The genius of hybrid…

Taking our Lexus CT 200h through its paces showed us again the formidable economy potential that lies in the Toyota/Lexus designed hybrid drivetrain. It took us hardly any effort at all – except of course an anticitipative driving style and avoiding wide throttle openings, to reach a consumption of 4,4 liters/100 km, as we showed earlier, and we were astonished to see the figure even hover briefly lower on a quiet ride to Brussels the next day, to 4,3 liters/100 km.

On the subsequent return trip from Brussels with very heavy stop and go traffic, avoiding brisk accelerations let the CT 200h to use its battery power extensively, we achieved again an average of 4,4 liters/100 km. Indeed, accelerating with restraint, just moving along with the traffic flow, will besides the supportive E-power, also lead the E-CVT to keep choosing the lower rev ranges, and so the Atkinson cycle engine remains very efficient throughout. Remember, this Atkinson cycle also reintroduces cooled exhaust gases into the combustion chambers to make an additional contribution to reduced engine temperatures.

On top of all that, the smooth power transition performed by the E-CVT drivetrain and the low engine noise level contribute to a very “zen” driving experience. We tell you here a bit more of the technical side.  The CT’s transmission plays a large part in the car’s efficiency because it incorporates little more than two motor-generators, some gears and a minimal amount of oil. There are no clutches and none of the friction associated with regular transmissions or the belt-and-pulley types of CVTs employed by a growing number of gas-only cars.

Electronically-controlled continuously variable transmissions

Electronically controlled continuously variable transmissions (E-CVT) offer an infinite number of gears within a broad range of ratios, and simultaneously handle inputs coming from the petrol engine and electric motor.

 

The intelligence of E-CVT is evident by the fact that it selects the optimal – that is, most efficient – gear ratio for any situation by constantly analysing vehicle speed, road conditions, engine power and driver input. When that split-second passes, it moves imperceptibly to the next calculated ratio through a clever combination of planetary gears.

More bodywork beauty soon…

In the meantime, the quote provided by Lexus Wijnegem proved not quite competitive, and we made an appointment in the third week of March with Carrosserie Vercruysse in Halle, near Brussels. Keep looking at our columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We took our Lexus CT200h for a maiden trip through Holland…

Our Lexus proudly shines on its maiden voyage before chateau “de Essenburgh” in Dutch Hierden… 

Nothing better when you get a new car than to take it for an extended trial or “shakedown” run. This magnificent sunny weekend in February proved an excellent occasion to do so. We had driven our Lexus so far only on short distances on mostly urban errands, and so we wanted to see how it performed on longer trips the open road and motorways and how its economy would be.

To tell you right away, our Lexus passed the test with flying colors, and its economy truly surprised us.

It proved to be restful on motorways, with the so easy to use cruise control always a pleasure to use. The car is also remarkably silent, which lets you enjoy the sound system even more.

We took our Lexus near Amersfoort, where my father was born, and stayed at a magnificent small “chateau” between the Ijsselmeer and the Veluwe.

On the trip towards our destination, we averaged 5,5 liters/100 km, but then the earlier urban runs had to averaged out. On the evening return run, heavy traffic made us cruise around 110 km/h or so, but then our Lexus rewarded us with an astonishing 4,4 liters/100 km. Needless to say, this first longer trip now puts a broad smile on our face…

We now await the bodywork repair quote from Lexus Wijnegem, and keep you posted!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We visited Lexus Antwerp with our CT200h

The joy of owning and driving a quality car stands or falls with excellent and prompt service, and so we decided to pay a visit to our local Lexus dealer, in Wijnegem, Antwerp. As our new mount has some minor scratches on its bodywork and alloy wheels as a result of prior usage, we decided to let them have a look at it and ask them for a quote to bring our Lexus again in mint condition.

We were very kindly received by Service Advisor Saskia De Moor, who immediately took photos of the scuffs and scratches, and promised us to send a quote, which we are presently awaiting.

She proudly showed us the recently redesigned sitting area of the showroom, where we enjoyed a coffee, and admired the stylish surroundings.

We also asked her about the difficulty we experience when completing our owner’s profile on the “My Lexus” app, where we hitherto are unable to register the VIN number of our CT200h. She promised us to come back to this issue.

Soon we will hear more, and we will keep you informed!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We collect our Lexus CT 200h…

Our Lexus CT200h stood shining in the showroom, and Dirk Kinot of GMAN Antwerp proudly handed us over the keys… 

It is always a big day when one gets a new car, even when we have driven so many. Last but not least because it will be our own mount, and we will use it for many years to come.

Just mount the license plates and hit the road…

We were again pleased to see its deep blue colour, shining after a careful valet cleaning by the people of Toyota GMAN at IJzerlaan 3 in Antwerp. GMAN had the car fully serviced prior to delivery with the 90.000 km scheduled inspection, and GMAN had installed for us a brand new 12 Volt battery and a new internal lining of the engine hood, as the original one was apparently eaten away at some places by ferrets or animals who apparently just love the fabric . We also received a 1 year, unlimited mileage guarantee.

In the documents, presented to us by Dirk Kinot, of GMAN Antwerp, the full service history was included. The car was regularly serviced by Lexus Waterloo. The car was obviously carefully maintained by its previous owner, and besides the service booklet, the full manual of the car was handed over to us in pristine condition.

These details make the joy of receiving a “new” pre-owned car even greater. The interior of our Lexus was carefully valeted and cleaned, and the textile beige upholstery looks and feels like new. The bodywork has some minute blemishes and scratches in the neighbourhood of the fuel filler cap, on the upper part of the left side rearview mirror, and a barely visible crack in the left outside rear light cluster. Some corrosion is seen on two alloy wheels. All this will soon be attended to… we want our Lexus to look top notch!

Dirk Kinot puts the licence plates on the Lexus… 

We were pleased to see that our Lexus was shod with Semperit M & S all weather tires, which makes our Lexus immediately fit for wintery conditions.

A very promising first drive…

The first meters with our Lexus proved satisfying indeed. We plunged the car straight away into Antwerp city traffic, and we enjoyed immediately the smoothness of its hybrid drivetrain, and on the urban cobblestones we appreciated the tautness of the body, the precision of the steering, which lets us clearly feel that this low-mileage example has never seen any rough treatment. We filled up the tank and will soon take it further through its paces… Stay tuned for more!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

 

 

We drove the Toyota Mirai: part 2

Driving is believing, the saying goes. And at first, we almost couldn’t believe it: this Mirai just drives as smoothly and zestfully as an electric car. Which, actually, it is. Only, it does not take its electricity from batteries, but from a fuel cell. That is indeed, the major difference. This means, that you can refuel it in minutes, and then drive for another 340 kilometers or so. Just like an ordinary petrol engined car. Only it emits water, and nothing else.

Driving it was a refined and thoroughly enjoyable experience, just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Toyota Mirai: part 2”

We drove the Toyota Mirai: the future has truly arrived…Part 1

What better automotive adventures than to spend the last days of the year behind the wheel of a Toyota Mirai? None, we would say. After having enjoyed the smooth and refined qualities of this Mirai – which is Japanese  (未来) for future-  we are truly convinced that Toyota has fully succeeded  to build a thoroughly stunning, reliable, useable fuel cell vehicle, which offers everyday practicality, comfort and a unique driving experience. In this first part, we show and explain its stunning technology.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Toyota Mirai: the future has truly arrived…Part 1”

We bought a used Lexus CT 200h…

We bought a 2012 Lexus CT 200h… for future-proof “green” urban transport! 

Faithful readers know that our sturdy 23 year old Volvo 850 cannot enter the capital of Europe anymore from January 1st 2019 onwards, and that we therefore were looking to replace it with a quality car with a truly future proof propulsion, i.e. in this time and age a hybrid.

We all know that Toyota and last but not least Lexus are building very impressive hybrids for decades now, and therefore this was what we were looking for.

After some thorough market research we discovered that compared to used Priuses, the Lexus CT 200h is offering comparatively good value, and so this is the one we bought ourselves. Just look at the photo above, where it proudly stands in the showroom of Toyota dealer GMAN.

This Lexus was built in 2012, and the odometer reads 82.233 km. It comes with navigation, rear view camera, cruise control, automatic temp control, etc. Soon, i.e. within a few weeks, we will hit the road with it, so stay tuned for regular reports on the (very) “long-term” test of our Lexus, as we are planning to keep it for years to come!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

All is well again with our BMW Z3…

Ready again for beautiful drives in summer Sunshine… 

At the moment of writing, the experts at BMW Jorssen made a swift and expert repair and brought again a broad smile on our face: we are enjoying again undisturbed roadster pleasure in this magnificent summer weather we are having presently.

We suspected rightly some troubles with the master and/or slave cylinder, and we were rather optimistic in believing that bleeding of the system might solve the problems, but alas, when all hydraulic pressure is lost in the system, most of the time more serious things are amiss.

A broken and leaking FAG-made clutch slave cylinder was at fault… 

The experts at Jorssen soon discovered that the clutch slave cylinder was indeed badly leaking and faulty. This slave cylinder is attached with two nuts on the transmission and actuates the clutch. It is manufactured by FAG, which actually belongs to the Schaeffler Group. The FAG brand dates from 1905 and stands for “Fishers Aktien-Gesellschaft.”

The clutch slave cylinder is bolted with two nuts on the tranmission… 

The two brothers Wilhelm and Georg Schaeffler who founded in 1946 INA in Herzogenaurach, took over FAG in 2002 and their firm now has grown to a worldwide giant – the second largest producer of needle bearings in the world – and manufactures amongst other things precision parts like needle bearings, hydraulic valve lifters, hydraulic variable valve timing systems. Did you know that the London Millennium Wheel (also called the London Eye), runs on two massive frictionless bearings made by FAG?

