We drove the new Opel Insignia Grand Sport: affordable excellence

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The new Insignia has stylish looks, here in Magnetic Silver with OPC pack for  the exterior…

When Opel launches a successor to its stylish flagship which was “car of the year” in 2009 and found 900.000 buyers, you can reckon it is something special. The new Opel Insignia Grand Sport and Sports Tourer recently displayed their qualities publicly for the first time when they made their premiere at the recent Geneva Motor Show, and the dynamic Opel PR team in Belgium invited us for a first drive at their magnificent Insignia Center in Zaventem. We drove for you two Grand Sport versions, one with the 136 HP 1,6 l CDTI diesel with the 6 speed auto box, and then the 6 speed manual 1,5 liter petrol engined 165 HP Turbo. We were very impressed by its mechanical refinement, its comfort, looks, ergonomics, and last but not least very entertaining handling.

Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Alfa took centre stage in the 2017 Targa Florio Classic…

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The 101st edition of the legendary “Targa Florio”, the world’s oldest surviving car race, was held in Sicily from 20 to 23 April. Originally conceived, funded and organised by Palermo magnate Vincenzo Florio for the purpose of establishing a “practical and precise criterion for assessing the travelling car”, the race has been held in various forms ever since 1906. Run in its modern form by the Palermo Automobile Club in association with its national parent organisation, the event involves three competitions, held simultaneously: “Targa Florio Rally”, “Targa Florio Historic Rally” and “Targa Florio Classic.

Alfa Romeo and Abarth are participating as Main Sponsors, with selected important cars from the Group’s past to star on the island’s roads in the Targa Florio Classic.

Alfa Romeo recorded some of the finest achievements in its racing history at the Targa Florio by winning 10 overall victories, 3 second places, 7 third places and 10 fastest laps. As well as this amazing tally, the brand also holds two records: for consecutive victories (6 wins from 1930 to 1935) and for first and second finishes in the same year (five times). This is not to mention the many class wins, with the Giulietta SZ and the Giulia GTA, TZ and TZ2.

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To celebrate this illustrious racing history, Alfa Romeo is taking part in the Targa Florio Classic with four splendid cars from its Museo Storico Alfa Romeo – La macchina del tempo at Arese.

We just tell you here a bit more about those cars…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Giulietta SZ (1960)

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One of the star attractions in the regularity competition for historic cars that will pass through key Sicilian locations with links to the famous race will be the 1960 Giulietta SZ. It is a second-series model with the distinctive “cut-off rear” (or Kamm tail) that easily achieves 200 km/h thanks to its amazingly efficient aerodynamics. Under the bonnet, a straight four, 1290 cc engine able to deliver 100 HP).

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Giulia Sprint Speciale (1963)

The Giulia Sprint Speciale was an evolution – with 1,600 cc twin camshaft engine – of the Giulietta version of the same name, designed by Franco Scaglione for the Bertone carriage-works on the car’s short-wheelbase chassis. It is one of his loveliest creations: long and wide (actually larger than the sedan), the Giulietta Sprint Speciale is an extremely low, streamlined coupé with sleek, curvy lines.

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The absence of bumpers and its large “shark mouth” radiator immediately gave it dream car status. But this sophisticated design was the outcome of meticulous aerodynamic research, which produced its low nose and distinctive cut-off rear. Performance was very impressive: its 1570 cc longitudinal front engine delivered 113 HP and powered the Giulia SS to a top speed of 191 km/h.

Giulia GTA (1965)

Of the Sixties Alfa Romeo models dearest to the hearts of the brand’s fans, the Giulia Sprint GTA, undisputed queen of the racing scene, enjoys a very special status. Its line is virtually identical to that of the standard production “GT” cars with bodywork by Bertone: the “A” in the name stands for “Alleggerita”, or “Lightweight”, pointing to its most significant difference from the standard Sprint GT.

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The steel bodywork was replaced by ultra-light alloy panels and – thanks to the elimination of the antidrum panels, the paring down of the equipment and the use of 14” magnesium wheels – this cut the car’s weight by more than 200 kg, giving a total of 745 kg compared to the 950 kg of the road Sprint GT. The 1570 cc twin camshaft engine was also modified to increase its power to 115 HP, for a top speed of over 185 km/h. The Museum’s car still has a road setup, which differs from the Sprint GT in just a few details, including the simplified handles, the lighter badge, the front air inlets, the alloy wheels and the special interior.

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1600 Spider “Duetto” (1966)

The 1600 Spider “Duetto” first appeared in 1966 and surprised everyone with its unusual, unconventional design by Pininfarina, quite different from other versions of the Giulia range due to its low nose and tapered “cuttlefish bone” tail, almost the opposite of the sedan’s trademark cut-off rear. Its mechanics were derived from the Giulia Sprint GT, with power boosted to 109 HP at 6000 rpm and wheelbase shortened to 225 cm: its performance and driving pleasure were firmly at the top of its class, with a maximum speed of 182 km/h, rear-wheel drive and independent-wheel suspensions. The Duetto’s rise to international fame was assisted by its unforgettable appearance in the film “The Graduate”, in which it was driven by Dustin Hoffman. It was produced in four series and various versions up until 1994: a very long career.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

 

New Alfa Romeo Stelvio receives two more remarkable engines…

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In the EMEA area, orders can now be placed for the 180 HP 2.2 Diesel with automatic 8-speed transmission and rear wheel drive, letting you enjoy power in iconic Alfa Romeo style.

The new engine is clean, with CO2 emissions of only 124 g/km.

Some markets also see the debut of the 200 HP 2.0 Turbocharged petrol unit combined with automatic 8-speed transmission and Q4 all-wheel drive.

Just read more below…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Citroën gives its new C5 Aircross again a legendary ride…

William CROZES@AUTOMOBILES CITROËN
William CROZES@AUTOMOBILES CITROËN

Citroën shows at the 2017 Shanghai Motor Show its New-Generation SUV, the C5 Aircross. Directly inspired from the Aircross Concept, unveiled in Shanghai in 2015, it combines bold design with an interior space focused on the well-being of each passenger: the brand with the double chevron calls it a “People Minded SUV”, human-oriented  with generous dimensions for all passengers.

But there is more: the C5 Aircross is a big milestone in the Citroën Advanced Comfort® programme with the World Premiere of the “Progressive Hydraulic CushionsTM” suspension, delivering again the legendary and a unique smooth comfort of suspension that is typically Citroën.

William CROZES@AUTOMOBILES CITROËN
William CROZES@AUTOMOBILES CITROËN

Scheduled for launch in China in the second half of the year, and at the end of 2018 in Europe, the new C5 Aircross is a major asset in Citroën’s international offensive in 2017.

Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Following the C-Aircross Concept presented at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, heralding the C3 Aircross SUV in Europe for the end of 2017, Citroën is continuing its offensive in the SUV segment with the global reveal of the new C5 Aircross.

Copyright William CROZES @ AUTOMOBILES CITROËN
Copyright William CROZES @ AUTOMOBILES CITROËN

Targeting global markets, this SUV marks a new stage in the deployment of the Brand’s product strategy, but adding its very own flair to it..

Dynamic design

The C5 Aircross has robust, muscular exterior lines, a high bonnet, 2.73 m wheelbase, short overhang, and flowing organic lines with strong graphic features. Inside, it provides a sense of power and space, thanks to its robust dashboard with a horizontal layout for greater width, its welcoming seats, its wide and tall central console, and its soft and warm materials enhancing the feeling of protection and comfort.

Unique comfort

The C5 is innovating in the iconic Citroën way. It embodies a significant step in the Citroën Advanced Comfort® programme.  Taking advantage of the EMP2 platform, it delivers intelligence of architecture and well-being on board. To go further C5 Aircross is the first vehicle to be equipped with the new “Progressive Hydraulic CushionsTM” suspension, improving damping quality for an exceptional level of ride comfort, that is typically Citroën. On board, it is a genuine invitation to travel for every passenger: the space is clear and full of light thanks to the opening panoramic sunroof, the front seats have heating and massage functions, the welcoming rear seats offer leading leg room, and the atmosphere is purified thanks to air quality treatment.

Copyright William CROZES @ AUTOMOBILES CITROËN
Copyright William CROZES @ AUTOMOBILES CITROËN

Equipped with a clear and understandable 12.3” TFT digital cluster and a capacitive 8” HD touchscreen, C5 Aircross features an array of driving aids, including Active Safety Brake, Active Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control with a Stop function… Endowed with Grip Control and Hill Assist Descent Control to strike off the beaten path in complete safety, the C5 Aircross will also be the first Citroën available with PHEV plug-in hybrid technology.

Unveiled at the Shanghai Motor Show, as said above, the C5 Aircross will be launched in China in October 2017. It is scheduled to be launched in Europe at the end of 2018.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

 

 

 

We drove the Kia Rio T-GDI 120 Hp: the delight of agile power…

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We have a weak spot for compact cars, as they are wonderfully nimble, easy and entertaining to steer through dense traffic and over curvy roads, and hold increasingly their own on fast motorways. Such a car is also the Kia Rio, equipped with marvelous new three cylinder engine, and a lot more excellent qualities. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Kia Rio T-GDI 120 Hp: the delight of agile power…”

We drove the Mazda3 III Hatchback 1.5 Skyactiv-G: cleverness reaches for the sky…

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We were already quite impressed by Mazda’s SKyactiv combustion technology, and the latest Mazda3 we tested convinced us even more. Its 1,5 liter petrol engine is not only smooth and powerful, it displays a frugality beyond belief. Besides that, the car itself is also worth every penny, when it comes to looks, ergonomics, last but not least the way it drives and handles. Just read further.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We drove the Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI S Tronic Quattro 252 HP: the magic of four rings continues…

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Audis are engineered and build to perfection, and this simple fact is again convincingly shown by the latest Q5 we drove here for you. Audi has produced some marvelous petrol engines, and the stratified fuel injection concept has been tried and tested in Le Mans racing by the brand already years ago. This vast (racing) experience shows of course in the series product. This 2 liter petrol engine truly stands out, as does the whole car by the way. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI S Tronic Quattro 252 HP: the magic of four rings continues…”

Audi has plans for two new Q models over the next two years…

Static photo, Color: Krypton Orange
The new Q8 looks quite dramatic in Krypton Orange, and will seduce many…

Audi is to expand its portfolio with two new Q-models and has also told us where they will be built: Production of the Audi Q8 will start in Bratislava (Slovakia) in 2018 and the first Audi Q4 will drive off the assembly line in Győr (Hungary) in 2019.

With the Audi Q8, the brand will open up a new segment for its top-end models. The premium SUV is executed in a coupe style, combining space with appealing design. It will offer of course the latest in driver assistance and infotainment systems. Audi will produce the model in Bratislava as of 2018. As you know, the Audi Q7 has already been produced at the Slovakian plant since 2005.

Meanwhile, the second generation of the large SUV is in production there, as an S version and as the Q7 e-tron plug-in hybrid.

In 2019, production of the Audi Q4 will start at Audi Hungaria in Győr. With this model, the brand is entering the segment of compact utility vehicles (CUVs). The very sporty Audi Q4 with its typical coupe-style silhouette will be positioned between the Audi Q3 and Q5. Remarkable is also that from 2018 onwards, Audi Hungaria will also be responsible for production of the Audi Q3 compact SUV, which until then will continue to be produced in Martorell, Spain.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

We drove the Toyota C-HR: hybrid urban beauty…

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Toyota gives its hybrid range extra zest with a dramatically styled urban newcomer: the C-HR. We not only liked its shape and contours, we also loved the way it performs and drives, amply proving the vast experience Toyota has gained in building petrol engined hybrids. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Our cars: soon we will drive our Volvo 850 estate from Volvo Ghent to Torslanda…

 

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Faithful readers know that our Volvo 850 estate is already quite some years with us. If you missed it, just read our report on our previous site autoprova.net. Besides, we let you look again at the photos of our Volvo here, and you will agree it still looks pretty good indeed.

It still soldiers on reliably, and recently passed the official Belgian technical control and safety test again with flying colours, living proof of the saying that “Volvo’s are for life”.

To reward it for its two decades of faithful service, we decide to take it from the Ghent factory, where our was born in 1995, to the Torslanda plant, where 850 Volvo’s were then also assembled. This will be done in a few weeks from the moment of writing, and we will open on our site a “travelvlog”, so we can report you extensively on this trip. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Why we love the Volvo 850…

Like many other Volvo 850 enthusiasts, we like it first and foremost for the way it drives and performs. It was built on the so-called Volvo P80 platform, which was engineered for mid-size sedans with front wheel drive and was adapted to all wheel drive. This platform was used from 1991 to 2005, and built not less than 1,3 million times. It was seen also in the S70 and V70, and with modifications by TWR, also in the C70 coupé.

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It still feels quite modern, with its excellent handling and surefootedness. Mc. Pherson struts are front, with Volvo’s patented Deltalink suspension for the rear axle. Despite its size, a total length of 4,7 meters, the turning circle is merely 10,2 meter. So it is quite maneuverable also in town…

Its interior is quite spacious with of course excellent Volvo seats, with outstanding ergonomic comfort, fit for very long trips indeed. Another forte is the comfortable suspension.

The heart of any car is its engine, and this is where the 850 truly counts. It is the five cylinder version of Volvo’s modular engine family, which it started to build in 1990 right up to…2016. Now you know why the engine of our Volvo still feels so modern! This engine generation was built in 4, 5 and 6 cylinder versions, with capacities ranging from 1,6 to 2,9 liters. Both cylinder head and block are aluminum, and it has DOHC valvetrain, of course.

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Our 850 estate has the B5252FS engine, which is a 2.4 L (2,435 cc) straight-five. It is naturally aspirated and it is equipped with Siemens Fenix 5.2 engine management. Bore is 83 mm (3.3 in) and stroke is 90 mm (3.5 in) with a compression ratio of 10.0:1. It is naturally aspirated, and delivers 144 PS (106 kW; 142 hp) at 5400 rpm with 206 N·m (152 lb·ft) of torque at 3600 rpm. It is coupled to the five speed manual, ideally suited to the engine’s characteristics. Indeed, this unit likes to rev a bit, and the close ratio gears keep it beautifully on song.

Performance is quite inspiring, with acceleration from 0 to 100 in 10 seconds, top speed being 205 kmh. Despite its boxy shape, the 850 is quite aerodynamic, with the 850 R, the superfast Turbo version, being equipped with a rear spoiler, having a drag coefficient of merely 0,29 (!). Our 850 is therefore a quite fast cruiser, keeping up easily with anything that rolls out of the factory doors nowadays.

The styling of the 850 is pretty timeless, and the car is very well proportioned, certainly the estate version. The masterful hand of designer Jan Wilsgaard, who was the chief designer of Volvo Cars from as early as 1950 to 1990, was responsible for all this.  He designed the Amazon, 145, 760 and 850 series, and also the iconic estate versions of these cars. He is also responsible for the beautiful P1800 ES. No small wonder that he was one of the twenty-five designers nominated for Car Designer of the Century…

The engine was built by Volvo Powertrain AB (a company within the Volvo Group) for Volvo Cars. It saw life in one of the world’s largest automotive foundries in Swedish Skövde, Volvo being one of Skövde’s largest employers. Skövde is situated some 150 km northeast of Gothenburg, between Sweden’s two largest lakes, Vänern and Vättern.The plant is also known worldwide for being AB Volvo’s biggest producer of industrial diesel engines (Volvo Powertrain AB also produces blocks, cylinder heads and flywheels as well as engine mounts and disk brakes).

The companies together produced over half a million engines per year in Skövde and combined had over 4000 permanent employees (2100 employees at Volvo Powertrain and 2008 at Volvo Skövde in 2011).

Soon we will tell you more about the route we have chosen for the trip, and who we will meet both in Ghent and Torslanda plants…

Hans Knol ten Bensel