20170327

Lexus debuts in India with the ES 300h and RX 450h

They are coming, we were told, a few years back. But they didn't. They are definitely coming in 2017, declared unofficial reports yet again. Thankfully, that turned out to be true as Lexus finally made it's official debut in India recently. We have seen brand launches happening with lots of build-up and fanfare but Lexus chose to have an arguably low-key event. 

Lexus has brought in three models for it's opening stint in India, two of which are on sale already. All of these would be imported as Completely Built Units (CBU), thus attracting heavy import duties.


The ES 300h sedan is the most affordable of the three, retailing at ₹55.27 Lakhs, ex-showroom Delhi. Featuring Lexus' polarizing design cues including the massive spindle grille and the sharp headlights up front, the ES, at it's current pricing, would have to lock horns with the likes of Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Jaguar XF and the Volvo S90. Internationally though, the ES is an entry-level luxury sedan competing with the C-Class and the likes. 

As the "h" in it's suffix denotes, the ES 300h is a hybrid sedan powered by a 2.5-liter petrol engine with an electric motor, the combined output of which is rated at 202 horsepower. The engine is mated to an electronically-controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (e-CVT). If the powertrain sounds familiar to you, that's because it is shared with the Camry Hybrid. 

The ES 300h gets four driving modes - NORMAL, ECO, SPORT and EV. Standard equipment includes ventilated seats, full leather upholstery, ambient lighting and a Mark Levinson surround sound system. A comprehensive safety kit if in offer too with the car equipped with ABS, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), 10 Airbags, parking assist and tyre pressure alert. 


The other model on sale is the RX 450h SUV, priced at ₹107.29 Lakhs for the Luxury trim level and ₹109.61 Lakhs for the F-Sport trim level. In terms of looks, the RX also gets the same spindle-type grille flanked on either sides by sharp-looking headlamps with inbuilt LED DRLs. The profile and the rear gets some interesting design elements like a floating roof, prominent character lines and a roof-mounted spoiler. 

Powered by a 3.5-liter V6 petrol engine that works in tandem with an electric motor, the RX 450h churns out 308 horsepower from it's engine-motor combo. Like the ES, an e-CVT takes care of the transmission duties abd four driving modes are on offer - NORMAL, ECO, SPORT and EV. Feature list includes a panoramic sunroof, wireless charging, a 12.3-inch infotainment system, coloured Heads-Up Display (HUD), a Mark Levinson sound system, ABS, VSC, 10 Airbags, parking assist and tyre pressure alert.

If neither of these two models prick your interest, wait for the soon-to-be-launched LX 450d. The big and comfy diesel-powered SUV may just be that perfect reliable and upscale mile-muncher you have been waiting for.

20170320

Honda WR-V launched in India, priced between ₹7.75 and 9.99 Lakhs

The crossover craze is here to stay. Nothing reaffirms the fact as much as the number of crossovers and crossover wannabes that are flooding the market. The latest to join the brigade is the WR-V, a crossover based on the Jazz hatchback.

The WR-V has two trim levels on offer - S and VX. The petrol variants are priced at 7.75 and 8.99 Lakhs while the diesel variants retail at 8.79 and 9.99 Lakhs. All prices are ex-showroom Delhi.


Smart thinking by the folks at Honda meant the WR-V gets an unique fascia that helps differentiate it from the Jazz, thereby passing off as an all-new model. Like all current generation Hondas, the WR-V gets a thick chrome grille that outlines the shape of the headlights and an air dam that cuts deep into the bumper. The rest of the car is similar to Jazz with a few add-ons like cladding, faux bumper protectors and split taillights that extend into the tailgate.


The interiors, again, borrow a whole lot of stuff from the Jazz and some from the City's parts bin as well. The familiar dashboard houses a 7-inch touchscreen multimedia system and a touch panel climate control system. The Jazz has an amazingly spacious cabin relative to it's small footprint and the WR-V should be no exception. Unfortunately, the very useful 'Magic Seats' are not offered in the WR-V.


Standard features include ABS with EBD, driver and front passenger airbag, signature LED DRL, tilt and telescopic steering and steering mounted audio controls. The VX gets the touchscreen multimedia system, climate control, front center armrest with storage console, Multi-view rear camera and a sunroof. Interestingly, Cruise Control and Push Start/Stop button are exclusively available in the diesel VX variant only.


WR-V's engines are the same 1.2-liter petrol and 1.5-liter diesel that does duty under the hood of the Jazz. The i-VTEC unit produces 89 horsepower and 110 Nm of torque and is paired with a 5-speed manual transmission. The i-DTEC gets a 6-speed manual gearbox and churns out 99 horsepower and 200 Nm of torque. CVT is not offered in the WR-V right now.

With all the right ingredients in place - wannabe SUV looks, feature-loaded cabin, the 'good-to-have but mostly-useless' sunroof, a torquey and fuel-efficient diesel engine and Honda's sorted ride and handling, will the WR-V succeed and give the Japanese brand some respite? 

It's been a 'City and Amaze' show so far and Honda badly needs a hit.

20170318

Passenger version of Mahindra Jeeto caught testing


Ever since Tata pioneered the last-mile connectivity space with the Ace and its multiple derivatives, the Small Commercial Vehicle (SCV) segment has seen a flurry of activity. Mahindra is one of the few manufacturers that tasted success in this segment. While the Maxximo Plus load carrier and the Maxximo Mini Van passenger carrier competes with Tata's Ace and Magic respectively, Mahindra launched the smaller Jeeto in 2015 to rival the Ace Zip in the 0.6-tonne payload category. 

The next step, naturally, is to bring out a passenger carrier based on the Jeeto. That's exactly what Mahindra appears to be doing right now. Caught testing in and around Chennai on two separate instances last evening and this morning, the Jeeto-based people mover looks to be in the final phase of testing.

Looking beneath the thick camouflage, we could easily spot Jeeto's design cues such as the oval-shaped headlights on either sides of a slim grille with Mahindra's characteristic vertical slats on them. As many as three test vehicles were spotted and all of them had the striking 'Aquamarine Blue' shade that's unique to the Jeeto in the segment. 


Like the Maxximo, the Jeeto-based passenger carrier does not have a rear door on the right side. The one on the left appeared to be frameless with the top covered by a tarpaulin sheet. The rear again features the same setup with the number plate moved to the tailgate. Though this is a rudimentary setup, this helps in making the rear feel spacious and less claustrophobic.



As the Jeeto is relatively new to the market, it has a basic but fairly modern cabin which is likely to remain unchanged in the passenger carrying version. Two opposite facing benches are expected at the rear capable of accommodating six passengers. These vehicles are mainly used for those point-to-point travel requirements within the city and the Jeeto should serve the purpose well. 

The rear mounted 'm-Dura' 625 cc Direct Injection (DI) diesel engine in the Jeeto is available in two states of tune, generating 11 horsepower and 16 horsepower. We expect both of these to be offered in the passenger carrying version. While the load-lugging truck has three deck lengths with wheelbases ranging from 2250 mm in the S-Series to 2500 mm in the X-Series, we expect the passenger version to feature the longest wheelbase to liberate space between the two rear benches.

Given that it's been close to two years since the launch of the Jeeto mini truck, Mahindra have had reasonable time to develop the passenger carrying version. We expect this vehicle to go on sale pretty soon. Prices are expected to be higher than the Jeeto load carrier that retails between ₹2.88 - 3.24 Lakhs, ex-showroom Chennai.

20170310

2017 Geneva - Arteon debuts as Volkswagen's new flagship

Volkswagen hogged the limelight at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show with the stylish Sport Coupe Concept GTE, thereby previewing the design direction of the brand as well as a potential future model. Two years hence, at the same venue, Volkswagen is doing a repeat act, this time with the production version, christened the Arteon.

When it goes on sale this autumn, the Arteon will slot in above the Passat as Volkswagen's new flagship.


