Tyres take on new roles

As the march towards autonomous motoring steps up its pace along with efforts to make motoring ‘greener’, the car tyre is taking on a far more prominent role as an information provider to the unit as a whole.

At this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA), Continental presented Conti C.A.R.E., a comprehensive technology system.

Conti C.A.R.E. (Connected. Autonomous. Reliable. Electrified.) stands for the fine-tuned networking of wheel and tyre technology and the manageability of the desired performance characteristics. These characteristics are also closely aligned with the requirements of electric and autonomous driving in both individual and shared mobility scenarios.

In combination with the web-based ContiConnect Live application, Conti C.A.R.E. forms a flexible system solution that can provide a means of tyre management for modern robo-taxi fleets, for example, boosting performance as well as helping to optimize costs.

Conti C.A.R.E. tyres feature sensors that are built into the structure of the tyre. These sensors generate and continuously evaluate data concerning tread depth, possible damage, tyre temperature and tyre pressure.

This monitoring system, which goes by the name of ContiSense, transmits information on the condition of the tyres to ContiConnect Live, facilitating efficient mobility management for fleet operators.

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It can also actively adjust tyre pressures by means of centrifugal pumps built into the wheel. As the vehicle accelerates, the centrifugal forces within the wheel act on the pump to generate compressed air. This PressureProof technology keeps the tyre pressure constantly within the ideal range and helps achieve a sustainable drop in CO2 emissions. Any excess compressed air is stored in an integrated tank.

PressureBoost technology then uses this air to rapidly adapt the tyre pressures to various driving situations.

And, in the SilentWheel concept, Continental will be presenting a modified wheel rim that reduces the vibrations generated while driving and delivers superior ride quality.

However, it goes further than that and, like so many other industry verticals, fleet management is undergoing significant change as new technologies become commercially viable. These technologies are helping to streamline current operations but, more exciting, they promise to change the nature of fleet management altogether.

One of the most promising of these is tyre management which is already changing important aspects of fleet management for the better. But while individual technologies can be used effectively as standalone solutions, taking the ecosystem approach is actually the way to achieve new levels of value.

As an example, consider the growing use of RFID (radio-frequency identification) chips or sensors that allow the transmission of information from an object, such as a truck tyre, to a central point, like the company’s data centre.

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When vehicles typically return to a depot at regular intervals, a gate sensor can collect data using WiFi as the vehicles pass, ensuring maintenance teams know exactly which tyres need pressure adjustments.

For vehicles that are away for longer periods of time moving cargoes around the country, chips with mobile connectivity can feed information back to headquarters from wherever the truck happens to be.

Bridgestone introduced Toolbox, a cloud-based tyre management program, in 2017, which is available both as a desktop or mobile app. It’s designed to provide meaningful and actionable insights to fleet managers, enabling them to optimise overall tyre usage, selection and maintenance.

A recent development that has extended this ecosystem is the acquisition of the telematics division of TomTom. This means the system can be used to plan drivers’ routes, plot progress and immediately see all the tyre pressures of all vehicles. Using this platform thus enables the fleet manager to obtain visibility of all his or her tyre assets across the fleet — where they are, how they are being used and what their current state is.

The TomTom platform will integrate into Toolbox, providing the foundation for exponentially more sophisticated — and useful — ways of using the data, and acquiring more data.

For example, one day soon a fleet manager could monitor the full history of each tyre, including such information as how much it cost, how many times it has been retreaded, its tread depth at last reading, and begin to project when that tyre will need replacing—thanks to much improved algorithms and the use of sophisticated predictive analytics.

The final step is to integrate all of this operational information with the financial side of fleet management to obtain a truly holistic view of a whole fleet’s tyre assets.

All of this indicates that tyre and fleet management is very much at the forefront of the emerging Internet of Things. What is exciting is that as this builds momentum, we are approaching the ability to move from selling tyres to selling mobility solutions—the ‘as a service’ model that is revolutionising so much of business.

Bridgestone is already offering the option of leasing tyres to a small segment of the market, but as the range of data and ways to process it expands, will be able to roll this out to a wider market because both the risks and benefits will be more quantifiable — and transparent.

Operationally, tyres are one of key pain points for fleet managers — if the tyres malfunction, the whole vehicle is unusable with inevitable consequences for scheduling and overall profitability. Increasingly smart, data-driven solutions will serve to reduce downtime by pre-empting problems via preventative maintenance, and also maximise return on investment. It’s the future, and it will solve many of a fleet manager’s current challenges.

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New Defender virtually debuts

Land Rover’s chief design officer, Gerry McGovern, has been around automobiles for a very long time and, in journalistic terms, ‘is good copy’, meaning he can always be relied upon to have something interesting to say – and with the all new Defender, does just that.

“We have created the new Defender to ensure it is ready for anything, with a design that has been inspired by the past, not constrained by it. Its elemental grille, sophisticated surfacing and commanding stance give the entire family a modernity and confidence that set it apart, while simultaneously retaining the essential elements that make a Defender so recognisable.”

That just about sums it up for the newcomer, unveiled as a worldwide virtual launch to computers everywhere.

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The 110 is just the start for this family and will be followed by a short wheelbase 90 in 2020.

