20170423

Competition Alert: Maruti-Suzuki has teased the all-new Dzire and it's looking good

As if to spice things up this weekend, Maruti-Suzuki released Friday a sketch of the upcoming, third-generation Dzire sedan. Yes, this time, the car might not get the 'Swift' prefix given the fact that the Dzire nameplate has clearly established itself as a force to reckon with in the industry.

For the folks at Maruti-Suzuki, the teaser might just be a part of the pre-launch build-up leading to the actual launch in May. For the competition though, this is nothing but an official warning urging them to be prepared for an impending assault in the compact sedan segment.

Here's why.


Few cars have dominated their segments the way Swift Dzire has. Ever since it's launch in 2008, the Swift Dzire has been India's largest-selling car that's not a hatchback. Maruti-Suzuki have been selling more Swift Dzires than all it's competitors combined every month over the last few years. Rivals tried every trick in the trade to snatch sales and market share - Honda shoe-horned a more powerful diesel engine in the Amaze, Hyundai offered more features and a comfortable rear seat in the Xcent, Tata redefined space and value for money with the Zest, Ford brought in safety features unheard of in the segment with the Figo Aspire and Volkswagen joined the party with the famed 'German' build and solidity in the Ameo, but the Swift Dzire continued unabated. In fact, since 2014, only the Alto sells more than the Swift Dzire if you look at the annual sales charts.

Interestingly, the Swift Dzire accomplished the feat despite being butt-ugly. The Swift was such a good-looking car but it was designed to be a hatchback. Maruti-Suzuki's idea of forcing a boot on to the Swift's butt didn't look like a good idea when the car's pictures were first released. The Dzire wasn't looking desirable! But then, the car launched and silenced nay-sayers by becoming a massive hit with the masses. Sales zoomed past 100,000 units within two years of launch and kept increasing year over year. 

The second-generation came in 2012. This time, the car was designed to accommodate a boot grounds up, which meant it wasn't as shock-inducing as it's predecessor. Still, the 4-meter length restriction meant that the Swift Dzire still looked as if it was rear-ended when rolling off the line at Manesar. The car was still not as feature-loaded as it's rivals and Maruti-Suzuki were still depending on Fiat for the 1.3-liter diesel engine. But the car-buying public cared the least. Sales hit through the roof and the Swift Dzire massacred competition with cumulative sales crossing 1 million units in 2015.


The teaser pic and the spy-shots floating around in the internet has all but confirmed that the third-generation Dzire is a genuinely good-looking car. For the first time ever, the car's boot looks well-integrated and doesn't look like an afterthought. The profile is well-designed with lines inspired by the more-expensive Baleno and Ciaz. That's half the battle won already. If the recent launches from Maruti-Suzuki are any indication, expect the all-new Dzire to be fully loaded as well with an assortment of engine and transmission options being offered.

A good-looking Dzire with segment-leading features and technology isn't exactly what the competition wants right now. But, that's precisely what is on the way from Maruti-Suzuki. It's time for Honda, Hyundai, Tata, Ford and Volkswagen to run for cover. The undisputed king of compact sedans is back, this time with no potential chink in it's armour!

20170420

2017 Shanghai - Concept A Sedan previews the 'small future' ahead of Mercedes-Benz

After years of trailing arch-rival BMW, Mercedes-Benz ended 2016 on a high as the world's best-selling luxury car brand with sales growing in double digits over 2015. While the C- and E-Class sedans continue to be the best-sellers in the lineup, playing no small part in the brand's resurgence has been their foray into compact cars. Spun off the less complex and therefore less expensive Modular Front Architecture (MFA), the A-Class, B-Class, CLA, CLA Shooting Brake and GLA together accounted for 636,903 unit sales last year, almost a third of the brand's total.

That is why the Concept A Sedan unveiled in Shanghai is a significant reveal for Mercedes-Benz. This is not just your regular concept intended to attract eyeballs and pull people in. This is a sign of things to come. Design cues from the Concept A Sedan would trickle down as is to the next-generation compact cars wearing the three pointed star.


The overall shape and size of the concept is similar to the existing CLA. That can only be a good thing as the CLA is a stunner any which way you look at it. Of course, the odd angles and the multitude of cuts and creases on the sheet metal did polarize opinions to some extent and Mercedes-Benz have acted on that. The Concept A Sedan is rounded, less flashy and sports cleaner surfacing all around. Gone are the cuts and creases in profile for instance replaced by a single character line that runs the full length of the car. The fascia is bolder and gets the 'Panamericana' grille from AMG underlined by a wider single-piece air dam. The latter has now become a Merc family trait. The rear is less droopy and looks chic. 

With the wheels pushed off to the corners and the roof not dropping as dramatically as in the CLA, the Concept A Sedan's production version is expected to get a more spacious and practical cabin. That's a good thing too as the current crop of compact cars from Mercedes-Benz aren't known for the passenger and luggage space on offer.


This is still a concept and there has to be certain elements that just won't make it to production. In this case, it's the grid-shaped structures in the headlights that are coated with ultraviolet paint and glows in different colours depending on the ambient light. The full-length panoramic glass roof, flush-fitted door handles and those 20-inch alloy wheels aren't expected to trickle down to the production model either. 

All in all, the Concept A Sedan previews a cleaner, sleeker line up of small cars from Mercedes-Benz. Moreover, the model range is expected to expand as well and that's not good news if you are BMW and Audi.

20170418

Jaguar F-Pace is 2017 World Car of the Year

One of the key events at the New York International Auto Show every year is the hand-out of the World Car Awards. The only one of it's kind in the industry, the World Car Awards brings together a jury panel comprising the best of automotive journalists and experts from diverse geographic locations. Naturally, these awards command a lot of respect and are amongst the most-coveted in the automotive industry.

Launched in 2004 and handed out since 2005, the World Car Awards aims to reward and recognize the best in the industry on a global scale and is not confined to a publication, country or continent. 

The 2017 titles and the award-winners were announced last week. 

2017 World Car of the Year

From an initial list of 23 vehicles from all over the world, ten were shortlisted before three finalists were announced at Geneva earlier this year. The top three were the Audi Q5, the Jaguar F-Pace and the Volkswagen Tiguan. With sales of SUVs and crossovers soaring around the world, the three finalists sort of vindicate the shift that's taking place in the industry. 75 journalists from 23 countries around the world evaluated each of the contenders and it was the Jaguar that came out on top. 

Ever since it debuted at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, the F-Pace, the first-ever SUV from the British luxury brand, has been winning friends and fans worldwide and the World Car of the Year title is yet another feather in it's cap. It is well-styled, is lavishly appointed, gets some clever features and need not be restricted on the road with the standard All Wheel Drive system and Adaptive Surface Response technology, virtues that seem to have impressed the jurors.


2017 World Car of the Year - Jaguar F-Pace

Previous Winners:



2017 World Luxury Car 

To honour higher-priced, limited-selling, premium cars worldwide, the World Luxury Car title was carved out as a separate award in 2014. Mercedes-Benz walked away with it twice since then while the BMW 7-Series won the accolade last year. 

Mercedes-Benz returned to winning ways in 2017, with it's bread-and-butter E-Class claiming the top spot from an initial entry list of nine luxury cars from all over the world. The new E-Class has been receiving rave reviews and is expected to consolidate Mercedes-Benz's dominance in executive sedans. Another aspect that would make this victory sweeter for the folks at Stuttgart is the presence of arch-rival BMW's 5-Series as one of the finalists. Volvo's S90/V90 was the other finalist in fray for the title.


2017 World Luxury Car - Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Previous Winners:

  • 2016 – BMW 7-Series
  • 2015 – Mercedes-Benz S Coupe
  • 2014 – Mercedes-Benz S-Class


2017 World Performance Car

The Porsche 718 twins, the Cayman and the Boxster, emerged victorious in the World Performance Car shoot-out. 

To be eligible for this award, a vehicle must exhibit specific and overt sports/performance orientation, should be available for sale in atleast two continents and have an annual production run exceeding 500 vehicles. From an initial list of seven cars that met the criteria, three finalists - Audi R8 Spyder, McLaren 570S and Porsche 718 Cayman/Boxster, were announced. In the end, it was Porsche that won the hearts of the jurors. Remarkably, this is Porsche's fifth World Performance Car title with the German brand already being a recipient of the award in 2006, 2012, 2013 and 2014.


2017 World Performance Car - Porsche 718 Cayman/Boxster

Previous Winners:

  • 2016 – Audi R8
  • 2015 – Mercedes-AMG GT
  • 2014 – Porsche 911 GT3
  • 2013 – Porsche Boxster / Cayman
  • 2012 – Porsche 911


2017 World Green Car

For the second straight year, Toyota walked away with the honours in this crucial 'green car' category. This time, it was the Prius Prime that tasted success. Crucially, the Toyota had to contend with the Chevrolet Bolt and the Tesla Model X, mighty contenders any which way you look at them. These three cars were the chosen finalists from an initial entry list of 12 vehicles that met the eligibility criteria.


