Tesla revives the Roadster; It looks gorgeous and goes super fast.

Elon Musk, the man behind the ‘tech-tour-de-force-of-auto-industry’ Tesla, had tweeted earlier this week, “Tesla Semi Truck unveil will blow your mind clear out of your skull and into an alternate dimension”. He couldn’t have been more spot on! 

Blew our mind clear off our skulls, it sure did. It’s just not the Semi Truck which did that. Instead, it was what came off the smoking truck towards the end of the event. 

With nary a hint running up to the event, Tesla dropped a bombshell in front of a shocked crowd that probably had expected a bunch of Model 3 sedans to come out of the just-unveiled Semi Truck. But what emerged was this, the successor to the Tesla Roadster. For those who do not know, the low-volume Roadster was the brand’s first car ever before the Model S came and made Tesla a household name.

Not much about the new car was revealed beyond the fact that it’s a two-door, four-seat convertible with a detachable hard top and some insane specs. Insane, for lack of a better word! 

This new roadster, Tesla claims, can go from 0 to 60 mph (100 km/h) in an earth-shattering 1.9 seconds.. covering a quarter-mile (0.4 km) in 8.9 seconds flat! With a claimed top speed in excess of 250 mph (402 km/h) and a hitherto-unheard-of "620-mile range" (>1,000 km), the Tesla Roadster will become the fastest road car ever built. Period. 

Do we see the engineers at Bugatti, Porsche, Lamborghini and Ferrari sweating already? 

Tesla’s newest baby has three motors, one in front and two in the rear, drawing power from a 200 KWh battery pack nestled somewhere on its floor, all-wheel drive and torque steering. 

Prices are expected to hover around $200,000 and production is expected to begin 2020. Knowing Tesla’s history in delaying on delivery commitments, you know when the first cars would arrive at customers. Be wary of that if you’re putting in your money ($50,000 is said to be the reservation amount) on this!

Sleek, sexy and gorgeous, the new Roadster is all Tesla needed to steer clear off the spate of negative publicity surrounding the brand’s failure to ramp up the production of Model 3 sedans. In one sheer stroke of genius, Elon Musk, by his own admission, delivered a hardcore smack-down to gasoline cars and all but ensured Tesla remains in the headlines for years to come.

Tesla unveils Semi Truck, its biggest 'electrifying' gamble yet

After building up hype through a series of tweets and a near-revealing teaser, Tesla finally showed the world it’s next big thing. And it’s really big - a Class 8, 18-wheeled, Semi truck that are dime a dozen on American freeways. Needless to say, it’s fully electric and powered by lithium-ion battery packs, like all things Tesla.

With a sleek, sophisticated and aerodynamic design, Tesla’s Semi is impressive the moment you set sights on it. The vertically-stacked LED lights, the smooth and rounded fascia without the ubiquitous grille, the wraparound windshield, the flush-fitting panels that form the cab and the enclosed rear wheels makes the Tesla Semi a truck unlike anything we’ve seen before. 

Access to the cab is through a pair of rear-hinged doors with flush-fitted handles. The absence of a diesel engine up front meant Tesla could drop the nose of the cab down vertically, let the driver sit right in the center of the cabin and allow for full standing room inside. What’s a Tesla without a touchscreen? The Semi gets two of them - 15 inches in size - on either side of the 3-spoke steering wheel and they control everything from navigation to blind spot monitoring to electronic data logging to connectivity to the operator’s fleet management system. These aside, a few cup holders, a solitary button for hazard lights and a jump seat are all that could be seen! 

Safety has been prioritized with the Tesla Semi getting features like a thermonuclear explosion proof windshield, a reinforced battery pack, onboard sensors to look for signs of jackknifing and adjust power to individual wheels to maintain stability, surround cameras and the brand’s popular ‘Enhanced Autopilot’ that makes the truck capable of driving itself on the highway, staying in its lane and maintaining a safe distance from neighboring vehicles.

Alright, let’s talk numbers now as that’s what these trucks are built for. Without a trailer, the Tesla Semi can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph (100 km/h) in an incredible 5 seconds, faster than many supposedly fast cars. Hauling a full 80,000-pound load, the same feat is achieved in 20 seconds, almost four times as much faster than a diesel truck. Notably, Tesla claims its Semi climbs 5% grades at a steady 65 mph whereas a diesel truck maxes out at 45 mph. Regenerative braking recovers 98% of the kinetic energy to the battery and the absence of gears and clutch ensure smooth build-up and shedding of speed. 

Incredibly, Tesla Semi has a claimed Drag Coefficient of 0.36 which is superior to Bugatti Chiron’s 0.38! 

Armed with four independent electric motors, two in each axle, and an undisclosed-but-higher-capacity battery pack, the Tesla Semi reportedly generates an equivalent of 1000 horsepower. Being an electric vehicle, all the torque should be available from standstill which is a boon for load-hauling trucks. Tesla’s claimed range is 500 miles, better than what was expected to be honest. As always, Tesla has come up with a buzzword with this unveiling. Welcome 'Megachargers', the solar-powered high-speed DC charging solution that adds up to 400 miles in 30 minutes and can be installed at origin or destination points or along heavily-trafficked routes. 

Crucially, Tesla claims superior reliability owing to fewer moving parts than a diesel truck and lower total cost of ownership with expected savings of over $200,000 over a million miles on fuel cost alone with its Semi.

Bookings for the Tesla Semi can be done with an advance payment of $5,000 and production is expected to start 2019. Add a couple of years buffer and you know the earliest date you'll have your Semi delivered. 

As much as Tesla tries to present its Semi as a tempting proposition for fleet operators, the challenge ahead is quite clear. Tesla isn't the first-mover in electric trucks and it's not going to be easy convincing the targeted clientele. At least, not as easy as convincing the hundreds of thousands of car-buyers that hopped onto the Tesla bandwagon.


Royal Enfield unveils the Interceptor 650 Twin and the Continental GT 650 Twin

An unmistakable identity, a brand following to die for, sky-rocketing sales and surging profits. With all these firmly in the bag, Royal Enfield has now embarked on a journey that promises to take them farther and higher up the global chain. 

Ending months of speculation, Royal Enfield finally unveiled their eagerly-awaited twin-cylinder motorcycles - the Continental GT 650 Twin and the Interceptor 650 Twin - at the EICMA Show in Milan, Italy. With the curtains off their back, these motorcycles signal the rebirth of the brand’s legendary parallel twin engine of the years gone by. Hardcore aficionados would have also taken note of the Interceptor nameplate making a comeback.

Both, the Continental GT 650 and the Interceptor 650, look brilliant with their ‘retro modern’ styling but what piques our interest more is their source of power. 

Nestled in that solid, twin-cradle, tubular frame that the two motorcycles share is an all-new 648cc, twin parallel cylinder, oil-cooled, SOHC engine that generates 47 horsepower at 7,100 rpm and 52 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm. This fuel-injected motor gets a forged crankshaft with a 270-degree firing order for smoother power delivery and broader torque spread. Paired with it is a six-speed gearbox with a slip-assist clutch. Twin S&S silencers on either sides not just look great but have also been tuned for that right tone and burble, says Royal Enfield. All you thump and burble fans out there, relax! 

The chassis and frame have been developed from scratch by the Royal Enfield UK Tech Center and Harris Performance. Suspension duties are handled by conventional telescopic forks up front and gas-charged dual shocks with a piggyback reservoir at the rear. Both wheels are equipped with  disc brakes and Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) is standard on both motorcycles.

While the two motorcycles share the mechanicals, they look different and cater to different needs. 

The Interceptor is a retro roadster and draws inspiration from the namesake motorcycle of the past. Classic touches include circular headlight, twin-pod instrument cluster, teardrop-shaped fuel tank and a flat, quilted, single-piece seat with a slight hump at the rear. With an upright riding stance and back-set foot pegs, the motorcycle is intended for cruising on highways. 

The Continental GT, on the other hand, is a Café Racer intended to get you from Point A to Point B in the shortest possible time. Featuring a sportier stance, clip-on handlebars and a more angular tank, the motorcycle makes its intentions clear. Despite looking very similar to the Continental GT 535 on sale in India, there are apparently very few parts that are common to both. 

