Nissan Ariya debuts with a new brand logo and identity

Nissan has been in the news for all the wrong reasons of late. This is not one of them. The Japanese car-maker took the wraps off it’s all-new, full-electric Ariya crossover and - along with it - a new brand identity. At first glance, there’s hardly anything to dislike. Has Nissan then hit the nail on its head? Let’s delve a bit and find out what’s good and what’s not so good about the Ariya. 

Good: Ariya oozes appeal inside and out

When Nissan brought in the Ariya Concept at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show, it came across  the Ariya was shown in concept form at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show, it came across as a sleek-looking crossover that looked contemporary without trying too hard. It's a good thing then the production model is literally unchanged from the concept. 

Up front, a dramatic-looking glossy black panel - called the 'Shield' - takes center stage, housing Nissan's illuminated new logo and a textured panel underneath. Thin headlights underlined by LED running lights that extend downwards into the grille can't be missed either. The curvy profile is characterized by a prominent shoulder line that runs end-to-end and wraps around the rear where a full-width panel houses dark-tinted taillights. The sloping coupe-like roof-line, rather large integrated spoiler and those sharply-raked C-pillars lend the Ariya a strong sense of dynamism.

If you thought that was impressive, the interiors elevate things further by a few notches. As is the norm these days, minimalism is the theme here with Nissan's designers doing away with most of the buttons and switches. Two 12.3-inch touchscreens for instruments and navigation are placed on top with a full-width trim housing air-conditioning vents below. The party trick here are the climate control functions that are housed in the wooden panel in the form of capacitive haptic switches. The stand-alone floor console between the front seats and the seamless integration of the dashboard with the door panels are the other highlights. 

Good: Nissan's EV head-start is a plus

When stand-alone Electric Vehicles from most rivals are still in their first generations, Nissan's Leaf is already in the second half of it's second generation. Launched way back in 2010, the Japanese brand's head-start in EVs gave its engineers a decade worth of experience to dig into. Its only fair to assume all that has been put to good use while working on the Ariya.

Two battery packs are available - a 63-kWh unit and a 87 kWh unit. Both of them can be had as two-wheel-drive or  four-wheel-drive models. The former will have a solitary motor powering the front wheels and producing 215 horsepower and 300 Nm of torque. The latter will have two motors using Nissan's e-4ORCE system to channel 389 horsepower and a massive 600 Nm of torque to all four wheels. With all that torque available from the get go and twin motors providing the required balance, the four-wheel-drive Ariya should be quick and quite a hoot to drive. 

The battery pack is placed quite low between the wheels for better Center of Gravity and is liquid-cooled unlike in the Leaf. Range for individual models hasn't been declared yet.

Not so good: Nissan has just hit the 'Reset' button

Thanks to a combination of internal politics, questionable decisions on certain models in the portfolio, lethargy in some markets and unwarranted expansion in others, the last few years have not been kind to Nissan. The folks at the helm took cognizance and hit the reset button with the so-called NEXT strategy that focuses on rationalization and prioritizing core markets and models. Announced along with it was a plan to launch 12 new models in 18 months. How's this not good, you wonder? That's because Nissan shouldn't have gotten to this stage in the first place and an EV like Ariya needs all the backing it could possibly get to make a difference against rivals of Tesla's calibre.

That said, it appears the recovery is on a fast track. In the last three months, an all-new Rogue (X-Trail in some markets) broke cover in the USA, Kicks got a refresh with an electrified powertrain in Japan and Thailand and here in India, Nissan unveiled the Magnite Concept that previews a compact SUV slated for launch in 2021. That brings us to the Ariya and the new brand identity that debuted alongside it. Did you notice the sleek and simplified Nissan logo etched proudly on the hood? Bodes well for the future of the brand, you think?

