Nissan previews next-gen Z sports car with this prototype

It’s official. A new Z is on the way! 

And the Z Proto - unveiled today by Nissan virtually - is a thinly-veiled preview of what’s headed our way in the not-so-distant future. 

With 50 years of heritage and legions of fans globally, the Z is not just an important model in Nissan’s glorious history but also has a key role to play in the brand’s NEXT transformation plan announced earlier this year. Yes, the next-generation Z – rumored to be called the 400Z - could just be the image catalyst the Japanese brand desperately needs right now!

In this day and age when unnecessary creases and cuts are becoming a norm, the Z prototype is clean and simple. Refreshingly so, if I may add! 

A part of that could be due to the fact the new Z pays homage to the Z cars of the past, old and new. The silhouette is where the influence is most obvious – the way in which the A-pillars rise and the roof starts tapering down immediately afterwards until it reaches the low-slung rear end. Likewise, the teardrop-shaped headlights are an ode to the original 240Z while the horizontal taillight bars set into a full-width black panel are a modern interpretation of the ones found on the 300ZX. Adding further oomph are carbon-fiber accents on the front lip, side skirts and rear valance, dual exhaust tips and striking 19-inch wheels. The large, rectangular grille up front - reminiscent of the current 370Z - is the only design element that doesn't look convincing enough.

The interiors follow the same ‘retro homage’ theme with modern niceties like a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and the obvious touchscreen infotainment system. A trio of auxiliary gauges on the dash – a Z trait – remain, angled towards the driver. Bright yellow accents are found throughout the cabin, matching the lovely pearlescent yellow shade the car comes painted with. 

Packing a punch under the hood is a twin turbo V6 engine paired with a 6-speed manual transmission that channels the power to the rear wheels. While no other specifications have been released, Nissan did drop a hint in its press release with the statement “Each new generation had a more powerful engine”. That ties up nicely to the 400Z rumors floating around!

Whatever that is, the mere fact that an all-new Z is on the way is good news. From the looks of it, the new Z is everything we enthusiasts wanted. The wait begins!


Jeep Grand Wagoneer Concept previews the brand's upcoming flagship

Jeep has been FCA's knight in shining armour for the last decade or so, riding high on the back of a slew of macho-looking, go-anywhere models tailor-made to take advantage of the SUV boom that gripped the industry. Now, in its quest to venture upmarket, Jeep is bringing back its storied 'Wagoneer' moniker that will be applied on a portfolio of vehicles that, the brand claims, will redefine "American premium".

The Grand Wagoneer Concept shown here likely previews the flagship Grand Wagoneer that will be joined by a not-so-expensive and not-as-luxurious Wagoneer. These will sit atop Jeep's line-up when they go on sale sometime in 2021.

Launched in 1963 under the ownership of Kaiser Jeep Corporation, the original Wagoneer pioneered the luxury 4WD niche at a time when rivals General Motors, Ford, International Harvester and Land Rover were churning out utilitarian off-road vehicles with spartan interiors. That it remained in production - with just minor changes - until 1991 is a testimony to the fact Jeep got the formula right.

If the Grand Wagoneer ends up looking like this concept - which, in all likelihood, it will - Jeep has got it right again. 30 years later!

Despite steering clear of the 'oversized grilles' trend that has gripped most new cars these days, the Grand Wagoneer looks bold and imposing when viewed up front. Thank the familiar 7-slot grille that's now narrow and finished in "Obsidian Black". Book-ending the grille are narrow LED headlights with teak wood detailing. A full-width light bar and raised and illuminated 'Wagoneer' lettering add to the bling quotient. In profile, those flared, trapezoidal wheel arches and large, body-coloured pillars accentuate the size of the Grand Wagoneer with the design around the D-pillar standing out. The rear mimics the front with full-width light bars and thin tail-light clusters book-ending a recessed license plate holder.

If the exteriors don't impress you, the interiors surely will. Jeep has gone all out to make sure the Grand Wagoneer Concept is seen as a legitimate rival to the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator

The cabin is well-styled, well-appointed with lots of sustainable material used for its construction and rich in tech with a grand total of - believe it or not - 7 touchscreens spread across two rows controlling the infotainment and other functions. There's one ahead of the driver, two on the center console, one ahead of the front passenger, two mounted on the front seat headrests and one on the floor console ahead of the second row. Phew! By the way, the flagship Jeep gets a 23-speaker McInstosh audio system.

Jeep has not revealed much more on the new Wagoneer range including power-train specifications. What's been said though is this concept is a plug-in hybrid, so it's safe to assume the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer will offer some sort of electrification at launch. 

Not just Chevrolet and Ford, it's time even Cadillac and Lincoln roll their sleeves up and get ready for the fight. Here I come, says Jeep!


A trio of EV crossovers have started India's electric car revolution

It might take years (or even decades!) before electric cars push over their internal combustion engine counterparts in India but the foundation for that to happen is well and truly set. And a trio of electric crossovers - or SUVs, as some call them - are driving this change.

