Test and demo cars of Datsun Go spotted in Chennai

Ever since Nissan announced the revival of its Datsun brand for emerging markets like India, Russia and Indonesia, there was an air of optimism that the demands of these markets would be met perfectly with this new brand. And when Carlos Ghosn, President and CEO of Nissan, relaunched Datsun and unveiled its first model 'Go' at an event in Gurgaon last July, the expectations were kind of fulfilled.

Slated to go on sale sometime in 2014, Nissan seems to be getting busy with its preparations for the Datsun Go. Late last week, a regular reader of our blog spotted a Datsun Go being tested in Chennai with its badges and logos masked. Immediately afterwards, the same reader happened to spot a couple of dealership demo cars as well and shot a video of the cars passing by. The test car came with the same 'sky blue' shade that was used by Nissan during the unveiling. The demo cars however were painted white and beige. With the demo cars being the touch-point of customers, it is quite obvious that top-end variants, with a few accessories like rear spoiler thrown in, are earmarked for the purpose.

As we said before, the Datsun Go looks promising with the hexagonal grille up front and the prominent character lines in the profile and rear dominating an otherwise conservative design. The interiors are a mixed bag as well, with a few evident cost-cutting touches contrasting with many other parts shared with the relatively-premium Nissan Micra. With a wheelbase that's apparently the same as Micra, the Datsun Go promises to be amongst the most spacious cars in its segment. Expected to be powered by the same 1.2-liter engine that powers the Micra, the Datsun Go will be launched with a price tag that's less than INR 4 Lakhs and pitted against top-selling models like the Maruti-Suzuki Wagon-R and Hyundai i10.

Ticking all the necessary boxes like styling, competitive pricing, a frugal engine and a spacious and comfortable cabin, the Datsun Go has the potential to make it big in the Indian market. What remains to be seen is how Nissan positions, handles and markets the new brand.


Ford strikes gold with the all-new Mustang

Very few models from mass-market brands command as much respect and legacy as the Ford Mustang does. Often labelled the 'pony car', the Mustang, along with the Corvettes, Camaros, Vipers and Challengers of the world, form the American muscle car group that commands a crazy fan following across the globe.

With fifty years of heritage accumulated over five generations of existence, the Mustang is more than just a car for Ford. Apart from playing its role of an image-building halo performance car to perfection, the Mustang is a big-seller as well, raking in the volumes and the profits to the Blue Oval brand. Add the expectations of millions of customers and loyalists worldwide on top of it and its not hard to fathom why the all-new Mustang was one of the most eagerly awaited car launches in recent history.

After numerous spy-shots, a host of renderings, a couple of teasers and an official countdown in Ford Motor Company's official facebook page, the sixth-generation Mustang was finally unveiled to the global media earlier this month. And boy, does it look exciting.

With a design theme that combines Ford's latest styling elements with the traditional design cues of the previous Mustangs, the all-new model is, in a word, striking. The front end possesses a big trapezoidal grille flanked on either sides by thin headlight clusters garnished with three LED gills each. The profile is characterized by the long hood and the fastback shape that gives the car an athletic stance. The rear is just an evolution of the existing Mustang, but a beautiful one at that. The three vertical taillight lenses that defined the Mustangs of yore finds a place in the sixth-generation model too.

Keeping up with modern tastes, Ford has also given the interiors of the all-new Mustang a thorough make-over. The thick metallic strip that runs across the entire length of the dashboard looks great. So does the three-spoke steering wheel that's armed with a host of buttons. Be it around the gearstick in the center console or the chrome-highlighted door handles, Ford seems to have paid great attention to detail to the interiors. Engine options include a new, fuel-efficient 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine apart from the 3.7-liter V6 and the manic 5.0-liter V8 options. Ford hasn't released the full specifications yet.

The new Mustang is expected to go on sale sometime next year in the United States of America followed by other markets. With stunning looks, a range of powerful and fuel-efficient engines, a legacy to die for and thousands of loyalists spread across continents, the all-new Mustang is all set for a long and successful run at the top of Ford's global product portfolio. 

An interesting trivia to be noted is the immediate availability of a Right Hand Drive (RHD) model in the sixth-generation Mustang. That and the efficient EcoBoost engine bodes well for the Mustang's prospects in case Ford decides to go ahead and launch it in India. But, is that happening at all? Well, we don't know yet but we sincerely wish that it happens.

2014 ICOTY & IMOTY awards announced

As we get ready to bid adieu to yet another year of automotive awesomeness, the awards season has just begun. As it has always been for us, it all starts with the Indian Car of the year (ICOTY) and Indian Motorcycle of the Year (IMOTY) titles. Designed on the lines of popular international titles like the North American Car of the Year and European Car of the Year, a group of journalists from leading automotive publications in India get together, deliberate on the new cars and motorcycles launched in the country in the last one year and decide on the winners. 

2013 saw some very important segment-defining models being launched in the Indian market like the Ford Ecosport, Honda Amaze, Hyundai Grand i10, Mahindra e2O and Skoda Octavia. Bring in cars like the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, BMW 1-Series and Nissan Terrano into the mix and deciding on a winner becomes all the more difficult. A total of 17 cars qualified for the award out of which 9 made it to the final shortlist. In the end, Hyundai Grand i10 emerged victorious, pipping Honda Amaze and Ford Ecosport to take the coveted title.

Of course, this isn't the first time the Grand i10 is being crowned the Indian Car of the Year as the first-generation i10 won this award handsomely in 2008. Following up on the great work done by the previous i10, Hyundai has emerged victorious yet again with the Grand i10, that's bigger, better and grander than its predecessor in every aspect.


   Winner - Hyundai Grand i10


   * 2013 - Renault Duster
   * 2012 – Maruti-Suzuki Swift
   * 2011 – Ford Figo
   * 2010 – Tata Nano
   * 2009 – Honda City

Moving over to motorcycles, the story is not dissimilar. There were quite a few big launches in 2013, what with Hyosung Aquila Pro, Kawasaki Ninja 300, KTM Duke 390, Mahindra Centuro and Royal Enfield Continental GT coming into the fray. Don't forget the 10-model blitzkrieg of Triumph that made headlines recently. The jurors didn't have it easy, we swear. After what would have been intense testing and deliberation, it is the Royal Enfield Continental GT that came on top, beating KTM Duke 390 and Hyosung Aquila Pro on the way.

The Continental GT is, by far, the best motorcycle from Royal Enfield in a few decades. With its gorgeous cafe racer styling, chassis tuned by Harris Performance of UK and firms like Paioli and Brembo supplying critical parts, the Continental GT marks the beginning of a new era for Royal Enfield in India and abroad.


   Winner – Royal Enfield Continental GT


   * 2013 - KTM Duke 200
   * 2012 – Honda CBR 250R
   * 2011 – Honda CB Twister
   * 2010 – Kawasaki Ninja 250R
   * 2009 – Yamaha YZF R15

The jury for ICOTY and IMOTY awards were Girish Karkera and Sriram Narayanan (BBC TopGear), Vikrant Singh, Bertrand D’Souza and Subhabrata Marmar (Overdrive), Yogendra Pratap and Rahul Ghosh (Auto Bild), Bob Rupani and Gautam Sen (Auto India), Dhruv Behl and Ashish Jha (AutoX), Pablo Chatterji, Rohin Nagrani and Kartik Ware (Motoring), Aspi Bhathena and Sarmad Kadiri (Car India & Bike India), Sirish Chandran (Evo India) and Muralidhar Swaminathan (The Hindu Business Line).

2013 Los Angeles - Subaru spins off WRX STi as a separate model

Since 1992, the Subaru Impreza has enthralled automotive enthusiasts around the world, plastering big, wide grins on their faces every time they sit behind the wheel. Notably, the high-performance WRX and WRX STi versions were hot favorites, offering incredible levels of grip and handling thanks to the permanent all-wheel-drive system and the perfectly-balanced chassis. After three generations of selling it as the range-topping variant of Impreza, Subaru has decided to spin off the WRX STi as a separate model sans the Impreza badge.

Subaru made it official at the Los Angeles Auto Show last month when a blazing red WRX STi set the stage on fire. Well, it actually didn't, as what most people wished was to see a car that looked close to the stunning concept version. Though there is nothing wrong with the way the new WRX STi looks, there is also nothing that stands out. It might sound disappointing, but wait. Throw in a racy blue paint job, golden alloy wheels and a huge rear spoiler and the new WRX STi would come back to look smashing.

Along with a full redesign, there are a few changes along the way. The hatchback body-style is axed and the new WRX STi will only be made as a sedan. So, that marks the demise of one of the hottest hatches we have seen. A new 2.0-liter, direct-injected, turbocharged engine sits under the hood, putting out 268 horsepower fed by a huge bonnet scoop that has now become a trademark WRX element. A 6-speed manual transmission will be joined by a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with 6-speed and 8-speed manual modes.

What is not expected to change though is the excellent all-wheel-drive system that makes the WRX an all-weather sports car and the exceptional handling perfected over several years of rallying pedigree. With the future of its perennial rival, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, still a mystery, the Subaru WRX STi will continue to hold the Japanese flag high in a segment that promises insane sports-car experience at a sane price level.


Royal Enfield unleashes the Continental GT in India

These are exciting times for the motorcycling industry in India with all international brands making a beeline for entry in the Indian market while the domestic brands are going global in a big way. The Continental GT from Royal Enfield, that was unleashed in India late last month, promises to make it all the more exciting.

After sweeping the show-goers off their feet as a concept at the 2010 Auto Expo before coming back in production form at the 2012 edition, Royal Enfield finally unleashed the Continental GT to the discerning Indian customers. Retailing at INR 2.05 Lakhs on-road New Delhi, the Continental GT is the most expensive motorcycle from the Chennai-based manufacturer that enjoys a cult status inside and outside our country.

At first glance, this latest Royal Enfield looks 'different'. Though this might pass off as a controversial statement, we will have to admit that this motorcycle splits opinion like no other. While the Continental GT looks absolutely fabulous for some and from certain angles, there are quite a few who loathe its styling too. Eventually, it all boils down to what we think of the 'Cafe Racer' body-style that this motorcycle has revived. Said to be a rage in the fifties and sixties when youngsters used light-weight, stripped-down motorcycles with a sporty seating position to race from one cafe to the other, the Cafe Racers are characterized by a forward-leaning seating posture with back-set foot pegs and a near-naked chassis. Quite obviously, Cafe Racers catered to a niche market.

That applies even today, as the Royal Enfield Continental GT is a motorcycle for the serious enthusiast. Its prospects in matured international markets are much brighter than the novice Indian market that's just opening up to motorcycling. That probably explains why the Continental GT was launched in the UK even before India.

It might be the most-expensive Royal Enfield ever, but the Continental GT is also the most technically-advanced and the best from the Indian manufacturer. We haven't driven it yet, but then how are we declaring it so confidently? Read on, you will get to know.

Based on the Unit Construction Engine (UCE) platform that powers the Classic and Thunderbird, the Continental GT is equipped with a 535 cc, single cylinder, air-cooled engine that belts out 29.1 bhp of maximum power and 44 Nm of peak torque. Mated to a 5-speed constant mesh gearbox, this engine has a remapped ECU and lower inertia to differentiate it from the other Royal Enfields. The chassis has been developed by the legendary Harris Performance of UK while the shock absorbers are from Paioli of Italy. Brakes are supplied by none other than Brembo while the clip-on handlebars, bar-mounted mirrors, elongated fuel tank and wrap-around single seat would attract eyeballs everywhere.

Over the last few years, Royal Enfield has been doing everything right and the Continental GT is one more step in that direction. It might not sell in huge volumes but with every Continental GT plying on the road, the image and cult status of the brand is sure to shoot up further.

Triumph makes a grand entry into India with a lineup of 10 motorcycles

Creating a flutter is a term that we use quite often in our posts. But, if there was one instance in the automotive industry that deserved to be called so, it has got to be the entry of Triumph Motorcycles, the legendary British brand, in the Indian market. Unlike most of its competitors that take one step at a time to test the market's response, Triumph made a difference by launching not one or two, but a whopping ten models on a single day.

With ex-showroom prices ranging from INR 5.7 Lacs to INR 20 Lacs, Triumph's Indian lineup consists of models from all categories - Classics, Roadsters, Adventure, Super Sports and Cruisers. And yes, the iconic Bonneville and Speed Triple are part of the lineup too.

Check out the entire Triumph model range in India with their ex-showroom prices below.

Bonneville - INR 5.7 Lacs
Bonneville T100 - INR 6.6 Lacs
Thruxton - INR 6.7 Lacs

Street Triple - INR 7.5 Lacs
Speed Triple - INR 10.4 Lacs

Tiger 800 XC - INR 12 Lacs
Tiger Explorer - INR 17.9 Lacs

Super Sports
Daytona 675 R - INR 11.4 Lacs

Thunderbird Storm - INR 13 Lacs
Rocket III Roadster - INR 20 Lacs

Of these motorcycles, the Bonneville, Bonneville T100, Daytona 675R, Street Triple, Speed Triple and Thruxton would be assembled at Triumph Motorcycles India's facility in Manesar, Harayana. The rest of the lineup will be imported into India as Completely Built Units (CBU).

