Porsche opens the exhibition “Porsche – Pioneer of Electric Mobility” in Berlin

Porsche is introducing its first fully electric sports car as part of the exhibition series “Start to Drive Electric” in the capital city. You can already visit the special exhibition “Porsche – Pioneer of Electric Mobility”, as it started from Thursday, 16 July 2020 , and this until 1 November 2020 at “DRIVE. Volkswagen Group Forum” at Unter den Linden in Berlin. Entry is free of charge.

The exhibition not only deals with topics from the world of electric mobility such as range and energy recuperation, infrastructure and charging, but also takes a good look at the pioneering spirit of the Porsche brand. Sustainability, zero-impact factory, Formula E and the vision of climate-neutral mobility are other areas included in the special exhibition.

“The Porsche Museum does not see itself as an institution that just preserves collections and is a guardian of the past,” explains Achim Stejskal, Head of Heritage and the Porsche Museum.

The visitors will see a number of cars, including a Taycan 4S, two Taycan Turbo, the endurance test car of the brand, the record car from the Nürburgring Nordschleife, as well as the Formula E display model. Further highlights:

At Unter den Linden, a cutaway model of the Porsche Taycan, the Formula E race simulator, touch points with information on the milestones of electric mobility at Porsche, the Taycan cockpit, charging stations, the electric motors of the front and rear axles as well as a Carrera track await the visitors. The latter will prove especially energetic as visitors can pedal to generate electricity for the small slot cars themselves. The different experiences provide interaction between digital and analogue.

Visitors can choose between various themes in the media room “Accelerator” and can start projections. Protagonists from different sectors of Porsche who played an important role in the development of the Taycan are introduced there. They talk about their personal Taycan moment, their connection with the car, a pioneering approach and heritage of the brand, about design, sustainability, production, but also performance and adrenaline. Further information as well as film and photographic material can be found at www.porsche.com/museum.

So if you happen to be in the neighborhood of Berlin on your holiday travels, don’t miss this!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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…

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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  

We drove the BMW 218I Gran Coupé: driving pleasure in style…

BMW used the iconic slogan since the birth of the new generation passenger cars in the early sixties: “Aus Freude am Fahren” , freely translated “built for driving pleasure.”

Well, this 218I makes you smile behind its elegant three spoked wheel, and indeed delivers tons of delightful handling and responsiveness, proving amply that you don’t need a top end BMW to fully enjoy what the brand stands for. Every, and indeed every BMW makes you a better driver.

We drove this sleek 218I here for you, and indeed, it made us rediscover the pleasures of driving and owning a car…and what’s more, a BMW.

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Indeed, many city dwellers condemn our cherished four wheeled individual transport as we have it today, and car makers are all scrambling to develop new kinds of e powered city cars, with the Bavarian brand being no exception by the way. One only has to look at the 3I range for instance, and the plethora of BMW’s fully e-powered and plug-in hybrids.

But then again, BMW is not forgetting the essence of a good car which delights its driver. It all starts with a good suspension, chassis and drivetrain. Add to this a decent power to weight ratio and the recipe for a good result is made. Of course, the engineers and developers of such cars have to know what the art of driving really entails, and be good drivers themselves. Rest assured, BMW has them. And what’s even more important, these men have the talent to translate their driving know how into the cars they develop. This is embedded in every gene of this sleek 218I.

BMW driving, remaining truly unique…

This delight starts when you push the starting knob, or rather, when you slide behind the wheel. You soon find your way with all the handles and knobs in its stylish cabin, and in the clean, angular instrument clusters the dials for speed and revs light up. The engine comes very smoothly to life. Almost inaudible and vibrationless.

You would never guess a 1,5 litre three cylinder engine does the work here. Of course it has state of the art engine management, BMW TwinPower Turbo technology, combined with High Precision Injection, VALVETRONIC fully variable valve timing, Double-VANOS variable camshaft timing. This results in a power output of not less than 103kW/140 HP over a rather wide rev range, i.e. between 4600-6500 rpm. And this is delivered in all smoothness, the engine just soothing your ears with a beautiful staccato when you rev it up. Pulling power is also abundant in the mid rev range, with maximum torque of 220 Nm available between 1430 to 4200 rpm.

But this is not all. This state of the art thoroughbred engine is coupled in our test car to a formidable seven-speed Steptronic dual-clutch transmission, which totally matches the engine’s characteristics.

This drivetrain really gets your sleek Gran Coupé really going. 0 to 100 km/h is absolved in merely 8.7 seconds, top speed is an impressive 215 km/h. Enough to enjoy all the exclusive delights of a true Gran Turismo. And this time in style.