In 2003 LuK (clutches), INA and FAG form the “Schaeffler Group”. It is actually the largest German company which is still exclusively family owned.

But back to our BMW Z3. Because of the leakage, it was feared that some oil would have leaked on the clutch, but I never noticed anything indicating this, and indeed, fortunately the clutch functions perfectly and very progressively.

When the slave cylinder is removed, (see the two loose bolts) one sees clearly the hole where the cylinder is lodged, and where it pushes the clutch in open position with its pin. When mounting this cylinder, one has to be careful that this pin is perfectly centered

The repair bill was very reasonable indeed, with only 20,8 Euros charged for actually removing the old and mounting the new pump, with most of the work – costing almost 89 Euros – being involved in bleeding the hydraulic clutch system. The FAG slave cylinder itself set us back some 129 Euros. We indicate here that these prices here are ex VAT, so 21 % VAT had to be added.

Of course, the hydraulic brake fluid – DOT4 spec- was replaced, as the hydraulic system of the clutch takes its hydraulic fluid from the brake reservoir, and the people at Jorssen was even were so meticulous to also top up  coolant and windscreen spray fluid reservoirs.

The car was repaired in a day, so needless to say we were very pleased with the very swift service.

We will keep you posted, dear reader, on the further life of our Z3, and in the meantime we plan to contact the press officer in our country of the Schaeffler Group, with some questions about service life and eventual maintenance of their FAG clutch slave cylinders… we are very curious indeed!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

Our cars: clutch problems with our BMW Z3…

Our Z3 was towed to BMW Dealer Jorssen with a non functioning clutch…

A torn muscle prevented us for a while to drive our BMW Z3, and with things now having been cured after a necessary rest, it was now time for driver and car to take an exercise run again and flex our legs…

On another shakedown tour we noticed already that the gear changes were a bit difficult, and we decided to have another test today. Startup and the first kilometers were flawless, but at a roundabout the clutch refused all functions, and the pedal had a light, “dead” feeling, meaning indeed that the clutch did not separate at all anymore and hydraulic pressure was lost in the system, with the result that changing gears proved impossible.

It so happed (luck has it) that we were quite close – at walking distance – to the Jorssen dealer where we had brought the Z3 last time to have rubber items replaced and our glove box lock repaired, and so we went there, to hear that they provided no towing service. Fortunately, we are booked at KBC Bank Assistance Service, and they provided swift, kind and efficient help. They brought the car to BMW Jorssen, where it now awaits repair…

Most probably it will be necessary bo bleed the clutch system, as air in the clutch hydraulics can make the system quite stubborn to function, it at all. Bleeding the slave cylinder might do it, pushing in the piston manually with the bleeder valve open, then close it, let the piston come out again totally, then push again, open the bleeder and watch the hydraulic fluid come out. Repeat this several times, and resistance will increase, (which you will feel in your clutch pedal) until the air is out and the system is bleeded.

We will see what the experts will tell us! Of course, we will keep you posted!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

 

Our cars: the BMW Z3 gets a cosmetic update and passes technical control with flying colors…

aIMG_2936s

Our Z3 proudly posing in front of the technical control centre, after it had passed the test with flying colors. Note the wheel badges and the nicer looking short antenna…

We told you last time in our column “Our Cars” that we went to Jorssen NV with our cherished Z3, where Jeroen Van der Reeth had made us an offer for the repair(s). On March 9 we were kindly received and told that the repair(s) would take a day. Due to family circumstances we could only collect the car after the weekend, which proved useful, as service manager Roel Smets had contacted us on March 9 in the afternoon that the door grip rubbers had to be re-ordered, as they were not correctly ordered originally.

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New wheel badges, antenna and as new looking door handles and its proper rubber surroundings…

So we found our Z3 back next Monday, proudly bearing new wheel badges and a new short external “BMW Sport” antenna, and of course the correct rubber surroundings of the door handles. The final bill of 379,13  Euros correctly matched the original offer, safe for the slight extra for the correct door handle rubbers, and we found all this very reasonable indeed, as it included VAT, labor and parts. The glove box lock had also been replaced, and this had taken only 15 minutes, with the lock and cylinder only setting us back 71,17 Euros. The new wheel badges with its proper chromed surroundings cost only 10,74 Euros a piece. We were very pleased with the result, and it also shows the excellent spare parts policy of BMW, offering original factory spares at very reasonable prices of a (US built) BMW of a good 20 years old now, with last but not least excellent repair times. Replacing the antenna – the shorter new one works better with the car cover and has also improved looks, took only 30 minutes.

aIMG_2938s

With a properly functioning glove box it was now time to check in for the annual technical control, where our BMW Z3 met with admiring looks and comments. Of course everything was OK, with the inspection people commenting “what a fantastic car”, when they scrutinized the car (also) underneath.

So now we are all set for pleasant spring and summer drives…stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel