Tesla Model X goes on sale in the United States of America

With the stir created in the automotive industry by the Model S yet to subside, Tesla made its next move by launching the Model X earlier this week. After testing waters with the two-seat Roadster, the Model S marked the coming of age of Tesla with the full-electric luxury sedan proving to be no slouch to its German and British rivals, be it in styling, appeal, luxury, power and, most importantly, range. With the Model X, Tesla is looking to create a similar impact in the booming Sport Utility Vehicle segment.

If butch looks and intimidating proportions are what you are looking for in your SUV, look elsewhere. The Model X is every bit a Tesla and that means styling is as minimalistic as it can get. The same swoopy lines and rounded edges that made the Model S an icon on wheels are carried over to the X. But the impact isn't as pleasing as it was for the Model S, atleast to our eyes. With the grille absent, there is so much unused space at the front which looks bland. On the other hand, the sloping rear looks a bit odd from some angles. While it does look undeniably impressive overall, SUV it is not. We would rather call it a crossover, which is actually what it is.

What's going to bowl people over though are the uber cool Falcon Wing rear doors that open skywards on either sides. It is not only practical allowing occupants to open the doors in the tightest of parking spaces but also aids easier access to the second and third rows. Yes, the Model X comes with three rows of seats that can be ordered in a 6-seat or a 7-seat configuration. Thanks to the Falcon Wings, the roof is almost completely made of glass with Tesla claiming the Model X comes with the largest panoramic windshield ever fitted to an automobile. Worry not about low ceilings, ultrasonic sensors can detect them and adjust the door opening arcs accordingly. Cool, eh? 

Interiors look fabulous with the center console conspicuous by its absence. In its place is a huge 17-inch touchscreen panel that doubles up as an infotainment system. Feature list include power-folding and heated side mirrors, keyless entry, automatically opening front doors, parking sensors, blind spot warning, side collision avoidance, automatic emergency braking even at highway speeds and GPS-enables maps and navigation with real time traffic updates. The second row of seats even come with an independent reclining function for each occupant. Tesla has also used a medical grade air filter that comes with a cheeky 'Bioweapon Defense Mode' which prevents pollen, bacteria and viruses from entering the cabin. 

The Model X is available in two variants - 90D and P90D with both featuring standard All Wheel Drive system. The 90D comes with a 259 horsepower front and rear motors with a claimed top speed of 155 miles per hour. That's 249 km/h in our language. Taking just 4.8 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph, the 90D variant comes with a range of 259 miles (416.8 km).

The P in P90D stands for performance, with these variants boasting a 259 horsepower front and a 505 horsepower rear motor. Top speed is 155 mph (249 km/h) while the range is slightly lesser at 250 miles (402.3 km). Incredibly, the P90D accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds. There is also a quite-fittingly named 'Ludicrous Speed Upgrade' that improves this time to just 3.2 seconds. That makes the Model X the fastest SUV on earth, Bentley Bentayga be damned.

Those speeds and range are possible because of Model X's drag coefficient of 0.24, the best ever in a SUV. Safety has been a top priority as well with the Model X acing every safety test there is, according to Tesla. The firm doesn't want the Model X customers to be confined to the city. The Model X can haul seven people, their luggage and tow another 5000 pounds. There is also a Tesla-designed accessory carrier that can carry four bikes or six sets of skis.

Retailing at $132,000 for the 90D and $142,000 for the P90D, the Model X is an expensive automobile. That hasn't stopped 30,000 customers to plonk their money even before it was launched though. For others who are interested, be prepared to wait until the second half of 2016 for your Model X!


Renault launches Kwid in India with shock pricing

When Renault unveiled the Kwid for India earlier this year, we were super excited and went as far as  to proclaim this as the ‘next big thing’ in the Indian automotive industry. That could well be true as Renault launched the Kwid today at a mouthwatering starting price tag of INR 2.57 Lakhs. Yes, you read that right! That’s not all. The Kwid would be available in six variants - Std (2.56 Lakhs), RXE (2.89 Lakhs), RXE(O) (2.95 Lakhs), RXL (3.11 Lakhs), RXT (3.44 Lakhs) and RXT(O) (3.53 Lakhs). When Renault harped on 98% localization levels, we thought it was just marketing jugglery. Boy, have they proved us wrong!

At these prices, alarm bells would soon start ringing at rivals Maruti-Suzuki and Hyundai, with the Alto and Eon likely to be the major affected parties here. 

With the Kwid, Renault has broken new ground by taking a completely fresh approach on what an entry-level small car should look like. Smartly incorporating key SUV design elements like high ground clearance and black plastic cladding all around, the Kwid boasts appealing proportions that are sure to impress the car-buying public in India. Renault’s trademark slotted grille, the simple yet smart headlights, the pronounced wheel arches and the chunky rear bumper ensure the Kwid doesn’t lose the plot due to its tall ride height. There are certain angles from which the Kwid looks a bit odd but then, the Eon and Alto look odd from some angles too. If butch looks for less than 5 Lakhs is what you are looking at, look no further than the Kwid. 

At first glance, the Kwid’s interior design and layout might not impress but wait until you read the features on offer. Wearing a two-tone grey and black combination, the cabin features an all-digital instrument cluster, a 7-inch touchscreen Media-NAV infotainment system with USB, Aux and BlueTooth connectivity and piano black inserts, things that we don’t see in cars a segment or two higher. The tall proportions liberate loads of space inside with headroom and legroom easily emerging the best in segment. Renault has added a lot of cubbyholes and storage spots in the cabin, making it an extremely practical place to be in.

Doing duty under the Kwid’s hood will be a new 799-cc, 3-cylinder petrol engine with 53 horsepower and 72 Nm of torque. The engine displacement as well as the power and torque figures are par for the segment and should be capable of hauling the Kwid and its occupants along nicely.

Sadly, safety isn’t a priority in this segment and the Kwid does not try to change this aspect. ABS and passenger side airbag isn’t available even as an option on the entire range while only the top-end RXT variant gets an optional driver’s airbag.

With its butch looks, several segment-first features and incredible pricing, the Kwid should easily find its way to the top of the sales charts. It might not end up challenging the Alto yet but the Kwid definitely has what it takes to unsettle the segment and taking a big pie off the Eon and Alto every month.

Ford launches the new Figo hatchback in India

Ever since its launch in India, the Ford Figo struck all the right chords for the American manufacturer. It was an instant sales success, it transformed Ford’s fortunes in India from being a fringe player to a mass-market brand, boasted mature ride, handling and composure that was a rarity in the small car segment and was spacious than some sedans we know. Half a decade later, Ford is trying to replicate all that with the launch of the all-new Figo hatchback.

Sharing its styling, platform and underpinnings with the recently-launched Figo Aspire compact sedan, it is immediately clear that the new Figo is nothing but the Aspire with its boot chopped off. That’s not a bad thing at all, given that the Figo Aspire comes with pleasing styling and appreciable proportions for a compact sedan. 

As with most new Fords, the most striking design element sits up front in the form of the Aston Martin-inspired hexagonal grille with subtle chrome highlights. This, combined with the sculpted hood with power bulges and peeled-back headlights, adds a lot of character to the new Figo. The silhouette is equally sporty, thanks to the flared wheel arches and the prominent character line that runs the length of the car cutting across the door handles. The rear is a bit underwhelming compared to the rest of the car but the nicely-shaped taillights and two parallel lines cutting across the boot-lid ups the ante. The new Figo is worlds apart from the dated and boxy styling of the car it replaces but still can’t hold a candle to stylish premium hatchbacks like the Hyundai i20 and Honda Jazz. 

Inside, it’s the same Aspire story all over again. We guess the Ecosport’s interior layout and design had received an overwhelmingly positive feedback as Ford has adopted it for all its subsequent launches. The dashboard and center console are lifted straight off the Aspire sedan with a major difference being the absence of beige in the Figo. The glossy black garnishing in the Aspire seems to have been given a miss too, with the hatchback getting light grey inserts instead. Just like the Aspire, Ford has loaded the Figo with a long list of equipment with the top Titanium+ variant featuring segment-redefining six airbags along with notable inclusions like automatic climate control, keyless entry and a 4.2-inch infotainment system with SYNC, voice control and AppLink, Ford MyKey and Emergency Assistance.

If the exteriors and interiors haven’t interested you yet, this surely will. Powering the new Figo would be the same engine and transmission options from the Figo Aspire. The 1.5-liter TDCi diesel engine churns out 99 horsepower at 3750 rpm and 215 Nm of torque between 1750 to 3000 rpm, figures that are amongst the best in the hatchback segment. Two petrol options are available - a 1.2-liter TiVCT engine generating 87 horsepower and 112 Nm of torque mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox and a 1.5-liter TiVCT unit with 110 horsepower and 136 Nm of torque paired to an advanced 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT). While the 1.2-liter petrol is nothing to write home about, Ford has nailed it with the diesel and petrol automatic options that should see good acceptance in the market.

Prices for the 1.2-liter petrol variants start from INR 4.29 Lakhs for the Base and go up to INR 6.40 Lakhs for the Titanium+ variant. The 1.5-liter automatic is available only in Titanium trim and retails for INR 6.91 Lakhs. The diesel options are priced between INR 5.29 Lakhs for the Base variant that extends up to INR 7.40 Lakhs for the top-end Titanium+ variant. All prices are introductory and ex-showroom Delhi. 

With the Ecosport continuing unthreatened by the Creta and S-Cross, the Figo Aspire compact sedan comfortably doubled Ford’s sales tally last month. Will the Figo hatchback make it a triple for the American brand and hit jackpot? It certainly has the potential to do so. Let’s wait and watch.


2015 Frankfurt - Bentley Bentayga, the world's fastest SUV, debuts

These days, profits and revenue in the automotive industry are driven by Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV) and crossovers. With fat margins and ever-increasing demand, this is one segment that just can't be ignored by any manufacturer. Bentley is the latest to give in to this trend. Under the spotlights of the recently concluded Frankfurt Motor Show, Bentayga, the British luxury brand's first SUV, made its debut. Its interesting to note that the weirdly-named Bentayga is also the most powerful and the fastest SUV on earth now.

When Bentley previewed its future SUV with the EXP 9F Concept at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, the reception was lukewarm at best. Critics and loyalists were aghast at what the Crewe-based manufacturer came up with, forcing Bentley to go for a redesign. The Bentayga is the result of that. Sure, it does look better than the EXP 9F to start with. 

The large matrix grille with its characteristic diamond meshes up front, flanked on either sides by twin circular LED lights, gives the Bentayga an unmistakable Bentley identity. Walk around and the Bentayga's massive proportions make their presence felt. This sure is one imposing SUV, helped in large parts by that sculpted hood with the center ridge, prominent power lines on either sides and the muscular, if slightly odd-looking, rear haunches. At the rear, Bentley's new horizontal segmented taillights gives the signature touch while the fat dual exhausts hint at the power hiding under all that aluminium and sheet metal. Roof rails and skid plates at the front and rear completes the SUV look.

Just one look at the images released by Bentley is sufficient to convince us that this has got to be one of the most luxurious cabins in the automotive industry. Said to be made of hand-crafted wood and leather with polished and knurled metallic bits sprinkled here and there, the Bentayga is a true-blue Bentley inside. Available in four and five seat configurations, the Bentayga's cabin can be personalized to individual tastes through Bentley's bespoke division with almost unlimited options for paint, leather and veneer. An 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system comes with in-built navigation, a 60 GB hard drive and a choice of upto 30 languages. Those seated at the rear benefit from removable 10.2-inch Android-based entertainment tablets with 4G and WiFi capability that are fixed to the headrests.

Other notable features include 22-way adjustable front seats with massage function, panoramic sunroof, hands-free tail gate, four-mode adjustable air suspension, world's first electronic active roll control dubbed 'Bentley Dynamic Ride'. As usual, a full suite of active and passive safety technologies would ensure the Bentayga offers complete protection to its occupants in all circumstances. 

At the heart of the Bentayga is a 6.0-liter, twin-turbo W12 TSI engine. Developing 600 horsepower at 6000 rpm and a peak torque of 600 Nm between 1250 to 4500 rpm, the Bentayga can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in just 4.1 seconds and reach a top speed of 301 km/h. That's sports car territory! If you want a high-riding vehicle with go 'almost' anywhere capability and yet keep pace with the Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Porsches, the Bentayga should be your choice. A high-performance diesel and plug-in hybrid options would join the lineup later as will a 7-seat version.

The Bentayga is to Bentley as Cayenne was to Porsche. Purists may cringe but the Bentayga is sure going to bring in sales and profits for the brand. That's ultimately what it wants!


2015 Frankfurt - Jaguar leaps into crossovers with the F-Pace

It had to happen. And finally, it has! With competitors like Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo making merry with their crossovers and Sport Utility Vehicles, Jaguar was left to fend off with just its sedans and sports cars. True, Land Rover makes just SUVs but a Jag customer is unlikely to settle for a Land Rover and would head to the German trio or Volvo instead. Jaguar had to have one in its lineup.  Jaguar announced its intentions to join the burgeoning luxury Crossover Utility Vehicle (SUV) segment when it debuted the C-X17 Concept in Frankfurt earlier. Two years later, at the same venue, the ‘leaping cat’ has pounced on the segment in style.

Staying true to the concept’s styling cues, the F-Pace is amongst the most beautiful crossovers we have seen. The best part is Jaguar didn’t have to stray far from its existing design direction while penning the F-Pace. The best aesthetic elements that make the rest of Jaguar’s lineup so special find their way into the F-Pace too.

Up front, the familiar large mesh grille and the gaping air dams at the edges of the bumper sets the tone while the sleek headlights with their signature ‘J-Blade’ design ups the ante. The power bulge in the bonnet, the flared wheel arches with the optional drool-worthy 22-inch wheels, the rakish line of the rear windows and the fender vents emphasize the F-Pace’s performance capabilities. Those sexy taillights that we fell in love with in the F-Type sneaks its way and creates the same impact in this large crossover as it did on the diminutive sports car.

Looking especially gorgeous in the ‘S’ trim wearing that glossy blue paint, the F-Pace is a stunner. We aren’t surprised then that this Jag is one of the stars of the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show.

Inside, the F-Pace stays true to its Jaguar lineage and offers a luxurious cabin littered with premium materials and meticulous craftsmanship. The ‘Sports Command’ driving position is accentuated by an optional 12.3-inch virtual instrument cluster offering four visual themes and full-screen navigation. Jaguar’s InControl Touch infotainment system features an 8-inch capacitive touchscreen takes care of the entertainment quotient. The short overhangs and the long wheelbase means space is not at a premium, with the F-Pace offering luxurious seating for five and their luggage.

Three engine choices would be offered on the F-Pace. The lineup includes two supercharged V6 gasoline mills with 340 and 380 horsepower and a 4-cylinder Ingenium diesel engine with 180 horsepower. With a standard torque-on-demand All Wheel Drive system and Jaguar’s Adaptive Surface Response technology, the F-Pace need not be restricted to paved motorways.

Jaguar expects F-Pace customers to actually take the vehicle off-road and engage in adventure activities. Helping such owners would be the ‘Activity Key’, a wearable technology that gives access to the vehicle while allowing the actual key-fob to be kept safely locked inside. 

In addition to the regular suite of safety features that are standard on a vehicle of this class, the F-Pace boasts of multiple advanced driver assistance systems including All Surface Progress Control, Low Traction Launch, Autonomous Emergency Braking with pedestrian detection, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Traffic Sign Recognition, Intelligent Speed Limiter, Laser Head-Up Display (HUD), Adaptive Cruise Control with Queue Assist, Blind Spot Monitor, Reverse Traffic Detection and Park Assist.

Slated to go on sale in 2016, we expect the F-Pace to grab a major share of Jaguar’s sales pie in no time. Together with the new XE compact luxury sedan, Jaguar is headed towards a major growth phase!