We drove the Lexus NX300h: where bold styling meets ingenuity…

The Lexus NX is quite popular in its segment, and is one of its bestsellers in the European market. It has been facelifted twice now since its introduction in 2014. Its futuristic styling and angular contours make it stand out from its rivals, and for some this is also the reason to buy one. It carries of course the perfected and well honed hybrid technology the Japanese lucury brand has been well known for, and that is one of the more rational reasons to take this car among your favorites…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Kia Niro HEV revisited … and as frugal and refined as ever!

Recently we tested again the latest edition of the Kia Niro HEV, and were impressed again by its style, refinement and practicality.

Modern day hybrids are certainly here to stay, chalking up very impressive consumption figures. To tell you right away, the Kia 1,6 GDI “Kappa” engine in combination with the 6 speed Double Clutch transmission and a 32 kW electric engine delivered on a long drive in the Dutch countryside on secondary roads with lots of roundabouts an astonishing 4,6 liters/100 km, with quite a bit of stop and go dense holiday traffic thrown in too.

It is of course not only the economy which counts, it is also the way this performance is achieved, or rather the effortless and very refined way this performance is delivered. Especially slowing down for roundabouts and accelerating away from them is an exercise in which this hybrid due to its technical layout truly excels. Under moderate braking, the batteries are charged, and the Niro accelerates then subsequently under the assistance of e-power. Smooth, vibrationless, silent.

The combined power of the driveline is 141 HP, with 265 Nm of torque. This is virtually equal to the low end pulling power of a normally aspirated three liter engine, to put everything in perspective.

All this pulling power is available at the slightest blip of the throttle, and that is the beauty of it. Flat out acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h is done in 11,5 seconds, top speed is 162 km/h.

When maneuvering and parking, the e-engine does the work, and this makes it of course a very restful exercise.

A few words about the transmission: Kia developed the so-called Transmission-Mounted Electric Device (TMED), to optimize the cooperation between the engine and the e-motor, which makes it possible to transmit the full power of both units parallel through the transmission, with minimal power loss.

Style and practicality

We already commented earlier on the very pleasing contours of the Niro, and the car is styled in both styling centers in California and Namyang in Korea. The wheelbase is quite long with 2.700 mm, and the battery pack is lodged under the rear seat. This gives the Niro a standard luggage volume of 427 liter, which can be enlarged to 1425 liter.

Infotainment with Kia Connected Services, Android Auto™ and Apple CarPlay™.

We enjoyed the top of the range sound system with 8 JBL speakers and a 320 watt amplifier. The car was equipped with the DAB+ radio, and came also with Android Auto™, suited for Android devices with Lollipop 5 steering systems and higher. Users can also stream music through Google Play Music™.

Apple CarPlay™ will make complete voice control possible through Siri for several functions and apps, enable navigation with Apple-maps, and also make dictating text possible. Apple CarPlay™ supports also audio-apps, like music streaming and audio books which passengers have downloaded on their i-phone.

Needless to say we were spoiled again, and certainly enjoyed our “zen” drive with the Niro, listening in the quiet cabin to the beautiful semi-finals and finals of the Queen Elisabeth Competition for classic song and bel canto…

Conclusion

This second acquaintance convinced us one more of the uncanny mechanical refinement, style, practicality and last but not least economy of this Kia Niro. Add to this the low maintenance costs and expected longevity, with a 7 year/150.000 km guarantee thrown in, and you will agree with us that this Niro has a lot of good arrows on its bow…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

 

The BMW M5 gets even sharper with the M5 Competition…

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BMW M GmbH has sharpened the race-inspired character of its BMW M5 high-performance sedan with an even more powerful model: the BMW M5 Competition, creating a new product category. In future, BMW M GmbH will offer the most powerful variants of its high-performance cars as standalone models. This new status reflects the individual character of the BMW M5 Competition.

It also embodies the latest chapter in a history of success which began with the M Competition package (including power boost) configured specifically for the predecessor to the current BMW M5 – and which the exclusive new BMW M5 Competition builds on convincingly.

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A 19 kW/25 hp hike in engine output over the standard version of the new BMW M5 (to 460 kW/625 hp), even more direct responses and bespoke chassis tuning combine to maximize dynamics, agility and precision.

