This year’s edition of the Zoute Grand Prix has been spreading over several Flemish cities now. Bruges and Ostend have stepped also in the game.
This year we were of course in Knokke, but decided to live the event through the public and bystander’s eye.
The Zoute Grand Prix has indeed grown into a formidable event with a very wide and large public impact. For Knokke Heist, it has become the busiest weekend of the year, with absolute record hotel bookings.
It raises the spirits of car lovers of all ages, and many are those who take out their beloved young- or oldtimer out for a spin on the Knokke streets during the event, and have their own very personal Grand Prix.
There are also a lot of new and very recent cars around, many of them with tuned exhaust to add some extra drama to their Knokke sortie.
Shops of every kind in Knokke had arranged their showrooms and added to their shop windows a specific touch referring to the theme of the event.
We just let you enjoy some of the snapshots we took on the Knokke streets, where, we must admit, no EV’s or electrified cars were to be seen for near or afar this weekend…
We will report on the actual event, including the Bonham’s auction and the Concours d’Elegance in these columns soon!
The MINI Countryman has grown to be a medium size SUV, like for instance the Audi Q2 or Nissan Qashqai, and has borrowed many mechanical elements of the BMW X1. But it also has retained all the quintessential styling elements of the MINI, its typical upright proportions, styling language and bodywork details, which it continues even more in the interior, where we find the big central round dial with the infotainment display, and the typical toggle switches, amongst others.
The MINI Countryman buyer has plenty of choice: in addition to plug-in hybrid drive, the new MINI Countryman is available with three petrol engines and three diesel engines featuring the latest MINI TwinPower Turbo Technology. But besides a wide array of drivetrains, the range of accessories has also been greatly expanded, and indeed, we saw also the launch of the fully equipped Northwood Edition. We told already more about it then in these columns, and you can read about it with the following link: https://autoprova.be/2021/02/12/stylish-and-iconic-mini-launches-the-new-mini-countryman-northwood-edition/
We drove for you this fully loaded edition with the 100 kW/132 HP three-cylinder petrol engine and the 6-speed manual transmission. Plenty of zest and driving pleasure is guaranteed, we can already tell you here. Just read further…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Northwood ambiente inside and out…
Our test car was certainly pleasing to the eye. Executed in a deep blue, it was shod with stylish black alloys, and compared to the previous model, it sports a newly designed radiator grille, with LED headlamps and LED fog lights now as standard.
The standard trim of the new MINI Countryman also includes LED fog lights, with a light band in the upper semicircle of each fog light serving as a parking light. The LED rear lights are now also in Union Jack design.
In the interior your eyes admire the new digital cockpit display with a 5-inch colour screen, and also the Piano Black interior surfaces for the cockpit and door bezels are putting you in a good mood.
We just love also the toggle switches, and find all commands easy at hand. The sports leather steering wheel also falls ideally in your hand. Only when your MINI has been standing in the sun, the wheel rim of the sports leather wheel can get very hot, and can be barely touched for the first few minutes without wearing gloves. Indeed, classic driving gloves are a necessary accessory in our ever-warmer summers now…
The Connected Media and Connected Navigation Plus options, available as an alternative to the basic configuration, each include an 8.8-inch colour screen with touchscreen function located in the central instrument that is typical of the brand. The circular control unit in the new MINI Countryman looks great, with the audio control panel and the buttons for hazard lights and driver assistance systems now integrated even better. Meanwhile touch-sensitive bookmark buttons and high-gloss Piano Black surfaces underscore the premium character of the central instrument.
Even the standard audio system offers audio streaming via a Bluetooth connection and a hands-free telephone system with USB interface. The Radio MINI Visual Boost and the digital instrument display form part of the optional equipment item Connected Media, while the Connected Navigation option makes a range of additional infotainment functions available in the new MINI Countryman in addition to providing a convenient route guidance system. This option also comprises wireless charging for compatible mobile phones and a second USB socket.
The new MINI Countryman is equipped with a SIM card that is permanently fitted in the car. This enables use of Intelligent Emergency Call with automatic detection of vehicle location and accident severity, as well as MINI TeleServices. The new MINI Countryman is always online, enabling seamless integration of the voice assistant Amazon Alexa.
This provides access to the Real Time Traffic Information service as well as the internet platform MINI Online and preparation for Apple CarPlay. MINI Connected can be used to send navigation destinations from the smartphone to the vehicle. The mobile phone connection also means that the vehicle’s navigation map is updated automatically.
