Lexus ES

First drive in the updated Lexus ES

A Lexus sedan, especially the ES, has always been synonymous with comfort, refinement and luxury. It has seen some great success for the brand, selling more than 2.3 million units worldwide. And now, it has had a teeny tiny minor update. Why fix what ain’t broke as ‘they’ say. WHAT’S COOKIN’ GOOD LOOKIN’? There are still three models on offer which are the ES 250 petrol EX, the ES 300h EX and the SE grades. Now, if you saw the updated model driving past you, you would be forgiven for thinking that nothing has changed at all. But like I said, it is a minor update. So the front end has received a few tweaks to the grille and headlamps. The all new Global Architecture-K (GA-K) platform allowed for a lower bonnet line which the ES’s Chief Designer, Yasuo Kajino, says gave them the freedom to produce a distinctive silhouette with a strong downward slant, creating a dynamic yet fluid shape. There are also two different 17 and 18-inch alloy wheel designs available between the three ES models- with the Hybrid SE boasting a new wheel design that creates a sporty and high-grade image. Basically, it is still a beautifully stylish car, but I shall let you decide that. GET INSIDE It is even harder to tell what has changed inside the cabin, but a new high-resolution 12.3-inch widescreen display has been brought forward by more than 100 mm, compared with the current model, debuting touch-display functionality to increase usability options for the driver and front passenger. The driving position has been tweaked as has the steering wheel position, which is obviously something that would be hard to see, one just has to get in to feel the changes really. Overall it is a comfortable cabin, but it is somewhat outdated in feel. I can’t help but think that the rivals are far more modern in design. But then, this cuts them in terms of price, so you need to weigh up your options. Speaking of options, there is no need to add any to your car because the ES, regardless of model grade, is really well specced. You can enjoy keyless smart entry, a moonroof, twin-front and twin-rear USB-C ports, DAB+ digital radio, 10-speaker audio (EX grades), Mark Levinson 17 Speaker audio (SE) and both with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. DRIVING THE ES The ES is not a model for the enthusiasts, as it were. It is not about the performance. This is not to say that it is sluggish by any means, but it is more about the cruise. When I think of the old guy customer driving this car, he/she is probably not after a dynamic and spirited drive. It is more about the refinement, the smooth power delivery and the luxury you experience. And the ES ticks all of these boxes. The ES is powered by either a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol unit which is mated to an eight-speed Direct Shift automatic transmission. It produces 152 kW and 243 Nm of torque. Fuel consumption is claimed at 6.6l/100 km. Or you can opt for the more interesting of the range, the 300h grades, which are powered by the new hybrid system mated to the aforementioned 2.5-litre unit. Fuel consumption is claimed at 4.6l/100 km, but I saw readings closer to around 6.4l/100 km. Which is still great considering the size of this car. PRICING AND VIBES I don’t think there is much needed in order to improve the ES. I think it is exactly what someone in this market is looking for. I don’t want to say it is boring, because that wouldn’t be correct. And it isn’t necessarily forgettable. It just gets the job done without you having to think about it. And sometimes, these make for the best cars. It might just need a bit of a revamp when it comes to the controls and the cabin in general, but even that I am willing to look past. I have no doubt that the ES will continue to be the best selling sedan Lexus has to offer. The price points for the range are Lexus ES 250 EX retails for R719 400, the ES 300h EX for R774 400 and the top of the range retails for R948 400. All models come standard with a 7-year/105 000km Warranty and Full Maintenance Plan. 

