We drove the Kia ProCeed GT Shooting Brake: the power and the beauty…

When we first stood eye to eye with this Kia, we were convinced. This shooting brake has what it takes. Just look at the fluent lines of this Shooting Brake, which seems to move even when standing still. And then we say nothing about the dynamic 204 HP heart of this car, and the way it handles and rides.

Just some extra info here to complete the picture: the popular and very European Kia Ceed range has been designed in Kia’s European Design Centre in Frankfurt under the guidance of European Head of Design Gregory Guillaume and President of Design and Chief Design Officer Peter Schreyer, and is manufactured at the Zilina plant in Slovakia. It has sold 1,3 million cars in Europe since its début in 2006, and is indeed going from strength to strength. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Well proportioned and pleasing…

Indeed, the design team in Frankfurt know what they are doing. We rarely saw in this class – taking into account its wheelbase of 2.650 mm – a car which looks so sleek and elegant. Indeed, the ProCeed is only 5 mm longer than the Ceed, and shares its “K2” platform. No surprise that the ProCeed actually won the Australian Red Dot Design Award, and we must admit that in the black colour scheme which we found on our test car, this Kia has style and panache. The GT version we drove also runs on 18 inch alloys, which don’t hurt either.

The cabin follows through on the elegance shown outside. Matte chromed inserts, nice round dials, a well positioned “floating” 8 inch touchsreen above the heating / ventilation commands, all very inviting and intuitive. This is one of the cars where one is not overwhelmed by too much futurism and where one finds its way in seconds. The design and execution of the door panels is also showing excellent taste and has a distinct premium touch. The central fascia panel is now finished in a high quality, anti-scratch gloss black…

Driving is believing

A gentle push on the matte chromed starting button and “Drive” is soon selected on the excellent 7 speed dual clutch transmission. A docile 1,6 litre petrol engine hums to life.

But this is no sleeper, even when it sounds very refined and subtle when idling. This machine is the Hyundai Gamma GDI series unit, with four valves per cylinder and D-CVVT or dual continuous variable valve timing. Wow! Turbocharged, it delivers a solid 204 HP at 6000 rpm, and offers a healthy 265 Nm of torque over a wide rev range between 1500 and 4500 rpm. Yes, you understood. This means zest, and indeed it will shoot away from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 7,7 seconds, hurtling further to a top speed of 230 km/h. If this is not super car performance, it comes really close.

The GT pilot is treated to an even more sporting experience, not only with extra engine sound coming from the speakers, but also with the possibility to select different driving modes. In the “Sport” mode, steering response is different, and the gearbox will let rev the engine markedly higher. The ProCeed has in standard version already all what it takes to cling to the road. Electronic Stability Control, ESC is standard, as well as Kia’s Vehicle Stability Management (VSM). This means Torque Vectoring by Braking-technology can be included.

The ProCeed GT was developed under the guidance of Albert Biermann, President Vehicle Test & High-Performance Development for Hyundai-Kia. Six months of additional tests have improved the handling even further, and this really shows. Agile and precise, this ProCeed feels utterly at home on mountain passes, winding roads, city boulevards and Autobahnen. A true, well handling GT, with thoroughbred character and panache.

The handling does not come at the expense of comfort, and indeed this ProCeed handles even quite uneven roads without trouble. For spirited as well as long distance driving, the recaro-type front seats provide excellent support. Consumption is reasonable, and we stayed in the 7 to 8 liter/100 km range without effort.


The name shooting brake says it already. You can expect passenger and luggage space, and indeed, this ProCeed delivers. Luggage space is plenty, with 594 liter, and of course, the rear backrests can be folded in 40:20:40 fashion. Our test car came with the Smart Power Tailgate, and the loading floor is completely flat.

There is also a net for small luggage and a rail system. A last word about the infotainment system: combined with the 8 inch screen the navigation and Kia Connected Services are steered by TomTom®. The system has full smartphone-integration with Apple CarPlay™ (for the iPhone 5 and newer) and Android Auto™ (for Android-phones which run on version 5.0 (Lollipop) or higher).

