We drove the Toyota GR Supra 2.0L: a thoroughbred sports car gets even more pure…

Who doesn’t dream of a two-seater sports car with flowing coupé lines, a racy cabin, long hood, wide stance and a superb styled rear? A sports car with ideal 50/50 weight distribution, handling from the seat of your pants, equipped with a thoroughbred engine?

Such a car is the Toyota GR Supra. Until now, it came with a 3 litre six engine, being the first global model to be developed by TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. Now this same team has engineered another, even more pure version for the sports car aficionados: a Supra with a double overhead cam, 2 litre 16-valve petrol unit with a twin-scroll turbocharger.

This four-cylinder Supra is 100 kg lighter, and the engine’s shorter length means its mass is located closer to the center of the car. A true driver’s delight with stunning performance? You bet! It proved indeed to be one of the nicest 2-seater “pur sang” bolides we have driven lately…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Already its looks are stunning. Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada adhered to the classic form of a front-mounted engine driving the rear wheels, building on the heritage of Toyota’s past Supra generations and original 2000GT sports car. Indeed, this latest Supra has much of the compact purity of the legendary 2000 GT, which moves the heart of every car enthusiast.  

When it comes to design a top handling car, its wheelbase and track dimensions are the first things to consider. It is widely recognized that the best balance of agility and stability is obtained with a ratio between wheelbase and track of around 1.5 and 1.6. Achieving the 1.55 “golden ratio” was thus the starting point for the GR Supra development team, the key building block on which everything else has been optimized. (For reference: wheelbase = 2,470 mm; rear track = 1,589 mm).

Superb four-cylinder…

The engine sits indeed in the right place. And it sounds and performs right too. Maximum power is 258 DIN hp/190 kW at 5,000-6,000 rpm, while peak torque of 400 Nm is available across the whole mid rev range, from 1,550 to 4,000 rpm. Performance is indeed at the rendez-vous…

What to say of a 0-100 km/h acceleration in 5.2 seconds, with top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h… The charm also lies in the totally effortless way this performance is achieved. This sports engine is totally civilized, and while it will respond eagerly to the slightest pressure of your right foot, it is utterly docile and flexible in town traffic, and in the “normal” driving mode, it will happily potter along at 1200 rpm at legal speeds. Choose the sports mode, and the excellent 8 speed ZF automatic will spoil you with alert and lightning speed gear changes, and make you a better driver…

The staccato of the engine revving up under full power is a delight to your ears, and all this pleasure is further enhanced by the excellent handling of this Supra.

Economy is not as dramatic as you would expect from such a high-performance car, as the engine is efficient and the car is not heavy. We clocked with a lot of (very) brisk driving an average consumption of some 8,2 liters/100 km.

State of the art suspension

The Supra steers with precision. The high rigidity of the chassis makes a finely tuned suspension possible. The suspension design comprises double-joint-type MacPherson struts at the front and a five-link system at the rear.

The GR Supra 2.0 is fitted as standard with 18-inch forged alloy wheels. To optimize the balance of front and rear grip, larger wheels and tyres are used at the rear. The specific Michelin Pilot Sport tyres are 255/40 ZR18 front and 275/40 ZR18 rear.

The Supra also corners as on rails thanks to its 50/50 weight distribution, and even novice drivers can drive immediately fast with utter confidence on those winding mountain sections of your Gran Turismo trip.

Do not forget that TOYOTA GAZOO Racing was instrumental in honing the new sports car’s performance, working on the famous Nürburgring Nordschleife and surrounding roads in Germany to achieve the most agile, stable and rewarding handling possible. Further extensive testing was carried out on roads around the world.

The Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), available as part of the optional Sport Pack, enhances performance with instant response to changes in the road surface, adjusting the shock absorber force at each wheel to maintain a flat vehicle posture, excellent steering response and supple ride comfort. Sensors constantly monitor the way the car is being driven and the road conditions, controlling the damping force accordingly.

The driver can choose between two AVS modes – NORMAL and SPORT – to suit their mood or the driving conditions. NORMAL mode strikes a high balance between vehicle stability and ride comfort, enabling a sporty drive without sacrificing comfort. SPORT mode delivers a flat vehicle posture, reduced body roll and a more agile steering response.

A cabin to dream (and drive) away in …

The cabin of this two-seater is a heavenly place for each trip, be it 1 or 1000 kilometers. Soon you have found the ideal driving position behind the wheel, and all the instrumentation is ideally positioned in your line of sight, with the large rev counter of course taking central place.

The low, slim horizontal dashboard maximizes the forward view through the windscreen, and you intuitively keep your eyes on the road.

But don’t expect this Supra to be anywhere spartan. The standard multimedia system for the GR Supra 2.0 is controlled via a centrally mounted 8.8-inch high-resolution TFT touchscreen display. This can also be operated using a controller on the center console which has an intuitive touchpad control on its upper surface. It is designed for fingertip control so the driver doesn’t have to change their position at the wheel to operate it.

The package includes a four-speaker audio system with DAB radio reception, Bluetooth, a USB port and wireless smartphone integration using Apple CarPlay.

Conclusion

A formidable sports car, a dream on the track, on the mountain pass, on the motorway, but also well at home in tight and slow daily urban traffic. A stylish companion, which offers you all the practical creature comfort you could wish for, all this makes this Supra a car nice to live with every day. Then also, it’s a Toyota, which means top notch reliability, good economy and reasonable service cost. So enthusiasts, this Supra has all it takes to become an icon, and could be your four-wheeled companion, to cherish for years, if not decades to come…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The new Mercedes-Benz S-Class: four wheeled luxury reinvented…

Mercedes-Benz S-Class, in hightech silver

A new S-Class redefines the benchmark of luxurious motoring. This time, the high-tech innovations are centered around driver and passengers. We name a few of them: The second generation of MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) débuts in the new S-Class. Not less than five(!) screens are installed. New 3D driver display for the first time allows spatial perception of the scene with a real 3D effect thanks to eye-tracking. There is also a very large head-up display with augmented reality content. When navigating, for example, animated turn-off arrows (“fishbones”) are virtually and precisely projected onto the road lane.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class interior: leather siena brown

Using cameras in the overhead control panel and learning algorithms, MBUX Interior Assist recognizes and anticipates the wishes and intentions of the occupants. It does this by interpreting head direction, hand movements and body language, and responds with corresponding vehicle functions. For example, if the driver looks over his/her shoulder towards the rear window, Interior Assist automatically opens the sunblind.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class, interior: leather siena brown

The active ambient lighting with around 250 LEDs is now integrated into the driving assistance systems, and is able to reinforce their warnings visually.

The latest generation of the Driving Assistance Package has new and numerous improved functions. One example is the intelligent compliance with speed limits.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class, exterior: hightech silver

The new S-Class is also easy to manoeuver:  Thanks to rear-axle steering (optional), the S-Class is as manoeuvrable as a compact car in the city. The steering angle at the rear axle is up to ten degrees. The turning circle is reduced by up to two metres.(!)

Mercedes-Benz S-Class DIGITAL LIGHT

More than 50 electronic components in the new S-Class can be updated with new software over-the-air (OTA). These include the entire MBUX infotainment system, the driver display, the driving assistance systems and the MULTIBEAM LED and DIGITAL LIGHT lighting systems. You don’t need to visit your dealer for this anymore…

The S-Class is also safer than ever. When a side impact with another vehicle threatens, the vehicle body can be raised by the E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL suspension (optional) within a few tenths of a second.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class, interior: leather nappa black/carmin red

It is expected that from the second half of 2021 the S-Class will be able to drive in conditionally automated mode with the new DRIVE PILOT (optional extra), in situations where traffic density is high or in tailbacks, on suitable motorway sections …in Germany.

The revolutionary headlamp technology DIGITAL LIGHT (optional extra) allows completely new functions, e.g. the projection of marking aids or warning symbols onto the road ahead. In each headlamp, DIGITAL LIGHT has a light module with three extremely powerful LEDs with light that is refracted and directed by 1.3 million micro-mirrors. The resolution is therefore more than 2.6 million pixels per vehicle.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class, exterior: hightech silver

When the new S-Class is launched, six-cylinder in-line petrol and diesel engines in various output classes will be available, with a V8 engine with integrated starter generator (ISG) and a 48-volt onboard electrical system to follow shortly afterwards. A plug-in hybrid with an all-electric range of around 100 km will follow in 2021.

Of course, books can be written about this new S-Class; We will in the near future, describe some of these new technical and electronic breakthroughs in more detail…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Abarth launches two limited series of its iconic 595…

The Abarth Monster Energy Yamaha…

Abarth grabs our car lover’s heart once again this autumn: it presents two new special limited-edition series of the iconic 595 – with only 2,000 units of each to be produced, which embody the duality of its soul: “Style” and “Performance”.

The first is the Abarth 595 Scorpioneoro, featuring elegant black livery embellished with golden details and unique content, making it a genuine “collector’s item”. 

The second one is also adrenaline-packed: it is the Abarth 595 Monster Energy Yamaha, a limited edition to celebrate the partnership between the two brands, which already started in 2015. The livery and interiors are reminiscent of the colors of the YZR-M1 Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP 2020, complete with the “Monster claw” on the bonnet as a tribute to the new collaboration with the renowned energy drink.

The two special series will be unveiled to the international media on September 18 at a virtual press conference. Read below more about both cars, but stay tuned!

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The Abarth 595 Scorpioneoro pays tribute to the exclusive A112 Abarth “Gold Ring”, better known to fans as the A112 Abarth “Targa Oro”. But instead of the original 70 HP, it has 165 HP “paw the ground”, delivering a power-to-weight ratio of 6.5 kg/HP and acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in a staggering 7.3 seconds. It is coupled to a mechanical transmission, but the sequential box is also to be had as an option.

The special Abarth 595 Scorpioneoro bears a numbered plate in its cockpit. The new special series features exclusive details. From the outside, it is recognizable by its black scorpion livery – available on request in Podium Blue, Racing White and Record Gray – and the matt black chessboard roof perfectly matches the “tar cold gray” finish of the handles, mirror caps, and the front and rear DAM.

To emphasize its coolness even further, this new special series includes golden details, such as the scorpion on the bonnet, the lining around its bodywork and the 17” “golden” alloy wheels or, on request, 17” “black” alloy wheels with the golden scorpion on the hubcap.

In the interior, the new Abarth “Scorpionflage” sports seats with black leather upholstery and back seat in technical material to better contain the body during the sportiest driving. On the front seat head restraints, embroidered “Scorpioneoro” lettering alongside the Italian flag and Abarth embroidery. The new seats combine with the Scorpion Black dashboard with matt black details, and with the gold plate on the central tunnel and personalized mats.

To top everything off, the Abarth 595 Scorpioneoro offers the best infotainment currently available: the 7″ HD UconnectTM system fitted with Apple CarPlay and Google Android AutoTM* – a fast platform with high definition monitor, GPS and DAB digital radio – as well as the sophisticated BeatsAudio™ system with overall output of 480 W and a 8-channel digital speaker including a cutting-edge equalization algorithm capable of reproducing the full sonic spectrum of a recording studio.

Last but not least, a special limited-edition chronograph watch has been created by Breil, dedicated to the new special Abarth 595 Scorpioneoro series, which includes an incision of the golden Scorpion logo.

The second special Abarth 595 Monster Energy Yamaha series is the perfect expression of the Scorpion and Yamaha brands’ shared values, rooted in performance, racing, technology and fun.

This partnership, started in 2015, is still going strong, based on its ability to overcome sporting and racing barriers by “going down into the streets” with many adrenaline-packed special series: the Abarth 595 Yamaha Factory Racing Edition (2015), the two-seater Abarth 695 biposto Yamaha Factory Racing Edition (2015), and finally, the Limited Edition Abarth 695 XSR Yamaha (2017). Today, the baton is handed to the new Abarth 595 Monster Energy Yamaha series.

Just look at the photos here, and indeed, just as you dear reader, we cannot wait to slide behind the wheel of these four wheeled sporting gems!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Our classic Suzuki Samurai runs as fit as ever…

Our Samurai in front of the scenic village of Rochecolombe…

Our faithful Suzuki has reached true oldtimer status now. It is eligible to become “Voiture de Collection” in France, and we are preparing the final documents now to register it. This means the gleaming Samurai has only to pass every five years at the technical control, it can run on original “vintage “ French license plates of the sixties/seventies, and can even carry the famous French yellow bulbs in its headlights. Wow!

