Citroën sells 41% more in China, and launches in Beijing a new C4 Aircross SUV…

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A new C4 Aircross for the Chinese market…

Car lovers like me vividly remember the publicity photos where little red painted AX Citroëns drove on the Chinese wall, amply showing that the brand with the double chevron always had a heart for the Chinese market. It seems this love does not remain unanswered: Citroën chalked up an impressive sales gain in this continent, and China is now its second biggest market, after France(!).

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Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We drove the new VW T-Roc 1.0 TSI 115 HP Style: A car standing out like a rock…

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VW has an enviable reputation of building rock solid cars, which truly stand the test of time. They just launched another one here, aptly named T-ROC. Standing strong on its longer legs, it carries state of the art 3-cylinder petrol engine technology, together with a host of very clever infotainment and other electronics. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Good Mazda news at the Geneva Show…

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The 88th Geneva International Motor Show will see also a fair amount of Mazda news. Indeed, the new Mazda6 Wagon (see photo here above) will make its world debut, and there is also the European debut of the new Mazda6 Sedan, alongside with two stunning concept vehicles -the Mazda VISION COUPE and Mazda KAI CONCEPT.

For the technology buffs, it is good to know that Mazda will show its SKYACTIV-X next-generation gasoline engine. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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New Mercedes C- Class Saloon and Estate in Geneva…

Mercedes-Benz C-Klasse Limousine AMG-Line, Exterieur: designo selenitgrau magno, Interieur: Leder platinweiß pearl/schwarz Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan AMG line, exterior: designo selenite grey magno, interior: platinium white pearl/black

Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan AMG line, exterior: designo selenite grey magno, interior: platinium white pearl/black

Mercedes unveils at this year’s Geneva Motor Show in a world premiere the new C-Class in Saloon and Estate guise with new petrol and diesel engines, and as plug-in hybrid models. Important news for the brand with the three pointed star, as the C-Class is the most successful model series from Mercedes-Benz: The brand sold a combined total of over 415,000 Saloon and Estate models worldwide in 2017.

Now in its fifth year of production, the design of the exterior and interior gets a stylish makeover. The electronic architecture is also completely new. Options include a fully digital instrument display and multimedia systems featuring customized information and music offerings. The assistance systems likewise benefit from the new electronic architecture and are now on a par with those of the S Class. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Julien Mampaey passed away: our very personal memories…

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A formidable figure in Belgian motor sport has recently left us. We have known him for a very long time. Actually, when I lived with my parents as a young law student, I was the happy and proud owner of a dark blue second hand beetle, and Julien Mampaey serviced it with dedication.

He owned a small Esso service station at the corner of the Fruithoflaan in Berchem, Antwerp; right across our apartment, and I came to appreciate his mechanical talents. But I was also struck by his generous enthusiasm, and soon we embarked in hours long conversations about cars, me telling him bold stories about fast rally and racing cars, as I went with my father often to the Zolder circuit to see the races there. I entertained him with my stories, when I needed an hour or so break from my studies, and he was listening with awe while of course he continued to work and service the cars for his clients. His interest was awakened, and I decided to coach him somewhat more and gave him copies of the German magazine “Auto Motor & Sport”, which he read feverishly after a hard day’s work in a nice warm bath.

He devoured then everything there was to know about Alpina BMW’s, which were then all the rage. His eyes lightened up when he told enthusiastically about what he had read. Soon his gold metallic 1100 cc Renault 8 Major had to go. In its place came an orange second hand BMW 2002, with matt black accents around the bonnet. He decided to test his talents, go to Zolder and race it. “I put one litre of oil more in the sump than prescribed, so the engine gets oil in the corners”, he said proudly. He made its first successes, got bitten by the bug, and the rest of the story is well known.

There we the glorious victories of the Juma team in the Spa-Francorchamps 24 hours, which his team won in 1977, 1982 and 1983.  One one of these victorious races, I vividly remember a pitstop where quick work had to be done on the engine. I stood in the Juma  pits, was very close to the action. Actually, the radiator was leaking and had to be replaced. Not a second was to be lost. Of course, no easy thing on a red hot racing engine. Here, the immense bravery and commitment of Julien Mampaey clearly showed. With boiling water splashing all around, he grabbed the radiator both hands, then unbolted the hoses together with the other mechanics. He gave the brave example, as a true team leader should.  He didn’t hesitate to come very close to the red hot exhaust manifold too. The job was done in no time, the engine growled again, and the car shot away from the pits, towards victory.

He had started the JUMA team up in 1975, and raced right away to victory with a 530iUS. The name of the team got even more famous when in 1998 his son Bart Mampaey achieved the last victory for BMW in the touring car championship at the wheel of a BMW 320i. Bart had then founded already his own R(acing)B(art) M(ampaey)  racing team. Julien Mampaey and his team had also won the Belgian Championship with the BMW 535i, with Jean-Michel Martin, the father of Maxim at the wheel. Today, Maxim drives as a BMW Motorsport pilot in the BRM team of…Bart Mampaey.

Julien Mampaey was a man of passion, with a generous heart, which he devoted to cars and motorsport, to family and friends.

His daughter Pascal, which I remember as a small child in the Esso shop, now runs the succesful BMW JUMA concession in Mechelen together with her husband Gunther Van Lent. It is heartwarming to see the work of this valiant man continued, and his name living on.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

 

E-discovery tour: we drove the new BMW 530e iPerformance, and tested the Shuffle recharging point of outdoor lighting specialist Schréder.

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E-power in synergy: The BMW 530e  iPerformance parked in front of the Schréder R&D centre in Liège.

E-mobility is set to conquer our (mega)cities, and car manufacturers are revamping their model range to prepare for the electric age. BMW is indeed also at the forefront of this development with it’s I-drive range, and also with the plug-in hybrid iPerformance models, which combine combustion engines with electric power. The latest 5-series comes now with a 530e iPerformance, and we were keen to drive it.

But that is not all. The dynamic PR people of BMW Belux Group decided to combine the presentation of the 530i Performance with a visit to the Belgian R & D Centre of Schréder in Liège, where we could see how the cars were charged by their clever 11 or 22kW electric vehicle (EV) charger, incorporated in the multi-functional Shuffle streetlight column, of which more here below.

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Your servant pulling out the socket at the Schréder “Shuffle” modular lighting/recharging pole… 

Got curious? Just read on…

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

 

 

Giulia is queen on Nürburgring… and on the road.

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Presently, we are testing the marvelous Giulia, in 136 HP Multijet Diesel guise, and besides the very willing engine and impressive auto box, the chassis really betrays the out and out thoroughbred character of this Alfa.

It certainly awakens the better driver in you, and this must have been the same for Alfa driver Fabio Francia. He took the wheel of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, and let all the 503 horses of the V6 engine loose on the Eifel tarmac. The result is a legendary 7 minutes 32 seconds lap time over the Nordschleife, all for you to be seen on You Tube, we give you here the link, kindly transmitted to us by Wim Willems, Press Officer at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Belgium.

We suggest you enjoy it all, just revel by the furious V6 sound, the lightning fast gear changes of the 8 speed automatic transmission, shifting gears in just 150 milliseconds in race mode…

Of course, soon we will present you a full test report of this Giulia!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Audi World premiere in Detroit: the pinnacle of the Q5 model series with the SQ5 3.0 TFSI

Static photo Colour: Misano Red
Static photo Colour: Misano Red

Audi presents the new Audi SQ5 at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. The sportiest member of the Q5 model series embodies more than ever the emotional concept of the practical SUV with the latest technology. It’s turbocharged, 3.0 TFSI offers delightful performance… Just read more below

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Second Nissan Futures event focuses on autonomous driving and unveils bold uses for electric vehicle batteries…

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Nissan had autonomous little robots running around in the Barcelona registration hall of the Futures event… 

We already reported extensively about the first Nissan Futures event in London, and Nissan came in Barcelona up with an encore: this time it revealed the results of Europe’s most comprehensive study into the social and economic impact of autonomous drive.

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It amply showed how Nissan looks progressively into the future, and indeed Nissan has also further bold plans and applications of E-energy up its sleeve: Nissan and Eaton announced in expansion of their xStorage Home portfolio to include a range of six products, with pre-orders being opened in several European countries.

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The conference was held in Nissan’s Barcelona factory premises…

There is still more: xStorage Home to be complemented by xStorage Buildings as Nissan, The Mobility House and Eaton prepare to power up Amsterdam ArenA with electric vehicle batteries…

We tell you here more about all this, just read further.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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