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Road Test

August 2010 Quarter Mile


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f you were to be transfered to a new school in the middle of the term, haven’t you noticed that there was another student who has been the teacher’s favourite? He was the class monitor, the top scorer and annoyingly the most popular among your classmates too. Despite your best efforts to outdo him, he gets all the praise which might have led you into complaining about this partiality. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. That is what car manufacturers in India are trying to understand. They may initially get along with the premium pricing of spares for some of their cars. Once the talk of over priced spares gets out, the damage is done. Ask anyone, even those with no car ownership history, about brands that they think are expensive to maintain and you hear them say Skoda, Volkswagen, Opel, Ford etc. According to another magazine which did the spare parts survey last month, a VW Jetta’s front bumper costs Rs.22784 while that of a Honda Civic costs just Rs.5782. The general perception is that Japanese cars have relatively inexpensive spares, but this generalisations doesn’t always work. The aforementioned bumper if it belongs to a Cedia costs Rs.26002. How Europeans have learned the small car segment in India and priced their spares so competitively is evident if you analyse the price of spares of cars like Volkswagen Polo and the Ford Figo (For the time being, let us take the Ford small car division as European). It came in as a big relief that the spares of the Polo aren’t the most expensive in the segment. The Figo? It literally chewed up the tradition of high maintenance costs of Fords and spitted out a new spare parts price catalogue that could give sleepless nights to any of its competitors. All it has to do now is to shed that bad image it as acquired in 13 years. Not easy since it is like coming out of the jail after a long term of imprisonment for charges of murder and trying to tell everyone that you are now very good mannered and innocent. The Europeans have understood that this kind of a price strategy is important for their existence in a value conscious country like ours. Never before has owning a European car been this cheap. Hyundai had exercised a similar check on their spare parts prices, right from the beginning, a very good reason for their success. Cars, however costly they are, we love them when they are inexpensive to maintain. The Indian customer, thus, is like a very strict school teacher who doesn’t accept anything less than the best. Do your homework well and peform well in all the exams is the best you can do to please him. And the name of favourite student is of course, Maruti.

Vivek Venugopal Editor vivek@quartermile.in

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Contents

CONTENTS Inbox

t 03

News

t 08

Alto K10

t 14

Small Car Comparison

t 20

VW Phaeton

t 28

Tyre Test

t 34

Land Rover Experience

t 40

Tech Showcase

t 44

Ferrari 458 Challenge

t 48

Gear

t 50

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inbox

BEST LETTER

pictures delighted me much.

Quarter Mile is a god-send thing from above. One can get the latest news, the best paper quality, the clean and clutter free language and great photography. Even if I forget it at home, I can read the Emagazine and still enjoy it from my i-phone. The best bit is that it all comes free. Life never gets any better than this for car lovers in India. I didn’t like the Swift when I saw pictures on your website. But in the magazine, it was looking so good. I was about to buy a fully loaded small car, but looking at the new Swift, I have decided to wait. I was thinking along the lines of the Polo but your cover story, pictures and the interiors have got me lulled into sticking with the Maruti brand.

Harish Bhandari, Kolhapur

Santhosh S, Kochi

Has Quarter Mile an eagle’s eye so as to take snaps of the Etios Twins when they traversed through a small town in Kerala during the trial run? Or did you have any prior information about it coming over there? I saw the cars on our highway on my way to office. The write up on 2011 VW Jetta and the Merc C200 CGI have been particularly good for the July issue. The Micra and All New Maruti Swift coverage makes QM as the torch bearer helping the car buyers to a major extent. I would love to read the publication with keen interest. Please send me my copy regularly for which I shall ever be grateful Paul Frederick, Thiruvananthapuram

My quest for a good autojournal ends up in Quartermile that brings up the good and bad elements in cars reviewed without bias. Flaws are boldly revealed helping manufacturers and car buyers alike. Keep up the culture for ever. I am sorry that the I missed the June issue and had to be satisfied with the e-magazine M S Aggarwal, Pune The Black Micra in the July issue QM impressed me much. It was unique to me as I have seen the Yellow Micra in other magazines. Write up was excellent and the black baby was shining in the picturesque background. I don’t mean to say that the other photos are lesser in quality. The cover story on All New Suzuki Swift and the

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It was pleasant surprise to get a copy of the July, 2010 Quarter Mile. The editorial, contents and photos are of superb quality. The bold comments highlighting better aspects as also the drawbacks of different vehicles are points of attraction. I am very much interested in going through the magazine. The cover page and coverage go on increasing. It was the first time. I got Quarter Mile and read three earlier issues from my friends. Please make it availabe in shops so that readers can buy it for a price. D C Gupta Chandigarh


August 2010 Quarter Mile


News

Mercedes CL63 AMG The CL has been to the AMG laboratory and back. Mercedes-AMG is systematically following the trend towards increasing efficiency: with a displacement of 5461 cc it is 747 cc below the 6208 cc of the naturally aspirated AMG 6.3-litre V8 engine. Nevertheless, it develops more output and torque. The 2011 CL63 AMG develops a peak output of 536 bhp. In conjunction with the AMG Performance Package this increase to 563 bhp. Now you can have supercar power in ultra luxury.

Range Rover Evoque This is what the production version of the Range Rover LRX concept looks like. While we want to pat the back of the engineers at Land Rover for keeping it true to the concept, Land Rover says they have plans to sell it in 160 countries worlwide. It will be the smallest, lightest and most fuel efficient Range Rover ever produced. Customers will have a choice of both a 4WD and a 2WD version.

Dodge Challenger Mopar The Mopar ‘10, a 2010 Dodge Challenger Mopar, is a special edition by Chrysler Group LLC that will soon arrive in Dodge dealerships next month. Under-the-hood features include the legendary 5.7-liter HEMIŽ V-8 engine, a hood-venting system, a cold-air intake, a front strut-tower brace with shock caps, and a unique engine cover. The car also features rear strut-tower brace that stiffens the chassis and improves handling characteristics of the car.