Royal Enfield has designed an extensive suite of genuine accessories for the new pair of motorcycles ranging from engine guards, pannier mounts and fly screens to seat cowls, alloy wheels and mirrors. 

Wait, don’t think of owning one in India yet. Both these motorcycles would first go on sale in Europe in the first half of 2018. After accounting for the demand overseas and production ramp up, an India launch is likely towards the end of next year. Until then, continue drooling!


Chevrolet celebrates 100 years of making pick-up trucks

Chevrolet has been in existence since 1911 but not until 1918 did they build their first pick-up truck. Inspired by workers who modified vehicles to lug things around the factory, the One-Ton truck was born. Little did the folks at Chevrolet knew they would be making these trucks in hundreds of thousands a whole century later. 

From 1918 till date in 2017, a staggering 85 million trucks have rolled out wearing the iconic ‘bowtie’ badge. With the 2018 Model Year, Chevrolet Trucks are stepping into their 100th year. As one would expect, Chevrolet is in celebratory mood and kicked off a series of commemorative events at the State Fair of Texas late September.

Special ‘Centennial Edition’ Trucks

Car-makers usually celebrate milestones like these by doling out special editions of their popular models. Chevrolet isn't averse to it and duly rolled out special ‘Centennial Editions’ of its best-selling Silverado and Colorado trucks.

While the Silverado Centennial Edition is based on the LTZ Z71 trim in Crew Cab configuration, the Colorado Centennial Edition is based on the Z71 trim and available in Crew Cab and Extended Cab configurations.

Wearing distinctive ‘Centennial Blue’ paint job, exclusive heritage bowtie emblems in places you would expect and more, 100 year badges proudly stuck onto the front doors, chrome embellishments and bigger wheels, these special editions are said to be inspired by the colours and design cues found on early Chevrolet Trucks. As you would have noticed, all changes are purely cosmetic with the mechanicals remaining untouched.

A one-off, customized, Classic Truck

The Centennial Editions are good alright but what set our heart beats racing is something different. And old! Yes, this one-off, customized, classic C/10 Concept that Chevrolet showcased at the 2017 SEMA Show as part of the Centennial Celebrations is the kind of stuff our dreams are made of. 

Before we get to this one-off stunner, let’s go back to 1960. That was the year Chevrolet introduced the C/K Series of trucks, widely considered as the beginning of the modern era of pick-ups. The 1967 C/10 that Chevrolet chose to customize belongs to the advanced, second-generation C/K Series that debuted in 1967.

This particular truck started its life as a long-bed model with a big cab window, a rarity in its day. Chevrolet Performance came in, shortened the frame, chopped off a portion of the bed, lowered the suspension, slapped on a set of 20-inch wheels and voila, we have what you see here. 

If you are impressed just by those classic lines and that perfect stance, wait until you know what’s under the hood. The crazy folks at Chevrolet Performance have crammed in a ZZ6 small-block crate engine in there, good for a whopping 405 horsepower and a staggering 583 Nm of torque. Mated to it is a 4-speed automatic transmission from Chevrolet Performance’s lineup of factory-matched powertrain systems. 

Visually, the C/10 Concept gets the same heritage bowtie emblems and the Centennial Blue paint job that the special edition Silverado and Colorado come with. Forged wheels, upgraded brakes, wider tires, LED exterior and interior lighting, brushed-finish panels and rounded, smoothened bumpers complete the package. The result is, in one word, stunning.

You’re sold, right? Unfortunately, this is a one-off show car and you can’t buy one even if you want to. Too bad, Chevy. Too bad.

And some more…

Ongoing celebrations, in addition to the aforementioned special editions, include the expansion of hitherto-Texas-only “Truck Legends” program across the United States of America. The program recognizes customers who own a Chevy Truck with more than 100,000 miles on the odometer or those who have purchased or leased more than one new Chevy Truck in their lifetime. A wide range of branded accessories and merchandise are also available.

The 100-day celebration will conclude with a Chevy Trucks Centennial Celebration event on 16th of December at the Texas Motor Speedway.

Arch-rival Ford concluded centenary celebrations of its own earlier this year and with Chevrolet joining suit, expect the long-standing and legendary tussle to truck supremacy spill over to a second century.


Renault launches the Captur in India between ₹9.99 and ₹13.88 Lakhs

Crossovers might be the ‘in-thing’ in India now but it was Renault that kicked off this storm way back in 2010 with the Duster. That was when the term ‘crossover’ was relatively unheard of and SUVs meant heavy, body-on-frame vehicles like the Tata Safari and Mahindra Scorpio. It’s quite ironic then the Duster has been left trailing behind by newer and modern rivals like the Hyundai Creta and Maruti-Suzuki S-Cross. Renault is now playing catch up and it hopes to do so with this, the Captur.

Launched in New Delhi yesterday, the Captur is available in three petrol and four diesel variants. While the RXE, RXL and RXT are common to both engines, the Platine Edition, a world debut, is exclusively available with the diesel engine. The petrol variants retail between INR 9.99 and 11.69 Lakhs while the diesel variants are priced from INR 11.39 Lakhs and go upto INR 13.88 Lakhs.

Under the hood are two engines that aren't new to us. The diesel is the tried-and-tested 1.5-liter K9K mill in the 109 horsepower tune that's seen in the higher variants of the Duster. The petrol option is the 1.5-liter H4K unit churning out 105 horsepower and 142 Nm of torque. The former gets a 6-speed manual transmission while the latter is paired with a 5-speed manual gearbox. Automatic transmission is not on offer at the moment.

Despite sharing the nameplate and styling elements, the Captur we get is not the same Captur on sale in Europe. The Indian Captur is based on Duster’s low-cost ‘M0’ platform that also underpinned the Lodgy and Logan to name a few. As a result, the Indian Captur is bigger and potentially more abuse-friendly than the smaller but much-advanced Clio-based European Captur.

The naming confusion aside, the Captur looks every bit French and unmistakably Renault. The fascia is dominated by a V-shaped grille that houses a rather large ‘lozenge’ logo at the center. Subtle chrome highlights, along with sleek LED headlights and unique C-shaped LED DRLs lends the Captur a touch of class. The floating indicators, available on the flagship ‘Platine’ variant, looks pretty cool. The muscular profile is characterized by flared wheel arches and steeply-raked window line. The soft and rounded rear gives the Captur more of a crossover look than a SUV, just like its arch-rival from Maruti-Suzuki, the S-Cross. 

Renault is offering a host of customization options over and above the usual dual-tone colours with the Captur, a trend that’s fast catching up in the Indian market. 

Unlike some of its rivals, even the base variant of the Captur is well loaded. Don't believe us? Get this. All variants of the Captur get ABS with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist, driver and passenger airbag, impact-sensing door unlock, speed-sensing auto door lock, automatic climate control, rear cooling vents, Smart Access Card for keyless entry, push button start, steering-mounted audio and phone controls, integrated 2-DIN audio system with USB, Aux and BlueTooth functionality, roof spoiler, projector headlamps and LED DRLs. 

While the ‘feature spread’ increases as we move up the variant ladder, the much-hyped ‘Platine’ variant gets exclusive goodies like side airbags, Electronic Stability Control, Hill Start Assist, cornering lamps, gold accents in the cabin, illuminated vanity mirrors and glove box and full leather upholstery. 

The interiors, though similar in appearance to the European model, isn’t the best of designs out there. Build quality, fit and finish are expected to be a notch above the Duster, given the premium positioning of the Captur. One of Duster’s strong points is the space on offer for five adults and the Captur should be no different, given that the platform underneath is the same. That would also mean the Captur is endowed with the Duster’s revered ride and handling characteristics. Add to that the 210 mm ground clearance and the Captur should have no problems navigating our roads. The absence of an All Wheel Drive option is inexplicable, considering the cheaper Duster offers it.

With style, space, features and exceptional ride by its side, the Captur sure is a competent crossover. But, the pricing isn't what we would call competitive. Sure, the Captur would bring in additional volumes for Renault but will it become a smash hit like the Duster did when it was launched?