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Audi A7

Juliet drives the Audi A7 Sportback 55 TFSI

The Audi A7 Sportback has to be the sexiest business class sedan on the market. In fact, I think it is plain darn sexy regardless of the segment. I also hate the word ‘sexy’ when referring to a car, but here we are. The Audi A7 is a beautiful car inside and out and one that will remain a firm favourite as a highway cruiser. Because, well, I cruised on the highway a lot in this car…trying to look sexy. If you missed last week’s review, then fear not. Because you can still watch it, I am sure you have the time 😉 It is a video of the Volvo XC60. Also, if you want to chat, catch me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And don’t forget to be a peach and subscribe to my YouTube channel obviously follow me on TikTok. And now for the main event: The Audi A7

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First drive in the new Mazda3

The 7th generation Mazda3 has just arrived and damn, I am excited. I popped up to a very brown Gauteng to test drive the new hatch and sedan versions and now I bring you my thoughts… Before I kick off about the Mazda3, you need to know that I am a huge Mazda fan. I love all of this brands products and have for some time now. We haven’t seen many new models arrive of late, but finally, the 7th generation models will start to hit our shores. Starting, of course, with the new Mazda3. HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU, KID How good looking is this car? The Mazda3 is hands down one of the best looking cars in its segment. If not THE best looking. From every single angle this car looks gooooood. Like, really gooooood. I can hear Terence saying, “Jeez, just get a room why don’t you?!” Well, Terence, maybe we will. Something quite tricky to achieve is getting the sedan to look as good as the hatch. But Mazda have managed to do this. The hatch is the more sporty and youthful looking option, whereas the sedan is the more mature looking one with a graceful and elegant air about it. OBJECT OF DESIRE Mazda South Africa’s head of marketing and communications, Claudia Walters, says that the Mazda3 is the best Mazda to date. The vision for this car was to make people fall in love with it and so the theme for development was an object of universal desire. I can confidently say, Mazda nailed the brief. ON THE INSIDE Even inside is desirable. It is clean and uncluttered. The ‘less is more’ philosophy is evident. The reason is that focus should be on driving and not on distractions. My only bugbear with the interior is with the navigation system. To be fair, it is a completely unnecessary feature in a car these days, especially if you have Android Auto or Apple CarPlay (which this does). Nevertheless, Mazda has integrated it in to the new 8.8-inch infotainment display, which is faster to boot up now by the way. I am not sure why manufacturers put a navigation system in to a car and then only allow it to be operated when the car is standing still. I get the safety aspect here, but in South Africa, if you are lost and need to find your way somewhere, chances are you are not going to pulling over anywhere. And if you have a passenger in your car, they should be able to operate it. The Mazda3 requires you to be stationary with the handbrake activated in order to search for an address. Ain’t nobody got time for that! WHAT ARE THE INTERIOR CHANGES? The centre console has been redesigned with the shift knob, new commander control and armrest moved forward, while the cupholders are repositioned to the front. The new Mazda3 offers two interior colour options. First is the recognised black interior colour and the other, exclusive to the Mazda3 hatch, is the new optional burgundy red leather seat trim. It is not my vibe, but I can see others really loving it. MODEL RANGE The model line up has been simplified yet you still have the choice of four trim levels, namely the entry-level Active, the mid-level Dynamic, Individual, and topping the range is the Astina.  You have a choice of two engines, both naturally aspirated. The 1.5-litre, which replaces the 1.6-litre unit in the predecessor, produces 88 kW and 153 Nm. Your second option is that of a 2.0-litre producing 121 kW and 213 Nm. Important to note is that the 1.5-litre engine in the Active model is only available with a 6-speed manual gearbox. But you can opt for this engine and the 6-speed auto transmission in the Dynamic or Individual derivatives. WHICH ENGINE TO CHOOSE? This is the only area where the Mazda3 falls short. Both engines lack in power and especially when up in Gauteng, you notice the sluggish behaviour of these units. It’s a real shame because a turbo would be the simple answer here. When considering this car competes with the golden child, Volkswagen Golf, and the Audi A3, it really needs to shine in every area. And unfortunately, performance is not a shiny area in the Mazda3. With that said, however, the ride is glorious. Not to mention the steering, lack of road noise, refinement and so many other points that make this an incredible product. If performance is not an issue for you, and you are happiest in relaxed driving mode, this new Mazda3, easily competes with the segment leaders. SHOULD YOU BUY ONE? Absolutely you should! As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I am a big Mazda fan, and the Mazda3 continues to impress me. What it might lack in performance it makes up in refinement and quality, you will have to weigh these things up for yourself. Do you want something with a bit more oomph? Or do you want something that is easy and comfortable to drive? The choice is yours. But you should always do what I say 😉 PRICING Mazda3 1.5L Active Manual Hatch – R359,900 | Sedan – R357,000 Mazda3 1.5L Dynamic Manual – Hatch R374,200 | Sedan R371,300 Mazda3 1.5L Ind Manual – Hatch R421,900 | Sedan R418,800 (Incl VAT) Auto 1.5L – Hatch R434,700 | Sedan R431,600  Mazda3 2.0L Astina Auto – Hatch R474,000 | Sedan 470,800

