Road Review – Mitsubishi Pajero Sport

The Mitsubishi Pajero has been an evolution of longevity with tweaks and upgrades almost an annual occurrence in between major styling revisions – the latest version of the Pajero Sport coming less than a year after the major revise of 2017.

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However, it was not all that long ago while standing with a Mitsubishi engineer in the sand dunes on the West Coast he emphatically dismissed my question about the Pajero getting electronic switching between two and four-wheel drive, stating “… our customers are dedicated off-road enthusiasts and demand the manual method…”

Oh yes Mr Bob Dylan, how the times have changed.

Now sporting that electronic switching and driving through an 8-speed automatic gearbox, the Pajero has shifted massively left-field to join the ranks of the luxury SUV class, often a phantom zone filled with very expensive and highly capable vehicles living out their lives never having served the purpose for which they were designed.

As an off-roader, the Pajero has a formidable history with 12 Paris-Dakar wins under its belt including seven consecutive titles – this going back to its first victory in 1985. However, the story starts long before then when Mitsubishi introduced the world’s first passenger vehicle with full-time four-wheel drive, the PX33, in 1933.

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The immensely capable off-roader – that has appeared in short, standard and long-wheelbase formats – is often grossly underestimated but I am not truly convinced by this latest 7-seat format.

Not that the seating configuration interferes with its ability, but purely a personal dislike for the format – the two rearmost seats are just for tiny tots and take up valuable luggage space, with those removable regularly gathering dust in a garage.

Obviously, there are intrepid travellers who really need that seating space at the back and, naturally, the provision is there for them, but it reduces luggage space to 193 litres. With the rear seats folded flat this increases to 813 litres.

With this latest iteration – and a contender in the Auto Trader SA Guild of Motoring Journalists Car of the Year competition – the designers improved the Pajero Sport’s safety by adding ISO-FIX child seat anchors and added a seventh air bag for the protection of the driver’s knees.

The Pajero Sport’s styling is described as ‘distinctive’, ‘energetic’ and ‘striking’. Vehicle design and styling follows trend patterns across all brands whether or not the actual designers like – or care to admit – it and completely in spite of what the marketing brochure says.

Viewed from the side, the shark nose of the Pajero may be great in terms of its improved departure angle but it loses something, I believe, the older and squarer vehicles had going for them – namely the fact the driver could see both front corners, knowing there was nothing ahead of them to worry about.

The current design ticks all the necessary boxes in terms of improved aerodynamics and the saving in fuel that comes with more slippery shape, around 8,1 l/100 km compared to the figures from earlier versions that hovered around the 9,0 l/100 km mark.

LED driving lamps with auto levelling and DRLs, including a headlamp washer for the 4WD version, are standard features, while a LED high-mounted rear stop lamp on the tailgate provides additional safety.

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In line with its Pajero heritage, it boasts double wishbone coil springs with a stabiliser bar in the front and multi-link suspension with stabiliser bar in the back. The quiet drive, thanks to its strong ladder-frame design, which absorbs all levels of NVH, gives the new Pajero Sport a big sedan car-like ride and handling.

Another massive advantage is its turning circle of just 11,2 m (as opposed to between 11,6 m and 12,2 m for some other premium SUVs).

Soft-feel leather seats make the long haul a pleasure and provide ample support when going donga-diving and the driver seat is electrically adjustable. The second row of seats offers a 60:40 split with tumble, reclining and sliding function with a centre armrest and cup holders.

The third row of seats folds flat into the floor to minimise intrusion into the cargo space when not in use.

Passenger comfort is improved with a tilt and telescopic steering wheel with paddle shifts, rear park distance control with a rear-view camera, dual automatic air-conditioning with rear passenger temperature controls and an electric parking brake.

Other standard features include a keyless operating system with electronic start function, multi-function leather steering wheel with audio and cruise control, Bluetooth with hands-free voice control and foldaway electric door mirrors incorporating turn indicators.

