Bajaj Boxer spotted with test registration plates in Pune

Over the course of time, we have developed a soft spot for the Bajaj Boxer. While the Pune-based Indian motorcycle brand keeps churning out a multitude of variants of Discovers and Pulsars, not to forget the high-end motorcycles sporting KTM and Kawasaki badges, the Boxer is deemed a misfit and often in a state of neglect. Or, that's how it appears to us.

One of the best-selling 100cc motorcycles in India at a time when Hero-Honda's Splendor was at its peak, the Boxer, badged a Kawasaki-Bajaj back then, carved a niche for itself. Subsequently, when the CT100 and Platina took over as Bajaj's 100cc challengers, the Boxer ceased to exist only to come back in 2011 with a bigger 150cc engine powering it. Badged BM150, the Boxer retained its core values of rugged build, efficiency and practicality, aimed at the demanding rural market. A handful of spotting on road apart, nothing more was heard or seen about the model.

Just when we thought that the Boxer is done and dusted, these blurred pictures sent in by one of our readers in Pune hints that Bajaj isn't done with the model yet. Spotted testing in the outskirts of Pune a few weeks back, all we can infer from these pictures are that the design and styling isn't changing at all. The familiar taillight and the neatly-drawn indicators are carried over from the existing Boxer as are the spring-in-spring rear shocks and exhaust pipe. Nothing else is visible, which means that we know zilch about the engine and frontal design in the test bike.

Curious to know more, we browsed Bajaj's official websites only to find no mention of the Boxer in their Indian lineup. The global site however had the Boxer listed in two configurations, the 100 and the 150. So, what could Bajaj be testing in this Boxer? Is the rugged and utilitarian bike making a comeback in the 100cc segment in India? Is the Boxer finally getting the patented and heavily-marketed DTS-i twin-spark technology? Is it just a subtle facelift for the Indian model? Or, is it a durability test for an update to the international model? At this point of time, we don't have an answer. May be, Bajaj could help us find out.

Whatever it is, three people atop a motorcycle without helmets at midnight isn't a sight that we would ever embrace.


Datsun's revival begins today with the launch of Go

Nissan generated a lot of buzz last year when they officially announced the revival of Datsun, a brand that was popular for most part of the 19th century before being discontinued. Targeted specifically towards the emerging markets like India, Russia, China and South Africa in its second coming, Datsun will play a key role in expanding Nissan’s global market share.

Following its unveiling at the brand premiere event last July and its first public display at the 2014 Auto Expo in New Delhi, not to forget our spotting of the dealership demo cars a couple of months back, the Datsun Go was finally launched in India today. Apart from being the first Datsun to go on sale in many decades, also significant is the fact that India is the first market in the world to get the Go.

With Nissan’s brand hierarchy well established, Datsun’s role is to attract the value-conscious buyers. Competitive prices were promised and Datsun, it has to be said, has kept its word. At INR 3.12, 3.46 and 3.69 Lakhs for the D, A and T variants respectively, the prices are very competitive and pits the Go against the Maruti-Suzuki Alto 800 and Hyundai Eon.

Despite being a budget hatchback, the Go isn’t designed to look like one. The bold hexagonal grille, the partially-smoked headlights, the strong shoulder line and the dominant creases in sheet metal all around sustains our interest in the Go. The base variants, with black bumpers, mirrors and door handles, may not look classy, but they definitely aren’t unimpressive. Thanks to its origins in the Micra, the Datsun Go is big and boasts segment-leading space and comfort. Powering the Go is a 1.2-liter petrol engine that produces maximum power of 67 bhp at 5000 rpm and a peak torque of 10 kgm at 4000 rpm. Shared with the Nissan Micra, this 3-cylinder mill returns an ARAI-approved fuel efficiency of 20.63 km/l.

As expected, the base variant of the Go is strictly bare-bones and comes sans power steering, power windows and even air-conditioning. The top-end variant has all these and also body-colored bumpers, central locking, wheel covers and an audio system with an Aux-input. Yes, there’s not even a radio on offer. What’s there in abundance though is space as the Go boasts class-leading passenger and boot space. Also standard across the range are follow-me-home headlamps, digital trip computer, smart meter, speed-sensitive wiper and connected front seats that, for some reason, reminds us of the Ambassador.

With its focus on value-for-money, space and efficiency, the Datsun Go has got what most Indians aspire for in their first car covered. Add to that the decent looks and a capable chassis and the Datsun Go has the potential to make it really big in the Indian market.


Driven #24: 2013 Ford Escape

With the ever-rising demand for Utility Vehicles in India showing no signs of slowing down, automotive manufacturers are grappling with each other to gain a foothold in this burgeoning segment. But, one crossover that’s creating a big impact in many mature global markets, including the USA, Canada, Europe and China, is conspicuous by its absence here. Let’s not keep you guessing, we are talking about the Ford Escape.

Of late, the Focus might have rose to fame as the largest-selling nameplate in the world, but the Escape has been silently going about its business, raking in the volumes and the money for Ford Motor Company. Born out of the need for a smaller Utility Vehicle to slot in below the Explorer and Expedition, the Escape has been a strong seller ever since its debut in 2000. Currently in its third generation, the Escape is scaling new heights of popularity. What made it click globally? And why isn't Ford considering launching it here in India, given our market’s craze for SUVs?

We spent some quality time behind the wheel of the base 'S' variant of the 2013 Escape on the big, wide roads of Dubai to find out.


To understand the shift in consumer preferences and the subsequent changes in automotive designs, look no further than the Ford Escape. Over the course of three generations, the Escape has evolved from being rugged and boxy to being sleek and curvy. Following the brand's famous 'Kinetic' design philosophy, the Escape is instantly recognizable as a Ford, thanks to the styling cues picked up from the Focus.

Up front, the curvy wraparound headlights and a thin radiator grille are complemented nicely by the three-part air intake in the bumper. The sharp cuts at the edges of the bumper and the lines running across the hood add a muscular touch to Ford's now-second-smallest crossover. Beefy wheel arches and a strong character line that slits through the doors work in tandem with the angled D-Pillar to create some excitement in profile. The rear looks rather tame and lacks aggression, save for the stretched taillights that extend deep into the profile on either sides. This is where the macho appeal of a tailgate-mounted spare wheel, like the one in the Ecosport, is missed.

Let's not forget that the Escape we drove was the base variant in the lineup with full plastic wheel covers and black door handles and rear-view mirrors. The top-of-the-line Titanium variant, that adds fog lamps, roof rails, gloss black and chrome embellishments, twin chrome-tipped exhaust pipes and a set of sexy 18-inch alloy wheels amongst others, is way more appealing and the variant to go for if 'looks' are on top your priority list.

Having said that, the new Escape has split opinions globally. While some seem to prefer the boxy shape of the previous generation models, some others couldn't wait more for the curvaceous lines to take over. This might seem a bit unfair, but the clean yet rugged and purposeful looks of the first-generation Escape still excite us more than the current model.


It's alright if you hadn't got a chance to step into the new Escape before. If you had sat in the new Fiesta or Ecosport, the interiors of the Escape is not much different. A meaty steering wheel with perfectly-shaped contours for the thumb greets the driver while the overdose of buttons in and around it takes some time getting used to. The twin-pod instrument cluster with the MID screen in between look snazzy. The vertical air-conditioner vents on either sides of the center console that has buttons stacked in what is called a smartphone layout is something that we have seen in other Ford models before. It's a pity that smartphones have moved from this layout quite some time back. The air-conditioner controls lie recessed in a panel at the bottom of the console.

While the layout of the interiors might be similar to the Fords on sale in India, the quality of materials used and the fit and finish are noticeably better in the Escape. We would have liked better consistency though. For instance, some buttons in the door pads felt better put together than some in the center stack. With competitors like the Honda CR-V offering much better interior appointments, the Escape needs some sprucing up to match, if not beat, them. This is something that Ford needs to look into when the time comes for a facelift.

The nicely-padded seats up front ensure that the driver and the front passenger settle down comfortably in fairly quick time. Even if the front seats are pushed all the way back to accommodate a 6-footer, the rear seat still doesn't fall short on space, which is impressive. Just ask those who traveled in the rear seat of an Ecosport and you will know why we said that. Seating three abreast isn't a problem, but the transmission tunnel and the pillar housing the rear air vents does eat up significant passenger space.

Despite being the base variant, the S trim that we drove came with the full kit of safety features such as disc brakes with Antilock Braking System (ABS), Torque Vectoring Control, AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control and Curve Control, 7 airbags including one for the driver's knee, Deflation Detection System (DDS) and a SOS Post-Crash Alert System. Microsoft's SYNC entertainment system also made its presence felt. It did miss out on a few features like the Perimeter Alarm, leather upholstery, power-adjustable driver's seat with memory function, a 8-inch LCD touchscreen in center stack and automatic headlamps. The much-touted Hands-free Liftgate that enables opening of the rear hatch with a swing of the foot below the rear bumper is also reserved exclusively for the Titanium variant.


