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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our 1988 Samurai passed…

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

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

More to follow!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Our faithful Samurai will become an oldtimer, or “voiture de collection”

As some readers will remember, the stable of cars at our French holiday house also includes a 1988 Suzuki Samurai, which has now reached the venerable age of more than 30 years, and is therefore now elegible to become a “collectors’ car”. It hasn’t been running last year, but that didn’t prevent it for starting right away after 2 years, after an initial 7 second burst on the starter motor to get the fuel up. After this first burst we waited for about 20 seconds or so, and then turned the key again: tchch-vrooom it shot into life right away, settling immediately in a smooth 1300 rpm on the automatic choke, without any hiccup or misfiring. Soon, after a minute or so, it ran at the 800 rpm normal tickover, and that was that. After this first start, it fires up immediately every time.

We depressed the clutch, which was free moving, and we cautiously moved it slowly in first and reverse, to loosen things up further. Clutch and brakes seemed OK. So we took it out of its garage and went for a first 10 kilometer mountain drive, only to notice that the left front brake must be not completely loose as after a 4 kilometers or so, the Samurai started pulling a bit to the left and indeed the left front wheel rim was running warmer, and this could be felt by hand. Luckily the rear drum brakes were fine, as the wheels stayed cold. We stopped and luckily noticed that even the slightest descent got the car rolling, so the friction could not be that much. We will drive it quietly tomorrow to the service station “Point S” to get the brakes checked and the oil and filter changed, and the day after it will be a visit to the “contrôle technique”.

To be continued, we will keep you posted!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Our Cars: The Mercedes A Class is still going strong…

In our stable we also have some “French” cars, which live in our French country house, where they serve as holiday transport when we enjoy “time out” in la Douce France. One of these is a 1998 A Class 160 with a five speed automatic which we bought used now more than 14 years ago and which has seen intensive (professional) daily use by my wife for more than a decade; it has since 3 years found a new home in France. It is an ideal fit for the winding roads in the French Midi, its zesty 1,6 litre petrol engine is well mated to the auto box, and it is our favoured transport for outings and shopping.

In France, older cars have to pass a “contrôle technique” every two years, and they are checked for brakes, steering, windows/wipers, lights, suspension, chassis corrosion, seats and seat belts, interior, all commands, door locks, etc. With of course last but not least brake efficiency and emissions testing included. The multinational SGS actually is the company organising technical car controls under its “securitest” label in France and the test items and procedures can be found on their website securitest.fr.

Our trusted A Class passed the test with flying colours, not very surprising as the car is properly maintained. The “contrôle technique” is done by appointment, so you don’t waste any time, and is concluded by a very kind and detailed personal comment about the points which need attention on the car in the coming two years. On our A Class, it was the condition of the last muffler and of course brake pads, although not critical, the latter which indeed are due for renewal within the coming months. 

So our A Class, with now 248.000 km on the clock, is soldiering on still further!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Our BMW Z3 repaired: the airbag seat sensor proved faulty…

Our Z3 entering the service bay at BMW Jorssen…

Our beloved Z3 is healthy again, and the service experts at BMW Jorssen in Aartselaar diagnosed that the reason why the airbag lamp stayed lit was the passenger seat sensor. It is manufactured by SBE Elektronik for BMW, and ceased its service after so many years.

Of course, diagnosing and detecting the reason why the airbag telltale lamp stayed on takes also some time, and eventual malfunctions in the electrical system also need then to be checked.

The sensor mat of the passenger seat malfunctioned…

It proved to be the sensor mat in the passenger seat, and this needed to be replaced. Locating the fault, removing and replacing the mat and making a final check up cost us in total 295 €, ex VAT.

The actual sensor mat cost 178,80 € ex VAT, and the steering electronics of the seat sensor set us back another 58,80 €.

But now our Z3 is ready for another great season! Keep posted for further reports!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Our Lexus CT 200h continues to surprise us…

It seems clearly that hybrids just love slow, busy traffic, the type of driving situations we live through nowadays more and more frequently. This was again amply proven by our faithful and shining Lexus CT 200h, which after its cosmetic treatment now serves as our very frequent transport. We drove it on the 3rd of April amidst heavy rain showers from Brussels to Antwerp, with stop and go traffic on almost half the route, and slow traffic on the rest of the journey. Soothed by the excellent sound system and the smooth drivetrain, the Lexus driving experience remains a (very) pleasant one, in all driving conditions, and certainly these described above.

We took this shot upon arrival with our Huawei… and were truly amazed…

And we continued to smile when we saw the average consumption on this rain drenched journey, with ventilation, headlights and windscreen wipers full ablaze: merely 4,2 liters/100 km. It again proves how good the Lexus/Toyota hybrid concept is… quod erat demonstrandum!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Bodywork and interior of our Lexus CT 200h professionally repaired at Carrosserie Vercruysse…

Our Lexus was expertly sprayed after the scratches below the fuel filler cap were repaired, and a perfect colour match was achieved…

Needless to say that we are very pleased with our pre-owned Lexus, and of course we want it also to look absolutely spotless. So we decided to let it have a good beauty treatment, and we got some expert advice on our choice where to go. Carrosserie Vercruysse in Halle was suggested, and with good reason, as they perform repairs on the car fleet of Toyota and Lexus “Try and Buy” centre. Of course we checked also others, like Lexus Wijnegem for instance, but Carrosserie Vercruysse proved to be the most competitive here.

We are quite pleased with the excellent results, and we tell you more about how the repairs were done…read on!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “Bodywork and interior of our Lexus CT 200h professionally repaired at Carrosserie Vercruysse…”

The genius of hybrid…

Taking our Lexus CT 200h through its paces showed us again the formidable economy potential that lies in the Toyota/Lexus designed hybrid drivetrain. It took us hardly any effort at all – except of course an anticitipative driving style and avoiding wide throttle openings, to reach a consumption of 4,4 liters/100 km, as we showed earlier, and we were astonished to see the figure even hover briefly lower on a quiet ride to Brussels the next day, to 4,3 liters/100 km.

On the subsequent return trip from Brussels with very heavy stop and go traffic, avoiding brisk accelerations let the CT 200h to use its battery power extensively, we achieved again an average of 4,4 liters/100 km. Indeed, accelerating with restraint, just moving along with the traffic flow, will besides the supportive E-power, also lead the E-CVT to keep choosing the lower rev ranges, and so the Atkinson cycle engine remains very efficient throughout. Remember, this Atkinson cycle also reintroduces cooled exhaust gases into the combustion chambers to make an additional contribution to reduced engine temperatures.

On top of all that, the smooth power transition performed by the E-CVT drivetrain and the low engine noise level contribute to a very “zen” driving experience. We tell you here a bit more of the technical side.  The CT’s transmission plays a large part in the car’s efficiency because it incorporates little more than two motor-generators, some gears and a minimal amount of oil. There are no clutches and none of the friction associated with regular transmissions or the belt-and-pulley types of CVTs employed by a growing number of gas-only cars.

Electronically-controlled continuously variable transmissions

Electronically controlled continuously variable transmissions (E-CVT) offer an infinite number of gears within a broad range of ratios, and simultaneously handle inputs coming from the petrol engine and electric motor.


The intelligence of E-CVT is evident by the fact that it selects the optimal – that is, most efficient – gear ratio for any situation by constantly analysing vehicle speed, road conditions, engine power and driver input. When that split-second passes, it moves imperceptibly to the next calculated ratio through a clever combination of planetary gears.

More bodywork beauty soon…

In the meantime, the quote provided by Lexus Wijnegem proved not quite competitive, and we made an appointment in the third week of March with Carrosserie Vercruysse in Halle, near Brussels. Keep looking at our columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We took our Lexus CT200h for a maiden trip through Holland…

Our Lexus proudly shines on its maiden voyage before chateau “de Essenburgh” in Dutch Hierden… 

Nothing better when you get a new car than to take it for an extended trial or “shakedown” run. This magnificent sunny weekend in February proved an excellent occasion to do so. We had driven our Lexus so far only on short distances on mostly urban errands, and so we wanted to see how it performed on longer trips the open road and motorways and how its economy would be.

