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Browsing: First Drives

After spending a great deal of time negotiating many thousands of kilometers in a previous version of the Renault Duster, it was with great anticipation that I accepted the invitation to the Nelspruit launch of the all-new Renault Duster. My co-driver felt the driver’s space was a little tight, but I did not share his sentiments.  I found the seats well bolstered, very comfortable and torso-hugging − which might have contributed to his feeling of less driver’s space. We had the opportunity to test the Duster in various conditions during the two-day launch; and, as I wrote in my review…

The wait is over. After 20 years, Suzuki has finally blessed the local automotive market with a brand-new Jimny, and it’s a monumental step-up from its predecessor. Visually, it’s a nostalgic return to the boxy, angular LJs and SJs of the 70s and 80s, with plenty of modern improvements. And before you say what we’re all thinking, Suzuki wants to clear something up – the first LJ preceded the first Gelandewagen by several years, so in fact, the G-Wagon looks like a Jimny! Despite first impressions, the new model is in fact pretty much the same size as the last…

When it comes to off-road performance, Ford’s new Raptor Ranger rewrites the rule book for production bakkies. Raptor is a name synonymous with off-road racing, Baja 1000 big-bore petrol engines, and adrenaline-fuelled driving. And now it’s been filtered down to the Ranger. But, instead of the twin-turbo 3.5-litre V6 petrol in America’s latest F-150-based version, we get a sprightly 2.0-litre, twin-turbo, four-cylinder diesel. Does this mean that Ford has softened the brand, or does the mini-Raptor still cut it for the adrenaline junkie? We went to the Aussie Outback for a flat-out drive to find out. Under the bonnet Although…

Maserati’s super-SUV has been its best seller in recent times, and with the global shift towards spacious family vehicles in full swing, it’s not hard to understand why the Italian stallion is doing so well. We spent some time with the range-topping Levante S to see what all the noise is about. The supercar SUV trend is inescapable. Soon, we’ll have the new Lamborghini Urus cruising through Camps Bay and Sandton, and it won’t be long before Ferrari follows suit. All the while, Maserati will have been quietly churning out Levantes from its Mirafiori production line in Turin. With coupe…

While on the recent Slovenian launch of the new Mercedes X-Class 350d 4Matic, I had ample opportunity to put the vehicle through its paces in the scenic surrounds of the capital city, Ljubljana, and test the new V6 offering on- and off-road. The X350d is the premier vehicle in the X-Class line-up. It is powered by a long-standing 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel in the Benz range, and offers a lot more grunt than the 2.3-litre four-pots in the X220d and X250d. In the lower models, torque is increased from the mid 400s to 550Nm − the benefit of which can be…

The departure of GM from SA, and with it the Chevrolet brand, left an SUV-sized hole in the Isuzu line-up; fortunately, the new custodians have now filled it with the Thailand-built Aussie-spec mu-X. The Trailblazer was no great volume seller in the mid-size ladder-on-frame bakkie-origins market here. This is properly dominated by Toyota’s Fortuner, with the Ford Everest taking the rest of the lion’s share, and the Pajero Sport now vying for the scraps. Not that the Trailblazer was bad, as it was quite a decent looker; it’s rather that the Chev nameplate had lost currency, and the interior plastics…

For the first time since 1979, the G-Class has seen a complete redesign, bringing it into the modern age without losing its off-road capability. It will land in SA later this year, and, according to Mercedes, the G-Class has been improved in all aspects from efficiency, to comfort and interior − and driving dynamics both on and off-road. Off-road prowess The most obvious departure from days gone by is the replacement of a front solid axle with a double-wishbone setup. Mercedes claim that the new front end is just as robust, and may even improve off-road capability. The most obvious…

Chris Collard takes a spin in the newest prodigy of the seven-slot legacy, and puts the minds of long-time fans at ease. When the Wrangler made its début in 1987 as the YJ, Jeep purists poked fun at Jeep’s new prodigy, casting derogatory insults such as “Yuppie Jeep” and “Real Jeeps have round headlights.” While I agree with them regarding round headlamps, the YJ retained the DNA of its venerable predecessors in the CJ lineup. It had solid axles, a reliable 6-cylinder mill, and traditional leaf springs. A decade later we met the coil-sprung TJ, and in 2007, the internationally acclaimed…

With a heritage dating back to the early 1950s, the Nissan Patrol has a long legacy, and a fervent fan base. Australian 4x4ers in particular are Patrol-obsessed, thanks to the vehicle’s heritage of an extremely strong ladder frame chassis, and bullet-proof diffs and gearboxes, making them perfect for serious, often competitive, off-road driving. Unlike the Y61 Patrol, the Y62 on show here favours luxury over outright capability, with plush independent suspension and a sumptuous interior. For those in need of more articulation and ruggedness, the Y61 is still available brand-new in SA. This, the latest 6th gen Patrol, has in…

Range Rover has added a fourth model to its stable, the Velar, which joins the Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Evoque, and slots in-between the latter two. A fourth Rangie joins the fray Although the Range Rover might have started life as a vehicle with an interior that you could hose down when muddy, it has always been a beltingly good-looking vehicle. (One of the originals was displayed in the Musée du Louvre in Paris as an “exemplary work of industrial design”.) The Velar has taken this trend of attractive family genes and run with it, becoming a Range…

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