We put the whole range of Jaguars and Land/Range Rovers through their paces…

Today we were invited by the people of Jaguar Land Rover Belux for a Jaguar Land Rover Media Drive at the magnificent establishment La Noiseraie , and it proved a wonderful experience. The whole range of Jaguars were driven on the scenic winding roads and motorways around Namur…with the exquisitely sporting SV R being the icing on the cake, although the hybrid and full electric Jaguars proved very impressive indeed.

The Land/Range Rovers were put to the ultimate off-road test at the Land Rover Experience Center at Suarlée.

We were also able of course to have a thorough go in our former test car we drove earlier, the New Defender, see also our test on these pages…

More on all this soon, we just show you here a few images, which say more than thousand words… just stay tuned on these columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Land Rover New Defender 90 P400: an icon reborn…

It is always tricky to restyle and re-engineer a classic icon. But the people of Land Rover have succeeded. And how: a thoroughly modern looking car that nevertheless retains all the iconic elements of the original Defender. Its tall, upright stance, its purposeful short overhangs, to name but a few. Technically, the New Defender truly belongs to a new era. Painstaking efforts have been made to retain and even improve the legendary terrain capabilities of the Defender, while vastly improving the on-road driving qualities. The level of handling, comfort and road manners have nothing to do any more with the original. This makes this New Defender again fit for another few decades, enough time to grow into another icon. We were already convinced after this test. Just read further.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Inspired by its past, but not harnessed by it…

These words were said by Gerry McGovern, Chief Design Officer, Land Rover, and it all sums it up just right. This is a new Defender for a New Age, he says, and we agree. The lines are clean, well proportioned. Besides the short wheelbased 90 and its hardtop version, there is also the 110, which offers five, six or 5+2 seating configurations, with a load space behind the second-row seats of up to 1,075-litres, and as much as 2,380-litres when the second row is folded. The Defender 90 is capable of accommodating six occupants in a vehicle the length of a compact family hatchback. It is aerodynamic too: it even has a flat underbody which both optimizes aerodynamic performance (as low as 0.38Cd).   

The stripped-back personality of the original Defender has also been embraced inside, where structural elements and fixings usually hidden from view have been exposed, with the emphasis on simplicity and practicality. New features include a dash-mounted gear shifter to accommodate an optional centre front ‘jump’ seat, which provides three-abreast seating across the front like early Land Rovers. The back of this ‘jump’ seat folds neatly forward, offering an immense centre console/armrest, and we just loved it.

Our test car came with the optional full-length Folding Fabric Roof – available on both 90 and 110 – for that open-top feel. There is even more: it also allows passengers in the second-row seats to stand up when parked to provide the full safari experience…

Strong and durable

Bystanders admiring the new Defender usually comment “we still like the old one for its robustness”. Well, they are wrong. Chassis engineering is now living in modern times. And the new Defender is the rolling proof of it.

Its new D7x (for extreme) architecture is based on a lightweight aluminium monocoque construction to create the stiffest body structure Land Rover has ever produced. It is three times stiffer than traditional body-on-frame designs, providing perfect foundations for the fully independent air or coil sprung suspension and supports the latest electrified powertrains.

Our test car had the air sprung suspension, and it is a superb experience, both on- and off road.

Outstanding both on- and off road…

This New Defender drives truly top notch on the road. Our test car proved with its air suspension superbly comfortable, and even spirited driving on winding roads delivered predictable handling with little body roll. Straight line motorway driving at high speeds is also what the New Defender is built for.

 In urban traffic and on terrain,  Land Rover’s advanced ClearSight Ground View technology helps drivers  by showing the area usually hidden by the bonnet, directly ahead of the front wheels, on the central touchscreen.

But also off road the Defender has what it takes to excel. Permanent all-wheel drive and a twin-speed automatic gearbox, centre differential and optional Active Locking Rear Differential ensure it has all the hardware required to feel at home in desert sand or (arctic) tundra.

“Configurable Terrain Response” debuts on New Defender, allowing experienced off-roaders to fine-tune individual vehicle settings to perfectly suit the conditions, while inexperienced drivers can let the system detect the most appropriate vehicle settings for the terrain, using the intelligent “Auto” function.

The new body architecture provides ground clearance of 291mm and world-class off-road geometry, giving the 110 approach, breakover and departure angles of 38, 28 and 40 degrees (Off-Road height) respectively. Its maximum wading depth of 900mm is supported by a new Wade programme in the Terrain Response 2 system, which ensures drivers can ford deep water with complete confidence.

Up-to-date power…

The New Defender offers a choice of advanced petrol and cleaner diesel engines,  while a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) powertrain provides silent EV-only progress of up to some 43 km.

The petrol line-up comprises a four-cylinder P300 and a powerful six-cylinder P400, featuring efficient Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle (MHEV) technology.

Our test car came with the P400, and indeed powerful it is.

This in-line six-cylinder Ingenium petrol, as said with MHEV technology, features both a conventional twin-scroll turbocharger and an advanced 48-volt electric supercharger, with a belt-integrated starter motor in place of the alternator to assist the petrol engine. Indeed, this starter motor ensures more responsive and refined operation of the Stop/Start system and provides extra assistance to the engine when accelerating.

The MHEV system also has a 48-volt lithium-ion battery to store energy captured as the vehicle slows down.

Driven with restraint, coupled with an ultra smooth 8 speed auto box, this six cylinder (how do we love the sound of straight sixes…) just hums along at anything between 1200 and 2000 rpm, letting you enjoy its impressive torque. It develops not less than 550 Nm over a wide rev range of 2000 to 5000 rpm. Push the throttle deeper and the Defender lifts its heels. Indeed, 400 PS or 295 kW between 5500 and 6500 rpm really make you move. The Defender storms from 0 to 100 km/h in 6 seconds, and its top speed is 191 km/h. This New Defender counts therefore among the fast cars on our roads, a truly outstanding feat.

Fuel consumption depends heavily on how you drive your Defender. Anything between 14,2 and 9 liters/100 km and even slightly less when you concentrate yourself on adopting a smooth and anticipative driving style, is what you can expect, even when driving in town. (!). The MHEV system helps here of course. The manufacturer quotes 9,6 l/100 km for the NEDC cycle, with CO2 emissions being 219 g.

We also note that your new Defender can tow up to 3500 kg (!).

State-of-the art infotainment…

The New Defender introduces Land Rover’s new “Pivi Pro” infotainment system. The touchscreen is intuitive and user-friendly, requiring few inputs to perform frequently used tasks, while its always-on design guarantees almost instant responses.

In addition, the New Defender takes Software-Over-The-Air (SOTA) technology to a new level, with 14 individual modules capable of receiving remote updates.

…and you can personalize your Defender

Like on our test car, a Satin Protective Film can be specified to make the exterior paintwork even more durable. The wrap helps protect against everything from car park scratches to bramble rash and is available as a factory-fit option in Gondwana Stone, Pangea Green and Eiger Grey, providing a unique contemporary finish as it protects the Defender’s paintwork.

In addition to the Accessory Packs, the New Defender is available with the widest choice of individual accessories ever assembled for a new Land Rover, with everything from a Remote Control Electric Winch, Rooftop Tent and Inflatable Waterproof Awnings to more conventional tow bar systems and roof racks.

Conclusion

This New Defender oozes with panache, with its clean body to its impressive, well styled interior, breathing uniquely the aura of our modern times, combining it with a reductionist styling language.

