We drove the Jeep Compass PHEV 4xe: plug-in hybrid now takes you beautifully everywhere…

Jeep is building on a very comprehensive drivetrain offering across its range, with increasing emphasis on (hybrid) E-power.

Jeep has always been a vehicle which has been near to nature, and this new 4xe range comes ever closer to its vocation. It represents an important step of the brand’s evolutionary process, which is oriented more than ever towards sustainability and electrification.

In these columns you could read already about our driving impressions of the Compass with the very smooth new four-cylinder 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine made at the FCA plant in Melfi, in the Italian region of Basilicata. Just read our report titled “We drove the new Compass “Made in Europe” with the brand new 1,3 litre petrol engine…” It is part of the new FCA Global Small Engine family, launched in mid-2018 on the Jeep Renegade.  As you can read in this post, we were very impressed. But there is an even more interesting version, which we test for you today: the 4xe, with an electric motor mated to a choice of either the 190 hp and 240 hp version of the 1.3-litre Global Small Engine. What’s more, both these 4xe versions are four-wheel drive only. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Thorough development…

The 4xe range is important for the brand, so the greatest attention was given to its development.

The painstaking development process of the Compass 4xe culminated at the Arjeplog Proving Grounds in Swedish Lapland. Up to 3,800 kilometers of road tests were clocked up to reach Arjeplog from Turin and put the Jeep plug-in hybrid SUVs through their paces in all conditions that customers might need to tackle. Tests continued in the winter of 2019 in Arjeplog and during the long-awaited Jeep Winter event in Champoluc (Val d’Aosta, Italy), where the brand provided a glimpse on the operation of the 4xe system through a cross section of a Jeep Renegade on display. The beginning of 2020 welcomed the launch of the “First Edition”, the exclusive launch editions for both Jeep Renegade 4xe and Jeep Compass 4xe.

No secrets, even for a novice…

We must admit, the results are quite impressive. Right from the first meters, this PHEV shows its maturity. What’s more, it is not only thoroughly engineered, it is also eminently practical, and understandable even for the first time hybrid and 4WD driver for that matter. The driver can easily select one of the three buttons on the center console, i.e. “hybrid”, “electric” and “e-save.” This can be done at the start, but also whilst driving, one can select between the three modes. The modes are self-explaining actually, but we describe them for you here:

Hybrid is the default mode selected when the car is started. It is designed to manage and use the system in the most efficient way, optimizing power and minimizing fuel consumption. The internal combustion engine and electric motor work together according to the road type, with braking energy recovery phases.

Initially, the system favors electric driving (so the power is supplied by the electric motor). When the battery reaches the minimum charge level (called “SOC”, State Of Charge), the internal combustion engine is used for propulsion. Throughout the drive or trip, the system manages start-up and intervention through an optimization algorithm (Hybrid Control Processor – HCP) designed to maximize the system efficiency levels.

Electric is the mode that provides a full-electric average range of around 50 kilometers at zero emissions. It is designed to maximize the electric driving experience through a different calibration of the HCP optimization algorithm. The car drives in electric-only mode as long as there is sufficient charge in the battery. The system automatically switches to HYBRID mode when the battery is completely flat or when the driver uses kick-down. A top speed of up to 130 km/h can be reached. This is the ideal mode for traveling in city centers with traffic and emission restrictions.

E-SAVE , on the other hand, is the mode for maintaining battery charge or for charging it while driving using the internal combustion engine. E-SAVE mode supports two secondary modes, called Battery Save (passive E-SAVE) and Battery Charge (active E-SAVE), both of which can be activated on the Uconnect system screen.

Passive E-SAVE or Battery Save: maintains the state of charge of the battery through the predominant use of the internal combustion engine;

E-SAVE active or Battery Charge: charges the battery up to 80% through the operation of the internal combustion engine on which the combined front electric generator acts.

We tested of course all the modes, but to measure the overall efficiency of the E-drivetrain, we opted for quite an important part of our test for the E-SAVE active mode. While keeping the battery charged on longer trips, even recharging it indeed up to 75-80 %, we clocked an average consumption of 7,6 liters/100 km, which, for a full 4WD vehicle is very, very creditable indeed. It must be said that we drove this Compass with anticipation and respected the legal speed limits. In hybrid mode, with the E-motor also delivering some work, consumption evidently drops. In the combined cycle, the manufacturer quotes 2,1 l/100 km. CO2 emissions are very low with 47 – 49 g/km.

We were also very impressed, as in our previous test with the “normal” Compass, by the outstanding level of technical refinement of this drivetrain. The Compass we tested was equipped with the 130 HP version of the smooth 1,3 litre engine, plus the 60 hp produced by the electric motor, adding up to a total of 190 hp. In terms of torque, the electric motor produces 250 Nm, while the combustion engine delivers 270 Nm. Performance does not leave anything to be desired: 0 to 100 km/h costs 7,9 seconds and top speed is 183 km/h.

