed on a daily basis. It also means drivers waste no time phoning controllers for assistance.

Furthermore, jobs and customer visits can be scheduled on driver’s phones, thereby assisting drivers with planning and structuring their tasks into organised workflows.Turn-by-turn navigation means drivers never get lost, while a trip score highlights areas needing driver behavour improvements.

Real-time driving violations can be depicted, as can where vehicles were driven, where they stopped or where they idled excessively. Using geo-fencing capability, vehicles can be limited to predefined areas, with alerts sent when breaches occur. These alerts can be sent and received via the Drive app, SMS or email and can be categorised and organised into user groups, making them simpler to manage.

Drive users can create service intervals of differing lengths and service types, while drivers can report vehicle faults through the app. Business and private logbooks can be produced and separated, with the business logbook used to recover business mileage expenses.

Detailed and fully customisable reports are easy to interpret and can be downloaded for further scrutiny. These reports help small business owners analyse their cost items and allow them to make better decisions, faster.

Last but not least, a stolen vehicle recovery service is also included on a 24/7 basis.

“Ctrack is proud to launch this innovative solution for the SMME market at an unbeatable price,” says Cobus Grove, Ctrack Global COO. “Drive is the culmination of 30 years of experience and reflects a deep understanding of the needs of our customers across the diverse fleet telematics market.

“This system grants business owners full online visibility of their company’s fleet, for improved operational efficiencies, on the move. Drive enables Ctrack clients to make split-second decisions that reduce costs from the first day of implementation.”

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X-Class – forget the hype

One of the most hyped vehicle launches of the past couple of decades is now a reality for South Africans with the formal introduction of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class bakkie – and perfectly timed to happen days before the opening of the biggest agricultural show in the country, namely Nampo in Bothaville.

Known for hosting farmers with bulging wallets, the X-Class will take pride of place on the Mercedes stand and, while the company does not discuss or disclose specific model sales numbers, it is a safe bet May is going to be a good month with pre-orders and instant sales possibly around the 500 units mark.

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From the first design sketches, the hype started along with lots of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ about Mercedes-Benz building a bakkie. Shock. Horror. Stop the presses!

Really – This company builds cars, SUV, MPV, vans and trucks – all of which are premium class so the question really is not why they added a bakkie, but why it has taken so long.

The answer is they have not. In the South African market, the X-Class is not the first Mercedes-Benz bakkie and utility Mercs have been around since the 1950s.

In 1955 Binz, a coachbuilder located near Stuttgart produced 400 W120 180D bakkies for export exclusively to South Africa (in right hand drive format).

Gary Bowes, who works as a Dealer Technical Specialist for Mercedes-Benz in Pretoria still drives a locally manufactured version one and says: “The idea of producing a Type 180D Ponton pick-up originated with the six original post-World War II independent South African importers, namely, Cargo Motors (Johannesburg), NMI (Durban), Stanley Porter (Cape Town), Haaks Garage (Pretoria), Ronnie’s Motors (East London) and John Williams (Bloemfontein).

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“They were all marketing Mercedes-Benz and various other makes in the late 1950s and were looking at how they could increase their sales which were severely limited by the strict allocation of passenger car import permits – in 1955 only 100 Mercedes-Benz cars could be imported.

“A pick-up or bakkie, as we call them in South Africa, was classified as a commercial vehicle which was subject to fewer import restrictions. With the co-operation of the Mercedes-Benz central office which then operated in Johannesburg, the six importers arranged with Daimler-Benz AG to import ‘half-cars – the built-up Type 180D but without the body section behind the ‘B’ pillars to which they then fitted a locally made load-box.

“The biggest problem was to find a local coach builder capable of making a ‘car-quality’ load-box that fitted the lines of the 180D.

“The work was eventually entrusted to body builders, Morewear Industries of Germiston, which after laborious efforts, achieved a very successful result. The distributors were insistent a high quality standard should be maintained, particularly as buyers were found to use these vehicles mostly as passenger cars.

“Several hundred were built between 1956 and 1958. Local assembly of Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles started in East London in January 1958, which allowed more units to be imported and the necessity for continuing with the 180D pick-up therefore disappeared.

“As far as I am aware, there are two versions of this pick-up; The South African version, which is recognisable by the gap between the cab and the load-bin and where the spare wheel is situated behind the left seat inside the cab.

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“The Binz version does not have the gap between cab and load-body and the spare wheel is stored in a compartment below the tailgate. I do not know how many of the Binz versions were imported to South Africa but I have seen a few running around, but I definitely prefer the body lines of our local version.”

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The other issue in the hype equation is the collaboration between Mercedes-Benz and Nissan that has given rise to comments about the X-Type being a ‘Nissan with bling’ or a ‘Navara with mascara’.

Mercedes-Benz is happy to shrug these off, stating the help from Nissan in using the Navara underpinnings was instrumental in them being able to get the X-Class to market in a much shorter time than it would have taken if they had to develop it all themselves.

The company also stresses even though there is Navara in the X-Class “every single part and component has been touched by Mercedes-Benz engineers and specialist” making it, they claim, a 100% Mercedes-Benz product.

Either way get over it! Collaboration between automakers is nothing new, has been going on for a long time, and will continue to do so.

Nadia Trimmel, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans Southern Africa says: “There has never been a more perfect time for Mercedes-Benz Vans to enter the bakkie segment in South Africa. But in true Mercedes-Benz fashion, we are opening this segment to a new customer group who want a robust bakkie with refined sophistication and unparalleled driving comfort.”

Mercedes-Benz X-Klasse – Power Interieur

“This is the first bakkie to convincingly combine the versatility of a double-cab with the luxury of a passenger car. The X-Class is robust with exceptional load capacity and off-road capability, but yet it’s also aesthetically pleasing, dynamic to drive, comfortable and safe.”

As mentioned Mercedes does not do sales numbers, but she said much of the target market would be to place the X-Class as the second Merc in the garage!

The X-Class locally is launched with two design and equipment lines for different lifestyles and working environments. The X-Class Progressive is aimed at consumers seeking a rugged bakkie with extra styling and comfort functions, while also being a comfortable yet prestigious vehicle for private or dual use.

The X-Class Power is the high-end line. It is aimed at customers for whom styling, performance and comfort are paramount. As a lifestyle vehicle beyond the mainstream, it is suitable for urban environments as well as for sports and leisure activities off the beaten track. Its design and high level of equipment reflect an independent and individualistic lifestyle.

At launch only two diesel variants are available with the V6 petrol due in the first quarter next year. The common-rail diesel drive system with a displacement of 2,3-litres is available with a choice of two power outputs.

In the X220d, the engine generates 120 kW and in the X250d 140 kW.

The media launch drive took us on the stunningly scenic Devil’s Peak Pass in the Outeniqua Mountains near George in the Western Cape. Closed to the public, the rarely used pass was in existence when Sir Thomas Bain started building the Montagu Pass (opened in 1848) and the much longer Prince Alfred’s Pass.

He used Devil’s Peak as the route for his supply wagons and, although he did not actually build it, made some modifications to make it easier to negotiate.

The pass is narrow, rough and traversed only at a snail’s pace – a good test of the capability of the vehicle and the X-Class has no problems with ground clearance, tractability and the like.

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My only gripe was the engine was surprisingly noisy in the upper end of the rev range and the electronic steering ‘loosened’ up too much to allow proper communication between the driver and the actual angle of the front wheels.

As speed increased the steering ‘tightened’ and the problem went away. While it is unlikely the vast majority of X-Class bakkies will do more than a bit of kerb-crawling in posh shopping centres where this steering disconnect will never be noticed, it is possibly worth an engineering thought to somehow recalibrate it when low range is selected.

Admittedly, due to time constraints, I drove only this one variant and will have to wait for road test versions to see if this is a reality or aberration.

The X 220 d is available in rear-wheel drive, while the X 250d is offered in rear-wheel drive or with engageable all-wheel drive, with low-range. Power is transferred via a six-speed manual transmission.

Its special feature is the wide transmission spacing, with a short first gear for maximum torque and a long sixth gear to keep rev speeds down. This design makes allowance for typical situations such as hill starts with a horse or boat trailer in tow and long-distance comfort on motorways.

A seven-speed automatic transmission is available for the 140 kW, X 250 d and X 250 d 4MATIC models.

Coil springs are used at both the front and rear. The front wheels are guided by double triangle wishbones.

At the back, a rear multi-link solid axle with good articulation capability is well suited to transporting heavy loads. This combination ensures that the suspension is comfortable and the handling is safe given any permitted load condition.

With 1 632 millimetres at the front and 1 625 millimetres at the rear, the X-Class has a wider track than most competitors do. At 3 150 millimetres, the wheelbase is also longer than many other bakkies.

A ladder-type frame chassis with closed longitudinal profiles and cross-members provides the basis for transporting heavy loads and handling tough off-road terrain. The comfort suspension is designed in such a way that it achieves a high level of driving dynamics and ride comfort on the road, while also delivering maximum off-road capability.

Mercedes-Benz is the only manufacturer in the segment to opt for large disc brakes on both axles as standard. The front axle has internally vented brake discs with a diameter of 32 centimetres. The internally vented brake discs on the rear axle have a diameter of 30,8 centimetres.

Passive safety is provided thanks to standard equipment such as seven air bags and the i-Size attachment system for two child seats. With Active Brake Assist and Lane Keeping Assist options, driver assistance systems increase safety and comfort.

Descent control is provided on both the manual and automatic versions, maintaining vehicle speed to 8 km/h in 4H and 5 km/h in 4L and it works extremely well to allow the big vehicle gently to walk its way down and over obstacles.

X3

In fact, there is so much electronic kit in this bakkie in the form of driver assistance, it does rather take the challenge out of genuine off-roading.

The major off-road facts are: Wading depth 600 mm, Ground clearance 221 mm, approach angle 30,1 degrees, departure angle 25,9 degrees, maximum tilt 49 degrees, breakover angle 22 degrees and gradeability 100%.

The Mercedes-Benz X-Class offers line-specific packages. These include the Parking Package (Parktronic and a 360 degree camera); Comfort Package (driver and co-driver lumbar support, electrically adjustable seats for the driver and co-driver, Artico / Dinamica seat covers, Thermotronic automatic air-conditioner and a stowage net in co-driver foot-well) and the Style Package (LED high performance headlights, partial LED tail lamps, roof rails, a privacy glass, electrically opening rear window, 18-inch alloy wheels and running boards). In addition, the Winter Package offers driver and co-driver heated seats and heated washer fluid jets.

The Mercedes-Benz X-Class comes standard with the manufacturer’s PremiumDrive full maintenance plan for 100 000 km/6 years, whichever occurs first. For a nominal cost, customers have the option of extending the maintenance plan up to a maximum of 180 000 km/8 years, whichever occurs first.