Author: terjebjornstad

BMW 530d – A straight six

2016 BMW 530d M Sport

BMW’s straight six engine has many followers. This weekend they got another one.

 
I once read an article in the British CAR Magazine about which cars you must drive before you die. A sort of “bucket list” for car enthusiasts. I have no doubt when I put BMW’s 3-liter straight six on that list. I had a 530d at my disposal for an extra long weekend to visit my daughter in the UK. The man at the car rental company saw an opportunity for additional sales to a loyal customer. For a few extra pounds I was given the keys to the finest rental car at Stansted Airport.

BMW's designers know how to create the perfect driving position.

BMW’s designers know how to create the perfect driving position.

Look-and-feel3

A BMW 5 Series with navigation and automatic transmission was all I knew about the car as I went looking for it. “Not bad! A fat BMW M Sport with 18 inch wheels”, I thought when I saw the sharp lines on the bonnet and the aggressive front with large air intakes. It reminded me a little of classic British cars, like the Jaguar and the Bentley.

The electric-powered M sports seats were adjusted in all possible ways to make a perfect seating position. Someone had put the iDrive system in Spanish. I realise that such systems are not designed for people in their fifties. Neither my wife nor I was able to figure out how to change the language. I knew that the iDrive system requires a bit of adaption to operate, so I didn’t waste any more time on it.

-Spanish works fine when you are on a weekend trip. The destination on the navigation system was set to our hotel in Colchester, an hour’s drive eastwards across the countryside. I knew well where the hotel was, but appreciated to be guided on the way. To drive a car in Essex requires a constant focus on the speed limits, as there are many speed ​​cameras along the road.

Once I started up the straight six engine, I got that foolish grin on my face. A grin I was unable to wipe off. As a car enthusiast, my head turns around every time I hear a speeding BMW straight six engine, and now I was the one behind the wheel. It is a very creamy sound, indeed.

The BMW 5 Series (F10) has been in production since late 2010, and facelifted from 2014. There are plenty of them on the roads, and the M Sport styling is popular. Yet, this particular car gave me a better first impression than most 5-series I’ve seen before. Strange, because you cannot see on the front that it’s a six under the bonnet. It must have been the color, “Moonstone metallic”, a color that belongs to BMW’s Individual Color Palette. See for yourselves. My pictures were taken in the lights of a warm sunset. What do you think?

M Sport with its large air intakes and aggressive look.

M Sport with its large air intakes and aggressive look.

Driving5

Early in March, in the evergreen Essex countryside, the farmland along the highway was about to turn green with young sprouts. Parks and gardens were planted with yellow daffodils. The roads were dry, and along the narrow country roads between the villages we could see small creeks full of water. To us, this was a nice contrast to the vertical snow-slush we had on out way to the airport back home.

The straight six engine delivers 258 horsepower. The torque, which is 560 Nm at 1500 rpm, is more than enough, to speak. 70 mph on the highway felt very calm. 0-100 kilometers per hour (60 mph) takes only 5.8 seconds. From where my daughter lives, there is a small ramp to the main road where the fast traffic comes abruptly over the hilltop. A tiny snarl of the engine and we were in motion. No stress. Only the driver’s foolish grin.

That’s what I like with a straight six. The power is delivered without stress of any kind. No noise, no vibrations and no harshness. I enjoy how the wide 245 millimeter tires grab hold to the tarmac when accelerating through the bends up the hills on narrow country roads. The automatic transmission is a conventional 8 speed type that adapts to the environment and the driving patterns. It can be shifted manually step by step by tilting the lever to the left. I don’t think the 530d can be equipped with any other transmission.

Inside the city, where our hotel from the 1700 Century was located, the streets were so narrow that we had to put two wheels up on the pavement and maneuver with a clearance of just a few inches. I noticed on a few occasions that my eyes deceived me slightly – the car was actually wider than I thought. I think the M Sport styling with the sharp profiles on the bonnet contributed to it. Luckily I knew well where the wheels were, and the parking sensors told the when obstacles came too close.

Both iDrive and the gear lever required some adaptation.

Both iDrive and the gear lever required some adaptation.

Comfort4

It is somewhat meaningless to describe the comfort of a car that is so well designed for the driver and passengers’ wellbeing. The comfy seats, the wonderful sound, and everything you see and touch, are first class. A good question here is wether the comfort killed the car’s sporty handling.

I had the dynamic damper control on “Comfort” the whole time. It suited us well wherever we drove, mainly on highways and narrow british countryside roads along hedges and stone fences, on partly worn asphalt with quite a few pot holes. None of the roads we drove on, were suited to push the limits of the car’s sporting characteristics. I’d had to take it on a closed track in order to put sportiness to the test.

With a total length of 490 cm (193") it feels like a spacious car.

With a total length of 490 cm (193″) it feels like a spacious car.

Space5

In the Nordic countries, a 530d would most likely be a Touring (stationwagon) with xDrive (4wd) ready to climb the roads up to some mountain cabin. Me, I like the fullsize sedans, and I’ve had the pleasure of owning several fine sedans over the years. I think the 530d sedan looks more elegant than the stationwagon, and much more like a classic British car, like the Jaguar. Anyway, I expect to have plenty of legroom in a sedan of 490 cm (193″), which we of course had.

Brakes can be decorative, as here.

Brakes can be decorative, as here.

Safety4

The European NCAP test of the 5 Series stretches all the way back to 2010 when the model was introduced. The results were actually pretty good, – the 5 Series ended in 3rd place that year. Still today, those results are slighly better than german competitors, like the Audi A6 and the Mercedes E-class, which was tested the year after.

The BMW’s good handling and the vehicles body size contribute of course also to the good active safety, – the kind of safety that prevents accidents from happen – and not least, the feeling of being inside a safe car.

Renting a fat BMW is a great way to reward yourself.

Renting a fat BMW is a great way to reward yourself.

Economy5

The start price of 530d is NOK 653,900. Our British model with the M Sport package and navigation would reach 756,800 before we had looked further on the equipment list. Cars in this class normally have extra equipment in the price range of NOK 100,000.

