Pirelli wants us to "Stop Smoking"

Companies across the world are hell-bent in doing everything from planting saplings to adopting entire villages as part of their "Corporate Social Responsibility" activities to project themselves as responsible social citizens. While its absolutely commendable that these efforts are being taken, whether for PR or otherwise, in most of the cases, the products that the company makes would have nothing in common with these activities.

But, pleasant coincidences like this do happen rarely. The think-tanks at the leading global tire manufacturer Pirelli and its ad agency have come up with a new series of print ads aimed at preventing people from "smoking". "Smoking what?" remains a mysterious question to be answered though. While the pictures hint at the 'Tires' as a possible answer, the wordings seemingly depict and mean something else.

Whatever it is, is it not a brilliant way of glorifying their product's capability and conveying an important social message at the same time? Quite brilliant! Let more of these come and companies need not be doing any separate CSR activities. And, by the way, with a great post to end the year 2010, here is wishing you all a happy and smoke-free 2011!


2011 North American Car & Truck of the Year Finalists Announced

Its that time of the year again when new cars and trucks from across the globe compete among themselves for various titles being given away by a whole lot of automotive publications. Among the significant, tough-to-win titles are the North American Car of the Year & Truck of the Year awards. So, when finalists for such prestigious titles are announced, it ought to be noticed. The models which have been shortlisted for 2011 awards are Chevrolet Volt, Hyundai Sonata and Nissan Leaf in cars and Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee in trucks.

The awards are unique because instead of being given by a single media outlet, they are awarded by a group of automotive journalists from the United States and Canada representing magazines, television, radio, newspapers and web sites. To be eligible, a vehicle must be 'all new' or 'substantially changed' from the previous model year.

Though my heart beats for Hyundai Sonata to take the title in the cars category with its Regular, Turbo and Hybrid variants for the sole reason of shaking up the established midsize sedan segment, my mind shouts that its going to be the revolutionary Chevrolet Volt taking the top step. The fact that the Volt has already won quite a few individual Car of the Year titles and the Nissan Leaf has already been declared 2011 European Car of the Year doesn't help matters either. Amongst the trucks, in all probability, Ford Explorer should be taking the title though there are good chances of the Jeep Grand Cherokee springing in a surprise.

Both the awards, in their 18th year currently, will be announced at the North American International Auto Show at Detroit on January 10. Last year, Ford made a clean sweep of the awards with its Fusion Hybrid and Transit Connect taking the respective titles. Let the countdown begin!


2011 ICOTY & IMOTY Awards announced

The recipients of India’s most prestigious automotive honors, the Indian Car of the Year and Indian Motorcycle of the Year 2011 were announced recently. This is the sixth edition of this annual event which has been modeled along the likes of European and North American Car of the Year titles. With journalists from top automotive publications across the country like Overdrive, Auto Bild, Top Gear, Car India, BS Motoring and Auto India being the jurors, Ford Figo and Honda CBF Stunner have come out on tops.

Apart from the Ford Figo, the final contenders for the ICOTY title included models like Volkswagen Polo and Vento, Tata Aria, Skoda Yeti, Nissan Micra, Chevrolet Beat and Maruti-Suzuki Wagon-R. When the final tally was declared, the Figo had comfortably trounced the competitors with a comfortable margin. It has not only lived up to the hype that it created with Ford’s CEO Mr. Alan Mulally himself unveiling the car to the Indian public, but has also exceeded the expectations with over 60,000 units sold since launch. It has won the acclaim of critics and customers alike and has given Ford unprecedented volume and growth in India.


1. Ford Figo – 83
2. Volkswagen Vento – 57
3. Volkswagen Polo / Skoda Yeti – 37


    * 2010 – Tata Nano
    * 2009 – Honda City
    * 2008 – Hyundai i10
    * 2007 – Honda Civic
    * 2006 – Maruti-Suzuki Swift

Unlike the ICOTY award, there seemed to be a slug fest for the IMOTY 2011 title with the Honda CB Twister taking the crown by a meager margin of 3 points. This latest offering from Honda has brought style, flair and refinement which are unheard of in the mass market commuter bike segment. Bajaj’s critically acclaimed, feature-laden, sporty yet efficient Pulsar 135 LS made life difficult for the CB Twister by finishing a close second with TVS’s technologically-superior Jive finishing third. The other finalists for the award included Bajaj Discover 150, Mahindra Stallio and TVS Max4R.  


