Bajaj launches KTM Duke 390 at a staggering price of INR 1.8 Lakhs

If there is one automobile company in India that belts out blows to its competitors every now and then, it has got to be Bajaj. When the Pune-based Indian manufacturer launched the KTM brand in India with the Duke 200 last year, its shockingly-competitive pricing scared the daylight out of its competitors. Now, Bajaj is doing it all over again.

In what can be termed an even mightier blow, Bajaj has now launched the KTM Duke 390 in India at a staggering ex-showroom Delhi price of INR 1.8 Lakhs. Yes dear folks, that's almost 400 cc of two-wheeled bliss for less than a couple of lakhs!

Though KTM claims that the design and styling of the Duke 390 is inspired by the bigger Duke 690, we find it to be very similar to the Duke 200. That isn't surprising, as one of the main reason for the success of the Duke 200 was its attractive 'naked sports-bike' looks. The only identifiable factors differentiating the bigger-engined sibling are the huge '390' graphics in the fuel tank and the striking Trellis frame and alloy wheels that are now painted in the trademark orange colour. The vertically-stacked headlight, the super-thin taillight, the tiny indicator lamps, the sharp and angular fuel tank, the high-set rear seat, the split tyre-huggers and the exposed steel frame and mono-shocks that gave the Duke 200 its unique identity do the same job in the 390 as well. There is no doubt, this motorcycle will turn heads wherever you go.

Powered by a 373.2 cc, liquid cooled engine, the Duke 390 boasts a power output of 43 bhp at 9000 rpm and a torque rating of 35 Nm at 7000 rpm. Together with a claimed kerb weight of 154 kg, the Duke 390 promises to be an insanely quick bike. This single-cylinder, 4-stroke engine is loaded with a lot of advanced technological bits that include fuel-injection, 4 valves driven by twin camshafts, diamond-like carbon coated finger followers and a nikasil-coated cylinder. India-specific changes in the Duke 390 include a larger radiator and a tweaked suspension set-up. Antilock Braking System (ABS) is available as standard, complementing the 300 mm disc up front and the 230 mm disc at the rear. The Duke is known for its super-nimble handling and the 390 would be no different, shod with Metzeler tubeless radials.

Well, the technical specifications aside, Bajaj has yet again given the competition some sleepless nights with the launch of the Duke 390. For the price at which it retails and considering all that it has on offer, the Duke 390 is all set to storm the market.


Ford stuns the industry with an aggressive starting price for the Ecosport

It's been almost 24 hours since Ford announced the prices of the Ecosport, its most-awaited compact Sports Utility Vehicle, for the Indian market. We are yet to come out of the shock though. To be honest, Ford's pricing strategy for the base variants of the Ecosport has literally sent shock-waves across the industry and most competitors might be forced to resort to discounting or repricing in the long run. But, for all those prospective customers who hid their frustrations within and patiently waited for the Ecosport for more than a year, it has been well worth the wait.

Ever since it was unveiled to the public at the 2012 Auto Expo in New Delhi last January, the Ecosport has managed to generate such a buzz that not many new vehicles do. That's because the Ecosport's concept of butch looks, compact dimensions and high ground clearance were just 'perfect' for us Indians, given the restricted road space and less-than-perfect road conditions in our cities. After making us all wait with bated breath for 18 months, the Ecosport was finally launched yesterday and the prices of all variants were announced.

The Ford Ecosport is going on sale in four trim levels - Ambiente, Trend, Titanium and Titanium (O), with a choice of three engine options - a 1.5-liter TiVCT petrol, a 1.5-liter TDCi diesel and the hugely-anticipated, technologically-advanced, "International Engine of the Year" award-winning, turbocharged 1.0-liter petrol dubbed the 'EcoBoost'. One variant of the 1.5-liter petrol engine is also available with an option of a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. While the EcoBoost engine is making its debut in India, all the other engine and transmission options are already available in the new Fiesta.

The diesel variants that are expected to bring in much of the sales are priced at INR 6.69 Lakhs (Ambiente), 7.61 Lakhs (Trend), 8.62 Lakhs (Titanium) and 8.99 Lakhs (Titanium (O)). The 1.0-liter EcoBoost variants can be bought in only the top two trim levels and are priced at INR 7.89 Lakhs for the Titanium trim and INR 8.29 Lakhs for the top-spec Titanium (O) trim. But, it is the starting price of the 1.5-liter petrol variant that has got the industry shaking. The manual variants are priced at INR 5.59 Lakhs (Ambiente), 6.49 Lakhs (Trend) and 7.51 Lakhs (Titanium). The automatic variant is priced at INR 8.45 Lakhs. All prices are ex-showroom Delhi.

