2013 Detroit - HCD-14 Genesis Concept hints at future luxury models from Hyundai

When Hyundai mooted the idea of venturing into the luxury segment, not many took them seriously. The reasons were quite obvious. Hyundai might have enjoyed a meteoric rise amongst the mainstream automotive brands, but when the competition bears names such as Audi, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz, the South Korean manufacturer didn't stand a chance. Or so the nay-sayers thought. But when the Genesis and then the Equus were launched, it dawned on the critics and the public that these Hyundais could actually stand up to the challenge posted by the established German brands and they were, actually, not as big a compromise as they were perceived to be.

Success soon followed and both the Genesis and the Equus managed to sell in respectable numbers. Hyundai, being Hyundai, naturally wants to take this success to the next level. This HCD-14 Genesis Concept, that made its debut in the ongoing 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, provides us with a sneak peek of what to expect out of the next-generation Genesis and Equus models.

Just look at the car and you will agree that there is only one word to describe it - 'polarizing'. The HCD-14 Genesis Concept is sure to split opinions like no other. You will either love it or hate it and nothing else in between. As for us, we are still undecided on whether it's the former or the latter.

The strikingly-detailed headlight and taillight clusters with the word 'Genesis' etched into them and the fact that the concept carries the 'Genesis' logo in the hood and the boot makes us believe that Hyundai is still open to the idea of bringing out an all-new luxury brand, should the need arise later.

Up front, the huge trapezoidal grille with horizontal slats and a brushed metal finish dominates the scene, flanked on both sides by Light Emitting Diodes that functions as headlamps and Daytime Running Lamps. A sharp and deep cut runs along the length of the car, merging beautifully with the head and taillights at the two ends. With those massive wheels, long hood, short overhangs and the huge wheelbase, the HCD-14 Genesis Concept takes the proportions of a classic, rear-wheel drive, sports sedan. The car is adorned with the much-in-vogue four-door coupe design, with the roof curving gently all the way down to the rear end with no separate boot-lid. Inspite of obvious resemblance to the Audi A7, the HCD-14 Concept looks terrific from the profile. At the rear, its a mix of subtle curves and sharp-cut creases that are accentuated by ample usage of chrome.

Step in, and the HCD-14 Concept spells 'luxury' and 'futuristic'. The traditional center console along with it's buttons and switches has been done away with, replaced by an intuitive driver interface system, that uses state-of-the-art technologies such as 'eye-tracking' and '3-D hand gesturing'. That's right. You could select a feature with your eyes and control it with gestures. The  Windshield Heads-up Display (HUD) ensures that the driver isn't distracted and is able to keep his eyes on the road. With four individual captain seats, the interiors impart a sense of luxury that is very much essential to make an impact in this segment. Hyundai is also said to be hard at work on improving the dynamics of the next-generation Genesis and Equus, which means that the driver will also enjoy the experience in addition to those being chauffeured around.

Doing duty under the hood is Hyundai's award-winning Tau V8 engine with a whopping 5.0-liter cubic capacity.

Expect elements and technologies from the HCD-14 Genesis Concept to trickle down into the next-generation Genesis and Equus models, before slowly getting into models like the Azera and Sonata. Not so long ago, the 'Fluidic Sculpture' design theme bowled us all over. Will the 'Fluidic Precision', which is how the design theme of this concept is being referred to, do it all over again?


2013 Detroit - Toyota previews next-gen Corolla with Furia Concept

Amidst the glitz and glamour that was the 2013 Detroit Motor Show, Toyota revealed the Corolla Furia Concept, which previews the design direction of the next-generation compact sedan from the Japanese manufacturer. Yes, this is how the next-generation Corolla, the world's largest selling car of all time and the most popular automobile nameplate ever, might end up looking like. And if that happens to be true, it might catapult Corolla to dizzying heights.

All through its existence, reliability and dependability have been Corolla's fortes, but good looks certainly weren't. With Toyota sticking to a conservative approach during each redesign to ensure that potential customers across continents aren't offended, the Corolla, over the last few generations, has always ended up looking bland and sober. Take the previous generation Corolla, for instance. Parked next to the Civic, it would hardly garner a second glance.

'But, why would they change the approach to a car that's already a global best-seller?' you might wonder. The answer, in a word, is 'competition'. Honda Civic, Corolla's chief competitor in most countries worldwide, has been the segment's benchmark when it comes to design, styling and engineering. To add to that, the recent rise of Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus, Volkswagen Jetta and Kia Forte has made the Corolla increasingly vulnerable, necessitating a refreshing change in the next-generation model. And that change has to start from Toyota's design studios.

If Toyota's intent with the Corolla Furia Concept is to show the world that it can make great-looking cars, we aren't going to say a word against it.

The car is smashing to look at, with those thin LED headlights, octagonal grille, streaks of chrome on either sides of the Toyota logo and the striking taillight clusters making the Corolla Furia stand out in the crowd. The flared wheel arches, the twin exhaust pipes and the diffuser-style cladding in the rear bumper accentuates the sporty nature that Toyota intends to take with the next-generation Corolla. Those sculpted edges of the front and rear bumpers display a sense of aggression that was missing from the Corolla all these days. Though Toyota has not revealed a thing about the interiors or the powertrain options on the Furia Concept, we strongly smell record-smashing success written all over, even if the production model ends up looking just half as good as this concept car.

Beware Civic, Elantra and Focus! The Corolla is getting ready to make a splash!


2013 North American Car & Truck/Utility of the Year Award winners announced

Successors to Hyundai Elantra and Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, winners of the 2012 North American Car and Truck of the Year awards respectively, were just announced at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Considered to be one of the most prestigious awards in the automotive industry, the winners of the North American Car of the Year (NACOTY) and North American Truck/Utility of the Year (NATOTY) titles are chosen by a panel of journalists from USA and Canada representing magazines, newspapers, television, radio and websites. This is the 20th year of the awards that are financed by the jurorsí dues, an organization that doesn't accept advertising or fees from any of the manufacturers.

To be eligible for this award, a car or truck should be either all-new or substantially changed in the previous year with a retail price that's less than $ 100,000. In the initial round of shortlisting, the jurors brought down the list of candidates to 11 cars and 10 trucks on which they voted individually. In the next round of screening, the list of contenders were trimmed to just three for each title. The finalists for the Car of the Year award were Cadillac ATS, Ford Fusion and Honda Accord, while Ford C-Max, Mazda CX-5 and Ram 1500 were the finalists for Truck/Utility of the Year.

As is the custom, the winners were announced and subsequently crowned at a press conference held on the opening day of the Detroit Motor Show.

General Motors' constant efforts of pumping in huge amounts of investment and aiding the development process saw it's luxury brand Cadillac win the 2013 North American Car of the Year award for the ATS model. Competing with German stalwarts such as the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4, the Cadillac ATS is said to have fared reasonably well and has, apparently, beaten the expectations of its fans and customers. Taking forward the brand's popular "Art and Science" design concept into the compact luxury sedan space, the ATS is the smallest Cadillac yet that's designed and developed to expand the brand into a globally popular segment.

Honda's brilliant new Accord finished runner-up to the Cadillac ATS, while Ford's striking new Fusion finished third.


1. Cadillac ATS - 207
2. Honda Accord - 159
3. Ford Fusion - 124


* 2012 - Hyundai Elantra
* 2011 - Chevrolet Volt
* 2010 - Ford Fusion Hybrid
* 2009 - Hyundai Genesis
* 2008 - Chevrolet Malibu

Competing for the 2013 North American Truck/Utility of the Year award, the Ram 1500 stream-rolled the competition to emerge on top, with the Mazda CX-5 finishing runner-up and the Ford C-Max, the other finalist, ending up a distant third.

Chrysler's redesign of the Ram Truck brand's entry into the full-size, light-duty pickup truck segment, the 1500, has emerged as a force to reckon with, boasting significantly-improved mechanicals inside and out. The addition of Chrysler's award-winning Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 engine under the hood has given the 1500 class-leading fuel efficiency, apart from improved power and torque ratings. The design of the 1500, something that Americans have fallen in love with over and over again, has been left largely untouched. In short, the Ram 1500 is said to be giving sleepless nights to the big-selling light-duty pickup trucks like the Ford F150 and Chevrolet Silverado.


1. Ram 1500 - 261
2. Mazda CX-5 - 142
3. Ford C-Max - 87


* 2012 - Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
* 2011 - Ford Explorer
* 2010 - Ford Transit Connect
* 2009 - Ford F-150
* 2008 - Mazda CX-9

While both the 2012 winners, the Hyundai Elantra and Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, made it to India in the same year, there are absolutely no chances of the 2013 winners ending up on Indian shores.


