20171006

Suzuki's all-new Swift Sport looks yummy. Will we get to taste it in India?

India might be the biggest market in terms of volumes for the Suzuki Swift but there is one hot variant of the car we unfortunately can’t lay our hands on here. Yeah, Swift Sport is what we are talking about. 


Whilst we have all along been denied a chance to experience one here in our country, the Swift Sport has been enthralling enthusiasts in Europe and Japan without burning deep holes in their pockets. With the third-generation Swift going on sale recently in major global markets, it was time for the Sport variant to get its third iteration too. Suzuki did just that by unveiling the car at the recently-concluded 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show.

Powering this ‘warm’ hatch is Suzuki’s 1.4-liter 'BOOSTERJET' engine that churns out 138 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and a good 230 Nm of torque from 2,500 to 3,500 rpm. The turbocharger is equipped with waste-gate valve control which remains closed under normal circumstances for a seamless throttle response. It opens when cruising to minimize fuel consumption. The direct injection system features seven hole injector nozzles enabling increased fuel pressure and highly atomized fuel injection. Paired with the engine is a 6-speed manual transmission, enhanced to deliver short strokes, better feedback and an improved shift feel.


Based on Suzuki's new-generation and light-weight 'HEARTECT' platform, the Swift Sport tips the scales at just 970 kg. That gives the car a torque-to-weight ratio of 4.2 kg/Nm, making it one of the most competitive hot hatches around. Swift Sport rose to fame through its sweet handling. Be it the usage of high-performance Monroe shocks at the front and rear, thicker stabilizer joint bars, increased camber and toe rigidity for better cornering capabilities or an exclusive trailing arm designed to minimize deformation, Suzuki's engineers have made sure the Swift Sport loses none of that in its latest iteration.  

Swift’s Mini-inspired styling was such a smash hit worldwide that Suzuki decided to settle with just evolutionary changes for the third-generation model. The Swift Sport, therefore, follows the same principle. That said, there are enough visual clues to differentiate it from the regular Swifts. 


First up is the exclusive ‘Champion Yellow’ paint job. Inspired by the colour scheme followed by Suzuki in the Junior World Rally Championship, the bright shade of yellow is an instant attention-grabber. The hexagonal grille at the front runs deeper down the front bumper, imparting an aggressive look. There are other usual add-ons we normally see on cars with sporty aspirations like under-spoilers at the front and rear, side skirts, rear roof spoiler and a muscular rear bumper complete with a diffuser and dual exhaust tips. Sexy 17-inch alloy wheels accentuate the sporty look. Being 40 mm wider and 15 mm lower than its predecessor, the new Swift Sport has an improved stance.


Equipped with a flat-bottom steering wheel, driver-oriented instrument panel with boost and oil temperature gauges, red accents, alloy pedals and semi-bucket seats, the interiors provide an adequately-sporty look and feel. Advanced safety features including Forward Detection System, Dual Sensor Brake Support and Lane Departure Warning, all of which uses a monocular camera and laser sensor to detect potential dangers and protect the occupants.

The more we know about it, the more we want to drive it! Question is, are we even getting the Swift Sport here in India? If the Baleno RS is any indication, Swift Sport should at least be in consideration for an Indian launch. Come on, Maruti-Suzuki, don't disappoint us. After all, no other country buys as many Swifts (and Dzires and Ertigas) as much as we do!

20171005

Genesis G70 expands the lineup, aims straight for the BMW 3-Series

Genesis, Hyundai's upstart luxury brand, has fired its third salvo in the form of G70. 


Following in the footsteps of Hyundai-derived G80 and G90, the smaller and sportier G70 completes Genesis' sedan lineup. In more ways than one, this is a crucial launch for the South Korean brand that has the German luxury triumvirate of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz in sight. Lest we forget, there is also Jaguar, Volvo, Lexus, Infiniti, Acura, Cadillac, Alfa-Romeo and Lincoln to contend with.

