We drove the Jeep Wrangler 2.2 Multijet 200 HP: only Jeep will always be Jeep…

If there is an absolute icon for rugged outdoors motoring, then it is Jeep. The original 1941 Jeep still celebrates in parades how it liberated our shores. And up to the present days, it uplifts our hearts and liberates our minds.

The Jeep Wrangler is an icon which continues to uphold the fascination for the original. Just look at it standing in front of your home. The looks are all there.

The legendary seven-slot grille, with the outer grille slats intersecting with the headlights, paying homage to the legendary CJ model. The trapezoidal wheel arches, the visible hinges, the removable top, all this continues the tradition, albeit in a very modern manner. As this Jeep is king on the rugged terrain, it is also royal to drive on the road, just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Don’t you just love a car which will never, ever let you down, and just brings you to your destination whatever the weather, the road conditions? A car which breathes timeless authenticity, looks and conveys exactly what it stands for, nothing more, nothing less? Then this Wrangler is the car for you. It certainly was the car for us, all during this test.

We just love the ideal, well honed proportions of this fourth generation Wrangler. We are smitten by its wide stance and lowered beltline with larger windows, making the car look “just right”.

The windshield is tilted to an optimal degree to improve aerodynamics, and features a new four bolt design at the top of the windshield’s frame to allow the windshield to fold down quickly and easily. It is also the only authentic full open-air 4×4 SUV available on the market. It has for instance an easy-to-use Freedom Top, a removable, three-panel hard top.

Our car also had the Overland pack, and this offers unique 18-inch aluminium wheels, a body colour grille with bright accent throats and headlamp bezels, body colour hard spare tyre cover and Overland logo. The exterior of the Overland pack is complemented by dedicated leather interior and LED lights.

The cabin also breathes the Jeep purposefulness. The dashboard stands deliciously upright, and features round and very clear instruments combined with the soft-touch surface with accent stitching. The completely restyled centre console houses the gear shift selection, transfer case and parking brake. Real bolts featured on the shifter, grab handles and frame the infotainment screen highlight genuine construction methods. Yeah, this is Jeep.

One of Wrangler’s unique characteristics are the entirely washable interiors and the protective rubber cover for the infotainment system screen, that allows easy clean up in complete peace of mind.

Not that you are devoid of modern infotainment or or creature comfort. The Wrangler has heated front seats, and even a heated steering wheel. The armrests in the doors are also lengthened so you can comfortably lean back on motorway journeys.

The central console also features a 7.0-inch or 8.4-inch touchscreens (both with Android auto Car Play connectivity). The fourth-generation UconnectTM system enhances the user interface and system performance with quicker start up times and improved screen resolution. The LED display is full-colour and allows the driver to configure information in more than 100 ways. All the functions are intuitive, well explained, utterly logical and we can say this is a car which you can use in its more than basic functions without ever having to look at the manual.

Going for that unique driving experience…

Pushing the dashboard weather sealed starting button lets the latest generation 2.2-litre MultiJet II turbo diesel jump to life. A state of the art diesel unit, with second-generation MultiJet technology, four valves per cylinder, belt-driven Double Over Head Camshafts (DOHC), 2,000-bar Common Rail injection system, solenoid injectors and a variable geometry turbocharger (VGT). It is good for 200 horsepower at 3,500 rpm and a torque of 450 Nm at 2,000 rpm. Enough to propel the Wrangler from 0 to 100 km in 9,6 seconds and push it further to a top speed of 180 km/h. But in everyday driving, you just enjoy the massive torque which is artfully passed on to the wheels by a supersmooth and alert 8 speed automatic. The Wrangler invites you to adopt a relaxed and anticipatory driving style, with the engine humming along hardly above 2000 rpm. Urban driving is a pleasure: you are sitting high above the traffic, and you are almost always well noticed by many other road users, as its imposing dimensions impress but find sympathy with many. Indeed, the Wrangler is quite popular, and as soon as the car is parked, it collects interested and admiring looks.

So you can potter along, with the engine and transmission providing silky smooth progress. The suspension is remarkably comfortable too, and of course our damaged and potholed urban roads and pavés are just the thing for your Wrangler.

The driver satisfaction continues on the open road. Not that the Wrangler begs you to throw it around corners, but it will provide excellent stability at speed and fast corners are taken with ease. As expected it is an excellent motorway cruiser, and the high gearing keeps consumption well within very reasonable limits. Cruising at legal limits on the motorway delivers an average consumption between 6-7 liters, urban errands let the consumption rise to 9-10 litres, although a cool, fluent driving style can work wonders here. CO2 emissions are still within boundaries with 202 g/km.