Our test car was also equipped with a marvelous ‘Premium Sound System’ from JBL with the restoration technology Clari-Fi.


A very endearing, stylish shooting brake with a marvelously willing and pleasant drivetrain, which invites you for a very engaging drive as well as a smooth stroll on urban roads. The available space is quite sufficient, the styling, choice and quality of materials and sheer workmanship and finish are quite worthy of a premium segment car. When considering a roomy hatchback with a beautiful rear end, certainly do have a long look (and drive) of this one…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Focus on the high-voltage battery system of the Audi e-tron: 95 kWh of energy

The Audi e-tron houses its batteries in a floorpan housing, which is waterproof and crash resistant…

When talking about the production of the impressive Audi e-tron on the Brussels site, the batteries are an intriguing part of the driveline. We take a closer look at it here, and show you some very interesting drawings provided by Audi Media…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The large lithium-ion battery in the Audi e-tron provides for a range of more than 400 kilometers (248.5 mi) in the WLTP driving cycle. The battery operates with a nominal voltage of 396 volts and stores 95 kWh of energy.

Electric drivetrain in detailed view (ctrl + to enlarge)

The battery system in the Audi e-tron is located beneath the cabin and is 2.28 meters (7.5 ft) long, 1.63 meters (5.3 ft) wide and 34 centimeters (13.4 in) high. It comprises a total of 36 cell modules in square aluminum housings, each of which is roughly the size of a shoe box. They are arranged on two levels, known as “floors” – a longer lower floor and a shorter upper one. At market launch, each module is equipped with twelve pouch cells having a flexible outer skin of aluminum-coated polymer. In the future, Audi will use both technically equivalent prismatic cells in its modular concept, also in terms of a multiple supplier strategy.

Integrated crash structure of the lithium-ion battery housing

The cell modules in the Audi e-tron can reproducibly discharge and charge electricity over a broad temperature and charge status window. The can be densely packed to achieve a very high output and energy density in the volume available.

Cooling the lithium-ion battery during DC charging via the NT cooler

A cooling system of flat aluminum extruded sections divided uniformly into small chambers has the task of maintaining the battery’s high-performance operation over the long term. Heat is exchanged between the cells and the cooling system beneath them via a thermally conductive gel pressed beneath each cell module. In what is a particularly efficient solution, the gel evenly transfers the waste heat to the coolant via the battery housing. The cooling system is first fixed to the bottom of the battery tray with adhesive. To protect the cooling system against stone and road debris, a base plate is installed, also to improve aerodynamics. At assembly, first the batteries/modules on both floors are placed into their locations, then the gel (also called gapfiller) is applied.

Charging of the lithium-ion battery

The battery and all of its parameters, such as charge status, power output and thermal management, is managed by the external battery management controller (BMC). This is located in the occupant cell on the right A-pillar of the Audi e-tron.

Liquid cooled lithium-ion battery, in exploded view one can clearly see the elements, the BJB (Battery Junction Box), the BMC or Battery Management Controllers, the cooling system, and last but not least the modules.

The BMC communicates both with the control units of the electric motors and the cell module controllers (CMC), each of which monitors the current, voltage and temperature of the modules, 3 modules at the time. In the whole battery system, therefore 12 CMC’s are present. The battery junction box (BJB), into which the high-voltage relays and fuses are integrated, is the electrical interface to the vehicle. Enclosed in a die-cast aluminum housing, it is located in the front section of the battery system. Data exchange between the BMC, the CMCs and the BJB is via a separate bus system.

Lithium-ion battery module with twelve pouch cells

Sophisticated measures have been taken to protect the high-voltage battery of the Audi e-tron. A strong enclosing frame of cast aluminum nodes and extruded sections, plus an aluminum plate 3.5 millimeters (0.1 in) thick protect against damage from accidents or curbs. Inside, a framework-like aluminum structure reinforces the battery system. Also comprised of extruded sections, it holds the cell modules like a typecase.

Detail of the pouch type cell

Including the housing with its sophisticated crash structures comprising 47 percent extruded aluminum sections, 36 percent aluminum sheet and 17 percent diecast aluminum parts, the battery system weighs around 700 kilograms (1,543.2 lb). It is bolted to the body structure of the Audi e-tron at 35 points. This increases its torsional rigidity by 27 percent and contributes to the high level of the safety of the Audi e-tron, as does the cooling system bonded to the outside of the battery housing. Compared to a conventional SUV, the Audi e-tron offers 45 percent higher torsional rigidity, a key parameter for precise handling and acoustic comfort…

During production and assembly, utmost care is taken that screws which fix the modules into place do not cause insulation faults, and before the battery unit is cleared for further assembly, the differences in voltage between the cells and the modules are carefully controlled that it meets Audi Premium Standards. Finally leak tests are also carried out, both on the cooling system and the battery. Not less than 8 final tests are performed, before the battery is then partially (re)charged and fit for further assembly in the car.

 Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Mazda 6 Skyactiv-G 2.5, 194 HP: a flagship with style and panache

Mazda styling is reaching top levels nowadays, and the Mazda 6 clearly shows it. Just have a look at the fluent contours and the ideal proportions and balanced surfaces of this large sedan, and be convinced with us. The Mazda 6 body has recently been revised and has gained further in maturity and elegance, with also the interior having had a stylish make-over. Under the hood, the G 2,5 and other SKYACTIV powertrains have been further perfected, and driving dynamics have also been improved. We took this elegant sedan for a test, and it showed its many qualities. Just read on…

 Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Mazda 6 Skyactiv-G 2.5, 194 HP: a flagship with style and panache”

DS designers reveal their art and creativity to the public…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Jaguar F-Pace: a thoroughbred feline fit for all roads and uses…

We all know that SUV’s are all the rage, and are becoming ever more popular. No small wonder then that this stylish Jaguar SUV, launched in 2015, is the bestseller of the iconic brand. But then, you may ask with us, is this popular SUV still remaining a true Jaguar, combining pace (performance) with grace and space? Will the growl of its powerful engine lift your spirits, will its chassis seduce you with its graceful handling and comfort, will the beautiful body and interior put you in the exquisite mood and ambiance which only a Jaguar can convey? Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Feline contours

Looking at the photos you will agree, this F-Pace has the looks so unique to Jaguar. The waistline which ends in a higher tail contour, reminiscent of the rear end of the Jaguar E-type, where its high mounted rear bumpers also followed the waistline, the well rounded curves, the proportions of the wheel arches, well integrated in the fluent lines of the whole body, the subtle central bulge on the engine hood, all this is well and truly Jaguar.

In the interior, the digital age and the utmost attention to passive safety has put its own boundaries and accents, and so, alas, you will not find a wood rimmed steering wheel, nor does it lay thinly rimmed in your hands, the trend of times has commanded otherwise. But once the digital instrumentation lights up on the screens, one sees the familiar big round dials, and the classic lettering in the instruments, white on black, of, well, vintage Jaguars. As readers know, your servant is the proud owner of a Mk II 3,4 litre Jag, and yes, I felt well at home in this one.

The latest generation digital infotainment screens and functions are also intuitive and the proverbial breeze to use, and rank among the very best you will find in any car nowadays. The centre console is wide – again a celebrated Jaguar tradition- and houses the ergonomic rotary gear selector of the excellent 8- speed ZF auto box, and one just has to turn the column to choose the right function, and it will discreetly descend into its mount when you stop the car and engine, so neat and practical, and (luck has it) so unique to Jaguar. Going from “D” to “R”everse is just a short twist on the column selector, and that is soo clever!

Abundant, smooth, growling power…

The heart of any car is its engine, and in a Jaguar it simply HAS to be powerful, with abundant torque and pulling power, from low revs onwards, and on top of all that it has to develop that deep, feline sound. No small feat for a Diesel engine. But then, this is a V6 (yes, to me, a Jaguar is only a Jag with a SIX cylinder engine, sorry…) and it has 3 litre of displacement. So there are 300 HP available, at 4000 rpm. Of this, the Jaguar E-Type could only dream. With on top of all that 700 Nm of torque in store for that necessary feline punch, and this at merely 2000 rpm. So the outright performance is truly Jaguar, and indeed, the classic E-type could hardly match its 0 to 100 km/h acceleration of 6.2 sec. It would also have needed the right rear tyre size and final drive ratio to reach the same top speed of 241 km/h which this F-pace is capable of.

The thermal efficiency of a (large) Diesel is legendary, and shows abundantly here too that they belong into the larger SUV’s when there is no electrified or hybrid propulsion present in the drivetrain. It took just a restrained driving style with the engine humming along around 1000 rpm at urban legal speeds, to reach consumption averages between 7,4 and 7,8 liters/100 km in dense urban traffic. A petrol engine of similar size and power does not come even close to these figures in such a 4,7 metre SUV with a kerb weight of 1884 kg. The ingenium technology in these all aluminium engines offers low friction, and all this truly pays off.

We couldn’t resist making this line drawing version of the inconic Jaguar badge on the front grille. This F-Pace is indeed a true Jaguar…

Handling like a thoroughbred

As shares some of its architecture with the XE and XF, it handles very car-like. Of course, you can choose between driving modes that stiffen the suspension and boost steering response, but even in normal settings the F-type handles like a dream, displaying also very little body roll for an SUV of this weight and size. With the larger engines, the F-type offers standard 4WD, and this sends all the power to the rear wheels most of the time, with occasionally 20 pct sent to the front. On slippery surfaces, up to 50 % of the pulling power can be sent to the front wheels.

 A key ingredient to these impeccable road manners is its lightweight construction. Don’t forget that 80 pct of the body, excluding the doors, bonnet and plastic tailgate, is made of aluminium. Then there is the near perfect 50/50 weight distribution, an integral link rear suspension, and the aluminium double wishbone suspension at the front which is closely following the F-type setup. Electronics will analyze steering movements up to 500 times per second, body movements up to a 100 times per second. Do we need to say more? This Jaguar is in all its sportiness graceful and comfortable, never too hard, even in this sport mode.

Everyday practicality

The F-type is an SUV, and that means born and built for the modern day mobile couple and family. It easily seats five adults, has a minimum trunk volume of a very decent 650 liters, space for ski’s, toddler isofix seat anchors, electric tailgate, you name it. All thinkable driver assistance options can be had, the infotainment supports Apple and Android Car Play, the sound system is nothing short of superb.


The F-Pace is Jaguar’s bestseller, and for all the right reasons. It has feline, beautifully curved and timeless looks, both inside and out, displays uncanny panache behind the wheel, handles well balanced and displays all the growling Jaguar power you could ever wish for. Don’t forget also, this car is voted World Car of the Year 2017 en World Car Design of the Year 2017; Thi year, the model range has been extended with the
300 SPORT and Chequered Flag. In the diesel version it is as frugal as modern times command it, and if you decide to go green all the way, then Jaguar as the latest I-Pace, which is also a formidable looking car with many (E-) promises.

Needless to say we are very keen to lay our hands on one, but for the time being, and indeed for many years to come, this F-Pace will fulfil everything you could possibly wish of a Jaguar, and this better than ever.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the new Audi Q3 Advanced 35 TFSI 150 hp: four quality rings for excellence…

In the segment of premium compact SUV’s, the Q3 has always been a solid contender, and with the major improvements introduced in the latest generation, it looks it’s to stay very much on top. It has been voted first in the “compact SUV/off-road vehicles” category in the readers’ choice of “Best Cars 2019” by German technical magazine “auto motor und sport.”Indeed, the confident styling, the superb workmanship, impeccable finish and build quality will already convince you, even before driving it. But also behind the wheel, it has lots more in store, just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Clean and sharp contours

The Audi styling language has been sharpened up lately and the rounded contours have now been superseded by more angular surfaces and edges. It makes the whole car more elegant and lighter, and altogether more lively.

