We drove the Citroën C5X 1.2 Pure Tech 130 S&S: the legend lives on…

We all know that the segment of the “grandes berlines” or the bigger saloons is under pressure. But then Citroën has a tradition to defend: making cars which provide splendid comfort, ample space for its passengers and can travel at speed for hours on end, without any fatigue for its occupants. The French call it “une grande routière”, and they whisper this with some respect. The tradition in France has been long, and magnificent. They have had in the ‘30s les grandes Bugatti, Voisin, Hotchkiss, Delahaye, and of course from the mid fifties of last century onwards the Citroën DS 19, Pallas 21. Then came the stylish CX, followed the XM and then by the iconic C6, a “voiture présidentielle” if there was one. So a “grande berline” simply MUST be on the menu. And indeed, there it is: the C5X.

The C5 X comes with different drivetrains, more powerful and electrified, but the dynamic Citroën Belgium PR team reserved for us the “base” version, with the well proven and pretty formidable 1 199 cm3 three cylinder 12 valve 131 HP engine coupled to an 8 speed automatic gearbox. Well proven we say, as this engine/gearbox combination is found in a great many models of the Stellantis group. It is found in Opels, DS Automobiles, Peugeot…and of course other Citroëns’. Does the C5X with this combination still have all the panache of a “grande routière?” Let’s see…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Impressive stance…

But first let’s have a walk around the car, and have a look at its aesthetics. It stands rather high on its wheels, so you cannot define it as an ordinary saloon. It rather has the looks of an SUV with its up to 19 inch wheels, and protections running around the wheel arches. When you look at its descending roofline, it also has the character of a luxury coupé.

On the front, a long chrome strip with the “double chevron” at its centre runs between the double headlights which are placed one above the other. Citroën describes the body shape of the C5 X typically as a hatchback crossover, and we would agree totally here.

In the interior, the dashboard has a rather classic layout, with small instruments facing the driver, spreading its information also on a clearly legible head up display. Luckily there is a large 12 inch touch screen display in the centre, with all the necessary functions well laid out, including the obligatory Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Space

The strong point of the C5 X is of course its legendary interior space. Rear passengers find regal legroom and this puts this car truly in a (more than) premium league. All this space doesn’t come at the cost of boot space, which is in standard form still offering a good 545 litres, which is extendable to a whopping 1645 litres. Despite its higher stance, the loading sill is pleasantly low.

A pounding heart

If one wouldn’t know better, one gets the impression that a big, old school 2 litre four cylinder petrol engine is doing all the work; it is not exactly refined, as vibrations on partial load at lower revs are clearly felt in the steering wheel.

But once you put your foot deeper, the engine runs smoother, and the 8 speed automatic changes also less perceptible. The gearbox can be ultra smooth when accelerating gradually at low urban speeds, and the engine is not too rough either, and even almost inaudible. So the engineers did their homework in slow city driving circumstances. The stop start function can be jerky sometimes, but soon one learns to avoid that with a sensitive right foot. All this behavior lets you think back to the DS 21 and DS 23 Injections in the seventies, and when you have known these cars, it gives you the impression that it is typically Citroën, this engine efficiency with a hint of roughness. Because efficient this engine is. Consumptions between 6 and 7 litres are easy to obtain, given of course an anticipative driving style, avoiding sprint accelerations.

Not that this 1,2 litre, 1,4 tonne Citroën is slow. Remember, 130 HP is exactly what a flagship 1972 DS 23 injection 5 speed was capable of, and its torque with 210 NM was even less than the 230 Nm the 1,2 litre three cylinder puts to the front wheels. Don’t forget, the DS 23 had a 2347 cc engine…The DS5 will sprint from 0 to 100 in 11,3 seconds, the historic DS 23 took 11 seconds to do the same. Top speed of the C5 is 210 km/h, doing honor to the Citroën tradition of “grande routière”. The DS 23 Injection was teasing Porsches in their days with a top speed of 188 km/h.

The good torque characteristics of this 1,2 litre engine and the alert 8 speed gearbox lets you enjoy good punch for overtaking and gaining  speed.

Thankfully the climate controls are analog beneath the touchscreen…

The legendary suspension and comfort…

The strong point of the DS5, and this is where it continues the tradition, is its masterful behavior at (high) motorway speeds. Because here the suspension comes into play, and here, despite the fact that we don’t have an adjustable suspension in this “basic” version, the engineers did a masterful job and succeeded in giving this big Citroën exactly this floating carpet ride which is so typical of them. This indeed makes this car an absolute king of the road, come rain, sleet, slippery surfaces, the C5 always seems to float over it with unerring stability and comfort, and…at speed. Cornering is also no punishment for the driver either, even when you are in big hurry. Of course there is some leaning to be felt in corners, but then again this feels completely natural. 

When talking about comfort, we have to mention here the absolutely fantastic Citroën comfort seats, which really stand out.

The pinnacle of mobility…

There is one thing in which this 1,2 litre petrol engined C5 X truly excels too: it has just a petrol engine only, and this does result in mean less weight to carry around, but also, and this we tend to forget in our electrified age, it gives you absolute mobility. After a (very) fast 700 km trip, it just takes minutes to refuel, and you can continue your journey for as long (and fast) as you want. Your formidable “pure” EV than has to rest for AT LEAST one hour, provided you find the proper recharging station…for example in the cute village you entered in the Alpes Maritimes…

Citroën says less is more… the rest you can read on the head up display…

With the abysmal recharging infrastructure we will witness still for years to come, as it cannot keep up with the increasing volumes of EV cars, increasing, this is an element which cannot be stressed enough. The reason also why all manufacturers are offering also (plug in) hybrids…

Conclusion

Is this 1,2 litre C5 X a true “big” Citroën? You bet it is. All the way. We mentioned its strong points, and this indeed makes it a car which continues the legend with panache and unique bravour.

We also like its style, its value for money, its roominess, comfort, safe, unerring, stable handling. Of course the C5 X is also offered with more sophisticated drivetrains, like the 225 HP Plug in hybrid version, but you get already the real taste of what a big Citroën is all about, enjoying as we said absolute mobility  with this 1,2 litre petrol engined drivetrain…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We spoke with Pierre Leclercq: “our Citroën Oli is not only style. It is French Design.”  

On the Brussels Salon, Citroën showed its already iconic Oli prototype, a harbinger of things to come in the Citroëns which will be in the showrooms already this and next year. Reason enough for your servant to have a talk with its head of design, Pierre Leclercq, about the design philosophy of the progressive brand with the “double chevron”, and so much more…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

I started this interview asking indeed about this new design philosophy of the brand, striving towards simplicity, practicality, lightness, durability and sustainability in a very bold and original package.

PL: “With the Oli, there are two things. First there is the brand identity, as we show with the Oli styling elements which we will bring to the market as soon as this year. The front end, the new logo, the head- and rear lamps, also the coherence between the front and rear end. The latter is a very important element in our brand identity. (We have seen this already in the Ami – editor’s note).

The form language, the simplicity of the edges and the curves will also be seen on our future production cars, but then also the contrasting vertical elements will be present. Our designers will deviate here from the strictly automotive styling which you see in the other brands of the group, we have a non-automotive touch which will be a distinctive element in our future styling.

The magic goals of French Design…

The second fact is that the Oli is not just a styling exercise. It is not only style. It is really French Design. We work together with our engineers to reduce weight, the cost, we are striving for intuitive and simple solutions.