Superb performance…

The 4.4-litre V8 engine with M TwinPower Turbo technology has been modified specifically for this new application and develops peak torque of 750 Nm (553 lb-ft) across an even broader rev range – from 1,800 rpm to 5,800 rpm.

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You can image that the performance is stellar: acceleration of 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) goes in 3.3 seconds and 0 to 200 km/h (124 mph) in 10.8 seconds.

Of course, there is also the sound. Indeed, the tune of the standard-fitted M Sport exhaust system can be adjusted at the touch of a button. The driver can also use the M Sound Control button to initiate an extremely discreet soundtrack.

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Sharp drivetrain, chassis and suspension

Model-specific engine mounts with a higher spring rate provide a much firmer connection between the drive unit and vehicle structure in the new BMW M5 Competition. This has a noticeable effect on the car’s responses, the sharpness of its turn-in and the experience of the engine’s soundtrack inside the car.

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The engine’s power is channeled to the road via an eight-speed M Steptronic transmission with Drivelogic. Added to which, the new BMW M5 Competition is specified with the M xDrive M-specific all-wheel-drive system and the Active M Differential at the rear axle.

The centrally controlled interaction between the two systems optimizes traction, agility and directional stability.

The M xDrive system’s rear-wheel bias provides the ideal basis for a full blooded performance-driving experience. Added to which, the new BMW M5 Competition supplements M Dynamic Mode with three driving programs honed for use on the track: 4WD, 4WD Sport and 2WD, which switches to pure rear-wheel drive and deactivates the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC).

Features of the chassis include a seven-millimeter drop in ride height, special damper hydraulics and stiffer springs, an increased camber at the front axle and modified toe links and anti-roll bars at the rear.

Sportiness in style…

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Eye-catching design cues emphasize the exclusivity of the new BMW M5 Competition. BMW Individual high-gloss Shadow Line trim is complemented by the use of high-gloss black for the kidney grille surround, decorative grating of the signature BMW M gills, rear spoiler and exterior mirror caps. “Competition” lettering is added to the likewise black “M5” badge on the boot lid. Standard specification for the new BMW M5 Competition also comprises exclusive 20-inch forged M light-alloy wheels with mixed-size tyres.

An impressive BMW, needless to say that we would love to lay our hands on one in a not too distant future…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We spoke with Robert Irlinger, Senior Vice-President BMWi: “our e-mobility strategy is well underway, and is now one of our core competences”

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The BMW Group has been working on its strategy for future (e) mobility for years now. Since 2007, they we have grown to a new level, thanks to their Strategy Number ONE. With this strategy, BMW put its BMW EfficientDynamics technology package and, even more importantly, BMW i on the road. Development on the clever and iconic i3 then started in 2008.

Already back in back in 2010, BMW decided to offer all types of drives in all vehicle segments from the next decade on, and to do so depending on market demands: state-of-the-art, efficient, clean combustion engines; plug-in hybrids starting in 2015; and fully electric, battery-powered drives from 2021 onward.

ACES as strategy in NEXT

ACES as strategy in NEXT…

BMW the revised the strategy in 2016 to – Number ONE > NEXT – and has added new topics, namely digitalization, autonomous driving and the far-reaching rollout of e-mobility.

When BMW started to implement this revised strategy in 2016, they realigned their organizational setup in research & development. In doing so, they focused on two top priorities: Digitalization, which includes the extension of connectivity, the application of artificial intelligence, and the development of autonomously driving premium vehicles. The second priority was Drive technology, with EfficientDynamics NEXT for the combustion engines, and the development of semi- and fully electrified vehicles with battery and fuel cell technologies.

Mix drivetrains

The BMW mix of (future) drivetrains: Battery operated/Plug-in-hybrid, fuel cell and last but not least combustion engine...

The driving force of these numerous trendsetting technologies is iNEXT, which is enabling the entire company and all brands to deal with these issues of the future.

In 2021, when the BMW iNEXT is scheduled to hit the roads, it will have integrated all strategic innovation topics for the mobility of tomorrow.

All the more reason to have a talk on the last Brussels Salon with Robert Irlinger, Senior Vice-President BMWi and Peter Henrich, CEO of BMW Group Belux.

Just read on!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We spoke with Robert Irlinger, Senior Vice-President BMWi: “our e-mobility strategy is well underway, and is now one of our core competences””

We drove the Skoda Karoq 2.0 TDI 150 HP 4×4 automatic: the Yeti successor gets a classic look…and is better than ever.

