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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

OLYMPUS E-510 CAMERA, ISO 400, F 3,7, 1/13 sec.

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.

OLYMPUS E 510 CAMERA, ISO 400, F 5,6, 1/50 sec.

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…

OLYMPUS E 510 CAMERA, ISO 400, F 5,6, 1/80 sec.

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.

We drove the Fiat Panda Cross 4 x 4: your cute, compact companion on any road

Who doesn’t want a car which is the quintessence of  ” less is more “and takes you literally everywhere? Such a car is the Panda Cross we drove here for you. A car which embodies all the “savoir faire” of a great  manufacturer who is an absolute genius in making small cars. This Panda we drove is moreover full of unique panache, as it combines the clever two cylinder “TwinAir” petrol engine with a very comptetent 4 WD drivetrain.

This engine with its twin cylinder sound adds to the endearing character of this Panda, as it recalls the original sound of the (also) vertical twin of the fifties Cinquecento.

Of course, this is where the comparison with its iconic predecessor ends. Because the present day Panda has sufficient room for four grown ups, is light years further when it comes to high speed stability,  comfort and last but not least passive safety.

But before we take the wheel, just a few words here about the cute looks of this Cross Panda. The front of the car already tells the story. Fog lights are snugly set into the matte black grille, the skid plate suggests clearly that this Fiat is not afraid of hitting rougher terrain. Cute accents are further found alongside this Panda, with impressive side mouldings and further culminate in the rear end, where also a skid plate is found. It also has larger mountain snow tyres, which raises the ground clearance to 161 mm and increases wading depth to not less than 410 mm.

The cabin with its typical rounded contours in the iconic Panda styling language host clearly readable instruments and knobs.

Rediscover (off-road) pleasure…

What has remained in this iconic Panda over the years is the absolute driving fun. Sliding behind the wheel you will find immediately the right knobs and handles, the cute gearlever literally falls into your hand.

The pleasant throb of the eager TwinAir is music in your ears, as it revs up swiftly and gets you going with verve.

Of course, we live in energy conscious times. So you shouldn’t let your enthusiasm get the best of you, and refrain from higher revs.  Change up at 1700 rpm or so, which sounds way too low as your ears are used to the typical throb of a four cylinder. But rest assured, you are doing the right thing. You are also well advised to choose the “eco” mode, which shifts the engine management towards efficient combustion at lower revs and partial load. The rewards are impressive. Urban fuel consumption remains below 7 litres, with enough pulling power left for an active driving style. Drive it in “eco” mode on the open road, and the consumption is dwindling to around 5 litres. A remarkable feat for any 4WD! The manufacturer quotes 117 g/km as CO2 emissions.

But Panda driving is also about (re)discovering driving pleasure. If you are in the mood, forget the eco mode, let the thoroughbred twin sing full breasted, and every metre you travel is just epic. You accelerate faster than a 500 “esse esse” Abarth Corsa of yesteryear, as this TwinAir 875 cc unit has not less than 85 horsepower, and the hissing throb at higher revs and full throttle is just about the same as its famous ancestor. Your Panda sprints under your able hand (and foot) in under 15 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h, and soon you hit the top speed of around 160 km/h. The dapper Panda will cruise all day at 130 km/h and therefore is a perfect all rounder which, despite its initial urban and off-road vocation, is also a good companion on longer motorway trips.

Long distance comfort is greatly helped by the good suspension, which admirably swallows rough tarmac and pavés, and also the fine sound deadening and vibrationless drivetrain are just right here.

In our columns you can also read more about our driving impressions  of the “Mild Hybrid” version of the Panda and 500, which have a very docile 70 HP three cylinder engine under the hood.

A true master offroad…

Due to its low kerb weight (1090 kg), which gives it about the same power to weight ratio as a Diesel Range Rover and last but not least its compactness this Cross Panda is a formidable mount in snow buried mountain villages and pass roads. Not surprisingly it is an absolute favourite in these regions. The low first gear lets your Panda climb the steepest terrain hills, (Fiat says up to 70 % and slide slopes up to 55 %) and it also has a terrain control device, sitting on a round knob between the front seats. There are three settings. One is for normal road driving, and when the road is good, 98 % of the power will be sent to the front wheels. Then there is the option/position off road, and now the car’s differential locks to offer permanent four wheel drive, and the electronic stability control acts to brake the wheels that are slipping. Of course, you also have to come safely downhill, and that is where the third position, “hill descent”, comes in. This uses the car’s electronic stability and the ABS systems to maintain a constant speed.

Conclusion

The Panda is already endearing in its cute “cross” livery. But there is more. It reveals its pleasant character once you are behind the wheel, and it is not only fun in town, it also excels offroad, and in muddy terrain, it can be more than a match for heavier (Defender) Rovers and the like. Its low weight and nimble dimensions and above all short overhangs see to that.

So to get a truly go anywhere, well equipped, compact, frugal 4×4 for a price around € 17.000 Euro’s, which is already an icon among car enthusiasts, then this Panda is a steal!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Skoda Kamiq 150 HP 1,5 TSI DSG: the beauty of agile power…

Who does not dream about it? Owning and driving a compact and practical hatch with the power to weight ratio of an early Porsche 911? A car which comfortably seats four and has all the comfort, infotainment and driver assistance amenities we come to expect from modern mid-size cars, yet has the handling and agility of an early Audi TT?

A car which is well built and reliable, and besides all these qualities doesn’t break the bank? Well, such a car is this Skoda …

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Walking to and around the car, this Kamiq shows to you it’s a true Skoda. The angular contours of the bodywork are typical for the Skoda styling language, the overall body shape betrays the intention of the designers to offer excellent use of available space. They succeeded: its compact, 4241 mm long body, offers for four to five grown ups enough leg- and headroom, and there is not less than 400 – 1395 liters reserved for their luggage. Actually, did you know that the word KAMIQ comes from the language of the Inuit people living in northern Canada and Greenland?

It describes something that fits as perfectly as a second skin in every situation. Well this is certainly true for this Skoda…

The cabin is more than pleasant, albeit with a no nonsense Skoda flair, but being nevertheless far from spartan. On the centre of the well designed dashboard sits a large 9,2 inch touchscreen, offering all the modern state of the art infotainment one could wish for. Using the “Amundsen” navigation is a breeze, one can pinpoint a chosen destination with your fingertips, and pinch the map size with a brief finger movement. Ventilation, audio, hooking up your phone, everything is intuitive and immediate.

Driving assistance systems were in abundance present in our test car, such lane assist, ACC to name a few. It made driving this Kamiq both in town and the open road a totally “zen” and effortless experience. Driving at night is enhanced with Full LED headlights with curve illumination and dynamic indicators. Seats are excellent, and for long drives there is also Driver Activity Assistant, so it warns you when it detects any fatigue.  

Formidable engine and drivetrain

Good modern petrol engines coupled to superb automatic transmissions are still hard to beat when it comes to sheer performance and driving pleasure.

The smoothness and panache of the 150 HP 1,5 litre 16 valve direct injection petrol engine has to be experienced to be believed. It offers maximum its maximum power between 5 and 6000 rpm, its maximum torque of 250 Nm is delivered between 1500 and 3500 rpm. It revs beautifully with a smooth staccato up to 6500 rpm, and is marvelously coupled to a superb 7 speed DSG transmission, which marries alertness with velvety and fast changes.

The pulling power which unfolds immediately at the slightest hint of your right foot is abundant to say the least, and the objective performance figures amply show it: the sprint from 0 to 100 is swiftly done in 8,4 seconds, and top speed is an impressive 212 km/h. Needless to say that this Kamiq is a good companion on long, fast Autobahn trips as well as tours on curvy mountain and country roads.

But also town driving is a pleasure. Its compact dimensions, the ample torque, the smooth engine and superb transmission see to that. Of course it takes a very gentle right foot to keep consumption down in urban driving, but every soul knows that power costs money, and this is also true for E-cars, by the way. Average consumption is quoted at 5,1 liters/100 km, and it was no trouble at all for us to stay around the 6 litre mark and below it per 100 km. CO2 emissions are quoted at 116 g/km CO2.

Infotainment and driving aids…

The Kamiq in the tested Style equipment version has what it takes to keep you happy behind the wheel. As we said, you are looking at a 9,2 inch touchscreen with easy and very intuitive to handle and excellent “Amundsen” navigation.

Impressive for its class is also the digital instrumentation with a choice of different views, ŠKODA Sound System with 9 speakers, subwoofer and amplifier, DAB+ digital radio, just to name a few. We already mentioned the lane, park assist and Adaptative Cruise Control.

Conclusion

A compact but astonishingly roomy four/five seater, which handles beautifully, has with this 150 HP thoroughbred engine plenty of character and panache and offers tons of driving pleasure. On top of that it superbly built, timelessly styled and last but not least is reliable and offers very good value for money.

So of yo are looking for a practical car which drives like an agile “pur sang”, make this Skoda your own…

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

We drove the VW Passat GTE Variant: a bestseller goes hybrid…

The VW Passat is a giant. More than 30 million times sold, and it is the world’s best-selling mid-class model. When VW brings out a plug-in hybrid version of this icon, you can expect perfection.

So we were very anxious to drive the latest version of this PHEV, face lifted in autumn last year. Indeed, VW builds the GTE already a few years. Thanks to the dynamic PR people of D’Ieteren VW, we had one soon for a test drive.

With this facelift, the battery’s energy capacity has been increased by 31 percent to a total of 13 kWh. Does this mean we can drive it on E-power throughout our cities every day, and it is enough to just plug it in at night?

Also can we achieve those very low consumption values on the open road, when this Passat chooses the ideal power combination between combustion and E-power?

We were keen to find out. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A clever plug-in hybrid system…

The new Passat GTE has the best of both worlds: it has the latest version of the turbocharged stratified injection engine (1.4 TSI) under the hood, and of course an electric motor. This TSI engine is good for 115 kW / 156 PS.

The electric motor is quite powerful, and generates 85kW / 115 PS. The new high-voltage battery sits , like its 9,9 kW predecessor, in the vehicle floor in front of the rear axle, barely taking up luggage space. Total system power is not less than 218 HP, with a 400 Nm of torque.

As a result, performance is brilliant: 0 to 100 km in merely 7,6 seconds, and top speed of not less than 225 km/h. Need we say more?

DSG DQ400 E

Power is transmitted to the front wheels through a new version of the 6-speed dual-clutch gearbox, dubbed DQ400E, which is adapted to the hybrid layout. Indeed, it has to allow the engine to power also the generator when the driver chooses via the driving modes to maintain or raise the battery charge, of which more later.   

Zero emissions in the city?

VW claims that the purely electric range of the predecessor – determined as an NEDC value (New European Driving Cycle) – was 50 km. The new Passat GTE now has a range of around 70 km in this cycle. Under the WLTP cycle, which is considered particularly similar to practical use, this figure reaches up to 56 km.

One can choose to charge or maintain the battery at a certain charge level. This costs fuel however…

We drove this GTE under rather wintry, low temperature conditions, and the purely electric range amounted to some 32 kilometers. Heating the car and sundry takes its toll in winter. No problem however. The driver can select when starting his journey in the Driving Mode menu via the Infotainment system to charge the battery during the journey.

One has namely the choice between the E-MODE and Hybrid modes.(Indicated by a car symbol) In the hybrid mode, a battery with ten compartments lights up on the central screen and you can choose whether you keep the battery fully charged, or deplete or charge it via arrows to a pre-chosen 10-step level, indicated by the battery image on the infotainment screen.   

When the battery has enough power, the GTE Passat is of course quite frugal in the chosen Hybrid mode. The digital dial in your line of view shows clearly with its moving arrow when the engine starts working or when the electric motor delivers the power. Driving at higher motorway speeds and/or under stronger acceleration will let the engine work more, and we noted an average of 3,3 liters/100 km.

The engine charges the battery…

Of course, the hybrid consumption advantage almost totally stops when the battery is depleted, and only the recuperation of energy when decelerating gives you some extra battery power later. Even with merely 3,3 litres/100 km in the chosen hybrid mode, one has to take into account the cost of the electric energy necessary to recharge the battery.

You can drive on “pure” E-power…

Town driving under a (very) cautious right foot will still result in some 7,7 liters/100 km, on the open road when driving with anticipation and cruising at legal limits will let the consumption drop to 6,6 liters or thereabouts.

Or you can simply coast and use the kinetic energy to recharge the batteries…

Charging via the electricity grid

The Passat GTE comes with a 3.6 kW battery charger. Connecting to your home 230 volt outlet means your battery will be fully charged in six hours and 15 minutes. The charging time falls to four hours with a wall box or a charging station with 360 volts / 3.6 kW. In Belgium, this would cost then approximately 3,8 Euros.    

But VW’s hybrid is well thought out: delayed charging is another available option. The time delay can be set using either the Infotainment system or an app. You can activate the charging process directly via the app – in much the same way as a remote control. In addition to the charging process, the temperature inside the vehicle can be raised or lowered – depending on the temperature outside – via the time pre-set function.

Creature comfort

Of course the Passat, and certainly in this Variant version has style and comfort. The car’s appearance is enhanced, and indeed for the better. The front and rear bumpers, the radiator grille and the Passat logo, now located centrally at the rear, have all been redesigned.

In addition, new LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED fog lights, and LED tail light clusters make this Passat look the part.

In the cabin the fun continues. The dashboard and digital instrumentation is smart, the finish is impeccable, and the quality of used materials is also beyond reproach. Last but not least, in this Variant edition, there is room. Ample legroom for the rear passengers, and even with the batteries in the back, boot space is 483 l minimum, and can be enlarged to 1613 l.  

Driver assist systems galore

IQ.DRIVE is the new umbrella brand for Volkswagen assistance systems. From now on, the technologies involved in autonomous driving will be bundled under the IQ.DRIVE label. An example is the new Travel Assist. The Volkswagen Passat will be the first Volkswagen that is capable of partially automated driving across practically the whole speed range (0 to 210 km/h). Along with its assistance system, the Passat represents the most advanced version of IQ.DRIVE yet seen.

Emergency Steering Assist also sees its début in the Volkswagen Passat. The system improves safety during sudden evasive manoeuvres via braking intervention. In addition, the lane guidance with Lane Assist has been optimised with a new multifunction camera. The new IQ.LIGHT – LED matrix headlights also are a boon.

Impeccable handling

To enjoy full performance, just choose GTE mode and you have the full system power at your disposal…

Needless to say that the Passat state of the art chassis and suspension warrant excellent road manners. It will take a vigorous driving style well in its stride, has superb high speed stability and handling, with stable and progressive braking. An agile and safe companion on any road.

Conclusion

A superbly well made and engineered car, which indeed is a bestseller for all the good reasons. Performance, handling, workmanship, room, style, the Passat has it all, certainly so in the Variant version. This hybrid version gives you on top of all that a “green” ticket to all the European cities, and allows you to travel anywhere and anytime without range anxiety or (re)charging headaches. Of course, fuel economy is in function of the available E-power, miracles just don’t happen. You should also take into account that charging costs money, as we said above.

But the smoothness of its drivetrain, its state of the art superb technology, the passion for quality which is felt throughout this car in daily use, this is what impresses most, together with its “zen” E-power, as an icing on the cake…  

Hans Knol ten Bensel