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Lexus ES

First drive in the new Lexus ES

“It’s all about hospitality.” These are the words of Lexus Product Planner Basetsana Msimanga. She was speaking to us at the launch of the new Lexus ES where we had just done a tea tasting, accompanied by cakes, eclairs and truffles (whatever I could get in my mouth, really) followed by a Japanese whisky tasting. Hospitality at its finest. And this, for me, embodies the Lexus brand. It’s a car you want to be hosted in, just for the experience if anything else. To be honest, I am not exactly the biggest Lexus fan – I’ve never envisioned owning one myself. And I can’t really say for sure why that is. The German brands have a hold on me, like it does on most South Africans. But what I can appreciate is a brand that not only listens to its customers, but caters to their every need. And this, my fellow humans, is why you should consider the new Lexus ES if you are in the market for a sedan. This new ES is flipping sharp looking. The lines are clean and the overall design is sleek and stylish. It commands respect as it comes in to view on your rear view mirror. You will happily move out of the fast lane for this new Lexus ES. The interior is modern, except for a few “oudoos” touches here and there. (Side note: “oudoos” means old fashioned in my vocab, but I fear it could also mean old vagina to others). The wooden trim along the dashboard and on the steering wheel just gives it an outdated look and feel. And the touchpad used to operate the infotainment system has been a bugbear of mine for some time. I cannot get to grips with it, it is not user friendly enough and I find it to be far too finicky. Other than that, the spacious cabin is a great place to be as a driver, or as a passenger. As is typical with Lexus, these cars come standard with a bazillion features and so there are no optional extras available…there doesn’t need to be any, they are all in the car already. The ES250 boasts heated seats, reverse camera, leather upholstery, keyless start and 10 airbags to name a few. You can also expect the Lexus Climate Concierge which operates the climate control system, seat heating and steering-wheel heating (hybrid only). The 300h adds things like heated seats for everyone, that heated steering wheel, navigation, a panoramic view display on the reverse camera, and a wireless charging pad. The line up in South Africa consists of the ES250 EX which boasts a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine producing 152 kW and 243 Nm. It sends this power to the front wheels via a new eight-speed automatic transmission. The other, far more expensive model on offer is the ES300h SE which is the hybrid offering. It combines the 2.5-litre petrol engine with an electric motor and a CVT transmission. You’re looking at power outputs of 131 Kw and 221 Nm. I drove both these models on the launch and am impressed by how refined the drive is on both these cars. The ride quality is magnificent and you don’t hear much a part from what is going on in the cabin – so very minimal wind and road noise. From a performance point of view, don’t expect fire! The Lexus ES is about comfort and tranquility. It is not about giving it horns. But if you want to throw it in to a corner for some reason, you will be happy for the reworked steering which is far more responsive and direct (interestingly, it is the same steering wheel found on the LS500). The hybrid is impressive and of course, it means less stops at the fuel station. However, the almost R250 000 price difference makes my mind up as to which I would choose. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this review, Lexus is all about hospitality and this new ES exudes this. It is the car you want to be driven in. There is more space than its rivals, more features and an air of that luxurious hospitality you want in a car in this segment. But like I say, go for the ES250. I cannot fathom why you would pay so much more for a car that is essentially the same barring a few extra features and the added electric motor. But if you want to be all earthy and drive a hybrid, I won’t judge you. I might become friends with you, however, but only for your money. LEXUS ES PRICING Lexus ES 250 EX – R593 300 Lexus ES 300h SE – R843 800    

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