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2011 BMW X3 This is the second generation BMW X3 which cures the odd looks of the old one to an extent. The SUV uses a mix of X1 and X5 styling elements to good effect.The new X3 will be produced in an expansion of the BMW Spartanburg, South Carolina plant and is expected to arrive in US BMW Centers by the end of 2010. This first generation BMW X3 became a best seller in the BMW line…both in the United States and in Europe. Through its lifecycle, over 600,000 original X3s have been sold worldwide with 150,000 sold in the USA.

Fiat Idea

2011 Ford Explorer With strong influences of the Taurus’s design, the new Explorer gets a signature 3 bar grille and trapziodal lower grille. body-color C-pillars and blackened D-pillars are traditional Ford Explorer cues, while the blackened A-pillars and B-pillars provide a fresh new wraparound daylight opening. The Ford Explorer 3.5-litre V6

is offered as standard equipment. Delivering an anticipated improvement in fuel economy of more than 20 percent versus the previous Explorer model, it also surpasses the fuel economy figures for the 2010 Honda Pilot. Using Ti-VCT for optimized fuel economy and reduced part-throttle emissions, this engine delivers an estimated 290 horsepower.. Ford also has an EcoBoost 2.0-

litre I-4 engine. Combining direct injection of gasoline and turbocharging, this advanced engine delivers performance comparable to normally aspirated competitive V6 engines. Developing up to 237 horsepower fuel economy is claimed to improve by more than 30 percent, putting the fuel efficiency of the Ford Explorer in line with sedans such as the 2010 Toyota Camry V6.

The successful Fiat Idea gains a new exterior design, new family of E.torQ engines as part of the update. The 1.6 16V and 1.8 16V, developed by the engineering department of FPT - Powertrain Technologies. These Flex-fuel (runs at any mix of ethanol and gasoline) engines can really improve the appeal of the mini MPV.

Micra Sedan Likely

We got this picture of a test mule supposed to be the sedan version of the Nissan Micra. The boot integration looks very much like a Swift Dzire’s. Watch this space for more updates.

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News

Fiat 500 C

Abarth

2012 Honda Civic spied These are the first spy pics of the Next generation Honda Civic being tested. The test mule has been covered in plastic mouldings to hide the lines, but the longer wheelbase and extended nose still shine through. The car appears to be bigger than its predecessor in every dimension.

It was in1949 that Karl Abarth officially began marketing the first product, a race-derived gearbox with steering wheel control for the Fiat Topolino, capable of delivering quick gear changes in sporty driving conditions. Sixty years later we have the 500 Abarth and now, the 500C. The 500 Abarth has a 4 cylinder, 16 valve 1.4 T-jet unit fitted with an IHI RHF3-P fixed geometry turbocharger. The unit delivers exciting performance, pushing the car to a top speed of 205 kmph and accelerating it from 0 to 100 kmph in just 8.1 seconds. Now with the 500 C Abarth, you can enjoy all of that, by going topless. The looks of the Fiat 500C Abarth have also benefited from the new design 17� diamond finished alloy wheels, including the sought-after diamond finished 5 petal white wheels.Another strong point of the Fiat 500C Abarth is its exceptional interior climate and acoustic comfort. Thorough aerodynamic research has minimised turbulence with the roof open, allowing the sound of the road and engine to be enjoyed to the full.

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Audi A7 Sportback

Audi is targeting a new market segment with the radical Audi A7 Sportback. The large five-door model with the fast back roofline, according to Audi, brings together the best of three worlds: the sporty elegance of a coupe, the comfort of

a sedan and the practicality of a station wagon. The Audi A7 Sportback features extensive use of Aluminium in its construction and its interiors are in a different level of workmanship. There are four V6 engines: two petrol

and two diesel units with power output ranging from 204 bhp to 300 bhp.. The sporty chassis comes with a host of new solutions, such as electromechanical power steering. We are yet to like the rear end design though.


Honda goes global, invests Rs. 250 Cr more in India.

Honda Siel Cars India, announced an investment of Rs. 250 crore in its Tapukara Plant in Rajasthan for the expansion of power train facility The manufacturer has already invested close to Rs 1620 Crores at the Noida plant in UP and Rs. 920 Crores at Rajasthan . The power train facility, currently under construction, will be completed by the end of 2010 and will be utilized to manufacture engine & transmission components such as Cylinder Head and Cylinder Block – which were till now being imported from

Indonesia and Thailand. The Tapukara plant currently produces Crankshaft and Connecting rods for its Greater Noida plant and for export purposes. Emphasizing on HSCI’s commitment to automobile industry, Mr. Takashi Nagai, President and CEO, HSCI, said, “The Tapukara Power Train facility expansion will help us to enhance our overall capacity in future and also to accrue benefits of low-cost manufacturing available in the country. This will enable us to capture more opportunities in one of the fastest growing vehicle

markets in the world.” “HSCI’s investments at the Tapukara plant is a step towards our aim to make India the future manufacturing base for critical components for our global operations. An additional investment will further strengthen our commitment to Indian automobile industry ”, he added. The new and enhanced facility will not only help control costs in future but will also assist in increasing indigenization levels, especially for the Honda New Small Car taking the localization to more than 80 percent.

Mercedes Benz SLS AMG now available in India Mercedes launched the SLS AMG in India with a 6.3 – litre V8 front mid-engine, the AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT 7-speed sports transmission, the AMG speed-sensitive sports steering and the light yet rigid aluminium space frame at a price of Rs. 2.5 crores.

Porsche launches Cayenne diesel in India

Porsche launched the latest Cayenne in India with a 3.0-litre 240bhp V6 diesel. The new Cayenne is almost 200kgs lighter than the predecessor and has an 8 speed gearbox. Porsche sold nearly 94 units in total last year in India with the SUV accounting for almost 80% of its total sales. With the Audi Q7 retailing at Rs 55.35 lakh and the BMW X5 priced at Rs 56.50 lakh, the Cayenne makes a strong case for itself at a sticker price of Rs. 59lakh, (all prices ex-showroom Delhi).

Rhino’s Engine to power the Tavera GM is thinking of using the ICML Rhino’s 100bhp 2.0litre diesel engine for its Tavera. The Sonalika engine developed in collaboration with Rover is BS IV ready and can be used in place of the 2.5litre Isuzu engine in the Tavera. The desperate move is to bring back the Tavera to BS-IV cities where it has currently been withdrawn from.

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First Drive

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Improved Altogether. Text: Vivek Venugopal Photos: Shaheen Thaha

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Road Test

B

efore we go into the drive report, I have a confession to make. Of all the cars I have driven, from the humble Nano to a Ferrari 430, there is one very common car that I hadn’t driven all this while. It has been around for ten August 2010 Quarter Mile 16

years but I had never bothered to take it for a spin. It is India’s largest selling car for nearly 5 years and 8 months now, with average monthly sales exceeding 20,000 units. Reluctantly, I admit, I had recommended it to hundreds although I have never

“Over 14 lakh people can’t be wrong when they bought an Alto.” tried it out myself. That was okay, because those

few hundred people who asked for my opinion, had everything else out of their budget except the 800. And yes, I knew the Alto was better buy than the 800. Well, 14 lakh people can’t be wrong when they bought an Alto. And

as far as history goes, you cannot really go wrong with any Maruti product. As a first time car, the Alto worked just fine. But the game has advanced a lot since its inception in the year 2000 and Maruti did give us the A-star which is the latest generation


grille and bumper are all new The changes are more visible at the rear where the number plate has been promoted to the tailgate and the rear lights have swollen at the top. The black surround at the rear glass has an odd shape, but otherwise the changes to the rear are pleasant. Inside, you get new instrument cluster and a new three spoke steering wheel in place of the old 2 spoke one. And yes, the Alto has new seats with head restraints built into them. The decision to offer such seats looks a bit odd compared to cars like the Micra where the base model gets such one piece seats with non adjustable, built-in head rests and the higher spec models get regular seats. A clever move by Maruti engineers was the inclusion of a scoop at the back of the front seats which liberates up to 50 mm of knee room for rear passengers.

Alto. But, in the lower segment where the Alto reigns, it was time to give a something extra to the Alto buyer who demands more. That is where the new Alto K10 steps in. The K10 will sell alongside the 800 cc Alto giving the customer a wider choice and a better

proposition. The main thing that you notice about the Alto K10 is its longer bonnet and larger front overhang. Front end styling as you can see, has received some minor tweaks to make it look fresher. The headlamp,

The K10 Alto gets the familiar K10B engine which is shared with the Astar, Wagon R and the Estilo. The engine owing to its all Aluminimum contruction is larger and hence the longer bonnet in this one. The 998cc K10B has always amazed us by its eagerness. It delivers 67bhp which is a huge step up from the 45bhp of the 800cc Alto. To get a better perspecAugust 2010 Quarter Mile 17


First Drive

“ Drivability, more than outright performance, is the reason why we say this engine is better. �

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Scoops in the seat back improve knee room by 50 mm I finally got behind the wheel of the 800cc variant and the difference was astonishing. This one feels more refined and overall vibrations are much lower. The acceleration also has a marked improvement. You can choose to stay in a higher gear than the 800cc Alto too. The overall boost in drivability will be rewarded by great fuel efficiency figures. The Alto’s ride and handling are unchanged but with 13inch wheels the steering feel has seen slight improvement. The handling though not as good as modern cars like the A star, is still predictable and friendly. Ride quality remains more or less similar to the other

version. With a new engine, the Alto gets a new lease of life. Not only is it more powerful than the 800 cc variant, it is also more fuel efficient. The additional performance is a bonus, but what this engine does is to boost the overall drivability. And for those who think they don’t need extra performance in their Alto, let me tell you, this is much easier to drive and that much better for first time buyers. At the time of going to press, the pricing of the new Alto K10 is unknown, but if the difference between the corresponding Lxi variants works out to Rs. 10-15 thousand, then certainly this is the Alto to buy. August 2010 Quarter Mile 19


Comparison

Jai Japan Jai Nissan ? Japanese cars have always worked in India. So is it an automatic victory for the Nissan as we end the story? That is where the twist comes in.

Au-


T

hese are the most talked about hatchbacks in the country today. The Polo is the most hyped hatchback, one that looks like an easy sell for VW. The newest entrant Micra has got a lot of equipments that could make it sell. But as things stand now, the Ford Figo is the one that really sells, with monthly sales touching 6000 units. For a hatchback buyer with roughly Rs.5-6 lakhs, burning a hole in his pocket, which of these three cars will work the best? LOOKS Alright, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So in true Quarter Mile tradition, we had people outside the magazine see each of the three cars to get a collective opinion. And almost everyone agreed that the Polo is the best looker here. That is the car that everyone wanted to see and try first. The chiselled lines, the seemingly indestructible build quality and the tasty alloys won it for the Polo. We were testing the top spec models and the Polo was the only car with alloy wheels as standard. In comparison, the Figo looks very sedate and plain jane. It is a bit old school if you are used to seeing the European Fiestas. And that front and rear with Ikon and Fusion resemblances reduces the freshness of the design. The car though a recent launch, looks a bit too familiar. In comparison to its European rivals, the Micra looks a bit too cuddly, somewhat retro and a touch feminine if you insist. The curvy design however looks pleasing and except for the square August 2010 Quarter Mile 21


