The Alfa Romeo Tonale Plug-In Hybrid Q4: the full story of a modern, electrified thoroughbred…

We drove the Alfa Romeo Plug-in Hybrid Q4 Veloce in the historic roads near Biella…

Alfa Romeo is at an important turning point of its long history. With the Tonale, this potent, 280 HP stylish compact SUV, it wants to make a fundamental transition. It is the first milestone on the way to zero emission(s) – within 5 years the brand wants to see all its Alfa’s electric. It makes us shiver, quite frankly, and hopefully not literally, when a cold winter will bite us all in conflict ridden Europe nowadays.

But indeed, a positive mind and hope should fulfill our hearts, and looking at the mechanics of this Tonale, there is still plenty to let it beat a bit faster.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

An excellent and very convincing thoroughbred hybrid.

The Tonale is conceived when the merger between FCA and PSA was not yet achieved, and this is one of the (main?) reasons we find a so-called FCA “GSE” or Global Small Engine, also marketed as Firefly, under the hood as its combustion engine. This is a family of engines produced by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles or (FCA) starting in 2016, and subsequently Stellantis.

The unit in the Alfa is also dubbed as the “FCA e-engine” and is to be seen in slightly different power versions now also in the Jeep Renegade 4xe, in the Jeep Compass 4xe. It is being produced in the Brazilian Betim plant, now the largest vehicle plant in Latin America and one of the largest in the world. It was the production unit with the largest capacity installed of the entire Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) group. The Tonale itself rolls of the production lines at the Stellantis plant in Italian Pomigliano d’Arco, a municipality of the Metropolitan City of Naples in Italy, located north of Mount Vesuvius.

Of course, this engine embodies the very latest state of the art technology. Indeed, this new generation MultiAir III, present in the GSE family, has even more flexible valve control. The new cam profile with pre-lift allows the opening of the suction valves during the exhaust phase, aiming at the realization of the internal EGR, with reduction of nitrogen oxides and increase of the efficiency of the engine in the partial load. Besides, the lifting profile of the MultiAir III intake valve is more extensive and makes it possible to manage the effective compression ratio of the engine, keeping the tendency to detonation under control regardless of the fuel used. Wow!

The unit produces 180 HP or 132 kW, and is coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission, which provides traction to the front axle. We must say that the unit is not only smooth and very willing, it also produces the unmistakable, typical throb of a classic Alfa; the sound engineers did truly excellent work!

But then, this is a fully fledged hybrid, and this Tonale Q4 has an electric motor capable of supplying 90kW of max peak power and 250 Nm of torque to the rear axle.

The battery at the centre and the electric motor and its battery junction control box at the rear warrant an excellent weight distribution…

The 306-volt, 15.5 kWh lithium-ion battery supplies an electric range of over 80 km in the urban cycle and more than 600 km of total range. It is also excellent in terms of sustainability thanks to the new hybrid drivetrain which reduces Co2 emissions to 26kg/km, bringing the range’s total emissions down by 40%. A reduction has also been made in fuel consumption, which has been brought down to 1.14 liters per 100 km in the WLTP cycle. Plus, with the aim of providing maximum efficiency, it takes less than 2.5 hours to fully charge the battery when the 7.4 kW onboard charger is in use.

Driving is believing…

We took the Tonale “Q4” -as we shorten its name here – on an interesting 102 km road circuit laid out by the Alfa people in the surroundings of the Balocco proving ground. It led us via an interesting picturesque city Ricetto di Candelo and its beautiful Castello di Castellengo towards Biella, then took us on a nice curvy stretch back to the Autostrada direction Balocco. Endearing is the precision of its steering, and the feedback of the road surface in your hands at the wheel. You can really place this Alfa on the ideal line and adopt some razor sharp driving, even in the “natural” or “N” mode. We found the steering a bit too light however, except in the “D” or Dynamic mode, where the steering is more direct, even more responsive and feels a bit heavier.

The gleaming row of Alfa’s ready for the road test, aligned in front of the Balocco Proving Ground headquarters…

But pleasure at the wheel is to be had every inch of the way, and we found the Alfa also display excellent neutral handling, also thanks to its ideal weight distribution. Icing on the cake was a stint on the curvy circuit section of the proving ground, behind a Giulia Quadrifoglio pace car. It gave us the opportunity to drive flat out and (safely) close to the limits of this endearing Tonale, and the car could prove its qualities masterfully. Remember, the four wheels are driven, the front wheels being powered by the internal combustion engine and the rear wheels driven by the electric motor. Your servant could thanks to the e-AWD system, enjoy the instantaneous deployment of 100% of available torque from the electric motor, with a rear axle responding as soon as one steps on the throttle, and this resulted in excellent and stable out of corner acceleration, truly exhilarating indeed!

The performance is of course nothing short of astonishing. On the short straights of the circuit speeds well over 170 km/h were easily achieved, with stopping power to match. The “Q4” Tonale shoots from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 6,2 seconds and hurtles further to a top speed of 206 km/h. On e-power alone, the Tonale can achieve 135 km/h.

The suspension is well calibrated. For technical buffs we tell you here that the Tonale, as a result of its development history, runs on the FCA Small Wide platform of the Jeep Compass of the second generation.

The D.N.A. selector at the centre of action…

You can drive this Alfa exactly how you feel. We already applauded its qualities in the Dynamic mode, and the subdued but sporting roar of the engine still rings in our ears. But then you can also enjoy the agility, responsiveness and nimbleness of the Alfa Tonale in a more refined, “zen” way, which Alfa calls “modern sportiness”. We do agree, as the transgression between engine and E-power is ever so smooth as to becoming completely imperceptible, and that is no small feat. So when you select “N” or “Natural” mode, it keeps hybrid driving to all-wheel drive to optimize performance. The use of combustion engine and electric motor is automatically managed and allows for energy and fuel savings without giving up on performance.

Last but not least there is the “Advance Efficiency” mode, calibrated to obtain maximum energy efficiency in full-electric driving mode. It is the ideal driving mode in urban traffic. When you lift the throttle, the car continues driving in “Sailing.” Meanwhile, when one is going downhill, the new eCoasting Descent Control is activated to maintain a constant speed of 50 km/h, which is however adjustable with a light dab on the throttle or brake. Specifically, “E-Save” allows one to recharge or maintain the battery level when the internal combustion engine is on, and there is also the regenerative braking system.

Premium comfort and safety

The Tonale is quite roomy, remember, it rolls on the second generation Jeep Compass platform. Sound insulation is also quite good, enhancing the “zen” driving experience. Moreover, on-board comfort is also ensured by dual-zone climate control, pleasing ambient light, a sophisticated Infotainment system, ventilated and heated front seats, and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.

It also includes ADAS systems for level 2 automatic driving, a hi-res camera which provides a 360° view of the car, a Blind-Spot Detector and Rear Cross-Path Detector, as well as superior structural and industrial quality which earned it a 5-star NCAP rating.

Software connectivity…

Amazon Alexa allows one to remain constantly updated on the state of the vehicle from the comfort of one’s home, as it provides useful information like the charge Tonale Plug-In’s battery. The built-in Infotainment system comes standard and offers contents, functionalities, and services which are constantly being updated via its customizable Android operating system and 4G connectivity with “Over The Air” (OTA) updates.

Thanks to a hi-res screen whose overall dimensions are 22.5”—a 12.3” totally digital screen and a 10.25” main touchscreen unit, the Tonale Plug-In ensures easy-to-use connection. The centre 10,25” screen is also seen by the way in the 500e. The Tonale Plug-in Hybrid Q4’s circular dials include ad-hoc upgrades like the electro-biscione in the lower part of the right dial which changes color based on the electric motor’s status (off, on, on and charging) and so provides all the information related to power and charging. Clever!

Four new functionalities of Alfa Connect Services make their debut on the Tonale Plug-in Hybrid Q4:

E-control: it allows the customer to control various functionalities based on the EV features—like charging and the climate control system—at a distance directly from the My Alfa Connect App, which you have to install on your phone.

Dynamic Range Mapping: it allows drivers to travel with peace of mind as it shows them the destination they can reach based on the battery charge both on the navigation system map and the My Alfa Connect app.

At the end of our 105,9 km road trip, the instruments tell the story: we drove 50,6 km on engine power, 55,2 km on batter e-power. This resulted in a consumption of 3,86 litres/100 km, but then with 8 km left in the battery, so we estimate some 14 kW consumed…

Charging Station Finder: it allows the customer to see the nearest public charging stations both on the navigation system map and the My Alfa Connect app.

My eCharge: it allows for the use of the My Alfa Connect app to directly access Free2Move eSolutions services to manage public and private charging. In fact, it is possible to locate the public charging stations, check the charging methods, make payments, visualize the charge history, manage one’s own Wallbox to decide how much electricity to use and even increase, decrease, suspend, and reactivate the charge.

Your Tonale has an NFT which lets you generate a certificate…

This means that specifically, based on the customer’s selection, the NFT generates a certificate which guarantees the identity and good maintenance of the vehicle, and thus supports its residual value. The NFT certificate provides a further source of credibility on the used car market and is even more valuable on the Tonale Plug-In Hybrid Q4 as it contains even more information.

A special “Edizione Speciale” at the launch…

The Tonale Plug-in Hybrid Q4 is the top-of-the-range model and is in line with the simplification and rationalization of Alfa Romeo’s lineup strategy. In fact, it can already be ordered in the exclusive EDIZIONE SPECIALE launch version and in the VELOCE trim which has been made to reach the most in terms of performance and sportiness.

The EDIZIONE SPECIALE offers inserts on the titanium body, a special badge on the fenders, and a “Tonale” black badge, 20” alloy wheels, metallic pedals, red Brembo brake calipers and aluminum shift paddles which are integrated into the steering column. Later on, customers will be able to order the Tonale Plug-In Hybrid Q4 in the Ti trim for a more elegant and distinctive character.

We have to wait a bit to get our hands on this remarkable Alfa for a more extended test, but stay tuned for more Alfa news soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Alfa Romeo Tonale Plug-In Hybrid Q4 in Balocco: the wonderful panache of today’s efficient sportiness…

The cars were lined up for us at the Bella Luigina farmhouse, centre and headquarters of the proving ground.

The world famous proving ground and high speed test circuit at Balocco, built in 1962 by Alfa Romeo to test the Giulia’s as well as the racing cars, was the setting for us to get a hands on driving experience of the brand new Tonale Plug-In Hybrid Q4. The Test Track was built at Balocco, in a strategic location between Turin and Milan.

It all proved to be absolutely epic. The handling and driving dynamics of the Tonale on the state of the art test circuit, with its plug-in hybrid 4 WD drivetrain which produces not less than 280 HP, was the stuff of legends to say the least.

In front of the stables of the Bella Luigina farmhouse – the former home of legendary Autodelta racing department –  stood these impressive Tonale’s, waiting for a test drive…

We had also a taste of what Alfa calls its “efficient sportiness” and what it understands this sportiness to be in our modern times. This Alfa Tonale indeed displays its formidable performance in a totally effortless, mechanically refined and predictable manner, which has to be experienced to be believed.

The important loan documents for a drive in this wonderful modern day Alfa, including the permission to have a go at (almost) racing speeds on the Balocco test track!

We will of course come back the coming days on this presentation of the Tonale Plug-In Hybrid Q4, a very important car in the new future strategy of Alfa Romeo.

More very soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel   

Lancia starts a journey from its iconic past to a stylish future…

Today starts the first of three appointments in anticipation of the Lancia Design Day on November 28th, the first event of Lancia Renaissance to describe the style of some of its most past iconic vehicles which inspired the design of its three future models.