Very willing engine…
MINI TwinPower Turbo Technology is used in the 3-cylinder petrol engines, and they are very responsive indeed. Throttle response is immediate and without any hesitation, from very low revs onwards. The exhaust manifold is integrated in the cylinder head along with turbo charging. Among other things, this ensures highly effective cooling of the exhaust gases and the turbocharging system. Also, the petrol engine direct injection system operates at a maximum pressure that has been increased from 200 to 350 bar. With this very willing engine, performance is rather brilliant, with an acceleration from 0 – 100 km/h in 9.7 seconds. Top speed is an impressive 205 km/h.
The six-speed gearbox is a delight to use, spoils you with precise, quick changes. The clutch is very smooth and progressive, the drivetrain copes wonderfully with all the pulling power, as it has been designed to cope with far more torque and power in the sportier models.
But the bare performance figures do not tell the whole story. The sheer effortlessness and smoothness when you use the full performance of this MINI has to be felt to be believed. It is indeed a very agile as well as smooth car in everyday use, and that makes a lot of the charm of this MINI.
With all this smooth and vibration free willingness, one is tempted to put the throttle somewhat deeper than originally intended, and this bout of extra enthusiasm translates also in the consumption figures. We clocked a test average of some 8 liters/100 km, using the performance more often than not. Constant speed economy is excellent, so when cruising at the legal limits the immediate consumption hovers between 5 and 6 liters and less. The manufacturer quotes 5.9 – 5.6 liters/100 km, with CO2 emissions being 135 – 129 g/km.
Masterful on the road…
The MINI Countryman has wonderful handling and road manners. Despite its more than 4-meter length, it feels nimble and agile, as indeed a true MINI should. It steers wonderfully precise, and invites you to take winding roads with spirit and zest. Straight line stability is of course also excellent, and this Countryman is also a perfect “Autobahnwunder”, capable of cruising at very high speeds indeed.
The new MINI Countryman has as the biggest MINI a versatile interior. Three fully-fledged seats are available at the rear. Alternatively, the second row of seats can also be used to expand transport capacity. By folding down the rear seat with a 40 : 20 : 40 split, storage space can be extended from 450 to up to 1 390 liters.
Providing character, unique panache, space in combination with mechanical excellence, superb handling and zesty performance, this is what the MINI Countryman is all about. The Northwood Edition spoils you with a full equipment, to keep you connected, amused, comfortable and happy.
This car is a true delight to use every day, and you will hardly get tired of it. We liked the version we tested, but there is – as we said – so much more, from E-power to full all wheel drive.
We hope to lay our hands soon on one of these more powerful (AWD) versions, not forgetting the electrified versions. Stay tuned on these columns…
The Women’s World Car of the Year is the first time a Land Rover has won the top prize at the awards and is the latest in a series of international honours for the most capable Land Rover ever made.
The new Defender remains true to the pioneering spirit that has been a Land Rover hallmark for over 70 years and redefines adventure for the 21st century. Iconic in name, shape and capability, it is available in a choice of body designs and can be personalised with a choice of four Accessory Packs to help owners make more of their world.
The Women’s World Car of the Year (WWCOTY) awards are the only car awards in the world with a jury comprised exclusively of woman, with 50 motoring journalists from 38 countries on 5 continents recognizing the best new models available.
The New Defender was named Best Medium SUV 2021 at the awards before being awarded – to coincide with International Women’s Day – the headline WWCOTY prize.
International Women’s Day is an ideal occasion, Alfa Romeo found, to put its female racing champions behind an Alfa sportscar wheel into the spotlight. The material they put forward is so abundant and interesting, that we make (at least) a two-part series of it.
We start here with the early, very elegant protagonists, who combined female elegance with panache and excellent racing qualities…
We start here with Odette Siko, you see her elegantly here in the photo above.
She takes you back to the 1930s, where Alfa Romeo asserted itself as one of the main protagonists in motorsport. This was partly down to extraordinary vehicles, but also to drivers who became part of the legend: these were the years of Nuvolari, Varzi, Caracciola and Sommer. The latter won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1932 behind the wheel of an Alfa Romeo 8C 2300, but the Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 SS driven by the striking Odette Siko finished fourth overall and won the 2.0-liter category! A young Parisian, Siko quickly became one of the stars on the track, displaying her elegance both in the paddock and in her racing performance, often accompanied by another female French racer whose path also crossed Alfa Romeo’s several times: Hellé Nice.
Hellé Nice, see the photo here, was a model, acrobat, and dancer. Her real name was Mariette Hélène Delangle, but was more commonly known as Hellé Nice. Renowned for her outgoing personality, Nice was good friends with the Rothschilds and the Bugattis. She raced in Europe and America and became one of the first drivers to display the logos of her sponsors on the bodywork of a single-seater racing car.
She took part in the 1933 Italian Grand Prix at Monza in her own 8C 2300 Monza; in the same race, Campari, Borzacchini and Czaikowski tragically lost their lives. In 1936, she won the Ladies Cup in Monte Carlo and took part the São Paulo Grand Prix in Brazil, where she fell victim to a dreadful accident, then miraculously came out of her three-day coma.
Further on, there was Anna Maria Peduzzi. In her time, the years of Scuderia Ferrari marked a crucial chapter in Alfa Romeo’s history. The drivers of the “Prancing Horse” included Como-born Anna Maria Peduzzi, the wife of driver Franco Comotti, who was nicknamed the “Moroccan”.
After her debut aboard her own Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 Super Sport, which she had purchased from Ferrari himself, Peduzzi almost always raced alone and only occasionally with her husband. In 1934, she won the 1500 Class at the Mille Miglia and, in the post-war period, raced in the Alfa Romeo 1900 Sprint and the Alfa Romeo Giulietta.
We conclude our first part here with Maria Antonietta d’Avanzo.
The forerunner of female Alfa Romeo drivers, Baroness Maria Antonietta d’Avanzo made her debut in the interwar years. A pioneer of Italian motorsport, aviator and journalist, d’Avanzo won third place in the Alfa Romeo G1 at Brescia in 1921, and proved her worth in many competitions as a formidable opponent for the best drivers of the time, including a young Enzo Ferrari.
Baroness d’Avanzo raced until the 1940s in a variety of vehicles and races, traveling all over the world to do so…
In the next part we will tell you more about our national champion Christine Beckers and her more contemporary colleagues… Stay tuned!
The brand new Renault 5 Prototype has already stolen the hearts of many, as was the case with the original R“Cinq”. François Leboine, Director of Design Concept and Show-Cars at Renault explains here how to succeed in the retro-futuristic exercise carried out on the cute Renault 5 Prototype.
Revive good memories, “provoke a smile”, that’s what François Leboine wanted with the Renault 5 Prototype. Responsible for concept cars and show cars at Renault, he looks back at the development of the prototype’s headlights, which, he confides to us, embody all the work done on the car. To do this, he used a well-oiled method that he agreed to unveil to us.
“If I had to choose a particular element that symbolizes all the work done on the Renault 5 Prototype, it’s definitely the headlights.”
Before starting any creative process, you need material, explains François Leboine.
The first step, called analytical, was to gather archives to analyze, understand, decompose the original vehicle. To grasp its very essence. Photos, sketches by the original designer Michel Boué, period magazines, fascicles and brochures, made it possible to study the mythical R5 from all angles. A vehicle loaned by Renault Classic also helped to better understand certain elements such as the famous headlights.
We really capitalized on the history of Renault and the R5 in particular, which had this special sympathy with people and this perfectly recognizable mischievous look.
Then the designers draw the first sketches on paper, like cartoonists who try to capture what makes a face’s personality.
“The sketches captured the fundamental elements that needed to be retained to reproduce the mischievous look of the original R5,” explains François Leboine.
Getting the proportions right…
Then, the designers moved on to a graphic palette to define proportions, contours, the distance between the headlights, to find the expression, the smiling look of the 1970s R5.
After analyzing graphic characteristics and working on proportions, designers operate what is called a shift: a method that consists of taking an object and tilting it into another world. “They’re going to use all the graphic work from previous research, mixing it with the mood board research and codes from today’s objects to project the design details into a futuristic world.”
Inspired by the worlds of aeronautics, architecture, product design and even electronics…
Thanks to this method of shifting visual codes, the prototype’s headlights have become true technological and futuristic elements. As for the fog lights that were often added at the time, they took a leap into the future. They were transformed into daytime running lights fully integrated into the front bumper.
“It was really important that the Renault 5 Prototype was not just a slavish copy of the past, but that it really was a vehicle that contained the elements of the future.”, explained François Leboine.
The final test: meeting the public
Finally, comes the encounter, the ultimate step for designers. The one that allows them to know if their work is successful. “Everything we’ve done, it’s the reaction of the people around us which determines if we’ve hit the bull’s eye, if we’ve brought the R5 back to life or if it was a failure”, says François Leboine.
The reaction of the internal people was already telling us that the car was going to be a success, but in the end it exceeded our expectations.