Tata's Nexon EV, MG's ZS EV and Hyundai's Kona Electric have managed what Mahindra Electric - despite it's 10-year head-start - couldn't. Yes, Mahindra took over the erstwhile Reva Electric Car Company in 2010! Reva, lest you forget, has been around for even longer with Chetan Maini launching his pint-sized toy-ish electric car way back in 2001. What a lead this, to be squandered!

Let's get back to this trio. Their success hinged on their ability to garner the attention of the car-buying public by legitimately staking claim as 'no-compromise' urban run-abouts. That they managed to do it overcoming monumental challenges like lack of charging infrastructure, limited awareness and range anxiety is remarkable.

Look at their spec sheets and you'll know why I called them 'no-compromise' offerings.

The Nexon EV is the most-affordable and consequently the top-seller of this bunch with Tata recently celebrating the roll-out of 1000th Nexon EV. Priced between INR 13.99 - 15.99 Lakhs, the Nexon EV has a 30.2 kWh battery with an ARAI-certified range of 312 km on a single charge. Plugged into a regular 15A socket, the Nexon EV would bump it's battery up from 10 to 90% in 8.5 hours. With CCS2 fast charging, it would take just an hour for the battery to go from 0 to 80%. Even assuming an usable real-world range of just over 200 km, the Nexon EV has hit a sweet spot in the price-range equation. That, along with it's funky looks, class-leading safety and solid build, enhances the Nexon EV's appeal.

The other two are more closely matched and a cut above the Tata, both in terms of pricing and specifications. Surprisingly, it's MG that won against Hyundai's might.

Hot on the heels of Hector's success, MG launched the ZS EV in India with ex-showroom prices ranging between INR 19.88 - 23.58 Lakhs. Equipped with a bigger 44.5 kWh battery and an ARAI-certified range of 340 km, the ZS EV gets multiple charging options. The portable charger that comes along with the car can be plugged into any 15A socket and takes 16-18 hours to juice up the battery from 0 to 80%. The same can be done in 6-8 hours by opting for AC fast chargers and just 50 minutes with DC fast chargers installed in MG dealerships. Road Site Assistance facility for mobile charging support is also available in case of an emergency. The ZS EV's appeal lies in it's all-round capability. Good-looking? Check. Feature-loaded? Double check. Panoramic sunroof? Hell yeah!

That brings us to the Kona Electric, India's first EV crossover and the first-ever EV in the country that offered range in excess of 100 km when it was launched just over a year ago. With a pan-India ex-showroom price of INR 25.30 Lakhs, the Kona Electric has a 39.2 kWh battery with an ARAI-certified range of 452 km. In real-world conditions, that could drop to a little over 300 km, still a mighty impressive number. Time taken to recharge the battery to 100% is a little over 6 hours with an AC charger. Just like MG, Hyundai provides fast-charging DC charges and emergency mobile charging support. It's quirky styling and relatively higher pricing apart, there's nothing quite to fault with the car. The Kona Electric would have sold in higher numbers if MG had not stolen the limelight from the Hyundai within months of it's launch. That the Kona Electric is in high demand globally doesn't help either with allocation to Hyundai India apparently hard to come by.

With all three tasting success, it's clear Indians aren't averse to owning electric cars. Give us an EV that isn't a compromise and were prepared to put our money on it. Hyundai, MG and Tata have effectively ensured other car-makers don't have to think twice to launch their EVs in India. So, who's next then?


Mercedes-Benz unveils the all-new S-Class

This is it, folks. An all-new avatar of what’s widely regarded as the best car in the world has just been unveiled. Say hello to the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class!

This is a significant unveiling for more than one reason. Firstly, the S-Class is the world's best-selling full-size luxury sedan. Mercedes-Benz's flagship is also the gold standard against which rivals measure themselves. More crucially, Daimler believes this is the car that is going to bring Mercedes-Benz back to profitability as it battles a demand slump inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as disruptions in the form of Electric Vehicles.

So, what's new in the all-new S-Class? Let’s dig into the details and find out. 

Elegance personified. As always. 

Right from the W116 series in the seventies to the outgoing W222 series, S-Class has always been the very definition of automotive elegance. The new model is no different. 

Up front, the trapezoidal grille has grown in size but, thankfully, not as much to intimidate onlookers like in some of it's rivals. The long, sculpted hood, the cab-rearward stance, the stretched wheelbase and the short, stubby rear give the car proportions to die for. Exquisitely-detailed LED headlights, triangular two-section LED taillights, door handles that sit flush with the body and subdued character lines on either side further add to the appeal.

Despite its size, the S-Class continues to be a wind-cheater with a co-efficient of drag of just 0.22, making it one of the world's most aerodynamic cars.  

High on tech. High on luxury.

Those two statements could be short but they pretty much sum up the cabin of the all-new S-Class. The technologically-advanced cabin screams opulence any which way you look at and will leave no room for owners to complain. 

The dashboard embraces minimalism with a huge 12.8-inch OLED infotainment screen dominating the proceedings. While the driver gets a 12.3-inch 3D digital instrument cluster providing him with vital information, the rear passengers get their own touchscreens mounted on each of the two front seat backs as well as an armrest-mounted tablet. Mercedes-Benz's second-generation MBUX infotainment system powers these screens with more emphasis placed on voice and gesture controls rather than physical buttons. The car uses fingerprint, face and voice recognition to authenticate the occupants and adjust settings automatically. The screens can be personalized with a choice of four display styles (Discreet, Sporty, Exclusive, Classic) and three modes (Navigation, Assistance, Service).

The seats - or rather plush thrones - don't just score on the luxury factor. Each of them have loads of tech inside. For instance, the driver's seat has up to 19 motors and actuators, four airbags and two exciters (resonance transmitters) incorporated within. Apart from every possible way of adjustment, there is a choice of 10 massage programs to choose from. Imagine winding up on this after a long and tiring day. Bliss, isn't it?

The equipment list include an active ambient lighting system which employs 263 LEDs, a 31-speaker Burmester 4D surround-sound system, Air Balance active fragrancing and ionization package and an Energizing Comfort function that detects stress level of occupants from linked smart devices and recommends one of the many available fitness or wellness programs. 

V12 is gone but engine options are aplenty 

The mainstay of the new S-Class' power-train lineup is a pair of 3.0-liter, in-line six-cylinder engines. The petrol is available in two states of tune - 367 horsepower and 500 Nm in the S450 and 435 horsepower and 520 Nm in the S500 - both assisted by a 48-volt 'EQ Boost' mild-hybrid system. The diesel also has two states of tune - 286 horsepower and 600 Nm in the S350d and 330 horsepower and 700 Nm in the S400d. A 9-speed automatic transmission is standard across the line-up while all variants except the S350d get the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system as standard.

Five drive modes are on offer - ECO, COMFORT, SPORT, SPORT+ and INDIVIDUAL - that lets the driver modify the power-train, suspension, steering and ESP characteristics.

A V8 engine option would join the line-up shortly afterwards as will a plug-in hybrid version with an electric-only range of 100 km. For the first-time ever, the S-Class would also spawn an all-electric version - the EQS - a ground-up luxury electric sedan that will rival the Tesla Model S. 

The S-Class also has a party trick - a steerable rear axle that allows the rear wheels to turn as much as 10 degrees. At parking speeds, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front wheels for added maneuverability while at speeds in excess of 60 km/h, they turn in the same direction as the front wheels for added stability. The E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL suspension works in tandem with ROAD SURFACE SCAN and CURVE functions to predict surface undulations and adjust settings accordingly.

Top-notch safety guaranteed

One of the hallmarks of the S-Class over the years has been the way it kept pushing the safety envelope. What you see in the S-Class today is what you'll get in cars like the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic five years down the line. The new S-Class does the same thing. Yet again.

S-Class' armoury include a lightweight aluminium hybrid body-shell, hardened high-strength steel safety cell, MULTIBEAM LED headlights with 84 individual diodes, Digital Light system capable of projecting guidelines and warning symbols onto the road ahead, the first-ever frontal airbags for rear seat occupants in addition to the driver, passenger, curtain and belt airbags, Mercedes-Benz's standard PRE-SAFE suite with an innovative Impulse Side feature that raises the vehicle body by up to 80 mm when it detects an impending side impact and a new URBAN GUARD suite for all-round monitoring of the vehicle when parked. It even has the ability to locate and recover the vehicle in case of a theft.

With hardware comprising of LiDAR, 4 multi-mode radar sensors, 1 long-range radar sensor, 1 multi-purpose camera up front, 4 close-range cameras for 360-degree vision and 12 ultrasonic sensors, the S-Class gets every conceivable driving assistance system out there. If the regulations permit, the S-Class also has a DRIVE PILOT feature that bestows the car with a SAE Level-3 autonomous driving capability.

MBUX is improved and smarter

Debuting in the new S-Class is the new and improved version of Mercedes-Benz User Experience - MBUX in short.

From the brilliant Head-Up Display with augmented reality tech to the INTERIOR ASSIST function that uses cameras to track occupant movements and proactively trigger certain functions and everything in-between including the infotainment system for every occupant of the car, the MBUX has every damn thing the S-Class offers in its control. As one of the images above suggest, it's a freaking computer inside!

Unmatched legacy

Though the brand's association with luxury saloons date back to early 20th century, it wasn't until the 1956 220 S 'Ponton' Mercedes-Benz started using the letter 'S' on its luxury offerings. The S-Class nomenclature came into existence much later when the W116 series debuted in 1972.

Since then, the S-Class has been pushing the boundaries of luxury, technology and safety with each successive generation. 

The all-new S-Class, code-named W223 (short wheelbase) and V223 (long wheelbase) internally, is now assigned with the unenviable task of building on the rich legacy while staying true to the heritage carefully built over decades. At first glance, the new S-Class seems more than prepared for it.