Mahindra's new SUV (U301) seen testing in Chennai

Mahindra is to Utility Vehicles like Maruti-Suzuki is to passenger cars. Despite the advent of stiff competition trying to nibble at its market-share, the Indian manufacturer has impressively held on to its dominance in the Utility Vehicles (UV) sector with successful models like the Thar, XUV 500, Scorpio and Bolero. The latter, especially, deserves special credits for continuing to be India's most popular UV defying its age. Mahindra knows too well that it can't afford to be complacent and the Bolero's position could come under threat any moment. 

Though Mahindra has not confirmed it, this Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) spotted testing earlier today in Chennai is touted to be the next-generation Bolero. Codenamed 'U301', this new model seems to have adopted a butch and boxy stance typical of SUVs. In the process, it has steered clear off the traditional Bolero's proportions that we have grown familiar with. What's also obvious from these shots is the work done by Mahindra's engineers to bring the length of this vehicle to under four meters.

If that's aimed at taking advantage of the tax concessions extended by the Government for vehicles within that length, then its just common sense to assume that this new SUV would be powered by a diesel engine with a 1.5-liter capacity or less. Mahindra is also set to be working on a new petrol engine for this new SUV with capacity less than 1.2-liters. Said to be based on the Scorpio's chassis, this new SUV is expected to come with a plusher ride compared to the existing Bolero. Going by what we saw in the refreshed Scorpio, we expect the interiors to undergo a complete revamp too.

That's not all. If reports from some automotive websites are to be believed, there would be a full-length variant of the U301 too that wouldn't be constrained by prevailing regulations on vehicle length and engine capacity. And, there is another all-new compact SUV codenamed S101 also coming up from the Nashik-based manufacturer. Well, what else do we say except beware of Mahindra?


Rolls-Royce announces bespoke Ghost Mysore Collection

When it comes to automobiles, Rolls-Royce is the ultimate symbol of opulence, royalty and exclusivity. When the fabled British luxury marque announces a bespoke special edition of one of its models like it does on an occasional basis, things just don’t get any more exclusive. One such symbol of ultra-exclusivity was unveiled last week in Rolls-Royce Motor Cars’ official FaceBook page and guess what it commemorates? Unless you​ ha​ve read about it, we bet you wouldn't guess it right. It is our very own Mysore. Yes, the second-largest city in the southern state of Karnataka in India is what Rolls-Royce has decided to celebrate with this bespoke edition.

Limited to just three numbers, the Rolls-Royce Bespoke Ghost Mysore Collection is based on the extended wheelbase version of Ghost sedan. Externally, these cars wear a two-tone blue and silver livery with pinstripes running the entire length on either sides. The stripes also feature a stylized peacock motif on the fenders. Interiors are made of light-colored wood and matching white and blue leather upholstery to go with the exteriors. As a tribute to Tipu Sultan who ruled Mysore during the 18th century, the rear view mirrors and headrests carry the image of a tiger. Rolls-Royce calls these as symbols of success.

While this might make a lot of Indians proud, Indians in India wouldn’t be able to see or buy this car. Yes, all three Ghost Mysore Collections would be exclusively available, ironically,​​ in Abu Dhabi. It’s rather unfortunate as Rolls-Royce would have easily found buyers for these cars in India, given that the plan is to make a grand total of just three cars.

Adding further details on this limited edition Ghost, ​Rolls-Royce carried the following statements in its FaceBook page. “In this world I would rather live two days like a tiger, than two hundred years like a sheep” - Tipu Sultan, 'The Tiger of Mysore.' "Tipu Sultan was the ruler of 18th century Mysore in India. In Arabic, Mysore also refers to wealth and power. The Bespoke Ghost Mysore Collection takes inspiration from this, and each of these extended wheelbase models are adorned with symbols of success. Ghost Mysore will be available exclusively in Abu Dhabi. Only three have been created."

Let's hope Rolls-Royce takes a cue from Lamborghini and comes out with a 'Made-for-India' bespoke model.