The new Defenderhas minimal front and rear overhangs, providing excellent approach and departure angles, while the upright stance keeps the Alpine light windows in the roof, side-hinged rear tailgate and externally-mounted spare wheel that make the original so identifiable.

The stripped-back personality of the original Defender has been embraced inside, where structural elements and fixings usually hidden from view have been exposed, with the emphasis on simplicity and practicality.

Innovative features include a dash-mounted gear shifter to accommodate an optional central front ‘jump’ seat, which provides three-abreast seating across the front like early Land Rovers.

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As a result, the Defender 110 offers five, six or 5+2 seating configurations, with a loadspace behind the second-row seats of up to 1 075-litres, and as much as 2 380-litres when the second row is folded. The Defender 90 will be able to accommodate six occupants in a vehicle the length of a compact family hatchback.

Land Rover’s new purpose-engineered D7x (for extreme) architecture is based on a lightweight aluminium monocoque construction to create the stiffest body structure Land Rover has ever produced. It is three times stiffer than traditional body-on-frame designs, providing perfect foundations for the fully independent air or coil sprung suspension and supports the latest electrified powertrains.

The new Defender has been through more than 62 000 tests for engineering sign-off, while the chassis and body architecture have been engineered to withstand Land Rover’s Extreme Event Test procedure – repeated and sustained impacts, above and beyond the normal standard for SUV and passenger cars.

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During development testing, prototype models have covered millions of kilometres across some of the harshest environments on earth, ranging from the 50-degree heat of the desert and sub 40-degree cold of the Arctic to altitudes of 10 000 ft in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

Permanent all-wheel drive and a twin-speed automatic gearbox, centre differential and optional Active Locking Rear Differential ensure it has all the hardware required to excel in the soft sand of the desert, the freezing tundra of the arctic and everywhere in between.

Configurable Terrain Response debuts on new Defender, allowing experienced off-roaders to fine-tune individual vehicle settings to perfectly suit the conditions, while inexperienced drivers can let the system detect the most appropriate vehicle settings for the terrain, using the intelligent Auto function.

The new body architecture provides ground clearance of 291 mm giving the 110 approach, breakover and departure angles of 38, 28 and 40 degrees (Off Road height) respectively. Its maximum wading depth of 900 mm is supported by a new Wade programme in the Terrain Response 2 system, which ensures drivers can ford deep water with complete confidence.

On dry land, Land Rover’s advanced ClearSight Ground View technology helps drivers take full advantage of Defender’s all-conquering capability by showing the area usually hidden by the bonnet, directly ahead of the front wheels, on the central touchscreen.

A choice of advanced petrol and cleaner diesel engines ensure new Defender has the power, control and efficiency for any environment. At South African launch expected in the first half of 2020, the 110 line-up will include a powerful 3,0-litre straight six-cylinder P400 featuring efficient Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle technology with outputs of 294 kW and 550 Nm.

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Alternatively, customers can choose a 2,0-litre D240 turbo-diesel with 177 kW and 430 Nm. The introduction of increased engine options, along with the short wheelbase 90 derivative, will follow later in 2020.

New Defender introduces Jaguar Land Rover’s new Pivi Pro infotainment system. The next generation touchscreen is more intuitive and user-friendly, requiring fewer inputs to perform frequently used tasks, while its always-on design guarantees almost instant responses.

In addition, the new Defender takes Software-Over-The-Air (SOTA) technology to a new level, with 14 individual modules capable of receiving remote updates. By downloading data while customers are asleep at home or in far-flung locations, the new Defender will get better with age: as electronic updates cascade down to the vehicle immediately, without delay and with no need to visit a Land Rover retailer.

Nick Rogers, Executive Director, Product Engineering, Jaguar Land Rover, says: “We have embraced Defender’s stunning capability and minimalistic, functional interior to reinvent the icon for the 21st century.

“New Defender gives us the licence to do things differently, to push the boundaries and do the unthinkable, without ever losing the character and authenticity of the original. From the start we had an absolute obsession with functionality beneath the skin, from choosing the right materials through to state of the art connectivity. The result is not only the most capable Land Rover ever made, but also a truly comfortable, modern vehicle that people will love to drive.”

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New Defender will be available in 90 and 110 body designs, with up to six seats in the 90 and the option of five, six or 5+2 seating in the 110. The model range comprises Defender, First Edition and top of the range Defender X models, as well as standard, S, SE, HSE specification packs.

Customers will be able to personalise their vehicle in more ways than any previous Land Rover with four Accessory Packs. The Explorer, Adventure, Country and Urban Packs each give Defender a distinct character with a specially selected range of enhancements. The exclusive First Edition model features a unique specification and will be available throughout the first year of production.

Customers will also be able to opt for a new Satin Protective Film to make the exterior paintwork even more durable. The sustainable, solvent-free and completely recyclable wrap helps protect against everything from car park scratches to bramble rash and will be available as a factory-fit option with Indus Silver, Gondwana Stone and Pangea Green colours, providing a unique contemporary finish as it protects new Defender’s paintwork.

Felix Bräutigam, Chief Commercial Officer, Jaguar Land Rover, says: “New Defender will be available in 128 global markets and meets or exceeds the toughest emissions and safety requirements in the world.