The Renault 5 Prototype has indeed received a very warm and unanimous welcome. Whether on the headlights or on the whole vehicle, the treatment of the lines and the futuristic details were very much appreciated. With the Renault 5 Prototype, the emblematic model of Renault’s heritage now has a worthy heiress. A modern car, full of charm and in tune with the times. Renault’s DNA respected, a successful projection into the future: mission accomplished
We can only agree…
Within 5-6 weeks, we will be able to take the wheel again, also anxious to get acquainted again with Renault’s latest E-powered products and hybrids… Stay tuned!
The new MINI Countryman Northwood Edition is inspired on the authentic and unique surroundings of this town on the English island Wight.
This edition integrates the contours of this legendary landscape in a logo which adorns in Piano Black finish both sides of the car.
The “Union Jack” flag and the logo “Northwood” are integrated in the total design. On the door sills executed in Piano Black, the name of the edition is engraved, just as is the logo “Special Edition”. The geographical coordinates of this town are engraved in the door pillar on the drivers’ side, and a “Northwood” badge in the passenger area is integrated at the level of the “Piano Black” accent strip.
The MINI Cooper SE Countryman ALL4 Plug-In Hybrid Drive retains its typical air inlets at the sides of the car and has adapted sills in Electric Yellow. On top of the C-pillars a “Northwood” badge is also seen.
The MINI Countryman Northwood Edition is offered with the Plug-in Hybrid Cooper SE ALL 4 engine, the “One” and Cooper S petrol engines, as well as the Cooper Diesel engine. This Special Edition is available at prices from € 32.750.
This breathtaking journey, narrated by Olivier François – President, Fiat Brand Global and FCA Chief Marketing Officer, includes interviews with designers, tales of partners, close-ups on the details and selection of materials, where the aim is caring of the environment and its sustainability.
The short film (15 and a half minutes) presents a relentless succession of meetings and processes that highlight teamwork, the affinity between designers from different fields and the emotions involved in playing an active role in an extraordinary project: the creation of something unique, an interpretation of the New 500 alongside the very best of “Made in Italy”.
The result is the three One-Offs, embodiment’s of the style, creativity and craftsmanship characteristic of “Made in Italy” and of our partners in the project, in the path and in the vision of the Earth’s future.
The journey depicted in the film begins in Turin, cradle of the Fiat brand, passing from Rome on the way with its sunsets, colors and lines that symbolize Bvlgari all over the world, to arrive in Milan, the world capital of fashion and design, due in no small part to Armani and Kartell.
The twist in the tale has Milan as the setting for the entire presentation of the New 500.
A veritable gearshift takes place in the film’s account of the tense time when the Geneva International Motor Show was canceled, and a plan B had to be found and set in motion. The presentation of the New 500 and the One-Offs was completely rewritten to pull up stakes, to Milan.
The short film is created and produced by VICE Italy, with Rockets at the helm. It uses the language of documentaries to reveal aspects normally concealed from the general public, in an immediate and effective way.
In an authentic, realistic vernacular, the evocative film opens the doors of the Style Center in Turin to the cameras. We get an exclusive peek inside the “Color & Material” department led by Rossella Guasco, halfway between a sophisticated research center and an elegant fashion atelier.
The footage documents their almost-obsessive attentiveness to every detail, that “know-how” typical of Italian creativity, and dwells on the emotions of the whole team as they experience something truly unique.
The journey continues in an interview with Klaus Busse, Head of Design, explaining what lies beneath the creative process of style and forms, and the role of the 500 in the history of industrial design, even more so in the collective unconscious.
It was the Style Center that took a legend of the 50’s, the fabled “Cinquino”, and reinvented it in 2007 to “color” everyday life and streets all over the world, making it an authentic, unique and salient response to the requirements of international urban mobility.
At the Milan launch of the One-Offs in March, it was even announced that the Fiat 500 has been confirmed as an “Italian Icon and Honorary Member” of Altagamma, the prestigious Foundation that brings together the best of Italy’s companies, to promote the epitomes of the country’s excellence around the world.
Just have a look at the photos here, and also enjoy the film!
Before Corona hit our shores, we went in February to Florida to soak up the early sun. Undoubtedly this proved to be a wise choice, as at the moment of writing, we are still not allowed to travel. We visited Miami and made a drive to Key West, in a rented Nissan Altima. A very comfortable mount with a well pulling and smooth 2,5 litre 188 HP four cylinder petrol engine coupled to a soave CVT transmission. This CVT performed well, raising the revs gradually following the push of your right foot, and restraining fussy revving even when you accelerate full throttle. Once above 4,000 rpm, it will make crisp upshifts.
With lots of support from the power steering the Altima is very easy to steer, stable and comfortable, and offers lots of room for its occupants. An ideal, and stylish travelling machine, which left little to be desired.
On Florida roads, the usual pickups abound, but there is a lot of room left for supercars and European (noble) brands. Indeed, Florida is the realm of the well to do, and also one of the states with a 56,14 % majority of foreign brands in its total car market. It counted in 2018 some 7,6 million registered vehicles. California is actually the top car state with not less than 14,6 million registered vehicles, and a foreign car market share of 64,9 %.
Go in the posh shopping and hotel areas of Miami beach, and you will see it is the home of Lamborghini’s, Maserati’s, Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, Range Rover, Bentley, Rolls Royce. Many buyers of the noble European brands opt for SUV’s as well as cabrio’s and coupés.
On the road, big SUV’s and pickups from American and Japanese brands abound, with the open Mustangs being frequently seen too, as well as Chevy Camaro’s.
Every now and then an American built classic meets you, as a fifties or sixties open Ford or Thunderbird. Indeed, Cuba is not far away…
Of course, there are the Cinquecento’s. We saw a new one on Miami Beach, and a vintage or “classic” Cinquecento used by a Sicilian Ice cream vendor…
Also a two decades old SUV was totally sculpted in sand, if there ever was a beach car, this is the one…
We just let you enjoy the photos here, and dream with us of these sunny shores and their nice cars…
The dynamic PR and marketing people of FCA Belgium come up with an unique formula to keep the passion for the “Scorpione” alive. They launch mini-video stories that testify to the Abarth passion. The first episode shows the Belgian pilot Thierry Boutsen at the wheel of the Abarth 695 70 ° Anniversario…
This “Abarth Stories” concept was specifically devised for the Belux market. With good reason: since the launch of the brand in 2008, Abarth has achieved increasing success in Belgium and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and is even about to become a reference in our shores when it comes to sporting cars.
The first «Abarth Story» of 2020 brings viewers to the principality of Monaco, where they meet Belgian pilot Thierry Boutsen. He was so impressed with this latest creation from Turin, the Abarth 695 70 ° Anniversario, that he decided to buy one!
Thierry Boutsen has lived in Monaco with his family for years. The Festival du Cirque De Monte Carlo is in full swing, and with a bright blue sky outside, the FCA journalist meets Thierry Boutsen in the lobby of the Columbus hotel. Boutsen has devoted more than 23 years of his life to car racing and motor sport, a man with a true passion for cars.
“I taught my mother to drive,” he tells our journalist quietly. “It was aboard a Fiat 500.” This undoubtedly explains his enthusiasm for the thoroughbred version the current model, sold under the brand name Abarth. «I have purchased this special edition in honor of the brand’s 70th anniversary, and it has been finished in the same color scheme as the 1957 Fiat 500 that I also own. So the circle is round! » he smiles.
Following him in the narrow streets of Monaco towards the corniche that takes us to the motorway towards Menton, one immediately sees that Boutsen has immense driving talents as a pilot, and they amply show behind the wheel of these new toys. «This new Abarth has everything one could wish for: it is light, agile, powerful, has perfect handling and powerful brakes. Everything was developed to achieve the best », Thierry smiled.
For more than 20 years, Thierry Boutsen has been involved in aircraft mediation with his company Boutsen Aviation, which is also based in Monaco. But his passion for cars is still well alive. “I still remain a car enthusiast,” he adds. «That is why I recently set up a new company specializing in the sale of collection cars, cars suitable for public roads and competition cars. Our specialty? Find rare vehicles that meet the specific criteria of the customers, from a Lancia Stratos or Porsche 904 to a Ferrari F1 in running order! » And now he relives also the passion for Abarth…
A thriving market for the cars with the “Scorpione” in Belgium…
With 1,700 cars sold in Belgium in 2019 and around 21,000 in Europe, Abarth is the sporting jewel in the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles group. Born from the heritage of Carlo Abarth, the newest 695 70 ° Anniversario is a unique model that complements the range of models 595, available in the Turismo and Competizione versions. This Abarth 695 70 ° Anniversario impresses with its new rear spoiler, which is manually adjustable,and this “Spoiler ad Assetto Variabile” can be adjusted in twelve positions, with a slope of 0 to 60 degrees…
Abarth remains active in the competition, for example through the participation of the Abarth 124 Rally in the ERC Championship, and also takes part in the F4 Championships in Italy and Germany.
This is how new pilots are discovered, such as the young Arthur Leclerc, brother of F1 pilot Charles Leclerc, who started his career at Alfa Romeo, before making the switch to Ferrari.
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.