This added dynamism is also found in the available colour palette, and indeed our test car was sprayed in an attractive pulse orange, a new color, which suited it well.

The ‘new generation’ angular styling language is boldly continued in the interior, with as a highlight the suede finish of the dashboard surface panels, repeating the body colour. Led lighting is now introduced in door panels and throughout the cabin, and a large central screen running across part of the instrument panel makes abundantly clear that the digital age has well and truly arrived at Audi.

The digital instrumentation is an example of clarity and elegant design, and the large round dials for speed and revs can be made smaller to allow other information to take central stage in the line of sight of the driver.

Infotainment is of course top notch, and we enjoyed the DAB radio along with the premium sound system. The navigation also leaves little to be desired in terms of intuitive usability and accuracy. Of course there are also a host of driving aids to be enjoyed, of which more later.

Refined drivetrain

Under the hood purrs a state of the art 150 hp 1,5 litre gasoline TFSI unit, coupled to a smooth and alert 7 speed auto S Tronic gearbox. In terms of smoothness and liveliness, this entry level engine earns top marks. It develops ample pulling power at low revs, is vibrationless and silent, and is willing to rev beautifully under a marvellous staccato when you floor the throttle.

The engine embodies the latest techniques. What to think of for instance its cylinder linings, which  have an iron coating that is applied via plasma spraying and significantly reduces friction. The cooling module allows efficient thermal management, assisted by the exhaust manifold integrated in the cylinder head. The turbochargers generate up to 1.3 bar of (relative) charging pressure. The common-rail system injects the fuel at up to 350 bar – the high pressure results in spraying, even distribution of the flame front and low particulate emissions. Combined CO2 emissions are between 134 – 130 g/km.

The gearbox is utterly responsive, and has a well balanced gearchange behaviour according to the chosen driving mode. Because – noblesse oblige – the Q3 driver can choose how his car behaves according to his driving mood. Indeed, customers can order the Audi drive select dynamic handling system as an option. This system allows the driver to choose between auto, comfort, dynamic, efficiency, offroad and individual mode.

One has the choice between and together with engine and gearbox responsiveness steering and damping are also adjusted accordingly. When one has chosen the “dynamic”mode, pure driving pleasure is to be fully enjoyed, and indeed in terms of agility and steering precision, this Q3 truly scores very high indeed in this premium compact SUV segment. Even the standard steering system of the new Audi Q3 is sporty and direct with a ratio of 14.8:1. With the optional progressive steering, this ratio applies to the central position – the further the driver turns the wheel, the more direct the ratio. At full lock, it is 11.4:1.

In Audi drive select offroad mode, in which the adaptive dampers are set to soft, hill descent control can provide assistance (see illustration). Activated at the touch of a button, it constantly maintains the speed specified by the driver (up to a maximum of 30 km/h) on a steep downhill gradient of more than six percent through automatic brake interventions. The driver specifies the preferred speed by accelerating or braking. This allows the driver to concentrate fully on the terrain. In addition the MMI displays the tilt angle accordingly.

A few words more about this gearbox: In the entry-level gasoline version we tested, the two dry clutches manage without their own oil supply on account of the lower torque of 250 Nm (184.4 lb-ft). This improves efficiency even further. Oil is supplied to the gearwheels via a small, mechanically driven gear pump. In conjunction with Audi drive select, the seven-speed S tronic provides a freewheel function that becomes active in many situations if the driver takes their foot off the accelerator. It is deactivated in dynamic and offroad modes. We remind you here that the the Audi Q3 35 TFSI exclusively uses front-wheel drive.

Performance with this 150 hp version is more than adequate, with a 0 to 100 sprint time in 9.2 seconds, and a stable and effortless top speed of 207 km/h. When truly put through its paces with panache, this Q3 really shows what mettle it is made of, and indeed, in the true German tradition we would say, this Q3 feels totally at home on high speed outings on the Autobahnen, displaying the superb qualities of its chassis and suspension, and the thoroughly tested and proven quality of its (drivetrain) engineering.

In terms of economy, we remind you that the engine has the cylinder on demand efficiency system. Actuators on the camshafts temporarily shut down the second and third cylinders at low and medium loads by closing the inlet and outlet valves. The engine management system suppresses fuel injection and ignition. All this is totally imperceptible to the driver.

Despite all these technical refinement, the fuel consumption of a petrol engine car depends largely on your driving style. The very best we could achieve was an average of 7,3 liters/100 km, on a longer open road and motorway drive, with admittedly some 35 pct urban traffic thrown in. The manufacturer quotes a consumption between 5.9 – 5.7 l/100 km.

Suffice to say that a choice of three gasoline and two diesel engines, combined with front-wheel or quattro drive, is available for the Audi Q3. Their power outputs range from 110 kW (150 hp) to 169 kW (230 hp).

Infotainment, instrumentation and driving assistance: the digital age is with us…

The Q3 is manufactured at the Győr plant in Hungary, and is standard fitted with the digital instrument cluster, MMI radio including Bluetooth, multifunction leather steering wheel, air conditioning and LED headlights. In terms of assist systems, along with the Audi pre sense basic and Audi pre sense front safety systems, the Audi side assist lane change warning system and the Audi active lane assist lane departure warning system are fitted ex works. The light/rain sensor and the adjustable speed limiter also come as standard. We must say that this adjustable speed cruise control has decidedly come of age, and works is stunningly smooth and progressive.

Audi has done away with the analog instruments. Even with the standard MMI radio, they are replaced by a digital instrument cluster with a 10.25-inch screen diagonal, which the driver operates using the multifunction steering wheel.

First option: MMI radio plus. This first configuration level is called MMI radio plus – here, the customer can upgrade the digital instrument to the Audi virtual cockpit, which they can configure in many areas. In addition to the usual data such as road and engine speed, it also displays information on music tracks and Audi connect services.

If the customer has specified navigation, the display also includes the navigation map. The MMI radio plus also includes an MMI touch display with an 8.8-inch screen diagonal. It is integrated into the high-gloss black glass-look surround in the center of the dashboard. Then there is a still higher level: MMI navigation plus. Here, the MMI touch display measures 10.1 inches. In addition, the Audi virtual cockpit is available as an option in a plus version with a 12.3-inch screen diagonal. The driver can call up three different views on the screen, including a “dynamic” screen. Here, the engine and road speed are shown in square instruments with red graphical elements – a really sporty look. In all displays, the graphical user interface is so clear that the information can be read quickly. The menu structure is streamlined and easy to understand, as on a smartphone

Practical with more boot space

The luggage compartment has also benefited substantially from the growth of the new Q3 –it is the largest in the premium compact segment. Depending on the position of the rear seats and backrests, its capacity totals 530 or 675 liters (18.7 or 23.8 cu ft) With the backrests folded down the figure rises to 1,525 liters (53.9 cu ft) The loading floor can be adjusted in up to three levels; the low loading sill of 748 millimeters (29.4 in) makes it easier to stow heavy luggage. If the parcel shelf is not needed, it can be stowed under the loading floor.


The new Q3 has decidedly matured to a top contender, as we said before. Thoroughly engineered and built carefully to reach perfection, in terms of styling, quality, performance, handling, comfort and economy and longevity. It is in this segment of compact SUV’s a benchmark, without any doubt, by which others will be judged. Needless to say it will top the charts in the fleet segment, and win also the hearts of many private Audi enthusiasts and followers…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.0 TB 280 HP: “La Superba…”

There is now a superb SUV which is stealing the heart of car lovers all over the world, and that is the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. The men and women of this iconic brand born in Milan have long waited to launch a SUV, and with good reason, as Alfa Romeo stands for a unique driving experience. The stunning “Giorgio” platform of the Giulia provided a sound basis for a SUV with extraordinary driving qualities, and the result is this Stelvio. Not only its name is synonymous for panache and character, the car itself scores, and how… Just read on further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.0 TB 280 HP: “La Superba…””

The Nissan Micra gets brand new petrol engines…

The Citadela Art District in the posh coastal Portugese riviera town Cascais proved the proper setting for the Nissan Micra to present its new petrol engines… 

We drove the stylish Micra in scenic Lisbon and the winding roads historic Cascais to test the new generation of very impressive three cylinder petrol engines, which will give the Nissan Micra a high tech trump card in the B segment for years to come.

Central place is taken by a totally new developed 100 HP 1 litre unit which embodies all the engineering and production knowhow of the alliance Renault/Nissan/Mitsubishi, a smooth and frugal performer which can be mated to either a 5 speed manual or an excellent CVT auto box.

But there is more, as together with Mercedes a different version was developed using the same block, but adopting a different cylinder head with double overhead camshaft and centrally placed direct injection. See this photo here…

All this results in an altogether sportier engine delivering 117 HP. This engine is coupled exclusively to a 6 speed manual. More on the driving impressions of the Micra with these future proof petrol engines soon…

Hans Knol ten Bensel


New Range Rover Evoque makes show debut in Brussels… and we speak with its designer.

There was news to be seen and admired on the Range Rover show stand at the Brussels Salon, with the sleek and clean Range Rover Evoque. The car has already been presented in London in November last year, but its show debut comes in Brussels.

A very refined car, with a pure styling language which we also find in the Velar. Indeed, a modernist exterior design, with an equally clean lined  technology-rich interior with new materials crafted from eucalyptus, wool and recycled plastics. (See the seat upholstery below…)

The Evoque is available with a range of efficient four-cylinder diesel and petrol engines and Land Rover’s first mild-hybrid electric technology (MHEV).

Exterior designer Jeremy Waterman at the presentation of the new Evoque in Brussels… 

The Evoque pioneered the luxury compact SUV market, with global sales of over 772,096 and more than 217 international awards, and the new Range Rover Evoque is a quite sophisticated evolution of the original.

Tech firsts include ‘see through bonnet’ technology and a rear-view mirror that turns into an HD screen displaying a camera feed of what’s behind the vehicle.

What we most admired was the clean design, and its purist simplicity and modernism. At the presentation, we had a short interview with Jeremy Waterman, Chief Designer, Exteriors Land Rover. Jeremy Waterman is a senior member of the exterior design team working under Massimo Frascella, Land Rover’s Creative Director for Exterior Design. In 2004 Jeremy moved to Land Rover Design in Warwickshire.


In his time at the Land Rover Design studios in Gaydon, Jeremy has been involved in a series of projects working as Exterior Designer on the 2008 LRX Concept and as Exterior Designer / Design Manager on both the 2011 Range Rover Evoque and 2013 Range Rover Sport models. More recently Jeremy has worked closely as part of the Range Rover Velar and Range Rover Evoque design team.

Standing besides the Evoque, I addressed a few questions to Jeremy:

HKTB: “The design language is much more pure, and it remembers me of the original Rover 2000, the simplicity and clean lines, also found then in the dashboard…”I commented.