Ferrari's Concept Design visualizes future of F1

Formula 1 has changed and is no longer what it used to be. Screaming 3.0-liter V10s and V12s made way for relatively tamer 2.4-liter V8 units which were then ditched in favour of less fuel-consuming and more environment-friendly 1.6-liter turbocharged V6 hybrid mills from the 2014 season. Yes, you just read the phrases Formula 1, less fuel-consuming and hybrid in the same statement. While this was happening in the powertrain department, evolving regulations on aerodynamics and safety resulted in cars that looked weird, to put it mildly. 

Understandably, all this hasn't gone down well with hardcore F1 fanatics. Not only are circuits struggling to attract spectators to grands prix, the television viewership in Formula 1’s traditional strongholds is on a steady decline too. With think tanks in Formula 1 looking at ways and means of making the sport a better spectacle, the folks at Scuderia Ferrari might have just beat them all and come up with the best way of doing that.

In an attempt to reach out to the sport’s audience and fans, Ferrari released images of a radical new concept car that represents the fabled Italian marque’s vision of a Formula 1 car of the future. And we’re completely floored. Sporting a two-tier nose cone, a matching front wing with multiple air ducts, beefier side pods and a massive central exhaust, Ferrari’s concept might appear loud for some but something like this is what Formula 1 badly needs right now, we think. Ignoring the practicality and usage aspects, there are some really cool touches like the helmet integrated in the bodywork, tyre huggers and those Italian stripes on the nose cone.

"Our challenge was to create something that was - to put it short - better looking," read a statement on Ferrari’s website where these images were posted. Commenting on his team’s creation, Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene said, "By 2017, I too would like to see cars that win over the fans, with cars that they can get closer to and that are aesthetically more appealing, maybe even producing a noise that gets your hair standing on end, like that produced by a heavy metal band." Against those expectations, we have to admit that this is a job extremley well done.

May we place a request to the sport's governing body to approve cars like these to grace the race circuits please? Thanks Ferrari, for a job well executed. Now, if they come up with a similarly stellar job and give Kimi and Vettel machines capable of fighting it out at the front, the 2015 season would end up a gripping affair. Forza Ferrari!


Tata's new small car (Kite) seen testing near Pune

After years of lying low trying to strike a balance between flopped new launches and an increasingly dated line-up, Tata Motors made a strong comeback with the launch of Zest last year, it’s first all-new model in years. While the compact sedan continued to evoke positive reviews from the critics and the public, the Pune-based Indian brand followed it up with the Bolt premium hatchback last month. While one might expect Tata Motors to give their sales and marketing team a breather and let the Zest and Bolt settle in, that’s hardly the case. The folks at Tata are getting ready for their next and, possibly, an even bigger launch.

Spotted testing last week on the outskirts of Pune, this small car is expected to be the long-awaited replacement for the ageing Indica that, despite all odds, is still clocking good sales every month. Apparently shot at triple digit speeds in pitch darkness, the pics are expectedly of lower quality and doesn’t reveal a whole lot of details. But, we know that Tata has finally ditched the infamous ‘christmas-tree’ taillight cluster that Indicas have become synonymous with. Smaller, trapezoidal units have come in their place and, at first glance, the car appears to be wide and proportionate. If reports in other automotive websites are to be believed, this new small car codenamed ‘Kite’ is expected to borrow styling cues from the ‘Megapixel Concept’ that was displayed at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show. If true, ‘Kite’ could end up being the most stylish Tata we have seen.

Tata’s 1.2-liter turbocharged ‘Revotron’ petrol engine that debuted in the Zest is expected to be the mainstay of the Kite range while a new, three-cylinder common-rail engine is rumored to be in the works for the diesel-loving populace. Spacious interiors that could easily accommodate five well-built adults, a tough chassis that could withstand abuse, a comfortable ride quality that could tackle the worst of Indian terrain and low cost of spares and servicing are the virtues that made Indica so popular. If Tata is smart, they wouldn’t fiddle with those virtues and ensure the new car carries them forward. If the Zest and Bolt are anything to go by, Tata has made significant strides in the build quality, interior appointments, fit and finish. We expect the Kite to follow that trend and come across as a well-rounded product capable of challenging the high-selling Suzukis and Hyundais. 

Just like the Bolt and Zest, the ‘Kite’ hatchback would also be joined by a compact sedan to replace the Indigo eCS.   

When the going got tough and Tata’s new launches didn’t take off, it was the Indica, the Indigo eCS and the thousands of cabbies that bought these cars that kept Tata’s cash registers ringing. A tough job is at hand for the upcoming Kite twins then. Let's wait and watch how they fare.


Tata Nano facelift spotted testing near Pune

From initial sales projections that hit as high as 25,000 units a month to actual monthly sales of less than 1,000 units, the Nano has been through a whirlwind journey since its inception. Despite the magnitude of failure it experienced, Tata Motors isn’t ready to write off the Nano just yet. In fact, the Pune-based Indian manufacturer is working on a facelift for this diminutive city car.

Caught testing on the outskirts of Pune earlier this week, this Nano facelift reminds us of the Nano Twist Active Concept showcased at the 2014 Auto Expo in New Delhi. Identifiable by the redesigned rear bumper that houses a wide air intake to aid engine cooling, the test car also had a clearly-visible latch for opening the rear hatch. Both these features, along with a redesigned front bumper with a similar air intake, circular foglights and black-bezeled headlights were found in the Nano Twist Active Concept pictured below. Shot in pitch darkness by one of our regular readers Guru, the test car was said to be effortlessly doing triple digit speeds when these pictures were shot.

Tata has continuously improved the Nano over the years, adding features like a revised instrument cluster with driver information system, audio system with USB compatibility and a power-assisted steering. Nanos with the latter got a ‘Twist’ suffix and the facelift is expected to be based on this model. Amongst other things, a 5-speed Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) developed by Magneti-Marelli and showcased as the Nano Twist F-Tronic Concept at the same Auto Expo could also feature in one of the variants of this facelift. If that happens, the AMT-equipped Nano would become the most affordable automatic car in the country.

With most of its Sanand capacity still lying unused, Tata Motors should waste no time in bringing this improved version of Nano to the market. We just wish it’s not called the Tata Nano Twist Active F-Tronic though!


BMW launches the i8 hybrid sportscar in India

Remember the car that went berserk in the streets of Mumbai in the Hollywood blockbuster Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol? Ah yes, we’re referring to the white BMW prototype that Tom Cruise piloted in the movie and left us ogling. Well, you can now go ogle at it in a showroom near you and, if your pockets run deep, buy one of them too.

Yes, BMW India launched the i8 hybrid supercar yesterday at an all-India ex-showroom price of INR 2.29 Crore, making it the most-expensive model in the company’s Indian lineup. To be imported as a Completely Built Unit (CBU), the i8 marks the entry of BMW’s tech-savvy, hybrid-only ‘i’ sub-brand in India and would be sold through special i dealerships in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai.

The main power source for the i8 is a 1.5-liter, 3-cylinder TwinPower turbocharged gasoline engine that generates 228 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 320 Nm of torque at 3,700 rpm. This Internal Combustion engine is complimented by an electric motor that produces 129 horsepower and 250 Nm of torque. While the gasoline engine is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission and drives the rear wheels, the electric motor is coupled to a 2-speed automatic transmission and propels the front axle. 

When combined together, the i8’s power and torque figures read 357 bhp and 570 Nm, good enough to propel the car from 0 to 100 km/h in just 4.4 seconds. According to BMW, the i8 has a range of 35 km and a top speed of 120 km/h in pure battery power with those numbers increasing to 600 km and 250 km/h when both the gasoline engine and the electric motor work together. Combined fuel efficiency is claimed to be 45 km/l, making this 2.5-crore sportscar the most frugal car on sale in India.

On top of all that substance lies an eye-catching design. Characterized by a menacing, low-slung appearance, the i8 has a host of design elements that vie for attention like the glossy black BMW kidney grille with characteristic ‘i’ blue highlights, the ‘black belt’ that runs the entire length of the car from the hood, the sporty scissor doors, the unique shoulder lines that creep up from the bottom of the door on either sides, the floating C-pillars, the contoured skirts and the two-tone rear bumper. Light Emitting Diodes (LED) are standard fare in all the lighting elements and an optional laser beam technology would also be made available in future. Tasteful blue highlights indicating the car’s i lineage are abundant and add flair to the overall styling.

The sporty and futuristic approach is carried over to the interiors too. A fully digital Multi Information Display sits in place of the regular instrument cluster while an interplay of textures and surfaces gives the cabin an interesting appearance. Many parts of the i8 use advanced, light-weight and recycled materials with strong focus placed on sustainability. The body is made up of two distinct components. While the aluminium chassis, the electric motor, the internal combustion engine and the battery pack form the Drive module, the Life module comprises of an ultra-light passenger cell made up of high-strength carbon-fiber composite. 

Three driving modes – Comfort, Eco Pro and Sport, are on offer. While the Comfort and Eco Pro modes allow pure electric driving at the press of an ‘e-Drive’ button, the Sport mode is all about flat-out power complete with paddle shifters. As with other cars from the BMW stable, a host of driver assistant technologies including city collision warning with automatic braking and Surround View and Side View camera systems are available in the i8. ‘Regenerative charging’ through energy recovered during acceleration and braking in hybrid mode and ‘plug-in charging’ through the BMW i Wall Box are both possible.

With loads of style, substance, power and efficiency, the BMW i8 is more of a halo car for the German luxury brand. If you are one of those privileged few with crores in bank deposits and a keen eye for cars, you know what to do now.


Mahindra Maxximo Plus facelift spotted testing in Chennai

Launched in 2011, the Maxximo series has been a sales success for Mahindra & Mahindra. Comprising the Plus pick-up truck and the Mini Van, Maxximo comfortably snatched market share from the segment-pioneer and its arch rival, the Tata Ace. Three years since, the Maxximo twins are due for a facelift. We already know Mahindra is working on a facelift for the Maxximo Mini Van when we spotted the test mule a few weeks back

While it’s just common sense to assume that the facelift would cover the pick-up truck too, we can now categorically declare that. Caught testing recently in the busy GST Road in Chennai, this Maxximo Plus test vehicle appeared to have its front end partially covered, something that we noticed in the Mini Van test mule too. Unfortunately, the front end can’t be seen in these shots. Going by these pictures, it is clear that the Maxximo Plus would see little to no changes in its profile and rear, again similar to the Mini Van which had just the location of its badge changed. The changes are expected to be restricted to the front end, centered around the headlights, grille and bumper.

Powered by a 909-cc 2-cylinder engine, the Maxximo Plus is rated at 26 horsepower at 3600 rpm, has a torque rating of 55 Nm between 1800 to 2200 rpm and is capable of attaining a top speed of 70 km/h. With a payload rating of 850 kg, the Maxximo Plus also comes with features like LSPV (Load Sensing Proportioning Valve) brakes with boosters, front discs, two-tone interiors, a mobile charging point and ‘Fuel Smart’ technology that lets the driver choose between Power and Eco modes.

With the Ace receiving a relatively comprehensive facelift an year back, its high time Maxximo gets a nip and tuck to continue its slug-fest with the formidable Tata.

Renault Lodgy spotted undergoing pre-launch testing in Chennai

​Renault’s next big launch in India is going to be the Lodgy Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV) that was spied inside out by us last November. Expected to straddle two segments, taking on the Maruti-Suzuki Ertiga and Honda Mobilio at one end to the formidable Toyota Innova at the other, the Lodgy would play a vital role in Renault’s growth plans for India. With the sole exception of Duster, none of the other Renault models have managed to attract the fancy of Indian buyers and the French manufacturer would be keen to change that trend with the Lodgy.

With the launch speculated to happen in March, the Lodgy was caught undergoing what could be its final rounds of pre-launch testing. Spotted in an arterial road in Chennai by our reader Govind Prasad last evening, this Lodgy seems to have shed some camouflage compared to the two cars we shot in November.   

Dropping a hint that the launch is not too far away, Renault released first official pictures of the India-spec Lodgy last December before showcasing the ‘Stepway’ variant at the Renault Star Guild Awards last month. Like the Duster, the Lodgy is actually a Dacia product but will sport a Renault badge for the Indian market. The India-spec model sports chrome embellishments in the grille and mild cosmetic tweaks here and there to spruce up its otherwise utilitarian exteriors. The ‘Stepway’ is just a fancy name for a sportier variant with front and rear skid plates, additional chrome detailing in the grille and side body cladding.

Compared to its rivals, interior space is likely to be the trump-card of Lodgy, with the MPV boasting potentially segment-leading space in all three rows. The cabin is likely to borrow a lot of components from the Duster and, given the SUV’s rugged credentials, should be capable of withstanding abuse. The popular and frugal 1.5-liter K9K diesel engine is expected to power the Lodgy, offering customers two states of tune - 85 PS and 110 PS. A petrol variant might be launched too, given the strong comeback of petrol-powered cars in the Indian market. Together with the robust mechanicals borrowed from the Logan and Duster, Lodgy makes a strong case for itself.

Renault’s desperate search for that second big-hit in India could stop with the Lodgy. Watch this space!​


Driven #28: Mercedes-Benz CLA200 CDI

2014 was a great year for Mercedes-Benz India with an array of exciting new launches and record sales that crossed 10,000 units for the first time ever. The German luxury car-manufacturer isn't keen on losing this momentum and has lined up quite a few interesting launches this year too. Just a month into 2015, the onslaught has officially begun with the launch of the beautiful CLA-Class, the most-affordable sedan in the brand's current lineup. That makes this a crucial model for Mercedes-Benz, one that's expected to bring in not just the volumes but also attract first-time customers to the brand.

Though the performance-oriented CLA45 AMG was launched in India last year, it basically targeted a niche clientele, leaving the mainstream customers to be catered to by the newly-launched CLA200 in petrol and diesel guises. So, is the CLA ready to shoulder the responsibilities that the erstwhile C-Class carried? Or, is it just a style rebel with little in the form of substance? We spent a few hours behind the wheel of the CLA200 CDI trying to find that out. Read on, to know what we think.


When images of the "Concept Style Coupe" that vowed audiences at the 2012 Beijing Auto Show trickled down to our desktops, we were spellbound by what we saw and went to the extent of calling it 'the sexiest sedan ever'. When the production model was unveiled at the 2013 Detroit Motor Show a year later, we were stunned at how the 'four door coupe' magic, pioneered by the original CLS, had lent itself to the CLA. Now, almost three years later, our thoughts on the CLA hasn't changed one bit. And we aren't alone here, mind you. Wherever we went, onlookers gawked, stole closer peeps and shot pictures.

The CLA shares its frontal design with the A-Class but Mercedes-Benz has given the sedan a few thoughtful and effective design flourishes for differentiation. The studded grille, for instance, is now black with a thick chrome louver holding a large 'three-pointed star' logo. The sculpted hood with four muscular slashes look sporty as does the bumper with sharp detailing at the edges and around the air dams. But the silhouette is where all the drama lies. Characterized by a sloping roofline that wouldn't look out of place on a sportscar and three prominent character lines running the length of the car, the CLA oozes style when viewed from either sides. Despite their best efforts, the familiar mirrors with those slingshot LED indicators and the stylish 5-spoke alloys fade in comparison. The drama continues at the rear where the waistline merges seamlessly with a rather small boot lid that comes integrated with a chunky lip. Dual, chrome-tipped exhaust pipes at the ends of a bumper diffuser adds to the racy look of the CLA.

As is the norm with all luxury cars these days, the headlights and taillights sport distinct detailing that makes the CLA stand apart. The Bi-Xenon headlights with their characteristic kinks are straight out of the A-Class and is, in fact, being adopted in one form or the other throughout the Mercedes range. But, the real show-stealers are those stunning taillight clusters. Not only is the organic shape of those lenses appealing, they also look fabulous when illuminated with thin streaks of LEDs. And, how do we begin to describe the beauties that those frameless doors are? Words just wouldn't do justice. See them in flesh to know what we mean.

Build quality, fit and finish are top notch with the CLA exhibiting true-blue Mercedes traits in these aspects. The doors are thick, close with a solid reassuring thud and presumably stiffer to withstand the additional stress that the absence of frames would bring along. The windows are engineered to lower themselves a bit when the doors are opened and raise back to position once the doors are shut. Pretty neat! All four doors and the two rear veiw mirrors have puddle lamps that light the surface you are about to step on to, a pretty useful feature at night.


Step inside the CLA with your eyes closed and we wouldn't be surprised if, for a moment, you mistook it for an A-Class or a B-Class. The CLA shares most of its interiors with the other MFA siblings that we have seen and driven before. Again, there are some useful add-ons that make the CLA's cabin look and feel more appealing.

The dashboard, that's straight out of the A-Class, looks brilliant and is livened up by the brushed aluminium finish in the middle and a lower half that's painted biege. Though getting a bit repetitive now, the turbine-shaped air-conditioner vents look fantastic, feel great to touch and operate and reeks of quality. With so many buttons on the trot, the center console looks crowded initially but is actually fairly simple to live with. With the COMMAND controller likely to be used for most of the phone and infotainment controls, there are just three buttons there that you would want to use frequently - the hazard activator, the driving mode selector and the start/stop switch. Beneath them are the air-conditioner controls. The sporty, three-spoke steering wheel is great to hold with perfect contours for the thumbs and houses an array of buttons for controlling the Multi Information Display (MID) screen and audio. To the left of the steering wheel are two stalks, one at the top for operating the lights, wipers and indicators and the other for engaging cruise control. To the right is the unique gear selector stalk that's simple and intuitive to use.

Though it looks aftermarket, we like the floating COMMAND screen that looks as if its stuck onto the dashboard. When we drove the A-Class, we had a lot to complain about how outdated the system really was. That is taken care of in the CLA. The 17.8-cm, high-resolution screen has Mercedes' latest generation telematics system and comes with features such as a SD card-based Garmin navigation system, the app-based Mercedes-Benz Radio, Bluetooth telephony and the owner's manual amongst others. It also doubles up as a high-resolution parking assist screen as soon as the reverse gear is engaged. The grid lines are dynamic and change with steering inputs. Depending on what we choose, vehicle settings can be controlled either by the COMMAND controller or the MID toggle switch in the steering wheel. The instrument cluster is made up of twin elliptical pods on either sides of a colour TFT multifunction screen. Apart from the usual odo reading, trip summary and fuel-efficiency readouts, the screen also has a nifty ECO indicator and a charge indicator for regenerative braking. A highlight of CLA's cabin is the Harmon-Kardon Logic 7 surround sound system that offers excellent sound quality on the go.

The front seats are electrically adjustable and comes with a memory function to store three positions. This, together with the steering that's adjustable for reach and rake, makes finding the ideal driving position a simple affair. The seats themselves are quite snug and offers excellent comfort, albeit lacking adjustable head restraints. Space at the front is impressive, a fact further accentuated by the long travel range of the seats. While its all good until now, things get different when you step into the rear seat. This is where the 'form over function' ideology of CLA hits back. Both legroom and headroom are just about adequate for two well-built adults, with the high front seats and the sloping roof line making it a bit claustrophobic for rear passengers. This is where the panoramic sunroof helps bringing in much-needed light and airiness to the cabin. Third passenger would be a real squeeze unless you would want someone to feel really uncomfortable with limited width and a high floor hump. While the boot space at 470 liters appear impressive in the photograph that we shot, do remember that the space saver spare tire would be strapped onto the boot floor restricting the usable space.

The CDI Sport variant that we drove is the most expensive of the lot and comes with a full complement of safety features like Antilock Braking System (ABS), Brake Assist System (BAS), adaptive braking, Hill Start Assist, Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), Dynamic Cornering Assist, Attention Assist, Acceleration Skid Control and six airbags.


Powered by an inline, 4-cylinder common-rail diesel engine with a displacement of 2143 cc, the CLA200 CDI produces 134 horsepower between 3600 to 4400 rpm and a peak torque of 300 Nm from as less as 1600 to 3000 rpm. Mated to the 7G-DCT dual clutch transmission that transfers power to the front wheels, Mercedes-Benz claims a top speed of 220 km/h and a 0-100 acceleration time of 9.8 seconds.

Turn the ignition on and the CLA settles down into a well-muted groan. Refinement is acceptable but not spectacular as you would expect a Mercedes to be, particularly at higher revs. There are three driving modes to choose from - Economy (E), Sport (S) and Manual (M). In the default Economy mode, the engine is tuned for better fuel economy and upshits take place quite early in the rev range. The shifts are seamless for the most part but there were circumstances when the tranny was looking out for the right gear before slotting in eventually. The Sport mode brings some respite by holding onto each of the gears longer. The Manual mode is even better as the transmission doesn't upshift until redline while the steering-mounted paddles make the actual job of shifting cogs interesting. Needless to say, downshifts happen automatically if we fail to use the paddles appropriately. Having said all that, we can't help but feel that the CLA deserves more power and torque to go with its rich looks and luxury car tag. The last a Mercedes customer would want is to get smoked off the line at a traffic signal by a humble Chevy Cruze.

A major concern on the A-Class was its harsh ride quality at low speeds. With the CLA sharing its underpinnings with the A, we were not expecting the ride quality to be much different. Boy, were we in for a surprise! Engineers at Mercedes-Benz have softened the suspension of the CLA significantly and the result is a much-improved ride quality that's more in line with the other rear-wheel drive sedans in the company's lineup. The CLA absorbs most bumps and potholes with minimal fuss, filtering only the larger ones onto the cabin. In fact, the ride is so plush that we hardly realized doing triple digit speeds on several instances. As speeds build up, the CLA rides even better and stayed comfortable and composed at all speeds. Another aspect that's improved over the A-Class is ground clearance, a specification that Mercedes-Benz is unwilling to declare. The CLA cleared the biggest of speed-breakers albeit with a bit of caution exercised, the same ones that the A-Class scraped its underbelly on.

Handling is quite good too and doesn't appear to be affected much by the soft suspension set-up. No, the CLA isn't as accurate and doesn't turn as well as the A-Class but that's only to please the enthusiasts amongst us. For normal everyday driving, the CLA's dynamics are more than competent and leaves little to complain. The steering is accurate and the car responds eagerly to our inputs, a wee bit of understeer not withstanding. Straight line stability is particularly impressive to the point that we were grinning ear to ear when an empty bit of straight road came up, allowing us to floor the pedal. Just like the A-Class, braking is splendid and the CLA sheds speed unceremoniously with minimal impact inside.

Extensive periods of idling and spirited driving meant that the CLA returned a not-so-impressive fuel economy of a shade under 8 km/l during our drive. But, when ambling around town in Economy mode, the CLA returned just above 12.5 km/l, which isn't bad considering the weight of the car.


| Engine Type: CDI (Common-rail Direct Injection Diesel |
| No of Cylinders: 4 |
| Displacement: 2143 cc |
| Maximum Power: 134 bhp @ 3600 - 4400 rpm |
| Maximum Torque: 300 Nm @ 1600 - 3000 rpm |
| Transmission Type: 7-Speed Automatic |
| Tires: 225/45 R17 |
| Brakes: Ventilated Disc (Front), Disc (Rear) |


* Stunning design and styling
* Excellent build quality
* Extensive feature list
* Ride Comfort


* Limited rear seat space
* Less powerful compared to rivals


With the new-generation C-Class moving to a higher price bracket, Mercedes-Benz badly needed a sedan in the vicinity of 30 to 40 Lakh Rupees, which is where the CLA perfectly slots in. It's gorgeous styling apart, the CLA is built like a vault, offers top-notch safety, comes loaded with features that run into miles and has a plush ride quality. Yes, it is priced higher than what was expected, the power output from the diesel engine is nothing to brag about and the space at the rear is limited. But then, these aren't going to stop a prospective customer from signing up for the CLA. As a lifestyle car for a young urban family or as a second or third car in a premium garage, the CLA makes immense sense. There are few better ways of arriving at a destination in style than getting down from the CLA. For that reason alone, we would excuse those few shortcomings, rob a bank and line up for the CLA.

Photography: Bharath Rengaraj