We drove the new Jeep Compass: a true Jeep with a European touch

The Jeep Compass 2021 is now a completely new model, with changes to the features which are close to the hearts of European customers: stylish inside and out, with state-of-the-art technology under the hood, besides being also sustainable and functional.

This is also the first Jeep launched (and developed) by the Stellantis Group, and it is also produced exclusively in Melfi, Italy. This is only logical when you know that in Europe, the Compass accounts for more than 40% of Jeeps sales and today one in four Compass vehicles sold is a plug-in hybrid model.

An important car therefore, with plenty of good reasons to put it here through its paces for you. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Compass fitted with the new GSE four-cylinder 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine, and we immediately selected on the configurable digital instrument display the consumption indicator function, to show us permanently average and immediate consumption. More about the results later…

This new engine develops 150 HP in our test car, and is therefore paired to a 7 speed Dual Dry Clutch Transmission (DDCT).

A very smooth engine it is indeed, almost inaudible both at urban and motorway speeds. The gearbox is also ultra smooth, and mates perfectly with the engine. The level of silent sophistication and smoothness a thoroughbred 1,3 litre petrol engine can offer nowadays is truly stunning. Of course the excellent transmission helps here too. The same engine, the 4-cylinder 1.3-litre turbo unit, comes in the Compass models with plug-in hybrid technology with even more power, 190 hp or 240 hp and 270 Nm of torque, coupled then to a six-speed automatic transmission. Last but not least eAWD powers the 4xe versions and completes the New Compass engine range.

Performance

The 150 HP version offers more than adequate performance with a sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 9,2 seconds and a top speed of 199 km/h. Accelerations in intermediate speeds are excellent, and one hardly needs higher revs to enjoy the pulling power this drivetrain offers. There is also a “sport” mode for dynamic driving, letting the engine rev longer and higher in the gears and making the gearbox more alert to throttle movements.

The manufacturer quotes 5,5 litres as combined consumption, with an urban average of 6,6 litres/100 km. One needs a very prudent foot on the throttle and much anticipation in one’s driving style to achieve this, and the average during our test was 7.2 litres/100 km on the open road, cruising at the legal speed limits on the motorway, with spirited accelerations in between and motorway congestions and slowdowns thrown in too.

In urban driving, a sensitive right foot works wonders, the gearbox settling in at the highest possible gear when cruising at 30 or 50 km/h, with the engine running at 1200 rpm, and immediate consumption hovering around the 4-5 litre mark. Caressing the throttle will keep it there, a more vigorous blip will send it swiftly above 10 litres. An average of 7.8 litres/100 km in urban conditions was however rather easily achievable. The very clever and readable consumption display will soon teach you the consumption difference between a more spirited and a relaxed driving style… CO2 emissions are quoted as 153 g/km in the WLTP cycle.

In this drivetrain configuration, the Compass has only front wheel drive, which doesn’t mean however that you cannot steer this Compass on off-road terrain and country roads. For our photo session, where we tried out our Fujifilm X-A5 which we had recently bought used for less than 300 €, we went on open terrain which was still rather wet and soggy from the torrential rains which have devastated many towns and villages in Wallonia, parts of Germany and Holland. It proved no problem at all for our Compass to turn tightly and move from standstill without any loss of adhesion or slippage of the front wheels on the rain-sogged grass.

Connected and practical

The vocation of our Compass is, as Stellantis puts it, to address the wishes and needs of rational, factual people, which are also fascinated by the possibility of getting away from their daily routines: Stellantis calls them “pragmatic dreamers”.

Besides stronger aesthetics, with good capabilities off road as well as on the open road, the new Compass offers features an all-new cabin, designed to improve comfort and life on board, and to make the urban driving experience smarter.

Major highlights include the full-HD digital 10.25-inch instrument cluster, DAB radio, Uconnect 5 system with touchscreens from 8.4-inch to 10.1-inch, moved to the middle of the dashboard in a higher position so the driver can remain focused on the road, a five times faster processor, Android operating system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, interactive 3D TomTom navigation and natural voice recognition, and last but not least Uconnect Services.

The interior has also been made even more functional with a new arrangement of the central console and augmented storage compartment space (providing nearly 4.4 litres of additional storage – a three-fold increase versus the 2.8 litres of the previous version, now with a total of 7.2 litres).

Still more safety features…

The New Compass is the first Jeep vehicle in Europe to offer level 2 autonomous driving and is equipped with the latest generation ADAS, as standard across the range. These include: Traffic Sign Recognition, which reads and interprets the road signs; Intelligent Speed Assist, to automatically keep the car within the speed limit advertised; Drowsy Driver Alert, to alert the drivers when their attention falters or if they drop off for a moment; and Automatic Emergency Braking with pedestrian and cyclist recognition, which slows the vehicle down to a complete stop, to avoid (or mitigate) accidents that could occur.

Our test car was sprayed in a beautiful matte green…

But the biggest new feature is the Highway Assist, combining Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Centering, to automatically adjust the vehicle’s speed and trajectory. The vehicle therefore automatically stays in the middle of the lane, at a sensible distance from the vehicle in front, for a driving experience with total peace of mind.

Comfort…

Driving long distances or making short urban errands are a breeze in the new Compass. Seats are well contoured and comfortable, the suspension is overall rather firmish, but irons out potholes and ridges very well. Noise levels are low, with any mechanical noises virtually absent at any speeds.

Conclusion

This new Compass indeed marries very well both worlds: that of urban sophistication as well as the ruggedness and bewildering attraction of the freedom of on- and offroad. The power and refinement of the 150 HP engine coupled to the 7 speed DDCT transmission is convincing, as well as the overall stylishness of body and cabin.