Good: Ariya is a tech tour-de-force

EV credentials aside, the Ariya comes loaded with a whole load of tech. For starters, the Ariya is capable of receiving over-the-air updates, the first Nissan ever to do so. The Japanese brand's advanced ProPILOT 2.0 driver assistance system is also part of the kit, offering hands-free driving capability under certain conditions with the help of twelve ultrasonic sonar sensors, seven cameras and five millimeter-wave radars. 

In addition, the Ariya is equipped with a full active safety net including ProPILOT Remote Park, Around View Monitor, Driver Monitoring System, Forward Collision Warning, Intelligent Emergency Braking and Rear Automatic Emergency Braking amongst others.

To summarize, Nissan couldn't have launched a better model for its ride back to the top of the game than this. The Ariya looks stylish, sports an in-demand 'crossover' body-style, has a fabulous cabin and gets top-notch tech and safety kit to go against credible rivals like the Tesla Model Y and Ford's upcoming Mustang Mach-E. Watch this space, things are really heating up!


Ford Bronco is back. And how!

When it was introduced in 1966, Ford Bronco was one of the pioneers of the body-style we call ‘SUV’ today. Over the next 30 years and five generations, the Bronco developed a cult following in the American market only to be axed in 1996. After a 24-year hiatus, the iconic nameplate returns later this year with Ford unveiling the all-new Bronco range last evening to satiate hordes of American fans and loyalists who were starting to get really impatient waiting for this reveal.

Going against the legendary Jeep Wrangler, the born-again Bronco has it’s task cut out. Is Ford’s newest model up for the challenge? What’s good about it? What could have been better? Let’s find out. 

Good: Bronco is now a sub-brand with 3 models

For most of it’s existence, the Bronco has been a standalone model. The Bronco II – that just shared the name but had completely different underpinnings and was made from 1980 to 1987 – was a notable exception. In it’s comeback though, the Bronco has grown into a whole sub-brand of sorts. The line-up comprises three models – the two-door Bronco, the first-ever four-door Bronco and the smaller Bronco Sport. None of them have the ‘Blue Oval’ logo up front. Instead, they have B-R-O-N-C-O written in a bold font across the grille. Bucking bronco logos are placed on the tailgate, steering wheel and gear-shifter, signaling the confidence Ford had in ‘Brand Bronco’.

While the two Broncos are hardcore, body-on-frame off-roaders built off the Ranger platform, the Bronco Sport is an Escape-based monocoque for those who prefer the boxy look and feel but prefer car-like dynamics and can do with limited off-road capability. With the trio, Ford has expanded the reach of Bronco to a wider customer base that a standalone two-door model would have struggled to impress.

Good: Bronco’s retro-modern styling works

Re-imagining an old classic is always an exercise akin to treading a thin line. A slip is all it takes to fall flat on your face. In that context, Ford’s designers have done a fab job with the new Bronco. 

The all-new Bronco looks faithful to the ‘classic’ 1966 model, yet is thoroughly contemporary. The boxy, squared-off looks with the wheels pushed off to the corners is macho, timeless and purposeful. The lighting signature up front, the nameplate writ large across the grille, the massively-flared and clad wheel arches, the A-pillar mounted rear view mirrors and frameless doors are the highlights. Both the two- and four-door models have modular roof sections and removable door panels , providing the occupants a quick and easy open air experience. 

The Bronco Sport carries over a lot of the traits of the bigger siblings but has it’s own distinct identity. Exclusively available with a fixed roof and four doors, the baby Bronco carries the family flag proudly in its front lighting signature, the way the grille’s enclosure encompasses the headlights and those shoulder lines that kinks up just before it meets the C-pillar. The C-pillar itself has a different treatment, not very dissimilar to some Land Rover models of the past.

The interiors look the part too. The design is straightforward, no doubt, but the colours chosen for the upholstery give these mud-pluggers a plush look while the optional 12-inch touchscreen infotainment system with the latest SYNC 4 makes this a tech-rich cabin.

Built Wild they may be, as Ford calls them, there is no denying the fact the Broncos are handsome brutes!

Good: Broncos are purpose-built G.O.A.T vehicles

No, the GOAT here isn’t what you think it is. It means “Go Over Any Terrain” - a phrase that fits the Bronco to the tee and was coined for marketing the 1966 model. Ford’s venerable SUV has always been manufactured with an intent to take it’s occupants to places a regular automobile can’t dare enter. That purpose hasn’t changed one bit. The new Bronco, just like it’s arch-rival Jeep Wrangler, is designed to shine off-road. Be it bashing dunes, climbing rocks, fording water bodies or tackling slush, the Bronco twins are game for it. 

With a spec sheet that reads 295 mm ground clearance, 43.2° approach, 29° ramp-over and 37.2° departure angles and 850 mm water-fording capability when equipped with the optional, factory-fitted 35-inch wheels, option of an electronic, shift-on-the-fly transfer case with a 2.71:1 low ratio or an advanced unit with a 3.06:1 low ratio, Dana AdvanTEK independent front differential unit and Dana 44 AdvanTEK solid rear axle, it is clear Ford has given the Broncos hardware worthy of the G.O.A.T tag. Even the Bronco Sport, looking at Ford’s press images and videos, appear to be quite capable off-road albeit to a much-lesser extent. Depending on the variant, Bronco can offer up to seven terrain modes, cheekily called GOAT modes – Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand, Baja, Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl!

Trail Toolbox, a cheekily-named suite of tech features, are on offer to further elevate the off-road experience. This includes Trail Control (cruise control for low-speed trail driving), Trail Turn Assist (four-wheel torque vectoring to tighten off-road turning radii) and Trail One Pedal Drive (acceleration and braking controlled through a single pedal for more precise and confident rock crawling).  

Complementing those impressive hardware and software bits are the many thoughtful touches inside the cabin. From front wheel-mounted cameras that relay output to the dash-mounted touchscreen to tackle those tricky off-road sections better to the well-positioned grab handles, those seatback-mounted MOLLE hooks, washable rubberized floors with integrated drains, marine-grade vinyl seating surfaces and the exclusive Trail Mapping System with over 1,000 curated trail maps, every single detail has been thought through.

Best part is, even the Bronco Sport can flex its muscles off tarmac and has the utility hacks to take your outdoor gear with you. Just don’t take it to places where you would a Bronco!

Good: Surprise, there’s a manual transmission!

The bigger Broncos have two engines on offer. The base is a 2.3-liter EcoBoost mill that churns out 270 horsepower and 420 Nm of torque. This engine can be paired to either a 7-speed manual transmission (6-speed manual with a crawler gear) or a 10-speed automatic transmission. For those who want more, the 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 should do with its 310 horsepower and a whopping 542 Nm of torque. The V6 is exclusively mated to the 10-speed auto gearbox. 

The Bronco Sport carries over the 1.5-liter 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine that now delivers 181 horsepower and 258 Nm of torque. The top-end Badlands trim and the First Edition get an exclusive 2.0-liter 4-cylinder EcoBoost good for 245 horsepower and 372 Nm of torque. A 8-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel-drive hardware are standard across the range. 

Good: Bronco has a rich heritage

Many new cars are launched every month but not all of them have a rich heritage. Bronco, though, has one to be proud of. Sure, the Bronco has never been a big-seller – a fact it’s cumulative sales of just over 1.1 million units across three decades and five generations would allude to. But the way in which the Bronco weaved itself into the American car culture in the seventies and eighties set it apart. In fact, it was this trait that landed Bronco a legion of fans and loyalists who swore by it and made vintage Broncos hot properties in used car showrooms and auction lots. Though Ford hasn't explicitly stated, the Bronco Sport, too, can be considered the spiritual successor to the Bronco II that was made between 1984 and 1990.

If they play their cards right, Ford can build on this legacy to make the Bronco a super hit. So far, they are on the right track.