Internationally, the new Escape comes with three engine options. While the base engine is a 2.5-liter 'DuraTEC' petrol engine that powered this Escape, two 'EcoBoost' engines with displacements of 1.6-liters and 2.0-liters are also available. If all the hype generated by the 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine in the Ecosport is any indication, the excitement at Blue Oval surrounding these two EcoBoost engines is quite understandable.

Coming back to the one under the hood of this car, the 2.5-liter, naturally-aspirated unit settles down to a nice thrum upon ignition. The refinement levels, though good, isn't the best in segment which is clearly evident as you floor the throttle. Mated to a 6-speed SelectShift automatic transmission, the Escape belts out 168 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 230 Nm of torque at 4500 rpm. With a light foot, the engine revs cleanly all the way up the power band. But, when you floor the pedal, there is that wee bit of hesitation before the momentum is transferred to the front wheels and the Escape picks up steam. This is where we miss all the fun that the EcoBoost units deliver.

Surprisingly, for a crossover marketed in the middle east, the Escape doesn't offer 4WD even as an option in any of its trim levels. And that meant we had to resist the urge of venturing off-road which proved to be particularly difficult in the UAE, where acres and acres of sand right next to the roads were tempting us to turn in their direction. To make things worse, our back-up car was a first-generation Ford Escape with 4WD and we had to take it for a spin in the sand to satisfy ourselves. The situation in India might be conducive enough for such trim levels though, where the high stance of crossovers and SUVs are mostly used to just make way in cut-throat city traffic rather than sliding through sand and slush.

The best part of driving a Ford is its on-road behavior that invariably brings a smile onto our faces. Despite being a high-riding crossover, the Escape didn't disappoint on this aspect, as it displayed its full credentials on road. It handles almost like a sedan with well-controlled body roll and a steering that offers good amount of feedback. But, do note that we said 'almost'. Inspite of being a Ford, the laws of physics apply to the Escape too and its high center of gravity means that sudden lane changes and sharp manuoerves aren't welcomed with glee. The roads in Dubai didn't allow us to judge the ride quality, but just like all other Ford models that we have driven, we expect the Escape to possess a comfortable, albeit a bit softer, ride quality.


| Engine Type: DuraTEC, I4 |
| No of Cylinders: 4 |
| Displacement: 2.5 l |
| Maximum Power: 168 hp @ 6000 rpm |
| Maximum Torque: 230 Nm @ 4500 rpm |
| Transmission Type: 6-speed SelectShift Automatic |
| Tires: 235/55 R17 |
| Brakes: Disc (Front & Rear) |


* Extensive feature list
* Good on-road characteristics
* Spacious interiors


* Lack of 4WD option
* Not-so-powerful engine
* Pricier compared to its rivals


After spending almost half a day with the new Escape, it isn't hard to find why it appeals to a global audience. With stylish looks, an expansive feature list that prioritizes safety, spacious interiors and confidence-inspiring road handling, the Escape does what most buyers expect from their crossovers and does it well too. The host of powertrain options including two award-winning EcoBoost engines and 4WD system that's on offer in many other markets means that decent off-roading prowess is at our disposal too. That the Escape climbed up the sales ladder in China and USA in 2013 and continues to sell well, badged as Kuga, in Europe isn't surprising at all.

The Escape currently retails between 89,000 AED and 135,000 AED in the UAE. Roughly translated, we are looking at a price tag between INR 19 Lakhs and INR 28 Lakhs for the Escape in India, which would put it right in the clutches of Toyota Fortuner, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe and Ford's own Endeavour. A few of those are actually trucks while a couple of them are crossovers just like the Escape itself. But, Ford might not be willing to sacrifice the tough image that the Endeavour has built up over the years. That probably explains why we might never get to see the Escape here, which is unfortunate.


Hyundai launches the Xcent compact sedan in India

Hyundai Motor India Limited stormed into the booming compact sedan segment in India with the launch of its India-specific Xcent today. Based on the Grand i10 hatchback and restricted to less than 4 meters in length, the Xcent meets the Indian Government's small car regulations that offers an excise duty cut. The Xcent marks Hyundai's entry into a segment that's been witnessing record sales of late and has caught the attention of every automotive manufacturer serious about the Indian market.

Just like its competitors, the Xcent is essentially a boot added on to its hatchback sibling, the Grand i10. Until the rear doors, there is absolutely nothing to differentiate the two cars. The familiar hexagonal grille, the peeled-back headlights and the subtle chrome garnish gives the Xcent a mature European look up front, which is gradually lost as we move towards the rear. The integration of boot is neat and doesn't appear disproportionate or distorted, signaling that Hyundai's designers have been working on the sedan variant of the Grand i10 right from the initial stages of development.

