Jeep makes its debut in India; Lineup includes Wrangler, Grand Cherokee and Grand Cherokee SRT

After months of teasing and dilly-dallying, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Jeep brand finally made its debut in India today. The Indian lineup consists of three models – Wrangler, Grand Cherokee and Grand Cherokee SRT, all of which are imported as Completely Built Units (CBU).

At ₹71.59 Lakhs ex-showroom New Delhi, the Wrangler is the most affordable Jeep on sale. Available exclusively in the four-door Unlimited variant, the Wrangler is the big daddy of American SUVs and an off-roading legend. With iconic styling that has evolved beautifully from the popular Willys Jeep of an era gone by, the Wrangler’s macho looks and retro appeal remain unmatched. A 2.8-liter turbocharged diesel engine that generates 197 horsepower and a massive 460 Nm of torque powers this SUV that comes with a 5-speed automatic transmission and Command-Trac 4WD system as standard. 

Wrangler’s feature list includes a 6.5-inch UConnect touchscreen entertainment system with Voice Command, 40GB hard drive and inbuilt GPS navigation, automatic climate control, All-Weather slush mats, tyre pressure monitoring system, dual front airbags, Electronic Roll Mitigation, Electronic Stability Control, Hill Start Assist, Traction Control and, oddly for Indian conditions, heated seats. With heavy-duty solid axles, 17-inch On/Off-Road tyres, 238.2 mm ground clearance, 35-degree approach angle, 28-degree departure angle and a 18-degree breakover angle, the Wrangler is likely to be the SUV of choice for Jeep loyalists and off-roading aficionados with deep pockets.

Launched alongside the Wrangler today was the Grand Cherokee. Available in two trim levels – Limited and Summit, the Grand Cherokee is priced at ₹93.64 Lakhs and ₹1.03 Crores respectively. Unlike the Wrangler that takes the retro route, the Grand Cherokee comes across as a modern and stylish SUV that retains the hardcore characteristics that the Jeep brand has become synonymous with. That front end, especially, looks menacingly lovely. Under the hood is a 3.0-liter V6 turbo-diesel that generates 240 horsepower and 570 Nm of peak torque. Mated to it is a 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifts and a Quadra-Trac 4WD system.

Noteworthy features in the Summit variant include 8-way power-adjustable front seats with lumbar adjust, heated seats, leather upholstery, dual panel sunroof, 8.4-inch touchscreen entertainment system with 9 speakers, Voice Command and GPS navigation,  20-inch aluminium wheels with All Season tyres, Tire Pressure Monitoring System, Bi-Xenon HID headlamps with LED Daytime Running Lights, LED taillights, Cruise Control, 7 airbags including knee airbag for the driver, Electronic Stability Control, Traction Control, Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist and ParkSense parking assist system.

The flagship of the Jeep lineup in India though is the SRT Grand Cherokee. Powered by a monstrous 6.4-liter HEMI V8 petrol engine that generates 470 horsepower and a whopping 630 Nm of torque, the SRT Grand Cherokee is the ‘go to’ SUV if racing Ferraris and Porsches are on top of your ‘to do’ list. 

Mind-blowing acceleration and performance apart, the SRT Grand Cherokee gets exclusive features like Brembo high-performance brakes, performance-tuned steering, Sport Mode with Launch Control, Active Damping Suspension, Active Noise Control System, brushed aluminum pedals, high-performance audio with 19 Harman Kardon speakers, 20-inch polished wheels with 295 section Run Flat tyres and Selec-Track System that adjusts the suspension, torque distribution, engine mapping and stability control based on driving conditions.

While we are glad that Jeep has made its way into the Indian market, we aren’t sure if value-conscious Indian car-buyers will look over the steep pricing and appreciate the strengths of these models. We’ll know soon, stay tuned!


Hyundai launches the all-new Elantra in India

Hyundai did many things right over the last few years but if there’s one aspect of car-making that the South Korean manufacturer nailed to perfection, it has got to be its ‘Fluidic Sculpture’ design language. It was the fifth-generation Elantra that debuted the popular design theme, going on to become one of the world’s best-selling cars. The Elantra had a decent run in India too and was, in fact, the best-seller in its segment until the Toyota Corolla Altis came along and stole its thunder.

The sixth-generation Elantra, launched in New Delhi today, is Hyundai's attempt to regain the top spot in the entry-luxury segment. Based on an all-new platform and wearing an evolved version of the fluidic design, the new Elantra is more attractive and potent than its predecessor.

The new Elantra lineup consists of three trim levels - S, SX and SX(O) that further diversify into 9 variants based on engine and transmission options. The petrol variants are priced between 12.99 and 17.99 Lakhs while the diesel variants have price tags ranging from 14.79 to 19.19 Lakhs. All prices are introductory and ex-showroom, Delhi.

The swoops and curves of the current Elantra are gone, replaced by sharp lines and crisp detailing. Up front, the trademark hexagonal grille with a thick chrome surround, HID projector headlights and the boomerang-shaped recesses in the bumper housing the fog lamps lend the car with a distinct identity. Though not to the extent of the outgoing version, the profile shows off the Elantra’s coupe-like styling complete with a sloping roof and rising window line. The prominent waist line cuts across the door handles and fuses with the taillight only to re-emerge in the form of an integrated boot-lid spoiler. Split taillights with LED elements, plastic bumper insert and a shark-fin antenna complete the sporty rear.

While the exteriors are clearly an evolution over the current Elantra, the interiors have undergone a complete transformation.

The curvy layout of the present car has been ditched in favour of squarish elements with minimalist design. Build quality, fit and finish appear to be top notch as usual with the top-end variants boasting a bucket list of standard features. Key equipment include dual zone climate control, auto cruise control, drive mode select, keyless entry with push button start, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, electric sunroof, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, ventilated front seats, music system with BlueTooth, USB and Aux compatibility and a ‘Smart Trunk’ that automatically opens the boot if it detects a person with the key standing behind the car for more than 3 seconds.

Safety is well taken care of with the SX(O) variant equipped with Antilock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), 6 airbags, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), Hill Assist Control (HAC) and reverse parking camera with sensors.

Powering the new Elantra is an all-new 2.0-liter petrol engine from the ‘Nu’ family that produces 150 bhp and 192 Nm of torque. The diesel variants come with the tried-and-tested 1.6-liter CRDi engine with 126 bhp and 260 Nm of torque. Both the petrol and diesel variants have an option of a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission.  

Hyundai has also introduced a Premium Assurance Program to differentiate the Elantra from its mass-market siblings. Basically, this program entitles the new Elantra for a 3-year unlimited warranty, free roadside assistance, free maintenance (upto 30,000 km) and includes a 3-time customer ‘Home Visit’.

With a firm grip on the mass market segments, Hyundai appears to be leaving no stone unturned in making the new Elantra a success in the premium segment. But with dwindling sales of D-segment sedans and the Corolla continuing to be as strong as ever, the Elantra has its task cut out.


Transit Elevated Bus (TEB) completes successful trial run in China

Back in May this year, there was this video that came along in the social media showing a straddling bus that could drive over vehicles stuck in traffic jams. Coming from China, a country notorious for congestion and traffic jams, we dismissed it as a 'too good to be true' imagination that's not going to make it out of virtual reality. 

Needless to say we were shocked when we learnt earlier this month that a working prototype of the Transit Elevated Bus (TEB-1), as the straddling bus is called, made its official test run in the city of Qinhuangdao, China's Hebei Province. Running on guided rails laid on either sides of a two-lane highway, the test run lasted just 300 meters.

As you can see from the pictures, at 22 m long and 7.8 m wide, the bus is massive and can be intimidating at first glance. The bus has a maximum speed of 60 km/h and runs 2 m above the road, letting other vehicles drive underneath. Each of these behemoths can carry up to 300 passengers. Multiple units could be coupled using concertina connections like the ones we have in articulated buses. A key fact highlighted during its test run was that a TEB network costs only a fraction of what it takes to build an underground metro while serving the same purpose. 

While all that is cool, what's not is its approximately 50 m turning radius and the need to control wheels on either sides to run at different speeds to take turns. Cities adopting this mode of transport better have wide and straight roads with minimal turns! 

The designers of the concept apparently referenced German trams for standards and control systems while the developers say the height and length of the bus are customizable and can be designed to accommodate the needs and infrastructure of different cities. 

Expectedly, the news of the Transit Elevated Bus on test created quite a stir globally but it appears not all are convinced this could be a potential solution for our traffic woes. While its feasibility and safety will continue to be discussed and debated, let's see if the trial run paves way for a full-fledged working model. If the time taken to transform this from concept to reality is any indication, we can expect that to happen pretty soon!


Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Concept leaks online, stuns automotive aficionados

The World Wide Web is a merciless place to be in. Ask Mercedes-Benz, whose plans of gradually revealing the curves and details of it's Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Concept as a build-up towards the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance were shattered with high-resolution images finding their way onto the web. 

For folks like us though, there can't be a better news to spruce up our tired Thursday evenings. Just look at the car and come back and say you aren't rejuvenated. We bet you can't!

At nearly 6 meters long, the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Concept has proportions to die for. The classic ultra-long hood split at the center could house any number of cylinders or electric motors that Mercedes-Benz would want to toss in. The fascia is dominated by the gaping chrome grille with vertical slats while a pair of sleek LED lights adorn either sides. The flowing silhouette with those gullwing doors is an aerodynamic marvel as is the curvy derriere characterized by thin streaks of LED lights. With its sloping roof line and wide shoulders, the car appears to be squatting on its rear.

The interiors are equally impressive as you would expect in a Mercedes-Maybach Concept. The high-tech cabin sports a Heads-Up Display (HUD) that stretches the full length of the windshield bombarding the occupants with all the information they need and some more. There is also what appears to be a touch-sensitive surface that runs the length of the dashboard and swoops around on either sides. The whole cabin, including the dashboard, seats and center console, appear to be wrapping themselves around the occupants cocooning them from the harsh realities outside.

With the official debut still some time away, no other specifications or details surrounding the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Concept is available now. But with a car as sexy as this, do we need those specs at all? Nah, we'll just keep gazing at it!

EDIT: The specifications are out. Powering this beautiful coupe are four electric motors producing a combined 738 horsepower. Backed by a 80 kWh battery, the motors can propel the car from 0 to 100 km/h in just 4.2 seconds with a range of 200 miles on a single charge.