Technically, from chassis, suspension, drivetrain and engine(s), this new Defender is truly top notch. The result is formidable comfort and very good handling on the road, and masterful behavior and capabilities once you leave the beaten track.

The 400P provides excellent performance, and offers reasonable economy when you drive relaxed. A car for all seasons, for any road or place in the world. You will feel at home in it, everywhere you go.

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

We drove the Renault Captur E-Tech Plug-in Hybrid: the compact SUV which has it all…

Renault has now also introduced its clever E-Tech Hybrid system in its Captur range, showing clearly that besides full electric propulsion, the hybrid solution has certainly its firm place in the Renault drivetrain strategy.

Having driven also the Mégane GrandTour with the same E-Tech technology, we were again very pleased with the refined qualities of the system, which also makes very efficient use of both electric and classic combustion engined propulsion. Indeed, provided you adopt a relaxed driving style, this Captur will spoil you with a close to 50 km range on its batteries, and an average fuel consumption in hybrid mode with (almost) depleted batteries still well below 6 liters/100 km. Add to this the “Zen” feeling of electric driving – the Captur will always drive away on E-power – and you will understand that we loved testing this good looking SUV. Just read further.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Elegant

The Captur is well styled and proportioned, and pleases to the eye from any angle. A strong selling point, and now the Captur is further enhanced by the equally well designed led head- and rear lamps.

The cabin is also vastly improved, the level of finish and the quality of the materials used is now top notch. We just loved again the tall upright 10,25 inch touchscreen, the easy to manipulate round knobs for heating and ventilation, the Renault typical audio control, the quality of infotainment, the easy and self-explaining choice of the different driving modes. Apple Car Play and Android Auto connectivity are also to be had. The Captur is practical too, with large doorbins to stow away the things you take along on a car ride and an adequate luggage space with split floor to accomodate the charging cables. (Indeed, there is one for domestic plugs and one type 2 charging cable.) The Captur will also seat five without too many problems.

The E-Tech drivetrain convinces…

After the Mégane, the E-Tech system in the Captur convinced us again. It transforms the Captur in a comfortable, smooth, relaxed performer. As said, the fact that you will always drive away on the 67 HP electric motor adds greatly to the premium feeling this Captur gives you. The acceleration in those first meters is not only smooth, it is also quite powerful, and be sure that the Captur is a quite lively car at traffic lights.

At the beginning of our test, we managed to drive 44,5 km on battery power, with the rest of the distance, 60,6 km, driven in “My Sense” mode, using both engine and battery power. Average fuel consumption was 1,1 liter/100 km, E-consumption 14,4 kW/100 km.

The E-Tech system has three engines: one 1,6 litre Atkinson cycle 91 HP combustion engine, the 67 HP electric motor and then a smaller second electric motor which serves as starter motor for the combustion engine and generator. Acceleration is especially good at lower speeds, but the 0 to 100 km/h sprint is still quite creditable with a time of 10,1 seconds.

With batteries (almost empty, we drove a stretch of 95 km on the open road, using mostly the combustion engine, staying in the “my sense” mode. Fuel consumption was a very creditable 5,3 l/100 km.

Top speed is also a very satisfactory 174 km/h, which makes this Captur a quite potent motorway cruiser.

When asking full performance, the combustion engine will step in verve and will of course be pushed to high revs, but soon one learns to be sensitive with the right foot: a slight lift off of the throttle will induce the gearbox to choose a higher gear, and the engine revs will immediately drop. The E-Tech drivetrain, as well as the Captur, are built for comfort and a relaxed driving style, rewarding you, as we pointed out in our introduction, with very good efficiency, both in liters and KWh /100 km.

Choice between driving modes…

One can opt for the “Sports” mode which makes a performance oriented choice between the electric motors and engine, but most will choose the “My Sense” mode, as we did during most of our test, and the inboard computers will make the smooth and efficient choices for you. We also drove the Captur with the stylish gear lever put in “B” position, which increases the regenerative function when you lift the throttle, and soon enough you will be able to drive the Captur as a “one pedal” E-car in urban traffic. Then you can choose the “Pure” function, which lets the Captur run solely on E-power, and select the “E-Save” function or mode when you want to save battery power for later.

Needless to say that this Captur is very much fun to drive in town, but thanks to the 158 HP hybrid drivetrain it is also well at home on the open road, and this over long distances.

The Captur has a 9,8 kWh battery pack, which is housed under the rear seat, but the interior space is hardly impaired at all, and the rear seat bench can even be shifted back and forth to gain either legroom or luggage space.

The stylish gear selector sits on a “floating” console…

The extra weight of the batteries made a somewhat stiffer suspension necessary, but this did not make the Captur uncomfortable. Handling is also still quite pleasing, the car  can be driven spiritedly over winding roads, but this being said, it will not invite you to throw it around corners. As we said before, the true vocation of this Captur is relaxed and comfortable touring, and to enjoy the “Zen” panache of electrified motoring.

Conclusion

Renault stepped into the hybrid arena, and convincingly so. With the plug-in facility, you have literally the best of both worlds. In our country though, one needs a home charger. But then again, if no charging points are available, you have the pleasant possibility of running on fuel, and the Captur proves here to be quite frugal too. So this go anywhere anytime electrified pleasant looking compact SUV has many cards upon its sleeve…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the 135 HP Renault ZOE 50: a bestseller with more punch and range…

The facelifted ZOE now has a more inviting front end too… and got LED headlamps standard.

Did you know that almost one out of five E-cars sold in Europe is a ZOE? Not surprisingly, as since its introduction back in 2012, the cute ZOE had the small EV market almost completely for itself. Now the competition is growing, with the Opel e-Corsa and the Peugeot e-208 coming to our markets. But Renault has revamped its ZOE on just the right points to make its baby still score very well in its segment: a bigger battery, a stronger engine, and a revamped interior indeed make the ZOE as attractive as ever… just read further!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The bigger 52kWh battery gives the ZOE an interesting range… The Z.E. symbol lights up blue when the car is charged…

Let’s start with the most interesting point: the bigger battery. Instead of the former 41 kW unit, the ZOE now has a 52 kWh battery, putting 326 kg on the scale, but more importantly, pushing the effective driving range just beyond the 400 km mark. Given of course the appropriate driving style.

Energy efficient…

When you set the cruise at 95 km/h or thereabouts, just to be a bit faster that the heavy trucks and lorries, the ZOE will consume 7 to 10 kW/h with the ZOE at these speeds, and yes, you can enjoy quite useful ranges, close to 400 km indeed.

This meant also using the clever “B” function by slipping the nicely designed gear-lever in this position, which lets the car regenerate the kinetic energy more intensely, effectively slowing the car more markedly when one lifts the throttle. Soon, one has learns to drive with more anticipation,  and soon you drive this ZOE as a one-pedal car. A delight in dense urban traffic.

We also clicked on the “ECO” driving mode, but this severely reduces the car’s liveliness, and in our opinion should only be used when “getting home” is crucial.

Of course, this nice range is markedly shortened when you use any airco/heating function, fans and windscreen wipers and other accessories. The effective range soon drops closer to maximum 300 km or thereabouts.

Lively performance

Having said this, the 100 kW or 136 HP motor, having also a healthy 245 Nm of torque, transforms the 1502 kg ZOE in a very lively performer. Low speed acceleration is excellent, going from 0 to 100 km/h costs merely 9,5 seconds. Top speed is limited to 140 km/h.

