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JULY 2014 Issue no 155

now, the region’s Best Automotive Resource Automan JULY 2014

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2015 Chevrolet/GMC full size SUVs | 2014 Porsche Boxster/Cayman GTS | Ducati Diavel | Land Rover Discovery Vision concept | Lincoln MKX | HONDA CITY | Motorsports

in this issue 22


COVERstory | 2014 Jeep Cherokee

Cover story 22-27 2015 Jeep Cherokee 12-21 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe | 2015 Chevrolet


A new era for the iconic model with revolutionary styling



Suburban | 2015 GMC Yukon | 2015 GMC Yukon XL/ Denali |2014 Chevrolet Silverado

10 Oman | Regional news 6-7 2014 MINI Cooper launch in Oman, GM

full-size SUV regional launch and drive in Dubai, Nissan-Playstation gamer to racer winners, JLR training academy in UAE, new appointment at Cadillac Middle East, KTM Enduro range launched, Discover More by Harley-Davidson, Range Rover Evoque in ME film


Brandwatch 8-11 First details of Gen VIII all-new

Passat released, Subaru WRX STI record performance at Isle of Man TT, Kia and Hyundai FIFA 2014 vehicle handover, Kia Soul award, Peter Schreyer awarded, Mitsubishi ready to attack Pikes Peak with electric car, Maserati Centenary celebrations detailed, MINI’s first four door car, Oz V8 welcomes Altima Supercars, Ford on track with lightweight construction, Fond farewell to India’s Hindustan Ambassador, Ariel bespoke motorcycles planned with help from Honda

12 2015 Chevrolet | GMC SUVs New underpinnings with added features




66 s of w e i v Pre nd ars a c t o h bike


First drive 28-33 2014 HyundAI GENESIS 34-38 2014 Mazda 3 40-44 2014 Infiniti Q50 46-50 2014 Honda City 52-55 2014 TOYOTA YARIS HATCHBACK Also driven 56-59 2014 Jaguar F-Type convertible 60-64 2014 Lincoln MKX Previews 66-67 Ducati Diavel 68-71 Land Rover Discovery Vision Concept 72-75 PORSCHE BOXSTER | CAYMAN GTS






Motorsports 72-75 2014 Le Mans 76-77 F1 Monaco and Canada race report 80 Chicane


editor-in-chief Mohammad Al Taie

AL ROYA PRESS & PUBLISHING PO Box: 343, Postal Code 118 Al Harthy Complex Sultanate of Oman Email: Website: Editorial office: Tel: +968 24479888 Extn 300, Fax: +968 24479889 Distribution: Tel: +968 24490386, Fax: +968 24121045 Subscription: Tel: +968 24493701, Fax: +968 24121045 publisher Hatim Al Taie

EDITOR & GM Raj Warrior

executive EDITOR Chandan B Mallik contributing EDITOR Anne Kurian HEAD OF Design Antony Karlo

photography Elvis John Ferrao marketing Sayantani Ghosh circulation FINANCE & ADMIN Sumy Mol

Website & IT Mohammed F Draz Printer Ruwi Modern Printers LLC, Muscat Tel: +968 2479 4167, 2479 8157 Fax: +968 2470 0545 © 2014 All editorial content of Automan in the magazine and its website is copyrighted and may not be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the management of AL ROYA PRESS & PUBLISHING Automan accepts unsolicited exclusive editorial material, but reserves the right to publish any such material. Once published, the copyright for any such material will vest with AL ROYA PRESS & PUBLISHING

Our mid-year issue has turned out to be a bumper one in more ways than one. To begin with, we were overrun by stories through the first half of the year, what with the number of new models being launched by brands in anticipation of the summer lull period hitting us. As temperatures in Muscat hit the high forties (and above if we believe our car’s digital readout) we find ourselves with some tests that happened over the past few months as well as a whole crop of new tests over the past few weeks. We were torn. Should we call this an SUV special? After all along with the new Cherokee, we also have the whole family of K2XX SUVs and pickups from GM. Or do we just call this our Ramadan special, what with the holy month coming bang in the hottest time of the year? We compromised a little by calling it our mega test issue, with a complete baker’s dozen of vehicles on offer. Among all of these the Cherokee stands out for what it brings new to the table. It can’t technically be called an SUV any more, moving to a crossover model, while getting marginally larger. With its transverse engine, frontwheel bias and a whole new set of road manners, the Cherokee is treading a middle ground that is meant to appeal to thousands of new customers around the world. In the bargain the Fiat end of the alliance also gets its hands on a spanking new crossover platform that should Fiat gain some new customers. In terms of full-size you can’t get any more full-size than GM’s K2XX platform. But again, both the Yukon and Tahoe bring the Cherokee sort of equation to a genre of vehicle that seems almost Jurassic in today’s world. Here too, the road manners have improved, along with creature comfort and fuel efficiency. It keeps the format relevant and trendy in the GCC at the very least. As for the rest of the vehicles, we have a whole range – from the new Mazda 3, the new Honda City, the new Toyota Yaris Hatchback and the two premium sedans – the Infiniti Q50 and the Hyundai Genesis. Of course, along with all of these test drives, we also have a rich crop of regular stories, including Brandwatch and motorsports. Page for page, Automan continues to offer the best automotive content of any magazine in the region. And we don’t buy out content from any external source. That’s what makes us such a great read any time of the year.

Now, Automan is available in bookshops in the United Arab Emirates too! Get your copy or let us know which outlets you would like to see us in

Oman & region

New MINI arrives in Oman The Oman Society for Fine Art in Muscat was the venue for the introduction of the all-new 2014 MINI Cooper and Cooper S. Four local budding artistes were also invited to the event who presented their respective renditions of

the car. The new car is marginally bigger than the one it replaces and will be available for the first time with a choice of turbocharged three and four-cylinder engines displacing 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre respectively.

Nissan and Sony PlayStation® are again staging the acclaimed Nissan PlayStation® GT Academy Middle East challenge in Dubai, whereby Gran Turismo gamers get a once-in-a-lifetime shot at becoming a real professional racer. The latest event was held at the Dubai World Trade Centre on June 20-21, where twenty eight contestants put the pedal to the metal in order to qualify for the next stage. The six winners [below] will be taken to Britain’s legendary Silverstone circuit and put through a race drivers’ boot camp, honing their skills on the tarmac to determine the overall Middle East GT Academy winner.


Gamer to Racer GM Middle East launches full-size 2015 Chevrolet and GMC SUVs


he trio of all-new 2015 GMC fullsize SUVs — Yukon, Yukon XL and flagship Yukon Denali were introduced to the Middle East formally last month in Dubai. The new arrivals have been extensively re-engineered to offer consumers greater capability and refinement, more power, a new fold-flat rear seats, and a quieter interior. “The Yukon and Yukon XL was engineered from the ground up, building on a strong legacy of capability to take them to the top of the segment with exceptional refinement and purposeful technology,” says GMC Brand Manager Nadim Ghrayeb. “And

when it comes to the tasks people rely on a full-size SUV for, they do it better than ever – and with more style.” The 2015 GMC Yukon has a starting MSRP price in the UAE of AED175,000. Meanwhile, Chevrolet also officially announced the arrival of the brand’s full-size SUVs – the fourth generation 2015 Tahoe and twelfth generation Suburban – for the region. “Chevrolet has a strong market presence and history in the Middle East region with the Tahoe and Suburban,” said Maurice Williams, President and Managing Director, GM Middle East Operations. “With new

features and enhancements at its core, the all-new 2015 Tahoe and Suburban will continue to play a key role in the brand’s success while extending the legacy that Chevrolet has built in the region.” All the new SUVs are built on the new GMT K2XX platform and are powered by either Ecotec3 5.3-litre V8 or 6.2-litre V8 engines mated to 6-speed automatic transmission. The 2015 Suburban will be offered in the UAE ranging from AED 166,000 to 233,000 for two-wheel drive and AED 178,000 to 242,000 for four-wheel drivetrain. Eds note: see first drive impressions elsewhere in the magazine.

Discover More launched by Harley-Davidson

Range Rover Evoque to debut in ME film Emirati director’s Ali F. Mostafa’s road trip movie ‘From A to B’, will feature the Range Rover Evoque as the ‘4th star’. Land Rover vehicles are no stranger to the silver screen, having featured in many iconic films including Skyfall, but ‘From A

to B’ will be the first time a Land Rover product stars in regional feature film. Land Rover MENA began its relationship with ‘City of Life’ creator Mostafa in 2011, when he was asked to become a regional ambassador for the Range Rover Evoque.

JaguarLandRover MENA unveils Training Academy in Dubai Based on the successful Jaguar Land Rover Academy in the UK and following the launch of a US$1.5mn engineering test centre in May 2013 in UAE, Jaguar Land Rover MENA, has unveiled its new regional training Academy in Dubiotech, Dubai. The faculty will offer technical and non-technical training programmes to dealers and regional office staff across 6

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the MENA network. With approved 40 dealerships across 17 markets in MENA, and a further 24 dealerships expected by 2017/18, the Academy will offer exacting standards of training of its counterpart in the UK. Currently, there are 1,800 plus Jaguar Land Rover dealer employee in the MENA region and this number is expected to go up to 3,000 soon.

KTM introduces MY2015 enduro range New appointment Cadillac Middle East has appointed Felix Weller as its new Vehicle Sales, Service and Marketing Director. Weller comes from Audi Middle East where he was Sales Director for three years. Weller was also responsible for establishing Audi’s Dealer Development program focusing on quality at the point of sale.

The range itself includes four-stroke machines in the 250 EXC-F, 350 EXC-F, 450 EXC, 500 EXC, along with the two-stroke machines 125 EXC, 200 EXC, 250 EXC and 300 EXC, some of which have received detail engine improvements. In addition to this, with a design relative to the ISDE event in Argentina later in the year, the Six Days range is also available with all-round upgrades and specialist PowerParts fitted to the machines for the ultimate performance. For model year 2015 the EXC receives a range of chassis developments including a new MAE digital speedometer, which offers more readily visible information to the rider, new black Neken handlebars with improved hand guards, and softer dual-compound grips. There are also new black colored rims from Giant providing higher rigidity, that compliment the CNC machined hubs, as well as the factory look being completed with a striking orange frame, usually only seen on race team machines, and an exciting new graphic design.

Discover More is enlisting 50 specially selected riders to take the Street Glide across Europe, Middle East and North Africa, which include social media fans, celebrities, journalists and influential touring riders. The bike now heads over to Southern Europe and beyond before arriving at European Bike Week, Austria on the 6 September 2014. The first rider to take Discover More to the roads was renowned chef and riding enthusiast Claude Abry, who combines his passion for cooking and good food with his love of motorcycle touring. The tour will see man and machine complete a 20,000km tour across Middle East beginning at Jordan and Egypt enroute Europe. In Egypt, the Discover More Bike was ridden by local football celebrity Hazem Emam.

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First details of Gen VIII all-new Passat released


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be offered on the new Passat includes the Active Info Display, which replaces the instrument cluster with a fully configurable interactive 12.3-inch TFT display; a heads-up display; the latest Modular Infotainment System, including the Car-Net remote app; a furtherdeveloped 360-degree Area View function; and the latest generation of Park Assist. This newly developed Park Assist includes the option for the car to park itself forwards into perpendicular spaces – useful, for example at supermarket car parks, where access to the boot is important. It also includes a world-first Trailer Assist, which provides assistance when reversing a vehicle with a trailer attached – without the need for any modification or adaptation of the trailer. Other safety technology includes Side Assist with Rear Traffic Alert; Traffic Jam Assist which makes stop-and-go driving more comfortable; Emergency Assist, which can potentially halt a vehicle when the driver is incapacitated; and the latest Front Assist system with City Emergency Braking, which optionally combines both radar and camera sensors to add pedestrian detection. All new Passats will feature LED tail lights, while headlights will be halogen or LED. In conjunction with Dynamic Light Assist, one of the two LED headlight options automatically adjusts the beam for maximum illumination of the road without dazzling other traffic.

Subaru WRX STI breaks its own Isle of Man TT record


he Subaru WRX STI has once again broken the four-wheeled lap record around the famous Isle of Man TT circuit, with British rally champion Mark Higgins setting a new record of 19 minutes 26 seconds in a production version of the newly launched high-performance saloon. Higgins’s lap around the challenging 37.8mile TT Mountain course saw him post an average speed of 116mph and a top speed of over 160mph. Manxman Higgins completed his timed run under closed road conditions as part of the TT schedule and beat his previous record, set in 2011, when he set a time of 19 minutes 56.7 seconds. That was done at the wheel of the previous-generation WRX STI, breaking a record that had stood for 21 years. As with the previous record-breaking car, the WRX STI used for Higgins’s run was a standard Subaru production car [US specification], equipped with a 300ps 2.5-litre horizontally-opposed turbocharged Boxer engine. The only modifications to the car involved the springs and dampers, which were adjusted to minimise any potential damage when the car encountered the course’s many bumps and jumps at high speed. The WRX STI was also equipped with essential safety enhancements, including a roll-cage, race harness and fire suppression system and was fitted with Dunlop Derezza tyres. Mark said of his run: “It was quite a lap we did today and I am really happy to have another record in the bank. The chassis of the new car is so much better it really allowed me to pick up time in each sector in the more technical parts of the course. “There is nothing like the TT course in all racing. Not just because of its length but the elevation changes, constant surface variations as you shift from town to country roads and the fact we run from 30mph and then up to 160mph plus for much of the race.” The outright lap record on the TT course was set in 2013 by John McGuinness on a Honda CBR1000RR ‘Fireblade’. McGuinness posted a time of 17 minutes 11.6 seconds, equivalent to an average speed of 131.7mph. The all-new Subaru WRX STI is now on sale in Oman.



olkswagen has revealed the first technical details of the all-new Passat Saloon and Estate, ahead of the cars’ unveiling in July and their public premiere at the Paris Motor Show in October. The eighth-generation Passat will bring with it a range of new technologies and features to ensure that even after 41 years, it remains as competitive as ever. The car will benefit from the latest in lightweight construction, thanks to the use of advanced materials – including high-strength, hot-formed steel and aluminium in certain areas – the new Passat will be up to 85 kg lighter than its predecessor. This will also help it to claim expected fuel-efficiency improvements of up to 20 per cent. Exterior dimensions will change marginally and the new car will be smaller now. Interior space is improved, with more legand head-room, as well as increased luggage space. A highlight of the Passat’s new range of engines is a high-performance, fourcylinder, 2.0-litre, bi-turbo diesel delivering 240 PS and an extraordinary 500 Nm from 1,750 rpm. This engine will be available only with a new seven-speed DSG gearbox and 4MOTION all-wheel drive. A plug-in hybrid model will also be offered, with potential to travel 31 miles on battery power alone, and with a potential maximum range of around 600 miles. Other new technology to

Hyundai and Kia hand over FIFA 2014 vehicles

Hyundai Motor Company, the official Partner of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ delivered over one thousand vehicles for the ground transportation of the world’s biggest sporting event to be held at Arena de Sao Paulo in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The automotive manufacturer also unveiled the branding decorations of the 32 buses that will transport the teams of the qualified nations. Kia Motors also performed its handover ceremony at the same venue with its fleet of official vehicles that will ensure the smooth and efficient transportation of teams, officials, delegates and official VIP visitors from all over the world.

Hyundai and Kia, which together rank fifth in global car sales, are under pressure from a firming local currency which erodes its earnings, and suffer from recurring industrial disputes and high labour costs at home.

Mitsubishi electric cars ready for Pikes Peak mission Mitsubishi Motors Corporation [MMC] will enter two MiEV Evolution III all-electric racecars in the 2014 edition of the worldfamous Pikes Peak International Hill Climb [Pikes Peak, June 23 to June 29] in Colorado, United States. MMC will use two MiEV Evolution III all-electric racecars, which combine the best of MMC’s electric vehicle and four-wheel drive control technologies. MMC has competed twice before in the Electric Division in 2012 and 2013, and now with the MiEV Evolution III, hopes to take its first victory, this time in the new Electric Modified Division.

Red dot award for Soul


he all-new Kia Soul has been awarded a prestigious ‘red dot’ design award*, following in the footsteps of its stylish first-generation predecessor. This is the second major design award for the new Soul, following its success in the ‘iF design awards’ only few weeks ago. The new Kia Soul was created by the Kia design team under the supervision of Peter Schreyer, President and Chief Design Officer of Kia Motors Corporation and Hyundai Motor Group. Meanwhile, Schreyer has received the prestigious Lifetime Design Achievement Award from EyesOn Design. Schreyer was recognized at the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology’s Vision Honored award ceremony for his work overseeing the global design strategy of Kia Motors. This latest award places him on a list of international vehicle designers which includes design legends such as Sergio Pininfarina, Shiro Nakamura, Walter de’Silva and Giorgetto Giugiaro. JUly 2014

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Ford on track with lightweight construction target

Maserati centenary celebrations detailed The International Maserati Centennial Gathering celebrating the company’s 100 year anniversary is due to begin in Modena on Thursday, 18 September, and end in Turin on Saturday, 20 September 2014. The three-day gathering will see a succession of exhibitions, parades, a regularity race, a track test, a visit to the two Maserati factories and a concours d’elegance. Cars and collectors from all over the world are expected to be in attendance. A hundred years have gone by since, in December of 1914, Alfieri Maserati and his brothers Ettore and Ernesto opened the first car repair workshop in a basement on Via de’ Pepoli, Bologna. Here, before Italy entered the First World War and in the months that immediately followed the end of the conflict, they began to prepare and modify cars for themselves – the three Maserati brothers were also capable drivers – and the gentleman drivers of the period. These were the first steps of a company that in time was to become an international icon of Italian motoring.

The Maserati Centennial Gathering will begin in Modena on Thursday, September 18, with the arrival of the historic and contemporary models that will be taking part in the event and will be displayed in significant urban spaces. The program for the afternoon involves a visit to the Exhibition at the Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari dedicated to the Maserati Centennial and then to the historic Viale Ciro Menotti factory. Here, where Maserati GranTurismos and GranCabrios and the Alfa Romeo 4C roll off the production lines every day, dinner will be served. The next day, Friday, September 19, the participants will make their way to Turin. The first stop will be the San Martino del Lago Circuit near Cremona, which will host track sessions and pay homage to Baconin Borzacchini and his Maserati V4 ‘16 cylinder, in which the Italian driver set the world record over the Flying 10 Kilometres on 28 September 1929. The historic Maserati convoy will then parade through the streets of Cremona before

racing on to Turin where they will line up in the majestic Piazza Castello. A gala dinner at the Reggia of Venaria palace is set for the evening. Scheduled for the morning of Saturday, September 20, the third and final day of the event, are a visit to the Avv. Giovanni Agnelli Plant, where Maserati Ghiblis and Quattroportes are built, and the final leg of the regularity race, in the direction of the Basilica of Superga. The Concours d’Elegance in Piazza San Carlo taking place in the afternoon will be the concluding finale to the three day gathering. As a prelude to the three day gathering, there will be an opportunity on Wednesday 17 September, for Maserati collectors to have their photographs taken with their car next to the famous Fountain of Neptune in the historic centre of Bologna, which was the inspiration for the Maserati trident logo and to see the exact location – Via de’ Pepoli 1 – where Maserati was born, one hundred years ago.

Ford Motor Company recently unveiled its Lightweight Concept vehicle, which uses advanced materials to explore future weight-reduction solutions that could improve performance and fuel efficiency while reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The vehicle represents the latest phase of Ford’s research into developing sustainable technology solutions that are affordable for consumers and can be produced in large volumes across the product lineup. This research has also led to dramatic weight reductions of up to 700 pounds in the all-new F-150. The 2015 F-150 sheds weight through the use of high-strength steel and aluminum, enabling it to tow more, haul more, accelerate quicker and stop shorter – all with improved gas mileage. Light-weighting is a key component in Ford’s Blueprint for Sustainability, which integrates sustainability into the business plan for the long-term preservation and enhancement of environmental, social

and financial capital. The introduction and incorporation of lightweight materials into vehicle construction helps meet the goal of reducing weight to achieve better fuel economy for consumers while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Ford’s research into improved efficiency through weight reduction with advanced materials including new metals, alloys and composites began more than 25 years ago. This research produced the breakthrough Aluminium Intensive Vehicle programme in 1992 and allaluminium high-performance Ford GT in 2005. Along with other fuel-efficiency technologies, light-weighting is fundamental to Ford’s efforts to stabilize carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere at 450 parts per million – the level many scientists, businesses and governmental agencies believe may avoid the most serious effects of climate change.

Altima name added to Oz V8 Supercars Championship support series

MINI’s first fourdoor entry

The British brand is now officially represented with a four door model in the small car segment for the first time in its history. The new addition is called the MINI Hardtop 4 door. The car will be offered with turbocharged 1.5-litre 3-cylinder and 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine. Both manual and automatic transmissions will be available. 10 | |

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Nissan’s involvement in Australian motorsport continues to expand, with the addition of two Nissan Altima models to the Aussie Racing Cars Super Series. In a project initiated by Musselbrook Nissan dealer principal Michael Rinkin, the Altima nameplate joined the Aussie Racing Cars class this season, with Rinkin and Craig Thompson driving the two entries. The Aussie Racing Cars Series is one of the most popular support categories to the V8 Supercars Championship. The “pint-sized” cars use a 1,200cc motorcycle engine in its small chassis. With close to 40 cars in each race, the category is renowned as one of the closest and most exciting

in the country. The next round of the Aussie Racing Cars Super Series will be held at Queensland Raceway in Ipswich, Queensland, with the category also supporting the V8 Supercars Championship at iconic circuit such as Mount Panorama, Surfers Paradise and Phillip Island.

Ariel bespoke motorcycles could be revived soon Bultaco, Horex, Indian, Saroléa, and Voxan are legendary motorcycle brands that have had a chequered past and but were discontinued and thanks to renewed interest, these brands are now being revived and are in various stages of development. The revival list will soon have another British brand added should all go well and the brand we are referring to is Ariel. The erstwhile British motorcycle manufacturer was best known for its fourcylinder bikes, like the Ariel Square Four. The modern Ariel Motor Company Ltd is a low-volume performance motor vehicle manufacturing company based in Crewkerne, Somerset, England. The company uses Honda-sourced hardware to produce performance vehicles like the Atom. Honda hardware will be used to create a two-wheeler performance cruiser concept. A concept as planned for unveil at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Given the brand’s design and engineering direction in cars, one can expect an a minimalist performance cruiser with a more bespoke approach. Honda’s high performance

Fond farewell to Hindustan Ambassador The ‘King of Indian Roads’, the ubiquitous Hindustan Motors built Ambassador sedan, aka the ‘Amby, which has faithfully served as a family car, an official government transport and lately taxis since 1957 has finally been retired in its fourth iteration. Based on UK’s 1950 Morris Oxford III, the Indian version of the car did carry some minor changes to differentiate it from its English counterpart. The early Ambassadors sold in India were powered by a 1.5-litre fourcylinder Morris B-Series engine mated

to four-speed manual transmission with column shift. Later models like the Mark IV boasted Isuzu-derived diesels and fivespeed manual transmission and modified rear differential. The car’s cheap and easy to repair attitude while coping with some of India’s notorious pot-holed roads contributed to its popularity besides its ability to haul more occupants than its official classification. At last count, Hindustan Motors engaged 2,500 factory personnel to produce just seven cars a day. Despite local opposition,

the company has decided to discontinue the car’s production owing to poor sales and increasing losses. Besides these, the carmaker couldn’t meet the new stringent Indian legislation relating to emissions and fuel efficiency in automobiles in that country with the Amby. The last feather in the cap which the Ambassador got in its long career was the title of ‘toughest taxi’ in the world in Top Gear season 20, episode two TV programme. JUly 2014

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2015 Chevrolet Tahoe | 2015 Chevrolet Suburban | 2015 GMC Yukon | 2015 GMC Yukon XL/ Denali |2014 Chevrolet Silverado

It seems that industry watchers who had confidently predicted that body-on-frame architecture for large passenger vehicles were heading for extinction underestimated the will power of some carmakers. General Motors is among few automakers left which is still confident about the future of full-size SUVs or pick-ups. In this special report, Automan experienced five models – 2014 Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban, GMC Yukon/Denali XL and Chevrolet Silverado pick-up – which are all based on GM’s latest chassis architecture in UAE Author: Chandan B Mallik | Photography: author and supplied

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It was only after a glance downward on the driver’s information centre that you notice a brightly lit green V4 symbol amongst the gauges


ost of us are aware that since 2007, global sales of mid and large-sized SUV have dropped significantly and a new trend created with lighter and more lifestyle friendly crossover SUV sales. Currently, the number of mid-size sport utility vehicles offered up by car manufacturers has declined two-thirds and when you factor in body-on-frame SUVs, the list becomes even smaller. While the new breed of AWD crossovers nearly deliver everything the traditional SUVs brought to the table -- performance, handling and fuel economy comparable to a mid-size or compact sedan, however, one element that has helped in preventing a total wipe out of body-on-frame SUVs vs lifestyle-utilities or pick-ups is the ability of some SUV makers to produce cars in this segment with a host of genuine efficiencyoriented technologies and features. At the same time, serious SUV makers are also discovering innovative ways of selling their products in order to stay in the game, especially in SUV-savvy markets like the Middle East. Players like Nissan, Lexus/Toyota now offer unique approaches in marketing such ideas. Lexus has recently introduced a limited production supercharged LX 570 for Middle East and Nissan looks at bespoke appointments in the VVIP Patrol as its USP.

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Meanwhile, GM’s approach for its bodyon-frame based line-up for 2014 onwards began on new ground which begins with engineering and ends with packaging. Automan was invited to the joint regional launch and drive of the all-new MY 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe/ Suburban, GMC Yukon/ Denali XL in Dubai, UAE last month. The fifth vehicle, the new-for-2014 Silverado pick-up truck, which was launched a few months ago and also tested by this magazine separately is also included in this report as each of the models in this article are mechanically very closely related to each other. The period of development of the new SUV successors has been interesting as post global economic downturn, sales of full-size trucks and SUVs in the US dropped almost a third through the first nine months of 2008. This also served as a strong indicator for the guys at GM to plot the next move. In fact, there were strong rumours that a concerned GM had cancelled its GMT 900 successor GMT K2XX truck programme in May 2008. This meant that the replacements of the Chevrolet and mechanically equivalent GMC and Cadillac large SUV models were also put on hold [at least temporarily]. On January 14, 2010, GM announced that they were resuming development of full-size trucks and SUVs and here are the fruits of these efforts which are mostly based on new GMT K2XX body-on-frame architecture. The first roll out production vehicles based on these platforms hit markets in summer of 2013. The light-duty 2014 model year Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pick-ups were first introduced followed by the SUVs.

to offer more functionality, greater refinement, new safety features and an increased range of advanced technologies to appeal to its respective customer groups. The outgoing Tahoe was a decent package by itself as it sort of benchmarked the brand’s packaging in the segment. It was also offered in LS, LT (with two LT packages: 1LT and 2LT) and LTZ models and depending on market both rearwheel-drive and four-wheel-drive options. All Tahoe variants were powered by a Vortec 5.3-litre V8 with variable valve timing offering 320hp and 452Nm of torque. Active Fuel Management was part of the optimization in performance and fuel efficiency. The V8 was mated to GM’s Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed transmission. The new Tahoe and LWB Suburban and GMC Yukon continue with V8s, but the Vortec V8 has been replaced by lighter alloy head EcoTec3 engines which have been significantly re-engineered to incorporate state-of-the-art efficiency technologies like direct injection, cylinder deactivation, continuously variable valve timing and an advanced combustion system besides bump in output and torque. Improved engine mounts, electronic throttle control, adaptive exhaust systems, improved aerodynamics and other technologies help the engines

operate in four-cylinder mode more often with Active Fuel Management. While promoting efficiency, the powertrains are programmed to make the most of power, torque and efficiency across a broad range of operating conditions. The six-speed automatic transmission has been carried forward and includes TapShift control, Tow/Haul mode and Auto Grade Braking. This new engine made its debut earlier this year in the all-new Sierra. While engineering focus is on efficiency and adaptability, we are aware that the sixspeed automatic transmission is tried-andtrue, but in ‘real-time’ it’s two gears shy of current market leaders.

2015 Chevrolet Suburban

By far, the longest running nameplate in the industry, GM seems to have been extra cautious with the new Chevrolet Suburban. Now in its 80th year and 12th generation, the new Suburban is the latest iteration of a vehicle that started its career as a cargo hauler and has been transformed into a people’s career and with cargo carrying and towing capability to match. The five-door, three-row Suburban is 20in longer than the Tahoe and sits on a 130in wheelbase. When you look at the Suburban and Tahoe together from the front, both appear very similar. In profile,

2015 Chevrolet Tahoe

The Tahoe along with its longer Sibling Surburban are considered as the industry’s best-selling duo of full-size SUVs. The outgoing Tahoe and Suburban were among the first models to benefit the GMT900 platform which debuted at the 2006 North American International Auto Show. This success of this chassis also formed the basis for the next generation of GM full-size pick-ups and SUVs, and replacements for the GMT800 vehicles. Now, with the new platform, they are back and have been meticulously detailed JUly 2014

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and GMC SUVs is much less now and each represents confidence and new levels benchmarking. This is a significant move considering there’s Cadillac also sitting on the top. Both Chevy and GMC SUVs have their sheet metal cut with softer curves and clean lines. The quiet, calm surface treatment tries to offset the bulky appearance. As before, the one-piece front end presents a friendly, welcoming face but without forfeiting the car’s presence. NVH has been a focus area for both brands and some interesting design changes have been incorporated. The inlay door design is the greatest giveaway which now shut in the recess of the pillars in both body style versions. The added bonus is that it also helps in effectively managing/filtering unwanted noises from outside. The second feature which in our opinion is outstanding for the Middle East user is that of the design of the A-pillar. While several new SUV/crossovers have raked their A-pillars considerably to help streamline airflow, the flip side is that it increases the glass area and also doesn’t protect the front occupants in particular. What we observed later with various drivers and passengers is that no matter how close or far you are to the steering wheel or dashboard, you are protected

although the Yukon is supposed to be a few notches higher in terms of content and execution, there’s more evidence of bin parts sharing than individualism. The infotainment system, dashboard and analogue instrumentation are shared across all the models including the Silverado. The common 5.3-litre V8 engine rides in a fully-boxed frame for added strength and capabilities, and features enhancements like hydraulic mounts for a smoother and quieter ride. Steering is electric powerassisted and speed dependent, and is coupled with Denali-standard Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) adjustable shock absorber set-up also found in the Cadillac CTS-V and Corvette Stingray. In the upmarket Denali range, especially the XL variant is 20in longer and hence weighs more. To compensate the powerto-weight ratio deficit [compared to stock], GM has shoehorned a bigger displacement 6.2-litre V8. And to give it a similar class and ride, hydraulic engine mounts [to minimise engine vibration] have been employed to ensure smooth operations.

2014 Chevrolet Silverado

the Suburban has not shed its boxy looks and with its crisp new sheetmetal with soft creases give an aura of sophistication. However, the differences between the two become quite apparent when both vehicles are viewed three-quarters, especially from the C-pillar onwards. Both Suburban and Tahoe have their own sheet metal and despite engineering similarities with the latest Silverado 1500, not a body panel has been shared with the pick-up truck. In its construction, GM has employed combination of steel and lightweight to help optimize weight. Common to both models are the aluminium bonnets and liftgates. The Suburban is a vehicle that can haul from six- to nine passengers, depending on configuration. Available in base LS, LT and range-topping LTZ versions, it is now standard with second- and power-folding third-row folding seats. Unlike the Yukon Denali LWB version which is longer by 20in and gets the 6.2-litre V8 as one of the key differentiator

under the bonnet, the Suburban is powered by GM’s 5.3-litre EcoTec3 V8 which is programmed to offer 355hp at 5,600rpm and 383lb-ft of torque at 4,100rpm. Transmission is the corporate 6-speed automatic Hydramatic.

