BEST CAR IN 2016: BMW has built the heir to their iconic 1M Coupe, the M2. It uses 3.0 litre turbocharged engine good for 272kW/465Nm. Image: BMW
Cape Town - 2016 has been an incredible year for motoring - good or bad, it had some unforgettable moments we'll rank pretty high up.
From outstanding innovations; Toyota's shocking and heartbreaking result at the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours race in France, and Formula 1's surprising retirement from Mercedes' driver Nico Rosberg, just after he won his maiden world championship title in Abu Dhabi at the grand finale race in November.
And for SA, probably the loss of a lovable brand - Citroen.
Lance Branquinho takes a look at the best and worst automotive moments of the year.
1 Innovation of the year: Tesla
Local boy makes good. Elon Musk confirms his company’s Model S will run a true 500km per charge, courtesy of a phenomenal chemistry advance by Tesla’s engineers.
Much better than your Smartphone’s claimed endurance after a year. But if Apple and Samsung can’t get that right, how is he managing it?
2 Autonomous Uber of the future: Rolls Royce Vision 100
The chauffeur brand replaces the man in white driving gloves and hat with an enormous OLED entertainment screen. With a cabin unconstrained by design limitations of driving position or steering wheel intrusion, all bias is radically towards the comfort of passengers. This is the driverless future you’d wish to embrace – if you are really rich, but don’t like taking rotor-powered aviation to get around.
3 Mechanical engineering achievement of they year: Koenigsegg Freevalve
VTEC. VANOS. Variable everything. Beyond thermal inefficiency, the camshaft is perhaps our most limiting factor in evolving the petroleum engine. It’s range of motion in controlling valve actuation being WW2 instead of millennial in ability. Fortunately some cleverly ambitious Swedes revealed a solution: electro hydraulic actuators, allowing for impeccably precise combustion control. Koenigsegg’s system is a bolt-on unit, capable of extracting 180kW from a modular 2-litre four – without forced induction. Who said supercar brands don’t innovate for the benefit of all?
4 Best car of 2016: BMW M2
Successor to the 1M, a car that became legendary in such a short time you pay 30% more for them used than any were new back in 2010. Therefore, a not insignificant burden of expectation preceded M2’s arrival, but BMW M GmbH has a manner of under-promising and over-delivering.
It’s the 1M formula (boosted in-line six, proportionally square wheelbase-to-track ratio, M3/4 rear axle and suspension) revisited with laughably predictable – and rewarding - consequences. If you’re bold enough to order the six-speed manual instead of seven-speed DCT, it will yield Cape Atlantic seaboard property returns over time as a collectable. Trust us.
5 Best South African car: Ford Ranger 2.2 TDCi D/C 4x4 XLS auto
It would have to be a bakkie. Obviously. Double-cabs are the default family car for South Africans and this latest Ranger derivative perhaps the most sensible one you can buy: handsome Ford-bakkie styling, excellent Smartphone interfacing, all the utilitarian capability of a bakkie and none of the clutch-and-shifter coordinating purgatory of a manual in traffic.
Automatics are notably easier for novice off-road drivers to pilot safely over broken terrain too. Who ever needed the five-cylinder Ranger’s additional litre of capacity?
6 Worst place to work in cars: Brazil
Those green swimming pools at the Olympic games were the least troublesome thing about Samba-land this year. Vehicle sales careened over the Iguazu Falls during 2016. The previous year last it was close to 180 000 units. This year? A trickling average: depressingly near 120 000. With an enormous domestic manufacturing industry to support, the very last place you want to be a petrolhead or work in anything automotive right now, is home of Senna. Sad.
7 Worst track moment of 2016: Le Mans
Toyota’s moment of ignominy at 24 Hours of Le Mans. Leading with a last lap to complete, it appeared for all the world that Kazuki Nakajima would finally deliver a long-awaited second Japanese victory at the world’s most iconic race. Not to be. A turbocharging malfunction stalled his TS050 on the pit straight, in view of A crushingly empathetic audience of rivals. Porsche won, but conceded it was the least sweet of its 18 Le Mans victories.
8 Corporate meltdown of the year: VW
If you require any sequence of events to reinforce how severe the US diesel irregulation penalties are for VAG, the swift retirement of its renowned WEC Audi entries and championship winning Polo WRC cars are the cruel evidence. Monumentally successful racing teams staffed with the very best engineers, rendered to the catalogue of history in a matter of merely a week, straddling late October into early November, by events they had no fault in.
Rosberg’s retirement. The awfulness of Chris Evans. Takata airbags everything and anything to do with VW diesels in America. The death of the late, much-loved rSA rally driver, Gugu Zulu. There were many instances of automotive unhappiness during 2016, but the worst for Mzansi petrolheads must rank as the loss of a brand. Citroën.
Worst moments of 2016
The tragedy of PSA’s more flamboyant brand sibling exiting the South African market at a time when they’ve finally rounded a breakthrough product, both affordable and class-leading (Cactus), is terribly sad. All those WRC wins. The fixed-centre steering wheels. Exterior and interior styling superior to cars often costing three times as much.
Citroën, we’ll miss you terribly. And if you are one of those people who bought a DS5, we salute you as an automotive style apostle who attempted to keep the faith.
Saddest departure: Paul Rosche (1934-2016)
The man who put the ‘M’ in BMW is no longer with us. Affable as only a Bavarian could be, Rosche was a rarity, part terrifically gifted engineer but also part fantastically engaging human being. His portfolio of work will never be equalled. Every single six-cylinder naturally aspirated M-division engine, the renowned F1 championship winning 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo and an exhaustive number of road car engines during his time at BMW, from. Rosche greatest evidence of legacy? The McLaren F1 supercar’s 6-litre V12, with its gold heat shields.