Article

Volvo V90 T8 Twin Engine

-Next time you are testing a new car, I want to go to Oslo Fashion Outlet.

Few people are more picky about cars than my wife. That’s why I was excited about how she would react to the new Volvo V90. For my part, I like Volvo better than most other cars.

I picked up a Volvo V90 T8 Twin Engine AWD. It is a hybrid concept with two engines, – a supercharged turbo gasoline engine at the front and a rear mounted electric motor. The petrol engine produces 320 hp and has a torque of 400 Nm from idle speed. The electric motor produces 87 HP and has a constant torque of 240 Nm. All in all, we talk about 407 HP and a torque of 640 Nm. Enough to match a supercar.

No racing car

The Volvo does not feel like a racing car. Don’t get me wrong. You can accelerate from 0-100 to 4.7 seconds and the specified top speed is 250 km / h. Enough to leave most traffic in the dust. But behind the wheel I did not feel any urge to test the limits. Gliding through the inner city streets of Oslo, I felt like a royalty. The wide, low-cut windshield and the aggressive front gave me a kind of “king-of-the-road” confidence. And while cruising along, I got associations to the BMW 5 Series. Maybe not so strange. I had chosen to drive on electricity, and voilà – there I was driving a rear wheel driven car.

volvo-v90-t8-51

New generation Volvo interior. Gone is the award-winning center console with the button cluster. No place in my home offers more comfort than this!

Getting acquainted

As a guest driver for one day, I did not have enough time to explore all the options of the car. I just wanted to get on the road, but needed a few minutes to study the most elementary functions. Start and stop button, for example. It looks like a button but is supposed to be turned like a key. The gear lever must be pushed once for each step you want (R-N-D-B). To switch from Drive to Reverse requires two separate moves. Push it once to go from Drive to Neutral  – and push it again to go from Neutral to Reverse. Park is on a separate button. The handbrake is electromechanical, by the way.

There is a whole lot of configuration options. The infotainment system lets you configure steering, throttle, braking and climate system. I realized that I did not have time to go through all of them. I did not have time to recharge the batteries either. They were just under a quarter of full capacity. I might have topped them up in less than two hours. using my garage mounted EV charging station with a Type 2 cable on 16A, 3.7 KW currency. That would give a theoretical range of 44 kilometers.

Driving without external charging

The crux of running a hybrid car is that you can run solely on electricity as long as you have a charging station at home and/or at work. Nevertheless, I know people who never charge their rechargeable hybrid cars. They just drive. Then it’s important that the car manages to regenerate electricity by regular driving, so that it still can operate in hybrid and EV mode. I put the gear lever in “B” to capture energy from the engine brake. It is not very powerful, but still charging the batteries a little. I noticed that the car went well on electricity from standstill and while the engine was running without pressure. All in all, a nice balance between gasoline and electricity.

volvo-v90-t8-151

DIgital instruments and head up display (not visible on the photo).

On the road

After having adjusted  the passenger seat correctly, my wife nodded with a vague smile. Evidently she had approved the interior, although she did not care much about the decor in brown wood. “A bit tacky”, she commented while eyeballing me: “You like it, right?” – When we specified the decor inside her last new car, I had considered wood-inlays, but she insisted on hi-tech metal. “Woodwork is for old people”, she said. Nevertheless, it seems more appropriate to be embraced by forest materials in a Volvo than in an Audi. Okay, I did like the brown wood, but said nothing to my wife.

volvo-v90-t8-31

Parked at Oslo Fashion Outlet (recently changed name from Norwegian Outlet).

Shopping

Oslo Fashion Outlet is a shopping mall for quality brands, like Hugo Boss, Gant, Helly Hansen, to mention a few. The prices here are a lot cheaper than in other magazines. I found a pair of discounted jackets at Gant and spent the rest of the shopping chilling on a sunny bench in the outdoor atrium while my wife searched through all the other stores. Then we had a nice lunch before moving on.

The street going from Oslo Fashion Outlet to the center of the small town Vestby is filled with warehouses any small town in the world would love to have. We popped into another shopping mall for groceries before we took the long way home. Not the motorway. The road that runs through the forests and accross farming landscapes.

volvo-v90-t8-91

Easy to use. Room for charger/cables under the plate. Underneath all is the electrical motor.

Just before Nordby, we stopped at Riis Farm, a beautiful, classic manor house where the barn has been turned into a clothing store for fashion clothes. British, French and German quality clothes you don’t find in ordinary shopping malls, – not even at Oslo Fashion Outlet. The front yard made a nice sourrounding for the clothing magazine inside – and the Volvo outside. I find that the V90 is a real “estate car”, – as the Swedes say: “Herrgardsvagn”. A name that has followed Volvo ever since the 122 Volvo Amazon.

volvo-v90-t8-1

“The Shop in the Country” sells quality clothing of British, French and German brands.

