The new Fiat Ducato: giving European transport even better wheels…

There are splendid examples where the European economic market really pays off. Where manufacturers can develop and build commercial vehicles which are just ideal and fitting for our European roads, countries and economies.

Such a car is the Fiat Ducato. Since 1981 it has made its mark. And now it has grown into the European leader for the fifth year running, number one in terms of sales in 12 different countries. European vacation goers have put the Ducato since many years on top of their list.

A bestseller and a familiar face on our roads since 1981…

Indeed, it is the absolute leading vehicle serving as a base for motorhomes in Europe: approximately 3 in every 4 motorhomes sold are Fiat Ducato.

Success has its reasons. And for the new Ducato there are many. It is versatile, thanks to technical features, such as the payload, volume and axle loads, which are record-breaking among front-wheel drive vehicles, teamed with the most extensive choice of wheelbase, length and height variants.

The new Ducato has been perfected further. The engines are all 6D, even more efficient, eco-friendly and high-performing, with various fuel types – even down to the Ducato Natural Power methane-powered version – to the benefit of the environment. The new “9Speed” automatic transmission is also being launched. This is a latest-generation torque converter, capable of best exploiting all the engine’s torque points. It is the best transmission in its category in terms of weight. Last but not least, there is no shortage of the most advanced ADAS driving assist devices and a latest-generation infotainment system.

State of the art engines…

To tell you right away, all the Ducato 2,3 Diesels are industrial type engines, built exclusively for the very heavy work. The entire MultiJet 2 range now boasts a variable geometry compressor, for a smoother drive and the most flexible engine ever from the lowest speeds, with an ensuing reduction in consumption levels in the real usage cycle.

The new turbocharger, thanks to the electronic control, is in a position to adapt its fluid dynamics to the speed of the engine and to the driving style, to provide the right supercharging at all times. This is possible thanks to the implementation of a series of mobile blades situated along the radius of the turbine, which controls the flow of exhaust gas and consequently the speed and force of the compressor.

Access to the Ducato world begins with the 120 HP 2.3-litre MultiJet 2 engine at 2750 rpm with a maximum torque of 320 Nm at 1400 rpm, teamed with the manual gearbox, which improves power and torque by 10% compared to the previous 2.0-litre engine. The 140 HP 3500 rpm drive train constitutes the heart of the range, versatile and flexible with its 350 Nm torque (+9% compared to the 130 MultiJet) at just 1400 rpm, and available with both manual gearbox and the sophisticated “9Speed” nine-speed automatic transmission.

Environmentally-friendly construction and superior performance levels with the 160 HP at 3500 rpm, which distributes up to 400 Nm at 1500 rpm in the automatic transmission version. This power unit implements a specific engine shaft with oversized bearings, special pistons and a specific turbocharger, to the benefit of improved performance and engine durability. The top-end of the range boasts the 180 HP 2.3 MultiJet at 3500 rpm: a torque of 400 Nm with manual gearbox and 450 Nm – + 12% compared to the previous model – with the new nine-speed automatic transmission.

Last but not least there is the Natural Power variant with a 3000 cm3 single-fuel methane engine with 136 HP max power at 2730 rpm and a maximum torque of 350 Nm at 1500 rpm. It is part of a complete range of methane-powered commercial vehicles ranging from Car Derived Vans, to the Fiorino including the Doblò Short Wheelbase and the Long Wheelbase.

9 speed automatic…

The new transmission lets you choose between three driving modes, eco, normal and sport, and there are two operating modes, “D” and the so-called “Autostick” mode. The latter is activated by shifting the gear lever to the left, and then you have simply to put the lever backwards and forwards to change up or down. Ideal for tackling these steep hills under full load…

An EcoPack comes standard…

EcoPack includes the Start & Stop system, the smart alternator; the electronically-controlled fuel pump, which guarantees energy savings and greater combustion efficiency. Last but not least there is an ECO switch that supports the driver in saving fuel.

