Ford Raptor hatches

It’s fierce, it is fast and it is furious. It is also wider, rides higher and is brilliant in sand and on fast Kalahari tracks.

It is the new Ford Ranger Raptor. The ultimate big boy’s toy.

Ford Ranger Raptor

Although the new Raptor is based on the Ranger platform, it is a very different beast. The development team were given a blank cheque and told to make the fastest off-road bakkie, perhaps inspired by the very rapid US F-150 based Raptor.

Ranger Raptor suspension

They started with the chassis, which they widened by 150mm, strengthened and stiffened. An entirely new suspension was developed by Ford Australia which includes high performance Fox shocks Position Sensitive Damping, a Watts linkage at the back, forged aluminium upper control arms and cast aluminium lower control arms. This gives the Raptor 32% more travel at the front and 22% at the rear. An enhanced version of Ford Stability Control incorporating Roll Mitigation Function and Electronic Stability Control; Trailer Sway Control; Hill Start Assist; Hill Descent Control and Load Adaptive Control helps keep things under control.

“The standout experience of the Ranger Raptor, hands down, is how far you can push it off-road versus any other available standard production road vehicle, and still provide amazing ride comfort on-road,” says Damien Ross, chief program engineer, Ford Ranger Raptor. BF Goodrich developed new 285/70 R17 all-terrain tyres specially for the Raptor.

Top speed is governed at 178km/h due to the tyres. The Raptor cabin is exceptionally quiet when cruising on the highway.  This is due to a combination of good tyre design, noise cancelling technology and double glazing for the side windows.

The new suspension and tyres give the Raptor a ground clearance of 283mm and a wading depth of 870 mm.

The 2.0-litre Bi-Turbo engine gets quite growly when pushed, but pleasantly so, producing a very useful 157kW and 500Nm and is mated to Ford’s advanced new 10-speed automatic transmission with magnesium paddle shifters. A unique transmission calibration also includes a Live In Drive (LID) function enabling prompt manual gear selection override.

During a drive from Upington to Goera Pan we got 9.7 L/100km at a steady 120 km/h but consumption  goes up to 16 odd at 160km/h. That is still not bad for a big bakkie.

This bakkie handles beautifully both on and off-road.  Three drive settings –  2H, 4H and 4L and six modes provide the magic. If you want to have fun you select Baja mode, which is one of the 6 modes of what Ford calls the Terrain Management System: normal, sport, sand, snow, mud and fun, er, Baja. Systems such as Traction Control are pared back to allow more spirited off-road driving, while gear selection is optimised for maximum performance, holding gears longer and downshifting more aggressively.

Driving on the Goera Pan on a specially laid out “rally” track with a variety of surfaces, bumps, dips, very soft sand, hard stoney packed stretches was an eye opener. Especially when Gareth Woolridge took the wheel of the Raptor.

The interior of the Raptor is about function. It is effectively a sports car. The blue stitching on the top of the dash and on the  really comfortable and supportive seats which are covered in technical suede add a light touch. The instrumentation is top notch, especially the “trip computer” which is actually a whole lot more. Ford’s Synch 3 infotainment system is good and easy to use and has Apple CarPlay or Android Auto . The navigation is by “Maps for Africa”  and comes with an update licence for 5 years.

There are extra ports at the back.

The Electronic Power Assist Steering (EPAS) is also linked to the TMS, providing varying levels of assistance and responsiveness according to the specific drive mode selected

The exterior is quite butch but bakkie like. Personally I think it fits the bill, especially in grey and white, although most of the media contingent like the blue version. Raptor looks the part, the big bruiser from the blue oval. Other bakkies just look peh in comparison.

The actual colours are: Ford Performance Blue, Colorado Red, Absolute Black, Frozen White and Conquer Grey, with contrasting Dyno Grey accents.

The Raptor is about going very fast over sandy or open terrain. It is a high performance vehicle. The looks, the interior, the finish, (good as they all are) are somewhat immaterial. It is the go that counts.

Raptor has all the safety systems and equipment of the normal Ranger.

The retail price of R786 400 is reasonable in the context of the delivery.

All Ford Rangers come standard with Ford Protect, comprising 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, with 15 000km service intervals.

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Simola Hillclimb 2019

The 2019 Jaguar Simola Hillclimb was quite a varied affair. This 10th year of hillclimb at Knysna was a real celebration of the decade leading up to it.

Mustang at full throttle at the start of a practice run

I thought the viewing spot just above the Castrol stand between turns 2 and 3 was the best for viewing the runs, except for the Mitchell’s beer stall which was disgraceful. They kept selling vouchers after they knew their equipment was broken but refused to do refunds. Needless to say never a Mitchell’s for me again.