There aren’t any economic arguments behind the choice of a BMW with the straight 6 cylinder engine. The 4 cylinder 520d with 190 HP is NOK 150,000 cheaper, and still quite a decent car. The price difference is a result of Nordic import taxes. I am amazed of the official consumption figures. 0.46 liters per 10 kilometers on highway driving, and 0.60 on urban driving are no less than impressive. Since I didn’t know exactly how full the tank was when I got the car, I cannot give any exact consumption figures, but my diesel consumption was approximately – and probably no less than 0.70 liters per 10 kilometers. That’s not bad either.

The car had stop & start technology. I experienced that the system worked better in the BMW than in cars from Audi / VW. In the BMW, the car did not start until you released the brake completely, whereas the Audi / VW starts when the momentum on the brake changes slightly, which actually makes the car start and stop several times during the same halt. I noticed that the stop & start system did not turn itself off in steep uphills, – but I never considered that as a problem.

BMW straight six is ​​all about passion – Not sensible arguments.

positive1
⦁ Fantastic powertrain
⦁ Very good sports seats and seating position
⦁ High active safety.

negative1
⦁ High local taxes (Norway)

The M Sport styling makes the front very aggressive.

The M Sport styling makes the front very aggressive.

Instruments at daylight.

Instruments at daylight.

I am delighted that BMW still keepshass not gone away from the red instrument lighting which Audi unfortunately did

I am delighted that BMW still keeps the red instrument lighting which Audi unfortunately has left behind.

The George Hotel, Colchester.

The George Hotel, Colchester.

Colchester is the oldest town in the UK.

Colchester is the oldest town in the UK.

Daffodils in Castle Park, Colch.

Daffodils in Castle Park, Colchester.

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Fisker – Reborn as Karma

Karma was the last model when Fisker Automotive went bankrupt in 2013

With new Chinese owners and headquartered in California, the production of Fisker is due to resume under a brand named Karma. That was the name of their latest model when the company went bankrupt. Fisker, named after one of the Danish-American founders, Henrik Fisker, is now a part of the automotive history.

I never liked the name, anyway.

fisker-karma-1The outgoing model, Karma, has two electric motors, each with 161 PS, and 479 Nm, connected to the rear wheels. A 2-liter gasoline-powered Opel engine, mounted in front, charges the batteries – not connected directly to any driveline. On pure battery power, the range, according to EPA, is just over 50 kilometers (30 miles). The gasoline-powered charger engine extends the range by 320 kilometers (200 miles). The facory’s own figures, however, are 83 kilometers (52 miles) and 400 kilometers (250 miles).

The battery pack is located at the center of the car, inside something that looks like a giant drive shaft tunnel. It steals a lot of place from the cabin, so there is only room for four people inside. The designers did not focus on interior space, – but on the other hand, there are few, if any vehicles in the world, that matches the Karma when it comes to beauty.

The battery pack is located under the center console (archive picture)

The battery pack is located under the center console (archive picture)

The new holding company, Wanxiang, is already heavily involved in the production of electric vehicles. It will be interesting to see what they can bring to the future models. Fisker Automotive has previously been taken to court by Tesla Motors accused of having copied their battery technology.

But where did that advanced technology go?

While the current Tesla has a world-leading range, Karma’s results are far less impressive. In comparison, the BMW i3 REx (Range Extender) has almost the same range as the Karma: 150 kilometers on pure battery power, plus 150 kilometers with the little charger engine running. Battery technology is evolving rapidly, so the range of the new Karma has to be considerably improved from 2013.

4-seater, With a huge tunnel, like the Porsche Panamera

4-seater, like the Porsche Panamera

A quick look on today’s car marked reveals that there aren’t many Karmas for sale. I find one Karma for sale in Norway, 4 in Sweden, 23 in Germany and 4 in France – mostly 2012 models – and a very few 2013 models. Asking prices are in the range of € 45-60 000.

I took my pictures from a remote and quite hidden place rented by the former agent of Fisker Automobiles in Norway. This beautiful car is probably unsellable until production restarts.

I wonder if the new Karma can succeed in the Nordic countries like the Tesla did?

It is tempting to compare the future Karma with Tesla. In Norway, there is an import tax relief on zero emission EVs, like the Tesla. The Karma’s hybrid solution will probably not benefit from the tax relief program since it technically is more like a hybride. With 5 seats and two luggage compartments, the Tesla may work fine as a family car, and compete against Lexus and new hybrids from Mercedes-Benz. The Karma will probably compete against cars like the four-seated Porsche Panamera. Great cars, but no volume sellers.

Yet, we do not know how the future Karma will look like, and what technology it will offer when it comes on the market next year. It might be the first Tesla-killer.

A better Karma?

Take a look at the cool presentations on KarmaAutomotive.com!

karma-1

Volvo V60 D2

2015 Volvo V60 D2 Kinetic

I cannot say that the V60 is a premium car, – nor a roomy stationwagon. Nevertheless, it has some good Volvo qualities.

A weekend with a Volvo stationwagon is no bad weekend. I must admit that for a man who grew up with great Volvos like the PV and the Amazon, it feels a bit special to drive a Volvo. Though the V60 is anything but a retro design. It is a modern car that challenges the Audi A4 and BMW’s 3 Series.

Instruments are all digital like a computer screen.

Instruments are all digital like a computer screen.

Look-and-feel3
I lifted the seat a little, adjusted the angle of the seat cushion and raised the backrest a bit. The lumbar support was perfect. I expected nothing else than a perfect seating position. After all, this is a Nordic car built in the Torslanda plant in Gothenburg, Sweden, for tall and blonde guys like me.

Before I put the key into the ignition slot, I got the feeling of a slightly outdated cockpit. Somewhat small and deeply located instruments, and a center console with too many buttons? I think all that belongs to the past. It is more than 10 years since Volvo was awarded a prize for its special center console design. When I turned the ignition on, however, I discovered that the instruments were a digital screen – all digital like a computer. That raised my impression considerably.

Compared to its competitors, I would not describe the interior as premium class, – at least not in the basic version I drove, with fabric seats. Yet, there was something honest, solid and robust over it – in a typical Volvo manner.

The exterior design is also very Volvo. The V60 has continued the style of the V50, and got a front quite similar to the V70. I like the facelift made in 2014. I also like the rounded rear end. The designers have obviously put more emphasis on style than space.

When it comes to the overall impression, I’m left with mixed feelings. On standard 16″ wheels it looks a bit dull, and when parked along with other typical family cars, it looks kind of small. Yet, I cannot deny that I get a good feeling knowing that it’s a Volvo.

The V60 got a facelifted front in 2014.

The V60 got a facelifted front in 2014.

Driving5
A 1.6 liter turbodiesel with 114 horsepower and a torque of 270 Nm doesn’t sound much. But believe me, the high torque makes the small engine feel more powerful on the road than on the paper.

After a few kilometers, the Citroen C4 came on my mind – a car I have spent much time in, lately. The engine in my V60 is a result of a joint venture between the PSA Group (Peugeot and Citroen), Ford and BMW. It’s a legacy of the days when Ford used to own Volvo. For Volvo’s 2016 models, the D2 engine is now replaced with a new engine developed by Volvo. It has 120 horses, but on paper quite similar characteristics as the outgoing engine.

Volvo has chosen a six-speed manual transmission that is perfect for Nordic speed limits. You’ll have to use the shift lever a little to get the best out of the engine, but it pulls nicely in 6th gear from 80 km/h (50 mph) and up.

I noticed that the V60 felt more like a compact car than a fullsize car. Furthermore, I also noticed that the height difference between the throttle and brake felt somewhat higher than what I’m used to.

The center console, once praised, today outdated.

The center console, once praised, today outdated.

Comfort4

At once, I was not impressed by the comfort in V60. I knew that the seats are the car’s biggest asset. Well, it turned out that I could sit effortlessly behind the wheel for several hours without feeling any discomfort at all – something I would characterize as a kind of discrete comfort. The comfort is there alright, but you don’t think about it.

The sound inside the cabin was influenced by quite charmless engine noise. It got better from 80 and upwards with the sixth gear engaged. The suspension is a bit firm but far from uncomfortable. I think it must have been the suspension that made me feel that the V60 drove pretty much like a compact car.

Terrain-bikes fit in here, barely.

Terrain-bikes fit in here, barely.

Space5

I usually don’t focus much on on luggage space in the cars I come across, but I cannot write about a station wagon without touching this subject. The V60’s body style reveals that there is not too much luggage space. It is particularly the opening that might cause a problem when trying to load large items. I barely got room for my terrain bike with back seats folded down. The biggest problem was the width of the back door. It was actually easier to fit the bike in a Golf wagon/SportWagen.

The trunk is however easy to operate for more manageable objects. It’s easy to fold down the back seats to a complete flat floor. It is easy to secure the load from sliding forward, in typical Volvo fashion. I also liked that the window pillars were covered with washable hard plastic on the inside – and not fabrics. Then it looked fine inside, even after I had transported my terrain bike home after having used it in the mud.

Neat Nordic design on door trims.

Neat Nordic design on door trims.

Safety4

According to NCAP, the V60 is on the same level as the Audi A4 and the BMW 3 Series, – all placed in the top league when it comes to safety. You can order your new V60 with Lane Departure Warning and Blind Spot Alerts, but not Adaptive Cruise Control.

Economy5

Stylish rear lights.

Stylish rear lights.

With a starting price of NOK 360,800, the V60 is placed exactly in the same price range as its premium class competitors. Secondhand values are extremely good, even for models before the 2014 face lift. To ensure a good resale value, I would order my V60 with slightly larger wheels. I also recommend the extra equipment that were installed on my test car, like Parking Sensors, Towing Hitch, All-Digital Instruments and Automatic Lights.

The PSA turbodiesel engines have been around for a couple of years now, and they are well known for low consumption and durability. They can easily do 300,000 kilometers (187,500 miles) without major problems, not only in Volvos, but also in cars from Peugeot, Citroen and Ford.

I think Volvo’s D2-engine is the best choice in terms of economy.

The V60 is honest, simple and robust, – everything that we associate with Volvos.

positive1
• Ergonomic seats.
• Interior can stand heavy-duty use

negative1
• Small luggage to be a stationwagon

BMW i3

2015 BMW i3

When I lift off the throttle, the i3 goes “Zzzz” and stops right in front of the pedestrian crossing.

Look-and-feel3

– Futuristic, I thought. The frameless side window automatically drops down a little after opening the door. Clean lines, flat screens and electronics – an environment created for smart people in business suits with neat laptop computer bags. I found a decent seating position, but felt that the seats could have had a little more lateral support. The interior of this car is different from anything else I’ve seen. The colors are held in gray with blue accents emphasizing the EV theme.

You are not supposed to insert the key anywhere. You just need to have it nearby to use the Start/Stop button. If you press the Start button without keeping your foot on the brake, it turns the radio on. Put one foot on the brake, and try again, then the car is ready for take-off. I actually had to take a look in the owner’s manual to understand this. I did not find the unusual “park” position on the gear lever at once, either. As I’m sure everyone knows, BMW has a separate button for “Park”.

The feeling of not being quite familiar at once, makes a poor first time impression on me. Anyway, the quality of the buttons, the switches and the plastic felt good. Some parts of the dashboard and door lining are covered with a substance that looks pretty cool. It feels like cheap plastic, though, – something that might be easy to recycle the day everything ends up in the recycling press.

I liked the radio, the parking assistant and the navigation system. I also liked the car’s dark gray color. It blends in well against the many black panels on the car.

Different from any other car.

Different from any other car.