“Combining advanced technology and durable mechanical underpinnings we have delivered the toughness and character you can only find in a Defender. Our new 4×4 has been developed for adventurous hearts and curious minds. With four personalities to choose from, two body styles and a comprehensive range of options and accessories, customers will be able to personalise Defender to make their ultimate 4×4 companion – whatever their lifestyle.”

State of the automotive nation

Up to R60-billion could be invested into the South African auto industry in the next five years, despite the precarious economy, ongoing graft, greed and corruption and the failure of state owned entities in an ongoing attempt to unlock the potential of the country as a manufacturing and exporting powerhouse.

The recent National Assocation of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (NAAMSA) conference produced a wealth of words from key speakers with notable bottom-line requirements being further industrialisation and the empowerment of the people.

Andrew Kirby, President of NAAMSA and President and CEO of Toyota SA Motors said the R60-billion could be made up by R40-billion in direct investments by the seven vehicle manufacturers with an additional R20-billion going into component making.

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Andrew Kirby

The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, headed up by Minister Ebrahim Patel, has identified six focus areas to drive the South African automotive industry forward.

He said the government fully realised the importance of a healthy and growing motor industry, in terms of being a large scale employer, the largest manufacturing operation in the country and a very successful exporter.

“The government is re-imagining its industrialisation strategy, seeking ways to unleash private investment with re-energised government strategies, ensuring policy predictability and the efficient use of resources,” said Patel.

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Minister Ebrahim Patel

“We have already had many meetings with companies and organisations involved in my ambit of the economy since the State of the Nation Address, two months ago, and planning is going well.

“The Motor Industry Masterplan, which was announced last November, is an integral part of our planning with these latest initiatives. To do so effectively we will use six focus areas to support the policy’s 2035 targets, which include growing production to 1% of global output, doubling employment, increasing local content to 60%, improving global competitiveness and achieving transformation across the value chain.”

Kirby said that the local motor industry was not only leading the drive to increase industrialisation in the country but was also a major employer with 407 000 people employed directly in various aspects of the industry. He added that this number can be multiplied by a factor of three to make 1,4-million people involved either directly or indirectly in the overall automotive industry.

He added the industry was currently in a healthy position in terms of having a positive balance of trade account with the number of exported built-up vehicles and components growing steadily. However, he stressed the importance of being globally competitive in terms of cost, quality, and reliability of supply as several other countries were eying South Africa’s automotive export markets.

According to Patel, the first area of focus is expanding existing markets and seeking new markets. Last year the motor industry exported products valued at R180-billion, which equated to 14% of the export basket, with R32-billion worth of these products going into Africa, which Patel said could grow significantly when the African Continental Free Trade Agreement comes into operation next year.

The second focus area is supporting improved industry performance by adapting new technologies, including those emanating from the global trends of electric vehicles and autonomous driving. The Minister said he believed SA could be a supply base for these advanced vehicles as a manufacturer and exporter without building a local infrastructure for these types of vehicle.

The third focus is to attract investment into the industry, with the aim of increasing localisation substantially.

The seven OEMs have invested more than R35-million in the past five years and now the objective is to attract even more investment going forward, particularly in the component manufacturing segment.

The fourth focus area is transformation and the building of an inclusive economy with a non-racial society.

Minister Patel stressed that the pace of transformation in all aspects of the local motor industry is far too slow.

“It is a critical imperative to the success and sustainability of the industry,” he says. “To this end the national Automotive Transformation Fund of more than R4-billion – funded by the seven OEMs – will be activated to assist the establishment of black-owned companies and the training of their staff.”

The fifth focus area is the availabilty of equitable spatial zones which can be developed into supplier parks and the like. Already a special economic zone (SEZ) is being planned for Tshwane which will have an area similar to 200 football fields. This aspect of support is to assist in improving the competitiveness in terms of cost and quality for locally made vehicles.

The sixth focus area is to improve the capability of State Owned Enterprises (SOEs), such as Eskom, through better cooperation between role-players to enhance the performances of SOEs using partnerships with private enterprises to develop best practices.

“In fact, through the entire value chain we need to develop partnerships and technology enhancements between government and private enterprise, industry and suppliers and industry and labour. We want a large and successful automotive industry infrastructure with the state providing an enabling environment,” he says.

Kirby said major developments were required in the three sectors of the value chain, with vehicle manufacturers embracing advanced manufacturing technologies to boost productivity and quality, while the component sector needed to urgently develop Tier 2 and 3 suppliers and the dealers and retail sector needed to transform and uplift the informal sector.

“Growing production volumes, increasing localisation significantly and using the latest technologies in all aspects of the business are vital to transform the South African automotive industry and to this end the aim was increase output from the 610 000 vehicles made in 2018 to 800 000 in 2023,” he says.

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“We expect local procurement to grow by R12,6-billion in the next five years together with a 14% increase in direct employment, which equates to creating another 16 000 jobs, mainly in the component manufacturing sector as local content grows from 39% to at least 42%.”

Kirby stressed the importance of collaboration between the various vehicle and component manufacturers to enable cost-effective localisation. Already 10 joint projects have been identified for this process.

He added raw material beneficiation such as making automotive grade steel in SA was another priority and he was pleased to hear the local steel industry was currently investigating these potentially valuable developments.

