Audi presents the second generation of its iconic A1…

We have always loved the A1 Audi, and many car enthusiasts with us. The second generation is now soon to roll of the production lines in Martorell, and not in Brussels anymore, where next year the all-electric flagship Audi will be produced. The new A1 has a more angular, and bolder stance, and Audi tells us it shows reminiscences of the “Ur”-Quattro. Especially the big and large forward tilted C-pillar gives indeed extra zest to this new A1.

Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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The first ‘Collection By Vermant’ Rally proved a success…

I would have loved to participate with my pristine BMW Z3 youngtimer to this event, but the last sequels of my torn muscle prevented me, alas. Things are now rapidly improving healthwise, and I really can hardly wait to drive my Z3 roadster into the sunshine again, just another few weeks of patience…

In the meantime, this rally proved a success. The route went through the Flemish Limburg fruit region, and was indeed fully subscribed with 50 participants. Undoubtedly, next year the number of participants will be still larger…

The Collection by Vermant concept, which as faithful readers know was launched three months ago at the Antwerp Classic Salon, has literally a flying start.

The workshop under the direction of specialist and operational manager Ruben Bosch is humming along, and the enthusiast with a warm heart for classics can discover now in the brand new showroom at the Generaal De Wittelaan in Malines an exquisite collection of cars for sale.

Bringing together passionate classic car lovers and clients is wat the Collection by Vermant wants to do. Just have a drink at the bar in the showroom and discover what they can do and mean for you…

We show you here the photos of the event, with some interesting cars indeed…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

With their new 8 series coupé, BMW redefines sportiness…

With this BMW the Bavarian brand enters the luxury segment with a broad premium model initiative. This new coupé opens a new chapter in what sporting driving is all about for BMW: a superb combination of luxury, inspiring sportiness and last but not least Gran Turismo comfort.

Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We drove the Lexus LC 500 h: a Gran Turismo coupé of absolute superlatives

A beauty from the east has come to our shores… 

Unique and truly standing out, this is how we can fittingly describe this beautiful coupé. Brilliant engineering gives this hybrid gem its performance and panache. The stylists also pulled all the stops and tested the boundaries of shaping and form techniques to produce a Lexus with an absolutely brilliant personality and presence. With the LF-LC concept car in 2012 we had already a preview of this stunning car, and at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit it made its public debut.

Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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New Skoda Kodiaq RS sets record lap at Nürburgring… and we compare it to racing history!

Sabine Schmitz, a born and bred Nürburgring driver, the daughter of the innkeeper/hotel owner at the famous Eifel circuit, who started driving/racing around the “Green Hell” as a teenager, went behind the wheel of the brand new RS version of Skoda’s big seven seater, and put her unique racing driver talents and Ring experience to work.

There is of course a magnificent You tube film about her 9:29.84 minute drive, of which we give you a link in this column. We decided to put this performance in an historical perspective, and more specifically how does this compare to the performances of the Grand Prix and sports drivers and cars of the fifties?

Read more and be surprised…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “New Skoda Kodiaq RS sets record lap at Nürburgring… and we compare it to racing history!”

Audi launches new Q8: a SUV with even more sporting flair

The Audi Q8 is a large SUV, exuding – as Audi puts it – sporty dynamics and upscale prestige. Practically 5 meters (16.4 ft) long, 2.00 meters (6.6 ft) wide and 1.71 meters (5.6 ft) tall, the SUV coupe is wider, shorter and lower than its Q7 sister model.

