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Wheels of the Week: Opel takes tech from outside in

The Grandland is a rare example of a car’s high-tech features first becoming evident from the outside, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

Most mid-high range vehicles nowadays sport automatic tail-gates at the back of the car to allow shutting and opening electronically. Typically, they open via a button at the driver’s seat or on the remote control key, and close with the same controls, or with the press of a button in the boot lid.

But if one uses the vehicle’s cargo or backdoor often, and continually having to put down and pick up heavy objects to put inside or carry away, even that convenience is not enough. It comes as a pleasant surprise, then, to discover an additional technology take on this feature in the new Opel Grandland Ultimate edition.

It features a sensor-controlled power tailgate, meaning that it opens and closes when it senses your foot moving under a sensor below the bumper. It is not the first of its kind, but rare in its price range, with the Ultimate coming in at R720,900. 

The new Grandland range starts at R599,900 for the 1.6T AT6 121kW and R679,900 for the GS Line 1.6T AT6 121kW.

That innovation is the clue to further tech delights inside the vehicles, and it is difficult not to focus entirely on the groundbreaking Pure Panel, formed by two widescreens in a single unit, in a digital interface. A seven-inch Driver Information Centre supports driving operations, while the same-sized colour touchscreen provides a multimedia infotainment system.

A feature called Highway Integration Assist uses a camera and radar sensors to combine various assistants, from regular adaptive cruise control that maintains the distance to the vehicle in front according to the set speed, to active lane positioning that keeps the car in the middle of the lane.

It comes close to autonomy with a Stop & Go function, which lets the car automatically resume driving from standstill. Front and rear cameras, automatic parking assistant and blind spot warning are standard across the range. I didn’t try my old autonomous car party trick, folding my arms while the car did the rest, but had the sense that the Grandland was almost ready for showtime.

Such cutting-edge features, typically associated with higher-end models, redefine the digital cockpit experience, providing a high level of instinctive control.

It is a surprise of the opposite kind, then, to discover that the basic Grandland provides only a single USB port, and demands that a wired connection be used to activate Android Auto or Apple Car Play. Fortunately for passengers, wireless charging in the centre console means they can still top up their batteries if the driver needs to have a phone plugged in.

Once one gets past that, however, the Grandland’s robust 1.6T engine, seamlessly mated with an automatic transmission, intertwines performance with innovative design. On the exterior, the signature Opel crease accents on the bonnet and the Blitz brand logo in the middle of the tailgate reflect Opel’s new design language. Under the hood, the turbocharged petrol engine delivers a formidable 121kW of power at 6,000 r/min and 240Nm torque at 1,400 r/min.

The Grandland range is underpinned by a comprehensive five-year/100,000km warranty and roadside assistance, complemented by a service plan spanning the initial five years of ownership. Opel’s 12-year anti-corrosion warranty reinforces the brand’s dedication to quality, with service intervals structured at annual or every 20,000km.

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