He added the industry is also committed to establishing 500 Tier 2 and 3 suppliers with 130 of them black owned. Here he referred to the importance of the Automotive Transformation Fund as a key enabler.

The global vehicle manufacturing and related industries are facing enormous disruptors at present and it is a case of the sustainability and viability of these businesses relying on “an ability to manage a future not yet defined” says Douglas Comrie, Managing Driector of B&M Analysts, a local company with international strategic partners that ‘enables sustainable growth through innovative solutions in various industrial sectors’.

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Douglas Comrie

“The focus of companies involved in the automotive sector is changing drastically and rapidly, with a reported 42% of global OEM investment currently going into new mobility technologies and services and no longer only into new vehicle research and development,” says Comrie.

“The changes are also leading to many alliances in the global automotive industry, many of them unexpected liaisons. For instance, BMW now has alliances with 11 other companies and Toyota 10 of these partnerships. They not only involve different types of vehicles, such as battery electric and autonomous driving, but also a host of mobility services.

“In addition, these industries have to deal with the decoupling of several major world economies, such as the import duties spat between the United States and China and the impending Brexit deal in Europe.

“Many of these massive global changes currently taking place are not in anyone’s control. However, in the case of the South Africa’s new Automotive Masterplan this vision is in the country’s collective control, which will be arguably sufficient to define success or failure.”

On top of all of that, the demands by consumers are not only changing these days but they are also becoming more challenging in the way they expect to be treated says Ghana Msibi, the Executive Head of the Motor Division of WesBank, the country’s leading vehicle and asset finance house.

He said despite many changes in the way companies did business some consumers still think they are lagging behind in meeting their needs.

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Ghana Msibi

“I believe the key words we must consider today are personalisation, simplification, consistency, relevance – customised around the right product at the right time and right price – and choice, in the realm of being available anywhere and at any time.

“A seismic shift in attitude is needed. We must move beyond convenience to provide real value, being very aware of the type and level of service they enjoy from companies such as Amazon, Airbnb, Uber and Google.”

The WesBank senior executive said the theme of this year’s NAAMSA Conference, ‘Re-imagining The Future Together’, was apt as what is needed is a true partnership between manufacturers or importers, dealers and the banks.

“We are all totally inter-dependent,” he added. “The next step is to be proactive when the time comes that loans are settled, by being ready with suggestions as to what level of finance will be available when buying the next car and even what type of car might be most suitable. We must be ahead of the game.”

Electrified Porsche

As the shudders from the truly faithful subsided around the world, Porsche launched itself into its own next generation with the formal premiere of the electric Taycan.

“The Taycan links our heritage to the future. It carries forward the success story of our brand – a brand that has fascinated and thrilled people the world over for more than 70 years,” says Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche AG, who opened the world premiere in Berlin: “This day marks the start of a new era.”

Photography: Christoph Bauer
Postproduction: Wagnerchic – www.wagnerchic.com

The four-door sports saloon is a unique package, offering typical Porsche performance and connectivity with everyday usability. At the same time, highly advanced production methods and the features of the Taycan are setting new standards in the fields of sustainability and digitalisation.

“We promised a true Porsche for the age of electromobility – a fascinating sports car that not only excites in terms of its technology and driving dynamics, but also sparks a passion in people all over the world, just like its legendary predecessors have done. Now we are delivering on this promise,” emphasises Michael Steiner, Member of the Executive Board of Porsche AG – Research and Development.

The first models in the new series are the Taycan Turbo S and Taycan Turbo. They are at the cutting edge of Porsche E-Performance and are among the most powerful production models that the sports car manufacturer currently has in its product range. Less powerful variants of these all-wheel drive vehicles will follow this year. The first derivative to be added will be the Taycan Cross Turismo at the end of next year. By 2022, Porsche will have invested more than six billion euros in electromobility.

Photography: Christoph Bauer
Postproduction: Wagnerchic – www.wagnerchic.com

The flagship Turbo S version of the Taycan can generate up to 560 kW overboost power in combination with Launch Control, and the Taycan Turbo up to 500 kW. The Taycan Turbo S accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in 2,8 seconds, while the Taycan Turbo completes this sprint in 3,2 seconds.

The Turbo S has a range of up to 412 kilometres and the Turbo a range of up to 450 kilometres (according to WLTP in each case). The top speed of both all-wheel-drive models is 260 km/h.

The Taycan is the first production vehicle with a system voltage of 800 volts instead of the usual 400 volts for electric cars. This is a particular advantage for Taycan drivers on the road: in just over five minutes, the battery can be recharged using direct current (DC) from the high-power charging network for a range of up to 100 kilometres (according to WLTP). The charging time for five to 80% SoC (state of charge) is 22,5 minutes for charging under ideal conditions, and the maximum charging power (peak) is 270 kW.

The overall capacity of the Performance Battery Plus is 93,4 kWh. Taycan drivers can comfortably charge their cars with up to eleven kW of alternating current (AC) at home.

The silhouette is shaped by the roofline sloping downward to the rear. The highly sculpted side sections are also characteristic. The sleek cabin, the drawn-in rear C-pillar and the pronounced shoulders of the wings result in a sharply emphasised rear, typical of the brand.

