Chevrolet Sail U-VA undergoing final rounds of testing

The Chevrolet Sail U-VA is no stranger to us. We have had a couple of posts on the car when it was caught testing extensively in and around Pune. In fact, spy-shots of the Sail U-VA has featured so regularly in various automotive websites and forums over the last two years, that it could possibly be the "most spied" car ever in the Indian market.

With the date of launch getting nearer and most of the automotive media having already driven the Sail U-VA, these could most probably be the final set of spy-shots of the car before it is officially launched. Yes, for a change, we are bragging about what could be the last ever spy-shots of a particular car.

Set to replace the Aveo U-VA that failed miserably in the Indian market, the Sail U-VA will compete with Maruti-Suzuki Swift, Ford Figo, Toyota Etios Liva and the likes. Armed with conservative design inside and out, the Sail U-VA will be available with a 1.2-liter, 4-cylinder petrol engine with 85 bhp of power and a 1.3-liter, 4-cylinder turbo diesel engine with 77 bhp of power. If the latter's specification sounds familiar, you are not wrong. It is the same 'Multijet' diesel engine that currently powers a host of cars in India and was jointly developed by General Motors and Fiat. Having heard from folks who have experienced the Sail first-hand in China where it is one of the largest selling cars, we know that the car has class-leading passenger and boot space and that will obviously be its trump card.

With the Sail twins, General Motors probably has the best shot to crack the mass market segment in India. At last, it seems that GM has awaken from its slumber as it gets ready for a spate of launches in the Indian market. Starting with the Sail U-VA hatchback, the company has lined up Spark Facelift, Sail sedan and Enjoy MPV for launch in quick succession, all possibly before end of this year.

Will the GM India ship 'sail' steady once the Sail twins set foot? Let's wait and watch.


Export variant of Mahindra Genio pick-up spotted testing near Chennai

Mahindra has been on a dream run of late with every model succeeding big-time in terms of sales. One among them was the Genio range of commercial pick-up trucks that were launched early last year. Developed from the modern "Ingenio" platform that underpinned the Xylo and more recently the Quanto, the Genio came as a breath of fresh air in a segment that was dominated by outdated designs and technologies. Not surprisingly then, the Genio became a big hit.

As with most of it's recent models, Mahindra made its intentions clear that the Genio is not going to be confined only for the Indian market. Exports to African, Latin American and a few European countries were planned. Truth be told though, the Genio, in it's Indian spec, just wouldn't make the cut for export markets. Mahindra knew this very well and that is exactly why it unveiled a significantly upgraded Genio for the export markets late last year amidst much fanfare.

It was this upgraded Genio that we caught testing near Mahindra World City on the outskirts of Chennai. The only difference was that the model being tested was a single-cab variant (code-named X-321, with the 'X' denoting Xylo platform) unlike the dual-cab variant that was unveiled.

So, what is different in this Genio from the model that is currently being sold in India? For starters, the rear half has been completely redesigned and looks all the more better for it.

Gone is the spartan sheet-metal loading bay that not only looked crude and utilitarian, but also exposed the chassis and mechanicals underneath. In its place comes a fully moulded loading bay that covers the chassis and gels well with the cabin in front. The basic taillight units have been replaced by modern vertical clusters with a character line running across the tailgate to connect them. Other details that are visible from these shots are a single reversing light, side-facing exhaust pipe behind the right rear wheel and the leaf spring rear suspension. The front end is similar to the old Xylo and did not have the intimidating look of the existing Genio pick-up.

The interiors are also lifted from the Xylo and is likely to be equipped with more features than the Indian model. Also likely to be different is the engine. Unlike the 2.5-liter mDI CRDe diesel engine that powers the Genio in India, this upgraded version might end up with the 2.2-liter mHawk engine that is more powerful and technologically advanced.

Overall, the export-oriented new Genio looks much better and upmarket than the existing model.

But, here comes the catch. Is Mahindra planning to upgrade the Indian Genio as well with this model? Or, is Mahindra just using Indian roads as a test bed for launching the Genio in international markets? With Tata taking the game forward recently by launching the Xenon RX range of pick-up trucks in India, there are fair chances for both. 

With our job done, it's now over to Mahindra to clear our doubts.


Bajaj RE60 spotted testing in Pune

One of the very first posts of the year 2012 was about the Bajaj RE60, a low-cost "four-wheeler" unveiled by the Pune-based manufacturer, just ahead of the Auto Expo. Intended to be an evolution of its popular three-wheeled auto-rickshaw, Bajaj was very particular that the RE60 isn't a 'car', but a 'four-wheeler'. That was pretty smart thinking, as registering the RE60 as a car would mean that stricter safety and emission norms should be met with, which may not be possible for a vehicle of its size and technology.

In a welcome move, Indian Government recently approved a new category of vehicles, that could be called 'quadricycles', to plug the big gap between three-wheelers and cars. Now, that's a slot where the Bajaj RE60 would fit in perfectly.

If you remember right, Anything On Wheels was amongst the first in bringing out spy-shots of the vehicle that looked very much like the RE60. But the big difference was the absence of passenger doors on the test vehicle, unlike the one unveiled at the Auto Expo. Now, thanks to our avid fan Guru, we are at it again. These shots were taken late last night at a suburb in Pune.

Beneath the strip camouflage pattern, it is clearly evident that this is the top-end variant of RE60 that is being tested here, the presence of passenger doors and snazzy-looking wheels being dead give-aways. While Bajaj is looking to conquer commercial segment with the base variant, this top-end variant is also being targeted at private buyers. Looking at it again and again, we can't stop comparing the RE60 to the Kia Soul, a hatchback that's known for its quirky yet appealing design. While the Soul looks attractive, the RE60 looks crude. It's tall, it's narrow and it's never going to replace your car, ever. It can, at best, be an intra-city run-about, one in which you just need not worry about squeezing in and out of traffic and parking spaces. Expected to be powered by a rear-mounted engine producing 20 bhp of power, the RE60 is claimed to have a top speed of around 70 km/h and a real world fuel efficiency of 35 km/l. To reduce running costs further, LPG and CNG fuel options are expected to be available as well. The advantage of having four wheels vis-a-vis three in terms of stability can already be noticed in in one of these shots, as the vehicle is seen doing moderate speeds comfortably.

As we already stated, if you look at it as a car, the RE60 doesn't make the cut. View it as an evolution of an auto-rickshaw or a quadricycle and you would start appreciating its benefits. We would be happy if the RE60 ends up replacing the manic auto-rickshaws on our cities. The RE60 is trying to open up a new segment that could possibly see many manufacturers getting into it, over the course of time.

For those who would like to know a bit of history behind, the RE60 is actually a fall-out of a failed Indo-German-Japanese joint-venture in which Bajaj was assigned the task of developing a frugal small car to compete with the Tata Nano, while Renault and Nissan would help in marketing and selling the car. What started off with a pretty decent prototype at the 2008 Auto Expo changed track all of a sudden and ended up with this at the 2012 Auto Expo. Renault and Nissan obviously weren't enthusiastic about this change of direction by Bajaj and decided to part ways.


Tata launches Safari Storme in India

After 14 long years since its launch in 1998, the Tata Safari has received its first major facelift today as Tata Motors launched the new Safari Storme in India. The Tata Safari Storme will co-exist with the existing Safari and is available in 4 variants – LX, EX, VX and VX 4x4, priced at INR 9.95, 10.77, 12.37 and 13.66 Lakhs respectively, ex-showroom Delhi.

At first glance, the Safari Storme looks like just a cosmetic facelift of an already old design, but it is actually more than that. The Storme is built on the new Aria platform, that is considerably more rigid and lighter than the existing Safari platform.

Though the basic shape and dimensions are still the same, the Storme comes with a redesigned front end that is inspired by Land Rover. The boomerang headlights with projector beams and an unique rectangular mesh grille with a thick chrome strip on top look classy. The profile remains untouched and retains the classic 'Safari' shape. The biggest change in the rear is the absence of spare wheel on the tail gate, which takes away the typical 'SUV' feel. In addition to the horizontal chrome strip that adds visual bling, a thick grey strip runs across the tailgate and houses the logo and badges. The taillights are redesigned too while the dual exhaust pipes and diffuser-style insert in the rear bumper makes the Storme look sporty.