The dashboard of the iconic car of the early sixties, the Rover 2000, here already with the Buick based V8 3,5 liter engine, found in many Range Rovers since. Its beautiful simplicity and clean lines were a styling benchmark… 

YW: “Yes, this is indeed this reductive journey we’re on, taking all the superfluous elements off the car, it does give you this simplicity and timeless quality, which is what we are trying to do. It also gives you that modernity feel, combined, we have to do all the precise detailing, we say that the more you pare the design back, the more you have to have the elements that are left back precise, so with our great engineers we worked very well together to get a very luxurious, modern and sophisticated product. But it still got the character of the original Evoque, the sideview and the proportions.

HKTB:“The car was a success”…

YW“Yes, we still love that car, but this one is more is more modern and sophisticated.”

HKTB: “Who actually had the idea originally to make the small window?”

YW: “Actually the design team, as a result of rising waist and falling roof, you end up with that very pillar-box rear window. But without it, it wouldn’t have that character. It made the car really, with that visual robustness and the wheel at each corner, you have to remember, it was a very different proportion when this Rover first came out, but as we know it just worked.”

Yeremy Waterman continued: “It also brought youth into the brand, and it gave the customers a platform to start into the larger vehicles, we are very proud of what that car did. This one equally is a step on, the technology and as you say the interior, more car, more sophisticated, and this with the technology and the increased legroom; when you see the ground view, the deletion of the bonnet with the cameras, it is just fantastic…”

HKTB: “Thank you very much”

YW: “Thank you very much, it was a pleasure to meet you!”

We show you here some photos of this elegant and refined Evoque, and needless to say we are very keen to lay our hands on one in the near future…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The many faces and talents of the Fiat Panda…

Fit for wintery weather: the award winning Panda Cross… 

Presently we are driving a smooth and refined 1,4 liter Fiat Tipo Hatchback, and are impressed by its many qualities. It makes you again clearly realize that FCA products are going from strength to strength in engineering excellence, workmanship and driving pleasure.

These thoughts just led us to focus here on the iconic Panda, which has been making its mark in the auto world for 30 years now. It has had some impressive firsts: it was the first city car to have 4WD technology, the first city car to reach an altitude of 5,200m and attain the Everest base camp, as well as being the first natural gas fuelled city car to be produced on a large scale.

Just recently the Fiat Panda Cross has once again won the Crossover category in this year’s 4×4 Magazine ‘4×4 of the Year 2019 awards’. Judges praised it for its lively engine, traction finding ability and fun factor, never failing to put a smile on their faces. Alan Kidd, editor of 4×4 Magazine, commented “I don’t think there is any vehicle that won its class so consistently down the years, as the Panda Cross. It has been wonderfully consistent in what it offers – while also getting better all the time.”

Green and versatile: the Panda CNG… emitting just 97 g / km CO². 

Dominique Fontiginies, the dynamic PR Manager of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Belgium, pointed out today in his press release that with more than 750,000 natural gas vehicles sold in Europe, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is the undisputed market leader in CNG technology. Rightly so, as one knows that the cars with CNG engine (operating on natural gas) are currently the most effective solution to reduce pollution in the city and to strongly reduce CO² emissions. Indeed, with this type of engine, CO2 emissions are as much as 23 percent lower than with petrol engines, while the emission of fine soot particles is virtually nil.

He presented in today’s release the merits of the Panda CNG, powered by a 900 cc two-cylinder turbo petrol engine with 70hp, emitting just 97 g / km CO². This four wheeled city hero is by no means Spartan: The Panda, equipped as standard with ABS brake system, ESP, 6 airbags and a tire pressure control system, also offers a very ergonomic seating comfort and equipment that includes Uconnect Bluetooth radio, central door locking with remote control, air conditioning and electric windows in front.

The Fiat Panda CNG is available on the network of official Fiat distributors from € 13,490 VATI (€ 13,044 in Luxembourg).

In this wintery weather, we would indeed like to drive the in February or March the cute and very able 4 x 4 Panda Cross, and drive into spring behind the wheel of a Panda CNG… and we join here above the sunny picture joined by Mr. Fontignies in his release!

Hans Knol ten Bensel