We drove the Toyota GR Supra 2.0L: a thoroughbred sports car gets even more pure…

Who doesn’t dream of a two-seater sports car with flowing coupé lines, a racy cabin, long hood, wide stance and a superb styled rear? A sports car with ideal 50/50 weight distribution, handling from the seat of your pants, equipped with a thoroughbred engine?

Such a car is the Toyota GR Supra. Until now, it came with a 3 litre six engine, being the first global model to be developed by TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. Now this same team has engineered another, even more pure version for the sports car aficionados: a Supra with a double overhead cam, 2 litre 16-valve petrol unit with a twin-scroll turbocharger.

This four-cylinder Supra is 100 kg lighter, and the engine’s shorter length means its mass is located closer to the center of the car. A true driver’s delight with stunning performance? You bet! It proved indeed to be one of the nicest 2-seater “pur sang” bolides we have driven lately…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Already its looks are stunning. Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada adhered to the classic form of a front-mounted engine driving the rear wheels, building on the heritage of Toyota’s past Supra generations and original 2000GT sports car. Indeed, this latest Supra has much of the compact purity of the legendary 2000 GT, which moves the heart of every car enthusiast.  

When it comes to design a top handling car, its wheelbase and track dimensions are the first things to consider. It is widely recognized that the best balance of agility and stability is obtained with a ratio between wheelbase and track of around 1.5 and 1.6. Achieving the 1.55 “golden ratio” was thus the starting point for the GR Supra development team, the key building block on which everything else has been optimized. (For reference: wheelbase = 2,470 mm; rear track = 1,589 mm).

Superb four-cylinder…

The engine sits indeed in the right place. And it sounds and performs right too. Maximum power is 258 DIN hp/190 kW at 5,000-6,000 rpm, while peak torque of 400 Nm is available across the whole mid rev range, from 1,550 to 4,000 rpm. Performance is indeed at the rendez-vous…

What to say of a 0-100 km/h acceleration in 5.2 seconds, with top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h… The charm also lies in the totally effortless way this performance is achieved. This sports engine is totally civilized, and while it will respond eagerly to the slightest pressure of your right foot, it is utterly docile and flexible in town traffic, and in the “normal” driving mode, it will happily potter along at 1200 rpm at legal speeds. Choose the sports mode, and the excellent 8 speed ZF automatic will spoil you with alert and lightning speed gear changes, and make you a better driver…

The staccato of the engine revving up under full power is a delight to your ears, and all this pleasure is further enhanced by the excellent handling of this Supra.

Economy is not as dramatic as you would expect from such a high-performance car, as the engine is efficient and the car is not heavy. We clocked with a lot of (very) brisk driving an average consumption of some 8,2 liters/100 km.

State of the art suspension

The Supra steers with precision. The high rigidity of the chassis makes a finely tuned suspension possible. The suspension design comprises double-joint-type MacPherson struts at the front and a five-link system at the rear.

The GR Supra 2.0 is fitted as standard with 18-inch forged alloy wheels. To optimize the balance of front and rear grip, larger wheels and tyres are used at the rear. The specific Michelin Pilot Sport tyres are 255/40 ZR18 front and 275/40 ZR18 rear.

The Supra also corners as on rails thanks to its 50/50 weight distribution, and even novice drivers can drive immediately fast with utter confidence on those winding mountain sections of your Gran Turismo trip.

Do not forget that TOYOTA GAZOO Racing was instrumental in honing the new sports car’s performance, working on the famous Nürburgring Nordschleife and surrounding roads in Germany to achieve the most agile, stable and rewarding handling possible. Further extensive testing was carried out on roads around the world.

The Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), available as part of the optional Sport Pack, enhances performance with instant response to changes in the road surface, adjusting the shock absorber force at each wheel to maintain a flat vehicle posture, excellent steering response and supple ride comfort. Sensors constantly monitor the way the car is being driven and the road conditions, controlling the damping force accordingly.

The driver can choose between two AVS modes – NORMAL and SPORT – to suit their mood or the driving conditions. NORMAL mode strikes a high balance between vehicle stability and ride comfort, enabling a sporty drive without sacrificing comfort. SPORT mode delivers a flat vehicle posture, reduced body roll and a more agile steering response.

