Just the (@Mazda_SA) 2 of us – driving the sub-compact KODO

The Mazda2 is a funky little hatchback that I met in its first incarnation somewhere around 2007. It was a nicely-styled, very practical hatch that punched rather above its weight-class in terms of ability.

Continue reading “Just the (@Mazda_SA) 2 of us – driving the sub-compact KODO”

Falabella Furious with the @FordSouthAfrica #Mustang

The wild horses of the American plains, running free for thousands of miles, carefree and with no responsibilities conjures evocative images of absolute freedom which are inescapably enticing for anyone trapped in the modern world.

These Mustangs, descended from the colonial Spanish horses of the Americas, lent their name to one of the most popular of the American muscle cars, created by Ford. Under the leadership of Lee Iacocca the Ford team created what would become an enduring automotive brand – one which was originally unveiled at the World’s Fair in 1964.

For reasons that are best known only to the South African psyche – and perhaps too many American movies – we have an inherent love for muscle cars. Maybe stories from our grandfathers about the American cars, the Fords and the Chevs, too much Mad Max in our early years or the memories of the Interceptors that were the stuff of dreams for the average South African have entrenched themselves in our genetic code.

Perhaps, instead, the dearth of big displacement horsepower in the local market and the accompanying mystique of the big bangers has influenced us (you always want what you can’t have) and the opportunity to own your very own American muscle car has been greeted enthusiastically by the local market. Ford actually ran a lottery with the introduction of the Mustang – win the lottery and you get to buy a Mustang before anyone else.

Ford Mustang
The 2.3L EcoBoost four-cylinder Ford Mustang. Does it have the legs to hold it’s own? Photo: Morné Condon

When I got the call to say there was a Mustang on the schedule, I did some reading on the first official Mustang model to be available to South Africa.

Locally there are two models available, a 5.0 V8 and a 2.3 EcoBoost four-cylinder. When I came across the EcoBoost, I knew instantly which model would arrive for testing. Not a real Mustang. Reading the specs on that model, I just knew what was going to come knocking at my door. It would not be some fire-breathing, gas-station draining, unsociably loud 5.0 litre V8, it wouldn’t even be a Mustang. Instead if would be a Falabella.

A Falabella is a breed of horse, of Spanish origin, which does not roam the American plains. It does not run free and it is not the epitome of all things cool. It isn’t even big enough (at 81cm at the withers – whatever that is) to be classed as a pony. It is a miniature horse.

In case I haven’t been clear yet, a four-cylinder turbo-charged Mustang? That’s not a Mustang, it isn’t even a pony car, it is just crap.

Anyway, whatever. Despite the clockwork engine I would at least be able to experience the rest of the car and hopefully something there would be of use to me.

In order to be diligent in my preparations for this new half-breed of Mustang, I felt I needed to know at least a little bit about the latest generation so took the time to watch the documentary “A faster horse” featuring chief engineer Dave Pericak and his team. This covers the creation of the Mustang that has finally made it to South African shores as an official Ford South Africa model and served to show just how much pressure the Ford company is with each new generation to make sure it is considered a good car – something about the Mustang is a reflection on the state of America.

This is a pretty heavy responsibility, trying to cater to everyone when the brand means so much to so many. In the tradition of “you can’t please all of the people, all of the time” somewhere along the line you’re going to screw it up.

I was pretty sure I knew where at least one of those screw-ups was – under the hood of the car that was yet to arrive.

Mustang switches
The Ford Mustang features a row of silver toggles which are a nice touch in a thoroughly modern layout. Photo: Ford

Anyway, when it did arrive, the Mustang was covered in a dark finish which I believe is referred to as “Magnetic” and the wheels were covered with something even darker. The appearance was murderous – the stuff of drive-by gangster movies.

The interior was equally somber, kitted out in black leather, with a splash of silver here and there to provide highlights. The interior is also sprinkled with Mustang emblems, from the standard on the steering wheel and on the plaque on the dash, to the illuminated Mustang on the door sills as well as the projected Mustang logo which shines on the ground outside the vehicle – originating from the wing mirrors. What you won’t find is a Ford logo – that’s only to be found on the windscreen, sharing the space with the rearview mirror.

