By now most people are aware of the R8, Audi’s entry into the sportscar arena. Stealing the show at Auto Africa last year, the R8 will see Audi – as a manufacturer – competing in a whole new segment of the market even though they’ve gained invaluable experience since taking over Lamborghini. With a design that’s like no Audi ever before, the R8 manages to still look 100% Audi; its aluminium space-frame body weighing a mere 210kg. A characteristic feature of the side view is the “side blade”, which not only accentuates the engine’s position visually, but also acts as an air deflector. Up front, the R8 gets standard bi-xenon headlights and daytime running lights comprising twelve light-emitting diodes – day and night alike. And at the rear, LED tail lights with a three-dimensional effect have successfully been used for the first time. It’s simply a breathtaking design that manages to stir up emotions whilst being sporty and aggressive. Featuring a 313kW V8 FSI engine and Quattro permanent four-wheel drive, the R8 goes from 0 to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds (whether with manual gearbox or with Rtronic sequential gear shifting) before reaching a top speed of 301km/h. The Rtronic gear shifting features shift paddles on the steering wheel, is all-new and, according to Audi, operates faster than even the most adept of drivers. A Launch Control system allows for faster pull-aways while the Quattro permanent four-wheel drive provides extra traction and driving safety. The Audi R8 comes ready-equipped with a 140w audio system, an alarm system, automatic air conditioning and a driver information system with stopwatch for taking lap times. The sports seats are trimmed in combined Alcantra/Leather and the 18-inch wheels are fitted on cast alloy wheels. The R8 will go on sale in Europe in the second quarter of this year with a basic price of €104 400. Local introduction is scheduled for the second half of 2007; round about September.


Whilst driving in Pretoria early one morning I noticed three Fiat Stilos in a matter of minutes. So what, you may ask? Well, what makes it so strange is that Fiat ain’t really selling that many vehicles in SA, not since the Uno was discontinued anyway. The odd-looking Multipla appears to be experiencing a revival, the Chroma seems to be an enigma, the Stilo never really managed to capture the buying public’s imagination, although the sporty Abarth has received some interest. So seeing three Stilos in a matter of minutes is quite a thing. But, things seem to be changing at the Italian manufacturer: the delightful albeit boxy Punto has been replaced with the gorgeous Grande Punto, and in Europe the Stilo has just been replaced with the equally gorgeous new Bravo. Similar in appearance to the Grande Punto but considerably bigger (think Golf 5), the new Bravo is fitted with a variety of engines which include turbocharged petrol and diesel engines. As with the Grande Punto, I really hope the Bravo will help revive the image of Italy’s oldest carmaker in SA once it goes on sale round about June or July; it is a truly gorgeous car in a typically Italian way. Bad resale values and a lack of marketing by Fiat SA have done considerable damage to the public’s perception of the marque even though their cars are solidly built and nippy to drive. If all else fails, the Uno – albeit in a slightly altered package and imported from Brazil – will be back on local shores as of April.


Having been exposed to life on a farm, dirt roads, getting stuck in mud and towing horseboxes in the past few years I’ve really comes to appreciate ‘bakkies’ – the must-have status symbol from the ‘90s that’ve been reduced to the poor man’s SUV in the new millennium – as a mode of transportation. However, we’ve never really had too many options when it came to good-looking, and more importantly able, double-cabs: Toyota’s Hilux remains the best-seller, followed by Isuzu’s KB-series, Nissan’s Hardbody, Mitsubishi’s Colt, Mazda’s Drifter and Ford’s Ranger. While the Hilux and the Isuzu may be the current kings of the double-cab market (with some competition being provided by Nissan’s gorgeously butch Navara), 2007 sees some intriguing new offerings being launched. First up will be Mitsubishi’s all-new Triton – a bakkie that initially looks rather odd when seen in isolation but is stunningly space-age compared to a Hilux. A phased launch sees the first models being released in March, followed by more in May and September. The Triton is only available as a double-cab, which will see the single-cab and Club Cab Colts remain on the price list. Also arriving towards the middle of the year is Ford’s all-new Ranger – a thoroughly modern new bakkie from the Blue Oval, with an uncanny resemblance to the 4Trac-concept as displayed at Auto Africa last year. A full range of single, double and super-cabs will be available. As is tradition, a Mazda derivative – the BT50 – will also be launched in 2007 to replace the geriatric Drifter. Prices for the Mitsubishi Triton, Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50 are yet to be announced.


Known for their flair and creativity in terms of design, it would appear as if France’s largest auto manufacturer, PSA Peugeot Citroen, thoroughly examined the SUV craze before venturing into the highly contested market sector. It may just pay off, as both the Peugeot 4007 and Citroen C-Crosser are decidedly striking new SUV entrants. Developed in conjunction with Mitsubishi Motors, the two SUV’s have a striking resemblance to each other from certain angles (especially the D-pillars) but manage to remain highly individualistic due to the distinct corporate identity of each manufacturer. Both will be fitted with a 2.2 HDI diesel engine (courtesy of Ford in yet another mutually beneficial partnership) which develops 115kW and 380Nm of torque. It is also possible to run the vehicles on a 30% mix of diesel biofuel without any modifications. It has not been confirmed yet whether either of these gorgeous off-roaders will make it to SA, but those in the know are guessing that the Citroen will be launched prior to the Peugeot. Considering both brands’ successes in SA, it’s almost a certainty that they will be very competitively priced once available locally.


For the size of country and market we are truly spoiled for choice when it comes to what we’d like to drive: most of the major international manufacturers are represented in the country, as are many of the lesser known ones, and even more are on their way. Looking ahead at what 2007 will hold for the SA motorist, it’s quite impressive that more than 100 new models will be launched. Some are mere facelifts, upgrades and model extensions, but some are brand new and eagerly anticipated. Now, if someone can only create a car that’s beautifully designed and well put together whilst still being affordable (without having to remove necessities like radios, aircon, airbags and power steering), we really would have something to be happy about… Happy motoring for 2007 – Mambaonline will keep you informed of absolutely everything that’s worth driving… and what you should stay far away from!

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