A cabin to dream (and drive) away in …

The cabin of this two-seater is a heavenly place for each trip, be it 1 or 1000 kilometers. Soon you have found the ideal driving position behind the wheel, and all the instrumentation is ideally positioned in your line of sight, with the large rev counter of course taking central place.

The low, slim horizontal dashboard maximizes the forward view through the windscreen, and you intuitively keep your eyes on the road.

But don’t expect this Supra to be anywhere spartan. The standard multimedia system for the GR Supra 2.0 is controlled via a centrally mounted 8.8-inch high-resolution TFT touchscreen display. This can also be operated using a controller on the center console which has an intuitive touchpad control on its upper surface. It is designed for fingertip control so the driver doesn’t have to change their position at the wheel to operate it.

The package includes a four-speaker audio system with DAB radio reception, Bluetooth, a USB port and wireless smartphone integration using Apple CarPlay.

Conclusion

A formidable sports car, a dream on the track, on the mountain pass, on the motorway, but also well at home in tight and slow daily urban traffic. A stylish companion, which offers you all the practical creature comfort you could wish for, all this makes this Supra a car nice to live with every day. Then also, it’s a Toyota, which means top notch reliability, good economy and reasonable service cost. So enthusiasts, this Supra has all it takes to become an icon, and could be your four-wheeled companion, to cherish for years, if not decades to come…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the A Class 250 e: another milestone in plug-in hybrid mobility…

Mercedes is joining the plug-in hybrid trend on the road to zero-emissions driving. It does this with the third generation hybrid drive under its celebrated EQ Power label, with the future-oriented commitment so typical for the brand. Indeed, wonderful times are ahead, so it appears. This A 250 e promises indeed formidable economy and emission values: combined fuel consumption 1.5-1.4 l/100 km, combined CO2 emissions 34-33 g/km, combined electrical consumption 15.0-14.8 kWh/100 km.

All so wonderful, but of course under the condition that you use its plug-in capacity. Otherwise, it is just a zesty petrol engined compact Mercedes with good performance and road qualities… but one which gets you home no matter the distance!

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Electric Charging stations are an absolute must…

Indeed, plug-in hybrids are very much OK if you can charge then every day at home or office. If this is not available, Mercedes helps. Via its “Mercedes me Charge”, you can optionally obtain access to one of the world’s largest charging networks, with over 300 different operators in Europe alone Thanks to its navigation system, Mercedes-Benz drivers can find these stations easily and can gain convenient access to the charging stations via the Mercedes me Charge card, the Mercedes me App or directly from the car.

No separate contracts are necessary for this: apart from simple authentication, customers benefit from an integrated payment function with simple billing after they have registered their payment method once. Each charging procedure is booked automatically. The individual charging processes are clearly listed in a monthly invoice.

The car: top performance…

The A 250 e is fast. We can say, almost superfast. What to think of 6.6 seconds for the sprint from 0 to 100 km/h, and a top speed of 235 km/h? You can drive it in E-power only mode, and even then its electric 75 kW motor will push it to 140 km/h. So with everyday charging, you have a lively E-car under your right foot which is more than powerful enough to give you genuine driving pleasure combined with “zen” electric smoothness.

But if you are faced with an immediate longer trip, with no time to find charging stations for your empty battery, the 1,33 litre four cylinder gets eagerly to work. It smoothens out on the autobahn, otherwise it lets you know it is there, but then with a pleasant touch of sportiness. It develops 118 Kw/160 hp at 5500 rpm, and its 250 Nm torque starts at 1620 rpm, which gives it plenty of punch in the lower and mid rev ranges. Oh yes, total system power is 160 kW/218 hp, and system torque is an impressive 450 Nm.

Charging a breeze…

A lithium-ion high-voltage battery with a total capacity of approx. 15.6 kWh is ingeniously packed in the car. It sits under the rear seat and can be charged with alternating or direct current. A corresponding vehicle socket is located in the right-hand side wall of the vehicles.

