IT – not just geek stuff

Mention IT in capital letters and images of geeks, nerds and Big Bang Theory reruns instantly cloud the mind. However, IT in this instance stands for Isuzu and Triton – both fairly new but long enough on the market to establish some sales traction.

Our two test vehicles are not actually going head-to-head since the Isuzu is all-wheel drive and the Triton a standard two-wheel drive. Common ground is both are double cabs and specced to appeal to the leisure market.

The leisure end of the South African LCV (bakkie) market is as intriguing as it is diverse with a large gap between the two top sellers and the other players – the two top players in the market, Toyota and Ford, both have enormous ranges with a bakkie to suit almost every level of desire.

Hilux still leads the sales race from the Ranger and then there is quite a gap to the next level where both the Isuzu and Triton compete (joined here by the likes of Fiat Fullback, Nissan Navara and Volkswagen Amarok).

Isuzu, perhaps, is out of step with the main players in terms of model renewal so, while the Triton is all-new, the KB recently had a refresh.

Key changes included a new front fascia design including changes to bonnet, radiator grille and fog lamps, new headlamps with projector and integrated LED day time running lights on LX models, new tailgate styling on extended and double cab models, rear view camera integrated to tailgate handle on LX double cab models, new 18-inch alloy wheels for LX models and a new 16-inch styled wheel for the rest of the range.

Our test vehicle carried the 3,0-litre DTEQ turbo-charged diesel engine with 130 kW and 380 Nm on offer. Combined cycle fuel consumption is 7,9 l/100 km for 4×4 double cab.

A key feature of LX models is a touch screen infotainment system with satellite navigation, internet, Wi-Fi, and smartphone integration. The screen – a 1 080 high-definition TFT unit with a 6,5-inch dimension – also acts as the display when browsing, or using the DVD player.

The Rear Park Assist reverse camera is now integrated into the rear tailgate handle on all LX double cab models.

Passive entry and start system (PESS) is a keyless entry with Start/Stop ignition button is standard on all LX double cab models. Leather is available as standard on the 4×4 auto and manual double cabs and as an option on 4×2 Double Cab derivatives.

For Mitsubishi, the new vehicle is the fifth iteration of the Colt/Triton legacy and arrived in South Africa some while after launching in markets such as Australia, Brazil, Europe and the Middle East.

“From the onset, the brief to designers and engineers was to maintain the essence of the Triton, but also to improve on aspects of ride, handling and comfort to create a truly SUV-like experience from behind the wheel,” says Nic Campbell, general manager at Mitsubishi Motors South Africa.

Engineers improved 185 key areas of the Triton, compared to its predecessor, ranging from deepening and reinforcing the loading bay, revising the shape of the bonnet for aerodynamic efficiency and refining the driving position for improved in-vehicle visibility and comfort.

Other elements such as the distinct J-line between the cabin and the load bay have been reworked for benchmark interior space. This is immediately apparent to all passengers, particularly those seated in the back of the double-cab models.

The design features chrome accents around the front driving lights, grille and flush-mounted door handles, newly designed side steps and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Range-specific features on the new model include an intuitive touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity and USB audio input as well as the keyless push-button Stop/Start system.

The driver is made to feel at home thanks to cruise control, dual-zone auto air-conditioning, a reverse camera, an electrically adjustable driver’s seat, tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustment and leather upholstery, to name but a few of the standard creature comforts.

The cabin itself has been stretched by 20 mm to 1,745 mm to improve cabin space, while shoulder room – both front and rear – has been improved.

The Triton is fitted with an aluminium block four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine with reinforced steel piston sleeves for durability and an integrated common rail direct injection system.

Power delivery is rated at 133 kW at 3 500 r/min with torque peaking at 430 Nm at 2 500 r/min. Fuel consumption is rated at 7,6 l/100 km in a combined cycle.

On the double-cab versions, Mitsubishi engineers have added the ASTC (Active Stability and Traction Control) system, which modulates both braking and engine power to maintain the chosen driving line in slippery conditions. The range comes standard with anti-lock braking and EBD as well as Hill Start Assist (HSA).

With just 3 kW and 0,3 l/100 km difference between the two vehicles, there is little to separate them there – and equally little in terms of modern luxury fittings or vehicle safety and driver aids.

Although demand for luxury SUV bakkies remains strong in South Africa, the reality is most spend their time negotiating the urban horrors of potholes and deteriorating road surfaces – so the full 4×4 options rarely find themselves doing bush duty (except, of course, for those bought by enthusiasts).

Thus, the main comparison between the Isuzu and the Triton comes in operation as daily commuter vehicles with off-road limited to unpaved surfaces rather than donga-diving.

On the dirt, the Isuzu just shades the Triton – the slightly heavier Isuzu (3 100 kg) feeling a tad more balanced on dirt roads whereas the Triton was just a little too eager to press home its slight power and torque advantage, resulting in it becoming tail happy.

Doing the daily commute, perhaps the additional torque of the Triton gave it advantage by allowing a higher gear to be held for that much longer.

On clearer roads where the two vehicles could stretch their legs, nothing in it at all and both were long haul comfortable with about equal results in terms of wind and road noise – and both of those came in at agreeably low.

In the tighter sections the Triton had a slightly better turn in to corners, but road holding was on a par – perhaps more impressive from the Isuzu as one would have expected the extra mass here would compromise it under hard cornering.

At the end of the day the choice for any buyer has to be whether they want the full facility of 4×4 or just a an upmarket, comfortable and spacious bakkie that can workhorse or trail bike hauler.

Big not always better

 

We have a problem with the Jaguar XJ! We love the comfort. We love the ride. We love the power, the handling and the abundance of features it has to offer.

However, there is something missing.

With its J Lo bum and Junoesque curves, the XJ is, quite simply, too big. The lines and styling follow the stunning work done to create the XF but somehow in the XJ have lost the plot to over inflation – and in so doing have lost the whole Jaguar ethos, the very DNA that is so integral to the British brand.

Let’s go back a decade or so to the previous XJ – one that simply oozed the Jaguar ethos. It may not have been the prettiest car on the road, but it was unmistakeably a Jaguar. Then, along came the S-Type – a plump and soulless car that too exuded none of the Jaguar ethos.

With the XF, Jaguar had returned. Stunning styling coupled to impressive performance from all derivatives and, most importantly, the sense that this was (is) something special, something very Jaguar.

Admittedly, our feelings about the XJ are a lot more subjective than objective in terms of the look and feel and, having made out soapbox point, we will defer to objectivity from here on in.

What is particularly pleasing is Jaguar has elected to offer its cars ‘as is’, meaning the spec is all built-in and the buyer is not assailed by a shop full of options at the time of purchase – and, anyway, it is very difficult to think of a possible option, since nothing has been left out.

From the driver’s seat the most striking feature is the blank dash that spring to life when the car is fired up, speed, revs, temperature and all manner of information digitally displayed either directly in front or on the central colour screen – the entire concept taken from the Range Rover.

Interior highlights of the new XJ include chrome and piano black detailing that provides an eye-catching contrast to the leather and veneer surfaces with the dash layout and wood emulating the famous Riva powerboat look.

The XJ is constructed using Jaguar’s aerospace-inspired aluminium body technology, which makes the XJ lighter than its rivals by at least 150 kilograms. Features such as air suspension, Adaptive Dynamics (continuously variable damping), Active Differential Control and quick ratio power steering, deliver the blend of responsive, dynamic handling and refined, supple ride expected from a Jaguar.

Apart from its power and performance, the all-new Jaguar XJ brings new standards of sustainability to the luxury vehicle segment. The lightweight aluminium structure – with 50 percent recycled material – underpinned by a lifecycle approach to vehicle design and manufacture, enables the new XJ to minimise its carbon footprint. This alone creates a potential saving of three tonnes of CO2 per vehicle, compared to a bodyshell made from aluminium.

Our test car was the 5,0-litre unblown V8 and even in this age of political correctness, there is still nothing more emotive than the chooglin’ boogie of an idling big bore V8 just waiting to be let off the leash – this version offering 283 kW and 515 Nm of torque with top speed limited to 250 km/h.

For business users this is probably the best petrol choice – the potential resale likely to be safer than the supercharged versions where down the line buyers have a concern about the potential failure of an expensive blower.

Mated to all engine variants is a six-speed ZF torque converter transmission with the usual ‘sport’ option and steering wheel paddles for manual override. There is no stick because of the JaguarDrive’s rotary selector.

Unlike most paddle shifters however, this one holds on to selected gears long enough to do what is wanted. Another increasingly common feature is the ability to choose different driving behaviours to suit circumstance and mood. In addition to ‘normal’, Jaguar offers a wet weather mode marked with a snowflake and a dynamic option marked with a chequered flag. This is the fun version.

Dial in ‘S’ on the rotary selector and hold the chequered flag button down for a couple of seconds. The virtual instruments on the electronic panel turn red, the seatbelts tug in a notch tighter and the XJ drops into ‘fight’ mode.

Suspension settings stiffen, throttle and steering responses sharpen and, despite our reservations about the dimensions, it is all Jaguar, doing what Jaguar is meant to do; simply defying any curves thrown at it, majestically conquering mountain passes – in short, owning the road.

Though the fun part of driving the car, it is the more mundane daily trudge through the traffic where it will most be used and here it provides a docile, cocooned environment that does take some of the stress out of heavy traffic motoring. Easy to manouevre thanks to the light-touch power steering it is also easier to squeeze into tight spaces than its bulk would suggest.

Despite its size – and nearly our last comment on that – the rear legroom is less than one might expect. Not uncomfortable, mind, just not quite a dancefloor.

All-in-all it is everything one could want from a premium executive saloon – if only it could shrink by 10 mm or so in the wash.