Force Traveller 26 Mini Bus spotted testing in Pune

If you have been a regular follower of Anything On Wheels, you might remember the article that we had posted in December 2011 in which 3 different variants of Force Traveller were snapped testing on the same day in and around Pune. One among them was the exclusive Traveller Mini Bus that was caught on public roads for the first time ever. Much later, in the 2012 Auto Expo at New Delhi, Force Motors unveiled the mini bus christened Traveller 26, the number denoting the seating capacity of the vehicle. A luxurious variant of the Traveller 26 with reduced seating capacity was also showcased at the event.

With the unveiling done six months back, it seems that the company has still not completed the test-runs of the vehicle, as these shots captured a couple of days back in Pune prove. The Traveller 26 is India's first monocoque bus that has it's own advantages of car-like handling and ride comfort. Just like all the other variants of Traveller, the Traveller 26 is also powered by a common-rail diesel engine sourced from Mercedes-Benz. This is also the company's first entry into the mini-bus segment that is dominated by Tata and Ashok Leyland. The date of commercial launch of the Traveller 26 is still not known.

Let us not forget the fact that the Traveller series is, by far, the best selling model of Force Motors and the company just can't afford to take it's eyes off the model even for a split-second.


Driven #14: 2012 Mahindra Xylo

Folks in Mahindra have been really hard at work over the past decade or so. That is the period in which the company shook off their 'Jeep' heritage and, in the process, successfully developed and launched three indigenous models. Two of them, the Scorpio and XUV500 have been smash hits while Xylo, the other model, was a relatively moderate success. Inspite of possessing many qualities that compare favorably to the segment leaders, the Xylo never really sold as well as Mahindra would have hoped. Now that the company has launched a mid-cycle facelift of the Xylo, is that enough to propel this MPV to stardom? We found out with a test drive.


We always believed that one of the major reasons for the earlier Xylo not being popular with private buyers was its odd looks and proportions. In a single stroke of genius, Mahindra has transformed the looks of the Xylo, atleast when viewed head on. The highly detailed boomerang headlights with its chrome inserts and smoked portions add a lot of character to the Xylo and the redesigned 'family' grille perfectly compliments the stylish front end. At last, someone has told Mahindra that their dreadful 'rabbit tooth grille' has got to go and the management has listened. The bumper too is redesigned and comes with black plastic add-ons that makes the Xylo look a little low slung and sporty. The fog lamps look a trifle small though.

There are no significant changes done to the sides and rear and the Xylo still looks bulky and a bit odd from the rear three-quarters. But, it has to be said that blackening out of the B, C and D pillars, the addition of black plastic shrouds along the wheel arches and the chrome-lined protective cladding have did their best to hide the visual bulk. The rear spoiler is done neatly and plays its part in improving the looks too. The fact that our test car came with a full set of accessories like the 'chrome pack' for door handles and taillight clusters and door visors just added to the looks quotient. Special credits has to be given for the superbly designed stock alloys that looks wonderful.


Step in, or rather we should say, climb inside and the first thing that you notice is the huge amounts of space available, not only in the front and middle rows, but also in the third row. We have sat in almost all MPVs this side of 15 Lakh Rupees and when it comes to space, there is nothing to beat the Xylo. There is no change in the design of the dashboard too and the oddly shaped air-conditioner vents in the center console still looks out of place. The beige interiors with faux wood inserts and chrome accents look bright and airy. There are dedicated air-conditioner vents and hand-rests for all three rows and the occupants would feel comfortable sitting in any of them. Now that is a big victory over the likes of Maruti-Suzuki Ertiga and Chevrolet Tavera.

There is a new 'E9' variant added to the Xylo as part of the facelift that comes fully loaded with leather upholstery, steering mounted controls for audio and cruise control and a voice command feature for headlights, wipers and radio. The 'E8' variant that we drove is the most popular variant of Xylo and comes with all the essential features like Digital Drive Assist that displays a whole lot of information, twin Airbags, ABS with EBD, two DIN audio system with USB, SD and Aux-in and a reverse parking assist system that displays warning messages in the rear view mirror. Foldable snack trays behind the front seats, a spectacle holder in the roof and courtesy lamps add to the novel factor.

Fit and finish is poor in many areas and still remains a point of concern in the Xylo. Mahindra still has a long way and a few years to go to catch up with its competitors like Toyota and Suzuki in this particular area.


