We drove the Lexus 500 LS 4WD: the magic of perfection…

When you like smooth motoring and enjoy a car which is well engineered and built, (as we do) then Lexus has a superb car in store for you: their flagship sedan, the LS. We enjoyed it greatly, and tell you here more about this car which makes an admirable statement about the Lexus philosophy in designing and building automobiles.

Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Lexus LS is styled as a sleek slimousine with coupé-like character.

Of course we are moving fast towards total electrification of our cars, and all the car manufacturers are strategically moving in that direction. Lexus – and also Toyota – have already since decades taken a long term view about environmentally responsible mobility, and have come up with the hybrid Prius and the Lexus 200CT many years ago. They have been sold in millions and made a statement how smoothness, reliability and go anywhere mobility can be combined with unparalleled economy. Your servant clocks an average fuel consumption with his Lexus 200CTh of 4,7 l/100 km, an average over the year, and actually this year in year out.

No small wonder that Lexus has maintained and honed this solution to ensure easy mobility, in these present times when a convenient charging infrastructure for carefree full EV mobility is still a daydream in many countries in this world. It therefore also takes a long hard look at hydrogen as a power source.

In the Lexus LS, one finds this “classic” hybrid technology, now engineered and honed to absolute perfection.

Under the hood purrs a 3,5 litre V8 Atkinson cycle petrol engine, good for 295 HP. It is coupled to a 10 speed CVT, and is assisted by two electric motors, who have a combined power of (only) 60 hp. With a battery having a capacity of 11 kW, you cannot use this LS for extended “pure” EV drives in urban areas. The 4WD is made possible thanks to an integral transmission. The electric power is only used to deliver power in situations where the full use of the petrol engine would not be efficient. So one has the advantage of very reasonable fuel consumption, especially in congested urban traffic, where – given a relaxed and anticipative driving style – averages around 8 litres/100 km are easily reached. These are very good values for a large limousine. The manufacturer quotes 7,1 l/100 km as average consumption.

The other advantage is the utter smoothness of the power delivery, especially from standstill and in stop and go traffic.

This smooth and silent progress is one of the very strong points of this Lexus, and this is in our opinion what the designers had in mind for their flagship sedan. Of course it has the power to deliver: 100 km/h is reached from standstill in merely 5,5 seconds, top speed is 250 km/h.

In the wide array of driving modes at your disposal, you can even opt for the “sport” and “sport+” modes. The CVT transmission will then be ultra alert and reactive to any movements of your right foot, the pneumatic suspension will be setting itself a bit firmer and the steering will be more sensitive and direct, but nevertheless the sheer weight – a good 2,425 kg – and size of the car will not invite you to really throw it around each corner. It is a bit out of character for this sleek automobile, primarily designed to move you from A to be in well insulated comfort, and that’s where it excels. By the way, you have the choice between further driving modes, Eco, Normal, Comfort and Custom…you guessed it: we chose between Eco and Comfort all the way through our test.

Impressive and elegant

The Lexus LS is a flamboyant and impressive automobile. It stretches 5,24 metres long and its fluid roof contours which are continued to the boot give it a coupé like character. The grille is uniquely Lexus in its bold styling signature and gives the LS panache and personality.

The Lexus exudes opulence, but also quality and workmanship, as the overall bodywork finish is superb.

The same can be said for the interior, dashboard and seats. The seats are a chapter on their own, and you can opt for the most exclusive leather finishes, ventilation and massage functions and the like. Six chromed bands stretch across the dashboard, giving it a fluid elegance. In the centre towers a 12,3 inch touchscreen, and there is also a big touchpad next to the gear selector lever, which lets you choose all the screen functions. We like to use this touchpad, as it avoids you touching the screen and getting it muddled with fingerprints. When the car is in motion, it is easier for you to touch the more accessible and ergonomically stable pad anyway.

Of course you can monitor on the display exactly what the hybrid system is doing, besides all the other info functions and layouts. It is worth every minute you spend on reading the instructions to familiarise yourself with the wide array of possibilities, functions and infotainment, as you then will enjoy this flagship car so much more.

We were of course smitten again by the superb quality of the Levinson audio system, which still sports a CD audio player, a tradition applauded by “classic” audiophiles like your servant…

Comfort

The Lexus LS 500 offers you superb comfort, with ample leg- and headroom for all (four) passengers. The subtle pneumatic suspension does the rest. Especially in the Comfort setting, it literally swallows for you all ridges and potholes ancient urban streets have in store for you. Sound insulation is also of paramount importance for the Lexus engineers, as well as total filtration of any vibrations or mechanical noises from the drivetrain. All this adds greatly to the total “zen” experience which going from A to be in this LS entails.

The screen lets you monitor all the hybrid driveline functions…

Sporting aficionados will find maybe that they lack a more direct “feel” of the car and the road conditions, but being cocooned by a soothing behaviour of the car in all driving situations is actually aimed for by the engineers when they set out creating this unique automobile.

Conclusion

The present Lexus LS series is already amongst us since 2017, and got an important facelift in 2011, both visually and technically. It makes a bold statement with its “Zen” philosophy of environmentally responsible smoothness and performance.

This panache is further underlined by a tradition of craftsmanship, resulting in a superb finish and excellence in the quality of the materials used.

If you want to drive an alternative to the German savoir faire in building top class executive sedans, have a drive with this LS series, and enjoy the change…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Photographers’ notes:

The photos were taken with our faithful Canon G9 X. A 209 g gem which offers a 1″-type 20.2MP CMOS sensor and 28-84mm equivalent F2-4.9 lens encircled by a control dial, as well as a fixed 3″ LCD. It has been our favorite workhorse for years now, and it is still performing very well. We use it mostly on Aperture Priority mode, also for the photos here.

We drove the Citroën C4 130 Hp PureTech: continuing the unique character of the brand…

We already told you several times: we love the cars with the double chevron. My love affair started already with the first DS 19.

I was smitten then, as a young boy, tucked away in the rear seats with my aunt at the wheel, driving her French goddess. Then only 75 horsepower pulled her Déesse to cruising speeds above 135 km/h, so you can imagine what we think that now 130 HP will do. Don’t  forget, this equals the punch of the DS Pallas 21 injection électronique. We enjoyed one with a five speed manual, which my father and me used for a very fast trip on the French autoroutes from Brussels to the Paris Motor Show, driving it close to 190 km/h almost all the way…

Indeed, when it comes to sheer top speed, the present day C4 even slightly surpasses this iconic DS, reaching exactly the 200 km/h mark.

The C4 we tested continues the tradition in a very impressive fashion: the power is now streaming to the front wheels through a velvety 8 speed automatic, and the suspension is also as smooth as ever, offering the typical Citroën “floating carpet”ride.

It is all packed in a body which is styled following the trend of the times, with a distinct SUV flair, but then without the ride height and the go anywhere capability.

All for the better, as fuel efficiency is now most important.

Besides the smooth automatic, this Citroën also steers feather light and precise, putting a broad smile on your face… so are we smitten again? We would think so… just read further.

Well styled, both inside and out…

Indeed, the C4 is trendy, but it does not exactly turn heads. It is well proportioned and both the front and rear end bear a distinct family resemblance with the other Citroën’s. The overall finish is of a quite high level with excellent fitting of the bodywork panels.

We like the clean styling of the dashboard, the rather high central position of the 10 inch touchscreen, the clutter free instrumentation and the very readable head up display. The designers always had everyday practicality in mind when they decided to make the selection of the driving modes and the adjustment of heating and ventilation manual. Practical is also the round volume knob sitting on the touchscreen, ideal for intuitive sound volume control. There is also an extra tray for a tablet at the glove box compartment, very clever indeed!

Further talking about the interior, we have to mention here the excellent “advanced comfort” seats, providing indeed superb comfort, whilst being pleasantly wide too. You can even opt for four way back support and a massage function as an extra. There is enough legroom in the back, with only the middle seat being too uncomfortable for longer distances.

The C4 has a two zone airco, and also separate air outlets for the rear passengers.

Driving this C4 gives you the unique Citroën feel…

The 3 cylinder engine starts quietly, and remains almost inaudible at low revs. The soft engine mounting transmits some rocking movements, but this remains very well balanced and is never obtrusive. The automatic gearbox is very well tuned to the torque characteristics of this 1199 cc unit. Even under spirited driving conditions, it will keep the engine in the mid rev ranges, and also at high cruising speeds on the Autoroutes it will keep revs down. In the 8th gear, cruising at 130 km/h, the engine runs at 2100 rpm, and is then barely heard. The excellent aerodynamic qualities also come into play, and wind noise remains absent up to very high speeds.

All this makes the C4 is an excellent “routière”. But there is more. The suspension and handling add to the sheer magic of Citroën driving.

The Citroën engineers succeeded in giving a mechanical suspension all the qualities of an adjustable setup. This is done with their so-called “Advanced Comfort” suspension. Integrated in the shock absorbers are two springs which dampen heavy suspension movements smoothly, and indeed, this provides the legendary“floating carpet” ride.

All this doesn’t come at the cost of handling. Road irregularities will never ever throw this Citroën out of its course, and a sudden lifting of the throttle or even braking when entering corners at high speeds will never let it lose its balance.

Gear and drive mode selector are conveniently placed…

All this results in this Citroën being a comfortable and also a fast Gran Turismo. We already mentioned the top speed, with acceleration to match. This 130 HP C4 will sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in some 9,9 seconds, and this is indeed more than enough for all the sporty Gran Turismo driving you (and certainly your passengers) will ever want.

Thanks to the good pulling power (maximum torque of 230 Nm at 1750 rpm) the C4 picks up nicely at intermediate speeds.

When it comes to consumption, a lot depends on your driving style – as always – but you can expect decent figures all the way. The manufacturer quotes a 5,4 l average according to WLTP norm, and the consumption we reached during our test was around the 6,3 litre mark for 100 km. Co2 emissions are 122 g/km, also according to WLTP norm. Brakes are progressive and perfect throughour, the turning circle with slightly more than 11 meters is a bit wide.

Practical

French cars are built first of all to live with them daily, so practicality abounds. We already mentioned the extra tray for the Ipad or tablet. You can for instance use it then as a sound centre, or display the route details or highlights or hotel/restaurant addresses you dowloaded before your trip, or descriptions of cities or monuments you encounter on your voyage. So your co-driver is suitably entertained and is also usefully entertaining for you!

There are lots of storage possibilities inside, and the boot volume is with a good 330 l adequate indeed. If you remove the rear cover and fill the boot to window height, you have 420 liters at your disposal, and if you fill it to the roof you can pack 710 liters. There is no electric opening of the boot lid available, but it is easy to open anyway.

The airco and ventilation controls are separate, and have nice, round knobs…

There is no mini spare wheel, and only a flat tyre repair kit will do, and indeed one can live with that. The C4 is quite handy to drive in town with its reasonable external dimensions, and its rather narrow with of 2,04 meters comes in vary handy in ancient city streets and mountain roads.

Conclusion

A true Citroën indeed, a “grande routière” with compact dimensions which makes it delightful to use everyday also in urban life.

It has the unique panache of the brand, with its comfort, its unerring stability, its speed. You should definitely experience it, and we bet that you will be totally convinced, and ask yourself why you did not drive a Citroën earlier in your motoring life…

The automatic version with its smooth 8 speed EAT box also won us over, and we would strongly advise you to take it into your choice when you consider to make this formidable C4 your own.

More Citroën test news soon. At the end of august we will take the C5X through its paces, for an extended test including a drive to Paris. So stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Photographers’ notes:

The photos were taken with the Fujifilm X100F, recently added to our stable, under harsh summer light conditions, but the sensor managed the high contrast situations very well. We used an f8 aperture for the shooting, delivering more depth of field.

The DS 7 gets a thorough makeover: now ever more refined with added panache…

Design Director Thierry Metroz sums it all up:  

“The new DS 7 has now even more character, particularly at the front and rear, while its design is directly inspired by our recent concept cars. New confections also reinforce the character of the interior in search of ever more refinement. New DS 7 is the result of co-operation between my team, our experts, in particular lighting who brought an avant-garde technology, the engineers of DS PERFORMANCE, without forgetting our manufacturing team invested for the success of New DS 7.”

But also the sheer performance has been pushed a notch higher. Developed by DS PERFORMANCE, the new DS 7 E-TENSE 4×4 360 has a 360-horsepower plug-in hybrid powertrain with intelligent four-wheel drive transmission, big wheels, a lower stance and wide diameter brakes.

A design enhanced by sharp lines and lit up by DS PIXEL LED VISION 3.0 and DS LIGHT VEIL

Specific work in the design was carried out thanks to the close links between the DS DESIGN STUDIO PARIS team and the production team at the Mulhouse (France) factory achieving exceptional results in terms of quality and solidity.

The light signature is developing with an even more expressive look. The combination of new slimmer DS PIXEL LED VISION 3.0 headlamps and the DS LIGHT VEIL daytime running lights is seamless and carried out in the spirit of high fashion.

The DS WINGS and the grille are larger and the valance has been redesigned with a range of colours depending on the model.

The slimmer scale-like LED rear lights with a vortex effect have also been redesigned with a dark metallic finish. The boot lid and badge have been reworked with sharper lines, while the “DS AUTOMOBILES” name that replaces “CROSSBACK” will now sign off New DS 7’s visually stretched rear.

The wheels play a part in the character of New DS 7’s profile. Fitted with inserts, the new 19-inch EDINBURGH and SILVERSTONE rims improve aerodynamic efficiency while the treatment of their design magnifies their perceived diameter. New 21-inch BROOKLYN wheels, with a sculpted techncial design are only available on New DS 7 E-TENSE 4×4 360.

The best French expertise for lovers of beautiful materials

Just like the largest Paris fashion houses, DS Automobiles bestows special care on the choice of materials and how they’re treated. Through upholstery in New DS 7’s interiors, an environment was created to make each journey different.

The height of refinement, New DS 7 OPERA is offered with two Nappa leather colours: Basalt Black and Pearl Grey. Over wider expanses, the highest quality part of the hide adds a natural and refined touch to the interior.

New upholstery with a draped effect on the Nappa leather trim is now on the dashboard and door panels. Without seams or joins it maintains the feel and appearance of natural leather. The hide is further elevated by embossing with lines reminiscent of the DS LIGHT VEIL signature.

The attention to detail of this interior is also shown by the pearl stitching offered in the new White and Zephyr colours, a steering wheel in full grain leather with a leather covered airbag, “Clous de Paris” embossed inserts iconic to DS Automobiles without forgetting the watchstrap upholstery offered for the first time in Pearl Grey.

Refinement also features in the RIVOLI interior which introduces a Basalt Black colour and has a stitched padded trim that we’ve combined with Claudia Leather upholstery, which has a more pronounced leather grain.

The PERFORMANCE LINE interior features a deeper black colour with the microfibre textile Alcantara® throughout and Gold and Carmine touches that emphasise the dynamic appearance.

The BASTILLE interior has been refreshed with a new DS Canvas finish and a Basalt Black grain inspired by fish skin.

All these interiors are enhanced with ambient lighting that can be personalised, and a new pattern based on “Clous de Paris” embossed inserts.

High performance petrol/electric hybrid and multi-energy power units

The multi-energy brand with the lowest CO2 emissions in Europe for the last two years and multiple Formula E champion, DS Automobiles has chosen to offer New DS 7 with several kinds of power unit, including a wide range of three plug-in hybrids with 225, 300 and 360 horsepower.

New DS 7 E-TENSE 225 has a PureTech 180 petrol engine and a 110-horsepower electric motor fitted to the eight-speed automatic gearbox with a two-wheel drive transmission.

New DS 7 E-TENSE 4×4 300 and New DS 7 E-TENSE 4×4 360 introduce a four-wheel drive transmission with a PureTech 200 motor as well as 110 and 112 horsepower electric motors on each of the axles. The 360 model is specially tuned by DS PERFORMANCE.

A new 14.2 kWh battery gives up to 65 kilometres with zero emissions on the WLTP mixed cycle and up to 81 kilometres on the urban cycle. Charging time is about two hours on a 7.4kW charger.

A 130 BlueHDi power unit is still available in the range. Outside Europe, PureTech petrol engines with 130, 215 and 225 horsepower will also be offered.

New DS 7 remains one of the most efficient cars in its class, specifically because of its well-controlled weight.

New DS 7 E-TENSE 4×4 360

The spirit of Grand Touring by DS Automobiles is embodied in New DS 7 E-TENSE 4×4 360. To go with the rush of power (200 horsepower petrol engine, front electric motor with 110 horsepower and rear electric motor with 112 horsepower), New DS 7 E-TENSE 4×4 360 enjoys special tuning by DS PERFORMANCE, specifically by optimising energy management. It has a DS ENERGY COACH application that supports the driver by supervising braking phases to improve energy recovery. The chassis is lowered by 15mm, the track is wider (+24mm at the front, +10mm at the rear) and the front brakes go to 380 millimetres in diameter with calipers by DS PERFORMANCE. New 21-inch BROOKLYN wheels are added to a new Lacquered Grey colour whose pearlescent colour highlights the special curves and charisma of this model. The 0-100km/h acceleration is rated at 5.6 seconds and the 1,000 metres start-stop is accomplished in 25.4 seconds.

New infotainment system…

The infotainment system is one of the biggest changes for New DS 7 with the inclusion of DS IRIS SYSTEM. This new solution introduces a totally reworked interface, that’s completely configurable, reactive and seamless and supported by natural voice recognition. The redesigned 12” high-resolution touch screen features a menu made up of widgets for accessing all its functions with a single movement: for controlling the connected navigation, the ventilation, the digital audio sources and journey information. This big screen that’s very comfortable to use also enables views front and rear to be displayed, provided by new high-resolution digital cameras, and access to the Mirror Screen function over wi-fi.

A new large 12-inch digital instrument panel with displays that can be changed and personalised features refreshed graphics with all the vital information such as energy flow on plug-in hybrid versions.

Unique technology for the segment

New DS 7 also introduces technology for more comfort and relaxation such as DS ACTIVE SCAN SUSPENSION and DS NIGHT VISION.

DS ACTIVE SCAN SUSPENSION is a camera-controlled damping system that’s completely unique in its class. It adjusts each wheel independently according to imperfections in the carriageway.

With DS NIGHT VISION, an infrared camera sweeps the carriageway and its edges to detect cyclists, pedestrians and animals at distances up to 100 metres. The driver receives the information in the new high resolution digital instrument display, reinforced by a special warning in the event of danger.

Safety is improved with DS DRIVER ATTENTION MONITORING and DS DRIVE ASSIST level 2 semi-autonomous driving.

DS DRIVER ATTENTION MONITORING analyses the driver’s level of attention with two cameras. The first checks the behaviour of the car in its surroundings and the second, positioned facing the driver, diagnoses where they’re looking, their face and eyelid movement which translates to the level of sleepiness and attention…

New DS 7 is equipped with DS DRIVE ASSIST, adaptive cruise control that can initiate stopping and restarting without the driver intervening and an aid that enables the driver to keep the car either where it is or where they position it in the lane.

Designed in France and on sale soon

A global car, New DS 7 is built in Mulhouse (France) for all markets outside China and in Shenzen for the Chinese market. Reservations will open from 11 July in France and the first models will be in DS STORES from September 2022.

Orders and deliveries can be made without going anywhere, through an online sales system and the availability of New DS 7 by the DS DELIVERY VALET service, at the address chosen by the customer.

Limited for the introduction: a new DS 7 E-TENSE 4×4 360 LA PREMIÈRE

For the New DS 7’s launch a limited edition New DS 7 E-TENSE 4×4 360 LA PREMIÈRE is being offered. Based on New DS 7 E-TENSE 4×4 360 OPÉRA, it introduces a new Gloss Black front bumper blade, black monograms and special badges accompanying the gloss black finish on the DS WINGS, the grille, the window strips and the roof bars. Basalt Black and Pearl Grey interiors are available. Two charging cables (mode 2 and mode 3) are standard. Six bodywork colours are being offered: Lacquered Grey, Sapphire Blue, Pearl White, Perla Nera Black, Platinum Grey and Crystal Pearl.

Needless to say that we are keen to see this new DS7 soon in the flesh, and collect driving experiences for you when we are back from our holiday!

Not that we are idle in the meantime; soon you will read our driving impressions of the test cars we drove recently for you!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the BMW ix3: the looks, the power and the range…

After the revolutionary and dedicated i3, BMW uses the popular bestseller X3 as a basis for an EV which will inspire many to take the step towards full electric mobility. Does it convince? It certainly does…

The i-version of the X3 saw light in China, where  production began in September 2020 at BMW’s factory in Dadong, China.  

Of course, the EV version doesn’t come exactly cheap, but then its major competitors, the Mercedes EQC, the Audi e-tron and the Jaguar F-pace also need a deeper pocket to call them your own. In Flanders,  these EV’s mostly appeal as business cars, also due to the simple fact that business cars in our country need to be EV’s in order to benefit from the fiscal advantages which make them interesting.

The problem with using EV’s überhaupt at the moment in our country lies with the abysmal charging infrastructure we encounter. Let it be said, this has nothing to do with the car. During our test however, we met further charging problems, which made us use the efficiency of the iX3 to the limit, and indeed we clocked an average EV consumption of 16,4 kWh, which is, considering the weight and size of the car, excellent. It resulted in a range of around 482 km, which is certainly no small feat.

Needless to say that in order to achieve these low consumption levels, one can only use merely 10 % of the available power, and you can imagine that we enjoyed during most of our test the acceleration performance and speed of a heavy truck…But then coasting along with the slower traffic was a very restful experience!

Powerful and “zen”.

Not that the iX3 lacks power. It has not less than 210 kW or 286 HP driving the rear wheels, and even for a 2,2 tonne car this means performance. It will sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 6,8 seconds, and hurtle smoothly to a top speed of 180 km/h.

But sheer performance does not tell the whole story. The feeling that all this power is immediately available all the time at the slightest movement of your right foot is one of the beauties of EV driving, besides the utter smoothness and silence which adds to this unique “zen” feeling, which pervades you every moment you are behind the wheel, and this certainly so in urban driving conditions.

The iX3 driver has three modes at his/her disposal, “sport”, “comfort” and “eco pro”. Needless to say that given our charging situation we used the “eco pro” function virtually all the time.

The electric powertrain is BMW’s fifth-generation scalable electric drivetrain, and has a very compact layout with the electric motor, transmission, and power electrics grouped together in a single component. It does not use any rare-earth materials in its construction. The 80 kW Litrium Ion battery consists of 188 prismatic cells.

This BMW thinks with you…

If you use the navigation function together with the adaptive speed control, an intelligent interaction between the two systems unfolds. Indeed, navigation data and the sensors of the driving systems combine to slow the car at junctions or approaching bends.

When you are driving at fairly constant speeds with low traffic density, lifting your right foot will cause the car to coast, when you activate the direction indicators, the recuperation mode sets in immediately. Soo clever….

The front camera can even detect whether the traffic light jumps to green, so the recuperation mode is immediately interrupted.

Of course you can set the recuperation mode in three different intensities, to get that pleasant “one pedal” feel. We used it to the max.

A wide array of charging possibilities

The iX3 can be charged in AC mode up to 11 kW, in DC mode up to 150 kW. We had no experience of this as we were due to malfunctions unable to recharge the car during our test. At the maximum 150 kW level, one could recharge the BMW in about 30 minutes to 80 pct of its charge.  You can also enjoy the info of the digital service offered by BMW, dubbed Connected Charging, which helps you find public charging stations. Not of any use for us, as the BMW charge card malfunctions (or otherwise?) prevented us from charging the car during our test, as we said earlier.

By the way, over the last several years I live in the Antwerp (Wilrijk) urban area not one public charging has been added within reasonable walking distance from my home. At the moment, there are only three charging points, which are now almost permanently in use. This makes the regular use of an EV (still) a rather nervous affair with range anxiety setting in the minute you get behind the wheel.

Dynamic handling…

A BMW is and remains a BMW. The iX3 handles very well indeed. Of course, this EV version has standard adaptive damping and its centre of gravity has been lowered by some 7,5 centimetres. Aerodynamics have also been improved with the new closed grille and the special air slippery 19 inch alloys. The front and rear end has been restyled and this iX3 carries also a somewhat bolder light signature.

Revised cabin

The dashboard has been further modernized, as well as the array of knobs and functions, which all are logical and quite intuitive. We truly love the layout of the audio commands for instance. But there is the big central 12,3 inch control display, combined with the also 12,3 inch large instrument display. Of course, the plethora of available digital information, menus and functions take some good study, but are worth every minute you spend on learning them. By the way, many functions can be steered by voice control, called the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant.