1. Honda CB Twister – 66
2. Bajaj Pulsar 135 LS – 63
3. TVS Jive - 48


    * 2010 – Kawasaki Ninja 250R
    * 2009 – Yamaha YZR R15
    * 2008 – Bajaj Pulsar 220 DTS-Fi


2011 Ward's 10 Best Engines Announced

An eagerly awaited annual automotive event, which is considered a cut above the rest due to it's entirely different concept is the Ward's announcement of its 10 Best Engines list. While every other automotive publication crowns cars and trucks with various titles every year, this is the only reputed title given specifically to the engines.

The 10 Best Engines for the year 2011 has just been announced and there are quite a few surprises this year. Probably for the first time ever, an Electric Motor (in the Nissan Leaf) has won the award apart from an Electric Motor-IC Engine (Chevrolet Volt) combination. It just goes to show the fast emerging trend in the automotive industry to try and use alternate methods to run vehicles.

Volkswagen Automotive Group and BMW takes home two awards each and Ford and Chrysler gets one entry each in the Top 10. Hyundai walks away with an award for a third consecutive year for its Tau V8 engine, doing duty in the company's famed Genesis. Shockingly, the famous Japanese duo of Toyota and Honda are suspicious by their absence with none of their engines making the cut this year.

* 3.0L TFSI Supercharged DOHC V-6 (Audi S4)
* 3.0L N55 Turbocharged DOHC I-6 (BMW 335i)
* 1.6L Turbocharged DOHC I-4 (Mini Cooper S)
* 3.6L Pentastar DOHC V-6 (Dodge Avenger)
* 5.0L DOHC V-8 (Ford Mustang GT)
* 1.4L DOHC I-4/111kW Drive Motor (Chevrolet Volt)
* 5.0L Tau DOHC V-8 (Hyundai Genesis)
* 80kW AC Synchronous Electric Motor (Nissan Leaf)
* 2.0L DOHC I-4 Turbodiesel (Volkswagen Jetta TDI)
* 3.0L Turbocharged DOHC I-6 (Volvo S60)


Toyota Etios Liva spotted testing

Close on the heels of the launch of Etios sedan, the hatchback version of Toyota’s new flagship, the Etios Liva is spotted testing on Chennai roads. Now that the sedan is on sale and the launch date for the hatchback announced as March-2011, the car is barely hidden with only the logo and badges going under the tape.

The Etios sedan’s biggest drawback in styling is its rear end which looks very similar to Logan, which is not a complement in any way. Going by the looks of it, the Liva seems to be better looking from the rear, but only just. The huge taillights and chrome strip just tries to spruce up an ordinary looking rear while the C-Pillar bears more than a passing resemblance to the Nissan Micra. When seen with competing cars like Fiat Grande Punto, Hyundai i20 and Honda Jazz, the Etios will not garner a second look, for sure.

But it seems that interior passenger space is available in spades as the Etios Liva looks almost as big as the i20, which is a tad bigger than cars like Maruti-Suzuki Swift. All the media reviews of the sedan too seem to highlight this point along with the supremely comfortable seats. Couple this to Toyota’s legendary reliability and the sedan’s shock pricing and what you have is a runaway hit in the offing.

The flaws like average fit and finish, cost-cutting in several key areas including light sheet-metal and a single windshield wiper and built-to-a-cost outdated looks would not stop Indians from queuing up for this car thanks to the extremely high brand-image that Toyota has managed to attract over the years.

Toyota launches Etios sedan with shock pricing

Dec-01-2010 marked the beginning of a new chapter in the history of Toyota in India. After more than a decade of negligence of the small car segment, the hottest and most voluminous segment in our country, Toyota finally displayed what it is upto at the 2010 Delhi Auto Expo earlier this year when it displayed the Etios concept in both hatchback and sedan body styles.

