We drove the new Jeep Compass: a true Jeep with a European touch

The Jeep Compass 2021 is now a completely new model, with changes to the features which are close to the hearts of European customers: stylish inside and out, with state-of-the-art technology under the hood, besides being also sustainable and functional.

This is also the first Jeep launched (and developed) by the Stellantis Group, and it is also produced exclusively in Melfi, Italy. This is only logical when you know that in Europe, the Compass accounts for more than 40% of Jeeps sales and today one in four Compass vehicles sold is a plug-in hybrid model.

An important car therefore, with plenty of good reasons to put it here through its paces for you. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Compass fitted with the new GSE four-cylinder 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine, and we immediately selected on the configurable digital instrument display the consumption indicator function, to show us permanently average and immediate consumption. More about the results later…

This new engine develops 150 HP in our test car, and is therefore paired to a 7 speed Dual Dry Clutch Transmission (DDCT).

A very smooth engine it is indeed, almost inaudible both at urban and motorway speeds. The gearbox is also ultra smooth, and mates perfectly with the engine. The level of silent sophistication and smoothness a thoroughbred 1,3 litre petrol engine can offer nowadays is truly stunning. Of course the excellent transmission helps here too. The same engine, the 4-cylinder 1.3-litre turbo unit, comes in the Compass models with plug-in hybrid technology with even more power, 190 hp or 240 hp and 270 Nm of torque, coupled then to a six-speed automatic transmission. Last but not least eAWD powers the 4xe versions and completes the New Compass engine range.

Performance

The 150 HP version offers more than adequate performance with a sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 9,2 seconds and a top speed of 199 km/h. Accelerations in intermediate speeds are excellent, and one hardly needs higher revs to enjoy the pulling power this drivetrain offers. There is also a “sport” mode for dynamic driving, letting the engine rev longer and higher in the gears and making the gearbox more alert to throttle movements.

The manufacturer quotes 5,5 litres as combined consumption, with an urban average of 6,6 litres/100 km. One needs a very prudent foot on the throttle and much anticipation in one’s driving style to achieve this, and the average during our test was 7.2 litres/100 km on the open road, cruising at the legal speed limits on the motorway, with spirited accelerations in between and motorway congestions and slowdowns thrown in too.

In urban driving, a sensitive right foot works wonders, the gearbox settling in at the highest possible gear when cruising at 30 or 50 km/h, with the engine running at 1200 rpm, and immediate consumption hovering around the 4-5 litre mark. Caressing the throttle will keep it there, a more vigorous blip will send it swiftly above 10 litres. An average of 7.8 litres/100 km in urban conditions was however rather easily achievable. The very clever and readable consumption display will soon teach you the consumption difference between a more spirited and a relaxed driving style… CO2 emissions are quoted as 153 g/km in the WLTP cycle.

In this drivetrain configuration, the Compass has only front wheel drive, which doesn’t mean however that you cannot steer this Compass on off-road terrain and country roads. For our photo session, where we tried out our Fujifilm X-A5 which we had recently bought used for less than 300 €, we went on open terrain which was still rather wet and soggy from the torrential rains which have devastated many towns and villages in Wallonia, parts of Germany and Holland. It proved no problem at all for our Compass to turn tightly and move from standstill without any loss of adhesion or slippage of the front wheels on the rain-sogged grass.

Connected and practical

The vocation of our Compass is, as Stellantis puts it, to address the wishes and needs of rational, factual people, which are also fascinated by the possibility of getting away from their daily routines: Stellantis calls them “pragmatic dreamers”.

Besides stronger aesthetics, with good capabilities off road as well as on the open road, the new Compass offers features an all-new cabin, designed to improve comfort and life on board, and to make the urban driving experience smarter.

Major highlights include the full-HD digital 10.25-inch instrument cluster, DAB radio, Uconnect 5 system with touchscreens from 8.4-inch to 10.1-inch, moved to the middle of the dashboard in a higher position so the driver can remain focused on the road, a five times faster processor, Android operating system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, interactive 3D TomTom navigation and natural voice recognition, and last but not least Uconnect Services.

The interior has also been made even more functional with a new arrangement of the central console and augmented storage compartment space (providing nearly 4.4 litres of additional storage – a three-fold increase versus the 2.8 litres of the previous version, now with a total of 7.2 litres).