This means that the compact plug-in hybrids can be charged at a 7.4 kW Wallbox with alternating current (AC) within 1 h 45 min from 10-100 percent SoC (Status of Charge). For direct-current charging (DC), the battery can be charged from 10 – 80 percent SoC in around 25 minutes.

So if you are a (mostly) urban driver, plenty of charging opportunities!

Driving the A 250 e exclusively on E power in urban situations is the thing to do. If the battery is empty, – it’s useable range is around 55-60 km on a charge – the willing petrol engine gives you plenty of zest, but not the supersmooth progress we have grown accustomed to in our own hybrid Lexus for instance.

Gearchanges by the 8G-DCT dual clutch transmission are noticeable at slow speeds and smaller throttle openings, and economy is in these circumstances what you can expect from a solid Mercedes with a sporting engine. In short urban errands, anything between 8 and 14 litres/100 km could be your sort, but luckily once on the open road the engine gets really into its stride and consumption hovers between 5,5 to 6,1 liters when cruising at legal cruising speeds.

Drive programs to choose from…

But there is more. With the launch of MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) the previous plug-in operating modes of all EQ Power models have been converted to so-called “drive programs.”

After 52 kilometers, the battery is empty, and the earger 1332 cc four cylinder gets to work… but for better urban driving economy, you are well advised to plug in and prefer e-power!

These new drive programs are “Electric” and “Battery Level”. Maximum e-performance can of course be had in “Electric”. The combustion engine is then only engaged if you floor the throttle. In the “Electric” program, the energy recuperation strength under braking/decelerating can be selected via paddles behind the steering wheel. The paddles on the steering wheel enable the selection of five different recuperation levels (DAUTO, D+, D, D- and D–).

Comfort, ECO and Sport modes are also available.

So you can give priority to electric driving, or choose more dynamic driving in combined drive mode or give preference to the “Battery Level” i.e. the combustion mode to save electric range, for example.

Mercedes remains Mercedes… and more about its future plug-in strategy

When looking at chassis, bodywork, cabin amenities and finish, the good star always tells us a beautiful story. The new A Class scores top marks here. Excellent seating position, ergonomics, MBUX, or Mercedes-Benz User Experience, comfort, handling, looks and practicality, everything is there.

Looking at the future, the new plug-in hybrids of the S-, E- and C-Class with electric ranges of up to 50 km in accordance with NEDC are now more than a year with us. In the C- and E-Class, Mercedes-Benz is the only manufacturer to combine the diesel engine with plug-in technology, offering this set-up in the Saloon and Estate versions of these two model series.

This year, about 20 model variants will have the plug-in layout… so the good star is indeed well plugged in!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Photographers’ note: All photos were taken with our big Nikon DSLR, which amply shiws in the crispness and balance of the images…

We drove the new Compass “Made in Europe” with the brand new 1,3 litre petrol engine…

FCA is going from strength to strength, and it has developed a new generation of state of the art four cylinder petrol engines. We drove both versions of this supersmooth gem, the new four-cylinder 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine made at the FCA plant in Melfi, in the Italian region of Basilicata. It is part of the new FCA Global Small Engine family, launched in mid-2018 on the Jeep Renegade. The two versions are a 130 hp unit paired with a six-speed manual transmission and 150 hp mated to a six-speed Dual Dry Clutch Transmission (DDCT) – both with front-wheel drive.

But not only the engines, also the Jeep Compass itself is now built in Europe, at the same FCA plant in Melfi to serve Italian and European customers. This marks a further step in the implementation of FCA’s 5 billion Euro investment plan for Italy.

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Velvet power…

To admit you right away, we were very impressed. Utterly smooth and flexible, these engines offered silent, totally vibration free and effortless propulsion, and my co-driver, himself a very experienced and knowledgeable car journalist, thought the first 10 kilometers through town and motorway that we were driving…on E-power! He was under the impression we were underway with the celebrated 4xe version. Needless to say that we look forward to have a presentation and drive in this plug-in hybrid version soon…

We just tell you here that the 4xe models (featuring plug-in hybrid electric technology) will be available 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. These will arrive in European showrooms in the second half of this year. Both these 4xe versions will be four-wheel drive only.

But as said, the 150 HP with the DDCT transmission is a very smooth companion. Consumption is quite good too: we clocked on the briskly driven test route on winding roads and dense Brussels town traffic an average of 7,2 l/100 km.

This is the first application of an automatic transmission in combination with front-wheel drive on Compass, and will make it more accessible to new customers in the C-SUV segment (sales of 4×2 automatics currently account for 28% of the market in Europe). The new 1-3-litre petrol engine complies with Euro 6D Final standards and features a GPF filter (Gasoline Particulate Filter).

For Compass, the 1.3-litre petrol engine has been updated with specific turbo-matching, which maximizes the engine response at low engine speed and reduces CO2 emissions by up to 27%. The new engine also optimizes fuel consumption by up to 30% (WLTP cycle) compared to the previous petrol 4×4 versions with automatic transmission.

For more sporting souls, it has something special in store: in combination with the new 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine and DDCT automatic transmission, this Compass also features for the first time a ‘Sport’ driving mode that can be selected with the push of a button in the center console. It tightens up the steering, sharpens the throttle response and adjusts the transmission’s behavior through higher upshifts for full horsepower and torque delivery. In addition, in Sport mode, the ’sailing‘ function is blocked and the ’fast-off‘ mode is activated. When the accelerator is released, this prevents switching to a higher gear.

From our lunch destination in downtown Brussels, at the excellent Italian Restaurant Osteria/Pizzeria Fico, we drove back to FCA Motor Village at Meiser in the manual version, and were impressed again by the smoothness, the excellent pulling power and flexibility of this very silent engine, making dense town driving a breeze.

Of course, Diesel enthusiasts are not left in the cold. An updated version of the 120 hp 1.6-litre MultiJet II diesel engine with SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction) is also on the cards. New features include the new Uconnect Services for improved on-board and off-board connectivity, new styling cues such as six different wheel designs (one specific for each trim and exclusive 19-inch Gloss Black wheels for the Night Eagle model) and a new color palette with five new exterior paints: Ivory Tri-Coat, Colorado Red, Blue Italia, Blue Shade and Techno Green Metallic – all of which can be offered in combination with a black roof. The new tonneau cover is also available on all versions.

The Jeep Compass made in Melfi offers a full line-up of five trim levels – Sport, Longitude, Night Eagle, Limited and S (depending on the market).

This Compass we drove for you here is in the showrooms at the moment of writing, i.e. September 2020.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The new Mercedes-Benz S-Class: four wheeled luxury reinvented…

Mercedes-Benz S-Class, in hightech silver

A new S-Class redefines the benchmark of luxurious motoring. This time, the high-tech innovations are centered around driver and passengers. We name a few of them: The second generation of MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) débuts in the new S-Class. Not less than five(!) screens are installed. New 3D driver display for the first time allows spatial perception of the scene with a real 3D effect thanks to eye-tracking. There is also a very large head-up display with augmented reality content. When navigating, for example, animated turn-off arrows (“fishbones”) are virtually and precisely projected onto the road lane.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class interior: leather siena brown

Using cameras in the overhead control panel and learning algorithms, MBUX Interior Assist recognizes and anticipates the wishes and intentions of the occupants. It does this by interpreting head direction, hand movements and body language, and responds with corresponding vehicle functions. For example, if the driver looks over his/her shoulder towards the rear window, Interior Assist automatically opens the sunblind.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class, interior: leather siena brown

The active ambient lighting with around 250 LEDs is now integrated into the driving assistance systems, and is able to reinforce their warnings visually.

The latest generation of the Driving Assistance Package has new and numerous improved functions. One example is the intelligent compliance with speed limits.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class, exterior: hightech silver

The new S-Class is also easy to manoeuver:  Thanks to rear-axle steering (optional), the S-Class is as manoeuvrable as a compact car in the city. The steering angle at the rear axle is up to ten degrees. The turning circle is reduced by up to two metres.(!)