For instance the seats. It’s very important, we work with a whole team to get a seat which is very distinctive, which we can put into production. We discovered with the Oli that our clients are ready for these things. We see that our clients are ready to take bold steps together with us, because we have an image that we will bring something more on the road than just a nice looking car.

HKtB: This translates also into the choice of the materials, the dialogue with the suppliers about the substance and texture of the elements and their surfaces, their unique touch and feel, the atmosphere and character this gives to the car…

PL: We will be a zero carbon company in 2038, and this has a huge impact on materials. Not so long ago, the choice of the materials came very late in the process of building a car. The exterior and interior, the colors, it was seen as pure decoration. Here and there, one started to use recycled materials for some items, but that was it. This process is now completely turned around at Citroën. We now ask first to tell us which materials we can use, as we want recycled materials, unpainted, and we will go from there and adopt them. This is most interesting. And I think that our clients are also ready for this.

HKtB: These elements and this approach we also see in the Ami. The French, as even Mr. Tavares recently put it, love their individual mobility. The Ami is fit for the (mega)city… will there be other models geared for a new City Mobility in the spirit of the Oli?

We always search for new solutions…

PL:  We have many projects running now. It’s a bit like a funnel. When there is one project hitting the road, we have already other proposals in the pipeline. We are always searching for new solutions. If you remember, two years ago, we showed a rather disruptive project of robotized platforms, which is an intelligent use of the present day autonomous technology, in controlled urban areas. But I imagine perfectly in 2030 and 2035 that these solutions will be used in our cities. The design will then focus on the interior of the cabins and structures rolling on these platforms, a very interesting evolution.

The Ami represented a big risk for us, indeed, we thought about the city, but in fact, we scrutinized the clients who bought the Ami, age, location, etc, and we noticed that the Ami is not only used in the cities. We have clients who buy the Ami for their children and grandchildren, remember that in France you can drive an Ami at the age of 14, and it is better than a scooter. And in a market where these vehicles cost between 12 and 15.000 Euros, ours is available for 6.000 Euros… No small feat, as we respect the profitability margins of our group! It is now on the market for two years, and it has grown more into a lifestyle than a car. This is also what the 2 CV has achieved. It is not easy to create the same phenomenon in this day and age…

HKtB: Can you tell a bit more about your Ami buyers?

We have also many clients who buy an Ami for their holiday homes. And as I said, of course grandparents who buy the Ami for their grandchildren. There are also clients who own a Ferrari and buy an Ami for their third or fourth car…

HKtB: We talked earlier in Paris about your open mindedness towards other designers, in other sectors, who could become involved in offering elements of the car during its life, for example, that in a further future one could offer replacement seats for Oli’s or Citroëns who after years of intensive use get a bit long in the teeth… or, rather, offer parts and items to customize the new Citroëns…

PL: It’s a philosophy I love very much. People more and more want an object which is really theirs. Design is not a luxury anymore. If you go for an Ikea kitchen, you can still choose the finish, styling and colors you want, to make it yours. This is now also true for cars. We have started this with the Ami.

HKtB: It is also true for Jeep. Mopar offers a wide array of accessories.

PL: Indeed, this trend is already more prominent in the States. But with the Ami we started off in Europe with the same trend. Not that we offer many accessories, but we created a desire with the customer to customize his car. It’s like Apple. They don’t offer many accessories themselves, but are produced by Belkin etc. It is a very interesting path for our cars in the future. This will give us for instance incredible interiors. I want the client to appropriate our geometries. Why not share our geometries on the internet Open Space and invite the developers to have fun with it?

Every brand has its own design team to embody its proper DNA

HKtB: What is your relationship or rather dialogue between your styling department and the suppliers? Do they come present you what is possible, or after having established a manifest for yourselves what you want to do in styling in the next five years, let’s say, you ask them to come up with new materials, possibilities?

PL: The dialogue goes both ways. But I want to stress here that the design has become very important. The suppliers are specialized in offering technology, for instance for the platforms we have conceived within the group, but over the last 30 years, what have we done? Instead of asking PininFarina or Bertone to style all the cars in the world, we have all established our design centers which carry truly our DNA, and every brand has its own equipe or team of designers. This is génial, because we have cars within the group which don’t resemble each other at all…

HKtB: With the new materials comes also repair friendliness, durability…

PL: Indeed, we want our cars to have a longer lifespan, and we will refresh them within our network. We need of course more control as nowadays we don’t see the car anymore after it has been produced. We have to control the recyclability of the car. Otherwise it’s no use to build the car with recyclable materials.

HKtB: It think it is necessary to tell the client that his car now has a long life and that you as the manufacturer will follow the car throughout its life.

PL: Indeed, a lifelong car, staying with you the rest of your life.

HKtB: Indeed, that as a brand policy you commit yourself to the clients that your Citroën model, Type A, B, or whatever, that you will always follow this car for decades to come…

PL: Ca serait génial, that would be a stroke of genius. It is our goal. It would be very interesting and it would completely change the idea of the automobile of today.

HKtB:  The youth is already there. They support and adopt the circular economy. I think Citroën is the right brand to do this. 

PL: Indeed, we push within the Stellantis group for these concepts, and I think that our clients are far more inclined to make these choices than the buyers of other brands.

HKtB: I thank you for this interview. Thinking out of the box is always interesting.

PL: I thank you, always lovely to exchange these ideas, thank you for the conversation. I also think that every car we build has to make the life of our clients better. These are not empty words. The Ami improves lives. We offered a new service; in Paris, people smiled when they saw the car. It takes something to convince a Parisien!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A look at Peugeot’s future products and electrification strategy with the INCEPTION CONCEPT…

Featuring a revolutionary exterior and interior design, including the next-generation PEUGEOT i-Cockpit® and innovative Hypersquare control system with steer-by-wire technology, the INCEPTION CONCEPT will inspire PEUGEOT’s future products from 2025 onwards. The better news is that Peugeot plans to bring most of its innovations to production (!)

Based on the STLA Large platform, the fully electric INCEPTION CONCEPT is powered by a 100kWh battery providing a range of 497 miles. With two electric motors, the INCEPTION CONCEPT produces almost 680hp and accelerates from 0-62mph in under three seconds. The model also features 800V technology, enabling it to add 93 miles of range in just five minutes, and is capable of wireless induction charging.

Linda Jackson, CEO of the PEUGEOT brand, said: “PEUGEOT is committed to the electrification of its range. In 2023, our entire line-up will be electrified and in the next two years, five new 100% electric models will be launched. Our ambition is simple: to make PEUGEOT the leading electric brand in Europe by 2030. This objective and ambitious vision pave the way for a radical transformation for the brand, as represented by the INCEPTION CONCEPT.”

Indeed, PEUGEOT will reduce its carbon footprint by more than 50% by 2030 in Europe and to become fully Carbon Net Zero by 2038.

Over the next two years, PEUGEOT will launch five new 100% electric models and by 2030, all PEUGEOT cars sold in Europe will be electric.

Dramatic design

The PEUGEOT INCEPTION CONCEPT introduces a new, simpler and more refined design language for the brand, which will be introduced on future models from 2025. At the front, it features an all-new light signature incorporating PEUGEOT’s distinctive claw design, which is merged with the front grille to create a single object that also houses the sensors. This is made up of a single piece of glass with the logo in the centre, magnified by the 3D luminescent effect.  The front grille and headlamps are in my opinion a bit reminiscent of the ‘70s 504… 

A TECH BAR runs horizontally through the door layer. This flush screen emits different messages to the outside of the car when the driver and passengers approach it. The artificial intelligence equipped on the PEUGEOT INCEPTION CONCEPT makes it possible to recognize the driver in order to set up the comfort settings (seat posture, temperature, driving mode and multimedia preferences) desired by each occupant. In addition, the TECH BAR also displays the battery charge level and houses many sensors and radars, leaving the bodywork completely smooth.

The INCEPTION CONCEPT’s bold design incorporates 7.25m2 of glazing to create a glass capsule for the passenger compartment that plunges to the driver and front passenger’s feet. All the glazing (windscreen, side windows and quarter windows) is made from glass designed for architecture. Adapted to the PEUGEOT INCEPTION CONCEPT, it retains its exceptional thermal qualities and benefits from a multi-chrome treatment (treatment with metal oxides), a process initially used for the visors of astronauts’ helmets by NASA.

Completing the car’s unique design is an exclusive body colour, which highlights the shapes in the bodywork and interacts, like the glazing, by tinting according to the external environment. The paint is single-coated, meaning far less energy is consumed during its application.

‘BEV-by-design’ platform

The INCEPTION CONCEPT has been given the silhouette of a low (1.34m) and efficient saloon and is 5m in length. It is based on the STLA Large platform, one of four future Stellantis Group “BEV-by-design” platforms. The arrival of this new range of platforms from 2023 will revolutionize the PEUGEOTs of tomorrow. Specifically created for electrification, they offer major differences in terms of architecture which enabled designers to completely reshape the PEUGEOT INCEPTION CONCEPT’s passenger compartment.

The new “BEV-by-design” native electric platforms will also introduce technological modules powered by artificial intelligence: STLA Brain, STLA SmartCockpit and STLA AutoDrive. Like the INCEPTION CONCEPT, future PEUGEOT models will be equipped with STLA Brain artificial intelligence and will be fully connected.

Powertrain

The 100% electric PEUGEOT INCEPTION CONCEPT is equipped with 800V technology. Its 100kWh battery enables it to travel 497 miles on a single charge, with extremely low consumption of just 12.5kWh per 100 km. The INCEPTION CONCEPT is capable of adding 19 miles of range in one minute, or 93 miles in five minutes, and can also be recharged wirelessly by induction.

Two compact electric motors, one at the front, the other at the rear, make the PEUGEOT INCEPTION CONCEPT a four-wheel drive vehicle. The combined power is close to 680hp (500kW), enabling it to accelerate from 0-62mph in under three seconds.

Next-generation i-Cockpit®

With its new Hypersquare control system, the PEUGEOT INCEPTION CONCEPT offers an agile driving experience and an all-new, more intuitive i-Cockpit®. Inspired by video games, the Hypersquare control system does away with the conventional steering wheel in favour of digital electric controls and steer-by-wire technology.

The centre of the Hypersquare is a tablet-type screen dedicated to the distribution of control information. The pictograms for the different features (air conditioning, radio volume, ADAS etc.) are displayed on the two side panels to facilitate access to the chosen control. The latter is located inside the circular recesses and can be accessed by moving the thumb only, without taking your hands off the steering control.

The next generation i-Cockpit also includes the Stellantis STLA SmartCockpit technology platform and STLA AutoDrive, enabling Level 4 autonomous driving. When driving is delegated, Hypersquare retracts and a large panoramic screen slides out from the floor to offer a new passenger compartment experience.

 PEUGEOT’s goal is to introduce the Hypersquare on a next generation vehicle in the range before the end of the decade.(!)

Interior

The PEUGEOT INCEPTION CONCEPT features a minimal cockpit dedicated to the driver alone, which does without a dashboard, crossbar and the bulkhead, providing a completely open view of the road.

Sustainable ‘moulded textiles’ are also used throughout the interior. Scraps of 100% polyester fabric from the design centre’s prototyping workshops or from suppliers are re-used to make load-bearing or trim parts. The seats are covered with a velvet made from 100% recycled polyester, which extends onto the floor and features 3D patterns to act as a floor mat.

More Peugeot news soon…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

BMW rides you into an enhanced real and virtual world at CES Las Vegas…

The BMW Group is sharing its vision of the future digital experience, both inside and outside the vehicle, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2023 in Las Vegas.

It presented the BMW i Vision Dee, a futuristic mid-size sedan with a new and pared-down design language. The name “Dee” stands for Digital Emotional Experience – and that is precisely its aim: to create an even stronger bond between people and their cars.

This car has future digital functions will go far beyond the level of voice control and driver assistance systems we are familiar with today.

It starts all with a BMW Head-Up-Display extending across the full width of the windscreen, providing a glimpse of the next vehicle generation.

From 2025 onwards, this innovation will be available in the models of the NEUE KLASSE. The BMW Group has also refined its use of colour-change technology. Having unveiled the BMW iX Flow Featuring E Ink, with the ability to change from black to white, at the last CES, BMW i Vision Dee can now curate its exterior in up to 32 colours.

“With the BMW i Vision Dee, we are showcasing what is possible when hardware and software merge. In this way, we are able to exploit the full potential of digitalisation to transform the car into an intelligent companion. That is the future for automotive manufacturers – and, also, for BMW: the fusion of the virtual experience with genuine driving pleasure,” said Oliver Zipse, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG. “At the same time, BMW i Vision Dee is another step on the road to the NEUE KLASSE. With this vision, we are looking far into the future and underlining the tremendous importance of digitalisation for our upcoming product generations.”

With its intelligent, almost human capabilities, BMW i Vision Dee accompanies drivers not only through real-life situations on the roads, but also in their digital environment.

“A BMW lives by its unparalleled digital performance. BMW i Vision Dee is about perfect integration of virtual and physical experiences,” said Frank Weber, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Development. “Whoever excels at integrating the customer’s everyday digital worlds into the vehicle at all levels will succeed in mastering the future of car-building.”

BMW Mixed Reality Slider: into the virtual world in five steps

The BMW, in combination with the advanced Head-up Display, is the digital highlight and central operating control of BMW i Vision Dee. The completely virgin and simple dashboard panel shows just a line with dots. This is the Mixed Reality Slider. By using shy-tech sensors on the instrument panel, drivers can decide for themselves how much digital content they want to see on the advanced Head-Up Display. The five-step dot selection ranges from analogue, to driving-related information, to the contents of the communications system, to augmented-reality projection, right up to entry into virtual worlds. In parallel, dimmable windows can also be used to gradually fade out reality. Mixed reality can be experienced in BMW i Vision Dee in an immersive way that engages different senses without requiring any additional tools, creating a new dimension of driving pleasure for the user.

Advanced BMW Head-Up-Display: in NEUE KLASSE from 2025

The BMW Group is known in the automotive sector as a trailblazer for the Head-Up-Display and has systematically refined this technology over the past two decades. In BMW i Vision Dee, projection across the entire width of the windscreen allows information to be displayed on the largest possible surface – which only becomes recognisable as a display once it is activated. In this way, the BMW Group demonstrates the huge potential of projection technology and BMW i Vision Dee visualizes how a advanced Head-Up-Display could also be utilized in the future for the display and operating concept. The standard-production version of the BMW Head-up-Display extending across the full width of the windscreen will be used in the models of the NEUE KLASSE from 2025 onwards.

Welcome scenario with voice and phygital icons

The digital experience already begins outside the vehicle, with a personalized welcome scenario that combines graphical elements, light and sound effects. Natural language serves as the simplest, most intuitive form of interaction, enabling perfect understanding between humans and their vehicles. The headlights and the closed BMW kidney grille also form a common phygital (fusion of physical and digital) icon on a uniform surface, allowing the vehicle to produce different facial expressions. This means BMW i Vision Dee can talk to people and, at the same time, express moods such as joy, astonishment or approval visually. BMW i Vision Dee can also project an image of the driver’s avatar onto the side window to further personalize the welcome scenario.