Unlike many other cars, even the base Ambiente variant of the Ecosport comes with a decent set of features. Tilt and telescopic steering, power mirrors with integrated turn indicators, remote locking, a music player with Aux-in and Bluetooth functionality and a multi-function display are standard. The only disappointment for us is the absence of rear power windows in the base model. Trend, the next variant in the line-up, adds rear power windows, Antilock Braking System (ABS), steering-mounted audio controls, driver seat height adjust and a host of other nifty features. As we move up, the Titanium variant also gets 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lamps, climate control, cooled glove box, reverse parking sensor, dual Airbags and Ford's patented SYNC voice-enabled multimedia system with Emergency Assistance. The top-end Titanium (O) variant is fully loaded and adds push-button start, leather seats, keyless entry, side and curtain airbags to the kitty. The Automatic variant also gets the Hill Hold function and Brake Assist feature with Traction Control system.

With the Ecosport, Ford has made its intentions clear. It is willing to take on the competition head-on and has already unleashed the most powerful weapon in its arsenal in the form of aggressive pricing. Its now up to the competitors to decide their next moves. At these prices, the Ecosport not only undercuts the Renault Duster, its prime competitor, but also spoils the party for a whole lot of premium hatchbacks and entry-midsize sedans. Cars like the Maruti-Suzuki Swift and Dzire, Hyundai i20, Honda Amaze and Toyota Etios might be affected by this compact SUV as well.

With stunning design and styling, powerful yet frugal engine options, a long list of features and an extremely competitive pricing strategy, the Ecosport has "blockbuster" plastered all over it. This could become the one big hit apart from the Figo that Ford desperately needs in India. All the company has to do is to take care of the production and the Indian car-buying public will do the rest. Well, the Ecosport may have arrived late on the scene, but it has arrived in style!


Ford celebrates production of 7 millionth Transit van

This seems to be a season of landmarks in the automotive industry. Merely days after Volkswagen celebrated a production milestone of 30 million units of its Golf, Ford Motor Company has announced reaching a production milestone of its own. The American manufacturer recently witnessed the roll-out of the seven millionth Transit van. Considering that commercial vehicles like the Transit don’t enjoy popularity and sales unlike cars do, this is a significant moment for Ford.

The story of Transit began in 1965 in Europe, with the model becoming an instant hit in the continent thanks to its practicality and versatility. Since then, Ford has developed a range of body-styles and variants of the Transit including parcel vans, tipper trucks, campers and bare chassis as well.

Production and sales of the Transit van crossed the first million in 1976, while the subsequent million milestones were reached in 1985, 1994, 2000, 2005 and 2010. Until 1996, Europe remained the sole production location of the Transit, with new plants in Nanchang, China and Hai Duong, Vietnam starting production in 1997. The plant in Nanchang, China is a joint-venture between Ford Motor Company and its strategic Chinese partner Jiangling Motors Corp (JMC) and produces both Ford-branded vehicles and JMC-branded vehicles for the burgeoning Chinese market. It was this Chinese plant that rolled out the seven millionth Transit last week with the celebrations coinciding with the opening of a new assembly line for the commercial vehicle.

Participating in the celebrations along with Wang Xigao, Chairman, Jiangling Motors Corp, Ford Motor Company’s President and CEO Alan Mullaly said, “The Ford Transit plays a significant role in the lives and jobs of millions of people. From getting workers to a building site, to delivering important packages, or even rushing a patient to the hospital, people all over the world rely on Ford Transits to get the job done. The Ford Transit has a superb heritage and an even brighter future. As we pass this incredible seven million milestone, we look forward to helping even more customers get their businesses moving forward with a Transit.”

With the all-new Transit series going on sale recently with an expanded lineup that includes Transit Custom, Transit Connect and Transit Courier and the Transit series venturing into hitherto unexplored markets like North America, sales are expected to grow further. And that means the eight millionth Transit is not too far away.

Mercedes-Benz launches the E-Class facelift in India

If there is one model that is consistently doing good numbers all over the world and brings in fat profits for Mercedes-Benz, it has got to be the E-Class. All through its history, the E-Class has ensured that it stays on top despite stiff competition from the BMW 5-Series, Audi A6 and, of late, the Jaguar XF. The story is no different in India too, as it was the E-Class that kicked off the Mercedes-Benz innings in India. Just like it did elsewhere, the E-Class went on to become a big success story in our market with 23000 units sold till date, making it the highest-selling luxury sedan in India ever. That's what makes the launch of the new facelifted E-Class so important for Mercedes-Benz India.

