Business Maverick


Top Ten rides of 2020

Top Ten rides of 2020
The BMW 4 Series Coupé. (Photo: Supplied)

It’s been a hell of a year for both the global and local motoring industry in a world shattered by the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the virus playing havoc with people’s lives and most economies, there’s been a parking lot full of great 2020 rides.

The Land Rover Defender D240. (Photo: Supplied)

Land Rover Defender D240

I can only imagine how many grey hairs Gerry McGovern, Land Rover’s chief design officer, accumulated during the redesign of the 2020 Landy Defender, knowing how hectic those old Defender purists can be. Myself a fan of the old 110, I walked away smitten after spending a week in the new king of the off-road.

Top assets: Equipped with its All-Terrain Progress Control, which allows the driver to check the outside view, the new Defender can do just about anything. While ClearSight Ground View helps keep track of one’s route if you’re trying to navigate a particularly sharp ascent, the launch and traction control systems, the slow-speed throttle control and the nifty underbody cameras, as well as 900mm wading depth, will pretty much help you conquer the most challenging of terrains.

Specs: The 2020 Landy comes in three engine derivatives: the diesel D240, underpinned by a 2.0l four-cylinder twin-turbocharged motor, (177kW and 430Nm); the P300 2.0l four-cylinder turbocharged petrol motor (221kW and 400 Nm) and the top of the range P400, with its powerful 3.0l six-cylinder turbocharged petrol motor with mild-hybrid (MHEV) engine technology, (294kW and 523Nm). All derivatives feature all-wheel drive and eight-speed automatic gearboxes.

Not so fab: It’s hard to point a critical finger at the Defender, but if pushed I would have preferred more premium material like wood on the inside spokes of the leather-wrapped steering wheel instead of hard plastic.

Price: Defender 110 D240 Standard — R1,009,626 

The Volvo S90 D5. (Photo: Supplied)

Volvo S90 D5

Like another non-conformist favourite of mine, the Lexus, Volvos have become the go-to intelligent person’s ride. The S90 is up against a string of German luxury sedans like the BMW 5-Series, the Audi A6 and Merc E-Class and at just under five metres it’s the longest in its class. The cabin is an ode to Swedish minimalism, while boot space of 500l is ample. Due to its 1,763kg kerb weight and excellent damping, it sails across most road surfaces like a galleon. 

Specs: The S90 2.0L four-cylinder turbodiesel comes top in its class with 173kW and 480Nm, underpinned by all-wheel drive and an eight-speed auto gearbox. The humungous fuel tank feels like it can go on forever and with decent open road driving, the claimed 4.8l/100km is pretty much attainable. 

Top assets: The intuitive tablet-like touchscreen interface is a pleasure to operate. It’s a sedan with world-class safety tech, like its autonomous driving aid Intellisafe Assist which includes City Safety with pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection and front collision warning with full auto-braking. 

Not so fab: While it’s a gentle and premium ride, it’s not exactly a speedy Bjorn Borg, sailing 0-100km/h in a somewhat lackadaisical seven seconds. 

Price: R909,806

The VW T-Roc. (Photo: Supplied)

VW T-Roc

Put a VW badge on a vehicle and watch it sell. Whether it’s a Golf, a Polo or Vivo, the Wolfsburg-based brand is a big hit among local car lovers. The recent addition of the T-Roc has added some crossover pizazz to VW’s SUV range which now consists of the top of the range Touareg, All Space, Tiguan, the T-Roc and the T-Cross (launched in September 2019). It’s a beaut with a wide choice of two-tone exteriors, painted wheels and coloured cabin strips.

Specs: There’s a 1.4 TSI turbocharged (110kW, 250Nm) engine in Design trim, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The more powerful 2.0 TSI (140kW, 320Nm) 4MOTION DSG transmission (with power going to all four wheels) is available in Design trim while the top of the range 2.0 TSI 4MOTION DSG transmission comes in R-Line. 

Top asset: The standard driver-assist tech is excellent if not class-topping which includes Automatic Post-Collision Braking, Emergency Braking, Pedestrian Monitoring and Lane Assist.

Not so fab: If you find it hard making choices, you may be left befuddled by the colour palette. In the Design trim, there’s a choice of 26 different colour options, while the R-Line derivative has 21 choices to make you giddy.

Price: T-Roc 1.4 TSI Design Tiptronic — R489,400

The BMW 4 Series Coupé. (Photo: Supplied)

BMW 4 Series Coupé

Equipped with an all-new sport suspension, and having grown by almost 5cm in length, the just-launched 4 Series Coupé is here to whet the appetite of premium sport coupé lovers. Edgy in design with high-quality premium interiors, intuitive tech and top-notch safety, it’s a glittering ode to why BMWs are still up there as some of the most desirable rides. On its recent launch, my adrenaline levels shot through the roof in the top of the range M440i xDrive. 

Specs: There are three engine choices, starting with the petrol 420i, fitted with a four-cylinder petrol engine (135kW/300) underpinned by an eight-speed Steptronic transmission. Speed-wise it coasts 0-100km/h in 7.5 seconds. Next up is the diesel 420d coupé, equipped with a four-cylinder in-line diesel engine (140kW/400). It shares the 420i’s 8-speed Steptronic transmission and is marginally quicker than the 420i at 0-100km/h in 7.2 seconds. The range-topping M440i xDrive, with its six-cylinder in-line petrol engine, brandishes 275kW of power and 500Nm of torque, hurtling to 0-100km/h in just 4.5 seconds.

Top assets: While it’s been lambasted in some quarters for its all-new double kidney grille, I’m a huge fan. 

Not so fab: Having become pretty attached to the M440i on launch, I can’t help but whinge about its steep pricing.

Price: M440i xDrive Coupé – R1,185,954

The Toyota Hilux. (Photo: Supplied)

Toyota Hilux

When you look at the developments in bakkies over the past few years, it’s clear to see that the race to achieve a blend between premium refinement and off-road capability is on. So it makes total sense that Toyota would up its game with a refreshed offering of the Hilux, South Africa’s bestselling bakkie. And manage it the Japanese brand did, in terms of looks, a more refined cabin, an up-switched onboard infotainment system and safety tech as well as adding some extra power and torque to its new steed. 

Specs: The 2020 Hilux comes in a 2.8l turbodiesel four-cylinder engine. There’s been an addition of 20kW to bring it in at 150kW and 50Nm added torque now gives the beast 500Nm to play with. Transmission is a six-speed automatic gearbox and fuel consumption is claimed at 8.0l/100km.

Top assets: Besides being an absolute beast off-road and a truly comfy drive on road, I loved the new eight-inch infotainment system and onboard WiFi, but what really impressed me was the electrically operated “Roller Shutter” which covers the load bay and operates via a switch, making it super convenient and much safer than most of its competitors.

Not so fab: The pricing is steep, but knowing how many Hiluxes sell each month, I am guessing that nothing will stop Toyota bakkie fanatics when it comes to upgrading.

Price: R851,100

The Ford Ranger Thunder. (Photo: supplied)

Ford Ranger Thunder 

A head-turning double cab, Ford SA managed to get its Thunder out a few weeks before its toughest competitor, the Hilux, and the battle between the two is definitely on. Based on the highly capable Wildtrak, the Thunder has some cool new visual additions like a honeycomb-style front grille with red accents on the side “nostrils”, black side mirrors, black 18-inch alloy wheels while inside, the word “Thunder” is embroidered in red on the front seats.

Specs: The Thunder is available in two engine options powered by either a 4×4 or 4×2 2.0l, four-cylinder turbodiesel engine, mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission, delivering 157kW and 500Nm, with decent fuel economy of 7.8l/100km or the 3.2l turbodiesel six-speed auto, offering 147kW and only available in 4×2. 

Top assets: The Thunder is highly impressive off-road with its four-wheel drive, low range, diff lock, 800mm water wading depth and impressive 230mm of ground clearance.

Not so fab: As much as I liked the manually operated Thunder’s roller shutter on the load bay, it would be easier if it could be operated by an electric push-button. 

Price: R787,900 

The Kia Seltos CRDi. (Photo: Supplied)

Kia Seltos CRDi 

When launched locally late in 2019, there was only a petrol engine Seltos available. The new year saw the turbodiesel arrive on our shores and it’s proven to be a hit with consumers in the compact SUV segment. It’s a great family car with some decent punch and excellent fuel efficiency.

Specs: The 2020 diesel Seltos is powered by an impressive 1.5l turbodiesel engine that produces 86kW and 250Nm of torque and is offered in conjunction with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The load space is 433l, which can be extended with rear seats down and comes in EX or EX+ trim levels.

Top assets: Not only is the Seltos a looker, but the diesel engine has excellent efficiency at just 5.7l/100km. The standard offerings are impressive including a full-sized spare wheel, six airbags, a reverse camera and rear park assist. 

Not so fab: Like many cars with interior piano black trim, if you’re an A-type you might get irritated by the marks left by fingerprints.

Price: Kia Seltos 1.5 CRDi EX+ – R446,995

The Audi A7. (Photo: Supplied)

Audi A7

With so many SUVs dominating our roads, sedans are becoming a rare sighting. The Audi A7 Sportback 55 TFSI Quattro S Tronic is such a beaut that it’s hard not to stare when you see one. It’s premium all the way with an outstanding cabin, exuding leather and high-level metal embellishments. The dashboard is techno paradise with very few knobs but rather an integrated system that once you make friends with it, it’s not only intuitive but truly beautiful to behold. What really impressed was the way the A7 can switch from being a respectable, well-mannered coaster to a lightning-fast beast in seconds.

Specs: Available in Audi’s celebrated 3.0l V6 turbo petrol engine, it’s mated with a seven-speed dual-clutch S Tronic transmission and along with 48V of mild-hybrid tech, it produces 250kW/500Nm. Fuel consumption comes in at a claimed 7l/100km. 

Top assets: The marriage between edgy and elegant in the overall design of the A7 is exceptional – the Virtual Cockpit, the 3600 and night vision cameras and sublime Bang & Olufsen sound system all leave a lasting impression.

Not so fab: Audi loves to add options which usually come at a steep price. For example, the optional adaptive air suspension, which really improves the ride, will cost a hefty R34,600.

Price: From R1,298,000

The Mercedes-Benz GLB. (Photo: supplied)

Mercedes-Benz GLB

In November, Mercedes-Benz SA updated its entire SUV range which now consists of six derivatives including the updated GLA and GLS. The newcomer GLB, which slots in between the GLA and GLC, proved to be impressive at launch on some mild off-road terrain and dynamic and sure-footed on the skid pan. With its feisty, rugged looks and not-too-prohibitive-for-a-Merc pricing, it’s a stand out compact SUV. 

Specs: There are two engines on offer: the GLB 250 2.0l turbo petrol or GLB 220d 4Matic 2.0l turbodiesel. Both are mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission and offer 165kW/350Nm. Boot space is decent at 500l.

Top assets: With its boxy and rugged vibes, it’s not called the baby G-Wagen for nothing. Inside there are the latest MBUX infotainment technologies, incorporating voice activation and touchscreen tech. An added bonus is decent fuel returns on the diesel 220d at 5.4l/100km.

Not so fab: It’s a bit counter-intuitive to have access to the Off-Road driving mode which can only be applied through a separate display-screen menu. 

Price: GLB 220d 4Matic – R841,000

The Suzuki Ignis. (Photo: Supplied)

Suzuki Ignis

This year, Suzuki SA introduced an updated Ignis to the highly competitive budget hatchback segment after the funky looker made its mark in 2017 as a cost-effective, well-specced Japanese hatchback. Not much has changed on the exterior of the 2020 refreshed Ignis besides new roof rails and a more stand-out chrome-looking grille. Inside there’s a decent touchscreen infotainment system that’s Android Auto/Apple CarPlay compatible while the function that reads out your WhatsApps as you drive is pretty cool. 

Specs: The Ignis comes in a 1.2l four-cylinder petrol engine with 61kW of power and 113Nm torque. It’s underpinned by a five-speed manual transmission while fuel consumption is decent at 5.1l/100km. Boot space is impressive as it expands from 260l to 947l with the rear seats down.

Top assets: The GLX trim has a host of impressive standard features including a reverse-view camera, rear parking sensors, a push-button start and daytime running lights.

Not so fab: While the Ignis does have basic safety spec such as two front airbags and ABS with EBD, it hasn’t been fitted with electronic stability control, found in most other compact hatchbacks. 

Price: 1.2 GL from R188,900 DM


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