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All posts by Ryan Bubear: Columnist

  • Jaguar Land Rover has seen the future of driving: it’s super-geeky

    Many automakers have built their reputations in one specific area of expertise. Volvo, for instance, is considered by many as a byword for automotive safety. And, in most markets, Toyota is thought of as the ultimate when it comes to reliability. So, what about Jaguar Land Rover? Well, these two British brands, which are now part of the Tata Motors stable, each certainly boast long and storied histories. But, over the past few years, the Jaguar Land Rover group appears to have shifted focus somewhat, spending oodles of time and money researching and developing the sort of technology...

  • The van is making a comeback! 4 smart van-based people-carriers

    Not too long ago, vans were seemingly reserved for decidedly shady characters. You know, individuals shiftily trying to hawk clearly stolen goods from the load-bed. Or weirdos hanging around leafy parks offering fistfuls of candy to unsuspecting young children. That sort of thing. Of course, vans have also long played a crucial role in the commercial sector, where small business owners and delivery services rely on their enviable load-carrying talents. But manufacturers of these box-shaped heavy-haulers sometimes convert them for people-carrying duties, too. Sure, the resulting “passenger vehicle” products often come across as somewhat contrived – and rarely better than...

  • Pickup truck top trumps: new Toyota Hilux vs updated Ford Ranger

    In South Africa – just as in numerous other bakkie-mad countries – you’re either a Hilux man or a Ranger man. It’s really that simple. No two other compact pickup trucks boast as vociferous a following as this bundu-bashing pair. And the monthly sales statistics prove it. Locally, the next compact pickup in line is the Isuzu KB, which struggles to manage even half of the Hilux’s monthly total, while the likes of the Volkswagen Amarok and Mazda BT-50 (which is essentially a Ranger underneath) needn’t even bother turning up. But, despite the fact that the brand new Toyota Hilux has...

  • Hot hatch top trumps: Honda Civic Type R versus Ford Focus RS

    It’s a battle as inevitable as death and CO2 taxes. And one that – for the time being, anyway – can take place only on paper. Yes, we’re talking about the mouth-watering matchup between two of the most keenly anticipated hot hatches of recent years. One from Japan and another from America. Sort of. In the red (and sometimes white) corner, we have the Honda Civic Type R, which has just enjoyed its international launch. And in the blue corner? None other than the Ford Focus RS, which we can expect to roar into showrooms around the world in 2016....

  • Audi’s synthetic fuels: is this the breakthrough we’ve been waiting for?

    A couple of years back, German automaker Audi quietly opened an e-gas plant in Werlte, Germany. The factory -- which is run on renewable energy -- uses electrolysis to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. And this hydrogen is used to power fuel-cell vehicles, right? Wrong. For the time being at least, Audi instead employs methanation -- reacting said hydrogen with carbon dioxide -- to produce synthetic methane, or e-gas. And this gas (which it says is “virtually identical” to natural gas) is then used to power decidedly uncommon compressed natural gas vehicles like the Audi A3 Sportback g-tron....

  • 3 stunning Hommage concepts that pay tribute to BMW icons

    Unless you live in a world without internet – which would be strange, since then you’d likely have a hard time reading this – you would have recently locked eyes on images of the striking new concept car unveiled by BMW at the Villa d’Este Concours in Italy. Yes, we’re talking about the BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage concept, which is particularly hard to miss thanks to its eye-searing “Golf Yellow” paintjob and myriad swoopy lines. But this angry-looking tribute – which, a little ironically, may just hint at the future styling direction of the Munich-based manufacturer – isn’t the first “Hommage”...

  • 5 of the sexiest safety cars in the world of racing

    When any safety car is performing its speed-limiting role during a race caution period, it’s generally the slowest accelerating vehicle out on the track. So, while it may well be leading the pack, the safety car is anything but the star of the show. Indeed, its driver must be left feeling woefully inadequate, particularly when a gang of fire-breathing machines starts to fill his mirrors, and their increasingly impatient pilots begin weaving back and forth in an attempt to keep some sort of heat in the tyres. And all the while the poor chap is likely driving pretty much flat out… But...

  • The Audi Virtual Cockpit: is this the future of the dashboard?

    It was tough, but we did it. We overcame. Yes, dear reader, we’ve just handed back to the keys to the new Audi TT 2.0 TFSI Quattro coupe. It wasn't an entirely dignified affair – there may have been a few tears and a spot of tantrum-level kicking and screaming – but we walked away with our heads held high. We had to, seeing that we didn’t have a ride home. But while the third-generation model is overall an utterly convincing package, there’s one aspect that simply jumps out for technophiles such as ourselves. Yes, we’re talking about the German brand’s “Audi...

  • 5 super-luxurious SUVs that ask the question: who needs a limousine?

    A generous handful of people out there are wealthy enough to pay someone else to drive them around. And, no, summoning an Uber driver doesn’t count. Nope, not even Uber Black. We’re referring instead to those elite individuals who have full-time chauffeurs on their books (have a look at our earlier feature on the top chauffeur-driven cars for stinking rich technophiles). Such a well-to-do character clearly prefers the comfort of the rear seats to the apparent hard work of the driver’s perch, and thus recruits a professional driver to do his or her on-road bidding. This underling typically comes dressed in...

  • Self-driving cars? Pah! How about just meeting basic safety standards first?

    Safety. This single word is ostensibly one of the major driving forces behind the global push towards the autonomous car. The self-driving vehicle, many proponents believe, has the potential to virtually eliminate fatal car crashes. How? Well, such vehicles would effectively render drivers obsolete, thus eradicating the sort of “human error” responsible for so many on-road incidents. In an ideal world (from a safety standpoint, anyway), every single vehicle on a given road network would be of the autonomous variety, connected to both other cars and the relevant road infrastructure. Constant wireless communication between all elements would at best...

  • Brace yourself: the Opel Adam proves big car tech is coming to your small car, and soon

    We recently spent a week whizzing around in the new Opel Adam. It's a posh little three-door hatchback that employs a decidedly refined and trendily downsized turbo triple. Little, of course, is the operative word here. The Adam -- which rides on a shortened Corsa platform -- measures just a smidgen over 3.7 metres in length, which puts it neatly between the absolutely tiny Fiat 500 and the rather compact Audi A1 (incidentally, two of its main rivals). Its boot can handle a mere 170 litres and space on the rear bench is cramped at best. So, it's small. Very small....

  • Why Mercedes-Benz’s decision to build a premium pickup makes so much sense

    When Mercedes-Benz recently confirmed its plans to bring a pickup truck to market before the end of the decade, many people reacted with large dollops of scepticism. A few no doubt checked their calendars, convinced that the news fell far too close to 1 April for comfort. No other premium manufacturer had ever even publically expressed an interest in going this route, after all. But, once you manage to wrap your head around the thought of a mid-size pickup wearing the famous three-pointed star, the decision starts to make sense. Oodles of sense, in fact. First, it's important to...

  • How Mazda is quietly giving the big automakers a run for their money

    Mazda isn’t the biggest car manufacturer out there. In fact, the Hiroshima-based company is likely not even in the top five in its native Japan. Have a gander at the various lists ranking major global automakers (in terms of annual production or overall revenue) for the past few years, and Mazda is nowhere to be seen. Which is a bit of a shame. Now, half a decade after concluding a relationship with Ford that started as a financial lifeline and finished with the Mazda brand firmly taking a back seat, the once-ailing automaker is finally fighting fit again. For its...

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