E-power…

The Compass has two electric motors, one of which is located on the front axle and coupled to the internal combustion engine that, in addition to working in synergy with the engine, can act as a high-voltage generator, as necessary.

The second one is located on the rear axle and features reduction gear and integrated differential (“e-axle”). It delivers 60 hp of power and 250 Nm of torque, generating traction and recovering energy while braking. The electric motor actually drives the rear wheels, the combustion engine the front wheels.

The 11.4 kWh, 400-volt lithium-ion battery pack uses cobalt-nickel manganese/graphite chemistry. It is located underneath the second-row of seats, where it is protected from outside elements. Enclosed in a steel casing, the pack is fitted with a dedicated heating and cooling circuit to keep the battery at its optimum temperature for best performance.

The 11.4 kWh battery pack allows the Renegade and Compass 4xe to travel an average range of 50 kilometers* in full-electric, zero-emission mode. The hybrid system also includes a power inverter (PIM) housed inside the battery pack, which is also protected from damage.

Regenerative braking and…e-Coasting!

The 4xe Compass is relaxing and smooth to drive in town, where you can enjoy the “zen” qualities of pure E-power, and the six-speed auto box is super smooth when you enjoy the pulling power qualities of the 1,3 litre engine. But there is more than just smooth progress. There is regenerative braking, which is always active regardless of the driving mode (internal combustion engine or electric motor) to maximize energy recovery when the throttle and brake pedals are released. But the Compass has more upon its sleeve. It also allows e-Coasting. This function is available when the gearlever is put in “D”.  By pressing the ‘e-Coasting’ button, the regenerative braking intensity can be activated according to two different levels, more or less intense.

A warning light on the instrument panel display indicates activation through two different colors: White (“Normal”) if the “Intense” function is selected but not active (accelerator pedal not released); Green, if the “Intense” function is selected and active (accelerator pedal released).

After the more intense function has been activated, the regenerative braking calibration is more explicit when coasting. This feature reduces the speed faster than standard regenerative braking and generates more electricity to be conveyed to the battery pack.

A dedicated message will appear on the instrument panel during the transition from the “Intense” to “Normal” function and vice versa.

The absolute king off-road…

The legendary offroad qualities of a Jeep are well known to all of us. With an electric motor with its instant massive torque driving the rear wheels independently from the front wheels, 4WD torque delivery can be even more gradual and fine-tuned, and this Compass (and Renegade) 4xe even outclasses in this respect the “classic” Jeeps. The Jeep driver has the usual choice between different off-road driving modes: Auto, Sport, Snow, Sand/Mud. Remarkable is also this “Sport” mode: This is a first on the Compass and Renegade, and uses both the electric motor and the internal combustion engine to deliver sporty driving performances. It tightens up the steering, sharpens the throttle response and adjusts the behavior of the transmission via higher upshifts for full power and torque delivery. Just great!

And then here is also Jeep Selec-Terrain traction control. It combines the dynamic modes to two different 4×4 traction modes, i.e. 4WD Lock and 4WD Low. In the 4WD Lock mode, the four-wheel drive is permanently engaged at speeds up to 15 km/h, keeping the rear electric motor (P4) constantly running to provide 4×4 traction at low speeds with a constant distribution of torque between the two axles (the distribution ratio varies depending on the selected Terrain mode). At speeds above 15 km/h, AWD becomes on-demand. Jeep thought here of everything: what if the battery charge is low? Well, the full functionality of the 4xe four-wheel drive is guaranteed by the ’Powerlooping‘ function when the battery charge level is low. This ensures that the front electric motor, which is mechanically connected to the internal combustion engine, continuously generates high-voltage current to power the rear electric motor and so maximum traction is delivered regardless of the state of charge of the battery.

4WD Low mode is used when the going gets really rough: like when you are tackling big rocks for example…

Versatile

The Compass is an eminently versatile 4WD vehicle. Smoothly at home in urban and open road traffic, and a master off-road: there is nothing this Compass cannot do. It’s hybrid system is quite practical and self-explaining to use, and the Compass is also the proverbial breeze to charge: either through the normal domestic socket using the supplied cable, or by connecting to the handy easyWallbox charger the evening before. Using the “E-Control” function, the driver can set the favorite start time and the battery charging time, for instance picking the most cost-effective electricity tariffs. He can also program charging from home using his smartphone.

Easy charging

FCA is developing solutions to fulfill every requirement, starting from charge points: the around 3,600 charging columns installed at dealerships across Europe and in plant parking lots are heading in this direction, as are the agreements with Enel X and ENGIE, leading players in the energy sector, to offer simple and immediate access to public and home charge points, like the easyWallbox.

Based on another partnership with Digital Charging Solutions (DCS), customers who choose the Jeep Renegade and Compass 4xe will have access to “My easy Charge”, a digital service providing access to the largest public charging network in the world, managed by DCS.

Via a dedicated app and a single card, this solution will offer access to more than 130,000 charging stations in 21 European countries. Finally, with ENGIE Eps and Terna, FCA e-Mobility has developed laboratories for innovative technologies, such as Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G), a system whereby an electric car interacts with the electricity network to return or store energy.

Conclusion

A very clever and eminently useful Plug In Hybrid, which is totally in tune with the times, has style, panache, roominess, sturdiness, smoothness, is economical and has legendary off-road qualities. Above all, it is a Jeep, the genuine article. What are you waiting for?

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the new Lexus RX 450h: a favorite star on the SUV firmament…

Did you know that the Lexus RX 450h has been for many years now the absolute top choice in the luxury SUV segment? As Lexus states: “Not only it is the world’s bestselling luxury hybrid SUV and all-time best sold Lexus model, but it is also the world’s first luxury SUV that has created its own segment back in 1998.”

Indeed, it has been popular the world over, and this for all the (very) good reasons. Mechanical perfection, smoothness, performance, economy, superb finish, comfort, reliability, combined with its ease of use, and last but not least ample standard equipment. Need we say more? Maybe, after this test, we might come up with some more good experiences. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Lexus RX series SUV is indeed a worldwide winner. Indeed, its looks are good, and hardly needed any changes over de last few years. It breathes the typical angular yet fluent styling language we have grown accustomed to in the Lexus model range, with pleasing proportions and an overall size which many find “just right”.

The RX is not overly generous when it comes to luggage space – but rest assured – Lexus has the right RX for you. More spacious than ever before, the RX “L” has also evolved into a seven-seat model. It is effectively a new model, with body length extended by 110 mm and the back window set at a steeper angle to ensure those sitting in the rearmost seats are as comfortably accommodated as other passengers.

Returning to “our” RX, it does offer enough room for its occupants. It seats easily four, and we can tell you it offers ample legroom in the back, you can even cross your legs effortlessly. The third passenger in the back suffers somewhat from lack of headroom, and comfort is somewhat impaired, as he/she sits on the big central, foldable armrest.

Silk smooth hybrid progress…

Under the hood of the Lexus purrs a 3 litre V6, coupled with the Lexus Hybrid system. This means a total system power of 312 PS or 229 kW at your disposal, enough to propel your Lexus in some 8,2 seconds to 100 km/h and hurtle further to a governed top speed of 180 km/h. But when you drive and own this car, it is not pure performance you are looking for. It is comfortable, whispering, vibrationless progress. And here the RX delivers. Beautifully. Via the continuously variable transmission both engines deliver the computer calculated ideal mix of power to the wheels, and the result is a smoothness in propulsion which you have to experience to believe it.

On the open road at higher cruising speeds, the efficient V6 gets into its own, and delivers honest economy. But it is in slow and tight stop and go urban traffic that the hybrid system excels. The onboard computer will choose E power more often than not, putting the combustion engine to work to either recharge the battery and/or help the E-motor, but – and that’s also the cleverness of it – doing this at an ideal rpm/throttle opening combination which lets it reach its ideal thermal efficiency.

All this without the slightest shock and with only the gentlest hum being heard when the V6 engine sets in. It is this hybrid system which Toyota has introduced in … 1997 for its first Prius, and which it has perfected ever since.

We have applauded this system already many times in these columns, and when it comes to smoothness combined with slow speed economy, we find it still among the very best.

Depending on your driving style, economy can be truly astonishing when you let the system use the E-power in the driving cycle. Urban errands driving with anticipation and restraint will not cost more than 7 litres/100 km and even less in this big 2090 kg SUV. Driving with verve on winding open roads at varying speeds will let de consumption vary between 7 and 8 litres/100 km. CO2 emissions are quoted by the manufacturer at 134 g/km. All these values are excellent, but it’s the sheer smoothness and refinement of progress which truly stands out.

For those who are interested, we can tell you here that the V6 engine develops 262 PS/193 kW at 6000 rpm, with 335 Nm of torque at 4800 rpm. The electric motor in front develops 167 PS.

As usual in a Lexus, you can chose between eco, normal and Sport (even Sport+) driving. The virtual instrumentation places then a big rev counter in your central line of vision, and drivetrain/steering responsiveness are up a notch.  

Comfort in the cabin and on the road

The seats are excellent, and will not tire you even after many hours, and the same can be said of how this RX floats over the road. Potholes, ridges, everything is nicely swallowed and hardly reaches the passengers. Add to this the excellent sound insulation and you understand that driving and travelling in this RX is a very relaxing affair. The Levinson sound system is a chapter on its own and lets you make the voyage in the most exquisite sound atmospheres.

