We drove the DS9 E-Tense 225: French elegance and panache…

In the hearts of many, the longing for a sleek, timelessly beautiful French limousine never fades. So when DS Automobiles was born, such a car was a must. The tradition of the original DS, serving as the true “voiture présidentielle” has also to be kept. So here she awakens again, as the noble “savoir vivre” alternative to the established German competition. The DS9. We tested the plug-in-hybrid version of course, fitting to this time and age…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

This DS9 is indeed elegant. With a regal wheelbase of 2,9 meters and a total length of 4,93 meters, the stylists were able to draw fluent lines and contours of an uncanny noblesse. The added details are reminiscent of its iconic predecessors, like the position lights close to the roof line.

This regal panache continues in the cabin. Noblesse oblige. Your eyes meet the superb clock in the middle of the dashboard, with the lozenge shaped start/stop button right below it.

You can select also this lozenge theme for the dials in the electronic screen ahead of you, to add a bit of Art Déco atmosphere to it all. Your servant just loved this, as well as the finely chiseled surfaces of the rotating knobs on the steering wheel and the centre console. We love this tension between rounded shapes and rakish angularity. Voisin also used this in his magnificent automobiles.

The cabin is beautifully finished, with the seats not only looking opulent, but also cocooning you in soothing armchair comfort. Leg room at the rear is of course nothing short of presidential.

The infotainment is top notch, the expertise of the former PSA and now even larger Stellantis group sees to that. Embedded in this now world wide group, for DS automobiles, further future oriented electrification and revolutionary system/software platforms are in the cards. As one knows and has been written already in these columns, DS is very ambitious when it comes to future electrification.

Smooth hybrid power

We tested the E-Tense 225 version, with the 181 HP 1,6 litre petrol engine coupled via an 8 speed automatic transmission to a 110 HP electric motor, resulting in a total system power of 225 HP. Sounds familiar? Indeed it does, as we found the same drivetrain on the DS4 E-Tense.

We already applauded the good qualities of this drivetrain, the prompt and vigorous accelerations, the overall smoothness. As the DS9 is somewhat heavier than the DS4 with its 1914 kg, the 0 to 100 km/h acceleration time is slighty slower, some 8,7 seconds, but on the other hand the top speed due to the more slippery limousine bodywork is a solid 240 km/h.

The DS9 will however rather invite you to some leisurely cruising, inspired as you are by the comfortable suspension which like in the higher end versions of the DS4 electronically scans the road surface ahead of you and adapts the active suspension accordingly. DS Automobiles calls it DS ACTIVE SCAN SUSPENSION, and we described it already in our columns.

Sound insulation is magnificent, remember that the doors have not less than three rubber seals to insulate the cabin from its surroundings, and double glazed windows. Needless to say that one truly enjoys the excellent sound system, and can listen delightfully to French chanson or baroque music.

Our test car had an electric radius of about 50 kilometers, thanks to its 11,9 kW battery. In our columns you could already read that there’s now a DS 9 E-TENSE 250 in the showrooms, featuring a 200 hp 4-cylinder PureTech engine, accompanied by the same 80 kW (110 hp) electric motor. The car has a new 15.6 kWh (total capacity) battery, with an unchanged number of cells, delivering now up to 70 kilometers on the WLTP city cycle (EAER City) or 61 kilometers on the WLTP combined cycle with an unchanged vehicle weight. The 7.4 kW on-board charger also allows charging from 0-100% in merely 2 hours and 23 minutes. See our article with the following link: https://autoprova.be/2021/12/03/the-ds-9-e-tense-gets-an-increased-e-range-and-extra-power/

Built in China…

I find it always fascinating to read how the present large automotive groups go about manufacturing their products on a global scale. The DS9 is also typical example. The DS9 runs on the EMP2 modular technical platform of the PSA group, and is built in the Chinese city of Shenzhen by the Baoneng group.

Related (bigger) cars built on this EMP2 platform are the Peugeot 508 and the… Donfeng FengshenA9, an executive sedan produced by the Dongfeng Motor Corporation under the Dongfeng Fengshen sub-brand, until 2019.

Citroën sells a new car named C6 in China on this platform since the end of 2016 and apparently until now, also as an executive saloon. All these cars have the same 2,9 meter wheelbase. This C6 is built in Wuhan, of all places…

Frugal… depending on how you use it.

With PHEV’s it is always the same story. Consumption depends on how you use it. Frequent recharging and short distances will enable you to run it on E-power, if you let the petrol engine do all the work, then it depends on the efficiency of the engine and your driving style. The manufacturer quotes a minimum consumption of 1,5 l/100 km and CO2 emissions of 34 g/km.

Practical

The DS9 is first of all a comfortable limousine, and your excellent companion on long distances or a posh urban drive to restaurant or opera. Boot space is sufficient with 355 litres, as you can fold the rear backrests back to enlarge cargo space to 825 litres.

For the rear passengers, there is a wide central armrest with lots of space for drinking glasses and sundry.

Conclusion

This sleek executive saloon makes a statement in the Executive segment, with its stylish panache and focus on ultimate comfort. It represents a true alternative in design and concept, and its lavish standard equipment makes it also stand out versus the competition.

So we repeat what we said about the DS4, if you want to take a different path in luxurious and refined motoring, grab the leather stitched wheel of this one…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the DS4 Rivoli E Tense 225: the goddess enters the C segment…

The new DS4 is styled to make its mark in the competitive C segment, to bring a touch of French refinement and panache in its class.

Already at the first presentation of the DS4 in Chantilly, we were impressed. We now had the chance to drive this elegant Crossover SUV on our roads for a longer test, and we must admit that it was a very convincing experience indeed. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Seeing the new DS4 and walking around it, one has to admit: this is a well proportioned, timelessly styled car, with unique contours and styling elements, clearly showing that its designer wanted this DS4 to really stand out.

The volumes are carefully balanced, front, side or rear, the DS4 shows character and elegance. The grille and sidelights at the front, the elegantly chiseled rear lights, the flush door handles, popping up when one approaches, the up to 20 inch wheels, this DS4 has the elegant and refined shapes which are appealing. The DS4 recently won also accolades for its styling…

This French couture-like “savoir faire” continues in the interior. Dashboard, centre console and seats breathe distinction, with styling never interfering with functionality.

The higher waistline of the whole car, being a crossover SUV, results also in cabin proportions which invariably invite you to cocoon in its interior, with the DS (and Citroën) extra thick foam-padded seats enveloping you.

The well finished panels of the dashboard and console awake your senses, and you invariably enjoy the refinement of it all, finding it a pleasure to touch and look at.

Take your time to familiarize yourself with its sculpted controls, from the lozenge shaped starting button to the writing pad above the gear selector, and of course the latest generation infotainment which the Stellantis group now offers in its cars.

Besides the clean and to the point driving information displayed by the instrument panel in front of the driver, our test car came in its posh Rivoli equipment level also with an informative and well to read overhead display with augmented reality.