Feelgood

If I could only use one word to describe the V90 cockpit, it would be “feelgood”. The world’s most comfortable car seats designed for tall Scandinavians, head-up display, digital instruments, damped noise level, premium sound system, good company and plenty of power.

If I was to put my finger on something, it might be the noise from the 18-inch studless winter tires. It was not loud in decibel, but the sound had a whining character, like the wheels of a semi-trailer. I think 19-inch summer tires might be even more noisy, but perhaps in another pitch. Hopefully a bit lower. I also noticed that during slow braking the brakes slammed on the last meter or two before standstill, as if the handbrake automatically went on while the wheels were still rotating. I know, I should have studied the settings on the infotainment system. Maybe I could turn off automatic handbrake, – something like that.

volvo-v90-t8-111

Trim level – Inscription

Economy

It seems that large, conventional station wagons lose market shares to SUVs. I think most families choose the XC90 SUV instead of V90. Volvo’s T8 rechargeable hybrid system is not the cheapest powertrain on V90. The D3 150 hp 2 liter turbo diesel will work fine, although I would prefer the D4 190 hp. A quick search on V90s for sale, shows that more than 75% are diesel. Hybrid is beneficial if you have the opportunity to charge at home and/or at work. If you drive largely outside the reach of the batteries, you will achieve better fuel economy with diesel. Another factor to consider, is that the T8 drivetrain have many components we still know little about in terms of expected life time and maintenance costs.

Facts

Volvo V90 T8 drivetrain:

volvo-v90-t8-doortrim1Engine volume: 1969 ccm (gasoline).
Power: 407 hp (320 hp petrol + 87 hp electricity).
Torque: 640 (400 Nm gasoline + 240 Nm electricity).
Transmission: 8-speed automatic.
Operation: 4-wheel drive via control-by-wire between gasoline engine (front) and electric motor (rear).

Volvo V90 dimensions:

Length: 493 cm
Width: 189 cm
Height: 147 cm
Wheelbase: 294 cm
Luggage compartment under the cover: 560 liters
Tank volume: 50 liters
Curb Weight: 1975 kg
Max. Trailer weight with brakes: 2100 kg
Max. Trailer weight without brakes: 750 kg

Prices (NOK):

Purchase price: 710 900, –
Technology Package: 16 900, – or Technique PRO: 26 900, -.
Technology package is a “must have” because it includes LED and NAV. Tech PRO includes head-up display.
Metallic paint supplement: 9 900, –
Tinted windows from B pillar and backwards: 4 100, –
Chrome exhaust pipe and diffuser: 7 295, –

Source: http://www.volvocars.com/en/
Owner: Hertz Bilpool

volvo-v90-t8-171
Advertisements

Fiat 500 in Vacation Mode

Never change a winning horse.

When the Fiat 500 got a facelift last year, I had expected more drastic changes. After all, this retro model has been in production for 10 years, and only minimal changes have been made along the way. The explanation is simple. The Fiat 500 sells better and better. You don’t change a winning horse!

I think the modern Fiat 500 is one of the most successful car designs ever. Last year’s facelift was a small one. I noticed a new horizontal chrome strip in the front and a new grill between the fog lights. I also noticed that the front lights, as well as the tail lights, are changed. Inside, an infotainment system with touch screen is in place. The panoramic glass roof allows a lot of light to flow into the cabin. It makes the cabin look spacier, but all the bright light from above makes the instruments sometimes hard to read.

The look of the Fiat 500 oozes class. It fits in everywhere. Curbside on dingy side streets, at downtown cafes between Italian Vespas, – or in the driveway of a luxury villa. At least it decorates my village in the South of France.

Bordeaux Opera is such a dark color that it sometimes appear as black.

“- I like the car”, my wife said. “But it looks tiny with you behind the wheel”. I do not feel like an elephant in a cage, but realize that she might have a point. You don’t expect to see a tall Nordic guy behind the wheel of a Fiat 500. However, it feels far from cramped inside.

In the South of France, mini cars like the Fiat 500, are more popular than in the Nordic countries. This is due to two things – insurance rules that make it impossible for young drivers to drive anything but the smallest cars, and that parking sometimes can be a challenge. A tall man driving a small car, does not create any negative attitudes, I believe. Everyone knows that a Fiat 500 may well come from a family with more than one vehicle in the garage. Maybe a Ferrari, or something similar?

I notice that the driver’s seat provides good thigh support when I jack it down, which is the only height adjustment option. I think if you have shorter legs than me, you may be forced to sit quite high – or close to the steering wheel – to reach the pedals. The wheel can be adjusted in height, but not in length. If you have short legs and long torso, you might find it difficult to find a good position – but these are only speculations. I’m sitting comfortably, but I find the pedals, especially the clutch pedal, a little too much to the right. There is simply no room at the left because of an intrusive wheel arch.

Retro inside as well.

I like the steering wheel and the controls. The interior colors are fresh, with white leather steering wheel, white center console and inserts in the dashboard. I love the way the interior has captured the car’s paint color. Everything feels chunky and solid. A couple of times I have pulled the seat height adjustment lever instead of the handbrake. The two “handles” are placed side by side.

The Fiat 500 runs like a regular, modern car. It was surprisingly steady on the highway. I have also taken it across a lot of mountain roads, some with rough surfaces, tight turns and steep climbs. I haven’t found anything wrong about the car’s ability to handle different surfaces under different conditions, given the fact that it is a mini car.

I could wish for a more powerful engine, though …

My Fiat 500 had the simplest engine option, a 1.2 liter engine (SMPI VVT) – 69 HP and a torque of 102 Nm / 3000. The engine is what it says on the paper. It seemed to hesitate a little when accelerating. I think it was because the car only had 1000 km on the counter, and that the air conditioner worked really hard to cope with outside temperatures of 35-38 degrees Celsius.

To keep up with the local traffic along the mountain roads, I had to accelerate and brake more than I was comfortable with. The 5-speed manual transmission was easy to work with. The gear lever is placed high up and close to the steering wheel, making it possible to shift quickly. But why hurry? In vacation mode, we chose to pull over frequently to let the the local cars pass by.

Surprisingly good space in the trunk.

The front room is good for two adults. The back seat has room for two. In fact surprisingly good space, since you sit quite upright in the front seats. Two tall people will hardly sit comfortably in the same longitudinal direction. You cannot expect that within three and a half meter. By the way, I’m pleasantly surprised by the trunk. It holds more than you would think, but requires that you stow smartly.

Safety

Fiat 500 is tested by NCAP. The results are not quite as good as competitors like Volkswagen Up! and Citroën C1. The Fiat 500 was punished because the dummies in the front seats were measured for severe retardation at their heads. Even though there were no physical damage to the heads, NCAP considers that there may be a risk that people inside the car may be subjected to internal head injuries. Sideways collisions and sideways to pole worked well.

Economy

Fiat 500 is considered relatively expensive cars for its class. It has been produced almost unchanged for 10 years, but still sought after in the secondhand market. Better than most other cars on the market. During the end of the 80s, the importer and dealer network in Norway was shut down due to bankruptcies. Fiat owners were left on their own with cars that had quite many quality issues at that time. This is something your dad would like to tell you about. But don’t worry! Today’s Polish-built Fiats have proven to be working well since the launch in 2007. Sales and after-market of Fiats are now taken care of by new enterprises.

I have not yet measured the fuel consumption in detail. So far, with driving on mountain roads and highways, our consumption seems to end up around 0.61 liter / 10 km. I don’t think that consumption will ruin anyone, but if you choose the TwinAir engine, you’ll probably get much better consumption figures.

Summary

The Fiat 500 blends well in everywhere you go. It has a great look. I am pleasantly surprised by the space and the comfort. There are no problems driving this car for hours on the highway. I have been driving my Fiat 500 a few days in southern France and feel lucky to spend a couple of days more with it. You might expect me to say that Fiat 500 1.2 liter may not be a good choice for keen drivers. But as it happens, I have already been more on the road with this little Fiat than many bigger cars I’ve had here …

Maybe it’s because I’m in vacation mode?

A new infotainment system is one of the novelties.

Intuitive climate panel. ASR means Stability Control.

A great design!

I like the design on the main instrument cluster, but not the quality of the digital center display. Very difficult to read in strong sunlight.

The fabric in the seats contributes to a premium car feeling.

The back seat has room for two…

A Tribute to the VW Bus

In fact, all Volkswagen buses are great, especially the early models T1 and T2. Functional, simple and very beautiful. I’d like to emphasize the feeling of having huge space inside, despite the modest external dimensions. The comfort can be a little so-and-so. The seats are strictly functional. You are sitting pretty much upright. The sound level inside is not bad, due to the rear mounted engine. But a rear mounted, air cooled engine does not make the best foundation for heating up the cabin of a mini bus. Keeping the windows defrosted during the cold Nordic winters can be a challenge without the optional Ebersprächer heating system.

