Tata Aria spotted testing in Pune

They say that a keen eye for detail will never go unrewarded and it came true during my recent short trip to Pune, India's second automotive hub after Chennai. Having determined to spot something interesting related to automobiles there, I was overwhelmed with what I saw. The diverse range of yet to be launched vehicles that I spotted testing in Pune city ranged from a completely camouflaged bike, most probably a new model from Bajaj to a Mercedes-Benz City Bus doing intracity trial runs. But sadly, except this Tata Aria test vehicle, the other surprises could not be captured through my lenses.

When I first saw this new model from Tata during it's premiere at the Auto Expo 2010, I knew what I saw was big. But, I just did not expect it to be so big until I spotted this cool Tata Aria parked casually on a busy Pune thoroughfare. It was really huge, which is apparently obvious with the Indica (in the shot) as a reference. The Aria is surely going to be one size up than the competing models like Toyota Innova and Mahindra Xylo. If the magic carpet ride of the current Tata Safari is anything to go by, the Aria is sure to transport people in ultra comfort as it shares the platform with the yet to be launched new Safari.

The styling of the Aria is so conservative that it hardly turned heads, but the imposing road presence that the Aria commands cannot be denied either. The front end has been styled quite aggressively with big, peeled back headlamps that extends so far back into the fender that it almost touches the A-Pillar. But the design of the grille, with three horizontal slats leaves a lot to be desired, with it's high positioning giving it a slightly awkward look. The rear styling is comparatively more pleasant and pleasing to look at with Tata's signature Christmas-tree taillight cluster, which in this case is tapered at the bottom. The chrome-tipped dual circular exhausts lends it a sporty look, which is further accentuated by the chrome number plate garnish and the v-shaped rear windscreen. This car also had slots where the rear parking sensors are supposed to be fitted.

There was an old gentleman sitting in the driver's seat and the windows were kept wide open which allowed me to peep into the interiors. The quality seems to be leaps and bounds ahead of what Tata has produced till now barring the Vista and the Manza. If those two models took Tata build quality to a new high, this is going to take it further up the order. Having seen one on the road now, I am only more curious to see the response of the general public to the costliest Tata yet.


Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG launched in India

Though India, as an automobile market, holds very high importance for every automobile company in the world, there is no denying the fact that, it is still seen as a market for compact cars, ones that are cheap to buy, own and drive by many. But premium brands beg to differ, what with companies like Ferrari, Aston-Martin and Lamborghini planning an entry into India and the recent years have seen the launch of brands like Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Porsche and the sports cars of Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi. In spite of the existing duty structure and the road conditions which makes buying and owning sports cars a tough job, the select few who are gifted enough to buy them are ready to plonk in their money and the number is growing by the day.

Here is proof, if ever needed, that the automobile companies have realized this and are trying to capitalize on it. Such was the response that Mercedes-Benz India received for it’s SLS AMG sports car at the Auto Expo 2010 that India has now become one of the first RHD markets in the world where this beauty is getting launched. Speaking on the launch of it’s flagship super car in the Indian market, Mercedes-Benz India MD & CEO Mr. Wilfried Aulbur said “We are very excited to come with SLS in India. We have started the production a couple of weeks ago in Germany”. Sure, there are many reasons to be excited for this man heading the Indian operations of the iconic German brand, but none to be as excited as we all car-lovers are.

Speaking of facts, the SLS AMG is the first-ever car to be completely developed by AMG, the performance division of Mercedes-Benz. After making fans across the world crave for regular Mercedes models with AMG badging, it has now taken its ultimate step with the SLS. Powered by a 6.3 litre V8 engine churning out 571 bhp of peak power and 65 kgm of peak torque, the car is capable of doing a 0-100 km/h run in 3.8 seconds and reaching a maximum speed of 317 km/h, more than any road in India will ever allow it to go. And just look at it, are the other facts & specs still needed to convince a prospective customer to put a couple of crores of their money in it? The SLS AMG is by far the most beautiful Mercedes to be launched in the past few years and more than a spiritual successor to the legendary 300 SL Gullwing. Just like it’s predecessor, the SLS AMG stuns with it’s Gullwing doors, the aluminum spaceframe construction, the long hood and the droopy rear-end styling. With 10 confirmed pre-launch bookings already, the SLS AMG is sure to script a big success story for Mercedes-Benz in India.

Image Courtesy: The Hindu (www.thehindu.com)


Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sports creates Land Speed Record

There are certain things in life, which when even thought about for a split-second, demand superlatives. And when it comes to the world of speed, there are quite a lot of things (and humans) which do that. Starting from Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher (greatest F1 racers ever) to the TGV and Concorde (the fastest train and jet), the list is quite formidable. And, if there is one car which has its name etched into this list, it would undoubtedly be the Bugatti Veyron.