Now, on the occasion of the sedan's launch, Toyota has, for once, both shocked and surprised us all with the car's prices. The Etios sedan comes with 4 versions priced between 4.9 lacs to 6.9 lacs, all ex-showroom. This price coupled with the legendary image of the Toyota brand in India will make sure that people throng the showrooms to get their hand in the Etios.

The front end of the Etios manages to get that family look, thanks to the smiling and slotted grille, very similar to the Innova. Smaller headlamps and plain bumper with fog lamps are the other notable features at the front. The profile has been relatively well executed, compared to the ridiculous work done in the Swift Dzire and Tata Indigo, where the boot looks like it was welded separately after the hatchback was made. The lesser said about the rear, the better. The huge triangular taillamps and the awkwardly placed chrome strip in the tailgate could be easily mistaken for a Logan.

Get over the disappointing exteriors and the interiors seem to impress, but only to a certain extent. Again, cost-cutting is clearly visible in many interior panels and elements. The car is well equipped with ABS and Airbags given as options in all but the base variant. Most of the other premium features like power mirrors, reverse parking sensors and the like are excluded in all variants. That base variant itself is just an excuse for a sedan with AC being its sole feature.

Apart from that, all other variants are reasonably equipped and competitively priced to give even premium priced hatches like Swift, i10, i20, Polo and Micra some serious headache. But, more importantly, with a 1.5 liter engine under the hood and a sedan bodystyle, my guess is that the Etios would totally shatter the Indigo Manza's and Swift Dzire's parties.

New Hyundai Verna (RB) spotted testing

Ah, finally it gets captured. One new car model which was being extensively tested in Chennai roads but was eluding my lenses for so long has been the new mid-size sedan from Hyundai, codenamed the “RB”. This model, called ‘Accent’ worldwide, but will be called ‘Verna’ in India is expected to be launched in the first quarter of 2011 and replace the existing Verna Transform.

And transform it does, for sure, the looks of the current Verna. The swooping coupe-like roof and windows, short and high boot, twin exhaust pipes and three dimensional i10-like headlights are already proving to be very popular in all the online forums in the country. Though most of the car’s important assets still remain hidden under the camouflage, the recently launched Accent in Korea has given more than a clear hint of how this is going to look. If that is actually this, then here comes a model to compete on looks with the Honda City and Fiat Linea.

When it is launched, expect the Verna to be the benchmark in its segment for features, if the recent i10 face-lift and i20 are any indication. Apart from that, the present Verna’s biggest strength, the stonking CRDi engine with its exhilarating power, torque and pick-up will mostly be carried over. As with all Hyundais, expect a sufficiently supple ride, average handling, top-notch reliability and good after sales service. If priced right, like say in the range of the existing Verna, this surely has the capabilities to beat the sweat out of City, Vento and Linea.


Driven #3: Maruti-Suzuki Alto K10

With India being on top of the radar of every automaker in the world, every company would love to have one of their models topping the sales charts here. The Alto, which holds that dubious title for quite some time now and Maruti-Suzuki, its maker also credited with selling every second car in our country, would therefore be subjects of dense scrutiny. So, when such a model is being face-lifted, it ought to assume prime importance. With the launch of the new Alto K10, Maruti-Suzuki has not only spruced up the looks of the car but has also given it a heart transplant by plonking in the new K-Series engine into its hood. A quick spin in the new K10 and the existing Alto back-to-back revealed what’s hot and what’s not.

The existing Alto was launched globally around a decade back and just when it started showing its age,  Maruti did a couple of nip and tuck jobs to keep it updated. But nothing could hide the fact that the Alto was never a great looker but it always came across as a cute little city car that will not offend anyone. The K10 doesn't try to change that perception and carries the same theme forward. The major difference in the K10 is the length of the hood, which has been increased to accommodate the bigger engine. That apart, the redesigned lights and body-colored bumpers at the front and rear try to make the car look more mature and impart a big-car feel to the Alto. While the attempt is successful at the front, the same can't be said about the rear, which is less impressive. Except for the length, the profile remains virtually untouched.

