We drove the Toyota GR Supra 2.0L: a thoroughbred sports car gets even more pure…

Who doesn’t dream of a two-seater sports car with flowing coupé lines, a racy cabin, long hood, wide stance and a superb styled rear? A sports car with ideal 50/50 weight distribution, handling from the seat of your pants, equipped with a thoroughbred engine?

Such a car is the Toyota GR Supra. Until now, it came with a 3 litre six engine, being the first global model to be developed by TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. Now this same team has engineered another, even more pure version for the sports car aficionados: a Supra with a double overhead cam, 2 litre 16-valve petrol unit with a twin-scroll turbocharger.

This four-cylinder Supra is 100 kg lighter, and the engine’s shorter length means its mass is located closer to the center of the car. A true driver’s delight with stunning performance? You bet! It proved indeed to be one of the nicest 2-seater “pur sang” bolides we have driven lately…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Already its looks are stunning. Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada adhered to the classic form of a front-mounted engine driving the rear wheels, building on the heritage of Toyota’s past Supra generations and original 2000GT sports car. Indeed, this latest Supra has much of the compact purity of the legendary 2000 GT, which moves the heart of every car enthusiast.  

When it comes to design a top handling car, its wheelbase and track dimensions are the first things to consider. It is widely recognized that the best balance of agility and stability is obtained with a ratio between wheelbase and track of around 1.5 and 1.6. Achieving the 1.55 “golden ratio” was thus the starting point for the GR Supra development team, the key building block on which everything else has been optimized. (For reference: wheelbase = 2,470 mm; rear track = 1,589 mm).

Superb four-cylinder…

The engine sits indeed in the right place. And it sounds and performs right too. Maximum power is 258 DIN hp/190 kW at 5,000-6,000 rpm, while peak torque of 400 Nm is available across the whole mid rev range, from 1,550 to 4,000 rpm. Performance is indeed at the rendez-vous…

What to say of a 0-100 km/h acceleration in 5.2 seconds, with top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h… The charm also lies in the totally effortless way this performance is achieved. This sports engine is totally civilized, and while it will respond eagerly to the slightest pressure of your right foot, it is utterly docile and flexible in town traffic, and in the “normal” driving mode, it will happily potter along at 1200 rpm at legal speeds. Choose the sports mode, and the excellent 8 speed ZF automatic will spoil you with alert and lightning speed gear changes, and make you a better driver…

The staccato of the engine revving up under full power is a delight to your ears, and all this pleasure is further enhanced by the excellent handling of this Supra.

Economy is not as dramatic as you would expect from such a high-performance car, as the engine is efficient and the car is not heavy. We clocked with a lot of (very) brisk driving an average consumption of some 8,2 liters/100 km.

State of the art suspension

The Supra steers with precision. The high rigidity of the chassis makes a finely tuned suspension possible. The suspension design comprises double-joint-type MacPherson struts at the front and a five-link system at the rear.

The GR Supra 2.0 is fitted as standard with 18-inch forged alloy wheels. To optimize the balance of front and rear grip, larger wheels and tyres are used at the rear. The specific Michelin Pilot Sport tyres are 255/40 ZR18 front and 275/40 ZR18 rear.

The Supra also corners as on rails thanks to its 50/50 weight distribution, and even novice drivers can drive immediately fast with utter confidence on those winding mountain sections of your Gran Turismo trip.

Do not forget that TOYOTA GAZOO Racing was instrumental in honing the new sports car’s performance, working on the famous Nürburgring Nordschleife and surrounding roads in Germany to achieve the most agile, stable and rewarding handling possible. Further extensive testing was carried out on roads around the world.

The Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), available as part of the optional Sport Pack, enhances performance with instant response to changes in the road surface, adjusting the shock absorber force at each wheel to maintain a flat vehicle posture, excellent steering response and supple ride comfort. Sensors constantly monitor the way the car is being driven and the road conditions, controlling the damping force accordingly.

The driver can choose between two AVS modes – NORMAL and SPORT – to suit their mood or the driving conditions. NORMAL mode strikes a high balance between vehicle stability and ride comfort, enabling a sporty drive without sacrificing comfort. SPORT mode delivers a flat vehicle posture, reduced body roll and a more agile steering response.

A cabin to dream (and drive) away in …

The cabin of this two-seater is a heavenly place for each trip, be it 1 or 1000 kilometers. Soon you have found the ideal driving position behind the wheel, and all the instrumentation is ideally positioned in your line of sight, with the large rev counter of course taking central place.

The low, slim horizontal dashboard maximizes the forward view through the windscreen, and you intuitively keep your eyes on the road.

But don’t expect this Supra to be anywhere spartan. The standard multimedia system for the GR Supra 2.0 is controlled via a centrally mounted 8.8-inch high-resolution TFT touchscreen display. This can also be operated using a controller on the center console which has an intuitive touchpad control on its upper surface. It is designed for fingertip control so the driver doesn’t have to change their position at the wheel to operate it.