Good: There’s a Bronco for everyone

Taking a cue from Jeep, Ford is betting big on customization options for the Bronco. When the first models start reaching dealerships later this year, there would be over 200 Ford-backed aftermarket accessories including some factory-branded ones that customers can opt for. In addition to that, Ford claims hundreds of customization opportunities right off the line to make every Bronco out there unique and different to the rest. From different door designs to choose from to overhead-mounted, silicon-sealed accessory switches with pre-wired leads, the Bronco is ready off the factory to head to your favourite tuner.

The same extends to Bronco’s pricing too. With pricing that extends from $29,995 for the Base two-door variant and goes all the way up to $64,995 for the four-door “First Edition”, there is a Bronco for everyone, literally! The smaller Bronco Sport has a more acceptable pricing delta – starting at $28,155 for the Base variant and ending at $39,995 for the ‘First Edition’.   

Not so good: Is Bronco late to the Jeep party?

Now, this is a tough one. Being one of the first SUVs ever made, Bronco had a head start no other rival could dream of. Jeep, of course, is an exception but remember, the Wrangler wasn’t called a Wrangler back then. In that sense, Bronco should have been the oldest SUV in production had Ford not stopped the model in 1996. Between then and now, demand for SUVs and high-riding wannabe SUVs (crossovers, in other words) shot through the roof with every car-maker building many of these to keep their cash registers ringing. Some, like Ford, have even taken a bold stance to cull every one of their cars and focus only on SUVs and crossovers. 

All this while, Jeep made merry with the Wrangler firmly establishing itself as the de-facto choice for hardcore off-roading enthusiasts. That’s the same set of folks the Bronco is out to impress now. Ford, without a doubt, is late to this duel.

Overall, Ford has hardly put a foot wrong so far with the Bronco. Yes, they could have launched this a few years ago but it's better late than never.

If the interest shown for the numerous leaks and hundreds of articles on Bronco’s resurrection since the news leaked out in 2015 is anything to go by, the Bronco is well-armed to take the Wrangler head-on. Watch this space, this is going to be epic!


Ford unveils the all-new 14th-generation F-150

It has been a little over two weeks since Ford took the wraps off the all-new, 14th-generation F-150. While the unveiling has not made it to the headlines in this part of the world, it was a big deal for folks in the United States of America. It had to be! Ford's F-Series trucks - of which the F-150 is an integral part of - has been America's best-selling vehicle since 1981. With sales just shy of 900,000 units in 2019 - an otherwise tough year for Ford - it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say Ford's fortunes depends on this model. 

With the all-new model set to take over later this year, Ford would be hoping to continue their stay at the top of the sales charts. In the meanwhile, let's look at what's good and what's not so good in the new F-150 to see if they have done enough.

Good: F-150 reads the pulse of Americans like no other

Not for nothing are the F-Series America's best-selling vehicles 38 years in a row and top-selling pick-ups 43 years on the trot. These trucks have been - and still are - doing something right to enjoy the kind of popularity that's hard to believe for those not in America. If there ever is a vehicle that understands the pulse of Americans and their needs and wants well, it has got to be the F-150. Trust Ford to have put in all this experience to good use in the new F-150.

Not so good: Design is evolutionary, not revolutionary

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Clearly, that's the proverb Ford's designers have taken inspiration from while working on the new F-150. The truck is an evolution of the outgoing model which itself drew heavily from the bad-ass Atlas Concept that debuted way back in 2013. In essence, the design and proportions are eight years old already. What helps though is the fact the Atlas Concept was so futuristic that the new F-150 still looks quite good borrowing cues from it.

Those large headlights wear what Ford calls its new 'C-clamp' signature pattern outlined by LED DRLs. Housed between them is one of the eleven grilles on offer. Mind you, that wasn't a typo! In profile, the stepped-up window line is carried over with the character line running along the doors becoming a bit more prominent now. Taillights mimic the pattern of the headlights on either side of a tailgate which, again, looks different for different variants. Overall, the new F-150 is a truck that won't put you off.   