Comparison shaped fuel filler cap, has a cohesiveness that makes it very appealing. INTERIORS Enter the cabin and the Polo continues to impress. The dashboard design, the texture, the chunky knobs and the clear instrumentation are VW traits that have filtered down to a lower class. The cabin exudes richness but the car owing to its Demo Car status at a dealership had developed some rattles and squeaks. The high shoulder line and the grey plastics make you feel secure, like in a vault. The front seats in the Polo have the right amount of bolstering for very good lateral support and under-thigh support. The seats have lots of travel and in the top version can be adjusted for height as well. Visibility at the front is good, but the rear window is a bit too restrictive for proper judgment while reversing. The rear seats are good on head room, but that is mostly due to the seat base set lower. At the rear, the Polo has just about adequate legroom. The wide seat can seat three passengers, but the high centre tunnel on the floor will be inconvenient for the middle one. Boot space is a massive 294litres and in the Comfortline and Highline versions, practicality is further improved by the 60:40 split. The Figo we had for the comparison had a Red dashboard and almost everyone agreed that all

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black with silver inserts looks much better. The build quality is similar to that of the Polo and the dashboard feels like it is made of one solid piece of plastic. The front seats

“ If you want the maximum amount of room in the cabin, the Micra is the one to have. � are very supportive and have good legroom. The hard wearing material looks neat and the padding is sufficient to keep you comfortable over long journeys. The rear seat has generous width and suitable under-thigh support. Legroom is adequate for most people and there is plenty of room underneath the front seats, for your feet to breathe. It also has a very useful boot with 284 litre space that is both deep and wide with minimal intrusions. The cabin feels much more airier than the Polo, thanks to a lower shoulder line and more generous glass area. If you want the maximum amount of room in the cabin, the Micra is the one to have. Though the rod looks curvy, the clever roof line actually remains more or less horizontal till the end lierating massive amounts of headroom for tall adults. But despite having so much headroom the rear seats are set very


Micra has tremendous space inside. Underthigh support could have been better.

low. The lower hip point also makes the lack of under thigh support very noticeable. And that head restraints are too low to be of any safety too. But there is sufficient legroom and width to accommodate three people at the back. The front seats are good, but we wish it could do with some more lower back support. The use of lighter shades of grey and beige make the cabin appear brighter and hence larger than it already is. On the downside, the cabin plastics doesn’t appeal as much as the other two. The quality is good and it is all well put together, but the finish makes looks cheaper. The seats and the carpets are in one of the least practical colours, one that is very difficult to keep clean. RIDE & HANDLING Nissan engineers have

Polo has supportive seat, but high central tunnel Figo’s seat is set low and legroom is just about makes it inconvenient for the middle passenger adequate. Seat fabric is extremely durable.

worked hard to give the Micra a very compliant suspension. It rides well and has adequate ground clearance and long suspension travel to tackle most part of the Indian terrain. In terms of handling, the Micra feels very city focused. The steering is very light to help you at parking speeds, the clutch is light and the maneuverability in traffic is great too. It rolls more than the other two cars here and doesn’t encourage to take it to the limits. The handling is pretty benign and predictable. Take it on the highway, get up to ton digits on the speedo and the Micra feels very nervous. It doesn’t have the directional stability of the European rivals. Directional stability is where the Polo excels. It feels well planted and apart from some bobbing around expansion joints,

it can cruise at 120kmph rather effortlessly. The Polo’s suspension can

“ The Figo’s handling and road manners are proof that small hatches needn’t be so small on fun factor ! ” handle bad roads pretty well, but you have to be careful not to damage that protruding chin. The steering doesn’t have sufficient feedback and there is a wee bit of understeer when pushed hard. It is not the driver’s car we expected it to be. When it comes to handling, the Ford is in

a different league. The steering feels the most accurate amongst the lot. It is perfectly weighted and the car just comes alive around you, as you drive it hard. The pedals offer great feedback, the gearshift quality is positive and you literally throw it around corners and expect it to come back for more. The car is so chuckable; you instantly feel like a better driver and that front end grip is just phenomenal. The Figo’s handling and road manners are proof that small hatches needn’t be so small on fun factor. The best bit about the Figo is that the sporty suspension hasn’t compromised on the ride quality. It soaks up bumps and lets you carry a fair amount of speed over broken roads. However suspension travel isn’t as generous as in the Micra and you do hit the bump stops very often.

PERFORMANCE Talking of engines, the Nissan Micra and VW Polo makes use of 3-cylinder petrol engines against the Figo’s 4-cylinder unit. The idea here is to take off one cylinder from a 1.6litre four cylinder engine and add a balancer shaft, rather than to make a smaller capacity four cylinder just for India. As a result of taking the shortcut, they do suffer from a three cylinder thrum, and most of our outsiders were taken to surprise when we told them the Polo we had wasn’t the diesel. The Micra’s 1198cc engine was better in that respect with a clever outer balancer and an offset crankshaft reducing the amount of vibrations. It feels like a four cylinder at certain parts of the rev band, and past an initial

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Comparison

The Micra’s 1.2 litre is one of the smoothest three cylinder petrol motors around.

Polo’s 1.2L petrol engine is noisier, but mid range performance is satisfactory.

output, but it wasn’t as fast, taking 16.78seconds from a standstill to 100kmph. The engine noise intrudes less into the cabin than the Micra but on the other side it feels coarse and laboured at high revs. It has a tendency to stall when moving off, and gives off a mild shudder if you aren’t helping with the throttle. The engine has decent midrange performance and that gearshift is the slickest among all hatchbacks. The Figo petrol has a 1196cc twin cam motor that is fairly buzzy. It produces 70bhp which is a bit low compared to the competition. The engine is responsive but it has a weak bottom end and acceleration is not very strong. We recorded a 0-100kmph time of 16.48 seconds in our past road test. But why didn’t we test it this time? Because, we were driving a diesel Figo. That is where the twist in the story comes. THE TWIST

The loudest engine of the lot, but that is forgiven for its diesel economy and strong mid range. struggle at low revs, pulls cleanly. Performance is strong at the top end and that 930kg kerb weight gives it a healthy 80.6bhp/ton power to weight ratio as well. It

