Trending Plague in Auto-Industry

In the last couple of years, a new craze has been building up in the car industry and it has been more noticeable in some countries than in others. We were on a two week road-trip through the UK recently, where we went from Dover, through Wales to the east of Scotland and ended in the Isle of Skye before driving down back to London. Over the last four and a bit years, I have also been to Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, Austria and France. Whilst in these countries, I noticed that this craze is not as noticeable. However in South Africa, it is growing at an alarming rate. Now, you might be wondering what I am going on about. The craze I am pouting about is that of the growing in popularity not only of the Sports Utility Vehicle – or the SUV, but more specifically, the ‘Crossover’.

Volkswagen makes the Crosspolo, which is the first of these idiotic things that I can remember becoming available in South Africa. At that time, everyone was still concerned with hatchbacks and bakkies, so the Crosspolo really didn’t make sense. Now however, everyone is after an SUV and if they can’t get one, they buy a crossover.

My problem lies with the crossover and how many of them are being marketed as SUVs with the biggest violator being that stupid Suzuki Ignis thingie with the 1.0L engine. It’s being marketed as an SUV, when it is, in actual fact, a compact hatch on stilts (but still has piddly little wheels). And then there is the sheer amount of the bloody things. It’s like every automaker these days has a sedan and a crossover version of their cars – from Hyundai to Renault, and even automotive giants such as Mercedes and Audi have joined the party. Volvo should also be accused, but they have been making lifted versions of their cars since anyone can remember, so they are excused. (Plus I quite like the V90 Cross Country. See my previous blog as to why – link).

A few years ago, Hyundai made the Tucson which is classified as either a large crossover or a small SUV. I can’t entirely decide. With this, other automakers started joining in. Kia produced the Sportage, Nissan the Qashqui, Renault made the Kadjar with the small engines and a bunch more that I’m not going to bother mentioning as there are thousands of the bloody things.

The reason I hate them is the fact that they are taking over the roads. It used to be only the medium and really large SUVs on the road that were vastly outnumbered by the hatches and sedans, but now the sedans and saloons had become endangered too. Everyone and their grandmother are driving either a bakkie, SUV or crossover and it is awful.

Personally, there are only four SUVs (that are actual SUVs and not ‘crossovers’) that I like. They are the big Range Rover in either TDV8 or the new P400e models, the brand new Rolls Royce Cullinan because it is just bloody pretty, the first-gen BMW X5, as it is a handsome brute – and finally my favourite of the lot, the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Now, whilst I’d have a diesel GC any day, my preferred trim choice is the impending Trackhawk. The Hellcat-engined one with the ridiculous stock power figures of 523KW and 880NM. I mean, it’s a silly, stupid thing that has way too much power, uses way too much fuel, makes way too much noise and is way too big, but it is currently one of the cars that I love most. I can just imagine it…

Pulling up to an intersection, waiting for the light to go green when a modified Golf GTi pulls up next to you and the ‘cool dude’ starts revving the engine wanting a race. You smile at him whilst activating the Trackhawk’s launch control. You put your foot on the accelerator and an unearthly rumble comes from the back of the car. The cool dude doesn’t hear it as his own car produces an ear-shattering racket from his home-made exhaust. The light goes green and you press your foot flat on the floor. The Trackhawk takes off exactly how an SUV shouldn’t. It reaches 100kph 3.5 seconds after it started moving, leaving the cool dude to gaze at you with his mouth open on the side of the road.

You drive further down the road when suddenly the Trackhawk stops working. It ran out of petrol as you just used it to utilise all the machine’s power and it is as thirsty as a boer who hasn’t had a beer all day (approx. 23l/100km). The Trackhawk limps to the side of the road which forces you to phone a friend and you realise that the engine is drinking your bank account dry, but you don’t care, because you have the biggest smile on your face.

And that fictional glimpse is the reason why I love this thing. It’s silly, ridiculous and completely stupid. But I love it! Plus, you get to scare four passengers and the dog in relative comfort.

 

 

Volvo’s New Design – Speaking to the Heart of the Enthusiast

I really like Volvo. The new Volvo in general. The design language of the S90, V90, XC90 and XC60 is just excellent – the clean, minimalist lines, the beautifully designed interior, the drivetrains and the economy. The biggest and most expensive car (that also has the most power) is one of the most efficient cars they make. It’s brilliant! I have not had the pleasure of seeing the S90 or V90 in the metal, but I have seen the XC90 countless times. The other day I also saw the new XC60 for the first time and I have to say, it is prettier than the XC90. The new XC40 crossover thing also looks good, especially since it’s geared towards younger customers as the newer V40 was. It brings a fresh perspective on Volvos and I really quite like that.