With such high hopes around it, will the G70 deliver the goods for Genesis? Let's see what stacks up for and against the G70 in its attempt for glory.

The Good

Hyundai is aiming big with the Genesis. Big here means mega. How else would you explain the executive rostrum at Genesis carefully poached from European rivals? Brand chief Manfred Fitzgerald previously served as the director of Lamborghini. Former Bentley and Lamborghini designer Luc Donckerwolke now heads the design team at Genesis. As if that's not enough, Albert Biermann, former head of BMW's M division, was also brought in to give the Genesis cars that near-perfect handling set-up. 

The idea, basically, is to outdo the Germans in their own game and, with the G70, the idea has started to take shape. As Genesis expands and evolves with the aforementioned executives at the helm of affairs, its time for us to get all excited.


So, the next time you see a Genesis, stop short of making statements like "The car looks like an Audi", "Isn't that an Aston-Martin front mated to a Mercedes CLA rear?". You now know why.

The Not So Good

The entry luxury segment is a crowded space. After all, competition here is so intense that Jaguar and Alfa-Romeo, with their storied legacies, have struggled to make inroads recently. Between the three of them, the 3-Series, C-Class and A4 guard their turf so fiercely, fending off threats with ruthlessness and regularity rarely seen in the automotive industry. Genesis is trying to upset this apple cart and the G70 had to 'look' different to give itself a fair shot of success. 

This is where the stunning Sports Sedan Concept that Genesis brought along for the 2016 New York Auto Show would have made the difference. It looked like nothing else in the market and featured distinct design elements that could have easily transformed into identities for the brand!

Did Genesis miss a chance to make an impact by not taking risks with the G70's styling then? It's too early to say that. What's clear, though, is they have chosen to tread the safer path.

The Good

Have no doubts, the designers at Genesis did exercise restrain when they penned the final lines for the G70. But that's not to say the car isn't good-looking. 


In fact, the G70 is quite a looker with a squat stance and measured proportions. The long hood, the swept-back upper half, the coupe-like roof-line and the short boot are classic 'Rear Wheel Drive' cues and the G70 carries them with aplomb. The hexagonal grille with large diamond meshes is a bit in-your-face but the split LED DRLs, a precursor to the quad headlights setup future Genesis models would sport, look great and so does the chiseled bumper. Sporting aggressive lines and multiple contours, the G70 looks taut and muscular when viewed from the sides and the rear.

Unlike the G80 and G90 that were just luxo barges with bland styling, the G70 is refined, modern and stylish. If this is an attempt to set the design direction for the brand, expect things to only get better.

The Good

As much as we say otherwise, fact is, car owners spend most of their time with the car seated inside. In that sense, getting the interior appointments, fit and finish right is more of a priority rather than getting the external styling spot-on. 

Genesis, it appears, has pretty much nailed this aspect. Be it the rich-looking quilted leather seats, the vast expanse of soft-touch materials, the classy brushed metallic inserts and the popular floating touchscreen that pops out of the dash, this cabin  wouldn't look out of place even with a three-pointed star or propeller badge adorning the steering wheel. With a feature list that could put mid-size luxury sedans to shame and top-notch safety equipment, the G70 is in no way a compromise to the established offerings in the segment. 


The Not So Good

What it scores in interior aesthetics and appointments, the G70 loses in rear seat space. Agreed, Genesis' target market here is the sporty entry-luxury segment and space at the rear isn't something potential buyers look out for often. 

But then, there are chances the G70 could be chauffeur-driven in some markets. That's when the sloping roof line and the resultant lack of kneeroom and headroom could come to haunt the G70's prospects. Yes, this is nit-picking, but when it comes to laying things bare, this is a key miss.

The Good

Say what you want but you just can't say the G70 is all show and no go. Staying true to its maker's intentions of pitching it as a sporty luxury sedan, the smallest Genesis on sale has a trio of potent and powerful force-fed engines under the hood. The top of the line is the 3.3-liter V6 petrol unit that develops 365 horsepower and a whopping 519 Nm of torque. With a claimed 0 to 100 km/h acceleration time of just 4.7 seconds and a top speed of 270 km/h, the G70 V6 is faster and more powerful than the 6-cylinder BMW 340i. Could you believe that?

The other two engines - a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder petrol with 252 horsepower and a 2.2-liter 4-cylinder common rail diesel with 202 horsepower - aren't half as interesting but the performance kit on offer surely is. Launch Control, Multi-link rear suspension, Dynamic Torque Vectoring System, Mechanical Limited Slip Differential (M-LSD) - you name it and Genesis has bestowed the G70 with it. With all these in place combined with ex-BMW M chief's inputs on handling, the G70 could well be the perfect driver's car this side of the BMW 3-Series. 


In short, the G70 is everything Genesis wanted it to be. Will the baby Genesis dethrone the 3-Series, C-Class and A4 from the entry luxury podium? Not a chance. Will it snatch sales off the XE, Giulia, IS and the likes? Hell yeah. And that's possibly what Genesis wants!

20171004

Skoda Kodiaq launched in India at ₹34.49 Lakhs


Hot on the heels of launching the powerful and sporty Octavia vRS, Czech car-maker Skoda is back with yet another all-new model for India, the Kodiaq. Unveiled late last year, the Kodiaq is the brand’s latest flagship, aiming to take advantage of the craze for high-riding SUVs and crossovers globally.

In India, Skoda has launched the Kodiaq in just one trim level - Style, priced at INR 34.49 Lakhs across the country. That puts it well above the Hyundai Tucson and Volkswagen Tiguan, two similar-sized monocoque 5-seater SUVs and the Toyota Fortuner and Ford Endeavour, two big-selling body-on-frame 7-seater SUVs. 


Powering the Kodiaq is the popular 2.0-liter TDI diesel engine that also does duty in a host of other cars in the Volkswagen Group. In this application, the engine churns out 148 horsepower and a substantial 340 Nm of torque delivered from as low as 1,750 rpm. Paired to the mill is a 7-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission. With five driving modes to choose from and standard All Wheel Drive system, the Kodiaq can take those occasional off-road jaunts in its stride.

Clean, crisp styling has now become a Skoda trait and the Kodiaq is no exception. A bigger and bolder butterfly grille up front is flanked by twin lights on either sides, a design trait Skoda has used in the Octavia as well. The tall hood with prominent central ridges give the Kodiaq an imposing stance which is carried on to the profile through the recessed shoulder line and flared, squared-off wheel arches adequately filled with 18-inch wheels. The rear is pleasing to the eye with the contoured tailgate and Skoda’s signature crystalline taillight clusters particularly impressive.


In typical Skoda fashion, the Kodiaq’s cabin eschews flashy styling for a simple yet functional layout with top-notch fit and finish. The dual-tone beige and grey cabin feature fake wood-like inserts, which adds a bit of flair and proves to be a nice contrast. Three rows of seats mean the Kodiaq is a 7-seater, albeit with restricted legroom and headroom for the two occupants in the third row.

Skoda has equipped the Kodiaq with a full suite of safety features that include Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Traction Control, ‘IBUZZ’ Fatigue Detection System, ‘PARKTRONIC’ hands-free parking assist, all-round parking sensors with rear view camera and a total of nine airbags. Kudos Skoda, that's as comprehensive as it could get!


Befitting its status as the brand’s flagship, the Kodiaq gets features like three-zone climate control, panoramic sunroof, electrically-controlled hands-free tailgate, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, 10-speaker Canton sound system, Ambient Lighting offering 10 colour options, powered front seats with memory function, roller blinds for the rear windows and ‘Power Nap Package’ for the rear passengers. 

That's not all, there's more. 

What’s a Skoda without those nifty ‘Simply Clever’ features? The Kodiaq has a few up its sleeve like the umbrella holders in front doors with in-built drain function, the door edge protectors that pop out to protect the doors from damage when opening in congested parking lots and the magnetized LED torchlight that can come in handy while changing tyres in the dark and recharge automatically while the engine is running.

With such an extensive equipment list, space for seven and proven ride and handling Skodas are known for, the Kodiaq could be that one car that serves all the needs of a typical, well-heeled Indian family. But, has Skoda positioned the Kodiaq optimistically, thus hurting its chances? They have, we're afraid! Let's see if the market decides otherwise.

20170924

2017 Frankfurt - Mercedes-AMG brings F1 technology to the roads with the Project ONE


If you have been following Formula One, you don't have to be told who the reigning constructor's world champions are. For those who don't, know that Team Mercedes-AMG has been ruling the roost of what's being called the 'Turbo V6' era, helping Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg drive away to their world championship victories. With such levels of dominance at the top tier of motor racing, it was just a question of when and not if Mercedes-Benz would be coming up with a hyper car of their own. 

That question was answered when the curtains went up for the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show when Lewis Hamilton drove in the Mercedes-AMG Project ONE on stage!


First up, let's get our heads around the stagerring F1-derived technology associated with this automobile. 

Mounted between the front and rear wheels is a 1.6-liter turbocharged V6 hybrid engine, the very same unit that powers the team's Formula 1 race cars. Spinning at 11,000 rpm with a claimed 40% thermal efficiency, the tiny unit produces an incredible 1,000 horsepower. When all those horses are unleashed, the Mercedes-AMG Project ONE can rocket from 0 to 200 km/h in just six seconds. That's faster than the Bugatti Chiron, widely regarded as the world's fastest production car! The car can reach speeds beyond 350 km/h, says Mercedes-Benz.


Paired with the internal combustion engine are a total of four electric motors, one integrated into the turbocharger and another directly installed on the engine with a link to the crankcase. The two remaining 120 kW motors, where rotor revolutions can go up to a staggering 50,000 rpm, drive the front wheels. Its no wonder then that Mercedes-AMG wants these cars to come back to the factory after 31,000 miles for an engine overhaul.  

The battery cells are stacked on the floor right behind the front axle while their arrangement and the cooling system are the same as the ones used in Formula 1 race cars. The EQ Power+ drive system operates at 800 volts instead of the usual 400 volts. With that, the Mercedes-AMG Project ONE can be your zero emission vehicle with a pure electric driving range of 25 km!


The light-weight, high-strength carbon-fibre monocoque body, the multi-link suspension with innovative pushrod design, the 10-spoke forged aluminium wheels with carbon-fibre semi-cover, the weight-optimized ceramic compound braking system and the 8-speed manual transmission with hydraulic actuation and shift paddles are all exclusively developed by Mercedes-AMG for the Project ONE. 

With such performance and tech credentials, who cares how the car looks? Clearly, its a case of function over form as a slew of air inlets, wings, splitters and fins illustrate the wind-cheating capabilities of this hyper car. That said, the car does seem to evoke memories of a certain McLaren F1, a legend in its own right.


Now that we know the Mercedes-AMG Project ONE is stuff our wet dreams are made of, there are two choices ahead of us. Take the next flight to Frankfurt and catch a glimpse before the curtains come down on the 2017 edition of the Motor Show or rob a bank or two and have $2.5 million or thereabouts ready. Which of these are you upto?

20170922

Tata Nexon launched in India from ₹5.85 Lakhs

Thanks to the Tiago, Hexa and Tigor, Tata Motors is on a growth trajectory now after struggling for years with falling sales and dwindling market share. That trajectory is all set to receive a huge fillip with the launch of the Nexon, the brand's first compact crossover, today.


Available in four variants – XE, XM, XT and XZ+, the Nexon is priced between 5.85 Lakhs and 8.45 Lakhs for the petrol variants and 6.85 Lakhs and 9.30 Lakhs for the diesel variants. The top-end XZ+ variant also gets the option of a dual tone exterior paint job for a 15,000 premium over the regular variants. 


Powering the Nexon are a pair of engines developed in-house by Tata Motors. Both the 1.2-liter REVOTRON petrol and the 1.5-liter REVOTORQ diesel mills are turbocharged and generate class-leading 108 horsepower. While the 3-cylinder petrol engine generates 170 Nm of maximum torque, the 4-cylinder diesel generates 260 Nm of torque, the best figures in segment. A 6-speed manual transmission is paired to these engines at launch but we hear an Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) is on the cards and would be launched a few months down the line.

First shown in concept form at the 2014 Auto Expo in New Delhi, the Nexon wooed show-goers with its funky and futuristic design. Whilst there were doubts how much of those striking design elements would make it to production, Tata returned to the 2016 edition of the Auto Expo with the production version that looked barely different to the concept. Since then, the vehicle has taken its own sweet time to hit the market but, interestingly, the hype around the Nexon remained unabated.


Pitching against the trend-setting Ford EcoSport and the big-selling Maruti-Suzuki Vitara Brezza, the Nexon had to make an impact at first glance. Boy, does it do that with aplomb! Up front, Tata's familiar smiling grille with the 'Humanity Line' establishes the family connection. Merging seamlessly with the grille on either sides are stretched-back projector headlights. Fog lamps are placed on separate trapezoidal housings in the bumper. In profile, the flared wheel arches, the dual-tone paint job with the distinct, swoosh-shaped 'Ivory White' ceramic element underlining the windows and the steeply-rising beltline combine together to create a strong visual impression. The rear, with the tall bumper, high-set signature LED taillights and the thick ceramic element, is a bit too funky and is likely to polarize opinions. 

That said, the Nexon is a sure shot head-turner! Look no further if attracting stares is what you want.


All their recent launches have had much-improved interiors but, with the Nexon, Tata has taken an even bigger step forward. This is easily the best interiors yet in a Tata vehicle. We fancied our chances sitting inside one and the Nexon impressed with a spacious, well-designed and nicely put-together cabin. The familiar three-spoke steering wheel, the dashboard-mounted floating touchscreen and the flowing center console with a chunky 'Drive Mode Selector' knob are the visual highlights in the three-tone cabin that gets a liberal dose of classy 'brushed metal' inserts. Cleverly-designed storage spaces abound including an umbrella holder for each of the front doors, a feature hitherto found in luxury cars. 

Standard across the Nexon range are dual airbags, Antilock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Corner Stability Control, ISOFIX mounts, Multi Drive modes with Eco, City and Sport, a comprehensive Driver Information System, front power windows and umbrella holder in the front doors. 


The list expands gradually as we move up the range. 

The top-end XZ+, as one would expect, is loaded to the hilt with features including Smart Key with Push Button Start, height-adjustable front seats, Park Assist with camera, front fog lamps with cornering function, Voice Alerts, 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system from Harman with 8 speakers tuned for surround sound, advanced connectivity options with Android Auto and Voice Commands, 16-inch machine-cut alloy wheels, Feline Eye-shaped Daytime Running Lamps (DRL), climate control, fast USB charger, remote central locking, chilled glove box and power-adjustable and power-folding mirrors.

The Nexon boasts a segment-best 209 mm ground clearance and 350 liters of boot space. With the rear seat folded, it expands to a whopping 690 liters. 

Overall, a capable product like the Nexon at prices that currently undercuts its chief competitors, the EcoSport and Vitara Brezza, should mean brisk business for Tata Motors. Yes, Tata’s image amongst private car buyers isn’t all that great but the 7,000 odd Tiagos sold last month show that the perception is changing. Come on, Tata, you are on for a biggie with the Nexon!