Off road champion

Of course, the brave really get going when the going gets rough. There are stories (and films) about Wranger owners who pull 30 tonne trucks out of snowy ditches, and this Wrangler is a true champion off-road. The terrain selector tells you already the story.

By shifting this dedicated lever to the 4WD High position, the driver can switch to four-wheel drive mode This 4H mode can be selected to operate either in the new “Auto” mode – ideal for any driving condition thanks to the continuous monitoring and management of the torque and the automatic engagement and disengagement of the 4WD as needed to maintain traction -, or in the 4H “Part Time” mode that ensures the torque is always evenly distributed between front and rear axles. To tackle extremely challenging and demanding off-road tracks,you can use the 4WD Low mode with a 2.72:1 low-range gear ratio that multiplies the engine torque.

We can assure you, there are no limits to what this Jeep can do. We tested this also out already for you some time earlier in the Austrian forests around Zeltweg and the muddy quarries in the region of the Lago di Garda, and you have to experience to believe it. In open forestland terrain in Belgium this Wrangler is hardly challenged, and what a delightful feeling it is that you will arrive at your destination no matter what.

Suffice to say here that two four-wheel drive systems are available on the Wrangler: Command-Trac – on the Sport and Sahara trim levels, i.e. our test car, and Rock-Trac – which is standard on the Rubicon trim configuration. Both systems feature the new “Selec-Trac” full-time two-speed transfer case for a continuous monitoring and management of the torque sent to front and rear wheels.

Creature comfort

This Wrangler is also quite a comfortable car. Not only are the seats excellent with plenty of bolster and lumbar support, the Wrangler continues to utilize the proven five-link coil suspension configuration. Front suspension features a lateral control arm and four longitudinal control arms, while the five-link rear suspension features two upper and two lower forged steel control arms for longitudinal control, and a track bar for lateral axle control.

The long suspension travel and progressive damping warrants excellent comfort, and on tarmac potholes as well as rough and rocky terrain, passengers are never unduly jolted. It is good living with the Wrangler too. Plenty of 12 V and even a 230 V plug for your electric devices, USB connections on dashboard panel and centre console, everything is at your disposal. Luggage space is quite adequate, with 533 liter minimum up to 1044 liters. Of course, there is still the roof, and Jeeps can carry a lot there too…

On top of all this, every Jeep lover knows all too well that Mopar has all the nifty accessories you always wanted, to make your Wrangler even more terrific.

Conclusion

This Wrangler really took our heart with its authenticity, its style, its on- and offroad performance, its comfort, its endearing solidity. A companion who will bring you everywhere you want, come what may. Its timeless shape will seduce you for years to come, its Euro 6d diesel engine is future (low-emission zone) proof. Last but not least a respectful right foot, which understands what proper Jeep driving is all about, will deliver you more than adequate economy, and put a broad smile on your face when you are behind the wheel in its cool and cosy cabin, cocooning while the kilometers unroll under its solid wheels.

You would never like it to stop, really, at least we never did…

Hans Knol ten Bensel            

We drove the Audi Q3 Sportback 45 TFSI Quattro: enjoy elegance and thoroughbred performance…

We all know the Audi adage “Vorsprung durch Technik” and this is indeed what the brand masterfully embodies through its products.

The elegant Q3 we tested makes no exception to this rule. It brings you the ultimate in state of the art classic, non electrified technology, and with its 230 HP makes driving this elegant 4WD a true feast… just read further.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Living in style.

Audi cars breathe style. Their designers carefully honed the already well proportioned Q3 to a distinct, elegant, coupé-like SUV/Crossover, with the good dimensions further enhanced by bigger wheels in the S line Quattro version we tested. The front end is angular and decidedly masculine, as Audi puts it, underlined by the trapezoidal air inlets, which are connected to each other by a narrow blade in the bumper. The sloping roof-line makes the car appear considerably longer than its sister model, the Q3, although the difference is just 16 millimeters. The Audi designers positioned the roof frame lower by 29 mm, and indeed, this Q3 looks sleek. In the S line exterior, the bumpers, the wheel arch trims, and sill trims are distinctively colored.

Here just one word about the Matrix LED headlights: Nine LEDs generate the low beam light and ten more LEDs create the high beam light.  