Commenting on the brand's swashbuckling entry into India, Paul Stroud, Director, Sales and Marketing (Global), Triumph Motorcycles Pvt. Ltd. said, “With the launch of Triumph, we have brought the world’s most iconic premier motorcycle brand to India. Triumph is not just a motorcycle, but a way of life. India is an exceptionally exciting market for us and the premium motorcycle segment in the country is seeing tremendous growth. We feel this is the right time to establish our foothold here. Triumph will also be the only premium motorcycle brand in India to offer the customer a complete choice of motorcycles to suite people’s riding preferences. No matter what your riding preference is Triumph has a bike to enable you to pursue your passion. Our main focus this year will be to successfully establish Triumph’s presence in India and we will strive to provide an exceptional quality of sales and service, for both admirers, as well as the riders of our bikes.”

Initially, Triumph's exclusive dealerships will be operational in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad with the number expected to go up over the next few months. From sales and after-sales service to authentic accessories and merchandise, Triumph will offer a complete biking experience to Indian customers. With a legacy that dates back to 1902, Triumph will be offering its customers in India an unmatched pedigree and ownership experience.


2013 Los Angeles - Porsche Macan debuts, joins Cayenne as the brand's second crossover

Sports car manufacturers occupy a rarefied space in the automotive spectrum. After all, they play in a segment where atrocious price tags, ridiculous power outputs, staggering torque figures, an extremely loyal customer base and new models selling out on debut are commonplace. Who wouldn't like to build a sports car that's pre-booked for months together with each of them raking in huge profits and customers loving what they get? Brands like Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche have been doing just that for ages and the legacies they have built up is phenomenal.

While it's rivals continue to do so and build just sports cars, Porsche went off the beaten track when it introduced the Cayenne crossover in 2002. A SUV from Porsche generated shock waves across the industry, with loyalists, enthusiasts and journalists heaping collective criticism against the German brand. For a brand hitherto known for its unrivaled expertise in sports cars and God-like handling, venturing into crossovers was seen as a backward step. Two generations into its life cycle though, the Cayenne is now not only Porsche's best-seller but also a significant contributor to the company's bottom-line.

So, when Porsche took the wraps off the Macan at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show a couple of weeks back, there was no skepticism in the air. The Cayenne has silenced the critics and Porsche's ambitions with the Macan, its second and much-smaller crossover, is clear. God save the true-blue Porsche loyalists who, we are sure, would be sobbing in some corner of the world.

Borrowing cues from the more-expensive Cayenne and the brand's iconic 911, the Macan looks pretty good. We are particularly fond of its profile, with the coupe-ish window-line and steeply-raked rear windscreen giving the Macan a sense of athleticism that's normally missing in crossovers. In typical Porsche style, the interiors are flashy yet classy with the centrally-mounted tachometer signalling the sporty intentions of the Macan. The center console that mounts the gear-shifter amidst a plethora of buttons and the nicely-detailed, three-spoke steering wheel complete the sporty ambiance.

The Macan will be available with two engine options, the base 'S' and the top-end 'Turbo'. The Macan S has a choice of a 340 hp, 3.0-liter, twin-turbo V6 petrol or a 258 hp, 3.0-liter V6 diesel engine while the Macan Turbo is powered by a 400 hp, 3.6-liter, twin-turbo petrol mill. All these engines are mated to the company's high-performance 7-speed Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) automatic transmission. That's Dual Clutch Transmission to you and me. Also standard across the Macan range is the Off-road mode that can be activated at the touch of a button in the center console and the 'Porsche Traction Management (PTM) System' that includes active all-wheel drive, Automatic Brake Differential (ABD) and Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR).

Given that the Macan retails for a significantly-lower price tag vis-a-vis Cayenne, we expect it to comfortably outsell its bigger sibling to become the largest-selling model in Porsche's lineup. A tip to the brand loyalists - Stop, do not sob. All the money that Porsche rakes in through the Cayenne and Macan is going to help develop the next-generation 911, Boxster and Cayman. Isn't that a good deal? Think over.


Mahindra Quanto with a new engine spotted testing near Chennai

Crossovers and Utility Vehicles might be ruling the roost in India of late, but there is one model that failed to create an impact. Forget about the Premier Rio, we are referring to the Quanto, a rare flop from Mahindra amidst a string of successful models from the Indian manufacturer. Though the formula of butch looks, high ground clearance, adequate space for five passengers with the option for seating two additional passengers when needed, a tractable and fuel-efficient diesel engine and feature-loaded interiors seem good, the Quanto isn't selling as well as Mahindra expected it to.

Nevertheless, Mahindra isn't letting the Quanto go off the radar just yet. This test vehicle spotted in the Chennai-Trichy highway, a few kilometers away from Mahindra's R&D Center in the outskirts of Chennai, hints that the work on the Quanto is still on. Except for the absence of spare wheel at the rear and the presence of cheesy body graphics in profile, this Quanto, codenamed 'X-284', seemed to have nothing new at first. But, there was one little nugget that got us excited. Though not clearly visible in these spy-shots, this Quanto had "Turbo" stickers prominently placed in the front fenders. Its a known fact that Mahindra is in the process of developing two new gasoline engines, one with three cylinders and another with four, to be used in future models. Given that almost every other diesel engine in the market, including Mahindra's own mills, is turbocharged, there is no necessity to brag about it. What could this be then?

Is Mahindra working on an all-new, small-displacement, gasoline engine that could come with a turbocharger to boost power without compromising fuel efficiency? With Volkswagen's 'TSI' and Ford's 'EcoBoost' engines ensuring that turbocharged gasoline engines remain a popular choice in India and given Mahindra's recent penchant for new technology, we have every reason to believe that this Quanto is indeed testing a new gasoline turbocharged engine under its hood. Apart from the Quanto, we expect this new engine to power a host of new Mahindra models including the compact SUV that's expected to take on the Ford Ecosport.


Mahindra Scorpio Facelift caught testing near Chennai

The Scorpio has been a massive success for Mahindra and is, in fact, the coming-of-age model of the Indian utility-vehicle manufacturer. Until the Scorpio came along in 2002, Mahindra’s rise to fame has been the licensed old-school Jeeps they had been building for ages. Pitted against the then-popular midsize sedans like the Honda City, Mitsubishi Lancer, Hyundai Accent and Ford Ikon, the Scorpio was able to successfully prove its credentials and soon became the largest-selling Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) in India, handsomely outselling the Tata Safari. Once it reached the top, the Scorpio stayed there for a full decade before finally losing out to newer crossovers like the Renault Duster and Ford Ecosport.

Unlike the Duster and Ecosport that are car-based crossovers, the Scorpio is a true-blue, body-on-frame SUV that can deal with rock and sand as well as it does on our highways. But the reality is that a significant chunk of people are cross-shopping between these models, thus affecting Scorpio's prospects. With the Nissan Terrano starting on a high note and competition from Maruti-Suzuki, Hyundai and Honda looming large, the Scorpio’s position is now under threat.

Though Mahindra is said to be working on the next-generation Scorpio for quite some time now, it is not expected to be launched until 2015 atleast. To plug the gap, Mahindra is now working on a facelift that will keep the Scorpio fresh and up to date until the new model takes over. This test vehicle, spotted in the outskirts of Chennai in a location that’s not far off from Mahindra’s R&D Center, proves that work on the Scorpio facelift is progressing at a brisk pace.

Going by the swirl camouflage on the test car, it looks like the front end is going for a substantial makeover. That means the radiator grille, headlights and the bumper are in for a change. The rest of the body sees minimal changes, with the tailgate, front fenders and the alloy wheels being the only parts that seem to be getting a nip and tuck. The interiors were partially masked too, making us believe that the face-lifted Scorpio will sport better interiors than the current model. No mechanical changes are expected in the Scorpio facelift and that includes the engine and transmission options too. The 2.2-liter mHawk diesel engine that powers all but the base variant and the 2.5-liter m2DICR engine that does duty only in the base EX variant are expected to be carried over to the facelift as well.

Despite the advent of newer and fresher SUVs and wannabe SUVs in the market, the Scorpio is still going great and is nary showing a hint of restrain when it comes to sales figures. This facelift is only going to help Mahindra sustain the momentum and keep the interest in the model ticking until its successor comes along.