Given the still disastrous charging infrastructure in our country, a wallbox at your house is therefore a must for every (Belgian) EV owner, if he wants to use the dynamic qualities of your EV to the full without any further worries.

Renault’s 7 kW wallbox will charge the ZOE from empty to 100 pct in some 9,5 hours. The ZOE also supports 50 kW charging provided you choose this extra option. Then it costs only 1 hour and 15 minutes to charge up to 80 pct.

The rear lamp clusters are also neatly redesigned…

The joys of EV driving…

Let it be said here already: this ZOE is an absolute delight to drive in town. The electric motor is powerful and absolutely silent (up to 30 km/h an audible signal is sent for pedestrians, but this can be shut off). The “B” function lets you drive efficiently and smoothly, you can enjoy your favored tracks through the excellent Bose sound system, which was installed in our top-of-the-line ZOE.

On the open road, the 135 HP motor certainly gives the ZOE more than enough zest, and you can enjoy the silence of the car, as the ZOE sports besides the inaudible electric motor also a very good sound insulation.

Soothing comfort…

On top of all this comes also a very comfortable suspension, which is further enhanced by the soft sprung seats. All this guarantees relaxed, stress-free driving for hours on end, and indeed, the compact, barely 4 meters long ZOE is an excellent Gran Turismo, the only thing to watch out for are range and charging points…

The light steering is sufficiently precise to enjoy also spirited driving on winding roads, and indeed the ZOE is a perfectly balanced companion on winding and undulating “Nationales”, as not surprisingly, this Renault seems born for them.

Our test car was also equipped with the usual driving aids, lane assist, blind spot warning, etc, which makes the ZOE quite “grown up” on the motorway and multi-lane ring roads or urban “périferiques.”

A much-improved interior and infotainment…

The ZOE has inherited much of the instrumentation and screens from the latest Clio, and this seriously uplifts the car. In front of the driver sits now a digital 10-inch display, which is standard even in the basic version. The upright/portrait 9.3-inch touchscreen stems from the Clio, is standard on the top equipment line but can be had as an option in the other equipment levels. The screen sits relatively high, which makes it easy to reach and more pleasant to use.

The climate controls are neatly placed below the screen, a wise choice to put them indeed separately. Via the large round knobs, they are a breeze to use.

The quality of materials is also improved, and we liked the fabric covering of the dashboard panels. Of course, we drove the top equipment version, things might look different going down the line(s)…

The quality of the materials used in the interior has vastly improved…

The ZOE is practical too, with USB slots, phone charging, plenty of storage space in the front doors, foldable backrests, etc. Boot space is quite sufficient for a compact EV, the large and wide sill might be a drawback, but then passive safety has also its needs and necessities…

Conclusion

The ZOE has with its recent improvements grown out into a quite formidable contender, witch provides comfortable, “ZEN” transportation both in town as well as on open roads and Autoroutes. Eminently comfortable and silent for its size, it is a very “grown up” car, and holds very well its own in terms of range, performance, finish and cabin ambiance.

We expect this ZOE to be one of the absolute stars in its segment, and this for quite some time to come…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Renault Mégane Grandtour Plug-In Hybrid: high-tech versatility with a touch of French genius…

The elegant Mégane is now already a few years amongst us, and has conquered a solid place in its market segment.

A mid-term facelift was in the cards, and this time the facelift of the popular Mégane family was mostly technical, and saw the introduction of a plug-in hybrid version. Directly derived from its Formula 1 technology, its cleverness impressed us. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Changes found mainly under the hood…

Externally, the changes to the Mégane are mainly cosmetic, with revised head- and rear lamps, which are now LED-powered and have a new light signature.

There is a wider choice of (RS) trim line versions, and in the cabin the main news is the revised digital display in front of the driver to illustrate and control the functioning of this plug-in hybrid. Also all the heating/ventilation/airco commands are grouped together below the display on the central console, and the temperature can be set manually via ergonomic circular knobs.

But the main news is found under the hood. Renault opted for a sedate version of their double overhead cam 1,6 litre four cylinder, laid out with Atkinson cycle combustion for optimal efficiency. No turbo this time either, resulting in some 91 HP at 5600 rpm. Torque is 144 Nm at 3200 rpm, and this means this engine has to rev a bit to show its best. But then this petrol engine is further helped by two electric motors.

The main E-motor is good for 49 HP, and has an excellent 205 Nm of torque. This motor is always used when you drive away from standstill with this hybrid, with the petrol engine setting in later when more acceleration is wanted. Then there is a third starter/generator motor which develops 25 HP and 50 Nm of torque. Its function is also to match the rpm of the engine with the main electric motor, and to recuperate kinetic energy. Taking into account the power losses in the drivetrain, total system power is 160 HP.

This results in more than adequate performance, with 0 to 100 km/h being achieved in 9,8 seconds with a top speed of 185 km/h.

The automatic transmission operates with dog clutches, with both the petrol engine (5) and the main electric motor having several (3) gears, resulting in 15 gears in total.

The second electric motor will match the revs between itself and the petrol engine choosing the right gear combination. The matching is flawless, resulting in smooth, imperceptible changes. The engine will be kept in lower and middle rev ranges most of the time, even in the chosen “sport” mode. Only when using full kickdown, the transmission software will let the engine rev much high(er), which is only logical when full performance is required. Overall, the silence of the engine(s) and drivetrain seduces under more sedate driving conditions, although even under these circumstances brisk performance can certainly be enjoyed. But indeed, this Mégane E-TECH inspires you rather to a comfort-oriented driving style.

Technology derived from Formula 1 experience…

The adoption of ultra-efficient dog clutches for the transmission stems from Formula 1 technology. Only changes had to be smoother for everyday road use, and therefore the extra E-motor is used to seamlessly match revs between the main E-motor and the combustion engine and make smooth changes. This clever technology has been the subject of more than 150 patents…

All-electric for the daily commute…

The 400 volt Lithium-ion battery has a capacity of 9,8 Kw, enough for a useable range of up to 50km in combined cycle (WLTP) and up to 65km in urban cycle (WLTP). We managed indeed to drive a good 45 km between Drogenbos near Brussels, where we collected the test car, to our home town Antwerp on electric power only, albeit adopting a slower cruising speed of around 100/110 km/h on the motorway.

The E-TECH Mégane told us exactly what had happened during our first 67 km drive: distance travelled on E-power: 50,6 km, average fuel consumption: 1,1 l/100 km, average E-current use: 12,6 kWh /100 km. Recuperated energy 1,3 kWh.

Choice between three driving modes…

In the so called “Pure” mode, one drives 100% electric up to a top speed of 135 km/h. You can select also the “MySense” or “Sport” mode to take advantage of the E-SAVE function, always ensuring a minimum 40% battery charge. In both the MySense and Sport mode you enjoy regenerative braking, and when one drives with the necessary anticipation, the system will use the electric battery power again as long as the battery is charged above the set minimum threshold. This means than more often than not, you will still drive electric in urban start stop situations, and consumption will benefit accordingly.

Consumption: anything between zero and around eight litres/100 km…

The amount of fuel you consume depends entirely on the amount of electricity you use to drive  your Mégane. You charge it at home and office and commute some 30 km daily? Then your weekly fuel consumption is of course nil. Are you driving in “Sport” mode on a holiday to the South of France in one fast trip and you don’t want to bother recharging? Then it is good to know that this Mégane has the following stated consumption figures: 6.7/4.6/5.4 l/100km urban/extra-urban/combined. Of course, this Mégane will always start your journey all electric, until the batteries are depleted to the threshold level. Renault knows also that this car will have a reasonable consumption, and opted for a tank volume of only 39 litres.

