The New Jeep® Renegade Plug-In Hybrid: on E-power now at Parco del Valentino…

A beautiful Turin setting was chosen for the first international on-road debut of Jeep’s both the new Hybrid Plug-Ins (PHEVs), the new Jeep Renegade and Jeep Compass.

Indeed, at the the Salone dell’Auto in Turin, the new SUV will set off from Piazza Vittorio Veneto and parade around the city centre circuit, giving spectators a chance to realise how quiet it really is.

Both Renegade and Compass have CO2 emissions below 50g/km, and are both fitted with plug-in hybrid propulsion systems. Batteries can be recharged by the internal combustion engine or from an external power outlet.

They have a pure electric range of approximately 50 kilometres and about 130 km/h full electric top speed for both Renegade and Compass. The electric units work in synergy with the new 1.3-litre turbo petrol engines. There is ample power: the combined action of the two propulsion systems, internal combustion and electric, produces up to 240 hp.

The off-road talents of hybrid propulsion

Thanks to the high torque of the electric motor and the ability to adjust it with extreme precision during take-off and while driving on the most challenging terrain, off road behaviour is further improved.

Thanks to the new electric all-wheel-drive technology (eAWD), traction to the rear axle is not provided by a prop shaft but through a dedicated electric motor. This allows the two axles to be separated and to control the torque independently in a more effective way than a mechanical system. We cannot wait to collect driving impressions for you soon…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Subaru Outback 2.5i-X CVT: there is a genius out there…

New grille and headlights distinguish the latest Outback…

Some cars are bursting of ingenuity, hiding their technical marvels under the bonnet. You only discover it as you drive them. All Subaru’s are such cars, and this Outback proved this to us, once again…

Indeed, this Outback is a connoisseur’s car. What to think of a marvellous double overhead cam boxer, 175 hp strong, with a power to litre ratio of 70 HP? This is more than the legendary 2 litre 1963 356B Porsche Carrera GS, which pumped out 130bhp at 6,200rpm of its 1,966cc DOHC Flat 4-Cylinder Engine, fed with Dual Solex 40PII-4 Downdraft Carburettors… and the 1965 Porsche 911 for that matter.  

But that is far from all. This Outback has a supersmooth CVT transmission and permanent AWD, boasting excellent off-road talents. It also proves to be a practical, sturdy companion.

Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Pleasing looks

The styling people of Subaru are this time making their sums right, and indeed struck very elegant proportions and curves in designing this SUV. Just look at the photos and you will agree. This Outback looks good from any angle, and we met with many admiring looks and comments during our test. The new bumper and grille mark this latest version, and new headlights, which now actively track in the direction of a turn to enhance visibility. LED light is now available, as well as High Beam Assist, which  can automatically switch the headlights between the high and low settings when an oncoming vehicle is detected, enhancing safety for both you and other drivers on the road.

The same can be said of the cabin, with everything very logically in place, and with seats and steering wheel being easily adjustable, we found the correct seating position in a breeze. A 10-way adjustable power driver’s seat with 2-position memory function and 4-way power front passenger seat help make you find that good position. Infotainment and navigation are totally new, but logical and self explaining, and soon we were on our way. Apple Car Play and Android Auto are built in standard, so you can enjoy navigation with your connected smart phone.

But the Salon version we drove has an in-built navigation system which uses Tom-Tom based maps. The seating position is pleasantly high, and does not give a way much here in comparison to the Subaru SUV Forester. New ventilation vents and new and simpler commands for the climate control distinguish the newer version.

Refinement

Mechanical refinement is one of the hallmarks of this Outback. Push the starting knob, slide the handle in “D” and off you go. Boxer engines are vibrationless, and we truly enjoy this. The CVT transmission has infinite ratios, so there are no jerks or rev changes when accelerating.

Soon you learn to lift the accelerator early when accelerating smoothly, so the CVT chooses immediately the highest possible ratio, and this allows you to cruise at the legal urban speeds at close to tickover speeds, say 1000 rpm or so. Needless to say that this will dramatically reduce urban fuel consumption, which we maintained between 7 and 8 liters, driving with some restraint. The manufacturer quotes a combined consumption of 7,3 liters/100 km, and  CO2 emission(s) of 166 g/km. We must admit that Subaru did a very good job here in reducing fuel consumption further. We point out here too that the CVT transmission, which had hitherto 6 electronically controlled ratios you could choose from, now has an electronic seventh (very) high ratio, which again enhances economy.

 The Subaru is quite responsive when you push the throttle deeper, and the fact that the CVT will choose the right ratio for optimum pulling power results in excellent agility and will get you out of any traffic situation if needed. Performance is more than adequate, with a 0 to 100 km/h time of 10,2 seconds and a top speed of 198 km/h.

Spacious…

The Outback is quite roomy, and will seat comfortably two adults in the back, which enjoy plenty of head- and legroom. Three baby seats can easily be fitted on the back seat, and in the back there are also two USB charging points provided. The Subaru offers also lots of luggage space, with a minimum volume of 559 liters and 1848 liters with the backrests fully folded down.   

X-Mode will make you an expert off-road

Pleasant handling and versatile off-road with lots of pulling power…

New shocks make the Outback more comfortable, body roll is better contained, and this Outback does not protest at all when driven in a spirited manner. This Outback has Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) with Active Torque Vectoring which helps provide sharper, more stable handling. It automatically senses steering and braking inputs to help keep the vehicle on the driver’s intended path. It really works!

Never forget, it has 8,7 inch ground clearance, and performs very well on terrain. It has standard X-MODE, which optimizes the Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system for maximum traction. X-MODE also incorporates Hill Descent Control for stability and confidence when descending more difficult grades.

It is also ideal for pulling that horse trailer, and can indeed tow up to 2.000 kg.

…and safe with EyeSight 3.0.

The confidence of EyeSight is now a standard feature on the Outback. This advanced safety technology monitors traffic movement, optimizes cruise control, and warns you when you’re swaying outside your lane. The Pre-Collision Braking feature can even apply full braking force, bringing you to a complete stop in emergency situations, reducing the rate of rear-end crashes with injuries by 85%. You have actually an extra set of eyes on the road…

Last but not least we have a word of praise for the Harman Kardon premium audio system in our test car, with 12 speakers and a 576-watt-equivalent amplifier.

A standard Rear-Vision Camera enhances rear visibility when backing up. Its display includes guidelines to help you see the vehicle’s path and judge distance to other objects. And with available Reverse Automatic Braking, your vehicle can even stop itself to avoid objects behind while in reverse.

We liked the fact that you had also a side view of the car on the split screen when manoeuvring, and could also put on the front camera when you want for better vision at the front end of the car.

Conclusion

This Subaru is a five star car: safety, reliability, boxer engines, excellent off road qualities with permanent 4WD, Eyesight 3.0, all this combined delivers indeed an outstanding vehicle, which is a dream to use everyday for all purposes of your busy (family) life.

In our country, the Subaru is rare and therefore rather exclusive, but keep in mind it is quite popular in the States and Japan, for all the good reasons. So we would conclude, have a (test) drive in one, and soon you will be a convinced follower…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove Jeep Power around the lake: the Grand Cherokee SRT and Trackhawk…

Driving the already legendary Grand Cherokee Trackhawk along the scenic villages around the beautiful Lago di Garda…

One of the absolute highlights of two days of Jeep driving amidst the beautiful scenery of the Italian Lago di Garda was a stint behind the wheel of the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk and the SRT. The Jeep® Grand Cherokee is the flagship of the Jeep brand and the most awarded SUV ever, and this gem of a car created the premium SUV category 27 years ago and with more than 6.4 million units sold since its introduction. More about this Jeep Grand Cherokee in its “normal” version(s) later, we focus here on the stunning Trackhawk and SRT versions.

Indeed, it had to happen, and the whole car world was actually expecting this: the more than 700 HP V8 of the Dodge Hellcat, the “muscle car” par excellence, was to be dropped in the engine bay of the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It all happened last year, and now we had the chance to drive it: the supercharged 6.2-litre HEMI® V-8 engine, delivering 710 hp at 6000 rpm, mated to an 8 speed automatic transmission. High-strength, forged-alloy pistons, powder-forged connecting rods and sodium-cooled exhaust valves all add to the power of the Supercharged 6.2L V8 engine. Do not expect a hissing monster though.

