Hot new Hyundai i30N to lead new-model charge in SA
The automotive year started with a futuristic fusillade when a number of sci-fi-inspired cars were unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
With the Detroit motor show now moved from January to June, CES became the year-starting stage for auto companies to roll out their latest creations, and there was some razzle dazzle worthy of the city in which the event was staged.
On the sci-fi scale, none was more “out there” than the Mercedes Vision AVATR, a car inspired by the 2009 James Cameron movie about tall blue aliens. With the sequel Avatar movie in the works, Mercedes teamed up with Cameron to build a concept car which featured movable reptilian scales that “communicate” with other road users, spherical wheels that can move the car straight or sideways, and a user interface that responds to a driver’s heart rate.
As with many modern concept cars, the AVATR heralds a future of self-driving vehicles and has no steering wheel. Passengers interact with it by placing a hand on an accordion-stye biometric controller that recognises the authorised occupant by their heartbeat and breathing.
Scrolling through the infotainment system is done by a menu selection projected onto the palm of your hand with 3D graphics.
Other cars at CES that would have raised Spock’s eyebrows were the Sony Vision-S, the Audi AI:ME and Hyundai’s flying car.
Audi’s AI:ME (pronounced Amy) is an autonomous car with a hi-tech, lounge-like cabin as a “third living space” alongside our homes and workplaces.
Occupants can entertain themselves during the drive with a pair of VR goggles that takes them on a virtual flight across landscapes, the cool part being that the virtual content adapts to the movements of the vehicle in real time like a hi-tech Disneyland ride.
The Sony Vision-S is unlikely to signal the tech firm’s ambitions to take on Toyota and Volkswagen with its own car.
The concept sedan was a showcase for technology that may soon find its way into cars, including a supersized digital display stretching across the length of the dash, and level 4 self-driving ability which is one step short of being able to catch a snooze in the back seat while the car drives you home.
FLYING CARS HAVE CAPTIVATED SCI-FIDREAMS FOR DECADES AND GOT CLOSER TO REALITY AT CES
A Sony car would be incomplete without decent sound and the Vision-S laid on a 360 Reality Audio system with 30 speakers, some of which were mounted in the seats.
Flying cars have captivated sci-fi dreams for decades and got closer to gridlock-beating reality at CES with Hyundai announcing a partnership with Uber Elevate to get drone-like taxis into the air within the next few years.
Daimler, Geely and Toyota are other automotive giants getting ready to deploy vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) taxis into the skies to ease urban congestion. Though these flying taxis will initially have pilots, they will ultimately be fully autonomous.
As for cars you can actually buy, January saw Toyota unveiling its new GR Yaris, a hot version of its popular hatchback inspired by the car that won the 2019 World Rally Driver’s Championship.
Continuing the playful side Toyota has discovered of late with sporty cars like the 86 and Supra, the GR Yaris is a small but sassy hatch fettled with lightweight bodywork, bigger brakes, 18-inch wheels and all-wheel drive.
Behind the enlarged grille is the world’s most powerful three-cylinder engine, a turbocharged unit with outputs of 200kW and 370Nm which promises a 0-100km/h sprint in under 5.5 seconds and an electronically governed 230km/h top speed.
And yes, the GR Yaris is being considered for local introduction.
Earlier this month Mahindra kick-started the local launch calendar with a new high-end automatic version of its Pik Up double cab bakkie. Apart from the two-pedalled convenience of the six-speed 'box, the Pik Up S11 boasts hi-tech items like a reversing camera and a new touch screen infotainment system with navigation — all at a substantially lower price than the Hilux, Ranger et al.
As per tradition the motorsport year started with the Dakar Rally, which took place in Saudi Arabia for the first time and was won for the third time by Carlos Sainz (Mini). Defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah was second in an SA-built Toyota Hilux, with SA’s Giniel de Villiers fifth.
American Ricky Brabec took the motorcycle victory for Honda and ended KTM's 18-year dominance.
THE CURRENT QUEST FALLS AWAY. IT HAS BEEN A MEGA SELLER FOR TOYOTA SA, WITH 10,043 UNITS SOLD LAST YEAR
LOOKING AHEAD — FEBRUARY
Sticking with hot hatches, Hyundai finally comes to the performance party with its i30 N to be launched here in February.
With the media event to be staged in Cape Town we’re hoping to get some track time at the Killarney circuit, and look forward to bringing you our seat-of-the pants driving impressions of this Korean cruise missile.
With 202kW and 353Nm from its turbocharged 2.0l petrol engine, the i30 N is the first car from Hyundai’s high-performance N division and will take on the Renault Megane RS 280 Lux (205kW/390Nm) and the VW Golf GTI (169kW/ 350Nm).
The hot Hyundai will be sold from a selected network of 15 Hyundai dealers with specialist training in the car, although all Hyundai dealers will be able to service it.
February will also see the local launch of the Renault Triber, a budget seven-seater imported from India that will go up against the Suzuki Ertiga, Toyota Avanza, and Honda BR-V.
At just 4m long Renault’s compact MPV is the smallest in the league, and we’re keen to see whether it will also have the smallest price to match.
Uber drivers rejoice: Toyota’s launching a new Corolla Quest. With the all-new Corolla sedan to go on sale here next month, the existing Corolla will be rebadged the Quest and remain on sale as a more budget-focused option for the ride-sharing, taxi and family markets.
The current Quest, which is the two-generations-old Corolla, now falls away. It has been a mega seller for Toyota SA and sold 10,043 units last year to make it the country’s fourth most popular passenger car.
On the bakkie front, Isuzu’s D-Max 250d X-Rider double cab will get the option of a new automatic gearbox in February. The five-speed manual X-Rider was a special edition model that became a permanent fixture in the range due to its keen value, and now gets clutchless commuting convenience for the first time.
This weekend we’re flying to Portugal to attend the world launch of the updated Jaguar F-Type. The sports car, which was launched in 2013 as the spiritual successor to the iconic E-Type, adopts a major facelift and a technology update that includes a digital instrument cluster.
The refreshed car will as before be available as a coupé and a convertible, and the range-topping F-Type R is bumped up to 423kW of power with upgraded suspension.
BMW shifted philosophy by launching its new third-generation 1-Series without the brand’s time-honoured rear-wheel drive, instead offering it in front- or all-wheel-drive spec.
It’s the all-wheel drive M135i xDrive that came our way for road testing first and you can read about it in Motor News later this month.
The two-door Mercedes-AMG GT was the successor to the gullwinged SLS, and the more practical four-door version recently joined the ranks. We’ll be testing the flagship GT 63 S 4Matic derivative, all fiery 470kW and 900Nm of it.
Decidedly more modest than the Merc, but already flying out of local showrooms after less than two months on sale, is the Hyundai Venue. It is the latest player in the burgeoning compact crossover/SUV segment and we’ll put it to the test to see how it stacks up against the Ford EcoSport and VW T-Cross.
Also in February, we will revisit an all-American off roading icon by taking to adventure trails with the Jeep Wrangler.