With a wheelbase of nearly 3.00 meters (9.8 ft), it offers a spacious interior that beats of its direct competitors in most relevant dimensions, including interior length and headroom.  There is a three-seat system in the rear with longitudinally adjusting upon request. With the seatbacks folded down, the luggage compartment under the power rear hatch holds up to 1,755 liters (62.0 cu ft). The body has svelte accent lines, muscular yet refined, we love it from any angle. Just be still a bit patient: the Audi Q8 launches on the European market in the third quarter of 2018. Just read more…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We drove the BMW i3s REx: E-joy, style and cleverness on wheels…

E-driving is not only cool, it can also give you lots of driving pleasure. BMW has proved this point now already over 100.000 times last year with its E-fleet, more specifically i, BMW iPerformance and MINI vehicles with fully electric or plug-in hybrid drive systems. Of course, the i3 being its most popular icon. Indeed, this cleverly designed and styled car has grown into just that: a symbol of clever and durable mobility.

We drove for you the nimble and lively “s” version, and we loved every meter we drove it.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the BMW i3s REx: E-joy, style and cleverness on wheels…”

Alfa Romeo wins historic Mille Miglia 2018

Here you see GIOLITO Roberto and GIUDICI David, Starting number 31, in their 1930 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS… on the grounds of the Museo Storico, during the event.   

As we told your earlier, dear reader, Alfa was present in strength at the latest edition of this beautiful event. The course led even to the Museo Storico grounds, and the Alfa’s which participated were equally breathtaking. Indeed, the race caravan paid a celebratory visit to the Museo Storico Alfa Romeo at Arese, where time trials were held on the internal circuit.

But besides meticulous cars, it also pays of to prepare yourself thoroughly for this regularity event. Know the course and the stages very well, and train yourself in driving to the (hundreds of a )second.

Here you see my drawing of the winners, receiving the chequered flag . For a better view, press ctrl + to or pinch enlarge it… 

This is what the winners did, TONCONOGY Juan and RUFFINI Barbara, in their 1933 ALFA ROMEO 6C 1500 GS “TESTA FISSA”, starting number 85. You see them here on my drawing here joyously receiving the finish flag, with the second official presenting already the coveted champagne bottle. Miss Barbara Ruffini is already holding her left hand on the door to jump out of the car and collect her winner’s prizes.

This was not the only success of the formidable Alfa’s.

In second place, just eight penalty points behind the victor, there was the stunning 6C 1500 Super Sport dating from 1928, with coachwork by Stabilimenti Farina. This was an official car from the FCA Heritage collection, which is normally on display at the Museo Storico Alfa Romeo, driven by Giovanni Moceri with co-driver Daniele Bonetti, with starting number 30. See here the photo above.

In third place, the 1929 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 SS Zagato of Vesco-Guerini, starting number 39.

It is very touching to see that 50 years after their 1928 victory, an Alfa is again on the winner’s podium in this iconic Mille Miglia.

I couldn’t resist making a drawing of the glorious moment when the winners drove on the podium, and present you also some more photos of the other winners and Alfa’s in the Mille Miglia 2018…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Audi A8 L50 3.0 TDI quattro: the beauty and perfection of four rings…

If you would think luxury sedans are somewhat less breathtaking nowadays, then just slide behind the wheel of this latest A8. Its style, panache, technical refinement and uncanny agility will astound you. The Audi engineers have build here a car which strikes an ideal balance between comfort, driving pleasure and stylishness. It embodies all the magic of driving and enjoying a motor car, where everything is engineered to perfection. It handles, performs, drives just as you expect from a superb automobile. It wears its four ringed badges proudly, and this is well earned…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The latest edition of Audi’s flagship sedan breathes the clean smooth and pure styling language we have seen in recent models, with some angularity thrown in too. Proportions of this “L” version are very well maintained, and the big 20 inch wheels suit it very well, adding elegance as well as a hint of dynamic boldness.

The same refined elegance is found in the interior. The digital instrumentation shows in normal configuration two very readable clocks for revs and speed, with in the center console a shiny black touchscreen for navigation, infotainment, with driving modes and airco/ventilation settings also embodied in the same unit. The central armrest houses the usual USB slots and a wireless charging pad for your phone. Everything is very logical, comfortable and intuitive.

The large, sweeping surfaces and dashboard contours are accentuated by thin, elegant LED lighting strips, with color schemes to suit your mood. The seats were executed in Valcona leather and whirred in your chosen position as soon as you pushed the starting button.

The V6 3.0 TDI is well known to your servant as I own an A5 V6 3.0 TDI cabrio, and its sound and feel made me immediately feel at home. In the A8, this engine develops a very healthy 286 HP between 3750 and 4000 rpm and is coupled to a marvelous 8 speed automatic with tiptronic manual shift mode. The A8 is a full time quattro, with default torque split 40/60, variable between 70/30-15/85.

Torque is of course abundant, with 600 Nm being available over a very wide rev range between 1250 and 3250 rpm. Performance of this 2 ton car is – as you can expect – rather superb, with 0-100 acceleration being absolved in 5,9 seconds, and the top speed is an electronically governed 250 km/h.

The bare figures tell nothing about the absolutely effortless way this performance is achieved, and indeed the abundant and always available massive torque makes the A8 feel agile and nimble in all driving situations. Just for the record, accelerating through the gears from 80 to 120 km/h costs only 4,6 seconds, doing this in fifth gear for instance costs merely 6,1 seconds. Need we say more?

The V6 engine note can please even sporting drivers, and is of course never unduly harsh or stressed.

The engine is quite efficient, and coupled to the velvety and clever gearbox even slow city driving will deliver very reasonable consumptions in the range of 8 liters/100 km, on the open road during a tour through Holland including relativele dense traffic we reached effortlessly an average consumption between 5,6 and 6 liter/100 km. We also appreciated the coasting function when lifting the throttle at speed, and this added further to the very relaxing experience this A8 offers on the Autobahn. For a two ton automobile with this performance and smoothness, Diesel engines are impossible to beat when it comes to achieving low fuel consumptions, there is simply no way around it. This is certainly true under partial load and slow driving conditions. CO2 emissions are a very reasonable 152 g CO2/km. Considering what Bosch has in store for reducing Nox emissions drastically in the next Diesel engine generations, in my opinion, the Diesel engine is far from dead, and will continue to play a role in our mobility.

Combining velvety comfort with impeccable handling

Besides the well-honed drivetrain, perfection is also achieved when it comes to the suspension, translating in superb comfort and precise handling.

Audi continued the tradition of making the A8 a true drivers’ car, and indeed, one can throw it with spirit through fast or slow corners, the electronically controlled damping settings holding just the right value in milliseconds. In the dynamic mode, the A8 steers totally flat through corners, with the steering offering every bit of responsiveness you could whish for. Our test car also came with the dynamic four wheel steering. It has to be experienced to be believed. It is controlled by the electronic suspension platform (ESP). The new steering system approaches the steer angle and directional stability as separate issues, once again probing the boundaries of the physically possible.

At low speeds and on tight bends, steering effort is greatly reduced. But this is never allowed to unsettle it. The A8 is even unruffled by an abrupt lane change at high speed. The driver always feels intensive, finely differentiated feedback from the road.

The optional dynamic all-wheel steering combines two distinct high-tech steering systems. The dynamic steering on the front axle incorporates what is known as strain wave gearing where the ratio changes as a function of speed. The rear wheels are turned by a spindle drive and two track rods – at low speeds by up to five degrees against the direction of steering, to facilitate maneuvering and reduce the turning circle by about one meter to 11.4 meters (37.4 ft) on the A8 or 11.8 meters (38.7 ft) on the A8 L.

At medium and high speeds, the wheels are turned by up to two degrees in the direction of steering, for increased stability. Dynamic all-wheel steering matches the steering ratio optimally to the driving situation, adjusting the ratio across a range of 9.5 to 17. At the limits of driving dynamics or on surfaces that are slippery under one side of the car, dynamic all-wheel steering again stabilizes the new A8 by manipulating the steering at the front and rear axles. Wow!

We were impressed by the amount of comfort the “comfort” mode offers you, when driving at slow speeds through ancient urban cobblestoned streets and squares.

Of course, the seats are up to the task, offering excellent support and are of course electronically adjustable to suit your taste in seating comfort.

With the L version, rear leg room is of course massive, with boot space still being a quite creditable 505 liters.

Driving in this A8 is of course also a quite formidable sound experience. Our test car came with the optional Bang & Olufsen Premium Sound System, and God knows we enjoyed listening to Chet Baker for instance, “in a soulful mood”, or “Secular Hymns” from Madeleine Peyroux…  or “Islands” – the Essential Einaudi, suiting the refined character of this Audi at best. The DAB radio will also spoil you with formidable clarity.

Maneuvering the A8 in town is made a breeze with the comprehensive driving aid systems. Camera’s fore and aft will guide you, and as our test car came with the Audi side assist package, it will also warn you when you steer the car with its beautiful alloy wheels close to kerbs. Of course there is a 360° surround view of the car on the central screen when you park it…You even can see your car in 3D from any angle on the screen. With the optional park assist systems, you can not only let the Audi park itself, it does this even remote, via your smartphone!

Conclusion

Every gramme of this big sedan is well styled, honed, clevery engineered, beautifully finished and built with a sense for perfection and true craftmanship. Yet it never feels ponderous, imposing, it just breathes refined elegance. That’s what many people like about the Audi products, and this A8 strikes a very fine balance, and translates this design and engineering philosophy to the highest levels for those who want comfortable, yet refined and dynamic transport. And what’s more, the chassis and platform takes many future driving technologies, of which soon more in these columns…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

BMW performs last driving tests of its new Z4 before launch…

Long bonnet, short overhangs, low centre of gravity, soft top: the new Z4 two-seater doing its laps at the BMW test centre in Miramas in the south of France is instantly recognisable as a purebred roadster.

The new BMW Z4 is currently undergoing another particularly important stage of the process towards serial production maturity, in this case involving driving dynamics testing of a heavily disguised prototype.

Trials at the Autodrome de Miramas are focusing on fine-tuning of all drive and suspension systems.

Some dynamic handling and nimbleness is to be expected from this new Z4. Just look at the BMW Z4 M40i. A new, extremely powerful in-line 6-cylinder engine, a lowered sports suspension with electronically controlled dampers, a newly developed front axle, M light alloy wheels with mixed tyres, an M sports brake system and an electronically controlled lock in the rear axle differential create an overall package that sees this BMW M Performance model setting a benchmark for driving pleasure in the roadster segment.

“The vehicle concept of the new BMW Z4 is geared consistently towards agility and driving dynamics,” explains Jos van As, Head of Application Suspension. “The high level of body stiffness and the very rigid suspension attachment provide the perfect basis for a set-up that guarantees the performance qualities of a genuine sports car in terms of steering precision as well as longitudinal and transverse acceleration.”

Like the Nürburgring-Nordschleife, the Miramas test centre offers perfect conditions for the new BMW Z4 to demonstrate its driving dynamics potential. Used by BMW to develop and test new models for more than 30 years, the centre comprises a long asphalt oval and a motorway ring road for high-speed tests as well as slalom, serpentine and circular tracks and a number of handling courses and circuits featuring highly diverse types of surface.

These are currently being used for detailed analysis and optimization of the roadster’s acceleration, steering and brake response. For example, the final form of the adaptive M suspension as it interacts with the rear axle limited-slip differential is developed on the same circuit as is also used for testing purposes by BMW Motorsport.

The new generation Z4 will give you agile handling, spontaneity and steering precision when changing direction and will allow you to accelerate in dynamic style out of bends – without neglecting creature comfort…

Needless to say that, as an enthusiastic Z3 owner, we are very keen to get behind the wheel of this new Z4!

Hans Knol ten Bensel