The massive V8 burbles smoothly through slow urban traffic through the villages around the Lago di Garda, and progress is silky smooth. Until you floor the throttle. Supercar acceleration is the instant answer, and the engine growls away. 0 to 100 km/h is reached in some 3,7 seconds, the top speed is 289 km/h, if you only dare.

The Drive Mode selector, and the “launch” mode at the push of a button.

Of course, good traction is provided for with all this power. A “Quadra-Trac” active on-demand four-wheel-drive system, which also includes a rear Electronic Limited Slip Differential (ELSD) and a single-speed active transfer case is at your disposal.

A 6,4 litre V8 Hemi in the SRT…

Not yet an expert in unleashing all this power and putting it “just right” on the tarmac? Good to know that there is a “Launch Control” on SRT® and Trackhawk® , which optimizes track performance by coordinating the engine, transmission, driveline and suspension for a textbook launch and consistent straight-line acceleration.

The traction management system has been specifically retuned for the Trackhawk and SRT versions as “Selec-Track.”  It features five vehicle setting – Auto, Sport, Track, Snow and Tow – to allow the driver to achieve the best driving experience on any surface.

Beautiful instrumentation with a centrally placed rev counter…

The suspension is of course well tuned to this extra power, as well as brakes, and the Grand Cherokee remains eminently drivable.

Don’t forget there is also the Bilstein® Adaptive Suspension system, which can adjust the dampers for sport or track performance if desired, while the rear Electronic Limited Slip Differential features a four-point axle mounting to better distribute the massive power to the wheels.

For the heavier terrain work, the Quadra-Lift air suspension system allows you to change the ride height of the Grand Cherokee up to a maximum ground clearance of 28 cm.

We were deeply impressed by its handling and ride when driven with more abandon, and how perfectly balanced the whole car was. The unique driving experience is further enhanced by excellent seats and instrumentation, with not only a beautiful central rev counter, but also a special “Performance Page” on the central touch screen, where you can see anything as time of your acceleration, G-Force, all engine data like oil temperature, etc.

We enjoyed also having a stint at the wheel of the more suave SRT. Not that on the urban scenic roads around the Lago, you could test fully the difference in performance compared to the Trackhawk. Under the hood of the SRT version growls the 6417 cc V8 Hemi, good for 344 kW or 468 HP @6250 rpm. The same 8 speed auto transmission as in the Trackhawk knows this engine also needs to be revved to reach all out performance, as maximum torque of 624 Nm is reached at 4100 rpm. Of course, also here the Launch Control  and the choice between five dynamic Drive Modes with the  Selec-Track® System, as described above.

We enjoyed the same beautiful well balanced handling, indeed an SUV which also truly stands out if you expect that extra performance. Using launch control, it will still be able to catapult you from 0 to 100 km/h in 4,9 seconds.

We just coloured this image in front of this old factory a bit more (fiery) red to enhance the Trackhawk spirit…

We let you enjoy the photos here, and we dream along with you about this unforgettable experience… and there is more Jeep news to come with driving impressions of the full range!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Opel Grandland X: a Crossover-SUV with some grand qualities…

We always had a weak spot for Opels for their willingness to perform, handle and drive with zest and ease. It leads many Opel owners to become enthused drivers, and appreciate their cars the longer they own and drive them.

Combine all these good dynamic qualities with their robustness, the quality of workmanship and materials used and you have a cocktail which is very much appreciated throughout Europe.

Of course, Opel also has embarked fully into the SUV trend, and has put some very interesting contenders on the road. We are driving for you here the Grandland X Flagship version, and were glad to rediscover again all the good Opel qualities…masterfully retained despite the fact that Opel and Peugeot have co-developed this mid-sized SUV-Crossover, and this even long before GM even considered getting rid of their German subsidiary.

Just read on!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Opel Grandland X: a Crossover-SUV with some grand qualities…”

BMW reveals the brand new 1 Series…

BMW enters a new era with its new 1 Series: front wheel drive makes its entry in this third generation. This results in more room, but driving pleasure and dynamic qualities have been retained, BMW assures us.

The third generation of the BMW 1 Series will be unveiled to the public for the first time on 25 – 27 June 2019 on the new BMW Group #NEXTGen presentation platform at BMW Welt in Munich. Hosting the show premiere of the new BMW 1 Series, meanwhile, will be the IAA event in Frankfurt am Main in September 2019. The worldwide launch will get underway on 28 September 2019.

We show you here the first photos, and we must admit, we already were offered a first (pre)view of this car at the presentation of the #18 BMW Art Car at the Brussels Brand Store… Corporate PR Officer Saschia de Rudder then asked us to cover our smart phone cameras, offering us this very smart pouch… which we then did, noblesse oblige!

But just read and look further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A new, bolder stance.

What first impresses is the signature BMW kidney grille, which is now larger, with far greater presence. For the first time in this model range, the two kidneys now merge in the middle. The sporting flagship of the line-up, the BMW M135i xDrive, replaces the grille’s classical bars with a prominent threedimensional mesh design inspired by racing cars. The headlights are now angled in design. This Series 1 has now truly grown up… to underline all this, know that 19-inch rims are available as an option for the first time.

 

More luxury too: The electric panoramic roof available for the first time on the BMW 1 Series, as well as backlit trim strips. They come in three different designs with six switchable colours. Optional infotainment features of the new BMW Operating System 7.0 – using gestures, if the relevant option is specified – are via a grouping of two displays, each of which have a screen diagonal measuring up to 10.25 inches in the case of the BMW Live Cockpit Professional. Also a full-colour, 9.2-inch BMW Head-Up Display is available as an option for the first time on the BMW 1 Series.

More room…

Getting in is easier and knee room for the rear passengers has increased by 33 millimetres. The rear offers a full 19 millimetres of extra headroom if the outward-opening sliding panoramic sunroof is specified. Rear passengers also enjoy 13 millimetres more elbowroom, while the driver and front passenger can look forward to an extra 42 millimetres in this respect.

The load compartment capacity of 380 litres is 20 litres up on the outgoing car and folding down the rear seat bench increases this to 1,200 litres.

Four equipment lines and one flagship model.

The base Advantage model is joined in the new BMW 1 Series line-up by three other equipment lines, which differ from one another in both exterior and interior details. The Luxury Line model accentuates the classy and comfortable side to the car’s character with the help of body applications in Aluminium satinated and seat upholstery in Dakota leather.

The Sport Line model with Black accents, window graphic in BMW Individual high gloss Shadow Line and sports seats, and the M Sport model with accents in Aluminium satinated, front apron with specially shaped air intakes and BMW M rear apron in High-gloss Black lead the 1 Series up the dynamic BMW Media Information 05/2019 Page 4 ladder culminating in the BMW M135i xDrive. The flagship model stands out with features including a mesh-design BMW kidney grille, angle-cut tailpipe tips in Cerium Grey and a BMW M rear spoiler in body colour.

Cutting-edge new front-wheel-drive architecture…

A five year process of development has brought all the experience acquired over recent years with front-wheel-drive BMW Group models together in the new Series 1.  Also the transfer of technology from BMW i to the BMW core brand contributed to create a proper BMW with a character all its own. Whether front-wheel-drive or equipped with BMW xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive, “the new 1 Series has taken its agility to a level above its predecessor”, BMW claims.

An important factor here is the ARB (actuator contiguous wheel slip limitation) technology familiar from the BMW i3s. This is now making its debut in a combustion-engined vehicle and allows wheel slip to be controlled much more sensitively and swiftly than before. A standard feature of the BMW 1 Series, ARB uses a slip controller that is positioned directly in the engine control unit rather than in the control unit for the DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) system. Eliminating the long signal paths, means that information is relayed three times quicker, while the driver perceives wheel slip being brought under control up to ten times faster. Actuator contiguous wheel slip limitation works in close tandem with the DSC system to bring about a clear reduction in the power understeer normally experienced in front-wheel-drive cars.

The ARB technology is assisted in its task by BMW Performance Control (yaw moment distribution). This feature, also included as standard on the 1 Series, gives it more agile handling by applying the brakes as required at the wheels on the inside of the bend before the slip threshold has been reached. The result is neutral steering behaviour. Besides the standard suspension – which already has a dynamic set-up and is specially tuned to the different engine variants – and the M Sport suspension with a 10 mm reduction in ride height, the all-new BMW 1 Series can also be specified with the Adaptive suspension with VDC (Variable Damper Control) as an option.

