We drove the Mercedes E 300 de Estate: hybrid cleverness under the good star…

The Mercedes E 300 de is stylish and versatile hybrid. The photos here are shot with our second hand Olympus SLR E-510, f 7.2, 1/160 s, 200 ASA. Up to scratch!

When the oldest car manufacturer in the world goes hybrid, you can expect the best. Indeed, they use the adage in their marketing language: “the best or nothing”. And they use it…not for nothing. This we could experience behind the wheel of a sleek E Class estate, where under the hood the well proven 2 litre 4 cylinder diesel is married in hybrid fashion to a powerful electric engine. The result is indeed the (very) best of both worlds. Impressive to say the least. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Mercedes engineers and strategists put their heads together and had a long hard look at what a Mercedes hybrid in today’s world has to be capable of in order to respond to the needs of its clients. It is well known that the E class sedans and estates with the good star are driven frequently at long(er) distances, and therefore the diesel engine is a (very) logical choice.

Diesel and E-power are closely married under the bonnet…

It is also a fact that this hybrid Mercedes has to be “city proof” for years to come, and therefore has to be able to drive quite reasonable distances in the city centre on lively E-power. So the choice was obvious: the well proven 2 litre four cylinder 191 HP diesel engine known from the E 220 d is also adopted here, but now alongside it is a 122 HP electric motor, which delivers more than enough zest with its 440 Nm torque.

One can monitor the energy flow on the screen…

The diesel unit doesn’t lack pulling power either, and has an impressive 400 Nm of torque. Both engines do not develop their maximum power at the same time, but nevertheless total maximum system power is not less than 302 hp and 700 Nm. You understand that this means excellent performance: your are catapulted from 0 to 100 in 5,9 seconds, and top speed is 250 km/h.

Hybrid power the Mercedes way

But the true panache of this Mercedes is the completely effortless way this performance is delivered, and the excellent comfort it offers to its inhabitants, whatever the distance travelled and the quality of the roads encountered.  

The virtual instrumentation lets you choose between displays… we liked this futuristic the most.

A reasonable action radius in urban E driving is therefore a must, and with a 13.5 kW battery Mercedes has done what is needed to achieve this. According to the altogether realistic WLTP cycle, this E 300 de can drive on E power over a distance of about 50 km.

When you charge the battery while driving, consumption goes up, here to an average of 7,5 litres/100 km, whilst gaining 3,9 kWh/100 km…

We did not quite achieve this with the heavier estate version, but came very close indeed. This means that in practice it is quite possible to meet even the strictest urban LEZ standards for years to come, as you can drive solely on E power.

But that is not all. With the push of a button on the central console, you can select between drive modes, and besides «E mode» and «Hybrid» you can opt for “E-save” and “Charge”.  

This means you can also opt to keep the battery charged at a chosen level, or even (re)charge the battery partially or fully while driving, so that you can build up enough charge to drive later a chosen distance on electric power in the city. Very clever, this absolute versatility. On top of all that, the efficiency of the diesel engine lets you chalk up very reasonable consumption figures even during this battery (re)charging on the move, staying for instance in open road driving conditions between 6,5 and 7 litres/100 km. This is about 1l/100 km more than in non-hybrid driving, which you achieve when opting for “E-save”. Of course the hybrid mode will still improve this fuel consumption, but it costs you Kilowatts…  

  

The fuel consumption varies evidently with the use of the plug-in function, and indeed it is in practice quite possible to use this E 300 as an urban electric car in a short distance scenario with frequent plug-in recharging. A neatly placed plug at the right side rear end of the car makes this recharging a breeze. In these driving circumstances, you hardly use the Diesel power, and therefore your fuel consumption will be very low.

CO2 Emissions are as low as 41 g/km, according to the WLTP cycle.  

Creature comfort

The E class Mercedes has built itself an enviable reputation as a comfortable and spacious long distance runner, and here only superlatives are called for. The suspension is set up slightly firmer to cope with the 300 kg additional weight. Very good stability is the result, with hardly any noticeable drop in comfort levels. This E Class will still excel in ironing out those frost ridden roads…

State of the art infotainment and driving aids.

The state of the art digital instruments and panoramic infoscreen across the dashboard are now becoming a hallmark for the three starred brand, as well as the commands on the steering wheel. The host of driving aids are also setting industry standards.

The steering wheel commands have state-of-the art ergonomy…

Our Mercedes came with Parktronic, an excellent head-up display, 360° camera, speed limit assistant, adaptive cruise control, collision prevention assist plus, PRE-SAFE intelligent anticipation for accidents, you name it. Of course adaptive headlight beam assistant is also provided.   

You are also pampered in the cabin: our test car came with the Burmester Surround sound system, Keyless Go, Easy pack electro-hydraulic rear boot lid, Premium ambiente mood lighting of the interior, a panoramic sunroof, and your eyes are spoilt in the AMG line interior with panels of open-pore ash wood and last but not least an analogue clock.The seats in Artico Leather and Dyamica black microfibre have 4-way adjustable lumbar support, and not to forget the dashboard surfaces are clad in Artico leather.  

Luxury: an analogue clock on open pore ash wood

GPS and GSM antenna’s are present, Apple Car Play and Android Auto as well as inductive charging of your phone is also included.

The exterior is also adorned with an AMG line package, with a matte Disegno Selenite grey Magno paint, which suited the test car very well.

Unsurprisingly, this puts the all-in price tag of our test car well above 70.000 Euros excluding VAT, but let it be said that a standard, reasonably well equipped E 300 de Break can be had in our country for 56.700 Euro (excluding VAT) at the time of writing.

Conclusion

A very impressive hybrid, which lets you enjoy E-propulsion just where you need it, in urban traffic. On the open road, you are to enjoy the smooth and frugal Diesel power, and this is one of the good reasons you drive a car with the good star. Of course this hybrid is all the more useful and appropriate when you include a fair share of urban driving in your motoring life.

Olympus E-510, F 10, 1/250 sec, 200 ASA

The Mercedes is a quality car built to the most exacting standards with legendary robustness and longevity, designed to move you over short or long distances in comfort and safety, and this is exactly what this break does.

On top of that, it is well styled, roomy and practical. Need we say more?

Hans Knol ten Bensel   

Photo comments: we used our “new” second hand E-510 Olympus with its standard zoom lens for these shots, and as you see, the results are quite up to scratch… See the presentation of this camera in our columns…

The Fiat Cinquecento enters the electric age…

The ever young 500 is now in its third generation, and incarnates as FCA’s fisrt fully electric car. It has more space, top notch E-technology, new styling but remaining a true Cinquecento.

Its range and charging times are what customers nowadays expect. The lithium-ion batteries with a capacity of 42 kWh give the New 500 a range of up to 320 km in the WLTP cycle.

Charging is indeed a breeze: the New 500 is standard equipped with an 85 kW fast charger system to charge the battery very quickly. For example, it takes only 5 minutes to build up a sufficient energy reserve to travel 50 kilometers, more than is needed for average daily use.

The fast charger can also charge the battery to 80% in just 35 minutes. The Combo 2 socket located on the rear right side panel of the car powers the fast charger, for both AC and DC charging.

Home charging solutions are also available. The launch edition of the new 500 includes the Easy Wallbox™, a home charging system that can be connected to a normal home outlet. ENGIE EPS developed this exclusively for FCA, and it will be marketed by Mopar in Europe to coincide with the launch of the model.

It is a simple, accessible “plug-and-charge” solution that can be managed easily via Bluetooth, letting you stabilize your energy load by charging your 500 immediately at home with up to 2.3 kW of charging power, with no need for any intervention by skilled personnel. Moreover, the Easy WallboxTM is ready for a power upgrade to 7.4 kW, providing a full charge at home in just over 6 hours. The model also comes with a Mode 3 cable for charging from the public mains.

A “sherpa” mode gets you home

The New 500 has three driving modes: Normal, Range and Sherpa, which can be selected to match your driving style. In particular, Sherpa mode optimizes the available resources to ensure that you will reach your destination. The “sherpa” mode adjusts various parameters: maximum speed, limited to 80 km/h; accelerator response, in order to reduce energy consumption; and deactivation of the climate control system and heated seats (the driver has the option of activating them at any time).

“Normal” mode is as close as possible to driving a vehicle with a normal combustion engine, while “Range” mode activates the “one-pedal-drive” function. By selecting this driving mode, you can practically drive the New 500 with the accelerator pedal alone.

Lots of (city) zest…  

The engine has an output of 87 kW, providing a maximum speed of 150 km/h (self-limited) and acceleration from 0-100 km/h in 9.0 seconds and 0-50 km/h in 3.1 seconds.

Level 2 autonomous driving and connectivity

The car of the future is not just an electric city car, but goes one step further: it literally goes to the next level by being the first car in its segment to offer level 2 autonomous driving, bringing all the associated benefits to urban mobility.

Front-facing camera monitoring technology monitors all areas of the car, both longitudinally and laterally. The intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control (iACC) system brakes or accelerates in response to anything: cars, cyclists, pedestrians. Lane Centering keeps the vehicle in the center of the lane when the markings are correctly identified.

Intelligent Speed Assist reads the speed limits and recommends applying them, while Urban Blind Spot uses ultrasonic sensors to monitor the blind spots and warn of any obstacles with a triangular warning light on the wing mirror. Then there is Attention Assist, which provides warnings on the display, recommending that you stop and take a break when you are tired. Finally, the 360° sensors provide a drone view to avoid any obstacles when parking or performing complex manoeuvres.

The third-generation 500 is the first FCA car equipped with the new UConnect 5 infotainment system. FCA uses the easy, intuitive and incredibly customizable Android Auto operating system. For example, you can use widgets to configure how functions and apps are displayed. Apple CarPlay is already available wirelessly. The system is also ready to offer the same functionality for Android Auto.

In short, the New 500 offers seamless integration with your smartphone, offering a 10.25” high-definition touchscreen, with a horizontal form factor that fits perfectly into the car dashboard, following its lines.

The launch version also boasts the Natural Language interface system, with advanced voice recognition, so you can talk to the car to control parameters, set the climate control and choose your favorite music.

Style, and then again

The New 500 has all the elements of style, just quieter, cleaner and crisper. The front is vertical as in the 1957 version, making it less elusive, almost facing the road, and the dynamic feel of the profile has been accentuated.

The substance of the new platform has given the third-generation 500 a strong presence: it is 6 cm wider and 6 cm longer, the wheelbase has been extended by 2 cm, and the wheels are larger and further apart, giving it a stronger personality and greater comfort despite its length remaining under four meters.

Inside, the electric 500 is completely new and elegant, with clear references to elements of the first generation. As for the Hybrid Fiat 500, including the electric version, some trim levels also have seats made using “Seaqual” yarn, derived from plastic recovered from the sea.

The new 500 debuts in the convertible version: the first open-air four-seater with zero emissions: all open, all electric, all silent. As an icon of La Dolce Vita, it had to be reborn to bring out all the charm of its forms and sounds. And on the subject of sounds, here is another unique feature of the new city car, which will become available later: the Acoustic Vehicle Alert System (AVAS), an acoustic warning for pedestrians that is mandatory at speeds up to 20 km/h; the chosen sound is not a common acoustic signal, but rather the music of Amarcord by Nino Rota, in pure Dolce vita style, an example of the most authentic Italian creativity.

The “la Prima” launch edition is available for pre-booking

A dream is coming true: the “la Prima” launch edition, a limited edition designed for the launch of the New 500, with its own distinct style, exclusivity, technology and connectivity.

From today, March 4, it can be ordered via an online pre-booking system on the http://www.fiat.com* website, by following a simple procedure of just three clicks.

To book the “la Prima” limited edition, simply browse to the http://www.fiat.com* website, and with just three clicks and a deposit of €500, you can become a part of the mobility of the future.

Needless to say that we are keen to get behind the wheel of this New 500, Corona virus protection measures permitting. The date is set, at the digital presentation: the 4th of July…

I will come back on the new 500 with a description of unique one-off versions created by Kartell, Bvlgari and Armani…

Hans Knol ten Bensel   

Volkswagen news to admire via webcast, and not in Geneva…



Ralf Brandstätter, Chief Operating Officer of the Volkswagen Brand, presents here the ID. CROZZ showcar

We are living in digital times. So even when the Corona virus limits (temporarily, as we all hope) our present mobility, and led to the cancellation of the Geneva Motor Show, we can still see all the automotive news via our PC’s, Phones, Tablets.

Volkswagen presents therefore its important news on a special webcast, for you to admire via the following link: https://www.volkswagen-newsroom.com/en/live-stream-5455.

Ralf Brandstätter, Chief Operating Officer of the Volkswagen Brand, presents here the ID. CROZZ showcar, which now evolves into its series production version, the ID.4.

Volkswagen is forging ahead with its electric mobility strategy by providing a detailed insight into the brand’s first all-electric SUV. The new ID.4 will be launched this year. Following in the tracks of the ID.3, the countdown has already begun for the second model based on the new modular electric drive matrix (MEB). “Just like the ID.3, the ID.4 will also come onto the market as a carbon-neutral vehicle”, explains Ralf Brandstätter, Chief Operating Officer of the Volkswagen brand. “We will produce and sell the ID.4 in Europe, China and the U.S..”

Just read on for more VW news…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The ID. 3 started production in Zwickau, the ID.4 now follows…

The ID.4 will initially be launched with rear-wheel drive, while an electric all-wheel drive version will be added to the portfolio at a later date. The high-voltage battery is positioned near the center of the underbody to create a low centre of gravity and an optimum in terms of driving dynamics, along with an extremely well-balanced axle load distribution.

Also new mild and plug-in hybrid drives…

For Volkswagen, the ID.4 and ID.3 represent important milestones in the brand’s bid to become entirely carbon-neutral by 2050 – in line with the Paris climate agreement. Plans have been put in place to reduce the Volkswagen fleet’s CO2-emissions by a third by as early as 2025.

Dr. Frank Welsch, Member of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars Brand with responsibility for Technical Development, presents in the webcast the new Touareg R

Volkswagen is currently investing one billion euro to electrify its model range while also offering an increasing number of hybrid vehicles. This is based on the fact that, just like electric powertrains, new mild and plug-in hybrid drives in large-scale product lines such as the all-conquering Golf will significantly help to reduce fleet emissions in the future.

New Touareg R

This is why the company’s focus during the webcast is not only on ID. models, but also on new Volkswagen models with hybrid drive. Dr. Frank Welsch, Member of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars Brand with responsibility for Technical Development, presents in the webcast the new Touareg R with plug-in hybrid technology and the the Golf GTE 2 for the very first time.

The Touareg R,the most powerful Volkswagen model will in future also be powered by an efficient plug-in hybrid system. The alliance between an electric drive motor generating 100 kW (136 PS) and a V6 turbocharged petrol engine (TSI) with an output of 250 kW (340 PS) develops a system output of 340 kW (462 PS). The battery capacity of the Touareg R with a top speed of 140 km/h in all-electric E-MODE has been designed so that most average daily commuting distances can be covered with zero emissions.

Golf GTE with stronger battery…

The same applies to the new Golf GTE – its plug-in hybrid drive has been geared towards performance and consists of an electric drive motor with 85 kW (115 PS) and a four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine (TSI) generating 110 kW (150 PS). As a unit, the electric drive motor and the TSI develop a system output of 180 kW (245 PS). The new Golf GTE’s top speed in all-electric mode is 130 km/h.

Further Volkswagen highlights include the new Golf GTD, which generates significantly lower nitrogen oxide emissions compared with its predecessor thanks to innovative twin dosing technology, plus the eighth generation of the Golf GTI, produced more than 2.3 million times. The most recent version is powered by a 180 kW (245 PS) 2.0-litre turbocharged direct injection engine. The maximum torque is 370 Nm. The four-cylinder engine is coupled with a 6-speed manual gearbox as standard.

Last but not least, the eight generation of the GTI takes the central stage, presented again by Ralf Brandstätter, Chief Operating Officer of the Volkswagen brand. It is a formidable performer, this GTI, and A 7-speed dual clutch gearbox (DSG) is optionally available.

Digital instruments for the GTI for maximum performance…

We include here some screenshots of the webcast, and stay tuned for more!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

ŠKODA OCTAVIA RS iV: sporting and “green”…

Skoda launches its first plug-in hybrid in the performance-oriented ŠKODA RS family.

The new ŠKODA OCTAVIA RS iV has been fitted with a 1.4 TSI petrol engine and an 85-kW electric motor delivering a combined power output of 180 kW (245 PS). Featuring black details on the bodywork, the OCTAVIA RS iV can immediately be recognised as sporty top-of-the-range variant of ŠKODA’s bestseller, now in its fourth generation.

The Czech car manufacturer will offer the new OCTAVIA in three other electrified versions as well. The OCTAVIA iV is a plug-in hybrid delivering 150 kW (204 PS) and is available in the Ambition and Style trims. Two e-TEC variants producing 81 kW (110 PS) and 110 kW (150 PS) make use of mild hybrid technology for the first time at ŠKODA.

Christian Strube, ŠKODA Board Member for Technical Development, said, “By introducing the OCTAVIA RS iV, we are starting a new chapter in the success story of our RS portfolio. We are using plug-in-hybrid drive in a sporty top-of-the-range model for the first time. In the new OCTAVIA RS iV, this both increases performance and reduces fuel consumption as well as CO2 emissions.”

ŠKODA has fitted the OCTAVIA RS iV with a 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine (110 kW / 150 PS) and an 85-kW electric motor. Together, they have a combined power output of 180 kW (245 PS) and offer a maximum torque of 400 Nm, which is transferred to the front wheels via a 6-speed DSG. The car’s CO2 emissions are approximately 30 g/km in the WLTP cycle*, meaning it already complies with the new, stricter EU6d emissions standard for all newly registered vehicles in the EU, which will come into force from 1 January 2021.

The drivetrain is mostly the same as we have found in the hybrid Passat we tested for you. Just look alos in our columns.  

The high-voltage lithium-ion battery has a capacity of 37 Ah equating to 13 kWh, thereby giving the car an all-electric range of up to 60 km in the WLTP cycle*.

As the 330 Nm of torque provided by the electric motor are available straight away, the RS iV can pull away quickly. In Sport mode, which allows drivers to make use of the car’s full power output, the OCTAVIA RS iV accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in just 7.3 seconds. Its top speed is 225 km/h. The progressive steering that comes as standard and dynamic tuning of the sports suspension that is typical for the RS range cater to energetic driving styles.

Sporty black accents provide distinguishing visual features

The ŠKODA OCTAVIA RS iV has specific LED fog lights and black 18-inch alloy wheels as standard; the brake callipers in RS-typical red catch the eye. 19-inch alloys are available as an option. The ŠKODA grille, air curtains, diffuser on the RS-specific front apron, aeroflaps, diffuser on the rear apron and window frames all come in sporty black. The hatchback sports a black RS rear spoiler; in the estate, the roof spoiler matches the car colour.

Oliver Stefani, Head of ŠKODA Design, explained, “We have given the already dynamic shape of the new OCTAVIA an even sportier appearance using familiar RS insignias. With its numerous black design details, such as the ŠKODA grille, front apron, rear diffuser and alloy wheels, the car is immediately recognisable as a member of our RS family.”

Dynamic, RS-style interior

Looking inside the OCTAVIA RS iV, the predominantly black interior stands out. The three-spoke leather multifunction sports steering wheel bears a vRS logo and features paddles for operating the DSG. The front sports seats are upholstered in black fabric, whilst the optional Ergo seats come with Alcantara and leather upholstery as well as seat-depth adjustment. The seats are adorned by an RS logo and coloured decorative stitching in red or silver-grey, which can also be found on the leather steering wheel, on the armrests and on the Alcantara-covered dashboard. Decorative strips in an RS look and pedals with an aluminium design round off the sporty impression.

OCTAVIA iV plug-in hybrid delivering 204 PS

In addition to the RS variant of the OCTAVIA iV, ŠKODA is also offering plug-in-hybrid drive for the Ambition and Style trim levels. Here, the 1.4 TSI petrol engine and the 85-kW electric motor provide a power output of 150 kW (204 PS) and a maximum torque of 350 Nm. This plug-in-hybrid variant can also cover an electric range of up to 60 km in the WLTP cycle* and is fitted with a 6-speed DSG, operated using shift-by-wire technology. Its CO2 emissions are approximately 30 g/km*. The OCTAVIA iV also complies with the EU6d emissions standard.

The lithium-ion high-voltage battery, with a capacity of 37 Ah equating to 13 kWh, used in both iV models can be conveniently charged at home using a standard household plug socket or a wall box. The charging port is concealed in the driver’s side of the front bumper. A regular 12-volt battery is located in the boot, which has a capacity of 450 l in the hatchback and 490 l in the estate. The fuel tank can hold 40 l – just five litres less than in OCTAVIAs that are powered purely by a combustion engine.

Two eTEC engines boasting mild hybrid technology

The two eTEC versions of the OCTAVIA are making their ŠKODA debut. They will be the brand’s first production cars to feature mild hybrid technology when they start to roll off the line this summer. When combined with a 7-speed DSG, the three-cylinder 1.0 TSI producing 81 kW (110 PS) and the four-cylinder 1.5 TSI outputting 110 kW (150 PS) make use of a 48-volt belt-driven starter motor and a 48-volt lithium-ion battery that is located under the front passenger seat and has a capacity of 0.6 kWh. Both models can be identified by a specific badge on their tailgate.

Mild hybrid technology enables energy to be recovered when braking so that it can be stored in the 48-volt battery. This energy is used to support the combustion engine by providing it with an electrical boost of up to 50 Nm and, depending on the situation, makes it possible for the engine to switch off completely, letting the vehicle coast. As soon as engine power is required again, the motor restarts the engine in a fraction of a second. The stop/start function also works faster and more conveniently thanks to the use of the belt-driven starter motor. In addition, the engine generates less noise and vibrations when starting and the 48-volt battery is able to charge the regular 12-volt battery using a DC/DC converter. In total, the mild hybrid technology used for the two ŠKODA eTEC engines allows for savings of up to 0.4 l of fuel per 100 km.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

E-power for all of us: the Dacia Spring

2020 – Dacia SPRING… will lift your E-hearts…

It was only a matter of time:Renault puts its massive experience in designing and building E-vehicles even more to the wide public with a full electric Dacia model.

And here it is: the Dacia Spring. It caters for the young at heart with a city car that has a distinctive SUV look and modest dimensions, making it the ideal car for everyday use.

2020 – Dacia SPRING has an appealing light signature…

The light and compact series version of Dacia Spring is aimed at a driving range of approximately 200 kilometers (WLTP).

It has also quite appealing looks and colours. What to think of a body in pastel Mouse grey with accents in Matt Fluo Orange, painted in the massive protective strips for the wheel arches, roof bars, and door sills…

The Dacia Spring has an increased ground clearance, integrated base plates in the front and rear bumper, to show its mettle in today’s city jungle…

2020 – Dacia SPRING rear lights with typical “Y” signature…

A lot of attention was paid to the lighting functions of the car. At the front the ‘full LED headlamps split into two levels: a horizontal line for the upper part and four graphics elements integrated into the bumper. At the rear, the four “full LED” lights form one double “Y”. These light blocks indicate the future light identity of the Dacia models will look like.

The Dacia Spring series version will be available in 2021. Of course we will be keen to have a closer look “in the flesh” and drive it!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Renault launches its electric offensive…

2020 – E-TECH Family: New Clio, Captur and Mégane Estate…

Renault has an ever wider choice of electric and electrified models in store now.

First of all the clever E-TECH, offering hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains on the new Clio, new Captur and new Mégane Estate. Renault drew on its vast Formula 1 experience as well as its know how in electrification to develop this E-TECH system. We will explain this very interesting system in a separate report.

2020 – Range E-TECH / Z.E.

There is also the new Twingo Z.E., also becoming 100% electric, and the new ZOE is now also available in a “Riviera” limited series.

Last but not least there is also A MORPHOZ electric concept car, of which more soon in a separate report. Renault announces here that it (re)invents the future of family mobility, with a car which adapts to the changing needs of everyday life and integrated into the electric ecosystem. Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

ŠKODA ENYAQ: this will be the name of ŠKODA’s first all-electric SUV…

ŠKODA’s first electric SUV based on the Volkswagen Group’s Modular Electrification Toolkit (MEB) is to be launched in series production. It is the next of the series of more than ten electric models that will be launched under the ŠKODA iV sub-brand by the end of 2022. It is the brand’s second all-electric vehicle after the ŠKODA CITIGOe iV.

By 2025, ŠKODA expects all-electric vehicles and models with plug-in hybrid drives to account for 25% of sales. By 2021, the car manufacturer will have invested two billion euros in the development of electric models and a holistic, interconnected ecosystem for modern and environmentally friendly mobility solutions.

Of course, a proper name had to be found. With its first all-electric SUV, ŠKODA is establishing a new nomenclature that combines the ‘E’ in reference to electromobility with the ‘Q’ that characterises the final letter of ŠKODA’s successful SUV family.

The name is derived from the Irish name ‘Enya’, meaning ‘source of life’. It will indeed be a new source of mobility for Škoda…

More to come , as we are driving at the moment the impressive ŠKODA Superb Scout and have driven recently also the Kamiq, so test reports will follow soon!  

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the VW Passat GTE Variant: a bestseller goes hybrid…

The VW Passat is a giant. More than 30 million times sold, and it is the world’s best-selling mid-class model. When VW brings out a plug-in hybrid version of this icon, you can expect perfection.

So we were very anxious to drive the latest version of this PHEV, face lifted in autumn last year. Indeed, VW builds the GTE already a few years. Thanks to the dynamic PR people of D’Ieteren VW, we had one soon for a test drive.

With this facelift, the battery’s energy capacity has been increased by 31 percent to a total of 13 kWh. Does this mean we can drive it on E-power throughout our cities every day, and it is enough to just plug it in at night?

Also can we achieve those very low consumption values on the open road, when this Passat chooses the ideal power combination between combustion and E-power?

We were keen to find out. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A clever plug-in hybrid system…

The new Passat GTE has the best of both worlds: it has the latest version of the turbocharged stratified injection engine (1.4 TSI) under the hood, and of course an electric motor. This TSI engine is good for 115 kW / 156 PS.

The electric motor is quite powerful, and generates 85kW / 115 PS. The new high-voltage battery sits , like its 9,9 kW predecessor, in the vehicle floor in front of the rear axle, barely taking up luggage space. Total system power is not less than 218 HP, with a 400 Nm of torque.

As a result, performance is brilliant: 0 to 100 km in merely 7,6 seconds, and top speed of not less than 225 km/h. Need we say more?

DSG DQ400 E

Power is transmitted to the front wheels through a new version of the 6-speed dual-clutch gearbox, dubbed DQ400E, which is adapted to the hybrid layout. Indeed, it has to allow the engine to power also the generator when the driver chooses via the driving modes to maintain or raise the battery charge, of which more later.   

Zero emissions in the city?

VW claims that the purely electric range of the predecessor – determined as an NEDC value (New European Driving Cycle) – was 50 km. The new Passat GTE now has a range of around 70 km in this cycle. Under the WLTP cycle, which is considered particularly similar to practical use, this figure reaches up to 56 km.

One can choose to charge or maintain the battery at a certain charge level. This costs fuel however…

We drove this GTE under rather wintry, low temperature conditions, and the purely electric range amounted to some 32 kilometers. Heating the car and sundry takes its toll in winter. No problem however. The driver can select when starting his journey in the Driving Mode menu via the Infotainment system to charge the battery during the journey.

One has namely the choice between the E-MODE and Hybrid modes.(Indicated by a car symbol) In the hybrid mode, a battery with ten compartments lights up on the central screen and you can choose whether you keep the battery fully charged, or deplete or charge it via arrows to a pre-chosen 10-step level, indicated by the battery image on the infotainment screen.   

When the battery has enough power, the GTE Passat is of course quite frugal in the chosen Hybrid mode. The digital dial in your line of view shows clearly with its moving arrow when the engine starts working or when the electric motor delivers the power. Driving at higher motorway speeds and/or under stronger acceleration will let the engine work more, and we noted an average of 3,3 liters/100 km.

The engine charges the battery…

Of course, the hybrid consumption advantage almost totally stops when the battery is depleted, and only the recuperation of energy when decelerating gives you some extra battery power later. Even with merely 3,3 litres/100 km in the chosen hybrid mode, one has to take into account the cost of the electric energy necessary to recharge the battery.

You can drive on “pure” E-power…

Town driving under a (very) cautious right foot will still result in some 7,7 liters/100 km, on the open road when driving with anticipation and cruising at legal limits will let the consumption drop to 6,6 liters or thereabouts.

Or you can simply coast and use the kinetic energy to recharge the batteries…

Charging via the electricity grid

The Passat GTE comes with a 3.6 kW battery charger. Connecting to your home 230 volt outlet means your battery will be fully charged in six hours and 15 minutes. The charging time falls to four hours with a wall box or a charging station with 360 volts / 3.6 kW. In Belgium, this would cost then approximately 3,8 Euros.    

But VW’s hybrid is well thought out: delayed charging is another available option. The time delay can be set using either the Infotainment system or an app. You can activate the charging process directly via the app – in much the same way as a remote control. In addition to the charging process, the temperature inside the vehicle can be raised or lowered – depending on the temperature outside – via the time pre-set function.

Creature comfort

Of course the Passat, and certainly in this Variant version has style and comfort. The car’s appearance is enhanced, and indeed for the better. The front and rear bumpers, the radiator grille and the Passat logo, now located centrally at the rear, have all been redesigned.

In addition, new LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED fog lights, and LED tail light clusters make this Passat look the part.

In the cabin the fun continues. The dashboard and digital instrumentation is smart, the finish is impeccable, and the quality of used materials is also beyond reproach. Last but not least, in this Variant edition, there is room. Ample legroom for the rear passengers, and even with the batteries in the back, boot space is 483 l minimum, and can be enlarged to 1613 l.  

Driver assist systems galore

IQ.DRIVE is the new umbrella brand for Volkswagen assistance systems. From now on, the technologies involved in autonomous driving will be bundled under the IQ.DRIVE label. An example is the new Travel Assist. The Volkswagen Passat will be the first Volkswagen that is capable of partially automated driving across practically the whole speed range (0 to 210 km/h). Along with its assistance system, the Passat represents the most advanced version of IQ.DRIVE yet seen.

Emergency Steering Assist also sees its début in the Volkswagen Passat. The system improves safety during sudden evasive manoeuvres via braking intervention. In addition, the lane guidance with Lane Assist has been optimised with a new multifunction camera. The new IQ.LIGHT – LED matrix headlights also are a boon.

Impeccable handling

To enjoy full performance, just choose GTE mode and you have the full system power at your disposal…

Needless to say that the Passat state of the art chassis and suspension warrant excellent road manners. It will take a vigorous driving style well in its stride, has superb high speed stability and handling, with stable and progressive braking. An agile and safe companion on any road.

Conclusion

A superbly well made and engineered car, which indeed is a bestseller for all the good reasons. Performance, handling, workmanship, room, style, the Passat has it all, certainly so in the Variant version. This hybrid version gives you on top of all that a “green” ticket to all the European cities, and allows you to travel anywhere and anytime without range anxiety or (re)charging headaches. Of course, fuel economy is in function of the available E-power, miracles just don’t happen. You should also take into account that charging costs money, as we said above.

But the smoothness of its drivetrain, its state of the art superb technology, the passion for quality which is felt throughout this car in daily use, this is what impresses most, together with its “zen” E-power, as an icing on the cake…  

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Panda and 500 Mild Hybrid: mildfullness gets you going…

One would indeed create a new “mildful” English word for it: the o so clever way Fiat sees hybrid propulsion as a mild mobility solution for everybody.

Mild for nature, and also gentle for your purse. The Fiat engineers found the simple, straightforward solution of using a Belt-integrated Starter Generator to capture the kinetic energy you want to reduce and give it back the moment you want to build it up again.

Indeed, in urban stop and go traffic, reducing and gaining speed is actually the main thing you do. And this is where Fiat helps you with mild cleverness.

We tested it all for you in the medieval city center of Bologna. And were convinced. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Gentle technology with a touch of genius.  

We heard it all at the presentation in Bologna. Carlo de Marino, global engineer of the Firefly Engine Family (see photo above) explained us in detail the merits of this 999 cc three cylinder engine and the hybrid system coupled to it.

First let’s focus on the hybrid system. The BSG (Belt-integrated Starter Generator) system is mounted directly on the engine (see photo above) and is operated by the belt that also drives the auxiliaries. The system recovers energy during braking and deceleration, stores it in a lithium battery with a capacity of 11 Ah, and uses it, at a peak power of 3,6 kW, to restart the engine in Stop&Start mode and to assist it during acceleration.

This technology allows the internal combustion engine to switch off, even at speeds below 30 km/h, simply by shifting into neutral (the dashboard, which displays information on the hybrid system, prompts the driver when to do so). In coasting mode, the lithium battery powers all services, ensuring the driver has full control of the vehicle.

The Mild Hybrid propulsion unit is combined with a 6-gear C514 manual transmission “evolution”, which has new low-friction bearings and gaskets, uses a specific high-efficiency lubricant. The gearbox sits 45 mm lower and is better supported, making for supersmooth gearchanges, which we indeed experienced during our drive.

The FireFly engine itself is tuned for utter docility, and develops 70 HP and 92 Nm of torque, the latter at a mild 3500 rpm. But as said, the starter generator helps at low revs when driving away and restarting. We drove the Panda Cross during most our test drive, keen to test out the hybrid system and get good photos of the car in the beautiful Bologna inner city, with a short stint behind the wheel of the Cinquecento.  

