We drove the Kia Sorento PHEV: space and luxury packed with a green ribbon…

The Kia Sorento has has been an important car for Kia. This spacious SUV has won many hearts, and with environmental regulations getting stricter, Kia has adapted its big, popular SUV to suit modern times. So it has launched in this fourth generation Sorento a plug-in hybrid version. But there is more. The latest generation is now very stylish and spacious, and is packed with a host of accessories and top notch driving aids and infotainment. Read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The latest Sorento has gained in style and presence, both inside and out. The accompanying photos tell the story. The dashboard and instrumentation also got a thorough makeover, and there is now one large screen for both the instrument cluster and the infotainment display. Impressive, and not unlike what one finds in the Mercedes range.

It offers all the information one could wish for, not in the least to monitor carefully the hybrid progress. But there is more. The rearview mirrors have built in cameras, and when one engages the left or right indicators, the right or left instrument dial transforms into a circular camera screen to show you what happens in the blind spots left and right. We liked that very much…

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems…

Besides this blind spot monitor, the new Sorento includes Kia’s latest Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA) technology with pedestrian, cyclist and vehicle detection. This also detects oncoming traffic when making a turn at a junction. There is also a Surround View Monitor (SVM) and Blind-spot Collision-Avoidance Assist (BCA), Intelligent Speed Limit Assist (ISLA), Smart Cruise Control with Stop&Go (SCC) and Navigation-based SCC (NSCC), Lane Following Assist (LFA), Driver Attention Warning (DAW), and Highway Driving Assist (HDA). Need we say more?

The Sorento is spacious and offers not less than seven seats, with the last row occupants still getting some reasonable comfort in this mid-size SUV, even for grown-ups, provided they are not too big…

The Sorento Hybrid’s battery pack is located under the floor of the cabin. As a result, the SUV offers generous space for up to seven passengers as well as one of the largest luggage capacities in its class – up to 821 litres (for seven-seat models) or 910 litres (for five-seat models)

With all the seats down, some 2000 litres are at your disposal…

Plenty of USB outlets are present throughout the cabin, even down to the last row, where climate control is provided too. Indeed, he infotainment system also allows Bluetooth smartphone pairing for two phones concurrently, enabling separate phones to be used for, for instance, phone calls and music, while front passengers can also plug in their mobile devices via two USB chargers.

For second-row passengers, two USB charging sockets are integrated into the backs of the two front seats, with a third found at the rear of the front-row centre console. Both third-row passengers also have their own charging points, meaning all seven passengers can keep their mobile device charged – the perfect measure to maintain harmony in a full car during longer journeys.

The Sorento is lavishly equipped. The top ExecutiveLine version leaves nothing to be desired, but also the lower versions offer extra’s like panoramic roofs and heated seats for example.

Our Sorento came also with a head-up display. The system displays alerts from the car’s numerous driver assistance technologies, details of vehicle speed, and turn-by-turn navigation instructions.

We also enjoyed the 12-speaker BOSE® surround-sound audio system. A new ‘Sound of Nature’ ambient sound function enabled us to select from a range of relaxing natural soundscapes. The cabin’s Mood Lighting system lets users tailor the cabin even further, with the interior illuminated in one of seven pre-set ‘core’ colors.

Sophisticated technology

The PHEV version has a 1,6 litre four cylinder petrol engine, the so called 1,6 T-GDi. Torque is also impressive, and developed at a mere 1500 rpm. This new 1.6-litre T-GDi engine features Kia’s new Continuously Variable Valve Duration (CVVD) technology, regulating valve opening time according to driving conditions, instead of operating on a fixed opening time. The electric motor develops some 120 hp, but let it be said here that total system power is some good 265 hp or 195 kW with maximum torque being 350 Nm.

Power is sent through the six-speed automatic transmission via a transmission-mounted electrical device, allowing the full power of the engine and motor to be transferred in parallel with minimal loss of energy.

The Sorento has therefore more than adequate performance, with 0 to 100 km/h reached in 8,7 seconds and a top speed of 193 km/h.

