We drove the A Class 250 e: another milestone in plug-in hybrid mobility…

Mercedes is joining the plug-in hybrid trend on the road to zero-emissions driving. It does this with the third generation hybrid drive under its celebrated EQ Power label, with the future-oriented commitment so typical for the brand. Indeed, wonderful times are ahead, so it appears. This A 250 e promises indeed formidable economy and emission values: combined fuel consumption 1.5-1.4 l/100 km, combined CO2 emissions 34-33 g/km, combined electrical consumption 15.0-14.8 kWh/100 km.

All so wonderful, but of course under the condition that you use its plug-in capacity. Otherwise, it is just a zesty petrol engined compact Mercedes with good performance and road qualities… but one which gets you home no matter the distance!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Electric Charging stations are an absolute must…

Indeed, plug-in hybrids are very much OK if you can charge then every day at home or office. If this is not available, Mercedes helps. Via its “Mercedes me Charge”, you can optionally obtain access to one of the world’s largest charging networks, with over 300 different operators in Europe alone Thanks to its navigation system, Mercedes-Benz drivers can find these stations easily and can gain convenient access to the charging stations via the Mercedes me Charge card, the Mercedes me App or directly from the car.

No separate contracts are necessary for this: apart from simple authentication, customers benefit from an integrated payment function with simple billing after they have registered their payment method once. Each charging procedure is booked automatically. The individual charging processes are clearly listed in a monthly invoice.

The car: top performance…

The A 250 e is fast. We can say, almost superfast. What to think of 6.6 seconds for the sprint from 0 to 100 km/h, and a top speed of 235 km/h? You can drive it in E-power only mode, and even then its electric 75 kW motor will push it to 140 km/h. So with everyday charging, you have a lively E-car under your right foot which is more than powerful enough to give you genuine driving pleasure combined with “zen” electric smoothness.

But if you are faced with an immediate longer trip, with no time to find charging stations for your empty battery, the 1,33 litre four cylinder gets eagerly to work. It smoothens out on the autobahn, otherwise it lets you know it is there, but then with a pleasant touch of sportiness. It develops 118 Kw/160 hp at 5500 rpm, and its 250 Nm torque starts at 1620 rpm, which gives it plenty of punch in the lower and mid rev ranges. Oh yes, total system power is 160 kW/218 hp, and system torque is an impressive 450 Nm.

Charging a breeze…

A lithium-ion high-voltage battery with a total capacity of approx. 15.6 kWh is ingeniously packed in the car. It sits under the rear seat and can be charged with alternating or direct current. A corresponding vehicle socket is located in the right-hand side wall of the vehicles.

This means that the compact plug-in hybrids can be charged at a 7.4 kW Wallbox with alternating current (AC) within 1 h 45 min from 10-100 percent SoC (Status of Charge). For direct-current charging (DC), the battery can be charged from 10 – 80 percent SoC in around 25 minutes.

So if you are a (mostly) urban driver, plenty of charging opportunities!

Driving the A 250 e exclusively on E power in urban situations is the thing to do. If the battery is empty, – it’s useable range is around 55-60 km on a charge – the willing petrol engine gives you plenty of zest, but not the supersmooth progress we have grown accustomed to in our own hybrid Lexus for instance.

Gearchanges by the 8G-DCT dual clutch transmission are noticeable at slow speeds and smaller throttle openings, and economy is in these circumstances what you can expect from a solid Mercedes with a sporting engine. In short urban errands, anything between 8 and 14 litres/100 km could be your sort, but luckily once on the open road the engine gets really into its stride and consumption hovers between 5,5 to 6,1 liters when cruising at legal cruising speeds.

Drive programs to choose from…

But there is more. With the launch of MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) the previous plug-in operating modes of all EQ Power models have been converted to so-called “drive programs.”

After 52 kilometers, the battery is empty, and the earger 1332 cc four cylinder gets to work… but for better urban driving economy, you are well advised to plug in and prefer e-power!

These new drive programs are “Electric” and “Battery Level”. Maximum e-performance can of course be had in “Electric”. The combustion engine is then only engaged if you floor the throttle. In the “Electric” program, the energy recuperation strength under braking/decelerating can be selected via paddles behind the steering wheel. The paddles on the steering wheel enable the selection of five different recuperation levels (DAUTO, D+, D, D- and D–).

Comfort, ECO and Sport modes are also available.

So you can give priority to electric driving, or choose more dynamic driving in combined drive mode or give preference to the “Battery Level” i.e. the combustion mode to save electric range, for example.

Mercedes remains Mercedes… and more about its future plug-in strategy

When looking at chassis, bodywork, cabin amenities and finish, the good star always tells us a beautiful story. The new A Class scores top marks here. Excellent seating position, ergonomics, MBUX, or Mercedes-Benz User Experience, comfort, handling, looks and practicality, everything is there.

Looking at the future, the new plug-in hybrids of the S-, E- and C-Class with electric ranges of up to 50 km in accordance with NEDC are now more than a year with us. In the C- and E-Class, Mercedes-Benz is the only manufacturer to combine the diesel engine with plug-in technology, offering this set-up in the Saloon and Estate versions of these two model series.

This year, about 20 model variants will have the plug-in layout… so the good star is indeed well plugged in!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Photographers’ note: All photos were taken with our big Nikon DSLR, which amply shiws in the crispness and balance of the images…

We drove the Toyota Camry Hybrid: practical E-power with comfort and grace…

We just love the hybrid solution Toyota/Lexus is offering us since many years. It delivers superb smoothness, has unlimited range with no recharging hassles and yet gives you the benefits of “zen” E-power when you need it most: in urban driving. All this combined with unequaled economy. The 4,7 liters/100 km we clocked over the last 1,5 years of daily driving with our Lexus CT200h amply proves this point.

Now Toyota has brought its US bestselling Toyota Camry to our European shores. Did you know that the Camry is the best-selling D/E segment sedan in the world with annual sales of more than 700,000 units?

In Europe it is sold only in hybrid form, and rightly so. The Camry met totally with our expectations, and is in my opinion at present in its hybrid form the only practical solution for all-round E-mobility in Europe, considering the present status of the EU-wide charging infrastructure.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Camry is a spacious sedan with pleasing proportions, and indeed looks elegant from any angle. It certainly has a premium aura and look, and offers ample room for five and their luggage. The latest generation Camry is a product of the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) design and engineering philosophy. TNGA places enthusiast-oriented ‘fun to drive’ characteristics and alluring styling on an equal footing with excellent build quality, reliability and safety. It surely delivers…

Let’s first have a look at its drivetrain.

Toyota wisely opted for a large(r) 2,5 litre four-cylinder unit, developing enough power (131 kW) and torque to keep revs down even under spirited driving. It has, Toyota says, a world beating maximum thermal efficiency of 41%. Mated to a zesty 120 HP electric motor, total system power is a healthy 160 kW. It develops combined over 400 Nm, which puts it at par with potent Diesels. All this makes the Camry a very brisk performer, offering impressive but silky-smooth punch when accelerating from slow speeds. The all-important 10 to 30 km/h sprint to join safely a moving urban traffic lane takes merely a second, from 60 to 100 km/h – the crucial parameter to join motorway traffic – costs only 4,9 seconds. The sprint from standstill to 100 km/h is absolved in 8,3 seconds. The Camry is a very potent motorway cruiser too, with top speed electronically limited to 180 km/h. More than enough for today’s traffic conditions, we would think.

The charm of the hybrid system lies not only in the ever-present pulling power, it also excels in the totally clever way it switches imperceptibly between E- and combustion power. Improvements to the conversion efficiency of the Power Control Unit (PCU) and the transmission efficiency of the transaxle and motor combine to reduce system energy losses further by some 20% compared to the previous model. In urban traffic, with its ever-changing lower speeds, the drivetrain computer uses the qualities of the electric motor to the full, and its very judicious use reflects itself in unseen low consumption averages.

Toyota claims up to 50% zero emissions driving on the everyday commute, and this is totally realistic. Our own Lexus stays in town easily in the 4,5 liter/100 km range, and this bigger and more powerful Camry not only achieves the same economy, it does even better. All this with a very “zen”-like smoothness and silence, which makes this hybrid drivetrain so endearing. The manufacturer quotes CO2emissions as low as 98 g/km, fuel consumption of only 4.3 l/100 km. Our test consumption boiled down to an average of 5,3 litres/100 km, where the Camry was driven with spirit on the open road.

The so-called “ADrive Mode Select” switch enables the driver to select a choice of ECO, NORMAL and SPORT driving modes. All three modes may be used when the vehicle is operating in the separately-switchable EV mode.

In addition, the enhanced self-charging hybrid system also includes new “Sequential Shiftmatic” technology that allows the driver to ‘shift’ with the console-mounted lever, mimicking a quick-shifting six-speed automatic transmission, for a more dynamic, engaging driving experience.

Finally, a new Auto Glide Control (AGC) function allows the new Camry Hybrid to decelerate more slowly than during normal driving, such as when it is coasting with the accelerator pedal released approaching a stop light. Thus, AGC contributes to improved fuel economy by reducing the need for re-acceleration. We found this very cool…

Silent and stable

When you are somewhat more in a hurry, the noise levels hardly rise, thanks to the good torque characteristics of its bigger engine, which makes high revs hardly necessary under power. You remain also in total command of this Camry. The finely tuned totally new suspension and neutral handling of this sedan takes fast bends very well in its stride.

Besides this totally redesigned suspension, key to the new Camry Hybrid’s enhanced dynamic abilities and ride quality is also an all-new, GA-K platform-based bodyshell. We found the Camry handle precise and very balanced indeed. Comfort and sound insulation are also very good. This is a sedan built to be driven restfully for hours on end, and indeed this Camry displays marvelous Gran Turismo qualities.

Well-equipped interior with all today’s amenities…

The know-how of Toyota shows clearly one slides behind the wheel. Very readable instrumentation is set in an ideally sculpted dashboard, an array of logical and easy to use accessories, excellent connectivity, effective driver assistance systems, you name it. This car is an effortless pleasure to use, with gearshift and screen command knobs and handles somewhat less idiosyncratic than the (earlier) Prius/Lexus versions, although we have grown to like just that on our Lexus CT200h. But getting a bit closer to the mainstream layout for gearshifts and the like might be the wiser option for people who drive regularly several cars. Safety is paramount too. Toyota “Safety Sense” active safety technologies are fitted as standard on all grades.

Just to mention here Pre-Collision System (PCS) with pedestrian detection, Full Range Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Lane Departure Alert (LDA), Automatic High Beam (AHB) and Road Sign Assist (RSA). Followed by Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA)

Further driver support and safety enhancing systems include a Rear Cross Traffic Brake (RCTB), Drive Start Control (DSC), front and rear Intelligent Clearance Sonar (ICS), a Back Monitor with parking guidelines, and a full suite of brake and traction control systems.

Very readable was the colour, 10″ Head-up Display (HUD).

We also appreciated on our test car the excellent and smoothly reacting adaptive cruise control. The sound system is a chapter in itself. The Camry comes standard with a 6-speaker audio system, but our test car, with the “Executive” equipment level, got the 9-speaker JBL Premium Sound System which has been specifically tuned for installation within the new Toyota sedan.

At the heart of this system is a Class D, eight channel JBL amplifier driving nine JBL speakers which include 25 mm horn tweeters integrated within the A pillars, and a new 265 mm sub-woofer located beneath the load space floor. Need we say more? Well, we do:

The system incorporates ‘Clari-Fi’ technology which supplements the frequencies that are lost on compressed audio files -such as MP3 or streaming audio files- in real time, restoring the sound quality and stereo mix as closely as possible to the original recording… we were just smitten!

Already in its standard version the Camry comes very well equipped. The base price is already competitive, but if you see the wide array of standard equipment, things look even better.

Space

The Camry is a true five seater with luggage space to match. The adoption of a rear double wishbone suspension system reduces shock absorber incursion into the load space, offering a luggage capacity of 500 litres for vehicles equipped with power reclining rear seats, and 524 litres for those with 60:40 split seating. The lighter and smaller newly developed Ni-MH battery has enabled the relocation from the luggage compartment to under the rear seats, not only freeing up additional luggage space, but also lowering the vehicle’s center of gravity and enhancing handling stability.

Conclusion

The Camry Hybrid is a world class bestseller for years now, and its latest generation merits a European (re)discovery. Crammed with state-of-the-art technologies, from the self-charging hybrid electric powertrain to faultless driver assistance systems and infotainment/connectivity, it combines all this with style and practical space.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

New Kia Sorento PHEV revealed…

In the premium SUV market, Kia shows its mettle. Alongside the Sorento Hybrid, here comes the plug-in hybrid version, combining the 13.8 kWh battery pack and 66.9 kW electric motor with 1.6-litre T-GDi engine and six-speed automatic. Besides all the power and eco-friendliness, it should be remembered that the fourth-generation Sorento has an innovative platform designed from the outset to accommodate electrified powertrains.

This means generous cabin and luggage space and both five- and seven-seat layouts. These new generation electrifieds are popular: In the first half of 2020, electrified models – including mild-hybrid, parallel hybrid, battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles – accounted for around one in four of all Kia vehicles sold in Europe.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Clean power

The PHEV Sorento boasts the 1.6-litre T-GDi (turbocharged gasoline direct injection) engine, which, on its own, produces up to 180 ps and 265 Nm torque.

The engine is paired with a high-capacity 13.8 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack and an electric motor which produces 66.9 kW and 304 Nm torque.

Combined, these powertrain components enable the Sorento Plug-in Hybrid’s powertrain to produce up to 265 ps and 350 Nm torque. More than enough here. Power is sent to all four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. The transmission allows the full power of the engine and motor to be transferred in parallel.

The new model represents Kia’s first use of an independent battery pack water-cooling system in a PHEV, ensuring optimal heat management and efficiency for the high-voltage battery pack. For the 66.9 kW electric motor, the rotor benefits from a new two-stage lamination process to reduce noise and vibration levels.