The sleek panache of the Gran Coupé styling now also found in the 2-series…

This is the first ever Gran Coupé in the 2 series range, and it is certainly a true winner in the looks department. The fluid and rakish lines of the Gran Coupé styling concept suit the more compact 2 series very well, and the proportions of the whole car just look and feel “just right”, and this from any angle.

Styling details and contours make it a true BMW, and the styling DNA of the brand is very evident. The standout characteristic of the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe is its dynamically stretched silhouette which, like the four frameless side doors, is lifted from the classical coupe blueprint. Our test car was shod with 17 inch alloys, styling 549, and this came with the so called sports package, which included sports seats in front, decorative bands in the cabin “Illuminated Berlin”, cruise control and a LED light package amongst others.

The slightly angled headlights actually feature full-LED technology as standard with the option of an adaptive variant, which is included in this package. In Belgium, this package costs at the moment of writing 2611 Euros ex VAT.

One also has to fork out a further 1835 Euros for the Business Pack, which includes the Connected Package plus and the Park Distance Control fore and aft. The latter we deem essential, as it is impossible to see the sleek edges of the car when parking. Connectivity in itself is also a must nowadays.

Impeccable handling and dynamics

As its sporting looks imply, the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe has excellent road manners, which is based on the advanced BMW front-wheel-drive architecture, which the BMW in addition to an array of other technological developments – shares with the new BMW 1 Series.

The near-actuator wheel slip limitation (ARB) tech familiar from the BMW i3s is fitted as standard in the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe. It improves traction when pulling away, cornering or accelerating on dry and wet roads, in mixed, snowy or icy conditions, and allows wheel slip to be controlled much more precisely and swiftly than before.

BMW has honed all this to perfection: The slip controller is positioned directly in the engine control unit rather than in the control unit for the DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) system. Eliminating long signal paths means that information is relayed three times quicker, while the driver perceives wheel slip being brought under control up to ten times faster.

Near-actuator wheel slip limitation works in tandem with the DSC system to significantly reduce power understeer – a typical drawback of front-wheeldrive cars – without the need for corrective inputs to stabilize lateral dynamics.

It should also be noted that all BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe models from entry level upwards have a multi-link rear axle.

The 218i gives its driver the choice between several driving modes, sport, comfort and even eco pro. Most of the time we opted for the “comfort” mode, which indeed was most pleasant, setting up suspension stiffness and drivetrain responsiveness exactly to our liking, delivering very suave progress in urban driving conditions.

In this comfort modes, the pleasures of BMW driving are totally preserved, with excellent economy as a bonus. It was no effort at all to stay between 6 and 7 litres/100 km in town, on the open road the consumption dropped further by about 1 litre/100 km.

The manufacturer quotes average consumption between 5.7-5.4 l/100 km, which is not unrealistic at all, if you add 1/2 litre/100 km or thereabouts. CO2 emissions are given as 123-114 g/km. Emission class is EU6d-TEMP.

BMW has installed a host of technical features to reduce fuel consumption, such as Electric Power Steering, Auto Start Stop function, Optimum Shift Indicator, ECO PRO mode with coasting function (with automatic transmission), active air flap control, on-demand operation of ancillary units, map-regulated oil pump, differential with optimised warm-up behaviour, tyres with reduced rolling resistance, for instance.

Driving aids…

Standard equipment in Europe includes collision and pedestrian warning with city braking function, which also alerts the driver to the presence of cyclists. Also fitted as standard is the Lane Departure Warning system with active lane return, which is operational from 70 to 210 km/h (44 – 130 mph).

As said earlier, options include Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function that can be engaged up to 160 km/h (99 mph) and the Driving Assistant, which comprises the Lane Change Warning system, rear collision warning and crossing traffic warning.

Cabin comfort

The interior seats four comfortably, welcoming rear passengers with significantly easier entry and 33 millimetres of extra kneeroom over the BMW 2 Series Coupe.

The seating position is 12 millimetres higher too. The boot holds 430 litres of gear (40 litres more than the two-door coupe) and this can be expanded further by folding down the 40/20/40 split rear seat backrest. The rear bench can be released fully from the load compartment. The tailgate opens automatically at the press of a button or – if the optional Comfort Access is specified – with the wave of a foot. 

Conclusion

The BMW 218I is not only every inch a true BMW with all its iconic qualities, it offers all this in an extremely well proportioned and seducing bodywork, which felt “just right” in its dimensions, we found.

Workmanship, build quality and materials used are beyond reproach, styling both inside and out are standard setting for its class, the excellence of the drivetrain is to be experienced to be believed. Add to this unique driving dynamics combined with a comfortable ride and excellent economy, and you can understand that we actually rediscovered how much daily pleasure a BMW car offer you, even in it’s “sedate” 218I version. Of course we look forward to drive for you the more powerful versions in this Gran Coupé 2 series, but driving pleasure is already yours in this one…

Hans Knol ten Bensel   

Three (!) electric engines for the Audi e-tron S and Audi e-tron S Sportback

Driving is believing, and the e-power experience proves to be even more exhilarating at Audi: their e-tron flagship comes now with three engines, making it 370 kW strong and giving it a massive torque of 973 Nm. Two engines are driving the rear wheels, and indeed, the emphasis is on rear end power, as well for daily use as for sporting driving. The rear end can even be seduced to produce power slides, and the Quattro concept has been further honed to deliver, as the factory puts it, an electronically controlled vector torque distribution with active and fully variable torque distribution between both rear wheels, doing away with a differential altogether.

Driving experience 2.0

The Audi pilots can wet their hands: this impressive SUV is your sporting partner on winding roads and mountain passes. Just put the electronic stability control ESC in “sport” mode and the drive mode selector in “dynamic” and things really start to happen. True power slides are now possible and the system will softly brake the inner front wheel should it want to slip through under full power. This leaves you fully in control of this e-power “bolide”, which leaves nothing to be desired in the power department.

This S-tron catapults itself from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 4,5 seconds, and then storms further ahead to its electronically controlled top speed of 210 km/h.

Still sufficient range…

The available battery power is a good match for all this sportiness. When you adopt a driving style in tune with the WLTP cycle, you can expect an action range of 360 kilometers or thereabouts. The high tension battery has a gross charge capacity of 95 kWh, of which 91 pct is effectively usable.

The Quattro principle has been further refined. When extra power is wanted, the front motor kicks in, and as said, both rear engines are individually controlled and offer this fully variable torque, managed by a permanent electronic control system.

As you can expect, the S version has a suspension setup geared towards sportiness, but when you’re not in the mood, it is good to know that the Audi Drive Select gives you the choice between not less than seven driving profile modes. The fully adaptable air suspension has controlled damping stiffness and can vary the ride height by some 76 mm.

20 inch alloys are standard, but you can opt for 21 inch tall wheels, and later even 22 inch alloys will be available. The brake saddles at the front have not less than six (!) pistons. The brake control system will decide the braking power of each wheel, and will choose also if engine, brake friction or both will be used when decelerating.

The body has also been made more aerodynamic, and the patented new wheel arches improve things markedly. The Cx is a mere 0,26 for the Sportback version.  

Each e-tron also comes with a … heat pump, which effectively reduces energy consumption on the whole by extracting heat generated by the driveline, and thus extending the driving range by some 10 pct.

Of course this e-Tron S has all the infotainment and electronic driving assistance you could ever want,and will also light the road for you with matrix LED headlamps. In the cabin, MMI touch response control system with two large central screens await you. The online services of Audi Connect complete the navigation system, especially the e-tron-routeplanner.

We are certainly looking forward to have a drive in this latest edition of the e-Tron, just know that this version will be available on the European markets in autumn 2020, and prices in Belgium start at 97.100 euro incl. VAT for the e-tron S, and 99.110 euro incl. VAT for the Sportback version.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Subaru Forester e-Boxer: a very sensible hybrid…

Never (really) change a winning team, the saying goes. This is exactly what the Subaru engineers had in mind when they designed the hybrid drivetrain of the Forester e-Boxer. Indeed, this hybrid Subaru remains very familiar to all Subaru enthusiasts and owners. They will find again the immensely practical and sturdy Forester, which is now roomier than ever, and the familiar sound of the two litre petrol boxer engine will also be music to their ears.

But is has also e-power, albeit rather modest. This has been very cleverly put to use, resulting in a very creditable hybrid. Just read on…

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167 HP at your service…

The e-Boxer Forester has honest punch. The trusty four cylinder boxer puts down not less than 150 HP, and the e-motor a rather subtle 16,7 HP.

This is more than enough to drive this Forester with spirit, helped by the very responsive CVT transmission, which will let the engine rev eagerly when called for power. As soon as one lifts the throttle only slightly, revs immediately go down again, using the good torque characteristics of this trusty boxer. All this goes with the familiar and typical “Subaru Boxer Sound”, we would say.

Indeed, the moments that the engine is silent and this roomy Forester is propelled on pure E-power, are few and far between. Unless you are taking things more gently, because then the hybrid propulsion system really goes to work, and is very effective at it.

So it all simply boils down to whether you take eco-driving seriously or not. We took things to heart, and drove our test car trough town and on the open road, but with restraint and anticipation, and got rewarded with an average consumption of 6,6 litres/100 km.

