We drove the new DS 7 E-Tense: elegance, comfort and power, the French way…

DS Automobiles is going from strength to strength: it succeeds admirably in making cars with a very distinct character and style, with French “savoir faire” and bold, elegant design of both bodywork and dashboard and interior, creating a unique proposition in today’s car market. They also embarked into electrification: their model range is virtually completely electrified.

The new DS7 shows this again: it is available with not less than three so-called “E-Tense” plug-in hybrid versions, but then also still offered with the well proven BlueHDI 130 Diesel engine… fit for those who drive long distances on a (very) regular basis. We tested here for you the E-tense plug-in version, fit for electrified mobility. Read more about it here below…

The latest version of the DS 7, dubbed the “New” DS 7, has a restyled front with sharper lines, adding indeed further panache and “noblesse” to its stance. The work was carried out in close cooperation between the team of the Paris DS Design Studio and the production team at the Mulhouse factory.

Special attention has been given to refining the light signature. The headlamps – DS calls them DS PIXEL LED VISION 3.0 – are slimmer, and the daytime running lights are also seamlessly integrated. DS calls them LIGHT VEIL, and this consists besides the classic daytime running light also of four vertical luminous bands with not less than 33 LEDs. DS used an innovative process here: the laser-etched polycarbonate surface is only painted on the inner side. This results in a look alternating between light and body coloured parts, and gives the lighting effect of a piece of jewelery. Very refined indeed…

The Pixel Led Vision 3.0 headlamps have pixel modules which optimize the light output. For example the lighting in corners is controlled by the exterior LED’s of the pixel modules, depending on the steering angle. The LED rear lights are slimmer, boot lid and badge have been restyled and the “DS Automobiles” name is now wide lettered on the rear, adding a premium touch…

Our test car, in Opera trim and painted in a very fitting Eclipse Blue, had 20 inch “Tokio” alloys, which suited the car fine.

Interior with panache

We absolutely loved the styling and finish of dashboard and interior. The commands for the windows are neatly lined up on the centre console, are uniquely elegant and at the same time very ergonomic indeed. The central 12 inch instrument panel is intuitive to use and can be totally personalized.

We also loved its graphics, and the sound volume control in its center, a finely chiseled tube which one rolls up and down, marvelously simple and ergonomic. Of course we loved the clock in the centre of the dashboard. All round visibility is also greatly en enhanced by new high-resolution digital cameras. We also loved the comfortable seats, which have also – noblesse oblige – a high quality Nappa leather upholstery inspired by the metal bracelet of a luxury watch.

Also the steering wheel has the unique “feel” which custom made leather stitching offers, and adds to the overall sense of refinement this DS 7 evokes. We also loved the superb Focal Electra sound system.


The DS 7 has standard a formidable camera controlled damping system, called DS ACTIVE SCAN SUSPENSION. It has to be experienced to be believed. Electronics make it possible. Indeed, the camera scans the road surface ahead, and then adjusts each wheel independently to deliver this unique “carpet” ride. We just loved it, and it makes this DS 7 really stand out.

We left the drive mode throughout the test mostly in “comfort” mode, and it was a dream to drive the DS 7 like this. This comfortable setup does not impair handling, and indeed you can drive this DS 7 in a spirited manner over winding roads. Stability and surefootedness in the wet is also beyond reproach.

Sound insulation at speed is also top notch, and this makes the DS 7 a true “grande routière”. Wind noise is also absent, and motorway cruising with the DS 7 is literally an undisturbed pleasure. It remains completely smooth and silent at speed, and it is rather easy to surpass the speed limits, so one is well advised to use the cruise control on motorway journeys.


The DS 7 “E-Tense” we tested was the 225 HP version, which has a 180 HP 1,6 litre petrol engine driving the front wheels through an 8 speed automatic, as well as a 110 HP electric motor. A very smooth combination, with imperceptible transitions from combustion to E-power, offering the delightful feel of E-power in urban traffic, and a smooth power flow of the petrol engine on the open road.

Of course, plug-in hybrids need to be charged frequently to enjoy this (urban) electric propulsion, good for the environment and your car loving heart. The cost of this depends greatly on your charging situation, public charging stations tend to become rather expensive, and this rather sooner than later. The battery is new, with a 14.2 kWh capacity. This means that you can charge it in about 2 hours on a 7.4 kW charger. The range is – according to WLTP AER combined – a good 65 km. Acceleration is of course excellent with all this pulling power. The petrol engine is rather sporting when more power is called for, but otherwise is almost inaudible. The DS 7 accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h is 8,9 seconds, the top speed is an impressive 225 km/h.


This is the thing with plug-in hybrids. The E-power possibility distorts the consumption figures of course, and they can be seen as largely theoretical, but then again, they form a basis of comparison. The DS 7 225 HP E-tense has officially 28 g/km of CO2 emissions and the fuel consumption is homologated at 1,2 litre/100 km.

 When the battery is flat, then the real life petrol consumption becomes important. Much – if not everything -depends here on how you drive. We achieved a consumption between 7 and 8 litres/100 km, adopting a fluent, anticipative driving style with nevertheless a lot of urban traffic included. One should always keep in mind that this is a 1,7 tonne SUV, and there is no escape from the laws of physics…


The DS 7 offers a good array of electronic driving assistance systems; of course one can also enjoy Apple Car Play. Our test car was also equipped with DS Drive Assist, an adaptive cruise control with stop and start without driver intervention. The DS 7 has ample room for five, boot space is also adequate with a volume of 555/1712 litres. The petrol tank is rather small with 42 litres, reminding you to recharge the battery of your plug-in Hybrid. The DS 7 is also a fairly good tow car, with 750 kg weight allowed unbraked, and 1275 kg braked.


The DS 7 appeals to customers who are looking for refinement, elegance and individuality when it comes to choosing a car. They also get a good portion of “savoir faire” Français, the Gallic way of doing things, and this makes a DS automobile really stand out. Then there is the fabulous comfort of this DS7, which is also unique in its segment. Performance and economy also tick all the boxes, and the plug-in hybrid layout gives you all the liberty of movement one could wish for in our Europe where the E-energy providers are hardly certain that they can supply enough electricity to cope with a fast transition the coming years towards full EV, and the availability of charging points still needs a massive effort from the EU member states, except the Netherlands…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Mercedes GLC 300 de 4Matic: the perfect star for your mobility…

We are living in fast changing times, full of transition. Car markets have grown massively in China (did you know that the GLC has also been built in Beijing since 2011?) and India, influencing the strategy of European car makers, while the EU commission projects for a greener Europe transform the outlook and the nature of our mobility. Besides all that, the choice of a new car is now also influenced by the fiscal treatment it receives, besides of course the concerns for our environment. What car to choose?

We drove here for you this Mercedes which provides an answer to all the changes which will affect our mobility. It is electrified, lets you drive some 100 km in full EV mode and at the same time gives you unlimited long distance mobility with its diesel engine. It is also fit to carry you to far flung places amidst pure nature: it has four driven wheels assisted by all the clever electronics to make you an experienced unpaved terrain driver. Besides that, it is roomy and is also a good towing car.

Does this Mercedes indeed tick all the boxes? Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Impressive, classic looks…

One instantly recognizes a Mercedes by its styling language, and the overall shape and proportions show clearly what the designers meant it to be. This GLC has a solid stance, but has a sporting flair akin to the C Class. Not unpleasing, and unmistakably Mercedes. The front end has been revised and the headlights are more integrated in the 2023 edition. The interior breathes also the philosophy of the brand: big screens in front of the driver and the same on the centre console, where it takes an eminent position. Well curved and upholstered seats, all functions and knobs solid and well finished. German premium brands make very good use of electronics, and also Mercedes has given this aspect much importance and has given it much thought.

Therefore all the functions are well balanced, ergonomic and mostly intuitive. Of course using it demands nevertheless a distinct learning curve for novices, as the many functions can sometimes be overwhelming. You are therefore well advised to read the manuals about the infotainment and screen functions carefully, it will lead to years of happier life with your Mercedes…but as we said, Mercedes has got things right when it comes to functionality of its infotainment.