Top notch drive assist and infotainment…

As a professional vehicle befits, it offers a full range of driver assist systems: Blind spot assist (BSA), Rear Cross Path detection (RCP), Full brake control (FBC), alerting the driver and intervening by automatically triggering an emergency braking. Lane departure warning system (LDWS), Traffic sign recognition, High beam recognition, Rain and dusk sensor, Tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS).

Made a gripping presentation: from left to right, Luca Marengo, head of product marketing LCV EMEA, Davide Valzan, Head of Product Planning LCV EMEA and Stéphane Guigou, head of professional brand EMEA .

An interesting and clever feature is the Engine Idle Preset, which is designed to increase the engine’s minimum revs to power any additional electrical equipment installed on-board.

From the second half of the year, the Ducato MY2020 range will further extend the range of on-board infotainment systems. The new infotainment system is now available: with a 7-inch touchscreen by Mopar®, USB port and Radio DAB tuner and the possibility of specifying the dimensions of the vehicle and possibly trim version to provide indications that avoid streets which are not sufficiently wide or low passages. A real professional feature that addresses other professionals and motorhome drivers.

The new system includes the integration of Apple CarPlay and the compatibility with Android AutoTM.

Last but not least there are very clever and practical finance systems offered by the FCA Bank subsidiary Leasys, serving corporates, small and medium enterprises, self-employed professionals and retail customers.

We also include here a film of the whole presentation of the new Ducato Range made by Helena Menten, a young professional with a heart for greentech, with an educated passion for cars and commercial vehicles for trade and agricultural or “green” businesses, reporting amongst others regularly in Tractor Power (site www.tractorpower.eu) and GreenTech Power (site http://www.greentechpower.eu) . Just press the following link: https://www.facebook.com/www.tractorpower.eu/videos/324779675135070/?v=324779675135070

You can see your servant making a few interviews, and indeed this report will be followed soon by further information about the people behind the new Ducato, last but least the full electric version…

Stay posted for more!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Subaru Forester 2.0i: your companion in the woods of life…

The truth is now known to us all: to save our planet we need a lot more trees. We would add, we also need a good car to go with it: and this could very well be the clever and superbly built Subaru Forester…

It is a car which continues to surprise and amaze us. The engineering is top notch, it performs like a dream, has terrific 4WD, gets you wherever you want to go, in all seasons, in all circumstances and weather conditions, is indestructible and getting ever more frugal too.

We drove it for you, and here are our findings…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Subaru Forester 2.0i: your companion in the woods of life…”

We drove the Toyota Corolla hybrid: green power for millions

Toyota and Lexus are friends of the earth since decades. They offer E power in hybrid form across their whole range now, and this started already back in 1997 with the Prius, a car which has been a star on Californian (and many other) roads worldwide ever since.

The hybrid drivetrain of this car is nothing short of a stroke of genius, and therefore hardly surprising that it is also seen on the Lexus range. Faithful readers know that I am the happy owner of a Lexus CT 200h, a car which is running around with an average consumption between 3.9 and 4.6 litres/100 km.

The subject of this test is also to find out whether the continuously further developed hybrid system brings further gains in efficiency compared to my faithful Lexus.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Toyota Corolla hybrid: green power for millions”

Fiat Professional surprises the commercial vehicle world with an all electric Ducato…

Domenico Gostoli, Head of Fiat Professional Electrification Programs, presented the E-Ducato in Turin…

At the presentation of the new Ducato MY2020, Fiat Professional brand gave the world its very first glimpse of the Ducato Electric – an all-electric BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) version – which will go on sale during 2020 and team up with the natural gas Ducato Natural Power to complete the alternative fuel offering.

In conceiving and developing the Ducato electric, the 2 person team responsible for the project, led by Domenico Gostoli, Head of Fiat Professional Electrification Programs with Angelica Carapezza managing and coordinating the implementation of such electrification programs, started with a “bottom up”, client-based approach, and focused first on building up a database with a specific, detailed study of customers’ real use of their vehicles, which involved a year of data gathering.