To tell you right away, our Lexus passed the test with flying colors, and its economy truly surprised us.

It proved to be restful on motorways, with the so easy to use cruise control always a pleasure to use. The car is also remarkably silent, which lets you enjoy the sound system even more.

We took our Lexus near Amersfoort, where my father was born, and stayed at a magnificent small “chateau” between the Ijsselmeer and the Veluwe.

On the trip towards our destination, we averaged 5,5 liters/100 km, but then the earlier urban runs had to averaged out. On the evening return run, heavy traffic made us cruise around 110 km/h or so, but then our Lexus rewarded us with an astonishing 4,4 liters/100 km. Needless to say, this first longer trip now puts a broad smile on our face…

We now await the bodywork repair quote from Lexus Wijnegem, and keep you posted!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We visited Lexus Antwerp with our CT200h

The joy of owning and driving a quality car stands or falls with excellent and prompt service, and so we decided to pay a visit to our local Lexus dealer, in Wijnegem, Antwerp. As our new mount has some minor scratches on its bodywork and alloy wheels as a result of prior usage, we decided to let them have a look at it and ask them for a quote to bring our Lexus again in mint condition.

We were very kindly received by Service Advisor Saskia De Moor, who immediately took photos of the scuffs and scratches, and promised us to send a quote, which we are presently awaiting.

She proudly showed us the recently redesigned sitting area of the showroom, where we enjoyed a coffee, and admired the stylish surroundings.

We also asked her about the difficulty we experience when completing our owner’s profile on the “My Lexus” app, where we hitherto are unable to register the VIN number of our CT200h. She promised us to come back to this issue.

Soon we will hear more, and we will keep you informed!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We collect our Lexus CT 200h…

Our Lexus CT200h stood shining in the showroom, and Dirk Kinot of GMAN Antwerp proudly handed us over the keys… 

It is always a big day when one gets a new car, even when we have driven so many. Last but not least because it will be our own mount, and we will use it for many years to come.

Just mount the license plates and hit the road…

We were again pleased to see its deep blue colour, shining after a careful valet cleaning by the people of Toyota GMAN at IJzerlaan 3 in Antwerp. GMAN had the car fully serviced prior to delivery with the 90.000 km scheduled inspection, and GMAN had installed for us a brand new 12 Volt battery and a new internal lining of the engine hood, as the original one was apparently eaten away at some places by ferrets or animals who apparently just love the fabric . We also received a 1 year, unlimited mileage guarantee.

In the documents, presented to us by Dirk Kinot, of GMAN Antwerp, the full service history was included. The car was regularly serviced by Lexus Waterloo. The car was obviously carefully maintained by its previous owner, and besides the service booklet, the full manual of the car was handed over to us in pristine condition.

These details make the joy of receiving a “new” pre-owned car even greater. The interior of our Lexus was carefully valeted and cleaned, and the textile beige upholstery looks and feels like new. The bodywork has some minute blemishes and scratches in the neighbourhood of the fuel filler cap, on the upper part of the left side rearview mirror, and a barely visible crack in the left outside rear light cluster. Some corrosion is seen on two alloy wheels. All this will soon be attended to… we want our Lexus to look top notch!

Dirk Kinot puts the licence plates on the Lexus… 

We were pleased to see that our Lexus was shod with Semperit M & S all weather tires, which makes our Lexus immediately fit for wintery conditions.

A very promising first drive…

The first meters with our Lexus proved satisfying indeed. We plunged the car straight away into Antwerp city traffic, and we enjoyed immediately the smoothness of its hybrid drivetrain, and on the urban cobblestones we appreciated the tautness of the body, the precision of the steering, which lets us clearly feel that this low-mileage example has never seen any rough treatment. We filled up the tank and will soon take it further through its paces… Stay tuned for more!

Hans Knol ten Bensel