Mercedes-Benz S-Class DIGITAL LIGHT

More than 50 electronic components in the new S-Class can be updated with new software over-the-air (OTA). These include the entire MBUX infotainment system, the driver display, the driving assistance systems and the MULTIBEAM LED and DIGITAL LIGHT lighting systems. You don’t need to visit your dealer for this anymore…

The S-Class is also safer than ever. When a side impact with another vehicle threatens, the vehicle body can be raised by the E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL suspension (optional) within a few tenths of a second.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class, interior: leather nappa black/carmin red

It is expected that from the second half of 2021 the S-Class will be able to drive in conditionally automated mode with the new DRIVE PILOT (optional extra), in situations where traffic density is high or in tailbacks, on suitable motorway sections …in Germany.

The revolutionary headlamp technology DIGITAL LIGHT (optional extra) 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.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class, exterior: hightech silver

When the new S-Class is launched, six-cylinder in-line petrol and diesel engines in various output classes will be available, with a V8 engine with integrated starter generator (ISG) and a 48-volt onboard electrical system to follow shortly afterwards. A plug-in hybrid with an all-electric range of around 100 km will follow in 2021.

Of course, books can be written about this new S-Class; We will in the near future, describe some of these new technical and electronic breakthroughs in more detail…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

New Kia Sorento PHEV revealed…

In the premium SUV market, Kia shows its mettle. Alongside the Sorento Hybrid, here comes the plug-in hybrid version, combining the 13.8 kWh battery pack and 66.9 kW electric motor with 1.6-litre T-GDi engine and six-speed automatic. Besides all the power and eco-friendliness, it should be remembered that the fourth-generation Sorento has an innovative platform designed from the outset to accommodate electrified powertrains.

This means generous cabin and luggage space and both five- and seven-seat layouts. These new generation electrifieds are popular: In the first half of 2020, electrified models – including mild-hybrid, parallel hybrid, battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles – accounted for around one in four of all Kia vehicles sold in Europe.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Clean power

The PHEV Sorento boasts the 1.6-litre T-GDi (turbocharged gasoline direct injection) engine, which, on its own, produces up to 180 ps and 265 Nm torque.

The engine is paired with a high-capacity 13.8 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack and an electric motor which produces 66.9 kW and 304 Nm torque.

Combined, these powertrain components enable the Sorento Plug-in Hybrid’s powertrain to produce up to 265 ps and 350 Nm torque. More than enough here. Power is sent to all four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. The transmission allows the full power of the engine and motor to be transferred in parallel.

The new model represents Kia’s first use of an independent battery pack water-cooling system in a PHEV, ensuring optimal heat management and efficiency for the high-voltage battery pack. For the 66.9 kW electric motor, the rotor benefits from a new two-stage lamination process to reduce noise and vibration levels.

The engine features Kia’s latest ‘Smartstream’ innovations, including Continuously Variable Valve Duration technology, which regulates the duration that the intake valves open and close depending on driving conditions.

Practical

The dedicated platform also offers plenty of cargo space: up to 809 litres (for seven-seat models) or 898 litres (five-seat models) with two rows of seats in place. In seven-seat models, with all seven seats in place, boot space is 175 litres (compared to 179 litres for its Hybrid counterpart).

Visually, Sorento Plug-in Hybrid models retain the same modern exterior design as other variants in the line-up, with ‘eco plug-in’ badges and a charging port on the rear quarters standing out as the only points of differentiation.

Inside, the cabin also remains largely unchanged, although the 12.3-inch fully-digital instrument cluster is redesigned, with new graphics and dials to provide drivers with a clear picture of the powertrain’s status. It enables drivers to keep track of the battery’s state of charge, as well as the flow of electric and gasoline power through the powertrain. The 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system also features new functionality to enable drivers to easily locate vehicle charging points on-the-go.

Premium infotainment tech and driving aids…

The touchscreen infotainment system enables full, seamless smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™. A powerful 12-speaker BOSE® surround-sound audio system is also available, delivering a more immersive sound to all passengers, as well as a cabin Mood Lighting system, with up to 64 colours for users to choose from.

The Sorento Plug-in Hybrid offers a range of Kia’s Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), such as Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA) technology with pedestrian, cyclist and vehicle detection and FCA Junction, which detects vehicles at junctions when turning; Blind-Spot View Monitor (BVM); Surround View Monitor (SVM) and Blind-spot Collision-Avoidance Assist (BCA); Intelligent Speed Limit Assist (ISLA); Smart Cruise Control with Stop&Go (SCC) and Navigation-based SCC (NSCC), and so much more. It even helps you with parking in tight spaces…

We are eagerly awaiting a first drive with this new Kia Flagship. In the meantime, here are some photos…

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

Abarth launches two limited series of its iconic 595…

The Abarth Monster Energy Yamaha…

Abarth grabs our car lover’s heart once again this autumn: it presents two new special limited-edition series of the iconic 595 – with only 2,000 units of each to be produced, which embody the duality of its soul: “Style” and “Performance”.

The first is the Abarth 595 Scorpioneoro, featuring elegant black livery embellished with golden details and unique content, making it a genuine “collector’s item”. 

The second one is also adrenaline-packed: it is the Abarth 595 Monster Energy Yamaha, a limited edition to celebrate the partnership between the two brands, which already started in 2015. The livery and interiors are reminiscent of the colors of the YZR-M1 Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP 2020, complete with the “Monster claw” on the bonnet as a tribute to the new collaboration with the renowned energy drink.

The two special series will be unveiled to the international media on September 18 at a virtual press conference. Read below more about both cars, but stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Abarth 595 Scorpioneoro pays tribute to the exclusive A112 Abarth “Gold Ring”, better known to fans as the A112 Abarth “Targa Oro”. But instead of the original 70 HP, it has 165 HP “paw the ground”, delivering a power-to-weight ratio of 6.5 kg/HP and acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in a staggering 7.3 seconds. It is coupled to a mechanical transmission, but the sequential box is also to be had as an option.

The special Abarth 595 Scorpioneoro bears a numbered plate in its cockpit. The new special series features exclusive details. From the outside, it is recognizable by its black scorpion livery – available on request in Podium Blue, Racing White and Record Gray – and the matt black chessboard roof perfectly matches the “tar cold gray” finish of the handles, mirror caps, and the front and rear DAM.

To emphasize its coolness even further, this new special series includes golden details, such as the scorpion on the bonnet, the lining around its bodywork and the 17” “golden” alloy wheels or, on request, 17” “black” alloy wheels with the golden scorpion on the hubcap.

In the interior, the new Abarth “Scorpionflage” sports seats with black leather upholstery and back seat in technical material to better contain the body during the sportiest driving. On the front seat head restraints, embroidered “Scorpioneoro” lettering alongside the Italian flag and Abarth embroidery. The new seats combine with the Scorpion Black dashboard with matt black details, and with the gold plate on the central tunnel and personalized mats.

To top everything off, the Abarth 595 Scorpioneoro offers the best infotainment currently available: the 7″ HD UconnectTM system fitted with Apple CarPlay and Google Android AutoTM* – a fast platform with high definition monitor, GPS and DAB digital radio – as well as the sophisticated BeatsAudio™ system with overall output of 480 W and a 8-channel digital speaker including a cutting-edge equalization algorithm capable of reproducing the full sonic spectrum of a recording studio.

Last but not least, a special limited-edition chronograph watch has been created by Breil, dedicated to the new special Abarth 595 Scorpioneoro series, which includes an incision of the golden Scorpion logo.

The second special Abarth 595 Monster Energy Yamaha series is the perfect expression of the Scorpion and Yamaha brands’ shared values, rooted in performance, racing, technology and fun.

This partnership, started in 2015, is still going strong, based on its ability to overcome sporting and racing barriers by “going down into the streets” with many adrenaline-packed special series: the Abarth 595 Yamaha Factory Racing Edition (2015), the two-seater Abarth 695 biposto Yamaha Factory Racing Edition (2015), and finally, the Limited Edition Abarth 695 XSR Yamaha (2017). Today, the baton is handed to the new Abarth 595 Monster Energy Yamaha series.

Just look at the photos here, and indeed, just as you dear reader, we cannot wait to slide behind the wheel of these four wheeled sporting gems!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Audi presents new S3 Sportback and Sedan

Premium compact cars with sporting characters are a tradition at Audi. For more than 20 years now. It is indeed so long ago already that the first generation of the S3 series was born. Now it comes with ever more style and power. Its 2.0 TFSI engine produces 228 kW (310 PS) and 400 Nm (295.0 lb-ft) of torque. Enough to almost send you to the stars. It will accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds, and that puts it almost in the supercar league. This marvelous four cylinder is coupled to a seven-speed S tronic, and you are a master of the road thanks to the quattro drive with intelligent control. An S-specific sport suspension with optional damper control also enhances your driver’s talent. There are further highlights, just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The S3 Sedan in python yellow

Indeed, A number of other new features – including the operating concept, infotainment, and assist systems – round off the high-tech character of the S3 models.

Audi has introduced some new specific styling accents. The lower areas on the body sides are now curved inward – placing a stronger emphasis on the wheel arches. Of course, the S3 has now an even more distinct light signature: digital daytime running lights consist of a pixel array made up of 15 LED segments, ten of which form two vertical lines.

Detail Four exhausts to document the sporting note…

Aficionados will also like the large diffuser at the rear end and the four exhaust tailpipes…The new model is also slightly bigger. The Sportback and the Sedan are three centimeters (1.2 in) and four centimeters (1.6 in) longer respectively, while both models are three centimeters (1.2 in) wider. The interior offers greater shoulder room and elbow room. The luggage compartment of the S3 Sportback holds between 325 and 1,145 liters (11.5–40.4 cu ft) depending on the position of the rear bench seat, while the Sedan has a capacity of 370 liters (13.1 cu ft).

High-tech sportiness…

The engine has what it takes, and sports the Audi valvelift system (AVS) – which adjusts the lift of the intake valves when required. Top speed is electronically governed at 250 km/h. Via the Audi drive select system you can make the sound of the powerful four-cylinder turbo engine even crisper…

The hydraulic multi-plate clutch in front of the rear axle is fully variable and moves the power flow between the front and the back at will. It is managed by the modular dynamic handling control – a new system that closely links the quattro drive to the Electronic Stabilization Control (ESC) and the controlled dampers that are available optionally. Then valves control the oil flow in the dampers so that they adapt to the condition of the road, the driving situation, and the driver’s requests, reacting within a few thousandths of a second.

…also found in the cabin

Cockpit

There is a new, compact shifter for the seven-speed S tronic and decorative aluminum or carbon inlays whose design evokes the cut of the headlights. The cockpit is focused on the driver. The distinctive air vents form a single unit with the instrument cover. A 10.25-inch digital display is offered as standard. Alternatively, the Audi virtual cockpit and its “plus” version can be ordered. Both have a 12.3-inch diagonal, with the latter also offering three different screens. In the middle of the instrument panel is a 10.1-inch touch display embedded in a large black panel. It recognizes letters entered by hand and provides acoustic feedback. As an additional operating level, the infotainment can also be voice-controlled using natural language as standard. Audi also supplies a head-up display as an option.

A new generation of infotainment

The MMI operating concept of the new S3 models is powered by the third-generation modular infotainment platform (MIB 3). Its computing power is ten times higher than that of its predecessor, it performs all tasks relating to connectivity with LTE Advanced speed, and it has an integrated Wi-Fi hotspot.

Interior

Navigation offers predictions on the development of the traffic situation, high-resolution satellite images from Google Earth, and information about the traffic flow. Individual settings, such as frequently selected destinations or air conditioning preferences, can be stored in up to six user profiles.

…with clever Car to X features…

The Audi connect online services also include car-to-X services, which help with finding available parking spots on the roadside or allow the driver to surf the green wave by communicating with traffic lights in cities like Düsseldorf and Ingolstadt. Connectivity between the new Audi S3 and the user’s smartphone is free of charge via the myAudi app, as well as via Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and the Audi phone box – which links the device to the vehicle’s antenna and charges it inductively.

Last but not least the S3 is environmentally conscious with a combined fuel consumption in l/100 km of 7.4 liters and combined CO2 emissions in g/km: 170–169 for the sportback. For the S3 Sedan, the combined fuel consumption in l/100 km is  7.3–7.2 l with CO2 emissions at 166–165 g/km.

So you want a state of the art sporting mount? Then take a close look at this Audi S3, it offers you everything modern day driving can deliver…with tons of driving pleasure!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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