I remember the old VW buses from my own childhood. They were popular as commercial vans, family cars for large families and households who wanted a combined company car and passenger car. When they had finished their service, many were driven into the woods or on a ground where they were left to rust and slowly transformed to moss.

Even as rusty wrecks, the T1 and T2 are beautiful cars. Today, old wrecks are dragged out of the Nordic forests to be renovated and repaired on the Continent by people with plenty of time and money and a burning love for VW buses. It might be profitable, too, as vintage VW buses can be traded at ridiculous high prices. They are valued according to the number of windows. The more windows, the higher the price.

Every year, many of the world’s finest VW buses make a visit to VolksWorld at Sandown Park racecourse in Esher, Surrey. I was there last year and took the pictures in the gallery at the top of the page. In 2018 the event will be held 24-25 March. All green areas are transformed into a large camping area where owners of VW buses can stay overnight. Many of the visitors are coming over from the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany.

Ratlook, slammed, pristine – all are equally fine. I always take pictures of T1s and T2s, both at exhibitions and along the road. I have only one concern, though. I see a lot more buses than pickups. Where have all the VW pickups gone? I fear that many of them have ended up as donor cars for bus projects.

– Hope to see more VW pickups on VolksWorld 2018!

VolksWorld Show – Sandown Park – 24th & 25th March 2018.

Toyota Auris Hybrid – Real Consumption

EU Consumption Figures can be a bit misleading, especially for hybrid cars.

One of the main issues is the way the tests are performed. There are two different driving cycles. The urban driving cycle, – about 13 minutes and 4 kilometers of a prescripted urban driving behaviour. Then, 6 minutes and 40 seconds of extra urban driving, covering a theoretical distance of 7 kilometers. A good hybrid with fully charged batteries could easily pass the entire test more or less on battery power alone. In real life, batteries will be partly discharged and your fuel consumption will be a lot higher.

0.44 liters per 10 km (country roads)
MPG (US): 53
MPG (Imperial): 64
Outside temperature: 3°C
Inside temperature inside 21°C
Speed: 70-80 km / h
Distance: 56.7 km
Wind: Light air 1 m / s

0.53 liter per 10 km (highway)
MPG (US): 44
MPG (Imperial): 53
Outside temperature: 3° C
Inside temperature inside 21°C
Speed: 100-120 km / h
Distance: 42.8 km / h
Wind: Light air 1 m / s

The eco meter.

The only way you can charge batteries in a non-plugin hybrid car like Auris Hybrid, is by taking it on the road and drive it. It has regenerative braking. The brake energy is lead back into the batteries. The onboard system decides when and where to engage the electric motor. Everything happens automatically. Just drive as normal.

Toyota Auris Hybrid STW.

If you are looking for an affordable hybrid station wagon, you cannot overlook this car. There is one alternative: The 7-seat Prius+ Seven with the same motorization, – the 1.8 VVT-i Hybrid Advance where the 99 HK gasoline engine cooperates with an electric motor of 37 HP. There are simply no other hybrid competitors at the same price that can serve as an everyday family car.

Toyota Auris Hybrid is one of “my” cars. Not for real. Just rental cars I use for various transportation purposes. A typical everyday car. I dislike the CVT gearbox and the Eco driving mode. I might also add that I have never considered taking the long way home. Well, that is not quite true … On Sunday I took the car for a Sunday trip to measure fuel consumption and gain some more knowledge of Toyota’s hybrid concept.

First stage – The highway between Oslo and Drammen came to a complete stop about halfway. Someone had found that Sunday morning was such a fine time for carrying out some road work. In situations like this, the gasoline engine shuts itself down and leaves the rest to the batteries – that is, if they were charged. Dammit! Every time I pick up an Auris Hybrid, the batteries are completely empty. During 50 minutes of road block, the gasoline engine went almost continously at a high and somewhat irritating idle speed. Anyway, I was glad to keep the heater and the defroster alive. The weather outside was 3 degrees and light rain.

Dashboard view.

The batteries are recharged when you press the brake pedal – so called regenerative braking. By putting the gear lever in «B», you will get an engine brake that also has a regenerative braking effect. There is a long decent on the highway into Drammen. When I drive electric or hybrid vehicles, I normally use the engine brake to the full extend down the decents to give the batteries a real boost. In Auris, the engine brake is not particularly powerful. I heard the gasoline engine revved up as well, slowing down the speed, but with just moderate or no charge of the batteries. Shame on Toyota! It lets precious brake energy disappear through the exhaust pipe.