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In the meantime, our mid-eighties Samurai certainly has leaded a rather protected life in our hands, and the result is that it still looks virtually “as new”. Also pristine are the mechanics. We just dropped the battery in and after two starting attempts to allow the fuel to reach the carburetor, we gave it a blip on the accelerator pedal to start the automatic choke, and there it started in a smooth idle. Carefully warming it up for a minute or two to “run in” the waterpump and ancillaries after their long winter sleep, and off we went. 

Our Samurai in the Vineyards near St. Maurice d’Ibie

The 80 HP 1,3 litre Suzuki is a fine performer, and of course very much at home off-road. Small “V” or “Voirie” roads in the French mountains are its favored playgrounds, and one cannot think of a better four wheeled companion to make those mountain tours far from the (Corona)maddening crowds. This jeep is therefore much cherished and immensely popular amongst outdoor lovers in the  French mountain regions, due to its sturdy compactness and excellent offroad qualities.

The interior is still in mint condition…

We took it amongst others on a scenic tour to St. Maurice-d’Ibie, on the D 558 towards Les Salelles and then turning right on the D1 through Lagorce, from there on to the right on the D 401 to Rochecolombe. Here we also took some photos for this report.

The Samurai is pleasantly short geared, so steep hills are an absolute breeze, and in slow crawling traffic in the small village alleys this Samurai feels totally at home.

On the scenic road towards Les Salelles …

Again consumption depends on your driving style, but keep the revs low, and this efficient 1,3 litre combined with the light weight of the Samurai will not let you down at the pump, and consumption averages below 8 litres/100 km are quite achievable.  

We loved again every minute behind the wheel of our Suzuki again, and look forward to see it again in autumn, Corona times helping of course…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Three (!) electric engines for the Audi e-tron S and Audi e-tron S Sportback

Driving is believing, and the e-power experience proves to be even more exhilarating at Audi: their e-tron flagship comes now with three engines, making it 370 kW strong and giving it a massive torque of 973 Nm. Two engines are driving the rear wheels, and indeed, the emphasis is on rear end power, as well for daily use as for sporting driving. The rear end can even be seduced to produce power slides, and the Quattro concept has been further honed to deliver, as the factory puts it, an electronically controlled vector torque distribution with active and fully variable torque distribution between both rear wheels, doing away with a differential altogether.

Driving experience 2.0

The Audi pilots can wet their hands: this impressive SUV is your sporting partner on winding roads and mountain passes. Just put the electronic stability control ESC in “sport” mode and the drive mode selector in “dynamic” and things really start to happen. True power slides are now possible and the system will softly brake the inner front wheel should it want to slip through under full power. This leaves you fully in control of this e-power “bolide”, which leaves nothing to be desired in the power department.

This S-tron catapults itself from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 4,5 seconds, and then storms further ahead to its electronically controlled top speed of 210 km/h.

Still sufficient range…

The available battery power is a good match for all this sportiness. When you adopt a driving style in tune with the WLTP cycle, you can expect an action range of 360 kilometers or thereabouts. The high tension battery has a gross charge capacity of 95 kWh, of which 91 pct is effectively usable.

The Quattro principle has been further refined. When extra power is wanted, the front motor kicks in, and as said, both rear engines are individually controlled and offer this fully variable torque, managed by a permanent electronic control system.

As you can expect, the S version has a suspension setup geared towards sportiness, but when you’re not in the mood, it is good to know that the Audi Drive Select gives you the choice between not less than seven driving profile modes. The fully adaptable air suspension has controlled damping stiffness and can vary the ride height by some 76 mm.

20 inch alloys are standard, but you can opt for 21 inch tall wheels, and later even 22 inch alloys will be available. The brake saddles at the front have not less than six (!) pistons. The brake control system will decide the braking power of each wheel, and will choose also if engine, brake friction or both will be used when decelerating.

The body has also been made more aerodynamic, and the patented new wheel arches improve things markedly. The Cx is a mere 0,26 for the Sportback version.  

Each e-tron also comes with a … heat pump, which effectively reduces energy consumption on the whole by extracting heat generated by the driveline, and thus extending the driving range by some 10 pct.

Of course this e-Tron S has all the infotainment and electronic driving assistance you could ever want,and will also light the road for you with matrix LED headlamps. In the cabin, MMI touch response control system with two large central screens await you. The online services of Audi Connect complete the navigation system, especially the e-tron-routeplanner.

We are certainly looking forward to have a drive in this latest edition of the e-Tron, just know that this version will be available on the European markets in autumn 2020, and prices in Belgium start at 97.100 euro incl. VAT for the e-tron S, and 99.110 euro incl. VAT for the Sportback version.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Alfa Romeo celebrates 110 years of sporting automotive craftsmanship also in Belgium!

Alfa celebrates 110 years of passion in Belgium, driving here in front of the Royal Palace in the heart of Brussels…

Alfa Romeo will officially celebrate its 110th anniversary on June 24 in Arese, Italy, on the brand’s historic site. So more about this very soon this week.

But also in Belgium, Alfa has since its very first beginning always been synanimous of pure four wheeled passion.

In Belgium, fans of the brand will be able to watch a new video from today that creates a unique bond between Alfa Romeo and the Belgians, from the Brussels squares to the curves of Spa-Francorchamps, the Formula 1 mecca where Alfa Romeo will compete in August.

The Giulia and Stelvio MY2020 play the leading role, as this video illustrates the brand’s mastery of typical Italian design, technology and driving pleasure.

We tell you here somewhat more about it…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The tour shot on the video starts at the iconic Place Royale, a stone’s throw from the Royal Palace in Brussels. This highly symbolic location for Belgium serves as the background for the two latest creations of Alfa Romeo: the sedan Giulia MY2020 and the SUV Stelvio MY2020.

In keeping with Belgian tradition, the nocturnal rainy weather made the wet pavement reflect in the still illuminated headlamps of the two Biscione models. It is barely 5 a.m., and the city wakes up.

This is all the more photogenic, and the media team prepares to shoot the video images and take photos of this historic moment: the celebration of the 110th anniversary of the Alfa Romeo brand on Belgian territory.

As a symbol of the “Made in Italy” label, Alfa Romeo has had a beautiful love relationship with the Belgians for a long time. The sportiness and elegance of the brand have been celebrated here for decades. In addition, Alfa Romeo has made models throughout its history that have become icons in the automotive industry. Belgium, with its many car enthusiasts, is also an important territory for discerning collectors. There are many private museums across the country, containing numerous treasures created by Alfa Romeo engineers and designers, as well as unique vehicles handcrafted by the peninsula’s great bodybuilders. For the “Belgians”, the name Alfa Romeo stands for passion.

From the squares to the striking monuments of Brussels, the last two creations of Alfa Romeo go to the east of the country, first past the Royal Palace of Brussels, remembering that the King and Queen of the Belgians, Albert II and Paola, when they were crown princes, brought a visit to Alfa Romeo and went also to its Balocco test track. The Prince of Liège hiself slid behind the wheel of the unique 33 Stradale, in October 1967.

After Brussels the team and the cars head towards Spa-Francorchamps. To the most mythical circuit of motorsport, which all Formula 1 drivers enjoy the most.

A territory that the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Stelvio have known for several years, as the Quadrifoglio versions of both models are used for the transport of the two current pilots of the brand, Antonio Giovinazzi, ambassador of the Giulia Quadrifoglio, and Kimi Räikkönen, ambassador of the Stelvio Quadrifoglio. It is also on this very track that the new Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN Formula 1 cars will run the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of the summer, on Sunday 30 August 2020.

On the runway at La Sauvenière Airport, the scene of an impressive air ballet during the Grand Prix weekends, the two Alfa Romeos are now enjoying the asphalt, whose curves, straights and slopes are already an interesting playground on the way to circuit. Two legendary cars that are about to race on an iconic track, where the brand has had the opportunity to express the full range of its sporting expertise on numerous occasions and in many motorsport events.

The 1750 Sport was already a star in Francorchamps in 1929…

It is in this magical setting that the last images of this commemorative video produced by the Alfa Romeo team will be shot, to testify once again to the unique bond that unites the famous sports brand with its Belgian fans. The video will be available on the Alfa Romeo social media pages in Belgium and on the Alfa Romeo press website:

FR: http://www.media.fcaemea.com/be-fr/alfa-romeo

NL : http://www.media.fcaemea.com/be-nl/alfa-romeo

Just click and enjoy the images, as you have admired the photos here!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Have a stunning sound experience in your Lexus Convertible…

Generating the right sound is the result of state of the art engineering…

When you step inside the Lexus LC 500 Convertible, we would suggest you lower the roof and blip the throttle. The deep note from its V8 engine tells you immediately that an exhilarating drive is in prospect.

It’s all part of the exceptional sensory quality that Lexus has brought to its first soft-top model: just as much as the styling pleases the eye, the sound of the engine stirs your heart. Generating just the right aural quality was an important goal for the car’s development team, and this required precision engineering to achieve…

Just read on!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Inspired by the LFA supercar

Lexus’ focus on the importance of the engine sound can be traced back to the LFA, its ultra-exclusive, hand-built supercar. The specialists who worked on its V10 power unit identified the separate qualities that combine to create the ideal sound “atmosphere.”

In the LC concertible, the power of the V8’s engine note had to be balanced with a level of quietness in the cabin that overturns preconceptions about driving in a convertible – an equation Lexus calls a “harmony of opposites.”

To achieve the maximum effect, the sound of the engine changes in line with the rise and fall in rpm, becoming more powerful and urgent in tune with the driver’s use of the accelerator and the sequence of shifts through the rapid-action 10-speed automatic transmission. The exhaust note, too, heightens the effect. By contrast, in gentle cruising, the sound is subdued, so conversation is easy when the roof is down.

Finding that perfect engine sound

A continuous, pulsating sound is characteristic of a large-capacity, naturally aspirated V8 engine like the five-litre unit which powers The LC 500 Convertible. Lexus has used acoustic technologies to combine this with spectral harmony (perfect sound intervals that are pleasing to the ear), stereophonic sound, to create a depth of sound, and so-called “formants” – qualities that stir the senses and generate a feel-good factor.

Active Noise Control is used to “clean” the sound frequencies experienced in the car. This emits anti-pulse sounds through the audio speakers which counteract any unwelcome low frequency booming sound from the engine and drivetrain.

In the LC Coupe, noise inside the cabin is monitored by a microphone in the roof, but for the Convertible, it had to be relocated inside the driver’s headrest. Being closer to the driver’s ear means it can pick up a wider range of frequencies, but a complex algorithm had to be calculated to make sure it works accurately in any seat position.

The silence of a fixed-head coupé…

Even though the LC Convertible has a soft top, Lexus wanted to secure the same kind of cabin quietness as in the LC Coupe. Acoustic simulations were created to find out where dominant noises were entering the space, so that the amount and location of soundproofing and sound-absorbing material could be calculated.

The storage area behind the rear seats for the folding roof presented a particular challenge, as it was a route for tyre and exhaust noise to enter the cabin. There was not enough room for soundproofing material to be added, so the team looked instead at adapting the trim material itself. By allowing air to pass through the structure and using sound-absorbing material on the reverse, the entire surface of the storage space soaks up noise.

As the area is visible and part of the car’s interior, it also had to look good. Lexus assessed many different materials before choosing one usually used for lining the wings around the wheels. This meets safety standards and, being applied with extra density, has just the right appearance.

We are anxious to enjoy the ride in this formidable Convertible, which will be a feast for eyes and ears…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We all take it into our hands: the history of the steering wheel…

The dynamic PR people of the Mercedes-Benz Museum have recently launched a so-called “33 Extras” exhibit series. These “33 Extras” bring the history of personal mobility and motoring culture to life highlighting details and aspects that are often surprising. Here they focus on the steering wheel, and we found their story interesting enough to present it here to you…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The world´s first car race from Paris to Rouen, 22 July 1894. Alfred Vacheron´s vehicle with petrol engine. Vacheron was awarded joint 4th place in the contest.

It all started in in 1894: the steering wheel made its debut in the first motorsport competition in history – the race from Paris to Rouen. French engineer Alfred Vacheron equipped his Panhard & Levassor vehicle, powered by a Daimler engine, with a … genuine steering wheel. Compared to the control levers that had been used up to that point, the steering wheel allowed him to steer more accurately – and therefore also to increase his speed. His steering wheel consisted of a circular grip ring connected to the steering column by spokes – a basic principle which is still valid to this day.

Mercedes-Simplex in the Mercedes-Benz Classic Insight Nice-–La Turbie in 2017. The steering wheel was equipped with additional levers for adjusting various engine functions.

The end of the handlebar…

Before the steering wheel became the norm at the turn of the century, there were many solutions, including some that resembled bicycle handlebars. In his three-wheeled Patent Motor Car of 1886, Carl Benz used a rotary crank that transmitted the driver’s steering action to the steering column. Gottlieb Daimler equipped his four-wheeled motor carriage from 1886 with a cross-shaped handle.

In the end, the steering wheel prevailed quite simply because it could be operated intuitively. Along with the pedals and seat, it is the most important interface between the driver and the car. Key advantage: It was possible to determine the exact driving direction much more accurately than with levers because the wheel principle allowed the steering lock to be translated through the gearing into several revolutions.

Additional functions already 120 years ago…

Sectional view of a steering wheel with airbag from 1992. The folded airbag (white) can be seen above the propellant charge.

On the Mercedes-Simplex models, from 1902 on, the steering wheel was equipped with levers that were used to adjust important engine functions ─ in particular, ignition timing and mixture formation. In the 1920s, a steering wheel ring for operating the horn was added – an early implementation of Car-2-X communication, so to speak.

…and now

Today’s steering wheels are used to operate numerous systems, such as the on-board computer, voice control, telecommunications and multimedia. In addition, there are a number of stalks arranged in the immediate vicinity. In the summer of 2020, Mercedes-Benz will be presenting the next generation of the steering wheel as a command centre – the capacitive steering wheel with digital control zones.

Touch, “feel” and emotion…

There are considerable technical demands placed on the steering wheel – and the tactile experience. If the steering wheel is not perceived as pleasant to touch, this can have an effect on the way the vehicle is driven. In addition to the materials, the design also plays an important role.

Steering wheel and instrument cluster from the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, model series 221. Photo from 2005.

Steering wheel ergonomics also includes its position in the vehicle. The Daimler Phoenix racing car from 1900 and the innovative Mercedes 35 hp from 1901 had already proved this point: Their steering columns were inclined much more than before. This made it possible to steer the cars much more effectively and more dynamically. This contributed both to driving safety and also to the overwhelming sporting success of the Mercedes 35 hp in Nice Week in 1901.

Steering wheel from a Formula One Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport racing car. Photograph from 2018.

Size did matter…

The first steering wheels provided a fair guide as to how big and heavy a vehicle was. Trucks and  buses initially needed enormous steering wheels. It was not until the advent of power steering that it became possible to make steering wheels smaller in large vehicles. Power steering was first fitted on the Mercedes-Benz 300 saloon car, in 1958. From the 1960s onwards, Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicles were also equipped to an increasing extent with power-assisted steering.

Passive safety started in 1959

As part of the safety concept implemented in 1959 in the W 111 model series, the “tail fin” or “Heckflosse” saloon was the first to feature a steering wheel with a large, padded impact cushion, which reduced the risk of injury. In 1967, Mercedes-Benz introduced safety steering with a telescopic steering column and impact absorber as standard equipment for all vehicles. Then, in 1981, the driver’s airbag fitted in the steering wheel was introduced. This world-first innovation in production cars was introduced by Mercedes-Benz in the S-Class model series 126.

Im Forschungsfahrzeug Mercedes-Benz F 200 Imagination wird 1996 die Fahrzeugsteuerung über Sidesticks erprobt. The Mercedes-Benz F 200 Imagination concept vehicle from 1996 tested the use of side-mounted joysticks for steering.

Cars without a steering wheel?

Mercedes-Benz has toyed with this scenario at least in test and research vehicles. The F 200 Imagination concept vehicle presented in 1996 was controlled with the aid of side-mounted joysticks. The innovative system worked perfectly. However, the steering wheel remains the preferred option, which applies just as much to production cars as to modern racing cars with their highly complex control systems. Perhaps tomorrow’s autonomous cars will be able to do without a steering wheel completely. Until then, however, the new Mercedes-Benz capacitive steering wheel supports autonomous driving functions more comprehensively than ever before. A brief history of the steering wheel is also given in a press release from Mercedes-Benz Cars.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The new BMW 4 series coupé: more style and character than ever…

A beauty…

BMW have again set the example: their new 4 series coupé is setting the benchmark again in style and sportiness. The front end is dramatic, also the roof line has the proportions and lines of a thoroughbred. The prominent, vertical BMW kidney grille follows the tradition of legendary BMW coupés and reflects the engine’s high cooling air requirement. Stretched side window graphic, powerfully sculpted shoulders and flowing roofline exude athleticism and sporting elegance.

