THIS week we drive three of the most impressive cars we have driven this year, all winners in their market segment. The three are the Opel Astra GTC, the Nissan 370Z, and the Audi S7, exciting performance cars ranging from the not so expensive, to the midrange and then the car for those with a healthy bank balance and cash to spare.
OPEL ASTRA GTC Manual (Price: 1.4 R287000: 1.6 R304900)
This is a car for those aspiring to a performance car but who are on a tight budget and who have to use the vehicle for the school run as well. Perhaps it's the only form of transport a family has.
There are two models to chose from: the Astra GTC 1.4T Enjoy, and the 1.6T Sport.
Both offer the latest in small capacity turbocharged petrol engine technology from Opel.
The Astra GTC 1.4T Enjoy offers maximum power of 103kW @ 4900rpm and peak torque of 200Nm over the wide range of 1850 – 4900rpm.
The Astra GTC 1.6T produces 132kW @ 5500rpm with 230Nm of torque available between 2200 and 5400rpm.
Top speed is 201km/h for the 1.4 and 220km/h for the 1.6. Acceleration from 0 to 100km/h is 10.56 seconds and 8.3 seconds respectively.
In both models, drive is via a 6-speed manual transmission to the front wheels.
We were very impressed with this car.
Power and handling are very good and, on the open road, the vehicle is a joy to drive.
There are bags of power in reserve which come in handy for overtaking. There is enough room for a family of five, and their baggage. It's an easy drive in city conditions, and parking in crowded shopping malls' parking lots is a breeze.
However, we found the large doors a pain in the neck in narrow parking bays.
Being a two-door car the doors are longer than a "normal" four-door vehicle.
One has to be extra careful not to damage the car parked next to you when opening the large doors, and in Port Elizabeth's notorious wind.
One has to hang on tight to prevent them being wrenched out of one's hands and banging into the car next to yours.
NISSAN 370Z Coupe manual (Price: R538 525)
The Nissan 370Z Coupe is the "bad boy" of the three and it brought a delighted grin to our faces whenever we drove this super, thrilling vehicle.
This is what all sports cars should be like.
Its stupendous roar from the engine is as rough as a bear's backside and got the blood pumping every time we switched on the car.
The Z-car reminds one a lot of the iconic Nissan GTR, super power on tap that whips the head back and forces the body back into the hard, firm racing seats which hug the body.
The new 3.7-litre V6 beneath the sculpted, flowing bonnet is a latest-generation petrol motor packed with potency and permeated throughout with sheer technological prowess.
It provides a wholesome 245kW of power and the broadest possible spread of torque throughout its 7500rpm operating rev range.
This thanks to the application of even further advanced Variable Valve Event and Lift (VVEL) technology. Despite the heavyweight dyno results, VVEL makes the new motor even more efficient than the previous-generation V6, which propelled the 350Z.
This fourth-generation VQ motor delivers 6% more power while achieving a marked 11% reduction in fuel efficiency over previous high-performance petrol engines.
This impressive swell of power catapults the new Nissan 370Z from rest to 100km/h in just 5.3 seconds for the manual variant, while the 7-speed automatic blitzes the benchmark sprint in 5.6 seconds. Both gearboxes will run the 370Z right up to it's electronically-limited 250 km/h top speed with relative ease. This two-seater is a superb buy at the price.
AUDI S7 SPORTBACK Quattro all-wheel drive (Price: R919600)
You don't get much change from a million bucks if you want to buy this king of the road.
The S7 is every petrolhead's dream car!
Best way to describe this car is to compare it to a superbly honed Olympic athlete, all the curves and muscles are in the right place and get the hormones surging through the body – and this is even before taking this supercar for a drive! Under the hood lies a twin-turbo V8 engine which delivers 309kW from a displacement of four litres, while transmitting 550Nm of torque between 1400 and 5200rpm.
The S7 Sportback accelerates from zero to 100km/h in 4.7 seconds and top speed is limited to 250km/h.
The Quattro all-wheel system and powerful twin-turbo four litre V8 engine is what makes this car stand out among its competitors.
The car gets a 10 out of 10 in the handling and performance stakes – there's not much that can compare with this supercar! The S7 Sportback averages 9.6 litres of fuel per 100km.
The cylinder on demand system, which switches off four of the eight cylinders in many driving situations, contributes significantly to this efficiency.
The system deactivates four of the eight cylinders at low load, reducing fuel consumption at moderate highway speeds by up to 10%.
When the V8 switches into V4 mode, the active noise control system is activated, which counteracts unwanted noise by broadcasting targeted cancellation sounds into the vehicle interior via the sound system's loudspeakers.
There's ample space for five adults and plenty of space in the boot.
The seats are super luxury – the most comfortable we have experienced in a long time.
Put the Audi S7 Sportback on top of your Christmas wish list!