The Brazilian market gets the new Abarth Pulse…

The Scorpion brand’s first SUV will be exclusive to the LAT(in)AM(erican) region, at least for the time being.  

The reason is simple: the Abart Pulse is manufactured and developed in Brazil.

After the Stilo Abarth in 2002 and the iconic Abarth 500 in 2014, the new Abarth Pulse marks an important turning point in the brand’s global development plans, going beyond the European and Asian borders, and spreading now throughout the world, offering its fans a specific model dedicated to South America.

“Abarth’s return to the Latin American market is a source of great pride for us – declared Olivier Francois, FIAT & Abarth Chief Executive Officer and Global Chief Marketing Officer of Stellantis -.

“The characteristics of performance and style, which have always distinguished Abarth, remain intact and will offer a true Abarth experience to our fans across the ocean.” He continued.  “The Abarth Pulse is only the beginning and we want to keep completing the family. We couldn’t be more delighted by the positive momentum created in Latin America first by the Fiat Pulse and now by the Abarth Pulse.”

The brand has planned a series of initiatives to consolidate the relationship with the many admirers of the Scorpion overseas.

It starts with a digital (marketing) platform through which they can discover the news related to the model and the brand. This will be followed by the creation of dedicated spaces at Fiat dealerships in the country, where customers can learn more about the purchase of Abarth models thanks to specialized sellers.

Will the Pulse come to our shores? Maybe, or will we see another Abarth SUV for our market? Will it maybe a BEV or PHEV? Only the future will tell…

What we know is that the Abarth is based on the Fiat Pulse, which was developed under the codename Project 363. The car is built on the MLA platform which in turn is based on an improved platform used by the Argo hatchback.

The MLA platform, dedicated to the South American market

We read more about this MLA (Modular Architecture) platform in the specialized press.

Fiat has indeed launched a completely new modular platform in the spring of 2021—for its cars in Brazil.

It is of course in the cards that this and current Fiat/Jeep small car platforms will be merged with Peugeot’s CMP to form a completely new Stellantis small car platform (STLA-Small) which can accommodate gasoline-powered, hybrid-electric, battery-electric, and hydrogen fuel cell power along with either front or all wheel drive.

The rollout of these STLA platforms will begin in late-2023 with a top-down approach. This means beginning with the STLA large platforms for segments D and E. The dedicated BEV-focused platform for the segments A, b and C will be launched only in 2026.

So for the time being the car will be seen in Brazil… but one never knows!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

BMW presents details of the future BMW 7 Series

The distinctive grille of the new 7 series will get an extra light signature…

At the BMW Group Annual Conference held on March 16, Frank Weber, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG for Development, presented the first details of the future BMW 7 Series.

The focus lies initially on technology highlights, a new front-end design based on hallmark BMW design features and a unique interior experience consisting of digital features and exclusive materials. In April, BMW will present the all-electric BMW i7, and with it the entire new BMW 7 Series.

In the BMW i7, the characteristic design elements of twin round headlights and BMW grille have been completely reinterpreted. Some of the special design statements are upper light elements made of exclusive crystal glass and the illuminated contour of the kidney grille.

BMW developed also a new “My Modes” and the latest generation of the iDrive operating system. My Modes enable the driver to precisely customise the car’s driving characteristics and interior ambience. In addition to the BMW Curved Display, a new type of light and function strip on the instrument panel and the doors provides a visual and haptic quality.

The BMW Interaction Bar is part of the ambient lighting and also features integrated control buttons. In addition, the newly developed Sky Lounge panoramic glass roof adds to the feeling of spaciousness.

Cinema entertainment for the rear passengers…

The rear of the BMW i7 sets new entertainment standards offering a unique cinematic experience. There is a BMW Theatre Screen, which moves out of the roof liner, an ultra-wide screen with a 31 inch screen, 32 : 9 panoramic display format and 8K streaming resolution. It transforms the rear seats into an exclusive, private cinema lounge where passengers can select their personal entertainment programme from a diverse range of streaming offers!

More BMW news soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

On international Women’s Day, MINI celebrates Pat Moss, MINI winner of the international Tulip Rallye in ’62… with a special edition.  

Competition is embedded in the MINI DNA: the greatest feats in the brand’s history were achieved on the rally track. And the foundation for all this was laid by an exceptional female driver. In May 1962, the classic Mini was added to the list of winners of an international rally event for the first time. In the international Tulip Rally – from the Dutch municipality of Noordwijk to the French Riviera and back again – Pat Moss achieved the best time over the distance in the classic Mini Cooper.

60 years later, MINI celebrates the talent, courage and passion of this British woman racing driver with a fascinating special edition. The Pat Moss Edition of the MINI 3-door and MINI 5-door, limited to just over 800 vehicles, not only commemorates the launch of the classic Mini’s extraordinary sporting career, it also marks a pioneering achievement for female power in motorsports. Success in the Netherlands turned the classic Mini, Pat Moss and her co-driver Ann Wisdom into enduring heroines in a discipline otherwise dominated by significantly larger vehicles and entirely the preserve of men.

The Pat Moss Edition will be available from May 2022 for the MINI Cooper S 3-door and the MINI Cooper S 5-door and the MINI John Cooper Works. The exclusive design of the edition models cites the racing history of the British premium brand as well as the sporting careers of Pat Moss and Ann Wisdom.

It also incorporates MINI product innovations such as the Multitone Roof. What is more, an additional variant of the Multitone Roof is available for the first time in the Pat Moss Edition. The colour gradient of the vehicle roof extends from Chilli Red to Melting Silver and Jet Black. With the innovative paint finishing process fully integrated in production at the MINI plant in Oxford, this will be the first time a second colour variant has been realised. Minimal deviations in the colour pattern caused by changing environmental conditions ensure that every MINI with a Multitone Roof has the character of a unique specimen ex works. On the new edition models, the charismatic roof paintwork is combined with the body finishes Pepper White or Midnight Black metallic and also red exterior mirror caps.

A stylised tulip symbolises the first rally victory: it appears on the C pillars and side scuttles of the edition vehicles along with the inscription “Pat Moss”. The wheel hub covers also feature an exclusive design with a graphic which is based on the outline of the typical Dutch flower and the MINI wordmark.

The key facts of the 1962 Tulip Rally appear below the side scuttles on the front side panels: the route Noordwijk – Monte Carlo – Noordwijk, the distance of 2 500 kilometres, the vehicle, namely a Mini Cooper, and its starting number 104. These are supplemented with the slogan that still applies to MINI to this day: “born to compete”. The tulip motif, the name inscription and the key facts about the first every rally win are also to be found on the screen-printed aluminium door sill trims designed exclusively for the edition model.

Another design element used for the first time in the Pat Moss Edition is the horizontally aligned bonnet stripe in white. The printed combination of three-dimensional numbers and letters – 737 ABL – is the registration number of the classic Mini that won the 1962 Tulip Rally, likewise recalling the historical model. Meanwhile the original signature that Pat Moss wrote on the bonnet of her car after one of her victories adorns the front apron of the edition model as a graphic imprint.

In the interior of the edition vehicles, the iconic signature on the Piano Black interior surface in the passenger area is another tribute to the revolutionary woman rally driver, who passed away in 2008. The sports leather steering wheel bears the edition emblem in the form of a tulip graphic which appears on the clip of the lower spoke. The abstract depiction of engine pistons moving up and down serves as the motif for a graphic on the interior surface on the driver’s side. With bars of different heights forming the shape of the letters “M” and “W” – standing for “Moss” and “Wisdom” – they symbolise that perfectly coordinated duo that caused a sensation in the rally scene for so many years.

The MINI Pat Moss Edition is a tribute to a female racing pioneer, MINI’s rally history and true team spirit. One of the remarkable details of the first rally triumph for the classic Mini is the fact that Ann Wisdom insisted on taking part in the Tulip Rally despite being pregnant at the time: she went on to provide her team mate Pat Moss with unerring navigation guidance over the 2 500 kilometre route.

Mossie and Wizz – as they were known in the paddock – formed a successful duo for seven years. The two women had the courage to compete in a male-dominated sport – and they brought about fundamental changes, too. The younger sister of Formula 1 driver Stirling Moss, Pat Moss also won the Sestriere Rally in Italy in 1968, achieved a podium finish in numerous other international competitions and was crowned European Ladies’ Rally Champion five times. Ann Wisdom is considered the first professional woman co-driver in the history of rallying. As successful sportswomen in their own right, the two viewed their courageous foray into a male-dominated domain with typical British understatement. “We didn’t see ourselves as pioneers back then,” said Ann Wisdom years later. “We were just entering a rally.”

Pat Moss and Ann Wisdom paved the way for an extraordinary career for the classic Mini. In 1964, 1965 and 1967, the British small car secured outright victory in the Monte Carlo Rally. Decades later, MINI became the dominant brand in the world’s toughest endurance rally, achieving overall victory in the Dakar Rally four times in a row from 2012 to 2015. Two more overall victories followed in 2020 and 2021.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Renault removes wraps of its New Austral, its new electrified SUV.

VERSION ICONIC – ESPRIT ALPINE

Renault wants its new SUV to be high-tech, efficient, and connected: they say it embodies the spirit of the Renaulution and Renault’s ‘Nouvelle Vague’ for C-segment SUV’s.

All-New Austral introduces also a “sporty-look” Esprit Alpine version, available for the first time on a vehicle in the Renault range.

The Austral is designed on the 3rd generation CMF-CD platform, developed within the Alliance. It offers various electrification technologies including a new E-TECH Full Hybrid engine.

More modern and technological, All-New Austral incorporates advanced, proactive and intelligent technologies including 4CONTROL Advanced and 32 driving aids.

VERSION ICONIC – ESPRIT ALPINE

More connected, its large OpenR screen hosts the OpenR Link multimedia system, which integrates the best of Google services and applications. More news soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Peugeot 308 chosen by all-female jury as Best Car of the Year…

It is the International Women’s Day on March 8, and what date is more proper to announce the Best Car of the Year, chosen by the Women’s World Car of the Year jury. The overall winner in the six categories the jury established is the Peugeot 308, already the winner in its category Urban Model.

The winners in this year’s six categories represent excellence in their segments based on safety, driving, comfort, technology, design, efficiency, impact on the environment and value for money.

This is the twelfth year for WWCOTY, a team of fifty-six motoring journalists from 40 countries spanning five continents. It is the only jury in the automotive industry comprised exclusively of women. For our country Belgium, our colleague Sabrina Parant is a jury member. See also their interesting website womensworldcoty.com

In this first round of voting, sixty-five candidates were in the running for the Women’s World Car of the Year awards. All of them were launched between January 1 and December 31, 2021.

Despite the challenges of living and working during a global pandemic, jurors made an extra effort to get behind the wheel of these vehicles to evaluate them.

Some jury members had the following comments on their choice of the overall winning car:

“The Peugeot 308 is an automobile that offers just about everything you could want in a car. It drives very well and it’s hard to believe there’s only a 1.2-litre engine under the bonnet of most versions,” Sandy Myhre, New Zealand.

“It is a car in which the driver feels very comfortable. It offers a very pleasant atmosphere inside,” Mélina Priam, France.

“The most important thing for me is that it has a good mid-range performance and that its automatic gearbox is very smooth,” Hoa Hguyen, Vietnam.

“The 308 is not content with simply maintaining and consolidating its success, but is committed to surpassing itself, and it succeeds in doing so,” Jimena Olazar, Argentina.

“It is easy to drive even in the narrow streets of Japan. Its turbo engine is extraordinary and quiet,” Etsuko Kusuda, Japan.

“Peugeot has been able to seduce families with a well-thought-out proposition and a very striking image, but also to win over those looking for different powertrains: petrol, diesel, plug-in hybrid and an EV coming next year,” Carla B. Ribeiro, Portugal.

“It is not an expensive dream car for the lucky few, but a car that most families can afford,” Malene Raith, Denmark.

“All in all, the 308 is a reliable and predictable car, without being boring. It steers directly and has a very short turning circle, which is ideal for the city. PEUGEOT has thought about the best driving position for the driver,” Rowan Peperkamp, Netherlands.

Here are the 2022 Women’s World Car of the Year Category Winners, chosen in the first round:

URBAN MODEL: Peugeot 308

FAMILY SUV:  Kia Sportage

LARGE CAR: Ford Mustang Mach-E

LARGE SUV: BMW iX

PERFORMANCE CAR: Audi e-Tron GT

4X4:  Jeep Wrangler 4xe

Congratulations to the jury and all the winners!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Opel Grandland Plug-in Hybrid: electrified with style and punch…

In the stormy February days, the new Opel Grandland stood admirably its ground against the elements…

My love affair with Opel really dates a long time back. To 1968, to be exact. As a university student studying law and economics, I replaced my father on a press trip in the South of France to test the sleek Opel 1900 GT fastback two seater. It was designed by Opel stylist Erhard Schnell, who had taken the ’67 Corvette as a model, and had the 1,9 litre single overhead cam four cylinder under its long bonnet. I remember driving it with verve over the twisty roads of the Massif de l’Estérel, as I did now with the DS9. It was bullet fast and nimble to me, as I remember it.

The Opels then had already plenty of panache and character. Then came the Commodore GS Coupés, the Manta’s, even the big Admirals and V8 Diplomats. They were appealing, rock solid and fast. All this good qualities came back at the wheel of the Opel Grandland Hybrid.

The “Blitz” or lightning still adorns the Opel emblem…

Stylish, with the new Opel Vizor front grille, the Opel has a distinctive and very clean, contemporary character. The dashboard and infotainment displays are an example of less is more, and indeed are just “right” for everyday driving. It also embodies the no nonsense approach of Opel. But it is mostly in the way this Grandland steers and drives that my good Opel memories came back. It invites you to adopt an active driving style, due to its overall responsiveness and handling. Again the car also feels solid and well built, for years to come, is roomy and has this unmistakable Opel “no nonsense” character.  But just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Dual tone paintwork and the glass panorama roof on our test car add panache…

The elegant Grandland rolls of the Opel assembly lines in Eisenach, and certainly pleases from any angle. Your servant liked especially the dual tone paintwork, also a typical hallmark of the Grandland…

The stylish Vizor front grille houses high-tech, such as the adaptive IntelliLux LED® Pixel Light. The light focus is adapted to every bend and corner, the beam has always the optimum range and cuts out uncoming traffic in seconds. While we are talking about the electronic wizardry in this Opel, let’s continue a bit on this subject.

The Vizor front grille houses the adaptive IntelliLux LED® Pixel Light.

Indeed, this Opel also includes Night Vision. This system is found amongst others also on the DS4. The system’s infrared camera detects people and animals up to 100 metres ahead of the Grandland in the direction of travel, based on their temperature difference from the surroundings. Night Vision warns the driver and shows the position of pedestrians, for example, in the digital Driver Info Center in the new “Pure Panel.” See also how the system works on YouTube, link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djieXHE9iBM&list=RDCMUCSr5PuKiJ5Zi00zfsiT-7jA&index=1

Also new in combination with 8-speed automatic transmission is Highway Integration Assist. The adaptive cruise control will brake to a standstill if necessary. Thanks to “Stop & Go”, the Grandland with Highway Integration Assist will also automatically resume driving from this standstill.

Intuitive and relaxing: The Opel Pure Panel cockpit.

The customizable screen in front of the driver gives you to the point information…

Two wide screens in a single unit form the Opel Pure Panel. There is the so called “Driver info Center”, a 12 inch screen right in front of you, and a 10 inch central touchscreen which is also turned towards the driver. Of course, the two screens can be personalized to your taste. In the driver’s central field of vision, there are now menu entries for the new Night Vision camera as well as for drowsiness warning, oil temperature and on-board computer settings.

The centre display can show the energy flow, but also the eSave function and charging as well as consumption statistics…

Further details on audio or navigation, which were previously only displayed on the infotainment system monitor, can now also be selected via the Driver Info Center, and on the Hybrid version we tested, the display of the energy flow can also be seen on the display straight ahead of you.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible multimedia infotainment systems up to Multimedia Navi Pro is of course also available.

We loved the “less is more” approach in the screen layouts, and the intuitive way everything could be used.

Behind the wheel…

A smooth 8 speed auto box and the choice between three drive modes: “Electric”, “Hybrid”, “Sport”

Stepping into the Grandland SUV is a breeze as it sits a bit higher, and you are welcomed in ergonomic active seats for drivers and front passengers certified by the “Aktion Gesunder Rücken e.V.” (campaign for healthy backs). Indeed, they support you very well, and offer a wide range of adjustments, from electric seat tilt to electro-pneumatic lumbar support. They offer heating and in the leather trim even ventilation.

The Hybrid Grandland has, as we said, the same 8 speed auto box we find in the DS E-Tense versions for example, and this is a smooth one indeed. It is mated here to the also familiar four cylinder 1598 cc engine we find back in other Stellantis Group models, delivering here an impressive 133 kW/180 hp at a sporty 6000 rpm.

A total system power of 165 kW…

But of course, the Hybrid is assisted by an electric motor driving the front wheels, developing 81.2 kW/110 hp @ 2500 rpm. Total system power is 165 kW/224 hp, which is even 15 hp more than the 1964 3,4 litre six cylinder Jaguar Mk II which I now own for almost 40 years. You can understand that the performance is nothing short of exhilarating: 0 to 100 km/h is absolved in 8,9 seconds, top speed is 225 km/h, with 135 km/h reached on the electric motor alone.

Overall liveliness is however even more the result from the massive torque the Opel driver has at his or her disposal: the 1,6 litre direct injection turbo engine is already good for 300 Nm at 3000 rpm, but it is of course the electric motor developing 320 Nm over a broad range between 500 and 2500 rpm which makes all the difference. This pulling power is smoothly transferred to the front wheels by the automatic transmission, and this makes this Opel an absolute joy to drive, whether in tight urban traffic or on open winding roads. We rediscovered the Opel DNA, and absolutely loved it. The engine is barealy audible, only a subdued sporty roar is heard when one is pushing (very) hard.

Driving this 1,8 tonne car enthusiastically in “sport” mode costs energy, and therefore the test consumption suffered somewhat. Making rather dynamic (urban) errands cost us some 8 litres/100 km, topped with some extra kW’s in the process, but suffice to say that the consumption of a plug-in Hybrid depends greatly how you use it and recharge it, we said this already so many times. You can of course choose between different driving modes (“Electric”, “Hybrid”, “Sport”), and when you frequently recharge your Grandland, you will hardly consume any fuel at all. If the driver shifts the automatic transmission to drive mode B, this recuperation and the braking torque are further intensified, and there is also an “E-save” function which allows you to save the battery power to use it later when driving/entering in town areas.  The function can be set via the colour touchscreen of the infotainment system.

According to WLTP, the fuel consumption is 1.8-1.3 l/100 km, kWh consumption lies between 17.5-15.0. The E-range varies between 64-53 km. CO2 emisisions vary between 41-29 g/km. The Hybrid version has a lithium-ion battery with 13.2 kWh capacity. Charging time at an AC household socket with mode 2 cable is some 7 h 30 min.

The suspension is taut without being uncomfortable, conveying this typical “German car” feel, or, shall we say “Opel” character? It is quite busy on our bad Belgian and Flemish roads, which manage to have much pore potholes, ridges and irregularities than (many) other European countries. The result of the rather firm setup is that this Opel steers precise, and invites you to a dynamic driving style. On motorways the Opel Grandland is masterfully stable, and really feels in its element.

Practical

Opels are made to excel in daily (family) use, and offer the roominess to do it. Boot capacity varies between 390-1528 litres. You can order a sensor-controlled tailgate that can be opened and closed by a movement of the foot under the rear bumper. Here, too, the unlocking settings and opening angle of the power tailgate can be customised via the corresponding menus in the colour touchscreen. Doorbins are large, and also the central console offers good stowaway possibilities.

The Opel Grandland is elegant with a clean, contemporary styling language…

Conclusion

The Grandland PHEV has all the good, iconic Opel qualities. Very practical and simple to use, it is inviting in its responsiveness and agility, giving you genuine driving pleasure every time you take the wheel. The performance is impressive, but altogether smooth and effortless. The Grandland feels taut and stable, the finish and quality of the materials used is impeccable, the car is practical, has this unique no nonsense character, and is on top of all that is very stylish indeed.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the DS9 E-TENSE 4×4 360 in Nice: style, elegance and smooth high performance…

The French automakers have a unique tradition of building “Grandes Routières”, distinctive in style, comfort and performance. DS Automobiles takes this custom to new heights in this electronic times and age, putting also their vast experience gained over recent years in E-formula racing into their automobiles.

The result is the E-TENSE 4×4 360. A 4-cylinder 200 horsepower engine and two electric motors, one 110 horsepower (integrated with the gearbox at the front) and the other 113 horsepower (linked to the rear axle), are aided by intelligent four-wheel drive transmission. The 11.9 kWh battery features advanced management to save energy so as to handle different applications, says DS Automobiles.

The result is of course breathtaking performance, not in the least thanks to the ample torque developed by the two electric motors. 0-100 km/h takes only 5.6 seconds, top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h, with the capability of reaching 140 km/h on electric power alone. Total torque, engine and E-motors combined is an impressive 520 Nm.

The figures displayed here at the press conference about the DS9 E-Tense 360 tell it all…

But there is more than just sophisticated power. It means also that the DS9 is designed to combine the virtues of E-power with combustion power to achieve the environmentally responsible footprint of a modern, electrified high end performance limousine.

At the morning press briefing before we took the cars on the road on a well chosen 148 course around Nice, Christophe Château of Product Communication DS Automobiles explained us a unique feature of the DS9, which put us in the footsteps of the E-formula racing pilots: the “Energy Coach”, an exclusive app installed on the DS9.

On the 148 km long varied test course, your servant managed a score of 92 % recuperation of kinetic energy!

Developed with DS Performance and double Formula E champion Jean-Éric Vergne, the DS ENERGY COACH app helps drivers to maximize energy regeneration during deceleration. Scores are shown on the central screen. The trick is to fine tune your pressure on the brake pedal, so that the brakes are not activated and all the kinetic energy is transformed again into E-energy. It takes clever anticipation to achieve this in all traffic situations. The Formula E-drivers have to do this too, to enable them to have sufficient battery power for these last extra fast laps in the final stages of the race…

Your servant decided to have a go at this, and indeed, while being totally unfamiliar with a very mixed course comprising sharp bends on the corniches in the beautiful Estérel, the autoroutes and the city streets in Cannes and Nice, I managed a score of 92 %, meaning that 92 % of the kinetic energy in all my decelerations was transformed into E-energy. By doing this, we still maintained a rather brisk pace, as we had to respect the “moyenne” or average speed because we had to be back at the starting point of the course at 12.00 h to have lunch and attend the second press conference in the afternoon. I had to hurry even slightly more as I had to allow also some time to take some photos you see here.

So the DS9 was driven with verve over the winding roads on the cornices, and here I discovered again how well the comfortable suspension behaves in these conditions. We already applauded in our previous test of the DS9 225 the merits of the DS ACTIVE SCAN SUSPENSION, which scans the road ahead of you to fine tune the suspension to an ideal setting to cope with the road surface irregularities immediately in front of you. You can see a 1 minute You Tube film by DS automobiles on this system with the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZE-1MolcvAI

Indeed, remaining stable and predictable as on rails with virtually no body roll in corners, the DS9 remained utterly comfortable.

This slide shows the modifications made by DS Performance on the DS9 4 x 4 360…

The DS 9 E-TENSE 4×4 360 uses special front and rear axles with a wider track. The braking system is uprated with four-piston calipers for better power distribution under heavy braking with 380 x 32 mm discs at the front (up by 50 x 2 mm compared with DS 9 E-TENSE 225) and 290 x 12 mm at the rear. 20 inch MUNICH alloys are used and the suspension is lowered.

We could not measure exactly due to time pressure our consumption on the trip, but suffice to say here that after 148 kilometers, only a quarter of the small 41 litre petrol tank was emptied…boiling down probably to a fuel consumption of some 7 litres/100 km, with also a good 15 % of the battery still remaining charged. 

In zero emissions mode, the DS 9 E-TENSE 4×4 360 covers 52 kilometres on the WLTP urban cycle or 47 kilometres on the WLTP combined cycle.

According to the WLTP Cycle, fuel consumption is restricted to 1.8 litre / 100km with homologated CO2 emissions of 41 g/km.

During our trip, we (re)discovered what an excellent GT this car really is, indeed a totally relaxing and an undisturbed joy to drive. The 1598 cm3 engine remains quiet, subdued and refined, aided by the smooth 8 speed automatic transmission. Last but not least we tell you here that the 360 is available in PERFORMANCE LINE + and RIVOLI + specifications.

The DS9 250…

With this car, we rediscovered the DS9 we tested earlier (see our report on https://autoprova.be/2022/01/29/we-drove-the-ds9-e-tense-225-french-elegance-and-panache/) with the total system power now raised to 250 HP. This DS has only front wheel drive, and somewhat lesser performance: 0 to 100 km/h (62mph) in 8.2 seconds, a maximum top speed of 149 mph (240 km/h). But it still remains a superb car, and in daily driving practice, apart from the delightful out-of-corner accelerations of the most powerful 360, driving impressions on the sunny dry road course at the Côte d’Azur were not radically different. Suffice to say that total torque, engine and electric motor combined, is here still some 360 Nm.

According to WLTP, fuel consumption is 1,5 l/100 km, the electric range on its 15.6 kWh (total capacity) battery is up to 61 kilometers on the WLTP combined cycle with an unchanged vehicle weight.

The DNA of DS…

Superb quality of materials, intricate stitching and styling, is the DNA of DS Automobiles…

At the lunch, your servant had a very interesting conversation with Alexandre Stricher, (communication Brand and Prototype DS Performance), who applauded me on my achieved results on the ENERGY COACH app. “I wish every owner of the DS9 would adopt your driving style”, he complimented. Our conversation then drifted to the unique styling language which defines DS Automobiles, being a crucial element of their DNA. I remarked that the angular styling touches in the interior and instrumentation layout are reminiscent of the “art deco” styling language and rakish shapes found amongst others in Voisin automobiles.

Alexandre Stricher, (communication Brand and Prototype DS Performance), speaking at the afternoon press conference…

My conversation partner agreed. “A refined, elegant styling language and the use of unique materials and (stitching) patterns is what we are aiming for. We want to differentiate ourselves from the competition as a young, up market brand, combining a sense for refinement in styling and used materials with superb electrified technology,” he told me.

 “But there is more, much more, he said with a smile in his eyes. “What to think of 800 hp? an acceleration of 0 to 100 km/h in less than 2 seconds? 

And during the press conference, he revealed the E-Tense Supercar, of which much more in a separate report…

Last but not least, seen here on the photo above, Dominique Fontignies, PR & Communications director – Stellantis Belux, briefed us about the situation for DS Automobiles on the Belgian market.

We show you here the slide with the sales figures, which speak for themselves…

Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Škoda Kamiq Monte Carlo 1,5 TSI: a crossover with urban panache…

Škoda has a wonderful sporting history in the world famous Monte Carlo Rally. Already 85 years ago, the ŠKODA RAPID delivers an excellent performance from Palermo to Monaco; fair play here was more important to the driver team than the chance of achieving a second place.  

To celebrate this success, the POPULAR MONTE CARLO made its debut in 1936; it was a stylish two seater coupé; Look at the story we made about this beautiful and interesting car in our columns, with the following link: https://autoprova.be/2017/10/19/a-1937-skoda-steals-the-jurys-hearts-at-the-zoute-concours-delegance/.

Your servant made even two You Tube films about it. See one video of ing. Michal Velebný, https://youtu.be/TQ4aoKGVIMk , introducing himself, and another video telling us more about this Skoda Popular Coupé, https://youtu.be/Ad_XPM_Ej8s. In the Monte Rally, it was second in its class up to 1500 cc(!)

Since 2011, the MONTE CARLO equipment line has commemorated the brand’s legendary motorsport successes, and this adorns also this compact crossover, which indeed impressed us also greatly with its agility and zesty performance.

Not that Škoda has since then rested on its laurels: the FABIA Rally2 evo won the WRC2 category at the Monte Carlo Rally in 2021!

But now let’s turn to our test car. Its angular and sharp edged styling language pleases, and the proportions of this Kamiq are exactly what a compact crossover/SUV should be. Typical for Škoda is the excellent use of available space; Also here the Kamiq (comes from the language of the Inuit people, living in northern Canada and Greenland. It describes something that fits as perfectly as a second skin in every situation) has not stolen its name. It is indeed like a second skin enveloping passengers and luggage. Not losing one inch between them. Be it in the front or in the back, there is more than ample room for four adults, and Škoda boasts that the Kamiq offers more rear legroom than… the Octavia!   

The overall finish is very good, dashboard and front doors have soft padded panels, the fit of the external body panels is also precise and accurate, the paint finish is quite good. Indeed, one smells and feels quality in this Škoda. Speaking of room, the luggage space is 265 liter, not too much, when you use the available standard space up to the roof, it becomes 390 liter; When you fold everything down, the maximum available space is 1145 liters.

Behind the wheel…

Indeed, let’s get going in this Škoda. We just loved the digital instrumentation, which offers various displays. We always preferred the layout where the rev counter takes centre place, right in your line of vision. The steering wheel can be adjusted over a very wide range, so an ideal seating position is soon found. The central more than nine inch infotainment display screen is a breeze to use, and offers CarPlay, Android Auto, amongst others in this Monte Carlo Line version. Fortunately the ventilation/heating controls are separate, with round knobs and buttons for intuitive and easy everyday use.

The seats – in the Monte Carlo version – have sporting looks with integrated headrest, and are electronically adjustable. They wrap beautifully around you and give excellent support. Indeed, inviting to have a go…

We also liked the ambiance in  the cabin, thanks also to the wide opening panoramic roof.

Excellent performance paired with accurate, lively handling.   

This Škoda has the 1498 cc 4 cylinder petrol engine developing not less than 150 HP or 110 kW at 5000 rpm. Torque is also very impressive with 250 Nm at merely 1500 rpm. With a kerb weight of 1277 kg, this means 8,5 kg/hp, and indeed, this is synonymous for excellent performance. What to think of a 0 to 100 acceleration time of 8,3 seconds to 100 km? To put everything in perspective, a 1970 Porsche 2,2 litre 911 T needed 9,5 seconds to reach 100 km/h. Its top speed was 211 km/h, the Škoda reaches 215 km/h…

So you understand that we drove this Škoda with the rev counter in front of us. Faster than a 2,2 litre six cylinder classic Porsche…wow!  The 150 HP engine was coupled in our test car to an excellent seven speed DCT transmission, which provided smooth gearchanges. It takes however a rather gentle right foot when you want a supersmooth getaway from the traffic light. The engine can react rather abruptly with the gearbox hesitating somewhat, which can result in some jerkiness in the first meters. But soon your right foot will learn to bring all this ample torque smoothly on the tarmac.  

Thanks to its pulling power, this Kamiq is wonderfully lively. Even if you just leave the gearlever in the “D” position, the Kamiq will nevertheless sprint from 60 to 100 km/h in less than 5 seconds… take that!

Wind and tire roar is also well insulated from the cabin at speed, and this Škoda reveals itself as a very talented high speed cruising machine. It is a true compact GT, with excellent long distance qualities. The seventh gear is also laid out pleasantly high, with some 2400 rpm at 130 km/h for instance. The engine itself remains rather silent, with only a sporting roar when pushed to the limit. The Kamiq is of course als well prepared for night driving. It has LED headlamps as standard equipment.  

Let’s now focus on the handling. It’s very good indeed, with also the electromagnetic steering light and precise. You can steer with verve into corners; the Kamiq remains undisturbed and stable, with only some noticeable body roll. With all this, the Kamiq remains comfortable.

As it was so tempting to adopt a rather engaged driving style during our test, the consumption tended to suffer somewhat; We averaged 6,6 liters, while according to the WLTP cycle standards, the Kamiq should reach a figure of 6 l/100 km. CO2 emissions are quoted as 128 according to the WLTP norm.

Besides the good dynamic qualities, the rather high stance of this compact SUV and its nimble size make it fun to drive in town.

Brakes are also excellent, nicely progressive and responsive.

Conclusion

The Kamiq has excellent all round qualities, and in fact offers everything you would want from a car. It is roomy, compact in town, well finished, built to last, comfortable with excellent performance and dynamic qualities, which makes it an outstanding GT for long European (holiday) trips.

Of course, this Kamiq doesn’t come (very) cheap.. Škoda however offers for your money an excellent car, which will give you years of motoring pleasure… and yes, the performance and panache of a (classic) Porsche… at least in this well equipped top of the line Monte Carlo 150 HP version.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Jeep® Brand Reveals Images of First-Ever Fully Electric Jeep SUV…

News from Stellantis comes thick and fast: Today, during Stellantis’ Dare Forward 2030 strategic plan presentation, Carlos Tavares, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Stellantis, revealed images of the first-ever 100% battery-electric Jeep SUV, as the brand continues its global initiatives toward the full electrification of its SUV portfolio.

This new fully electric Jeep vehicle will be launched early next year, expanding the brand reach and taking the next step to the achievement of Jeep brand’s vision of Zero Emission Freedom. More information on the Jeep BEV will be released in the coming months.

We will also bring a full report on the Dare Forward 2030 strategic plan presentation soon. Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Stéphane Lefebvre drives DG Sport’s C3 Rally2 in Belgian Rally Campionship with the support of Citroën Racing

Team presentation in Brussels in the old premises of Von Thurn und Taxis, now “Maison de la Poste”: from left to right: Andy Malfroy (co-pilot), Xavier Portier (co-pilot) and Stéphane Lefebvre (Pilot)

This week in the “Maison de la Poste” the team was introduced that will use the colors van Citroën Racing will defend this year in the Kroon Oil Belgian Rally Championship 2022. The experienced Stéphane Lefebvre will be at the wheel of the C3 Rally2 from DG Sport, taking up the challenge against the fierce competition. This weekend he is already participating in the Rally of Haspengouw. He never drove in this event, but that only makes the challenge only bigger and more exciting.

The C3 Rally2 is in shape, more than ever…

Since 2017, Citroën Racing has put its many years of experience in rallying at the service of customers and has put in more than 15,000 test kilometers to increase performance, add more reliability and still better handling to the C3 Rally2 drivers and teams.

Jean-François Grandclaudon of Citroën Racing explains: «Since its introduction in 2017, we have worked hard to offer our customers ever faster cars, suitable for all types of pilots and always with a view to reducing operating costs.

In the past two years, the car has changed a lot and our efforts have paid off with national and world titles claimed in recent years in major championships.”

DG Sport is on high alert at home and abroad.

DG Sport has been a loyal partner of Citroën Racing for years and is looking forward to participate in the international WRC2 and the Belgian BRC championship with the Citroën C3 Rally2.

“Thanks to the support of Citroën Racing, we will start with the duo Stéphane Lefebvre – Xavier Portier in the BRC this season. This is a perfect complement to his involvement with Andy Malfoy in the WRC2 Championship.

By participating in both championships, Stéphane will be able to keep up his rhythm and build up even more experience.

Although we are currently only confirming our presence on the first two meetings of the BRC, we aim to be at the starting grid of at least seven rallies to be there and to take home the championship title,” said Alain Georges from DG Sports.

From left to right: Andy Malfroy (co-pilot), Stéphane Lefebvre (pilot), Xavier Portier (co-pilot) and Jonathan Vercellino (Director Marketing Citroën, Belux)

Stéphane Lefebvre is looking forward to the Belgian season.

 “I am looking forward to the start of the Kroon Oil Belgian Rally Championship 2022 this weekend. I like to come to Belgium, all the more because I have already won both the Rally of the Condroz and of Ypres. With a slight handicap in terms of terrain knowledge in Sint-Truiden, I know I will have to drive a perfect first loop and I will be forced to take some more risks than my opponents. But this won’t stop me from approaching this rally in the same way as everyone else: we intend to make our mark from the very beginning in the race,” warns Stéphane.

He admitted to us that in the meantime he has a great love for the Belgian rallying scene and their iconic rallies.

Stay tuned for the Rally of Haspengouw this weekend!

Hans Knol ten Bensel