The stars are the Lancia vehicles which have inspired so many car lovers: from Aurelia to Flaminia, from Fulvia to Beta HPE, Gamma, Delta, Stratos, and 037. Some are just the pinnacle of elegance, while others are brutal and efficient. But all have a style capable of remaining timeless. This is what kept them beautiful, contemporary, and authentic expressions of Italian design until today.

“The design and beauty of these “moving masterpieces” inspired us in our creation of the three Lancia models of the future” stated Luca Napolitano, Lancia CEO. “This includes the new Ypsilon in 2024, our new flagship which will allow us to enter Europe’s biggest segment, and the sculpted and muscular new “Delta” in 2028 with its geometric lines which will excite car enthusiasts throughout Europe.

We like to describe Lancia as a “Progressive Classic” brand, continues mr. Napolitano, where “Classic” means leveraging and respecting the value of our heritage, while “Progressive” entails our ability to look to the future with ambition. Innovation and timeless design have always been our values and we now want to add sustainability, and responsibility, always putting the customer at the center of our value proposition. These are the guiding principles of the ten-year plan of our Renaissance: through them, we are aiming at becoming a credible and respected brand in the premium European market. Protagonists of this roadmap will be the three new Lancia models of the future that we designed to make them recognizable and consistent one another. All three vehicles will feature three distinctly Lancia design elements: the calice, the sinuous lines and the geometric-primitive forms. Inspired by the front of the iconic Lancia Aurelia and Delta, the new calice will be reinterpreted in a modern key, preserving its distinctive feature that brings together a vertical and horizontal line to include the Brand logo.”

Moreover, the three new models will display sinuous lines on their side, a typical feature of some of Lancia historical models, such as Aurelia B20.

Finally, there are the geometric-primitive forms on both the front and the rear, among which the round taillights stand out, that refer to the Brand’s more brutal and technical spirit, which tips its cap to the legendary 037, Stratos, and Delta, the racing “beasts” that dominated Rally for over 20 years”.

Besides elegance and grit, there is a third element of Lancia design that is eclecticism, i.e., the tendency to be inspired by various sources, even contrasting ones, to create something harmonious and consistent at the same time. This is what happens, for example, in the Italian living room areas that inspired Lancia to create the original and welcoming interiors of the Gamma and Beta models. The same refinement of the interiors can be found in the 1965 Fulvia Coupé, elegant, aggressive and high performing at the same time. This is another example of Lancia eclecticism.

The Lancia Beta HPE, marking an era with its “venetian blinds-inspired structure”

The Lancia Beta HPE (High Performance Estate) is a gorgeous, sporty, and high-performing family car which is low, graceful, and equipped with a spacious trunk. Designed by Pininfarina and produced in three series, it is definitely the most fascinating Lancia Beta model. Introduced at the 1975 Geneva Motor Show, the Lancia Beta HPE stood out for its eclecticism featured as the “practical elegance”. The rear of the cabin stands out for its angled hatch where one can make out an innovative venetian blinds-inspired structure behind the glass, which limits the effects of sun glare and protects rear visibility. This innovative solution is finished off by two trims on the third pillar which gets visually blended with the original finish on the rear window.

Lancia Gamma Coupe: the “traveling living room” that sets new rules…

At the Geneva Motor Show in 1976, Lancia displayed the futuristic design of the Lancia Gamma Coupe. With classic exteriors and eclectic interiors, this vehicle is remembered as the “traveling living room”. It was given this nickname as the cab recreates a welcoming, comfortable, and innovative atmosphere, as demonstrated by its original color combination and its dashboard inspired by the  product design of the 70’s. The refinement and the fine quality of the material are the result of collaborations with famous fashion brands, including the maison of Ermenegildo Zegna. The final evolution of Lancia great GT coupes, a noble range that includes Aurelia and Flaminia, the Gamma Coupe was inspired by the Flaminia Coupe. This might be why it looks more graceful and sleeker at first glance than the five-door sedan, thanks as well to its slanted roof. More stylish news soon, and for now just look at the photos… and the film which you can also admire on my Instagram page.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Alfa Romeo presents heritage program…

The Alfa Romeo SZ

At the 39th edition of “Auto e Moto d’Epoca”, one of the most important events in Europe for vintage car and motorcycle enthusiasts, Alfa Romeo presents the “Alfa Romeo Classiche” heritage program, a range of services with the precise aim of protecting and promoting the history of the iconic Italian brand.

For the first time in Stellantis, the brand’s top management is personally involved in all the activities that make up the whole range of its dedicated services. In fact, the certification committee is chaired by Alfa Romeo’s CEO and the Head of Heritage department, with the support of the Alfa Romeo Museum. This support is crucial, as this museum houses the production registers and all the technical documentation used by the committee to analyze the information on the examined cars.

Abarth is also incuded in the overall Stellantis Heritage program…

Jean Philippe Imparato – Alfa Romeo CEO: “we are enhancing our historic heritage”

When presenting the program, the CEO stated: “Alfa Romeo is going through a key phase in its history. The historical period we are going through is a genuine evolution. The brand’s future includes very ambitious goals aimed at redefining the concept of sportiness in the 21st century, while remaining faithful to its DNA. While planning for the future, our heritage is always our main source of inspiration. For us, the Alfa Romeo Classiche heritage program aims to enhance our historic automotive heritage by certifying the authenticity of vintage Alfa Romeos and giving new life to marvelous examples that still captivate and excite car enthusiasts around the world.”

The program…

Parts for the Lancia Delta Integrale are also provided…

 The Alfa Romeo Classiche heritage program consists of the Certificate of Origin – which has been offered for Alfa Romeo cars since 2016 – together with the Certificate of Authenticity and the Restoration. The Top management of the brand personally chairs and intervenes in the committee that evaluates historic cars and issues the certifications with the support of the Heritage team and the experts in Alfa Romeo history.