That said, the Xcent is definitely a blip in the Korean manufacturer's form book that brought out fantastic-looking cars one after the other. Park the Xcent next to the Verna, Elantra and Sonata and you will know what we are trying to say.

The interiors, powertrain and underpinnings of the Xcent are carried over from the Grand i10 too. That would mean that the Xcent comes with good-looking, feature-loaded interiors with excellent build quality, fit and finish. A host of first-in-segment features such as rear air-conditioning vents, music system with 1GB internal memory, push-button start, rear parking camera with sensors and chilled glove-box make their debut in the Xcent. The feature list of the top-end variant includes automatic climate control, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), airbags for the driver and front passenger and 15-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels.

Engine options include the familiar 1.2-liter 'Kappa' petrol and the 1.1-liter U2 CRDi diesel mills. While the former is available with a choice of 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmissions and belts out 83 ps of maximum power at 6000 rpm and 11.6 kgm of torque at 4000 rpm, the latter is only available with a 5-speed manual tranny and churns out 72 ps of power at 4000 rpm and 18.4 kgm of torque between 1750 to 2500 rpm. Given that a 1.5-liter diesel engine powers the Honda Amaze, Hyundai should have plonked in the 1.4-liter diesel engine from the i20 atleast in the top trim level of the Xcent.

Three trim levels - Base, S and SX are on offer, with the latter two also coming with an option pack. Prices for the manual petrol variants start from INR 4.66 Lakhs for the Base and go up to INR 6.47 Lakhs for the SX(O) variant. The diesel variants retail between INR 5.56 Lakhs and INR 7.38 Lakhs while the two petrol automatic variants are priced at INR 6.28 Lakhs and INR 7.19 Lakhs. All prices are ex-showroom Delhi. That's a brilliant pricing strategy from Hyundai, especially for the base and mid variants.

Taking on well-established cars like the Maruti-Suzuki Swift Dzire, Honda Amaze and Tata Indigo eCS, the Hyundai Xcent has its work cut out. But, if sales of the Grand i10 is any indication, we expect the Xcent to face little trouble convincing customers to part with their hard-earned money. After two years at the top of the mid-size sedan segment, the Verna is now being left far behind by the new Honda City. Will Hyundai settle matters by beating the Amaze with the Xcent? Let's wait and watch.


2014 Geneva - All-new Audi TT makes its debut

Making cars might have become fairly simple these days but making beautiful cars, most definitely, hasn't. That would probably explain why there are, at any point in time, just a handful of cars in production that make us drool. The original Audi TT was one such car that swept us off our feet with its pleasing design and cheeky styling. After two generations of captivating fans across the world in coupe and roadster guises, the third-generation TT was unveiled in the glitz and grandeur of the 2014 Geneva Motor Show last week.

Looking at the new TT, it is apparent that the designers at Audi wanted to fiddle little with a shape that worked wonders previously. Staying true to the TT theme, the third-generation model is a mere evolution of its predecessors with modern elements thrown in for good measure. The new TT is dominated by horizontal lines running all across the body. Flat, trapezoidal headlights lie on either sides of a big, hexagonal grille, making the TT look sharper than it actually is. In profile, the contrast offered by the flared wheel arches, the rounded greenhouse and the distinct horizontal character line that runs across the full length stands out. The rear, characterized by thick horizontal lines that connects the taillights, the inbuilt spoiler that activates automatically at 75 miles per hour and the twin circular exhaust pipes, is most reminiscent of the original TT that we loved unconditionally.

The interiors follow a minimalist theme with Audi's virtual cockpit integrating the instrument cluster and the MMI screen into one digital panel behind the steering wheel. The circular air-conditioning vents, a standard TT fare since the first-generation model, are retained and now houses controls for the air-conditioning system. As always, the new TT is expected to come with a 2+2 coupe and a 2-seater roadster configurations. Powering the new TT will be a 2.0-liter TDI diesel engine and two tunes of the 2.0-liter TFSI gasoline engine. Power output ranges from 184 hp for the TDI variant and goes up to 310 hp for the TTS variant powered by the higher-output version of the TFSI engine. Transmission options include a 6-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed S-Tronic while the famed Quattro All-Wheel Drive system is also on offer apart from the standard front wheel drive mode.

With a refreshingly modern take on the classic shape of the original, we expect the all-new TT to keep Audi at it's toes churning out these cute little sports cars as much as it can.


2014 Geneva - Jeep creates a big impact with the small Renegade

Few mainstream automotive brands generate as much loyalty and trust worldwide as Jeep does. The all-new Renegade that made its debut at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland marks Jeep's first entry into the ultra-competitive and ever-expanding small Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) segment. Designed with the intention of taking Jeep beyond its traditional stronghold markets, the Renegade promises to be a game-changer for the iconic brand.

Is the Renegade easily identifiable as a Jeep? Check. Does it sport a seven-slat grille flanked on either sides by circular headlights? Check. Does it provide the option of open-air off-roading for its passengers? Oh yeah. And the list goes on. Wrapped in a modern shell with distinct style elements, the Renegade is a true-blue Jeep at heart and ticks all the right boxes that a SUV is expected to fulfill. The Renegade has just the right amount of aggression and subtlety in its design and comes across as a rugged and, dare we say, cute ute. And while we are at it, how cute are those unique square-shaped taillights with X-shaped accents that reminds us of the military jerry cans?

The interiors of the Renegade are equally funky and distinctive, thanks to a design language called Tek-Tonic that's defined by the intersections of soft and tactile forms with rugged and functional details. In addition to a host of technology features such as UConnect Access that summons roadside assistance at the touch of a button, the Renegade also boasts a full set of active and passive safety features that include Forward Collision Warning-Plus, Lane Sense Departure Warning-Plus, Blind-spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path detection in addition to the regular Electronic Stability Control and seven standard airbags. Jeep's unique MySky roof system provides owners with the option of openable roof panels.

True to its global ambitions, the Jeep Renegade is touted to offer upto 16 powertrain combinations that include 4 MultiAir gasoline engines, 2 MultiJet II diesel engines, 2 manual transmissions and a 9-speed automatic transmission. Underpinned by Fiat-Chrysler's small-wide architecture, the Renegade offers two advanced 4X4 systems - the 'Jeep Active Drive' full-time 4WD system and the 'Jeep Active Drive Low' full-time 4WD system with 20:1 crawl ratio. Upto five terrain modes (Auto, Snow, Sand, Mud and Rock) can be selected too. What's more, there is a special Renegade Trailhawk model for those that demand extreme off-road capabilities from the little Jeep.

When it ultimately goes on sale, the Renegade is sure to expand the reach of the Jeep brand in hitherto unpenetrated markets. And that would most likely include India too. Now, if only Fiat wastes no time and starts working on bringing the Renegade to our shores, we will be all smiles.

2014 Geneva - Lamborghini Huracan sets the stage on fire

The Gallardo is a significant model in Italian sports-car manufacturer Lamborghini's history. Since its debut in 2003, the Gallardo has sold a whopping 14,022 units, making it, by far, the largest-selling Lamborghini ever and one of the best-selling sports-cars of all time. That the Gallardo alone made up almost half of all the 30,000 Lamborghinis built since the company's inception in 1963 makes it an icon in the history of Sant'Agata Bolognese.

And that, folks, brings us to the Huracan, the latest raging bull from Italy that replaces the Gallardo in Lamborghini's lineup. Setting the stage on fire, the Huracan, like all other Lamborghinis, makes us go weak on our knees. The sharp, angular styling that throws up hexagonal patterns from whatever angle you look at, together with the stunning detailing as evident in the headlights, taillights and exhaust pipes amongst other things, are sure to create a visual impact that few automobiles on earth can match. The interiors of the Huracan seem to be as special and inviting as the exterior styling. The stylish steering wheel flanked by big paddle shifters, the fighter-jet-inspired switches in the center console and the chiseled air-conditioner vents and instrument cluster stand out.

A naturally-aspirated, 5.2-liter V10 engine that sits beneath the rear window puts out a staggering 610 horsepower at 8250 rpm and 560 Nm of torque at 6500 rpm. A 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission dubbed Lamborghini Doppia Frizione (LDF) in Italian lingo transfers all that torque to the wheels through an electronic all-wheel-drive system that splits the torque in a 30:70 ratio to the front and rear wheels by default. Depending on the situation, it is capable of splitting the torque equally between the front and rear wheels and diverting all the available torque to the rear wheels. Lamborghini claims that the Huracan is capable of accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.2 seconds on to a top speed of more than 325 km/h.

It is expected that the Huracan will easily beat out the Gallardo to become the most successful Lamborghini ever made. And that would mean the Volkswagen-Audi Group that owns Lamborghini is staring at tons of profit at some distance.