Driving5

170 horsepower to 1200 kg sounds prefect. The torque of 250 Nm is available from a standstill, and leaves everone else behind. The car is, – and feels – quick in city traffic. Nevertheless, I saw strikingly many MGIF-drivers out there (MGIF – Must Get In First). Obviously, many motorists don’t know about the i3’s potentials. Maybe BMW’s designer team should have given it a more aggressive look.

On the road I noticed that you sit quite high. I felt like I was looking down on ordinary cars, while high-built cars, such as the Volkswagen Tiguan, was on the same Level

EVs, like the i3, have remarkably high torques. I experienced that quite well as I was driving along a back road filled with professional cyclist teams where I had to make frequent accelerations from 30 km/h (19 mph) to pass groups of cyclists. I also felt that the i3 got very good grips along the winding roads. It felt like the suspension did everything possible to keep the car tight to the ground, making an optimal road grip. It felt safe.

Behind the wheel of the i3, you will especially notice two things: The power steering and the engine brake. The power steering gives a constant resistance through the bends. There are no auto correcting. You have to guide the car all the way through the bends with a steady hand. I liked the suspension, but the steering was a bit of left-down on the twisty country roads. Another unusual behaviour happens when you lift off the throttle. Then you get a pretty powerful engine braking, which is actually a recuperation function that automatically recharges the batteries. Once you lift slightly from the throttle, the charge meter shows that the batteries are being recharged. If you lift the foot suddenly, the engine will give a very strong brake effect. It does not take long to get used to driving with one single pedal which both accelerates and stops the car.

In VW e-Golf I could choose whether I wanted the engine brake, or just let the wheels run freely. I am convinced that experienced drivers can save energy by utilizing the freewheel effect optimally. BMW does not let you choose, and honestly, I don’t know how much it affects the range, either.

You may drive the i3 in three modes, “Comfort”, “Eco Pro” and “Eco Pro+.” I drove mostly in “Eco Pro” because I experienced little difference between “Eco Pro” and “Eco Pro+” except for the change in air conditioning and a self-imposed speed limit of 90 km/h. I hate to drive a car that cuts the engine at a certain speed limits.

I have not measured the total range, but after taking an easy drive of 81 kilometers (50 miles) in nice wheather, I had only spent a little over half the battery capacity. It’s not bad, but since I sometimes gets a little “range anxiety”, I’d prefer the New “i3 REx” (Range Extender) which has an auxiliary engine that charges the batteries while driving.

A very futuristic design

A very futuristic design

Comfort4

I do not think the term “premium car” fits the i3, but I still get a feeling of well-being behind the wheel. What I like best is the sound. I think the tires were less audible than in the e-Golf, but the i3 has a completely different, and odd tyre dimension, 155/70R19 which is pretty thin tyres with a lot of rubber to the ground. It was possible to hear a slight engine noise when accelerating, but the coolest sound of all, is when you release the throttle and let the car stop by itself, for example in front of pedestrians. It sounds like a real science fiction vehicle when it stops with a silent “Zzzz”.

The suspension is comfortable. It takes away small bumps and potholes in a nice way probably due to the tyres. Crossing bigger bumps, like speed bumps, makes the i3 a little bouncy, though.

It is more of a 2+2 than a 4 seater.

It is more of a 2+2 than a 4 seater.

Space5

In reality, the BMW i3 is just a 2 + 2 seater, ie 2 adults and 2 small seats for children. That is not class leading spacing, when considering that the car’s total length is 4 meters. I suspect that the batteries should take the blame. I feel that the designers did not focus so much on space, so you should not expect the i3 to be the number 1 family car. Actually, it does not look like a family car at all.

bmw-i3-700-2

Safety4

According to NCAP, i3 is somewhere between the small family cars and the so-called super minis. It did fairly well in the crash test, even though the latest security assistance programs were not available at the time of testing – like for instance, adaptive cruise control.

I fear the powerful engine brake could cause dangerous situations on winter roads, due to the powerful engine brake. On nordic winter roads, the engine brake might cause the rear wheels to block and cause the back-end of the car to loose grip. I hope the DSC (stability control) and the DCT (traction control) take over the control to prevent the rear end from sliding out.

Another security problem is the brake lights. Would the powerful engine braking come unaware to the drivers behind? I prefer to control the brake lights myself, knowing that early brake lights may prevent accidents. According to this video, brake lights are lit when the engine brake takes effect. Good to know.

A perfect user Interface.

A perfect user Interface.

Economy5

It makes good economy to buy electric cars because of the tax relief (in Norway only), high demand for secondhand EVs, and – not least – the fact that you fill your batteries at home for pocket money.

I recommend the comfort package with automatic climate control, etc. That brings the price tag to NOK 259,900.

The new i3 REx raises the price to NOK 359,900 for the same equipment. It is a pity that the Norwegian tax system does not provide benefits to such solutions, ie electric vehicle with gasoline-fueled charging motor.

On the down side for all EVs today comes the risk of new battery technology, like in the Tesla. A rapid product development, might reduce the demand for yesterday’s car.

The i3 is not an ordinary car that is converted into an EV. It is a brand new concept, telling everyone about a new trend of modern technology.

positive1
⦁ Powerful engine
⦁ Pleasant sound inside cabin

negative1
⦁ Require some time to get familiar with basic handles
⦁ Impractical back seats

Unusal tyre Dimension for a modern car.

Unusal tyre Dimension for a modern car.

The e-Golf – No scandals!

2015 Volkswagen e-Golf

It’s fun to drive, not only because it’s an electric vehicle – but also because it’s a Golf.

Look-and-feel3
Certainly a Golf, I thought the first time I sat behind the wheel. The first thing I noticed, was a new instrument for charging and consumption instead of the ordinary tachometer. Furthermore, there are a number of small decor details spinning on VW’s “blue line” theme, like the blue line in the grill, the blue luminescent sill protector list, the blue threads woven into the seat cover and the blue threads that stitch together the leather on the steering wheel and the gear lever cover.

I especially like the characteristic daylight running lights which are also visible from the side. On the list of standard equipment you’ll find adaptive cruise control, navigation, leather steering wheel and a bunch of decor touches. My test car had also automatic folding mirrors, tinted windows from the B pillar and parking sensors front and rear.

My passenger commented that the seats seemed a bit simple – and that the sound of the radio was a bit weak. The fact is that she had recently been driving in a more costly car. The seats and radio in the e-Golf were quite okay, but not premium class. But who would complain? After all, both front seats were equipped with height adjustment, lumbar support and heatable.

Notice the daylight running lights on the e-Golf.

Notice the daylight running lights on the e-Golf.

Driving5

You start the e-Golf as any Golf. One foot on the brake, turn the ignition key, release the hand brake, put the car in “drive” and off you go! E-Golf is very easy to drive. Since electric motors have a flat torque curve, the engine pulls off strongly from zero revs. Acceleration happens almost imperceptibly, with no engine noise.

You can run in three programs – “Normal”, “Eco” and “Eco+”. In “Normal” you’ll get 115 horsepower, torque like a diesel and a top speed of 140 km/h. There is plenty of power, even for a car that weights more than standard Golfs. In fact, it weighs the same as the Golf Alltrack wagon/SportWagen, but I recon that the e-Golf has a far better weight balance. It felt very close to 50:50. I also felt that the e-Golf is somewhat lowered compared to the standard Golf.

If you’re running in “Eco” mode, you’ll get the best of both range and performance – and a great portion of driving pleasure, too. In “Eco+” you’ll get less power from the engine and the air conditioning provides less heat or cold, but you’ll be able to follow the highway traffic as long as it doesn’t exceed 90 km/h (55 mph). Personally, I get a little panic every time the engine cuts. That’s why “Eco” is my favourite program.

From start, there are virtually no engine brake when you lift your foot off the throttle. But, by moving the gear lever to the left once, twice or three times, you select the recuperation level. The recuperation works like an engine brake. The higher recuperation, the more the engine brakes, and the more power are charged back to the batteries. It gives me a good feeling seeing the batteries being charged while driving. Of course, the batteries are also recharged by using the ordinary brakes.

I have not been able to determine how much the recuperation extends the range. I drove a distance of exactly 80 kilometers (50 miles) in temperatures of 14-15 degrees Celcius (59 F) and dry conditions. The range indicator’s kilometer reading matched the actual kilometres droven surprisingly well. On the beginning of the day, the range meter told me that I had 153 kilometers left. In the evening it said 71 kilometers. You can trust the range meter. Good to know for those who suffer from a bit of range anxiety, – myself included.

I wish the e-Golf had the same range as Tesla.

The instrumentation is a bit different from the standard Golf.

The instrumentation is a bit different from the standard Golf.

Comfort4

I’d like to point out that EVs like the e-Golf, give a special feeling of comfort during accelerations. It happens silently and almost imperceptible, – just like in a luxury limousine. The absence of engine noise is an advantage, but the very little sound you actually can hear, gets monotonous and soporific. I therefore recommend a good sound system.

On a nice september day, it was not possible to put the air conditioning on a proper test. Although most EVs produce satisfactory climate inside, I never want to utilize it to max extend in fear of loosing kilometers from the range – a consequence of my range anxiety.

Small design details emphasize the blue line theme.

Small design details emphasize the blue line theme.

Space5
At first glance, e-Golf’s cargo space seemed the same as the standard Golf. On paper, however, there is a difference of approximately 40 liters. In fact, less than expected, since the batteries are placed underneath the cargo compartment. Anyway, you also lose 100-150 kilogram (220-330 lb) of payload in the e-Golf, due to the extra weight of batteries.

Cargo Space is almost the same size as standard Golf.

Cargo Space is almost the same size as standard Golf.

Safety4
According to NCAP, electric vehicles are as safe as any other cars in terms of passive safety, ie those caused by collisions. Golf feels like a safe car to drive. I would particularly emphasize the braking performance. I would also mention that the e-Golf has adaptive cruise control as standard. The sensor is visible in the lower front air intake.

e-Golf on the road

e-Golf on the road

Economy5
At the moment, it’s good economy to drive an electric vehicle. You can fill your batteries 100% during the night for pocketmoney. Car buyers have never got more value for their money than today, and secondhand values are good. On the minus side is perhaps the danger of new battery technology. New technology means less demand for yesterday’s EVs.

If e-Golf had Tesla’s battery capasities, everyone could use it as their number one transport. Today, it is a typical car number 2.

Range is good compared to most, but still, I’d wish it was better.

    positive1
    ⦁ Easy to drive
    ⦁ Total absence of engine noise
    ⦁ The list of standard equipment

    negative1
    ⦁ None

    A separate room for cables and stuff.

    A separate room for cables and stuff.

    e-golf-360-5 e-golf-360-4 e-golf-360-3 e-golf-360-2 e-golf-360-1

    Getting around Tobago in an SX4

    2009 Suzuki SX4 – 4WD

    For someone from a Nordic country, Tobago is “Fantasy Island”. The cars, however, aren’t much to talk about …

    Tobago belongs to the West Indies and is a wonderful place for vacation. The island has many fine beaches where you can see flying fish on the water, hummingbirds in the trees and crabs at their burrows on the beach. Mango fruits are virtually dropping down on you as you relax in the shadow. At the beginning of September the water in the ocean keeps 30 degrees Celcius (86 F). You hardly notice as you walk into it.

    With only 300 square kilomtres land, you can drive all the roads in one day. Most roads are narrow, steep and winding, with a general speed limit of 50 km/h (30 miles per hour). Driving is on the left – a remnant from the time under British empiricism. Tobagonians are known to drive in the middle of the road. Many of the roads are in real bad shape, with pot holes big enough to rip a wheel off, or chrush the tyre instantly. The locals know exactly where to take it easy. We don’t…

    Most Tobagonian car buyers choose a white Nissan Tiida, Sunny, or a Toyota Corolla – small 4-door saloons (sedans) with automatic transmission, air conditioning and the smallest engine option. When these vehicles eventually are handed over to the younger generation, they get styled up with adhesive window film and fat Monster wheels. Since the cars here have low mileage and are not prone to rust, I’d expect to find some great vintage cars – but were unable to find any.

