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

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

The ZOUTE GRAND PRIX® celebrated its 10th edition: a decade of four-wheeled dreams came true…

This magnificent event is all about enjoying cars to the full, and what’s more, a very large public can participate and witness the ZOUTE GRAND PRIX® events up close, see and touch the cars, which embody the pinnacle in automotive heritage and panache.

It’s a truly stunning event, which has now grown to impressive proportions. Last year’s figures amply prove it: What to think of 645 cars, 1040 participants, 263.000 visitors?

The organisers look already into the future, and after a decade of successes are planning even grander events. They told us all about it at their press conference, held at the prestigious Royal Zoute Golf Club, of which more in a further report.

But here we tell you more about this year’s event…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The weather gods were not altogether with us this time, but this did not dampen the enthusiasm of both participants and spectators. The ZOUTE RALLY® started for its first leg on Friday morning, and not less than about 200 pre- and post-war classic cars participated.

Media celebrities like Veronique De Cock participated…

One can choose between a “regularity” drive, where the ideal average speed is of paramount importance, with special Regularity Tests being also included in the daily 250 km course.

Exotics like this Fiat “Otto Vu” were also seen…

Enthusiasts who were looking for a more leisurely drive, opted for the “Balade” formula, and received a road book of the untimed course, which they could drive and enjoy at their own pace.

The route is different from the “regularity” drive, albeit in the same region. On Friday, the route went through the Flemish Ardennes, and lunch was enjoyed for all in the grounds of chateau Kluisbergen.

The cockpit of the “Otto Vu”…

On Saturday the ZOUTE RALLY® went through Zoutelande for a luncheon stop at the biggest Dutch yacht builder Amels Shipyard in Vlissingen. Winners of the regularity class were Ruben Maes and Bjorn Vanoverschelde with their Porsche 356c.

The founding father(s): ZOUTE Grand Prix Creator and Organiser Filip Burgoo on the left…

At the finish line, many happy faces were seen again of course. All lucky finishers got of course a fine glass of Ruinart champagne, and congratulations from David Burgoo and his colleagues.

The team Feltes/Feltes in their Bugatti T35 Grand Prix de Lyon with starting nr. 1 also finished the event in good form, with David (left) and Filip Burgoo (right) congratulating!

We just let you enjoy the photos here of this 10th edition of the ZOUTE RALLY®, second part follows with more tales and images…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Sue Schiepers Gallery breaks again the boundaries of contemporary glass art with Christine Vanoppen and Wouter Bolangier.

Stunning geometric design in the glass artwork of Christine Vanoppen…

Faithful readers have already experienced in these columns our love for contemporary glass art, and more especially the unique approach of Hasselt based Sue Schiepers Gallery in bringing the pinnacle of this artistic craft to a wide(r) public.

This time Sue Schiepers truly delighted us again with two artists who both make a very bold statement in glass art with unique techniques, shapes and forms in their creations. Both artists come as it were from the same stable, Sue Schiepers tells us. They both studied monumental arts at the Antwerp Academy, both are also teachers of their glass art.

Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “Sue Schiepers Gallery breaks again the boundaries of contemporary glass art with Christine Vanoppen and Wouter Bolangier.”

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 Jeep Renegade 1.3 150 HP: a compact SUV with pure Jeep DNA.

The original Jeep has grown into an absolute icon. One loves its shape, its purposeful compactness, its go anywhere usability. Modern urban dwellers love to inject its pure, outdoorish character into their lifestyle, and therefore what better thing to do than to choose this Jeep Renegade. It approaches the dimensions of the original, and also the body contours and cabin design take you fully into the Jeep world.

Like its veteran original, the Renegade we tested has also a small four cylinder petrol engine under the hood, but that is where, so many decades later, all comparison ends. Because this Renegade is crammed with the very latest state of the art technology the FCA group has to offer, and then we are not even talking about the PHEV version, which we recently announced in these columns.

This Renegade has impressed us, and quite frankly, it does the Jeep name (very) proud. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Jeep Renegade 1.3 150 HP: a compact SUV with pure Jeep DNA.”

Our Suzuki Samurai passed the “contrôle technique” with flying colours…

The technician at the “contrôle technique” puts a broad smile…

Indeed, this is the second part of a very happy story. As we said earlier, we took our faithful runner to the “Point S” station, and got the oil and filter changed, and the brake system cleaned and brake fluids replaced. In the meantime, the slight brake friction we had felt on the left front wheel had already disappeared.

We first went to “point S” for a checkup…

The next day we presented it to the “Securitest”, and as expected, it passed the test without a hitch. “C’est une très bonne voiture!” acclaimed the man who checked the car. We photographed him in front of our Samurai at the end of the test, after he had put the small sticker with the test validity date on the window.

Indeed, it is immediately visible for anyone in France whether the car is properly insured and has passed the MOT test, as it is obligatory to put both the insurance and the MOT test sticker on the window. Very clever!

The validity date of the last “controle technique” is put on “la carte grise” or the grey card, which are the car’s identity papers.

Contrary to Belgium, the control is valid for a period of two years instead of one, which is far more logical if you consider the present state of technology of our modern cars.

Our 1988 Samurai passed…

Indeed, even with the soaring heat wave temperatures well above 30 degrees we are experiencing at the moment of writing, our youngtimers, the 21 year old Mercedes A Class and this 31 year old Suzuki, perform perfectly without the slightest hint of overheating or whatsoever. It proves again how much superior car technology is and has been since more than thirty years ago, compared to present day public transport trains and their infrastructure, if one reads the horrible stories of thousands of people stuck in overheated, defect trains and rail infrastructure this week. Quod erat demonstrandum!

We are now enjoying our Suzuki, driving it along vineyards and historic villages with good places to eat, and are now putting things in place to get it registered as a “voiture de collection”…

More to follow!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

D(r)iving into history: Ostend revisited…

I was reading a marvellous novel by Koen Peeters during my French holiday, called “Kamer in Oostende”, or “Room in Ostend”, which tells about his wanderings with his friend painter through the streets of Ostend, looking for its history, its people, who can still recall the history of this iconic seaside city of the last century. Notably they looked for some remembrances of its famous painters James Ensor and Leon Spillaert. Understandably, as Koen Peeters made this research voyage with his friend painter.

It inspired me to look for motoring history which took place in famous cities, and make this into an interesting series with an original and interesting view on car history. Fortune has it that in my French holiday house I just stumbled on a little booklet – an annuary- of the “Touring Club de Belgique” from as early as 1911. Why not focus on Ostend here first, I thought, and I started to look more closely in the booklet. It lists all the members of the Touring Club de Belgique, many of them being in Brussels and Antwerp, and other major cities like Liège, then the heart of industrial Belgium. In Ostend I found in this booklet only three members, a rather bleak result.

One is the “arrondissement” member of the club, Mr. Pierre Laroye, an industrial, living at n°2, quai du Chantier.

The other local members are Mr. H. Geysen, a joint member of the “Génie”, at the avenue Serruys, and Mr. De Meuninck, a trader/shopkeeper, in the West Street, or Rue de l’Ouest.

All members or “délégués” were offered a special “plaque”, 27 by 10 centimetres, which they were suggested to put at their front door. The T.C.B. even suggested proper maintenance procedures, like polishing the “plaque” vigourously regularly, after having put it on a woollen cloth.

Driving from Brussels to Ostend was not an easy affair. The annuary even describes the road as excellent for cyclists, but horrible for motorists…

Interesting and intriguing is the long list of hotels, amongst others the Hotel Kursaal and “du Beau- Site”, at the promenade or “Digue de Mer”, which was then the most expensive hotel in Ostend, with a bed for 4 Belgian francs, a Dinner for 5 francs, full pension from 12,50 francs onwards. A breakfast would set you back 1,5 francs.

Of course there is parking provided for your car. The guide describes the Kursaal as “the biggest and most sumptuous of its kind” in Europe. It also ranks Ostend as “an important seaside resort” with a beautiful 8 kilometre long promenade, a Wellington horse race track and an 8 hectare park, actually the “Parc Leopold”.

The annuary includes of course street plans of the most important cities, and notably Ostend…

This is what this “annuaire” tells us. In a further report, we will investigate the motor (sport) history of Ostend. In such a posh seaside place, the home of royals and the famous, there must have been much more at hand…

Hans Knol ten Bensel