The Legend (Schumi) is Back in Action

In what has turned out to be the biggest news in motor sport of the year, Michael Schumacher has confirmed that he is returning to what he did best over the years - Formula 1 Racing, in 2010. Mercedes-Benz has managed to pull a casting coup of sorts in it's line-up for 2010 - at one end, the very young and supremely talented Nico Rosberg and at the other end, the legendary, iconic Michael Schumacher. Add to it the Team Principal Ross Brawn and the line-up is incredible. Michael Schumacher and Ross Brawn share a very special relationship and it was this duo which brought the Ferrari team back to winning ways in F1. Also, Michael won all his seven F1 Championships under Ross Brawn.

Being a die-hard fan of Schumi like millions of others across the world, I was overwhelmed when the news of Michael replacing the injured Felipe Massa at Ferrari this year came out. But Schumi's neck injury ensured that the moment for which hordes of fans were waiting with bated breath did not happen. After all no one will ever forget the popular Schumi trademark - pumping his fists and jumping in air while standing in the podium even after making winning a habit over the years. I am sure it was Michael who made many people in India watch F1 and thus turned them into fans of the sport. Now that the legend is going to be back in action next year, competing with people almost half his age, he has made a world of good for the sport making sure that people across the globe will be glued to television sets during the 2010 F1 season. I wish Michael gets a good car and start the season directly challenging for the race victory and ultimately for the championship. Soon cometh March-2010!


Boeing's Dream takes Flight

After many agonizing hiccups and delays, Boeing's 787 Dreamliner took to the skies for the first time on Dec-15-2009 and successfully completed it's test flight which lasted for 3 hours. Ushering a new era in long, fuel-efficient air travel, the first commercial airplane from Boeing since 1994 took off before an estimated gathering of 12,000 employees and guests from Paine Field in Everett, Washington. The flight marks the beginning of a test program that will see six 787 Dreamliners flying nearly round the clock and around the globe, with the airplane's first delivery scheduled for 4th quarter of 2010.

"Today is truly a proud and historic day for the global team which has worked tirelessly to design and build the 787 Dreamliner - the first all-new jet airplane of the 21st century", said Scott Fancher, Vice President and General Manager of the 787 program. "We look forward to the upcoming flight test program and soon bringing groundbreaking levels of efficiency, technology and passenger comfort to airlines and the flying public". Powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, the first Boeing 787 will be joined in the flight test program in the coming weeks and months by five other 787s, including two that will be powered by General Electric GEnx engines.

According to Boeing, the 787 Dreamliner will offer passengers a better flying experience and provide airline operators greater efficiency to better serve the point-to-point routes and additional frequencies passengers prefer. The technologically-advanced 787 will use 20 percent less fuel than today's airplanes of comparable size, provide airlines with up to 45 percent more cargo revenue capacity and present passengers with innovations that include a new interior environment with cleaner air, larger windows, more stowage space, improved lighting and other passenger-preferred conveniences.

The 787 program has been a much-delayed nevertheless truly remarkable journey for Boeing. The company claims that with 55 customers around the world having ordered 840 airplanes already, the 787 Dreamliner is the fastest-selling new commercial jetliner in history.

Milestones of 787 Dreamliner Program:
  • Jul-08-2007: Unveiling of 787 Dreamliner
  • Jun-23-2008: Power On
  • Aug-11-2008: Gear Up
  • Nov-17-2008: Wing Break Test
  • May-05-2009: Move to Field
  • Jun-09-2009: Gauntlet Test
  • Nov-20-2009: Charleston Groundbreaking
  • Dec-12-2009: High Speed Taxi Test
  • Dec-15-2009: First Flight

2010 North American Car & Truck of the Year Finalists Announced

The final contenders for the prestigious 2010 North American Car and Truck Of The Year awards has just been announced. The models which have made the final cut are the Buick LaCrosse, Ford Fusion Hybrid and Volkswagen Golf/GTi in cars and the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Transit Connect and Subaru Outback in trucks. The winners will be announced on Jan-11-2010 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. One of the above models will be crowned as successors to the 2009 title winners, the Hyundai Genesis and Ford F150 in Cars and Trucks respectively.

The awards, which are in their 17th year, are very special and unique in North America because, instead of being given by a single media outlet, they are given by automotive journalists from USA and Canada representing all sections of the media like websites, television, magazines, etc. The awards are designed to recognize the most outstanding vehicles of the year based on factors that include innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar. To be eligible, vehicles must be “all-new” or “substantially changed” from the previous model. This year the jury considered more than 50 vehicles and finally focused on 16 cars and 10 trucks.

My bet is on the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Chevrolet Equinox to walk away with the honors for 2010 making it a clean sweep by the domestic automakers. But the jury may pull out a surprise at the Detroit Auto Show. So it's a long wait till Jan-11 to check whether my predictions and guesses are true.