The screen and infotainment system are also honed to perfection, eminently practical and useable. Lexus has left the central mouse knob for a touchpad system, and some find this better. Personally, we are very found of the mouse in our Lexus CT200h, but when the majority of users want another setup, why shouldn’t you change?

The Lexus RX driver gets all road info, driving assistance and infotainment he can wish for, even considering Apple and Android audio are now also thrown in.

For the 2021 model year, the Lexus RX 450h comes with a Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) as standard across all vehicle equipment levels. We also found the overhead display also one of the best we have come across…

The RX is eminently practical too, with chargers fore and aft for your electrical equipment, large bins for bottles, beverages and small items, it is all very well thought out to make everyday a joy to drive this RX450h.

Conclusion

We said it, a top car in its segment, and it has everything to stay in this enviable position. It impressed us again, as a gentle, powerful everyday companion, built to soothe and relax you when you move from A to B, be it 5 or many hundreds of kilometers or miles, and this for years to come… with style, reliability and economy to match!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the VW ID.3: E-power for the millions…

VW takes a big bet on the future of mobility. Europe will – or should be – driving electrified in the (very) near future. So VW got to work on an all-new platform which it will use on all its fully E-powered cars, and there will be many…

Indeed, VW is quite ambitious.  It wants to be the world’s market leader in electric mobility. The Group plans to launch up to 75 all-electric models by 2029.

It also asked its styling department to come up with a totally appealing Golf-sized car with much extra room however for passengers and their luggage, taking advantage of the space gained by the underfloor mounted engine and batteries, the short overhangs and the long wheelbase.

This car, the ID.3 should also be totally connected for the present and future generations, with all the possible driving aids and safety features included.

VW has succeeded. It builds in Zwickau a pleasantly practical, futuristic and good-looking hatchback which does it all. It has not only zesty power (150 kW) and smoothness, but also a very usable range.

We drove here for you the “1ST MAX” edition with a lithium-ion battery with a net energy capacity of 58 kWh. Good for a WLTP range of 426 km. Well, eh, in practice some 330 km or thereabouts, as in practice, one uses heating or airco…

Read further for our findings!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Pleasing styling with a futuristic touch…

We must admit that VW designers have hit the ballpark. This ID.3 looks (very) good from any angle, with its dual tone paintwork, its nice spoiler and the superb surface treatment of all bodywork panels. The ID.3 has a clean, fluid angularity which has a timeless touch, directed towards the future. Flowing lines are found at the front, with the headlights looking like eyes. The low drag coefficient of 0.27 completes the picture.

This futuristic touch is also found even more in the interior, with its all-digital and well-placed screens, both in front of the driver and on the central console. The zesty atmosphere is further enhanced with the array of different mood lighting’s one can choose in the cabin. The ID. Light beneath the windscreen visually communicates with passengers. The ID.3 is largely operated via the multifunction steering wheel, the central 10-inch touchscreen or the “Hello ID.” intelligent voice control. The whole cabin is airy, welcoming and clean.

Daily interaction with the ID is so easy. Just step in, as the car automatically opens. Put the small handle just beneath the right side of the steering wheel in “D” or “B”, which lets you recuperate the kinetic energy and effectively brakes the car with 0,3 G when you lift the throttle, and off you go. At the end of the trip, just push the “park” button and step out. The ID.3 shuts itself and all its systems off.

All the functions on the 10-inch touchscreen are there. It takes some getting used to in order to navigate and learn all its clever functions, but most of it is very intuitive. The rest you will learn and grow accustomed to in a few days! The buttons on the steering wheel spokes also host an array of commands. The sound command lacked some progressiveness, but everything is quite clever and logical.

Driving the ID.3: a “zen” experience with a sporting touch…

Sliding behind the wheel in the ID.3 sets you in this friendly futuristic world, where you immediately feel at home, having found an ideal seating position in seconds. As said, driving away is the simplest affair. Overwhelmingly pleasing is the “feel” of immediate power under your right foot. Make no mistake: the ID.3 has a 150 kW/204 HP E-motor, with 310 Nm of torque. This means supercar performance, well almost. 0 to 100 km/h is silently reached without any effort in merely 7,3 seconds. This is a full two seconds faster than a ‘70s 911 T 2 litre Porsche Targa, to put anything in perspective…

Driving at legally allowed speeds is a dream in an E-powered vehicle, as it goes so silent and vibrationless.

Especially in urban areas where the new speed limits get ever more draconian, down to 30 km/h in many European inner cities, it is a delight to glide along the boulevards with the cruise control set at this speed.

Volkswagen is also returning to its roots with the electric motor: this is located at the rear and drives the rear wheels – as was the case back in the day with the Beetle. The electric drive motor achieves a maximum speed of 16,000 rpm and is coupled to a one speed gearbox and differential.

The motor is so quiet that it can hardly be heard outside the car. For this reason, a loudspeaker emits a synthetic electronic engine sound up to a speed of around 30 km/h in order to warn passers-by. It is efficient too: the permanently excited synchronous motor (PSM) reaches well above 90 pct efficiency no matter how (hard) you drive.

On winding secondary roads, the punch of the motor makes spirited driving also an undistilled pleasure. Handling and steering precision are also quite up to the mark, and the ID.3 indeed feels quite sporting. The state of the art platform architecture has located the large high-voltage battery between the axles. This means at the lowest point of the car, with also the weight distribution very close to the ideal value of 50:50.  

The suspension as a whole is on the rather firm side without being uncomfortable, but don’t expect a softly sprung car here. Of course, to achieve stable and precise handling with a 1,8 tonne car, the laws of physics command firmer suspension settings.

Suspension-wise, VW has put in the works: the ID.3 has a McPherson front axle and a complex five-link design at the rear. In town, even with the large wheels, its turning circle is just 10.2 metres. This makes the ID.3 quite nimble to drive in town.

Our test car came with beautiful 20 inch alloys.  Disc brakes with a disc diameter of up to 330 millimetres are fitted at the front, with drum brakes at the rear. Their great advantage is their robustness: the pads are designed for the service life of the car. And corrosion is not an issue, even though the wheel brakes are used only rarely in everyday driving, assures us VW.

On the motorways, cruising at legal speeds or even below that is the right thing to do. We  settled to a restful gait of some 105-110 km/h, nestled ourselves in the excellent seats and appreciated the fold-able middle armrest (the same are found in my classic 1963 MK 2 Type S Jaguar) and literally enjoyed the music through the excellent sound system, equipped with DAB+ radio of course. This transforms the ID.3 in a four wheeled, “zen”- moving concert hall. The sedate cruising speed also made the ID.3 reach easily the indicted WLTP ranges. By the way, top speed is 160 km/h, totally in line with the character of this ID.3.

Fast recharging…

Building the charging infrastructure  in Europe is now the greatest challenge ahead for many.

There are rosier times ahead: By 2025, Volkswagen Group will install around 35,000 charge points in Europe itself together with its retail partners. Many of these will be publicly accessible.

These will be complemented by the flexible, fast charging stations from Volkswagen Group Components, which can be set up wherever there is a short-term need, such as at major events. They become fixed charge points through connection to the low-voltage network and can charge two electric cars simultaneously with up to 150 kW thanks to their fast charging technology.

In Europe, ID.3 drivers can use already more than 150,000 public charge points. They benefit from attractive conditions in the IONITY fast charging network.

When you are so lucky to have a garage with electric connection or an individual home, VW has a ID. Charger, the new home charging station from Volkswagen. It is available in three versions, all of which offer a charging capacity of up to 11 kW. This allows an empty vehicle battery to be fully charged again in around six to seven and a half hours,depending on the model. The ID. Charger base model currently costs only 388 euros. The ID. Charger Connect and ID. Charger Pro offer full connectivity and can be controlled with the We Connect ID. app via smartphone.

In Belgium, the VW Importer D’Ieteren offers installation of charging stations to its customers via its EDI (Electric by D’Ieteren) subsidiary. More info on www.edi.be. 

Roomy and connected…

The ID.3 has almost the space and legroom of a VW Passat, and that is no small feat. Also the luggage space is quite adequate, with 385 liters. Wide bins in the doors lets you pack all the bottles and small items one needs.  

The electronics platform of the ID.3 has been newly designed from scratch. Two high-performance computers bundle a large number of functions, and the software is designed to be highly flexible like on a server. This makes it easy to download updates to the car, and in future also function upgrades, via a mobile network. The services of We Connect Start connect the car to the owner’s smartphone, allow control of charging and air conditioning, supply traffic information and also display live data about charging stations on the navigation map. App Connect (standard) permits media streaming via a smartphone.

Conclusion

The ID.3 has it all. It has formidable qualities, able to convince our European drivers to take the EV plunge. It offers good value for money, considering the car’s qualities and size. Driving it has been a pleasant experience, and the “zen” character of EV propulsion and the design and roominess  of the ID.3 are most endearing.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Hyundai joins IONITY charging network…

Hyundai and Kia are participating in the IONITY charging network…

As the E-powered cars are decidedly coming of age, we will keep you regularly abreast with more EV news….so here is one, and many more will follow! Soon we will also report about our driving impressions with the VW ID.3…

Hyundai Motor Group has joined IONITY, Europe’s leading high-power charging network, as a strategic partner and shareholder. Through its participation in this joint venture, Hyundai Motor Group – including Hyundai and Kia brands – will drive the expansion of the high-power charging network along Europe’s highways, promoting the further adoption of zero-emission mobility.

The IONITY charging network uses the European CCS (Combined Charging System) charging standard. Since the network uses 100 percent renewable energies, thanks to IONITY, drivers of electric vehicles are not only able to travel emission-free, but also CO2-neutral. This is an important step when it comes to making electric mobility a success in Europe.

New Sorento plug in hybrid can be ordered in Belgium…

In the meantime, Kia Motors has released a ‘cutaway’ image revealing the packaging of the new three-row, seven-seat Kia Sorento Plug-in Hybrid.

The photo reveals how the large battery pack, fuel tank, engine and electric motor are integrated within the vehicle’s structure, retaining maximum space for luggage and up to seven occupants.

The Sorento can be ordered in our country (Belgium) from next week onwards…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

BMW turns its electric vision into reality…with the impressive BMW iX

Until now the VISION iNEXT took centre stage when we looked at BMW’s electric vision for the future. With a year still to go before its market launch at the end of 2021, the BMW Group lets us have a first look ahead to the future BMW iX, which is currently still in the series development phase.

The BMW iX is very important: it is the first model based on a new, modular, scalable future toolkit developed by the BMW Group. It embodies a fresh interpretation of design, sustainability, versatility and luxury.

Driving pleasure, versatility and luxury.

The iX is from the outset designed for purely electric mobility, and BMW claims it is redefining the successful Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) concept.

The BMW iX harnesses the latest innovations in the fields of electrification, automated driving and connectivity to deliver a mobility experience which puts people first. Therefore, its design has been developed from the inside out, says BMW.

Sustainability is also important, and we find optimised aerodynamics, intelligent lightweight design and extensive use of natural and recycled materials.

Fifth-generation BMW eDrive technology for a long range…

The fifth generation of BMW eDrive technology consists of two electric motors, state of the art  power electronics, charging technology and a high-voltage battery. It has the zest of a true BMW: some 370 kW/500 hp, enough to power the BMW iX from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in under 5.0 seconds.

BMW nevertheless targets an electronic power consumption of less than 21 kWh per 100 kilometres (62 miles) in the WLTP test cycle. A gross energy content of more than 100 kWh should enable the latest-generation high voltage battery to record a range of over 600 kilometres in the WLTP cycle.

That equates to more than 300 miles according to the EPA’s FTP-75 test procedure.

DC fast charging: over 120 kilometres (75 miles) of extra range in ten minutes.

The new charging technology of the BMW iX enables DC fast charging at up to 200 kW. In this way, the battery can be charged from 10 to 80 per cent of its full capacity in under 40 minutes.

The friendly cabin is centered on the driver and its passengers…

Added to which, within ten minutes enough energy can be fed into the battery to increase the car’s range by more than 120 kilometres (75 miles). It takes less than eleven hours to charge the high-voltage battery from 0 to 100 per cent at 11 kW from a Wallbox.

More power for automated driving…

The level of computing power has been developed to process 20 times the data volume of previous models. As a result, around double the amount of data from vehicle sensors can be processed than was previously possible.

Bold and impressive styling

The exterior of the BMW iX has the powerful proportions of a large BMW SAV. The BMW iX is comparable with the BMW X5 in length and width, and is almost the same height as the BMW X6 on account of its flowing roofline. The size of its wheels, meanwhile, brings to mind the BMW X7.

At the centre of the front end stands the prominent, vertical kidney grille. Since the electric drive system of the BMW iX requires only a small amount of cooling air, the kidney grille is completely blanked off.

This upright grille has reinvented itself as an innovative and multifunctional high-tech interface for

the advanced driver assistance systems with which the BMW iX paves the way for automated driving.

Human friendly cabin

The architecture of the BMW iX cabin underpins a perfectly clear and straightforward functionality that revolves entirely around the needs and emotions of the driver and occupants.

The displays and controls are all stripped down to the essentials, further reinforcing the impression of an uncluttered cabin offering a place of relaxation. The technology of the BMW iX only becomes visible when it is needed. This makes it intuitive to use rather than seeming overly complex.

The hexagonally shaped steering wheel, a rocker switch for gear selection and the BMW Curved Display – which forms part of the next-generation BMW Operating System – clearly advertise the futuristic form of driving pleasure.

Lightweight design

The body structure, featuring an aluminium spaceframe and innovative Carbon Cage, can claim extremely high torsional stiffness, which in turn enhances agility and maximises occupant protection, while minimising weight.

Fully capitalising on the benefits provided by the all-electric drive system and meticulously implementing proven measures from the past in the front end of the car, the underbody section, the wheels and the rear end gives the BMW iX optimised aerodynamics. This resuls in a drag coefficient (Cd) of just 0.25!

We let you look at the photos here…and are anxious to see this new BMW in the flesh!  

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the all-electric Fiat Cinquecento: Italy is now also “zen”… in urban style.

In Brussels autumn streets, enjoying the latest Italian electric gem: the Fiat 500 Elettrica…

Bringing back the stunning Alfa Romeo Stelvio test car (full test report soon on these pages…), we had the lucky occasion to slide behind the wheel for a short spin through the Brussels streets with the brand new all-electric 500. Press Officer Wim Willems of the ever so dynamic FCA Belgium PR team invited me proudly to take the wheel behind one of the still Italian registered test cars.

The four wheeled beauty – the styling of the electric 500 is truly spot on – drives absolutely “zen”, silent and smooth, and is of course totally intuitive to drive. On the middle of the dashboard are the four touch buttons let you choose between drive, reverse, neutral and park. This is literally all there is to it!

This electric Cinquecento we drove was the top notch ICON version, and the stylish fun starts the moment you get the keys of the car: it’s a black button-free pebble, a smart wearable key you carry in your pocket or bag, which communicates with the car and automatically unlocks the doors when you step closer.

The dashboard has the same color as the bodywork, which was in our test car executed in matte grey, and in the center is a a 10.25” ‘cinerama’ touchscreen display, with GPS and the Uconnect 5 system. So superbly connected you are… more on all these features when we get our hands on this electrical gem for a test.

Let’s turn to the supersmooth driving experience. You can choose between three driving modes. The “Normal” mode gives you all the nippy performance you could ever wish for: output of 87 kW – equivalent to 118 hp, 220 Nm of torque, available instantly, and sports car acceleration from 0 to 50 km/h in 3.1 seconds, or 0 to 100 in 9 seconds.

We started off our test drive with 296 km range…

But there is more. The “Range” mode treats you to a new driving experience, using only one foot. The ‘one-pedal’ function means you can control acceleration and deceleration by just pushing or lifting the throttle. When you lift off, the car recovers energy to the max, and the Cinquecento will slow down markedly until it stops.

Red hot: the test car is still running on Italian licence plates…

When your battery is low, this 500 gets you home anyway. You choose the ‘Sherpa’ mode, and here the 500 will  find the right balance between all the components of the drivetrain to reduce fuel consumption to a minimum.

One last word about the range: The 500 ICON will drive of up to 320 km in the WLTP cycle, increasing to 460 km in the urban cycle alone. Rapid recharging is guaranteed by the DC fast charging system, running at up to 85 kW.

But rest assured, we will come back on all the smart recharging solutions Fiat offers for its new electric baby. We just treat you here to the few photos I shot during our first drive!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Toyota RAV4: the car which invented the SUV…

The formidable RAV4 has now some 10 million enthusiast owners, and now enters its fifth generation. It has gained in style, and is as hybrid as ever on our shores: 85 % of the European buyers opt for the self-charging hybrid power drivetrain.

It rolls on the new GA-K platform, allowing the RAV4 to be sleeker with a lower center of gravity and increased body rigidity. This also means both better handling and ride comfort, a more spacious interior, ample load space (580 liters VDA with seats in place) and enhanced styling with lower roof and hood lines in combination with higher ground clearance.

Indeed, the new RAV4 has the looks, and the ride too…Just read on!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Self-charging hybrid, masterfully engineered…

The RAV4 continues the successful Toyota hybrid story. Under the hood purrs a completely newly redesigned 2.5-litre petrol hybrid “Dynamic Force” engine, offering 218 DIN hp in front-wheel drive form. Indeed, this RAV4 is loaded with state-of-the-art top tech.

What to think of the Atkinson cycle technology and a 14.0:1 compression ratio (compared to 12.5:1 for the previous unit). It comes with D-4S direct and indirect (!) fuel injection and intelligent variable valve-timing – electric VVTiE for the intake and hydraulic VVT-i for the exhaust. The valve-timing range for both intake and exhaust has been increased. There are still more clever solutions put in this engine. Be astonished with us…

The cylinder heads are designed to generate high tumble of the fuel/air mixture, with an enlarged valve included angle and laser-cladded valve seats. A variable cooling system with an electric water pump and electric thermostat is used to improve combustion by maintaining the required temperature. There is also a fully variable oil pump for efficient engine oil pressure management.  

Toyota’s fourth generation self-charging hybrid system makes its debut in the new RAV4, delivering multiple benefits. Key components, including the power control unit (PCU) and the nickel metal-hydride battery are more compact and lighter in weight, and the transaxle and transmission have been engineered to reduce electrical and mechanical losses.

The new battery pack is 11 per cent lighter than before and transmission losses have been reduced by 25 per cent compared to the previous system.

How does all this work in practice? The engine is very docile, and develops 221 Nm between a very large rev range from 3,600 – 5,200 rpm. Admittedly, these are rather high revs, but the low-end pulling power is of course greatly helped by the electric motor, which develops a healthy 202 Nm.

This means that this RAV4 will pull away always with very impressive power, and this we find is the very “zen” beauty of Toyota’s hybrid system. The electric motor alone is good for 88 kW, so you can imagine what happens when you put your foot down.

Acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h is absolved in merely 8,4 seconds. But in the lower speed ranges, the velvety power is overwhelming. The hybrid system carefully manages how both engines participate in the total power delivery, and engine revs are kept especially low at partial throttle openings.

Silk smooth progress is for you to be enjoyed: even at spirited driving the engine hums quietly, and all this contributes to let you relax behind the wheel. What is also pleasant is the total smoothness of the drivetrain, not the slightest jolt or shock will disturb you or your passengers. Not many (super)cars will reach this level of total smoothness.

Besides all this smooth power, the hybrid system warrants also excellent economy. The secret is to accelerate and decelerate smoothly, to drive with anticipation. This lets the hybrid system use the recuperation function fully when slowing down, and use the electric motor as much as possible at constant speeds below, say 70 km/h. This results in excellent economy, also and even more so in slow urban driving and stop and go traffic. It proved no effort to reach averages of 6 l/100 km. Toyota quotes 4.5/4.6 l/100 km as average consumption, with CO2 emissions being 102 g/km. Oh yes, the top speed is a good 180 km/h. More than enough for all, we would say.

Driving pleasure…             

The new platform enhances handling stability and precision. The RAV4 has improved the response of the Electric Power Steering by moving the assist motor from the column to the rack, and indeed this RAV4 steers accurately. The handling is neutral and predictable.

The RAV4’s GA-K platform also distinguishes itself in its use of a double wishbone rear suspension system. What’s more, thanks to the low center of gravity and high body rigidity, the suspension does not have to be rendered stiffer to meet dynamic targets. Indeed, we found the RAV4 quite comfortable too! Its suspension travel is wide, and we know of few cars in its class which takes the many potholes and bumps on our Belgion roads with such ease.

A strong point is also the good visibility. The TNGA platform allows the hood to sit 15 mm lower, adding two degrees to the driver’s forward field of vision, and the external mirrors have been moved to a lower position on the front doors. Luggage space is 79 liters more than in the previous, fourth generation RAV4.

Flexibility is designed-in so that the space can easily be adapted to gain more cargo room when required: with the rear seats folded down, the new RAV4 can accommodate a 29-inch mountain bike without any wheels having to be removed.

Well equipped, also for safety…

The new RAV4 offers generous equipment specifications across its range, with all models equipped as standard with the latest iteration of Toyota Safety Sense and an E call emergency contact function. Quite impressive!

The improved system features a single-lens camera and millimeter-wave radar, both with enhanced performance to expand the scope of hazard detection and functionality. The unit has also been made smaller, so driver gains an even wider field of vision. We found this RAV4 delightful with the wide range of safety features.

The Toyota Safety Sense unit includes Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD), intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control (iACC), Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (LDA w/SA), Road Sign Assist (RSA) and Automatic High Beam (AHB). In addition, it introduces Lane Tracing Assist (LTA), which provides more advanced driving support.

The system can determine collision risks at speeds from zero to 180 km/h. If it calculates an imminent risk of collision, it will alert the driver and prepare the brakes (PreCrash Brake Assist) for maximum stopping force. If the driver fails to act, it will trigger Autonomous Emergency Braking, which can reduce vehicle speed by up to 40 km/h, potentially bringing the car to a stop and avoiding an impact.

The new intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control (iACC) is also able to work in conjunction with the car’s Road Sign Assist system. When the car is travelling at a constant, pre-set speed, iACC can recognise new speed limits on major roads and let the driver adjust the speed to keep within the limit, simply by using switches on the steering wheel.

The intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Tracing Assist work together in slow, stop/go traffic, tracking the vehicle ahead within the traffic lane, maintaining a safe distance and speed, bringing the vehicle to a halt when necessary and moving off seamlessly when traffic flow resumes. We found this feature a delight to use and indeed it takes away quite some stress in urban stop and go traffic.

Roomy cabin and creature comfort

We found the cabin quite practical; it is purpose built with all the knobs and handles in the right places. The gearlever/selector is now totally classical in looks and feel, and this is maybe a good thing for many SUV enthusiasts. Seats are excellent, the lower, more dynamic seating position was appreciated. As said, there is plenty of room inside. Of course, excellent connectivity and an intuitive to use navigation system was appreciated and makes this RAV4 a pleasure in daily use.

Conclusion

A well styled, but above all superbly engineered SUV, which is sturdy, practical, mechanically refined, frugal, and roomy.

It has a very comfortable ride, and the smoothest of drivetrains. This SUV displays lively performance and surprises with excellent economy. Its unique hybrid system makes it truly stand out, and will make it also totally future proof in our ever-greener world. The RAV4 will continue to be a bestseller, and deservedly so…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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