Bold and beautiful, angular and elegant: the new Peugeot 408 is a fastback with panache…

The new Peugeot 408 was presented in Belgium…

The new PEUGEOT 408 is different. Here PEUGEOT demonstrates the creativity of its teams by offering a new fastback silhouette at the top of the C segment. This new age PEUGEOT offers – this is how the company calls it – allure, as well as engineering excellence focused on efficiency and intelligent electrification. According to Peugeot, it awakens emotions, thanks to the cutting-edge technologies dedicated to driving pleasure and instinctive use.

We saw the car for the first time in the flesh, at a stationary presentation held in our country. It certainly has the looks, presented to us in a dramatic setting offered by elegant ladies on stilts and spectacular fairy-like uniforms.  See my YouTube short using the following link: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/hZVv01F0OgI

And also read further… Hans Knol ten Bensel

The unveiling was spectacular to say the least…

I must admit that the 408 has character, and its angular shapes certainly impress, exuding elegance as well as a bold presence. Peugeot calls it having “allure”.

Its lines are sharp, with remarkable styling details like the inverted cut-out of the rear bumper. We also liked the 20- inch rims feature an interesting geometric design. What I also personally liked was that the tyre rims bulge out over the alloy rims and thus protect them, so you cannot readily damage the beautiful wheels at the first stone kerb you meet, which modern architects now go to utmost lengths to build ever higher, in their foolisch anti-automobile philosophies. 

But even the narrow (Parisian) older parkings with their circular trottoir bordered entrées present no menace any more, which is a blessing…

In good Peugeot tradition it is comfortable and offers room. Remember, back in the mid fifties, the 403 ponton was dubbed with good reason “la Mercedes française” and indeed was built to offer comfort and refinement. With a length of 4.69m, based on a long wheelbase of 2.79m, the new PEUGEOT 408 continues the tradition and offers 188mm of legroom in the rear. The boot is also well sized, with a volume of 536 litres, which can be increased to 1.611 litres once the rear seats are folded down.

Emotion and excellence…

Besides “allure”, Peugeot marketing puts forward two other hallmarks of its products: they should provide driver’s emotion and let you enjoy engineering excellence.

Indeed, the PEUGEOT 408 offers the latest generation of the PEUGEOT i-Cockpit®, instantly recognisable by its compact steering wheel dedicated to driving pleasure and controlled agility.

In the cockpit, the emphasis is on quality and connectivity, and the very latest technologies make the driving and travelling experience more intuitive and rewarding.

Powered by 6 cameras and 9 radars, the driver assistance systems provide peace of mind and safety. They include:

Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go function,

Night Vision, which warns of animals, pedestrians or cyclists ahead before they appear in the high beam,

Long-range blind spot monitoring (75 metres),

Rear Traffic Alert, which warns of a potential hazard when reversing.

The typical Peugeot rear lights, representing separate three claws

Drivetrains: power, smoothness and efficiency…

The range of engines powering the PEUGEOT 408 includes two rechargeable hybrid versions with 180 and 225bhp, and a 130bhp petrol version. All three are paired with an 8-speed EAT8 automatic gearbox. An all-electric version will follow a few months later.

State of the art aerodynamics, like the deflectors at the rear end of the roof…

Efficiency was a key concern for the designers of the PEUGEOT 408, since the combination of efforts in terms of aerodynamics, weight reduction (from 1396kg) and low-emission engines means that the vehicle can now boast remarkably low average energy consumptions (under homologation), both for the hybrids as well as for the 130bhp petrol version.

The new PEUGEOT 408 will arrive on the market at the end of 2022. A car with a global ambition, it will be produced at first in Mulhouse, France, for the European market and then, soon afterwards, in the Chengdu factory in China for the local market.

Just have a look at the photos, and more news about this stylish 408 soon…

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

Photographers’ notes: this is the first time we used exclusively a smartphone, actually the flagship Samsung S22. Quite a change for your servant who has been using camera’s for ever, and it was quite a struggle geting used to it. But experience will soon help…

Three lenses, the S22 is up to the job…

Jeep® Brand plans for Global Leadership in SUV Electrification…

There is good news from Jeep lately. Indeed, the Jeep® brand reveals next phase of its all-electric product offensive to become the global Zero-Emission SUV leader.

The all-new, all-electric Jeep® Recon: 100% Jeep; 100% zero emission

The plan, which premiered on the brand’s YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/thejeepchannel, calls for the introduction of four all-electric SUVs in North America and Europe by the end 2025. As part of an ongoing comprehensive product plan, 50% of Jeep brand sales in the U.S. will be fully electric by 2030, while 100% of European sales will be all-electric by then. The plan is in full support of the net-zero carbon emissions targets set by Stellantis during the Dare Forward 2030 long-term strategic plan.

Jeep Brand Electrified Portfolio in North America

Building upon the success of the Jeep Wrangler 4xe, the best-selling plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) in the U.S., and the recently introduced Grand Cherokee 4xe, the brand is developing a comprehensive electrified product range specifically developed to enhance the brand’s legendary capability and expanding its reach in North America.  

The all-new, all-electric Jeep® Recon

The All-new Jeep Recon: 100% Jeep; 100% Zero Emission

One of the first all-new electric SUVs that will launch in North America is the Jeep Recon.

This all-new vehicle is aimed at those who love to explore extreme adventures in near silence with a rugged, fully electric vehicle package.      

The Jeep Recon is designed from the ground up to be 100% Jeep 4×4 and 100% zero emission.

This global SUV will be displayed to the public next year and production will start in 2024 in North America. Customers in the U.S. will be able to make a reservation for the new Jeep Recon BEV SUV in early 2023. The Jeep Recon will be sold in major markets around the world, including Europe.