Standard built-in safety features include Active Stability and Traction Control (ASTC), anti-lock braking, EBD (Electronic Brake-force Distribution), BAS (Brake Assist System), Brake Override System and seven air bags (Driver, Driver’s Knee, Passenger, Seat and Side Curtains). Hill Descent Control and the new electronic Off-Road Mode Control add additional safety benefits.

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The latest version is still powered by the 2,4-litre MIVEC turbo-diesel engine producing 133 kW at 3 500 r/min and 430 Nm of torque at 2 500 r/min, driving the wheels through its 8-speed automatic transmission with Intelligent Shift Control.

As an example of good things that keep getting better, the latest version of the Pajero Sport is just that bit more refined without losing its core abilities – and taking this vehicle off the beaten path is worth every minute as it tackles just about any obstacle in its path with aplomb.

On the road, it drives and handles like a sedan with the advantage of the extra view from the raised seating position. It has less body roll in tight corners than one might expect and the steering is both true and provides excellent feedback to the driver.

I am not entirely convinced an 8-speed gearbox is absolutely necessary, although this spread of ratios does help with both fuel consumption and overall noise reduction.

It is the kind of car that deserves a lot more time than we had while it was in the test fleet.

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Range Rover steps up

Once the undisputed leader in the luxury SUV class, the Range Rover has been under pressure from rivals and is seriously upping its game with the new model, due for launch in November.

Executive Class rear seats and long wheel base body ensure this SUV represents the pinnacle of luxury.

Range Rover PHEV Media Drive, March 2018

With the option of a plug-in hybrid electric powertrain that delivers 51 km of emission-free driving without any loss in performance, alongside the heightened luxury of the SVAutobiography, Range Rover is also improved with the addition of Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go. This is available alongside Adaptive Cruise Control with Steering Assist.

This system helps keep the vehicle centred in its lane by applying moderate steering interventions with the driver’s hands on the wheel. The technology uses lane markings and, or where no lane markings can be detected, the path of the vehicle in front. Switching lanes or braking deactivates the system.

The interior of the Range Rover is luxurious, adaptable and beautifully crafted where the seats, which provide generous recline, legroom and foot space feature lines, leathers and layers of deep cushioning that create a cosseting lounge-style environment, with controls located on the door panels for customers to make adjustments.

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Heating and memory functions are embedded into the Grained Leather 16-way electronically-adjustable front seats to further improve the passenger experience.

With 24-way adjustment, the top-of-the-range Semi-Aniline Leather front seats are the most advanced option, providing upper shoulder support for total comfort, alongside integrated climate and massage settings, and the option of a stress-relieving Hot Stone massage function.

This high-end functionality extends to the rear, where the seats offer a 60:40 split-fold design. Wider and offering substantial legroom, their power recline controls are also located on the door for greater convenience.

The powered rear seats can be folded using the infotainment touchscreen, providing load-through access and ensuring the Range Rover’s peerless comfort and refinement does not come at the expense of practicality.

There is a power-deployable centre console that is available at the touch of a button and features a break at the centre footwell to enable rear passengers to easily exit from either side of the vehicle. When the centre console is stowed, the rear cabin can still accommodate three passengers in comfort, meaning versatility is uncompromised.

A cabin air ionisation system, Nanoe, uses charged water particles to help remove harmful substances, cleanse the air and eliminate allergens, viruses, bacteria and odours. The advanced purification system can be switched on and off using the climate screen on the infotainment system.

The powered roof sunblind can be opened and closed using an advanced gesture control system capable of sensing hand movements. All it takes to open the sunblind is a rearward swipe motion in front of the rear-view mirror, while a simple forward motion will prompt the blind to close. Comfortable and convenient, the intuitive system also reduces potential distraction to the driver.

In addition, the blinds can be closed automatically when all passengers have disembarked and the vehicle is locked. This keeps the interior cool in warm weather and minimises the need for air-conditioning when passengers return. When the driver unlocks the door, the sunblind will automatically slide open.