2013 Detroit - Mercedes-Benz unveils CLA, the style rebel

Competition may be working on different strategies, but Mercedes-Benz has one motive that's common across all its regional entities. And that is to leapfrog BMW and Audi and return to the top of the luxury segment, a position that it was forced to relinquish a few years back. As we already posted, Mercedes-Benz was pinning its hopes on the success of it's brand-new "Modular Front Architecture" (MFA Platform) to start its resurgence. If the recent developments are any indication, it looks like this new front wheel drive platform has caught on with the public and started yielding results.

Both the models launched out of the MFA Platform, the B-Class and the A-Class, have met with a tremendous response in most markets, with the latter even breaking a few sales records on the way. Hoping to cash in on the momentum and continue its winning streak, Mercedes-Benz has just unleashed the third weapon from its MFA arsenal, the CLA-Class, that it refers as 'the style rebel'. You can call it a four-door coupe or an entry-level sedan as you wish.

Having stunned the onlookers and the media as "Concept Style Coupe" in China last year, the CLA, in production form, is making its first official appearance on the floors of the ongoing 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Nine years after pioneering the 'four-door coupe' design with the CLS at the 2003 Detroit Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz is now spreading the theme down its model range with the CLA. This compact sedan will be competing with the sedan variants of BMW 1-Series and Audi A3, both of which are still under development.

Referring to the all-new CLA, Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management for Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars said, "The response to the Concept Style Coupe was overwhelming. The most frequent comment by far was 'Please put this car into series production.' That's precisely what we are doing now. The CLA is a car that does not confuse 'mid-size' with 'mid-quality'. Its sporty design underscores the sporty side of the Mercedes-Benz brand." Obviously, the head honchos at Daimler sound excited at the CLA's prospects and we can easily understand why.

With a striking design that's filled with swoops and streaks, the CLA boasts of the hugely-successful and highly-copied 'coupe' roof-line. The long hood, the short and stubby boot, the muscular C-Pillar and the character lines that run across the length of the car gives the CLA an athletic profile. The intricately-detailed headlight clusters and the 'diamond-effect' grille, combined with split air dams, gives the car an aggressive stance when viewed head-on. At the rear, the flowing roof-line and the leaflet-shaped taillight clusters steal the show. The best part about the CLA's design is that it not only looks good, but is also extremely efficient with a Coefficient of Drag of just 0.23, which is a record for all series-production vehicles.

The interiors are not vastly different from other members of the Mercedes family, which means you get the same chunky steering wheel, the same circular air-conditioner vents, the tablet-like central information display and the trademark 'tank-like' build quality. Apart from the regular list of safety features, the CLA will also come with 'Attention Assist' drowsiness detection feature, a radar-based 'Collision Prevention Assist' with 'Brake Assist', 'Blind Spot Assist', 'Lane Keeping Assist' and the 'PARKTRONIC' system with 'Advance Parking Assist' that enables autonomous parking in parallel and perpendicular parking spaces. Now, that's what you call an exhaustive list.

Expected to come with an array of engines, transmissions and drivetrain options to choose from, including a new generation of 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive system, the CLA is all set to achieve stardom across global markets, including India where it is scheduled for launch after the A-Class. With Mercedes-Benz hurling its weapon at them, it will be interesting to look at how BMW and Audi are going to respond. It's going to be a cracker of a contest, we are sure!


Travelogue #9 - Chennai to Puducherry (ECR)

There is an adage that we always endorse which goes like "The journey is as important as the destination". For us, it's not always only about how the destination ends up being. Passionate drivers that we are, the road that leads us there and the driving experience are as important, if not more.

Based out of Chennai, we aren't fortunate enough to have roads where we take our rides for a spin and come back grinning ear to ear. But the East Coast Road, or 'ECR' as it is fondly called, is an exception. Here is a road that's smooth, scenic, curvy, regularly patrolled and yet not far off from the bustling city. Here is a stretch of tarmac that, on most weekends, sees Porsches, Ferraris and rest of the exotic automotive clan jostling for space with the staple MTC buses and share auto-rickshaws. Here is a road that's dotted with popular tourist spots one after the other. And, of course, there are folks who neither realize their limits nor their vehicle's and end up crashing, making ECR one of the most dangerous roads in this part of the country.

By now, you would have realized that this isn't a regular travelogue that reserves just a line or two for the road that leads to the destination. This post is as much about the ECR as it is about Puducherry, our destination. Erstwhile called Pondicherry before it was officially renamed, Puducherry is quite popular. With it's unique combination of traditional Indian and colonial French architecture, sun-kissed beaches and a tax structure that favours shopping, Puducherry attracts visitors by hordes, especially on weekends. Above all, Puducherry gives us an opportunity to drive on the ECR, something that we wouldn't miss no matter what, even if it's at the middle of a night.

Since this was just a day's trip, we started early, which meant ECR was all ours as the rest of Chennai was busy snoozing off their alarms. As the day breaks cover, ECR tempts you to stop every now and then, with splendid views of the coastline and the numerous tourist spots all along the road luring you. Don't let those temptations spoil your plan though. Once past Mamallapuram, which is 60 km from Chennai, ECR transforms into a totally different stretch of tarmac. The surroundings are more scenic than ever, traffic is sparse and the blind spots and curves welcome us in more frequent intervals. All we need to do is to maintain focus without getting carried away and the road rewards us back with a fantastic driving experience.

With the photo breaks at Mudaliyarkuppam and a couple of other random spots on the ECR excluded, our first stop was at Auroville. This international township located in a sprawling campus, an initiative by "The Mother", has been developed for men and women of all countries to live peacefully, above all religion, politics, caste and creed. The 'Matrimandir', a golden globe like structure located in the center of Auroville township is an architectural marvel. Unfortunately, we didn't get to go inside as advance booking is required to enter the structure. Being a self-sustained township, Auroville shows that there is more to life than the hustle and bustle of a city that we all are used to, day in and day out.

Any visit to Puducherry is incomplete until you get wet in one of those many beaches all around and meditate at the incredibly serene and peaceful Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Round it off with a mandatory stroll on The Promenade facing the sea and, of course, some shopping. We did all those and more. The Promenade gets super-crowded on weekends and it's quite a sight to see so many people taking a stroll with no tearing hurry, as the waves gently crash over the rocks with an occasional big splash. The high-walled buildings, the grid-shaped roads and even the names of roads and buildings still bear a strong French influence, reminding us that this was a French colony not so many decades back.



* Total No of Days: 1 (13.10.2012)
* Vehicle Make & Model: Honda Civic

* Odometer Start Reading: 43612 km
* Odometer End Reading: 43940 km
* Total Distance traveled: 328 km
* No of Toll Booths: 2
* Money spent on Toll & Parking: Rs. 162

* Total Quantity of Fuel filled: 24.65 l
* Average Fuel Consumption: 13.31 km/l
* Money spent on Fuel: Rs. 1762.34

* Destinations Covered: Puducherry (Pondicherry)
* Route Followed: Chennai-Mamallapuram-Kalpakkam-Puducherry (ECR)




The Honda Civic, our ride for the journey was perfectly at home in the tight and twisty ECR, hugging the lane and turning in and out of corners with utmost ease. Though the car had a big smile plastered onto our faces every time we negotiated those twisties, the soft rear suspension was making its presence felt over any irregularity on the road surface. At the end, it was a day well-spent, with both the destination and the journey proving to be a cherishable experience. If you belong to Chennai, there are not many better places around to spend a day or a weekend.

Though we had driven down to Mamallapuram on the ECR quite a few times before, not once had we traversed the entire distance upto Puducherry. Living in Chennai and not doing that is considered a sin by many, which means we are fit to be certified as bonafide sinners. Not any more! Now that we have did it and have come back happy, would we like to do that again? Oh yes, we will. The charm of ECR is, and will continue to be, too good to ignore.


2012 Top Selling Cars - India

Early today, we brought you the list of top-selling cars and trucks in USA. Now, it's time to come back home and look at what clicked and what not in India.

Though the lure of constant double digit growth no longer exist in the Indian market, there are hardly countries elsewhere that offer so much potential for growth in future. The people to car ratio is still very low in India and the number is only going to go up, albeit with a few hiccups here and there. So, inspite of a spate of challenges like sky-rocketing fuel prices, stagnant growth rate, unclear fuel policy and high interest rates, 2012 was still a record year for the industry as the overall new car sales crossed 2.5 million units.