Of course we look forward to testing the 4xe variant, but let you enjoy the photos of this new Compass already here…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Photographers’ notes:

For the photo’s of this test, we put our recently acquired used but pristine Fujifilm X-A5 through its paces. We just love the velvety sharpness and contrast of the Fujinon lenses, one of the reasons we bought this camera. It also looks very good, and has some Leica aura over it. We studied its manual thoroughly, as it has many clever features… just look at the photos. We will use this camera also extensively in the future…so you will see soon a lot more of what this good looking camera can do.

We drove the new Fiat Tipo Cross: the type of car your family needs…

To tell you right away, we have always liked the Tipo. Well styled, it offers lots of car for the money, and every inch of it shows the expertise and savoir faire of a world class car maker like Fiat. Not surprisingly, the Tipo has already carved itself a firm market share in its segment, and is further gaining in popularity. The latest facelift has made it even more attractive than ever, and we drove for you the well-equipped Cross version here. This Cross version is geared towards families which like crossovers, and want a car which brings more zest and emotions to their daily commute and weekend outings. We can tell you right away, this Tipo delivers and convinces– again.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A bolder stance and look…

The Tipo Cross is wider and taller, with a grille which now runs under the headlamps. Thanks to a new suspension and wheels taken from another crossover in the Fiat stable, the 500X, the Tipo Cross is now 4 cm higher. This Tipo is also 7 cm longer than the Tipo Life and has some exclusive styling details like bigger wheel arches, a protective front end decorative strip which is integrated into the front bumpers, as well as a protective bar which runs along the side skirts. Last but not least there is also a spoiler and roof bars which were hitherto reserved for the Station Wagon version.

A formidable 1 litre engine…

The Cross can be had with the 1,6 litre Multijet Turbodiesel, either 95 or 130 HP, but the more interesting engine is the new 1.0 GSE T3 FireFly petrol unit, developing 100 HP or 74 kW at 5000 rpm, which we found in our test car.

Compared to the previous 1,4 litre petrol engine, it is especially the pulling power in the lower and mid rev ranges which has been vastly improved. Instead of the previous 127 Nm developed at a high 4500 rpm, this new state of the art 3 cylinder delivers an impressive 190 Nm at merely 1500 rpm, and indeed, your servant had the initial impression that a potent 1,6 litre petrol engine was working under the hood. This ample pulling power gives the Cross plenty of zest, moreover as it is coupled to an ideally geared and very smooth 5 speed gearbox. In urban traffic, the unit is very flexible and smooth, and only a light foot on the throttle is needed to glide along at low revs with the boulevard traffic. This keeps also urban consumption within very reasonable levels, and it is possible to achieve anything between 7 and 8 litres/100 km in urban driving with ease, and even lower if you really concentrate on driving with anticipation.

The manufacturer quotes an average consumption of 5,7 litres/100 km, and less than that is very easily achieved on the open road. The Tipo Cross feels of course also at home on our Autoroutes, where the engine remains virtually inaudible at cruising speeds of say 130 km/h, corresponding with 3200 rpm.

When you put your foot down, the engine will rev up eagerly with a nice 3-cylinder staccato and pull you from 0 to 100 km/h in 12,2 seconds, then further to a top speed of 183 km/h, so you have all the performance you would ever need…  

CO2 emissions have also improved over the previous 1,4 litre engine, with 121 g/km (WLTP).

Digital instrumentation and state of the art infotainment…

An important improvement is also the 7 inch TFT digital instrument cluster, monitoring also the car’s status, multimedia and phone. This cluster is combined with the brand new Uconnect 5 infotainment system with a wide 10,25” touchscreen. This system was introduced in the new 500, and now also finds its way in this Tipo Cross. The Uconnect 5 system offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and so you have a wireless connection with your phone, showing its display on the touchscreen and having all its functions at your fingertips. It allows also for not less than 5 configurations.

Practical

Of course, this Tipo excels in sheer practicality. As a hatchback it offers 440 litres of standard luggage space, and the rear seat backrests can of course be folded backwards in split fashion to provide extra room. There is also an extra USB port in the back, with wireless charging of your phone and a 12 V connection also provided in the centre console at the front. Fiat has always offered much cabin and seating space in its cars for their size, and the Tipo is no exception. Even taller persons of say 1,80 m still have ample head- and legroom in the back. 

 

Conclusion

This Tipo Cross keeps its promises. Pleasing to look at, superbly equipped, zesty with state the art drivetrain technology and up to scratch infotainment, it offers a lot of car for the money.

In Belgium, the Tipo Cross can be had for €24.250, including VAT. If your family wants a Crossover which has it all, just take a long look at this one…

Hans Knol ten Bensel   

We drove the Subaru Outback: a refined go anywhere companion…

If we have to summarize our driving impressions of the new Subaru Outback after our test, the terms mechanical refinement, capability and space and comfort come first to our mind.

Well honed and refined, the latest version of the Outback certainly is. Technically extensively revamped and rolling on the Subaru Global Platform (SGP) for increased safety, driving performance and ride comfort, is has a super smooth engine and transmission, perfectly geared to glide around town in vibrationless silence, that is what this Subaru offers the urban dweller daily. But he or she can take the Outback elsewhere when nature calls. The legendary Subaru symmetrical AWD sees to that.

The new Outback is also on top of all that also more stylish and its interior has had a thorough makeover. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel


The Subaru Outback has a quite pleasing exterior, with fluent, stretched lines, with an excellent choice of paint colors too, as the photos amply show. When you step in, a posh cabin awaits you, certainly in the premium version we tested here for you. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the large centrally placed touch screen, which is a delight to use, with all the controls well placed and self explaining. Infotainment and connectivity is well cared for, as you will read further.

Seats are supportive and excellent, and soon a good position behind the wheel is found.


Drive train brought to perfection…

Pushing the starting knob one hears the trusted boxer engine coming to life. We said trusted, but it is good to know that the direct-injection 2.5-liter NA horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine, has about 90% of its engine parts redesigned and boasts a higher compression ratio. Idling at 2000 rpm or thereabouts when cold, it soon drops to 1000 rpm when you shift the smooth CVT transmission in D or R. The Lineartronic CVT has been renewed with the gear ratio coverage expanded to a wide range equivalent to 8-AT. The hydraulic system has been revised and the oil viscosity lowered, which reduces horsepower loss by 22% compared to the previous model.  

So the result is that when you then are cautious with the throttle, this Subaru will smoothly pick up speed keeping revs down to just above idling speed, say 1200 rpm or so. The engine is inaudible and perfectly vibration free here, giving the impression one drives on E power. This enables you to drive at the now usual 30 km/h urban speed limit with utmost ease, also with very little fuel coming out if the injection ports. Driving in slow urban traffic in this relaxed manner cost us merely 7,3 to 7,8 liters/100 km, and this is no small feat.


The Subaru engineers did a very good job here, and it amply shows also what a good internal combustion engine coupled to a state of the art transmission can do nowadays. In our opinion, it again proves the point that a good petrol engined car has certainly not said its last word. Indeed, with the presently still abysmal state of the charging infrastructure in our country and also many other European countries too by the way, it is still a very attractive practical proposition indeed.

As said, we can only applaud the Subaru engineers here. Of course, hybrid and plug-in hybrid and full electric solutions will be on the cards in the coming years, as many (mega) cities will be imposing exclusively E-powered mobility in their inner city centers within not even a decade. Subaru wil soon have also a full EV vehicle, named the SOLTERRA.

This excellent economy is of course only reached when you adopt a relaxed and anticipative driving style. Putting the throttle deeper will result in higher revs, more power and more fuel consumed. The 169 HP/124 kW boxer engine guarantees zesty performance: 0 to 100 km/h is reached in 10,2 seconds, top speed is a good 189 km/h.
The manufacturer quotes 7,3 l/100 km as average consumption, with CO2 emissions being 166 g/km. The CVT transmission is very responsive as well as smooth, and will let run the engine in the ideal rev zones under full load, resulting in very brisk accelerations.

Predictable handling, with excellent comfort

The Outback with its symmetrical AWD is your ideal companion on wet and muddy roads, and the suspension is well laid out to cope with potholes and rough country roads. This means that well ridden urban pavés are also very well negotiated, and the Subaru is under every road condition a very comfortable car indeed. The Outback does not necessarily invite you to throw it around corners, but this said it responds well to spirited driving, and its handling is precise and predictable.

The standard S-AWD provides all-weather capability paired with a standard active torque vectoring for improved handling and cornering performance.

We mention here too that the Subaru is an excellent towing car, up to two Tonnes (!). It can then also throw in its excellent traction capacity, and is the preferred mount for horse owners who want to ferry their horses off and on the grounds at jumping events and the like.


When going off road or when negotiating slippery surfaces, the Outback driver has life made quite easy with a new X-Mode with dual functions of “snow/dirt” mode and “Snow/mud” mode for additional off-road capability.

It offers good road clearance for a wider range of activities, with an increased ground clearance of now 213mm, and an approach of 19.7° and of 22.6° departure angles (JIS) and ramp break over angle of 21.0°.

The new SGP platform brings significant enhancement to the body and chassis rigidity (front lateral flexural rigidity +90%, torsional rigidity +70%, front suspension rigidity +70%, rear sub frame rigidity +100%).

A rear view camera washer has been added so that the camera lens is always clear of dirt, mud and grime…

Practical



The Outback is a roomy station wagon, seating five with comfort. Luggage space is of course also leaving nothing to be desired. The cargo space opening width has been enlarged by almost 30mm, the space floor length is longer by 23.9mm, and the cargo capacity is increased with 10L, of now 522L (with the seats up). The Outback also offers standard roof rails with integrated and retractable cross bars, now enhanced with tie-down holes so ropes can be tied directly on the roof rails.

There is also plenty of stowage room in the door bins for large bottles and sundry. There are also several USB points, up to even 2,1 Amp charging power.

Safety first…

Indeed, safety is written very big at Subaru. We all now have become very familiar with Subaru’s safety vision, i.e. featuring the next generation EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, Subaru’s stereo camera prevention collision system, now with an expanded angle of view, nearly doubled, and new image recognition software, available with 11 safety functions, among which new ones were added:

Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Centering Function, Emergency Lane Keep Assist, Speed Sign Recognition with Intelligent Speed Limiter, Lane Departure Warning with steering wheel vibration, Lane Departure Prevention, recognizing also dividing line like grass or road edge and Pre-Collision Braking System with expanded support for collision avoidance at intersections.


The Subaru tells you also for instance to keep your eyes on the road as it is able to notice that you are looking sideways for a moment.
It also reminds you to take a look in the back seat just in case you would forget your (sleeping) toddler there…

Conclusion


This Subaru certainly merits your attention. It is refined, roomy, comfortable, at home on and off the beaten track, a reliable companion for work and pleasure, taking the whole family or your friends wherever they want to go.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Experiencing E-mobility for all: we drove the new Citroën AMI in the streets of the Capital of Europe…

Citroën has always been THE brand for breakthrough mobility solutions. It responded this time to today’s challenges by offering 100 % electric mobility literally for all: a cute, roomy two seater with an 8 HP (6 kW) electric motor which can be charged in 3 hours on your home socket and which offers up to 75 km electric range in town or country/village roads. What’s more, since it is only 45 km fast, you don’t even need a drivers’ license for it. In France, 14 year old’s can drive it, in most European countries this is possible from 16 years onwards. But it is also excellent news for the (very) elderly, they have the ideal, roomy two seater which protects them from the elements, it is easy to step in and out of, has two wide opening doors and is the proverbial breeze to drive.

Citroën has done it, and we were delighted thanks to the dynamic PR team to experience the first kilometers behind its cute steering wheel in the streets, squares and boulevards of Brussels. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Light and roomy

Like the iconic 2 CV, this AMI is designed with nothing but practicality in mind. Its symmetrical body shape is unique, with a long roof and cabin, offering a sea of space for its two happy occupants. Only the driver’s seat can be moved fore and aft, the passenger’s seat is fixed, and therefore one sits normally a bit further back than the driver.

Room for a cabin space suitcase, and an elegant hook to hang your bag…

But she/he enjoys formidable legroom, and can actually stretch its legs fully. This means that seating with your legs in a normal position, there is even room for a cabin size suitcase in front of your feet! So there is always enough room for your errands, as besides in the cabin, the AMI has still an extra luggage space in the back.

Citroën has decided to make this long cabin as light and airy as possible. Therefore, a glass panoramic roof is fitted standard. So it is la Vie en Rose in your AMI. One gets in through the wide opening doors, which are identical and because of that opening in different directions. The driver’s door sways out in the front, making getting in and out super easy.

You can throw your pocket camera, bottle and sundry in one of the three customizable bins just behind the window, hang your city/handbag on the elegant hook provided on the passenger’s side, and get behind the wheel. The dashboard just reveals speed and battery charge level, indicating also the remaining range in km. Further, there is a switch for heating and fan. Next to it is a smartphone holder, so your phone can provide for navigation and music.

The row of knobs for “Drive”, “Reverse”, “Neutral” and “Park” sits on the left side of the driver’s seat. Just push “D” and off you go. Acceleration is lively, but don’t expect miracles from 8 HP moving a cute car with a total weight with battery of 485 kg, where one still has to add the weight of one or two passengers. But it is certainly enough to move along with the flow of urban traffic, and with some restraint one soon notices that a cruising speed of around 40 km/h needs just a push of 1 or 2 centimeters on the throttle. You don’t get any deceleration from the E-motor when you lift the throttle at speed, so adapt your driving style and drive with more anticipation as the distances to make good use the kinetic energy are longer. But it can be done, and soon you get the hang of it…

Driving in Brussels one soon notices that the indicated range is absolutely realistic, and that’s a big plus. Also remember, three hours is enough to fully (re)charge the AMI.

Brussels paves are ridden with potholes and ridges, but the AMI took it very well in its stride with a surprisingly comfortable suspension.

Make it your very personal AMI…

As said, life is good in this AMI. Typical and reminiscent of the 2CV are the side windows, which open by manually tilting upwards.

Citroën offers, in a “Do It Yourself” fashion, the possibility of creating the object that suits each customer’ tastes through a kit of accessories that can easily be installed yourself. This kit incorporates functional decorative items: a central separation net, a door storage net, mat, storage tray on the top of the dashboard, small hook for a handbag, smartphone clip, DAT@MI box (dongle device) connected to the My Citroën app to retrieve essential information from your Ami on the smartphone.

4 main shades are available for these accessory kits, costing 400 Euros: MY AMI GREY, MY AMI BLUE, MY AMI ORANGE, and MY AMI KHAKI.

2 characterful packs are available on AMI for even more customization. These 2 packs contain all the above decorative elements and large format stickers that cover the outside and thus give AMI its very own style.

– My Ami POP with Orange personalization and a fun, young and sporty look, with a rear spoiler, is available for €8,190 incl. VAT.

– My Ami VIBE in gray with a more upscale, chic and graphic design that integrates roof coverings in addition to the stickers, is available for € 8,690 incl. VAT.

The installation of these 2 personalization packs is entrusted to professionals before delivery.

The specific exterior body colour is neither too feminine nor too masculine and works with the different colour packs Citroën has developed (blue, white, khaki and orange).

So the Ami is a base that can become a completely customised object with exterior and interior accessories that are either pure style or offer real extra functionality, as well as stickers that give it a completely different characters, tells us Pierre Leclercq, Head of Citroën Style.

Prices…

AMI AMI: 7.290€ incl. VAT

MY AMI ORANGE, KHAKI, GREY, BLUE: 7.690€ incl. VAT

MY AMI POP: 8.190€ incl. VAT

MY AMI VIBE: 8.690€ incl. VAT

MY AMI CARGO : 7.690€ incl. VAT.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We spoke with Antonella Bruno: “we are electrifying Jeep for Europe and the world, whilst keeping its unique DNA..”

In our interview series of remarkable women and men in the automotive world, we had an interview with the first woman to lead Stellantis’ historic American brand in the old continent: Antonella Bruno, now Head of Jeep Brand for the Enlarged Europe region.

She has not less than 20 years experience in the automotive industry, and started her career at the company in 2007. Since then, she has held increasingly prestigious roles in the sales and marketing divisions, becoming Market Director Italy for the Lancia Brand in 2012, followed by a position as Head of Lancia Brand in 2013.  

From 2017, in addition to her role at Lancia, she served as Head of Network Development and Customer Experience, an interesting position which together with her new challenge at Jeep, were reasons enough for having this interview…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Antonella Bruno posing in front of the impressive Rubicon at the recent Jeep Media Drive…

Q1 My first question is, you had a long career in the automotive world, I think it has to do with what your father did, but could you tell me why you find the automotive sector so fascinating?

AB: As you rightly said, I grew up close to the automotive world, my father was leading one of the SKF plants, one of the subsidiaries, so after my degree it was natural to step into this sector. I got an opportunity to start working in MSF, and then on further, so it was a kind of natural path for me.

Q2: Why do you think the industry is so unique? What do you think about its future, about the energy transition… and the many mobility and environmental revolutions it is going through, like electrification among others. Do you have any comments on that?

AB:  Let’s say that the automotive industry is very magnetic because it is especially now evolving very rapidly, and electrification is one of the main topics in the future, so at Jeep we started last year with the launch of the Renegade and Compass 4Xe, our first two electrified models, and we are carrying on with that strategy, this will represent our future. We are also working to let the customer understand that buying or considering an electrified car is rather easy, and that the technology is user friendly.

At the recent Jeep 4Xe presentation, you see here the Jeep Wrangler 4Xe in the picture…

We also make clear that being electrified does not mean that they lose the core of Jeep. So for us electrification means catching new customers, with a less aggressive and more sustainable stance, but at the same time – and this is really crucial – it means also to stay true to our values and not really dilute our DNA.

Q3: It is indeed a balancing act for you, you have the customers who appreciate the authenticity of Jeep and go for the Wrangler Unlimited so to speak and at the other end of the spectrum you have new urban Jeep buyers who chose the Renegade and possibly opted for hybrid electrification. Indeed, you have to keep your DNA…

The Renegade has urban qualities…

AB: You are right in saying that we have a more urban clientele opting for the Renegade back in 2018 when it was launched, but also the whole current range of 4Xe models are a perfect example of what we mean in terms of balancing the sustainability and capability because the Wrangler (4Xe and plug-in hybrid) is now a car which you can use daily. If you drive the car, you will notice it performs even better off road thanks to the electrification and this balance I mentioned between sustainability and capability is crucial for a brand like Jeep.  

Q4: With the venue of the Renegade in the mass compact SUV segment, the market presence of the brand has widened considerably…

AB: Yes, as I was saying, before the Renegade the brand was rather more a kind of niche brand in Europe, but when the car was launched, we really grew in terms of volumes and we opened a new segment of (potential) customers.

But equally feels at home in the mountain snow…

Q5: My next question brings us a bit more to the personal side, focusing on the woman in the corporate world. I would like to ask you which skills, which talents did you hone and perfect during your long career and at the same time what would you advise young people and/or young women specifically when they enter the corporate world. What should they watch for, what should they study in terms of human relations, management?

AB As a woman I had the possibility of starting at Ford when I started the first part of my career, and let’s say I had to opportunity to grow a lot, and in terms of skills, I think that it is related to the way I am behaving outside work.

I am an ex-volleyball player so I am used to be very determined, passionate. But I have to be honest, I studied a lot, because when I was young, my first passion was reading, automotive magazines among others. I was very curious, and I used to listen to people who were more experienced than me. Because I think you need also at the beginning to be humble, indeed to be very curious but at the same time humble enough to listen to people who have more experience than you.

I did not experience any kind of difference between men and women, so I was very lucky, and for me it is not a matter of gender, it is a matter of being a professional, being skilled, and you need to keep studying along your career. You grow during your career, but you cannot ever consider that you have arrived, because each new role (re)defines your profile, and therefore at the same time requires you to keep studying. It is important to be a strong, skilled manager, and this goes for both men and women.

Q6: Do you think Corona has affected the position of women in the workplace?

AB: Corona has changed the way we are working in this sense that that now we are spending a lot of time working from home, and this requires a different kind of organization. It requires a kind of cooperation between men and women, let’s say within the family, because it is a new way of working. It depends therefore on the single situation whether this is to the disadvantage of women. It requires an important ability to organize your time.

Q7: If we come back to your new and first rather to your previous function, I was very intrigued that you were Head of Network Development and Customer Experience. Can you tell me more about it?  

AB: AB: As head of customer experience, I can tell you that it was a cross-brand function, and with Corona the digital experience became very relevant and even more so after the sanitary crisis.

So by making the digital experience more efficient, we provide our customer with the ability to order the car online, this is very relevant and it is the future. You have to provide additional content and the digital experience has to be very easy, because you know that 90% of the first research when you are interested in a car starts on the web. So this was the main activity before Corona.

Go anywhere with a Jeep… now also electrified…

Coming back to the network, I had the privilege of leading the network development, which is also very related to the customer experience. To reach the customer is the first mission, but in the final stage we need to explain and pass all the information on the product to the end customer, especially now that we are going through the electrification (of our range). Having said that, we need to offer the best professionalism from our sales staff and we also need to offer a real customer experience in line with our brands. We also need to help the customer to overcome anxiety when it comes to electrification. “

Q8 Can you tell a bit more about the markets in the Enlarged Europe region?

AB: In Europe, the most important market is Italy, representing almost 50 pct of volumes, and we need to keep growing in markets like Germany, which is the most important market in Europe when we talk about electrification. Also France is of key importance for our future.

Retaining Jeep’s unique DNA is our mission…

The high penetration in Italy is explained by the strong legacy with our network, and since June last year we are producing both Renegade and Compass at our factory in Melfi, so Italy is performing very well. I am sure that we will keep growing thanks to the electrification in the markets outside Italy.

HK: We thank you for this interview.

Rewriting the future of our cities: the CEO of Fiat and a world class architect shared their vision…

From left to right: Stefano Boeri, Silvia Boccardi and Olivier François

On World Environment Day, Olivier François, CEO of the Fiat brand and CMO at Stellantis, and the architect Stefano Boeri, whose firm is engaged in urban forestation projects all over the world, featured in a conversation for World Environment Day 2021 on the cities of the future.

They addressed the themes of urban mobility and sustainable architecture to make cities healthier and more livable, by improving air quality and therefore quality of life.

This focus on the future city, and more specifically this sharing of values of sustainability both for urban life and mobility started began over a year ago: in its vision of a utopian city, demonstrated and hinted at by Leonardo DiCaprio in the launch advert for the New 500, Fiat drew inspiration from the green architecture created by Boeri in several locations around the world.

Read all about it further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A new renaissance for (mega)cities…

At their meeting, François and Boeri analyzed the opportunities for a “New Renaissance”: they looked at photographs of the current situation in cities and even more so to the images of the ongoing changes. They also took a long hard look at the societal trends and the increasing interest of urban dwellers all over the world for environmental issues. Then they discussed the urgency of taking action, and the major opportunity of inspiring change.

That inspiration for change must be rooted in attention to aesthetics, in architectural beauty, but also inspired by the certainty of the need to improve the quality of the air we breathe and to reduce pollution levels in the cities we live in.