Two models with BMW xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive.

ARB technology and BMW Performance Control are likewise included in the BMW 120d xDrive and BMW M135i xDrive, which feature intelligent all-wheel drive as standard. Standard specification for the M135i xDrive also includes a newly developed mechanical Torsen limited-slip differential, which gives the car an even sportier edge by creating a locking effect between the front wheels.

Three diesel engines and two petrol variants from launch. Customers can order their new BMW 1 Series with a choice of three- and four-cylinder engines from the latest-generation BMW EfficientDynamics family. A host of detail improvements give them better fuel economy, lower emissions and, in some cases, more power than before. Three diesel engines and two petrol units are available, developing from 85 kW (116 hp) in the BMW 116d (fuel consumption combined: 4.2 – 3.8 l/100 km [67.3 – 74.3 mpg imp]; CO2 emissions combined: 110 – 100 g/km*) to 225 kW (306 hp) in the BMW M135i xDrive. The new engine powering the latter model is the most powerful four-cylinder unit in the BMW Group line-up. The BMW M135i xDrive dispatches 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in a mere 4.8 seconds (4.7 seconds with M Performance package, available from 11/2019) on the way to a governed top speed of 250 km/h (155 mph). Despite these impressive performance figures, combined fuel consumption is just 7.1 – 6.8 litres per 100 km [39.8 – 41.5 mpg imp] and CO2 emissions come in at only 162 – 155 grams per kilometre, says BMW. All the engines available for the BMW 1 Series meet the Euro 6d-TEMP emissions standard, while the BMW 116d is already Euro 6d-compliant. The petrol engines are equipped with a gasoline particulate filter and the diesels with a diesel particulate filter, NOx adsorption catalyst and SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction) technology.

Three different transmission technologies now available.

The BMW 116d, BMW 118d and BMW 118i come as standard with the further-developed six-speed manual gearbox, while the seven-speed dual-clutch Steptronic transmission can be specified as an option for the BMW 116d and BMW 118i. The eight-speed Steptronic transmission – available as an option for the BMW 118d and standard on the BMW 120d xDrive – and the eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission of the BMW M135i xDrive boast further improved smoothness and acoustic properties. Intelligent connectivity allows both automatic transmissions to adapt their shift strategy to the route and traffic situation at hand.

Assistance systems from BMW models higher up the range.

A large number of innovative driver assistance systems fitted in the BMW 1 Series have been taken from models higher up the BMW range to make their debuts in the premium compact class;

Standard equipment in Europe includes collision and pedestrian warning with city braking function, which also alerts the driver to the presence of cyclists. Also fitted as standard is the Lane Departure Warning system with active lane return, which is operational from 70 to 210 km/h (44 – 130 mph). Options include Active Cruise Control usable up to 160 km/h (99 mph) – on cars with automatic transmission and Stop & Go function – plus the Driving Assistant, which comprises the Lane Change Warning system, rear collision warning and crossing traffic warning.

Celebrating its premiere in the premium compact class is the innovative reversing assistant, which stores the steering movements for any section the car has just driven forward along at no more than 36 km/h (22 mph). The system is then able to steer the vehicle in reverse – for distances of up to 50 metres at up to 9 km/h (5.5 mph) – along exactly the same line it took when moving forward.

The smartphone as car key.

The BMW 1 Series is available with the option of two new smart features that have previously only been seen in BMW models higher up the ladder: the BMW Digital Key and the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. Available as an option, the BMW Digital Key enables users to lock and unlock the vehicle from a smartphone using Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, rendering the conventional car key surplus to requirements. Holding the smartphone up to the door handle opens the car – even if the phone battery is dead. The engine can be started as soon as the phone has been placed in the smartphone tray or wireless charging tray.

Operation by iDrive Controller, touch, voice or gestures.

The new BMW 1 Series lets drivers use a variety of operating methods, depending on the situation and personal preferences. In addition to the usual buttons on the centre console and steering wheel, other frontline control elements include the iDrive Controller – with touchpad from BMW Live Cockpit Plus upwards – and the standard 8.8-inch Control Display with touch screen functionality. BMW Live Cockpit Plus also adds a navigation system and intelligent voice control with online speech processing. BMW Live Cockpit Professional, based on the new BMW Operating System 7.0, brings together the fully digital display and operating system (including two 10.25- inch displays) with maximum connectivity and customisability….

The Series 1 has definitely grown up… we are of course very anxious to gather first driving impressions!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Having a field day with Jeep at the Lago di Garda…

A formidable driving experience on Italian roads: 710 horsepower under your right foot!

Your servant had the exquisite pleasure to drive the whole Jeep range on the roads and heavy terrain around the scenic Lago di Garda, and get acquainted with their unique panache and qualities, ranging from the rugged Rubicon to the superfast Grand Cherokee Trackhawk.

Thr Wrangler proved its legendary Jeep stamina on the muddy mountain roads around the Lago…

Soon you will read the full report about our unique driving experiences in these columns, stay tuned!

The elegant, refined but totally rugged Grand Cherokee in front of the parish church of Rivoltella, built in the 15th century…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We spoke with Chief Designer Klaus Busse, about the Alfa Tonale and the DNA of Alfa design – Part 2

Klaus Busse told us about the sensuous essence of Italian Car design, and how it is embodied in Alfa Romeo…

This is the second part of our series about the visit to the FCA Centro Stile in Torino. It started with an intriguing interview and talk with Klaus Busse, head of Design for Fiat, Abarth, Lancia, Alfa Romeo and Maserati, offering us interesting insights into the sculptural design philosophy and language of the iconic sporting Milano brand. This talk continues here…

Hans Knol ten Bensel 

Shaping the body of an Alfa is also performing the art of sculpture…

HktB: “When we look at earlier design, and I want to take you here to the first Giulia, you see this modernism with the aerodynamic concepts brought into the brand and also the first dashboards of this Giulia, with their, as the Germans say it, “neue Sachlichkheit”, a strictly modern, pure, rectangular style, with a horizontal ribbon speedometer flanked by a small rev counter and column gearchange. In later years, with the later updates of this Giulia, this was again replaced by floor gearchange, a wood rimmed three spoke steering wheel, and two classic round dials for speed and revs in their individual clusters.

The shape of the three spoked wheel of the Tonale is also inspired by the historic Montreal…

Back to tradition, again we would say. What can you say about this tension between absolute, purified modernism and a more traditional (sporting) tradition in the styling language of the brand?

B: This is a beautiful question, thank you for this. Of course, we have the same challenge here. When I say Italian design process, let’s start with the classical approach and then I will come back to the modern aspect. The classical approach at Centro Stile, even though we have virtual reality, we do virtual reality reviews with the teams around the world, we scan, we mill, we digitize, we use computers, out of these 200 people, a big amount of people is dealing with computers, one way or the other.

Marrying the sporting styling language with today’s materials and connectivity…

But, when we design an Alfa Romeo, we always do it by hand. Meaning, that once the sketch is created, and we have the model in front of us, out of clay and clay material, hand modeling is still the king. Because, unless you shop online, when you buy any of your clothes, you look at it and you touch it. Because touch is for us humans such an important thing. And the other thing is, when you look at the car itself, we want to create something than feels good to the hand. I always say to joke, the best way to experience an Alfa Romeo is to hand wash it.

You discover an Alfa by touching, and hand washing it…

As a matter of fact, any car, when you hand wash it, you experience it. And there are some brands that take a lot of pride in super sharp edges, and it is not a very nice experience hand washing that car. It is not criticism; I am just pointing that out. Our way is to have the very sensuous experience touching an Alfa Romeo. And you can only achieve that if you hand model the car. Now we support it with computer, because we want to be fast in our process and we want to have high quality. Clearly, the creation process is manual, and that is a very Italian thing.

Also the seats are a work of dedicated sculpture…

This is the land of sculptures. You go to Florence, Rome, there are beautiful sculptures. Then of course, when it comes to technology, like the lighting technology, we can use the modern technology to emphasize graphics which were not possible in the past. You go from halogen reflector to projectors that are very, very slim, so that’s on the exterior where the technology helps us.