Volvo has always been like Honda and Cadillac – made for the older folk who are not concerned with the power output, but rather the plushness of the seats. These days, Volvo, Honda and Cadillac have been designing their cars for the younger generation. Volvos have become really quick, Honda is breaking the Nurburgring record and even Cadillac makes 600 horsepower super-saloons – and this is without any aftermarket tuning.

Honestly, I have said for a while now that if you wanted to buy a car that could do everything – from efficiency, speed to practicality and to use as a daily driver, you had a choice between the Golf GTi, Range Rover SDV8 or Volvo V90 Cross Country. All of them offer good bang for their buck (admittedly the RR is quite a bit more expensive than the rest).

But in recent weeks, I have decided to add the XC90 T8 to this list, which means that there are two cars on the ‘Best car in the world (which can do a bunch of things well)’ list. If I could, I’d add the S90 as well, because of all the modern executive mid-range saloons, it is arguably the best looking, even prettier than the Jaguar XF. I just wish Volvo would create a version of their cars to go up against the likes of the X5M and M5. But it is highly unlikely since Polestar, the company that made exclusive, fast, blue Volvos, have begun their own thing. They even have a first car called the Polestar 1 which, for lack of a better description, is an S90 coupe. The only problem I have with it is that the back end seems a bit too short. Not that it matters much as it has a 2.0L Turbo hybrid system like the XC90 T8, but where the XC90 only produces 300-odd kilowatt, the 1 produces close to 450KW. Polestar has also said that the Polestar 2 will be either the XC60 or XC90 remake, so that should be interesting.

Now where am I going to find a million Rand ($80 000)..?

All the Car You’ll Ever Need

So in at the end in the Top Gear Mag (December 2017), there is the list of the vehicles available in SA. When you get to Land Rover, you will spot something rather interesting… Back to the list in a bit.

For the past two or so years, I have been saying that the best cars you can buy are either a VW Golf GTi or a Range Rover TDV8. They offer speed, comfort, luxury, practicality and efficiency in all that they do (I added the Volvo V90 Cross Country and XC90 T8 as well as they do the same thing).

Granted, these options are only valid when you have some cash to play around with.

Now, in the Land Rover section, you will notice that in the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport lists, there is a P400e option. I Googled about quickly and found out that it is in fact a plug-in hybrid with a 2.0L Turbo and electric motors. It has a combined power output of nearly 300KW and 650NM (which is plenty) whilst only doing around 3L/100KM. IN A RANGE ROVER?!

I am extremely surprised. Buy that and it is all the car you will ever need. It’s comfortable, practical, luxurious, can go fast and has a range of 50km on electric only, meaning that you can drive to a mall and back without using fuel (or you could drive about in London without paying congestion charges). Although, you will need to have R2.1m or R2.6m (for the Autobiography) in your bank account (or more for extras)… If not, ignore what I just said and buy a second-hand X540d…

 

Our Trip to the Land Next to the Land Down Under (or OTttLNttLDU if you will…)

Day 10 – 26/27 February 2017

(“Oops I skipped a day” isn’t going to work anymore, right? Sigh…)

OK, so today we went to a beach again. It was a very pretty beach that was very wide. It had a great big rock in it, which naturally Migaél and I climbed (I had an unholy number of uneven steps), and gazed upon the beauty that is New Zealand’s North Island’s West Coast. From today, I believe that New Zealand is just as pretty as South Africa and that it can indeed be a film maker’s paradise. Well done to you Peter Jackson & Co.

Also, today I saw a bunch of nice cars. From a 1970s Chevy Camaro to a Pontiac GTO Convertible from the same era. There was also a 1960s Chevy Bel-Air hot rod and a Vista Cruiser hot rod from the same era. I walked past a Lancer Evolution IV and VIII. The Evo VIII was modified with custom bumpers, side-skirts and a carbon hood. It was also lowered to a silly height, or should I say ‘lowt’.

We are past halfway through our trip here to Slightly Skew to Down Under. The Branckies keep telling us to change our flight to later, but yeah… Oh, plus I realised that I have a two-hour test to do the day after we get back. Qatar Airways, I hope you have good internet…

Our Trip to the Land Next to the Land Down Under (or OTttLNttLDU if you will…)

Day 4 – 19/20 February 2017

I skipped a day, shhh.

So today, we went driving about. We drove to the north of the north island to go see a small patch of land that our friends bought. On our way there, we stopped at a place called Sheepworld. Sheepworld had exactly five sheep, all of whom were pink – and a broken tractor. This place also had flags about it with ‘sheep’ on them, but that actually looks like clouds with legs. My parents and I had some expensive lasagne and some of the best ginger beer we’ve ever tasted.

Also, the Holdens in this country are awesome! Yes, most of them have V6s, but the odd one has a mighty ‘Murican V8. I decided that I will buy one one day and ship it to SA. It shouldn’t be a problem as it has its steering-wheel on the correct side and everything.

 

Later…

I am currently writing this from a bench at a petrol station somewhere on the North Island. The reason for this is that our car, the trusty Toyota TownAce NOAH, has decided it needs to charge its batteries with something other than it’s own alternator. I find this all hilarious. Here’s how it went…

We drove up a hill and the car started to shake a bit and lose power. It kept losing power until it had had enough. The revs went down and down and down and I was amazed that it could idle at 200rpm. Anyway, we stopped under a tree and waited a bit. Oom Abe called for help and everyone decided to go find coffee. Me, my mother, tannie Leoni and the kids walked a kilometre to the nearest hotel-ish looking building, but upon closer inspection decided to walk a bit further to the petrol station across the road. The hotel looked a bit dodgy. We waited about an hour before finally deciding to buy a new battery and risk driving back to Auckland, which the mechanic said we might not make. The 120km drive that would have taken us about an hour and a half, took about 3 with all the stopping without us even reaching our destination. Instead we half-drove half-freed our way back to civilisation.

So, in the end, rather than reaching our destination, we have another hilarious story to tell with the Branckies.

P.S. It is currently five in the morning (4pm crazy time). I am laughing inside.

Giulia on Stilettos

So recently, Alfa Romeo released the Giulia, a sporty four-door sedan to do battle with the likes of the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4. What is incredible is that all the Giulias will be rear-wheel-drive (RWD) and will come optional with all-wheel-drive (AWD) for the European market. The point is, it is refreshing that Alfa Romeo did not go with the normal front-wheel-drive (FWD) layout and AWD for sporty versions layout that most manufacturers use these days. Even Ford has resorted to AWD in its Focus RS.

Another good thing is that not only does the sporty Quadrofoglio Verde version (my personal favourite) comes with a carbon driveshaft (the bit that goes from the engine to the drive-wheels that makes the car go), but the normal versions as well – even the Diesel!

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Now, one car will not be able to bring Alfa back to the top of the ‘Passionate-Cars’ category. Like Jaguar has done recently with the F-Pace (silly name), Alfa Romeo unveiled the new Stelvio  (shown below), a take on the smaller SUV segment. Its styling is heavily influenced by the Giulia and to me looks like a Giulia on stilettos. But I like it. It’s just as pretty as its smaller sister and I imagine that it will have the same 2.9L Bi-Turbo V6 producing as much power as a BMW E60 M5. Imagine that – 375KW in a car the size of the F-Pace (if the F-Pace had the monstrous 5.0L Supercharged V8 from the XFR or Range Rover Supercharged, which would be awesome). Yes, most other SUVs get more than that, like the X5M and X6M, Mercedes and all its different versions of the used-to-be ML – even Land Rover itself. But, do you get that power from anything as pretty as the Stelvio or the Giulia? No, no, you do not. I mean, look at those hood vents! I really hope they make it to the production car.

alfa-romeo-stelvio-la-2016

I always liked Alfa Romeo. I thought of it as the Ferrari for normal people who can’t afford a Ferrari. Then Top Gear praised Alfa Romeo and I liked it even more. The 147 GTA was one of the best cars on Gran Turismo 4. Heck, I think I still have a 300KW version on one of my PS2 saves. The 156 is just as pretty, especially later models – and then there is the 159, which I am actually looking at to buy as a first car (Yes, I know about all the various problems).

So yes, the Stelvio. No one knows how it will drive yet, or if it will be able to go off-road, but damn, is it pretty! Even if it only stays in the city like some kind of soccer-mom car *cough* Range Rover *cough*, I am just glad that it is a thing that exists.

Lots of Hours watching Videos

So, like many other people, I watch videos on Youtube. I am currently watching NerdCubed’s Completes series with Fallout 4. I also watched his Completes Cities Skylines series too. Twenty-six hours. That was a bit much, but it was awesome. Yes there were boring parts, lots of boring parts. Placing all the bushes and trees around the agricultural area was agonising. But it was a relaxing experience. Nice to watch.

Currently the Completes Fallout 4 is great. The looting in Workshop Mode is a bit boring, but you get to see how the game mechanics work. It’s tonnes better than Fallout 3 and New Vegas, which I’ve played a bit. New Vegas is fun and cool, but the grey-green filter they used to make it more nuclear-fallout-ish is a bit dull and the mechanics are too stiff. The characters are emotionless – like Megan Reed’s mother in Deus Ex: Human Revolution when you tell her the bad news.

Fallout 4’s visuals are better and more interactive, as well as having more colours. The world is more vibrant. Well, that’s what I can see from the videos I’ve watched. I haven’t actually played any FO4, but I’m looking forward to it.

I’m currently on NC’s 6th Fallout 4 video. You can watch NerdCubed’s Completes at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWiBBdXFKNg