Ford Kuga 2.0T AWD ST Line review

Ford has been both generous and clever with the Kuga ST line. They offer the driver a responsive fun car to drive with sporty looks and fairly sporty performance and then add dollops of luxury items as standard for a very fair price.

It is both a luxury mid-size SUV and a sporty feeling car at the same time. And very good value for money in its segment.

I really enjoyed driving the ST Line ( note: not ST) Kuga and could live very happily with it even though it is not terribly economical in turbo petrol guise although Ford claims 8.7L/100km. I think most users will average around 10L/100km, although the diesel will be lighter.

Ford Kuga 2.0T AWD ST Line

The ST Line badging implies it is not a real ST high performance derivative, but rather has more performance and upgraded suspension than the standard models, a bit like Audi offers the S-Line trim, Mercedes-Benz the AMG Line, and a number of BMW derivatives bear M badges.

The interior is restrained but smart and practical. A very pleasant space to spend time in. The Synch3 infotainment system is one of the best out there. Nothing to fault in that department.

An electric tailgate is now standard on all Kuga derivatives and includes a leg-swing opening function, a feature that allows for hands-free operation of the tailgate (even if the car is locked), as long as the key is in your pocket. The function is activated by swinging your foot under the rear of the car to open the tailgate. The technique needs a little practice, but once mastered its pretty useful.

A nice surprise was the  240-Volt two-pin plug port provided for the rear passengers. Very nifty, I thought.

A reverse camera is standard across the range, so parking is easy. The view from the very comfortable and adjustable driving seat is commanding.

The suspension easily soaks up imperfections in the road and rough surfaces and, on smooth tarmac, the Kuga offers a premium, luxury experience. It drives and feels like a car, albeit higher of the tar.

While the suspension has been tweaked to be firmer for better handling, the engineers have achieved an admirable balance between comfort and sharper handling. Its really very good.

Available in Ambiente, Trend and Titanium specification levels, with 1.5 and 2.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engines or 2.0 TDCi diesel.

The 2.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine has power and torque figures of 177 kW and 340 Nm, while the diesel gets 132 kW and 400 Nm with up to 40% less consumption than the petrol.

All Kugas have a four-year or 120 000km warranty.

Pricing is from R403,700 to R576,700. Fortunately they are well equipped, so what you expect is what you get.

The KUGA ST LINE SUV 2.0P 6AT AWD we drove costs R561 300, the diesel is R576 700. The model I like is the KUGA 2.0 TDCI TITANIUM POWERSHIFT 6AT AWD SUV at R530 600.

The Kuga is a good size, not too big, but also not cramped. With the the extensive specification, the above average handling and road holding and the great feel in mind, the Kuga must be on your list if you are looking at a medium sized SUV.

 

 

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Ford Everest Limited review

The road is mine, and the trail and the bundu. There is no hill too high for the Everest to climb. In any case that is how it feels while piloting this new update of Ford’s big SUV in SA.

Ford Everest Limited

The new Ford Everest looks much like the old one, but its how it does things that has changed.

It rides better, it goes better and the infotainment system is even better, and easily the best in this segment.

“From the value-oriented offering in the XLS 2.2 TDCi to the range-topping Everest Limited, there is a model to suit a wide range of customers, which makes it a more compelling choice than ever,” says Doreen Mashinini, General Manager Marketing at Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa.

There are now six models, in three series: XLS, XLT and Limited.

But the big news is the new engine, new gearbox and new suspension in certain models.

There are basically four drivetrain options: the new 2.0-litre Bi-Turbo and Single Turbo with the newish 10-speed automatic transmission, or the current 2.2 and 3.2-litre Duratorq TDCi with the old six-speed auto box.

Ford Everest Limited 2.0 Bi-turbo Automatic

Other new items include two-layer glossy metallic paint, 20-inch split spoke alloy wheels, although 18-inch diameter rims can be specified for the Limited, Ebony environment colour which changes the  ambience of the interior,  contrast stitching on the Limited, along with shadow chrome finishes, perforated leather and high-quality paints.

The maximum power output for the new 2.0 Bi-Turbo engine (built here in SA) is 157kW, matched to a peak torque figure of 500Nm driving all four wheels through the new 10-speed automatic transmission, in conjunction with the Terrain Management System.