Step into the car and there are no surprises there with the layout being the same as the current Alto. But there are quite a lot of welcome additions like a meatier 3-spoke steering wheel in place of the current bland two spoke wheel, a tachometer, front power windows, internally adjustable mirrors, central locking, internal fuel cap and boot opener most of which are not available in the current Alto. Sadly, there is no increase in interior passenger space which could have made the K10 a proper B-Segment car, now that it has the features to compete with them. Maruti deserve special kudos for giving mirrors that fold on both sides, a thoughtful feature which would be a boon in our crowded city roads.

Floor the pedal and don't be surprised if you, for a moment, thought that you have accidentally stepped into a Swift rather than an Alto. The quick throttle response is unbelievable especially when compared to the regular Alto and the engine is more refined too. Typical Alto characteristics like lack of power and strained engine responses are gone and the K10 just bursts off the line comfortably, the combination of its light weight body and the responsive K10B engine with 68 PS maximum power working wonders here.

Though it has got a proper heart now, the Alto K10 still has not got the legs that it needs to stretch itself. The combination of a slightly unsettled ride and average handling accentuated by the undersized tires make sure that you don't enjoy the K10 to its fullest potential. Nevertheless, for the price that you pay, the Alto K10 returns a truly rewarding driving experience.

  • Engine Type: All Aluminum K10B
  • No of Cylinders: 3
  • Displacement: 998 cc
  • Max Power: 68 PS @ 6200 rpm
  • Max Torque: 90 Nm @ 3500 rpm
  • Transmission Type: 5 Speed MT (Cable Type)
  • Tyres: 155/65 R13 (Tubeless)
  • Brakes: Ventilated Disc (Front) / Drum (Rear) 
To sum up the K10 in one line, I would say that "Commuting for masses just got a bit more powerful, fun-filled and feature-laden". Exactly as speculated earlier, the K10 has already taken the total Alto sales to much higher than 30,000 units per month. With the possible exception of Hyundai's new small car, there is absolutely nothing to even think of challenging the Alto twins and together, they will stay at the top of the sales charts at least for the next couple of years. You will not go wrong with either of them. Having said that, if you have to choose between the Alto and the K10, without a moment’s hesitation, go for the K10. Its worth much more than the small extra money that you pay for it.


Honda's small car for India unveiled and christened Brio

Honda has finally taken the wraps off its new small car for India, uninspiringly named the Brio, in Thailand. The Brio is actually the production version of the New Small Concept (2CV) showcased at the 2010 Delhi Auto Expo. What strikes you initially on seeing the Brio is its completely polarizing design, both inside and outside. You will either love it or hate it and nothing in between.

Coming to the most important factor and the one in which Honda always loses miserably in India, the pricing, there are very strong indications that the base price for the Brio would be less than the all-important 5 lakh rupee mark. If it comes at the promised price, expect people to flock to the Brio, irrespective of its looks, features and performance. Honda’s brand image is so strong in India to let these factors affect the success of its new model.

When viewed from the front, the Brio, with its huge chrome strip with the “H” at the center looks quite attractive. The smoked headlights and wide air dam in the bumper lends it a touch of aggression too. But the design of the profile and the rear is where things have started taking a different turn. The tipped-forward stance, the high-set and small rear windows, the big difference in sizes between the front and rear doors all combine to give the car a distinctive and unattractive profile. The rear end, though will give a new definition for the word ‘polarizing’. It’s either ridiculously ugly or distinctively stylish. For me, unfortunately its the former and I still cant believe that this is coming from the company that designed stunners like the Civic and the City. The glass hatch at the rear instead of the tailgate though, is a unique feature that cuts on weight and costs.

Step into the interiors and it’s the same episode all over again, well almost. The instrument cluster is attractively designed and so are the circular AC vents. The central console, if it can be called so, is weird with the music system apparently placed nearer to the passenger rather than the driver. Apart from that, a major dosage of beige and white lends the interiors an up market touch and Honda, being Honda, we can expect the interior fit, finish and quality to be top notch. Powered by the 1.2 liter engine which is also powering the Jazz, Honda can rest assured of success, if and only if the Brio is priced right.