Though this is just a mid-cycle facelift for the E-Class, Mercedes-Benz has made significant changes in the sheet-metal. This is quite obvious when we look at the front-end of the new E-Class. Gone are the trademark quad-headlight clusters that was a part of the E-Class legacy for the last three generations. Replacing them are two stretched units with thin streaks of Light Emitting Diodes on both sides that mimic the quad lighting setup. The hood, grille, bumper and fenders have all changed, giving the new E-Class a modern and youthful look. For the first time ever, the new E-Class comes with the three pointed star logo in the grille. The biggest change in profile is the absence of the 'retro' pontoons that was a talking point in the old model. The redesigned taillight lenses is the only noticeable change at the rear.

The E-Class has always had amongst the best interiors in its segment and the facelifted model is no different. A combination of ash wood trim, special-treated oak-wood finish and chrome inserts liven up the interiors that is dominated by shades of black. The COMMAND multimedia system now comes with a 17.8-cm high-resolution display, internet, USB and Bluetooth connectivity and navigation system. A host of Intelligence Assistance Systems are on offer including Eco Start Stop function, variable light distribution system with cornering function and a tyre pressure loss warning system.

A total of 8 Airbags including adaptive, dual-stage airbags for driver and front passenger, side-impact airbags for driver and front passenger and window airbags, Anti-Skid Resistance (ASR), Electronic Stability Program (ESP) with Brake Assist (BA) function, Attention Assist system that warns drivers about inattentiveness and drowsiness, Active Bonnet that enhances pedestrian safety and Adaptive High Beam with automatic switching between high and low beam along with the famed PRE-SAFE and NECK PRO technologies take care of the safety quotient in the new E-Class.

Two variants are on offer, the E 200 CGI (Petrol) with a retail price of INR 41.50 Lakhs and the E 250 CDI Avantgarde (Diesel) that retails for INR 44.48 Lakhs. The petrol variant is powered by a 1991-cc engine that produces 135 kW of maximum power at 5500 rpm and a peak torque of 300 Nm between 1200 to 4000 rpm. A 2143-cc V4 engine with a rated power output of 150 kW at 4200 rpm and a peak torque of 500 Nm between 1600 to 1800 rpm powers the diesel variant. Both the variants are mated to the 7G-TRONIC PLUS automatic transmission and are capable of accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h in under 8 seconds.

As a launch special, 100 units of 'limited edition' E 250 CDI with a panoramic sunroof, wider rear tires and an illuminated three pointed star logo up front is available, priced at INR 49.90 Lakhs. All prices mentioned are ex-showroom Delhi. With this launch, Mercedes-Benz would be hoping that the E-Class continues its dominance in the mid-size luxury segment against the growing threats from BMW and Audi.

Though the new E-Class is launched in India in just the standard 'sedan' trim, the international markets get to enjoy the complete line-up that includes Estate, Coupe, Cabriolet and the AMG-tuned variants of these body-styles. While we aren't sure which of those are headed our way, we have anyway added a picture of the complete line-up for you to have a quick glance.


Volkswagen Golf production crosses 30 Million units

Successful automobiles around the world reach and pass milestones every now and then, but this is one pretty big landmark. Volkswagen recently celebrated the roll out of the 30 millionth Golf from its Wolfsburg facility in Germany. Since its debut in 1974, the Golf has had a mighty successful run around the world and more so in Europe, enabling the German car-maker to reach this milestone in just 39 years. To help us get a better perspective of this landmark, Volkswagen says that, statistically speaking, an average of over 2000 people have purchased a new Golf every day for the past 39 years. Do you want us to say anything more?

That this huge milestone came in the same year in which the Golf has been awarded the coveted "World Car of the Year" title would make it even sweeter for Volkswagen.

When the Golf was initially launched, it was a big moment for Volkswagen as this model was an indirect successor to the ultra-successful Beetle. Klaus Bischoff, Head of Design for the Volkswagen brand says, "It all began in 1974 with a revolution. The step from the Beetle to the Golf was revolutionary. A new vehicle layout was created with the conversion from an air-cooled rear engine to a water-cooled front engine and from rear-wheel drive to front-wheel drive. In terms of the car's styling, Volkswagen designers switched from round shapes to a rectangular design structure - based on the legendary design study by Giorgio Giugiaro."

Since then, the Golf has become a benchmark for the industry and for Volkswagen itself, as all competing cars and every other car that Volkswagen produced was pitted against it. Since its debut in 1974, the Golf has gone through seven full generation changes with each successive model raising the bar for the segment and placing the Golf firmly on top. For us though, the best part of Volkswagen Golf was its evolving design and styling that just kept improving over the last 39 years without ever taking a radical departure from the first generation model. The 30 millionth Golf was a TDI BlueMotion variant which, incidentally, happens to be the most fuel-efficient Golf ever built.

Speaking on this landmark, Prof. Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG said, "The history of the Golf is also the history of automotive progress. With technologies such as the safe front-wheel drive of the first Golf, the debut of the TDI in the third Golf, ESC (Electronic Stability Control) and the dual clutch gearbox of the fourth Golf and the standard Automatic Post-Collision Braking System of the new generation, this car has continued to democratise progress. An optimum of safety, comfort and driving fun are no longer a question of money thanks to the Golf. And so our bestseller lives up to the Volkswagen name."

While all this is good to read and know, its a pity that we wouldn't be able to drive such a brilliant car on Indian roads anytime soon.


Tata Motors launches 8 models, revamps almost its entire line-up

You know that a company is in desperate times when they launch not one, not two, but eight new models on a single day. Don't rub your eyes, you read that right. However surprising it might be, that's exactly what Tata Motors did.

Those who are closely watching the Indian automotive industry would know that Tata Motors is going through very tough times of late. Except its age-old Indica and Indigo that are still doing reasonably well in the taxi market, none of the other Tata models, from the basic Nano to the flagship Aria, are selling in consistently good numbers to write about. In fact, sales and market share of Tata models has dropped drastically to such an extent that we wouldn't be surprised if the head honchos at Tata spent a few sleepless nights.

To try and stem falling sales and recover from the worst slump that the company has experienced over the last few decades, the big boffins at Tata Motors achieved a coup of sorts yesterday by launching facelifts and refreshed versions of almost its entire line-up. Launched along with the 8 new models was "Horizonext", a strategic initiative from Tata to improve its passenger vehicles business unit. Ask any Tata customer about the ownership experience and the three major grouses would be a less-than-satisfactory dealership experience, quality niggles and an after-sales service that's way below competing brands. With intense customer focus, world-class manufacturing practices, enriched customer purchase experience and consistent quality of service as its four pillars, the Horizonext strategy is targeting exactly those problems and promises to make owning Tata models a far better experience.

The first model launched was the Indigo eCS facelift. Featuring blackened twin-barrel headlights, a chrome-garnished radiator grille, new alloy wheels, a chrome strip in the boot, better-quality interiors and a new instrument cluster with twin octagonal dials, this facelift is a move to bring in some excitement to the Indigo eCS range. Though the frugal CR4 engine is carried over from the old model, it is now mated to an all-new cable shift transmission called the 'F-Shift'. The new Indigo eCS also features an upgraded suspension system for better ride quality.

Next up was the refreshed Sumo Gold with additional features that brings the aging model on par with the competition. A dual air-conditioning system with roof-mounted vents for the second row, a music system with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, a wood-finish center console, one touch down power windows, an improved suspension system and body graphics differentiate the new Sumo Gold from the earlier models. Unfortunately, the external design is still the same old shape that has soldiered on since 1994.

The Nano, India's cheapest car, also gets a host of upgrades in the form of 2013 CY model. The list of add-ons include chrome strips at the front and rear, three new colour options, larger cooling vents at the rear, an integrated music system with Bluetooth, USB and Aux inputs, four speakers, remote keyless entry and two new storage compartments in the dashboard. In what is a brilliant move aimed at increasing the appeal of the car, four personalization kits have been launched for the Nano. Dubbed Alpha, Jet, Peach and Remix, these packages bring in body kits, snazzy stickers and sporty alloy wheels, adding a lot of character to the little car.

A mildly-refreshed Indica with improved interiors and a chrome strip on the rear tailgate and a new variant of the Safari Storme called the "Explorer Edition" were also launched at the event. To add justice to the "Explorer Edition" moniker, a huge compass decal on the bonnet and the sides, badges on the front fenders, a double DIN touch-screen infotainment system, chrome surrounds on the headlamps and taillamps, a nudge guard up front and leather seat covers are part of the package.

Bringing the total count of new launches to eight, CNG variants of the Nano, Indica and the Indigo were also launched. To be badged as "emax", these alternate fuel variants are equipped with a button on the dashboard to switch between petrol and CNG. Though the running costs are expected to come down significantly, the flip-side is that there is absolutely no usable boot space in any of these three CNG models.