This means of course gentle cruising at the 120 km/h speed limit on the open road, avoiding strong accelerations, and also going gently along the traffic stream on urban boulevards, using the kinetic energy of the car as much as possible, and driving gently away from traffic lights. When pulling away or driving at slow speeds in traffic, the battery-powered electric motor alone drives the car in EV Mode. The electric motor power assistance – Motor Assist – is completely automatic. When braking or decelerating, the e-BOXER uses of course regenerative braking to capture energy from the car’s movement to recharge the battery. When you push the accelerator pedal just a bit deeper, the petrol engine sets in too.

In practice, the transition between these two powertrains is never apparent. The Forester e-BOXER’s onboard computers simply work out what’s needed where and distribute the power accordingly.

So it is up to you to keep your Forester in this economical operating range, and achieve these consumption results. There is no EV button, by the way. Subaru believes in the seamless interaction between e-power and engine, to achieve the most efficient progress.

Every bit a true Subaru…

This Forester e-Boxer is and remains the true workhorse you always appreciated. The symmetrical 4WD setup is found here of course, and it is good to know that this new Forester now rolls on Subaru’s new global platform, which allows the stiffness of the body to be increased by not less than 40 pct.

When it comes to safety, it is good to know that a range of passive and active safety technologies are fitted as standard, including: EyeSight Driver Assist Technology (providing Pre-Collision Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control and other functions); Subaru Rear Vehicle Detection (SRVD); Reverse Automatic Braking; Side View Monitor; and Driver Monitoring System, a brand-new facial recognition technology that alerts the driver to re-focus when it detects signs of fatigue or distraction while on the road. We tested it out for you and it really works fine indeed!

This Forester also has been named Euro NCAP’s Best in Class 2019 in the Small Off-Road / MPV class…

Comfort

We were also pleasantly surprised by the comfortable suspension of this Forester. It truly has a very comfortable ride, and also the steering is responsive and precise. It is certainly no punishment to drive this Forester on winding roads. It is also a very comfortable cruiser on motorways. Engine noise and drivetrain vibrations are masterfully filtered out, and all this makes the Forester a brilliant Gran Turismo, with ample head- and legroom for all.

Of course it really comes into its own off the beaten track, thanks to its famous symmetrical AWD system. A prominent X mode dial on the centre console lets you choose between normal, snow/dirt and deep snow/mud modes. On forest roads this Subaru certainly hasn’t stolen its name… This Forester comes of course also with a downhill descent control, and really never lets you down with its comfortable ride height and excellent attack angles fore and aft when you are in heavy terrain.

A pleasant, practical cabin

The cabin is very well equipped and practical, and a lot of thought has gone in the lay-out which is a good example of excellent ergonomics. As said, the Forester has an impressive array of driver’ assistance features, and the beauty of it that they are not obtrusive. You will only notice them when they are needed.

Safety is first and foremost in this Forester, and besides the fact that its Driver Monitoring System warns you when you are not looking at the road ahead. But that is not all: it will also remind you to check whether nobody is sitting on the rear seat when you are going to leave the car.  

We also found that all the commands are self-explaining, for instance finding a destination or connecting your phone is the proverbial breeze. Of course all the infotainment is provided, along with Apple play and Google The Forester is also very roomy, with a cavernous boot space and offering also ample room for the rear passengers.      

Conclusion

This Subaru Forester remains for those outdoor lovers and those living in remote non-urban places the real all purpose companion for your daily mobility. Cleverly driven in town, this e-Boxer reveals itself as a very frugal boulevard cruiser, letting you park and move under soothing “zen” e-Power, and enjoy this emission-free form of propulsion in driving situations where combustion-engined cars pollute the most.

In the meantime, you chalk up very impressive consumption figures. But you will meet no hassle with recharging, just enjoy a reliable, ever-ready companion. Well, a Subaru!  

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Have a stunning sound experience in your Lexus Convertible…

Generating the right sound is the result of state of the art engineering…

When you step inside the Lexus LC 500 Convertible, we would suggest you lower the roof and blip the throttle. The deep note from its V8 engine tells you immediately that an exhilarating drive is in prospect.

It’s all part of the exceptional sensory quality that Lexus has brought to its first soft-top model: just as much as the styling pleases the eye, the sound of the engine stirs your heart. Generating just the right aural quality was an important goal for the car’s development team, and this required precision engineering to achieve…

Just read on!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Inspired by the LFA supercar

Lexus’ focus on the importance of the engine sound can be traced back to the LFA, its ultra-exclusive, hand-built supercar. The specialists who worked on its V10 power unit identified the separate qualities that combine to create the ideal sound “atmosphere.”

In the LC concertible, the power of the V8’s engine note had to be balanced with a level of quietness in the cabin that overturns preconceptions about driving in a convertible – an equation Lexus calls a “harmony of opposites.”

To achieve the maximum effect, the sound of the engine changes in line with the rise and fall in rpm, becoming more powerful and urgent in tune with the driver’s use of the accelerator and the sequence of shifts through the rapid-action 10-speed automatic transmission. The exhaust note, too, heightens the effect. By contrast, in gentle cruising, the sound is subdued, so conversation is easy when the roof is down.

Finding that perfect engine sound

A continuous, pulsating sound is characteristic of a large-capacity, naturally aspirated V8 engine like the five-litre unit which powers The LC 500 Convertible. Lexus has used acoustic technologies to combine this with spectral harmony (perfect sound intervals that are pleasing to the ear), stereophonic sound, to create a depth of sound, and so-called “formants” – qualities that stir the senses and generate a feel-good factor.

Active Noise Control is used to “clean” the sound frequencies experienced in the car. This emits anti-pulse sounds through the audio speakers which counteract any unwelcome low frequency booming sound from the engine and drivetrain.

In the LC Coupe, noise inside the cabin is monitored by a microphone in the roof, but for the Convertible, it had to be relocated inside the driver’s headrest. Being closer to the driver’s ear means it can pick up a wider range of frequencies, but a complex algorithm had to be calculated to make sure it works accurately in any seat position.

The silence of a fixed-head coupé…

Even though the LC Convertible has a soft top, Lexus wanted to secure the same kind of cabin quietness as in the LC Coupe. Acoustic simulations were created to find out where dominant noises were entering the space, so that the amount and location of soundproofing and sound-absorbing material could be calculated.

The storage area behind the rear seats for the folding roof presented a particular challenge, as it was a route for tyre and exhaust noise to enter the cabin. There was not enough room for soundproofing material to be added, so the team looked instead at adapting the trim material itself. By allowing air to pass through the structure and using sound-absorbing material on the reverse, the entire surface of the storage space soaks up noise.

As the area is visible and part of the car’s interior, it also had to look good. Lexus assessed many different materials before choosing one usually used for lining the wings around the wheels. This meets safety standards and, being applied with extra density, has just the right appearance.

We are anxious to enjoy the ride in this formidable Convertible, which will be a feast for eyes and ears…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We all take it into our hands: the history of the steering wheel…

The dynamic PR people of the Mercedes-Benz Museum have recently launched a so-called “33 Extras” exhibit series. These “33 Extras” bring the history of personal mobility and motoring culture to life highlighting details and aspects that are often surprising. Here they focus on the steering wheel, and we found their story interesting enough to present it here to you…

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The world´s first car race from Paris to Rouen, 22 July 1894. Alfred Vacheron´s vehicle with petrol engine. Vacheron was awarded joint 4th place in the contest.

It all started in in 1894: the steering wheel made its debut in the first motorsport competition in history – the race from Paris to Rouen. French engineer Alfred Vacheron equipped his Panhard & Levassor vehicle, powered by a Daimler engine, with a … genuine steering wheel. Compared to the control levers that had been used up to that point, the steering wheel allowed him to steer more accurately – and therefore also to increase his speed. His steering wheel consisted of a circular grip ring connected to the steering column by spokes – a basic principle which is still valid to this day.

Mercedes-Simplex in the Mercedes-Benz Classic Insight Nice-–La Turbie in 2017. The steering wheel was equipped with additional levers for adjusting various engine functions.

The end of the handlebar…

Before the steering wheel became the norm at the turn of the century, there were many solutions, including some that resembled bicycle handlebars. In his three-wheeled Patent Motor Car of 1886, Carl Benz used a rotary crank that transmitted the driver’s steering action to the steering column. Gottlieb Daimler equipped his four-wheeled motor carriage from 1886 with a cross-shaped handle.

In the end, the steering wheel prevailed quite simply because it could be operated intuitively. Along with the pedals and seat, it is the most important interface between the driver and the car. Key advantage: It was possible to determine the exact driving direction much more accurately than with levers because the wheel principle allowed the steering lock to be translated through the gearing into several revolutions.

Additional functions already 120 years ago…

Sectional view of a steering wheel with airbag from 1992. The folded airbag (white) can be seen above the propellant charge.

On the Mercedes-Simplex models, from 1902 on, the steering wheel was equipped with levers that were used to adjust important engine functions ─ in particular, ignition timing and mixture formation. In the 1920s, a steering wheel ring for operating the horn was added – an early implementation of Car-2-X communication, so to speak.

…and now

Today’s steering wheels are used to operate numerous systems, such as the on-board computer, voice control, telecommunications and multimedia. In addition, there are a number of stalks arranged in the immediate vicinity. In the summer of 2020, Mercedes-Benz will be presenting the next generation of the steering wheel as a command centre – the capacitive steering wheel with digital control zones.

Touch, “feel” and emotion…

There are considerable technical demands placed on the steering wheel – and the tactile experience. If the steering wheel is not perceived as pleasant to touch, this can have an effect on the way the vehicle is driven. In addition to the materials, the design also plays an important role.

Steering wheel and instrument cluster from the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, model series 221. Photo from 2005.

Steering wheel ergonomics also includes its position in the vehicle. The Daimler Phoenix racing car from 1900 and the innovative Mercedes 35 hp from 1901 had already proved this point: Their steering columns were inclined much more than before. This made it possible to steer the cars much more effectively and more dynamically. This contributed both to driving safety and also to the overwhelming sporting success of the Mercedes 35 hp in Nice Week in 1901.

Steering wheel from a Formula One Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport racing car. Photograph from 2018.

Size did matter…

The first steering wheels provided a fair guide as to how big and heavy a vehicle was. Trucks and  buses initially needed enormous steering wheels. It was not until the advent of power steering that it became possible to make steering wheels smaller in large vehicles. Power steering was first fitted on the Mercedes-Benz 300 saloon car, in 1958. From the 1960s onwards, Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicles were also equipped to an increasing extent with power-assisted steering.

Passive safety started in 1959

As part of the safety concept implemented in 1959 in the W 111 model series, the “tail fin” or “Heckflosse” saloon was the first to feature a steering wheel with a large, padded impact cushion, which reduced the risk of injury. In 1967, Mercedes-Benz introduced safety steering with a telescopic steering column and impact absorber as standard equipment for all vehicles. Then, in 1981, the driver’s airbag fitted in the steering wheel was introduced. This world-first innovation in production cars was introduced by Mercedes-Benz in the S-Class model series 126.

Im Forschungsfahrzeug Mercedes-Benz F 200 Imagination wird 1996 die Fahrzeugsteuerung über Sidesticks erprobt. The Mercedes-Benz F 200 Imagination concept vehicle from 1996 tested the use of side-mounted joysticks for steering.

Cars without a steering wheel?

Mercedes-Benz has toyed with this scenario at least in test and research vehicles. The F 200 Imagination concept vehicle presented in 1996 was controlled with the aid of side-mounted joysticks. The innovative system worked perfectly. However, the steering wheel remains the preferred option, which applies just as much to production cars as to modern racing cars with their highly complex control systems. Perhaps tomorrow’s autonomous cars will be able to do without a steering wheel completely. Until then, however, the new Mercedes-Benz capacitive steering wheel supports autonomous driving functions more comprehensively than ever before. A brief history of the steering wheel is also given in a press release from Mercedes-Benz Cars.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The new BMW 5 series…

BMW rejuvenates its bestseller – more than 600,000 units have been sold of the current 5 series sedan and touring – and the market introduction will be in July 2020. Due to the Corona times, the presentation of this new 5 series was digital, but the car is not less amazing for it, and we are only more curious to see it soon “in the flesh”!  

Both models will be produced at BMW Plant Dingolfing in Bavaria. The new BMW 5 Series Sedan will also be built by production partner Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria. The longwheelbase version of the Sedan is made exclusively for the Chinese market at joint venture BMW Brilliance Automotive’s Dadong plant in Shenyang. Indeed, BMW is a globally operating car manufacturer…

Externally with even more character…

The BMW kidney grille adds extra width and height, two U- or optionally L-shaped daytime driving light sources arranged next to one another create a modern light graphic. New full-LED headlights including adaptive cornering function, BMW Selective Beam non-dazzling high beam with matrix technology, and the High-beam Assistant are offered as an option.

Last but not least BMW Laserlight is now likewise optionally available for all variants of the BMW 5 Series.

More luxury and technology in the interior…

The now standard 10.25-inch or optional 12.3-inch Control Display, newly designed controls on the centre console and the standard sports leather steering wheel with newly arranged multifunction buttons welcome you. Standard equipment for the new BMW 5 Series Sedan and new BMW 5 Series Touring now also includes automatic climate control with extended features.

New additions to the options list include M multifunction seats, new interior trim strips and seat surfaces in Sensatec perforated trim.

More choice in power…

Choice of plug-in hybrids set to grow to five models initially, with eDrive technology now also available in the new BMW 5 Series Touring and in combination with a six-cylinder in-line engine.

From autumn 2020, latest-generation BMW eDrive technology will be teaming up with a four-cylinder petrol engine to power not only the new BMW 530e Sedan and new BMW 530e xDrive Sedan , but also the new BMW 530e Touring and new BMW 530e xDrive Touring (for the latter, fuel consumption combined: 2.3 – 2.1 l/100 km).  

The engine produces maximum output of 135 kW/184 hp, while the electric motor develops 80 kW/109 hp. The joint output of the two power units can be briefly increased to a maximum 215 kW/292 hp thanks to the XtraBoost feature. Electric range is 58 – 62 kilometres (36 – 39 miles) for the new BMW 530e Touring and 53 – 56 kilometres (33 – 35 miles) for the new BMW 530e xDrive Touring.

The arrival of the new BMW 545e xDrive Sedan (fuel consumption combined: 2.4 – 2.1 l/100 km in autumn 2020 will further broaden the selection of plug-in hybrid variants.

In this model, the 80 kW/109 hp electric motor combines with a straight-six petrol unit generating 210 kW/286 hp, resulting in an overall output of 290 kW/394 hp. The new BMW 545e xDrive Sedan achieves an electric range of 54 – 57 kilometres (34 – 35 miles).

The BMW eDrive Zone digital service is available in all the plug-in hybrid models as standard. This unique function automatically switches to the all-electric operating mode when the vehicle enters a “green zone”.

48V mild hybrid technology for all four- and six-cylinder models.

Mild hybrid technology, first introduced in the BMW 520d and BMW 520d xDrive models in autumn 2019, will now offer enhanced performance combined with lower fuel consumption and improved driving comfort in all four- and six-cylinder variants of the new BMW 5 Series. Fitting an extremely powerful 48V starter-generator and a second battery enables a significant increase in the amount of brake energy that can be regenerated.

Choice of petrol and diesel engines…

The new BMW 5 Series comes with a choice of three other petrol and three diesel engines generating between 135 kW/184 hp and 250 kW/340 hp. The direct injection system in the petrol units operates at increased pressure, meaning greater efficiency, whith the two-stage turbocharging technology now fitted in all diesel variants. All the engines link up with an eight-speed Steptronic transmission as standard. BMW xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive is offered as a standard or optional feature for all model variants with the exception of the entry-level petrol engine.  

Superb chassis and suspension…

There is a choice of sophisticated chassis systems designed for the enthusiast. M Sport suspension, Adaptive M suspension and Adaptive M suspension Professional including active roll stabilization can all be found on the options list. The latest version of the optional Integral Active Steering can come to the driver’s aid when manoeuvring by turning the rear wheels as required even at speeds under 3 km/h (2 mph). Red calipers are now available as an alternative to the blue units as a visual telltale for the M Sport brakes.  

Driver assistance systems offering additional functions…

The Lane Departure Warning system included with the optional Driving Assistant now also features lane return by means of steering assistance. The updated Steering and Lane Control Assistant included as part of the new Driving Assistant Professional package also brings Active Navigation. This system uses navigation data to spot in advance when a lane change will be required, and this can then be performed with ease using the Lane Change Assistant. There is also a new function called “automatic formation of emergency lane”, which steps in to guide the car to the most appropriate side of its lane in tailbacks on the motorway.

We are eagerly awaiting the summer and autumn, to get behind the wheel of one of these superb 5 series BMW’s…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Alfa’s: Italy’s invincible and iconic police cars…

We vividly remember them when I drove in the historic Mille Miglia with my father. The olive green Alfa Giulia Supers of the Carabinieri coached us along the way, watched over crossroads, helped to control traffic along our route, kept overenthusiastic spectators at bay.

The Carabinieri had not only taken out their fifties’uniform complete with riding boots, they also had polished their Giulia Supers. And of course, mechanically, these Alfa’s were in top form. What a delight it was to hear their 1,6 thoroughbred DOHC four cylinder revving up when they joined with panache and screeching Michelins again our fast moving column of Millia Miglia cars. Only to pass us swiftly with the blue police light flashing on the roof, with their engine on full song.

The beautiful Alfa 1900 was in 1952 immediately an iconic intervention car for the Italian Polizia…

Delightful, simply delightful. On the return leg from Roma back to Brescia, on the lunch stop before Siena, me and my father took (too much) time to chat with Stirling Moss, and we forgot our schedule a bit. This meant we were late, and had to do some massive catching up through the field. As there were timed sessions ahead, and we had to be within our time slot again. Easier said than done, with the power of a Mercedes 180 D ponton. Fight your way past birdcage Maserati’s and the like with 40 HP. Also the normal traffic was busy and held us up too much, as it took always time to accelerate for us to our top speed of 120 km/h at best.

The Giulietta was in the mid-fifties the police car par excellence… to be replaced by the Giulia Super.

Then we saw the olive green Giulia Super at a crossroad. We waved frantically and threw our hands in the air, shouting “siamo in ritardi!” We are too late!    

“Okay, Okay”, they shouted back, starting their Giulia, putting swiftly their Alfa in front of us. “Siguici da vicino, follow usse close” they commanded us in their marvelous Italian accent, and so we went as a two wagon speed train through traffic, and passed the field of surprised Mille Migla participants. Lancia Aurelia, BMW 328 and Jaguar XK120 drivers couldn’t believe their eyes. But we got after 30 minutes of frantic speeding again in our slot. We waved at the carabinieri thankfully, and they responded with two signals on their beautiful Fiamm horn.

So when the dynamic PR people of FCA came up with te story about the fast, invincible Alfa’s in the service of the law, our delightful memories came back again, and we had to tell you here this story.    

Of course, the Polizia/Carabinieri Giulia’s were totally iconic and omnipresent in the sixties, but the love affair of the servants of the law with Alfa’s started already in the early fifties with the formidable Alfa 1900. We show you here the photos, and dream on with us…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The new Porsche Targa enters its 8th generation…

Porsche has now completed its sports car trio: following on from the Coupé and Cabriolet, the third body variant of the new 911 generation now makes its debut with the all-wheel drive 911 Targa 4 and 911 Targa 4S models. The Targa remains unique with its fully automatic roof system. As on the legendary original Targa from 1965, it consists of a wide Targa roll bar, a movable roof section over the front seats and a wraparound rear window. The roof can be conveniently opened and closed in just 19 seconds. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

More power…

It is powered by a six-cylinder, three-litre boxer engine with twin turbochargers: in the 911 Targa 4, it delivers 283 kW (385 PS) and, in combination with the optional Sport Chrono package, allows the 0-100 km/h sprint in 4.2 seconds – one tenth faster than before. In the 911 Targa 4S, it boasts 331 kW (450 PS), enabling the new model to reach the 100 km/h mark in just 3.6 seconds under the same conditions – four tenths faster than its predecessor. The top speed of the 911 Targa 4 is 289 km/h (up 2 km/h), while the 4S peaks at 304 km/h (up 3 km/h).

Both sports cars are fitted with the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission (PDK) and intelligent all-wheel drive Porsche Traction Management (PTM) as standard to deliver maximum driving pleasure.

…and a choice of transmissions

Alternatively, the 911 Targa 4S can be ordered with the newly developed seven-speed manual gearbox, which includes the Sport Chrono package. New technology has also been integrated to extend the range of features for both 911 models and, for the first time, Porsche InnoDrive, which includes adaptive cruise control, is available. 

AWD further developed…

The enhanced performance of the new all-wheel drive models goes hand in hand with further development of the front-axle drive system. The clutch and differential unit is water-cooled and has reinforced clutch discs for greater robustness and a higher load capacity. The increased actuating torque at the clutch improves its adjustment accuracy and also improves the function of the additional front-axle drive system. Overall, the enhanced front-axle drive system with PTM (Porsche Traction Management) contributes to even better traction in all road conditions.

Suspension also taken a step further…

The electronically controlled variable damping system PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) is part of the standard equipment on the new 911 Targa models. This system automatically adjusts the damping characteristics in terms of driving comfort and handling to each driving situation and has two manually adjustable maps: Normal and Sport. Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus), which includes an electronic rear differential lock with fully variable torque distribution, is added as standard equipment on the Targa 4S and is available as an option on the Targa 4.

Like the other eighth generation Porsche 911 variants, the Targa models are also equipped with Porsche Wet mode as standard. If sensors in the front wheel arches detect significant levels of surface water, a signal is issued in the instrument cluster as a recommendation for the driver to manually switch to Wet mode. The drive responsiveness is then adapted to the conditions to guarantee maximum driving stability.

Driving dynamics up another level…

The driving dynamics set-up for the 911 Targa 4 includes 235/40 ZR tyres on 19-inch alloy wheels on the front axle and 295/35 ZR tyres on 20-inch wheels on the rear axle. As standard, the 4S model is fitted with 245/35 ZR tyres on its 20-inch front wheels and with 305/30 ZR tyres on its 21-inch rears. On the Targa 4, deceleration is taken care of on both axles by 330-millimetre brake discs with black four-piston monobloc fixed callipers. The red-painted brake callipers of the Targa 4S have six pistons on the front axle and four pistons at the rear,  while its discs measure 350 mm front and rear. The Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake (PCCB) can be ordered as an option.

Needless to say that we are anxiously awaiting to see this Targa in the flesh and report to you about our driving impressions…

Hans Knol ten Bensel