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#56 | MAY 2018 | `150

TOYOTA YARIS CITY RIVAL DRIVEN GAZOO RACING YARIS HOT HATCH

RANGE ROVER SPORT SVR Loud, mad & hugely desirable

5 FIESTAENR DRIRVAV GILL'S

G A U RC 2 C A R! 2 0 18 W

DRIFT MODE Hell for leather in the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S

Jaguar F-Type SVR Nissan R34 GT-R Everything you wanted to know about Rallycross Mahindra Thar Wanderlust Kawasaki Vulcan S Can diesel hatchbacks be fun?


#56

Editorial Email evo.editorial@gtopublishing.com Website www.evoindia.com Project GTO Publishing No 5, Siddharth Terrace, Nagar Road, Pune - 411006, India Phone: +91-20-26684343 Editor Sirish Chandran Managing editor Selina Chandran Assistant editor Aninda Sardar Senior correspondents Jehan Adil Darukhanawala Abhishek Wairagade Senior web correspondent Chinmay Chaudhary Web correspondent Ganesh N Murthy Photo & video editor Gaurav S Thombre Senior photographer Rohit G Mane Film maker Alameen Merchant Editor-at-large Adil Jal Darukhanawala Contributing editors Byram Godrej Aniruddha A Rangnekar Columnists Bijoy Kumar Y Karun Chandhok Richard Meaden Richard Porter Ted Kravitz Senior art director Aslam Kabeer Image editor Jitendra Chillal

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IC OT Y

INDIAN CAR OF THE YEAR

Ed speak SIRISH CHANDRAN TAXES! MORE TAXES! I HOPE YOU’VE BOUGHT what you had your eye on because it’s going to get more expensive now that the dealers have exhausted old stock and the additional 5 per cent import duty on kits will kick in. Did you know that you’re paying as much as 210 per cent in tax on a car like the one starring on our cover? By charging twice as much as it would cost, say, in Dubai, is our government going to rake in more in tax? The people who can afford Ferraris can also afford homes in Dubai and they’ll just stop buying supercars in India, instead getting them on a Carnet from Dubai or wherever. I’m no economist but won’t reducing prices boost demand and lead to more tax collection here at home? CBUs have become so expensive it is absolutely mad. Today `1.1 crore buys you an Audi RS5 Coupe; ten years ago the R8 supercar cost the same. The new Rolls-Royce Phantom starts – starts! – at 9.5 crore rupees! Plus you pay 20 per cent registration tax (some states cap it at `20 lakh, some don’t) and then 3 per cent for insurance. Basically from landing at the port to being registered, the cost of a bigengined CBU goes up three and a half to four times! You might say bikers have it better after Trump took to Twitter resulting in an almost immediate cut in import duty on CBU bikes from 75 to 50 per cent. But if that was to help Harley-Davidson, fact of the matter is around 85 per cent of H-D’s Indian volume is CKD which, thanks to the aforementioned hike in import duty, has gotten more expensive. Triumph’s India head used his 280 characters to highlight that importing bikes via the FTA route from Thailand is now cheaper than assembling in India! Six years ago I went to work for Porsche, where the business case was written with customs duty at 60 per cent. In the next budget it went up to 75 per cent, and a year later 100 per cent. All put together the total tax was 164 per cent, which meant the carefully written business plan together with dealer viability went out of the window. Back then MNCs were talking about India becoming the next China. Today they laugh at the thought. Either we are too blinkered to see whatever big picture the bureaucrats have in mind or they are missing the woods for the trees. The bottom line, you’ve already paid the highest tax rate on whatever you’ve set aside for your car or bike. To then have to fork out even more because another tax has gone up just makes the blood boil. L @SirishChandran

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CONTENTS #56

F E AT UR E S

042

076

120

150

TOYOTA YA RIS

E 63 S AMG V PANAMER A TURBO

MOUNTA IN TR A IL

NISSAN R34 SKYLINE GT-R

Finally, Toyota is ready to challenge the Honda City

048 TOYOTA YA RIS GRMN This is anything but another boring hatchback

056 R A NGE ROV ER SPORT SV R

The result may not be what you think

084 GILL’S W RC FIES TA

Heading to the North East with a group of Tata Motors SUV owners

128 DIESEL H ATCHES A ND FUN

Guess what? We’ve already driven it!

Bit of an oxymoron, isn’t it?

100

PUNE TO DELHI IN THE HYUNDAI VERNA

R A LLYCROS S

136

Loud, mad, obnoxious. We love it

The next big thing in motorsport

066

114

144

MERCEDES-A MG E 63 S

Q5 V Q5

TH A R WA NDERLUS T

This super saloon is quicker than the AMG GT-R

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When two generations of the same SUV lock horns

evoIndia.com | May 2018

Cruising to the capital, in style

At the helm of Mahindra’s Auto Expo star

The last of the iconic Skylines still enjoys celebrity status as we discover from the wheel of a 276bhp stock car

160 K AWASA KI V ULCA N S

A Japanese naked street bike in American cruiser clothing. Seems like an interesting idea

164 CA LIFORNI A SUPERBIKE SCHOOL The editor goes back to school to get the quick turn sorted


CONTENTS #56

09 BR IEF ING

From Mahindra’s ambitious plans with Automobili Pininfarina to Toyota and Suzuki joining hands to the World Car of the Year, we’ve got it all covered

026

REGULARS

stories and cars they loved the most last month

032

106

172

GE T TING HIGH WITH THE DUSTER

E VO F L EE T

At Maharashtra’s highest windmill

F IR S T DR I V E S 032 FORD FREESTYLE 036 JAGUAR F-TYPE SVR 038 MAHINDRA XUV500 040 TATA NEXON AMT

158 BIK E S BR IEF ING

Bijoy Kumar, Karun Chandhok, Richard Meaden, Richard Porter, Ted Kravitz

084

Mandatory reading for all motorcycle lovers – the hottest news about all the new metal

EL I T E I20: SE T T ING A NE W BENCHM A R K

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031

The car that brought premium into the world of hatchbacks continues to push the envelope in its updated avatar

The track side report from one of the most challenging editions of the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm

C OL UMNS

L E T T ER S

Our readers write back about the

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NEWS The best resource online for the latest car, bike and motorsport news

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Updates on the most prized possessions in our fleet – The Maruti Suzuki Dzire, the Maruti Suzuki Ignis and the Ford Figo S

177 E S S EN T I A L S

Lambo speakers, Porsche shades, a bunch of MotoGP collectibles, and more. Essentials for the enthusiast

178 DR E A M DR I V E

A McLaren F1 on the legendary Isle of Man TT course

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NEW

METAL

WCOT Y

INTERVIEWS

NEWS

WATCHES

ELECTRIC HYPERCAR TO SPEARHEAD AUTOMOBILI PININFARINA Mahindra’s global a spirations take a ma ssive leap forward with the new all-elec tric supercar division bearing the legendary carroz zeria’s name

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ALK ABOUT BEING AMBITIOUS! Buoyed by impressive results in the all-electric Formula E championship, Mahindra Group has set its eyes on the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini and other iconic supercar manufacturers by establishing an all-electric supercar brand that leverages the incredible brand name of the iconic Italian design house. Pininfarina, the globallyacclaimed design house was responsible for some of the most beautiful Ferraris, was acquired by Tech Mahindra in 2005 but Automobili Pininfarina will be run as an independent manufacturer using the design and engineering services of Pininfarina so that the latter can continue to work on projects with other manufacturers. All manufacturing, engineering and design operations of Automobili Pininfarina will be carried out in Europe with offices in Turin and Munich and headed by former Audi India head Michael Perschke. Moreover, parent company Mahindra’s motorsport experience in Formula E

will influence the development of the forthcoming PF Zero hypercar, which promises jet fighter-like performance. Occupants attempting to match the claimed acceleration benchmarks will endure 3-4G of acceleration force as they launch from 0-100kmph in under 2 seconds; before hitting 200kmph in sub-12 seconds, outstripping an F16 fighter. However, the hypercar can’t go Mach 1 and will run into a limiter near 400kmph. Pininfarina expects to build around 90 examples, priced around 2 million Euros. “The market for hypercars is 3000-4000 cars over the last 4-5 years,” said Michael justifying the enormous price on the sidelines of the Rome ePrix where the announcement was made. “It’s a fairly recession proof segment. I think people in that segment will buy this kind of car not because they need them, but because they want them.” Sketches of the PF Zero reveal a dramatic shape and a concept of the forthcoming hypercar will be shown at the legendary

Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach in the USA. “Over 40 per cent of the cars auctioned at Pebble Beach have Pininfarina side badging. So I think it’s time to move to the front from the side and become a real Pininfarina brand,” said Michael echoing the sentiments of the grandson of Pininfarina’s founder. “This project helps me and my family to realise my grandfather’s dream of seeing


NEWS WORDS by SIRISH CHANDRAN

Following the PF Zero is a rumoured electric hyper-SUV to take on the likes of the Lamborghini Urus and Bentley Bentayga Above: (L-R) Michael Perschke, CEO Automobili Pininfarina, Anand Mahindra, Mahindra group chairman, Paolo Pininfarina, chairman, Pininfarina SpA and Pawan Goenka, MD, Mahindra & Mahindra at the announcement. Below right: First sketches of the PF Zero. Below left: Tech Mahindra continues to own and operate Pininfarina Spa which will work separately from Automobili Pininfarina

outstanding innovative cars solely branded Pininfarina on the roads,” said Paolo Pininfarina, chairman, Pininfarina SpA on the project. Pininfarina SpA will lead the design and engineering of the hypercar but Michael adds, “We will have technology partners across the globe, mainly in Europe who are cutting edge in battery systems, battery cooling, battery packing, battery management systems. We will collaborate with them and we think we don’t need to own everything. I think its most important that we have access to technology and integrate it in the fastest and most intelligent way.” “We need to add the tech component, level three autonomous drive, electric performance, user interface and we need to make sure that the customer gets the best of both worlds. The core position for us is sustainability, with the drive train but definitely will not end with it and our vision is to occupy that spot which I call sustainable luxury.” Sustainability is the key theme for the project with Anand Mahindra, chairman, Mahindra Group saying, “The Mahindra Group has bet big on electric vehicles. They are the future, and when power, beauty and

high end EV technology come together in one car — that will be the perfect luxury vehicle, that will give car lovers the freedom to roam without impacting the planet adversely.” It is safe to say that Mahindra Racing’s success in Formula E was the trigger for the entire project. Says Michael, “Anand [Mahindra, Group chairman] rightly said if there wouldn’t have been an Elon Musk and Formula E, we wouldn’t have talked about Automobili Pininfarina being electric. Mahindra Racing is a consultant for us who helps us on the whole EV pack,” he clarifies. “Energy density, battery cooling, battery management that’s where they have a lot of experience and they have a partner called Campos Racing [in Spain] which has a lot of experience about electrification.

So we will deploy resources and use Tech Mahindra as well and some other players who have best of great technology and best of competencies.” Automobili Pininfarina’s electric hypercar is barely two years away with Michael confirming a “late-2020” launch date. The gravepine has it that Rimac has been roped in to supply the electric drivetrain. The Croatian manufacturer’s Concept One is the fastest electric car in the world, made doubly famous when Richard Hammond pranged it on The Grand Tour. Following the PF Zero is a rumoured electric hyper-SUV to take on the likes of the Lamborghini Urus and Bentley Bentayga. Pushed about it Michael says, “no comment,” but his smile indicates this is already on the drawing board.

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NEWS WORDS by N GANESH MURTHY

A match made in heaven? You will soon be able to buy a Vitara Brezza from Toyota dealerships and a Corolla from Maruti Suzuki outlets. It’s the star t of even big ger collaborations from the two giants

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N A LANDMARK MOVE TWO Japanese auto giants, Toyota and Suzuki, have announced an agreement that will see both car makers share certain models in India. That effectively means that one of the world’s largest car makers will partner with India’s largest passenger car maker. This move will allow them to leverage their combined resources to cross sell each others’ products. Right now the collaboration will see Toyota take the ICOTY winning Vitara Brezza and Baleno, rebadge it and sell it through their dealerships. In

return Toyota will give the Corolla, rebadge it as a Maruti Suzuki and sell it through Nexa dealerships. The new models are expected to sport some revised styling as well. Toyota and Suzuki signed their MoUs for business development in February last year which focused on various areas like safety, environmental technology, information technology and the mutual supply of product and components. In November 2017, they took their partnership to the next level by agreeing to jointly produce electric vehicles for the Indian market. Both

companies will rely on localisation to keep costs to a minimum, while also supporting the government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. Under the skin, the Maruti and Toyota models are expected to be identical and will share engines and gearboxes. In time, the models are also expected to adopt some form of hybridisation in line with Suzuki and Toyota’s partnership in this area. The cross-badging concept hasn’t taken off in our country yet. So it would be interesting to see how the two companies overcome this potential hurdle.


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NEWS WORDS by SIRISH CHANDRAN

MRF & Gill headed for WRC 15 years in the APRC with nine championship titles Team MRF heads for the World Rally Championship with their star driver Gaurav Gill

I

t’s finally happening! Gaurav Gill is headed for the World Rally Championship – specifically the WRC 2 category – and fittingly it is with his longtime backers MRF Tyres. This means an end to MRF’s unbroken 15-year participation in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship that yielded nine championship titles – three of those bagged by Gaurav Gill. Gill and MRF will be swapping the Skoda Fabia R5 they’ve been running in the APRC for the M-Sport-prepared Ford Fiesta R5 for a four-round World Rally programme in 2018. The campaign will start with Sardinian Rally in the first weekend of June and will include Wales Rally GB and Australia. Gill will be going up against his old teammates in the WRC 2 – the front runners Jan Kopecky, Pontus Tidemand and hot-new-sensation Ole Christian Veiby – all partnered with Gill in the MRF-Skoda’s at the APRC. In fact Gill’s 2013 APRC title came against Esapekka Lappi who then went on

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to win the WRC2 title in 2016 and, last year, graduated to the Toyota Gazooo Racing WRC team. However Gill and his team are all too aware that results in the WRC will not come overnight and that’s why things are being kept at a very low-key level for now. The official announcement came via a cryptic one-line press release that said, “Team MRF having successfully won 9 APRC titles over the last many years is now foraying into World Rallying by participating in the WRC2 with Gaurav Gill at the wheel.” By keeping expectations in check both MRF and Gill want to avoid questions about wins and podiums – which are unlikely to come in the first season. What Gill is aiming for are the points, and on that front he has experience. Nine years ago, with the backing of Sidvin, Gill did compete in three rounds of the PWRC in a Subaru Impreza and in Portugal in 2009 he became the first (and, to date, only) Indian to score WRC points by

finishing seventh. That said MRF’s entry will not go unnoticed since their service bay will be in the same pits as the M-Sport WRC cars, right alongside world champion Sebastien Ogier – and that should give an incredible amount of visibility for the Indian driver running on Indian tyres. As MRF have proved over the past 15 years in the APRC, their tyres have the pace to keep up with the best in the world. Of course there will be further development of the MRF tyres to suit the nature of the Fiesta R5 and that holds true for Gill too – he will have to adapt his driving style to get the best out of the Fiesta. The Fabia R5 is a car that’s driven more from the front end whereas the Fiesta is more oversteery and is quicker when driven sideways. Gill will need to learn the behaviour and characteristics of the Ford – and how best to get a stage time out of it – before he heads out to Italy to mark a red letter day for Indian motorsport.


New AMG C 63 revealed Midlife facelif t results in new nine-speed auto and higher top speed

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HILE THE MERCEDES-AMG C 43 showed off its 2018 upgrades at the Geneva motor show in early March, its bigger brothers, the C 63 and C 63 S, had to wait until the New York show a few weeks later for their moment in the spotlight. The entry-point C 63 models – in coupe, saloon, estate and cabriolet forms – now have the same electronically controlled limited-slip differential that previously only came with the S specification cars, while both the non-S and S are the recipients of a new gearbox. Gone is the previous C 63’s seven-speed MCT auto, in its place Mercedes’ nine-speed transmission, as found in the C 43 and many more of the company’s models. It still features a pack of wet clutches rather than a torque converter, despite this more powerful integration, while it also promises faster gearchanges thanks to better-defined engine ignition control. There’s also a multiple downshift function – hold the left-hand shift paddle and the ’box shifts directly to the lowest possible gear. There’s no extra power for the 4-litre ‘hot-V’ twin-turbo V8 in either C 63 derivative, and 0-100kmph times remain

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the same: 4.0 and 3.9sec respectively for the non-S and S coupes, or add a tenth to each figure for the saloons, or two-tenths for the estates and cabriolets. However, the 503bhp S variants will now sail past their previous 250kmph top speed limit and go on to 288kmph if you opt for a coupe or saloon, or 290kmph for the estate and cab – these are the same maximums as the previous models when fitted with the optional AMG Drivers’ Package. The 469bhp non-S models are still limited to 250kmph. The C 63’s attitude can now be even further tailored to the driver’s style or whim with a new layer of driving modes. As well

Above: Flat-bottomed AMG wheel is new. Below: ‘Panamericana’ grille mimics that on the AMG GT R

as the six basic modes (Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Race and Individual), there are four further settings (Basic, Advanced, Pro and Master) that alter the throttle map, chassis settings and the ESP threshold. You can also now specify an ‘AMG Track Pace’ option on the non-S C 63s (it comes standard on the S), which adds software that allows you to record data when driving on a circuit. There are multiple tracks already programmed into the system but it can use the car’s GPS to log new ones. As with the revised C 43, the new 63s have a subtly different look, too. There are two new wheel designs, which have been wind-tunnel tested to optimise brake cooling and aerodynamic efficiency. The C 63s also get a ‘Panamericana’-style grille, as first seen on the AMG GT R supercar, complemented by slightly more aggressive bumpers. Inside, there’s a new flat-bottomed AMG steering wheel, while the TFT instrument cluster offers even more personalisation options than before. Merc hasn’t revealed the launch dates yet but expect it to make it to our shores soon after its European debut, which is due sometime later this year.

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World Charmers The XC60 ha s etched its name in automotive history a s the first Volvo to win the World Car Of The Year

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Top: Volvo’s XC60 is the best car in the world, as judged by the World Car jury. Above: Design of the Year belongs to the Velar. Is that really surprising?

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HE 14TH EDITION OF THE WORLD Car Awards at the New York International Auto Show last month turned out to be a watershed for Volvo. The new XC60 became the company’s first ever product to bag the prestigious World Car of the Year title by beating the other two world finalists - the Range Rover Velar and the Mazda CX-5. There were 34 entries this year, out of which 10 cars were shortlisted, which boiled down to three finalists.This year, the jury consisted of 82 experienced auto journalists from 24 countries, including our editor Sirish Chandran. With the 2018 WCOTY, the XC60 joins an elite group of previous winners that include the Jaguar F-Pace, Mazda MX-5, MercedesBenz C-Class and Audi A3. The XC60, which was declared the safest car of 2017 by Euro NCAP, has also won the North American Utility car of the Year award, early in 2018.

Håkan Samuelsson, the president and CEO of Volvo Cars, said, “I am pleased to see our company’s product investments paying off. We were up against some tough competition, but this award for the XC60 show that Volvo has the right combination of design, connectivity and safety that appeal to customers across the world.” Samuelsson is also the recipient of the inaugural World Car Person of the Year. Moving on to the World Car Design of the Year, the Range Rover Velar bagged the top honour in this category, which is not surprising, considering the massive sex appeal that comes with the SUV. It truly is the most stylish SUV that you can own right now that stays true to its roots. “We’re honoured that the jury recognised the tireless endeavours of our designers and engineers in delivering a vehicle with compelling design, tailored technology and relevant innovation which come together to


NEWS WORDS by N GANESH MURTHY

The XC60 joins an elite group of previous WCOTY winners over the years that include F-Pace, MX-5, C-Class and A3

Top: The XC60 is the first Volvo ever to bag the WCOTY. Centre: The whole world loves the styling of the Velar. Above: Audi’s new A8 is the World Luxury Car of the Year 2018. Left: Nissan Leaf is the 2018 World Green Car

create a vehicle of instant desirability”, said an elated Garry McGovern, the chief design officer for Land Rover. The World Performance Car of the Year title was awarded to the sixth generation BMW M5, which stood above the competition like Honda Civic Type R and the Lexus LC 500. The three cars were shortlisted from the initial entry of 11 cars. The BMW M5 is powered by a 4.4-litre V8 engine that belts out 592bhp and 750Nm of torque and it comes paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission that sends power to all four wheels. The car sprints to 100kmph in just 3.4 seconds, with a top whack of over 300kmph. Now that’s some serious performance to consider! The Audi A8 won the World Luxury Car of the Year, beating the two other cars from Porsche’s stable, the Panemera and Cayenne. Previous winners in this category include the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 7 Series and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The Volkswagen Polo won the World Urban Car of the Year title, knocking the Ford Fiesta and Suzuki Swift out of contention. The Nissan Leaf meanwhile took top honours as the World Green Car of the Year and is the first all-electric car to win it in this segment.The ‘World Green Car’ category was first created in 2016, to promote sustainable and environment friendly mobility to the world. The latest generation Leaf gets features from ‘Nissan Intelligent Mobility’ that includes ProPilot Assist, e-Pedal and automatic emergency braking. The World Car awards kicked off in January 2004, with an objective to ‘recognise and reward automotive excellence on an international scale’, complementing the national and regional car of the year programmes that are held around the globe.

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“We have a much stronger product than market leader” Anura g Mehrotra , mana ging direc tor, Ford India , talks about the new Freestyle, cost of ownership, the Mustang , elec trification and the par tnership with Mahindra

At the end of 2016 we crafted our Strategy 2.0 We want to be the most trusted automotive and mobility solutions brand in India. We believe the way to get there is to build a sustainable and profitable business. To do that, I need to get four things right - strong brand, right products, competitive cost and effective scale. Brand gives you the power in terms of revenue You can price for it or you can monetise it through volume. We have focused the brand on ensuring that our dealership experience is much better than where we have been in the past. The ‘Ford Guest Experience’ programme has been rolled out to 60 per cent of our stores, both for sales and service. From being the bottom quarter in JD Power rankings for the past 15-20 years, for the first time in our history, we are in the top three. We know from research that by the time we get to 2020, the number one reason to buy a product will not be the specification or price; it’s going to be the

service experience we are able to deliver. We are dispelling this myth of cost ownership If I ask you which brand comes to your mind in terms of maintenance and being the most cost effective, I can tell you that Ford can be 6-12 per cent cheaper than them. Scheduled serviced for the Freestyle are at least 24 per cent cheaper than our nearest competitor. The maintenance cost of a Ford today is less than `5,000 for a year even in the fifth year of service. Unlike other OEMs where you have twice a year of scheduled services, we have an interval of once a year. When the Figo was launched in 2010, we had only 200 sub assembly parts and today I have got 800. We worked on localisation. Earlier we used to launch products with 60-65 per cent of localisation, today we are at 85 per cent localisation and we are pushing the envelope further. We have opened a service store every two weeks over the last three years We are probably one of the few OEMs who have opened up parts distribution. If you as a customer don’t want to go to your dealer for service, you can go to your own trusted garage owner and just make sure he buys genuine parts from a retailer nearby. Through this network, we have reached close to 1,250 workshops. On parts.ford.com, you can go and buy parts, the fulfilment would be done by the dealer or the distributor, much like Flipkart or Amazon. I think it is important to ensure the easy accessibility of service and parts. We are driving higher levels of utilisation in the plant We are today the largest exporter in India, about 170,000-175,000, somewhere in that range. We export close to 200,000 engines. The passenger vehicle market in India has

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AMBITION AS TOLD to SIRISH CHANDRAN

By the time we get to 2020, the number one reason to buy a product will not be the specification or price grown at 6-7 percent in the first quarter of this year and Ford has grown at about 11-12 per cent, in the domestic market. If you combine exports, it will be closer to about 30 per cent. We are doing better volumes today than what we had aimed for But to be honest, I can tell you as a market leader or as a sales and marketing guy, I am never going to be happy with the numbers. I genuinely think that we have a much stronger product than the market leader and we need to do a better job of bringing out the strengths of our product more convincingly to the market. Mustang has done far more than what we had anticipated It is such an iconic product and we are privileged to get an opportunity to bring it to India. We started to think about getting the product when Michael Boneham was the CEO. We had planned for 100 cars a year. Today we are doing close to about 40 per month. From the time we have launched the Mustang in India, in 12 months, we would have done about 240 cars, which is far greater than what we had anticipated. We built programmes to deliver returns like any business would And those returns are getting delivered out of the programme. And the most humbling thing for me is that the India PD (product development) team is completely into these

programmes. Manish and team are doing a fantastic job on keeping the buzz in the market. Freestyle is a great example and more than 50 per cent of the work on this product has been done by the India PD team, which is very different from where we were a couple of years back. There is an opportunity for a product like the Freestyle Consumers globally are looking for UV body style, which is a clear trend. One out of four consumers are saying that ‘my next car will be a UV’. If you look at the premium compact segment, there is a gap in terms of price positioning. If you are able to bring a product, which gives the attributes, styling, design cues of a UV, and is priced competitively between the premium hatchbacks and the compact UVs, I genuinely believe there is a space for that. Bringing mature market products to emerging markets is not something that is successful If the cost structures of some of the European products are much higher than what Indian consumers are willing to pay, we will need to think of other ways to be able to service that need. If I want to bring

the Kugas and the Explorers of the world to India, the cost structure will not allow us to do it in a profitable manner. There needs to be clarity on policy Whether on infrastructure or battery swapping whatever. If as an OEM you are investing, you are investing for at least two cycles of the product, which is a ten year window. So today if I start to invest, I will be able to get the product only in 2022 and it has to live up to 2032. If we do not have clarity on policy, then it can really short change the ability of the OEM to deliver. We are very happy to see the progress the team is making on the discussions with Mahindra In a short span of six months, in September 2017 we signed the very broad MoU. The teams are working intensely and have sharpened the focus to start on with largely the product development side. We have seen one example of the mid-size SUV that we are looking at and exploring if there is a potential for a B-SUV with them. There is also the powertrain exchange between the two; there is a lot of synergy that is possible. Electrification is the other one and then we are also looking at connected vehicles.

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NEWS WORDS by ANINDA SARDAR

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OR DECADES, THE AVERAGE Indian motorist’s progress was significantly slower than his international counterpart’s. The government has finally rectified that by revising the speed limit on expressways to 120kmph. National highways and urban roads also see a uniform 20kmph increase in limits. As a result, you can now drive at 100kmph on national highways and at 70kmph on urban roads without breaking the law as opposed to the earlier 80kmph and 50kmph. These revisions, welcome though they are, however do not apply to specific sections of the road where limits have been prescribed by state agencies on account of the road passing through inhabited areas or through dangerous sections. Also,

Go faster on Indian roads T h e g o v e r n m e n t h a s f i n a l l y b r o u g h t I n d i a n r o a d s u p to s p e e d b y u n i f o r m l y r a i s i n g s p e e d l i m i t s b y 20 k m p h this revision of speed limits to 120kmph, 100kmph and 70kmph apply only to M1 category vehicles – passenger vehicles only. The blanket raising of speed limits by 20kmph now means that two-wheelers can now travel on expressways (wherever permitted) and national highways at upto 80kmph, while city speeds have been now been increased to 60kmph from the earlier 40kmph. Speed limits have been raised for commercial vehicles as well.

WAT CHE S: L E GE ND S

Clifton Club Indian Burt Munro Tribute 1967 piece Limited Edition

Tag Heuer Monaco Calibre 11 Gulf Special Edition - Steve McQueen

Richard Mille RM 70-01 Tourbillon Alain Prost edition

Price: 2.58 lakh * From: baume-et-mercier.com

Price: from `3.87 lakh From: chrono24.com

Price: `5.40 crore * From: richardmille.com

"You live more for five minutes going fast on a bike than other people do in all their life". Burt Munro's legendary runs completed 50 years last year and Baume & Mercier has gone ahead and brought this limited edition watch that gets a dial reminiscent of Bonneville Salt Flats along with his lucky number, 35. The seconds hands gets the Indian Motorcycle's 'I". Only 1967 watches will be made so get one right away!

Tag Heuer is well known for historical recreations and the same can be said about the Calibre 11 Gulf Special Edition, worn by Steve McQueen. The original Monaco was developed by Heuer in 1969 in the race to produce the world's first auto chronograph. The watch garnered attention as McQueen put it on his wrist in the 1971 flick, Le Mans. The chronograph is now a part of its flagship portfolio for more reasons that one.

Alain Prost was known for his technical prowess and the same can be said about the RM 70-01. Prost and Mille are good friends the watch is a collaboration between the two, developed specially for cyclists. It gets a pusher that enables the odometer rollers which track and display the distance. The watch is made of titanium and gets a 70 hour power reserve. Buy this or a 812 Superfast? Your choice.

* International prices, excluding Indian taxes and duties


NEWS WORDS by SIRISH CHANDRAN

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LAUNCHES WORDS by N GANESH MURTHY

AUDI RS5

New arrivals

While the first generation RS5 didn’t make it to our shores, Audi has ensured that it doesn’t repeat the mistake with the second gen. The latest RS5 takes inspiration from the Audi 90 quattro IMSA GTO. It gets lots of technical enhancements under the hood to make it RS badge worthy., The crank case is made out of lightweight aluminiumsilicon alloy and even the turbochargers are centrally positioned for better inlet. The 2.9-litre V6 twin-turbo petrol engine makes 444bhp and 600Nm of peak torque and comes mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. This sexy coupe can cracks the ton marker in a claimed 3.9 seconds, making it quicker than its closest rivals, the BMW M4 and Mercedes-AMG C 63 S.

RS5

MERCEDES-BENZ GLS GRAND EDITION

Variant

A s p o r t s c o u p e , t h r e e S U Vs a n d …w a i t f o r i t … a s e x y d r o p -to p S U V! A g l a m o r o u s m o n t h , w e s ay

In a bid to further enhance it burgeoning portfolio, Mercedes-Benz has launched the ‘Grand Edition’ of its flagship SUV. The special edition is available in both petrol and diesel powertrains, both costing the same. Changes include smoked LED headlights, illuminated running boards with rubber studs, 20-inch 10-spoke alloys painted in black, ‘Grand Edition’ badging on the sides and chrome fins on the bonnet. And on the inside, even the rear seat passengers are taken care of with twin 7-inch screens.

