31 May, 2012

A Peek At XA Alpha – The New Concept Compact SUV From Maruti Suzuki India

Who would have thought that Maruti Suzuki would get into the, so far unexploited, mini SUV segment? What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a mini SUV or a compact SUV? I travel to a happy place in my mindscape and I imagine a strong, muscular, elegant looking, tall car that is pocket friendly. Think Audi Q3, Renault Duster, Ford EcoSport, BMW X1, Mahindra Xylo, and now, Maruti XA Alpha.

Yes, cross-over SUVs are the norm of the day, especially for our market. The huge demand for a cheaper version of the traditional sports utility vehicles is really catching up (thanks to young and crazy people like you and me) and car manufacturers are already cashing in on this opportunity.

Maruti Suzuki’s XA Alpha has been a much awaited & anticipated car in the auto world. The curtains were finally pulled off this compact SUV during the Delhi Auto Expo, 2012 and the 3-door, under 4-meters, five-seater mini SUV drew in several admirers (your’s truly as well) and why not! It’s good looking, and has a solid build...is the perfect coming together of muscle power and good body proportions and elegance. Wide wheel arches, chiseled bonnet lines, an impressive five box-shaped front grille with the ‘S’ logo smack in the center, and LED headlamps add further to the style of the SUV.

The name XA Alpha is symbolic and every component has a meaning. The ‘A’ in XA denotes the new compact SUV and the ‘X’ represents that the car is part of cross-over segment. The ‘Alpha’ denotes the trendiness and modern sensibilities of today’s generation. Also, the glossy Lava Red color of the Maruti XA Alpha is both a welcome change from the stereotypical blacks, browns, and whites found on SUVs in India.

Well, whenever the Maruti XA Alpha hits Indian roads (hopefully at the start of Jan 2013), it will be powered by a 1.3 litre K Series multi-jet diesel engine designed by Fiat and will be priced in the sub-10lakh bracket. Alpha is expected to give a mileage of 9kmpl and have a top speed of 180kmph.   

The Alpha may not be the absolutely perfect Compact SUV, but it’s got enough stuff to be a head turner. And aimed at the young, urban, chic population of today, Maruti Suzuki is hoping the XA Alpha will be a worthy successor to the ever popular Maruti Gypsy. 

29 May, 2012

Renault Makes A Huge Statement With Alpine A110-50 Concept Sports Car

Renault may be a relatively new brand for cars in India, but it’s a recognized name in the world of European Automobile Industry. Renault recently launched 3 models specifically in 3 different segments for Indian roads like the Renault Pulse, the Renault Koleos, and Renault Fluence.

How many times have you heard that a company, let alone a car maker, celebrates the golden jubilee of their most popular sports car by launching another one? Well, Renault did and how! The French company unveiled its newest creation – a really mean looking & powerful sports car – the Alpine A110-50. The Alpine A110 has been introduced to mark the success of the, now, legendary Alpine sports car that was fitted with a Renault-engine back in the Sixties and Seventies and that went on to win the inaugural World Rally Championship in 1973.

The Alpine A110-50 by Renault is a sports car in the true sense of the term and the company is more than likely to utilize a completely new platform, while keeping the weight of the car less than a ton and is powered by…hold your breath…a 3.5-Litre, 24-Valve V6 engine that sends 400BHP to the rear wheels and 422Nm torque and the engine is mounted in the middle of the rear side of the vehicle and married to a semi-automatic 6-speed sequential gearbox. The Alpine A110-50 is fitted with a twin-plate clutch and the operation of this plate is interesting. The driver can push the clutch pedal or then use a paddle that’s fitted on the steering wheel!!

If the design of the Alpine resembles another Renault concept car called DeZir, then you are pretty much on track. The new 2-seater sports car draws its inspiration from DeZir’s shape and makes it its own along with other race worthy bits like NACA duct, carbon fibre…carbon fibre, big wings, and cues from the legend Alpine in terms of LED rings on either side as well as new inboard headlights.

Looks and elements aside, what really is interesting about the Renault Alpine A110-50 is its use of carbon air intake to enhance the power of the sports car’s engine by offering additional HP at all engine speeds.

Currently, the Renault Alpine A110-50 needs a network to become a reality and accordingly to insiders, the company is interested in tying up with Nissan to make it road worthy. For now, we can only hope that we get to see this awesome car on the road and really soon!

22 May, 2012

Volvo V40 – Rocking & Ready to Give Sleepless Nights to Mercedes A- Class & BMW Mini!

Did you know that Mercedes Benz's is planning to launch it’s A series cars in India? The A series is a range of premium hatchbacks that have gained plenty of popularity abroad.
With the launch of the new Hyundai i20 and Ford 500 among some others, the luxury hatchback section has opened up and promises plenty of new exciting models, including the super rocking - Volvo V40. 

If you've only associated Volvo with cool, air-conditioned buses and staid looking station wagons, then think again. The new V40, though a hatchback, is touted to be a very important car for the company. So much so, that it is a radically different car to be launched from the Volvo stable in the last 20-years. Riding on really high expectations, the V40 can be a game changer for the company's fortunes. 

A 5-door hatch, the Volvo V40 is a small family that was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show 2012. It is expected to replace the Volvo S40 saloon & the V50 estate. Currently under production in the UK, it will be ready for sale in August 2012 in Europe. Known for its solid build and excellent engineering, the new Volvo V40 is no exception. The V40 has some really cool safety features like a pedestrian airbag that gets deployed to reduce the risk of any head injury for pedestrians or cyclists if there is a collision with this hatch.

While there isn't much information available on the V40 features and specifications, one thing is for sure that the V40 has some very worthy contenders like the Mercedes A-Class, the Audi A3, and the BMW Mini and only an exceptional car will be able to stand on terra firma!

Come back for an update on the Volvo V40 where I will post info on its engine, price, and other specifications. 

17 May, 2012

Jay Leno Makes Place for the Tata Nano in His Big Dog Garage

Yes it’s true. The ‘made in India’ label is getting plenty of takers across the globe. From garments to handicrafts and from dosas to cars, Indian products are gaining recognition and acceptance like never before. And the latest case is of the ‘Tonight’s Show’ host & comedian Jay Leno, who added the world’s cheapest car, the Indian born and bred, Tata Nano to his huge collection of cars. One of the biggest petrol heads in the world, Leno has a 17000 sq.ft. Garage with almost 200 cars, many of them vintage, exotics, classics, and custom built and 90 motorcycles!

Leno, a famous comedian, fell in love with one of the smallest cars in the world, the Nano and welcomed the vehicle into his Big Dog Garage in true Bollywood style. Dressed in an embroidered cream colored ‘sherwani,’ Leno greeted everyone with a Namaskar as he stood against the Indian tricolor in the backdrop. Further “Indianising” things, was a group of Bollywood dancers wearing shiny lehengas and shaking their legs to popular Hindi film songs. The white-colored Tata Nano has the Indian tri-color painted on its body reflecting its Indian spirit!

Here’s hoping that Leno with his latest acquisition enjoys riding it and pray that his Tata Nano doesn’t blow up anytime soon. 

15 May, 2012

Audi Q3: When Luxury Comes With An Affordable Price Tag

On The Road - Audi Q3
It's a battle for the top slot! And clearly, Audi has surprised everyone by dethroning BMW in India. Riding high on its sales figures and in an attempt to maintain its lead, Audi is ready to roll out a new compact SUV, Q3 in India in the next few weeks.

There is a lot of buzz doing the rounds about this SUV, especially because of its below - Rs.30 lakh price tag. But while the price is right, is it enough to get the customers? I am trying to give you all a quick byte on the new baby in the Audi's stable.

Cool Front Grille - Audi Q3
To me the Q3 looks like an over-sized hatchback with a prominent ground clearance (clearly an ode to the terrible Indian road conditions). It looks good, there's no doubt about that and some of the interesting features are the LED daytime lamps, the new hexagonal grille (an Audi trademark) with horizontal slats with Quattro badge. The back of the SUV slopes gently and one can see the almost triangular shaped tail lights that gel well with its overall design.

On the inside, the car's cabin is delightfully surprising. Rich, well-crafted two-tone interiors in beige and black stink of quality. Also, the front console looks classy and feels nice with a small amount of wood trim on the door pads as well as the dashboard.

Dual-Tone Interior - Audi Q3
Play music on an 8-speaker music system, height adjusting front seats, start-stop system for increased fuel efficiency, hill-assist feature, and 18-inch wheels that offer better road grip, and a flirtatiously light steering wheel that makes driving truly pleasurable.

The Audi Q3 will be rolled out with a 2.0-litre diesel engine with plenty of power and good acceleration and aided by a dual-clutch, 7-speed AT gearbox.

From The Side - Audi Q3
If you like an SUV with a robust feeling steering and ability to gobble up whatever the road throws at it, then these may prove to be deal breakers. Except for these small niggles, the Audi Q3 is a great package at an affordable price (for many urban Indians) of around Rs. 26 lakh (ex-showroom). Making it a blockbuster hit in most Indian cities.

Sleek Sloping Hatchback - Audi Q3
Though the Audi Q3 is no Amir Khan or Hrithik Roshan among the SUVs in India, it can definitely be a good contender like Ajay Devgn or Irrfan Khan and give other SUVs a run for their money. And the orange color of the compact SUV will contribute towards making it a head turner on Indian roads, despite it missing out the machismo of a regular SUV.

11 May, 2012

Smashing Good Looks & Ideas That Can Change Hybrid Cars Forever!

Elegantly Yours - Citroen Numero 9

In India, many of us may not have heard of Citroen. But this French car maker is quite popular in Europe. Recently, Citroen showcased its 4-door concept car, Numero 9. And it looks smashing!

A hybrid wagon, the Citroen Numero 9 is stylish with 21 inch radials, and a glass roof! With dimensions of 4.9m length and 1.94m width, it is just a tad shorter than the Merc S-class.

Citroen Numero 9 Gliding Through
Weighing 1500kg, the full-plug in, completely hybrid Citroen has impressive stats that read 166mpg, 50km fully-electric range, and 39g/km of CO2. Plus, it also has a cool function known as the Turbo Outrun boost that marries the combustion engine's power with that of the electric motor (requires just 3.5 hours for charging), to dispatch almost 300 horsepower! The Numero 9 can zip from 0 to 100 kms per hours in just 5.4 seconds.

The Citroen Numero 9 has the ability to switch to an all-wheel drive mode when summoned, manually or automatically. So when driving on slippery roads, the rear wheels of the car get into action and provide much needed traction to prevent skidding. And if the car is being driven on tricky terrain like snow or slush, the all-wheel drive mode can be activated. When on the highway, the Numero 9 is designed to run only on petrol.

Showing off its beautiful lines
But the really cool feature, and the one I liked, is that you can turn the heater on before you get into the car. How cool is that! Or should I say, it's really hot! :-)

08 May, 2012

Lamborghini Urus SUV - The Bull Takes The Fight To The Ring

Lamborghini Urus - The New Concept SUV
Did you ever think there would come a time when Lamborghini would take a detour on the way to producing some of the best & fastest sports cars in the world to designing a SUV? But it’s true. At the recently concluded Beijing Motor Show, Lamborghini showcased its ‘all-wheel’ drive SUV, the Urus. The name and its character, inspired by the Spanish fighting bull Auroch are reflected in the charisma and charm this SUV exudes, just like its cousins. 

Urus Driving Console and Seats
Trivia: The first SUV to be produced by Lamby was named LM002 or the “Rambo Lambo” and it was a Military vehicle that sold 300 units.

Shaped like an arrow, the vehicle has large windows, Y-shaped headlamps and several features that are common with the other Lamborghini cars. Cut out of carbon-fiber, the Urus has low kerb weight and with just over 600 horsepower, this 4x4 Speedy Gonzales is ready to give a tough fight to the Aventador and BMW X6 M. But you’ll have to wait until 2015 to take this beauty home and dig deep into your pockets, as the Lamborghini Urus SUV will cost around $200,000+ by the time you park it in your garage!

Lamborghini Urus in all its glory
In the meantime, check out some pictures of this impressive SUV here!

07 May, 2012

Porsche SUVs Can Get Sportier – Cayenne GTS Shows Just How It’s Done!

Porsche is synonymous with speed and really cool looking coupes. But Porsche’s foray into the SUV segment has also brought it accolades and praise in form of Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo, and now there is Cayenne GTS, that sits neatly between these two SUVs.

Porsche Cayenne GTS, a sportier version, comes with an upgraded 4.8-litre V8 engine, pumping 420HP of sheer power! Driving the Cayenne GTS is truly pleasurable as it has 8-speed Tiptronic S transmission with start-stop and an all-wheel system.

Porsche Cayenne GTS runs on combined fuel and manages to burn some rubber as it dashes from 0 to 100kmph in just about 5.7 seconds. Image reaching 0 to 160kmph in just 13.3 seconds! Of course, there are vehicles that are faster than the Porsche Cayenne GTS, but with a top speed of 257kmph, the SUV is pretty well equipped to handle almost any kind of surface.

However, a big part of this SUV’s appeal is not the speed. The appeal lies in the lowered chassis that is fitted with standard steel springs, as well as PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) adjustable dampers. This translates into better maneuverability at the corners and less body roll. The options include air suspension bundled with Porsche’s patented PDCC anti-roll system that was also available with its predecessor.

The interiors of the Porsche Cayenne GTS are not bad either. With sporty looking 8-way adjustable seats, Alcantara fake suede & leather trims, a clean but stylish steering wheel with paddle shifters and a slew of other features, the insides are stylish, clean, and comfortable. The exterior of the GTS is stylish with high gloss black window frames, wide wheel arches, bi-xenon headlights, side skirts, sports exhaust system, 20 inch wheels, and lots more.

While the Porsche Cayenne GTS will make its UK debut in July this year, in India it will be available with a price tag of Rs. 80, 45, 125 for MT, and Rs. 82, 45, 125 for AT. 

Check out the video of the all new Porsche Cayenne GTS below. Would love to hear your comments on this SUV!

03 May, 2012

An Awesome Car Chase - The Perfect Way To Get A High!

Car chases are awesome! The sheer burst of adrenaline, when chasing a car, is a rush that can't be imitated ever. That high lasts for way longer than any other drug!

As I am a "car chase junkie" (well, there are all sorts of junkie, don't frown) I decided to share a video of a BMW 135i chasing a Porsche 997 Turbo. Nah, I won't be revealing the climax, so you'll have to watch the video right to the very end. Hey, it's just over 4 mins.

Trivia: Did you know that Germany is the only large nation in the world that allows unrestricted driving? What that means is, it has no set speed limits on almost all of its highways. Some parts of our country also don't have a speed limit like Andhra Pradesh & Maharashtra.

Even most German manufacturers like Audi, BMW, Porsche, Volkswagen, and Mercedes have been advocating "No Speed limits "on German highways and hence, the birth of phrase - Freie Fahrt für freie Bürger, which can be loosely translated into ‘free speed for free people’.

The best place to witness the super speeding of great cars is on the world famous, Autobahn. The video below is of a BMW 135i that comes with over 400HP, hard chasing a Porsche 997 Turbo. And guys, when watching the video don't forget to keep an eye on the speed-o-meter. At some point of time, the BMW touch just over 300 kmph speeds . . . and at that very point I had goose bumps on my arms. :-)

No more yapping, enjoy the car chase guys and disclaimer: please don't try this on Indian roads. ;-)

Finally, don't forget to share your thoughts on speed limits on Indian highways, and do these speed limits need to be changed with time or not!

02 May, 2012

Skoda Fabia Scout - Urban India's A New Sporty Ride?

Are most hatches on Indian roads 'soft?' It must be accepted, that we hardly get to see, forget ride, 'muscle cars'. Muscle cars are pretty much spilling out of Europe, North America, and some other parts of the world, and slowly inching their way into our homes. And gotta say these cars are hard not to be liked! That being said, one company that is trying to make the most of this gap is Skoda.

With the launch of its latest car, the Skoda Fabia Scout, a sportier version of the existing Fabia, the company is trying to fill the need for a zippy and peppy and a fun ride. The new avatar of the Skoda Fabia has the same engines - 1.2 liter petrol & diesel. Albeit, the new looks can be credited to a set of new projector headlamps, a front bumper with spoiler, a rear bumper with a diffuser, peripheral cladding for protection, sill trims for both, front and rear doors, and a stainless steel pedal set.

So what actually makes the Skoda Fabia Scout different from the other hatches on the market currently? I'll the differentiators are the bumper spoiler & diffuser, and the peripheral cladding! So does the change in appearance also resonate in the price? Well almost. The Skoda Fabia Scout is priced at Rs. 6.79 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi) for the petrol variant, and after you pay Rs. 8.10 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), you can park the diesel Skoda Fabia Scout in your garage.

The prospective customer of this Skoda is profiled to be an Urban, Confident, Ambitious, and Self-driven individual. So what do you think - do you have all these attributes? If yes, the only other attribute you need is the money! :-)