But enough of that. Felt so sorry for Charl Joubert in his Lotus Honda. He lost it in turn three.

Charl making contact with the embankment.

Fortunately he could walk away.

Franco Scribante went on to win the King of the Hill in Class B5 in his 2016 Nissan R35 GT-R with hectic wings on the front. The car not only looked menacing but made quite a noise. Loads of bang for your buck.

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The I-Pace EV400 electric 294kW Jaguars caused quite a stir as they almost silently pranced up the hill. But without any real sound or smell it just does not do it for me. Call me old school.

Whaaat? Duracells you say? No man. You just wind them up.

Full results at: https://www.speedfestival.co.za/category/results/2019-results/

The Simola Hillclimb is really worth visiting.

There is so much else to see around Knysna that you should stay for two weeks. We stayed at Jungalo guest house in the neighbouring village of Sedgefield, which has a wonderful market to keep the ladies occupied while the lads hit the hill.

Have fun.

#JaguarSHC

Ford Fiesta Diesel

Driving Ford’s little oil burner is a real pleasure. It is an example of a design and engineering team getting it right.

The balance between performance and comfort, power and economy, price and value seems to be spot on. The driving dynamics are superb and build quality is very good.

Ford Fiesta Diesel

The new Fiestas look and are bigger than the old model, which is now called the Figo. It feels that the usable space is both bigger and more practical as is the boot. Overall this new little Ford looks good inside and out.

The Fiesta 1.5 TDCi Trend 6 MT is the model name of the Fiesta I drove. That means it is a 6-speed manual turbo diesel with the Trend or standard trim level. The top specification is the Titanium, but is not available with a diesel engine.

Ford’s Synch III infotainment system with voice control and Bluetooth is a joy to use. It is easy to set up, easy to understand and easy to use. There are two USB ports with charging functionality, integration with you cell phone and a colour touchscreen. Directly in front of the driver is an additional trip computer display with several options.

Standard equipment includes controls on steering wheel, daytime running lights, halogen headlamps, airconditioner, hill launch assist and auto stop – start.

Safety kit is comprehensive and includes ABS brakes with brakeforce assist and distribution control, traction control, airbags, front fog lights, cornering lamps and reverse parking sensors.

Fuel consumption is claimed to be 3.3L/100km but expect 4L/100km on the open road and around 5.5L/100km in town, which in real terms is good.

Fiesta is fun to drive, with excellent road manners, nicely weighted steering and brakes, a feeling of woema when you put foot and an oh-so-smooth gearbox.

This Fiesta raises the bar and is the benchmark for how a small car should drive.

Equipment included in the standard price surpasses that of most of the competition which means you are actually getting good value for money.

This is a car I have really enjoyed to drive. I would also consider the automatic 1.0 T turbo-petrol model which is priced at R277 300 and may be the sweet spot of the range.

The diesel Trend Fiesta is listed at R292 500. The range starts at R261 900 and tops out at R310 600.

The warranty is for 4 years or 120 000km and the base price includes a 4 year or 60 000 km service plan.

The direct competition includes its own sibling, the Figo which is the previous Fiesta, the VW Polo and Vivo, Mazda 2, Suzuki Baleno, Kia Rio, Honda Jazz and Hyundai i20.

Nissan Micra 2018 review

Nissan Micra

When is a Micra not a Micra? When it is the new Nissan Micra. Then its more like a Renault Clio.

Nissan Micra 2018

The new Micra is much bigger than the original Micra and is effectively the same size as its sibling , the present Clio and a B segment contender. So, new car, new shape, new size. Only the name remains the same.

I personally like the more assertive look and additional space.

The rear three quarter view is particularly striking and pleasing to the eye. The rear door handles are integrated into the black C pillars and almost disappear. The whole rear design has been well executed. The new look in front is more serious and is also a big improvement on the previous model.

The noise levels in the cabin are more than acceptable as is the general ambience. It has a premium feel to it.

The two tone interior is pleasing to the eye and very functional, except for the driver’s seat which I found tended to numb the nether regions on slightly longer drives.

The infotainment system is simple but up-to-date and very easy to use. Bluetooth connectivity for the phone is easy to set up and works flawlessly and is very clear. The air conditioner is not very powerful but will cool the car down after a while and then keep it cool.

The fully functional steering wheel is just right as is the weight of the steering. The clutch, gears, brakes are all well set up except in a particular situation, more of which below.

Fuel consumption will vary between 5L/100km on the open road to slightly over 7L/100km in general driving. Going uphill is a different kettle of fish. The engine only delivers really usable power around 3000 rpm to about 4500. As a result you have to change down probably two gears on a hill to get the revs up so that you can actually go up the hill, and in so doing your consumption will shoot up to 16L/100km or more.

This is perhaps due to the Renault-sourced 0.9-litre, 3-cylinder turbopetrol engine which offers 66 kW and 140 Nm of torque, mated to a 5-speed manual transmission, just not having enough grunt.

The new Micra comes well equipped on the safety front with 6-airbags, ABS with EBD, Electronic Stability Control, Hill Start Assist and ISOFIX child seat mounts.

The boot is okay and the space for the spare wheel will accommodate a full spare if you don’t like a marie biscuit space saver spare. The new emergency wheels are very good though and will allow you to drive a few hundred km at a safe 80km/h.

Pricing starts at R233 500 for the base model, the mid-level Acenta costs R257 500, while the top-of-the-range model is R272 400. I think the mid-range model hits the sweet spot.

Cars in the same category include the Mazda 2, Volkswagen Polo, Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio, Toyota Yaris, Hyundai i20, Kia Rio and Peugeot 208.

You get a 6-year/150 000 km warranty and a 3-year/90 000 km service plan thrown in.

Suzuki Dzire 1.2 GL review

Small sedan, big Dzire 

Suzuki is very good at making very good small cars. They confirm this status with the new second generation Dzire, in effect the sedan version of the popular Swift, with which it shares a platform and everything up to the “A” pillar.
Many manufacturers have the two shapes. For example Ford Figo and Toyota Etios have both hatch and sedan versions and the Honda Brio is called the Amaze in sedan guise. But Suzuki deals with the twin style and personality best.

Suzuki Dzire 1.2 GL

“The Dzire is a smoother, smarter design with a character that’s quite different from the Swift hatchback,” Deon Schoeman says in Daily Maverick. He gets it spot on.

An interesting differentiation is used in the trim colour. Swift models have a red and a more sporty theme, while the Dzire has silver accents and is more conservative.
Economy

The tried-and-tested 1.2-litre 4-cylinder naturally-aspirated petrol engine produces 61 kW and 113 Nm, which seems a bit pap, but the low kerb weight of under 900 kg and a smooth, quick 5-speed manual gearbox gives the Dzire almost nippy performance. There is enough oomph for safe overtaking, and highway cruising at the legal limit is fairly effortless.

Expect around or just above 5L/100km in normal usage. I got 5.4L/100km which included very windy conditions, hills, town driving and highway cruising at the legal limit.

A new almost classic instrument cluster with a multi-information display is standard. The GL version adds a tachometer, rear air vents, extra 12V socket, audio system with USB and easy-to-use Bluetooth support, steering wheel-mounted controls and electrically adjustable, colour-coded side mirrors. GL specification also includes a foldable rear armrest with integrated cup holders.

The rear legroom is the best in this class, The rear accommodation is generous. It’s spacious, even for adults, with plenty of leg and shoulder room, giving a big-car feel which would be ideal for a taxi or Uber. Or a soccer mom.
The boot can hold 26% more luggage than the old model with 378 L, limited only by the rear seat which cannot fold down to enlarge the boot, but does add security.
At the rear there is an air vent and a separate 12V socket. There’s also a fold-down armrest with two cup holders.

Safety is good for this class with dual front air bags, and ABS brakes with electronic brake force distribution.
According to cars.co.za, “The Suzuki Dzire [has a] low price, generous space, and ease of use, the Dzire makes a great argument for simple motoring.” The Dzire is a very capable small car for people wanting to get from A to B easily, reliably and without fuss.

The impression one gets is of a car which is very well put together, solid, frugal and reliable.

The Suzuki Dzire 1.2 GL costs R177 900, which includes a very reassuring 5-year or 200 000 km mechanical warranty and 2-year or 30 000 km service plan.

Some alternatives include the Toyota Etios 1.5 Sprint sedan at R184k, Honda Brio 1.2 Trend sedan at R175, Ford Figo Ambiente 1.5 at R187 200 and of course the slightly more expensive VW Vivo Sedan.

Peugeot 3008 GT-line reviewed

Peugeot 3008 GT-line THP 1.6 Auto

Peugeot 3008 GT-line THP 1.6 Auto

Comfortable. Capable. Chic.

That about sums up the Peugeot 3008 GT-line, except perhaps one should mention it is absolutely loaded with a full-house of tech and it offers good space for a family of four and fuel consumption figures are pretty good. The 3008 must be close to a perfect family car.

All the new Peugeots are good looking cars and the 3008, especially the GT-line is no exception. The flowing lines and proportions are pleasing to the eye. The interior is also successful but different. Inside and out the styling is top drawer, functional, efficient and easy on the eye.