Indeed, we were impressed by the silence and velvety smoothness of this engine, and the slick gearbox where gearchanges could be done with your fingertips. The whole system also tempts you into adopting a fluent, quiet driving style, with the engine remaining totally vibrationless from 1200 rpm or so. The gearchange indicator also invites you to stay below 1700 rpm or thereabouts, and the driving experience is then one of silent mildness indeed.

When driving gently through city streets and boulevards, with the engine being barely audible both to bystanders and occupants, the instrumentation tells you about the merits of coasting, and indeed, shifting the slick gearchange lever into neutral will stop the engine and let you coast gently along, doing exactly what all the environmentally conscious tell you to do: recuperate kinetic energy by gently rolling to a stop, adopting good anticipation and judicious driving.

If you still have to use the brakes, it is then nice to see how the generator recuperates the energy, and gives it back when starting away again. Of course, this has its good results: Fiat claims a reduction of 30 % in your average fuel consumption, and indeed, it took no effort at all to reach values between 4 and 5 litres/100 km in the Bologna streets. Of course, it takes a fluent driving style at low revs, that goes without saying. The manufacturer quotes 3,9 l/100 km as average consumption , and emissions are as low as 89 g CO2/km.

Performance is more than adequate with a quoted top speed of 155 km/h and 14,7 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h.

Durability and low service costs…

The designers of the FCA Mild Hybrid System not only kept the Hybrid system efficient and simple, also the 3 cylinder “evergreen” FireFly engine underwent some changes to enhance serviceability. The unit has here a single overhead camshaft, two valves per cylinder with continuously variable timing and last but not least chain driven timing.  

Your servant with the Panda Hybrid in front of the stunning Eataly Fico Food Show Fair…

But also other aspects of running costs are kept low.

Customers also benefit from all the advantages of going hybrid (the car is Euro 6D Final-compliant, for instance), which, depending on local regulations, include freedom of access and movement in city centers, cheaper parking in town centers and tax breaks.

The philosophy of designing and building a Hybrid system for everybody is also reflected in the very moderate extra cost of the Hybrid system compared to the standard layout(s). Indeed, the Panda Mild Hybrid Launch Edition is available in our country for slightly over 13.000 Euros…  

A Hybrid Launch Edition with a distinct “green” touch…

The 500 and the Panda are today, for the first time, together in a single special series: the Hybrid Launch Edition.

The special series can be recognized by the “Hybrid” sign written on the rear and the exclusive “H” logo, formed by two leafs with dew drops, on the center panel. Dew – the symbol of the light of dawn and therefore of the beginning of a new era – has been used also as inspiration for the “Dewdrop Green” exterior on both cars.

Charles Fuster, EMEA region marketing manager explaining the Seaqual initiative…

On the inside, the seat upholstery is faithful to the sustainable philosophy of the entire project. The Launch Edition seats are the first in the automotive sector to be partly made with SEAQUAL® YARN, the weaving of which produces a special material, certified by SEAQUAL INITIATIVE, derived from recycled plastic: 10% of which originates from the sea and 90% from land.

This SEAQUAL® YARN is produced by transforming plastics collected from the sea into flakes of polyethylene terephthalate. These flakes are then used in the yarn from which the fabrics are made. In the weaving phase, marine polyester is mixed with other environmentally friendly, natural, recycled or recovered fibers. This green process is completed by the application of dyes and environment-friendly finishes based on the saving of water and energy. Fiat is collaborating with SEAQUAL INITIATIVE to support ocean clean-ups to take action against marine litter.

Conclusion

The philosophy of designing this Mild Hybrid System certainly took hold with us. It is clever, effective, smooth and last but not least comes at a very small extra cost. All this completely in line with the unique talent Fiat has well honed over decades: to build small, compact cars which are simply among the best in the world in their class.

They now take this art a “green” step further with these Mild Hybrids, and there is even more to come. Just watch out for the next Geneva Motor Show: it will see the birth of the first “full electric” 500…

Hans Knol ten Bensel     

We will be going to Bologna to test the Fiat 500 and Panda Mild Hybrid…

It had to come. The electrification of the Fiat brand. The first step is here: The Fiat 500 and Fiat Panda, always European leaders in their segment, are the first FCA city cars fitted with the new gasoline Mild Hybrid technology.

The Hybrids are powered by the new 3-cylinder engines from the FireFly family which will deliver 70 HP, combined with the 3,6 kW BSG (Belt-integrated Starter Generator).

CO2 consumption and emissions are reduced by up to 30% depending on the model, in addition to the tax and traffic benefits of hybrid vehicles in densely populated areas, based on local regulations.

The new 500 and Panda Hybrid will be available from February and March 2020 respectively, are set to become a new European benchmark for electrified urban mobility.

The anchor year 2020 will further continue with the start of production in Turin of the new 500. This model will be 100% electric and therefore will play a key role in the e-Mobility by FCA strategy.

But now the coming days we will set sail to Bologna. Keen to drive these two new hybrids…

Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel