About michaeldekock

Petrolhead, Gamer, intrigued by Avocados and Generally quite Tall...

All the Car You’ll Ever Need II

I know I’ve written about this before, but I’d like to amend my previous selections. In said previous writings, I argued that all the car you’ll ever need is either a Golf GTI, Volvo V90 Cross Country or a Range Rover SDV8. Whilst those are still brilliant options, time has forced some necessary changes to that list, with the Range Rover being the first to be altered.

Land Rover is discontinuing its TDV8 engine choice, so now you’ll have to buy either a 6-cylinder diesel or supercharged petrol V8 (which is a bit thirsty). Or, you can go for my latest choice which is the P400e. It has a 2.0L inline turbo 4 and some hybrid mcguffins producing around 300KW and 600-odd torques. Oh, and it does around 5L/100KM in a full-fat Range Rover. Yes, it doesn’t have a particularly nice soundtrack, but then again, you don’t buy a Range Rover if you want a sports car.  You buy it because you have money to spend from a trust fund to avoid paying taxes. (Or something like that. I don’t know. I don’t go to country clubs for brunch.) Also, whilst this choice of Range Rover is substantially lighter on fuel, it is also quite a bit more expensive. The P400e is R2.5m. Eish! (Prices were correct at time of writing. Although at time of reading it’s probably doubled…)

Whilst the Volvo V90 Cross Country is still the best pick of the lot, I’d like to add another fast estate to the list – particularly the BMW 330d Touring/BMW M340d Touring/Alpina D3 Touring. Now here in South Africa, we don’t get the Touring version of the 3-Series – or the Alpina at all, which is just a little bit sad. I have always loved the 330d with those straight-6 turbodiesels – lots of power, lots of torque and ridiculously economical for what it is. Then Alpina came along, did their thing and made them even better – more power, more torque, more comfort and brilliant styling.

Finally, we come to the Golf GTI. I’m going to come right out and say it: I don’t like the new one. Actually, it’s mostly the iffy front-end styling bothering me. It looks like a dead fish. Also, it doesn’t look like the new Golf 8, but rather a botched facelift of the Golf 7 – which looked brilliant! There is a blue Golf 7 R living not too far from me and I love looking at it. The angular styling just works in the same way that the new one’s doesn’t.

So I have to amend my Golf GTI pick. But what to choose? Certainly not the new BMW M135i which is one of the worst-looking things on the road. Not a Honda Civic Type-R, because they are way too expensive. Nothing from Toyota, because everything they make are as bland as bricks (apart from the new GR Yaris – and the Supra doesn’t count, due to obvious German reasons).

I actually cannot think of a single other small-ish, practical, comfortable and fast hot-hatch better than a Golf GTI. The Focus RS is too macho (and expensive), the A45S has too much power (and is expensive), the previously mentioned M135i is too ugly (and expensive), the RS3 is just meh (and expensive), the Megane RS’s styling looks too much like a race car (and is expensive) and the Civic Type-R seems like it would rather be flown than be driven with its assortment of spoilers and fins. In that case, why not buy a Golf GTI that isn’t a Golf GTI, but that still is a Golf GTI? Why not a Skoda Octavia vRS? Or a SEAT Leon Cupra? They are both VW products, specifically Golf GTIs, but they are cheaper and more practical. Plus the Octavia has optional all-wheel-drive and you can even get it as a diesel!

There we have it. If you want a fast, practical, comfortable car that doesn’t let you pay an exorbitant amount of money at the pumps, buy a Skoda Octavia vRS.

For those countries that don’t have access to non-VW VW products (like us here in SA), your choices are a Volvo V90 Cross Country, Range Rover P400e or BMW 330d.

Personally, I’d have the 330d. Then again, I am massively bias…

Help stop the hate – adopt a V8!

©2021 Michael De Kock 

Michael de Kock is a Psychology graduate, busy doing a National Certificate in Motor Mechanics to get more skilled, because he struggles to get a job in this day and age. Can you believe that? He can’t…

Battle of the Dinosaurs

The new Ford F-150 Raptor has been announced for the next model year and it brings some updated styling and probably more power. As standard, you’ll get the normal Raptor with the 3.5L Twin-Turbo EcoBoost V6 producing around 360KW and 730NM. But, for the following model year, there will be a Raptor R which is reported to have a 500KW V8. Whether it will be a 5.0L Coyote V8, the 5.2L Voodoo V8 or the 7.3L Godzilla V8, either of them with a supercharger or twin-turbos, we don’t know yet.

