20150227

Mahindra's new SUV (U301) seen testing in Chennai

Mahindra is to Utility Vehicles like Maruti-Suzuki is to passenger cars. Despite the advent of stiff competition trying to nibble at its market-share, the Indian manufacturer has impressively held on to its dominance in the Utility Vehicles (UV) sector with successful models like the Thar, XUV 500, Scorpio and Bolero. The latter, especially, deserves special credits for continuing to be India's most popular UV defying its age. Mahindra knows too well that it can't afford to be complacent and the Bolero's position could come under threat any moment. 

Though Mahindra has not confirmed it, this Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) spotted testing earlier today in Chennai is touted to be the next-generation Bolero. Codenamed 'U301', this new model seems to have adopted a butch and boxy stance typical of SUVs. In the process, it has steered clear off the traditional Bolero's proportions that we have grown familiar with. What's also obvious from these shots is the work done by Mahindra's engineers to bring the length of this vehicle to under four meters.



If that's aimed at taking advantage of the tax concessions extended by the Government for vehicles within that length, then its just common sense to assume that this new SUV would be powered by a diesel engine with a 1.5-liter capacity or less. Mahindra is also set to be working on a new petrol engine for this new SUV with capacity less than 1.2-liters. Said to be based on the Scorpio's chassis, this new SUV is expected to come with a plusher ride compared to the existing Bolero. Going by what we saw in the refreshed Scorpio, we expect the interiors to undergo a complete revamp too.

That's not all. If reports from some automotive websites are to be believed, there would be a full-length variant of the U301 too that wouldn't be constrained by prevailing regulations on vehicle length and engine capacity. And, there is another all-new compact SUV codenamed S101 also coming up from the Nashik-based manufacturer. Well, what else do we say except beware of Mahindra?

20150226

Rolls-Royce announces bespoke Ghost Mysore Collection


When it comes to automobiles, Rolls-Royce is the ultimate symbol of opulence, royalty and exclusivity. When the fabled British luxury marque announces a bespoke special edition of one of its models like it does on an occasional basis, things just don’t get any more exclusive. One such symbol of ultra-exclusivity was unveiled last week in Rolls-Royce Motor Cars’ official FaceBook page and guess what it commemorates? Unless you​ ha​ve read about it, we bet you wouldn't guess it right. It is our very own Mysore. Yes, the second-largest city in the southern state of Karnataka in India is what Rolls-Royce has decided to celebrate with this bespoke edition.


Limited to just three numbers, the Rolls-Royce Bespoke Ghost Mysore Collection is based on the extended wheelbase version of Ghost sedan. Externally, these cars wear a two-tone blue and silver livery with pinstripes running the entire length on either sides. The stripes also feature a stylized peacock motif on the fenders. Interiors are made of light-colored wood and matching white and blue leather upholstery to go with the exteriors. As a tribute to Tipu Sultan who ruled Mysore during the 18th century, the rear view mirrors and headrests carry the image of a tiger. Rolls-Royce calls these as symbols of success.


While this might make a lot of Indians proud, Indians in India wouldn’t be able to see or buy this car. Yes, all three Ghost Mysore Collections would be exclusively available, ironically,​​ in Abu Dhabi. It’s rather unfortunate as Rolls-Royce would have easily found buyers for these cars in India, given that the plan is to make a grand total of just three cars.

Adding further details on this limited edition Ghost, ​Rolls-Royce carried the following statements in its FaceBook page. “In this world I would rather live two days like a tiger, than two hundred years like a sheep” - Tipu Sultan, 'The Tiger of Mysore.' "Tipu Sultan was the ruler of 18th century Mysore in India. In Arabic, Mysore also refers to wealth and power. The Bespoke Ghost Mysore Collection takes inspiration from this, and each of these extended wheelbase models are adorned with symbols of success. Ghost Mysore will be available exclusively in Abu Dhabi. Only three have been created."

Let's hope Rolls-Royce takes a cue from Lamborghini and comes out with a 'Made-for-India' bespoke model.

20150225

Ferrari's Concept Design visualizes future of F1

Formula 1 has changed and is no longer what it used to be. Screaming 3.0-liter V10s and V12s made way for relatively tamer 2.4-liter V8 units which were then ditched in favour of less fuel-consuming and more environment-friendly 1.6-liter turbocharged V6 hybrid mills from the 2014 season. Yes, you just read the phrases Formula 1, less fuel-consuming and hybrid in the same statement. While this was happening in the powertrain department, evolving regulations on aerodynamics and safety resulted in cars that looked weird, to put it mildly. 

Understandably, all this hasn't gone down well with hardcore F1 fanatics. Not only are circuits struggling to attract spectators to grands prix, the television viewership in Formula 1’s traditional strongholds is on a steady decline too. With think tanks in Formula 1 looking at ways and means of making the sport a better spectacle, the folks at Scuderia Ferrari might have just beat them all and come up with the best way of doing that.


In an attempt to reach out to the sport’s audience and fans, Ferrari released images of a radical new concept car that represents the fabled Italian marque’s vision of a Formula 1 car of the future. And we’re completely floored. Sporting a two-tier nose cone, a matching front wing with multiple air ducts, beefier side pods and a massive central exhaust, Ferrari’s concept might appear loud for some but something like this is what Formula 1 badly needs right now, we think. Ignoring the practicality and usage aspects, there are some really cool touches like the helmet integrated in the bodywork, tyre huggers and those Italian stripes on the nose cone.


"Our challenge was to create something that was - to put it short - better looking," read a statement on Ferrari’s website where these images were posted. Commenting on his team’s creation, Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene said, "By 2017, I too would like to see cars that win over the fans, with cars that they can get closer to and that are aesthetically more appealing, maybe even producing a noise that gets your hair standing on end, like that produced by a heavy metal band." Against those expectations, we have to admit that this is a job extremley well done.

May we place a request to the sport's governing body to approve cars like these to grace the race circuits please? Thanks Ferrari, for a job well executed. Now, if they come up with a similarly stellar job and give Kimi and Vettel machines capable of fighting it out at the front, the 2015 season would end up a gripping affair. Forza Ferrari!

20150223

Tata's new small car (Kite) seen testing near Pune

After years of lying low trying to strike a balance between flopped new launches and an increasingly dated line-up, Tata Motors made a strong comeback with the launch of Zest last year, it’s first all-new model in years. While the compact sedan continued to evoke positive reviews from the critics and the public, the Pune-based Indian brand followed it up with the Bolt premium hatchback last month. While one might expect Tata Motors to give their sales and marketing team a breather and let the Zest and Bolt settle in, that’s hardly the case. The folks at Tata are getting ready for their next and, possibly, an even bigger launch.


Spotted testing last week on the outskirts of Pune, this small car is expected to be the long-awaited replacement for the ageing Indica that, despite all odds, is still clocking good sales every month. Apparently shot at triple digit speeds in pitch darkness, the pics are expectedly of lower quality and doesn’t reveal a whole lot of details. But, we know that Tata has finally ditched the infamous ‘christmas-tree’ taillight cluster that Indicas have become synonymous with. Smaller, trapezoidal units have come in their place and, at first glance, the car appears to be wide and proportionate. If reports in other automotive websites are to be believed, this new small car codenamed ‘Kite’ is expected to borrow styling cues from the ‘Megapixel Concept’ that was displayed at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show. If true, ‘Kite’ could end up being the most stylish Tata we have seen.


Tata’s 1.2-liter turbocharged ‘Revotron’ petrol engine that debuted in the Zest is expected to be the mainstay of the Kite range while a new, three-cylinder common-rail engine is rumored to be in the works for the diesel-loving populace. Spacious interiors that could easily accommodate five well-built adults, a tough chassis that could withstand abuse, a comfortable ride quality that could tackle the worst of Indian terrain and low cost of spares and servicing are the virtues that made Indica so popular. If Tata is smart, they wouldn’t fiddle with those virtues and ensure the new car carries them forward. If the Zest and Bolt are anything to go by, Tata has made significant strides in the build quality, interior appointments, fit and finish. We expect the Kite to follow that trend and come across as a well-rounded product capable of challenging the high-selling Suzukis and Hyundais. 

Just like the Bolt and Zest, the ‘Kite’ hatchback would also be joined by a compact sedan to replace the Indigo eCS.   

When the going got tough and Tata’s new launches didn’t take off, it was the Indica, the Indigo eCS and the thousands of cabbies that bought these cars that kept Tata’s cash registers ringing. A tough job is at hand for the upcoming Kite twins then. Let's wait and watch how they fare.

20150220

Tata Nano facelift spotted testing near Pune

From initial sales projections that hit as high as 25,000 units a month to actual monthly sales of less than 1,000 units, the Nano has been through a whirlwind journey since its inception. Despite the magnitude of failure it experienced, Tata Motors isn’t ready to write off the Nano just yet. In fact, the Pune-based Indian manufacturer is working on a facelift for this diminutive city car.


Caught testing on the outskirts of Pune earlier this week, this Nano facelift reminds us of the Nano Twist Active Concept showcased at the 2014 Auto Expo in New Delhi. Identifiable by the redesigned rear bumper that houses a wide air intake to aid engine cooling, the test car also had a clearly-visible latch for opening the rear hatch. Both these features, along with a redesigned front bumper with a similar air intake, circular foglights and black-bezeled headlights were found in the Nano Twist Active Concept pictured below. Shot in pitch darkness by one of our regular readers Guru, the test car was said to be effortlessly doing triple digit speeds when these pictures were shot.


Tata has continuously improved the Nano over the years, adding features like a revised instrument cluster with driver information system, audio system with USB compatibility and a power-assisted steering. Nanos with the latter got a ‘Twist’ suffix and the facelift is expected to be based on this model. Amongst other things, a 5-speed Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) developed by Magneti-Marelli and showcased as the Nano Twist F-Tronic Concept at the same Auto Expo could also feature in one of the variants of this facelift. If that happens, the AMT-equipped Nano would become the most affordable automatic car in the country.

With most of its Sanand capacity still lying unused, Tata Motors should waste no time in bringing this improved version of Nano to the market. We just wish it’s not called the Tata Nano Twist Active F-Tronic though!