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managed to crack 0-100 kmph in 14.63seconds. The Polo with 74bhp looks closely matched on paper in terms of power

Why not? The Figo diesel at Rs 5.3 lakhs (for the top spec Titanium variant) is cheaper to buy than the Micra XV or the Polo. Needless to say, it is cheaper to run too. It is also faster than the Polo with a 0-100kmph time of 16.31 seconds. And while the Micra and Polo were averaging 14.6kmpl and 13.4kmpl, the Figo will be sipping the cheaper stuff at 16-17kmpl. It is also better to drive on the highways with much more acceleration in the mid range and the

SOUND REASONING

T

hese days, when you buy a fully loaded car, you get a music system thrown in for free. Chances are that you will settle for it and listen to whatever audio quality it delivers. So we knew, it is worthwhile lending an ear to the audio systems our cars came with. The Micra has a funky music system with decent audio quality. The overall tonality is high and treble notes are rather sharp. Bass notes were rather weak and overall sound staging wasn’t very impressive. It delivers on the volume front and can play loud and clear near the maximum volume. The thin body panels also seemed to enjoy the loud music by dancing to its tunes and giving out a noticeable resonating note. The Polo’s audio system looks the best and controls are the easiest to figure out. The buttons and knobs are very classy and upmarket. The large display with blue backlighting is easy on the

eyes. The Polo, like the Micra uses 5 ¼” drivers at the front. Music tonality is neutral but the bass rendering is very muddy. It gets boomy and loses on the clarity front. It is also the car where fiddling with the equalizer settings had the least effect on the music. The well damped nature of the car seems an overkill with the music performance it offers. The Figo’s music system has the best audio quality and the most features. It has Bluetooth connectivity, although it takes ages to detect your phone and then some more to pair with it. Unlike the other two, it is easily swappable with any aftermarket 2 DIN audio system without having to buy an adapter fascia. The sound is just the right mix of mild highs, balanced mids and punchy lows. The Figo uses larger 5x7 oval speakers in the front doors. The overall sound staging was also better with speakers sitting higher up in the doors than at the usual door pocket level.


sudden increase in pace with the turbo kicking in. Sure, it is noisier with its diesel engine clattering along, but on high speed cruising, it doesn’t make as much noise as the petrol engines at full chat, mainly because it runs at much lower revs. We wish it had lesser tyre noise though.

VERDICT

BRAKING In our test, the Micra had the best brakes of the lot and took the least distance to come to a stop from 80kmph in 27.32metres. The pedal feel wasn’t very good, feeling rather light and the action was abrupt. The non ABS version we tested earlier with its skinny 165/70 R14tyres had its wheels locking up very early. Owners of the non ABS Figo had complained about their grabby brakes and similar unexpected wheel lock-up incidents, but our top spec version with 175/65 R14 tyres stopped well in 28.51 metres. The Polo with the widest tyres (185/60 R15) and the most progressive brakes of them all, but stopping power was inadequate taking nearly 31.60 metres. We also felt that the ABS was intervening much earlier than usual.

Micra has a 224 litre boot.

To sum it up, the Polo is very aspirational but fails to deliver exactly what we all want. It is not the most refined, not the most fuel efficient or powerful and at Rs 5.82lakhs, it is rather expensive. For that you do not get very much in terms of equipments either. It doesn’t have climate control or electric mirrors that is glaring at this price point. If you can see beyond that it still remains one of the best looking hatchbacks with solid build quality and brand image. And we cannot wait for the 1.6 L variant that promises to be the hottest hot hatch and may be do

full justice to its premium positioning. For offering so much creature comforts, nothing comes close to the Micra. Even the base model comes with tilt adjustable steering and a trip computer. Keyless entry system, an engine Start/Stop button, electrically folding mirrors-you name it and it is there. Nissan knew it cannot drastically bring down the price, so it offered a lot of equipments to justify it- something the Polo should have learned from. However with only 20 dealerships being operational at the time of

Figo has 284 litres of boot space.

going to print, we say the Micra suffers from the lack of a proper dealer network. So if you are reading this in Madhya Pradesh, your calls to your nearest Nissan dealer is by way of STD only. We would recommend the Micra XV at Rs 5.30lakhs if you have a service support close to you. It is the best package if all the cars we had here were the petrol ones. But sadly for the Micra, Ford sent us the wrong car- a diesel instead of the petrol. Factor in the running costs and that is where the ‘wrong car’ from Ford turns out to be

the right choice. It may be the oldest car if you consider the origin, but it still works well in the modern context. The suspension has the best balance between ride and handling, it has the best audio system of the lot and the most powerful airconditioning. The petrol version starts at Rs 3.53 lakhs which is mouthwatering. But the diesel is the better package. If you want to have the most amount of fun with the least amount of money, while keeping your wallet thick as you go along, the Figo diesel is the one to go for.

Polo has 294 litres and also a 60:40 split. August 2010 Quarter Mile 25


Road Test

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Drive

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The People’s car

that not many people want Text : Vivek Venugopal

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Road Test

I

t is never a good move for a volume manufacturer to make an exclusive car. You don’t get the same sense of occasion of buying an elite car, say a Mercedes S class when you buy a Volkswagen Phaeton. You spend upwards of Rs.80 lakhs wanting to be treated like a king, but have to share the same showroom space with people who turned up to buy a hatchback. And after you have bought it, you have to the stand the sight of it being serviced alongside Polos, when the least you expect out of them is to wash your super luxury saloon with bottles of Aqua Fina. But this principle of equal treatment ends at the cash

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counter where you are made to pay hefty bills while other people with same badge escape with

just a couple of hundred quids. Needless to say, the Phaeton was a monumental

failure. But that hasn’t stopped Volkswagen from trying any further. There is a new Volkswagen

Phaeton for the year 2011 and the changes are just cosmetic. Nevertheless, we thought we would get acquainted with the big limo and chose to drive the big daddy of them allthe W12. Phaeton is the son of the Phoebus, the Sun according to Greek mythology. The Phaetons are hand built in an environment friendly factory in Dresden, Germany, the same place where they used to make the Bentley Continental Flying Spur earlier. The building itself is a magnificent structure with glass walls and gently moving veneer platforms that act like conveyors. The VW Phaeton has the longest wheelbase in the entire line up of cars


August 2010 Quarter Mile


Road Test made by VW. That is enough trivia for the day, let’s focus on the car we have. The Phaeton now has the corporate front end with headlamps and grille being part of one character line. With everything from the Polo to the VW Caravelle sporting this look, we feel the brand is losing its charm and the models are getting very anonymous. Volkswagen in an attempt to liven up the front end has used too much chrome at the front. It is too glittery and without any redeeming design feature a bit ostentatious. The rest of the car is ordinary and plain, much like the older model. The rear gets LED treatment on the rather large, ungainly looking tail lights. As a design, this is as uninspiring and lifeless as a cold winter morning. Step inside and it gets much better. The driver gets 18 way adjustable seats while the rest of the interiors can rival the best luxury limos. There are acres of wood and leather and each one has a myriad set of customisation options. The climate control is four zone which means each of the four passengers can have his/her own temperature settings. Comfort takes precedence above anything else in the Phaeton and the abundance of space only heightens it. The long wheelbase helps here and the option of having every gadget onboard in a car will ensure that passenger have a good time. Thoughtful touches like the headlamp washers that wash one headlamp at a time, so as not to reduce visibility, the dehumidifier which prevents windows from mist, the AC vents that rotate and disappear behind a wood panel are plenty in the Volkswagen.

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It is like, you have one feature to discover everyday. Although I was driving a Volkswagen, I couldn’t escape the feeling that this one has the same 6 litre W12 engine as the Continental GT and the same four-wheel-drive system. The 6.0L W12 engine produces 444bhp and 57.14kg-m of torque. A W12 engine such as the one in the Phaeton has 12 cylinders as sets of 3 in four banks, like two V6 engines welded together. This is mated to a five speed tiptronic automatic to give it a top speed that is limited to 250kmph. The acceleration is rapid with 0 to100kmph coming up in just 6.1 seconds. The suspension comprises of air filled shock absorbers which uses an onboard compressor to vary the pressure and hence stiffness. This allows one to choose between sport and comfort settings, depending on the mood and driving conditions. Sport mode is acceptably taut for a limo, although you would never want to hurl it around corners.The Comfort mode really makes you feel like on Alladin’s magic carpet. This is one of the best luxury limos I have driven. In its home country, it is almost 20 percent cheaper than its rivals. The trouble is, people fail to see beyond the badge where its virtues are hidden. The worst thing the Phaeton is the Volkswagen badge which to the luxury car buyer is a big deterrent. Take Lexus for instance, it is just a re-badged Toyota with some more bells and whistles. All the Phaeton needs to succeed then, is marketing under a new brand name and a different sales outlet to make its customer feel special. Who cares if it is hand built in a glass factory?

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Tyre Test

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Burning away all doubts about Grip !

We spend a day at the race track to explain why the Sport Contact 5P from Continental is the best suited for fast cars. Text: Vivek Venugopal

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Tyre Test

T

hey say, ‘Never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly’. Modern cars come with loads of active and passive safety features. But it’s very often that one overlooks the safety of the tyres. Think of it, there are just four postcard sized contact patches that keep you connected to the ground when you are doing 200kmph. Things get more dangerous as speeds increase. But now, Continental AG has come up with a new Guardian Angel that can fly along with you at any speed. The Continental Sport Contact 5P is an ultra high performance tyre available from 19 to 23 inches. It uses a combination of increased contact area, optimized pattern, improved compound stiffness and superior tread compound to achieve unmatched levels of steering precision, handling balance, on the limit controllability, stability and grip. To demonstrate how good their new tyre is, Continental invited a bunch of journalists to Contidrom, their

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famed proving ground just outside Hannover, Germany. Then they let us loose into some fine automobiles with different set of tyres to call it a day ! First up, was the slalom where six BMW 3series coupes were organized, three of which had stock tyres 205/55 R 16 and three others with 225/35 R 19 CSC 5P. Needless to say, the vehicles with wider 19 inch tyres reacted to direction changes with much more urgency, their steerings feeling much more alive, thanks to the low profile rubber, they were shod with. They could carry more speed into the slalom and felt more manageable while darting between the cones. The second test of how a cheap tyre fails in comparison with the premium tyre was established with a group of Opel Insignias. Half of the cars there were running a cheap, relatively unknown brand of tyres, and the other half had the CSC 5P and all of them had the same specifications-245/35 R 20. The

“ The Focus RS is already a very rounded package but the Continental SC 5Ps take the handling to another level altogether ! ”

mission was to accelerate hard to 90kmph and then brake suddenly while swerving to avoid a set of cones, which are meant to be obstacles. The cars with cheap tyres had their ABS and ESP working overtime to keep them in course, but despite that, they came dangerously close to hitting the cones and stopping them took longer. On the other hand, the CSC 5P shod cars, although less dramatic to watch, stopped well ahead and avoided the obstacle. The braking with

BMWs with CSC 5P handled the slalom really well.


and the other two had tyres with 3mm tread depth. To be on the safer side, Continental has their bead markers placed at 3mm as against the government imposed depth of 1.5mm. To give us an idea of aquaplaning on tyres with inadequate tread depth, the cars were to hit the 1cm deep patch of water at 80kmph. With inadequate grooves to remove the water, the worn out tyres went over the water like a boat on water.

the CSC 5P felt much sharper and confidence inspiring.

rewarded by accurate responses from the steering wheel.

The most exciting test though was the wet track where cars were categorized on the basis of their drive layouts. Continental says, in the right combination, their tyres can cut unwanted understeer and oversteer and give the cars a very neutral handling. The front wheel drive cars were represented by the Ford Focus RS, Renault Megane III and the VW Scirocco while the rear wheel drive lot had the Mercedes E350 and the BMW Z4 roadster. The rear wheel drive cars felt rather tame, with the tail not stepping out as you would normally expect. The cars could carry an otherwise ridiculous amount of speed on that wet track, thanks to the efficient tread design displacing water away as quickly as it gets into them. Most impressive of the lot was the Ford Focus RS. Ford has a very rounded package here with crisp steering, perky engine and clever front diffs but the Continental SC 5Ps take it to another level altogether. It keeps the front end planted firmly when accelerating out of a corner, even with 300bhp trying to pull you wide. Even midcorner corrections are

With a bit of courage and speed you could try flicking these cars around, making their tail step out in some corners; so the grip doesn’t really spoil the fun. Although it takes a lot to reach there, the Continental 5Ps finally lose their grip on their limit. What is impressive here is that, it is so progressive that you

can feel the grip running out. That keeps the driver in a larger safety envelope, while letting him explore his skills by reaching the upper limits of adhesion, more often. And Continental went one step further to establish their emphasis on safety on a water logged track. Two of the four Mercedes E classes were fitted with brand new tyres with 8mm tread depth

Ok, with the water games over, I headed for the dry handling circuit where we could try out the 911 Carrera S, the SL 63 AMG and an Audi R8. The 911 had loads of grip and a very precise steering that made it faster through corners, but the SL 63 AMG with its brute of a V8 engine producing 457bhp it can catch up with the 911 in the straights. With handling and sheer grunt battling it around the same test track, and an R8 lapping up the track in rapid succession, the message was clear. It takes more than the

Tread depth plays a crucial role as demonstrated by this E-class in the Aquaplaning test August 2010 Quarter Mile 37


Tyre Test

skills of an average racing driver to push the boundaries of the Continental SC 5P and discover what is beyond. Which is why, they had a specially prepared Volkswagen Touran on the track with a racing driver at the wheel. It looked like a mistake putting a people carrier on the track, but they reckoned this thing has been around the NĂźrburgring and it was seriously quick. The

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sparco seats, racing harnesses and the roll cage were warnings which I ignored as they were too pretentious to be in a minivan, that too something that runs on diesel. The real scare came in, when the van approached corners at super car speeds and the driver continued on without even lifting off from the gas pedal. In the next corner, he lifted off the pedal for a micro second and we settled into a small drift. The next sec-

ond, he twitched and turned the wheel in the opposite direction and we were gone to the next corner. The ordeal continued for the next two laps and while I was getting my internal organs rearranged, I realized that this was probably the fastest I would ever go in an MPV. Tuning firms like Brabus, Hamann, Lorinser, RUF, 9ff, Carlsson, Edo, Tech Art, Schnitzer always stick to Continentals so

that their cars always stick to the roads. The Continental Sport Contact5P is a standard fitment for performance cars like the Mercedes SLS AMG, C63 AMG, E 63 AMG, SL63 AMG, Audi TT RS and Renault Megane III. It is only a matter of time before other manufacturers realize the potential of these tyres and make them standard fitment for their performance vehicles. As for me, I’m deeply convinced.


August 2010 Quarter Mile


Drive

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Land Rover Experience Text: Vivek Venugopal

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Drive

C

limbing 45 degree gradients, fording 20inch deep water, traversing 35 degree slopes in the perpendicular direction, negotiating a series of potholes, tackling a set of logs shaped like a V, navigating around trees and other obstacles in a very tight course - these are some of the things we did at the Land Rover Experience- an event organized by off-roading experts from the company to show the real capability of the machines they sell.

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The Defender 90 and the 110, the short and long wheel base versions, are tough machines capable of doing that without breaking a sweat. It is a surreal experience, after having laid so much trust on advanced hill acsent/ descent control systems, that you are on your own in a purely mechanical machine. To quote Mr. Alexander Augstein, the senior Instructor from Land Rover Experience, accompanying me, “Now that you have engaged the diff locks and chosen the low range, just point

that nose at the base and watch it climb !”. No need to press the accelerator pedal as the Landie turns into a mountain goat and climb the seemingly impossible climb. To get a better picture of how steep it really was, I did the same climb on foot and came back exhausted. Where a pair of Woodlands failed to pull 75kgs, Continentals ploughed deep and hauled nearly 2 tons ! While coming down, it was the same story. “You have to avoid the temptation to feather the brake

pedal and you will be fine”, said the voice next to me. The entire line up of LandRovers, right from the Freelander to the Range Rovers, were part of the event. The offroad course was ideally suited for the Defenders, but even the Discoveries and the Range Rovers made it to the other side, despite the substantially bigger overhangs. As if these weren’t exciting enough, the organizers of the event Continental AG had added a few

wild animals, Camels, Zebras, donkeys and some of the more harmless variety like Rhinos and Lions. Harmless they were indeed, since the lions seemed to have completed their five course meal elsewhere and were out of the woods to watch the Land Rovers roar by. And the Rhinos were courteous enough to make way for Defenders. May be the Defenders looked so tough that they didn’t want to put up a fight !


