Hyundai i20 diesel in India versus Nissan Micra diesel in India


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The Uber Cool one when introduced in India in 2008 was an addition to the line of big hatches roaming around in India with little or no success. The success part was related to the other big hatches namely the Skoda Fabia and the Honda Jazz. The primary reason behind both was that inspite of having puny engines, both especially the Honda was priced stratoshperically. But then when the Hyundai i20 diesel in India was introduced, then it changed the game overnight. Here was a spacious hatch with a good diesel engine and also oomph factor for the looks thing. Like all Hyundai products, it was priced very well. Needless to say, the Hyundai cashier has been on a smile all along. But then Nissan India Private Limited wanted to capture a chunk of the small car sales and hence introduced the Nissan Micra petrol variant and shortly thereafter, the Nissan Micra diesel in India. There is a price difference of almost a lakh between the top end variants of both but then that is the closest it can get to almost similar capacity motors and so we decided to pitch both of them for a battle.

Looks

Hyundai i20 diesel: The fluidic concept design of the Hyundai family isn’t quite visible in the design elements of the Hyundai i20. Infact the refreshed Hyundai i10 has more of that now. Even if Hyundai were to design a sedan based on the hatchback, it would be beautifully lined up in the Hyundai portfolio. The bulge in the front shows a heavy front end. The peeled back head lamps show a beak design. The small radiator grille has now become a trend with small cars as well as some big ones. The air dam is more of a wider affair. The one piece bumper has the fog lamps which are a size bigger than the others in its class. The 185/65 R14 Apollo Accelere rubber also looks good on the hatch. The curvaceous lines abound in the side profile. The rear is also curvaceous like the front and sides. The tail lamps are a single piece unit with a not so chunky tail pipe protruding.

Nissan Micra diesel: Well, the Nissan Micra diesel in India is the new kid on the block. For it as well, there is nothing to distinguish it from its petrol sibling. To be fair, you have to really see a Nissan Micra on the road rather than drool over it in the pictures. The apple grille with the Nissan logo on the bonnet makes the car look one segment lower than it is. The oval head lamps alongwith the wimp of fog lamps for an excuse make this car a cute one. Even it has got 14 inch alloys which have a different design than the petrol model one’s. The rear is also a part of the cute package with the small bulging tail lamps and the hidden tail pipe.

The Nissan Micra diesel is the one to go for if you prefer looks over practicality but then if it’s the other way round, then it’s the Hyundai for you. Me? I would prefer the Hyundai i20 over the Nissan Micra.

Interiors

Hyundai i20 diesel: The Hyundai i20 diesel in India gets the same interior treatment as its petrol counterpart. The two tone interior feels a good place to be. Especially if you have been in a Maruti Swift. The steering wheel immediately reminded me of the Honda City and Civic’s unit.it has got audio and Bluetooth controls on it. It has got all the power goodies including electrical ORVM adjustments. The stereo system also feels wonderful to the ears. The auto climate control system also works wonderfully. The gear lever though a bit long is also nice to hold. Above all, for a 6 footer, there is more or less adjustment needed to get into the driver’s seat. The back can easily seat three people without their getting intimate or cosy. The boot space is also good and can accommodate two small suitcases and some more of the shopping ones. Infact, I would rather call it a sedan without boots rather than been a hatchback.

Nissan Micra diesel: Like the Hyundai i20, the Nissan Micra diesel in India interiors also doesn’t vary much from its petrol variant. The steering wheel is devoid of audio controls and even misses out on the chrome Nissan logo and instead gets an embedded plastic one. It looks as if someone has flicked the the badge. The interiors boast of a cheerful theme but then if you have checked out the Hyundai i20’s interiors first, then the interiors of the Nissan Micra diesel would seem a bit cramped in comparison. Don’t get me wrong but then that is the perception that one starts to build up. Adjusting in the driver’s seat takes sometime. But then you begin to appreciate the general layout of things. Cut to the rear and it can also seat 3 comfortably but then some under thigh support is missing and shoulder room pales in comparison to the Hyundai i20. The boot space is also smaller as compared to the Hyundai i20 and at the most would take in 2 small suitcases.

The Hyundai i20 wins this round due to the sheer volume of space that it has on offer as well as goodies and the better cabin build.

Handling and ride quality

Hyundai i20 diesel: McPherson struts with gas shock absorbers in the front and gas shock absorbers with couple torsion beam axle does at the rear make up the suspension configuration for the Hyundai i20 diesel in India. The steering wheel though light isn’t as direct to my liking. I know, we automobile scribes have this problem of expecting every machine that we test to handle like a Formula 1 car but then that isn’t the case. As far as jaunts in the city traffic go, the Hyundai 120 diesel would do your bidding easily. Its out in the twisties that you would start getting that artificial steering wheel feel. The chassis has been damped to be on the softer side and this means that ride quality is stellar. But then put in a full complement of passengers and the suspension would start bottoming out. Handling is pretty okay for a big hatch but then if your everyday life is confined to the city, you wouldn’t miss much on either the handling as well as ride quality front. You would be hard pressed to tell if you are in the petrol or diesel variant since the NVH is very low. It is only at speeds above 120 kmph that you realize that this is a diesel car after all.

