A trip to Mercedes AMG factory

AMG as we all know is the performance division of Mercedes Benz cars. They have made some awesome cars out of the ordinary luxury cars from Mercedes Benz passenger cars. The name AMG stands for its founders namely Aufrecht, Melcher and Großaspach. After seeing its popularity, Mercedes Benz annexed it in 1999 and renamed it as Mercedes AMG GmBH. Before that, it was known as a tuning firm which made the already powerful Mercedes cars, to have a better ride and handling package. We had the fortune of actually visiting the AMG factory located at Affalterback on the outskirts of Stuggart.

It is note worthy that though AMG takes the basic car from its parent company Mercedes Benz, it develops an engine of its own. This is considered a vital part of any car and hence is hand built. These engines have only one person designing the entire lot. From 2004, every AMG engine coming out of the posh factory premises carries the signature of the engineer who built it. As of now, there are 64 engineers working in the entire 2 shifts and each one of them build about 4-5 AMG engines per day. There is a new 5.5 liter, dual turbo engine been made and hence the factory unit has been expanded recently. A testing facility and one which is full fledged with a dyno has also been added. They even test the engine’s reliability factor after all these modifications by keeping it running close to its red line for 48 hours. It can be noted that any after market modification to a Mercedes car just gets you void of its warranty however if tuned by AMG, then the cars would still retain their warranty.

Just besides this main factory, AMG have set up a Performance Studio which takes care of all customization orders from Mercedes Benz  as well as for AMG customers. Here one can even request for any specific stitching thread for their car seats, leave alone body parts, customized wheels and also upholstery. The detailing going into every AMG car is very painstaking and one which includes even the car’s acoustics. For this very purpose, AMG have appointed even sound engineers who listen to the sound of the exhaust pipes and then tune them so that they would be music for those on the inside as well as the ones standing and gawking at the AMG cars outside.

AMG is not only a tuners factory and they are making their own car. They have designed it from scratch and very little help was taken from parent company Mercedes Benz in this regard. However to gain this project, AMG had to walk the extra mile and prove to Mercedes Benz that they were capable of building their own car. For this, Mercedes asked them to design two prototypes namely the SL63 Black and the SL65 Black. These test was passed in flying colors by AMG and hence they got the go ahead for the now famous SLS AMG. The gull winged SLS AMG is a hard to believe yet positive attempt by AMG and deserves a standing ovation. We were so at loss of words after seeing the AMG facility as well as their indigenious SLS AMG car that our respect for those “tuners” has grown manifold. Kudos to AMG.

2011 Kia K5 (Optima)

The new offering from Kia the K5 has been unveiled at the L.A Auto Show that is currently ongoing and is one of the most eagerly awaited cars in Kia’s line-up. This is because the Optima was one of the odd cars in terms of design and styling (it did not have any). The new 2011 Kia K5 takes on a new persona in the D-segment and has a unique concept to its name as well. In Korean the word for the number ‘5’ sounds a lot like ‘oh’ and this would make the K5 a ‘K.O.’, well at least that’s what Kia hopes it is.

Looking at the new Kia K5 it is easy to come to the conclusion that Kia has got off to a great start if they are planning on making the K5 a knockout. The K5 does not look like any of the previous Optima’s and this present generation model has very aggressive styling and a certain appeal that really makes it stand out. For those of us who are true car connoisseurs though a closer look will reveal some amount of design discord and it seems as though Kia has put in loads of crisp lines and creases to increase the masculinity of the vehicle but they may have been overdone.

One of the main visual drawbacks is probably the chrome door strip running from the top of the windows, crossing the rear door and ending at the trunk. As it passes towards the rear quarter panel it creates a disharmony of lines that look like ‘Attila the Hun’ was having a bit of fun. The rear of the car features some more disarray in design as the taillights that seem to be inspired from the Audi blend in with the trunk lid decently from distance but then seem to go off on a tangent and form a lip mid way down the boot giving the rear an unpleasant ‘Bugs Bunny’ bucktooth look.

The front of the car also displays come non cohesive elements and the front grille, fender and hood have lines and curves that seem afterthought at all levels. The current fad which are LED lights do not blend in well with the fog lights as the white light of the headlamps clashes against the yellow light from the incandescent fog lamps. Also the fog lights are positioned weirdly and do not follow the contours of the vehicle.

The inside of the 2011 Kia K5 is impressive if you have one-dimensional eye-sight. What I am trying to say, is that if you look at each element individually then you may be impressed. What designers at Kia look like they have done, is given each part of the interior to a different designer without sharing the designs of the other elements. This results in there being no cohesiveness between; say the dashboard and the door panels. It seemed that Kia designers never thought these areas may appear together. The door panes are in themselves a non-thought out affair with the speakers protruding like a sore thumb and make the door look very lop-sided.

The steering wheel is also smaller than you would expect and is cluttered with a dozen buttons that make the Airbus A380 look like child’s play. Saying that a quarter of those buttons are meant for the K5’s cruise control, which is not normally found in mid-sized Korean cars and should make the engineers at neighboring Hyundai quite jealous as both their mid-sized offerings the Sonata and Grandeur do not have the cruise control option.