Coming to the interior, there is a lot of discussion about connectivity, screens these days. So for us, the question for Alfa Romeo is always, considering we build a drivers’ car, with the handling of the car being equally important, so what room do we dedicate to screens and connectivity experience, and what you don’t see in this concept car and in an Alfa Romeo, is these big screens, the “tombstone” that almost blocks your view, that almost screams for attention.

Big screens do not block the drivers’ vision…

For Alfa Romeo, we do use these screens, we have of course large screens in this vehicle, we also have 12 inch cluster, etc, etc, we have all that, but we keep it more like it’s here to support you, but it is not saying “look at me, look at me”…

The graphics themselves, what we use, is of course state of the art, in terms of connectivity, in terms of HMI, so for is, this is the connection we try to find between the classic approach to handmodelling, sculpting, and the historic approach to design, but then combining it with state of the art technology, how we assist the driver, and bring an enjoyable experience to being in the car. It is a long answer to your question, but it was a very very good question because it comes very close to what we are dealing with every day, how do you combine these two worlds.”

Directed towards the driver, while he keeps his eyes on the road…

The conversation was far from over, but then covers different subjects, with we will soon continue to cover in a following part in this series…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A classic thoroughbred is now five generations young: the Toyota Supra

Race bred by Toyota Gazoo Racing: the latest Supra.

There are car builders which nurture classic and iconic sports cars and bring them to perfection. A classic two seater coupé with a well sounding straight six under its long hood and with all the power fed to the rear wheels.

This car builder is Toyota, and the car is the Supra. This sports/GT has been honed and carefully improved over five model generations now and is better than ever.

The Supra is not only race proven over the years, speeding from success to success under the flag of Toyota Gazoo Racing, Toyota’s President Aiko Toyoda actually hurtles this Supra himself around the Nürburgring Nordschleife for hours on end. The result is a breathtaking machine. We present you here its highlights…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

First worldwide GR model of Gazoo Racing

Actually this fifth generation marks a remarkable début for Toyota Gazoo Racing, in establishing its GR model range. They couldn’t have chosen a better car.

Toyota Gazoo Racing is the global organisation of Toyota’s worldwide racing and sporting activities. They chalked up last year a win in Le Mans and also won the Dakar rally.

Tetsuya Tada’s masterpiece

Chief engineer kept the layout and character of the original GT 2000 and the previous Supra generations firmly in mind when designing this latest Supra.

Aiko Toyoda sat himself behind the wheel to give the Supra its final touch…

Short wheelbase, wide track, low gravity point, low weight and a very stiff chassis are the ingredients for pur sang handling. The 3 litre straight six has a twin scroll turbo and develops 340 DIN horsepower and 500 Nm torque. It is coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission, and guarantees powerful accelerations and indeed tons of pulling power at all engine speeds.

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing was instrumental in honing the new sports car’s performance, working extensively 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.

An 8 speed automatic lets you control the power like a master…

To be certain that the car delivered on its promise, Toyota President Akio Toyoda himself put it to the test at the Nürburgring in his role as a Master Driver before giving it the final green light.

New Toyota GR Supra customer deliveries will start from summer 2019. By the way, did you know that all cars will be manufactured in Graz, Austria?

Just look at the photos here, and indeed we are looking forward to driving this absolute gem!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

BMW Art Car #18 of Cao Fei makes Belgian debut at Brand Store in Brussels…

BMW driving art is again to be seen in the capital of Europe: In its flagship Brand Store, BMW organizes until June 1 an Art & Design Expo. The 18th BMW Art Car, a BMW M6 GT3 with multimedia design, has been created by the Chinese female artist Cao Fei, is the focus point of this show. It is even to be enjoyed and admired with the use of an app bringing the car to you on your smartphone with enhanced reality. A stunning experience, of which we show here some photos, but which has to be seen to be believed.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

In the Brussels BMW Brand Store you can join the stunning journey to discover this Art Car in augmented reality…

This virtual animation is also created by the artist, and forms an integral part of the car. “We are now entering a new era where the mind can steer objects directly and thoughts can be transferred, like unmanned controls and artificial intelligence.” comments Cao Fei.

Follow this path in the showroom and zero in with your Ios device on this graph to experience the augmented reality…
Download the app BMW ART CAR #18 on your mobile (IOS) device, follow the screen instructions and enjoy!

The work of Cao Fei illustrates the fast and stunning changes in China and its society. With her BMW Art Car she spans a road which stretches over thousands of years, honouring the spiritual wisdom of Asia, which now enters the third millennium with breathtaking speed. The film can of course also be viewed on YouTube, using the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_GNSyeIpOY&feature=youtu.be.

A video which focuses on the millennial time which a spiritual person travels through…
Finishes with presenting the augmented reality…

The multimedia artist approaches the concept of a BMW Art Car in her own unique way, with which she builds a parallel universe.

Her work consists of three components: a video that focuses on the millennial time which a spiritual person travels through, augmented reality with colourful light particles (via a special app called BMW Art Car # 18) and the BMW M6 GT3 racer in the original colour carbon black.

As a tribute to the carbon fibre structure of the BMW M6 GT3 applies Cao Fei a lot of non-reflective black paint, which means the possibilities in the digital world are endlessly applicable.

The application of video and augmented reality creates an environment in which the BMW M6 GT3 plays an essential role. Cao Fei uses in her video spiritual movements that express themselves in colourful flashes of light.

Point your device on the graph and a whole enhanced world opens to you…

When the app is used in the vicinity of the car, these light accents are transformed into an augmented reality installation that floats above and around the BMW M6 GT3. In this way, the viewer becomes interactively involved in the artwork.

Just download the app BMW ART CAR #18 on your mobile (IOS) device and follow the instructions on your screen.


The BMW Art Car Tradition runs back already decades… more about this in a special report!

Practical info:

The exhibition runs until May 31, at BMW Brand Store Brussels, Waterloolaan 23,24, 1000 Brussel

Admission free.  Open from Monday to Saturday, from 10 AM until 18.30 PM. http://www.bmwbrandstore.brussels

Our first drive with the Audi e-tron…

We photographed the first e-tron we drove at the entrance of the beautiful Middelheim park in Antwerp…

When visiting Audi’s “The Place To-e” in Antwerp, we took the opportunity to slide behind the wheel of Audi’s all-electric SUV flagship. It is already quite familiar to us seeing it produced, as your servant has made already several guide tours around the Brussels factory where it is built.

I will also continue to do so and in the near future be able to welcome you there to show you around the production lines, but until now we never had the opportunity to sit behind the wheel of one.

Of course, Audi Import in the person of PR Manager Audi Belgium, D’Ieteren – Audi Import Sofie Luyckx will rather sooner than later offer me a longer test drive in one, but we tell you here already our “first drive” experiences.  

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Impressive in ingenuity, style and build quality

The e-tron makes a statement of quality and style when you approach it. This is even reinforced when you see the dashboard and cabin and slide behind the wheel. Clean, well balanced, superbly finished, this is what your eyes and hands see and feel.

All commands are digital/virtual, or via stylish knobs like the drive selector…

The instruments, dials and function knobs are all digital, embedded in shiny black surfaces, which are ergonomically ideally angled towards you. You would like to touch them with gloves, as your fingers leave marks on their semi-matte surfaces. Maybe we should go back – with pleasure – to this gentlemen drivers’ tradition of wearing fine leather gloves when driving a car, certainly with a noble example like this one.

It is all breathing this angular futuristic Audi styling language, which has a timeless balance to it.

Comfort in silence and refinement

We took this e-tron fro a very gentle urban ride, testing out the energy recuperation modes when decelerating and/or braking, which is very cleverly controlled in intensity by the paddles on the steering wheel. A very refined touch.

Progress is of course, as an e-car befits, silky smooth, with ample acceleration power delivered by both engines fore and aft. With this luxury SUV it is combined with excellent suspension comfort, and here the Audi really stands out. This is further enhanced by the superb seats, which make the picture of a fine quality car offering top level refinement complete.

In the neighbourhood of the “The Place To-e” in Antwerp is the magnificent Middelheim park, and this is where we photographed the e-tron for you.

Soon more about this superb car, when we have it for a longer drive…

Hans Knol ten Bensel