BMW and Skoda achieve five-star ratings in the Euro NCAP test…

The BMW iX not only embodies, represents a new era in individual mobility, it also scores very high on safety. This is according to the experts of the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) – the consumer protection institute specialising in automotive safety – who awarded the BMW iX the highest possible rating of five stars in the Euro NCAP safety assessment. During the course of the test programme, which was further intensified in 2020, the BMW Group’s new technology flagship impressed with both its outstanding occupant protection and its advanced driver assistance systems, which are particularly effective in helping to prevent accidents.

The BMW iX achieved five-star ratings in all test categories of the Euro NCAP crash test. The testers highlighted among other features the effectiveness of the new interactive airbag between the driver and front passenger seats, which provides additional protection against injury in the event of a side collision. Child safety in the rear of the BMW iX was also given the highest possible score for both frontal and side collisions.

Top rating also for the new fourth-generation ŠKODA FABIA: The Czech car manufacturer’s entry-level model secured five stars in the crash safety reference test conducted by the independent European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP). Achieving 78 per cent of the maximum available points, the FABIA is one of the safest vehicles in its class. For the first time, the small car is based on the Volkswagen Group’s Modular Transverse Toolkit MQB-A0. This result continues the string of top ratings for ŠKODA vehicles, even under the more stringent assessment criteria introduced in 2020; each new model from the Czech car manufacturer has received the top rating since 2008.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Ford conducts autonomous vehicle research with UK-based Deep Sea Container Port

Autonomous vehicles will certainly be important to improve the efficiency of large ports, all over the world.

So Ford collaborates with DP World London Gateway to demonstrate how autonomous delivery could benefit large worksites, such as ports. DP World London Gateway – one of the UK’s fastest growing ports – is located 40 km east of central London and already embraces automated technology as an intrinsic part of its operations as a deep-sea container port.

The trial is part of Ford’s Self-Driving Research Programme, which works directly with customers to better understand how autonomous vehicles could integrate into their businesses

Researchers monitored DP World employees as they both loaded and accessed parcels directly to and from a simulated autonomous vehicle – without any assistance from a driver…brave new world!

The initiative is part of Ford’s Self-Driving Research Programme, designed to help businesses understand how autonomous vehicles could benefit their operations.

First launched in June to explore the potential impact upon courier services and doorstep deliveries, the DP World trial tested how recipients managed when accessing self-driving delivery vehicles themselves.

The underlying intention behind the pilot programme is to identify new opportunities and models for autonomous vehicle operations – in particular understanding how existing processes and human interactions can work alongside automated vehicles.

“It was incredible to see how enthusiastically the team at DP World embraced working with the support of a self-driving vehicle. We are continuing to work very closely with our customers to learn how these vehicles can benefit their businesses and it is exciting to see first-hand the impact this can have across a diverse range of locations,” said Richard Balch, director, Autonomous Vehicles and Mobility, Ford of Europe. “What worked so well at DP World premises could equally be of benefit at universities, airports and manufacturing facilities.”

Ford has been testing self-driving technology in major cities across the U.S. in partnership with Argo AI. The company plans to invest around $7 billion (€6.02 billion) in autonomous vehicles during 10 years through to 2025 – $5 billion (€4.3 billion) of that from 2021 forward – as part of its mobility initiatives.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Volkswagen ID.4 Pro: the electric crossover-SUV for the world…

With this ID.4, Volkswagen is taking another bold step forward: it is building an SUV which will be offered worldwide, notably built and sold in China, the US and Europe. For us here, it is produced in Zwickau. It is the second model to use the celebrated MEB platform, the EV platform which is also sold to Ford. The car embodies a quite important if not formidable step for VW, where every aspect of this car has to please many customers, all over our globe.

We drove the so-called “Pro” version, with the 77 kW battery, about 500 km range, 204 HP or 150 kW, and lively performance. It certainly did please us, and this pleasant impression got better the longer we drove it. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Friendly and harmonious looks

Stylists of a world car have no easy task. It looks that they have succeeded though. Just know that the ID.4 has recently been singled out for the “2021 World Car of the Year” award. When we approached the ID.4 and walked around it, our eyes meet iconic, timeless and pleasing shapes. Lines and contours with character, evoking exactly what this car wants to be: a family-friendly roomy SUV, which will accompany its owner with style for years to come. The rounded styling language is never aggressive, the front end is clean, not without elegance, has a timeless touch. The proportions are well chosen, look just right from every angle, also the big wheels with their aerodynamic alloys add panache to this SUV. We took some photos close to the runway of Zaventem airport, so the flatness of the empty landscape adds to the clean lines of this ID.4.

The same simplicity and clean lines are found in the interior and the dashboard layout and instrumentation. It is very similar to the ID.3, with an instrument cluster forming one unit with steering column and steering wheel, and a large touch screen in the centre of the dashboard. Its driver assistance and infotainment system is everything you could wish for. Of course you have to familiarize yourself with its controls, so we suggest you to read the instruction book carefully.

Reading the instructions is the proper thing to do when you buy a car of this refinement, engineering excellence and build quality. It is by the way ALWAYS the thing to do when you purchase any car, actually. Also, remember, there is YouTube. Many VW car dealers have a film made for you, so-called instruction films, where you can see and hear the workings of every accessory and functionality.

In our test car, suffice to say the diagonal size of the touch display was 10 inches, and it is good to know that natural voice control with an online connection and the ID. Light come as standard. You will not read any critique here about the workings of any of the functions of the ID.4, it takes getting used to, and even a week can be too short for this to have everything intuitively in its fingers.

I always keep in mind that the owner or user of this car will be behind the wheel of this VW for months, if not years, and will have familiarized him (her) with every function, that is if he (she) was not too lazy to read about it in the manual or try it out. I mentioned ID. Light. It is a light strip below the windscreen, and tells you when to take a left or right turn, when it has understood a voice message from you, after you said first “Hello ID.” Indeed, the future has arrived in this car.

The driver uses the central display to manage the telephone system, navigation system, entertainment functions, assist systems and the vehicle setup. Sliders for volume and temperature adjustment are located below the display. Clean and purposeful.

Daily life with the ID.4 has become simple. Just step in, push the brake pedal and select “D”. Off you go. On the right side of the steering column is a big switch which you have to turn towards or from you, to select D, B or Reverse. At the end of this switch us a big knob “P”. Just push it and the parking brake is on.

With “D” you drive normally, with “B” the electric motor regenerates energy when you lift the throttle. It will decelerate the car of course. When you are a master in anticipative driving, remain in “D”, you can coast then almost forever. Using kinetic energy by just coasting is still the most efficient, albeit the most difficult thing to do as you have REALLY to anticipate traffic situations.

“Zen” driving…

The biggest advantage of EV’s, I find personally, is their supersmooth progress. Gone is the so disturbing jerkiness of sticky transmissions and unwilling cold engines. So the ID.4 is also a very soothing vehicle. Silent, vibrationless, with smooth feline power thanks to its impressive torque. 310 Nm if it. Good enough to take this rather heavy ID.4  from standstill to a speed of 100 km/h in 8,5 seconds. Almost pushing your back firmly in the seat. Almost, but remember, this is meant to be a family car. Top speed is limited to 160 km/h. It is also a towing vehicle. Up to 1,000 kg in our test car’s configuration.

The suspension is rather firm, but not uncomfortable. The laws of physics command some firmness as there is a good 500 kg of batteries in the platform underneath the seats. The electric 150 kW motor sits above the rear axle and drives the rear wheels. The advantage is that it allows a small turning circle of just 10.2 metres. Rear wheel drive then, but do not expect to make any power slides. Steering is precise and handling is quite good, even on the rather sporting side.

The WLTP range with the 77 kW battery is according to the manufacturer up to 522 km. There is no secret. Using kW/h costs range. If you cruise at say 85 km/h on the motorway (the truck drivers won’t like this and disturb your “Zen” progress) everything is fine. In winter, and/or when driving faster, the practical range can be estimated as being a good 360-380 kilometers, which is still quite OK. At a DC quick-charging station, the ID.4 with its 77 kWh battery and a charging capacity of 125 kW can be recharged ready for the next 320 km in around 30 minutes (according to WLTP).

Roomy

The VW engineers and stylists have kept one thing firmly in mind: this is a family SUV. So indeed, it offers room which is actually that of a SUV which belongs to a class higher. Ample legroom in the rear, (similar to the Tiguan Allspace), three passengers can sit easily, and even tall drivers do not touch the roof when they put their seat in the highest position. Need we say more? Suffice to say that the wheelbase is a good 2766 millimeters.

The ID.4 has also lots of room in the front centre console, as there is no gearchange lever to disturb things. The luggage space is also impressive: 543 litres of luggage, a figure that increases to 1,575 litres after folding down the backrests (loaded to roof height).

And comfortably equipped

Standard features in all ID.4 models include the ten-colour ambient lighting, the speed limiter and Air Care Climatronic. This is coupled with an electric stationary air conditioning system, which can also be activated when the car is not charging from the mains power grid. Life is good with the ID.4.

All nine ID.4 models are equipped with the Discover Pro navigation system and 10-inch display as standard. All models above the ID.4 City and ID.4 Life come with the Infotainment package. (We tested the “Pro” version.) Its highlights include the Comfort mobile phone interface, which is able to connect a smartphone to the vehicle’s electronic system and charge it inductively. The standard App-Connect function enables media to be streamed via a smartphone, which can be embedded in its native environment using Android Auto, Apple Car Play and Mirror Link. In the Infotainment Plus package (which comes with the ID.4 Tech and ID.4 Max), the navigation system has a 12-inch display.

The ID.4 is equipped with the lane keeping system Lane Assist as standard. Front Assist monitors the area in front of the vehicle and responds with warnings and braking interventions to warn the driver of impending collisions with other road users. The acoustic Park Distance Control function is able to avoid parking collisions or reduce the level of damage using the automatic manoeuvre braking function. The speed limiter is also included in the ID.4’s standard equipment.

Another technology that every ID.4 has on board is called Car2X, which allows the car to exchange information about local hazards with other vehicles and the traffic infrastructure – via the wireless standard WLAN p. The maximum distance here is 800 metres, with warning transmission taking only milliseconds. Car2X is currently active from a speed of 80 km/h, but is also intended to improve safety and traffic flow in urban traffic in the future.

Conclusion

A very able, roomy and stylish compact SUV and a marvelous EV, that’s what this ID.4 essentially is. It is a true Volkswagen, setting standards in timeless modernity, embodying purposeful and clever engineering.

Add to this the know-how of a world manufacturer, the vast dealer network, you will agree that this new generation VW EV have a lot going for it. It ranks already in some countries where the charging infrastructure is decent among the bestsellers, so this ID.4 has a bright future ahead, electrifying the world…

Hans Knol ten Bensel   

We drove the Citroën C4 BlueHDi 130 HP: the magic of the Double Chevron…

Citroëns have always been quite exceptional cars for me, not onIy the “big” Citroëns, but also the compact cars, beginning with the GS. In the early days of my career as a car journalist, I vividly remember the stylish GS as a test car. Indeed, not only the boxer engine, also the suspension and styling where totally of another league.

I also recall fondly a very fast trip to the Frankfurt Motor Show, with a 1,6 litre petrol engined C4, the generation prior to the Cactus, driving totally relaxed at speeds between 160-180 km/h in pouring rain on the Autobahn, showing superb GT qualities in total comfort. But also the 1,9 litre Diesel versions were extraordinary. I remember the used red BX and the used dark blue Xantia, both of which I drove as long-term test cars for Autokrant. They offered excellent performance, GT panache and comfort, combined with exemplary economy.

But now let’s turn our nostalgic hearts to the present day C4. To tell you right away, it continues the tradition with its equally unique suspension, Progressive Hydraulic Cushions® and Advanced Comfort seats. It has the same unique personality and character as its predecessors, and even a lot more. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

With the new ë-C4 and New C4, actually Citroën’s new-generation compact hatchback, the iconic brand is targeting this time the still very important (European) hatchback market. This C4 has a rather elevated posture, not unlike we see with Asian competitors like amongst others the Toyota CH-R, with the same quite busy styling language.

Citroën says that it wants to combine the dynamism of a hatchback with SUV design forms for added character. With its sloping rear window and spoiler, Citroën says, the rear end draws its inspiration from the 2004 C4 Coupé with its original two-piece rear window topped by an aerodynamic spoiler.

Sliding behind the wheel, we are pleasantly surprised by a restful and uncluttered simplicity, indeed every effort has been made not to distract the driver unduly. The instrument cluster is a superb example of less is more: small dials for water temperature, revs and a digital speed indicator are the only things to attract your attention. The designers have kept these indicators rather small, and indeed your eyes should rather focus on the road and the large colored head-up display. Restful and efficient!

In the centre, at the top of the dashboard sits the ultra-thin borderless 10-inch touchscreen, which is of course the nerve centre of the vehicle’s controls. The controls of the dual-zone automatic climate control – thankfully also physical for immediate access to change the settings – have chrome dials and gloss black push buttons.

One finds easily his way in this C4. There is also an elegant guilloché metal automatic gear lever. It has the three usual positions (R, N and D) that are backlit for clarity. There are also two backlit push buttons: P to activate Parking mode, M to activate manual driving mode (for conventional engine versions) or B to activate the “Brake” energy recovery mode for the electric version. The console also incorporates the electric parking brake and a driving mode selector that has three settings on automatic transmission versions: Eco, Normal, Sport.

Smooth diesel power combined with a fluent 8 speed automatic…

Indeed, we drove here the BlueHDi 130 S&S in combination with the EAT8 Auto gearbox. Here we again were impressed by what a modern 1499 cc four valve turbocharged diesel engine (still) has to offer in terms of velvety power delivery and sheer economy, all this in paired with a state of the art transmission.

Starting from cold, the once so familiar diesel clatter is totally absent: this engine runs smooth, virbationless and silent right from the word go. At speed, it is totally inaudible, and very unobtrusive indeed at urban crawling speeds. The transmission is ideally mated to the engine’s torque characteristics. Indeed, the unit has ample pulling power, developing 300 Nm at a low 1700 rpm. Performance therefore leaves nothing to be desired: it will accelerate smoothly in 10,6 sec to 100 km/h, further to an impressive top speed of 206 km/h. Revs are kept low due to the high final gearing of the transmission, providing very restful high speed cruising. Indeed, maximum power of 96 kW or 130 HP is developed at a very sedate 3700 rpm.

So this C4 has everything in house to excel as a fast “grande routière”, and on top of that there is a truly astonishing fuel economy: we reached an average during our test of merely 4,4 l/100 km!

Legendary comfort…

The C4 is equipped, as standard, with the Citroën brand’s innovative suspension system featuring Progressive Hydraulic Cushions®, which were first introduced on C4 Cactus and C5 Aircross SUV. The suspension setup offers supreme comfort and a “magic carpet ride” effect, according to Citroën. Indeed, comfort is truly top notch. Not less than twenty patents were filed in the development of this suspension system. Its operating principle is simple: the Citroën Progressive Hydraulic Cushions® system adds two hydraulic stops – one for compression, the other for decompression besides the classic metal springs and shock absorbers. The suspension works in two stages, depending on the stresses it encounters.

For light compression and decompression, the spring and shock absorber control vertical movements together with no assistance required from the hydraulic stops. However, the presence of the hydraulic stops means the engineers have greater freedom to tune the setup to achieve the fabled “magic carpet ride” effect, which gives the impression that the car is gliding over uneven road surfaces.

Indeed, with major impacts, the spring and shock absorber work together with the hydraulic compression or decompression stops, which gradually slow the movement to avoid jolts at the end of the range. Unlike a traditional mechanical stop, which absorbs energy, but then returns part of it as a shock, the hydraulic stop absorbs and dissipates this energy. Clever!

The C4 is also quiet: particular attention has been paid to acoustic insulation, with a focus on running and aerodynamic noise. Special attention has been paid to the insulation around the engine block.

…is also found in the seats

The special foam on the surface of the seat, thickened by 15 mm, offers softness and support from the first contact. The new high-density foam at the core of the seats holds the occupants in place during long journeys. The seats are also pleasantly wide and generously dimensioned.

The front seat passenger is also spoiled…

A Smart Pad Support Citroën™ is a World Premiere on New ë-C4 and New C4. It is a retractable system designed to hold a tablet computer. It is solid, functional and directly built into the dashboard. It enables the front passenger to make the most of the time spent on-board. Ideal to put your co-pilot at work to read for you the stories and information about the towns or the regions you travel through, which you have prepared on your IPad or tablet prior to your voyage of course…

The Dashboard tray itself is a large sliding drawer with a cushioned action, positioned in front of the front passenger. It has a special anti-slip surface to store personal items or hold a tablet in place in complete safety. Just great!

Of course there is an open wireless charging area for smartphones, which comes combined with two USB sockets, one of which is Type C.

Infotainment and connectivity galore…

The 10-inch touchscreen, with a capacitive screen that needs only be touched with the tip of a finger, allows the driver to configure the vehicle, access the multimedia system, telephone, air-conditioning and navigation. It also features voice recognition.

Wireless charging for smartphones allows a wide range of Qi-compatible devices to be induction-charged using a charging mat incorporated into the centre console. The wireless transmission of electrical energy is based on the principle of magnetic induction. Connect Play, using the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay™ compatible Mirror Screen function are installed of course.

ConnectedCAM Citroën® is an independent camera system integrated into the base of the rear-view mirror. It uses full HD and GPS technology. The camera allows you to take a photo or video of the outside scene in front of your vehicle, with the corresponding data stored on the integrated 16 GB memory card. Thanks to the WiFi connection, the data recorded by the camera can be transferred to a smartphone to be shared via e-mail or social networks. ConnectedCAM Citroën® continuously films the road in front of the windscreen and automatically saves the recordings in the event of an accident.

As well as driving aids…

The new ë-C4 and New C4 are packed with driving aids – no less than 20 latest-generation technologies in all. That is as many as on C5 Aircross SUV, which is the benchmark for driving aids at Citroën.

Practical and spacious…

The C4 has a wheelbase measuring 2,670 mm – one of the longest in the segment – delivering the “Best in Class” knee room in the rear at 198 mm. The 1,800 mm exterior width easily accommodates three people in the rear – providing 1,380 mm of width at the shoulders and 1,440 mm at the elbows. Headroom in the back is a bit restricted for the tallest among us though.

With a 380-litre boot and a low, flat loading sill (715 mm), the C4 is at the heart of the segment. For added convenience, a two-position floor allows the boot to be divided into compartments and provides a flat floor when the rear seating is folded down. For even more practicality in everyday life, hooks are present to hang bags, while a ski hatch allows particularly long objects to extend into the cabin.

Last but not least we tell you here that this Citroen C4 is built at its Madrid plant, and Stellantis has spent €144 million in upgrading the factory and designing the new C4.

We also had a short drive with the electric ë-C4, and we tell you soon about our driving impressions… stunning indeed!

Conclusion

In terms of driving comfort, long-legged cruising performance, and last but not least exceptional economy and smoothness, this C4 truly stands in a class of its own. It is one of the most harmonious cars we have come across lately. Its 1,5 litre 130 HP diesel showed us again how formidable these engines have become, offering a useable range of well over 1,000 kilometers.

This C4 breathes originality and character, even more so in the interior, and we can tell you this: just slide behind the wheel of this one, and you will notice, Citroën driving is addictive, and this feeling grows further with every meter you drive it…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Our BMW Z3 successfully repaired…

Our pristine Z3 is now fit for the road again…passing the technical control without a hitch.

In these columns you could read about the play in the driver’s seat which prevented our shining mount to pass the annual technical control. As the bushes were very probably worn and the repair was rather intricate as the seat mounts have to be moving strictly parallel when propelled forward or backward by the electric motor, we decided to leave the repair in the expert hands of BMW dealer Jorssen Zuid.

The bushes on the driver’s seat were completely worn out, actually virtually shredded!

I first thought that only the driver’s seat had play, but closer inspection by the mechanics of Jorssen revealed that the passenger seat was also rocking fore and aft in its rails. This was not noticed by the inspectors of the technical control.

Then they ordered the parts necessary for the repair, which were 2 sets of guide bushes for 23,96 Euro each (ex VAT) and 8 six sided screws at 7,27 Euro each, again ex VAT. It brought the total cost of all the necessary parts for this repair to 106,08 Euros, ex VAT.

The bushes on the passenger seat witnessed the same fate…

The Jorssen mechanics then proceeded to remove the seats from the car. Removing and again installing the seats cost in total 35 minutes, the repair itself, disconnecting and reconnecting the electric motors, replacing the bushes, reinstalling everything and ensuring than the seat attachments are perfectly parallel cost in total 1 hr. 10 minutes.

Finally a 10 minute driving test was executed. The total cost of the repair, ex VAT, amounted to 316,17 Euros.

Very reasonable we would say, and BMW Jorssen is not only to be applauded for its diligence, it is also very comforting to see that the parts for a 1997 built BMW are readily available.

We asked the people at Jorssen also to take some photos of the worn out bushes, for the sake of our report here, showing indeed that they were completely worn out and even literally torn to pieces.

Fit for the road again for another year with a green technical control card…

This shows again how it important is for premium – and actually for all car manufacturers – to test and inspect the quality of each part in their products. Cutting corners in quality can impair not only the reliability, but also the security of their products.

Needless to say that the subsequent technical control went without a hitch, and our beloved Z3 is again totally fit for another year on our roads. It is even allowed to drive around in the emission zone in Antwerp until 2024, and this also puts a broad smile on our face…

We just let you look at the photos here, and soon we will proceed with a thorough cleaning, protecting and rejuvenating of the leather of the nice seats of our Z3…

Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Mercedes C 200 Luxury Line: setting the pace again…

After the new S Class comes usually the new C Class with systems and functionalities found in its bigger brother, to set new benchmarks also in its D segment.

Driving the new C200 Luxury Line Limousine, we can say that the brand with the star has fully succeeded. This car stands out in its class, discreetly but with assurance… Just read further.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

S-Class looks…

The C Class breathes the styling language of its bigger brother, if you look merely at the front and rear end. The profile of the C Class is then again marked by the bigger door window areas. The overhang over the rear wheels is slightly longer, and this makes the car look more elegantly stretched, just like the S-Class. The car is also some 6,5 centimeters longer than the previous C-Class generation, breathes panache, looks modern and is purposefully aerodynamic.

…also in the cabin

In the interior, the family resemblance with the top of the line S-Class is even more marked. Sliding behind the wheel, one immediately is overwhelmed by the two big digital screens, one in front of the driver, and another one in massive Tesla style on the centre console.

The Mercedes MBUX system is developed now close to perfection, and even novices soon find their way intuitively through the very logical buildup of the system. And if you would still get lost, there is always the voice command. Just say ‘Hey Mercedes’ and say what you want done…

We loved the 360° camera parking aid very much. The system is so clever, that sometimes you want the system to be even smarter, for example, in situations where one approaches a kerb with the front end of the car when parking in a bay, you would like the front end camera to start up automatically to show you how close you are. Now you first have to push the camera button on the centre console, or use reverse gear first.

You would also want the camera system to get into action automatically – even accompanied by an alert sound – if you get with one of the stylish 18 inch alloy wheels too close to a trottoir border, fence or other obstacle. Now you are left all too often to guesswork. Maybe there is a mode for it, but we did not find it intuitively. The seats are excellent, and adjustable in every conceivable way. Also the rear passengers enjoy enough legroom, thanks partially to the well curved backs of both front seats.

State of the art propulsion…

The 200 C has a 1,5 litre DOHC four cylinder under the hood, developing not less than 204 HP with 300 Nm of torque. If that wasn’t enough, there is also an E-boost of 20 HP and 200 Nm. A small battery will store kinetic energy when decelerating and braking, delivering then its power for the extra boost when called for. The performance leaves nothing to be desired: This 200 C accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 7,3 seconds, its top speed is not less than 247 km/h. The engine is almost inaudible and superbly smooth, provided you don’t push your right foot too deep. When you accelerate hard from standstill or low speeds, the unit lets it heard as it frantically revs through the gears, and one clearly feels and hears that a smaller thoroughbred engine is at work here.

At motorway cruising speeds, things get silent and smooth again, not least because of the high final gear of the superb 9 speed automatic gearbox, ideally mated to the engine.

There are of course several driving modes to choose from, and we liked most the ‘ECO’ mode, where also the E-boost is best felt. The small capacity of the engine has its advantages in economy, and the manufacturer quotes 6,4 liters/100 km as average WLTP consumption. Don’t expect however this C 200 to be exceptionally frugal however in urban driving. This is a 1,5 tonne car and when you drive it with verve, power is needed. The official figure is 8,7 liters/100 km, and very short distance urban errands with very slow traffic will push the consumption well over 10 liters/100 km. There is no secret, in partial and varying load driving, diesels are so much better…EQ-boost or not.

Comfort is to be expected, and this Luxury Line C Class has the Agility Control Damper system as standard. The fundamental setting is already quite firm, so we opted for the comfort mode, which already supports a very spirited driving style with excellent stability and handling. Steering is also precise, and the C Class doesn’t’ mind being driven with verve. The seats also keep you firmly in place, and this goes for the passengers as well.

Road noise is well suppressed, and we enjoyed fully the Burmeister 3D surround sound system in our test car.

Conclusion

Our test car came fully equipped, from electronic adjustable seats to a panorama sunroof and keyless entry. This is how a Mercedes should be, although our less lavishly equipped 1,6 litre B Class which is now more than 4 years old pleases us every day we drive it. It is the balance, workmanship, thorough engineering, overall smoothness, solidity and pervading sense of security which make a Mercedes, and this C 200 continues the good tradition…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Subaru XV e-Boxer facelift 2121: electrified on all roads…

Subaru is deservedly famous for its excellent engineering. It embraces 4WD and boxer engine technology, and sticks to it with an uncanny sense of tradition. Rightly so.

Comes of course the EV age, and Subaru makes with the e-Boxer range it first steps into this world. The e-Boxer drivetrain can best be described as a self-charging hybrid. It does the job, whilst retaining its unique Subaru character: the willing boxer engine, the excellent off-road capabilities, the well balanced and inspiring handling on tarmac, it is all still there.

We tested already the 2020 XV e-Boxer, just read our previous test report on these columns. We find our positive findings confirmed, and focus here also on the main topics of the facelift…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Bolder looks

The compact crossover has now a modified front, with an even tougher look. The front bumper was redesigned with a larger black plastic part, a new skid plate and L-shaped silver-grey inserts. The fog lamps received a new frame and the grille was tightened with a new mesh. The crossbar in the grille itself is now slightly wider, making the Subaru logo larger and more prominently visible. Finally, the design of the 17- and 18-inch alloy wheels has been revised.

The drivetrain becomes even more sophisticated

Let’s first look at the drivetrain, which it has of course in common with the other e-Boxer models in the Subaru range. The redesigned 2 litre boxer engine is coupled to a 12.3kW electric motor sitting on the CVT transmission and small 13.5kWh battery, and as we said, Subaru calls it a self-charging hybrid. Modest beginnings, but on the other hand this adds only some 167 kilo to the scale.

Does it work? Yes, it certainly does, that is if you hone your driving style, so the hybrid can function optimally. We indicated this already in our previous test report, and we can only repeat it here.

It will run on the electric motor at lower speeds, for shorter distances. The trick is to accelerate slowly and keep constant speeds in urban traffic. These driving conditions which will not prompt the boxer engine to set in, but let the 17 HP electric motor do its work as much as possible.

The CVT transmission will also choose higher ratio’s when you keep the throttle openings small. The result is lower revs, which will keep consumption very reasonable. Subaru did some very good detail work in setting up the CVT transmission, added an “Intelligent” setting which is ideal for constant speed boulevard drives and keeps revs close to 1000 rpm or so when touring in 30 km limit areas.

All this lets consumption drop to between 7 and 6.5 l/100 km even in tight urban driving conditions. All this also happens with uncanny smoothness, and this Subaru is a very refined automobile indeed.

As said, Subaru added with the facelift the so-called “I-Drive” as standard. The system has two settings, Sport (S) and Intelligent (I), each with their own character: thanks to the smooth power delivery, Intelligent mode is ideal for city driving, for long distances and for driving as efficiently as possible. Indeed, this setting keeps the revs down as much as possible. The Sport mode is a highly responsive mode and is well suited to all-round conditions thanks to its instant acceleration.

Of course in this Sport mode you cannot bend the laws of physics, and when the willing boxer engine delivers its 150 HP pulling power, the fuel consumption goes invariably up.

The manufacturer quotes 6,5 l/100 km as average consumption and mentions CO2 emissions of some 149 g/km. Performance is everything you could ever wish for: 0 to 100 km in 10,7 seconds and a top speed of 193 km/h.

Precise and inviting handling, on and off-road…

The Subaru XV runs on its new Global Platform, which delivers more safety and stiffness, as we said before, resulting in very good handling, and this XV is a pleasure to drive on winding stretches. Suspension comfort is also very good, both on tarmac as on (very) rough terrain. When it comes to safety, it is good to know that the XV has been awarded the maximum 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

Subaru’s Permanent Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive constantly shifts power to the wheels with the most traction, and the XV has not less than 220 mm ground clearance.

With X-MODE with Hill Descent Control, you negotiate steep inclines and descents as an expert. At the push of a button, it takes command of the engine, transmission, Symmetrical AWD, brakes and other components to help you navigate challenging terrain. Here the facelift has made things even better. Subaru also optimized this X-MODE. It is now equipped with a dual function that allows the driver to choose between “Snow / Dirt” and “Deep Snow / Mud”. X-MODE takes advantage of the high torque and fast response of the motor to prevent stalling in extremely poor surfaces

Living with the XV

The seating position is also very good, with fine, supportive seats.

We liked already in the previous test the dashboard layout and clear, the fine chrome finished round dials, which evoke a bit of pur-sang atmosphere which we like so much. Connectivity and driving aids are up to scratch, not to mention Subaru’s unique EyeSight.

This keeps you on a safe distance to cars in front of you, avoids front end collisions with cars and detects pedestrians in front of you. Of course infotainment is also top notch, with Android Auto and Google CarPlay provided for ideal connectivity.

Conclusion

Every bit a Subaru, this e-Boxer. But, if you drive it with intelligence, it will reward you with very interesting consumption figures. Subaru will soon have a full electric vehicle, so they also go up that path. In the meantime, in the remote outback, this is your ideal car to hit all the country roads in an electrified and environmentally conscious manner…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Subaru Outback: a refined go anywhere companion…

If we have to summarize our driving impressions of the new Subaru Outback after our test, the terms mechanical refinement, capability and space and comfort come first to our mind.

Well honed and refined, the latest version of the Outback certainly is. Technically extensively revamped and rolling on the Subaru Global Platform (SGP) for increased safety, driving performance and ride comfort, is has a super smooth engine and transmission, perfectly geared to glide around town in vibrationless silence, that is what this Subaru offers the urban dweller daily. But he or she can take the Outback elsewhere when nature calls. The legendary Subaru symmetrical AWD sees to that.

The new Outback is also on top of all that also more stylish and its interior has had a thorough makeover. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel


The Subaru Outback has a quite pleasing exterior, with fluent, stretched lines, with an excellent choice of paint colors too, as the photos amply show. When you step in, a posh cabin awaits you, certainly in the premium version we tested here for you. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the large centrally placed touch screen, which is a delight to use, with all the controls well placed and self explaining. Infotainment and connectivity is well cared for, as you will read further.

Seats are supportive and excellent, and soon a good position behind the wheel is found.


Drive train brought to perfection…

Pushing the starting knob one hears the trusted boxer engine coming to life. We said trusted, but it is good to know that the direct-injection 2.5-liter NA horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine, has about 90% of its engine parts redesigned and boasts a higher compression ratio. Idling at 2000 rpm or thereabouts when cold, it soon drops to 1000 rpm when you shift the smooth CVT transmission in D or R. The Lineartronic CVT has been renewed with the gear ratio coverage expanded to a wide range equivalent to 8-AT. The hydraulic system has been revised and the oil viscosity lowered, which reduces horsepower loss by 22% compared to the previous model.  

So the result is that when you then are cautious with the throttle, this Subaru will smoothly pick up speed keeping revs down to just above idling speed, say 1200 rpm or so. The engine is inaudible and perfectly vibration free here, giving the impression one drives on E power. This enables you to drive at the now usual 30 km/h urban speed limit with utmost ease, also with very little fuel coming out if the injection ports. Driving in slow urban traffic in this relaxed manner cost us merely 7,3 to 7,8 liters/100 km, and this is no small feat.


The Subaru engineers did a very good job here, and it amply shows also what a good internal combustion engine coupled to a state of the art transmission can do nowadays. In our opinion, it again proves the point that a good petrol engined car has certainly not said its last word. Indeed, with the presently still abysmal state of the charging infrastructure in our country and also many other European countries too by the way, it is still a very attractive practical proposition indeed.

As said, we can only applaud the Subaru engineers here. Of course, hybrid and plug-in hybrid and full electric solutions will be on the cards in the coming years, as many (mega) cities will be imposing exclusively E-powered mobility in their inner city centers within not even a decade. Subaru wil soon have also a full EV vehicle, named the SOLTERRA.

This excellent economy is of course only reached when you adopt a relaxed and anticipative driving style. Putting the throttle deeper will result in higher revs, more power and more fuel consumed. The 169 HP/124 kW boxer engine guarantees zesty performance: 0 to 100 km/h is reached in 10,2 seconds, top speed is a good 189 km/h.
The manufacturer quotes 7,3 l/100 km as average consumption, with CO2 emissions being 166 g/km. The CVT transmission is very responsive as well as smooth, and will let run the engine in the ideal rev zones under full load, resulting in very brisk accelerations.

Predictable handling, with excellent comfort

The Outback with its symmetrical AWD is your ideal companion on wet and muddy roads, and the suspension is well laid out to cope with potholes and rough country roads. This means that well ridden urban pavés are also very well negotiated, and the Subaru is under every road condition a very comfortable car indeed. The Outback does not necessarily invite you to throw it around corners, but this said it responds well to spirited driving, and its handling is precise and predictable.

The standard S-AWD provides all-weather capability paired with a standard active torque vectoring for improved handling and cornering performance.

We mention here too that the Subaru is an excellent towing car, up to two Tonnes (!). It can then also throw in its excellent traction capacity, and is the preferred mount for horse owners who want to ferry their horses off and on the grounds at jumping events and the like.


When going off road or when negotiating slippery surfaces, the Outback driver has life made quite easy with a new X-Mode with dual functions of “snow/dirt” mode and “Snow/mud” mode for additional off-road capability.

It offers good road clearance for a wider range of activities, with an increased ground clearance of now 213mm, and an approach of 19.7° and of 22.6° departure angles (JIS) and ramp break over angle of 21.0°.

The new SGP platform brings significant enhancement to the body and chassis rigidity (front lateral flexural rigidity +90%, torsional rigidity +70%, front suspension rigidity +70%, rear sub frame rigidity +100%).

A rear view camera washer has been added so that the camera lens is always clear of dirt, mud and grime…

Practical



The Outback is a roomy station wagon, seating five with comfort. Luggage space is of course also leaving nothing to be desired. The cargo space opening width has been enlarged by almost 30mm, the space floor length is longer by 23.9mm, and the cargo capacity is increased with 10L, of now 522L (with the seats up). The Outback also offers standard roof rails with integrated and retractable cross bars, now enhanced with tie-down holes so ropes can be tied directly on the roof rails.

There is also plenty of stowage room in the door bins for large bottles and sundry. There are also several USB points, up to even 2,1 Amp charging power.

Safety first…

Indeed, safety is written very big at Subaru. We all now have become very familiar with Subaru’s safety vision, i.e. featuring the next generation EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, Subaru’s stereo camera prevention collision system, now with an expanded angle of view, nearly doubled, and new image recognition software, available with 11 safety functions, among which new ones were added:

Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Centering Function, Emergency Lane Keep Assist, Speed Sign Recognition with Intelligent Speed Limiter, Lane Departure Warning with steering wheel vibration, Lane Departure Prevention, recognizing also dividing line like grass or road edge and Pre-Collision Braking System with expanded support for collision avoidance at intersections.


The Subaru tells you also for instance to keep your eyes on the road as it is able to notice that you are looking sideways for a moment.
It also reminds you to take a look in the back seat just in case you would forget your (sleeping) toddler there…

Conclusion


This Subaru certainly merits your attention. It is refined, roomy, comfortable, at home on and off the beaten track, a reliable companion for work and pleasure, taking the whole family or your friends wherever they want to go.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

New ŠKODA ENYAQ iV earns five stars in Euro NCAP test.

The new ŠKODA ENYAQ iV truly scores: The new electric SUV has achieved the highest classification of five stars in tests conducted by the independent European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP).

It now ranks among the safest vehicles currently available with a total of 86% of the possible points.

And there is more: The ŠKODA ENYAQ iV achieved the best result ever in the Euro NCAP test for occupant protection, with 94% for adult passengers and 89% for children.

ŠKODA’s first model based on the Volkswagen Group’s Modular Electrification Toolkit thus continues the string of top scores for ŠKODA vehicles in the crash safety reference test, even with the now stricter assessment criteria. ŠKODA’s bestseller, the OCTAVIA, the compact model SCALA and the SUV models KODIAQ, KAROQ and KAMIQ, among others, have all been awarded the coveted five star rating.

Needless to say that the ENYAQ iV inspires, with its styling and build quality, and we will be keen to sample driving and test impressions in the coming months…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

What passengers like the most, according to Nissan…

Nissan has made some research lately about what makes for both driver and passengers a harmonious journey. First of all, using the phone whilst driving is something passengers hate the most. It can indeed cause in-car arguments… Nissan points out of course than NissanConnect helps greatly here, as it integrates the phone seamlessly with the car. Also the compatibility with Apple Play and Android Auto will let you digest safely incoming calls and messages…

Good Music

Not less than 55 % of Europeans believe that good music is the most important ingredient for an enjoyable trip. Of course, you have to agree on a playlist before you start off… The NissanConnect infotainment system helps greatly here…

In the Juke, front seat passengers can enjoy the good sound of the Bose Personal Plus System. You can even select your music via the in Car Wi-Fi Hotspot…

Photo: Christian Colmenero Martín / Zona IV Producciones http://www.christiancolmenero.com http://www.zonaiv.com

Don’t come too close…

Passengers hate tailgating, and it is one of the worst things a driver can do. 46 % of the passengers find it very annoying. At least two seconds should be between you and the car in front of you. Nissan suggests using its ProPilot system which keeps you at a safe distance, whatever the speed…

Nearly one in five drivers admit that tiredness is a problem. So take a break, and don’t continue for too long. A chime and a coffee cup symbol will warn you when you drive a Nissan…

Risky overtaking

Indeed, not less than 56 % of European passengers just hate that. It makes them feel very uneasy. Nissan drivers can make good use of JUKE’s Blind Spot Intervention for instance, which returns the car back to its original lane if the driver doesn’t intervene…

Good seating

This is for many passengers even more important than room, and we can agree…

To conclude, a smooth, cool drive with good music is what passengers want, and their happy faces will also turn a broad, relaxed smile on your face…

Hans Knol ten Bensel