Issuing a Certificate of Origin…

Alfa Romeo offers the opportunity to discover the history of each car through its chassis number. The service provides for an accurate document review at the Brand’s production registers and the issue of a certificate certifying the car’s year of production and original configuration: model specifications, engine serial number, original exterior and interior details.

… and a Certificate of Authenticity.

Historic gems are kept and restored by the heritage department…

After analyzing in detail the historic car taken under consideration and verifying its production data and technical specifications at the company archives, Alfa Romeo, with the support of the Heritage department, certifies the authenticity of the classic car. To obtain this certification each car goes through a rigorous inspection and evaluation process which is carried out by the specialized team, verifying the authenticity of the car and its components and the functioning of the main mechanical parts. The vehicle can be examined at the Officine Classiche in Mirafiori or directly at the customer’s home, if he prefers, or at the Stellantis & You sales and service dealership in Rome and Palermo.

A fully fledged Restoration service.

Furthermore, the same team that takes care of the’ historical collection is available to private clients, with services ranging from simple maintenance to complete restoration: from diagnosis to exterior restoration, repair of individual mechanical and aesthetic components, and final testing.

A dedicated area on the official Alfa Romeo website…

The brand will introduce an area dedicated on its website to the new “Alfa Romeo Classiche” heritage program that allows lucky owners of historic cars to make use of programs dedicated to Certificates of Authenticity and Restoration. It will therefore be possible to receive all the information and support necessary to start a dedicated and personalized program directly from the brand’s website.

To put you in the mood, just look at the accompanying photos…where you don’t see only Alfa’s, but also Lancia and Abarth, which are also taken under the wings of the Stellantis Heritage depoartment…

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

Jeep revealed at the Paris Motor Show its Jeep Avenger 4×4 Concept…

Externally, the 4×4 Concept features tow hooks, wider fenders and track, and is equipped with larger, exposed and more aggressive tires.

Indeed, at the finale of the Jeep brand press conference of the Paris show, Jeep announced its 4×4 Concept.

At the event, Jeep brand CEO Christian Meunier pointed out that the Avenger has been designed as a Jeep vehicle from the outset. Indeed, “the all-electric 4×2 model already offers some of the best-in-class capabilities that identify the Jeep brand”, he stated.

Of course, it was tempting to inject the Jeep brand’s four-wheel drive electrified capabilities into a compact package, while retaining the brand’s unique design language, capability and personality.

Externally, the 4×4 Concept features tow hooks, wider fenders and track, and is equipped with larger, exposed and more aggressive tires.

To further enhance the capability of the Jeep Avenger, the approach angle has been improved to 21 degrees, departure angle to 34 degrees and breakover angle to 20 degrees, thanks to the ground clearance which now exceeds 200mm.

The front end has additional protection, with thicker cladding and there are extra built-in flood lights to improve visibility when driving at night.

The Avenger 4×4 Concept also displays a new lightweight roof cargo system concept that, with a special belt system, compresses the luggage on the roof and has scratch-proof protection along its entire length. The whole package is completed by an anti-reflective hood sticker and anti-scratch grille treatment for additional peace of mind when driving off-road.

Concluding the unveiling, Meunier said: “Here in Paris, we have shown that we have a full portfolio of new all-electric 4×4 capable Jeep models just around the corner, with a clear goal in mind: to become the number one electrified SUV brand in the world as we continue our path towards achieving our mission of Zero Emission Freedom.”

The full-electric Avenger joins a portfolio of Jeep vehicles which are 100 percent electrified in continental Europe…

Just look at the photos for now, until the Avenger all electric 4×2 comes available for a test drive…and the 4×4 version will also hit our roads!  

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the BMW 218d Active tourer: the sheer joy of BMW driving…

BMW’s have always lightened the hearts of the men and women behind their steering wheel. Their agility, responsiveness, the feeling of being “one” with the car, this pervades you every minute you drive a four wheeled product of the brand, and this always has been with every BMW. I can tell, as I am writing the report of this test while waiting in line to pass the yearly MOT test of my beloved BMWZ3, built in 1997. (For photos of this, see my instagram page autoprova.be). The sensation is just unique.

The BMW 218d Active Tourer we tested recently is no exception. It puts a smile on your face too. The car itself has now front wheel drive, and purists might look a bit worried here, but the excellence of the handling, the way the BMW engineers have fine tuned the suspension is nothing short of astonishing. The car steers with much precision, stays neutral until very high corner speeds and goes into a mild and controlled understeer when reaching the adhesion limit. The overall typical BMW agility is beautifully maintained.

Of course, this (compact?) SUV has what it takes to enjoy the family. There is plenty of room for five, and a luggage space which will satisfy almost everybody, more about this later.

The seats are just wonderful, wrapping you in comfort with a sporting touch.

We absolutely love the BMW typical dashboard architecture, and the design and shape of the digital instrumentation, although we still love the iconic BMW styling of the round dials which adorn for example my now 24 year old BMW Z3.

One might regret that the iDrive round control knob in the centre console – which BMW thankfully had pioneered – has disappeared to manage all the functions and settings, and from now on everything has to be selected on the 10.25 inch touchscreen,

but this seems to be the trend of the times, and we have to admit that the functions are very logical and self explaining, albeit sometimes one has to search quite “deep” in the menu.

We very much liked also the gearbox selector neatly placed on a “floating” control pad which leaves space underneath for sunglasses, driving gloves and sundry. It has also a handy rolling control for audio volume, a knob for selecting the different driving modes, parking cameras and auto hold. Of course the start stop button lodges there too. We also liked the charging pad for the phone, which holds the phone upright, and tight so it does not slide around when you indulge yourself in some very spirited driving.

The screen graphics and the screen definition are a joy to behold, and this enhances the high quality feel this BMW gives you. Note that the touchscreen and its functions are the same as you find in the flagship BMW’s… The touch and feel of the upholstery and dashboard surfaces and panels is also top notch.

