We drove the Jaguar F-Pace: a thoroughbred feline fit for all roads and uses…

We all know that SUV’s are all the rage, and are becoming ever more popular. No small wonder then that this stylish Jaguar SUV, launched in 2015, is the bestseller of the iconic brand. But then, you may ask with us, is this popular SUV still remaining a true Jaguar, combining pace (performance) with grace and space? Will the growl of its powerful engine lift your spirits, will its chassis seduce you with its graceful handling and comfort, will the beautiful body and interior put you in the exquisite mood and ambiance which only a Jaguar can convey? Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Feline contours

Looking at the photos you will agree, this F-Pace has the looks so unique to Jaguar. The waistline which ends in a higher tail contour, reminiscent of the rear end of the Jaguar E-type, where its high mounted rear bumpers also followed the waistline, the well rounded curves, the proportions of the wheel arches, well integrated in the fluent lines of the whole body, the subtle central bulge on the engine hood, all this is well and truly Jaguar.

In the interior, the digital age and the utmost attention to passive safety has put its own boundaries and accents, and so, alas, you will not find a wood rimmed steering wheel, nor does it lay thinly rimmed in your hands, the trend of times has commanded otherwise. But once the digital instrumentation lights up on the screens, one sees the familiar big round dials, and the classic lettering in the instruments, white on black, of, well, vintage Jaguars. As readers know, your servant is the proud owner of a Mk II 3,4 litre Jag, and yes, I felt well at home in this one.

The latest generation digital infotainment screens and functions are also intuitive and the proverbial breeze to use, and rank among the very best you will find in any car nowadays. The centre console is wide – again a celebrated Jaguar tradition- and houses the ergonomic rotary gear selector of the excellent 8- speed ZF auto box, and one just has to turn the column to choose the right function, and it will discreetly descend into its mount when you stop the car and engine, so neat and practical, and (luck has it) so unique to Jaguar. Going from “D” to “R”everse is just a short twist on the column selector, and that is soo clever!

Abundant, smooth, growling power…

The heart of any car is its engine, and in a Jaguar it simply HAS to be powerful, with abundant torque and pulling power, from low revs onwards, and on top of all that it has to develop that deep, feline sound. No small feat for a Diesel engine. But then, this is a V6 (yes, to me, a Jaguar is only a Jag with a SIX cylinder engine, sorry…) and it has 3 litre of displacement. So there are 300 HP available, at 4000 rpm. Of this, the Jaguar E-Type could only dream. With on top of all that 700 Nm of torque in store for that necessary feline punch, and this at merely 2000 rpm. So the outright performance is truly Jaguar, and indeed, the classic E-type could hardly match its 0 to 100 km/h acceleration of 6.2 sec. It would also have needed the right rear tyre size and final drive ratio to reach the same top speed of 241 km/h which this F-pace is capable of.

The thermal efficiency of a (large) Diesel is legendary, and shows abundantly here too that they belong into the larger SUV’s when there is no electrified or hybrid propulsion present in the drivetrain. It took just a restrained driving style with the engine humming along around 1000 rpm at urban legal speeds, to reach consumption averages between 7,4 and 7,8 liters/100 km in dense urban traffic. A petrol engine of similar size and power does not come even close to these figures in such a 4,7 metre SUV with a kerb weight of 1884 kg. The ingenium technology in these all aluminium engines offers low friction, and all this truly pays off.

We couldn’t resist making this line drawing version of the inconic Jaguar badge on the front grille. This F-Pace is indeed a true Jaguar…

Handling like a thoroughbred

As shares some of its architecture with the XE and XF, it handles very car-like. Of course, you can choose between driving modes that stiffen the suspension and boost steering response, but even in normal settings the F-type handles like a dream, displaying also very little body roll for an SUV of this weight and size. With the larger engines, the F-type offers standard 4WD, and this sends all the power to the rear wheels most of the time, with occasionally 20 pct sent to the front. On slippery surfaces, up to 50 % of the pulling power can be sent to the front wheels.

