20190521

Next-generation Mahindra Scorpio spotted testing

In more ways than one, the Scorpio has been Mahindra’s coming-of-age product. It was not just the first indigenous model developed by the Indian car-maker but also the first time the brand had conceptualized and launched something that wasn’t derived from the erstwhile Jeeps they were making under license for decades. Armed with macho styling, potent engines, tough body-on-frame build and competitive pricing that pitched it directly against the mid-size sedans of the time, the Scorpio scripted history. 


Would you believe if we tell you the Scorpio – 17 long years after its launch – is still Mahindra’s best-selling model? Yes, not the trend-setting XUV5OO, not the newest-of-the-lot Marazzo and not even the much-cheaper KUV1OO! That the Scorpio still manages to attract thousands of demanding buyers out there month-on-month speaks volumes about its strengths and the way it delivers what’s expected of it. Remarkably, the Scorpio on sale in 2019 sports the same basic design that it debuted with way back in 2002. Of course, there were four facelifts in-between but you get the point.

That explains how crucial this camouflaged test mule – believed to be the next-generation Scorpio – is for Mahindra. Caught testing near Oragadam on the outskirts of Chennai - not far off Mahindra's R&D Center - the test vehicle hides a great deal of Mahindra's near future underneath it's camouflage. 


At first glance, it’s clear the upcoming Scorpio is wider, longer and shorter than the model it's slated to replace. Thanks to the thick camouflage, design elements of the new Scorpio remain hidden. But, it’s fair to assume Mahindra’s trademark slatted grille will take pride of place up front. We only wish it doesn't end up looking gawky like the one in the test car. On the same note, let's also ignore the crude round headlights and taillights seen here. They are sure be replaced by modern wraparound units in the production version. While a couple of bulges can be seen on the tall and flat hood, the popular offset hood scoop from the current Scorpio seems to have been given a miss. Just like the current Scorpio however, mildly-flared wheel arches and a kink on the window line can be seen in profile. The wheelbase is noticeably longer too, reducing the rear overhang. The rear isn’t upright anymore, bringing the car more in line with the times.

With all of these comes not just better stance and proportions but also potential improvements in interior space and handling. Talk to the current Scorpio owners and you'll know these two are the areas where they feel the current model lags behind rivals. While the improvements in the second row are most welcome, what remains to be seen is the usage of space behind it. Will the new Scorpio continue to get side-facing bench seats in the third row or will the engineers plonk in the better and safer forward-facing bench? That remains to be seen. 

Mechanically, the next-generation Scorpio is expected to retain it's body-on-frame construction. Expect a host of improvements underneath though. That's great news as the Scorpio would continue to be the true-blue traditional SUV in a field full of monocoque wannabe SUVs. Rumour mills state that Mahindra's 2.2-liter 'mHawk' engine is likely to make way to an all-new BS6-compliant 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel engine that generates over 150 horsepower. A 6-speed manual and a 6-speed automatic transmissions are likely with four-wheel drive option available in select variants.

While Mahindra hasn't confirmed yet, we expect the new Scorpio to go on sale late 2020 or early 2021. Let's wait and see if the next-gen Scorp stings Mahindra's rivals as hard and deep as the original did in 2002!

20190418

Hyundai unveils the Venue in simultaneous events held in New York and India

South-Korean car-maker Hyundai took the wraps off it's much-awaited compact crossover - the Venue - yesterday. Slotting in below the Kona as the smallest crossover in the lineup, the weirdly-named Venue marks a departure from Hyundai's traditional naming convention for SUVs. For those that do not know, the Kona, Tucson, Santa Fe and Palisade are all named after popular American east coast holiday destinations! 


While the global unveiling took place amidst the glitz and grandeur of the New York Auto Show, the Venue for India was uncovered on-board a cruise ship from Mumbai to Goa. It just goes to show how important the Indian market is for Hyundai in general and the Venue in particular. 

How can it not be? Compact SUVs and crossovers are all the rage these days and every model - from the Ford EcoSport that pioneered the segment to the newest challenger Mahindra XUV3OO - has been successful so far. Of course, Maruti-Suzuki's Vitara Brezza is the runaway sales leader in the pack and the model Hyundai is aiming for with the Venue.


Featuring Hyundai's signature design language first seen on the current Santa Fe, the Venue's fascia is rather striking. The eyeball-grabber, without a doubt, is the Cascading Grille with a checkered chrome mesh. To keep it short, all we can say is it's going to divide opinions. Split light clusters - the latest fad in SUV design circles - give the Venue a strong character that's hard to ignore. From the sides, the Venue looks pretty much like a Creta, albeit a size smaller. At the rear, things are simple and elegant with LED-equipped square-shaped taillights and bold 'VENUE' badging spread across the sculpted tailgate stealing the limelight. 

