20170924

2017 Frankfurt - Mercedes-AMG brings F1 technology to the roads with the Project ONE


If you have been following Formula One, you don't have to be told who the reigning constructor's world champions are. For those who don't, know that Team Mercedes-AMG has been ruling the roost of what's being called the 'Turbo V6' era, helping Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg drive away to their world championship victories. With such levels of dominance at the top tier of motor racing, it was just a question of when and not if Mercedes-Benz would be coming up with a hyper car of their own. 

That question was answered when the curtains went up for the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show when Lewis Hamilton drove in the Mercedes-AMG Project ONE on stage!


First up, let's get our heads around the stagerring F1-derived technology associated with this automobile. 

Mounted between the front and rear wheels is a 1.6-liter turbocharged V6 hybrid engine, the very same unit that powers the team's Formula 1 race cars. Spinning at 11,000 rpm with a claimed 40% thermal efficiency, the tiny unit produces an incredible 1,000 horsepower. When all those horses are unleashed, the Mercedes-AMG Project ONE can rocket from 0 to 200 km/h in just six seconds. That's faster than the Bugatti Chiron, widely regarded as the world's fastest production car! The car can reach speeds beyond 350 km/h, says Mercedes-Benz.


Paired with the internal combustion engine are a total of four electric motors, one integrated into the turbocharger and another directly installed on the engine with a link to the crankcase. The two remaining 120 kW motors, where rotor revolutions can go up to a staggering 50,000 rpm, drive the front wheels. Its no wonder then that Mercedes-AMG wants these cars to come back to the factory after 31,000 miles for an engine overhaul.  

The battery cells are stacked on the floor right behind the front axle while their arrangement and the cooling system are the same as the ones used in Formula 1 race cars. The EQ Power+ drive system operates at 800 volts instead of the usual 400 volts. With that, the Mercedes-AMG Project ONE can be your zero emission vehicle with a pure electric driving range of 25 km!


The light-weight, high-strength carbon-fibre monocoque body, the multi-link suspension with innovative pushrod design, the 10-spoke forged aluminium wheels with carbon-fibre semi-cover, the weight-optimized ceramic compound braking system and the 8-speed manual transmission with hydraulic actuation and shift paddles are all exclusively developed by Mercedes-AMG for the Project ONE. 

With such performance and tech credentials, who cares how the car looks? Clearly, its a case of function over form as a slew of air inlets, wings, splitters and fins illustrate the wind-cheating capabilities of this hyper car. That said, the car does seem to evoke memories of a certain McLaren F1, a legend in its own right.


Now that we know the Mercedes-AMG Project ONE is stuff our wet dreams are made of, there are two choices ahead of us. Take the next flight to Frankfurt and catch a glimpse before the curtains come down on the 2017 edition of the Motor Show or rob a bank or two and have $2.5 million or thereabouts ready. Which of these are you upto?

20170922

Tata Nexon launched in India from ₹5.85 Lakhs

Thanks to the Tiago, Hexa and Tigor, Tata Motors is on a growth trajectory now after struggling for years with falling sales and dwindling market share. That trajectory is all set to receive a huge fillip with the launch of the Nexon, the brand's first compact crossover, today.


Available in four variants – XE, XM, XT and XZ+, the Nexon is priced between 5.85 Lakhs and 8.45 Lakhs for the petrol variants and 6.85 Lakhs and 9.30 Lakhs for the diesel variants. The top-end XZ+ variant also gets the option of a dual tone exterior paint job for a 15,000 premium over the regular variants. 


Powering the Nexon are a pair of engines developed in-house by Tata Motors. Both the 1.2-liter REVOTRON petrol and the 1.5-liter REVOTORQ diesel mills are turbocharged and generate class-leading 108 horsepower. While the 3-cylinder petrol engine generates 170 Nm of maximum torque, the 4-cylinder diesel generates 260 Nm of torque, the best figures in segment. A 6-speed manual transmission is paired to these engines at launch but we hear an Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) is on the cards and would be launched a few months down the line.

First shown in concept form at the 2014 Auto Expo in New Delhi, the Nexon wooed show-goers with its funky and futuristic design. Whilst there were doubts how much of those striking design elements would make it to production, Tata returned to the 2016 edition of the Auto Expo with the production version that looked barely different to the concept. Since then, the vehicle has taken its own sweet time to hit the market but, interestingly, the hype around the Nexon remained unabated.


Pitching against the trend-setting Ford EcoSport and the big-selling Maruti-Suzuki Vitara Brezza, the Nexon had to make an impact at first glance. Boy, does it do that with aplomb! Up front, Tata's familiar smiling grille with the 'Humanity Line' establishes the family connection. Merging seamlessly with the grille on either sides are stretched-back projector headlights. Fog lamps are placed on separate trapezoidal housings in the bumper. In profile, the flared wheel arches, the dual-tone paint job with the distinct, swoosh-shaped 'Ivory White' ceramic element underlining the windows and the steeply-rising beltline combine together to create a strong visual impression. The rear, with the tall bumper, high-set signature LED taillights and the thick ceramic element, is a bit too funky and is likely to polarize opinions. 

That said, the Nexon is a sure shot head-turner! Look no further if attracting stares is what you want.


All their recent launches have had much-improved interiors but, with the Nexon, Tata has taken an even bigger step forward. This is easily the best interiors yet in a Tata vehicle. We fancied our chances sitting inside one and the Nexon impressed with a spacious, well-designed and nicely put-together cabin. The familiar three-spoke steering wheel, the dashboard-mounted floating touchscreen and the flowing center console with a chunky 'Drive Mode Selector' knob are the visual highlights in the three-tone cabin that gets a liberal dose of classy 'brushed metal' inserts. Cleverly-designed storage spaces abound including an umbrella holder for each of the front doors, a feature hitherto found in luxury cars. 

Standard across the Nexon range are dual airbags, Antilock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Corner Stability Control, ISOFIX mounts, Multi Drive modes with Eco, City and Sport, a comprehensive Driver Information System, front power windows and umbrella holder in the front doors. 


The list expands gradually as we move up the range. 

The top-end XZ+, as one would expect, is loaded to the hilt with features including Smart Key with Push Button Start, height-adjustable front seats, Park Assist with camera, front fog lamps with cornering function, Voice Alerts, 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system from Harman with 8 speakers tuned for surround sound, advanced connectivity options with Android Auto and Voice Commands, 16-inch machine-cut alloy wheels, Feline Eye-shaped Daytime Running Lamps (DRL), climate control, fast USB charger, remote central locking, chilled glove box and power-adjustable and power-folding mirrors.

The Nexon boasts a segment-best 209 mm ground clearance and 350 liters of boot space. With the rear seat folded, it expands to a whopping 690 liters. 

Overall, a capable product like the Nexon at prices that currently undercuts its chief competitors, the EcoSport and Vitara Brezza, should mean brisk business for Tata Motors. Yes, Tata’s image amongst private car buyers isn’t all that great but the 7,000 odd Tiagos sold last month show that the perception is changing. Come on, Tata, you are on for a biggie with the Nexon!

20170918

Mercedes-Benz rolls out 50,000th Citaro city bus


Ever since its debut in 1997, the Citaro range of city buses from Mercedes-Benz have revolutionized public transportation in major cities across the world. The German manufacturer recently celebrated the roll-out of 50,000th Citaro, making it one of the largest-selling city buses in the world. The landmark bus is a Citaro-based CapaCity, a 20-metre long four-axle bus finished in red and white, that's headed for service in Vienna. The Austrian capital has been a big market for the Citaro range of buses.

When the first-generation Citaro was launched, it made quite an impression with sleek exteriors and comfortable interiors with cantilever seats and curved grab-rails. Over the years, the Citaro underwent numerous changes to remain relevant to the changing tastes and requirements across cities.


A crucial element that plays to Citaro’s advantage is its wide model range designed to suit multiple needs and requirements. The current-generation, for instance, includes the rigid Citaro, the articulated Citaro G, the compact Citaro K, the low-entry Citaro LE, the rural-service Citaro Ü/GÜ and the Citaro-based CapaCity and CapaCtiy L large-capacity articulated buses. In addition, there have been several customized versions and special purpose vehicles based on the Citaro, highlighting its flexibility. 

Be it the ahead-of-norms emission standards or the large-scale trials with fuel-cell and hybrid technology, the Citaro has always been at the forefront when it comes to power-train tech too. Add to that state-of-the-art safety equipment like all-round disc brakes, Electronic Stability Program (ESP), front-end crash element, Articulation Turntable Controller (ATC), bi-xenon and LED headlamps, it’s not hard to understand why the Citaro has been a favourite, be it in Vienna, Frankfurt, Dubai or Singapore!


Whilst celebrating its past, Mercedes-Benz is already prepping the Citaro up for the future. Last year, the brand previewed a self-driving city bus of the future, dubbed ‘Future Bus’, equipped with City Pilot. An all-electric Citaro is due in 2018, aiming to do a Tesla in city buses. All that means just one thing; there are more milestones in store for the Citaro!

20170914

2017 Frankfurt - Honda's 'Urban EV Concept' previews a full-electric city car of the future

When was the last time you were excited on seeing a car as small as this? Not in the recent past, I presume, given the fact cars have only been getting bigger and bigger with every new iteration. Bucking the trend at the ongoing 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show is this cute little car from Honda, dubbed the Urban EV Concept.

Based on an all-new platform, the Urban EV Concept, Honda says, previews the design and technology that will appear on a future battery electric production model from the Japanese brand that could debut in Europe as early as 2019.

Have a look at the car and you'll agree its hard not to like it, inside out. 


Externally, the chic retro lines are a throwback to the wonderful compact cars Honda produced in the seventies and eighties. Those were the days when the Civic was as big as today’s Fiat 500! 

