We spoke with Charles Fuster, Product Marketing Manager Fiat 500 X: this Sport version is built to conquer everybody’s sporting heart, like football…

Charles Fuster taking the 500X Sport to the football field…

When Fiat presented the 500 X Sport, they had the very good idea to draw a parallel between its excellent sporting and stylish qualities and embed it into the language and philosophy of top football. Therefore the venue of presenting this new Fiat was at the the “Luigi Ridolfi” Federal Technical Centre in Coverciano (FIorence), a centre of excellence for teaching, training and sport, as well as the historic seat of the Italian Football Federation.

The presentation “in the field” was expertly done by Charles Fuster, Product Marketing Manager 500 X, and the qualities of dynamism, precision, control

Echoing the qualities of the National Team in the Fiat 500 X…

and Italian style of this 500 X Sport were echoed on the accompanying screen by the coaches and specialists of the Italian national team, indeed the same characteristics that lead a player to wear the blue jersey of Italy with pride and joy…

Reason enough to have an interview with Charles Fuster here…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

HK: How did you communicate the enhanced sporting characteristics and properties of the new 500 X to the top people of the Italian Football Federation, how did they tune into this? What was their reaction?

CF: Actually, the starting point and the basis was and is the car. It arrives with important improvements. The balance, the road holding, the performance, the style, and of course, when we had created this story about the car, we focused ourselves on the world of football. This had very good reasons: like Fiat, it is a very democratic world, it is a very accessible sport for everybody. And so we started to work with the Italian Football Federation to draw all these parallels, between the world of the automobile and the world of football.

Charles Fuster on the playing field…

This proved extremely interesting because all this storytelling proved extremely natural. Also the persons of the federation, who we have presented today is somebody who has worked all his life with football and has an incredible experience.

Top performance is top performance, whether one speaks about cars or people…

These people prepare the future stars of tomorrow. So we arrive at an allegory with a well perfected industrial product and a sports player, and this can be very eloquent…

 HK: indeed, this is very unique in your presentation today… we saw the comments of Roberto Mancini, Italy’s National Team Head Coach and others…

CF: Thank You, it is indeed the work of our whole team!

HK: Can you tell a bit more what is the mission of this sporting version of the 500 X…

CF: Just have a look at its position within the range. The Cinquecento is a typical women’s car. 75 % of the clients are women. This is different with the 500 X, where the buyers are about fifty-fifty between men and women. The 500 X Sport will also be bought by independent women who want to be seen having personality and character.

But this is a car which is targeted to a large public. We will not discriminate. Of course the car has a look which distinguishes it from the others in the range.

HK: Can you tell a bit more about the future electrification of the Fiat models? We think about PHEV…

CF: There will be something new in 2020. There will be an important electrified range at FCA in 2022. That is the only thing I can tell you right now… The first models will be launched in 2020, and this will continue throughout 2021 to 2022. It is the strategy of the group to be present in all forms of electrification. It will also be very important for the fleet market.

HK: We thank you for this interview.

Of course there is (still) more. We will treat you also shortly with further interviews with Danilo Coglianese, Head of Fiat & Abarth Communications, EMEA, and also have a long talk with Alessandro Grosso, Head of Fleet and Business Sales, EMEA, about the European Fleet markets and FCA’s position therein.

Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the new Fiat 500X Sport: Dynamic Gran Turismo pleasure…

We already told you, dear reader, in our “teaser” about our venue to the “Luigi Ridolfi” Federal Technical Centre in Coverciano (FIorence), to have a stint at the wheel of the new Fiat 500X Sport.

The 500 X is the most global model of the Fiat range. This iconic compact crossover is designed and engineered in Italy and built in the FCA factory in Melfi. It was launched in 2014, but has lost none of its appeal, as it has been renewed last year. Now the 500 X accentuates sportsmanship, and emerges as an alternative to compact C-segment cars with a sporty look.

Does it live up to its promises on the open road?

Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the new Fiat 500X Sport: Dynamic Gran Turismo pleasure…”

We drove the new Fiat 500X Sport at the holy grail of Italian football…

When you launch a sporting version of your crossover bestseller, you want it to be somewhere (very) special. And so the dynamic PR department of Fiat did. They invited us to nowhere less than the “Luigi Ridolfi” Federal Technical Centre in Coverciano (FIorence), a centre of excellence for teaching, training and sport, as well as the historic seat of the Italian Football Federation.

This had its good reasons. First of all, the FIGC Federation headquarters was chosen to honour the 20-year cooperation between the Fiat brand and the Federation, as well as to express the shared values uniting the new Fiat 500X Sport with sport in general.

Indeed, what better location could there be for displaying “in the field” the qualities of dynamism, precision, control and Italian style highlighted in this new version of the already iconic 500X, a car which has won the hearts in all parts of the globe.

We will soon tell you more here about the excellent sporting qualities of this 500X Sport, and we will also bring you again some interviews, notably with Charles Fuster, the product marketing manager of the 500 X, and Alessandro Grosso, Head of Fleet and Business Sales, EMEA.

Just stay tuned on these columns…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A scenic drive through the Ardennes, followed by a royal garden party…

Stopping under the tree shadow, in front of the church at Humain…

Summer has arrived, and therefore it is time to get our cars out for long drives. We didn’t hesitate when the invitation dropped in our mailbox from her Royal Highness Princess Léa of Belgium and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Belgium to get our BMW up and ready for a drive to her Château in Humain (close to Marche-en-Famenne), where we would start for a 120 km long trip through the scenic Ardennes roads and enjoy a subsequent Garden Party and dinner at the grounds of the castle.

Our BMW was of course fit for the trip, and we enjoyed its smooth pulling power and excellent road manners on the winding roads through dramatic countryside’s and historic village centres.

Magnificent vieuws, like the Tombeau du Géant at Bouillon…

As this was a touristic drive with no emphasis on performance or speed, we adopted a more leisurely driving style, and our BMW with its 140 HP 2 litre petrol engine rewarded us with an average consumption over the 443 km trip of a good 6,6 litres/100 km, which goes a long way to demonstrate that also more than 20 years ago, engine thermal efficiency was not an idle word.

On our afternoon 120 km circuit, we stopped for coffee at the Hostellerie Le Charme de la Semois, at B-5550 Alle-sur-Semois

Don’t forget, this engine has double overhead camshafts, ideally shaped combustion chambers with 4 valves per cylinder and electronic multi-point injection, just like its present day brothers. For refinement, it also has a balancing shaft, so this rather big four is smooth as a straight six both at low and high revs, which brings of course even more pleasure at the wheel…

We just let you enjoy the photos, with understandably, for reasons of discretion, no photos of the royal castle and its grounds…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Driving the Fiat Tipo to Deauville: a voyage in comfort and panache…

A swift Gran Turismo drive to an iconic destination: Deauville/Trouville, the beach town of artists and celebrities…

Testing the very good looking Fiat Tipo SW, we were invited to have a drive in it to Trouville-sur-Mer, a stone throw to Deauville, and have a stay at the Les Cures Marines Trouville Hotel Spa & Thalasso, where we had the opportunity to see and drive the brand new and good looking Tipo Sport version. More on this Sport version soon, we show you here some photos and impressions about the drive, the hotel and the beautiful Normandy coast…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Tipo Station Wagon we drove proved an excellent companion on this more than 400 km long trip from Brussels to Trouville-sur-Mer. The 120 HP 1,6 litre Multijet II Diesel delivers magnificent pulling power: its 120 HP are already available at 3750 rpm, and has an impressive torque of 320 Nm at merely 1750 rpm. It is coupled in our test car to the smooth 6 speed DCT transmission, and this combination is just magnificent for fast, effortless motorway driving. It picks up speed in swiftly after the numerous “péages” and holds the 130 km/h cruising speed in total silence and with very good economy indeed, which hovered during the trip at around 5,3 liters/100 km.

On the trip itself, one of the spectacular spots is of course the bridge of Tancarville, crossing the estuary of the Seine near Le Havre.

