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

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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

The Jeep Renegade Plug-in Hybrid electric is the star of a Jeep exhibition in the heart of Paris…

We are driving presently the Jeep Renegade with its brand new state of the art 1,3 litre 150 HP “Firefly” engine, and we can tell you it is very impressive indeed.

This leads us to bring you the news that the Jeep Renegade PHEV can be previewed at the MotorVillage Champs-Elysées until the 25th of September.

Following its world premiere at the Geneva motor show last March and its international on-road debut at Turin’s Parco del Valentino motor show in June, the new Jeep® Renegade Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) has arrived in the heart of Paris to be showcased at the exclusive Jeep showroom on the Champs-Elysées.

The PHEV Renegade will take centre stage in the Playground expo, which is dedicated to Jeep’s affinity with sports and includes partnerships with WSL (World Surf League), LNB (Ligue Nationale de Basket) and JeepELITE.

New hybrid technology…with plenty of punch  

Displayed in Trailhawk specification, the Renegade PHEV has a pure electric range of approximately 50 kilometres and of course no CO2 emissions in full-electric mode. In order to deliver these figures, the Renegade combines a 1.3-liter GSE turbo gasoline engine with an electric motor located between the rear wheels, powered by a set of batteries that can be recharged while driving or by using an external power outlet: at home with the domestic plug, using the efficient Wallbox, or with a public charge point. Recharging times can vary from an hour and a half to three hours depending on the type of outlet.

The combination of both internal combustion engine and the electric motor delivers outstanding performance and driving pleasure: 0-100 km/h is reached in approximately seven seconds, CO2 emissions are lower than 50g/km (NEDC2) and the full electric top speed is 130 km/h. The combined power output sits in the 190 and the 240 horsepower range, depending on the trim level.

Most of all, thanks to the new hybrid technology, the Jeep Renegade further improves its legendary off-road capability courtesy of the greater torque offered by the combination between the two power sources. Thanks to the new electric all-wheel-drive technology (eAWD), traction to the rear axle is not provided by a prop shaft but through the dedicated electric motor. This allows the two axles to be separated and control the torque independently in a more effective way than a mechanical system.

The Jeep Renegade PHEV features a unique interior and dashboard, plus an 8.4″ HD Uconnect system with specific pages to allow for the driver to control its day-to-day hybrid driving operation. The Selec-Terrain maintains its location in front of the gear shift lever, while the Hybrid selector appears right next to it allowing the driver to select between the following driving modes: (see photo below)

Hybrid: the mode that optimises power to minimise fuel consumption. Internal combustion engine and electric motor work together depending on the road type, with energy recovery phases when braking

eSave: the internal combustion engine can maintain or recharge the battery while driving (driver’s selectable options)

Electric: full-electric mode which allows for a pure electric range of approximately 50 kilometers.

The new 7″ TFT colour display shows new information in front of the driver’s eyes: the battery charge level, range in electric, combustion and combined modes, power percentage and recharge levels. The 8.4″ Uconnect colour screen features new tabs such as power flow, driving history, charging times, eSave and the different charge settings.

Needless to say that we are keen to take a test drive soon in this interesting hybrid!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Lexus ES300h: the classic Lexus sedan of your dreams…

If you want to experience what Lexus really stands for, than get behind the wheel of this sleek and stylish ES300h: smooth comfort and roominess, technical perfection, sleek and velvety power, a full luxury cabin, and totally stunning economy. It embodies it all, in a masterful and very attractive way.

Of course, you must like sedans. We still do, and let us tell you right away, we were totally sold on this Lexus. We drove it extensively, and took it also to the French capital of light. We couldn’t think of a more appropriate transport to the city of elegance and savoir vivre…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We drove the Lexus UX 250h: a premium compact SUV for future-loving connoisseurs…

Driving the future. Now. Literally, without any strings or plugs attached. That is what Lexus driving is all about. Superbly engineered, dramatically styled. With an eye for quality and modern day luxury:  this is what Lexus’s most compact SUV offers you.

It runs on the new GA-C-platform, which is also seen in the new Corolla. It shares also (most) of its drivetrain. Indeed, the well known 2 litre Atkinson Cycle four cylinder plays here the fiddle in harmony with its electric cousin under the bonnet, in clever hybrid fashion, just like in the Corolla. This means absolute technical perfection and utmost reliability is yours to enjoy. But that is not all. The bodywork of this SUV has what it takes to please you, both inside and out. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Lexus UX 250h: a premium compact SUV for future-loving connoisseurs…”

We drove the BMW 320d sedan: the icon of four door sportiness remains joyful as ever…

There are cars which are true benchmarks, and when it comes to a dynamic sedan, then the BMW 3 series is the absolute standard to which all others are judged. It embodies all BMW stands for, and it is also their most successful model. Therefore it is carefully honed to perfection by its maker with every new generation they build. The 3 series is now in its seventh generation, introduced at the Paris Salon last year. We can tell you, it is and remains a true joy to drive and own.

We drove the economical and smooth 2 litre Diesel unit, which has with 190 HP enough zest to let the car display its sportiness and handling.

Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the BMW 320d sedan: the icon of four door sportiness remains joyful as ever…”

The new Fiat Ducato: giving European transport even better wheels…

There are splendid examples where the European economic market really pays off. Where manufacturers can develop and build commercial vehicles which are just ideal and fitting for our European roads, countries and economies.

Such a car is the Fiat Ducato. Since 1981 it has made its mark. And now it has grown into the European leader for the fifth year running, number one in terms of sales in 12 different countries. European vacation goers have put the Ducato since many years on top of their list.

A bestseller and a familiar face on our roads since 1981…

Indeed, it is the absolute leading vehicle serving as a base for motorhomes in Europe: approximately 3 in every 4 motorhomes sold are Fiat Ducato.

Success has its reasons. And for the new Ducato there are many. It is versatile, thanks to technical features, such as the payload, volume and axle loads, which are record-breaking among front-wheel drive vehicles, teamed with the most extensive choice of wheelbase, length and height variants.

The new Ducato has been perfected further. The engines are all 6D, even more efficient, eco-friendly and high-performing, with various fuel types – even down to the Ducato Natural Power methane-powered version – to the benefit of the environment. The new “9Speed” automatic transmission is also being launched. This is a latest-generation torque converter, capable of best exploiting all the engine’s torque points. It is the best transmission in its category in terms of weight. Last but not least, there is no shortage of the most advanced ADAS driving assist devices and a latest-generation infotainment system.

State of the art engines…

To tell you right away, all the Ducato 2,3 Diesels are industrial type engines, built exclusively for the very heavy work. The entire MultiJet 2 range now boasts a variable geometry compressor, for a smoother drive and the most flexible engine ever from the lowest speeds, with an ensuing reduction in consumption levels in the real usage cycle.

The new turbocharger, thanks to the electronic control, is in a position to adapt its fluid dynamics to the speed of the engine and to the driving style, to provide the right supercharging at all times. This is possible thanks to the implementation of a series of mobile blades situated along the radius of the turbine, which controls the flow of exhaust gas and consequently the speed and force of the compressor.

Access to the Ducato world begins with the 120 HP 2.3-litre MultiJet 2 engine at 2750 rpm with a maximum torque of 320 Nm at 1400 rpm, teamed with the manual gearbox, which improves power and torque by 10% compared to the previous 2.0-litre engine. The 140 HP 3500 rpm drive train constitutes the heart of the range, versatile and flexible with its 350 Nm torque (+9% compared to the 130 MultiJet) at just 1400 rpm, and available with both manual gearbox and the sophisticated “9Speed” nine-speed automatic transmission.

Environmentally-friendly construction and superior performance levels with the 160 HP at 3500 rpm, which distributes up to 400 Nm at 1500 rpm in the automatic transmission version. This power unit implements a specific engine shaft with oversized bearings, special pistons and a specific turbocharger, to the benefit of improved performance and engine durability. The top-end of the range boasts the 180 HP 2.3 MultiJet at 3500 rpm: a torque of 400 Nm with manual gearbox and 450 Nm – + 12% compared to the previous model – with the new nine-speed automatic transmission.