With this facelift, Mahindra has given the Xylo three engine options to choose from. The base variants that are intended for the 'taxi' market comes with the 2.5-liter mDI CRDe engine from the Bolero. The top-end E9 variant gets the mHawk engine from the Scorpio with 120 bhp of maximum power. The mid variants including the E8 that we drove comes with the tried and trusted mEagle engine that churns out a maximum power of 112 bhp at 3800 rpm and a maximum torque of 260 Nm between 1800 and 2200 rpm. The engine pulls strongly at low revs while the mid-range and top-end progress tapers down. Shifting gears needs a bit of effort as the clutch is a little heavy and the shifts are notchy and doesn't fall into place easily.

The earlier Xylo was known for its body roll in the highways and the new Xylo exhibited the same character as well, but it was a bit subdued compared to the older version. Mahindra has definitely fine-tuned the suspension for better highway characteristics. And it shows as the Xylo can cruise comfortably in the highway at moderate speeds. Push it above 100 km/h and the Xylo's weaknesses start showing up, its huge mass and high center of gravity playing spoilsport. It is here that the car-like handling characteristics of Toyota Innova is sorely missed. On the positive side, the suspension soaks up bumps and potholes effortlessly and the high seating position gives you a commanding view of the road ahead.


* Engine Type: mEagle Common-rail Diesel
* No of Cylinders: 4
* Displacement: 2498 cc
* Maximum Power: 112 bhp @ 3800 RPM
* Maximum Torque: 260 Nm @ 1800-2200 RPM
* Transmission Type: 5-speed MT
* Tires: 215/75 R15
* Brakes: Disc (Front), Drum (Rear)

* Huge passenger space
* Feature loaded interiors
* Comparatively better styling


* Unsorted handling
* Interior fit and finish


As we said at the beginning of this post, the earlier Xylo already had quite a few characteristics comparable to the segment leader, the Toyota Innova. The facelift has only reinforced that point strongly. Spacious interiors, comfortable third row seating and proven engine options are the Xylo's trump cards. Add to it better styling and feature-loaded interiors and the Xylo makes a compelling proposition. With more than a couple of lakhs cheaper than comparable variants of Toyota Innova, the Xylo is terrific value for money too. Mahindra has another success story in its hands.


Mercedes-Benz launches all-new M-Class in India

The German luxury car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz, on Tuesday, pulled the wraps off the all-new M-Class SUV in the Indian market. With 1500 customers owning one already, the M-Class is the most popular SUV in the company's Indian line-up and Mercedes-Benz would want to capitalize on this fact with this all-new model. Currently in its third generation, the new M-Class is larger and sleeker than the outgoing model sporting the company's latest and bold design language. Gone are the simple and bland lines of its predecessor. The new design theme is so stylish and aggressive that it lends a whole lot of character and attitude to the M-Class that was missing earlier.

Knowing the needs of the Indian market, Mercedes-Benz has currently launched only the ML 350 CDI, a diesel variant. The 3.0-liter engine, with 258 bhp of maximum power and a whooping 63.2 kgm of torque, is mated to a 7-speed 7G-Tronic automatic transmission. The interiors are typical Mercedes stuff with superb build-quality and comes loaded to the hilt with features. An ECO Start Stop function, 9 Airbags, Autonomous Braking, ABS, ESP, TCS, Airmatic air suspension, Attention Assist, Active Parking Assist, Night View Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control and a whole lot of other features will pamper the occupants like no other. Its not surprising then that Mercedes-Benz likes to call the M-Class as the S-Class of SUV segment.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Peter Honegg, Managing Director & CEO, Mercedes-Benz India stated, “At the start of this year we had promised to introduce exciting new models into the market. We are proud to present today the New M Class, built to perform with the highest precision and follows the Mercedes-Benz new design language. We are confident that the quality of drive and the luxurious experience it can deliver will be a big hit with the customers and it will be warmly received”. We quite agree as the M-Class is now perfectly armored to face its mighty competitors. Except for its limitation as a 5 seater and the market's craze for Audi Q7, we don't really see a reason why the M-Class shouldn't succeed in a big way.


Is this people-carrier Bajaj's Auto-Rickshaw replacement?

At the moment, we aren't absolutely sure about the answer for the above question. These spy shots sent in by our reader Guru doesn't reveal much, except for the basic details. This vehicle is definitely a basic people-carrier which is quite obvious from the absence of doors on either sides. The engine is placed at the rear as evident by the openings in the camouflage to aid cooling. Though no more details regarding the vehicle or its identity is available with us right now, we guess that this could be Bajaj's auto-rickshaw replacement. Not for nothing are we saying so.

First of all, this test vehicle was spotted doing trial runs in the popular Chakan locality of Pune where Bajaj's manufacturing facility is located. From the looks of it, this vehicle is tall and narrow, not much dissimilar to how the Bajaj RE60 four-wheeler looked during its unveiling. Moreover the shape and positioning of a small portion of the taillights that is visible through the camouflage are quite similar to those found in the RE60. It was these factors that made us conclude that this vehicle could be a derivative of the RE60 unveiled by Bajaj early this year.

We could be wrong though. With Mahindra and Tata also getting very much involved in the basic people-carrier segment with the likes of Gio and Maxximo and Ace Magic, Magic Iris and Venture respectively, they could end up springing a surprise as well. If you get to know more about this four-wheeler, please do let us know. Compared to the three-wheeled auto-rickshaws dotting our cities, the presence of a fourth wheel will bring in a host of advantages like added safety, stability, space and load-carrying capability.

Will the ubiquitous Bajaj Auto-Rickshaw be finally replaced with this four-wheeler? Just like all of you, we are having our fingers crossed!


Sales of Bajaj Pulsar crosses 5 Million units

There is no denying the fact that 'Pulsar' was, and still is, a magic brand for Bajaj Auto. It not only became a huge success in the market fending off every single competitor, but also changed the face of Bajaj once and for all. A company that was considered a perennial scooter-maker became a serious contender in motorcycles all of a sudden, that too in the performance segment, no less. Now, the Pulsar has crossed yet another major milestone in terms of sales. "The (Pulsar) brand has crossed the landmark 5 million sales mark, while celebrating a decade of existence. Pulsar is the only brand in the performance segment which has crossed the 5 million mark in India," Bajaj Auto Ltd. said in a statement.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. K. Srinivas, President (Motorcycle Business), Bajaj Auto, said, "Not many brands in the Indian automobile space have crossed the 5 million mark. This holds true even for mass motorcycles. The Pulsar range has received many accolades over the years." That is quite true as the Pulsar has always been a big-seller since its launch in the year 2001. Starting off with 150 cc and 180 cc variants, Bajaj gradually expanded the range with 200 cc, 220 cc and, most recently, even 135 cc variants. Be it technological innovations (DTS-i, ExhausTEC, Nitrox) or feature additions (LED taillights, back-lit instrument cluster, digital gauges), the Pulsar has always been a trend-setter forcing the competition to follow suit.

As much as the product was good, Bajaj's advertising campaign was electric too with the 'Definitely Male', 'The Fastest Indian' and 'Pulsarmania' campaigns making the Pulsar range the default choice for motorcycle enthusiasts across the country. A market share of 44% in the performance motorcycle segment at this day and age of cut-throat competition stands testimony to the popularity of the Pulsar. All this popularity and craze is only going to soar much higher later in the year once the Pulsar 200 NS goes on sale. This bike that was recently unveiled by Bajaj and wears a stunning 'Naked Sports' design, is a technological and packaging wonder and is expected to span a host of engine variants. We are about to witness the rebirth of a legend!


Maruti-Suzuki Swift overtakes Alto to become India's best selling car in April 2012

For the first time in almost 3 decades, a model not related to the Maruti 800 has become the best selling car in our country. The irony here is that this has happened in the same month in which the production of 800 came to a stop after 29 years. Since its introduction in the year 1984, the small and humble 800 has been topping the sales charts literally unchallenged. It was not until 2004, when its 'two-generations-younger' sibling Alto took over, that it relinquished the top slot. Now, eight years later, yet another model from Maruti-Suzuki, the all-conquering Swift, has did the unthinkable. With sales of 19,484 units in the month of April 2012, the Swift has beaten Alto (17,842 units) to become the numero uno.
That the Swift is a stupendous success in the market and a big boost for brand 'Maruti-Suzuki' isn't news to us. We have grown tired of hearing about it since the time it was launched here. An all-new, cheekily-styled small car from a company known for its reliable but boring models spurred the interest of thousands of long-time Maruti enthusiasts, with the launch of diesel variants just acting as a catalyst. The popularity only soared further with the launch of the second generation model last year. In fact, the Swift has been consistently selling close to 20,000 units for the past few months. But what is really surprising is the sudden and massive fall in sales numbers of the 'quintessential best-seller' Alto.
Now, is this a temporary blip in Alto's numbers or is it an indication of our market maturing? The shift is too sudden to believe its the latter, despite the fact that the per-capita income and consequently the spending power of Indians continue to rise year over year. This month's sales figures will clear the doubt for us once and for all. Watch this space!