But it is the utter smoothness of the drivetrain, the excellent pairing of the two motors which impresses, both sending their power via a six-speed automatic to the four wheels. The power is only sent to the rear wheels when necessary, with an up to a fifty/fifty power split between the front and the rear wheels according to road conditions.

Besides the circular selector knob for selecting the gears, (homage to the Jaguar XJ…) there is a second smaller circular knob for selecting the “drive” modes and the “terrain” modes. Very clear and intuitive, this Sorento can be tailored to your wishes almost instinctively, which is no small feat indeed…

The handling of this almost two-ton Sorento is precise, with suspension setup being even rather firm, and the new platform is clearly designed with our market(s) in mind. Indeed, the new Sorento is based on Kia’s new third-generation midsize SUV platform. The new platform is built up around a compact engine bay structure and shorter front and rear overhangs, with a 35 mm longer wheelbase creating greater cabin space between the axles. Not only does this enable the new model’s stylish design; the structure and layout of the new platform means the Sorento is able to accommodate electrified powertrains for the first time.

Sound insolation is of course also excellent, and indeed this Sorento has all the panache of a limousine. Needless to say that this Sorento has excellent Gran Turismo character…

On EV power, the action radius is close to 50 km on the 14 kW battery. Consumption depends of course largely on your driving style and first and foremost on the amount of E-power you use in your travels. On petrol engine power, it is easily possible to achieve an average consumption around 7 litres with a restrained and anticipative driving style.

The manufacturer quotes CO2 emissions as 44 g/km.

Conclusion

The Sorento is full of high-class character and panache. Roomy, stylish, lavishly equipped, it offers true Gran Turismo comfort and drivetrain smoothness. In the light of all this, it is attractively priced, considering also the very generous equipment. Its plug-in hybrid layout lets you enjoy fiscal advantages too. Last but not least there is the 7 year/150.000 km guarantee offered by Kia, so you will not only enjoy the luxury of this Kia everywhere you go, you will also do so with utter peace of mind…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Maserati MC20 wins “Best of the Best” at the Red Dot Awards with its outstanding design…

The new Maserati MC20 receives the prize for “Best of the Best” at the Red Dot Awards 2021 in the Product Design category.

Competition run by a German design center…

The Red Dot Awards is well known, although not everyone is aware that this international design competition is run by Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen in Germany, which has been assessing and selecting the most aesthetically exciting, functional, intelligent, innovative products from all over the world since 1955.

Every year, this prestigious competition rewards excellence in the field of product and brand design and communication at the global level, with criteria constantly updated to the socio-cultural context.

A jury of 50 international experts chooses products in almost fifty different categories, from fashion to accessories and from furnishings to vehicles.

This reward puts of course a smile on the faces at Maserati…

We cite a few comments:

Maserati CEO Davide Grasso: “Our mission was to develop a car that would be remembered in the future as the model that launched the Maserati New Era. And I think we’ve achieved our goal with MC20. Maserati is innovative by nature, powered by passion and unique by design: the new super spots car embodies all these values and is a watershed, the founding model of this new phase in the Brand’s history.”

Klaus Busse, Head of Maserati Design, added: “We are honoured to receive this coveted accolade, which recognises the work of an entire team who have worked hard on this unique project, creating a car that opens a new chapter in Maserati’s history.”

Truly Italian

MC20 is designed by the Centro Stile Maserati in Turin and inaugurates a new Era for the Trident Brand.

The new super sports car represents the pure form of speed, with Maserati style: a work of sculptural engineering, showing the way to the Brand’s aesthetic future.

Developed by the Maserati Innovation Lab and built at the historic Modena plant, Maserati MC20 is genuinely an all-Italian car.

Besides its innovatige, good looks, it is also fast…

With the new 630 hp V6 Nettuno engine the MC20 catapults from 0 to 100 km/h in under 2.9 seconds and reaches a top speed of over 325 km an hour. The patented engine was conceived, developed, designed and built entirely by Maserati, and uses a pre-chamber combustion technology derived from Formula 1 engines… wow!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A clever setup: in the new Dacia Sandero, your smartphone is a …multimedia screen!