While the pictures in this post are of the American Venue, the design remains unchanged for India apart from minor detailing differences. It's dimunitive size apart, we got to admit that the Venue is quite a looker!


The interiors - going by the images released - look impressive. A sporty-looking multi-function steering wheel greets the driver while a well-designed and neatly laid-out dashboard look classy. A high-set 8.0-inch touchscreen system, equipped with Hyundai's latest 'Blue Link' connectivity technology that's making it's India debut, occupies prime place in the center. With a total of 33 features - of which 10 are unique for India - spanning safety, vehicle control, location-based services, remote access and voice recognition, the Venue will keep the tech geeks amongst us happy. 

Being a Hyundai, expect the Venue to boast class-leading fit and finish and an extensive feature list.


A 1.2-liter petrol engine generating 83 horsepower and 115 Nm of torque and a 1.4-liter diesel engine churning out 90 horsepower and 220 Nm of torque are the main engine options for India. Both these engines are shared with the popular i20. The petrol comes mated to a 5-speed manual transmission while the diesel gets a 6-speed manual gearbox. For enthusiasts yearning for more, Hyundai is also bringing along a 1.0-liter turbo petrol with 120 horsepower and 172 Nm of torque paired with a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission! 

Globally, a 1.6-liter petrol engine is likely to be Venue's mainstay fitted with a 6-speed manual or an Intelligent Variable transmission.

With the recently-unveiled Palisade expanding Hyundai's SUV lineup at the top, the pint-sized Venue is all set to do the same at the other end. The car goes on sale in India later this month and globally towards the end of the year. Should the Vitara Brezza be concerned? Probably not. Should the EcoSport, Nexon and XUV3OO be worried? Hell, yeah!

2019 New York - Lincoln Corsair debuts as the smallest crossover in the range

To say Lincoln is on a roll would be an understatement of mega proportions. It all started in 2015 when the brand previewed it's new design direction inside and out at the New York Auto Show with the Continental Concept. Since then, Ford's luxury arm has been the cynosure of many an eye in the Big Apple with the Navigator, Nautilus and Aviator making their debuts in subsequent editions of the show. It's the same in 2019 too with Lincoln previewing it's compact luxury crossover, the Corsair.


Lincoln's smallest crossover - based on the new Ford Escape - would replace the MKC, slotting in below the Aviator in the brand's increasingly-impressive lineup. 

The folks at Lincoln struck gold with the Navigator with critics as well as customers loving the way the behemoth SUV looked and pampered the occupants. It's not surprising then to see many of those elements being driven down the order. If the Aviator looked like a mini-Navigator, the Corsair looks like a mini-Aviator. We aren't complaining!


Head-on, high-set swept-back headlights sit on either side of a large chrome-embellished grille with the repeater lamps placed in their own recessed spots below the main light clusters. The grille, like all recent Lincoln models, features exquisite detailing with the mesh mimicking the brand's logo. In profile, you will notice the same sloping roofline, the prominent shoulder line and blacked-out pillars that are seen in the Aviator and the Nautilus. The Corsair moniker sits proudly beneath the rear view mirrors on either side. Taillights that run the width of the car, a muscular boot lid and dual-tone bumper with metallic inserts complete the rear. 


If Corsair's exteriors failed to excite you, chances are it's interiors will. The compact Lincoln's interiors are amongst the nicest ones in the segment without a doubt. The dashboard adopts a horizontal layout with unique full-width air-conditioning vents and a center stack that hangs unsupported. The mandatory touchscreen pops out on the other side, featuring Lincoln's SYNC 3.0 infotainment system. While the layout is classy and has a sort of retro-modern feel to it, the center stack - with a host of buttons and knobs - appear cluttered. 


A full suite of creature comforts and safety features are part of the standard kit offered with Lincoln's party trick - the 24-way power-adjustable front seats - available as an option. Other Lincoln goodies including extensive sound-proofing and Detroit Symphony Orchestra-recorded chimes for alerts are there too. What's more, the Corsair scores on practicality too with the rear passengers getting a manually-sliding and reclining split seat like the new Escape. 


Under the hood lurks a turbocharged 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine that churns out 250 horsepower and 373 Nm of torque. It's the same engine that powers Escape's higher variants. For those looking for more power, a 2.3-liter mill with 30 additional horses and a torque rating of 420 Nm will be on offer. Both engines are mated to a 8-speed automatic transmission. With it's platform-mate Escape announced with conventional and plug-in hybrid powertrain options, the Corsair is expected to get one eventually as well, sitting atop the lineup as the flagship.