This confirmed that more than 25% of the market already has a “BEV Attitude” in terms of use, routes, dynamics and performances, and is therefore ready and waiting for a mobility change.

Indeed, professionals working in specific business areas are keen to adopt E-technology, considering the growth in online commerce, postal and courier services, home ready-to-eat food deliveries, hub-spoke local transport, and the widespread need to ensure access to city centres, with their ever-increasing traffic restrictions on conventional fuel vehicles.

Finding the ideal use pattern of a Ducato Electric van is supported by pro-active cooperation with the customer, through Pilot Projects involving some large industry players, to fully exploit all their knowledge base, and identify all specific use demands to be borne in mind during individual customisation and configuration for every application.

The image here shows the unique approach of these structured pilot projects with customers. It first involves sitting down with the customer to evaluate his delivery mission, gathering the field data, which are then analysed and further structured in a logistical pattern. Real BEV data are then analysed and put in a computer simulation to establish a real profile of the specific energy demand of the customer from his vehicle. This is then followed by recommendations for the final vehicle configuration, the necessary charging infrastructures and the use of the customer.

With this approach, Fiat Professional intends to offer complete electric mobility solutions, based on the study of energy needs, able not only to cover every single mission but also to offer solutions ranging from vehicles to infrastructures, not forgetting any aspect of the whole world of services increasingly required by today’s new, constantly evolving mobility scenarios.

So as well as offering a complete range of versions, Ducato Electric will also feature modular battery size options, with range from 220 to 360 km (NEDC cycle) and different charging configurations . All combined with impressive performances: speed limited to 100 km/h to optimise energy use, maximum power of 90 kW and maximum torque of 280 Nm.

What’s more, the new electric powerplant does not penalise Ducato’s strong point: best-in-class load volumes from 10 to 17 m3, and a payload of up to 1,950 kg, the best in its category.

We made extensive interviews with the two managers behind the project, which is a cornerstone in the transition we see nowadays from the traditional “choice of vehicle” to a “choice of mobility”.  Indeed, in the present day business environment, Total Cost of Mobility determines now your purchase decision, instead of Total Cost of Ownership…

More on the new Ducato range and the series of video interviews – done with the kind assistance of Helena Menten – of the inspiring people of Fiat Professional soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Mercedes C-Class 200d: a bestseller enters the digital age…

Never change a winning team, the saying goes. At the house of the good star, people know this all too well. So the Mercedes engineers and production specialists hone their cars to perfection, and bring them to top quality over the years. Such a car is the bestseller of the Mercedes range, the C-Class. It is entering its fifth year in production and the design of the exterior and interior benefits from a makeover. The electronic architecture is completely new. The customer now enjoys an optionally fully digital instrument display, combined with state of the art multimedia systems.  The assistance systems are now at the level of the S‑Class, no less. New petrol engines and state of the art Diesel engine(s) combined with hybrid propulsion are now also on the cards. Soon we will present these new drivetrain versions to you, but here we drove the more “classic” 1,6 litre 160 HP Diesel, mated to a six speed manual. And a part of the future had arrived nonetheless: our test car was equipped with the full digital instrumentation…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A new face

The elegant, classic lines of the C-Class have been cautiously improved, notably the front bumpers have been redesigned for all lines. In combination with AVANTGARDE exterior of our test car, this now features a chrome-plated trim strip.

The C-Class comes standard also with halogen headlamps, which incorporate LED daytime running lamps. LED High Performance headlamps are optionally available. Also for the first time in this model series, MULTIBEAM LED headlamps with ULTRA RANGE high beam are additionally available. The colour palette has been broadened by the addition of Mojave silver metallic and emerald green metallic for Saloon and Estate. Our test car had the Mojave silver metallic, and as the photos show, this suited it rather well…

And enhanced interior

In the cabin, the optionally available full digital display takes centre stage. It has three visually distinguishable styles “Classic”, “Sport” and “Progressive”. Basically, we liked the “Sport” display best. Alongside certain menu items such as trip data or consumption figures, the driver can now additionally view the navigation display data or the ECO display in the instrument cluster. In combination with Audio 20, a high-resolution central display in 16:9 format is available for the first time, with a 10.25-inch screen diagonal.