The P400e is the most efficient Range Rover and combines an advanced 221 kW four-cylinder Ingenium petrol engine with a 85 kw electric motor. This technology is powered by an advanced 13,1 kWh lithium-ion battery giving a total available power output of 297 kW through the permanent all-wheel drive (AWD) system.

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Together they drive the Range Rover from 0-100 km/h in 6,8 seconds and to a top speed of 220 km/h. With an impressive 640 Nm of torque, the powertrain mixes dynamic and sustainable performance with traditional Range Rover capability, comfort and refinement.

The P400e delivers CO2 emissions of 72 g/km and fuel economy of up to 3,1 l/100 km on the NEDC combined cycle. The intelligent system can also capture and store the energy generated when braking to aid recharging of the battery.
A full charge can be achieved in approximately 7,5 hours (10 amp; varies by market, location and the type of hardware used), which makes the Range Rover P400e ideal for overnight battery top-ups using a domestic plug socket.

With up to 17 connection points integrated discreetly throughout the cabin, the Range Rover is perfectly equipped as a mobile workspace and entertainment hub. This is thanks to two USB, an HDMI and 12V connection points in the front console cubby box – there is also a 12V socket in the glove box and a USB point in the deep stowage area underneath the cupholders.

For rear passengers, there are two 12V charging points, a domestic plug socket, and two USB and HDMI points. The load space provides a further 12V and a second domestic plug socket to keep laptops and other devices topped up.

In long wheelbase models, an additional USB charge point can be found in the storage box at the rear of the centre console.

There is also provision for up to eight 4G Wi-Fi connections, which ensures continuous connectivity on the move.

Comprising a lightweight front and rear design, the suspension layout perfectly complements the advanced aluminium construction. Its fully independent layout features a wide-spaced double wishbone set-up at the front and an advanced multi-link layout at the rear.

Range Rover PHEV Media Drive, March 2018

In order to achieve the perfect balance of agility, composure and comfort, Land Rover’s engineers focused on optimising chassis stiffness and fine-tuning the steering system to deliver the peerless driving experience demanded of the Range Rover.

The chassis can be managed via a number of advanced technologies. Dynamic Response enables a driver to independently control the front and rear axles with an enhanced active roll control system, which allows for low-speed agility and increased stability at speed.

This is complemented by an Active Rear Locking Differential to further optimise traction and stability in corners, while Adaptive Dynamics provide continuous variable damping for a supple, absorbent and composed ride.

Electric Power Assisted Steering utilises variable-ratio speed-sensitive assistance to deliver a relaxed, natural and intuitive character with a faster steering ratio. The result is a luxury SUV with excellent stability and a relaxed character at high cruising speeds.

The Range Rover benefits from Jaguar Land Rover’s Low Traction Launch System, which helps to exploit all available traction when pulling away on slippery surfaces. Unlike All-Terrain Progress Control, the company’s all-terrain cruise control technology, Low Traction Launch initiates a unique throttle map to provide a more usable torque curve.

The system is specifically designed to help drivers pull-away from a standstill on slippery surfaces such as wet grass, loose gravel and snow.

Hill Descent Control is also fitted as standard, while excellent ground clearance and a smooth underfloor

The Range Rover SVAutobiography – available exclusively in long wheelbase – has range of powertrain options that includes the 297 kW plug-in hybrid electric-petrol, a 250 kW 4,4-litre diesel and a 416 kW V8 supercharged petrol engine.

Range Rover PHEV Media Drive, March 2018

The Range Rover SVAutobiography Dynamic is the most powerful production Range Rover to date and offers 416 kW and 700 Nm from its V8 supercharged engine and can can accelerate from 0-100 km/h in only 5,4 seconds.

The Range Rover lineup will be available in South Africa from November and will include the following variants:

SWB:
3.0 Diesel 190 kW Vogue
4.4 Diesel 250 kW Vogue SE
4.4 Diesel 250 kW Autobiography
2.0 PHEV 297 kW Vogue
2.0 PHEV 297 kW Vogue SE
2.0 PHEV 297 kW Autobiography
5.0 Petrol 386 kW Vogue SE
5.0 Petrol 386 kW Autobiography
5.0 Petrol 416 kW SVAutobiography Dynamic

LWB:
4.4 Diesel 250 kW Vogue SE
4.4 Diesel 250 kW Autobiography
4.4 Diesel 250 kW SVAutobiography
2.0 PHEV 297 kW Vogue SE
2.0 PHEV 297 kW Autobiography
2.0 PHEV 297 kW SVAutobiography
5.0 Petrol 386 kW Vogue SE
5.0 Petrol 386 kW Autobiography
5.0 Petrol 416 kW SVAutobiography

Range Rover PHEV Media Drive, March 2018

You can help save them

South Africa’s rhino are in grave danger – but they can be saved providing South Africans from all walks of life become involved.

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Having bred 1 632 rhino in captivity during his lifetime and invested more than US$100-million of his own money into the project, John Hume of Buffalo Dream Ranch has reached his financial limit and, unless there is public participation the dream could fade away.

Buffalo Dream Ranch (BDR) is the world’s largest Captive Rhino Breeding Project and is hidden away in the flat, dry savanna of the North West Province of South Africa.

BDR was founded and funded entirely by John, now 76, and the project recently celebrated the birth of its first ‘F2’, or second generation, rhino calf on the project which is an outstanding achievement for any breeding operation.

More than 300 of their dams (females) are pregnant right now, and due to give birth over the next 18 months, many more of which will be ‘F2’s’. This equates to close to 10% of the world’s remaining White Rhinos.

BDR’s mission is simple. It is ‘To Breed Better and Protect Better’ in their attempt to move this iconic species away from extinction. They hope this financial year to eventually meet their breeding target of 200 calves per annum.

However, John has now finally reached the end of his financial wherewithal to continue protecting these rhinos. This cash flow crisis they find themselves in has caused BDR to give notice of termination to the private army of foot soldiers who protect their rhino, as they can no longer afford their services.

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In fact, as soon as August this year, there will be no money left to even fund the day-to-day operation of the project, leaving the future of nearly 2 000 rhino in severe jeopardy.

John has always maintained that key to the success of BDR and, in fact, to saving the rhino from extinction, is legalised trade in rhino horn. BDR routinely trim horns primarily to render their rhino less attractive to poachers.

They currently hold a stockpile of 6,5 tons of horn in vaults around South Africa, which if valued at the reported wholesale price of US$20 000 a kg, amounts to US$130-million.

Imagine how much ‘good’ all this money could do for the conservation of African rhino, if only it was released into the pockets of legitimate rhino owners, instead of lining the pockets of criminals! Sadly though, the CITES ban on international trade persists and the South African Government continue to hamper the sale of horn in our domestic market, so the BDR project finds itself in this very difficult financial situation. It should also be noted that BDR has, to date, not received a single cent of support from any Government, NGO or Charity throughout their journey.

There are a number of alternative initiatives currently underway which, with the help of an impassioned public, might just be able to steer BDR through their cashflow crisis, and secure the future of nearly 2 000 rhinos. These include:

1) Search for one or more partners – Probably the most viable solution is for John to find one or more wealthy impact investors with a passion for conservation of rhino, and a recognition of the potential for returns through trade in horn.

He is ready to sell up to 50% of his BDR Captive Breeding Operation (CBO) to secure the future of his rhino. These partners would then work together with John to continue lobbying both the South African Government and CITES to ease up the horn trade environment and deliver BDR to sustainability through a legal and sustainable trade in horn.

A search for these illusive benefactors is currently underway, and BDR would be grateful if any party interested, and in a position to provide the required investment, would make urgent contact.

