Mercedes-Benz Concept X-Class aims to bring luxury to pickup trucks

When Mercedes-Benz announced its intentions to develop a midsize luxury pickup truck last year and revealed a rough sketch to prove its point, it came as a shock to the rest of the industry. Despite all the vans, trucks and buses that it makes, Mercedes-Benz is a name synonymous with luxury cars and pickup trucks rarely belong to that group. 

With the Concept X-Class, Mercedes-Benz is trying to do just that - combine the ruggedness and off-roading capabilities of a pickup with the luxury and lifestyle image of an urban runabout. Unveiled in Stockholm last evening, the Concept X-Class presented itself in two guises - the 'Stylish Explorer' for the predominantly urban folks and the 'Powerful Adventurer' for those who get down and dirty often. 

Both concepts are unmistakably Mercedes-Benz and nowhere do you feel it as much as the truck's fascia. A large trapezoidal grille with a big centrally-mounted star logo sits atop an even bigger air-dam that runs the full length of the bumper. Together with the massive power bulge in the hood, the Concept X-Class will sure look intimidating when it shows up in your rear view mirror. While the Stylish Explorer gets a single louvre grille like the brand's coupes, the Powerful Adventurer gets two louvres like the rest of the Mercedes-Benz SUVs. The profile is where the truck's actual origins come to light. After all, the Concept X-Class shares its underpinnings with the popular Nissan Navara! The rear looks distinctive with the slim wraparound LED strip that forms the taillights. Here again, the Powerful Adventurer gets a more conventional dual lights setup and a more rugged tailgate.

The interiors are where the Concept X-Class strays far away from the typical pickup trucks that are in the market. Show someone the pictures of its cabin and we bet the first thing they will think of is not a pickup truck. The instrument cluster, the air-conditioning vents and the dashboard with its centrally-mounted tablet-like infotainment screen look very similar to the rest of the Mercedes-Benz lineup. This is crucial as Mercedes-Benz would be charging serious money for the X-Class and the customers can't feel shortchanged. The funky column-mounted gear-shifter that we have been accustomed to is replaced by a conventional stick-shifter in the center console. The Powerful Adventurer tries hard to be different with a relatively 'hardcore' cabin complete with bright colours and a fire extinguisher mounted on the dashboard.

When the production variant debuts in 2017, expect it to be a bit of both, pulling in elements from both the Stylish Explorer and the Powerful Adventurer. 

The specifications aren't released yet but what we know so far is that the top-end X-Class will get a V6 diesel engine under its hood. The hardware will supposedly include standard All-wheel drive with a transfer case and two differential locks. Mercedes-Benz claims a payload rating of 1.1 metric tons and a towing capacity of 3.5 metric tons, which puts the X-Class in a good shape to slug it out with the traditional pickups that we know. Remember, this is a Nissan underneath!

When it goes on sale, the X-Class will exist under the Mercedes-Benz Vans lineup. Key markets for the truck include Europe, South America, South Africa, Middle East and Australia while we bet the USA wouldn't be overlooked for long. 

Now that Mercedes-Benz has made the move, do you think Audi and BMW would react?


Mahindra continues testing the eVerito electric sedan post launch

After what seemed like eternity since the car’s first public appearance at the 2012 Auto Expo in New Delhi, Mahindra finally launched the eVerito electric sedan in June this year. But it appears the engineers at Mahindra aren't done with the testing schedules for the car yet!

Caught testing last week in the busy NH45 on the outskirts of Chennai, not far from the Mahindra Research Valley, this eVerito appeared to be on one of its range-testing runs. The car was caught clocking a steady speed of about 70 km/h and, as long as we followed it, chugging along in a sedate manner with minimal acceleration and braking. To our surprise, the driver even had the headlights turned off, all pointing towards eking out every last bit of juice from the battery pack.

Is Mahindra planning to shoehorn a bigger battery pack in the eVerito for more power and longer range? Or, is this just an endurance run to reaffirm how the car copes up with day-to-day running conditions? As much as we wish otherwise, we guess it's the latter! 