Nissan Micra diesel: The Nissan Micra diesel in India sports the V platform chassis which is been used to make other vehicles in the Renault Nissan alliance as well. This Nissan baby gets Independent McPherson struts at the front whereas the rear gets non independent torsion beam. The low speed ride quality is better as compared to the Hyundai i20, even though it is a bit on the harder side. The suspension doesn’t bottom out even with a full complement of passengers but then this translates to a harder ride quality on the highway. It does get a bit nervous on the open-way. The steering is the talking point in the whole chassis as it has that finger tip light feeling which makes it very special in the city confines. Out on the highway, the electromechanical steering weighs up nicely. It is a better unit than the Hyundai’s. The handling is also way better than the i20’s with the Nissan Micra having a calm and composed feeling while going around corners. The Logan’s engine has a nice muted snarl even at high speeds making the Nissan Micra diesel one of the better damped cars in this comparo.

The Nissan Micra wins this round due to a better all round ride and handling package.

Engine, performance and fuel efficiency

Hyundai i20 diesel: The Hyundai i20 diesel in India gets an all new 1.4 liter CRDi engine which makes 90 Ps of peak power at 4000 rpm and a healthy torque of 220 Nm at 1750 rpm. This makes it one of the most powerful diesels in its category. It races from 0-100 kmph in 12.75 seconds only. Below 1600 rpm, there is not much action happening and you would have to frequently shift gears. By the way, the gearbox is a 6 speed manual and the actions are quick though a bit long. Once the turbo spools up past the 1800 mark, there is no stopping the i20. It doesn’t give you the feeling of the much lighter Getz with the 1.5 CRDi but then it would make other bigger sedans pale in comparison. It tops at the speed of 168 kmph. The car gets discs in the front and drums at the rear with EBD and ABS thrown in for good measure. The brake pedal feel is excellent and the car stops well ahead of calculated times. It is a well known fact that the Hyundai i20 diesel in India gets Euro NCAP 5 star ratings for safety. It gets 6 air bags (a segment first), 3 point seat belts with pretensioners and also a collapsible steering column. Fuel efficiency goes a few notches up with the 6 speed transmission. The diesel i20 returns 14.8 kmpl in the city and a high 22.4 kmpl on the highway. All these figures have been achieved with the AC on.

Nissan Micra diesel: The Nissan Micra diesel in India gets the familiar 1.5 liter diesel engine from the Mahindra Logan. This engine is slightly detuned for use in the Micra and it now makes 64 Ps at 4000 rpm whereas the torque figure is rated at 160 Nm which is obtained at 2000 rpm. Though on papers, the Nissan diesel is outclassed by the Hyundai one in terms of power and torque, it is the real world driving which makes all the difference. The diesel engine in the Micra is very responsive even from low speeds. The best part is that there is no turbo lag at all. The 5 speed gearbox is similar to the Hyundai’s in feel but is more responsive in keeping tune with the diesel’s characteristics. The 0-100 kmph dash comes up in 15.4 seconds which is way lower than that of the Hyundai i20. Also the top speed is 155 kmph. Brakes are discs at front and drums at rear. But then there is no other stopping aid like ABS or EBD. Safety is handled by a single driver air bags, collapsible steering column and the 3 point seat belts. Fuel efficiency is better than that of the i20, with the Nissan Micra diesel returning 15.2 kmpl in the city and 22.6 kmpl on the highway.

Hyundai i20 diesel wins this round due to the superb safety features, performance and fuel efficiency. The Nissan would have won this round if it had those essential safety features in place.

Verdict

This did seem like a David versus Goliath fight but then it had to be carried out since many of our readers wanted a comparo between the two. First the positives of the Hyundai i20 diesel in India. It gets a superior cabin with good build quality, enough of goodies to keep you happy, is a safe car to drive and has good fuel efficiency. Bad parts are that the handling is underwhelming, not so nimble in city and pricey. Best things about the Nissan Micra are cute looks, tight turning radius, good tractable engine and superb fuel efficiency. Bad bits are the interior space, features, lack of safety features and dealer network. Based on the above tests, the Hyundai i20 diesel emerges the clear winner. The Hyundai i20 diesel price in India starts from Rs 5,75,759 for the base version and goes all the way to Rs 7,34,540 for the top end one. The Nissan Micra diesel price in India starts from Rs 5.58 lakhs and ends at Rs 6.07 lakhs. All these prices are ex-show, room Mumbai prices. Now, it depends on you if you want to save a lakh or half more and go for the Nissan Micra diesel or pay the premium now and go for the Hyundai i20 diesel.

Need for new branding strategies in automobile sector in India

So, the world is really getting smaller and it seems that the gateway is in India. Name any popular brand and we are sure that either it is already there in India or it might be thinking to chase the Indian market now. Undoubtedly the Indian automobile sector is growing in scales. This has led to chaos in many big brands which are already present in the Indian market.  So, their need of the hour is to work upon their branding strategy so as to adapt to the changing scenario and the changing dynamics of Indian automobile market. Right from our very own Mahindra and Mahindra to the foreign car manufacturers like Renault, General Motors, Fiat and any other automobile manufacturers, each and every automobile company is developing a detailed plan in order to remain where they stand today and if possible be in a better position than that. This redefining of plan, identity and approach will help them to get hold of the situation better and obviously an increased share in the market.

Mahindra and Mahindra have recently emerged as a diversified business house. They produce almost everything in the automobile sector right from tractors to passenger cars. They recently claimed to have invested Rs 120 crore over the period of next three years as a measure of new branding strategy. “Rise” seems to be the new mantra for Mahindra. It seems that in the 65 years old book of Mahindra and Mahindra, a new chapter has been scripted. “Rise is not just a word, it is also a motivation which makes people to unify their feelings in order to testify the shared ideas, way of life, values and virtues of their life. It is a chance of grabbing opportunities where the others are not capable to see. So, it is to set an example”, according to Mr. Mahindra.