Powering the Safari Storme is the same 2.2-liter common-rail engine that gives a maximum power output of 140 PS at 4000 rpm and a peak torque of 320 Nm between 1700-2700 rpm. The engine is now dubbed 'VariCOR', indicating the presence of variable geometry turbine technology. The 4x4 variant is fitted with a 4-wheel drive electronic shift-on-the-fly mechanism with a limited slip differential. The interiors are said to be much improved over the existing Safari, both in terms of aesthetics and quality. Fit and finish is also expected to be much better, an attribute that Tata Safari isn't famous for till now. We are sure that the spacious interiors, best-in-class middle row seats and brilliant ride quality of the existing Safari have been carried over to the Storme as well.

Quite a lot of features have been added too, like front airbags, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), parking assist with display in the rear view mirror, leather upholstery and music system with USB, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity. Though the list seems to be long, other cars in this price range like Hyundai Elantra and Mahindra XUV 500 have taken the game forward in terms of interior features. With even Tata's own Manza Club Class that was launched yesterday sporting features like automatic climate control, touch-screen music system with navigation and steering mounted audio controls, we really fail to understand Tata's strategy in omitting those features from the Safari Storme.

May be, a Safari Storme Club Class is in the making and would be launched a couple of years down the road.

Is a nip and tuck to a 14-year old exterior design, a substantial improvement in interior quality, fit and finish and a comprehensive overhaul of its underpinnings enough to bring the Safari back in the game? Will the Storme bolster the Safari range to compete with Renault Duster and Mahindra XUV 500? Tata hopes it will. As for us, we aren't sure.

Mahindra debuts SsangYong brand in India, launches Rexton

The last few years have seen Mahindra expand its automotive business into known and unknown territories by acquiring many companies. One among them is SsangYong, the South Korean manufacturer that recently went bankrupt, after which Mahindra took over, infused funds and stabilized its operations. Back in Korea, SsangYong's strength lies in its Sports Utility Vehicles, with models like Rexton and Korando leading the charge. So, it's only natural that Mahindra would want SsangYong to set foot in India, a market where Sports Utility Vehicles are a rage now.

Ending all speculations about which of those two models is going to launch the brand in India, Mahindra today launched SsangYong's flagship premium SUV Rexton W, the third and latest generation of the model. All set to compete with established models like Toyota Fortuner, Hyundai Santa Fe, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Ford Endeavour and Chevrolet Captiva, the SsangYong Rexton has its work cut out, especially considering the fact that Mahindra has to teach prospective Indian customers about how to spell the word 'S-s-a-n-g-Y-o-n-g' first. But the Rexton W fits perfectly into Mahindra's 'rise' strategy and slots above the XUV 500, Mahindra's first premium SUV that has been a tremendous success in the market.

Brought in as a Completely Knocked Down (CKD) unit from South Korea, the Rexton W is available in 2 variants - RX5 and RX7, priced at INR 17.67 and 19.67 Lakhs respectively, ex-showroom Mumbai. While both variants are powered by the same 2.7-liter, 5-cylinder diesel engine, it is tuned for different outputs. While it produces 162 bhp of power at 4000 rpm and 340 Nm of torque at 1800-3250 rpm in RX5 variant, the same engine produces 184 bhp of power at 4000 rpm and 402 Nm of torque between 1600-3000 rpm in the RX7 variant. Also, RX5 variant comes with a manual transmission and 2WD while the RX7 comes with a Mercedes-sourced automatic transmission and All Wheel Drive (AWD).

Unlike both the earlier generation models that had an inherent quirkiness in their design, the new Rexton W neatly does away from it and, in fact, looks quite contemporary. The front end especially, with its huge chrome grille, projector headlights and L-shaped parking lights, does lend a premium look and feel to the Rexton. Though the profile and rear do not carry the same premium touch, the forward-sloping C-Pillars, LED taillamps and the huge 'Rexton' name embossed in the tail gate does look interesting. Going by the pictures released by Mahindra, the interiors of the Rexton seems to be made of high-quality materials and justifies its tag as a premium SUV.

The Rexton W comes fully loaded with even features like 8-way electrically adjustable driver's seat, memory presets for driver's seat and rear view mirrors, automatic headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, four airbags, cruise control, Hill Descent Control, touch screen infotainment system with inbuilt GPS, Electronic Stability Program, electric sunroof with sun blind, leather upholstery and parking sensors being a part of the list. No, we haven't mistakenly typed a Mercedes feature list here. All these are indeed available in the Rexton W at your nearest Mahindra dealership.

Can Mahindra repeat its XUV 500 success story with the even-more-premium SsangYong Rexton W? Will Indians pay more than 20 Lakh Rupees on a Mahindra product? Will the Rexton make a dent in Toyota Fortuner's utter dominance of the premium SUV segment? Let's keep our fingers crossed.


Maruti-Suzuki launches Alto 800, the successor of Alto and 800, with prices starting from INR 2.44 Lakhs

Take note, ladies and gentlemen. The car you see in this post is going to be India's largest selling car starting from CY 2013. That is a tall claim we know, but when we are talking about the car that's going to succeed the erstwhile 'Maruti 800' and the ever-popular 'Maruti Alto' that were the best-selling cars in India for an unprecedented 27 years, you get the point. And here is a shocker to prove that - the new Alto 800 has clocked more than 10,000 bookings even before its launch. Yes, the price wasn't announced, the specifications weren't released, the feature list was unknown and many of them hadn't even seen a single picture of the car, but still more than 10,000 people have lined up for the car.

Such is the brand pull of 'Maruti' and combined with the legacy built up by the 800 and Alto, Maruti-Suzuki had a really tough job on their hands. As the company officially launched the new Alto 800 today at an event held in New Delhi, it seems that they have done a great job at it. As a successor of two of India's largest selling cars ever, the new Alto 800 is priced from INR 2.44 Lakhs for the base variant and goes up to INR 3.56 Lakhs for the top-end LXi CNG variant. The range consists of 3 variants - Base, LX and LXi, all three of them available with petrol and bi-fuel (petrol & CNG) options. With sky-rocketing petrol prices, that's a smart move by Maruti-Suzuki.

Maruti-Suzuki has tried to mix and match design elements from a lot of cars, some of its own and some from competitors as well, the most notable being its striking similarity at the front with the just-launched Ford Figo facelift. As a result, the overall design isn't cohesive. Though the new Alto 800 has become more modern with petal-shaped headlights, crystal taillights, flared wheel arches and a split grille, we strongly feel that the Alto's cuteness is lost. Also spoiling the stance are the car's high ground clearance and tiny wheels. But then, people lining up for the Alto 800 aren't going to ask for head-turning looks and that is where this conservative approach will work for Maruti-Suzuki. Hyundai Eon then is still the best-looking car in this segment.

While the exteriors may not appeal to all, the interiors surely will. Looking at the pictures released by Maruti-Suzuki, we can vouch that the interiors are a generation or two ahead of the existing Alto, both in terms of design and quality. The Alto 800 comes with an attractive two-tone dashboard that's finished in a darker shade of beige. Silver inserts in the door handles, center console and around the air-conditioning vents liven up the interiors further. That's not all, the Alto 800 even comes with features like front power windows, remote fuel lid release, remote boot release, internally adjustable mirrors, dual trip meter, tubeless tyres and driver airbag (optional) in the top-end variant, quite an impressive list considering its retail price.

Powering the Alto 800 is the same 796-cc F8D 3-cylinder petrol engine with 48 PS of maximum power at 6000 rpm and 69 Nm of peak torque at 3500 rpm. This is slightly disappointing as we were expecting an all-new engine based on the K-Series for the Alto 800. Nevertheless, this engine is claimed to be tuned for better driveability and fuel-efficiency compared to the existing Alto, which is great news. More importantly, the Alto 800 comes with an ARAI-certified fuel efficiency of 22.74 km/l in petrol and 30.46 km/kg in CNG, which is better than its competitors and even the old Alto.

While the Alto K10 and the 800 will continue to co-exist alongside the new Alto 800, the existing Alto would be gradually replaced with this all-new model. 

With conservative looks, good-looking and relatively high-quality interiors, a proven engine, superb fuel-efficiency and value-for-money pricing, there is no doubt that the Alto 800 will start its journey right at the top of the sales charts in India, just where its predecessors were all along. 

Get ready to see a lot of these cars on our roads soon!


Royal Enfield launches Thunderbird 500 and refreshes Thunderbird 350

After making its die-hard fans wait for 10 whole months since its unveiling at the 2012 Auto Expo in New Delhi, Royal Enfield has finally launched the much awaited Thunderbird 500 in India. With a price tag of INR 182,571 on-road Mumbai, the Thunderbird 500 doesn't come cheap, but there are reasons for it. Armed with an array of new-age features, many of which are available on a Royal Enfield for the first time ever, the Thunderbird 500 represents a major step in the transformation of Royal Enfield into a lifestyle and leisure brand with a rich heritage and legacy to boot.

On first glance, the Thunderbird 500 appears to be an evolution of the regular Thunderbird 350. That is because it actually is, with that muscular fuel tank, the twin-pod instrument cluster and its low-slung stance resembling the older version. Perhaps the most striking elements of the Thunderbird 500 ought to be its lights, both front and rear. While the headlight comes equipped with a projector beam and a neon halo ring, the taillights are fitted with LED. That's not all, the bike also comes equipped with a digital LCD display for the instrument cluster, a 20-liter fuel tank, front and rear disc brakes and even hazard lights, all of them a first for Royal Enfield. The Thunderbird 500 comes painted in 3 different shades of black, with even 'matte finish' offered as an option.

Powering the Thunderbird 500 is the same 499cc, single cylinder, 4-stroke engine that has been a huge success for Royal Enfield in the Classic 500. This air-cooled Unit Construction Engine (UCE) comes equipped with technologies such as an electronic fuel injection system and Twinspark ignition. With a maximum power output of 27.2 bhp at 5250 rpm and a peak torque of 41.3 Nm at 4000 rpm, the Thunderbird 500 has what it takes to become the 'ultimate highway cruiser', a tag that Royal Enfield has rightfully chosen to endorse this model. Further enhancing its touring capability is its twin gas-charged rear shock absorbers with a 5-step adjustable pre-load, a feature that might come in handy for those long trips.

With the traditional Royal Enfield traits like comfortable ride, composed highway manners and the ability to cruise all day long without breaking into a sweat expected to be carried over, the Thunderbird 500 will make an excellent buy for those who love riding on two wheels. Royal Enfield has also taken this event to refresh the regular Thunderbird 350, giving it the looks and features of the 500 version. With an on-road Mumbai price tag of INR 143,346, the new Thunderbird 350 will replace the older model.

As always, expect waiting lists for both models to start as soon as you finish reading this post. Rush to your nearest Royal Enfield dealership now!

EDIT: We have driven the new Thunderbird 500. Read about our riding experience here.


Michael Schumacher set to retire at the end of 2012 season

Yes, you read the headline right. Michael Schumacher, the iconic, legendary and by far the most successful Formula 1 racer of our times has decided to retire from the sport, for a second time. Schumacher announced his intentions to the media in the run-up to the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka, after months of letting the whole world speculate on his future. The news of his retirement comes just a week after Mercedes AMG Petronas announced that Lewis Hamilton would be joining their team in 2013 to partner with Nico Rosberg. Left without a seat in the Mercedes works team, Michael Schumacher didn't find it worthwhile to look for a drive elsewhere next year and chose to end his long racing career.

Announcing his decision, Schumacher said, "I have decided to retire from Formula 1 at the end of the season, although I am still able to compete with the best drivers of the world. This is something that makes me proud, and this is part of why I never regretted my comeback. I can be happy with my performance and the fact that I was continuously raising my game during the last three years. But then, at some point it is time to say goodbye."

Clearly, Schumi, as he is referred to by millions of fans across the world, wouldn't be happy that his second career is coming to an end this way. After achieving stupendous success in his first stint with Ferrari and initially Benetton, Schumacher's comeback with Mercedes was (and still is) a disappointment. It is not entirely his fault though, as Mercedes failed to deliver a car that was capable of winning grands prix. Since the team was formed with much fanfare in 2010, Mercedes has just won a solitary race till date, a statistic that they won't be proud of.

For his part though, Michael has been continuously upping the ante since his comeback, after a mediocre start in 2010 in which he was comprehensively beaten by his team-mate Nico Rosberg. This year saw the return of Schumi in full form, with his amazingly brilliant race-craft and never-say-die attitude coming to the fore on many a occasion. Unfortunately, Schumacher's car was plagued with reliability problems in the first half of the season. Pole position in Monaco proved that, at almost double the age of many of his competitors, Schumi was still competitive at the highest level of motorsport. Lady luck finally smiled on him as Schumacher finished on the podium in Valencia, a race in which the Mercedes car, for a change, lasted the distance to see the chequered flag.

It's a pity though that Schumacher did not get to add significantly to his tally of 7 World Championships, 68 Pole Positions, 91 Race Victories and 155 Podium Finishes (just 1 of these came with Mercedes in his second career) on his comeback. However, those are records that are going to be tough for anyone to close, let alone beat.

Schumacher continued, "Already during the past weeks and months I was not sure if I would still have the motivation and energy which is necessary to go on; and it is not my style to do anything which I am not 100% convinced about. I have said at the end of 2009 that I want to be measured by my success, and this is why I had a lot of criticism in the past three years which partly was justified. It is without doubt that we did not achieve our goal to develop a world championship fighting car within those three years. It is also without doubt that I cannot provide a long-term perspective to anyone. But then it is also clear that I can still be very happy about my overall achievements in Formula 1."

"In the past six years I have learned a lot, also about me, and I am thankful for it: for example, that you can open yourself up without losing focus; that losing can be both more difficult and more instructive than winning; something I had lost out of sight sometimes in earlier years. That you have to appreciate to be able to do what you love. That you have to live your convictions. I have opened my horizon, and I am at ease with myself."

"I would like to thank Daimler, Mercedes-Benz and the Team for their trust. But I also would like to thank all my friends, partners and companions, who over many good years in motorsport supported me. But most of all I would like to thank my family for standing always by my side, giving me the freedom to live my convictions and sharing my joy."

And in the shock, don't forget to watch the six remaining races of the 2012 F1 season, possibly the last ever season with 6 world champions (Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton & Jenson Button) racing on the grid and also the final races of Michael Schumacher, widely regarded as "the best" Formula 1 racer ever.

Forget the controversies and criticism surrounding him, Formula 1 will be left with a big void from 2013 that just can't be filled in by anyone else. We consider ourselves lucky for having grown up during his glory days. We will definitely miss you, Schumi!

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Mercedes-Benz launches Sport Editions of C-Class & E-Class sedans

As Audi and BMW race their way to the top of the luxury car segment in India, they have left Mercedes-Benz far behind to even try and put up a fight. But Mercedes-Benz cannot let its fellow German brands hog all the limelight. The company is doing all it could to maintain the interests of its existing and potential customers and also to keep the media buzzing. The latest on that line is the launch of 'Sport Edition' of two of it's best-selling sedans, the C-Class and E-Class. The launch has been timed perfectly to coincide with all the excitement generated by the oncoming Indian Grand Prix, in which Mercedes AMG Petronas cars would be racing, piloted by the legendary Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg.

So, what is new in the Sport Edition? The major buzz in the market is that Audi and BMW are Gen-X Brands that cater to the young, while Mercedes-Benz is mostly aspired by executives in their forties and fifties. This is an image that Mercedes-Benz wants to shred, given the fact that youngsters in rich families play an important role these days in influencing the buying decisions.

The Sport Editions thus gain exterior visual add-ons like the AMG Style Package that includes aprons in the front and rear bumpers and side skirts, sportier alloy wheels, a black-top roof and a 'Sport' badge. Needless to say, both cars look a whole lot more sexy with all these visual embellishments, that are further accentuated by the brilliant 'Polar White' body colour that they come coated with. The interiors also get a slight makeover with Artico upholstery, combined with a black piano lacquer trim in the C and a burr walnut wood trim in the E. While there are a few additional features, the full complement of safety features and other creature comforts that are trademarks of Mercedes-Benz models, are carried over in the Sport Editions.

Both the cars are powered by the same 2143 cc common-rail diesel engine with a rated power of 170 hp at 3000-4200 rpm and a rated torque of 400 Nm at 1400-2800 rpm, mated to a 7G-TRONIC automatic transmission. That is a sensible move, given the ever-rising gasoline prices and the ever-soaring demand of diesel cars in the market. The C220 CDI Sport Edition is priced at INR 29.9 Lakhs and the E220 CDI Sport Edition is priced at INR 39.9 Lakhs, ex-showroom Delhi. With close to 16000 and 21000 units respectively running on Indian roads till date, the C-Class and E-Class contribute a lot to the bottom-line of Mercedes-Benz India. The Sport Editions are sure to bolster the lineup even further.


Driven #16: Mahindra Quanto

The latest craze in the Indian automotive market are the so-called 'compact' Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV). Offering customers a nice blend of macho looks, high ground clearance and spacious interiors in a compact footprint that is often less than 4 meters to qualify for the excise duty cuts, it is not very difficult to understand why. The fact that these compact SUVs are not much expensive than many premium hatchbacks just make their business cases that much more simpler. The latest manufacturer to jump into this segment is Mahindra, that is still basking in the huge success of its XUV 500. Continuing the tradition of naming its models with words that end in "o", Mahindra has christened the new model as 'Quanto'.

After announcing its name a couple of months back, Mahindra launched the Quanto late last month, just in time for the festive season highs. So, how does the mini Xylo, oops, the Quanto stack up? We find out with a test drive, albeit a really short one.


With the possible exception of XUV 500, none of the other Mahindra models can be called pretty. Until a facelift came by early this year, the Xylo was the worst among them all. With the Quanto being derived from and sharing most components inside and out with the Xylo, we never really expected it to be a good-looker. And the Quanto doesn't prove us wrong.

The front end is lifted straight out of the Xylo, with a mix of pre-facelift and post-facelift elements thrown in. After quite liking the redesigned front end of the 2012 Xylo, we certainly missed those nice touches in the Quanto. Take, for instance, the chrome inserts in the headlights and grille. They added a touch of class to the Xylo and would have done the same to the Quanto as well. Also, the top portion of the grille that extends into the hood is taken from the Genio pick-up. Here again, we would have preferred the much-better-looking clam-shell hood of the face-lifted Xylo that tapers down and merges beautifully with the grille and headlights. The Quanto's front is then a classic case of something that is good, but could have been a whole lot better.

In profile, the Quanto is very similar to the Xylo up until the C-Pillar. Mahindra's deliberate attempt to chop off the length and bring it under 4 meters is blatantly evident from then on, with the Quanto's rear ending abruptly. In certain angles from the rear, the Quanto looks like a mini sky-scraper on wheels. The superb taillights that are integrated in the D-Pillars and the slightly over-styled spare wheel cover are the highlights at the rear. Mahindra has purposefully added the roof rails and hooked on the spare wheel to the tailgate to give the Quanto that 'pseudo-SUV' look. The blackened pillars all around and side steps help in reducing the visual bulk of the car. The stylish 'Quanto' font needs a special mention here too.

Though the Quanto has many interesting bits and pieces of design, it's not-so-long profile does not gel well with its disproportionately tall body, making it look a little weird.


Unlike the exteriors which had a few unique elements, the interiors of the Quanto are exactly similar to Xylo, save for the colour of the plastics. The 4-spoke steering wheel is dual colored, as are the dashboard and door pads. Thankfully, Mahindra has used a pleasant shade of greige (mix of grey & beige) as the base and a similar but slightly darker shade on certain places to break the monotony. The lower half of the center console incorporates the music system and rotary knobs for the air-conditioner, while the upper half has the triangular vents and the Digital Drive Assist System (DDAS) that displays data like outside and inside temperature, current speed, instantaneous fuel efficiency, etc.

There are 4 variants of Quanto on sale, starting from the sparsely-equipped C2 to the fully-loaded C8 variant. The C8 variant that we drove comes with a host of features that include ABS with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), twin Airbags, reverse parking assist with graphic display in the rear view mirror, integrated music system with USB compatibility and 15-inch alloy wheels. Mahindra's much-hyped Micro Hybrid System, which is nothing but a Start-Stop System is also present to improve the fuel efficiency. Features like foldable snack tray for the middle seat, driver under-seat storage and a whole lot of mobile charging points, bottle holders and magazine pockets increase the utility quotient of the Quanto. As with all Mahindras, interior fit and finish and ergonomics are not upto the mark and definitely needs improvement.

While the front and middle rows are extremely spacious and fairly comfortable to be in, the same cannot be said of the third row with two side-facing jump seats. Though Mahindra is cleverly marketing it as a 7-seater, we would have preferred the Quanto as a 5-seater without those excuses called third-row seats in place. Seriously, the curtailed length of the Quanto makes it so narrow and cramped that only kids would be happy to be seated there. The presence of proper door handles and unlock button is the only positive thing about the third row.

Click on the image above to check out the specifications and comparison of features of all the variants.


With the body itself being a chopped-off Xylo, will the engine be any different? The Quanto comes with a new 3-cylinder engine dubbed 'mCR100', with the number denoting the power output. As you might have guessed, this engine is derived from the 'mEagle' engine of the Xylo, with one of its cylinders cut off. This 1493-cc common-rail diesel engine develops a maximum power of 100 bhp at 3750 rpm and a peak torque of 240 Nm between 1600 to 2800 rpm. If you think the power output is high for a 3-cylinder unit, think again. The Quanto comes equipped with a twin stage turbocharger, a first for an Indian engine and amongst the first for a small displacement engine.

As a result, the Quanto feels sprightly and accelerates to 80 km/h without much of a fuss, after which it begins to struggle. Though we managed to drive it only for a few kilometers, the stretch was good enough for the Quanto to exhibit its strengths and weaknesses. While the engine is extremely responsive in the lower range of the power band, the output starts tapering soon afterwards. At the top-end of the power band, there is little or no progress at all. So, the city drive is as good as it gets for a Utility Vehicle while the out of city drives are sure to be a boring affair. Refinement is good and we were taken by surprise, knowing that it is a 3-cylinder unit. But the engine isn't rev happy though and growls and moans when pushed hard.

The gear lever is angled awkwardly and the shifts don't fall in place easily, similar to the Xylo. Mahindra definitely needs to work on its transmissions to make gear-shifting a smoother affair. One thing that Indians are going to love in the Quanto is its high seating position that offers excellent view of the road ahead. Bumps and potholes filter into the cabin, but the Quanto doesn't get unsettled over rough patches. But, this holds true only upto a certain speed. Come three digit speeds and the Quanto shows its true colors, the disproportionate height wrecking havoc with it's dynamics. Body roll is more pronounced and you just don't get enough confidence to change lanes, let alone corner hard. But then, Quanto is not targeted at people who expect road-hugging handling, isn't it?


* Engine Type: mCR100, In-line, Common-rail Turbo Diesel
* No of Cylinders: 3
* Displacement: 1493 cc
* Maximum Power: 100 bhp @ 3700 RPM
* Maximum Torque: 240 Nm @ 1600-2800 RPM
* Transmission Type: 5-speed MT
* Tires: 205/65 R15
* Brakes: Disc (Front), Drum (Rear)


* Spacious interiors (first & second rows)
* Value for money
* Widespread after-sales service

* Availability of third row seats


* Cramped third row seats
* Lack of top-end grunt
* Ride and Handling


Mahindra has perfectly understood what Indians expect out of a compact SUV - a high seating position for a commanding view of the road ahead, high ground clearance to withstand the infamous potholes on our roads, a frugal engine that delivers great fuel-efficiency, spacious interiors for five passengers, provision to accommodate two additional passengers occasionally, lots of features and a not-so-expensive price tag. They have delivered all these in the Quanto. While doing so, they have also sadly ignored a whole lot of things that a select few of us love - good looks, a powerful engine, balanced ride, confidence-inspiring handling, off-roading capabilities and good fit and finish. Yes, majority of Indians might give a damn about these, but the Quanto would have been much better with all these traits added in.

Whatever it is, the Quanto is going to sell a lot for its strengths and that is ultimately what Mahindra wants.