Audi’s Touareg-based Q7 luxury SUV appears to already be a hit. Audi claims to have expected orders of about 2000 units, but with all the deliberately leaked press-shots and massive ad-spend on the vehicle’s creation, orders are already far over 11 000 units globally. Coming to South Africa in the second half of 2006, you’d better hurry if you want one – the local waiting list is already over 3000! And with good reason – the creator of the Quattro all-wheel drive has created a luxury SUV that combines all the usual sporty elements with genuine off-road versatility and superior technology, while not losing sight of sprightly performance. Viewed from most angles, it makes Merc’s ML and BMW’s X5 look like toys, and will undoubtedly soon be a prominent volume seller for Audi, just like the (also Touareg-based) Cayenne is for Porsche.


Volkswagen South African recently announced that it would be launching a select group of models from its Spanish marquee, SEAT, locally around June. Pronounced ‘say-at’ –all SEAT models are based on already-existing Volkswagen products. But the big surprise lies in exterior design – no conservative German styling here, sir: dramatic, emotive lines with true Spanish passion are the order of the day. Styled by Walter da Silva, VW’s head designer, new models have a slight Alfa Romeo-feel to it (he also penned the Alfa 147), but with the reliability and quality we’ve come to expect from VW. Three models will be coming to South Africa, namely the Ibiza (recently face-lifted), the glorious new Leon, and the sporty Altea MPV. Dedicated dealerships will be made available, although all service and maintenance duties will be handled by existing VW and Audi dealerships. Expect a livelier performance than the Golf, and also expect a slight price premium.


Ford continued its fast-paced new model rollout with the recent release of the brand new Focus ST. Immediately identifiable as a Focus, the ST sports beautiful (and big) alloy wheels, a lower suspension, aggressive bumpers with brushed aluminium highlights, twin exhausts with chrome detailing and a neat tail-spoiler – a look that really makes the ST look meaner than its siblings. Fitted with a 169kW 2.5-litre engine borrowed from sister-company Volvo, it’s also the most powerful Focus to date – performance to match the looks. Priced at R250 000 it goes head-to-head with Volkswagen Golf GTI in just about every aspect, bettering it in some and losing out on others. However, the Focus comes shockingly close to the legendary new GTI’s overall superiority, and, with Ford’s brand perception already improving rapidly, I suspect we’ll see many more of these powerful Blue Ovals on our roads.


At last, all James Bond wannabes can have the wheels to match their delusional personalities. Famed British motor manufacturer Aston Martin recently opened its first showroom and dealership in South Africa, (co-incidentally – or not – diagonally opposite the JSE in Rivonia Road, Sandton). By now, the state-of-the-art showroom is probably a familiar sight, but just like Viglietti Motors’ Ferrari showroom in Cape Town, I have no idea how one can drive past it without at least drooling uncontrollably. Hand-built (or should that be crafted?) in the UK, you can now order your choice of Vanquish S, DB9 or Vantage in the exact specification you require in your own back yard, and this from a dedicated dealer. Mind you, that’s if you can actually afford it of course; the ‘baby’ of the range, the Vantage, retails for approximately R1 450 000…


Just when I decided that Ssangyong couldn’t create a car uglier than its Stavic MPV, they released the new Kyron SUV. Sure, the interior quality is good and it’s packed with all the luxury and safety features you can buy for R249 995.00, but really…what’s the point of paying a quarter of a million Rand for an SUV that truly looks hideous? From the front and side the car looks rather modern and sporty, but then it all goes wrong with OTT detailing on the tailgate and tail lamps that conjure up images of medieval battle-shields. With that kind of money you could also buy a top-of-the-range Hyundai Tucson, a Nissan X-Trail, or a Toyota RAV-4. You can even get a base-model Jeep Cherokee or the brilliant Subaru Forester. Thanks, Ssangyong, but no thanks – how you could create a vehicle with such inferior styling to compete in such an important market segment is a mystery to me.


After the Competition Commission last year investigated and fined a number of local motor manufacturers and importers for price fixing and restrictions on minimum resale values, it’s good to see that some manufacturers and importers are paying attention and doing something about the exorbitant new car prices. One of the importers that kicked off the year with price-savings is Citroën SA; it introduced a 1.6-litre version of the radically-styled C4 coupe at a mere R154 995.00. The top-of-the-line 2.0 VTS Coupe followed, with its price recently slashed by a whopping R50 000 to only R199 995!

But that’s not all. The company then gave their bubble-shaped C3 a very successful mid-life makeover and reduced the prices of all petrol derivatives – the 1.4i now comes in at a very competitive R115 995 (a R12 000 saving) and the 1.6i at R129 995 (a massive R24 000 saving!). The more frugal 1.4 HDI’s price stays firm at a competitive R129 995. Hopefully the price reductions will spill over to the spunky C2 as well (all C2 models now cost between R5 000 and R15 000 more than their respective C3 counterparts). Sure, exterior styling is completely different, but I don’t see how the C2’s admittedly modern, funky design is worth such a premium. Time will tell!

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