We drove the new Toyota Aygo II: iconic and young as ever…

We took “our” Aygo to Paris, to the charming 7th Arrondissement, Rive Gauche, and were not disturbed by the “Yellow Vests”, who had then their first weekend of demo’s in Paris… a lot of asian people admired the Aygo: we parked it here in front of a Korean restaurant! 

We told you already many times in these columns: (sub)compact cars are so cleverly designed and built, that they are stunning examples of what (modern) automobiles can do, and they offer unique qualities when it comes to economy, agility, performance and sheer driving pleasure. When one also considers that they cost and depreciate less than bigger cars, then you will agree with us that one is well advised to take a (very) close look at them. One of these formidable cars is the Toyota Aygo. It has been with us since 2005, but has been updated in 2008 and 2012, and now its iconic X design has been made more three-dimensional, to add still more liveliness and character to the car. But also the interior and the mechanics have been revised. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We drove the new Fiat 500X in Turin

The second generation Fiat 500X stands proudly here in front of the administrative buildings of its 1919 Fiat Lignotto factory, a noble and unique setting for its iconic crossover…here painted in beautiful matte finished metallic light blue, officially dubbed Matt Jeans Blue 

Fiat is going from strength to strength with its elegant compact crossover, ranking in the top 5 in Europe and leader in Italy, and you have undoubtedly read our test report of the latest generation 500X with its marvelously efficient 1.0 litre “Firefly” petrol engine. We were very impressed by its mechanical refinement, its liveliness and frugality. This time we had the opportunity to try out the second “Firefly” engine in the range, notably the 1,3 liter 150 HP four cylinder version, mated to the 6 speed DCT dual clutch automatic transmission.

It proved to be also marvelously smooth and well up to the task. Power delivery was quite impressive indeed as was mechanical refinement and last but not least economy.

We stayed for the presentation in the NH Hotel, magnificently integrated in the original Lignotto factory building… full of elegance, history and character. 

We visited at this occasion also the original Lignotto Fiat factory building, and stood eye to eye with the grand and noble architectural and automotive tradition of the Turin brand. More about this in a following report soon, and early next year a specific visit to Turin and the Fiat factories will follow, not to forget the Agnelli’s art collection…

Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We drove the Nissan Leaf: turning the page towards E-power…

In today’s mobility, new leaves are turned. The fully E-powered car is coming of age. Just take a look at the second generation Nissan Leaf. Improved range and power, presented in an even better looking package. We were again completely charmed by the completely “zen” mobility which this latest Leaf is offering you day in day out, and tell you here more about it… 

Hans Knol ten Bensel 

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The ZOUTE GRAND PRIX ® 2018: Sun, sea and purest car pleasure…

This year’s edition of the ZOUTE GRAND PRIX ® proved once again magnificent, and not alone because of the truly beautiful weather. There was a lot to see, enjoy and drive during the four days from 4 to 7 October.

As it is becoming a wonderful tradition now, not less than four events were organized, and besides this general (pictorial) review of the 9th edition of the global ZOUTE GP® event here on these pages, we will come back to you soon, dear reader, with separate reports on each of the venues. We also participated ourselves in the ZOUTE GT TOUR® with an Alpine A110…

So stay tuned…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We participate in the ZOUTE GRAND PRIX® 2018!

Next weekend, we will participate as a co-driver in the ZOUTE GT TOUR®, in a Renault Alpine A110, with  Anja Van Der Borght behind the wheel.  She is  a celebrated lifestyle journalist @naturalbornwriters.be and co-owner of WOWtrendmag.com.   Needless to say, we are looking forward to it!

The ZOUTE GT TOUR® is one the four main events of the 2018 edition of the ZOUTE GRAND PRIX®, taking place from Thursday 4 to Sunday 7 October. The ZOUTE GT TOUR® by EY is the traditional final “rolling” event of the ZOUTE GRAND PRIX® and starts on Sunday from 7 AM onwards on the Albertplein in Knokke. It consists of a tour of some 150 km through the magnificent polders and countryside around Knokke Zoute, and as is reserved for 200 exclusive and modern GT cars (younger than 20 years), where the crisp and beautiful Alpine truly belongs.

On this tour, to which we were kindly invited to participate by Anja Van Der Borght and thanks  to the dynamic PR department of Renault Belgium Luxembourg, four special stages and slalom tests are built in. There is a so-called TRACK 1 in Knokke, TRACK 2 on BRESKENS BEACH, TRACK 3 at BRESKENS PORT and TRACK 4 will be the FASTEST 1/4 MILE® at the Graaf d’Ursellaan in Heist.

Our car will be of more standard livery, and not in this configuration, here seen at Castellet… but it will be breathtaking nonetheless!

We will thus have ample occasion to put this French thoroughbred through its paces, and of course will report on our adventures and the ZOUTE GRAND PRIX® soon in these columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

 

Orotempo 2018: what to watch for… us car enthusiasts!

We visited on September 3rd the Horology and Jewelry fair Orotempo at the hall 3 of Brussels Expo, and it proved a very interesting venue, as this show has become the epicenter of everything and everybody that matters in the Belgian watch- and jewelry sector.

The Orotempo Media Manager Pascal Dewulf walked with us around the show, and commented that they further optimized the layout of the show and the many stands to, put everything more into the spotlight. Orotempo continues to put forward a vertical product mix, which means there is something for every budget. In this edition, the core activity of the jewelry business is put into focus: offer high quality products together with an impeccable service, as well online (webshop) as offline (at the jewelry store).

Indeed, we suggest you get acquainted with the online e-commerce platform Orotempo.be. It is also a welcome asset for the jewelry stores to expand their activity into an omnichannel strategy.

On the show, we ran into some very interesting stands and distributors, such as d-design Denemarken. We were very kindly received on the stand of this Dutch distributor (www.dsigndenemarken.nl) by Mme Annika, who guided us professionally through the range of jewelry brands this well established firm represents: Trollbeads, Rabinovitch, Spirit Icons. All three Danish jewelry firms which have iconic products which appeal to the young at heart. The aim of d-design Denemarken is to work professionally with jewelry stores/sellers and provide an excellent service. Considering the professional approach we enjoyed at our visit we firmly believe they succeed… When Christmas approaches, and you would like to surprise your (female) co-driver, we will present you some interesting items out of their iconic and timeless range…

Bracelets are also very much “en vogue” for the modern man and driver, and therefore a visit on the show to II-Gemini was a must. They offer natural stone bracelets, and we are now proudly wearing one in blue Sodalite. Sodalite is a rather rare mineral, light, relatively hard yet fragile, and is named after its sodium content. Sodalite was first described in 1811 for the occurrence in its type locality in the Ilimaussaq complex, Narsaq, West Greenland. Deposits of fine material are found in Bancroft, Ontario, and Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, in Canada. Further in Litchfield, Maine, and Magnet Cove, Arkansas, in the US. The Ice River complex, near Golden, British Columbia, also contains sodalite. Wearing the stone enhances your self-esteem and confidence… and would protect you from negative energy in today’s world. We gladly wear it now every day!

II Gemini (website www.gemini-bracelets.com) offers bracelets in different ranges and many natural stones. “Modern men are now looking for authenticity, and this is what we offer”, commented regio manager for Belgium and the Netherlands, Michael Lemmens. (See photo above).

As we said, the emphasis on the show is not only on watches, but also on jewelry. We encountered a reputable family firm with a three generation long tradition in the business, Scaldis, which makes (diamond) jewelry of its own design, and which also distributes fine Italian jewelry under the brand name Grace.

We were also attracted by the square design of the David Daper watches, so much that we decided to purchase one for ourselves. We ordered it through the Orotempo.be site, and we are keen to see it delivered soon to our home address.

 

One purely Belgian designed and manufactured brand is KRNS, distributed by Cetronic Benelux & Verbatco, and we liked KRNS very much one of their latest designs, of which we present you here one in gold plated finish.

This firm also distributes amongst others clocks and batteries, and before Christmas, we will certainly come back on this…

Another reputable jewelry firm is the Amsterdam based Buddhatobuddha, and they are about to launch a new range of men’s silver bracelets, of which more in our columns in the month before Christmas, but we were also impressed by the new “Refined” collection, of which we show you here a photo below.

A sporting encounter…

At the stand of Sunrise Watch World we met managing director Giacomo Scudieri, who presented to us a watch brand which will fascinate the sporting driver, named “Scuderia”.

We will tell you more about these watches in a next article, and there you will also read more about this kind man, Giacomo Scudieri, who was… national Italian Rally champion in ’83 and in ’81, on a 3 liter Porsche Group 4 or 3,3 liter Group B respectively. So stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

 

We drove the Fiat 124 Spider “S-Design” : dreams are made of this…

It is an evergreen wish for everyone who ever sat behind the wheel of a car: driving an open two-seater on gorgeous summer roads. The dynamic PR people of FCA Belgium made our dreams come true, when they offered us to test their pristine white 124 Fiat Spider, which now comes in a new “S-Design” version of the already totally iconic 124 Spider, which saw life two years ago at the fiftieth birthday of the original. This gem marries the very best of both worlds: the zeal of perfection and workmanship so typical for the orient when it comes to building this car, combining it with the panache and passion of Italian designers in shaping the contours and curves, last but not least adding to it the sheer genius of the engineers making the heart of a car: its engine. The result is an open two-seater car which is nothing less than stunning, offering incomparable driving pleasure in its class, and leaving you with a timeless iconic classic, which you can pass on to future generations…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Even more zest and panache…

This “S-Design” version has been presented on the latest Geneva Salon, and emphasizes still more the excellent “Gran Turismo” qualities of the 124 Spider.

The “Lusso” version became an extra Mopar® treatment. The roll bar, screen surroundings and the side mirror bodies have a smooth, polished finish, and the car is also shod with special 17 inch alloy wheels of very smart design, which adds an extra purposeful sportiness to this spider. On the rear end shines a three-colored logo, there is a sporty red striping running across the sides of the 124. The seating position has also been moved somewhat closer to the rear axle, and the contours of the dashboard are accentuated with clearly visible stitching.

A thoroughbred heart

Of course we expected quite a lot form the thoroughbred four cylinder petrol engine under the bonnet of this 124 Spider, and indeed it certainly delivered. Remember, Ferrari and Maserati blood is running through the veins of the Fiat group, and this certainly shows in the behavior and power delivery of this 140 hp 1368 cc unit.

Pushing the starting knob will already embalm your ears in a thoroughbred growl, and even at low revs – when driving away from cold – it lets you hear its noble pedigree. It sports sequential fuel injection, Fiat’s unique Multi-Air valve system, and a turbo running at up to 2.49 bar pressure.

When the engine has warmed up, it emits a beautiful staccato when you rev it, and this it certainly does. The engine pulls nicely at low revs, let there be no mistake, and the ample torque lets you potter through dense urban traffic at anything between 1500 and 2000 rpm, which delivers very nice urban consumption figures, which in practice boil down to around 8 liters/100 km.

But of course the real fun starts when you floor the throttle at let the engine breath beyond 4000 rpm. Marvelous accelerations in the gears really warm your sporting heart, and the slick gearbox with short and fast gearchange throws adds to the pleasure. This is superb sporting driving in the truly classic sense, and we thoroughly love it.

Under full power, the 124 Spider is of course a quite fast performer. 0 to 100 km/h is reached in merely 7.5 seconds, top speed is a good 215 km/h. Remember, this car is 1050 kg light.

But the bare figures don’t tell the whole story. It is how the whole car behaves when you drive it with spirit which brings the true magic into the driving experience. And here the chassis and suspension designers have done a fantastic job, and this is certainly an aspect where the collaboration between Mazda and Fiat has paid off. This is one of the finest handling cars we have come across in this class, and compared to any car for that matter. It steers with precision and without any perceptible roll, it just eats corners, gives ample feedback when you drive it close to the adhesion limit, is utterly stable and predictable. It awakens the better driver in you, and lets you rediscover what sporting driving is all about.

It is in our humble opinion also one of the crucial reasons why this car is being designed and built, and will be with us forever, in whatever (propulsion) version. It will always be with us, in roughly the same chassis and external dimensions, with the same handling characteristics, so much is certain.

The superb engineering and ingenuity which went into chassis also translates into the way it behaves on the road: even on the worst Belgian pavés, not the slightest rattle or judder will upset you, the car feels rock solid throughout.

All this is not at the expense of suspension comfort. This 124 Spider will not surprise you with any harshness, and even on well-worn secondary roads, you and your passenger never feel uncomfortable. True Gran Turismo qualities therefore for this 124 Spider? You bet… Long distance driving doesn’t cost your life and limbs at the pump either. Reasonably high top gearing, a small frontal surface area and an efficient engine all sees to that. The manufacturer quotes 8.5 liter for urban, 5.1 for extra urban and 6.4 liter for motorway consumption. (EU NEDC figures). CO2 emissions are quoted at 148 g/km.

A lot depends of course on your driving style, and here we kick an open door, we know…

An Ideal driving position

As long as you are not the very tallest amongst us, this 124 Spider will fit you like a glove. The very lay-out of this car does not allow you a very wide range in height adjustment, as it is limited by the tallness of the canvas top, with also the cabin platform and transverse sills limiting   fore and aft movement, but it is good to know that the steering wheel can be adjusted both vertically and horizontally over quite a wide range.

As said, an ideal seating position is soon found, with all the handles and knobs sitting snugly at your fingertips. Instrumentation and dashboard layout are virtually identical to the Mazda MX-5, and are a well-honed fit. The same can be said for the knobs and functions on the steering wheel, which took very little to get used to again, as we took the MX-5 earlier this year on an extended (wintery) early spring tour.

It is all very well thought out. On this “S-Design” version, we were even more spoilt in the sound department. The 124 came here with a Bose sound system, and indeed, if you would ever (hard to imagine…) get tired of the superb engine sound, this system has also everything in store to soothe your ears.

Surprisingly practical

One would think intuitively that a two-seater Spider is not your best mount for everyday use, but this 124 proved us again totally wrong, as did the MX5 by the way. Driving it with the top down even for the shortest stretch is perfectly possible, as the canvas top flicks down in one single arm movement, and it needs only a gentle push from your wrist to klick the canvas hood into place behind your head. A large handle above the central glove box between the seat backrests will unlock the canvas top out of its open position, and in one swoop with your right arm you pull the canvas hood back over your head in the closed position. Easy rider: it just needs the slightest form of training, and you perform this open and close routine like a movie star…

To assure an excellent cabin climate in all circumstances, the S-Design version has automatic air-conditioning.

The boot space seems rather small on paper with a good 140 liter, but it is in practice eminently useable, as it is rather deep and boxy. It takes easily two large bags, and this is enough for him and her for a fortnightly trip.

There is no visible storage room in the cabin, understandably as this is an open car, but as said there is a lockable storage bin between the seat backrests.

Safety has of course not been forgotten, as the S-Design comes with four airbags, and there is a zest of luxury with leather seats and a leather covered steering wheel.

Conclusion

If you want to experience car driving in its purest, timelessly classic sense to the full, then this Fiat 124 Spider has to be your mount. In this respect, nothing comes even close in its (price) class. But it is not only the way it drives, it is also the way it looks, which has stolen our heart. Well proportioned, its beauty will not diminish with age, just as its iconic predecessor.

On top of all that, it is incredibly well made and finished, rolling off the same production line as the MX-5, and it has an absolute jewel of an engine, which will you let cherish this car even more. This car belongs on your driveway or (apartment) garage, to be enjoyed throughout your motoring life, and – if you are a bit careful with it- to pass it on to future generation(s)…

 

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

We drove the Fiat 500 L: your perfect travel companion

The stylish 500 L in front of the Amphitheatre in Nîmes…

We were always quite charmed by the clever rounded shape and styling of the Fiat 500 L. Its curves and lines are drawn by Italian designers which have an uncanny genial talent to hit those ideal, timeless proportions. Indeed, this compact people carrier will still hit the tune of the times within say, fifteen or twenty years. It came to us this time with a restyled front end, clad in charming Donatello bronze metallic and a black gleaming roof which sported a large glass panorama ceiling. We took it on an extensive continental tour through France, and it filled our car loving hearts with joy, every meter we drove it…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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A feast for the senses: we visited BMW Artville in Knokke

BMW’s very first Art Car which also actually raced: the BMW 3.0 CSL created by Alexander Calder… 

Summer is the time to let the creative spirits flow, and enjoy nature and art. An ideal time to regenerate body and mind. Besides enjoying the outdoors, enriching experiences like a visit to exhibitions and art galleries are always firmly on the agenda of your servant. Therefore a visit to the BMW Artville in Knokke (see our previous report in these columns) was a must, and we let you enjoy it here…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Jan Fabre takes centre stage…

An “autoportrait”  sculpture of Jan Fabre himself adorns the BMW Artville beach…

As we announced already in our previous report, artist Jan Fabre showed a very intriguing “performance” film, displayed on five different screens simultaneously, titled “Schande übers ganze Erdenreich”. The performance of priestess Stella Höttler is very gripping indeed. For photos of this performance film we refer to our previous report in these columns. The two turtles she carries in both hands during her ecstatic performances are for Jan Fabre the “oracle stones” because their shields carry the weight and the memory of centuries. Especially the shield is an object of fascination that breathes life into dream images. The shield and its geometric patterns were already used in the Oracle of Delphi…

A landmark on the Knokke beach: BMW Artville 

In this performance, “Schande übers ganze Erdenreich”, the perforer implores the gods to teach mankind to treat the inheritance of the world more kindly.

Jan Fabre is fascinated by the relations man-animal and animal-man and by the analogy in their nomadic nature. As an artist, he wants to put into language the mystery of the cycle of death, decay, birth and renaissance. In this quest, he uses as his inner compass the synergy between his personal instinct, intelligence and intuition. He constantly searches the changing face of existence.

This is also seen in his series of fourteen new skulls, clad in ballpoint ink, which hold the skeletons of a bird or animal in their mouth. It evokes the “Blue Hour” of Jean-Henri Fabre, where at daybreak the blue night is chased away. Just as the night is eternally changed into day, life is also a constant stream of (re)birth and death.

‘BMW Artville – Jan Fabre curated by BOZAR’ announces two future projects of the artist in BOZAR. “Schande übers Ganze Erdenreich!” takes place in the framework of the Theodoor van Loon exhibition (December 2018-January 2019). The art works from the cycle “The Hour Blue” are the harbinger of Fabre’s solo exhibition “The years of the Hour Blue” (May-September 2021).

The BMW Art Car Collection

On BMW Artville, BMW Belux presents two cars from the BMW ART CAR Collection. We stood admiringly eye to eye with the BMW 3.0 CSL created by Alexander Calder (1975).

Alexander Calder’s design was executed by car painting specialist W. Maurer…

Using the creativity of an artist on a (racing) car was the brainchild of racing driver, art lover and auctioneer Hervé Poulain, who actually raced this car in Le Mans, together with the American Sam Posey and Jean Guichet. After 7 hours, the car had to give up due to a defective prop shaft. The car was never raced again and has been on diplay since then.

The unique collection of BMW Art Cars consists today of 19 cars, designed by the following artists: Alexander Calder (1975), Roy Lichtenstein (1976), Frank Stella (1977), Andy Warhol (1979), Ernst Fuchs (1982), Robert Rauschenberg (1986), Ken Done (1989), Michael Jagamara Nelson (1989), Matazo Kayama (1990), César Manrique (1990), A.R. Penck (1991), Esther Mahlangu (1991), Sandro Chia (1992), David Hockney (1995), Jenny Holzer (1999), Olafur Eliasson (2007), Jeff Koons (2010), John Baldessari (2016) en Cao Fei with her BMW M6 GT3.(2017). Artists for the BMW Art Car Project are chosen by a panel of international judges.

According to Thomas Girst, who has been in charge of the BMW Art Cars project since 2004, the purpose of the project has changed over time: “In the beginning the cars were raced. There wasn’t much of a public relations effort around them… Since then, some of the Art Cars have been used in advertisements to show that BMW is a player in the arts.”

Besides the stunning i8 roadster, BMW Belux Corporate Communications Officer Saschia De Rudder kindly showed us two forthcoming BMW models in preview, which formed also a highlight of this artful experience on the sunny Knokke beach and stylish BMW Artville premises… We just let you enjoy the photos here!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

 

 

120 years of Renault is celebrated this summer at Brussels Autoworld.

If you visit Brussels this summer, know that Europe’s capital has something in store for car lovers. Indeed, the Brussels Museum Autoworld has opened its doors every day of the week until September 2 to show you the magnificent history of Renault.

Pre-war glory: A 1937 4,1 litre 6 cylinder Vivasport… just dream away behind this sporting version of the Renault Vivastella sedan

We were present at the opening reception, and show you here some photos of the formidable and iconic cars which are on display, and we lift a brief veil on their history…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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