Land Rover launches the all-new Range Rover in India, prices start from INR 1.72 Crores

If ever proof was needed that India sits high on the list of global automotive manufacturers, this is it. Merely days after going on sale in international markets, the all-new Range Rover, widely considered as the best luxury Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) in the world, was launched here today. Though Tata Motors' ownership of Land Rover would have influenced a quick launch here, the importance of India in the global automotive radar can't be undermined.

The new Range Rover, that is currently in its fourth generation, is launched in two trim levels – Vogue SE and Autobiography. While the former comes with only a diesel engine, the latter comes with a choice of diesel and petrol engines. Prices start at a stratospheric INR 1.72 Crores for the Vogue SE diesel and goes up to INR 1.84 Crores for the top-of-the-line Autobiography petrol. All prices are ex-showroom Delhi, which means that owning one on-road would set you back by atleast 2 Crore Rupees. The supercharged V8 petrol engine is a 5.0-liter unit that churns out 503 bhp of maximum power while the twin-turbo V8 diesel engine is a 4.4-liter unit that belts out 334 bhp of maximum power. While the V6 diesel option that is available in international markets isn't launched here, expect it to join the Indian line-up in the not-so-distant future.

Range Rover has always been the pinnacle of luxury in Sports Utility Vehicles and the new model takes it one step forward. Friends from media who have got to drive the new Range Rover have vouched for the quality and richness of the interiors. Every damn feature that you might think of and some more find their way into the Range Rover's cabin. A high-end Meridian audio system, 4-zone climate control, high-res screens for rear passengers, an 8-inch central touch screen with dual-view functionality and executive class individual rear seats are few of them. There are no shortage of other comfort and safety features either and the Range Rover is sure to pamper and protect its owners like emperors.

As much as they scorch the roads, Range Rovers are always known for their excellent off-roading prowess. Land Rover's patented Terrain Response System ensures that this luxury SUV feels at home in all terrains. In what is a global first for a SUV, the Range Rover boasts of an all-aluminum chassis that makes it significantly lighter than the previous generation model. Air suspension on all four wheels ensures that passengers are cocooned, with a ride quality that's comparable to ultra-luxury sedans. Though the basic shape hasn't changed since the first generation model made its debut in the seventies, the new Range Rover has evolved into an incredibly modern automobile with stunning detailing spread across its huge frame.

So, what are you waiting for my dear rich folks? Head to your nearest Land Rover dealer and sign a cheque for the new Range Rover. Don't dwell over its price, all good things in life comes at a cost. The Range Rover is no exception.

2012 New York - Honda debuts refreshed version of 9th generation Civic

That the wheels of fortune turn around and don’t stay still is a known fact. But, that it does so quickly was not known until now. Thanks to Honda, we have realized that fortunes change at the blink of an eye. The Japanese manufacturer learnt it the hard way recently with the Civic, which is not only one of Honda’s highest selling models globally but also one of the most successful nameplates in automotive history. Yes, the brand 'Civic' has existed since 1972 and has passed through eight full generation changes, closing in on 20 million customers across the world in the process. Moreover, the Civic has been the default benchmark in its segment for close to two decades now, with the eighth generation model being amongst the finest Civics ever made.

Yes, that is the model that's still on sale in India while rest of the world have moved forward to the next generation model.

So, when Honda launched the ninth generation Civic in 2011, they would have, at least, expected it to maintain the standards set by the previous model if not better it. All those plans were crushed into pieces when the media gave a collective thumbs down to the all-new Civic. Not one, not two, but every other journalist and automotive enthusiast who got to drive the new Civic gave it an ample dose of thrashing. Reviewers found the new Civic to be lacking in design, interior quality, driving dynamics and power output compared to the old Civic. Surprisingly though, for all the flak that it received, sales of the new model were not affected and the Civic continued to be a top seller, even in USA where it was heavily criticized.

All these negative publicity forced Honda to come out with a significant facelift in just a year after the new model was launched, something that has never happened in the automotive industry, atleast in the recent past. Referred to as an 'emergency refresh' in industry circles, the face-lifted Civic made its debut a few hours back at the 2012 New York Auto Show.

Without touching the main sheet metal portions of the car, Honda has done a brilliant job and has brought in much-needed flamboyance to the Civic's design. Headlights and taillights get some elaborate detailing along with a bigger mesh grille and bumper that now accommodate more chrome than before. Just like the eighth generation Civic, taillights now extend into the boot and the new Civic creates an overall impression of a mini Accord. The interiors have been refreshed too and Honda has added luxury and safety content to make the Civic feature-rich. As always, Sedan and Coupe body-styles are available with customers also getting a wide choice of power-train to choose from - Natural Gas, Hybrid, Regular and Si. With all these changes, the Civic is now better equipped to handle pressure from strong competitors such as Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus and Volkswagen Jetta.

Sadly for us, India isn't on the list of markets where Honda is planning to launch this Civic. Though its rather unfortunate to miss out, there just isn't a market for premium petrol cars in India. So, what got us excited then about the new Civic then? It was these shots of the sporty Civic Si variant, which is back with killer looks and stunning road presence to go with its powerful engine and sportier handling.

Let the prayers for getting this in India begin!


Driven #17: 2012 Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500

Royal Enfield continues to enjoy an enviable situation in the Indian automotive market. With an image that rivals the best of international brands, every new launch from Royal Enfield creates a flutter that is quite unimaginable. Needless to say then, every model in the company's portfolio comes with waiting lists that extends to as much as six months for some models. The new Thunderbird is the latest sensation to hit the market from the Chennai-based manufacturer.

Ever since it's unveiling at the 2012 Auto Expo in New Delhi, the new Thunderbird 500 has been creating ripples across the biking community. After what can be termed an agonizing wait for the fans, the Thunderbird 500 was finally launched last month. Along with it, the existing Thunderbird 350 was also given a facelift. Will the new Thunderbird twins carry the brand's legacy forward? Will they hit the bull's eye yet again? With these questions in our mind, we rode the new Thunderbird 500 to find out. Read on.


Without an iota of doubt, Royal Enfield has got to have one of the best-looking portfolio of motorcycles in the Indian market today. All its models, with the lone exception of Thunderbird, follows the same 'classic retro' theme and end up looking great. The Thunderbird, being the company's first cruiser, marked a departure from that trend and came with a relatively-modern design that was equally impressive nonetheless. Now, ten years and legions of customers and fan-following later, the Thunderbird has got its first major facelift.

The basic shape and proportions of the old Thunderbird have been carried over and the new model is a perfect evolution of the original. As a result, it is instantly recognizable as a Thunderbird and will not be mistaken for anything else. What is different though are the modern touches thrown into the mix to inject the Thunderbird with a dose of modernity. The projector headlamp with LED ring, the muscular fuel tank, the three-dimensional badges and the streaks of 5 Light Emitting Diodes that make up the taillight are the elements that stand out at first sight. They not only look great and work well, but also lends a premium touch and feel to the Thunderbird. While the profile has been left untouched, the shape of the seats has changed.

Knowing the pulse of the market, Royal Enfield has done well to satisfy our fetish for chrome. The housings for instrument cluster, shrouds for headlight, taillight and indicators, suspension springs and exhaust pipe are all finished with the shiny stuff, which adds to the bling factor. In a perfect contrast, the engine and transmission casings are now painted black which aids visual appeal. The edges of the engine fins, that come painted in a shade of silver, is a neat little touch. Though the tear-drop shaped fuel tank is chunky, the offset fuel-filler cap looks a little weird. The superbly-shaped individual seats and the nicely-angled backrest enhances the 'cruiser' character of the Thunderbird.

It has to be mentioned here that Royal Enfield has gone crazy with the attention to detail in the new Thunderbird with even the foot-pegs getting the 'RE' branding.


