We drove the Skoda Superb Scout 2.0 TSI 200 kW DSG 4×4: stylish panache and sportiness…

Whatever the wheater and road conditions, this Scout is your ideal companion…Shot with our second hand Olympus in bad light conditions, ISO 400, F 6,3, 1/125 sec.

Classic recipes will always stay superb. This top end Skoda literally embodies it, and its badge tells it all…

It was a unique and refreshing experience to sit behind the wheel of this well engineered break and enjoy to the full what a modern, state of the art combustion engine can accomplish in combination with an equally top notch DSG gearbox . Push the starting knob and your ears already enjoy the humming sound of this thoroughbred four. This engine excels in smooth refinement, panache, pulling power and efficiency.

The rest of the drivetrain is up to the mark. The DSG seven speed box is alert, smooth, and always puts judiciously the right gear forward. The 4 x 4 drive consists of the state of the art Haldex system. Typically, 96 % of the total power is directed to the front, improving fuel efficiency. Depending on the road conditions, the electronic sensors redirect power to the wheels that have sufficient traction. The Haldex AWD has been seen on the Octavia since about a decade, but this is the first time it is coupled to a DSG gearbox.

This Superb has personality…

OLYMPUS E-510, ISO 400, F 5,5, shot at remarkably low 1/15 of a sec at 70 mm equivalent, showing how the image stabilizer does an excellent job…

This is a car with character. Inviting you to experience its punch and performance, yet remaining docile and refined in urban driving. It will respond beautifully when you push your right foot a bit further down, but will not protest when you subject it to endless stop and go traffic.

OLYMPUS E-510 F 5,5, ISO 400, 1/10 sec and 54 mm equivalent. Amazing sharpness due to stabilizer…

Performance leaves nothing to be desired. 200 kW or 272 HP see to that. It sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 5,7 seconds, hurtling further to a top speed of 250 km/h. Pulling power is abundant over a very wide rev range, with 350 Nm being available between 2000 and 5400 rpm. Almost supercar performance, which is matched by excellent handling. This Superb will not protest when you decide to take it through its paces on winding roads, the judicious set up of the suspension clearly shows. Of course, the VW group and also even more Skoda borrows from a massive engineering and last but not least sporting rally experience of their cars, and they really know how to set up a decent handling car.

OLYMPUS E-510, ISO 400, F 4,9, 1/40 sec.

The straight line stability is also excellent, and high speed driving in this Superb is a relaxing affair.

Last but not least, the brakes are of course also up to the job.           

…and is immensely practical

Of course, fuel consumption is very much in function of how much power you use. Drive this Scout with some restraint, and it will quite naturally reward you with reasonable consumption figures.

OLYMPUS E-510, F 5,6, 1/20 sec at 65 mm equivalent. Image stabilizer working hard…

The manufacturer quotes 9 litres/100 km in urban driving, and this is easily surpassed in the region of 11-12 litres when the distances are very short and the engine has not reached its operating temperature. But keep the throttle openings small and the DSG will faithfully choose higher gears and keep the revs (very) low, and then this Scout will chalk up creditable figures. On the open road, the picture looks a lot brighter, with the manufacturer quoting 6 liters/100 km. On average, we reached 7,5 liters/100 km, with mostly relaxed driving.

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But as said, this Superb Scout is immensely usable. Not afraid of open terrain, it will transport five and their luggage.

OLYMPUS E-510 CAMERA, ISO 400, F 3,7, 1/13 sec.

And, in the good Skoda tradition, boot space is plentiful. From 660 liters to 1950 liter. Head room and leg room for the rear passengers has also to be experienced to be believed.

OLYMPUS E 510 CAMERA, ISO 400, F 5,6, 1/50 sec.

Of course, driving assistance systems and infotainment are up to scratch. The central display can be ordered from 8 up to 9.2 inches, and the top of the range Columbus system, found in our test car, offers 3D navigation, Skoda connect, gesture control and Wi-Fi hotspot. We enjoyed the Canton sound system too…

OLYMPUS E 510 CAMERA, ISO 400, F 5,6, 1/80 sec.

Besides the usual driver assistance systems, like lane assist, adaptive cruise control, practical items include 2 USB ports in the front, 2 USB ports and 230 v socket in the rear, inductive charging of your phone, just to name a few. Then there is the cooled glove box, space for 1,5 liter bottles in all the doors, and space also for your coloured safety vest…

Conclusion

OLYMPUS E-510, ISO 400, F 5, 1/30 sec.

A formidable, sporting companion, this Scout, on all the roads you may take to any destination in this wide world. It has a formidable combustion engine, and one should not forget, this is what more than 90 pct of us all still drives. It certainly has its evident merits, if only one considers the CO2 footprint of making large(r) batteries, and depending on what car you need for your lifestyle and driving habits. It is beautifully built, solid and reliable, well equipped, offering tons of space. It looks (very) good too, and its sporting panache could put a (broad) smile on your face for a very long time…actually, every time you take its wheel, for years on end.

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

We drove the Mercedes E 300 de Estate: hybrid cleverness under the good star…

The Mercedes E 300 de is stylish and versatile hybrid. The photos here are shot with our second hand Olympus SLR E-510, f 7.2, 1/160 s, 200 ASA. Up to scratch!

When the oldest car manufacturer in the world goes hybrid, you can expect the best. Indeed, they use the adage in their marketing language: “the best or nothing”. And they use it…not for nothing. This we could experience behind the wheel of a sleek E Class estate, where under the hood the well proven 2 litre 4 cylinder diesel is married in hybrid fashion to a powerful electric engine. The result is indeed the (very) best of both worlds. Impressive to say the least. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Mercedes engineers and strategists put their heads together and had a long hard look at what a Mercedes hybrid in today’s world has to be capable of in order to respond to the needs of its clients. It is well known that the E class sedans and estates with the good star are driven frequently at long(er) distances, and therefore the diesel engine is a (very) logical choice.

Diesel and E-power are closely married under the bonnet…

It is also a fact that this hybrid Mercedes has to be “city proof” for years to come, and therefore has to be able to drive quite reasonable distances in the city centre on lively E-power. So the choice was obvious: the well proven 2 litre four cylinder 191 HP diesel engine known from the E 220 d is also adopted here, but now alongside it is a 122 HP electric motor, which delivers more than enough zest with its 440 Nm torque.

One can monitor the energy flow on the screen…

The diesel unit doesn’t lack pulling power either, and has an impressive 400 Nm of torque. Both engines do not develop their maximum power at the same time, but nevertheless total maximum system power is not less than 302 hp and 700 Nm. You understand that this means excellent performance: your are catapulted from 0 to 100 in 5,9 seconds, and top speed is 250 km/h.

Hybrid power the Mercedes way

But the true panache of this Mercedes is the completely effortless way this performance is delivered, and the excellent comfort it offers to its inhabitants, whatever the distance travelled and the quality of the roads encountered.  

The virtual instrumentation lets you choose between displays… we liked this futuristic the most.

A reasonable action radius in urban E driving is therefore a must, and with a 13.5 kW battery Mercedes has done what is needed to achieve this. According to the altogether realistic WLTP cycle, this E 300 de can drive on E power over a distance of about 50 km.

When you charge the battery while driving, consumption goes up, here to an average of 7,5 litres/100 km, whilst gaining 3,9 kWh/100 km…

We did not quite achieve this with the heavier estate version, but came very close indeed. This means that in practice it is quite possible to meet even the strictest urban LEZ standards for years to come, as you can drive solely on E power.

But that is not all. With the push of a button on the central console, you can select between drive modes, and besides «E mode» and «Hybrid» you can opt for “E-save” and “Charge”.  

This means you can also opt to keep the battery charged at a chosen level, or even (re)charge the battery partially or fully while driving, so that you can build up enough charge to drive later a chosen distance on electric power in the city. Very clever, this absolute versatility. On top of all that, the efficiency of the diesel engine lets you chalk up very reasonable consumption figures even during this battery (re)charging on the move, staying for instance in open road driving conditions between 6,5 and 7 litres/100 km. This is about 1l/100 km more than in non-hybrid driving, which you achieve when opting for “E-save”. Of course the hybrid mode will still improve this fuel consumption, but it costs you Kilowatts…  

  

The fuel consumption varies evidently with the use of the plug-in function, and indeed it is in practice quite possible to use this E 300 as an urban electric car in a short distance scenario with frequent plug-in recharging. A neatly placed plug at the right side rear end of the car makes this recharging a breeze. In these driving circumstances, you hardly use the Diesel power, and therefore your fuel consumption will be very low.

CO2 Emissions are as low as 41 g/km, according to the WLTP cycle.  

Creature comfort

The E class Mercedes has built itself an enviable reputation as a comfortable and spacious long distance runner, and here only superlatives are called for. The suspension is set up slightly firmer to cope with the 300 kg additional weight. Very good stability is the result, with hardly any noticeable drop in comfort levels. This E Class will still excel in ironing out those frost ridden roads…

State of the art infotainment and driving aids.