Powered by a 72V 3-phase AC induction motor, eVerito’s spec sheet currently reads 41 horsepower, 91 Nm of torque, top speed of 86 km/h and a driving range of 110 km on a single charge. Regular charging on a 15A socket takes 8 hours and 45 minutes while a fast-charging system trims the time taken to go from 0 to 80% to just 1 hour and 45 minutes.  

When the eVerito was launched, it was only the second electric car on sale in India after Mahindra’s own e2o. Though the Nashik-based car manufacturer added the Supro twins and the e2o Plus to its electric portfolio subsequently, high retail prices, lack of charging infrastructure, limited practicality and absence of safety features have proven to be real dampeners for Mahindra's four-strong electric fleet. In this scenario, we have got to applaud Mahindra for not giving up on its push to make electric cars more appealing to mainstream car-buyers.


Mahindra e2o grows up, gains two doors and a 'Plus' suffix

Ever since they acquired the homegrown electric car-maker Reva, Mahindra has been taking measured attempts to bring electric cars to the attention of mainstream car-buying public in India. The launch of e2o Plus is another step in that direction.

Despite being a significant step up from the original Reva, the e2o failed miserably without creating any sort of impact in the Indian market. It's high sticker price aside, what kept customers away from the car was its diminutive size, impractical two door layout and limited range. With the e2o Plus, a test mule of which we spotted at the beginning of this year, most of those limitations have been acted upon if not completely addressed.

Changes to the front are minimal with Mahindra modifying the e2o's grille to be more in line with the rest of its portfolio. Of course, two additional doors mean increased length and an unique kink in the window line, thanks to e2o's quirky design. At the rear, conventional horizontal taillights have been ditched in favour of vertically-stacked LED units. It does look a bit disproportionate but we have to admit that the e2o Plus looks and feels mature than the regular e2o.

The interiors are carried over from the two-door version but the e2o Plus gains features like a Blaupunkt Android touchscreen infotainment system, reverse parking camera and power windows for all four doors. More importantly, the rear seat looks abundantly spacious from the pictures released and test drives by popular automotive journalists have confirmed that belief.

There are four trim levels on offer - the fleet-exclusive P2, P4, P6 and P8.

All but the top-end variant are powered by a 19 kW electric motor with a torque rating of 70 Nm. With a claimed top speed of 80 km/h and an operational range of 110 km, the battery pack takes 6 hours to charge from a regular 16A power socket while a 3-phase 32A setup can charge the car to 95% in just 75 minutes.

The P8 variant gets a 40 kW motor with a larger battery pack and a torque output of 91 Nm. The claimed top speed of this variant is 85 km/h. While regular charging is said to take 9 hours, the car can be charged up to 95% in just 90 minutes using a similar fast-charging setup as stated above.

The e2o Plus is priced between ₹5.46 Lakhs and ₹8.46 Lakhs ex-showroom Delhi after considering all government subsidies. Given the fact that a similar amount can get us cars like the i20, Baleno, Ameo and even some variants of EcoSport, the e2o is still pricey for what it offers. 

Unlike the e2o, the e2o Plus is definitely better equipped to impress the environment-conscious urban commuter with pockets deep enough to afford multiple cars. The question is, how many of them are actually out there?

Jaguar F-Pace goes on sale in India

Jaguar just gave itself a much-needed shot in the arm to make a bigger impact in the rapidly-growing Indian luxury car market. Indians love their SUVs and crossovers and, by not having one in its portfolio, Jaguar was losing big time to its rivals. F-Pace, Jaguar's newest crossover that made its global debut at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, is now on sale in India, plugging a big gap in the British luxury car-maker's lineup. 

Jaguar announced the prices of the F-Pace earlier this month and started accepting booking soon afterwards. Official deliveries have commenced a couple of days back, we hear. Available in four trim levels - all powered by diesel engines - the F-Pace range starts from ₹68.40 Lakhs for the Pure variant and goes all the way up to ₹112 Lakhs for the First Edition. All prices are ex-showroom Delhi. Click on the image below for a snapshot of the F-Pace. 

The F-Pace's biggest trump-card, according to us, has got to be its styling. With spot-on proportions and gorgeous detailing, this Jag impresses the moment you set your eyes on it. The best part is Jaguar didn't have to look elsewhere for inspiration with the F-Pace's derivative styling borrowing heavily from the brand's existing models. The large mesh grille up front with the chrome surround, the sleek headlights with the signature 'J-Blade' design, the sexy taillights that we fell in love with - we have seen them all. In addition, the power bulge in the bonnet, the flared wheel arches and the prominent shoulder line that wraps itself around combine to make this one attractive vehicle.

With CX-17 Concept-inspired styling elements, 'S' body kit, 20-inch Venom alloys finished in gloss black and red brake calipers, the First Edition F-Pace is quite a sight, more so in the gorgeous 'Caesium Blue' colour. 

Powering the F-Pace are two turbocharged diesel engines from Jaguar's 'Ingenium' family - a 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder unit that produces 177 horsepower and 430 Nm of torque with a top speed of 208 km/h and a 3.0-liter V6 mill that churns out 296 horsepower and a whopping 700 Nm of torque with a claimed top speed of 241 km/h. The latter is exclusive to the R-Sport and First Edition trim levels. Both the engines are mated to a 8-speed automatic transmission with power being delivered to all four wheels through Jaguar's Intelligent Drive Dynamics software-equipped AWD system.

As you would expect from an automobile of this price, the F-Pace boasts a luxurious, feature-loaded cabin. Standard across the range are dual-zone climate control, 10-way power-adjustable front seats, Jaguar's InControl Touch infotainment system with USB, Aux, iPod and BlueTooth connectivity, push button start, cruise control, six airbags (driver, front passenger, front side and full-length curtain), Stop/Start system, Hill Launch Assist, Emergency Brake Assist, Dynamic Stability Control, Traction Control, Torque Vectoring system and JaguarDrive Control with Eco, Dynamic, Normal and Rain/Ice/Snow modes to choose from.

Hidden amongst the laundry list of optional features in the F-Pace is Jaguar's Activity Key, an unique 'waterproof' wearable wrist band that can be used to lock and unlock the car, letting the lucky owners enjoy outdoor activities without worrying about losing the key.

The F-Pace is an important launch for Jaguar in India, one that could lay the foundation for making the British brand a volume-player and a strong contender against the German trio and Volvo. While the initial impressions have been positive, let's wait and see what the discerning luxury car-buyers have to say!


BMW Motorrad's Vision Next 100 Concept culminates BMW Group's centenary celebrations

The BMW Group is 100 years old. As part of its centenary celebrations, each brand in the group has been unveiling wild and snazzy concepts under the moniker 'Vision Next 100' that anticipates how their vehicles will look like 100 years from now. With BMW, Rolls-Royce and Mini having successfully completed their attempts at making the auto enthusiasts go ooh and aah, it is now BMW Motorrad's turn to do the same.

Needless to say, the German motorcycle manufacturer has done it with aplomb. Ladies and gentlemen, here is how a motorcycle will look like 100 years from now according to the folks at BMW Motorrad.

Yes, it looks straight out of a high-budget Hollywood sci-fi movie but the truth is it isn't. 

Drafted with a futuristic thinking to represent how motorcycling could evolve in the next 100 years, the Vision Next 100 Concept is minimalist and gets rid of most things that make a motorcycle a motorcycle today. 

The switch gear, for instance, is gone and all that's present is a red rocker button on the right handle bar, the sole mechanical element that blocks the throttle grip or releases it. The frame, as we know it, has lost its functionality. We've gone mad, you think? No, we haven't! BMW calls this a 'Flexframe' that, as the name indicates, is flexible and devoid of mechanical joints we are familiar with. If the handlebars are moved, the entire frame changes shape and facilitates change in direction. The frame surface is made of matt-black textile while the upper frame cover, front wheel cover and seats are made of carbon. The tyres have a damping function and adapts to the terrain on the move, effectively doing what the front and rear suspensions do today.

Interestingly, BMW Motorrad claims the Vision Next 100 Concept will never fall over - neither in motion nor at standstill - thanks to it's Self-balancing system. Folks at BMW are so confident that this motorcycle won't ever tip over that they want us to stop wearing helmets and protective riding gear. A snazzy suit with inbuilt heating and cooling functions and a data glass are what we get instead. The latter is where the real drama is. It is just a visor when worn normally. When it tracks eye movements or when it senses a hazard, it transforms into a digital companion displaying a plethora of data. Gazing up enables the rear-view function while lowering the gaze brings up a menu with functions that can be triggered through finger gestures. Looking further down opens up the map view, apparently. 

Phew, we never imagined our eye balls could do so much!  

Though no specifications have been released, the engine is said to be a zero-emission unit with an opposed-twin cylinder layout.

Despite it's futuristic intent, the concept still has a fitting reference to BMW Motorrad's past. Where's the past in this, you ask? Click on the picture above and you will know the 2016 Vision Next 100 Concept borrows a whole lot from the 1923 R32, the first-ever motorcycle made by BMW. The black triangular frame, the white trim lines and the horizontally-opposed configuration of the engine are all inspired by the 1923 classic.

Now that we've traversed from 1923 to 2116 in a span of few paragraphs, let's get back to 2016, shall we? And lest you forget, all that you read in this post is BMW's fantasy right now!


All-new Compass is the Jeep we are waiting for

When Fiat took over Chrysler, one of the first things it did was to put Jeep on an expansion mode globally. From being an American brand with production confined to its home country, Jeep's SUVs are now being manufactured in plants located in Europe (Italy), Brazil and China. The South American country recently witnessed the start of production of the all-new Compass, Jeep's newest global C-segment challenger.

The Compass slots in between the Renegade and the Cherokee in the Jeep lineup and will replace not one but two existing models - the Compass and the Patriot. The outgoing twins might not be missed but there is so much to like in the all-new Compass.

On top of the list is it's spot-on styling and proportions. The Grand Cherokee, Jeep's flagship SUV, is universally loved for its design and the brand's designers were wise enough to borrow its cues when they penned the new Compass. The fascia, for instance, bears more than a passing resemblance with the cohesive arrangement of grille, headlights and bumper resembling the Grand Cherokee. The rest of the vehicle is as minimalist as it can get with a prominent shoulder line and an unique chrome window lining that outlines the top of the windows before flowing into the rear windshield. Like all Jeeps, the Compass boasts flared squarish wheel arches with minimal front and rear overhangs, just how we like our SUVs to be.

The off-road ready Trailhawk variant can be identified with bright red tow hooks, black alloy wheels and contrasting hood decal. Spec one in red and black as shown above and we bet you will turn heads whenever you take it on road, it's that hot!

Interiors appear to be a clear step up from the current Compass and is said to be made with premium materials to improve the overall quality. The dashboard is inspired by the Cherokee's and feature a 8.4-inch UConnect touchscreen infotainment system supported by 9 Beats speakers.

While the Brazilian Compass is powered by a 2.0-liter Tigershark Flex petrol engine with a 6-speed automatic transmission and a 2.0-liter Multijet II diesel engine mated to a 9-speed automatic gearbox, 15 more engine and transmission combos would be added as the Compass goes on sale in different global markets.

India is reportedly one of the target markets for the new Compass and, honestly, we aren't surprised. Indians love their SUVs and, despite the initial sticker shock, we hear the first batch of Wranglers and Grand Cherokees launched recently are sold out. Things then are looking good for the new Compass and we can't wait to see how it fares here.


2016 Paris - Nissan says 'Bonjour' with the flashy new Micra

Perfectly utilizing the glamorous floor space of the 2016 Paris Motor Show, Nissan made quite a style statement by unveiling its fifth-generation Micra. Squarely targeted at the popular and highly-demanding B-segment in Europe, the new Micra is all set to continue the nameplate's 30-year legacy in the continent when it goes on sale early next year.

When Nissan unveiled the Sway Concept at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, few expected the car to make it to production unchanged. Nissan, being who they are, did just that with the new Micra. That was an exaggeration, of course, but you get the point.

Ditching its swoopy lines and feminine image for good, the new Micra looks sharp and flashy. Nissan's signature V-motion grille takes the center stage up front flanked by large headlights with boomerang-shaped detailing inside. But the profile is where the real drama is. Prominent character lines that originate from the edges of the grille flow through the fenders, change course midway through the front doors to form a V-shaped crease before running the full length of the car. Other interesting design touches include the floating roof - another Nissan signature, C-pillar mounted rear door handles and sharp boomerang-shaped taillights.

While opinions on the new Micra's styling have been polarizing so far, we don't remember the last time a B-segment hatchback's design was debated as much. That's good news, Nissan has got the new Micra rolling!

In total contrast to the exterior styling, the new Micra's cabin is subtle and lacks flair. Occupying prime position inside is the multi-function flat-bottom steering wheel, the wing-shaped dashboard and the 7-inch full-colour display that incorporates the infotainment and navigation systems. Entertainment duties are taken care of by the new 6-speaker 'Bose' personal sound system.

The new Micra is loaded with advanced safety kit including segment-first Lane Departure Prevention, Intelligent Emergency Braking with pedestrian detection, Intelligent Around View Monitor, Traffic Sign Recognition, High Beam Assist and Blind Spot Warning apart from ABS and airbags that we know. Impressively, Nissan is planning to have these features as standard across the range.

Powertrain options at launch include a 0.9-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder petrol engine and a 1.5-liter diesel engine, both developing 90 horsepower. A 1.0-liter naturally aspirated petrol engine will join the lineup later as the base engine option.

While the current Micra is produced in Renault-Nissan's alliance plant in Chennai and exported worldwide, Nissan is reportedly moving the production back to Europe for the next-generation model. That puts a huge question mark on the new Micra's launch prospects for India though the funky hatchback would be a fabulous addition to Nissan's aging lineup here. Will Nissan spring us a surprise? Let's wait and watch.

2016 Paris - Hyundai RN30 Concept has RS, GTI & Type-R in its sights

For those of you who didn't take Hyundai's announcement of forming a new N sub-division for high-performance models seriously, the South Korean manufacturer has dropped the biggest hint yet at what to expect from the new sub-brand. Unveiled in Paris alongside the upcoming third-generation i30 with which it shares its design and underpinnings, the RN30 Concept is wild and dramatic.

While the basic design is inherited from the i30 hatchback, the RN30 Concept looks aggressive with its wider body and hunkered-down stance. Armed with aerodynamic enhancements like ground-hugging skirts all around, bonnet air outlets, floating fenders that work in tandem with side splitters, large rear wing and a massive diffuser, all of which help in generating the much-needed downforce, the RN30 Concept is purpose-built for the racetrack. Smoked lights, distinctive DRLs, light-weight 19-inch alloy wheels and centrally-mounted twin ceramic exhausts add to the sex appeal.

Lamborghini-esque 'scissor' doors look hot but sadly won't make it to production.

The cabin is stripped out with just the essentials making the cut, saving precious weight in the process. Hyundai has also worked with BASF to develop a light-weight high-performance environment-friendly plastic that's been used extensively in the RN30's cockpit. Low-set, body-hugging bucket seats and a roll cage complete the interiors while image-stabilizing gimbal cameras mounted on the A-pillars let drivers shoot professional racing footage.

Powering the RN30 Concept is a high-performance turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that's currently being developed by Hyundai to power the N production models. Employing an enlarged turbocharger and forged cylinder block for increased thrust and durability, the engine generates 375 horsepower and a whopping 451 Nm of torque. Hardware include a wet-type dual-clutch transmission (DCT), All-wheel drive (AWD), Electronic Variable Exhaust system and a sophisticated electronic Limited-slip differential (LSD). 

After all, this Hyundai has the go to match its incredible show!

Developed by engineers at Namyang, Hyundai's global R&D headquarters, and pushed to their limits by their counterparts at N├╝rburgring, the world's most challenging race track, Hyundai's N models are something we are looking forward to eagerly. 

Will the i30 N be as sexy and intense as the RN30 Concept? For Hyundai's sake, let's hope it does.