Our smartphone follows us everywhere. So why not use it as a multimedia screen in the car? That would be smart. For Dacia it was self-evident, albeit on the condition that it was fully integrated into the driving experience. This is how Media Control was born.

Nicolas Legros, Director of Transversal Operations for Dacia, explains the philosophy and advantages of this system, which is introduced in New Dacia Sandero.

“At Dacia, we are committed to redefining the essence of the car. For that we had to find a smart, simple and attractive multimedia solution. Moreover, customer studies show that the buyers of the brand prioritize simplicity in this area. That is an important point raised by members of the Dacia community as well. Our engineers and designers have worked closely together to create Media Control, a system that places our customers’ favorite screen – their smartphone – at the center of the multimedia experience in the interior. ”

Indeed, taking your smartphone out of your pocket to make it your travel companion without having to place a hard-to-attach support on your ventilation grilles? That ease of use would appeal to many people. And this is well understood at Dacia. To make life easier for drivers with smart, affordable and contemporary solutions, the brand’s engineers and designers have pooled their talents and came up with a very practical solution…

What is Media Control?

Nicolas Legros explains the system: “Media Control is a complete multimedia system. It includes a radio, two speakers, a USB connection, Bluetooth connectivity, steering wheel controls and, above all, a docking station for smartphones integrated into the dashboard. From the start of the project, this station was fully integrated into the design of the dashboard. In this way we guarantee comfort and user-friendliness for our customers. ”

The smartphone, which is placed in the universal housing in the center of the dashboard of New Dacia Sandero and held firmly in place, integrates perfectly into the driving experience. The strategic placement, at the top of the dashboard and slightly turned towards the driver, guarantees readability of the data, which improves safety. All you need to do is download the Dacia Media Control app on your smartphone. A simple Bluetooth connection then turns your smartphone into a full-fledged addition to the dashboard, replacing the integrated multimedia system.

Navigation, radio, music, telephone and even access to vehicle information – all essential functions are at your fingertips. Even the voice control is present, thanks to the voice recognition of the smartphone.

And when the phone is not in the holder, the latter disappears into the dashboard for more discretion.

A smart system with sophisticated functions

However, all this is not enough to turn Media Control into a 100% smart multimedia system. Thanks to the customizable app, the system also adapts to the needs of each user and even connects to the car’s on-board computer.

However, all this is not enough to turn Media Control into a 100% smart multimedia system. Thanks to the customizable app, the system also adapts to the needs of each user and even connects to the car’s on-board computer.

This makes it possible to create shortcuts to your favorite widgets and apps and even to frequently called contacts. To navigate, each driver chooses his own preferred app thanks to the wide choice of maps and guidance systems. Choose multimedia à la carte. Radio, playlists from your telephone, subscription to music platforms, USB stick or MP3 player … There is no shortage of choice. In addition to calls, the phone has all the essential functions: a hands-free mode to look up contacts in the phone book, consult the call history or consult scheduled events in the calendar. With Android devices, and soon also on iOS, the SMS function even reads out messages. In terms of vehicle functions, Driving ECO provides real-time access to consumption data and gives the driver personalized driving tips at the end of each journey.

Upon arrival, more distracted drivers will appreciate the phone alert and the Go To My Car feature, which guides them back to the car’s last parking spot.

All this is so smart and practical!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Kia celebrates its new face – a new logo – and slogan, expressing the brand’s future transformation

The new logo features ‘symmetry’, ‘rhythm’ and ‘rising’ elements that embody Kia’s confidence and commitment to customers.

The logo is a symbol of Kia’s new brand purpose and the values it promises to offer customers through future products and services, and the experiences these enable. Kia seals its brand promise by developing the new logo to resemble a handwritten signature. The rhythmical, unbroken line of the logo conveys Kia’s commitment to bringing moments of inspiration, while its symmetry demonstrates confidence. The rising gestures of the logo embody Kia’s rising ambitions for the brand, and, more importantly, what it offers to customers.