An urban asset: the “B” mode.

Besides the obvious “D” position of your gearbox selector, you can push it one notch further to the “B” position.

Driving is now easier in the town or in slow-moving traffic with this “B” Mode. The electric motor will now regenerate the kinetic energy more intensely, resulting in increased engine braking. This allows for a one-pedal driving experience, meaning less brake pedal use, a more relaxing drive and better still, it helps preserve or even increase your battery range!

On the map display in your EASY LINK 9,3” touchscreen you can display the charging stations, and you can manage your battery level from your customisable 10.2” driver’s screen.

You can also install the MY Renault app to monitor your battery level, programme charging, or to pre-heat the passenger compartment of your MEGANE Sport Tourer E-TECH Plug-in Hybrid to the optimum temperature from your smartphone.

All in all, we found this E-Tech Plug-in Hybrid very pleasant and relaxing to drive, as we have a natural preference for a cool, fluent driving style, which is exactly what this Mégane seems to be built for.

French comfort

French cars, and also Renaults, are first of all built “pour vivre”, to please and serve you in everyday life. So they are comfortable and practical. Suspension, seats, commands, keyless entry, everything is engineered and perfected to make your daily life a pleasure. This is also what makes this car so endearing to us.

The Mégane also scores in its excellent ride, handling and comfort. The extra weight of about 200 kg, with the batteries sitting under the rear seat, made the engineers adopt a mulitlink rear suspension, so the handling stays top notch. The boot space remains unchanged also at 447 litres, with a neat underfloor space for the charging cables, so they don’t interfere with other luggage.

In the cabin, your led illumination stripes along door panels and centre console light up in electric blue, as do dashboard light accents, so you are well aware that you are driving in the electric age…

Conclusion

This good looking Mégane is superbly versatile, built for the future. Whatever our politicians have in store for us with emission free zones in our European (mega)cities, this Mégane is built for it and can cope. When the extra-urban charging infrastructure in Europe remains insufficient for some time to come, your mobility is nevertheless not impaired, ever.

It is built for the relaxed driving style which suits our congested roads and dense traffic anyway, offering good sound insulation, seating comfort and predictable handling on top of that. It is pleasant to live with, with well-designed amenities.

Renault made a clever throw at making the ideal all-round car for our present times, fit for whatever the future has in store for us. So it deserves a long hard look if you look for a replacement of your company or private car in the coming months…

We will soon test also the Captur in the same plug-in hybrid layout, and will also get acquainted with the all-electric ZOE… stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

We drove the Mercedes 400 G d: an icon which remains THE off-road technological benchmark…

The “G-Class” is with us since 1979, when in 1972 with a collaboration agreement between then Daimler-Benz AG and Steyr-Daimler-Puch in the Austrian city of Graz resulted in the development of an off-road vehicle which has since been honed and further developed in one of the world’s best off-road cars – ever. We drove the latest 400 G with the six cylinder in line 330 HP Diesel engine. As superb as it will ever be. Just read further!

An iconic shape…

All-wheel drive and 100-percent differential locks have also been part of the “G” since that time, as has the robust ladder-type frame. Also its external appearance has not changed significantly since 1979.

Iconic elements continue to serve very specific purposes, now as then, and to give the G-Class its unique appearance. All these are still found in the new G-Class: the distinctive door handle and the characteristic closing sound, the robust exterior protective strip, the exposed spare wheel on the rear door and the prominent indicator lights. We just loved them, as it was easy to judge were the edges of the car were.

The design of the G-Class follows the philosophy of “Sensual Purity”, as Mercedes puts it, and at the same time remains true to the character of the original. As a result, the door hinges positioned on the outside and the surface-mounted bonnet are carried over to the new generation. With the latest update, however, the faithful G body has grown quite a bit: it is now 53 mm longer and especially 121 mm wider and this results in even greater presence, on the road as well as in terrain.

All surfaces have a more taut design and are have more tension, while the surface quality has been taken to an even higher level. So the “G” is now cast even more of “one piece”, and the meticulous design results in wheel arches and bumpers now forming a more integral part of the body and thus looking less like add-on features.

Top notch exterior trims…

From 1 September 2020 onwards, the standard equipment is even more extensive. At the same time, there are also more personalization options available through the “G manufaktur” programme. New exterior colours and equipment packages as well as the widescreen cockpit, which now comes as standard, round out the offering. We will discuss the interior later.

The G 400 d is now also freely configurable…

Popular is the so-called “night package”, which was found on our test car. It comprises heat-insulating dark-tinted glass, outside mirror housings and radiator grille (including louvres with the surround of the Mercedes star) in obsidian black metallic, as well as darkened turn signal lamps, reversing lamps and headlamps.

If the G-Class is ordered with a matt magno paint finish, which was the case with our test car, the package can be configured as the Night Package magno. In this case, the corresponding add-on parts come in the colour night black magno. The Stainless Steel Package continues to be available with spare wheel cover, running boards, door sills and loading sill protection in stainless steel and adds a painted spare wheel ring and an exterior protective strip with trim insert in a pinstripe look to the Night Packages.

The new 20-inch 5-twin-spoke light-alloy wheel available exclusively for the AMG Line has a high-sheen finish and is painted in a choice of high-gloss black or himalaya grey. We liked them too…

The cabin: high-tech with a pleasant vintage touch…

Let’s start with the vintage part: the pleasant upright seating position, the magnificent visibility over this angular body. I own a vintage Suzuki Samurai Jeep, and although everything in the “G” is just much bigger, I find the same plain and flat window screen and the same straight windscreen wipers, for instance. Yes, above the glove box of my Samurai is also the big grab handle for the passenger, as found here in this G 400.

But that’s where every comparison ends. Because the digital MBUX (Mercedes Benz User Experience) has also now made its entry in the G-Class. The widescreen cockpit is now part of the standard equipment in all G-Class models. So, everything is totally familiar when you are already acquainted with this MBUX system.

The two 12.3-inch displays blend visually into a Widescreen Cockpit beneath a shared glass cover. Drivers can choose between three different styles for the displays – “Classic”, “Sport” and “Progressive” – and also select relevant information and views according to their individual needs.

The design of the iconic indicators is found again in the shape of the loudspeakers. Hallmarks of the G-Class include – as said – the grab handle in front of the front passenger and the chrome-highlighted switches for the three differential locks.

Thanks to haptic impulses and audible feedback from the on-board speakers, we could use the touchpad with controller in the centre console without taking their eyes off the road. Top notch.

The seats are of course a class of their own when it comes to creature comfort. Features include the Memory function for the driver’s seat, seat heating front and rear, as well as luxury head restraints in the front. This ride comfort can optionally be boosted still further with the Active Multicontour Seat Package. In addition to the special multicontour seats, this encompasses such features as various massage functions, climate-controlled seats, and fast seat heating. Need we say more?

Driving the G-Class on- and offroad: a driver’s dream.

The G-Class is on tarmac a supersmooth performer, with superb comfort. Thanks to the new suspension, introduced in 2018, which emerged from the collaboration between Mercedes-Benz G GmbH and Mercedes-AMG GmbH.