World premiere for full-colour E Ink technology

Following the spectacular debut of the BMW iX Flow Featuring E Ink at CES 2022, the BMW Group is now unveiling a full-colour version of the E Ink technology in BMW i Vision Dee that will be used as the outer skin of the vehicle for the first time worldwide.

BMW i Vision Dee, rather than simply alternating between black and white, now showcases a multi-coloured, fully variable and individually configurable exterior. An ePaper film from the BMW Group’s cooperation partner, E Ink, is applied to the body to create this magical display of colour. Up to 32 colours can be displayed.

The body surface of the BMW i Vision Dee is divided into 240 E Ink segments, each of which is controlled individually. This allows an almost infinite variety of patterns to be generated and varied within seconds. The laser cutting process used to trim the films and the electronic control design were developed in partnership with E Ink. The adaptation of this technology for curved surfaces and the programming of the animations, were developed by BMW Group’s in-house engineers – enabling a form enabling a form of customisation that is unique throughout the automotive sector worldwide.

Reductive design – inside and out

The design of BMW i Vision Dee has been deliberately pared down to focus attention on the digital experience and the DNA of the BMW brand. The exterior is defined by the classic three-box sedan design that forms the core of the BMW brand. Traditional design elements, like the BMW kidney grille, twin circular headlights and the Hofmeister kink, are reimagined, with phygital icons replacing analogue elements. This gives BMW i Vision Dee its own digital, but human, character.

Inside, digitalisation goes hand in hand with reductive use of materials, operating controls and displays to ensure nothing distracts from the digital experience and the new feeling of enhanced driving pleasure. The unconventional design of the steering wheel, with its central vertical spoke, creates touchpoints that come to life when approached or touched and can be operated by moving the thumb. These phygital touchpoints control selection of the content projected onto the windscreen and, together with the Head-Up Display, thus support the principle of “hands on the wheel, eyes on the road”.

“With BMW i Vision Dee, we are showing how the car can be seamlessly integrated into your digital life and become a trusty companion. The vehicle itself becomes your portal to the digital world – with the driver always in control,” said Adrian van Hooydonk, head of BMW Group Design. “Implemented the right way, technology will create worthwhile experiences, make you a better driver and simply bring humans and machines closer together.”

Another milestone on the road to the NEUE KLASSE

The future of the BMW Group is electric, circular and digital. BMW i Vision Dee represents the digital aspect of this trio and will be another milestone on the road to the next vehicle generation, the NEUE KLASSE. The BMW Group will provide further insights and glimpses of the revolutionary vehicle concept of the NEUE KLASSE over the course of 2023. See more news soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Volkswagen Group of America will provide a glimpse of the ID.7…

At the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas between 5 and 8 January 2023, Volkswagen Group of America will showcase its first fully electric sedan based on the modular electric drive matrix (MEB). It will still be seen in a “smart” camouflage, which uses unique technology and multi-layered paintwork to create light effects on parts of the vehicle.

The ID. AERO3 concept vehicle initially presented in China already provided a preview of the new model, which embodies an aerodynamic design concept and is able to achieve ranges of up to 700 kilometers (WLTP).

After a six-year break, Volkswagen Group of America is returning to the CES – the world’s largest trade show for electronics – with a very special product…

With the new ID.7, VW is extending its electric model range into the upper segments. The ID.7 is one of ten new electric models that VW is planning to launch by 2026.

VW seems to have learned some lessons when it comes to the functionality of the various infotainment and dashboard commands. It ofeers a new display concept, an augmented reality head-up display, a 38-centimeter (15-inch) screen and new air conditioning controls integrated into the first level of the infotainment system. Now we also have illuminated touch sliders…

Like all other models in the ID. family, the ID.7 is based on the MEB of the Volkswagen Group. The advantages of the modular matrix with short overhangs and long wheelbase (2.97 meters) provide a large interior.

With its ID.7 sedan, Volkswagen is expanding its successful fully electric ID. family into the upper middle class of the high-volume segment and advancing its electric mobility campaign with the ACCELERATE strategy. VW has already reached a first milestone: Since the first ID.3 models were handed over to customers in September 2020, Volkswagen has delivered 500,000 vehicles from its ID. family worldwide through its subsidiaries – around one year earlier than planned and despite the ongoing difficulties in the supply chain.

After the ID.3, ID.4, ID.5 and ID.6 (only in China) models and the new ID. Buzz7, the ID.7 will be the sixth model from the ID. family and is Volkswagen’s second global car to be based on the MEB after the ID.4. It is planned to launch the electric sedan in the three primary markets of China, Europe and North America. The ID.7 for the European market will be produced at the Volkswagen Emden plant. After the ID.4, it will be the second model based on the modular electric drive matrix to be built in Emden.

More news soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Nissan Juke 1,6 Hybrid: a very refined and stylish urban SUV…

The Juke has invented the compact, urban SUV and indeed has gained many faithful followers over the years. Times have changed, and the reduction of CO2 emissions is crucial now. So when the facelift of the Juke came along, it was time also to launch a hybrid version. Within the Renault group, the drivetrain of the Renault Captur was the obvious choice, and so here we are with a 1,6 litre petrol engine combined with an electric motor, delivering a system power of 105 kW or 143 HP. Nissan engineers have further honed Renault’s hybrid system, and we found it operating very refined indeed. The second generation Juke also underwent some styling changes for the better, but retained its iconic shape. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Pleasing…

The front end of the Juke now features a honeycomb grille with also the headlamps elegantly integrated in the bodywork with the indicators and running lights stylishly elongated along the bonnet. We already tell you here that the headlamps feature already in the standard equipment full LED, as well as the rear lights.

The interior is also very well finished, with soft padding on the dashboard, door panels and centre console. We like the very readable round instruments, and the touch screen sits nicely high up on the centre of the dashboard. Everything is quite intuitive to handle, and one feels well at home in this cosy, rather dark interior, the latter as a (happy?) result of the typical styling of this SUV.

The steering wheel is eminently adjustable, and the front seats are very comfortable indeed. Thanks to its SUV character one sits pleasantly high, with the front seats being some 52 cm above street level. So getting in and out is a breeze.

Refined, at least when you drive it smoothly…

Driving a Hybrid is also an art, which you have to learn. Ok, the hybrid offers you thanks to its electric motor that added torque and immediate pulling power which is the very charm of EV driving. But the smoothness and silence of the drivetrain will please you even more when you drive it quietly, with anticipation and restraint.

Then the clever (thanks to computer-age Artifical Intelligence) system will manage the power stream masterfully between E- and combustion power, the engine revs will not rise unduly and in urban traffic you will achieve anything between 5 and 5,5 litres/100 km. The hybrid Juke will also let you use the e-pedal function, so you can recuperate kinetic energy via the electric motor, which then acts as a generator. Of course, you set the drive selector on the centre console in “Eco” mode, and leave it there.

When you want more performance of the Juke, you can forget about any extra economy. Logically, as then the combustion engine has to do most, if not all the work, as it has also to maintain a minimum charge in the battery. Only the e-pedal will let you recuperate kinetic energy, so you can use the e-boost of the electric motor when re-accelerating. The engine revs high, one clearly hears that it’s there, and the transmission is very busy choosing the right gears with sometimes a hint of jerkiness.

This is also the reason why high cruising speeds on the motorway are also to be avoided if you want to see decent economy. Diesels can run at high speeds with consumptions remaining between 6 and 7 l/100 km, but NOT petrol engines. The Juke will then set you back with averages between 7,5 and 8 litres/100 km. No miracles, dear readers, just the laws of physics. The Nissan engineers also set the tone already, as the top speed of this Juke Hybrid is “only” 166 km/h. You shouldn’t be doing it, if you think about the earth. Enough zest though, as the Juke will sprint from 0 to 100 in 10,7 seconds.

The Hybrid Juke has a so-called “Multi-Mode” transmission, with 4 speeds for the petrol engine, and two speeds for the electric motor. AI chooses for you not less than 15 gear combinations! The engine is good for 94 HP and 148 Nm, additionally supported by a 15 kW starter/generator. The electric motor has 49 HP and 205 Nm of torque.

Our average test consumption stayed well below 6 litres/100 km, as indeed we drove the Juke Hybrid as it is engineered to be. CO2 emissions are set at 114 g/km according to WLTP standards.

When starting from cold, the engine will at least during the first few kilometers rev quite clearly, as it has to reach its operating temperature as fast as possible and also has to keep the battery (re)charged. When you use EV power extensively in (very) slow and quiet driving, every now and then, the engine will eagerly rev again, but then this is to recharge the battery. It does this even when you hardly touch the throttle or even not at all, which seems a bit unsettling at first, but soon you get used to this.

Enjoy the music…in comfort

Driven in the right way, the Juke will seduce you with quietness, and this lets you enjoy the DAB+ radio and the excellent sound system. We had a Bose system with speakers integrated also in the headrests, and the sound experience was indeed wonderful. The suspension is comfortable, a bit firmish, but never harsh. Seating is excellent with more than enough headroom in the front. In the back, this is less generous, but legroom is very much OK. There is also enough room in door bins for even 1 litre bottles.

Connectivity is also top notch, with Apple Car play and Android Auto provided.

Stable and predictable handling

The Juke steers precise, has very good stability at speed and is predictable in corners. Even abruptly lifting the throttle in de midst of a curve will trigger the ESP and the Juke will maintain its course. The steering is reasonably direct (2,5 turns from lock to lock) as an urban compact befits. The Juke is quite safe, in the NCAP Crash test it achieved 94 pct of all the achievable points. Brake performance is very good, with the wider tires of course enhancing the deceleration.

Practical

Boot space is adequate for a compact SUV with 301 liters, and there is an under floor tray with an additional 90 l. With all seats folded there is 705 liters available when you load until the rear window base. One has to lift the luggage rather high into the opening however, some 78 cm.  

Conclusion

The Juke has its iconic looks further improved, and is certainly a smooth urban performer with its Hybrid layout. On the open road it is also a good travel companion, with high speeds letting the petrol engine work rather hard, which limits economy. But as said above, adopting the proper driving style will let you enjoy fully its “zen” qualities, for years to come…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Photographer’s notes: we took most of the photos here with the bargain of the year: a still totally pristine Fujifilm Finepix S100fs, with a Fujinon 28-400 mm 35 mm equivalent lens, bought two weeks ago for almost the original price of its sun lens hood: 59 Euros!!

It proved to have excellent color and light balance, surpassing even the Samsung S22 state of the art flagship smartphone, which did not succeed in making a well color balanced photo of the e-pedal button on the centre console. The auto color balance got so completely out of line in the shadowy interior of the juke that I had to print here the photo in black and white here (see photo in the article above) instead of the exaggerated blue the S22 produced.

We drove the Seat Cupra Born…

The Spanish, more ardent version of the Volkswagen ID.3 is the Seat Cupra Born. More, sporting, more zesty, more panache, that’s what the VW group wants to offer here. And indeed, this Fully electric Cupra fills the bill, when it comes to looks, handling and performance. We put for you the 150 kW version through its paces, equipped with the 58 kWh battery. As you already well know, electric motors have formidable torque, and this Cupra surely delivers at the traffic light. It sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in 7,3 seconds, and so the beautiful EV story is again told, performance wise at least. But the Born has also other (dynamic) qualities, just read further…

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Looking at our Cupra test car, we liked its colour palette very much, and the external sporty styling elements. Also bystanders admired it, so yes it enhances clearly the personality of this car. I like the front end, the copper coloured badging, the big roof spoiler above the rear window, the nice streamlined alloys, the texture on the c pillar.

Also the interior breathes this flamboyant sportiness, although what screens, instrumentation and buttons are concerned, it is identical to the ID.3. The design of the dashboard surface does look a bit cooler though, with some added textures and copper coloured surroundings of the centre console for instance. Very nice are also the body hugging front seats.

On both sides of the steering column one finds buttons like a Formula 1 driver would use. The right button puts you immediately in the sports mode. Performance galore, but your range will soon dwindle, even more so in winter. With the left button you can click through the available driving modes, from eco to sports.

Given de immediacy and sheer amount of the available power, we found the “eco” mode more than enough for our needs, and it gave us also a more or less reasonable range. Our test car had the 58 kW battery, and this gives you a theoretical range of 425 kilometres. That supposes of course very fair weather and a driving style which even trucks find on the slow side. Under the same driving style, my Hybrid Lexus clocks then 3,9 liters/100 km… indeed, an EV rewards you with a sedate driving style in town, and very moderate cruising speeds up to max 100/110 km on the open road. Then things are truly fine. The simple truth is, the laws of physics apply everyday everywhere, for all EV’s too, miracles just don’t happen. By the way, the top speed of this Cupra is limited to 160 km/h. At higher speeds, you would spend exponentially more time at the charging stations, so there is no time gain and thus no point in going faster.

You can opt for a more powerful Cupra Born with a 170 HP motor and a bigger 77 kW battery, which would give you also a higher range of 550 km, but we found our test car totally sufficient, once you adhere to the philosophy of environmentally friendly EV driving, smooth and sedate, flow the traffic, drive with anticipation and make minimal use if the brakes, letting the electric motor recuperate the energy. We are totally convinced that this is the only way an EV should be driven. Everything else is rather absurd, given that an EV is meant to emit less and protect our world. The Cupra has also the nice “B” position on the drive selector, and that lets you use the regeneration fully so you can really drive and brake this car using one pedal only.

Smoothness is what you go for…

Refinement is your biggest reward when you choose an EV. The Born delivers here too, as you could expect. Utter silence, mechanical smoothness, it is unsurpassed. Abundant torque is always at your disposal, immediate response at the slightest blip of the throttle. Just wonderful.

The handling of the Born is also a notch better than the ID.3. The Born sits lower on its wheels, has wider tyres, bigger brakes, and steers more direct and precise. Just more fun behind the wheel here.

Otherwhis it runs on the same platform as the ID.3, the celebrated MEB platform of the VW group. By the way, it also comes from the same assembly lines as the ID.3…

The Born is well equipped, and has all you could wish for in terms of driver assistance systems and connectivity. The haptic slider controls of the ID.3 are also found on this Born. They take some getting used to, and the new ID.3 will undergo some changes, of which future Borns will also benefit of course. The annoying thing about their sensitivity is that one sometimes turns on the sound volume as you brush the steering heel spokes when taking a corner! The car is roomy enough for four, with plenty of leg and headroom in the back, due to the rather narrow bodywork it gets a bit cramped for three adults in the back. The door bins are large also in the back, and one gets also two USB connections for the rear passengers.

Boot space is adequate with some 385 liters, when you fold the rear seats down, there is still a ridge where you have to lift your luggage over. On the other hand, it prevents heavy luggage items to slide forward…

Fast charging

The Born is of course well geared for the future, and the 58 kW battery accepts fast charging of up to 120 kW. This means that you can charge from 10 to 80 pct in merely 35 minutes. When our infrastructure is up and running, this is good news. It will set you free to use the full EV power more often, provided the energy prices stay reasonable of course.

Conclusion

This Cupra Born has the extra panache which makes it even more attractive to some than the ID.3, which is build rather with a no nonsense futuristic flair, which we happen also to like by the way. Embedded into the VW group with its massive experience and know how, this Cupra will prove to be reliable and (very) long lived, so you will be able to enjoy it for many years to come, with a bit more zest added…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Nissan press conference 2023: more than ever offering clever and future-oriented electrification with a renewed range…

Nissan Belux was the first to hold a press conference prior to the Brussels Auto Show 2023, and organized it at the magnificent premises of Quartier Papier in Zaventem. On the photo below you see the Nissan Ariya, which according to Nissan, redefines E-Driving…

At the start of the conference, Jerôme Saigot, Managing Director of Nissan Belux, stated that with the Ariya, LEAF and Townstar EV models, Nissan has a very nice range of e-vehicles. But consumers are still not fully ready for a 100% electric range of cars. With the new Qashqai e-POWER and the X-Trail e-POWER, they can experience the pleasure of a 100% electric transmission without having to recharge the car via a socket, thanks to a second gasoline engine that produces electricity, he said. Indeed, Nissan goes a step further than the competition with new technologies such as e-POWER. So Nissan reaffirms its role in the fields of crossovers and electric cars. But read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Jerôme Saigot, Managing Director of Nissan Belux, presented the new Nissan electrified range and the environmental strategy of the brand towards 2030…

Nissan’s green strategy for 2030…

Jerôme Saigot also stressed that sustainability is at the core of Nissan’s long-term vision, Ambition 2030. Responding to critical environmental, societal and customer needs, this strategy sets out to deliver electrified models and technological innovation in key markets globally, empowering mobility and beyond. Ambition 2030 supports Nissan’s goal which is to be carbon neutral across the life cycle of its products and operations by 2050. 

Nissan JUKE Hybrid: new advanced powertrain offers efficiency and responsive performance

Indeed Nissan is embarking further on the 100 % electrification of its range. We have the Juke, the popular compact crossover, offered with hybrid technology. Key to the driving pleasure at the heart of the Nissan JUKE Hybrid is an advanced low friction multi modal gearbox, using  dog clutches instead of conventional synchronizer rings to shift the 4 “ICE” gears and 2 “EV” gears. Additionally, to reduce friction, this gearbox does not use a clutch. All vehicle starts are 100% electric, and the 2 EV motors are used in combination to synchronize the gears, delivering smooth and responsive acceleration. We will be keen to drive a hybrid Juke soon, and tell you about our driving experience with it.

A car which will please many is the Nissan Qashqai  e-Power, said Mervin Keuter, Communications Director at Nissan Belux, offering 100 % electric power without the need for recharging externally. Indeed, a combustion engine coupled to a generator provides the electricity. The e-POWER system consists of a high-output battery, complemented by a variable compression ratio 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo-charged petrol engine generating 156hp, a power generator, inverter and 140kW electric motor of similar size and power output as found in Nissan’s electric vehicles. The petrol engine generates electricity, which can be transmitted via the inverter to the battery pack, the electric motor or both, according to the driving scenario.

Melvin Keuter, Communications Director at Nissan Belux, highlighted the qualities of the Nissan Qashqai  e-Power…

What sets this powertrain apart is that the electric motor is the sole source of power for the wheels, so its response is instant and linear. Needless to say that also here we are looking forward to gets our hands on one to experience how all this actually works. It certainly is clever and responds certainly to what modern-day drivers want… we also want to see how economical and environment friendly all this still is.

The dashboard of the new Nissan X-Trail with e-POWER and e-4ORCE…

Another important novelty for Nissan is the revamped X-Trail with its e-4ORCE  system on X-Trail and fully electric Ariya. The innovative e-4ORCE all-wheel drive system was conceived for use on either Nissan’s pure electric powertrains or with its e-POWER system, mentioned above. In both cases, the driven wheels are powered purely by electric motors fed by the battery.

In the case of the X-Trail, the dual e-motor system has a total output of 157kW (213PS) with a 150kW front motor and a rear 100kW motor. This generates lively acceleration from 0-100km/h in 7 seconds. Nissan proudly announces that a rear electric motor has its advantages: it has a 10,000 times faster rear torque response than a mechanical 4WD system(!).

Rémy Le Gall, Marketing Director of Nissan Belux, commented also on the electrified Nissan range and last but not least dealer organisation and client approach, of which more later in a separate report!

Now, on the X-trail, you can also opt for the turbocharged 1.5-litre variable compression ratio powering the wheels in the traditional fashion. Generating 120kW (163PS) and 300Nm of torque, it will be offered only in two-wheel drive configuration, with power to the wheels being transmitted via Xtronic stepped continuously variable transmission. In driving scenarios with relaxed driving and light acceleration, the engine switches to high compression ratio for optimised fuel efficiency, while in situations where more performance is needed, the compression ratio is adjusted to a low level.

The powertrain is also equipped with 12v mild hybrid technology. The system provides torque assist, extended idle stop, quick restart and coasting stop, with benefits to both fuel economy and CO2 output.

The Nissan X-Trail e-4ORCE offers 100 % electric power without the need for recharging externally…

Driving the future: the Ariya

Staying true to Nissan’s heritage of fun-to-drive, exciting vehicles, the Ariya is built on the all-new Alliance-developed CMF-EV platform that’s optimized to deliver unparalleled performance.

The Ariya’s all-electric platform combines excellent power delivery, charging capabilities and range, with a carefully tuned balance between ride comfort and handling agility. Available in three versions (Ariya 2WD 63kWh, Ariya 2WD 87kWh, Ariya e-4ORCE AWD 87kWh) and a range of up to 533 km, Ariya can confidently meet a variety of customer needs.

The Ariya 87kWh can recover up to 350 kilometres with a 30-minute quick charge using a CCS charging system. The battery pack sits at the base of the chassis to ensure 50/50 weight distribution on the e-4ORCE version and near-equal weight distribution on the 2WD versions. During benchmarking, engineers placed great emphasis on striking the ideal balance between handling agility, secure feeling and ride comfort, something not all EV rivals are known for.

Subtle regional differences exist for Ariya, as well. For example, European consumers demand responsive steering and high manoeuvrability, but also require additional stability at higher speeds, so damping forces were increased to improve body control. Nissan Europe engineers also adjusted spring rates and retuned steering feedback to increase on-centre definition at higher speeds.

A timeless Japanese design language…

Incorporating Nissan’s Japanese DNA, Ariya’s striking exterior and interior reimagines EV potential by embodying Nissan’s Timeless Japanese Futurism philosophy of powerful design that fuses aesthetics with functionality while creating an upscale, open atmosphere.

The all-new EV platform and compact nature of powertrain components made it possible for Nissan to position Ariya’s climate-control system under the hood. This allowed designers to use the whole length of the cabin and create a flat, open floor with a lounge-like space inspired by premium futurism.

For the LCV market: the new Townstar…

The Townstar EV builds on the success of the e-NV200. Built on a shared CMF-C platform, the new vehicle will be manufactured at the Alliance centre of excellence for small vans in Maubeuge, France.

The fully electric version of the all-new Townstar EV features a powertrain optimised with intelligent energy management and battery thermal cooling. The Townstar EV is able to achieve a superior range autonomy of up to 300km (WLTP cycle). Delivering 122 PS and 245Nm of torque, the Townstar EV’s  45kWh battery can accept AC charging (11 kW or 22 kW) or DC quick charging (CCS format). The latter of which enables users to charge the battery from 15% to 80% in as little as 37 minutes.

Lots of interesting news from Nissan, keep posted for further Nissan news and driving reports of their interesting new cars!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Alfa Romeo Tonale Plug-In Hybrid Q4: the full story of a modern, electrified thoroughbred…

We drove the Alfa Romeo Plug-in Hybrid Q4 Veloce in the historic roads near Biella…

Alfa Romeo is at an important turning point of its long history. With the Tonale, this potent, 280 HP stylish compact SUV, it wants to make a fundamental transition. It is the first milestone on the way to zero emission(s) – within 5 years the brand wants to see all its Alfa’s electric. It makes us shiver, quite frankly, and hopefully not literally, when a cold winter will bite us all in conflict ridden Europe nowadays.

But indeed, a positive mind and hope should fulfill our hearts, and looking at the mechanics of this Tonale, there is still plenty to let it beat a bit faster.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

An excellent and very convincing thoroughbred hybrid.

The Tonale is conceived when the merger between FCA and PSA was not yet achieved, and this is one of the (main?) reasons we find a so-called FCA “GSE” or Global Small Engine, also marketed as Firefly, under the hood as its combustion engine. This is a family of engines produced by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles or (FCA) starting in 2016, and subsequently Stellantis.

The unit in the Alfa is also dubbed as the “FCA e-engine” and is to be seen in slightly different power versions now also in the Jeep Renegade 4xe, in the Jeep Compass 4xe. It is being produced in the Brazilian Betim plant, now the largest vehicle plant in Latin America and one of the largest in the world. It was the production unit with the largest capacity installed of the entire Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) group. The Tonale itself rolls of the production lines at the Stellantis plant in Italian Pomigliano d’Arco, a municipality of the Metropolitan City of Naples in Italy, located north of Mount Vesuvius.

Of course, this engine embodies the very latest state of the art technology. Indeed, this new generation MultiAir III, present in the GSE family, has even more flexible valve control. The new cam profile with pre-lift allows the opening of the suction valves during the exhaust phase, aiming at the realization of the internal EGR, with reduction of nitrogen oxides and increase of the efficiency of the engine in the partial load. Besides, the lifting profile of the MultiAir III intake valve is more extensive and makes it possible to manage the effective compression ratio of the engine, keeping the tendency to detonation under control regardless of the fuel used. Wow!

The unit produces 180 HP or 132 kW, and is coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission, which provides traction to the front axle. We must say that the unit is not only smooth and very willing, it also produces the unmistakable, typical throb of a classic Alfa; the sound engineers did truly excellent work!

But then, this is a fully fledged hybrid, and this Tonale Q4 has an electric motor capable of supplying 90kW of max peak power and 250 Nm of torque to the rear axle.

The battery at the centre and the electric motor and its battery junction control box at the rear warrant an excellent weight distribution…

The 306-volt, 15.5 kWh lithium-ion battery supplies an electric range of over 80 km in the urban cycle and more than 600 km of total range. It is also excellent in terms of sustainability thanks to the new hybrid drivetrain which reduces Co2 emissions to 26kg/km, bringing the range’s total emissions down by 40%. A reduction has also been made in fuel consumption, which has been brought down to 1.14 liters per 100 km in the WLTP cycle. Plus, with the aim of providing maximum efficiency, it takes less than 2.5 hours to fully charge the battery when the 7.4 kW onboard charger is in use.

Driving is believing…

We took the Tonale “Q4” -as we shorten its name here – on an interesting 102 km road circuit laid out by the Alfa people in the surroundings of the Balocco proving ground. It led us via an interesting picturesque city Ricetto di Candelo and its beautiful Castello di Castellengo towards Biella, then took us on a nice curvy stretch back to the Autostrada direction Balocco. Endearing is the precision of its steering, and the feedback of the road surface in your hands at the wheel. You can really place this Alfa on the ideal line and adopt some razor sharp driving, even in the “natural” or “N” mode. We found the steering a bit too light however, except in the “D” or Dynamic mode, where the steering is more direct, even more responsive and feels a bit heavier.

The gleaming row of Alfa’s ready for the road test, aligned in front of the Balocco Proving Ground headquarters…

But pleasure at the wheel is to be had every inch of the way, and we found the Alfa also display excellent neutral handling, also thanks to its ideal weight distribution. Icing on the cake was a stint on the curvy circuit section of the proving ground, behind a Giulia Quadrifoglio pace car. It gave us the opportunity to drive flat out and (safely) close to the limits of this endearing Tonale, and the car could prove its qualities masterfully. Remember, the four wheels are driven, the front wheels being powered by the internal combustion engine and the rear wheels driven by the electric motor. Your servant could thanks to the e-AWD system, enjoy the instantaneous deployment of 100% of available torque from the electric motor, with a rear axle responding as soon as one steps on the throttle, and this resulted in excellent and stable out of corner acceleration, truly exhilarating indeed!

The performance is of course nothing short of astonishing. On the short straights of the circuit speeds well over 170 km/h were easily achieved, with stopping power to match. The “Q4” Tonale shoots from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 6,2 seconds and hurtles further to a top speed of 206 km/h. On e-power alone, the Tonale can achieve 135 km/h.

The suspension is well calibrated. For technical buffs we tell you here that the Tonale, as a result of its development history, runs on the FCA Small Wide platform of the Jeep Compass of the second generation.

The D.N.A. selector at the centre of action…

You can drive this Alfa exactly how you feel. We already applauded its qualities in the Dynamic mode, and the subdued but sporting roar of the engine still rings in our ears. But then you can also enjoy the agility, responsiveness and nimbleness of the Alfa Tonale in a more refined, “zen” way, which Alfa calls “modern sportiness”. We do agree, as the transgression between engine and E-power is ever so smooth as to becoming completely imperceptible, and that is no small feat. So when you select “N” or “Natural” mode, it keeps hybrid driving to all-wheel drive to optimize performance. The use of combustion engine and electric motor is automatically managed and allows for energy and fuel savings without giving up on performance.

Last but not least there is the “Advance Efficiency” mode, calibrated to obtain maximum energy efficiency in full-electric driving mode. It is the ideal driving mode in urban traffic. When you lift the throttle, the car continues driving in “Sailing.” Meanwhile, when one is going downhill, the new eCoasting Descent Control is activated to maintain a constant speed of 50 km/h, which is however adjustable with a light dab on the throttle or brake. Specifically, “E-Save” allows one to recharge or maintain the battery level when the internal combustion engine is on, and there is also the regenerative braking system.

Premium comfort and safety

The Tonale is quite roomy, remember, it rolls on the second generation Jeep Compass platform. Sound insulation is also quite good, enhancing the “zen” driving experience. Moreover, on-board comfort is also ensured by dual-zone climate control, pleasing ambient light, a sophisticated Infotainment system, ventilated and heated front seats, and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.

It also includes ADAS systems for level 2 automatic driving, a hi-res camera which provides a 360° view of the car, a Blind-Spot Detector and Rear Cross-Path Detector, as well as superior structural and industrial quality which earned it a 5-star NCAP rating.

Software connectivity…

Amazon Alexa allows one to remain constantly updated on the state of the vehicle from the comfort of one’s home, as it provides useful information like the charge Tonale Plug-In’s battery. The built-in Infotainment system comes standard and offers contents, functionalities, and services which are constantly being updated via its customizable Android operating system and 4G connectivity with “Over The Air” (OTA) updates.

Thanks to a hi-res screen whose overall dimensions are 22.5”—a 12.3” totally digital screen and a 10.25” main touchscreen unit, the Tonale Plug-In ensures easy-to-use connection. The centre 10,25” screen is also seen by the way in the 500e. The Tonale Plug-in Hybrid Q4’s circular dials include ad-hoc upgrades like the electro-biscione in the lower part of the right dial which changes color based on the electric motor’s status (off, on, on and charging) and so provides all the information related to power and charging. Clever!

Four new functionalities of Alfa Connect Services make their debut on the Tonale Plug-in Hybrid Q4:

E-control: it allows the customer to control various functionalities based on the EV features—like charging and the climate control system—at a distance directly from the My Alfa Connect App, which you have to install on your phone.

Dynamic Range Mapping: it allows drivers to travel with peace of mind as it shows them the destination they can reach based on the battery charge both on the navigation system map and the My Alfa Connect app.

At the end of our 105,9 km road trip, the instruments tell the story: we drove 50,6 km on engine power, 55,2 km on batter e-power. This resulted in a consumption of 3,86 litres/100 km, but then with 8 km left in the battery, so we estimate some 14 kW consumed…

Charging Station Finder: it allows the customer to see the nearest public charging stations both on the navigation system map and the My Alfa Connect app.

My eCharge: it allows for the use of the My Alfa Connect app to directly access Free2Move eSolutions services to manage public and private charging. In fact, it is possible to locate the public charging stations, check the charging methods, make payments, visualize the charge history, manage one’s own Wallbox to decide how much electricity to use and even increase, decrease, suspend, and reactivate the charge.

Your Tonale has an NFT which lets you generate a certificate…

This means that specifically, based on the customer’s selection, the NFT generates a certificate which guarantees the identity and good maintenance of the vehicle, and thus supports its residual value. The NFT certificate provides a further source of credibility on the used car market and is even more valuable on the Tonale Plug-In Hybrid Q4 as it contains even more information.

A special “Edizione Speciale” at the launch…

The Tonale Plug-in Hybrid Q4 is the top-of-the-range model and is in line with the simplification and rationalization of Alfa Romeo’s lineup strategy. In fact, it can already be ordered in the exclusive EDIZIONE SPECIALE launch version and in the VELOCE trim which has been made to reach the most in terms of performance and sportiness.

The EDIZIONE SPECIALE offers inserts on the titanium body, a special badge on the fenders, and a “Tonale” black badge, 20” alloy wheels, metallic pedals, red Brembo brake calipers and aluminum shift paddles which are integrated into the steering column. Later on, customers will be able to order the Tonale Plug-In Hybrid Q4 in the Ti trim for a more elegant and distinctive character.

We have to wait a bit to get our hands on this remarkable Alfa for a more extended test, but stay tuned for more Alfa news soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Lancia starts a journey from its iconic past to a stylish future…

Today starts the first of three appointments in anticipation of the Lancia Design Day on November 28th, the first event of Lancia Renaissance to describe the style of some of its most past iconic vehicles which inspired the design of its three future models.

The stars are the Lancia vehicles which have inspired so many car lovers: from Aurelia to Flaminia, from Fulvia to Beta HPE, Gamma, Delta, Stratos, and 037. Some are just the pinnacle of elegance, while others are brutal and efficient. But all have a style capable of remaining timeless. This is what kept them beautiful, contemporary, and authentic expressions of Italian design until today.

“The design and beauty of these “moving masterpieces” inspired us in our creation of the three Lancia models of the future” stated Luca Napolitano, Lancia CEO. “This includes the new Ypsilon in 2024, our new flagship which will allow us to enter Europe’s biggest segment, and the sculpted and muscular new “Delta” in 2028 with its geometric lines which will excite car enthusiasts throughout Europe.

We like to describe Lancia as a “Progressive Classic” brand, continues mr. Napolitano, where “Classic” means leveraging and respecting the value of our heritage, while “Progressive” entails our ability to look to the future with ambition. Innovation and timeless design have always been our values and we now want to add sustainability, and responsibility, always putting the customer at the center of our value proposition. These are the guiding principles of the ten-year plan of our Renaissance: through them, we are aiming at becoming a credible and respected brand in the premium European market. Protagonists of this roadmap will be the three new Lancia models of the future that we designed to make them recognizable and consistent one another. All three vehicles will feature three distinctly Lancia design elements: the calice, the sinuous lines and the geometric-primitive forms. Inspired by the front of the iconic Lancia Aurelia and Delta, the new calice will be reinterpreted in a modern key, preserving its distinctive feature that brings together a vertical and horizontal line to include the Brand logo.”

Moreover, the three new models will display sinuous lines on their side, a typical feature of some of Lancia historical models, such as Aurelia B20.

Finally, there are the geometric-primitive forms on both the front and the rear, among which the round taillights stand out, that refer to the Brand’s more brutal and technical spirit, which tips its cap to the legendary 037, Stratos, and Delta, the racing “beasts” that dominated Rally for over 20 years”.

Besides elegance and grit, there is a third element of Lancia design that is eclecticism, i.e., the tendency to be inspired by various sources, even contrasting ones, to create something harmonious and consistent at the same time. This is what happens, for example, in the Italian living room areas that inspired Lancia to create the original and welcoming interiors of the Gamma and Beta models. The same refinement of the interiors can be found in the 1965 Fulvia Coupé, elegant, aggressive and high performing at the same time. This is another example of Lancia eclecticism.

The Lancia Beta HPE, marking an era with its “venetian blinds-inspired structure”

The Lancia Beta HPE (High Performance Estate) is a gorgeous, sporty, and high-performing family car which is low, graceful, and equipped with a spacious trunk. Designed by Pininfarina and produced in three series, it is definitely the most fascinating Lancia Beta model. Introduced at the 1975 Geneva Motor Show, the Lancia Beta HPE stood out for its eclecticism featured as the “practical elegance”. The rear of the cabin stands out for its angled hatch where one can make out an innovative venetian blinds-inspired structure behind the glass, which limits the effects of sun glare and protects rear visibility. This innovative solution is finished off by two trims on the third pillar which gets visually blended with the original finish on the rear window.

Lancia Gamma Coupe: the “traveling living room” that sets new rules…

At the Geneva Motor Show in 1976, Lancia displayed the futuristic design of the Lancia Gamma Coupe. With classic exteriors and eclectic interiors, this vehicle is remembered as the “traveling living room”. It was given this nickname as the cab recreates a welcoming, comfortable, and innovative atmosphere, as demonstrated by its original color combination and its dashboard inspired by the  product design of the 70’s. The refinement and the fine quality of the material are the result of collaborations with famous fashion brands, including the maison of Ermenegildo Zegna. The final evolution of Lancia great GT coupes, a noble range that includes Aurelia and Flaminia, the Gamma Coupe was inspired by the Flaminia Coupe. This might be why it looks more graceful and sleeker at first glance than the five-door sedan, thanks as well to its slanted roof. More stylish news soon, and for now just look at the photos… and the film which you can also admire on my Instagram page.

Hans Knol ten Bensel