Another company that has been known to work for new branding strategies is Fiat Motors. This Italian company, though enjoying a rich status in the Indian automobile market has already started to work upon its new branding strategy. It has been a laggard in the automobile market yet seems to be working on a new image of the company. The company is ready to open its very own exclusive brand stores or “Image Point” all across India. These brand stores first will be seen in the major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai and Bangalore. In these brand stores the company will be displaying its wide range of cars and also various merchandises, accessories with a cup of authentic Italian coffee. The reason behind these Image Points is to make the consumer feel good about the brand and tell them what does this brand stands for. Besides, this company is also focusing on the Tata – Fiat joint venture.

Even General Motors are not far behind. Even they seem to working on the same thread. As for starters, they are planning a series of campaigns to mark the 100 years of its Chevrolet brand. They have also planned a number of activities around the same. The intention is to teach people what Chevy stands for, for making them aware that Chevy has its own status, and rich heritage. They also want the customer to have the same trust in Chevrolet what they have for General Motors. Besides the campaign, they are also working on the idea of bringing their internationally acclaimed electric car Chevrolet Volt in the Indian market.

This all might seems very easy and it might be actually easy for all the above mentioned brands but creating a new brand image is the toughest challenge  in front of Renault. After the dissolution of the joint venture Mahindra Renault Private Limited, it is really hard for Renault to bear any other failure. The only product from this partnership of an Indian company and a French manufacturer didn’t perform well than what was expected out of it. So currently the company is on a standstill, but still the company is gearing up for the solo venture in India. The key challenge in front of the company is still the brand image. However, it seems that the company is working aggressively and we hope that it will emerge out as a strong, aggressive and futuristic brand in Indian automobile market.

Blow below the belt for automobile sector

The cheaper car loans and high disposable income might have given a jump start to the car sales in January 2011 but it seems the honeymoon period is over. The automotive industry is in grave danger in the coming months. Rising cost of fuel and the high interest rate might have put their stacks a little bit further from what they have dreamed in January. Holla… it seems they have woken up with one tight slap right on their face.

Recently in a report by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, the year 2011 started with a boom in the car sales figure. The sales figure soared up to a height of 184,332 units which is 26% more than the last (wait for it) month. It’s the highest numbers recorded ever in just a month. Previously the highest record was in October 2010 with 182,992 units. The companies which managed to scratch the maximum share from both the figures were Maruti, Tata Motors, Ford and Toyota. The rising income which basically helped in rise in economic activities when gelled with the comfortable rate of interest and brand new launches bore this fruitful result.

But now in this romantic movie of car manufacturers and car sales chart, out of nowhere a villain has risen. It’s like all of a sudden your car tank has started to leak in the middle of a beautiful journey that started well (at least that’s what you thought). Enough of the build up. It seems that there is a combination of negative features which might pull down the momentum of demand. Say for example Reserve Bank of India has now raised the key policy rates, making it a seven fold increase than the last year which ultimately leads to high rate of interest. This ultimately will affect the demand for cars. Why it will affect the demand is because that the maximum sales, which is 70% of the sales happen through financing route.

Next, comes the hike in petrol prices. So, you thought you can get away with it, though not really. Hmm… so the hike in petrol prices has decreased the affordability of vehicles in Indian market. Besides there is inflation which will also hit the car sales figures very soon. The best is yet to come. Yes, the heaviest blow will be from our very own government. Car manufacturers are keeping their fingers crossed because if the government actually hiked the excise duty by 2% in order to bring it to the pre-slowdown level, then they can actually bid adieu to their dreams of selling more cars even this year. Why so? Because of it will have the same results as the hike in vehicles own price would.

But it seems that, only the consumer will be shocked as all the other parties involved have already predicted it and are getting ready for it. Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers has already predicted that the sales growth in any case won’t be able to match up to the 30% soar scored last year. Further, this year it would be somewhere around 15% to 18% and not more than that. SIAM again, has directed the attention towards high inflation rate, high interest rate and high raw material cost saying that these are the factors. This has warned all the major car manufacturing companies like Maruti, Mahindra and Honda. These major companies are getting ready to receive this big blow as even they believe that the growth will get the impact this year.

While the car sales received the highest number of applauds in January, even the two wheeler sales remained healthy with a 17.5% rise. Overall automobile sales in the country remained healthy at 13.2 lakh units. This states a clear growth of 19% over the 11.1 lakh units last year. It’s clear that the automobile sector is ready to face the blow after blow. But right now we don’t have any option left besides waiting for the biggest blow called Budget and notice whether the automobile sector gets it the face, tummy or worse, below the belt.

Toyota Liva in India test drive


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Toyota Kirloskar Motors have waiting periods for two of their vehicles currently in the Indian market. Needless to say, the first one is the Toyota Etios which is one of the cheapest vehicles by Toyota in India whereas the other one is 4 times costlier than the Etios, the Toyota Fortuner. I am sure that the waiting periods is something which each company would like and dislike at the same. Like, because it means that the company’s model has been accepted by the car buying public and dislike because if the waiting periods are longer, then the car buying people would shift their priorities to other models. Toyota Kirloskar Motors are getting the second aspect covered by launching the Toyota Liva in India, the company’s hatchback take on the Etios, by an expected March 2011. Infact, they are offering customers of the Etios a first serve of the Toyota Liva booking. Now, we at Indiandrives got a privilege of a short test drive of the car that Toyota was offering to journalists prior to its launch in India. Mind you, it was only a 15 mins test drive that we could afford since there was a huge line waiting to test drive the car. So we had to actually send two or three of our office colleagues separately to check out the features which we had missed out on the test drive. A Toyota Liva review would be made available to our readers as soon as the Toyota Liva launch is done in India.