The result is an independent suspension with double-wishbone front axle in combination with a rigid rear axle. When redesigning the suspension, the focus was also on even beter off-road capacities and greater rigidity. The components of the double-wishbone front axle are therefore directly mounted to the ladder-type frame without a subframe. The lower wishbone’s attachment points on the frame in Z-direction are positioned as high up as possible. So front axle ground clearance is an impressive 270 mm. The result is a sublime ride. Also thanks to the well controlled live rear axle.  In contrast to the predecessor, the new rigid axle is controlled by four trailing arms on each side and a Panhard rod. Indeed, maximum comfort on the open road.

À la carte: “Comfort”, “Sport”, “Individual” or “Eco” …and last but not least: “Desert!”

As is familiar with other cars of the brand, also the G-Class can be suited to your driving mood. The four programs “Comfort”, “Sport”, “Eco” and “Individual” , and yes, “Desert” can be set via the DYNAMIC SELECT rocker switch. Characteristics of the engine, transmission, suspension, steering and assistance systems are adapted at the driver’s behest.

The “Desert” mode makes the G-Class fit for sandy terrain with a perfect interplay of late upshifting, direct throttle response and adjusted ESP® control.

But there is more: the “G-Mode”  The G-Class changes to “G-Mode” independently of the chosen driving mode as soon as one of the three differential locks has been activated or the LOW RANGE off-road reduction gear has been engaged. When your G is equipped with adjustable damping, that is. This off-road mode adapts the adjustable damping of the chassis and the steering as well as the accelerator characteristic, avoids unnecessary gear shifts and thus ensures optimum control and maximum off-road capability.

Besides offering a superbly comfortable ride, thanks to the new front axle design, the on-road performance of the G-Class and its agility and steering precision is faultless, and it is truly in a class of its own. On the road, the “G” is as agile as it is comfortable, and genuine driving pleasure is to be had. The steering is now electronic, and provides excellent feedback and steering “feel.” Its excellent behavior on the open road is one of our biggest surprises we had when driving this “G”.

Superb mechanical refinement

This off-roader has a separate chassis, and this is already a prerequisite for nicely filtered vibrations emanating from its drivetrain. The “G” Class excels here again. The Diesel straight six is superbly smooth, inaudible even when starting from cold, only the subdued hum of a six cylinder will caress your ears. It is coupled to a 9 speed G-TRONIC automatic transmission with torque converter, which is adapted to meet the needs of this off-road icon. The developers have managed to reduce the shift and response times of the 9-speed transmission by means of a dedicated software application.

The result translates into absolutely smooth and fast changes, as said, according to the chosen driving modes.

The six cylinder diesel has output of 243 kW (330 hp) and maximum torque of 700 Nm at 1200 to 3200 rpm. Pulling power at low revs is what counts, and as you see, this “d” has plenty of it. It accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 6,4 seconds and pushes you further to a top speed of 210 km/h. More than enough to satisfy most of us mortals, we would think.

This diesel, derived from the 350 G, succeeds also in bringing genuine economy to this opulent off-roader. The manufacturer quotes a combined fuel consumption of 8.9-8.7 l/100 km, with combined CO₂ emissions being 235-229 g/km.

Driving with restraint and anticipation in “Eco” mode, it was no trouble at all to reach 9 liters/100 km even in dense urban traffic conditions, which is no small feat! Of course, it took a gentle foot on the accelerator, as you can imagine.

Conclusion

The Burmeister sound system adds a dramatic backdrop to your scenic drives…

The 400 G admirably withstands the test of time. It has grown into a unique classic icon, embodying simultaneously all the possible technical refinements modern automotive technology has to offer. There is even more: it excels not only on the open road, it stands out also when… there is no road at all, and will even take you to the desert!

This is a car every traveler in history would have wished for, a car Marco Polo would have dreamt of.

It is a Mercedes in the truest form, actually. It will accompany you for decades – if need be – into your automotive life, offering room, comfort, go anywhere performance with even rather good economy in the diesel version. Superbly engineered, it will never let you down, offer you decades of dependable service.

This excellence comes at a price, but remember, a lot on this car is hand finished. If you look at its long service life, the value it will retain over the years, you will discover it is actually rather sensible. Of course, electrification lures around the corner. A plug-in hybrid version would not surprise me for the not too distant future…

Would you like to know my secret wish now? Have a drive in one of the early examples of this “G”, have a feel of its so honest ruggedness and spirit. Must be awesome too…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Mercedes EQA: a compact SUV with e-powered excellence…

Mercedes steps boldly into the all-electric vehicle world, and now enters the mainstream compact SUV segment with its EQA. Here the competition is fiercer, but then the oldest car manufacturer in the world has some solid arguments up its sleeve: the state-of-the art MBUX (Mercedes Benz User Experience) infotainment system we find throughout the range is also present in this EQA, and the lavish interior, quality of used materials and workmanship is one of the very best in the electric car field, certainly in its segment.

Add to this the very pleasant styling with a touch of futurism so typical for the EQ range, and the excellent insulation and silence of the electric motor which results in very refined progress, and you have in a nutshell all the reasons why this EQA merits our (and your) attention here…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A solid base…

The EQA runs on the platform of the GLA, an obvious choice as its SUV body can provide easy accommodation for the batteries, which are floor mounted and sitting within a specially developed frame made out of extruded sections. The cabin space is therefore largely similar as the GLA, with the rear passengers having a somewhat raised floor, which doesn’t impair legroom and seating comfort though. The boot space has been reduced somewhat to 340 L instead of 435 L with the GLA, but then the three rear seat backs can be folded individually, which makes the EQA quite versatile.

Meticulous attention has been given to insulating the drivetrain from the body, resulting in absolutely noise and vibration free progress, one of the most silent and refined we have come across in the all-electric car field, which makes this EQA truly stand out in its class. More in detail about this later.

Adequate performance and range…

The EQA starts its life as the EQA 250 with 140 kW available at the front wheels. The manufacturer quotes a combined electrical consumption of 15.7 kWh/100 km and a range according to NEDC of 486 kilometers. In real life this boils down to a practical range of some 340 kilometers, as we experienced during our test. Performance is more than adequate we would say, with a 0 to 100 km/h sprint absolved in 8,9 seconds. Let’s not forget that the EQA (mostly due to its batteries, having an energy content of 66.5 kWh) puts a hefty 2040 kg on the scale. Top speed is sensibly limited to 160 km/h.

The conclusion is obvious: the EQA in its present form is meant to be a comfortable and refined cruiser, rather than a high-performance car.

We said in its present form, as like any self-respecting German manufacturer, Mercedes plans more powerful versions of the EQA in the future, including a 200 kW four-wheel drive version, with a second electric motor driving the rear wheels.

Mercedes also works on further improving efficiency and range, with the answer not being in using ever-larger batteries, but rather in systematic improvement in the efficiency of all vehicle components.

Clever e-planning of your trip…

Of course, Mercedes has all the electronic intelligence and wizardry on board to make range anxiety on longer trips a thing of the past. The navigation with “Electric Intelligence” as they call it, calculates the route that will get you to your destination fastest, taking into account charging times. On the basis of continuous range simulations, the system makes allowance for any necessary charging stops as well as a host of other factors, such as the topography and the weather. It is also able to react dynamically to changes, for instance in the traffic situation or personal driving style.

The charging point density in suburban Antwerp (i.e. Wilrijk) leaves much to be desired, with the nearest charging point for your servant being some 7-800 meters away, and being mostly occupied.

Mercedes has launched “me Charge”. This allows customers convenient use of the charging stations of various providers, even when travelling abroad. By registering just once, you can benefit from an integrated payment function with a simple billing process.

If Navigation with Electric Intelligence is activated, the battery may also be pre-heated or cooled while driving in order to ensure that it is within the ideal temperature window for a rapid charging station. One has thought of everything(!).

Efficient driving modes

Behind the steering wheel, one finds back the usual paddles, which here have a different function however: The driver can select the recuperation function manually using these paddles. The paddle on the left increases the level of recuperation, the paddle on the right reduces it.

Of course you can monitor the setting in the instrument cluster. The following recuperation stages are available: DAuto (recuperation via ECO Assist to suit the particular situation) D+ (coasting), D (low recuperation), D- (medium recuperation) and D- -(high recuperation). New with the EQA is that, if the function DAuto is selected, this mode remains the default setting when the car is restarted.

Clever: ECO assist

ECO Assist coaches the driver with messages when the accelerator can be released, for instance because a speed limit is approaching, and with functions such as gliding and specific control of recuperation. For this purpose, navigation data, traffic sign recognition and information from the intelligent safety assistants (radar and stereo camera) are linked and processed.

ECO Assist continuously generates coasting simulations in the background: depending on the state of charge of the battery and the traffic situation, it computes whether the vehicle should ideally be allowed to coast (or “glide”) with the lowest possible driving resistance with the driver’s foot off the pedals, or whether it should be decelerated so that the battery can be efficiently charged (recuperation).

All in all, these system will add to the efficiency, but it is good to know that when driving short urban errands, more energy is used by heating/ventilating the car than by the electric motor actually moving it…

A proper heat pump…

Therefore the EQA has a heat pump as standard. This reuses the waste heat from the electric drive system. Clever! 

Predictable handling…and attention to utmost safety.

Our test car was equipped with the AMG line package, and also included beautiful multi-spake 20 inch alloys. It also came with the driving assistance package, of which more here later. But it is good to know that the AQA has standard on board the Active Lane Keeping Assist and Active Brake Assist. In many situations the purpose of the latter is to prevent a collision by autonomous braking, or to mitigate its consequences. The system is also able to brake for stationary vehicles and crossing pedestrians at typical city speeds and even to prevent collisions, depending on the situation.

The EQA gives good feedback of the road surface, but will not invite you with razor-sharp steering to throw it around corners. Driven with verve on winding roads it will keep its course admirably, albeit with some body roll. But the EQA is above all comfortable, with however the typical rather firm suspension setup which we encounter also in the other passenger cars and SUV’s from the brand.

Let it be known too that an Adaptive Damping System is available as an option. This enables the driver to choose the preferred damping characteristics. A valve in each of the four shock absorbers is electronically actuated to control the oil flow. The damping characteristics are changed by regulation of the oil flow. The Comfort programme comes into its own especially when travelling at low speeds, for example on a cobblestone road.

Mercedes is also well known for its electronic driving aid systems, which it has been pioneering for decades now.

The Driving Assistance package we mentioned above in our test car has the lot, from Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC, Active Steer Assist, down to PRE-SAFE® PLUS, which can detect a potential rear impact. It will firmly apply the brakes of the stationary vehicle, minimizing the risk of whiplash injuries by reducing the forward jolt caused by an impact from the rear… need we say more?

It is this painstaking attention to utmost safety which makes a Mercedes really stand out, ranging from the solid and crash tested body construction and platform, to the electronic driving aids which protect you in many ways.

Silence and refinement…

In order to reduce road and tyre noise, the engineers introduced a compact, shear-resistant integral mount which has significantly increased the introductory rigidity at the guide bearing of the front axle. The subframe of the multi-link rear axle is furthermore elastically isolated by rubber bushings.

The front subframe connection is integrated into the C-ring structure and therefore has the necessary rigidity for isolation. A cross-member is integrated into the multifunction recess to increase the introductory rigidity of the rear subframe connection.

There is more: The single-speed transmission that forms an integral part of the electric powertrain at the front axle (eATS) operates particularly smoothly thanks to the improved microgeometry of the gearing. Indeed, we did not hear a thing…

Futuristic electrified styling

The EQA drives you into the future, and it shows it clearly. Already the rounded front grille with a car wide led illumination between the headlights give it an unmistakable character and light signature. The same is repeated at the rear, where also a light bar is running over the whole width of the EQA. In the cabin, you can choose an atmosphere lighting out of not less than 64 colours, so sitting in a Mercedes is more than ever a moving experience. The EQA is the first model from Mercedes-EQ range whose aerodynamic development has been undertaken entirely digitally. The ensuing measurements undertaken in the wind tunnel revealed a Cd value of 0.28, thereby confirming the high quality of the numerical simulation.

Conclusion

This EQA is a true Mercedes, inside and out, through and through. Excellent workmanship, with an admirable finish seen and felt in the cabin, and also a build quality of its sleek SUV body being beyond reproach. Add to this, as we said, the uncanny silence and absolute mechanical refinement of the drivetrain, putting this EQA together with its bigger brothers at the top of what an E-powered car can offer nowadays. All very solid arguments to take a closer look at this car.

Last but not least this EQA is rather affordable, which has us truly convinced that the EQA has all what it takes to carve a sizeable niche in its segment. And for those who want a but more panache, it is good to know that powerful 4WD versions are soon to come…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Maserati Ghibli Hybrid: an electrifying thoroughbred…

When a “pur-sang” four door Gran Turismo car gets electrified to carry it into our “green” age, one has to do this cleverly. For Maserati engineers, the challenge was to retain the character, performance and panache of the brand. This meant retaining a sporting typical sound and presence of a combustion engine, “la macchina” so to say, in every driving situation. Typical for every Maserati built so far.  This also meant at least maintaining the present performance and handling levels, all this combined with of course a marked difference in consumption and CO2 emissions.

As the Ghibli marks the brand’s first entry into electrification, it was very important to get it right.

Well, after this test we can say, the about 100 engineers and developers involved in the Ghibli Hybrid project, did a marvelous job. Just read further.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Choosing the right engine…

From the beginning it was clear the efficiency of a smaller volume four cylinder engine was called for. Within FCA, a true gem was waiting in the Alfa Romeo stable: a two litre four cylinder petrol engine, with a state-of-the art cylinder head and excellent thermal efficiency. But for the Ghibli, more power was needed, as the present performance level had to be retained. This meant a maximum power of 330 HP.

The internal mechanical components of the two litre 4 cylinder Alfa engine derived from FCA have been completely reworked by the Maserati Innovation Lab in Modena, to achieve greater torque and enable the turbocharger and e-booster to deliver the required extra power. The engine’s electronic control system is also totally different, with a switch to a Bosch new-generation ECU. Practically, all that remains of the original engine are the dimensions and part of the cylinder head: this four cylinder has been transformed into a true Maserati engine. The engine is built by the way at the big powertrain & engine production plant at Termoli. This plant builds various engines and drivetrains for the brands of the (now merged) FCA group.

…and coupling it to the ideal hybrid drivetrain.

Keeping the weight down to achieve equal or even better performance, whilst retaining an ideal weight distribution to preserve the excellent handling, excluded a solution using a large battery and a separate electric motor.  

Preserving the kinetic energy of this dynamic Maserati was the key focus. We point out here that the Ghibli Hybrid is built around a modified version of the chassis and bodywork of the Ghibli V6.