The magic of Diesel…

We tested the two liter diesel engine version of the Active Tourer, and it proved again masterfully how wonderful modern diesels have become. The four cylinder 1995 cc unit is ultra smooth, coupled to an 8 Steptronic speed automatic, it provided a velvety yet powerful energy flow to the front wheels. It has plenty of power with 110/150 kW/hp, and has ample torque of 350 Nm, which is available over a wide rev range between 1750 – 2500 rpm. You don’t hear it at speed, nor does it emit any vibrations. Performance is excellent we would think, with a 0 to 100 km/h acceleration time of merely 9 seconds. Top speed is a good 213 km/h, and we took our Active Tourer on a trip to Düsseldorf to have a go on the legendary German Autobahnen, and we enjoyed the high speed qualities of the Active Tourer to the full. We have to admit, this is what this (and many other) BMW’s are built for…

A range of 1125 km, makes one dream, isn’t it?

This effortless high speed driving and zesty touring in our cities and highways doesn’t cost you much energy with this marvelous frugal diesel. We clocked an average consumption of merely 5 litres/100 km. According to WLTP norm, the average consumption for the 8 speed Steptronic is quoted at between 5,2-4,9 l/100 km. Need we say more? This means, considering a tank capacity of 51 litres, you have an action radius of a good 1.000 km. This lets you dream, doesn’t it? How we enjoyed this mobility freedom with this diesel…

Good to know that its emission rating is 6D, and still according to WLTP norm it emits between 135-128 g/km of CO2.  

Roomy

This is a compact SUV, or crossover, and it offers resulting from its body shape plenty of space also in the back seats. It is practical too. The rear seats slide fore and aft easily via manual locking mechanisms, so you can choose between more luggage space or better legroom. One has 470 liters in standard configuration, extendable to 1,455 liters with the rear seat backrests folded down.

Conclusion

A well made car with a stylish interior and excellent and frugal performance, and of course wonderful, care-free mobility in this diesel version. Refined too, with good comfort, excellent handling (certainly for a SUV). It doesn’t come exactly cheap, but as said, it is built for a very, very long service life, and this will reflect itself in overall very little depreciation. Last but not least, there is the emotional factor: it’s a BMW… made to make you smile behind the wheel.

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

We drove the Dacia Jogger: a space car for the people…

Dacia is offering us now a roomy 7 seater at a price which defies all competition. Actually, this is a car which has no competition at all, at least for the time being. Dacia, or should we say Renault, has to be admired for it. They succeed in building cars with excellent qualities in comfort, performance and roominess at prices which other manufacturer’s simply cannot reach.

How does it drive, and how does it behave in the real world? Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Jogger now also has the looks. The Jogger is neat and well proportioned. Up to the end of the front door, it is in fact a Sandero, but then the wheelbase has been lengthened to an impressive 2,90 meters.

From the second door onwards, the roof has been raised somewhat, to allow sufficient headroom, and indeed, one sits nicely high up on the second row of seats, and besides ample legroom there is also sufficient  headroom to be enjoyed.

Even on the third row, easily accessible after flipping over with one effortless movement the second row of seats, one enjoys more leg- and headroom than the closest – and much more expensive – competitors.

With all three seating rows upright, one is left with 160 liters of luggage space, but with all the seat rows folded or even taken out, a loading space of close to 1900 liters is yours.

A practical and no-nonsense interior.

In the cabin one finds the instrumentation of the Sandero/Clio, also the handy climate controls are familiar. In the top version we tested, we enjoyed a central touch screen with navigation, but in the other versions you are invited to use your smartphone, and this is of course the logical and practical thing to do nowadays. Even in the lower equipment versions, the Jogger feels by no ways spartan.

The Jogger comes in three equipment levels, starting with the essential, costing at the moment of writing not even 17.000 Euros in our country. The next level is the expression, priced just below 19.000 Euros, and then the top level Extreme, complete with nice black 16 inch “Mahalia” alloys, costing just over 20.000 Euros.

The instrumentation is thankfully analog, with nice round dials for revs and speed, and is eminently readable. The materials used are vastly improved, and we liked the texture of the dashboard panel in the “Extreme” version very much indeed. This version leaves very little to be desired, and boasts even seat heating… The level of finish is also quite good, as is the overall sound insulation of this Jogger.

Driving pleasure…

The Jogger has well proven technology under the hood, with the 999 cc three cylinder turbo petrol engines. There is a bi-fuel 100 Hp version, and a petrol one, the Tc 110, indeed being good for 110 HP. Both engines have good pulling power, with some 200 Nm torque for the petrol engine. This results in plenty of liveliness, with 0 to 100 km/h sprint times in under 11 seconds and top speeds in the region of 180 km/h. Mind you, this is even slightly faster than a Porsche 356 “super 90” of the late fifties (!). Many of today’s Mille Miglia drivers can only dream of this performance…

The engines are coupled to a six speed manual, which keeps the driving fun at top level. It is indeed delicious to rev the engine at full power through the gears, listening to the melodious throb of the engine and seeing the rev needle climb up. Classic driving in the purest sense… super enjoyable! We already mentioned this in our Instagram post on @autoprova.be

Of course, good consumption figures are only achieved when revs stay at 2000 rpm or thereabouts, and the driver assist indicators in the dashboard let you choose the right gear(s) for this.

Under these conditions, the Jogger clearly scores, with consumptions between 5,6 and 6 liters/100 km being easily reached.CO2 emissions hover between 127-130 g/km.

Roomy and comfortable

The long wheelbase not only gives extra room, it also provides more comfort. The Jogger offers predictable handling, and above all a smooth ride, and this Dacia is indeed fit for very long (cruising) trips with the whole family.

Dacia, a philosophy to follow…

The Jogger teaches us a lesson: this is actually all one needs in a car, except maybe a good automatic, but then again, is it so difficult for any driver to understand the kinetics of an automobile and learn the art of proper and smooth shifting? Millions and millions of drivers have done it, by the way…

Besides the already offered bi-fuel engines, a hybrid version is soon to be launched, and this will offer more environmentally responsible economy.