The engine features Kia’s latest ‘Smartstream’ innovations, including Continuously Variable Valve Duration technology, which regulates the duration that the intake valves open and close depending on driving conditions.

Practical

The dedicated platform also offers plenty of cargo space: up to 809 litres (for seven-seat models) or 898 litres (five-seat models) with two rows of seats in place. In seven-seat models, with all seven seats in place, boot space is 175 litres (compared to 179 litres for its Hybrid counterpart).

Visually, Sorento Plug-in Hybrid models retain the same modern exterior design as other variants in the line-up, with ‘eco plug-in’ badges and a charging port on the rear quarters standing out as the only points of differentiation.

Inside, the cabin also remains largely unchanged, although the 12.3-inch fully-digital instrument cluster is redesigned, with new graphics and dials to provide drivers with a clear picture of the powertrain’s status. It enables drivers to keep track of the battery’s state of charge, as well as the flow of electric and gasoline power through the powertrain. The 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system also features new functionality to enable drivers to easily locate vehicle charging points on-the-go.

Premium infotainment tech and driving aids…

The touchscreen infotainment system enables full, seamless smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™. A powerful 12-speaker BOSE® surround-sound audio system is also available, delivering a more immersive sound to all passengers, as well as a cabin Mood Lighting system, with up to 64 colours for users to choose from.

The Sorento Plug-in Hybrid offers a range of Kia’s Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), such as Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA) technology with pedestrian, cyclist and vehicle detection and FCA Junction, which detects vehicles at junctions when turning; Blind-Spot View Monitor (BVM); Surround View Monitor (SVM) and Blind-spot Collision-Avoidance Assist (BCA); Intelligent Speed Limit Assist (ISLA); Smart Cruise Control with Stop&Go (SCC) and Navigation-based SCC (NSCC), and so much more. It even helps you with parking in tight spaces…

We are eagerly awaiting a first drive with this new Kia Flagship. In the meantime, here are some photos…

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

Porsche opens the exhibition “Porsche – Pioneer of Electric Mobility” in Berlin

Porsche is introducing its first fully electric sports car as part of the exhibition series “Start to Drive Electric” in the capital city. You can already visit the special exhibition “Porsche – Pioneer of Electric Mobility”, as it started from Thursday, 16 July 2020 , and this until 1 November 2020 at “DRIVE. Volkswagen Group Forum” at Unter den Linden in Berlin. Entry is free of charge.

The exhibition not only deals with topics from the world of electric mobility such as range and energy recuperation, infrastructure and charging, but also takes a good look at the pioneering spirit of the Porsche brand. Sustainability, zero-impact factory, Formula E and the vision of climate-neutral mobility are other areas included in the special exhibition.

“The Porsche Museum does not see itself as an institution that just preserves collections and is a guardian of the past,” explains Achim Stejskal, Head of Heritage and the Porsche Museum.

The visitors will see a number of cars, including a Taycan 4S, two Taycan Turbo, the endurance test car of the brand, the record car from the Nürburgring Nordschleife, as well as the Formula E display model. Further highlights:

At Unter den Linden, a cutaway model of the Porsche Taycan, the Formula E race simulator, touch points with information on the milestones of electric mobility at Porsche, the Taycan cockpit, charging stations, the electric motors of the front and rear axles as well as a Carrera track await the visitors. The latter will prove especially energetic as visitors can pedal to generate electricity for the small slot cars themselves. The different experiences provide interaction between digital and analogue.

Visitors can choose between various themes in the media room “Accelerator” and can start projections. Protagonists from different sectors of Porsche who played an important role in the development of the Taycan are introduced there. They talk about their personal Taycan moment, their connection with the car, a pioneering approach and heritage of the brand, about design, sustainability, production, but also performance and adrenaline. Further information as well as film and photographic material can be found at www.porsche.com/museum.

So if you happen to be in the neighborhood of Berlin on your holiday travels, don’t miss this!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Three (!) electric engines for the Audi e-tron S and Audi e-tron S Sportback

Driving is believing, and the e-power experience proves to be even more exhilarating at Audi: their e-tron flagship comes now with three engines, making it 370 kW strong and giving it a massive torque of 973 Nm. Two engines are driving the rear wheels, and indeed, the emphasis is on rear end power, as well for daily use as for sporting driving. The rear end can even be seduced to produce power slides, and the Quattro concept has been further honed to deliver, as the factory puts it, an electronically controlled vector torque distribution with active and fully variable torque distribution between both rear wheels, doing away with a differential altogether.

Driving experience 2.0

The Audi pilots can wet their hands: this impressive SUV is your sporting partner on winding roads and mountain passes. Just put the electronic stability control ESC in “sport” mode and the drive mode selector in “dynamic” and things really start to happen. True power slides are now possible and the system will softly brake the inner front wheel should it want to slip through under full power. This leaves you fully in control of this e-power “bolide”, which leaves nothing to be desired in the power department.

This S-tron catapults itself from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 4,5 seconds, and then storms further ahead to its electronically controlled top speed of 210 km/h.

Still sufficient range…

The available battery power is a good match for all this sportiness. When you adopt a driving style in tune with the WLTP cycle, you can expect an action range of 360 kilometers or thereabouts. The high tension battery has a gross charge capacity of 95 kWh, of which 91 pct is effectively usable.

The Quattro principle has been further refined. When extra power is wanted, the front motor kicks in, and as said, both rear engines are individually controlled and offer this fully variable torque, managed by a permanent electronic control system.

As you can expect, the S version has a suspension setup geared towards sportiness, but when you’re not in the mood, it is good to know that the Audi Drive Select gives you the choice between not less than seven driving profile modes. The fully adaptable air suspension has controlled damping stiffness and can vary the ride height by some 76 mm.

20 inch alloys are standard, but you can opt for 21 inch tall wheels, and later even 22 inch alloys will be available. The brake saddles at the front have not less than six (!) pistons. The brake control system will decide the braking power of each wheel, and will choose also if engine, brake friction or both will be used when decelerating.

The body has also been made more aerodynamic, and the patented new wheel arches improve things markedly. The Cx is a mere 0,26 for the Sportback version.  

Each e-tron also comes with a … heat pump, which effectively reduces energy consumption on the whole by extracting heat generated by the driveline, and thus extending the driving range by some 10 pct.

Of course this e-Tron S has all the infotainment and electronic driving assistance you could ever want,and will also light the road for you with matrix LED headlamps. In the cabin, MMI touch response control system with two large central screens await you. The online services of Audi Connect complete the navigation system, especially the e-tron-routeplanner.

We are certainly looking forward to have a drive in this latest edition of the e-Tron, just know that this version will be available on the European markets in autumn 2020, and prices in Belgium start at 97.100 euro incl. VAT for the e-tron S, and 99.110 euro incl. VAT for the Sportback version.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Mercedes C 300 e 4Matic: your brightly starred hybrid…

Mercedes is cleverly building up its plug-in hybrid fleet, and does this also for its bestselling C Class range. We drove here for you the C 300 e 4Matic, which receives now the same hybrid drivetrain as the larger E-Class 300e. This means a trusty 2 litre turbopowered petrol engine, good for 211 HP, combined with a 122 HP electric motor. The total system power of 320 HP is boosted by not less than 700 Nm of maximum torque, and you understand that this means almost supercar performance.

The 13,5 Kw/h battery powering the electric motor is the same as in the C300de. All this bodes well for driving pleasure with a green touch… just read on!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Sliding behind the wheel of this C Class gives you this unique and overwhelming experience of being surrounded by top quality workmanship, style and perfection. Yes, you are sitting behind the wheel of a car with the good star, built by the oldest car manufacturer in the world. A Mercedes. A unique feeling which no other car in the world can give you. All this is valid for any Mercedes model you drive, and this C Class Sedan is no exception.

The excellent seats wrap around you, and by touching with the intuitive symbols in the door panel you can adjust everything to you liking in seconds. A push on the starting knob and off you go. You feel the precision of steering and suspension translated in your hands, progress is ultra smooth.

With the batteries fully charged, this C 300e will revert first and foremost to using this available E-power, and your first kilometers will be travelled very “clean” indeed. This is clearly visible for you on the instrument cluster in front of you, where the available battery power quickly dwindles but petrol consumption is virtually nil. A very logical setup, as this hybrid is designed to be used by its owner on the daily work/home commute after a home overnight charge and/or a daytime charge up at the office parking charging terminal. This allows you to absolve your daily commute almost totally on E-power. Of course you can interfere, and keep the batteries charged at a chosen level and even recharge them whilst driving to save this E-power for later, when you will enter urban low emission zones at a distance form your starting point.

What happens when the battery is almost empty? Well, then you still enjoy the clever hybrid/kinetic management system, so to say, which allows you to recuperate kinetic energy when slowing down and/or braking, and the electric motor will assist in moving the car when driving/accelerating at very slow speeds or parking, in short, in all the driving conditions where a combustion engine alone works not very efficient.

All this lets you truly score in the economy department. This powerful sedan will let you consume less than 6 litres/100 km in urban traffic on engine power, and equally so on the open road.

The beauty of a hybrid system is your total range independence, this car is set to go anytime to any destination you could wish, and yet in regular home/office use it scores as “green” as any full E-vehicle.

The bonus of the extra electric motor is abundant torque and extra power. This translates in 0-100 km/h acceleration times which almost belong to the supercar league.

What to think of a sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 5,4 seconds? Top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h. Another strong point is the effortless manner this performance is deployed. Power is now transmitted through a new 9 speed automatic gearbox – actually this transmission is used throughout the C-class range – and out test car came with the optional 4 matic 4WD.

Excellent chassis and comfort

Passive and active safety have always been paramount at Mercedes. The solidity, stiffness and engineering excellence of body, chassis and suspension do not need any further comment. Steering is precise, handling is beyond reproach. A good balance is also struck between road qualities and comfort. Our test car was shod with AMG 19 inch (5-double spoke) alloys, and had also the AIRMATIC driving dynamics package, which made driving this C Class with some verve a pleasant and sporting experience. Combined with all the power, this test car proved a very fast sedan indeed.

All the usual driving assistance functions are present of course, and the fully digital dashboard and clever steering wheel commands are a breeze to use and an example for many. We also liked the instrument graphics is all the three different display modes, and besides their aesthetic qualities they are also eminently readable.

Connectivity is also written large and of course you have wireless charging. Apple Car Play and Android Auto is possible. Life is made comfortable with keyless functions and automatic opening boot lid. Luggage space is somewhat limited as the battery sits above the rear axle and takes up some space in the boot. Available luggage volume is not more than 300 liters.

Conclusion

Plug-in hybrids are presently offering the (very) best of both worlds, and this Mercedes C 300 e 4-Matic proves again how good such a car can be. With an E-power radius of some 50 kilometers it is perfect for (almost) fully electric home/work commuting, and you have always the freedom to travel any distance when and where you want under silk smooth petrol engined power.

Future-proof for all the low-emission zones we will encounter, it still offers you the versatility and practicality of a “real” car, and then we have said nothing about its exhilarating performance…

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

We drove the Subaru Forester e-Boxer: a very sensible hybrid…

Never (really) change a winning team, the saying goes. This is exactly what the Subaru engineers had in mind when they designed the hybrid drivetrain of the Forester e-Boxer. Indeed, this hybrid Subaru remains very familiar to all Subaru enthusiasts and owners. They will find again the immensely practical and sturdy Forester, which is now roomier than ever, and the familiar sound of the two litre petrol boxer engine will also be music to their ears.

But is has also e-power, albeit rather modest. This has been very cleverly put to use, resulting in a very creditable hybrid. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

167 HP at your service…

The e-Boxer Forester has honest punch. The trusty four cylinder boxer puts down not less than 150 HP, and the e-motor a rather subtle 16,7 HP.

This is more than enough to drive this Forester with spirit, helped by the very responsive CVT transmission, which will let the engine rev eagerly when called for power. As soon as one lifts the throttle only slightly, revs immediately go down again, using the good torque characteristics of this trusty boxer. All this goes with the familiar and typical “Subaru Boxer Sound”, we would say.

Indeed, the moments that the engine is silent and this roomy Forester is propelled on pure E-power, are few and far between. Unless you are taking things more gently, because then the hybrid propulsion system really goes to work, and is very effective at it.

So it all simply boils down to whether you take eco-driving seriously or not. We took things to heart, and drove our test car trough town and on the open road, but with restraint and anticipation, and got rewarded with an average consumption of 6,6 litres/100 km.

This means of course gentle cruising at the 120 km/h speed limit on the open road, avoiding strong accelerations, and also going gently along the traffic stream on urban boulevards, using the kinetic energy of the car as much as possible, and driving gently away from traffic lights. When pulling away or driving at slow speeds in traffic, the battery-powered electric motor alone drives the car in EV Mode. The electric motor power assistance – Motor Assist – is completely automatic. When braking or decelerating, the e-BOXER uses of course regenerative braking to capture energy from the car’s movement to recharge the battery. When you push the accelerator pedal just a bit deeper, the petrol engine sets in too.

In practice, the transition between these two powertrains is never apparent. The Forester e-BOXER’s onboard computers simply work out what’s needed where and distribute the power accordingly.

So it is up to you to keep your Forester in this economical operating range, and achieve these consumption results. There is no EV button, by the way. Subaru believes in the seamless interaction between e-power and engine, to achieve the most efficient progress.

Every bit a true Subaru…

This Forester e-Boxer is and remains the true workhorse you always appreciated. The symmetrical 4WD setup is found here of course, and it is good to know that this new Forester now rolls on Subaru’s new global platform, which allows the stiffness of the body to be increased by not less than 40 pct.

When it comes to safety, it is good to know that a range of passive and active safety technologies are fitted as standard, including: EyeSight Driver Assist Technology (providing Pre-Collision Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control and other functions); Subaru Rear Vehicle Detection (SRVD); Reverse Automatic Braking; Side View Monitor; and Driver Monitoring System, a brand-new facial recognition technology that alerts the driver to re-focus when it detects signs of fatigue or distraction while on the road. We tested it out for you and it really works fine indeed!

This Forester also has been named Euro NCAP’s Best in Class 2019 in the Small Off-Road / MPV class…

Comfort

We were also pleasantly surprised by the comfortable suspension of this Forester. It truly has a very comfortable ride, and also the steering is responsive and precise. It is certainly no punishment to drive this Forester on winding roads. It is also a very comfortable cruiser on motorways. Engine noise and drivetrain vibrations are masterfully filtered out, and all this makes the Forester a brilliant Gran Turismo, with ample head- and legroom for all.

Of course it really comes into its own off the beaten track, thanks to its famous symmetrical AWD system. A prominent X mode dial on the centre console lets you choose between normal, snow/dirt and deep snow/mud modes. On forest roads this Subaru certainly hasn’t stolen its name… This Forester comes of course also with a downhill descent control, and really never lets you down with its comfortable ride height and excellent attack angles fore and aft when you are in heavy terrain.

A pleasant, practical cabin

The cabin is very well equipped and practical, and a lot of thought has gone in the lay-out which is a good example of excellent ergonomics. As said, the Forester has an impressive array of driver’ assistance features, and the beauty of it that they are not obtrusive. You will only notice them when they are needed.

Safety is first and foremost in this Forester, and besides the fact that its Driver Monitoring System warns you when you are not looking at the road ahead. But that is not all: it will also remind you to check whether nobody is sitting on the rear seat when you are going to leave the car.  

We also found that all the commands are self-explaining, for instance finding a destination or connecting your phone is the proverbial breeze. Of course all the infotainment is provided, along with Apple play and Google The Forester is also very roomy, with a cavernous boot space and offering also ample room for the rear passengers.      

Conclusion

This Subaru Forester remains for those outdoor lovers and those living in remote non-urban places the real all purpose companion for your daily mobility. Cleverly driven in town, this e-Boxer reveals itself as a very frugal boulevard cruiser, letting you park and move under soothing “zen” e-Power, and enjoy this emission-free form of propulsion in driving situations where combustion-engined cars pollute the most.

In the meantime, you chalk up very impressive consumption figures. But you will meet no hassle with recharging, just enjoy a reliable, ever-ready companion. Well, a Subaru!  

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Porsche podcasts you should hear: Michael Steiner speaks on the future of Porsche sports cars…

In episode seven of a very interesting series of “Inside E” podcasts, Michael Steiner speaks about changes in the automotive industry, the future of the sports car manufacturer, and technical innovations ranging from motor racing to production development. Michael Steiner is a member of the Executive Board, Research and Development, and is responsible for series production and Porsche Motorsport’s racing projects.

Definitely a podcast to listen to. It is about seeing new opportunities for Porsche in this rapid changing global mobility, where this brand has always embraced technical progress with its core values of quality and sporting agility. The keen interest in electrified mobility dates back now more than a century with Porsche, and the brand remains at the forefront of E-developments. “We see the transformation in the automotive industry as an opportunity. Together with our employees, we are constantly driving this shift, with the clear goal being to link the traditional values of Porsche with the technology of tomorrow,” said Steiner. The first step into the electric future was taken back in 2015, with the “Mission E” project. The manufacturer then definitively heralded a new era with the launch of its first fully-electric sports car, the Porsche Taycan, in September 2019.

Of course Porsche is aware that the future of electric mobility is coupled with sufficient range and the presence of a dense high powered rapid charge infrastructure/network, and is working together with other important manufacturers to build this up.

“With electric cars, it not only comes down to the range of the cars, but also primarily the existing charging infrastructure,” Steiner explained. “For this reason, we are investing in E-mobility, both in our development and in an extensive rapid charging network.”

Motorsport remains important…

Motorsport has always been the driving force behind series production at Porsche – and that remains the case in Formula E. “The experience gained in the LMP1 project had a significant influence on the development of the Porsche Taycan. We expect similar synergies from the Formula E project, as well as inspiration for future sports cars,” said Steiner.

The whole series of these very interesting “Inside E” podcasts is available in English on several  platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts.

Just start listening to this one!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Mercedes-Benz pioneered E-power with a full electric 190 sedan already some 30 years ago…

Large-scale electric-drive test on the island of Rügen in 1992: Mercedes-Benz contributed ten 190 cars and ten MB 100 D vans.

Electric vehicles have progressed with leaps and bounds over the last few years. Developments in battery technology have helped massively to make E-vehicles now a practical proposition. But this doesn’t mean that our European car manufacturers didn’t focus on it since decades…

Mercedes is of course no exception. They had a fully fledged, 100 % electrified 190 sedan running around on the German Baltic Coast island of Rüge. Recharged with sustainable wind power. Fully practical. One of the fleet of 10 cars even functioned as a taxi and clocked not less than 100.000 kilometers in one short year. All this almost 3 decades ago…

Just read on!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Mercedes-Benz 190 model, experimental vehicle (W 201) with electric drive, 1991.

One such story is set in 1990: in May of that year, Mercedes-Benz exhibited a model 190 (W 201) converted to electric drive in the innovation market section at the Hanover Fair.

A (literally) very hot car…

The electric 190s were used to test different drive configurations and battery systems. The energy storage devices tested were mainly sodium-nickel chloride or sodium-sulphur high-energy batteries which had a significantly higher energy density than classic lead batteries.

However, the working temperature of both systems was around 300 degrees Celsius. The group expressing the greatest interest at this industrial fair were representatives of the trades.

Further development went fast…

There was a considerable shift in this just under a year later, when, in March 1991, Mercedes-Benz displayed a more advanced vehicle on the Geneva Motor Show.

Each of the rear wheels of the vehicle presented in Geneva was powered by its own DC motor energized by permanent magnets with a peak power of 16 kW (22 hp) each, so the total power output was 32 kW (44 hp).

Energy was supplied by a sodium-nickel chloride battery, and regenerative braking returned energy to the power pack during braking actions.

A particular advantage of the concept was the elimination of weight-intensive mechanical components, so the additional weight compared to a series-production vehicle with a combustion engine was only 200 kilograms.

The issue of electric cars experienced an upswing at that time as a result of the laws passed in California, for example, to introduce zero emission vehicles.

This led the German government to fund a project to the tune of 60 M DM (now some 30 M Euros), and this led to several manufacturers, including Mercedes-Benz, to participate in a large scale field trial was conducted on the island of Rügen in 1992 and continued through to 1996.

The aim of the exercise was to test electric vehicles and energy systems including their batteries in everyday practice. A total of 60 passenger cars and vans of several brands were involved.

Among other things, Mercedes-Benz sent ten W 201 model series saloon cars, which had previously been fitted by hand with drive components in various electric motor-and-battery combinations in Sindelfingen, to Rügen. Special recharging stations using solar collectors were available during the field test with a view to testing the environmental concept in a consistent manner because only electricity from renewable sources can be considered completely CO2 neutral.

100,000 kilometres in one year with an electric test vehicle

The pioneering 190s were driven by test participants on the island of Rügen: these various individuals, including taxi drivers, used them in normal everyday life. There were hardly any problems – the W 201 cars went about their work completely inconspicuously and reliably. One of the vehicles was used particularly intensively and achieved a peak usage rate of around 100,000 kilometres in one year.

Why did it take so long to adopt E-power for the masses?

The obvious question is why we waited so long to put E-powered cars into practice in larger numbers?

Mercedes-Benz 190 (W 201) test vehicle with an electric drive unit during the large-scale test series on the island of Rügen, 1992 to 1996.

The problems then – and now – were: battery service life, range, recycling, charging infrastructure and vehicle price. Many of the answers to these questions have only become available today, as can be seen by the range of hybrid vehicles offered by Mercedes-Benz and, of course, the EQ electric brand. Projects like the 190 with the electric drive have helped to provide these answers…and it is very interesting to look into them here once again!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Takashi Watanabe, Chief Engineer at Lexus, reveals what Lexus E-driving is all about…

In an exclusive interview with Lexus Electrified Chief Engineer, Lexus has recently unveiled its vision for an upcoming generation of electrified vehicles, under the banner “Lexus Electrified”.

The interview, which offers very interesting aspects and opens new horizons, can be seen using the following link: https://newsroom.lexus.eu/lexus-electrified-chief-engineer-exclusive-interview/

The “Lexus Electrified” vision targets a fundamental leap in vehicle performance, handling, control and driver enjoyment – even as mobility within our society continues to change with autonomous driving and vehicle electrification.

Evoking the original fun of driving, Lexus intends to use its 15 years of experience in electrification technologies to further evolve driving pleasure, and to fundamentally transform the essence of luxury vehicles of the future – creating a unique Lexus driving signature with exceptional ride comfort, quietness and craftsmanship.

Takashi Watanabe, Chief Engineer at Lexus, takes us through the key aspects of this “Lexus Electrified” strategy in an exclusive interview.

The man behind it all…

Takashi Watanabe started his career with Toyota in 1993 with engine systems development. He has worked on many different types of engines and exhaust systems. Since 2012, he has worked also on the development of several Lexus vehicles and became in 2017 leader of the Lexus Electrified Project.

Just watch and listen, and be transported into the electric future…by Lexus, using their unique “Lexus-ness.”

Hans Knol ten Bensel