Problem is, your perception starts changing the moment you bring Tesla's crazy Cybertruck and Rivian's sleek R1T into consideration. Remember, the new F-150 would face off with these two electric trucks too at some point and not just its traditional rivals - Chevrolet Silverado and Ram Pick-up.

Good: America's workhorse goes 'hybrid'

FCA stole a march on Ford and GM by equipping the current Ram range with a 48-volt mild hybrid system. Ford has now gone one step ahead with a segment-exclusive 'full hybrid' powertrain available as one of the six options in the new F-150.

Dubbed 'PowerBoost', this is essentially Ford's 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 adapted to work in tandem with a 35-kilowatt electric motor to deliver what the car-maker claims would be class-leading power and torque figures (Ford hasn't released the numbers yet). The 1.5-kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery pack mounted between the frame rails below the load floor takes care of energy storage while an inverter on-board can convert that into alternating current to power tools and devices through 120V or 240V outlets on the loading bed. Yes, this is effectively a generator on wheels!

Other engine options include the familiar 3.3-liter V6, 2.7-liter 'EcoBoost' V6, 5.0-liter 'Coyote' V8, 3.0-liter 'PowerStroke' diesel and the same 3.5-liter 'EcoBoost' V6 sans electrification.

Not so good: Interiors could do with more pomp

Look at the F-150's cabin in isolation and all you see is a good, feature-loaded cabin. The 12-inch digital cluster provides a plethora of information to keep the driver happy while the 12-inch center screen with SYNC 4 and a multitude of connectivity features would keep the passengers and the rest of the occupants engaged. The quality, fit and finish appear better while pictures released of higher variants look properly luxurious.

Where's the problem, then? Ram is the problem. FCA raised the bar for the segment and the new F-150, looking at the initial pictures, isn't going to threaten Ram's supremacy in this department. 

Good: Clever features take the 'Utility Quotient' up

Ford's official press release quotes Chief Operating Officer Jim Farley stating, "Since 1948, our hardworking F-Series customers have trusted Ford to help them get the job done." With the all-new F-150, the engineers at Ford have empowered such customers further by incorporating features that are sure to make their lives better and job-site duties easier.

The "Interior Work Surface" offers a flat mini-table in the center console that can be used for work or that quick meal in the middle-of-nowhere. This clever feature can be accessed by folding the gear lever forward in a recess and flipping the console hand rest by 180 degrees. "Max Recline Seats" fold flat to nearly 180 degrees offering business class levels of comfort for a quick nap. The "Fold Flat Rear Storage" is another interesting solution that locks, folds flat and can accommodate longer equipment away from the prying eyes.

Ford hasn't disappointed the outdoorsy types either. "Zone Lighting" that allow occupants to turn on and off individual sections of exterior lights to light up the work or camp zones in the dark. Thoghtful touches like cleats mounted to the sides, built-in clamp pockets and integrated rulers, pencil holder and mobile device holder and cupholder make the "Tailgate Work Pro" a delight for the hardowrking types.

The party trick though is the "Pro Power Onboard" which makes the F-150 a power source for your outdoor work activities. Depending on the variant, Ford's workshorse comes equipped with 120V and/or 240V outlets that can supply 2.0, 2.4 or 7.2 kilowatts to power everything from a 200-watt battery charger to a 2,400-watt electric dirt bike and a host of other tools and equipment.

Be it a leisurely day at the park or a hard day at the worksite, the F-150 has you covered. Now you know the real meaning of an Utility Vehicle.

Its evident Ford has taken a measured approach with the 14th generation F-150. This is quite unlike the last time around when they turned the segment on its head with extensive use of aluminium for the F-150's construction. While that paid off handsomely, Ford has cleverly retained the bits that worked, reworked the bits that could do with improvements, added a hybrid into the mix and voila, the new F-150 is here! Chevrolet and Ram might inch closer but the F-150's hold on the top step looks set to continue.