The C-Class has now touch-sensitive controls in the steering wheel. They respond to swiping motions like the screen of a smartphone, and the buttons remember your old Samsung or Blackberry.

The advantage is that you can control the functions of the instrument cluster and the entire infotainment system without having to take their hands off the steering wheel. DISTRONIC and cruise control are now also operated with controls directly on the steering wheel.

The infotainment system can also be operated via the touchpad in the centre console with the controller, which has a haptic feedback, or by means of LINGUATRONIC voice control.

A (long distance) driver’s car

A comfortable workhorse, that is how we would define this C-Class. It is built to serve you, to get you in comfort and safety from A to B, for years on end.

Driving a “classic” Mercedes sedan is always a unique experience, typical for the brand, we would say. The seats are built to withstand the test of time, firm but relaxing and comfortable; all the controls are judiciously placed and ideal for intensive, everyday no-nonsense use.

The dashboard layout and styling emphasizes the quality “feel” of the whole car, the superb overall finish truly impresses.

Pushing the starting knob, the 1,6 litre Diesel jumps faithfully to life. Supersmooth, with all the characteristics of sound diesel: lots of zest and pulling power, hardly any need to rev it up, made for frugal transportation in all circumstances. Coupled to a six speed manual gearbox, it couldn’t be more classic here.

The gearing of the box is quite high, and third gear is just slightly too high for cruising at the now frequent legal urban 30 km/h limit, forcing you to potter around in second, which on the other hand gives you of course rather more power to respond to unforeseen situations. As we said, torque is quite healthy with 360 Nm being available between 1600-2600 rpm. Just give that turbo the change to build up power, and that’s why you shouldn’t stay in third in slow urban traffic. 

With the turbo on song, it is all quite lively. In-gear accelerations are impressive, as the 0 to 100 km/h sprint also clearly shows: it is absolved in 8,5 seconds.  Mind you, there is a drivers’ mode selection, and when you select dynamic, things really start to happen…

This C –Class is built for speed, and indeed, this Mercedes is also a true master on the Autobahn. Top speed is not less than 226 km/h. Wind and road noise, drivetrain, you name it, everything is suppressed, and Gran Turismo driving is in this sedan a very effortless and soothing affair.

The high gearing and efficiency of this Diesel make this C-Class chalk up very impressive consumption figures. It was no trouble at all to stay between 5 and 6 liters/100 km during our test, and even closer to five l/100 km on average. The manufacturer quotes a combined consumption between 4.1-4.5 l/100 km. CO2 emissions are quoted between 108-118 g/km.

This economy is of course a formidable forte of this C-Class Diesel.

Handling and comfort are top of the range, and here the vast experience of a long standing manufacturing of premium sedans truly shows.  

Besides comfort, passive and active safety have always been top priority.

 The new C-Class now comes with extended Active Brake Assist as standard. Depending on the situation, this can help to mitigate the consequences of rear-end collisions with slow-moving, stopping or stationary vehicles ahead, and even with crossing pedestrians and cyclists, or prevent them altogether.

Audio comfort and entertainment too…

The C-Class comes as standard with the Audio 20 multimedia system featuring two USB ports, an SD card reader, Bluetooth connection and media interface. So you are well entertained in your Merc, and one is just as spoilt as the drivers of the larger models.

Conclusion

This Mercedes embodies all the legendary and outstanding qualities of the brand. High build quality, comfort, performance, economy and durability. All this packed in a well styled body with timelessly good proportions, offering adequate room for five.

