The Kia Stonic has been amongst us since 2017, and has recently been upgraded with a GT and a Mild Hybrid version. The latter we found very interesting to investigate for you further. The mild hybrid powertrain is based on the 1 litre three-cylinder turbo unit, dubbed the ‘Smartstream’ 1.0-liter T-GDi, developing some 120 HP, and was coupled to a 7-speed double clutch auto transmission in our test car.
How does it behave in practice? Just read on…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The mild-hybrid system does not increase the power or allow zero-emission electric motoring, but it can harvest energy normally lost while braking or decelerating, and assist the engine when it’s delivering power, reducing fuel consumption…and making the car more lively.
When starting up one is pleasantly surprised by the three-cylinder throb of this engine, which when you rev it up has a six-cylinder tinge to it. We always have loved the sound of three-cylinders, and this Stonic is no exception to this melodious rule. You can drive this Stonic in three modes, “eco”, “normal” and “sport”, and to test out the capabilities of the mild hybrid system, we stayed most of the time in the “eco” mode. In this mode, the 48 V new mild-hybrid belt driven starter-generator (MHSG) switches from ‘motor’ to ‘generator’ modes to improve overall efficiency.
The MHSG uses electric power to provide assistance during acceleration in ‘motor’ mode, thus reducing engine load and emissions, and can automatically switch to ‘generator’ mode during deceleration and under certain conditions to recharge the battery. This battery is a lithium/polymer battery, good for a temporary boost when one accelerates of some 12 kW or 16 HP.
Depending on the chosen mode, the extent and manner the kinetic energy is recuperated varies somewhat. In the “eco” mode and at lower speeds, the kinetic energy is fully transformed into electric energy, at higher speeds the “coasting” function is rather chosen, the car is just rolling and the engine is cut off.
In slower, urban driving, certainly in the “eco” mode, the car decelerates markedly when lifting off, and one soon learns to anticipate stops or slower traffic without using the brakes at all.
This results in quite good consumption figures in urban traffic, around 6 liters/100 km if one avoids fierce accelerations. On the open road and higher speeds, one finds oneself coasting quite frequently when one lifts the throttle, with the engine even shutting off. This is possible at speeds up to 125 km/h. On the open road, and respecting the legal speed limits, it’s easy to achieve figures between 5,5 and 6 liters/100 km. CO2 emissions are set at 127 g/km, with the manufacturer also quoting 5,6 l/100 km as average consumption.
The 7 speed DCT works smooth and alert, and gearchange patterns are varying according to the chosen mode. The changes are smooth and fast, and one clearly feels that manufacturers have learned a lot in developing and building DCT transmissions. At slower speeds and small throttle openings, de DCT seems to hesitate somewhat between gears, but as soon as you push the throttle again, it immediately knows what to do.
The Stonic is relatively light, some 1,2 tonnes, and this means that it has a lot of zest with the 120 HP engine. 0 to 100 km/h is reached in under 10 seconds, top speed being over 180 km/h.
Styling inside and out remains largely unchanged since the introduction of this cute compact crossover in 2017.
In the cleanly styled and pleasant-looking cabin, a new 4.2-inch instrument cluster and an eight-inch infotainment system awaits you.
The Stonic has now Kia’s new safety and driver-assist systems such as lane-keep assist, blind-spot collision warning and collision-avoidance assist, lane-follow assist, and smart cruise control. In stop and go traffic our test car was able to stop and accelerate again by itself, when cruising along in the traffic lane with the cruise control set at 30 km/h. The Stonic nicely slowed down and stopped when the vehicle in front came to a standstill. When the traffic got moving again, the Stonic also started up again. Wonderful!
Engaging to drive
The Stonic steers precise, has very good handling and feels nimble and quite sporty. It is rather fun to drive on winding roads, and one finds oneself adopting a dynamic driving style intuitively. Indeed, its an engaging and lively compact crossover. Comfort does not suffer too much, although we must admit that this Stonic lets you feel which road it is on, and also transmits some tire noise from the road surface.
Top notch infotainment
The Kia Stonic spoils its occupants when it comes to infotainment. It is prepared for Apple Car play and Android Auto, has an excellent DAB+ radio, and the 8-inch screen on the center of the dashboard harbors an excellent navigation system with state-of-the-art graphics, UVO connect and Kia Connected Services. The UVO app has been developed to work in combination with your Kia equipped with UVO Connect. This app the offers an overview of key elements of your car’s status such as door locks, ignition, battery and charge level and supplies you with a Monthly Vehicle Report giving an overview of your car usage. It also allows you to pre-plan and set your journey through the app for seamless use in the navigation system.
A pleasant gimmick: you can choose your ambient music on the display: the sounds of a rainforest or a busy café…
Kia Connected Services featuring TomTom Live services takes reliable route guidance to the next level of accuracy. At the heart is a WiFi unit that enables the navigation system to connect to the internet through a smartphone. A new map update programme for your Kia is available at a cost.
A very convincing compact crossover, which made an impressive entry into the mild hybrid world, with a useful and alert Mild Hybrid system. It really makes a difference in consumption as well as in performance and responsiveness, making this Stonic very endearing and pleasant to drive and own, certainly if you know that it comes with the 7-year warranty, like all the other Kia’s…
Mercedes is making another breakthrough in terms of dashboard infotainment. In 2018 the MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) was unveiled in the current A-Class, and there are now more than 1.8 million Mercedes-Benz passenger cars equipped with it on the roads worldwide. A few months ago, the second generation of this learn-capable system debuted in the new S-Class. The next big step now follows in the form of the new EQS and the optionally available MBUX Hyperscreen.
The large, curved screen unit stretches almost the entire width from the left to the right A-pillar. In addition to its sheer size, the high-quality, detail-loving design also provides a “wow” effect. This aesthetic high-tech look is the emotional dimension of the MBUX hyperscreen.
Added to this is artificial intelligence (AI): With software capable of learning, the display and operating concept adapts completely to its user and makes personalized suggestions for numerous infotainment, comfort and vehicle functions.
Thanks to the so-called zero layer, the user does not have to scroll through submenus or give voice commands. The most important applications are always offered in a situational and contextual way at the top level in view. In this way, numerous operating steps are taken away from the EQS driver. And not only him: The MBUX Hyperscreen is also an attentive assistant for the passenger. It receives its own display and operating area.
“The MBUX Hyperscreen is both the brain and nervous system of the car”, says Sajjad Khan (photo here above) , Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz AG and CTO. “The MBUX Hyperscreen continually gets to know the customer better and delivers a tailored, personalized infotainment and operating offering before the occupant even has to click or scroll anywhere.”
We are of course quite keen to get acquainted with this Hypersreen…hopefully soon!
The new Grand Cherokee was launched on Jan 7 in Detroit, for the time being only for the US market. Commercialization in Eurpe, Millde East and Africa is expected by late 2021. But as the Grand Cherokee now comes in three-row form for the first time, it is important enough to present this impressive Jeep here in our columns…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Rooted in a legacy of Jeep® 4×4 capability, luxury and advanced technologies, and loaded with Grand Cherokee and FCA firsts, the all-new 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee—now with seven-passenger seating—delivers an exceptional customer experience
Despite its luxury and impressive size, three Jeep 4×4 systems and Selec-Terrain traction management system with not less than five terrain modes continue and improve the legendary off-road capability, including more off-road ground clearance and water fording capability compared with previous generations
All-new vehicle architecture, independent front and rear suspensions and class-exclusive Quadra-Lift air suspension with electronic adaptive damping deliver good on-road driving dynamics
The new body style has of course the “signature Jeep design” cues, including Jeep’s signature seven-slot grille, aggressive front approach angle and trapezoidal wheel arches
Premium, spacious interior features standard 10-inch display screens across the instrument panel, including a frameless digital gauge cluster and touchscreen radio, all-new LED lighting with ambient features, driver and front passenger seat massage and personalized climate zones
Luxury is offered with hand-wrapped, quilted Palermo leather, open-pore Waxed Walnut wood, 21-inch wheels and standard premium amenities on the new Summit Reserve Package.
The new Grand Cherokee comes with more than 110 advanced safety and security features, including L2 driver-assist systems with hands-on automated driving, along with 360-degree surround view and night vision cameras; advanced hands-free L2 automated driving system will be available in late 2021 on the 2022 Grand Cherokee L
Infotainment is of course top notch including the most advanced Uconnect system ever with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, windshield Head-up Display (HUD), digital rearview mirror, frameless digital cluster, rear seat monitoring camera and an exclusive and premium 960-watt, 19-speaker McIntosh audio sound system.
The new Jeep Grand Cherokee two-row and its 4xe electrified version scheduled to debut later on the US market (and also in Europe) in 2021
We just let you look at the photos here… and wait for autumn!
Jeep is building on a very comprehensive drivetrain offering across its range, with increasing emphasis on (hybrid) E-power.
Jeep has always been a vehicle which has been near to nature, and this new 4xe range comes ever closer to its vocation. It represents an important step of the brand’s evolutionary process, which is oriented more than ever towards sustainability and electrification.
In these columns you could read already about our driving impressions of the Compass with the very smooth new four-cylinder 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine made at the FCA plant in Melfi, in the Italian region of Basilicata. Just read our report titled “We drove the new Compass “Made in Europe” with the brand new 1,3 litre petrol engine…” It is part of the new FCA Global Small Engine family, launched in mid-2018 on the Jeep Renegade. As you can read in this post, we were very impressed. But there is an even more interesting version, which we test for you today: the 4xe, with an electric motor mated to a choice of either the 190 hp and 240 hp version of the 1.3-litre Global Small Engine. What’s more, both these 4xe versions are four-wheel drive only. Just read on…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The 4xe range is important for the brand, so the greatest attention was given to its development.
The painstaking development process of the Compass 4xe culminated at the Arjeplog Proving Grounds in Swedish Lapland. Up to 3,800 kilometers of road tests were clocked up to reach Arjeplog from Turin and put the Jeep plug-in hybrid SUVs through their paces in all conditions that customers might need to tackle. Tests continued in the winter of 2019 in Arjeplog and during the long-awaited Jeep Winter event in Champoluc (Val d’Aosta, Italy), where the brand provided a glimpse on the operation of the 4xe system through a cross section of a Jeep Renegade on display. The beginning of 2020 welcomed the launch of the “First Edition”, the exclusive launch editions for both Jeep Renegade 4xe and Jeep Compass 4xe.
No secrets, even for a novice…
We must admit, the results are quite impressive. Right from the first meters, this PHEV shows its maturity. What’s more, it is not only thoroughly engineered, it is also eminently practical, and understandable even for the first time hybrid and 4WD driver for that matter. The driver can easily select one of the three buttons on the center console, i.e. “hybrid”, “electric” and “e-save.” This can be done at the start, but also whilst driving, one can select between the three modes. The modes are self-explaining actually, but we describe them for you here:
Hybrid is the default mode selected when the car is started. It is designed to manage and use the system in the most efficient way, optimizing power and minimizing fuel consumption. The internal combustion engine and electric motor work together according to the road type, with braking energy recovery phases.
Initially, the system favors electric driving (so the power is supplied by the electric motor). When the battery reaches the minimum charge level (called “SOC”, State Of Charge), the internal combustion engine is used for propulsion. Throughout the drive or trip, the system manages start-up and intervention through an optimization algorithm (Hybrid Control Processor – HCP) designed to maximize the system efficiency levels.
Electric is the mode that provides a full-electric average range of around 50 kilometers at zero emissions. It is designed to maximize the electric driving experience through a different calibration of the HCP optimization algorithm. The car drives in electric-only mode as long as there is sufficient charge in the battery. The system automatically switches to HYBRID mode when the battery is completely flat or when the driver uses kick-down. A top speed of up to 130 km/h can be reached. This is the ideal mode for traveling in city centers with traffic and emission restrictions.
E-SAVE , on the other hand, is the mode for maintaining battery charge or for charging it while driving using the internal combustion engine. E-SAVE mode supports two secondary modes, called Battery Save (passive E-SAVE) and Battery Charge (active E-SAVE), both of which can be activated on the Uconnect system screen.
Passive E-SAVE or Battery Save: maintains the state of charge of the battery through the predominant use of the internal combustion engine;
E-SAVE active or Battery Charge: charges the battery up to 80% through the operation of the internal combustion engine on which the combined front electric generator acts.
We tested of course all the modes, but to measure the overall efficiency of the E-drivetrain, we opted for quite an important part of our test for the E-SAVE active mode. While keeping the battery charged on longer trips, even recharging it indeed up to 75-80 %, we clocked an average consumption of 7,6 liters/100 km, which, for a full 4WD vehicle is very, very creditable indeed. It must be said that we drove this Compass with anticipation and respected the legal speed limits. In hybrid mode, with the E-motor also delivering some work, consumption evidently drops. In the combined cycle, the manufacturer quotes 2,1 l/100 km. CO2 emissions are very low with 47 – 49 g/km.
We were also very impressed, as in our previous test with the “normal” Compass, by the outstanding level of technical refinement of this drivetrain. The Compass we tested was equipped with the 130 HP version of the smooth 1,3 litre engine, plus the 60 hp produced by the electric motor, adding up to a total of 190 hp. In terms of torque, the electric motor produces 250 Nm, while the combustion engine delivers 270 Nm. Performance does not leave anything to be desired: 0 to 100 km/h costs 7,9 seconds and top speed is 183 km/h.
The Compass has two electric motors, one of which is located on the front axle and coupled to the internal combustion engine that, in addition to working in synergy with the engine, can act as a high-voltage generator, as necessary.
The second one is located on the rear axle and features reduction gear and integrated differential (“e-axle”). It delivers 60 hp of power and 250 Nm of torque, generating traction and recovering energy while braking. The electric motor actually drives the rear wheels, the combustion engine the front wheels.
The 11.4 kWh, 400-volt lithium-ion battery pack uses cobalt-nickel manganese/graphite chemistry. It is located underneath the second-row of seats, where it is protected from outside elements. Enclosed in a steel casing, the pack is fitted with a dedicated heating and cooling circuit to keep the battery at its optimum temperature for best performance.
The 11.4 kWh battery pack allows the Renegade and Compass 4xe to travel an average range of 50 kilometers* in full-electric, zero-emission mode. The hybrid system also includes a power inverter (PIM) housed inside the battery pack, which is also protected from damage.
Regenerative braking and…e-Coasting!
The 4xe Compass is relaxing and smooth to drive in town, where you can enjoy the “zen” qualities of pure E-power, and the six-speed auto box is super smooth when you enjoy the pulling power qualities of the 1,3 litre engine. But there is more than just smooth progress. There is regenerative braking, which is always active regardless of the driving mode (internal combustion engine or electric motor) to maximize energy recovery when the throttle and brake pedals are released. But the Compass has more upon its sleeve. It also allows e-Coasting. This function is available when the gearlever is put in “D”. By pressing the ‘e-Coasting’ button, the regenerative braking intensity can be activated according to two different levels, more or less intense.
A warning light on the instrument panel display indicates activation through two different colors: White (“Normal”) if the “Intense” function is selected but not active (accelerator pedal not released); Green, if the “Intense” function is selected and active (accelerator pedal released).
After the more intense function has been activated, the regenerative braking calibration is more explicit when coasting. This feature reduces the speed faster than standard regenerative braking and generates more electricity to be conveyed to the battery pack.
A dedicated message will appear on the instrument panel during the transition from the “Intense” to “Normal” function and vice versa.
The absolute king off-road…
The legendary offroad qualities of a Jeep are well known to all of us. With an electric motor with its instant massive torque driving the rear wheels independently from the front wheels, 4WD torque delivery can be even more gradual and fine-tuned, and this Compass (and Renegade) 4xe even outclasses in this respect the “classic” Jeeps. The Jeep driver has the usual choice between different off-road driving modes: Auto, Sport, Snow, Sand/Mud. Remarkable is also this “Sport” mode: This is a first on the Compass and Renegade, and uses both the electric motor and the internal combustion engine to deliver sporty driving performances. It tightens up the steering, sharpens the throttle response and adjusts the behavior of the transmission via higher upshifts for full power and torque delivery. Just great!
And then here is also Jeep Selec-Terrain traction control. It combines the dynamic modes to two different 4×4 traction modes, i.e. 4WD Lock and 4WD Low. In the 4WD Lock mode, the four-wheel drive is permanently engaged at speeds up to 15 km/h, keeping the rear electric motor (P4) constantly running to provide 4×4 traction at low speeds with a constant distribution of torque between the two axles (the distribution ratio varies depending on the selected Terrain mode). At speeds above 15 km/h, AWD becomes on-demand. Jeep thought here of everything: what if the battery charge is low? Well, the full functionality of the 4xe four-wheel drive is guaranteed by the ’Powerlooping‘ function when the battery charge level is low. This ensures that the front electric motor, which is mechanically connected to the internal combustion engine, continuously generates high-voltage current to power the rear electric motor and so maximum traction is delivered regardless of the state of charge of the battery.
4WD Low mode is used when the going gets really rough: like when you are tackling big rocks for example…
The Compass is an eminently versatile 4WD vehicle. Smoothly at home in urban and open road traffic, and a master off-road: there is nothing this Compass cannot do. It’s hybrid system is quite practical and self-explaining to use, and the Compass is also the proverbial breeze to charge: either through the normal domestic socket using the supplied cable, or by connecting to the handy easyWallbox charger the evening before. Using the “E-Control” function, the driver can set the favorite start time and the battery charging time, for instance picking the most cost-effective electricity tariffs. He can also program charging from home using his smartphone.
FCA is developing solutions to fulfill every requirement, starting from charge points: the around 3,600 charging columns installed at dealerships across Europe and in plant parking lots are heading in this direction, as are the agreements with Enel X and ENGIE, leading players in the energy sector, to offer simple and immediate access to public and home charge points, like the easyWallbox.
Based on another partnership with Digital Charging Solutions (DCS), customers who choose the Jeep Renegade and Compass 4xe will have access to “My easy Charge”, a digital service providing access to the largest public charging network in the world, managed by DCS.
Via a dedicated app and a single card, this solution will offer access to more than 130,000 charging stations in 21 European countries. Finally, with ENGIE Eps and Terna, FCA e-Mobility has developed laboratories for innovative technologies, such as Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G), a system whereby an electric car interacts with the electricity network to return or store energy.
A very clever and eminently useful Plug In Hybrid, which is totally in tune with the times, has style, panache, roominess, sturdiness, smoothness, is economical and has legendary off-road qualities. Above all, it is a Jeep, the genuine article. What are you waiting for?
We all know that the Giulia is an absolute champion on the German “Green Hell”, the Nürburgring. That in terms of handling, it really sands out. The Giulia Quadrifoglio has been elected “Sportscar of the Year” by the specialist magazine AUTO BILD SPORTSCARS. After a test with this beautifully proportioned sedan, we can only agree…
We drove here the 2,2 liter Diesel version: does it have the charm, refinement and panache to make the Giulia remain a true Alfa?
Just read on…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The Giulia is continuously being honed to become the 4-door sedan embodying the absolute pinnacle in sportiness and panache. To start with, let’s just focus about its looks. Our test car came in an absolutely beautiful metallic green, with matching beige interior. This good-looking color combination was further enhanced by light alloy wheels, making this Giulia have the taut and elegant stance it so befits.
The seats are excellent, really wrap around you and behind the wheel a good seating position is soon found. In the back is enough legroom, and this Giulia is a comfortable four-seater by any standards.
The large and beautiful round dials for speed and revs are still analog, and have timeless beauty. In our opinion, Alfa should never change them. They are classic and are eminently readable. To the eye, they are just perfect. In the center of the dashboard sits a well styled and beautifully integrated touchscreen, with all the state-of-the-art driving aids, infotainment and connectivity. More about this later.
We love the clean styling of the dashboard, with its tasteful wooden panels and a well-shaped center console, with the lever of the 8-speed auto box sitting in an insert which is also adorned by the Italian “tricolore”. Here you find also Alfa’s famous DNA button, letting you select between three driving modes, going from “sporting” to “normal” and then adapted to wintery surfaces and driving conditions.
On both sides of the steering column sit two very long gear change paddles, so characteristic of these pur sang Alfa’s. I like heir long length and width, so you can always easily reach and touch them, even under the most frantic cornering. Moreover, they look beautiful too.
We tested the Giulia with the least powerful version of the 2,2 liter four cylinder Diesel unit, which has proven itself totally in the FCA Group, and is found under the hood in many model ranges. The Giulia comes indeed with more powerful Diesel versions of this engine to up to 154 kW, but our 2143 cc engine developed exactly 100 kW at a quiet 3250 rpm. For any engine, and certainly a Diesel engine, it is the sheer pulling power which counts, and this is found in the torque curve. Here one sees that the 100 kW version of this engine produces a hefty 450 Nm at 1750 rpm, and this is exactly as much as its more powerful sisters. So when accelerating from lower speeds, this 100 kW unit produces the same punch, and helped by the alert 8 speed transmission, this Giulia feels and actually is just as agile. All out performance is quite credible with a 0 to 100 acceleration in some 9,5 seconds, and top speed is a good 210 km/h.
When testing the Stelvio, we already told you about the sporting merits of the Giorgio platform and suspension. One has to steer the Giulia through fast and slow curves to believe it. It is so wonderfully precise and totally well balanced and neutral. It is a wonderful Gran Turismo chassis, sits so miraculously well on the road, hugs every corner. Steering around straight urban corners or roundabouts makes you appreciate the nimbleness and light-footed panache of the Giulia. It is a thoroughbred; you feel it every meter you steer it.
The Giulia is a wonderful companion when you decide on a European trip, taking it through the Alps to its Mediterranean homeland, for instance…
But also, a long or short urban commute will not tire you. The good seats, excellent ventilation/airco, DAB radio and all the driver assistance systems will soothe and relax you even in the tightest traffic.
Level 2 automated driving…
The Giulia is a fully fledged “smart” and connected car, fully tuned in to what modern day customers come to expect from a premium sedan. What to think a complete set of ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) features, offering the highest level of autonomous driving which still leaves plenty of room to have pure driving pleasure. This is level 2, achieved by definition of the amount of control the car takes over from the driver, like the accelerator, brakes and steering under certain conditions. This level makes full use of electronic systems which however still require continuous monitoring by the driver, at the same time providing the support of greater comfort on long journeys. As said, the driver always remains in control, and has always his/her hands on the steering wheel.
The main driver assist systems present in the Giulia – and by the way also the Stelvio – are:
• Lane Keeping Assist: detects whether the vehicle is veering outside its lane without any direction indicators being activated, and alerts the driver using visual and haptic signals. It actively intervenes to steer the vehicle back into lane;
• Active Blind Spot Assist: monitors rear blind spots, reports any approaching vehicles and corrects steering to avoid a collision;
• Active Cruise Control: automatically adjusts the car’s speed to maintain a safe distance from the vehicles in front. In conjunction with the traffic sign recognition system, this technology adjusts the speed to within the set limit, for a more comfortable drive;
• Traffic Sign Recognition and Intelligent Speed Control: this system uses the on-board camera, recognizes traffic signs, reports them on the display, and alerts the driver of the current speed limit.
The system then suggests the driver reduce their speed to the limit detected. If the driver accepts, the cruise control settings are automatically adjusted;
• Traffic Jam Assist and Highway Assist: To complement Active Cruise Control, these systems monitor lateral positioning, keeping the car in the middle of the lane in heavy traffic (Traffic Jam Assistant) or on the highway (Highway Assist), while also adjusting the speed according to the current limits;
• Driver Attention Assist: this function constantly monitors the driver’s attention levels, and if necessary, alerts them if they might need to take a break.
Economy, the wonders of a Diesel
The ZF built 8 speed transmission, which is a perfect example of alertness combined with a smooth power flow, comes with a very intelligent, sensitive and subtle coasting function. Lifting the throttle from medium to high speeds, will decouple the engine from the gearbox, which then settles into an idle while the car further coasts along, using its kinetic energy to the full. When you get the hang of it, you can use this feature much to your advantage in urban boulevard traffic with its ever-varying speeds.
Anticipative driving where you concentrate on coasting instead of braking brings you wonderful consumption figures; around 6 liters/100 km is easily achieved here. Cruising on secondary roads at the legal limits gets the consumption down to 5 liters, motorway cruising at legal limits is below 6 liters/100 km. CO2 emissions are also rather creditable with 127 g/km. Never forget, this is a car with a kerb weight of 1465 kg…
We know, E-cars are all the rage, but then again, just look how good Diesels have become. This Giulia is only whispering at speeds up to 175-190 km/h… and remains then even below 10 liters/100 km, also thanks to its excellent aerodynamics of course.
This Giulia has it all, if you like a car with character. The Diesel engine makes this Giulia also frugal, making it fit for high annual mileages and long trips. This Alfa retains its zest and panache, even in the lowest powered Diesel version, and merits a long hard look from you, if you are opting for a Diesel.
Of course, there are the petrol engined gems, and last but not least the Quadrifoglio, which makes Alfa Giulia driving an absolute dream. We hope soon to lay our hands on one, and tell you about our experiences behind the wheel of this absolute Gran Turismo champion. But don’t miss this one!
Subaru has always been synonymous with engineering excellence, resulting in truly thoroughbred practice- and rally proven cars, which have since many years won a large number of devoted followers. You can count us among them: we have always liked the cleverness of the boxer engines, coupled to superb 4WD systems. Now Subaru has gone a step further and coupled a modest 16 HP E-motor to its 150 HP Boxer, all this in combination with an excellent CVT “Lineartronic” transmission and its symmetrical 4WD.
We already told you in these columns about the pleasant drive characteristics of the Subaru hybrids. The Impreza follows suit. We were again charmed by the subdued throb of the trusty boxer, and how well balanced the whole drivetrain goes about its task. If you put your mind and right foot to it, this Subaru can truly surprise you with excellent economy.
Again it proved easy to achieve an average of 6,6 litres/100 km, as the electric motor cuts in quite often when you move your Impreza with anticipation through tight urban traffic. It will also regenerate kinetic energy under braking, and does all this without any interference from the driver. Very clever and relaxing. Under smaller throttle openings and lighter loads, the CVT transmission will spontaneously choose low revs, and keep the engine running very efficiently. When you put your foot down, the transmission will let the engine rev up eagerly, and this results in adequate sprint performance, in the region of 10 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h. Top speed is a good 190 km/h, enough to satisfy all of us.
Comfortable and predictable handling
The latest generation Impreza now runs on the Subaru Global Platform, and this delivers very predictable handling, on all roads cand weather conditions. Indeed, you feel very safe in this Subaru, and it is not only engaging, it also makes you a better driver. Moreover, it also converts you in a safer driver. Indeed, the Subaru offers state of the art driver assistance systems. Its EyeSight system with two stereo colour camera’s gives you an additional pair of eyes on the road and steers the adaptive cruise control, lane sway and departure warning, amongst others.
The Subaru has also a clever lead vehicle start alert, which warns you when the car in front of you starts going again. The two eyes will also let you keep your lane and helps you with its pre-collision braking system. Eventually, in the worst case scenario, your Subaru will start braking automatically to limit any damage.
The 4WD is of course an asset in snowy weather conditions, and lets you also tackle many country roads with peace of mind.
Elegant and practical
Subaru styling is quite good on this latest generation Impreza, and also the cabin is altogether pleasing. The infotainment and instrumentation is top notch and practical, with everything ergonomically well laid out and a breeze to use.
One feels immediately at home in this Impreza, and this is meant to be. USB and Aux inputs are provided of course, panoramic sunroofs can be had, and this Impreza offers up to almost 1300 liters of luggage space with all seats folded down.
Dual zone automatic airco and the excellent seats provide you with comfort on long and short trips. We also liked the feeling of solidity of the bodywork and cabin of this Impreza, and we all know also that Subaru’s score very high on reliability.
Very well equipped, practical and easy to use, predictable handling, and last but not least superb mechanical sophistication and smoothness combined with good suspension comfort make this Impreza quite endearing. The characteristic boxer sound reminds the aficionado of the legendary sporting heritage of the brand, which is now well adjusted to the “green” eco-times we are living in right now. A reliable companion for any weather, road, with economy and reliability thrown in, this is what you get with this Impreza. Just think of it…
Did you know that the Lexus RX 450h has been for many years now the absolute top choice in the luxury SUV segment? As Lexus states: “Not only it is the world’s bestselling luxury hybrid SUV and all-time best sold Lexus model, but it is also the world’s first luxury SUV that has created its own segment back in 1998.”
Indeed, it has been popular the world over, and this for all the (very) good reasons. Mechanical perfection, smoothness, performance, economy, superb finish, comfort, reliability, combined with its ease of use, and last but not least ample standard equipment. Need we say more? Maybe, after this test, we might come up with some more good experiences. Just read on…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The Lexus RX series SUV is indeed a worldwide winner. Indeed, its looks are good, and hardly needed any changes over de last few years. It breathes the typical angular yet fluent styling language we have grown accustomed to in the Lexus model range, with pleasing proportions and an overall size which many find “just right”.
The RX is not overly generous when it comes to luggage space – but rest assured – Lexus has the right RX for you. More spacious than ever before, the RX “L” has also evolved into a seven-seat model. It is effectively a new model, with body length extended by 110 mm and the back window set at a steeper angle to ensure those sitting in the rearmost seats are as comfortably accommodated as other passengers.
Returning to “our” RX, it does offer enough room for its occupants. It seats easily four, and we can tell you it offers ample legroom in the back, you can even cross your legs effortlessly. The third passenger in the back suffers somewhat from lack of headroom, and comfort is somewhat impaired, as he/she sits on the big central, foldable armrest.
Silk smooth hybrid progress…
Under the hood of the Lexus purrs a 3 litre V6, coupled with the Lexus Hybrid system. This means a total system power of 312 PS or 229 kW at your disposal, enough to propel your Lexus in some 8,2 seconds to 100 km/h and hurtle further to a governed top speed of 180 km/h. But when you drive and own this car, it is not pure performance you are looking for. It is comfortable, whispering, vibrationless progress. And here the RX delivers. Beautifully. Via the continuously variable transmission both engines deliver the computer calculated ideal mix of power to the wheels, and the result is a smoothness in propulsion which you have to experience to believe it.
On the open road at higher cruising speeds, the efficient V6 gets into its own, and delivers honest economy. But it is in slow and tight stop and go urban traffic that the hybrid system excels. The onboard computer will choose E power more often than not, putting the combustion engine to work to either recharge the battery and/or help the E-motor, but – and that’s also the cleverness of it – doing this at an ideal rpm/throttle opening combination which lets it reach its ideal thermal efficiency.
All this without the slightest shock and with only the gentlest hum being heard when the V6 engine sets in. It is this hybrid system which Toyota has introduced in … 1997 for its first Prius, and which it has perfected ever since.
We have applauded this system already many times in these columns, and when it comes to smoothness combined with slow speed economy, we find it still among the very best.
Depending on your driving style, economy can be truly astonishing when you let the system use the E-power in the driving cycle. Urban errands driving with anticipation and restraint will not cost more than 7 litres/100 km and even less in this big 2090 kg SUV. Driving with verve on winding open roads at varying speeds will let de consumption vary between 7 and 8 litres/100 km. CO2 emissions are quoted by the manufacturer at 134 g/km. All these values are excellent, but it’s the sheer smoothness and refinement of progress which truly stands out.
For those who are interested, we can tell you here that the V6 engine develops 262 PS/193 kW at 6000 rpm, with 335 Nm of torque at 4800 rpm. The electric motor in front develops 167 PS.
As usual in a Lexus, you can chose between eco, normal and Sport (even Sport+) driving. The virtual instrumentation places then a big rev counter in your central line of vision, and drivetrain/steering responsiveness are up a notch.
Comfort in the cabin and on the road
The seats are excellent, and will not tire you even after many hours, and the same can be said of how this RX floats over the road. Potholes, ridges, everything is nicely swallowed and hardly reaches the passengers. Add to this the excellent sound insulation and you understand that driving and travelling in this RX is a very relaxing affair. The Levinson sound system is a chapter on its own and lets you make the voyage in the most exquisite sound atmospheres.
The screen and infotainment system are also honed to perfection, eminently practical and useable. Lexus has left the central mouse knob for a touchpad system, and some find this better. Personally, we are very found of the mouse in our Lexus CT200h, but when the majority of users want another setup, why shouldn’t you change?
The Lexus RX driver gets all road info, driving assistance and infotainment he can wish for, even considering Apple and Android audio are now also thrown in.
For the 2021 model year, the Lexus RX 450h comes with a Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) as standard across all vehicle equipment levels. We also found the overhead display also one of the best we have come across…
The RX is eminently practical too, with chargers fore and aft for your electrical equipment, large bins for bottles, beverages and small items, it is all very well thought out to make everyday a joy to drive this RX450h.
We said it, a top car in its segment, and it has everything to stay in this enviable position. It impressed us again, as a gentle, powerful everyday companion, built to soothe and relax you when you move from A to B, be it 5 or many hundreds of kilometers or miles, and this for years to come… with style, reliability and economy to match!
When you are looking for a SUV with style and a sporting DNA, look no further. The Alfa Stelvio is the one you want. A true Alfa inside and out, lovingly styled to the last detail, with road manners and performance to match. We drove the 190 HP Diesel version, coupled to a smooth 8 speed ZF automatic and having what it takes for a passionate life off the beaten path: 4WD.
We lived again in the Alfa world, and enjoyed it…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
One should understand the Stelvio. It is an SUV, but with the body and soul of a thoroughbred: the Alfa Giulia. So in every respect, also this Stelvio it is a true Alfa. Undistilled. Straight. No Ice. Understandably, as it rolls on the famous new “Giorgio” platform, designed for the Giulia.
A stunning platform with a legendary name…
The name Giorgio appeared for the first time in the automotive press back in 2013: the next Alfa Romeo generation was on its way, we were told, and Giorgio was the name of the platform on which it would be built. The romantics think it could be a tribute to Tazio Giorgio Nuvolari. Others imagine a personal choice by Marchionne.
The secret has never been explained. What transpired was that Giorgio would have a layout for both rear-wheel and four-wheel drive cars, and that it was engineered to the very high standards.
The company was planning huge investments on the platform and on the Cassino plant, where the new models would be built. Above all, it was organizing its best technical talents in dedicated “think tanks”. And was asking the planners and designers involved to set aside old rules and habits, to think outside the box.
The Giorgio platform was not only created for the Giulia. The time had also come for Alfa Romeo to prove itself in the Utility Vehicles segment, the most dynamic and innovative area of all. And so, in February 2017, the Stelvio made its debut: the first SUV in the history of the Brand. This would be an Alfa capable of driving with agility on snow and dirt roads, without losing anything in terms of performance, handling and road holding. In other words: a SUV that can be driven like a sports sedan.
Of course it has a higher floor and a higher driving position than the Giulia. But then this means more space available for passengers and luggage. Suspension travel is longer, to ensure the correct ground clearance in off-road driving. In order to increase stability, the axle track is also slightly wider. But architecture and mechanics remain the same, as do the engine range and electronic systems. The result is a car with “an Alfa Romeo soul in a SUV body”.
Driving is believing
We experienced all this behind the wheel. Outstanding steering precision, eager and sharp to direct into short and long bends, excellent stability up to very high speeds. You move swiftly with utter confidence in this Stelvio. No matter the road and the weather. The Stelvio, like the Giulia, has also earned its marks on the “Green Hell”, the Nürburgring.
The potent 2,2 liter Diesel engine is supersmooth, and coupled with the alert 8 speed auto box, it’s a gem. It just shows – or reminds us again – how good modern Diesel engines have become. It is a super silent and vibrationless cruiser at legal motorway speeds, and of course immensely frugal under these driving conditions. 6 litres/100 km are easily reached. Sedate driving lets you use anything between 5,5 (!) and 6,5 liters/100 km, using also the excellent coasting function this ZF gearbox allows you to do. Stunning, to say the least. The manufacturer quotes 5,6 liters/100 km on average and 146 g/km of CO2 emissions.
On top of all these dynamic qualities, true comfort is to be enjoyed in this Stelvio. The excellent seats wrap nicely around you and give you good support and comfort on short and (very) long journeys. The suspension travel is generous and this makes this Stelvio indeed a very smooth mount on potholed secondary roads and picturesque urban streets.
Add to this the panache and elegance of the instruments, the good layout with the center console adorned with a 8.8-inch touch-screen infotainment system offering smartphone-like ease of use. The telematic offer is completed by a suite of Mopar services for remote car management. The innovations in the field of driving technology have become even more important.
The new ADAS (Advanced Driving Assistance Systems) mark the transition from the first to the second level of autonomy: the systems do not only inform the driver, in case of need they also become active, enhancing vehicle safety.
Of course, this Stelvio gets truly going when you put your foot down. 0 to 100 km/h costs merely 7,6 seconds, top speed is a good 210 km/h. High speed stability is excellent, and as said, the Stelvio is a master on winding roads. Also offroad the Stelvio is very well at home.
The engine delivers its 190 HP/140 kW peak power at a conservative 3500 rpm, with 450 NM of torque already available at 1750 rpm. This means that even a very fast pace is effortless and not accompanied with high revs.
The Stelvio has excellent GT practicality, its cabin is spacious and the standard size of the luggage space is a good 525 liters.
Price winning design
The design of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio convinced recently the readers of the car magazine “Auto, Motor und Sport”.
They chose the model as the winner in the category “Large off-road vehicles/SUV” in the “Autonis” voting. Alongside the Stelvio, “Auto, Motor und Sport” has already awarded Giulia, MiTo and Giulietta models as the most beautiful cars in their respective classes. And in two years in a row, the prize for “Design Brand of the Year” went to the Alfa Romeo brand.
A very endearing SUV, and very fast and practical too. A beauty with excellent manners, both in town as op the open road or Autostradas. It will guide you with confidence over snowy mountain roads, as its Q4/4WD is totally up to its task and a breeze to use.
The Stelvio is indeed a worthwhile alternative in the SUV segment, and will steal your hart for years to come when you are so lucky to own or lease it. Many financial formulas are devised not least by FCA itself to make a long-term relationship with the Stelvio a very pleasant affair. So in these Corona dampened times around Christmas, to slide behind the wheel of a Stelvio is something to look forward to…
The new Opel Crossland is the first model to adopt the brand’s unmistakeable new face, showcased just a few weeks ago by the new Opel Mokka. It has dropped the X-appendix in its name, but packs improvements in chassis and steering, and added a sporty GS Line trim as well as IntelliGrip adaptive traction control…
At the rear, new dark-tinted taillights enhance the signature Opel wing light design, and the new high-gloss black tailgate surface (available in combination with the black roof) makes the new Crossland look wider and stronger. There is also a Crossland GS Line+ trim, with black 17-inch light-alloy wheels, black roof, red signature daylight opening, AGR-certified ergonomic seats (Aktion Gesunder Rücken e.V.) for driver and front passenger, LED taillights and roof rails.
The SUV also convinces with a high level of flexibility, thanks to individually sliding and reclining rear seats. They come with a 60/40 split and slide by up to 150 millimetres, increasing trunk space from 410 to a class-leading 520 litres in seconds. Folding the rear seats completely increases trunk volume to 1,255 litres.
The engineers in Rüsselsheim have developed new damper tuning for the McPherson strut front suspension and the torsion-beam rear axle. In combination with improved steering precision and centre-feel, so the ride and agility is top notch.
The Crossland has adaptive full-LED headlamps with cornering light, high beam assist and auto levelling functions.
New with IntelliGrip: Optimum traction at all times
New Crossland buyers can add extra safety to the enhanced driving dynamics with IntelliGrip (available from early 2021). This adaptive traction control system enables optimum traction and stability on all kinds of surface. IntelliGrip features the following five modes:
Normal / On-road: ‘Normal mode’ switches on as soon as the Crossland starts up. ESP and traction control settings are appropriate for normal driving conditions downtown, on the motorway or in the countryside.
Snow: This special winter mode enables optimum traction on icy and snowy surfaces at speeds up to 50 km/h. Traction control regulates the slip of the front wheels, slowing down the spinning wheel and transferring the torque to the other front wheel.
Mud: This mode allows more wheel slip. This intentional spinning of the wheel with the least traction when the vehicle is launching enables the removal of mud from the tyre, which can then regain traction. Meanwhile, the wheel with the most grip receives the highest torque. This mode is active up to 80 km/h.
Sand: This mode allows a small amount of simultaneous spin of both the front-driven wheels, enabling the vehicle to move and reducing the risk of sinking.
ESP Off: This deactivates ESP and traction control at speeds up to 50 km/h. For safety reasons, IntelliGrip automatically returns to ‘normal mode’ at speeds above 50 km/h.
Drivers and passengers can enjoy not only strong grip, they are also well connected and entertained with Radio BT, Multimedia Radio and the top-of-the-line Multimedia Navi Pro with 8.0-inch colour touch screen. The Multimedia units are also compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Compatible smartphones are chargeable while in use via wireless inductive charging. In addition, the Crossland offers the “OpelConnect”1 service as an option. LIVE Navigation2 with real-time traffic information and current fuel prices, plus a direct link to breakdown assistance and emergency calls.
Euro 6d petrol and diesel engines: Driving fun with low emissions
Opel Crossland customers can choose from a powertrain portfolio of efficient petrol and diesel engines with 1.2 and 1.5-litre displacement. Both the petrol engines with 61kW (83hp) to 96kW (130hp) and the diesel engines with 81kW (110hp) and 88kW (120hp) now meet the strict Euro 6d emissions standard.
Head Up display, forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, Driver Drowsiness Alert, Side Blind Spot Alert, Automatic Park Assist are all there to let you have a relaxing drive.
Just wait a while, Opel will arrive at dealerships in early 2021…
The Maybach is an awe-inspiring luxury car, and a quick glance at its sales figures lets us realize that this is a very important car in this absolute top segment. What to think of 60,000 units sold of the previous model, which was gaining in popularity even as it scored record sales of 12,000 units over the last year?
This car is of course a platform to introduce the latest technologies in propulsion, connectivity, creature comfort, driving aids, lighting, every new technology which has come to fruition in quality series production. This is one of the reasons why a new model of this luxury supercar is so important, and merits our attention in these columns.
Here follow the main points, but rest assured that in a further series we will in regular intervals come back in detail about the technological solutions found in this Maybach…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Here follow the main points:
Luxury in the rear…
The Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is particularly suitable for chauffeured driving. The 18 cm longer wheelbase compared to the long variant of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class entirely benefits the rear. The focus is indeed on the rear area. This is underlined by even more refined appointments. The massage function of the calf rests on the Executive seats is a new feature. The neck/shoulder heating in the rear is another comfort item.
On request, the exclusive appearance of the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class can be enhanced by a two-tone paint finish with dividing line. This is applied by hand according to the highest quality criteria. Distinguishing features at the front include the bonnet with a chromed fin and the Mercedes-Maybach radiator grille with fine, vertical chrome pinstripes. The Mercedes-Maybach S-Class also differs from its brother models when viewed from the side: the rear doors are wider, and the C-pillars feature a fixed quarterlight. A Maybach brand logo on the C-pillar underlines the exclusivity.
On request, the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class can be equipped with electrically operated comfort rear doors. With this feature, the wide rear doors can be conveniently opened and closed with little force even on a gradient.
Integration into the infotainment and control system MBUX and Blind Spot Assist ensures a high level of operating convenience and additional safety. The rear doors can also be operated from the driver’s seat – an important function when chauffeur-driven.
Let there be light…
Digital light headlamp technology (optional equipment) allows completely new functions, e.g. the projection of marking aids or warning symbols onto the road ahead. In each headlamp, DIGITAL LIGHT has a light module with three extremely powerful LEDs with light that is refracted and directed by 1.3 million micro-mirrors. The resolution is therefore more than 2.6 million pixels per vehicle.
A stunning interior
The interior of the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is based on the completely new interior design of the new Mercedes‑Benz S-Class. The large areas of trim on the front seats are a new feature in the Mercedes-Maybach. High‑quality wood surrounds encase the rear of the front seat backrests, giving the impression of generous lounge seats. If the First-Class Rear is specified, a similarly striking area of trim is positioned between the two rear passengers.
With Active road noise compensation, the interior of the already very quiet Mercedes-Maybach S-Class becomes even quieter. In a similar way to headphones with noise suppression, the system reduces unwanted low-frequency noises using counter-phased sound waves. The bass speakers of the Burmester® high-end 4D surround sound system are used for sound reproduction.
In a cosy cabin it feels like home…
Coupé and Cabriolet customers of Mercedes-Benz have long come to appreciate the automatic seat belt extender. Rear passengers in the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class are now the first to benefit from this convenience in the rear of a saloon. The belt extender is an indirect invitation to fasten the belt, and also makes the process more convenient. It is no longer necessary to move from an adopted, comfortable seating position to fasten the belt. The belt extender is integrated into the adjustable backrest of the Executive seat, and therefore always in the right position for the passenger.
Adaptive rear lighting is celebrating its premiere in the Mercedes-Maybach. This follows the wishes of the occupants in several respects: as well as the brightness, the size and position of the light spot can be adjusted. There is also a wide adjustment range between precise working light and relaxing lounge light.
The second generation of learn-capable MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) introduced in 2018 has its debut in the new S-Class. The unique feature of MBUX is its networking with a wide range of vehicle systems and sensor data. Brilliant displays on up to five large screens, in part with OLED technology, make the control of vehicle and comfort functions even easier. On request, the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class can also be equipped with MBUX Interior Assist in the rear.
During severe frontal collisions, the rear airbag included as standard can considerably reduce the loads acting on the heads and necks of seat belt wearing occupants on the outer rear seats. The frontal airbag for the rear seat deploys particularly gently thanks to its innovative construction using a tubular structure.
Nimble in urban traffic
Thanks to rear-axle steering (optional equipment), the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is easy to manoeuvre even in dense city traffic. The steering angle at the rear axle is up to ten degrees. It reduces the turning circle of the S-Class by up to two metres.
Even better ride comfort and agility, as well as innovative functions such as raising the vehicle body in a lateral crash, are provided by the E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL active suspension, which is combined with the standard AIRMATIC air suspension. It is able to control the spring and damper forces at each wheel individually. Together with ROAD SURFACE SCAN and the curve inclination function CURVE, E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL makes an extraordinary level of comfort possible.
It is expected that initially in Germany and from the second half of 2021, the Mercedes-Maybach will be able to drive in conditionally automated mode with the new DRIVE PILOT (optional equipment) in situations where traffic density is high or in tailbacks on suitable motorway sections. By taking pressure off the driver, this allows him/her to undertake secondary activities such as surfing the web or attending to emails in the In-Car Office. This allows a more effective use of time. Brave new world!