2010 European Car of the Year is VW Polo

VW Polo has been crowned as the "European Car of the Year 2010". The supermini from Volkswagen, Europe's largest and most successful carmaker, narrowly beat the Toyota iQ in the final round of voting.

The result was determined from a group of 33 new cars launched in Europe in 2009 which were tested and voted on by European automotive journalists. The list of contenders included cars such as Suzuki Alto, Hyundai i20 and Kia Soul at one end to Porsche Panamera and Nissan 370Z at the other. A final shortlist of 7 cars was then determined before picking up the decisive winner. The jury for "Car of the Year 2010" consisted of 59 members, representing 23 European countries. The seven organizers of European Car of the Year are prominent automotive publications such as Auto(Italy), Autocar(UK), Autopista(Spain), Autovisie(Holland), L'Automobile Magazine(France), Stern(Germany) and Vi Bilagare(Sweden).

2010 ECOTY Results:
  1. Volkswagen Polo (347)
  2. Toyota iQ (337)
  3. Opel/Vauxhall Astra (221)
  4. Skoda Yeti (158)
  5. Mercedes-Benz E-Class (155)
  6. Peugeot 3008 (144)
  7. Citroen C3 Picasso (113)
Previous ECOTY Winners:
  • 2009 Opel/Vauxhall Insignia
  • 2008 Fiat 500
  • 2007 Ford S-Max
  • 2006 Renault Clio
  • 2005 Toyota Prius
By the way, VW Polo is one of the most awaited cars in India and is expected to be launched in the first quarter of 2010. As if the marketing blitzkrieg of 13-page adverts in Times of India is not enough, here is yet another thing which could be used as a tool to be unleashed in the Indian media. VW. Das Auto.


2010 Ward's 10 Best Engines Announced

It's that time of the year when almost every automotive publication across the globe has an award to announce. Unlike other auto publications which crowns Cars, Trucks and Automobiles of the Year, Ward's 10 Best Engines is the only award in North America which honors "Engine Excellence". The list of 10 Best Engines for the year 2010 has been announced and all the winners will be crowned at the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January.

The Volkswagen Group is the clear winner taking home 3 awards including 2 for it's premium brand Audi. Ford also chips in with 2 awards including one for it's famed 2.5L Hybrid engine in the hot-selling Fusion model. While Subaru and Hyundai are getting this honor for the second time, the biggest loser this year seems to be Honda with no representation in the Top 10. Each engines were scored based on horsepower, torque, refinement, technical relevance and comparative data. The engines evaluated should be either all-new and should offer significant technological upgrades or was a returning winner from last year.

The following are the list of winners for the year 2010 along with the models in which the engines were tested.
  • 2.0L TFSI Turbocharged DOHC I-4 (Audi A4) 
  • 3.0L TFSI Supercharged DOHC V-6 (Audi S4)
  • 3.0L DOHC I-6 Turbodiesel (BMW 335d)
  • 2.5L DOHC I-4 Hybrid (Ford Fusion Hybrid)
  • 3.5L EcoBoost Turbocharged DOHC V-6 (Ford Taurus SHO)
  • 2.4L Ecotec DOHC I-4 (Chevrolet Equinox)
  • 4.6L Tau DOHC V-8 (Hyundai Genesis)
  • 2.5L Turbocharged DOHC H-4 (Subaru Legacy 2.5GT)
  • 1.8L DOHC I-4 Hybrid (Toyota Prius) 
  • 2.0L SOHC I-4 Turbodiesel (Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI)


Hyundai crosses 25 Lakh Car Production in India

Let me settle things first. This blog is not a Hyundai PR Website. Now that things are clear, let me also state that I wish that there are some other automobile companies to rival Hyundai in constantly attracting media attention and being in spotlight. Seriously, this Korean company is not only growing globally in terms of sales, models, profits and brand image but is also setting milestones across the globe. Following my previous post of Hyundai's milestone in Alabama (USA), it is now the turn of it's Indian subsidiary Hyundai Motor India (HMI) to achieve a significant milestone.

The cumulative production of cars in it's plant at Sriperumbudur, 35 kms from the auto hub of Chennai, crossed 25 Lakh units today (08-Dec-2009). Hyundai started operations in India in the year 1998 after completing the construction of the greenfield facility in a record time of 17 months. The first car "Santro" was launched in September 1998 and it went off to become one of the most popular cars to be made in India with a total cumulative sales of 15 Lakh units till date. Cars like the Accent, Sonata, Getz, Elantra, i10 & the recent i20 have followed the Santro and continued the legacy of Hyundai in India. Of the total 25 Lakh units produced, approximately 16 Lakh units were sold in India and 9 Lakh units were exported.

Hyundai Motor India has always been a trendsetter of sorts in our country and this event is no exception. Hyundai has achieved this milestone in just a little over 10 years - the fastest in India and only the second auto manufacturer after Maruti to achieve this milestone.


One Millionth Vehicle rolls off Hyundai's Alabama Plant

November-30-2009 will go in books as a red-letter day for South Korean auto-major Hyundai's American subsidiary - Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA). The day marked the "Roll-Out of 1 Millionth Vehicle" from the plant which started operations in 2005 with the mid-size Sonata sedan and henceforth added the crossover Santa Fe to it's lineup. In a short span of a little over four and a half years, a total of 655,496 Sonatas and 344,504 Santa Fes were built to achieve this landmark.

Speaking on the occasion, HMMA President & CEO, Mr.H.I.Kim said, "Our guests of honor today are without a doubt the team members wearing the Hyundai logo on their chest. We've overcome many challenges since production began in 2005 and through it all our Team Members never turned away from those challenges. It is because of them that we were able to accomplish this tremendous milestone."

It seems that Hyundai is on a spree of achieving milestones across the globe. On November-03-2009, Hyundai reported that the worldwide cumulative sales of it's Santa Fe SUV has touched 2 Million units. This included 500,000 unit sales in the Korean domestic market. This multiple award-winning and successful model was launched by Hyundai in June 2000 and it has steadily gained in popularity in most of the markets it was launched in. The Santa Fe is in it's second generation now and it was given a mid-cycle facelift very recently.


The Much (Un)Loved Concorde

Watching a big-ticket Hollywood movie is always a spectacle in itself with breathtaking CGI scenes, stunning animations, amazing (though often repeated) storyline, bold themes and the devil-may-care attitude of it's makers. Truly, the Hollywood filmmakers are not bound by so many social laws and rules that their Indian counterparts are bombarded with. At the end of the day, you also get a feeling that it's worth for the money that you have spent. Two of the recent movies that I have watched have been G.I.Joe and 2012. Both these movies had their fair share of completely illogical and ridiculous things happening in them but the fact is that they were packaged in a stunning and convincing way that you will not be able to completely refuse it either. While the former had menacing sci-fi machines looking straight out of an alien land and super spacecrafts that could go around and destroy missiles as far as over NewYork and Moscow in seconds, the latter had extravagant ships that could even withstand "end of the world"!

These things place a very obvious question in front of our mind - Are these going to be the machines of the future? Are we going to see and experience machines like these any time soon in our life? Though our heart will start beating faster thinking about the prospects of seeing things like these and will give a "Yes", our mind would say a definite "No no". Case in point, the sad demise of the "Concorde". Having let go off the closest machine that the public had access to like the one we see on these sci-fi movies, we don't really have a chance to see or experience machines like these in the near future.

The only real supersonic travel experience within the reach of the public deserved a much better run and more love from the public than what it actually garnered. Just imagine the feeling of traveling faster than sound which is just what this sleek monster provided. Though one can't deny the associated "Sonic Boom" that almost deafened the people directly under it's path and the gas-guzzling nature of it's turbojet engine, the universal truth is that "All things good come at a cost". For reasons not related to it directly, the most significant of them being the crash of the Air France Concorde in 2000 because of a chunk of metal in the runway from an aircraft which took off earlier and the economic depression, the flying of Concorde became nonviable for the associated airlines and the last flight happened in November 2003. I remember being very upset on seeing the last flight in news channels as it not only marked the end of an icon in aviation history but also ended one of my dreams of traveling in the Concorde one fine day. I had it on top of my Things To Do Before I Die list.

Personal feelings apart, I really wish there is a true successor to the Concorde lurking underground somewhere and is unveiled one day much to the surprise and excitement of the public and once again giving us the chance of traveling supersonic!


Cool Concepts #1 - Tata Prima

The idea behind the conceptualization of this new series "Cool Concepts" is very simple. Posts with this title will feature cars showcased by manufacturers as Concepts, which are my favorites and nevertheless too good in their own respect, but have not made it to production till now for various reasons.


* Manufacturer: Tata 
* Model Name: Prima Concept 
* Debut: 2009 Geneva Motor Show 
* Competitors: Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic

    Launching this series is our very own Tata Prima concept displayed at 2009 Geneva Motor Show. Having done this for close to a decade now, displaying concepts in Geneva is not new for Tata but the unfortunate fact is that literally none of them have been transformed from concept stage to production as yet.

    Just one glance at the Prima will tell that this thing looks nothing like what Tata has ever produced. Infact, none of the models that Tata has made so far even comes close to this beauty. The styling of this sedan was done by the famed Italian design house "Pininfarina" who are better known for designing Ferraris and Alfa-Romeos than Tatas. Except for a slightly odd grille at the front, the rest of the car looks fabulous. Especially the rear with its XF like taillights will not look out of place in a Jaguar. I could imagine that if this thing runs on Indian roads with the Tata badge, its sure to catapult Tata's Brand Image to an all-together higher level with its stunning head-turning design and looks. This would be the first Tata that people would 'want to buy' rather than forced to buy.

    Hope Tata is listening and does not let a beauty like this run into the drain just like their concepts of previous years.


    The "Made in India" Cars

    Its amazing how a single phone call can make your mind run somewhere and think of something totally irrelevant to the discussion that took place. When one of my friend who is currently in Denmark said that every time he steps out, he could spot quite a few Hyundai i10, i20 and Suzuki Alto cars on the roads, I was brimming with joy here as those cars should have been Made in India. I had this same feeling in me when I spotted and snapped an Atos Prime in Dubai (in picture).

    Not so long ago, the only cars worth mentioning made in our country were the Ambassador and Premier Padmini until Maruti came and broke their dominance with the little 800. It was not until the mid 90's our market opened up and liberalized the rules for foreign manufacturers to enter the country. Being a late entrant in allowing the foreign makers to come and manufacture their cars here, it's worth mentioning that we have made rapid strides in a short time on the way to become what we are currently.

    It makes all of us feel proud and hold our head high when something positive about our country is said or written about. And that is exactly what is happening in the Auto Industry now across the globe and more so in Europe. Though car exports from India were done in minuscule numbers before , it was Hyundai which started this trend by making India it's small car export hub.  The "Atos Prime" (rebadged Santro for export markets) has become a trendsetter of sorts by becoming the first car made in India to be exported in significant numbers followed by the i10 and i20. From then on, there was no looking back as Maruti-Suzuki followed suit with the new Alto (A-Star) and now Renault-Nissan is looking to expand this further by planning to shift it's small car "Micra" production from UK to India in 2010.

    Frankly, cars like the i10, i20 and Alto have become so successful in Europe and other markets that the factories in India are not able to churn out enough of them. Also the high levels of quality with which these cars are made have made them equally competitive as their Japanese or German made counterparts and have given serious credentials to the "Made in India" tag.  So much so that at the end of this year, India would have exported more number of cars than even China. Kudos to Hyundai and Maruti for completely changing the perception about Indian manufacturing and for giving the "Made in India" tag global acceptance and reach.


    Stop Drunken Driving Please

    My mood gets completely spoiled when I hear or read or see something related to "Drunken Driving". We as citizens stand united in fighting against social evils such as Terrorism, Racism, Corruption, etc and raise hues and cries against them but when it comes to  opposing an activity that's equally if not more dangerous,  not many people give it a damn concern. What is even more astonishing is the number of instances which we come across in our day-to-day life involving these drunken maniacs. 

    Take for instance, the incident which happened yesterday in my neighborhood. A group of kids were playing in front of their apartment when suddenly a guy in a Pulsar came off the road and drove directly in the direction in which they were playing. Luckily all of them escaped unhurt as the biker lost his control and balance and fell down. It was later found out that he was heavily drunk. What if the guy hadn't fallen down and drove directly into the kids? Is it a sin on part of the kids playing in front of their apartment (that too a few feet off the road) that their life could be at stake? Aren't the lives of these kids and many other innocent people who get injured or die because of some morons who booze off and drive valuable? Who will teach them to stop this nonsense? 

    And this is the second instance in less than a month that I have seen. A few weeks ago, we had a huge traffic-jam on the way to work and the cause of it was the accident in the picture. It was taken by me and we were later told that the driver of that particular truck was under the influence of alcohol.The truck had hit the wall of the flyover and in the impact had rolled over to its side. Imagine what would have happened if at all there was an ill-fated two-wheeler near that truck when the accident happened and the container fell down.

    Please have a look at this picture atleast and STOP DRIVING WHEN YOU ARE DRUNK. If at all you have to booze off, take an auto or cab back home without putting others lives in danger !!!


    The Big Blue Oval

    For most part of the last century, the global automotive scene has been dominated by the "Big 3" of USA. We all have grown up reading about GM, Ford & Chrysler and later, the rise of an Asian giant called "Toyota". Chrysler's association with the much-touted Daimler of Germany, which was marketed as a "Merger of Equals", triggered a landslide for Chrysler from which it was never able to really recover. On the other hand, GM and Ford went about adding brands into their folds until they realized one day it was too heavy carrying them off profitably. It was already too late and the worst economic slump the auto-industry had seen in many decades had already started. Now, when the market is showing signs of recovery hinting that the good old days will be back very soon, only one of the Detroit Big 3 has survived the turmoil without filing for bankruptcy. The Big Blue Oval (Ford) is scripting a turnaround story that is sure to go down in the history-books as one of the most amazing comebacks ever.

    The way Ford is turning around things under the dynamic leadership of it's CEO Mr.Alan Mulally is nothing short of spectacular and marvelous. The first signs of Ford's recovery started with the perfect timing in which it started divesting in it's brands. The sale of Aston-Martin, Jaguar & Land Rover gave Ford the time and much-needed money to focus on the development of it's core brand. The other amazing thing Ford did was the development and launch of absolutely stunning and region-specific models, that were ultra-successful in different parts of the globe.