There are standard LED headlights with extremely slim contours. Adaptive LED Headlights with BMW Laserlight are available as an option. Stylishly darkened LED rear lights with eye-catching L-shaped light bars.

Improved cabin

The interior is also further improved, in instrumentation as well as seating. New interior design centred on sporty driving experience. Driver-focused cockpit design, new display grouping with up to 10.25-inch Control Display and optional, fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster. Control panel with high-quality design on the centre console, new sports leather steering wheel and newly developed sports seats as standard, knee pads on the centre console optional. Two seats in the rear with defined individual-seat character.

Legendary handling further optimized

As a true BMW befits, the impeccable handling is the result of careful engineering and testing.

Bespoke package of bracing elements increases body rigidity. The centre of gravity is 21 millimetres lower, rear-axle track 23 millimetres wider than on the latest BMW 3 Series Sedan. Other chaarcteristics: weight-minimised body and chassis construction. Finely balanced 50 : 50 weight distribution. Targeted optimization of aerodynamics and reduction in lift at the rear axle.

Lift-related dampers with bespoke tuning are fitted as standard. Optional M Sport suspension with even firmer set-up for dampers, mounts and anti-roll bars, plus additional body struts and variable sport steering. Also available as options: Adaptive M suspension with electronically controlled dampers, M Sport brakes with a choice of blue or red brake calipers, M Sport differential with fully variable locking function in the rear differential.

Sales begin with five model variants; the BMW M440i xDrive Coupé (fuel consumption combined 7.1 – 6.8 l/100 km [39.8 – 41.5 mpg imp]; CO2 emissions combined: 163 – 155 g/km) makes its debut at the top of the range. The sporting flagship is powered by a 275 kW/374 hp six-cylinder in-line petrol engine. Range also includes two four-cylinder petrol engines and a four-cylinder diesel unit. Two six-cylinder in-line diesel engines will join the line-up in March 2021.

Mild hybrid technology for the six-cylinder in-line-petrol engine and all diesel engines is also provided. 48V starter-generator boosts the combustion engine with an extra 8 kW/11 hp. All diesel engines now have two-stage turbocharging.

All model variants come now with standard eight-speed Steptronic transmission. Optional eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission with new Sprint function for instantaneous and dynamic acceleration manoeuvres, for the enthusiasts. BMW xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive is available for two model variants from launch and four variants from March 2021.

We cannot wait to collect some driving experiences with this beautiful four wheeled gem, which proudly bears the BMW logo… Just be patient, and stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Fiat launches on social media a stunning “one shot” film about three unique 500’s …

Outstanding design is one of the hallmarks of Fiat cars, with the superbly iconic 500 or “Cinquecento” of course taking centre stage. Indeed, this is further shown by a remarkable docufilm “One-Shot”.

The trailer of this film is now on air, looking “behind the scenes” of the creation of the One-Offs, three exclusive interpretations of the New Fiat 500, by Armani, Bvlgari and Kartell.

The Bulgari logo on the 500…

The full film can be viewed on Fiat’s social media channels, first of all on YouTube. The link is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGGd7EcnmNI&feature=youtu.be. But you can also see it on FCA’s Facebook and Instagram pages.

In the film, we see the unfolding of “Plan B” when Geneva Motor Show was canceled, and it was decided to present the “one off” cars in front of the Milan Duomo…

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.

Unloading the cars in the early morning in front of the Duomo…

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”.

Genuine gold flakes adorn the Bulgari 500…

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 Armani 500 got a special dressing…

And also a wood sculpted dashboard…

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.

…by a special wood cutting machine…

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.

Bvlgari jewelry in the 500 logo…

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.

Bvlgari used its foulards…to enhance the dasboard

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.

Kartell the seats…

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.

…and elements of the car…

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!

Hans Knol ten Bensel