Replacing the grille up front is a display panel that connects the circular LED headlights and capable of flashing interactive messages like greetings, advice to road users and charging status updates. Cool, no? A ‘backlit-in-blue’ Honda logo sits right in the middle of the panel, a design element that the brand’s future EVs would sport. The windshield and the side windows appear to wrap themselves around the car. The rear gets a matching display panel like the front, only here the lights are perfect little squares. The wide and low stance, together with the flared wheel arches adds a bit of muscularity to this little city runabout. 


Access to the interiors are through rear-hinged coach doors, like the ones you see in Rolls-Royce. Two bench seats inside have been designed to accommodate four occupants. The minimalist cabin is dominated by a super-wide display screen that possibly presents the entire gamut of information for the driver's disposal. The screens even extend on the doors on either sides where they function as rear-view mirrors by feeding inputs from digital cameras. Notably, the whole cabin is devoid of knobs and buttons. Even the steering wheel, which these days houses a plethora of buttons, is delightfully clean. If this cabin makes it to production, we would be really surprised. 


Advanced technologies on board the car include 'Honda Automated Network Assistant' - a personal concierge that can learn to make recommendations by observing driver's past judgements and 'Honda Power Manager' - a system that can store and release energy back to the grid.

Though Honda did not divulge details on what powers the Urban EV concept, they did announce their 'Electric Vision' strategy that includes the development of a dedicated electric vehicle platform featuring fully-electric technology.

Overall, the Urban EV Concept is small, fashionable, non-polluting and futuristic. This is just what we need in our cities!

The folks at Honda have been caught napping by their rivals in the race for electrification, no doubt, but if the Urban EV Concept is any indication, they are making up big time for the time lost so far. Watch out!

20170822

Hyundai launches the all-new Verna in India

Honda City has been ruling the roost in the mid-size segment since the late nineties. While competitors came in every shape and form, none but the Hyundai Verna (in its popular ‘fluidic’ avatar) managed to usurp the Japanese sedan. While the battle for supremacy is back with Japanese protagonists with the fourth-generation City and Maruti-Suzuki’s Ciaz vying for honours, Hyundai is not ready to cede further ground yet.  The all-new Verna, launched in India today, is the slingshot Hyundai hopes will bring it back into the hotly-contested battle.


With introductory prices ranging between INR 8.00 to INR 12.24 Lakhs for the petrol variants and INR 9.20 to INR 12.62 Lakhs for the diesel variants, Hyundai has played it smart by positioning the Verna bang in between the Ciaz and the City. Clearly, this is an attempt at pulling in buyers from both of them. 

At first glance, the new Verna appears no more than a facelift of the outgoing model, albeit a significant one at that. That's not true. Based on the K2 platform that also underpins the Elantra, this is an all-new generation of the car that made its global debut last year.


Incorporating Hyundai's newest corporate design trait - the 'cascading' grille, Verna's fascia looks more grown up and mature. On either sides are stretched headlamps with inbuilt projectors and LED Daytime Running Lights. The projector fog lamps, a segment first, are placed in separate housings on the bumper. The grille surround, the horizontal slats and the fog lamp surrounds are all dipped in chrome to satiate the never-ending craze for the shiny metal. In profile, the Verna retains the tipped-forward stance as before but the multiple cuts and creases are gone, now replaced by a prominent shoulder line. At the rear, Elantra-esque split taillights with LED elements look brilliant and gives the Verna a sort of 'mini Elantra' demeanor. 


As we have seen with newer Hyundai cars, the interiors aren’t what one would term aesthetically pleasing. Having said that, the build quality, fit and finish appear top notch as usual. The dual tone dashboard features a wing-shaped center console that houses a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system in the top variants. Interestingly, the seats are given the dual tone treatment as well with beige and black applied in equal measure. The new Verna is longer and wider than its predecessor, thereby liberating more headroom and legroom for the occupants. Despite that, the Hyundai is no match for the humongous space on offer in the rear seats of the Honda and Suzuki-badged rivals.


As is the norm these days, the new Verna is loaded to the hilt with features. Standard features across the lineup include dual airbags, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), central locking, ISOFIX mounts, power windows, cooled glove-box, tilt steering and rear center armrest with cup holders. The kit in the top-end SX(O) variant include electric sunroof, side and curtain airbags, ventilated seats, projector headlamps, cornering lamps, leather upholstery, smart hands-free trunk, push button start/stop, Auto Link and rear curtain, a few of which are firsts for the mid-size segment.

Powertrain options in the new Verna are now restricted to the 1.6-liter engines. While the 'Gamma' petrol engine churns out 121 horsepower and 151 Nm of torque, the 'U2' CRDi mill generates 126 horsepower and 260 Nm of torque. Mated to these engines are a 6-speed manual gearbox carried over from the outgoing Verna or a new 6-speed automatic transmission shared with the Creta and the Elantra. The 1.4-liter engines and the dated 4-speed automatic box have been shown the door.

With the new Verna, Hyundai has carefully retained the old Verna's strengths while simultaneously rectifying the car's weaknesses. But, is that enough to pull in customers from the City and the Ciaz that are running away in the sales charts? For sure, an interesting battle is brewing up and we will have to wait and watch for the results.