2) Rhino Coin – The second initiative is the recently launched, and still relatively unknown Rhino Coin. This is an innovative new proudly South African Crypto-Conservation initiative that issues 1 Rhino Coin for every 1g of ethically sourced blood-free horn secured in vaults in South Africa. See https://www.rhinocoin.com/ for more details of how you can get involved.

A Foundation has been established by Rhino Coin to ensure proceeds go directly back to real live rhinos on the ground. Rhino Coin is currently tradable against ZAR, Bitcoin and Ethereum, and can be traded on the CornuEx exchange.

3) Indiegogo Crowdfunding Campaign – The final initiative is a direct appeal to the hearts and minds of a very generous public for donations through and Indiegogo Campaign which can be found here http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-protect-rhinos-from-poachers-security-community.

Funds from this campaign will go directly towards the implementation of a state-of-the-art early warning electronic security system which will significantly cut BDR’s monthly running costs and allow them to continue the good work they are doing breeding rhino.

As Robert Swan, the first man to walk to both Poles, once said: “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it”.

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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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Rhino wrangler

The job of saving South Africa’s rhino population from the insiduous – and growing – poaching threat is a thankless and often dangerous task.

Being able to respond quickly and efficiently is vital and Goodyear has now extended its sponsorship of Wrangler tyres for the Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative, the seveth year this has been renewed.

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“The rangers made a specific request to have Goodyear Wranglers fitted to the vehicles,” says Wilderness Foundation’s chief operations officer, Matthew Norval. “This is the seventh year that VW has sponsored Amarok vehicles for our Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative. Our rangers were delighted that Goodyear Wranglers were again fitted to their vehicles, as they have proven the tyres offer better traction and are much more robust than other tyres we have tried.”

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Norval is positive about the impact that the initiative has had over the last few years.

“Wilderness Foundation Africa started the Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative in 2011, recognising the rhino poaching crisis was of national and international significance and affected all levels of society. Wildlife crime is the fourth most profitable illicit trade in the world, estimated at up to $213-billion annually.”

The Initiative has a four-pronged approach in response that includes:

  • Support anti-poaching actions on the ground in private and state protected areas
  • Curb demand for rhino horn in user countries
  • Increase security and law enforcement activities through the Wildlife Operations Group, a multi-agency partnership coordinated by Wilderness Foundation Africa
  • Increase public awareness

“We are working in partnership with various organisations to address the issue.  Goodyear South Africa has been on board since the start,” says Norval.

“Goodyear is proud to be a partner that assists proactive rhino protection and anti-poaching activities. As a leading 4×4 tyre brand in South Africa we are honoured Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure tyres were the rangers’ tyre of choice and contributes to their safety and comfort on challenging terrain,” says Tracy Maclear, Goodyear South Africa Group Marketing & Brand Manager.

Geshen Govender, Goodyear Consumer Product Manager explains the benefits of having these tyres fitted to the conservation vehicles.

“Being an all-terrain tyre, the Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure is suited to both on- and off-road travelling. The Kevlar reinforced layer, coupled with Durawall technology, resists punctures and cuts in off-road driving conditions. The optimised tread design ensures even pressure distribution across the tyre footprint for improved mileage.  The tyre is a well-suited fit to their requirements.”

In a separate, but related gesture, Goodyear also named Wilderness Foundation Africa as its beneficiary during the recent Speed Stars television show that aired on Ignition TV. Goodyear South Africa made a cash donation of R10 000 towards the Foundation’s continued conservation efforts.

“Goodyear’s donation was very welcome.  We appreciate their ongoing commitment to our cause and the loyalty they exhibit to the preservation of the wilderness”, says Cheryl Reynolds, Relationship & Communications Manager at Wilderness Foundation Africa.