When the camera detects other road users, they are masked out of the light beam in a targeted fashion.

The matrix LED headlights also feature front and rear dynamic turn signals.

The cabin and dashboard also breathe the cherished Audi design language and philosophy. Clean, rakish yet fluid contours dominate the dashboard layout, and we find of course the virtual instrumentation, which is clear to read and stylish.

The instrument panel is designed in two zones, which makes it appear particularly wide. The upper zone integrates the air vents while the lower zone constitutes the operating level.

We tell you more later about the lavish array of infotainment functions, just suffice to say here that the central element here is the centre console with optional MMI touch display in our test car, which is together with the climate control unit tilted toward the driver by ten degrees.

In “our” S line, the seat backrests feature the embossed S logo, and the sport leather steering wheel bears a corresponding emblem. There is ample room for four if not five adults, the rear seats can be moved 130 mm (5.1 in) longitudinally as standard; their backrests are divided into three sections, and their inclination can be adjusted in seven stages. The volume of the luggage compartment ranges from 530 l (18.7 cu ft) to 1,400 l (49.4 cu ft). The loading floor can be adjusted to two levels, and the rear shelf is located beneath it. Our test car had the electric tailgate that can also be opened and closed with a foot motion.  

Driving is believing.

Pushing the starting knob revealed the feline smoothness of the 2 litre TFSI petrol engine. State of the art responsiveness is what you can expect from this unit: it delivers 169 kW (230 metric hp) at 5,000–6,200 rpm and 350 Nm (258.1 lb-ft) of torque between 1,500 to 4,300 rpm. Coupled to the 7-speed S-Tronic, you can expect some serious performance. And indeed, this Q3 truly delivers.

In supersmooth staccato the engine redlines and catapults the Q3 in 6,5 seconds to 100 km/h, hurtling further to a top speed of 233 km/h. Close to supercar performance, let this be said. And the beauty here is again, as befits a well engineered thoroughbred, that all this is achieved completely effortlessly, with chassis and drivetrain being always well mannered, keeping the driver in complete control. The engine is never obtrusive, and the S-Tronic always changes judiciously and at lightning speed. Of course one has the choice over different driving modes, and the consumption changes distinctly according to the selected mode and driving style. The manufacturer quotes between 7.7–7.3 l/100 km as combined fuel consumption, with CO2 emissions being 174–166 g/km.

It takes a very gentle foot indeed to stay between 8 and 9 litres/100 km in urban traffic, driving at legal limits on the open road will bring your consumption down to the 7 litres level. But of course, power costs fuel. We witness now an intensive “hybridisation” of the Audi range, and soon we will be able to drive the first Audi hybrids on the road. Suffice to say here for those enthusiasts keen on economy that the 1.5 TFSi in the Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI uses the cylinder on demand technology, which switches off two cylinders at low and medium loads.

Later this engine will follow with S tronic and 48 volt mild hybrid system. During deceleration, it recovers energy; during acceleration from low speeds, it supports the engine. In real-life driving, it can save up to 0.4 l of fuel per 100 km.

At the moment of writing, we are driving the new Passat Hybrid GTE, and to tell you right away, it is an impressive plug-in hybrid indeed, with VW manifestly knowing very well what engineering and building a state of the art hybrid is all about.

Superb agility and balance

This SUV/Crossover coupé has also all what it takes to shine on curvy roads. First of all, it’s a Quattro, so it will certainly stand its own on wet and snowy roads, but it is also a very fine handling sporty companion on dry tarmac, being able to handle effortlessly all the power you unleash with your right foot.

At the limits of performance, the quattro drive works closely together with the wheel-selective torque control, It makes handling even more dynamic and stable by gently applying the brake to the inside wheels with the quattro drive and the inside front wheel with the front drive. The central element of the quattro drive system is a hydraulic multi-plate clutch on the rear axle. Its electronic management combines outstanding stability and strong traction with driving pleasure, the manufacturer tells us, and right they are.

The Audi digital world…

Our top of the range Q3 took us convincingly into the wonders of digital infotainment, and it is intuitive and easy to use. The flat menu structure is complemented by a control unit that uses natural language and can also understand free-form communication. Entering a navigation destination and the MMI search are based on free-form text input.

The system recognizes the driver’s most frequent destinations based on previous journeys, allowing it to generate suitable suggestions. When doing so, it takes into consideration statistical empirical values regarding the traffic load and time of day. Wow!  