The two turbos work in tandem. A small high pressure (HP) turbo works in conjunction with a large low pressure (LP) turbo, controlled with by-pass valves that determine the operating mode depending on engine speed. At lower engine speeds the two turbos work in series, enhancing torque and responsiveness, while at higher revs the small HP turbo is bypassed, and the larger LP turbo provides boost to deliver top-end power.

The 10-speed box reduces the gaps in power and acceleration between gears, providing smoother acceleration, and improved performance . The electronic control system features real-time adaptive shift-scheduling, engineered to help select the correct gear at the right time, including skip-shift and direct downshift capabilities.

The unit’s Progressive Range Select (PRS) system gives the driver the ability to lock out gears from the automatic shifting range for improved control. When selected the available gears are shown on the instrument cluster, with the current gear indicated. Only the available gears are then displayed, and the transmission automatically shifts between these ratios. The suspension has also been tweaked. The front-mounted stabiliser bar has been moved to the rear of the front axle, which along with an increase in diameter and stiffness gives improved roll control and handling performance, which has also enabled a reduction in tyre pressures from 240 to 210 kPa for a more comfortable ride which I can attest to.

The Limited model we drove has Adaptive Cruise Control with Forward Collision Alert (which now recognises pedestrians, in addition to its ability to detect other vehicles), LaneKeeping Aid and Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) and Auto High Beam Control.

The impressive standard safety package across the line-up extends to Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system with Traction Control (TC), Trailer Sway Control (TSC), Hill Start Assist (HSA), Hill Descent Control (HDC) on the 4×4 models, Load Adaptive control (LAC) and Roll Over Mitigation (ROM).

A full Category 1 Thatcham-specification alarm is now standard on all Everest XLS, XLT and Limited models for enhanced anti-theft security.

SYNC®3 with Navigation is standard on the XLT and Limited models, linked to the integrated eight-inch touch-screen colour display, two USB ports and Bluetooth connectivity. It is simply the best system in this category – easy to use and does what it says on the box.

The system has fully-featured embedded navigation, multi-touch gestures (such as swipe, slide, scroll and pinch-to-zoom), plus voice recognition that uses simple, real-world voice commands.

Tracks4Africa is included in the package, as well as access to maps for over 20 countries in Africa.

The Limited remains the range-topping model, offering customers a premium execution with a higher level of luxury and more active driving safety features.

The refreshed styling treatment includes side steps, along with high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps (with automatic levelling and auto high-beam control)and LED daytime running lights. The cabin environment continues the luxury touches, with a dark roof lining, illuminated front scuff plates, eight-way power and heated front seats, powered panoramic glass moonroof, as well as adaptive ambient lighting with multiple colour choices to suit the driver’s mood.

Access to the load compartment is facilitated by the a powered tailgate, while the 50:50 split third-row rear seats can be lowered or raised electrically for seven-seat configuration.

The exhaustive list of active driving safety features on the Everest Limited is top class. This includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Alert with Autonomous Braking, Lane Keeping Aid and Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Monitoring System (BLIS) with cross-traffic alert, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), and Semi-Automatic Parallel Park Assist (SAPPA).

Pricing of the Everest range is as following: 2.2 TDCI XLS 6AT 4X2 R499 900,  2.0 Turbo XLT 10AT 4X2 R584 900,  2.0 BI Turbo XLT 10AT 4X2 R624 100, 3.2 TDCI XLT 6AT 4X4 R644 000,  2.0 BI Turbo XLT 10AT 4X4 R687 700 and the model we drove the 2.0 Bi-turbo Limited 10AT 4X4 R761 200.

Direct competitors are the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Discovery Sport, Isuzu mu-X, Kia Sorento and Toyota Fortuner. Also look at the Subaru Forester, VW Tiguan Allspace, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Volvo XC60 and Mercedes GLC.

The Everest Limited takes Ford’s SUV offering to the next level. In my opinion it is the best of the bakkie based SUVs and beats many of the others because of its versatility and ability to be both family car and adventure off-roader.

Ford Protect, comprises a four-year/120 000km comprehensive warranty, three-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance and five-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty. A six-year/90 000km service plan is included.

 

Exploring North Eastern Namibia

 

Namibia is a place of vast distances, few people and scattered villages. It is a little short of water and grazing right now as it is the driest year in more than 90 years, the locals say. What it has in abundance though is good roads, amazing scenery, wild animals and very friendly people, except for the customs and excise team at the airport.

Llewellyn Anthony and friends at the big Baobab in Mahangu

A grumpier lot you will have to travel far to find. But enough of that.

I think its best to divide Namibia into three areas when exploring the country. One section will be the south including Sossus Vlei, Fish River Canyon and Luderitz, including possibly Swakopmund. The other area will be the northwest including Erindi, Etosha and the Kaokoveld. The third section is the northeast, the subject of this report.

Llewellyn Anthony of Sirkel Transport took us on a week-long exploration of the area in his fully equipped Toyota double cab.

Heading north from Windhoek to the Kavango area after an early start will usually be on the main road (B1) via Okahandja and past the Matopos. There is also a new tarred road via Gobabis and Otjinene to Grootfontein which is an extension of the C22. More about this route later.

Casa Forno, Otiwarongo

Otjiwarongo, 250km north of Windhoek is the perfect place to stop for brunch. We stopped at a veritable oasis, the Casa Forno in Ramblers Street. Great coffee and amazing bread. Get a take-away loaf for padkos (snack). There are overnight facilities next door.

There is a very good Spar in town if you need any groceries.

Fortunately this town has kept its charm and is well worth a little explore.

After Otjiwarongo you head to Otavi where you have a choice of either going via the mining town of Tsumeb on the B1 or along the interesting ‘corridor’ (B8) via the somewhat derelict old mining village of Kombat. The Hoba meteorite is along this route.

Grootfontein is the last proper town with a variety of amenities and choices. The town offers first world services and supplies which effectively reach the end of the

Pond at Kalkfontein Guest Farm

line here. As you go further north your choices diminish but essential supplies are available all along the B8 at the towns and major intersections.

Danita du Plessis feeding the monkey at Kalkfontein.

A pleasant and affordable place to overnight is the Kalkfontein Guest Farm about 14 km north of Grootfontein (+264(0)67 243 731) on the road to Rundu.

They offer luxury air-conditioned rooms, rooms and camp sites. There is a pool and a number of tame animals live on the farm.

A real pit stop.

The next town is Rundu, situated directly across the Okavango River from Calai in Angola. I found the town a little dilapidated and disappointing.

From Rundu you head west. Now the real fun starts. This part of the journey is best taken slowly. It is a time and place for reflection.

Nkurukoro Lodge

We stayed overnight at Nkurukoro Lodge overlooking the Okavango River. It is about 150 km east of Rundu. Tranquillity personified. It is a small lodge with luxury safari tents, standard tents and river front camping sites. Although self service there is a lovely lapa and pool area. Really a little bit of heaven on earth. Leon Nederhoff (+264 81 124 1051), the owner is busy upgrading the remaining campsites and putting in a few more luxury tents. The new ablution block for the campers is already completed. A trip on the Okavango at sunset is sublime, even when it is as low as it is now.

The next stop id Divundu, homestead of the local Mbukushu kings. It is right next to the town of Bagani. It is situated just south of the Okavango river and just above the Popa Falls which are actually rapids with a drop of about 4 m. This village has a strip mall and a Metro Cash & Carry. Fuel is available. Last stop before Kongola on the other side of the Bwabwata National Park.

Just a random travel note. Namibia has road blocks at odd points on all the major roads. You need to wear your seat belts and expect a bit of ‘gaming’ if you are a foreign tourist. Don’t be intimidated. Just smile and keep calm.

You can either do a little detour south along the Okavango (more later), or head east to the Kwando river along the straight B8.

You may see elephant on this route. You will see warthogs and small buck. As always watch out for the goats.

Chicken coop, Kwando style.

The other interesting thing pointed out to me by Llewellyn Anthony is the hen houses perched on stilts for the safety of the village chickens. Because of the danger of jackals, dogs and small cats the night roosts are built above ground. After the chickens have climbed up the ladder is removed.

Our next little bit of paradise was Sharwimbo River Camp Self-Catering (place of music) which opened in September after two years of hard graft.  This magnificent, remote site has been developed by Ben Vermaak (+264(0)81 124 0489), an old hand at developing lodges in the area and it shows. The camp overlooks the Kwando River and is about 25 km south of Kongola.

Shawimbo deck area

Sharwimbo Lodge river boat.

Ben Vermaak piloting their boat on the Kwando.

It is self-service but the facilities are magnificent. There are 15 luxury tents and 5 camping sites. Each tent has 12 v solar lighting, en-suite bathroom with hot water, and a fully equipped kitchen nook, all utensils and two plate gas stove.

We were privileged to go on a game drive in the Mudumu National Park with game guide Kelvin. You could not ask for a better guide. We saw literally all there was to see, from wild dogs, ellies, an abundance of birds, lions to a plethora of buck and an ostrich. The major domo of the camp, Bernard, holds a firm hand on operations and ensures a carefree stay. Sharwimbo is a brilliant base from which to explore the whole area. The Livingston museum is at Shangari. Speak to Ben about a boat trip to either go fishing or game viewing.

Although the B8 continues east to Katima Mulilo we turned back as we were headed to Rainbow River Lodge just below the Popa Falls on the Okavango river near Divundu.

Rainbow River Lodge (+264(0)66 259 067) is a full service lodge with several types of accommodation from luxury air-conditioned en-suite units, or as some describe them bungalows, to rooms with ceiling fans. All in all they offer 29 chalets with three more about to be built. They also offer a complete camping/ caravan park with all the facilities.

The deck offers breakfasts and dinner and the well stocked bar serves ice-cold Hansa Draught.

The de Waal family now own and operate Rainbow but it was started 17 years ago. Gideon manages the day-to-day operations, while dad Deon gets on with the development which is in full swing after the status changed from PTO (Permission To Operate) to full ownership of the land quite recently.

Activities include half and full-day game drives to Mahango National Park, boat trips to Popa Falls (where hippo and crocodiles can be easily spotted,) early morning and sundowner boat cruises, river Mokoro trips, freshwater fishing, canoing/kayaking, guided walks and a guided village tour to visit the Mbukushu people. All river based activities are dependent on river levels. Please check ahead of time.

It is a tiger fishing paradise.

We saw roan and sable antelope in Mahango as well as monkeys, baboons, kudu, birds, buffalo, blue wildebeest and more. On our river cruise we saw crocodiles, hippos, carmine bee eaters nesting in a clay ‘cliff’ and so much more. What a pleasant way to spend a morning. Amos, our skipper and river boat expert, told us he has never seen the river so low. He asked his grandfather who also said he has never seen so little water in the Kavango. The veld is also bone dry.

Eventually we had to head home. We stayed over at Kalkfontein Guest Farm just this side of Grootfontein and took the new road south via Gobabis.

The road south forks at Grootfontein. If you came north on the B1, veer left and take the new road south via Otjinene to Gobabis. Refuel before leaving Grootfontein. The Chinese built the northern half of the road up to Otjinene. It is a magnificent piece of road building. A joy to drive on.

MaseMoerse Burger

The restaurant at Die Dam just outside Gobabis offers a welcome respite on a long hot day. Well worth a stop for something cold and a bite to eat. The MaseMoerse burger is enough for four. Its big.

The last stretch is west to Windhoek and takes about two hours.

One of the best weeks in anybodies life.

Add it to your bucket list.

Called “bobbejaan brains” in Kavango. A bit like Mango, tropical, almost grenadilla like. Looks awful but actually fruity and almost tart.

 

Toyota Mirai FCEV

Hydrogen power

Toyota will take advanced zero-emission fuel-cell electric vehicle (FCEV) technology to new heights when it previews the second-generation Mirai at this month’s Tokyo Motor Show.

Scheduled for launch in 2020 – initially in Japan, North America and Europe in areas supported by a refuelling infrastructure – the new Mirai will be much more than an eco-car. It has been designed to demonstrate how Toyota’s FCEV technology can help create a vehicle that is rewarding to drive and beautiful.

Efficiency is still a critical area, and Toyota is targeting a 30% increase in the Mirai’s driving range through improvements to the fuel-cell system and the use of larger on-board hydrogen tanks.

The current Mirai  practical, with a driving range of around 500 km, easy refuelling in a matter of minutes and no emissions other than pure water. Since launch, around 10 000 units have been sold, while Toyota has actively supported the development of hydrogen fuel infrastructure in key markets worldwide.

The major hydrogen car manufacturers are Toyota, Honda and Hyundai primarily deployed in California, Japan and Germany. Mercedes has launched a GLC F-cell in Germany.