Refined power…

The E-Tense PHEV drivetrain is nothing less than top notch. Shared with other brands and models within the Stellantis Group, it impresses with its smooth, feline power. Driving the front wheels through an 8 speed automatic is a 1,6 petrol engine combined with an electric motor. Total system power is more than enough, with not less than 165 kW/225 PS and maximum torque of 360 Nm. This results in very lively performance: accelerating from standstill is quite powerful, and 100 km/h is thanks to the assistance of the electric motor effortlessly reached in just 7,7 seconds.

Delightful indeed, and the fun doesn’t stop there, as this DS4 is also quite formidable on the motorway: it top speed is not less than 233 km/h.

But besides all this power, it is also the smoothness and the overall silence and refinement of the drivetrain which really stands out. Your servant also considers this to be far more important than outright performance in our modern everyday traffic, and found it a strong point that the DS4 also delivers in this respect.

The combination of performance with the refined charms of electrification and on top of that the absence of any lengthy refueling worries will make me opt for the hybrid solution for the time being, considering the present state of the charging infrastructure on our shores. The DS4 proved again to be a case in point.

DS Automobiles, or rather Stellantis Group for that matter, succeeded in developing a drivetrain with a very smooth and fluent power delivery, with imperceptible gear changes, instant responsiveness and overall very good mechanical quietness. Just when the battery is almost depleted and in kick-down situations, the pleasant roar of the high performance four cylinder is briefly heard, being not obtrusive at all.

Consumption of this PHEV is totally determined by how you use it. Frequent recharging of its 12,4 kW battery via plug-in and driving frequently short distances will of course let you drive with E-power most of the time, with fuel consumption consequently dropping below 2 litres/100 km. Driving briskly with a depleted battery will push the consumption to the other hand of the scale, as the petrol engine is doing almost all the work. Suffice to say that sitting snugly in the comfortable DS, driving with restraint and enjoying fully the good sound insulation of this refined car and its silent drivetrain, we achieved typically a consumption between 5 and 6 litres/100 km.

Divine comfort

The forte of the DS4 is of course its comfort. It will come as no surprise to you that we drove our test car in the comfort mode most of the time. The DS scans the road ahead for irregularities with a camera, and adapts the active suspension accordingly. Impressive to say the least, and we enjoyed the resulting comfort indeed. It is not so soft as the legendary hydropneumatic suspension of the DS 19, but it doesn’t have to be.

This is an active suspension, and it combines a more dynamic setup, necessary to contain the impressive power and torque, with nevertheless stunning “souplesse” and comfort, which makes this DS also the long legged cruiser able to maintain high speeds completely effortlessly on miserable, wet roads.

The steering is light, well insulated from road irregularities and the steering wheel is also a delight to touch, delicately covered by hand stitched leader. We saw one of the craftsmen at work at the DS4 inaugural presentation at Chantilly, and it was truly stunning to see.

I could not resist to show you a photo of this demonstration here. The DS philosophy behind it is right: the steering wheel is what your hands feel and touch; it is your main contact with the car, so it better be a work of art and craftsmanship…

Seating comfort is excellent fore and aft, (very) tall persons will find leg- and headroom in the rear somewhat restricted. If more limousine space is wanted, the DS lover can opt for the majestic DS9, which we drove too, and we will tell you our impressions also soon…

The DS4 will offer you all the thinkable driving aids, and of course also the necessary camera’s to safely maneuver the car. Boot space is still a useable 390 liters in the PHEV version, and of course the backrests of the rear seats can be folded back, so the trip to the “antiquaire” can be crowned with success.

Conclusion

The DS4 has all the endearing French style, character and panache to win your car loving heart. Well designed with lots of “génie Francais”, it is expertly built in German Rüsselsheim.

It has the soothing comfort and road manners of its iconic and legendary DS19 predecessor, which in my eyes makes it even more attractive. It is also timelessly styled, and will be your elegant companion for years to come.

So you want to make a statement in the C segment? Slide behind the hand stitched wheel of this electrified goddess…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the new Nissan Qashqai: better looks, upgraded cabin, smooth performance…

The Qashqai is a very important car for Nissan, and it enters now its third generation. Consequently, the engineers and designers pulled all the stops. Keeping the car very recognisable as a Qashqai, the designers gave the car nevertheless a contemporary look with headlights stretching all to the sides, emphasising the familiar “V” pattern on the grille, putting some clean, sharp styling accents on the sides, and finishing it all in a very well proportioned rear end.

The suspension has also been redesigned and the drivetrains have been reworked too. You will not see a Diesel engine anymore in this Qashqai, only 1,3 liter petrol engines with mild electrification, awaiting a full hybrid version around the middle of this year.

We found this latest generation Qashqai elegant, refined, and convincing with nice upmarket touches, just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Gained in panache and elegance, but not so much in size…

The new Qashqai grew hardly bigger: it grew only 3,5 cm longer and a good 3 cm larger. But the wheelbase gained some 2 centimeters, which gives you more legroom in the rear. As we said, the elegant presence and stylish proportions of the car have been greatly improved. Luggage space varies between 436 and 504 liters, depending how you use the boot panels, which can make a level luggage floor,or not. Indeed, two panels are available to make a continuous flat floor, and these panels can also be used to divide up the luggage space to prevent things from sliding around. Nissan also lowered the luggage floor for easier loading.

Interior and dashboard with premium touches…

Instrumentation is fully digital in the top equipment version we tested, and the design of the dash with its curvacious stitched leather surfaces is decidedly elegant and upmarket. Also the seats in our test car had a premium look and feel with their nice stitching on the seat cushions and backrests.

One finds quite improved soft padding and materials in the dashboard and interior, and one is happy to see a good array of knobs, which make this Qashqai intuitive to use.

Indeed, the heating/ventilation can still be set with thse classic knobs, and below the touchscreen one finds a nice array of knobs too. Also the tactile feeling of these knobs and functions, indeed everything you feel and press, feels solid and well finished.

The infotainment system coming with the higher equipment levels is outstanding, also the digital instruments read well and are elegant. What to think of the 9 inch touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay, etc. There are also two sorts of USB ports for connectivity, USB C-type and the classic ones, and these are provided in the front as well as in the back.

The Qashqai has practical touches too: the rear doors open to almost 90 degrees actually, which is excellent for loading baby seats, toddlers…

We also liked very much the very legible head up display, and many will also appreciate that Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa can be connected to the Nissan system.

Map information can now also be updated “Over the Air”. Of course, all the usual assistance systems are on board. It even uses map information in the cruise control modus, and will slow you down in bends…

Smooth 1,3 litre petrol engines.

There are no diesel engines available anymore for the new Qashqai. Only supersmooth 1,3 litre petrol engines, developing 140 or 158 HP. Both engines are assisted by an integrated starter generator. The Qashqai is therefore a mild hybrid so to say. The Qashqai cannot move on pure electric power, but its engine is assisted by the starter/generator motor, and one feels clearly the extra push when driving away from standstill.

Only the 158 HP engine is offered when you opt for the X-Tronic automatic transmission. This is a CVT type box, but its artificial seven gears prevent the engine from revving too high under full throttle. Even under spirited driving, the Qashqai remains quiet and subdued. The electronic motor assistance sets in harmoniously from standstill, by the way. The drivetrain is very refined indeed, enhancing the premium feel of this Qashqai.

The revised suspension also pleased us. Comfortable, it coped quite well with uneven urban pavés, staying still a bit firm at slower speeds, but for an SUV quite comfortable nonetheless. The steering is light and also now more direct. This Qashqai is even more relaxing to drive than its predecessor.

Good performance

Performance is smooth and leaves nothing to be desired. 0 to 100 km/h is absolved in 9,2 seconds and top speed is 199 km/h. Driving leisurely with this 1468 kg Qashqai will let you reach consumption levels between 6 and 7 liters, but as soon as you move with more zest, the consumption goes up by one liter. According to WLTP norm, the average consumption is 6,4 liter/100 km.

Full hybrid “E-Power”fro the Qashqai will be expected around the middle of this year. Then a 154 HP 1,5 litre petrol engine will be coupled to a quite zesty 140 kW electric motor. The front wheels will exclusively be driven by this electric motor, the petrol engine will only generate the electricity.

This will allow the petrol engine to operate always in ideal conditions, and the Qashqai will accelerate and have the pleasant responsiveness of a “pure” EV. We will be keen to drive this car as soon as it arrives, of course…

Conclusion

The Qashqai has decidedly carved a nice niche for itself in the European compact SUV market. The third generation is even more mature, stylish and refined. The finish and the equipment in the higher level versions is decidedly upmarket, the infotainment is lavish and future proof. The Qashqai is comfortable, practical and also a lively performer, relaxing to drive and supersmooth.  All the good qualities of a bestseller, which it will continue to be…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Seat Arona 1.0 TSI 110 Hp Xperience :  an allround pleasure…

The segment of the compact Crossover SUV’s is very popular in Europe, and it sales have over the last seven years not less than quadrupled. Of course Seat wants to have its piece of the cake in this niche of the B segment. Seat builds therefore the Arona since 2017 in its Martorell factory, and this Crossover rolls on the VW Group MQB-A0 platform. This means that the Arona is technically very close to the fifth generation of the Ibiza, the Polo Mk6, the Skoda Kamiq and last but not least the VW T-Cross.

We tested here the Arona in its latest facelift, which saw some major changes mostly at the front end, and even more so in the interior. Just read further!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The grille has now moved a bit higher, and the front skirt is now more expressive with even a special reflex silver paint finish. The top equipment line Xcellence is now replaced with Xperience. The Arona has now also LED headlights as standard equipment. It has received also quite an array of extra colours, and its roof, which now ends in a newly shaped spoiler, is also available three colours.

The cabin and dashboard underwent the same changes as the Ibiza, and has now a central touchsreen angled towards the driver. Standard the touchscreen measures some 8,25 inches, but can be had in 9,2 inch size, and in combination with the digital instrument panel it gives the Arona a distinctly modern look and aura. We liked very much the angular instrument display, very legible indeed.

The overall finish of the dashboard is also improved, with soft touch top panelling, and behind the screens sits now the latest wireless version of Volkswagen’s Infotainment building block, with Full-Link, Apple Car Play and Android Auto of course.

Add to this the Smartphone App and the voice command function, which can be triggered by “Hola! Hola!”

Extremely well balanced…

We mentioned in our title “allround”, and that is exactly what this Arona is. Just big enough to offer pleasant roominess, it is ideally compact for the city, and due to its higher stance as a Crossover, it feels “adult” and safe on the motorway and open road. The higher seating position makes it also very easy to get in and out of, and also improves visibility, which is ideal for its urban life.

We applauded already the layout of the dashboard, and the controls are placed just right. One feels immediately at home in this Arona. With a wide range of seat adjustments and the pleasantly high seating position itself, a commanding and comfortable position behind the wheel is soon found.

Driving is believing

But the Arona really reveals its qualities when you push the start button. The 3 cilinder 1 litre unit from the VW concern purrs into life. Smooth, vibrationless and emitting a subdued, pleasant growl when you push it, this TSI version develops a healthy 110 HP. Ideally mated to a super smooth and alert 7 speed DSG, it has also ample pulling power, with 200 Nm of maximum torque at a low 2000 rpm. This means that the DSG gearbox will hardly rev the engine higher than some 2500 rpm in normal driving situations. The engine then remains also barely audible, which adds to the pleasant experience of effortless, comfortable driving.

The Arona TSI has more than enough zest with a 0 to 100 sprint absolved in 10,1 seconds and a top speed of not less than 190 km/h. So the Arona is a little Autobahnmeister too, fit for comfortable high speed long distance driving. No small wonder, its technical brother is the Polo, and VW saw to it that it’s very important car scores on all points in any driving situation.

As said, the Arona rolls on the MQB-A0 platform, and its excellent qualities are felt from the first meter you drive it. Rock solid construction and showing admirable stiffness, which results in a very precise steering and handling, also thanks to the impeccably balanced suspension, all this adds to a wonderful dynamic experience, akin to… driving an early Porsche.

The Arona has a higher ground clearance, and this means you can tackle country roads of all sorts with success.

This German engineering excellence adds to the charm of this Arona. You will smile also at the pump: with restrained, anticipative urban driving, it was no trouble at all to stay below 7 litres in urban traffic, and on the open roads driving at the legal limits was rewarded with just over 6 litres/100 km.

Good practical qualities abound in this Arona, with also some 400 litres of available luggage space. We already mentioned the excellent infotainment, and let it be known that two USB ports and inductive smartphone charging are available on the centre console.

The Arona offers more than adequate head- and legroom for four, and its hatchback configuration makes it also your allround transport.

Conclusion

Well styled and engineered, this Arona Crossover SUV has many qualities indeed. It’s an outright pleasure to use daily, is practical, its drivetrain is very refined, offers plenty of performance and is frugal. In this day and age, it offers the simple efficiency of a state of the art modern engine and smooth automatic DSG gearbox, providing a care free action range of well over 500 km.

It carries VW top concern technology, and it does this in style. On top of that, it is well equipped, well finished and sports the latest generation infotainment. So have a long hard look at this one…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Mercedes CLS 220 d: your stylish star…

You want a Mercedes with the panache of an elegant sedan with a coupé like character? Then the brand with the star has the car for you: the CLS.

Over the years, it has had its share of faithful followers, which has thinned somewhat due to the SUV trend.

But Mercedes is not forgetting this faithful clientele, and is offering now a latest facelifted generation of its elegant car with the star. We drove for you the smooth, lively and frugal 2 litre Diesel version. Indeed, tradition and timeless elegance go hand in hand here with durability and economy. Making it a true Mercedes-Benz automobile!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The CLS is sleek, and its front end got even more impressive with this facelift, with the car gaining also overall in sheer elegance. The front bumper and air inlets breathe now the same styling language as the C, E and S-Class or other recent models in the MB range, and one also finds a star pattern in the grille. In the interior, the electronic age has also arrived. Two large screens under one single glass panel present you the wonders of the MBUX, providing indeed a delightful user experience.

MBUX actually means Mercedes-Benz User Experience. The whole system has a quite logical buildup, it is largely intuitive, and makes interacting with the car the proverbial breeze. The system is however so comprehensive that it is time well spent to familiarize yourself with it.

The system is touch based, but the user can use different ways to choose the functions, and use what suits her or him most. So you can use the central touchpad instead of the touch screen to swipe, touch or pinch and get the function or info you want.

This touchpad also features handwriting recognition for instance. Then you can also control the system functions via the steering wheel if you prefer that. Of course there is also voice control. The system will also save your personal settings, like for your seat, mirrors, etc. It can manage not two, but up to seven different user profiles!

The CLS doesn’t have the large central screen as in the latest C or S Class, but then you are spoiled with a palette of veneer/wood finishes, and by the way, the excellent seats can be had in a wide array of leather qualities and stitching patterns.

The legendary qualities of a state-of-the-art diesel…

Under the hood of our 220 d sits a… 2 liter diesel engine, 1950 cc to be exact, which develops a (very) healthy 143 kW or 194 PS at merely 3800 rpm. Even more important is the impressive torque of 400 Nm at 1600 rpm. Don’t forget, this sleek (almost) 5 meter long sedan does not have to lug around a battery pack, and weighs a slender 1800 kg. Performance is therefore impressive: 0 to 100 km/h is absolved in merely 7,5 seconds, top speed is 235 km/h. You guessed it, this Mercedes is decidedly an “Autobahnmeister”, or freely translated master on the Autobahn. High cruising speeds are indeed its absolute forte.

But it is equally well at home in tight urban traffic and the CLE will absolve quiet boulevard rides with utmost ease. The silky smooth 9 speed automatic sees to that. It shows again how outstanding modern diesel engines have become. Because they are not only quiet and docile, they are frugal too. It proved no trouble at all to achieve consumption figures between 5 and 6 liters/100 km, the manufacturer quotes an average consumption of 5,5 liters/100 km, according to WLTP standards. With a 50 litre tank, this means a useable range close to 900 km, and let’s admit, it is an outright blessing to see this range figures on your screen.

The engine is smooth, but then it’s not a six cylinder, but when you don’t use the full power, it remains as we said, quiet and unobtrusive enough.

That Mercedes is still offering diesel engines in its range has good reasons, besides its excellent qualities.

When we look more closely at our environment, and notably the “Green Europe” plan with its energy transition, we have to agree that, if this transition wants to gain speed and momentum in the coming years, it HAS to include the existing combustion engined cars presently on our roads. The German Automobile Association ADAC relies on the long term on e-fuels and hydrogen from renewable sources to achieve this inclusion. The good storage capacity and synergy effects in the context of the sector coupling of electricity, heating market and transport speak also in favor of both alternative fuels.

ADAC technology president Karsten Schulze says it clearly: “Millions of combustion engines are on the road in Germany (and the whole world) and have a long service life ahead of them. If the climate protection goals in traffic are to be achieved, a solution is needed for this inventory.”

Apparently, the German Ministry of Transport also sees it that way. In January 2021, it announced a renewable fuel subsidy program. Around 1.54 billion euros are available for this until 2024. According to the ministry, 640 million euros of this will flow into development and demonstration projects for the production of renewable fuels. Another 900 million euros are for the retrofitting or the construction of new generation plants as well as for the market launch of Bio or Electric energy based fuels…

The CLE 220 d breathes this philosophy, in the purest sense of the word. No plug-in hybrid version is available so far.

Superb comfort

This Mercedes with its elegant, classic styling scores of course very high in suspension comfort . The CLE rolls on the E Class platform, but here it comes very close to the flagship S Class. Even large potholes are absorbed superbly and the ride offered is truly sublime. Also the sound insulation is of top level. The aerodynamic qualities of this Coupé shaped sedan are excellent, and only the road/tire noises are heard when on the move. The steering is rather direct, and this big sedan/coupé is engaging to drive on winding roads, with some sporting driving pleasure to be had.

Of course, there are more powerful versions of this sleek CLS. Two more six-cylinder diesel engines are offered, of 265 and 330 PS respectively. Petrol engine versions are also possible, with 367 or 435 PS.

Due to its excellent comfort and sound insulation, the CLS is very relaxing car for hours on end, with of course the excellent seats also helping a lot. Admittedly, with its coupé shape, the passengers in the rear have less headroom, but when you are not taller than say 1,80 m, you are fine.

There is more than enough room for your luggage, with 520 liters available.

Conclusion

A fine, classic Mercedes, timelessly styled as a coupé/sedan, embodying all the superb qualities of the brand. Comfort, workmanship, luxury, state of the art electronics, infotainment and a drivetrain built for eternity. Add to this performance and economy, and you can agree with us that this car has it all.

Of course, it is not electrified (in the base diesel version) nor is it an SUV. But – in the light of what we said about the coming of age of E-based synthetic fuels – it certainly has a future and makes (a lot of) sense. It will give you many years of proud, noble and joyful ownership behind its wheel with that star…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Audi Q4 40 e-tron: stylish and dynamic…

Audi has ambitious plans for further electrification: in 2025, it will have not less than 20 pure EV’s in its model range. Besides the big Audi e-tron Quattro and its Sportback version and the stunning e-tron GT, another pure EV joins the party: the compact SUV Q4, which is also available right away in a stylish Sportback version.

The Q4 comes in two battery and power versions. The base model is the Q4 35 with a 55 kWh battery. Its range is said to be 350 kilometers and it has a 125 kW/170 HP motor driving the rear wheels. We tested for you the Q4 40 which has the 77 kWh battery and the 150 kW/204 HP motor we also find in the VW ID.4.

The Q4 is built… in the VW factory in Zwickau, where also the ID.3 and ID.4 are rolling off the production lines. Only logical if one knows that the Q4 runs on the same MEB platform as the two Volkswagens.

So the Q4 is a dressed up VW? Not at all, the Audi engineers and designers have succeeded in giving the Q4 its unmistakable premium character and Audi identity.

Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Stylish

The bodywork of the Q4 breathes the timeless Audi styling language, with very good proportions throughout. The front end grille betrays its “pure” EV character, as it is closed. Indeed, electric motors need a lot less cooling.

The dashboard and cabin breathe Audi panache: the instrumentation is directed towards the driver here, rather untypical for a SUV. Bravo for Audi, and they did also very well with the instrument layout: two large dials are seen in front of you, on the digital display which is almost equally as large as the central touchscreen.

The ventilation commands are thankfully also on a separate panel with extra knobs, and also the audio volume knobs are of the rotating touch type as found on the early Apple I pods.

When you opt for the MMI package, you can also enjoy an augmented reality head up display. Our test car came with it and we liked it very much.

In the posh “S line” equipment level of our test car the seat upholstery with its typical cross stitched patters was very pleasing to the eye, and the seats are also very comfortable indeed.

While we are talking about the cabin, we can mention here that also the Q4 offers plenty of room, also for its rear passengers, taking advantage of the good qualities of the MEB platform. This SUV is certainly not compact here…

There is also plenty of room for storage in the interior, a good 24,8 liters. On the central console between the two front seats you have already 4,4 liters at your disposal.

Luggage space is more than adequate with 520 liters, with both rear backrests down you have a maximum of 1490 liters at your disposal, when you use the available space up to the roof.

The charging cables are neatly tucked away under the luggage floor. Only a bit cumbersome to reach them when the boot is fully loaded when on holiday. For the rest of the year it’s very fine.

Dynamic and smooth…

Let’s get behind the wheel now and start driving. As an EV befits, this Audi is again supersmooth. It is “Zen” driving all the way. EV’s are just a delight to drive in town, with their feline power delivery. 310 Nm of torque is at your disposal, always. It makes this Audi beautifully agile and nimble in dense traffic. Stop and go traffic is now for you an ideal moment to relax behind the wheel, and enjoy the beautiful sound coming from the Sonos system we had in our test car.

Performance is of course excellent, with a 0 to 100 km/h acceleration time of 8,5 seconds. Top speed is limited to 160 km/h, as in the ID.4.

German Autobahn aficionados would like this to be more, but then we would not speak of a useable range anymore.

When it comes to range, your driving style is here of paramount importance. You see it clearly on the photo showing the instrumentation: when collecting our test car, we drove it gently to the motorway, where we drove a constant 95 km/h, just a bit faster than the trucks, to reach our photo spot. Consumption was then a very reasonable 15,2 kWh/100 km, over 19,6 km at an average speed of 42 km/h.

A cold start in the morning, with heater full ablaze and just some slow stop and go traffic paints another picture. There the consumption over 5,4 km was a whopping 43,6 kWh. The following photo tells the story.

When we take the WLTP consumption as the norm, being 19,3 kWh, then the effective range would be 530 km. In practice, you can expect a useable range of a good 400 km.

There are different driving modes on the Audi, one of them being the “Range” mode. It limits power and sets a maximum speed of 90 km/h.

Charging at the home wallbox is possible up to 11 kWh, and on public charging points you can “fast charge” your Audi at not less than 125 kWh. Then it takes only 10 minutes to add an extra of 130 km to your range.

Practice in our country is of course rather different to say the least. 98 % of our existing condominium and apartment buildings have NO wallbox provisions in their underground garages, not even electricity sockets in many cases, limiting possibilities of enjoying EV propulsion greatly.

My nearest public charging point is about 1 kilometre away, and this is not a “fast” charging point. Allowed time for charging is also limited to 3,5 hours. Belgian municipalities – at least those near Antwerp – have still to wake up to reality that the charging points have TWO sockets and can actually charge two cars simultaneously. The square they paint on the pavement actually is clearly meant for ONE car. Users of the charging point are so kind and gentlemen-like to ignore this, so your servant could charge the Q4 too, as the following photo shows, which leaves one certainly perplex…

Driving the Q4 to Knokke, we found no unoccupied charging points within a reasonable walking distance from the place we stayed, so the next day we used the “Range” Driving mode to get us home again. It was a magnificent and leisurely drive…

Car manufacturers are certainly not to blame here. Their products increasingly offer useable ranges, and we could easily plan a longer route on the Audi, where the touchscreen clearly indicated which charging points en route we could use, how long we had to charge, which were open, etc.

Of course, providers are working hard to change the situation. At the moment of writing, IONITY is invetsing 700 million € for 5.000 extra HPC charging points in Europe.  

Comfortable and agile

Besides room of its occupants, the Audi Q4 also offers a genuinely comfortable ride and steering is also precise and engaging. Audi’s are build to deliver driving pleasure, and this is also found in this Q4. A well balanced car, certainly making the very best of what the MEB platform has to offer. The same goes for the brakes, which can be well dosed to come to a smooth stop.

We also mention here the “coasting function”. When one hasn’t chosen the “B” mode, the Audi will just coast along when you lift the throttle, and this adds greatly to the “Zen” driving pleasure, once you have mastered the art of anticipative driving.

Of course you can recuperate energy when decelerating, or you can leave everything to the wisdom of this Q4. Indeed, you can put the Predictive Energy Assistant at work, which will interpret road signs and navigation data. Then the system will calculate for you continuously the right balance between sailing and energy recuperation, no less!

Conclusion

Audi has succeeded in designing and building a magnificent compact EV on the MEB platform. A car with impeccable finish, oozing with style, panache, good comfort and handling, very good range and performance, and on top of all that roomy too.

Of course this has a price tag, but it is a timelessly styled premium car, one of the very best which ever rolled of VW production lines.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Kia e-Niro: an EV-range trendsetter…

The Kia Niro is already a few years amongst us, first electrified as hybrid, then plug-in hybrid, and finally as a “pure” EV.

The competition has become a lot stronger since its introduction, notably with newcomers as the Volkswagen ID.3, the Peugeot 2008 and the Citroën ë-C4, but this Kia still has a lot of qualities which make it still earn very well an excellent place its segment. Of course, Kia is ready for this competition, and at the moment of this test going to press, it presents a completely new version of the Niro at the Seoul motor show, but the present model is still relevant enough to put it through its paces for you here.

We should also not forget that this Kia EV with its 64 kW battery set the trend towards longer ranges: according to the WLTP norm, it is still good for 455 km…and on top of that, it offers very good value for money, with a 7 year guarantee!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Kia Niro still has very pleasing and now already familiar looks, with some specific blue coloured accents for the EV version. The front end clearly shows its EV character, and also the flap of the charging sockets is clearly visible. The cabin is well laid out, with classic disposition of instrumentation, commands and central touchscreen, so indeed one would hardly suspect sitting in an EV vehicle. This is all for the better, as one is very soon familiarised in using and driving this Niro.

The display in front of you clearly indicates of course battery status and range, as well as the immediate or average consumption in KW/h. Soon one notices that this 150 kW or 204 HP Kia is quite frugal, where your driving style is of prime importance of course.

The manufacturer quotes 15,9 kW/h according to the overall quite realistic WLTP cycle. We took the test car on a lengthy trip to Holland, using the ECO mode throughout, and easily achieved an average of 17 kW/h.

It was delicious to be able to make this trip without the usual range anxiety, and on top of that to find plenty of public charging points in the Netherlands, not even 50 meters away from the house of the family member where we stayed over the weekend. All in all, in this ECO mode, a range of over 400 kilometers is even in more wintry conditions easily achievable when adopting a normal driving style.

Having said this, EV cars have decidedly come of age with our northern neighbours, where the e-Niro has been the top selling car in 2020 by the way…

Smoothness combined with power…

As a pure EV befits, “Zen” like feline and vibrationless power is for you to enjoy here. On the centre console is a familiar circular knob which lets you choose between drive and reverse, as we have seen in Jaguars and Land Rovers.

Off you go, and indeed, this Kia has under the hood what it takes. The front wheels are driven, and will pull you from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 7,8 seconds, which is no small feat as one knows that the kerb weight of the e-Niro is 1712 kg. Top speed is a very creditable 167 km/h. So performance wise, one is rather spoiled too, besides of course the uncanny smoothness and silence of the drivetrain.

There are paddles at the steering wheel column which let you choose the amount of regenerative braking, so “one pedal” driving is easy to achieve.

On the technical side, let us tell you here that our test car was equipped with the lithium-polymer 64 kW/h battery and that the permanent magnet synchronous motor has a power of 150 kW/204 HP and 395 Nm of torque.

For home charging, one is of course well advised to install a three-phase wallbox. With the optional three phase onboard charger, you can be fully charged in some 4,5 hours.

Roomy and practical

The e-Niro is quite roomy, with sufficient legroom also for taller passengers in the rear, with standard luggage space being a good 451 and 1405 liters.

With the rear cover in place, the volume is reduced to 280 and 1175 liters respectively. In the cabin, there is enough storage room in the central console and beneath the central armrest as well as the door bins. As we said, using infotainment and all the commands for heating/airco/ventilation is intuitive, and we also used the voice command to good effect for navigation amongst other things.

Safe handling

The e-Niro will not exactly invite you to throw it around corners, but its handling is fine to say the least. Sudden steering wheel movements will be met with initial understeer, with well controlled oversteer by the ESP when you lift the throttle. This e-Niro will not lean unduly in fast corners, has good straight line stability and is comfortable too.

Conclusion

The present e-Niro with its attractive range is still very much a desirable EV, combining excellent performance with low E-consumption. Add to this the good value for money considering the space and equipment found, with last but not least the 7-year warranty. You will agree that this EV-range trendsetter which will accompany you for many years in to wonderful “Zen” world of EV motoring and mobility.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Volkswagen ID.4 Pro: the electric crossover-SUV for the world…

With this ID.4, Volkswagen is taking another bold step forward: it is building an SUV which will be offered worldwide, notably built and sold in China, the US and Europe. For us here, it is produced in Zwickau. It is the second model to use the celebrated MEB platform, the EV platform which is also sold to Ford. The car embodies a quite important if not formidable step for VW, where every aspect of this car has to please many customers, all over our globe.

We drove the so-called “Pro” version, with the 77 kW battery, about 500 km range, 204 HP or 150 kW, and lively performance. It certainly did please us, and this pleasant impression got better the longer we drove it. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Friendly and harmonious looks

Stylists of a world car have no easy task. It looks that they have succeeded though. Just know that the ID.4 has recently been singled out for the “2021 World Car of the Year” award. When we approached the ID.4 and walked around it, our eyes meet iconic, timeless and pleasing shapes. Lines and contours with character, evoking exactly what this car wants to be: a family-friendly roomy SUV, which will accompany its owner with style for years to come. The rounded styling language is never aggressive, the front end is clean, not without elegance, has a timeless touch. The proportions are well chosen, look just right from every angle, also the big wheels with their aerodynamic alloys add panache to this SUV. We took some photos close to the runway of Zaventem airport, so the flatness of the empty landscape adds to the clean lines of this ID.4.

The same simplicity and clean lines are found in the interior and the dashboard layout and instrumentation. It is very similar to the ID.3, with an instrument cluster forming one unit with steering column and steering wheel, and a large touch screen in the centre of the dashboard. Its driver assistance and infotainment system is everything you could wish for. Of course you have to familiarize yourself with its controls, so we suggest you to read the instruction book carefully.

Reading the instructions is the proper thing to do when you buy a car of this refinement, engineering excellence and build quality. It is by the way ALWAYS the thing to do when you purchase any car, actually. Also, remember, there is YouTube. Many VW car dealers have a film made for you, so-called instruction films, where you can see and hear the workings of every accessory and functionality.

In our test car, suffice to say the diagonal size of the touch display was 10 inches, and it is good to know that natural voice control with an online connection and the ID. Light come as standard. You will not read any critique here about the workings of any of the functions of the ID.4, it takes getting used to, and even a week can be too short for this to have everything intuitively in its fingers.

I always keep in mind that the owner or user of this car will be behind the wheel of this VW for months, if not years, and will have familiarized him (her) with every function, that is if he (she) was not too lazy to read about it in the manual or try it out. I mentioned ID. Light. It is a light strip below the windscreen, and tells you when to take a left or right turn, when it has understood a voice message from you, after you said first “Hello ID.” Indeed, the future has arrived in this car.

The driver uses the central display to manage the telephone system, navigation system, entertainment functions, assist systems and the vehicle setup. Sliders for volume and temperature adjustment are located below the display. Clean and purposeful.

Daily life with the ID.4 has become simple. Just step in, push the brake pedal and select “D”. Off you go. On the right side of the steering column is a big switch which you have to turn towards or from you, to select D, B or Reverse. At the end of this switch us a big knob “P”. Just push it and the parking brake is on.

With “D” you drive normally, with “B” the electric motor regenerates energy when you lift the throttle. It will decelerate the car of course. When you are a master in anticipative driving, remain in “D”, you can coast then almost forever. Using kinetic energy by just coasting is still the most efficient, albeit the most difficult thing to do as you have REALLY to anticipate traffic situations.

“Zen” driving…

The biggest advantage of EV’s, I find personally, is their supersmooth progress. Gone is the so disturbing jerkiness of sticky transmissions and unwilling cold engines. So the ID.4 is also a very soothing vehicle. Silent, vibrationless, with smooth feline power thanks to its impressive torque. 310 Nm if it. Good enough to take this rather heavy ID.4  from standstill to a speed of 100 km/h in 8,5 seconds. Almost pushing your back firmly in the seat. Almost, but remember, this is meant to be a family car. Top speed is limited to 160 km/h. It is also a towing vehicle. Up to 1,000 kg in our test car’s configuration.

The suspension is rather firm, but not uncomfortable. The laws of physics command some firmness as there is a good 500 kg of batteries in the platform underneath the seats. The electric 150 kW motor sits above the rear axle and drives the rear wheels. The advantage is that it allows a small turning circle of just 10.2 metres. Rear wheel drive then, but do not expect to make any power slides. Steering is precise and handling is quite good, even on the rather sporting side.

The WLTP range with the 77 kW battery is according to the manufacturer up to 522 km. There is no secret. Using kW/h costs range. If you cruise at say 85 km/h on the motorway (the truck drivers won’t like this and disturb your “Zen” progress) everything is fine. In winter, and/or when driving faster, the practical range can be estimated as being a good 360-380 kilometers, which is still quite OK. At a DC quick-charging station, the ID.4 with its 77 kWh battery and a charging capacity of 125 kW can be recharged ready for the next 320 km in around 30 minutes (according to WLTP).

Roomy

The VW engineers and stylists have kept one thing firmly in mind: this is a family SUV. So indeed, it offers room which is actually that of a SUV which belongs to a class higher. Ample legroom in the rear, (similar to the Tiguan Allspace), three passengers can sit easily, and even tall drivers do not touch the roof when they put their seat in the highest position. Need we say more? Suffice to say that the wheelbase is a good 2766 millimeters.

The ID.4 has also lots of room in the front centre console, as there is no gearchange lever to disturb things. The luggage space is also impressive: 543 litres of luggage, a figure that increases to 1,575 litres after folding down the backrests (loaded to roof height).

And comfortably equipped

Standard features in all ID.4 models include the ten-colour ambient lighting, the speed limiter and Air Care Climatronic. This is coupled with an electric stationary air conditioning system, which can also be activated when the car is not charging from the mains power grid. Life is good with the ID.4.

All nine ID.4 models are equipped with the Discover Pro navigation system and 10-inch display as standard. All models above the ID.4 City and ID.4 Life come with the Infotainment package. (We tested the “Pro” version.) Its highlights include the Comfort mobile phone interface, which is able to connect a smartphone to the vehicle’s electronic system and charge it inductively. The standard App-Connect function enables media to be streamed via a smartphone, which can be embedded in its native environment using Android Auto, Apple Car Play and Mirror Link. In the Infotainment Plus package (which comes with the ID.4 Tech and ID.4 Max), the navigation system has a 12-inch display.

The ID.4 is equipped with the lane keeping system Lane Assist as standard. Front Assist monitors the area in front of the vehicle and responds with warnings and braking interventions to warn the driver of impending collisions with other road users. The acoustic Park Distance Control function is able to avoid parking collisions or reduce the level of damage using the automatic manoeuvre braking function. The speed limiter is also included in the ID.4’s standard equipment.

Another technology that every ID.4 has on board is called Car2X, which allows the car to exchange information about local hazards with other vehicles and the traffic infrastructure – via the wireless standard WLAN p. The maximum distance here is 800 metres, with warning transmission taking only milliseconds. Car2X is currently active from a speed of 80 km/h, but is also intended to improve safety and traffic flow in urban traffic in the future.

Conclusion

A very able, roomy and stylish compact SUV and a marvelous EV, that’s what this ID.4 essentially is. It is a true Volkswagen, setting standards in timeless modernity, embodying purposeful and clever engineering.

Add to this the know-how of a world manufacturer, the vast dealer network, you will agree that this new generation VW EV have a lot going for it. It ranks already in some countries where the charging infrastructure is decent among the bestsellers, so this ID.4 has a bright future ahead, electrifying the world…

Hans Knol ten Bensel   

We drove the Citroën C4 BlueHDi 130 HP: the magic of the Double Chevron…

Citroëns have always been quite exceptional cars for me, not onIy the “big” Citroëns, but also the compact cars, beginning with the GS. In the early days of my career as a car journalist, I vividly remember the stylish GS as a test car. Indeed, not only the boxer engine, also the suspension and styling where totally of another league.

I also recall fondly a very fast trip to the Frankfurt Motor Show, with a 1,6 litre petrol engined C4, the generation prior to the Cactus, driving totally relaxed at speeds between 160-180 km/h in pouring rain on the Autobahn, showing superb GT qualities in total comfort. But also the 1,9 litre Diesel versions were extraordinary. I remember the used red BX and the used dark blue Xantia, both of which I drove as long-term test cars for Autokrant. They offered excellent performance, GT panache and comfort, combined with exemplary economy.

But now let’s turn our nostalgic hearts to the present day C4. To tell you right away, it continues the tradition with its equally unique suspension, Progressive Hydraulic Cushions® and Advanced Comfort seats. It has the same unique personality and character as its predecessors, and even a lot more. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

With the new ë-C4 and New C4, actually Citroën’s new-generation compact hatchback, the iconic brand is targeting this time the still very important (European) hatchback market. This C4 has a rather elevated posture, not unlike we see with Asian competitors like amongst others the Toyota CH-R, with the same quite busy styling language.

Citroën says that it wants to combine the dynamism of a hatchback with SUV design forms for added character. With its sloping rear window and spoiler, Citroën says, the rear end draws its inspiration from the 2004 C4 Coupé with its original two-piece rear window topped by an aerodynamic spoiler.

Sliding behind the wheel, we are pleasantly surprised by a restful and uncluttered simplicity, indeed every effort has been made not to distract the driver unduly. The instrument cluster is a superb example of less is more: small dials for water temperature, revs and a digital speed indicator are the only things to attract your attention. The designers have kept these indicators rather small, and indeed your eyes should rather focus on the road and the large colored head-up display. Restful and efficient!

In the centre, at the top of the dashboard sits the ultra-thin borderless 10-inch touchscreen, which is of course the nerve centre of the vehicle’s controls. The controls of the dual-zone automatic climate control – thankfully also physical for immediate access to change the settings – have chrome dials and gloss black push buttons.

One finds easily his way in this C4. There is also an elegant guilloché metal automatic gear lever. It has the three usual positions (R, N and D) that are backlit for clarity. There are also two backlit push buttons: P to activate Parking mode, M to activate manual driving mode (for conventional engine versions) or B to activate the “Brake” energy recovery mode for the electric version. The console also incorporates the electric parking brake and a driving mode selector that has three settings on automatic transmission versions: Eco, Normal, Sport.

Smooth diesel power combined with a fluent 8 speed automatic…

Indeed, we drove here the BlueHDi 130 S&S in combination with the EAT8 Auto gearbox. Here we again were impressed by what a modern 1499 cc four valve turbocharged diesel engine (still) has to offer in terms of velvety power delivery and sheer economy, all this in paired with a state of the art transmission.

Starting from cold, the once so familiar diesel clatter is totally absent: this engine runs smooth, virbationless and silent right from the word go. At speed, it is totally inaudible, and very unobtrusive indeed at urban crawling speeds. The transmission is ideally mated to the engine’s torque characteristics. Indeed, the unit has ample pulling power, developing 300 Nm at a low 1700 rpm. Performance therefore leaves nothing to be desired: it will accelerate smoothly in 10,6 sec to 100 km/h, further to an impressive top speed of 206 km/h. Revs are kept low due to the high final gearing of the transmission, providing very restful high speed cruising. Indeed, maximum power of 96 kW or 130 HP is developed at a very sedate 3700 rpm.

So this C4 has everything in house to excel as a fast “grande routière”, and on top of that there is a truly astonishing fuel economy: we reached an average during our test of merely 4,4 l/100 km!

Legendary comfort…

The C4 is equipped, as standard, with the Citroën brand’s innovative suspension system featuring Progressive Hydraulic Cushions®, which were first introduced on C4 Cactus and C5 Aircross SUV. The suspension setup offers supreme comfort and a “magic carpet ride” effect, according to Citroën. Indeed, comfort is truly top notch. Not less than twenty patents were filed in the development of this suspension system. Its operating principle is simple: the Citroën Progressive Hydraulic Cushions® system adds two hydraulic stops – one for compression, the other for decompression besides the classic metal springs and shock absorbers. The suspension works in two stages, depending on the stresses it encounters.

For light compression and decompression, the spring and shock absorber control vertical movements together with no assistance required from the hydraulic stops. However, the presence of the hydraulic stops means the engineers have greater freedom to tune the setup to achieve the fabled “magic carpet ride” effect, which gives the impression that the car is gliding over uneven road surfaces.

Indeed, with major impacts, the spring and shock absorber work together with the hydraulic compression or decompression stops, which gradually slow the movement to avoid jolts at the end of the range. Unlike a traditional mechanical stop, which absorbs energy, but then returns part of it as a shock, the hydraulic stop absorbs and dissipates this energy. Clever!

The C4 is also quiet: particular attention has been paid to acoustic insulation, with a focus on running and aerodynamic noise. Special attention has been paid to the insulation around the engine block.

…is also found in the seats

The special foam on the surface of the seat, thickened by 15 mm, offers softness and support from the first contact. The new high-density foam at the core of the seats holds the occupants in place during long journeys. The seats are also pleasantly wide and generously dimensioned.

The front seat passenger is also spoiled…

A Smart Pad Support Citroën™ is a World Premiere on New ë-C4 and New C4. It is a retractable system designed to hold a tablet computer. It is solid, functional and directly built into the dashboard. It enables the front passenger to make the most of the time spent on-board. Ideal to put your co-pilot at work to read for you the stories and information about the towns or the regions you travel through, which you have prepared on your IPad or tablet prior to your voyage of course…

The Dashboard tray itself is a large sliding drawer with a cushioned action, positioned in front of the front passenger. It has a special anti-slip surface to store personal items or hold a tablet in place in complete safety. Just great!

Of course there is an open wireless charging area for smartphones, which comes combined with two USB sockets, one of which is Type C.

Infotainment and connectivity galore…

The 10-inch touchscreen, with a capacitive screen that needs only be touched with the tip of a finger, allows the driver to configure the vehicle, access the multimedia system, telephone, air-conditioning and navigation. It also features voice recognition.

Wireless charging for smartphones allows a wide range of Qi-compatible devices to be induction-charged using a charging mat incorporated into the centre console. The wireless transmission of electrical energy is based on the principle of magnetic induction. Connect Play, using the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay™ compatible Mirror Screen function are installed of course.

ConnectedCAM Citroën® is an independent camera system integrated into the base of the rear-view mirror. It uses full HD and GPS technology. The camera allows you to take a photo or video of the outside scene in front of your vehicle, with the corresponding data stored on the integrated 16 GB memory card. Thanks to the WiFi connection, the data recorded by the camera can be transferred to a smartphone to be shared via e-mail or social networks. ConnectedCAM Citroën® continuously films the road in front of the windscreen and automatically saves the recordings in the event of an accident.

As well as driving aids…

The new ë-C4 and New C4 are packed with driving aids – no less than 20 latest-generation technologies in all. That is as many as on C5 Aircross SUV, which is the benchmark for driving aids at Citroën.

Practical and spacious…

The C4 has a wheelbase measuring 2,670 mm – one of the longest in the segment – delivering the “Best in Class” knee room in the rear at 198 mm. The 1,800 mm exterior width easily accommodates three people in the rear – providing 1,380 mm of width at the shoulders and 1,440 mm at the elbows. Headroom in the back is a bit restricted for the tallest among us though.

With a 380-litre boot and a low, flat loading sill (715 mm), the C4 is at the heart of the segment. For added convenience, a two-position floor allows the boot to be divided into compartments and provides a flat floor when the rear seating is folded down. For even more practicality in everyday life, hooks are present to hang bags, while a ski hatch allows particularly long objects to extend into the cabin.

Last but not least we tell you here that this Citroen C4 is built at its Madrid plant, and Stellantis has spent €144 million in upgrading the factory and designing the new C4.

We also had a short drive with the electric ë-C4, and we tell you soon about our driving impressions… stunning indeed!

Conclusion

In terms of driving comfort, long-legged cruising performance, and last but not least exceptional economy and smoothness, this C4 truly stands in a class of its own. It is one of the most harmonious cars we have come across lately. Its 1,5 litre 130 HP diesel showed us again how formidable these engines have become, offering a useable range of well over 1,000 kilometers.

This C4 breathes originality and character, even more so in the interior, and we can tell you this: just slide behind the wheel of this one, and you will notice, Citroën driving is addictive, and this feeling grows further with every meter you drive it…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Mercedes C 200 Luxury Line: setting the pace again…

After the new S Class comes usually the new C Class with systems and functionalities found in its bigger brother, to set new benchmarks also in its D segment.

Driving the new C200 Luxury Line Limousine, we can say that the brand with the star has fully succeeded. This car stands out in its class, discreetly but with assurance… Just read further.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

S-Class looks…

The C Class breathes the styling language of its bigger brother, if you look merely at the front and rear end. The profile of the C Class is then again marked by the bigger door window areas. The overhang over the rear wheels is slightly longer, and this makes the car look more elegantly stretched, just like the S-Class. The car is also some 6,5 centimeters longer than the previous C-Class generation, breathes panache, looks modern and is purposefully aerodynamic.

…also in the cabin

In the interior, the family resemblance with the top of the line S-Class is even more marked. Sliding behind the wheel, one immediately is overwhelmed by the two big digital screens, one in front of the driver, and another one in massive Tesla style on the centre console.

The Mercedes MBUX system is developed now close to perfection, and even novices soon find their way intuitively through the very logical buildup of the system. And if you would still get lost, there is always the voice command. Just say ‘Hey Mercedes’ and say what you want done…

We loved the 360° camera parking aid very much. The system is so clever, that sometimes you want the system to be even smarter, for example, in situations where one approaches a kerb with the front end of the car when parking in a bay, you would like the front end camera to start up automatically to show you how close you are. Now you first have to push the camera button on the centre console, or use reverse gear first.

You would also want the camera system to get into action automatically – even accompanied by an alert sound – if you get with one of the stylish 18 inch alloy wheels too close to a trottoir border, fence or other obstacle. Now you are left all too often to guesswork. Maybe there is a mode for it, but we did not find it intuitively. The seats are excellent, and adjustable in every conceivable way. Also the rear passengers enjoy enough legroom, thanks partially to the well curved backs of both front seats.

State of the art propulsion…

The 200 C has a 1,5 litre DOHC four cylinder under the hood, developing not less than 204 HP with 300 Nm of torque. If that wasn’t enough, there is also an E-boost of 20 HP and 200 Nm. A small battery will store kinetic energy when decelerating and braking, delivering then its power for the extra boost when called for. The performance leaves nothing to be desired: This 200 C accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 7,3 seconds, its top speed is not less than 247 km/h. The engine is almost inaudible and superbly smooth, provided you don’t push your right foot too deep. When you accelerate hard from standstill or low speeds, the unit lets it heard as it frantically revs through the gears, and one clearly feels and hears that a smaller thoroughbred engine is at work here.

At motorway cruising speeds, things get silent and smooth again, not least because of the high final gear of the superb 9 speed automatic gearbox, ideally mated to the engine.

There are of course several driving modes to choose from, and we liked most the ‘ECO’ mode, where also the E-boost is best felt. The small capacity of the engine has its advantages in economy, and the manufacturer quotes 6,4 liters/100 km as average WLTP consumption. Don’t expect however this C 200 to be exceptionally frugal however in urban driving. This is a 1,5 tonne car and when you drive it with verve, power is needed. The official figure is 8,7 liters/100 km, and very short distance urban errands with very slow traffic will push the consumption well over 10 liters/100 km. There is no secret, in partial and varying load driving, diesels are so much better…EQ-boost or not.

Comfort is to be expected, and this Luxury Line C Class has the Agility Control Damper system as standard. The fundamental setting is already quite firm, so we opted for the comfort mode, which already supports a very spirited driving style with excellent stability and handling. Steering is also precise, and the C Class doesn’t’ mind being driven with verve. The seats also keep you firmly in place, and this goes for the passengers as well.

Road noise is well suppressed, and we enjoyed fully the Burmeister 3D surround sound system in our test car.

Conclusion

Our test car came fully equipped, from electronic adjustable seats to a panorama sunroof and keyless entry. This is how a Mercedes should be, although our less lavishly equipped 1,6 litre B Class which is now more than 4 years old pleases us every day we drive it. It is the balance, workmanship, thorough engineering, overall smoothness, solidity and pervading sense of security which make a Mercedes, and this C 200 continues the good tradition…

Hans Knol ten Bensel