All these face-lifted and refreshed models would go on sale in Tata showrooms across the country between the next few days and the next few months, priced a few thousands more than the existing models. Well, Tata's commitment to improve and address the issues in its models are clearly evident. But, will the car-buying public ignore the aging designs and the negative brand image and give a thumbs-up for these improved Tatas? Watch this space!


Lamborghini launches a special edition Gallardo for India

Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A of Italy, the tractor-maker turned super car-maker, is celebrating its 50th anniversary with events spread around the year. There were promotional drive events, an uber-exclusive exotic supercar christened the Veneno was launched at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show and special editions of existing Lamborghini models are being rolled out from Sant'Agata where the Italian brand's factory is located.

The Gallardo “India Serie Speciale”, one such special edition limited to just 6 units and priced at INR 3.06 Crores ex-showroom Maharashtra each, was launched earlier today. Though Lamborghini claims that this model was designed and developed exclusively for India, the India Serie Speciale is actually the regular Gallardo LP 550-2 adorned with a few India-specific cosmetic touches inside and out.

To start with, this special edition Gallardo comes with three exterior colour options depicting the three colours of the Indian flag. In Lambo’s lingo, they are Arancio Borealis (Pearl Orange), Bianco Monocerus (White) and Verde Ithaca (Pearl Green). Just 2 cars will come painted in each of these colours. Additionally, an Indian tricolor strip runs along the length of the car, starting from the hood and extending up to the engine cover. The quarter glass in the driver’s side gets a “India Serie Speciale’" plate too. The black interiors of this special edition Gallardo features contrasting stitching, again in the colours of the Indian flag.

Mechanically, nothing has changed from the regular Gallardo LP 550-2. With a monstrous 5.2-liter V10 engine generating 550 HP of power and 540 Nm of torque, the Gallardo can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in just 3.9 seconds and reach a top speed of 320 km/h. If these figures doesn't get you excited enough, the Gallardo’s gorgeous design that still looks fresh and stunning a decade after launch, definitely will. Currently at the end of its production run, the Gallardo will soon be replaced by an all-new model that is still kept under wraps.

Well, if you are smitten by this special edition like us and have pockets deep enough to buy one unlike us, go ahead and book yours immediately in one of the three colours. Mark our words, admiration and exclusivity are guaranteed for the next few decades!

Image Source: www.MotorBeam.com


Mitsubishi Lancer hits the end of the road in India

The media is abuzz with reports that the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, launched just a couple of years back to the sheer excitement of automotive enthusiasts across the country, has been discontinued. A quick look at Mitsubishi India's website also reveals that the Evo is not listed in the portfolio anymore. With this, we Indians can not buy a car badged 'Lancer' from the showrooms anymore. Honestly, we don't know if the Cedia is still being sold and even if it is, it is devoid of Lancer badging anywhere on its body.

Looking at the double-digit sales figures that the Evo X managed over the last two years, it isn't surprising that Hindustan Motors took this decision. It just isn't viable to keep a model ticking with such dismal sales. What's really frustrating though is the way in which the once-cult "Lancer" brand was treated and allowed to die a slow death in India.

It was less than a decade since the Central Government's economic reforms opened up the Indian automobile industry. It was just a couple of years since international marques started entering our market. Those were the days when Indians went gaga over cars like the Honda City, Opel Astra, Daewoo Cielo and Ford Escort. As the market embraced the then-new "foreign" cars that were descending in, the 800, Esteem and Omni suddenly started to look insignificant and the Ambassador and Premier Padmini were given cold shoulders. That's when the Mitsubishi Lancer came in through an official licensing agreement that allowed the erstwhile Hindustan Motors to make and sell the car in India.

That the Lancer met with an arousing reception would be an understatement. With an absolutely gorgeous design, a never-before-seen build quality courtesy the completely knocked down kits that came in from Japan, frugal and reliable engine options and superb ride and handling, the Mitsubishi Lancer captured the heads and hearts of the Indian public all at once. Critics swore by the Lancer, customers loved the car, sales peaked and the Lancer became "the dream car" for every other individual in the country. For a car that enjoyed such roaring popularity and success on our roads in its initial years, the last few years has been quite a disaster.

Hindustan Motors was way too slow in responding to changing market conditions and new models from the Mitsubishi stable took ages to reach our market. The Cedia, for instance, was launched here when it was on the verge of replacement in the international markets. To add to that, none of the Mitsubishi models in India have had a proper sustained marketing campaign to reach out to the public. To compound the miseries further, dealers were far and few in between and even the few that existed weren't known for providing good after-sales support. They can't be totally blamed either, as they had to wait for weeks together for even simple spares to arrive.

A combination of all the above factors meant that the Lancer fell off the car-buyer's radar and was left to fend off for itself. As the competition grew stronger, it became a laughing stock and eventually met an inglorious end in India. Evo or no Evo, nothing could save the model and bring it back to life. It is quite an irony given the Lancer's rich legacy and popularity. Well, all we can do is swallow the bitter pill and let the Lancer rest in peace!


Volvo launches V40 Cross Country in India

Brand Volvo might be synonymous with luxury buses in India, but the Swedish auto-maker is gradually establishing itself in the luxury car market. After slipping in silently with the huge XC90 SUV a few years back, Volvo has slowly but steadily expanded its Indian portfolio that now includes the S60 and S80 sedans apart from the XC60 SUV. 'Why do we see so few Volvo cars in Indian roads compared to the German trio then,' you might think. The awfully small dealer network is what we would point to as the reason. Having expanded its presence to 12 cities across the country now, Volvo has moved a step closer to becoming a mainstream luxury brand.

With the compact luxury segment being the hotspot of activity of late, Volvo launched the V40 Cross Country in India yesterday. Priced at INR 28.5 Lakhs ex-showroom Delhi, the V40 Cross Country is available in just a single variant powered by a 2.0-liter, 5-cylinder common rail turbo diesel engine that's good for 148 bhp of maximum power and 350 Nm of peak torque. This is a detuned version of the engine found under the hoods of the S60 and the XC60. Mated to this engine is a 6-speed automatic gearbox.

Though the V40 Cross Country looks like a proper crossover, it is actually a decked-up variant of the V40 hatchback. Thanks to a multitude of smart touches like the raised ground clearance, matte-black plastic cladding all around, fake scuff plates at the front and rear, roof rails and the 17-inch alloy wheels, the V40 Cross Country easily passes off as an aggressive and sporty-looking crossover. We would even say that this Volvo would end up turning more heads than proper crossover designs such as the X1 and Q3.

If you do not know already, Volvos are considered to be amongst the safest cars in the world with the company itself being a pioneer in inventing and bringing in new safety technologies to the market. The V40 Cross Country carries that trademark forward with a startling array of safety features on board. Making its debut here is the world's first 'City Safety Tech' that activates on detecting an impending collision by pre-charging the brakes so that they respond faster to the driver's response. If the driver fails to brake, this technology would automatically apply the brakes and cut the throttle response. It sounds too good, but wouldn't the system go mad on sensing the manic driving conditions on Indian cities?

That apart, the list of features on offer includes a total of 7 Airbags including SIPS, knee and curtain airbags, Antilock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Traction Control, Cruise Control, front seat whiplash protection, a best-in-class Park Pilot automatic parking system, rear parking camera with sensors, fixed panoramic sun roof, leather seats, keyless entry, push button start and LED Daytime Running Lamps with active bending technology. The interiors themselves are typical Volvo stuff that looks a bit uninspiring despite being so feature-rich. This is where the competition might nudge ahead of the Volvo.

The V40 Cross Country is the cheapest Volvo on sale in India and will end up competing with an interesting mix of cars from the German luxury brands. Yes, the V40 Cross Country would end up battling not only with crossovers like the BMW X1 and the Audi Q3, but also with premium hatchbacks like the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and sports tourers like the Mercedes-Benz B-Class.

If not for anything else, we wish Volvo gains more popularity in India just for the incredible safety legacy that this Swedish brand enjoys worldwide.


Nissan releases official sketch of Terrano, it's Duster-based SUV

Without an iota of doubt, compact Sports Utility Vehicles are the flavour of the season in India. Manufacturers who have a model or two competing in that segment are enjoying all-time high popularity while those who don't are battling against time to bring one out at the earliest. One manufacturer who seems to be having it easy at the moment is Nissan, the Japanese brand that is operating in India through a joint-venture with Renault. We need not have to tell you that it was Renault and its Duster that has renewed the interest we Indians had in Sports Utility Vehicles. It is quite obvious, as the Duster has turned out to be a stupendous success and has single-handedly transformed Renault's fortunes in India. Now, Nissan is looking for a share of that pie too!

Confirming reports that has been circulating in the media for some time now, Nissan has officially announced that the new Duster-based SUV would be called the 'Terrano'.  By doing so, Nissan is resurrecting a nameplate that was once popular in it's portfolio but discontinued later. That makes us think that Nissan might be looking beyond India for the Terrano, but let's put those speculations on the back-burner for now. An official sketch of the Terrano was also revealed, indicating a significantly-redesigned front end that brings the model in line with other Nissan SUVs around the world. We are delighted to know that as the Terrano is not just going to be a 'Renault-logo replaced with Nissan-logo' model atleast from the outside. To save costs, the interiors and power-train are expected to be carried over from the Duster.