Price `1.1 cro re

Price ex-showro om

Variant

Price

G ran d Edition

`86.90 la k h

Prices ex-showro om

MAHINDRA XUV500

The ‘Cheetah’ inspired SUV has been revamped with subtle cosmetic changes, while the diesel engine has been given a bump of 15bhp. We have driven it already. Check out the story on pg. 38

The third generation made in India BMW X3 is finally out there for you to buy. Changes to the exterior include a rugged front end with a ‘three-dimensional’ kidney grille treatment. The X3 becomes the first SUV in the Bimmer range to come with fog lamps featuring a hexagonal design at the rear. The SUV has also lost 55kg compared to its predecessor due to incorporation of lighter materials and alsoeven the drag co-efficient is reduced to 0.29. It is also longer than the outgoing model by 50mm and sports a shorter front overhang. Under the bonnet is a 2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel that puts out 188bhp and 400Nm and comes paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission. It also gets features like gesture control and remote parking among others. Variant E xp edition Luxur y Line

Price

W5

`12. 32 la k h

W7

`13. 58 la k h

W9

`15. 23 la k h

W 11

`16.43 la k h

W 11 (O)

`16.68 la k h

W7 (A)

`14.78 la k h

W9 (A)

`16.43 la k h

W 11 (A)

`17.63 la k h

W 11 (A) (O)

`17.88 la k h

G (A)

`15.43 la k h

Prices ex-showro om , Mu m b ai

Price `49.99 lakh `56.70 lakh

Prices ex-showro om

CORRIGENDUM “Today we are selling minimum 25 per cent a month on that particular car, and it continues to have a stable pricing, no aggressiveness in this product”, said Steffen Kanpp, director Volkswagen passenger cars India in the April issue of evo India. The car he is referring to is the Polo GT TSI, not GTI as was incorrectly stated.

RANGE ROVER EVOQUE CONVERTIBLE

Variant

BMW X3 

The gorgeous Evoque has gone topless! Land Rover has made the already sexy Evoque even sexier by launching it in a 3-door convertible avatar with the option of a petrol engine only. The insulated roof folds down in just 18 seconds and can be operated at speeds upto 48kmph. Goodies on the inside include ambient lighting, perforated Windsor leather seats and a 10-inch touch screen infotainment system with voice recognition and navigation. It also gets roll-over protection system that deploys two aluminium bars vertically within 90 milliseconds, in case of a situation. Variant HSE Dy namic Price ex-showro om

Price `69. 53 la k h


ROB WILSON DRIVING MASTERCLASS

Braking technique

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AST MONTH WE LOOKED AT steering, specifically corner entry and the ‘soft introduction’ – the way we gently lead the car into the corner with a subtle input over the first five per cent of the turn: the first half of that at a quarter of the eventual effort, the second half at three-quarters effort. It’s all about transferring the weight – and the same applies to braking. If you apply the brakes in this manner the car will stop better, because it introduces the pads to the discs and puts

the weight through to the tread of the tyres in the most harmonised way. Think of it like this: give a glass of water a jab and it’ll spill, but give it a progressive nudge and it won’t. That’s the same as your relationship with the road’s surface – you can have a juddery relationship, but with a harmonised one the car is less likely to move around in the braking zone, and it’ll stop in a shorter distance. Remember that the rear brakes come in a fraction later than the fronts, so this way when the nose has only just started to dip, the rears are already working before the back of the car rises up in the air. You might be taking a fraction longer to get to maximum pressure, but because you’ve got the rears doing more work, the car stops sooner. At this point, although you may be staring death in the face under race conditions, you’ve got to separate the fear from the feeling. After a while you’ll get confident, and be able to tell from the very first part of the braking

‘Get the rear brakes doing more work and the car stops sooner’ area that you’re going to stop OK. It’s an analogue thing, but it’s easier to see the benefit than with the steering technique we talked about, because you either stop or you don’t. Rob tutors aspiring racing drivers and current professional racers

NEXT MONTH

VOLKSWAGEN GTI DAYS Driving the Up GTI, Golf GTI and Polo GTI One of which is coming to India!

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Ramblings BIJOY KUMAR Y

Armed with fresh GK about Iran, Bijoy is as excited as a schoolboy on a picnic as he completes a quarter of a century in the automotive industry

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LRIGHT I WANT TO TELL YOU A LOT OF stuff and I have just one page. To begin with I am all excited to pack my bags and hit the road. And it is going to be virgin territory for me – never been to Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia! I landed in Tehran once when the aircraft I was flying in developed an engine snag but otherwise all new territory for me indeed. So, I am busy googling cities that the India Russia Friendship Motor Rally 2018 will connect and boy, am I excited. So, what did I learn? Bandar Abbas has nothing to do with monkeys or a Swedish pop band from the eighties, Shiraz is not exactly wine country, Persepolis is not a board game, Lankaran has no relation to Ravana, Makhachkala is not a peanut snack, Astrakhan has nothing to do with Opels and Voronezh is not a character from Archies. Really, I am miffed at the fact that I know so little about this part of the world… but hey some 13 days to go and I will do some more intense googling. The rally has been organised for the Government of India by Kalinga Motor Sports Club with Mahindra Adventure supporting the event with 20 Scorpios. The first leg of the rally was successfully completed in India. For the second leg, the vehicles will reach Bandar Abbas, the port town in Iran, by ship and the rally will get flagged off on April 28. After going through the above mentioned cities and covering 5,483km, we will reach St. Petersburg. Unlike other Mahindra Adventure events, I am not really into organising stuff and I am sure it will have its share of surprises and adventure. And yes, don’t be surprised to see a familiar name or two in the list of participants! Talking of support events, by the time you read this another convoy made up of Mahindra Adventure vehicles would have conquered the upper Mustang valley in Nepal. This is the terrain oft mentioned in hushed tones by off-road enthusiasts. This expedition is planned and executed by Nidhi Tiwari of Women Beyond Boundaries with my friend and colleague Vinod Nookala in charge of the fleet of Scorpios and Thars. Expect more exotic drives from this association in the future! The point I am driving at is simple. If you have a wild idea and need vehicle support from a car maker, you can always reach out

to Mahindra Adventure with a proposal. We at Mahindra Adventure would evaluate your proposal and if we find merit in it would support you with vehicle(s) and as in the case of the Mustang expedition, provide you with service and spare part support too. What we are not entitled to do is offer monetary support to such events – so there, if you have a unique dream (random drive to Leh from your home town does not count) that requires a set of capable wheels, you know whom to reach out to. So, ladies and gentlemen, start dreaming. On a personal note, ‘Happy 25 years of working with cars’ to me! I know it sounds a bit contorted, but it was in 1993 that I landed in Mumbai looking for a job. The first seventeen years I wrote about cars before joining Mahindra and Mahindra to have some more fun with cars. Alright, SUVs if you insist. Yes, there were ups and downs but it has been a phenomenally fast quarter century alright. As it turned out, those 25 years were rather important for the Indian automotive industry too. Right time, right place? You bet! L

Bandar Abbas has nothing to do with monkeys or a Swedish pop band from the eighties

@bky911 Bijoy Kumar is the founding editor of BS Motoring magazine and now heads Mahindra Adventure

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Man in the know KARUN CHANDHOK

Karun reviews the first three races of the season

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HE 2018 F1 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP HAS already thrown up a few surprises! Three races into the season and we haven’t had a Mercedes win yet. All through the pre-season test sessions, Mercedes seemed to be a step ahead of the Ferraris and Red Bulls and sure enough, when we got to Melbourne, Lewis Hamilton was in devastating form. The reigning World Champion has lost none of his motivation and remains the championship favourite. However, it has become clear that Vettel and Ferrari are determined to win Ferrari’s first driver’s World Championship in 11 years. At the season opener in Australia, the Mercedes man was running away with the win, and it was Kimi Raikkonen who was proving to be his closest challenger rather than Vettel. After Lewis and Kimi pitted, a virtual safety car period allowed Vettel to pit without losing the lead. Mercedes misjudged the gap they needed over Vettel to win the race and that miscalculation was all Vettel needed to take the lead. From that moment on, he was in control, taking an unexpected win. A fortnight after Melbourne, we had an excellent Bahrain Grand Prix! This time Ferrari had the faster car with Vettel going on to win. So how did Ferrari turn a significant deficit in Australia, into an advantage in Bahrain? Tyres were the key. If we look further back to pre-season testing, the Barcelona circuit had been recently re-surfaced. Throw in the cooler conditions and we didn’t perhaps get as clear a picture on where the pecking order was. The tyre degradation was very low and the heat build up in the rear tyres wasn’t a major problem for the softer compounds over the qualifying simulations. The asphalt in Bahrain is very abrasive and with some reasonably long corners and track temperatures in the low 30s even at night, the tyres take quite a beating. It did seem that in hotter conditions last year, the Ferraris were better at managing the thermal degradation and I wonder if this trend seems to have continued into 2018. We only have a very small dataset of information at the moment so let’s wait and see. If that’s the case, Ferrari and the tifosi should be praying for a European heatwave this summer! Lewis had a grid penalty for a gearbox change, which left him down in 9th on the grid. Even so, it was Valtteri Bottas, recovering from a poor Aus GP, who was the closest challenger to the Ferraris. I believe that this was one of Vettel’s best wins. There’s a reason the guy is a four time World Champion. Ferrari started off the race aiming for a two stop strategy but as the race unfolded, Bottas

switched to the medium compound tyres, unlike Vettel on the Softs and it became clear that for Ferrari to win the race, Vettel would have to stretch an amazing 39 laps out on one set of softs. He judged it to perfection, balancing speed and battery usage from the hybrid power to win by less than one second. In Shanghai, the weather was all over the place. Throughout Friday and Saturday it was freezing cold. Hamilton looked devastating in the opening practice session but as the weekend developed, Ferrari got stronger. By the time we got to Qualifying Ferrari was utterly dominant and this surprised Lewis, Toto Wolff and even Ferrari! The margin of half a second is a huge one in F1. On Sunday the sun came out and it was game on! We had the Ferrari and Mercedes drivers on the soft compound tyres and the Red Bull’s on the ultra softs so there were certainly going to be some interesting strategies. Vettel took the lead at the start while Bottas swooped around Kimi Raikkonnen into turn one with Max Verstappen following him through. The two leaders looked to be in a class of their own with Verstappen hanging on and then Kimi, Lewis and Ricciardo struggling to match the pace of their teammates. Mercedes pitted Bottas first and Ferrari were too slow to react which allowed the Finn to leapfrog Vettel into the lead of the race. Bottas was driving beautifully and seemed to be in control of the Grand Prix. The two Toro Rosso cars got into a tangle and when the safety car was released, Red Bull were the fastest to react, bringing both their cars in for new tyres. This is where Mercedes and Lewis lost the race. Lewis was ahead of both Red Bulls and if his team had been as quick to call him in, then he would have emerged in front and probably won the Grand Prix. Max Verstappen was the man in the pound seat after the safety car but he made a mess of things by first running off track while trying an over-ambitious move on Lewis Hamilton and then clumsily drove into the side of Sebastian Vettel. This gave Daniel Ricciardo the mantle of being the man on the move and he didn’t fail to deliver. The Aussie underlined his reputation as the best overtaker in F1 by passing Kimi, Lewis, Vettel and then boldly past Bottas to take the lead. It’s been a fantastic opening three rounds of the 2018 F1 World Championship and as we head to Baku, we have the top five drivers within 24 points, which is less than one race victory. A topsy turvy, exciting and unpredictable season lies ahead which is exactly what the fans want! L

We have the top five drivers within 24 points, which is less than one race victory

@karunchandhok

Now a full-time F1 commentator, Karun Chandhok is India's second Formula 1 driver and the first to compete at Le Mans The views expressed are personal

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Outside Line RICHARD MEADEN

Mode buttons are all well and good, but only if they genuinely add to the Thrill of Driving

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F YOU’RE A REGULAR VISITOR TO THE pages of evo, you’ll be familiar with our Tolkienesque war of Digital versus Analogue. It’s been waged for years now, the once pre-eminent forces of feelsome good embattled by the creeping scourge of electronic evil. The most obvious manifestation of this digital dynamic revolution is in the various driving modes most even vaguely sporting cars now offer. We now have an unprecedented ability to tailor a car to our specific tastes. For once, I don’t have a downer on this particular area of progress, but I do ask myself how many of us actually make full and regular use of the technology. The answer is something we’ll have to crowd source, so feel free to share. Personally I find it depends on the car I’m driving. If I’m in an M BMW I’m forever fiddling with the steering, damping and powertrain and transmission settings. I can find a sweet combination for a certain stretch of road, but then it doesn’t feel quite right when the road changes, so back I go, toggling through the options to ramp something up, wind it back or dial it out. It’s fun for a while, but then I wish it would just work happily across a broad spectrum of conditions. In other cars, for example my recently departed Lexus RC F, I settled on a combination of settings and rarely touched the buttons again, save the odd prod of the DSC and e-diff buttons if I was feeling mischievous. Cars aren’t equipped with road tester’s pants, so they can’t use the seat of said undergarments to understand what’s going on. Instead, myriad sensors paint a binary picture of how hard the car is working. Pitch and yaw, steering angle, wheel speed, throttle position and countless others continually provide a stream of hifidelity information to create one big fully integrated dynamic matrix. So, instead of just working with the steering to affect how the car changes direction, engineers also play with the e-diff and torque vectoring to change the rate at which the car rotates into a corner. Brake steer is another example. It’s brain-achingly complex stuff to merge and refine so that the whole car responds seamlessly, and – when done well – massively impressive to experience the difference as the car’s responsiveness is ramped up with each dynamic mode. But what are we actually feeling as we toggle between settings?

Engineers refer to it as ‘experience function’, which sounds a bit dry, but is actually rather fascinating, for it’s as much about the psychology of the driver as it is the car’s dynamics. How so? Well, it stands to reason that when we push a button that engages a mode called Comfort or Sport or Backwards Through Hedge we want to feel like something has changed in the car. In the good old days, nascent iterations of these dynamic modes could be hilariously exaggerated. My neck still twinges at recalling the violence of Lamborghini’s Corsa mode, which basically mimicked the highly caffeinated and testosterone-fuelled gearshifts of an angry Italian boy racer. Not so much a dynamic mode as Self-Destruct Mode. The sneaky genius of today’s experience function is that for a short pre-determined period you get a marked step-change in the way the car feels. But it does so by over or undershooting to make Sport feel all angry and manly and Comfort all fluffy and cuddly. And then, having fooled the primitive organic component behind the steering wheel, it settles back to sensible levels. Very clever, but like some sleight-of-hand magic, it feels a bit disingenuous. Who does it best? Predictably, Porsche is very good at striking a balance and ensuring each rotation of the switch or push of a button not only delivers a tangible difference in ride or response, but a meaningful one that you can select and stick with. In recent years Aston Martin has introduced multi-mode dynamic settings, which has brought a new dimension to its cars. However, I would say Ferrari is consistently the best at offering a suite of distinct and finely judged settings. The cars are unbelievably sophisticated, yet not only do they manage to feel natural, but each mode very definitely alters the state of the car. And all via the deliciously tactile Manettino, for a bit of added theatre. I suspect there’s something of a paradox in experience function and dynamic modes in general. When the calibration of each dynamic mode genuinely expands the performance envelope it’s another tool for us to use. But if this complex calibration has been perfectly executed the chances are the car is brilliantly sorted anyway, so there’s little need to meddle. Conversely, ill-sorted cars that use dynamic modes and experience function as smokescreen are the ones you’re forever hunting that elusive sweet spot. I’d be intrigued to know what you think. L

Lamborghini’s Corsa mode mimicked the testosterone-fuelled shifts of an angry Italian boy racer

@DickieMeaden Richard is a contributing editor to evo and one of the magazine’s founding team

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The views expressed are personal


Sniff Petrol RICHARD PORTER

A crushing blow, maybe, but the truth is this Ferrari deserved to be put out of its misery

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HERE WAS A KERFUFFLE ON TWITTER recently. Of course there was. There’s always a kerfuffle somewhere on the internet. I don’t know if Tim Berners-Lee’s main intention for the web was to permit a sallow virgin in Idaho to have an argument with a professor from the Sorbonne, but that’s what’s happened anyway. Twitter is a particularly good place for kerfuffles, from the big stuff like Russian chemical attacks and Donald Trump, to the small stuff like Jaffa Cakes and Donald Trump’s hands. I like to stay out of the way of the bumpier kerfuffles by hiding in a little corner with the car nerds, cowering in our safe space where people are happy to laugh at Sebastian Vettel’s new haircut and debate the merits of the Triumph Acclaim. But recently a kerfuffle came visiting even here, all over a crushed Ferrari. You might have seen this story. In April 2017, a man had his 458 Spider seized by police for being uninsured and for showing up as a rebuilt write-off, having been involved in a severe smash and declared unfit to return to the road. A Category B insurance write-off can still be broken for parts, but the police, in one of those heavyhanded ‘make an example of you’ moves to which they’re prone, decided the entire thing should be destroyed. This happened last year, but it wasn’t until this March that a video of the Spider being brutally HIABed off a lorry was released online, and that’s when the kerfuffle kicked up. Twitter became ablaze with car people wailing and howling about the senseless waste of this Ferrari, and frankly I’ve never read such a load of hand-wringing, ill-considered twaddle. We’re car people, so of course we don’t like seeing a very nice, very accomplished and very desirable car being mangled by hydraulic claws. But also because we’re car people, we should understand some of the basics. First of all, the car was written off by the insurance company and categorised as never to return to the road. So it’s no wonder the cops yanked it, notwithstanding that it also wasn’t insured. This is a car that’s been so badly banged up that an insurance assessor has deemed it too expensive to mend and too

iffy to be made roadworthy again. The latter point also explains why the police couldn’t get cash back for taxpayers by auctioning it, and anyone suggesting such a thing wasn’t thinking hard enough. Other people took to Twitter to point out that Cat B means a car can be parted out and that this should have happened to the seized 458, their point being that if the car had to die then at least another should be able to live on and that it was a ‘waste’ not to use its guts for good. But if you’re a 458 Spider owner and your car gets pranged, how would you like it repaired? With brand new parts, or with second-hand bits off a dodgy Spider that’s already been heavily spannered and then unlawfully put back together? Amidst the kerfuffle it was also suggested that the seized 458 should at least donate its engine to something more interesting, but this is not 1974, and engine swaps are not straightforward. Modern cars are so beholden to multiplexing and multiple ECUs that forcing the engine of anything, never mind a high-born V8, to work in harmony with the drivetrain and electronics is a job that could drive even the finest auto electrician to bite into an HT lead. Can you imagine the hellish cat’s cradle of cabling that comes with the engine and robo-manual ’box from a Ferrari 458, and the amount of laptop time you’d need to make it do anything? It would be a non-starter, probably literally. The sorry truth is that, either as a complete unit or broken into its constituent parts, that contentious 458 Spider was so bound up with problems that it was all but worthless, and it’s a shame most car folk didn’t seem to realise that. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the anguished cries from social media, because no one likes to see a nice car get binned off. But this wasn’t a nice car. It was a broken wreck, lashed back together. And it was a 458 Spider. They made thousands of them. The world isn’t worse off for one less, it’s better off for having rooted out a wrong ’un. It’s very sad to watch a good-looking supercar get ripped to bits, but sometimes cars are like animals. Contra to the kerfuffle on the internet, the kindest thing is to put them to sleep. L

How would you like your 458 repaired? With brand new parts, or bits off a dodgy Spider that’s been spannered and then unlawfully put back together

@sniffpetrol

Richard is evo’s longest-serving columnist and the script editor on The Grand Tour The views expressed are personal

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F`1 Pundit TED KRAVITZ

Sports are courting the online generation, but youngsters would be far better off in the real world

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OTORSPORT AND MARKETING ARE uneasy bedfellows. The motorsport people think the marketers only exist in the paddock to see how much money they can milk out of the whole set-up, while the marketers think the motorsport people are clueless boffins so obsessed with set-ups they can’t see that it’s money that keeps the wheels turning. Of course, the truth lies somewhere in-between, but recently Formula 1’s marketing folk have tried the traditionalists’ patience a little too much with their latest obsession: eSports. eSports is a fancy marketing term for computer games. Children, teenagers and young adults, mostly male, playing racing games competitively, online, against like-minded people around the world. Until recently, this was just for fun. But with marketing has come money and now it’s big business: new technology brings more realistic graphics, and kids want the latest games and consoles. The money floods in. As it has become more popular, marketers have realised that some people will even pay to watch gamers. TV rights are now being sold so blokes at home can watch other blokes in a studio competing. This self-funding loop sums up everything that can be seen as being wrong with the whole concept of eSports – that it’s fundamentally unhealthy for young people to sit in front of screens for hours on end. It’s hard to tell what’s worse: parents who’ve let their kids spend so much time on their devices that the kids consider it a career, or the marketing people exploiting them for profit. Yet for the marketing folk it’s such an easy target, and for sports like F1, a straightforward boardroom discussion. Q: How do we make more money? A: Attract new consumers. Q: OK, our research shows young people aren’t into F1 as much as old people, so what do young people like doing? A: Playing computer games. Q: Bingo! How quickly can we get into computer games? It’s that simple. Rather than trusting that kids will come to your product when they’re older, like red wine, or the Daily Mail, sports like F1 are actively chasing younger viewers.

But there is one justification for motorsport marketers to jump on the eSports bandwagon, and that is because, unlike football, basketball or tank warfare, motor racing is the only sport where the gamer can replicate exactly what the driver does, minus the physical sensations. Simply plumb your PlayStation up to a steering wheel and pedals. And that has lent F1 gaming some legitimacy. Then there’s the issue of cost. If you play FIFA or a golf or basketball game, it’s also relatively cheap to buy the equipment and find a venue to practise the real thing. Motor racing is so expensive that eSports does have a valid role in teaching young drivers about racing lines and braking points. But gaming is far off producing the next Max Verstappen. F1 held an eSports championship recently that was won by Brendon Leigh, a lad who’d never been out of Britain. He’s clearly talented, but isn’t in the physical shape required for the actual thing. Interestingly, it’s the post-Ron Dennis McLaren team that has come closest. It started its own ‘world’s fastest gamer’ competition and came up with a novelty winner: a racing driver. Rudy van Buren started karting aged eight and won the Dutch Junior Championship in 2003. A contemporary of Nico Hülkenberg, Van Buren ran out of money and eventually found employment as a photocopier salesman. Thirteen years later, thanks to McLaren’s competition, he was able to show that he still had the racing lines, if not the credit lines, and was given a job as a simulator driver. Van Buren essentially drives a computer game all day – his hobby – while McLaren engineers change the game’s settings (wing levels, suspension settings, etc) for Rudy to advise if they make the car faster. McLaren’s approach makes more sense than simply holding a competition to see who’s the best gamer. Van Buren knows what driving quickly feels like in a game and in real life, and his work translates into real-world data the team can actually use. As a concept, though, eSports feels like a premature race to the future. Combustion-engined motorsport might not have too long to live. In a few decades the only racing youngsters will be able to do will be electric or virtual – so, pull their heads out of their devices and get them down to your local kart track.L

Unlike football, basketball or tank warfare, motor racing is the only sport where the gamer can replicate what the driver does

@tedkravitz Ted is the pitlane reporter for Sky Sports F1

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The views expressed are personal


I N BOX

Hot Hyundais! Korea makes sporty! Now that would have been a joke just a few years ago. Remember the earlier Verna or the very first Verna? I don’t think anybody minced words while slamming its woeful handling. And now look at the new Verna. I drove it recently and was not only pleasantly surprised but astonished by how good it is to drive. And that diesel engine really moves. I never considered myself a Hyundai guy but I liked it so much I have booked one for myself (just hoping that the Yaris doesn’t make me regret my decision). And then your story on the i30 N was most revealing. I know it does not make any business sense (a Hyundai at Mercedes-Benz price? No, no, India is not ready for that) and the i30 N won’t come to India but no harm dreaming, no? Suhas Kulkarni

Croatian love I love electric cars. Renault's glassbubble - the Twizzy - is unusual, but very likable. It triggered my love for cars that would drive up in front of your house, in pin-drop silence. The design was wacky; it had just two seats - and it was

so small, you could drive through a shopping mall without causing panic. Rimac's C Two is radical too, and I'm beginning to feel the same way about it, as I did with the Twizzy. To say it looks outlandish would be a lie, but I like the flow in design. It isn't trying too hard to be something we've seen before; it is what it is, and I've learnt to respect that. I'm shaken up a little after having read in your news report that they've accomplished a 0-100kph acceleration time of 1.85 seconds! The question is - is it going to be agonisingly fast, or will it truly mimic a GT's driving characteristics? I still cannot work my mind around how buyers will drive such fast cars without even a pop, crackle and a fart coming out of its exhausts - if it had any, that is. But I'm still very excited. If I had the money, I'd buy one as my everyday car, and put away that Rarri for the weekends. In fact, I'd love to see the Rimac as evo India's cover star, in a future issue. Rehan Conyers

evo.editorial@gtopublishing.com

@evoIndia

evo India, Project GTO Publishing, No 5, Siddharth Terrace, Nagar Road, Pune - 411006, India

LET TER OF THE MONTH

Staying tuned How come you never thought of focusing on tuner cars? It is so perfect with your positioning. What says The Thrill of Driving than fast cars tuned to go even faster? I think the highlight of your last issue were the two tuned cars, the TechArt Porsche and the Roush Mustang. Of course the former is something that I will have to dream about but the Mustang is a car that is not beyond the realm of affordability. Used Mustangs should be approaching 30 odd lakh rupees now, add in the supercharger for 10 lakhs, the body kit and suspension upgrades for another 5 lakh and now you’re talking. That you went through the effort of testing the car back to back with the stock Mustang is commendable but you did not mention whether the tyres on the tuned car are stock or have been upgraded. After all with more power you do need more grip, don’t you. And here’s a suggestion, that you do lap times comparison with the stock suspension and the KW suspension that you mentioned is going to go on the Mustang. That should be eye opening. Ravi Sathe The tuned car was running stock tyres, no upgrade on that. That’s why the 0-100kmph time wasn’t such a big jump because of all the wheelspin, the bigger jump was is in the 100-200kmph time where the drop in times were drastic. Thank you for the suggestion on lap times, it’s on the cards - Ed

Why no Force? I have a question, why isn’t the Gurkha selling? If the Thar is doing so well why isn’t the Gurkha despite it looking so much better and you also say that it is more capable. It seems Force Motors is more focussed on making engines for Mercedes-Benz and BMW and is happy to let the Gurkha chug along in small numbers. What a shame when the Gurkha still has so much potential. And they can also use the hyper Gurkha you featured as a hero vehicle. If Mahindra can do the Daybreak and Wanderlust and find customers for it, why can’t Force find a handful of customers for this crazy 4x4? It certainly looks out of this world, like nothing made by any manufacturer in India. What is Force Motors waiting for? Sandipan Shukla

Disclaimer: Views expressed in the letters are not evo India’s

The Letter of the Month wins a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses

ON OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL THIS MONTH We put together a mega ensemble of Swifts, starting from the first generation to the current sales topper. YouTubers had a lot to say about it: Shivang Sood: Was waiting for this video for a long time! Thanks Sirish and Team evo. Vipul Jain: Thanks for the nostalgia Sirish! I bought

a red Swift in 2005 and did more than 80k km in it in six years. There was never a dull moment . Rigraj Pathak: I am having first generation Swift VXi and believe me, it was the best hatch ever made in terms of performance. Even today when I drive it, it gives the same feeling and now I have booked the 2018 model, ZXi+!

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FORD FREESTYLE // JAGUAR F-TYPE SVR // MAHINDRA XUV500 // TATA NEXON HYPRDRIVE

Test location: Sambhar lake, Jaipur

Photography: Rohit G Mane

Ford Freestyle Based on the Figo and targeted at the i20 Active, Etios Cross, Avventura and even the WR-V, the Freestyle is Ford’s first cross-hatch for India

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F O R D F R E EST Y L E

H

ERE’S A STATISTIC THAT highlights the Indian obsession for SUVs – and the fact that neither can we afford nor do we want proper SUVs. While SUVs, like the rest of the market, are growing by single digits the Compact SUV segment is exploding and is expected to double in volume to 1 million units by 2022. Everybody, obviously, wants a piece of the pie but what do you do if you already have a Compact SUV? Here’s Ford’s answer. Compact Utility Vehicle That’s what CUV stands for, but let’s not confuse matters – the Freestyle is a crosshatch much in the same vein as the first-offthe-block-but-now-discontinued VW Cross

Polo. And it’s not virgin territory either with the Hyundai i20 Active, Toyota Etios Cross and even the Honda WR-V already doing business. The formula is simple. Take your regular hatchback, add taller springs for increased ground clearance, fill the wheel arch gap with plastic cladding, garnish the bumpers with something that looks like skid plates, tack on roof rails, paint the alloys black and, voila, you have the Freestyle. There’s no hiding the Figo origins on the Freestyle (unlike what Fiat did with the Avventura / Grande Punto or more recently Honda with the WR-V / Jazz) but neither is it too familiar like the Hyundai i20 / i20 Active. There are new headlamps and taillamps to go with the new bumpers and even the

bonnet is new. And the roof rails aren’t purely ornamental, it can take 50kg, so go ahead and throw on the cycle rack. Styling is of course a personal subject and I leave you to draw your own conclusions but as for me I quite like the execution, stance and overall handsomeness to the Freestyle. And unlike in the past, more than 50 per cent of the design and engineering work was done by Ford’s ever-expanding team in India under the leadership of Maneesh Tikekar. Mechanically identical? Underneath the skin this is a Figo but with one very, very big difference. The Freestyle debuts the 1.2-litre 3-cylinder version of Ford’s new Dragon engine that we’ve already seen

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in the recently revised EcoSport. Now before you let out a big groan at the thought of a measly 1.2 in something that masquerades as an SUV, check out the Dragon Ti-VCT’s figures – 94.7bhp and 120Nm. That’s a fair bit of power for a small capacity motor and with the Freestyle weighing not much more than the Figo it gives it sprightly performance. It revs hard and takes on a rorty exhaust note towards the upper end of the rev range – the latter is the gruffness of a typical 3-cylinder but what Ford have managed to do is make that sound sporty, which is a really neat trick. The 5-speed manual transmission is all-new and is claimed to be 15 per cent lighter and consumes 40 per cent less oil. To operate it is slick with nice short throws while the reduction in friction has led to an

Ford makes some of the most funto-drive cars in their respective segments

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improvement in fuel efficiency. The petrol has an ARAI-tested efficiency of 19kmpl but if you consider that to be inadequate then there’s the diesel with 24.4kmpl. That oil burner is the familiar 98.6bhp, 200Nm 1.5-litre unit and though we didn’t get to sample that on our first drive I can tell you from experience that it is one of the nicest diesel mills in the business and will suit the Freestyle really well. On to the driving Our test route took us from the airport in Jaipur to the Sambhar salt flats that accounts for 8 per cent of all of India’s salt. The twoand-a-half-hour drive took us over a mix of triple-carriageway highways and narrow bumpy village roads and it is on the latter that the Freestyle really came alive. Ford makes some of the most fun-todrive cars in their respective segments and the Freestyle is no different. Building on the Figo’s excellent base, the Freestyle gets taller springs to raise its ground clearance to 190mm (in comparison the EcoSport is at 200mm) while the offset on the 15-inch alloy wheels has gone up to increase the track width marginally (and give it a more proportional stance). This means it does not ride as well as the Figo and there is an underlying firmness that had our photographer Rohit complaining

Below: The 6.5 inch touchscreen infotainment system offers both Apple CarPlay as well as Android Auto and is easily one of the best in its segment

very quickly (exacerbated by the cabin that is not as spacious when compared to its rivals). But that’s the back seat passenger. Up front I had a big grin on my face. The Freestyle stays planted and stable over bumpy roads and truth be told, Rohit’s complaints were also down to me pushing the Freestyle harder than I would any other car in this segment. The well-sorted dynamics of the Ford give you that confidence to push it harder, carry more


F O R D F R E EST Y L E

Left: Indulges your cross-country rally fantasies! Below: The 1.2L Dragon petrol engine develops a meaty 94.7bhp. Centre: Traction control cannot be switched off completely. Bottom: New gearbox is slick in operation, claimed to be lighter and more efficient

speed through corners and generally enjoy the driving experience. There isn’t much body roll and though the steering is lacking in feel and a touch overly assisted, it isn’t lifeless either so you know exactly what the car is doing and how much to push it. An upside of the sorted dynamics is that the Freestyle feels like a safe car too. Adding to the safety are 6 airbags on the top-end Titanium trim, electronic stability control (that cannot be turned off completely) and the Sync 3 infotainment (with an excellent CarPlay

and Android Auto-compatible 6.5-inch touchscreen) also has emergency call assist. Verdict The price announcement and first deliveries of the Freestyle will happen at the end of April but going by recent form we expect Ford to be competitive. Plus the boss of Ford India assures me that the overall cost of ownership will be at least 6 to 7 per cent less than the best in class. Anurag Mehrotra also claims the per kilometre service cost, over 1,00,000km,

for the petrol is 41 paise while for the diesel it is 51 paise – going so far as to say that the annual service bill, even in the fifth year, will not be more than `6,000. Peace of mind, assured. The question then is not whether the Freestyle is a good car or not (it is good!) but whether Indians are ready to open their wallets for a cross-hatch, never mind it is branded as a Compact Utility Vehicle. L Sirish Chandran (@SirishChandran)

Specification Engine

Transmission

Power

Torque

Top speed

0-100kmph

Price

In-line, 3-cyl, 1194cc, petrol

5-speed manual

94.7bhp @ 6500rpm

120Nm @4250rpm

NA

NA

`6.8 lakh (estimated)

+ Fun to drive, surprising performance from the petrol, infotainment - Space, do Indians wants cross hatches?

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Test location: Gaydon, UK

Jaguar F-Type SVR More power, more noise and that rear wing

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I

F THERE WAS ONE CAR THAT didn’t need any more power it is the F-Type R. Granted it wasn’t over the grippiest of roads but my last outing with the Jag was also the last time I played around with the ESP of sports cars on a public road. Even in the half-way house setting, the way the tail slithered and wriggled was, first, hilarious and then ageenhancing especially after I caught an armful of lock exiting a greasy toll gate. So naturally the F-Type gets even more power, thanks to the SVR treatment. Compared to the R’s not-piffling 542bhp the SVR’s supercharged V8 is charged even more enthusiastically to put out 567bhp. And the exhaust – that my mum insisted had fallen off when I took her for a spin in the R – has become even louder. To call it shouty is to call Arnab Goswami reserved. The claimed ‘distinctive rumble’ is more like the proclamation of the end of days of men. Standing behind the barriers at Jaguar’s Gaydon test track, an old RAF runway that

was the base of a nuclear squadron during the Cold War, the F-Type SVR thunders past like a Vickers Valiant heading for Moscow. The thunder booming from the titanium and Inconel pipework exiting through four exhaust tips is loud, brash, rowdy and laugh-out-loud hilarious. And those pipes also shave 19 kilos over the R, while further weight savings come from magnesium seat frames that knock off 30 kilos of unwanted lard. All this power would have been unusable to be honest if not for one crucial upgrade to the powertrain – all-wheel drive. It means you floor the SVR and it goes without the yellow triangle blinding you with its flashing. 100kmph takes 3.5 seconds, which would be bloody quick except with that exhaust barking away it feels ferociously quick. It also looks ferocious what with that absurdly large wing bolted on to what, I personally think, is the prettiest bum on a sports car. Plus there’s that carbonfibre splitter on the front bumper and an enormous carbonfibre rear diffuser. Of course you


J AG UA R F -T Y P E SV R

All this power would have been unusable but for one crucial upgrade – all-wheel drive can delete the rear spoiler and retain the deployable spoiler though I cannot see why you’d buy a shouty SVR without the shouty wing. Who cares about subtlety? With a claimed top speed of 312kmph I’d also feel much happier having a big wing sticking out back, for the (perceived) aerodynamic benefits at big speeds. In reality though I did clock some big numbers on the Gaydon runway with the smaller-spoiler SVR and it didn’t feel nervous at all. The optional carbon ceramic brakes do work very well, as I discovered when a pheasant decided to take a stroll across the track. Suspension then and the revised springs and dampers were put to test on the various handling tracks at Gaydon (it’s an enormous facility, I can tell you that much!). And despite the instructor's best attempts, I have to tell you that the ride is stiff. In full Dynamic your cavity fillings are in danger of shaking loose. After one lap I stuck it in Comfort, thank you very much. The SVR doesn’t lack for speed, I can tell you that much. With AWD there’s none of that friskiness at the rear which made the R so memorable so you can stand on the throttle a wee bit before the apex without worrying about catching an armful of lock. Unlike new

AWD super-saloons like the BMW M5 and Merc-AMG E 63 S there is no drift mode though to stick it in RWD and bonfire the rear tyres. Neither does this AWD mimic the sensations of RWD and so you get more understeer and less playfulness on the throttle. You also have to throw it hard into corners to get the SVR to settle on its springs and then exploit the prodigious grip on offer. From a frisky cat the F-Type SVR has now become an angry lion that needs muscling round corners to get the most out of it. Ultimately the F-Type SVR is about mad straight-line performance, even madder carbonfibre addenda and an utterly insane exhaust note. And you won’t go white in the hair exiting tollbooths on a rainy day. L Sirish Chandran (@SirishChandran)

Facing page: Fixed rear wing looks incredibly dramatic. Above: All-wheel drive delivers massively more grip on corner exits. Right: Carbon brakes are optional

Specification Engine

Transmission Power

V8, 5000cc, Supercharged

8-speed auto

Torque

0-100kmph

Top speed

Weight Price

567bhp @6500rpm 700Nm @ 3500-5000rpm 3.5sec (claimed) 312kmph (claimed) 1720kg

+ Huge performance, rigid body, drama, noise - Unsettled handling on bumpy roads, AWD lacks playfulness

`2 crore(estimated, ex-showroom)

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Test location: Pune

Photography: Sachin Khot

Mahindra XUV500 The third generation XUV500 gets a power boost, plethora of cosmetic updates and new interior colour scheme

T

HE XUV500 WAS A WATERSHED for Mahindra. It was the first time that India's most well known SUV maker broke away from the tried and tested body on ladder construction and used a monocoque instead. That wasn't the only departure however. The XUV500 also marked Mahindra's attempt at making an SUV that would be contemporary in its design rather than being based on the boxy designs of all its other SUVs till then. The interiors were well appointed too and packed to the gills with features, including a mind boggling array of warning lamps on the instrumentation. There is no doubt that the XUV500 was the best SUV Mahindra had made, and it got the sales registers ringing too. It eventually came to a point where the company put out expensive full page ads in leading dailies requesting consumers not to book one. They couldn't make enough! That was then, in 2011. Come 2015, an updated version called the New Age XUV500 was launched with a new grille and S shaped guide lights. Three years on, today we have another

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cosmetically updated version. This time it's called the Plush XUV500. Where’s the Cheetah? One of the USPs of the XUV500 was the way it looked. Blingy. Which endeared it to the Indian consumer. Its Cheetah-inspired curvy shape especially was something new for Mahindra buyers and they lapped it up. It is also something Mahindra hasn't changed. Be it the old car with its aggressive jaw-like grille or the claw-like one with vertical chrome inserts along with S-shaped guide lights of the next facelift, or this new version with its single piece grille separated by a chrome bezel with chrome inserts in the upper half section. The guide lights now make way for LED DRLs on the top of the headlamp while there are completely new taillamps and a more prominent spoiler. Instead of the old car's 17-inchers, the new XUV500 rides on 18-inch 10-spoke diamond cut alloys shod with 235/60 profile rubber. Interiors Given that there are no changes to the

vehicle's dimensions, the space inside the cabin is unchanged as well but this one feels more premium than what we've seen in the previous XUVs. That is primarily thanks to the quilted seats, the tan and black interiors, the chrome centre console surround strips and the piano black finish on the dashboard. It also gets soft touch leather on the dashboard and door panels. On the equipment front, there is a lovely Arkamys sound system and the XUV500 also gets smart watch connectivity. Download the Mahindra Blue Sense app and you can control the audio system and climate control via the app. Everything here seems a bit more upmarket than we've seen in the old XUVs, except the buttons for the power windows. Those feel plasticky and are definitely an area in need of improvement. More power Besides all the cosmetic updates, the new Plush XUV500 also gets a bump in power. Thanks to a remapped ECU and the addition of an electrically actuated variable geometry


M A H I N D RA XU V 5 0 0

some bad roads and the XUV500 has to slow down a bit to absorb and isolate the shocks from passengers. Not quite the plush ride quality you'd expect in an SUV. Verdict Although the XUV500 itself was a departure from Mahindra's tried and tested formula, it would now appear that the company's strategy with this product continues to follow the established convention of milking the platform till the very last drop. So, there is no generation update to the XUV500. Instead this is the second facelift to an existing platform. Given that this strategy has always brought success for the company, they see no reason to mess with it and that's fair. So the new XUV500 continues with core Mahindra attributes like ruggedness, off-road ability and the long feature list that has become an XUV500 signature but combines it with better design and a more upmarket feel. The fact that this new avatar is also more powerful is a further selling point and at `16.68 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi for the W11 trim that we drove doesn't seem like a bad bargain. L Chinmay Chaudhary (@ChinmayC)

Above: 18-inch wheels lend the car a beefed up look. Left: Redesigned tail section. Below: The 2.2 mHawk engine now makes 155bhp and 360Nm of torque

turbo, the 2.2-litre mHawk diesel now develops 155bhp at 3750rpm and a peak torque of 360Nm at 1600-2800rpm over the 140bhp and 330Nm of the outgoing car. On the go, the new XUV500 does feel sprightly, which makes it a little more enjoyable to drive than before. Although we didn't get to sample it, the petrol engine continues unchanged. Does it drive well? The XUV500 was never a bad handler, for its size and bulk, and it continues with that wonderful attribute. The monocoque construction endows it with better dynamic capabilities than it would have, had it been a body on ladder construction. The suspension is firm too, aiding handling. Unfortunately, it takes a toll on ride quality. As long as the road surface is smooth, it's all good but show it

Specification Engine

Transmission

Power

Torque

0-100kmph

Top speed

Weight

Price

2179cc, 4-cyl, diesel

6-speed manual

155bhp @ 3750rpm

360Nm @ 1750-2800rpm

NA

NA

2510kg

`16.68 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)

+ Sprightly diesel engine, interiors, styling - Third row space, ride

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T

ATA’S NEW NEXON IS BRILLIANT. It not only walked away with the Design of the Year and Compact SUV of the Year awards at the 10th Times Auto Awards in partnership with evo India and Fast Bikes India but also ended up as top cat, bagging the prestigious Car of the Year title. But the story continues. The newsmaker For Tata Motors has now decided to offer #LevelNex convenience by adding an AMT to the Nexon. Moreover, you will get this convenience for both petrol and diesel variants (a first for a compact SUV) as long as you buy the top-of-the-line trim. Christened HyprDrive, Tata says it offers a lot more than just convenience. Most notably, a bunch of extras, like a Creep function, a Kickdown mode and what Tata Motors calls Fast-Off. Courtesy an intelligent transmission controller with a normal AMT. The HyprDrive experience Given how much we have already told you in the past about how much we liked the Nexon overall, we will get straight to the point. That AMT. On the move at city speeds, be it in the petrol car or the diesel one, shift shocks have been genuinely smoothened out. On the highway to Panchgani too, the shocks felt less than what we’ve experienced in other

Test location: Panchgani

Photography: Sachin S Khot

Tata Nexon HyprDrive Tata Motors says that its AMT-equipped Nexon offers a fair bit more than mere convenience. Does it? such AMT equipped vehicles. And that creep function? It really works. Something we found out when we got boxed in by a bunch of other cars at a traffic signal. We were particularly keen to experience the Kickdown and Fast-Off functions. So as soon as we got on to the highway and spotted a clutch of trucks, we went for it. Unlike in the other AMT equipped cars where the downshift happens after the throttle has been mashed to the floor, here the gear shifted almost as soon as we started accelerating aggressively. The moment we got past the trucks I lifted off. With Fast-Off the slowing down is more gradual, reducing jerks. It even keeps the passengers comfortable. The smart hill assist also works well, preventing the Nexon HyprDrive from rolling backwards on the Pasarni ghat when we had to stop and then get going again.

To buy, or not to buy Well, as you’d expect, the petrol feels smoother than the diesel because there’s less torque for the AMT to handle. That irritating head toss has definitely been reduced to some extent but not really eliminated, on either variant. That said, the USP of an AMT, irrespective of all the lovely additions by Tata Motors, remains the convenience it brings to the package. And out on the twisty crowded Pasarni ghat up to Panchgani, that’s what stood out most. Given market trends, expect the HyprDrive variants to be around fifty to sixty grand more expensive than their manual counterparts. Of course, you’ll only get this convenience if you pay for the most expensive trim. But even at that end of the Nexon spectrum we doubt you’ll feel shortchanged with this one. L Aninda Sardar (@anindasardar)

Specification Engine

Transmission

Power

Torque

Top speed

0-100kmph

Price

4-cyl, 1198cc, turbo-petrol

6-speed auto

108bhp @ 5000rpm

170Nm @ 1750-4000rpm

NA

NA

`9.40 lakh (estimated)

4-cyl, 1497cc, turbo-diesel

6-speed auto

108bhp @ 3750rpm

260Nm @ 1500-2750rpm

NA

NA

+ Space, ride quality, reduced shift shocks, extra features in AMT - Ergonomics

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`10.3 lakh (estimated)

evo rating ;;;22


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WO R D S b y S I R I S H C H A N D R A N P H O T O G R A P H Y b y RO H I T M A N E

COMPACT COROLLA Toyota finally has a rival to the Honda City. Can it stir the pot?

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TOYOTA YA R I S

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TOYOTA YA R I S

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER, THAT ALL BUT sums up the Toyota Yaris. The B+ segment has been a gaping hole in Toyota’s India line-up, a segment in which Honda has made hay for the longest time, and a gap that was hard to explain considering that Toyota hasn’t left the City unchallenged in South East Asia. Our Asian neighbours call it the Vios, in India it is called the Yaris, but the target is the same – Honda’s City and all the other rivals that have washed ashore over the past years. No boring cars, at least to look at We’ve been vocal, vehement and unrestrained in our criticism of bland Toyotas and they’ve taken all that to heart, addressing it most recognisably in the styling department. Today Toyota does not make a boring car to look at. Polarising for sure, but not boring. Same holds true for the Yaris that has a dramatic front end with the gaping grille flanked by slinky headlamps cutting a striking and, I have to say, quite attractive shape. Move to the flanks though and it’s obvious that this car is a mid-life facelift of what was once a rather boring car. The flanks are bland and unadorned while the 15-inch wheels together with the raised-forIndian-roads ride height make it look very undertyred. Things get much better at the rear with the slim and stretched-out taillamps with the LED lighting strip, but the Yaris is a car best viewed from up front.

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Reminds you of the Corolla I’m struggling to articulate what it is exactly that reminds me of the Altis but the Yaris definitely has the genes of its big brother, and most Toyota customers will be very happy with that. Step inside and the leather upholstery feels rather premium, as do the wide and accommodating seats and the piano-black inserts liberally scattered around the cabin. Slide back and lower the driver’s seat – electrically, a first in this segment – adjust the steering wheel to get comfortable and – shock! – you realise the steering does not telescope out to adjust for reach. That used to be the case with the Honda City, not anymore. The centre armrest does not slide ahead so you cannot rest your elbow on it, which is a good thing because the cabin is narrow and driver and passenger are guaranteed to get into arguments if both want to rest their elbows.

The narrowness is more pronounced at the rear where three abreast is a definite squeeze. I’m five foot nine inches and I had half an inch of headroom to spare while ingress and egress meant ducking a bit to avoid hitting my head on the door aperture. And the knee room is just about enough – a bit more than the Verna, not as spacious as the City, Ciaz, Rapid et al. On the upside there’s a blower mounted on the roof that works really well in directing cool air to the rear seat occupants. The unit is only a blower, doesn’t have a condenser like the Innova, but for the Yaris’s cabin it works very well, much better than floormounted vents like its rivals. The incline of the rear seat is also perfectly judged, as is the hip-point, and I was perfectly happy sitting in the back for the first hour of our drive. I must also add that the top-end variants get acoustic and vibration control glass that www.

Facing page: Cabin feels plush while infotainment gets gesture control though only one USB slot

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TOYOTA Yaris Engine 1496cc, 4-cyl, in-line, petrol Transmission 7-speed CVT-i Power 105.5bhp @ 6000rpm Torque 140Nm @ 4200rpm Weight 1120kg/ 1135kg (for CVT-i) 0-100kmph NA Top speed NA Price `13.5 lakh (estimated, ex-showroom Delhi)

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results in a very silent cabin while cutting down UV rays into the cabin by 50 per cent, leading to a more agreeable environment, less load on the air-con in Indian weather and better fuel efficiency. Seven airbags, even on the base variant You don’t get alloy wheels or rear disc brakes on the base variant but you get seven airbags and in my book – as it should be in yours too – that’s a big plus point. In addition the top-of-the-line variant gets Vehicle Stability Control along with ABS and EBD and a tyre pressure monitoring system. On the equipment front you get a feature-laden touchscreen infotainment system that also gets gesture control. However, in a weirdly Japanese way, you have to hold your palm in front of the sensor for a few seconds for it to recognise your hand, beep an acknowledgement and then you swipe sideways to change audio stations. And unlike BMW that requires a perfectly natural finger-twirling gesture to adjust volume here you raise or lower your palm, which I found difficult to get used to. The system also looks like a (high-end) after-market stereo and, in this day and age when your mobile phone is the first thing to get plugged in, the only USB slot in the car is behind a flap on the stereo, a flap that will dangle inelegantly till such time as it inevitably will fall off. And for those

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who demand and throw good money at a sunroof (why!?) I must tell you the Yaris doesn’t offer one. Petrol and only petrol Nothing to get alarmed here. 70 per cent of City sales are still petrol while even the Verna has around 50 per cent off-take for the petrol. And in any case Toyota doesn’t have a suitable diesel engine that they can throw into the Yaris, sensibly resisting the temptation to plonk the Corolla’s underpowered 1.4 mill in. So the only engine you get on the Yaris is the 1.5-litre petrol that makes 105.6bhp and 140Nm mated to a 6-speed manual. On the plus side you get the option of a 7-speed CVT, right from the base version, and it has excellent fuel efficiency at a claimed 17.8kmpl (17.1kmpl for the manual). And even though the Yaris is a lightweight at 1135kg, with just north of 100bhp performance isn’t sprightly. The CVT has that typical rubber-band effect where, under hard acceleration, the revs drone away at around 6000rpm as the car picks up speed. Using the paddles does reduce this to an extent but there’s no hiding it completely. And to add to that the initial acceleration on the CVT is surprisingly leisurely. There isn’t any urgency and on uphill starts it takes a very long time to pick up the pace. Good thing it has hill hold assist.


Facing page: While the front end styling is dramatic, the profile is rather bland. 15-inch wheels make it look undertyred. Right: Roof-mounted blower, a segment first and works very well. Below: The trip computer will even tell you how efficiently you've been driving

Nandi Hills Motorsport folk will remember the iconic hill climb that used to carve up the 30-odd corners to Tipu Sultan’s fort at the top of the hill. The hill climb has long being abandoned and today Nandi Hills is crawling with brides and grooms to be. Seriously! On the way up we saw no less that 20 pre-wedding shoots being done, all of them giving us dirty looks for shattering the calm with our squealing tyres. The Yaris though wasn’t built for the Nandi Hill Climb. Body roll is generous and the steering is lifeless. The front-end grip, in fact overall grip levels, are compromised by tyres chosen for ride and fuel efficiency. And Vehicle Stability Control cannot be switched off so if you get a little enthusiastic the electronics get alarmed and cuts power while throwing the anchors to slow you down mid corner. On the subject of anchors the CVT doesn’t deliver any engine braking so down Nandi Hills I really had to stand on the stoppers. And I can report that the disc brakes on all four corners gives the Yaris very good retardation with very little brake fade. A chill pill While the Yaris doesn’t like being hustled it feels perfectly at home driven at eight-tenths. Let me explain. Descend the Nandi Hills and it is a 40km drive on typically narrow and broken country roads before we get to the excellent Bangalore – Hyderabad highway. We are four-up in the Yaris, with some luggage, and we’re running behind schedule so the gear lever is in Sport mode, my foot is hard on the gas, and my fingers are on the paddles to cut out the rubber-band effect.

TODAY TOYOTA DOES NOT MAKE A BORING CAR TO LOOK AT. POLARISING FOR SURE, BUT NOT BORING Turns out the Yaris is quite adept at hustling down these roads at a fair clip. Sure the engine needs to be worked hard to get up to speed but the chassis and suspension do an excellent job of keeping the body flat and planted over bumpy roads. The ride quality and bump absorption is very good as are the NVH levels with nary a shock or nasty jolt creeping into the cabin. We even flew over a few unmarked speedbreakers and none of my passengers whacked me on the head. And, I remind you, there were four fully-grown journos in the car – despite which the suspension did not bottom out and the car didn’t weave or wallow. Even the steering, lifeless as it is, didn’t feel overtly assisted or flighty. Out on the open highway the Yaris feels stable and planted without getting buffeted by crosswinds. And the refinement remains very good with minimal wind and tyre noise seeping into the cabin. Don’t expect any undercutting I could be wrong but, going by precedent, Toyota are unlikely to undercut the City and Verna on pricing. And with Honda steadily increasing prices of the City you are looking at `13.5 lakh for the fully loaded Yaris. Then again you are getting the Toyota promise of quality, reliability and longevity – three things that have made for a legion of fans who, eyes closed, will happily stump up for another Toyota to compliment the Innova or Fortuner in their garage. That the Yaris feels like a baby Corolla Altis is no bad thing either and, though by no stretch a sporty car, it really delivers on comfort, refinement and a generally relaxed ambience. The City now has yet another rival to worry about, no question about it. L www.

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WO R D S b y A DA M T OW L E R P H O T O G R A P H Y b y A S T O N PA R RO T T

THE OTHER YA R I S While the Indian Yaris is soft and comfy with a big boot, in Europe the Yaris nameplate is headlined by an absolutely mental 209bhp supercharged supermini

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Fun and games start with this, the Yaris GRMN. It takes inspiration from the Yaris WRC programme run by Tommi Makinen

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TOYOTA YA R I S G R M N

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FTER DECADES OF MAKING automotive white goods Toyota have finally put performance back on their agenda and the fun and games start with this, the Yaris GRMN. It takes inspiration from the Yaris WRC programme run by Tommi Makinen out of Finland with an all-Finn driver line-up and that explains why all 400 Yaris GRMNs sold out in 72 hours. With the benefit of hindsight, I think Toyota believes it could easily have sold double that number or more. But perhaps most importantly, the engineering team insists the Yaris GRMN isn’t a ‘numbers car’ but one that involves the driver and rewards commitment. The engineers mean ‘numbers’ in terms of power and in the Ring lap time sense, of course, but I’m going to expand that to include the sale price as well; too often these days cars are discussed in simplistic numerical terms rather in the more esoteric way of how they make you feel. Ironically, the GRMN does have some rather appealing numbers attached to it. For a start, its peak power output of 209bhp is more than competitive in the class, while Project Manager Stijn Peeters and his small team are very proud of the fact that their car weighs just 1135kg, complete with driver and fluids. We drove the Yaris GRMN last summer in ‘prototype’ form. As it turns out, that drive was of a car very close to its final homologation set-up, and the changes made since are described as ‘details’ and ‘calibration’. This is the car that kicks off the Gazoo Racing performance sub-brand in Europe, which is quite a responsibility in itself given the size of Toyota and the depth of its newfound sporting ambitions. As a ‘Gazoo Racing Meisters of the Nürburgring’ model, it is pitched as

the most extreme variant in what will inevitably be a pyramid of sporting machines, and a doctrine applied to various model ranges within the company. Just to recap, the Yaris GRMN is powered by the 1.8-litre supercharged ‘2ZR’ engine also found in the current Lotus Elise. This fact alone makes the car something of a curiosity, for while it’s obviously a forced induction engine, its character is much nearer that of a normally aspirated unit than the small displacement turbocharged engines that have become the class norm. You can get an idea of this from its relatively low 251Nm torque output, noteworthy for not peaking until 4800rpm, which suggests plenty of revs will be required to extract the maximum from the car. Then again, a redline of 7000rpm also hints that this won’t be an unappealing task. The engine is hooked up to a six-speed manual transmission that’s been strengthened and, crucially, has ratios chosen to maximise the potential of the engine, not simply to maximise its performance in an EU CO² test. Packaging the engine in the ageing Yaris platform has been a considerable task, because with a short two-year development timeframe and far from an unlimited budget, any fundamental changes to the base car were clearly out of the question. Toyota’s neat solution is to package the air intake, Magnusson-Eaton supercharger and intercooler as one unit, mounting it in the space in front of the engine. All-in there are four radiators, and an exhaust that uses only one cat but that also features a large rear silencer hanging low behind the rear bumper. Fitting in this pipe wasn’t

Facing page: Yaris GRMN takes to the track with great enthusiasm, the brakes especially. Front seats are superb, but tall drivers sit too high

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Above right: It was a considerable feat of packaging to install the 1.8 engine, supercharger and rads. Above: Look past the garish stickers and the Yaris hasn’t got much road presence

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easy because the floorpan had never been designed to accommodate such an item: the large back-box is one change since evo last drove the car, because apparently a number of other journalists present that day felt the car was too loud: not us, I hasten to add… I won’t spend too long now going over again the rest of the Yaris GRMN package, save to say that the bodyshell is considerably strengthened via a strut-brace, stronger front subframe and four underbody braces, and that the suspension uses Sachs Performance dampers with a spring rate at least 60 per cent up on a standard Yaris, with thicker anti-roll bars. The GRMN runs on 17-inch forged BBS wheels shod with 205/45 R17 Bridgestone Potenza RE050 tyres, and a Torsen-type limited-slip differential helps deploy the supercharged grunt to the road’s surface. Since our last drive much of the work has been centred around fine tuning the chassis and engine calibration. The front dampers have been revised, the electro-mechanical steering re-worked to add a bit more weight and ‘feel’, and the engine’s tune now offers a bit more mid-range wallop at the expense of a little top-end fizz. The Yaris GRMN is an appealing little thing in the metal, albeit rather mild-looking. As already mentioned, any fundamental changes to the Yaris were out of the question, so in spite of its Gazoo corporate colour scheme of white panels, black roof and loud graphics, it has very little of the presence

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possessed by something like the old Renaultsport Clio 197/200. Open the door and it’s business as usual for a Toyota, with most materials in black for a more serious sporting ambience and a pair of really supportive seats in an Alcantara-like material. That small leather steering wheel is normally to be found in a GT86. It’s obvious the engineers have done their best with what they had to work with but the seat is mounted far too high and the very limited range of steering wheel adjustment offered by the Yaris platform means I’m nowhere near finding a decent driving position. It’s one of those things I’m just going to have to put from my mind. Thumb the GR-branded starter button and the 2ZR engine fires keenly. It unashamedly makes its presence felt at idle, but it’s also nothing like the R3 rally car drone of the prototype we drove, and for that I can’t help feeling rather sad. While relatively weak at low revs, the Yaris is surprisingly energetic in the mid range. Yet, it’s the final 2000rpm where the engine loves to spend its time, sprinting keenly for the red line at every opportunity. It’s just so joyous to drive a small, light hatchback that rewards in this way. It requires some effort, yes, but there’s a compulsion to drive it hard at every opportunity, and an encouragement to be as precise as possible in how you use the power. Thankfully, the manual gearbox is a brilliant partner for the engine, its ratios one-to-four just right to keep the engine on the boil and its shift quality crisp and tight. Blipping the engine between downshifts never gets old. Given its character you may be expecting the Yaris GRMN to be a harshly riding car, but while there’s an underlying firmness to it, it transpires that it’s actually perfectly comfortable in everyday driving. You can sense that compliance softness in the way it allows the body a notable degree of initial roll, perhaps exaggerated by the high-set driving position, but it never gets aggressive on the rebound – admittedly on largely smooth Spanish roads.


