We drove the BMW 218I Gran Coupé: driving pleasure in style…

BMW used the iconic slogan since the birth of the new generation passenger cars in the early sixties: “Aus Freude am Fahren” , freely translated “built for driving pleasure.”

Well, this 218I makes you smile behind its elegant three spoked wheel, and indeed delivers tons of delightful handling and responsiveness, proving amply that you don’t need a top end BMW to fully enjoy what the brand stands for. Every, and indeed every BMW makes you a better driver.

We drove this sleek 218I here for you, and indeed, it made us rediscover the pleasures of driving and owning a car…and what’s more, a BMW.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Indeed, many city dwellers condemn our cherished four wheeled individual transport as we have it today, and car makers are all scrambling to develop new kinds of e powered city cars, with the Bavarian brand being no exception by the way. One only has to look at the 3I range for instance, and the plethora of BMW’s fully e-powered and plug-in hybrids.

But then again, BMW is not forgetting the essence of a good car which delights its driver. It all starts with a good suspension, chassis and drivetrain. Add to this a decent power to weight ratio and the recipe for a good result is made. Of course, the engineers and developers of such cars have to know what the art of driving really entails, and be good drivers themselves. Rest assured, BMW has them. And what’s even more important, these men have the talent to translate their driving know how into the cars they develop. This is embedded in every gene of this sleek 218I.

BMW driving, remaining truly unique…

This delight starts when you push the starting knob, or rather, when you slide behind the wheel. You soon find your way with all the handles and knobs in its stylish cabin, and in the clean, angular instrument clusters the dials for speed and revs light up. The engine comes very smoothly to life. Almost inaudible and vibrationless.

You would never guess a 1,5 litre three cylinder engine does the work here. Of course it has state of the art engine management, BMW TwinPower Turbo technology, combined with High Precision Injection, VALVETRONIC fully variable valve timing, Double-VANOS variable camshaft timing. This results in a power output of not less than 103kW/140 HP over a rather wide rev range, i.e. between 4600-6500 rpm. And this is delivered in all smoothness, the engine just soothing your ears with a beautiful staccato when you rev it up. Pulling power is also abundant in the mid rev range, with maximum torque of 220 Nm available between 1430 to 4200 rpm.

But this is not all. This state of the art thoroughbred engine is coupled in our test car to a formidable seven-speed Steptronic dual-clutch transmission, which totally matches the engine’s characteristics.

This drivetrain really gets your sleek Gran Coupé really going. 0 to 100 km/h is absolved in merely 8.7 seconds, top speed is an impressive 215 km/h. Enough to enjoy all the exclusive delights of a true Gran Turismo. And this time in style.

The sleek panache of the Gran Coupé styling now also found in the 2-series…

This is the first ever Gran Coupé in the 2 series range, and it is certainly a true winner in the looks department. The fluid and rakish lines of the Gran Coupé styling concept suit the more compact 2 series very well, and the proportions of the whole car just look and feel “just right”, and this from any angle.

Styling details and contours make it a true BMW, and the styling DNA of the brand is very evident. The standout characteristic of the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe is its dynamically stretched silhouette which, like the four frameless side doors, is lifted from the classical coupe blueprint. Our test car was shod with 17 inch alloys, styling 549, and this came with the so called sports package, which included sports seats in front, decorative bands in the cabin “Illuminated Berlin”, cruise control and a LED light package amongst others.

The slightly angled headlights actually feature full-LED technology as standard with the option of an adaptive variant, which is included in this package. In Belgium, this package costs at the moment of writing 2611 Euros ex VAT.

One also has to fork out a further 1835 Euros for the Business Pack, which includes the Connected Package plus and the Park Distance Control fore and aft. The latter we deem essential, as it is impossible to see the sleek edges of the car when parking. Connectivity in itself is also a must nowadays.

Impeccable handling and dynamics

As its sporting looks imply, the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe has excellent road manners, which is based on the advanced BMW front-wheel-drive architecture, which the BMW in addition to an array of other technological developments – shares with the new BMW 1 Series.

The near-actuator wheel slip limitation (ARB) tech familiar from the BMW i3s is fitted as standard in the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe. It improves traction when pulling away, cornering or accelerating on dry and wet roads, in mixed, snowy or icy conditions, and allows wheel slip to be controlled much more precisely and swiftly than before.

BMW has honed all this to perfection: The slip controller is positioned directly in the engine control unit rather than in the control unit for the DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) system. Eliminating long signal paths means that information is relayed three times quicker, while the driver perceives wheel slip being brought under control up to ten times faster.

Near-actuator wheel slip limitation works in tandem with the DSC system to significantly reduce power understeer – a typical drawback of front-wheeldrive cars – without the need for corrective inputs to stabilize lateral dynamics.

It should also be noted that all BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe models from entry level upwards have a multi-link rear axle.

The 218i gives its driver the choice between several driving modes, sport, comfort and even eco pro. Most of the time we opted for the “comfort” mode, which indeed was most pleasant, setting up suspension stiffness and drivetrain responsiveness exactly to our liking, delivering very suave progress in urban driving conditions.

In this comfort modes, the pleasures of BMW driving are totally preserved, with excellent economy as a bonus. It was no effort at all to stay between 6 and 7 litres/100 km in town, on the open road the consumption dropped further by about 1 litre/100 km.

The manufacturer quotes average consumption between 5.7-5.4 l/100 km, which is not unrealistic at all, if you add 1/2 litre/100 km or thereabouts. CO2 emissions are given as 123-114 g/km. Emission class is EU6d-TEMP.

BMW has installed a host of technical features to reduce fuel consumption, such as Electric Power Steering, Auto Start Stop function, Optimum Shift Indicator, ECO PRO mode with coasting function (with automatic transmission), active air flap control, on-demand operation of ancillary units, map-regulated oil pump, differential with optimised warm-up behaviour, tyres with reduced rolling resistance, for instance.

Driving aids…

Standard equipment in Europe includes collision and pedestrian warning with city braking function, which also alerts the driver to the presence of cyclists. Also fitted as standard is the Lane Departure Warning system with active lane return, which is operational from 70 to 210 km/h (44 – 130 mph).

As said earlier, options include Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function that can be engaged up to 160 km/h (99 mph) and the Driving Assistant, which comprises the Lane Change Warning system, rear collision warning and crossing traffic warning.

Cabin comfort

The interior seats four comfortably, welcoming rear passengers with significantly easier entry and 33 millimetres of extra kneeroom over the BMW 2 Series Coupe.

The seating position is 12 millimetres higher too. The boot holds 430 litres of gear (40 litres more than the two-door coupe) and this can be expanded further by folding down the 40/20/40 split rear seat backrest. The rear bench can be released fully from the load compartment. The tailgate opens automatically at the press of a button or – if the optional Comfort Access is specified – with the wave of a foot. 

Conclusion

The BMW 218I is not only every inch a true BMW with all its iconic qualities, it offers all this in an extremely well proportioned and seducing bodywork, which felt “just right” in its dimensions, we found.

Workmanship, build quality and materials used are beyond reproach, styling both inside and out are standard setting for its class, the excellence of the drivetrain is to be experienced to be believed. Add to this unique driving dynamics combined with a comfortable ride and excellent economy, and you can understand that we actually rediscovered how much daily pleasure a BMW car offer you, even in it’s “sedate” 218I version. Of course we look forward to drive for you the more powerful versions in this Gran Coupé 2 series, but driving pleasure is already yours in this one…

Hans Knol ten Bensel   

Three (!) electric engines for the Audi e-tron S and Audi e-tron S Sportback

Driving is believing, and the e-power experience proves to be even more exhilarating at Audi: their e-tron flagship comes now with three engines, making it 370 kW strong and giving it a massive torque of 973 Nm. Two engines are driving the rear wheels, and indeed, the emphasis is on rear end power, as well for daily use as for sporting driving. The rear end can even be seduced to produce power slides, and the Quattro concept has been further honed to deliver, as the factory puts it, an electronically controlled vector torque distribution with active and fully variable torque distribution between both rear wheels, doing away with a differential altogether.

Driving experience 2.0

The Audi pilots can wet their hands: this impressive SUV is your sporting partner on winding roads and mountain passes. Just put the electronic stability control ESC in “sport” mode and the drive mode selector in “dynamic” and things really start to happen. True power slides are now possible and the system will softly brake the inner front wheel should it want to slip through under full power. This leaves you fully in control of this e-power “bolide”, which leaves nothing to be desired in the power department.

This S-tron catapults itself from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 4,5 seconds, and then storms further ahead to its electronically controlled top speed of 210 km/h.

Still sufficient range…

The available battery power is a good match for all this sportiness. When you adopt a driving style in tune with the WLTP cycle, you can expect an action range of 360 kilometers or thereabouts. The high tension battery has a gross charge capacity of 95 kWh, of which 91 pct is effectively usable.

The Quattro principle has been further refined. When extra power is wanted, the front motor kicks in, and as said, both rear engines are individually controlled and offer this fully variable torque, managed by a permanent electronic control system.

As you can expect, the S version has a suspension setup geared towards sportiness, but when you’re not in the mood, it is good to know that the Audi Drive Select gives you the choice between not less than seven driving profile modes. The fully adaptable air suspension has controlled damping stiffness and can vary the ride height by some 76 mm.

20 inch alloys are standard, but you can opt for 21 inch tall wheels, and later even 22 inch alloys will be available. The brake saddles at the front have not less than six (!) pistons. The brake control system will decide the braking power of each wheel, and will choose also if engine, brake friction or both will be used when decelerating.

The body has also been made more aerodynamic, and the patented new wheel arches improve things markedly. The Cx is a mere 0,26 for the Sportback version.  

Each e-tron also comes with a … heat pump, which effectively reduces energy consumption on the whole by extracting heat generated by the driveline, and thus extending the driving range by some 10 pct.

Of course this e-Tron S has all the infotainment and electronic driving assistance you could ever want,and will also light the road for you with matrix LED headlamps. In the cabin, MMI touch response control system with two large central screens await you. The online services of Audi Connect complete the navigation system, especially the e-tron-routeplanner.

We are certainly looking forward to have a drive in this latest edition of the e-Tron, just know that this version will be available on the European markets in autumn 2020, and prices in Belgium start at 97.100 euro incl. VAT for the e-tron S, and 99.110 euro incl. VAT for the Sportback version.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Mercedes C 300 e 4Matic: your brightly starred hybrid…

Mercedes is cleverly building up its plug-in hybrid fleet, and does this also for its bestselling C Class range. We drove here for you the C 300 e 4Matic, which receives now the same hybrid drivetrain as the larger E-Class 300e. This means a trusty 2 litre turbopowered petrol engine, good for 211 HP, combined with a 122 HP electric motor. The total system power of 320 HP is boosted by not less than 700 Nm of maximum torque, and you understand that this means almost supercar performance.

The 13,5 Kw/h battery powering the electric motor is the same as in the C300de. All this bodes well for driving pleasure with a green touch… just read on!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Sliding behind the wheel of this C Class gives you this unique and overwhelming experience of being surrounded by top quality workmanship, style and perfection. Yes, you are sitting behind the wheel of a car with the good star, built by the oldest car manufacturer in the world. A Mercedes. A unique feeling which no other car in the world can give you. All this is valid for any Mercedes model you drive, and this C Class Sedan is no exception.

The excellent seats wrap around you, and by touching with the intuitive symbols in the door panel you can adjust everything to you liking in seconds. A push on the starting knob and off you go. You feel the precision of steering and suspension translated in your hands, progress is ultra smooth.

With the batteries fully charged, this C 300e will revert first and foremost to using this available E-power, and your first kilometers will be travelled very “clean” indeed. This is clearly visible for you on the instrument cluster in front of you, where the available battery power quickly dwindles but petrol consumption is virtually nil. A very logical setup, as this hybrid is designed to be used by its owner on the daily work/home commute after a home overnight charge and/or a daytime charge up at the office parking charging terminal. This allows you to absolve your daily commute almost totally on E-power. Of course you can interfere, and keep the batteries charged at a chosen level and even recharge them whilst driving to save this E-power for later, when you will enter urban low emission zones at a distance form your starting point.

What happens when the battery is almost empty? Well, then you still enjoy the clever hybrid/kinetic management system, so to say, which allows you to recuperate kinetic energy when slowing down and/or braking, and the electric motor will assist in moving the car when driving/accelerating at very slow speeds or parking, in short, in all the driving conditions where a combustion engine alone works not very efficient.

All this lets you truly score in the economy department. This powerful sedan will let you consume less than 6 litres/100 km in urban traffic on engine power, and equally so on the open road.

The beauty of a hybrid system is your total range independence, this car is set to go anytime to any destination you could wish, and yet in regular home/office use it scores as “green” as any full E-vehicle.

The bonus of the extra electric motor is abundant torque and extra power. This translates in 0-100 km/h acceleration times which almost belong to the supercar league.

What to think of a sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 5,4 seconds? Top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h. Another strong point is the effortless manner this performance is deployed. Power is now transmitted through a new 9 speed automatic gearbox – actually this transmission is used throughout the C-class range – and out test car came with the optional 4 matic 4WD.

Excellent chassis and comfort

Passive and active safety have always been paramount at Mercedes. The solidity, stiffness and engineering excellence of body, chassis and suspension do not need any further comment. Steering is precise, handling is beyond reproach. A good balance is also struck between road qualities and comfort. Our test car was shod with AMG 19 inch (5-double spoke) alloys, and had also the AIRMATIC driving dynamics package, which made driving this C Class with some verve a pleasant and sporting experience. Combined with all the power, this test car proved a very fast sedan indeed.

All the usual driving assistance functions are present of course, and the fully digital dashboard and clever steering wheel commands are a breeze to use and an example for many. We also liked the instrument graphics is all the three different display modes, and besides their aesthetic qualities they are also eminently readable.

Connectivity is also written large and of course you have wireless charging. Apple Car Play and Android Auto is possible. Life is made comfortable with keyless functions and automatic opening boot lid. Luggage space is somewhat limited as the battery sits above the rear axle and takes up some space in the boot. Available luggage volume is not more than 300 liters.

Conclusion

Plug-in hybrids are presently offering the (very) best of both worlds, and this Mercedes C 300 e 4-Matic proves again how good such a car can be. With an E-power radius of some 50 kilometers it is perfect for (almost) fully electric home/work commuting, and you have always the freedom to travel any distance when and where you want under silk smooth petrol engined power.

Future-proof for all the low-emission zones we will encounter, it still offers you the versatility and practicality of a “real” car, and then we have said nothing about its exhilarating performance…

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

We drove the Subaru Forester e-Boxer: a very sensible hybrid…

Never (really) change a winning team, the saying goes. This is exactly what the Subaru engineers had in mind when they designed the hybrid drivetrain of the Forester e-Boxer. Indeed, this hybrid Subaru remains very familiar to all Subaru enthusiasts and owners. They will find again the immensely practical and sturdy Forester, which is now roomier than ever, and the familiar sound of the two litre petrol boxer engine will also be music to their ears.

But is has also e-power, albeit rather modest. This has been very cleverly put to use, resulting in a very creditable hybrid. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

167 HP at your service…

The e-Boxer Forester has honest punch. The trusty four cylinder boxer puts down not less than 150 HP, and the e-motor a rather subtle 16,7 HP.

This is more than enough to drive this Forester with spirit, helped by the very responsive CVT transmission, which will let the engine rev eagerly when called for power. As soon as one lifts the throttle only slightly, revs immediately go down again, using the good torque characteristics of this trusty boxer. All this goes with the familiar and typical “Subaru Boxer Sound”, we would say.

Indeed, the moments that the engine is silent and this roomy Forester is propelled on pure E-power, are few and far between. Unless you are taking things more gently, because then the hybrid propulsion system really goes to work, and is very effective at it.

So it all simply boils down to whether you take eco-driving seriously or not. We took things to heart, and drove our test car trough town and on the open road, but with restraint and anticipation, and got rewarded with an average consumption of 6,6 litres/100 km.

This means of course gentle cruising at the 120 km/h speed limit on the open road, avoiding strong accelerations, and also going gently along the traffic stream on urban boulevards, using the kinetic energy of the car as much as possible, and driving gently away from traffic lights. When pulling away or driving at slow speeds in traffic, the battery-powered electric motor alone drives the car in EV Mode. The electric motor power assistance – Motor Assist – is completely automatic. When braking or decelerating, the e-BOXER uses of course regenerative braking to capture energy from the car’s movement to recharge the battery. When you push the accelerator pedal just a bit deeper, the petrol engine sets in too.

In practice, the transition between these two powertrains is never apparent. The Forester e-BOXER’s onboard computers simply work out what’s needed where and distribute the power accordingly.

So it is up to you to keep your Forester in this economical operating range, and achieve these consumption results. There is no EV button, by the way. Subaru believes in the seamless interaction between e-power and engine, to achieve the most efficient progress.

Every bit a true Subaru…

This Forester e-Boxer is and remains the true workhorse you always appreciated. The symmetrical 4WD setup is found here of course, and it is good to know that this new Forester now rolls on Subaru’s new global platform, which allows the stiffness of the body to be increased by not less than 40 pct.

When it comes to safety, it is good to know that a range of passive and active safety technologies are fitted as standard, including: EyeSight Driver Assist Technology (providing Pre-Collision Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control and other functions); Subaru Rear Vehicle Detection (SRVD); Reverse Automatic Braking; Side View Monitor; and Driver Monitoring System, a brand-new facial recognition technology that alerts the driver to re-focus when it detects signs of fatigue or distraction while on the road. We tested it out for you and it really works fine indeed!

This Forester also has been named Euro NCAP’s Best in Class 2019 in the Small Off-Road / MPV class…

Comfort

We were also pleasantly surprised by the comfortable suspension of this Forester. It truly has a very comfortable ride, and also the steering is responsive and precise. It is certainly no punishment to drive this Forester on winding roads. It is also a very comfortable cruiser on motorways. Engine noise and drivetrain vibrations are masterfully filtered out, and all this makes the Forester a brilliant Gran Turismo, with ample head- and legroom for all.

Of course it really comes into its own off the beaten track, thanks to its famous symmetrical AWD system. A prominent X mode dial on the centre console lets you choose between normal, snow/dirt and deep snow/mud modes. On forest roads this Subaru certainly hasn’t stolen its name… This Forester comes of course also with a downhill descent control, and really never lets you down with its comfortable ride height and excellent attack angles fore and aft when you are in heavy terrain.

A pleasant, practical cabin

The cabin is very well equipped and practical, and a lot of thought has gone in the lay-out which is a good example of excellent ergonomics. As said, the Forester has an impressive array of driver’ assistance features, and the beauty of it that they are not obtrusive. You will only notice them when they are needed.

Safety is first and foremost in this Forester, and besides the fact that its Driver Monitoring System warns you when you are not looking at the road ahead. But that is not all: it will also remind you to check whether nobody is sitting on the rear seat when you are going to leave the car.  

We also found that all the commands are self-explaining, for instance finding a destination or connecting your phone is the proverbial breeze. Of course all the infotainment is provided, along with Apple play and Google The Forester is also very roomy, with a cavernous boot space and offering also ample room for the rear passengers.      

Conclusion

This Subaru Forester remains for those outdoor lovers and those living in remote non-urban places the real all purpose companion for your daily mobility. Cleverly driven in town, this e-Boxer reveals itself as a very frugal boulevard cruiser, letting you park and move under soothing “zen” e-Power, and enjoy this emission-free form of propulsion in driving situations where combustion-engined cars pollute the most.

In the meantime, you chalk up very impressive consumption figures. But you will meet no hassle with recharging, just enjoy a reliable, ever-ready companion. Well, a Subaru!  

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Have a stunning sound experience in your Lexus Convertible…

Generating the right sound is the result of state of the art engineering…

When you step inside the Lexus LC 500 Convertible, we would suggest you lower the roof and blip the throttle. The deep note from its V8 engine tells you immediately that an exhilarating drive is in prospect.

It’s all part of the exceptional sensory quality that Lexus has brought to its first soft-top model: just as much as the styling pleases the eye, the sound of the engine stirs your heart. Generating just the right aural quality was an important goal for the car’s development team, and this required precision engineering to achieve…

Just read on!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Inspired by the LFA supercar

Lexus’ focus on the importance of the engine sound can be traced back to the LFA, its ultra-exclusive, hand-built supercar. The specialists who worked on its V10 power unit identified the separate qualities that combine to create the ideal sound “atmosphere.”

In the LC concertible, the power of the V8’s engine note had to be balanced with a level of quietness in the cabin that overturns preconceptions about driving in a convertible – an equation Lexus calls a “harmony of opposites.”

To achieve the maximum effect, the sound of the engine changes in line with the rise and fall in rpm, becoming more powerful and urgent in tune with the driver’s use of the accelerator and the sequence of shifts through the rapid-action 10-speed automatic transmission. The exhaust note, too, heightens the effect. By contrast, in gentle cruising, the sound is subdued, so conversation is easy when the roof is down.

Finding that perfect engine sound

A continuous, pulsating sound is characteristic of a large-capacity, naturally aspirated V8 engine like the five-litre unit which powers The LC 500 Convertible. Lexus has used acoustic technologies to combine this with spectral harmony (perfect sound intervals that are pleasing to the ear), stereophonic sound, to create a depth of sound, and so-called “formants” – qualities that stir the senses and generate a feel-good factor.

Active Noise Control is used to “clean” the sound frequencies experienced in the car. This emits anti-pulse sounds through the audio speakers which counteract any unwelcome low frequency booming sound from the engine and drivetrain.

In the LC Coupe, noise inside the cabin is monitored by a microphone in the roof, but for the Convertible, it had to be relocated inside the driver’s headrest. Being closer to the driver’s ear means it can pick up a wider range of frequencies, but a complex algorithm had to be calculated to make sure it works accurately in any seat position.

The silence of a fixed-head coupé…

Even though the LC Convertible has a soft top, Lexus wanted to secure the same kind of cabin quietness as in the LC Coupe. Acoustic simulations were created to find out where dominant noises were entering the space, so that the amount and location of soundproofing and sound-absorbing material could be calculated.

The storage area behind the rear seats for the folding roof presented a particular challenge, as it was a route for tyre and exhaust noise to enter the cabin. There was not enough room for soundproofing material to be added, so the team looked instead at adapting the trim material itself. By allowing air to pass through the structure and using sound-absorbing material on the reverse, the entire surface of the storage space soaks up noise.

As the area is visible and part of the car’s interior, it also had to look good. Lexus assessed many different materials before choosing one usually used for lining the wings around the wheels. This meets safety standards and, being applied with extra density, has just the right appearance.

We are anxious to enjoy the ride in this formidable Convertible, which will be a feast for eyes and ears…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Fiat launches soon its benchmark for 100 % electric delivery: the E-Ducato…

On June 5th, the “World Environment Day” , Fiat focused the attention of the press on its E-Ducato, which was a year ago presented to us as a prototype. Then we met the dynamic people of Fiat Professional, Mr. Domenico Gostoli and Mme Angelica Carapezza amongst others, and faithful readers remember the reports we made then on our pages. We also refer to the interesting interview we made with Mme Carapezza, where she also  commented on her impressive automotive career so far. You can read it again on our columns. Just look at https://autoprova.be/2019/09/15/women-behind-cars-angelica-carapezza/ and https://autoprova.be/2019/07/01/fiat-professional-surprises-the-commercial-vehicle-world-with-an-all-electric-ducato/

Nothwithstanding Corona times, the development of the new Fiat Professional model has been continued using simulation tools.

The E-Ducato is the result of an extended series of measurements and tests, taking into account all the variables of usage by different types of clients, as well as dynamic, load and environmental aspects.

Developed by professionals with the help of client professionals…

The development of the E-Ducato included over one year of on-road measurements to analyze more than 28,000 connected vehicles. The measurements from a client’s perspective were taken by a dedicated team of professionals on vehicles with combustion engines running more than 50 million kilometers, to take into account all the variables of client usage, dynamics, load, and environmental aspects.

The analyses were focused on mileage, model variability for any kind of mission, fuel expenditure, vehicle usage, and temperature. By adopting this approach, Fiat Professional is able to offer comprehensive electric mobility solutions. With an analysis of energy demand as a starting point, these solutions will not only cover every single task, they will also provide answers ranging from the vehicle to infrastructure, not to mention a whole range of the everyday services increasingly required by a new and emerging mobility.

The result is a van available in all body variants with the same load volume as the conventional Ducato, from 10 m3 to 17 m3, and the best payload on the market, up to 1,950 kg.

In addition to the many body styles and chassis versions, a choice of battery options will also be available for the E-Ducato, with ranges in a typical urban real delivery cycle from 200 to over 330 km at standard environment conditions, depending by battery pack, and a variety of charging configurations. It also comes with high-potential performance: speed limited to 100 km/h for improved energy absorption, maximum output of 90 kW and maximum torque of 280 Nm.

Last but not least, the FCA styling centre has developed a new logo for the 100% electric Ducato.  The logo itself is made up of two distinct elements: a letter “E” in blue – the color traditionally associated with innovation and sustainability, preceded by a “D” for Ducato in brushed silver above.  

Comprehensive training for a new sales process

So the E-Ducato professional experience can begin even before getting on board, Fiat Professional organized training days in February specifically for the sales force, involving 265 sales agents and managers across 124 dealerships in the main markets. Road tests structured as a journey through a city were also run at the Balocco circuit, with emphasis on the new full electric driving modes. An in-depth look was also taken at the new WLTP homologation procedure and its impact on the world of outfitted vehicles. Presentations were given on some of these, from mobile workshops and refrigeration to people carriers: versatility that has always been one of the strengths of the Fiat Professional Ducato.

Virtual training: from developments in training to business development

Given the current cautious social distancing measures, Fiat Professional continued the training in a virtual format: a development in training, just like the E-Ducato represents a development in the business. Each remote session was focused on the product in depth, in preparation for other activities.

The E-Ducato technical specifications and line-up were discussed in detail, with special consideration given to its innovative aspects. All the Virtual Classrooms were met with resounding success and were diligently attended. For example, there have already been 310 participants from Germany, 120 from Poland and 210 from non-EMEA regions, while online training will soon begin in the remaining European markets, including in Spain, France and the UK.

Actual launch expected within a few months…

To continue its journey into the market, the E-Ducato will soon be subjected to extensive specific field testing by partner clients under normal working conditions of usage. On that basis, the E-Ducato is therefore being prepared for its launch on the market, due to take place in the coming months, with the opening of orders in the main European markets as the first stage.

The brand-new electric vehicle will soon join the methane-driven Ducato Natural Power in the offering of alternative propulsion systems, to take on the market challenge.

We are looking forward to the actual launch, stay tuned in these columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The new BMW 4 series coupé: more style and character than ever…

A beauty…

BMW have again set the example: their new 4 series coupé is setting the benchmark again in style and sportiness. The front end is dramatic, also the roof line has the proportions and lines of a thoroughbred. The prominent, vertical BMW kidney grille follows the tradition of legendary BMW coupés and reflects the engine’s high cooling air requirement. Stretched side window graphic, powerfully sculpted shoulders and flowing roofline exude athleticism and sporting elegance.

There are standard LED headlights with extremely slim contours. Adaptive LED Headlights with BMW Laserlight are available as an option. Stylishly darkened LED rear lights with eye-catching L-shaped light bars.

Improved cabin

The interior is also further improved, in instrumentation as well as seating. New interior design centred on sporty driving experience. Driver-focused cockpit design, new display grouping with up to 10.25-inch Control Display and optional, fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster. Control panel with high-quality design on the centre console, new sports leather steering wheel and newly developed sports seats as standard, knee pads on the centre console optional. Two seats in the rear with defined individual-seat character.

Legendary handling further optimized

As a true BMW befits, the impeccable handling is the result of careful engineering and testing.

Bespoke package of bracing elements increases body rigidity. The centre of gravity is 21 millimetres lower, rear-axle track 23 millimetres wider than on the latest BMW 3 Series Sedan. Other chaarcteristics: weight-minimised body and chassis construction. Finely balanced 50 : 50 weight distribution. Targeted optimization of aerodynamics and reduction in lift at the rear axle.

Lift-related dampers with bespoke tuning are fitted as standard. Optional M Sport suspension with even firmer set-up for dampers, mounts and anti-roll bars, plus additional body struts and variable sport steering. Also available as options: Adaptive M suspension with electronically controlled dampers, M Sport brakes with a choice of blue or red brake calipers, M Sport differential with fully variable locking function in the rear differential.

Sales begin with five model variants; the BMW M440i xDrive Coupé (fuel consumption combined 7.1 – 6.8 l/100 km [39.8 – 41.5 mpg imp]; CO2 emissions combined: 163 – 155 g/km) makes its debut at the top of the range. The sporting flagship is powered by a 275 kW/374 hp six-cylinder in-line petrol engine. Range also includes two four-cylinder petrol engines and a four-cylinder diesel unit. Two six-cylinder in-line diesel engines will join the line-up in March 2021.

Mild hybrid technology for the six-cylinder in-line-petrol engine and all diesel engines is also provided. 48V starter-generator boosts the combustion engine with an extra 8 kW/11 hp. All diesel engines now have two-stage turbocharging.

All model variants come now with standard eight-speed Steptronic transmission. Optional eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission with new Sprint function for instantaneous and dynamic acceleration manoeuvres, for the enthusiasts. BMW xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive is available for two model variants from launch and four variants from March 2021.

We cannot wait to collect some driving experiences with this beautiful four wheeled gem, which proudly bears the BMW logo… Just be patient, and stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Fiat launches on social media a stunning “one shot” film about three unique 500’s …

Outstanding design is one of the hallmarks of Fiat cars, with the superbly iconic 500 or “Cinquecento” of course taking centre stage. Indeed, this is further shown by a remarkable docufilm “One-Shot”.

The trailer of this film is now on air, looking “behind the scenes” of the creation of the One-Offs, three exclusive interpretations of the New Fiat 500, by Armani, Bvlgari and Kartell.

The Bulgari logo on the 500…

The full film can be viewed on Fiat’s social media channels, first of all on YouTube. The link is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGGd7EcnmNI&feature=youtu.be. But you can also see it on FCA’s Facebook and Instagram pages.

In the film, we see the unfolding of “Plan B” when Geneva Motor Show was canceled, and it was decided to present the “one off” cars in front of the Milan Duomo…

This breathtaking journey, narrated by Olivier François – President, Fiat Brand Global and FCA Chief Marketing Officer, includes interviews with designers, tales of partners, close-ups on the details and selection of materials, where the aim is caring of the environment and its sustainability.

Unloading the cars in the early morning in front of the Duomo…

The short film (15 and a half minutes) presents a relentless succession of meetings and processes that highlight teamwork, the affinity between designers from different fields and the emotions involved in playing an active role in an extraordinary project: the creation of something unique, an interpretation of the New 500 alongside the very best of “Made in Italy”.

Genuine gold flakes adorn the Bulgari 500…

The result is the three One-Offs, embodiment’s of the style, creativity and craftsmanship characteristic of “Made in Italy” and of our partners in the project, in the path and in the vision of the Earth’s future.

The Armani 500 got a special dressing…

And also a wood sculpted dashboard…

The journey depicted in the film begins in Turin, cradle of the Fiat brand, passing from Rome on the way with its sunsets, colors and lines that symbolize Bvlgari all over the world, to arrive in Milan, the world capital of fashion and design, due in no small part to Armani and Kartell.

…by a special wood cutting machine…

The twist in the tale has Milan as the setting for the entire presentation of the New 500.

A veritable gearshift takes place in the film’s account of the tense time when the Geneva International Motor Show was canceled, and a plan B had to be found and set in motion. The presentation of the New 500 and the One-Offs was completely rewritten to pull up stakes, to Milan.

Bvlgari jewelry in the 500 logo…

The short film is created and produced by VICE Italy, with Rockets at the helm. It uses the language of documentaries to reveal aspects normally concealed from the general public, in an immediate and effective way.

In an authentic, realistic vernacular, the evocative film opens the doors of the Style Center in Turin to the cameras. We get an exclusive peek inside the “Color & Material” department led by Rossella Guasco, halfway between a sophisticated research center and an elegant fashion atelier.

Bvlgari used its foulards…to enhance the dasboard

The footage documents their almost-obsessive attentiveness to every detail, that “know-how” typical of Italian creativity, and dwells on the emotions of the whole team as they experience something truly unique.

Kartell the seats…

The journey continues in an interview with Klaus Busse, Head of Design, explaining what lies beneath the creative process of style and forms, and the role of the 500 in the history of industrial design, even more so in the collective unconscious.

…and elements of the car…

It was the Style Center that took a legend of the 50’s, the fabled “Cinquino”, and reinvented it in 2007 to “color” everyday life and streets all over the world, making it an authentic, unique and salient response to the requirements of international urban mobility.

At the Milan launch of the One-Offs in March, it was even announced that the Fiat 500 has been confirmed as an “Italian Icon and Honorary Member” of Altagamma, the prestigious Foundation that brings together the best of Italy’s companies, to promote the epitomes of the country’s excellence around the world.

Just have a look at the photos here, and also enjoy the film!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupé and Cabriolet get a fresh look and more…

The styling has a more sporting touch with a fresh look for the front sections. The all-LED headlamps have been given flatter housings, while the interior of the LED tail lights has been reworked.

At the same time the two-door models take on the key upgrade features of the other body variants as part of the facelift. These include electrified, and therefore more efficient, petrol as well as diesel engines with integrated starter-alternator, the next generation of driving assistance systems and the infotainment system MBUX infotainment system (Mercedes-Benz User Experience).

The E-Class Coupé and Cabriolet will be making their debut with sales partners in Europe in autumn 2020.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

In good Mercedes tradition, The E-Class Cabriolet with the classic fabric top offers spaciousness and comfort on long journeys for up to four people. And does so all year round: as an option, the Cabriolet can be fitted with the AIRCAP electric draught-stop system and AIRSCARF neck-level heating. Unrestricted usability all year round is similarly ensured by the acoustic soft top, a standard feature that helps to optimise the level of noise experienced in the interior.

The coupé has pleasing flowing lines, and has its own enthusiastic followers, who like a roomy four seat Gran Turismo with coupé character and panache.

The “A-shape” design of the new diamond radiator grille, which is likewise standard on all versions, adds a particularly dynamic touch. The grille also features chrome-plated dots, a single louvre and the Mercedes star in the centre.

Typical Mercedes comfort

The adaptive driver’s seat adjustment is a particularly intelligent feature: when the height of the body is entered on the media display or via Mercedes me, the seat automatically moves into a position generally suitable for someone of that height, which then only needs to be fine-tuned by the driver.

The integral-look sports seats feature prominent side bolsters and integrated head restraints.

Next-generation driving assistance systems: better assistance in tailbacks and when parking

As standard, the E-Class comes with Active Brake Assist. The system is also able to brake for stationary vehicles and crossing pedestrians at typical city speeds and even to prevent collisions, depending on the situation. As part of the Driving Assistance Package, this is now also possible when turning off across the oncoming lane. A range of further Intelligent Drive functions can optionally be added to the Driving Assistance Package.

A new generation of steering wheels, plus MBUX

The E-Class is fitted with an entirely new, intelligent steering wheel as part of the facelift. This is available as a leather steering wheel and in a super sports variant. The control surfaces sport a high-gloss black finish, while the trim elements and surrounds have a silver shadow finish.

The new E-Class is equipped with the latest generation of the MBUX multimedia system (Mercedes-Benz User Experience). As standard, it includes two large 10.25-inch/26 cm screens arranged side by side for a sublime widescreen look. Two 12.3 inch/31.2 cm screens are optionally available.

Mercedes-AMG E 53 Coupé (Kraftstoffverbrauch kombiniert: 8,9-8,6 l/100 km, CO2-Emissionen kombiniert: 204-198 g/km), 2020, Outdoor, Vorderansicht, dynamisch, Night Paket, Carbon Paket II, Exterieur: graphitgrau metallic;Kraftstoffverbrauch kombiniert: 8,9-8,6 l/100 km, CO2-Emissionen kombiniert: 204-198 g/km Mercedes-AMG E 53 Coupé (combined fuel consumption: 8,9-8,6 l/100 km, combined CO2 emissions: 204-198 g/km), 2020, Outdoor, front, dynamic, Night package, Carbon package II, exterior: graphitgrey metallic;combined fuel consumption: 8,9-8,6 l/100 km, combined CO2 emissions: 204-198 g/km

New to the E-Class Coupé and Cabriolet is the ENERGIZING COACH. This function is based on an intelligent algorithm and recommends one or other of the programmes depending on the situation and the individual concerned. If a Garmin® wearable is integrated, personal values such as stress level or quality of sleep optimise the accuracy of the recommendation. The aim is to ensure the driver feels well and relaxed even during demanding or monotonous journeys.

Your Mercedes is safe…

In conjunction with Mercedes me, the two packages URBAN GUARD Vehicle Protection and URBAN GUARD Vehicle Protection Plus enable all-round monitoring of the parked vehicle. URBAN GUARD comprises an anti-theft alarm system, tow-away protection with visual and audible warning in the case of a detected change in position, an alarm siren, interior monitoring (triggers in the case of movements in the interior) as well as a pre-installation for theft and parking collision detection. 

Increased electrification of the powertrain…

The electrification of the powertrain takes another major step forward with the facelift of the E-Class. The new two-door models also see the top version of the four-cylinder diesel engine (OM 654 M), rated at 195 kW, fitted for the first time with an integrated starter-alternator (ISG). It therefore has a 48-volt on-board partial electrical system. A recuperation function and the ability to “glide” with the engine switched off make the engine even more efficient.

Clever: integrated into the transmission

Ongoing development work means that the integrated starter-alternator used here is a second-generation unit that is now part of the transmission (rather than of the engine). This means that it can be more easily combined with different engines. The extra boost that is available right from the first turn of the engine, known as EQ Boost, can deliver as much as 15 kW and 180 Nm, thus ensuring that the driving enjoyment offered by both of the sporty two-door models is even more pronounced.

The 48-volt technology with ISG is also a feature of the in-line six-cylinder petrol engine (M 256), now available for the first time in the E-Class. As with the Saloon, Estate and All-Terrain models, this unit has now been added to the engine line-up for the two-door models.

There is also the new Mercedes-AMG E 53 4MATIC+ Coupé and Cabriolet, of which more later in a special report!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The new BMW 5 series…

BMW rejuvenates its bestseller – more than 600,000 units have been sold of the current 5 series sedan and touring – and the market introduction will be in July 2020. Due to the Corona times, the presentation of this new 5 series was digital, but the car is not less amazing for it, and we are only more curious to see it soon “in the flesh”!  

Both models will be produced at BMW Plant Dingolfing in Bavaria. The new BMW 5 Series Sedan will also be built by production partner Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria. The longwheelbase version of the Sedan is made exclusively for the Chinese market at joint venture BMW Brilliance Automotive’s Dadong plant in Shenyang. Indeed, BMW is a globally operating car manufacturer…

Externally with even more character…

The BMW kidney grille adds extra width and height, two U- or optionally L-shaped daytime driving light sources arranged next to one another create a modern light graphic. New full-LED headlights including adaptive cornering function, BMW Selective Beam non-dazzling high beam with matrix technology, and the High-beam Assistant are offered as an option.

Last but not least BMW Laserlight is now likewise optionally available for all variants of the BMW 5 Series.

More luxury and technology in the interior…

The now standard 10.25-inch or optional 12.3-inch Control Display, newly designed controls on the centre console and the standard sports leather steering wheel with newly arranged multifunction buttons welcome you. Standard equipment for the new BMW 5 Series Sedan and new BMW 5 Series Touring now also includes automatic climate control with extended features.

New additions to the options list include M multifunction seats, new interior trim strips and seat surfaces in Sensatec perforated trim.

More choice in power…

Choice of plug-in hybrids set to grow to five models initially, with eDrive technology now also available in the new BMW 5 Series Touring and in combination with a six-cylinder in-line engine.

From autumn 2020, latest-generation BMW eDrive technology will be teaming up with a four-cylinder petrol engine to power not only the new BMW 530e Sedan and new BMW 530e xDrive Sedan , but also the new BMW 530e Touring and new BMW 530e xDrive Touring (for the latter, fuel consumption combined: 2.3 – 2.1 l/100 km).  

The engine produces maximum output of 135 kW/184 hp, while the electric motor develops 80 kW/109 hp. The joint output of the two power units can be briefly increased to a maximum 215 kW/292 hp thanks to the XtraBoost feature. Electric range is 58 – 62 kilometres (36 – 39 miles) for the new BMW 530e Touring and 53 – 56 kilometres (33 – 35 miles) for the new BMW 530e xDrive Touring.

The arrival of the new BMW 545e xDrive Sedan (fuel consumption combined: 2.4 – 2.1 l/100 km in autumn 2020 will further broaden the selection of plug-in hybrid variants.

In this model, the 80 kW/109 hp electric motor combines with a straight-six petrol unit generating 210 kW/286 hp, resulting in an overall output of 290 kW/394 hp. The new BMW 545e xDrive Sedan achieves an electric range of 54 – 57 kilometres (34 – 35 miles).

The BMW eDrive Zone digital service is available in all the plug-in hybrid models as standard. This unique function automatically switches to the all-electric operating mode when the vehicle enters a “green zone”.

48V mild hybrid technology for all four- and six-cylinder models.

Mild hybrid technology, first introduced in the BMW 520d and BMW 520d xDrive models in autumn 2019, will now offer enhanced performance combined with lower fuel consumption and improved driving comfort in all four- and six-cylinder variants of the new BMW 5 Series. Fitting an extremely powerful 48V starter-generator and a second battery enables a significant increase in the amount of brake energy that can be regenerated.

Choice of petrol and diesel engines…

The new BMW 5 Series comes with a choice of three other petrol and three diesel engines generating between 135 kW/184 hp and 250 kW/340 hp. The direct injection system in the petrol units operates at increased pressure, meaning greater efficiency, whith the two-stage turbocharging technology now fitted in all diesel variants. All the engines link up with an eight-speed Steptronic transmission as standard. BMW xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive is offered as a standard or optional feature for all model variants with the exception of the entry-level petrol engine.  

Superb chassis and suspension…

There is a choice of sophisticated chassis systems designed for the enthusiast. M Sport suspension, Adaptive M suspension and Adaptive M suspension Professional including active roll stabilization can all be found on the options list. The latest version of the optional Integral Active Steering can come to the driver’s aid when manoeuvring by turning the rear wheels as required even at speeds under 3 km/h (2 mph). Red calipers are now available as an alternative to the blue units as a visual telltale for the M Sport brakes.  

Driver assistance systems offering additional functions…

The Lane Departure Warning system included with the optional Driving Assistant now also features lane return by means of steering assistance. The updated Steering and Lane Control Assistant included as part of the new Driving Assistant Professional package also brings Active Navigation. This system uses navigation data to spot in advance when a lane change will be required, and this can then be performed with ease using the Lane Change Assistant. There is also a new function called “automatic formation of emergency lane”, which steps in to guide the car to the most appropriate side of its lane in tailbacks on the motorway.

We are eagerly awaiting the summer and autumn, to get behind the wheel of one of these superb 5 series BMW’s…

Hans Knol ten Bensel