So Maserati opted for a 48 volt hybrid system, which has four parts: the BSG (Belt Starter Generator), the battery, eBooster and a DC/DC converter. The BSG does the job of an alternator, recovers energy during braking/deceleration and charges the battery in the boot, which in turn powers the engine’s eBooster. The reason for installing an eBooster on the car is to back up the conventional turbocharger, working in tandem with it, to sustain the engine’s power output at low rpm. The hybrid system’s operating strategy ensures that the eBooster is always available, with current delivered via battery or BSG, whenever it is needed.

The result is an immensely tractable power unit, with torque delivery equal to the previous V6 Diesel, and guaranteeing brilliant acceleration performance. What to say of an acceleration from 0 to 100 km in merely 5,7 seconds, with the Ghibli Hybrid hurting smoothly further to a top speed of 255 km/h?

Smooth 8 speed transmission…

And of course, all this performance is delivered smoothly and effortlessly. Not least thanks to the excellent ZF transmission. Like the other Ghibli versions, the Hybrid is equipped with the same eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, which is used on the Quattroporte and Levante models. This unit is a true gem. It caters for all demands, from comfort to fast gear shifting, and from minimized fuel consumption to low noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). The car also recognizes a variety of conditions, such as uphill or downhill driving, hard braking or driving through a corner, and selects the optimal gear and the most suitable gearshift style accordingly.

In Manual Normal mode the system automatically shifts up as the red line approaches, while in Manual Sport, gearshifts are quicker and sharper and the engine can be pushed to the red line without the system intervening.

The true Maserati sound retained…

Here the Maserati engineers performed some miraculous work. Even on small throttle openings at urban crawling speeds, the unit has the hum of a multicylinder thoroughbred. Indeed, this Ghibli Hybrid still has the distinctive growl of every Trident model, and all this is achieved without resorting to amplifiers, by just tweaking the fluid dynamics of the exhausts and adopting resonators, tuned to deliver the typical roar.

Driving is believing…

Indeed, driving this Ghibli Hybrid is an exquisite experience. Ultrasmooth at slow speeds, reacting with thoroughbred staccato when you put your foot down. This Hybrid has retained the agility and responsiveness of a true Maserati. As it recuperates kinetic energy, an anticipative (urban) driving style will greatly reward you with good economy. It was no trouble to stay well below the 10 litre/100 km mark in dense city traffic, cruising at constant legal speeds on the open road will get consumption down to around 8 litres/100 km. The high gearing and the thermal efficiency of the engine see to that, along with the good aerodynamic qualities of the body of course. Typically at 120 km/h, the engine turns over at 1500 rpm. By the way, the manufacturer quotes for the WLTP combined cycle (l/100 km) 8.1 – 9.4, for the WLTP combined cycle (g/km) 183 – 213.

But using the exhilarating performance is an undisturbed pleasure. Our test car was executed in the GranSport trim. (The Ghibli Hybrid is available in both GranLusso and GranSport trims) and this meant that our car came standard with the Skyhook suspension system, where all four dampers can be electronically controlled independently of each other.

The default mode of the Skyhook suspension system prioritizes comfort, and is more sporty if the driver presses the suspension button. This extra damping stiffness, which was developed in both extreme test scenarios and on the racetrack, pushes the Ghibli’s handling characteristics to even higher levels. Essentially, the Skyhook system drastically reduces both longitudinal and lateral load transfers and minimizes body roll to bring out the sportiest side of the car’s character. The computer system in control of the Skyhook dampers monitors a vast array of parameters, including speed, lateral and longitudinal acceleration, individual wheel movements, body movement and damper dynamics. Adjusting to suit the suspension mode selected by the driver, the system delivers the perfect damping mode for each wheel almost instantly. We can tell you, it has to be experienced to be believed…

The well-balanced handling of this Ghibli is of course mainly due to its weight distribution and the general layout of its suspension. The battery in the back actually improves the weight distribution, whilst the double-wishbone suspension layouts are a race-bred tradition at Maserati. The Ghibli continues with this heritage but also incorporates some new technologies, featuring high-mounted all-aluminium double wishbones at the front to guarantee light and precise handling characteristics. The system’s geometry has delivered a quadrilateral architecture, which has enabled Maserati’s handling team to deliver a precise, communicative and comfortable steering feel.

The rear suspension employs a five-bar multi-link system with four aluminium suspension arms, and ensures exceptional ride comfort on the one hand and sports performance on the other. The Ghibli’s suspension package is based around a fixed-rate damping system to control the movement of its steel springs and anti-roll bars.

Superb stopping power…

Dual Cast technology, pioneered by Maserati, combines the strength of cast iron with the lightness of aluminium to reduce unsprung mass and, therefore, increase handling prowess. These brakes have a large swept area, highly efficient cooling and are designed for consistent performance in sports driving situations.

The Ghibli Hybrid is fitted with Dual Cast 360×32 mm ventilated and cross-drilled brake discs with six-piston fixed alloy Brembo calipers on the front axle, while the rear axle is fitted with four-piston fixed alloy 345×28 mm Brembo calipers.

Electrifying elegance and comfort, both inside and out…

The hybrid version of Ghibli features a number of details in dark blue, the colour universally adopted as the symbol of clean mobility. The three traditional air ducts on the front mudguard have a blue trim, and the Brembo brake calipers and the thunderbolt in the pillar logo are in the same colour.

Ghibli Hybrid makes its debut with a new front grille, characterized by a distinctive feature: the Maserati tuning fork. In fact, the updated front grille is based on this shape, and is finished in chrome in the GranLusso trim and in an even more aggressive, sportier Black Piano in the GranSport trim. Like the other cars in the Trident Brand’s range, Ghibli also transforms its rear look, with the development of a new light cluster with a style known as boomerang design, inspired by many Maserati models from history and typical of the Brand’s genetic identity

In the interior, the Maserati panache prevails more than ever. The sculpted sport seats are upholstered with a premium full-grain “Pieno Fiore” natural leather, with contrasting dark blue stitching and an embroidered Trident on the headrests. The same styling is repeated on the door panels and instrument cluster.

The driver’s seat offers 6-way electric adjustment, while the GranLusso and GranSport trims both have standard 12-way power front seats. Needless to say, an ideal seating position is soon found…

The sport steering wheel fitted with aluminium gearshift paddles, and the Inox sport pedals are also typical for the GranSport trim.

Infotainment and connectivity up to scratch…

The Ghibli Hybrid is complete with all the technology upgrades featured on MY21 models, and thus also the new generation MIA (Maserati Intelligent Assistant) multimedia system. The heart of the MIA is the powerful Android Automotive operating system, with full personalization to the driver’s use preferences. The HD screen of the MIA system is enlarged from 8”4 with a ratio of 4:3 to 10”1 with a ratio of 16:10 and is now frameless for a more contemporary look, with the surrounding bezel almost removed.

With effect from MY21 all Maserati cars are connected thanks to the new Maserati Connect program. Having the Maserati connected at all times enables an eye to be kept on the car’s health, and Maserati Connect will alert the driver when a service is due. With a Smartphone or Smartwatch, drivers can always stay in contact with their Maserati thanks to the Maserati Connect app; this is also possible from home via their virtual personal assistant (Amazon Alexa & Google Assist).

Last but not least we enjoyed the stunning Bowers & Wilkins Premium Surround Sound System, with 15 speakers, a 1,280 W amplifier and QuantumLogic™ Surround.

Driving aids galore…

The Integrated Vehicle Control (IVC) function is incorporated in the Maserati Stability Program control for enhanced active safety and driving dynamics, while the optional active Advanced Driver Assistance Systems provide Level 2 autonomous driving technology.

IVC uses a smart, feed-forward controller that predicts driving situations in advance and adapts the engine speed and brakes accordingly. IVC intervenes more smoothly and with less noise than a traditional ESP, ensures better car balance and traction at the limits of the car’s dynamics and employs intelligent torque vectoring to optimize lateral dynamics in a natural way even when MSP is off. In dynamic test maneuvers, like slalom and lane change, IVC has demonstrated higher drive-through speed and improved racetrack lap times. Wow!

Conclusion

The step towards electrification of its range has been done very harmoniously with this Ghibli Hybrid. Whilst completely retaining the original undistilled thoroughbred character of the Trident brand, it succeeded in putting very reasonable economy in place, in combination of course with a corresponding anticipative (urban) driving style, in line with modern times.

All this packed in a timelessly styled, elegant body which exudes elegance and style for the coming decades, this Ghibli Hybrid is a perfect companion, and is also an ambassador for how you understand motoring and individual mobility, for years to come…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Two Alfa Romeo F1 champions also fine- tune the Giulia GTA project…

The 2021 F1 World Championship kicks off on Sunday, March 28th, at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Behind the wheel of the C41, unveiled in Warsaw in February, will be the proven Italian-Finnish pairing of Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Räikkönen.

But there is more: The two champions are involved in fine tuning the Giulia GTA project. The racing suits of both champions feature the acronyms GTA and GTAm, evoking this project that draws all its inspiration from the 1965 Giulia Gran Turismo Alleggerita, a car that racked up so many successes on circuits all over the world.

Antonio Giovanazzi showing the GTAm logo on his suit…

The Giulia GTA project has benefited greatly from the partnership with the Swiss Sauber team, using their Engineering know-how in the prototyping and development of carbon fiber components with a bold aerodynamic impact: the new front bumper, side skirts, extractor, the GTA spoiler and the GTAm aerowing. You see here two photos taken by dynamic press officer Wim Willems of the test sessions, showing clearly the aerodynamic body parts on the cars.

The aerodynamic parts were still camouflaged during the test sessions…
Test session in full swing…

Indeed, the two drivers have also actively contributed to the project development, having completed a testing session at the Balocco Proving Ground.

Kimi and Antonio focused on the specific solutions taken up in terms of aerodynamics and handling, analyzing in depth all the changes made to the car and giving an account of their feeling on the track to the engineering team, resulting in a joint assessment of the effects on vehicle dynamics to complete its fine-tuning.

You see the champions and the here on the photo’s, at the test drives on the legendary Balocco circuit…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Subaru XV e-boxer: with e-power into the go-anywhere future…

The XV embodies perfectly what a Subaru stands for: it is compact, styled with zest and panache, versatile, rugged and of course crammed from bumper to bumper with state of the art, innovative and exclusive technology. This legendary Subaru boxer technology, combined with unique 4WD capability comes now to you with additional e-power, to make this Subaru fit for the E future which is coming upon us.

Subaru prefers rugged no-nonsense go anywhere capability, and therefore opts for hybrid technology: the 2 litre direct injected boxer engine is coupled via a Lineartronic CVT Transmission to a 12.3 kW e-motor which sits right behind the engine and is fed by a 13.5 kWh battery pack which sits behind the rear wheels. E power is available at slow speeds up to 40 km/h. Subaru describes this as the EV driving mode. Depending on the enthusiasm of your right foot and the state of charge of the battery pack, you could drive on E power over distance of up to 1,6 kilometers at speeds, as we said earlier, of up to 40 km/h. In practice, the battery and motor just assist the combustion engine when driving away from traffic lights and in slow stop and go traffic.

When you really keep your right foot very calm, a lot can be gained here. As you servant is well trained with his Lexus 200 CTH, it was no trouble at all to eke out a consumption of 6 litres/100 km in tightest urban traffic. It just takes a good amount of concentration and anticipation.

The Subaru changes very smoothly from E- to petrol power and vice versa at varying speeds above 40 km/h in the “engine assist function.” Nice too is that the CVT transmission has 6 “steps” or ratios if you want to, so you can avoid that the willing boxer revs too high for your liking when you really put your foot down and accelerate hard on a motorway entrance for instance.

At higher speeds, the petrol engine takes over fully and charges also the battery. The beauty of hybrids is that you can use them anywhere, anytime, for any distance, just like any other petrol engined car. With a significant reduction in petrol consumption if you understand them and know how to drive them…

We averaged between 6 and seven litres/100 km on our regular routes. The manufacturer quotes 6,5 litre/100 km as average consumption, and 149 g/km in CO2 emissions.

Off road capability…

But then, this car is a Subaru. This means king of the road, off-road. The XV offers go anywhere capability with its Symmetrical AWD, and its further developed X Mode. This mode effectively remaps the 4WD system, using the E motor to modulate the traction on all 4 wheels even more finely. Taking the family out on a weekend skiing or having fun in the snow: this Subaru gets you there and back… and how!

Good performer

Although it will not invite you to throw it around corners, it certainly has the rally-bred stamina to do it. This XV has legendary on-road handling, and remains controllable and neutral no matter in what situation you put it in. The hazards of winter season and/or slippery roads simply do not exist for the XV.

Outright performance leaves nothing to be desired: 0 to 100 km/h is reached in 10.3 seconds, top speed is a healthy 193 km/h.

Of course the Subaru is an excellent motorway cruiser. The suspension is comfortable, the XV rolls on the brand new Subaru Global Platform which added considerably more body stiffness, but then a very stiff body is also prone to resonances, and there is some road/tyre/wheel noise noticeable.

Subaru’s EyeSight keeps you safe

Another point we cannot miss to mention is the superb EyeSight Driver Assist Technology. Driving in thick fog on motorways, winding forest roads has no collision risk for you anymore. Two stereocamera’s sit on both sides of the rear view mirror and keep an eye on the road ahead. Coupled with the adaptive cruise control, the system will assist in keeping a safe distance and adapt speed automatically to the car in front of you over a very wide speed range between 0 and 180 km/h.

Well-equipped and pleasant cabin

The XV dashboard has three screens, two on the centre console, and one between the nicely finished round instruments for speed and revs. Infotainment is intuitive and easy to use, and leaves nothing to be desired. The whole cabin is well finished, quality of materials used is very good, sturdy and fit for no nonsense practical use for years to come, in the good Subaru tradition.

Boot space is not enormous, due also partially to the rear battery pack, but the standard 355 litres can be easily enlarged when the rear seats are folded down. On the other hand, the Subaru still has a healthy 1270 kg braked trailer pulling power, and if you have any doubts about Subaru’s mettle, just have a look at the numerous You Tube films where Subaru’s are pulling stranded trucks out of snowy ditches…

Conclusion

Together with the Forester, Subaru now has two (partially) E-powered models in its range, and the ever so popular XV has become even more desirable now. Embodying all the traditional legendary Subaru qualities, the XV now offers excellent economy and the “Zen” driving style which comes with electric propulsion. Definitely have a long hard look at thisone when you consider buying a crossover in this segment. This car has so many unquestioned and unique talents, you shouldn’t miss it for anything in this automotive world.

Hans Knol ten Bensel