Will the Indian public overlook the Creta and the S-Cross despite their cheaper price tags and stronger brand pull? Sounds tough, no? That's what the folks at Renault India have gotten themselves into. Let’s wait and watch how this plays out.


2017 Tokyo - Honda's Sports EV Concept is the tiny sport coupe we have been craving for

Small, cheerful cars are what Honda was known for at one point in time and, somewhere along the way, they started treading a different path with their models getting bigger and busier. At the Frankfurt Motor Show earlier this year, Honda showed signs of returning to its original ways with the Urban EV Concept. Small, retro-cute and a full-electric powertrain - it had all the right ingredients for success and, needless to say, the concept was appreciated and received a lot of love. 

At the Tokyo Motor Show, Honda followed it up with a smaller and sportier sibling, the Sports EV Concept. 

The cute little coupe is similar in design and conception to the hatch but a whole lot cooler, thanks to its chic lines and sportier stance. Up front, a black panel takes the place of a traditional grille with a blue-backlit Honda logo taking pride of place at the center. The same theme is followed at the rear as well while the lights themselves are similar in shape and size to the ones used in the Urban EV Concept. The windshield and windows wrap around the car while the sloping roof and rear windshield appear a single unit.

Like the Urban EV Concept, the Sports EV Concept gets the 'Honda Automated Network Assistant' - a personal concierge that can offer recommendations to the driver and the 'Honda Power Manager' - a system that store and release power from its own battery back to the home and grid. The car-maker has not divulged more details on the electric powertrain, so the power and range discussions shall be had later. 

The fact the Urban EV Concept would span a production model as early as 2019 had us all grinning with glee. Unfortunately, Honda has been tight-lipped on the prospects of the same happening to the Sports EV Concept so far. 

That said, an affordable sport coupe is conspicuous by its absence in Honda's global lineup and this tiny electric coupe, at the right price, would be a perfect fit as it is. Are you listening, Honda?


2017 Tokyo - Subaru Viziv Performance Concept kindles the next-gen WRX dream

The ongoing Tokyo Motor Show played host to the latest in the series of Viziv (Vision for Innovation) concepts from Subaru. Unlike the crossovers showcased on previous occasions, the Viziv Performance Concept takes the shape of a hardcore performance sedan this time. Are we then looking at the next-generation WRX? Yes, possibly.

Subaru's concepts have never failed to attract attention and the Viziv Performance Concept is no different. With extra large air dams in the front bumper, a muscular hood scoop, massively-flared wheel arches housing ultra-low profile tires and quad tailpipes with two each on either side of the rear diffuser, the Viziv Concept screams performance from all angles. For their part, the slender 'Hawk-Eye' LED headlights and C-shaped taillights with a horizontal strip connecting them add to the visual drama. Carbon-fiber have been used extensively in the bumpers, fenders and the roof. 

While Subaru has not revealed the numbers yet, what we know is that the Viziv Performance Concept gets the brand's claim-to-fame 'Symmetrical AWD' system powered by a horizontally-opposed 'boxer' engine perfected over five decades of usage in multiple high-stress applications, notably the Impreza.

Advanced Driver Assist functions incorporating the next-generation EyeSight system with other devices, enhanced radar and highly accurate GPS have been installed to promote Enjoyment and Peace of Mind, in Subaru's terms.

Known for its rich racing heritage and supreme dynamic abilities, the WRX has earned a cult following across the world. Subaru should keep those fans and loyalists in mind when they work on the production version. So, no, a modest-looking production model succeeding a gorgeous concept like the last WRX won't do! 

With the Mitsubishi Evo, WRX's arch-rival, gone for good, Subaru has the market all to itself, if that's going to be helpful.


2017 Tokyo - Mitsubishi e-Evolution Concept previews the brand's future

To say that we were shocked when Mitsubishi announced the Lancer Evolution series would be discontinued is an understatement. That happened quite some time back and since then, we have reconciled to the fact the Japanese car-maker's budgets just aren't big enough to develop an all-new generation of the loved-and-revered sports sedan and that they are playing to their strengths in making Electric Vehicles (EV) and Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV).

Out went the Lancer Evolution, or 'Evo' as it is fondly called, with a 'Final Edition' marking its demise. Mitsubishi, back then, promised the nameplate would be back in a different form. That said, nobody would have guessed the car you see above would evolve into something you see right below.

After a series of teasers to jack up the interest quotient, Mitsubishi finally took the wraps off the e-Evolution Concept at the ongoing 2017 Tokyo Motor Show.  

The all-electric SUV concept indicates the potential direction Mitsubishi, as a brand, is headed. Combining the Japanese car-maker's know-how in making robust, go anywhere SUVs and futuristic EVs, the e-Evolution Concept arrives at just the right time. Demand for SUVs and crossovers are sky-rocketing globally and EVs are threatening to kill the IC Engine in a decade or two from now. 

Mitsubishi's SUVs are getting bolder of late and the e-Evolution Concept is yet another step in that direction. Up front, Mitsubishi's 'Dynamic Shield' takes a new form with a black mesh grille located underneath a layer of glass. The busy fascia houses twin pairs of LED lights with large air intakes below to cool the electric brake calipers. The steeply-raked windshields, short overhangs and high ground clearance give it 'go anywhere' proportions while the floating roof and aerodynamic profile, complete with a set of jet tail-fins at the C-pillars, look wild and modern. At the rear, things get busier with 3-winged boomerang-shaped taillights and a Pajero spare cover-inspired hexagonal panel being the highlights.

The design folks at Mitsubishi appears to have been given a free hand when it comes to interior layout and appointments. The flat-bottomed half-steering wheel, the floating instrument panel, the 3-part flat screen that runs the width of the dashboard and the wide center stack housing a plethora of dials and controls hint at things that could potentially trickle through to future production models. 

Powering the e-Evolution Concept are three electric motors with one driving the front wheels and two driving each of the rear wheels. The high-capacity battery pack is placed between the axles in the floor, thereby lowering the center of gravity and aiding vehicle dynamics. Off-roading credentials are aplenty courtesy full 4WD hardware comprising of an electronically-controlled torque-vectoring 'Active Yaw Control (AYC)' system integrated with Mitsubishi's unique Super All-Wheel Control system.

There's more, Mitsubishi has even equipped the e-Evolution Concept with Artificial Intelligence (AI) that can not just read changes in road and traffic conditions but also read driver's intent.

That Mitsubishi is trying to leverage its strong pedigree in making robust SUVs and intelligent Electric Vehicles (EV) is clear and well understood. That they are using the acclaimed 'Evolution' nameplate, easily one of the most recognizable models globally, is what is tough to digest.

Hello Subaru, the Impreza WRX STi's order books just got a fillip from loyalists who hoped against hope  for a new 'Evo' sedan. Don't even dare think of stopping them!

2017 Tokyo - Mazda aims upscale with the Vision Coupe Concept

The 2017 Tokyo Motor Show is underway and visitors are seemingly flocking to the Mazda stall. Yes, the Kai Concept was one reason for all the attention Mazda has got but credits go to the show-stopping 'Vision Coupe' Concept that vowed the critics and the show-goers alike. 

The stunning, full-size 4-door coupe is like nothing in Mazda's lineup today and is a clear hint the Japanese car-maker is looking to head upscale if the right opportunity presents itself. With crossovers making sedans of all shapes and sizes eat humble pie, we would need more of these to wrestle the momentum back to a body-style that everybody we know seemingly like the most.

The Vision Coupe Concept strikes at first glance, thanks to the classic 'long hood, swept-back cabin and short deck' proportions usually reserved for front-engined rear-wheel-drive Grand Tourers. Up front, the aggressive U-shaped grille cuts right into the slender headlights that houses circular HID projectors. The interplay of surfaces brought together by the long and flowing hood that extends over the edge of the nose and the aggressively-sculpted front bumper is a visual delight. The profile is minimalism redefined with Mazda's designers banking on the reflection of light out of the polished surfaces to speak for themselves. The shoulder line that originates in the front fender gains prominence as we move towards the rear where it merges beautifully with the flowing roof-line. A pair of circular LED taillights are houses in a recessed piece of metal at the rear with dual circular tailpipes on either side hinting at the power in store. 

Its sensuous design apart, what impresses most is the stunning levels of attention to detail this car is blessed with. Just look at the close-up shots we have merged in the collage below to know what we mean. Despite that, remarkably, the sheet metal is devoid of unwanted cuts and creases that plague the current Japanese designs (We are not looking at you, Toyota and Honda!). 

Even if Mazda decides to set aside the millions of Japanese Yen required for transforming a concept like this to production, expect typical conceptual elements like the slender rear view mirrors, hidden door handles and massive wheels to make way for toned-down parts we see in the market.

The interiors break conventions as well with Mazda getting rid of the usual buttons-clad steering wheel, digital cluster and tablet-affixed center console. Instead, a sophisticated digital-analog instrument panel sits behind a well-designed, metal-garnished steering wheel. The dash is designed to incorporate a three-dimensional effect to convey that sense of speed. Aiding the overall aesthetics are the inset, ultra-wide GPS screen and the wooden inserts on the doors and floor console.   

While Mazda has not revealed the specifications of the Vision Coupe Concept, there are atleast a couple of high-tech options within the brand to go under the hood of a car in this size and class. There is this rotary 'Wankel' engine Mazda pioneered decades back that powered the famous RX series of sports cars. There is also this SkyActiv-X tech, a recent proprietary development by Mazda that combines compression ignition's advantages of higher fuel efficiency, torque and initial acceleration with a spark-controlled gasoline engine. Add an electric motor or two and voila, a high-tech power source would be ready for deployment! 

If this is what the future of Mazda would look like, we are super excited. That said, we really wish the Vision Coupe Concept is not relegated to its moments of glory in the show floors. Let's hope this makes it to production in some form in the not-so-distant future, however bleak the prospects are!

2017 Tokyo - Kai Concept is a sign of glorious things in store from Mazda

The 2017 Tokyo Motor Show is underway and its perfectly normal to expect the usual biggies from Japan - Toyota, Honda and Nissan to rock. Instead, it is Mazda, the relatively-small independent Japanese car-maker, that's rocking the show big time with a couple of beautifully-designed concepts. 

First up is the Kai Concept that's inspired by the current Mazda 3 and previews the next-generation model. This compact 5-door hatchback also heralds the evolution of the Japanese brand's popular 'KODO - Soul of Motion' design language. Sleek, suave and sexy all at once, the Kai Concept is proof regular hatchbacks don't have to look mundane and boring. 

The aggression with which the familiar U-shaped grille cuts into the slender headlights, the assertive way in which the long muscular hood extends over the edge of the nose, the reflection projected onto the sides by the minimalist surfacing, the chunky C-pillars that complements the forward-raked windows and that gorgeous rear end with the split taillights together creates an impression that's tough to overlook. Yes, when it comes out in the form of next-generation Mazda 3, the styling would obviously be toned down but, knowing Mazda, there are chances many of Kai Concept's design elements would trickle through. 

Unlike many concepts that are just external design studies, the Kai Concept's interiors have got enough time and attention as well. The three-dimensional dashboard design that does away with the usual 'center console with a large touchscreen' concept and the door panels that syncs with the deep draw surfacing of the doors outside are visual treats that sadly won't probably make it to production.

Underpinned by Mazda's next-generation SkyActiv Vehicle Architecture - a light-weight, human-centered architecture aimed at enchancing driving dynamics and powered by Mazda's patented SkyActiv-X technology - a gasoline engine with spark-controlled compression ignition incorporated for that typical diesel-like fuel efficiency, torque and initial acceleration, the Kai Concept literally hints at what's in store for the future. And the future looks promising!  

All said and done, if the next-generation Mazda 3 looks as good as the Kai Concept and the SkyActiv-X engine is as good as it is claimed to be, expect Mazda's sales to skyrocket. Its a pity India is not on Mazda's agenda now or in the near future!


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!