Transporting and storing hydrogen has been the main issue holding this development back. This area is developing rapidly.

Hydrogen can now be stored in a solid form in a chemical called sodium borohydride, for example. Carbohydrates and unsaturated organic compounds can store huge amounts of hydrogen too. Watch this space.

Defender gets a new look

It looks svelt, but can it do veld?

 

Land Rover Defender 110

The off-road icon is back, well soon anyway.
At the heart of Land Rover, the brand, is the Defender. A tough no-nonsense workhorse in the past. The big question with the new one is: Is it as tough as the old Landy?
Hard to say just yet, but there is much to be happy about, on paper at least.
New Defender will be available in 90 (short wheel base) and 110 (long wheel base) body designs, with up to six seats in the 90 and the option of five, six or 5+2 seating in the 110.

Defender remains a beast of burden with a maximum payload of up to 900kg, static roof load of up to 300kg, dynamic roof load of 168kg, towing capacity of 3,500kg and wading depth of up to 900mm. The wheels are still in the corners allowing for excellent approach and departure angles.
A dash-mounted gear shifter is used to accommodate an optional central front ‘jump’ seat, which provides three-abreast seating across the front just like early Land Rovers.

Alex Heslop, Director of Electrical Engineering, Jaguar Land Rover, says: “The new Defender is a future-proofed 4×4 for the 21st century, using the latest technologies to optimise efficiency, enhance capability and revolutionise connectivity. With software updates that are sent over the air and next-generation always-on touchscreen infotainment, new Defender is every bit as pioneering today as the original Land Rover was in 1948.”

The new Defender has Land Rover’s (also new) Electrical Vehicle Architecture, which includes a state-of-the-art forward-facing digital camera, advanced ultrasonic sensors and 3Gbit/s onboard network supporting a comprehensive suite of driver assistance technologies. These include a 3D Surround Camera providing both 360-degree plan and new 3D exterior perspective views of the surrounding area, both off and on road providing enhanced augmented on-screen visualisation when using Tow Sensing, Wade Sensing and Land Rover’s ClearSight Ground View transparent bonnet technology, to improve visibility of the vehicle’s surroundings.

The new body architecture provides ground clearance of 291mm and world-class off-road geometry, giving the 110 approach, breakover and departure angles of 38, 28 and 40 degrees (Off Road height) respectively. Landy no longer uses the old ladder-frame chassis but has opted for a new lightweight aluminium monocoque construction to create a much stiffer body structure, they call D7x (for extreme).

When launched locally, diesel power will be provided by a 177kW D240 engine, with sequential twin turbo technology providing 430Nm of torque and fuel economy of 7.7 l/100km and CO2 emissions of 204g/km (NEDC equivalent). Acceleration from 0-100km/h comes in a leisurely 9.1 seconds.
Petrol power comes from a powerful 3.0-litre P400 featuring mild hybrid electric vehicle (MHEV) technology with 294kW and 550Nm. The in-line six-cylinder Ingenium petrol engine features a conventional twin-scroll turbocharger and delivers 0-100km/h in 6.1 seconds and claimed fuel consumption of 9.9l/100km with CO2 emissions of 226g/km (NEDC equivalent).

The engines are coupled to an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox with high and low range , centre differential and optional Active Locking Rear Differential.

HyperFocal: 0

A new Satin Protective Film option makes 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-fitted option with Indus Silver, Gondwana Stone and Pangea Green colours, providing a unique contemporary finish as it protects. Opting for this finish is a no-brainer.
No less than four Accessory Packs are available: The Explorer, Adventure, Country and Urban Packs. I recommend the Adventure pack which features an integrated air compressor, exterior side-mounted gear carrier, seat backpack, portable rinse system, spare wheel cover, bright rear scuff plate and mud flaps.

In addition to the Accessory Packs, new Defender is available with a wide variety of accessories from a remote control electric winch, rooftop tent and inflatable waterproof awnings to more conventional tow bar systems and roof racks.

Prices for the Defender 110 at launch, in the first half of 2020, will start at R910 400. While the expected price of the 90, to follow in the second half of 2020, will start at R830 300 (TBC).

The direct competition is the Mitsubishi Pajero, Nissan Patrol and various Toyota Land Cruisers.