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2017-03-09 10:53

Lance Branquinho

WORLD'S FIRST PREMIUM BAKKIE: Geneva motor show goers will get to poke around the X-Class concept. Image: Alex Parker

Cape Town - Wheels24 writer Lance Branquinho deciphers which cars unveiled at the 2017 Geneva motor show will be of importance to South Africans, including the Mercedes-Benz X-Class, Volvo's new XC60 and the Range Rover Velar. 

Mercedes-Benz X-Class

Undoubtedly hugely confusing to most of the Geneva auto show attendees, but of particular interest to South Africans, was the second showing of Mercedes-Benz’s double-cab bakkie, the X-Class. 

In Sweden, late in 2016, Mercedes revealed two X-Class concepts, which was rather confusing. At Geneva, there was only one, in white, which is understood to be a truer representation of the bakkie due to go on sale in South Africa early next year. 

A shared platform with Nissan Navara (which launches in South Africa later in March), X-Class will be differentiated by Mercedes specific components including engine, drivetrain, all cabin bits and infotainment. If Mercedes can homologate a final production vehicle retaining most of the Geneva show-car’s styling elements, they will have - by some margin - the most attractive bakkie in class. 

One can imagine much of the front third of X-Class surviving homologation requirements, but the tailgate, which is entirely framed by an integrated LED strip, will likely require a more conventional corner lighting solution. 

Due date for the South African market? Early 2018. This or Navara? To answer that question you must decide whether you desire four- or six-cylinder turbodiesel power. If anything but the latter is unacceptable to you, it’s got to be X-Class. 

Which of these new vehicles are you most excited to see in South Africa, and why? Email us or get in touch via Facebook and Twitter

Nissan Qashqai

Assisted driving is the leading trend in automotive design this year, transcending from the conceptual to reality. A choice example of this is Nissan's evolved Qashqai. 

Beyond the V-motion grille redesigned front end, there are sensors on-board which can assist in easing the frustration of your trafficked journeys. Nissan’s name for Qashqai’s semi-autonomous driving system is ProPilot, and it manages steering, acceleration and braking interventions on your behalf on single-lane roads. 

To further help ensure you do not claim from your insurance is emergency pedestrian brake-recognition and reverse alert, to help you manoeuvre out of tight parking spaces without incident.

Don’t think there are no residual technology benefits to improve the driven, instead of guided, experience at the helm. The steering algorithm has been reprogrammed for better counterbalance and feel, Qashqai’s superiorly insulated for greater sound dampening and in an ironic style-item design alert: you sit behind a GT-R imitation steering wheel. 

New Qashqai should arrive in South Africa at the very end of this year, or Q1 2018, depending on production ramp-up and global right-hand drive (RHD) demand. 

Audi Q8

First there was X6. Then GLE Coupe. And now Audi, keen on the profit margins available in the oversized crossover-coupe segment, is readying Q8. It was the brand’s big, rather orange, reveal at Geneva this week.

Anticipated to launch globally in 2018, Audi’s X6/GLE Coupe rival will be powered by a fantastically efficient, yet hugely powerful, hybrid powertrain. 

Claims for the 3.0 TFSI V6 hybrid are 350kW and 700Nm, but impressive as those numbers are, it’s the boost management of Q8’s engine which astounds. Audi promises that despite being possessed of sufficient power to run a true 275kph top speed, and 0-100kph in 4.7 sec, Q8 will return four-cylinder fuel consumption figures. 

How? Well, Audi’s electric supercharger, which eliminates lag, boosts Q8’s two turbochargers at speeds when exhaust gas volumes are insufficient to spin the turbines. The engine’s starter-generator unit, between the crank and eight-speed transmission, harvests energy on the overrun, to aid surges of torque when required. 

Crucial to the merging of Q8’s regenerative hybridisation and twin-turbo V6, is its 48volt electric system – a standard sure to become the default of all hybrid cars in future. 

Ballistic performance potential aside, Q8’s theoretical cruising range is 1200km. Cake on a plate, ready to be eaten. 

Range Rover Velar

This might have the lowest roofline of any Range Rover yet (1.6m), but Land Rover’s latest SUV is not merely a Jaguar F-Pace twin. 

Similarities in platform between the two exist, but the Velar retains more than a semblance of off-road purpose. Velar has greater individual wheel stroke at all four corners, enabling it to maintain a superior contact patch (and traction) coefficient over broken terrain, compared to F-Pace. 

Further touting its off-road ability is air-suspension, enabling a 46mm lift when conditions require, 650mm water fording ability and comprehensive Terrain Response 2 off-road specific throttle mapping and traction control. And it has a proper transfer case with low-range too. 

In a proliferating product portfolio, Velar will likely price uncomfortably close to new Discovery. For most South Africans, who don’t require the Disco’s redoubtable off-road ability, and desire greater agility and compactness for urban driving, the choice will be easy when Velar becomes available in Mzansi at the end of this year. Range Rover Sport sales volumes could be cannibalised as a result. 

Volvo XC60

It’s been a resounding success for Volvo's XC90. A Swedish luxury SUV which appeals by virtue of not being an imitation German premium performance SUV. Clever strategy, that. 

Volvo’s keen to leverage the design ingenuity of XC90 to a wider audience, at a slightly more affordable price point, and the vehicle to enable that is this: XC60 2.0. 

The new mid-sized SUV from Volvo is a delightful 2/3rds XC90, with handsome proportions and modernist lines (taillights are now horizontal, instead of vertical), in a more manageable scale for those with a tight parking space at work, or limited garage space. 

With most drivetrains carried-over from XC90, but being notably lighter due to its size, XC60’s performance promises to be prodigious, especially the twin-charged, petrol-electric hybrid T8 version: with 300kW guaranteeing 0-100kph in 5.3 seconds, which makes for quite a tidy performance SUV by any expectations. Other engine options will include diesels, D4 (140kW) and D5 (173kW), or 2-litre petrols, either turbocharged (186kW) or twin-charged (235kW). 

As one would expect from a Volvo, collision prevention technology is especially advanced, with the brand’s city safe system on new XC60 capable of steering and brake interventions up to 100km/h. 

Interested? Volvo says XC60 should be on sale in SA by the middle of 2018. 

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VW Tiguan AllSpace

Ferrari’s Superfast has been usurped for silly naming convention of 2017, by this, the VW Tiguan AllSpace. At least they’re not trying to fool anybody. 

It’s a seven-seater Tiguan, offering the notion of Touareg-type refinement, space and quality at a significantly discounted price-point. AllSpace is a prominent 215mm longer than the current Tiguan, with wheels spaced 109mm further apart too. Net gain of those numbers inside? Well, 54mm more knee room and 145-litres of additional luggage space. 

Engines are the familiar range you can option with any MQB-platform VW: turbopetrols ranging from 110- to 162kW, corresponding with swept capacities of 1.4- to 2.0-litres. Diesels? Those too, from 110- to 176kW, the latter configured with all-wheel drive and though there’s no low-range or lockable rear differential, with 500Nm of torque and VW’s clever traction control systems, AllSpace 2.0 Tdi should go most places you require. 

No confirmation for South Africa – yet – but imagine what a compelling alternative this would make to Fortuner or Everest. A larger version of Tiguan, in many ways: the perfect SUV product for most users. 

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Read more on:    mercedes  |  volkswagen  |  geneva  |  new models

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