S P EC I A L F E AT U R E : TOYOTA R E A DY TO YA DR I SCOV S G R ME NR

It's so joyous to drive a small, light hatchback that rewards in this way


TOYOTA YA R I S G R M N

Toyota Yaris GRMN Engine In-line 4-cyl, 1798cc, supercharger Power 209bhp @ 6800rpm Torque 251Nm @ 4800rpm Transmission Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive, LSD Front suspension MacPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar Rear suspension Torsion beam, coil springs, dampers, anti-roll bar Brakes Grooved ventilated discs, 275mm front; solid discs 278mm rear, ABS Wheels 17-inch all-round Tyres 205/45 R17 all-round Weight 1135kg Power-to-weight 187bhp/ton 0-100kmph 6.4sec (claimed) Top speed 230kmph (limited) Price (in UK) `24 lakh (excluding Indian taxes & duties)

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Talking of which, in spite of the sunshine the temperatures this morning are only just above freezing and I’m wondering if they’re a contributing factor in the one real dynamic flaw to be found. Despite the revisions there’s still something a bit artificial about the steering. It’s noticeable in the aggressive self-centring at times, but most of all it’s on turn-in to a corner. Those first few degrees of lock can feel like the front tyres are on a glassy surface, and I’m therefore inadvertently encouraging understeer by overcompensating with the amount of lock I’m dialling in. Actually the front end does stick, and the diff is very effective. It’s something I think you’d learn to live with, to trust, and beyond it you’ll find a car with a manic enthusiasm for tackling a good road, the diff working overtime to distribute the engine’s output without really torque steering as such, and the car nicely balanced. It’s an adjustable chassis, but it’s not tail-happy in the manner of the 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport, which is exactly what Peeters and his team set out to achieve. We also get to drive the Yaris on track, running on Bridgestone RE11S tyres. Non-homologated for Europe, it’s a semi-slick, track-focused tyre much like a Toyo R888. It’s an unusual decision to use these for a launch, but Toyota hasn’t developed a stickier tyre option yet, in the belief that customers will have their

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The Yaris GRMN is a car created with an obvious passion for enthusiastic driving own preferences: the RE11Ss show what’s possible. Far from being overawed, the little Yaris relishes the extra grip, the steering also improving in weight and feel. The brake discs may be relatively small, but the bespoke four-pot calipers are up to the task and the fine pedal feel doesn’t disappear even after some hard laps. The car is surprisingly fast and intense – just as it is on the road. The more time you spend with the Yaris GRMN, the more you realise its flaws are largely those of the standard car. I wish it looked more spectacular, had a better driving position, more natural steering feel, and was more basic inside to make it even lighter. And yet I can’t help being strongly attracted to the little Toyota. In an era when many performance cars seem to be developed to satisfy a line in a spreadsheet, the Yaris GRMN is a car created with an obvious passion for enthusiastic driving, and a machine that relishes your input in how it goes about its work. We need more cars like that. Welcome to the revolution, Gazoo Racing.

Above: The Yaris GRMN in its natural environment – rushing about the countryside at high speed


CH A NGI NG T H E HEART OF THE YA R IS As Project Manager in Toyota Europe’s Z Division, Stijn Peeters led the R&D on the Yaris GRMN Interview by Adam Towler What couldn’t you change that you wanted to, and why? This platform (the Yaris) was never developed with performance cars in mind back in 2011. What many people don’t realise is that the platform dictates things like seating position, but also where the steering wheel position can be, wheel size and suspension. The steering rack ratio is also limited by the platform and to change it would mean a completely new development. If we lowered the seat any more the door crash structure would no longer be valid – even on cars of limited numbers we still have to meet that test, and to re-do that in two years is impossible. Will these considerations go into future platforms? Clearly there’s a requirement to bring more passion to all our cars, not just the sports ones, and emotion when driving is connected to driver controls. I would like to change things more but was restricted on this car. But this is all a learning process for future [Gazoo] models, a growing process. With regard to bespoke bodywork, if it’s considered at the planning stage, then yes. We’re looking into that. Changes later are doubtful. For these sort of volumes it does not make sense – there is no business case in the world for that. Is this car an indication of the Gazoo Racing philosophy? Yes. Sure, numbers are always important. It was clear from the beginning it would need over 200bhp, but I could have made it 225bhp. But we think useful power, and fun to drive, and response, these are far more useful targets than numbers. We know today everyone is below seven seconds to 100kmph. But again, we had to decide on gear ratios. In the B segment the first four gears have to be spot-on. So I chose the ratios that suited driving, sacrificing the

It’s the driver that makes the difference, it’s your inputs that go into the car 0-100kmph time because the car won’t do it in second gear. Maybe this is an old school way, how cars were developed 15 years ago. If we had to give up on styling changes then so be it – the Yaris GRMN is all about balance and useable performance. If you had a DSG ’box available, would you fit it? [Laughs]. Now that really is a tricky question. The engineer in me says it depends how the system performs. The motorsport fan in me says I might gain some seconds on the track, but it will eat away at my inputs – good or bad, but they’re my inputs. The project manager in me says they’ll add complexity and the manual works well, so given the timeframe… As long as the systems can’t

read my mind and adapt to my mood, then I’d prefer a manual. What is the future of hot hatches such as the Yaris GRMN? I can only speak personally, not on behalf of Toyota. I think we’re heading for an interesting future. Autonomous tech, electrification… But we always see polarising movements: the more we go towards autonomous driving, the more individualisation will be brought out for certain products. There will be a place for enthusiasts, but what it will look like is a question we all have, and there’s no single answer available. What would you buy as your own car? I think I’d buy a Mk3 Toyota MR2. That had a lot of the qualities in the Yaris GRMN – useable performance, balance. Money no object I’d buy a Cayman GT4. I’d rather that than a GT3, in fact. But really I am a biker – for many years. I have a Triumph 955 that I do trackdays with. It has taken me a year to learn how to ride that bike fast on a track, but that’s the reward. For me that’s what it’s like with driving for fun: it’s the driver that makes the difference, it’s your inputs that go into the car and you want to feel the response, just like with a motorcycle. L

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y lted b u a s s get a e w ous – R i r a l i V erly h R Sport S t t u l and -faster R a i c o nti-s he go a t , d Lou

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R A N G E R OV E R S P O RT SV R

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I Top: Why should carbon bonnets be the sole domain of the tuners? Facing page: MY18 RR Sport gets the Touch Pro Duo infotainment screens from Velar

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IT’S THE NOISE, THE WALL OF NOISE, THE barbaric eruption of decibels that smashes you in the face. How? How can a car be so loud? Thumb the starter and the supercharged motor barks into life, exhaust ricocheting off stone walls so violently our hosts had to reserve the entire hotel lest there be a riot. Blip the throttle and the V8 rocks on its mounts like an extremely pissed-off Rottweiler waiting to tear your arm off. Pull out of the driveway, wait for traffic to clear up, floor it, and it’s like a low-flying squadron of bombers thundering into formation. It’s not like I haven’t driven fast and loud cars but this isn’t a V12-engined supercar waking up half of England. This is an SUV and nothing this side of an AMG G-Wagen is as gangsta as the new Range Rover Sport SVR. “We dial it up to 11,” says Mark Stanton, director of Special Vehicle Operations. No shit! This is easily top 10 in the all-time list of politically incorrect cars. Where the whole world is talking about going green with zero emissions this ridiculously orange SVR gulps petrol with an appetite that can only be described as legendary. And then, for good measure, it lets unburnt fuel explode in the exhaust when you get off the gas. It raises a middle-fingered salute to greenies, weenies and veggies. This is the final hurrah before we are all forced to give up red meat and it deserves to be saluted, applauded and celebrated. And driven like an absolute hooligan. Our pre-drive briefing includes a stern warning to take it easy through the villages on our drive route. My driving partner has other ideas. Through every one of those idyllic English villages preparing for Sunday Mass, he drops three gears, gives the throttle hell and empties an entire AK-47 magazine on the overrun. Let them know we are here for

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IT SOUNDS LIKE A LOW-FLYING SQUADRON OF BOMBERS THUNDERING INTO FORMATION


R A N G E R OV E R S P O RT SV R

our Kohinoor is his justification. The SVR makes gangstas out of scrawny five footers! The view too is bad ass. The last carbon-bonnetted car I drove had an exploding wastegate, a big-ass wing filling up my rear view mirror and the letters GT-R tacked on to the boot. Carbon bonnets are the preserve of rice rockets and tuner-cars, ostensibly to save weight. Though, if you ask me, it's more of an advertisement for the go-faster kit under the hood since this SVR is only 25kg lighter than the earlier SVR despite the new magnesium frame for the seats shaving off 30kg (wonder where weight was gained!). In any case a Range Rover with a carbon bonnet is a ridiculous proposition, but then again dialling-it-up-to-ridonkulous is what JLR’s Special Vehicle Operations is all about.


RA N G E R OV E R S P O RT SV R

RANGE ROVER SPORT SVR Engine 4999cc, V8, supercharged Transmission 8-speed auto Power 567bhp @ 6000-6500rpm Torque 700Nm @ 3500-4000rpm Weight 2310kg 0-100kmph 4.5sec (claimed) Top speed 283kmph (claimed) Price `2 crore (estimated, ex-showroom)

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THESE CARS TRIGGER AN EMOTIONAL RESPONSE, TURNING GROWN MEN INTO 8-YEAR-OLD BOYS SVO is Jaguar Land Rover’s in-house tuning arm that works in much the same way as Mercedes-AMG and BMW M, but without any active motorsport involvement. For now. SVO takes regular Jags and Landies and turns up the wick: in the case of SVR-badged cars adding fire and brimstone to supercharged motors and lashing on lots of carbonfibre; in the case of the SVA’s, adding more wood and leather than an average English country home, and even deleting a few doors. SVs are not cars that anybody needs – a two-door Range Rover? Really? – but these are cars that you want, triggering the sort of emotional response that turns grown men into 8-year-old boys. And that’s what we are doing. Driving like a bunch of children. Accelerating, braking and accelerating again for no good reason other than getting the engine to erupt like a like a volcano and then pop and crackle viciously on the overrun. You do know that this is unburnt fuel detonating in the exhaust? Is there anything more politically incorrect in these days of electric cars? Exploiting the SVR needs a track and that’s where we are headed, to SVO’s new home in Fen End, two hours away from JLR’s Gaydon test track. And just like Gaydon was under RAF’s Bomber Command in WWII, Fen End too is an old RAF base with a massive runway which we thunder down with the SVR, like a squadron of Hurricanes and Spitfires heading for mainland Europe. The sound… good grief… it brings to mind all those old WWII movies! It’s not all show and no go either; this SVR is fast. The 5-litre supercharged V8 is familiar from the earlier Range Rover Sport SVR but has been massaged to put on an extra 25bhp. And there’s less weight to hustle, not that 25kg up or down is going to make much difference when 567bhp and 700Nm of torque are on tap, thundering the SVR to 100kmph in 4.5 seconds. And it continues to make all sorts of insane noises until it runs out of breath at 283kmph. Can you imagine the kind of power required to push the sizeable frontage of a Range Rover Sport through the air at 283kmph?

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Fen End was acquired by JLR in 2014 but SVO has only just started moving in and this is the first time anybody outside of JLR is being let loose at the brand spanking new facility. There are two long straights joined by a very steep banking at one end and a bunch of wide open corners at the other – it’s all high-speed stuff and the SVR’s capability is quite something. The suspension has been tuned to deliver better turn-in response and body control while active antirolls bars join air springs and active dampers to limit roll and improve mid-corner grip. The setup strikes a lovely balance. On winter-ravaged English country roads the SVR rides quite well – an underlying firmness in keeping with the 567bhp on tap, but not too firm to make it uncomfortable on the road. It rides with all the authority and luxury of a Range Rover and in Comfort mode the SVR will even rear its head under hard acceleration, the rising bonnet adding to the sensation of speed and the sheer ridiculousness of a near-600bhp Sport-SUV. Stick it in Sport, stiffen up everything and the SVR carries serious pace through the high-speed corners at Fen End, revealing tenacious grip and steering that is surprisingly involving. And then you step on it as you exit the last corner and the atom bomb of an engine simply explodes, the 8-speed gearbox tuned for faster shifts and a braaap on the upshift. Of course something that weighs over 2.3 tonnes

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will never feel or be as agile as a hot hatch but that’s not the point of the SVR is it? Neither is off-roading, to be honest, but Land Rover will hear nothing of it. And so the RR Sport SVR retains the low-ratio 4x4 drivetrain, the various modes of the Terrain Response 2 system, and off-road ability that no performance SUV with the exception of the aforementioned G 63 AMG can match. You will also notice the SVR gets Land Rover’s new Touch Pro Duo infotainment system that debuted on the Velar, two beautifully high-res touchscreens that replace all physical buttons. This is part of the suite of updates applied to the entire MY18 Range Rover Sport line up that includes refreshed (and, obligatorily, techy) headlamps, taillamps and bumpers. Small tweaks, yes, but enough to answer the question: why would you buy a Range Rover Sport over a Velar (apart from the fact that the Sport also has three rows of seats). As for that carbonfibre bonnet, it’s only available on the SVR but you can have it painted in the body colour for no extra money, and some semblance of subtlety. Which is missing the point entirely. The SVR is all about theatrics. It is loud, mad, fast and obnoxious. The sack of money, both to own one and run one, will need to be eye-wateringly sizeable. You cannot dial it down to 5 even if you wanted to. It makes no sense. And that’s exactly why, if I could afford it, I’d have one in a heartbeat. L


THE SVR IS ALL ABOUT THEATRICS. IT IS LOUD, MAD, FAST AND OBNOXIOUS

Top: Liberal application of carbonfibre. Right: Magnesium-framed sports seats shave 30kg. Above: Supercharged 5.0 V8 makes 567bhp and the sound of thunder


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M E R C E D ES -A M G E 6 3 S

R E D N U H T RAN CHAND H S I R I BR E S by S THOM S WOR D V A R by GAU A PH Y R G O T PHO


N O O L SA ring / g r u b r u n the N sted to an i d e v o h ss and s ine, boo a g l n C e E ’s e R GT ok th AMG to -breaking AMG ification. Gulp rd r spec e c r e BIC reco i f n eve


M E R C E D ES -A M G E 6 3 S

THE FIRST SUPERCAR I DROVE IN INDIA, drove as in really drove to my heart’s content without any chaperones, minders or supervision was the R8. Back when it was launched, we took the mid-engined machine, then with the V8 engine so more sportscar than supercar but it was still the fastest car we could (legally!) lay our hands on, and drowned ourselves in speed by chasing the fastest bike in the country – the Suzuki Hayabusa – on the country’s fastest road, the (then) deserted stretch from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer. It was a celebration of power, noise and the wild laughter of a man unleashing a very fast car with only an equally deranged man crouching behind the fairing of a very fast bike for company. Like a first kiss, that day is hardwired into my head; it’s what every fast car, every memorable drive is benchmarked against. That R8 made 414bhp. Launched to 100kmph in 4.6 seconds. And it’ll get smoked by the E-Class I’m driving today! Madness! It’s not even ten years since I did that story and the horsepower race has moved to another planet altogether. Natural aspiration is all but dead. Turbos have been bolted on to everything. V6s are now kicking

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3.4 SECONDS IS ALL IT TAKES TO 100KMPH. THE AMG GT R DOES IT IN 3.6! A 4-DOOR SALOON THAT OUT-DRAGS THE BIC LAP RECORD HOLDER!


out 450 horsepower. And V8s… oh boy… they’ve been dialled up to six hundred plus horsepower. This is not a joke. Driving a car with 603bhp is not a joke. We’re at the foothills of our favourite driving road outside of Pune – Jodhpur to Jaisalmer isn’t what it used to be – and the first time I push the throttle into the firewall I have the air punched out of my lungs. It’s violent. Physically and mentally overwhelming. Strapped into the back seat Alameen, our filmmaker, says you don’t ever need to go to an amusement park. A few corners later, after I’ve punched everything into full Dynamic and discovered the sport exhaust button he adds, “you won’t have any kharcha for Diwali fatakras”. Some stats to start with: 3.4 seconds – that’s the launch time to 100kmph. Top speed? 250kmph. Give AMG some extra cash and they will delete the speed limiter and the E 63 S AMG will run all the way up to 300kmph. 300kmph in a fourdoor saloon! Whaaat!?! Wait, there’s one more figure to shatter you. The torque. 850Nm. I have a benchmark for what an AMG can do, a benchmark for over-the-top super-saloons, and the E 63 S AMG shatters it. It’ll come as no surprise that 4Matic+ badges adorn the flanks of the E 63 S AMG. Without permanent allwheel drive how are you going to rein in 603bhp and 850Nm? The fully variable AWD has a multi-plate clutch aft of the gearbox that can transfer up to 100 per cent of the torque to the front axle depending on conditions. With AMGs of the past the ESP triangle would either

Top: You're on your own in Drift Mode. No ESP, no stability control, no electronic nannies. Enjoy. Above: Sascha Jonas hand-assembled the beast of a motor


M E R C E D ES -A M G E 6 3 S

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300KMPH IN A FOUR-DOOR SALOON! WHAAAT!?! be flashing furiously or you’d be worringly sideways, either way you wouldn’t be making very fast exits from tight corners. No longer. The E 63 claws into the tarmac and charges out of hairpins with nary a wiggle from the back end. Having the ability to deploy 603bhp, that is what shocks and awes. But of course I must first tell you about the engine. This is the same twin-turbo V8 motor as found nestling under the hood of the AMG GT and that wildly green AMG GT R, except in an even madder specification. This is the first time I’m driving a sports saloon that makes more power and more torque than the (almost) supercar that it shares its engine with! The upgrades to the motor include the first application of twin-scroll turbochargers (still nestled in the Vee, hence hot-V), upgraded pistons, optimised airflow and still no artificial-noises nonsense. Ride the torque at low revs and there’s a wonderful woofling from intake and exhaust, click it into Race mode and it bellows and hollers while crackling lavishly on the overrun. Even when you rev it at idle, like an absolute idiot, it indulges with awesomely loud braaps and farts. And when you launch it in Race mode, oh wow, it accelerates with supercar-matching ferocity. This is down to the AWD but also the new race-tuned multi-clutch nine-speed gearbox that is as quick as the best twin-clutches but with all the smoothness of a torque convertor. 3.4

seconds is all it takes to 100kmph. The AMG GT R does it in 3.6 seconds! A 4-door saloon that out accelerates the BIC lap record holder! And in the midst of all this is 850Nm. 150 more torques than the GT R! This is so much torque that you actually feel a torque surge every time you shift gears, unlike modern turbo’d motors where everything is seamlessly violent. Here there is violence and a further surge in violence on every upshift. It’s like a hot rod and if the ridiculousness hasn’t already peaked, you scroll through the menus and stumble upon a drag mode. A drag mode! That will clock your quarter mile times! I’m already working on Mercedes to loan me an E 63 S AMG for next year’s Valley Run drag event. Don’t mistake the E 63 S AMG for a straight-line car though. Fully exploiting the E 63 S AMG needs a racetrack, which is why when you scroll through the menus there are a dozen iconic race tracks mapped out, including the full Nurburgring North Loop. Basically you can cruise down to the ’Ring with four mates in proper luxury, wear a helmet and bang in a set of hot laps, drive back home before the tyres are destroyed and then plug the data into the PlayStation and analyse your laps. I’m not sure of the PlayStation compatibility so don’t hold a gun to my head. And by all means hold a gun to AMG’s head till they map out the MMRT and BIC for their Indian customers.


Top: That list of race tracks tells you more about the car than the brochure. Below: Quad pipes, carbon diffuser and carbon boot spoiler

On the road – which is what an E-Class was designed for, no? – the AWD delivers incredible drive out of corners and allied to that is just a mad amount of frontend grip. It is next to impossible to find understeer, I can assure you of that. I threw it into corners as fast as I dared and the nose stayed put to the line. The brakes, carbon ceramic brakes, have inexhaustible stopping power. The steering is light, direct and surprisingly unobtrusive – it is that rare example of variable ratio steering (quickens responses at low speeds and slows it down to enhance stability at speed) that does not feel a bit weird and unnatural. But that said the earlier playfulness of the E AMG, that throttle adjustability, that’s been dialled down. Clicking from Comfort to Sport, Sport + and Race progressively loosens up the ESP intervention but that torque oversteer, always such a bit part of a big AMG’s appeal, is missing. Until I discover Drift Mode. Before that I spent 20 minutes reading the owner’s manual – for the first time in my life. I’ll spare you what I was doing wrong and my growing frustration at the ‘Drift Mode unavailable, refer owner’s manual’ warning. This is the complicated procedure to disconnect drive to the front axle. Select Race mode, select Manual on the 9-speed gearbox, long press ESP till it is turned off, pull back both the steering wheel paddles to call up Drift Mode, pull the right paddle to accept the prompt, read the ominous warning, accept your PHD in operating complicated car


M E R C E D ES -A M G E 6 3 S

WITHOUT PERMANENT ALL-WHEEL DRIVE HOW ARE YOU GOING TO REIN IN 603BHP AND 850NM?


MERCEDES-AMG E 63 S 4MATIC+ Engine 4-litre, V8, bi-turbo Transmission 9-speed Auto Power 603bhp @ 5750-6500rpm Torque 850Nm @ 2500-4500rpm Weight 2048kg 0-100kmph 3.4sec (claimed) Top speed 250kmph (limited, 300kmph optional) Price `1.8 crore (ex-showroom, estimated)

Left, from top: iconic Monte Carlo Rally landscape; neat and now familiar 911 cabin; the Carrera T is playful when provoked. Above right: T is available in just nine colours, not the multitude of options offered with other

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M E R C E D ES -A M G E 6 3 S

THIS IS REAR-WHEEL DRIVE WITHOUT ANY ELECTRONIC NET WHATSOEVER SO YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN menus, and say hello to rear-wheel drive. I should reiterate this is rear-wheel drive without any electronic net whatsoever so you are on your own should you run out of talent. If you are moderately handy behind the wheel though, oh boy oh boy, the E 63 S AMG is immensely – I repeat immensely – amusing. There’s so much power that booting it is enough to get the rear wheels spinning and allied to that is the electronic limited slip differential on the rear axle allowing for long, tyre-smoking, full-opposite-lock drifts. There’s also an absolutely lovely chassis with delicacy, balance and stiffness to hold it all together. It has been a while since I had so much fun as I had with the E 63 S locked into Drift mode. It’s been a while since the photographers had as much fun too. Drama, tyre smoke and power-oversteer on demand with controllability – we only stopped when the fuel reserve warning lit up. So for the final stretch home, nursing the throttle till we get to a pump with 97 Octane fuel. That’s when we experience the other side of the E 63 S AMG, that it can also do a relaxed cruise. For the first time the E AMG gets air suspension and that not only means a modicum of comfort in Comfort mode (and teeth-gritting ride in

Dynamic thanks to 20-inch rims) but, crucially, you can raise the suspension for speed breakers so it doesn’t touch anywhere. I cannot tell you what a boon that is over our Indian roads. The cabin too is lovely – that brilliant central display now with added graphics for the track modes, the configurable speedo and tacho with a mode where the entire display flashes red to remind you to upshift, the beautiful Alcantara-trimmed flat-bottom steering wheel and the extravagantly bolstered singleframe sports seats. The E AMG, for obvious reasons, is only available in the regular wheelbase spec but there’s still ample space at the back for your bros. And it looks awesome what with that angry AMG nose, carbonfibre splitter, more carbon on the sills, 20-inch rims and a boot spoiler, only the latter being perhaps a bit too subtle. Nevertheless E 63 S AMG owners having shelled out nearly 1.8 crore rupees will not have to worry about their car being mistaken for a 4-cylinder diesel E-Class. Neither will they worry about keeping pace with supercars, on road or track. Game-changer is an oftabused term in the automobile industry but the E 63 S AMG does mark a new level of insanity, not to mention duality of purpose, for performance saloons. The game has moved on, and how. L www.

Above: Only regular wheelbase available for AMG'd E-Class. For obvious reasons

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Torque show The Mercedes-AMG E 63 S has 603bhp and a staggering 850Nm of torque at its disposal – but is this enough to overwhelm the mighty Porsche Panamera Turbo? WORDS by DAV I D V I V I A N P H O T O G R A P H Y by A S T O N PA R RO T T

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OTHING. ACCELER ATING FROM a standstill to 100kmph, not even the blink of an eye separates the fastest version of a bulky German saloon (one which, in a more basic spec, is popular with taxi companies around the world) and this year’s Porsche 911 GT3 RS. At least by the reckoning of Porsche’s own figures for the GT3 and the data stream from our VBOX suckered to the windscreen of Mercedes-AMG’s E 63 S. Like an apex athlete and a serial steroid abuser, they punch precisely the same hole in time and space, freezing the clock at 100kmph with perfect synchronicity: 3.4sec. I’ll give you a moment for that to sink in. And another to acknowledge the presence of another Porsche, the Panamera Turbo. It sticks in a 3.4, too. Of course, performance is about far more than a benchmark these days considered too paltry a gauge of a car’s true speed potential. So let’s move the goalposts: 0-160kmph. The purist’s choice manual version of the GT3, after a perfectly judged start and two peachy gearshifts administered by an expert road tester or racing driver, logs a stunning 7.6sec, according to Porsche. Whoever’s driving the torque-drenched, twin-turbo taxi, no international racing licence required, has merely had to engage launch control, flatten the right-hand pedal, hang on and watch its stumpy bonnet draw ever so slightly ahead of the Porsche’s lowslung snout: 7.4sec. Were the race against a PDK-equipped

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GT3, it would be a dead heat. At this point, the Panamera has dropped back by nearly a second, and will continue slowly to lose ground into speed ranges we shouldn’t really talk about outside an autobahn service station. Even so, I reckon there are two stats to savour: the E 63 S and Panamera Turbo accelerate from a standstill to 260kmph in 19.4 and 22.2sec respectively. And that is simply mighty. That’s how far we’ve come. Welcome to the new performance paradigm for the well-heeled masses. Thing is, for all their all-weather, all-drive accelerative prowess, both cars face clear and present danger in their own burgeoning megasaloon arena, not just from electric slingshot Teslas but also the ‘Hulk smash’ iteration of the BMW M5, which also has twin-blower V8 horsepower and all-wheel drive. But for the here and now, this is a straightforward duel. The old Panamera may have been controversially unlovely to look at but the Turbo S was extremely handy for something the size of a baby whale. The new, leaner Turbo S is now a hybrid with tech trickled down from the 918 Spyder, but the new regular Turbo you see here has better stats than the old S as well as the first implementation of the VW Group’s new MSB chassis and styling that more successfully realises the ‘upscaled 911’ intention of the original car. Its twin-turbo, 4-litre V8 develops 542bhp and 770Nm of torque. Yet, on paper at least, the Porsche is, for once, comprehensively battered by its German neighbour. AMG’s idea of a 4-litre, twin-turbo V8 develops 603bhp and 850Nm, and the E 63’s


Left: Mercedes has gifted the E-class huge performance before, but the new E 63 takes things to a whole new level. Right: Cabin is impressive, but the real story is the 603bhp and 850Nm produced by the most potent version yet of Mercedes-AMG’s 4-litre twin-turbo V8

326bhp per ton power-to-weight ratio makes the heavier Panamera’s figure of 276 look a little pasty. This is reflected in the performance figures, of course, but it could be a different story on the road. AMG’s long-lived E-class hot-rod rep, gloriously initiated by the 1991 300E Hammer, opens a new chapter here. It’s more than the big-engine, medium-sized car disconnect thing that’s fed the buzz for so long. Now there’s clever, too – specifically with the aim of making the E 63 S more driver-focused and finessed than its predecessors. There’s a new wet-clutch nine-speed auto that shifts as swiftly as the Panamera’s eight-speed PDK for a start. And the four-wheeldrive system, with its electronically controlled rear diff, has been set up to provide a degree of rear-end mobility rather than lots of initial purchase that dissolves into understeer on the limit. There’s even a brave button – well, pull back on both steering-wheel paddles in one of the more extreme Dynamic Select settings, it’s the same thing – that disengages the front driveshafts and directs all 603bhp and 850Nm to the rear wheels, intervention free. Drift Mode, big boy tempo. The Panamera Turbo doesn’t have a drift mode but it does have Porsche Traction Management – an active all-wheel drive system that seeks to balance both understeer and oversteer with the aim of delivering a nibble-around-neutral cornering balance rather than an entertainingly rear-biased one, which at least sounds like an efficient way to do business with big numbers. First-gen Panameras weren’t perfect but I’ve always been a bit of a fan, and a recent trip to Porsche’s Nardò proving ground in southern Italy to sample the latest 671bhp Turbo S (sadly, only from the passenger seat) could be said to have had a profoundly consolidating effect. Driving the plain Turbo to meet up with staff writer Will Beaumont, photographer Aston Parrott and the E 63 S at designated showdown ground zero, it isn’t quite the shock and awe machine the S proved to be, but it nails the supersaloon basics with such crushing confidence and Porsche-infused charisma, I can’t help thinking that, for all its power, it’s the Merc that may be rocked and wobbled when the pair meet. The new cabin has certainly helped reassert the appeal of the Panamera’s snug, low-slung architecture, the old confusing spray of centre-console buttons replaced by sleek, touch-sensitive surfaces and the analogue dials by a trio of crisp, clear digital displays. And it’s hard to think of another rear cabin space that feels quite as special, as in sync with the car’s dynamic demeanour. The deeply sculpted bucket seats are almost as comfortable and supportive as the ones

On paper, the Porsche is, for once, battered by its German neighbour up front. Not a new approach – I think the Lamborghini Espada got there first – but brilliantly executed nonetheless. It’s obvious on the way to the rendezvous that the big Porsche has the compass to do smooth, supple and subtle as effortlessly as it does ballistic but, when the two cars test their mettle on the same roads, it’s clearer still that the Panamera never quite sheds a slightly buffered quality that smothers the edge of excitement. But if the supersaloon market thrives on contrast, that’s a good thing, because with the E 63 S it’s exactly the opposite. Before I acclimatise, the Merc feels comparatively tall and narrow after the Panamera and, despite being held tight by deeply contoured bucket seats every bit as good as the Porsche’s, no amount of high-tech bling, white upholstery or shiny dash trim can disguise the necessarily sensible, four-square, taxi-friendly E-class basics beneath. Naturally,

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Below: Panamera interior has been given a thorough revamp, and it’s much improved. Below right: Porsche also has its own new twin-turbo 4-litre V8, good for 542bhp and 770Nm

603bhp and 850Nm have something to say on the first impressions front and, perhaps unsurprisingly, zap all that boring E-class stuff from immediate recall. Taps open, the Merc is so relentlessly rampant it squeezes an involuntary chuckle from my upper respiratory system – the sort that commonly accompanies disbelief. I thought the 577bhp GT R supercoupe I’d driven a week earlier was the quickest thing AMG made. Now I’m not so sure. The aural drama is tamped down here – a sort of soft-rock EQ as opposed to the GT R’s uncompressed thrash metal – but the heavy, vectored G-forces and wildly accelerated sensory frame-rate are just the same. It’s what genuine supercar performance feels like with an elevated view down the road, but without the underlying trepidation. The steering’s surprisingly light, quick and pin-sharp. There isn’t much feel, but confidence builds as you start to lean on what seems an almost inexhaustible supply of frontend grip and explore just how much angle can be coaxed from the rear without decoupling drive to the front wheels altogether. More than you might think. In the sportier Dynamic Select modes, the Merc’s suspension can feel drum-taut over broken surfaces. It’s the price you pay for zero-tolerance body control but, curiously, firm rarely becomes fidgety. Even the sharpest irregularities fail to fluster; they defer to a resolute underlying composure. As Will notes: ‘It feels alert, far more agile than you’d expect from a car this size, and feels very natural to drive quickly.’

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Back in the Panamera Turbo, I get a contrastingly more pronounced elasto-kinematic feel, as if the chassis is having a somewhat convoluted, possibly argumentative, dialogue with the road surface. It’s a softer-edged dynamic that has some distinct lateral components, a mild shuffling of the hips, that nevertheless seems sufficiently well contained to keep the Panamera alert and responsive at speed and impressively glued to the tarmac. It’s a bit of an acquired taste and Will isn’t entirely convinced: ‘The steering doesn’t have the immediacy of the AMG’s, and there isn’t the same front-end grip. You have to be patient before the front tyres hook-up and you can get on the throttle. Once settled, you can use full-throttle, the rear tyres push the back around while the fronts try to pull you straight. They feel like they’re fighting against one another and trying to tear the tarmac up, but it works and it gains speed very quickly.’ It really does. Despite being down on power and torque (on paper) and still the size of a baby whale, the new Panamera refuses to be properly dropped by the E 63 S at any point during the day, summoning reserves of surge from a secret stash Porsche always seems to build into anything with a ‘Turbo’ badge on its bootlid. It emerges from the encounter slightly bloodied but with its honour surprisingly intact. In the end, though, Will and I concur. For the time being at least, the E 63 S is king of the supersaloons.L

Despite being down on power, the Panamera refuses to be dropped by the E 63 S


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Mercedes-AMG E 63 S 4Matic+ Engine V8, 3982cc, twin-turbo Power 603bhp @ 5750-6500rpm Torque 850Nm @ 2500-4500rpm Transmission Nine-speed automatic, four-wheel drive, rear limited-slip differential, torque vectoring Weight (dry) 1880kg Power-to-weight 326bhp/ton 0-100kmph 3.4sec (claimed) Top speed 250kmph (300kmph option) Price `1.8 crore (estimated)

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Porsche Panamera Turbo Engine V8, 3996cc, twin-turbo Power 542bhp @ 5750-6000rpm Torque 770Nm @ 1960-4500rpm Transmission Eight-speed dual-clutch, four-wheel drive, rear limited-slip differential, torque vectoring Weight (dry) 1995kg Power-to-weight 276bhp/ton 0-100kmph 3.6sec (claimed) Top speed 304kmph (claimed) Price `2.03 crore (ex-showroom, Delhi)

evo rating ;;;;4


ON TRACK

A C C E L E R AT I O N ( f r o m s t a n d s t i l l , i n s e c o n d s) E 63 S 4Matic+

sp eed (k m p h)

20

30

50

60

80

100

110

130

140

160

180

190

210

220

240

260

0.7

1.2

1.6

2.1

2.7

3.4

4.2

5.2

6.2

7.4

8.7

10.5

11.8

14.4

16.6

19.4

Pa na m era Tu rb o

sp eed (k m p h)

20

30

50

60

80

100

110

130

140

160

180

190

210

220

240

260

0.6

1.0

1.6

2.1

2.7

3.4

4.3

5.7

7.1

8.3

9.7

11.4

13.1

15.5

18.6

22.2

QUARTER MILE

B R A K I N G ( 1 6 0 - 0 k m p h)

E 63 S 4Matic+ 1

2

3

4

5

secon ds 6

7

8

9

10 11 12 13

11. 5sec (204 . 5k m p h)

2

3

4

5

6

secon ds 7

11.8sec (194 .8k m p h)

78

80

dis ta n ce (m etre s) 82

84

86

88

90

82

84

86

88

90

92

94

96

94 . 5m (7.6sec)

Pa na m era Tu rb o 1

E 63 S 4Matic+ 76

8

9

10 11 12 13

Pa na m era Tu rb o 76

78

80

83.4m (5.9sec)

dis ta n ce (m etre s) 92

94

96

Each car retains its essential character on track, but traits are exaggerated and there’s a greater distinction between them. The Panamera feels direct and agile when you turn in aggressively, but beyond the first phase of a corner its softer chassis means it starts to feel heavy, almost cumbersome. Body roll absorbs much of your inputs, meaning it’s difficult to make fine corrections, and the front axle pushes on if you’re too eager with the throttle. Once you’ve found a flow, however, the Panamera exhibits that devastating point-to-point pace that it shows on the road. The E 63 feels more at home on track, astonishingly so for an

almost-two-ton saloon. With sharp steering and the damping set to firm, it feels alert, while the bullish engine means there’s enough throttle adjustably even when it’s driving all four wheels. Its heft can’t be disguised completely, though; the exit of a corner can be tricky as you deal with a touch of weight transfer. Activating Drift Mode and uncoupling the front driveshafts illustrates exactly why the E 63 has four-wheel drive. It wants to oversteer everywhere and the transition is practically instant, though the long wheelbase means slides are easily held. Not the most effective way round a track, but hugely entertaining. WB

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HIGH FIVE While Gaurav Gill is all set to debut in the WRC2 with the Ford Fiesta R5 we have a different agenda and that’s finding out what a rally car is like on the open road

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M -S P O RT F I ESTA R 5

WORDS by H E N RY C AT C H P O L E P H O T O G R A P H Y by D E A N S M I T H

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THE TARMAC IS GETTING lighter as it dries in the warm morning sun and there’s a quiet air of tranquillity hanging over the rugged emerald valley as it stretches into the distance. It’s a beautiful, scene and it’s while I’m sitting there quietly contemplating the view that a question gently trundles into my head: ‘A Fiesta or a Ferrari?’ The choice really is as simple and straightforward as that. An R5 rally car and a 458 both cost the same to buy and both are road-legal so, given the choice, which would you take for a drive up a hill climb? A disembodied voice crackles over the radio and I turn on the master switch to bring the Fiesta to life. I suppose I’m about to find out. I’ve always loved the idea of driving a proper rally car on a proper piece of road. This happens regularly over the course of a rally, whether on the competitive stages of a tarmac rally or simply during the linking ‘transport sections’ between stages on a gravel event. But that’s never just for fun: there’s always a competitive edge or a time restraint. What I want to know is how much fun you can have driving a full-blown rally car at fast road pace. And just in case you’re under any illusions, ‘fast road pace’ is very different and much more cautious compared to how you’d drive in a stage with pace notes and the knowledge that no cars are coming the other way… THE R5 FORMULA IS BILLED AS A HALF-PRICE WRC car and replaced the S2000 that competed in WRC2 as well as the APRC. We are familiar with the Skoda Fabia S2000 and Fabia R5 that took MRF to the APRC championship for the past six years on the trot. However Citroën, Peugeot, Hyundai and now Volkswagen have their hats in the R5 ring and with VW's focus having shifted to customer sport from the WRC they are set to begin Polo R5 deliveries in a few months. M-Sport though was the first to show a finished R5 product five years ago. The first time I saw the Fiesta R5 was this morning, up on axle stands in the huge M-Sport workshop in Cumbria, UK, where the Qatar-liveried WRC cars were being prepped for transport to Sardinia in the afternoon and Ken Block’s


Above: Stripped-out interior bears little resemblance to a standard Fiesta’s. Left: Regular M-Sport driver Elfyn Evans is on cusp of WRC stardom. Below: 1.6-litre turbo four produces 280bhp. Bottom: Dovenby Hall workshop is also home to M-Sport’s WRC operation

car (complete with massive radiator in the boot) was getting a bit of TLC. There were also five R5 cars in various stages of build. Devoid of final aero packages (the most distinguishing feature), I would have assumed that they were WRC cars, such is the similarity. Both carry five-speed sequential gearboxes and Reiger dampers, both are four-wheel drive and both weigh 1200kg. But the M-Sport-developed engine is entirely different and under R5 regulations it has to run a 32mm restrictor, as opposed to 33mm in the WRC car. The R5 is in fact 90 per cent new and there are crucial

differences to help keep costs down. The R5 car has to use many more off-the-shelf parts, so whereas the WRC machine carries ballast to bring it up to the minimum weight, the R5 is naturally much closer to the limit. Perhaps the easiest way to contrast the two is by their alternators: the WRC car’s is a jewel-like creation that costs about `2,50,000 and can be lifted in one hand. The R5 car’s alternator is from a Volvo, has to be lifted with both hands and costs `30,000. A raft of similar differences means the R5 costs somewhere in the region of `1.6 crore (less than half a WRC car) but is only 1sec per kilometre

slower through a stage and is much easier to service. Sharing the driving (and sent as an envoy of M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson to make sure I don’t do anything stupid) is Elfyn Evans: under thirty years old, WRC Academy champion, son of the legendary Gwyndaf and now a fully fledged WRC driver. He’s a splendidly modest chap. After we’ve both clambered past the big crossmembers of the roll-cage (me into the lowslung right-hand co-driver’s seat for the first few miles), grappled with the six-point harnesses and plugged ourselves into our respective headphones, Evans takes me


M -S P O RT F I ESTA R 5

EVEN ON A ROAD THIS TIGHT AND TWISTY, I CONSTANTLY SEEM TO BE PULLING UP AND PUNCHING DOWN THE GEARS through a need-to-know checklist. The starting ritual for the Fiesta is surprisingly simple. There’s a small panel of buttons on the floor in front of the tall handbrake and gearlever. In the top-right corner of said panel is a small toggle master switch – flick it down and the car comes to life with buzzes, whirrs and multicoloured lights as current surges through its arteries. Then depress the small, narrow clutch pedal and push a button marked ‘start’ in green lettering. There’s a magnetic temptation to give the throttle a blip as the starter turns over for a supercar-rivalling length of time, but I’m assured that the

four cylinders will spark into life without any help. Sure enough, they catch a second later with a blare that instantly fills the empty white cockpit with noise. We trundle through the drizzly streets and although I feel like a child without a booster seat, I can nonetheless see the bowed heads of pedestrians look up as the Fiesta noisily crawls past. It might retain some resemblance to the regular European Fiesta, but hunkered down to the tarmac and with its fantastic matt grey and red livery accentuating its utilitarian arch extensions, it’s every bit as wild and attention-grabbing as a Huayra or

Aventador. It’s even got dinky carbon door mirrors. Once the first couple of miles south are out of the way, Elfyn pulls over in a quiet lane and we swap places. In some ways rally cars are not difficult to drive; for example, you tend to find that everything is designed to fall easily to hand. On the driver’s side, the view out is not low and intimidating like in a Radical or Atom, but there are two things that make it seem every bit as scary as any car you care to think of. The first is the noise: it is incredibly loud, and with no sound deadening, normal inputs to the pedals and gears seem magnified tenfold.


M -S P O RT F I ES TA R 5

Every squeeze, prod or dab elicits a palpable change, with a corresponding clatter, chunter, chuff or whine. Placing yourself at the centre of such an aural maelstrom is nerve-wracking. The second point of fretting focus is the clutch. Its difficulty is linked to the noise in a way, because you’re inclined to think you’re giving the engine more revs than you actually are as you try to pull away, which makes you stall. On top of that, the revs will obviously die as soon as the clutch reaches any sort of biting point, so you need to gently increase the throttle as it does so or you’ll stall that way. I’d sneakily checked what the digital rev counter was reading when Elfyn rolled away earlier, and so I get away first time. In fact, although there’s the occasional bit of kangaroo petrol in the tank, I don’t stall for the first couple of hours. Villages, three-point turns, inching past caravans – it all goes without a hitch until we stop on a hill. A 20 per cent hill. I give it too few revs and… clunk. Silence. Even Elfyn stalled it once, so I don’t feel too bad. But after the second attempt, my heart rate has definitely increased… and after the fourth try the first bead of sweat appears on my brow as I fear that I might be stuck on the ramp for good. Eventually I realise the only way to get going is simply to give it far too many revs, drop the clutch, catch the ensuing small slide towards a rock face as all four wheels spin up, and then keep going, the valley behind us echoing to the news that we’re on the move again. The clutch is largely irrelevant once you’re up and running, of course, and flat-shifting is one of the joys of a proper sequential ’box. The action of the lever is slightly lighter and longer than I was expecting, but it feels beautifully mechanical when the gear goes home. As the pace increases and I start using more and more revs, I realise just how short the ratios are in the five-speed ’box. Even on a tight and twisty hill climb where just second would do in most cars I constantly seem to be pulling up and punching down the gears. When I ask Elfyn about this later, he informs me that it’s currently geared for just 175kmph in top. No wonder I’m busier than a bear at a buffet. What exacerbates the sprint gearing is the way the engine delivers its estimated 280bhp (only about 30bhp less than a WRC

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M-SPORT FIESTA R5 Engine In-line 4-cyl, 1600cc, turbo Power 280bhp (estimated) Torque n/a Transmission Five-speed sequential manual, four-wheel drive, front and rear limited-slip diffs Front suspension MacPherson struts, coil springs, adjustable dampers, anti-roll bar Rear suspension MacPherson struts, coil springs, adjustable dampers, anti-roll bar Brakes Ventilated discs, 355mm (tarmac, 300mm gravel) Wheels 8 x 18in (tarmac, 7 x 15in gravel) Weight 1200kg Power-to-weight (dry) 237bhp/ton Top speed 174kmph (as tested – gearing dependent) Basic price `1.6 crore (in the UK, not including all duties and taxes) On sale Now

car). In non-stage mode with the anti-lag turned off, you can see how narrow the true power band really is, the acceleration exploding above 3500rpm in a torque-rich thump that’s over in a heartbeat unless you pull back for another gear. They wouldn’t tell me how much torque it produces, but each punch feels like a concentrated dose of McLaren 12C on full boost. And it gets even more bewildering when it comes to steering. At low speeds (i.e. while you’re attempting to get used to it) there is barely any feel, just breathtaking precision and huge amounts of grip. A lot of its tenacity comes from the latest-spec Michelin rubber that its 18in wheels are wearing. The tyres have also inspired some of my apprehension. I was given two strict instructions before I drove the car: don’t crash it and, more importantly, don’t lose a tyre. There are various lumps of angry rock strewn along the verges and if I happen to clip one and rip a corner off the R5, I will have to get out and chase down the errant wheel as if my life depended on it. The tyre’s compound is so secret that M-Sport has committed to a contract saying it will cough up 1 million euros if it loses one. Wonder if MRF will have a similar contract for their car. Corner, crest, up one-two-three gears, brake, down one-two, turn in, watch the sheep, up one, brake, down one, watch the standing water, traffic coming the

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Top: Extended arches cover widened track and larger alloys. Above: Floor-hinged pedals are from AP Racing. Right: Handbrake and gearlever sit helpfully close to the steering wheel

other way, pull in here, left foot on the clutch as you stop… and breathe. The scary thing is that although I’m travelling more rapidly down this bit of road than pretty much anything else could, I’m still short of the R5’s ultimate pace, and I know I am because the car isn’t completely happy. Unless it’s being wrung out and flung into a corner as hard as it can go, it doesn’t truly reward. Yet to commit to this sort of pace is a truly brutal experience and one that should be left for a special stage. It might sound as if I didn’t enjoy it, which isn’t true in the slightest. You can (thankfully) enjoy the theatre and excitement of a 458 or GT3 without wringing the last drop of performance from it, and so it is with a rally car on the road. But you do begin to realise just how many compromises even the most extreme road cars make to ensure their performance is accessible. M-Sport has apparently considered producing a small run of R5 road cars, à la Group B. It really should. I think a road-going R5 could change how we think about performance cars, and certainly give a few people a headache about how to spend `1.6 crore (plus tax). Perhaps if you lengthened the gearing a fraction, brought the ride height up a bit, put some less aggressive tyres on it, and added Gaurav Gill stickers on the side windows… I want one already. L


R ES P O N S E F EAT U R E

Raising the bar

The new Hyundai Elite i20 sets a benchmark among premium affordable hatchbacks WO R D S b y A N I N DA S A R DA R & P H O T O G R A P H Y b y G AU R AV S T H O M B R E


Stylish and Intelligent THE GREAT AMERICAN GRAPHIC DESIGNER MILTON Glaser once remarked that there were only three responses to design – yes, no and wow! In the case of the new 2018 Hyundai Elite i20 however, wow is the only one we can think of. Its already stylish silhouette has undergone a mild update and now features a glossy C pillar. Its striking road presence is the consequence of an all-new cascade high gloss grille at the front, combined with brand new projector headlamps with integrated LED DRLs and positioning and cornering lamps. At the rear, uniquely designed tail lamps compliment the front to create a balanced design. Finally, the package is rounded off with a set of brilliant diamond cut 16-inch alloy wheels. This sporty yet premium theme is carried on inside as well, with the Elite i20’s spacious interior benefitting from body coloured accents or a dual tone scheme and a clean dash layout where everything is logically placed within easy reach. Where comfort and convenience are concerned, the Elite i20 is a game changer with its 17.7cm audiovisual infotainment system. A premium Arkamys sound system has been employed for a superb acoustic experience. Auto headlamp control, anti-pinch power windows, reverse parking camera, and more complete the list. There’s even a smartphone app to help you and your Elite i20 stay connected.

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R ES P O N S E F EAT U R E

Its striking road presence is the consequence of an all-new cascade high gloss grille at the front, with brand new projector headlamps with integrated LED DRLs

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Engine and performance THE ELITE I20 GETS A CHOICE OF two excellent engines. First up, there is the powerful 1.2L Kappa Dual VTVT free breathing petrol unit. This modern 1197cc four-cylinder engine with four valves per cylinder and double overhead camshafts puts out a very healthy 82bhp and 115Nm of maximum torque. The unit is mated to a slick shifting five-speed manual gearbox that sends all the grunt to the front wheels. For those looking for diesel economy there is the lovely 1.4L U2 CRDi turbo diesel unit. This smooth running 1396cc fourcylinder unit pushes out 89bhp and a whopping 220Nm of torque that kicks in at a lowly low 1500rpm. All of this is sent to the front wheels via a precise six-speed manual transmission with short throws. Be it petrol or diesel, the Elite i20 feels peppy yet refined. Power delivery remains linear throughout, even with the turbocharged diesel, to offer an easy driving experience as you cut through city traffic or overtake overloaded trucks and slow moving buses on highways. For those who like to enjoy some spirited driving, the Elite i20 has more than enough to offer with its quick accelerating darty nature. Especially important is the fact that none of this is at the cost of efficiency with both the petrol and the diesel versions of the car offering excellent fuel economy in their respective classes.

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R ES P O N S E F EAT U R E

Be it petrol or diesel, the Elite i20 feels peppy yet refined. Power delivery remains linear throughout www.

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Ride and handling WITH THE ELITE I20, HYUNDAI IS NOW UP THERE WHEN it comes to offering a balance between a supple and comfortable ride quality and sporty handling characteristics. Its taut monocoque exhibits limited body roll when you hustle this premium hatchback through a series of twisties. Combined with its MacPherson strut with coil spring front suspension and coupled torsion beam axle with coil spring, both of which are set up just right for Indian road conditions, the Elite i20 is capable of sticking to the line chosen by the driver with a confidence that is reassuring. Not even the tightest of switchbacks will unnerve this premium hatch. This also gives the driver the confidence to push harder, and as a result smile harder as he enjoys The Thrill of Driving. Yet, these thrills don’t come at the expense of a comfortable ride quality, which is extremely important on our varied Indian road conditions. The Elite i20’s suspension setup has been optimised in such a way that while it is capable of holding the hatchback on its chosen line, there is enough give in the front and rear suspension to be able to absorb the shocks of ruts, bumps and potholes. Nothing short of the highest of speed breakers and the deepest of potholes will catch this supremely comfortable hatchback unaware. So while you are having fun in the seat that really matters, the seat that carries the people who matter will remain comfortable and at ease throughout the journey.

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R ES P O N S E F EAT U R E

The Elite i20 is capable of sticking to the line chosen by the driver with a confidence that is reassuring. Not even the tightest of switchbacks will unnerve this premium hatch

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R ES P O N S E F EAT U R E

HYUNDAI Elite i20 1.2L Dual VTVT/ 1.4L U2 CRDi Engine 1197cc, in-line 4-cyl, petrol/ 1396cc, in-line 4-cyl, turbo-diesel Transmission 5-speed manual/ 6-speed manual Power 82bhp @ 6000rpm/ 89bhp @ 4000rpm Torque 115Nm @ 4000rpm/ 220Nm @ 1500-2750rpm Price (ex-showroom Delhi) `5.35 lakh - `7.91 lakh/ `6.73 lakh - `9.16 lakh

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R A L LYC R O S S M A ST E RC L A S S

WORDS by A N T O N Y I N G R A M

ORGANISED CHAOS It may not have the glamour of Formula 1, but the growing popularity of rallycross, and the star names it’s attracting, is proof it can more than hold its own in the hierarchy of world motorsport

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HERE’S A CLIP ON YOUTUBE of Italian rally driver Gigi Galli negotiating a tarmac hairpin with his usual flair in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI. He pitches the car broadside before the turn even starts, his car taking up the full width of the road and almost pointing back where it came from as it enters the hairpin, before sliding through the corner and onto the following straight. Imagine that same turn, but on dirt, and while overtaking five cars in a single hit.

That moment, supplied by Kevin Eriksson at the German round of the 2016 World Rallycross Championship, is rallycross in a nutshell. It’s long been an exciting spectator sport, really taking off when drivers like Will Gollop and Kenneth Hansen campaigned 6R4s and RS200s, but in the age of instant gratification, there’s never been a better time for it to thrive. The 2018 season kicks off on 14 April in Catalunya, and unfurls across Europe and Scandinavia, North America and South

Africa, with each event comprising four qualifying heats, two semi-finals and a final. Three to five cars take part in each four-lap heat, while semi-finals and finals pit six cars against each other for six laps. As an FIA series, World Rallycross is young, having started in 2014, but fierce competition means we’ve already seen four different teams and three different drivers triumph. The sport is big business, and over the following pages we’ll tell you all you need to know about it.


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THE CARS: WRC v WRX

1 STRUCTURE & BODYWORK

2 ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

THE TOP TIER OF RALLYCROSS – OF which master overtaker Kevin Eriksson and nine-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb are a part – is the Supercar class. The cars are steroidal, WRC-like machines based on familiar hatchbacks, albeit ones that put down the best part of 600bhp through sequential gearboxes and all-wheel drive. They may look like their WRC counterparts, but this comparison of a Citroën C3 WRC (above) and Peugeot 208 WRX (right) reveals the differences.

Modified Citroën C3 shell, reinforced with a welded multi-point roll-cage and clad in a mixture of steel and carbonfibre panels. Length 4128mm, width 1875mm, wheelbase 2540mm. Minimum weight 1190kg (1350kg minimum with crew).

Citroën Racing GRE four-cylinder: 1600cc, turbocharged, Magneti Marelli fuel injection, antilag system. Approximately 375bhp @ 6000rpm and 400Nm @ 4500rpm. Six-speed sequential transmission, mechanical front and rear self-locking differentials, hydraulic centre differential.

3 WHEELS, TYRES & BRAKES

4 SUSPENSION

7 x 15in alloy (gravel), 8 x 18in alloy (tarmac), Michelin tyres. 300mm ventilated discs and four-piston calipers front and rear (gravel), 370mm front and 330mm rear ventilated discs with water-cooled four-piston calipers (tarmac). Hydraulic handbrake.

MacPherson struts all round. Citroën Racing dampers, adjustable for low- and high-speed compression and rebound.


R A L LYC R O S S M A ST E RC L A S S

1 STRUCTURE & BODYWORK

2 ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

Modified Peugeot 208 shell, reinforced with welded multi-point roll-cage and clad in tough carbonfibre body panels. Length 3965mm, width 1850mm, wheelbase 2550mm. Minimum weight 1300kg.

Peugeot RCD1 four-cylinder: 1998cc, turbocharged, Peugeot Sport fuel injection, anti-lag system, 552bhp @ 6000rpm and 850Nm @ 4500rpm. Sixspeed sequential transmission, multi-plate clutch, limited-slip differentials front and rear.

3 WHEELS, TYRES & BRAKES

4 SUSPENSION

8 x 17in magnesium alloy, Cooper tyres. 343mm ventilated discs and four-piston calipers front and rear. Hydraulic handbrake.

MacPherson struts front and rear, adjustable dampers with 300mm travel.

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HOW TO BE A RALLYCROSS DRIVER

CIRCUIT ANATOMY: SILVERSTONE facilities and suitable infrastructure in and around the circuit. Throw in the restrictions of local authorities around Lydden, and Silverstone’s internationallevel infrastructure and freedom in terms of space made it an obvious choice for 2018 and beyond.

SILVERSTONE IS THE NEWEST venue on the World Rallycross calendar, taking over from one of the longestrunning circuits in the sport – Lydden Hill in Kent. It’s a controversial move, but the sport’s popularity is to blame: growing attendance requires better

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START

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MAP KEY DIRT

HIGH SPEED

BRAKING

RECOVERY VEHICLE

MARSHALLS

1 SURFACE

2 LAYOUT

A World Rallycross circuit’s surface must be at least 35 per cent, and up to 60 per cent, ‘sealed’ – in other words asphalt, concrete or similar. The remainder is unsealed, usually dirt or gravel. Silverstone has opted for just 39 per cent sealed, which puts it among the more dirt-heavy rounds. Work began on the track in mid-2017, so the surface has had some time to weather in – a process that can be artificially enabled, but there’s no substitute for the real thing.

Initial planning revealed that the most suitable place for the new track was within the Stowe complex, formed from two of the old runways and sitting between the pit and Hangar straights. The track length is 970m (the FIA regulates 800 to 1400m) and packs a pair of jumps – each given suitable space to ensure good take-off speed and room for cars (which may be side-by-side) to land safely. Subsequent corners have a sealed surface to improve safety.

3 JOKER LAP

4 DESIGN

FIA World Rallycross rules demand that each car must take a ‘joker lap’ route once per race. This typically adds 2-3 seconds to a lap time, and the joker section is separated from the main circuit by safety barriers. Cars rejoining the main circuit should be doing so at the same speed, and neither entry nor exit to the joker section should be on the racing line. Silverstone’s joker is between turns seven and ten and features a leftright chicane through a sealed-surface section.

Silverstone’s layout is the work of Driven International, which has designed circuits for everything from karting to top-level FIA events. During the design process drivers weren’t consulted, thus reducing the risk of tailoring a circuit to a particular driver’s tastes, but Silverstone did get feedback from BTCC champion and former rallycross driver Andrew Jordan. Only a few drivers have tried the circuit, but feedback has been generally positive.

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THE RIGHT-REAR TYRE OF THIS Peugeot 208 GTi would get you pulled over in minutes if you were foolish enough to use it on public roads. Its completely bald counterpart on the left-hand side would probably have you thrown in the clink without trial. Give the average oblivious motorist a few laps around the sprinklerdoused gymkhana course at the Peugeot Driving Academy in Nivelles, Belgium, and you’d never again need to remind them to put new rubber on their family wagon. On the damp surface, the 208 oversteers like an AC Cobra on remoulds the instant the rear tyres find water. It slides with particular voracity when turning right. Luckily, a cheerful Swedish family has turned up to help me make sense of these unusual handling characteristics. Kenneth Hansen, his wife Susann and his sons Timmy and Kevin are the rallycross family behind the eponymous Team PeugeotHansen, which competes in the FIA World Rallycross Championship. The all look surprisingly cheerful given they’ll soon be sitting alongside me in the passenger seat… Look for the grip The bald rear tyres might as well be made of ice on the arc of wet acrylic halfway through the course. The correct technique is to go in slow and straight. Predictably, I


R A L LYC R O S S M A ST E RC L A S S

spin spectacularly on the first two runs. Kenneth’s technique is much more enlightening. He… er, cheats. We pile onto the acrylic and instantly slide wide. Both outside tyres then hit the tarmac surrounding the curve and hook up, allowing him to get on the gas early and exit far quicker. ‘It’s not the way you’re supposed to do it,’ admits Kenneth, ‘but it’s where the grip is.’ In rallycross, the surface can change lapon-lap. A driver’s greatest responsibility is to find that grip, even if it means an unconventional line – like going wide, hooking your tyre on a kerb, or just occasionally, leaning on a competitor. Keep tight While a wide line may be necessary sometimes, the ideal line is often much tighter. I treat the course much as a circuit – slow in, fast out, drive each corner as if it has an apex. The Hansens have a different approach: keep tight. Kevin demonstrates this most vividly. He brakes latest of all, turns in early and aggressively, carries speed into the turn, and uses front-end grip to scrabble as close to the inside cones as possible. From there it’s straight onto the throttle, forcing the limited-slip diff to lock the nose into the chosen line, and using deliberate steering and throttle inputs to unsettle the tail if the nose starts to push.

Above: evo’s Antony Ingram takes some rallycross instruction from Timmy Hansen

The inside is, after all, the shortest path, and it’s the one your competitors will all be taking while you’re leaving a big gap on the inside on your traditional racing line. Learn the car Watching Timmy pile into the poor little road car and mercilessly thrash it around the course, torturing the tyres with his family sitting in the back, makes for hilarious viewing. But within one or two laps, all three had learned circuit and car better than I manage all day. Each had discovered just enough tarmac on the way into the first hairpin to take the preceding corner without even a lift and still have time to brake for the tight left-hander – in contrast to the confidence lift I was using. In the 208 WRX – a car Kevin describes as having a ‘brutal’ power delivery thanks

to its anti-lag system – this manifests itself as an ability to adapt to technical changes race by race, but also to the car’s deficiencies; Timmy notes that the team still has some way to go to match its rivals on the sprint to the first corner. Listen to your spotter. Or don’t… In a sport where so many cars spend so much time so close together, a spotter – much as in NASCAR – is vital, helping to make strategy calls, advising on joker laps, and giving you running details on your nearest competitor’s exploits. The brothers like a constant stream of information, and everyone chips in: Kenneth and Susann usually act as the brothers’ spotters, but when Kevin destroyed his car in a qualifying round in Belgium in 2017, he took over as Timmy’s spotter for the final. Of course, you could choose to ignore them. Teammate Sébastien Loeb explains that he prefers to receive information on joker laps and little else – perhaps some respite after spending much of his working life being shouted at from the co-driver’s seat by Daniel Elena… L

The bald rear tyres might as well be made of ice on the wet acrylic


DUSTER’S I went to get high on clean energy. But got high on something else

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S P EC I A L F E AT U R E : G ET T I N G H I G H

GAME WO R D S b y A J I N K YA A N A I R P H O T O G R A P H Y b y RO H I T G M A N E

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S P EC I A L F E AT U R E : G ET T I N G H I G H

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Below: The Duster feels at home in the gravel. Facing page: The serpentine village roads are a pleasure to drive on

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DRENALINE RUSH. A physical feeling of intense excitement and stimulation caused by the release of adrenaline from the adrenal glands. That's how the dictionary describes it. Picture this: You. Petrolhead. Renault Duster. More than four grudging hours on the highway. You see something in the distance. A small road leading up to a massive mountain. You take the detour. Foot planted, until you come across the first corner. The road disappears. There’s only grit and gravel. Suddenly, you feel a rush of energy, and time slows down. That surge of function and intensity brought on by the situation? That's fightor-flight adrenaline – the same hormone you feel when your Ed comes striding furiously toward you asking if you’re done with your articles. After the release of adrenaline, the immediate surge of it makes you more alert, enhances your reaction time, and sends blood to the major organs and muscles. You instinctively reach for the handbrake and the rear slides out leaving behind a cloud of dust, while the Duster holds its line perfectly. After the first corner, you let out a manic laugh and feel pumped up to take on whatever comes next. You fully place your trust in the car. It doesn’t let you down. But that was not the plan at all This Getting High with the Duster series has taken us to some crazy places. From the highest fuel station, to

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The rear slides out leaving behind a cloud of dust, while the Duster holds its line perfectly the highest tea plantation, Renault’s SUV has done it all. So naturally, the plan was to do something similar this time around. Instructions were pretty clear. We’d visit the highest rally stage in Maharashtra which lies alongside an array of windmills. From the windmills, you could overlook Kalsubai, the highest peak in the state. The place we were headed to is called Konkanwadi, in Nashik, and the drive was to cover a healthy 250 odd kilometres. With the game plan set, we were on our way at the crack of dawn. This time at our disposal was the Duster Easy-R AMT variant. And boy was I glad to have an automatic in my hands. Allow me to explain. Pune is a city where, quite recently, the vehicle density surpassed its human populi. No joke. And with that statistic comes burdensome traffic jams. The exclusion of my left foot constantly having to depress the clutch


S P EC I A L F E AT U R E : G ET T I N G H I G H

Inside the cabin, you're not disrupted with a clamorous thud every time the suspension does its duties


pedal left me pretty unwinded and chilled out during the whole getting-out-of-the-city part of our drive. On the outskirts is where we first stopped for some grub. The end of the city meant it was time for a long stretch of highway and Aniruddha, our in house motorsport guy, had really hyped up the Pune-Nashik highway. In fact, he had stuck his neck out and called it better than the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Sigh. How my hopes were shattered. The road was one of the most infuriating ones I’ve driven on. You pass a toll-booth, and the roads turn pleasant and large, putting a smile on your face. And then just after a kilometre or two, you get bottlenecked into a singlelane “road” smothered with maddening three-bump speedbreakers and innumerable potholes. What was even more irksome was that the pattern followed for more than 40 kilometres! Highway, narrow road. Highway, narrow road. Arghh! The only thing that kept me sane was the supple ride quality of the Duster. It eats up undulations for breakfast and potholes for

dessert. And inside the cabin, you're not disrupted with a clamorous thud every time the suspension takes care of its duties. It was after the first 40 kilometres that the real highway started and I could finally test what the 1.5-litre 108bhp diesel motor has on offer. Well, it’s safe to say that it does not disappoint. Even with four people and considerable luggage on board, the SUV showed no signs of asphyxiation. The mythical lead-footed, bald creature called Abhishek was in the car with us. And he wanted to have a go at the Duster. Deathly terrified of what he’d do if I refuse, I quietly pulled over right before a ghat and scurried along to the passenger seat. And the legends hold true. Because as soon as he slotted the gearbox into Drive, his right foot stabbed the accelerator paddle to the last millimetre of its travel. Through the entire ghat section, we swayed on our seats like the pendulum of a metronome, and while we held on to dear life, the Duster felt unbothered by his antics. The section finally came to an end and Abhishek let out a


S P EC I A L F E AT U R E : G ET T I N G H I G H

1: Local cuisine was hard on our stomachs. 2: A well deserved treat for the Duster. 3: The touchscreen is responsive and a boon while driving. 4: Tail lights seem bright even during the day

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contented grunt (which meant that he liked the car too). Our exit from the highway soon arrived, and we came across a tree-tunnelled village road, which is my favourite kind of road! A few clicks here and there, and we were on our way again. In the distance, I could see the windmills we travelled the distance for. Now except Rohit, our photographer, none of us had ever seen windmills before. So the excitement levels were similar to what it was 10 years ago when my parents got me that paper windmill toy in a fair. And we noticed a small road leading up to a massive mountain, atop which came the first set of windmills in the area. Naturally, we were excited but we were still 20 kilometres away from our planned location. After a few minutes of pondering, a unanimous decision was made to scale the mountain. With the gearbox slotted into manual, I put my foot down. Once I got into the boost zone, the SUV quickly gained momentum. 245Nm hitting at a very early 1750rpm mark transformed the Duster into a pro hiker. The first gravel-filled corner was approaching fast and with my blood riddled with adrenaline, I yanked the handbrake and the rear slid out beautifully, like you see in the movies in slow- mo, while the ESP interevened to make sure I never left the line. There were some tricky portions in the rally stage-esque trail we’d just discovered, where the soil just gave way as soon as you put some weight onto it. And that was quite a worry since this was a FWD variant. But our doubts were soon put to rest with the Duster scaling the slopes like a champ. With this newfound confidence, I tackled five more gritty corners at high speeds, after which we had to ascend an RFC-styled off-road section. This is where the 30-degree approach angle and 210mm of ground clearance came into play. The rocks were tackled with ease and crossing that part placed us right below our first windmill. Complete silence. The only noise you could hear was the blade cutting through the air. All of us stood in awe for a good two minutes with our heads slung backwards. Honestly, it’s quite scary when you see those blades, as tall as a three-storied building, move that fast for the first time. Your brain takes time to comprehend the relation between such a huge object and quick movements. And the view from the top was staggering. All the mountains that surrounded us were dotted with windmills and this was without a doubt one of the most beautiful views I had ever seen. We instantly decided that this is where we’d finish the rest of our shoot. Once we got used to the view, we spent our time driving around the mountain while Rohit went about his clickety business. And in the car, all I could think about was how pissed our Ed was gonna be after we disobeyed his clear instructions. His idea was that we’d go out there and get high on clean energy. What I got high on instead, was the Thrill of Driving. L


245Nm hitting at a very early 1750rpm mark transformed the Duster into a pro hiker

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AU D I Q 5 : O L D v N EW

F A M I LY WO R D S b y A N I RU D D H A A R A N G N E K A R P H O T O G R A P H Y b y RO H I T G M A N E

Quick off the mark, comfortable, convenient and dynamic, Audi's Q5 always hits the sweet spot. How much further does the new generation move the game? 114

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FEUD

I

F IT SEEMS TO YOU AS IF crossovers and SUVs are taking over the world, it’s because they are. Their choke hold on sedans grows tighter with each passing year, with more manufacturers entering the fray with new models. As enthusiasts, we'd much rather have sedans that handle and don't come with much body roll for similar, if not less, money. But here’s the thing, over the years SUVs have adopted car-like attributes and now

they don’t really drive like the lumbering beasts of SUVs of the past. So we haven’t given up on SUVs just yet. Not with the relentless expansion in varieties and sub-segments, which usually means performance and dynamic improvements to make them more fun to drive. Take the Audi Q5 as a case in point. It has always hit the sweet spot, providing the convenience and practicality of SUVs, while having enough performance and driver involvement to not invalidate your auto-enthusiast credentials. Given how change is always inevitable however,

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AU D I Q 5 : O L D V N E W

the Q5 too has changed over the years and now there is an all-new generation. Begs the question, does it still hit the sweet spot like in the past? To find out, we decided to head out with old Q5 and the latest one and pit them against each other. The old Q5 was quick, comfortable, and infused with the latest tech gadgetry. It was no surprise therefore that it went on to be a runaway success story for Audi. Interestingly, the Q5 accomplished much of its success without any significant update since that initial launch, all the way back in 2009. In fact, even today, the outgoing Q5 is an undeniably premium-looking SUV, having set the standard in the segment for the longest time. That said, a major upgrade was long overdue. Enter the 2018 Audi Q5, a redesign of what was an already successful story. As is the norm for Audi, the visible changes to the vehicle are subtle but comprehensive. When parked sideby-side, you can easily tell that Audi has taken the things that were already well-loved about the first generation Q5 and improved on them,

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while also borrowing a handful of tweaks inspired by its bigger brother, the Q7. The subtly sculpted sides and tall roofline have been carried over mostly unchanged, retaining the identity of this SUV. A revised rear bumper with chrome detailing and slightly reshaped tail lights do a good job of making the rear look sportier than before. Upfront however is where you find the big difference for the new Q5’s grille sits between a pair of Q7-like headlights and large air intakes. The chrome slats in the grille now run horizontally rather than vertically, giving the new car a squatter stance than its predecessor. Overall though, the look of the vehicle remains consistent and the Q5’s visual updates remain an evolution rather than a revolution. Where the new exterior is a discreet improvement over the older model, the new Q5’s interior is light years ahead of the previous one. It's apparent the moment you step into it. The most obvious update of course is the addition of Audi's virtual cockpit instrument display, which is now becoming de rigueur on

EVEN TODAY, THE OUTGOING Q5 IS AN UNDENIABLY PREMIUM LOOKING SUV AUDI Q5 Gen 1 2.0 diesel Engine 1968cc, 4-cyl., turbo-diesel Transmission 7-speed DCT Power 174bhp @ 1750-2500rpm Torque 380Nm @ 1500-2500rpm Weight NA 0-100kmph 9sec (claimed) Top speed NA Price `43.47 lakh (discontinued)


all-new cars launched by the manufacturer. It replaces traditional analogue clocks with a 12inch LCD that can be configured in a variety of ways to suit the driver. The rest of the Q5’s cabin has been upgraded to closely resemble that of the Q7 and A4, with a more refined design and improved ergonomics. There's efficient use of space, combined with a lower dashboard height and slimmer pillars giving the new Q5 a more open feel while improving all-round visibility, something the old car struggles with. There's also a large infotainment screen mounted above the new centre console. Numerous dark plastics have been replaced by bright contrasting trims that run the full width of the cabin while the revised control knobs are more intuitive to use. An updated MMI infotainment system can be paired with an optional touchpad with handwriting recognition. The underpinnings are the biggest update to the Q5 and it aligns even more closely to its big brother with the adoption of VW Group's MLB modular platform. The big change that it brings to the driving personality is a sense of lightness – it feels more agile, needs less effort and responds more quickly to inputs. Proactive, rather than reactive, a trait we talk about later as well. As has always been the case with the Q5 the suspension soaks up bumps quite well and we know for a fact that passengers remain comfortable on all but the roughest of roads. The new Q5 also addresses a complaint that customers had and that was the limited rear head room. Passengers will also appreciate the new model's well-damped

suspension that imparts a stable feeling no matter the road or driving condition; the ride is smooth and controlled, even when the going gets rough. Additionally, Audi has upgraded the Quattro drivetrain with Ultra Technology which predicts grip (or otherwise) and responds accordingly. The sensors predict a loss of grip and switch proactively from FWD to RWD, rather than reactively as in the past, making the Q5 even more capable in slippery or off-road conditions. The response time of the system is 200 milliseconds. The system also allows the Q5 to maximise fuel efficiency (because when not required it sends drive only to the front wheels) without sacrificing the allwheel-drive performance that Audi is known for. Except for some minor hiccups from the seven-speed DCT transmission (or S-Tronic as Audi calls it), the Q5’s powertrain is well sorted and provides more than enough grunt for acceleration and passing. It does hesitate when you initially give it gas before moving the Q5 forward with all the engine’s authority. Once the Q5 is up and rolling, shifts are quick and unobtrusive, but when coasting up to a stop at low speeds, you do get an occasional clunk as the transmission drops to first gear. The Q5 is happy moving around in town, but it really comes into its own once out on the open road. There is a perceptible uptick in performance too with the 0-100kmph time dropping by 1.1 seconds thanks to a 13bhp bump in power and 20Nm bump in torque. Customers looking for more power from their mid-size Audi SUV will be disappointed though.

AUDI Q5 Gen 2 35 TDI Engine 1968cc, 4-cyl, turbo-diesel Transmission 7-speed DCT Power 188bhp @ 3800-4200rpm Torque 400Nm @ 1750-3000rpm Weight 1990kg 0-100kmph 7.9sec (claimed) Top speed 218kmph (claimed) Price `59.79 crore (ex-showroom)

Clockwise, from top left: Both cars share the same 2-litre diesel motor in different states of tune; The older car had plenty of technology that doesn't feel dated even today; Old Q5 had a nice airy feel to it, carried forward to the new generation model; The new Q5's interiors resemble the Q7's

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AUDI HAS UPGRADED THE QUATTRO WITH ULTRA TECHNOLOGY THAT NOW RESPONDS IN 200 MILLISECONDS

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The 3.0 V6 turbo-diesel that was offered as an option on the previous Q5 has been dropped, there isn't even a petrol option (for now), Audi deciding to simplify the new generation line up by offering just the one engine option. With an output of 188bhp, paired with that 7-speed double clutch transmission, the engine can propel the new Q5 briskly enough, but it does run out of steam and begins to feel stressed when revved hard. On the move the steering, while accurate, is lightly weighted and provides very little feedback from the front wheels. In the Dynamic drive mode, it feels a little heavier but continues to remain artificial. Pitch the Q5 down a twisty two-lane and it’ll handle it with aplomb, but it doesn’t have the Porsche Macan’s ability to involve the driver. There’s no question which one will show you a better time. The new Q5 is almost exactly what you’d expect a new Audi to be, which is a good thing. It isn’t a huge leap forward from the old car, but again, that's not a bad thing. Audi has followed the if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it philosophy and built a new Q5 that’s a more polished, grown up and an even more mature version of its predecessor. The supple ride with loads of space and a relaxed, rather than exciting driving experience, making this SUV closer to the Q7 than its predecessor ever was. Which is exactly what customers like our friends with the Gen 1 Q5 want. L


WO R D S b y S I R I S H C H A N D R A N P H O T O G R A P H Y b y RO H I T G M A N E

Mountain Trails Heading to the mountains to beat the heat and discover great driving roads


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Left: Prayer flags flutter on every bridge, at the entrance to every town, across the passes, everywhere. Above: Safari Storme leads the Hexa through the river bed at Dirang

FLAGS FLUTTER ENTHUSIASTICALLY ON THE narrow steel bridge, the strong wind blowing prayers and spreading happiness. Beneath us a stream gushes, glacial melt heading for the Kameng river that will eventually feed the mighty Brahmaputra. Gravel crunches under our feet and birds chirp away in the Kiwi bushes nearby. Perched high on the hill is our hotel and to the left is a trail that heads along the river – a track to test the off-roading ability of the Hexas and Safari Stormes we’ve driven up in. Rocks, water fording, some gooey mud, it’s all there, yet the SUVs are silent, everybody is silent. It's 15 years since I drove up to Arunachal and the more things change the more they remain the same. Garbage is conspicuous by its absence. People are always smiling. The kids have the rosiest cheeks you will ever see. Monasteries loom atop craggy mountains, looking for all the world like they’re about to slide off. The good folk at the BRO remain busy with clearing the landslides that pepper the roads. Oncoming traffic is occasional and courteous. Everybody is happy, those prayer flags working as advertised. We’re soaking in surroundings that are unspoilt and unsoiled by man’s relentless quest for what we call progress. And all of it can be Instagrammed! There’s full 4G network to let forth a barrage of self-righteous hashtags. WELCOME TO THE SECOND DRIVE WITH SOUL adventure where this month we’re heading up to Tawang in Arunachal with a group of Tata Motors SUV owners behind the wheel of 11 Hexas and 2 Safari Stormes. All these guys, save one, are Safari owners and this is the first time they’re

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Above: The enthusiastic bunch of SOUL members who signed up for the North East drive. Right: Sela lake near the summit of the 13,680 foot pass. Facing page, below: The climb up to Sela

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getting behind the wheel of the Hexa – and that’s where I come in, to conduct a live off-road workshop putting into practice all that we talked about in our Tame The Terrain YouTube series with our long term test Hexa. “Rough Road mode everybody”, I holler over the gurgling of the stream. “Take it easy over the rocks, follow the track of the vehicle in front, keep an eye out for the spotter.” We’re heading to Tawang the next day and the last thing we want to do is bump sumps on rocks. Shouldn’t have worried though, most of these guys have been on SOUL drives in the past, have done their fair share of off-roading and find the going easy enough with the Hexa. Good thing that, my job is done. Time now to really enjoy Arunachal. We’re staying in this little village that nobody outside of the motorsport community has ever heard of. Dirang has a population of 6000. There’s a sports stadium, a monastery built ten years ago when the Dalai Lama visited and a small helipad for the Army base. It’s so sleepy it is practically horizontal. The biggest event happens every second year when a bunch of hardcore rallyists descend for the Arunachal Festival of Speed. And that’s that. The village goes back to sleep. You want to get anything done you have to backtrack to Bombdila, two hours away. You want to buy a car or bike, you backtrack a day’s drive to Assam. Dirang sits in a little valley South of the Sela Pass, gateway to Tawang. And there is still snow up on Sela. These are places that don’t pop up on anybody’s radar and that’s the whole point behind the SOUL drives – discovering untrampled trails. Starting off as the official Tata Safari owners group, SOUL has now grown into the umbrella group for all Tata SUV owners (it will include the H5X, or whatever the concept is called when launched later this year) and with numbers growing, so have activities. And in a departure from norm where participants drive down in their own vehicles, because

evoIndia.com | May 2018

WE’RE STAYING IN THIS QUAINT LITTLE VILLAGE THAT NOBODY HAS HEARD OF


of the remoteness of the North East, Tata Motors provided participants (including us!) with vehicles. Not that we’d have grumbled to drive down in our own Hexa. A word then about the Hexa. Over the past year we’ve driven all across the country with our Hexa and it’s an SUV that I’ve come to know quite intimately. Its strong motor makes for quick and relaxed progress, Dynamic mode noticeably bumps up the torque and response, the JBL stereo provides strong notes and most of all, the excellent ride quality makes short work of poor roads. This is a big advantage as we climb the passes because even though the BRO are working overtime, landslides are so frequent that broken roads are a constant companion. It’s no problem for the Hexa. Over three days we drove from Guwahati to Bhalukpong on the Assam-Arunachal border, then to Dirang and finally across the Sela pass to Tawang where we took a day’s break to visit the monastery before heading back the same way. Not strenuous drives by any stretch but the whole

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Below: Entry gate to Tawang. Bottom: Safari Storme makes quick work of river crossings. Facing page, below: A blanket of fog and snow greeted us at Sela pass

point of these SOUL adventures is to get people to explore remote, unheard of parts of the country with enough time to chill. Or Instagram it all (you’d be surprised by how good the mobile network is!). DRIVES SUCH AS THESE ARE ALL ABOUT MAKING new friends and this SOUL group were quite a hardy enthusiastic bunch. “We have no expectations, we’ve all got an open mind, but this drive has blown me away,” said Ajay Mittal, a Safari owner whose wife enjoyed driving the Hexa so much he had to hand over driving duties. Imroz Baig who is a regular on almost all the SOUL drives was among the first to sign up and at the briefing volunteered to be the sweep car. Paul Poonen had only just taken delivery of his Safari Storme in Coimbatore and decided to stick with the Safari for this drive too. Rajesh Shah, a Hexa owner, was so surprised with the Hexa’s ability on the terrain we encountered that he has put his name down for an H5X, whenever it’s launched. Sraban Chakroborty was so keen on being on the drive he drove up from Howrah in his own Hexa after all the slots got filled up. Chandrashekar Joshi told me he’d decided to upgrade to a Hexa instead of the luxury car he's been planning to buy. Of course you expect owners to say good things about their vehicles but Hisham Raja who had no previous experience with any Tata Motors product was grinning like a puppy after splashing around in the river. The lucky bloke won our #DriveWithSOUL and #JetSetEvo contest, bagging a fully-paid drive on the Mountain Trail along with tickets on the Jet Airways network, and remarked, “Tata Motors does make the best SUVs!”. ON THE FLIGHT BACK HOME, ON JET AIRWAYS that have just ramped up their connectivity to the North East with flights even from Pune, I read in the papers about offbeat destinations getting popular. Kazakhstan or some such. And I did a face-palm. The thing is, we Indians are travelling all over the world but we haven’t even scratched the surface

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S P EC I A L F E AT U R E : D R I V E W I T H SO U L

of what our own country has to offer. If only I had a dime for the number of times I’ve heard about a summer break planned to Europe, to beat the heat. Now what if I told you that even in April, Arunachal is cold! While the rest of the country is reeling under the scorching heat there is still snow on the Sela pass and our Hexa’s temperature read-out showed two degrees. Dirang was a pleasant 18 degrees, requiring a light jacket for the cool breeze. And did I mention the fresh mountain air. God, I’d forgotten what fresh mountain air smelt like. You will not believe the rejuvenating effect just a couple of days in the mountains can have on your body. And top it all there’s that strangely spiritual effect that prayer flags have on you, a calming relaxing effect to leave the stresses of the city far behind. The opportunity to experience all this is why drives such as SOUL Mountain Trail are so popular. The North East is remote and that’s putting it mildly. You don’t get self-drive cars to drive up to Tawang. Even if you did it’s a long, long drive. The remoteness is the reason why these beautiful places don’t figure on the radar (for good or bad I’m struggling to decide) and that’s why this drive (open only to Tata SUV owners) was sold out within three days of registrations being thrown open. You get the opportunity to drive with a group of like-minded enthusiasts, behind the wheel of an SUV so well-suited to these conditions, with service backup, and with everything planned out including off-road sessions. No wonder if there was another thing all the participants were unanimous about it was that they’d be signing up for the next SOUL drive to Ladakh in August. Add my name to the list! L

YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE THE REJUVENATING EFFECT A COUPLE OF DAYS IN THE MOUNTAINS CAN HAVE ON YOUR BODY


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F O R D F I GO S v M A R U T I S U Z U K I SW I F T AGS v V W P O LO GT T D I

The traditional stand of the petrolhead would be to dismiss diesel hatchbacks as practical, no-nonsense machines. Not vehicles of fun. We’re here to find out if diesel hatchbacks can deliver The Thrill of Driving

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F O R D F I GO S v M A R U T I S U ZU K I SW I F T AGS v V W P O LO GT T D I

D

IGEST THIS. IF YOU’RE a petrolhead, fond of nimble compact hatchbacks, anywhere in the world you will have access to a whole range of fun-to-drive petrol hatches. In India, however, thanks to government regs, manufacturers don't bother with a petrol engine larger than 1.2 litres. Here, the diesel engines shoved under the bonnets of hatches are bigger, and all too often, more powerful. So you can buy the Sports Edition of the lovely Figo and be stay content with 87bhp from its 1197cc petrol. Or, you can get yourself the turbodiesel variant and access the 99bhp that its 1498cc unit puts out. At the other end of the affordability spectrum take the case of the Volkswagen Polo GT. With the excellent petrol TSI you’ve got 103 trotting ponies, but with the oily TDI you’ve suddenly got six extra galloping horses in your stable. Begs the question, are diesel hatchbacks fun to drive then? Only one way to find out. We took the Figo S 1.5D and the Polo GT TDI and decided to put them to the test. But hey, wait a sec. Shouldn’t the Swift also feature here? Sure, there isn’t a sporty version but no one will question the Swift's inherent sportiness either. And in its third generation the Swift continues to offer a decent load of thrills. Sirish certainly thought so and thus we brought that darty little hatch to the party as well. Do they look the part? The Swift certainly does. It has an aggressive face, sculpted body and a wide flat stance. All of which make it look sporty. Then there’s that flat-bottomed steering (the only car here to get it), twin pod instrumentation and the well-finished big round rotary knobs for the air con to add a dash of youth. The seats are lovely too, providing just the right amount of balance between cushioning and support. The Figo’s new age design suits it quite well and gives it an aggressive open mouthed look. The silhouette looks sporty too but it doesn’t seem to squat in that ready-to-spring-ahead sort of stance that the Suzuki has. On the inside, the Ford simply fails to make you feel special. The interiors are well-finished, so that’s not

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THANKS TO GOVERNMENT REGS, HATCHBACKS DON’T HAVE A PETROL ENGINE LARGER THAN 1.2 LITRES. HERE, DIESEL HATCHES HAVE BIGGER AND MORE POWERFUL ENGINES the problem. The problem is with the design. The cabin feels dark and dingy, the instrumentation is nowhere near sporty and the seats are too narrow. I didn’t find the Ford particularly ergonomic either. Finally, the Polo. Even after so many years, how the Polo retains the old silhouette and continues to look relevant in an ever-changing space is beyond me. But it does, and I certainly think it’s one of the best looking hatchbacks out there. Even today. But, as a sporty proposition, it doesn’t look as exciting. For me, the Polo’s interiors sit smack between the Swift’s and the Figo’s on the count of sportiness. What does make the Polo stand out is its build quality. It’s absolutely solid. There’s no sign of give anywhere. If only build quality added to visual appeal. Do they play the part? It’s one thing to look like Usain Bolt and quite another to be able to jog like him. As a football player in school, I remember a number of boys who would turn up with the best possible football kit (those were the days before Decathlon). Despite their swagger most wouldn't count for much on the field. So it’s important for each of these

to be able to play the part as well as they look it if they’re going to have a fighting chance at winning our hearts in this test. The Swift we had on this test was brilliantly sporty to look at but came with a handicap. Instead of a manual transmission, this one was equipped with an automated manual transmission. Despite all claims to the contrary, the AMT system is not equipped for performance. Its primary focus is to offer convenience without eating into fuel economy. And its engine is the smallest, least powerful in this lot. But it’s also significantly lighter, tipping the scales with a less than one tonne kerb weight. The Swift manages to deliver a quarter mile run in 18.75 seconds with a terminal velocity of 121.41kmph. The 0-100kmph acceleration run is dispatched in just 12.56 seconds. And mind you, these are true speeds as recorded on our GPS-based VBox telemetry system. The numbers on the speedo are a tad more optimistic. Not a bad show at all. Except for that irritating head toss inherent in the shift quality of all automated manual trannys, even in the manual mode that we used to get these numbers. Leave it in D and you’ll certainly be slower. With speed rising rapidly, the Swift’s stability doesn’t come across as extraordinary. In fact, it’s a wee bit flighty at mid-triple digits on the speedo. The Swift feels a lot more confident and reassuring on the Lap of Mutha than it does on the performance run conducted in a straight line. Its 74bhp and 190Nm that didn’t count for a lot on the quarter mile run, has enough grunt nonetheless to make the car feel darty between corners as you power out of one and head for the next. On the brakes, off it and then you make the corner with the 185/65 tyres squealing delightfully. With much less mass to lug around, she turns quickly. The poise of the updated (from the Baleno) Heartect platform that the Swift is now built on is surprising. Teetering on the edge of balance, a little loose but not enough to give you a bad case of sweaty palms, the Swift never fails to make you smile. AMT or not. It reminded us why we had brought the Swift along to this test in the first place. If only that steering didn’t feel as lifeless as it does and if only it was a manual.


VOLKSWAGEN POLO GT TDI Engine 1498cc, 4-cyl, turbo-diesel Transmission 5-speed manual Power 108bhp @ 4000rpm Torque 250Nm @ 1500-2500rpm Weight 1153kg 0-100kmph 11.44 seconds (tested) Top speed NA Price `9.34 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi)


F O R D F I GO S v M A R U T I S U ZU K I SW I F T AGS v V W P O LO GT T D I

FORD FIGO 1.5D SPORTS EDITION Engine 1498cc, 4-cyl, turbo-diesel Transmission 5-speed manual Power 99bhp @ 3750rpm Torque 215Nm @ 1750-3000rpm Weight NA 0-100kmph 10.31 seconds (tested) Top speed NA Price `7.74 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi)

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MARUTI SUZUKI SWIFT 1.3 DDiS ZDI AGS Engine 1248cc, 4-cyl, turbo-diesel Transmission 5-speed auto Power 74bhp @ 4000rpm Torque 190Nm @ 2000rpm Weight 985kg 0-100kmph 12.56 seconds (tested) Top speed NA Price `7.96 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi)


Switching from the Maruti to the Polo, you instantly feel more grown up. It doesn’t feel as happy. Until you get going. Despite the weight penalty of more than 160 kilos, the Polo GT TDI runs the quarter mile fourtenths quicker than the Swift, posting a time of 18.36 seconds and a terminal speed of 125.55kmph. From a standing start, it blows past the 100kmph marker in 11.44 seconds, shaving more than a second off the Swift’s time. And it feels rock solid while it’s doing all this. No head shake. No flightiness. It’s almost as if the car bites into the tarmac and never lets go until you bring it to a stop. The only things that mars the experience somewhat is the gear shift mechanism because it isn’t as slick as you’d like it to be, and those tyres. The 185/60 profile tyres that the GT TDI wears

on its 15-inchers are simply overwhelmed when you want to lay all that 109bhp and 250Nm on black top. I’d reckon better tyres and slicker shifts would gain the VW a few tenths on that acceleration run. Even on the twists and turns of the Lap of Mutha, the Polo holds on to the ever changing lines like the car was glued on to the road. In the Polo, the driver’s confidence grows in direct proportion to the confidence levels exhibited by the car and thanks to that super taut chassis of the Polo, confidence levels are very high indeed. I would wager that if you were to put it on track with these two, you’d be able to go through every single corner faster than you would on either of the two. It’s easily the best handling car in this trio. But there’s a problem. Designed to behave itself

on the unrestricted autobahns of Germany, the Polo feels so confident and reassuring at our very Indian velocities that I reach a point where I’m borderline bored. There’s none of the Swift’s drama. You’re mostly calm as you throw it from corner to corner, completely in control. I can’t believe I’m saying this but the Polo does feel a little too in control and perhaps for me at least that’s the bit where the Thrill of Driving gets a little muted. You’d have to push the VW much, much harder to experience that little jolt of excitement that you’d get much sooner on the Swift. And that, brings me to the Ford. I don’t like its ergonomics and I don’t like its interiors. They’re just a shade too drab to help my spirits. But boy, she goes! Quarter mile in 17.6 seconds with a terminal velocity of

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1: You'll mostly get this view of the Figo from the Swift or even the Polo GT TDI. 2: Thankfully, the driving experience outweighs those drab interiors. 3: Time to change the timeless appeal of the Polo's dash? 4: Sportiest cabin of this lot belongs to the Swift. 5: The Figo S is limited only by its tyres. 6: The 1.3 DDiS' 74bhp just can't keep up. 7: The badge that makes all the difference. 8: This is the thing that pushes the Figo S to 100kmph in 10.31 seconds

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F O R D F I GO S v M A R U T I S U Z U K I SW I F T AGS v V W P O LO GT T D I

129.88kmph. A 0-100kmph acceleration run in just 10.31 seconds, over a second quicker than the Polo and over 2.2 seconds quicker than the Swift. I had thought the Polo would be the quickest of the lot but the Figo just takes it to another level. And it’s pretty stable too. Sure, it probably won’t be able to stay as stable as the VW at autobahn speeds but at the now legal 120kmph on our Indian expressways, it feels like a breeze. It’s only when you get past 140-150kmph on the speedo that the difference in stability between the Figo and the Polo begins to come to the fore. And then you get to the Lap of Mutha. While the Polo is the grippiest of the lot without doubt, it is the Figo that is the most enjoyable for it straddles the middle ground. Through the corners it feels nearly as confident as the German hatch, poised and reassuring enough to give you the confidence to push a little bit harder. But there’s just enough of drama to transform smiles (which you’d get in the Polo) to the grins that make the Swift so lovable. So you end up with a greater margin of confidence, reassurance and safety than on the Maruti but without compromising on the thrill of it all. The end result is a bargeful of fun. And the sum of their parts? Let's go back to the question we had asked

DIESEL HATCHBACKS DO HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOUR THAT INDUCES ANYTHING, FROM SMILES TO GRINS at the start then. It’s quite clear that the Indian driving environment is clearly the exception to the rule. Here, unlike elsewhere in the world, diesel hatchbacks do have a sense of humour that induces anything, from smiles to grins. That they’re practical to own and economical to run in our country is an added bonus no enthusiast will really crib about. After all, diesel or petrol, a tankful of fuel earned equals a pocketful of cash emptied. But what’s the point of a comparison if

we’re not going to tell you which one to buy. So here goes. The Swift is the best looking of the lot and feels the cheeriest too. It’s thoroughly enjoyable to drive too, more so if you have the manual. The issue of convenience notwithstanding. Darty and fun but with all the practicality that is the hallmark of a Suzuki. It is a good bargain. The Polo, while not youthful, looks timeless in its appeal. It is built like a tank. And it goes like a bullet (not the bike please). You’re welcome to disagree but I don’t think there’s a hatch that corners harder. It’s just that the VW isn’t as engaging and involving. With its much higher threshold for everything it feels a smidge too sober, and when you do cross that limit you end up understeering heavily and helplessly. More so there's that lifeless electrically assisted steering. The Figo. Now if you’re only after the Thrill of Driving and the mundane practical bits are only collateral gains for you, this is your car. It’s as solid and stable as the German but without its sobriety. The Figo will happily wag its tail when you want it to and then shoot like a thoroughbred when you need it to. Besides, this is the quickest car of this trio. By the way, did I mention cheapest also? Well, there you have it. A verdict for a diesel head. L

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ROAD Four men. The Indian Car of the Year. A road trip to the Auto Expo

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S P EC I A L F E AT U R E : V E R N A 2 EX P O

SHOW WO R D S b y J E H A N A D I L DA RU K H A N AWA L A P H O T O G R A P H Y b y RO H I T G M A N E

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I ALWAYS GET THESE BUTTERFLIES in my stomach on the night before setting out on a long road trip. Call them nerves or whatever, I take them as a positive sign. Why? Well, these so-called jitters keep me more vigilant and focused on the task at hand. And this one was particularly daunting as it was my first long drive in a car and the Ed was entrusting his longterm-test Hyundai Verna to me. It is a car that has racked up rave reviews from the petrolheads here at evo India and kudos to Hyundai for making it a more engaging car; an evo kinda car! No wonder it was our Premium Sedan at the 10th Times Auto Awards and also the reigning ICOTY. In our first reports we reckoned it had the kahunas as well as the bells and whistles to appease both the driving enthusiast and his family. An ideal car then to undertake the 1600-kilometre journey from our HQ

HAMMY THOUGHT IT WAS ‘HAMMER TIME’ AND WHIPPED UP ALL 126 HORSES INTO A FRENZY

Left above: Jehan enjoying the cooled seats a bit too much. Left: The photo and video team had a chilled out journey. Above: The Verna makes quick work of corners, even when fully loaded

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in Pune, to bring you the latest from the 2018 Auto Expo. The plan Well, it was simple. Start early from Pune, swallow up the expressway to Mumbai before dawn and beat the traffic that volcanoes around Mumbai. Quick sprint then to Ahmedabad to pick up photographer Rohit and videographer Alameen who were getting done with another of their shoots, stopover in Udaipur for the night and then a pretty straightforward drive onwards to the capital. And keeping with one of my New Year’s resolutions I surprised my colleague Abhishek, my driving partner on the drive, by arriving at his doorstep ten minutes early. The only instructions I’d given my colleagues was to pack light, you don’t want the suspension to worry more about handling weight than handling a few corners, but Abhishek being

the fitness freak (read junkie) that he is, cannot survive without his supplements, protein powders, health shakes and what nots. Not exactly the light packing that I’d recommended. I love pre-dawn rides and drives and took the wheel for the first part of the journey. Having done enough and more trips to my hometown in Gujarat, I was familiar with the route and more so the food stops on the way. Considering that we had to be in Ahmedabad by 3pm, we knew that stops would have to be limited to a bare minimum and we filled up on an early breakfast just prior to the second toll on the Pune-Mumbai expressway. While Abhishek was torn between what would be the most nutritious item on the McDonalds breakfast menu (scrambled eggs and a cappucino), I stuck to my Parsi roots and packed up a couple of pora-paos (omelette wrapped in buns) and bun maska.

Chillin’ like a villain We made good time on the expressway, allowing the Verna’s 1.6-litre turbo-diesel motor to stretch its legs. I wasn’t on the ragged edge of insanity but not tootling around either and to my surprise the on-board computer relayed back a fuel efficiency figure in excess of 18kmpl. That was an incredible number considering we had dialled down the cabin temperature to 20-deg Celsius, were keeping our butts cool with the seat coolers and using all the points to charge our various devices. We were blessed to have made little of the Mumbai traffic and in no time were clear of Ghodbunder. I have wasted many hours on numerous occasions trying to cross this section and fortunately we did not have to endure such treachery – leaving early is such a life saver. With buttery smooth roads on the horizon from here onwards, I was pretty confident that we would arrive

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HANDLING IS NOT JUST FOR THE TWISTIES, IT MAKES HIGHWAY DRIVING SO MUCH SAFER early but what I did not anticipate was the truck traffic as well as the sheer stupidity of our Indian drivers who ended up slowing us down. Here’s where the Verna loved dancing around these obstacles with the mid-range surge helping us getting around these mobile chicanes. Taking delivery As we reached the outskirts of Surat, it was time for a much-needed switcheroo as Abhishek ‘LH44’ Wairagade was bored out of his mind. Hammy thought it was ‘Hammer Time’ and whipped up all 126 horses into a frenzy and when I woke up two hours later (the cooled seats are such a boon in our Indian conditions!) we were just fifty kilometres short of Ahmedabad with our in-house Hamilton doing a bit of ‘lift and coast’ to get us to a half decent gas station with restroom facilities. This dash also meant that now we were almost 45 minutes early to pick up Rohit and Alameen, cue some more face stuffing.

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With the boot packed to the brim with all their photo and video equipment, we left the hustle and bustle of Ahmedabad but ten minutes later Rohit wanted icecream. Another halt! Uggh, I wanted to get to Udaipur as soon as possible, not wanting to do highway running in the dark. Also, it may just have been me but ever since we crossed the Rajasthan state border, I was getting the wafting scent of Lal Maas. (It was just you! – Alameen, Abhishek, Rohit). Luckily, we arrived in the suburban area of Udaipur just as the sun was setting. The big ball of fire was descending steadily behind the local hillocks and we just had to take a moment or two to soak in the sights. Much to my dismay, there was no mutton at our hotel that night which meant no Lal Maas. Dwelling in We had conquered a major chunk of our journey on the first day and decided to reward ourselves by having a proper breakfast, setting off at 10am. This was

bound to cause a problem but that’s for later. We were enjoying the open highway with old school rock tunes blasting through the system. The Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity worked seamlessly throughout the journey. Yes, we tried both the car connectivity services and I pronounce Google’s to be better, since I use a ’droid. Abhishek might disagree. What we did agree on though was the effortlessness with which the Verna was just gobbling away the miles. I just loved the fact that the six-speed gearbox made the most out of the 260Nm of torque making high speed cruising so easy – and efficient. At the quaint little town called Nathdwara, an hour’s drive from Udaipur, we stumbled upon a gigantic statue of Lord Shiva being constructed in the distance. We had to see for ourselves just how tall this statue was and we were staggered by the work in progress. When completed, the statue will be 251 feet, making it the tallest one of its kind in the country. Our


S P EC I A L F E AT U R E : V E R N A 2 EX P O

Above: Work is important but first, let us take a selfie! Left: Big enough boot for all the Expo gear. Below: Take me to the land of the Lal Maas, says Jehan to the Verna

shutterbugs finally woke up nd to our surprise we saw some more new Vernas in the neighbourhood – just goes to show how popular Hyundai and the Verna in particular, have become. By noon we were in Jaipur and finally we got some Lal Maas into our bellies. Yes, I have mentioned Lal Maas a number of times already and if you do find me mentioning Lal Maas again in this article, I apologise. Gameboy driving I had heard about the dreadful truck traffic that plagues the highway between Jaipur and Delhi in the evenings. Never experienced it though. Till now (insert facepalm emoji here). The late start to the day was not the right move. Those 200 clicks were a nightmare, dodging lorries and truckies who gave not a damn to regulations and safety or anything, driving on the opposite side frequently and with impunity. Here’s where my skills over years of playing the Gameboy came in handy. The Verna’s nimbleness as well as the new found surefootedness made it easy to flit between the multi-axles. And here’s where I come to another conclusion. Handling is not just for the twisties, it makes highway www.

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WE STUMBLED UPON A GIGANTIC STATUE OF LORD SHIVA BEING CONSTRUCTED. WE HAD TO SEE FOR OURSELVES JUST HOW TALL IT WAS

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driving so much safer allowing quick direction changes and obstacle avoidance manoeuvres without losing composure. By the time we made it to the NCR, the moon was already up. We had to traverse the length of the capital to make it to our hotel on the other side, in Noida. Another arduous and testing journey. Driving in Delhi is a feat in itself. You have to remain vigilant, quick, slow and calm. You never know who you may end up offending here and you definitely do not want to rub somebody the wrong way here, literally and figuratively. And so, after a solid helping of galouti kebab and chicken tikkas at the Moti Mahal in Noida, our drive ended on a sumptuous note. We were ready and prepped for the Auto Expo 2018 and hope you liked our coverage of Asia’s largest auto show across our digital and social platforms, not to mention the March issue of this magazine.

Not that the Verna went to sleep. It ferried the entire team back and forth to the show grounds in Greater Noida. It made trips to the printers who did the official SIAM Show Daily. At the end of the day everybody fought over its keys, an escape from the hustle and bustle of the show as well as the NCR. Through it all, the Verna remained unfazed and did everything we asked of it. We drove the wheels off it, cruised along and trundled gingerly in traffic. It aced every task. She was surefooted and didn’t give us an ounce of trouble. Despite the boot loaded to the max, she did not float or bottom out, a major bugbear of the past. Most of all, I didn’t get any butterflies in my stomach the night before I was to drive back to Pune after the Expo, the Verna gives you that confidence to tackle road trips and every surprise our Indian highways enjoy throwing at you, without skipping a heartbeat. L Top: Taking a breather after Hammer Time! Far left: Car connectivity worked seamlessly on all platforms. Left: Cooled seats – a boon for our Indian weather. Above: On those rare occasions that Rohit does decide to work seductively

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WI NGMAN Mahindra’s latest custom job on the Thar will make your eyes pop


M A H I N D R A T H A R WA N D E R LU ST

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RE YOU SUFFERING FROM low self-esteem? Are you lonely? Do you feel your friends don’t value you? Do you think you’re not man enough? Fret not, not Tele Brands but Mahindra Customisation is here to the rescue! Here’s an SUV that’ll take away your life’s worries and make you look like a hero without a cape. This is the Thar Wanderlust, Mahindra’s ninth official custom kit for the off-road exhibitionist. Those of you at the 2018 Auto Expo wouldn’t have missed it at the Mahindra pavilion for its sheer size and funky blue shade. But does it actually do what the label says? “Is it a monster truck?” Squealed the kids in my apartment complex when I rolled in with the Wanderlust. The Daybreak that we sampled two years ago (evo India, September 2016 issue) had left us bamboozled but the Wanderlust takes the sheer outrageousness to the next level. To begin with, you get massive 35-inch Renegade Radar

M/T tyres. To put that into perspective that wheel is taller than most of the kids squealing around the SUV. However, the Wanderlust isn’t as well-proportioned as the Daybreak, seeming more like a T-Rex with its massive legs and tiny arms, thanks to those 315-section(!) tyres. The front-end is similar to the Daybreak again, with the addition of a massive pump jack mounted on the bonnet. You get interestingly designed projector LED headlamps with integrated indicators. However, there are four more halogens placed on the bumper with enough power to light up an IPL cricket match. At the rear, you get two jerry cans in place of the light cluster. Mahindra has gone all out this time, even when it comes to the interiors. The real party piece is the SLSlike gullwing doors. Yes, you do not need to spend crores to get those anymore. There’s lots of ill-stitched cowhide on the inside as compared to a regular Thar along with a mobile balcony for us Indians, better known as a sunroof. Mahindra has clearly researched its audience well. There is so much bling that its makes the Hummer H2 look like a poor cousin.

Left: Gull wing doors sure to create traffic jams. Above: You really have to use your muscles to get such shots! Right: Similar to the Thar's interiors with the exception of Pioneer touchscreen infotainment system and HUD

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THERE IS SO MUCH BLING THAT IT MAKES THE HUMMER H2 LOOK LIKE A POOR COUSIN www.

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Right: Snorkelling shouldn't be a problem. Below: 38mm additional suspension travel over the regular Thar! Right below: That is a show piece

PEOPLE PERFORM CALISTHENICS OUT OF CAR WINDOWS OR ON PILLION SEATS TO TAKE A PICTURE

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Does it move? Getting into the driver’s seat is as good as going for a trek up your favourite mountain. And as you get on the move, all that added muscle makes its presence felt. Mahindra hasn’t specified the weight but we think it’s a good 150-200kg heavier than the regular Thar. As the Wanderlust is a custom kit for the Thar, Mahindra cannot really play around with the engine as they have to adhere to homologation regulations, which means you get the same 2.5-litre CRDe engine that makes 105bhp and 247Nm. Simple math – that makes the Wanderlust slow. Really slow. Get out of the turbo zone (below 1800rpm) and the monster starts to struggle, which means, you have to plan your gearshifts well. However, things aren’t so gloomy when you consider that it gives passers-by enough time to ogle at you. Everytime you get on the road, there are people performing calisthenics out of car windows or on pillion seats to take a picture. You feel like a celebrity being harassed by the paparazzi.

MAHINDRA Thar Wanderlust Engine 2498cc, 4-cylinder, turbo-diesel Transmission 5-speed manual Power 105bhp @ 3800rpm Torque 247Nm @ 1800-2000rpm Weight NA 0-100kmph NA Top speed NA Price `9.03 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai)+ `13.8 lakh for the Wanderlust kit (inclusive of taxes)


The Wanderlust hates corners. You get the same ladder frame chassis along with new leaf springs with an additional 38mm of travel. The ride feels more like a roller coaster and some of the passengers even experienced zero gravity over tiny speed breakers. However, there’s a silver lining to every cloud here. If you keep pushing the Wanderlust even for an hour, you’ll have worked out your forearms and calves without having to drive to the gym. There, you’ve saved another `30,000 on gym membership fees. Not just that, it even works out on its own body after every bump, as if performing zumba, letting its body loose as it shakes and wiggles in all directions possible. Getting jiggy with it. Get off the road and all that wizardry starts to make sense. Shift into 4-low and the Wanderlust climbs over boulders with amazing ease. No articulation shots on these pages? Blame it on the long travel suspension. On this very same lake shore we shot the Thar with two wheels in the air desperately clawing for grip.

With the Daybreak we barely felt anything, it just chugged along like a beast. How has it helped me? I have made new friends in the week I lived with this insane Mahindra. In fact, I have clicked more selfies with strangers wanting to pose with the car than I have ever taken even with my wife. I have never driven a tank but I can’t imagine it to be any different from driving this mammoth. Driving a tank on the road won't turn more heads than the Wanderlust. It gives you a mad ego boost, even more than what wooing a girl does. And the best part is that the Wanderlust has as much road presence as a Hummer while saving you crores of rupees – the kit costs only `13.80 lakh, plus a donor Thar. Sure it's not practical as a daily commuter but that's a small price to pay for the tsunami of new followers on Instagram. And the self-esteem, not to mention biceps, to rival Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson. L www.

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NISSAN R34


WO R D S b y J O H N B A R K E R P H O T O G R A P H Y b y A S T O N PA R RO T T

S K Y L I N E G T- R The last of the original Skylines, there is no disputing the R34 GT-R’s status as a genuine icon

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TRUNDLING GENTLY UP AND down this road for car-to-car shots, we’ve held up a couple of cars, and the old Ford Ka has been delayed a bit longer than most. So when it slows to a halt as we’re turning around for another run, I’m braced for a scowl or maybe a hand gesture. I look across and the lady in her 50s is gesticulating alright. But she’s giving the double thumbs up and smiling madly. Before pulling away she shakes her head like she just can’t believe she’s seeing an R34 Skyline, blows a few kisses, and is gone. I’ve been fortunate enough to drive some great cars in great locations and I’ve never experienced such universally positive reactions as greeted the R34 when we turned up in Margate. There’s probably no more subtle a colour than silver and this car has the standard twin-pipe back-box rather than the optional Nismo drainpipe, so it’s quieter than a 370Z, but as we amble along the seafront on this busy, sunny afternoon, I’m getting a taste of what it must be like to be a celebrity. At one end of the scale there’s nudging and pointing, double-takes and ‘subtle’ raising of cameraphones, and

at the other plain awe, reverence and wild enthusiasm, occasionally with sweary, can-you-believe-this?! shouting. And it’s all sorts of people too, from kids to pensioners, parents to youfs. No question, driving an R34 gets you a whole lotta love. Back in the spring of 1999 when I first drove one, the R34 was a stranger in the UK. It was evo’s cover car on issue 009 and it was an import – quite possibly the first – loaned to us by Simon Lerner of Intercar (still sourcing specialist Japanese cars today). I don’t recall it being spotted by anybody on our whistle-stop 24-hour trip from London to north Wales and back. It was a huge step on from the chubbierlooking R33 and more aligned visually with the delectable R32, the first Skyline GT-R to make it here, in tiny numbers via grey importers such as Intercar and Rare Imports. Skyline specialist Middlehurst Motorsport had brought in 100 R33s and when the R34 came along Nissan GB wanted to bring the car officially into the UK itself. There would be a delay, though, because although the all-wheel drive

Left: Quality of the plastics dates the cabin, but the basics are right, including a precise gearshift and a perfectly sized steering wheel. Above: Even today the R34 is an imposing sight on the road


N I S S A N R 3 4 S KY L I N E GT- R

THIS STANDARD CAR TOOK SOME FINDING, APPARENTLY, WHICH IS HARDLY SURPRISING AS UNMODIFIED R34s MUST BE AS RARE AS UNCLAIMED LOTTERY TICKETS

running gear was lightly stressed by the stock ‘276bhp’, it wanted to add a package of upgrades to protect the car in the event of sustained autobahn running – oil coolers for the engine, gearbox and AWD transfer box. There was a new engine ECU too and, completing the mods, the interior was enhanced with Connolly leather-trimmed seats. This slightly odd mash-up of Japanese high tech and traditional British craftsmanship lies partly in the passion of the Connolly brothers for the Skyline. They had been fans since the R32 and were friends with the owner of Rare Imports, who was able to source cars for them. Middlehurst Motorsport carried out the work required to make the R34 ‘Europroof’ and some 80 V-spec UK’s were sold, this being one of them. It was later acquired for the Nissan UK heritage press fleet and is completely standard. It took some finding, apparently, which is hardly

surprising as unmodified R34s must be as rare as unclaimed lottery tickets. Anyone oblivious to the untapped potential of the legendary 2.6-litre twin-turbo straightsix would have been put right by a certain movie franchise that kicked off a year or two later, the frankly absurd Fast and Furious series that helped grow the cult of the GT-R to global proportions. This unmodified car has less power than my SEAT Cupra long-termer, and as you might expect from its square-jawed, Minecraft-like looks, it’s hefty too, getting on for 1600kg. I have always been sceptical that the R34 had only 276bhp as standard, which was a ceiling agreed between car makers in Japan at the time. It had a bit more torque than the R33, and ceramic turbos running ball-race bearings that gave snappier throttle response, but even so, it always felt a bit more like 300-plus. Fast-forward to the launch of the R35 and many commentators reckoned that had

more than the quoted 473bhp. Maybe Nissan’s horses are a little bigger or its kilograms a bit lighter… What Nissan and the many tuners knew was that this was the ground floor. A simple ECU remap – the equivalent of pulling a bung out of the exhaust – could lift this to around 350bhp, and the potential of the RB26DETT engine was good for up to three times that, which is incredible. The rest of the car could take a great deal more power and torque too, so as a consequence the chassis appeared rather over-specced – ATTESA four-wheel drive, Super HICAS four-wheel steering and handsome 18-inch wheels that we described as ‘massive’ back in the day but which look modest now with their hot hatch-sized 245/40 R18 Dunlops. It’s old school in so many ways. The key comes with a connector on the fob that you have to touch against a receptor on the dashboard to disarm the immobiliser, and the Alpine head unit is unfathomable at a

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glance. But what’s retro in a good way is that iconic, competition-hardened straightsix under the long bonnet. Here’s an engine with character in both sound and delivery. It’s not like other turbo units, lacking the immediate, small-throttle response of today’s light-pressure turbo engines but also not being like early turbos, with their eye-widening, blue-touch-paper delivery, though I’m minded this may be an effect of it being in a low state of tune. Toting little more than 100bhp per litre, this Skyline’s delivery builds more like a naturally aspirated engine, with not much up to 3000rpm and growing enthusiasm thereafter. You can hear and feel the boost arriving, the loping, gravelly growl of the straight-six swamped by the hiss of air being ingested, compressed and fed into the engine. As the revs march ever-more confidently upwards, the engine finds its voice again and its delivery grows and expands its impact until you’re at 6000rpm and the car’s surging determinedly forward. Oddly, it doesn’t seem to matter what gear you’re in. This gathering-momentum delivery feels as strong in fourth and fifth as

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it does in second and third. The speed just keeps piling on, the engine firing the R34 at the horizon with ever-greater purpose. Just the 276bhp? Still feels more. The stability is awe-inspiring, too, the Skyline tracking straight and true, spearing down the road with a solid, unwavering purpose that cements your confidence. It feels built for Germany’s autobahns, so Nissan GB was smart to uprate the cooling of the drivetrain’s vitals. The temperature of the transfer case oil is one of the few ‘vitals’ you can’t monitor via the dash-top MFD (Multi Function Display), whose mini-tablet styling is remarkably modern-looking. Mind you, the screen resolution isn’t all that great, and rather than offering nav and connectivity, the display allows you to monitor the status of many obscure items, most of which you’d think would only be of interest to a tuner – injector delivery, exhaust and intake manifold air temperature, that sort of thing… For me, what cements the R34’s claim to be a drivers’ car is that the weighting and feel of all the major controls – the gearshift, pedals and steering – are in harmony. The shift of the six-speed Getrag gearbox

is particularly delicious, moving with a weighty, solid but slick action around a well-defined gate, as if below the lever there are precision-machined, well-oiled blocks of steel sliding over each other. Heel-and-toe is easy thanks to an ideal brake bite point and pedal spacing, so it responds well to finessing, but there’s an underlying strength revealed when you rush the shift, a sense of durability that is no illusion, because the whole drivetrain is rated for much higher torque. Another indication that the car was crafted by people who love driving is the steering wheel. It’s just the perfect diameter, its rim is the ideal width and shape and there are no buttons on it. True, the steering isn’t the sharpest but I find the chassis of the R34 more transparent, more readable than that of the current R35. Essentially, it’s rear-biased, though in the dry, up to the high limits (elevated by the modern Dunlops fitted), it feels like it has an excess of grip, delivered by a chassis that has a sweet, biddable overall balance. The fact that you can’t feel the rear steering counter-steer on the way into a corner (aiding turn-in) and quickly switch to


WHAT CEMENTS THE R34’S CLAIM TO BE A DRIVERS’ CAR IS THAT THE WEIGHTING AND FEEL OF ALL THE MAJOR CONTROLS ARE IN HARMONY Above left: Twin-turbo 2.6-litre straight-six still impresses, even in its basic tune of 276bhp or so. Left: Dash-top display was inspired by that fitted to the R32 GT-R of Hiroshi Tamura, project leader on the R34 GT-R

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NISSAN SKYLINE GT-R V-spec (R34) Engine In-line 6-cyl, 2568cc, twin-turbo Power 276bhp @ 7000rpm Torque 392Nm @ 4400rpm Transmission Six-speed manual, four-wheel drive, active rear limited-slip differential Front suspension Multi-link, coil springs, dampers, antiroll bar Rear suspension Multi-link, coil springs, dampers, antiroll bar Brakes Ventilated discs front and rear Wheels 9 x 18in front and rear Tyres 245/40 ZR18 front and rear Weight 1560kg Power-to-weight 180bhp/ton 0-100kmph 4.8sec (claimed) Top speed 266kmph (claimed) Price in 1999 (in UK) `50 lakh (exclusive of Indian taxes and duties) Value now `50-70 lakh (exclusive of Indian taxes and duties)

evo rating ;;;;;

parallel steer (to restore stability) is a big compliment to the engineers. Then there’s the all-wheel drive grip. Nail it out of a roundabout and there’s a bit of squat and absolute traction. Previous experience shows that on low-grip surfaces it becomes distinctly rear-drive, in a friendly way. The V-spec car gets an active rear diff and only when this can’t find enough grip at the rear tyres to deploy the torque does drive head to the front. The progressive ramp-up of torque allows the slip to be accurately managed and drive to the front wheels keeps things moving forward and helps to pull the car straight. The V-spec is firmer than the standard set-up and back in the day seemed a bit too tough. But, in the same way that the uncompromising ride of the 964 RS seems to have softened over the years (it hasn’t, really, it’s just the context of modern cars), so the V-spec R34 feels firm but not rough, detailed but not jittery. It has a nononsense way of dealing with bumps that aids confidence; in the same way that the boost seems to build with speed, so does the firmness and control of the ride. It’s great to be back in the hot seat. I’m genuinely impressed by how this near-20year-old hangs together as a drivers’ car. At 9pm we rumble the R34 down to the end of the deserted harbour wall to get the shot looking back at Margate in all its night-time glory. Disappointingly, the main lights we were hoping to see – the yellow and blue of the Dreamland amusement park – aren’t yet lit up. It also turns out the wall is not deserted: there’s a little gathering of lads drinking cans of

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IT’S GREAT TO BE BACK IN THE HOT SEAT. I’M GENUINELY IMPRESSED BY HOW THIS NEAR-20YEAR-OLD HANGS TOGETHER

Top and above right: Aerodynamic efficiency is only one of the big rear wing’s functions. Above: Lager-swilling lads on Margate sea wall join our man Barker in showing critical appreciation for the iconic Skyline

strong lager. They get very animated when the Skyline appears, delivering a barrage of questions: ‘Is it yours, mate?’, ‘How fast have you been in it?’, ‘Can I sit in it?’. It’s all very good humoured and respectful. The ones who know exactly what they’re looking at explain to the others that they’re in the presence of an icon. And the best question? ‘Why the f*** did you come to Margate?!’ Aston shows them the back of his camera and they are amazed. Why did we come to Margate? Mainly for the brightly lit arcades, for the oldschool vibe. This traditional British seaside resort is mid-transformation, the catalyst for which has in part been the opening of the Turner Contemporary art gallery. So it’s a place of contrasts, with new, cool, gentrified bits sitting cheek by jowl with kiss-me-quick brashness. You can see it in the people, too: they’re half hip, half hip replacement. In a couple of years or so, it will be a much more modern, more sophisticated place, and more expensive too. Not unlike the R35 GT-R is compared with the R34. But that doesn’t mean the simple pleasures are any less relevant. L


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New Baby Ninja What started out with a 250 has now progressed on to a 400, however bearing an extremely premium price tag

B

ACK IN 2008, THE QUARTER -litre Ninja 250 delighted us to our hearts’ content. But as with Kawasaki’s business in India, be it the company’s product portfolio or its revenue, our appetites too have grown. First to a Ninja 300, and now to a Ninja 400 that will be yours as soon as you decide to part with the hefty asking price of `4.69 lakh, ex-showroom at a Kawasaki dealership near you. First up, and you can’t but help notice it, there’s the bump up in capacity. The all-new 399cc parallel twin is full one-third larger than the earlier 300 and offers 48bhp and 38Nm of peak twist. That’s nearly 10bhp over the Ninja 300, making the Ninja 400 even more powerful than the KTM RC 390 with its 43.4bhp! Peak torque is also up by 40 per cent over the 300 at

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8000rpm. This massive increase in shove is courtesy a new downdraft intake and a larger airbox that together offer increased intake efficiency. The engine has also been designed to be lighter than before in spite of the capacity bump up. Then there’s the new slip and assist clutch that is more compact at 125mm compared to the 300’s 139mm unit. Kawasaki also says that the clutch in the 400 has less rigid operating plates making for a lever pull that is 20 per cent lighter. The bike ditches the old trellis for a new one that’s more akin to the one used in the supersonic H2 with the engine being rigidly mounted and used as a stressed member. This further helps lower the Ninja 400’s kerb weight. There’s a new swingarm mounting plate that allows the swingarm

to be mounted directly on to the rear of the engine contributing to stability, say the makers of this green goblin. Other updates include a more rigid 41mm dia front fork. How about USDs now? The rake is sharper at 24.7 degrees and the wheelbase shorter at 1370mm. All of these should contribute to better handling. The brake disc at the front has grown too, to 310mm from the earlier 290mm. And thankfully, Kawasaki has not skipped on the much required dual channel ABS as well. Nonetheless, that’s a lot of new kit for a bike, and going by how impressed our colleagues in the UK were with this one, we can’t wait to get our hands on it here in India. It’s just that the pricing strategy continues to elude logic since it puts the Ninja 400 within striking distance of the larger, more powerful 650.


NEWS WORDS by N GANESH MURTHY

CBR 250R relaunched New livery and LED headlamps make it on to the spor ts tourer

T Suzuki GSX-S750 to go on sale shortly Suzuki’s upcoming naked will be the second big bike to be a ssembled in India af ter the Hayabusa

S

UZUKI HAS STARTED TO ACCEPT bookings for its middle-weight naked motorcycle, the 2018 GSX-S 750. There is no official word on the launch date as of now, but the estimated price of the bike is between `7 – 8 lakh, ex-showroom. The motorcycle looks lean, muscular and with its aggressive low set headlamp, it looks menacing. The styling is inspired from its big brother, the GSX-S1000 ABS. It is powered by a 749cc, inline 4-cylinder, liquid-cooled engine that puts out a claimed 113bhp and 81Nm of torque and comes mated to a 6-speed gearbox. Saddle height is a very accessible 820mm. New bits on the motorcycle

include a longer swingarm, chain adjustment system and new 10-spoke alloys. It also gets ride-by-wire throttle, three stage traction control that can be turned off and ABS. Front forks are 41mm USD, while the rear is a monoshock unit, both from Kayaba. It gets twin 310mm discs at the front and a single 260mm disc at the rear. When launched, the GSX-S750 will go head on against rivals like the Triumph Street Triple S, Kawasaki Z900 and the Yamaha MT-09, which are priced at `9.15 lakh, `7.68 lakh and `9.55 lakh, respectively (all prices exshowroom Delhi).

HE CBR 250R IS BACK! HMSI has relaunched the CBR 250R at `1.63 lakh and `1.94 lakh, both ex-showroom, Delhi, for the non-ABS and ABS versions, respectively. The bike now features LED headlamps, new graphics and new paint schemes. Mechanically, it stays identical to its predecessor apart from the now BS IV compliant 249.6cc single-cylinder liquid-cooled DOHC engine that continues to pump out 26.1bhp and 22.9Nm. The tuning remains mellow with its aspirations leaning towards sports touring rather than outright performance. The new CBR 250R will be available in Matte Axis Grey Metallic with Mars Orange, Matte Axis Grey Metallic with Striking Green, Pearl Sports Yellow, and Sports Red colour themes. Honda is expected to soon introduce the Repsol paint scheme too, which should come at a small premium over the standard shades.


WO R D S b y A B H I S H E K WA I R AG A D E P H O T O G R A P H Y b y RO H I T G M A N E

GOOD TIMES

Kawasaki wants first time cruiser buyers to have a good time. And the Vulcan S offers bags full of it AWASAKI SAYS THAT YOU must ‘let the good times roll’ and that is what reflects in its products, be it the Ninjas or the legendary ZX-10 or the maniacal H2R. However, when a Japanese bikemaker tries to do things the American (read laidback) way, it doesn’t always go well, does it? That is one of the reasons why none of the other Japanese bikemakers have launched a middleweight cruiser in the country yet. Can the Vulcan S beat the Americans at their own game? This Kwacker really does have the potential. Let us find out why. The Vulcan S isn’t a new product from the ground up but a cruiser form of the now defunct ER-6N or the previous generation Ninja 650. And it is very unlike a cruiser, yet is more cruiser-ish than the Harley-Davidson Street 750, its closest rival. It looks the part for sure, with its wide stance and long wheelbase. The raked out front and ape handlebars give away its lazy intent. The footpegs are mid-set but can be moved rearward or forward, depending on the rider’s choice. The matte dark theme runs through the body parts and that shotgun like, low-slung exhaust. Wish it also had the soundtrack to go with the theme. The 649cc, liquid-cooled engine makes 60bhp and 63Nm and is retuned for better low and mid-range torque. The power delivery is very linear; however, the engine’s character is typical of a parallel twin. The main action begins after 6000rpm and it cleanly pulls all the way to 10,000rpm. Fit that onto a sport tourer and it’d make perfect sense and that is the reason behind the Ninja 650’s success. But how does it fare on a full blown cruiser like the Vulcan S? Not well. In fact, the engine is the only chink in this ‘cruiser’s Japanese armour. Hope you’re listening Kawsaki.


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CA L I F O R N I A S U P E R B I K E S C H O O L

WO R D S b y S I R I S H C H A N D R A N & P H O T O G R A P H Y b y A D I T YA B E D R E

SMOOTHLY, EVENLY, CONSTANTLY Learning new tricks and unlearning old habits at India’s premier riding school

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GOALS. IT’S IMPORTANT TO SET GOALS. MINE, for the second time out at the California Superbike School, was to get the quick-turn sorted. Two years ago, when I first did the CSS, the quick-turn was my biggest takeaway. I also realised that the quick-turn is easier said than done, being able to trust in yourself and trust in the bike to give the ’bars a firm push and drop it into the corner takes a major step up in confidence. And that’s despite the coaches reminding us that nobody ever crashed by turning in quicker. This time round I didn’t lack in confidence as far as the bike was concerned. A few months before CSS we sampled the TVS Apache RR 310 at the MMRT track in Chennai and I enjoyed it so much that if the TVS guys hadn’t obliged me with an RR 310 at the track, I’d have sent our long-term test bike to Chennai. After all, the MMRT is where most of the development of the RR 310 was done and it works superbly on the track. While being quick enough, the crucial thing about the RR 310 is the chassis and suspension are so well sorted it lets you focus on the training modules without having to worry about the bike doing anything funny as speeds increase. That’s a big deal. Right, to CSS then. Students are split into three groups with 15-20 riders in each group. There are 15-20-minute classroom sessions where the lesson is explained, the theory behind each drill broken down, and then we hit the track for 10-odd laps where we put the drills into practice under the eye of a riding coach shadowing us. Each coach is assigned three riders per session so the training is quite personalised and he points out the exact drill we should be focusing on, what we are doing right, what we are doing wrong and if we are really messing things up, pulling us off track for a talking to. After each riding session we sit down to debrief with the riding coach before heading back to the classroom. The training begins with familiar modules, no brakes and no gears to get us focused on the correct line and build up our concentration, after which we progress to two gears and light brakes, all the while repeating the mantra ‘smoothly, evenly, constantly’. We all know that a

Top and above: Oneon-one feedback from the coach means you are told exactly what you’re doing wrong and how you can get it right

motorcycle works best when given smooth inputs but it’s surprising how jerky we really are. Smoothly, evenly and constantly makes sure you use the physics of a motorcycle to extract the best from it. Turn-in on a closed throttle (always on a closed throttle, on the gas the bike will want to push straight); crack open the throttle (not whack it open upsetting the suspension) which brings weight transfer into play and opens up the suspension so that it is now operating in its sweet spot; and then open up the throttle in a consistent and deliberate manner to transfer weight to the rear-wheel to get better drive. The opening up of the suspension benefits you in two ways: it gives you more ground clearance which means more cornering lean and the suspension now has more travel to ride the bumps without transferring it to the chassis. The next lesson is letting the bike work for you and that

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CA L I F O R N I A S U P E R B I K E S C H O O L

FOR THE BRAIN, SPEED IS DANGER, RUNNING PACE IS THE FASTEST IT IS PROGRAMMED FOR means letting go of your death grip. We all do it. Grip the handlebars with all our might, gripping even harder when the ’bars start to move. Wrong! We are messing with the bike! Through a corner, as the bike rides over bumps, the wheelbase as well as the geometry is constantly changing as the suspension moves up and down and when the handlebars move that’s the bike’s in-built countersteer coming into play to account for the geometry changes. It takes time to build the trust to let the ’bars move, I admit that, and the coach flapping his arms in front of me kept reminding me to stay loose on the bike. One firm push on the inside handlebar – countersteer basically – and then relax. So how do you grip the bike? That’s what your outside leg is for. The inside knee slider is hunting for the apex and you lock yourself on the bike by pushing your outside knee into the tank recess. Here you need strength in your thighs and (after market) storm grips help immensely because the leather around the knees and the smooth tank always find it difficult to generate grip. It also demands you sort out your body position – my outside knee was always pointed uselessly at the sky and that’s where the coach comes in, constantly reminding me to focus on what the knee is doing. And then we focus on the quick turn. At 100kmph you’re travelling 27 metres every second.

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If you take 3 seconds to turn the bike into the corner you’ve travelled 81 metres from turn-in to apex. If you quick-turn in 1 second you’ve shaved 51 metres off this phase. What have you done? Tightened your line so you can now use a late turn-in point which means you’ve been on the throttle for that fraction longer on the straight. The full-lean, closed-throttle phase is also reduced so you can pick up the bike earlier and get to full throttle earlier. Technique works wonders in all kinds of corners including the switchbacks, like the entry onto the bridge at the back end of the MMRT, where you can go from full lean on the left to full lean on the right over a shorter distance. I can’t say I’ve mastered the quick turn but I’ve finally got the hang of it. And credit for that must also go to the RR 310 that does not do anything funny allowing me to try out all these techniques without spooking myself. It also forgives your mistakes – too hot into a corner, too high a gear, brake a tad too late – it wags a finger but doesn’t spit you out of the saddle. At the end of three days the biggest takeaway wasn’t the quick turn though – it was vision. We all know about target fixation, we also know to look where we want to go. To this add, we need to look as far ahead as possible. Our eyes, they’re conditioned to look for danger, like a bear charging down at us. For the brain, speed is danger, running pace is the fastest it is programmed for. To go faster on a motorcycle we need to calm our brain down and the trick is to look far ahead as possible. Everything becomes slower. Try it on the road, look down at the painted lines and it seems you’re going damn fast; shift

Above: Sirish has a quick chat with T T Varadarajan, the man who got CSS to India. Facing page, bottom: Your head should be exactly where that mirror ought to be

your vision to the trees in the distance and it doesn’t seem that fast anymore. It’s all perspective. On the track this works by deliberately moving your head, the three-step as the coaches put it. As you get to the braking point your eyes are on the turn-in marker. Before the actual turn-in you shift your focus to the apex while applying a deliberate head-turn motion and keeping the turn-in point in your peripheral vision. And then before hitting the apex you turn your neck and shift focus to the exit, also lifting your neck so you are looking far ahead and thus calming the inputs going to the brain. It’s not that complicated and a little practice does wonders. I didn’t need the RR 310’s lap timer to confirm that I’d become quicker, but crucially I was putting in less effort to ride faster. It all feels easier. My riding isn’t ragged and on edge. I’m not scaring myself. And of course, I know there is more pace – in both myself and the motorcycle. Next goal? More track time! There’s no point in doing a riding school without putting in track time to apply all the lessons. And luckily for me there’s the RR 310 with the race kit that’s round the corner. L Big shout out to Vidiem Racing for bringing the CSS to India and pioneering the concept of riding schools that have now mushroomed across the country. Thanks also to TVS Racing for the RR 310 and the support at the MMRT.

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CA LFI FEOAT R N IU AR S UEP E R B I K E S C H O O L

FEATURE

RALLYING Does it have a future?

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Desert storm 2018

WO R D S b y A N I RU D D H A A R A N G N E K A R P H O T O G R A P H Y b y RO H I T G M A N E & K A I Z A D A D I L DA RU K H A N AWA L A

CHASING THE STORM After three consecutive years of participating, we stand on the other side of the fence at the 2018 edition of the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm

O

N A RACETRACK, EVERYTHING is known. The tracks have been mapped down to the millimetre, every car tuned to be just right for every corner – so that when the big day comes, the car can perform exactly as expected. Things are a little different on a rally stage, where you have nature and its elements to deal with. More so when you aren’t allowed to recce the stages and it’s a night stage, like the opening stage of the 2018 Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm. Unlike a practice or qualifying session that kickstarts a race weekend, rally drivers and riders have little or no time to adapt. On a night stage, the road is visible only up to a few feet ahead at a time. It forks often and rally ending dead-ends lie around every corner. We know this is true at our Indian version of the legendary Dakar rally, having participated and even taken home a few trophies over the past three years. This year, however, we were here to watch. And so, off we went to spectate the stages and learn from the big boys of the Indian cross country rallying circuit. Day one saw no major surprises in the Moto (bikes) category with our Dakar hero C S Santosh of Hero MotoSports setting the early pace after

two stages of leg one. He was closely followed by Angata Racing rider Aaron Mare, who was attempting the event for the first time. It was the cars that would be the major attraction for most watching and following the rally. Defending champion Suresh Rana (PVS Murthy) started as favourite, driving the tried and tested Grand Vitara, but the entry of two new cars for the event was grabbing everyone’s attention. Maruti Suzuki Motorsport had entered an S-Cross and Vitara Brezza, both fitted with all-wheel drive systems and there were plenty of Isuzu D-Max V-Cross pick ups as well. The experience of Rana showed, as he seemed to drive with enough aggression while keeping his vehicle intact, to seize the early advantage. He was closely followed by Aabhishek Mishra (Venu Rameshkumar) also running a Grand Vitara. The Isuzus too showed good early pace, with Raj Singh Rathore (Sagar Mallapa) keeping in touch with the leading duo of Vitaras. Watching from the sidelines was nowhere close to as much fun as taking part in the rally itself. It’s one of the most iconic motorsport events in the country. It’s so locked into the competitors’ psyche that it doesn’t seem to matter that the event was run towards the end of March in the scorching

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F EFEATURE AT U R E

heat of the Rajasthan desert. To make life a little easier on all the participants and their crews, the organisers had decided to simplify the logistics for the event by keeping the stages based around Bikaner for the first two days and Jaisalmer for the remaining three days. It’s a rally that has evolved well over the years, with challenges being added with increasing participation as well. Day two saw a repeat of the two night tests as one long stage. By the half-way point of stage three, Santosh was caught up by Angata racing rider Mare. This put pressure on our champion to ride harder, but unfortunately, he lost out on time to the chasing Mare. The stage also saw last years’ winner from TVS Racing, R Nataraj drop out with gearbox failure. The fight for the lead intensified on the next stage near Jaisalmer, where Mare took another stage win. Sanjay Kumar riding for Angata racing also put in a strong performance and was chasing and making time on TVS racing riders Abdul Tanveer and Lorenzo Santolino. In the Xtreme category, Mishra had taken the lead from Rana, after catching and passing the defending champion on the stage. The gap between the duo was just above 30 seconds at the end of the leg. Leg three of the rally, which comprised of the marathon 200 kilometre stage, was always going to be a crucial stage for the outcome of the rally. And what drama it provided. The stage resulted in the dropping out of defending champion Rana of Team Maruti Suzuki Motorsports as his Grand Vitara suffered engine failure, not too far into the stage. It cut short the exciting battle between Mishra and Rana in the stages of the rally. Mishra who had taken the lead over Rana in the second leg, finished the third leg with a 15-minute lead over Raj Singh, who now moved up to second. Jhangra in the Brezza, put in the best performance of the stage finishing in third and moving his way up in the leaderboard. In the Moto class, Mare established himself in the lead after passing Santosh early on the stage. The Hero MotoSports rider was following Mare through most of the stage, but unfortunately suffered a massive crash, around 50 kilometres from the finish of the marathon stage. The accident aggravated a neck injury Santosh had suffered on the Desert Storm last year,

forcing Santosh to retire from the rally this year, despite finishing the stage, even after the fall and sustaining the injury. Winner of the stage, Lorenzo of TVS Racing moved up to second, while Sanjay Kumar also of Angata Racing was third, making it a strong rally for the Bengaluru based team. With their main rivals out of the running, leaders in both the car and bikes categories tackled the stages with a more sensible approach, rather than flat out attacking instinct. The fourth leg also featured another night stage, which unfortunately neither one of the new Maruti Suzuki Motorsport cars finished as both cars failed to make it home after the finish of leg 4A. The S-Cross suffered

THE 2018 MARUTI SUZUKI DESERT STORM WILL BE REMEMBERED FOR TAKING THE SPORT FORWARD WITH THE INTRODUCTION OF NEW CARS

Clockwise from top to bottom: Aabhishek Mishra easily won the Xtreme category; Hero MotoSports’ C S Santosh dropped out on leg 3 after a bad crash; Angata Racing rider Aaron Mare took top honours among the bikers; Raj Singh Rathore brought home his Isuzu D-Max V-Cross in second place; Sarah Kashyap was the only female finisher of the rally, in eighth place

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from a damaged radiator, which lead to overheating problems, while the Vitara Brezza suffered a turbo failure that forced it to stop in the same stages. Mare, who had built a healthy lead in the previous legs in the Moto class, maintained his overall lead, though TVS rider Santolino won all the stages for the day, to make it an interesting battle going into the final day. However, there would be no further drama and the top two held positions on the final stage of the rally, with Mare giving Angata Racing a well deserved win. Sanjay Kumar came home in third, to give the team a double podium finish. Mishra won the rally by a comfortable margin in the Xtreme category, while Raj Singh brought home his Isuzu D-Max V-Cross in second while Niju Padia (Nirav Mehta), in their tough and trusty Mitsubishi Pajero Sport took third place. This edition of the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm will be remembered for taking the sport forward with the introduction of new cars, which hopefully we should see more of in the years to come. While watching a rally from the sidelines is never as much fun as driving the rally itself, it gave us great perspective on how to go quicker in the desert stages. Till then, we hit the drawing board and get on with preparations for the 2019 edition. L


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THIS MONTH M A R U T I S U Z U K I D Z I R E 1 . 3 D D i S // M A R U T I S U Z U K I I G N I S // FORD FIGO S

END OF TERM

Maruti Suzuki Dzire 1.3 DDiS Eleven months, 10,000km, more than 20kmpl and not much more than a squeak. It’s been a fabulous life with this sedan

HE FIRST DZIRE I EVER HAD FOR any length of time was at a different time, in a different place. The year was 2009 and I was living in Delhi. That black car was brand new and in an era before sub4m became an automotive phrase, the Dzire brought most of the goodness of the Swift but with more practicality and more space. From an Indian perspective it also brought a softer ride but being an enthusiast, I didn't find that aspect particularly charming. Things like quick turnaround at the workshop during regular servicing, reliability and fuel efficiency were surprisingly consistent

T

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aspects of owning the Dzire and quickly became an expectation rather than a talking point. Yes, Maruti service did spoil us. Nearly a decade later, I was once again given the keys to a Dzire. This car was maroon, looked much better and was shorter than four metres. Yet it turned out to be surprisingly spacious. And, unlike the old one of my memories, very well stocked when it came to features while quality was up there with the best in its class. Perhaps even a smidge better. No, this was no update. This was a brand new car. The only thing that was shared with the old car was the name and the

1.3 DDiS engine. Over the next 11 months of ownership, I have used the car in a variety of situations. The 40km home-office-home commute through peak traffic, frequent runs to Mumbai and the occasional trip here and there, including one run to Goa and back. Hell, my colleague Aniruddha even took it to Chikmagalur to chase down rally cars and came back with a bootful of superlatives. During its time with me, the Dzire never once let me down. Not one hiccup. Not even a punctured tyre! In fact, the spare wheel has never been taken out of the boot.


Maruti Suzuki Dzire 1.3 DDiS

Above: The proportionately shaped boot can really pack things in. Left: Cabin feels fresh after almost a year. Below: Fun, but not at the cost of economy

‘What hasn’t changed however is its 1248cc turbo-diesel that continues to offer a balance of performance and economy’

Unlike the old car that I remember, excellent quality plastic has been used on the inside. Which not only feels great, but also lasts and lasts. The dashboard, despite having been left out in the sun on numerous occasions, sunshine or rain, looks as fresh as it did the day it arrived. None of the fading grey of below par plastic of yore. There are no rattles or squeaks either. Given that the car has been driven in all kinds of environments (including some very rough ones) at all kinds of speeds, this is a huge plus in my books and shows just how much the car’s build quality has improved. What hasn’t changed however is its 1248cc turbo-diesel that continues to offer a balance of performance and economy. Barring one occasion, I never saw the figure on the trip computer dip below 20kmpl. I’m talking about an 11-month period and a cumulative distance of nearly 10,000km. The other thing that hasn’t changed is the servicing experience. Send the car

to the workshop in the morning and you won’t be wrong if you get upset if the car isn’t back by afternoon. You see Maruti’s quick turnaround does spoil you. The only thing that has been troubling us over the past week or so is the infotainment system. Occasionally, the Bluetooth refuses to play media and sometimes the phone doesn’t connect properly. But frankly, I would think it’s a software issue that can be fixed easily. Besides, if after 11 months, that’s the only sigh of wear on a vehicle, I would definitely like to own one. L Aninda Sardar (@anindasardar)

Date acquired Duration of test Total mileage Mileage this month Overall kmpl Costs this month

June 2017 11 months 15,757km 1378km 22.1kmpl Nil

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TVS Apache RR 310

END OF TERM

Maruti Suzuki Ignis It was meant to win the hearts of the millennials. Going by our experience of the Ignis, it always should have HE IGNIS WAS LAUNCHED IN THE grandest manner possible, with DJ Axwell of Sweden getting a stadium full of people grooving to his beats. Now, the EDM that was being belted out isn’t exactly to our taste, but the car that was launched? Well, let’s just put it this way, we thought the Ignis was an interesting idea. That was the thought at the time. Having lived with it for half a year plus a few days here and there, we are sold on this wonderful new idea from India's largest passenger car manufacturer. Completely sold on it. During its time with us, we have kept the car confined to the environment it was supposed to be comfortable in. We didn’t take it for our usual weekend drives to nowhere. Nearby Lavasa or Lonavala, at just 60-70km away, doesn’t really qualify in our books as a longish drive. We kept this baby Maruti in its comfort zone, and boy is it comfortable in that zone. For a car that is built to be directly proportional to shrinking road space, the Ignis is surprisingly spacious inside, seating five (four, if they have my proportions) adults comfortably. Quality of the interiors is excellent too, the only thing that isn’t so great is that old school music system. In this day and age of touchscreen convenience, it felt a bit out of place on the commute to work and back. To drive through Pune’s traffic, the Ignis always felt zippy. What else could it be with that smooth 1.2-litre petrol engine producing 82bhp and 113Nm of torque to push less than 900 kilos? When you’re not in a hurry that AMT serves you well without too much of

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Date acquired Duration of test Total mileage Mileage this month Overall kmpl Costs this month

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September 2017 8 months 11,477km 208km 10.7kmpl Nil

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Above left: Even on my short commute home, two-pedal tech found a new taker. Left: Stock tyres aren't great. So we swapped them


‘Finally, degradation. Seems like Maruti has done a brilliant job of arresting that on their new cars’ shift shock but spirited driving? Those were the times when we wanted manual. Not the manual mode that serves as a compromise, but the real thing with the third pedal. The trade off would of course be in convenience, for there is no arguing the benefits of the automation of transmission in a city where the number of vehicles has recently exceeded the number of people! The other thing we didn’t particularly like about the Ignis were its stock tyres. They are a little thinner than they should be and didn’t provide as much grip as we demanded of them. They also didn't look that great. The problem though was quickly solved with a set of excellent wider tyres being loaned to us by Ceat. Having used those for four and a half of the six months the Ignis stayed with us, we’d

be happy to recommend the same upgrade to all Ignis owners. You’ll benefit infinitely from the extra grip without too much loss in running efficiency. Finally, degradation. Seems like Maruti has done a brilliant job of arresting that on their new cars. Like Aninda has mentioned in the Dzire report, the Ignis too has been kept baking in the sun for long hours. I’m happy to report, both the paint and the plastics in the cabin have managed to retain their lustre. Neither are there any rattles or squeaks to report. Service too, like in the case of the Dzire, has been prompt and efficient. Nothing to complain there. Overall, it has been a nice experience and I for one am certainly sad to bid this little car goodbye. L Aslam Kabir

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Ford Figo S

Ford Figo S Another month with arguably the most fun-to-drive hatch on sale in the country

E HAVE ACHIEVED GENERAL consensus: The Ford Figo S is a dynamic powerhouse and gets five stars on the hot half of “hot hatch.” It’s the everyday hatchback that puts an ear to ear smile on your face. Hand an 18-year-old the keys to the Figo S and odds are the kid will be relegated to taking the bus very soon. This, the hottest Figo, will turn any driver, especially one with little to no self-control, into a juvenile neighbourhood terror. Of course, it’s the Figo S’s best attributes that bring out the worst driver behaviour, which makes it our kind of car. It was the unanimous choice in our driver's diesel hatch shootout with the new Swift and Polo GT. Its got the perfect ingredients: a potent and eager engine, a slick-shifting gearbox and a chassis that is capable of making you smile as you go around every bend. Besides being engaging to drive, it's also practical with plenty of interior space and a generous number of cubbies. Add to that

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Date acquired Duration of test Total mileage Mileage this month Overall kmpl Costs this month

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February 2018 3 months 16,278km 256km 19.8kmpl Nil

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the fuel sipping habits of the diesel engine, it makes for a great highway car as well, running well over 800 kilometres on a full tank. It's also very planted at triple-digit speeds and you get a secure, solid feel in the cabin. After multiple Mumbai-Pune trips in the Figo, I have really come to appreciate the dynamic abilities of the car. The only thing you could fault are the tyres, which are a bit noisy at speed and run out of grip far before you are close to exploiting the limit the chassis has. Wider, lower rubber will do the Figo S justice, perhaps the only dynamic negative on this very involving hatch. Having run over 16,000 kilometres, the Figo S has developed a few annoying rattles, but nothing that can't be sorted out when it goes in for a service. Cranking up the volume on the stereo doesn't really help, as none of us are fans of the infotainment system, which feels dated, with the small screen and big buttons. The lack of parking sensors are also a strange miss in this day and age, though the compact dimensions and great, all round visibility makes the Figo easy to manoeuvre. Ford have however addressed these issues in the recently launched Figo-based Freestyle that comes with a big touchscreen infotainment system that gives it a more premium feel. L Aniruddha A Rangnekar (@aniruddha_ar)

‘We have achieved general consensus: The Ford Figo S is a dynamic powerhouse and gets five stars on the hot half of hot hatch’


ESSENTIALS THE ROUND-UP

New motoring produc ts that have caught our eye this month

A P PA R E L Marc Marquez man polo `4 , 4 7 0

MOBILE PHONE ACCESSORY IKEA Vitahult `1,999

SPEAKER Vale Yellow 46 Bluetooth speaker `2 , 5 76

marcmarquez93.com

amazon.in

vr46.it

If you are wowed by the Spanish sensation, then this is one must-have for your collection. Adorning Repsol livery, this Marquez polo tee gets his number splayed right across the chest as well as his signature 'ant' design on the back of the tee.

Just picked up a new car with in-built wireless charging, but stuck with an old iPhone that doesn’t support it? IKEA offers an inexpensive yet handy cover that will fix that problem for you. The only downside is that it’s only available in white.

Who doesn’t go ga-ga when it comes to a product with the VR46 badging, we surely do! This external Bluetooth speaker is a product we’d happily throw our money on. Just one niggle. it won’t play your tunes in Vale’s accent, so don’t be disappointed. Ciao!

SUNGLASSES Porsche Design P’8478 `3 0 , 0 0 0 *

RC CAR Tamiya Konghead 6x6 `1 7, 0 0 0 *

AUDIO Esavox* `15 .4 5 l a k h

porsche-design.com

hobbyco.net.com

ixoost.it

Automotive branding on wearable accessories doesn’t always work, but Porsche Design’s iconic P’8478 sunglasses have stood the test of time, being as cool now as they were in 1978. With a titanium frame and interchangeable lenses, they’re the best way to rock a ’70s Le Mans look.

Tamiya’s first ever six-wheel drive vehicle is bound to be a hoot on the rough stuff. It looks intimidating, too, thanks to a monster-truck body and chromeplated wheels. Independent suspension and rearwheel steering guarantee agility for this 1:18-scale radio-control car.

Are you the Lamborghini owner who has everything? We’re here to tell you that you don’t until you’ve got an Esavox – a carbonfibre, 1600watt sound system shaped like the nether end of an Aventador. It’s styled by Mirco Pecorari, a sports-aircraft designer.

* International prices, excluding Indian taxes and duties www.

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DREAM DRIVE Ramsey

ISLE OF MAN TT COURSE Something rather special and single-minded is needed for roads as intimidating as these WORDS by HENRY CATCHPOLE

AS YOU REACH FOR THE SWITCH AT THE side of the bed and with a ‘click’ plunge your immediate world into darkness, so the scenes start to flicker in your mind. And as your head sinks into the pillow, taking the strain from your neck and relaxing your shoulders, so the sounds begin to play in your ears. There are nearly always two identical cars because, hey, you’re dreaming and somehow it’s cooler with a pair. And the road is always closed. No traffic. No limits. Initially you see the two shapes, almost perfect wedges in this instance, as if from a helicopter. Already in full flight they are tearing across a bleak looking landscape. Heathery mountain moorland is spread out around. In the distance there is the sea, but although the sun is out the water has a steely blue hue rather than the turquoise of somewhere tropical. The cars brake, there’s more dive than you had expected to see, the surprisingly lengthy travel and tall sidewalls compressing as the drivers hit their respective middle pedals moments apart

but perhaps leaving a little more leeway than expected suggesting unassisted anchors. Then they jink through a sort of chicane made of incongruous low, white walls. As you zoom in for a closer look you see the roll transform into squat as a flare of revs sees both cars slide slightly on the exit, struggling to contain a combined 1200bhp with no help from any electronics. Now you’re in the driver’s seat of the first car and you begin to understand why your subconscious has chosen this car for this place. Something responsive with a neck-jolting power-to-weight ratio was required, but equally it’s no good running out of puff at 240kmph up here, so you want something capable of big numbers too. With the four point harness clamping your shoulders and waist to the thin seat you feel a part of the car particularly when you go for another gear, your right hand guiding the smooth stubby leaver around a little gate that feels no bigger than a matchbox. This is proper analogue driving and you’re at the centre of the action just like on a bike. Which is appropriate, because this is Snaefell Mountain, the end of the famous, infamous, Isle of Man TT course. Onto the mountain mile and the white paint on the road is blurring into one continuous stripe like the guiding line in a computer

Peel

Douglas

game. With nothing coming the other way you can commit to each of the three apices of the Veranda, trying to maintain a constant lock with the steering that has become much lighter with speed. This place demands that you feel intimidated and the car is certainly intimidating. Approaching the wide, cambered Windy corner you suddenly find yourself in the car behind, the shriek of the exhausts in front, mingling with the induction noise of your own cockpit so that the V12’s full repertoire consumes you. Past Kate’s Cottage and then feed in the McLaren F1’s floor-hinged throttle, nose rising as you accelerate downhill towards the Creg. Revs flare momentarily as the road falls away and as you land so you twitch in your sleep and the image fades. Just a dream. L

THIS IS PROPER ANALOGUE DRIVING AND YOU’RE AT THE CENTRE OF THE ACTION, JUST LIKE ON A BIKE


FORD MUSTANG UPGRADES Available at

Naaonwide Supercar Service | Tuning Tel:+91-80-41712727 Fax:+91-80-23458093 www.racetech.in info@racetech.co.in

/ RacetechIndia / RacetechIndia


RNI NO. MAH/ENG/2014/56990

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