Boeri’s vertical forest in Milano.

Both men came to the conclusion that the combination of architecture like Boeri’s Vertical Forest – its 27,000 plants and millions of leaves contributing to clean the air by absorbing CO2 – and cars like the New 500 offering zero-emissions mobility can no doubt contribute to improving air quality in our cities.

The all electric 500 steps already in the new era…

In the words of Olivier François, Fiat CEO and Stellantis CMO: “The decision to launch the New 500 – electric and electric alone – was actually taken before Covid-19. Even then, we were already aware that the world could not take any more “compromises”.

In fact, lockdown was only the latest of the warnings we have received. At that time, we witnessed situations that would have been unimaginable until then, for example wild animals roaming the cities, proving nature was taking back what was rightfully hers. Plus, as if it had still been necessary, we were reminded of the urgency of taking action, of doing something for the planet Earth.

We have an icon, the 500. An icon always has its cause and the 500 is no exception: in the 1950s, it opened access to mobility for all. Nowadays, in this new scenario, it has a new mission – our mission – to create sustainable mobility for all.

It is our duty to bring to market electric cars that cost no more than vehicles with an internal combustion engine, as soon as we can in line with the falling costs of their batteries. We are exploring the territory of sustainable mobility for all: this is our greatest project.

Between 2025 and 2030, our product line-up will gradually become electric-only. This will be a radical change for Fiat.  Meanwhile, in the near future, only a few months from now, I am proud that we will see the conversion of the legendary track on the roof of the former Lingotto factory in Turin into the largest hanging gardens in Europe, hosting over 28,000 plants. A major, meaningful – and once again sustainable – project, due to revitalize the city of Turin, our home.”

Urban planning for the future…with more plants and trees.

Then Stefano Boeri, architect, urban planner and founder of the Stefano Boeri Architetti practice, gave also his views: If we consider that cities are responsible not only for the emission of over 70% of CO2, a phenomenon at the origin of global warming, but also for the emission of pollutants which are the main cause of diseases and mortality from respiratory problems, it is clear that cities are the first places to intervene with a profound change.

The Covid pandemic has shown us how fragile our lives and our bodies can be and highlighted the importance of improving the environment and above all the air of the cities in which we live.

“La Pista” 500, soon a reality on the rooftop of Lignotto, in place of the iconic oval track.

In addition to absorbing CO2, reducing energy consumption and urban heat, increasing the biodiversity of living species and making cities more attractive, trees drastically reduce fine dust pollution.

Let’s not forget: plants and trees are the only way we have to absorb the pollutants already emitted. I believe that the time has come to promote, with all our strength and resources, a great campaign to clean the polluted air of our cities, that microparticulate of substances harmful to the health of our lungs that has certainly accentuated in some particularly polluted urban areas the intensity of spread of the COVID 19 infection.

We already have several solutions available that can help us: protect and increase the permeable and green surfaces by creating new parks and gardens, in and around our cities; transform city roofs into lawns and vegetable gardens; promote community gardens and urban agriculture; use tree roots to decontaminate polluted soils; create a network of green corridors to connect parks, forests and green buildings. “

More electric mobility in the urban environment is imminent…

In Fiat’s vision, the penetration of electric mobility will rise, as more and more barriers are overcome. The topics under discussion in the talk included the need to improve access to electric cars, by means of innovation and new financial products that can lower the bar of entry; the need to increase the number of private charge points at apartment buildings, requiring a rethink of the infrastructure of the apartment buildings of the future, but most of all by adapting existing buildings; the need to raise visibility of charge points in cities and increase the penetration of fast charging stations.

That will entail a rethink of urban planning, a challenge that requires the involvement of a wider range of stakeholders. This is the stimulus and message Olivier François and Stefano Boeri wish to put out as their contribution to World Environment Day – held by the United Nations every June 5th, the message of which this year is “TOGETHER WE CAN BE #GENERATIONRESTORATION”.

Question time…

At the question time after the presentation, your servant asked CEO Olivier François to elaborate a bit more about the dialogue which existed between Fiat and these stakeholders in shaping the city of the future and its mobility.

Besides public bodies and municipalities, I was also keenly interested in how the dialogue unfolded with Fiat’s supplier firms like Bosch, Siemens, etc, who also perform extensive research in these fields. CEO Olivier François then trusted the answer to his colleague who maintains this dialogue with these external firms.

In his answer, he focused here mainly on the oil firms, which propose also future-oriented solutions, ranging from alternative “clean” fuel to renewables, and he saw the big oil companies also gradually transform themselves into suppliers of energy in all its forms, i.e. becoming “energy” supplying firms in the widest sense of the word. He pointed out that the boundaries between electricity suppliers and the oil firms will become increasingly blurred. The dialogue is indeed active and is indeed widened to all forms of energy. Energy supply and CO2 reduction remain the crux of the matter for all, he concluded his answer.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Mercedes 400 G d: an icon which remains THE off-road technological benchmark…

The “G-Class” is with us since 1979, when in 1972 with a collaboration agreement between then Daimler-Benz AG and Steyr-Daimler-Puch in the Austrian city of Graz resulted in the development of an off-road vehicle which has since been honed and further developed in one of the world’s best off-road cars – ever. We drove the latest 400 G with the six cylinder in line 330 HP Diesel engine. As superb as it will ever be. Just read further!

An iconic shape…

All-wheel drive and 100-percent differential locks have also been part of the “G” since that time, as has the robust ladder-type frame. Also its external appearance has not changed significantly since 1979.

Iconic elements continue to serve very specific purposes, now as then, and to give the G-Class its unique appearance. All these are still found in the new G-Class: the distinctive door handle and the characteristic closing sound, the robust exterior protective strip, the exposed spare wheel on the rear door and the prominent indicator lights. We just loved them, as it was easy to judge were the edges of the car were.

The design of the G-Class follows the philosophy of “Sensual Purity”, as Mercedes puts it, and at the same time remains true to the character of the original. As a result, the door hinges positioned on the outside and the surface-mounted bonnet are carried over to the new generation. With the latest update, however, the faithful G body has grown quite a bit: it is now 53 mm longer and especially 121 mm wider and this results in even greater presence, on the road as well as in terrain.

All surfaces have a more taut design and are have more tension, while the surface quality has been taken to an even higher level. So the “G” is now cast even more of “one piece”, and the meticulous design results in wheel arches and bumpers now forming a more integral part of the body and thus looking less like add-on features.

Top notch exterior trims…

From 1 September 2020 onwards, the standard equipment is even more extensive. At the same time, there are also more personalization options available through the “G manufaktur” programme. New exterior colours and equipment packages as well as the widescreen cockpit, which now comes as standard, round out the offering. We will discuss the interior later.

The G 400 d is now also freely configurable…

Popular is the so-called “night package”, which was found on our test car. It comprises heat-insulating dark-tinted glass, outside mirror housings and radiator grille (including louvres with the surround of the Mercedes star) in obsidian black metallic, as well as darkened turn signal lamps, reversing lamps and headlamps.

If the G-Class is ordered with a matt magno paint finish, which was the case with our test car, the package can be configured as the Night Package magno. In this case, the corresponding add-on parts come in the colour night black magno. The Stainless Steel Package continues to be available with spare wheel cover, running boards, door sills and loading sill protection in stainless steel and adds a painted spare wheel ring and an exterior protective strip with trim insert in a pinstripe look to the Night Packages.

The new 20-inch 5-twin-spoke light-alloy wheel available exclusively for the AMG Line has a high-sheen finish and is painted in a choice of high-gloss black or himalaya grey. We liked them too…

The cabin: high-tech with a pleasant vintage touch…

Let’s start with the vintage part: the pleasant upright seating position, the magnificent visibility over this angular body. I own a vintage Suzuki Samurai Jeep, and although everything in the “G” is just much bigger, I find the same plain and flat window screen and the same straight windscreen wipers, for instance. Yes, above the glove box of my Samurai is also the big grab handle for the passenger, as found here in this G 400.

But that’s where every comparison ends. Because the digital MBUX (Mercedes Benz User Experience) has also now made its entry in the G-Class. The widescreen cockpit is now part of the standard equipment in all G-Class models. So, everything is totally familiar when you are already acquainted with this MBUX system.

The two 12.3-inch displays blend visually into a Widescreen Cockpit beneath a shared glass cover. Drivers can choose between three different styles for the displays – “Classic”, “Sport” and “Progressive” – and also select relevant information and views according to their individual needs.

The design of the iconic indicators is found again in the shape of the loudspeakers. Hallmarks of the G-Class include – as said – the grab handle in front of the front passenger and the chrome-highlighted switches for the three differential locks.

Thanks to haptic impulses and audible feedback from the on-board speakers, we could use the touchpad with controller in the centre console without taking their eyes off the road. Top notch.

The seats are of course a class of their own when it comes to creature comfort. Features include the Memory function for the driver’s seat, seat heating front and rear, as well as luxury head restraints in the front. This ride comfort can optionally be boosted still further with the Active Multicontour Seat Package. In addition to the special multicontour seats, this encompasses such features as various massage functions, climate-controlled seats, and fast seat heating. Need we say more?

Driving the G-Class on- and offroad: a driver’s dream.

The G-Class is on tarmac a supersmooth performer, with superb comfort. Thanks to the new suspension, introduced in 2018, which emerged from the collaboration between Mercedes-Benz G GmbH and Mercedes-AMG GmbH.

The result is an independent suspension with double-wishbone front axle in combination with a rigid rear axle. When redesigning the suspension, the focus was also on even beter off-road capacities and greater rigidity. The components of the double-wishbone front axle are therefore directly mounted to the ladder-type frame without a subframe. The lower wishbone’s attachment points on the frame in Z-direction are positioned as high up as possible. So front axle ground clearance is an impressive 270 mm. The result is a sublime ride. Also thanks to the well controlled live rear axle.  In contrast to the predecessor, the new rigid axle is controlled by four trailing arms on each side and a Panhard rod. Indeed, maximum comfort on the open road.

À la carte: “Comfort”, “Sport”, “Individual” or “Eco” …and last but not least: “Desert!”

As is familiar with other cars of the brand, also the G-Class can be suited to your driving mood. The four programs “Comfort”, “Sport”, “Eco” and “Individual” , and yes, “Desert” can be set via the DYNAMIC SELECT rocker switch. Characteristics of the engine, transmission, suspension, steering and assistance systems are adapted at the driver’s behest.

The “Desert” mode makes the G-Class fit for sandy terrain with a perfect interplay of late upshifting, direct throttle response and adjusted ESP® control.

But there is more: the “G-Mode”  The G-Class changes to “G-Mode” independently of the chosen driving mode as soon as one of the three differential locks has been activated or the LOW RANGE off-road reduction gear has been engaged. When your G is equipped with adjustable damping, that is. This off-road mode adapts the adjustable damping of the chassis and the steering as well as the accelerator characteristic, avoids unnecessary gear shifts and thus ensures optimum control and maximum off-road capability.

Besides offering a superbly comfortable ride, thanks to the new front axle design, the on-road performance of the G-Class and its agility and steering precision is faultless, and it is truly in a class of its own. On the road, the “G” is as agile as it is comfortable, and genuine driving pleasure is to be had. The steering is now electronic, and provides excellent feedback and steering “feel.” Its excellent behavior on the open road is one of our biggest surprises we had when driving this “G”.

Superb mechanical refinement

This off-roader has a separate chassis, and this is already a prerequisite for nicely filtered vibrations emanating from its drivetrain. The “G” Class excels here again. The Diesel straight six is superbly smooth, inaudible even when starting from cold, only the subdued hum of a six cylinder will caress your ears. It is coupled to a 9 speed G-TRONIC automatic transmission with torque converter, which is adapted to meet the needs of this off-road icon. The developers have managed to reduce the shift and response times of the 9-speed transmission by means of a dedicated software application.

The result translates into absolutely smooth and fast changes, as said, according to the chosen driving modes.

The six cylinder diesel has output of 243 kW (330 hp) and maximum torque of 700 Nm at 1200 to 3200 rpm. Pulling power at low revs is what counts, and as you see, this “d” has plenty of it. It accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 6,4 seconds and pushes you further to a top speed of 210 km/h. More than enough to satisfy most of us mortals, we would think.

This diesel, derived from the 350 G, succeeds also in bringing genuine economy to this opulent off-roader. The manufacturer quotes a combined fuel consumption of 8.9-8.7 l/100 km, with combined CO₂ emissions being 235-229 g/km.

Driving with restraint and anticipation in “Eco” mode, it was no trouble at all to reach 9 liters/100 km even in dense urban traffic conditions, which is no small feat! Of course, it took a gentle foot on the accelerator, as you can imagine.

Conclusion

The Burmeister sound system adds a dramatic backdrop to your scenic drives…

The 400 G admirably withstands the test of time. It has grown into a unique classic icon, embodying simultaneously all the possible technical refinements modern automotive technology has to offer. There is even more: it excels not only on the open road, it stands out also when… there is no road at all, and will even take you to the desert!

This is a car every traveler in history would have wished for, a car Marco Polo would have dreamt of.

It is a Mercedes in the truest form, actually. It will accompany you for decades – if need be – into your automotive life, offering room, comfort, go anywhere performance with even rather good economy in the diesel version. Superbly engineered, it will never let you down, offer you decades of dependable service.

This excellence comes at a price, but remember, a lot on this car is hand finished. If you look at its long service life, the value it will retain over the years, you will discover it is actually rather sensible. Of course, electrification lures around the corner. A plug-in hybrid version would not surprise me for the not too distant future…

Would you like to know my secret wish now? Have a drive in one of the early examples of this “G”, have a feel of its so honest ruggedness and spirit. Must be awesome too…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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      

We personally witnessed the unfolding of the Audi Quattro (Rally) Saga…

We were there: your servant in conversation with Michèle Mouton in Sankt Moritz, on December 8, 1982…

Your servant was already active as a freelance car journalist from the mid-seventies of last century, so we witnessed up close the birth of the Audi 5-cylinder engines and the (rally) cars powered by it were quite familiar. When we were telling you the long career of Audi’s 5 cylinder engine, we told you how your servant remembered a drive behind the wheel of the Audi 80 Quattro with this magnificent engine. Just look at our pages on this site, and more especially https://autoprova.be/2016/09/18/sweet-memories-our-drive-with-the-5-cylinder-audi-80-5e-quattro-in-sankt-moritz/

This memorable test drive of this Audi 80 5E Quattro took place in Sankt Moritz, on 8 and 9 December 1982. For the assembled international journalists, Audi had also organized a demonstration run with the Quattro Rally Cars, and had brought Michèle Mouton and Stig Blomquist to the venue.

You see me here chatting with Michèle Mouton before having a demo drive with her at the wheel in her Quattro Rally machine…

Sweet memories!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

My unforgettable drive with the Giulia Super over the Alps on the way to the Monza Grand Prix in September 1970…

Here I stand proudly as a 23 year old behind the driver’s door of the Alfa Giulia Super, with my nephew looking into the ravine of the Great Saint Bernard pass…

There are epic moments, already in the young life of a car enthusiast. I was barely 23 at the time, when I accompanied my father on a drive to attend the 1970 Monza Grand Prix. My father had a Olive Metallic Green 1,6 Giulia Super press test car for the occasion, and I have been smitten for Giulia’s and Alfa’s ever since, as the drive was so magnificent.

My father had his faithful Leicaflex with the 90 mm Summicon – R f 1:2  lens along, and this is the perfect camera to make impressive shots. You see them here.

My father and I had also taken my nephew along, and so we went on our drive, with me doing most of the driving, as my father found that I understood the car very well. Of course we were keen to let the Alfa perform. This meant cruising on  the German Autobahnen and the A27 through Switzerland and the Italian Autostradas at speeds between 150-160 km/h in fifth gear, when the law allowed it of course.

On our route, we decided not to take the Simplon Tunnel, but take the historic road winding over the Great St. Bernard pass itself, which lies a few hundred metres from the Swiss border with Italy, and is only passable from June to September.

Not only was the old classic pass road a dream for the Giulia, with its pleasantly short second and third gears, and I gladly helped the somewhat weaker synchromesh of the gearbox with expert double declutching. Descents were also epic, as this Giulia had already four disk brakes…

I still recall the eager sound and crisp exhaust roar of the 1,6 litre twin cam engine, and, as said, am totally smitten by Alfa’s ever since.

The Monza Grand Prix was rather dramatic. We arrived in Monza on the fifth of September, going down to the track after having got our press permits and parking voucher for our dear Alfa. Only to hear that Jochen Rindt had killed himself during the practice session on that day. He spun into the guardrails after a failure on his car’s brake shaft. He was killed owing to severe throat injuries caused by his seat belt. He was way ahead in points over the rest of the F1 field, so he became the only driver to be posthumously awarded the Formula One World Drivers’ Championship.

The Great Saint Bernard Pass was gruesome in winter, so prayer to our Lord was certainly appropriate…

We show you the photos, and dream away with you on the joys of holding the wheel of this magnificent four door Gran Turismo, which the Giulia was and still is right to this day…

Your servant would love to make a repeat edition of this drive on the Great Saint Bernard Pass with today’s Giulia… that would be truly great!

Hans Knol ten Bensel