Renault removes wraps of its New Austral, its new electrified SUV.

VERSION ICONIC – ESPRIT ALPINE

Renault wants its new SUV to be high-tech, efficient, and connected: they say it embodies the spirit of the Renaulution and Renault’s ‘Nouvelle Vague’ for C-segment SUV’s.

All-New Austral introduces also a “sporty-look” Esprit Alpine version, available for the first time on a vehicle in the Renault range.

The Austral is designed on the 3rd generation CMF-CD platform, developed within the Alliance. It offers various electrification technologies including a new E-TECH Full Hybrid engine.

More modern and technological, All-New Austral incorporates advanced, proactive and intelligent technologies including 4CONTROL Advanced and 32 driving aids.

VERSION ICONIC – ESPRIT ALPINE

More connected, its large OpenR screen hosts the OpenR Link multimedia system, which integrates the best of Google services and applications. More news soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the DS9 E-TENSE 4×4 360 in Nice: style, elegance and smooth high performance…

The French automakers have a unique tradition of building “Grandes Routières”, distinctive in style, comfort and performance. DS Automobiles takes this custom to new heights in this electronic times and age, putting also their vast experience gained over recent years in E-formula racing into their automobiles.

The result is the E-TENSE 4×4 360. A 4-cylinder 200 horsepower engine and two electric motors, one 110 horsepower (integrated with the gearbox at the front) and the other 113 horsepower (linked to the rear axle), are aided by intelligent four-wheel drive transmission. The 11.9 kWh battery features advanced management to save energy so as to handle different applications, says DS Automobiles.

The result is of course breathtaking performance, not in the least thanks to the ample torque developed by the two electric motors. 0-100 km/h takes only 5.6 seconds, top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h, with the capability of reaching 140 km/h on electric power alone. Total torque, engine and E-motors combined is an impressive 520 Nm.

The figures displayed here at the press conference about the DS9 E-Tense 360 tell it all…

But there is more than just sophisticated power. It means also that the DS9 is designed to combine the virtues of E-power with combustion power to achieve the environmentally responsible footprint of a modern, electrified high end performance limousine.

At the morning press briefing before we took the cars on the road on a well chosen 148 course around Nice, Christophe Château of Product Communication DS Automobiles explained us a unique feature of the DS9, which put us in the footsteps of the E-formula racing pilots: the “Energy Coach”, an exclusive app installed on the DS9.

On the 148 km long varied test course, your servant managed a score of 92 % recuperation of kinetic energy!

Developed with DS Performance and double Formula E champion Jean-Éric Vergne, the DS ENERGY COACH app helps drivers to maximize energy regeneration during deceleration. Scores are shown on the central screen. The trick is to fine tune your pressure on the brake pedal, so that the brakes are not activated and all the kinetic energy is transformed again into E-energy. It takes clever anticipation to achieve this in all traffic situations. The Formula E-drivers have to do this too, to enable them to have sufficient battery power for these last extra fast laps in the final stages of the race…

Your servant decided to have a go at this, and indeed, while being totally unfamiliar with a very mixed course comprising sharp bends on the corniches in the beautiful Estérel, the autoroutes and the city streets in Cannes and Nice, I managed a score of 92 %, meaning that 92 % of the kinetic energy in all my decelerations was transformed into E-energy. By doing this, we still maintained a rather brisk pace, as we had to respect the “moyenne” or average speed because we had to be back at the starting point of the course at 12.00 h to have lunch and attend the second press conference in the afternoon. I had to hurry even slightly more as I had to allow also some time to take some photos you see here.

So the DS9 was driven with verve over the winding roads on the cornices, and here I discovered again how well the comfortable suspension behaves in these conditions. We already applauded in our previous test of the DS9 225 the merits of the DS ACTIVE SCAN SUSPENSION, which scans the road ahead of you to fine tune the suspension to an ideal setting to cope with the road surface irregularities immediately in front of you. You can see a 1 minute You Tube film by DS automobiles on this system with the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZE-1MolcvAI

Indeed, remaining stable and predictable as on rails with virtually no body roll in corners, the DS9 remained utterly comfortable.

This slide shows the modifications made by DS Performance on the DS9 4 x 4 360…

The DS 9 E-TENSE 4×4 360 uses special front and rear axles with a wider track. The braking system is uprated with four-piston calipers for better power distribution under heavy braking with 380 x 32 mm discs at the front (up by 50 x 2 mm compared with DS 9 E-TENSE 225) and 290 x 12 mm at the rear. 20 inch MUNICH alloys are used and the suspension is lowered.

We could not measure exactly due to time pressure our consumption on the trip, but suffice to say here that after 148 kilometers, only a quarter of the small 41 litre petrol tank was emptied…boiling down probably to a fuel consumption of some 7 litres/100 km, with also a good 15 % of the battery still remaining charged. 

In zero emissions mode, the DS 9 E-TENSE 4×4 360 covers 52 kilometres on the WLTP urban cycle or 47 kilometres on the WLTP combined cycle.

According to the WLTP Cycle, fuel consumption is restricted to 1.8 litre / 100km with homologated CO2 emissions of 41 g/km.

During our trip, we (re)discovered what an excellent GT this car really is, indeed a totally relaxing and an undisturbed joy to drive. The 1598 cm3 engine remains quiet, subdued and refined, aided by the smooth 8 speed automatic transmission. Last but not least we tell you here that the 360 is available in PERFORMANCE LINE + and RIVOLI + specifications.

The DS9 250…

With this car, we rediscovered the DS9 we tested earlier (see our report on https://autoprova.be/2022/01/29/we-drove-the-ds9-e-tense-225-french-elegance-and-panache/) with the total system power now raised to 250 HP. This DS has only front wheel drive, and somewhat lesser performance: 0 to 100 km/h (62mph) in 8.2 seconds, a maximum top speed of 149 mph (240 km/h). But it still remains a superb car, and in daily driving practice, apart from the delightful out-of-corner accelerations of the most powerful 360, driving impressions on the sunny dry road course at the Côte d’Azur were not radically different. Suffice to say that total torque, engine and electric motor combined, is here still some 360 Nm.

According to WLTP, fuel consumption is 1,5 l/100 km, the electric range on its 15.6 kWh (total capacity) battery is up to 61 kilometers on the WLTP combined cycle with an unchanged vehicle weight.

The DNA of DS…

Superb quality of materials, intricate stitching and styling, is the DNA of DS Automobiles…

At the lunch, your servant had a very interesting conversation with Alexandre Stricher, (communication Brand and Prototype DS Performance), who applauded me on my achieved results on the ENERGY COACH app. “I wish every owner of the DS9 would adopt your driving style”, he complimented. Our conversation then drifted to the unique styling language which defines DS Automobiles, being a crucial element of their DNA. I remarked that the angular styling touches in the interior and instrumentation layout are reminiscent of the “art deco” styling language and rakish shapes found amongst others in Voisin automobiles.

Alexandre Stricher, (communication Brand and Prototype DS Performance), speaking at the afternoon press conference…

My conversation partner agreed. “A refined, elegant styling language and the use of unique materials and (stitching) patterns is what we are aiming for. We want to differentiate ourselves from the competition as a young, up market brand, combining a sense for refinement in styling and used materials with superb electrified technology,” he told me.

 “But there is more, much more, he said with a smile in his eyes. “What to think of 800 hp? an acceleration of 0 to 100 km/h in less than 2 seconds? 

And during the press conference, he revealed the E-Tense Supercar, of which much more in a separate report…

Last but not least, seen here on the photo above, Dominique Fontignies, PR & Communications director – Stellantis Belux, briefed us about the situation for DS Automobiles on the Belgian market.

We show you here the slide with the sales figures, which speak for themselves…

Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Škoda Kamiq Monte Carlo 1,5 TSI: a crossover with urban panache…

Škoda has a wonderful sporting history in the world famous Monte Carlo Rally. Already 85 years ago, the ŠKODA RAPID delivers an excellent performance from Palermo to Monaco; fair play here was more important to the driver team than the chance of achieving a second place.  

To celebrate this success, the POPULAR MONTE CARLO made its debut in 1936; it was a stylish two seater coupé; Look at the story we made about this beautiful and interesting car in our columns, with the following link: https://autoprova.be/2017/10/19/a-1937-skoda-steals-the-jurys-hearts-at-the-zoute-concours-delegance/.

Your servant made even two You Tube films about it. See one video of ing. Michal Velebný, https://youtu.be/TQ4aoKGVIMk , introducing himself, and another video telling us more about this Skoda Popular Coupé, https://youtu.be/Ad_XPM_Ej8s. In the Monte Rally, it was second in its class up to 1500 cc(!)

Since 2011, the MONTE CARLO equipment line has commemorated the brand’s legendary motorsport successes, and this adorns also this compact crossover, which indeed impressed us also greatly with its agility and zesty performance.

Not that Škoda has since then rested on its laurels: the FABIA Rally2 evo won the WRC2 category at the Monte Carlo Rally in 2021!

But now let’s turn to our test car. Its angular and sharp edged styling language pleases, and the proportions of this Kamiq are exactly what a compact crossover/SUV should be. Typical for Škoda is the excellent use of available space; Also here the Kamiq (comes from the language of the Inuit people, living in northern Canada and Greenland. It describes something that fits as perfectly as a second skin in every situation) has not stolen its name. It is indeed like a second skin enveloping passengers and luggage. Not losing one inch between them. Be it in the front or in the back, there is more than ample room for four adults, and Škoda boasts that the Kamiq offers more rear legroom than… the Octavia!   

The overall finish is very good, dashboard and front doors have soft padded panels, the fit of the external body panels is also precise and accurate, the paint finish is quite good. Indeed, one smells and feels quality in this Škoda. Speaking of room, the luggage space is 265 liter, not too much, when you use the available standard space up to the roof, it becomes 390 liter; When you fold everything down, the maximum available space is 1145 liters.

Behind the wheel…

Indeed, let’s get going in this Škoda. We just loved the digital instrumentation, which offers various displays. We always preferred the layout where the rev counter takes centre place, right in your line of vision. The steering wheel can be adjusted over a very wide range, so an ideal seating position is soon found. The central more than nine inch infotainment display screen is a breeze to use, and offers CarPlay, Android Auto, amongst others in this Monte Carlo Line version. Fortunately the ventilation/heating controls are separate, with round knobs and buttons for intuitive and easy everyday use.

The seats – in the Monte Carlo version – have sporting looks with integrated headrest, and are electronically adjustable. They wrap beautifully around you and give excellent support. Indeed, inviting to have a go…

We also liked the ambiance in  the cabin, thanks also to the wide opening panoramic roof.

Excellent performance paired with accurate, lively handling.   

This Škoda has the 1498 cc 4 cylinder petrol engine developing not less than 150 HP or 110 kW at 5000 rpm. Torque is also very impressive with 250 Nm at merely 1500 rpm. With a kerb weight of 1277 kg, this means 8,5 kg/hp, and indeed, this is synonymous for excellent performance. What to think of a 0 to 100 acceleration time of 8,3 seconds to 100 km? To put everything in perspective, a 1970 Porsche 2,2 litre 911 T needed 9,5 seconds to reach 100 km/h. Its top speed was 211 km/h, the Škoda reaches 215 km/h…

So you understand that we drove this Škoda with the rev counter in front of us. Faster than a 2,2 litre six cylinder classic Porsche…wow!  The 150 HP engine was coupled in our test car to an excellent seven speed DCT transmission, which provided smooth gearchanges. It takes however a rather gentle right foot when you want a supersmooth getaway from the traffic light. The engine can react rather abruptly with the gearbox hesitating somewhat, which can result in some jerkiness in the first meters. But soon your right foot will learn to bring all this ample torque smoothly on the tarmac.  

Thanks to its pulling power, this Kamiq is wonderfully lively. Even if you just leave the gearlever in the “D” position, the Kamiq will nevertheless sprint from 60 to 100 km/h in less than 5 seconds… take that!

Wind and tire roar is also well insulated from the cabin at speed, and this Škoda reveals itself as a very talented high speed cruising machine. It is a true compact GT, with excellent long distance qualities. The seventh gear is also laid out pleasantly high, with some 2400 rpm at 130 km/h for instance. The engine itself remains rather silent, with only a sporting roar when pushed to the limit. The Kamiq is of course als well prepared for night driving. It has LED headlamps as standard equipment.  

Let’s now focus on the handling. It’s very good indeed, with also the electromagnetic steering light and precise. You can steer with verve into corners; the Kamiq remains undisturbed and stable, with only some noticeable body roll. With all this, the Kamiq remains comfortable.

As it was so tempting to adopt a rather engaged driving style during our test, the consumption tended to suffer somewhat; We averaged 6,6 liters, while according to the WLTP cycle standards, the Kamiq should reach a figure of 6 l/100 km. CO2 emissions are quoted as 128 according to the WLTP norm.

Besides the good dynamic qualities, the rather high stance of this compact SUV and its nimble size make it fun to drive in town.

Brakes are also excellent, nicely progressive and responsive.

Conclusion

The Kamiq has excellent all round qualities, and in fact offers everything you would want from a car. It is roomy, compact in town, well finished, built to last, comfortable with excellent performance and dynamic qualities, which makes it an outstanding GT for long European (holiday) trips.

Of course, this Kamiq doesn’t come (very) cheap.. Škoda however offers for your money an excellent car, which will give you years of motoring pleasure… and yes, the performance and panache of a (classic) Porsche… at least in this well equipped top of the line Monte Carlo 150 HP version.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Jeep® Brand Reveals Images of First-Ever Fully Electric Jeep SUV…

News from Stellantis comes thick and fast: Today, during Stellantis’ Dare Forward 2030 strategic plan presentation, Carlos Tavares, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Stellantis, revealed images of the first-ever 100% battery-electric Jeep SUV, as the brand continues its global initiatives toward the full electrification of its SUV portfolio.

This new fully electric Jeep vehicle will be launched early next year, expanding the brand reach and taking the next step to the achievement of Jeep brand’s vision of Zero Emission Freedom. More information on the Jeep BEV will be released in the coming months.

We will also bring a full report on the Dare Forward 2030 strategic plan presentation soon. Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Two F1 drivers behind the wheel of the new Tonale …

We reported to you already, dear readers, about Alfa’s new Tonale, the brand’s first compact electrified SUV.

As the entire Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN gathered in La Thuile, Italy, for a break to build up maximum concentration and recharge the batteries ahead of pre-season testing in Barcelona, something was bound to happen with this Tonale.

Valterri Bottas was seduced by the new Tonale…

Indeed the two new Alfa Romeo drivers – Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu – made a stint behind the wheel of this well proportioned and timelessly styled Tonale. The 275-hp Plug-in Hybrid Q4 version with all-wheel drive must have proven certainly entertaining for them!

Impressed as they were about the good road qualities of this Alfa, so significant for the iconic brand, the team had come to La Thuile to focus on their strategies and objectives for the upcoming world championship.  La Thuile, known as the Wild Side of Mont Blanc, maintains and preserves its characteristics as a mountain resort far away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Zhou Guanyu, the Chinese racing driver now entering the Alfa F1 Team ORLEN, competed in the FIA Formula 2 Championship for UNI-Virtuosi Racing from 2019 to 2021, having finished 3rd in the 2021 campaign…

An ideal setting for the CEO of Alfa Romeo Jean-Philippe Imparato and the Team Principal of the Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN, Frédéric Vasseur, flanked by the entire management and communications team, to prepare the next F1 season…with the Tonale setting the tune!   

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the 360 HP DS9 E-Tense 4×4 in Nice… and witnessed the launch of the DS Supercar!

Arriving late last night from Nice, we report you here immediately about the wonderful driving experience with the most powerful DS9, enjoying its pure GT talents over the winding roads around Grasse and the iconic Côte d’Azur. We will soon tell you more about it.

But the gentlemen of DS Automobiles did even more than just letting us have a drive in their flagship DS9, they also unveiled in the flesh at their press conference a wonderful Supercar, with absolutely stunning looks and performance.

DS Automobiles puts their E-Formula racing experience into practice on our roads… What to think of 815 HP or 600 kW, developed by two electric motors of 250 kW in the front, and 350 kW driving the rear wheels.

Acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h is done in a fantastic 2 seconds…and the car is a beauty too!

Much more about this superfast E-“bolide” and the impressive top-level DS9 soon on these pages!

Hans Knol ten Bensel    

Porsche launches the “T” version of its Macan: exclusive sportiness…

The letter T has represented a unique form of dynamic driving at Porsche since the 1960s. It stands for ‘Touring’ and identifies models that offer an especially authentic driving experience thanks to precise tuning, exclusive equipment and efficient engines.

It all started in ’68 with the Porsche 911 T. Lightweight and dynamic. Your servant vividly remembers being at the wheel of this “Ur” 911 T… I drove it full bore on the winding small roads along the Leie in the region of Deurle.

The same recipe maximizing agility is used for the Macan T.  Besides the sportier setup, it has a lightweight, two-litre turbo engine. This concept positions the Macan T between the Macan and the Macan S.

Lightweight, for an agile response

The two-litre, four-cylinder turbo engine of the Macan T combines, Porsche says, “great agility, low weight and a compact design to create a package that offers an ideal balance of weight and performance.”Compared to the 2.9-litre biturbo V6 engine in the Macan S and GTS models, the powertrain in the Macan T weighs 58.8 kg less on the front axle.

Power galore

The Macan T has an output of 195 kW (265 PS) and 400 Nm of torque. The engine is coupled with a seven-speed dual clutch transmission (PDK) and the Porsche Traction Management (PTM) all-wheel drive system. A broad spread of torque provides, according to Porsche, “responsive acceleration in all driving situations.” When fitted with the standard Sport Chrono Package including the mode switch and Sport Response button on the steering wheel, the Macan T accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.2 seconds and reaches a top speed of 232 km/h.

Specially tuned chassis lowered by 15 millimetres or more

The Macan T is the only Porsche model to feature steel suspension with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) as standard, combined with the body being lowered by 15 mm. The anti-roll bars on the front axle are more rigid and the car’s chassis tuning has been optimized to create the perfect suspension for the vehicle and powertrain, resulting in very responsive steering behavior and agile handling.

Get the tail out sideways…

The Porsche Traction Management (PTM) has also been adapted to the driving demands of the Macan T and has been specially designed with a rear-wheel bias. Adding adaptive air suspension with PASM and lowering the body by a further 10 mm is also an option – a new feature for Macan models with four-cylinder engines. Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus) can also be added: the system has been adapted to the dynamic characteristics of the T model and further sharpens the driving dynamics.

Exclusive details inside and out

Design elements painted in Agate Grey Metallic on the front, flank and rear of the Macan T differentiate the vehicle from other models in the series. The exclusive contrast colour can be seen on the painted front trim, exterior mirrors, side blades, roof spoiler and logos on the rear. Sports tailpipes and side window trims in Black (high gloss) are included as standard and the side blades feature the ‘Macan T’ logo in Black. Twenty-inch Macan S wheels, exclusively in dark titanium, come as standard. Customers can choose from a range of 13 plain, metallic and special colours for the exterior.

The interior of the Macan T has its own distinct ambience. The standard, eight-way electrically adjustable heated sports seats feature an upholstery based on the Black leather package. The centres of the front seats and the outer rear seats are delivered with the Sport-Tex Stripe pattern and the front headrests each have an embossed Porsche crest. The contrasting colour from the exterior continues inside the vehicle in the form of decorative silver stitching on the seats, headrests and steering wheel.

Porsche panache in the cabin

Standard equipment also includes a multifunction GT heated sports steering wheel and the Sport Chrono stopwatch in the upper part of the dashboard. The door entry guards come in black aluminium as standard and feature a Macan T logo. Optional features include the multifunction GT sports steering wheel in Race-Tex with carbon trims and an ioniser.

The Macan T also benefits from all of the new elements of the model generation revised in summer 2021, such as the new centre console with its sophisticated glass-look and touch-sensitive surface, as well as the fully networked Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system with a 10.9-inch touch screen and online navigation as standard.

Soon on our roads…

The new model is available to order now. Deliveries in Germany will commence in April 2022.

More Porsche news soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

BMW launches visually appealing “Gold Play” edition for is X2…

The distinctive design of the BMW X2 projects a sense of athleticism that reflects the car’s sporty driving properties, according to BMW, and we can agree. Now the dynamic brand from Munich adds some additional zest to its X2 range.

It launches a new special edition of the compact Sports Activity Coupé with visually more striking exterior touches and creates an interior ambience distilled to maximise driving pleasure.

The BMW X2 xDrive25e plug-in hybrid, super-sporting BMW X2 M35i and all other engine variants will be available in this special-edition form from March 2022.

The new special edition combines equipment highlights, such as the extended M High-gloss Shadow Line, the “X2” logo projection from the driver’s side mirror or the optionally available Adaptive LED Headlights including a four-segment matrix high-beam headlight function, turning lights and adaptive light distribution, with exclusive exterior details and special interior appointments.

More BMW news soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Lexus lifts a veil of its BEV Sport Concept car: formidable!

Lexus has released a gallery of new pictures and animations of its possible next-generation BEV Sport, Sedan and SUV concepts. The models were first revealed on December 14, 2021, in the corporate battery electric vehicle (BEV) announcement made by Akio Toyoda, Toyota Motor Corporation President and Lexus Brand Holder. The new Sedan, Sport and SUV concepts are proposed to be part of a full line-up of BEVs Lexus recently unveiled under the collective vision known as “Lexus Electrified.”

We show you here already some photos of the absolutely stunning all electric sports car…

It has bold proportions and low ride height, and of course all the sophisticated aerodynamics typical for a high-performance sports car.

According to Lexus, the Lexus BEV Sport concept symbolizes the future of the luxury brand, while also reviving the spirit of the iconic Lexus LFA.

The performance is nothing short of sensational. What to think of acceleration from 0-60 mph in the low two-seconds bracket, with at the same time a cruising distance which could exceed 430 miles, thanks to the possible use of solid-state batteries.

More news to come, also on the BEV Sedan an SUV Concept cars, but just admire already the breathtaking shape of this BEV Sport “Bolide”…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Look on your screen(s) at the new MINI World…

The new MINI Edition models are due to hit the showrooms in spring 2022. For the first time, all current models of the tradition-steeped British premium car manufacturer will be launched at the same time, each in its own special edition. The market launch will be accompanied by an equally novel form of communication. An international campaign under the claim BIG LOVE presents the MINI 3 door with the all-electric variant MINI Cooper SE as a highlight, along with the MINI 5 door and the MINI Convertible in the Resolute Edition, the MINI Clubman in the Untold Edition and the MINI Countryman in the Untamed Edition – each as an individual vehicle character in a virtual world of its own. Each is showcased in surprising and impressive style in a 100 per cent digital format using the very latest full CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) animation technology.

The campaign adopts an integrated approach that makes use of all MINI brand communication channels along the customer journey. The numerous visual content formats targeted at the sales funnel creates a completely new look: using everything from AR animations, stories and reels through to various types of online ad, MINI gears its content precisely towards a digital-savvy audience. The innovative approach adopted by the BIG LOVE launch campaign enables MINI to address target groups in the markets even more selectively, closely aligning it with local priorities…

The central building blocks of the campaign are computer-generated images and virtual animated films. Using 3D computer graphics, images and films are created showing detailed vehicles in a setting that transcends the boundaries of reality.

The MINI Edition models always play the leading role in the animated short films. Each model is showcased and brought to life in its own lively animated world. The protagonists of the films are presented with their exclusive design and equipment features, demonstrating hallmark MINI go-kart feeling with state-of-the-art visual effects – without the cars ever touching a real road.

The campaign also includes the launch of an online showroom by MINI where fans of the brand can interactively find out about the new Edition models with pictures, videos and 360-degree views. The new vehicles can be viewed on a digital turntable from all conceivable perspectives, both as an overall image in wide angle and via close-ups that clearly show all the details. The showroom for the new MINI Edition models will go online at http://www.MINI.com as well as on the various country websites. The campaign is also available for use by all MINI dealers and branches.

So, MINI lovers, get behind your screens!

Hans Knol ten Bensel