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 !!!