The looks of the car are very much from the sedan that it is derived from. However the front looks a bit rounded as compared to the sedan. Also the fog lamps have more of a cheerful design than the sedan. Side skirts anyone? Yes, you get them on the Toyota Liva in India. The side profile of this car looks very much like the Maruti Alto K10. The door handles as well as door mirrors are in body color. The lower variants would have 14 inch wheels whereas the top end version that I or rather we were driving had the 15 inch alloy wheels. If Toyota Kirloskar Motors intend to launch the car with the same alloy wheels scheme, then they have a sure shot winner as far as looks go. The rear isn’t boxy like the Etios and features a more curvaceous design. The tail lamp design is also good with bulges. There is a big chrome bar running across the tail of the hatchback which acts like the boot opener. The tail pipe isn’t visible and is suitably tucked away.

The Toyota Liva interior is something which is similar to that of the sedan’s. The layout of the Toyota Liva interiors mirror that of the Etios. The dash is centrally mounted with the speedo, tacho and essential tell tale lights. The front seats are manually adjustable. The steering wheel is also adjustable for rake and reach. The use of materials is evidently un-Toyota like but then they are good for this segment and price point. For a 6 footer, the driver’s seat did take some tinkering around with but then it was far more easy than been in the Beat. The AC did work fine and there were steering controls on the slightly flat steering wheel. Manual adjustment for the ORVMs was also there. Like the sedan, there are many cup holders and cubby holes. Moving onto the rear, it is almost like the sedan except for the fact that the leg space seems a bit tight. The shoulder space also seemed compromised. But then if you can be comfortable in a Swift’s rear seat, then the Toyota Liva interiors would be like a Limo for you. Boot space which was the talking point of the sedan is obviously less in the hatchback. To give you a fair idea, it was around 340 liters. It is just my guess since there wasn’t any data to back it up with. The Toyota Liva specifications were yet to be officially given so equipment levels may go up or down as well.

Toyota Liva Photo Gallery

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From a short drive, it is almost impossible to think of how a car would behave but then as I mentioned earlier, this article is a combined effort from all those staffers who actually drove this car. The unanimous opinion was that it is almost like the Ford Figo in the ride and handling stakes. Using the same underpinnings as the sedan gives it a good capability to glide over the road imperfections. NVH, even though the motor couldn’t be stretched to its maximum, was of high order and as can be expected from Toyota Kirloskar Motors. By the way, the weight of this hatchback is only 870 kgs.

The engine in the Toyota Liva was a 1.2 liter unit, designed to be fuel efficient as well as provide for driving thrills. The cubic capacity has been shortened to 1.2 liters from the 1.5 unit available in the sedan is because of excise norms. I cannot say for sure about the power that it develops and it may be more to what the portals say, 80 Bhp. Since this engine, like the 1.5 liter one also doesn’t feature VVTi technology, it is supposed to be full with friction reducing technologies. The acceleration wouldn’t have you pinned to the seat but then it was almost similar to that. I remember riding a Pulsar 180 earlier on in my riding days and when I shifted from 1st to second gear, I almost rose off the seat due to the sheer acceleration mania that it generated. The Toyota Liva was something similar to it. Due to the low kerb weight, expect 0-100 kmph times under 12 seconds. The gearbox was a 5 speed unit which is the same one in the Etios. The engine felt remarkably smooth to drive. Brake feel was a bit spongy but then I am sure Toyota would kit it with ABS and EBD before the vehicle gets launched. As for the fuel efficiency, it is said to be way better than what we expect from current hatchbacks. I will reserve my comments on the same until we get the Toyota Liva review done.

Safety would be handled by 2 air bags, GOA body, collapsible steering column and the 3 point seat belts. As of now, the company would be launching the petrol variant and the Toyota Liva diesel would follow towards the later part of this year. It would most probably the 1.4 liter diesel from under the hood of the Toyota Corolla Altis, albeit in a detuned state. Looking at the pricing strategy by Toyota for the Etios, it is most likely that the Toyota Liva price in India would be atleast Rs 50,000 cheaper than the starting price of the sedan.

Logan to walk the ramp solo this time

I’m sure, just by the headline you might have already guessed what is there inside this packet. It’s been a year already since the dissolution of  Mahindra Renault Private Limited. We all have read those big, 1 page news articles covered in almost every news daily, weekly, monthly and yearly magazines and newspapers about this break-up. Finally, both the parties realised that they were better off without each other and they should dissolve this partnership. With purchase of 49 percent stakes of Renault, Mahindra gained the total control of MRPL. Mahindra now is set to re-launch their only child from the 3 years of partnership with Renault, Mahindra Renault Logan, but this time with a different name.

It seems that this decade is a break-up decade for many Joint Ventures especially in the automobile sector. Like many other joint ventures, even this was on a stand still for quite a while before getting dissolved. This became even more evident when their only product Mahindra Renault Logan failed to attract the required attention. So, it didn’t come as a surprise to us, somewhere deep down inside we all knew this is going to happen maybe now or later. Now, since Mahindra has gained the total control over MRPL, it is planning to change the logo now. One of the dailies quoted Mr Pawan Goenka, President – Automotive Sector, Mahindra and Mahindra saying that “you will get to see this transition”. The company will also make sure that it will drop the ‘Renault’ tag from its 150 dealerships across India. Further they are planning to give a new brand image to this company as well.

Mahindra has devised a two leg strategy for the solo run as of now. Firstly, they will launch Logan as a utility major passenger car. But then this car will be available in two models, one being the upmarket version which is the current model and then a low priced version as well. Secondly, they will also set up their own independent sales- distribution chain and 70 outlets by the year 2013 across whole of India to get a better grip of the situation as soon as possible.

Buyers Guide for Rolls Royce

The RR etched right above the grille and the Spirit of Ecstasy mounted just above that. This is trademark style of every Rolls Royce vehicle. Rolls Royce- bus naam hi kaafi hai. But seriously when we talk about Rolls Royce what matters is the name and nothing else. All this has been possible because of the combined efforts of the company and its extremely talented engineers and designers.  This company has graced our market with three of the models. The latest of the lot is the Rolls Royce Ghost. The price range for the Rolls Royce products varies from the Rs 1 crore to Rs 5 crores in India. But at such prices you are sure to get the exceptional feel and the top class luxury which each of its vehicle delivers. So, today let’s taste the ultimate luxury of Rolls Royce top class vehicles.

Rolls Royce Phantom

I’ll be lying to you if I said this car is not that great as much as it promises to be, because then I’ll be just consoling myself. Did I just hear a touch of pun here? Obviously I did. By far I have been one of those luckiest people who got a chance to lay their hands on this car without even having a single penny in my pocket (that’s just a way of saying it). This car is really great in terms of looks and performance. I like the way one of my friend quoted it that this is not a car it is an automobile. By featuring the state of the art techniques inside this car it’s just like one of the flashy multiplexes. I know its all gibberish whatever I’m speaking but that’s all what I can manage when I speak about this automobile. I just remember the old saying that “when the phantom drives, the city quakes”.

Engine Options:
6749cc

Powertrain:
6 speed automatic

Power:
453 Bhp @5350 rpm

Torque:
74 Kgm @3500 rpm

Thumbs Up:
Performance, space, handling and comfort features

Thumbs Down:
Cost you a fortune

Head on Competitors:
Bentley Mulsanne

The Catch:
Rs 3.45 crores to Rs 4.18 crores.

Rolls Royce Ghost

So how does the name “ghost” appear to you, nah how can it appear to you when it is a ghost. Leaving my lameness aside, this car is worth that name in all ways. The looks of this car is simply amazing. Just by looking at it you can sense the luxury, imagine what it will be like when you will sit inside the cabin. This car is an engineering masterpiece. Unlike the Rolls Royce Phantom, Ghost is an everyday use (wait) luxury car. This car is available in only a single engine option which is a 6598cc V12 engine. This engine undoubtedly works awesomely (because awesome is still a small word for it). I know all this is expected out of this car because it does cost you some pennies, but then trust me you would just be penny wise pound foolish if you really don’t think that this car is amazing.

Engine Options:
6598cc

Powertrain:
8 speed automatic

Power:
560Bhp @6250 rpm

Torque:
79.8 Kgm @1500 rpm

Thumbs Up:
Performance, handling and comfort features

Thumbs Down:
Price

Head on Competitors:
Bentley Flying Spur Speed, Porsche Panamera Turbo

The Catch:
Rs 2.45 crores to Rs 3.11 crores.

Mercedes E350 CDI vs BMW 530d vs Jaguar XF 3.0 D – war of the titans

The luxury car segment is hounded by car models for the Indian buyers. I am sure that they are spoilt for choices but then with the advent of choices and new brands, the confusion amongst the car buyers only amplifies. Only the other day, I read a news about Shobha Kapoor gifting her daughter Ekta Kapoor a Jaguar. The reason cited was that it was an exclusive brand as it can get. The market is full of BMWs, Audis and Mercedes galore. We at Indiandrives would like to simplify this situation. So we got the Mercedes E350 CDI, the BMW 530d and the Jaguar XF 3.0 D. All diesels and high on the desirability list of Indian luxury car buyers.  The Jaguar been the latest entrant in the luxury car market deserves more than a round of applause for having the guts to stand in front of the formidable Germans. Why we haven’t thought of the Audi A6 is because buyers in this segment usually don’t want to go for the middle route which Audi usually takes. They either love driving or love been chaffered. The BMW and the Mercedes do this the best. Getting all three of these cars in a single frame was a chore but then I think that it is worth the effort. So here is the Mercedes E350 CDI in India taking on the BMW 530d in India as well as the Jaguar XF 3.0 D in India.

Looks

Mercedes E350 CDI : The Mercedes E350 CDI in India has been recently refreshed but then I don’t know if its me or something else. Mercedes designs don’t make me go wow nowadays. It might have to do something with the “familiarity breeds contempt” thing. I have seen Mercedes galore in my area that I don’t feel anything for Mercedes cars. To be fair, the lower stance at the front signifies the car’s sportiness, its 3 pointed star been a luxury icon from yores. The inverted L shaped day time running lamps in place of the fog ones and the 17 inch multi spoke alloy wheels make a style statement of their own. The rear has the biggest tail lamp cluster of this trio and are split by the bulging boot.

BMW 530d : This is also a recently refreshed variant which mixes the 7 series look wrapped in a 3 series package. The twin kidney grilles with the BMW logo on top and 17 inch run flats acctenuate the long wheelbase of the new BMW 530d in India. The rear has the Hofmeinster kink with the large tail lamps been split by the boot. The closely clustered twin tail pipes don’t look too good in face of the competition. I would have preferred a better treatment considering the BMW’s sporty intentions in its design.

Jaguar XF 3.0 D : The Jaguar XF is the oldest of the lot but then the Jaguar XF 3.0 D in India is a new variant. It somehow looks the freshest of the lot. May be has got something to do with my early theory. As the logo suggest, it really looks like a wild cat ready to pounce on unsuspecting onlookers. The slightly raised eyebrow of the head lamp and the mesh cored oval grille do take the design element to the next level. The Mercedes as well as the Jaguar get the fattest section of 17 inch tyres of this trio. The Jaguar also gets a coupe like stance at the back. Cut to the rear and you would notice the twin exhaust system which looks like a sports car. On the road, it was the Jag that bagged the maximum number of stares.

The Jaguar XF 3.0 D wins this round due to the sheer novelty factor of the unseen.

Interiors

Mercedes E350 CDI : The Mercedes E350 CDI gets the similar interiors as any other Merc in the business but then it seems that Mercedes are back to their old days. By this I meant that they are back to making cabins with good build quality. The Mercedes E350 CDI in India gets the basic COMAND system which can only control the Bluetooth and music systems. The Merc’s cabin is also in a dark shade than the others. But then sit on the front seats and you would be flattered to notice that Mercedes pays attention to driver comfort as well. The rear seats, which are usually the talking point of any Mercedes are superbly comfortable. There is enough of legroom, head room as well as shoulder room. Due to the middle hump, it is evident that all these cars in the comparo are strict 4 seaters. Boot space is also the biggest in the Merc at 530 liters.

BMW 530d : After the Mercedes, the BMW seems like it could make do with a few more buttons on the central console. I am just joking. The clutter free cabin of the BMW 530d in India is a welcome relief. For been the sheer virtue of having the BMW DNA in it, the front seats are more comfier than the ones in its German compatriot. It has got the 3rd generation Idrive system which is a joy to use now. The cabin reeks of quality. The rear seat space which was a bit lacking in the earlier version has now been addressed on account of the longer wheelbase. It would actually give the Merc a heart attack with the space. But then one 6 footer behind another would seem to be a tight fit. The BMW has got a boot space of 480 liters.

Jaguar XF 3.0 D : The best cabin I would say only for the same novelty factor present outside. Don’t be alarmed at finding the gear lever missing. Push the start button and the typical Jaguar “Handshake” gear lever whirrs up. Then like a flower blooming, the AC vents also open up. Now, I have got your attention. Don’t worry there are no more gimmicks until night falls. Because then, the cabin would be bathed in a cool blue ambience. Front seat comfort be damned (not that it is behind that of the Germans) but then taking in all this scenery would take up all the time. Moving over to the back seats, they are also comfortable but then not as much as the Merc but somehow better than the BMW. Boot space is at par with BMW but then its loading lip aperture is small.

As regards the comfort factor, it would be the Merc whereas about gimmicks, it would be hands down, the Jaguar. Close one but then I would give it to the Mercedes E350 CDI.

Handling and ride quality

Mercedes E350 CDI : The Mercedes E350 CDI in India comes with Independent MacPherson struts and coil springs in the front whereas the rear boasts of independent multi links with coil springs. This suspension set up provides it with great ride quality no matter what the surface is. Body roll is well contained and vertical movements over bumps is also amply damped. NVH is also very low so much so that you would be fooled in believing that you are in the Mercedes S-class. As far as handling goes, the hydraulically assisted steering wheel feels somewhat artificial and nowhere near its younger sibling, the Mercedes C-class. The big car just flows sublimely into corners rather than attack them with gusto.

BMW 530d : The BMW 530d in India gets Independent double wishbones with antidive whereas the rear also features antidive with anti-squat integral V multi arm axle which is independent in nature. Over the years, the BMW 5 series has been criticized for having a stiff ride but then this time around, in a bid to imitate Mercedes, BMW has offered the car with a softer suspension setup. This makes the car to glide smoothly over pot holes and everything at low speeds whereas at high speed, its good composure comes into play. Still at higher speeds, the sharper bumps do catch it off guard. Handling, unfortunately is down on the previous model. The steering wheel now gets electrical assist and this translates into an artificial feel. It still does one’s bidding to the T and the car is very eager to follow the contours of a curving road. NVH is a bit on the higher side with the diesel becoming a bit gravelly at idle and at very high speeds.

Jaguar XF 3.0 D : The Jaguar XF 3.0 D in India gets its suspension raised a bit to counter the bad road conditions. It gets independent double wishbones with anti-roll bar at the front and back. Its low speed ride quality is also commendable but unlike the BMW but less than the Merc, it has a good highway composure. Handling is not so good and would finish at the bottom of the heap amongst the trio. The electromechanical steering wheel however is the most direct around this lot but then the chassis doesn’t comply with its requests or even threats. The car is very slow to turn into corners and it is best to be done at sedate speeds. NVH is better damped than the BMW with the noise from the twin turbo engine been reduced to minimum inside the cabin.

Mercedes E350 CDI wins this round on the basis of been a perfect all rounder.

Engine, performance and fuel efficiency

Mercedes E350 CDI : The 2987 cc V6 engine in the Mercedes E350 CDI develops 231 Bhp @ 3800 rpm whereas the peak torque of 55 kgm is developed from as low as 1600. It is mated to a 7 speed auto. Since torque comes in at such low speeds, the Mercedes is very easy to drive in traffic. The 0-100 kmph mark was achieved in 7.63 seconds whereas the maximum speed it attained was 250 kmph. The gearbox is silky smooth and does its work efficiently. Brake pedal feel is a bit lacking in the Mercedes but then duties for braking are handled effectively by discs all around with ESP, EBD and ABS playing an important part as well. Safety as always is good for a car this size with 6 airbags, Pre-safe and also Neck-Pro. Pre-safe is a technology wherein the seat-belts eerily nudge towards you once you are seated inside the car. Fuel efficiency is good considering that this Mercedes employs the company’s trademark BlueEfficiency. The E350 gives 7.9 kmpl in the vicinity of the city whereas the open highways allowed it to deliver 13.2 kmpl.

BMW 530d : The 6 cylinder 2993 cc engine doing duties in the BMW 530d in India makes 245 Bhp of peak power @ 4000 rpm whereas the peak torque of 55 kgm kicks in at 1750 rpm. This car is mated to an 8 speed auto transmission. It has got the best acceleration figures with 0-100 kmph coming up in only 6.46 seconds whereas the top speed is in the vicinity of 253 kmph. Turn the BMW to manual mode and the gear shifts are bound to disappoint the enthusiasts. It is reluctant to downshift. That saying, it is best to leave it at auto mode where the closely packed gear ratios iron out the peaky power delivery. Braking power is superb and with discs all around helped by ABS, ESP and EBD, the pedal feel is also good. One more thing is that BMW uses its patent EfficientDynamics to power the batteries using regenerative braking system. Safety is taken care by the 6 air bags, 3 point seat belts and active head rests. Fuel efficiency is good due to the 8 speed gearbox. The 530d returned 8.1 kmpl in the city whereas on the highway, it turned in a shade under 14 kmpl.

Jaguar XF 3.0 D : The Jaguar XF 3.0 D in India gets a V6 engine with the cubic capacity as 2993 cc. This particular engine uses twin turbos to eliminate turbo lag. Its peak power output is 274 Bhp @ 4000 rpm whereas the torque of 61 kgm is delivered at 2000 rpm. It however gets only a 6 speed auto. The transmission just like the engine is like a knife cutting through hot butter. At low revs, the car would be purring but then up the ante and it starts roaring (most of that rear isn’t audible inside the cabin though). It shoots from 0-100 kmph in only 7.34 seconds whereas the top speed that it can climb up is 250 kmph. Just like the BMW, the brake feel is very good. The braking package includes all around discs with EBD, ESP and ABS. Safety package is also the same like the BMW with 6 air bags and seat belts with pretensioners. Fuel efficiency is a bit of a letdown in comparison with the others with figures of 7.4 kmpl in city and 12.6 kmpl on the highway.

BMW 530d wins this round purely due to the 8 speed gearbox, safety features and supreme fuel efficiency.

Verdict

Deciding amongst luxury sedans is a big task especially considering that they are all in the upper echelons as far as value for money comes. To go by the results purely, it would be the Merc which would come out trumps followed closely by the Jag and BMW. But then not everything is crystal clear. The Jaguar is the one which is to be brought by heart and not mind. It is like one of those dumb blondes that one would desire as an object of envy with no intention to own. It has got the styling, funky interiors and sweet engine. Downsides are the lack of head room in a luxury sedan, after sales and not so good handling. Next in line is the BMW 530d. It has got a scaled down 7 series look, high quality interiors, excellent handling and best of all, fuel efficiency. Negatives are the still not so good rear seats and not so enthusiastic gearbox. The winner, the Mercedes E350 CDI has got the stately looks, well put together interiors, back seat comfort as well as perfect combo of ride and handling. Negatives are that the engine lacks fire and loss of novelty factor. Pricing may play an important part for buyers in this spectrum and so here are the prices. The Jaguar XF 3.0 D price in India starts at Rs 48.50 lakhs, the Mercedes E350 CDI price in India starts at Rs 49.43 lakhs whereas the BMW 530d price in India is Rs 45.90 lakhs which is the cheapest. All these prices are ex-show room, Delhi.

Ford Ikon- RIP

So Ford Ikon seems to be the next big thing. We know it’s been launched ages ago and it just can’t be the next big thing. But what we are talking about is that it’s a new task for Ford Motors. They are planning to discontinue the apple of their eyes Ford Ikon. It seems that the company has finally decided to bid adieu to one of the best car under its shed. In January this year Ford failed to sell even a single Ikon. The dealers have stopped giving anymore orders to the company as they are clearing the remaining stock, which indeed clearly states the reason to discontinue this 12 year old model.

It was expected that as soon as BS IV norms will come into existence, it’ll be a really tough call for various BS III cars to sell in tier I cities. Undoubtedly the same thing happened with the Ford Ikon. This model of Ford was discontinued from 13 cities as soon as BS IV norms were given a clean chit in metros. But then what was unexpected was that the sales bar of Ford Ikon will take such a sharp dip to the lowest point in the graph. We knew that there was no point in talking about the sales of Ford Ikon in cities then, but even the dealer in the BS III cities also decided to not to take any more orders because of the stock taking.

Ford was introduced in the Indian automobile market in the year 1999. It was one of the important models of Ford then and even now until the BS IV norms cropped in. The company claimed that this model was specifically designed to meet the requirement of the average Indian and also the average Indian roads and we actually felt that it was true. Undoubtedly this car was successful in India. After running successfully in India, the company decided to export it to various other markets globally. Initially offered in three engine types, this car definitely had captured the hearts of many people in India. Poor car it had to go through that entire trauma. Bless its mortal engine.

Hyundai Motors India Limited – So what’s the big plan?

So, it seems that the South Korean car manufacturer, Hyundai Motors India limited is planning to get bigger by next three years. No, that’s not what we intend to say rather that is what the Hyundai Motors announced itself. Though, personally we don’t think that this automobile giant has to do anything to grab attention, as it already enjoys its position in the market. Being the second largest automobile manufacturer, it is trying to get a better grip on its position despite the fact that many other big brands have entered the territory. So, they have devised a three step strategy which they expect to work for maintaining a better grip of their position globally.

Hyundai Motors India Limited recently announced that the company will be launching it six new models over the time span of three years. This as a part of the strategy is supposed to strengthen the company’s current position. Recently in an open session with the media, Arvind Saxena, director – Marketing and Sales, Hyundai Motors India Limited said that “we will now be launching two new models every year for three consecutive years which means six fresh models in three years. He also added that “this will strengthen our position, as we will be offering new products for various type of market”.

This company will also be closing its booking for the SUV Hyundai Santa Fe and will be reopening it by April, of this year. Saxena made it very clear that it is because of the 600 bookings they have already received for the same which they will be delivering by May of this year. While for the exports, the company delivered 2.47 lakh units last year and it expects the same to be the same this year as well. While claiming that this company has already its feet in over 115 countries, he also added that “Europe being our biggest market, we expect similar or more than the previous export numbers. Making the company big doesn’t mean that you are exploring new markets you have to deliver, maintain that trust to enjoy such status and then discover”.

Besides, the launch and the temporary closure of bookings, this company will also indulge itself in few of the promotional activities. Now, that is different that those promotional activities seem to be the biggest activities of all. Yes, speaking of this, a smile was etched across Saxena’s face and he with a happy heart claimed that, “Yes, we are the official automotive partner of this super cricket event ICC World Cup 2011”. Besides, the company has also managed to be the official automotive partner of ICC for the next 4 years i.e. from the year 2011 to 2015. Saxena also quoted that they will be spending roughly Rs 200 crores on this strategy within the next five years. So, we sincerely hope that it does work out for HMIL.

Buyers Guide for Porsche

Porsche Porsche Porsche… If you are wondering what am I doing then I just want to tell you that go to Microsoft Word and type Porsche and even that dumb software will pay it the due respect. So everything’s been said and done about this company let me not ruin it by saying anything more about it from this very little mouth of mine. So what we are dealing with today are those ultra cool, luxurious and elegant vehicles of the company, which have been derived out of the sheer brilliance of the engineer working continuously to provide the customer all the upbeat technology.

Porsche Panamera

So, its time to deal with the most expensive Porsche. Whoa… Rs 1.45 crores, how does that sound to you? I know it sounds like hell of money. I don’t know about you but atleast I am expecting a great deal out of this car. To start with, people have some issues with the looks of this car but I guess it looks exactly as it should. This four door Porsche is available in two trims but with a single engine option that is the V8 petrol engine. I really don’t have any doubt about the performance of this car. From inside this car will greet you with each and every upbeat feature. Every corner of this car is screaming out loud that you are inside a luxurious saloon. So, this car according to me is an ideal crossbreed of luxurious saloon and sports car.

Engine Options:
4806cc

Powertrain:

6 speed manual\ 7 speed automatic

Power:
394 Bhp @6500 rpm\ 493 Bhp @6000 rpm

Torque:
50.8 Kgm @3500 rpm\ 71.2 Kgm @3500 rpm

Thumbs Up:

Performance, handling and comfort features

Thumbs Down:
Price

Head on Competitors:
Bentley Continental Flying Spur, Bentley Continental GT Speed, BMW 750

The Catch:
Rs 1.45 crores to Rs 2.11 crores.

Porsche Cayenne

So the first thing that I noticed about this Porsche SUV is its dynamic looks. These looks however have been hounded by the round of debates that has been circling since its inception time but for me this SUV is an absolute brilliance. This SUV is available in 4 variants and also in a hybrid shell as well. Performance of each and every variant will leave you breathless. In fact the upbeat variant of this SUV i.e Porsche Cayenne offers a performance that is seen only in super cars. Interiors obviously has to be porsche (no pun intended), but what it offers you is even more than what you expect out of it. Handling is great and the only problem I could figure out is the same, that the looks could have been better but that is not what I intended to say, that is what some people cry about. So, you need to figure out where you stand.



Engine Options:

3598cc\ 2967cc\ 4806cc\ 2995cc

Powertrain:
6 speed manual\ 8 speed automatic

Power:
300 Bhp @6300 rpm\ 240 Bhp @4400 rpm\ 400 Bhp @6500 rpm\ 500 Bhp @6000 rpm

Torque:
40.7 Kgm @3000 rpm\ 56 Kgm @2250 rpm\ 50.9 Kgm @3500 rpm\ 71.3 Kgm @4500 rpm

Thumbs Up:

Brand name, handling and awesome interiors.

Thumbs Down:
Looks could have been better

Head on Competitors:
BMW X6, Range Rover Sports

The Catch:
Rs 60.5 lakhs to Rs 1.35 lakhs.

Porsche 911

‘Somebody call 911!’, but this it’s not shawty, it the very Porsche 911. So, according to me it is the most usable and practical super car available in the market. This car is supposed to have its engine on the wrong side, but surprisingly this car has all the right moves (once again no pun intended). Ok, let us move further beside the looks and the controversy. This car is supposed to posses immensely powerful engines. Available in three variants this car comes right from Rs 79.5 lakhs to Rs 1.3 crore. There’s is no point in talking about the interiors as we know it has to be good and elegant.

Engine Options:
3596cc\ 3824cc\ 3824cc (flat six)

Powertrain:
6 speed manual\ DSG

Power:
345 Bhp @6800 rpm\ 385 Bhp @6500 rpm\ 495 Bhp @6000 rpm

Torque:
37.7 Kgm @4250 rpm\ 40.8 Kgm @1800 rpm\ 66.2 Kgm @5000 rpm

Thumbs Up:
Almost everything

Thumbs Down:

Lack of space

Head on Competitors:
Audi R8, Jaguar XK and XJ, Mercedes Benz SL550

The Catch:

Rs 79.5 lakhs to Rs 1.30 crores.