South of Drammen I took the old south-bound road to Holmestrand, a small village by the sea. The old road has a speed limit of 70 km / h. It is ideal for economical driving, and best of all, – it is not a toll road, like the new highway. Average consumption had shown 0.53 liters / 10 km on the highway. Even though I had reset the dashboard computer after the long decent. Still it seemed to be stuck at 0.50.

The gear lever. Reverse, Neutral, Drive and Brake (engine brake). Park is on a separate button.

I switched the gear lever between “D” and “B”. With the gear lever in “D” it is possible to let the car roll several hundred meters without any assistance from the gasoline engine. Almost no fuel is consumed, but unfortunately the batteries aren’t charged either. Sometimes I chose “B” to reduse speed or hold the car down the hills, and charging the batteries at the same time. I imagine that the hybrid concept works better when there is power in the batteries. The range in EV mode is not very good. It makes it barely possible to pass through 40 and 50 km / h zones. It is a good practice to accelerate carefully from standstill to let the electric motor bring the car up in speed before the gasoline engine takes over.

I was not particularly pleased with the average consumption when I turned into the harbor of Holmestrand. 0.52 liters per 10 km was way too high. I had driven at steady speed between 70-80 km / h. I had been very careful neither to press the accelerator too quick nor too hard, especially when picking up the rpm after rolling freely. If you press the pedal too quickly, the CVT gearbox revs up the engine more than necessary to maintain the pace. I think Toyota’s CVT gear box is too nervous. A double clutch gear box solution would have worked better. A lot better.

I parked beside another British car.

The ice-free harbor in Holmestrand is a terrific offer for boaters. It is nice to stroll along the harbor street. The northern wave breaker is shaped like a fishing pier, filled with recreational fishermen. The cod is delicious at this time of the year.

Fishermen side by side on the wave breaker.

Auris is a compact family car. The luggage space is not particulary large. The loading area is a little narrow, though. Compact cars nowadays are just as large as middle family cars were 10-15 years ago. On the road, the weight distribution feels good. Inside, there is enough space and comfort to call it a family car.

I reset the dashboard computer before I started my way home. Average consumption seemed to stabilize at 0.42 liters / 10 kilometers. For the first time, I chose to take the “long way” home with the Auris. I followed the coastal road from Sande via Svelvik to Drammen. This road is also speed-regulated, but more winding than the road I took on my way down. I stopped a few places to take some photos. I spotted other people doing the same. Some took selfies against the fjord in the gloomy and idyllic winter light.

Idyllic scenery looking across the fjord.

I noticed that the Auris automatically switched to electricity around the small coastal village Svelvik. I obviously had plenty of battery power. My “long” trip from Holmestrand to Drammen was conducted with an average consumption of 0.44 liters per 10 km. The highway between Drammen and Oslo at a constant speed of 100 km / h was traveled at 0.53 liters per 10 km. I think Toyota could achieve better consumption figures if the engine brake had better effect, and the gearbox did not let the engine rev so unnecessarily high. I think the hybrid power train of Volkswagen Golf GTE works better and is a lot more pleasant to drive, although real consumption figures are the same

Well, hybrid cars do not pollute when driven through urban areas. That is good, but the most important reason for me to choose a hybrid, is the fine torque you get when both the gasoline and the electric motor work together. It actually gives some driving pleasure, – assuming you do not touch the “Eco” button.

It will drain the last bit of fun out of the Auris.

A compact sized family car

toyota-auris-hybrid-stw-700-19

It looks good in black.

530 liters of luggage storage.

The trip is over and so is the coffee …

 

Air-cooled Beauties

There is something special about air-cooled Volkswagens and Porsches.

I think we all have memories from an air-cooled Volkswagen. Good memories. At least I have. My first ride in a Beetle was in ’64. A green split-window from 1953. I never forget.

Earlier this year, I took some pictures at an exhibition held by local owners of air-cooled Volkswagens and Porsches. The event was held at Oslo Folk Museum, a place where different time capsules are being kept authentic, like the 50’s and the 60’s, – the years when the air-cooled beauties were roaming the streets.

If you click on the picture gallery above, you will see 1959 Porsche 356, 1950 VW split-window Beetle, 1973 Porsche 911, 1973 VW 1303 S Cabrio and a couple of Beetles from the sixties.

Great Versatility

2016 Renault Captur 1.5 dCI

The orange and white paint made me think of old rainwear and lifejackets. Maybe that’s why someone got the idea to create a campaign model called “Helly Hansen”? Anyway, this is not the Helly Hansen variant. Just an urban crossover in a fancy color combination.

I think the Captur is somewhere between the Nissan Qashqai and the Citroen C3 Picasso, perhaps more like a Nissan Juke. It seems like a large car, rather tall and wide – but still based on a subcompact car à la Clio.

What does the Captur offer?

A lot of versatility. Large doors with large openings. Plenty of space to fasten toddlers safely into their child seats. Plenty of interior space. The glove compartment is a deep drawer. It reminds me of a modern kitchen drawer. Everything I see and touch, seems solid. The entire interior seems like it can take a beating, too. Should one of the kids get sick on board, it’s good to know that all seat covers are removable and can be cleaned.

But even inside a high-end model like this, there is no premium feel. It feels just like a reasonably priced car with a thoughtful design. The Captur is designed in France and manufactured in Spain. Prices begin at about NOK 220,000, making Captur only marginally more expensive than its brother – the Clio.

When I entered the car for the first time, I noticed that I was sitting in a typical Latin driving position – made for bodies with short legs. Thanks to the longitudinally adjustable steering wheel, I was able to find a superb driving position for Nordic guys, like me. I chose to sit a bit high to get a good overview of the narrow streets I was going to drive through.

Tall and wide. It looks bigger than a subcompact.

Tall and wide. It looks bigger than a subcompact.

On the road, the Captur drives like a large car. You are sitting quite high compared to conventional cars, and you hardly notice the speed, either. I had to keep a constant eye on the speedometer not to drive too fast in the speed-contolled 80-zones around Barcelona where I picked up the car. The top two gears in the 5-speed gearbox are both overdrive, and with Renaults fantastic 1.5 dCI engine, it felt like driving a rather powerful engine. I had to check that I had the 90 HP engine and not the 120 HP. Another factor contributing to the large car feeling, was the suspension. It is comfortable, but not like old times French cars. More like the Qashqai.

I am a bit skeptical to tall, lightweight vehicules when it comes to stability. Will they roll over under a critical evasive action, like when you are trying to avoid a wild animal on the road? I believe that the softer the suspension, the easier it is to feel the limit. A modern tall car may not give that feedback. Therefore, I chose to practice a little on an open part of the road to ensure that the Captur would not roll over too easily.

There is plenty of cubik for the luggage if you are able to stack it.

There is plenty of cubik for the luggage if you are able to stack it.

A large subcompact.

I enjoy the feeling of driving a tall car. I have a superb overview. I like the looks of the car. It looks like a fullsize family car, especially when driving around in the southern France, where family cars are a little downsized compared to family cars on Norwegian roads.

The Captur is in fact a subcompact. That shows when you open the trunk. It is no place for much more than a cabin suitcase and a couple of shopping bags. Just as large as in any subcompact car. The luggage compartment is however divided in two. With the separation plate removed, you get 377 liters – almost as large as in a Volkswagen Golf, – but it is high and shallow, and not as easy to utilize as in a Golf. In the Captur, it is possible to push the rear seats forward to expand the luggage capasity. Great versatility, but still a compromise. You cannot have it all in a car that is barely over 4 meters long.

The Renault 1.5 dCI engine is considered by many as the best turbodiesel ever. I don’t disagree. I am impressed by the lack of diesel sound. 90 HP makes no super acceleration, but the torque of 220 Nm in the RPM range of 1750 to 2500 is good.

Instead of the dCI engine, you may choose a 90 HP 0.9 liter petrol engine. I have not yet tested that engine. It is an interesting option, but I fear that with only 3 cylinders it won’t provide the same fine sound as the dCI engine gives.

Very easy to handle on French backroads.

Very easy to handle on French backroads.

Safety

The Renault Captur has marginally weaker security than the Nissan Qashqai, which also originates from Renault. Both have overall good results, but the NCAP report for Captur shows that front seat occupants run a high risk of getting whiplash injuries in rear-end collisions.

Economy

According to the factory figures, fuel consumption is as little as 0.40 liters per 10 kilometeres in urban and 0.34 on the highway. Very impressive. I am going to keep the car a few more days, so I have not measured the real consumption, but so far it looks positive.

The Captur is priced marginally above the equivalent Clio – and that means a lot of car for the money. I think trade-in values will be good, because I think there is a good market for tall-built, small family cars. However, trade-in prices for Renaults are not quite as good as current bestsellers like Toyota and Volkswagen.

Conclusion

I am using the Captur as a daily means of transport under some fine autumn days in the southern France. It stands out as exceptionally easy to drive. It works especially well in city driving. The light steering makes it easy to park. It also handles motorway speeds fine. The car’s appearance is appealing, but I would definitely not choose it in orange and white. While we are on the road, we discover several Capturs in other color combinations. My wife prefers a red version with black roof. My choice would be white with black roof.

– Which color would you choose?

Curb lights and LED daylights.

Curb lights and LED daylights.

Not very elegant, but solid and durable interior.

Not very elegant, but solid and durable interior.

Seat covers can easily be removed for cleaning.

Seat covers can easily be removed for cleaning.

The glove Box is big as a kitchen drawer.

The glove Box is big as a kitchen drawer.

An extra storage bin on top of the dashboard.

An extra storage bin on top of the Dashboard. The lid sometimes popped up by itself.

Parked at Cadaqués, Spain.

Parked at Cadaqués, Spain.

Manufacturing defects on T5 and A5

“Norwegian ambulances cannot handle emergencies” states VG.

Newspapers across Norway have reported problems with Volkswagen T5-based ambulances. Almost all of them have got their engines replaced. Some have had several engine replacements. The problems are associated with Volkswagen’s Common Rail diesel biturbo engine with engine code CFCA. It has 180 hp and a torque of 400 Nm at 1500-2000 rpm.

The Norwegian importer and dealership, Møller Bil, have replaced all the faulty engines completely free of charge to all hospitals involved in the scandal. The bills have probably been covered by The Volkswagen Group in Germany. Without such an effective follow-up, the engine issue might have escalated to larger dimensions. It might be known as a problem far beyond being a problem with some ambulances.

“The vehicles are too heavy for this type of engine,” claims a representative from Møllergruppen, the importer’s holding company. The bodywork is built in Finland and sold through VBK, a Norwegian coachbuilder. Somewhere else I have read that “… the ambulances work under much more critical conditions than ordinary vehicles.” This refers, among others, to the fact that many engines go straight from a cold start to full throttle. One press spokesman also claims that “just a few ambulances are affected.”

Many more are affected.

The engine code CFCA is delivered to T5 Transporters and Caravelles across Europe. CFCA engines produced in 2010 and 2011 are involved. It is easy to verify this. Although the 180 hp engines were not particularly widespread in Norway during these years, I find an alarming high number of T5s for sale on the web based market place “Finn.no” where it clearly says that the engine has been replaced.

The problems are serious.

Volkswagen has not made any public announcements as to what may have caused the engine problems. On certain web forums, some involved technicians have explained that manufacturing defects have caused inferior alloy of the cylinder liners. There is also another recent theory that a faulty oil cooler has sent metal shavings into the oil stream. I think the first explanation is more plausible, because a defective oil cooler would have been far easier to spot and replace.

Anyway, it is a an error made at one of Volkswagen’s production plants. And the effects are the same. Excessive wear on the cylinder walls, pistons and piston rings. The first sign of damage is that oil consumption increases. As the wear increases, a number of subsequent damages may occur, as well.

The same fault may affect more than one engine type.

It is not unlikely that the same manufacturing error may affect other engines within the same corporation. If you own an Audi A5 2.0 TFSI 180 hp produced between 2010 and 2011 (engine code CDNB, possibly CDNC), you will sooner or later get the same problem as Norwegian ambulance drivers. We are talking about the same symptoms, – serious damage to the cylinder walls, pistons and piston rings and an excessive oil consumption.

The first thing you’ll notice, is high oil consumption.

According to Audi’s specifications, an oil consumption of 1 liter per 2000 kilometer is considered normal. It is only when the consumption exceeds this level that you can claim a warranty. In the US, Audi has admitted manufacturing defects, and granted extended warranty for affected owners up to 8 years or 80,000 miles (128,000 kilometer). In the UK, Audi has admitted some engine problems in the wake of a BBC program. In Norway, affected owners are followed up through their regular service programs. Owners with A5s who got their cars before the country specific 5-year warranty was introduced in 2011, have probably got their problems fixed even if they have fallen outside the old 3-year warranty period. It is nevertheless worth noting that Norwegian dealers follow a though justice regarding their responsibility. Only owners who have followed the service program meticulously, are supported. If you are unable to document one single oil change, or have had your car chip-tuned, you have lost all chances of being followed up.

I suppose the Norwegian importer, Møller Car, continues to follow up on T5 and A5 owners even after the regular warranty expires. But at some point in time their responsibility must expire as well. Then the owners are left to themselves. Perhaps secondary owners who have no idea that their cars had a serious hidden fault.

The problems are not related to what is called “Monday cars”, which only affects certain cars in production. It applies to all the aforementioned engines. The question is not “if”, but rather “when” problems arise. Owners spending few miles on the road, changing oil more frequently than Volkswagen/Audi’s longlife service program, using indoor parking – and driving carefully, may get their engines to last longer than average.

But for how long?

That’s the question you should ask yourself if you own one of the affected cars, or are considering buying one. Even if everything looks fine today, it is a considerable risk that the problem appear later in the car’s life time cycle. When you can no longer count on getting any support from the dealers?

VG June 14, 2016: Norwegian ambulances cannot handle emergencies. (Norwegian text)

Excerpts from ads posted on the Norwegian market place “Finn.no”:

Cylinders are drilled up at Oslo cylinder service, and Audi has dismantled and replaced all of the parts. (At 112,000 kilometers)

For those who know this engine in particular and wonder if pistons and rods are replaced, then the answer is “yes.” This was done by Audi Asker and Bærum at 53,000 kilometers.

Motor was exchanged at about 35,000 km due to high oil consumption, which has been a known problem for these engines.

Engine replaced by Volkswagen dealer at 110,000 km. Full documentation enclosed.

Engine recently replaced at Møller. 185,000 kilometers.

The engine is replaced on February 18, 2016 at 153,243 kilometers as a warranty issue …. (a known problem with Volkswagens).

Fête Americaine

This year was the 10th anniversary of Fête Americaine (American Party) on the beach outside the small French town of Argelès-sur-Mer. French people, who love American culture, get together once a year to enjoy American music, dancing, food, shows, performances, motorcycles and cars. We’ve been there and have taken snapshots among cowboy hats, Elvis look-a-likes, pin-ups in 50s style, and of course American cars.

This is France – but today it looks like Florida.

Plymouth Super Special

Plymouth Super Special

Everything is kept in the 50's style, even the pin-up on the quarter window.

Everything is kept in the 50’s style, even the pin-up on the quarter window.

What's better than going to the beach in a VW Bus?

What’s better than going to the beach in a VW Bus?

Bad Boy Beetle.

Bad Boy Beetle.

Hummer H3, also known as the Ladies' Hummer.

Hummer H3, also known as the Ladies’ Hummer.

Stylish logo, but far away from the original Humvee.

Stylish logo, but far away from the original Humvee.

A very nice car: The Buick Sedanette.

A very nice car: The Buick Sedanette.

The characteristic teeth of a 50's Buick.

The characteristic teeth of a 50’s Buick.

A hood ornament that could have been influenced by U.S. Air Force.

A hood ornament that could have been influenced by U.S. Air Force.

A Mustang is a true American symbol.

A Mustang is a true American symbol.

There were a lot of Ford Probes sold in Europe. Not my cup of tea...

There were a lot of Ford Probes sold in Europe. Not my cup of tea…

Look at the Indian motorcycle that passes just in front of the sixties' Beetle.

Look at the Indian motorcycle that passes just in front of the sixties’ Beetle.

A late seventies' T-bird.

A late seventies’ T-bird.

A '55 Chevy with toys in the grille.

A ’55 Chevy with toys in the grille.

Ford Mustang Shelby Cobra.

Ford Mustang Shelby Cobra.

Une voiture de mes rêves.

Une voiture de mes rêves.

This French Reanult 4CV from the late 50's was probably the most popular car on the stand.

This French Reanult 4CV from the late 50’s was probably the most popular car on the stand.

Looks like brand new inside.

Looks like brand new inside.

A very clean engine. I didn't like the red paint on the covers and the pulley.

A very clean engine. I didn’t like the red paint on the covers and the pulley, though.

With lots of patine. Still, the mechanics looked good.

With lots of patine. Still, the mechanics looked good.

Another American icon - the Chevy Corvette.

Another American icon – the Chevy Corvette.

A long bonnet which reveals a big and powerful engine.

The long bonnet which reveals a big and powerful engine.

Unmistakeably a Corvette.

Unmistakeably a Corvette.

Matra Murena (Simca/Talbot) from the late seventies is very rare today.

Matra Murenas (Simca/Talbot) from the late seventies are quite rare today, even though a total of 10,500 cars were made. Glasfibre body on galvanized steel frame.

It is just above 4 meters long and has 3 seats in front.

It is just above 4 meters long and has 3 seats in front.

A french car, but looks like something that could have been designed in the U.S.

A french car, but looks like something that could have been designed in the U.S.

That's all. Now, I'm looking forward to a hot summer.

5 000 visitors on a gray saturday with a little rain.

Now, I’m really looking forward to a hot summer.

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

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