New Toyota GR Yaris – No normal hot hatch

This new pocket rocket seems like a Yaris. Still, it’s not really a Yaris… It’s a high-performance homologation special, unveiled at Tokyo Auto Salon 2020. This latest flagship hot hatchback is designed to give Toyota a competitive advantage in the World Rally Championship (WRC), where it is locked in battle with Korean rival Hyundai.

If you don’t care about practicality, but anticipate lightweight, powerful and exhilarate… this is the juice kit just for you! It’s the first true performance car developed entirely in-house by Toyota for around 20 years. This is all the work of Toyota’s developing Gazoo Racing performance division, together with Toyota’s motorsport arm and Tommi Mäkinen Racing, which runs the firm’s WRC programme.

It features a range of motorsport-derived design features, such as an all-new 257bhp turbocharged three-cylinder engine, a dedicated three-door platform and a unique chassis and suspension setup. The roof is substantially lower at the rear louvre, and the rear features a notably wider track, with big, beefy wheel arches.

Beneath the hulking shoulders

Only one gearbox choice, manual, hooked up to the smallest, lightest 1.6-liter engine in the world. It’s shoved back an extra 21mm on the chassis with a three-cylinder turbo, developing 260bhp and 260lb ft. It gives a 0-100km/h time in less than 5.5 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 230km/h.
A six-speed manual gearbox – there’s no automatic, to save weight and a manual makes it more fun to drive – sends power to all four wheels. It uses a high-performance coupling in front of the rear axle to control power to the rear wheels. The driver can choose between three modes – Normal, Sport and Track – where torque distribution is shifted in 60:40, 30:70 and 50:50 ratios, respectively.

The fresh three-door bodyshell

For this super-Yaris, the body is mostly aluminium except for the roof, which is carbon fibre reinforced plastic replacement. The GR is 91mm lower than the standard Yaris, for better aerodynamic aids and, in case you want to take the GR rallying, Toyota has reinforced the chassis suspension mounts. Also, the car’s engine sits further in the back than the regular model, which improves weight distribution.

It features a wider front and rear track width, a set of grooved front discs, an electric power steering system and a set of 18-inch alloys with Dunlop SP Sport tyres. Stopping is no problem, with 356mm Ventilated 4 pot fixed callipers on the front and 297mm 2 pot at the rear. To improve handling, Toyota also uses a double-wishbone suspension setup on the new GR.
Customers can upgrade with an optional Circuit Pack, which includes a Torsen limited-slip differential on both axles, a performance-tuned suspension and 18-inch forged alloy wheels, in Michelin Pilot Sport tyres.

There’s no hot hatch to rival Toyota’s new GR Yaris directly, and it will give hot hatches from a class above a bloody nose. This is 2020’s most proper supercar with the drive and power from the small four-wheel fiendishly clever car. This machine loves a narrow lane, relishes filthy weather and laughs in a pothole’s face.

Mercedes-Benz Concept: Avatar Car

Mercedes-Benz recently revealed the Mercedes Vision AVTR Concept which was inspired by James Cameron’s 2009 science fiction film – Avatar. The name not only comes from the film but also stands for “Advanced Vehicle Transformation.” This German car brand believes that this car embodies their vision of what mobility will look like in the distant future, with scales and crab-like movements.

This Vision AVTR Concept is the connection between man, machine, and nature, as well as the dream of a society where the trio lives together in perfect symbiosis. It acts as a “living organism” that connects with its users and allows them to feel the world around them. Similar to the Na’vi people and their connection to the flying Banshee, remember?

It’s unlike anything in Mercedes’ current line-up of vehicles – it’s full of glorious hi-tech details that Mercedes says embody the next step of sustainable luxury. The car won’t be featured in Avatar movies, but in a sense, Avatar is in the car. It seamlessly interacts with its occupants – with advanced AI it senses the heartbeat and breathing patterns of the driver and the passengers.

No steering wheel, but a centre console

A multifunctional control element runs through the centre of the car’s interior and acts in place of a car’s conventional steering wheel. This allows the car and driver to connect via biometric readings when the driver places its hand on the control unit. If the driver lifts their hand, a menu selection is projected on the palm to choose different driving functions. The centre console pays homage to the Tree of Souls, a holy place for the Avatar’s imaginary land of Na’vi.

