We drove the Fiat Abarth 595 Scorpioneoro: a golden thoroughbred…

There are cars in our world which are worth their weight in gold. Every bit of it. These cars are called Abarths. Their creator had one principle: build absolute thoroughbreds. Pur sang engines, pur sang suspension, pur sang style and soul. Even when they were born and bred based on mass produced Fiats. Enthusiasts remember them immediately. The racing-ready 850 TC’s for instance. The 500 Abarth’s “Esse Esse”, to stay within the original Nuova Cinquecento theme, now decades ago.

The 595 “Scorpione oro” or “Golden Scorpion” is reminiscent of the exclusive A112 Abarth “Gold Ring”, better known to fans as the A112 Abarth “Targa Oro”. A truly exclusive car, only 150 models of which were produced in 1979, all featuring a black livery, golden details, sophisticated interiors and a wide range of equipment as standard, in line with the Italian tradition of “granturismo” cars.

This dapper front wheel drive transverse engined four seater started life as the Autobianchi 112, which had the 903 Fiat four cylinder under the hood. Already in standard form, it produced a healthy 43 DIN HP at 6.000 rpm, good for 0-100 in some 17 seconds. The Abarth Version actually was dubbed officially as “Autobianchi A-112 5a Serie Abarth.” Its 1050 cc four cylinder was fed with a Weber 32DMTR38/250 2-barrel carburettor, and was good for 70 HP. It already proved a good sprinter, with 0 to 100 km/h reached in 11,4 seconds.

Brilliant performance with panache

This is where all comparison ends. The actual Abarth 595 is still compact, but then again a lot sturdier with a kerb weight of slightly more than 1 tonne, much heavier than the nimble 700 kg of the A112. The engine is now the well proven double overhead cam 1368 cc unit, developing here 165 HP, and is very characteristic with its deep exhaust roar. It is very civilized in town, ready to pull away without hesitation from 900 rpm onwards, and this proved to be very pleasant in slow traffic. We tested this Scorpioneoro with the 5 speed manual transmission, and it delighted us with its very subtle and slick changes, combined with a very smooth and progressive clutch. With all this, the 595 behaves delightfully smooth and easy in tight urban traffic, and is of course an absolute dream on the open road.

The chassis and stiff and very sporting suspension truly come to their own there, and delight the enthusiast driver with precise, neutral handling and steering, which lets you take all bends and fast curves like a master.

This brilliant experience is made even more dramatic by the wonderful roar and staccato of the willing four cylinder, catapulting you from one corner to another. Suffice to say that this Abarth races from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 7,3 seconds. The brakes are of course quite up to the task, and the 17” “golden” alloy wheels are kept firmly on the tarmac in all circumstances.   

The special Abarth 595 Scorpioneoro series is a genuine “collector’s item”, produced as it is in a limited edition and bearing a prestigious numbered plate in its cockpit.

The new special series is recognizable by its black scorpion livery – available on request in Podium Blue, Racing White and Record Gray – and the matt black chessboard roof is matching the “tar cold gray” finish of the handles, mirror caps, and the front and rear DAM.

To emphasize its “Golden” or “Oro” character, this new special series includes golden details, such as the scorpion on the bonnet, the lining around its bodywork and – we already mentioned it – the 17” “golden” alloy wheels or, on request, 17” “black” alloy wheels with the golden scorpion on the hubcap.

In the interior, everything kept in sporting black, with dramatic looking new Abarth “Scorpionflage” sports seats with black leather upholstery.The centre of the seat is in special material with high friction, to better contain the body during the sportiest driving. On the front seat head restraints, embroidered “Scorpioneoro” lettering alongside the Italian flag and Abarth embroidery. The new seats combine with the Scorpion Black dashboard with matte black details, last but not least with the gold plate on the central tunnel and of course personalized mats.

State of the art infotainment

To top everything off, the Abarth 595 Scorpioneoro offers the best infotainment currently available: the 7″ HD UconnectTM system fitted with Apple CarPlay and Google Android AutoTM* – a fast platform with high definition monitor, GPS and DAB digital radio – as well as the sophisticated BeatsAudio™ system with overall output of 480 W and a 8-channel digital speaker including a cutting-edge equalization algorithm capable of reproducing the full sonic spectrum of a recording studio. 

All this to please the ears of the Abarth pilot. But to be honest, during our test we rather listened to the music of the Abarth exhaust, ranging from a deep burble to a staccato roar, which drives more adrenaline in your veins than you ever thought possible.

Modern-day panache

The beauty of these 595 Abarth’s is their stunning everyday useability. Gone are the times when these thoroughbred engines needed regular finetuning of their Weber carburettors, a delicate right foot to avoid fouling the plugs when starting up the cold engine in damp weather.

The days when the good roadholding still needed an expert and sensitive hand or “Fingerspitzengefühl” to drive it on the limit are also to some extent behind us.

To some extent, as this Abarth still will reward a masterful hand when driven as hard as it can. But at least all the electronic driving aids will keep you out of trouble, unless you totally transgress the limits of physics, of course.

This being said, this Abarth teaches you to become a better driver, make you better understand with every ride the kinetics of a motor car, the forces which act upon it. The 595 is a very forgiving teacher, which lets you climb step by step higher into the art of sporting driving and racing.

On the other hand, you can hand the keys with closed eyes to every less experienced driver, he or she will not foul the plugs or do any mischiefs to the drivetrain, the totally predictable and safe behaviour and handling of this car will also see that the car is still in one piece when you get the keys back…    

On fuel economy, this Abarth is of course as frugal or thirsty as you want it. All depends on your right foot here. When it comes to service costs, all the ingedients are well proven and reliable, so it will not be beyond what you expect from any normal compact car…

So when you are dreaming of a totally sporting but also eminently practical everyday urban and Gran Turismo car, this Abarth 595 is totally right for you. And we bet you will cherish it, for years to come.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Subaru Impreza e-Boxer: a thoroughbred born for today’s hybrid age…

Subaru has always been synonymous with engineering excellence, resulting in truly thoroughbred practice- and rally proven cars, which have since many years won a large number of devoted followers. You can count us among them: we have always liked the cleverness of the boxer engines, coupled to superb 4WD systems. Now Subaru has gone a step further and coupled a modest 16 HP E-motor to its 150 HP Boxer, all this in combination with an excellent CVT “Lineartronic” transmission and its symmetrical 4WD.

We already told you in these columns about the pleasant drive characteristics of the Subaru hybrids. The Impreza follows suit. We were again charmed by the subdued throb of the trusty boxer, and how well balanced the whole drivetrain goes about its task. If you put your mind and right foot to it, this Subaru can truly surprise you with excellent economy.

Again it proved easy to achieve an average of 6,6 litres/100 km, as the electric motor cuts in quite often when you move your Impreza with anticipation through tight urban traffic. It will also regenerate kinetic energy under braking, and does all this without any interference from the driver. Very clever and relaxing. Under smaller throttle openings and lighter loads, the CVT transmission will spontaneously choose low revs, and keep the engine running very efficiently. When you put your foot down, the transmission will let the engine rev up eagerly, and this results in adequate sprint performance, in the region of 10 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h.  Top speed is a good 190 km/h, enough to satisfy all of us.

Comfortable and predictable handling

The latest generation Impreza now runs on the Subaru Global Platform, and this delivers very predictable handling, on all roads cand weather conditions. Indeed, you feel very safe in this Subaru, and it is not only engaging, it also makes you a better driver. Moreover, it also converts you in a safer driver. Indeed, the Subaru offers state of the art driver assistance systems. Its EyeSight system with two stereo colour camera’s gives you an additional pair of eyes on the road and steers the adaptive cruise control, lane sway and departure warning, amongst others.

The Subaru has also a clever lead vehicle start alert, which warns you when the car in front of you starts going again. The two eyes will also let you keep your lane and helps you with its pre-collision braking system. Eventually, in the worst case scenario, your Subaru will start braking automatically to limit any damage.

The 4WD is of course an asset in snowy weather conditions, and lets you also tackle many country roads with peace of mind.

Elegant and practical

Subaru styling is quite good on this latest generation Impreza, and also the cabin is altogether pleasing. The infotainment and instrumentation is top notch and practical, with everything ergonomically well laid out and a breeze to use.

One feels immediately at home in this Impreza, and this is meant to be. USB and Aux inputs are provided of course, panoramic sunroofs can be had, and this Impreza offers up to almost 1300 liters of luggage space with all seats folded down.

Dual zone automatic airco and the excellent seats provide you with comfort on long and short trips. We also liked the feeling of solidity of the bodywork and cabin of this Impreza, and we all know also that Subaru’s score very high on reliability.

Conclusion

Very well equipped, practical and easy to use, predictable handling, and last but not least superb mechanical sophistication and smoothness combined with good suspension comfort make this Impreza quite endearing. The characteristic boxer sound reminds the aficionado of the legendary sporting heritage of the brand, which is now well adjusted to the “green” eco-times we are living in right now. A reliable companion for any weather, road, with economy and reliability thrown in, this is what you get with this Impreza. Just think of it…

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 Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.2 Turbo Diesel AT Q4: Thoroughbred panache on any road you go…

When you are looking for a SUV with style and a sporting DNA, look no further. The Alfa Stelvio is the one you want. A true Alfa inside and out, lovingly styled to the last detail, with road manners and performance to match. We drove the 190 HP Diesel version, coupled to a smooth 8 speed ZF automatic and having what it takes for a passionate life off the beaten path: 4WD.

We lived again in the Alfa world, and enjoyed it…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

One should understand the Stelvio. It is an SUV, but with the body and soul of a thoroughbred: the Alfa Giulia. So in every respect, also this Stelvio it is a true Alfa. Undistilled. Straight. No Ice. Understandably, as it rolls on the famous new “Giorgio” platform, designed for the Giulia. 

A stunning platform with a legendary name…

The name Giorgio appeared for the first time in the automotive press back in 2013: the next Alfa Romeo generation was on its way, we were told, and Giorgio was the name of the platform on which it would be built. The romantics think it could be a tribute to Tazio Giorgio Nuvolari. Others imagine a personal choice by Marchionne.

The secret has never been explained. What transpired was that Giorgio would have a layout for both rear-wheel and four-wheel drive cars, and that it was engineered to the very high standards.

The company was planning huge investments on the platform and on the Cassino plant, where the new models would be built. Above all, it was organizing its best technical talents in dedicated “think tanks”. And was asking the planners and designers involved to set aside old rules and habits, to think outside the box.

The Giorgio platform was not only created for the Giulia. The time had also come for Alfa Romeo to prove itself in the Utility Vehicles segment, the most dynamic and innovative area of all. And so, in February 2017, the Stelvio made its debut: the first SUV in the history of the Brand. This would be an Alfa capable of driving with agility on snow and dirt roads, without losing anything in terms of performance, handling and road holding. In other words: a SUV that can be driven like a sports sedan.

Of course it has a higher floor and a higher driving position than the Giulia. But then this means more space available for passengers and luggage. Suspension travel is longer, to ensure the correct ground clearance in off-road driving. In order to increase stability, the axle track is also slightly wider. But architecture and mechanics remain the same, as do the engine range and electronic systems. The result is a car with “an Alfa Romeo soul in a SUV body”.

Driving is believing

We experienced all this behind the wheel. Outstanding steering precision, eager and sharp to direct into short and long bends, excellent stability up to very high speeds. You move swiftly with utter confidence in this Stelvio. No matter the road and the weather. The Stelvio, like the Giulia, has also earned its marks on the “Green Hell”, the Nürburgring.

The potent 2,2 liter Diesel engine is supersmooth, and coupled with the alert 8 speed auto box, it’s a gem. It just shows – or reminds us again – how good modern Diesel engines have become. It is a super silent and vibrationless cruiser at legal motorway speeds, and of course immensely frugal under these driving conditions. 6 litres/100 km are easily reached. Sedate driving lets you use anything between 5,5 (!) and 6,5 liters/100 km, using also the excellent coasting function this ZF gearbox allows you to do. Stunning, to say the least. The manufacturer quotes 5,6 liters/100 km on average and 146 g/km of CO2 emissions.

On top of all these dynamic qualities, true comfort is to be enjoyed in this Stelvio. The excellent seats wrap nicely around you and give you good support and comfort on short and (very) long journeys. The suspension travel is generous and this makes this Stelvio indeed a very smooth mount on potholed secondary roads and picturesque urban streets.

Add to this the panache and elegance of the instruments, the good layout with the center console adorned with a 8.8-inch touch-screen infotainment system offering smartphone-like ease of use. The telematic offer is completed by a suite of Mopar services for remote car management. The innovations in the field of driving technology have become even more important.

The new ADAS (Advanced Driving Assistance Systems) mark the transition from the first to the second level of autonomy: the systems do not only inform the driver, in case of need they also become active, enhancing vehicle safety.

Thoroughbred performance

Of course, this Stelvio gets truly going when you put your foot down. 0 to 100 km/h costs merely 7,6 seconds, top speed is a good 210 km/h. High speed stability is excellent, and as said, the Stelvio is a master on winding roads. Also offroad the Stelvio is very well at home.

The engine delivers its 190 HP/140 kW peak power at a conservative 3500 rpm, with 450 NM of torque already available at 1750 rpm. This means that even a very fast pace is effortless and not accompanied with high revs.

The Stelvio has excellent GT practicality, its cabin is spacious and the standard size of the luggage space is a good 525 liters.

Price winning design

The design of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio convinced recently the readers of the car magazine “Auto, Motor und Sport”.

They chose the model as the winner in the category “Large off-road vehicles/SUV” in the “Autonis” voting. Alongside the Stelvio, “Auto, Motor und Sport” has already awarded  Giulia, MiTo and Giulietta models as the most beautiful cars in their respective classes. And in two years in a row, the prize for “Design Brand of the Year” went to the Alfa Romeo brand.

Conclusion

A very endearing SUV, and very fast and practical too. A beauty with excellent manners, both in town as op the open road or Autostradas. It will guide you with confidence over snowy mountain roads, as its Q4/4WD is totally up to its task and a breeze to use.

The Stelvio is indeed a worthwhile alternative in the SUV segment, and will steal your hart for years to come when you are so lucky to own or lease it. Many financial formulas are devised not least by FCA itself to make a long-term relationship with the Stelvio a very pleasant affair. So in these Corona dampened times around Christmas, to slide behind the wheel of a Stelvio is something to look forward to…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

New Opel Crossland: a new face on the block…

The new Opel Crossland is the first model to adopt the brand’s unmistakeable new face, showcased just a few weeks ago by the new Opel Mokka. It has dropped the X-appendix in its name, but packs improvements in chassis and steering, and added a sporty GS Line trim as well as IntelliGrip adaptive traction control…

At the rear, new dark-tinted taillights enhance the signature Opel wing light design, and the new high-gloss black tailgate surface (available in combination with the black roof) makes the new Crossland look wider and stronger. There is also a Crossland GS Line+ trim, with black 17-inch light-alloy wheels, black roof, red signature daylight opening, AGR-certified ergonomic seats (Aktion Gesunder Rücken e.V.) for driver and front passenger, LED taillights and roof rails.

The SUV also convinces with a high level of flexibility, thanks to individually sliding and reclining rear seats. They come with a 60/40 split and slide by up to 150 millimetres, increasing trunk space from 410 to a class-leading 520 litres in seconds. Folding the rear seats completely increases trunk volume to 1,255 litres.

The engineers in Rüsselsheim have developed new damper tuning for the McPherson strut front suspension and the torsion-beam rear axle. In combination with improved steering precision and centre-feel, so the ride and agility is top notch.

The Crossland has adaptive full-LED headlamps with cornering light, high beam assist and auto levelling functions.

New with IntelliGrip: Optimum traction at all times

New Crossland buyers can add extra safety to the enhanced driving dynamics with IntelliGrip (available from early 2021). This adaptive traction control system enables optimum traction and stability on all kinds of surface. IntelliGrip features the following five modes:

Normal / On-road: ‘Normal mode’ switches on as soon as the Crossland starts up. ESP and traction control settings are appropriate for normal driving conditions downtown, on the motorway or in the countryside.

Snow: This special winter mode enables optimum traction on icy and snowy surfaces at speeds up to 50 km/h. Traction control regulates the slip of the front wheels, slowing down the spinning wheel and transferring the torque to the other front wheel.

Mud: This mode allows more wheel slip. This intentional spinning of the wheel with the least traction when the vehicle is launching enables the removal of mud from the tyre, which can then regain traction. Meanwhile, the wheel with the most grip receives the highest torque. This mode is active up to 80 km/h.

Sand: This mode allows a small amount of simultaneous spin of both the front-driven wheels, enabling the vehicle to move and reducing the risk of sinking.

ESP Off: This deactivates ESP and traction control at speeds up to 50 km/h. For safety reasons, IntelliGrip automatically returns to ‘normal mode’ at speeds above 50 km/h.

