Rolls-Royce and Mini celebrate BMW Group's centenary, unveil 'Vision Next 100' Concepts of their own

One hundred years. That's quite a milestone to survive. BMW Group has did just that and are celebrating their centenary with bold concepts predicting the next 100 years. While we saw BMW's vision of a car of the next century earlier this year, it is time now to look at what Rolls-Royce and Mini think of themselves a hundred years from now!

Named the 'Vision Next 100 Concept' just like its BMW sibling, Rolls-Royce's prediction of its future car looks bonkers. Its either distinctively futuristic or downright ridiculous and nothing in between. The big trapezoidal grille with the 'Spirit of Ecstasy' proudly on top and the long hood are just like the ones we see in Rolls-Royce motor cars today but that's where the similarity ends. The pinched fascia, the hidden wheels, the sloping roofline and the whole car itself tries too hard to look different. While no details are released, an electric drivetrain is said to be the mode of propulsion. Of course, its autonomous and does away with the need for a driver's seat and even the steering wheel. With just a plush sofa in there and a big OLED screen in front, this is literally a lounge on wheels.

Rolls-Royce says the Vision Next 100 Concept is a culmination of what Rolls-Royce patrons could expect from their car in the coming decades and the brand's own vision of how to meet those expectations. We bet those said patrons didn't see what was coming when they gave their inputs! Personal Vision, Effortless Journey, The Grand Sanctuary and The Grand Arrival are said to be the key tenets of this future vision from Rolls-Royce. Whatever they call it, we think its just too weird and polarizing!

Mini played its part and contributed to the centenary celebrations with its vision of a car of the next century. And quite unlike the Rolls-Royce, the Mini Vision Next 100 Concept looks a lot like the current Mini. The classic silhouette, the heavy floating roof, the circular headlamps and the lean greenhouse atop a wide lower half are all there, just a bit modernized and tuned to the future. 

Mini predicts the future would be car-sharing and to ensure the car is adaptable to those driving it, Mini has made the car a blank canvas that responds and changes to the individual user. Thankfully, Mini thinks humans will still like to drive as often as possible. So there is a steering wheel that can be slid in the space between the driver and the co-passenger if the occupants wish to switch to autonomous driving. A central circular instrument that's so typical of the Minis of today finds its place in the cabin. Its cheekily called a 'Cooperizer' and acts as a link between the driver and the car's digital intelligence. As expected, a zero-emission electric drive system is said to be sitting underneath that diminutive shell.

Now that we are done with seeing how BMW, Rolls-Royce and Mini envision them 100 years from now, let's see what BMW Motorrad has in store later this year!


Datsun launches redi-Go in India between ₹ 2.39 - 3.34 Lakhs

Renault Kwid's stupendous success has proved that customers at the budget end of the market are willing to look beyond Maruti-Suzuki when its time to part with their hard-earned money. Not wanting to miss out on the action, Nissan's low-cost subsidiary Datsun unveiled its budget car 'redi-Go' on Indian soil earlier this year

First shown in concept form at the 2014 Auto Expo in New Delhi, the redi-Go attracted show-goers with its funky styling and tallboy stance. In what was a pleasant surprise, the production model unveiled this April retained most of the concept's styling elements and proportions. The results are quite impressive with the redi-Go's smart and distinct lines standing out from the mundane A-segment crowd. Datsun's trademark hexagonal grille and the segment-first LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL) gives the redi-Go an almost premium touch up front. Strong character lines and flared wheel arches look distinct and so does the pinched rear with the contoured tailgate. The next-generation Alto sure has its work cut out if it has to stand a chance against cars like this.

Unlike the exteriors that look like they belong to a car from a higher segment, the interiors of the redi-Go is strictly bare-bones. Make no mistake though, the redi-Go's cabin looks noticeably better than Datsun's earlier offerings even at first glance. While the base variants are understandably spartan, the top-end variant gets features like a driver airbag, power steering, front power windows and a music system with CD/USB/Aux inputs. If you are looking for more, Datsun has lined up more than 50 accessories to customize your redi-Go. Thanks to its tall stance, space inside the cabin should be adequate for four passengers with a fifth adult being a tight fit.

Based on the CMF-A platform developed by the Renault-Nissan alliance, the redi-Go shares its mechanicals with the popular Renault Kwid. As such, the same 799 cc in-line 3-cylinder petrol mill that powers the popular Renault does duty in the redi-Go too. Generating 53 horsepower and 72 Nm of torque, the specifications are similar too. Being lighter than the Kwid, expect the redi-Go to be peppier than the Kwid on the go.

Still searching for that elusive first hit, Datsun has nailed the redi-Go's pricing. The base variant starts at INR 2.39 Lakhs with the top-end variant stretching to INR 3.34 Lakhs. Both prices are ex-showroom Delhi. Those are extremely competitive prices making the redi-Go more affordable than a Renault Kwid or a Maruti-Suzuki Alto. Datsun also claims a 32% lower maintenance cost for the redi-Go compared to the Alto.

After a lackluster show with their earlier models, the Go and Go+, Datsun will be hoping the redi-Go helps establish them as a credible alternative to Maruti-Suzuki in the entry-level segment. It has the potential for sure but we will have to wait and watch if Datsun gets third time lucky in India.


Volkswagen launches Ameo in India from ‎₹ 5.24 Lakhs

After a lot of hype and pre-launch hoopla that stretched into months, Volkswagen finally launched its 'made-for-India' Ameo compact sedan today. Based on the same platform as the Polo hatchback and Vento sedan, the Ameo is the German brand's entry into the crowded and popular sub-4m sedan segment that's currently dominated by the Maruti-Suzuki Swift Dzire with the Honda Amaze and Hyundai Xcent trailing behind.

Volkswagen cars are known for their clean and timeless design with nary a hint of flashiness in their sheet metal. The Ameo is no different. The fascia is pretty much like its siblings and you could hardly differentiate between the Polo, Ameo and Vento when viewed side by side. The classy front end turns into a slightly awkward profile with the long hood and the short and stubby boot not gelling well together. That said, the boot integration is superb and doesn't look like an afterthought in the Ameo. The squarish taillights and the bootlid with the Skoda Rapid-like treatment for the number plate recess looks distinct and neat.

The interiors are typical Volkswagen with the cabin and the dashboard looking very similar to the Polo and Vento. That's a good thing because, knowing Volkswagen, the build quality, fit and finish should easily be the best in segment. With a wheelbase that's identical to the Polo, space at the rear might not be class leading or even as much as the Vento. Like the rest of the Volkswagen lineup, safety features like Antilock Braking System (ABS), driver and front passenger airbag, front and rear fog lamps, front and rear height-adjustable head restraints and rear defogger are standard across the range.

It might be a late entrant to the compact sedan space but Volkswagen has given the Ameo a lot of kit to fight it out with the best-sellers. First-in-class features include cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, front center armrest with storage, auto-dimming rear view mirrors and one-touch, anti-pinch front and rear power windows that could also be opened with the remote key. Other features in the Ameo include automatic climate control, touchscreen infotainment system with USB, Aux-in and SD card input, steering-mounted BlueTooth and audio controls, Voice Command, tilt and telescopic adjustable steering wheel, power-folding rear view mirrors, cooled glove box, rear AC vents and leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob.

At launch, the Ameo is only available with a 1.2-liter petrol engine under its hood. Shared with the Polo, the engine that's mated to a 5-speed manual transmission generates 73 horsepower and 110 Nm of torque. Later this year, Ameo will also get the updated 1.5-liter turbocharged diesel engine that's said to generate more power than the one in the Polo and Vento. In what could be the car's USP, Ameo's diesel variants will also get the infamous 7-speed DSG dual clutch gearbox. 

Available in three trim levels - Trendline, Comfortline and Highline, the Ameo is competitively priced with ex-showroom Delhi prices of INR 5.24, 5.99 and 7.05 Lakhs respectively. When launched, the diesel variants would be positioned at a premium over the petrol variants with the DSG-equipped variants at the top of the price chain.

Of course, the Ameo isn't going to challenge the Swift Dzire but it's clean styling, feature-rich interiors, decent pricing and Volkswagen's premium image gives it a fair shot at success.


Mahindra launches eVerito, India's first full electric sedan

Despite all the noise about polluted cities, ban on diesel engines above 2000 cc and Delhi’s infamous odd-even policy, fact is the automotive landscape in India is still heavily dependent on fossil fuel. A combination of non-existent infrastructure, lack of clarity from policy-makers and complacency from car-makers have meant there are just a handful of hybrids and a sole full electric car on sale in our country. Yes, after all these years, Mahindra e2o is the only electric car we Indians could buy. 

That scenario has changed now with Mahindra launching the eVerito, the first full electric zero-emissions sedan in the country. First shown to the public at the 2012 Auto Expo in New Delhi, it has taken quite some time for Mahindra to bring Verito’s electric sibling to the market.

Available in three trim levels - D2, D4 & D6, the eVerito would be available in select cities in India including New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, Pune, Jaipur and Nagpur. Mahindra is in the process of setting up charging stations in each of these cities which should come as a big relief to prospective customers. Post state subsidies and FAME incentives in New Delhi, the eVerito retails for INR 9.50, 9.75 and 10.00 Lakhs respectively for the three trim levels. Without the subsidies given by the state governments, expect the prices in other cities to be comparatively higher. 

The eVerito is powered by a 72V 3-phase AC induction motor that generates 41 horsepower and 91 Nm of torque. Transferring the power to the front wheels is a direct drive single speed transmission. The battery pack comprises maintenance-free lithium ion batteries with 200Ah capacity. The eVerito gets a claimed top speed of 86 km/h and a driving range of 110 km on a full charge. While regular charging on a 15A power socket would take 8 hours and 45 minutes, the fast charging system-equipped D6 variant can go from 0 to 80% in just 1 hour and 45 minutes. There is no doubt the eVerito is a car strictly for intracity usage.

Mahindra has equipped the eVerito with ‘Regenerative Braking’ system that generates power and charges the batteries every time the brakes are applied. An interesting piece of tech called ‘Revive’ enables the eVerito to travel an additional 8 kilometers that helps owners get to the nearest charging station if they run out of charge. It can be activated from the instrument cluster but can be used just 5 times over the life of the battery pack. The eVerito also features ‘Telematics’ for remote diagnostics and monitoring the vehicle’s performance and a 'Boost Mode' for sudden spurts of power.

With the global car-makers hardly taking steps to launch hybrids and full electric cars in India, we are glad Mahindra has taken this bold step forward. The fact that they have started setting up charging stations in key cities across the country shows their commitment towards popularizing electric cars. Instead of the Verito, the same drivetrain in one of the newer, more popular Mahindras like the KUV 1OO or TUV 3OO would have made a bigger impact in the market.

With its solid underpinnings inherited from Logan, spacious interiors that can accommodate five passengers and their luggage and running costs as low as INR 1.15 per km, the eVerito is a practical zero-emissions city car for a typical Indian family and a step in the right direction. But, it’s also old and lacks safety features like ABS and airbags. Add to that the limited range and the time it takes for a full charge, you know Mahindra has made eVerito's life tougher.


Mercedes-Benz launches the GLC in India; 'Edition 1' priced between INR 50.70 - 50.90 Lakhs

Mercedes-Benz might have been on a launch spree in India in the last couple of years but there was one big gap in its portfolio. Amidst rising popularity of luxury SUVs, the Stuttgart-based luxury car-maker lacked a midsize SUV to take on the likes of Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Volvo XC60. With the launch of the all-new GLC, the gap is finally plugged. In trademark Mercedes-Benz fashion, the first few hundred units of the GLC would be imported as Completely Built Units (CBU) and will be called ‘Edition 1’. Eventually, the GLC is likely to be assembled at the car-maker's facility here in Pune. 

The GLC is available with two engine options - a petrol and a diesel, with just one trim level each. The petrol GLC 300 4Matic is priced at INR 50.90 Lakhs while the diesel GLC 220d 4Matic retails at INR 50.70 Lakhs (ex-showroom, Pune).

Based on the Modular Rear Architecture (MRA), the GLC is Mercedes’ second-generation midsize SUV that replaces the GLK internationally. It slots perfectly in between the GLA and the GLE in Mercedes’ SUV lineup.

Visually, the GLC is just another new Mercedes-Benz. All cars with the three pointed star are looking very similar these days and the GLC is no exception. It’s a jacked-up C-Class which itself is a shrunken-down S-Class. The fascia borrows heavily from the C with the headlights, grille and bumper lifted straight off the midsize luxury sedan. The thin cladding and the higher ground clearance gives the GLC its much-needed SUV traits while two subtle character lines spruce up the otherwise simple profile. The curvy rear houses a pair of sharp taillight clusters that extend into the tailgate and a chunky bumper applique with integrated dual exhausts.

The interiors are shared with the other Mercs as well with the steering wheel, instrument cluster, air-conditioner vents, COMMAND infotainment system and the switchgear being very similar to the ones offered on the C-Class. Feature list includes a three-zone climate control, panoramic sunroof, mood lighting with three colour choices and a full safety suite. The GLC gets five driving modes for everyday driving - Comfort, Eco, Sport, Sport + and Individual and three for off-roading - Off-road, Incline and Slippery. The latter, together with the standard 4Matic All-Wheel Drive (AWD) and Downhill Speed Regulation (DSR) systems, would ensure the GLC performs off the beaten path if desired.

As its nomenclature indicates, the GLC 220d is powered by a 2.2-liter turbocharged diesel engine that generates 170 horsepower and a substantial 400 Nm of torque. The GLC 300 on the other hand gets a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder petrol engine that churns out 245 horsepower and 370 Nm of torque. Both engines are mated to the new 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission that’s said to have smoother shifts and better fuel efficiency than the 7G-TRONIC transmission that we are used to in India. 

Mercedes-Benz has hardly put a foot wrong in India in the recent past and its sales has been on the rise continuously. The GLC is yet another step in the right direction and would have no problems adding a sizable chunk to an already impressive sales roster.