With Lincoln still struggling to make enough Navigators to meet demand and interest levels on the Aviator hitting a peak, Lincoln is on an ascent. The Corsair, in all probability, is going to make the climb a bit steeper!

20190321

2019 Geneva - Tata Motors shines with an array of new models

The 2019 Geneva Motor Show closed curtains last week. As always, flying the Indian flag proudly there was Tata Motors with no less than four world debuts. Before you brush them off thinking them as just a bunch of new outworldy concepts that might never hit production, let us tell you two of those are launching right here in India this year. Yes, that's true. With the recently-launched Harrier also joining the party, Tatas sure had a good outing.

Altroz

When Tata Motors unveiled the 45X Concept at the 2018 Auto Expo in New Delhi, we heard there was not one onlooker that wasn't stunned with what they saw. This then, ladies and gentlemen, is the production version of the very same car. Of course, the car is now much toned down and there are certain elements that would take time to grow on us. Crucially, the Altroz would plug a gaping hole in Tata's domestic portfolio that lacks a premium hatchback to rival the Maruti-Suzuki Baleno, Hyundai i20 and the likes.


The first in a series of new models to be built on Tata's ALFA platform, the Altroz features the car-maker's "Impact 2.0" design philosophy. Those of you familiar with that term would immediately recognize the smiling mesh grille that merges with the wraparound headlights and the split light clusters up front. The profile is trendy and features prominent cuts and creases. The piano black inserts along the steeply-rising windows and the boot-lid, while adding a touch of character, looks polarizing. That said, the Nexon did split opinions when it first debuted but looks funky and acceptable now. The Altroz might do the same a year down the line!


The interiors feature a mutli-layered dashboard with a freestanding touchscreen sitting atop the center console. Also visible is the part-digital instrument cluster and the chunky steering wheel, both of which could have been designed with a bit more flair. Being a Tata, expect the Altroz to offer abundant space for the occupants and their luggage. The Altroz is expected to be powered by two petrol and one diesel engines. The base variants might get the 1.2-liter Revotron petrol engine from the Tiago while the higher variants are expected to have the turbocharged mill from the Nexon in a lower state of tune. A 1.5-liter diesel is also on the cards, we hear.

With the Tiago, Nexon and the Harrier receiving thumbs up from the demanding Indian customers, the Altroz is treading the right path to success. We can't wait to drive one and see if the Baleno and i20 should be worried. 

Altroz EV


Also on display at Geneva was the full-electric version of the upcoming Altroz. While this car is not expected to launch in India anytime soon, what's clear is that Tata's new ALFA architecture is EV ready and this car might make it to production once the Indian market starts warming up to electric cars and charging infrastructure is established. In terms of looks, the Altroz EV features unique bumpers and wheels while the interiors also look a bit more upmarket with a Jaguar-style rotary gear selector.


While Tata did not release specifications of the car's electric motor, they did highlight the expected range of 250 - 300 kilometers and fast-charging capabilities of the Altroz EV with upto 80% charge reached in just an hour. How excited are you to see the Altroz EV making it to production?

Buzzard

One of the two premieres at the Tata stand that's launching shortly in India is the Buzzard. Before you dismiss the car for it's bizzare name, note that Tata would be rechristening the car before it launches here. And rumors are it could be called the Cassini. Sounds cool, no?


Viewed head-on, the Buzzard looks very familiar. That's because this is essentially the 7-seater version of the Harrier that was launched in India a few weeks back. To be priced and positioned as the brand's flagship, the Buzzard features the same "Impact 2.0" design language that's turning heads everywhere. At the front, the split headlight clusters and the smiling grille that fuses with the thin LED Daytime Running Lights give the Buzzard tons of character. The profile gets accentuated wheel arches and a powerful waistline for that big and butch look. Interesting elements include a raised window line for the third row and the roof rail bracket that drops down the sides like the original Tata Safari. Together with the rear roof spoiler and the sculpted tailgate, the Buzzard smartly manages to hide its bulk.


Based on the same OMEGA architecture that also underpins the Harrier, the Buzzard's cabin is also shared for the most part with it's smaller sibling. From the pictures released, the third row doesn't appear that spacious but we will reserve the judgement until we see and get into one in person. Under the hood of the Buzzard will be the same 2.0-liter Kryotec diesel engine in a possibly higher state of tune. Generating 170 horsepower compared to the Harrier's 140, the Buzzard will have a 6-speed manual or a Hyundai-sourced 6-speed automatic transmission options.

Slated for launch soon after the Altroz, the Buzzard will go head-to-head with arch-rival Mahindra's XUV5OO. Keep your fingers crossed!

H2X Concept

That brings us to the last - and possibly the most interesting - model on Tata's stands. Previewing a micro SUV codenamed 'Hornbill', the H2X Concept is likely to get into production within the next couple of years, we hear.

The "Impact 2.0" design language has worked wonders for Tata and the H2X Concept follows in the same footsteps. Be it the grille, the split lights with the striking tri-arrow pattern, the powerful surfacing or the flared wheel arches, the H2X Concept features elements that look very similar to the H5X Concept that previewed the Harrier. What makes the H2X Concept more attractive though is it's upright stance and boxy proportions that gives it a proper SUV look and feel. 


Being a concept, Tata has taken the liberty to play around with the colours and appointments in the cabin. Bright 'turquoise' highlights on the air-conditioning vents, seatback panels and center console, a steering shaped like an aircraft yoke and a single large screen with two 10.2-inch displays  and a massive glass roof look trendy but might not make it to production. 


To be built on the ALFA platform that the Altroz also uses, the H2X Concept is likely to lock horns with the Mahindra KUV1OO and upcoming micro SUVs from Maruti-Suzuki and Hyundai. 


If Tata manages to "deliver exemplary performance, future-ready connectivity and outstanding interior room" as their press release states with looks and proportions that aren't far off this concept, we are in for a treat. Come on Tata, bring this on!

Joining these models was the Harrier that made it's European premiere, badged the Buzzard Sport. As the post title says, Tata indeed shone bright in the Geneva spotlight!

20190315

Tesla unveils Model Y, the last of it's 'S3XY' quartet of models

After a lot of hype and fanfare that lasted for months, Tesla finally lifted the veil off the Model Y. This compact crossover completes the American car-maker’s cheeky and much-publicized ‘SEXY’ lineup. Oops, make that ‘S3XY’ although the intention was always to have the ‘E’ instead of ‘3’ until Ford Motor Company put paid to those plans. 

If you don’t know already, the Model Y is the crossover-equivalent of the blockbuster Model 3. The Y not just shares platform and mechanicals with the 3 but also a ton of the sedan’s styling bits.


Clean, minimalist and, to some eyes, a bit bland and boring too, the Model Y looks every bit a Tesla. Head-on, the triangular headlights and the droopy flattened sheet metal panel in place of the grille clearly establishes the Y’s link with the 3. The only giveaway - for keen observers - is the slightly higher ride height to pass off as a crossover. In profile, the roof rises and sweeps down in one smooth arc, giving this compact crossover a coupe-ish look that’s much in vogue these days. A truly panoramic glass roof that runs end-to-end, the stubby boot with an integrated spoiler and a pair of darkened taillights that extend into the boot lid completes the design. If you were expecting fancy ‘gull wing’ doors like the ones on Model X, it’s time to curb your expectations.


The interiors, just like the Model 3, has nothing but seats, a steering wheel and a huge 15-inch touchscreen right in the center of the dashboard. From windshield wipers to the infotainment system, from navigation to air-conditioning, Tesla lets you do anything and everything with this screen and only with it. That’s not good, yes, but that’s how it is and it’s been working well for them this way. Nevertheless, loads of tech including Tesla's famous 'Auto Pilot' will be on offer in the Model Y.


Interestingly, Tesla has designed the Model Y with a capability to seat up to seven passengers with an optional third row seat. With that sloping roof, the headroom is going to be real tight out there for those in the last row! 

Both the base rear-wheel-drive model and the dual-motor all-wheel-drive model come in two variants each. At $60,000, the most expensive of those will have a range of 280 miles and a top speed of 150 miles per hour. With a claimed 0 to 60 mph acceleration time of 3.5 seconds, it will reach there pretty quickly too. Click on the image below that lists crucial specifications for all the four variants.


Unlike the other three models that are built at the plant in Fremont, California, the Model Y will be manufactured at Tesla’s huge Gigafactory in Nevada. An upcoming plant in Shanghai will also build Model Ys to cater to the demand in China and other Far East markets.

Crossover coupes are all the rage right now and Tesla is smartly trying to cash in on the trend with the Model Y. Combine the trendy body-style with the incredible brand pull Tesla has, it’s not hard to imagine a swell order book and a long waiting list for the newest Tesla. Come on now, rush to Tesla's website with your deposits!