An All-new, All-electric Wagoneer – The Art of American Premium

All-new, all-electric Wagoneer S, the art of American premium

The Wagoneer family is also set to grow with an all-new SUV. Code-named Wagoneer S, this fully electric vehicle will continue to expand the brand’s presence in the premium SUV segment by offering a unique, sleek, aerodynamic design and 4×4 capability as standard, with all-terrain management, advanced Jeep brand-focused technology and impressive performance credentials.

This new, all-electric, global SUV will be offered exclusively as a BEV, targeting a range of 400 miles on a single charge, 600 hp and a 0-60 mph time of around 3.5 seconds.

All-new Jeep Avenger, the First-ever Fully Electric Jeep SUV, Arrives in Europe in 2023

In Europe, the Jeep brand has already made a big shift by offering only electrified SUVs in countries such as Germany and France.  By the end of this year, 100% of the Jeep SUV portfolio will be electrified in almost all of the European markets.

All-new Jeep® Avenger, the first-ever fully electric Jeep SUV

The plan revealed today builds upon this 4xe momentum, developing a portfolio of capable, fully electric vehicles designed and rightsized for Europe. The brand will introduce four zero-emission vehicles in Europe by 2025, with offerings in the main volume segments. As a result of this product onslaught, all the Jeep vehicles on sale in the region will be 100% electric by 2030. 

All-new Jeep® Avenger, the first-ever fully electric Jeep SUV

The first model of this product offensive is the all-new, all-electric Jeep Avenger, a compact SUV that was presented during the Stellantis Dare Forward long-term strategic plan earlier this year.

The all-new Jeep Avenger, to be introduced in Europe and other markets, such as Japan and South Korea, will be positioned under the Jeep Renegade and will be produced in the high-efficiency plant in Tychy, Poland. 

All-new Jeep® Avenger, the first-ever fully electric Jeep SUV

The Jeep Avenger will debut during the Paris Motor Show press day, on October 17, with reservations opening for customers that same day. The all-new Jeep Avenger will arrive in showrooms in early 2023.

Stay tuned for more Jeep news!

Look also at our newly introduced Instagram page autoprova.be !

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Lexus 500 LS 4WD: the magic of perfection…

When you like smooth motoring and enjoy a car which is well engineered and built, (as we do) then Lexus has a superb car in store for you: their flagship sedan, the LS. We enjoyed it greatly, and tell you here more about this car which makes an admirable statement about the Lexus philosophy in designing and building automobiles.

Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Lexus LS is styled as a sleek slimousine with coupé-like character.

Of course we are moving fast towards total electrification of our cars, and all the car manufacturers are strategically moving in that direction. Lexus – and also Toyota – have already since decades taken a long term view about environmentally responsible mobility, and have come up with the hybrid Prius and the Lexus 200CT many years ago. They have been sold in millions and made a statement how smoothness, reliability and go anywhere mobility can be combined with unparalleled economy. Your servant clocks an average fuel consumption with his Lexus 200CTh of 4,7 l/100 km, an average over the year, and actually this year in year out.

No small wonder that Lexus has maintained and honed this solution to ensure easy mobility, in these present times when a convenient charging infrastructure for carefree full EV mobility is still a daydream in many countries in this world. It therefore also takes a long hard look at hydrogen as a power source.

In the Lexus LS, one finds this “classic” hybrid technology, now engineered and honed to absolute perfection.

Under the hood purrs a 3,5 litre V8 Atkinson cycle petrol engine, good for 295 HP. It is coupled to a 10 speed CVT, and is assisted by two electric motors, who have a combined power of (only) 60 hp. With a battery having a capacity of 11 kW, you cannot use this LS for extended “pure” EV drives in urban areas. The 4WD is made possible thanks to an integral transmission. The electric power is only used to deliver power in situations where the full use of the petrol engine would not be efficient. So one has the advantage of very reasonable fuel consumption, especially in congested urban traffic, where – given a relaxed and anticipative driving style – averages around 8 litres/100 km are easily reached. These are very good values for a large limousine. The manufacturer quotes 7,1 l/100 km as average consumption.

The other advantage is the utter smoothness of the power delivery, especially from standstill and in stop and go traffic.

This smooth and silent progress is one of the very strong points of this Lexus, and this is in our opinion what the designers had in mind for their flagship sedan. Of course it has the power to deliver: 100 km/h is reached from standstill in merely 5,5 seconds, top speed is 250 km/h.

In the wide array of driving modes at your disposal, you can even opt for the “sport” and “sport+” modes. The CVT transmission will then be ultra alert and reactive to any movements of your right foot, the pneumatic suspension will be setting itself a bit firmer and the steering will be more sensitive and direct, but nevertheless the sheer weight – a good 2,425 kg – and size of the car will not invite you to really throw it around each corner. It is a bit out of character for this sleek automobile, primarily designed to move you from A to be in well insulated comfort, and that’s where it excels. By the way, you have the choice between further driving modes, Eco, Normal, Comfort and Custom…you guessed it: we chose between Eco and Comfort all the way through our test.

Impressive and elegant

The Lexus LS is a flamboyant and impressive automobile. It stretches 5,24 metres long and its fluid roof contours which are continued to the boot give it a coupé like character. The grille is uniquely Lexus in its bold styling signature and gives the LS panache and personality.

The Lexus exudes opulence, but also quality and workmanship, as the overall bodywork finish is superb.

The same can be said for the interior, dashboard and seats. The seats are a chapter on their own, and you can opt for the most exclusive leather finishes, ventilation and massage functions and the like. Six chromed bands stretch across the dashboard, giving it a fluid elegance. In the centre towers a 12,3 inch touchscreen, and there is also a big touchpad next to the gear selector lever, which lets you choose all the screen functions. We like to use this touchpad, as it avoids you touching the screen and getting it muddled with fingerprints. When the car is in motion, it is easier for you to touch the more accessible and ergonomically stable pad anyway.

Of course you can monitor on the display exactly what the hybrid system is doing, besides all the other info functions and layouts. It is worth every minute you spend on reading the instructions to familiarise yourself with the wide array of possibilities, functions and infotainment, as you then will enjoy this flagship car so much more.

We were of course smitten again by the superb quality of the Levinson audio system, which still sports a CD audio player, a tradition applauded by “classic” audiophiles like your servant…

Comfort

The Lexus LS 500 offers you superb comfort, with ample leg- and headroom for all (four) passengers. The subtle pneumatic suspension does the rest. Especially in the Comfort setting, it literally swallows for you all ridges and potholes ancient urban streets have in store for you. Sound insulation is also of paramount importance for the Lexus engineers, as well as total filtration of any vibrations or mechanical noises from the drivetrain. All this adds greatly to the total “zen” experience which going from A to be in this LS entails.

The screen lets you monitor all the hybrid driveline functions…

Sporting aficionados will find maybe that they lack a more direct “feel” of the car and the road conditions, but being cocooned by a soothing behaviour of the car in all driving situations is actually aimed for by the engineers when they set out creating this unique automobile.

Conclusion

The present Lexus LS series is already amongst us since 2017, and got an important facelift in 2011, both visually and technically. It makes a bold statement with its “Zen” philosophy of environmentally responsible smoothness and performance.

This panache is further underlined by a tradition of craftsmanship, resulting in a superb finish and excellence in the quality of the materials used.

If you want to drive an alternative to the German savoir faire in building top class executive sedans, have a drive with this LS series, and enjoy the change…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Photographers’ notes:

The photos were taken with our faithful Canon G9 X. A 209 g gem which offers a 1″-type 20.2MP CMOS sensor and 28-84mm equivalent F2-4.9 lens encircled by a control dial, as well as a fixed 3″ LCD. It has been our favorite workhorse for years now, and it is still performing very well. We use it mostly on Aperture Priority mode, also for the photos here.

We drove the BMW ix3: the looks, the power and the range…

After the revolutionary and dedicated i3, BMW uses the popular bestseller X3 as a basis for an EV which will inspire many to take the step towards full electric mobility. Does it convince? It certainly does…

The i-version of the X3 saw light in China, where  production began in September 2020 at BMW’s factory in Dadong, China.  

Of course, the EV version doesn’t come exactly cheap, but then its major competitors, the Mercedes EQC, the Audi e-tron and the Jaguar F-pace also need a deeper pocket to call them your own. In Flanders,  these EV’s mostly appeal as business cars, also due to the simple fact that business cars in our country need to be EV’s in order to benefit from the fiscal advantages which make them interesting.

The problem with using EV’s überhaupt at the moment in our country lies with the abysmal charging infrastructure we encounter. Let it be said, this has nothing to do with the car. During our test however, we met further charging problems, which made us use the efficiency of the iX3 to the limit, and indeed we clocked an average EV consumption of 16,4 kWh, which is, considering the weight and size of the car, excellent. It resulted in a range of around 482 km, which is certainly no small feat.

Needless to say that in order to achieve these low consumption levels, one can only use merely 10 % of the available power, and you can imagine that we enjoyed during most of our test the acceleration performance and speed of a heavy truck…But then coasting along with the slower traffic was a very restful experience!

Powerful and “zen”.

Not that the iX3 lacks power. It has not less than 210 kW or 286 HP driving the rear wheels, and even for a 2,2 tonne car this means performance. It will sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 6,8 seconds, and hurtle smoothly to a top speed of 180 km/h.

But sheer performance does not tell the whole story. The feeling that all this power is immediately available all the time at the slightest movement of your right foot is one of the beauties of EV driving, besides the utter smoothness and silence which adds to this unique “zen” feeling, which pervades you every moment you are behind the wheel, and this certainly so in urban driving conditions.

The iX3 driver has three modes at his/her disposal, “sport”, “comfort” and “eco pro”. Needless to say that given our charging situation we used the “eco pro” function virtually all the time.

The electric powertrain is BMW’s fifth-generation scalable electric drivetrain, and has a very compact layout with the electric motor, transmission, and power electrics grouped together in a single component. It does not use any rare-earth materials in its construction. The 80 kW Litrium Ion battery consists of 188 prismatic cells.

This BMW thinks with you…

If you use the navigation function together with the adaptive speed control, an intelligent interaction between the two systems unfolds. Indeed, navigation data and the sensors of the driving systems combine to slow the car at junctions or approaching bends.

When you are driving at fairly constant speeds with low traffic density, lifting your right foot will cause the car to coast, when you activate the direction indicators, the recuperation mode sets in immediately. Soo clever….

The front camera can even detect whether the traffic light jumps to green, so the recuperation mode is immediately interrupted.

Of course you can set the recuperation mode in three different intensities, to get that pleasant “one pedal” feel. We used it to the max.

A wide array of charging possibilities

The iX3 can be charged in AC mode up to 11 kW, in DC mode up to 150 kW. We had no experience of this as we were due to malfunctions unable to recharge the car during our test. At the maximum 150 kW level, one could recharge the BMW in about 30 minutes to 80 pct of its charge.  You can also enjoy the info of the digital service offered by BMW, dubbed Connected Charging, which helps you find public charging stations. Not of any use for us, as the BMW charge card malfunctions (or otherwise?) prevented us from charging the car during our test, as we said earlier.

By the way, over the last several years I live in the Antwerp (Wilrijk) urban area not one public charging has been added within reasonable walking distance from my home. At the moment, there are only three charging points, which are now almost permanently in use. This makes the regular use of an EV (still) a rather nervous affair with range anxiety setting in the minute you get behind the wheel.

Dynamic handling…

A BMW is and remains a BMW. The iX3 handles very well indeed. Of course, this EV version has standard adaptive damping and its centre of gravity has been lowered by some 7,5 centimetres. Aerodynamics have also been improved with the new closed grille and the special air slippery 19 inch alloys. The front and rear end has been restyled and this iX3 carries also a somewhat bolder light signature.

Revised cabin

The dashboard has been further modernized, as well as the array of knobs and functions, which all are logical and quite intuitive. We truly love the layout of the audio commands for instance. But there is the big central 12,3 inch control display, combined with the also 12,3 inch large instrument display. Of course, the plethora of available digital information, menus and functions take some good study, but are worth every minute you spend on learning them. By the way, many functions can be steered by voice control, called the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant.

You are also engulfed at night with blue accent lighting while you enjoy the now standard sports seats in the front.

Assistance systems galore

Safety is also an important issue for BMW. In the iX3, you enjoy the support of their Driver Assistant Professional, with amongst others the active navigation guidance function.

Space

Their is enough space for five, with the three rear seat backrests foldable independently. Total boot volume is 510 litres, with all the backrests folded down, some 1.560 litres.

Two equipment levels

At the moment of writing, the iX3 is offered in two equipment levels, Inspiring and Impressive. The Inspiring level is already very complete with panoramic sunroof, electrically adjustable front seats, metallic paint, smartphone integration and DAB radio. We already applauded the active navigation. The inspiring level now sets you back some 71.000 Euros.

Conclusion

A well thought out EV, in a superb X3 body, inheriting all the good qualities of this model. The facelift is stylish and underlines the EV character of this SUV. It has impressive efficiency and range, combined with more than adequate performance. When you are looking for an EV, this is a very good choice indeed.

EV’s of this stature don’t come cheap, and their longevity and resale value will depend on battery life, the evolution in battery technology, and last but not least the venue of alternatives like Hydrogen. Will this source be practical and available for the masses?

Big oil companies are increasingly looking at the latter possibility, as they are familiar with the manufacturing, transport and storage of liquid molecular sources of energy. They plan on building big solar E-plants to manufacture Hydrogen and then transport and distribute it to the whole wide world. Also for individual cars? This remains to be seen in a more distant “green” future…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Photographers’ notes

The Fujifilm X100F is the latest addition to our mirrorless digital camera fleet. It has a superb 35mm equiv. F2 lens. Inside, the camera has a new 24.3MP CMOS sensor along with an updated image processor , and it is a true gem. The photo conditions were very difficult here, strong sunlight and a black car, but the camera still managed to produce creditable results. You will see more photos with this camera with a unique precision feel…

We drove the new Citroën C5 Aircross: a SUV with added panache and superb comfort…

We drove the 225 HP plug-in hybrid version in the Alpes Maritimes around Cannes and Nice…

When the brand with the double chevron builds an SUV in the C segment, you can expect something very special. Indeed, after a long drive in the Alpes Maritimes around Grasse, on the immensely scenic Route Napoléon, the  Départementale 6085, we stepped out totally relaxed and surprised. This is a totally harmonious car, with very impressive qualities. First of all, the total comfort, which cars of many times its price (and size) can only mach at best. But that is not all.

There is also the perfect balance of this SUV. Its totally impeccable handling. Its unerring stability and precision, with total lack of body roll when you steer it with high speed in fast corners. Then comes the smooth drivetrain, with a silky stream of power, in the 225 HP Hybrid version we drove. We made this choice, because the plug-in hybrid version currently accounts for 41% of sales. Performance and pulling power galore, and on top of that all this is happening in vibrationless silence, with any road noise also well insulated . When you put the lever in “B”, the kinetic energy regeneration is optimal, and we drove quite long stretches of winding and hilly roads with zero average E- consumption, with the engine shut off!

The sedate driving style at the end of our trip resulted in an average total consumption of… 7,4 kW and 4,5 l/100 km.

Actually, in this paragraph, the whole story is told. Let’s now tell you more about the facelift features of this C-Segment SUV, which found since its introduction in 2018 already some 325.000 buyers worldwide…

More modern and imposing front end and announcing colour…

A more imposing front end…

Citroën introduces a new design language to its successful C-Class SUV. Tauter lines and a vertical so-called “stepped construction” contribute to visual widening the front end of C5 Aircross. The Brand logo now detaches itself from the daytime running lights. The chevrons now appear in black lacquer set off in chrome, and we liked it.

They extend visually via a set of increasingly tight chrome and black piano keys that gradually blend into LED daytime running lights, very subtle! Characteristic of the new Citroën identity, the V-shaped day time running lights LED signature carries a piano keys design.

More dynamism is also found at the rear in the new structured headlight lenses. Without changing size, the lamp unit is now fitted with dark and structured glass, highlighting the three LED lighting modules that constitute the light signature. The car also runs on new 18” diamond-cut PULSAR alloy wheels, and also the side panels have more structured lines and accents.

Four new Colour Packs, which allow C5 Aircross to assert its SUV character and its elegance: Glossy Black, Dark Chrome, Anodized Bronze and Energetic Blue. The new colours of the Colour Packs also feature on the front air intakes and the Airbump®.

Stylish and more upmarket cabin

The C5 Aircross gets a new 10” touchscreen that appears to float on the dashboard, more in your line of vision. In addition, the fully customisable 12”3 digital display provides all essential and customisable information directly in the driver’s eye-line: navigation map report, information on active driver-assistance systems, information on the operating status of the hybrid engine, etc. We appreciated the simplicity of it. We noticed also a clever gimmick in the hybrid version we drove: the digital numbers indicating the speed are in blue when you are driving on E-power, and white when the combustion engine is doing the work.

Legendary seats…

Citroën Advanced Comfort® seats already present on C4 and C5 X are making their way also in the C5. They are made of high-density foam in the core of the seat, have an extra 15 mm layer of foam and of course a specific construction… and indeed, they offer a wonderful comfort and support. We already applauded the qualities of the Progressive Hydraulic Cushions® suspension.

Bolder rear lights…

The central console, has been modernised with a black leather-effect-fabric enhanced by chrome design lines. We have a new, e-Toggle gear selector, a new driving mode selection button incorporating the Grip Control function and, on the plug-in-hybrid versions, an intuitive choice of the driving mode (Electric, Hybrid or Sport). The central console also integrates a large storage trail regrouping the connectivity with 2 USB-ports and a wireless charger.

Citroëns have always been practical, and this C5 Aircross makes no exception: it’s the only SUV in the segment to offer three individual sliding, reclining and retractable rear seats. The boot volume goes from 580 L to 720 L in the petrol and diesel versions and from 460 L to 600 L for the hybrid version.

We enjoyed the utter quietness of the car, as we said above, and indeed it was equipped with the optional acoustic laminated front windows.

We ended our test with an even lower consumption of merely 4,5 litres/100 km…

The plug-in-hybrid version allows a driving in electric mode up to 135 km/h, and a  55 km E-range.

Users of the C5 Aircross Plug-In Hybrid also benefit from a range of services to facilitate charging: with management either directly in the vehicle or from their smartphone, as well as the possibility of programming charging times. Charging is fast, with a full charge completed in less than two hours on a Wall-box, says Citroën.

Of course we have 20 benchmark driver-assistance systems in the compact SUV segment. These include Highway Driver Assist, a level 2 autonomous driving system, combining Adaptive Cruise Control with a Stop & Go function and the Active Lane Departure Warning system.

Needless to say, the C5 Aircross impressed us greatly. We are keen to test this car soon, also in the petrol engined 130 HP version. But really, the plug-in version couldn’t be missed…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Photographers’ notes:

We took our trusty Canon G9 X to  Nice. It’s wonderfully compact, has a cropped 20 megapixel sensor, 1.0 type back-illuminated CMOS, and a well performing 10,2 to 30,6 mm zoom lens, (35 mm equivalent: 28 – 84 mm.). It is of superb construction, with 8 elements in 6 groups (2 double sided aspherical UA lens, 1 single sided aspherical lens). It is fast too, with f/2.0 – f/4.9. We simply love this baby, and it has been for years our favorite. We mostly use it in AV mode (Aperture priority). Mind you, it has a built-in ND filter.

We drove the Lexus UX 300e

Lexus comes to our shores with an all electric compact SUV, based on the already familiar UX 300. An inevitable step, creating an EV besides the eminently capable hybrid version. It is the trend of the times, and Lexus has to follow suit. Of course, renowned for offering excellent and state of the art technology, expectations about how this Lexus EV will drive and perform are understandably very high indeed.

Well, it didn’t disappoint. The UX runs on an excellent (compact) TGNA platform, and it houses the 150 kW motor driving the front wheels with a healthy 300 Nm of torque. Not only delivers it the wonderful silent, supersmooth propulsion we appreciate so much in EV’s, it also goes like a rocket. It accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 7,5 seconds, hurtling further to a limited top speed of 160 km/h. Not very impressive on German Autobahnen, but more than enough for the whole rest of the world.

Well balanced, sporty and refined driving pleasure

So the UX is engine-wise totally wonderful to drive in town, on winding roads and on the motorway. The chassis and suspension also show their best side. Its handling can even be called sporty. Beisdes the stiff chassis, this is also the result of the ideal weight distribution, with the 54,3 kW battery with its 388 cells is sitting very low beneath the floor of the passenger cabin ad above the rear seats. Indeed the Lexus UX 300e is a very well balanced car.

This time, it is all electric, with a 204 HP electric motor under the hood…

Driving this EV is very simple. We advise you to put the gearshift right away in “B”, which lets you regenerate kinetic energy when coasting or braking. With the paddles on the steering wheel you can control the amount of regeneration in four stages. After a while you have learned to judge the resulting braking force, and soon you know how to move trough urban traffic without touching the brakes at all.

The instrumentation is clean and self explaining: note the rather limited range, indicated in the center, only 224 km left with battery still over 3/4 charged…

Indeed you need all the regeneration you can get, and you are also well advised to adopt a relaxed and anticipative driving style throughout, as you want the E-consumption to be low. Given a consumption of 16,8 kW, the range is a good 300 kilometers, but in mixed driving conditions, this soon melts significantly below 300 km, and in practice a range of 250-280 km is more realistic.

When you will use your UX 300e more intensively, frequent recharging is your fate, as the range is rather limited. Fortunately this Lexus gives you the possibility of rapid charging, using a second Chademo DC charging socket, allowing you to charge at a rate of up to 50 kW. This would allow you to charge te battery up to 80 pct in a good 50 minutes. The normal AC charging points allow you to charge at a maximum rate of 6,6 kW, so recharging the battery would cost you a good 7-8 hours.

Not only are public charging points in our country scarce and often occupied, their placement also is often awkward to say the least. Here one has to park outside the markings to charge two cars simultaniously, for which the charging point is designed…

With the present charging infrastructure in Belgium, finding an AC charging point in towns like Antwerp or Knokke is already rather difficult. On top,of that, wIth the rising popularity of EV’s your servant finds the available charging points within reasonable distance of his home permanently occupied most of the time. So available range becomes ever more important in a modern EV.

Comfort, handling panache and practicality.

With the batteries stowed away beneath the floor, a boot space of 367 liters is available, and actually there is very little which discerns the e-version from the normal UX 300. We like, even rather love is the better word, its dashboard layout, the placement of its commands, the command pad for the 10,3 inch screen, you name it.

We found the dashboard layout very much to our liking, with commands ideally placed…

We are indeed fiercely in favour of a distance command for the centre screen. It avoids getting muddy fingerprints on it, and when driving on a wobbly road surface its that much easier to pinpoint your finger on a touchpad which is that much closer to you.

Generally speaking, your servant personally also refrains from criticisms on the placement of commands, knobs and the like, as we test drive the car only for a relatively short period, say a day or seven, and the prospective owner will drive this car for months on end at least. So he (she) will get used to the placement and manipulation of all the commands that much better, and will come perfectly to terms with all of them.

We personally just love the touchpad, which avoids smudgy fingerprints on the touchscreen. Media, tuning the radio and adjsuting its volume can also be done discreetly with your right hand…

We like the quality touch and feel of all the knobs and commands in this Lexus, the excellent seats, the wonderful seating position, the wide array of driving assist features offered. Indeed, it is a joy to be behind the wheel of this Lexus. We already appreciated the handling of this UX, add to this the accurate and sensitive steering and the total absence of body roll, and you will see that this Lexus puts a smile on your face when you take it through its paces on winding roads.

On the motorway, you are also cosseted by its stability and overall refinement, the superb Levinson sound system als being a joy for your ears.

Last word about the Lexus guarantees. They can vary form country to country, and in Belgium the factory guarantee is 3 years or 100.000 km. For hybrid components and hybrid batteries, it’s even 5 years. Belgium has also introduced a so-called “Lexus Relax” scheme. When your Lexus is less than 10 years old, or has driven less than 185.000 kilometers, and you service your car at an authorised Lexus dealer, you will get a 1 year/15.000 km guarantee, which can be renewed at every subsequent service…

Conclusion

The Lexus UX is even more refined on e-power, making every trip a very satisfying experience. Its range could be somewhat bigger when you move around a lot. The advantages are that the car weighs only 1,7 tonnes, and this is good for overall handling, performance and e-consumption.

European and Belgian politicians, make the infrastructure more available, the needs of our EV fleet are rapidly expanding, this is something which now becomes very important indeed, if we want to succeed in this transition…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Photographers’ notes: We used for the photos here our mirrorless Sony A 5100. Not only an ideal vlog/video camera, it also performs outstandingly as a photo camera.

The Sony a 5100. For the photos here, we used its standard zoom lens, 16-50 mm, which is about 24-80 for 35 mm equivalent.

It’s compact, has an outstanding 24 megapxel processor, and interchangeable lenses. We recently bought a Metabones adapter ring for it, so I can use my Nikon lenses on this camera. Wait for the results!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Peugeot 508 SW Sport Engineered: your passionate Lion…

There are cars which make the life of a car journalist truly wonderful. This time it’s being behind the weel of the “Sport Engineered” Peugeot  508. What is this? You might ask. Well, there is since decades an active high performance division at Peugeot, called PEUGEOT SPORT ENGINEERED. Over recent years, this department has acquired considerable experience in marrying the power and performance of combustion engines with the unique characteristics of e-power. They have proven themselves time and time again: in international competitions such as the WRC (World RallyChampionship), DAKAR, Pikes Peak or the WEC (Word EnduranceChampionship), with the development of the 208 FE concept in 2013 (46 g CO2/km – 0/100in 8.2s) and the 308 R HYbrid in 2015 (500 bhp – 720 Nm – 0/100 in 4.0s).

At the same time as the launch of this SPORT ENGINEERED label, PEUGEOT is announcing its return to the World Endurance Championship (WEC) in the LMH (Le MansHypercar) top category this year.

So the 508 sedan and SW – the version which we tested here – is their first technical showcase and indeed their first chapter in series production under its new label.

With these cars, with a newfound alliance between sportiness and technology, PEUGEOT is – so they say – reinventing the codes for renewed performance, a responsible performance: they call it “Neo-Performance.” The signature of this new line with 3 Kryptonite claws refers to PEUGEOT SPORT’s new identity, to the light signatures of the production models and is drawing inspiration from the brand’s heritage with the rear lights from the iconic PEUGEOT 504 Coupé.

But let’s now have a closer look at this 508. It’s the most powerful production car ever built by PEUGEOT.

The powertrain can reach 360 hp and 520 Nm of torque by combining thermal and electrical energy.  This level of performance is unprecedented for the brand:  0 to 100 km/h in merely 5.2s, 1000 m DA in 24.5s, 80 to 120 km/h in 3s, finally last but not least a maximum speed of 250 km/h (electronically controlled). Need we say more?

Indeed, there are two electric motors besides the 1,6 liter combustion engine, making this 508 also a 4WD. The combustion engine – the well proven 1.6-litre PureTech turbo petrol unit – produces 197bhp, the front motor adds 108bhp, while the rear electric motor is good for 111bhp.

We can tell you, power comes totally unfussy, smooth and plentiful through the 8 speed transmission, and makes this 508 a truly superb car. Of course the gentlemen engineers at Peugeot took also proper care of the handling. These SPORT ENGINEERING series 508’s have an optimized chassis.

They fine tuned first and for all the variable shock absorber setups (Comfort/Hybrid/Sport), the springs are 50 per cent stiffer compared with the 508 Hybrid. They  widened the tracks by 24 mm at the front and 12 mm at the rear. For extra stopping power, they fitted 380 mm diameter front brake discs and fixed four-piston calipers, the 20-inch diameter alloys are shod with Michelin© Pilot Sport 4S tires.

The result is dynamic, precise, predictable handling. You can really throw this 508 around, and it displays up to the limit uncanny stability. What a wonderful Gran Turismo this car truly is.

Does this car move boundaries when it comes to combining efficiently super performance with docility and refined smoothness? It certainly does. But there is more…

Efficient and versatile…

Indeed, that is not all. It is also very versatile in combining e-power in various ways with the panache of a high performance combustion engine. Just note that the 8-speed automatic transmission controls the engine and the front e-motor.

With a mode selector on the centre console, and this lets you choose between 5 driving modes:

Electric: for smooth 100% electric driving in total silence, with a range of 42 km according to WLTP. This makes your 508 future proof, giving you access to the green zones in urban areas. But the sweetness of e-power is well known: it provides instant acceleration thanks to the ample and immediate pulling power of the electric engines fore and aft, and this from 0 km/h to 140 km/h.

Comfort: this is the hybrid mode with softened suspensions for sedate, restful “high comfort”driving.

Hybrid: this mode mode automatically selects combustion or electric power depending on the circumstances with a distinct bias towards optimized consumption.

Sport: maximum power of 360 hp for ultimate driving pleasure! This mode also affects steering, shock absorption, accelerator pedal mapping and adjusts digitally engine responsiveness and torque characteristics. The combustion engine also keeps the battery charged for maximum power at all times.

 4WD: maximum traction for slippery grip situations.

So the 508 ideally suits your driving moods… and is indeed literally very transporting when driven in “sport” mode. It then leaves very little to be desired, and the extra pulling power of the electric motors delivers rather formidable intermediate accelerations. We already mentioned it: you will sprint from 80 to 120 km/h in merely 3 seconds… Ok, your ears are not enjoying the sound of a high revving straight six, but all the performance is there!

Indeed, this 508 SW we drove literally stormed uphill and from one sharp bend to another, well reined by excellent brakes and a responsive suspension and chassis.

In addition to its 4-wheel drive, the 508 SPORT ENGINEERED comes with all the driving aids available within the PEUGEOT 508 range: night vision, adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go function, lane departure warning system, automatic emergency braking.

Sporting accents inside and out

That you are driving a very special 508 should also be noticed, and indeed it does:  the aerodynamic design of the bodywork is further enhanced with a sharp grille, rakish front bumper, scoops and Kryptonite monogram. In the sides of the car you find also the three foils with specific decorative elements, the three claws again on the front wing on the SW.

At the rear you will find electrolytic treated black exhaust outlets, black gloss central diffuser, last but not least 20-inch wheels fitted with MICHELIN© Pilot Sport 4S tires, with yellow painted PEUGEOT SPORT Kryptonite front brake calipers.

The PEUGEOT i-Cockpit® comes into its own with a compact steering wheel featuring the three Kryptonite claws, and a 100% digital head-up display. We just loved the compact steering wheel, adding greatly to the zest and personality of the car when you are behind the wheel.

The i-Cockpit® graphic animations and the central 10″ HD screen have adopted the label’s signature too.

The upholstery of the “comfort-fit” seats also has a distinctive look we liked very much with a tasteful and photogenic mix of leather, 3D mesh and Alcantara©. The passenger compartment is decorated with double Tramontane grey and Kryptonite stitching. The FOCAL® Hi-Fi audio system, which is certainly a delight to listen to, is also supplied as standard.

Conclusion

An elegant car with loads of panache, yet delivering this almost supercar performance with a hint of understatement. This Peugeot is comfortable and practical too, able also to shine in everyday use. You have good seating comfort and room also at the rear, and 530 litres of luggage space in the standard configuration.

As the graph clearly shows, this high performance estate can also be quite frugal… max 6 l/100 km in relaxed driving conditions!

On top of that this Peugeot goes through daily life as a hybrid, with all the consumption and tax advantages that entails. The Peugeot Sport Engineering also is quite original, and its e-efficiency is a good argument to win you over…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Kia EV6: a top EV car with lots of panache…

Soon after the elegant Ioniq 5, we could take the Kia EV6 for an extended test drive, and as both cars ride on the same E-GMP or Electric-Global Modular Platform, a comparison between the two cars is inevitable. Let it be said, also this EV6 scores very high indeed, and has the same excellent qualities and futuristic aura than its four wheeled sister, albeit altogether a bit sportier.

We drove the EV6 GT Line, pleasing the eye with its 20 inch alloys, its snow white pearl paint and black interior with white and aluminum accents and alcantara/leather seats.

Our test car was the rear wheel drive version with 168 kW/229 Hp motor and the 77,4 kWh battery. More than enough for exhilarating performance and an impressive range…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

More rounded, organic styling…

The Kia distinguishes itself from the angular lines of the Ioniq 5 by offering more fluent lines, reminiscent of the last Saab, Jaguar I Pace, and the likes. The rear end with the built in spoiler and the tail light running across the car is reminiscent of Porsches, with the curves of the rear lid shaped as a spoiler being even more outspoken. The panache of the whole car varies with the paint color chosen, and we like the pearl white finish of our car here, although we think the car looks even more stunning in a matte grey finish. A beautiful, well proportioned car it certainly is.

In the interior one has the same two big screens with identical digital instrumentation and infotainment layout, and we enjoyed also the same excellent head up display we found in the Ioniq 5.

But the shape of the centre console is different, has more curves and is a bit more adventurous. You have lots of space for your drinks, bottles and sundry, and a round selector knob for Drive, Neutral and Reverse instead of the rotating stick in the steering column in the Ioniq 5.

The car and its touch screens is simple and intuitive to use, and typical for Kia is the well designed centre console, where you can toggle between heating/ventilation or audio controls. You find your way in a breeze.

The seats are excellent; the front seats also fully recline as in the Ioniq 5, so you can have a (short) nap when you recharge the car. The rear seat backrests are also adjustable.

With a 2,9 meter wheelbase, there is plenty of legroom both in the front and especially in the rear, with slightly less headroom for the rear passengers than the Ioniq 5, but this is still more than enough if you are less than 1,90 m tall. Standard boot space is 520 litres, extendable to 1300 litres.    

Our test car came with the drive assist pack, which included the autonomous parking aid, the 360 ° camera view and as said the very easy to read head up display. The large and wide EV6 is therefore a pleasure to drive and park in town. The additional cameras are necessary, as the overall visibility of the bodywork is not so good, especially to the rear.  

Impressive performance and handling…

The 229 HP EV6 delivers punchy performance: it sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 7,3 seconds, and quite frankly, who needs more? The top speed is limited to 185 km/h. You have the choice between three driving modes, from “Eco” to “Sport”, and with the paddles on the steering column you can choose the amount of energy recuperation and also opt for automatic braking to standstill.  The brakes are sensitive and progressive.  

The suspension of the EV6 is sportier and firmer than the Ionic 5. The EV6 is slightly less comfortable, but never harsh, and has less body roll when driven with verve on winding roads. The car is neutral with an understeer bias, is very stable in fast corners and has excellent straight line stability up to its top speed.      

You would like even more performance? The EV6 can also be had with an extra motor driving the front wheels, and total power in this 4WD layout is 239 kW/325 PS. If you want nothing less than supercar performance, it is good to know that in autumn, Kia will present a GT version with some 430 kW/585 PS. This results in an acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 3,5 seconds, with a top speed of not less than 260 km/h…

With a very big range, up to a good 500 km…

Our test car came also with a heat pump, costing less energy to heat and cool things. The EV6 is remarkably frugal, and it is no effort at all to achieve an average consumption of around 18-19 kWh per 100 km. This means that in practice, this EV6 has indeed a useable range of some 500 km, and that is no small feat! According to the WLTP norm, the distance is 528 km.

The EV6 runs – like the Ioniq 5 – on a 800 V system, and this means not only the possibility of using thinner cables and therefore gaining weight, but it also means larger load capacities and shorter recharging times. Even in less than ideal circumstances, you can recharge your EV6 in about 30 minutes to run another 380 kilometers.

 Like the Ionic 5, the EV6 has also a Vehicle-to-load-Function, which means an extra external plug to power lamps, microwaves, cookers when you are camping out, and you could even charge (with patience) another EV with it! You just need the small adapter which I housed in the front luggage bin, (called “Frunk”) under the engine cover lid, which contains some 52 liters of luggage space.

Conclusion

The EV6 is a top class EV, certainly when one considers its price tag. Our test car in the GT Line equipment level came with the Drive Assist Pack and the Premium pack, which included a 14 speaker Meridian Sound System together with the Head-Up display. It also had a panoramic sunroof, heat pump (1200 Euros extra) and 20-inch alloy wheels. The total price including VAT was 59.990 Euros. On top of that it is roomy, has stunning looks and offers sportiness. Last but not least, the range is superb and thanks to the 800 V system its recharging times are short. Indeed, also this Kia EV6 paves the way to a bright EV future…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Mercedes drives the luxury experience to new levels…

What is the most important desire for customers in the future of luxurious individual mobility?

 Mercedes found out that today’s customers are increasingly viewing luxury through the lens of values and benefits that extend beyond physical experiences. They are seeking priceless commodities such as time and want to show responsibility with their choices.

A LiDAR that sits in the radiator grille is essential for Mercedes-Benz for safe, conditionally automated driving.

As the leading luxury car brand, Mercedes-Benz is consistently driving the luxury experience to new levels. So it gives it new meaning for the electric and digital age – achieving more with less.

Driven by the innovative spirit firmly anchored in its brand DNA, and by its strategic goals of “Lead in electric” and “Lead in car software”, Mercedes-Benz is pioneering the electric and digital transformation of the global auto industry.

If the vehicle is in DRIVE PILOT mode, this is displayed in the instrument cluster with the corresponding assistance graphic.

The most recent proof of this is the Mercedes-Benz VISION EQXX. The most efficient Mercedes ever built is a blueprint for the future of efficiency of electric vehicles and also a masterclass in a radically new approach to the UI/UX driven by software and artificial intelligence.

If DRIVE PILOT is activated, the driver may take his hands off the steering wheel and turn to certain secondary activities.

With DRIVE PILOT, Mercedes-Benz became the first automotive manufacturer in the world to receive the world’s first internationally valid system approval for conditionally automated driving (SAE-Level 3).

Before DRIVE PILOT can be activated, the availability of the system is displayed via a white flashing in the control elements.

Mercedes recently released some photos about their latest research and already working solutions. We lift a glimpse here of this bold new future…

More (technical) and driving news soon from the brand with the iconic star!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) and Alpine create a hydrogen concept car…  

Students at the Italian Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) presented the ‘A4810 Project by IED’, their new concept car made in collaboration with Alpine. The result of this collaboration between the Italian design school and Alpine is a hydrogen-powered two-seater supercar.

Twenty-eight Masters students studying Transportation Design at IED worked on the project.

Alpine proposed the students to design a ‘super berlinette’ for the year 2035. The two-seater supercar was designed to be a high-performing vehicle both in terms of performance and environmental impact.

After the brief was given last autumn, students worked individually to come up with their own interpretation and present it to the Alpine designers. Alpine then selected a combination of two main ideas. Based on the two selected proposals, the young designers created the ‘A4810 Project by IED’: a light yet powerful and agile concept car that boasts pure driving pleasure.

During the design phase, the students sought to combine vision and innovation, without losing sight of the traditional roots of the French car manufacturer.

Furthermore, they chose a name that conveyed the brand’s legacy. In fact, ‘4810’ is the height (in meters) of the Mont Blanc: the highest and most emblematic peak in the Alps that sits at the border between Italy and France, like a bridge connecting IED and Alpine. The car manufacturer is named after the very same mountains and evokes the joy of driving along their winding roads.

A STUNNING LOOKING CONCEPT CAR

The Alpine A4810 Project by IED (length 5,091 mm – width 2,010 mm – height 1,055 mm – wheelbase 2,717 mm) is a two-seater supercar with the experimental combination of the shape of a berlinette with a hydrogen powertrain.

While the engine and fuel tanks are built like those on a typical hypercar, the subtraction process is proof of considerable innovation. The design alternates between empty and full spaces, giving the vehicle a lightweight look and aerodynamic features inspired by Formula 1 models. Furthermore, the A4810 Project by IED was tasked with bringing the brand to the cusp of the sports car category.

The team of students used digital tools to design the interior through sketches, 3D models, renderings, animations, and HMI (Human Machine Interface) development.

The A4810 Project by IED was presented on Friday, 18th March with a livestream broadcast from OGR Tech in Turin. For more info, please visit www.iedA4810.makeitlive.it.

Just click your way to Alpine’s sporty future, and in the meantime, have a look at the photos…!

Hans Knol ten Bensel