    It all started with the launch of the brilliant Fiesta in Europe and later in China. The car became an instant hit in both these important markets thus bringing in the volumes and keeping the cash registers flowing. Just like what the Grande Punto did for Fiat a few years back, this car has single-handedly revived Ford's fortunes in two of it's biggest markets in the globe. As a matter of fact, Ford has reached it's highest market share in Europe for the past few years last month, courtesy the superb sales of the Fiesta. It's home market of USA saw Ford launching a redesign of the iconic F150 pickup and the very capable Fusion models. Both the models are still selling like hot cakes and helped Ford in sustaining comparatively better sales numbers while the other two domestic automakers kept loosing sales month after month. Ford is all set for a hatrick in the US market with it's latest model, the Taurus. The next big launch is going to be the same European Fiesta for the US market and with that, Ford is sure to leave it's rivals gasping for breath and scurrying for cover.

    The Indian market too, where Ford wa(i)s just a sleeping giant, has recently witnessed the public unveiling of it's small car, the Figo. Though it is based on the previous generation Fiesta, the Figo with it's diesel engine and value-for-money pricing, is sure to catapult Ford into the big league along with Maruti, Hyundai and Tata. Let's hope that Ford gets everything right with the Figo in India and we get to witness a success story that has already been seen and much talked and written about across the globe.  


    Volvo Buses - Redefining Public Transport

    Call it a masterstroke of a genius or sheer luck mixed with perfect timing or a normal idea over-hyped and exaggerated or just whatever you like it to be called. I am referring to the decision of Volvo to go ahead with the launch of luxury buses in India as early as 2001. I remember reading the news about the impending launch in Autocar India with the picture of a white B7R with blue and pink stickers (Wow what a memory capacity I possess!!!) over it's body. On reading it and knowing the price of the bus thereafter, I thought Volvo was digging the death-knell for itself in a very price-sensitive market dominated by the erstwhile Tatas and Leylands.

    A few years down the line, Volvo has proved me wrong and has established itself as the undisputed leader in the Indian luxury Commercial-Vehicle segment. Especially in buses, Volvo has become a name to reckon with in our country and commands a Brand-Image equivalent of Mercedes-Benz or BMW in cars. As a matter of fact, Volvo ruling the roost in India has prompted many dormant companies to go ahead with the launch of their own luxury buses. Mercedes-Benz has just joined the bandwagon and has tied up with Sutlej for building it's luxury coaches.

    As an auto-buff, I am one of the greatest fans of Volvo buses. It's not only because of the fact that it's modern, beautiful and fast compared to our old buses, but also because of the improvements it has brought about in our Transport System as well. Volvos have single-handedly raised the bar for safety of the travelling public, reduced the travel time considerably between cities and have made other companies like Tata, Ashok Leyland and even smaller individual coach builders follow the trend it has set. More importantly, it has made the job of the driver much easier than before. Just ask a Volvo driver about the vehicle he is piloting and he will start raving about his machine.

    Though Volvo has met with such an unprecedented success story in India, all the above statements holds good only for a privileged few. But the refreshing fact is that the Government organizations like KSRTC and APSRTC are embracing and supporting Volvo and are setting the path for other transport  corporations to follow. Even the usually conservative Chennai (MTC) has started endorsing "Brand Volvo" in a big way and is taking the lead set by Bangalore (BMTC) by introducing the 8400 B7R LE buses in increased numbers and frequencies. All this means that people like me will be having a field day watching these beasts in action doing intra-city and inter-city duties.

    At last, a well-deserved and special thanks to the new Volvo 9400 Multiaxle bus, which I saw for the first time in Chennai last week and was stunned by it's mammoth size and which prompted me in coming up with this piece of writing. Hail the Volvos !!!


    A new Segment in Motoring

    There are sports cars (Porsche, Ferrari, Bugatti, Lamborghini, etc.) and there are sports sedans with exhilarating power and performance comparable to sports cars (Mercedes AMG, BMW M, Audi RS, etc.). Now a new segment is coming up in automobiles which combines the above two and it's getting me very excited. No prizes for guessing it right though. Yes, I am talking about the latest craze which all the sports car makers are having - four door sports cars of this world. All the manufacturers who were hitherto making only sports cars have either launched or showcased their version of this fast-emerging segment.

    Porsche has already launched the Panamera in the market while Aston-Martin will soon follow with their Rapide. While Lamborghini's Estoque concept is not going to see the light of the day, I expect Bugatti to launch the production version of the just recently showcased Galibier Concept. All these cars have 4 doors, an usable boot, can seat 4 and still can drive and perform as much as if not better than the true-blue sports cars (like Gallardo, 911, DB9). Its the way how these cars are combining practicality and fun that makes me terribly interested and excited about them. They will satisfy their user's needs for daily commuting too and when it comes to sheer, flat-out performance, they don't disappoint.