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The cockpit signals the start of a new era with its clear structure and a completely new architecture. The free-standing, curved instrument cluster forms the highest point on the dashboard. This places a clear focus on the driver axis.

A central, 10,9-inch infotainment display and an optional passenger display are combined to form an integrated glass band in a black-panel look. All user interfaces have been completely newly designed for the Taycan. The number of classic hardware controls such as switches and buttons has been greatly reduced and the voice control function responds to the command “Hey Porsche”.

With the Taycan, Porsche offers an entirely leather-free interior for the first time. Interiors made from recycled materials underscore the sustainable concept of the electric sports car. ‘Foot garages’ – recesses in the battery in the rear footwell – ensure sitting comfort in the rear and allow the low vehicle height typical of sports cars. Two luggage compartments are available: the front compartment has a capacity of 81 litres and the rear 366 litres.

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The Taycan Turbo S and Taycan Turbo have two electric machines, one on the front axle and one on the rear axle, thus making the cars all-wheel drive. Both the range and the continuous power of the drive benefit from the high efficiency of the permanently excited synchronous machines.

A special feature of the electric motors is the ‘hairpin’ winding of the stator coils. This technology makes it possible to incorporate more copper in the stator, increasing power output and torque while maintaining the same component volume.

The two-speed transmission installed on the rear axle is an innovation developed by Porsche. First gear gives the Taycan even more acceleration from a standing start, while second gear with a long gear ratio ensures high efficiency and equally high power reserves. This also applies at very high speeds.

The integrated Porsche 4D Chassis Control analyses and synchronises all chassis systems in real time. The chassis systems include adaptive air suspension with three-chamber technology including PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) electronic damper control, as well as the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control Sport (PDCC Sport) electromechanical roll stabilisation system including Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus).

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The Porsche Taycan’s world premiere took place simultaneously in North America, China and Europe with each event location symbolising a form of sustainable energy management. Located at the border between the US state of New York and the Canadian province of Ontario, Niagara Falls represented hydropower, meanwhile a solar farm in Neuhardenberg, near Berlin represented solar power and a wind farm on Pingtan Island, around 150 kilometres from the Chinese city of Fuzhou in the province of Fujian represented wind power.

Sportier look for Audi Q3

The new Audi Q3 SUV takes on a bolder look with redesigned octagon front grille along with narrow headlights and refined shoulder line running towards the rear.

The contours draw inspiration from Audi’s quattro DNA and make the SUV seem even wider; the colour-contrasting wheel arch trims (in the Standard and Advanced trim lines) emphasize the off-road look, while the body coloured version (in the S Line trim line) offers a sportier character.

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Customers for the new Q3 have many options for customising their car. These include a contrasting paint finish for the lower body section while, with the S line exterior package, the bumpers, sill trims and diffuser look decidedly sporty and 11 paint colours are available.

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Inside, the instrument panel is divided into two levels: the top part includes the air vents; the bottom section incorporates the large octagonal area with its black-panel look. The instrument panel varies the motif of the Singleframe and is surrounded by a wide chrome strip.

Q3 customers can choose between two variants over and above the standard version – the sports package and the S line sports interior package. Both packages include the sport seats, which are trimmed optionally with a combination of leather/artificial leather and Alcantara. The Alcantara surfaces on the instrument panel and on the door armrests are an entirely new option. They are available in two colours, including steel grey or a bold orange.

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In the dark, the contour ambient LED lighting package – available as an optional extra or standard with the technology package – sets pinpoint lighting accents on the centre console and on the doors. It can be set to 30 colours and also illuminates the storage compartment under the instrument panel as well as the Audi logo above the glove compartment.

Other interior features include the standard two-zone air-conditioning, the panoramic glass sunroof or the flat-bottomed sports steering wheel.

The new Audi Q3 has grown and now is 4 484 millimetres long, making it 96 millimetres longer than its predecessor. In terms of width, it has grown 18 millimetres to 1 849 millimetres, but at 1 585 millimetres without the roof aerial, it is 5 millimetres flatter than the first-generation Q3. Its wheelbase has been stretched 77 millimetres to 2 680 millimetres.

Audi has done away with the analogue instruments. The digital instrument cluster with a 10,25 inch screen is standard equipment, which the driver operates using the multifunction steering wheel. Customers can also upgrade the instrument cluster to the Audi virtual cockpit with additional functions.

The standard MMI radio plus also includes an MMI touch display with 8,8 inch screen in the centre of the instrument panel. With the top-of-the-line equipment, MMI navigation plus, this touchscreen measures 10,1 inches.

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In addition, the Audi Q3 with MMI navigation plus also comes with new natural-language voice control. It also understands freely structured wording. The ingenious dialogue manager asks questions if necessary, allows corrections, offers choices and defers to the speaker when interrupted.

 Locally, Audi South Africa is offering one engine version – a 1,4-litre petrol engine with front wheel driveoffering 110 kW and 250 Nm of torque from a four-cylinder direct injection unit with turbo-charging and driving through a six-speed S-tronic gearbox.

Audi South Africa has introduced a new package concept that will be adopted for all new models to be launched. The concept aims to reduce complexity when ordering a new vehicle, considering that a customer is generally faced with a long list of options to choose from.