The package includes a four-speaker audio system with DAB radio reception, Bluetooth, a USB port and wireless smartphone integration using Apple CarPlay.

Conclusion

A formidable sports car, a dream on the track, on the mountain pass, on the motorway, but also well at home in tight and slow daily urban traffic. A stylish companion, which offers you all the practical creature comfort you could wish for, all this makes this Supra a car nice to live with every day. Then also, it’s a Toyota, which means top notch reliability, good economy and reasonable service cost. So enthusiasts, this Supra has all it takes to become an icon, and could be your four-wheeled companion, to cherish for years, if not decades to come…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the A Class 250 e: another milestone in plug-in hybrid mobility…

Mercedes is joining the plug-in hybrid trend on the road to zero-emissions driving. It does this with the third generation hybrid drive under its celebrated EQ Power label, with the future-oriented commitment so typical for the brand. Indeed, wonderful times are ahead, so it appears. This A 250 e promises indeed formidable economy and emission values: combined fuel consumption 1.5-1.4 l/100 km, combined CO2 emissions 34-33 g/km, combined electrical consumption 15.0-14.8 kWh/100 km.

All so wonderful, but of course under the condition that you use its plug-in capacity. Otherwise, it is just a zesty petrol engined compact Mercedes with good performance and road qualities… but one which gets you home no matter the distance!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Electric Charging stations are an absolute must…

Indeed, plug-in hybrids are very much OK if you can charge then every day at home or office. If this is not available, Mercedes helps. Via its “Mercedes me Charge”, you can optionally obtain access to one of the world’s largest charging networks, with over 300 different operators in Europe alone Thanks to its navigation system, Mercedes-Benz drivers can find these stations easily and can gain convenient access to the charging stations via the Mercedes me Charge card, the Mercedes me App or directly from the car.

No separate contracts are necessary for this: apart from simple authentication, customers benefit from an integrated payment function with simple billing after they have registered their payment method once. Each charging procedure is booked automatically. The individual charging processes are clearly listed in a monthly invoice.

The car: top performance…

The A 250 e is fast. We can say, almost superfast. What to think of 6.6 seconds for the sprint from 0 to 100 km/h, and a top speed of 235 km/h? You can drive it in E-power only mode, and even then its electric 75 kW motor will push it to 140 km/h. So with everyday charging, you have a lively E-car under your right foot which is more than powerful enough to give you genuine driving pleasure combined with “zen” electric smoothness.

But if you are faced with an immediate longer trip, with no time to find charging stations for your empty battery, the 1,33 litre four cylinder gets eagerly to work. It smoothens out on the autobahn, otherwise it lets you know it is there, but then with a pleasant touch of sportiness. It develops 118 Kw/160 hp at 5500 rpm, and its 250 Nm torque starts at 1620 rpm, which gives it plenty of punch in the lower and mid rev ranges. Oh yes, total system power is 160 kW/218 hp, and system torque is an impressive 450 Nm.

Charging a breeze…

A lithium-ion high-voltage battery with a total capacity of approx. 15.6 kWh is ingeniously packed in the car. It sits under the rear seat and can be charged with alternating or direct current. A corresponding vehicle socket is located in the right-hand side wall of the vehicles.

This means that the compact plug-in hybrids can be charged at a 7.4 kW Wallbox with alternating current (AC) within 1 h 45 min from 10-100 percent SoC (Status of Charge). For direct-current charging (DC), the battery can be charged from 10 – 80 percent SoC in around 25 minutes.

So if you are a (mostly) urban driver, plenty of charging opportunities!

Driving the A 250 e exclusively on E power in urban situations is the thing to do. If the battery is empty, – it’s useable range is around 55-60 km on a charge – the willing petrol engine gives you plenty of zest, but not the supersmooth progress we have grown accustomed to in our own hybrid Lexus for instance.

Gearchanges by the 8G-DCT dual clutch transmission are noticeable at slow speeds and smaller throttle openings, and economy is in these circumstances what you can expect from a solid Mercedes with a sporting engine. In short urban errands, anything between 8 and 14 litres/100 km could be your sort, but luckily once on the open road the engine gets really into its stride and consumption hovers between 5,5 to 6,1 liters when cruising at legal cruising speeds.

Drive programs to choose from…

But there is more. With the launch of MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) the previous plug-in operating modes of all EQ Power models have been converted to so-called “drive programs.”

After 52 kilometers, the battery is empty, and the earger 1332 cc four cylinder gets to work… but for better urban driving economy, you are well advised to plug in and prefer e-power!

These new drive programs are “Electric” and “Battery Level”. Maximum e-performance can of course be had in “Electric”. The combustion engine is then only engaged if you floor the throttle. In the “Electric” program, the energy recuperation strength under braking/decelerating can be selected via paddles behind the steering wheel. The paddles on the steering wheel enable the selection of five different recuperation levels (DAUTO, D+, D, D- and D–).

Comfort, ECO and Sport modes are also available.

So you can give priority to electric driving, or choose more dynamic driving in combined drive mode or give preference to the “Battery Level” i.e. the combustion mode to save electric range, for example.

Mercedes remains Mercedes… and more about its future plug-in strategy

When looking at chassis, bodywork, cabin amenities and finish, the good star always tells us a beautiful story. The new A Class scores top marks here. Excellent seating position, ergonomics, MBUX, or Mercedes-Benz User Experience, comfort, handling, looks and practicality, everything is there.

Looking at the future, the new plug-in hybrids of the S-, E- and C-Class with electric ranges of up to 50 km in accordance with NEDC are now more than a year with us. In the C- and E-Class, Mercedes-Benz is the only manufacturer to combine the diesel engine with plug-in technology, offering this set-up in the Saloon and Estate versions of these two model series.

This year, about 20 model variants will have the plug-in layout… so the good star is indeed well plugged in!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Photographers’ note: All photos were taken with our big Nikon DSLR, which amply shiws in the crispness and balance of the images…

We drove the Toyota Camry Hybrid: practical E-power with comfort and grace…

We just love the hybrid solution Toyota/Lexus is offering us since many years. It delivers superb smoothness, has unlimited range with no recharging hassles and yet gives you the benefits of “zen” E-power when you need it most: in urban driving. All this combined with unequaled economy. The 4,7 liters/100 km we clocked over the last 1,5 years of daily driving with our Lexus CT200h amply proves this point.

Now Toyota has brought its US bestselling Toyota Camry to our European shores. Did you know that the Camry is the best-selling D/E segment sedan in the world with annual sales of more than 700,000 units?

In Europe it is sold only in hybrid form, and rightly so. The Camry met totally with our expectations, and is in my opinion at present in its hybrid form the only practical solution for all-round E-mobility in Europe, considering the present status of the EU-wide charging infrastructure.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Camry is a spacious sedan with pleasing proportions, and indeed looks elegant from any angle. It certainly has a premium aura and look, and offers ample room for five and their luggage. The latest generation Camry is a product of the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) design and engineering philosophy. TNGA places enthusiast-oriented ‘fun to drive’ characteristics and alluring styling on an equal footing with excellent build quality, reliability and safety. It surely delivers…

Let’s first have a look at its drivetrain.

Toyota wisely opted for a large(r) 2,5 litre four-cylinder unit, developing enough power (131 kW) and torque to keep revs down even under spirited driving. It has, Toyota says, a world beating maximum thermal efficiency of 41%. Mated to a zesty 120 HP electric motor, total system power is a healthy 160 kW. It develops combined over 400 Nm, which puts it at par with potent Diesels. All this makes the Camry a very brisk performer, offering impressive but silky-smooth punch when accelerating from slow speeds. The all-important 10 to 30 km/h sprint to join safely a moving urban traffic lane takes merely a second, from 60 to 100 km/h – the crucial parameter to join motorway traffic – costs only 4,9 seconds. The sprint from standstill to 100 km/h is absolved in 8,3 seconds. The Camry is a very potent motorway cruiser too, with top speed electronically limited to 180 km/h. More than enough for today’s traffic conditions, we would think.

The charm of the hybrid system lies not only in the ever-present pulling power, it also excels in the totally clever way it switches imperceptibly between E- and combustion power. Improvements to the conversion efficiency of the Power Control Unit (PCU) and the transmission efficiency of the transaxle and motor combine to reduce system energy losses further by some 20% compared to the previous model. In urban traffic, with its ever-changing lower speeds, the drivetrain computer uses the qualities of the electric motor to the full, and its very judicious use reflects itself in unseen low consumption averages.

Toyota claims up to 50% zero emissions driving on the everyday commute, and this is totally realistic. Our own Lexus stays in town easily in the 4,5 liter/100 km range, and this bigger and more powerful Camry not only achieves the same economy, it does even better. All this with a very “zen”-like smoothness and silence, which makes this hybrid drivetrain so endearing. The manufacturer quotes CO2emissions as low as 98 g/km, fuel consumption of only 4.3 l/100 km. Our test consumption boiled down to an average of 5,3 litres/100 km, where the Camry was driven with spirit on the open road.

The so-called “ADrive Mode Select” switch enables the driver to select a choice of ECO, NORMAL and SPORT driving modes. All three modes may be used when the vehicle is operating in the separately-switchable EV mode.

In addition, the enhanced self-charging hybrid system also includes new “Sequential Shiftmatic” technology that allows the driver to ‘shift’ with the console-mounted lever, mimicking a quick-shifting six-speed automatic transmission, for a more dynamic, engaging driving experience.

Finally, a new Auto Glide Control (AGC) function allows the new Camry Hybrid to decelerate more slowly than during normal driving, such as when it is coasting with the accelerator pedal released approaching a stop light. Thus, AGC contributes to improved fuel economy by reducing the need for re-acceleration. We found this very cool…

Silent and stable

When you are somewhat more in a hurry, the noise levels hardly rise, thanks to the good torque characteristics of its bigger engine, which makes high revs hardly necessary under power. You remain also in total command of this Camry. The finely tuned totally new suspension and neutral handling of this sedan takes fast bends very well in its stride.

Besides this totally redesigned suspension, key to the new Camry Hybrid’s enhanced dynamic abilities and ride quality is also an all-new, GA-K platform-based bodyshell. We found the Camry handle precise and very balanced indeed. Comfort and sound insulation are also very good. This is a sedan built to be driven restfully for hours on end, and indeed this Camry displays marvelous Gran Turismo qualities.

Well-equipped interior with all today’s amenities…

The know-how of Toyota shows clearly one slides behind the wheel. Very readable instrumentation is set in an ideally sculpted dashboard, an array of logical and easy to use accessories, excellent connectivity, effective driver assistance systems, you name it. This car is an effortless pleasure to use, with gearshift and screen command knobs and handles somewhat less idiosyncratic than the (earlier) Prius/Lexus versions, although we have grown to like just that on our Lexus CT200h. But getting a bit closer to the mainstream layout for gearshifts and the like might be the wiser option for people who drive regularly several cars. Safety is paramount too. Toyota “Safety Sense” active safety technologies are fitted as standard on all grades.

Just to mention here Pre-Collision System (PCS) with pedestrian detection, Full Range Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Lane Departure Alert (LDA), Automatic High Beam (AHB) and Road Sign Assist (RSA). Followed by Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA)

Further driver support and safety enhancing systems include a Rear Cross Traffic Brake (RCTB), Drive Start Control (DSC), front and rear Intelligent Clearance Sonar (ICS), a Back Monitor with parking guidelines, and a full suite of brake and traction control systems.

Very readable was the colour, 10″ Head-up Display (HUD).

We also appreciated on our test car the excellent and smoothly reacting adaptive cruise control. The sound system is a chapter in itself. The Camry comes standard with a 6-speaker audio system, but our test car, with the “Executive” equipment level, got the 9-speaker JBL Premium Sound System which has been specifically tuned for installation within the new Toyota sedan.

At the heart of this system is a Class D, eight channel JBL amplifier driving nine JBL speakers which include 25 mm horn tweeters integrated within the A pillars, and a new 265 mm sub-woofer located beneath the load space floor. Need we say more? Well, we do:

The system incorporates ‘Clari-Fi’ technology which supplements the frequencies that are lost on compressed audio files -such as MP3 or streaming audio files- in real time, restoring the sound quality and stereo mix as closely as possible to the original recording… we were just smitten!

Already in its standard version the Camry comes very well equipped. The base price is already competitive, but if you see the wide array of standard equipment, things look even better.

Space

The Camry is a true five seater with luggage space to match. The adoption of a rear double wishbone suspension system reduces shock absorber incursion into the load space, offering a luggage capacity of 500 litres for vehicles equipped with power reclining rear seats, and 524 litres for those with 60:40 split seating. The lighter and smaller newly developed Ni-MH battery has enabled the relocation from the luggage compartment to under the rear seats, not only freeing up additional luggage space, but also lowering the vehicle’s center of gravity and enhancing handling stability.

Conclusion

The Camry Hybrid is a world class bestseller for years now, and its latest generation merits a European (re)discovery. Crammed with state-of-the-art technologies, from the self-charging hybrid electric powertrain to faultless driver assistance systems and infotainment/connectivity, it combines all this with style and practical space.

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…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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

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

Dynamic and trusty diesel power…

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

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

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

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

Space and comfort

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

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

E-ACTIVE Body Control: The 48 V suspension

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

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.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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   

We drove the Mercedes C 300 e 4Matic: your brightly starred hybrid…

Mercedes is cleverly building up its plug-in hybrid fleet, and does this also for its bestselling C Class range. We drove here for you the C 300 e 4Matic, which receives now the same hybrid drivetrain as the larger E-Class 300e. This means a trusty 2 litre turbopowered petrol engine, good for 211 HP, combined with a 122 HP electric motor. The total system power of 320 HP is boosted by not less than 700 Nm of maximum torque, and you understand that this means almost supercar performance.

The 13,5 Kw/h battery powering the electric motor is the same as in the C300de. All this bodes well for driving pleasure with a green touch… just read on!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Sliding behind the wheel of this C Class gives you this unique and overwhelming experience of being surrounded by top quality workmanship, style and perfection. Yes, you are sitting behind the wheel of a car with the good star, built by the oldest car manufacturer in the world. A Mercedes. A unique feeling which no other car in the world can give you. All this is valid for any Mercedes model you drive, and this C Class Sedan is no exception.

The excellent seats wrap around you, and by touching with the intuitive symbols in the door panel you can adjust everything to you liking in seconds. A push on the starting knob and off you go. You feel the precision of steering and suspension translated in your hands, progress is ultra smooth.

With the batteries fully charged, this C 300e will revert first and foremost to using this available E-power, and your first kilometers will be travelled very “clean” indeed. This is clearly visible for you on the instrument cluster in front of you, where the available battery power quickly dwindles but petrol consumption is virtually nil. A very logical setup, as this hybrid is designed to be used by its owner on the daily work/home commute after a home overnight charge and/or a daytime charge up at the office parking charging terminal. This allows you to absolve your daily commute almost totally on E-power. Of course you can interfere, and keep the batteries charged at a chosen level and even recharge them whilst driving to save this E-power for later, when you will enter urban low emission zones at a distance form your starting point.

What happens when the battery is almost empty? Well, then you still enjoy the clever hybrid/kinetic management system, so to say, which allows you to recuperate kinetic energy when slowing down and/or braking, and the electric motor will assist in moving the car when driving/accelerating at very slow speeds or parking, in short, in all the driving conditions where a combustion engine alone works not very efficient.

All this lets you truly score in the economy department. This powerful sedan will let you consume less than 6 litres/100 km in urban traffic on engine power, and equally so on the open road.

The beauty of a hybrid system is your total range independence, this car is set to go anytime to any destination you could wish, and yet in regular home/office use it scores as “green” as any full E-vehicle.

The bonus of the extra electric motor is abundant torque and extra power. This translates in 0-100 km/h acceleration times which almost belong to the supercar league.

What to think of a sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 5,4 seconds? Top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h. Another strong point is the effortless manner this performance is deployed. Power is now transmitted through a new 9 speed automatic gearbox – actually this transmission is used throughout the C-class range – and out test car came with the optional 4 matic 4WD.

Excellent chassis and comfort

Passive and active safety have always been paramount at Mercedes. The solidity, stiffness and engineering excellence of body, chassis and suspension do not need any further comment. Steering is precise, handling is beyond reproach. A good balance is also struck between road qualities and comfort. Our test car was shod with AMG 19 inch (5-double spoke) alloys, and had also the AIRMATIC driving dynamics package, which made driving this C Class with some verve a pleasant and sporting experience. Combined with all the power, this test car proved a very fast sedan indeed.

All the usual driving assistance functions are present of course, and the fully digital dashboard and clever steering wheel commands are a breeze to use and an example for many. We also liked the instrument graphics is all the three different display modes, and besides their aesthetic qualities they are also eminently readable.

Connectivity is also written large and of course you have wireless charging. Apple Car Play and Android Auto is possible. Life is made comfortable with keyless functions and automatic opening boot lid. Luggage space is somewhat limited as the battery sits above the rear axle and takes up some space in the boot. Available luggage volume is not more than 300 liters.

Conclusion

Plug-in hybrids are presently offering the (very) best of both worlds, and this Mercedes C 300 e 4-Matic proves again how good such a car can be. With an E-power radius of some 50 kilometers it is perfect for (almost) fully electric home/work commuting, and you have always the freedom to travel any distance when and where you want under silk smooth petrol engined power.

Future-proof for all the low-emission zones we will encounter, it still offers you the versatility and practicality of a “real” car, and then we have said nothing about its exhilarating performance…

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…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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

We drove Seat Ibiza FR 1.0 TGI: The power of nature…

OLYMPUS E 510, ISO 100, F 8, 1/160 sec.

We were keen to lay our hands on Did you know that Compressed Natural Gas has a higher energy density than petrol? That it emits almost no small particles? That it brings CO2 emissions down by a good 30 pct? That there are no NOx emissions to speak of? Indeed, nature has some very good things in store…

So it is only logical that the VW group has taken a long hard look at CNG and puts it in their cars. The fifth generation Seat Ibiza therefore also has a “dual fuel” car in its range, which runs happily on both CNG and petrol. Just to give combustion engine followers a “green” alternative.

an Ibiza in the sporting FR version, with under the hood a 90 HP “CNG/petrol” version of its well proven 3 cylinder 999 cc engine, and put it through its paces for you. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Stepping into this aptly styled Ibiza, one hardly notices any difference when pushing the starting knob. The smooth 1 litre unit eagerly springs to life, emitting its typical pleasant efficient sound when revving up. One is running on CNG, so the instruments tell you, as a green CNG symbol lights up and the content of the CNG fuel tanks are displayed. Actually, this display doubles in the rev counter cluster also as an engine coolant temperature indicator. On the right hand, in the speedometer cluster, the gauge of the petrol tank is placed.  

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That’s it really. One doesn’t notice anything further in particular when driving. The engine is utterly smooth, docile and willing. It revs beautifully through the gears, displaying more than decent pulling power and punch once the revs are above 2000 rpm. The consumption indicator tells you how much CNG is flowing through the injectors, and it displays it in… kilograms instead of liters.

One should know that 1 kg of CNG is the equivalent of 1,5 litre of petrol. This puts everything in perspective when you are seeing a consumption of 2,9 kg/100 km for example when driving smoothly with low revs in a high gear, adjusting to a slower urban traffic flow.

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Indeed, this engine has wonderful smoothness and elasticity, and will not protest when you select a higher gear at 1500 rpm , and then cruise along at 1300 rpm or thereabouts, when just driving along with the traffic flow is what you want to do. This will lead to astonishingly low consumption figures, and even when driving in petrol “mode”, the (instant) consumption then drops to around 4 litres/100 km. So remember, small throttle openings and low revs will get you very far indeed.

But substantial pulling power is only to be had above 2000 rpm, as we said before. When you decide to rev it up and really put your foot down, the 1 litre unit shows its mettle, and will let this Ibiza sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 12,1 seconds under a sporting staccato. The six speed manual is a delight to use with slick and fast changes, so there is some good driving pleasure to be had. This Ibiza also stands very well its own on the Autobahnen, as it has a top speed of 181 km/h and high speed cruising is an effortless affair.

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Turning back to consumption, Seat quotes a combined CNG consumption in the region of 3,3 kg/100 km, with combined petrol consumption boiling down to around 5 liter/100 km. Our consumption was some 20 % higher than this.  

The stability and excellent qualities of the platform, shared with the Polo and the A1 Audi come into play here. One is indeed spoilt by the precision of the steering, the very predictable road holding and the ideal compromise between agility, stability and comfort.

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Seamless CNG/Petrol transition…

This CNG powered Ibiza doesn’t take any further attention from your part in daily use. Not only is CNG refuelling a breeze, with the openings of both CNG and petrol tanks sitting neatly next to each other under the tank lid, but also when the CNG tank runs empty, the system will automatically switch to petrol and you don’t notice anything at all. Only the gauges and tell tale lamp will tell you that you are now running on petrol.

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Price differences between CNG and petrol vary of course depending on the EU countries, but it will typically take something between 40 to 50,000 kilometres to recoup the price difference between the normal petrol or diesel and the CNG version of the Ibiza. Note that Seat Belgium offers the CNG version in March at the same price as the petrol version(!).

We also discovered that Belgium has now 135 CNG stations and found one about 1,5 km from our home. Let it also be said that with the CNG Ibiza, you can drive in all underground parkings and have of course accession to all urban Low Emission Zones.  

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Practical

The fifth generation of the Ibiza has a stylish and roomy body, with a slightly reduced boot space when compared with the other versions, to make room for the extra CNG tanks. It varies between 355 liters and a quite reasonable 1072 liters when seats are folded. The car we tested had the luxury pack with velvet textile “FR” seats and dashboard panels covered in artificial leather.

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The car also had 18 inch alloys which certainly added to the car’s appearance. With the premium pack came also the big touch screen with excellent infotainment. Last but not least we enjoyed the keyless function as well as the adaptive cruise control.

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Conclusion

Environmental responsibility abounds, and using natural gas as energy, something which millions of European households and citizens are doing in their homes, is a very clever solution. The style, solid VW Group workmanship , the excellent road qualities and superb willing engine are further solid arguments to convince you to take this CNG Ibiza for a spin. You might decide to make it into a drive which lasts a very long time…

Hans Knol ten Bensel            

We drove the Skoda Superb Scout 2.0 TSI 200 kW DSG 4×4: stylish panache and sportiness…

Whatever the wheater and road conditions, this Scout is your ideal companion…Shot with our second hand Olympus in bad light conditions, ISO 400, F 6,3, 1/125 sec.

Classic recipes will always stay superb. This top end Skoda literally embodies it, and its badge tells it all…

It was a unique and refreshing experience to sit behind the wheel of this well engineered break and enjoy to the full what a modern, state of the art combustion engine can accomplish in combination with an equally top notch DSG gearbox . Push the starting knob and your ears already enjoy the humming sound of this thoroughbred four. This engine excels in smooth refinement, panache, pulling power and efficiency.

The rest of the drivetrain is up to the mark. The DSG seven speed box is alert, smooth, and always puts judiciously the right gear forward. The 4 x 4 drive consists of the state of the art Haldex system. Typically, 96 % of the total power is directed to the front, improving fuel efficiency. Depending on the road conditions, the electronic sensors redirect power to the wheels that have sufficient traction. The Haldex AWD has been seen on the Octavia since about a decade, but this is the first time it is coupled to a DSG gearbox.

This Superb has personality…

OLYMPUS E-510, ISO 400, F 5,5, shot at remarkably low 1/15 of a sec at 70 mm equivalent, showing how the image stabilizer does an excellent job…

This is a car with character. Inviting you to experience its punch and performance, yet remaining docile and refined in urban driving. It will respond beautifully when you push your right foot a bit further down, but will not protest when you subject it to endless stop and go traffic.

OLYMPUS E-510 F 5,5, ISO 400, 1/10 sec and 54 mm equivalent. Amazing sharpness due to stabilizer…

Performance leaves nothing to be desired. 200 kW or 272 HP see to that. It sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 5,7 seconds, hurtling further to a top speed of 250 km/h. Pulling power is abundant over a very wide rev range, with 350 Nm being available between 2000 and 5400 rpm. Almost supercar performance, which is matched by excellent handling. This Superb will not protest when you decide to take it through its paces on winding roads, the judicious set up of the suspension clearly shows. Of course, the VW group and also even more Skoda borrows from a massive engineering and last but not least sporting rally experience of their cars, and they really know how to set up a decent handling car.

OLYMPUS E-510, ISO 400, F 4,9, 1/40 sec.

The straight line stability is also excellent, and high speed driving in this Superb is a relaxing affair.

Last but not least, the brakes are of course also up to the job.           

…and is immensely practical

Of course, fuel consumption is very much in function of how much power you use. Drive this Scout with some restraint, and it will quite naturally reward you with reasonable consumption figures.

OLYMPUS E-510, F 5,6, 1/20 sec at 65 mm equivalent. Image stabilizer working hard…

The manufacturer quotes 9 litres/100 km in urban driving, and this is easily surpassed in the region of 11-12 litres when the distances are very short and the engine has not reached its operating temperature. But keep the throttle openings small and the DSG will faithfully choose higher gears and keep the revs (very) low, and then this Scout will chalk up creditable figures. On the open road, the picture looks a lot brighter, with the manufacturer quoting 6 liters/100 km. On average, we reached 7,5 liters/100 km, with mostly relaxed driving.

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But as said, this Superb Scout is immensely usable. Not afraid of open terrain, it will transport five and their luggage.

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And, in the good Skoda tradition, boot space is plentiful. From 660 liters to 1950 liter. Head room and leg room for the rear passengers has also to be experienced to be believed.

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Of course, driving assistance systems and infotainment are up to scratch. The central display can be ordered from 8 up to 9.2 inches, and the top of the range Columbus system, found in our test car, offers 3D navigation, Skoda connect, gesture control and Wi-Fi hotspot. We enjoyed the Canton sound system too…

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Besides the usual driver assistance systems, like lane assist, adaptive cruise control, practical items include 2 USB ports in the front, 2 USB ports and 230 v socket in the rear, inductive charging of your phone, just to name a few. Then there is the cooled glove box, space for 1,5 liter bottles in all the doors, and space also for your coloured safety vest…

Conclusion

OLYMPUS E-510, ISO 400, F 5, 1/30 sec.

A formidable, sporting companion, this Scout, on all the roads you may take to any destination in this wide world. It has a formidable combustion engine, and one should not forget, this is what more than 90 pct of us all still drives. It certainly has its evident merits, if only one considers the CO2 footprint of making large(r) batteries, and depending on what car you need for your lifestyle and driving habits. It is beautifully built, solid and reliable, well equipped, offering tons of space. It looks (very) good too, and its sporting panache could put a (broad) smile on your face for a very long time…actually, every time you take its wheel, for years on end.

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

We drove the Mercedes E 300 de Estate: hybrid cleverness under the good star…

The Mercedes E 300 de is stylish and versatile hybrid. The photos here are shot with our second hand Olympus SLR E-510, f 7.2, 1/160 s, 200 ASA. Up to scratch!

When the oldest car manufacturer in the world goes hybrid, you can expect the best. Indeed, they use the adage in their marketing language: “the best or nothing”. And they use it…not for nothing. This we could experience behind the wheel of a sleek E Class estate, where under the hood the well proven 2 litre 4 cylinder diesel is married in hybrid fashion to a powerful electric engine. The result is indeed the (very) best of both worlds. Impressive to say the least. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Mercedes engineers and strategists put their heads together and had a long hard look at what a Mercedes hybrid in today’s world has to be capable of in order to respond to the needs of its clients. It is well known that the E class sedans and estates with the good star are driven frequently at long(er) distances, and therefore the diesel engine is a (very) logical choice.

Diesel and E-power are closely married under the bonnet…

It is also a fact that this hybrid Mercedes has to be “city proof” for years to come, and therefore has to be able to drive quite reasonable distances in the city centre on lively E-power. So the choice was obvious: the well proven 2 litre four cylinder 191 HP diesel engine known from the E 220 d is also adopted here, but now alongside it is a 122 HP electric motor, which delivers more than enough zest with its 440 Nm torque.

One can monitor the energy flow on the screen…

The diesel unit doesn’t lack pulling power either, and has an impressive 400 Nm of torque. Both engines do not develop their maximum power at the same time, but nevertheless total maximum system power is not less than 302 hp and 700 Nm. You understand that this means excellent performance: your are catapulted from 0 to 100 in 5,9 seconds, and top speed is 250 km/h.

Hybrid power the Mercedes way

But the true panache of this Mercedes is the completely effortless way this performance is delivered, and the excellent comfort it offers to its inhabitants, whatever the distance travelled and the quality of the roads encountered.  

The virtual instrumentation lets you choose between displays… we liked this futuristic the most.

A reasonable action radius in urban E driving is therefore a must, and with a 13.5 kW battery Mercedes has done what is needed to achieve this. According to the altogether realistic WLTP cycle, this E 300 de can drive on E power over a distance of about 50 km.

When you charge the battery while driving, consumption goes up, here to an average of 7,5 litres/100 km, whilst gaining 3,9 kWh/100 km…

We did not quite achieve this with the heavier estate version, but came very close indeed. This means that in practice it is quite possible to meet even the strictest urban LEZ standards for years to come, as you can drive solely on E power.

But that is not all. With the push of a button on the central console, you can select between drive modes, and besides «E mode» and «Hybrid» you can opt for “E-save” and “Charge”.  

This means you can also opt to keep the battery charged at a chosen level, or even (re)charge the battery partially or fully while driving, so that you can build up enough charge to drive later a chosen distance on electric power in the city. Very clever, this absolute versatility. On top of all that, the efficiency of the diesel engine lets you chalk up very reasonable consumption figures even during this battery (re)charging on the move, staying for instance in open road driving conditions between 6,5 and 7 litres/100 km. This is about 1l/100 km more than in non-hybrid driving, which you achieve when opting for “E-save”. Of course the hybrid mode will still improve this fuel consumption, but it costs you Kilowatts…  

  

The fuel consumption varies evidently with the use of the plug-in function, and indeed it is in practice quite possible to use this E 300 as an urban electric car in a short distance scenario with frequent plug-in recharging. A neatly placed plug at the right side rear end of the car makes this recharging a breeze. In these driving circumstances, you hardly use the Diesel power, and therefore your fuel consumption will be very low.

CO2 Emissions are as low as 41 g/km, according to the WLTP cycle.  

Creature comfort

The E class Mercedes has built itself an enviable reputation as a comfortable and spacious long distance runner, and here only superlatives are called for. The suspension is set up slightly firmer to cope with the 300 kg additional weight. Very good stability is the result, with hardly any noticeable drop in comfort levels. This E Class will still excel in ironing out those frost ridden roads…

State of the art infotainment and driving aids.

The state of the art digital instruments and panoramic infoscreen across the dashboard are now becoming a hallmark for the three starred brand, as well as the commands on the steering wheel. The host of driving aids are also setting industry standards.

The steering wheel commands have state-of-the art ergonomy…

Our Mercedes came with Parktronic, an excellent head-up display, 360° camera, speed limit assistant, adaptive cruise control, collision prevention assist plus, PRE-SAFE intelligent anticipation for accidents, you name it. Of course adaptive headlight beam assistant is also provided.   

You are also pampered in the cabin: our test car came with the Burmester Surround sound system, Keyless Go, Easy pack electro-hydraulic rear boot lid, Premium ambiente mood lighting of the interior, a panoramic sunroof, and your eyes are spoilt in the AMG line interior with panels of open-pore ash wood and last but not least an analogue clock.The seats in Artico Leather and Dyamica black microfibre have 4-way adjustable lumbar support, and not to forget the dashboard surfaces are clad in Artico leather.  

Luxury: an analogue clock on open pore ash wood

GPS and GSM antenna’s are present, Apple Car Play and Android Auto as well as inductive charging of your phone is also included.

The exterior is also adorned with an AMG line package, with a matte Disegno Selenite grey Magno paint, which suited the test car very well.

Unsurprisingly, this puts the all-in price tag of our test car well above 70.000 Euros excluding VAT, but let it be said that a standard, reasonably well equipped E 300 de Break can be had in our country for 56.700 Euro (excluding VAT) at the time of writing.

Conclusion

A very impressive hybrid, which lets you enjoy E-propulsion just where you need it, in urban traffic. On the open road, you are to enjoy the smooth and frugal Diesel power, and this is one of the good reasons you drive a car with the good star. Of course this hybrid is all the more useful and appropriate when you include a fair share of urban driving in your motoring life.

Olympus E-510, F 10, 1/250 sec, 200 ASA

The Mercedes is a quality car built to the most exacting standards with legendary robustness and longevity, designed to move you over short or long distances in comfort and safety, and this is exactly what this break does.

On top of that, it is well styled, roomy and practical. Need we say more?

Hans Knol ten Bensel   

Photo comments: we used our “new” second hand E-510 Olympus with its standard zoom lens for these shots, and as you see, the results are quite up to scratch… See the presentation of this camera in our columns… This shot was taken with our Huawei smartphone.