We liked a bit less the haptic touches on the steering wheel. Sometimes you touch them while driving with sometimes annoying results. One thing: opening and closing the panoramic roof is not intuitive, so read the manual first.

Workmanship and engineering standards truly impress…

In the good tradition of the oldest manufacturer in the world, the level of finish and the quality of the used materials is what truly impresses. You are surrounded by non frivolous, long-lasting luxury… Typical for the brand are also the seat controls in the door panels, letting you adjust your seating position electronically in a breeze. It pays to carefully study the manual and go through the menus. You will discover that on the large central screen you can touch in your height, and the car will find for you automatically the proper driving position. The ideal climate setting is also soon found and off you go, after having pushed the big starting button. Put the small gearchange lever in D and off you go under silent E-power. As this is a plug-in hybrid, Mercedes has developed their now fourth generation (plug-in) hybrid concept even further. It has developed a so called “improved hybrid driving programme”.

This means that Artificial Intelligence electronics think with you: once you have put in your route, the car’s AI will calculate what is the most economical and environment friendly way to make the journey. If the route leads through urban areas, E-power is automatically preferred, when the route includes open roads and motorways, the car will use the diesel engine. The latest GLC hybrid generation now has a 100 kW electric motor. Marvelously smooth, as E-power goes. You can enjoy its 440 Nm of torque too. When you cruise leasurely on the motorway at 100-110 km/h or so and drive smoothly along with the urban traffic flow, the useable E-range is well above 100 km. In EV mode, it is no sluggard either. You can reach a top speed of not less than 140 km/h solely on E-power. Average E-consumption according to WLTP standards is between 27,2 and 24,4 kWh/100 km.

The battery has an enlarged capacity compared with the previous plug-in hybrid GLC generation. It now carries a 31,2 kWh battery, which is an in-house Mercedes-Benz development. The maximum DC charging power of the GLC PHEV is 60 kW. Even with a completely empty battery, full charging is possible in some 30 minutes. This means that the GLC is an eminently useable EV for urban use and shorter hauls with nevertheless an impressive range thanks to the larger battery. Mercedes has indeed created a very clever balanced concept of how a plug-in hybrid should perform. You can drive your plug-in hybrid Merc in different modes, i.e. Hybrid, Electric and Battery Hold. When you choose the electric mode, you feel in the accelerator pedal a haptic pressure point. Push further and the engine starts too.   

Stability is as you would expect excellent, the suspension is comfortable, wind and road noise are of course well insulated. You can enjoy the sound system, let your eyes wander to the big central touchscreen, and see for example the info of the music which is played over the excellent DAB radio. You are also experiencing how good the seats are, always a strong point of the brand with the good star.


This plug-in hybrid GLC 300 de is built for those who do not want to sacrifice performance and range in these E-times. Indeed, this Mercedes still feels very much at home on the left lane of the Autobahnen. Top speed is a solid 216 km/h, and it accelerates also like the proverbial bullet, a sprint from 0 to 100 km/h is absolved in merely 6,4 seconds. Mind you, this is the performance of a well tuned Jaguar E-type…

The diesel engine is the well proven double overhead cam 1.993 cc 4 cylinder intercooler turbo common rail unit, developing not less than 145 kW or 200 HP at 3000 rpm. Did you ever believe this was possible with a diesel engine? The ponton 180 D, the first Mercedes my father owned in 1955, had also a four cylinder 1,8 litre long stroke unit, was developing some…38 HP. We were so lucky, my father and me, to drive the factory entered 180 D in the Mille Miglia, invited as a member of the official Mercedes Mille Miglia team, together with Stirling Moss, who drove a 300 S… Mind you, our brave Diesel was still able to be almost as fast on the course as the Lancia Aurelia’s, although this called for some very spirited driving! Of course I covet the Shopard watch I have as a memory of this adventure, with our starting number 147 engraved in the back…

Pulling power of this 300 d is abundant, 440 Nm at merely 1600 rpm. The engine has a slightly longer stroke due to a new crankshaft. Total system power is 245 kW (333 HP) and total torque is 750 Nm, hence the excellent performance figures. Of course, this diesel lets itself heard with an unobtrusive deep throb when pressed hard, but even when you are driving your GLC 300 de in a spirited manner, the enormous torque hardly lets the engine rev higher, and everything is comfortably silent indeed.

The beauty of diesels is of course their frugality, they excel when quite substantial power is required over long periods/distances. So driving this GLC doesn’t cost you a fortune at the pump, even with a totally empty battery, you can achieve with this 2-tonne SUV a consumption between 6 and 8 litres/100 km, depending on your driving style of course, one simply cannot bend the laws of physics. The tank capacity is 62 litres, which gives you a radius of some 800 km on Diesel fuel alone. The WLTP consumption is between 0,7-0,5 l/100 km, CO2 emissions are 17-13g/km. The GLC is equipped with a 9 speed automatic gearbox, which in the PHEV layout guarantees a smooth power flow in all circumstances, as the electric motor with its ample torque steps in when the gearbox has to make up its mind which gear to choose under hectic driving.

Comfort and predictable handling with the good star…

We said it already, seating comfort is excellent. The suspension irons out urban street potholes rather well, and strikes a very good balance between handling and comfort. Choosing the “sport” driving mode shows quite decent handling on winding roads, stable, surefooted, predictable. It offers some driving pleasure, but it does not exactly invite you to adopt a brisk driving style. We already told you about finding the ideal position behind the wheel by simply choosing your height on the central touchscreen. But there is more.

There is a finger print sensor which recognizes who you are, and will engage your preferred sound settings. You can choose not less than 7 settings.(!) One word of praise is justified for the Burmeister sound system. Truly to be enjoyed. There is also a large and very readable head up display, with lots of information. It also shows you which driving mode you are in.

There is also a special offroad driving mode. It not only lets you control the drivetrain ideally, it also steers the cameras. Indeed, when you are driving in terrain, the front camera lets you even see what is underneath the bonnet and front wheels, as it “remembers” what it has seen in front and reproduces that again when you are driving over it…

There is enough leg- and headroom for three grownups in the rear, and the rear passengers even have their own climate controls and USB slots. The doorbins are absolutely massive, so there is more than enough room to store your bottles.

Boot space is sufficient, and you can charge your GLC with not less than 625 kg and tow not less than 2000 kg, so this 4WD will certainly prove its worth when you love horses, camping or boats…


This GLC 300 de 4 Matic has already convinced many buyers in its previous generation, and now thanks to its larger battery is striking an ideal balance between E-power and engine propulsion, electronically managed by its improved hybrid driving programme. This results in a well and truly very useable “pure” EV in many situations, thanks to its generous over 100 km “E” range. It is also well built, powerful, roomy, practical and has panache and style. Due to its versatile hybrid character, this might be your car in these times of transition…

Hans Knol ten Bensel        

We drove the Mazda CX-60 e SkyActiv PHEV : a flagship SUV the Mazda way…

Mazda has bold ambitions. It wants to be an absolute premium manufacturer within a few years, and it is building up its model range accordingly. Looking at its latest SUV, the CX-60, it is definitely succeeding. This PHEV Mazda impressed us. Read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Mazda elegance and style

Mazda’s are well proportioned and styled, and have indeed a distinct, proper styling language which makes them stand out from the rest. The lines of this bigger SUV are not too busy, instead they are fluent and exude a distinct sportiness together with a quest for simplicity and elegance. The front end and radiator grille carry also the distinct Mazda DNA, which is now becoming well established and is quite pleasing.

The style and sophistication is also found in the interior. We absolutely loved the white colour of the surface panels, upholstery and seats, and the lavish use of chrome around the edges of the lateral vents. On the wide central console, which is impressive due to the simple fact that a transmission runs through it, one finds even a tropical white wood veneer finish. Very oriental, we would say, and a refreshing departure from the all black colour schemes we so often encounter.

The elegant interior design introduces the ideas of Kaichou – an element of disruption which mixes different materials and textures. With the flagship Takumi grade, which was the top equipment version found in our test car, materials such as maple wood, nappa leather combine with uniquely worked Japanese textiles and chrome details, and Musubu – the art of binding which was the inspiration for a specially detailed instrument panel stitching. We liked that also very much.

The treatment of the maple wood trim reflects the Japanese aesthetic of Hacho – asymmetrical balance, or intentional unevenness. The woven fabrics’ diverse patterns and yarns respond sensitively to changes in light, and a Japanese stitching technique called Kakenui creates ‘hanging stitching’ seams with spaces between the trim fabrics revealing a glimpse of the material beneath. As we said, very elegant indeed…

Very powerful

The Mazda CX-60 comes with several engines, and even a six cylinder in line Diesel in world markets, but for the time being, in our country it’s a 2,5 litre four cylinder “Sky Active” petrol engine which is doing part of the work, as the CX-60 is a PHEV. The electric motor sits between the engine and the gearbox, and even has its own clutch, so this Mazda remains a 4WD also when in EV mode. Power galore with this Mazda. What to say of an electric motor which develops already 134 hp, and which is able to propel this two tonne SUV with the inboard 17.8 kWh battery on EV power alone for a range of 62 km.

Indeed, when you have charging possibilities at home and the office, and if your daily commute is rather short, it is totally feasible to use your Mazda as an EV. Just choose with the “I mode” sliding lever on the console the EV mode and you’re ok. You can expect then formidable economy, as the engine then is hardly used. The benchmark and crucial WLTP CO2 emissions value is set 33g/100 km. The WLTP combined fuel consumption is just 1.5l/100 km.

Combined with the petrol engine total power is an impressive 327 PS/241 kW. This makes it the most powerful Mazda ever, having also not less than 500 Nm torque, with performance to match: this SUV sprints in 5,8 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h, and top speed is not less than a limited 200 km/h. For your information, the petrol engine develops a maximum power output of 141 kW at 6000 rpm and 261 Nm of torque. The electric motor delivers 129 kW of power and 270 Nm of torque at 400 rpm.

Does this CX-60 invite you to use all this power? Not quite, where I have to admit that we are a bit economy buffs, and seeing the cleverly designed instant consumption dial hovering fiercely in the red zone, with consumption well above 20 liters/100 km when we press our right foot a bit deeper, we tended intuitively to slow things down a bit.

Add to this that the engine makes itself well heard when called to duty, and you understand that we rather avoided using the “sport” mode. This Mazda will also use its engine rather often when the battery is low, which is understandable since one needs power to move this 2 tonne SUV around. Driving this CX 60 with restraint when the battery is depleted, one achieves an average consumption of some 7,8 litres/100 km as we registered during our test, which is a very good score considering the size and weight of this 4WD CX 60. The efficient 2,5 litre Skyactiv unit is coupled to an all new 8 speed automatic, which doesn’t use a classic hydraulic converter, but a multi-plate clutch as well as an integrated electric motor/generator.

Mazda claims that by replacing the torque converter with a clutch, the torque of the engine and motor is transmitted directly, with fast and rhythmic shifting much like a manual transmission. A little bit of the Mazda MX-5 “Zoom zoom” philosophy is still felt here. Nowadays, Mazda is aiming to become a premium manufacturer more than ever. The larger public should only be more aware of this…

The transmission is indeed very smooth when driving away from standstill, some jerkiness is felt when the transmission changes down when coasting and slowly decelerating. But under power, everything just feels great.

Driving dynamics

Mazda put a great effort in the handling and agility of this big Mazda. It wants it to be nimble, responsive and engaging. Not a small brief for a big SUV. First of all, it should be noted that the CX-60 The new Mazda CX-60 is based on Mazda’s Skyactiv Multi-Solution Scalable Architecture, designed to be compatible with the SUV’s longitudinal front-engine rear-wheel drive mechanical layout.

The Skyactiv Multi-Solution Scalable Architecture features numerous enhancements to improve as Mazda calls it, the Jinba-Ittai driving.

The feeling of Jinba-ittai (oneness between car and driver) that can be experienced when driving the CX-60 in varied day-to-day situations, remains the same even on challenging off-road paths during weekend outdoor activities or on slippery winter roads covered in snow and ice.

The i-Activ AWD and Mazda Intelligent Drive Select (Mi-Drive) allow the car to maintain responsive on-road driving while also offering a safe and secure driving experience even on various off-road surfaces thanks to its high controllability.

The bodyshell rigidity lets you feel the car’s handling and movements without lag. We should also mention here the Mazda-unique vehicle posture control system – Kinematic Posture Control (KPC). This stabilizes vehicle posture when cornering, braking the inside rear wheel to mitigate roll and draw the car body downwards.

How does all this translate in practice? The suspension revealed itself as rather firm, understandably so if you have to balance a 2,1 tonne SUV. Steering is precise, but rather busy. Yes, the CX-60 could indeed be thrown around corners, is up to the job, but it doesn’t exactly invite you to do so. The CX-60 sports double wishbones at the front and a multi-link rear suspension.

Driving aids

This Mazda of course incorporates all the usual driving aids and then some. We greatly appreciated the so-called “see through” function, which enhances even the 360 degrees camera function in this sense that it projects an image on the screen which lets the driver see through the front and rear corners of the car. Advanced Smart City Brake Support uses a front camera to show cars and pedestrians ahead.

Command comfort…

We greatly appreciated also the large central armrest and the command knob to, steer the functions displayed on the screen. Mazda is in my opinion only to, be applauded for maintaining this circular command knob, which is so much easier and stable to use when on the move on bouncy roads and avoids the unhygienic, finger prints on the screen. COVID-19 times made us aware of this ever more…

There is also the so-called Driver Personalisation System, which detects with a camera the eye position of the driver and his physique, then automatically adjusts the seat and steering wheel, Active Driving Display and the door mirrors.

And practicality

The boot space is 570 litres, increasing to 1148 litres with the rear seats folded flat. The load space is equipped with a 12 V 150 watt outlet, which can be raised in the PHEV to 230 V with not less than 1500 watts…

The CX-60 is also excellent for towing, as it can pull a weight of not less than 2500 kg…


Mazda succeeds in making this CX-60 an absolute premium SUV, certainly when it comes to styling, finish and opulent elegance, especially in the interior. As a PHEV, it offers its EV qualities when it can be frequently recharged. On the other hand, when the battery is depleted, it remains reasonably frugal. It certainly handles well, but a fluent, relaxed driving style suits it most.

It is lavishly equipped, and this goes for all the equipment versions you choose. The top version we tested leaves strictly nothing to be desired, with 20 inch alloys and panorama roof included, and this makes the CX-60 also attractive…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Photographers notes

We shot the Mazda here entirely with our Fujifilm Finepix S100 FS , which was bought, as you know, for less than 70 Euros. We erroneously left the Dynamic Range at 100. Given the strong sunlight, we should have set it at least at 200 or 400. But there you are. The results are still pretty decent, considering also that we were also still shooting in JPEG. The sensor produces 11,1 megapixel images, which is plenty for our work. The 28-400 mm zoom lens even has a macro function and an ultra macro function, making close ups a breeze…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Volkswagen takes a bold step towards the affordable EV for the masses with its ID.2all* concept car.

It’s coming: Volkswagen brought us a first glimpse of an all-electric Volkswagen costing less than 25,000 euros with their “ID. 2all” concept vehicle.

It is of course front-wheel drive, range of up to 450 kilometres, innovative technological features such as Travel Assist, IQ.LIGHT or Electric Vehicle Route Planner and a new Volkswagen design language.

Technical buffs are interested to know that this new “E”VW for the masses will be based on the MEB Entry platform and is one of ten(!) new electric models that Volkswagen will launch by 2026.

In my modest opinion, VW takes here a formidable and bold gamble… will the European car markets (and more specifically its electric infrastructure) be ready for this?

Read further about this “milestone” E-VW…it is sooo interesting and will be a harbinger for things to come!  

Hans Knol ten Bensel

VW’s goals and ambitions with this new true “E”-VW…

It is certain that VW wants the wider public to again fall in love with its cars: Thomas Schäfer, CEO of Volkswagen Passenger Cars stated it clearly: “We are transforming the company rapidly and fundamentally – with the clear objective of making Volkswagen a genuine Love Brand.”

The concept of “Wertarbeit”, a concept so beloved by the Germans, which can be freely translated to “Quality work which creates value”, is also not lost in the boardroom and lobby’s of Volkswagen. Imelda Labbé, Member of the Brand Board of Management for Sales, Marketing and Aftersales, stated it clearly: “We are transferring the typical Volkswagen virtues to the new world of mobility: top quality and workmanship, outstanding software and digital services with genuine added value.”

Mechanical perfection and reliability is therefore of prime importance, and so VW adops well-tried solutions, present in the MEB platform, which by the way uses also all the automated product processes which are already well in place.

Kai Grünitz, Member of the Brand Board of Management responsible for Development, states it for us: “The ID. 2all will be the first MEB vehicle with front-wheel drive. We are exploiting the great flexibility offered by our modular electric drive (MEB) platform and will set new standards in terms of technology and everyday usability with the MEB Entry platform.”

This VW will also certainly be no sluggard: It has a powerful electric drive motor with an output of 166 kW / 226 PS and will have a calculated WLTP range of up to 450 kilometres.

A new design…

The ID. 2all concept vehicle was designed by Andreas Mindt, who took over as the new Head of Volkswagen Design on 1 February 2023. Volkswagen is in his blood, as his father was a designer in Wolfsburg before him. Andreas Mindt joined Volkswagen in 1996 after studying design. He created bestsellers such as the first Tiguan and the seventh-generation Golf. In 2014, he moved to Audi in Ingolstadt as Head of Exterior Design.

The next step followed in 2021 when Mindt became Director of Design at Bentley in Crewe, England. However, he has always maintained his close ties to Volkswagen and continues to be the proud owner of a Beetle. Andreas Mindt on his first project as Volkswagen Head of Design: “We are transferring the DNA of our icons into the future. The ID. 2all is therefore also homage to the Beetle, Golf and Polo.”

Andreas Mindt has developed a new Volkswagen design strategy – one that will ensure the brand’s DNA remains clearly recognisable in the future. Mindt: “I am focusing on three main pillars: stability, likeability and excitement.”

“The most important value for Volkswagen design is stability,” says Andreas Mindt. This includes value stability, stability of form, reliability and recognisability. “A second core element of the brand is likeability,” explains the designer. The Beetle, Volkswagen bus, new Beetle and ID. Buzz clearly demonstrate this. “Stability and likeability – we have to achieve these two values in every respect.” But there is much more to a successful Volkswagen than that: “We also want to create excitement in our customers.” For example, with added dynamics, improved operability or the classic “form follows function” of an ID. Buzz or Golf. Technologies, forms and concepts are what make a Volkswagen desirable. Stability, likeability and excitement are typical characteristics of the Volkswagen design, the Volkswagen feeling. Mindt assigns three design elements to each of these three values. They are all reflected in the ID. 2all.

I was happy to read Mindt’s comments on design, which I have repeated time and again in my guide tours at Audi Brussels: Automotive design is an art form, but there are still clear laws that apply – such as the golden ratio. I couldn’t agree more with Andreas Mindt: “Likeability is created by the golden ratio. This is quite simply the ratio of three fifths to two fifths.” Leonardo da Vinci already followed this geometrical principle in works such as the Mona Lisa. The designer continues: “The feature line running below the window shoulder is located on exactly the golden ratio line of the ID. 2all. Both the Beetle and Golf also always followed the principle of the golden ratio.” People perceive this division created by nature as being pleasant and likeable.

Easy to use…

VW has learned from the usability mishaps in the commands of the early ID’s. VW now calls it ‘self-explanatory operation’. The touch display (diagonal: 32.7 cm / 12.9 inches) of the infotainment system has a new menu structure. Below this there is a newly developed, separate air conditioning control panel. Other vehicle functions are operated by means of a menu control in the centre console, which can also be used to change the look of the digital instruments. The new multifunction steering wheel is designed to be clear and self-explanatory – two thumbwheels on the left and right and two buttons each, and nothing else.

Charged to 80 per cent in less than 20 minutes…

The battery permits a calculated WLTP range of up to 450 kilometres. At DC quick-charging stations, the battery can be charged from 10 to 80 per cent in 20 minutes.

Provided we find these stations! In our country, the situation is still abysmal what these quick charging stations is concerned. Take Fastned: when I want for instance to drive from Antwerp to Knokke, I need to have enough range to make the 210 km trip back and forth to Antwerp, and to make things even worse, there is no Fastned charging station in the whole Antwerp region so far, and NONE in Knokke… so I would have to go towards Brussels in Steenokkerzeel, about 43,7 km from Antwerp, to find one… ridiculous isn’t it? I need at least 260 km range for the trip! To avoid any misunderstandings, we looked here only for Fastned charging stations. There are of course some other 4 to 38 kW charging stations, but any of the apps to find chanrging stations do NOT show whether you can use your bank card or not. At more than 90 %, it is not possible…

Back to our concept car…

Of course, this VW accelerates like a bullet: 0 to 100 km/h in less than 7 seconds. Its top speed is limited to 160 km/h.

A bold step for Volkswagen, but a very logical one if you take a look at its strategy. Soon, we will live in (very) different times…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Alfa Romeo Tonale MHEV: fit for a long love affair…

The Alfa Tonale will always be a car close to my heart. Not least because I stood by its cradle, I have literally seen it born.

I was invited at the Centro Stile Alfa Romeo by Chief designer Klaus Busse and his team when the plaster and wood prototype of the Tonale was just finished. We admired its typical proportions in tune with the higher stance of an SUV, with a horizontal accent line reminiscent of the styling language of the famous ‘Disco Volante’ two seater, created by Carrozzeria Touring back in 2013 and the original Disco Volante 1900 C52 born 1952 also designed by the Milanese coachbuilder Carrozzeria Touring…

In these columns you can also read our driving impressions of the 4WD Tonale Hybrid, which we tested on the Balocco proving ground and its surroundings. This time we took the ‘Mild’ hybrid FWD version for you on a road test through France. Does it offer the unmatched panache of a true Alfa?

Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Sliding behind the wheel one is immediately engulfed by the Alfa atmosphere. Behind the classic Alfa three-spoked steering wheel, your fingers meet two very large gearchange paddles, the very same as one finds on other Alfas and Maserati’s. Round dials greet you, embedded in two large clusters. Nice! The starting knob is nestled on the left branch of the steering wheel, the DNA selector sits close to the driver’s side on the centre console. All this befits a true thoroughbred.

Smooth power

Pushing the start button will fire up the 48 V hybrid system, and the first few meters are driven on EV power from the 0.8 kWh battery. From the size of this battery one can really understand this is a (very) mild hybrid. Just to put things in perspective, the battery on my Lexus CT 200h, a model which was launched in 2011, is a 1.3 kWh nickel-metal hydrid (NiMH) one. The Audi Q5 Hybrid – launched back in 2014 – also had a capacity of 1.3 kWh. By the way, the big Mercedes E400 Hybrid, launched back in 2014, had (only) a battery with a capacity of 0,8 kWh, the same as the Tonale.

A smaller capacity battery has of course its advantages is size and weight. The battery here has a volume of about 11 liters and does not affect the size of the trunk because it is installed under the central tunnel, between the front seats. It weighs only 13,5 kg by the way. The “dual voltage” system with DC/DC converter from 48 to 12 Volts manages the interface with the electrical architecture of the Alfa.

In the Tonale, the battery drives a 48-volt 15-kW and 55-Nm “P2” electric motor. (135 Nm thanks to the 2.5:1 transmission ratio). Indeed, after the initial start, very soon the 1,5 litre four cylinder sets in. The transition from E-power to engine power is very smooth indeed, as the 1.5 liter-gasoline engine with a variable-geometry turbocharger is paired with 7-speed Alfa Romeo TCT dual-clutch transmission as well as the electric motor. In stop start situations at traffic jams, the Tonale is able to drive solely on E-power, but indeed, not for long, due to the limited capacity of the battery. Also as soon as one depresses the throttle a little bit deeper because more traction power is wanted, the engine sets in anyway.

One can choose between two power levels of the engine, either 160 HP or 130 HP. The “edizione Speziale” equipment version of our test car can be had with both power versions. We would think that performance wise, the Tonale leaves nothing to be desired. In the 160 HP version, you will shoot from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 8,8 seconds and reach a top speed of over 210 km/h. With the milder 130 HP version, the Tonale is no sluggard either, as our test car amply showed. The acceleration time from 0 to 100 km/h is 9,9 seconds, and the top speed is a good 195 km/h. The engine sound is marvelous, and very well dampened. It never is obtrusive, on the contrary, it is quite melodious, and will please not only the Alfa aficionados.

The iconic DNA selector lets you choose between Dynamic, Naturale and the Advanced efficiency modes…

The engine, which redlines at 6500 rpm, is also turbine-like smooth and exempt from any vibrations.  At cruising speeds, it is almost inaudible. Alfa quotes an average WLTP consumption of 5.6 – 6.2 l/100 km. We managed an average consumption of 6,9 liters. Higher (cruising) speeds cost some fuel, and the Tonale invites to it… On secondary roads and slower urban speeds, the consumption hovers with some anticipative and smooth driving easily between 6 and 6,5 liters. We can only repeat ourselves that the driving style greatly influences your fuel consumption…

Acceleration at intermediate speeds is excellent and smooth, with the large gearchange paddles of course inviting you to intervene manually and let the engine “sing” in its ideal rev range when hurtling up and down mountain passes. Pulling power of the engine is quite good, as it develops 240 Nm of torque.

Curve master…

Indeed, on winding roads the Tonale really comes into its own, with its direct steering, (Alfa tells us it’s the most direct steering in its segment with a 13,6:1 ratio) and excellent suspension. The Tonale Hybrid has the Alfa Romeo Dynamic Torque Vectoring and FSD (Frequency Selective Damping) shock absorbers as standard equipment. We drove this Alfa on the mountain roads in the French Massif Central, also on the legendary Col de Burzet and the stretch towards the plateau at Lachamp Rafaël, an iconic stage in the Monte Carlo Rally, and it was a delightful experience. Stable, precise, virtually no body roll and excellent responsiveness, these were the ingredients which put a smile on our face.

Also the brakes earn a word of praise. The Alfa Romeo Tonale adopts the Integrated Brake System (IBS), an electromechanical system that combines stability control with conventional servo brakes. The system guarantees instantaneous brake response thanks to the integration between electronics and mechanics, together with weight optimization, optimal feeling and the total absence of pedal vibrations. In addition, the IBS manages the imperceptible blending between regenerative braking (to maximize energy recovery) and dissipative braking (achieved through the braking system).

What’s more, the Tonale adopts standard fixed calipers by Brembo, with 4 pistons and self-ventilated discs at the front and full discs at the rear.

…with dynamic vectoring

The front-wheel drive Tonale has standard an electronic self-locking differential. The system is built into the DNA selector and exploits the effect of the braking system by simulating a limited mechanical differential. It certainly works beautifully. It brings effective driving dynamics by controlling the vehicle stability, and by redirecting the power to the wheels when accelerating on corners. The system also provides improved greater control on slippery surfaces, as well as greatly reducing understeer, transferring torque from the inner to the outer wheel, ensuring better longitudinal acceleration and consequently better road holding. This Alfa feels truly nimble and can be thrown around corners in total confidence.

 Alexa assists you on (all) the way…

The Tonale has Amazon’s Alexa voice system built in. So you enjoy hands-free, voice-initiated interactions. Infotainment is further of course top notch with a customizable Android operating system and 4G connectivity with Over-the-Air (OTA) updates. This system includes a fully digital 12.3” screen, the main 10.25” touchscreen unit which is totaling 22.5”. The Alfa Romeo Tonale enables Level 2 autonomous driving by combining the “Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control” (IACC) and “Lane Centering” (LC) systems and the forward-facing camera, which longitudinally and laterally monitors all the car’s surroundings.

We also appreciated the dual-zone air conditioning, pleasant ambient light, sophisticated infotainment system, ventilated and heated front seats, and a formidable 14-speaker sound system by Harman Kardon. The reception of the radio is also quite good, even on FM. We were able to listen to France Musique and France Culture with crystal clear reception in mountainous areas…  The Tonale also has an electric tailgate and a wireless charging pad.


The Mild Hybrid Tonale is every inch a true Alfa, which is an excellent drivers’ car with formidable handling, combined with mechanical sophistication, docility and very good urban manners. It is also reasonably economical, provided you adopt a more sedate driving style. Finish and build quality is up to scratch, and equipment in our tested “speziale” equipment version is lavish to say the least.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Peugeot 308 SW GT Diesel Blue HDI: your stylish lion to go places…

Peugeot styling has panache and zest, and a short look at this 308 SW will convince you. The 308 SW we tested here for you came even in the GT version, which adds even more flamboyance.

The 308 finds a technical sister in the DS4, and its technology is well proven indeed.

Under the hood of our test car pounded the powerful heart of a 1,5 litre “Blue HDI” Diesel, and it impressed us greatly. Let it be said, modern day diesels have come a (very) long way, combining excellent pulling power with legendary economy. Here it was coupled to the Aisin 8 speed auto box we see also in many other models of the Stellantis group, as does the engine by the way.

We asked ourselves how a diesel would compare with our modern petrol engines and (fully) electrified drivetrains, so read on!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Sliding behind the stylish wheel of this 308 GT, our eyes immediately fell on the beautiful instrumentation. I think personally that the Peugeot stylists did a wonderful job. You have the impression to sit in a sports or racing car, reminiscent even of a formula 1 car, if you let yourself get a bit carried away. It certainly has character. The small steering wheel and the high positioning of the instrument cluster reinforce the feeling to sit in the cockpit of a very sporting machine. The size of the steering wheel also enhances the impression of agility and indeed encourages you to drive this Peugeot in a spirited manner.

Pushing the starting button lets the diesel come to life. It certainly changes from the velvety e-power we are now increasingly becoming accustomed to. Vibrations are clearly felt in the steering wheel, and even at cruising speeds some vibrations are felt. Indeed, the laws of physics inevitably come into play when the engine is very efficient and the gearing is very high indeed.

Of course, this efficiency results in stellar economy. According to the WLTP cycle, this 308 SW consumes merely liters in the urban cycle. On secondary roads, the consumption even drops to 4,5 l/100 km, and a modern Diesel is also absolutely king when it comes to high constant speed runs on the Autobahnen or Autoroutes. The WLTP cycle average quotes here 4,9 l/100 km. Co2 emissions are 129/148 g/km.

Are these figures realistic? Yes, if you drive accordingly. We repeat it time and again, one should drive with anticipation, use the available kinetic energy to the max to obtain decent fuel economy. This means coast as much as you can, instead of using the brakes. Drive in a fluid manner. You will in a few days be amply rewarded at the fuel pump. The average consumption in urban traffic of my Lexus CT 200h? 4,7 l/100 km, smoothly, no sweat. In the present state of affairs with still a fair amount of “grey” electricity, it wins the well to wheel CO2 contest still hands down.

So much for that. The torque of this 130 HP diesel is ample with 300 Nm. The 8 speed automatic takes well advantage of that, and acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h is a brisk 10,6 seconds. Top speed is 207 km, indeed, on the Autoroutes this 308 SW is fast.

Daily life with the 308 SW…

An aura of sporting panache pervades the interior. The quality of the materials and finish is impressive. We loved also the clean yet rather dramatic styling of the centre console and dashboard. Under the touchscreen is a smaller horizontal screen with a fixed layout where you can always select the main menu functions, and below that are manual switches for heating and ventilation, as one finds also in the DS4. This layout is logical, and you find your way soon enough, without having to consult a bible thick manual.

Peugeot wouldn’t be Peugeot if the seats were not excellent and the seating position is also beyond reproach.

Head- and legroom is good, also at the rear. Our modern cars have a very raked windscreen and when one wears a hat, as your servant invariably does, you have to be careful not to touch the roof rim. The Peugeot is no exception to the rule…

Boot space is more than adequate, 608 litres is available with both rear seat backrests up. Dropping them down expands the available load space to 1600 litres. This is where the longer wheelbase really pays off. Another bonus here is the ample legroom at the rear.

Top notch driving aids and connectivity…

The 308 SW in this GT livery offers a 360° camera, and parking is therefore a breeze. All the usual apps found in the more lavishly equipped cars brands of the Stellantis group are also found here, and of course Android Auto and Apple are available, and the ergonomics of the touchscreen which is slightly tilted towards the driver are also state of the art, as we said earlier.


The 308 SW is a typical modern day Peugeot. Well built and finished, a flamboyant styling language both inside and out, well performing and efficient, offering roominess and excellent everyday practicality. Its diesel engine makes it a candidate for frequent, high speed long distance use, and indeed when you are often on the road over a wider range, this is the version to choose…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Nissan Qashqai e-power: enjoying the delights of EV driving…with no strings attached

We all know it too well: Battery powered full EV’s are just wonderful to drive, seducing you with their stream of vibrationless, quiet and instant EV power.

We also realize however that at least in Belgium and also in several European countries the public charging infrastructure seems to be still in its infancy, and when you don’t have a house with a driveway with your own charging unit, you can forget about fully enjoying your EV for private use.

Indeed, apartment or condominium inhabitants can also better look elsewhere: beefing up the power circuit in de building meets much resistance from the owners, and they also find the potential fire hazard of an EV car in their underground garage rather too big.

So if you want to sell a car to a wide public which wants to enjoy the EV smoothness, without the recharging troubles, then it is wise to develop a car such as this Qashqai “e-power.”

The Nissan engineers indeed took the hybrid concept a step further: the petrol engine, here a 1,5 litre three cylinder unit,  just generates electricity and the wheels are therefore only driven by an electric motor. Does it all work fine? Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Full Hybrid the Nissan way…

Let’s tell it right away, this is definitely one of the very smoothest hybrids I have ever driven. Indeed, total EV smoothness is achieved as there is only the electric motor powering the car. This electric motor is good for 140 kW with a torque of not less than 330 Nm. So this Qashqai is indeed well powered, as the performance figures clearly show. This Nissan will accelerate smoothly from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 7,9 seconds, reaching an electronically governed top speed of 170 km/h.

The engine – the Nissan KR15DDT unit , a 1498 cm3 3 cylinder unit with direct injection, DOHC and CVTCS (Continuously Variable Timing Control System), is very well insulated and indeed is almost inaudible, adding greatly to the pleasant feel of driving a fully fledged EV. Just for the record, it develops 116 kW / 158 PS / at 4600 rpm, torque is 250 Nm between 2400 and 4400 rpm.

Nissan also names this engine ‘VC Turbo’, with those first two letters standing for Variable Compression. The engineers went to very great lengths: instead of conventional connecting rods, the pistons are joined to the crankshaft through motor-driven, multi-link devices which vary the top and bottom dead centre positions of the pistons. This allows to adopt a high compression when performance is wanted, or low compression to improve fuel economy. Soo clever!

But how about fuel efficiency and consumption? As there are invariably losses in the drivetrain in the generation of the electric energy, you are well advised to adopt a smooth driving style, driving with anticipation in order to save as much kinetic energy as possible. The less kW the engine has to generate given a certain distance, the better it is.

Of course, the hybrid concept in this Qashqai has also efficiency gains when the urban pace is low and involves many stops.

Simply because under these circumstances the EV motor does all the work, with the combustion engine recharging the battery under ideal load and revs, computer controlled of course. Indeed, only with the advent of electronic management of the drivetrain is this possible, but this has now been the case for many years, and has already been proven millions of times. It is good to note too that the e-power Qashqai has a 2.1kWh battery, which is somewhat larger than most non plug-in hybrids.

Therefore the Qashqai can achieve good efficiency in urban traffic, where we achieved a consumption between 6 and 6,5 l/100 km. On the open road, the engine has to feed rather more the electric motor with electricity, so when speeds are moderate, say up to 100 km/h, it is still possible to stay in the 6 litres/100 km range. 

It is only on the motorway at high cruising speeds that things are getting a bit awkward. The motor has then to feed the e-power to the electric motor for real, and this means averages between 7 and 7,8 l/100 km. So, what’s the verdict? EV smoothness and “zen” character of the drivetrain is yours indeed to enjoy fully, and we loved the Qashqai e-power for it. The consumption however will not break records here. You just need a very sensitive right foot and the constant awareness that developing kinetic energy costs money at the pump, and that you have to retain it as much as you can, adopting an anticipative driving style. Certainly in urban traffic the fuel economy is very creditable indeed…

You have many choices in driving this Nissan: The D-Mode lets you select between normal, power and eco, the EV button lets you use the electric motor in urban driving conditions as much as possible, and the e-pedal lets the electric motor act as a generator when you lift the throttle

The qualities of a bestseller…

Did you know that in the UK the Qashqai is a bestseller in its segment? By the way, it is built in the Nissan factory in Sunderland, UK, where also the Juke and the Leaf roll of the production lines.

We can understand its success, as this SUV, which we tested in the Tekna top equipment version, has all the qualities to put a (broad) smile on your face. It has a very readable head-up display, a 12.3-inch ‘Nissan Connect’ touchscreen infotainment system, a powered rear tailgate and a of course many driver assistance functions. We liked the classic round dials, instrumentation buffs as we are, and also the good mix between touchscreen functions and physical knobs and levers.      

It is also practical, offering you a boot space of 505 litres, and it has very wide opening doors, a boon for mothers with toddlers which have to be heaved in the baby seats.


This Nissan is very well insulated from engine and road/wheel noise, and the suspension is comfortable at speed. In urban driving situations on our Belgian inner city tram rails and ridges the suspension is rather firm, but feels never obtrusive. Of course the Tekna top equipment level leaves very little to desire indeed, including a very good sound system, which we enjoyed to the full in this marvelously quiet car.

This Qashqai really convinced us by combining the wonderful qualities of EV driving with the limitless mobility a fuel powered combustion engine offers us. We must admit that your servant regretted to part with it…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Citroën C5X 1.2 Pure Tech 130 S&S: the legend lives on…

We all know that the segment of the “grandes berlines” or the bigger saloons is under pressure. But then Citroën has a tradition to defend: making cars which provide splendid comfort, ample space for its passengers and can travel at speed for hours on end, without any fatigue for its occupants. The French call it “une grande routière”, and they whisper this with some respect. The tradition in France has been long, and magnificent. They have had in the ‘30s les grandes Bugatti, Voisin, Hotchkiss, Delahaye, and of course from the mid fifties of last century onwards the Citroën DS 19, Pallas 21. Then came the stylish CX, followed the XM and then by the iconic C6, a “voiture présidentielle” if there was one. So a “grande berline” simply MUST be on the menu. And indeed, there it is: the C5X.

The C5 X comes with different drivetrains, more powerful and electrified, but the dynamic Citroën Belgium PR team reserved for us the “base” version, with the well proven and pretty formidable 1 199 cm3 three cylinder 12 valve 131 HP engine coupled to an 8 speed automatic gearbox. Well proven we say, as this engine/gearbox combination is found in a great many models of the Stellantis group. It is found in Opels, DS Automobiles, Peugeot…and of course other Citroëns’. Does the C5X with this combination still have all the panache of a “grande routière?” Let’s see…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Impressive stance…

But first let’s have a walk around the car, and have a look at its aesthetics. It stands rather high on its wheels, so you cannot define it as an ordinary saloon. It rather has the looks of an SUV with its up to 19 inch wheels, and protections running around the wheel arches. When you look at its descending roofline, it also has the character of a luxury coupé.

On the front, a long chrome strip with the “double chevron” at its centre runs between the double headlights which are placed one above the other. Citroën describes the body shape of the C5 X typically as a hatchback crossover, and we would agree totally here.

In the interior, the dashboard has a rather classic layout, with small instruments facing the driver, spreading its information also on a clearly legible head up display. Luckily there is a large 12 inch touch screen display in the centre, with all the necessary functions well laid out, including the obligatory Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.


The strong point of the C5 X is of course its legendary interior space. Rear passengers find regal legroom and this puts this car truly in a (more than) premium league. All this space doesn’t come at the cost of boot space, which is in standard form still offering a good 545 litres, which is extendable to a whopping 1645 litres. Despite its higher stance, the loading sill is pleasantly low.

A pounding heart

If one wouldn’t know better, one gets the impression that a big, old school 2 litre four cylinder petrol engine is doing all the work; it is not exactly refined, as vibrations on partial load at lower revs are clearly felt in the steering wheel.

But once you put your foot deeper, the engine runs smoother, and the 8 speed automatic changes also less perceptible. The gearbox can be ultra smooth when accelerating gradually at low urban speeds, and the engine is not too rough either, and even almost inaudible. So the engineers did their homework in slow city driving circumstances. The stop start function can be jerky sometimes, but soon one learns to avoid that with a sensitive right foot. All this behavior lets you think back to the DS 21 and DS 23 Injections in the seventies, and when you have known these cars, it gives you the impression that it is typically Citroën, this engine efficiency with a hint of roughness. Because efficient this engine is. Consumptions between 6 and 7 litres are easy to obtain, given of course an anticipative driving style, avoiding sprint accelerations.

Not that this 1,2 litre, 1,4 tonne Citroën is slow. Remember, 130 HP is exactly what a flagship 1972 DS 23 injection 5 speed was capable of, and its torque with 210 NM was even less than the 230 Nm the 1,2 litre three cylinder puts to the front wheels. Don’t forget, the DS 23 had a 2347 cc engine…The DS5 will sprint from 0 to 100 in 11,3 seconds, the historic DS 23 took 11 seconds to do the same. Top speed of the C5 is 210 km/h, doing honor to the Citroën tradition of “grande routière”. The DS 23 Injection was teasing Porsches in their days with a top speed of 188 km/h.

The good torque characteristics of this 1,2 litre engine and the alert 8 speed gearbox lets you enjoy good punch for overtaking and gaining  speed.

Thankfully the climate controls are analog beneath the touchscreen…

The legendary suspension and comfort…

The strong point of the DS5, and this is where it continues the tradition, is its masterful behavior at (high) motorway speeds. Because here the suspension comes into play, and here, despite the fact that we don’t have an adjustable suspension in this “basic” version, the engineers did a masterful job and succeeded in giving this big Citroën exactly this floating carpet ride which is so typical of them. This indeed makes this car an absolute king of the road, come rain, sleet, slippery surfaces, the C5 always seems to float over it with unerring stability and comfort, and…at speed. Cornering is also no punishment for the driver either, even when you are in big hurry. Of course there is some leaning to be felt in corners, but then again this feels completely natural. 

When talking about comfort, we have to mention here the absolutely fantastic Citroën comfort seats, which really stand out.

The pinnacle of mobility…

There is one thing in which this 1,2 litre petrol engined C5 X truly excels too: it has just a petrol engine only, and this does result in mean less weight to carry around, but also, and this we tend to forget in our electrified age, it gives you absolute mobility. After a (very) fast 700 km trip, it just takes minutes to refuel, and you can continue your journey for as long (and fast) as you want. Your formidable “pure” EV than has to rest for AT LEAST one hour, provided you find the proper recharging station…for example in the cute village you entered in the Alpes Maritimes…

Citroën says less is more… the rest you can read on the head up display…

With the abysmal recharging infrastructure we will witness still for years to come, as it cannot keep up with the increasing volumes of EV cars, increasing, this is an element which cannot be stressed enough. The reason also why all manufacturers are offering also (plug in) hybrids…


Is this 1,2 litre C5 X a true “big” Citroën? You bet it is. All the way. We mentioned its strong points, and this indeed makes it a car which continues the legend with panache and unique bravour.

We also like its style, its value for money, its roominess, comfort, safe, unerring, stable handling. Of course the C5 X is also offered with more sophisticated drivetrains, like the 225 HP Plug in hybrid version, but you get already the real taste of what a big Citroën is all about, enjoying as we said absolute mobility  with this 1,2 litre petrol engined drivetrain…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We spoke with Pierre Leclercq: “our Citroën Oli is not only style. It is French Design.”  

On the Brussels Salon, Citroën showed its already iconic Oli prototype, a harbinger of things to come in the Citroëns which will be in the showrooms already this and next year. Reason enough for your servant to have a talk with its head of design, Pierre Leclercq, about the design philosophy of the progressive brand with the “double chevron”, and so much more…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

I started this interview asking indeed about this new design philosophy of the brand, striving towards simplicity, practicality, lightness, durability and sustainability in a very bold and original package.

PL: “With the Oli, there are two things. First there is the brand identity, as we show with the Oli styling elements which we will bring to the market as soon as this year. The front end, the new logo, the head- and rear lamps, also the coherence between the front and rear end. The latter is a very important element in our brand identity. (We have seen this already in the Ami – editor’s note).

The form language, the simplicity of the edges and the curves will also be seen on our future production cars, but then also the contrasting vertical elements will be present. Our designers will deviate here from the strictly automotive styling which you see in the other brands of the group, we have a non-automotive touch which will be a distinctive element in our future styling.

The magic goals of French Design…

The second fact is that the Oli is not just a styling exercise. It is not only style. It is really French Design. We work together with our engineers to reduce weight, the cost, we are striving for intuitive and simple solutions.

For instance the seats. It’s very important, we work with a whole team to get a seat which is very distinctive, which we can put into production. We discovered with the Oli that our clients are ready for these things. We see that our clients are ready to take bold steps together with us, because we have an image that we will bring something more on the road than just a nice looking car.

HKtB: This translates also into the choice of the materials, the dialogue with the suppliers about the substance and texture of the elements and their surfaces, their unique touch and feel, the atmosphere and character this gives to the car…

PL: We will be a zero carbon company in 2038, and this has a huge impact on materials. Not so long ago, the choice of the materials came very late in the process of building a car. The exterior and interior, the colors, it was seen as pure decoration. Here and there, one started to use recycled materials for some items, but that was it. This process is now completely turned around at Citroën. We now ask first to tell us which materials we can use, as we want recycled materials, unpainted, and we will go from there and adopt them. This is most interesting. And I think that our clients are also ready for this.

HKtB: These elements and this approach we also see in the Ami. The French, as even Mr. Tavares recently put it, love their individual mobility. The Ami is fit for the (mega)city… will there be other models geared for a new City Mobility in the spirit of the Oli?

We always search for new solutions…

PL:  We have many projects running now. It’s a bit like a funnel. When there is one project hitting the road, we have already other proposals in the pipeline. We are always searching for new solutions. If you remember, two years ago, we showed a rather disruptive project of robotized platforms, which is an intelligent use of the present day autonomous technology, in controlled urban areas. But I imagine perfectly in 2030 and 2035 that these solutions will be used in our cities. The design will then focus on the interior of the cabins and structures rolling on these platforms, a very interesting evolution.

The Ami represented a big risk for us, indeed, we thought about the city, but in fact, we scrutinized the clients who bought the Ami, age, location, etc, and we noticed that the Ami is not only used in the cities. We have clients who buy the Ami for their children and grandchildren, remember that in France you can drive an Ami at the age of 14, and it is better than a scooter. And in a market where these vehicles cost between 12 and 15.000 Euros, ours is available for 6.000 Euros… No small feat, as we respect the profitability margins of our group! It is now on the market for two years, and it has grown more into a lifestyle than a car. This is also what the 2 CV has achieved. It is not easy to create the same phenomenon in this day and age…

HKtB: Can you tell a bit more about your Ami buyers?

We have also many clients who buy an Ami for their holiday homes. And as I said, of course grandparents who buy the Ami for their grandchildren. There are also clients who own a Ferrari and buy an Ami for their third or fourth car…

HKtB: We talked earlier in Paris about your open mindedness towards other designers, in other sectors, who could become involved in offering elements of the car during its life, for example, that in a further future one could offer replacement seats for Oli’s or Citroëns who after years of intensive use get a bit long in the teeth… or, rather, offer parts and items to customize the new Citroëns…

PL: It’s a philosophy I love very much. People more and more want an object which is really theirs. Design is not a luxury anymore. If you go for an Ikea kitchen, you can still choose the finish, styling and colors you want, to make it yours. This is now also true for cars. We have started this with the Ami.

HKtB: It is also true for Jeep. Mopar offers a wide array of accessories.

PL: Indeed, this trend is already more prominent in the States. But with the Ami we started off in Europe with the same trend. Not that we offer many accessories, but we created a desire with the customer to customize his car. It’s like Apple. They don’t offer many accessories themselves, but are produced by Belkin etc. It is a very interesting path for our cars in the future. This will give us for instance incredible interiors. I want the client to appropriate our geometries. Why not share our geometries on the internet Open Space and invite the developers to have fun with it?

Every brand has its own design team to embody its proper DNA

HKtB: What is your relationship or rather dialogue between your styling department and the suppliers? Do they come present you what is possible, or after having established a manifest for yourselves what you want to do in styling in the next five years, let’s say, you ask them to come up with new materials, possibilities?

PL: The dialogue goes both ways. But I want to stress here that the design has become very important. The suppliers are specialized in offering technology, for instance for the platforms we have conceived within the group, but over the last 30 years, what have we done? Instead of asking PininFarina or Bertone to style all the cars in the world, we have all established our design centers which carry truly our DNA, and every brand has its own equipe or team of designers. This is génial, because we have cars within the group which don’t resemble each other at all…

HKtB: With the new materials comes also repair friendliness, durability…

PL: Indeed, we want our cars to have a longer lifespan, and we will refresh them within our network. We need of course more control as nowadays we don’t see the car anymore after it has been produced. We have to control the recyclability of the car. Otherwise it’s no use to build the car with recyclable materials.

HKtB: It think it is necessary to tell the client that his car now has a long life and that you as the manufacturer will follow the car throughout its life.

PL: Indeed, a lifelong car, staying with you the rest of your life.

HKtB: Indeed, that as a brand policy you commit yourself to the clients that your Citroën model, Type A, B, or whatever, that you will always follow this car for decades to come…

PL: Ca serait génial, that would be a stroke of genius. It is our goal. It would be very interesting and it would completely change the idea of the automobile of today.

HKtB:  The youth is already there. They support and adopt the circular economy. I think Citroën is the right brand to do this. 

PL: Indeed, we push within the Stellantis group for these concepts, and I think that our clients are far more inclined to make these choices than the buyers of other brands.

HKtB: I thank you for this interview. Thinking out of the box is always interesting.

PL: I thank you, always lovely to exchange these ideas, thank you for the conversation. I also think that every car we build has to make the life of our clients better. These are not empty words. The Ami improves lives. We offered a new service; in Paris, people smiled when they saw the car. It takes something to convince a Parisien!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A look at Peugeot’s future products and electrification strategy with the INCEPTION CONCEPT…

Featuring a revolutionary exterior and interior design, including the next-generation PEUGEOT i-Cockpit® and innovative Hypersquare control system with steer-by-wire technology, the INCEPTION CONCEPT will inspire PEUGEOT’s future products from 2025 onwards. The better news is that Peugeot plans to bring most of its innovations to production (!)

Based on the STLA Large platform, the fully electric INCEPTION CONCEPT is powered by a 100kWh battery providing a range of 497 miles. With two electric motors, the INCEPTION CONCEPT produces almost 680hp and accelerates from 0-62mph in under three seconds. The model also features 800V technology, enabling it to add 93 miles of range in just five minutes, and is capable of wireless induction charging.

Linda Jackson, CEO of the PEUGEOT brand, said: “PEUGEOT is committed to the electrification of its range. In 2023, our entire line-up will be electrified and in the next two years, five new 100% electric models will be launched. Our ambition is simple: to make PEUGEOT the leading electric brand in Europe by 2030. This objective and ambitious vision pave the way for a radical transformation for the brand, as represented by the INCEPTION CONCEPT.”

Indeed, PEUGEOT will reduce its carbon footprint by more than 50% by 2030 in Europe and to become fully Carbon Net Zero by 2038.

Over the next two years, PEUGEOT will launch five new 100% electric models and by 2030, all PEUGEOT cars sold in Europe will be electric.

Dramatic design

The PEUGEOT INCEPTION CONCEPT introduces a new, simpler and more refined design language for the brand, which will be introduced on future models from 2025. At the front, it features an all-new light signature incorporating PEUGEOT’s distinctive claw design, which is merged with the front grille to create a single object that also houses the sensors. This is made up of a single piece of glass with the logo in the centre, magnified by the 3D luminescent effect.  The front grille and headlamps are in my opinion a bit reminiscent of the ‘70s 504… 

A TECH BAR runs horizontally through the door layer. This flush screen emits different messages to the outside of the car when the driver and passengers approach it. The artificial intelligence equipped on the PEUGEOT INCEPTION CONCEPT makes it possible to recognize the driver in order to set up the comfort settings (seat posture, temperature, driving mode and multimedia preferences) desired by each occupant. In addition, the TECH BAR also displays the battery charge level and houses many sensors and radars, leaving the bodywork completely smooth.

The INCEPTION CONCEPT’s bold design incorporates 7.25m2 of glazing to create a glass capsule for the passenger compartment that plunges to the driver and front passenger’s feet. All the glazing (windscreen, side windows and quarter windows) is made from glass designed for architecture. Adapted to the PEUGEOT INCEPTION CONCEPT, it retains its exceptional thermal qualities and benefits from a multi-chrome treatment (treatment with metal oxides), a process initially used for the visors of astronauts’ helmets by NASA.

Completing the car’s unique design is an exclusive body colour, which highlights the shapes in the bodywork and interacts, like the glazing, by tinting according to the external environment. The paint is single-coated, meaning far less energy is consumed during its application.

‘BEV-by-design’ platform

The INCEPTION CONCEPT has been given the silhouette of a low (1.34m) and efficient saloon and is 5m in length. It is based on the STLA Large platform, one of four future Stellantis Group “BEV-by-design” platforms. The arrival of this new range of platforms from 2023 will revolutionize the PEUGEOTs of tomorrow. Specifically created for electrification, they offer major differences in terms of architecture which enabled designers to completely reshape the PEUGEOT INCEPTION CONCEPT’s passenger compartment.

The new “BEV-by-design” native electric platforms will also introduce technological modules powered by artificial intelligence: STLA Brain, STLA SmartCockpit and STLA AutoDrive. Like the INCEPTION CONCEPT, future PEUGEOT models will be equipped with STLA Brain artificial intelligence and will be fully connected.


The 100% electric PEUGEOT INCEPTION CONCEPT is equipped with 800V technology. Its 100kWh battery enables it to travel 497 miles on a single charge, with extremely low consumption of just 12.5kWh per 100 km. The INCEPTION CONCEPT is capable of adding 19 miles of range in one minute, or 93 miles in five minutes, and can also be recharged wirelessly by induction.

Two compact electric motors, one at the front, the other at the rear, make the PEUGEOT INCEPTION CONCEPT a four-wheel drive vehicle. The combined power is close to 680hp (500kW), enabling it to accelerate from 0-62mph in under three seconds.

Next-generation i-Cockpit®

With its new Hypersquare control system, the PEUGEOT INCEPTION CONCEPT offers an agile driving experience and an all-new, more intuitive i-Cockpit®. Inspired by video games, the Hypersquare control system does away with the conventional steering wheel in favour of digital electric controls and steer-by-wire technology.

The centre of the Hypersquare is a tablet-type screen dedicated to the distribution of control information. The pictograms for the different features (air conditioning, radio volume, ADAS etc.) are displayed on the two side panels to facilitate access to the chosen control. The latter is located inside the circular recesses and can be accessed by moving the thumb only, without taking your hands off the steering control.

The next generation i-Cockpit also includes the Stellantis STLA SmartCockpit technology platform and STLA AutoDrive, enabling Level 4 autonomous driving. When driving is delegated, Hypersquare retracts and a large panoramic screen slides out from the floor to offer a new passenger compartment experience.

 PEUGEOT’s goal is to introduce the Hypersquare on a next generation vehicle in the range before the end of the decade.(!)


The PEUGEOT INCEPTION CONCEPT features a minimal cockpit dedicated to the driver alone, which does without a dashboard, crossbar and the bulkhead, providing a completely open view of the road.

Sustainable ‘moulded textiles’ are also used throughout the interior. Scraps of 100% polyester fabric from the design centre’s prototyping workshops or from suppliers are re-used to make load-bearing or trim parts. The seats are covered with a velvet made from 100% recycled polyester, which extends onto the floor and features 3D patterns to act as a floor mat.

More Peugeot news soon…

Hans Knol ten Bensel