Dazzling show of pyrodrones…

The new logo was unveiled during a record-breaking pyrotechnic display in the skies above Incheon, Korea. The event saw 303 pyrodrones launching hundreds of fireworks in a synchronized artistic display, igniting and celebrating Kia’s new beginning. This set a new Guinness World Record for ‘Most unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) launching fireworks simultaneously’. The dazzling display can be seen on the Kia Global YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/s61_IsjqLzc

Kia discloses new brand slogan: ‘Movement that inspires’

In addition to an all-new logo, Kia revealed its new global brand slogan, ‘Movement that inspires’.

Details on Kia’s new brand strategy, including brand purpose and philosophy as well as application to Kia’s future product line-up, will be shared through the digital ‘New Kia Brand Showcase’ event to be held at 01:00 AM CET, January 15. The event can be viewed on the Kia Global YouTube channel.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

BMW turns its electric vision into reality…with the impressive BMW iX

Until now the VISION iNEXT took centre stage when we looked at BMW’s electric vision for the future. With a year still to go before its market launch at the end of 2021, the BMW Group lets us have a first look ahead to the future BMW iX, which is currently still in the series development phase.

The BMW iX is very important: it is the first model based on a new, modular, scalable future toolkit developed by the BMW Group. It embodies a fresh interpretation of design, sustainability, versatility and luxury.

Driving pleasure, versatility and luxury.

The iX is from the outset designed for purely electric mobility, and BMW claims it is redefining the successful Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) concept.

The BMW iX harnesses the latest innovations in the fields of electrification, automated driving and connectivity to deliver a mobility experience which puts people first. Therefore, its design has been developed from the inside out, says BMW.

Sustainability is also important, and we find optimised aerodynamics, intelligent lightweight design and extensive use of natural and recycled materials.

Fifth-generation BMW eDrive technology for a long range…

The fifth generation of BMW eDrive technology consists of two electric motors, state of the art  power electronics, charging technology and a high-voltage battery. It has the zest of a true BMW: some 370 kW/500 hp, enough to power the BMW iX from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in under 5.0 seconds.

BMW nevertheless targets an electronic power consumption of less than 21 kWh per 100 kilometres (62 miles) in the WLTP test cycle. A gross energy content of more than 100 kWh should enable the latest-generation high voltage battery to record a range of over 600 kilometres in the WLTP cycle.

That equates to more than 300 miles according to the EPA’s FTP-75 test procedure.

DC fast charging: over 120 kilometres (75 miles) of extra range in ten minutes.

The new charging technology of the BMW iX enables DC fast charging at up to 200 kW. In this way, the battery can be charged from 10 to 80 per cent of its full capacity in under 40 minutes.

The friendly cabin is centered on the driver and its passengers…

Added to which, within ten minutes enough energy can be fed into the battery to increase the car’s range by more than 120 kilometres (75 miles). It takes less than eleven hours to charge the high-voltage battery from 0 to 100 per cent at 11 kW from a Wallbox.

More power for automated driving…

The level of computing power has been developed to process 20 times the data volume of previous models. As a result, around double the amount of data from vehicle sensors can be processed than was previously possible.

Bold and impressive styling

The exterior of the BMW iX has the powerful proportions of a large BMW SAV. The BMW iX is comparable with the BMW X5 in length and width, and is almost the same height as the BMW X6 on account of its flowing roofline. The size of its wheels, meanwhile, brings to mind the BMW X7.

At the centre of the front end stands the prominent, vertical kidney grille. Since the electric drive system of the BMW iX requires only a small amount of cooling air, the kidney grille is completely blanked off.

This upright grille has reinvented itself as an innovative and multifunctional high-tech interface for

the advanced driver assistance systems with which the BMW iX paves the way for automated driving.

Human friendly cabin

The architecture of the BMW iX cabin underpins a perfectly clear and straightforward functionality that revolves entirely around the needs and emotions of the driver and occupants.

The displays and controls are all stripped down to the essentials, further reinforcing the impression of an uncluttered cabin offering a place of relaxation. The technology of the BMW iX only becomes visible when it is needed. This makes it intuitive to use rather than seeming overly complex.

The hexagonally shaped steering wheel, a rocker switch for gear selection and the BMW Curved Display – which forms part of the next-generation BMW Operating System – clearly advertise the futuristic form of driving pleasure.

Lightweight design

The body structure, featuring an aluminium spaceframe and innovative Carbon Cage, can claim extremely high torsional stiffness, which in turn enhances agility and maximises occupant protection, while minimising weight.

Fully capitalising on the benefits provided by the all-electric drive system and meticulously implementing proven measures from the past in the front end of the car, the underbody section, the wheels and the rear end gives the BMW iX optimised aerodynamics. This resuls in a drag coefficient (Cd) of just 0.25!

We let you look at the photos here…and are anxious to see this new BMW in the flesh!  

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The new Renault Clio is voted VAB Family Car of the Year 2020

After the Renault Scénic in 2017 and Renault Grand Scénic in 2018, the new Renault Clio has been elected “VAB family car of the year 2020”. New Renault Clio wins the win in the category up to 20,000 €. VAB is the Flemish Automobile Club, and it organizes yearly a very coveted contest of best family cars in the different categories.  

Now for the third year in a row, Renault has distinguished itself as the top VAB Family Car. In 2016, Renault ZOE won in the “electric” category. Renault Scénic and Renault Grand Scénic won respectively in 2017 and 2018 the first place in the category up to € 29,500.

A closer look at the winner: the Renault Clio TCe 100

The winner of this 33rd edition is the Renault Clio Intens TCe 100. We drove it recently for you, and a test report will follow soon. Needless to say that this Cleo greatly impressed us, and this award hardly comes as a surprise to us.

This is the fifth generation of the Renault Clio.  This latest generation has been designed according to the double principle “Evolution & Revolution”.

On the one hand, it inherits from its predecessor the design that inspired the entire Renault range.

On the other hand, the revolution is mainly in the cabin that is inspired by the upper segments both in terms of quality and available technology.

This year, the winner is equipped with the 1.0 TCe three-cylinder engine. Just as out test car.

This unit is new in the Renault range, offering the latest technologies, such as a turbocharger with electrically controlled relief valve, an exhaust manifold partially integrated with the cylinder head, a double variable hydraulic timing of the distribution and a specific steel coating of cylinders (Bore Spray Coating).

With a power output of 100 hp and a torque of 160 Nm, this new generation engine gains 10 hp and 20 Nm over the TCe 90 it replaces, while reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

In Belgium, Renault Clio is the second best-selling vehicle, all segments combined, after the VW Golf. In addition, Renault Clio occupies the top spot in the B segment for retail sales…

Read out test report soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Subaru Forester 2.0i: your companion in the woods of life…

The truth is now known to us all: to save our planet we need a lot more trees. We would add, we also need a good car to go with it: and this could very well be the clever and superbly built Subaru Forester…

It is a car which continues to surprise and amaze us. The engineering is top notch, it performs like a dream, has terrific 4WD, gets you wherever you want to go, in all seasons, in all circumstances and weather conditions, is indestructible and getting ever more frugal too.

We drove it for you, and here are our findings…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Subaru Forester 2.0i: your companion in the woods of life…”

Panama wheels…

We recently made a holiday trip to the Carribean, and visited both Curaçao and Panama. Car lovers as we are, a keen look for the car traffic over there and which cars one sees on the Caribbean roads is a must. We share here with you our interesting findings. 

Korean and Japanese brands galore…

Front licence plates are not required in Panama…

Reliability combined with low service requirements are of course an absolute must on these shores, so it comes as no surprise that masters in the art like Hyundai, Kia and Japanese brands such as Toyota, Honda and Suzuki are having a strong market presence over there. The world wide trend towards SUV’s is also seen here clearly, with however classic sedans being also very much in favor.

Interesting to see small taxis and official vehicles in the shape of Sedan versions of the compact Hyundai i10 for instance. 

Premium playground in Panama City 

Panama city is of course also the playground of the European premium brands, and BMW, Lexus, Mercedes and last but not least Audi are seen frequently as well as their posh and stylish dealerships. A flourishing second hand market for the far eastern brands is maintained by mostly Pakistani dealers…

Many roadside service stations flourish, offering electronic diagnosis, regular service and mostly airco repair...

The Caribbean climate is no easy ride when it comes to corrosion, as it is both (very) hot and humid. Chromed bar chairs in your home will rust dark brown if you don’t keep them polished and protected regularly, so it is no small compliment for the far eastern brands that they remain mostly rust free.  Indeed, your trusted Nissan or Toyota Land Cruiser pickup or Suzuki Vitara will stand the test of time. 

This is what is left of a fifties Jeep, a garden ornament…

Classics have had a hard time fighting corrosion, and the survivors in the shape of 50’s Jeeps are few and far between. We discovered in the garden of one of the Panama mansions the grille of a ’50s Jeep, and a lovingly kept example underneath a nice self made garage roof. 

This one is more lucky and lovingly kept, although still fairly exposed to the elements…

Kawasaki 4×4 power has struck on the beaches and idyllic island paths. 

Motorization is now on every corner of our beloved globe, and the local inhabitants of the idyllic islands like Taboga for instance are not hauling their food and sundry’s by foot anymore.

The classic scooter, bike or Vespa tricycle is also history. The typical housewife now carts her children to the school proudly behind the wheel of a short wheelbase Kawasaki 4×4, mostly in the two seater pickup version so the beloved husband can haul drinks, building materials, luggage for hotel guests, anything along the narrow and sometimes barely existing island roads. 

More well to do residents opt for the bigger four/five seater version, and indeed, it is excellent transport in these tropical temperatures, where the totally open framed structure offers you that sweet breeze when you are humming along. It has of course a low gear mode so even the steepest hills reaching those beautifully situated residences with panoramic views are totally easy to tackle. 

Green power is few and far between…

Of course, with these low gasoline prices in the region of around 70 dollar cents per liter there is little room for alternative propulsion, and only Lexus and Toyota hybrids add a green touch to the total picture, and are to be applauded for that. Steep hills on the islands make powerful propulsion a bare necessity, and this leaves little room for battery fed energy, especially when beach car like vehicles such as these Kawasaki quads are infrequently used.

Electricity is also more often than not scarce on these remote places, as they are produced by generators. Residents also use old faithful’s like 17 year old Suzuki Vitara’s to haul their shopping groceries and luggage to their mountain top villas, and these Suzuki’s are coveted indeed… 

On our whole trip, we never saw ONE electric car… Except those used on the Panama golf courses…. 

Hans Knol ten Bensel 

We drove the Dacia Duster TCe 125: your true friend on all roads…

We all love a car which is a faithful companion to all places you want to go in this magnificent world. A car which fulfills your dream of mobility no matter where or what. Without costing you an arm and a leg, giving you rather the freedom to spend your money on those long voyages and travels you always wanted to do, of course with your four wheeled companion.

Well, such a car is the Duster, now in its second generation, aptly named Duster 2. It now comes in a most attractive package, as it has been expertly restyled, undergoing also a state of the art makeover of the mechanics. We took it through its paces for you here. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Dacia Duster TCe 125: your true friend on all roads…”

A genial Fiat engine designer turned French: Walter Becchia

He was born in Casale Monferrato, in the Italian Piemonte region, and soon developed a keen interest in anything mechanic, with his main interest being engines. Soon enough, he was enrolled by Fiat and his first major feat was to develop the racing engine for the Fiat 804. In 1922, he was spotted by Louis Coatalen, technical director of Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq

In those roaring twenties, many automotive brands were rising and falling, and one of them was Talbot, resulting from the consortium Clément-Talbot, born out of the merger of the British businesses of Adolphe Clément and the count Schrewsbury and Talbot.

Becchia designed the  iconic T120 short wheelbase Talbot-Lago “Baby Sport” 

This brand Talbot had a British arm in London, and a French one in Suresnes. The Talbots built in Suresnes were sold as Darracqs on the British market.