What does strike an odd note – at least for me – is the inclusion of Ford’s very modern interface with touchscreen, voice commands and all the other tech associated with modern Ford models. To my mind, at least, this kind of car isn’t supposed to feature all these modern conveniences, it should be more hairy-chested. All this electric windows, dual aircon, fancy power-steering, climate controlled electric seats, six-speaker sound system with bluetooth business seems a bit anti-performance.

Speaking of performance, if you have the muscle-bound 5.0-litre Mustang, you’ll get 306kW, 530Nm of torque and an acceleration time of 4.8 seconds from standstill to 100 km/h. If you’re stuck behind the wheel of the Falabella model with the 2.3 litre twin-scroll turbo four-cylinder direct injection motor, you’re stuck with just 233kW and 430Nm of torque with an acceleration figure of 5.8 seconds from standstill to 100 km/h.

This Mustang weighs in around two tonnes. Ford is getting it from standstill to 100 km/h in under six seconds. That’s the four-cylinder, just in case you’ve forgotten. Not exactly compact car performance that, is it?

Mustang steering wheel
To keep it current with other Ford models, the Mustang steering wheel is festooned with buttons in the quest to keep the driver just a thumb-click away from all sorts of functions. Photo: Ford

Let’s get to the business of the Mustang as a Mustang for a moment. Let’s forget that Ford pumps engine noise into the cabin to give this EcoBoost a bit more character. Instead, feel that leather hold you when you slide into the driving seat. Grip the chunky leather steering wheel and gaze through that slit of a windscreen at the horizon, the acres of bonnet hiding your present in favour of a rapid future.

Press the start button, located in the centre console, alongside the other aluminium switches which are a bit of a throwback to an earlier time, let the engine purr and then just keep that accelerator pushed to the floor. It feels good, it feels right, just how decades of dreaming about driving an American icon told you it would feel.

Treat this 2.3 as a GT car, a Grand Tourer, rather than a traffic light hero and you’re going to enjoy it rather more. It looks good, it feels good, the magic of modern engineering means the drive is comfortable and handling makes the Mustang feel secure and competent – no matter how hard you push it.

Before the Mustang arrived, the idea of having a four cylinder under the hood meant it could never be a Mustang. Thing is, with a light foot you can get pretty far with the 2.3 – and while the petrol price might not out-accelerate the Mustang, it shows no intention of ceasing that inexorable increasing trend.

Don’t meet your heroes they say, you’ll be disappointed. Not me, not this time, this meeting was nigh on perfect. Yes, I don’t doubt a 5.0 V8 would have provided a rather more visceral experience, but in modern times and under current circumstances, perhaps a 2.3 with four cylinders pushing as much power as the older V6, is the true modern interpretation of a classic V8.

In the end, does this four-pot have the legs to carry the Mustang brand into the future? In my opinion, the answer can only be a very clear yes.

My #topfive #mobile #apps

In the land of mobile computing (a fancy way of describing something you do on your phone – or tablet) apps are king. The variety of apps makes your phone as versatile as it is – without them we would still be sending shorthand text messages.

For most users of modern touchscreen phones there are default apps that we all have installed. These include #Facebook, #Whatsapp, #Messenger, #Instagram, #Skype and #Twitter. Add a few niche apps like #Flipboard, #Pages, #Tumblr, #LinkedIn, #Soundhound, #Dropbox, perhaps even #Word, #Excel or a browser like #Chrome.

These are pretty standard installations and often top the “Best Apps for your Mobile Phone” articles.

Instead of those I’ve already listed, I scratched through my phone and picked the top five apps that I actually use. These are apps that I use every day (or the most regularly of all the apps installed on my phone). Of this list, perhaps there are a few you find useful.

While I make use of an iPhone, four of these apps are available for Android as well. I’ll start with the one iOS-only app.

GPX Master

This is a #gps (global positioning system) app, but not used for the reasons you might initially think. GPX Master records your location and allows you to export the resultant file to Dropbox. When the Dropbox file is linked in the photo editing program Lightroom (it may be supported by other editing programs, but this is one I specifically use) you are then able to #geotag your photos to indicate precisely where they were taken. This saves on buying a dedicated gps module for your camera. Since it is using the gps abilities of your device it does have an impact on your phone’s battery life, but it is a significant saving by comparison to a unit specific to your camera. One thing to remember is that your camera’s date and time must be accurate for this system to work.

The advert-supported version is here.

The paid version is available here.

While on the subject of GPS apps, let’s go to one used for more conventional reasons.

Waze

This is a navigation tool I use on a regular basis. No maps to download, nothing to pay, and it is most useful because the information comes direct from other road users – the users sharing the same road as you.

Waze is best researched by visiting their own website which links to Android, iOS and even a Windows mobile version. In a nutshell, the system makes use of realtime information from your device and the device of every other user to provide current road condition information while also allowing you and the other users to send alerts indicating accidents, road hazards, congestion, roadworks and even the presence of speed traps. If new roads are constructed you are able to “pave” that new road on the system and other road users are immediately aware of it – no waiting for map updates.

Additionally, since you don’t have to download maps, it means that Waze works wherever you happen to have a data connection. The downside is, of course, that no data connection means the system won’t work for you.

I’ve successfully used Waze in every city in South Africa I’ve visited and also while travelling abroad (just with a data sim for that particular part of the world). This is definitely worth taking a look at and it doesn’t make a big impact on your data plan.

Visit the Waze website here.

Next on my list of apps is one for bringing out the best in your images.

Snapseed (linked YouTube account for instructional videos)

We use mobile devices to grab photos more and more often. This where Snapseed allows you to edit those images, cropping, enhancing and adding photo effects so you can come up with a myriad of interpretations of the images on your phone. The results can then be saved and shared as you see fit.

It takes a bit of learning to figure out the intricacies of Snapseed, but the effort is well-spent and it is a competent photo editor for your phone – or even tablet.

Snapseed for your Android is available here.

If you are an iPhone user, use this link.

This next app is something I find increasingly useful, but might be a bit niche for many users.

IF

For people who have some background in computer programming, the use of an “if” statement will make sense. “If this happens, then do that”. Basically when one set of conditions are met, it triggers a specific response.

What that means for mobile users is that you can create a “recipe” which does something based on your set of conditions.

In my case, I use IF to post to Twitter if I post to Instagram. This is a very simplistic task, but it does make cross-posting to social networks simpler.

IF can perform functions based on your geographic location, the apps you use, the home automation you have installed and a host of other things. Here are a few examples, just to illustrate.

  • arrive home and your outside lights turn on automatically
  • you take a photo with your phone and it is automatically uploaded to Dropbox
  • add a new phone contact and have it saved to a Google spreadsheet of your contacts
  • get a notification on your phone if your local weather indicates it will rain
  • add a CDC (Centre for Disease Control) notification that will alert you instantly if there is a zombie outbreak – this is a personal favourite

Visit the IF website to discover what recipes are available (and create your own).

My last app for this list is one for the security conscious.

Authenticator (link should help making installation for your accounts a bit simpler)

If you’ve heard the term “two-step” authentication then you’ll have some idea of what Authenticator does for you. For those online accounts which support it, you can add an additional layer of security by adding Authenticator to your online presence.

You visit the particular site, enter your password as usual and will then be prompted for a six-digit code. This code is generated by Authenticator and is valid for 30 seconds. Once this code expires the app immediately generates a brand new random code. Unless you have your mobile device in your hand to input that code, you are simply not going to get into that particular account.

This level of security makes you that little bit safer online and makes thinking up new passwords or regularly changing passwords just a little less demanding. The value of this app is hard to calculate and something I definitely recommend for anyone with an online presence. While it is not infallible, it is much better than having nothing but a single password for your accounts.

I personally use Authenticator my Gmail account, my personal e-mail, Tumblr, IF, Facebook, WordPress and Hootsuite.

Authenticator is the on the Play store here.

For iOS users visit the App store here.

That’s my top five list, I’m sure you have your own favourites, you’re welcome to share those by leaving a comment.