    Having said that and giving due credits to the companies, I personally feel that only Lamborghini and Aston-Martin got the styling right for this all-important segment of cars. The Lamborghini Estoque concept looked drop-dead gorgeous and the Aston-Martin Rapide is the most elegant of the lot without loosing an ounce of its sportiness. The Porsche Panamera has got it wrong in the rear proportions and I think trying to emulate the classic coke bottle shape of the 911, it has ended up spoiling the original design. For me, the Bugatti Galibier concept looks downright ugly. Its hard to believe that this car has come from the makers of the Veyron (the World's fastest production car). Let's hope that the production version looks different (and hopefully better) than this.

    Coming to the first casualty of this lot, it makes me sad to hear that Lamborghini has confirmed that the Estoque is not going to make it to production. Having scripted good success stories with its Murcielago and Gallardo, Lamborghini can very well score a hatrick with this stunner. And there are rumour mills going around that, Porsche's new owners VW are going to stop the Panamera with the first generation itself. Someone needs to tell these companies that there are good market for these cars and there are even greater chances of making good money from these cars.

    They say "Dream Big; Achieve Bigger". I am not sure about the second half of the above statement, but I fully believe in the first half. Its just that my "Big Dream" has now changed. Having dreamt of getting to drive (not own) cars like 911, Gallardo, etc., I have now started dreaming of cars like Esoque, Rapide, etc. with sincere hopes that the latter half of the quoted saying will become true one day.


    Spotted #2: Porsche Cayenne

    First, let's go through the facts in a quick glance. This is the first SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) from an auto manufacturer that has hitherto produced only sports cars. One of the cars that the company makes is the legendary, ultimate 911 in all its iterations (S, Turbo, GT2, GT3RS, etc.). Guessed the maker? Most of you would have and yeah, its "Porsche" and the car in picture is the Cayenne!!!

    The Cayenne is based on its successful cousin, the VW Touareg. The launch of Cayenne raised many an eyebrow and was doomed with negative speculations that Porsche would be better off making its sports cars instead of diluting the brand's image with a vehicle like this. Dashing all the speculations, the Cayenne has become a big success and has brought in the much needed volumes and profits for Porsche. Though the car itself cannot be termed as an exotic in any sense, I would still classify it as one because of the badge it wears (Porsche).

    Though I have seen quite a few in Chennai, only this one had the destiny to get snapped by my lenses. The snaps are quite old (taken a year back) and I am posting these only for the following reasons - I don't want the results of my hot pursuits on road to go waste (try taking snaps of a very rare car when you spot one on road) and the other is I know people like to see exotic cars in action. Wish to see many such things on Indian roads soon...


    The Return of the Gullwing

    There are some things in life which makes you so emotionally attached to them that the very mention of their names makes you brim with joy. Mercedes-Benz 300SL is one such automobile which makes me fall head over heels for it. This beauty was produced only from 1955-1957 and it had that unique "Gullwing" doors which makes it unmistakable with anything else on the road. This along with many technical firsts, short life and low production quantities makes this car one of the rarest and most collectible Mercedes-Benz models of all time.

    Among the technological innovations that the car had for its time, the most important was that this was the first road car to feature direct fuel injection to the combustion chamber. The car was built on a Tubular Chassis, an unique architecture which gave birth to the car's iconic and legendary "Gullwing" doors as a part of the chassis was running through what would have been the lower half of standard doors. When I get to know these things, sometimes I wonder whether the guys who worked (and are working) at Mercedes-Benz have brains made of some extra-terrestrial stuff because most of their present and past models would have something which was not seen before in cars but, henceforth would gradually find its way into most of the cars on road.


    First of all, credit goes to Mercedes-Benz for refreshing my mind with memories of an iconic car. Not that I have completely forgot it but this made me go back and have a look at all the pictures of the car and its details again. The event I am talking about is the recent launch of the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG. The astonishing fact about this new car is that it has brought back with it the legendary "Gullwing" doors.Though the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren and its Roadster variant was based on the 1955 300SL, it can't be termed as a true successor because those models came shod with scissor doors instead of the legend's wings.

    As soon as I saw the news of its launch, I have not even had the patience to see its specifications and other features. All I did was just clicked on the pictures and reveled in its beauty. I can pledge all my wealth and tell anyone that this ought to be the most interesting and stylish Benz for quite some time now as they have been launching uninspiring and staid models in amazing continuity. All said and done, just click on the thumbnails to revel in it's beauty and experience a kind of adrenaline rush that this car infuses into your body. The long hood makes it look fast even when standing still and the "Gullwings" still has the same charm and aura that it had around 60 years back.

    Hats off to Mercedes-Benz for designing such a retro-looking stunner and making us car fanatics revel in its glory.


    A Masterstroke from Hyundai

    Since early 2008, people across the world owe a lot  to a company called "Hyundai" for making them totally shock-proof. As a matter of fact, every news  or new launch from this company gave some kind of shock to the general public and automotive critics alike which some people still find hard to believe or digest. The launch of the Genesis is a prime example of the above statement.

    When Hyundai showed off the Genesis Concept in 2007 and announced its intentions to enter the luxury segment, people mocked at the company officials. It was brushed off as just a show-piece and one that will never make it to production. Traditional naysayers have been telling "How come a perennial budget car-maker, known for its shoddy quality in the 80's and 90's can pull this off"? A year later, when the production-ready Genesis Sedan was unveiled, there was a loud uproar that Hyundai is digging the death knell for itself by venturing into the high price luxury segment. An obvious example of Phaeton (the luxury car from VW that failed miserably) was quoted every time a news about Genesis came out.

    Now almost an year after the launch of the Sedan and later its Coupe variant, the Genesis model have not only met with a commercial sales success but have won an entire galaxy of awards which makes even the top Hyundai honchos a little surprised. Though they knew that Genesis was developed to challenge the top luxury cars, they were just not prepared for this onslaught of awards on Hyundai's flagship.Taken from an article in Hyundai USA's website, the following are some of the significant awards won by the car this year:
    1. 2009 North American Car Of The Year
    2. 2009 Canadian Car Of The Year (AJAC)
    3. Best New Luxury Car under $50,000 (AJAC)
    4. MotorTrend - America's Top New Cars
    5. J.D.Power APEAL Study - Most Appealing Mid-Size Premium Car
    6. J.D.Power Vehicle Launch Index(VLI) - Best New Vehicle
    7. The Car Book - 2009 Best Bet (Intermediate Category)
    8. Car Of The Year (From Autotropolis, Cars.com, On Wheels and Autobytel)
    9. AutoPacific - Best Buy (Aspirational Luxury Category)
    10. Consumer Digest - Best Bet (Luxury Segment)
    11. Wards.com - 10 Best Engines (4.6 Liter Tau V8)
    The most important thing to note is that the contenders for all the above awards included models from the likes of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Cadillac, Lexus, Acura, Infiniti, etc. To put it simply, the Genesis platform has been a true masterstroke from the company and Hyundai has backed it up quite well with some brilliant marketing too. Check out one of my favourite print ads released for the Sedan.

    At this rate, its just going to be a matter of time before Hyundai spins off the Genesis into a standalone luxury brand (just like Toyota's Lexus, Honda's Acura and Nissan's Infiniti). And not to forget the same critics who slammed Hyundai before the launch of the Genesis, those guys will be back soon telling that it was sheer luck which made the Genesis succeed. Keep them coming, guys. The folks at Hyundai (and Kia) thrive on them!

    The Battle of the Germans

    Spell the word L.U.X.U.R.Y and the names that comes to mind immediately are Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi. These three German brands have ruled the luxury automotive market across the globe and continue to do so in amazing fashion. Amongst them, Mercedes-Benz was one of the very first automakers to set up shop in India in the mid 90's once Indian market opened up for globalization. They had this first-mover advantage going with them and up until two years back, Mercedes-Benz was ruling the market with absolutely no competition to boast of in the luxury segment in India. If you were looking for status, you had to have a car with the 3 pointed star (Mercedes-Benz). Period!

    But the arrival of BMW and Audi in recent years has now put the leader under pressure. To clearly put things in perspective, BMW, in just its second full year of operations in India has taken the leadership away from Mercedes-Benz. By the end of this year, BMW would have sold more cars in 2009 than MB which has been around for more than a decade. Audi is also not far behind these two! BMW has clearly stated in all its press releases and interviews that it wants to take and maintain leadership in the luxury segment in India. Now that it has already achieved it, we can expect Mercedes-Benz to come back with a bang and give a shot at the title with a renewed vengeance. It has already lined up its stunning all-new E-Class for launch in this festive season and promises much more in store. Audi (along with its parent VW) is also having a very aggressive strategy in India and has lined up many releases including new versions of the breathtakingly beautiful A4.

    The fight between these three German marques will ensure that the ultimate winner is the customer. A few years back, people who had big wallets had no choice but to buy a car with the 3 pointed star or pay 200% duty for an import. The ensuing battle between these three Germans makes them launch their very best and all-new models here in India along with the rest of the world and makes sure that the customers are spoilt for choice. Add Jaguar and Volvo to this list and the choice of cars is seemingly endless.

    Lets hope and pray that this battle goes on forever so that we Indians get to lay our hands on the very best on offer across the globe.


    Spotted #1: Rolls-Royce Phantom

    In my very first post, I had mentioned that I get very excited on spotting an exotic automobile on road. One such instance happened recently when I saw a Rolls-Royce Phantom in Chennai caught in a traffic signal. This is my second instance of spotting a RR Phantom in Chennai, the first time being the incident that I had mentioned in my first post. Luckily this time, I had my friend sitting with me in my bike and we pulled up closer to the car to take some snaps. 

    Literally, I understood the meaning of the word Road-Presence that day. The awesome styling and the magnificent road-presence made sure that everybody around craned their necks and glanced at this mobile wonder. Infact, people started moving their vehicles aside and leave way for this car as if they have seen an ambulance with its flashlights and siren on. 

    Click on the images to get a bigger picture. Clarity may not be great since these were taken in my mobile phone. Cheers !!!  


    Driven #1: Bajaj Discover 100 DTS-Si

    If there is an award for a company which constantly upgrades and refreshes its models, you have to hand it over to Bajaj for the kind of manipulations they do and come out relentlessly with improved variants and sub-variants of their existing models and platforms. They did it successfully with the Pulsar range (150, 180, 220 and finally 200) and are trying to emulate the same success story with the Discover range. The Discover started its life as a 125cc offering, was later joined by smaller and bigger cousins in the form of 110cc and 135cc and now the recently launched 100 DTS-Si. Now that Bajaj has stopped the 110 and 125, Discover range is left with the sporty 135 DTS-i and the economical 100 DTS-Si.

    Ever since the Discover was launched years back, it has always been quite a looker in its segment. Over the years, Bajaj has tweaked the design, added some bits here and there and made sure that the Discover continues to be a very good looking bike. In fact, I would say, it simply blows the competition away when it comes to styling. The sporty, low-slung design, a long wheelbase, black-themed styling (for engine & wheels), segment-first features like Twin Pilot Lamps, LED Tail Lamps, etc. makes this bike wonderful to look at. Especially from the rear, the bike looks attractive with its triple-layered LED lamps and it cannot be associated as a 100cc econobike.

    It’s a known fact that Bajaj is the king when it comes to features and the Discover DTS-Si is no exception. Bajaj has loaded this bike to the maximum extent possible. Apart from the LED Taillights & twin Pilot Lamps, the bike offers a maintenance-free battery, auto choke, gas-filled rear suspension (NitroX), LED Battery Charge Indicator, Ride Control Switch, electric start, etc. 

    The latest version of Bajaj’s DTS-Si engine finds its way into the Discover after doing duty in other models like Platina and XCD. The 94.38cc single-cylinder 4-stroke engine puts out 7.7 ps of power at 7500 rpm. Turn on the ignition and the typical Bajaj exhaust note greets you. The refinement of the engine is on par for the segment though models from Honda and Suzuki in the same price bracket beats it hands-down in this area. The all-down 5-speed gearbox mated to the engine is easy to use. The power delivery is smooth and the bike does not feel slow in traffic. The presence of a 5th gear eliminates the usual feeling in 100cc bikes of running out of breath at medium speeds. Also remember the fact that this bike was designed for fuel-efficiency and comes with an ARAI certified fuel efficiency of 89 kmpl for Indian Driving Conditions (Source: Bajaj Auto website). 

    Bajaj bikes are known for the good ride they offer and the Discover DTS-Si continues the tradition. With its telescopic front shocks and gas charged rear shocks (NitroX), the Discover gives its riders a smooth and pleasant ride. The wider rear tire (for its segment) along with the long wheelbase ensures that the bike feels stable on the road and handling is also not compromised. 

    The only grouse is that after loading the bike with so many features, Bajaj could have given the bike an added safety with front disc brakes. The bike comes with drum brakes (both front & rear). Though drum brakes are the current norms in the 100cc segment, Bajaj had always been the trend-setter when it comes to features.
    As said earlier, the bike comes loaded with technical stuff. Taking prime position among all is Bajaj’s patented, now-popular DTS-Si. The twin spark plugs help in better combustion resulting in more power and better fuel consumption. Also aiding fuel efficiency is the Swirl Induction technology by which turbulence is created in the air-fuel mixture by offsetting the positioning of inlet and outlet ports. Apart from this are the other advancements like ExhausTEC, TRICS III, Automatic Choke (eliminating manual choke operation), LED Battery Indicator (which indicates Battery Malfunction and Low Voltage), Battery Protector Unit & Ride Control Switch. (Source: Bajaj Auto website) 

    TO SUM UP: 
    The Discover DTS-Si is a solid offering in the 100cc segment with good styling, stunning features for its segment, good engine and excellent fuel efficiency. The fact that it was not designed as a 100cc bike unlike some of its competitors is an added advantage. With an On-Road Chennai price of Rs. 46734, its good value too considering the features that it provides and the higher platform in which it is based on (125cc segment platform). It comes with a huge responsibility of putting Bajaj back on the growth track (after Bajaj continuously lost sales month after month) and we hope it succeeds in its mission.