The new Discovery is amongst us: even more stylish and high-tech…

The new Land Rover Discovery will please most lovers of premium go-anywhere SUV’s. Indeed, the design of the new Discovery has gained in sophistication with new LED headlights and tail lights with fresh front and rear bumpers. A bnw R-Dynamic version is now more assertive too…

The cabin has also gained further in clean, uncluttered design with enhanced centre console featuring  New Pivi Pro infotainment with a large 11.4-inch HD touchscreen and advanced connectivity with Software-OverThe-Air updates. New new second-row seats offer superior comfort.  

The Latest straight-six Ingenium petrol and diesel engines have now 48V Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle technology for superior more efficiency.  

The new Discovery is among the world’s first full-sized sevenseat premium SUVs with RDE2-certified and Euro 6d-Final-compliant diesel engines.

The excellent offroad manners are a hallmark of the brand, and Intelligent All-Wheel Drive automatically distributes torque to the axle that needs it most for optimum efficiency

You feel good in the new Discovery, as new Cabin Air Ionisation with PM2.5 air filtration1 monitors air quality inside and filters harmful particulates.

Your family will also like it, as the Discovery comes now with a next-generation wearable Activity Key, Click and Go tablet holders for row-two passengers and Intelligent Seat Fold technology.

You can also tow almost anything. The Discovery is best-in-class with 3,500kg towing capacity2 and Advanced Tow Assist to take the stress out of difficult reversing manoeuvres…

When the car is available for a road test, we will tell you about our driving experience with his new Land Rover!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Hyundai joins IONITY charging network…

Hyundai and Kia are participating in the IONITY charging network…

As the E-powered cars are decidedly coming of age, we will keep you regularly abreast with more EV news….so here is one, and many more will follow! Soon we will also report about our driving impressions with the VW ID.3…

Hyundai Motor Group has joined IONITY, Europe’s leading high-power charging network, as a strategic partner and shareholder. Through its participation in this joint venture, Hyundai Motor Group – including Hyundai and Kia brands – will drive the expansion of the high-power charging network along Europe’s highways, promoting the further adoption of zero-emission mobility.

The IONITY charging network uses the European CCS (Combined Charging System) charging standard. Since the network uses 100 percent renewable energies, thanks to IONITY, drivers of electric vehicles are not only able to travel emission-free, but also CO2-neutral. This is an important step when it comes to making electric mobility a success in Europe.

New Sorento plug in hybrid can be ordered in Belgium…

In the meantime, Kia Motors has released a ‘cutaway’ image revealing the packaging of the new three-row, seven-seat Kia Sorento Plug-in Hybrid.

The photo reveals how the large battery pack, fuel tank, engine and electric motor are integrated within the vehicle’s structure, retaining maximum space for luggage and up to seven occupants.

The Sorento can be ordered in our country (Belgium) from next week onwards…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the all-electric Fiat Cinquecento: Italy is now also “zen”… in urban style.

In Brussels autumn streets, enjoying the latest Italian electric gem: the Fiat 500 Elettrica…

Bringing back the stunning Alfa Romeo Stelvio test car (full test report soon on these pages…), we had the lucky occasion to slide behind the wheel for a short spin through the Brussels streets with the brand new all-electric 500. Press Officer Wim Willems of the ever so dynamic FCA Belgium PR team invited me proudly to take the wheel behind one of the still Italian registered test cars.

The four wheeled beauty – the styling of the electric 500 is truly spot on – drives absolutely “zen”, silent and smooth, and is of course totally intuitive to drive. On the middle of the dashboard are the four touch buttons let you choose between drive, reverse, neutral and park. This is literally all there is to it!

This electric Cinquecento we drove was the top notch ICON version, and the stylish fun starts the moment you get the keys of the car: it’s a black button-free pebble, a smart wearable key you carry in your pocket or bag, which communicates with the car and automatically unlocks the doors when you step closer.

The dashboard has the same color as the bodywork, which was in our test car executed in matte grey, and in the center is a a 10.25” ‘cinerama’ touchscreen display, with GPS and the Uconnect 5 system. So superbly connected you are… more on all these features when we get our hands on this electrical gem for a test.

Let’s turn to the supersmooth driving experience. You can choose between three driving modes. The “Normal” mode gives you all the nippy performance you could ever wish for: output of 87 kW – equivalent to 118 hp, 220 Nm of torque, available instantly, and sports car acceleration from 0 to 50 km/h in 3.1 seconds, or 0 to 100 in 9 seconds.

We started off our test drive with 296 km range…

But there is more. The “Range” mode treats you to a new driving experience, using only one foot. The ‘one-pedal’ function means you can control acceleration and deceleration by just pushing or lifting the throttle. When you lift off, the car recovers energy to the max, and the Cinquecento will slow down markedly until it stops.

Red hot: the test car is still running on Italian licence plates…

When your battery is low, this 500 gets you home anyway. You choose the ‘Sherpa’ mode, and here the 500 will  find the right balance between all the components of the drivetrain to reduce fuel consumption to a minimum.

One last word about the range: The 500 ICON will drive of up to 320 km in the WLTP cycle, increasing to 460 km in the urban cycle alone. Rapid recharging is guaranteed by the DC fast charging system, running at up to 85 kW.

But rest assured, we will come back on all the smart recharging solutions Fiat offers for its new electric baby. We just treat you here to the few photos I shot during our first drive!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Toyota RAV4: the car which invented the SUV…

The formidable RAV4 has now some 10 million enthusiast owners, and now enters its fifth generation. It has gained in style, and is as hybrid as ever on our shores: 85 % of the European buyers opt for the self-charging hybrid power drivetrain.

It rolls on the new GA-K platform, allowing the RAV4 to be sleeker with a lower center of gravity and increased body rigidity. This also means both better handling and ride comfort, a more spacious interior, ample load space (580 liters VDA with seats in place) and enhanced styling with lower roof and hood lines in combination with higher ground clearance.

Indeed, the new RAV4 has the looks, and the ride too…Just read on!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Self-charging hybrid, masterfully engineered…

The RAV4 continues the successful Toyota hybrid story. Under the hood purrs a completely newly redesigned 2.5-litre petrol hybrid “Dynamic Force” engine, offering 218 DIN hp in front-wheel drive form. Indeed, this RAV4 is loaded with state-of-the-art top tech.

What to think of the Atkinson cycle technology and a 14.0:1 compression ratio (compared to 12.5:1 for the previous unit). It comes with D-4S direct and indirect (!) fuel injection and intelligent variable valve-timing – electric VVTiE for the intake and hydraulic VVT-i for the exhaust. The valve-timing range for both intake and exhaust has been increased. There are still more clever solutions put in this engine. Be astonished with us…

The cylinder heads are designed to generate high tumble of the fuel/air mixture, with an enlarged valve included angle and laser-cladded valve seats. A variable cooling system with an electric water pump and electric thermostat is used to improve combustion by maintaining the required temperature. There is also a fully variable oil pump for efficient engine oil pressure management.  

Toyota’s fourth generation self-charging hybrid system makes its debut in the new RAV4, delivering multiple benefits. Key components, including the power control unit (PCU) and the nickel metal-hydride battery are more compact and lighter in weight, and the transaxle and transmission have been engineered to reduce electrical and mechanical losses.

The new battery pack is 11 per cent lighter than before and transmission losses have been reduced by 25 per cent compared to the previous system.

How does all this work in practice? The engine is very docile, and develops 221 Nm between a very large rev range from 3,600 – 5,200 rpm. Admittedly, these are rather high revs, but the low-end pulling power is of course greatly helped by the electric motor, which develops a healthy 202 Nm.

This means that this RAV4 will pull away always with very impressive power, and this we find is the very “zen” beauty of Toyota’s hybrid system. The electric motor alone is good for 88 kW, so you can imagine what happens when you put your foot down.

Acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h is absolved in merely 8,4 seconds. But in the lower speed ranges, the velvety power is overwhelming. The hybrid system carefully manages how both engines participate in the total power delivery, and engine revs are kept especially low at partial throttle openings.

Silk smooth progress is for you to be enjoyed: even at spirited driving the engine hums quietly, and all this contributes to let you relax behind the wheel. What is also pleasant is the total smoothness of the drivetrain, not the slightest jolt or shock will disturb you or your passengers. Not many (super)cars will reach this level of total smoothness.

Besides all this smooth power, the hybrid system warrants also excellent economy. The secret is to accelerate and decelerate smoothly, to drive with anticipation. This lets the hybrid system use the recuperation function fully when slowing down, and use the electric motor as much as possible at constant speeds below, say 70 km/h. This results in excellent economy, also and even more so in slow urban driving and stop and go traffic. It proved no effort to reach averages of 6 l/100 km. Toyota quotes 4.5/4.6 l/100 km as average consumption, with CO2 emissions being 102 g/km. Oh yes, the top speed is a good 180 km/h. More than enough for all, we would say.

Driving pleasure…             

The new platform enhances handling stability and precision. The RAV4 has improved the response of the Electric Power Steering by moving the assist motor from the column to the rack, and indeed this RAV4 steers accurately. The handling is neutral and predictable.

The RAV4’s GA-K platform also distinguishes itself in its use of a double wishbone rear suspension system. What’s more, thanks to the low center of gravity and high body rigidity, the suspension does not have to be rendered stiffer to meet dynamic targets. Indeed, we found the RAV4 quite comfortable too! Its suspension travel is wide, and we know of few cars in its class which takes the many potholes and bumps on our Belgion roads with such ease.

A strong point is also the good visibility. The TNGA platform allows the hood to sit 15 mm lower, adding two degrees to the driver’s forward field of vision, and the external mirrors have been moved to a lower position on the front doors. Luggage space is 79 liters more than in the previous, fourth generation RAV4.

Flexibility is designed-in so that the space can easily be adapted to gain more cargo room when required: with the rear seats folded down, the new RAV4 can accommodate a 29-inch mountain bike without any wheels having to be removed.

Well equipped, also for safety…

The new RAV4 offers generous equipment specifications across its range, with all models equipped as standard with the latest iteration of Toyota Safety Sense and an E call emergency contact function. Quite impressive!

The improved system features a single-lens camera and millimeter-wave radar, both with enhanced performance to expand the scope of hazard detection and functionality. The unit has also been made smaller, so driver gains an even wider field of vision. We found this RAV4 delightful with the wide range of safety features.

The Toyota Safety Sense unit includes Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD), intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control (iACC), Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (LDA w/SA), Road Sign Assist (RSA) and Automatic High Beam (AHB). In addition, it introduces Lane Tracing Assist (LTA), which provides more advanced driving support.

The system can determine collision risks at speeds from zero to 180 km/h. If it calculates an imminent risk of collision, it will alert the driver and prepare the brakes (PreCrash Brake Assist) for maximum stopping force. If the driver fails to act, it will trigger Autonomous Emergency Braking, which can reduce vehicle speed by up to 40 km/h, potentially bringing the car to a stop and avoiding an impact.

The new intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control (iACC) is also able to work in conjunction with the car’s Road Sign Assist system. When the car is travelling at a constant, pre-set speed, iACC can recognise new speed limits on major roads and let the driver adjust the speed to keep within the limit, simply by using switches on the steering wheel.

The intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Tracing Assist work together in slow, stop/go traffic, tracking the vehicle ahead within the traffic lane, maintaining a safe distance and speed, bringing the vehicle to a halt when necessary and moving off seamlessly when traffic flow resumes. We found this feature a delight to use and indeed it takes away quite some stress in urban stop and go traffic.

Roomy cabin and creature comfort

We found the cabin quite practical; it is purpose built with all the knobs and handles in the right places. The gearlever/selector is now totally classical in looks and feel, and this is maybe a good thing for many SUV enthusiasts. Seats are excellent, the lower, more dynamic seating position was appreciated. As said, there is plenty of room inside. Of course, excellent connectivity and an intuitive to use navigation system was appreciated and makes this RAV4 a pleasure in daily use.

Conclusion

A well styled, but above all superbly engineered SUV, which is sturdy, practical, mechanically refined, frugal, and roomy.

It has a very comfortable ride, and the smoothest of drivetrains. This SUV displays lively performance and surprises with excellent economy. Its unique hybrid system makes it truly stand out, and will make it also totally future proof in our ever-greener world. The RAV4 will continue to be a bestseller, and deservedly so…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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

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

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

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

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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

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

Superb four-cylinder…

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

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

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

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

State of the art suspension

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

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

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

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

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

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

A cabin to dream (and drive) away in …

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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

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

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

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Electric Charging stations are an absolute must…

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

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

The car: top performance…

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

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

Charging a breeze…

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

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

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

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

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

Drive programs to choose from…

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

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

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

Comfort, ECO and Sport modes are also available.

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

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

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

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

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

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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

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

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

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

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Velvet power…

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

We just tell you here that the 4xe models (featuring plug-in hybrid electric technology) will be available with an electric motor mated to a choice of either the 190 hp and 240 hp version of the 1.3-litre Global Small Engine. These will arrive in European showrooms in the second half of this year. Both these 4xe versions will be four-wheel drive only.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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

Mercedes-Benz S-Class, in hightech silver

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

Mercedes-Benz S-Class interior: leather siena brown

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

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

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

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

Mercedes-Benz S-Class, exterior: hightech silver

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

Mercedes-Benz S-Class DIGITAL LIGHT

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

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

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

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

The revolutionary headlamp technology DIGITAL LIGHT (optional extra) allows completely new functions, e.g. the projection of marking aids or warning symbols onto the road ahead. In each headlamp, DIGITAL LIGHT has a light module with three extremely powerful LEDs with light that is refracted and directed by 1.3 million micro-mirrors. The resolution is therefore more than 2.6 million pixels per vehicle.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class, exterior: hightech silver

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

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

Hans Knol ten Bensel

New Kia Sorento PHEV revealed…

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

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

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Clean power

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

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

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

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

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

Practical

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

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

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

Premium infotainment tech and driving aids…

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

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

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

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

Abarth launches two limited series of its iconic 595…

The Abarth Monster Energy Yamaha…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hans Knol ten Bensel