Connected…

Drivers and passengers can enjoy not only strong grip, they are also well connected and entertained with Radio BT, Multimedia Radio and the top-of-the-line Multimedia Navi Pro with 8.0-inch colour touch screen. The Multimedia units are also compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Compatible smartphones are chargeable while in use via wireless inductive charging. In addition, the Crossland offers the “OpelConnect”1 service as an option. LIVE Navigation2 with real-time traffic information and current fuel prices, plus a direct link to breakdown assistance and emergency calls.

Euro 6d petrol and diesel engines: Driving fun with low emissions

Opel Crossland customers can choose from a powertrain portfolio of efficient petrol and diesel engines with 1.2 and 1.5-litre displacement. Both the petrol engines with 61kW (83hp) to 96kW (130hp) and the diesel engines with 81kW (110hp) and 88kW (120hp) now meet the strict Euro 6d emissions standard.

Head Up display, forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, Driver Drowsiness Alert, Side Blind Spot Alert, Automatic Park Assist are all there to let you have a relaxing drive.

Just wait a while, Opel will arrive at dealerships in early 2021…

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

The new Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is the new benchmark…

The Maybach is an awe-inspiring luxury car, and a quick glance at its sales figures lets us realize that this is a very important car in this absolute top segment. What to think of 60,000 units sold of the previous model, which was gaining in popularity even as it scored record sales of 12,000 units over the last year?

This car is of course a platform to introduce the latest technologies in propulsion, connectivity, creature comfort, driving aids, lighting, every new technology which has come to fruition in quality series production. This is one of the reasons why a new model of this luxury supercar is so important, and merits our attention in these columns.

Here follow the main points, but rest assured that in a further series we will in regular intervals come back in detail about the technological solutions found in this Maybach…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Mercedes-Maybach S-Class; exterior: designo rubelit red/kalahari gold; interior: Leather Nappa macchiato beige / bronze brown pearl; trim parts: designo brown open-pore walnut wood with aluminium lines

Here follow the main points:

Luxury in the rear…

The Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is particularly suitable for chauffeured driving. The 18 cm longer wheelbase compared to the long variant of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class entirely benefits the rear. The focus is indeed on the rear area. This is underlined by even more refined appointments. The massage function of the calf rests on the Executive seats is a new feature. The neck/shoulder heating in the rear is another comfort item.

interior: Leather Nappa macchiato beige / bronze brown pearl; trim parts: designo brown open-pore walnut wood with aluminium lines

On request, the exclusive appearance of the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class can be enhanced by a two-tone paint finish with dividing line. This is applied by hand according to the highest quality criteria. Distinguishing features at the front include the bonnet with a chromed fin and the Mercedes-Maybach radiator grille with fine, vertical chrome pinstripes. The Mercedes-Maybach S-Class also differs from its brother models when viewed from the side: the rear doors are wider, and the C-pillars feature a fixed quarterlight. A Maybach brand logo on the C-pillar underlines the exclusivity.

Leather Nappa exclusive Maybach: macciato beige/ bronze brown pearl

On request, the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class can be equipped with electrically operated comfort rear doors. With this feature, the wide rear doors can be conveniently opened and closed with little force even on a gradient.

Integration into the infotainment and control system MBUX and Blind Spot Assist ensures a high level of operating convenience and additional safety. The rear doors can also be operated from the driver’s seat – an important function when chauffeur-driven.

Let there be light…

Digital light headlamp technology (optional equipment) allows completely new functions, e.g. the projection of marking aids or warning symbols onto the road ahead. In each headlamp, DIGITAL LIGHT has a light module with three extremely powerful LEDs with light that is refracted and directed by 1.3 million micro-mirrors. The resolution is therefore more than 2.6 million pixels per vehicle.

A stunning interior

The interior of the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is based on the completely new interior design of the new Mercedes‑Benz S-Class. The large areas of trim on the front seats are a new feature in the Mercedes-Maybach. High‑quality wood surrounds encase the rear of the front seat backrests, giving the impression of generous lounge seats. If the First-Class Rear is specified, a similarly striking area of trim is positioned between the two rear passengers.

Quietness reigns…

With Active road noise compensation, the interior of the already very quiet Mercedes-Maybach S-Class becomes even quieter. In a similar way to headphones with noise suppression, the system reduces unwanted low-frequency noises using counter-phased sound waves. The bass speakers of the Burmester® high-end 4D surround sound system are used for sound reproduction.

ICONS OF LUXURY COUNSELLOR MAYBACH Business Bag – full grain calf leather. MAYBACH lamb’s wool blanket THE EMBRACE I is created from pure new wool from Germany and Switzerland.

In a cosy cabin it feels like home…

Coupé and Cabriolet customers of Mercedes-Benz have long come to appreciate the automatic seat belt extender. Rear passengers in the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class are now the first to benefit from this convenience in the rear of a saloon. The belt extender is an indirect invitation to fasten the belt, and also makes the process more convenient. It is no longer necessary to move from an adopted, comfortable seating position to fasten the belt. The belt extender is integrated into the adjustable backrest of the Executive seat, and therefore always in the right position for the passenger.

Adaptive rear lighting is celebrating its premiere in the Mercedes-Maybach. This follows the wishes of the occupants in several respects: as well as the brightness, the size and position of the light spot can be adjusted. There is also a wide adjustment range between precise working light and relaxing lounge light.

The second generation of learn-capable MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) introduced in 2018 has its debut in the new S-Class. The unique feature of MBUX is its networking with a wide range of vehicle systems and sensor data. Brilliant displays on up to five large screens, in part with OLED technology, make the control of vehicle and comfort functions even easier. On request, the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class can also be equipped with MBUX Interior Assist in the rear.

Safety guaranteed

During severe frontal collisions, the rear airbag included as standard can considerably reduce the loads acting on the heads and necks of seat belt wearing occupants on the outer rear seats. The frontal airbag for the rear seat deploys particularly gently thanks to its innovative construction using a tubular structure.

ICONS OF LUXURY MAYBACH champagne flute – handcrafted in Germany by specialists Robbe & Berking Silver Manufacturer, 90 silver plated. THE EMBRACE I MAYBACH lamb’s wool blanket is created from pure new wool from Germany and Switzerland. From MAYBACH – ICONS OF LUXURY

Nimble in urban traffic

Thanks to rear-axle steering (optional equipment), the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is easy to manoeuvre even in dense city traffic. The steering angle at the rear axle is up to ten degrees. It reduces the turning circle of the S-Class by up to two metres.

Even better ride comfort and agility, as well as innovative functions such as raising the vehicle body in a lateral crash, are provided by the E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL active suspension, which is combined with the standard AIRMATIC air suspension. It is able to control the spring and damper forces at each wheel individually. Together with ROAD SURFACE SCAN and the curve inclination function CURVE, E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL makes an extraordinary level of comfort possible.

It is expected that initially in Germany and from the second half of 2021, the Mercedes-Maybach will be able to drive in conditionally automated mode with the new DRIVE PILOT (optional equipment) in situations where traffic density is high or in tailbacks on suitable motorway sections. By taking pressure off the driver, this allows him/her to undertake secondary activities such as surfing the web or attending to emails in the In-Car Office. This allows a more effective use of time. Brave new world!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The new Discovery is amongst us: even more stylish and high-tech…

The new Land Rover Discovery will please most lovers of premium go-anywhere SUV’s. Indeed, the design of the new Discovery has gained in sophistication with new LED headlights and tail lights with fresh front and rear bumpers. A bnw R-Dynamic version is now more assertive too…

The cabin has also gained further in clean, uncluttered design with enhanced centre console featuring  New Pivi Pro infotainment with a large 11.4-inch HD touchscreen and advanced connectivity with Software-OverThe-Air updates. New new second-row seats offer superior comfort.  

The Latest straight-six Ingenium petrol and diesel engines have now 48V Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle technology for superior more efficiency.  

The new Discovery is among the world’s first full-sized sevenseat premium SUVs with RDE2-certified and Euro 6d-Final-compliant diesel engines.

The excellent offroad manners are a hallmark of the brand, and Intelligent All-Wheel Drive automatically distributes torque to the axle that needs it most for optimum efficiency

You feel good in the new Discovery, as new Cabin Air Ionisation with PM2.5 air filtration1 monitors air quality inside and filters harmful particulates.

Your family will also like it, as the Discovery comes now with a next-generation wearable Activity Key, Click and Go tablet holders for row-two passengers and Intelligent Seat Fold technology.

You can also tow almost anything. The Discovery is best-in-class with 3,500kg towing capacity2 and Advanced Tow Assist to take the stress out of difficult reversing manoeuvres…

When the car is available for a road test, we will tell you about our driving experience with his new Land Rover!

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