Nissan has also indicated that the Terrano would be launched later this year and would be positioned at a premium compared to the Duster, its donor model. That's understandable, as Renault would not want the 'better-looking' Terrano to overshadow Duster's popularity. When Renault launched the 're-badged and slightly redesigned' Sunny and Micra from the Nissan stable as Pulse and Scala, they priced them at a premium over the Nissan models for the same reason. Doing so helped Renault gain foothold in India and helped them fill the showrooms until the Duster was launched. Now, its time for Renault to return the favour to Nissan.

Under the leadership of Mr. Carlos Ghosn, Nissan and Renault have been good partners internationally that extended to India when the duo stepped into the country. The Renault-Nissan Alliance plant in Chennai currently churns out models for both brands for the domestic and international markets. Beyond facility-sharing, the relationship between the two brands also extends into product-sharing, which is quite evident from the Micra-Pulse, Sunny-Scala and Duster-Terrano stories.

With the Micra and Sunny doing just moderate numbers and the Evalia failing miserably, Nissan would be itching to make a meal out of the Terrano in India. But, will the Terrano be that one big hit that Nissan is desperately looking for in India?  That and many other things are going to depend on how Nissan prices and positions the Terrano. We are keeping our fingers crossed.


Toyota unveils the next-generation Corolla sedan

Ford Focus might be giving tough times to it over the last two years but the undeniable truth is that the Toyota Corolla is the largest selling automotive nameplate in history. Yes, the Corolla has sold more units than iconic big-sellers like the Beetle and Golf from Volkswagen and the Model T and F-Series from Ford.

Since its debut in 1966, the Corolla has amassed sales of nearly 40 million units spread across ten generations over 47 years. Built in 16 locations, the Corolla is sold in 154 countries around the world. When the wraps of the next-generation version of such a car is taken off, it is nothing but history in the making.

Over the years, the Corolla might have earned a staggering reputation for reliability but it's design and styling has never been its forte. No, the Corolla has never been declared ugly, but it has never been a stunner as well. All that is about to change, as Toyota has taken the feedback on the staid design of the previous Corolla quite seriously. As a result, the 11th generation Corolla looks aggressive and sporty. Gone are the unoffensive lines and in their place come muscular cuts and creases.

While the Corolla Furia Concept previewed the design direction of the new Corolla at the Detroit Motor Show earlier this year, we didn't quite expect most of those elements to carry over to the production model. That's where Toyota has surprised us this time. The images in this post are of the North American Corolla, which is what we usually get in India and rest of Asia. European version of the Corolla follows the same design theme, but looks slightly different.

The front end is dominated by a large trapezoidal grille that rests below a thin air intake with the Toyota logo at the center. Though the kinked headlamps are not new , their treatment in the form of LED illumination and sharp angles on all sides is quite new. The profile is dominated by a character line that runs along the length of the car, flared wheel arches and chiseled front and rear fenders. The headlight, door handles and taillight are in sync with the character line at various points in profile. A dual-tone bumper, short deck spoiler and sharply-cut taillights are the highlights at the rear. The sporty 'S' variant with its gloss black treatment in the front grille, subtle chrome touches and meatier tires with sporty 17-inch alloy wheels look particularly impressive.

With good-looking competition in the form of Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze, the existing Toyota Corolla looked lost in the crowd. This new model will help Toyota regain a few brownie points for its design.

Looking at the image released by Toyota, the interiors doesn't look to break new ground with piano-black trim and metallic inserts occupying prominent space in the cabin. The positioning and shape of the central air-conditioner vents, for some reason, look very retro to us. In major global markets, the new Corolla is expected to be powered by a 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder engine with two different states of tune and mated to an array of transmissions ranging from an outdated 4-speed automatic to the new 7-speed CVTi-S where 'i-S' stands for Intelligent Shift. Two driving modes, Eco and Sport would be on offer and an entire gamut of safety features would be available as standard, keeping up with the current trend. With a Coefficient of Drag of 0.28, the Corolla promises to offer excellent aerodynamics and fuel-efficiency as well.

Despite its age compared to the competition, the existing Corolla is still the top-selling car in its segment in most markets. Once this new 11th generation model goes on sale, expect the Corolla to run away with sales giving Honda, Ford, Chevrolet and Hyundai a few sleepless nights.