Stung with criticism from all angles, Volkswagen, the owner of the Bugatti brand took it upon itself to deliver what it promised in the form of Veyron, even if it involved losing money on every number produced. In the process of doing so, terms like W16 engine configuration, 1001 bhp and quad turbochargers became known to the general public. Finally, when the Bugatti Veyron was launched as the World’s most powerful car at that time, the world was in awe of one of the ultimate cars that had ever been produced. Though the car’s design was not liked by everyone, the specifications and power output more than made up for it.
And now, when the Veyron is about to become history with the last few numbers to be manufactured, Bugatti decided to celebrate with the most fitting title to it’s super car – “Guiness Land Speed Record for a Production Car”. On July-04-2010, in Volkswagen group’s proving grounds at Ehra-Lessien near Wolfsburg, Germany, in the presence of German Technical Inspection Agency (TUV) and Guiness Book of Records representative, Bugatti sent it’s official test driver Pierre Henri Raphanel to drive the first of the Super Sports in the oval in both the directions. With speeds of 427.93 & 434.21 kph and an average speed of 431.072 kph (268 mph), the Veyron Super Sports easily set a new world speed record for a production car.
To commemorate this, the first five Super Sports edition produced will have the same black and orange livery as the record car. The entire Super Sports series will come with a power output of 1200 bhp and a maximum torque of 1500 Nm which are identical to those of the record car, but the Top Speed will be limited to 257.9 mph thus making the life of the tires and the occupants easier. But only a very few people, who are already lucky enough to even think of spending a fortune on buying this, will be able to get their hands on this one, what with a price tag of close to a quarter of a billion dollars and a very limited production run.

Images Courtesy: Autoblog (www.autoblog.com)


Hyundai i10 Facelift spotted in NH4

Here is further proof that something is burning at Hyundai Motor India Ltd. Close on the heels of launching a facelift of their Verna mid-size sedan, the facelift of their bread and butter model, the i10 is spotted on public roads. Though these test mules have been spotted quite a few times in pitch darkness, this is the first instance of seeing these cars in total daylight. From a distance, at first glance, we thought that we have bumped into Hyundai's new 800cc car but getting closer to it revealed it's original identity.

Being India's second largest selling car after only Maruti-Suzuki's Alto, Hyundai has decided to play safe with the existing i10 by opting for a mild nip and tuck job. It literally means that it's only going to be a slight cosmetic upgrade to make the car look fresh and appealing. From the rear, nothing except the change in shape of the tail lamp lenses were visible through the heavy camouflage. When we passed the car, we found out that the profile remains virtually unchanged except for the indicators which are now positioned in the rear-view mirrors. Moving over to the front, the major change that could be noticed was the hexagonal outline of the grille, which could be seen by the shape of the camouflage. Also, the headlamps seems to have been blackened  out with a clear partition for the front indicators.

It seems to be a nice and sporty touch to freshen up the looks of a car which currently looks a little dated. Also, except for few feature-additions, no major changes in specifications are expected with this new model, unless Hyundai decides to spring in a surprise to us. Expected to be launched before the end of the year, I sincerely hope that this "transform"ation of the i10 does not go like the recent Verna Transform, which was criticized by almost everyone for transforming a bland-looking car into an outright ugly one.


The all-new Range Rover Evoque unveiled

There are quite a few automotive companies across the world which were blessed to thrive and flourish under new ownership after facing problems for existence on it's own. Companies like Skoda (under VW), Kia (under Hyundai) and very recently, the iconic British brands Jaguar and Land Rover strike our minds immediately when we say that.

After turning around the fortunes of Jaguar globally with the superb XF and XJ models, Tata has now started shifting it's focus on Land Rover. Though Ford started and completed most of the development activities of these new-gen models, Tata deserves the credit for infusing the much needed cash to successfully launch these models. As part of it, the widely-expected production version of the stunning, crowd-wooing LRX Concept was unveiled in Britain recently.

The new baby Range Rover is christened "Evoque" and much to the surprise of  the gathered automotive media, the production version is very close and similar to the original concept version, which is a complete rarity in automobiles. This new model not only opens the avenue for a whole new set of people to join the elite Range Rover club, but because of it's stunning design, it's also going to sell in truckloads. Hope this new entry Range Rover lives up, matches and exceeds the expectations built up by the macho looks, upmarket luxury image & off-road abilities that the original Range Rover endeared itself to it's owners. 

Tata could not have given a better gift to Range Rover on it's 40th year of existence than the Evoque.