Still more safety features…

The New Compass is the first Jeep vehicle in Europe to offer level 2 autonomous driving and is equipped with the latest generation ADAS, as standard across the range. These include: Traffic Sign Recognition, which reads and interprets the road signs; Intelligent Speed Assist, to automatically keep the car within the speed limit advertised; Drowsy Driver Alert, to alert the drivers when their attention falters or if they drop off for a moment; and Automatic Emergency Braking with pedestrian and cyclist recognition, which slows the vehicle down to a complete stop, to avoid (or mitigate) accidents that could occur.

Our test car was sprayed in a beautiful matte green…

But the biggest new feature is the Highway Assist, combining Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Centering, to automatically adjust the vehicle’s speed and trajectory. The vehicle therefore automatically stays in the middle of the lane, at a sensible distance from the vehicle in front, for a driving experience with total peace of mind.

Comfort…

Driving long distances or making short urban errands are a breeze in the new Compass. Seats are well contoured and comfortable, the suspension is overall rather firmish, but irons out potholes and ridges very well. Noise levels are low, with any mechanical noises virtually absent at any speeds.

Conclusion

This new Compass indeed marries very well both worlds: that of urban sophistication as well as the ruggedness and bewildering attraction of the freedom of on- and offroad. The power and refinement of the 150 HP engine coupled to the 7 speed DDCT transmission is convincing, as well as the overall stylishness of body and cabin.

Of course we look forward to testing the 4xe variant, but let you enjoy the photos of this new Compass already here…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Photographers’ notes:

For the photo’s of this test, we put our recently acquired used but pristine Fujifilm X-A5 through its paces. We just love the velvety sharpness and contrast of the Fujinon lenses, one of the reasons we bought this camera. It also looks very good, and has some Leica aura over it. We studied its manual thoroughly, as it has many clever features… just look at the photos. We will use this camera also extensively in the future…so you will see soon a lot more of what this good looking camera can do.

Experiencing E-mobility for all: we drove the new Citroën AMI in the streets of the Capital of Europe…

Citroën has always been THE brand for breakthrough mobility solutions. It responded this time to today’s challenges by offering 100 % electric mobility literally for all: a cute, roomy two seater with an 8 HP (6 kW) electric motor which can be charged in 3 hours on your home socket and which offers up to 75 km electric range in town or country/village roads. What’s more, since it is only 45 km fast, you don’t even need a drivers’ license for it. In France, 14 year old’s can drive it, in most European countries this is possible from 16 years onwards. But it is also excellent news for the (very) elderly, they have the ideal, roomy two seater which protects them from the elements, it is easy to step in and out of, has two wide opening doors and is the proverbial breeze to drive.

Citroën has done it, and we were delighted thanks to the dynamic PR team to experience the first kilometers behind its cute steering wheel in the streets, squares and boulevards of Brussels. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Light and roomy

Like the iconic 2 CV, this AMI is designed with nothing but practicality in mind. Its symmetrical body shape is unique, with a long roof and cabin, offering a sea of space for its two happy occupants. Only the driver’s seat can be moved fore and aft, the passenger’s seat is fixed, and therefore one sits normally a bit further back than the driver.

Room for a cabin space suitcase, and an elegant hook to hang your bag…

But she/he enjoys formidable legroom, and can actually stretch its legs fully. This means that seating with your legs in a normal position, there is even room for a cabin size suitcase in front of your feet! So there is always enough room for your errands, as besides in the cabin, the AMI has still an extra luggage space in the back.

Citroën has decided to make this long cabin as light and airy as possible. Therefore, a glass panoramic roof is fitted standard. So it is la Vie en Rose in your AMI. One gets in through the wide opening doors, which are identical and because of that opening in different directions. The driver’s door sways out in the front, making getting in and out super easy.

You can throw your pocket camera, bottle and sundry in one of the three customizable bins just behind the window, hang your city/handbag on the elegant hook provided on the passenger’s side, and get behind the wheel. The dashboard just reveals speed and battery charge level, indicating also the remaining range in km. Further, there is a switch for heating and fan. Next to it is a smartphone holder, so your phone can provide for navigation and music.

The row of knobs for “Drive”, “Reverse”, “Neutral” and “Park” sits on the left side of the driver’s seat. Just push “D” and off you go. Acceleration is lively, but don’t expect miracles from 8 HP moving a cute car with a total weight with battery of 485 kg, where one still has to add the weight of one or two passengers. But it is certainly enough to move along with the flow of urban traffic, and with some restraint one soon notices that a cruising speed of around 40 km/h needs just a push of 1 or 2 centimeters on the throttle. You don’t get any deceleration from the E-motor when you lift the throttle at speed, so adapt your driving style and drive with more anticipation as the distances to make good use the kinetic energy are longer. But it can be done, and soon you get the hang of it…

Driving in Brussels one soon notices that the indicated range is absolutely realistic, and that’s a big plus. Also remember, three hours is enough to fully (re)charge the AMI.

Brussels paves are ridden with potholes and ridges, but the AMI took it very well in its stride with a surprisingly comfortable suspension.

Make it your very personal AMI…

As said, life is good in this AMI. Typical and reminiscent of the 2CV are the side windows, which open by manually tilting upwards.

Citroën offers, in a “Do It Yourself” fashion, the possibility of creating the object that suits each customer’ tastes through a kit of accessories that can easily be installed yourself. This kit incorporates functional decorative items: a central separation net, a door storage net, mat, storage tray on the top of the dashboard, small hook for a handbag, smartphone clip, DAT@MI box (dongle device) connected to the My Citroën app to retrieve essential information from your Ami on the smartphone.

4 main shades are available for these accessory kits, costing 400 Euros: MY AMI GREY, MY AMI BLUE, MY AMI ORANGE, and MY AMI KHAKI.

2 characterful packs are available on AMI for even more customization. These 2 packs contain all the above decorative elements and large format stickers that cover the outside and thus give AMI its very own style.

– My Ami POP with Orange personalization and a fun, young and sporty look, with a rear spoiler, is available for €8,190 incl. VAT.

– My Ami VIBE in gray with a more upscale, chic and graphic design that integrates roof coverings in addition to the stickers, is available for € 8,690 incl. VAT.

The installation of these 2 personalization packs is entrusted to professionals before delivery.

The specific exterior body colour is neither too feminine nor too masculine and works with the different colour packs Citroën has developed (blue, white, khaki and orange).

So the Ami is a base that can become a completely customised object with exterior and interior accessories that are either pure style or offer real extra functionality, as well as stickers that give it a completely different characters, tells us Pierre Leclercq, Head of Citroën Style.

Prices…

AMI AMI: 7.290€ incl. VAT

MY AMI ORANGE, KHAKI, GREY, BLUE: 7.690€ incl. VAT

MY AMI POP: 8.190€ incl. VAT

MY AMI VIBE: 8.690€ incl. VAT

MY AMI CARGO : 7.690€ incl. VAT.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the MINI Countryman Cooper Northwood Edition: This MINI thinks BIG…

The MINI Countryman has grown to be a medium size SUV, like for instance the Audi Q2 or Nissan Qashqai, and has borrowed many mechanical elements of the BMW X1. But it also has retained all the quintessential styling elements of the MINI, its typical upright proportions, styling language and bodywork details, which it continues even more in the interior, where we find the big central round dial with the infotainment display, and the typical toggle switches, amongst others.

The MINI Countryman buyer has plenty of choice: in addition to plug-in hybrid drive, the new MINI Countryman is available with three petrol engines and three diesel engines featuring the latest MINI TwinPower Turbo Technology. But besides a wide array of drivetrains, the range of accessories has also been greatly expanded, and indeed, we saw also the launch of the fully equipped Northwood Edition. We told already more about it then in these columns, and you can read about it with the following link:  https://autoprova.be/2021/02/12/stylish-and-iconic-mini-launches-the-new-mini-countryman-northwood-edition/

We drove for you this fully loaded edition with the 100 kW/132 HP three-cylinder petrol engine and the 6-speed manual transmission. Plenty of zest and driving pleasure is guaranteed, we can already tell you here. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Northwood ambiente inside and out…

Our test car was certainly pleasing to the eye. Executed in a deep blue, it was shod with stylish black alloys, and compared to the previous model, it sports a newly designed radiator grille, with LED headlamps and LED fog lights now as standard.

The standard trim of the new MINI Countryman also includes LED fog lights, with a light band in the upper semicircle of each fog light serving as a parking light. The LED rear lights are now also in Union Jack design.

In the interior your eyes admire the new digital cockpit display with a 5-inch colour screen, and also the Piano Black interior surfaces for the cockpit and door bezels are putting you in a good mood.