The reason for the Raptor R is most likely because fans of the pick-up really wanted a V8, but mostly because Dodge built the new RAM TRX – which stands for T-ReX, because the Americans do that sort of thing (see the Dodge Challenger Demon and Hennessey Exorcist). The RAM TRX has the ever-awesome supercharged 6.2L Hellcat V8 producing 526KW and 850NM. It is quite frankly magnificent!

Chevy on the other hand, seems not to have bothered to join the party. It’s probably a good thing, because the Silverado is a bland pick-up. The only good thing is the diesel V8 in the biggest 3500 trim, with the dually wheels at the back. The front is too flat and the current generation is ugly to look at. It can however, tow a really big anvil for when the one in your blacksmith shop just won’t do (I don’t know either, must be an American thing).

So in the Battle of the Dinosaurs, I think the TRX wins. Yes, the Raptor is a cool pick-up and it is probably more user friendly and easier to live with day-to-day, but the RAM has a Hellcat in it. I mean, how could you not love the whole idea?! Now if only it could have been rear-wheel-drive…

Now a word from our sponsor: Me. Every year, thousands of V8s are killed by emissions regulations forcing car manufacturers to downsize their engines. Help end the suffering.

Don’t hate – adopt a V8!

©2020 Michael De Kock 

Michael de Kock is a Psychology graduate, busy doing a National Certificate in Motor Mechanics to get more skilled, because he struggles to get a job in this day and age. Can you believe that? I can’t…

Cadillacs are for Old People. Yeah, right!

What do you get when you put an uprated version of the Corvette Z06’s engine, a luxurious Cadillac saloon and a chocolate ice-cream together? The answer? The most powerful production Cadillac ever mass produced! And a chocolate ice-cream.

The new Cadillac V cars have been announced for the 2022 model year. I have to say, I am really excited. First up is the new CT4-V Blackwing (the red one). It is about the size of a 3-Series and C-Class, which makes sense as it was built to do battle with them. It has a 3.6L Twin-Turbo V6 producing 350KW and 600NM. It looks really good with the angular design language of Cadillac and that large ducktail spoiler on the boot.

Next up is the new CT5-V Blackwing (the white one). It has a supercharged 6.2L V8 from the Corvette Z06 and Camaro ZL1, however in this application it produces 498KW and 890NM of torque going to just the rear wheels, making it the most powerful production Cadillac ever. Fitting that it is most likely the last petrol-powered one.

Next up is the new CT5-V Blackwing (I cannot decide if the name is silly or just plain awesome. I’m leaning towards the latter). It has a supercharged 6.2L V8 from the Corvette Z06 and Camaro ZL1, however in this application it produces 498KW and 890NM of torque going to just the rear wheels, making it the most powerful production Cadillac ever. Fitting that it is most likely the last petrol-powered one.

The most surprising of all of this is that both cars come with a manual as standard. Yes, hugely powerful, manual Caddy Vs. Who would’ve thunk it?! The most powerful Cadillac ever comes with a manual as standard! I cannot get over how cool that is! Yes, you can get the 10-speed auto if you want and that is probably the one Hennessey would ask you to pick if you want to make your hugely powerful, M5 and E63S top speed beating Caddy even more powerful. I, however, would just leave it – mostly – stock and tinker with the exhaust a bit to make it sound even more ridiculous than it is.

Unfortunately, they are both quite expensive, starting at $60k for the CT4-V and $84K for the CT5-V, which can go up to $125k when loaded with options. The other unfortunate thing is that apparently all of them have already been sold out. Jip, the only way you’ll get one now is if you pay an astronomic amount of money to the first owner who pushed up the price ridiculously high – as they do in the US of A with limited-run muscle cars (see Dodge Challenger Demon).

I’ve always liked the V Cadillacs. Since the first CTS-V in the early 2000s, to the one James May hated and then loved, to the more modern one before Chevy bungled all the names about. Cadillacs in general have this aura of luxury about them, but that is almost still achievable – like Jaguar. You could have a second-hand one for much less than the original owner bought it for, plus you’ll look rich (I’m betting Cadillacs’ services are cheaper than Jaguar’s though).

Stuffing the engine from a sports/muscle/super car (whatever the Corvette is these days. See a previous blog) into a big saloon car sounds stupid and unnecessary, but in reality it is one of the most awesome things a car manufacturer could do. I was hoping for the 560KW (755HP) Supercharged LT5 V8 from the C7 Corvette ZR1, but then Cadillac put a manual in it and the world was filled with hope again.

The V8’s days are numbered and that is a sad thing. Let’s enjoy them for as long as possible before they disappear into the history books to be replaced by hybridised 4-cylinders and electric motors (looking at you, AMG!).