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When it comes to compact and bigger SUV’s, Skoda has some formidable cards up its sleeve. Its SUV’s all look pleasing and well proportioned, and are strong contenders in their respective segments. For the successor of the Yeti, Skoda opted for more mainstream styling, to win the hearts of ever more followers. It also offers even more room. Our test car came with the trusty two litre diesel engine, cleverly coupled to the 7-speed 4×4 DSG transmission. Clearly showing us again how smooth, powerful and thrifty modern powertrains have become…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Skoda Karoq 2.0 TDI 150 HP 4×4 automatic: the Yeti successor gets a classic look…and is better than ever.”

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…”

Volvo brings its XC40 to the Brussels Show…and meets avid buyers.

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On the introduction of the XC40 at the Brussels Show, Managing Director of Volvo Belux, Wim Maes, commented on future plans and commercial results…

In November last year, the production of Volvo Cars’ first ever small premium SUV started off at the Volvo Cars plant in Ghent. The car is meeting great interest, and indeed orders are streaming in by the thousands already.

With the XC40, Volvo completes its SUV line-up, and gets a firm foothold in the fastest growing segment of the automotive industry. Together with the XC60 and de XC90, Volvo has a strong set of cards indeed in this segment…

We saw the XC40 for the first time “in the flesh” here, and indeed it looks pleasing and well balanced.

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At the presentation of the XC40, managing director of Volvo Belux, Mr. Wim Maes, commented on the car and the commercial results and perspectives of Volvo both globally and for the Belgian market, together with the Managing Director of the Ghent plant, Eric Van Landeghem.

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Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “Volvo brings its XC40 to the Brussels Show…and meets avid buyers.”

Brussels Motor Show 2018: witnessing the European Premiere of the BMW X2…

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Needing some extra photos of BMW people we interviewed, and of which you will read much more soon on these columns, we took the occasion to witnessing the remarkable premiere of the BMW X2 on the Brussels Show.

It was a stunning spectacle, and we just show you here the photos we took, just to let you get a “feel” of what was happening on the BMW stand on January 15 at palace 7 of the Show.

Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Already since the press day, on Wednesday 10 january, the countdown to the premiere was started off, by pushing a red button by Jean-Philippe Parain, Senior Vice-President Sales Europe BMW (left) and Peter Henrich, President and CEO of BMW Group Belux.

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We show you here also the last minutes and seconds of the countdown, where already two all white painted male dancers took centre stage,

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with an enormous spider-mannequin tucking discreetly behind the curtains of the stand, to prepare his performance…

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A dancer all painted in gold then entered the central stage, wrapped also in a long gold curtain, awaiting the last seconds, and then with a baseball bat virtually broke the windows so to speak, to reveal the blue and yellow colored BMW’s.

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But before the final curtain fell, there was still a performance act with the long legged enormously impressive spider-mannequin and the two white painted dancers.

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A stunning show, which amply reveals how much care and attention automotive brands invest in presenting their products…

Right after the introduction, the automotive press assailed the BMW PR people, and here Corporate Communications Manager Christophe Weerts is answering questions…

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Soon we will report further on what was to be seen at the Brussels show, alongside with the interesting interviews and talks we had, as we announced you in the previous post.

So stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

We drove the Kia Optima SW PHEV: the joys of clever propulsion…

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They are coming our way in increasing numbers: the plug in hybrids, and rightly so. They bring the environmental friendliness of “pure” E power, combined with the unlimited action range and economy of a hybrid, with the added bonus of charging through the grid. The Kia engineers also decided to have a go, and put forward the stylish Optima, also in the estate version. We truly enjoyed it, just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Kia Optima SW PHEV: the joys of clever propulsion…”

Renault re-invents car traveling with the SYMBIOZ…

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2017 – Demo car SYMBIOZ

Renault presents a new demo car, which embodies a car that is in real-life conditions autonomous, electric and connected.

The result is a whole new life-on-board experience and as much pleasure while driving as with hands off the steering wheel.

Sitting in the SYMBIOZ, the driver can automate driving and use travel time for other activities. Renault believes that car travel will become a multi-sensory, personalized experience, with a cabin reconfigured differently for each driving mode. The car becomes part of the personal ecosystem for both driver and passenger.

Renault SYMBIOZ demo car showcases design elements –both interior and exterior– and key autonomous driving and connectivity technologies that will be progressively deployed in the range in the coming years.

Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

2017 - Démonstrateur SYMBIOZ

Taking your mind off…

The Renault SYMBIOZ demo car is equipped with level 4 autonomous driving technology,known as “mind-off”. What this means in practice: no need to pay even a minimum of attention to the road.

The car itself is capable of maintaining safety or moving to a safe position. Thanks to the combined engineering, automated driving,and geo-positioning expertise of Renault, IAV and TomTom, the Renault SYMBIOZ Demo car is capable —on authorized highways—of adjusting its speed to maintain safe distances with surrounding cars, of staying in its lane even when cornering, of safely changing lanes (to overtake another car or exit the highway, for example), and of navigating autonomously in traffic jams

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Renault SYMBIOZ demo car is connected to road infrastructures in the Sanef network (Sanef is a subsidiary of the Albertis group, the world’s leading highway operator). The car passes automatically through toll gates and is warned in advance of any hazards ahead including roadworks, accidents, congestion, or a turn for the worse in the weather

It shows its colors…and is made for easy life

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To announce its presence and let other drivers know they’re sharing the road with an automated vehicle, Renault SYMBIOZ demo car lights up in blue when the autonomous driving mode is activated.

More than a slogan, Easy Life is the philosophy Renault has cultivated for years now, thanks to its people-centric innovations. The SYMBIOZ demo car onboard connectivity system allows driver and passengers uninterrupted access to their digital lives and offers a wide range of services, all the better to make use of their new-found time on the road.

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Always connected…

Occupants of the car are identified by their smartphone regardless of where they are sitting.

The smartphone interacts with the SYMBIOZ human-machine interface to adjust personalized functions such as preferred seat settings, air-conditioning settings, and music preferences.

Thanks to a full suite of connectivity features (GPS, 4G, Wi-Fi), occupants enjoy permanent access to their digital environment, media, networks, and services. The driver’s smartphone synchronizes with the SYMBIOZ demo car to allow access the personal calendars, trip itinerary and information about tourist attractions in the vicinity.

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Onboard the SYMBIOZ demo car the “mind-off” experience expands even further, thanks to the virtual reality options designed by our partner Ubisoft and available while traveling in autonomous mode. Wearing virtual reality headset and with the seat inclined in “zero gravity” position, the driver plunges into an immersive and contemplative world, fully relaxed and detached from the pressures of the road.

French design and impressive performance…

The Renault SYMBIOZ demo car’s exterior design is intrinsically aligned with Renault’s signature “French Design” styling: sensual and warm, with fluid lines and a dynamic presence accentuated by the “champagne” body color in a pearlescent finish.

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As a 100% electric vehicle, the Renault SYMBIOZ demo car takes its place in the long-game strategy of Renault’s zero-emissions commitment. This vehicle is the fruit of more than a century of work in automotive engineering

The Renault SYMBIOZ demo car delivers a maximum power of 500 kW and a peak torque of 660 Nm. The two electric motors are located on the rear axle, and are powered by a battery pack with a 72 kWh capacity.

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Accelerations are breathtaking, with 0 to 100 achieved in 6 seconds. 500 km autonomy is possible in real life conditions and batteries are charged up tp 80 pct in 30 minutes.

Feeling at home

When connected to the digital life of the user, the Renault SYMBIOZ demo car becomes an extension of the home. The traditional divides separating the car from the home and workplace are blurring…

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2017 – Démonstrateur SYMBIOZ

The journey starts at home: the Renault SYMBIOZ demo car communicates with your devices (tablet, TV, smartphone or PC) to update you on the status of the vehicle and your next journey. Once on the road, you can access security cameras, adjust thermostats, or control devices and connected appliances at home.

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Parked inside the house in its dedicated spot, the Renault SYMBIOZ demo car shows us that the automobile can play an increasingly important and integrated role in our daily lives.  With the ‘valet parking’ function activated by a simple call from a smartphone or smartwatch, the empty Renault SYMBIOZ demo car leaves its parking spot to come pick up passengers inside or in front of the house.

A brave new world for Renault, and for us!

Hans Knol ten Bensel