Land grab

Even in South Africa’s tough economic times the growth in the SUV market continues – as does the demand for tyres that equally meet requirements for top level on and off-road activity.

General Tire, a brand of Continental Tyre South Africa (CTSA), has launched its latest offerings in the form of  the all-terrain Grabber AT3 and the extreme-terrain Grabber X3.

The Grabber AT3 replaces the previous-generation Grabber AT, General Tire’s multiple award-winning tyre designed for all-terrain applications. Retaining the 50/50 on/off-road bias of its predecessor, the new AT3 was developed to meet the needs of sport utility vehicle (SUV), bakkie and off-road vehicle drivers who demand the combination of exceptional off-road abilities and confident on-road manners.

In the aggressive new Grabber X3, General Tire has a flagship mud-terrain tyre that delivers uncompromising off-road performance coupled with good on-road manners. Relying on its 80/20 off-road bias, the Grabber X3 employs bold styling, matched to exceptional performance and durability for conquering the most challenging 4×4 terrains.

“The launch of the all-new Grabber AT3 and X3 represents an exciting new chapter for General Tire in South Africa,” says Ryan Visagie, Product Communications Manager at CTSA.

“Offering the latest designs and technologies in their respective segments, both tyres further raise the benchmark in terms of capability and durability, building on General Tire’s proven performance, reliability and American heritage that spans more than 100 years.”

“As one of the leading contenders in the all-terrain replacement tyre category, the Grabber AT3 continues our proud legacy with superb all-round performance and dependability,” Visagie adds. “The Grabber X3, is an extreme-terrain tyre with several innovative features that ensure it excels in the harshest conditions such as mud, dirt and rocks.”

The impressive new AT3 and X3 join the existing Grabber GT, which is specifically designed for high-performance suvs. The GT delivers outstanding handling and braking performance on dry and wet roads, allied to high comfort and low noise levels.

The local General Tire line-up is further bolstered by the Altimax passenger car tyre range, comprising the Altimax Sport for precise handling and braking, along with the Altimax Comfort, which focuses on superb comfort, refinement and durability.

 The new AT3 features three innovative technologies developed to enhance all-round performance and durability: tracgen, duragen and comfort balance.

The standard Grabber AT3 tyre range is available in 13 sizes catering for 15 to 20-inch rim diameters. Later this year, the Grabber AT3 range will be bolstered with a further nine reinforced light truck (LT) offerings in 15-inch to 18-inch sizes, which are designed for heavy duty applications.

Compared to its highly-rated predecessor, the new Grabber AT3’s on and off-road performance has improved in several key areas, including noise levels and irregular wear. Traction in snow, muddy conditions and on wet grass has been improved, along with cut-and-chip resistance.

Designed to conquer the most demanding off-road terrains, the new Grabber X3 takes General Tire’s ‘Anywhere is Possible’ brand promise to new heights. Positioned as an extreme terrain offering, it is ideally suited to three of the most challenging off-road driving conditions, comprising mud, dirt and rock – hence the name, X3.

The Grabber X3 relies on an enhanced version of General Tire’s Duragen Technology, using a three-ply construction across the range. This guarantees exceptional durability and puncture resistance.

As with the Grabber AT3, the new Grabber X3 raises the bar in virtually every sphere of off-road performance, while on-road capability has been similarly improved.

The Grabber X3 is available in a total of five sizes encompassing 15-inch to 17-inch rim sizes.

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X-Class launched in Cape Town

There is a character named Travis McGee in a series of novels by John D MacDonald who drives around in a bright blue Rolls Royce pickup.

Besides the greatness of both the character and the books, as a petrolhead the idea of a modifying a Roller into a ‘bakkie’ had huge appeal – even if way, way off the financial radar.

So, after all the hype and shadowy sketches, Mercedes-Benz have kinda stepped into that place with the official launch in Cape Town of the X-Class pickup. Essentially the world’s most luxurious pickup, the company is quick to point out it will also serve the more traditional role of being a workhorse.

There are three design and equipment variants to choose from as well as four or six-cylinder engines, rear-wheel drive and engageable or permanent all-wheel drive, a six-speed manual transmission and a seven-speed automatic transmission.

In addition there are six different seat covers, including two leather variants, three sets of cockpit trim parts and a diverse range of accessories developed by Mercedes-Benz. These allow the X-Class to be modified to suit personal tastes and requirements like no other pickup, both visually and in terms of functionality.

“The X-Class is the first genuine pickup with convincing passenger car characteristics. It’s robust, strong and with good off-road capability – just like a pickup should be.

“It’s also aesthetically pleasing, dynamic to drive, comfortable, safe, connected and individual – as you would expect from a Mercedes. As a result, the X-Class pushes the boundaries of the classic pickup and makes this vehicle segment attractive for private use, too. With three design and equipment lines and an extensive scope of further individualisation options, we offer the ideal vehicle for a range of different customer groups and their needs,” says Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans

The demand for mid-size pickups with typical passenger car characteristics and comfort features has been steadily on the rise for years. At the same time, the number of pickups for private use is increasing and they are no longer viewed purely as workhorses.

Mercedes-Benz says this tough performance pickup delivers a driveability and handling that matches many demands – both with regard to driving dynamics and ride comfort. This is attained thanks to a comfort suspension with the fine tuning expected of a Mercedes. It consists of a ladder-type frame, rear multi-link solid axle, front independent wheel suspension and coil springs on both axles.

Built on this platform, the distinctive design of the X-Class is available in three model variants to suit different lifestyles and work environments:

* The X-Class PURE basic variant is ideal for rugged, functional use. It fulfils all the demands placed on a workhorse. At the same time its comfort and design make it perfect for visiting customers or suppliers and for private activities.

* The X-Class PROGRESSIVE is aimed at people seeking a rugged pickup with extra styling and comfort functions – as a calling card for their own business, while also being a comfortable yet prestigious vehicle for private use.

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

The X-Class can haul a payload of up to 1,1 tons. That is enough to transport 17 full 50-litre barrels of beer in the cargo area. Able to tow up to 3,5 tons, it can also pull a trailer containing three horses or an eight-metre yacht.

Thanks to its long 3150-millimetre wheelbase, the short and cladded front overhang, the backward shifted passenger compartment and the very long rear overhang, the X-Class has an elongated vehicle body.

The design of the side windows with their dynamic kink along the beltline and taut lines contrasting with muscular, sculpted surfaces also allude to the longitudinal dynamics. Widely flared wheel arches, the commanding front and the purist design of the rear all accentuate the impression of width. Together they give the pickup a powerful on-road presence and make reference to the X-Class’s excellent lateral dynamics.

In terms of width, the load bed is designed in such a way that a Euro-pallet can be loaded straight between the wheel arches.

The X-Class is the only mid-size pickup to be equipped with lighting in the cargo area as standard. The third brake light contains LED lights, which illuminate the whole load bed. Operation is by a switch in the centre console. As soon as the ignition is switched on, those lights turn off automatically.

A 12-volt socket to power additional equipment such as compressors, for example, is also part of the standard equipment in the load bed.

Dimensions of the X-Class:

Vehicle – length 5 340 mm Vehicle width1 920 mm; Vehicle height 1 819 mm; Wheelbase 3 150 mm; Load bed length 587 mm; Load bed width 1 560 mm; Load bed height 474 mm

.The instrument panel has the concave trim element typical of a Mercedes. It stretches across the entire width of the instrument panel – a novel feature in this vehicle segment.

The instrument cluster consists of the large, analogue round dials from the C-Class and V-Class. In the X-Class PROGRESSIVE and POWER they are tubular. A 5,4-inch colour multimedia display is nestled between the round dials. Thanks to the push-buttons on the standard-fit three-spoke multifunction steering wheel, the settings on the colour display can be controlled without drivers having to take their hands off the steering wheel. The steering wheel with its 12 buttons in total is height-adjustable, thereby improving ergonomic posture and allowing a relaxed seating position.

In the X-Class PROGRESSIVE and POWER, the steering wheel, shift lever knob and handbrake lever are also covered in leather. In conjunction with the Audio 20 CD and COMAND Online multimedia systems, and in addition to the central control unit, the X-Class contains the multifunction touchpad familiar from the passenger car model series – the multifunction touchpad is another novelty in this segment. It is located in an ergonomic position on the centre console and, like a smartphone, it can be controlled using gestures or by entering letters and characters.

The high-torque common-rail diesel drive system with a displacement of 2,3 litres is available with a choice of two power outputs.

In the X 220d with single turbo-charger it generates 120 kW and in the biturbo X 250d no less than 140 kW.

Both diesel models are available with purely rear wheel drive or with engageable all-wheel drive.

Power is transferred via a six-speed manual transmission. A seven-speed automatic transmission is available on request for the 140 kW X 250d and X 250d 4MATIC models.

A high-torque V6 diesel engine will be released mid-2018, and will generate 190 kW and a maximum torque of 550 Nm. With that the X 350d occupies a leading position in the segment. The top X-Class model will come as standard with permanent 4MATIC all-wheel drive and the seven-speed automatic transmission 7G-TRONIC PLUS with steering-wheel shift paddles and ECO start/stop function.

Coil springs are used both at the front and the rear and the comfort suspension is designed in such a way it achieves a high level of driving dynamics and ride comfort on the road, while also delivering maximum off-road capability in conjunction with 4MATIC all-wheel drive.

The suspension consists of a double wishbone front axle and a rear multi-link solid axle that is ideal for transporting heavy loads and has good articulation capability. This combination ensures that the suspension is comfortable and the handling is safe given any permitted load condition.

The X-Class’s high level of occupant protection results from its especially solid car body with a high-strength passenger cell and a structure with a front and rear that can absorb energy through well-aimed deformation.

Furthermore, passive safety is provided thanks to standard equipment such as seven air bags and the i-Size attachment system for two child seats.

For active safety, three driver assistance systems are at the ready, simultaneously increasing safety and comfort: Active Brake Assist, Lane Keeping Assist and Traffic Sign Assist. Additionally, there are Trailer Stability Assist, tyre pressure monitoring system, emergency call system, cruise control and LED headlamps that deliver the brightest light output in the segment thanks to six LEDs respectively. If required, a 360-Degree Camera is available in addition to a reversing camera.

“The segment for mid-size pickups is ripe for a premium vehicle. With the X-Class we will open up this segment to new customer groups, just as we redefined the off-road segment with the M-Class more than 20 years ago. Our pickup convinces as a workhorse, yet also as a family and lifestyle vehicle. In short, the X-Class is the Mercedes among pickups,” says Dr Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars.

The South African versions will be launched during next year.

 

Tested – Mitsubishi Triton 2.4 Di-D 4×2 (auto)

As mad as South Africans are about bakkies, they are also often a partisan crowd and different places around the country tend to show a predominance of favour for a certain brand.

Where I live on the South Coast of KwaZulu Natal – often called the slow coast for good reason – the Ford Ranger is edging ahead based on visible numbers on the road. However, when one starts paying attention to the make there are still surprising numbers of Colt bakkies on active duty.

The Mitsubishi Colt – particularly the 2,8-litre diesel – was hugely popular and when the marque left the Mercedes-Benz stable and the original Triton came out – well, for folk locally, it just was not quite the same so they hung onto their Colts, tended to the rust and carried on until replacement was essential.

That moment came well before the new generation Triton was launched – hence the rise in popularity of other makes.

Will new Triton make inroads. In this sales microcosm it will be interesting to watch.

Should Triton make inroads. Damn straight!

The 2017 model, the fifth in the Colt/Triton lineage, is the most advanced pick-up ever to be developed by Mitsubishi  and launched in South Africa earlier this year, following successful introduction to Australia, Brazil, Europe and the Middle East.

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 famous 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.

While I like the looks and flowing lines, achieving those has compromised rear seat (adult) passengers on longer journeys where the reduced visibility from the small windows can become a tad claustrophobic.

The sculpted bonnet, bold grille and wrap-around headlights flow into a deep shoulder-line that connects to the new tail lights and a curved tailgate that now facilitates one-handed operation. The integrated brake light on the tailgate cannot be obscured like those on cab-mounted versions.

The design is further tweaked by the addition of chrome accents around the front driving lights, grille and flush-mounted door handles. Newly designed side steps and 17-inch alloy wheels complete the updates.

The combined engineering effort, which has radically improved the new Triton over its predecessor, is perhaps most evident inside the cabin, which was purposely shaped to mirror the same level of comfort and convenience as Mitsubishi’s range of SUV-models and iconic Pajero – the upcoming Pajero Sport actually being developed off  the Triton.

Getting in and out of the new Triton is not only much easier, but sitting behind the steering wheel feels more natural thanks to a commanding driver position offering improved visibility over the front of the vehicle.

The driver has the benefit of a new dashboard with easy-to-clean surfaces chosen for practicality. 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.

Standard are 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.

The cabin itself has been stretched by 20 mm to 1 745 mm to further improve cabin space, while shoulder room ‒ both front and rear ‒ has been improved. Subtle changes include redesigned seats offering additional bolstering and higher density foam for more comfortable long distance driving.

The double-cab’s rear bench is angled by a class-leading 25 degrees. This not only adds additional leg and shoulder space, but mitigates the typical upright position that is synonymous with double-cab pick-ups. To round off the impressive cabin, Mitsubishi’s engineers have added thicker sound deadening material to the engine firewall and under the floor.

 The Mitsubishi Triton is fitted with an aluminium block four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. The new engine offers the ideal combination of a fast spooling turbo-charger with an unconventionally low compression ratio of 15.5:1 which aids responsive torque delivery at low engine speeds.

The 2.4 MIVEC engine also features reinforced steel piston sleeves for durability and an integrated common rail direct injection system. This engine weighs 30 kg less than its predecessor.

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. In the test cycle this was easily achieved and bettered with the vehicle unladen and carrying a full load I managed 8,7 l/100 km.

The new 2.4 MIVEC turbo-diesel delivers power to the rear through the choice of a shorter-shifting six-speed manual gearbox, or a five-speed automatic transmission as was the case with my test unit.

Triton owes its better road manners to revised stabiliser bars, stiffer front springs and significantly larger rubber body mountings on the ladder frame chassis.

The overall combination can be experienced by less body roll and pitching – unwanted tendencies usually associated with a heavy nose and empty load bin. Once again, the J-line allowed engineers to shorten the wheelbase which leads to crisper manoeuvrability.

Further handling gains can be attributed to the Hydraulic Power Steering system that is more direct at 3,8 turns lock-to-lock (as opposed to the 4,3 turns of its predecessor) and tightening the cornering radius to 5,9 metres.

That’s what Mitsubishi says – in reality the steering is still a bit too vague when the vehicle is unladen especially on gravel roads when travelling briskly. The combination of vague steering and front end wash if the turn in is a little too heavy can lead to some nervous moments.

Fortunately, it does come with Active Stability and Traction Control to mitigate and this works rather well without being too intrusive in normal driving situations. It comes standard with anti-lock braking and EBD as well as Hill Start Assist (HSA).

One of the reasons the Colt did so well in this market was its solid dependability. The new Triton gives off that same feeling.

All models have a 5-year/90 000 km service plan and 3-year/100 000 km manufacturer’s warranty.

2.4 Di-DC 4X2 5-speed A/T
Engine Type
DOHC MIVEC Common Rail
Fuel Type Diesel
Max. Output 133 kW @ 3 500 r/min
Max. Torque 43 Nm @ 2 500 r/min
Fuel Tank Capacity 75L
Towing Capacity (Braked) 1 500 kg
Towing Capacity (Unbraked) 750 kg

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.