We would suggest, take a long, hard look at this Dacia Jogger, it literally moves boundaries and has a unique position in today’s car world.

The sales results and its increasing popularity already prove it…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The iconic and ultra-exclusive Citroën My Ami Buggy in Brussels and Knokke…

The My Ami Buggy was presented to us at Brussels Tour & Taxis…

Friday 7 October we stood eye to eye in Tour & Taxis in Brussels with the “Buggy” version of Citroën’s celebrated My Ami. The original “Buggy” concept was presented in December 2021, and met right away with strong public demand. This led Citroën to produce a very small first series of merely 50 units.

It was originally only intended for the French market, and it was launched on June 21 via an online sales site. In 17 minutes 28 seconds, they were all sold out…

Your servant at the wheel of the Buggy…

We were therefore very pleased when Citroën Belux took the initiative to present this little gem to us at the premises of Tour & Taxis in Brussels,

where they also treated us to culinary delights in the Gare Maritime Food Market. Indeed, there you can discover the Belgian terroir with 10 new street food concepts, in market style format, presented by 8 top chefs in an iconic venue with a unique bar experience.

The “sustainable” style tables will carry delicious dishes from star chefs for you to enjoy…

But there is more of the “Buggy” to see in Knokke…

On the sidelines of the activities that will take place this weekend in the fashionable seaside resort of Knokke (Zoute Grand Prix, from October 6 to 9), the exclusive Citroën My Ami Buggy will, after a brief visit to Bruges at the beginning of the week, its first kilometers on our Belgian roads, to the delight of ‘carspotters’ always in search of original images.

My Ami Buggy with its adventurous look embodies the liberty of mobility and the holiday spirit with its totally open interior. The doors are being replaced by tubular metal gates. The roof has also disappeared in favor of a removable canvas to make the most of the great outdoors.

It looks also quite adventurous with its Khaki bodywork, its fender flares, its front and rear bumpers, its golden rims. It’s also hard to resist its yellow accessories as they are so inviting to be used…

So see you this weekend, Saturday October 8, when the My Ami Buggy will make its bold appearance in Knokke…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Citroën introduces a bold concept car for family electric mobility: less is more, thanks to the power of genius…

Right after having unveiled its new brand identity, Citroën stunned the international press last Friday, when it presented its OLI concept car in Paris.

You can judge yourself from the photos I took with my flagship Samsung S22 (I am getting increasingly used to it now) how completely groundbreaking the design and the whole concept of the car is actually.

I decided to bring the news of this concept car in different episodes, as thanks to the excellent PR people, I was able to have interviews with not only the CEO of Citroën, Vincent Cobée, but also with Laurence Hansen, Head of Citroën Product Development and Citroën’s Head of Design, Pierre Leclercq. I will bring this extensively in further reports, together with also a further interview with Laurent Barria, responsible for marketing.

So read on, and you can expect much more soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The oli concept car focuses on how more can be achieved with lesssays Citroën CEO Vincent Cobée

In the footsteps of the Ami…now for mobility of the whole family.

Citroën already showed with its Ami (in a few days, we will also attend in Brussels the introduction of the Ami Buggy) that it believes strongly in offering affordable mobility, and it builds further on this concept, taking ‘unconventional’ to a new level with this conceptual oli [all-ë].

The Citroën oli concept is designed to do the same for family mobility that Ami achieved for personal urban mobility. Significantly, oli acts as a precursor to the concepts and innovations that will be available in future Citroën electric models.

The oli concept car focuses on how more can be achieved with less, first and foremost with less weight, how the inventive use of responsible materials and a sustainable production process can lead to inexpensive yet desirable zero-emission vehicles that meet multiple lifestyles.

In his introduction speech, CEO Vincent Cobée  stated “Three societal conflicts are happening simultaneously – first is the value of and dependence on mobility, second is economic constraints and resource uncertainty, and third is our growing sense of desire for a responsible and optimistic future.”

Then he commented on the trend that cars are becoming bigger, heavier and more complex…

Styling language which is soon to be seen on new Citroën models…

“A typical mid-70s family car weighed around 800kg and was 3.7 m long and 1.6m wide.” He continued. Today’s equivalents have grown to more than 1200kg, are at least 4.3 m long and 1.8m wide. Some even weigh more than 2500kg. Legal and safety requirements have driven some of this, but if the trend continues and we carry on parking these vehicles 95% of each day and driving 80% of journeys with a single occupant, the conflict between the need to protect our planet and the future promise of sustainable, electrified mobility will not easily be resolved.”

He concluded: ““Citroën believes electrification should not mean extortion, and being eco-conscious should not be punitive by restricting our mobility or making vehicles less rewarding to live with.  We need to reverse the trends by making them lighter and less expensive and find inventive ways to maximize usage.”

So true we would say, and it is this unerring vision which inspired Citroën to build this concept car.

They focused instead on creating a pure, honest vehicle that is above all lighter, less complicated and truly affordable, as well as inventive and joyful.

With oli, Citroën is raising the stakes for future family mobility by re-thinking every detail to reduce resources and needed materials without compromising on quality or versatility.

A car conceived and built for a (very) long life

Laurence Hansen, Head of Citroën Product Developmentnow we choose a lifestyle, and the car which responds to it…

Who does not crave for a car which becomes your classic, beloved, (life)long companion? Well, that’s the beauty of it, the oli will be at your side, no matter what or how long. This conceptual multi-activity family vehicle has  sustainability at its heart and demonstrates how ‘best-in-class’ Life-Cycle-Assessment (LCA) can be achieved, from conception onwards with restrained, optimal use of lightweight and recycled materials, to sustainable production processes, and from durability for an extended ‘life in service’ to responsible end-of-life recyclability. The front and rear end parts can be easily changed, upgraded, customized, and the oli can within the family be passed from one generation to another…

 Thoughtful details…

Clever details are found throughout. The seats, for example, are simply constructed and use 80% less parts than a traditional seat. They are made of recycled materials and clever ‘mesh’ backrest designs enhance the natural light inside the vehicle.

They can also be easily upgraded or personalized to suit the taste of individual owners. It’s indeed the result of a chosen and adopted lifestyle, and the concept  car reflects that. Your servant also suggested to Citroën Head of Design Pierre Leclercq that in the aftermarket, a company like Ikea could offer their version of the seats to rejuvenate the interior after many years of use, for instance. Pierre Leclercq liked the idea…

Less weight means less power needed and more range…

 The oli offers reasonable, useable performance for many. Through the use of lightweight materials, oli can extend the range of the 40kWh battery on board to up to 248 miles between charges. Citroën has also limited the top speed of the oli to 68mph to maximise efficiency, while rapid charging capability ensures a charge from 20% to 80% takes just 23 minutes.

Extraordinary looks, harbinger of a total revolution…

The reasonable performance – read top speed – gave extra room for the designers to shape the concept car. Striking and clearly making a statement, oli’s unconventional stance and silhouette exude personality, productivity and positivity in a footprint similar to a compact SUV at 4.20m long, 1.65m high and 1.90m wide.

It defies traditional labelling. oli can be whatever it needs to be – family limo, urban explorer, adventure vehicle, workmate, or even an extension to the family home thanks to its ability to power everyday appliances.

The oli was presented in the stunning setting of a caserne de sapeurs pompiers in Paris…

Pierre Leclercq, believes oli embraces purity and geniality for families who don’t care for automotive status and stereotypes. I couldn’t agree more…

In the oli, the aesthetic approach has been deliberately exaggerated to reinforce functionality and versatility. And, like Ami, it is not afraid to show its simple and intuitive approach and distinguishes itself with its playful use of colour highlights, bright trim materials and vivacious patterns that advocate opportunities for personalisation.

Versatile

The oli truly threads new paths here. Oli’s flat bonnet, roof and rear ‘pick-up bed’ panels, as well as driving the vehicle’s unique silhouette, were chosen to meet the objectives for low weight, high strength and maximum durability.

Made from recycled corrugated cardboard formed into a honeycomb sandwich structure between fibreglass reinforcing panels, they have been co-created with partner BASF. They are coated in Elastoflex® Polyurethane resin covered in a protective layer of tough, textured Elastocoat®, which is often used on parking decks or loading ramps, and painted with innovative, waterborne BASF R-M Agilis® paint.

The panels are very rigid, light and strong – so strong that an adult can stand on them – and weight is reduced by 50 per cent when compared to an equivalent steel roof construction.

The roof is quite strong, as is amply demonstrated by Laurence Hansen, with Pierre Leclercq and CEO Vincent Cobée applauding…

Load carrying versatility is not compromised either, as roof rails each side of the roof panel allow owners to attach accessories like bicycle racks and roof boxes for family vacations, while below the bonnet panel are neatly detailed storage areas including compartments for charging cables plus personal and emergency items.

Not afraid to go vertical…

All of the key design elements on oli are perfectly horizontal or vertical, indeed, Citroën is looking for honesty and efficiency in the form language.

 The windscreen is vertical because it’s the shortest distance between top and bottom and uses the smallest amount of glass. As well as reducing weight and complexity, the smaller screen is less expensive to produce or replace.

To aid aerodynamic efficiency, oli features an experimental “Aero Duct” system between the front section of the bonnet and the flat top panel which blows air towards the screen, creating a curtain effect to smooth airflow over the roof.

The eye-catching windscreen frame is finished with a bright ‘infra-red’ wrap – a new signature colour Citroën will use in conjunction with its new brand identity.

The contrast between horizontal and vertical is evident in the rationally thought-through side panels and glass.

The front doors follow the example set by Ami and are identical on each side, though mounted differently. They are lighter, yet still strong, and much easier to make and assemble.

Reducing complexity and simplifying construction saves 20% in weight per door compared to a typical family hatchback. Half the number of components is required, and around 1.7kg per door is saved by the removal of the loudspeaker, soundproofing material and electrical wiring.

The external door panel is simpler to stamp and is designed to maximize interior storage. Gentle curvatures flow up the sides of the vehicle, and into the top of the side glass as it tumbles home to the roof.

Large, horizontal windows are tilted slightly towards the ground to help to reduce the effects of the sun, and manual, easy-to-operate “flip up” pantograph opening sections, similar to those used on Ami, provide fresh air ventilation.

The narrower rear doors are hinged at the rear of the vehicle and use vertical glass to give rear passengers more light and visibility. The change in form between the front and rear doors also gave an opportunity to add a passive air intake providing ventilation for rear seat passengers.

Access to the spacious cabin is wide, uncluttered and unhindered with both side doors open – ideal for when the driver needs to get straggling family members loaded efficiently.

Front and rear lighting modules are, again, uncomplicated but highly distinctive, and also play with the contrast between two horizontal lines and one vertical section. This approach will be evolved further as a distinctive Citroën lighting signature in future production vehicles.

A pick-up (load)bed in the boot…

Instead of a conventional boot, oli features an unexpected, inspired exercise in useful product design, and comes with a pick-up bed inside the boot for added practicality. The independent rear seat headrests pop up into the roof, the rear screen glass opens upwards, with the flat 994mm wide removable load bed expanding in length from 679mm to 1050mm.

The tailgate folds down and with the load bed panel removed there is up to 582 mm height between the vehicle floor and the rear glass. With the panel in place, 330 mm height of useful and secure trunk space is available below. The removable bed panel is light and flat, and made from the same recycled cardboard structure as the bonnet and roof panels.

But there is more, on the bodywork, the interior, the wheels and drivetrain. More soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A new DS3: elegance and refinement reigns…

The New DS 3 is the successor to DS 3 CROSSBACK, featuring new design and technology.