2011 European Car of the Year is Nissan Leaf

For the first time in the history of Europe's most prestigious automotive award, a zero-emission electric car, the Nissan Leaf has been chosen as the Car of the Year for 2011. This is the second time Nissan is getting this coveted title after the Micra won the award in 1993. Mr. Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan accepted the honor by saying, "This award recognizes the pioneering zero-emission Nissan Leaf as competitive to conventional cars in terms of safety, performance, spaciousness and handling. It also reflects Nissan's standing as an innovative and exciting brand with a clear vision of the future of transportation, which we call sustainable mobility."

A total of 41 models launched in 2010 were eligible for the title initially which were then trimmed down to seven final contenders. The Nissan Leaf ultimately took the title after the jurors proclaimed that it is a breakthrough for electric cars and that it is the first electric vehicle that can match conventional cars in many respects. It was a close contest though, with the Alfa Romeo Giulietta and Opel/Vauxhall Meriva giving the Leaf tough competition.
2011 ECOTY Results :
  1. Nissan Leaf (257)
  2. Alfa Romeo Giulietta (248)
  3. Opel/Vauxhall Meriva (244)
  4. Ford C-Max/Grand C-Max (224)
  5. Citroen C3/DS3 (175)
  6. Volvo S60/V60 (145)
  7. Dacia Duster (132)
Previous ECOTY Winners :
  • 2010 Volkswagen Polo
  • 2009 Opel/Vauxhall Insignia
  • 2008 Fiat 500
  • 2007 Ford S-Max
  • 2006 Renault Clio
The jury for "European Car of the Year 2011" consisted of automotive journalists representing 23 European countries. The seven organizers of this annual title are prominent automotive publications such as Auto (Italy), Autocar (UK), Autopista (Spain), Autovisie (Holland), L'Automobile Magazine (France), Stern (Germany) and Vi Bilagare (Sweden).


AL Intercentury Luxura spotted testing in Chennai again

One space in the crowded automotive spectrum which still does not have too many players jostling for space is the luxury inter-city bus segment. Volvo, by virtue of being the first and until very recently the only entrant into that lucrative segment has monopolized it completely. Strangely, Tata and Ashok Leyland, the two Indian majors have not been able to launch a fitting model that could compete with the mighty Volvos. The Intercentury Luxura from Ashok Leyland, with its body built by Irizar-TVS, which was expected to take the fight to the Volvos long back has still not seen the light of the day completely for some reasons.
This isn't the first time we are seeing the Intercentury Luxura being tested in Chennai. We had a post a few months back when a dark-tinted white Luxura was attracting attention in one of the arterial roads in Chennai. Here it is again, seen in the GST Road, presumably undergoing final rounds of testing. Owing to its age, the exterior design is nothing to write home about, especially when its vying for passengers from Volvo and Mercedes-Benz. It would be better if Ashok Leyland can slightly spruce up the design before launch. Sadly, just like in previous spotting, the dark tinted glasses made sure that the interiors remain hidden.
With Ashok Leyland still choosing to be tight-lipped about its launch date, the Volvos can continue unabated for some more time with absolutely no competition to speak of, even on paper.


Travelogue #2 - Chennai to Vellore Sripuram

The hectic mechanical life that we all live and are pretty much used to for 5, or in some cases 6 days a week, makes that odd day or two at the end of each week extra special. While its true that most people would like to stay in the cozy comfort of their drawing room sofas, the explorers amongst us would love to take a short spin to a nearby popular destination to make the weekend refreshing.

If that place is close enough so that we can be back on the same day, its good. If it happens to be calm, serene and beautiful so that its pleasing to both our heart and our mind, its an added pleasure. If it also happens to be a place of worship, it just makes it all the more easier for us to convince people and plan a visit. All the above and something more is what the Sri Narayani Peedam, more popularly known as Golden Temple at Thirumalaikodi near Vellore signifies.

Its close enough from both Chennai and Bangalore, the two hot spots of activity in South India, its beautiful, its incredibly well maintained and peaceful and above all it oozes with spirituality. Mobile phones and cameras are strictly not allowed and so you are allowed to capture the beauty only in your eyes. The star shaped pathway with inscriptions on both sides depicting the virtues of life acts as a perfect backdrop.