    Traffic on the main road. In the foreground: Nissan Almera (front), Nissan AD small affordable station wagons that are affordable and very popular here. They are also available in a more lavish version, called Nissan Wing Road Wagon.

    Traffic on the main road. In the foreground: Nissan Almera (front), Nissan AD small affordable station wagons that are very popular here. They are also available in a more lavish version, called Nissan Wing Road Wagon.

    None of the major rental car companies are established on the island. Yet it is safe to rent a car everywhere. Our tiny rental company had some pretty new Suzuki Jimny-jeeps. They blend well with rainforests and sandy beaches, but with four tall Norwegians they were unfourtunately a little too tight inside. We chose a 2009 Suzuki SX4 – 4WD, 1.6 petrol 107 hp with 4-speed automatic.

    Suzuki SX4 – “Grandma Duck’s car”

    SX4 is not a bad choise on the narrow, steep, winding roads through the rainforest. Inside, I felt quickly at home behind the wheel. I got a little 90’s feeling right away. The radio seemed to be retrofitted, perhaps stolen at one time. But the Clarion stereo gave surprisingly rich sound whenever the radio waves were with us.

    Suzuki SX4

    Suzuki SX4

    Performance-wise, I felt that the car behaved like a typical American compact. Comfortable for the class, but a little vaguer road feel than I recall from other Japanese cars from the same period, like the Nissan Sunny / Sentra / Almera and the Toyota Corolla. Around the sharp hairpin bends, visibility were almost blocked by the thick A-pillars. I had to lean over to the middle to get an overview. The combination steep slopes, 4 adults, 107 none-turbo-fed petrol-horses with a conventional type automatic did not leave much to driving pleasure. Ever so often, the transmission had to shift down to first gear in order to retrieve its breath. Anyway, everybody sat comfortably and had a nice view through the large glass surfaces. And, as I mentioned, there was plenty of power in the radio to fill the cabin with easy reggae-like rhythms.

    Back in Norway, I see that Suzuki dealers still have outgoing SX4 in their model program. If we replace tropical rainforests and beaches with Norwegian fjords and mountains, I think the SX4 still would do well. I believe SX4 “Classic” is a safe secondhand car, as well, preferably gasoline models with 120 hp or diesel. If you are lucky, you’ll find one with low mileage.

    Maybe Grandma Duck’s old car?

    Crab and dumpling - delicious!

    Crab and dumpling – delicious!

    Fantasy Island

    Fantasy Island

    Streets of Rome

    Join me on a visit to Rome to see what cars we might find parked along the kerb!

    The Fiat 500 is made for cities like Rome. You see them everywhere. Not only the new model, but also a few of the old – the so called «Nuova 500» – which appeared in 1957 and replaced the popular «Mouse». I wish I could say that the fleet of old 500s are in decent condition, but most of them show signs of a hard life in Rome’s heavy traffic and reckless parking.

    While there are plenty of old 500s built in Torino between 1957-1975, it is not so easy to find any of the Polish-built successors like the Fiat 126 and the horribly styled Cinquecento. All new Fiat 500s sold today, are built in Poland, too. Will it stay on the road as long as their Italian ancestor, the Nuova 500? – Or will it fade out, break down, rust up and be forgotten like the other Polish-built cars? I think not. I think for a model to be successful, it needs most of all to have a good design. So has the «Nuova 500», – and the latest 500.

    fiat-500-5Compared with the Nuova 500, our time’s Fiat 500 looks like large car. Not to mention the Countryman in the background. This Nuova 500 is produced after 1972.

    fiat-500-4The old 500 can be parked nosed in, or backed in, like here. A beautiful 500 from around 1970.

    fiat-500-1The majority of old 500s are in this condition. bad repairs with plastic padding and plenty of dents and scratches.

    fiat-500-2One can clearly see that the bumpers of modern cars’ aren’t compatible with the early 500’s bumper.

    renault-4-1A Frenchman in Rome. I like the old number plates. Very decorative.

    fiat-1100-camionioA postwar Fiat 1100 Camioncino, about 1950, which has received a full restoration with extra chrome. Today, it rests in a commercial district with flowers on the bed for decoration purposes.

    italian-wedding-1I walked past this beautiful Bentley rigged for wedding. The Bentley was beautiful, – but I think the bride was even more beautiful 😉

    italian-mini-1An original Mini on the street is not a common sight. This is a Mark III from about 1970 in its original condition, probably manufactured in Italy.

    italian-mini-2Notice the conventional instrument panel. I don’t think the Italian built Minis shared the centered instrument panel from the British manufacturer.

    ferrari-1I believe this Ferrari was supposed to be part of some commercial presentation. I’m not sure I would have chosen the same blue color on “my” Ferrari.

    ferrari-2Wonderful interior.

    ferrari-3Also this black Ferrari with Swiss number plates was supposed to be used in the same presentation.

    italian-job-1An italian job made in Modena.

    scooters-1In Rome everybody ride scooters.

    fiat-500-3A red Fiat 500 decorates the street.

    fiat-500-6Arrivederci Roma!

    A predetermined lifetime?

    Everyone who loves their car, hopes to keep it on the road for many years. Truth is that we may have no influence on that.

    Photo: Ebay.com

    Photo: Ebay.com

    The speedometer on our teenager car has started to fade out. With a little help from my son I have now ordered a new speedometer on Ebay. Our old Civic DX was one of America’s best-selling cars. There must be hundreds of DIY-videos on YouTube showing how to fix anything, – like that tiny, little circuit board behind the speedometer clock, – the one that no longer works.

    It’s “electronic”, – but not hi-tech. All you need is a 5 € test lamp and a bit of curiosity to troubleshoot. I can well imagine that it is an electronic component that failed, and not a mechanical one – such as the small sprocket buzzing around in the gearbox, providing data to the speedometer. What would happen if I had put my laptop PC from the late 90s inside the car at all time. Would it still work today?

    Hardly.

    A salesman at Audi told me that if the electronics in a modern car shortcuts, it will cost more than 15 000 € to replace. I know a guy who had a Volvo V70 with a computer problem in the transmission. The entire transmission was replaced with a reconditioned one at 7,000 €. Fortunately, it was a warranty for my friend. I wondered: Why did they choose to replace the entire unit and not just the electronic parts? I think that is because electronic components are integrated with mechanical parts, and not just a bunch of circuit boards.

    My point is: What would happen to the V70 today? After all, it is a 2005 model with a market value of about 8,000 €. Would it pay to fix it today? It is definitely not a DIY job based on YouTube videos. I think a shiny good-looking V70 could well end its days on the top of a scrap yard, while many of its old ancestors, like the 240 and the 260, still would be on the road.

    The automotive industry has long realized how vulnerable new cars are. Therefore it appears to have evolved a practice to let faults in vulnerable components – such as the electronic systems – be covered by the warranty, even years after it has expired. I know that VW dealers forward the costs to Germany or Mexico. I have had the pleasure to get things fixed on my Passats after the warranty has expired. I have heard that Toyota has similar agreements with their factories.

    But no warranty covers defects on 10 year old cars.

    As a consequence, I think the lifetimes of modern cars pretty much are left in the hands of the automotive industry. Imagine that you have left your car at the garage because of an engine fault lamp, and you’re told that your car’s software unfortunately has expired.

    -Sorry, we no longer support version 1.0, and your car is not compatible with the next version …

    Think about the latest generation of electric cars loaded with advanced software. I have been told that if you buy a second-hand Nissan Leaf, you must ensure that you get the brilliant version 2 and not the old version. Version 1 can be a bit crappy and does not in any way measure up to the latest version. It’s almost like mobile phones. When you need a new version, you might as well buy a new phone. Volvo advertises that they will upgrade your car’s onboard software for free, while it is in for service. They’ve even named their service “2.0”. That’s fine. My dealer charges me 200 € for that. But should it ever be necessary to do a complete upgrade, you might have to replace electronic components all over the car. The 15,000 € estimate from the Audi-man might well become reality.

    I hope new vehicles can be recycled

    2015 Nissan Leaf

    2015 Nissan Leaf

    1996 Honda Civic DX

    1996 Honda Civic DX

    2005 Volvo V70 Wagon

    2005 Volvo V70 Wagon

    Room for bits and pieces

    2015 Skoda Rapid Space Back 1.6 TDI / 105

    It looks like a Golf, but runs like a Fabia. The luggage compartment is nearly as big as a station wagon. Could it be the ultimate family compact?

    Sportsback-1
    Look-and-feel3
    The Spaceback looks good. It shares identity with “family members” like the new Golf, the Audi A3 Sportback and the facelifted Seat Leon. Alloy wheels and fog lights look nice. But a beautiful appearance cannot hide the dull interior of the basic equipment line. Plenty of plastic – cheap plastic. The only positive feeling you get when you enter the car, is a feeling of space. Plenty of space. This is a typical car for everyday transportation of kids, football-players and muddy dogs.

    Driving3
    As I take the car on the road, I understand at once that this is neither a Golf, A3, nor Leon. This car drives like a Fabia. A large Fabia. I checked on the Internet to find out that the Skoda Rapid is built on the front suspension of the Fabia, and has borrowed the Roomster’s rear axle. It’s not a bad car to drive, but does not live up to the Golf we tested a few weeks ago.

    We used the Rapid in connection with a relocation process, moving bits and pieces from an apartment to a small village house in the south of France, – close to the Spanish border. We drove a lot, both empty and loaded with furniture and household items. The Rapid has plenty of room. I felt it was more like a small “van” than a driving machine. Extra weight affects the performance in the same manner as it would in the smaller Fabia.

    One thing I really hated, was the location of the clutch pedal. It was located too far to the right. I got the feeling of sitting diagonally when I used the clutch. The pedal rubber was heavily worn on one side, despite the fact that the car was quite new. A sign that other drivers must have felt the same.

    The well-known TDI engine of 105 horsepower worked well. The 5-step manual transmission distributed the power as it should, and I did not feel any necessity for more gears.

    Comfort3
    I never managed to adjust the driver’s seat correctly. The height adjustment lever affects the rear end of the seat cushion, only. In order to get some lateral support, I had to jack the seat all the way down. But then I felt I sat too low (I’m 1.88 tall). Therefore, I had to seek a compromise. Apparently, Skoda has chosen to use standard Fabia seats, which do not fit this vehicle very well. If the seats had been placed a few centimeters higher, they would fit me much better.

    Another weakness of comfort is the relatively high noise level, especially from the TDI engine at slow speed. Since the engine worked well at low revs, it did not feel annoying. At motorway speed the noise did not seem that intrusive.

    I liked the leather steering wheel, the front armrest and the manual air conditioning worked fine, too.

    Space5
    The Spaceback has 415 liters of luggage capacity. With the back seats folded down, it is possible to carry 1370 liters. The Golf’s luggage capacities are respectively 380 and 1270 liters. In the Spaceback the trunk seems considerably larger and deeper than the Golf. Even inside does the Spaceback feel more spacious than the Golf, but I think that can be explained by the fact that the Skoda is equipped with rather small and low seats.

    If I was a salesman at Skoda, I would use “space” as the number one selling point.

    Safety4
    Skoda Rapid is one of the latest models from Skoda. Basically, it has almost the exact same level of security as Octavia – according to NCAP. But you cannot order it with the latest and most advanced safety equipment like BLIS (Blind Spot Info System) alerts, drowsiness detection system, lane change alerts and adaptive cruise control. Besides, do not expect the active safety to be at the same level as Golf. Braking distances, for example, are considerably higher in the Spaceback.

    Economy5
    The TDI engine with 105 horses is one of the market’s best engines when it comes to fuel consumption and economy. It is easy to find an economical driving style. A low price tag and an expected good resale value also contribute to a positive and healthy economy.

    It seems that Rapid is designed to fill the demand for cheap cars in Eastern Europe and countries in the Near East. Its main contestants are other typical cheap cars, such as Dacia and the Korean brands. In countries where there are high import taxes on cars, the price advantage gets less significant, and you might as well buy an Octavia or a Golf.

    The Rapid is not the ultimate family compact, but it did a respectful job as a removal van.

    positive1
    • Luggage capacity.
    • Low fuel consumption.

    negative1
    • Hard to find comfortable seating position.
    • The clutch pedal is too far to the right.
    • Noise from the engine

    sportsback-3

    The Spaceback

    sportsback-5

    Plenty of room

    sportsback-7

    This is the area we tested the Skoda

    A small steering wheel


    2015 Peugeot 208 Style 1.2 / 82

    All I knew about this car was that it was French and had a rather small steering wheel.

    Look-and-Feel4
    -“What a small car!”  That was the first thought that went through my mind as I picked up the 208, parked next to a bulbous Peugeot 3008. From the inside, the 208 felt quite spacious. Peugeot has managed to create extra room for the driver by pulling the A-pillars far forward and putting in a tiny steering wheel. Even though it is small, it feels solid. The instruments are gathered in one cluster above the steering wheel and a touchscreen is placed exactly where it should be, high up on the middle of the dashboard. The airconditioner controls are located further down on the center console. I would not call the interior elegant, but elements of chrome and soft plastic made a positive impression.

    Tinted rear windows from the B-pillars and chromed side mirror housings, alloy wheels, fog lights, manual air conditioning, leather steering wheel, electric front windows and nice seat textures tell me that we are a few steps up on the equipment ladder. I like the paint as well, – “gray shark”.

    Driving4
    Peugeot claims that a small steering wheel enhances the driving pleasure. It certainly made the car feel “handy” in the city. But on open roads, it did not make any difference whatsoever. We ran across some strong side winds. The 208 is not more sensitive than other cars in its class, but it felt a bit odd to correct for crosswind with such a tiny wheel.

    Odd, but not unsafe.

    I would say there are a few aspects of this car that could make it a ladies’ car. The first is the small wheel. Second, the pedals. I nearly got my foot stuck between the brake pedal and the accelerator, wearing my Danish Ecco-shoes size 46 (US: 13). The 208 really could have been a feminine, trendy, French car if it wasn’t for the gear lever. It is so big and clumsy that I guess it must have been designed for an 18-wheeler.

    Nor did the 1.2-litre petrol engine feel particularly chic. The three cylinders gave an unusually rough sound when it was pushed, and I was forced to push it several times on the busy roads in the South of France. At cruising speed, the engine went ever so smoothly with a nice purr, but every time it was pushed, the harsh sound returned. According to specifications, the engine should deliver 82 HP, and I believe the figures are correct, but the rough sound gave me a feeling of having less power.

    With approximately 8000 km on the counter I felt the powertrain a little wobbly when maneuvering through slow traffic and in parking houses. It is also possible to hear the transmission and powertrain quite well, as you do in most French cars. I like French cars, and the 208 is no exception. I might as well describe the noise from the powertrain as “charming”.

    Let me also point out that the Peugeot had a very good road holding, as I would expect in any small French car, and indeed in a Peugeot.

    Comfort4
    It took me just a few seconds to find a comfortable seating position, despite the fact that only the rear part of the seat cushion can be lifted, and the seatbacks cannot be adjusted steplessly. I am 1.88 (6′ 3″). The other driver of 1.62 (5′ 4″) found a comfortable position, too, after just a few seconds. I give a “4” for comfort and the way the suspension handles road bumps – actually a lot better than many cars in the class above. The 208 has a long wheelbase for its class. 253 cm (99.6″) is actually longer than the first generation of the Saab 900.

    The comfort is spoiled a little by the unpleasant sound from the engine under pressure, but the sound at cruising speed is fine.

    Space3
    The long wheelbase provides good length in the interior. Four adults are comfortably seated. With a fifth passenger it gets cramped, but it works alright over short distances. I used the car to transport a kitchen table. In order to get it into the extended boot, I had to push the seat far forward and put my seatback in a very upright position. Even then, I was amazed to find a pretty comfortable seating position.

    The trunk is about the size of the Volkswagen Polo. It houses one large suitcase or two small. If you need more space, you have to fold down one of the rear seat backrests.

    Safety4
    Safety in the 208 is at the same level as the Polo. The NCAP results show that the 208 have a bit better protection for children onboard, but poorer safety for pedestrians. The Peugeot group (PSA) has long remained in the top team with respect to safety.

    I don’t know what impact it may have in case of a head-on collision, but the extra space in front of the driver provided by the downsized wheel and the forward A-pillars, gave a good safety feeling.

    An important active safety feature that you can order with your 208, is “heads up display” where the most important information is projected onto the windshield. This was not installed on the car I tested.

    Economy5
    According to the specifications, fuel consumption on mixed driving conditions should be 5.8 liters per 100 km (40 mpg) – on highway 3.9 (60 mpg). I did not manage to follow these figures during the the 14 days we drove the car. I like to drive economically, but I found it real hard to drive the 208 without pushing the engine. An E-HDI (diesel) would probably be a more desireable choice, but I’m not sure it can be justified from an economic point of view. A 92-HP 1.6-liter e-HDI engine puts € 2 550 on the price tag.

    From the options list I would definately pick the automatic climate control and the “heads up display” option.

    Modern Peugeots are reliable cars that can take high mileages. They are also far less prone to rust than their German competitors.

    The PSA group’s most important car?

    positive1
    • Long wheelbase, good interior length and good road holding
    • Easy to find a comfortable driving position

    negative1
    • The engine sounds harsh and rough when being pushed.
    • The powertrain is a little wobbly and could be a little more silent.

    peugeot-208-13

    This is the landscape where the 208 was tested.