Alfa ensures top quality for their new all electric Tonale SUV…

Alfa Romeo wants to build a top quality gem: the beautiful and striking Tonale, which will be Alfa’s first all electric vehicle. Beautiful it is, we sat personally behind the wheel of the clay model at the Centro Stile under the watchful eye of head of design Klaus Busse, and now Alfa also wants its finish and quality also to be legendary.

So the Alfa Romeo CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato and Alfa Romeo senior management met up recently with not less than 150 Italian and international suppliers at the G.B. Vico plant in Pomigliano d’Arco.

Alfa Romeo CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato seen here above

Quality was on the agenda, and virtually only that.

Having specifically focused on this goal ever since his appointment, new CEO Imparato has taken part in monthly meetings at the Pomigliano and Cassino plants.

And Again at the meeting – with about 60 suppliers in attendance and others linked up by a livestream – he strongly reiterated that quality is a major priority. The goal is excellence.

“To achieve it, Imparato told, the starting point is the selection of materials. Our suppliers, the companions on a journey the destination of which is the brand’s first electrified car, embodying Alfa Romeo’s DNA with the highest quality standards.

Plant manager Alessio Leonardi adressing the audience of suppliers at the plant...

Joining the CEO at the meeting were the Stellantis Chief Customer Experience Officer, Richard Schwartzwald, and the plant manager, Alessio Leonardi.

During the meeting, the project targets were shared with the suppliers, considered fundamental stakeholders in the achievement of the qualitative objectives set.

If you are eager to see, drive and make this car your own, we tell you here that the Tonale will be marketed in Europe from June 2022 onwards… we will keep you posted on the further developments concerning this masterful Alfa, stay tuned on these columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the new Jeep Compass: a true Jeep with a European touch

The Jeep Compass 2021 is now a completely new model, with changes to the features which are close to the hearts of European customers: stylish inside and out, with state-of-the-art technology under the hood, besides being also sustainable and functional.

This is also the first Jeep launched (and developed) by the Stellantis Group, and it is also produced exclusively in Melfi, Italy. This is only logical when you know that in Europe, the Compass accounts for more than 40% of Jeeps sales and today one in four Compass vehicles sold is a plug-in hybrid model.

An important car therefore, with plenty of good reasons to put it here through its paces for you. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Compass fitted with the new GSE four-cylinder 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine, and we immediately selected on the configurable digital instrument display the consumption indicator function, to show us permanently average and immediate consumption. More about the results later…

This new engine develops 150 HP in our test car, and is therefore paired to a 7 speed Dual Dry Clutch Transmission (DDCT).

A very smooth engine it is indeed, almost inaudible both at urban and motorway speeds. The gearbox is also ultra smooth, and mates perfectly with the engine. The level of silent sophistication and smoothness a thoroughbred 1,3 litre petrol engine can offer nowadays is truly stunning. Of course the excellent transmission helps here too. The same engine, the 4-cylinder 1.3-litre turbo unit, comes in the Compass models with plug-in hybrid technology with even more power, 190 hp or 240 hp and 270 Nm of torque, coupled then to a six-speed automatic transmission. Last but not least eAWD powers the 4xe versions and completes the New Compass engine range.

Performance

The 150 HP version offers more than adequate performance with a sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 9,2 seconds and a top speed of 199 km/h. Accelerations in intermediate speeds are excellent, and one hardly needs higher revs to enjoy the pulling power this drivetrain offers. There is also a “sport” mode for dynamic driving, letting the engine rev longer and higher in the gears and making the gearbox more alert to throttle movements.

The manufacturer quotes 5,5 litres as combined consumption, with an urban average of 6,6 litres/100 km. One needs a very prudent foot on the throttle and much anticipation in one’s driving style to achieve this, and the average during our test was 7.2 litres/100 km on the open road, cruising at the legal speed limits on the motorway, with spirited accelerations in between and motorway congestions and slowdowns thrown in too.

In urban driving, a sensitive right foot works wonders, the gearbox settling in at the highest possible gear when cruising at 30 or 50 km/h, with the engine running at 1200 rpm, and immediate consumption hovering around the 4-5 litre mark. Caressing the throttle will keep it there, a more vigorous blip will send it swiftly above 10 litres. An average of 7.8 litres/100 km in urban conditions was however rather easily achievable. The very clever and readable consumption display will soon teach you the consumption difference between a more spirited and a relaxed driving style… CO2 emissions are quoted as 153 g/km in the WLTP cycle.

In this drivetrain configuration, the Compass has only front wheel drive, which doesn’t mean however that you cannot steer this Compass on off-road terrain and country roads. For our photo session, where we tried out our Fujifilm X-A5 which we had recently bought used for less than 300 €, we went on open terrain which was still rather wet and soggy from the torrential rains which have devastated many towns and villages in Wallonia, parts of Germany and Holland. It proved no problem at all for our Compass to turn tightly and move from standstill without any loss of adhesion or slippage of the front wheels on the rain-sogged grass.

Connected and practical

The vocation of our Compass is, as Stellantis puts it, to address the wishes and needs of rational, factual people, which are also fascinated by the possibility of getting away from their daily routines: Stellantis calls them “pragmatic dreamers”.

Besides stronger aesthetics, with good capabilities off road as well as on the open road, the new Compass offers features an all-new cabin, designed to improve comfort and life on board, and to make the urban driving experience smarter.

Major highlights include the full-HD digital 10.25-inch instrument cluster, DAB radio, Uconnect 5 system with touchscreens from 8.4-inch to 10.1-inch, moved to the middle of the dashboard in a higher position so the driver can remain focused on the road, a five times faster processor, Android operating system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, interactive 3D TomTom navigation and natural voice recognition, and last but not least Uconnect Services.

The interior has also been made even more functional with a new arrangement of the central console and augmented storage compartment space (providing nearly 4.4 litres of additional storage – a three-fold increase versus the 2.8 litres of the previous version, now with a total of 7.2 litres).

Still more safety features…

The New Compass is the first Jeep vehicle in Europe to offer level 2 autonomous driving and is equipped with the latest generation ADAS, as standard across the range. These include: Traffic Sign Recognition, which reads and interprets the road signs; Intelligent Speed Assist, to automatically keep the car within the speed limit advertised; Drowsy Driver Alert, to alert the drivers when their attention falters or if they drop off for a moment; and Automatic Emergency Braking with pedestrian and cyclist recognition, which slows the vehicle down to a complete stop, to avoid (or mitigate) accidents that could occur.

Our test car was sprayed in a beautiful matte green…

But the biggest new feature is the Highway Assist, combining Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Centering, to automatically adjust the vehicle’s speed and trajectory. The vehicle therefore automatically stays in the middle of the lane, at a sensible distance from the vehicle in front, for a driving experience with total peace of mind.

Comfort…

Driving long distances or making short urban errands are a breeze in the new Compass. Seats are well contoured and comfortable, the suspension is overall rather firmish, but irons out potholes and ridges very well. Noise levels are low, with any mechanical noises virtually absent at any speeds.

Conclusion

This new Compass indeed marries very well both worlds: that of urban sophistication as well as the ruggedness and bewildering attraction of the freedom of on- and offroad. The power and refinement of the 150 HP engine coupled to the 7 speed DDCT transmission is convincing, as well as the overall stylishness of body and cabin.

Of course we look forward to testing the 4xe variant, but let you enjoy the photos of this new Compass already here…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Photographers’ notes:

For the photo’s of this test, we put our recently acquired used but pristine Fujifilm X-A5 through its paces. We just love the velvety sharpness and contrast of the Fujinon lenses, one of the reasons we bought this camera. It also looks very good, and has some Leica aura over it. We studied its manual thoroughly, as it has many clever features… just look at the photos. We will use this camera also extensively in the future…so you will see soon a lot more of what this good looking camera can do.

We drove the Fiat Panda Sport: your agile and stylish City Car…

The stylish Panda in its proper place: before the premises of the Royal Golf Club du Zoute…

If there is a type of car where the know how of car builder Fiat truly excels, then it is the compact city car. Indeed, both the iconic 500 and the endearing Panda are undisputed leaders in the segment A. Deservedly so. This Panda Sport with its 1 litre three cylinder FireFly engine coupled to a Belt Generator Starter motor is a very clever hybrid, which, driven with intelligence, puts down some pretty astonishing consumption figures.

It is also masterfully equipped, comfortable both in city driving as well as on long stretches, being a very entertaining and pleasing all-rounder which we were sorry to part with, and that alone says a lot…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The most interesting part of this good looking Sport version of the in 2020 revamped Panda is its style and equipment. Our test car was sprayed in a very elegant matte grey, actually called unsurprisingly “Matte Grey.“ It is shod with elegant 16 inch “Sport” alloys with black and red accents.

If that was not enough, our test car came with the Pandemonio Pack, an hommage to the 100 HP Panda which saw the light of day in 2006. Red brake calipers, dark tinted rear windows, a technoleather steering wheel with red stitching are the most important hallmarks of this Pack.

In the interior, the stylish approach continues. The dashboard has a titanium finish, the door panels are executed in so-called eco leather, one finds a black roof lining and new grey coloured seats, which are surprisingly comfortable for hours on end.

Infotainment is also well cared for. The 7” touchscreen with digital DAB is configured for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and you can place your smartphone in a handy slot right behind the touchscreen so the integration is also very practical indeed.

A drivetrain built for intelligent drivers

The Panda harbours some very intelligent technology. First of all there is the state-of-the-art 1 litre 7O HP three cylinder engine of the FireFly family, which is vibrationless, flexible and will – if called for – rev with beautiful staccato to its 6500 rpm redline. But this is not how this Panda should be driven of course when you want to achieve those wonderful consumption figures.

The engine works in pair with a BSG electric motor (Belt Integrated Starter Generator), which recuperates the kinetic energy when you lift the throttle or brake, and charges the 11 Ah lithium battery. The motor has a power of 3,7 Kw, and uses the available battery power to restart the engine in the start-stop system and assist the engine when accelerating.

The fact that the engine is assisted when picking up speed allows also the selection of higher gears at slow urban speeds, and that is where the cleverness of the system really comes into play. You can potter along at the legal 30 km/h in third gear, and when you drive on boulevards at a constant speeds of 50 km/h, fifth gear is suggested by the eco assistant. When more pulling power is required, the engine is helped by the electric motor to climb in revs and speed. Soon you learn to estimate correctly the deceleration caused by the generator when lifting the throttle and you recuperate the kinetic energy fully, hardly braking at all. The six speed manual gearbox is also a delight to use.

The instrument cmuster between rev counter and speedometer indicates consumption (averaging still the results of previous testers) and the state of charge of the battery as well as the petrol gauge…

You understand that this results in some astonishing consumption figures. In urban driving, we managed to stay around 5 litres/100 km, in all smoothness and comfort. The manufacturer quotes 5,5 litres/100 km as average consumption. CO2 emissions according to the WLTP cycle are quoted as 121 g/km. As said, 70 HP is developed at 6000 rpm, and when you rev the engine fully in the gears, the sprint from 0 to 100 is absolved in 14,4 seconds. Top speed is a very creditable 164 km/h.

Comfortable and practical

Where else: the Panda at the Place m’as tu vu in Knokke…

The suspension of the Panda is very comfortable indeed, and urban pavés and tram ridges are taken are taken very well. Also on the open road, the Panda remains very comfortable with excellent straight line stability. Roadholding is everything it should be, and you can steer the Panda with confidence through the worst weather and slippery roads.

The four doors prove immensely practical and take the pain out of having a compact car. There is even adequate luggage space, 225 litres of it, and of course the rear seats can be folded back for more room, up to 870 litres.

Conclusion

A very endearing, compact all rounder, which showed during this test all its very good qualities. The hybrid system makes a lot of sense when you approach and use it cleverly, providing also the smoothness and comfort in urban driving, besides chalking up these impressive consumption figures.

The Panda is also surprisingly comfortable, making it also a car fit for long trips on Europe’s motorways. It is also surefooted and stable.

Add the four doors, the adequate head- and legroom as well as boot space, and you understand that the Panda scores very high in the A segment, and will continue to do so for years to come…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the new Fiat Tipo Cross: the type of car your family needs…

To tell you right away, we have always liked the Tipo. Well styled, it offers lots of car for the money, and every inch of it shows the expertise and savoir faire of a world class car maker like Fiat. Not surprisingly, the Tipo has already carved itself a firm market share in its segment, and is further gaining in popularity. The latest facelift has made it even more attractive than ever, and we drove for you the well-equipped Cross version here. This Cross version is geared towards families which like crossovers, and want a car which brings more zest and emotions to their daily commute and weekend outings. We can tell you right away, this Tipo delivers and convinces– again.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A bolder stance and look…

The Tipo Cross is wider and taller, with a grille which now runs under the headlamps. Thanks to a new suspension and wheels taken from another crossover in the Fiat stable, the 500X, the Tipo Cross is now 4 cm higher. This Tipo is also 7 cm longer than the Tipo Life and has some exclusive styling details like bigger wheel arches, a protective front end decorative strip which is integrated into the front bumpers, as well as a protective bar which runs along the side skirts. Last but not least there is also a spoiler and roof bars which were hitherto reserved for the Station Wagon version.

A formidable 1 litre engine…

The Cross can be had with the 1,6 litre Multijet Turbodiesel, either 95 or 130 HP, but the more interesting engine is the new 1.0 GSE T3 FireFly petrol unit, developing 100 HP or 74 kW at 5000 rpm, which we found in our test car.

Compared to the previous 1,4 litre petrol engine, it is especially the pulling power in the lower and mid rev ranges which has been vastly improved. Instead of the previous 127 Nm developed at a high 4500 rpm, this new state of the art 3 cylinder delivers an impressive 190 Nm at merely 1500 rpm, and indeed, your servant had the initial impression that a potent 1,6 litre petrol engine was working under the hood. This ample pulling power gives the Cross plenty of zest, moreover as it is coupled to an ideally geared and very smooth 5 speed gearbox. In urban traffic, the unit is very flexible and smooth, and only a light foot on the throttle is needed to glide along at low revs with the boulevard traffic. This keeps also urban consumption within very reasonable levels, and it is possible to achieve anything between 7 and 8 litres/100 km in urban driving with ease, and even lower if you really concentrate on driving with anticipation.

The manufacturer quotes an average consumption of 5,7 litres/100 km, and less than that is very easily achieved on the open road. The Tipo Cross feels of course also at home on our Autoroutes, where the engine remains virtually inaudible at cruising speeds of say 130 km/h, corresponding with 3200 rpm.

When you put your foot down, the engine will rev up eagerly with a nice 3-cylinder staccato and pull you from 0 to 100 km/h in 12,2 seconds, then further to a top speed of 183 km/h, so you have all the performance you would ever need…  

CO2 emissions have also improved over the previous 1,4 litre engine, with 121 g/km (WLTP).

Digital instrumentation and state of the art infotainment…

An important improvement is also the 7 inch TFT digital instrument cluster, monitoring also the car’s status, multimedia and phone. This cluster is combined with the brand new Uconnect 5 infotainment system with a wide 10,25” touchscreen. This system was introduced in the new 500, and now also finds its way in this Tipo Cross. The Uconnect 5 system offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and so you have a wireless connection with your phone, showing its display on the touchscreen and having all its functions at your fingertips. It allows also for not less than 5 configurations.

Practical

Of course, this Tipo excels in sheer practicality. As a hatchback it offers 440 litres of standard luggage space, and the rear seat backrests can of course be folded backwards in split fashion to provide extra room. There is also an extra USB port in the back, with wireless charging of your phone and a 12 V connection also provided in the centre console at the front. Fiat has always offered much cabin and seating space in its cars for their size, and the Tipo is no exception. Even taller persons of say 1,80 m still have ample head- and legroom in the back. 

 

Conclusion

This Tipo Cross keeps its promises. Pleasing to look at, superbly equipped, zesty with state the art drivetrain technology and up to scratch infotainment, it offers a lot of car for the money.

In Belgium, the Tipo Cross can be had for €24.250, including VAT. If your family wants a Crossover which has it all, just take a long look at this one…

Hans Knol ten Bensel   

We drove the Subaru Outback: a refined go anywhere companion…

If we have to summarize our driving impressions of the new Subaru Outback after our test, the terms mechanical refinement, capability and space and comfort come first to our mind.

Well honed and refined, the latest version of the Outback certainly is. Technically extensively revamped and rolling on the Subaru Global Platform (SGP) for increased safety, driving performance and ride comfort, is has a super smooth engine and transmission, perfectly geared to glide around town in vibrationless silence, that is what this Subaru offers the urban dweller daily. But he or she can take the Outback elsewhere when nature calls. The legendary Subaru symmetrical AWD sees to that.

The new Outback is also on top of all that also more stylish and its interior has had a thorough makeover. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel


The Subaru Outback has a quite pleasing exterior, with fluent, stretched lines, with an excellent choice of paint colors too, as the photos amply show. When you step in, a posh cabin awaits you, certainly in the premium version we tested here for you. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the large centrally placed touch screen, which is a delight to use, with all the controls well placed and self explaining. Infotainment and connectivity is well cared for, as you will read further.

Seats are supportive and excellent, and soon a good position behind the wheel is found.


Drive train brought to perfection…

Pushing the starting knob one hears the trusted boxer engine coming to life. We said trusted, but it is good to know that the direct-injection 2.5-liter NA horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine, has about 90% of its engine parts redesigned and boasts a higher compression ratio. Idling at 2000 rpm or thereabouts when cold, it soon drops to 1000 rpm when you shift the smooth CVT transmission in D or R. The Lineartronic CVT has been renewed with the gear ratio coverage expanded to a wide range equivalent to 8-AT. The hydraulic system has been revised and the oil viscosity lowered, which reduces horsepower loss by 22% compared to the previous model.  

So the result is that when you then are cautious with the throttle, this Subaru will smoothly pick up speed keeping revs down to just above idling speed, say 1200 rpm or so. The engine is inaudible and perfectly vibration free here, giving the impression one drives on E power. This enables you to drive at the now usual 30 km/h urban speed limit with utmost ease, also with very little fuel coming out if the injection ports. Driving in slow urban traffic in this relaxed manner cost us merely 7,3 to 7,8 liters/100 km, and this is no small feat.


The Subaru engineers did a very good job here, and it amply shows also what a good internal combustion engine coupled to a state of the art transmission can do nowadays. In our opinion, it again proves the point that a good petrol engined car has certainly not said its last word. Indeed, with the presently still abysmal state of the charging infrastructure in our country and also many other European countries too by the way, it is still a very attractive practical proposition indeed.

As said, we can only applaud the Subaru engineers here. Of course, hybrid and plug-in hybrid and full electric solutions will be on the cards in the coming years, as many (mega) cities will be imposing exclusively E-powered mobility in their inner city centers within not even a decade. Subaru wil soon have also a full EV vehicle, named the SOLTERRA.

This excellent economy is of course only reached when you adopt a relaxed and anticipative driving style. Putting the throttle deeper will result in higher revs, more power and more fuel consumed. The 169 HP/124 kW boxer engine guarantees zesty performance: 0 to 100 km/h is reached in 10,2 seconds, top speed is a good 189 km/h.
The manufacturer quotes 7,3 l/100 km as average consumption, with CO2 emissions being 166 g/km. The CVT transmission is very responsive as well as smooth, and will let run the engine in the ideal rev zones under full load, resulting in very brisk accelerations.

Predictable handling, with excellent comfort

The Outback with its symmetrical AWD is your ideal companion on wet and muddy roads, and the suspension is well laid out to cope with potholes and rough country roads. This means that well ridden urban pavés are also very well negotiated, and the Subaru is under every road condition a very comfortable car indeed. The Outback does not necessarily invite you to throw it around corners, but this said it responds well to spirited driving, and its handling is precise and predictable.

The standard S-AWD provides all-weather capability paired with a standard active torque vectoring for improved handling and cornering performance.

We mention here too that the Subaru is an excellent towing car, up to two Tonnes (!). It can then also throw in its excellent traction capacity, and is the preferred mount for horse owners who want to ferry their horses off and on the grounds at jumping events and the like.


When going off road or when negotiating slippery surfaces, the Outback driver has life made quite easy with a new X-Mode with dual functions of “snow/dirt” mode and “Snow/mud” mode for additional off-road capability.

It offers good road clearance for a wider range of activities, with an increased ground clearance of now 213mm, and an approach of 19.7° and of 22.6° departure angles (JIS) and ramp break over angle of 21.0°.

The new SGP platform brings significant enhancement to the body and chassis rigidity (front lateral flexural rigidity +90%, torsional rigidity +70%, front suspension rigidity +70%, rear sub frame rigidity +100%).

A rear view camera washer has been added so that the camera lens is always clear of dirt, mud and grime…

Practical



The Outback is a roomy station wagon, seating five with comfort. Luggage space is of course also leaving nothing to be desired. The cargo space opening width has been enlarged by almost 30mm, the space floor length is longer by 23.9mm, and the cargo capacity is increased with 10L, of now 522L (with the seats up). The Outback also offers standard roof rails with integrated and retractable cross bars, now enhanced with tie-down holes so ropes can be tied directly on the roof rails.

There is also plenty of stowage room in the door bins for large bottles and sundry. There are also several USB points, up to even 2,1 Amp charging power.

Safety first…

Indeed, safety is written very big at Subaru. We all now have become very familiar with Subaru’s safety vision, i.e. featuring the next generation EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, Subaru’s stereo camera prevention collision system, now with an expanded angle of view, nearly doubled, and new image recognition software, available with 11 safety functions, among which new ones were added:

Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Centering Function, Emergency Lane Keep Assist, Speed Sign Recognition with Intelligent Speed Limiter, Lane Departure Warning with steering wheel vibration, Lane Departure Prevention, recognizing also dividing line like grass or road edge and Pre-Collision Braking System with expanded support for collision avoidance at intersections.


The Subaru tells you also for instance to keep your eyes on the road as it is able to notice that you are looking sideways for a moment.
It also reminds you to take a look in the back seat just in case you would forget your (sleeping) toddler there…

Conclusion


This Subaru certainly merits your attention. It is refined, roomy, comfortable, at home on and off the beaten track, a reliable companion for work and pleasure, taking the whole family or your friends wherever they want to go.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Jaguar E-Pace R-Dynamic P 300e

On the Jaguar Media Drive Day we sampled driving impressions of the exhilarating E-PACE…

We told you earlier on our pages that we put the entire Jaguar Range (literally) through its paces, and it proved to be a unique experience indeed. (To read it, just click the link https://autoprova.be/2021/06/15/we-put-the-whole-range-of-jaguars-and-land-range-rovers-through-their-paces/)

We start our overview of the more detailed driving impressions with – in our opinion at least – one of the most interesting cars of the range: the E-Pace, here in the most dynamic version. We find this Jag good looking, of ideal dimensions, and of course wonderfully dynamic. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Our (UK registered) test car came with the so-called “Black Pack”, with unique black mirror caps, panoramic roof, privacy glass and red brake calipers, which complement Satin Grey 19-inch alloy wheels. There is Gloss Black detailing to the front bumper and lower grille surround, main grille surround and grille tips. The side window surround and side vent – complete with the Jaguar leaper – also feature a Gloss Black finish, along with the Jaguar script and rear badging. The R-Dynamic Black is available with all E-PACE exterior colours, including new Ostuni White. Our test car came with the latter colour.

Also the interior is up to date with the curved 11.4-inch HD touchscreen integrated into the central instrument panel.

The large touchscreen operates the intuitive Pivi Pro infotainment system, which provides greater clarity and allows the driver to carry out 90 per cent of common tasks within two taps from the home screen thanks to its simplified menu structure.

But besides the good looks, there is of course state-of-art technology awaiting you.

Jaguar Land Rover’s Premium Transverse Architecture (PTA) ensures the E-PACE has the latest electrified powertrain technologies, as well as delivering improved ride comfort with the performance and handling agility Jaguar customers expect. Indeed, the handling and agility of the E-PACE is nothing short of superb, as we found out on the winding roads near Namur.

We drove the whole Jaguar Range on the scenic winding roads near Namur….on June 15, 2021 Press Day JLR Belgium

New engine mounts contribute to enhanced throttle response, while the suspension layout ensuring indeed a comfortable ride.

The Jaguar E-PACE is available with an efficient three-cylinder P300e PHEV powertrain, plus the most advanced four-cylinder petrol and diesel Ingenium engines, utilising MHEV technology to deliver enhanced performance, refinement and efficiency.

The current engine line-up includes:

Diesel

·163PS 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, six-speed manual, FWD

·163PS MHEV 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, nine-speed automatic, AWD

·204PS MHEV 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, nine-speed automatic, AWD

Petrol

·160PS MHEV 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo, eight-speed automatic, FWD

·200PS MHEV 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, nine-speed automatic, AWD

·249PS MHEV 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, nine-speed automatic, AWD

·300PS MHEV 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, nine-speed automatic, AWD

·309PS PHEV 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo, eight-speed automatic, AWD

The P300e PHEV powertrain of our test car combines a 200PS 1.5-litre three-cylinder Ingenium petrol engine and a 109PS (80kW) Electric Rear Axle Drive (ERAD) motor to deliver 0-60mph in 6.1 seconds (0-100km/h in 6.5 seconds) with CO2 emissions from 44g/km and fuel efficiency of up to 143.1mpg (2.0l/100km) (WLTP TEH combined).

We were indeed utterly impressed by the liveliness of this E-Pace.

The  P300e powertrain operates in one of three modes: Hybrid, EV or Save:

·HYBRID mode uses both the petrol engine and the electric motor in the most responsive and efficient way, intelligently switching between pure EV driving and using the petrol engine

·EV mode provides zero-emissions driving for up to 34 miles (55km)

·SAVE mode enables the driver to recover up to 85 per cent of battery charge, which can be deployed later in a journey, for example in urban areas.  

Enhanced connectivity

The latest E-PACE comes with even greater technology and connectivity options, with wireless Apple CarPlay® becoming available soon as standard*. Wireless Android Auto™ will also become available as standard at the same time,* with both available via a SOTA update for all Pivi and Pivi Pro equipped E-PACE models – seamlessly replicating the customer’s smartphone display on the central touchscreen and giving drivers multiple methods of controlling infotainment and phone functions. The E-PACE is also available with wireless device charging.

The Jaguar Range was neatly lined up on the Media Drive JLR Belgium

Jaguar’s advanced Pivi Pro infotainment system has a range of embedded apps, fast start-up from its own dedicated power source and dual-SIM technology so you can stream media and download updates simultaneously.

Pivi Pro technology is complemented by the 12.3-inch HD Interactive Driver Display that features enhanced graphics, a fully configurable layout with digital dials, media information, phone functions or full-screen mapping for the navigation system. With the optional Head-Up Display, the E-PACE’s interior technology ensures the driver is provided with numerous ways of configuring the set-up in the most convenient way possible.

Pure cabin ambiance…

The Cabin Air Purification system improves interior air quality through Nanoe technology.  The advanced system features PM2.5 filtration, which captures ultra-fine particles – including PM2.5 particulates – to improve occupant health and well being and is activated by pressing the ‘Purify’ button within the central touchscreen.

The latest enhancements ensure Auto High Beam Assist is fitted as standard on E-PACE S models, previously standard on SE and HSE derivatives, while the seating options have been simplified, ensuring customers can specify the perfect E-PACE with ease. High-quality Meridian Audio Sound is now standard from SE specification and memory functions for the door mirrors and seats are now standard on S models.

The E-PACE we drove on the sunny roads near Namur on the Media Drive JLR Belgium…

All R-Dynamic models feature Configurable Dynamics as standard, allowing drivers to hone detailed aspects of the E-PACE’s driving dynamics, including throttle and gearbox responses, as well as steering settings and suspension (where Adaptive Dynamics is specified) to tailor the driving characteristics to suit individual driver preferences. We just loved it!

More driving impressions of the Jaguar range to follow soon…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Experiencing E-mobility for all: we drove the new Citroën AMI in the streets of the Capital of Europe…

Citroën has always been THE brand for breakthrough mobility solutions. It responded this time to today’s challenges by offering 100 % electric mobility literally for all: a cute, roomy two seater with an 8 HP (6 kW) electric motor which can be charged in 3 hours on your home socket and which offers up to 75 km electric range in town or country/village roads. What’s more, since it is only 45 km fast, you don’t even need a drivers’ license for it. In France, 14 year old’s can drive it, in most European countries this is possible from 16 years onwards. But it is also excellent news for the (very) elderly, they have the ideal, roomy two seater which protects them from the elements, it is easy to step in and out of, has two wide opening doors and is the proverbial breeze to drive.

Citroën has done it, and we were delighted thanks to the dynamic PR team to experience the first kilometers behind its cute steering wheel in the streets, squares and boulevards of Brussels. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Light and roomy

Like the iconic 2 CV, this AMI is designed with nothing but practicality in mind. Its symmetrical body shape is unique, with a long roof and cabin, offering a sea of space for its two happy occupants. Only the driver’s seat can be moved fore and aft, the passenger’s seat is fixed, and therefore one sits normally a bit further back than the driver.

Room for a cabin space suitcase, and an elegant hook to hang your bag…

But she/he enjoys formidable legroom, and can actually stretch its legs fully. This means that seating with your legs in a normal position, there is even room for a cabin size suitcase in front of your feet! So there is always enough room for your errands, as besides in the cabin, the AMI has still an extra luggage space in the back.

Citroën has decided to make this long cabin as light and airy as possible. Therefore, a glass panoramic roof is fitted standard. So it is la Vie en Rose in your AMI. One gets in through the wide opening doors, which are identical and because of that opening in different directions. The driver’s door sways out in the front, making getting in and out super easy.

You can throw your pocket camera, bottle and sundry in one of the three customizable bins just behind the window, hang your city/handbag on the elegant hook provided on the passenger’s side, and get behind the wheel. The dashboard just reveals speed and battery charge level, indicating also the remaining range in km. Further, there is a switch for heating and fan. Next to it is a smartphone holder, so your phone can provide for navigation and music.

The row of knobs for “Drive”, “Reverse”, “Neutral” and “Park” sits on the left side of the driver’s seat. Just push “D” and off you go. Acceleration is lively, but don’t expect miracles from 8 HP moving a cute car with a total weight with battery of 485 kg, where one still has to add the weight of one or two passengers. But it is certainly enough to move along with the flow of urban traffic, and with some restraint one soon notices that a cruising speed of around 40 km/h needs just a push of 1 or 2 centimeters on the throttle. You don’t get any deceleration from the E-motor when you lift the throttle at speed, so adapt your driving style and drive with more anticipation as the distances to make good use the kinetic energy are longer. But it can be done, and soon you get the hang of it…

Driving in Brussels one soon notices that the indicated range is absolutely realistic, and that’s a big plus. Also remember, three hours is enough to fully (re)charge the AMI.

Brussels paves are ridden with potholes and ridges, but the AMI took it very well in its stride with a surprisingly comfortable suspension.

Make it your very personal AMI…

As said, life is good in this AMI. Typical and reminiscent of the 2CV are the side windows, which open by manually tilting upwards.

Citroën offers, in a “Do It Yourself” fashion, the possibility of creating the object that suits each customer’ tastes through a kit of accessories that can easily be installed yourself. This kit incorporates functional decorative items: a central separation net, a door storage net, mat, storage tray on the top of the dashboard, small hook for a handbag, smartphone clip, DAT@MI box (dongle device) connected to the My Citroën app to retrieve essential information from your Ami on the smartphone.

4 main shades are available for these accessory kits, costing 400 Euros: MY AMI GREY, MY AMI BLUE, MY AMI ORANGE, and MY AMI KHAKI.

2 characterful packs are available on AMI for even more customization. These 2 packs contain all the above decorative elements and large format stickers that cover the outside and thus give AMI its very own style.

– My Ami POP with Orange personalization and a fun, young and sporty look, with a rear spoiler, is available for €8,190 incl. VAT.

– My Ami VIBE in gray with a more upscale, chic and graphic design that integrates roof coverings in addition to the stickers, is available for € 8,690 incl. VAT.

The installation of these 2 personalization packs is entrusted to professionals before delivery.

The specific exterior body colour is neither too feminine nor too masculine and works with the different colour packs Citroën has developed (blue, white, khaki and orange).

So the Ami is a base that can become a completely customised object with exterior and interior accessories that are either pure style or offer real extra functionality, as well as stickers that give it a completely different characters, tells us Pierre Leclercq, Head of Citroën Style.

Prices…

AMI AMI: 7.290€ incl. VAT

MY AMI ORANGE, KHAKI, GREY, BLUE: 7.690€ incl. VAT

MY AMI POP: 8.190€ incl. VAT

MY AMI VIBE: 8.690€ incl. VAT

MY AMI CARGO : 7.690€ incl. VAT.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the MINI Countryman Cooper Northwood Edition: This MINI thinks BIG…

The MINI Countryman has grown to be a medium size SUV, like for instance the Audi Q2 or Nissan Qashqai, and has borrowed many mechanical elements of the BMW X1. But it also has retained all the quintessential styling elements of the MINI, its typical upright proportions, styling language and bodywork details, which it continues even more in the interior, where we find the big central round dial with the infotainment display, and the typical toggle switches, amongst others.

The MINI Countryman buyer has plenty of choice: in addition to plug-in hybrid drive, the new MINI Countryman is available with three petrol engines and three diesel engines featuring the latest MINI TwinPower Turbo Technology. But besides a wide array of drivetrains, the range of accessories has also been greatly expanded, and indeed, we saw also the launch of the fully equipped Northwood Edition. We told already more about it then in these columns, and you can read about it with the following link:  https://autoprova.be/2021/02/12/stylish-and-iconic-mini-launches-the-new-mini-countryman-northwood-edition/

We drove for you this fully loaded edition with the 100 kW/132 HP three-cylinder petrol engine and the 6-speed manual transmission. Plenty of zest and driving pleasure is guaranteed, we can already tell you here. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Northwood ambiente inside and out…

Our test car was certainly pleasing to the eye. Executed in a deep blue, it was shod with stylish black alloys, and compared to the previous model, it sports a newly designed radiator grille, with LED headlamps and LED fog lights now as standard.

The standard trim of the new MINI Countryman also includes LED fog lights, with a light band in the upper semicircle of each fog light serving as a parking light. The LED rear lights are now also in Union Jack design.

In the interior your eyes admire the new digital cockpit display with a 5-inch colour screen, and also the Piano Black interior surfaces for the cockpit and door bezels are putting you in a good mood.

We just love also the toggle switches, and find all commands easy at hand. The sports leather steering wheel also falls ideally in your hand. Only when your MINI has been standing in the sun, the wheel rim of the sports leather wheel can get very hot, and can be barely touched for the first few minutes without wearing gloves. Indeed, classic driving gloves are a necessary accessory in our ever-warmer summers now…

The Connected Media and Connected Navigation Plus options, available as an alternative to the basic configuration, each include an 8.8-inch colour screen with touchscreen function located in the central instrument that is typical of the brand. The circular control unit in the new MINI Countryman looks great, with the audio control panel and the buttons for hazard lights and driver assistance systems now integrated even better. Meanwhile touch-sensitive bookmark buttons and high-gloss Piano Black surfaces underscore the premium character of the central instrument.

Even the standard audio system offers audio streaming via a Bluetooth connection and a hands-free telephone system with USB interface. The Radio MINI Visual Boost and the digital instrument display form part of the optional equipment item Connected Media, while the Connected Navigation option makes a range of additional infotainment functions available in the new MINI Countryman in addition to providing a convenient route guidance system. This option also comprises wireless charging for compatible mobile phones and a second USB socket.

The new MINI Countryman is equipped with a SIM card that is permanently fitted in the car. This enables use of Intelligent Emergency Call with automatic detection of vehicle location and accident severity, as well as MINI TeleServices. The new MINI Countryman is always online, enabling seamless integration of the voice assistant Amazon Alexa.

This provides access to the Real Time Traffic Information service as well as the internet platform MINI Online and preparation for Apple CarPlay. MINI Connected can be used to send navigation destinations from the smartphone to the vehicle. The mobile phone connection also means that the vehicle’s navigation map is updated automatically.

Very willing engine…

MINI TwinPower Turbo Technology is used in the 3-cylinder petrol engines, and they are very responsive indeed. Throttle response is immediate and without any hesitation, from very low revs onwards. The exhaust manifold is integrated in the cylinder head along with turbo charging. Among other things, this ensures highly effective cooling of the exhaust gases and the turbocharging system. Also, the petrol engine direct injection system operates at a maximum pressure that has been increased from 200 to 350 bar. With this very willing engine, performance is rather brilliant, with an acceleration from 0 – 100 km/h in 9.7 seconds. Top speed is an impressive 205 km/h.

The six-speed gearbox is a delight to use, spoils you with precise, quick changes. The clutch is very smooth and progressive, the drivetrain copes wonderfully with all the pulling power, as it has been designed to cope with far more torque and power in the sportier models.

But the bare performance figures do not tell the whole story. The sheer effortlessness and smoothness when you use the full performance of this MINI has to be felt to be believed. It is indeed a very agile as well as smooth car in everyday use, and that makes a lot of the charm of this MINI.

With all this smooth and vibration free willingness, one is tempted to put the throttle somewhat deeper than originally intended, and this bout of extra enthusiasm translates also in the consumption figures. We clocked a test average of some 8 liters/100 km, using the performance more often than not. Constant speed economy is excellent, so when cruising at the legal limits the immediate consumption hovers between 5 and 6 liters and less. The manufacturer quotes 5.9 – 5.6 liters/100 km, with CO2 emissions being 135 – 129 g/km.

Masterful on the road…

The MINI Countryman has wonderful handling and road manners. Despite its more than 4-meter length, it feels nimble and agile, as indeed a true MINI should. It steers wonderfully precise, and invites you to take winding roads with spirit and zest. Straight line stability is of course also excellent, and this Countryman is also a perfect “Autobahnwunder”, capable of cruising at very high speeds indeed.

Practical

The new MINI Countryman has as the biggest MINI a versatile interior. Three fully-fledged seats are available at the rear. Alternatively, the second row of seats can also be used to expand transport capacity. By folding down the rear seat with a 40 : 20 : 40 split, storage space can be extended from 450 to up to 1 390 liters.

Conclusion

Providing character, unique panache, space in combination with mechanical excellence, superb handling and zesty performance, this is what the MINI Countryman is all about. The Northwood Edition spoils you with a full equipment, to keep you connected, amused, comfortable and happy.

This car is a true delight to use every day, and you will hardly get tired of it. We liked the version we tested, but there is – as we said – so much more, from E-power to full all wheel drive.

We hope to lay our hands soon on one of these more powerful (AWD) versions, not forgetting the electrified versions. Stay tuned on these columns…

Hans Knol ten Bensel 

We spoke with Antonella Bruno: “we are electrifying Jeep for Europe and the world, whilst keeping its unique DNA..”

In our interview series of remarkable women and men in the automotive world, we had an interview with the first woman to lead Stellantis’ historic American brand in the old continent: Antonella Bruno, now Head of Jeep Brand for the Enlarged Europe region.

She has not less than 20 years experience in the automotive industry, and started her career at the company in 2007. Since then, she has held increasingly prestigious roles in the sales and marketing divisions, becoming Market Director Italy for the Lancia Brand in 2012, followed by a position as Head of Lancia Brand in 2013.  

From 2017, in addition to her role at Lancia, she served as Head of Network Development and Customer Experience, an interesting position which together with her new challenge at Jeep, were reasons enough for having this interview…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Antonella Bruno posing in front of the impressive Rubicon at the recent Jeep Media Drive…

Q1 My first question is, you had a long career in the automotive world, I think it has to do with what your father did, but could you tell me why you find the automotive sector so fascinating?

AB: As you rightly said, I grew up close to the automotive world, my father was leading one of the SKF plants, one of the subsidiaries, so after my degree it was natural to step into this sector. I got an opportunity to start working in MSF, and then on further, so it was a kind of natural path for me.

Q2: Why do you think the industry is so unique? What do you think about its future, about the energy transition… and the many mobility and environmental revolutions it is going through, like electrification among others. Do you have any comments on that?

AB:  Let’s say that the automotive industry is very magnetic because it is especially now evolving very rapidly, and electrification is one of the main topics in the future, so at Jeep we started last year with the launch of the Renegade and Compass 4Xe, our first two electrified models, and we are carrying on with that strategy, this will represent our future. We are also working to let the customer understand that buying or considering an electrified car is rather easy, and that the technology is user friendly.

At the recent Jeep 4Xe presentation, you see here the Jeep Wrangler 4Xe in the picture…

We also make clear that being electrified does not mean that they lose the core of Jeep. So for us electrification means catching new customers, with a less aggressive and more sustainable stance, but at the same time – and this is really crucial – it means also to stay true to our values and not really dilute our DNA.

Q3: It is indeed a balancing act for you, you have the customers who appreciate the authenticity of Jeep and go for the Wrangler Unlimited so to speak and at the other end of the spectrum you have new urban Jeep buyers who chose the Renegade and possibly opted for hybrid electrification. Indeed, you have to keep your DNA…

The Renegade has urban qualities…

AB: You are right in saying that we have a more urban clientele opting for the Renegade back in 2018 when it was launched, but also the whole current range of 4Xe models are a perfect example of what we mean in terms of balancing the sustainability and capability because the Wrangler (4Xe and plug-in hybrid) is now a car which you can use daily. If you drive the car, you will notice it performs even better off road thanks to the electrification and this balance I mentioned between sustainability and capability is crucial for a brand like Jeep.  

Q4: With the venue of the Renegade in the mass compact SUV segment, the market presence of the brand has widened considerably…

AB: Yes, as I was saying, before the Renegade the brand was rather more a kind of niche brand in Europe, but when the car was launched, we really grew in terms of volumes and we opened a new segment of (potential) customers.

But equally feels at home in the mountain snow…

Q5: My next question brings us a bit more to the personal side, focusing on the woman in the corporate world. I would like to ask you which skills, which talents did you hone and perfect during your long career and at the same time what would you advise young people and/or young women specifically when they enter the corporate world. What should they watch for, what should they study in terms of human relations, management?

AB As a woman I had the possibility of starting at Ford when I started the first part of my career, and let’s say I had to opportunity to grow a lot, and in terms of skills, I think that it is related to the way I am behaving outside work.

I am an ex-volleyball player so I am used to be very determined, passionate. But I have to be honest, I studied a lot, because when I was young, my first passion was reading, automotive magazines among others. I was very curious, and I used to listen to people who were more experienced than me. Because I think you need also at the beginning to be humble, indeed to be very curious but at the same time humble enough to listen to people who have more experience than you.

I did not experience any kind of difference between men and women, so I was very lucky, and for me it is not a matter of gender, it is a matter of being a professional, being skilled, and you need to keep studying along your career. You grow during your career, but you cannot ever consider that you have arrived, because each new role (re)defines your profile, and therefore at the same time requires you to keep studying. It is important to be a strong, skilled manager, and this goes for both men and women.

Q6: Do you think Corona has affected the position of women in the workplace?

AB: Corona has changed the way we are working in this sense that that now we are spending a lot of time working from home, and this requires a different kind of organization. It requires a kind of cooperation between men and women, let’s say within the family, because it is a new way of working. It depends therefore on the single situation whether this is to the disadvantage of women. It requires an important ability to organize your time.

Q7: If we come back to your new and first rather to your previous function, I was very intrigued that you were Head of Network Development and Customer Experience. Can you tell me more about it?  

AB: AB: As head of customer experience, I can tell you that it was a cross-brand function, and with Corona the digital experience became very relevant and even more so after the sanitary crisis.

So by making the digital experience more efficient, we provide our customer with the ability to order the car online, this is very relevant and it is the future. You have to provide additional content and the digital experience has to be very easy, because you know that 90% of the first research when you are interested in a car starts on the web. So this was the main activity before Corona.

Go anywhere with a Jeep… now also electrified…

Coming back to the network, I had the privilege of leading the network development, which is also very related to the customer experience. To reach the customer is the first mission, but in the final stage we need to explain and pass all the information on the product to the end customer, especially now that we are going through the electrification (of our range). Having said that, we need to offer the best professionalism from our sales staff and we also need to offer a real customer experience in line with our brands. We also need to help the customer to overcome anxiety when it comes to electrification. “

Q8 Can you tell a bit more about the markets in the Enlarged Europe region?

AB: In Europe, the most important market is Italy, representing almost 50 pct of volumes, and we need to keep growing in markets like Germany, which is the most important market in Europe when we talk about electrification. Also France is of key importance for our future.

Retaining Jeep’s unique DNA is our mission…

The high penetration in Italy is explained by the strong legacy with our network, and since June last year we are producing both Renegade and Compass at our factory in Melfi, so Italy is performing very well. I am sure that we will keep growing thanks to the electrification in the markets outside Italy.

HK: We thank you for this interview.

We put the whole range of Jaguars and Land/Range Rovers through their paces…

Today we were invited by the people of Jaguar Land Rover Belux for a Jaguar Land Rover Media Drive at the magnificent establishment La Noiseraie , and it proved a wonderful experience. The whole range of Jaguars were driven on the scenic winding roads and motorways around Namur…with the exquisitely sporting SV R being the icing on the cake, although the hybrid and full electric Jaguars proved very impressive indeed.

The Land/Range Rovers were put to the ultimate off-road test at the Land Rover Experience Center at Suarlée.

We were also able of course to have a thorough go in our former test car we drove earlier, the New Defender, see also our test on these pages…

More on all this soon, we just show you here a few images, which say more than thousand words… just stay tuned on these columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel