We drove the Lexus GSF: ultimate sportiness in a velvet glove…

 

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Far eastern shores never fail to fascinate and bewilder us… and the people who live there. Take the Japanese. With a passion very much of their own, they proudly go for perfection, with an uncanny discipline and perseverance.

This clearly shows in the cars they create and build, like the Lexus. The brand always stood for luxury and utter mechanical refinement. But when the Lexus engineers decide to take the sporting route, they also go all the way…

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The result is a car with unseen dramatic sportiness. Every meter you drive it is an unforgettable experience.

One is bewildered by the superb handling of this five seater sedan and the sound and fury of a thoroughbred 5 liter V8 engine. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We drove the Abarth 124 Spider and the 595 Competizione: the sound, panache and fury of the scorpion…

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Cars with Italian red blood in their veins still exist. Thoroughbred automobiles which emit the most wonderful sound at the slightest blip of the throttle. Cars which seem to move even when they stand still. Cars where you almost would die for just to sit behind the wheel and drive them to the limit. With your right hand at the gearlever and the engine just screaming away. Looking at the beautiful instruments and enjoying the thrust, speed, smell and staccato sound. These cars are made since 1949. They are called Abarths. And they are getting more ravishing than ever, and seem only to grow in their unique magic. We drove the latest, much improved edition of the iconic 595, in the wonderful “Competizione” version, and last but not least, the Abarth 124 Spider, every bit as pure and impressive as its famous predecessor, which was born in 1972.

 Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Abarth 124 Spider and the 595 Competizione: the sound, panache and fury of the scorpion…”

We drove the Subaru BRZ: the sports car for purists

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Every sporting driver wants it some time or another: a pure, thoroughbred sports car, which handles like a sports shoe, and fits like a glove. A car with an honest, non-turbo, high revving engine, coupled to a manual gearbox, which allows you to unfold all your gearshift talents. A car with a crisp, direct and precise steering, which enhances your talent of always choosing that ideal line.

Well this car exists. It is a joint engineering effort with the talented developers of Subaru and Toyota, all lovers of pure sports cars themselves. The result is a stunning, genuine sports car, which delivers that driving pleasure you always dreamt of. We tested all this for you. Just read further.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We drove the Audi A3 1.4 TFSI ULTRA COD 150 hp: the art of high-tech economy…

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Our modern cars can be pretty economical. But then there are car makers who have honed this to an absolute art. They have succeeded in linking frugality with refinement, elegance, power and performance. The Nano grey 6 speed Audi A3 we drove recently amply proved the point.  Its ultra docile and smooth but powerful engine and refined drive train was indeed nothing less than stunning, and thanks to its state of the art cylinder on demand technology it proved immensely economical. We achieved with no effort an average consumption of 4,3 liters per 100 km on some journeys, and even in dense traffic it was very easy to stay at around and below 5,5 liters per 100 km. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We drove the DS3 Cabrio 1.2 Pure Tech 110 EAT6: the DS legend gets a fresh breeze…

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The iconic DS put divinity on wheels in the fifties, and quite understandably, Citroën used the prestigious two letters to define its actual premium range. The brand has indeed impressed us with some formidable cars already, bold in styling and refined in technology and above all ride, handling and performance.

The DS3 continues this tradition, and we tested for you here the cabrio version, with the frugal, smooth and powerful PureTech 3 cylinder making it a lively performer. More importantly, it came with the latest double clutch 6-speed auto box, which makes this DS an ideally smooth companion. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We drove the Mercedes E Class 220d: enjoying the perfection of the good star

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Mercedes-Benz has always built excellent, truly outstanding passenger cars. The tenth generation of the so-called E-Class is a case in point. This five passenger saloon achieves perfection in its segment. It offers the very, very best in everything  a modern passenger car is or should be. Packed with the latest in technology, it combines this masterfully with the know-how and experience the oldest car manufacturer in the world has acquired in building premium cars.

The ride, the comfort, the workmanship, the mechanical perfection, the way it safely assists you on your journey… All this is such a wonderful experience, just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Sweet memories: our drive with the 5 cylinder Audi 80 5E Quattro in Sankt Moritz…

 

 

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When we were telling you the long career of Audi’s 5 cylinder engine, we told you how your servant remembered a drive behind the wheel of the Audi 80 Quattro with this magnificent engine.

Well, we delved in our vast archive, and besides the historic pre-war motor sport photos which we rediscovered, we also found the pictures of the memorable test drive of this Audi 80 5E, on 8 and 9 December 1982.

Here they are…

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The drive is vividly remembered. We were rushed from the Zürich airport by train near to Sankt Moritz. On this train, we had a lavish luncheon, with the cars on the same train in freight wagons. They were nicely unloaded for us, just to enjoy a further mountain drive to St. Moritz.

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Look at how spartan the cars then really were. No light alloy wheels, just steel ones with plastic covers. Only ONE side view mirror…

But how wonderful this car drove. You had to rev it high to deliver its power. What beautiful staccato, and what a superb road holding and accurate handling thanks to the Quattro drive.

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We stormed through the mountains, redlining the engine in second and third gear. It was the sound of pure motorsport, still ringing in our ears until this day, more than 30 years later…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Unique historic moments…

Dear reader, we like to take you back regularly with some rare photos to the earlier days of automobiles, motorsport, and the famous men and women who made history. Just enjoy!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Love on and off the track…

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After a masterful victory in the German Grand Prix in July 26th 1936, Bernd Rosemeyer kisses his young wife Elli Beinhorn. They were married just two weeks earlier, and were a famous couple indeed. She was the famous female aviatrix, and he was the talented Auto Union driver, the first to have mastered truly the rear-engined racing car.

Auto Union had a new car called the C type for the 1936 season. The volume of the V16 engine was increased to 6 litres giving 520 BHP.

There had also been several modifications to better the handling of the cars including a ZF limit slip differential. Dr Karl Feuereissen took over from Willy Walb  as team manager.

The driver line up for 1936 was Hans Stuck, Achille Varzi and Bernd Rosemeyer as senior drivers. , with Rudolf Heydel, Ernst von Delius and Rudolf Hasse selected as junior drivers. Pietsch and zu Leiningen had left the team.

These cars were truly fast. The fastest lap of Rosemeyer on the Nürburgring, then not less than 22.810 km long, was 9.56,3. Remember, tires and brakes are a far cry from what we have today.

The race itself was held in rain and fog. Here Rosemeyer showed himself the true master. Bernd proved 40 seconds quicker per lap than everybody else, and won the race by not less than 4 minutes. He was crowned as 1936 European Champion in only his second season as a GP driver. He was nicknamed “Nebelmeister”. For good reason…

Elly Bernhorn flew her husband later in the season to the South African Grand Prix. They used the trip also as a belated honeymoon…

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Tazio Nuvolari and the Auto Union

The Italian was from early on in a family well acquainted with motor racing as Arturo and his brother Giuseppe were both bicycle racers – Giuseppe was a multiple winner of the Italian national championship.

Tazio had raced for Alfa, but in 1938 went to Auto Union, which was in search of talented drivers. Here he is seen pictured at the training of the German Grand Prix 1938. Dick Seaman was to win that race at the wheel of a Mercedes. But Nuvolari that year was to win for Auto Union the Grand Prix at Monza and the Donington Grand Prix in England.

Hans Stuck reaches 313 kmh…

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In 1936 the famous record speed drives were held on the Autobahn Frankfurt-Darmstadt. Hans Stuck here reached 313 kmh for “normal” racing cars. Indeed, the streamlined record cars were another matter. They were faster, but also more dangerous. Bernd Rosemeyer was at the wheel of the Auto Union Typ R (Record car) and after having reached for one kilometer a speed of 429,491 km/h, a wind gust pushed him off the track, and he was killed on January 28, 1938.

 

 

Our cars – and sweet memories

 

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Our faithful Jaguar Mk II 3.4 Type S is still with us, shining proudly next to the present Mercedes E Class 220d test car…

As faithful readers know, we have one classic car in our stable, a proud Jaguar 3.4 Mk II Type S. It has been with your servant since 1974, and has mechanically overhauled, two years later after we bought it, by a British specialist, Forward Engineering.

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We recently rediscovered the photos of this restoration, and we were delighted to have found them again. This was not all. Together with the photos, there was a long letter from Forward Engineering, explaining all the stages of the restoration.

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Back in 1976(!) our Jaguar went through a complete mechanical overhaul at Forward Engineering in Coventry…Just look at the quite massive engine/transmission of the Jaguar…

Of course we will make a series report, telling you all about it, and showing the pictures of course. You see our Jag here, parked next to the beautiful E-class 220 d Mercedes we are presently testing. The Jag is shining proudly after we washed it, and still holds very much its own in terms of style and panache, embodying masterfully what a sporting four seater saloon is all about…

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Besides a broken inlet falve on the fifth cylinder, there was mechanically not much amiss with our Jaguar. The bearings and crankshaft were found to be still in remarkable condition, as this historic picture shows.  They are still like new today, after their restoration… back in 1976.

But there is still more. Delving in my archives, I found many photos, unique and unpublished, about pre-war (Grand Prix) racing… On a regular basis, we will present a photo, together with a captivating story…

For the time being, just look at the photos of our Jag…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Renault launches new Scénic and Grand Scénic with dramatic looks…

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Twenty years after inventing the world’s first compact MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) with the Scénic – which has since sold to the tune of almost five million units and which was named European Car of the Year in 1997 – Renault has completely overhauled its offering in this segment with the fourth generation of its iconic model. It is of course a very important model for Renault, with compact SUV’s gaining ground in the buyer’s hearts and MPV’s becoming less attractive. But designer Laurens Van den Acker gave it a go and endowed the Scénic with stunning looks, and wants the practical people carrier to be a winner – once again.

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The new SCENIC carries over the hallmarks that helped to forge its success, namely versatility, space, user-friendliness and travelling enjoyment.

The new SCENIC is a benchmark in the MPV segment as a vehicle that is  , practical, efficient and high-tech, while also meeting the needs of families.

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It is attractive with its svelte silhouette, its two-tone colour scheme and the fitment of large 20-inch wheels as standard across the range – a global first for the segment.

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It is also practical, thanks to the biggest stowage capacity and boot space in its class, and efficient, with a broad range of powerplants comprising six diesels and two petrol engines. Last but not least, the core range diesel version incorporates Renault’s new Hybrid Assist technology.

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The Scenic is of course also quite high-tech thanks to a raft of driving aids and other features, such as its Active Emergency Braking System (AEBS) with Pedestrian Detection – a standard feature across all equipment levels.

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In both its short and long guises, the fourth-generation SCENIC is of course firmly focused on winning over again loyal owners of its three previous generations who have long been drawn by the innovative features of the model which introduced the first sliding centre console.

We hope to lay our hands on one soon…in the meantime, just look at the photos!

Hans Knol ten Bensel