Organic battery technology

With four electric motors, powered by a new-age graphene-based organic battery pack, it becomes independent of fossil resources. It eliminates rare, toxic and expensive earth-like metals such as nickel and cobalt. Graphene batteries also store higher energy density – up to 1200 Wh/litre which is double that of an ordinary lithium-ion battery pack. The battery pack has automated wireless conductive charging, capable of ultra-fast recharging capabilities in less than 15 minutes. The battery capacity is rated at 110kWh for an all-electric range of 700 kilometres and produces 470 horsepower.

Enhanced interior comfort

The holistic interior design encapsulates the driver and passengers to deliver an immerse riding experience and was meant to resemble a nest or cocoon. The seats are wrapped in vegan-based DINAMICA leather, which is the first and only microfibre material in the world that guarantees environmental sustainability throughout the production cycle. The material is soft and slip-resistant for enhanced comfort. The seats also vibrate to convey information to passengers. The floor is from Indonesian Karuun (or rattan) wood sustainably harvested from roots found in the Amazon rainforest. Replacing the dashboard is a curved display module projecting 3D graphics along with real-time images of the environment ahead. The Vision AVTR can also sense occupants’ vital signs and adjust the lighting accordingly.

Crab-like movements

The wheels and tyres were inspired by the Wood Sprites, which are seeds of the Trees of Souls from the movie. With a fully-variable torque vectoring system, each wheel can be driven separately depending on any given driving situation. The front and rear axles of the car can be driven in the same or opposite direction. This enables the car to move sideways around 30 degrees, like a crab, and backwards and forward, giving the vehicle an animal-like presence.

Flying insect

The transparent doors open gracefully upwards to mimic the gesture of a flying insect and its rider. The entire rear is covered in 33 discrete scales, or “bionic flaps”, which emulates the scales of reptiles. These scales communicate information to the driver and to the car’s surrounding environment via subtle flowing movements. The flaps can also be utilised to enhance aerodynamic efficiency, increasing driving dynamics and improving braking.

While this concept vehicle was designed to be a “zero-impact car”, it may not make it to production. At least not anywhere in the near future. But we can expect more recycled materials and ecologically-sound trim as well as graphene-based battery technology, and that’s a future worth getting excited for!

What to know: new driver’s demerit system

President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Bill into law in August 2019. The new law will introduce a demerit system that could ultimately end with Johannesburg’s habitual traffic offenders’ driver’s licences being suspended.

If implemented, it will be beneficial to all road users, but we’re left with tons of questions – is this more a ‘money-spinner’ than an aid? Will this really resolve current traffic problems, or will the rest of South Africa just be more cautious than ever before? Will this European point system really work in our rainbow nation?

We don’t have the answers, but if it could reduce the high rate of road deaths (over 14 000 road deaths annually with an economic impact of R146bn), we could surely try it. The system will also have a direct effect on car insurance, as it could potentially be linked to an underwriting criterion as it does reflect driving behaviour. Drivers with a poor record on this system could face higher premiums, while good drivers could benefit from better premiums. Whatever the case may be, here is what you need to know about the new driver demerit system.

How will the new driver demerit system work?

Every driver will start with zero points to their name and will face a three-month licence suspension if they exceed 12 points. One point is reduced every three months if no further violations occur, but the licence will be permanently cancelled if suspended three times.

The suspended driver will then have to reapply for testing as if they are a first-time licence applicant. The new system will also encourage drivers to speed up paying traffic fines – if not paid up, the system will prevent you from renewing your driver’s licence and vehicle licence.

Traffic offences that would add to demerit points

These points will work on a cumulative basis and will be allocated per violation as opposed to per incident. From the lowest to the highest allocation of points:

  • Using and holding a mobile phone while driving will be one demerit point.
  • Skipping a stop sign (light vehicles) is one demerit point, and for buses and trucks, it’s two points.
  • Speeding can be between two and six points, depending on the speed limit.
  • Driving without a licence equals four demerit points.
  • Driving under the influence of an intoxicating substance will be six demerit points.

Click here for the full list of violations, penalties and demerit points.

How can you avoid points piling up?

  • Adhere to speed limits.
  • Maintain a safe following distance between your car and the car ahead of you.
  • Put away your mobile phone – whatever it is, it can wait until you reach your destination.
  • Look after your vehicle – make sure it’s roadworthy at all times.
  • If your vehicle is being used as public transport, it’s a legal requirement to test your vehicle for roadworthiness annually.
  • Be courteous and adhere to good road manners.
  • Respect road rules and fellow motorists.
  • Be more tolerant and patient to avoid aggressive driving.