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It classifies key options according to a specific customer need and offers a straight-forward value proposition that is easy for a customer to understand. These packages have been defined by a combination of customer preferences as well as strategic options which aim to highlight Audi’s uniqueness or technology enhancements.

The packages include:

  • Comfort
  • Technology
  • Sport
  • Parking
  • S line interior
  • Black styling

Within each package structure ares a few options suited to the particular proposition. For example, the Comfort package includes storage and luggage; parking aid plus; electric tailgate; electric seats; seat heating and 4 way lumbar support.

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The Audi Q3 range is priced as follows, along with the standard Audi Freeway plan (5 year / 100 000 km) and inclusive of all taxes:

  • Audi Q3 35 TFSI S tronic at R 565 000
  • Audi Q3 35 TFSI S tronic Advanced at R 585 000
  • Audi Q3 35 TFSI S tronic S line at R 599 000

Road Review – BMW X7 3.0d

When the first skteches of the BMW X7 leaked their way onto social media, it was obvious this was going to be a big, really big, car with the dominant focus on the massive kidney grille.

When the tarmac battleship arrived for testing it massive proportions dwarfed everything alongside it but, it is that word proportions that is important here – regular readers will recall I termed the X5 as being ‘fat’.

The X7, albeit bigger, has the proportions correct with length versus width and height executed in the right ratio to give it the sleek, streamlined look I found wanting on the X5 – the X7 5 151 mm long (4 922 for the X5) by 2 000 mm wide compared to 2 004 for the X5 and 1 805 mm tall (1 745 for the X5).

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It is certainly built to test the absolute limits of those ridiculous underground parking bays in upmarket shopping centres.

The high-impact presence of the new BMW X7 is underscored by its upright front end, while the chrome elements that ring the car accentuate its character.

Together with the slim twin headlights extending up to the grille, it emphasises the width of the car and the X7 comes as standard with LED headlights, while BMW Laserlight with Adaptive LED Headlights can be specified as an option.

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This system employs a BMW Laserlight spotlight with Selective Beam to optimise the high beam function, and as a result the range of the non-dazzling high beam has been increased to a maximum 600 metres.

The rear doors are longer than the front doors, making it easier to get in and out of a cabin space that would not go amiss in the first class section of an airliner – the individual rear seats each having its own screen and USB input ports, air-conditioning options and electronic range of movement.

The sizeable dimensions of the X7 are also expressed at the rear end, which is broken up by horizontal lines and bordered by vertical separating edges. The slim LED rear lights provide a clear segmentation of the rear. Bridging the space between the two units is a chrome bar – a design cue only previously encountered at the rear of the BMW 7 Series luxury sedan.

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It is fitted as standard with 21-inch light-alloy wheels. The selection of light-alloy wheels available on the options list includes 22-inch variants.

The three rows of seats, like the grille is a love it or hate it kind of thing – although the rearmost seats can accommodate adult passengers, it leave precious little in the way of luggage space – 320 litres rising to 750 with those seats folded and 2 120 with the second row folded down.

The second row includes three seats as standard in a conventional rear seat bench configuration but, two comfortable individual seats can be specified for the middle row as an option – as was the case on my test unit.

These are comfort seats and offer the same functionality as the seats for the driver and front passenger when it comes to seating position adjustment. The individual seats for the second row also feature integrated armrests and comfort cushions.

The fore/aft position of the second-row seats is adjusted using a control panel integrated into the driver’s door. Drivers of the new BMW X7 can also slide both their own seat and the front-passenger’s backwards and forwards at the touch of a button located nearby. This allows the driver to increase both legroom and ease of entry/exit for the passengers in the second and third row of seats, as required.

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X7 comes as standard with a sports leather steering wheel and the newly designed display grouping which comes as part of the standard-fitted BMW Live Cockpit Professional includes a Control Display and a fully-digital instrument cluster – each with a screen diagonal of 12,3 inches – and teams up with the control panel on the centre console to create a re-interpretation of BMW’s customary driver focus.

Standard specification includes four-zone automatic climate control. A five-zone automatic climate control system with separate control panel and additional air vents for the third row of seats can be ordered as an option. The likewise optional Ambient Air package enables air ionisation and infuses the interior with eight individually selectable scents.

A ‘thermo’ version of the cupholders arranged foremost in the centre console can be specified as an option to keep their containers cool or warm as required.

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With its 10 speakers, the standard-fitted hi-fi speaker system already can make plenty of happy noise but the optional Harman Kardon surround sound system (standard in the X7 M50d) with 16 speakers provides an even more intense musical feast for the ears, topped only by the optional Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System with 20 speakers and 1 500-watt amplifier – when I listen to Judas Priest in my car so does the whole darn neighbourhood!

All the engines available for the new BMW X7 team up with an eight-speed Steptronic transmission, the most recent incarnation of which boasts a wider gear ratio spread and new control electronics. This reduces engine speeds, particularly in higher gears, which in turn helps to increase the drive system’s overall efficiency.

The eight-speed Steptronic transmission is fitted with a new generation of torsion dampers to limit rotational irregularities in the powertrain. The result is enhanced ride comfort and smoother gear changes. Comfort is given a further boost by reduced converter slip, while the optimised hydraulic control enables even sportier shifting.

There is 195 kW available at 4 00 r/min from the inline 2 993 cc turbo-diesel engine with 620 Nm of torque from 2 000 r/min – enough to propel the 6 720 kilogram behemoth to 100 km/h in 7,2 seconds and on to a terminal velocity of 227 km/h.

Fuel consumption during the test cycle averaged at 7,1 l/100 km giving the X7 a cruising range of about 1 000 kilometres, cruising being something it is particularly good at particularly if the plan to vist distance landscapes in utmost comofrt and with the minimum of fuss.

Although fairly unlikely for the majority of owners, the X7 has rather impressive off-road capabilities as well, this task being managed by the latest generation of the BMW xDrive intelligent all-wheel-drive system, which now varies how the drive torque is split between the front and rear wheels with greater precision.

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The electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system links up with Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) to provide the basis for effortless, sure-footed handling, whatever the road and weather conditions. For added efficiency, full drive power can be directed to the rear wheels in situations where all-wheel drive is surplus to requirements. The xDrive system also maintains a rear-biased set-up when the car’s dynamic performance abilities are being put to the test, ensuring customers enjoy the signature BMW driving experience.

Ride comfort in the new BMW X7 is further enhanced by its two-axle air suspension with automatic self-levelling, which is also included as standard. The suspension’s air supply is controlled individually for each wheel using a remarkably quiet, electrically driven compressor with pressure reservoir, making it possible to balance out an unevenly loaded car.

When SPORT driving mode is engaged or the car’s speed exceeds 138 km/h, the ride height is automatically lowered by 20 millimetres.

The driver is also able to adjust the body’s ground clearance – for off-road driving, for example – by pushing a button in the cockpit to raise it in two stages to a maximum 40 millimetres above the standard setting. Another button in the luggage compartment activates a loading mode that lowers the car by 40 millimetres.

The BMW X7 comes as standard with Cruise Control with braking function, as well as the Collision and Pedestrian Warning with City Braking function, which also now alerts the driver when a cyclist is detected.

The optional Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function is capable of braking the car to a halt then setting it back on its way automatically. To make the driver’s life easier in stop-start traffic, the maximum length of time the car can wait before pulling away again automatically after it has come to a halt is 30 seconds.

The speed limits detected by the Speed Limit Info traffic sign recognition system can be incorporated into the system’s automatic speed modulation, with a preset adjustment of up to 15 km/h.

The tech does not stop and the standard Driving Assist Professional offers extensive assistance to make driving as safe and as comfortable as possible. This package includes the Steering and lane control assist as well as the Lane Keeping Assist with active side collision protection.

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The assistance systems also comprises Crossing traffic warning, which reduces the risk of a collision when manoeuvring forwards or in reverse towards crossing traffic where visibility is restricted. Rear Collision warning and Lane Change Warning also form part of the Driving Assist Professional package.

The level of techno features and the options are truly impressive and can take a while to learn, understand and get used to. Once mastered, they can make the driving experience a pleasurable one but one still has to wonder how much newer drivers miss out on by never having had to learn ‘seat of the pants’ motoring.

The X7 sweeps majectically through the countryside, that massive grille wide enough to swallow a small country whole, possibly aiding in having lesser automobiles move smartly out of the way once it appears in their rearview mirrors.

However, do not be surprised if you find them straddling two parking bays at the local mall….

Perfect vision

The Mercedes-Benz GLE has been updated with a number of new tech items along with a diesel engine ahead of the upcoming Euro VI emission standard.

The active suspension system E-Active Body Control on a 48-volt basis is a world first and the new driver assistance systems further increase the level of active safety, while the interior is even more spacious and comfortable, with a third seat row available on request.

Der neue Mercedes-Benz GLE, San Antonio 2018

The new Mercedes-Benz GLE, San Antonio 2018

“In 1997 Mercedes-Benz founded the premium SUV segment with the launch of the M-Class. Since then, more than 2-million customers have decided in favour of the off-roader worldwide. The GLE introduces the new control concept with innovative driving assistants, a new engine range and significantly more space. The new GLE is set to continue this success story throughout.” says Johannes Fritz, Co-CEO and Executive Director Mercedes-Benz Cars South Africa.

The new Mercedes-Benz GLE is the very first SUV anywhere to meet the coming Euro 6d standard. The OM 656 six-cylinder diesel engine comes with 243 kW and 700 Nm of torque in the GLE 400 d 4MATIC. Also available on market launch is the four-cylinder GLE 300 d 4MATIC with 180 kW and 500 Nm.

The first petrol model powered by a six-cylinder engine systematically electrified with 48-volt technology is the Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 4MATIC and it offers 270 kW and 500 Nm of torque, with a further 250 Nm of torque available via EQ Boost over short periods. The integrated starter/alternator (ISG) is responsible for hybrid functions such as EQ Boost or energy recuperation, while allowing fuel savings that were previously reserved for high-voltage hybrid technology.

The GLE is equipped with the latest generation of the multimedia system MBUX – Mercedes-Benz User Experience. As standard it include a large screen Cockpit as 12.3-inch/31.2 cm screens arranged next to each other for a widescreen look.

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The new, optional MBUX Interior Assist also allows intuitive, natural operation of different comfort and MBUX functions by movement recognition. When a hand approaches the touchscreen or the touchpad on the centre console, the media display changes and individual elements are highlighted.

With its predictive functions, MBUX can anticipate the driver’s wishes – such as a regularly used navigation destination.

The new GLE has a considerably longer wheelbase than its predecessor, which has increased by 80 mm, so legroom in the second seat row has increased by 69 mm. Headroom in the rear with the standard, fixed rear seat unit and 40:20:40 backrest division has increased by 35 mm.

Der neue Mercedes-Benz GLE, San Antonio 2018

The new Mercedes-Benz GLE, San Antonio 2018

As an optional extra, a special second seat row with six fully electric adjustment options is available. The right and left seats can be separately adjusted fore-and-aft by up to 100 millimetres, the backrests are adjustable for angle and foldable in a 40:20:40 ratio, and the head restraints are adjustable for height. The backrest can also be completely folded down electrically.

As in the previous model, three child seats can be installed next to one another in the second seat row. The outer seats have ISOFIX fastening points.

The luggage capacity is up to 825 litres behind the rear seats, and up to 2 055 litres when the second seat row is folded down. A 72 mm increase in through-loading width allows bulky items to be stowed more easily.

Der neue Mercedes-Benz GLE, San Antonio 2018

The new Mercedes-Benz GLE, San Antonio 2018

“The GLE exhibits iconic Mercedes-Benz design while remaining true to its character as an off-roader,” says Selvin Govender, Marketing Director for Mercedes-Benz Cars South Africa. “With its design idiom it perfectly embodies our design philosophy of sensual purity, thus representing modern luxury. The interior derives its fascination from the contrast between the luxurious and elegant design and the digital high-tech of our MBUX system.”

The new GLE has a Cd figure from 0,29, the best in its segment. This is also a significant improvement over the preceding model (Cd 0,32). The good aerodynamic properties make a key contribution to low fuel consumption under everyday conditions.

 The new GLE sees the debut of the latest generation of Mercedes-Benz driving assistance systems giving cooperative support to the driver.

When Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC with route-based speed adaptation is active, the new GLE is able to respond to LiveTraffic info – ideally before the driver or the radar and camera sensors detect the hold-up or hazard. When a traffic jam is detected, the speed is reduced by way of precaution to 100 km/h, unless the driver specifically decides otherwise.

Der neue Mercedes-Benz GLE, San Antonio 2018

The new Mercedes-Benz GLE, San Antonio 2018

Once the tailback dissolves, the GLE accelerates back up to the set speed  and where traffic signs specify a different speed, Active Speed Limit Assist automatically selects the signposted speed limit.

 A totally new feature of Active Brake Assist in the Driving Assistance package is the turning-off function, which comes into play when the driver intends to turn off across the oncoming lane: in the event of a risk of collision with oncoming traffic, the GLE can carry out autonomous braking.

Energising seat kinetics is another new feature. This supports beneficial changes in seated posture by means of minute movements of the seat cushion and backrest when on a journey.

In all variants of the new GLE, power is transmitted by the 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission. With the four cylinder engines, 4MATIC all-wheel drive is realised with a transfer case which transmits the drive torque to the axles in a fixed ratio of 50:50 percent.

A transfer case with an electronically controlled multi-disc clutch is used in the GLE 450 or GLE 400d. This allows a variable transfer of drive torque from 0%-100% (torque on demand) between the axles. Also new, and available as an option, is a transfer case specially configured for superior off-road driving characteristics.

In addition to the controlled multi-disc clutch with torque-ondemand function, this has a reduction gear set and an automatic locking effect from 0–100 percent for off-road driving.

And, just when you thought tech had little wiggle room left – there is Magic Vision Control, which has undergone further development for the new GLE and saves up to 50% of washer fluid compared to a conventional system – while ensuring a perfect view to the front.

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The intelligent system precisely meters the washer fluid according to the prevailing conditions, e.g. the ambient temperature and road speed. The warm washer fluid is distributed onto the windscreen along the entire length of the wiper blades by sophisticated channels and hoses, always on the side towards which the blade is currently moving. Accordingly the washing procedure can be fully automated according to the current conditions. Corresponding washer programmes are stored in the control unit of the wiper motor.

 The new GLE Models:

  GLE 300 d 4MATIC GLE 400 d 4MATIC GLE 450 4MATIC
Number of cylinders/arrangement 4/in-line 6/in-line 6/in-line
Displacement (cc) 1950 2925 2999
Rated output (kW) 180 243 270
at rpm 4200 3600-4000 5500-6100
Extra output from EQ Boost (kW/hp) 16/22
Rated torque (Nm) 500 700 500
at rpm 1600-2400 1200-3000 1600-4500
Add. torque from ECO Boost (Nm) 250
Fuel consumption combined  (l/100 km) 6.4-6.1 7,5-7,0 9.4-8.3
Combined CO2 emissions (g/km) 161-169 184-199 190-214
Emission class Euro 6d-TEMP Euro 6d Euro 6d-TEMP
Acceleration 0-100 km/h (s) 7.2 5.8 5.7
Top speed (km/h) 225 240 250
Starting Retail Price R 1 210 500 R1 351 200 R1 329 400