We drove the Mercedes GLE 300 d. Your well honed star…

Mercedes brings their cars and drivetrains to rare perfection and maturity. This is noticeable from the first meter you drive them. The iconic diesel powered GLE we tested for you here, proved again this point…

This Mercedes SUV strikes a perfect balance between practicality, performance, economy and mechanical refinement. Add to this the superb build quality and you understand why this car rightfully earns the good star. Since the launch of the first Mercedes in the premium SUV segment back in 1997 with the M series, not less than 2 million customers found their way behind the wheel a Mercedes premium SUV… and it looks that many more will follow.  

Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Mercedes has further improved its GLE. It looks even better than its predecessor, whilst retaining its typical Mercedes styling DNA, establishing personality and character. It is larger than its predecessor, now almost 490 cm long, which means an increase by 11 cm. The new GLE is also now 1 cm larger, being in total 195 cm. It is however 2,5 cm lower at 177 cm.

The proportions are very good, and this SUV looks good from any angle. What’s more, aerodynamics have been further improved to a Cd value of a whopping 0,29 and Mercedes is very proud of it.

Dynamic and trusty diesel power…

Our test car came with the well known 2 litre four-cylinder diesel from the OM 654 engine family, here delivering a very healthy 180 kW or 245 HP. This is a well proven, very efficient and frugal unit, which is very smooth and silent at lower revs and when you do not press the throttle too deeply. Asking for more power will produce more noise, but everything remains at a very reasonable level, although a smooth six cylinder would be more appropriate if you drive your GLE often with punch.

This is why Mercedes has also as a next step a beautiful six cylinder diesel in store for you in the 350 d, developing of 200 kW (272 hp) and 600 Nm of torque. But let’s not forget, the four cylinder also develops an impressive 500 Nm of torque, and it is efficient indeed. What to think of a fuel consumption – according to the manufacturer – between 6.4-6.1 l/100 km, with combined CO2 emissions being 169-161 g/km. It proved not trouble at all for us during the test to achieve a figure between 6 and 7 litres/100 km when driving with some restraint. With a fuel tank containing not less than 85 liters you understand that this GLE has a massive range, which is so comforting indeed if you drive a beautiful grand tourer like this one.

Cruising at constant speeds and engaging in average accelerations let you enjoy the utter smoothness of this powertrain, knowing that this diesel is coupled to a marvelous 9 speed 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission, as is the case with all engine variants by the way. With the four cylinder engines, 4MATIC all-wheel drive is realized with a transfer case which transmits the drive torque to the axles in a fixed ratio of 50:50 percent. A transfer case with an electronically controlled multi-disc clutch is used for the other engines, e.g. in the GLE 450 or GLE 400 d. This allows a variable transfer of drive torque from 0-100 percent (torque on demand) between the axles. Also new, and available as an option, is a transfer case specially configured for superior off-road driving characteristics. But during our test, the 4MATIC of our 300d proved superb.

With the good power and torque, performance leaves nothing to be desired. Acceleration from 0 to 100 km takes merely 7,2 seconds, top speed is not less than 225 km/h. Let’s not forget, this is almost as fast as the ‘62 Jaguar 3,8 litre E-type…

Space and comfort

The real vocation of this GLE is to transport you in utter Mercedes comfort, on any road and towards any destination you choose. The suspension, the marvelous seats, all this contributes to an exquisite  driving experience. Going on a grand tour with this Mercedes is just ideal, and also long urban boulevard drives are something you would choose this GLE for.

Handling of this GLE is quite good. It doesn’t invite you actually to throw it around corners, but it will hold its own very well in high speed corners and on winding roads.

E-ACTIVE Body Control: The 48 V suspension

Even better ride comfort and agility plus completely new functions such as rocking mode are provided by the optional E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL suspension, which is combined with the newly developed AIRMATIC air suspension. This is the only system in the market where the spring and damping forces can be individually controlled at each wheel. This means that it not only counteracts body roll, but also pitching and squat. Together with ROAD SURFACE SCAN and the curve inclination function CURVE, E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL makes an extraordinary level of comfort possible, and supports the claim of Mercedes-Benz to build the world’s most intelligent SUV suspension.

Cabin space is ample, with boot space being 630 liters, split in two levels. You can also optionally equip your GLE with a third row of seats.

Living with the GLE is simpler than the daunting array of electronic commands and displays at first would suggest. Indeed, the GLE is equipped with the latest generation of the multimedia system MBUX – Mercedes-Benz User Experience. As standard it includes two large 12.3-inch/31.2 cm screens arranged next to each other for a stunning widescreen look. The information of the instrument cluster and media display is easily legible on the large, high-resolution screens.

Pushing intuitively the right knobs and handles let’s you enjoy the right climate and sound, informs you about anything you would like to know about your trip or your car. Also the rear passengers are pampered with individual sound and climate controls.

All this breathes the tradition of the “Grosser Mercedes”, the stately limousines the brand has made for the mighty and wealthy in this world. Indeed, the comfort and well-being this GLE offers you on your (urban) voyage is of a very high level indeed.

Conclusion

A superb SUV, brimming with quality, workmanship, style, top class engineering. It is roomy, comfortable, offers ample performance and also efficiency and economy. It is also well styled, breathing the timeless and iconic Mercedes styling language and DNA.

It comes with state of the art infotainment, and is built for the future with diesel engine(s) well exceeding the present emission requirements. What’s more, plug-in hybrid versions with long(er) E-power ranges will be coming soon. We will certainly present them to you then… stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

A clever breakthrough of Seat: a car that communicates with traffic lights…

We all know the frustration: however slow or fast you accelerate from a traffic light, the next one will always be red, even if, as it happens so often, this next light is only a few hundred metres away. We all know too well how much energy is wasted with this. Seat now started a project together with the Spanish Traffic Authority, the Barcelona City Council and ETRA.

It successfully connects vehicles with traffic lights and the traffic control centre so drivers can anticipate their upcoming status. This project also enables information on motorway incidents to get sent directly to vehicles without the need for information panels, bringing cars and infrastructure together via the cloud using cellular technology with latency times of 300 milliseconds.

Oh so clever!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Vehicles connected with traffic lights and road infrastructure.

The vehicle used in this pilot project is equipped with the necessary technology to connect with its surroundings and receive information uploaded by the Traffic Authority to the cloud, which in turn enables the driver to anticipate what lies ahead in real time.

“In this project, SEAT’s new connected cars receive real-time traffic information from the Traffic Authority’s central cloud, including information displayed on motorway panels or the traffic light status in cities”, explains Jordi Caus, the Head of Urban Mobility Concepts at SEAT.

How does it work?

When a vehicle is approaching a traffic light, an alert appears on the screen showing whether it will be red, green or yellow when it arrives, as the system performs a calculation based on how far away the car is and the speed it is travelling at. One important note for safety is that it only works as long as the vehicle is not exceeding the speed limit. “The system does not work at above maximum speeds, which is very important for road safety. It wants to be an auxiliary tool that enables motorists to drive more smoothly”, assures Manuel Valdés, the Head of Mobility and Infrastructures at the Barcelona City Council.

Information panels in your car, too.

Today there are 2,000 information panels in Barcelona that provide drivers with traffic and weather conditions or information about road work or accidents. With this system, all this information is displayed directly on the screens of connected vehicles at any point of the road network. According to Jorge, “we can accomplish the same as what we used to do with variable message signs on the motorway, but now directly to the car from any point on the road.”

A future of collaborative information…

In addition, connected cars and users themselves will also be information suppliers. “Anyone with information about what happens on the road can share it,  so other users will know in advance of any incident when they reach the same point”, explains Jorge.

“With this project we’re taking a first step to connect cars with overall traffic infrastructure. We’ve begun with information functions, but with the future autonomous vehicles in mind we’ll be able to act directly on the car in situations of risk”, concludes Jordi Caus.

A harbinger of good things to come, we would say!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Renault re-invents car traveling with the SYMBIOZ…

2017 - Démonstrateur SYMBIOZ
2017 – Demo car SYMBIOZ

Renault presents a new demo car, which embodies a car that is in real-life conditions autonomous, electric and connected.

The result is a whole new life-on-board experience and as much pleasure while driving as with hands off the steering wheel.

Sitting in the SYMBIOZ, the driver can automate driving and use travel time for other activities. Renault believes that car travel will become a multi-sensory, personalized experience, with a cabin reconfigured differently for each driving mode. The car becomes part of the personal ecosystem for both driver and passenger.

Renault SYMBIOZ demo car showcases design elements –both interior and exterior– and key autonomous driving and connectivity technologies that will be progressively deployed in the range in the coming years.

Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

2017 - Démonstrateur SYMBIOZ

Taking your mind off…

The Renault SYMBIOZ demo car is equipped with level 4 autonomous driving technology,known as “mind-off”. What this means in practice: no need to pay even a minimum of attention to the road.

The car itself is capable of maintaining safety or moving to a safe position. Thanks to the combined engineering, automated driving,and geo-positioning expertise of Renault, IAV and TomTom, the Renault SYMBIOZ Demo car is capable —on authorized highways—of adjusting its speed to maintain safe distances with surrounding cars, of staying in its lane even when cornering, of safely changing lanes (to overtake another car or exit the highway, for example), and of navigating autonomously in traffic jams

2017 - Démonstrateur SYMBIOZ

Renault SYMBIOZ demo car is connected to road infrastructures in the Sanef network (Sanef is a subsidiary of the Albertis group, the world’s leading highway operator). The car passes automatically through toll gates and is warned in advance of any hazards ahead including roadworks, accidents, congestion, or a turn for the worse in the weather

It shows its colors…and is made for easy life

2017 - Démonstrateur SYMBIOZ

To announce its presence and let other drivers know they’re sharing the road with an automated vehicle, Renault SYMBIOZ demo car lights up in blue when the autonomous driving mode is activated.

More than a slogan, Easy Life is the philosophy Renault has cultivated for years now, thanks to its people-centric innovations. The SYMBIOZ demo car onboard connectivity system allows driver and passengers uninterrupted access to their digital lives and offers a wide range of services, all the better to make use of their new-found time on the road.

2017 - Démonstrateur SYMBIOZ

Always connected…

Occupants of the car are identified by their smartphone regardless of where they are sitting.

The smartphone interacts with the SYMBIOZ human-machine interface to adjust personalized functions such as preferred seat settings, air-conditioning settings, and music preferences.

Thanks to a full suite of connectivity features (GPS, 4G, Wi-Fi), occupants enjoy permanent access to their digital environment, media, networks, and services. The driver’s smartphone synchronizes with the SYMBIOZ demo car to allow access the personal calendars, trip itinerary and information about tourist attractions in the vicinity.

2017 - Démonstrateur SYMBIOZ

Onboard the SYMBIOZ demo car the “mind-off” experience expands even further, thanks to the virtual reality options designed by our partner Ubisoft and available while traveling in autonomous mode. Wearing virtual reality headset and with the seat inclined in “zero gravity” position, the driver plunges into an immersive and contemplative world, fully relaxed and detached from the pressures of the road.

French design and impressive performance…

The Renault SYMBIOZ demo car’s exterior design is intrinsically aligned with Renault’s signature “French Design” styling: sensual and warm, with fluid lines and a dynamic presence accentuated by the “champagne” body color in a pearlescent finish.

2017 - Démonstrateur SYMBIOZ

As a 100% electric vehicle, the Renault SYMBIOZ demo car takes its place in the long-game strategy of Renault’s zero-emissions commitment. This vehicle is the fruit of more than a century of work in automotive engineering

The Renault SYMBIOZ demo car delivers a maximum power of 500 kW and a peak torque of 660 Nm. The two electric motors are located on the rear axle, and are powered by a battery pack with a 72 kWh capacity.

2017 - Démonstrateur SYMBIOZ

Accelerations are breathtaking, with 0 to 100 achieved in 6 seconds. 500 km autonomy is possible in real life conditions and batteries are charged up tp 80 pct in 30 minutes.

Feeling at home

When connected to the digital life of the user, the Renault SYMBIOZ demo car becomes an extension of the home. The traditional divides separating the car from the home and workplace are blurring…

2017 - Démonstrateur SYMBIOZ
2017 – Démonstrateur SYMBIOZ

The journey starts at home: the Renault SYMBIOZ demo car communicates with your devices (tablet, TV, smartphone or PC) to update you on the status of the vehicle and your next journey. Once on the road, you can access security cameras, adjust thermostats, or control devices and connected appliances at home.

2017 - Démonstrateur SYMBIOZ

Parked inside the house in its dedicated spot, the Renault SYMBIOZ demo car shows us that the automobile can play an increasingly important and integrated role in our daily lives.  With the ‘valet parking’ function activated by a simple call from a smartphone or smartwatch, the empty Renault SYMBIOZ demo car leaves its parking spot to come pick up passengers inside or in front of the house.

A brave new world for Renault, and for us!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

Swedish families help Volvo Cars develop autonomous drive cars

Volvo Drive Me - Familie Hain
The Hain family comprises Alex and Paula (45 years old), and their daughters Filippa (17) and Smilla (14). The Hains were the first people chosen to take part in Drive Me earlier this year.

Volvo is focusing on autonomous driving. It has signed a framework agreement with Uber, the ride sharing company, to sell tens of thousands of autonomous driving compatible base vehicles between 2019 and 2021. But that is not all. Volvo has served families the world over with safe, reliable cars and it wants to continue this good tradition into the autonomous driving age.

So families and Volvo are joining hands, once again. Swedish families who will test its cars on the public roads of Gothenburg and feed back their impressions to Volvo Cars engineers.

The first two families, the Hains and the Simonovskis from the Gothenburg area, have now received the Volvo XC90 premium SUVs with which they will support the Drive Me project. Three more families will follow early next year and over the next four years, up to 100 people will be involved in Drive Me.

Volvo Drive Me - Familie Simonovski
The Simonovski family comprises Sasko Simonovski (44), his wife Anna (41),  and their children Elin (10) and Villiam (8). The Simonovski family was the second family chosen to take part in the Drive Me project.

Both families will contribute to Drive Me with invaluable data by allowing engineers at the company to monitor their everyday use and interaction with the car, as they drive to work, bring the kids to school or go shopping for groceries.

Volvo Cars plans to have a fully autonomous car commercially available by 2021 and the data derived from Drive Me will play a crucial role in the development of these autonomous cars.

“Drive Me is an important research project for Volvo Cars,” said Henrik Green, Senior Vice President for the company’s R&D department. “We expect to learn a lot from engaging these families and will use their experiences to shape the development of our autonomous driving technology, so that by 2021 we can offer our customers a fully autonomous car.”

The Hains and the Simonovskis have received Volvo XC90s fitted with Volvo’s latest driver assistance technology as well as an array of cameras and sensors to monitor their behavior and provide the car with information on its surroundings.

Playing it (very) safe…

During these first stages, the families will keep their hands on the steering wheel and supervise the driving at all times when using their cars. But, over time, all participants in the Drive Me project will gradually be introduced to more advanced assisted driving cars, after receiving special training.

Even then, testing these more advanced cars will initially take place in controlled environments with supervision from a Volvo Cars safety expert. Volvo is clear about this: no technology will ever be introduced if there is any question over its safety.

Volvo Cars and Uber join forces to develop autonomous driving cars
Volvo Cars and Uber join forces to develop autonomous driving cars

Volvo has big plans with Uber…

Earlier last month, Volvo announced that it has signed a non-exclusive framework agreement with Uber. “The automotive industry is being disrupted by technology and Volvo Cars chooses to be an active part of that disruption,” told us Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive. “Our aim is to be the supplier of choice for AD ride-sharing service providers globally. The agreement with Uber is a primary example of that strategic direction.”

Volvo Cars and Uber join forces to develop autonomous driving cars
Volvo Cars and Uber join forces to develop autonomous driving cars

Volvo Cars’ engineers have worked closely together with engineers from Uber to develop the XC90 premium SUVs that are to be supplied to Uber. The base vehicles incorporate all necessary safety, redundancy and core autonomous driving technologies that are required for Uber to add its own self-driving technology.

Volvo will use the same base vehicle in the development of its own independent autonomous car strategy, which is planned to culminate in the release of its first fully autonomous car in 2021. A brave new (Volvo) world will unfold soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Volvo Cars suggests governments and car industry should share safety-related traffic data…

Håkan Samuelsson - President & CEO, Volvo Car Group
Håkan Samuelsson – President & CEO, Volvo Car Group, advocating real time sharing of car data with other drivers for better safety…

It was in the cards: with our vehicles detecting road conditions electronically through their driving assistance systems, it was only logical that these data could be send via the cloud to other drivers. This is something Volvo has paid attention to already two years ago, and is now a standard feature on Volvo’ sold in Sweden.

Recently the first “1st European Conference on Connected and Automated Driving”was held  in Brussels at the European Commission. Here Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive of Volvo Cars, asked governments and car makers to join hands in sharing traffic data in order to improve global traffic safety.

Slippery road alert with graphics
Slippery road alert, where the car in front sends the slippery road surface data it registred  via the cloud to upcoming cars… in real time! This is already standard on Volvo’s sold in Sweden…

Indeed, sharing anonymised data related to traffic safety in real time can provide a strong boost to overall traffic safety while safeguarding the privacy of individual road users, Mr Samuelsson said. Volvo started doing exactly this in Sweden and Norway two years ago, in collaboration with local authorities.

An excellent practice, which should be adopted all over Europe, we should think…We tell you here somewhat more about it.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Volvo is sharing data since 2015…

In 2015, Volvo Cars started a collaboration on sharing safety data with the road administration authorities in Sweden and Norway. Via a cloud based network, all Volvo cars in a certain area share anonymized information about road friction from their anti-skid systems. The info is transferred in real time to other Volvo drivers notifying them of icy road conditions. The same information will be shared with road administrations so that they quickly can address icy road conditions.

Hazard light alert with graphics
Hazard light alert is already standard on all SPA cars sold in Sweden…

The same approach is used to warn drivers when another vehicle turns on its hazard lights, which may indicate a potential dangerous situation on the road ahead. These technologies, Slippery Road Alert and Hazard Light Alert, are standard on all SPA-based vehicles on sale in Sweden and Norway: the XC90, S90, V90, V90 Cross Country and the new XC60.

Developing a regulatory framework for autonomous cars…

Volvo XC90 Drive Me test vehicle
Volvo XC90 Drive Me test vehicle

Of course, there is also the very important matter of autonomous driving. Volvo Cars underlines here the need to put safety first when developing a regulatory framework for autonomous cars. When it comes to autonomous driving, it is for Volvo important that the user interface is crystal clear about the role of the driver.

Mr. Samuelsson expressed his concern about the so-called “Level 3” autonomous driving modes. “In this mode the car is in charge of the driving, yet the driver must still be prepared to take over in case of emergency, which could be a matter of a few seconds. Volvo considers this Level 3 driving mode unsafe and will thus skip this level of autonomous driving,” he said.

Consequently, when Volvo launches its first autonomous cars in 2021, they will be at Level 4, in other words completely unsupervised on applicable roads. This means that these cars will be able to manage emergency situations and bring the car into a safe state by itself without driver interaction and that Volvo will assume liability while the car is in autonomous mode.

The discussion is now only beginning, but we can say here that the Volvo point of view is quite logical and exemplary. We will follow the developments in these columns…

Hans Knol ten Bensel