New Suzuki Jimny is all the car you'll ever need

Every second car sold in India might be wearing the omnipresent ‘S’ badge but you will be hard-pressed to slot a car wearing one in the ‘aspirational’ category. The S-Cross – variants with that Fiat-sourced stonker of a 1.6-liter diesel engine – came close but it still didn’t look the part to be truly aspirational. Even globally, Swift Sport is the only model in Suzuki’s lineup that could pull at your heart strings, thanks to its suave styling, sporty handling and the peppy 1.4-liter turbo petrol power inside. That’s no longer the case.

When Suzuki unveiled the all-new Jimny - the first in twenty years - in Japan earlier this month, the brand’s new flag-bearer was born. 

A lot of you might know the Jimny and what it did for 'Brand Suzuki'. But for those of you that don’t, here is a brief background of the model and the legacy it carries. 

With over 285 million units sold across 194 countries, the Jimny is one of Suzuki’s long-serving and best-selling nameplates. That it happens to be a mini SUV with spot-on styling, perfect proportions and unchallenged off-roading capabilities is just an added bonus.

The first-generation Jimny debuted in 1970 as Japan’s only four wheel drive minicar meeting the market’s unique ‘kei’ specifications. With Suzuki getting serious about the export prospects, the second-generation model was launched in 1977 and continued in production until 1998. We know this as the Gypsy in India. The Jimny entered its third generation in 1998 and you could buy one of these until earlier this year. Yes, as incredible as it sounds, this model was on sale for twenty long years. 

This long gap partly explains the enthusiasm surrounding the new Jimny’s global unveiling. In addition to satisfying the demand amongst hardcore fans and loyalists – which we understand run into tens of thousands globally – the new Jimny arrives at a time when the global preferences are shifting towards SUVs and crossovers. Add to that the fact Jimny has no mainstream competitors to speak of anywhere in the globe, the stage is all set for a dream run!

Don’t believe us? Get this. The Jimny went on sale in Japan soon after the official unveiling on 05th of July. And now, less than a month later, waiting lists to own one of these is said to be between 8 and 24 months depending on the variant chosen. Admittedly, the production capacity is limited but it’s still no mean feat!

At first glance, the Jimny might come across as a wannabe off-roader trying to imitate the Mercedes-Benz G-Class and the Land Rover Defender, two legends of the trade. But, look beyond that and you’ll realize the new Jimny is just a modern interpretation of how its predecessors always looked like. Be it the simple circular headlights, the grille with five vertical slats, the boxy shape and the 3-door layout, every element that defined the Jimny for decades have neatly found their way into the all-new model. The standard Jimny is exclusive to Japan and designed to meet the country’s kei car regulations. The Jimny Sierra that gets chunkier bumpers and flared wheel arches is the one slated for exports and the model that looks much nicer. 

The interiors have come of age and looks like any other new Suzuki. The multi-function steering wheel follows the brand’s latest design theme while the 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system is the same that’s seen in other Suzuki models. The instrument cluster, the central air-conditioning vents and the array of buttons and switches in the center console are designed to look tough and they do that exceedingly well. Kit on offer includes modern day niceties like integrated satellite navigation, Android Auto and Apple Car Play and safety features like dual front, side and curtain airbags, Autonomous Emergency Braking and Electronic Stability Control.

In all markets outside of Japan, the Jimny would be powered by a 1.5-liter naturally aspirated petrol engine that drives the rear wheels and generates 100 horsepower. Peak torque is rated at 130 Nm. That’s not much but then Jimny is not made to go fast on expressways. It is designed to prevail over roads less taken and comes properly equipped for that.  

Built on a robust ladder-frame chassis with a 3-link rigid axle suspension and equipped with Suzuki’s famous AllGrip Pro 4WD with a low range transfer gear, the Jimny is not a poser off-road like most other compact crossovers and wannabe SUVs. This is a car you don’t have to think twice before venturing off-road. In fact, with a 37° approach, 49° departure and 28° ramp breakover angles aided by a 210 mm ground clearance and a very short wheelbase, the Jimny begs to be taken down the dirty path.  

If you are so smitten by the new Jimny, just know you aren’t alone. As a matter of fact, there is nothing not to like in it. Yes, 3 doors might be two too short for India but with the kind of revenue and profit Maruti-Suzuki sends back to the coffers in Japan, it wouldn’t be a tough act to get their nod to develop a longer 5-door model specifically for India.

If that happens, the all-new Jimny might be all the car we will ever need with its compact footprint, modern feature-rich interiors, go-anywhere capabilities, Maruti-Suzuki's extensive after-sales support and Japanese reliability. Dear Maruti-Suzuki, are you listening?


Mahindra's new MPV (U321) spotted testing yet again

Mahindra has been testing it's upcoming Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV), code-named U321 internally, in and around Chennai for almost two years now. On two separate occasions - once last August and once in February this year - we caught a test mule up close and revealed details that were not known until then. Earlier this week, Mahindra's new MPV - expected to slot in between the TUV3OO Plus and the XUV5OO as a premium offering in the brand's lineup - was caught testing again in the heart of Chennai city. 

With the expected launch date getting closer, the test vehicle has started shedding its camouflage. The fascia is now completely visible right from the detailing on the mesh grille with Mahindra's trademark 'toothy' inserts to the wraparound headlights with inbuilt projectors and the shape of the LED Daytime Running Lights that outline the fog lamp enclosures. The cab-forward design, the heavily-raked hood, positioning of the wheels at the four corners and absence of ungainly overhangs on either end give Mahindra's newest people-mover proportions that are just right. None of Mahindra's usual craziness in terms of cuts and creases seem to be present on this MPV but let's reserve our judgement until we see the car uncovered. At the rear, the vertically-stacked taillights make their presence felt.

Though the interiors have not been seen or revealed yet, Mahindra's recent launches - the TUV3OO specifically - have had decent interiors with acceptable levels of fit and finish. That gives us hope this upcoming MPV would raise the brand's standard even higher. Mahindra has always loaded their models to the hilt with features and gizmos and this MPV would be no different when it goes on sale later this year.

Mahindra has been tight-lipped on the powertrain options until now. Reports elsewhere on the World Wide Web indicate the Nashik-based car-maker is working on all-new gasoline and diesel engines to power the vehicle along with a 6-speed manual transmission. That would explain the extremely long testing cycle this new MPV has been put through by Mahindra. 

When it launches later this year, expect the new Mahindra to challenge Tata's Hexa head-on and occupy the space vacated by the earlier Toyota Innova. In addition to these direct rivals, Maruti-Suzuki's Ertiga at the lower end and an army of similar-priced SUVs and crossovers are not going to make it easy for this upcoming MPV to settle down.

Will Mahindra break the shackles, make people look beyond 'the SUV look' and succeed in this attempt? Let's wait and watch.


Bentley steps into its centenary with a Special Edition Mulsanne

Bentley, the iconic British luxury brand, is stepping into its centenary year. As part of the celebrations, the car-maker has announced a limited edition of the Mulsanne, dubbed the W.O.Edition. Inspired by founder Walter Owen Bentley's own creation - the Bentley 8 Litre - and crafted by Mulliner, Bentley's renowned commissioning service, the Mulsanne W.O.Edition is a connoisseur's delight.

If you are one of those lucky 100 with pockets deep enough to afford one and contacts influential enough to secure one, Bentley and Mulliner would custom-make this special Mulsanne to suit your tastes and preferences. For its press release though, Bentley had drenched the limited edition Mulsanne in Onyx Black accessorized by Beluga Black wheels, a chrome hood strip and optional chrome grille and surround. The Mulsanne has always had tremendous road presence and the W.O.Edition has just enhanced its appeal several notches.

The interiors, as one would expect, is exquisitely hand-crafted with carefully chosen mix of hides, veneers and materials. The classic Fireglow hide is an ode to the 1930s, complemented by Beluga hide detailing and blind stitching. The rear seats are fit for a King and houses a party trick between them - an illuminated cocktail cabinet. If that's not special enough, the cabinet houses a display window inside which a piece of the crankshaft from W.O.Bentley's own car is showcased. Just below the artefact is an inscription detailing it's significance. 

The W.O.Edition Mulsanne can be ordered in any of the three regular versions that are available - Standard, Long Wheelbase and Speed. Irrespective of the version chosen, a 6.75-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine - hand-made and signed by an engineer at Bentley's factory in Crewe, England - powers the Mulsanne generating an impressive 530 horsepower and a whopping 1100 Nm of torque. 

With just 100 units planned, we are sure each of the W.O.Edition Mulsanne is either already paid for or spoken for. After all, this is not just a luxury automobile. It comes with a piece of Bentley's rich heritage! What more could you ask for?


Hyundai's upcoming hatchback (New Santro?) caught testing in Chennai

It's been almost 20 years since Hyundai, an unknown South Korean brand then, made its debut in India with the odd-looking Santro. The rest, as they say, is history with the Santro becoming a phenomenal success and paving the way for the Korean car-maker's rise in the market. It appears Hyundai is planning big for its twentieth anniversary by launching an all-new small car. And you know what, it might be called - you guessed it right - the 'Santro'.

Caught testing in one of the busy thoroughfares in the heart of Chennai last evening, Hyundai's upcoming hatchback has started shedding some of its camouflage. Though not visible in these images, the car sports a new version of Hyundai's now-popular cascading grille up front with prominent chrome slats. While the rest of the sheet metal still lie hidden beneath the camouflage, the glasshouse makes it pretty clear that the car is designed to be a 'Tall Boy' - just like Wagon-R, Celerio and the old Santro. In profile, the sharp cut in the rear quarter glass and the plastic wheel caps can be clearly seen.

When launched later this year, Hyundai's new hatchback - said to be code-named AH2 internally - is expected to challenge arch-rival Maruti-Suzuki's big-selling Celerio. That would mean the new Santro (or whatever it's called) would slot in between the Eon and the Grand i10 in Hyundai's lineup. Whilst not aesthetically pleasing, the trump card of Tall Boys like this test car are the abundant space and practicality they offer in a compact footprint. Expect this new hatchback from Hyundai to offer all of that with an added dose of style and quality that the Korean brand is known for. 

Hyundai has not revealed the specifications of the car yet. So, it is not clear what's under the hood. Will a reworked version of the popular 1.1-liter 4-cylinder Epsilon unit that powered the old Santro and the i10 make a comeback under the hood of this car? Or, will Hyundai plonk in the 1.0-liter 3-cylinder mill from the Eon to keep costs in check? Take a wild guess, we don't know that yet! Irrespective of the engine powering the car, reports indicate that an Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) will be on offer in addition to the standard 5-speed manual gearbox to cater to the growing demand of automatic cars in India.

From what we know, Hyundai seems to be betting on the right cards with this new hatchback. Will the Koreans hit jackpot like they did with the original Santro in 1998? Let's wait and watch!