 A key ingredient to these impeccable road manners is its lightweight construction. Don’t forget that 80 pct of the body, excluding the doors, bonnet and plastic tailgate, is made of aluminium. Then there is the near perfect 50/50 weight distribution, an integral link rear suspension, and the aluminium double wishbone suspension at the front which is closely following the F-type setup. Electronics will analyze steering movements up to 500 times per second, body movements up to a 100 times per second. Do we need to say more? This Jaguar is in all its sportiness graceful and comfortable, never too hard, even in this sport mode.

Everyday practicality

The F-type is an SUV, and that means born and built for the modern day mobile couple and family. It easily seats five adults, has a minimum trunk volume of a very decent 650 liters, space for ski’s, toddler isofix seat anchors, electric tailgate, you name it. All thinkable driver assistance options can be had, the infotainment supports Apple and Android Car Play, the sound system is nothing short of superb.

Conclusion

The F-Pace is Jaguar’s bestseller, and for all the right reasons. It has feline, beautifully curved and timeless looks, both inside and out, displays uncanny panache behind the wheel, handles well balanced and displays all the growling Jaguar power you could ever wish for. Don’t forget also, this car is voted World Car of the Year 2017 en World Car Design of the Year 2017; Thi year, the model range has been extended with the
300 SPORT and Chequered Flag. In the diesel version it is as frugal as modern times command it, and if you decide to go green all the way, then Jaguar as the latest I-Pace, which is also a formidable looking car with many (E-) promises.

Needless to say we are very keen to lay our hands on one, but for the time being, and indeed for many years to come, this F-Pace will fulfil everything you could possibly wish of a Jaguar, and this better than ever.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the new Audi Q3 Advanced 35 TFSI 150 hp: four quality rings for excellence…

In the segment of premium compact SUV’s, the Q3 has always been a solid contender, and with the major improvements introduced in the latest generation, it looks it’s to stay very much on top. It has been voted first in the “compact SUV/off-road vehicles” category in the readers’ choice of “Best Cars 2019” by German technical magazine “auto motor und sport.”Indeed, the confident styling, the superb workmanship, impeccable finish and build quality will already convince you, even before driving it. But also behind the wheel, it has lots more in store, just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Clean and sharp contours

The Audi styling language has been sharpened up lately and the rounded contours have now been superseded by more angular surfaces and edges. It makes the whole car more elegant and lighter, and altogether more lively.

This added dynamism is also found in the available colour palette, and indeed our test car was sprayed in an attractive pulse orange, a new color, which suited it well.

The ‘new generation’ angular styling language is boldly continued in the interior, with as a highlight the suede finish of the dashboard surface panels, repeating the body colour. Led lighting is now introduced in door panels and throughout the cabin, and a large central screen running across part of the instrument panel makes abundantly clear that the digital age has well and truly arrived at Audi.

The digital instrumentation is an example of clarity and elegant design, and the large round dials for speed and revs can be made smaller to allow other information to take central stage in the line of sight of the driver.

Infotainment is of course top notch, and we enjoyed the DAB radio along with the premium sound system. The navigation also leaves little to be desired in terms of intuitive usability and accuracy. Of course there are also a host of driving aids to be enjoyed, of which more later.

Refined drivetrain

Under the hood purrs a state of the art 150 hp 1,5 litre gasoline TFSI unit, coupled to a smooth and alert 7 speed auto S Tronic gearbox. In terms of smoothness and liveliness, this entry level engine earns top marks. It develops ample pulling power at low revs, is vibrationless and silent, and is willing to rev beautifully under a marvellous staccato when you floor the throttle.

The engine embodies the latest techniques. What to think of for instance its cylinder linings, which  have an iron coating that is applied via plasma spraying and significantly reduces friction. The cooling module allows efficient thermal management, assisted by the exhaust manifold integrated in the cylinder head. The turbochargers generate up to 1.3 bar of (relative) charging pressure. The common-rail system injects the fuel at up to 350 bar – the high pressure results in spraying, even distribution of the flame front and low particulate emissions. Combined CO2 emissions are between 134 – 130 g/km.

