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Smart Cars

Whether it's the Golf's new infotainment system or the Land Rover Discovery's 'curry hook', user-friendly features set these cars apart from their peers
Mar 25, 2017 5:50 AM

Screen Sensation

by Christopher Lim

Volkswagen's facelifted Golf may have subtle new looks and a brand new engine option, but it's really all about screens.

Some might assume that upgrading a car's infotainment system involves getting the biggest touchscreen available. To be sure, big displays are not only pretty, but useful, and the top-of-the-line Discover Pro head unit does sport a spacious 9.2-inch screen.

But size alone isn't enough. It needs to be clear and sharp, and easy to use.

The second-generation Discover Pro screen boasts 1,280 x 640 pixels, which ensures that maps are displayed in gorgeous detail. It's also very bright, which is crucial because the bigger the screen, the bigger the risk of glare and distracting reflections.

VW has really nailed ease of use with this system, which was designed and built in-house. Prodding a screen with your finger is so pedestrian these days. That's why you don't even have to touch the Discover Pro screen to operate it. Just wave your hand in front of the screen to flick through playlists, change radio stations, or view pictures. And swooshing sounds acknowledge your commands. It's the first time a compact car model is getting gesture control.

Combined with voice, touch and steering wheel button controls, the gesture controls make it easy to use the Golf's infotainment and navigation tools without forcing you to pick only one control mechanism.

Thanks to its bevy of upgrades, the Discover Pro works well on its own, but it plays equally well with smartphones. CarPlay lets you summon Apple's ecosystem with a tap of a button, and Android users can fire up Android Auto and Mirrorlink to access apps.

Traditional knobs are gone, but there are still capacitive buttons for jumping straight to tools and functions. The other head unit options have also been upgraded in the facelift. Black-and-white options have been discontinued. The entry-level 5-inch model has been bumped up to 6.5 inches. And the mid-range 6.5-inch system has been upgraded to 8 inches. But the 9.2-inch Discover Pro is clearly the one to get.

9.2 inches might seem capacious, but it's actually eclipsed by a screen even nearer to drivers - the 12.3-inch Active Info Display, which replaces a traditional instrument cluster. It's an option on every Golf model, and uses a 1,440 x 540-pixel canvas to position meters and screens optimally. For example, the Navigation profile pushes the speedometer and tachometer to the sides to make space for a map in between. You can switch between five different display profiles.

Beyond the screens

Of course, you don't buy a car just for screens. The Mk7 Golf facelift gets a new radiator grille and bumpers, and LED tail lights are now standard across the Golf range. The 2-litre GTI engine gains 10 horses and a raspier exhaust note, but the real star is the new 1.5 TSI petrol engine, which is mated to an excellent new 7-speed DSG gearbox. The facelifted Golf models will be available by the end of the year. 1.0, 1.2 and 1.4-litre engines will launched first. When the 1.5-litre engine arrives, it will replace the 1.4. And the 1.2 will eventually be dropped from the line-up.

Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI

Engine 1,498cc, inline-4 turbocharged

Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch transmission

Max power 150 ps @ 5,000-6,000 rpm

Max torque 250 Nm @ 1,500-3,500 rpm

0-100kmh 8.3 secs

Top speed 216 kmh

CO2 emissions 115g/km

Price TBA

Distributor Volkswagen Group Singapore, T: 6474-8288

Family Friendly

by Samuel Ee

The fifth-generation Land Rover Discovery doesn't only look more stylish, it has many new user-friendly features that make it a versatile family SUV.

Here are some of them:

Space for seven adults All three rows of seats will comfortably accommodate even tall adults. Unlike some seven-seater models, there is no lack of head and legroom in the last row.

Intelligent seat fold The seven individual seats can be configured using the centre touchscreen, buttons in the luggage area, or even a smartphone. To protect against crushing or tipping of items, the seats have anti-pinch and stall detection technology with weight sensors in the seats and seatbelt buckles to detect if they are occupied.

Cabin refinement The new Discovery has an interior that is not only luxuriously spacious, but also quiet. This Land Rover's cabin is almost as hushed as a Range Rover's.

Clever storage areas The cupholders in the lower centre console slide forward to reveal hidden storage for four iPads with a charging point, while the climate control panel pops open to reveal a secret compartment for phones and wallets.

User-friendly features Behind the front seats are two seat pockets - a large one at the bottom and a smaller one above that will fit an iPad to allow for more ergonomic viewing. There are also nine USB charging points across all three rows of seats and an unobtrusive "curry hook'' next to the front passenger's knee to hang any takeaways.

Auto access height technology A Land Rover Discovery is tall, so the air suspension automatically drops 15 mm when the ignition is turned off or a seatbelt unclipped. It lowers an additional 25 mm when the door is opened to reduce total step-out height by 40 mm.

Powered inner tailgate The new Discovery now has a main one-piece tailgate, with an inner tailgate that functions as a load retainer to prevent unsecured objects from falling out of the boot. The inner tailgate can also be folded down, either electrically or manually, to function as a bench supporting a load of up to 300 kg or three people.

Increased wading depth There may not be any rivers to cross in Singapore but who knows if there will be a flash flood. This full-fledged off-roader has had its wading depth increased by 200 mm to 900 mm.

Lighter, stronger body The new Discovery uses a new, rigid aluminium monocoque body that weighs up to 480 kg less. One reason is the introduction of a smaller four-cylinder turbodiesel engine. The Discovery 3.0-litre Si6 with a supercharged V6 petrol unit is also available.

Land Rover Discovery Si6

Engine 2,995 cc V6 supercharged

Max power 340 hp @ 6,500 rpm

Max torque 450 Nm @ 3,500-5,000 rpm

0-100 kmh 7.1 secs

Top speed 215 kmh

CO2 emissions 254 g/km

Distributor Wearnes Automotive. T: 6378-2626