Little has changed in the two years it took Volkswagen to convert the concept to a production model, meaning the Arteon looks as good as, if not more, than the Sport Coupe Concept GTE. Wide, low-slung, sleek and devoid of overdone cuts and creases in the sheet metal, the Arteon impresses with clean lines and spot-on proportions. The front end is characterized by the long hood that extends deep into the fenders on either sides like sports cars and the wide radiator grille that runs end to end. The large single-piece grille feature two distinct sections, the upper half merging seamlessly with the headlights and the lower half defining the lines in the bumper. Other attractive elements include the flared wheel arches, the coupe-like roofline, the horizontal character line running the length of the car and the prominent bootlid spoiler.


The Arteon, Volkswagen claims, is a gran turismo. That meant the focus during development was as much on space and practicality as was on design and styling. Helping the cause is the Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) platform on which the Arteon is based. In this layout, the engine is transversely mounted, thereby liberating space. Volkswagen claims impressive rear legroom and luggage space that could be extended up to 1,557 liters.

The interiors are a typical Volkswagen affair with build quality and function taking precedence over form. Of course, the flat-bottom steering wheel and the slim air-conditioning vents that span the length of the dashboard look great and add a touch of class to a cabin that looks plush, well-built and neatly laid out. The center console houses a 9.2-inch infotainment screen that feature intuitive gesture control and makes do without analogue buttons.


As you would expect from a flagship, a host of advanced driver assistance and convenience systems make their debut in the Arteon. These include Adaptive Cruise Control that takes into account the speed limits and route information, dynamic cornering lights with predictive beam control, advanced second-generation Emergency Assist that’s capable of steering the car automatically into the slow lane while simultaneously braking the car to a stop, Lane Assist that reacts to other vehicles, Proactive occupant protection system (PreCrash), Side Assist and Sign Assist. 

In terms of powertrain options, the Arteon gets a choice of two petrol engines (1.5 TSI and 2.0 TSI) offering three states of tune from 148 horsepower to 276 horsepower and the 2.0 TDI diesel engine with three different states of tune from 148 horsepower to 237 horsepower. Transmission options include a 6-speed manual and the popular 7-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission. 

As impressive as the Arteon is, India is not likely to feature in the list of countries where the car would go on sale. But wait, did we tell you the Passat is headed here?

20170309

2017 Geneva - Ferrari rocks the show with the 812 Superfast

In the world of automobiles, Geneva is where the Italians generally go and have fun. It’s been no different this year. Running circles around all the other debuts at the 2017 edition of the Geneva Motor Show was Ferrari with the unveiling of the 812 Superfast. 

Ferrari’s newest supercar is also probably the last of the brand’s legendary naturally-aspirated front-engined V12 speed machines with the next generation cars likely to go the hybrid route. But, the 812 Superfast ends the tradition on a high. How, you ask? The 812 Superfast is the fastest and the most powerful road-going regular Ferrari ever built.


Housing a 6.5-liter V12 engine under the hood, the newest supercar from Maranello generates a whopping 788 horsepower and a massive 718 Nm of torque. Those are incredible figures for an engine that’s not force fed. With no turbo lag to tackle and as much as 80% of the peak torque available at just 3,500 rpm, this Ferrari would be nothing but sheer driving nirvana. 


The Ferrari 812 Superfast is super fast with the 0 to 100 km/h sprint taking just 2.9 seconds. The 200 km/h dash is dispatched in 7.9 seconds while the claimed top speed is 340 km/h.


Every new Ferrari is a sight to behold but the 812 Superfast has got to be the most striking new car from Maranello in years. The silhouette, especially, is gorgeous with the rising fastback shape and the long flowing hood creating a lasting impression the moment our eyes come into contact. The graceful quad circular taillights we’ve seen and loved in many Ferraris of the past returns in the 812 Superfast. 


From the pictures, the interiors appear to be sporty yet plush enough to let the owners immerse themselves in the experience. Though driving a V12-engined Ferrari and not hearing to its glorious scream sounds like sacrilege, there are some who do that, it seems. That explains why Ferrari offers a high-end audio system with 12 speakers and a 1,280 Watt amplifier with Quantum Logic in the 812 Superfast.

If you have been reading this post so far, you obviously aren’t one of those fortunate few who would get to own this legend-in-the-making. Well, atleast you now know what’s your desktop wallpaper would be for the next few months.