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Tech show

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Future Smoocher Text: Vivek Venugopal

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Tech show

W

hat can be more boring than having to stare at the same dashboard display and instrument panel everyday as you drive along? The same boring dials, the age old fonts and the same dull back lighting. Your only option to get rid of it is to change the whole car. But after taking Continental Automotive’s Passat CC ‘Simplify Your Drive’ concept for a small spin in Germany’s B roads, I think, I might have found just the answer. From the outside, it looks like any other Passat CC except for the 5x2 alloy wheels and stickering. Continental says this Passat CC is the future of interactive driver information

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systems. Yes, the basic dashboard is carried over from the Passat CC, but the instrument panel is all new. The needles and analogue speedometer and tachometer are gone. In their place, lie an LCD screen which has some swanky digital graphics. This is a concept developed by Continental Automotive to showcase to the world that customization and personalization can go one step beyond the painting and upholstery. The car we drove was a prototype for demonstration purposes and not the fully functional final product when the technology enters series production, but it worked rather flawlessly for a prototype. The top part of the centre console has three but-

tons each for a specific mode. The first one is the Comfort mode, it displays only the basic set of information that a casual driver needs. The various elements like the speed and the ‘distance to empty’ meter are presented in an uncluttered,

suit for bit of hooliganism, there is a Sport Mode waiting for you. The instrument console and the ambient lighting changes to a very funky Red theme with digital speedometer, rev counter, a g-force indicator, fuel gauge, oil pressure

“ The technology in itself isn’t very ground breaking, but the effect it achieves is profound. “ sublime manner. The same goes for the screen on the centre console too. Throttle responses are rather luke warm in this mode and the cabin ambient lighting changes to blue. But now, if you want to trade the gentleman’s

gauge and an instantaneous fuel consumption meter appearing all of a sudden. The Passat CC steering gets heavier and throttle responses are very quick in this mode. The Passat CC now produces around 300bhp, enough to record some very high acceleration g.

The Eco mode is the one to go for, if you are the nature loving type. As expected, the colour of the instrument panel and the ambient lighting is green. Enjoy relaxed throttle responses and a light steering feel in this mode. The power output of the engine is restricted to around 180bhp to achieve better fuel consumption. You also get Eco driving points you get for every few kilometers you drive sedately. This is indicated by a white ball that jumps from the fuel gauge to fill the four heart signs on the left of the speedo. You can aim to fill them all by being careful with the accelerator pedal. Once a production reality, the points may be redeemed for some small gifts


network and can receive Emails and even read them aloud for you. It can also communicate with cars around itself and warn them about traffic congestions, road blocks etc. To make this all happen, the Passat CC has a computer running in its trunk.

The designer of the car says, not only will this encourage the drivers to adapt an eco-friendly driving style, it will also prompt them to stick to the manufacturer’s own service network.

The technology in itself isn’t very ground breaking, but the effect it achieves is profound. We have seen systems that alter the driving nature of the car, like the ‘Audi Drive Select’ and systems that can change the digital user interface in much newer cars like the Honda CR-Z. Stitching the two with a touch of creativity is what the engineers at Conti Automotive have done. They say, the almost production ready system can be fitted to any volume production car. The possibilities here are endless once the system reaches full functionality.

Every mode lets you send emails, listen to music, watch videos or choose navigation using the centre screen. There is a voice command system that controls the entire operations so that it is less distracting to the driver. For instance, to send an email, all you have to do is say what you want and that will be send as a voice message to your recipient. A voice to text recognition software may be added to the later stage, but this one works just fine. The car is connected real time through a 3G

You can have virtually anything, any information that you want over there. Any style can be created or like you do with your Symbian or Java phone, themes can be downloaded from the internet and added to your system. How about a car that changes the theme to suit your mood and pre selects everything according to your calendar? The day when your car reminds you of your birthday by ordering your birthday cake and informing all your friends couldn’t be very far off.

Comfort Mode where everything is uncluttered

Sport Mode where you have an information overload.

Eco mode, where you win points for Eco-friendly driving.

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Preview

Ferrari 458 Challenge

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he Ferrari 458 Challenge has made its world premiere debut in Maranello during the Annual Dealer Meeting, a traditional event that brings together the representatives of Ferrari’s international sales network. The new Berlinetta, which will flank the F430 Challenge in the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli in the 2011 season,

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is the fifth model used by Ferrari in its one-make championship which, next year, will be extended to include a new Asia-Pacific series. Coming just a few months after the 2010 Frankfurt Motor Show unveiling of the Ferrari 458 Italia on which it is based, the Ferrari 458 Challenge introduces a number of important modifications to adapt it for competition use.

The direct injection 4497 cc V8 remains strictly in production tune, with an output of 570 hp at 9,000 rpm. That said, modifications have been made to the gear ratios and calibration of its dual-clutch F1 gearbox to guarantee higher torque at lower revs. The Ferrari 458 Challenge is also equipped with the E-Diff electronic differential already employed on the road-going version,

a first for Ferrari’s track-only cars. Significant work has also gone into cutting the car’s weight. This focused on both the exterior and interior with Ferrari’s engineers concentrating in particular on reducing the thickness of the bodyshell panels and on using lightweight materials, such as carbon-fibre and Lexan.


Gear

H

ome-theatre-in-abox (HTiB) systems are designed to take some of the hassle out of putting together a home theatre system. You get a decent amplifier, a pair of well matched satellite speakers and a punchy sub woofer in one box. Take them out, run the wires and you are good to go !

Gear

Onkyo HT-S7200 This home theatre system from Onkyo comes with 7.1 channel surround sound, a built in iPod cradle, a total output of 130W x 7 channels and 290 W for the subwoofer Prices start around Rs 40,000

Bose Lifestyle V35 Bose has announced the Lifestyle V35 but as of now, the exact specs are still unknown. It looks sleek and modern with its swivel satellite speakers and purposeful looking subwoofer. On thing we know of Bose is that they are going to make it sound as good as it looks. Price: Rs. 1,35,000 (Estimated)

Sony BDV-E770W If you want an all round HTIB, then the Sony E770 W is the best option. It comes with 5.1 channel surround, an output of 167W x 5 channels, 165W for the subwoofer and Blue ray player. Prices start at around Rs. 30,000

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August 2010 Quarter Mile


PUBLISHED AND OWNED BY VIVEK VENUGOPAL, PRINTED BY HIM AT P P GEORGE & SONS ANGAMALY, ERNAKULAM DISTRICT AND PUBLISHED FROM “NANDANAM”, KESARI JUNCTION, N.PARAVOOR, KERALA -683513 EDITOR: VIVEK VENUGOPAL RNI No: KER ENG M6-38463/09 DM No: 7289/10

Quarter Mile August 2010  

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