2017 World Green Car - Toyota Prius Prime

Previous Winners:

  • 2016 – Toyota Mirai
  • 2015 – BMW i8
  • 2014 – BMW i3
  • 2013 – Tesla Model S
  • 2012 – Mercedes-Benz S250 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY


2017 World Urban Car

A new title introduced for this year, the World Urban Car aims to identify and crown the best car to tackle the urban jungle that's getting crowded with each passing year. 

Commenting on the new title, World Car vice‐chairman, Mike Rutherford, commented, "It's an award whose time has come. Everyday cars in many ‐ perhaps most ‐ parts of the world will have to become smaller if road and parking space is to be found for them in increasingly packed towns and cities whose populations are swelling annually. This year's winner in our inaugural World Urban Car category proves that these small vehicles don't have to be cheap, undesirable and unpleasant to drive. Quite the opposite. It is among the best value‐for‐money products on the market".

And the car that was found worthy of all that praise is BMW's brilliant i3 (94 Ah). From an initial list of seven contenders, three finalists including the Citroen C3 and the Suzuki Ignis were chosen before deciding on the winner.


2017 World Urban Car - BMW i3 (94 Ah)

2017 World Car Design of the Year

With a set of eligibility criteria that's like no other, the World Car Design of the Year aims to recognize vehicles that pushes the established boundaries in their design and styling. A 6-member design panel were first asked to review the candidates and establish a short-list of recommendation for the jurors. 

In the end, out of the three finalists that included the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet and the Toyota C-HR, the Jaguar F-Pace walked away with the title, it's second of the year. With bold and sexy styling that looked every bit a Jaguar, we commented that the F-Pace was amongst the most beautiful crossovers/SUVs we have seen and it seems the design experts and jurors had similar opinion. With the F-Type already winning the title in 2013, F-Pace's victory is the second time a Jaguar is crowned the World Car Design of the Year.


2017 World Car Design of the Year - Jaguar F-Pace

Previous Winners:


  • 2016 – Mazda MX-5
  • 2015 – Citroen C4 Cactus
  • 2014 – BMW i3
  • 2013 – Jaguar F-Type
  • 2012 – Land Rover Range Rover Evoque

20170416

2017 New York - Dodge unleashes the Demon

The city of New York and its suburbs are said to be possessed by a demonic force. And that happens to be the sinister Challenger SRT Demon unleashed by Dodge.

When Dodge launched the sinister 707-horsepower Challenger and Charger Hellcats, little did we realize there is scope for a more powerful and crazier version. That's also why we weren't expecting a whole lot from the multitude of teasers and hints Dodge dropped since the beginning of the year. Boy, were we wrong!


Digest these numbers - 840 whopping horsepower, ridiculous 1044 Nm of torque, acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in a 'blink-and-you-miss' 2.1 seconds (on a regulation drag strip) and a quarter mile run in a crazy 9.65 seconds at 140 mph. 

If your mind isn't numb looking at those, here are some more to chew on. With competent hands behind the wheel, this car can pull a wheelie from a dead stop. The Demo holds a Guinness World Record for pulling off the longest wheelie for a production car at 2.92 feet. That's 35 inches with the front wheels off the ground!

Responsible for these astounding numbers is the supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI V8 from the Hellcat that's been significantly tweaked. There is a larger 2.7-liter supercharger that turns the boost up to 14.5 psi, a Power Chiller system has been designed that uses the car's air conditioning to cool the air coming in through the 'Air Grabber' (said to be the largest functional hood scoop ever on a production car) and an after-run cooler is used to bring the supercharger's temperature down once the engine is shut off. The pistons and connecting rods have been strengthened and dual fuel pumps are employed to feed the engine.


That's not all. The rest of the mechanicals have gone through changes too. The driveline has been fully upgraded employing a high-strength steel propshaft that can handle 15 percent more torque, a rear differential that can handle upto 30 percent more and high-strength steel halfshafts that can handle upto 20 percent more. The Demon gets a Trans Brake system that locks the transmission output shaft in order to hold the car for best possible launches. Then, there are the grippy 315 section tires on all four wheels for best possible traction from the word go.

For true drag strip outings, Dodge offers a crate of goodies containing skinny front wheels and tires, jack, wrench, tire pressure gauge and an air compressor. The best part is the crate is designed to fit in the car's trunk. Talk about attention to detail.

Hot rods don't get hotter than this. This car is factory-built to race on drag strips but the American National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) seem to disagree. Why, you wonder? Well, the car is just too fast (quarter mile time under 10 seconds and exit speed of 140 mph) and doesn't come with a roll cage. It's ironic that the Demon is banned from doing exactly what it was built to do.


Dodge has taken light-weighting to an altogether different level as the Demon is stripped off literally everything that's not needed to move the car. Yes, the car is devoid of even the passenger seat and the rear bench. Both are $1 options and so are a 19-speaker Harmon Kardon stereo system, floor mats and trunk carpets. 

Think of an American muscle car and your mind processes vivid images of an automobile that looks menacing and sexy. The Challenger, even in it's regular form, meets that perception to the tee and the SRT Demon is no different. The car looks absolutely smashing.

Unlike some supercars that are restricted to race tracks, the Challenger SRT Demon is completely street-legal and can be bought with a 3-year vehicle and a 5-year powertrain warranty. When it goes on sale later this year, prices are expected to hover less than $100,000, a fraction of what supercars with similar levels of performance retail for.


Only 3,300 of these would be built with 3,000 allocated for the United States of America and 300 for Canada.

If grabbing headlines is what Dodge and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) intended to do with the Demon, they have succeeded big time. Let's now see if this helps them sell more of their regular cars.

20170414

2017 New York - Genesis GV80 Concept previews the brand's first SUV

Visitors to the 2016 New York International Auto Show were in for a visual treat from Genesis that had the sexy Hybrid Sports Sedan Concept on display. An year later, Hyundai’s luxury division is aiming for a repeat act, this time with a large SUV, something that would fit well in Genesis’ lineup. The two-strong portfolio is all set to expand to six by 2020 and two of them are said to be SUVs.

Look past it’s alphanumeric nomenclature and the GV80 Concept is an impressive vehicle that teases what’s in store from the South Korean luxury brand.


If the overall shape and stance remind you of one Bentley Bentayga, it’s not a mere coincidence. Hyundai poached Luc Donckerwolke, previously Bentley’s chief designer, before spinning off the luxury division and the gentleman is now in charge of giving Genesis an identity of its own. Well then, the GV80 Concept could be the solution Genesis had been looking for. 

The familiar ‘crest’ grille takes prime place up front underlined by a lower grille surround. The latter forms the base of a prominent center spine that runs the full length of the car on either sides. Slim quad headlights with ‘jewel-like’ detailing and matching taillights with laser-lit fiber optics stand out while conceptual touches abound in the form of massive 23-inch alloy wheels, flush-mounted door handles and cameras in place of rear view mirrors. Proportions are spot-on – long and wide with an almost-flat hood, a long wheelbase and minimal front and extended rear overhangs – bestowing the GV80 Concept with the stance of a proper luxury automobile.


A lot of work has gone in to the details. The bespoke ‘Ice Granite’ finish in the external panels, the partly-vented spokes that match the see-through pattern in the B- and C-pillars, the low cut-lines in the front fenders and the spike in the lower front grille with a matching cue on the high-mounted brake light at the rear are just a few of them.

It’s in the inside the GV80 Concept makes a far better impression. From the sexy steering wheel with thin aluminium inserts that double up as spokes to the bridge instrument panel housing a massive 22-inch curved OLED infinity display screen that presents two distinct zones for the driver and the front passenger, the cabin is well thought-out and beautifully-crafted. An array of materials – red leather with quilted diamond stitching, suede, polished aluminium and ash wood – blend well to give the cabin an opulent look and feel. The center console tunnel runs the length of the cabin, splitting it into four distinct seating areas with individual touch-capacitive infotainment controls.


We wish the product planners at Genesis manage to please their bosses with a positive business case and come out with a production SUV with interiors similar to this concept. That would be one hell of a differentiator for the brand that’s trying hard to be different amidst the Mercs, Audis, BMWs, Jags and Volvos. 

Genesis claims the GV80 Concept has been designed to house an advanced plug-in hydrogen fuel cell powertrain, underlining Hyundai’s commitment to this technology. No other details have been released though. Considering the practicality aspects and lack of refueling infrastructure, the production model is likely to come with the 3.3-liter V6 or the 5.0-liter V8 that power the G80 and G90 sedans.

In the SUV-obsessed times we are in right now, Genesis can’t survive with just a pair of sedans. The sooner the GV80 Concept-derived SUV goes into production, the better it is for them. Over to you then, Hyundai.