EcoBoost is boosting Ford's fortunes in India and elsewhere

There are two words that are a rage these days in the Indian automotive scenario. An easy guess is obviously the ‘Ecosport’, the much-awaited and much-delayed compact crossover from Ford. The other, surprisingly, is also related to the Ecosport. It’s a technology that is making its debut in the model and promises to herald a sea of change in the way we relate engine displacement and power henceforth. Yes, we are talking about the ‘EcoBoost’, a technology patented by Ford and currently making waves across the world.

It’s hard to believe, but even years after launch, the journalists and the general public just don’t seem to have praised the EcoBoost enough. We aren’t exaggerating. For 3 of the last 4 years, one or the other engine in Ford’s EcoBoost family has found a place in the Ward’s annual list of 10 best engines in the world. In 2012, the then-new 1.0-liter 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine was chosen as the “International Engine of the Year”. For the second straight year, the tiny EcoBoost engine, that can fit into the overhead luggage bay of an aircraft, is again declared the 2013 International Engine of the Year. After heaping laurels at Ford last year, the jurors have decided yet again that there is no other engine that even comes close to beating the tiny EcoBoost.

So, what’s there in the EcoBoost that isn’t there in the other engines? What has Ford achieved that the other automotive manufacturers haven’t thought of?

EcoBoost is nothing but a family of turbocharged, direct-injection gasoline engines that are more powerful, fuel-efficient and less polluting than their conventional counterparts. By doing so, the EcoBoost engines have replaced conventional gasoline engines of higher displacement while continuing to be as powerful and more fuel-efficient. Consider this, the 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine in the upcoming Ecosport is more powerful than the 1.6-liter engine that powers the Fiesta sedan and more fuel-efficient than many 1.0-liter engines used by the competition.

The image below released by Ford illustrates what makes the EcoBoost engines stand out from the rest.

Unlike what most people think, Ford isn’t the only manufacturer with this technology. Volkswagen’s Turbo Stratified Injection engines or, more popularly, ‘TSI’ badged vehicles employ direct injection with turbocharging and, in some cases, supercharging as well. Hyundai’s T-GDI engines also have these two technologies working in tandem. Cited here are just a couple of examples. But, the smartest thing Ford did was to brand these engines under an attractive moniker called ‘EcoBoost’ and market the technology to the car-buying public. That’s what has got most people talking about Ford compared to the rest of the clan.

Sooner or later, you will come across someone who has driven an Ecosport powered by the EcoBoost engine in India. Before they start bragging about this tech and its merits, go ahead and show them who is the boss!


Mahindra launches Verito 'Vibe' hatchback

Long after Renault decided to give up and abandon its Logan project in India, Mahindra just refuses to give up on the Romania-based, Dacia-developed car. After sprucing it up inside and out and renaming it as Verito, Mahindra has now gone one step ahead, derived a hatchback out of the boxy sedan and launched it as the ‘Vibe’. Launched in Mumbai today in three trim levels, the Verito Vibe will classify for the Indian Government’s tax exemptions as its length is less than 4 meters. Prices start at INR 5.63 Lakhs for the base D2 variant and goes up to INR 5.89 Lakhs and INR 6.49 Lakhs for the D4 and D6 variants respectively.

Though the Verito Vibe looks like a hatchback, it isn’t one, strictly speaking. Retaining everything up to the C-Pillar and even the rear windscreen from its sedan counterpart, the Vibe has a new, strangely-designed boot-lid and all-new taillight clusters that bear more than a passing resemblance to the previous-generation Ford Focus. Though the Verito Vibe does look sporty from certain rear angles, the boxy front-end carried over from the Verito sedan doesn’t gel as well with the sharp rear-end as we would have liked. Also new are the smoked headlamps, carbon-finish grille, champagne alloy wheels and a dual-tone rear bumper.

The interiors stay true to the Verito sedan as well and that means the Vibe would be one of the most spacious hatchbacks on sale in India. Apart from the regular features like air-conditioning, power steering, power windows and a 2-DIN music system with CD, USB and AUX support, the top-end Verito Vibe also comes with front disc brakes, Antilock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Driver Airbag. Powering the Verito Vibe is the familiar 1.5-liter Renault dCi engine that puts out a modest 65 PS of maximum power at 4000 rpm and 160 Nm of peak torque at 2000 rpm. No 1.2-liter petrol engines in Mahindra's portfolio to qualify for tax exemption means that there is no petrol-powered Vibe that you could buy.

The Verito Vibe marks Mahindra's entry into the highly-competitive hatchback segment in India. It remains to be seen if Mahindra's Midas touch continue to welcome them with both hands in a segment that is dominated by Maruti-Suzuki and Hyundai.