The state of the art digital instruments and panoramic infoscreen across the dashboard are now becoming a hallmark for the three starred brand, as well as the commands on the steering wheel. The host of driving aids are also setting industry standards.

The steering wheel commands have state-of-the art ergonomy…

Our Mercedes came with Parktronic, an excellent head-up display, 360° camera, speed limit assistant, adaptive cruise control, collision prevention assist plus, PRE-SAFE intelligent anticipation for accidents, you name it. Of course adaptive headlight beam assistant is also provided.   

You are also pampered in the cabin: our test car came with the Burmester Surround sound system, Keyless Go, Easy pack electro-hydraulic rear boot lid, Premium ambiente mood lighting of the interior, a panoramic sunroof, and your eyes are spoilt in the AMG line interior with panels of open-pore ash wood and last but not least an analogue clock.The seats in Artico Leather and Dyamica black microfibre have 4-way adjustable lumbar support, and not to forget the dashboard surfaces are clad in Artico leather.  

Luxury: an analogue clock on open pore ash wood

GPS and GSM antenna’s are present, Apple Car Play and Android Auto as well as inductive charging of your phone is also included.

The exterior is also adorned with an AMG line package, with a matte Disegno Selenite grey Magno paint, which suited the test car very well.

Unsurprisingly, this puts the all-in price tag of our test car well above 70.000 Euros excluding VAT, but let it be said that a standard, reasonably well equipped E 300 de Break can be had in our country for 56.700 Euro (excluding VAT) at the time of writing.

Conclusion

A very impressive hybrid, which lets you enjoy E-propulsion just where you need it, in urban traffic. On the open road, you are to enjoy the smooth and frugal Diesel power, and this is one of the good reasons you drive a car with the good star. Of course this hybrid is all the more useful and appropriate when you include a fair share of urban driving in your motoring life.

Olympus E-510, F 10, 1/250 sec, 200 ASA

The Mercedes is a quality car built to the most exacting standards with legendary robustness and longevity, designed to move you over short or long distances in comfort and safety, and this is exactly what this break does.

On top of that, it is well styled, roomy and practical. Need we say more?

Hans Knol ten Bensel   

Photo comments: we used our “new” second hand E-510 Olympus with its standard zoom lens for these shots, and as you see, the results are quite up to scratch… See the presentation of this camera in our columns…

We took our Olympus E-510 DSLR to Bologna…

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As we announced, we packed the Olympus along on its first mission, reporting on the clever 500 and Panda Mild Hybrid.

Taking shots in the beautiful town centre of Bologna with its truly stunning historic buildings and its people was a boon for this smooth operating Olympus.

We just show you here the results of the photo sessions. The 10 megapixel sensor of the Olympus did an excellent job, and with the noise reduction engaged, the photo quality was outstanding also at higher ISO values.

To be on the safe side, we took also the compact Canon along, which we still used by the way for the driving and presentation shots at the Fiat press conference. We were also not sure the battery of the older Olympus would hold, as we bought the camera “as is” and we didn’t know whether this original battery would have enough stamina and staying power. Now we know, after a good week without recharging, it does!

The Olympus proved surprisingly well up to the job. All the photos shown here are without any colour or contrast correction, shot at 0 exposure compensation. We show you here the portrait photo of two students of the Bologna Law faculty, who were celebrating their graduation, hence the laurels in their heads… The picture was taken at 54 mm focal length (35 mm equivalent) stop F5,shutter 1/60 and ISO-400 sensitivity.   

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We also climbed the world famous Bologna Asinelli tower, which is not less than 97,2 meters high, and you need to climb not less than 498 steps… Here the Olympus 14-42 mm lens coped very well with high light contrasts in the staircase, with very little lens flare, and the in-built image stabilization did its job as here the shutter speed was as slow as 1/3 of a sec, with ISO-400 and 28 mm focal length (35 mm equiv.)

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Arrived at the top of the tower, we took a shot of the rooftops through the grilles, with the evening setting in rapidly. Lens opening F 5,3, again a slow shutter speed of 1/15 sec, ISO-400, 70 mm focal length, 35 mm equiv.

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We stayed at the Art Hotel Orologio, situated in a traffic-free area overlooking Piazza Maggiore square and Bologna’s historic center. The photo was taken early the next morning, F 4,3, 1/40 sec, ISO-400 and focal length 42 mm, 35 mm equivalent. Tonal values and contrast were well contained and balanced.

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Last but not least we took a photo of the tower of the Palazzo d’Accursio (or Palazzo Comunale) from our hotel room window, which we then in post processing converted to b&w. There is still some detail in the shadows, as you see. High contrast is well mastered. This palace once formulated to house major administrative offices of the city of Bologna. The building is located on the Piazza Maggiore, and is the city’s Town Hall.

Besides its functions as a town hall, it also houses the Civic Art Collection, with paintings from the Middle Ages to the 19th century; there you find also the Museo Morandi, with the works by Giorgio Morandi; and last but not least there is the Biblioteca Salaborsa, the town libraries.

The photo was taken with ISO set at 100, F8, 1/160 sec, focal length 62 mm, again 35 mm equivalent.

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Finally a street shot of some illuminated texts spanning over the streets, F 4,9, ISO-200 and taken at 1/50 sec, focal length 54 mm (35 mm equiv.) The building to the left was under restoration and therefore clad with a protective canvas.

The Olympus showed now already what it can do with the 14-42 mm lens, next time we take the telelens through its paces!

Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Is it worth to buy and use an older digital camera?

We bought for barely more than 100 Euros a pristine Olympus E-510….

We are using regularly our faithful Canon G 9 X, which has now shot thousands and thousands of pictures and is still soldiering on fine.

But then, what if it breaks down on an important photo shoot? Is a cheaper but sturdy backup not useful? Bringing along the big Nikons or Canons is not always the practical answer either, so we were looking for something just a little bit more compact. We love the “sturdy” touch and feel of an old school SLR however, so when we stumbled in an Antwerp photo shop on an older  Olympus E-510 with two lenses, we took a closer look.

The camera body and lenses were looking immaculate and pristine, totally “as new”, with all the controls working smoothly. Also the lenses moved smoothly in their barrels, no traces of use on the focus rings, no grease or dirt, just nothing which betrays any unloving previous use. Also the base of the camera body had never seen any rough surfaces, as it was totally scratch-free.

The asking price for the camera body with both lenses and their lens hoods was some 129 Euros, and this convinced us to risk this purchase. We also have a fairly good range for the two lenses, 14-42 mm and 40-150 mm respectively. One has to multiply the focal length by two to get the 35 mm equivalent. This means we have a focal range of 28 to 300 mm, which is not bad for this price.        

In good Olympus tradition, the camera body is compact , and for its day and age, it had some impressive specifications. It features sensor cleaning, image stabilization in the camera body (using Gyro sensors to register camera shake, with supersonic wave drive motor then moving the image sensor to compensate) , and the rear electronic screen can also act as a viewfinder, a special feature then, now of course totally common on our cameras.

The focus and exposure modes are impressive, the 10 megapixel 4/3 type Live MOS sensor is quite OK and after taking some convincing test shots we decide to take it along on our next photo assignment to Bologna, where we will drive the Mild Hybrid Panda and 500.

Just stay tuned to have a look at the photos of our “new” bargain Olympus soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

Alfa Romeo exhibits dramatic photos of a “Long Drive” with the Stelvio at the Brussels Sablon…

It is the dream of many: take an iconic thoroughbred for an extended Gran Turismo tour or “Long Drive” through the most beautiful roads and cities of Europe and take some stunning photos as a timeless memory of the car amidst the scenic places and landscapes on the tour…

This is just what celebrated photographer Frederik Herregods did, on a “Long Drive” of 7.000 kilometres behind the wheel of an Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.2 JTDm 180 pk Super, magnificently sprayed in « Verde Visconti », with matching beige leather interior with wooden inlays on the dashboard and door panels.

Frederik Herregods has to travel a lot, and along with the mission of attending the presentation of the B-tech versions of the Stelvio in Turin, Frederik needed a media car to photograph a rally with supercars organised by the Royal Automobile Club de Belgique (RACB). This would take him through different legendary cities like Bormio, Andorra, Carcassonne, Toulouse, Montpellier, Arles en Saint-Tropez, en finally Brussels and the Zoute Grand Prix, held from 4 to 7 October, where Alfa Romeo is present every year.

The idea came, together with the dynamic PR people of Alfa Romeo Belgium, to wrap this in a project “The Long Drive”, where the car could be extensively tested on its reliability and economy, and in the meantime illustrate this with lasting photos.

The result can be seen in an exhibition held until March 17 in the 9Hotel  Sablon, a premium boutique hotel which has been opened only three years ago in the heart of Brussels.

We had a long talk with the hotel management at the opening of this exhibition, and were very impressed by the outstanding quality of the personal service and the unique artistic design of the hotel and its rooms.

