Following the announcement of the first Special Awards category last week – Design of the Year – we are pleased to introduce another new Cars Awards category, namely for Game Changer of the Year.
Whether we’re talking sales volumes, technology, brand perception or simply vast improvement, game-changing products have one thing in common – they’ve made a significant impact. “To determine the finalists in this category the judges debated the merits of all new vehicles launched in South Africa during 2015,” says Cars.co.za Consumer Experience Manager, Hannes Oosthuizen. “We reached consensus on the inclusion of only three vehicles, the BMW i3, the Volvo XC90 and the new Ford Everest,” he continues.
“All three these cars have shaken things up, but in very different ways,” Oosthuizen adds. This is the second nomination for BMW’s i3 (also a finalist in Design of the Year), and the inclusion of the XC90 makes the big Volvo the most nominated car of the inaugural Cars.co.za Consumer Awards programme. The XC90 is a finalist in Premium SUV of the Year, Design of the Year and now also Game Changer of the Year.
The Ford Everest arrived on the market too late to be included in any of the product categories, but was an easy choice for Game Changer, as it so dramatically moves the goal posts in the bakkie-based SUV category, a hugely popular segment in South Africa.
The winner will also be announced at a glittering Awards event to be held in Johannesburg in January 2016. For more information, go to www.carsawards.co.za.
Volvo XC90 – PERCEPTION SHIFTER
It’s not often that a new vehicle arrives to such universal acclaim as the Volvo XC90. With a string of international awards in the trophy cabinet already, the XC90 looks set to add to the collection in the Cars.co.za Consumer Awards, as it is nominated in no fewer than three categories. With its high-tech new line-up of four-cylinder engines, superb cabin design and build quality, it is more than merely another premium SUV, it is a brand perception changer.
Big, premium SUVs usually make use of large-capacity engines. Volvo, however, has made the bold decision to equip the XC90 with 2,0-litre four-cylinder engines only. Turbocharging, supercharging and hybrid technology is applied to extract performance and the upshot is greater efficiency when not using the maximum power. Not many other companies have embraced the down-sizing trend to quite the same extent.
Pride of place in the XC90’s cabin goes to a large iPad-like touch-screen info-tainment system mounted in the centre of the facia. Not only does it de-clutter the cabin significantly, it arguably establishes a new benchmark in user-friendliness. Today’s smartphone users will find its pinch and swipe functionality very useful. Plus, it looks great!
The refreshingly different cabin uses only top-notch materials, with the gearlever, for example, being crystal glass from Orrefors. It is, however, the feel of the start/stop button and volume control knob that further heightens the ambience. These were diamond cut.
See our video detailing the Volvo XC90 here
Ford Everest – RAISING THE BAR
South Africans love bakkie-based SUVs, with the Toyota Fortuner, even in the twilight of its career, still being among the top sellers on the market. Ford’s Everest has scarcely made a dent in the market, being outdated, outclassed and massively outsold by its big rival. But all of that could change now. The new Ford Everest is such a massive step forward that it actually deserves a new name. Rarely, these days, does a new product represent such a big advance over what it replaces.
While basing an SUV on the chassis of a bakkie has advantages for off-roading ability (and costs), the reality is that such a vehicle often feels harsh, bumpy and roly-poly on the road. The Everest sets a new segment benchmark, with its coil-sprung rear set-up serving up near-unibody levels of ride refinement on the road. And once you head into the rough stuff, there’s still enough bakkie in its DNA to outclass the more city oriented SUVs.
The new Everest brings very advanced features into the bakkie-SUV segment for the first time, including such technologies as cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, hands-free parallel parking, adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist, among many others.
The vast cabin and clever packaging result in a proper seven seater. Even adults can sit comfortably in the third row. There are also some nifty features, such as the ability to fold the third row into the floor electrically. In the front of the cabin the attention focuses on the Ford’s latest SYNC 2 info-tainment touch-screen system.
Go off-road the Ford Everest here
BMW i3 – ELECTRIC DESIRABILITY
The BMW i3 is not the first electric car to go on sale in South Africa, but it could just be the product to jolt the electric revolution into motion. With its revolutionary architecture, sci-fi design and overall quality the i3 already shoulders its way into the limelight, and that’s before you even experience the drive. Quick off the mark and remarkably refined, you’ll be amazed at how quickly it fits into your lifestyle. Couple all of this with the desirability of the BMW brand, and you have a very convincing trailblazer for the electric car era.
Unlike some other electric car offerings, the i3 is not based on the platform of an existing internal combustion powered vehicle. Instead, the LifeDrive architecture is based on a flat floor (incorporating the powertrain), with a super strong passenger cell mounted on top and made from advanced materials such as carbon fibre. Instead of hiding its unique construction, BMW celebrates it by leaving many of the most important details exposed – such as the carbon fibre weave, visible in the door sills.
BMW and Nissan have teamed up to develop the electric car charging infrastructure in South Africa. This crucial move should accelerate the acceptance of electric cars in South Africa.
The single-minded pursuit of efficiency and eco-friendliness is also evident inside, where the minimalism is celebrated by the use of excellent materials – KENAF, for example, is a member of the cotton family and very sustainable. Then there’s also the fact that the factory that builds the i3 is 100% powered by electricity generated from sustainable sources.
View our video of the BMW i3 here