The gearbox is utterly responsive, and has a well balanced gearchange behaviour according to the chosen driving mode. Because – noblesse oblige – the Q3 driver can choose how his car behaves according to his driving mood. Indeed, customers can order the Audi drive select dynamic handling system as an option. This system allows the driver to choose between auto, comfort, dynamic, efficiency, offroad and individual mode.

One has the choice between and together with engine and gearbox responsiveness steering and damping are also adjusted accordingly. When one has chosen the “dynamic”mode, pure driving pleasure is to be fully enjoyed, and indeed in terms of agility and steering precision, this Q3 truly scores very high indeed in this premium compact SUV segment. Even the standard steering system of the new Audi Q3 is sporty and direct with a ratio of 14.8:1. With the optional progressive steering, this ratio applies to the central position – the further the driver turns the wheel, the more direct the ratio. At full lock, it is 11.4:1.

In Audi drive select offroad mode, in which the adaptive dampers are set to soft, hill descent control can provide assistance (see illustration). Activated at the touch of a button, it constantly maintains the speed specified by the driver (up to a maximum of 30 km/h) on a steep downhill gradient of more than six percent through automatic brake interventions. The driver specifies the preferred speed by accelerating or braking. This allows the driver to concentrate fully on the terrain. In addition the MMI displays the tilt angle accordingly.

A few words more about this gearbox: In the entry-level gasoline version we tested, the two dry clutches manage without their own oil supply on account of the lower torque of 250 Nm (184.4 lb-ft). This improves efficiency even further. Oil is supplied to the gearwheels via a small, mechanically driven gear pump. In conjunction with Audi drive select, the seven-speed S tronic provides a freewheel function that becomes active in many situations if the driver takes their foot off the accelerator. It is deactivated in dynamic and offroad modes. We remind you here that the the Audi Q3 35 TFSI exclusively uses front-wheel drive.

Performance with this 150 hp version is more than adequate, with a 0 to 100 sprint time in 9.2 seconds, and a stable and effortless top speed of 207 km/h. When truly put through its paces with panache, this Q3 really shows what mettle it is made of, and indeed, in the true German tradition we would say, this Q3 feels totally at home on high speed outings on the Autobahnen, displaying the superb qualities of its chassis and suspension, and the thoroughly tested and proven quality of its (drivetrain) engineering.

In terms of economy, we remind you that the engine has the cylinder on demand efficiency system. Actuators on the camshafts temporarily shut down the second and third cylinders at low and medium loads by closing the inlet and outlet valves. The engine management system suppresses fuel injection and ignition. All this is totally imperceptible to the driver.

Despite all these technical refinement, the fuel consumption of a petrol engine car depends largely on your driving style. The very best we could achieve was an average of 7,3 liters/100 km, on a longer open road and motorway drive, with admittedly some 35 pct urban traffic thrown in. The manufacturer quotes a consumption between 5.9 – 5.7 l/100 km.

Suffice to say that a choice of three gasoline and two diesel engines, combined with front-wheel or quattro drive, is available for the Audi Q3. Their power outputs range from 110 kW (150 hp) to 169 kW (230 hp).

Infotainment, instrumentation and driving assistance: the digital age is with us…

The Q3 is manufactured at the Győr plant in Hungary, and is standard fitted with the digital instrument cluster, MMI radio including Bluetooth, multifunction leather steering wheel, air conditioning and LED headlights. In terms of assist systems, along with the Audi pre sense basic and Audi pre sense front safety systems, the Audi side assist lane change warning system and the Audi active lane assist lane departure warning system are fitted ex works. The light/rain sensor and the adjustable speed limiter also come as standard. We must say that this adjustable speed cruise control has decidedly come of age, and works is stunningly smooth and progressive.

Audi has done away with the analog instruments. Even with the standard MMI radio, they are replaced by a digital instrument cluster with a 10.25-inch screen diagonal, which the driver operates using the multifunction steering wheel.

First option: MMI radio plus. This first configuration level is called MMI radio plus – here, the customer can upgrade the digital instrument to the Audi virtual cockpit, which they can configure in many areas. In addition to the usual data such as road and engine speed, it also displays information on music tracks and Audi connect services.

If the customer has specified navigation, the display also includes the navigation map. The MMI radio plus also includes an MMI touch display with an 8.8-inch screen diagonal. It is integrated into the high-gloss black glass-look surround in the center of the dashboard. Then there is a still higher level: MMI navigation plus. Here, the MMI touch display measures 10.1 inches. In addition, the Audi virtual cockpit is available as an option in a plus version with a 12.3-inch screen diagonal. The driver can call up three different views on the screen, including a “dynamic” screen. Here, the engine and road speed are shown in square instruments with red graphical elements – a really sporty look. In all displays, the graphical user interface is so clear that the information can be read quickly. The menu structure is streamlined and easy to understand, as on a smartphone

Practical with more boot space

The luggage compartment has also benefited substantially from the growth of the new Q3 –it is the largest in the premium compact segment. Depending on the position of the rear seats and backrests, its capacity totals 530 or 675 liters (18.7 or 23.8 cu ft) With the backrests folded down the figure rises to 1,525 liters (53.9 cu ft) The loading floor can be adjusted in up to three levels; the low loading sill of 748 millimeters (29.4 in) makes it easier to stow heavy luggage. If the parcel shelf is not needed, it can be stowed under the loading floor.

Conclusion

The new Q3 has decidedly matured to a top contender, as we said before. Thoroughly engineered and built carefully to reach perfection, in terms of styling, quality, performance, handling, comfort and economy and longevity. It is in this segment of compact SUV’s a benchmark, without any doubt, by which others will be judged. Needless to say it will top the charts in the fleet segment, and win also the hearts of many private Audi enthusiasts and followers…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Alfa Romeo exhibits dramatic photos of a “Long Drive” with the Stelvio at the Brussels Sablon…

It is the dream of many: take an iconic thoroughbred for an extended Gran Turismo tour or “Long Drive” through the most beautiful roads and cities of Europe and take some stunning photos as a timeless memory of the car amidst the scenic places and landscapes on the tour…

This is just what celebrated photographer Frederik Herregods did, on a “Long Drive” of 7.000 kilometres behind the wheel of an Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.2 JTDm 180 pk Super, magnificently sprayed in « Verde Visconti », with matching beige leather interior with wooden inlays on the dashboard and door panels.

Frederik Herregods has to travel a lot, and along with the mission of attending the presentation of the B-tech versions of the Stelvio in Turin, Frederik needed a media car to photograph a rally with supercars organised by the Royal Automobile Club de Belgique (RACB). This would take him through different legendary cities like Bormio, Andorra, Carcassonne, Toulouse, Montpellier, Arles en Saint-Tropez, en finally Brussels and the Zoute Grand Prix, held from 4 to 7 October, where Alfa Romeo is present every year.

The idea came, together with the dynamic PR people of Alfa Romeo Belgium, to wrap this in a project “The Long Drive”, where the car could be extensively tested on its reliability and economy, and in the meantime illustrate this with lasting photos.

The result can be seen in an exhibition held until March 17 in the 9Hotel  Sablon, a premium boutique hotel which has been opened only three years ago in the heart of Brussels.

We had a long talk with the hotel management at the opening of this exhibition, and were very impressed by the outstanding quality of the personal service and the unique artistic design of the hotel and its rooms.

The management organises regularly photo exhibitions, so it was only logical that the exhibition was held here. The visitor can even book a special personalized room Alfa Romeo « The Long Drive »… need we say more? We invite you here to have a look at the photos taken by your servant at the opening of the exhibition…

Practical info: Address: 9Hotel Sablon, Rue de la Paille, 2 , 1000 Brussels. Exhibition runs until March 17.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

 

BMW and Daimler cooperate on automated driving…

 

(Premium) car manufacturers, unite: recently, BMW and Daimler announced in Berlin that they are launching five joint ventures that will offer mobility services such as solutions for car sharing, the search for parking spaces, and many more.

On February 28, the two manufacturers announced their intention to enter into a second new partnership. Daimler is planning to work together with BMW in the future on the next technology generation for driving assistance systems and on systems that enable conditionally automated driving on highways and automated parking functions. Why does this alliance make sense? The answer is simple: Because automated driving is a future-oriented technology that will radically transform our industry — and because in the long run we will be not only stronger but also more successful as partners than we would be alone.

What is already possible today: partial automation

The vision of autonomous driving is not only as old as the automobile itself — it’s also a central component of the strategy at Daimler. The vehicles you can see at your Mercedes-Benz dealer today can already do a great deal. Thanks to the Daimler active distance assistant DISTRONIC, the active steering assistant, the active lane-change assistant, and many other innovations, Daimler has already come very close to our goal of automated driving.

By means of currently available systems, a Mercedes-Benz can, for example, maintain the correct distance to vehicles ahead and drive partially automated on highways and country roads, as well as in cities. These systems also assist the driver with lane changes, evasive manoeuvres, and braking. And many models can be driven in and out of parking spaces via remote control from a smartphone — with the Remote Parking Assist.

At Mercedes-Benz, these features are called Intelligent Drive. With this, they have reached the level that engineers call SAE Level 2 or “partial automation.” This means that the car can already react automatically in many predefined situations — however, a human driver must always monitor traffic as well as the vehicle’s surroundings and be ready to react if necessary.

But above all, they have learned that the development of these systems is a bit like climbing a mountain. Taking the first few meters from the base station to the summit seems easy. But the closer you come to the goal, the thinner the air around you becomes, the more strength is required for each further step, and the more complex become the challenges you have to resolve in order to make progress.

From Level 3 to the summit

Further progress can be made more successfully and efficiently if the manufacturers are not alone. Daimler also believes that BMW is the perfect partner. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that Daimler has now signed, deals with the development of several automation stages up to Level 4. Level 4 means “high automation”: The driver does not even need to be ready to take over control of the vehicle — he or she could even be sleeping. The aim of our partnership is to develop systems that make automated driving scalable and take it to the next level in a variety of contexts — in China and in the USA as well as on the German Autobahn A8, which connects the BMW Tower in Munich with the Mercedes headquarters in Stuttgart.

A shared platform instead of isolated solutions

One thing is clear: BMW and Mercedes-Benz are competitors. The partnership will not become a new joint venture. Instead, we are planning to work together with BMW to develop a scalable and reliable platform that will bring optimal benefits to the customers of both brands. As part of this cooperative venture, we are also open to further partnerships that can contribute to the success of this platform.

It makes sense to distribute the technological and financial challenges of automated driving across a number of shoulders. It’s also clear that other existing partnerships and ongoing projects are not affected by intended cooperation between BMW and Daimler. For example, as Daimler has planned and already announced within the framework of our cooperation with Bosch, this year we will launch the first pilot for testing self-driving vehicles (Level 4/5) in urban surroundings in San José in Silicon Valley.

A long tradition of development at both manufacturers…

In spite of all the differences between BMW and Mercedes-Benz, they are also similar in many areas. For example, the men and women from Munich also have many years of experience in the areas of driving assistance and automated driving. BMW has worked on highly automated driving for a long time, and opened its Autonomous Driving Campus in Unterschleißheim – a suburb of Munich – in 2017, where BMW is consolidating all of its areas of expertise related to automated driving. The automation technology that the experts there are now working on will go into series production for the first time in the BMW iNEXT model in 2021.

At Daimler, long a leader in active safety systems, it programmed its systems largely in-house right from the very beginning. 2019 will see the launch in San José, Silicon Valley, of its first pilot programme, with Bosch, on self-driving vehicles (Levels 4/5) in urban environments. This will be the next milestone within the existing cooperation between both partners and the cooperation will continue as planned. Early next decade, Daimler will bring to the market not only highly automated (Level 3) vehicles but also fully automated (Level 4/5) vehicles. It is the only to the OEM in the world to be so well-positioned to apply autonomous driving in every relevant context, from passenger cars and vans to buses and trucks, and is therefore relying on scalable solutions to deliver automated driving.

The Memorandum of Understanding ensures that BMW and Daimler will pass the next milestone on the road to automated driving together. Their goal is to make the new technology generation available to our customers as early as the mid-2020s. It is all only logical: the suppliers who develop and produce elements of this automated driving architecture are for both manufacturers roughly the same… and it is crucial for these supplier/manufacturers to develop a broad (home) basis for their global ambitions…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

 

The genius of hybrid…

Taking our Lexus CT 200h through its paces showed us again the formidable economy potential that lies in the Toyota/Lexus designed hybrid drivetrain. It took us hardly any effort at all – except of course an anticitipative driving style and avoiding wide throttle openings, to reach a consumption of 4,4 liters/100 km, as we showed earlier, and we were astonished to see the figure even hover briefly lower on a quiet ride to Brussels the next day, to 4,3 liters/100 km.

On the subsequent return trip from Brussels with very heavy stop and go traffic, avoiding brisk accelerations let the CT 200h to use its battery power extensively, we achieved again an average of 4,4 liters/100 km. Indeed, accelerating with restraint, just moving along with the traffic flow, will besides the supportive E-power, also lead the E-CVT to keep choosing the lower rev ranges, and so the Atkinson cycle engine remains very efficient throughout. Remember, this Atkinson cycle also reintroduces cooled exhaust gases into the combustion chambers to make an additional contribution to reduced engine temperatures.

On top of all that, the smooth power transition performed by the E-CVT drivetrain and the low engine noise level contribute to a very “zen” driving experience. We tell you here a bit more of the technical side.  The CT’s transmission plays a large part in the car’s efficiency because it incorporates little more than two motor-generators, some gears and a minimal amount of oil. There are no clutches and none of the friction associated with regular transmissions or the belt-and-pulley types of CVTs employed by a growing number of gas-only cars.

Electronically-controlled continuously variable transmissions

Electronically controlled continuously variable transmissions (E-CVT) offer an infinite number of gears within a broad range of ratios, and simultaneously handle inputs coming from the petrol engine and electric motor.

 

The intelligence of E-CVT is evident by the fact that it selects the optimal – that is, most efficient – gear ratio for any situation by constantly analysing vehicle speed, road conditions, engine power and driver input. When that split-second passes, it moves imperceptibly to the next calculated ratio through a clever combination of planetary gears.

More bodywork beauty soon…

In the meantime, the quote provided by Lexus Wijnegem proved not quite competitive, and we made an appointment in the third week of March with Carrosserie Vercruysse in Halle, near Brussels. Keep looking at our columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Springtime in Geneva: a new open-top concept for the Lexus LC flagship coupe

Three years ago, Lexus caused a stir with the debut of the LC coupe at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. Since then, its design team has been exploring how the brand can evolve, leading to the creation of the new Lexus LC Convertible Concept, an appealing open-top roadster that makes its first European appearance at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show on 5 March.

The designers had one major goal for the concept, and that was ‘ultimate beauty’. From the rake of the windscreen to the smooth contours of the rear deck lid that houses the retractable top, every line was drawn to evoke an emotional response. The result is, as Lexus calls it,  a halo vehicle for the entire Lexus brand.

Retaining the styling language of the LC Coupe

“This concept takes the unmistakeable design of the LC coupe and interprets it as a future convertible,” said Tadao Mori, Chief Designer of the LC Convertible Concept. “It blends all the best aspects of the original coupe with the dynamic design of an open-air convertible.”

Long, low and lean, the LC Convertible Concept retains the LC coupe’s athletic proportions. The shape evolved naturally from the original LC design, yet it has its own, distinct identity.

More than just a grand tourer, the concept has a performance pedigree, its potential expressed in its short overhangs, 22-inch wheels and wide stance.

Beyond the visual appeal of the sheet metal, the cabin is an attractive space for driver and passengers alike. The tailored seats are upholstered in crisp white leather with yellow accents providing a splash of colour without disrupting the subtle elegance of the overall design.

The Lexus LC Convertible Concept measures 4,770mm long, 1,920mm wide and 1,340mm high, and has a 2,870mm wheelbase.

Just wait until March 5 to see it in the flesh!

Hans Knol ten Bensel