You are also engulfed at night with blue accent lighting while you enjoy the now standard sports seats in the front.

Assistance systems galore

Safety is also an important issue for BMW. In the iX3, you enjoy the support of their Driver Assistant Professional, with amongst others the active navigation guidance function.

Space

Their is enough space for five, with the three rear seat backrests foldable independently. Total boot volume is 510 litres, with all the backrests folded down, some 1.560 litres.

Two equipment levels

At the moment of writing, the iX3 is offered in two equipment levels, Inspiring and Impressive. The Inspiring level is already very complete with panoramic sunroof, electrically adjustable front seats, metallic paint, smartphone integration and DAB radio. We already applauded the active navigation. The inspiring level now sets you back some 71.000 Euros.

Conclusion

A well thought out EV, in a superb X3 body, inheriting all the good qualities of this model. The facelift is stylish and underlines the EV character of this SUV. It has impressive efficiency and range, combined with more than adequate performance. When you are looking for an EV, this is a very good choice indeed.

EV’s of this stature don’t come cheap, and their longevity and resale value will depend on battery life, the evolution in battery technology, and last but not least the venue of alternatives like Hydrogen. Will this source be practical and available for the masses?

Big oil companies are increasingly looking at the latter possibility, as they are familiar with the manufacturing, transport and storage of liquid molecular sources of energy. They plan on building big solar E-plants to manufacture Hydrogen and then transport and distribute it to the whole wide world. Also for individual cars? This remains to be seen in a more distant “green” future…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Photographers’ notes

The Fujifilm X100F is the latest addition to our mirrorless digital camera fleet. It has a superb 35mm equiv. F2 lens. Inside, the camera has a new 24.3MP CMOS sensor along with an updated image processor , and it is a true gem. The photo conditions were very difficult here, strong sunlight and a black car, but the camera still managed to produce creditable results. You will see more photos with this camera with a unique precision feel…

We drove the Mazda CX-5: a stylish SUV with a premium feel…

The CX-5 is stylish…

Did you know that the CX-5 is the most popular model in global markets? So Mazda carefully hones its flagship model to superb quality “feel” and looks. Never change (too much) a winning team, the saying goes. And tis is exactly what Mazda does. Of course it has poured right from the beginning a lot of unique Mazda DNA in its SUV. You guessed it, this CX-5 reminds you a bit of the MX-5 in look, feel, responsiveness and handling. You find the nice classic and beautiful round dials in front of you, your hand rests on the lever of the slick and precise changing 6 speed gearbox, the steering wheel also feels familiar to the MX-5 aficionado.

Superb finish and classic, analog instruments…

The platform of the CX-5 is now 10 years old, but it certainly doesn’t show its age. The handling is fine, responsive, inviting to have a go on winding roads. Ah, and then apart from the wide 10,25 inch screen and offering of course Android Auto and Apple Car play, the digital age has not invaded too much in the controls and (beautiful) instrumentation of this CX-5. We just love it.

A control dial for the functions displayed on the screen, proper round knobs to adjust the cabin temperature, how refreshing is this! By the way, the CX-5 now offers inductive phone charging, and a choice of drive modes.

Superb finish

Besides the classic looks there is more what rejoices your heart greatly is indeed the superb finish of this Mazda. Fine tolerances, premium materials abound in the cabin. Premium is what you see and feel. Mazda is also quite ambitious here. It wants to be the leading non European premium brand in 2030. No less…

We drove the Homura version, targeted at Mazda drivers who want more sportiness. One recognises it on the red dots on the grille, stitching in seats and steering wheel.

Smooth power

We already said it, the CX-5 runs on a decade old platform, and this leaves no room for any electrification. Mind you, Mazda has many new goodies in store soon, not to mention the CX-60, Mazda’s first plug-in hybrid. An avalanche of new SUV’s will follow, from the CX-50 to the CX-90. But here we have trusty combustion engine power, and this means no range worries at all. The increased occupation of the few available public charging points in one’s neighbourhood in this country is making the use of an EV when one has no home charging possibility indeed a rather desperate affair.

So we enjoyed the wonderful 2 litre 163 HP Skyactiv-G engine coupled to a slick 6 speed manual gearbox. Smooth, revving willingly, offering also plenty of zest at lower revs. Mind you, this is a rather formidable engine, brimming of combustion ingeniosity. The search for economy incited us to hover around 1500-2000 rpm and this meant smooth, almost inaudible power and indeed very, very reasonable fuel consumption. It again shows that your driving style essentially determines how much fuel you use.

We reached an average of 7,3 litres/100 km. Acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h costs slightly more than 10 seconds and top speed is an impressive 200 km/h. So can you have fun at the wheel of a CX-5? Indeed, you can certainly, and family fathers who had to give up their MX-5, don’t have to regret this…

You can also choose a bigger, 2,5 litre Skyactiv engine, combined with an auto box, and 4WD, but it will drive the prices well beyond the 40,000 Euro mark.

A fine balance between handling and comfort.

The CX-5 is not only at home on winding roads, it offers also fine comfort. Any harshness is never felt, also any road surface noise is very well suppressed. It made us enjoy the formidable Bose sound system even better. The CX-5 offers ample room for four, the fifth passenger in the middle of the back seat is a bit hampered by the transmission tunnel. The CX-5 offers adequate cabin space, but do’t expect a wide array of storage bins. The boot space is sufficient with 522 litres.

Well styled…

The latest facelift offers new forward and rear lighting, with the LED headlamps now offering 20 LED units.

Again we have also to stress again that the level of finish and the quality of the used materials is truly excellent. According to the equipment levels, Mazda is also offering some dramatic looking and elegant colours. We absolutely love the angular silhouette of the front grille, reminiscent of the 50s racing Lancia Gran Turismo’s, and indeed there are worse examples to follow. It gives the Mazda’s a personality.

Conclusion

For those amongst us who want a premium quality SUV with a wonderful combustion engine, comfortable, easy to use, and don’t see electrification yet as an answer to carefree individual mobility, this is a car for you. The CX-5 has a typical Mazda DNA, reminiscent of the character and panache of the MX-5 and is very stylish indeed. It offers good value for money too, if you are judicious in the choice of drivetrain and equipment level.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Photographers’ notes:

We used here again our Canon Power Shot G9 X. A true compact gem indeed, lightweight – merely some 200 grams – and ultra compact. We selected an f 8 opening for that extra sharpness and more importantly extra depth of field. With the good light conditions, ISO was only 200 or 250. It is also able to shoot at very short distances, as the photo of the instrumentation shows.

We drove the new Citroën C5 Aircross: a SUV with added panache and superb comfort…

We drove the 225 HP plug-in hybrid version in the Alpes Maritimes around Cannes and Nice…

When the brand with the double chevron builds an SUV in the C segment, you can expect something very special. Indeed, after a long drive in the Alpes Maritimes around Grasse, on the immensely scenic Route Napoléon, the  Départementale 6085, we stepped out totally relaxed and surprised. This is a totally harmonious car, with very impressive qualities. First of all, the total comfort, which cars of many times its price (and size) can only mach at best. But that is not all.

There is also the perfect balance of this SUV. Its totally impeccable handling. Its unerring stability and precision, with total lack of body roll when you steer it with high speed in fast corners. Then comes the smooth drivetrain, with a silky stream of power, in the 225 HP Hybrid version we drove. We made this choice, because the plug-in hybrid version currently accounts for 41% of sales. Performance and pulling power galore, and on top of that all this is happening in vibrationless silence, with any road noise also well insulated . When you put the lever in “B”, the kinetic energy regeneration is optimal, and we drove quite long stretches of winding and hilly roads with zero average E- consumption, with the engine shut off!

The sedate driving style at the end of our trip resulted in an average total consumption of… 7,4 kW and 4,5 l/100 km.

Actually, in this paragraph, the whole story is told. Let’s now tell you more about the facelift features of this C-Segment SUV, which found since its introduction in 2018 already some 325.000 buyers worldwide…

More modern and imposing front end and announcing colour…

A more imposing front end…

Citroën introduces a new design language to its successful C-Class SUV. Tauter lines and a vertical so-called “stepped construction” contribute to visual widening the front end of C5 Aircross. The Brand logo now detaches itself from the daytime running lights. The chevrons now appear in black lacquer set off in chrome, and we liked it.

They extend visually via a set of increasingly tight chrome and black piano keys that gradually blend into LED daytime running lights, very subtle! Characteristic of the new Citroën identity, the V-shaped day time running lights LED signature carries a piano keys design.

More dynamism is also found at the rear in the new structured headlight lenses. Without changing size, the lamp unit is now fitted with dark and structured glass, highlighting the three LED lighting modules that constitute the light signature. The car also runs on new 18” diamond-cut PULSAR alloy wheels, and also the side panels have more structured lines and accents.

Four new Colour Packs, which allow C5 Aircross to assert its SUV character and its elegance: Glossy Black, Dark Chrome, Anodized Bronze and Energetic Blue. The new colours of the Colour Packs also feature on the front air intakes and the Airbump®.

Stylish and more upmarket cabin

The C5 Aircross gets a new 10” touchscreen that appears to float on the dashboard, more in your line of vision. In addition, the fully customisable 12”3 digital display provides all essential and customisable information directly in the driver’s eye-line: navigation map report, information on active driver-assistance systems, information on the operating status of the hybrid engine, etc. We appreciated the simplicity of it. We noticed also a clever gimmick in the hybrid version we drove: the digital numbers indicating the speed are in blue when you are driving on E-power, and white when the combustion engine is doing the work.

Legendary seats…

Citroën Advanced Comfort® seats already present on C4 and C5 X are making their way also in the C5. They are made of high-density foam in the core of the seat, have an extra 15 mm layer of foam and of course a specific construction… and indeed, they offer a wonderful comfort and support. We already applauded the qualities of the Progressive Hydraulic Cushions® suspension.

Bolder rear lights…

The central console, has been modernised with a black leather-effect-fabric enhanced by chrome design lines. We have a new, e-Toggle gear selector, a new driving mode selection button incorporating the Grip Control function and, on the plug-in-hybrid versions, an intuitive choice of the driving mode (Electric, Hybrid or Sport). The central console also integrates a large storage trail regrouping the connectivity with 2 USB-ports and a wireless charger.

Citroëns have always been practical, and this C5 Aircross makes no exception: it’s the only SUV in the segment to offer three individual sliding, reclining and retractable rear seats. The boot volume goes from 580 L to 720 L in the petrol and diesel versions and from 460 L to 600 L for the hybrid version.

We enjoyed the utter quietness of the car, as we said above, and indeed it was equipped with the optional acoustic laminated front windows.

We ended our test with an even lower consumption of merely 4,5 litres/100 km…

The plug-in-hybrid version allows a driving in electric mode up to 135 km/h, and a  55 km E-range.

Users of the C5 Aircross Plug-In Hybrid also benefit from a range of services to facilitate charging: with management either directly in the vehicle or from their smartphone, as well as the possibility of programming charging times. Charging is fast, with a full charge completed in less than two hours on a Wall-box, says Citroën.

Of course we have 20 benchmark driver-assistance systems in the compact SUV segment. These include Highway Driver Assist, a level 2 autonomous driving system, combining Adaptive Cruise Control with a Stop & Go function and the Active Lane Departure Warning system.

Needless to say, the C5 Aircross impressed us greatly. We are keen to test this car soon, also in the petrol engined 130 HP version. But really, the plug-in version couldn’t be missed…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Photographers’ notes:

We took our trusty Canon G9 X to  Nice. It’s wonderfully compact, has a cropped 20 megapixel sensor, 1.0 type back-illuminated CMOS, and a well performing 10,2 to 30,6 mm zoom lens, (35 mm equivalent: 28 – 84 mm.). It is of superb construction, with 8 elements in 6 groups (2 double sided aspherical UA lens, 1 single sided aspherical lens). It is fast too, with f/2.0 – f/4.9. We simply love this baby, and it has been for years our favorite. We mostly use it in AV mode (Aperture priority). Mind you, it has a built-in ND filter.

Lancia announces bold renaissance…

Lancia launched last week a ten-year strategic plan, which includes three new models, one every two years, starting in 2024, for an attractive and iconic model range to cover 50% of the market.

The plan will begin in 2024 with the new Lancia Ypsilon, which will be around 4-meters long, belonging to the B segment and will be launched with a 100% electrified powertrain. In 2026, the new flagship will arrive, 4.6-meter long and will allow the brand to enter into the largest segment in Europe. 2028 will be the year of the new 4.4-meters long “Delta”, a sculpted and muscular car, with geometric lines, which will attract car enthusiasts throughout Europe.

These three new models will cover 50% of the market and will have the duty to contribute to the improvement of Stellantis performance in its premium and luxury cluster, as laid out in the “Dare Forward 2030” Stellantis strategic plan.

“Today is an important day,” declared Luca Napolitano, CEO of Lancia brand, “Lancia is now ready for Europe, taking a first step to become a credible and respected brand in the premium segment.

Lancia’s ten-year plan has also a clear electrification strategy: from 2026 the brand will only launch 100% electric models and from 2028 will solely sell 100% electric models.

In addition, a wide use of innovative materials will make Lancia the Stellantis brand with the highest percentage of recycled material, with 50% of touchable surfaces made from eco-sustainable materials in order to contribute to building a better world for future generations.

Inside the new vehicles, Lancia customers will be welcomed in a typical Italian elegance style. Inspired by the exclusive materials of its past iconic vehicles, like the Gamma, Thema and Flavia, the next-generation Lancia vehicles will provide a comfortable environment with simple and intuitive on-board technology which is in line with its DNA.

The S.A.L.A., Sound Air Light Augmented (sala in Italian means living room), will be a minimalist and intelligent virtual interface which will give the customer total control of the vehicle’s cabin from the sound system to the air conditioning and lighting, with the use of a single button.

Lancia also introduces an innovative distribution model with 50% of online sales, and will establish a presence in 60 major cities with a network of 100 dealerships.

In unfolding the country strategy outside Italy, Lancia uses three criteria:

The first is love and passion for the “Made in Italy”, with Spain, Belgium and France leading the way.

The second is the relevance of online sales, with The Netherlands and Germany in pole position.

The third is the dimension of the B premium segment, with all these countries ranking in the top five.

These five countries represent the first step in the internationalization process of the brand, which will be present in Europe in and 50% of sales online.

 More Lancia news soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

WWCOTY presents Peugeot with its award for best car of the year in Paris.

TEN journalists from Women’s World Car of the Year travelled to Paris to present their ultimate accolade to Peugeot boss Linda Jackson in what WWCOTY Executive President Marta Garcia described as an ‘historic moment’.

Peugeot’s new 308 took top honors this year in WWCOTY when it fought off competition from 65 other cars worldwide to be named Supreme Winner. The culmination of a year of testing, assessing, and voting on scores of cars from across the globe came at an intimate awards ceremony in the French capital when Linda Jackson accepted the trophy on behalf of Peugeot. (See photo below).

WWCOTY Executive President, Marta Garcia said: “This is an historic moment because it is the first time in the thirteen years history of the WWCOTY that the Supreme Winner is awarded to a company led by a woman. But that’s not why the WWCOTY is in Paris. It’s because the 308 has been voted the best car in the world by women motoring journalists from five continents. The Peugeot 308 is a global and down-to-earth car – a vehicle that meets the needs of buyers from young people to families to somewhat older drivers.”

Linda Jackson replied: “This award is a source of great pride for the entire Peugeot team, and it nurtures our motivation for all our future endeavors: we see that our efforts pay off.

Indeed, it is a double honor to receive this award:

It is first and foremost the honor of having the brand Peugeot recognized by international journalists who are true, genuine automotive experts. And it is the honor of being recognized by a jury of all-female journalists. I am delighted to see that women play a more and more important role in our industry. Thanks to this type of award, we know that we are moving in the right direction.”

The ten were representing the jury of almost 60  women motoring writers from more than 40  countries who had taken part in the voting first on a long list and then on a shortlist from which the 308 ultimately snatched victory after having been judged on safety, quality, price design, ease of driving and environmental footprint. Cars eligible for this global award must be sold on at least two continents although they may have different names. All votes are verified by accountants Grant Thornton.

Following the ceremony the panel from WWCOTY were invited to Peugeot’s Design Studio at Velizy just outside Paris for a first glimpse of a new completely redesigned model that will be unveiled to the general public on June.

The WWCOTY Trophy: The distinctive trophy was designed by Spaniard Scarleth Martinez Garrido.  It is made up of a wooden plinth with an inscription marking Peugeot’s win. The metal plaque above has been created by the artist to simulates an engine part and is stamped through with the WWCOTY logo.

Previous winners were:

2021 Land Rover Defender

2020 Mazda3

2018 Volvo XC40

2017 Hyundai Ioniq

2016 Jaguar F-Pace

2015 Volvo XC90

2014 Mercedes-Benz S Class

2013 Ford Fiesta

2012 Range Rover Evoque

2011 BMW Series 5 and Citroen DS 3

About Women’s World Car of the Year

Women’s World Car of the Year is the only car awards group in the world comprised exclusively of women motoring journalists. It was created by New Zealand motoring journalist, Sandy Myhre, in 2009. She is currently Honorary President while Marta García performs as Executive President.

The aim of this unique award is to recognize the best cars of the year and to give a voice to women in the automotive world. The voting criteria are based on the same principles that guide any driver when choosing a car. The selections are not ‘woman’s car’ because such categories do not exist.  Aspects such as safety, quality, price, design, ease of driving, benefits and environmental footprint, among others, are taken into account when casting the votes.

However, beyond choosing the best cars of the year, the goal of WWCOTY is also to give visibility to women in the automotive world, to contribute to making women voices heard on all continents because mobility for a woman means access to many personal and professional possibilities. See also their website womensworldcoty.com. E-mail: info@womensworldcoty.com.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Kia EV6: a top EV car with lots of panache…

Soon after the elegant Ioniq 5, we could take the Kia EV6 for an extended test drive, and as both cars ride on the same E-GMP or Electric-Global Modular Platform, a comparison between the two cars is inevitable. Let it be said, also this EV6 scores very high indeed, and has the same excellent qualities and futuristic aura than its four wheeled sister, albeit altogether a bit sportier.

We drove the EV6 GT Line, pleasing the eye with its 20 inch alloys, its snow white pearl paint and black interior with white and aluminum accents and alcantara/leather seats.

Our test car was the rear wheel drive version with 168 kW/229 Hp motor and the 77,4 kWh battery. More than enough for exhilarating performance and an impressive range…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

More rounded, organic styling…

The Kia distinguishes itself from the angular lines of the Ioniq 5 by offering more fluent lines, reminiscent of the last Saab, Jaguar I Pace, and the likes. The rear end with the built in spoiler and the tail light running across the car is reminiscent of Porsches, with the curves of the rear lid shaped as a spoiler being even more outspoken. The panache of the whole car varies with the paint color chosen, and we like the pearl white finish of our car here, although we think the car looks even more stunning in a matte grey finish. A beautiful, well proportioned car it certainly is.

In the interior one has the same two big screens with identical digital instrumentation and infotainment layout, and we enjoyed also the same excellent head up display we found in the Ioniq 5.

But the shape of the centre console is different, has more curves and is a bit more adventurous. You have lots of space for your drinks, bottles and sundry, and a round selector knob for Drive, Neutral and Reverse instead of the rotating stick in the steering column in the Ioniq 5.

The car and its touch screens is simple and intuitive to use, and typical for Kia is the well designed centre console, where you can toggle between heating/ventilation or audio controls. You find your way in a breeze.

The seats are excellent; the front seats also fully recline as in the Ioniq 5, so you can have a (short) nap when you recharge the car. The rear seat backrests are also adjustable.

With a 2,9 meter wheelbase, there is plenty of legroom both in the front and especially in the rear, with slightly less headroom for the rear passengers than the Ioniq 5, but this is still more than enough if you are less than 1,90 m tall. Standard boot space is 520 litres, extendable to 1300 litres.    

Our test car came with the drive assist pack, which included the autonomous parking aid, the 360 ° camera view and as said the very easy to read head up display. The large and wide EV6 is therefore a pleasure to drive and park in town. The additional cameras are necessary, as the overall visibility of the bodywork is not so good, especially to the rear.  

Impressive performance and handling…

The 229 HP EV6 delivers punchy performance: it sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 7,3 seconds, and quite frankly, who needs more? The top speed is limited to 185 km/h. You have the choice between three driving modes, from “Eco” to “Sport”, and with the paddles on the steering column you can choose the amount of energy recuperation and also opt for automatic braking to standstill.  The brakes are sensitive and progressive.  

The suspension of the EV6 is sportier and firmer than the Ionic 5. The EV6 is slightly less comfortable, but never harsh, and has less body roll when driven with verve on winding roads. The car is neutral with an understeer bias, is very stable in fast corners and has excellent straight line stability up to its top speed.      

You would like even more performance? The EV6 can also be had with an extra motor driving the front wheels, and total power in this 4WD layout is 239 kW/325 PS. If you want nothing less than supercar performance, it is good to know that in autumn, Kia will present a GT version with some 430 kW/585 PS. This results in an acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 3,5 seconds, with a top speed of not less than 260 km/h…

With a very big range, up to a good 500 km…

Our test car came also with a heat pump, costing less energy to heat and cool things. The EV6 is remarkably frugal, and it is no effort at all to achieve an average consumption of around 18-19 kWh per 100 km. This means that in practice, this EV6 has indeed a useable range of some 500 km, and that is no small feat! According to the WLTP norm, the distance is 528 km.

The EV6 runs – like the Ioniq 5 – on a 800 V system, and this means not only the possibility of using thinner cables and therefore gaining weight, but it also means larger load capacities and shorter recharging times. Even in less than ideal circumstances, you can recharge your EV6 in about 30 minutes to run another 380 kilometers.

 Like the Ionic 5, the EV6 has also a Vehicle-to-load-Function, which means an extra external plug to power lamps, microwaves, cookers when you are camping out, and you could even charge (with patience) another EV with it! You just need the small adapter which I housed in the front luggage bin, (called “Frunk”) under the engine cover lid, which contains some 52 liters of luggage space.

Conclusion

The EV6 is a top class EV, certainly when one considers its price tag. Our test car in the GT Line equipment level came with the Drive Assist Pack and the Premium pack, which included a 14 speaker Meridian Sound System together with the Head-Up display. It also had a panoramic sunroof, heat pump (1200 Euros extra) and 20-inch alloy wheels. The total price including VAT was 59.990 Euros. On top of that it is roomy, has stunning looks and offers sportiness. Last but not least, the range is superb and thanks to the 800 V system its recharging times are short. Indeed, also this Kia EV6 paves the way to a bright EV future…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Mercedes drives the luxury experience to new levels…

What is the most important desire for customers in the future of luxurious individual mobility?

 Mercedes found out that today’s customers are increasingly viewing luxury through the lens of values and benefits that extend beyond physical experiences. They are seeking priceless commodities such as time and want to show responsibility with their choices.

A LiDAR that sits in the radiator grille is essential for Mercedes-Benz for safe, conditionally automated driving.

As the leading luxury car brand, Mercedes-Benz is consistently driving the luxury experience to new levels. So it gives it new meaning for the electric and digital age – achieving more with less.

Driven by the innovative spirit firmly anchored in its brand DNA, and by its strategic goals of “Lead in electric” and “Lead in car software”, Mercedes-Benz is pioneering the electric and digital transformation of the global auto industry.

If the vehicle is in DRIVE PILOT mode, this is displayed in the instrument cluster with the corresponding assistance graphic.

The most recent proof of this is the Mercedes-Benz VISION EQXX. The most efficient Mercedes ever built is a blueprint for the future of efficiency of electric vehicles and also a masterclass in a radically new approach to the UI/UX driven by software and artificial intelligence.

If DRIVE PILOT is activated, the driver may take his hands off the steering wheel and turn to certain secondary activities.

With DRIVE PILOT, Mercedes-Benz became the first automotive manufacturer in the world to receive the world’s first internationally valid system approval for conditionally automated driving (SAE-Level 3).

Before DRIVE PILOT can be activated, the availability of the system is displayed via a white flashing in the control elements.

Mercedes recently released some photos about their latest research and already working solutions. We lift a glimpse here of this bold new future…

More (technical) and driving news soon from the brand with the iconic star!

Hans Knol ten Bensel