Another cool function of the steering wheel is the fact that it is heated, but you would need a map to find the activation switch as it is well hidden and obscured by the four spoke steering wheel. The K5 again is one of the only Korean made cars to have it. All seats are also equipped with the same heating facility and use a special anti-bacterial polymer called Heatex that supposedly provides a more uniform heating while using infrared waves to help stimulate the occupants internal organs. In countries where there is enough heat provided by the outdoors and your internal organs do not need any more stimulation the Heatex option can be switched for cooled seats. These work effectively and quickly but can be a tad noisy when the car is idling at a stoplight or likewise.

Driving the Kia K5 is quite comfortable and the front seats are very accommodating although they could do with a bit more bottom cushioning as the seat position is low and this could lead to some discomfort on long drives. The front cabin space if very good and offers ample legroom and head room. The rear of the car is also very spacious with adequate legroom although head room may feel tight owing to the lower roof line of the K5 than its rivals the Camry, Sonata and Accord. If I were to be picky, the outside view from the rear seats is restricted as the windows sweep upwards. Combining this with the relatively low roofline could make occupants at the back feel slightly claustrophobic.

The passengers at the rear also enjoy the luxury of having their own a/c vents, but you would have to opt for the automatic transmission for your rear seat occupants to get that benefit. Nonetheless the rear vents add a touch of class to the Kia K5. Ride in the K5 is comfortable overall and noise levels are also kept to a minimum. The engineers at Kia have actually done quite a bit to make the cabin quiet and have added more insulation than some of the cars from their siblings at Hyundai. Saying this, the feel of the interior is still at the lower end of the luxury stakes, and is lacking in coherence and cohesiveness on all levels.

The Kia K5 employs the same 2.4 liter GDI unit that does its job in the Hyundai Sonata although a keen observer will notice a few subtle changes under the hood. The Kia K5 has a single gas strut inside the front wheel arch as opposed to two used on the Sonata and it also has a lower, wider, better integrated air intake than the Sonata. There are also some key engineering elements that are used to reduce noise levels like more insulation near the firewall as well as a differently shaped cowl near the wipers.

The 2011 Kia K5 will undoubtedly be quite a hit for the Korean car manufacturer as it is generally quite an attractive looking vehicle which is well equipped and moderately priced. But that is just what it is. You do not get any more than you expect out of it and that may tend to disappoint buyers. It does not have the necessary refinement that is required in D-segments vehicles and will make it difficult to compete with its rivals like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. There are those niggling elements that would not have taken a genius to refine like the placement of the KIA logo on top of the grille instead of in it, blacked out roof looks out of place and alloy wheels look like cheap hubcaps. Driving dynamics are quite close to the Sonata but it falls short of being the expected K.O. that Kia would be hoping for.

The Kia K5 falls short on a number of front and is not a sporty car not is it a complete easy riding sedan. It will appeal in terms of its styling and design to those who are not too concerned and picky about refined looks as it has lines and creases all around (even if they are not coherent). The engine could do with a bit more power and it is more likely that buyers would prefer the better looking interiors of the Sonata over the Kia K5. We will have to wait and see how well the K5 does in the U.S. and only time will tell.

2011 Kia K5 Specifications

Vehicle Category: Sedan
Engines (petrol): 2.4 L, 4 cylinder, GDI, 200 HP, 345 Nm torque
Engine (petrol): 2.0 L, 4 cylinder, Turbo GDI, 274 HP, 420 Nm torque
Drive train: Front engine, 5 passenger, 4-door sedan, FWD
Transmissions (standard): 6-speed auto
Curb Weight: 2389 kg
0-100 kph: 6.8 secs (est.)
Mileage city/hwy: 9.3 / 11.8 kmpl
Base Price: $ 25,000 (est.)

Watch out for the Toyota Etios sedan in December

Toyota Kirloskar Motors, inspite of parent company Toyota Motors Limited been the world number 1 manufacturer, hasn’t got a big market share from India. This is primarily due to the fact that Toyota Kirloskar Motors don’t have a small car, which is usually the bread and butter model for most manufacturers. Internationally Toyota Motors Limited have many small cars however for the Indian market, they are building up an all new grounds up model. The first one to be launched would be the Toyota Etios sedan. It is the booted version of the Toyota Etios hatchback.

The main competitors for the Toyota Etios sedan would be the Mahindra Logan, Maruti Swift Dzire, Ford Ikon, Chevrolet Aveo and the Tata Indigo CS. From the view of the car shown at the Delhi Auto Expo, it looks quite similar to the not so low cost car from Renault, the Mahindra Logan. However Toyota Kirloskar Motors don’t want to go the Mahindra way and have invested heavily in vendor development and to also increase localization of components to keep the costs down. In this way, they can price the car at a competitive pricing than the others in this segment.