2015 GMC Yukon / Yukon Denali All new Yukon models share a lot of technology found in the new Sierra line of trucks and are available in standard

The Silverado pick-up is an important volume seller for GM in the US and hence it was introduced in the markets a few months before the SUVs which share mechanicals and underpinnings. Chevrolet has taken a conservative approach in the redesign and compared to the SUVs, has its standalone features – the massive chrome bumper for instance. In our market, Silverado’s biggest rivals include the Ford F-150 and the Ram 1500. And considering what Ford is planning to do with the soon-to-arrive all-new F-150 [its trendy design will be based on the Atlas Concept], the Silverado can enjoy its advantage more on engineering prowess than design. While it connects with its SUV siblings mechanically, it’s a model that can be associated with design simplicity in the bowtie brand. In its construction, GM has paid particular attention on stress points and structural safety in the 2014 Silverado 1500. Hydroforming technology has been used to improve strength and reduce mass of the front of the frame. The features a roll-formed steel pickup box, which is lighter, stronger and more durable than

Thanks to usage of new Generation V/ EcoTec3 V8 engines with direct injection and weight savings from the use of more high-strength steel in construction, fuel economy of GMT K2XX vehicles do increase over the GMT 900 predecessors

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wheelbase or LWB. Several grades are offered and the SUV line-up is offered in base SLE, mid-level SLT and top-of-the-line Denali trim levels. Depending on how it’s specified, it can haul up to nine passengers in comfort. In terms of creature comforts in the cabin,

traditional stamped steel boxes and the cab structures are all new and incorporate high strength steel in the A-pillars, B-pillars, roof rails and rocker panels. Ultra-highstrength steel is used in areas of the rocker panels and underbody in anticipation of new shallow-offset crash tests. In all, about two-thirds of the cab structure is made from high-strength steels. Even the cargo bed benefits from tougher steels. Sway control is among technologies provided for series towing users.

What’s in, What’s out Design exterior

In the next decade, the auto industry will see an explosion in its use of aluminium to cut flab and increase fuel economy. GM’s has begun that in this new generation of SUVs with sheetmetal components like bonnet and tail gates constructed in aluminium. Rivals like Ford have been showcasing truck concepts with significant switch to almost all aluminium body construction. To an untrained eye, the overall profile of the incoming Chevy/GMC SUVs hasn’t changed that much. Still boxy, however, the story is in the detailing, fit and finish. The build quality has improved by leaps and bounds in the Chevrolet. The qualitative differentiator between Chevy JUly 2014

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generously from the elements. The added plastic valance reduces the ground clearance and also affects the arrival angle when going off-road. Compared to the front end detailing, the SUV rear is mostly flat, almost vertical tailgate resides between tall, narrow taillamps. The headlamp detailing is also quite good. Personally, I prefer the Yukon’s looks to the Tahoe’s and find the Denali trim bordering the bling line. Meanwhile, the Silverado’s A-pillar rake is more aggressive and hence its roofline is a little lower than before. In creating its profile, GM has used a conservative approach and has given enough cues to set it apart from its SUV siblings. The standout chrome grille for instance is a key signature style-cum-functional element and so are the arrival angles. The ground clearance is also higher in the pick-up.

Design interior

The change in qualitative aspect in the GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe is quite noticeable now. From a simple, elegant dashboard that hinted of aspirations for entry-luxury status has moved several notches up with a smarter set-up. GM has very cleverly used the parts bin approach and at the same time been able to differentiate between the models and trim variants. For example the Silverado,

Tahoe, Suburban and Yukon share the same instrument cluster. The analogue portion of the instrument cluster is also used in the top-of-the-line Denali model but the rest of the cluster is digital. Some more differentiation is noted between the GMC Chevrolet siblings at the base of the central console – the Yukon dashboard integrates with centre console while in the Tahoe it is separate. Trim finishes – especially effects on the dashboard plastics in the SUVs have been kept different and it is quite a contrast to that of the Silverado which reflects typical pick up focus on form and function. The Silverado’s instrument panel is more upright and multiple storage options are tailored specifically to the needs of truck customers. Controls are functional, logically placed and easy to operate. The gear lever placement in on the column in all the models and in typical American fashion, the Tiptronic switch is actually on the gear lever. In terms of space and comfort the SUVs get well padded leather seats which offer decent support via power adjustments. Getting in and out of the SUVs is easy, thanks to the retractable runner board. However, the hip point is on the higher side. Head and leg room are decent but drivers of all heights can find the going good, thanks to the power height adjustable pedals.

On the infotainment front the packaging is corporate. Depending on trim, there’s an 8in display and next-generation MyLink connectivity for audio, Bluetooth and navigation. A rear-seat DVD entertainment system is available with dual fold-down screens and six USB ports and six power outlets are included in the feature pack. The compartmentalized centre console is large enough to store a laptop or iPad. In the trim department, GM could have done a bit better with the top specc models. We were somewhat disappointed to find Chevrolet’s traditional version of faux wood trim throughout the cabin of the Suburban, where as the brushed metal effect in the GMCs of the same trim stood out nicely. In terms of cargo space in the SUV siblings, the Suburban as expected tops the list. Rear cargo space checks in with 39.3cft behind the third row seat. Push the power fold button and it almost doubles to nearly 77cft behind the middle row. Fold both rows, and the Suburban becomes a covered 121cft hauler. However, it’s around 16cft short of what the outgoing model offered. From a driver’s perspective, the fundamental approach used by GM is different in the SUV and pick-up. In the Silverado, which has huge A-pillars and a tall dashboard, it gives the illusion of

relatively limited forward visibility. Yet that doesn’t mean we don’t like this new interior. All controls are grouped around a big, vertical touchscreen that operates GM’s MyLink infotainment system. Although it is simple enough to operate, the infotainment system can be frustratingly lag-prone. Luckily, most information is accessible from the truck’s steering wheel controls and pertinent audio and navigation data can be displayed in the instrument cluster. The Silverado, we note, also takes a big leap forward in terms of perceived quality. Materials are upgraded throughout, with most surfaces swathed in pleasant softtouch vinyls. An upmarket French stitch pattern is draped over the dashboard’s various curves. On the tech front, the Silverado offers up to five USB ports plus optional heated and ventilated seats. We like having both heating and ventilation, but the latter emits an especially loud whir audible even over the Bose speakers. Rear doors on crew cabs are larger, for easier entry and exit, and rear doors on extended cab models are now hinged at the front for easier access, especially in tight spots.

Chassis and suspension

Common to all models is the migration to a new chassis architecture which is known as the GMT K2XX internally. This chassis is the direct replacement of the GMT 900 series which was retired in 2013. GM has been able to offer different handling and performance capabilities by using this flexible chassis. And for the first time, Cadillac’s programmable magnetic ride shock absorbers set-up has migrated into Chevy/GMC products. GM’s decision to continue with leaf springs for the solid rear axle in the Silverado and work on the dampers instead to ensure shorter rebounds and narrow the performance gap with the coil-sprung Ram may seem as a costing cutting measure. However, some of the aluminium components in the suspension have been optimized to save on weight across the range.

family of four-cylinder engines which GM sells in smaller cars. Interestingly, GM hasn’t introduced turbocharging in these engines like Ford in its Ecoboost set-ups. To make the engines lighter, the blocks and cylinder heads of all three Gen V EcoTec3 engines are now cast in aluminium. Between the four SUVs and one pick-up in this report, two engines are shared – the Ecotec3 5.3-litre V8 and 6.2-litre

Driving impressions

Our driving programme for the four SUVs in the agenda was divided brand wise over two days. The first day we took the Chevys and the GMCs a day after. The Silverado 1500 which we have added in this report was done independently a few weeks before the SUV programme. This meant for the SUV drive [both brands] we had three vehicles with the 5.3-litre V8 Ecotec set-up and only one, the LWB GMC Yukon Denali with the 6.2-litre V8. On the move, the first thing in the 5.3-litre V8 powered cars we noted were impressive levels of interior quietness. By luxury SUV standards, GM’s added emphasis on NVH mitigation through the use of wind-cheating designs and laminated glass is commendable. Power and torque delivery from the 5.3-litre V8 in the Tahoe and Yukon seem to be adequate, but wouldn’t be classified as generous. Making the most of things under normal driving circumstances is the smooth-shifting sixspeed automatic, which is a little slow to actually complete a gear change cycle. Not

Cost of ownership will be a key USP for pushing sales of these vehicles according to GM officials. GM claims the lowest in the segments represented vis-à-vis key rivals


The outgoing editions of the Tahoe used GM’s small block Vortec Gen IV 5.3-litre V8 engines. GM’s Gen V small block V8 engines have been tailored now to reflect the several mileage-boosting elements such as variable valve timing, direct injection and cylinder deactivation. The Ecotec3 portfolio has three V8 engines and the bigger two are for ME markets. Ecotec3 is not to be confused with Ecotec 18 | |

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V8 normally-aspirated engines. And depending on trim, 2WD or 4WD options are offered with range selector and diff locks. Compared to the outgoing models, power from the smaller V8 is up by 35hp from 320hp to 355hp and torque is up from by 48lb-ft from 335lb-ft to 383lbft. Common to all models is the 6-speed Hydramatic automatic transmission.

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that it matters that much, the good thing is that the gears hold longer and appear to resist the whimsical urge to hunt for cogs. The engine runs stress free in these two models and even with the seamless cylinder deactivation system at work there are no telltale signs of stress whatsover. However, in the Suburban, which is longer and heavier, we do feel it could have done with some more oomph from the engine. While we won’t say it was insufficient or thoroughly underpowered, considering the fact of its potential usage as long distance family and cargo hauler in the region, it should be OK when speed is not your only consideration. However, the clear winner in the three SUVs and one pick-up as far as this engine goes in particular is the Silverado. Obviously,

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power-to-weight plays a big role and so does the chassis/suspension set-up, besides the driver aids for off-roading. In the long wheel base SUVs, the Yukon Denali XL is a better car to drive compared to the Suburban. The Denali, on the move is the more enthusiastic of the two with good pulling power and acceleration characteristics, where as the Suburban feels like a lazy MPV in the way it actually behaves. Though top-heavy by its nature, the Suburban doesn’t wallow too much and body roll is quickly checked. The net result is that despite its size, it tracking feel is smaller than it actually is. With its proven solid rear axle, GM feels it still gives the best combination of ride, handling and towing capacity in a vehicle of this magnitude. The magnetic ride

suspension in the up specced models do offer significant handling advantage when it comes to comfort, cruising or city driving. The advantage of the extra output from the 6.2-litre V8 is quite obvious when you drive the cars back to back. With standard magnetic ride control, the Yukon Denali is supremely composed on the road, belying its massive 5,533lbs weight by feeling almost light on its feet at highway speeds. Steering is light at slow speeds, yet servo firms up well as the pace increases. While most of the GM-organised driving with the SUVs was on-road in and out of Dubai, we had the benefit of testing the Silverado in both driving situations during our independent assessment of the vehicle. Although it is a pick-up by design,

what impressed us about the Silverado is that not only it is very easy to drive, part in thanks to the light steering, on road, but it is very capable on sand and dune bashing too. The Silverado has definitive advantage of its SUV cousins for now as we expect at some point later when the Z71 off-road package arrives, then the SUVs and Silverado could challenge each other on a level playing field. For now, the SUVS [both Chevy and GMC] tested in this article are more street focused despite some having diff locks and lo-hi range selectors. One feature that we noted was about the steering feel and feedback across the models. The electric power steering system is very precise by truck standards and nicely weighted so as never to feel too heavy at low speeds or too light mid-corner.


It’s actually quite rare to do two brands and four SUV variants in one drive programme. The message we get is that GM has put in quite a bit of effort in detailing the four SUVs while attempting to bring in tiered levels of packaging and comfort as far as luxury. We also think that the positioning statement between the Chevrolet and GMC brands is much clearer despite some technology overlaps. The Tahoe definitely moves up a few notches in the entry lux segment and it will be interesting to see how much content the Cadillac SUVs will offer in order to stay ahead of GMC in particular. Meanwhile, the Silverado is a seriously good truck. While several of its rivals might boast more high-profile features,

but the Silverado rewards with a just-right combination of attributes. We mentioned earlier in the article that different SUV makers are employing different philosophies when it comes to packaging large SUVs. In conclusion, GMs approach has been logical and rational by packaging the vehicles sensibly and investing where it really matters. Adding turbochargers or superchargers means premiums have to be paid and it sends pricing into astronomical levels! Besides, the above, GMs key to marketing these vehicles is the total package – the vehicles themselves, the trims, pricing and cost of ownership over 100,000km. We can assure you that, GM is pretty aggressive about the last one.

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2015 Jeep Cherokee


a wild side

It may sport a new exterior, but the Cherokee remains a hard-core SUV at heart. We test out CJD’s latest offering at the launch in the UAE Author : Raj Warrior 22 | |

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ow un-Cherokee like can the Cherokee get? Admittedly, that has been our first reaction from the day we saw the early unveils of the newest iteration of the Cherokee. It’s just that, with the sloping bonnet and overlapped layout of the seven-slat grille, there was something out of character for a sub-brand that has made its name with a editions that were decidedly snubnosed. And it isn’t as if Jeep designers had to take this path. This year’s unveil of the Renegade concept has proven that utilitarian can look sexy (or at the very least – highly desirable). Admittedly the Cherokee is now more a crossover than a full-blown SUV, but then that’s the last thing you want to try to sell to traditional Cherokee loyalists. You can still see many of the XJ platform Cherokees running around in Muscat, with most of them being driven by drivers who won’t stop to blink before they take them over the dunes. Young, capable,

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composed – the type of driver choses the closed cabin of the XJ over the Wrangler largely because of the additional roles he plays. That has been the story of the KK platform too. Pardon us if we don’t harp too much about the in-between KJ, built during the heydays of Daimler’s so-called partnership with the Chrysler group. However, one takeaway is that the Cherokee thrives because of what it offers in addition to the bulletproof dependability of the Wrangler. That is a huge demand to fulfil and going crossover is hardly the way to do it. But there is something about this all-new KL platform. It isn’t all that different from its predecessor – it features unibody construction and delivers a vehicle that also comes in Trail-rated configuration. But the difference is one of strategic nature. In this case the base platform has been codeveloped by the Fiat-Chrysler partnership to accommodate a series of vehicles. Called the Compact US wide platform, it

4x4 Systems The new Jeep Cherokee provides a choice of three innovative 4x4 systems: Jeep Active Drive I features a single power transfer unit (PTU) that is fully automatic and delivers seamless operation at any speed in both fourwheel and two-wheel drive mode. The system does not require any intervention or feedback from the driver, delivers necessary corrections during dynamic events and improves driver control during both understeer and oversteer conditions. Jeep Active Drive II includes a twospeed PTU with low gears. In the 4-Low mode, the system locks the front and rear drive shafts to ensure more power at low speeds and greater towing capability. Low range provides a 2.92:1 gear reduction that enhances climbing ability and offers outstanding crawl ratios for severe off-road conditions. The Jeep Active Drive Lock System includes all the features of Jeep Active Drive II and adds a locking rear differential to provide increased low-speed power when driving over extreme off-road trails. This system is standard only on the Trailhawk model. All 4x4 systems of the Jeep Cherokee feature the Jeep brand’s renowned Selec-Terrain traction control system with four modes (five for the Trailhawk model, which adds the Rock mode to Auto, Snow, Sport and Sand/Mud), allowing the driver to choose the on- and off-road setting best suited for optimum performance on any particular surface. JUly 2014

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The two different versions of Jeep’s SelecTerrain are shown above, with the lower arrangement with the extra Rock mode standard on the TrailHawk

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is meant to underpin the Dart, the Alfa Giulietta and even the new 200. But then it does come with a transverse engine layout at the front, which means that in two-wheel drive mode, the Cherokee is now a front-wheel drive vehicle. That’s the reason, we would say, that the vehicles platform is shaped as it is – at some time in the future we are sure there will be an assortment of Fiat family crossovers using this platform as well and Fiat’s can’t be boxy. Either a four-cylinder 2.4-litre TigerShark engine with 184bhp and 234Nm of torque or a new version of the V6 PentaStar powers the new Cherokee. The V6 now has a smaller bore to give a 3.2-litre nominal capacity. On this smaller capacity, the engine still generates 271hp with a better torque of 316Nm. But then the 4-clinder is largely going to be targeted at the fleet market, while we are sure that retail customers will look only at the PentaStar. The big new equation that the Cherokee brings with it is a nine-speed ZF automatic gearbox (labelled 948TE) and a choice of 4WD systems – with low range, without and even with a locking rear differential. (See Box for details) As can be expected from a current generation Jeep, the interiors are class leading and the feature pack is exceptional. The size of the cabin has grown by a few inches over the generations. Now, the mid-size crossover has more than enough room for its complement of five seats, besides having the volume to spare to throw in raked windshields and tailgates. Legroom in the second row is generous by any

measure and the intelligent use of the cabin has meant that the nicely padded seats and generous panelling haven’t eaten away into usable volume. While the steering wheel is different in layout and shape, the overall layout of the dashboard is becoming familiar, especially with the use of the brushed aluminium surrounds around the display and the centre air-conditioning vents. True to form, the layout is rather vertical, despite its aggressively scooped out footwells. The top of the dashboard gets a covered receptacle that’s rather convenient to store stuff like pens, coins and licence cards. The instrument panel gets a hybrid treatment with two large analogue dials flanking LCD space in between. This patch is used for a multitude of readouts, including a rather prominent digital speed readout. While the steering wheel seems to have changed in terms of basic layout, the controls are all in familiar positions, including the audio that is behind rather than in front of the wheel. While on the subject of audio – CJD’s partnership with Beats Audio may see a version come in future. Until then a top quality Alpine system serves the audiophile. The Cherokee comes in various trim levels beginning at the Sport, upwards through the Latitude, Trailhawk and Limited versions. Among all of these, the local office is keen to project the Trailhawk variant for its off-road prowess. And you can’t blame them – at around the RO 15,000 plus level, the Trailhawk has the best of all worlds. It comes with the low-range as well as the lockable rear differential. It also gets the full benefit of the Selec-Terrain

The all-new Jeep Cherokee marks the return of a classic Jeep nameplate. The 2014 Cherokee is much different in concept and execution when compared to older Jeep Cherokees which were no-frills off-road vehicles. The incoming model is a small crossover SUV, much more luxurious and has a fair amount of all-terrain ability system with five modes as opposed to the four modes that the other versions offer (the extra is a Rock Mode). In terms of driver assist features, the car gets active cruise control; with follow function, brake application and both lane departure warning and assist. The assist function is rather aggressive, giving you the feeling that someone is taking over the steering as you wander from the lane. You can turn it off – yet somehow we were left wanting a more noticeable warning and a gentler assist. The steering on the whole could do with a little more weighting. The EPS is noticeable and ever present. The Trailhawk is where the action is centred. You can deflate the tyres and take the vehicle anywhere its older variants went. The ground clearance is around 220mm including an extra inch of factory fitted lift for the Trailhawk. That would feel almost crossoverish if it wasn’t for the neat sub-30-degree

approach angle and 32-degree departure angle. Somehow, the light-footed vehicle manages a more than credible stint on the dunes. The combination of on-road manners and off-road capability continue to run in the Cherokee’s blood. The strong points of the model in this generation are that it can be many things to many people. The styling may take some getting used to, but there is no mistaking that the first Jeep on the new platform is rather a potent vehicle. And the price range that covers almost 5,000 Rials from base to top grade does give you a large enough buying choice. We are pretty sure that you won’t be buying the FWD version for anything but basic transport. Stick with the Limited or Trailhawk and you will get more than your money’s worth – with the only difference really being whether you want the lockable rear differential and extra inch of ground clearance or not. JUly 2014

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2014 Hyundai Genesis

Genesis of a new premium Hyundai has managed to push the luxury tag over the years with its Centennial and Genesis badges. This time around the Genesis comes with all the equipment needed. Does it make its mark? Author : Raj Warrior

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ue in the ubiquitous background musicians of “There’s something about Mary” and let’s pick up the thread along the lines of “there’s something about Hyundai”. We’ve been keen observers of the growth of the Korean conglomerate as it first declared and then met the goal of becoming the world’s fifth largest car company. Along the way we’ve seen the way in which everything changed in the company – from cheap runabouts to very contemporary mainstream cars. However that brought along with it much shorter model lives – now cars were being renewed every four years instead of seven and mid-life freshens could bring in features like LED lighting and the like, stuff kept for full model changes in the past. On the other hand Hyundai has spent the past three years in pushing its connection with luxury. We love it. It’s not as if the Genesis and Centennial actually ever made

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it over into true ‘luxury’ territory. But it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying. We love the brashness indicated by the insistence to associate a ‘value’ brand like Hyundai with luxury. It reminds us of the selffulfilling declaration that the company had made about its leadership position. It’s almost as brash as their declaration last year that they wouldn’t chase increased volumes for some time – instead looking at rationalising their existing volume. Read that they are looking at better profitability, both by raising prices as well as producing more higher value cars. The Genesis revamp comes at a critical time for the brand as it seeks to project the premium touch. The first generation BH platform based Genesis went through some marketing initiatives including being associated with Prada, in an iteration that was all white Prada leather interiors and shiny alloys with a custom paint job. This year’s model change brought with it a

whole host of changes, beginning from a changed platform – this one’s called the DH – as well as the full implementation of the Fluidic 2.0 design language (post Peter Schreyer’s elevation to oversee Hyundai as well). The car hasn’t changed dramatically – you will still recognise it in the profile. The fascia, on the other hand, is completely different with the new six-sided grille treatment, bold horizontal slats, signature LED lighting and the winged Genesis motif on top. The overall length of the car is 4990mm, width is 1890mm and height is 1480mm. The car sits on a wheelbase of 3010mm. Note how the wheelbase is stretching out in the new edition, to match the impressive profile of the car. In addition to improving the legroom at the rear, the front wheels have moved slightly ahead to lower the front overhang, making the car look almost German in its side-view.

In addition, the interiors have changed completely. Hyundai’s constant implementation of the latest electronic gadgetry has come to a crescendo in the Genesis. But that’s only after the brand has taken care of the essentials. The car is available with a similar sort of white leather to that it showed in the Prada car. In addition there is beige and light brown leather as well. It is all very upmarket, especially with the contrasted white leather and black woodgrain treatment available. Throw in a square analogue clock on the dashboard you could almost mistake it for any other luxury brand. And the equation is taken further by all sorts of visual associations – from the short-throw gearshift lever now favoured by BMW, to the feature packed steering wheel. One very original design implementation is the asymmetric dashboard. The driver’s IP binnacle is accentuated by its trapezoidal shape and the cockpit feel remains despite

the rather horizontal layout of the dash. Crisp, sharp and rather relevant, the IP uses the best of both worlds – analogue and digital, without clutter. Anything that could be moved over to the centre of the dash has been. As it is the Genesis gets a large hi-res 8-inch display even at base specs. At the top of the line a 9.2” unit is available as is the signature Lexicon sound system with either 14 or 17 speakers. However, this time around, along with navigation and the usual rearview function, the centre console gets an around view monitor function. Other innovations in the Genesis include a handy smart boot function that automatically pops the boot for you if you stand behind it for more than three seconds with the key in your pocket. While driving, you also get features like adaptive cruise control, anticipative pre-braking and lane departure warning and assist. And this time around the heads-up display is what sets the Genesis apart from almost

any contender. It’s a full colour display on a patch of polarised windshield. It can be seen in the harshest of light, packs in information like an almost 3D view of your next turn off, complete with graphic countdown to the turn. In terms of powertrain, the Genesis comes to the region with both the units that are available in the Centennial as well. The smaller V6 3.8-litre Lambda unit features GDI and an upgraded performance envelope with 315PS of power partnered with 397Nm of torque. The larger engine is the 5.0-litre Tau V8, again with GDI and a significantly larger envelope of 413PS and 505 Nm of torque at 5,000rpm. Both of these engines are coupled with the new eight-speed automatic transmission that provides overdrive ratios all the way from the 5th to the 8th gear. Performance is never an issue, whether with the smaller V6 or larger V8. Most of the time you feel the engine is just above idling. Yes, the rear-wheel drive nature of the car is perceptible on hard acceleration, as it sits into the sprint. You can even get the high torque V8 to drift the sedan out just a

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wee bit before the controls kick in and dial everything back. But there is almost no communication from the road. Just a little bit of wind noise, some drumming and an electric power steering that sits somewhere in between soggy to almost firm. There is no issue with the ride quality. The harmonics of the suspension arrangement are brilliantly handled; with the chassis actually informing you that it could take a bit more than you and the steering can throw at it. Shod with the 18” wheel choice, with the larger V8, you have a car that would almost put a Merc S500 to shame, until you realise that Merc’s got itself an all-new S that’s way better.

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In its profile, the new Genesis sedan retains its long bonnet and short rear end, while the grille is bigger and wider. There are some nice premium European cues with this car’s design, but importantly, the new Genesis has its own personality

During lunch at the media drive event, we heard one comment used to describe the USP of the new Genesis – that it was a “value for money luxury car”. In all honesty, that comment could describe it well. The issue that we have of course is that we don’t associate the two ends of the spectrum that are visualised in that comment. To us either the car is VFM or it offers luxury. There is no middle ground. With its current iteration, with all the technology thrown into it and with the feel of luxury that the Genesis now exudes, the DH has moved the position closer to luxury. It’s the Hyundai badge that still keeps it firmly rooted in the VFM part of the market.

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2014 Mazda 3

Stylish & frugal

as a fully s e m co 3 a zd a M 4 1 0 ew 2 Third generation all-n provements in im t n ca ifi n g si s st a o b redesigned car which tent. Automan n co re tu a fe d n a ty li a qu performance, interior the Sultanate in n a d se im tr ry u x -line Lu checks the top-of-the John Ferrao allik | Photography:

Author: Chandan B M


t seems that car makers are ramping up their C-segment offerings with packaging elements that a till few years ago would appear in higher models only. Now, even the so-called bread and butter models are included and in more than one way, this is good news for punters who can now look forward to cars with decent kit and performance credentials. This segment also has a good selection of cars -- Chevrolet Cruze, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Cerato, Ford Focus and now Mazda also enters the fray with its latest model. Hiroshima-based Mazda is one of the key leaders in the C-segment movement and the latest car to come out is the Mazda3, which is offered in sedan and hatchback body styles. Mazda’s focus in the third generation compact has been to preserve the model’s core strength 34 | |

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-- everyday practicality, choice of body styles, driving and handling while evolving the packaging by improving and promoting refinement. Mechanically, the car is based on the same new lightweight chassis that also underpins the CX-5 and midsize Mazda 6 sedan. This chassis architecture has allowed for body variants and engineering flexibility. The new 3 sedan sports a longer than before wheelbase and uses the automaker’s now famous Kodo “soul of motion” design language. This application was first seen on the CX-5 crossover followed by the 6 midsize sedan. The new arrival gets Mazda’s newest, more aggressive-looking grille design and nice curves on its sheet metal. Meanwhile, slightly altered dimensions – the car sports 2.4in longer wheelbase, is also a bit wider and lower – which gives it its impressive stance.

Overall, the sedan is a very stylish car to look at with its sweeping waist line that gracefully runs along the side of the car. The best part of the design and proportion is that both body styles complement each other very nicely. But the same cannot be said for the interiors of this car as Mazda’s design and packaging approach seems to be somewhat confusing. Howver, there’s no reason to worry about build quality, trims or materials used since the percseived quality levels and touch points are as before quite high. So, the big question is: what’s so confusing? Confusing is the attempt to blend two distinctive styles in one package. The basic layout of the dashboard is traditional and the top portion of the dash in middle gets a tab styled TFT display. The Audi A3 or Mercedes-Benz A-Class seems to be its inspiration. JUly 2014

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Mazda’s lightweight Skyactiv architecture also benefits new Mazda 3. The new structure boasts a 30per cent improvement in torsional rigidity. Meanwhile, the Skyactiv 2.0-litre engine also gets larger exhaust manifold to help boost mid-range torque

Lower spec models get a smaller display screen. Come to the instrument cluster and then you realize that designers wanted to give it a sporty feel. So you have a metal-dial tachometer centrally placed with a small window for a digital speedometer read out flanked by winged housings on either side. I would have preferred it to be the other way round since the 3 is a street car and not a sports car. The feature pack in the Luxury trim model is quite impressive. Mazda borrows some ideas from upmarket models and introduces a new “Commander” dialand-button control interface. The touch screen interface allows users to use the navigation system [the map provided by Japan was outdated], audio system and smartphone, but not the air-conditioning controls or set-ups are not connected as they are old fashioned analogue types. Also incorporated in this trim is a headup display for driving information like speed, lane departure etc. The car’s 13in dia steering wheel also has been kept busy with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters and a host of other functions. The trim also adds cruise control, a 60:40-split folding rear seat, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a CD player to the base model offering. In same vein of a sporty theme, the car’s 36 | |

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seats are nicely designed and also come with double cross stitching. Adjustments are six-way power for the driver seat with manual lumbar adjustment, but surprisingly even in top trim the passenger side is pure manual/mechanical. While the front-seat area is spacious and seats genuinely supportive with newly contoured base and more back and lateral support, at rear there is more knee room and shoulder room than before, but it still feels tighter than most other compact entries despite the increase in wheelbase. The rear seatbacks are almost 2 inches higher now to for the benefit of rear occupants. On the practical side of things, things are more or less in line with the segment. The sedan’s 12.4c-ft boot is bit small for the class and almost same as the Civic, while more space is available in the Cruze and Focus. One can live with it. The test car came with bigger of the two engines offered in this market. In fact, Mazda claims that the entire structure of the new car has been designed around the SkyActiv four-cylinder engines. The engine is carried over from the previous generation but has been tweaked -- high compression, carefully tuned exhaust systems and software refinements are all together designed provide power while

extracting maximum efficiency from every drop of fuel. The test car sported a 2.0-litre four-cylinder normally-aspirated mated to a six-speed gearbox. In this set-up 155hp and torque of 150 lb-ft at 4,000rpm helps propel the car through its front wheels. Unlike Honda or Toyota, there’s no provision for Eco drive mode. It’s a one-inall sort of deal. The car’s suspension package has also been attended to. The package includes retuned springs, shocks, and anti-roll bars – all designed to improve straight-line stability. Mazda says that work has been done in the suspension department to improved both cornering performance and ride comfort. Meanwhile, stopping distances are claimed to be among the best of all compact cars through the four-wheel discs. Meanwhile, as part of the efficiency drive, an electric power steering replaces the former electrohydraulic system. On the safety front, the car enters the market with top credentials. It has already been named an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ model this year. Every Mazda 3 comes equipped with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, active front

head restraints, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. Driving impressions Mazda’s 3 sedan maybe a global model and it goes without saying that there are several benchmark rivals to contend with when it comes to performance and

aspirated Mazda doesn’t feel as lively as the Peugeot. It is sluggish and the gear shift changes are very slow compared to many other cars in the segment. In fact, at times it feels as if there’s a CVT instead of a cogged-set-up. We think this car should have also been offered with stronger power delivery through better torque management. The chassis behaviour is acceptable in day-to-day driving situations with the suspension taking care of absorbing the imperfections and help giving the car a decent ride. On the way towards Amerat, while the car’s powertrain felt the pressure and need to be prodded by the driver, the suspension seemed to cope well in the tight corners. However, the athletic handling aspect of the outgoing car is clearly missing. The previous 3’s highway ride was smoother and those who prefer softly sprung set ups like Toyota’s Corolla might be inclined to think the current 3 is too firm for their liking. I remember with the outgoing model, Mazda invested heavily in engineering the electrohydraulic power steering system

Although, the 2.0-litre engine is carried over, Mazda’s efficiency ‘Skyactive’ programme has ensured that this engine is able to produce 155 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. And as before, it drives the front wheels through a six-speed automatic gearbox handling. Peugeot ‘s C-segment model, the new 508, sold in the region comes with a turbo-charged 1.6-litre 156bhp engine, so it is fair to use that as a reference with the Mazda’s 155hp output from its 2.0-litre normally aspirated engine. To begin with, on the move, this normally-

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for that last-generation car, and nailed it. However, we simply don’t think the new car’s electric power steering system is as good and as expected, the assisted steering is light and somewhat numb and didn’t feel as confident on centre on the highway. Despite efforts, and a lot of ride harshness and noise still filters into the cabin compared to other cars in this class. Verdict A redesign for MY2014 has brought in a wave of fresh air to the model series. Besides refined styling, more features, and higher fuel efficiency that should, at least in theory add this to more small-car shopping lists. But, even

The infotainment controller between the front seats is designed to operate with simplicity and logic. It’s quite refreshing when you compare it with ambitious and complex systems like that of the Ford Focus’ MyFord Touch system for instance

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in a comparatively smaller market like Oman, there’s no shortage of quality players in the compact class segment. While, the 2014 Mazda 3 stands out from the smallcar crowd with its sport-carinfluenced proportions and contemporary styling, it will have to realize that good looks and some contemporary features alone will not be enough to motivate punters that easily. We think, Mazda could look at improving the torque delivery from this setup more than focus on fuel efficiency – especially in this region where customers look at on-road performance and presence more than anything else. Overall, the 3 is a decent package.

For the 3, Mazda has also adopted the automaker’s now famous Kodo “soul of motion” design language. This application was first seen on the CX-5 crossover followed by the 6 mid-size sedan

2014 Infiniti Q50

Wired to chart new paths

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While the all-new 2014 Infiniti Q50 comes as the replacement for the G sedans, it brings in a whole new angle for the brand. We drove the Q50 at its launch in Dubai and see a distinct future for the brand Author: Raj Warrior

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we expect only the rear-wheel drive to be available for the foreseeable future. Another way in which the Q50 makes its difference felt is in its larger size and distinctly meaner proportions. There is more than a touch of the current Maserati sedans in the styling of the front fenders and greenhouse, although without an actual attempt to copy anything. It seems like the move towards introducing a feline, flowing element in the car’s profile brings with it a feeling of déjà vu. However the Q50’s strength lies in its rear-wheel architecture that allows a wheelbase of 2850mm on an overall length of 4783mm, with reasonably small front overhangs. The crouching tiger effect is further accentuated by the newest iteration of the Infiniti grille, almost integrated headlight assemblies and rather beefed up haunches. Beyond the new 7-speed automatic gearbox, new modular architecture and the choice of larger engines as standard, the story of the Q50 is linked to three main changes – the first being the use of a new drive-by-wire steering system, the second being the new generation of interface and command systems available for the driver and the third being the driver aid systems. Of course, by itself the provision of the hybrid engine would warrant mention as


he entry-level premium segment is among the most contested – because the buyer has lots of alternatives ahead of them. They could buy a premium brand and satisfy themselves with either a small sedan or SUV or indeed stay with a mainstream brand and buy a full spec large sedan or SUV. It’s enough to confuse even the hardened automotive journalist. The clutter is increasingly being felt by brands bringing in variants and creating overlap. For instance, if you wanted you could look at BMW’s 1 or 3-series in different kits, Merc’s C or Audi’s A3. Each of these has a model sitting just above with lower trims that will get you if you have a few thousand extra in your budget. And it is in that established order of the hegemony of German brands that a brand like Infiniti has been attempting to grow initially 42 | |

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with its G and M sedans and now with its Q range. The Q50 is both the logical and hereditary successor of the G sedans, with the nomenclature changing at the same time as the model underwent its shift. Like Cadillac before it – Infiniti has had to bring the battle to the German über sedans. As the mainstream American luxury brands try to go global, they are faced with the challenge of making their cars acceptable to the well-heeled driver from Moscow to Muscat. It’s no longer enough to pile on the leather and wood veneer, the car has to have the features, handling and performance that matches Germany’s best otherwise it remains an also-ran. And this new mindset also helps the brand in the home market as more American drivers are exposed to the Teutonic overreach of BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Porsche.

the fourth significant change. Moving in the reverse order let’s look at each of these. By now, we are quite familiar with the use of the inline motor assist that Nissan favours. It has come to the region in the Pathfinder and the Infiniti JX (now the QX60). But the reason it is so different here is that while you may enjoy the full electric mode for its quietness and utility in stop and go traffic, you really want the motor there for the extra torque it throws in at ramp up. It isn’t surprising that the hybrid comes only in S spec (albeit that the S is blue rather than red on the badge). While the 3.5 V6 may take some time to spool up to optimum torque levels of 258 lb.ft, the electric motor adds its 214 lb.ft from the word go. The acceleration is incredibly noticeable at the top of your spine. Our guess is that most people who are ready to pay for the extra weight, complexity and ‘greenness’ of the hybrid will be doing some very non-green driving with the combined 360hp on tap and the 5 second 0-100kmph sprint. In terms of driver aid systems, the Q50 sets the new benchmark for the segment. Not only does it feature the usual around view monitor, active cruise control and brake assist systems; now the car comes with active lane keeping that identifies the lane even from one set of markings and

The advantage the Q50 had was that while Infiniti still makes their cars in Japan, sells it in the US and now around the world, this time they have two strong differences – their product development team is based in Europe and they have a strong tie-in with the F1 team Infiniti Redbull. The Q50 has also used this opportunity to make a clean break with its positioning as a sort of value sedan at the entry point to the segment. The G with its G25 variant had a fantastic price point, although this wasn’t really translated into a huge sales opportunity. This time around the Q50 gets two engines at launch – the 3.7-litre V6 VQ37VHR stalwart of the Infiniti lineup and a hybrid solution that features the older 3.5-litre V6 VQ35 engine as the gasoline powerplant mated with a 67hp electric motor. While the car is available in an AWD setup in the US, in the region JUly 2014

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steers gently to keep you centred in the lane. Additionally there is the obligatory lane departure warning, active cruise control with follow and brake function. For close quarters manoeuvring the rear view monitor comes in handy as well. Then we come to the interface. The entire dashboard, centre console and driver facing controls have changed. While the IP remains analogue in layout, the centre console has changed dramatically. Now the interface is made of two stacked touchscreen displays, the top one of which serves as multimedia and general readout, while the bottom is largely the input device. The screen is smaller and sits surrounded by hardware buttons for climate control, just in case you don’t want to use the on-screen controls. In addition to the touch screen nature of the screens, the knurled controller on the centre console helps meet the needs of European drivers who are more comfortable in tactile controls at high speeds. Lastly, the drive-by-wire system. It generated a huge discussion over dinner with the system’s engineers who had visited from the Japan facility. Not only does going ‘by-wire’ mean that two electric motors on the front axle control the wheels’ movement, but an electric motor had to be added back to the steering assembly in order to dial in feedback for the driver – to prevent a feeling of PlayStation controller driving. Of course the mechanical linkage

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still remains between the steering wheel and the front axle, but it gets detached as soon as power comes through to the assembly. It is a fail-safe method in that if electric power goes away for any reason the coupling falls back in place and there is a mechanical control over the front wheels. By going electric, the engineers have gained the advantage of being able to play around not just with steering effort, but also with ratios. It is possible to tune the steering to feel sporty or relaxed, to give variable movement depending on speed and technically it is possible to steer from anywhere in the cabin (except for the mechanical bits). As of now the Q50 gets a few modes the driver can select and which decide the amount of steering compensation as well as the ride quality. This has been deliberately limited so that there is a safe envelope of use. Our suggestion that Infiniti throw in two dials to adjust steering effort and ratio was met with polite smiles. On the road, you can imagine the pleasure of driving either of the S variants. In the red variety you get the paddle shifters and aluminium feel of a sports sedan. In the hybrid you get the additional torque. And you also get regenerative braking

courtesy of the electric motor. In some ways the car can be unnerving as it follows the lanes of a curving road, slightly turning the steering to follow. If that lulls you, beware! As the turns get tighter the steering gives up and hands back to you. Also the predictive braking that’s connected to the forward cameras is also spooky. It starts to brake before you’re ready. And the regenerative braking just slows the car down so much sooner than you would expect. However, handling is never an issue. The drive by wire steering is way better tuned than we would have expected. It offers a point and shoot ability without sacrificing feedback. Even the artificial feedback is properly weighted and the variable component of the steering angle tracks in nicely. You can floor the accelerator and put in doughnuts with the same ease as which you can thread in and out of moving traffic. And all this while the basics are taken care of – the high output V6 engine coupled with the 7-speed gearbox is a charm. It would have been standout in a lesser car. In the Q50, the excellence of everything else around this means that the drivetrain tends to play second fiddle.

2014 Honda City

City slick Life in the light car segment can be vicious these days and Honda thinks it can do well with its all-new fifth generation 2014 City sedan. Automan spends some time with the car in the Sultanate and evaluates its prospects Author: Chandan B Mallik | Photography: Elvis John Ferrao

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onda’s all-new Thailand-built City arrives in Oman with a very clear cut agenda at a time when most rival models with the exception of the new Mazda3, are at least a year old. Honda Middle East thinks there’s potential for growth with its new-generation B/C segment City and believes the package is a strong enough proposition to draw people back to its dealerships and boost the company’s overall sales. Globally, the City is in its sixth generation and from the Middle East perspective it is considered as the fifth generation since the Gen 1 [global] wasn’t available. The incoming subcompact sedan built on Honda’s Global Small Car platform, which is also shared with the Jazz hatchback and soon-to-arrive Vezel crossover. This means it is based on the new third generation architecture which also benefits from a longer wheelbase and supports improved ergonomics, courtesy of Honda’s current ‘Man Maximum and Machine Minimum’ philosophy. While, previous editions of the City

have had various styling agendas, the fourth generation [ME Gen II] which was introduced in 2002 was the odd one out with its ‘love-it hate it’ styling and proportions. These aspects were subsequently improved in the successor/s and if one considers three generations of City’s [in reverse order from the latest iteration], then it becomes clear how the design has steadily evolved and matured along with some dimensional changes and here’s the evidence: the City’s length has increased from 4,390mm [Gen IV] to 4,415 [Gen V] and now to 4,440mm and so has the wheel base from 2,450mm to 2,550mm and 2,600mm respectively. The width of the car has marginally been increased by 5mm and the height is also 5mm higher than the outgoing model. The new arrival is offered in three trims – DX, LX and EX in Oman. Honda designer’s have ensured that’s there’s continuity between the outgoing and incoming model despite modest dimensional changes and hence the overall profile of the car remains unchanged.

But what has significantly changed is the detailing – especially sheet metal – which now benefits from Honda’s corporate design approach. In fact, Gen VI City is Honda’s second model to sport the new Exciting H Design first seen on the third generation Honda Jazz which launched in September 2013 worldwide [this model hasn’t arrived in the region yet]. As a result of this application, the bold front-end styling is unmistakably Honda and the evolutionary design features the brand’s new signature broad U-shaped chrome grille bar. This is Honda’s latest design language called “solid wing face”. Meanwhile, the side sheet metal of the car has been transformed from plain Jane to a more curvy entity with very prominent character line running through from behind the front wheel arches to the horizontal L-shaped tail lamps at the rear where they are connected by a thin chrome strip as a sign-off. Overall, the new City’s profile is much closer to the new Civic, the model above in the line-up. The cabin of the car has received lavish JUly 2014

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Honda’s Display Audio system now includes a tablet-esque 7in touchscreen with vehicle information, customisable wallpaper, MP4 movie player and Bluetooth connectivity

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attention and the centerpiece is the dashboard. For the size of the car, it is quite large and to some it may seem out of proportion, when say compared to other cars in the class. The instrument cluster has three large analogue/digital dials and while these dials are not as large as those found in say, the MINI, but they seem oversized for this car. But the flipside is that the gauges are easy to follow and the LED-fed bezel treatment is quite innovative. But the pièce de résistance of this dashboard design is the brand’s new touchscreen display audio infotainment system which features smartphone-style applications and also houses the climate controls. While, the dashboard design is said to mirror that of the new Jazz and compared to the new Mazda3, is a class apart, it is short of the Civic’s glamorous dual deck design. We liked the three-spoke sports steering wheel for its tactility and multi-functionality for audio and cruise control functions and also placement of of the paddle shifters on the wheel. Honda has kept its promise as regards to optimizing interior space management. The shoulder, leg, and knee rooms have also been extended by 40mm, 60mm and 70mm respectively. Seat designs are more on the traditional side of things and no quirky elements noted. While bolstering is on the softer side, lumber support isn’t so good considering this is an urban-centric

car. Depending on trim, the feature list is quite impressive – keyless entry, stop-start button, eco mode button, cruise control but no lane departure warning or adaptive cruise control function. Separate inputs for aux, USB and HDMI besides power outlets. Funnily, the ubiquitous cigarette lighter socket was missing! In terms of practicality, while many see this car as a booted Jazz, actually as a sedan its boot space is quite generous at 510-litres. A good driving position is possible as the car has a height and reach-adjustable steering wheel. Under the sheet metal is a mix of Honda’s updated engine and continuation of CVT transmission application. However, the incoming car benefits from Honda’s new Earth Dreams set-up which means it gets a carryover but improvised 1.5-litre normally aspirated i-VTEC four cylinder engine producing 118hp at 6,600rpm and 145Nm of torque at 4,600rpm transversely mounted in front of the front axle mated to an improved CVT with pseudo seven-

speeds and manual selection. Surprisingly, when you look at the engine bay, there lot of space between the engine and firewall. Suspension design has also been looked into. It uses a new geometry McPherson set-up front with a beefed up by 2-3mm front anti-roll bar. Rear suspension is torsion beam. Honda is pretty cautious about safety and in constructing this car, has used its tried and tested ACE [Advanced Compatibility Engineering] philosophy which involves optimizing the body with various types of steel in its structure. The Honda City range does gets disc brakes on all four wheels, though, with ventilated rotors up front for confident stopping power and a nice linear feel to the brake pedal. Like the Jazz, Honda has also moved the fuel tank back to the conventional position under the rear seat which saves weight. Cumulatively, weight savings upto 75kg has been achieved over the previous automatic variant. Driving impressions Open the front door and three blue rings in the instrument cluster light up. While, the Piano black centre console is supposed to be an upmarket feature, it’s also a fingerprint magnet. After firing the engine to life via the start button on the dash, two things immediately struck us with this car. First, the ease with which it moves and the stress-free nature of the powertrain set-up. This front wheel drive car weighs around 1,029–1,165kg

[curb weight depending on trim] and is lighter than the new Mazda3 which has a curb weight between 1,300–1,315kg. The Mazda3 with 1.5-litre SkyActiv-G I4 petrol engine produces 118hp which is identical to the Honda. That the Honda here has a definite advantage in performance due to better power-to-weight ratio is very clear in the first few minutes. While the Mazda despite having a cogged gearbox felt so sluggish [this was not expected] and more like an ancient CVT, the Honda’s CVT performed flawlessly and enthusiastically. In fact, when you put the shifter into ‘S’ mode, very much like a cogged car, you get 500-600rpm worth of extra torque and the feel of transmission holding longer. Engage the paddle shifter and in-between the pseudo-CVT shifts, the engine revs also go up or down, very similar to a cogged transmission and you get a genuine downshift feel. In fact, after Nissan, we think Honda has been able to fully exploit CVT systems and we could not detect the infamous ‘rubber band effect’ in this set-up. The City’s stiff ACE-designed body also provides great insulation from engine, road and tyre noise. As a typical free-revving i-VTEC engine from Honda, the growl is raspy and can be heard in the cabin at higher speeds. The electric steering feel and feedback is quite good and similar to that of the bigger Civic. While, we do note that the car has pleasant manners in typical driving situations and hence there are no major concerns, but, trying to extract a Civic

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Type-R performance is strictly a no-no. The reason for this is that first the suspension isn’t designed for it and the car is front heavy. While, the soft suspension absorbs road imperfections before they reach the cabin, the flip side is that the car can exhibit body roll tendencies on a sharp turn in and throwing the car unrealistically hard into corners does result in the tyres fighting for grip.One has to be very careful if trying to take a fast corner because of mass shifting from rear to an already front heavy car means that the car can oversteer suddenly or move out of line momentarily. Verdict For a city mover, this B/C segment Honda definitely moves up in most departments over its

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predecessors and also should be seen overtaking some established names also on the way. While it won’t be considered as an outright class winner, it does indicate Honda’s willingness to move the model into entry lux. However, given the past experience with the CVT set-up [Honda is not alone in this], only time will tell on the durability of the newly designed CVT gearbox, one of the greatest problems which many owners faced with their second generation City models. But considering the super stylish design, responsive powertrain, class-leading features and ample cabin space, the new City makes a good option when shopping for a compact sedan. What Mazda hoped to do and has not been able to achieve with the new 3

can be exploited by Honda before the next wave of mid-cycle facelifted models arrive on the market.

Good thing that Honda has made improvements across the board to the new model compared with the outgoing version, including to the suspension, NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) levels and connectivity

2014 Toyota Yaris


n this region, the Yaris hatchback and sedan are entry level models from Toyota. From an image perspective, over the years and over two generations, the Yaris has proved its bulletproof credentials in reliability, engineering and low cost of ownership. However, the profile of sub subcompacts has changed, post global economic crisis. Consumers are now looking at premium features, content in addition to trendy designs. And no automaker which has a volume segment following can ignore these aspects. As a result, competition in this traditional bread and butter segment has also become intense. Given the current trend, even with successive global models like the Yaris, Toyota’s product policy has been

conservative. And when compared to how rivals have ramped up their respective offerings, the outgoing Yaris really came across as a rather generic subcompact

Toyota’s president Akio Toyoda is aware of the shortcomings and has pushed the automaker to create new cars with trendy designs without jeopardizing their mass-market appeal. Models like the Camry or Prius are among the first beneficiaries and now smaller models like the Corolla and Yaris also gain from this direction. And in line with Toyoda San’s vision, the new look Yaris sedan was introduced last year and followed by the refreshed hatchback variant as MY2014 a few months later. Now, the big question is: will the new Yaris be able to repeat its historical success on the basis of new design and feature pack? The engineering basis is considered bullet-

Toyota’s emphasis on the next version of models in its line-up is to enhanced interior packaging and materials and offer more “emotional” exterior looks hatchback. Well, that’s the story of the Yaris when it once topped the value pack race.

Refreshed for 2014, Toyota’s smallest third generation hatchback star from the Yaris family has arrived in the Sultanate. Automan has the first details Author: Chandan B Mallik | Photography: Raj Warrior

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proof by Toyota standards, which means the incoming hatchback is built on the outgoing model’s platform. Unlike before the car is sourced from Thailand and not Japan. The key investment in this car is in the sheetmetal department, which now exhibits is a bit different in execution to the sedan in its detailing. For a Yaris, by far, the design is much sharper and relies a lot on angular surface treatment. Up front, there’s a sharper, triangular nose and grille design with exoskeleton like frame along with a large lower intake and a deeper front bumper. Interestingly, the front grille and valance of the hatchback have been designed differently to the sedan. The rear, especially the way the C-pillar is designed seems to be an evolution from the xA hatch, a young and trendy hatchback model that Toyota and its US-centric Scion brand use to sell years ago. We are happy to note that fit, finish, panel gaps are very much conforms to the top Toyota standards of build quality that we are accustomed to. Dimensionally, only a very trained eye would be able to spot minor changes and for the uninitiated the car stands at 4,114mm [l], 1,700mm [w] and 1475mm [h]. Compared to the outgoing hatch, the new car is 215mm shorter, 5mm higher and 45mm wider. Wheelbase is increased by 40mm to 2,550mm now. In terms of the interior, there seems to be an attempt to uplift the cabin from a very basic design to contemporary – drawing

in design cues from the RAV4, Camry etc. The result of this is a bit mixed since the design and feature application which are supposed to complement each other seem to be competing with each other instead in some places. The dashboard design is clearly inspired by that of the sedan with its floating central console and threegauge cluster. The upper section of the instrument panel has a new grain effect that offers more tactile quality and loses its glossy appearance to generate a nice

mic was placed discretely and in the new car on the steering column. This cutand-paste approach offsets some of the gains made in the design department. The seats are typical Toyota fare and use dual tone approach and double stitching. The electric steering wheel offers rake adjustment only and hence finding a perfect seating vis-à-vis command view is somewhat restricted due to the limited steering arrangement. Accommodation space for occupants seems to be improved, thanks to the revised dimensions. For the powertrain set-up, it’s all carried over and this means Toyota’s ubiquitous 1NZ-FE series 107hp/103 lbsft torque 1.5-litre four-cylinder comes mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. This set-up is definitely going to stand out, considering how the competitors in this class have ramped up things. For example Ford Fiesta, Peugeot 208 and Mazda2 get turbocharged engines mated to six-speed gearboxes. And then, the grapevine suggests that even in basic trim, the incoming Fiesta will come with dual clutch transmission. And the Korean duo of Hyundai/Kia has significantly upped their game with their similar sized offerings. Question that naturally arises: how will the Yaris match its rivals on that account? Toyota thinks that its stylish basic point A to point B city car will be a comfortable car for its occupants with decent kit and economical on fuel as it has been programmed likewise. Despite compact dimensions, the cabin offers decent

space for four adults and a fifth can be squeezed in. In its construction, the car’s central and rear body rigidity have also been increased and a redesigned tunnel helps brace to add rigidity to the vehicle floor. A re-designed wheelhouse area and a reinforced rear bumper attachment are factored in to reduce body roll deformation. The rear suspension has been redesigned to accommodate a new, stiffer torsion beam with softer coil springs and a new, long, polyurethane-bound stopper. Softer springs also feature in the front suspension and the introduction of rebound springs within the shock absorbers increases front anti-roll stiffness, which improves handling and reduces body roll when cornering. Driving impressions While in design and features Toyota has gained several notches, the same can’t be felt from the carryover powertrain in this front-wheel-drive car. It feels very similar to the outgoing model. The engine is noisy and the gearbox feel is lazy and the electric steering is mostly numb in its feedback. Somehow, we just couldn’t get over this penny-pinching feel in the performance department.

Although there’s nothing remarkable about the Yaris’ driving experience, the car’s moderate steering effort and softly sprung suspension make it easy to drive around town. On the move, there’s a noticeable step down in performance, as the Yaris feels sluggish during overtaking manoeuvres – this is more noticeable in Eco mode where performance is deliberately restricted. However, the car is also steady around turns and as before quite practical in congested urban driving/ parking situations. Verdict Toyota seems to have achieved a part of its mission with the new Yaris for our markets. It wanted the Yaris successor to look smart and trendy and also give it a

decent interior and feature pack. In Oman, the car will be offered in a single trim and the suggested pricing strongly indicates that it is competing with models from several European brands. While the retail side of the business will be banking on the Yaris heritage and pure value pack. But in view of the intensity of the segment even in the Sultanate, at some point Toyota will have to realise that it has to up its Yaris game significantly if it wants to retain the numbers or lead the class. Given the overall package and image of Toyota, the third generation new 2014 Yaris is certainly worth consideration, especially when you factor in Toyota’s historically strong reliability and service packages.

As basic transportation goes, there’s not a lot to complain about with the Toyota Yaris. The current Yaris model is present on the market since 2011and has been known for its reliability and low cost of ownership

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satin effect. The centre console has been raised by 23mm to give it that floating effect. While, the instrument panel design is nice for the car, it is difficult to read the gauges in daylight as the curved acrylic protector reflects light. Meanwhile, mod cons include stop-start and keyless entry, but the keyless operation is restricted to the driver side only. While connectivity with features like Bluetooth is offered, the microphone placement seems to be an afterthought. In the earlier cars, the

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2014 Jaguar F-Type

Wind in the air experience Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina track played host to a track day experience with both V6 and V8 variants of the all-new 2014 Jaguar F-Type convertible. Automan returned genuinely impressed


nder India’s Tata Motors, Jaguar is doing exceptionally well in both profits and new model introductions. Launched in 2013, Jaguar’s new F-Type convertible has surpassed all the parameters and is now regarded as a top iconic model even by the harshest of critic. Such a change in perception towards the British brand would have been unthinkable a few years ago, especially during the times under Ford ownership. A few months after the global unveil of the model in Europe and other key markets, the Middle East office representing the brand organized a track day-cum-technical exposure/experience with some of its sedans and the F-Type convertible. The day long exercise with all the models were carried out at the Abu Dhabi-based Yas Marina Circuit under the supervision of Jaguar’s trainers/technical team who were specially flown in from UK. In the pit lane, the F-Types were lined up and even motionless appeared every bit as exciting as you’d expect a pure Jaguar sports car to look. With the thoroughly modern, beautifully detailed lines and

taut proportions and alluring beauty, they do ensure they have the desirability to live up to one of the most famous sports car bloodlines in the business. The F-Type range for the region starts with a pair of 3.0-litre supercharged V6 models – the 335bhp standard car and this 375bhp S – and is topped by the flagship 5.0-litre fire-breathing supercharged 488bhp V8 S. We were offered the opportunity to drive both V6 and V8 versions on and off track. The track drive was supervised with an instructor in the lead car and us following the pace car and instructions via 2-way walkie-talkies. However, in similarly organized events, we have noted that it becomes difficult to extract the extreme performance credentials out of the cars if the other drivers in the convoy/group are slower. Luckily, we had a fast paced group of experienced drivers and our instructors were confident enough to go that extra mile with us. The cars used in the exercises were all 100 per cent stock street cars. The first car I took on the track was the 5.0-litre supercharged V8. A big roar from the quad-tipped exhausts announced our

exit from the pits as we used the easy and quick paddle shifters to change up the gears. On track, the full potential of thundering V8 power [543hp] is easily unleashed on this F1 track within moments. A few fast paced laps on track and the V8 powered beast reveals its hidden agenda and lets you play with it hard. The V8 F-Type is a car that likes to be pushed without moaning. Acceleration from the V8 is astonishingly quick and the car’s high-performance tyres, as they warmed up kept up with the demands of supplying outstanding grip and handling. The car’s gearbox shifting is a masterpiece -- quick and ever so smooth – and the accompanying downshift blips were music to our ears. While we were lapping the car on the track and getting faster in the corners, its near flawless performance and handling qualities can be attributed to the way the car is constructed also besides the enthusiastic powertrain. The all-aluminium F-Type’s body offers outstanding torsional rigidity and resistance to flex. Engineers also firmed up the continuously adjusting Adaptive

Words: Chandan B Mallik | Photography: supplied

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Dynamics dampers and added stiffer springs for better handling. Then there’s the latest in sports car technology called torque vectoring by braking, which grips the inside discs in a turn and works with the second-generation electronic active differential [0-100 per cent lock-up in 0.2secs] to get through corners quicker. The second car we drove was the 3.0-litre supercharged 335hp V6. It felt like a different car on track. Not only it felt slow, its handling also appeared tamer. We think, it’s the way the chassis is set-up between the variants and the weight distribution. The V8’s adaptive damping tuning is set up to work in tandem with the model’s revised spring rates. Specifically, its springs are 4.3 per cent stiffer in front and 3.7 per cent in the rear and then you can go a step further in personalizing the settings through the My Dynamics setup on the screen in the centre of the dashboard.

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The F-Type has already got our thumbs up after we had put it through our comprehensive road test last year in Spain and were mighty impressed with how Jaguar has put together one heck of a sports car

And that’s not all. The F-Type has a near perfect 51:49 weight distribution front:rear on the V8 and to achieve the same weighty items like the battery and washer fluid reservoir were relocated to the boot. It’s a stiff car with 10 per cent quicker steering than any other Jaguar on offer. And this, we think is the key difference between the V6/V8 variants. Generally speaking for both cars, turn-in was smooth and quick, and while we [as appropriately advised] left the traction and stability control on for our drive on the big track but did manage to feel a little slip exiting corners especially in the V8. I personally loved the hydraulic steering which in my view is up there with the 911 in terms of driver engagement. Thanks to the generosity of our hosts, we were able to drive the cars top up and top down. Irrespective, the car’s bucket

type seats hug you so you stay in place when you corner hard. For a sports car, the seats are immensely comfortable with terrific bolstering. You can sit for hours in these, yet not sniff a hint of fatigue. Of course, the big part of the F-Type convertible experience is open top motoring, all it takes is 12secs and voila, you can get your authentic wind in your hair experience. The most enjoyable on-track activity with the cars was definitely hauling down the long straight on the back end. This is because here we could go all the way up to sixth gear before reaching the braking point markers on the track. Since, all ceramic discs on the F-Types are dyno tested and bedded before they are released to customers, we were rest assured about their performance capabilities. After the track

As you get acquainted with the Yas Marina track lap after lap, it turns out to be a fun mix of slow corners, fast ones and a straight long enough to blast the car full throttle. Compared with the V6, it’s music of the V8 playing in my ears and the circuit whizzing by in a fraction of a moment. If I said I had a blast with the cars that would certainly be an understatement

experience, we drove on periferal roads and here the two-stage stability control is rarely troubled, despite the punchy power delivery of the supercharged V6, one is encouraged to power out of corners with little drama. The dual nature of the car is at its finest out here. Verdict If Jaguar’s quest for a successor to the iconic E-type ended with the launch of the F-Type, there’s no reason not to believe so. The F-Type, one could say is that fine line that’s beginning to narrow the line between sports cars and supercars. It is truly a world-class 21stcentury sports car that more than lives up to its illustrious predecessors with its jaw dropping looks, modern cabin are matched by wonderfully engaging handling and a smooth powertrains. The F-Type makes you feel special every time you get behind the wheel, the hallmark of every great Jaguar. JUly 2014

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2014 Lincoln MKX

In the lap of luxury

Industry exclusive technologies, an engaging design and world-class craftsmanship ensures the Canadabuilt 2014 Lincoln MKX midsize luxury crossover remains at the top of its game. Automan checks out the car in the Sultanate Author: Chandan B Mallik | Photography: Elvis John Ferrao

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incoln as a brand is in the process of reinventing itself as a premium offering from Ford. Although the line-up is limited to a few models compared to some other brands, what will keep its head above water is the desire to produce good motor cars, irrespective of the segment in which it operates. However, there’s a word of caution. These days, a Volkswagen is praised for being Audi-like, but a Lincoln is usually decried for being too similar to a Ford. While, co-development and sharing engineering is common practice these days, giving individualistic character to a rebadged product will be the challenge that Lincoln will have to undertake. That things are moving forward in this direction have been evident at recent motor shows. At the Beijing motor show in April, Lincoln wowed the audience with its MKX Concept where it has attempted to present luxurious quality to a crossover’s typical two-box proportions. And with new or refreshed products, the differentiation between

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Ford and Lincoln is beginning to show up much clearer. While we are a couple of years away from an all-new MKX, as of the now the current MKX crossover SUV is closely related to the Ford Edge. The MKX is Lincoln’s fiveseat crossover vehicle and very much like the Edge, it was redesigned for the 2011 model year, and it continues unchanged confidently. In profile, the MKX echoing the Edge is understandable, but its detailing speaks of the brand’s design culture. So, there’s lots of chrome, signature twin-wing grille which is balanced out by a tall front end and large glass areas. Sheet metal wouldn’t be described as being too aggressive. Meanwhile, the fit and finish of sheet metal has definitely shows signs of improvement. The MKX is designed to indulge five adults in comfort and it hits that mark well with its packaging. The car’s cabin has real wood, metal and leather trim blend together nicely. Gentle details in the cabin include double stitching on the doors and softer armrests with upgraded materials. The cupholders come with ambient lighting, are found beneath the independent sliding leather-covered console lids, which also feature decorative stitching. A power tilt/telescoping steering column are among driver-friendly features, however, in extreme months in the region, the wood trim on the steering wheel can get uncomfortably hot and ditto for the chrome gearshifter knob. Meanwhile, the car’s large panaromic moon roof lends an air of space inside the wellappointed cabin. However, unlike bespoke specialists, the wood used may be the same, but they are not mirrored. Seats are leather bound and quite comfortable. Multiple power adjustments allow for ideal seating. The view is commanding and you sit almost as high as in a Land Cruiser. Hip points are good and so are leg, shoulder and headroom. For those among us who love in-car technology and gadgetry, there’s plenty of that to play with. While the

number of user functions has increased dramatically over the years, Lincoln has attempted to minimize the clutter in the cabin, particularly of what goes on the dashboard and central console in terms of functional requirements. In this car, it’s a collective noun called MyLincoln Touch. Similar to what is offered by Ford’s Microsoft Sync, in this car Lincoln SYNC® replaces traditional vehicle buttons, knobs and gauges with clear, crisp LCD screens and five-way buttons like those found on cell phones and MP3 players. The screens can be personalized to display information relevant to each individual driver using a simple button click, voice command or touch screen tap. The idea of keeping both analogue and digital systems working together is a sensible gesture. There is one area in which the MKX beats out smaller models like the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. Behind the seats there are 32.3 cubic feet of available cargo space and when you flip down the second row and capacity expands to 69 cubic feet, which is again a definite advantage over the German duo. Under the expanse of sheet metal this may come as a surprise to many in the business of crossover cars the MKX is one of the beneficiary models to get a performance V6 from a Mustang shoehorned into its engine bay. The 3.7-litre Duratec V6 engine employs advanced technology and clever control strategies like Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing (Ti-VCT) to increase horsepower and torque without compromising fuel economy. This set-up pumps out 305hp at 6,500rpm and 280lbsft of torque at 4,000rpm. Transmission used is six-speed automatic with manual Tiptronic shifting via paddle shifters on steering wheel. For a change, paddleshifters in this car are welcome behind the steering as opposed to having them on the gear-shifter as toggle switches as found in several Ford products. The springs, shocks and stabilizer bars also have been retuned to give the Lincoln MKX a flatter response through turns.

Meanwhile, safety scores have moderated a bit, but the MKX is still one of the safest vehicles in the class you can buy. The NHTSA gives it four stars overall and the IIHS calls it a Top Safety Pick. Stability control and curtain airbags are standard, as are blind-spot monitors, and rearview camera. Interestingly, the MKX also offers several new brake-related features usually found in SUVs like Hill Start Assist, which reduces rollback on hills and Trailer Sway Control, which provides greater towing stability when equipped with the available trailer tow package Driving Impressions After driving several mediocre cars in the past few weeks, it was a delight to get behind the wheel of the MKX. Although, the MKX was introduced in 2011, in its current format, one thing is immediately communicated is the fact that, despite being several years on the market, there is nothing that suggests that it has become outdated or failed to catch up with the competition or the newer cars. In normal ‘D’ mode, the car’s V6 is silky smooth and offers sharp acceleration. While one doesn’t expect a Mustang-like straight line drag experience, there’s enough torque available to keep the driver engaged for fun. In ‘S’ mode, the gears hold longer but there are no changes to the chassis or steering wheel feel or feedback. While, the car cruises very well, the six-speed transmission may appear to some as reluctant to downshift unless you nearly floor the throttle pedal – this arrangement we believe was done with fuel efficiency in mind and the car’s powertrain set-up therefore politely suggests the driver to optimize the way the car is driven. However, that didn’t dampen our enthusiasm to push engine revs into the 5,000rpm band and push the car for more. In SelectShift mode, we note that the transmission doesn’t second-guess the driver, giving him or her control over gear

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The interior of the Lincoln MKX reflects an even greater emphasis on what defines Lincoln DNA: luxury, craftsmanship, genuine materials and sharper execution

selection and performance feel. Upshifts, for instance, are not commanded at redline, and downshifts are allowed at the lowest gear possible as defined by the engine speed instead. For the size and weight of the car, the steering effort is decently weighted and feedback to the driver’s input is good. Electric power steering continues Ford’s track record for decent feedback and feel. While, the set-up of the all-wheel-drive car is more lifestyle than a rugged 4x4, the capabilities off-road are also well catered to as we experienced when we went on a trail. Acoustic damping is very impressive in this car. Both on and off-road, the ride quality is comfortable with no shakes or body rattles. The MKX is very quiet on the move and body roll is minimal, part in thanks to the 20in wheels which contributes to some added firmness. While leading the wide-ranging innovations like the all-new MyLincoln Touch driver connect technology is designed to make life a bit easier through functions like voice recognition and command, the extremely busy command switches on the steering wheel can be complicated to operate. Instead of such complexity, we would prefer the 64 | |

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warning and hill assist to be key elements in the future specification/package. For new users, the learning curve to master all the elements in MyLincoln can be steep, but with little practice can be simple and enjoyable. The system can be slow to respond and the touchscreen’s small black icons on a black background make it difficult to use on the move. The touch-sensitive volume control you slide your finger across is pretty much unusable [it’s really funny].

The interactive panel on the MKX demonstrates all the advantages of this touchsensitive technology in a beautiful, engaging package. Activated features display amber light. When turned off, signature Lincoln White lighting is displayed multifunctional aspects to be further features simplified and features like adaptive cruise control, lane departure

Verdict The 2014 Lincoln MKX in our view is a highly capable car with the right mix of luxury, technology and engineering. Although it got off to a shaky start when it first debuted, the Lincoln MKX which was thoroughly underrated has proved that it is now a pretty respectable choice in the luxury crossover SUV segment. The dramatic and fresh appeal of the Lincoln MKX comes across from its features and technologies bundle. In many ways, we think it has been underrated in the segment it operates. It has great potential in the luxury segment which is dominated by European or Japanese models.

ensure solid contact with asphalt The 2015 Diavel sports an LED headlamp to match its twin vertical LED strips at the rear. The front LED-fired indicators also use clear-lens units and are now a solid strip design, mounted vertically on the leading edge of the Diavel’s restyled radiator covers. In addition to enlarged intake ducts, which are made of brushed aluminium and anodized black, the new Diavel has thoroughly revised split-level instrumentation. On top, mounted to the bar risers, is an LCD display that conveys speed, rpm and the like. Below that, on the tank itself, is a new TFT (Thin Film Transistor) display that now includes a fuel gauge and a sidestand warning light, as well as the usual gear selection and riding mode readouts. When the bike is stationary, this TFT panel allows the rider to choose among the Diavel’s three modes, which remain the same for 2015: Sport (162 hp, “full-on” throttle response, minimal traction-control intervention), Touring (162 hp, smoother power delivery, more TC intervention) and Urban (100 hp, easier power delivery, more active TC). The new Diavel is dressed in stylish Dark Stealth livery, a black trellis frame and black wheels. The Diavel Carbon offers

2014 Ducati Diavel

the choice of traditional Ducati Red over Matte Carbon with red frame or the stunning new Star White over Matte Carbon with white frame, both with black, forged wheels by Marchesini, turned and milled to expose the natural aluminium. Both models will start to arrive in Ducati stores around the world from April 2014 onwards.

The new Diavel remains in a class of its own, unique, innovative and bold and a benchmark that continues to attract motorcyclists around the world


The 1,198cc Testastretta engine, still has 11 degrees of valve overlap and revised intake and exhaust ports

It was at the 84th Geneva International Motor Show in Switzerland, where Ducati took the wraps off the second-generation and new for 2015 Diavel sport cruiser model Author: Chandan B Mallik


ucati’s latest presentation of the second generation Diavel sports bike represents the company’s confidence in its ambitious business plan. Ducati had promised one completely new model [Monster 1200] and three ‘familyextension’ models: the 899 Panigale, the 1199 “Superleggera” and now the new Diavel. The incoming Diavel follows the company’s “Performance Redefined” philosophy and hence loaded with many significant engineering upgrades. The job

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begins at the heart – the engine, to be precise. For connoisseurs of technology, there’s the latest generation Testastretta dual spark engine which gets a new exhaust system helping it to generate an output of 162hp. The 1,198cc Testastretta engine, still has 11 degrees of valve overlap, but revised intake and exhaust ports, together with what Ducati calls a “radical adjustment” of the cam timing, has enabled the Bologna company to improve the torque curve at low rpm while remaining strong through a wider range.

Through revised mapping, peak output comes at 9,250rpm versus the outgoing 9,500rpm. At 205kg, while built to have a commanding presence, through lightweight construction, the new Diavel takes the rider/motorcycle relationship to another level in absolute comfort. The bike promises to be agile in typical Ducati style and handling will be aided with features like ABS, Ducati Traction Control and Ducati Riding Modes. A specially engineered fat 240 section rear tyre will JUly 2014

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More than just a design showpiece, the Land Discovery Vision Concept pragmatically looks at a new family of production Discovery/LR4 models Author: Chandan B Mallik


t the recently concluded in New York Auto Show, Land Rover revealed its Discovery Vision Concept SUV. Actually, the concept was revealed to a select audience on the USS Intrepid docked at Manhattan as part of a global unveil a day before the official public outing at the official venue. Even before the noise, smoke effects and cool blue lighting subsided, Land Rover officials announced that it would be re-launching its bedrock Discovery/LR4 SUV as a ‘family’ of vehicles in 2015. So, this is it, the clearest and tangible vision of Land Rover’s future family of Discovery/LR4 vehicles. This concept car not only previews dynamic new design language and an array of innovative

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versatility and capability features, but also showcases several interesting pioneering technologies from Jaguar Land Rover’s advanced research division. The concept has a familiar silhouette but the detailing is by far is majestic. The wraparound headlamps are powered by lasers, fog lamps are infrared, doors operated by an electric gesturerecognition system, a gesture-controlled tailgate and infotainment is operated by touchscreens on the steering wheel. Land Rover engineering is also said to be working on a panoramic suite of “smart glass” technology layered with sensors to give a 360-degree driving experience and a remote-control feature that allows you to manoeuvre a driverless car at short

distances. The concept car’s interior appeared spacious and versatile with a whole array of innovative features clearly aimed at multi-lifestyle versatility as seen in the highly reconfigurable seating arrangement. By folding the seats flat or sliding them forward or back, via the touchscreen menu, the vehicle can be converted from its standard sevenseat layout to a six-seat, five-seat or even a four-seat ‘limousine’ mode. Detachable, carry-away stroller-style luggage is seamlessly integrated into the vehicle doors, while accessories cleverly integrated into the seatbacks offer high levels of convenience to the passengers seated behind. JUly 2014

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With the Discovery poised to transition from a single model to a new family of vehicles which will redefine the leisure SUV category, the Discovery Vision Concept offers an exciting preview of Land Rover’s vision for the range, and the modern, premium design language of future models

In terms of versatility, there’s evidence of evolution of the Discovery’s tailgate which now incorporates a powered, single-piece design. It works in conjunction with a deployable rear sill step and a folding bench seat in the loading area. It even creates a flexible event platform with social seating for active lifestyles and on its own, the sill step can also be fitted with a bike/ski rack. The theme of versatility continues with the materials used in the interior. The cabin is finished in two innovative types of washable and water- and oil-repellent Foglizzo premium leather that can be cleaned in seconds. And then you also have real wood veneer on the floors and instrument panel with bespoke accessories lined in Harris Tweed help to get that homely feel. So, it’s not just all show and no-go? According to the presentation, advanced technologies are under development which will take SUV capability to the next level. This aspect points at a vision of next-generation Terrain Response system with more man-machine interface. Among them, the innovative Transparent Bonnet head-up display system stands out. This camera based system will offer the driver

an unimpeded view of the ground immediately ahead, greatly enhancing ability and confidence. Cameras fitted below the grille are paired with the HeadUp Display integrated into the windscreen. While traversing challenging terrain, the imagery can be projected onto the windscreen, so that it appears as if the vehicle’s bonnet is, in effect, transparent. Meanwhile, the infrared front fog-lamps also act as scanners and continuously scan the terrain being traversed and feedback

is rendered as a contour map on the high-definition instrument cluster display. This mapping can be paired with the All-Terrain Coach guidance system to chart out a path and assist the driver in navigating it. Lasers are also used by the next-generation Wade Aid sensory system to measure the depth of water even before the car enters it, and inform the driver of the feasibility of the intended wading manoeuvre. All-Terrain Progress Control enables semi-autonomous offroad driving at a steady speed across varying terrain.

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2014 Porsche Boxster GTS Cayman attuned to deliver ample torque with high power output at higher revs. This character has been deliberated programmed so that the cars deliver the spirited GTS promise -- high level of spontaneity, cultivated high-revving responsiveness up to the limit of 7,800 rpm and a harmonious power curve over the entire engine speed range. As a result the flat six-cylinder engine upgrades are based on the 3.4-litre engine from the Boxster S and Cayman S which deliver 15hp more power, thanks to optimised management of the combustion process by variable control of the intake camshaft (VarioCam Plus) mainly besides other measures. This means that the Boxster GTS now has an output of 330hp while the Cayman GTS delivers 340hp. Nominal torque has also been increased by

ten Newton metres and is available in the range from 4,500 rpm to 5,800 rpm for the Boxster GTS and from 4,750 rpm to 5,800 rpm for the Cayman GTS. This boost in performance drives the weight-to-power ratio of the Cayman GTS below the four kg/hp (3.95 kg/hp) barrier; the Boxster GTS is also close to this barrier with 4.08 kg/hp. As expected, both mid-engine sports cars are equipped with the Sport Chrono package as standard. And when used in conjunction with the optional Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) and active Sport Plus button, the Boxster GTS sprints from a standstill to 100 km/h in 4.7secs, and the Cayman GTS is one-tenth of a second faster. The GTS Boxster is the first roadster to top the 280 km/h mark, reaching a speed of 281 km/h. The sports coupé is even

faster at 285 km/h. Both engines confront to the Euro 6 standard, and by this measuring method they attain a combined fuel consumption value of 8.2 l/100 km with PDK (9.0 l/100 km with manual transmission). Complementing the hardware upgrades, the GTS models get a bit of tweaking in the cosmetic department, which Porsche thinks is quite necessary to differentiate between the stock and GTS editions. The most prominent formal difference is the entirely new front-end with modified spoiler lip.The new nose is responsible for the 30 mm longer body. Highlights of their individual and distinctive appearance include a unique front end with smoked bi-xenon headlights - with the Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS) as standard - a modified rear body apron, and exterior

With the launch of these new GTS variants models, Porsche is emphasising its tradition of building lively sports cars for both the race track and everyday use Summer is here and so are Porsche’s new 2014 Boxster GTS and Cayman GTS sportscars which are designed to thrill drivers on road and on track Author: Chandan B Mallik


orsche is pretty good when it comes to creating variants. For spirited drivers, the sports car maker is extending the GTS principle to mid-engine sports cars like the Boxster and Cayman with the idea of giving these two GTSbadged models a befitting chance to represent top class performance in their respective segments on road and on track. The GTS initials originate from the

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904 Carrera GTS, a race car dating back to 1963 that could also be registered for use on public roads. In the 1980s and 1990s, the 924 GTS and 928 GTS cultivated this principle. It was reintroduced in 2007 in the form of the Cayenne GTS and was later implemented in the 911 series and the Panamera as well. The GTS-badging essentially focuses on performance enhancements and both

current models of Cayman and Boxster are suitable for this transformation – thanks to the flexibility to allow power boosting the engines and an excellent chassis management via Porsche’s trademarked PASM [Porsche Active Suspension Management] system. In the new GTS models, Porsche takes two of its most powerful engines that are used in a production Boxster or

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2014 Porsche Cayman GTS

badges in silky gloss. Other elements signing off the GTS package include the 235/35 front tyres and 265/35 rear tyres on 20in Carrera S design wheels. And the standard sports exhaust delivers further emotional appeal. In terms of cabin accoutrements, it’s familiar Porsche territory. Both cars are offered with sports seats and leather interior as standard. Like in the other GTS models from Porsche, they are accentuated by Alcantara elements. Catching up with the bespoke options, Porsche offers two “GTS packages” with the contrasting colours Carmine Red and Rhodium Silver. All decorative seams and embroidery right up to the Porsche logo and the seams of the floor mats are implemented in the selected colour. Even the edges of the safety belts display this contrasting colour. The trim strips come with a carbon look. Essentially, all interior colours are available with all-leather upholstery. The characteristic GTS exterior colour Carmine Red is being offered for the first time on a Boxster/Cayman model. In the handling department, Porsche has given some extra kit for track day

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enthusiasts opting for the Sport Chrono package which comes with dynamic transmission mounts. The job of these mounts is to alter the chassis stiffness and damping according to the specific driving situation. With a hard setting of the mounts, for example, rear body roll is minimised when steering into a bend and in a quick series of corners. When the Sport Plus button is activated, the standard PASM chassis becomes stiffer and the sport exhaust system is dethrottled. An automatic throttle blip function is implemented when downshifting with the manual transmission. It matches engine revs to the lower gear even better during fast shifting, so that the driver can optimally use engine power or engine braking. If the sports car has the optional PDK, the driver can also use the Launch Control function for the best possible drive-off acceleration. This shortens the sprint from zero to 100 km/h by 0.2 s compared to normal mode. The Sport Plus button also activates the PDK “race course” shifting strategy. Last but not the least is another standard GTS component, the sport

exhaust system which as expected has been optimally tuned for the GTS. All GTS-badged Boxster and Caymans also benefit from Porsche Torque Vectoring system which is offered as an option. PTV actually is the next step helping to enhance the capabilities of the PASM suspension. PTV is intelligent interaction of the rear differential lock with selective braking interventions at individual wheels, which is a supplemental function of the Porsche Stability Management (PSM) system. Essentially, PTV improves the vehicle’s steering response, steering precision and agility by targeted brake interventions at the rear wheel located at the inside of a curve. The braking torque is activated as soon as the steering wheel is turned. The results: Increased performance in bends as soon as a turn is initiated. When the vehicle accelerates out of the bend, the rear differential lock significantly improves traction potential. The mechanical rear differential lock included in PTV has, as in the previous model, an asymmetrical locking action of 22 per cent in traction and 27 per cent under power.

The GTS lineage

Since the legendary 904 Carrera GTS of the 1960s, the letters ‘GTS’ have stood for ‘Gran Turismo Sport’ and a promise of outstanding levels of Porsche performance. With the new model, Porsche is extending the GTS principle to the Boxster. Like the Cayenne GTS and Panamera GTS already, this is a car that stands for superior driving dynamics in its segment. The combination of letters originates from the 904 Carrera GTS, a race car dating back to 1963 that could also be registered for use on public roads. In the 1980s and 1990s, the 924 GTS and 928 GTS cultivated this principle. It was reborn in 2007 in the form of the Cayenne GTS, and was subsequently applied to the ‘Type 997’ 911 and the Panamera.

At Porsche, GTS stands for Gran Turismo Sport and has promised outstanding Porsche performance ever since the legendary 904 Carrera GTS dating back to 1963

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The Canadian Grand Prix was by far the best Formula 1 race of the year, with five drivers dueling for podium positions in the closing laps at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal

Motorsports | F1

Although Rosberg won and Hamilton generated more headlines, special mention must be reserved for Jules Bianchi. The Marussia driver helped secure his team’s first F1 points Monaco race report

Nico Rosberg led the field from start to finish, comfortably dispatching of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton at the Monaco Grand Prix. Daniel Ricciardo came very close to passing the Englishman late in the Red Bull car, but once again, it was Mercedes who took spots one and two. Fernando Alonso was nearly invisible for much of the race, finishing fourth, while Nico Hulkenberg and his Force India held off the rest of the pack for fifth. Jules Bianchi finished ninth due to a five-second penalty, giving Team Marussia their very first points in Formula 1 history. Rosberg had a perfect start, keeping team-mate Hamilton at bay going into the

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first corner. Kimi Raikkonen left the grid the fastest of any driver, moving up to fourth past Ricciardo. Jenson Button bumped into Sergio Perez who went into the wall at Mirabeu, ending his race before it ever truly began. World champion Sebastian Vettel ran into mechanical problems early, dropping down the field over the course of three laps before his car got stuck in first gear. The German has suffered through a frustrating campaign so far, and an exit after eight laps here in Monaco won’t help his case. The two Mercedes cars immediately started separating from the rest of the pack, with Rosberg and Hamilton the only two drivers consistently hitting the 1 minute, 19.00 seconds

mark per lap. Rosberg seemed to be the stronger of the two, as Hamilton complained about the state of his rear-tyres over the radio on multiple occasions. Raikkonen ran into mechanical issues, dropping him all the way to 13th place as Ricciardo moved the closest to the Mercedes duo. Felipe Massa meanwhile moved up all the way to fifth, a remarkable feat considering his starting position in the middle of the grid. The drivers at the back continued to take risks in their attempts to overtake, something we don’t often see on the narrow streets of Monaco. Raikkonen nearly collided with Japan’s Kamui Kobayashi on one such occasion, the Finn desperate

to make up space on the top five. Alonso and Hulkenberg easily held on for spots four and five, respectively, with both drivers stuck in no-man’s land for much of the race. Rosberg’s lead on Hamilton started to decrease as the Englishman seemed to be getting the better of his teammate following their pit stops, and Hamilton’s better use of fuel consumption looked like it could play a large part in pit strategy as the race drew to a close. But with 13 laps still to go, he suddenly started losing ground fast. The pit crew figured something was wrong with the car, before Hamilton confirmed over the team’s radio he had dirt in his left eye and could no longer see from

it. Ricciardo set the fastest lap of the race until that point with 10 still to go, and thanks to Hamilton’s struggles, the Red Bull driver suddenly had a chance to finally break the hegemony of the Mercedes cars. Rosberg meanwhile seemed to be cruising to the win, leading Hamilton by six seconds with just 10 laps to go. . Hamilton kept locking up the tyres, and the Australian moved ever closer. Button moved into sixth with a pretty move on team-mate Kevin Magnussen with three laps to go, while Ricciardo and Hamilton got ready to lap the pair on the main straight. Raikkonen was forced into the pit late due to a bump following an ill-advised move on Magnussen, effectively ending his chances of cashing in on his great start. Ricciardo opened his assault on Hamilton but was hindered by traffic on multiple occasions, his Red Bull looking faster than one of the Mercedes cars for the first time all season. Hamilton would hold on to his second place, however, as Mercedes once again took the double.

Canada race report


n one of the most engrossing, dramatic and topsy-turvy races for years, Daniel Ricciardo was the unexpected winner of the Canadian GP and Lewis Hamilton the big loser as Nico Rosberg extended his championship lead over his Mercedes team-mate. It was the first Formula One victory for Daniel Ricciardo at Montreal. While Hamilton was forced to retire from the race due to brake failure, Rosberg rode his luck escaping a penalty for cutting a chicane as he held on to the lead of the grand prix from a fired-up Hamilton - to move over 20 points clear at the top of the summit. But this, in an utterly unexpected outcome that nobody could have predicted, was Ricciardo’s day - and F1’s as the sport served up two hours of riveting and controversial drama that ended in a heartstopping bang when Williams’ Felipe Massa, chasing down Sergio Perez for fourth place, crashed heavily into the Force India. Both drivers were later released from hospital after a check-up, but Perez has

been served with a grid penalty for next week’s Austrian GP. The immediate upshot on the track was Jenson Button being promoted to fourth place behind Sebastian Vettel after a late charge through the field and, more significantly, Ricciardo, the surprise package of the year, crossing the line for his first grand prix win behind the Safety Car - a conclusion utterly at odds with the chaotic bedlam that had just occurred. First there was the RosbergHamilton battle for the lead of the race after the Englishman recovered from being forced onto the grass at the first corner and the German’s fortunate escape from official rebuke after cutting the chicane. Then there was the anarchy of a mid-race loss of power for both Mercedes’ which suddenly brought half-a-dozen cars into play for victory as both Silver Arrows went into sharp reverse. Hamilton’s retirement was next on the breathless agenda, his Mercedes developing a chronic rear-brake failure, leaving Rosberg, still suffering a loss of power in his W05, buffered from the Red Bulls of Ricciardo and Vettel by the struggling Perez. There were just three laps still on the clock when Ricciardo finally found a way through, crawling around the Force India and its worn-out tyres at the first corner, and the youngster displaying the sort of Aussie grit that his Red Bull predecessor might recognise - immediately

set about prising the lead of the race out of Rosberg’s grasp, passing the German into the final chicane to the delight of the Montreal crowd. Has there ever been a more popular race winner than Ricciardo? It may be weeks before he stops smiling again. “I’m still a bit in shock, this is ridiculous,” he grinned on the podium. “I was struggling to pass Perez, but we got a run out of the last chicane and made a nice move into Turn One and set my sights on Nico. Then with a couple of laps to go I just found myself in the right spot to use DRS. It’s an amazing feeling right now, I feel really grateful for this.” Finally, at the seventh time of asking, Mercedes have been beaten in 2014. Not, however, that Rosberg will necessarily view the day as a defeat after claiming an extra 18 points over the luckless Hamilton. Twice this season the Englishman has been forced to retire due to a technical malfunction - a misfortune that Rosberg has yet to experience in 2014. It certainly didn’t work out for Hamilton as the 2008 World Champion forlornly parked up his W05 just moments after emerging from his second and final pit-stop ahead of Rosberg. All of a sudden, his World Championship deficit has assumed ominous proportions.

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24 Hours of Le Mans

Audi’s R18 e-tron quattros proved victors when it came to reliability vs speed in the 82nd running of Le Mans 24 Hours


arcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer along with and Lucas di Grassi, Marc Gené and Tom Kristensen – drivers of Audi R18 e-tron quattros held on to their nerves, overcame mechanical issues and drove their assigned cars to one-two Audi victory and also to its 13th title at the 24 Hours of Le Mans which concluded on June 15. It was the trio’s third victory in the world’s most famous endurance race. Their Audi No. 2 finished three laps ahead of Audi No. 1 driven by Lucas di Grassi, Marc Gene and defending champion Tom Kristensen. Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Nicolas Lapierre took third place at the wheel of Toyota No. 8, five laps off the pace. Pole-sitter Kazuki Nakajima’s Toyota No. 7 retired in the 15th hour while leading because of an electrical problem. Major misfortune was suffered by the squad of the third Audi R18 e-tron quattro with Filipe Albuquerque, Marco Bonanomi and Oliver Jarvis. Following a 78 | |

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strong early phase, car number ‘3’ during a safety car period in pouring rain, was hit in the rear at high speed by a GT Ferrari on the Hunaudières straight. The powertrain of the R18 was so heavily damaged in the incident that Marco Bonanomi was forced to retire after just an hour and a half. In its return to Le Mans after a 16-year absence in the top category, Porsche fell out of contention in the 22nd hour. Audi did not impress in qualifying with slower times than Toyota and Porsche, but it proved more reliable in a race defined by the teams’ ability to solve mechanical problems. Lotterer’s Audi No. 2 took the lead in the 22nd hour when Timo Bernhard’s Porsche No. 20 got stuck in the pits until the end of the race because of a drivetrain problem. The Porsche No. 20 finished 38th. In the penultimate hour, Neel Jani’s Porsche No. 14 went back to the garage while in fifth place to fix a gearbox issue. It managed to get back on the track in the last minutes to wind up 37th. Despite this disappointing performance, Porsche still remains the most

successful manufacturer at Le Mans with 16 titles. Porsche and Audi swapped the lead in the second half of the race. Treluyer’s Audi No. 2 took the lead from Nakajima in the 15th hour. Gene’s Audi No. 1 then hit the front in the 17th hour when the Audi No. 2 headed back to the garage to change a turbocharger. Kristensen’s Audi No. 1 was also hit by a turbocharger problem in the 21st hour and surrendered the top spot to Bernhard’s Porsche No. 20 in the 21st hour. Toyota was in contention in the first half of the race, swapping the lead with Porsche from the third to the fifth hour until an unscheduled pit stop by Brendon Hartley’s Porsche No. 20 allowed Stephane Sarrazin’s Toyota No. 7 to pull away. In the second hour, a sudden downpour caused the crash of two contenders. Nicolas Lapierre’s Toyota No. 8 and Marco Bonanomi’s Audi No. 3 were fighting for third place when a slippery track led the Toyota to lose traction and bounce off a barrier before clipping the Audi, which got also hit by Sam Bird’s Ferrari No. 81.

Aston Martin Racing won GTE Am at Le Mans to take its third class win in the 24 Hours since the team was formed in 2004


The accident brought the safety car out for about 40 minutes. Lapierre was able to drive his car back to the garage to have it repaired while Bonanomi was forced to retire. The Toyota No. 8 dealt with balance issues for the rest of the race. For Audi, the win marked the 13th victory in the ‘24 Heures,’ the eighth one with TDI Power and the third one with a hybrid race car. The team of Reinhold Joest celebrated its 15th success in the world’s most important endurance race. Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer, after 2011 and 2012, achieved their third Le Mans triumph.

ith 15 competitive GT cars in the fray, the all-Danish crewed car No. 95 AMR V8 Vantage GTE raced to victory in the GTE Am class at the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans. Kristian Poulsen took the chequered flag on behalf of the all-Danish crew line-up that included David Heinemeier Hansson and Nicki Thim. In a tough battle, car No. 95 AMR V8 Vantage GTE finished two laps ahead nearest rivals, the car No.88 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR, driven by Klaus Bachler at the finish. Third was the car No.61 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia with Luis PerezCompanc at the wheel. As well as the Pro Am class for professional and amateur drivers, AMR had fielded two cars in the GTE Pro class for full factory teams. After one-third distance and following some epic battles with the Corvettes and Ferraris, the 97 Vantage GTE of Darren Turner, Stefan Mucke and Bruno Senna led GTE Pro while the top two

spots were both held by AMR, GTE Pro as the eight-hour mark the car No.98 car of Paul dalla came whilst Giancarlo Fisichella Lana ahead of the eventual had moved up to second in the winning car No. 95, driven by car No.51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Thim. Italia. Early on in the race, the Turner had taken over from Corvette showed their pace former F1 driver Bruno Senna but the plan chosen by Aston whose three-hour stint had Martin was to stay close but put the Vantage into second. out of trouble and to use a At half-distance and after 161 triple stint strategy to jump trouble-free laps, the car No.97 them in Vantage the pits. Victory marked an emotional was nearly There return to Le Mans for AMR 12 90secs were few ahead of months after the three driver’s car No.74 scary compatriot and colleague, Allan Corvette moments too, when Simonsen, was killed. Team boss and car in the 18th David Richards had said earlier No.51 hour of in the week that Simonsen was Ferrari but the race, for much ‘with’ the team. a power of the steering preceding pipe came loose in car No.97. hours or so, there had been As the clock nearly reached nothing between all three. 11.00pm, Turner was less The GTE Pro class fight was than half a second behind the intense between AMR and leading Chevrolet Corvette Ferrari after the car No.74 C7.R of fellow Briton Richard Corvette spent time in the pits Westbrook on lap 71 before with an oil leak. The car No.51 passing him on the Mulsanne AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia Straight. He was still leading driven by Toni Vilander had

retaken the class lead from the car No.97 Vantage after Stefan Mucke had pitted for a regular stop. Mucke set about reclaiming top spot and passed the Ferrari, now with Giancarlo Fisichella at the wheel, on the Mulsanne Straight, while third place was taken by the car No.92 911 RSR of Porsche Team Manthey. However, the car No.97 car dropped to fourth following a series of events. Taking advantage of a ‘slow zone’ yellow flag, it pitted early, rejoining a minute behind the car No.51 Ferrari but then lost another minute behind a safety car. Mucke and then Senna both scrapped to keep the Aston in the lead but eventually a power steering problem brought their challenge to an end and they dropped to fourth before eventually finishing sixth in class. The lead in the GTE Am class was much healthier though with the car No.95 Vantage holding a three-lap advantage over the car No.88 Porsche. JUly 2014

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A changing Paradigm

If there’s one thing that Elon Musk has given us other than Paypal, Space-X and Tesla Motors, it’s this ability to look way outside the box. If you look at his latest idea it’s even crazier. He intends to put bunches of us in capsules that are shot around vacuum tubes. Well, across the continental USA at least. That’s high-speed transport in a completely different way. But wait a minute, I’ve heard of such ideas before, with the difference being that they were in the pages of science fiction novels. The Paradigm has shifted. Today, much of what we accepted as ordinary and expected in the writings of Arthur C Clarke or Isaac Asimov have become reality. Space-X itself is an example of this. Private funding of space vehicles is almost as atrocious as the concept of a space tourist. But then we will face a day in the next few decades where we will line up at Dubai spaceport for a flight to a private hotel at an altitude of a few hundred miles. Another indication of this new reality is Google’s latest offering (that curiously enough looks like a computer mouse). The new driverless car may just seem like an emasculated smart, what with the complete absence of steering wheel or driving controls of any sort. And what do you think will be the scenario in the future when driverless cars get commercialised? Don’t worry; we aren’t going to give up what is accepted as the norm today. It will take some time for that paradigm to change. Not because a horde of Google bugs on the road doesn’t make sense. It makes almost as much sense as driverless metro trains does. The difference is actually one of ownership and the joy of driving. How much joy do you get in your purchase and ownership of a washing machine. Admittedly, you no longer have do menial labour, but then you hardly keep it in your living room to show all your visitors. That’s just about the joy you are going to get from being transported around in a bug.

Raj Warrior is editor of Automan and has been in the thick of the Automotive journalism field from the past 15 years.

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But that does not mean that change won’t happen. What will happen at first is that Google is going to help invent all the laws that govern the use of driverless vehicles on public roads. Something will go wrong sometimes. And Google has surely factored in the millions that it will need to pay to the users who may end up as the pioneering sardines in a squished can. But a few years later we will be calling a Google rendered driverless car with the same ease with which we currently call taxis. The taxi business is already under a challenge in many western cities as Internet companies and privateering car owners muscle in with apps like Uber. Tomorrow we will just tell Google that we want to go to the office and a bug will be waiting outside your door. Does it sound far-fetched? It still does, but it’s only a matter of time before the change happens. Private ownership will still be a matter of pride; because that’s the way the majority of us are wired. We love the concept of being judged by our possessions – if that wasn’t the case you wouldn’t have luxury brands in the first case. Now hang on a minute – what if the regular consumer brands also jumped into this scenario? Do we have regular cars that are autonomous when we are too bored to drive? However, at the core of this impending change is the fact that the future hasn’t been written yet. Are we just going to become a race of docile commuters? Will the scene change so much that we commute in all three dimensions? Or will we be sitting at home and putting in our hours at the office by means of telepresence? The shift could be in any direction – we aren’t going to be able to predict it. The idea is to continue to enjoy our drives (yes, of all kinds) before a few pioneering entrepreneurs change the ambience permanently.

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Automan 155  

Automan issue of July 2014 (Issue no 155)

Automan 155  

Automan issue of July 2014 (Issue no 155)