 

Big money up for grabs

The 2018 surfing calendar in South Africa has been firmed up with the confirmation Volkswagen South Africa is continuing the headline sponsorship of the City Surf Series with more than R1-Million in prize money up for grabs in the race to Nelson Mandela Bay.

“For us, getting involved with the City Surf Series was a no-brainer as the Volkswagen brand has been associated with surfing for many years with surfers using their camper vans and Kombi’s to go on surfing tournaments,” says Matt Gennrich, General Manager for Group Communications.

The second edition of the City Surf Series (CSS) will see six events, culminating in the Volkswagen SA Open of Surfing presented by Hurley, taking place in different cities along South Africa’s coastline from March to June.

Each of the CSS events will feature Qualifying Series (QS) rated men’s, women’s junior men’s and junior women’s competitions, Surfing South Africa (SSA) longboard men and women and Stand-up Paddling (SUP) men and women’s categories.

A major change from last year’s series is the upgrading of the Volkswagen SA Open of Surfing women’s event to a QS3000, making it the biggest women’s QS in Africa. The Nelson Mandela Bay Pro men’s event has also been upgraded to a QS1500.

“Another exciting addition is the launch of a new event, the Port Alfred Classic, which will feature men’s and women’s QS Longboard events with the two disciplines also added to the Volkswagen SA of Surfing presented by Hurley,” says Johnny Bakker, Surfing South Africa president.

“As Nelson Mandela Bay is the home of Volkswagen, we are also proud that the Volkswagen SA Open of Surfing has relocated from Durban to Nelson Mandela Bay,” added Gennrich.

The Volkswagen SA Open of Surfing events being hosted in Nelson Mandela Bay are expected to bring in an estimated 4 000 to 6 000 visitors and an R18-million cash injection for the city.

Not only will the CSS events support the local economy, all events will give back to the community and environment by incorporating Learn to Surf Initiatives as well as Community Clean-the-Beach programmes.

In the 2017 edition of the CSS, more than 300 previously disadvantaged children across the five events were taught to surf.

2018 City Surf Series Event Schedule:

  • Volkswagen Nelson Mandela Bay Surf pres. by Billabong: 30 March to 2 April
  • Royal St Andrews Port Alfred Classic pres. by Quiksilver (Inaugural event): 6 to 8 April
  • Mitchum Buffalo City Surf Pro pres. by Reef Wetsuits: 13 to 15 April
  • ZigZag Durban Surf Pro pres. by G-Force: 18 to 20 May
  • Jordy Smith Cape Town Surf Pro pres. by O’Neil: 14 to17 June
  • Volkswagen SA Open of Surfing pres. by Hurley: 19 to 24 June

 

Road Impressions BMW X3 xDrive 2.0d

The boys were shooting the breeze, comfortably ensconced in Orca’s Pub & Grill, rehashing the good and bad of the week gone by and celebrating the fact it was Friday, when one mentioned he had heard the fishing was pretty darn good at Port St Johns.

We all nodded as was expected on hearing such news and he went on to say he had a friend who had a friend who owned a cottage and maybe he could call and see if we could use it and it was only 240 km away so we could leave early the next morning and be there in time for some good fishing in the afternoon and maybe even a bit of fishing on Sunday morning before we left to come back home.

The nodding accelerated like an M3 on launch control and then they looked at me. Me, because I was the one with a BMW X3 and that, everyone knew was a whole bunch more comfortable than a clapped out double cab.

Now, when it comes to fishing, I don’t. My wife lets me drink at home.

However, not being one to shy away from a road trip, I nodded like a Toyota ad and early the following morning, loaded with cooler boxes, enough beer to float the Nimitz, the requisite boerewors and chops and a whole bunch of fishing gear, we switched into Steppenwolf mode, got our motor running and headed off down the highway.

My friends are not small but the four-cylinder 1 995 cc diesel engine with eight-speed Steptronic transmission fitted to the X3 just did not even notice the weight. With 140 kW on tap at 4 000 r/min and maximum torque of 400 Nm available from 1 750 r/min, it simply gurgled along quite unphased.

The test unit came with adaptive cruise control fitted, making the more boring sections of the trip heading towards Kokstad a lot less stressful and a whole lot safer considering the notorious N2 in that area is often referred to as ‘Death Alley’.

While the lads waffled on about ‘spoons’ and ‘ties’ and sinker weights, I paid attention to the fuel consumption – in normal mode averaging 5,6 l/100 km and in Sport mode 5,7 l/100 km, both cruising at the requisite 120 km/h and including stop/start traffic or town driving, well village really.

This is now the third generation of the BMW X3 and, while exterior dimensions may be largely unchanged, it has a five-centimetre longer wheelbase, long bonnet and extremely short front overhang so the proportions emphasise the 50:50 distribution of weight between the front and rear axle.

At the front end, the kidney grille treatment and fog lamps feature a hexagonal design for the first time on a BMW X model.

There are three trim variants available and we had the xLine model that has radiator grille and other exterior details in Aluminium satin finish and specifically designed light-alloy wheels

The interior of the new BMW X3 follows BMW tradition and the xLine model features standard-fitted sports seats with cloth/leather upholstery.

The all-wheel drive system at the heart of the X3 is interlinked with the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) meaning the power split between all four wheels can be constantly varied to produce the best possible handling characteristics.

There is a reasonable road to Port St Johns but no, fishing is not a simply a matter of driving to a venue and offloading the gear – it involves driving past the venue to locate an obscure trail through the bush that (hopefully) will end up at a pristine part of the beach where nobody has ever been before.

Fortunately, the dune bush is soft and gentle and leaves the paintwork intact – for the rest, the X3 chugged through the soft sand with nary a misstep or signs of running of breath.

As far as the chassis technology is concerned, the third generation of the BMW X3 continues to rely on a double-joint spring strut axle at the front and a five-link rear axle.

BMW engineers succeeded in bringing about a considerable reduction in unsprung mass by fitting aluminium swivel bearings and lighter tubular anti-roll bars as well as optimising wheel location at the front.

Handling dynamics, straight-line stability and steering feel have all benefited from the uprated axle kinematics and the electric power steering system with Servotronic function.

Roll moment has been redistributed a long way to the rear and the rear bias of BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system further increased. Intelligent AWD management allows adjustments to be made as the driving situation demands while still maintaining maximum traction.

To maximise safety, meanwhile, Driving Stability Control (DSC) including anti-lock braking, Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), Automatic Differential Brake (ADB-X), Cornering Brake Control (CBC) and Hill Descent Control (HDC) are all standard kit.

The high ground clearance of 204 millimetres helps to ensure unhindered progress through the sand to the declared ‘ideal’ fishing spot. Why, I have no idea since nobody caught a thing and the only danger came from a rapidly depleting cooler box – including the water for the designated driver.

The approach angle (25,7°) and departure angle (22,6°) of the new BMW X3 together with its breakover angle of 19,4° create plenty of margin for negotiating steep sections or crests. Moreover, with a fording depth of 500 millimetres, the BMW X3 can tackle water crossings with ease as well – something suggested by one of the lads and quickly turned down, since the tide was coming in rapidly.

In addition to the iDrive Controller fitted as standard, specifying the Navigation system Professional opens up the possibility of touchscreen and gesture control – functions that have so far been exclusive to the current BMW 7 Series and new BMW 5 Series.

In addition to the adaptive cruise control the test unit was fitted with steering and lane control assistant, and Lane Keep Assist with side collision protection – all part of the optional Driving Assistant Plus safety package.

I am not a huge fan of either, considering the state of some of our roads and the appalling driving of many of their occupants, meaning the systems are hectically active and become rather intrusive.

So, lack of fish notwithstanding, the fishing trip provided good grounds (pardon the pun) to enjoy the new X3 but I cannot wait to get home….because then I can have a beer.