BABY-S STIRS THINGS UP
If you’re anything like me, you’d love a car that has the heart of a sports car underneath a modest layer of metal. If so, Audi’s recently launched new S3 might just be the one for you! While the A3 is an elegant, understated car, the S3 adds subtle hints that it’s not a run of the mill A3: more chrome on the front grille, aggressive and sporty spoilers, unique 18-inch alloys and subtle S3-badging is basically all that sets S3 apart from something like a 2.0T FSI. S3 rides 25mm lower than its siblings and in true Audi fashion – especially when it comes to their sportier offerings – S3 has a stiffer than usual suspension. It’s fitted with the same 2.0T FSI engine from the TT and Golf GTI but – luckily – it’s been tweaked beyond recognition to offer way more. One of these tweaks resulted in upping engine output from the standard 147kW to 188kW (at 6000rpm) and 350Nm of torque (between 2500 and 5000 rpm). This propels S3 to 100km/h in a mere 6.23 seconds before topping out at (an electronically limited) 250km/h. With top notch interior quality, a willing and trusted engine and that famous Quattro all included in its list price of R336 000, Audi’s latest S3 is a car seriously worth considering if you’re looking for something special. VW’s new Golf R32 may have a bigger engine and may be available in limited numbers only, but it’s definitely not worth R8 000 more than an S3. Vorsprung just gets better!
Kia Motors launched a revised version of its cute little Picanto at the Barcelona International Motor Show on June 7. Retaining the car’s young, sporty appeal, Kia has tweaked its exterior, upgraded the interior and added better quality audio equipment. New Picanto is 40mm longer due to its new, rounder nose and deeper, larger rear bumper. In addition, all-new panels have been designed for the bonnet, front wings and both the front and rear lights have been redesigned to incorporate the rounder theme. The company also introduced five new exterior colours, bringing choice up to a total of nine colours. The Picanto has been a critical success since its launch a few years ago, and with this mid-life tweak, Kia hopes to increase Picanto sales even more. It’s funky styling and city car practicality makes the Picanto one of the best entry-level choices on SA shores. Expect the face lifted model locally by October/November this year.
TWINGO CONFIRMED FOR SA
Renault recently announced that their budget Logan (which could, unfortunately, also be sold under the Dacia marque) for South Africa but seems to be launching a full-scale attack on our entry-level market. The French car maker recently confirmed that its brand new Twingo, which has been around in Europe for quite a while, is heading to SA. The Twingo is an adorable small car (only 3.6-metres long) and will be positioned below the Clio, most likely as competitor to Peugeot and Citroen’s 107 and C1 babies. The European range features a number of engine options, but none have been confirmed as definite local options. However, these may include one of three 1.2-litre engines (43kW, 56kW and a 74kW turbocharged respectively) and a 47kW 1.5-litre turbodiesel. Twingo has loads of nifty features, like four independently sliding chairs and an Audio Connection Box which allows owners to play their music (whether it is on a USB key, portable MP3 player or iPod) through the car’s audio system and operate it via the steering wheel controls. Twingo’s arrival is scheduled for early 2008 and to date, no prices have been confirmed.
With a multitude of concepts recently on display, it seems the expanse of BMW’s range of vehicles is quickly catching up with that of rivals Mercedes Benz. Spurred on by the gorgeous CS concept that was displayed at the Shanghai Motor Show, insiders are positive that it is the frontrunner for a car that could carry the Z6 label – a four-door coupe to compete with Merc’s (very) successful CLS. Although the CS concept is larger than the existing 5- and 6-series, it is believed that the future Z6 will be priced smack in the middle of the two models, with engines mirroring those currently available in the 5 and 6 and a possible launch as soon as end-2008. It is also rumored that the CS concept is showcasing BMW’s future design direction, most notably a more aggressive grille and tapered roofline. It doesn’t stop there though: BMW is reportedly also working on a coupe-version of the X5 (logically dubbed the X6) to compete with the Range Rover Sport, a Z9 to tackle Mercedes Benz’s SL and – believe it or not – an MPV. In fact, BMW is planning an entire mini-MPV range, dubbed the F-series. First for release in the new range will probably be the low-slung F5, with rumors already doing the rounds that an F3 and F7 is also on the cards to rival Merc’s B- and R-classes. But, fear not: driving dynamics will still be outstanding, and some vehicles might even feature BMW’s brilliant xDrive System. As with all German cars, performance versions are also quite possible, so keep an eye out for an M-version…
POLO GOES RUGGED
As reported from Auto Africa last year, Volkswagen’s new CrossPolo has finally arrived in South Africa. In essence a stock Polo hatchback with an SUV-imitating body kit and raised suspension, the CrossPolo is fitted with VW’s trusted 1.9 TDI engine that delivers 74kW and 4000 rpm and maximum torque of 240Nm – nothing new or exciting there then. But, the CrossPolo’s look is definitely what makes the car. Its raised suspension makes a big difference to the Polo’s normally generic look, with the silver-coloured roof rails, black mouldings around the body, silver side-mirrors with integrated indicators and 17-inch wheels certainly adding to the sporty look. However, priced at R182 000 it isn’t cheap; VW could at least have thrown in their 5-year/60 000km AutoMotion Maintenance Plan as a standard feature. Logically, the CrossPolo is one of those pointless vehicles: it looks like a 4X4 but isn’t and has a standard-issue engine. Luckily for VW, many of us are image driven and I for one would gladly fork out the additional R3000 (on the 1.9 TDI Sportline’s base price) to not fit in with the crowd.
DA SAVES THE DAY
A political frenzy erupted at the end of May when Business Day reported that Government is looking at introducing an additional tax to owners of what they call gas-guzzling vehicles. According to reports, a tax of up to 33% was being considered on the selling price of SUVs, while annual licensing fees could be doubled – all in an attempt by the Department of Minerals and Energy to promote greater energy efficiency. The proposed tax model suggested that a levy of between 2% to 33 % be introduced on the selling prices of vehicles, depending on the vehicles’ kilowatts, with an additional 20% levy included on all SUVs. Levies of between 5% and 100% would be included on annual licensing fees, but hatchbacks of 1.6-litre and smaller would be exempted.
Thankfully our Official Opposition stepped in to save the day, criticising the proposal on the basis that almost all cars will be taxed and that not even the most efficient models will benefit from the proposal, furthermore calling the proposed tax a ‘money-making scheme’. “Kilowatt output is not necessarily the best measure of damage to the environment because