Step over the new Thunderbird 500 and the first thing that you notice is the strikingly-modern instrument cluster. You will be forgiven even if you decide that this cluster doesn't belong to a Royal Enfield. Having last rode the Classic 500, the instrument cluster in the new Thunderbird, with its blue back-lighting and LCD display, is a refreshing change to the eyes.

The familiar twin circular pods are carried over, with the left pod housing the speedometer, digital odometer and twin trip meters and the right pod housing the tachometer and other tell-tale lights. For the first time in a Royal Enfield, the new Thunderbird comes with features such as twin trip meters with provision for displaying the average fuel-efficiency of each trip and a service due warning. The speedometer is calibrated in, surprisingly, miles per hour too. While all this is great, the instrument cluster wasn't clearly visible in bright sunlight which proved to be a constant distraction while riding. Again, for what is a first for Royal Enfield, hazard lights are available as standard, a feature that will come to the fore on those highway rides. Quality of instruments and switches have improved significantly with only the tiny black buttons for hazard lights, mode selection and reset looking flimsy. The 'engine kill' switch that is chunky and finished in a bright red colour, is especially attractive.

Though the front seat is scooped up and has enough width to accommodate even the biggest of riders, the angle in which the seat is shaped does make us feel strained. The pillion rider's seat, in contrast, lack width but compensates with a backrest that is perfectly angled and adds to the riding comfort. In line with the 'cruiser' theme, the handlebars are high set and the seating posture is particularly comfy. The pedals for resting the foot are nicely positioned too. If not for the harsh vibrations that filter through to your body when the engine is in full blast, the Thunderbird 500 would have been exceptional.


The new Thunderbird comes in both 350 and 500cc versions, with the latter being a new addition to the Thunderbird family. The engine though isn't new. It's the same 499cc, single-cylinder, air-cooled, 4-stroke unit that powers the Classic 500 and belts out a maximum power of 27.2 bhp and a peak torque of 4.17 kgm. Turn the ignition on and the trademark 'bullet' thumps fill the air. Start moving, continue turning the throttle and rev hard until you touch the 5500 rpm redline. That's when the exhaust note gets ballistic and addictive.

When we rode the Classic 500, we were amazed by this engine's excellent low and mid-range. It is no different in the Thunderbird 500. In fact, we felt it a tad better than the Classic 500 when it comes to urban driveability. Its so good that you will be able to move forward from standstill in second gear or amble along in third gear at 20 km/h. Just a flick of the throttle and the Thunderbird 500 responds with abundant power and torque in all gears. This makes it an extremely comfortable motorcycle to ride both inside the city and out on an open highway. Though the indicated top speed is 130 km/h, the Thunderbird 500 feels supremely comfortable at speeds of 80 to 90 km/h when all the moving parts seem to be in perfect harmony with each other. The gear ratios are well placed but the gears shift with a typically-noisy clunk that has now become a characteristic of Royal Enfield motorcycles.

The Thunderbird 500 is equipped with telescopic forks up front and dual gas-charged shocks at the rear, as a result of which the ride is plush even over broken stretches of tarmac. Similar to the old Thunderbird, straight line stability is excellent and the Thunderbird 500 stays firmly planted on the road even at triple digit speeds. What's more impressive though is the way in which the Thunderbird 500 approaches corners in an agile, composed and predictable manner. Yes, the Thunderbird is still incredibly heavy, but it is now more agile and effortless to maneuver with the tyres providing good levels of grip. With a kerb weight of 195 kg, we didn't expect that to be honest. Despite possessing disc brakes in both front and rear wheels, braking continues to be a sore point. The brakes lack bite and the Thunderbird doesn't lose speeds as quickly as expected.

Coming to the most important criteria in the Indian context, the Thunderbird 500 ran 28 kilometers to a liter of gasoline, which is not bad considering the power on tap from the 500 cc engine and the weight that it needs to haul along.


* Engine Type: 4-Stroke, Air-cooled
* No of Cylinders: 1
* Displacement: 499 cc
* Maximum Power: 27.2 bhp @ 5250 rpm
* Maximum Torque: 41.3 Nm @ 4000 rpm
* Transmission Type: 5-Speed, Constant Mesh
* Tires: 90/90 R19 (Front), 120/80 R18 (Rear)
* Brakes: 280mm Disc (Front), 240mm Disc (Rear)

* Modern yet classic styling
* Long list of features
* Excellent cruising ability
* Relatively better handling


* Pricing (500cc variant)
* Inadequate braking capability


There is no denying the fact that the Thunderbird 500 is a feather in the cap of Royal Enfield. With good looks, advanced technologies, great list of features, plush ride and excellent cruising ability, the Thunderbird 500 is what most avid bikers in India were eagerly waiting for. But, at a price of INR 182,571 on-road Mumbai, it doesn't come cheap. It's reliability with all the modern gadgetry isn't proven yet and its brakes might scare you till you get used to it. But overlook these facts and you will understand that there is absolutely nothing else on sale like the Thunderbird 500. It's for this reason we think the new Thunderbird 500 will be a huge success. If the price bothers you, go get yourself the Thunderbird 350. It gets everything that the 500 has, sans the engine.


Mahindra Alfa auto-rickshaw spotted testing; Is this the CNG variant?

The arrival of Tata Ace and its associated variants reduced the once-flourishing three-wheeler market into an also-ran, with volumes getting so meager that we thought manufacturers would be looking to exit the segment for greener pastures. Mahindra, which has a product called Alfa competing in that segment with both Goods and Passenger variants, was also expected to pull out of that segment gradually. With the success of four-wheelers Maxximo and Gio, the end of Alfa was imminent. Or so we thought.

But, Mahindra has other plans. They are not only going to continue selling the Alfa in the existing Goods and Passenger forms, but are also trying to expand the range and grow it further it seems. This Alfa auto-rickshaw was caught testing in an arterial road in Chennai yesterday. Though it could have easily passed off as just another auto-rickshaw with looks that are remarkably similar to the Piaggio Ape, the current market leader in three-wheelers and the prime competitor of Alfa, the test registration plates and the ‘On Test’ sticker clinched that there is something new brewing up in there.

Though we couldn't figure out what is new in this Alfa compared to the model that is currently on sale, we could speculate where Mahindra is heading to with this. While the Alfa goods carrier is available in both diesel and CNG variants, the Alfa people-mover is only available with a diesel engine that produces all of 8 hp of power. With auto-rickshaws in most Indian cities opting for CNG these days for the dual benefits of lower running costs and lesser emissions, it is imperative that Mahindra Alfa comes with a CNG variant as well to tap the market.

Is that what Mahindra is working on? It could be, despite the absence of CNG stickers and the customary green paint job synonymous with CNG vehicles, in this test vehicle. More details, if any, about this Alfa are welcome.


Michael Schumacher sets yet another record, has driven around the world twice in a Formula 1 car

We Formula 1 fans are bracing ourselves and doing all that we could to keep our interest in the sport intact after Michael Schumacher heads into his second and, in all probability, final retirement. Come this Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix, Michael Schumacher won't be seen piloting a Formula 1 car again in a race. He may have decided to leave the sport for good but the records that he set during his racing tenure are here to stay. The most recent one came when Michael Schumacher completed Lap 10 of the American Grand Prix at 'Circuit of the Americas' last weekend.

With that lap, Schumi has covered a staggering 80,000 kilometers (or 49,710 miles) racing in a Formula 1 car. Including the distance that he will be covering at the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos this weekend, Schumacher would have covered a distance equivalent to twice the circumference of Earth racing in a Formula 1 car. We just can't imagine the amount of G-Forces that his body and mind would have gone through to stay at the top of this physically and mentally demanding sport for such a long time. That probably explains why he is loved, respected and revered so much across the world.

This feat was achieved over a career that started in 1991 and has lasted for 19 long years with a gap of 3 years in between (2006 - 2009) when Schumacher went into his first retirement before coming back to the lure of racing in Formula 1 with Mercedes GP. In this period, Schumacher has amassed 7 World Championships, 68 Pole Positions, 91 Race Victories and 1560 Points racing for teams such as Jordan, Benetton, Ferrari and Mercedes. Those are statistics that are set to remain in the sport for a long time before any racer even gets a chance to better them.