Well the things going the Toyota Etios sedan’s way are first and foremost, its Toyota badge and then the subsequent promise of excellent quality as well as reliability. Toyota Kirloskar Motors has ensured that they have the bragging rights for the Toyota Etios sedan by signing on the music maestro, A R Rahman as its brand ambassador. Now, we aren’t quite sure if this would spruce up the public interest in the Toyota Etios sedan and only time would tell it. A R Rahman is expected to be endorsing the car both in electronic as well as print media.

When asked the reason for saying yes to been Toyota Etios sedan’s brand ambassador, A R Rahman said that he believes in quality which is created when skill meets dedication, passion meets perfection and insight meets inspiration and Toyota Kirloskar Motors represents all this. He also commented that these are the same values which drive the Toyota Etios sedan and hence he is delighted to be a part of this enterprise.

Bookings for the Toyota Etios sedan start from December 1, 2010 and initially only the 1.5 petrol version of the car would be rolled out. This engine produces 102 Bhp, a segment first. Factor in the Toyota Etios sedan’s kerb weight of 958 kg and you can be rest assured that this would be one fast small sedan. Fuel efficiency would also be class defining though Toyota Kirloskar Motors haven’t given any official figures on the same. There would also be good amount of options as well as safety features on offer. A diesel engine is to may its way much later based on demand. It wouldn’t be a new diesel engine and would be the same one doing duties on the Toyota Corolla Altis diesel. The 1.4 liter unit puts out 77 Bhp and going by the performance on the former, it would be smoking on the much lighter Toyota Etios sedan model.

Prices would start from Rs. 5.28 lakhs {ex-show room, Delhi} for the base variant to Rs. 6.02 lakhs {ex-show room, Delhi}for the fully loaded variant. There would be at least 3 variants on offer.

Technical specifications of the Toyota Etios sedan

Engine Displacement: 1498 cc 16 valve DOHC with VVT-I producing 102 Bhp
Overall Length: 4200 mm
Overall Width Length: 1795 mm
Overall Height Length: 1590 mm
Gears: 5 speed Manual
Ground Clearance: 176.00 mm
Front Brakes: Disc
Rear Brakes: Drum
Seating Capacity: 5 persons
Rear Wiper and wheel covers would be standard

Paris Motor Show Review

The recently concluded Paris Motor Show premieres a whole host of innovative cars

The 2010 Paris Motor Show set a number of records the least being that it premiered over a 100 new cars either in concept or production form and also included the most number of participating countries. Most interestingly was the fact that there were 12 million plus people that attended it and for those of us that were unlucky enough to miss it, we have the most interesting snippets from the show from amazing concept vehicles to futuristic green automobiles.

Volkswagen Passat

Volkswagen made a very quite but ultimately important debut at the French show by unveiling their new Passat which is expected to hit markets by the beginning of 2011. It is built on the same underpinnings and specs as the outgoing model, but this new version is completely reworked with aggressive styling. There are new headlights and taillights, front façade made up of a bold, chrome-accented grille and trendy fog lights. The interiors have also been redesigned and don a fresh, modern look.

Available in the new Passat will be the 1.4 liter TSI, 1.8 liter TSI and 2.0 liter TSI petrol engines as well as a 1.6 liter BlueMotion motor and 2.0 liter TDI diesel engine. Transmission and gearbox will include the six-speed manual and six and seven-speed dual clutch DSG automatic.

Lamborghini Sesto Elemento

Lamborghini was aptly represented at the show having one of the most stunning display stands where they showcased their latest model the Sesto Elemento. Literally translated ‘Sesto Elemento’ stands for ‘sixth element’ referring to ‘carbon’, which is the sixth element in the periodic table. The car uses ample amount of carbon fibre making it very light weight and the intention of Lamborghini has been to get power-to-weight ratio comparable to that of a bike.

The Sesto Elemento is powered by the same engine from the Gallardo Superleggera, which is the 570 horsepower behemoth. The weight of the car is down to 999 kgs and is lighter than the lightest Gallardo by a full 341 kgs. Astonishing 0-100 time of just 2.5 seconds should scare the bejeebers out of anyone. Be afraid…Be very Afraid!!!!

BMW X3

BMW was able to showcase two of its more interesting offerings – the 6-series concept and more importantly the new X3. The new X3 has grown in size and has become like a little brother to the X5 getting a smarter, larger feel to it. The front end is also slightly more boxy with a few more aggressive lines and creases. The inside of the new X3 also affords more space than the outgoing model with some better styling as well. An exciting addition to the new X3 is the inclusion of a variable damper control, which allows the driver to tweak the steering response, suspension, throttle response, etc. These features should excite buyers looking forward to owning the Baby Bimmer.

Along with the X3 was the concept 6-series which gets all new look. BMW has decide to finally stick to what it knows and have done away with the ugly looks of the present 6-series replacing it with a much better, elegant and more sharper styling. Though the showcase vehicle at the show was only a concept, BMW chief design supervisor, Adrian van Hooydonk, who is taking BMW design and styling to new directions, says that the final production vehicle is not going to be very different.