Only you have the power (and money) to help! Save a life. Adopt a V8.

©2021 Michael De Kock 

Michael de Kock is a Psychology-graduated job-seeking petrolhead nerd (who’s currently on his way to becoming motor mechanic if he can figure out the math), fascinated by wooden tulips and generally thinks too much about cars.

What the Imagination Can Do With Four Wheels and an Engine

This is going to be a quick one about my three favourite concept cars that – obviously – never made it to production.

First off, the SAAB Aero-X.It is an awesome thing with its interesting door design that opens the entire roof of the car and the doors that go with it that would have been unique and exciting – if it made it to production. Impractical? Of course it is! It’s a concept! But that’s what made it brilliant! Yes, it only has a 2.8L Turbo V6 with a top speed of 158kph (my BMW 118i goes way faster), but it looked futuristic, still does even today, almost 15 years later. Throw a European V8 in there or maybe a couple of Tesla or Rimac electric motors and you would have a car to contend with.

Secondly, the BMW CS Vintage. It was never prototyped and remains nothing more than a render sitting on a server somewhere in Munich, but it is absolutely gorgeous. It is based on the previous 6-Series Coupe. No word on engines, but it would have probably had the 6-Series’ line-up. It was styled to be a homage to the legendary BMW E9 of the 1970s with its signature roof angled front end and Hofmeister Kink. Imagine building a limited run of it based on the new 8-Series platform, but with an even more luxurious feel, like a Rolls Royce with a BMW badge. It even comes with a smaller version of the controversial vertical kidney grille. Plus, the simplistic interior is exactly what is needed in today’s over-styled interiors (I’m looking at you, Mercedes!). I’d have one in a heartbeat.

Lastly, it is a car that was prototyped, driven, and even road-tested by James May. It also occasionally appears at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It is – of course – the 2003 Cadillac Sixteen Concept. It is a magnificent American barge of a car where four people can sit comfortably and one of those four has the power of a 13.6L V16 producing (at least) 746KW and (at least) 1356NM of torque under their right foot, all without a single whisper of forced induction. It has all this power and torque, but thanks to cylinder deactivation technology, it can run on 4 cylinders under normal driving allowing the 2.3 tonne car to get an average of 14L/100km, or 16mpg US. That’s not bad for a 13.6L naturally aspirated V16. I’d gladly pay for the fuel. Although I imagine when you put your foot down, that figure drops significantly – and I have quite a heavy right foot…

The question now is, if I had the money to have one of these three cars custom built, which one would it be? Well, whilst I love the idea of having a beautiful, fast and luxurious modern BMW coupe inspired by the E9, my heart says the Cadillac. Yes, I’d need to build a garage to fit the nearly 6 meter long car into and yes, I’d need to stock up on fuel cards and yes, the maintenance on it would probably be astronomic, but it’s an awesome, one-of-a-kind car. Whilst I would have it custom built, I’d update the interior just a bit to stay in tune with modern cars. And then I would do all my road trips in it. Long ones…

©2020 Michael De Kock 

Michael de Kock is a recently graduated job-seeking petrolhead nerd, fascinated with avocados and generally quite tall.

The Most Awesomest Engine Ever!

The V8 Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) is a magnificent piece of engineering and is probably the engine with the most character. But before we get into that, a brief history: The first known V8 engine was built in 1904 and was called the Antoinette. It was built by Frenchman Léon Levevasseur for use in speedboats and airplanes. It weighed 86kg and had a whopping 37KW (50HP). In the same year, the V8 was put into small-scale production by Buchet and Renault for use in their airplanes and racing cars respectively. 031d5c33974d7b993f08a6b419bff12a

In 1905, the first V8 used in a motorcar was a 3.5L in the Rolls Royce V-8 however, they built three cars before reverting back to straight-sixes. Officially, the 1910 De Dion-Bouton was the first car to use the V8 in large quantities and the 1914 Cadillac ‘L-head’ V8 was considered to be the first mass-produced V8 engine. This engine was assisted by Cadillac’s pioneering use of the electric starter motor.

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Since then, the V8 engine flourished in popularity in a range of different sizes and outputs. In the USA, V8s were abundant and aided to the creation of various motorsports – the biggest being NASCAR (which pretty-much only Americans watch). Australia decided to throw their hat into the ring with Holden stuffing V8s into many of their cars, resulting in the popular V8 Supercars racing competition.

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The V8 became so popular that people started putting them into cars that really shouldn’t have them. Ford did this a lot. In South Africa, a company did it with the Mustang’s Windsor V8 in the Capri and called it the Capri Perana. Another one of these swaps was with the Sierra XR8 – an incredibly boring hatchback-sedan-type thing with one of the best noises I have ever heard. It’s absolutely glorious!

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Europe – not wanting to be left out – produced some of the best V8s in the world, with my absolute favourite being the M156 which was the first in-house engine from AMG. The glorious grumbly noise from the naturally-aspirated engine is just awesome! The same goes for the slightly tuned M159 in the SLS AMG (my all-time favourite car). BMW also have a good history with their V8s, with the most popular versions being in the E90 M3 and the M5 from the E39 generation onwards (excluding the E60 because of the impostor V10).

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Jaguar was behind a little bit, but eventually they caughtb the train with their AJ V8 engines which were even used by Ford. Morgan simply decided to ask for engines and thus got a contract with BMW for their 4, 6 and 8 cylinder engines. Finally, Aston Martin used the  Jaguar engines for its Vantage up until 2018 when they got AMG’s 4.0L for the new model. For the 2020 model year, one can order a V8 Vantage with a manual, making it the only manual application of the AMG M177. Awesome!

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Ferrari had their go with the V8 and it worked out brilliantly. From the 308 GTB to the new SF90 Stradale, the V8 engine (along with the symphonic V12) is the exploding heart of the Prancing Horse. Their naturally aspirated V8s are some of the highest revving road-car engines and everyone was suspicious when Ferrari announced they were going turbo-charged. It worked however, and it worked so well that people who drive the cars fitted with these engines say they feel no turbo-lag. The new SF90 has recently set the fastest lap of the Top Gear Test Track, beating the time set by a 488 Pista by 1.4 seconds. Granted, it has the same engine and power-output, but it comes with three extra electric motors, boosting it to 735KW (986HP), around 200KW more than the Pista.

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Maserati has also had its history with the V8, harking back to 1964 in the 5000GT. The best of the lot though is the Tipo F136 engine which was a Maserati/Ferrari collaboration. It was used in almost all Maserati’s between 2001 and 2019 – from the Coupe, Spyder and GranTurismo, to the Quattroporte. It was even put in the GranTurismo-based Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione and gorgeous Disco Volante limited production car. Ferrari used it in the F430, California and heavily altered in the 458. The best sounding applications of the engine however, are in the GranTurismo S and the Quattroporte S, where it is 4.7 litres of harmonious glory. I make a point of it to own a GranTurismo in whichever racing game it is featured in just to listen to the noise.

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As we all know, Volkswagen owns many, MANY different automakers – particularly Audi, Porsche and Bentley – which uses the same 4.0l Twin-Turbo V8 in their cars, albeit in different states of tune. The coolest applications being in the Audi RS6 Avant, RS7 and new Bentley Continental. Porsche boosts their version of the engine with additional electric motors in the e-hybrid trims for the Panamera and Cayenne, reaching an awe-inspiring 500KW out of it. My question thus is, why not put those versions in the larger Audi RS models? Imagine an RS6, RS7, S8 or even a new R8 with that much power.

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The USA is probably the V8 capital of the world with both the crappiest V8s ever made and the most powerful by far. The go-to engine for hot-rodding pretty-much anything is the Chevy LS3 6.2 N/A V8. It is hugely popular and really reliable with its straight-forward and simple design. However, the most popular V8 currently for sale is the Hellcat. A 6.2L Hemi with a HUGE supercharger sticking out the top producing a ridiculous stock power output of 526KW(707HP) and 850NM. Ask a tuning company nicely (and with money) and they’ll put an even bigger supercharger on bumping a 1000HP (750KW). Shocked emoticon. Luckily, we get the Hellcat here in South Africa, but only in the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, which is awesome, but costs a lot of money.

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To think, in the late 70s (during the oil crisis) you could get a 5.0L big-block with an ‘atmospheric’ 112KW. My 1.6L Turbo has more power than that. Even the 4.9L Turbo Trans Am used in the filming of Smokey and the Bandit II needed nitrous oxide boosting to get the desired power out of it. How sad it that?!

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Here in South Africa, we have a surprising amount of V8s to choose from – AMGs, Ms, RSs, Rs, SVs, SSs, GTs and VXs. A few years ago, you could even buy the coolest bakkie (pick-up truck), the awesome Aussie Chevrolet Lumina SSV Ute. It had a 5.7L and later a 6.0L with 270KW in stock form. However, if you look for one online now, many of them are supercharged and pushing 400KW (according to the seller that is). Now the only V8 bakkie you can get, is Toyota’s incredibly generic and vastly outdated Land Cruiser 70 with the 4.5L turbo Diesel V8 – producing a pithy 150KW and 430NM – for the astronomical price of almost a million Rand. My dad’s Hyundai Santa Fé produces approximately the same power from its 2.2L Inline-4 Turbodiesel and didn’t even cost a quarter of that!

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I’d like to someday soon own a V8, preferably one with 300 plus KW. I have looked around and one could get away with it for under R400K. In that budget, you could get something like a Chrysler 300C SRT, a BMW E90 M3, a Mercedes C63 AMG W204, an Audi RS4 B6, a Chevy Lumina SSV, a Jaguar XFR and even a Maserati Quattroporte (with a lot extra money for maintenance). For a little more than the budget, you could get a Ford Mustang, which would be awesome, as the Coyote V8 grumbles like an American V8 should.

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V8s should make you feel special. They should excite your inner petrolhead and make you permanently go BWAHHHH! For me, when I drive behind a car that has a V8 and the person driving leaves his/her right foot on the accelerator just a bit longer than socially acceptable, I get all giddy. The other day, I was walking in town when a Mustang GT and a Jaguar XKR had an impromptu sound-off when they each pulled away from the traffic light. It was marvellous! The low bellowing of the Mustang’s V8 reverberating off the building’s windows and the XKR’s raspy V8 a few pitches higher was absolutely magnificent. Those 40 or 50 seconds of unadulterated noise made my day. I drove back home in the best of moods. I can only imagine my mood the day I actually get to drive something like that.

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All this being said, the V8 is fast becoming an extinct species. Governments and environmental institutions are hammering automakers to cut down on their emissions and thus those automakers downsize their engines. This has been happening for the past decade and it is terrible. The beloved Audi RS4 now comes with a Twin-Turbo V6. Big American barges like the Ford F150 Raptor and Lincoln Navigator are fitted with EcoBoost V6s. Performance cars are mutating into shadows of themselves with smaller engines. An excellent example is the new Mercedes C63 AMG. A test mule has been spotted going around the ‘Ring, but no one knows what drivetrain it’s got. The most likely is a 4-cylinder. I’d be really surprised if it retains its V8.

This whole situation is saddening. Yes, I know it’s all to save the planet and I’m all for saving said planet, but ease up a bit on the sports cars. Pretty soon, we’ll all be driving around in electric toasters with grumpy faces, because it doesn’t make a noise or is very exciting to drive.

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The only good thing about all this is that we will still be allowed to drive old cars that make stupid noises and burns petrol in glorious explosions whilst we laugh maniacally at the sheer awesomeness that is the internal combustion engine. I know it will be around for a little while longer, but we petrolheads will miss it. Like you’d miss an old loyal dog from your childhood.

So in an effort to not sound too much like Jeremy Clarkson in his review of the V12 Vantage, I’m going to end with this; whilst the magnificence that is the ICE is still around, let’s burn as much fuel making stupid noises as we can, shall we?

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©2020 Michael De Kock Michael de Kock is a recently graduated job-seeking petrolhead nerd, fascinated with avocados and generally quite tall.

JUST LET ME FINISH MY @#$%ING TASK!

Today I thought I would blog about a trendy thing. That thing is Among Us.

I heard about Among Us about two months ago when it started becoming popular along with The Fall Guys. I saw the thousands upon thousands of memes made about it, but I never really knew what it was about. That was until I watched NerdCubed’s video on it. The next day, I decided to try it and boy-oh-boy, was it enjoyable. Crewmates and the Impostor(s) are all it’s about. Crewmates have a list of tasks to do and the Impostor(s) has to sneakily eliminate them before they finish said tasks.

The first few rounds I played, I was a crewmate getting to grips with the whole thing. The tasks are quite fun, although the rewiring tasks are annoyingly easy. The most annoying thing is when someone calls an emergency meeting right at the start of the game or whilst you are in the middle of a task. I played around two hours and the amount of tasks I had to redo in that time because someone was being a twit was ridiculous. I noticed that the go-to penalty for an uncalled-for emergency meeting is ejection, which is really funny.

Then you join a game where you are the Impostor and you have to pretend you are doing tasks. It’s hilarious. Most of the fun happens in ‘Electrical’ as it’s the most secluded spot, however other than the cafeteria; it is also the most used spot as well. Then there’s Security where you can check the cameras and possibly catch someone doing the murdering. I haven’t been able to do that, but I was caught out like that once.

My favourite part of the game though, is watching the people going mad in the chat. One person accuses another of being the Impostor and 70% of the time the rest follow, even when the accused is not even the Impostor. One game I was the Impostor and got three people ejected. It was hilarious!

I have thus far only played in public lobbies with ‘randoms’, but I must say, it’s turning out better than I thought it would. Usually with online games and ‘randoms’, they try to be annoying or ruin the game for everyone, but so far it has been smooth sailing. I might keep playing this till the hype eventually dies down.

Now if only I can FINISH MY @#$%ING TASKS!

©2020 Michael De Kock

Michael de Kock is a recently graduated job-seeking petrolhead nerd, fascinated with avocados and generally quite tall

The Old King is back, but is it Still the Best?

Good news! The new BMW M3 and M4 have been revealed and launched! Yay! I watched CARWOW’s video on it and I must say – both look good. The kidney grilles that put people off really look good on these cars and I personally hope they add them to more models – the 7 and the X7 would suit them.

Power comes from the new 3.0L Bi-Turbo Straight-Six, first launched in the X3 M and X4 M. Outputs are 350KW and 550NM for the ‘normal’ M3 and M4 whilst its 375KW and 650NM for the ‘Competition’ models. Currently, South Africa will only get the latter ‘Competition’ models, as is the case with M cars here. The M3 and M4 gets the same torque-converter 8-speed autobox just like with the M5, as well as BMW’s M X-Drive system. Just like the M5 and M8, you get the choice between 4WD and 2WD modes for when you wish to do some skids and ruin your tires.

Both cars also come with sports exhausts as standard in the ‘Competition’ guise, which sounds quite fruity on the video. Expect the pricing to be quite high, because it is a premium German product after all. Much is included in the price as standard, such as sportier suspension, the aforementioned exhaust and other features, however you’ll need to pay more if you want carbon-ceramic brakes, carbon trim on the exterior and M bucket seats.

The new ‘Isle of Man Green’ launch colour is quite different to BMWs of late, but rather surprisingly, I like it. Out of the two launch cars in the video, I was drawn much more towards the M3 than to the M4. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the new 4-Series as it looks like a mini-8er, but the M3 just looks cooler. Maybe it’s because the one in the video brags with the optional carbon pack and the front end is reminiscent of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio GTA, with the carbon intake slats on either side of the grille.

Apparently, orders are open and cars will be delivered in March next year. It’s quite a while to wait then. All-in-all, I really like both cars. The styling is excellent with the aggressive hood contours and rear wheel-arches protruding arrogantly. The M3 and M4 just look and sound like brilliant cars. We’ll have to see if they are still the benchmark for small, fast saloons when they get road-tested in a few months’ time.

CARWOW video: https://youtu.be/oLMJuwlJm-g

Mercedes Tablets for Everyone!

Today’s rant/blog regards Mercedes’ screen situation. Not the infotainment screens in the centre, but rather the instrument cluster screens behind the steering wheel. BMW, Audi and many other automakers are going the digital route for their instrument cluster as it is more convenient and can show a larger amount of data in a less restrictive manner. That’s fine. I have no problem with that. The issue I have is with the way Mercedes is doing it.

Look at the new Audis. Their ‘Digital Cockpit’ is brilliantly done. It still looks like an instrument cluster, but is modernised for the current era. BMW’s is more traditional with the half-digital, half-traditional setup. Mercedes’ take on the other hand, is awful.

When the current E-Class was launched (W213), I thought it was a really nice-looking car – and it is from the outside. However, I cannot stand the tacked-on instrument cluster screen – you know, the one that looks like a glued-in picture of tablet. It looks like a cost-cutting excuse, like Renault would do on its cheaper cars. Not only does it look stupid, it’s bloody ugly. And now that thought has trickled down to other Mercedes models like the A-Class, the new C-Class, the G-Class, the new S-Class and everything in-between.

Speaking of the new S-Class, I despise the interior, but only because of the ugly tablet-looking afterthought. The rest of the interior looks cool and futuristic, but it’s an S-Class! It should be luxurious and opulent and slightly vulgar, like a cheaper RR Phantom. The outgoing S-Class interior is beautiful with the four air-vents taking centre-stage, the swooping lines running the length of the dashboard and the inlaid wood veneer wherever you look. It’s awesome! The new S’ interior looks like an upscale version of the Tesla Model 3’s, which is – quite frankly – an insult, (The Tesla Model 3 has the most boring interior of any new car currently on sale.) I must say, I really like the new S’ steering wheel. It looks futuristic, yet uber-luxurious at the same time.

Yes, the new S has all sorts of clever tech as is its tradition, but the interior doesn’t match that of the exterior (which contrary to popular opinion I actually quite like.) I cannot wait for the AMG version.

So whilst I’m sure the new Mercs are brilliant in almost every way, I cannot get past that ugly, flat, tacked-on afterthought of an instrument screen. And worst of all, IT’S THE THING YOU WILL LOOK AT MOST IN THE WHOLE CAR! Given the choice, I would rather save the almost R2.2 million cost of the E63S and buy a second-hand C63 Black.

Plus I’d have a lot left for the inevitable fuel bill…

©2020 Michael De Kock

Michael de Kock is a recently graduated job-seeking petrolhead nerd, fascinated with avocados and generally quite tall.

Jaguar Electricity as Expensive as Their Electric Car

So, MyBroadBand has recently done a cross-country road trip with the Jaguar I-Pace (see link below) to see what it actually costs to run an electric car for such a long journey. They started at Jaguar-Land Rover in Constantiaberg which has the southernmost charging point in the country, and ended in Musina – the northernmost town.

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Long story short, it took them 22 hours to drive at an average of 92kph plus another 12 hours for charging, equating to a total of 34 hours to do the 2,063km. That is a long time. It’s like sitting on an 18 hour flight and finding out you have a 10 hour stop-over before flying another 4-and-a-half hours back home. (It happened to me.)

The trip cost the MyBroadBand team almost R2600 in just electricity alone. The team concluded that if they did the same trip in a diesel F-Pace, it would have been significantly cheaper which begs the question, are electric cars viable in South Africa, a county that hasn’t even embraced the idea of the hybrid yet? Lexus has tried for years to get South Africans to buy hybrids, but we just don’t. I don’t know exactly why, but I think it is because we simply see it as something too expensive with too much that can go wrong. Given the choice between a Jaguar I-Pace or a fully kitted-out Toyota Land Cruiser 200, the average South African would pick the Toyota because it’s higher up in the local motoring hierarchy.

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In terms of the motor-industry, South Africa is way behind. Norway’s government grants financial incentives to people for buying electric cars which has resulted in two-thirds of all new cars being bought by the Vikings being electric. There are so many electric cars in Norway that the government is considering adding taxes on them so that they can get at least some money back. Other European countries also offer incentives on electric cars. Even Jordan – which is a Middle-Eastern country – offers much less tax on hybrids than they do on normal cars and as a result 80% of the cars you see there are hybrids.

South Africa doesn’t offer any of this, so electric cars are stupidly expensive. The I-Pace costs R1.6m. For that price you could buy a Volvo XC90 T8 which has the same power, is vastly more practical and has a ridiculous range, thanks to its hybrid drivetrain. Plus you’ll still have R200k left over. Or you could buy a Toyota GR Supra. Or an F-Type V6 S. Or a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. For a little bit more you could get a diesel BMW 8-Series! Or, if you stretch it a bit more, you can buy a Land Rover Sport P400e, which does 4L/100km.

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There are so many better cars to choose from. And those are if you want yours new. For R1.6m you can almost buy whatever you want in the second-hand market. For instance, a quick search on Cars.co.za revealed a 2019 BMW M5 for the same price as that Jag. And also a 2018 Merc E63S! And if you go slightly older, you can get a 2014 Aston Martin V12 Vantage. Or a 2003 Ferrari 360 F1 Spider. Or a 2010 Bentley Continental GTC Speed.

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There are so many better and more interesting cars to buy other than that specific Jaguar. And some of them will even let you pay less at fuel stations. Plus you don’t have to hang around for hours wondering what to do with yourself whilst your batteries fill up with the imaginary magic juice…

 

Read about MyBroadBand’s cross-country road trip in the Jaguar I-Pace here: https://mybroadband.co.za/news/motoring/362430-what-it-costs-to-drive-across-south-africa-in-an-electric-car.html

 

©2020 Michael De Kock

 

Michael de Kock is a recently graduated job-seeking nerdy petrolhead, fascinated with avocados and generally quite tall.

Star Wars™ or Star Bores?

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For the last couple of days during this unending lockdown, I have been thinking of Star Wars. The feeds on various social media platforms such as Google, YouTube and Instagram are pretty much just cars and science fiction, with random bits of friends and family stuff in-between. Anything from lightsabers on sale to how the USS Discovery’s Mycelium spore-drive works and how fast spaceships in The Expanse actually travel. (Feel free to notify me, I still don’t have a definite answer.)

I then thought about what I think of the Star Wars movies since everyone is criticising the absolute crap out of the sequel trilogy. So without going into too much detail, I will now give my honest opinions about each one – in chronological order (by era, not release):

The Prequels

The Phantom Menace – Meh

Attack of the Clones – Good

Revenge of the Sith – Better

 

The Fillers

The Clone Wars Series – Excellent! Brilliant! Magnificent!

Solo: A Star Wars Story – Okay

Rebels Series – Meh

Rogue One – Bloody Brilliant!

 

The Original Trilogy

A New Hope – Very Good

The Empire Strikes Back – Really Very Good

Return of the Jedi – Good

 

The Sequels

The Force Awakens – *cough* Knock-off *cough*

The Last Jedi – Uhmmm… What’s with all the comedy?

The Rise of Skywalker – WTF was that?

 

(I have not included The Mandolorian in this for the sole reason that I have not seen it. Sorry. I hear it’s very good though.)

So that’s my short honest opinion. The Sequels really disappointed me – like it did many other people. The Force Awakens was just A New Hope remake to introduce the new characters and get rid of some old ones. The Last Jedi was a complete farce. It was the first Star Wars that I saw in the cinema and I really looked forward to it. Oh boy, was I in for a shock. Why is there so much humour in it? The cinema was laughing more than anything else. It’s Star Wars, not Spaceballs! And why the heck did Cantonica (the casino planet) get so much screen-time?

The only two remotely cool things about the whole movie was the fight scene where Kylo and Rey were fighting together in the throne room on-board the Supremacy (Mega-Star Destroyer for the non- Starwarsians who read here) and the bit where Kylo ordered all the guns to shoot at Luke and he brushed it off like dust (because, of course, he was a projection).

And finally, we get to The Rise of Skywalker. What a fustercluck. The marketing was “the end of an era” and “40 years in the making”, which got me really excited. When I heard Palpatine’s laugh at the end of the trailer, I got really, really excited. So I went into the cinema all pumped up with excitement. But oh, was it crushed fast. I stood outside the cinema afterwards and thought WTF WAS THAT?.

During the run-up to the movie, leaks were happening and fans were going rampant with their theories. I read some of them and I can honestly say that most of them were better than the final product. I like JJ Abrams. I think he’s a great director. He’s the reason I like Star Trek. (Don’t worry, the 80s and 90s ‘Trek are still the best.)

Many of these theories regarded who Rey’s parents were. Many believed that they were nobodies, which would have been cool as it would have made Rey an ordinary galactic citizen who rose up and defeated the most powerful Star Wars baddie. But no, instead she is the granddaughter of said most powerful baddie. Not a Kenobi, not a Skywalker, not a random scavenger, but a freaking Palpatine! This was the single stupidest decision made by Disney and the feminist Kathleen Kennedy should spend some time in the Sarlacc Pit for this and everything else she has done!

Instead of showing people that a nobody from a wrong-side-of-the-tracks place can become great and inspirational, it showed that in order to become truly great and successful, you need to have a favourable background (like many famous people). It’s stupid and uninspiring and very un-Disney. Walt would have a hissy-fit.

This movie also resolved some of the plot holes of the previous movie. I’m not going to bother thinking of examples as I really don’t care, but instead of answering the pressing questions everyone had, they simply added more. For instance, one of the things I was most excited about was the news that Richard E. Grant would be joining the cast as an Imperial General. This was an excellent addition, but it was still ruined. The scene in question was how the movie got rid of General Hux. General Pryde (Grant’s character) just shot him. PEW!, and he was out of the movie. No ceremonious end to the leader of the Imperial Navy, like the one Cutler Beckett got in Pirates of the Caribbean. He didn’t deserve the end he got. More ‘going down with his ship’ would have been so much better instead of ‘getting unceremoniously shot as an afterthought’.

I have this thing when I watch a movie – I want my mind to randomly wander to a bit of the movie that I found cool or inspiring, hours, days or even weeks after watching a movie. I find this to be an indication that the movie was good and that I really enjoyed it. Good examples of this feeling are the murderer being shown less than halfway into the movie in Knifes Out, the beautiful twist at the end of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and the sheer beauty that is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty . The movie must want me to dissect parts of it in order to make sense of the rest. I had one heck of a time with Inception, figuring out which were dreams and which were reality, weeks after watching the movie.

With The Rise of Skywalker, I forgot about the events of the movie as soon as I got home and never really thought about it again – until now when I realised how bloody angry I was and decided to write this sort-of blog, sort-of rant about it.

So, the question is, will I watch it again? The answer; only if I have to – which coincidentally is the same answer I gave with Marvel’s Black Panther. I will however, buy it as it is the only Star Wars movie I need to finish my collection.

But only if it’s on sale.

 

©2020 MICHAEL DE KOCK

 

Michael de Kock is a recently graduated job-seeking nerd, petrolhead, fascinated with avocados and generally quite tall.