We just love also the toggle switches, and find all commands easy at hand. The sports leather steering wheel also falls ideally in your hand. Only when your MINI has been standing in the sun, the wheel rim of the sports leather wheel can get very hot, and can be barely touched for the first few minutes without wearing gloves. Indeed, classic driving gloves are a necessary accessory in our ever-warmer summers now…

The Connected Media and Connected Navigation Plus options, available as an alternative to the basic configuration, each include an 8.8-inch colour screen with touchscreen function located in the central instrument that is typical of the brand. The circular control unit in the new MINI Countryman looks great, with the audio control panel and the buttons for hazard lights and driver assistance systems now integrated even better. Meanwhile touch-sensitive bookmark buttons and high-gloss Piano Black surfaces underscore the premium character of the central instrument.

Even the standard audio system offers audio streaming via a Bluetooth connection and a hands-free telephone system with USB interface. The Radio MINI Visual Boost and the digital instrument display form part of the optional equipment item Connected Media, while the Connected Navigation option makes a range of additional infotainment functions available in the new MINI Countryman in addition to providing a convenient route guidance system. This option also comprises wireless charging for compatible mobile phones and a second USB socket.

The new MINI Countryman is equipped with a SIM card that is permanently fitted in the car. This enables use of Intelligent Emergency Call with automatic detection of vehicle location and accident severity, as well as MINI TeleServices. The new MINI Countryman is always online, enabling seamless integration of the voice assistant Amazon Alexa.

This provides access to the Real Time Traffic Information service as well as the internet platform MINI Online and preparation for Apple CarPlay. MINI Connected can be used to send navigation destinations from the smartphone to the vehicle. The mobile phone connection also means that the vehicle’s navigation map is updated automatically.

Very willing engine…

MINI TwinPower Turbo Technology is used in the 3-cylinder petrol engines, and they are very responsive indeed. Throttle response is immediate and without any hesitation, from very low revs onwards. The exhaust manifold is integrated in the cylinder head along with turbo charging. Among other things, this ensures highly effective cooling of the exhaust gases and the turbocharging system. Also, the petrol engine direct injection system operates at a maximum pressure that has been increased from 200 to 350 bar. With this very willing engine, performance is rather brilliant, with an acceleration from 0 – 100 km/h in 9.7 seconds. Top speed is an impressive 205 km/h.

The six-speed gearbox is a delight to use, spoils you with precise, quick changes. The clutch is very smooth and progressive, the drivetrain copes wonderfully with all the pulling power, as it has been designed to cope with far more torque and power in the sportier models.

But the bare performance figures do not tell the whole story. The sheer effortlessness and smoothness when you use the full performance of this MINI has to be felt to be believed. It is indeed a very agile as well as smooth car in everyday use, and that makes a lot of the charm of this MINI.

With all this smooth and vibration free willingness, one is tempted to put the throttle somewhat deeper than originally intended, and this bout of extra enthusiasm translates also in the consumption figures. We clocked a test average of some 8 liters/100 km, using the performance more often than not. Constant speed economy is excellent, so when cruising at the legal limits the immediate consumption hovers between 5 and 6 liters and less. The manufacturer quotes 5.9 – 5.6 liters/100 km, with CO2 emissions being 135 – 129 g/km.

Masterful on the road…

The MINI Countryman has wonderful handling and road manners. Despite its more than 4-meter length, it feels nimble and agile, as indeed a true MINI should. It steers wonderfully precise, and invites you to take winding roads with spirit and zest. Straight line stability is of course also excellent, and this Countryman is also a perfect “Autobahnwunder”, capable of cruising at very high speeds indeed.

Practical

The new MINI Countryman has as the biggest MINI a versatile interior. Three fully-fledged seats are available at the rear. Alternatively, the second row of seats can also be used to expand transport capacity. By folding down the rear seat with a 40 : 20 : 40 split, storage space can be extended from 450 to up to 1 390 liters.

Conclusion

Providing character, unique panache, space in combination with mechanical excellence, superb handling and zesty performance, this is what the MINI Countryman is all about. The Northwood Edition spoils you with a full equipment, to keep you connected, amused, comfortable and happy.

This car is a true delight to use every day, and you will hardly get tired of it. We liked the version we tested, but there is – as we said – so much more, from E-power to full all wheel drive.

We hope to lay our hands soon on one of these more powerful (AWD) versions, not forgetting the electrified versions. Stay tuned on these columns…

Hans Knol ten Bensel 

We spoke with Antonella Bruno: “we are electrifying Jeep for Europe and the world, whilst keeping its unique DNA..”

In our interview series of remarkable women and men in the automotive world, we had an interview with the first woman to lead Stellantis’ historic American brand in the old continent: Antonella Bruno, now Head of Jeep Brand for the Enlarged Europe region.

She has not less than 20 years experience in the automotive industry, and started her career at the company in 2007. Since then, she has held increasingly prestigious roles in the sales and marketing divisions, becoming Market Director Italy for the Lancia Brand in 2012, followed by a position as Head of Lancia Brand in 2013.  

From 2017, in addition to her role at Lancia, she served as Head of Network Development and Customer Experience, an interesting position which together with her new challenge at Jeep, were reasons enough for having this interview…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Antonella Bruno posing in front of the impressive Rubicon at the recent Jeep Media Drive…

Q1 My first question is, you had a long career in the automotive world, I think it has to do with what your father did, but could you tell me why you find the automotive sector so fascinating?

AB: As you rightly said, I grew up close to the automotive world, my father was leading one of the SKF plants, one of the subsidiaries, so after my degree it was natural to step into this sector. I got an opportunity to start working in MSF, and then on further, so it was a kind of natural path for me.

Q2: Why do you think the industry is so unique? What do you think about its future, about the energy transition… and the many mobility and environmental revolutions it is going through, like electrification among others. Do you have any comments on that?

AB:  Let’s say that the automotive industry is very magnetic because it is especially now evolving very rapidly, and electrification is one of the main topics in the future, so at Jeep we started last year with the launch of the Renegade and Compass 4Xe, our first two electrified models, and we are carrying on with that strategy, this will represent our future. We are also working to let the customer understand that buying or considering an electrified car is rather easy, and that the technology is user friendly.

At the recent Jeep 4Xe presentation, you see here the Jeep Wrangler 4Xe in the picture…

We also make clear that being electrified does not mean that they lose the core of Jeep. So for us electrification means catching new customers, with a less aggressive and more sustainable stance, but at the same time – and this is really crucial – it means also to stay true to our values and not really dilute our DNA.

Q3: It is indeed a balancing act for you, you have the customers who appreciate the authenticity of Jeep and go for the Wrangler Unlimited so to speak and at the other end of the spectrum you have new urban Jeep buyers who chose the Renegade and possibly opted for hybrid electrification. Indeed, you have to keep your DNA…

The Renegade has urban qualities…

AB: You are right in saying that we have a more urban clientele opting for the Renegade back in 2018 when it was launched, but also the whole current range of 4Xe models are a perfect example of what we mean in terms of balancing the sustainability and capability because the Wrangler (4Xe and plug-in hybrid) is now a car which you can use daily. If you drive the car, you will notice it performs even better off road thanks to the electrification and this balance I mentioned between sustainability and capability is crucial for a brand like Jeep.  

Q4: With the venue of the Renegade in the mass compact SUV segment, the market presence of the brand has widened considerably…

AB: Yes, as I was saying, before the Renegade the brand was rather more a kind of niche brand in Europe, but when the car was launched, we really grew in terms of volumes and we opened a new segment of (potential) customers.

But equally feels at home in the mountain snow…

Q5: My next question brings us a bit more to the personal side, focusing on the woman in the corporate world. I would like to ask you which skills, which talents did you hone and perfect during your long career and at the same time what would you advise young people and/or young women specifically when they enter the corporate world. What should they watch for, what should they study in terms of human relations, management?

AB As a woman I had the possibility of starting at Ford when I started the first part of my career, and let’s say I had to opportunity to grow a lot, and in terms of skills, I think that it is related to the way I am behaving outside work.

I am an ex-volleyball player so I am used to be very determined, passionate. But I have to be honest, I studied a lot, because when I was young, my first passion was reading, automotive magazines among others. I was very curious, and I used to listen to people who were more experienced than me. Because I think you need also at the beginning to be humble, indeed to be very curious but at the same time humble enough to listen to people who have more experience than you.

I did not experience any kind of difference between men and women, so I was very lucky, and for me it is not a matter of gender, it is a matter of being a professional, being skilled, and you need to keep studying along your career. You grow during your career, but you cannot ever consider that you have arrived, because each new role (re)defines your profile, and therefore at the same time requires you to keep studying. It is important to be a strong, skilled manager, and this goes for both men and women.

Q6: Do you think Corona has affected the position of women in the workplace?

AB: Corona has changed the way we are working in this sense that that now we are spending a lot of time working from home, and this requires a different kind of organization. It requires a kind of cooperation between men and women, let’s say within the family, because it is a new way of working. It depends therefore on the single situation whether this is to the disadvantage of women. It requires an important ability to organize your time.

Q7: If we come back to your new and first rather to your previous function, I was very intrigued that you were Head of Network Development and Customer Experience. Can you tell me more about it?  

AB: AB: As head of customer experience, I can tell you that it was a cross-brand function, and with Corona the digital experience became very relevant and even more so after the sanitary crisis.

So by making the digital experience more efficient, we provide our customer with the ability to order the car online, this is very relevant and it is the future. You have to provide additional content and the digital experience has to be very easy, because you know that 90% of the first research when you are interested in a car starts on the web. So this was the main activity before Corona.

Go anywhere with a Jeep… now also electrified…

Coming back to the network, I had the privilege of leading the network development, which is also very related to the customer experience. To reach the customer is the first mission, but in the final stage we need to explain and pass all the information on the product to the end customer, especially now that we are going through the electrification (of our range). Having said that, we need to offer the best professionalism from our sales staff and we also need to offer a real customer experience in line with our brands. We also need to help the customer to overcome anxiety when it comes to electrification. “

Q8 Can you tell a bit more about the markets in the Enlarged Europe region?

AB: In Europe, the most important market is Italy, representing almost 50 pct of volumes, and we need to keep growing in markets like Germany, which is the most important market in Europe when we talk about electrification. Also France is of key importance for our future.

Retaining Jeep’s unique DNA is our mission…

The high penetration in Italy is explained by the strong legacy with our network, and since June last year we are producing both Renegade and Compass at our factory in Melfi, so Italy is performing very well. I am sure that we will keep growing thanks to the electrification in the markets outside Italy.

HK: We thank you for this interview.

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

Centro Stile Fiat and Abarth creates a stunning one-off based on the beautiful ‘60s Abarth 1000SP…

The slender original ’60s Abarth 1000 SP on the left, alongside the new one-off successor…

Sometimes, things happen which make the heart of a car enthusiast beat faster. Like an initiative taken by the people of the Centro Stile Fiat & Abarth.

They have now rolled out a contemporary interpretation of the superbly stylish and iconic Abarth prototipo Designed in 1966 by the Milan engineer Mario Colucci. Just look at the accompanying photo. Of course, we can only hope and pray that this will not limit itself to this one-off styling and engineering exercise.

A beautiful evocation of the purity of the original Abarth 1000SP…

The points and lines of the original car’s design were respected to ensure continuity between the ’60s sports car and the concept car of the new millennium.

The contemporary Abarth 1000 SP respects three fundamental design principles already seen in the ’60s model. First and foremost, the lightness of its forms, its volumes and of course its weight.

The second principle is aerodynamics: modern design technologies have made it possible to combine the iconic lines of the 1000 SP with an aerodynamic coefficient worthy of a contemporary sports car.

Finally, ergonomics, aimed at improving the user experience, to optimize the vehicle’s control and agile driveability.

A faithful evocation…

The Abarth 1000 SP echoes the lines and aesthetics characteristic of its forerunner. The sinuous body, with the soft surfaces of the fenders highlighting the position of the wheels, takes up the pattern of the spider with a central engine.

The cockpit glazing features shaped side deflectors, with their profile lowered towards the roll bar, the latter strictly “in view”, to highlight our being in the presence of a “no-holds-barred” spider.

Of course, today’s passive safety requirements make the car taller and more imposing…

The rear geometries of the Abarth 1000 SP accentuate the harmony between the lights and the exhaust pipes.

Of course, The livery is strictly red and the characteristic air intakes appear all over, from the front bonnet to the cooling slots in its rear counterpart. 

The headlights also follow the minimalist scheme of the historic 1000 SP, with point lights on the nose and a single pair of round headlights to accentuate the car’s remarkable breadth when seen from behind.

The present Abarth 1000 SP thus maintains a very similar identity to its forerunner’s, courtesy of the meticulous work to update the historic, no-holds-barred Abarth 1000 SP.