Its safety, both active and passive, as well as the massive array of (optional) driving aids make it a very wise and safe choice. We are keen to drive for you the larger petrol engine and diesel versions, try out the automatic and enjoy the further comfort and safety options Mercedes has in store for this car. But already in the tested version, this C-Class proved impressive indeed…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Driving the Fiat Tipo to Deauville: a voyage in comfort and panache…

A swift Gran Turismo drive to an iconic destination: Deauville/Trouville, the beach town of artists and celebrities…

Testing the very good looking Fiat Tipo SW, we were invited to have a drive in it to Trouville-sur-Mer, a stone throw to Deauville, and have a stay at the Les Cures Marines Trouville Hotel Spa & Thalasso, where we had the opportunity to see and drive the brand new and good looking Tipo Sport version. More on this Sport version soon, we show you here some photos and impressions about the drive, the hotel and the beautiful Normandy coast…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Tipo Station Wagon we drove proved an excellent companion on this more than 400 km long trip from Brussels to Trouville-sur-Mer. The 120 HP 1,6 litre Multijet II Diesel delivers magnificent pulling power: its 120 HP are already available at 3750 rpm, and has an impressive torque of 320 Nm at merely 1750 rpm. It is coupled in our test car to the smooth 6 speed DCT transmission, and this combination is just magnificent for fast, effortless motorway driving. It picks up speed in swiftly after the numerous “péages” and holds the 130 km/h cruising speed in total silence and with very good economy indeed, which hovered during the trip at around 5,3 liters/100 km.

On the trip itself, one of the spectacular spots is of course the bridge of Tancarville, crossing the estuary of the Seine near Le Havre.

No need whatsoever to intervene with the gearbox lever on the narrow Normandy winding roads and frequent roundabouts and crossings, when we approaching Honfleur and Deauville. Just leave it in “D” and the powerful engine does the rest. The official performance figures amply show that this is an ideal companion on your Gran Turismo voyages: 0 to 100 km/h is reached in 10,4 seconds and top speed is 200 km/h, which lets you mix in with the superfast GT’s, if need be. We were just pleased with the absence of wind noise at cruising speeds, the excellent comfort of seats and suspension, the very good overall stability.

More about the car soon in a test report, we just show you here the pleasing looking SW at its arrival in Normandy and at the Hotel.

Trouville itself has style. French literary giants, Flaubert and Proust were here to be found. As to Monet and his Norman master, Boudin, they painted memorable scenes of 19th century bourgeois in their finery promenading along the broad beachfront here. In fact, Trouville was one of the first-ever coastal resorts to be developed in France. Artists may have started the trend for coming here, but by the time of Emperor Napoleon III, from the mid 19th century on, the rich and fashionable flocked to Trouville too. They ordered grand villas and palaces of entertainment, like the impressive casino.

Trouville casino was built surprisingly close to the lively fishing port, backed by a classic covered fish market, with lively seafood restaurants all around. Scallops, sole, prawns and mackerel are traditional specialities.

Marguerite Duras, perhaps France’s most famous female writer of the 20th century, was a great cultural figure who became a devotee of Trouville, spending her summers here.

She said that everyone she had ever met who had come to the resort for a first time said they dreamt of returning.

The hotel, Les Cures Marines Trouville Hotel Spa & Thalasso, breathes the atmosphere of elegant yesterday. It is nestled in the right wing of the Casino in the heart of Trouville.

Inspired by the first seawater baths, the Cures Marines Institute revives its visitors with the comforts of a magical renovation project, overseen by Monuments Historiques and the expertise of the MGallery and Thalassa Sea & Spa from the Accorhotels group, retaining style of palaces from the beginning of last century.

We just show you here some photos, and remember fondly the place and the car…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The New Jeep® Renegade Plug-In Hybrid: on E-power now at Parco del Valentino…

A beautiful Turin setting was chosen for the first international on-road debut of Jeep’s both the new Hybrid Plug-Ins (PHEVs), the new Jeep Renegade and Jeep Compass.

Indeed, at the the Salone dell’Auto in Turin, the new SUV will set off from Piazza Vittorio Veneto and parade around the city centre circuit, giving spectators a chance to realise how quiet it really is.

Both Renegade and Compass have CO2 emissions below 50g/km, and are both fitted with plug-in hybrid propulsion systems. Batteries can be recharged by the internal combustion engine or from an external power outlet.

They have a pure electric range of approximately 50 kilometres and about 130 km/h full electric top speed for both Renegade and Compass. The electric units work in synergy with the new 1.3-litre turbo petrol engines. There is ample power: the combined action of the two propulsion systems, internal combustion and electric, produces up to 240 hp.

The off-road talents of hybrid propulsion

Thanks to the high torque of the electric motor and the ability to adjust it with extreme precision during take-off and while driving on the most challenging terrain, off road behaviour is further improved.

Thanks to the new electric all-wheel-drive technology (eAWD), traction to the rear axle is not provided by a prop shaft but through a dedicated electric motor. This allows the two axles to be separated and to control the torque independently in a more effective way than a mechanical system. We cannot wait to collect driving impressions for you soon…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Subaru Outback 2.5i-X CVT: there is a genius out there…

New grille and headlights distinguish the latest Outback…

Some cars are bursting of ingenuity, hiding their technical marvels under the bonnet. You only discover it as you drive them. All Subaru’s are such cars, and this Outback proved this to us, once again…

Indeed, this Outback is a connoisseur’s car. What to think of a marvellous double overhead cam boxer, 175 hp strong, with a power to litre ratio of 70 HP? This is more than the legendary 2 litre 1963 356B Porsche Carrera GS, which pumped out 130bhp at 6,200rpm of its 1,966cc DOHC Flat 4-Cylinder Engine, fed with Dual Solex 40PII-4 Downdraft Carburettors… and the 1965 Porsche 911 for that matter.  

But that is far from all. This Outback has a supersmooth CVT transmission and permanent AWD, boasting excellent off-road talents. It also proves to be a practical, sturdy companion.

Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Pleasing looks

The styling people of Subaru are this time making their sums right, and indeed struck very elegant proportions and curves in designing this SUV. Just look at the photos and you will agree. This Outback looks good from any angle, and we met with many admiring looks and comments during our test. The new bumper and grille mark this latest version, and new headlights, which now actively track in the direction of a turn to enhance visibility. LED light is now available, as well as High Beam Assist, which  can automatically switch the headlights between the high and low settings when an oncoming vehicle is detected, enhancing safety for both you and other drivers on the road.

The same can be said of the cabin, with everything very logically in place, and with seats and steering wheel being easily adjustable, we found the correct seating position in a breeze. A 10-way adjustable power driver’s seat with 2-position memory function and 4-way power front passenger seat help make you find that good position. Infotainment and navigation are totally new, but logical and self explaining, and soon we were on our way. Apple Car Play and Android Auto are built in standard, so you can enjoy navigation with your connected smart phone.

But the Salon version we drove has an in-built navigation system which uses Tom-Tom based maps. The seating position is pleasantly high, and does not give a way much here in comparison to the Subaru SUV Forester. New ventilation vents and new and simpler commands for the climate control distinguish the newer version.

Refinement

Mechanical refinement is one of the hallmarks of this Outback. Push the starting knob, slide the handle in “D” and off you go. Boxer engines are vibrationless, and we truly enjoy this. The CVT transmission has infinite ratios, so there are no jerks or rev changes when accelerating.

Soon you learn to lift the accelerator early when accelerating smoothly, so the CVT chooses immediately the highest possible ratio, and this allows you to cruise at the legal urban speeds at close to tickover speeds, say 1000 rpm or so. Needless to say that this will dramatically reduce urban fuel consumption, which we maintained between 7 and 8 liters, driving with some restraint. The manufacturer quotes a combined consumption of 7,3 liters/100 km, and  CO2 emission(s) of 166 g/km. We must admit that Subaru did a very good job here in reducing fuel consumption further. We point out here too that the CVT transmission, which had hitherto 6 electronically controlled ratios you could choose from, now has an electronic seventh (very) high ratio, which again enhances economy.

 The Subaru is quite responsive when you push the throttle deeper, and the fact that the CVT will choose the right ratio for optimum pulling power results in excellent agility and will get you out of any traffic situation if needed. Performance is more than adequate, with a 0 to 100 km/h time of 10,2 seconds and a top speed of 198 km/h.

Spacious…

The Outback is quite roomy, and will seat comfortably two adults in the back, which enjoy plenty of head- and legroom. Three baby seats can easily be fitted on the back seat, and in the back there are also two USB charging points provided. The Subaru offers also lots of luggage space, with a minimum volume of 559 liters and 1848 liters with the backrests fully folded down.   

X-Mode will make you an expert off-road

Pleasant handling and versatile off-road with lots of pulling power…

New shocks make the Outback more comfortable, body roll is better contained, and this Outback does not protest at all when driven in a spirited manner. This Outback has Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) with Active Torque Vectoring which helps provide sharper, more stable handling. It automatically senses steering and braking inputs to help keep the vehicle on the driver’s intended path. It really works!

Never forget, it has 8,7 inch ground clearance, and performs very well on terrain. It has standard X-MODE, which optimizes the Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system for maximum traction. X-MODE also incorporates Hill Descent Control for stability and confidence when descending more difficult grades.

It is also ideal for pulling that horse trailer, and can indeed tow up to 2.000 kg.

…and safe with EyeSight 3.0.

The confidence of EyeSight is now a standard feature on the Outback. This advanced safety technology monitors traffic movement, optimizes cruise control, and warns you when you’re swaying outside your lane. The Pre-Collision Braking feature can even apply full braking force, bringing you to a complete stop in emergency situations, reducing the rate of rear-end crashes with injuries by 85%. You have actually an extra set of eyes on the road…

Last but not least we have a word of praise for the Harman Kardon premium audio system in our test car, with 12 speakers and a 576-watt-equivalent amplifier.

A standard Rear-Vision Camera enhances rear visibility when backing up. Its display includes guidelines to help you see the vehicle’s path and judge distance to other objects. And with available Reverse Automatic Braking, your vehicle can even stop itself to avoid objects behind while in reverse.

We liked the fact that you had also a side view of the car on the split screen when manoeuvring, and could also put on the front camera when you want for better vision at the front end of the car.

Conclusion

This Subaru is a five star car: safety, reliability, boxer engines, excellent off road qualities with permanent 4WD, Eyesight 3.0, all this combined delivers indeed an outstanding vehicle, which is a dream to use everyday for all purposes of your busy (family) life.

In our country, the Subaru is rare and therefore rather exclusive, but keep in mind it is quite popular in the States and Japan, for all the good reasons. So we would conclude, have a (test) drive in one, and soon you will be a convinced follower…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove Jeep Power around the lake: the Grand Cherokee SRT and Trackhawk…

Driving the already legendary Grand Cherokee Trackhawk along the scenic villages around the beautiful Lago di Garda…

One of the absolute highlights of two days of Jeep driving amidst the beautiful scenery of the Italian Lago di Garda was a stint behind the wheel of the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk and the SRT. The Jeep® Grand Cherokee is the flagship of the Jeep brand and the most awarded SUV ever, and this gem of a car created the premium SUV category 27 years ago and with more than 6.4 million units sold since its introduction. More about this Jeep Grand Cherokee in its “normal” version(s) later, we focus here on the stunning Trackhawk and SRT versions.

Indeed, it had to happen, and the whole car world was actually expecting this: the more than 700 HP V8 of the Dodge Hellcat, the “muscle car” par excellence, was to be dropped in the engine bay of the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It all happened last year, and now we had the chance to drive it: the supercharged 6.2-litre HEMI® V-8 engine, delivering 710 hp at 6000 rpm, mated to an 8 speed automatic transmission. High-strength, forged-alloy pistons, powder-forged connecting rods and sodium-cooled exhaust valves all add to the power of the Supercharged 6.2L V8 engine. Do not expect a hissing monster though.

The massive V8 burbles smoothly through slow urban traffic through the villages around the Lago di Garda, and progress is silky smooth. Until you floor the throttle. Supercar acceleration is the instant answer, and the engine growls away. 0 to 100 km/h is reached in some 3,7 seconds, the top speed is 289 km/h, if you only dare.

The Drive Mode selector, and the “launch” mode at the push of a button.

Of course, good traction is provided for with all this power. A “Quadra-Trac” active on-demand four-wheel-drive system, which also includes a rear Electronic Limited Slip Differential (ELSD) and a single-speed active transfer case is at your disposal.

A 6,4 litre V8 Hemi in the SRT…

Not yet an expert in unleashing all this power and putting it “just right” on the tarmac? Good to know that there is a “Launch Control” on SRT® and Trackhawk® , which optimizes track performance by coordinating the engine, transmission, driveline and suspension for a textbook launch and consistent straight-line acceleration.

The traction management system has been specifically retuned for the Trackhawk and SRT versions as “Selec-Track.”  It features five vehicle setting – Auto, Sport, Track, Snow and Tow – to allow the driver to achieve the best driving experience on any surface.

Beautiful instrumentation with a centrally placed rev counter…

The suspension is of course well tuned to this extra power, as well as brakes, and the Grand Cherokee remains eminently drivable.

Don’t forget there is also the Bilstein® Adaptive Suspension system, which can adjust the dampers for sport or track performance if desired, while the rear Electronic Limited Slip Differential features a four-point axle mounting to better distribute the massive power to the wheels.

For the heavier terrain work, the Quadra-Lift air suspension system allows you to change the ride height of the Grand Cherokee up to a maximum ground clearance of 28 cm.

We were deeply impressed by its handling and ride when driven with more abandon, and how perfectly balanced the whole car was. The unique driving experience is further enhanced by excellent seats and instrumentation, with not only a beautiful central rev counter, but also a special “Performance Page” on the central touch screen, where you can see anything as time of your acceleration, G-Force, all engine data like oil temperature, etc.

We enjoyed also having a stint at the wheel of the more suave SRT. Not that on the urban scenic roads around the Lago, you could test fully the difference in performance compared to the Trackhawk. Under the hood of the SRT version growls the 6417 cc V8 Hemi, good for 344 kW or 468 HP @6250 rpm. The same 8 speed auto transmission as in the Trackhawk knows this engine also needs to be revved to reach all out performance, as maximum torque of 624 Nm is reached at 4100 rpm. Of course, also here the Launch Control  and the choice between five dynamic Drive Modes with the  Selec-Track® System, as described above.

We enjoyed the same beautiful well balanced handling, indeed an SUV which also truly stands out if you expect that extra performance. Using launch control, it will still be able to catapult you from 0 to 100 km/h in 4,9 seconds.

We just coloured this image in front of this old factory a bit more (fiery) red to enhance the Trackhawk spirit…

We let you enjoy the photos here, and we dream along with you about this unforgettable experience… and there is more Jeep news to come with driving impressions of the full range!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Opel Grandland X: a Crossover-SUV with some grand qualities…

We always had a weak spot for Opels for their willingness to perform, handle and drive with zest and ease. It leads many Opel owners to become enthused drivers, and appreciate their cars the longer they own and drive them.

Combine all these good dynamic qualities with their robustness, the quality of workmanship and materials used and you have a cocktail which is very much appreciated throughout Europe.

Of course, Opel also has embarked fully into the SUV trend, and has put some very interesting contenders on the road. We are driving for you here the Grandland X Flagship version, and were glad to rediscover again all the good Opel qualities…masterfully retained despite the fact that Opel and Peugeot have co-developed this mid-sized SUV-Crossover, and this even long before GM even considered getting rid of their German subsidiary.

Just read on!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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