The French division Talbot Suresnes was then led by two young talented engine designers, Vincenzo Bertarione and Walter Becchia, and they created in 1923 the 1500 Talbot 4 cylinder, followed by the 8 cylinder in line 1,5 liter engine in 1926.

The same Talbot-Lago T120 seen from the rear… 

While Becchia stayed at Talbot, he would concentrate on combustion technology, and he developed further the design the use of hemispherical combustion chambers with the valves angled in V, actuated through overhead camshafts. In this design work, he was actually inspired by the pioneering constructions and designs of… Belgian car builder Pipe(!).

The upcoming regime of Mussolini was not to the liking of Walter Becchia, and in 1926 he decided to become a French citizen. He continued to work at Talbot, also when the firm had been bought by the venetian engineer Antonio Lago, with the reorganized company continuing as Talbot-Lago.

The Talbot-Lago T 150 C which was built from 1937 to 1939 remains one of the most stunning automobiles ever… 

He became legendary as an engineer, capable of creating and designing an engine in detail within just a few days. In 1935, he designed the iconic T120 short wheelbase Talbot-Lago “Baby Sport” and of course his engine designs were even more famous. The V16 engines, both in 3 litre and 1,5 litre form, are from his hand.

 

The designer of the 2 CV engine…

In 1939, Citroën was eying to his design talents for good reason: Pierre Boulanger and his team were working on the development of the revolutionary “Bauhaus” principle 2CV, the minimalist people’s car. He hesitated for two years, and in 1941 finally took the decision to join them, and to succeed engine designer Maurice Sainturat, who had retired. His first major feat was to fully redesign the engine of the prototype, and rebuild it from scratch. The Citroën engineers and designers had used motorcycle engines for their prototypes, and history has it that Walter Becchia was inspired by the twin cylinder boxer BMW R12 owned by Citroën stylist Flaminio Bertoni. The result is known to all: the iconic and famous air cooled two cylinder boxer engine of the 2 CV.

Sainturat had drawn the outlines for a 375-cc twin-cylinder engine before he retired, and Becchia used this as the basis for his own design. Becchia first switched Sainturat’s design from water cooling to air cooling, with an eye on saving both weight and complexity. He added a fourth gear to the integrated transmission that Boulanger had first designed for the car. Becchia took things a step further, adopting light alloy for the engine block, making it very light.

This was one of the most important postwar engines that anyone developed, anywhere. It took Becchia all of a week to get it done.

A thoroughly modern engine, which it remains right until this day. Of course, without electronically controlled fuel injection, it could not meet the emission standards from the ‘90s, and that was the end of this formidable engine.

Becchia and the Citroën DS…

When designing the DS, Michel Lefebvre and his team originally aimed at building a flat six, which would be mounted ahead of the front axle. Walter Becchia built both an air and water cooled 1,8 liter six cylinder boxer engine. With the air cooled version, Becchia and his assistant, Corner, ran into cooling problems with the middle cylinders, and the engine also made simply too much noise, certainly when cold, with the whine of the fan certainly not helping things. The laws of physics cannot be escaped: everyone knows for example that an early Porsche 911 is not a very silent, albeit melodious machine either…

The water cooled flat six 1.8 litre engtine designed by Becchia never made it into production: too noisy, too expensive and developing insufficient power … 

The problem that the water-cooled six cylinders was not developed further for the DS is mainly the cost. For these reasons, the block of the Traction four cylinder was retained, with Walter Becchia and his assistant Poillot coming up in very short time (some speak of as little as eight days) with a new cylinder head to be fitted on the old block. The design of the cylinder head was based on the same principles Becchia had used at Talbot: pushrods operating the inlet and exhaust valves inclined under a V angle to give hemispherical crossflow combustion chambers.

Becchia designed further milestones at Citroën. In the ‘60s, Walter Becchia would still design a 3 liter V6 engine, but alas, also that engine never went into production. He kept working of course also on the CX, the SM’s, retiring only in 1968 at the age of 76!

Hans Knol ten Bensel