In our stable we also have some “French” cars, which live in our French country house, where they serve as holiday transport when we enjoy “time out” in la Douce France. One of these is a 1998 A Class 160 with a five speed automatic which we bought used now more than 14 years ago and which has seen intensive (professional) daily use by my wife for more than a decade; it has since 3 years found a new home in France. It is an ideal fit for the winding roads in the French Midi, its zesty 1,6 litre petrol engine is well mated to the auto box, and it is our favoured transport for outings and shopping.
In France, older cars have to pass a
“contrôle technique” every two years, and they are checked for brakes,
steering, windows/wipers, lights, suspension, chassis corrosion, seats and seat
belts, interior, all commands, door locks, etc. With of course last but not
least brake efficiency and emissions testing included. The multinational SGS
actually is the company organising technical car controls under its “securitest”
label in France and the test items and procedures can be found on their website
Our trusted A Class passed the test with flying colours, not very surprising as the car is properly maintained. The “contrôle technique” is done by appointment, so you don’t waste any time, and is concluded by a very kind and detailed personal comment about the points which need attention on the car in the coming two years. On our A Class, it was the condition of the last muffler and of course brake pads, although not critical, the latter which indeed are due for renewal within the coming months.
So our A Class, with now 248.000 km on the
clock, is soldiering on still further!
Our personal Lexus CT200h is demonstrating its amazing economy ever more.
On a recent 96 km summer trip along scenic
coastal roads in our low countries, we reached a new personal low of… 3,9
Of course we were driving with anticipation, taking full advantage of the hybrid system, but moving along with the pace of holiday traffic, and with the airco full ablaze in the recent hotter (heat wave) weather. So nothing special there.
You can also read this on the instagram page of Lexus Belux, who were so kind, after we told them enthusiastically about our feats, to mention it also on their page…
Stopping under the tree shadow, in front of the church at Humain…
Summer has arrived, and therefore it is time to get our cars out for long drives. We didn’t hesitate when the invitation dropped in our mailbox from her Royal Highness Princess Léa of Belgium and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Belgium to get our BMW up and ready for a drive to her Château in Humain (close to Marche-en-Famenne), where we would start for a 120 km long trip through the scenic Ardennes roads and enjoy a subsequent Garden Party and dinner at the grounds of the castle.
Our BMW was of course fit for the trip, and we enjoyed its smooth pulling power and excellent road manners on the winding roads through dramatic countryside’s and historic village centres.
Magnificent vieuws, like the Tombeau du Géant at Bouillon…
As this was a touristic drive with no emphasis on performance or speed, we adopted a more leisurely driving style, and our BMW with its 140 HP 2 litre petrol engine rewarded us with an average consumption over the 443 km trip of a good 6,6 litres/100 km, which goes a long way to demonstrate that also more than 20 years ago, engine thermal efficiency was not an idle word.
On our afternoon 120 km circuit, we stopped for coffee at the Hostellerie Le Charme de la Semois, at B-5550 Alle-sur-Semois
Don’t forget, this engine has double overhead camshafts, ideally shaped combustion chambers with 4 valves per cylinder and electronic multi-point injection, just like its present day brothers. For refinement, it also has a balancing shaft, so this rather big four is smooth as a straight six both at low and high revs, which brings of course even more pleasure at the wheel…
We just let you enjoy the photos, with
understandably, for reasons of discretion, no photos of the royal castle and
Just an update on our (faithful) cars.
Whist our Lexus is setting ever better economy records, achieving as low as 4,1
liters/100 km, the BMW Z3 also shows its mettle. After the repair of the seat sensor
for the airbag, it passed the technical inspection without a hitch.
Just ready now again for a nice summer
season of (open) motoring!
Our beloved Z3 is healthy again, and the service experts at BMW Jorssen in Aartselaar diagnosed that the reason why the airbag lamp stayed lit was the passenger seat sensor. It is manufactured by SBE Elektronik for BMW, and ceased its service after so many years.
Of course, diagnosing and detecting the reason why the airbag telltale lamp stayed on takes also some time, and eventual malfunctions in the electrical system also need then to be checked.
It proved to be the sensor mat in the passenger seat, and this needed to be replaced. Locating the fault, removing and replacing the mat and making a final check up cost us in total 295 €, ex VAT.
