Words & Photos: Francois Steyn - drivethis.wordpress.com
BMW M6 Convertible: BMW is famous for its world-beating powerplants, with the 330i’s straight six having won engine of the year six years in a row. The 4.4-litre M TwinPower Turbo 8-cylinder petrol engine, with two twinscroll turbo chargers, is combined with Valvetronic, double VANOS and High Precision Injection to make it another superb example of German engineering at its best. Delivering 415 kW (that’s 40 more than the Jag XKR and 20 more than Merc’s SL63 AMG) and 680 Nm of torque from as low as 1,500revs per minute, you’ll see a 100 from standstill in 4.3 seconds. Top speed is limited to 250 km/h, but the speedo is marked all the way to 330 to hint at its capabilities were it not for a gentlemen’s agreement. To give you an idea, the S-version of the XKR is limited to 300 km/h, but has the same torque as the M6 and 10kW less power. Pure madness, but is it drivable?
Getting in, you’re surrounded by two-tone leather: light grey seats and centre console, with a black dash, steering wheel, and pillar posts. There’s brushed aluminium and ample carbon fibre too, but no teak decking, thank goodness! Pressing the Start button rewards you with a burble of burnt fuel from the quartet of pipes at the rear. Each time you switch off the engine, the three-way settings for steering, suspension, gearshifts, and engine power all turn to the default 'tame' setting. This makes the M6 as drivable and comfortable as any 5-series saloon. Fiddle with the aforementioned buttons next to the gear lever and you can customise the car to your liking. For pre-set Msettings, there are two buttons on the multifunction (heatable and electrically adjustable) steering wheel. M1 turns all the settings to Sport and M2, and after asking for confirmation switches all to Sport+ and deactivates the traction control. Beware though, as the drivetrain has no problem with braking traction on dry tar, even with the optional 20-inch wheels that boast 295 section rubber at the rear. Luckily, when traction control is engaged, the power is immediately cut. It really is impossible to fully enjoy the acceleration of the M6 as you’ll be doing jail time before you hit third gear if you keep your foot glued to the floor.
I drove the less-attractive convertible, but don’t get me wrong because it is still a stunner. It's just that the coupé has a much more balanced look. The soft top can be opened electronically while driving slowly, and takes less than a minute to fold away. Once the top is down you can share the high-quality sounds emanating from the optional Bang & Olufsen surround sound system. There’s a six disc DVD changer in the cubby hole and you can connect your devices via Bluetooth or USB. The optional M multifunction seats include electric adjustment of the upper section of the backrest, backrest width, thighrest and headrest height for both passenger and driver. It can be heated or cooled, and in our test car we had the optional massage function for both front occupants. It’s quite an awkward, though not unpleasant, feeling as one butt cheek lifts and then the other.
The safety features are too many to mention, but some of the novel ones include Lane Departure Warning, Roll-over Protection for the convertible and a Head-up Display as standard. Optional extras are BMW Night Vision with object recognition and Lane Change Warning. It also has ISOFIX child seat anchors in the rear seats, which are also suitable for adults. I would love to have tested this car on a track or runway, but on the road it corners flat, brakes on demand with excellent feel, and accelerates like a 4th of July firecracker. For just shy of R1.5 million it is good value compared to more expensive (but no quicker) supercars that do not come with a comprehensive five year, 100,000 km BMW Motorplan.
Toyota Fortuner 2.5 D-4D VNT Raised Body
Toyota has once again followed the pizza approach with their model range design. Let me explain. On any pizza menu there are always a couple of near-perfect combinations, save for one or two missing toppings (usually pineapple). The reason they do this is so that one perfect pizza does not cannibalise the sales of all the other great options. In the Fortuner range, there’s no doubt in my mind that a 4x4 version of the 2.5 D-4D would have topped the charts. Sadly though, that delicious option is not available. However, the 2.5 D-4D delivers 106 kW, only 14 less than the 3-litre, and the same amount of torque, albeit with a slightly narrower rev range. At 150 km/h it’s not out of breath and it has ABS, EBD, BAS, airbags, front- and rear fog lamps, and even Vehicle Stability Control. It's also lighter on fuel than the 3.0 D-4D, and on a fully-laden trip to Sutherland it averaged 8.5 l/100 km. The fuel tank takes 80 litres, which meant that if we were careful we could have covered the nearly 1,000km trip on one tank.
We drove through the Tankwa Karoo National Park and the Fortuner proved very comfortable over the rough corrugations. The stability control warning light did flash once or twice when a dip in the road surprised me, but it did not feel unsafe at all. The high profile bakkie tyres and full size spare wheel gave me peace of mind as I’ve had a flat there once in a SUV with an emergency spare. The layout inside is versatile, with a 60:40 split for the second row of seats and a 50:50 split for the foldable third row. There is air-conditioned ventilation at the rear as well, so everyone stays comfortable on long journeys.
The interior of the 2.5 D-4D is toned down compared to the high-end 3-litre and does not have park assist or automatic cruise control. It does have auto levelling halogen headlamps as standard features though. For most families this entry-level Fortuner is the perfect vehicle, and if I was in the market for a new car this would be on my shortlist. My only concern is that if you, like my wife and I, enjoy exploring remote and wild locations without backup, you really do need 4x4 with low range for the 2% of roads that are impassable. The 2.5 does, however, have an electronic diff-lock to get you out of the other 98% of awkward situations.
Chevrolet Sonic Hatch 1.3D LS
At arm’s length, the Sonic Hatch may not stand out in the crowded hatchback segment, but upon closer inspection there are a few welcome surprises. Firstly, the funky, game-like instrumentation works well and is not overdone or cheap looking. Secondly, the little 1.3-litre oil burner pushes out a healthy 70 kW of power and 210 Nm of torque, while sipping diesel like a teetotaller. During our week with the Sonic we averaged 5.5l/100km without trying to break any economy run records.
Although it’s not a hot hatch, it does inspire a sense of driving pleasure through a combination of its positive feel six-speed gearbox, the perfectly shaped steering wheel, and large analogue rev counter mounted on the steering column. The latter is complemented by an LCD screen that shows your speed in bright blue digital numbers, as well as range left, fuel consumption, and trip distance, to name but a few features. On the multifunction steering wheel you will also find the cruise control, audio buttons, and hands-free operation of your cell phone. Even with its funky theme, the interior won't be outclassed by a Polo or Yaris.
On the safety side it has ABS with EBD, as well as driver-, passenger- and frontside airbags. The 460-litre fuel tank is good for 800 km on the open road and the boot can be expanded from 290 to 653-litres when the seats are folded. Included in the R184400 price tag is a three year / 60,000 km service plan.