Hyundai ix20

Hyundai decided to use the Paris Motor Show to debut its latest version of the i20 the ix20. This car is supposed to play the role of the MPV for the Korean car manufacturer. It has the look of a beefier i20 and its target market is a niche segment, which is why the ‘x’ tag is used. Hyundai has come up with a concept for their niche market cars and will give them an ‘x’ tag. The ix20 will be able to seat 5 people comfortably and will be available in 1.4 liter petrol and diesel versions. There is also news floating that a 1.6 liter petrol engine will be available but this will only come with an automatic transmission.

There was also a very interesting little car at the Hyundai stand – the i20 Sport. This should be a car that excites quite a few people especially those in India and the car is fitted with a very sporty body kit. The i20 Sport Edition gets a body kit courtesy of Brabus, the independent car maker for Mercedes. It also has smoked-out windows, 17-inch Brabus wheels and a super sporty interior complete with bucket seats and racing steering wheel. There was no information regarding engine specs though and that was in all honesty quite a drag.

Suzuki Swift

Most exciting to see was the buzz at the Suzuki stand where the new Suzuki Swift was showcased. The new Swift is expected to be on sale in the early part of next year in Europe quickly followed by India. The new Suzuki Swift has is longer than the outgoing model is 90 mm longer overall having a 50 mm longer wheelbase. Suzuki claims that the handling and ride quality are better than the current model with better overall dynamics.

The slightly increased wheelbase allows for a slight increase in rear space and to be quite honest every little bit is important in a car being sold in one of the most competitive segments. Saying that don’t expect the performance of the car to go up greatly with the main evolution restricted to aesthetic modifications like newer headlights, etc. The inside of the car also gets a few upgrades but it is not a major leap forward. Suzuki has basically stuck to the adage that ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’

The Suzuki Kizashi was also on show and will be eagerly awaited in India, having been debuted internationally earlier this year.

Chevrolet Aveo, Captiva, Cruze

The Chevrolet exhibition stand was one of the busiest ones around at the Paris Motor Show as the American car manufacturer choose to debut up to four new (or should I say newish) cars. These included the Aveo, Cruze hatchback, Captiva and Orlando models. The Aveo was the most impressive as it featured the most upgrades and styling improvements from the current model. The car is now much longer, wider and has more interior space. The front fascia get a sweet uplift in the form of twin headlights, lower front bumper, rear door handles integrated into the C-pillar and an overall much more aggressive styling.

Engine offerings are expected to be 1.2 liter and 1.4 liter petrol engines along with a 1.3 liter diesel motor. There were also pleasant facelifts for the Captiva and a new hatchback model of the Cruze. This should come as an exciting piece of news to the Indian market and hopefully we will get to see this version of the Cruze in the country soon.     The new Captiva and Orlando are to be seen in the Indian market sometime next year.

Volvo V60 R-Design

Volvo already showcased the V60 and S60 models and it took the opportunity of the Paris Motor Show to showcase the new upgraded R-Design version of the V60. The R-Design version gets an overall makeover with new exterior and interior design giving the vehicle a much more sportier look. The car comes with sports alloy wheels and also features a damper system which is new and provides sharper handling characteristics. The V60 and S60 models will come with all the engines currently offered by Volvo and should prove to be a decent success in the market.

Mercedes-Benz CLS and S250 CDI

Mercedes-Benz was one of the more surprising exhibition stands this year at the motor show as they had three new production cars displayed but more surprisingly not a single concept vehicle. The new production cars included the CLS and S250 CDI models. The new CLS that was unveiled had all the new design styling and elements that Mercedes is moving towards in terms of its design concepts and we will soon see most Mercedes cars adopt the same styling and be applied to the entire range of vehicles from the German automaker. The front end of the CLS has an unmistakable SLS look to it with the chrome grille neatly accentuating the three-pointed star. The car should be available in V6 and V8 petrol engine options and the diesel versions should include a 3.0 liter V6 and 2.1 liter 4 cylinder unit.

The newest offering in the S-class, the S250 CDI was also on show and comes fitted with a more efficient and green 2.1 liter diesel engine and AMG has provided a facelift. The S250 CDI BlueEfficiency is touted as being the most fuel efficient luxury production car by Mercedes and it is claimed to give up to 17 km/l.

Volkswagen Passat – Latest News

The Next Level has been Reached

The new Volkswagen Passat is already here and according to engineers at Volkswagen the company did not set out to make a new car but rather their ambition was to make a new Passat. The Passat was first launched in 1973 and since then there have been approximately 15 million Passat’s sold world wide – that is right I said 15 million. This roughly translates to around 1000 Passat’s sold globally everyday since then. That is an amazing figure and speaks volumes of the way the car has been perceived and received worldwide.

It hardly comes as a surprise then the German car manufacturer was looking to revamp the Passat. Volkswagen’s philosophy dealing with the Passat is to make it more attractive to buyers of higher end cars. Volkswagen has added a host of distinctive features that will no doubt make it more up market and there are unmistakable styling cues inspired by the higher segment Phaeton. Choosing to style it based on the Phaeton is a deliberate effort to make a connection with buyers looking to emulate riding in more expensive, upper segment cars.

Although Volkswagen have intended to move the seventh generation Passat up a notch they have very much kept the value proposition the car is famous for offering. The new Passat will come with Lane Assist, which is a system that prevents the car from moving out of its lane when the driver is fatigued. It also has adjustable suspension, adaptive headlights and a new feature called Easy Open, which is something of a novelty actually. If you have your hands full of luggage or baggage and you walk towards the rear of the car, a sensor placed in the rear bumper connects with your smart key and automatically opens the boot.

There is also Park Assist offered in the new Passat, which enables the car to automatically park itself. The new Volkswagen Passat also has a Dynamic Light Assist System which uses a camera to sense the light from approaching traffic and automatically adjusts the bi-xenon headlamps. There is a more simple Light Assist option available on lower trims, which also uses a camera but only changes from high beams to low beam when facing oncoming traffic.

The fatigue detection system is calibrated in such a way to notice when the driver if tired and sounds a buzzer in the cabin to alert the driver, and the instrumentation panel also flashes a visual graphic suggesting that the driver take a break. The VW Passat will also feature a collision avoidance system that detects any object traveling at a speeds below 30 km/hr and automatically makes the car brake. Then there is also the tyre pressure monitoring system, which can detect the tyre pressure of each individual type and relays the information back to the driver alerting him if there is any problem.

Volkswagen fits the new Passat with the AG range of engines which are the TSI petrol and TDI diesel versions. For us in India, Volkswagen is likely to introduce the Volkswagen Passat Petrol with the 1.8 litre TSI Petrol engine that delivers 160 horsepower and the other one is Volkswagen Passat Diesel with 2.0 litre TDI Diesel engine that delivers 140 horsepower. Both these engines are either mated to the six-speed manual gearbox or the DSG transmission. The car also comes with stop-start technology as well as battery regeneration technology as standard.

Volkswagen hopes to release the new Passat in multiple trim levels and should offers the Trendline, Comfortline and Highline levels, although it is yet to be decided is India will see all three trims or just a single specification vehicle. The New Passat should be on sale internationally by the first month of 2011 and should hit Indian shores by April 2011. Since Volkswagen does not manufacture any of the parts for the Passat in India, localization is absent and the fully imported Passat should be available for a price between Rs 25 lakhs to 30 lakhs.

2011 Volkswagen Passat Specifications

Vehicle Category: Sedan
Engines (petrol): 1.8 L, 4 cylinder, TSI, 118 kW / 160 PS
Engines (petrol): 1.4 L, 4 cylinder, TSI, 90 kW / 122 PS
Engines (diesel): 2.0 L, 4 cylinder, TDI,  103 kW / 140 PS
Engines (diesel): 1.6 L, 4 cylinder, TDI,  77 kW / 105 PS
Drivetrain: Front engine, 5 passenger, 5-door
Transmissions (standard): 6-speed manual / six –speed DSG automatic / seven-speed DSG automatic
0-60 mph: 5.5 sec
EPA city/hwy mpg: 10.5/14.5 kmpl
Base Price: Rs. 25 – 30 lakhs (est)

Volvo S60

Stylish, Sporty, Safe, Spacious, Sleek….. I really could go on about the S-Mode from Sweden.

Swedish car manufacturer Volvo has maintained a low profile in the Indian auto industry as far as the number of their offerings is concerned. This could be due to many reasons least of which revolve around the fact that Volvo makes vehicles that don’t generally fall in the economy bracket when it comes to price. Do not get me wrong, I am not saying that the Indian market is cheap, but rather the frugal nature of Indians, coupled with the relatively higher price of Volvo as compared to its rivals, as well as lower fuel efficiency ratings all point to reduced sales. It is rather Volvo that has had to tailor its vehicle to suit the Indian market and this says a lot for about India as a global automotive player.

Volvo is not looking to increase its car offerings in India and has resorted to some aggressive methods to achieve this. How you ask? Well, Volvo India are planning on introducing up to three new models which will namely be the – XC60, S60 and V60 models. The XC60 and S60 are to be launched soon in India and will be quickly followed by the very impressive V60, which should pave the way for a new type of car in India. The XC60 is already doing very well in Europe as it is an awesome product but it is the S60 that should prove to be the most exciting of the lot.

Volvo is all geared up to change the rules with the introduction of the S60 as it is a completely new developed vehicle. You may wonder what being a new vehicle has to do with changing the game but one look at the S60 and all doubts will vanish. The S60 is totally new in terms of design and technology and you will only need the slightest glimpse to realize that this new Volvo is unlike anything they have offered before. The front end gets a daring, aggressive fascia with newer bolder headlights as well as a stylish, sleek grille that has the traditional diagonal strip symbolizing Volvo’s badging. These give the front end a very striking image and coupled with the newly designed bumper makes the S60 very attractive. Only the tail lights are reminiscent of previous Volvo models with the same cut and integration into the boot lid.

The interior of the Volvo S60 has also come a long way from the previous version. With the dashboard, centre console, gear shift, climate control knobs and other switches now getting a more tech-savvy, modern and most critically an uncluttered look. The front seats are low-slung and give the front occupants a snug feel while providing all the necessary cushioning and support. The low nature of the seats also gives the front cabin an added sporty look. Rear space is what Volvo hopes will give it the edge when it comes to its competitors and rear passengers will be very happy with the head room and leg room the rear cabin affords.

If you were to think that the revamped interiors and exteriors are the only things that make us gush about the new Volvo S60 you will have to think again. The way the new Volvo drives is up there with the attributes making it one of the most eagerly awaited Volvo’s ever. For the first time Volvo has taken into consideration the dynamics, sportiness and driving pleasure of a vehicle and focused on delivering on all counts.

The S60 definitely feels sporty to drive and hugs corners like a cat on a carpet. Although it may still fall short of its other German brother the BMW, in terms of sporty character, you can bet your house on the balance that Volvo have achieved between comfort and agility (although I spotted some youtube videos that proved it could actually compete with the BMW).

On a long drive in the countryside where there were lots of curvy corners and hilly sections there were minimal problems with the S60 when it came to traversing the bends and the car handles these with minimum of fuss.  The Steering wheel feels nice and weighty and also very responsive and sharp. It is not as precise as a point and shoot type but is a huge improvement over previous Volvo models.

The Volvo S60 will be offered in two engine types one being the T6, which is a 3.0 liter petrol and D5, which is a 2.4 liter diesel engine. The T6 is for those drivers who are very enthusiastic about their driving and the six cylinder, turbocharged motor belts out a maximum power of 308 PS and a maximum torque of 440 Nm. The power of the engine ensures that the car moves in a smooth straight line giving good linear acceleration. The Volvo S60 Petrol also comes mated to a six-speed automatic transmission along with a sequential manual shifter although there is no paddle shift option in the car. The Volvo S60 also comes with an all-wheel drive setup and this improves grip on the road and handling by quite an extent.

The D5 engine is the cleaner option offered by Volvo but this one is much slower than the T6 petrol. Being a diesel engine the torque output is similar to that of the T6 unit and this one give an impressive 420 Nm of maximum torque. The massive quantity of torque on tap allows for an enjoyable drive in the city but after a drive in the very impressive T6 fitted vehicle it is hard not to feel a tad bit disappointed with the slightly more sluggish performance of the Volvo S60 Diesel D5 installed car.

Volvo has always been synonymous with safety and their cars have always had some of the most innovative and modern safety technologies incorporated into them. The Volvo S60 does not disappoint on this front as well and comes with a few new gadgets in it that would put even the most distrust passenger at ease. Volvo intends to set an unprecedented safety benchmark in the segment with the introduction of the Volvo S60. It features new systems like the Pedestrian detection with full auto brakes and Queue assist to help the driver prevent accidents.

The Pedestrian detection with Collision Warning and Full Auto Brake system is of great use as it uses radar incorporated in the front of the car near the grille and a camera fixed near the outside rear view mirror. The radar helps to detect any obstructions in the cars path and the camera is used to identify if that is a human being. Once the object has been detected the car sends out a warning to the driver in the form of red flashing light that appears near the instrumentation panel. If this has been ignored by the driver the car then sends out a beep and if there is again no response in the form of braking from the driver, then the cars Full Auto Brake takes control bringing the car to a complete stop if the speed is below 35 km/hr. Any speed above 35 km/hr and the car will manage to slow itself down to the maximum extent possible to ensure the minimum of collision impact with the object be it a pedestrian or other.

The Volvo S60 comes across as a total package and has none of the traditional styling cues of Volvo vehicles. It is extremely stylish, powerful, spacious and technologically advanced. It also goes without saying that the Volvo S60 is equipped with some of the most technologically advanced safety features that will make it an attractive option for many buyers.

Expect the Volvo S60 to hit Indian markets by March of next year and the only thing that is going to stand in the way of it making good sales is its price tag. Initial estimates put the Volvo S60 at around Rs. 30 lakhs and this should be a good value for the vehicle to beat out any competition as the car has all the other requisites that would make it the most viable option to Indian buyers.

Volvo S60 Specifications

Vehicle Category: Sedan
Engines (petrol): 3.0 L, 6 cylinder, 304 HP, 440 Nm torque
Engine (Diesel): 2.4 L, 6 cylinder, 204 HP, 420 Nm torque
Drivetrain: Front engine, 5 passenger, 4-door sedan, AWD
Transmissions (standard): 6-speed auto with sequential shifter
Curb Weight:
1789 kg
0-100 kph: 5.2 secs (est.)
Mileage city/hwy: 9 / 13 kmpl
Price of Volvo S60: Rs30 Lakh (est)

Volvo S60

Tata Indica Vista Safire90


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Tata Motors India has the ability to churn out newer variations of its existing model. Check out the Indigo Manza’s for example. The earlier generation ones would have some uneven panel gaps and even some iffy quality bits however post the launch of the Tata Aria, every new Indigo Manza has even panel gaps and no bad quality bits in the cabin. This is the result of striving for excellence in its field. Note must be made that this quality revolution started as early as from the Indica Vista days. Speaking of Tata Indica Vista and coming precisely to the point, the Tata Indigo Manza’s 90 Hp engine has been now shoe-horned into the Indica Vista and christened the Tata Indica Vista Safire90 in lines with the Fiat Punto 90Hp.

The Tata Indica Vista Safire90 has some changes visually to give it a separate stance from the regular Indica. The car gets a new body paint and eight spoke alloy wheels now. The alloy wheels are the same ones as were found on the Indica Vista anniversary edition. It also gets fog lamps as standard. The side indicators have been moved from their position just above the wheel arches now to in the same plane as the outside rear view mirrors. Such a positioning puzzles us as it renders the turn indicators useless. The tail gets a 90 Hp badging along with the variant name. This is for all the visual differences between the regular Tata Indica Vista and the Tata Indica Vista Safire90. Safire stands for the name of the engines derived from Fiat Motors.

Inside one would certainly notice the new black and beige them treatment for the dashboard. The speedometer console as with the rest of the readings are centrally located and present a nice look. There is seat height adjust for the driver now and you would be hard pressed to notice any panel gaps in the Tata Indica Vista Safire90. Quality has really gone up and is at par if not above rest of the competition. There are no steering mounted controls though and we didn’t miss them as well since they would tamper with the operation of the steering wheel. Traditional Tata Indica Vista virtues like spacious cabin and good all round visibility remain the same. Getting into a comfortable driving position is also quite easy now with the rake and reach adjustable steering column. There is a fully integrated 2-DIN stereo system with Blue&Me and USB port to enhance the entertainment as well as communication part. Safety aspect for which Tata Motors have been always criticized has been taken care of in the Tata Indica Vista Safire90 with ABS, EBD as well as 2 SRS airbags in the top end version. This should put to rest the tongues wagging about Tata Motors India not too keen on safety aspects in the Indica.

The major change has happened under the hood. The Tata Indica Vista Safire90 now gets the 1368cc, 16 Valve, DOHC, FIRE engine putting out 90 Bhp of power @ 6000 rpm and 115 Nm @ 1600 rpm. Performance on the lighter Tata Indica Vista Safire90 was much improved than the earlier version. The 0-100 kmph mark was breached in 13.8 seconds. Sound insulation could have been better as anything above 5000 rpm was audible inside the cabin. The gearbox has been also changed from the previous Indica Vista and has made way for a Drivetech4 unit which feels good to grip and also offers smooth gear shifts. Overtaking maneouvre doesn’t require any planning now on the new car and it is just a zip and tuck affair. The Tata Indica Vista Safire90 feels at home both in the city as well as on the highway. The braking is also upto the mark with the ABS factor playing a major role and safely hauls the car to a stop without any drama. That saying, the performance isn’t a patch on the much smaller 1.2 liter K series engine of the Suzuki Swift as the 1.4 motor in the Indica isn’t too keen to be revved.

Fuel efficiency hasn’t taken a major dip with the bigger engine and the Tata Indica Vista Safire90 returns 10.6 kmpl in the city and 14.8 kmpl on the highway.

Overall, the Tata Indica Vista Safire90 is for those looking for a fuel efficiency yet fun to drive spacious hatch and one available at a low price. Combine it with a segment first 24 months or 75,000 km warranty, whichever comes earlier. For this, Tata Motors India have fulfilled their promise of delivering more car per car. The car is now priced from Rs 4,50,000 {ex-showroom, Mumbai} for the base model and Rs. 6,00,000 {ex-showroom, Mumbai} for the top variant making it fantastic value for money.

Technical Specifications of the Tata Indica Vista Safire90

Displacement: 1368cc, 16 Valve, FIRE DOHC
Engine Type: Petrol
Maximum Power: 90 Bhp @ 6000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 115 Nm @ 1600 rpm
Gears: 5 Manual
Length: 3794 mm
Width: 1698 mm
Height: 1552 mm
Tyre Size: 175/65 R14 alloys
Steering: Hydraulic Power assisted
Brakes: Front Disc, Rear Drum with ABS and EBD
Ground Clearance: 165.00 mm
Suspension: Independent McPherson Strut/Semi independent coil
Kerb Weight: 1247.00 kgs
Fuel Tank: 38.00
Seating Capacity: 5

Nissan Micra Begins to Export


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Nissan to also introduce diesel hatch in the next few months.

Nissan Motors has a good history with their supermini offering the Nissan Micra and India is one of three new countries that Nissan Motors has chosen to manufacture the new fourth generation vehicle. Starting production in 1982 from its plant in Japan, the Nissan Micra (or should I say Nissan March) has come a long way to reach its present form. The second and third generation Micra was also manufactured in Sunderland in England and after an association of 18 years came to an end in July 2010. The Sunderland plant will be used to manufacture Nissan’s new offering in the market segment as the Micra.

The manufacturing of the Micra in England was made deciding that Nissan would shift operations to five new locations but so far there are only three in India, Thailand and China. The operations at India were meant to serve the European, Middle Eastern and African markets, Thailand meant to serve South East Asian, Japanese and Australian markets and China meant to serve Chinese and Mexican markets.

Nissan Motors India have every reason to be happy with the response it has received in the country for its compact hatch the Micra and the manufacturing plant in Chennai began operation in July 2010. The main expectations of Nissan when it chose India as one of its manufacturing locations was for the Indian market to firstly respond well to car and secondly to begin exports to Europe, Middle East and Africa. In a short span of four months Nissan Motor India has achieved sales of around 4500 cars and is on its way to achieving a lot more.

The first consignment of 3,866 cars has already been sent to Europe and this breaks new ground for the newest Made-in-India Nissan hatch. In the 2010-2011 year Nissan Motors India hopes to export around 1.10 lakh units to more than 100 countries across Europe, Middle East and Africa. Nissan plans to make their manufacturing plant at Chennai a key figure in their global growth plan and the initial export figures should make for good reading. The plant is to be the strategic hub not only for domestic manufacturing but for exports as well and will serve to showcase the high standard of Indian build quality and engineering of Nissan products on a global scale.

The success of the Nissan Micra in India has been well received in all circles connected to Nissan Motors and it was but natural in a country obsessed with mileage that a diesel variant would be necessary. Taking into account customer feedback and the chance to further boost sales, Nissan Motors India was soon on the job to get the diesel version of compact hatchback into the Indian market.

According to the CEO and Managing Director of Nissan Motor India, Mr. Kiminobu Tokuyama, “The success of petrol variant of Micra in the domestic market has given us huge confidence to introduce Diesel variant within six months from the launch of petrol version. We are aware that this is a very important phase of our journey and we standby our commitment to provide Indian customers with a full range of products and services. We are confident that Diesel-powered Micra would fulfill the discerning needs of Indian Customers.”

The Nissan Micra diesel should be available to Indian audiences by December of this year and is most likely to use the motor that currently does the job on the Mahindra Renault Logan. This will be the 1.5 liter, four cylinder unit that is currently produced by Nissan’s strategic alliance partner Renault in a number of variants. For the diesel Micra though this should be the motor that produces 70 horsepower and a maximum torque of 160 Nm. Seeing that the Nissan Micra is a light weight vehicle, the engine should prove to be very powerful and it aims to make the Nissan Micra diesel the benchmark for fuel efficiency in its segment.

Nissan has already started taking pre-order booking for the Nissan Micra diesel version across its 20 dealerships and Abhijeet Pandit, Marketing and After Sales, Vice-President says that, “Ever since we launched the petrol variant in July, we have been flooded with enquiries for Micra Diesel. I am confident that the Diesel-powered Micra, is a good value proposition and a desirable option to choose from, for the Indian customers during this festival season. We are elated with the overwhelming response received for the petrol variant across all our dealerships and keenly look forward to copy this success. We are also aggressively ramping our sales and service network.”

The Nissan Micra diesel should be available for a bit more than the petrol and customers should expect to pay around Rs.25,000 to Rs. 30,000 more depending on trim levels and options. Nissan seems to have hit the nail on the head by introducing its operations to India and i am sure even the folks at Nissan have been amazed with how well the company is doing in the country. Top managers are just keeping their fingers crossed and hoping that the initial success they have achieved will continue. The same can be said for some Indian car manufacturers as the success of any Indian made car will only serve to boost the image of Indian made cars globally.

Nissan Micra Specifications

Body & Engine Specifications

Body Type – Hatchback
Engine Type – Petrol / Diesel
Displacement – 1198cc, HR12, 3 cylinder / diesel not confirmed yet
Maximum Power (Petrol / diesel) – 75 hp / 70 hp
Maximum Torque (Petrol / diesel) – 104 Nm / 160 Nm
Seating Capacity – 5 persons
Suspension (Front / Rear) – McPherson Strut, Torsion Beam
Brakes – Front Disc / Rear Drum
Transmission – 5-speed manual
Weight – 970 kgs
Mileage (city / hwy) – 14 km/l / 18 km/l
Price of Nissan Micra– 3.9 lakhs – 5.25 lakhs

Comfort & Convenience

Power Windows: Front and Rear
Power Steering
Central Door Lock
Steering Tilt Adjustment
Remote Keyless with Push Button Ignition
Driver Side Front Window with Auto down & Anti-Pinch Function

Safety Features

Driver Airbag
Engine Immobilizer
Front Passenger Airbag
Front Fog Lamps
ABS + EBD + BA