…and being connected

The future doesn’t stop here of course. Together with MMI navigation plus, the online services of Audi connect are made available on board at LTE Advanced speed via a permanently installed SIM card.

This includes, for example, online traffic information and the online points of interest service, which complements route guidance with photos, opening hours and user evaluations.

Thanks to the inter-connectivity of the Audi fleet, the Q3 Sportback receives and provides information about parking spaces on the roadside, hazard areas and speed limits, which are detected via the on-board camera and vehicle sensors.

Navigation with Google Earth and the hybrid radio, which automatically switches between FM, DAB and online streaming depending on the reception conditions, also form part of the Audi connect navigation & infotainment plus package. The voice control system uses the detailed knowledge in the cloud to answer the driver’s questions and commands. The future has arrived with this package!

Of course, this Audi also takes care of your smart phone. The free myAudi app and the Audi smartphone interface ensure interconnectivity between the car and smartphone. This integrates Android and iOS cell phones into the on-board infotainment system.

The content of the smartphone is shown on the MMI display via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and no cables are required if the top infotainment system is used with an iPhone. The Audi phone box and the Bang & Olufsen Premium Sound System with virtual 3D sound complete this comprehensive offer.

Of course, there is the whole array of electronic driving aids, which makes both urban and long distance touring a true pleasure…

Conclusion

A stunning compact yet roomy SUV, offering in this powerful version tons of driving pleasure, yet remaining utterly sophisticated and docile.

With its superb styling, workmanship and finish, this Audi is a car to love and behold, and care for during its long, reliable life, if you have the pleasure and privilege to own it for some time. It constitutes undoubtedly the pinnacle what classic medium size petrol engined drivetrains can offer, and as such constitutes a benchmark indeed.

Hans Knol ten Bensel   

The Concept Alfa Romeo Tonale is to be seen on the press and gala day of the Brussels Show…

Faithful readers will remember that we stood in the FCA Centro Stile eye to eye with the stunning design concept car, the Alfa Romeo Tonale. For those lucky ones who will be invited to the gala evening and attend the press day on January 9, we have good news : it will be on show on that day in the Hall 7 of the Brussels Salon…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Indeed, you can admire it for one day in Hall 7 of the Motor Show buildings, and you will see its design language close up. This is rather important, as its shapes will be seen back in the second SUV which will bear the Alfa Romeo badge.

Its expressive design and compact shape bode well for the future styling of Alfa’s, whilst maintaining and even rather enhancing and accentuating further the organic Alfa styling DNA of the past. One only has to look at the formidable 21-inch alloy wheels, which evoke the “telephone dial”, a pure execution of the circular theme of the wheel itself. It was first seen in the 60’s and proudly carried by the Alfa 33 stradale. The wheel design has been further enhanced by special custom-made Pirelli’s…

The lateral profile of the car is reminiscent of the shapes of the Duetto and Disco Volante Spider, and the “Linea GT” profile of the Tonale is a modern day interpretation of the shapes seen on the GT Junior.

The “Trilobo” front end bears proudly the “Scudetto” grille, and the “3 + 3” headlights remember proudly the SZ and the Brera.

The cabin shapes have a distinct thoroughbred touch, and the materials are rich and inviting, with transparent panels in the centre console, and of course the DNA driving mode elector is a prominent element.

The Tonale is named after the Tonale mountain pass, which lies not far from the iconic Stelvio pass, and is equally breathtaking with eternal snow and water falls. Just come to admire it in Brussels…on the 9th of January. If you missed it, there is always a nice consolation for you: you can admire on the following days instead the new Giulia MY 2020…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

New Porsche Macan GTS: superb sportiness…

The Macan series is ever more popular, and Porsche now adds a distinctive touch of zest to the range, with a 380 HP GTS version. The 2.9-litre V6 biturbo engine comes with a performance-oriented chassis, characteristic design and enhanced equipment.

The engine is coupled to a newly adapted PDK dual-clutch transmission. Performance is nothing short of exhilarating. With the optional Sport Chrono package, the Macan GTS can accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 4.7 seconds, three tenths faster than before. It has a top speed of 261 km/h.

The Macan “Gran Turismo Sport”, has outstanding driving dynamics. The Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) damping control system has of course been specially tuned. The chassis has also been lowered by 15 millimetres for greater lateral dynamics. Adaptive air suspension is optionally available with chassis lowering by a further 10 millimetres.

Combined with the standard 20-inch RS Spyder Design wheels and the cast iron brakes (360 x 36 millimetres at the front, 330 x 22 millimetres at the rear), the new Macan GTS has the agility and responsiveness of a true sports car. As an option, deceleration can be further improved by means of the Porsche Surface Coated Brake (PSCB) with tungsten carbide coating or the Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake (PCCB).

The 2.9-litre V6 engine sounds not only delightful; it has also plenty of punch. The Central Turbo Layout, with two turbochargers arranged in the inner V of the engine, see to that. The maximum torque of 520 Nm (plus 20 Nm) is available over a wide range from 1,750 to 5,000 rpm. Economy is here more than ever the result of your driving style. Suffice to say here that consumption is 11.3 – 11.8 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres according to WLTP.

Design touches for more sportiness…

The standard Sport Design package with new front and rear trim and striking side skirts lends the car a characteristic appearance. The front apron and front section are characterised by black painted elements – a distinguishing feature of all Porsche GTS models.

The LED headlights with Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS) and the three-dimensional rear lights with LED light bar are also darkened. The 20-inch RS Spyder Design wheels in satin-gloss black, the red brake calipers and the trim strips in high-gloss black also emphasise the high-performance appearance.

In the cabin, the sports seats catch your eye. They are exclusive to the GTS, with eight-way adjustment and pronounced side bolsters for stable support during dynamic cornering. The GTS leather upholstery in Carmine Red or Crayon with additional Alcantara® features and colour accents, the BOSE® Surround Sound system and the new smartphone tray with inductive charging function are among the many personalisation options.

The new Macan GTS is available to order now. In Belgium, prices start at 81,892.80 euros including VAT. We just let you dream further, and look at the photos…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The new Renault Clio is voted VAB Family Car of the Year 2020

After the Renault Scénic in 2017 and Renault Grand Scénic in 2018, the new Renault Clio has been elected “VAB family car of the year 2020”. New Renault Clio wins the win in the category up to 20,000 €. VAB is the Flemish Automobile Club, and it organizes yearly a very coveted contest of best family cars in the different categories.  

Now for the third year in a row, Renault has distinguished itself as the top VAB Family Car. In 2016, Renault ZOE won in the “electric” category. Renault Scénic and Renault Grand Scénic won respectively in 2017 and 2018 the first place in the category up to € 29,500.

A closer look at the winner: the Renault Clio TCe 100

The winner of this 33rd edition is the Renault Clio Intens TCe 100. We drove it recently for you, and a test report will follow soon. Needless to say that this Cleo greatly impressed us, and this award hardly comes as a surprise to us.

This is the fifth generation of the Renault Clio.  This latest generation has been designed according to the double principle “Evolution & Revolution”.

On the one hand, it inherits from its predecessor the design that inspired the entire Renault range.

On the other hand, the revolution is mainly in the cabin that is inspired by the upper segments both in terms of quality and available technology.

This year, the winner is equipped with the 1.0 TCe three-cylinder engine. Just as out test car.

This unit is new in the Renault range, offering the latest technologies, such as a turbocharger with electrically controlled relief valve, an exhaust manifold partially integrated with the cylinder head, a double variable hydraulic timing of the distribution and a specific steel coating of cylinders (Bore Spray Coating).

With a power output of 100 hp and a torque of 160 Nm, this new generation engine gains 10 hp and 20 Nm over the TCe 90 it replaces, while reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

In Belgium, Renault Clio is the second best-selling vehicle, all segments combined, after the VW Golf. In addition, Renault Clio occupies the top spot in the B segment for retail sales…

Read out test report soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A double readers award for Alfa Romeo…

We were totally impressed driving the Alfa Giulia and Stelvio MY2020 for you in Bari. You can read about this in our columns, and we will also come back more in depth about our driving experiences. Suffice to say that we were not only delighted with the sheer performance of these thoroughbreds, we also noticed how refined and “mature” the whole drivetrain has become. One can feel clearly the enormous development and further honing which has gone into these marvelous machines. A truly superb driving experience is the result.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

It is therefore no surprise that both these cars are earning high awards among enthusiasts and car lovers.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is “Sportscar of the year”

Readers of the magazine AUTO BILD SPORTSCARS chose the 375 kW (510 hp) strong top version of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio as the winner of the category “SUV/Import”. A total of 110 candidates in ten classes participated in the competition

The readers of the magazine AUTO BILD SPORTSCARS are seeing the Stelvio as a true sportscar. They chose the 375 kW (510 hp) strong Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio as the “Sportscar of the Year 2019” (issue 01/20 of 13 December 2019). The top model of this model won the SUV/Import category.

The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio has indeed what it takes to fall in the sports car league. What to think of a V6 biturbo petrol engine with 2.9 litres capacity, whose power is brought to the road by the four-wheel drive AlfaTM  Q4. The excellent traction provided allows an acceleration from zero to 100 km/h in only 3.8 seconds, the top speed is a whopping 283 km/h. Not suprising that the standard equipment of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio also includes the limited slip differential with active torque distribution in the rear axle (AlfaTM Active Torque Vectoring). But that is not all. There is also the AlfaTM Chassis Domain Control, a unique central vehicle “intelligence” created by Alfa Romeo with its own algorithms to handle all the electronic devices that intervene on the car’s behaviour harmoniously and in real time, making driving extremely natural, instinctive and safe.

Double awards also for the Giulia…

Alfa Romeo Giulia is also reaping awards. It finished at the top of the list of the readers from the magazine SPORT AUTO. In the survey for the “SPORT AUTO AWARD 2019”, they chose the stylish Giulia as the winner in two categories.

Now for the third year in a row, as also in 2017 and 2018, the top model Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, powered by a V6 turbo petrol engine with 375 kW (510 hp), won the import rating in the category “standard production limousines/station wagons up to 100,000 Euro”.

In the “series cars limousines/station wagons up to 75,000 Euro” the readers of SPORT AUTO voted the 206 kW (280 hp) strong Alfa Romeo Giulia 2.0 Turbo Veloce as the number one import model.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Kia’s Futuron Concept shows how Kia sees new designs for future electric vehicles…

A tall standing Urban Coupé with fluid, inviting lines…

Kia recently showed a stunning electric coupé with novel proportions. This Futuron made its public debut at the 2019 China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai. Its low-profile SUV coupe body makes a strong statement of intent for Kia’s future cars, which will be – as the manufacturer puts it – confident, sporty and modern, yet also elegant. At 4,850 mm in length, 1,550 mm tall and with a 3,000 mm-long wheelbase, it has an elevated ground clearance is matched with a low, lean body to create a dynamic, confident posture.

It is indeed a sports car… on an SUV platform. Clever. Because this makes – like for instance in the Audi e-tron – room for the batteries to be lodged beneath the cabin floor. The advantage is also that the elevated stance of the car is therefore matched with a low center of gravity.

And that slightly more elevated stance is just what you want in an urban car, even if it has the sleek shape of a coupé.

Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

This “E”-Coupé is powered by four powerful in-wheel electric motors. This e-AWD system delivers as you can expect lively responses to driver inputs.

But the important hallmark here is its fluid, intriguing design. The front fender flows backwards from the front of the hood before plunging into the cabin itself, establishing a connection between the driving seat and the road ahead. The concept’s roof is a diamond-shaped panoramic glasshouse which sits atop the 360-degree core, in the best traditions of UFO and flying saucer design. It floods the cabin with natural light, and it also extends down the bonnet to give drivers an unparalleled view ahead. The glasshouse also incorporates a network of LiDAR (light detection and ranging) sensors capable of providing Level 4 autonomous driving features, enabling hands-off and eyes-off driving in most conditions.

Furthermore, the 360-degree theme is evident in the lighting that illuminates a sharp character line encircling the Futuron’s body.

A new “tiger” face…

The newly-designed front of the car, like that of the Imagine by Kia Concept first revealed earlier in 2019, expresses a new design interpretation for Kia’s future electric vehicles.

With a wider ‘tiger face’ shape, the grille incorporates the Futuron’s headlamps, an innovative ‘Star Cloud’ design which gives the car a dazzling new night-time identity.

Flexible cabin space…

The layout of the electric powertrain and incorporation of Level 4 autonomous driving systems has enabled the creation of a spacious and flexible cabin unlike any other vehicle on roads. The two front seats are created out of flexible materials and can offer an upright ‘driving’ position, or a reclined ‘rest’ position, similar to the flexibility afforded to first-class airline passengers. With the activation of the Futuron’s autonomous driving features, the two front seats recline as the steering wheel retracts. The ‘zero-gravity’ seating position this creates helps to reduce fatigue on long journeys.

One of the most prominent features of the cabin is the ‘cockpit’ area surrounding the driver. The graphical user interface (GUI) of the cockpit flows out of the driver-side door and wraps around the steering wheel in a seamless arc. This merges the instrument cluster directly with the audio-visual display at the center of the dashboard and is linked to the display integrated within the surface of the steering wheel itself.

The GUI is operated by artificial intelligence technologies, displaying useful information about the car various autonomous driving, powertrain and navigation features, which creates a unique user experience.

This is, according to Kia, what driving into the (urban) future is all about. Just look at the photos here…

Hans Knol ten Bensel   

New Alfa Romeo Giulia and Stelvio MY2020: the Alfa driving experience enters a new era…

We drove for you the new 2020 Stelvio and Giulia in Puglia: revised interiors, infotainment and advanced driver assistance systems make Alfa driving even more stunning… Here we parked it in fort of the Borgo Egnazia Hotel, where the event was held…

Driving an Alfa should be on the bucket list of every car enthusiast, and indeed blessed are those who can sit in their daily life behind the iconic three spoked steering wheel of an Alfa, and even more, can call it their own.

The ever more elegant Giulia in the alleys of Borgo Egnazio Resort…

This unique driving pleasure is now further brought into the digital age, adding to the sheer driving dynamics and bringing it to an even higher level.

Alberto Cavvagioni, Head of Alfa Romeo Brand EMEA, presented to us the further steps of Alfa entering into the digital age…

We flew to beautiful Puglia to see and try it out for you, and soon you will read in these columns here the full report of our delightful Alfa experience in the stunning surroundings of Bari and the Borgo Egnezia resort hotel.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Giulia and Stelvio now benefit from a new interior, revised materials and dashboard layouts. The infotainment has also been overhauled with connected services, touchscreen, completely redesigned human-machine interface, and new ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) and level 2 autonomous driving systems, of which (much) more soon.

The iconic names used on the Alfa’s of the sixties and seventies are also back, and sound wonderful to the Alfa connoisseurs’ ears: Veloce, Veloce TI and Sprint for the Stelvio, and TI, Super for the Giulia, with a Business badge thrown in to suit the fleet market in these modern times.

Last but not least, there is also a whole new colour range, to fully express new emotions, closely linked to the brand’s tradition.

At the event, Leasys and FCA Bank introduced “I-Link” by Leasys, a service designed to strengthen the link between Alfa Romeo customers and the new forms of shared mobility.

Marcella Merli, Head of Sales and Marketing, FCA Bank, explains to us the merits of sharing the Alfa experience through i-Link…

Indeed, sharing the Alfa Romeo driving experience could or should be on the cards, we think!

Much more of all this later in depth with separate reports…

Of course, we had the opportunity to drive classic Alfa’s too…

Just enjoy the photos here already!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Abarth 695 70 ° Anniversario premiered at Interclassics Brussels 2019 from 15 to 17 November

Driven personally from Turin across the Alps to Brussels…for a unique premiere

The people from Abarth Belgium have their car loving heart at the (very) right place. In order to treat the Belgian public with a very special gem, the Interclassics Brussels 2019 salon seemed to be the perfect stage to present the new Abarth 695 70 ° Anniversario for the first time in our country.

Staring from the Turin based FCA heritage HUB …

They drove personally the Abarth show car across the Alps from Turin to Brussels, and not only that. They filmed it too.

Indeed, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the brand, an accompanying video of the model was created with a perfect mise-en-scene. The ideal setting of FCA Heritage in Turin, where all collection cars are housed, served as a perfect setting and bears witness to the immense prestigious heritage that served as a source of inspiration for this unique model.

This exclusive video was produced specifically for Interclassics Brussels 2019.

One sees a pilot who takes place at the wheel of a vintage model and then takes a seat in the new Abarth 695 70 ° Anniversario.

It then follows the road from the Heritage Hub of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in Turin to arrive at the Interclassics salon in Brussels.

The iconic lights of the “pure” historic Abarth 500…

A route of approximately 1,000 kilometers to reach the European capital. You can see it by using the following link: https://vimeo.com/372916951

On his way from the Turin Heritage Museum to Brussels…

This video will of course serve to promote the presence of this exclusive model in avant-premiere in Brussels.

Starting away in Turin…

The production of this model is limited to 1949 copies, this number refers to the year that Abarth was founded…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The ZOUTE GRAND PRIX® celebrated its 10th edition, part 2

Indeed, between the raindrops, other magnificent events were to be enjoyed, and beautiful cars came before our lens…

The ZOUTE CONCOURS D’ELEGANCE® by Degroof Petercam is another yearly highlight not to be missed. It is an excellent opportunity for your servant to take those timelessly beautiful photos of pre- and post war classics and supercars. Also this year the cars on show were absolutely stunning to say the least.

The concours was carefully scrutineered by both the expert jury members and illustrious collectors like Roland D’Ieteren… (to the left).

Hans Knol ten Bensel

I was totally impressed by a beautiful Pegaso coupé, (see photo below) and stood also eye to eye with a magnificent Alvis and 3,5 litre Delahaye.

This 1953 Pegaso Z 102 Touring Superleggera was designed by Wilfredo Ricart, who had worked then already with Ferrari and Alfa for a few years. He himself asked “Mr. Touring”, designer Carlo Felice Bianchi Anderloni (1916-2003) to design this body. This one-off Pegaso was the focus of a lengthy promotional tour around Europe. It won the Concorsa d’Eleganza di Stresa in 1953…

Stunning is also the dashboard of this 1960 Alfa Romeo 2000 “Praho” Touring… This car was an attempt to secure for Touring the production of the Alfa 2600 Coupé. This car was displayed in 1960 in the Turin Motor Show and was a one-off.

I had a lucky encounter with Skoda Belgium Import PR Director Catherine Van Geel and her colleague from the Skoda Museum, who both proudly showed me a very impressive 1948 Skoda Superb, which had finished a total ground up restoration just four days before this Concours. We tell you more about this unique Superb in a special report.

But there was much more. For example, in the presence of 75-year-old racing legend Jacky Ickx, Porsche unveiled a unique Porsche 911 4S Belgian Legend Edition (made on 75 copies). In addition, there were 5 super rare hypercars on Saturday and Sunday: a Bugatti Centodieci, a Bugatti Chiron Sport, a Dallara Stradale, a Pininfarina Battista and a De Tomaso P72.

The unique 3,5 litre Delahaye…

Of the more than 100 participants in the competition, the international jury named a 1936 Mercedes 540 K Cabriolet A (pre war) and a 1949 Ferrari 166 Barchetta Touring – Le Mans Winner (post war) as Best of Show winners.

And its fabulous straight six engine, which was idential in the Le Mans winning car…

Following Bugatti’s 110th birthday there was also a special “110 Years Bugatti” category this year. Winner was a 1938 Bugatti Type 57 C Coupé – Le Patron. (See first photo). Other eye-catchers were the “Beach Cars” category in which a 1958 Fiat 600 Jolly with the main prize went. The prize for the most iconic car went, finally, to a 1955 Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing.

Eternally cute and endearing are also the Joly beach cars based on the Fiat Cinquecento and Seicento, and on the Concours we stood eye to eye with two magnificent examples.

Last but not least there was a very impressive 300 SL roadster to be admired, brought to the Knokke Golf Course by the works Mercedes Benz Classic team,

who lovingly and carefully dried the car with a soft chamois after every rain shower…

The fabulous collection of cars at the grounds of the Royal Knokke Golf Club were judged by an international 25 head jury led by Philip Kantor of the Bonhams Auction House.

More to see and admire…

Besides these highlights there was much more. Last but not least the ZOUTE SALE® by Bonhams. This auction can be considered par with the Grand Palais Sale in Paris, and the Quail Lodge Auction at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Carmel (USA).

The total revenue of the auction was not less than 11,710,104 euros, a record for Belgium. One of the eye-catchers was a unique 1965 Ferrari 275 GTB Alloy Long-Nose. The car went under the hammer for a record amount of 2,875,000 euros. A 1931 Invicta 4.5-Liter S-Type ‘Low Chassis’ was sold for 890,281 euros. A Ferrari Enzo knocked out at 1,506,500 euros.

This custom built Aurelia GT had endless panache…

Then there was on Sunday the ZOUTE GT TOUR® by EY. This drive is 120 km long, and is reserved for exclusive modern GT cars, younger than 20 years old. More than 200 cars participated, and Rob Van Loock en Jens Aerts won this event in an 2019 built Audi R8 Coupé.

 We just let you enjoy the photos here of this 10th edition, and tell you here already that the ZOUTE GRAND PRIX® launches new projects in 2020,

with amongst others the RALLYE DE DURBUY®. Read soon much more in these columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel