20160503

Toyota launches Innova Crysta in India between INR 13.83 - 20.77 Lakhs

Few vehicles have dominated their segments as much as the Toyota Innova did in India. Ever since its launch more than a decade back, the Innova overcame all odds including multiple upward price revisions, a slew of competitors aimed squarely at it, modest power output and sparse equipment list to become India’s most-loved Multi Purpose Vehicle (MPV). If Toyota hadn’t stopped production, the Innova might have continued its joy run for a few more years, we bet! 

After ruling the MPV segment for a 11 whole years, the second generation Innova, now with the ‘Crysta’ suffix, has replaced the ageing first generation model. After showcasing the vehicle to the public at the Auto Expo in New Delhi earlier this year, Toyota announced the prices of the Innova Crysta yesterday with bookings and test drives at dealerships starting immediately afterwards.


Based on an all-new International Multi-purpose Vehicle (IMV) platform, the Innova Crysta has underwent a complete transformation inside and out compared to its predecessor. One quick look is all it takes to realize the Crysta is far more sharper, modern and imposing than the vehicle it replaces. Much of that is due to that striking front end that feature a new dual-slat chrome grille, large swept-back projector headlights and the massive air dam in the bumper. The profile is characterized by a strong shoulder line that clearly splits the sheet metal and the windows. Talking of the windows, the sharp upward kink at the rear gives the Innova Crsta an unique identity. The long rear overhang gives it a proper ‘van’ look while the interestingly-styled taillights are sure to split opinions either sides. 


The interiors, as we said before, are a massive step forward from the ageing cabin of the old Innova. Following the same ‘retro’ theme that debuted in the new Corolla, the Innova Crysta finally gets a cabin befitting its price tag. The flowing dashboard design and the dual-tone colour theme are impressive and so is the feature list. A host of ‘first in class’ features including automatic LED projector headlamps, interior ambient lights, cooled glove box, one touch tumble second row seat, easy slide front passenger seat and rear automatic air-conditioning with digital display make their way into the Innova Crysta. Some of the other features in the flagship ‘ZX’ variant are a 4.2-inch TFT Multi Information Display, 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, keyless entry and go and reverse parking sensors and camera.


Standard safety feature on all trim levels include driver and passenger airbags, driver knee airbag, Antilock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA), three point seat belts for all occupants and ISOFIX child restraint system. The top-end ‘ZX’ variant has seven airbags, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Hill-start Assist Control in addition.

Replacing the crude and modest 2.5-liter diesel engine from the old Innova are a pair of new-generation 4-cylinder diesel engines from the ‘GD’ family. The smaller 2.4-liter unit is mated to a 5-speed manual transmission and produces 148 horsepower and 343 Nm of torque while the bigger 2.8-liter mill generates 172 horsepower and 360 Nm of torque. Mated with a 6-speed automatic transmission, the latter is available only in GX and ZX variants while the former is available across the range.


Available in six variants with two powertrain options and two seating configurations, the Innova Crysta’s prices have seen a significant upward revision as well. While the base ‘G’ variant starts at INR 13.83 Lakhs, the top-end ‘ZX’ retails at INR 20.77 Lakhs ex-showroom Mumbai. That’s a whopping 6 Lakh Rupees between the base and top variants and a solid 2-3 Lakhs higher than the outgoing Innova. But then, with Toyota’s brand reputation and Innova’s legendary reputation for reliability, we have no doubt that the Innova Crysta is going to enjoy the success its predecessor had. 

Having said that, Toyota has left the INR 8 – 13 Lakh price bracket wide open for its competitors to enjoy. Does that mean the Avanza is on its way here to occupy the space the Innova originally did in 2005? We have our fingers crossed.

20160428

Bentley Bentayga launched in India, sold out for 2016

Bentley, the British luxury brand, launched the Bentayga in India recently. In line with the global trend, the Bentayga marks Bentley’s entry into the Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) segment. With its arch rival Rolls-Royce’s SUV still some time away, the Bentayga is also the world’s first and only super luxury SUV on sale.


Externally, the Bentayga sticks to the traditional Bentley styling cues and borrows a lot from the other models in the range, notably the Mulsanne. Featuring a bold and butch fascia, the large squarish grille, the massive hood and the twin circular lights give the Bentayga a lot of character. The profile is dominated by bulging wheel arches and prominent haunches that defines the rear fenders. At the rear, the rectangular taillights and thin bumper-mounted exhausts are similar to what we have seen in other Bentleys. Giving the Bentayga true SUV credentials are those massive wheels and the front and rear skid plates.


The interiors, as one would expect from a Bentley, looks plush and luxurious with extensive detailing and high-quality materials. The design of the dashboard stands out with its unique stitching pattern that mimics the wings of the Bentley badge. That stubby gear stick in the center console is a work of art and so is the steering wheel with those gorgeous ‘knurled finish’ buttons. The floating driver information panel is the other stand out feature in the Bentayga. Made of hand-crafted wood and leather with polished metallic bits thrown in the mix, the Bentayga’s cabin is amongst the best in the industry right now.

Feature list runs into pages and include leather upholstery with diamond-quilted seats, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, a 60GB hard drive and a Bentley signature sound system, Wi-Fi connectivity and a panoramic sunroof. There are expensive optional features for those with cash to spare like a Breitling Tourbillon dashboard clock that’s priced at an insane INR 1 Crore.


Based on Volkswagen Group’s MLB-Evo platform, the Bentayga shares its underpinnings with the other SUVs in the group like the new Audi Q7 and the upcoming next-generation Porsche Cayenne. Under that massive hood sits a 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12 motor that produces 600 horsepower and 900 Nm of torque, making the Bentayga the most powerful SUV on earth. Mated to a ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic transmission and a permanent All Wheel Drive system, the Bentayga is capable of sprinting from 0 to 100 km/h in just 4.1 seconds and reach a top speed of 301 km/h.  

That bring us to the Bentayga’s price, a cool INR 3.85 Crore ex-showroom Delhi. Bentley has apparently allotted just 20 Bentaygas for India for the whole of 2016 and every one of them, according to reports, has been sold out! So, the rest of the super rich population with an intention of buying one has to wait until at least 2017.

20160417

Tesla does it again, this time with the Model 3!

Rarely, very rarely, do we come across such stories in the automotive industry. One such hell of a story is unfolding right now for us to witness. And yes, we are talking about the newest electric kid on Tesla's block, the Model 3!

Before you get excited and loosen your purse strings to join the overwhelming interest and the mad rush it has generated worldwide, please note the Model 3 is scheduled for launch only towards the end of 2017. Deliveries would begin in the state of California where Tesla has its manufacturing plant and slowly expand eastwards in the United States of America before covering the other countries. 

So what, you think? Now get this. 

Within 24 hours of its unveiling on March 31, 2016, the Model 3 received a massive 180,000 pre-orders. With a $ 1,000 deposit against each reservation, that's a cool $ 1.8 Million in Tesla's accounts in 24 hours! In the first week, the order book bloated to include 325,000 reservations. Considering the options selected and the average price, Tesla claims that's a cool $ 14 Billion in pre-orders!

Though Tesla did bring a Model 3 on stage during the unveiling ceremony, Tesla's CEO Elon Musk revealed on Twitter some important elements will be added to the Model 3 prior to launch and some will evolve. In that sense, the car hasn't even been fully revealed yet and still, more than 300,000 people have decided to forgo $ 1,000 to reserve one against their name.


The basic specifications are out though. The 4-door Model 3 will accommodate five adults, have a driving range of 215 miles per charge, accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in less than 6 seconds and meet 5-star safety rating. Rear wheel drive (RWD) architecture, Autopilot hardware and supercharging capability will be standard while a dual motor All Wheel Drive option would also be available. 

Prices for the Model 3 would start at $ 35,000 before incentives for the base model, making it the most affordable Tesla yet. America would still be the biggest market for this car but the news that the Model 3 will be on sale in countries like South Korea, Ireland, South Africa, India, Brazil, New Zealand and Singapore have excited a lot of folks outside Tesla's existing markets.


From the pictures released, the Model 3 looks like a shrunken Model S which, in essence, it actually is. If massive chrome grilles and air dams feature in your definition of an automobile's fascia, the Model 3 would disappoint. It sports an unusually clean front end. The shiny sheet metal is devoid of any sort of opening and there's not even a fake grille like the one on the original Model S (Tesla has removed it in the recent Model S facelift!). Just like the Model S and the Model X, the dropping roof line and the upward-sloping windows gives the Model 3 a coupe-like appearance. Given Teslas are still not a common sight on public roads, the Model 3 will turn heads for sure. 

With such phenomenal interest shown towards the car, the pressure is now on Tesla to deliver. Every single Tesla launch till date - be it the Roadster, the Model S or the new Model X, have had multiple delays before deliveries finally started. The car-maker has to ensure it isn't repeated with the Model 3 where the stakes are higher and the customer base wider. 

Nevertheless, the Model 3 is undoubtedly one of the most successful automobile launches we have seen in the last few years. Elon Musk appears to be a visionary with a magic wand and the Model 3 is the latest in which he has worked his magic. Go Elon, go Tesla, the whole automotive industry is watching you with bated breath!

20160414

Datsun redi-Go makes its world premiere in India

The Renault-Nissan alliance has had mixed fortunes in India so far. On one side, Nissan’s much-hyped budget brand Datsun that was expected to make it big against the Suzukis and Tatas of the world failed to create an impact. Both Datsuns thus far, the Go and Go+, have fared miserably. On the other side, Renault, supposedly the most premium brand of the Renault-Nissan-Datsun trio, hit jackpot with its budget car, the Kwid. In fact, Renault can’t make enough of them to satisfy the current demand!


Datsun wants to replicate that success and the car with which it aims to do so had its global premiere in India today. The 'redi-Go', as it is called, was first shown in concept form at the 2014 Auto Expo with the wraps taken off the production version today. Expected to be priced aggressively when it goes on sale in the coming weeks, the Datsun redi-Go would compete with the current market leader Maruti-Suzuki Alto, it’s alliance sibling Renault Kwid, Hyundai Eon and Tata Nano amongst others.

The redi-Go has retained most of the styling elements and proportions in its journey from concept to production. So, the tall and lean ‘micro crossover’ look is still intact! And, in case you haven't guessed it yet, Datsun calls the redi-Go an 'Urban Cross'. There just has to be a 'cross' mixed in the scheme of things these days.


All that marketing jargon aside, the trademark Datsun hexagonal grille with the thick chrome surround that we saw in the Go and the Go+ features prominently in the redi-Go too. On either sides are slim, swept-back headlamps. The flowing silhouette houses multiple creases but what’s remarkable is that none of them, including the wild swoosh running across the doors to the rear bumper, look out of place at first glance. The flared wheel arches, kinked-up windows and the contoured tailgate complements the bold fascia. The redi-Go looks smart no doubt but place it next to a Kwid and the latter would easily be the pick of the two. Having said that, Maruti-Suzuki sure has its work cut out when the time comes to design the next-generation Alto 800. 

Designed for the urban jungle with a fusion of hatchback and crossover attributes, Datsun claims the redi-Go has class-leading space, good all-round visibility and a ground clearance of 185 mm, high by segment standards. Based on the same ‘Common Module Family (CMF-A)’ as the Kwid, the redi-Go shares the platform, engines and transmissions with its Renault sibling. When it goes on sale, the redi-Go will have the same 0.8-liter 3-cylinder petrol engine mated to a 5-speed manual transmission that does duty in the Kwid. The redi-Go would also receive the bigger 1.0-liter Smart Control Efficiency (SCe) engine and the option of an Automated Manual Transmission (Easy-R in Renault’s nomenclature) at a later stage.


From the pictures, the interiors appear to be bare-bones but are still noticeably better than Datsun's current offerings. The cabin seems to have prioritized practicality over aesthetics. This car is built to a cost and it is evident in the form of open recesses in the dashboard, exposed sheet metal in door pockets and the presence of a basic instrument cluster and music system.

Datsun has not revealed the dimensions or specifications of the redi-Go yet and they are expected to be available closer to the official launch date. Bookings for the redi-Go starts from the first week of May when the pricing is also expected to be announced while deliveries would start from June. With the Go and Go+ struggling in the market, the redi-Go is a crucial launch for Datsun in India. Will Nissan's budget brand be third time lucky with the redi-Go? We'll see shortly.

20160410

Mazda MX-5 is 2016 World Car of the Year


The 2016 edition of the New York Auto Show came and went and along with it the World Car of the Year title changed hands too. Currently in its twelfth year, the World Car Awards is the big daddy of all automotive awards and aims to recognize the very best in the automotive industry. Not restricted to a particular country or region or publication, the unique aspect of the World Car Awards is its jury panel comprising of over 70 prominent automotive journalists and experts from around the world.

2016 World Car of the Year

This time, it is the Mazda MX-5, the quintessential fun little roadster from Japan, that took top honours. From an initial entry list of 23 vehicles that were launched globally last year, an initial shortlist of ten vehicles were selected. Out of the ten, three top entries - the Audi A4 Sedan/Avant, the Mazda MX-5 and the Mercedes-Benz GLC were chosen as the finalists. In the end, it was the Mazda that beat its German rivals to become the 2016 World Car of the Year. 

Since its launch in 1989, the MX-5 has stuck to its formula of being a small, light, nimble and affordable fun-to-drive roadster. The fourth generation model unveiled in 2014 changed nothing. It didn't grow in size, there is still no forced induction under the hood, there are no umpteen variants and bodystyles like every other successful nameplate these days have and, most importantly, the Miata is still affordable and puts a permanent smile in your face when you are behind the wheel. 

Undoubtedly, the jurors were impressed too. "With the launch of its all‐new MX‐5, Mazda has thrown out the blueprint and gone back to basics – back to 1989 basics. Shorter, lower, wider and lighter, the new MX‐5 comes with a choice of either 1.5 or 2.0‐litre naturally aspirated petrol engines and the promise of unparalleled ‘Jinba ittai’ – a term meaning oneness between car and driver. And yes, it’s still one of the best driver’s cars around", they observed.


2016 World Car of the Year - Mazda MX-5

Previous Winners:

2015 – Mercedes-Benz C-Class
2014 – Audi A3
2013 – Volkswagen Golf
2012 – Volkswagen Up!
2011 – Nissan Leaf

2016 World Luxury Car

To acknowledge higher-priced premium cars selling in limited numbers worldwide, the World Luxury Car of the Year category was created in 2014. While Mercedes-Benz walked away with the honour in 2014 as well as 2015, it is Merc's arch-rival BMW that made it big in 2016. From a list of eight prestigious luxury cars, three vehicles - the Audi Q7, the BMW 7-Series and the Volvo XC90 were declared the finalists for this category. After stringent evaluations, the full size luxury sedan from BMW emerged victorious from the two rivaling luxury SUVs.

"This is the flagship model for the Bavarian car maker, and so it simply has to be the epitome of what the brand represents in terms of technology, design and performance. And the new 7 Series certainly delivers. It is very much the new face of BMW in the new family design – and yet it is a classic BMW all at once. It drives phenomenally well courtesy a new range of engines, and has a sporty drive dynamic that the rivals in the segment cannot claim as their USP. This comes from a 130 kg drop in weight thanks to the new ‘Carbon Core’ frame. 25 new features, of which 13 are segment firsts!", observed the jurors who were understandably bowled over by the 7-Series.


2016 World Luxury Car - BMW 7-Series

Previous Winners:

2015 – Mercedes-Benz S Coupe
2014 – Mercedes-Benz S-Class

2016 World Performance Car

Joining BMW in flying the German flag high was Audi that took the top spot in the 2016 World Performance Car category for the sharp R8 Coupe. The first-generation R8 catapulted Audi's calibre from a luxury car-maker to a competent sports car manufacturer and the new R8 is carries the tradition forward. Commenting on the R8, the jurors said "Arguably, Audi's Le Mans‐inspired R8 has been the most desirable, head‐turning supercar of the decade. Yet despite its racing car heritage and cutting edge technology it's a surprisingly easy and manageable car to drive ‐ fast or slow."

The Honda Civic Type-R and the Mercedes-Benz AMG C63 Coupe were the other two finalists that slugged it out with the Audi R8. The three finalists were chosen from an initial list of nine sports cars from all over the world.


2016 World Performance Car - Audi R8

Previous Winners:

2015 – Mercedes-AMG GT
2014 – Porsche 911 GT3
2013 – Porsche Boxster / Cayman
2012 – Porsche 911
2011 – Ferrari 458 Italia

2016 World Green Car

Off we go to the other end of the automotive spectrum - the 2016 World Green Car. Its awkward styling notwithstanding, it was the Toyota Mirai that won the title this year beating its stablemate Prius and the new Chevrolet Volt. These three cars came out on top from an initial list of eight new vehicles from around the world. Commenting on this crucial victory, Bill Fay, Toyota's Group Vice President and General Manager, said "Just as Prius changed the world nearly 20 years ago, the hydrogen‐powered Mirai is ready to make history. With a range of over 300 miles per tank, a refueling time of under five minutes, and emissions that consist only of water vapor, Mirai is leading the world forward toward a more sustainable future." Do we have to say anything more?


2016 World Green Car - Toyota Mirai

Previous Winners:

2015 – BMW i8
2014 – BMW i3
2013 – Tesla Model S
2012 – Mercedes-Benz S250 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY
2011 – Chevrolet Volt 

2016 World Car Design of the Year

With a set of eligibility criteria slightly different from the other award categories, the World Car Design of the Year is meant to honour vehicles with innovation and style that pushes established boundaries. Candidates for this category may be pre-production cars or all-new production cars with atleast 10 units available in one major global market. 

This was Mazda's show again! New generation Mazdas look stunning in their respective segments and the new MX-5 is possibly the best interpretation of the Japanese brand's 'KODO - Soul of Motion' design language. The most impressive aspect of the new MX-5 is that it looks remarkably modern and fresh but still carries the unmistakable 'Miata' identity created 25 years back. A design panel comprising six leading world design experts agreed, commenting "The new MX5 design is exciting, distinct and fresh. It’s a design that wholly fits with being the unique small sports‐car this Mazda is.  It captures the spirit of the first generation MX5 design but introduces a very leading twenty‐teens aesthetic whilst remarkably also connecting visually to its sibling designs. An exceptional design in all ways."


2016 World Car Design of the Year - Mazda MX-5

Previous Winners:

2015 – Citroen C4 Cactus
2014 – BMW i3
2013 – Jaguar F-Type
2012  – Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
2011 – Aston Martin Rapide

Congratulations Mazda and the rest of the winning clan!