Cape Town - Ford's Kuga-fire saga in South Africa, Arnold Schwarzenegger receiving a battery-powered Geladenwagen 4x4... the first month of 2017 has produced some incredible motoring moments.
Ford's Kuga SUVs are in the spotlight as many of the popular SUVs have been captured catching fire on our roads. This has led to a huge recall of more than 4000 affected SUVs and a looming class-action lawsuit.
Schwarzenegger took delivery of a battery-powered Geladenwagen 4x4 EV from specialists in his country of origin - Austria.
Other highlights in January include Pagani revealing its Hyuara Roadster.
1 Really hot Fords
Its bakkies are boundlessly popular and Focus RS has an AWD system perhaps more advanced than German performance cars twice its price, but all the brand cachet developed by those admirable products went up in flames, literally, this January.
Ford’s first-generation (South African market) Kugas have demonstrated a peculiar habit of catching fire. After one death and too many close escapes, action is being taken. The entire event is an MBA case-study of how to ruin customer relations. Will an assembly fault be identified, or will these Kugas, many of them pass the 100 000km mileage ceiling, be classified as ‘incorrectly maintained’ as an escape clause?
2 The hottest Ford of all
Far from the disaster of Ford South Africa’s Kuga recall, was an announcement from Dearborn that was delivered with no other purpose but to irk automotive brands head-quartered in Maranello, Woking and Stuttgart.
Ford’s second-generation GT’s official performance numbers were revealed, cryptically after the Detroit auto show, and they’re not shy. At all: 475kW and a 347kph top speed. Nobody buys a supercar on its statistical superiority alone, but for the internet, this was choice material for string upon string of comment and analysis.
3 Arnie goes Austrian – as expected
There are people who assume they are influencers. And then there’s America’s greatest immigrant. The Governor. The Terminator. Mr Olympia. Worst kindergarten teacher of the 20th century. Label him what you wish, but Arnie’s got a huge following and when he decides to drive an all-electric, it’s never going to be subtlety.
The man with the nearly unpronounceable surname commissioned his Geladenwagen EV from specialists in his country of origin: Austria. Kriesel have built some outlandishly brisk battery-powered test vehicles for VW and Porsche, but Arnie’s E-G Wagen has in excess of 350kW; good for 0-100km/h in 5.6 sec and a range of nearly 400km per charge.
Best of all? It charges to 80% endurance in only 25mins. Providing you have a 150kW mains power supply, of course...
4 Finally. We know what the Simpsons drive
After 609 episodes and 28 seasons, our misery is at an end.
For nearly three decades it has tormented petrolheads the world over: what, exactly, does Homer Simpson driving? Now, finally, there is confirmation: a Plymouth. Not a Barracuda, but a ‘Junkerolla.’
With Plymouth’s disappearance as a going concern fifteen years ago, producers finally felt sufficient time had elapsed to avoid the reach of litigation and declare one of the automotive realm’s greatest mysteries... solved.
5 Lithium can last the distance, after all
It’s not Arnie’s awesome battery-powered Geladenwagen, no, but an electric vehicle (EV) has done the unthinkable and finished the world’s most brutal race.
Although it was never in the running for a podium place, Acciona’s third attempt at completing the Dakar was a triumphantly successful one, its entry eventually finishing the gruelling near 9000km 2017 Dakar in 57th place.
Don’t let the roof-mounted solar panels fool you into thinking it was a fickle racer: with 150kWh lithium battery packs and a 250kW motor, the Spanish designed, built and sponsored Acciona was an authentic off-road racing machine.
Whether or not its zero emissions claim is truly authentic when recharging off non-renewable sources during race, is perhaps scrutiny too stern for such a momentous achievement.
6 Is diesel dying?
Last year was a terrible one for legacy of Rudolf Diesel’s compression ignition engine design. VW’s emissions calibration innovation has crippled the company’s R&D budget due to a monumental US government mandated fine.
In the first month of 2017, things did not get much better for diesel disciples as Norway’s capital city banned the use of diesel vehicles on its streets for two days. The enforcement of an end-goal meant to rid the most admired oil producing country’s most populous city centre completely of diesel mechanisation by 2020.
If a country that makes its money from pumping oil, starts banning cars that heat ignite oil, you know its the sign of a guaranteed downward trend for the future prospects of all things TDi.
7 Audi autosport revived
At the end of 2015 there were mutterings of one of VW’s brands entering F1. By the end of 2016, the once unassailable Group VW motorsport empire was in ruins: VW’s WRC team disbanded and Audi's all-conquering Le Mans racers retired.
But there is hope, amidst all the diesel fumed ruin. Audi is going back to its motorsport roots: gravel. Rallycross, more specifically, instead of WRC and the choice for its new motorsport venture is rather aptly the limited edition S1 hot hatch. And if you are a proper Quattro anorak, that naming convention will kindle a wry smile.
8 Hyuara roadster
We like Horacio Pagani. The Italianised Argentine is a reminder of the way things were when supercars were born in the late 1960s: individual dreamers and engineers, instead of conglomerates and committees.
Pagani’s longevity in a segment knowns for empty promises and broken dreams is testament to his fortitude and ability, but also the generosity of AMG, who kindly supply engines at volumes that cannot justify their expense of their intricacy. New Paganis happen at a rate of one a decade and teasing his big reveal for 2017 is Horacio’s Hyuara Roadster.
With axle independent ride height adjustment and carbon-fibre everything, this will be the Roadster to ruin many a Lamborghini owner’s day.