The New DS 3 styling developments are most obvious at the front. The design language of the rest of the DS Automobiles range is applied here with a redesigned grille, wider and enhanced with gloss black or chromed diamond tips depending on the model. The identifying DS WINGS have been tweaked to subtly join the grille and headlamps.

The new LED headlamps – standard across the range –give New DS 3 a sharper look with three feature modules emphasized with satin chrome. The DS MATRIX LED VISION, with intelligent control and automatic main beam for maximum comfort and safety are also offered as an option. The new daytime running lights feature two LED lines vertically arranged either side of the front for a distinctive and widening signature, consistent with the latest DS Automobiles design language.

New DS 3 has also evolved stylistically as well as technically. The new spoiler and grille have been totally redesigned to optimise the car’s aerodynamic performance. The aerofoils framing the lower air intake grille demonstrate this new efficiency.

The rear has been refined: the lights and the tailgate are tastefully emphasized with a lacquered black strip. This gets the “DS Automobiles” signature through a unique technology, the letters in polished stainless steel being divided and set one by one in the trim, as on New DS 7.

New DS 3 is offered with seven body colours, opaque, metallic and pearlescent, including two new pearlescent colours: Diva Red, a three-layer colour exclusive to New DS 3, and Lacquered Grey. Crystal Pearl, Platinum Grey, Artense Grey, Perla Nera Black and Polar White complete the offering with the option of creating bi-tone combinations with two variations of roof: Perla Black or the new Carat Grey.

The wheels introduce a completely new design for an increase in efficiency. Available in 17 and 18 inches, they are divided according to different themes and colours. In the 100% electric E-TENSE model, New DS 3 is available with new 18-inch TOULOUSE wheels shod with “Tall & Narrow Class A+” tyres.

AN INTERIOR INSPIRED BY THE BIGGEST NAMES IN FRENCH LUXURY

The leathers, particularly the Nappa Leather upholstery with the weathered Art Leather finish, Alcantara®, and details such as the “pearl” stitching or Clous de Paris embossed inserts show the uniqueness of DS Automobiles cockpits. This attention to detail, firmly rooted in the Brand’s DNA, is inside New DS 3 and represents a major point of difference.

The driving position has changed with the adoption of a new steering wheel, regrouping controls for driver aids and infotainment buttons and combined with gearshift paddles for the automatic gearboxes. A new 10.3-inch high definition central screen is now offered as standard, with the new DS IRIS SYSTEM infotainment system built in.

A RANGE OF MULTI-ENERGY DRIVETRAINS TOPPED BY A NEW 100% ELECTRIC E-TENSE MODEL

New DS 3 E-TENSE gets a completely new electric motor (assembled in Trémery-Metz), a reduction gear (produced in Valenciennes) and a new battery (assembled in Poissy) for increases in power and range.

The new hybrid synchronous motor (HSM) benefits from the expertise acquired in Formula E to demonstrate high efficiency. It offers 115 kW (156 horsepower) of power and 260 Nm of torque at a voltage of 400 Volts. The new 54 kWh battery (50.8 kWh usable) has thermal control through liquid circulation and a heat pump that enables rapid charging, better range and increased lifespan. As standard the onboard charger takes 100 kW in direct current (0 to 80% in 25 minutes) and 11 kW in alternating current (0-100% in 5 hours).

The 100% electric version, New DS 3 E-TENSE has a new 115 kW (156 horsepower) drivetrain and a new 54 kWh battery enabling it to reach a range of up to 402 km on the WLTP combined cycle.

New DS 3 is also being offered with two petrol drivetrains: PureTech 100 with 6-speed manual gearbox and PureTech 130 with 8-speed automatic gearbox. A Diesel BlueHDi 130 with an 8-speed automatic gearbox is also on offer. In these two guises, these engines comply with the most recent anti-pollution standards.

Post-production : Astuce Productions

FULL OF TECHNOLOGY INSIDE

New DS 3 gets a new infotainment system available via a large 10.3-inch high definition central screen with a redesigned gloss black surround. Connected navigation and intelligent voice recognition are offered by DS IRIS SYSTEM. The distinctive characteristic of this system is the ability for the user to personalize the central screen and the 7-inch instrument panel, complete with head up display that projects essential information in the driver’s eye line. The central screen is split into 12 squares and can accommodate varying sized widgets.

ESSENTIAL PARKING AIDS…

We personally find that proper parking aids are a “MUST” in every car with an urban vocation. The DS3 seems to have what it takes: Viewable on the large central screen, VISIO PARK 2 enriches the range of driver aids available on New DS 3 by offering parking help with 360° vision reproduced through new high resolution digital cameras. Well done!

MADE FOR MUSIC BUFFS…

By using the expertise of FOCAL, which is a benchmark in the world of premium audio systems, DS Automobiles has developed a unique system called FOCAL Electra. Twelve speakers including a subwoofer are fitted into the cockpit with great care and feature Bronze Belem colour metal grilles with a special finish. With a dedicated amplifier, this 515W audio system provides high performance acoustics for a rich sound and enormous purity. Sound spatialisation is optimised and consistent within the cockpit. Designed like an auditorium, New DS 3 offers an exceptionally immersive audio experience.

We know that France Musique streams magnificent baroque and classical as well as jazz music…for you to enjoy in the DS3!

A SIMPLIFIED RANGE

The new DS 3 range adopts the principal started by New DS 7. The new OPERA specification becomes the most exclusive. Equipment levels have been reimagined, enabling a smoother climb through the range. The number of options has been reduced, through re-equipping or the creation of option packs to make customer understanding easier. Prices for new DS 3 start from 30,100 euros with the PureTech 100 Manual in BASTILLE specification.

New DS 3 is built only at Poissy, in the Paris region, with, as said before, electric or internal combustion engine (petrol or diesel) versions. The engines as well as the new electric motor and the increased capacity battery are also all assembled in France.

We are of course anxious to lay our hands on this DS3 soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel