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Chevy Beat takes on i10, Ritz, Swift & Grande Punto

EXCLUSIVE! VW & Suzuki in bike alliance?

TESTED Nissan 370Z

F1 Season preview

Toyota Prius Merc S500L

Why Schumi is back Why the Silver Arrows are back And how Ferrari will fight back + 2010 F1 calendar poster

Volvo S80 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado Honda CB Twister Naked Pulsar 220

COMPARED

Tata Grande MK II vs Mahindra Xylo TVS Jive vs Alba, Discover, Passion & Star City

EXCLUSIVE Drive

FIRST DRIVE

Exclusive ride

Fortuner rival here in June

Ford’s back in business!

India’s best superbike?

Pajero Sport

Ford Figo

2010 Yamaha R1


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motoringnews L o g o n t o w w w. ov e r d r i v e . i n / n e ws/

Radical S60 India bound Volvo to expand Indian ops, S60 to compete with Merc C-Class

Volvo to start selling the S60 end-2010 or early-2011 through 12 dealers covering all major Indian cities

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n the days leading up the Geneva Motor Show in early March, Volvo has taken the wraps off the radical new S60, set to be one of the stars of the show. The S60 is an extremely important car for Volvo. The original sold over a million cars in its lifetime, and Volvo is hoping that the new S60 will repeat that kind of success and become the biggest seller of the Swedish car makers range. To accomplish that, Volvo has lavished it with style never before seen on a

Volvo while also promising that the new car will be the dynamically most competent car ever to wear the Volvo badge. Volvo aims to sell 90,000 units in the first year and if they can breach 110,000 the new S60 will break the first S60’s record. In styling terms, the S60’s distinction starts from the pedestrian friendly face that wears a lot of curved detail elements. In overall look it remains true to the concept car that preceded the production model. Volvo design chief Peter Horbury ďƒĽ

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Pedestrian Detection scans road ahead for people and warns driver first. If driver does not react, the S60 can brake to a stop on its own

ďƒŚ has stated his intention to push the Swedishness of the design at Volvo and the S60 is the second salvo in that direction, the XC60 being the first. From that face, the lines flow organically and you have a sculpted bonnet that flows into a sleek greenhouse wearing the coupe-roof that sweeps to the tail lamps. It’s a dynamic silhouette garnished with daytime LED running lamps, and if you opt for it, a body kit that brings contrast-coloured front and rear skid plates, side skirts, exhaust tips and 18-inch wheels. The S60 is based on a stretched Mondeo platform with some configurations specific to the S60. Volvo intends to offer the car in two versions - Dynamic and Comfort, with the versions wearing revised dampers and subframes to offer a sportier or more comfort oriented feel. In India, we will probably get the Comfort spec car as standard and Volvo India may offer the

Cool new Swedish cabin features some very interesting details. Just look at that vertical console! Dynamic package as a more expensive option. In Europe, the Dynamic is expected to be the standard version. The headline changes in the chassis department are a sharper steering ratio and a strengthened steering structure to offer better response and more feedback. Volvo also uses thicker pistons in the suspension and upgraded subframes for greater rigidity. Chassis electronics now include a more sophisticated traction control system that includes a Corner Traction Control system that uses torque vectoring - it can brake inner wheels and power the outer wheels to cut understeer. The braking system, similarly can prime the brakes for emergency braking

even before the driver depresses the pedal, and uses hydraulics to reduce the risk of brake fade and reduce braking distances. At launch the S60 will get three engines, a range topping petrol and two diesels. The petrol is a 304PS, 440Nm 6-cylinder with all-wheel drive and Volvo’s second-generation microprocessor controlled six-speed automatic transmission, Geartronic. The smaller diesel is the D3, which displaces 2.0 litres and offers 163PS and 400Nm. The other is the D5, a 2.4-litre five-cylinder that produces 205PS and 420Nm. Volvo claims a 100kmph sprint time of 7.8 seconds for both the manual and automatic version of this 240kmph car. This car

Citroen will show their second DS line car, the DS High Rider concept featuring a diesel hybrid powertrain and a high slung GT form at Geneva

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boasts two turbos of differing sizes for performance, with smooth transfer between the two turbos. The D5 already does duty in the Indian S80 and XC90 and is the engine the S60 will come to India with. Both the diesels will come with six-speed manual transmission as standard. The six-speed automatic is an option. Volvo also intends to add another three petrol and a diesel engine to the international range later in the year. On the inside, the S60 is just as radical. The Swedish bent in the textures, simple but classy lines is remarkable for both its uniqueness and its appeal and Volvo is promising luxurious, distinctive cabins to prospective owners. On the safety front, Volvo’s latest innovation called Pedestrian Detection system uses a forward looking radar that can spot and identify pedestrians above the height of 85cm and warn the driver. The warning takes the form of a simulated brake light on the head-up

Expect the car to be positioned against the C-Class with the D5 diesel, the 2.4-litre 205PS, 420Nm engine is already under the hoods of the Indian S80 and XC90 display and an audio warning. If the driver does not respond, the system can automatically apply full brakes and stop the car. Volvo claims the ability to avert collisions at sub-34kmph speeds. If the car is going at speeds higher than that, Volvo says the reduction in velocity from emergency braking can severely mitigate the seriousness of injuries sustained. Volvo India will be launching the S60 in India towards the end of the year or early next year. Expect the car to be positioned against the C-Class with the D5 diesel; the engine is already under the hoods of the Indian S80 and XC90. Volvo as a brand does not enjoy the cachet, or indeed the network presence of BMW or Mercedes-Benz, and the S60 will be priced to compensate. Expect prices in the Rs 30 lakh region, just below the C-Class. Volvo India expects to have 12 dealers across the major cities by the time the S60 is launched.

Renault to go it alone in India Renault announced at the Auto Expo that it would launch the Koleos SUV and the Fluence sedan in India in 2011. Both the cars will be produced at the RenaultNissan plant in Chennai. Now it has revealed its plan to set up its own independent dealer network in India and it is shooting for 150 outlets by 2014. The company says the response it received at the Auto Expo has bolstered its confidence and it intends to be a long-term player in India. Renault is working towards ensuring that in addition to its presence in the Indian cities, service is effortless for the customer as well. The company had announced an aggressive plan for India which included the launch of a series of cars within the next two years and its intention to have its full range on offer in India within a four year window. The Auto Expo news also had the mention of an entry-level hatchback to be manufactured at Chennai. On the other side, the Dacia Logan is the sole product at Mahindra-Renault. Renault is in the final stages of negotiations with Mahindra and an announcement is expected in a month’s time detailing the restructuring of the Mahindra-Renault arrangement and the future of the Logan. There has been speculation recently that the Sandero, the Dacia hatchback from the Logan platform

would probably be the next car. However in the light of the Micra, we think the Clio makes a lot more sense. The Clio shares its platform with the Nissan Micra that we’ve previewed in this magazine and that is scheduled to debut at Geneva shortly. This hatchback will be manufactured out of Chennai for Indian sale and Renault opting to make the Clio along side makes a lot of economic sense. The common platform and logistics will make for great economies of scale. Further, the Logan platform is manufactured out of Nashik, so making the Sandero out of Chennai might not lead to economies of scale. Talking about the Renault-Nissan alliance, the French company clarified that it will not share dealers with its Japanese counterpart. All of the synergies will be in the back-end ops and both companies will operate as independent commercial entities at the dealer and service levels.

Nissan’s cheeky sub-Qashqai crossover based on the Qazana concept called the Juke which is also slotted for the US market will debut at Geneva MAR 2010 overdrive

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Critical mass Ford aims to break into the mass market with the Figo Words & photography Sirish Chandran

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sweeping statement perhaps, but the Figo is set to be the most important car, ever, for Ford India. A long innings Ford has had, longer even than Hyundai (when you consider the previous association with Mahindra that brought us the Escort), but while its fellow Chennai-ites have steamed into number two position behind Maruti Suzuki, Ford has been reduced to the sidelines. That’s what the Figo aims to do, bring Ford back into the mass market, to the small car segment where the volumes and action is. But before we get to the Figo let me introduce you to Sandeep (Sain-deep actually, in a nice Aussie twang). Sandeep’s male (obviously), 26-27 years of age, newly married and lives with his parents. In beautifully nonsensical marketing speak he has his ‘head in the clouds, feet on solid ground’. And of course, because he’s the Figo’s target customer, ‘he doesn’t want cheap, he wants value’. A lengthy presentation topped up by a customer clinic AV attempted to drill into assembled journos just what Sain-deep wants, and obviously how Ford has tailored the MAR 2010 overdrive

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Electric performance? Driving the Toyota Prius in India. Can it do what the Civic Hybrid couldn’t? Words Shubhabrata Marmar Photography Gaurav S Thombre

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hat’s the big deal? So much has been written and said about the Toyota Prius that I almost didn’t want to drive the car. Almost. There’s a geek inside of me who’s mad about gadgets and the Prius, if nothing else, is the closest the automobile can get to being a gadget. To prepare for the car, I quickly inhaled Ray’s article from our last issue - and I looked up the car on Wikipedia as well. What I learnt basically was that the first Prius was ugly as heck. And as the car has grown more respectable in its technology department, the styling itself has never been a high for this green icon of a car. But the ugly stick was left in the tool shed with the third generation Prius. That said, the gold colour makes the car look plain-er and less vibrant - though it’s likely to be one of the most popular colours when this car his the road in March. . In white, it’s fairly stunning. The shape is fresh, from the sculpted front to the almost double-bubble roof and the Kammback tail. Kammback? German aerodynamicist Wunibald Kamm in the 1930s found that a streamlined car body that ended abruptly worked rather well, and it’s his name the shape bears. The Kamm principle is that once a flowing stream of air is given enough of a suggestion of a teardrop shape, it continues to flow over that path, even if the final end of the teardrop is not actually there. Many cars have sported Kammbacks, including icons like the Ford GT40, the superb Ferrari 250 GTO and closer to mortal-spec, various Alfas, some Citroens and the Honda

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m e rce d es - be nz s 500l

Sublime Class Is the Mercedes S500L - endowed with a sublime petrol V8, new styling and enhanced comfort - the ultimate in automotive craft?

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OD Rating Price Rs 95,80,000 ex-showroom Mumbai

+ Space + Pace + Class + Features - Price

Words Bertrand D’souza Photography Mohd Nasir

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here’s a new trend emerging in the super luxury car segment in India, a trend that has its roots in the European car market. It involves the acquisition of a car that none of your peers possess, ensuring the owner an air of exclusivity. So, for a person for whom a crore of rupees is chicken feed, does it really matter which S-Class he buys? Take for instance the new S500L, which costs only a few lakh rupees more than the S350. Which leads us to think that Mercedes would have done better to offer just one variant. An S-Class is after all an SClass, the Blue Seal of luxury, comfort and distinction. But like I mentioned, there is a large group of people in India who want the letters on the rear of their S-Class to read S500L, not 350. To them it does matter that

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their S-Class is more powerful and also more expensive than what their peers own. So what does the S500L bring to the table?

STYLE AND BUILD The S500L has the new 2010 styling package to bring it in line with the rest of the Mercedes-Benz range and takes cues from the new E-Class. This in fact is the new design language being spoken at Mercedes-Benz, until an all-new S-Class comes out in the future. This however is quite an impressive design language, mellifluous and sweet and it does add some freshness to the S-Class. The W221 form first disclosed in 2005 though is inherently quite impressive and even four years later with some minor detail

additions is still as elegant as ever. The minor modifications involve a modified bumper and a sharper arrow-shaped grille, neither of which make it look better or worse than the original form. Only minute observation will show that the honeycomb grille on the air dam is subtly different from the older car’s and that a chrome strip runs along the length of the car accentuating its sportiness. However a new light package which uses an LED array for driving lamps under the headlamps and a strip of LEDs in a straight line on the side pods of the lower bumper give it an absolutely divine persona. An LED array is also used in the tail lamps and though I am not a big fan of the original shape and design, I must admit the LEDs do improve them. The wing mirrors are also of a new design type with swooping indicator clusters embedded


in them. Not much has changed inside the S500L though the ‘L’ in the badge denotes the long wheelbase version. So what you get is acres of leg and knee room; not that the older variant had anyone complaining about lack of space. What does make a difference is that the S500L offers a whole host of features that are optional on the S350. So not only does each passenger get their own climate control zone but they also get an entertainment

The S500 is powered by one of the most sublime petrol V8s I have ever driven package courtesy Harman Kardon with a set of wireless headphones and a separate CD/ DVD player at the rear. Also new inside the S500L is a chiller/cooler placed in between the two rear seats which is good enough to accommodate 4-6 half litre bottles of water. You’ll have noticed by now that most of my references are with regard to the rear passenger area. The reference is deliberate because not many owners are going to find themselves behind the steering wheel, preferring instead to luxuriate in those electrically controlled lazyboys at the rear. On the rare occasion when they choose to pilot their own luxo-barge they will not be disappointed. The front seats are ventilated and can be cooled or heated, and each of the seats has a massage function so fatigue does not set in. Even the COMAND control and display unit

gets a new SPLITVIEW technology which allows the driver and passenger to view different content on the same screen; the passenger can watch his movie without distracting the driver. The entertainment system also packs in a lot more power thanks to it being compatible with an SD card and Bluetooth interface as well as USB and media interface in the glove compartment to hitch your iPod. The COMAND system is fairly simple to use with the single rotary knob on the centre console. The one comfort feature I found very interesting is the mood lighting which allows the driver to change the lighting colour and tone within the interior at the touch of a button. So you could wade between cool blue to brilliant orange or just opt for a neutral tone if you’re bored of fiddling around with everything else inside this car. These and several more features make up a list of comfort and convenience features whereas there is an even longer list that accounts for safety and driving enhancements which I will touch upon further ahead.

POWERTRAIN The S500 is powered by one of the most sublime petrol V8s I have ever driven. This 5.4litre DOHC engine is quiet at low revs, and the engine vibrations and sound are isolated to such an extent that only a glance at the rev counter will tell if the engine is running or is switched off. It makes 370PS of max power at 6300rpm and 505Nm of max torque at 28004400rpm. This engine belonging to the M273 family of Mercedes engines uses a stratified fuel injection system and a magnesium in-

Interiors are as opulent as ever. There’s now adjustable mood lighting, even better wood trim and SPLITVIEW screen allowing driver and passenger to view different things on same central screen

LED tail lamps and twin exhausts for the S500L

Seat side bolsters and lumbar can be adjusted

Fridge integrated into the armrest

COMAND system is easy to use and incorporates key pad for the telephone MAR 2010 overdrive

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Sports on

In the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, due in India in mid-2010, the Fortuner will finally have a rival. First impressions in Thailand Words Sirish Chandran

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oes without saying that Toyota caught everybody napping when they launched the Fortuner, none more so that HM-Mitusbishi. Not that the Fortuner came out of the blue; it was hardly a secret that the SUV was India bound, that it took so long was what raised an eyebrow. And the other eyebrow joined it when pricing was revealed; at Rs 19lakh it immediately put every other SUV in that segment out of business and, as was to be expected, Toyota found a million buyers. So many in fact that those who have bookings are looking at 6-8 months for delivery and if you haven’t booked it, tough luck, bookings are now closed till next year. That was probably the final wake-up call HM-Mitsubishi needed to stir it from its slumber. Here was a company sitting on a 24-carat heritage but for years soldiered on with mostly dated products both in the passenger car and SUV segment, stubbornly refusing to either innovate or excite. And sales numbers accurately reflected the Indian customer’s abhorrence to anything old. But things are moving along. Token gestures are being made to link the Cedia to its rallying heritage (this is the car which dominates Indian Rallying, but how many know that?). The Outlander is gaining steam with the first lot of newly face-lifted SUVs (see Motoring News, page 33) sold out before even being launched. And now the Pajero Sport is set to do the business, take on the Fortuner on equal terms and fight the good battle for pre-eminence in eyes of SUV buyers. And it starts with the same ingredients as the Fortuner. The Pajero Sport you see here isn’t even remotely related to the Pajero or the Montero that’s sold in India. Instead it’s based on the Triton pick-up truck platform (the Hilux pick-up platform underpins the Fortuner) and is designed and built for the same (emerging) markets as the Fortuner – South East Asia, South America, Latin America, South Africa and Russia (where it was launched, at the Moscow Auto Show, two years ago). It is not even built in Japan, Thailand is the Triton/Pajero Sport’s mother plant and that’s where we joined a bunch of Pajero owners on an off-road course designed to demonstrate just how capable the SUV is. But before we start off I get an opportunity to do a walk around the car and have to say this is a good looking SUV. One of the reasons for the Triton pick-up’s popularity is because it cuts a very distinctive figure and the front end of the Pajero Sport is similarly good looking; it has Mitsubishi’s old family grille (seen on the old Outlander, not the new Evo-esque nose) flanked by a set of attractive clear-lens headlamps with projector beams. At the rear it sports a pair of slinky Alfa Romeo-esque tail lamps. In keeping with the traditional SUV formula there are strong haunches and the wheel arches are properly pumped up housing chunky 16-inch wheels but thanks to the ladder-frame chassis it has a high riding suspension set-up and the gap between the rear wheel arches and the tyres is gapingly wide. The Pajero Sport doesn’t lack road presence but where the Fortuner is conservative in its styling the Pajero Sport can actually be termed handsome; even aggressive in this sinister shade of black. MAR 2010 overdrive

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vo lvo s 80 D 5

Scandinavian cool Even with an uprated twin-turbo diesel powerplant, the minimal Volvo S80 faces an uphill battle against flashier Teutonic rivals

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OD Rating Price Rs 38,79,000 ex-showroom Mumbai

+ Comfy ride + Straightline performance + Safety features value - Snob - Driving pleasure

Words Vijayendra Vikram Photography Gaurav S Thombre

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ust as I was pondering how to (re)introduce the Volvo S80, I happened to see The Rock, one of my fave action movies on a hostage crisis at the supposedly impenetrable Alcatraz fortress. Nicholas Cage trying to dismantle a missile screams at a distracting Sean Connery, “Look, I’m just a biochemist. Most of the time, I work in a little glass jar and lead a very uneventful life. I drive a Volvo, a beige one.” This explains it all, doesn’t it? You wouldn’t find Volvos in any enthusiast’s dream (or real) garage. They’re not considered drivers’ cars like BMWs, not a money statement like Mercs nor Teutonic marvels as Audis. But the world over, they have been the thinking man’s choice. The choice of school-

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run moms and their Labradors are the vastly spacious estates and incredibly practical SUVs. Hailed as a maker of some of the safest cars in the world, Volvo has not just pioneered safety breakthroughs but is pathologically obsessive about it, setting benchmarks other manufacturers vie for. So what went wrong in India? Volvo officially came to India only a few months after BMW set up shop but unlike the hordes of BMWs you see today I don’t remember the last time I saw a Volvo on an Indian road (I probably haven’t actually seen one except for our test cars). Sure, everybody knows of Volvo and praise is always forthcoming but it’s always in terms of how quickly the bus got them to Pune from Mumbai or how comfort-

able the Pune to Bangalore trip in the sleeper coach was. Volvo’s commercial vehicles division has been really aggressive in the country but Volvo Cars hasn’t made inroads into the customers’ psyche or gain aspirational status like Mercedes-Benz, BMW or Audi. To increase awareness Volvo cleverly wrangled a red XC90 in the movie 3 Idiots which should give the S80 a new lease of life. As you can see, there’s nothing new visually but under the hood the S80 now gets an uprated twin-turbo diesel powerplant that promises significantly better performance along with reduced noise, emissions and fuel consumption. But is that sufficient to challenge the hegemony of the Germans in this segment?


DESIGN & QUALITY The S80 isn’t exactly a head turner, and most of the attention it attracts is because of its novelty factor. Influenced by the Scandinavian design philosophy made famous by minimalist designer furniture from the region, the S80 places function over form. Just like the furniture, it is designed for a purpose and comes minus the flash of, say, an E-Class

Influenced by Scandinavian design, the S80 places function over form or an A6. The turnout is inoffensive and understated but elegant. To elaborate, Jason Statham wouldn’t trade his Audis for it but Nicolas Cage with his receding hairline would fit in perfectly in the driver’s seat. The front end looks quite interesting with the deep bonnet creases originating from the grille stretching into the profile to etch a strong shoulder line. The tail lamps, a trademark Volvo design feature, are actually the most distinctive styling feature cleverly camouflaging rear bulk and giving the S80 a pert bottom. Subtle chrome lining around the fog lamps and bootlid looks classy too. The minimalism continues inside. The dashboard looks hand-crafted and has an old school feel, especially the plethora of buttons and lack of complicated iDrive-type controllers. The wood inserts are the

best I’ve seen on a premium car, so beautifully chosen is the colour, texture and feel. Similarly quality of other materials is top notch and the layout is very simple and intuitive. The steering wheel now gets brushed steel inserts for a more premium feel and the stereo too has a similar steel surround. The clocks are fairly simple with just a large speedo and tacho but the machined aluminium bezels surrounding it look gorgeous and very techy. The trip computer data and fuel are digitally displayed within the dials and there are no separate pods for the temperature or fuel gauge. The cascading centre console extends beautifully till the central armrest and is also called a floating console as it is hollow from behind - not that you can use the space for additional storage but it looks very interesting. A neat touch is the stylish seat outline on the central console which adjusts the direction of air flow. Above it is the keypad for the mobile phone (linked via Bluetooth) and the simple menu to access the system settings, which isn’t as complicated as the Da Vinci Code. Most of the controls are well within the driver’s reach and I like the conveniently placed fuel tank and bootlid opener buttons right next to the steering wheel. What you will really appreciate are the hugely comfortable seats - front and rear. Volvo has a theory that since Germans are heavier than other Europeans (especially Scandinavians) seats on German cars have to be harder to hold their frames. Whatever the reason, the S80’s seats are incredibly plush. Front seats get an additional safety feature called WHIPS (Whiplash Protection

The dash is functional and well designed with just the right dose of flash. Matte-finished wood inserts and brushed steel accents look lovely. No fiddly multimedia system

Chrome-lined fog lamps look classy

Flowing centre console is tastefully done

Five-cylinder D5 mill is now fed by twin turbos

Storage compartment below front armrest houses USB and AUX ports MAR 2010 overdrive

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Ho n da C B T w iste r

By design

Honda plays the styling card in the entry-level motorcycle segment. Should the rivals get their knickers in a twist? Words Shubhabrata Marmar Photography Gaurav S Thombre

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oments after Sirish fired off that blazing column about how a 100cc motorcycle inspired by the Fireblade doesn’t make any sense - and that a 135cc motorcycle couldn’t possible be sporty - he handed me Honda’s invitation to go ride the new CB Twister. Personally, I think Honda’s playing too hard to make the CB Twister a success. They first unveiled it, then they showed it at the Auto Expo with pricing information, and now they’re given us a prelude ride, as it were, before we get the final test motorcycles. All that for an entry-level product? It goes only to show how important Honda think the Twister will be in their Indian game plan. Which, of course, isn’t how they present the motorcycle. The official line is that the 100-110cc motorcycle customer has stopped demanding more of manufacturers and so both sides are happy. There is little or no innovation at the product level, there is little or no growth in sales, there is no foreseeable growth in demand and evidently, no one seems dissatisfied with this at all. The CB Twister is supposed to take this market by the neck, give it a good shake, wake up all these somnolent participants in the market and reignite growth in what is counted today as a significant, but dormant segment. What’s the hook that allows the Twister to do all this? The styling. And we’ll come to that. Honda have internally benchmarked the Twister against two bikes from the competition, quietly tip-toeing around any mention of Hero Honda that family of products is, after all, family - and they claim that the all-new Twister beats the benchmarks. It claims to be quicker to 60kmph than its peers, it hits 90kmph or thereabouts flat out and it returns roughly 10-15kmpl more than the competition as well. Honda use an internal riding cycle to do the mileage study which is claimed to be closer to reality. In that cycle, the Twister’s 70-odd kmpl is well ahead of the low-60s numbers the competition records. On the ARAI cycle, the Twister claims over 80kmpl. The economy comes from an engine that also managed to make a good slew of power. Honda has used an offset crankshaft just like in Unicorn as well as the ventilation thing they call the air jacket along with rollers on the rockers to ensure that this tiny looking engine runs clean and cool. At 6000rpm, the engine hits it peak torque of 9Nm, and another 2000rpm later, all 9.13PS arrives. To ride the engine feels good and perky right from low down. It is easy to ride the Twister in traffic, and it is a flexible engine that is enjoyable to use at low or high revs. Some of the torque boost comes from the long intake tract Honda has employed - and we’ll soon see why that may not be such a good idea after all. Mechanically however, the gearbox felt less than slick. The shift quality was distinctly notchy and finding neutral was a bit iffy. The engine itself is housed in a new frame which uses twin downtubes in Honda’s usual diamond frame format. The Twister gets a box-section swingarm and twin shocks at the rear and Honda have chosen to employ tubeless, if slightly skinny looking, tyres on the Twister as well. Like the engine, the frame feels easy and friendly to use. The tyres feel sticky, the frame is light and agile and riding slowly in traffic and buzzing sharp turns feels natural. But riding fast or cornering hard isn’t what the Twister is meant to do. Which is why the ergonomics package has been tweaked to place the feet further forward than usual and create an almost upright, comfortable riding position. Honda have scooped the rider’s seat with the intention of making sure that not more than two people can climb on, and the enclosed grab rail that sits atop the tail light is unique as well as neat look-

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bajaj PULSAR 220

Street smart

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OD Rating Price Rs 69,470 Ex-showroom, Pune

Bajaj has given the Pulsar 220 a street bike look but makes do with the same old design package

+ Performance + VFM + Rideability looks - Ageing - Tyres - Heavy

Words Abhay Verma Photography Gaurav S Thombre

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he naked, brash Pulsar 180 was a rage. So much that I just went ahead and picked one. I’m still happy with it but not with the way streetfighters have moved on. The 180 grew up to the Pulsar 200, but since then the street fighter has waned. Although faired sports bikes are revered in India, naked street bikes still tickle the fancies of the hooligans at heart, including me. Just when the Pulsar 200 had endeared itself to enthusiasts with its low and mid-range grunt, comfortable riding position and menacing character, Bajaj called it quits for the 200. The Pulsar 180 became the new 200, er... the confusion never seems to end here. And then Bajaj yanked fuel injection off

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the 220 and we got the Pulsar 220F, the fastest Indian. I had a feeling that a 220 without its fairing would make for a perfect street bike, something that won’t hurt if a wheelie went bad or I landed on the expensive fairing. Bajaj boffins sensed it and got just what I had in my mind - a bikini faired, full-blown wheelie maniac.

Design and Quality The 220 has nothing new to offer. The bike is identical to the Pulsar kin. Bajaj has simply ripped the 220F’s half fairing and slapped the 180’s bikini unit and tank flanks first seen on the 200. The body panels and fuel tank are all the same. In short, the bike is a replica of the erstwhile 200. As on other Pulsars, the quality of

plastics is decent. That said, after four days of testing the fairing unit had developed a mild rattle.

Powertrain & performance The two-valve, DTS-i engine displacing 220cc remains untouched, retaining the power and torque figures of 21.4PS at 8500rpm and 19.2Nm at 7000rpm respectively. As on the 220F, the engine feels unstressed, with no hint of discomfort even at the 10,000rpm redline. The 220 is 4kg lighter courtesy the fairing, but the performance figures are almost similar. The dash to 60kmph came up in 4.1 seconds – as opposed to the 220F’s 4.0 seconds. The sprint to 100kmph was done in 11.6 seconds as compared to the 220F’s


11.1 seconds. For the quarter mile run the 220 took 18.0 seconds clocking 111.7kmph, while the 220F had achieved the feat in 17.7 seconds. This can be attributed to the smaller fairing which induces more drag than the 220F’s aerodynamic half fairing. Similarly top speed was slightly lower at 129.5kmh (the F clocks 133.3kmph). Fuel efficiency in the city is slightly lower at 33.3kmpl, but on the highway the 220

the lighter and compact front end of the pulsar does help in the cut and thrust of traffic returned 50kmpl, which is more than the 220F’s 47kmpl, making for an overall figure of 37.4kmpl. The 220 is a letdown in the braking aspect, owing to the cheaper S p ec i fi cati o n

Dynamics The difference in the fairing hasn’t affected this Pulsar’s handling, but the lighter and more compact front end does help in the cut and thrust of traffic. The harder compound Eurogrip tyres (Bajaj’s cost cutting option instead of the sticky soft compound MRF Zappers) do not inspire confidence, especially under braking. This also limits the bike’s handling as you loose confidence in the tyre’s capabilities and also with the limited feedback on offer. The tread pattern is different from the Zappers too and the rear tyre looks like a knobbly off-road one. The lack of feel from the front end is more discernible on concrete ACCELERATION

Type 4-Stroke, DTS-i, single cylinder, air and oil-cooled Valvetrain 2-VAlve SOHC Displacement 220cc Bore X Stroke 67mm x 62.4mm max power 21.4PS@8500rpm max torque 19.2NM@7000rpm Comp Ratio 9.5:1 Fueling UCD32 Carburettor Power to weight 144.59PS/Ton gearbox 5-speed manual transmission

0-400m: 18s@111.7kmph

type Double cradle frame

Features The 220 features the same package as the 220F. The clocks are identical to those on the 220 first displayed at the 2006 Auto Expo. The only distinction is the black surround which makes the clocks looks sporty, but we expected a fresh, new design for the street naked. The switchgear too is the same. Cycle parts such as the 37mm telescopic forks (that could do with some stiffening), gas-charged rear dampers, the 260mm and 230mm rotors doing duty at the front and rear.

P ER FOR MAN CE

Drivetrain

chassis

surfaces while braking hard, as the wheel tends to lock up. But I was able to pull long, rolling stoppies without much trouble on a good patch of asphalt. And with the meaty low end torque, the 220 is a cinch to wheelie, with its lighter front end. The riding position remains the same, making the bike comfortable on long rides as well as in city jaunts.

Eurogrip tubeless tyres the test bike was running. The tyres are made of a harder compound than the premium MRF Zappers the 220F comes shod with and that results in a retardation distance of 29.1 metres in 3.4 seconds in the 60-okmph test.

0 kmph sec 0

1

Economy (kmpl) 50.0 33.3

37.4

75% 25%

City

Highway

Tank Capacity Range

Overall

Road Test

860

Top speed: 129.5kmph

40

50

60

70

2.1

3.1

4.1

5.2

2

3

4

IN-Gear Roll-ON Gear

30-70

3rd

5.13s

4th

7.36S

15 litres 562km

80

6.9

5

6

7

90

100

8.5

11.6

8

9

10

BRAKING

3.4s/29.1m

60-0 kmph

0m

10m

20m

30m

40m

Suspension Front 37mm telescopic forkS Rear gas-charged hydraulic shock absorbers

rivals

Brakes Front REAR

260mm disc 230MM disc

TOP two ROAD TEST

BaJaj pulsar 220

tvs apache rtr 180

yamaha fz-S

Wheels & Tyres

Price ex-Pune (rs)

69,470

67,487

67,000

Tyre (F/R)

Power

21.4PS@8500rpm

17.3PS@8500rpm

14PS@7500rpm

Torque

19.2Nm@7000rpm

15.5Nm@6500rpm

13.6Nm@6000rpm

0-60Kmph (sec)

4.1s

4.5s

5.2s

Top Speed (kmph)

133kmph

121.4kmph

106.7kmph

Fuel Consumption

37.4kmpl

45kmpl

48.1kmpl

90/90x17” 120/80x17”

General Data Lxwxh Wheelbase Kerb weight tank capacity

2035x750x1165mm 1350mm 148kg 15l

Rating

Verdict Call it Bajaj’s attempt at clearing out inventories to make way for the new Pulsars or another take at bringing back the street fighter stance of the Pulsars, fact is the 220 is quite a capable motorcycle. It has all the attributes that make us such fans of the 220F - excellent performance, great comfort and, as is the case with every Bajaj bike, excellent value for money. At Rs 69,470 ex-showroom, Pune, the Pulsar 220 is Rs 3000 cheaper than the 220F and at this price makes an excellent alternative to bikes like the Yamaha FZ-S and TVS Apache RTR180. The only downsides I can see are its long in the tooth styling and cheap tyres. But having said that, the 220 is really the naked powermonger Indian hooligans had been witing for. MAR 2010 overdrive

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T e st

N issa n 370Z

Drift king

Successor to the iconic 350Z, the Nissan 370Z emanates sporty halo Words Bertrand D’souza Photography Gaurav S Thombre

I

love my cuppa espresso with a religious fervor; a double shot with just a pinch of sugar to enhance the flavour. But this morning at the Cafe Coffee Day on the Mumbai side of the expressway, I’ve resigned myself to a mochachillo, an ice cold cool-down drink. Even though the hour is early, very early, what I don’t need is something to keep me awake or warm, the Nissan 370Z parked right outside the cafe is doing a pretty good job of both. I’ve just gone up and down the expressway section that crisscrosses Lonavala twice, and a quick glance at my watch tells me I still have another 10 minutes before the television and photography crew reach Lonavala for the shoot. That’s enough time to luxuriously sip my refresher and have another go at the sweeping curves. Only this time traffic has increased, the early morning rush hour to Pune has picked up and I know the ghats are going to be crowded with lazy traffic, spread liberally across all three lanes. Sounds like this last run is going to be fun! The Nissan 370Z is after all the successor to the highly admired 350Z, an iconic sportscar that stormed the world of aftermarket tuners, drifters and touge racers. A bit of history of the Nissan Z cars would be appropriate here. Like Merc’s AMG division or BMW’s M division or the Type R cars from Honda, Z cars were Nissan’s halo cars, the upper echelon of performance. In fact it was the Z cars, particularly the Datsun (as Nissan was then known in North America) 240Z that made Nissan a global force to be reckoned with. The Z line was reborn with the 350Z, also known as the Fairlady Z in Japan, and went on to become a Hollywood star (it has been used in each and every F&F series and almost every other movie where drifting or street racing was involved) and even gained a prolific role in several of the hottest video games of this decade. In short it became an icon of the masses, people who really couldn’t buy into an exotic dream but could easily afford a 350Z and the sensational thrills it provided. The 350Z was Nissan’s halo car and it put Nissan firmly on the performance map right alongside the Porsches, AMGs and the M

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ROAD TEST

861

OD Rating Price Rs 54,50,000 ex-showroom Mumbai

+ Styling + Dynamics + Performance quality - Ride - Price

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C om pa ro

Be at

vs

g rand e Punto

vs

i 10

vs

R i tz

vs

swi f t

Indian idol The Chevrolet Beat knocks bonnets with rivals Maruti Swift, Ritz, Hyundai i10 1.2 and Fiat Grande Punto 1.2 for its share of the small car pie Words Sirish Chandran Photography Gaurav S Thombre

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mall cars are where it’s at. If you’re in India this is where you need to be. If you’re in India this, in all likelihood, is what you’re interested in buying. But any small car will just not do; not only are we spoiled for choice but such is the sheer volume of compact cars en route to India that old just won’t work. Boring, cramped and unrefined won’t work. Weedy engines most definitely won’t work. We demand and we get some of the most sophisticated, advanced and well put together small cars you can get anywhere in the world – at this price of course. Which is why, for the first time in its long Indian innings, GM has introduced a car at the same time as the rest of the world. Actually it’s the second time – India got the Cruze soon after world markets – but as we said small cars is where it’s at. The Cruze isn’t very important; for GM to turn around its fortunes in India it is the Beat that has to work, that has to sell is large enough volumes to trouble Maruti and Hyundai. Which is why we’ve lined it up against its main rivals – the ever green Swift now sporting the K-Series 1.2-litre engine, its sibling the Ritz, the Hyundai i10 with the 1.2-litre Kappa engine and the entrylevel Fiat Grande Punto 1.2.

STYLE & DESIGN Do you remember the first time you saw the Beat? That would have been in Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, starring alongside the

sizzling Megan Fox as the green little transforming sidekick called Skid. The movie debut was in concept form but quite amazingly from concept to showroom little has changed; few of the details have been toned down and she looks, well, like a movie star. It’s a stunning little car, very of-the-moment with extravagant design flourishes that you rarely see making the journey from motor show stands to your garage. Up front there’s the bold signature Chevy grille flanked by massive headlamps that house eye-catching optics which make for a rather arresting face, especially with the dinner-plate sized fog lamps. The profile is equally arresting, the neat upswept crease, the rear door handle hidden in the C-pillar giving it a two-door look (and stumping everybody trying to open the back doors), the swollen wheel arches that house skinny rubber and the roof rails (on LT option pack). Credit to the designers, equal attention has been paid to the bum as the nose. The tail lamps are equally funky and there really is no bad angle to photograph or view the car from. Step inside and you’re immediately struck by the unique superbike-inspired instrument console mounted on the steering column. On a big bike the analogue gauge would have been the tacho but since this isn’t connected to a manic superbike motor spinning to a zillionand-a-half rpm the analogue gauge shows speed while a digital bar graph on the left is the tacho. The digital display takes some time getting used to and taller drivers will find the steering wheel obstructing

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Al ba

vs

D i scove r 100

vs

Jive

vs

pass i o n p ro

vs

Sta r c i ty

Urban wars The bread and butter commuters clash headlong into the new TVS Jive Words Abhay Verma Photography Gaurav S Thombre

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t isn’t cool to talk about 100cc motorcycles any more. We’re constantly talking about 150s or even larger. But even as our market broadens to offer us more choice higher in the displacement scheme, the 100cc market is very serious business for every motorcycle manufacturer. The common man’s fuel economy obsession has far from abated and every manufacturer’s sales figures take a huge boost from the 100cc market where volume and market share are won and lost. Hero Honda, for instance, relies on its 100cc motorcycles to build those stunning sales volume records that we get in our inboxes every quarter. Bajaj has been keen to break in and take over in this segment for years and success has been intermittent. Yamaha and TVS both do well in the

segment too, although the volumes they enjoy look tiny compared to Hero Honda’s momentum. Within this market, product quality has certainly gone up but without significant product innovation or technology being added. This has, obviously, led to a fair amount of confusion among the buyers. We did our last 100cc comparison in September 2009 when the Bajaj Discover 100 was launched. But as we said then, there’s a lot of solid wine on offer in old bottles in this segment. It’s the TVS Jive that questions that hegemony. To stick with the analogy, here’s a young, perky wine in a slightly old looking bottle as it were. Can it take on the Bajaj Discover 100, the Yamaha Alba, the Hero Honda Passion Pro and the TVS Star City? Can the Jive upset the establishment? MAR 2010 overdrive

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Toyota L a nd C ruis e r P ra d o Vx- l

ROAD TEST

872

OD Rating Price Rs 51,31,845

Diesel cruiser The new Land Cruiser Prado is here and it’s finally a diesel

ex-showroom Mumbai

+ Off-road ability + Fuel efficiency + Rugged build - Performance - Price - On-road dynamics

Words Halley Prabhakar Photography Gaurav S Thombre

T

oyota has made the Land Cruiser Prado a household name around the world with nearly 150,000 units sold since the second-generation 90 Series. In Africa the Toyota Land Cruiser range has such a reputation for conquering the toughest terrain that it’s called the ‘King of Africa’. Every new model continues the tradition of the Land Cruiser brand that is esteemed and desired in more than 170 countries around the world. The brand will soon turn 60 but does not seem to be flagging one bit judging from this all-new fourth generation Prado for the Indian market. The Prado is now available with a much needed diesel engine that should give it decent sales potential unlike the previous generation which had

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only a thirsty V6 petrol motor on offer. Can this Prado maintain the outstanding driveability, on-road and off-road performance that was the earlier generation Prado’s claim to fame?

DESIGN & QUALITY The new Prado is strikingly rugged, brutish even. The new vehicle’s design is nowhere near its predecessor’s mellow tone though it is unmistakably a Prado with a strong family resemblance. Like the old Prado this SUV has a muscular stance that lends it immense presence. Though smaller than the Land Cruiser (the bigger one that gets a massive V8 diesel - this naming system is a tad confusing), the Prado has a large footprint. It’s near-

ly 4.8 metres long, 1.8 metres wide and 1.8 metres tall. The overall height has been reduced compared to the previous Prado’s and the increase in length and width makes this the largest Prado ever. The Prado looks traditionally like a Toyota which means it doesn’t lack in size or presence but isn’t as handsome nor styled with a flair that you see on a Mercedes-Benz ML -Class or Audi Q5. Where it takes inspiration from is the bigger V8 Land Cruiser - the flared wheel arches, rear spoiler and the sides of the headlamps being very similar. The rear quarter panel design retains the traditional look similar to its predecessor’s. The headlamps feature projector lighting but surprisingly don’t offer HID lights. The fenders bulge out of the body panels and give the car


a wide and rugged appearance. A similar ‘bulge’ treatment has been given to the sides of the rear panels as well, that add some character to an otherwise featureless side. The rear end is rather plain with a small rear window and a huge tail gate. The vertically stacked rear combination lamps are functional and simple and feature LED lighting. Huge 18-inch alloy wheels are part of standard equipment. The tailgate includes a top-

the 3.0-litre d-4d engine is from the same family of diesel engines as on the fortuner hinged glass hatch, allowing easy access to the load space, which is a boon in tight parking spots where opening of the full tailgate is impeded. The hatch can be unlocked and opened one-handed, using the key or a button release next to the bottom left hand corner of the glass. An integral roof spoiler houses the rear screen wiper and highmounted LED stop light. Get inside and like all Toyotas the Prado too has a simple yet functional interior. Materials used are a combination of high quality plastic, leather, wood and brushed aluminum detailing all of which don’t sit comfortably with each other. After the dashboard everything else improves markedly. The driving position is excellent and all-round visibility is exceptional. The Prado features a MID (Multi Information Device) with a 4.2” TFT screen that gives access to range and trip information, average speed, fuel consumption, elapsed

journey time and cruising range. The reverse parking camera is also displayed on this screen and has useful parking grid lines but I found it to be a bit too small. Keyless ignition is standard, there’s a cool box under the front armrests and the steering wheel has audio and MID controls. Also on the standard equipment list is a sunroof, leather upholstery, heated front passenger seats, three-zone climate control and a 6-CD changer. Safety equipment includes ABS with EBD, seven airbags and whiplash injury reducing headrests. A nice touch is the conversation mirror that sits above the rear-view mirror. The huge proportions of the Prado allow seven passengers to be accommodated in three rows of seats. Leg room is generous for both front and rear passengers but the last row is best suited for children. An impressive feature is the third row seats that fold flat into the boot floor at the press of a button. This feature is claimed to be a world first and tremendously adds to convenience. The second row is split 40:20:40 and can also be folded for freeing cargo space as well as allow entry to the third row seats. A very useful feature is the AC 220V three-pin power socket provided near the rear loading bay so you can even charge your laptop in the car. The overall build quality of the Prado is top notch considering that the vehicle we had was a ‘goushi’ (homologation vehicle). The quality levels and NVH levels are expected to be even better in the final production Prado.

Central display shows range and trip information

The 5-speed auto box offers a sport mode option

POWERTRAIN The Prado finally gets a diesel powertrain which is based on the Fortuner’s powerplant. This 16-valve DOHC common-rail diesel unit

Comfortable and ergonomic cabin but materials used are a combination of all types including high quality plastic, leather, wood and brushed aluminium detailing which don’t gel

Neatly laid out and informative cluster

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t r av e lo g u e

mumbai- g oa

Dzirable

destinations

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It’s the month of February and the place to be is Goa, the land of sun, sand and sea. Throw in the propsect of a 600km drive from Mumbai in a Maruti Suzuki Swift Dzire, and this is the getaway that happens only in dreams... But it’s for real, for me Words Halley Prabhakar Photography Raj Lalwani

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tata g rand e mk I I

vs

mah i n d ra xylo

Head banger The new Tata Grande Mk II takes on the Mahindra Xylo Words Vijayendra Vikram Photography Gaurav S Thombre

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e Indians are a happy-go-lucky lot - we are happy as long as we’re going. I mean, we don’t mind stuffing a dinky Maruti 800 with eight people en route to a wedding reception or a picnic. As a kid, I’ve shared the boot of an 800 umpteen times and even slept in the back of an Omni. We never mind if the expensive silk sari gets all crushed or the kids roll out of the car with weird hairdos - we stay happy as long as the family stays together. The point is, India is a land of large households and we like to travel together as much as possible. Over the years, we have moved on and comfort is today as big a necessity as space. This urge renders the cute small cars obsolete for the great Indian family and this is why MPVs or Multi Purpose Vehicles make so much sense in our country. The MUV trend started with the Tata Sumo, the ideal picnic car of the 90s. I would prefer to stick to their usage as personal cars and not go into the Mahindra and Trax offerings of that era. The Sumo clogged taxi stands all across the country and the game only moved on when the

Toyota Qualis arrived. Maruti too tried its hand at this segment but could never crack it with the Versa. With the Innova’s roaring success, Tata decided to up the game with the Sumo Grande, an upmarket people-mover that did not fare as well as expected. Then came the Xylo that shattered the rule books for affordable MPVs in India. Having learnt its lessons, Tata recently launched the Grande Mark II. The Grande has now dropped the Sumo tag signalling its swing from the Sumo’s utilitarian image straight towards the Xylo and Innova. The Xylo already had us smitten, so now it’s the Grande’s turn to go under the scalpel in this head-to-head. Does it turn the tables or is the Xylo still the one to watch out for?

Styling & build I quite liked the Sumo Grande’s contemporary looks, a handsome yet simple design, which stands out in a crowd. It is boxy as a breadbox (something of a Sumo trademark) but a bit of smoothening seems to have taken the edge off. The Mark II looks absolutely identical as the

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YA M A HA YZ F- R 1

Cross of changes Riding the 2010 YZF-R1 in India. What’s all the buzz about, then? Words Shubhabrata Marmar Photography Gaurav S Thombre

T

his is the bike that Rossi built. When the 2009 model of the R1 came out, the looks blew people away. Mostly in disgust. The R1 has been the great looking Japanese sportsbike since the very beginning, and especially in the recent years. The new one was meant to be more business like and it appeared to trade in its sleek lines for a bulkier look headlined by this new goggle-eyed face. Rude references to Yamaha’s design teams were made. But Yamaha also said that this R1 was the closest their flagship sportsbike had come to the all-winning, incredible handling YZR-M1, the bike that wears the hallowed 46. In fact, Yamaha think the bike is so good that the sole change announced in the 2010 model year R1 - the bike on these pages - is new paint, including a Valentino Rossi replica that really does look the business. In India, however, the whole of the past year went without any announcement from Yamaha as to when we would get to the see the 2009 R1 in India. Meanwhile, the motorcycle world was going mad riding the weird but effective new bike and singing its praise. When I first heard its engine revving at the Milan Show, I was about 150 rows of journalists behind the lucky sods who snagged the closest seats and when they fired it up, a collective aah went out. The inline four in the R1 didn’t howl. It growled. Literally. And that was explained away by a ‘paradigm shift,’ the term we’ve come to accept smoothly, the crossplane crankshaft. And with it, the uneven firing order. See the ‘Crossplane confusion’ box to understand how both of these things work. In many ways, it was the smoothness of the fours and that

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F e at u r e

V W on t wo w h e e ls

People’s bike Could Europe’s biggest car firm really cut it on two wheels?

Words Ben Purvis Illustrations Nils Poschwatta

V

OLKSWAGEN looks likely to take advantage of the recession and grab a bargain by snapping up one of the increasing number of struggling motorcycle manufacturers – fulfilling a 25-year ambition to become a bike manufacturer. While the firm hasn’t made any clear declarations about its plans, the evidence that VW, which is managing better than most in the recession, wants to take advantage of its strong position, is irrefutable. In September, the firm made it clear that he wants to expand the empire from its current nine brands – which will become 10 shortly when the company’s takeover of Porsche is completed – to a dozen. Its boss also expressed a hope to own a ‘small, valuable’ motorcycle firm, and VW has just revealed plans to raise 10 billion euros next year by releasing 125 million new shares in the company. It’s earmarked the money as being ‘for acquisitions’. While the idea of a car company buying a bike firm might not be instantly appealing, that view doesn’t take into account the irrepressible nature of VW’s head honcho, Ferdinand Piech, who’s probably the single most important and influential character in the world’s entire automotive industry. While undoubtedly a business genius, he’s also a massive fan of crazy, fast and extravagant forms of transport – a massive improvement on the bean counters that run so many of today’s car (and bike) firms. In the past, Piech has admitted than one of his greatest regrets is that he passed up the chance to buy Ducati, at a bargain price, back in 1985. Instead it went to Claudio Castiglioni’s Cagiva group, who gave us the Monster and 916 but never managed to really get on top of the firm’s finances. Since then, Piech has tended to grab opportunities whenever they arise: under his guiding hand, VW has become the owner of Lamborghini, Bentley, Bugatti and soon it will own Porsche. That means the ‘people’s car’ firm is now by far the world’s biggest producer of ridiculously fast hyper cars. You can’t get much further from the Beetle than today’s situation: where most manufacturers might have one or two ‘halo’ products, offering huge power and performance, VW oversees the manufacture of no less than 30 separate models with over 500PS, and two with over 1000PS! It has more than ten separate models capable of over 320kmph. And that’s all down to Piech. Now wouldn’t you like a guy like that to be in charge of making a few bikes, too? Piech himself is a bike fan and serial Ducati owner. In April this year, Piech, 71, sent the strongest message yet of his hopes, saying: “I would still like a small, valuable motorcycle manufacturer. I myself ride a Ducati – 180PS and more power-per-kilogramme than a 1001PS Bugatti.”

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Va rden c h i Val e r i an

Custom groove Want to makeover your dowdy Bullet?

Words Vijayendra Vikram Photography Gaurav S Thombre

T

here is a sect among bikers who will do anything to be different. This distinguished lot would scale any heights to make their ride stand out in a crowd. That’s how the custom culture was sparked off. In Harley-Davidson speak, a bike becomes custom even if you replace a stock nut. Others beg to differ; they leave no stone unturned and replace everything with personalised parts. If you have been following Orange County Choppers and Biker Buildoffs, you must be well accustomed with the trends - ultra-long rakes, fat rear tyres, loud paint jobs and the works. When everybody from Tom Cruise to Brad Pitt are riding customs, why should us Indians lag behind? The custom bug has always been in India, although hardly notice-

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Belt drive assembly also fits the number plate

Circular airbox cover houses the ignition switch

able except for the Bullets that were done up as pseudo Harleys. Of late, the bug seems to have bitten many more as we see a lot of Indian choppers mostly revised Bullets. At the recent Rider Mania, I saw a lot of well-made choppers and custom bikes. But the one that caught my eye was the Vardenchi Valerian. I had been up close with the bike as it was at the OD stall at the Auto Expo this year. But here it stood out among the others, a very professional job. Although I am quite apprehensive about riding anything more than five feet long, I had to ride this attention grabbing eight-footer. After speaking to Akshai Varde, owner of Vardenchi Motorcycles and the creator of Valerian, I rode the chopper around Madh Island in Mumbai. Built around a Bullet LB500 engine, the Valerian has not much in common with the donor bike. Though


Infinity was Vardenchi’s first bike with a belt drive and was built in a record three days. Note the sharp fuel tank and star shaped front alloys

Akshai retained the front part of the chassis, the rear had to be custom made to incorporate the 200-section rear tyre and the singlesided swingarm. The fat rear also needed an offset drive and hence the secondary belt drive system. The bike essentially remains chain driven but it is not connected directly to the rear wheel. The chain drives a pulley that serves as primary drive for the belt. This belt drives the rear sprocket. The engine has been kept stock, except for the free-flow air filter. The bike is a visual treat. The deep red 3D flame paint job looks tasteful and every

power-wise the Valerian feels very similar to a standard Bullet

Single-seater Vedic has ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ inscribed all over it in ancient Indian calligraphy

bit of the bodywork, right from the tank to the rear fender, is hand crafted. The only glitch in the design is the raised rear fender, which Akshai said was so to accommodate a pillion seat as per the customer’s demand. Chromed goggle-eyed headlamps look the part but I cannot comment on their effectiveness in the dark. The long rake up front originates from the standard forks that have been lengthened. So how is it to ride? Well, it doesn’t cut corners like your regular bike, but be gentle with the throttle and it turns surefootedly. The Valerian’s forte is cruising. The handlebars are a long reach from the seat but I got used to the position after a

while. I was skeptical about the performance and thought the additional belt drive would sap some power but the Valerian feels very similar to riding a standard Bullet. The cost of a job like this can vary; a similar modification would cost between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 4 lakh, depending on personal requirements and the donor bike. It is expensive but then there’s a price to be paid for exclusivity. Akshai showed me a few of his other creations like the Vedic Chopper, Infinity and the Dark Knight. He is also working on a bolt-on kit that can transform a Bullet in one day flat. More on that later.

Dark Knight has low seat and scrambler-style exhaust. Batman wouldn’t mind riding one MAR 2010 overdrive

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F e at u re

auto d utc h

Going Dutch A glimpse of the Netherlands automobile industry Words Halley Prabhakar Photography Halley Prabhakar & FIER

T

he Netherlands is best known for tulips, windmills and clogs (wooden footwear). But do you know that the country has some of the world’s leading OEMs and suppliers? Automotive R&D and educational institutes are held in high regard in the Netherlands. A tour of the Netherlands showed me just what its automotive industry has to offer the Indian automobile Industry. The automobile industry in Europe is dominated by Germany. Volkswagen for instance is Europe’s largest manufacturer. The Netherlands does not boast of many automobile manufacturers but it is home to a few speciality manufacturers such as DAF Trucks, known for developing, designing and assembling complete trucks. The country also has truck manufacturer Scania’s largest

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assembly plant. Coach and bus builder VDL is the largest independent coach manufacturer in Europe with a 10 per cent share of the market. It has developed an intelligent public transport vehicle called the Phileas which can be compared to a tram due to its length and multiple body options. The Phileas uses electric guidance to navigate around town and also features a hybrid powertrain system of combined CNG/LPG/ diesel with an electric powertain. Another important Dutch manufacturer is NedCar, that has set up a sub-assembly of Mitsubishi vehicles to produce cars such as the Colt and the Outlander. The Netherlands is also known for high end niche car producers such as Spyker and Donkervoort. Spyker manufactures sport cars - Vijay Mallya acquired the Force India F1 team from

Spyker - and recently acquired Saab from General Motors. Donkervoort manufactures the Audi-powered Donkervoort D8 GT, one of the lightest and fastest GT cars. But the strength of the Netherlands automobile industy is its supply sector that includes specialised system suppliers that are the backbone of automobile manufacturing and development. Leading suppliers include Philips that manufactures automobile infotainment systems and lighting. TomTom manufactures navigation systems and is an OEM as well as aftermarket manufacturer, Inalfa Roof Systems develops and manufactures sunroofs and open-roof systems while NXP manufactures semi-conductors for car radios, immobilisers and keyless entry systems. These companies have roots in the


The Phileas Hybrid bus combines an electric powertrain with a CNG, LPG or diesel one

Netherlands but have evolved to an international corporate status. The automotive supply industry operates at an international level, since a major bulk of purchases is from overseas. The Dutch automotive suppliers sell 90 per cent of their products abroad, in Germany, France and Belgium, with just 10 per cent of the sales in the home market. Research, development and engineering are key aspects of any automotive supply industry. R&D expenditure is increasing since manufacturers develop and produce components in line with customer demands. There are 14 major centres for research, development, testing and engineering in the Netherlands. TNO is among the most prominent and is involved in applied automotive research with focus on areas and products such as powertrains, integrated

The Dutch automotive suppliers sell 90 per cent of their products abroad safety, homologation and crash testing. Its centre tests all kinds of engine and powertrains besides customer defined and standard R&D tests as well as handling official European type approvals and emission measurements. At this centre, a powertrain can be developed from a concept to an approved working stage. TNO’s team of engineers uses the most advanced hardware and software measurement technology. The European automobile industry adheres to high standards, regulations and

laws in evaluating powertrain emissions and safety systems. TNO tests and grants approval for petrol and diesel powertrains and hybrid and alternative fuel powertrains. Seat belts, child protection equipment, helmets and anti-theft devices are tested and homologated on the basis of their results. If a product fails to comply with the standard norms, the TNO team helps bring the product up to par. An indoor climate-altitude chamber serves a wide variety of testing needs. Ambient temperature can be controlled between -45 degrees and +55 degrees. Such temperature/altitude conditions can be simulated in the chamber whereby the manufacturer is spared the huge outdoor testing expense. TNO is collaborating with Indian manufacturers who intend a foray into the European market. The TUV Rheinland and TNO Automotive International (TTAI), is a premier European centre for passive vehicle safety testing. The TTAI Euro-NCAP facility offers a broad range of crash testing capabilities. It undertakes frontal impact tests, vehicle-tovehicle tests, side impact tests, rear impact tests, rollover tests, outdoor impact tests, heavy vehicle tests and pedestrian and interior protection as well. These tests are crucial as their results help in homologation as well as on the sales front. TTAI also offers advice to manufacturers during the development of automotive standards. Prins Alternative Fuel Systems is the third largest manufacturer of LPG and CNG systems in the world and it exports these to over 50 countries including India. The company has a R&D partnership with Keihin in Japan and it’s the exclusive worldwide

The LPG powered eco tuk features a two-stroke engine with Direct Injection technology

The HAN University Dakar vehicle

A car undergoing frontal impact test

Each crash test dummy is worth a million euros

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F e at u r e

Baja SAEInd i a

Proving ground

The third Baja SAEIndia turned out to be more than just a learning experience for the participating engineering students Words & Photography Abhay Verma

Buggy 37 of the MIT, Aurangabad, the overall winners who finished second in the endurance race

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motorsport F1 NEWS MOTOGP WRC INDIAN

He’s back! 7 world championships, 3 years in retirement... Schumi is back for more Words Dan Knutson Photography sutton-images.com

Michael Schumacher is returning to motorsport after a three-year hiatus. What remains for him to prove and wherein lies his motivation?

H

e may be the old man in the Formula One driver line-up this season, but Michael Schumacher, at 41, looks fitter than ever, and he is extremely motivated about making his comeback to the world’s most elite form of motorsport after three years of retirement. Schumacher retired at the end of the 2006 season after having shattered just about every

F1 record and statistic, including winning seven world championships, 91 grand prix race wins, 68 poles, earning 154 podiums, setting 76 fastest races laps and more. So why is he returning? “I have nothing to prove to anyone about my age,” he says. “I just have to prove to myself that I am obviously still able. But the main reason I am doing this, is because I am thrilled about it. I feel big excitement to just drive and

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F1 Season Preview

Return of the Silver Arrows The Mercedes Silver Arrows see the dawn of a new era Words Dan Knutson Photography Mercedes archive, sutton-images.com

Manfred von Brauchitsch and Rudolf Caracciola took a one-two finish in the 1937 Monaco GP in the mighty Mercedes Benz W 125

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D

aimler only owns five per cent more of a F1 team than it did previously. But it is a crucial five per cent as it gives the company the controlling interest in what is the first Mercedes F1 team since 1955. And thus starts a new era of the Silver Arrows. “A new and certainly the most important chapter of over 100 years of Mercedes-Benz motorsport history begins,” claims Norbert Haug, the vice president of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport. “The new F1 season will offer challenges which will be bigger than ever before in over sixty years of the sport’s history.” On the face of it, not that much has changed for Mercedes. It is still an engine partner to a British-based F1 team. The difference, of course, is that Mercedes was a share holder in McLaren (it owned 40 per cent of the team) but, ultimately, McLaren called the

shots. Now that Mercedes has bought the Brawn team it has the final say, although it will leave the running of the squad to team principal Ross Brawn and team CEO Nick Fry. McLaren and Mercedes always insisted that they had a harmonious relationship and won and lost as a team. However, that relationship definitely took some hits in recent years. There might not have been any public finger pointing between the two, but there no doubt was some mental finger pointing when one side or the other made mistakes. Now, win, lose or draw, the buck stops with Mercedes. Yet, although Mercedes has the final veto, most crucial decisions will be made in England at the factory in Brackley, former home of BAR/Honda/Brawn. Daimler owns 45 per cent of the team. The Aabar/IPIC investment group (which is the largest shareholder in Daimler) holds 40 per cent, while the original five shareholders of

the Brawn team (including Brawn and Fry) own the remaining 25 per cent. While Honda, BMW and Toyota dumped out of F1 very suddenly and clumsily, Mercedes is not only sticking around, it has found an elegant solution to do so considerably cheaper. By necessity after losing the Honda backing, the Brawn team had to run a very efficient operation in 2009. There was no way it could use the scattergun approach to developing the car that so many of the big teams used when the money seemed limitless. Every single development programme and part on last year’s championship-winning Brawn car had to be carefully considered. “We could not,” one senior Brawn team member tells OVERDRIVE, “just build all sorts of parts and throw away those that did not work.” That same team member reveals that between the start of the 2009 season and the

Michael Schumacher spearheads the new Silver Arrows. Will the MGP W01 bring glory to Mercedes and achieve legendary status? MAR 2010 overdrive

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International Dakar 

Sainz storms

Dakar Words Abhay Verma

Former WRC champion Carlos Sainz added the Dakar to his trophy cabinet, taking victory in the VW Race Touareg 2

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Gear & Gadgets To p - n o t c h t o y s f o r t h e m o s t d i s c r i m i n at i n g t a s t e s

Apple iPad

Apple’s latest promises extraordinary internet experience Though it looks like an overgrown iPhone, the iPad can’t be used to make calls. In fact it is the world’s smartest netbook with a bright screen and iPhone derived touch capabilities for intuitive operation. Will come in both 3G and Wi-Fi versions and already has our piggybanks in regular top-up mode. Prices start at Rs 23,141 for 16GB Wi-Fi model to Rs 38,444 for 64GB 3G version, excluding duties. www.apple.com

Nike AIRMX 6.0

Although Nike has always shied away from motorsport, this pair of lightweight custom motocross boots for MX athletes Ryan Dungey and Bubba Stewart may be the shape of things to come.

Price NA 200

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BMW-Sennheiser

BMW Designworks got into designing some cool headphones for the German specialist and the result is really sporty, just like the cars that undergo the same design routine. www.designworksusa.com


F1 lounge chair Imagine watching the race on this fluid-shaped F1 chair by Alexander Christoff. Made from fibreglass, consider selling the house to buy this piece of art.

69 Pit Stop parking sign

These witty signboards can be a great way of keeping your parking space secure or telling the world of your dream car even if it only a Maruti 800.

Rs 1,270 approx www.69pitstop.com

Meridian F80

A different sounding Ferrari for your desk The F80 isn’t cheap but what you get is an 80-watt 2.1 stereo system with a Prancing Horse logo and a choice of seven original Ferrari colours. Precision construction ensures the bass is deep while an optional iPod dock is available too. Priced at Rs 2 lakh approx. Available at Sound of Music, New Delhi

Acer Liquid

This is Acer’s first android smartphone that supports high definition. What’s more, it has a capacitative touchscreen so you don’t have to beat it to get going.

Rs 24,990

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Overdrive Magazine March 2010 Issue Preview  

A preview of what's inside Overdrive Magazine, March 2010

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