Despite modern safety requirements, the designers of Centro Stile managed to retain the character of the original…

Conversely, the tubular chassis under the “skin” of the historic Sport Prototipo gives way to a hybrid frame, with a central cell in carbon fiber and an aluminum front. The “new” Abarth 1000 SP features a powerful turbocharged 4-cylinder, 1742-cc central engine, capable of 240 hp. The sophisticated mechanics of the concept boasts overlapping triangle suspension in the front, with an advanced MacPherson strut at the rear.

We will tell you more about the original 1966 Abarth later, so stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel.

RENAULT TALK #1: a new ERA – THE RENAULT BRAND RESTATES ITS AMBITIONS

A new Logo, and a bold future…

Today Luca de Meo, Renault Brand CEO, and the Renault brand team have participated in the first ever “Renault Talk”, a brand-new all-digital event where they discussed their vision of the wider group.

The new direction, unveiled by the team, presents Renault Group as an energy transition leader, at the forefront of the latest technology and services, operating in a more sustainable and responsible manner as part of its ‘Nouvelle Vague’ (New Wave). 

A people-centric brand, Renault is entering a new era as it delivers enhanced modernity to the European automotive industry.

Technology and state of the art electronics will hallmark the future Renaults…

Nouvelle Vague…

The ‘Nouvelle Vague’ will turn Renault into a brand focused on technology, services and clean energy, by engineering smarter everyday vehicles and mobility solutions that are more sustainable.

This is in line with the DNA as a company that changed with the times throughout the 20th century with innovative, modern vehicles.

Now, more than ever, Renault strives to meet market expectations of responsible, carbon-free, safe and scalable mobility solutions that are in line with customer needs.

The Arkana, the first SUV Coupé of a volume manufacturer… presented here by Laure Grégoire – Model launch Manager.

During Renault Talk #1, Luca de Meo restated the direction set for the brand, at the heart of the Group’s Renaulution plan:

  • As industry leader of the energy transition, the Renault brand will be the greenest brand in Europe as of 2030, with nine out of 10 cars on sale being electrified.
  • At the forefront of technology and services, the Renault brand is shaping the future of urban mobility, primarily via the ‘Software Republique’. More than 2,000 engineers from five industry-leading companies will bring their shared expertise in cyber security, artificial intelligence, data processing, software, and microelectronics, in order to deliver turnkey mobility solutions for cities and communities.
  • The Renault Re-Factory – Europe’s first circular-economy hub – marks a move towards a more sustainable and responsible model, with up to 120,000 vehicles (EV included) recycled or upcycled every year. Nearly 80 per cent of strategic recycled materials will be reused in new batteries.  By 2030, Renault will become the world’s best automotive manufacturer when it comes to the percentage of recycled materials in new vehicles.
  • Renault is taking its ‘voitures à vivre’ to upper segments: Seven models will be released in the C and D segments by 2025, all of them electrified, with the All-New Arkana marking the beginning of this offensive. The next generation Megane E-TECH Electric, a vehicle that embodies the future of connected and full-electric cars, is also set be launched in the near future. Lastly, ongoing improvements to E-TECH hybrid technology will continue to provide upcoming C- and D-segment vehicles with the very best in efficiency and dynamic driving experiences.

A NEW ERA, and a NEW LOGO

Throughout its history, the Renault brand has undergone several changes to its visual identity. But one thing has remained unchanged since 1925: the instantly recognizable Renault diamond, a true brand icon.

The latest version of the Renault logo was created in 1992 before being slightly refreshed and reworked in 2015. As a brand deeply rooted in a modern, international market, this all-new logo brings a more modern and vibrant feel and serves a key purpose of portraying the Renault brand as more relatable and built on people-centric values. A streamlined design without typography or brand signature, the logo is an open-ended shape, reflecting the brand’s openness and transparency.

The new logo was co-designed with Landor & Fitch consultants and will be phased in as of next year on all Renault brand vehicles and throughout the Renault network. By 2024, the whole Renault range will bear the new logo.  

During the Renault Talk, Gilles Vidal, Renault Brand Design Director, unveiled an image of the logo as it will appear on the back of the new Megane E-TECH Electric, which will come to market in 2022.

ALL-NEW BRAND EXPRESSION

According to Arnaud Belloni, VP of Global Marketing for the Renault brand, the ‘Nouvelle Vague’ is also reflected in the brand’s advertising.

Imbued with a creative and modern edge, they incorporate some of the brand’s most iconic pieces of memorabilia: the Renault Fuego, covers of cult classics like ‘Johnny & Mary’, or the Renault-Gitane cycling jersey featured in a recent advert for the Captur E-TECH Hybrid.

Renault makes their “Cars fit for true living” increasingly electrified… presented here by Gilles Le Borgne – Engineering Director Renault Group

THE RENAULT E-TECH HYBRID OFFENSIVE

With more than 10 years of experience and almost 400,000 vehicles sold to date, Renault is a leader in the European EV market. Building from its expertise in pure-electric vehicles, Renault has extended its EV range with hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of its core market vehicles.

With more than 150 patents to its name and having leveraged the brand’s experience in Formula One, E-TECH hybrid technology is as unique as it is modular. In both hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions, it provides the best in energy efficiency and driving pleasure while also reducing CO2 emissions and fuel consumption.

This revolutionary piece of technology debuted on three of the brand’s core vehicles in 2020 as a way of making the EV experience something for everyone:

  • Clio E-TECH Hybrid
  • Captur E-TECH Plug-in Hybrid
  • Megane Sport Tourer E-TECH Plug-in Hybrid

In 2021, the E-TECH range is set to expand with the release of the All-New Arkana and Captur E-TECH Hybrid, plus the Megane E-TECH Plug-In Hybrid, totalling an electrified range of six E-TECH hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Gilles Le Borgne, EVP, Engineering, Renault Group, has confirmed that the brand is preparing for the future by extending the scope of its E-TECH hybrid technology to future generations.  

Upper segments – especially the C-SUV segment – will see the arrival of a brand-new 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine combined with an electric motor, for a 200hp hybrid vehicle in 2022 and a 280hp in plug-in hybrid four-wheel drive vehicle in 2024.

ALL-NEW ARKANA: SPORTY, HYBRID, AND SPACIOUS

The All-New Arkana’s unique, full-hybrid design is the first SUV with coupe design from a mass-market manufacturer.

Its TCe engines feature 12-volt micro-hybrid technology delivering enhanced fuel efficiency, while the E-TECH hybrid powertrain is capable of running in electric mode for up to 80 per cent of the time on urban roads, contributing to around 40 per cent in fuel savings compared with a standard petrol engine.

Across Europe in May so far, more than 6,000 orders have already been placed for the All-New Arkana.  

THE ALL-NEW KANGOO: ELEGANT AND SPACIOUS

The All-New Kangoo combines sophisticated design, space and technology, offering superior practicality with three full-sized seats in the rear and more than 49 litres of accessible storage areas. The car is here presented by Thierry Plantegenest – VP Sales Marketing LCV and Pick-ups, (on the left).

The  bootspace ranges from 775 litres up to 3,500 litres of flat-bed cargo area, while it can be specified in five- or seven-seat models. The All-New Kangoo also boasts 14 standard-fit driver assistance systems.

In 2022, the All-New Kangoo range will expand further as it becomes available as a full-electric E-TECH model.

VALUE FIRST

Fabrice Cambolive, SVP, Renault Brand Sales and Operations, restated Renault brand’s commercial priorities:

  • The ‘green’ offensive: Ramping up the EV range and furthering the E-TECH offensive, as already in Europe, 25 per cent of Renault sales are electrified and 30 per cent of Clio sales in France are for the E-TECH Hybrid
  • Products: Speeding up product line renewal, both in Europe and abroad, by winning back market shares in the
    C-segment

A global player…

Proud of its French roots, the Renault brand is also an international brand. The Renaulution plan is Renault’s way of bolstering its international presence, while boosting efficiency. Model by model, market by market, the Renault brand has overhauled its business model. The final objective is to increase the profitability of its vehicles while preparing a generation of new products to conquer new markets.  

Internationally, the Renault brand has been investing in its historical high-potential markets with a strong local presence – Brazil, Russia, Turkey, and India – while keeping risk levels in check.

In Europe, Renault continues to rely on its key markets – France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and the United Kingdom – with a more visible range and a clear roadmap: leverage E-TECH to foster E-mobility leadership and ramp up efforts to increase market shares for both C-segment and commercial vehicles.

A bold future lies ahead! We will soon test for you the Megane Grandtour and Captur Plug in Hybrid, as well as the bestselling ZOE – stay tuned!

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