Does the list of top selling cars in India throw up any surprises? Not at all. The Top 10 list has 4 models from Maruti-Suzuki, 3 from Hyundai, 2 from Tata and 1 from Mahindra. Probably for the first time ever, the top 4 positions are all occupied by models from the Maruti-Suzuki stable. In this day and age when competing brands try everything in their arsenal to dethrone them, the king only seems to be getting stronger and stronger.

The Maruti-Suzuki Alto is to India like what Ford F-Series is to United States of America, as it invariably ends up as the top-selling car in India. Though the Alto did not manage to breach the 300,000 units mark like it did in the past three years, the Alto 800 that was launched recently should help the model grow again in 2013. As exactly predicted by us last year, the all-new Swift has taken the Indian market by storm and finished runner-up to the Alto. As if that was not enough, the redesigned Swift Dzire sedan massacred the competition and rounded off the podium. Along with the Ertiga that's topping its segment in sales, Maruti-Suzuki's Swift platform now churns out India's best-selling premium hatchback, best-selling sedan and the second best-selling Utility Vehicle.

With the Swift platform proving to be an unstoppable cash cow, Maruti-Suzuki wouldn't mind the Wagon-R slipping down to fourth position in the list. Mahindra Bolero never ceases to amaze and puts in a stellar performance to end up fifth. Given the fact that the Bolero is built on an age-old platform with just nips and tucks every now and then, Mahindra must be laughing all the way to the bank. The remaining positions in the Top 10 list are either a Hyundai or a Tata, starting with the i10 and Indica/Vista twins, both of which saw significant dip in sales. As if to bring some cheer to the South Korean camp, Eon is slowly gaining traction in the market and ends up as the eighth best-selling car, ahead of it's elder sibling i20 and Tata Nano, which finally makes it to the Top 10 list.

2012 Top 10 in India:

1. Maruti-Suzuki Alto - 286,833
2. Maruti-Suzuki Swift - 186,797
3. Maruti-Suzuki Swift Dzire - 154,273
4. Maruti-Suzuki Wagon-R - 134,823
5. Mahindra Bolero - 113,537
6. Hyundai i10 - 98,702
7. Tata Indica/Vista - 94,717
8. Hyundai Eon - 93,578
9. Hyundai i20 - 85,299
10. Tata Nano - 76,747

Source for Figures: www.team-bhp.com

* Star Performer of 2012 - Maruti-Suzuki Swift & Swift Dzire
* Expected Star Performer for 2013 - Maruti-Suzuki Swift & Swift Dzire

We were right when we predicted that the Swift will be the star of 2012. And we are sure we will be proved right yet again in 2013. There is something with the "Swift" moniker that Indians are crazy about and with such a huge and loyal customer base, the Swift and Dzire are only going to grow in popularity. Over the course of next few years, we wouldn't be surprised even if the Swift ends up toppling the Alto as the largest selling car in India.

Outside the Top 10, models like Toyota Innova, Mahindra XUV 500 and Maruti-Suzuki Ertiga posted impressive sales figures, as did the Renault Duster since it's launch in the second half of the year. Maruti-Suzuki and Hyundai are still the two top brands in India, but Tata loses it's third place to Mahindra, with the latter tasting success with every new Utility Vehicle that it launched. Be it the refreshed Xylo, XUV 500 or the Quanto, all new Mahindra models have hit the sweet spot while Tata's new launches like the Aria, Venture and Safari Storme have failed to live up to expectations. Tata has its work cut out and it looks like the company has already started putting in efforts to gain back its lost market share.

In what can be called a master-stroke of genius, Audi, despite being a late entrant to the Indian market and the youngest of the three German brands, finishes the year a trifle short of BMW, which is still the top-selling luxury brand in India. Having dominated our market every year since its entry here, BMW narrowly leads the race this time, courtesy Audi's big-selling 'Q' series of Sports Utility Vehicles. Mercedes-Benz, the erstwhile leader until BMW and Audi surged past as it watched helplessly, has vowed to get back to the top with several new models like the A-Class and CLA waiting in the wings to pounce on the competition. This is one slug fest that we wouldn't mind getting in and dirty. Watch this space!