Source: www.autoblog.com


Sales of Tata Ace mini-truck crosses 1 Million units

It’s amazing how Tata Motors, with all the brickbats that it receives on a regular basis, continues to be a trend-setter in the automotive space, often creating whole new segments in the process. We need not remind you about the flutter that Tata created across the globe when the Nano, unfortunately popularized as the ‘world’s cheapest car’, was first unveiled at the 2008 Auto Expo. At the same time, not many would be remembering the Nano’s predecessor of sorts, a model that followed the same concept as Nano, in commercial vehicles. Yes, we are referring to the Ace mini-truck, a success story beyond description.

The Ace was conceived and developed to fill a void in the market for last-mile goods carriers, where Tata Motors thought was great potential. That was a segment dominated by rickety and noisy three-wheelers like Piaggio Ape, Force Minidor and Mahindra Champion Alfa. Boy, were they right? The arrival of Ace not only created an all-new segment in the commercial vehicle space but also spelled doom for the three-wheeled goods carriers. The advantages of Ace in terms of comfort, stability and power vis-à-vis the competing three-wheelers were glaringly obvious and too good to ignore for the customers. As a result, the Ace went from strength to strength and forced every other manufacturer out there to come out with a model to compete against it. Mahindra Maxximo, Force Trump, Piaggio Ape Truk, Ashok-Leyland Dost, etc. should thank Tata Motors for their very existence.

First launched in 2005, the Ace was an instant hit and sales during the initial period was restricted only due to limited production capacity. Once the Pantnagar plant in Uttarakhand came on steam with a capacity of 500,000 units per year, sales shot up significantly. As is the norm with Tata, they just kept adding variants to the Ace line-up, the most significant being the Ace Magic people-carrier which has stormed the semi-urban and rural marketplace. To give you an idea, Tata now sells Ace HT, Super Ace and Ace Zip in goods segment and Ace Magic, Magic Iris and Venture in the passenger segment, all of which are based on the same platform. It doesn’t end there. Tata Motors is planning to launch a facelift of the mini-truck called the Ace EX along with many new variants to keep the Ace line-up as fresh as a daisy.

With cumulative sales of the Ace mini-truck crossing 1 Million units, Tata Motors recently held a press release to celebrate the occasion. The landmark was achieved in August-2012, just 2680 days from the date of its launch. While it took 2 years to cross the first 100,000 units, sales crossed 500,000 units in 2010, just 5 years after launch. The remaining 500,000 units, remarkably, were crossed in just 2 years. To put this achievement in the right perspective, the Ace has crossed 1 million unit sales quicker than some super-successful passenger cars in India like the Maruti-Suzuki Alto and Hyundai Santro.

Without a doubt, the Ace family has become a phenomenon in India like no other. The best part is that this success is all set to continue. If only Tata could replicate this in the passenger car segment with the Nano, we would be glad!


Another variant of Tata Indica spotted testing in Pune; Is this the Indica XL?

It seems Tata Motors' fetish with the Indica platform isn't over yet. Or that's what these shots captured in Pune late last evening convey us. Sent in by one of our regular contributors who confirmed us that the front half of this vehicle is exactly similar to the new Indica eV2, we now know that Tata is working on yet another variant of the Indica family. Though the rear end is camouflaged to look like a Station Wagon or a Multi Purpose Vehicle (MPV), the complete absence of rear overhang makes us speculate that this could be a hatchback, albeit an extended one with a really long wheelbase.

Though many other automotive websites have already concluded that this is the XL variant of the Indica hatchback, we would like to wait until Tata Motors opens up on this subject. For the moment though, we leave it to you to decide whether this is a hatchback with an extended wheelbase, a small car-based MPV or a mini Station Wagon. After all, they could spring up a big surprise, just like they did with models like the Indigo CS and Ace range of commercial vehicles, both of which were religiously copied by many other manufacturers.

Whatever it is, Tata Motors seems to be not content with the number of variants and body styles that it manufactures and sells on the tried and trusted 'Indica' platform. Once launched, this new model will be joining a long list of models such as Indica, Indigo, Indigo Marina, Indica eV2, Indigo CS, Indigo eCS, Indigo XL, Indica Vista and Indigo Manza, all of which share their underpinnings with the first Indica that was launched a decade and half back. It looks as if Tata Motors isn't going to stop until every available gap in the passenger car spectrum below INR 10 Lakhs is plugged.

Though Tata's effort in eking out every last drop of money out of the age-old Indica platform must be commended, its high time they start developing an all-new platform that is totally different, both in terms of design and engineering, from what we have seen and experienced with Tata till date. Are you listening Tata?


Chevrolet launches Sail U-VA, the first of a raft of new models, in India

After conquering China, the world's largest car market where it is one of the best-selling cars, and teasing India with hundreds of spy-shots captured across all major cities, the Chevrolet Sail U-VA was finally launched in India yesterday. Replacing the market dud Aveo U-VA, the Sail U-VA has got to be one of the most important launches for General Motors in India. With the premium hatchback segment growing like there is no tomorrow and cars like Maruti-Suzuki Swift and Hyundai i20 breaking all sales records each month, it is essential that GM has a worthy model to compete and take sales away from competition.

The Sail U-VA is the car GM has chosen to entrust with that job. The car is available in 4 petrol variants - Base, LS, LS ABS & LT, that are priced at INR 4.44, 4.83, 5.18 and 5.57 Lakhs respectively. 3 diesel variants - LS, LS ABS & LT are also available with prices of INR 5.87, 6.19 and 6.62 Lakhs respectively. All prices are ex-showroom Delhi.

To avail excise duty benefits, the Sail U-VA is powered by a 1.2-liter petrol engine and a 1.3-liter turbo diesel engine developed jointly with Fiat. While the former produces 85 bhp of power at 6000 rpm and 11.52 kgm of torque at 4400 rpm, the latter churns out 77 bhp of power at 4000 rpm and 20.90 kgm of torque at 1750 rpm. This very-popular diesel engine that has earned a name for itself under the hood of many cars like the Swift, Swift Dzire and Indica Vista, is expected to be a major draw for the Sail U-VA. Though the power and torque figures aren't breaking new grounds, they are par for the segment.

Unlike previous Chevrolet models like Beat and Cruze that came with strikingly modern design that vowed the onlookers, the Sail U-VA looks plain jane. That doesn't mean it looks bad, it's just that the Sail U-VA looks so conservative with a 'please-all-offend-none' design. The characteristic split grille with the 'bowtie' emblem in the center ensures that you don't mistake the car for anything but a Chevy. The profile is boxy while the rear with its vertical taillights does look a bit dated, especially when compared to cars like Fiat Grande Punto, Volkswagen Polo and Hyundai i20.

In terms of interior features, the Sail U-VA, again, doesn't break existing barriers. While all variants come with power steering, front power windows, power mirrors, tilt steering and a digital tachometer, features like leather-wrapped steering wheel, ABS, dual Airbags, leather-wrapped gear knob, rear power windows, alloy wheels, audio system with bluetooth, speed-sensitive auto locking and rear wipers get added progressively as you move up the range. Having ran into folks who have thoroughly experienced the Sail in China, we can vouch for its class-leading passenger space in both the front and rear seats.

The Sail twins have been developed by GM India jointly with its Chinese partner SAIC which, until recently, was holding a major stake in the Indian arm. Quite a few India-specific changes like increased ground clearance, addition of beige trim, added interior features and upgrades to the air-conditioning system, suspension and component quality are said to be incorporated to ensure that the Sail withstands the harsh Indian environment better. Over the course of time, the Sail sedan will also join the line-up to take on entry mid-size sedans like Maruti-Suzuki Swift Dzire, Tata Indigo CS and Mahindra Verito.