The actual sensor mat cost 178,80 € ex VAT, and the steering electronics of the seat sensor set us back another 58,80 €.
But now our Z3 is ready for another great
season! Keep posted for further reports!
The B Class is everything a Mercedes stands for, and embodies it admirably: space, superb finish and workmanship, a high quality drivetrain, high level comfort and refinement for its class, longevity and economy.
It is quite versatile with its wide choice
of drivetrains and engines, and has in its recent facelift received a sportier
stance externally, combined with a futuristic dashboard makeover, sporting the
latest trends in driving info, connectivity and (info)entertainment.
The B Class stays also young at heart with new
state of the art diesel and petrol engines, and this time we opted for diesel
propulsion, and discover with you what it has to offer presently in terms of
economy and environmental qualities. Just read on…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
A new user experience in front of your eyes…
Besides the altered exterior, which is clearly more dynamic, and sporting, certainly in the AMG version, it is the new avant-garde interior makes for a unique feeling of space, with the distinctive design of the instrument panel. The intuitive user interface of the adaptive MBUX multimedia system is quite impressive, and its strong points include brilliant graphics, “Hey Mercedes” voice control, a standard touch screen and functions such as MBUX Augmented Reality.
The almost endless features and possibilities fitted in the premium, “chique” designed clusters and screens impressed us. Many features are taken from the S Class, and the user experience is quite stunning.
The cutout in front of the driver houses the fully free-standing display unit, which comes in three different versions: with two 7-inch displays (17.78 cm), with one 7- and one 10.25-inch display (26 cm) and, in the Widescreen version, with two 10.25-inch displays. A head-up display is optionally available.
We chose for our test driving the map display on the screen in front of us, with map/music info on the central screen. But a wide array of functions are available, last but not least the voice command. The system is called MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) multimedia system, its ability to learn thanks to Artificial Intelligence makes the system unique.
It has touch screen control as standard as well as, depending on equipment, a high-resolution Widescreen cockpit, navigation display with Augmented Reality technology plus intelligent voice control with natural speech recognition, which is activated by saying “Hey Mercedes”. The touch screen is part of the integrated MBUX touch control concept – a trio consisting of touch screen, touchpad on the centre console (optional) and touch controls on the steering wheel.
The latter feel like your faithful old Blackberry or early Samsung smartphones, soon you get again used to this somewhat “vintage” touch.
You can play endlessly on the screens, and as the photos show, choose for example in which emotive environment or “theme world” you want to be in: to travel, to experience, drive economically and efficient, etc. You can check every instant of your drive how much power and torque your engine delivers, you can see in front of you your (city) driving score, choose your driving modes, Individual, sport, comfort or eco…
State of the art diesel power…
The transverse-mounted version of the two-litre OM 654q diesel engine with 110 kW and 140 kW celebrates a clean début: It is the first engine to fulfil the Euro 6d norm, which is only mandatory for new models as of 2020. It has an aluminium crankcase and stepped-bowl combustion process. It meets this Euro 6d standard thanks to extended exhaust after treatment with an additional underfloor SCR catalyst. With a cylinder spacing of just 90 mm instead of 94 mm, the new engine is more compact than its predecessor thus allowing the exhaust after treatment components to be installed directly on the engine, where the exhaust temperature is higher, making for more efficient after treatment.
It is a very smooth unit, unobtrusive also when cold, and offers not only utter docility, which is ideal in urban traffic, but also plenty of zest and power. It develops 110 kW/150 hp between 3400 and 4400 rpm, and has a healthy torque of 320 Nm between 1400 and 3200 rpm. Put it in the dynamic mode, and you will know what we mean. This B 200d is certainly no sluggard: 0 to 100 km/h is absolved in 8,3 seconds, and top speed is a very impressive 219 km/h.
The new B-Class is initially available exclusively with dual-clutch transmissions. New here is the eight-speed 8G-DCT, which is used in combination with the diesel engine. It is, in good Mercedes tradition, smooth, alert and efficient.
This translates also in very good (urban)
consumption figures: the manufacturer quotes between 4,2 and 4,5 l/100 km
combined, and we had no trouble to stay within the 5-6 l/100 km range. CO2
emissions are also quite reasonable with values between 112 and 119 g/km.
The pleasant high seating position make the B Class a very nice car to drive in town, and certainly female and older drivers appreciate it. It is of course also very well at home on the Autobahnen, an excellent Gran Turismo car it certainly is, with seating comfort also beyond reproach. If you are in a hurry on winding roads, the B-Class is also an excellent companion. Its chassis copes well with the kinetic forces of spirited driving, and handling is utterly stable and totally predictable.
In all versions of the new B-Class, the front wheels feature McPherson struts and forged-aluminium wishbones, to which are attached cast-aluminium steering knuckles. In combination with the more powerful engine variants or if the customer opts for one of the optional suspension systems, use is made of a sophisticated four-link rear axle.
The new B-Class comes as standard with
extended Active Brake Assist, which can help mitigate the severity of rear-end
collisions with slower-moving, stopping or stationary vehicles ahead – and now
even with crossing pedestrians or cyclists – or prevent them altogether. Of
course, a host of driving assistance modes and functions are available, last
but not least our test car was equipped with park assist, for instance.
The rear seat backrest comes as standard with a 40:20:40 split. Depending on version, from mid-2019 it will be possible to slide the rear seats forward by 14 centimetres and to move the backrest into a more upright position to vary the capacity of the luggage compartment behind the rear seats between 455 and 705 litres. With the rear seat folded down and luggage loaded to the roof, the luggage compartment, which is flat thanks to the adjustable load compartment floor, can accommodate up to 1,540 litres behind the front seats.
The B-Class is now also more dynamic on the outside. The slightly lowered roof line and larger, 16- to 19-inch wheels making for dynamic proportions. The relatively squat, progressive front end marks the second generation B-Class visually. Low-profile headlamps, the inside of which is already high-grade, detailed and precisely designed on the basic model with H7 headlamps and LED daytime running lights. When ordered with LED headlamps or higher, the B-Class comes with its own daytime running light signature in the form of a double torch.
At the back, the width of the vehicle is accentuated by two-part lamps, reflectors integrated in the bumper and a distinctive black bumper bottom section. The large roof spoiler, along with high-gloss black spoilers at the sides of the rear window, add also an air of sportiness. We liked it!
The B-Class breathes harmony and indeed offers all the intrinsic superb qualities of a Mercedes. It brings you also the future world of infotainment, combined with the electronic cleverness and safety and comfort which we only expected from top range (S-Class) models of the brand.
Combine this with practicality, future proof economy and reliability, and you will agree that this B-Class is indeed the most clever choice you can make when you want to spend your motoring life behind a three pointed star. By the way, I bought the previous generation B-Class for my wife, two years ago. And it continues to put a broad smile on her face…
It seems clearly that hybrids just love slow, busy traffic, the type of driving situations we live through nowadays more and more frequently. This was again amply proven by our faithful and shining Lexus CT 200h, which after its cosmetic treatment now serves as our very frequent transport. We drove it on the 3rd of April amidst heavy rain showers from Brussels to Antwerp, with stop and go traffic on almost half the route, and slow traffic on the rest of the journey. Soothed by the excellent sound system and the smooth drivetrain, the Lexus driving experience remains a (very) pleasant one, in all driving conditions, and certainly these described above.
And we continued to smile when we saw the average consumption on this rain drenched journey, with ventilation, headlights and windscreen wipers full ablaze: merely 4,2 liters/100 km. It again proves how good the Lexus/Toyota hybrid concept is… quod erat demonstrandum!
Needless to say that we are very pleased with our pre-owned Lexus, and of course we want it also to look absolutely spotless. So we decided to let it have a good beauty treatment, and we got some expert advice on our choice where to go. Carrosserie Vercruysse in Halle was suggested, and with good reason, as they perform repairs on the car fleet of Toyota and Lexus “Try and Buy” centre. Of course we checked also others, like Lexus Wijnegem for instance, but Carrosserie Vercruysse proved to be the most competitive here.
We are quite pleased with the excellent results, and we tell you more about how the repairs were done…read on!
The green leaves are slowly emerging on the trees, and so it is high time that we take our beloved BMW Z3 out of its winter sleep. We had carefully kept the battery charged, and so our BMW sprang to life immediately out of its winter beauty sleep. The engine immediately set into a very smooth idle, and our first drive was as sweet as we could ever wish.
One snag however, the warning lamp of the
airbag stayed lit, and so we have it inspected this Wednesday at BMW Jorssen.
Just stay tuned on these pages to see and read how everything works out…
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 (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!