Last but not least there is the Natural Power variant with a 3000 cm3 single-fuel methane engine with 136 HP max power at 2730 rpm and a maximum torque of 350 Nm at 1500 rpm. It is part of a complete range of methane-powered commercial vehicles ranging from Car Derived Vans, to the Fiorino including the Doblò Short Wheelbase and the Long Wheelbase.

9 speed automatic…

The new transmission lets you choose between three driving modes, eco, normal and sport, and there are two operating modes, “D” and the so-called “Autostick” mode. The latter is activated by shifting the gear lever to the left, and then you have simply to put the lever backwards and forwards to change up or down. Ideal for tackling these steep hills under full load…

An EcoPack comes standard…

EcoPack includes the Start & Stop system, the smart alternator; the electronically-controlled fuel pump, which guarantees energy savings and greater combustion efficiency. Last but not least there is an ECO switch that supports the driver in saving fuel.

Top notch drive assist and infotainment…

As a professional vehicle befits, it offers a full range of driver assist systems: Blind spot assist (BSA), Rear Cross Path detection (RCP), Full brake control (FBC), alerting the driver and intervening by automatically triggering an emergency braking. Lane departure warning system (LDWS), Traffic sign recognition, High beam recognition, Rain and dusk sensor, Tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS).

Made a gripping presentation: from left to right, Luca Marengo, head of product marketing LCV EMEA, Davide Valzan, Head of Product Planning LCV EMEA and Stéphane Guigou, head of professional brand EMEA .

An interesting and clever feature is the Engine Idle Preset, which is designed to increase the engine’s minimum revs to power any additional electrical equipment installed on-board.

From the second half of the year, the Ducato MY2020 range will further extend the range of on-board infotainment systems. The new infotainment system is now available: with a 7-inch touchscreen by Mopar®, USB port and Radio DAB tuner and the possibility of specifying the dimensions of the vehicle and possibly trim version to provide indications that avoid streets which are not sufficiently wide or low passages. A real professional feature that addresses other professionals and motorhome drivers.

The new system includes the integration of Apple CarPlay and the compatibility with Android AutoTM.

Last but not least there are very clever and practical finance systems offered by the FCA Bank subsidiary Leasys, serving corporates, small and medium enterprises, self-employed professionals and retail customers.

We also include here a film of the whole presentation of the new Ducato Range made by Helena Menten, a young professional with a heart for greentech, with an educated passion for cars and commercial vehicles for trade and agricultural or “green” businesses, reporting amongst others regularly in Tractor Power (site www.tractorpower.eu) and GreenTech Power (site http://www.greentechpower.eu) . Just press the following link: https://www.facebook.com/www.tractorpower.eu/videos/324779675135070/?v=324779675135070

You can see your servant making a few interviews, and indeed this report will be followed soon by further information about the people behind the new Ducato, last but least the full electric version…

Stay posted for more!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Subaru Forester 2.0i: your companion in the woods of life…

The truth is now known to us all: to save our planet we need a lot more trees. We would add, we also need a good car to go with it: and this could very well be the clever and superbly built Subaru Forester…

It is a car which continues to surprise and amaze us. The engineering is top notch, it performs like a dream, has terrific 4WD, gets you wherever you want to go, in all seasons, in all circumstances and weather conditions, is indestructible and getting ever more frugal too.

We drove it for you, and here are our findings…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We drove the Toyota Corolla hybrid: green power for millions

Toyota and Lexus are friends of the earth since decades. They offer E power in hybrid form across their whole range now, and this started already back in 1997 with the Prius, a car which has been a star on Californian (and many other) roads worldwide ever since.

The hybrid drivetrain of this car is nothing short of a stroke of genius, and therefore hardly surprising that it is also seen on the Lexus range. Faithful readers know that I am the happy owner of a Lexus CT 200h, a car which is running around with an average consumption between 3.9 and 4.6 litres/100 km.

The subject of this test is also to find out whether the continuously further developed hybrid system brings further gains in efficiency compared to my faithful Lexus.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Toyota Corolla hybrid: green power for millions”