But the real thing is just about to come. The sanctum-sanctorum, both the exterior and interior of which are completely made out of gold foils glows and shines in the sunlight in all its resplendent glory. People say that its actually much more beautiful in the evenings with all the lights focusing on it. Visit the place to experience it and I swear that its images will stay in your eyes and mind not only on the day of the visit but forever.


  • Total No of Days - 1 (14.11.2010)
  • Vehicle Make & Model: Hyundai Santro Xing
  • Odometer Start Reading - 55128 km
  • Odometer End Reading - 55417 km
  • Total Distance Traveled - 289 km
  • Total Quantity of Fuel filled - 20 l
  • Average Fuel Consumption - 14.45 km/l
  • Net Worth of Fuel filled - 1204.40 Rs
  • Destinations Covered - Thirumalaikodi (Golden Temple)
  • Route Followed: Chennai-Sriperumbudur-Kanchipuram-Vellore-Thirumalaikodi



London's all-new Routemaster unveiled

You have to hand it over to the citizens of the West for the way in which they take pride and ownership over anything vintage and classic. The above statement is inclusive of public transport also, the prime examples being the London Bus and the London Taxi, both of which enjoys a cult following across the world, more so in UK. After decades of service, they have become symbols of London so much so, that the itinerary of most of the tourists visiting London would have a planned trip in the London Bus (actually called the Routemaster) as a standard fixture.

It seems that one of the election manifestos of the current Mayor of London, Mr. Boris Johnson was the reintroduction of the Routemaster in a modern yet classic avatar. True to his words, the Mayor recently unveiled the full-size mock-up of the all-new Routemaster at the London Transport Museum. To be made by Wright Bus, a UK based coach-maker and all set to enter service in 2012, these new double-decker buses will fill the void left by the classic Routemasters once they were stopped from service in 2005 and confined to do duty on a couple of heritage routes in the city in limited numbers.

The new Routemaster stays true to its predecessor and lives up to the heritage of its brand. It has been modeled after the classic original with modern yet retro styling cues bringing in much needed style and flair in an extremely good-looking package. The standout feature will be an open platform at the rear of the bus thus allowing passengers to really get a 'Hop-On Hop-Off' experience. The circular LED headlights look wow while the rear design looks less convincing. Any which way it is, the new Routemaster will reignite the passion and pride of Londoners for which the old buses were so famous for.

Image Source: Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org) & Wright Bus (www.wrightbus.com)


Land Rover produces and donates 1 Millionth Range Rover

It requires some guts apart from loads of commitment and hard work to try and do something which has not been done before. And, if you succeed in the attempt, you stand a very good chance of your creation becoming iconic and legendary. Land Rover managed to do just that when, for the first time ever, it blended ultimate luxury with extreme off-road capabilities into a single package in the form of Range Rover. But, even Land Rover would not have guessed that the Range Rover would come this far.

Having pioneered the luxury SUV, the Range Rover, for a whooping 40 years, has literally ruled the segment with no real competition to speak of. On Nov-4-2010, the 1 Millionth Range Rover was built at Land Rover's Solihull Plant and the company celebrated the event by donating the vehicle to Help for Heroes, a charity organization. The model which did the honors was a top-of-the-line Range Rover Vogue Autobiography Edition which will be auctioned off and the proceedings donated to the above said organization.

At a time when, barring a few, most of the automotive designs are becoming dated and being refreshed almost every year or so, the mighty Rangie has continued for so long with very few changes in its basic shape. That speaks volumes about the timeless, classic and unmistakable design it is endowed with. Starting from the first-generation Classic in 1970 through the second-generation model in 1994 to the third-generation model in 2001, the Range Rover has maintained its top virtue of combining the best of both worlds - uncompromising luxury and off-road ability.

The Range Rover line-up is all set to be joined by the stunning new Evoque in 2011. It only adds to the excitement that this feat is achieved by Land Rover under the ownership of our very own Tata.


2011 Indian GP Countdown begins

People seem to be really crazy at times. Take for instance those who would love to own and drive super-fast sports cars but are against Formula 1 racing. ‘What an irony?’ you would think, but, they have their own set of so-called logic and reasons. The prime reason is that it’s a total waste of precious fuel. This being said, I don’t see anyone conserving and consciously saving every drop of fuel that they could. The other most commonly heard reason is that it’s not men-dependent but machine-dependent and hence not fit to be classified as a sport. I bet those who said this statement would not have watched the still fresh-in-memory 2009 Belgian GP where Kimi Raikkonen and Luca Badoer drove similar-speced Ferraris, but finished first and last, the latter, with all due respect to him, also enjoying an incident-free race like the former but still finished where he did.

Any which way it is, India, after years of speculation of whether it will or it won’t, has finally joined the list of nations hosting an F1 race and the 2011 Indian Grand Prix is all set to burn the adrenaline rush of many die-hard F1 fans in the sub-continent, myself included. Amidst increasing doubts of whether its going to go the 2010 CWG way, which by the way, much to the shock and surprise of the entire world, started and ended in a spectacularly grand manner, the inaugural Indian F1 race is scheduled on October-30-2011 at the Greater Noida circuit near Delhi, being developed by the Jaypee Group. With the addition of India along with the new for 2010 Korea, the 2011 F1 calendar now stands extended to an unprecedented and historically long 20 rounds.

The fact that the 2010 F1 season, being proclaimed by many as one of the best F1 seasons ever, is headed towards a thrilling and dramatic finish with 5 drivers still in contention for the championship with just 2 races to go will only add to the excitement and enthusiasm of the fans and organizers alike. We can only hope and wish that the organizers get everything ready on time unlike this year’s Korean Grand Prix, the presence of which in the 2010 F1 calendar was confirmed just two weeks before the actual event happened on October-24-2010. Here begins the countdown to make my dream of watching Ferraris, McLarens, RedBulls and Force Indias live in action come true.


Honda J(g)etting closer to reality

Thirteen years after the initial sketches were released, eight years after a slew of technical papers on its innovations were published, seven years after its first flight, four years after garnering an astounding 100 orders within three days of going on sale, the Honda Jet program is rapidly moving towards its final phase of development. Honda Aircraft Company, Inc. released an update of its Honda Jet program, the auto major's first venture into aviation, at the recent 2010 National Business Aviation Association convention.

Honda has just confirmed that Ground Function testing and Static Stress testing is in progress in the first two conforming air crafts while the assembly of the third conforming aircraft has commenced. Also released in the gathering were the final white on gray production paint scheme, cockpit controls and cabin design. Under Mr.Michimasa Fujino, Honda Aircraft Company's President and CEO, who also apparently penned the initial sketches of the Honda Jet, the aircraft is undergoing all sorts of tests to meet and beat the laws of physics.

The stand-out feature of the Honda Jet is obviously the first-of-its-kind, never-before-used "Over-the-wing" engine mount configuration. Honda claims that this design has already been validated and that it dramatically improves aircraft performance and fuel efficiency by reducing the aerodynamic drag significantly. Powering the Honda Jet are two highly fuel-efficient GE Honda HF120 turbofan jet engines. The cream and beige interiors are plush, comfy, spacious and exudes a sense of class.

Honda will start delivering the $4.5 million Jets to its 100 plus customers beginning from third quarter of 2012. The stylish and sporty looking Jet is also expected to combine dynamic performance together with superior fuel efficiency, a traditional Honda trait which the company seems to have lost going by its recent launches in automobiles. So, the next time you wish to have fun in a Honda, don't just take to the roads, try taking to the skies too.


Hyundai drives in the Santa Fe to India

Another day, and yet another crossover (SUV for many) has been launched in the Indian market. Following the launch of Tata Aria on October-11, Hyundai launched its much-awaited and much-delayed Santa Fe on October-13. While Tata is venturing into that price segment for the first time with a brand-new model in a brand-new platform with no heritage to speak of, Hyundai in India has already tried and burnt their fingers, not once, but twice and is hoping to be third time lucky with the Santa Fe, a model which can boast of a 10 year history and 2 million customers across the globe. To say that the Santa Fe is one of Hyundai’s most successful nameplates ever would be an understatement.

So, unlike the Terracan and Tucson, what is new in the Santa Fe that makes Hyundai so confident of success in the crowded SUV space where Toyota Fortuner reigns supreme and other models like Honda CR-V, Ford Endeavour, Chevrolet Captiva, Mitsubishi Pajero and Outlander are also doing modest numbers? The Santa Fe’s trump card undoubtedly would be the ‘popularized-by-Hyundai’ term - CRDi. The 2.2L common rail engine, with a maximum power of 194 bhp @ 4000 rpm and a torque of 42.9 kgm @ 1800~2500 rpm is the most powerful amongst all its rivals, the Fortuner included. It has also managed a surprising 14.66 kmpl in ARAI trials, though how much of it will be delivered on road still remains to be seen.

The Santa Fe also has the show to match its go. The clean, rounded lines are a hit the world over and the Santa Fe comes across as a stylish yet subtle vehicle, similar to the CR-V and Captiva. Those who prefer the aggressive, in-your-face looks of the Fortuner and Endeavour would not like the Santa Fe, though. The massive 18-inch alloys, twin exhausts and rear spoiler adds to the sporty nature of the vehicle.

When it comes to occupant’s safety, the Santa Fe simply crushes the competition. Armed with Electronic Stability Control, which combines the functions of ABS, EBD and TCS, six airbags (driver, passenger, side and curtain) and roll-over sensors, the Santa Fe has been awarded a 5 star safety rating by NCAP, quite unmatched by many of its rivals. All the other regular goodies to be found on a vehicle at this price point and some more are available as standard in the Santa Fe. The two versions, 2WD and 4WD are priced at approximately Rs 21 and 23 lakhs, making it even more expensive than the Fortuner. Let’s see if Hyundai, with its small car maker image manages to hit the jackpot this time around.


Tata launches Aria, finally

After taking what seemed to be an infinite time after its public unveiling at the 2010 Delhi Auto Expo in January, Tata Motors finally launched the much awaited Aria in the Indian market on October-11-2010. This launch holds more significance as the Aria is not only the costliest Tata yet, but also the most expensive and most technologically advanced car ever launched by an Indian manufacturer. Naturally, apart from the top honchos at Tata Motors, both the media and the public are going gaga over the Aria.
What strikes you first when you see the Aria is its size. Simply put, the Aria is huge and the pictures dont do enough justice to the actual dimensions of the vehicle. The front end with its stacked double barreled crystal headlamps and chrome-lined signature Tata grille endows the Aria with terrific street presence. The profile, with chrome side strips and huge 17 inch alloy wheels give you some hints about the size of the vehicle while the D-Pillar, with more than a passing resemblance to the Honda CR-V, is a cheeky design element. Tata's increasingly repetitive but still not boring christmas-tree taillamps and chrome-tipped dual exhausts along with the chrome license plate garnish with 'Tata' embossed in it looks classy.

Step into the Aria and therein lies the biggest surprise. When I had a close brush with one of the pre-launch Arias being tested in Pune a few months back, I mentioned that the interiors would, by far, be the best from Tata and the initial media reviews and test drives proves the point. Glance through the feature list and you will be shocked and surprised with a kind of "Is this a Tata?" feeling. The All Wheel Drive crossover comes with a host of features like Anti lock Braking System with Electronic Brake force Distribution, Traction Control System with Electronic Stability Program, six Airbags (driver, passenger, side and curtain), all four disc brakes, in-built navigation system with preloaded maps of most Indian cities, rain-sensing automatic wipers, darkness-sensing automatic headlamps, puddle lamps, individual ac vents for all three rows, power mirrors, dual HVAC with climate control, rear wipers that automatically switches on when reversing in rain and reverse parking sensors. Phew, and the list doesn't end there.

If that's not surprising enough for you, the next statement surely will. The Aria is priced between 13 and 16 lac rupees, making it much more expensive than the Toyota Innova and pitting it directly with cars like Skoda Laura. Overall, the Aria has no reason to not succeed with the only unanswered question being Tata's reliability and initial glitches like they faced with the Indica and Nano. Here's wishing Tata for the Aria's success because it literally, has taken Indian Cars to the next level!