We put the whole range of Jaguars and Land/Range Rovers through their paces…

Today we were invited by the people of Jaguar Land Rover Belux for a Jaguar Land Rover Media Drive at the magnificent establishment La Noiseraie , and it proved a wonderful experience. The whole range of Jaguars were driven on the scenic winding roads and motorways around Namur…with the exquisitely sporting SV R being the icing on the cake, although the hybrid and full electric Jaguars proved very impressive indeed.

The Land/Range Rovers were put to the ultimate off-road test at the Land Rover Experience Center at Suarlée.

We were also able of course to have a thorough go in our former test car we drove earlier, the New Defender, see also our test on these pages…

More on all this soon, we just show you here a few images, which say more than thousand words… just stay tuned on these columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Land Rover New Defender 90 P400: an icon reborn…

It is always tricky to restyle and re-engineer a classic icon. But the people of Land Rover have succeeded. And how: a thoroughly modern looking car that nevertheless retains all the iconic elements of the original Defender. Its tall, upright stance, its purposeful short overhangs, to name but a few. Technically, the New Defender truly belongs to a new era. Painstaking efforts have been made to retain and even improve the legendary terrain capabilities of the Defender, while vastly improving the on-road driving qualities. The level of handling, comfort and road manners have nothing to do any more with the original. This makes this New Defender again fit for another few decades, enough time to grow into another icon. We were already convinced after this test. Just read further.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Inspired by its past, but not harnessed by it…

These words were said by Gerry McGovern, Chief Design Officer, Land Rover, and it all sums it up just right. This is a new Defender for a New Age, he says, and we agree. The lines are clean, well proportioned. Besides the short wheelbased 90 and its hardtop version, there is also the 110, which offers five, six or 5+2 seating configurations, with a load space behind the second-row seats of up to 1,075-litres, and as much as 2,380-litres when the second row is folded. The Defender 90 is capable of accommodating six occupants in a vehicle the length of a compact family hatchback. It is aerodynamic too: it even has a flat underbody which both optimizes aerodynamic performance (as low as 0.38Cd).   

The stripped-back personality of the original Defender has also been embraced inside, where structural elements and fixings usually hidden from view have been exposed, with the emphasis on simplicity and practicality. New features include a dash-mounted gear shifter to accommodate an optional centre front ‘jump’ seat, which provides three-abreast seating across the front like early Land Rovers. The back of this ‘jump’ seat folds neatly forward, offering an immense centre console/armrest, and we just loved it.

Our test car came with the optional full-length Folding Fabric Roof – available on both 90 and 110 – for that open-top feel. There is even more: it also allows passengers in the second-row seats to stand up when parked to provide the full safari experience…

Strong and durable

Bystanders admiring the new Defender usually comment “we still like the old one for its robustness”. Well, they are wrong. Chassis engineering is now living in modern times. And the new Defender is the rolling proof of it.

Its new D7x (for extreme) architecture is based on a lightweight aluminium monocoque construction to create the stiffest body structure Land Rover has ever produced. It is three times stiffer than traditional body-on-frame designs, providing perfect foundations for the fully independent air or coil sprung suspension and supports the latest electrified powertrains.

Our test car had the air sprung suspension, and it is a superb experience, both on- and off road.

Outstanding both on- and off road…

This New Defender drives truly top notch on the road. Our test car proved with its air suspension superbly comfortable, and even spirited driving on winding roads delivered predictable handling with little body roll. Straight line motorway driving at high speeds is also what the New Defender is built for.

 In urban traffic and on terrain,  Land Rover’s advanced ClearSight Ground View technology helps drivers  by showing the area usually hidden by the bonnet, directly ahead of the front wheels, on the central touchscreen.

But also off road the Defender has what it takes to excel. Permanent all-wheel drive and a twin-speed automatic gearbox, centre differential and optional Active Locking Rear Differential ensure it has all the hardware required to feel at home in desert sand or (arctic) tundra.

“Configurable Terrain Response” debuts on New Defender, allowing experienced off-roaders to fine-tune individual vehicle settings to perfectly suit the conditions, while inexperienced drivers can let the system detect the most appropriate vehicle settings for the terrain, using the intelligent “Auto” function.

The new body architecture provides ground clearance of 291mm and world-class off-road geometry, giving the 110 approach, breakover and departure angles of 38, 28 and 40 degrees (Off-Road height) respectively. Its maximum wading depth of 900mm is supported by a new Wade programme in the Terrain Response 2 system, which ensures drivers can ford deep water with complete confidence.

Up-to-date power…

The New Defender offers a choice of advanced petrol and cleaner diesel engines,  while a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) powertrain provides silent EV-only progress of up to some 43 km.

The petrol line-up comprises a four-cylinder P300 and a powerful six-cylinder P400, featuring efficient Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle (MHEV) technology.

Our test car came with the P400, and indeed powerful it is.

This in-line six-cylinder Ingenium petrol, as said with MHEV technology, features both a conventional twin-scroll turbocharger and an advanced 48-volt electric supercharger, with a belt-integrated starter motor in place of the alternator to assist the petrol engine. Indeed, this starter motor ensures more responsive and refined operation of the Stop/Start system and provides extra assistance to the engine when accelerating.

The MHEV system also has a 48-volt lithium-ion battery to store energy captured as the vehicle slows down.

Driven with restraint, coupled with an ultra smooth 8 speed auto box, this six cylinder (how do we love the sound of straight sixes…) just hums along at anything between 1200 and 2000 rpm, letting you enjoy its impressive torque. It develops not less than 550 Nm over a wide rev range of 2000 to 5000 rpm. Push the throttle deeper and the Defender lifts its heels. Indeed, 400 PS or 295 kW between 5500 and 6500 rpm really make you move. The Defender storms from 0 to 100 km/h in 6 seconds, and its top speed is 191 km/h. This New Defender counts therefore among the fast cars on our roads, a truly outstanding feat.

Fuel consumption depends heavily on how you drive your Defender. Anything between 14,2 and 9 liters/100 km and even slightly less when you concentrate yourself on adopting a smooth and anticipative driving style, is what you can expect, even when driving in town. (!). The MHEV system helps here of course. The manufacturer quotes 9,6 l/100 km for the NEDC cycle, with CO2 emissions being 219 g.

We also note that your new Defender can tow up to 3500 kg (!).

State-of-the art infotainment…

The New Defender introduces Land Rover’s new “Pivi Pro” infotainment system. The touchscreen is intuitive and user-friendly, requiring few inputs to perform frequently used tasks, while its always-on design guarantees almost instant responses.

In addition, the New Defender takes Software-Over-The-Air (SOTA) technology to a new level, with 14 individual modules capable of receiving remote updates.

…and you can personalize your Defender

Like on our test car, a Satin Protective Film can be specified to make the exterior paintwork even more durable. The wrap helps protect against everything from car park scratches to bramble rash and is available as a factory-fit option in Gondwana Stone, Pangea Green and Eiger Grey, providing a unique contemporary finish as it protects the Defender’s paintwork.

In addition to the Accessory Packs, the New Defender is available with the widest choice of individual accessories ever assembled for a new Land Rover, with everything from a Remote Control Electric Winch, Rooftop Tent and Inflatable Waterproof Awnings to more conventional tow bar systems and roof racks.

Conclusion

This New Defender oozes with panache, with its clean body to its impressive, well styled interior, breathing uniquely the aura of our modern times, combining it with a reductionist styling language.

Technically, from chassis, suspension, drivetrain and engine(s), this new Defender is truly top notch. The result is formidable comfort and very good handling on the road, and masterful behavior and capabilities once you leave the beaten track.

The 400P provides excellent performance, and offers reasonable economy when you drive relaxed. A car for all seasons, for any road or place in the world. You will feel at home in it, everywhere you go.

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

We drove the Renault Captur E-Tech Plug-in Hybrid: the compact SUV which has it all…

Renault has now also introduced its clever E-Tech Hybrid system in its Captur range, showing clearly that besides full electric propulsion, the hybrid solution has certainly its firm place in the Renault drivetrain strategy.

Having driven also the Mégane GrandTour with the same E-Tech technology, we were again very pleased with the refined qualities of the system, which also makes very efficient use of both electric and classic combustion engined propulsion. Indeed, provided you adopt a relaxed driving style, this Captur will spoil you with a close to 50 km range on its batteries, and an average fuel consumption in hybrid mode with (almost) depleted batteries still well below 6 liters/100 km. Add to this the “Zen” feeling of electric driving – the Captur will always drive away on E-power – and you will understand that we loved testing this good looking SUV. Just read further.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Elegant

The Captur is well styled and proportioned, and pleases to the eye from any angle. A strong selling point, and now the Captur is further enhanced by the equally well designed led head- and rear lamps.

The cabin is also vastly improved, the level of finish and the quality of the materials used is now top notch. We just loved again the tall upright 10,25 inch touchscreen, the easy to manipulate round knobs for heating and ventilation, the Renault typical audio control, the quality of infotainment, the easy and self-explaining choice of the different driving modes. Apple Car Play and Android Auto connectivity are also to be had. The Captur is practical too, with large doorbins to stow away the things you take along on a car ride and an adequate luggage space with split floor to accomodate the charging cables. (Indeed, there is one for domestic plugs and one type 2 charging cable.) The Captur will also seat five without too many problems.

The E-Tech drivetrain convinces…

After the Mégane, the E-Tech system in the Captur convinced us again. It transforms the Captur in a comfortable, smooth, relaxed performer. As said, the fact that you will always drive away on the 67 HP electric motor adds greatly to the premium feeling this Captur gives you. The acceleration in those first meters is not only smooth, it is also quite powerful, and be sure that the Captur is a quite lively car at traffic lights.

At the beginning of our test, we managed to drive 44,5 km on battery power, with the rest of the distance, 60,6 km, driven in “My Sense” mode, using both engine and battery power. Average fuel consumption was 1,1 liter/100 km, E-consumption 14,4 kW/100 km.

The E-Tech system has three engines: one 1,6 litre Atkinson cycle 91 HP combustion engine, the 67 HP electric motor and then a smaller second electric motor which serves as starter motor for the combustion engine and generator. Acceleration is especially good at lower speeds, but the 0 to 100 km/h sprint is still quite creditable with a time of 10,1 seconds.

With batteries (almost empty, we drove a stretch of 95 km on the open road, using mostly the combustion engine, staying in the “my sense” mode. Fuel consumption was a very creditable 5,3 l/100 km.

Top speed is also a very satisfactory 174 km/h, which makes this Captur a quite potent motorway cruiser.

When asking full performance, the combustion engine will step in verve and will of course be pushed to high revs, but soon one learns to be sensitive with the right foot: a slight lift off of the throttle will induce the gearbox to choose a higher gear, and the engine revs will immediately drop. The E-Tech drivetrain, as well as the Captur, are built for comfort and a relaxed driving style, rewarding you, as we pointed out in our introduction, with very good efficiency, both in liters and KWh /100 km.

Choice between driving modes…

One can opt for the “Sports” mode which makes a performance oriented choice between the electric motors and engine, but most will choose the “My Sense” mode, as we did during most of our test, and the inboard computers will make the smooth and efficient choices for you. We also drove the Captur with the stylish gear lever put in “B” position, which increases the regenerative function when you lift the throttle, and soon enough you will be able to drive the Captur as a “one pedal” E-car in urban traffic. Then you can choose the “Pure” function, which lets the Captur run solely on E-power, and select the “E-Save” function or mode when you want to save battery power for later.

Needless to say that this Captur is very much fun to drive in town, but thanks to the 158 HP hybrid drivetrain it is also well at home on the open road, and this over long distances.

The Captur has a 9,8 kWh battery pack, which is housed under the rear seat, but the interior space is hardly impaired at all, and the rear seat bench can even be shifted back and forth to gain either legroom or luggage space.

The stylish gear selector sits on a “floating” console…

The extra weight of the batteries made a somewhat stiffer suspension necessary, but this did not make the Captur uncomfortable. Handling is also still quite pleasing, the car  can be driven spiritedly over winding roads, but this being said, it will not invite you to throw it around corners. As we said before, the true vocation of this Captur is relaxed and comfortable touring, and to enjoy the “Zen” panache of electrified motoring.

Conclusion

Renault stepped into the hybrid arena, and convincingly so. With the plug-in facility, you have literally the best of both worlds. In our country though, one needs a home charger. But then again, if no charging points are available, you have the pleasant possibility of running on fuel, and the Captur proves here to be quite frugal too. So this go anywhere anytime electrified pleasant looking compact SUV has many cards upon its sleeve…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Centro Stile Fiat and Abarth creates a stunning one-off based on the beautiful ‘60s Abarth 1000SP…

The slender original ’60s Abarth 1000 SP on the left, alongside the new one-off successor…

Sometimes, things happen which make the heart of a car enthusiast beat faster. Like an initiative taken by the people of the Centro Stile Fiat & Abarth.

They have now rolled out a contemporary interpretation of the superbly stylish and iconic Abarth prototipo Designed in 1966 by the Milan engineer Mario Colucci. Just look at the accompanying photo. Of course, we can only hope and pray that this will not limit itself to this one-off styling and engineering exercise.

A beautiful evocation of the purity of the original Abarth 1000SP…

The points and lines of the original car’s design were respected to ensure continuity between the ’60s sports car and the concept car of the new millennium.

The contemporary Abarth 1000 SP respects three fundamental design principles already seen in the ’60s model. First and foremost, the lightness of its forms, its volumes and of course its weight.

The second principle is aerodynamics: modern design technologies have made it possible to combine the iconic lines of the 1000 SP with an aerodynamic coefficient worthy of a contemporary sports car.

Finally, ergonomics, aimed at improving the user experience, to optimize the vehicle’s control and agile driveability.

A faithful evocation…

The Abarth 1000 SP echoes the lines and aesthetics characteristic of its forerunner. The sinuous body, with the soft surfaces of the fenders highlighting the position of the wheels, takes up the pattern of the spider with a central engine.

The cockpit glazing features shaped side deflectors, with their profile lowered towards the roll bar, the latter strictly “in view”, to highlight our being in the presence of a “no-holds-barred” spider.

Of course, today’s passive safety requirements make the car taller and more imposing…

The rear geometries of the Abarth 1000 SP accentuate the harmony between the lights and the exhaust pipes.

Of course, The livery is strictly red and the characteristic air intakes appear all over, from the front bonnet to the cooling slots in its rear counterpart. 

The headlights also follow the minimalist scheme of the historic 1000 SP, with point lights on the nose and a single pair of round headlights to accentuate the car’s remarkable breadth when seen from behind.

The present Abarth 1000 SP thus maintains a very similar identity to its forerunner’s, courtesy of the meticulous work to update the historic, no-holds-barred Abarth 1000 SP.

Despite modern safety requirements, the designers of Centro Stile managed to retain the character of the original…

Conversely, the tubular chassis under the “skin” of the historic Sport Prototipo gives way to a hybrid frame, with a central cell in carbon fiber and an aluminum front. The “new” Abarth 1000 SP features a powerful turbocharged 4-cylinder, 1742-cc central engine, capable of 240 hp. The sophisticated mechanics of the concept boasts overlapping triangle suspension in the front, with an advanced MacPherson strut at the rear.

We will tell you more about the original 1966 Abarth later, so stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel.

We drove the Renault Mégane Grandtour Plug-In Hybrid: high-tech versatility with a touch of French genius…

The elegant Mégane is now already a few years amongst us, and has conquered a solid place in its market segment.

A mid-term facelift was in the cards, and this time the facelift of the popular Mégane family was mostly technical, and saw the introduction of a plug-in hybrid version. Directly derived from its Formula 1 technology, its cleverness impressed us. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Changes found mainly under the hood…

Externally, the changes to the Mégane are mainly cosmetic, with revised head- and rear lamps, which are now LED-powered and have a new light signature.

There is a wider choice of (RS) trim line versions, and in the cabin the main news is the revised digital display in front of the driver to illustrate and control the functioning of this plug-in hybrid. Also all the heating/ventilation/airco commands are grouped together below the display on the central console, and the temperature can be set manually via ergonomic circular knobs.

But the main news is found under the hood. Renault opted for a sedate version of their double overhead cam 1,6 litre four cylinder, laid out with Atkinson cycle combustion for optimal efficiency. No turbo this time either, resulting in some 91 HP at 5600 rpm. Torque is 144 Nm at 3200 rpm, and this means this engine has to rev a bit to show its best. But then this petrol engine is further helped by two electric motors.

The main E-motor is good for 49 HP, and has an excellent 205 Nm of torque. This motor is always used when you drive away from standstill with this hybrid, with the petrol engine setting in later when more acceleration is wanted. Then there is a third starter/generator motor which develops 25 HP and 50 Nm of torque. Its function is also to match the rpm of the engine with the main electric motor, and to recuperate kinetic energy. Taking into account the power losses in the drivetrain, total system power is 160 HP.

This results in more than adequate performance, with 0 to 100 km/h being achieved in 9,8 seconds with a top speed of 185 km/h.

The automatic transmission operates with dog clutches, with both the petrol engine (5) and the main electric motor having several (3) gears, resulting in 15 gears in total.

The second electric motor will match the revs between itself and the petrol engine choosing the right gear combination. The matching is flawless, resulting in smooth, imperceptible changes. The engine will be kept in lower and middle rev ranges most of the time, even in the chosen “sport” mode. Only when using full kickdown, the transmission software will let the engine rev much high(er), which is only logical when full performance is required. Overall, the silence of the engine(s) and drivetrain seduces under more sedate driving conditions, although even under these circumstances brisk performance can certainly be enjoyed. But indeed, this Mégane E-TECH inspires you rather to a comfort-oriented driving style.

Technology derived from Formula 1 experience…

The adoption of ultra-efficient dog clutches for the transmission stems from Formula 1 technology. Only changes had to be smoother for everyday road use, and therefore the extra E-motor is used to seamlessly match revs between the main E-motor and the combustion engine and make smooth changes. This clever technology has been the subject of more than 150 patents…

All-electric for the daily commute…

The 400 volt Lithium-ion battery has a capacity of 9,8 Kw, enough for a useable range of up to 50km in combined cycle (WLTP) and up to 65km in urban cycle (WLTP). We managed indeed to drive a good 45 km between Drogenbos near Brussels, where we collected the test car, to our home town Antwerp on electric power only, albeit adopting a slower cruising speed of around 100/110 km/h on the motorway.

The E-TECH Mégane told us exactly what had happened during our first 67 km drive: distance travelled on E-power: 50,6 km, average fuel consumption: 1,1 l/100 km, average E-current use: 12,6 kWh /100 km. Recuperated energy 1,3 kWh.

Choice between three driving modes…

In the so called “Pure” mode, one drives 100% electric up to a top speed of 135 km/h. You can select also the “MySense” or “Sport” mode to take advantage of the E-SAVE function, always ensuring a minimum 40% battery charge. In both the MySense and Sport mode you enjoy regenerative braking, and when one drives with the necessary anticipation, the system will use the electric battery power again as long as the battery is charged above the set minimum threshold. This means than more often than not, you will still drive electric in urban start stop situations, and consumption will benefit accordingly.

Consumption: anything between zero and around eight litres/100 km…

The amount of fuel you consume depends entirely on the amount of electricity you use to drive  your Mégane. You charge it at home and office and commute some 30 km daily? Then your weekly fuel consumption is of course nil. Are you driving in “Sport” mode on a holiday to the South of France in one fast trip and you don’t want to bother recharging? Then it is good to know that this Mégane has the following stated consumption figures: 6.7/4.6/5.4 l/100km urban/extra-urban/combined. Of course, this Mégane will always start your journey all electric, until the batteries are depleted to the threshold level. Renault knows also that this car will have a reasonable consumption, and opted for a tank volume of only 39 litres.

An urban asset: the “B” mode.

Besides the obvious “D” position of your gearbox selector, you can push it one notch further to the “B” position.

Driving is now easier in the town or in slow-moving traffic with this “B” Mode. The electric motor will now regenerate the kinetic energy more intensely, resulting in increased engine braking. This allows for a one-pedal driving experience, meaning less brake pedal use, a more relaxing drive and better still, it helps preserve or even increase your battery range!

On the map display in your EASY LINK 9,3” touchscreen you can display the charging stations, and you can manage your battery level from your customisable 10.2” driver’s screen.

You can also install the MY Renault app to monitor your battery level, programme charging, or to pre-heat the passenger compartment of your MEGANE Sport Tourer E-TECH Plug-in Hybrid to the optimum temperature from your smartphone.

All in all, we found this E-Tech Plug-in Hybrid very pleasant and relaxing to drive, as we have a natural preference for a cool, fluent driving style, which is exactly what this Mégane seems to be built for.

French comfort

French cars, and also Renaults, are first of all built “pour vivre”, to please and serve you in everyday life. So they are comfortable and practical. Suspension, seats, commands, keyless entry, everything is engineered and perfected to make your daily life a pleasure. This is also what makes this car so endearing to us.

The Mégane also scores in its excellent ride, handling and comfort. The extra weight of about 200 kg, with the batteries sitting under the rear seat, made the engineers adopt a mulitlink rear suspension, so the handling stays top notch. The boot space remains unchanged also at 447 litres, with a neat underfloor space for the charging cables, so they don’t interfere with other luggage.

In the cabin, your led illumination stripes along door panels and centre console light up in electric blue, as do dashboard light accents, so you are well aware that you are driving in the electric age…

Conclusion

This good looking Mégane is superbly versatile, built for the future. Whatever our politicians have in store for us with emission free zones in our European (mega)cities, this Mégane is built for it and can cope. When the extra-urban charging infrastructure in Europe remains insufficient for some time to come, your mobility is nevertheless not impaired, ever.

It is built for the relaxed driving style which suits our congested roads and dense traffic anyway, offering good sound insulation, seating comfort and predictable handling on top of that. It is pleasant to live with, with well-designed amenities.

Renault made a clever throw at making the ideal all-round car for our present times, fit for whatever the future has in store for us. So it deserves a long hard look if you look for a replacement of your company or private car in the coming months…

We will soon test also the Captur in the same plug-in hybrid layout, and will also get acquainted with the all-electric ZOE… stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

We drove the Mercedes 400 G d: an icon which remains THE off-road technological benchmark…

The “G-Class” is with us since 1979, when in 1972 with a collaboration agreement between then Daimler-Benz AG and Steyr-Daimler-Puch in the Austrian city of Graz resulted in the development of an off-road vehicle which has since been honed and further developed in one of the world’s best off-road cars – ever. We drove the latest 400 G with the six cylinder in line 330 HP Diesel engine. As superb as it will ever be. Just read further!

An iconic shape…

All-wheel drive and 100-percent differential locks have also been part of the “G” since that time, as has the robust ladder-type frame. Also its external appearance has not changed significantly since 1979.

Iconic elements continue to serve very specific purposes, now as then, and to give the G-Class its unique appearance. All these are still found in the new G-Class: the distinctive door handle and the characteristic closing sound, the robust exterior protective strip, the exposed spare wheel on the rear door and the prominent indicator lights. We just loved them, as it was easy to judge were the edges of the car were.

The design of the G-Class follows the philosophy of “Sensual Purity”, as Mercedes puts it, and at the same time remains true to the character of the original. As a result, the door hinges positioned on the outside and the surface-mounted bonnet are carried over to the new generation. With the latest update, however, the faithful G body has grown quite a bit: it is now 53 mm longer and especially 121 mm wider and this results in even greater presence, on the road as well as in terrain.

All surfaces have a more taut design and are have more tension, while the surface quality has been taken to an even higher level. So the “G” is now cast even more of “one piece”, and the meticulous design results in wheel arches and bumpers now forming a more integral part of the body and thus looking less like add-on features.

Top notch exterior trims…

From 1 September 2020 onwards, the standard equipment is even more extensive. At the same time, there are also more personalization options available through the “G manufaktur” programme. New exterior colours and equipment packages as well as the widescreen cockpit, which now comes as standard, round out the offering. We will discuss the interior later.

The G 400 d is now also freely configurable…

Popular is the so-called “night package”, which was found on our test car. It comprises heat-insulating dark-tinted glass, outside mirror housings and radiator grille (including louvres with the surround of the Mercedes star) in obsidian black metallic, as well as darkened turn signal lamps, reversing lamps and headlamps.

If the G-Class is ordered with a matt magno paint finish, which was the case with our test car, the package can be configured as the Night Package magno. In this case, the corresponding add-on parts come in the colour night black magno. The Stainless Steel Package continues to be available with spare wheel cover, running boards, door sills and loading sill protection in stainless steel and adds a painted spare wheel ring and an exterior protective strip with trim insert in a pinstripe look to the Night Packages.

The new 20-inch 5-twin-spoke light-alloy wheel available exclusively for the AMG Line has a high-sheen finish and is painted in a choice of high-gloss black or himalaya grey. We liked them too…

The cabin: high-tech with a pleasant vintage touch…

Let’s start with the vintage part: the pleasant upright seating position, the magnificent visibility over this angular body. I own a vintage Suzuki Samurai Jeep, and although everything in the “G” is just much bigger, I find the same plain and flat window screen and the same straight windscreen wipers, for instance. Yes, above the glove box of my Samurai is also the big grab handle for the passenger, as found here in this G 400.

But that’s where every comparison ends. Because the digital MBUX (Mercedes Benz User Experience) has also now made its entry in the G-Class. The widescreen cockpit is now part of the standard equipment in all G-Class models. So, everything is totally familiar when you are already acquainted with this MBUX system.

The two 12.3-inch displays blend visually into a Widescreen Cockpit beneath a shared glass cover. Drivers can choose between three different styles for the displays – “Classic”, “Sport” and “Progressive” – and also select relevant information and views according to their individual needs.

The design of the iconic indicators is found again in the shape of the loudspeakers. Hallmarks of the G-Class include – as said – the grab handle in front of the front passenger and the chrome-highlighted switches for the three differential locks.

Thanks to haptic impulses and audible feedback from the on-board speakers, we could use the touchpad with controller in the centre console without taking their eyes off the road. Top notch.

The seats are of course a class of their own when it comes to creature comfort. Features include the Memory function for the driver’s seat, seat heating front and rear, as well as luxury head restraints in the front. This ride comfort can optionally be boosted still further with the Active Multicontour Seat Package. In addition to the special multicontour seats, this encompasses such features as various massage functions, climate-controlled seats, and fast seat heating. Need we say more?

Driving the G-Class on- and offroad: a driver’s dream.

The G-Class is on tarmac a supersmooth performer, with superb comfort. Thanks to the new suspension, introduced in 2018, which emerged from the collaboration between Mercedes-Benz G GmbH and Mercedes-AMG GmbH.

The result is an independent suspension with double-wishbone front axle in combination with a rigid rear axle. When redesigning the suspension, the focus was also on even beter off-road capacities and greater rigidity. The components of the double-wishbone front axle are therefore directly mounted to the ladder-type frame without a subframe. The lower wishbone’s attachment points on the frame in Z-direction are positioned as high up as possible. So front axle ground clearance is an impressive 270 mm. The result is a sublime ride. Also thanks to the well controlled live rear axle.  In contrast to the predecessor, the new rigid axle is controlled by four trailing arms on each side and a Panhard rod. Indeed, maximum comfort on the open road.

À la carte: “Comfort”, “Sport”, “Individual” or “Eco” …and last but not least: “Desert!”

As is familiar with other cars of the brand, also the G-Class can be suited to your driving mood. The four programs “Comfort”, “Sport”, “Eco” and “Individual” , and yes, “Desert” can be set via the DYNAMIC SELECT rocker switch. Characteristics of the engine, transmission, suspension, steering and assistance systems are adapted at the driver’s behest.

The “Desert” mode makes the G-Class fit for sandy terrain with a perfect interplay of late upshifting, direct throttle response and adjusted ESP® control.

But there is more: the “G-Mode”  The G-Class changes to “G-Mode” independently of the chosen driving mode as soon as one of the three differential locks has been activated or the LOW RANGE off-road reduction gear has been engaged. When your G is equipped with adjustable damping, that is. This off-road mode adapts the adjustable damping of the chassis and the steering as well as the accelerator characteristic, avoids unnecessary gear shifts and thus ensures optimum control and maximum off-road capability.

Besides offering a superbly comfortable ride, thanks to the new front axle design, the on-road performance of the G-Class and its agility and steering precision is faultless, and it is truly in a class of its own. On the road, the “G” is as agile as it is comfortable, and genuine driving pleasure is to be had. The steering is now electronic, and provides excellent feedback and steering “feel.” Its excellent behavior on the open road is one of our biggest surprises we had when driving this “G”.

Superb mechanical refinement

This off-roader has a separate chassis, and this is already a prerequisite for nicely filtered vibrations emanating from its drivetrain. The “G” Class excels here again. The Diesel straight six is superbly smooth, inaudible even when starting from cold, only the subdued hum of a six cylinder will caress your ears. It is coupled to a 9 speed G-TRONIC automatic transmission with torque converter, which is adapted to meet the needs of this off-road icon. The developers have managed to reduce the shift and response times of the 9-speed transmission by means of a dedicated software application.

The result translates into absolutely smooth and fast changes, as said, according to the chosen driving modes.

The six cylinder diesel has output of 243 kW (330 hp) and maximum torque of 700 Nm at 1200 to 3200 rpm. Pulling power at low revs is what counts, and as you see, this “d” has plenty of it. It accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 6,4 seconds and pushes you further to a top speed of 210 km/h. More than enough to satisfy most of us mortals, we would think.

This diesel, derived from the 350 G, succeeds also in bringing genuine economy to this opulent off-roader. The manufacturer quotes a combined fuel consumption of 8.9-8.7 l/100 km, with combined CO₂ emissions being 235-229 g/km.

Driving with restraint and anticipation in “Eco” mode, it was no trouble at all to reach 9 liters/100 km even in dense urban traffic conditions, which is no small feat! Of course, it took a gentle foot on the accelerator, as you can imagine.

Conclusion

The Burmeister sound system adds a dramatic backdrop to your scenic drives…

The 400 G admirably withstands the test of time. It has grown into a unique classic icon, embodying simultaneously all the possible technical refinements modern automotive technology has to offer. There is even more: it excels not only on the open road, it stands out also when… there is no road at all, and will even take you to the desert!

This is a car every traveler in history would have wished for, a car Marco Polo would have dreamt of.

It is a Mercedes in the truest form, actually. It will accompany you for decades – if need be – into your automotive life, offering room, comfort, go anywhere performance with even rather good economy in the diesel version. Superbly engineered, it will never let you down, offer you decades of dependable service.

This excellence comes at a price, but remember, a lot on this car is hand finished. If you look at its long service life, the value it will retain over the years, you will discover it is actually rather sensible. Of course, electrification lures around the corner. A plug-in hybrid version would not surprise me for the not too distant future…

Would you like to know my secret wish now? Have a drive in one of the early examples of this “G”, have a feel of its so honest ruggedness and spirit. Must be awesome too…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

RENAULT TALK #1: a new ERA – THE RENAULT BRAND RESTATES ITS AMBITIONS

A new Logo, and a bold future…

Today Luca de Meo, Renault Brand CEO, and the Renault brand team have participated in the first ever “Renault Talk”, a brand-new all-digital event where they discussed their vision of the wider group.

The new direction, unveiled by the team, presents Renault Group as an energy transition leader, at the forefront of the latest technology and services, operating in a more sustainable and responsible manner as part of its ‘Nouvelle Vague’ (New Wave). 

A people-centric brand, Renault is entering a new era as it delivers enhanced modernity to the European automotive industry.

Technology and state of the art electronics will hallmark the future Renaults…

Nouvelle Vague…

The ‘Nouvelle Vague’ will turn Renault into a brand focused on technology, services and clean energy, by engineering smarter everyday vehicles and mobility solutions that are more sustainable.

This is in line with the DNA as a company that changed with the times throughout the 20th century with innovative, modern vehicles.

Now, more than ever, Renault strives to meet market expectations of responsible, carbon-free, safe and scalable mobility solutions that are in line with customer needs.

The Arkana, the first SUV Coupé of a volume manufacturer… presented here by Laure Grégoire – Model launch Manager.

During Renault Talk #1, Luca de Meo restated the direction set for the brand, at the heart of the Group’s Renaulution plan:

  • As industry leader of the energy transition, the Renault brand will be the greenest brand in Europe as of 2030, with nine out of 10 cars on sale being electrified.
  • At the forefront of technology and services, the Renault brand is shaping the future of urban mobility, primarily via the ‘Software Republique’. More than 2,000 engineers from five industry-leading companies will bring their shared expertise in cyber security, artificial intelligence, data processing, software, and microelectronics, in order to deliver turnkey mobility solutions for cities and communities.
  • The Renault Re-Factory – Europe’s first circular-economy hub – marks a move towards a more sustainable and responsible model, with up to 120,000 vehicles (EV included) recycled or upcycled every year. Nearly 80 per cent of strategic recycled materials will be reused in new batteries.  By 2030, Renault will become the world’s best automotive manufacturer when it comes to the percentage of recycled materials in new vehicles.
  • Renault is taking its ‘voitures à vivre’ to upper segments: Seven models will be released in the C and D segments by 2025, all of them electrified, with the All-New Arkana marking the beginning of this offensive. The next generation Megane E-TECH Electric, a vehicle that embodies the future of connected and full-electric cars, is also set be launched in the near future. Lastly, ongoing improvements to E-TECH hybrid technology will continue to provide upcoming C- and D-segment vehicles with the very best in efficiency and dynamic driving experiences.

A NEW ERA, and a NEW LOGO

Throughout its history, the Renault brand has undergone several changes to its visual identity. But one thing has remained unchanged since 1925: the instantly recognizable Renault diamond, a true brand icon.

The latest version of the Renault logo was created in 1992 before being slightly refreshed and reworked in 2015. As a brand deeply rooted in a modern, international market, this all-new logo brings a more modern and vibrant feel and serves a key purpose of portraying the Renault brand as more relatable and built on people-centric values. A streamlined design without typography or brand signature, the logo is an open-ended shape, reflecting the brand’s openness and transparency.

The new logo was co-designed with Landor & Fitch consultants and will be phased in as of next year on all Renault brand vehicles and throughout the Renault network. By 2024, the whole Renault range will bear the new logo.  

During the Renault Talk, Gilles Vidal, Renault Brand Design Director, unveiled an image of the logo as it will appear on the back of the new Megane E-TECH Electric, which will come to market in 2022.

ALL-NEW BRAND EXPRESSION

According to Arnaud Belloni, VP of Global Marketing for the Renault brand, the ‘Nouvelle Vague’ is also reflected in the brand’s advertising.

Imbued with a creative and modern edge, they incorporate some of the brand’s most iconic pieces of memorabilia: the Renault Fuego, covers of cult classics like ‘Johnny & Mary’, or the Renault-Gitane cycling jersey featured in a recent advert for the Captur E-TECH Hybrid.

Renault makes their “Cars fit for true living” increasingly electrified… presented here by Gilles Le Borgne – Engineering Director Renault Group

THE RENAULT E-TECH HYBRID OFFENSIVE

With more than 10 years of experience and almost 400,000 vehicles sold to date, Renault is a leader in the European EV market. Building from its expertise in pure-electric vehicles, Renault has extended its EV range with hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of its core market vehicles.

With more than 150 patents to its name and having leveraged the brand’s experience in Formula One, E-TECH hybrid technology is as unique as it is modular. In both hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions, it provides the best in energy efficiency and driving pleasure while also reducing CO2 emissions and fuel consumption.

This revolutionary piece of technology debuted on three of the brand’s core vehicles in 2020 as a way of making the EV experience something for everyone:

  • Clio E-TECH Hybrid
  • Captur E-TECH Plug-in Hybrid
  • Megane Sport Tourer E-TECH Plug-in Hybrid

In 2021, the E-TECH range is set to expand with the release of the All-New Arkana and Captur E-TECH Hybrid, plus the Megane E-TECH Plug-In Hybrid, totalling an electrified range of six E-TECH hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Gilles Le Borgne, EVP, Engineering, Renault Group, has confirmed that the brand is preparing for the future by extending the scope of its E-TECH hybrid technology to future generations.  

Upper segments – especially the C-SUV segment – will see the arrival of a brand-new 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine combined with an electric motor, for a 200hp hybrid vehicle in 2022 and a 280hp in plug-in hybrid four-wheel drive vehicle in 2024.

ALL-NEW ARKANA: SPORTY, HYBRID, AND SPACIOUS

The All-New Arkana’s unique, full-hybrid design is the first SUV with coupe design from a mass-market manufacturer.

Its TCe engines feature 12-volt micro-hybrid technology delivering enhanced fuel efficiency, while the E-TECH hybrid powertrain is capable of running in electric mode for up to 80 per cent of the time on urban roads, contributing to around 40 per cent in fuel savings compared with a standard petrol engine.

Across Europe in May so far, more than 6,000 orders have already been placed for the All-New Arkana.  

THE ALL-NEW KANGOO: ELEGANT AND SPACIOUS

The All-New Kangoo combines sophisticated design, space and technology, offering superior practicality with three full-sized seats in the rear and more than 49 litres of accessible storage areas. The car is here presented by Thierry Plantegenest – VP Sales Marketing LCV and Pick-ups, (on the left).

The  bootspace ranges from 775 litres up to 3,500 litres of flat-bed cargo area, while it can be specified in five- or seven-seat models. The All-New Kangoo also boasts 14 standard-fit driver assistance systems.

In 2022, the All-New Kangoo range will expand further as it becomes available as a full-electric E-TECH model.

VALUE FIRST

Fabrice Cambolive, SVP, Renault Brand Sales and Operations, restated Renault brand’s commercial priorities:

  • The ‘green’ offensive: Ramping up the EV range and furthering the E-TECH offensive, as already in Europe, 25 per cent of Renault sales are electrified and 30 per cent of Clio sales in France are for the E-TECH Hybrid
  • Products: Speeding up product line renewal, both in Europe and abroad, by winning back market shares in the
    C-segment

A global player…

Proud of its French roots, the Renault brand is also an international brand. The Renaulution plan is Renault’s way of bolstering its international presence, while boosting efficiency. Model by model, market by market, the Renault brand has overhauled its business model. The final objective is to increase the profitability of its vehicles while preparing a generation of new products to conquer new markets.  

Internationally, the Renault brand has been investing in its historical high-potential markets with a strong local presence – Brazil, Russia, Turkey, and India – while keeping risk levels in check.

In Europe, Renault continues to rely on its key markets – France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and the United Kingdom – with a more visible range and a clear roadmap: leverage E-TECH to foster E-mobility leadership and ramp up efforts to increase market shares for both C-segment and commercial vehicles.

A bold future lies ahead! We will soon test for you the Megane Grandtour and Captur Plug in Hybrid, as well as the bestselling ZOE – stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Fiat Professional unveiled its E-Ducato on the 51st Earth Day in a worldwide (virtual) event…




Eric Laforge, Head of LCV Enlarged Europe at Stellantis, presented together with Massimo Temporelli, a university lecturer and passionate popularizer of science,the E-Ducato…

We presented to you already the fully electric E-Ducato on two occasions, and it is good to note that the E-ducato can already be ordered since March 1st.

But on Earth Day, last April 22nd, The E-Ducato was unveiled “on-the-road” at a web conference taking place at several venues, hosted by Massimo Temporelli, a university lecturer and passionate popularizer of science.

Signor Temporelli linked up to several Stellantis and DHL managers, including Eric Laforge, Head of LCV Enlarged Europe at Stellantis, and Alberto Nobis, CEO of DHL EXPRESS Europe, who went in greater depth into the collaboration between the two companies to produce the new model.

Eric Laforge started off telling more about the history of the Ducato, celebrating its 40th year on the market in 2021. Its constant progress has continued, culminating in the position of the best-selling commercial vehicle – all segments included – in Europe in 2020.

The Ducato is also the best motorhome base vehicle and the best-selling vehicle in its class for the 6th year running.

E-Ducato – Ready for any Mission

Eric Laforge, sitting behind the wheel of the E-Ducato in the launch film, states: “For the E-Ducato, we started from the idea of creating not only a “green” vehicle, but also a complete mobility solution, characterized by versatility, reliability, efficiency and sustainability (at both an environmental and an economic level): in short, a working tool to build up your business while respecting the precepts of ecology, a model ready for every mission, uncompromisingly aiming to be the benchmark in the market and to be equipped with the same capabilities as vehicles with internal combustion engines. Its 400 configurations mean it can meet the needs of all professional operators, from freight fleets and construction companies to artisans and municipal service providers.”

100% product efficiency, a project aiming at TCO parity…

Starting off from the configuration of the electrics, the E-Ducato has been modeled around customers’ requirements. Courtesy of its original, uncompromising “all-forward” architecture, with no bulk at the bottom of the chassis and ample distance between the side rails, the new model’s batteries are placed under the floor, leaving intact a load capacity that ranges from 10 to 17 cubic meters in volume and almost 2 tons of weight. Other obvious advantages are the optimal distribution of weight and the lowering of the center of gravity, to improve the vehicle’s handling under all load conditions.

The E-Ducato can achieve equivalent performance to diesel versions, courtesy of an electric motor with maximum torque of 280 NM delivering up to 90 kW of power (approximately 122 hp) and 0-50 km/h acceleration in 5 seconds.

In the launch film, Eric Laforge transports a load towards Milano…

The E-Ducato is also fitted out with a series of modular solutions, starting from 2 different battery blocks – 47 kWh and 79 kWh, and 4 types of charging modes, 3 of which are available at launch. With a 47-kWh battery, the E-Ducato can travel up to 170 km in the WLTP cycle and up to 235 km in the urban cycle. With a 79-kWh battery, the distances increase to 280 km in the WLTP cycle, equivalent to 370 km in the urban cycle. It takes no longer than half an hour to charge up enough to drive 100 km.

It is also worth mentioning that the batteries have a warranty for 10 years or 220,000 km on the 79-kWh version, or 8 years/160,000 km on the 47-kWh model.

To suit every use, the E-Ducato also offers the Drive Mode Selector: in “Normal” position, it ensures the ideal balance between performance and costs, or it can be set to “Eco” mode to save energy. When a really heavy load needs to be carried or the vehicle is facing a demanding ascent, there is last but not least the “Power” mode.

E-Ducato has another two features to provide drivers with safeguard drivers’ peace of mind:

“Turtle Mode”, similar to the battery saver function on a mobile phone, which is activated automatically when the battery is low and limits vehicle performance, to make the battery last 8-10% longer.

“Recovery Mode”, making the E-Ducato the only electric vehicle that never stops. In fact, if one battery module does not work, the others take its place to make sure it can keep going.

Low on maintenance cost…

On top of that, the maintenance costs for the E-Ducato will be about 40% lower than a vehicle with a conventional engine. Its total cost of ownership (TCO) in its main missions can therefore be expected to be in line with the diesel versions: a great result, making the vehicle sustainable not only from an environmental perspective, but also an economic one, providing a business-oriented solution.

In Italy, the E-Ducato is priced from €42,700 + VAT with a trade-in. Included in the price is the Top Care by Mopar program, including routine maintenance and a warranty extension to 5 years or 120,000 km.

With the E-Ducato, it is possible to achieve parity of Total Cost of Ownership (taking into account current incentive conditions and current market rates) compared to a comparable diesel vehicle in just 48 months, based on usage of 20,000 km per year.

The partnership with DHL

Underlying the performance of the E-Ducato are 5 years of real-world data collection. This has taken the form of 4,000 connected vehicles that uploaded data for 1 year, when the vehicles traveled over 50 million kilometers, in all driving, loading and weather conditions. Data gathering was carried out quite fast, and in very close collaboration with customers performing the most diverse delivery and professional missions. This enabled Fiat Professional to identify bespoke solutions from the prototype phase onwards, based on the needs of individual customers in the real world.

In the quest for a partner offering the best value, Stellantis began a tight-knit collaboration in 2016 with DHL, a world leader in international freight transport, participating also substantially into the e-commerce boom. This partnership has given rise to a virtuous circle with the possibility of a focus on the E-Ducato, starting from DHL’s real-world missions, and to project them into a context of sustainable electric mobility.

From left to right: Eric Laforge, Massimo Temporelli and Alberto Nobis.

In the words of Alberto Nobis, CEO of DHL EXPRESS Europe: “We firmly believe that the future of last-mile logistics is electric. To achieve our objective of connecting people and improving their lives, we are committed to becoming greener and cleaner in what we do every single day. By adding E-Ducatos to our fleet, we will take the next big step in reaching our goal of electrifying most of our last-mile delivery by 2030. We’ve found what we were looking for in Fiat Professional: state-of-the-art technology and powerful batteries that will enable us to travel until 200 km on a single charge, to get to our customers quickly while respecting the environment.”

For Eric Laforge, Head of LCV Enlarged Europe at Stellantis, the E-Ducato project is a journey towards innovation and the future: “We’re proud that a player as important as DHL Express has chosen the E-Ducato as part of such an ambitious goal. With the E-Ducato, our task was not only to develop a sustainable product from both an economic and environmental perspective, but most of all to provide a complete mobility solution for our partners.”

E-Ducato connectivity – Apps and services

There was no way Mopar Connect could miss out on its contribution to the development of the E-Ducato.

Great importance was given over to the wide range of functions that can be activated “remotely”, including My:Fleet Manager, the new fleet management service, 6 months of which are included in the price of the vehicle as a special promotion for the E-Ducato. Using a web-based platform, fleet managers will be able to keep the main variables for each unit in the fleet under control in real time, including mileage, location and updates on maintenance, charging schedule and much more. All this with the aim of improving fleet efficiency and productivity, reducing costs, preventing risks, and ensuring the safety of both the vehicle and the driver.

On top of that, the inclusion of Mopar® Connect as standard on all E-Ducatos provides a wide range of other services, such as assistance in the event of an accident or breakdown (the telematics box, which detects the vehicle’s location, ensures prompt, targeted service 24/7). If the vehicle is stolen, the system can locate it and prevent it from being restarted, to make it easier to find. The Uconnect LIVE mobile app means you can check whether you have closed the doors, find where you’ve parked it and receive an alert if the vehicle is moved from its previous location or exceeds a preset speed limit.

The Uconnect LIVE mobile app also includes a wide range of other features, such as my:Car, providing remote control of battery level or tire pressure, as well as monthly vehicle health reports. There is also the my:Journey service, to view and manage all vehicle movements, and the my:eCharge pack, developed specifically for the E-Ducato, to plan charging, find, use and pay for public charge points and manage charging from your connected Wallbox.

Readiness for the new era of e-Mobility

These days, the transition to a sustainable electric and electrified mobility first and foremost requires the development of a network of public and private charging stations for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. At the same time, it requires a rethink of electricity production and distribution. Stellantis is developing solutions to fulfill every requirement: the agreement with Engie EPS, a leading player in the energy sector, is a move in this direction, the partnership having resulted in the current creation of Free2Move eSolutions. The tasks of this new joint venture will range from charging infrastructure (installation, servicing and operations) to public and home charging subscriptions with a monthly fee, all the way to battery life cycle management and advanced energy services such as the integration of Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) systems and energy management solutions to reduce total cost of ownership.

Pro Fit

In close collaboration with the e-Mobility team, Fiat Professional has developed Pro Fit by E-Ducato (available on the web and as an app, free from the App Store and Google Play), as part of its work to boost knowledge of electrified vehicles and their use.

Taking as a starting point the perspective of fleet managers and small/medium-sized businesses that use the current internal combustion Ducato for their missions, Pro Fit was designed and created as a veritable simulator. To start off, all you need to do is sign up on the dedicated website and inform about your current fleet of commercial vehicles with internal combustion engines, indicating the type of vehicle you use (body, wheelbase, height, etc.) and selecting the usage (route, mileage, operating temperature, etc.) for each one.

Once you have activated the simulation, Pro Fit recommends the ideal composition of your new electric fleet by indicating the most suitable E-Ducato configurations for the user’s business. Pro Fit then recommends the most suitable E-Ducato configurations available, and indicates each one’s expected performance against client requirements. This makes it possible to find out, for example, whether you have enough range left or what the annual savings amount to.

Leasys rental solutions for the new E-Ducato

With Leasys, it will be possible to get into the new E-Ducato and drive in total freedom without the burdens and worries related to operating costs. Your choices are unlimited: you can decide how far to go, what services to include, and if your mobility needs change, you can add new ones at any time. You can manage all the services conveniently, including from your smartphone, using the dedicated UMOVE app.

The new E-Ducato will be available on the long-term “Noleggio Chiaro Light” (Rental Lite) and “Be Free Pro” rental schemes.

“Noleggio Chiaro Light” is the scheme that offers rental for a competitive fee with a limited set of services: TPL coverage, roadside assistance, and the I-Care infomobility service. It also entitles customers to a right of pre-emption on vehicle purchase at the end of the rental period. “Noleggio Chiaro” is also available for the conventional scheme, for those looking for an all-inclusive package, which adds on routine and non-routine maintenance as well as theft, fire and damage repair coverage.

“Be Free Pro” is the Leasys mobility solution designed to meet the needs of all freelancers. No deposit to pay, a fixed monthly fee, plus the main insurance, assistance and infomobility services are all included. And if your business needs, change you can return the vehicle after 30 months with no penalty for early return. The fee insurance, road tax, TPL, stamp duty, the infomobility system, and roadside assistance. Customers can also sign up to the “Be Free Pro Plus” scheme, which includes damage repair cover, theft and fire cover, and routine and non-routine maintenance.

“Free to E” by FCA Bank, the freedom to choose electric.

Getting on board with innovation with the E-Ducato’s electric mobility has never been easier, thanks to FCA Bank. Customers can choose two financing options: installments or leasing. They can also choose to include the “Free to E” scheme in their loan, meaning they can return their E-Ducato within 2 months of purchase and a maximum mileage of 1,500 km, the only commitment being to purchase a Ducato with an internal combustion engine, a Talento or a Doblò. To supplement its financial solutions, FCA Bank also offers a full range of insurance services, each of which can be combined with the financing agreement entered into.

I will also put some further questions about the development of this e-Ducato in an interview with one or more people behind the project, so there is more to come…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Maserati unveils its Levante Hybrid




The Levante Hybrid was presented at ist launch in Azzuro Astro color. This metallic paint consists of three layers and is available through the Maserati Fuoriserie personalization program.

The Maserati Levante Hybrid has today experienced both a physical and a digital world premiere. At the time of the car’s unveiling at the Shanghai Auto Show, a virtual presentation has taken place simultaneously on the houseof.maserati.com website.

With its first electrified SUV, Maserati is taking another important step in the future plan launched last year with the Ghibli Hybrid, which will lead to the electrification of all new Maserati models.

“Faster. Cleaner. Unique ” is the motto at the launch: the Levante Hybrid is faster than a diesel, more durable than a car with an internal combustion engine and unique thanks to specific features and details.

The Levante Hybrid combines a two-liter four-cylinder engine with a 48-volt hybrid system that recovers energy during engine deceleration and application of the brakes. The hybrid SUV is lighter than the six-cylinder version (petrol and diesel) and also has a more balanced weight distribution because the battery – without sacrificing luggage space – is placed in the rear of the car. One of the goals during the development of the Levante Hybrid was to take the dynamics and driving pleasure to an even higher level.

 With a maximum power of 330 hp and a torque of 450 Nm, which is available from just 2,250 rpm, the four-wheel drive Levante Hybrid delivers impressive performance: the car has a top speed of 240 km/h and accelerates from 0 to 100 km in 6 seconds.

The Levante Hybrid was presented at ist launch in Azzuro Astro color. This metallic paint consists of three layers and is available through the Maserati Fuoriserie personalization program.

The Levante Hybrid is immediately recognizable by the unique details in the exterior and interior. Several elements are finished in blue, a color specifically chosen for Maserati hybrid models. Like the brake calipers and trident on the C-pillars, the iconic side vents are finished in this shade of blue. The same color returns in the interior, including the stitching of the seat upholstery.

With Maserati Connect, the Levante Hybrid is always connected to the outside world. The driver remains fully informed about the technical condition of the car: Maserati Connect alerts the owner when maintenance is required, thus improving the quality of the service. The owner is in contact with the car via the Maserati app on the smartphone or smartwatch. You can also contact the car from home with a virtual assistant such as Amazon Alexa or Google Assist.

The digital world premiere of the Levante Hybrid on houseof.maserati.com has been attended by Maserati’s global brand ambassador David Beckham and Italian songwriter and producer Dardust, who has composed an exclusive soundtrack for the unveiling of the Levante Hybrid.

More soon about this Levante in technical detail. Stay posted!

Hans Knol ten Bensel      

Audi unveils its first all-electric compact SUV’s: the Audi Q4 e-tron and the Q4 Sportback e-tron…

Audi Q4 50 e-tron quattro Colour: Geyser blue, metallic and Audi Q4 50 e-tron quattro Edition One Colour: Typhoon gray

Versatile all-rounders for everyday use that transfer the progressive design of the concept cars into series production and that can be driven locally without any emissions: The Audi Q4 e-tron and the Q4 Sportback e-tron are the first compact electric SUVs from the brand with the Four Rings.

Both of them impress with a new spacious dimension in the interior and pioneering solutions when it comes to operation, display, and assist systems. The augmented reality head-up display connects the virtual and the real worlds in a totally new way.

Q4 50 Sportback e-tron Quattro Colour: Florett silver

The range comprises three drive versions, spearheaded by a quattro model with a maximum output of 220 kW (299 PS). Attributes that they all share are zero local emissions driving  and high ranges, charging times of around ten minutes for sufficient power to travel about 130 kilometers (80.8 mi) in ideal conditions (WLTP) and convenient charging with the e-tron Charging Service. The rear-wheel drive Q4 40 e-tron achieves a range of up to 520 kilometers (323.1 mi) in the WLTP cycle. It goes on sale in Europe in June 2021, with prices in Germany starting at EUR 41,900 – where the customer can claim a subsidy of EUR 9,000 (net).

Audi’s next step: the exterior design

With the Q4 e-tron and the Q4 Sportback e-tron, Audi is taking the next step in the design language of its electric models.

The two compact SUVs bring into series production the body line that the Audi Q4 concept and Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron concept show cars demonstrated at the beginning of 2019.

In the Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron, the especially low coupé-style roofline ends in an expressively designed rear where the spoiler sits deep on the two-part window.

On request, both of these compact electric SUVs can be driven off the assembly line with Matrix LED headlights. What’s more, the driver can switch between four signatures in the MMI touch operating system. At the rear, a light strip links the taillight units to each other. A choice of eight colors is available for the paint finish, including the new metallic shade aurora violet. In addition to the basic version, there are the two advanced and S line exteriors.

E-mobility for everyone…

Audi wants its new Q4 line to be an all-round car which offers everything for everyone. The available space in the interior is comparable with the full-size SUV class; there is no center tunnel. The feeling of spaciousness is not just confined to the front seats – with the generous legroom, passengers in the rear also benefit from the advantage of the technological platform, which is designed as electric-only.

Depending on the positioning of the rear seat backs, the volume of the luggage compartment is 520 to 1,490 liters in the Q4 e-tron and 535 to 1,460 liters under a power trunk lid in the Sportback. Both models can tow trailers with a weight of up to 1,000 kilograms (braked, at 12% incline), with the quattro versions even able to pull up to 1,200 kilograms.

Another strength for everyday use is the high range – the Q4 40 e-tron travels up to 520 kilometers (323.1 mi) (WLTP) on a single battery charge. Thanks to a maximum charging capacity of 125 kW, in ideal conditions it can charge enough power for about 130 kilometers (80.8 mi) (WLTP) in around ten minutes. Using the myAudi app, the owner can activate charging at home and pre-entry climate control from their smartphone.

In the interior, there are also quite a few innovations. For instance totally new is the steering wheel with its seamless touch surfaces, which the driver uses to control the digital instrument cluster.

Infotainment and navigation are operated primarily using the central MMI touch display, which will also be available in the largest configuration level of 11.6 inches towards the end of the year. Natural voice control provides the third operating interface.

On request, the Audi Q4 e-tron and the Q4 Sportback e-tron can be equipped with another innovation on board – the augmented reality head-up display.

Fully digital: the Q4 e-tron is an e-mobility device

The Q4 e-tron models offer a fully digital user experience. The infotainment package in the electric compact SUV is structured in three levels – from MMI through MMI plus to MMI pro.

Different functions are provided depending on the configuration level, including the augmented reality head-up display and the Audi virtual cockpit plus. The optional levels provide the online services of Audi connect, including the intelligent e-tron route planner for working out the optimal route that stays close to the public charging infrastructure. For premium sound, the Sonos sound system which combines lifestyle, technology and design in a new dimension.

Audi Q4 50 e-tron quattro Static photo, Colour: Geyser blue, metallic Audi Q4 50 e-tron quattro Edition One Static photo, Colour: Typhoon gray

For urban commuters and long-distance drivers: battery, drive and charging options

The drive portfolio of the two compact electric models lives up to the expectations of very different groups of customers – from the urban commuter to the long-distance driver. It includes two battery variants and three drive variants. The compact battery for the Q4 35 e-tron has a net energy content of 52 kWh (55 kWh gross), while the figures for the large battery in the Q4 40 e-tron and Q4 50 e-tron quattro are 77 (82) kWh.

The Q4 35 e-tron and the Q4 40 e-tron have an electric motor that drives the rear wheels, with an output of 125 kW (170 PS) and 150 kW (204 PS) respectively. The top-of-the-range version Q4 50 e-tron quattro has two electric motors for the electric all-wheel drive. They give it a maximum output of 220 kW (299 PS) – sufficient for a sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.2 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 180 km/h. For efficiency, the motor on the front axle comes into action only when high power or a strong grip is needed.

Another important factor in energy-saving driving is intelligent recuperation, which also incorporates navigation and topographical data.

Dashboard

Audi’s two new electric SUVs can be charged with different outputs using alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) depending on the battery. The compact battery can get up to 7.2 kW with AC charging and up to 100 kW when using HPC charging (high-power charging) with direct current. As standard, the larger battery allows for up to 11 kW with AC and up to 125 kW with HPC.

Audi e-tron Charging Service…

Drivetrain

The Audi e-tron Charging Service provides access to around 210,000 public charging points in 26 European countries, 4,400 of which are HPC fast-charging points (as of April 2021), using just one charging card. In the transit tariff, customers buying the Q4 e-tron do not pay any basic fee in the first year. They benefit here especially from the preferential conditions in the IONITY network: The charged kilowatt hour costs 31 cents, which corresponds to the price level when charging at home in Germany.

The Audi Q4 e-tron will appear in June 2021 on European markets, with the Q4 Sportback e-tron following in the late summer. Of course we are keen to sample driving impressions this summer!

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