2019 Indian Car of the Year announced

The annual award season has begun and kicking things off in style is the Indian Car of the Year (ICOTY) title. Modeled on the likes of similar titles handed out globally like the North American Car of the Year and the European Car of the Year, the ICOTY is considered the most definitive award in the Indian automotive industry. That's primarily because the award sees the coming together of automotive experts and journalists from almost every major publication and website in the country. Each of the jury members have been driving and reviewing automobiles for more than a decade each and the scoring process is claimed to be simple and transparent.

This year also sees the introduction of a new category under ICOTY called the Premium Car of the Year. Aimed at cars costing over INR 40 Lakhs ex-showroom, this award intends to recognize the best set of wheels for the super-rich Indians.

2019 Indian Car of the Year

2018 has been one of the busiest in recent years in terms of the number of new cars launched but the jury members spent a day driving all the new models at the Buddh International Circuit that allowed them to shortlist 8 cars for the final run-up to the title. The ones that made the cut are the Amaze and CR-V from Honda, the Hyundai Santro, the Alturas G4 and Marazzo from Mahindra, Maruti-Suzuki's Ertiga and Swift and the Toyota Yaris. As evident, each of these models are crucial launches not just for the respective brands but also for the segments in which they retail. 

In the end, it was Maruti-Suzuki's Swift that won the coveted award. Crowned last evening at a glitzy event in Mumbai, the Swift took home it's third ICOTY trophy having already won the title in 2006 and 2012. That makes the premium hatchback from Indian's largest car-maker the only car thus far to have won the award thrice. Offering a stylish, peppy and fun-to-drive package loaded to the gills with features and protected by the country's best after-sales network, the Swift is a "You can't go wrong" choice this side of 10 Lakh Rupees. It's no wonder then the sales are shooting through the roof with each passing month.

Though the other contenders provided strong competition initially, the Swift won by a significant margin of over 30 points in the end. Hyundai's Santro finished runner-up with the Honda Amaze rounding off the podium. 

2019 ICOTY Results

  1. Maruti-Suzuki Swift 
  2. Hyundai Santro
  3. Honda Amaze

Previous ICOTY Winners

  • 2018 - Hyundai Verna
  • 2017 - Maruti-Suzuki Vitara Brezza
  • 2016 - Hyundai Creta
  • 2015 - Hyundai i20
  • 2014 - Hyundai Grand i10

2019 ICOTY - Premium Car of the Year

Premium cars aren't always assembled or manufactured in India, given the limited sales and lack of volumes. That eliminates most of the premium cars from even competing for the ICOTY title. The Premium Car of the Year award, introduced this year, aims to set things right at the upper end by separating the luxury cars whose strengths and evaluation criteria are often different from mass-market cars.

The inaugural edition of the ICOTY Premium Car of the Year title had 11 contenders. The list included Audi's Q5 and RS5, the X3 and 6-Series GT from BMW, the Mercedes-Benz E 63 S, Mini Countryman, Porsche Cayenne, Range Rover Velar and the XC40 and XC60 from Volvo.

While the jury crowned the Volvo XC40 as the winner this year, it's bigger sibling - the XC60 - finished runner-up. 

That's quite a message from Sweden to the well-established luxury marques from Germany and the United Kingdom. It's going to be really interesting to see how things in the premium segment shape up in the coming years. 


2018 Los Angeles - Jeep Gladiator, the brand's first pick-up in 26 years, makes its debut

Americans love Jeeps. And they are obsessed with pick-up trucks. Ironically though, Jeep has not had a pick-up in it's portfolio for the last 26 years. Having missed out on ever-growing sales and ever-soaring profits from pick-ups for more than two decades, Jeep has decided they have had enough. In comes the Gladiator, making it's much-awaited global debut at the ongoing 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show. 

As soon as the officials at Jeep wanted to make a pick-up, it was clear that it would be based on the Wrangler. The spy-shots that came in later was more proof that the pick-up bearing the Jeep name is an extension - quite literally - of the Wrangler. Now that the curtains are off, that's exactly what the Gladiator is. And we're glad at that, given Wrangler's iconic looks, rich legacy and crazy fan-following. 

As Jeep proudly claims, the Gladiator is a modern take on authentic Jeep design cues that we have seen and grown in love with. Those familiar seven slats that form the grille, the circular headlights, that clam-shell hood with side opening levers, the foldable windshield, the detachable doors with external hinges, those massive wheel arches that protrude from the body, you name them and the Gladiator has them. What's new though is the bed aft of the rear doors. Like the facelifted Wrangler that made its debut earlier this year, the Gladiator also gets LED lighting signatures that look super cool.

Jeeps have always had the go to match their show and the Gladiator is no different. Armed with Command-Trac and Rock-Trac 4x4 systems, third-gen Dana 44 axles, Tru-Lock front- and rear-axle lockers, Trac-Lok limited-slip differential, a segment-exclusive electronic sway-bar disconnect and 33-inch off-road tires, the Gladiator can take you to places only a Jeep can. If you think all those off-roading credentials come at the expense of practicality, you're wrong. This Jeep pick-up has best-in-class towing and payload capacities amongst all mid-size trucks. Yes, it can tow upto 7,650 pounds and carry upto 1,600 pounds, more than what a Ford Ranger or a Chevrolet Colorado could.

Jeep is well aware of the fact that Gladiator customers are likely to buy it as a lifestyle choice rather than a workhorse truck. That explains why this truck comes with open-air motoring ability - sans windshield and doors - that's unique to the Jeep and a long list of official accessories for taking along your ATV, dirt bikes, skateboards and even speed boats. Mopar, Jeep's official customizing arm, is likely to have it's own list of goodies for the Gladiator right from launch too.

The cabin features an upright design and stance that's pretty much the same as that in the Wrangler. Unique metal-plated accents abound as do bolts on the shifter, grab handles and the infotainment screen's frame. Instrument cluster features a standard 3.5-inch screen or an optional 7.0-inch TFT LED screen that allows the driver to configure information in more than 100 ways. Depending on the variant, the UConnect infotainment system gets a 5.0-, 7.0- or a 8.4-inch touchscreen seated atop the center stack. Safety is taken care of as well with features like Blind-spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Path detection, Adaptive Cruise Control and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with Electronic Roll Mitigation being part of the kit.

Powering the Gladiator is a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 gasoline engine that churns out 285 horsepower and 352 Nm of torque and comes mated to either a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic transmission. Come 2020, a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 joins the lineup too generating 260 horsepower and 599 Nm of torque. The diesel is exclusively paired to the 8-speed automatic gearbox that's tuned to handle the massive torque rating of this engine. 

Production of the Jeep Gladiator would being in the first half of 2019 with the truck expected to go on sale shortly afterwards. With Jeep posting impressive gains on the sales charts and demand for pick-ups continuing unabated, the Gladiator is all set for a homerun in the United States of America. The mid-size pick-up truck slug fest just got a whole lot tougher!

2018 Los Angeles - Hyundai Palisade debuts as the brand's new flagship

The 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show that's currently on at the popular California city might be the last big automotive event of the year but it appears to be packing quite a punch with several high-profile global premieres. One such potential big-hitter is the Hyundai Palisade, the marque's newest flagship. With three rows of seats that could accommodate eight people and measuring close to five meters in length, this all-new mid-size SUV is Hyundai's biggest and most spacious model till date.

Yes, the Palisade is late to the party that has quite a few popular models like the Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot. But, has it got what it takes to do the role of a flagship, attract footfalls and bring in profits? Hyundai certainly thinks so!

For starters, the Palisade looks bold and fresh. Featuring the brand's latest design language first seen on the Kona and later adopted by the Santa Fe, the Palisade features split light clusters up front on either side of the now-familiar 'Cascading Grille'. If distinct styling is what Hyundai's designers were after, that goal has been achieved, albeit in a bit "in-your-face" manner. Move over to the silhouette and the car's size makes its presence felt. While the long hood, the generous wheelbase and flared fenders look intimidating, the profile itself is generic save for the tasteful application of chrome over the window-line and the wraparound effect given by the D-pillars. The rear, in Hyundai's own words, recalls Cadillac's design language with vertical taillight elements accompanied by metallic garnishes.

Being the flagship of a brand comes with it's own set of benefits and the Palisade gets them in abundance too. The interiors, with quilted Nappa leather and smooth wood-grain finishes, are tastefully done with the Palisade aiming to impress the occupants with a sense of space and plushness unseen in a Hyundai thus far. The second row gets two captain's chairs or a bench for three depending on the seating configuration chosen. The dashboard, like in most cars these days, gets two screens - a 12.3-inch digital TFT cluster behind the steering wheel and a 10.25-inch widescreen display in the center console for audio and navigation display. 

Standard safety features include a class-exclusive Blind Spot Monitor that provides the driver with an easy-to-see body-side views whenever the turn signals are activated in addition to Forward Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Collision Avoidance, Driver Attention Warning, Lane Following Assist, High Beam Assist, Smart Cruise Control with Stop and Go, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist, Safe Exit Assist that uses radar to detect cars approaching from the rear and warn occupants accordingly and seven Airbags. 

Creature comforts are in abundance too, keeping in mind the Palisade's target group of large families. Yes, the Palisade gets seven USB outlets, sixteen cup holders, option to connect two BlueTooth devices at once, a "Rear Sleep Mode" that adjusts the audio output to the front speakers alone to enable easier sleeping for those seated at the back and an intercom system that allows the front occupants to communicate independently to the second and third row or to both rows together. The parents seated at the front as well as the kids at the back are going to have fun in the Palisade, it seems!   

Under the long hood of the Palisade is a 3.8-liter V6 engine that works on the Atkinson Cycle for better fuel efficiency. Generating 291 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 355 Nm of torque, the Palisade's power and torque figures are amongst the best in the segment. Mated to this engine is a 8-speed automatic transmission that delivers power to the two front wheels or all four wheels depending on the configuration chosen. The HTRAC all-wheel drive system comes with selectable driving modes that changes the torque distribution to the wheels at the touch of a button.

The Palisade goes on sale late 2019 as a 2020 model. Yes, that's a rather delayed entry given SUV sales are booming worldwide 'right now' and Hyundai needs something bigger than the Santa Fe 'right now'. But as they always say, it's better late than never.