No need whatsoever to intervene with the gearbox lever on the narrow Normandy winding roads and frequent roundabouts and crossings, when we approaching Honfleur and Deauville. Just leave it in “D” and the powerful engine does the rest. The official performance figures amply show that this is an ideal companion on your Gran Turismo voyages: 0 to 100 km/h is reached in 10,4 seconds and top speed is 200 km/h, which lets you mix in with the superfast GT’s, if need be. We were just pleased with the absence of wind noise at cruising speeds, the excellent comfort of seats and suspension, the very good overall stability.

More about the car soon in a test report, we just show you here the pleasing looking SW at its arrival in Normandy and at the Hotel.

Trouville itself has style. French literary giants, Flaubert and Proust were here to be found. As to Monet and his Norman master, Boudin, they painted memorable scenes of 19th century bourgeois in their finery promenading along the broad beachfront here. In fact, Trouville was one of the first-ever coastal resorts to be developed in France. Artists may have started the trend for coming here, but by the time of Emperor Napoleon III, from the mid 19th century on, the rich and fashionable flocked to Trouville too. They ordered grand villas and palaces of entertainment, like the impressive casino.

Trouville casino was built surprisingly close to the lively fishing port, backed by a classic covered fish market, with lively seafood restaurants all around. Scallops, sole, prawns and mackerel are traditional specialities.

Marguerite Duras, perhaps France’s most famous female writer of the 20th century, was a great cultural figure who became a devotee of Trouville, spending her summers here.

She said that everyone she had ever met who had come to the resort for a first time said they dreamt of returning.

The hotel, Les Cures Marines Trouville Hotel Spa & Thalasso, breathes the atmosphere of elegant yesterday. It is nestled in the right wing of the Casino in the heart of Trouville.

Inspired by the first seawater baths, the Cures Marines Institute revives its visitors with the comforts of a magical renovation project, overseen by Monuments Historiques and the expertise of the MGallery and Thalassa Sea & Spa from the Accorhotels group, retaining style of palaces from the beginning of last century.

We just show you here some photos, and remember fondly the place and the car…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove Jeep Power around the lake: the Grand Cherokee SRT and Trackhawk…

Driving the already legendary Grand Cherokee Trackhawk along the scenic villages around the beautiful Lago di Garda…

One of the absolute highlights of two days of Jeep driving amidst the beautiful scenery of the Italian Lago di Garda was a stint behind the wheel of the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk and the SRT. The Jeep® Grand Cherokee is the flagship of the Jeep brand and the most awarded SUV ever, and this gem of a car created the premium SUV category 27 years ago and with more than 6.4 million units sold since its introduction. More about this Jeep Grand Cherokee in its “normal” version(s) later, we focus here on the stunning Trackhawk and SRT versions.

Indeed, it had to happen, and the whole car world was actually expecting this: the more than 700 HP V8 of the Dodge Hellcat, the “muscle car” par excellence, was to be dropped in the engine bay of the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It all happened last year, and now we had the chance to drive it: the supercharged 6.2-litre HEMI® V-8 engine, delivering 710 hp at 6000 rpm, mated to an 8 speed automatic transmission. High-strength, forged-alloy pistons, powder-forged connecting rods and sodium-cooled exhaust valves all add to the power of the Supercharged 6.2L V8 engine. Do not expect a hissing monster though.

The massive V8 burbles smoothly through slow urban traffic through the villages around the Lago di Garda, and progress is silky smooth. Until you floor the throttle. Supercar acceleration is the instant answer, and the engine growls away. 0 to 100 km/h is reached in some 3,7 seconds, the top speed is 289 km/h, if you only dare.

The Drive Mode selector, and the “launch” mode at the push of a button.

Of course, good traction is provided for with all this power. A “Quadra-Trac” active on-demand four-wheel-drive system, which also includes a rear Electronic Limited Slip Differential (ELSD) and a single-speed active transfer case is at your disposal.