I particularly like the small steering wheel, the beautifully stitched seats, the double row of control buttons (which means the i-cockpit touch screen need not be used all the time) and the general ambience of the cabin.
The interior is very close to being class leading, especially at the front. Brilliant use of space and ergonomic design means that the impression is one of space and comfort.

The i-cockpit infotech system is very up-to-date offering a full digital display which is highly personalisable and offers a user-friendly digital dashboard.

This segment of the car market is a little difficult to pin down as its edges are very blurred. These cars are something between a crossover, sports utility vehicle, softroader and a truncated station wagon. Or even an expanded hatch! Take your pick. Let us call the 3008 a crossover.

On the softroader side the competition includes the Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson and Nissan Qashqai. Other crossover/ SUV type vehicles include the Audi Q3, Mazda CX5, VW Tiguan, Haval H6 C, Honda CR-V and Ford Kuga. I am not to sure what to call the BMW X1, a jaded motoring scribe said the first generation was a mistake. But, let’s step on.

Most of these cars are really on-road cars, as is the 3008.

Peugeot 3008 GT-line THP 1.6 Auto

The 1.6 turbo-petrol engine, coupled to the six-speed auto box, is just right for this car giving the right balance between performance and consumption. Peugeot claim 7 L/100km average consumption and a top speed of 201km/h. I don’t know about the top speed but I can say acceleration feels almost nippy and cruising at the legal limit feels effortless. I got a credible 8.4 L/100km. This refined engine is the gem of the PSA stable and is also used in the 308.

With this car Peugeot appear to have taken a giant leap in quality control and engineering. It always feels poised and willing.

As is to be expected the 3008 has a full suite of active and passive safety features.

The 3008 GT-line costs R519 000 which includes a very full specification advanced tech suite and the usual three year or 100 000 km warranty with a 4 year or 60 000 service plan.

Nissan Navara 4×2 review

Nissan Navarra 2.3D LE 4X2 AT DC

After building bakkies for 77 years for its own brand, among them the evergreen NP300 Hardbody and the 1400 of my youth; and now building bakkies for Renault and Mercedes as well you would be forgiven for thinking they know how to build the things. Judging by the Navara, they do know.

The Navara is very close to the complete bakkie. Space, performance, poise, great fuel consumption, comfort and very capable, this Nissan does it all.

Nissan Navara LE 4×2 Auto

The specification level on this bakkie is very high. From things you expect like fog lights to some more exotic items like heated door mirrors. It is a match for any SUV when it comes to equipment.
Leather seats, power steering, climate control, infotainment centre, it has all the stuff you may want. A nice touch is a hollow in the dash with a power point, ideal for any powered electronic equipment from GPS to dashcam.

This Navara has no less than 37 safety and security items from ABS to VDC (vehicle dynamic control) check them out on the website for yourself at https://www.nissan.co.za/vehicles/new/New-Navara/Specifications.html#grade-D23-3|equipment.

I particularly love the rear camera with sensors and the 360° camera system which displays a rear image and an overhead image in the rear mirror. It makes this rather large and very long bakkie much more manoeuvrable and somehow smaller.

The cabin has been well designed and appears to be well screwed together. The driver’s seat is electrically adjustable and very comfortable. Rear legroom is good. There are a number of storage bins and places to keep things.

The highly capable 2.3 L twin-turbo common rail direct injection diesel engine pushes out a very respectable 140kW and 450Nm. Coupled with the smooth optional 7-speed automatic transmission as was the case in the bakkie we tested, it is a joy to drive and much more like a car than a truck, but you can still tow a 3,5 ton braked trailer and you have 229mm ground clearance.

The heavy duty 5-link coil rear spring suspension probably helps to make it act more like an SUV as well.
Nissan claim a combined average fuel consumption of 7 L/100 km, and the bakkie I drove indicated a lifetime economy of just that, but I drove mostly in town and averaged around 11 L/100 km. Still good for a vehicle this size.

At the back the Utili-track tie down system in the 1,5 m loadbay is a boon. The 1,36 m wide tailgate can be opened with one hand and appears to be very sturdy.
We previously tested the 4×4 and found it to be capable off-road. We can say that this 4×2 is really capable on road. Not having to lug the extra 4×4 kit wherever you go means all round performance is better and fuel economy even more so.

Nissan Navara LE 4×2

The Navara competes directly with the Mercedes X class, Volkswage Amarok, Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux. The Isuzu D-max is more truck-like and the Mitsubishi Triton slightly smaller and more wieldy. Don’t forget the super tough Mahindra and the capable and extremely good value for money GWM Steed 5 and slightly bigger Steed 6.

Prices start at R484 900 for the SE Manual, we tested the 4×2 LE Auto at R575 500.
Three years or 90 000 km is the warranty you get.