Maserati unveils its Levante Hybrid




The Levante Hybrid was presented at ist launch in Azzuro Astro color. This metallic paint consists of three layers and is available through the Maserati Fuoriserie personalization program.

The Maserati Levante Hybrid has today experienced both a physical and a digital world premiere. At the time of the car’s unveiling at the Shanghai Auto Show, a virtual presentation has taken place simultaneously on the houseof.maserati.com website.

With its first electrified SUV, Maserati is taking another important step in the future plan launched last year with the Ghibli Hybrid, which will lead to the electrification of all new Maserati models.

“Faster. Cleaner. Unique ” is the motto at the launch: the Levante Hybrid is faster than a diesel, more durable than a car with an internal combustion engine and unique thanks to specific features and details.

The Levante Hybrid combines a two-liter four-cylinder engine with a 48-volt hybrid system that recovers energy during engine deceleration and application of the brakes. The hybrid SUV is lighter than the six-cylinder version (petrol and diesel) and also has a more balanced weight distribution because the battery – without sacrificing luggage space – is placed in the rear of the car. One of the goals during the development of the Levante Hybrid was to take the dynamics and driving pleasure to an even higher level.

 With a maximum power of 330 hp and a torque of 450 Nm, which is available from just 2,250 rpm, the four-wheel drive Levante Hybrid delivers impressive performance: the car has a top speed of 240 km/h and accelerates from 0 to 100 km in 6 seconds.

The Levante Hybrid was presented at ist launch in Azzuro Astro color. This metallic paint consists of three layers and is available through the Maserati Fuoriserie personalization program.

The Levante Hybrid is immediately recognizable by the unique details in the exterior and interior. Several elements are finished in blue, a color specifically chosen for Maserati hybrid models. Like the brake calipers and trident on the C-pillars, the iconic side vents are finished in this shade of blue. The same color returns in the interior, including the stitching of the seat upholstery.

With Maserati Connect, the Levante Hybrid is always connected to the outside world. The driver remains fully informed about the technical condition of the car: Maserati Connect alerts the owner when maintenance is required, thus improving the quality of the service. The owner is in contact with the car via the Maserati app on the smartphone or smartwatch. You can also contact the car from home with a virtual assistant such as Amazon Alexa or Google Assist.

The digital world premiere of the Levante Hybrid on houseof.maserati.com has been attended by Maserati’s global brand ambassador David Beckham and Italian songwriter and producer Dardust, who has composed an exclusive soundtrack for the unveiling of the Levante Hybrid.

More soon about this Levante in technical detail. Stay posted!

Hans Knol ten Bensel      

BMW iDrive: a stunning presentation, and a bold step towards a safe personal driving experience…

We just witnessed the presentation, and of course we will come back on this with more details, but we can say already that BMW again produced a breakthrough in car to driver communication…

We show you here some screenshots of the presentation, but, as said, there is more to come about this very convincing approach…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

How the Tonale prototype design model was born for the Geneva Salon…two years ago.

Klaus Busse presented the Alfa Romeo Tonale two years ago in Geneva…

Klaus Busse is the talented head of design for Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Chrysler, and he is also quite active on social media. We read today a post from his hand on his Instagram page about the presentation of the Tonale at the Geneva Show two years ago, together with some stunning photos showing how the Tonale was sculpted out of plaster and other materials to become a real looking car, to be shown as a styling model at the salon.

Craftsmen working on the clay model, succeeding into making it a real looking car…

The photos show how elements of the car were formed and made by hand. Some pieces were 3D printed, I believe, but personally I find it truly amazing how these craftsmen put the car together, and finished it to become a design model with gleaming paint and shiny elements, the result being indistinguishable from a “real” car.

I believe, 3D printed elements were used…
Also here 3D printed elements abound…

I found the photos so interesting that I want to show them here to you on these pages.

The steering wheel gets a “real” feel…
Craftsmen sculpting the rear end…

On the fourth of May 2019, I visited the Centro Style in Turin, and met Klaus Busse. You see me standing proudly beside the Tonale prototype, and also in a group photo with Klaus Busse himself on the left.

Sweet memories, and of course your servant would love to witness once how these craftsmen work to create such an unbelievably finished prototype…

Just enjoy the photos with me!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Have a stunning sound experience in your Lexus Convertible…

Generating the right sound is the result of state of the art engineering…

When you step inside the Lexus LC 500 Convertible, we would suggest you lower the roof and blip the throttle. The deep note from its V8 engine tells you immediately that an exhilarating drive is in prospect.

It’s all part of the exceptional sensory quality that Lexus has brought to its first soft-top model: just as much as the styling pleases the eye, the sound of the engine stirs your heart. Generating just the right aural quality was an important goal for the car’s development team, and this required precision engineering to achieve…

Just read on!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Inspired by the LFA supercar

Lexus’ focus on the importance of the engine sound can be traced back to the LFA, its ultra-exclusive, hand-built supercar. The specialists who worked on its V10 power unit identified the separate qualities that combine to create the ideal sound “atmosphere.”

In the LC concertible, the power of the V8’s engine note had to be balanced with a level of quietness in the cabin that overturns preconceptions about driving in a convertible – an equation Lexus calls a “harmony of opposites.”

To achieve the maximum effect, the sound of the engine changes in line with the rise and fall in rpm, becoming more powerful and urgent in tune with the driver’s use of the accelerator and the sequence of shifts through the rapid-action 10-speed automatic transmission. The exhaust note, too, heightens the effect. By contrast, in gentle cruising, the sound is subdued, so conversation is easy when the roof is down.

Finding that perfect engine sound

A continuous, pulsating sound is characteristic of a large-capacity, naturally aspirated V8 engine like the five-litre unit which powers The LC 500 Convertible. Lexus has used acoustic technologies to combine this with spectral harmony (perfect sound intervals that are pleasing to the ear), stereophonic sound, to create a depth of sound, and so-called “formants” – qualities that stir the senses and generate a feel-good factor.

Active Noise Control is used to “clean” the sound frequencies experienced in the car. This emits anti-pulse sounds through the audio speakers which counteract any unwelcome low frequency booming sound from the engine and drivetrain.

In the LC Coupe, noise inside the cabin is monitored by a microphone in the roof, but for the Convertible, it had to be relocated inside the driver’s headrest. Being closer to the driver’s ear means it can pick up a wider range of frequencies, but a complex algorithm had to be calculated to make sure it works accurately in any seat position.

The silence of a fixed-head coupé…

Even though the LC Convertible has a soft top, Lexus wanted to secure the same kind of cabin quietness as in the LC Coupe. Acoustic simulations were created to find out where dominant noises were entering the space, so that the amount and location of soundproofing and sound-absorbing material could be calculated.

The storage area behind the rear seats for the folding roof presented a particular challenge, as it was a route for tyre and exhaust noise to enter the cabin. There was not enough room for soundproofing material to be added, so the team looked instead at adapting the trim material itself. By allowing air to pass through the structure and using sound-absorbing material on the reverse, the entire surface of the storage space soaks up noise.

As the area is visible and part of the car’s interior, it also had to look good. Lexus assessed many different materials before choosing one usually used for lining the wings around the wheels. This meets safety standards and, being applied with extra density, has just the right appearance.

We are anxious to enjoy the ride in this formidable Convertible, which will be a feast for eyes and ears…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Fiat launches soon its benchmark for 100 % electric delivery: the E-Ducato…

On June 5th, the “World Environment Day” , Fiat focused the attention of the press on its E-Ducato, which was a year ago presented to us as a prototype. Then we met the dynamic people of Fiat Professional, Mr. Domenico Gostoli and Mme Angelica Carapezza amongst others, and faithful readers remember the reports we made then on our pages. We also refer to the interesting interview we made with Mme Carapezza, where she also  commented on her impressive automotive career so far. You can read it again on our columns. Just look at https://autoprova.be/2019/09/15/women-behind-cars-angelica-carapezza/ and https://autoprova.be/2019/07/01/fiat-professional-surprises-the-commercial-vehicle-world-with-an-all-electric-ducato/

Nothwithstanding Corona times, the development of the new Fiat Professional model has been continued using simulation tools.

The E-Ducato is the result of an extended series of measurements and tests, taking into account all the variables of usage by different types of clients, as well as dynamic, load and environmental aspects.

Developed by professionals with the help of client professionals…

The development of the E-Ducato included over one year of on-road measurements to analyze more than 28,000 connected vehicles. The measurements from a client’s perspective were taken by a dedicated team of professionals on vehicles with combustion engines running more than 50 million kilometers, to take into account all the variables of client usage, dynamics, load, and environmental aspects.

The analyses were focused on mileage, model variability for any kind of mission, fuel expenditure, vehicle usage, and temperature. By adopting this approach, Fiat Professional is able to offer comprehensive electric mobility solutions. With an analysis of energy demand as a starting point, these solutions will not only cover every single task, they will also provide answers ranging from the vehicle to infrastructure, not to mention a whole range of the everyday services increasingly required by a new and emerging mobility.

The result is a van available in all body variants with the same load volume as the conventional Ducato, from 10 m3 to 17 m3, and the best payload on the market, up to 1,950 kg.

In addition to the many body styles and chassis versions, a choice of battery options will also be available for the E-Ducato, with ranges in a typical urban real delivery cycle from 200 to over 330 km at standard environment conditions, depending by battery pack, and a variety of charging configurations. It also comes with high-potential performance: speed limited to 100 km/h for improved energy absorption, maximum output of 90 kW and maximum torque of 280 Nm.

Last but not least, the FCA styling centre has developed a new logo for the 100% electric Ducato.  The logo itself is made up of two distinct elements: a letter “E” in blue – the color traditionally associated with innovation and sustainability, preceded by a “D” for Ducato in brushed silver above.  

Comprehensive training for a new sales process

So the E-Ducato professional experience can begin even before getting on board, Fiat Professional organized training days in February specifically for the sales force, involving 265 sales agents and managers across 124 dealerships in the main markets. Road tests structured as a journey through a city were also run at the Balocco circuit, with emphasis on the new full electric driving modes. An in-depth look was also taken at the new WLTP homologation procedure and its impact on the world of outfitted vehicles. Presentations were given on some of these, from mobile workshops and refrigeration to people carriers: versatility that has always been one of the strengths of the Fiat Professional Ducato.

Virtual training: from developments in training to business development

Given the current cautious social distancing measures, Fiat Professional continued the training in a virtual format: a development in training, just like the E-Ducato represents a development in the business. Each remote session was focused on the product in depth, in preparation for other activities.

The E-Ducato technical specifications and line-up were discussed in detail, with special consideration given to its innovative aspects. All the Virtual Classrooms were met with resounding success and were diligently attended. For example, there have already been 310 participants from Germany, 120 from Poland and 210 from non-EMEA regions, while online training will soon begin in the remaining European markets, including in Spain, France and the UK.

Actual launch expected within a few months…

To continue its journey into the market, the E-Ducato will soon be subjected to extensive specific field testing by partner clients under normal working conditions of usage. On that basis, the E-Ducato is therefore being prepared for its launch on the market, due to take place in the coming months, with the opening of orders in the main European markets as the first stage.

The brand-new electric vehicle will soon join the methane-driven Ducato Natural Power in the offering of alternative propulsion systems, to take on the market challenge.

We are looking forward to the actual launch, stay tuned in these columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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

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

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

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

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

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

The man behind it all…

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

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

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

Groupe Renault has a new strategy for the Chinese market…

Groupe Renault unveiled its new strategy for China, building on two of its key pillars: Electric Vehicles (EV) and Light Commercial Vehicles (LCV).

For the Internal Combustion engined car market in China, Groupe Renault has entered into a preliminary agreement with Dongfeng Motor Corporation under which Renault transfers its shares to Dongfeng. DRAC (Dongfeng Renault Automotive Company) will stop its Renault brand-related activities.

Of course, Renault will continue to provide after sales service ot its existing customers in this market, and Renault and Dongfeng will continue to cooperate with Nissan on new generation engines like components supply to DRAC and diesel license to Dongfeng Automobile Co., Ltd. Renault and Dongfeng will also engage in innovative cooperation in the field of intelligent connected vehicles.

Booming LCV market…

The LCV market in China reached 3.3 million in 2019 and is forecasted to maintain a steady upwards path. Renault Brilliance Jinbei Automotive Co., Ltd. (RBJAC), launched in December 2017, is Groupe Renault’s sword arm for its LCV business in China. Jinbei is a well-established Brand with 1.5 million customers in China and close to 162,000 sales in 2019.

With Renault expertise and technologies, RBJAC is modernizing Jinbei models and extending the line-up with a total of 5 core models by 2023. The joint venture will also export in the future.

The joint venture operates in Shenyang, Liaoning Province and aims to deliver 150,000 units of upper medium commercial vehicles and new energy commercial vehicles annually by 2022.


The Alliance launched a mid size Jibei SUV…

In addition, the company will roll out a series of new models in local market, including the Renault-branded Trafic, the Master (including BEV version) and the Jinbei-branded F70, the F50 BEV version as well as some LCV (light commercial vehicle) models under the Jinbei brand.

A massive Chinese EV market

With 860,000 electric vehicles sold in China in 2019, China is by far the largest EV market in the world. EV sales are expected to reach 25% of the Chinese market by 2030.

Groupe Renault was a pioneer on EV and has sold close to 270,000 electric vehicles world wide since 2011. It gives a strong competitive advantage in China as shown by the successful launching of Renault City K-ZE, the first joint venture EV car competing in A segment with the best local automakers.

Groupe Renault expect to reinforce its partnership with Nissan and Dongfeng within eGT to make K-ZE a worldwide car. A derivative for Europe based on “Dacia Spring” concept will be sold from 2021.

JMEV is known as an agile and efficient EV player since its creation in 2015. With Renault support in terms of quality and technologies, JMEV will cover 45% of Chinese EV market in 2022 with 4 core models.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

BMW does not forget hydrogen propulsion…

The second generation of the BMW fuel cell powertrain with a total system output of 275 kW will be piloted in the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT from 2022

BMW continues to look at alternative powertrain technologies. Did you know that the BMW Group is teaming up with the Toyota Motor Corporation as part of a successful partnership that dates back to 2013?

The two manufacturers have joined forces to work on fuel cell powertrain systems and scalable, modular components for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles under a product development cooperation agreement.

Fuel cells from the cooperation with Toyota will be deployed in the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT, alongside a fuel cell stack and overall system developed by the BMW Group.

As well as partnering on the development and industrialization of fuel cell technology for the mass market, the two companies are also founding members of the Hydrogen Council. A wealth of other leading companies in the energy, transport and industrial sectors have joined the Hydrogen Council since 2017, swelling its ranks to over 80 members.

According to Klaus Fröhlich, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Research and Development, the hydrogen fuel cell technology could quite feasibly become the fourth pillar of our powertrain portfolio in the long term. The upper-end models in the extremely popular X family would make particularly suitable candidates here.

Not for the immediate future…

A customer offer powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology will be brought to market at the earliest in the second half of this decade. There are many good reasons for this cautious but realistic approach. “In our view, hydrogen as energy carrier must first be produced in sufficient quantities at a competitive price, using green electricity. Hydrogen will then be used primarily in applications that

cannot be directly electrified, such as long-distance heavy duty transport,” said Klaus Fröhlich. The requisite infrastructure, such as an extensive, Europe-wide network of hydrogen filling stations, is also lacking at present.

Initial technical details of the powertrain for the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT.


The BMW i Hydrogen NEXT will be propelled by the 5th generation e-machine, which will first be launched in the BMW iX3. The peak power battery located above the e-drive unit can supply boost power for additional dynamics, e. g. when overtaking. The total system output is 275 kW.

“The fuel cell system for the powertrain for the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT generates up to 125 kW (170 hp) of electric energy from the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen from the ambient air,” explains Jürgen Guldner, Vice President of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology and Vehicle Projects at the BMW Group.

This means the vehicle emits nothing but water vapour. The electric converter located underneath the fuel cell adapts the voltage level to that of both the electric powertrain and the peak power battery, which is fed by brake energy as well as the energy from the fuel cell.

The vehicle also accommodates a pair of 700 bar tanks that can together hold six kilograms of hydrogen. “This guarantees a long range regardless of the weather conditions,” notes Guldner. “And refuelling only takes three to four minutes.”

The fifth-generation eDrive unit set to make its debut in the BMW iX3 is also fully integrated into the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT.

The peak power battery positioned above the electric motor injects an extra dose of dynamics when overtaking or accelerating. The total system output of 275 kW (374 hp) fuels the typical driving dynamics for which BMW is renowned. This hydrogen fuel cell electric powertrain will be piloted in a small series based on the current BMW X5 that the BMW Group plans to present in 2022.


The BMW i Hydrogen NEXT will be propelled by the 5th generation e-machine, to be seen first in the BMW iX3.

We just let you look at the photos here, giving you a detailed look into the hydrogen future…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Mercedes puts 3D printers and F1 team at work against Corona virus…

A part of the professional machinery: the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) process.

In usual times, the 3D printers at Mercedes-Benz produce automobile components. Now Daimler is making its machines, know-how, and trained specialists available for the production of medical equipment.

As many as 150,000 components are 3D-printed annually at Daimler’s car production plants. In usual times these components are primarily used in prototype construction and small-series production. This capacity is now used in full for the production of medical equipment. See the film on https://youtu.be/GjTNernMVfk. 

The Formula One Team is developing and producing breathing aids.

Many of the competing F1 teams have joined their forces and are now working at high speed to produce breathing aids. The Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team is working together with six other Formula One teams in order to help. So-called CPAP breathing aids, which have been developed in record time by the University College London and Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains, are already in use in hospitals; the company’s experts are currently producing more of these machines.

Typical desktop printer: FDM process for smaller applications. Representation of a bionic component structure – an advantage of additive manufacturing.

In France, the PSA Group and Valeo are contributing volunteer workers, factory space and technical expertise to help France ramp up domestic production of ventilators to help coronavirus victims.

The Mercedes factory printer is running: layered application of the sinter fill powder on a professional SLS machine.

This venture, led by ventilator maker Air Liquide Medical Systems, seeks to produce 10,000 units by the middle of May.

PSA said it would build mechanical components of the ventilators in its factory in Poissy, west of Paris. There 50 volunteers will be involved, a further 50 at PSA’s technology center in Velizy. Final assembly of the units will be in Air Liquide’s nearby factory in Antony.

At Mercedes, the printing is finished. The component is “unpacked” and cleaned.

Valeo will lend its expertise by putting some of its purchase department staff in charge of supplier management and working out the procurement process. It will provide R&D support, and expertise in plastics and mechanical and electronic technologies. Valeo production engineers will help set up processes and training.

The effort is widespread: some 100 other French companies have been enlisted to provide parts and technical support.

Worldwide efforts…  

Other carmakers and suppliers in China, Europe and the US have announced plans to build medical equipment and face masks. Among them are BYD, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford, GM, McLaren, Tesla and Volkswagen.

For example, Lamborghini has started making face shields and face masks at its plant in Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy.

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