A 6,4 litre V8 Hemi in the SRT…

Not yet an expert in unleashing all this power and putting it “just right” on the tarmac? Good to know that there is a “Launch Control” on SRT® and Trackhawk® , which optimizes track performance by coordinating the engine, transmission, driveline and suspension for a textbook launch and consistent straight-line acceleration.

The traction management system has been specifically retuned for the Trackhawk and SRT versions as “Selec-Track.”  It features five vehicle setting – Auto, Sport, Track, Snow and Tow – to allow the driver to achieve the best driving experience on any surface.

Beautiful instrumentation with a centrally placed rev counter…

The suspension is of course well tuned to this extra power, as well as brakes, and the Grand Cherokee remains eminently drivable.

Don’t forget there is also the Bilstein® Adaptive Suspension system, which can adjust the dampers for sport or track performance if desired, while the rear Electronic Limited Slip Differential features a four-point axle mounting to better distribute the massive power to the wheels.

For the heavier terrain work, the Quadra-Lift air suspension system allows you to change the ride height of the Grand Cherokee up to a maximum ground clearance of 28 cm.

We were deeply impressed by its handling and ride when driven with more abandon, and how perfectly balanced the whole car was. The unique driving experience is further enhanced by excellent seats and instrumentation, with not only a beautiful central rev counter, but also a special “Performance Page” on the central touch screen, where you can see anything as time of your acceleration, G-Force, all engine data like oil temperature, etc.

We enjoyed also having a stint at the wheel of the more suave SRT. Not that on the urban scenic roads around the Lago, you could test fully the difference in performance compared to the Trackhawk. Under the hood of the SRT version growls the 6417 cc V8 Hemi, good for 344 kW or 468 HP @6250 rpm. The same 8 speed auto transmission as in the Trackhawk knows this engine also needs to be revved to reach all out performance, as maximum torque of 624 Nm is reached at 4100 rpm. Of course, also here the Launch Control  and the choice between five dynamic Drive Modes with the  Selec-Track® System, as described above.

We enjoyed the same beautiful well balanced handling, indeed an SUV which also truly stands out if you expect that extra performance. Using launch control, it will still be able to catapult you from 0 to 100 km/h in 4,9 seconds.

We just coloured this image in front of this old factory a bit more (fiery) red to enhance the Trackhawk spirit…

We let you enjoy the photos here, and we dream along with you about this unforgettable experience… and there is more Jeep news to come with driving impressions of the full range!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Having a field day with Jeep at the Lago di Garda…

A formidable driving experience on Italian roads: 710 horsepower under your right foot!

Your servant had the exquisite pleasure to drive the whole Jeep range on the roads and heavy terrain around the scenic Lago di Garda, and get acquainted with their unique panache and qualities, ranging from the rugged Rubicon to the superfast Grand Cherokee Trackhawk.

Thr Wrangler proved its legendary Jeep stamina on the muddy mountain roads around the Lago…

Soon you will read the full report about our unique driving experiences in these columns, stay tuned!

The elegant, refined but totally rugged Grand Cherokee in front of the parish church of Rivoltella, built in the 15th century…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

BMW Art Car #18 of Cao Fei makes Belgian debut at Brand Store in Brussels…

BMW driving art is again to be seen in the capital of Europe: In its flagship Brand Store, BMW organizes until June 1 an Art & Design Expo. The 18th BMW Art Car, a BMW M6 GT3 with multimedia design, has been created by the Chinese female artist Cao Fei, is the focus point of this show. It is even to be enjoyed and admired with the use of an app bringing the car to you on your smartphone with enhanced reality. A stunning experience, of which we show here some photos, but which has to be seen to be believed.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

In the Brussels BMW Brand Store you can join the stunning journey to discover this Art Car in augmented reality…

This virtual animation is also created by the artist, and forms an integral part of the car. “We are now entering a new era where the mind can steer objects directly and thoughts can be transferred, like unmanned controls and artificial intelligence.” comments Cao Fei.

Follow this path in the showroom and zero in with your Ios device on this graph to experience the augmented reality…
Download the app BMW ART CAR #18 on your mobile (IOS) device, follow the screen instructions and enjoy!

The work of Cao Fei illustrates the fast and stunning changes in China and its society. With her BMW Art Car she spans a road which stretches over thousands of years, honouring the spiritual wisdom of Asia, which now enters the third millennium with breathtaking speed. The film can of course also be viewed on YouTube, using the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_GNSyeIpOY&feature=youtu.be.

A video which focuses on the millennial time which a spiritual person travels through…
Finishes with presenting the augmented reality…

The multimedia artist approaches the concept of a BMW Art Car in her own unique way, with which she builds a parallel universe.

Her work consists of three components: a video that focuses on the millennial time which a spiritual person travels through, augmented reality with colourful light particles (via a special app called BMW Art Car # 18) and the BMW M6 GT3 racer in the original colour carbon black.

As a tribute to the carbon fibre structure of the BMW M6 GT3 applies Cao Fei a lot of non-reflective black paint, which means the possibilities in the digital world are endlessly applicable.

The application of video and augmented reality creates an environment in which the BMW M6 GT3 plays an essential role. Cao Fei uses in her video spiritual movements that express themselves in colourful flashes of light.

Point your device on the graph and a whole enhanced world opens to you…

When the app is used in the vicinity of the car, these light accents are transformed into an augmented reality installation that floats above and around the BMW M6 GT3. In this way, the viewer becomes interactively involved in the artwork.

Just download the app BMW ART CAR #18 on your mobile (IOS) device and follow the instructions on your screen.


The BMW Art Car Tradition runs back already decades… more about this in a special report!

Practical info:

The exhibition runs until May 31, at BMW Brand Store Brussels, Waterloolaan 23,24, 1000 Brussel

Admission free.  Open from Monday to Saturday, from 10 AM until 18.30 PM. http://www.bmwbrandstore.brussels

We visited Audi’s “The Place To-e” in Antwerp

On May 1, Audi opened the doors of a three month pop-up “The Place To-e” at Desguinlei 100 in the heart of Antwerp. Until the end of July car fans and cosmopolitans can enjoy themselves in the e-scape room, discover electric mobility, enjoy a culinary spectacle at the rolling table and discover a hidden part of Antwerp in the rooftop bar ONTOP. Visitors can also book a test drive with the Belgian-tinted Audi e-tron; as you already know, it is built at Audi Brussels…

We made a visit last weekend, and were impressed! Of course we also took the occasion to make a test drive with the impressive e-tron. More about this in the next report…

Hans Knol ten Bensel   

The entrance hall of the complex…

The demand for viable and sustainable mobility solutions will only grow in the future in and around major cities. D’Ieteren, the importer of Audi, chose Antwerp for this pop-up “Place to be”- a city that is strongly committed to new, environmentally friendly mobility. “All with the purpose to better inform the general public and make them enthusiastic about electric mobility by offering a range of experiences and activities, ”explained Stefan Kerckhoven from, Director Audi Import.

Displaying the e-tron, charged by Belgian muscle power…

It is all about living the “e”-adventure

Experience is central to The Place To -e. Adventurous visitors can have a go in the “e-scape room” with an area of ​​80m², where players can help free the imprisoned engineer of the Audi e-tron while discovering electric mobility in a playful way.

The 80 m2 escape room…

The Audi e-tron and its optional virtual exterior mirrors are an essential key in the ultimate solution to the adventurous puzzle. A lot of attention was paid to the use of technology: holograms, interactive projections, mechanical installations … elements that we have not seen so often in an escape room. For nearly an hour, the participants puzzle, where they must use logic to solve the various riddles and go through a series of tests; only then will they be able to solve the mystery.

A changing exhibition will introduce the public to future electric Audi models in their concept form, including the Audi PB18 e-tron you see here above, an electric high-performance sports car which will be on display and the Audi e-tron Vision Gran Turismo developed from a racing game.

Play the racing football game…

In the e-arena, esporters can play the “Rocket League” virtual racing football game on a real field. In this game, participants control an electric car developed for the occasion and try to score goals on a kind of soccer field.

A test drive is offered…

Electric driving can best be experienced during a test drive. The Audi e-tron is equipped with an ingenious recovery system that contributes 30 percent to the driving range of the Audi e-tron. Visitors can test this energy recuperation themselves during a test drive along a predefined test route, of course we took the occasion to put the e-tron briefly through its paces…

To have a chance to win a weekend with the Audi e-tron, and to preserve an unforgettable memory of his visit, every visitor is invited to take a nice photo in the sofa of Smile Safari, the very first Instagram museum in Belgium.

The visitor can then satisfy his hunger in an original way during a unique private dining concept and scoop in Belgium, where a culinary top experience literally comes to the guests via a … rolling table. Each dish is presented in its own decor and to stay completely in the theme is consciously worked with sustainable ingredients.

You can end the interactive day at the beautiful rooftop bar ONTOP on the roof terrace where you can enjoy a unique view.

Conferences too…

The Place To -e will be a meeting place in the coming three months where there is always something going on. In addition to the wide range of daily experiences, special events and interesting expert talks on topics such as fashion, styling, design, sustainable travel, urban mobility and technology will also be organized.

Last but not least the visitors can come and admire the Magnum photo exhibition: a breathtaking series of photos from the renowned agency Magnum Photos that was allowed to shoot images for five days at the Audi Brussels factory.

The two renowned photographers Paolo Pellegrin and Gueorgui Pinkhassov captured the power and elegance of robots and the dedication and passion of the factory employees in an intriguing way. In the photo series the innovation, quality and attention to detail come to the fore that also characterize the technology of the Audi e-tron.

Audi and Antwerp: together in sustainable mobility

The Place To -e also includes e-lectrify & mobility: an exhibition displaying the vision of sustainable urban mobility of Audi, the city of Antwerp, and their partners of “Antwerp tomorrow” and “Smart to Antwerp” such as Poppy , Scooty and Velo.

Some practical information:

Opening hours: every Thursday and Friday from 12 h to 20 h and each Saturday and Sunday from 10 h tot 18 h.

The event agenda can be consulted on http://www.theplaceto-e.be.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

DS designers reveal their art and creativity to the public…

A design studio which works amidst a wide audience, where their 3D models and drawings are made under the eyes of interested viewers? That is what the bold man and women of the DS Design Studio are doing.

These designers are the creative pillar of DS Automobiles, a young car brand whose designs for DS 7 CROSSBACK and DS 3 CROSSBACK are already a benchmark. DS DIVINE, DS E-TENSE and DS X E-TENSE are also the results of a creative process that came about within DS DESIGN STUDIO PARIS

These designers are now leaving their usual work space and setting up over the three floors of DS WORLD PARIS at 33 Rue Francois 1er, Paris.

The DS World Paris is the elegant setting where the public can admire the iconic “DS” or “Déesse”, the godess on wheels, but now also the men and women of the celebrated DS design department will be at work under their eyes…

There, the men and women of DS Automobiles design under the direction of Thierry Metroz, DS Design director, will be revealing the innovative projects they’re working on and sharing their secrets through “CONFIDENCE The art of the senses”.

More than an exhibition, this is a residency of artists, brought to life by DS Automobiles designers who are on hand to explain their jobs, present their work and talk with visitors.

Indeed, the men and women of DS DESIGN STUDIO PARIS are on hand throughout the event to explain their work and answer visitors’ questions.

Some confidentiality restrictions have been lifted so they can reveal additional secrets. The work of the 60 people who make up the DS DESIGN STUDIO PARIS is presented by the different teams: exterior design, interior, ProLab, VLab, modellers, colour and material workshops and upholsterers.

The brand wants them to share their inspiration and most recent work to cast a new light on the design and build of a car.

So, if you are interested to see these design artists at work, we give you here some practical information: “CONFIDENCE The art of the senses” is held from 22 March to 23 April 2019 at DS WORLD PARIS, 33 Rue Francois 1er, Paris.

Hans Knol ten Bensel