The management organises regularly photo exhibitions, so it was only logical that the exhibition was held here. The visitor can even book a special personalized room Alfa Romeo « The Long Drive »… need we say more? We invite you here to have a look at the photos taken by your servant at the opening of the exhibition…

Practical info: Address: 9Hotel Sablon, Rue de la Paille, 2 , 1000 Brussels. Exhibition runs until March 17.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

 

The Abarth 124 shines already in 2019 with a FIA R-GT Cup Win in the Monte Carlo Rally…

Whilst we are driving now the stunning and totally impressive Abarth 124 GT, the news reaches us that the 2019 racing season began with success for Abarth in the FIA R-GT Cup in the Monte Carlo Rally, where the Abarth 124 rally driven by Italians Enrico Brazzoli and Manuel Fenoli reached top position.

This makes the Abarth 124 rally again the GT to beat in its category, having won in 2018 with Frenchmen Raphael Astier and Frédéric Vauclare who can be considered the world championship of this category… Just read on and look at the photos!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “The Abarth 124 shines already in 2019 with a FIA R-GT Cup Win in the Monte Carlo Rally…”

Quantum leap in Turin: the new generation Fiat 500X gets a new heart…

The redesigned and rejuvenated 500X, Italian’s Crossover bestseller, starts also a new epoch in state-of-the-art petrol engine engineering, with a new generation of so-called “FireFly” engines. This is innovative engine design at its best, and we will very probably see this new generation of engines soon in other models of the FCA group.
The engine was a true revelation for us, but this is not all. The 500X has gained in style and character, has now even more original “Cinquecento” content. It now carries an impressive standard equipment in driving aids and infotainment, and has more style than ever.
Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “Quantum leap in Turin: the new generation Fiat 500X gets a new heart…”

We drove the BMW X3 xDrive20i: again a class of its own…

With the X series model range, BMW is certainly making its mark in the SUV class. The X3 has gained already not less than 1,5 million followers all over the globe and understandably expectations are very high indeed when a successor enters the field.

The third generation of the iconic X3 range made its entry a few months ago in 2017, and we tested – in the trend of the times – the petrol engined 2 litre version, and were truly impressed by the utter refinement, smoothness and power of the drivetrain.

But that is not all, the subtly restyled body and the further perfected suspension add the necessary ingredients to make this X3 again a winner. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the BMW X3 xDrive20i: again a class of its own…”

We added a Nikon 5600 to our camera stable…

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Looking for improved DSLR connectivity with a smartphone, and still having that trusted Nikon image quality, we opted lately for the Nikon 5600. We did not have yet a DSLR with a moveable screen to enable selfie videos for vlogging, so this was also a good reason to have a go here. It came with a Nikon 18-140 mm lens, which makes it also very versatile. With the 1,5 focal length multiplier, this actually boils down to 27-210 mm.

Here follows our story of unpacking and the first weeks of use…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Compact body

What we liked first was the compactness of the body, and the nice “feel” of the grip.  Nikon has nevertheless found room for a 3.2″ touchscreen. This screen comes in quite handy when shooting with your right eye, as the right-hand side of the rear LCD can be swiped to position the initial AF point. It’s got a good autofocus system (39 points) which performs wonderfully in terms of simply being given a target and then left to the job of keeping that subject in focus.

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Excellent images

Of course, Nikon excellence also comes with the 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor, giving also lively and quite good images, also in JPEG format.

It has also 1080/60p video capability, and what’s more, a time-lapse movie feature.

Of course, one of the good features of a DSLR is its battery stamina: it will “take” 970 images on a full battery charge.

Snapbridge

As said, the camera featurs SnapBridge, which is primarily a Bluetooth-based system which uses a low-energy connection to stay connected to your smart device and to transfer images. Although the camera is Wi-Fi capable, that capability is used solely for remote live view operation and video transfer. It works well, as long as you stay in the 2 MP format which is suitable for instance for Facebook use.

The first shots are taken, and results can be seen for instance on the photos of the VW T-Roc. We are quite pleased with the punchy images!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Tiguan Allspace 1.4 TSI DSG: the beauty of space…

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The Tiguan is an absolute bestseller in its home country, and VW decided to widen its appeal by offering a longer version, which allows it to be a 7 seater, or rather 5+2 as VW calls it, as the extra two seats are meant for smaller kids. The Tiguan has gained in stance and elegance with this elongated body, and it was also for us an opportunity to drive the latest generation Tiguan, and again be amazed by its chassis, suspension and the state of the art petrol engined drivetrain…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Tiguan Allspace 1.4 TSI DSG: the beauty of space…”