Back in 2011, a select contingency of Indian automotive journalists proudly watched the season’s opening motorcycle World Championship races unfold at Qatar. Giant Indian company Mahindra & Mahindra had stuck its neck way out over the two-wheeled line by any yardstick; for earning a name selling tractors, jeeps, SUVs and commercial vehicles was one thing, and setting foot in this arena quite another.
You know you’re at some place special when you are breathing the same air (and tyre smoke) as legends like John Surtees, Stirling Moss and Alain Prost. When minutes after an Audi Sport Quattro tears past you comes the Rothmans-liveried Porsche 956 that dominated Le Mans from 1982-84. And where a Mercedes-Benz W125 from 1937 shares the limelight with Sebastian Vettel’s 2011 championship-winning Red Bull RB7.
The results are in and of the five Indian cars that underwent crash tests by Global NCAP, all have received a zero star rating. Many are now asking for manufacturers to provide better safety standards and not wait for legislature. So, should manufacturers oblige? Are we really concerned about safety? And are these tests fair in the first place?
Few motorcycling memories standout more than my first experience of the fierce bite from a Kawasaki ZX-12R in the early 2000s. Almost, if not the fastest motorcycle in the world at the time, the big, fire-breathing over-160hp Kawasaki recalibrated my definition of power and speed. Fuel injection and the resultant instant throttle response, were still novel back then, so I was amazed, when first opening gas entering the powerband at about 160kph in second gear. The Kawasaki put down savage wheelspin, then lightened its front to decimate a familiar 2km road stretch, requiring just one quick upshift and no more than a few blurry, adrenaline-enriched seconds.
I have been obsessing over this bike for a while now. It’s an Oset. Specifically, the Oset 12.5 Racing 24V. It’s got all of 500 Watts. Yes, it’s electric and no, it's not for me. It's for a little someone in the family who is about to turn three.
Right sizing. In my books, it is a golden concept. Crowned World Car of the Year 2016, the all-new Mazda MX-5 is the perfect example of it. The previous generations of the MX-5 have been trendsetters for 'just about enough' formula. To have fun, you need to have just the right amount in every aspect - power, weight, size and grip. Not too much, not too little. The focus though, is accessible fun. Not speed, not acceleration, not skid-pad Gs, or lap times. It’s why the MX-5 was an icon in the first place.
My mum thinks the Ford Raptor is preposterous. Which must mean it is the most wonderful thing indeed. It is as American as hamburgers and credit card debt. Everything about it – its massive body, massive engine, massive tyres, massive power – is all larger-than-life. At its longest, it is more than 230-inches long, and the whole thing is powered by a 6.2-litre engine. It is so man (pardon the sexism) that only Wolverine, Rambo and Tim Allen should be allowed to drive it.
The Auto Expo in Delhi is not just a platform for manufacturers and consumers but it's India's biggest celebration of all things automotive. And cars, as much as they are an integral part of all our lives, have also played a huge role in our cultural and artistic evolution. Our films have had some iconic cars and bikes on screen over the years, and in keeping with the theme of celebrating automobiles, this year's show had a special section dedicated to showcasing some of the biggest 'automotive stars' of Bollywood over the years.
The recently inaugurated Auto Expo in Delhi is probably the most important motor show to take place in India. This is not because the total number of new cars displayed eclipsed those in previous years. Yes, there were more cars and more running around, but this year's show was better because what we got were cars that mattered; and there were loads of them.
SUVs formed the bulk of the new cars and Tata's Nexon was probably the most significant. Built to look extremely similar to the 2014's show car, it deservedly had show goers flocking to it. Maruti's Vitara Brezza and Ignis were arguably even more important: here's Maruti embracing SUVs like never before. It's nothing less than the Empire strikes back! Then there's Honda's big BR-V, the new SsangYong Tivoli and the Tucson and Tiguan pair from Hyundai and VW, both expected towards the end of the year. Nissan X-Trail hybrid will also be with us towards the middle of the year, the extremely well appointed and now spacious new X1 opens up a new chapter for BMW, Merc's stunning new GLC will hit our roads soon and Jeep, the SUV mother brand, was finally launched here too. How many SUVs is that?
Sedans, compact sedans, featured too. VW showed its much awaited Ameo, Tata showed the unique Kite 5 and Chevy showcased its new Beat-based sub-four metre concept; the Essentia. The luxury brigade contributed as well with larger sedans like the new Jaguar XE, launched here, Audi showcased the all-new A4 and BMW launched the facelifted 3-series and new 7-series.
There weren't too many MPVs. Honours were upheld by the the new Toyota Innova and Tata Hexa. Question is, can Tata slide in if the new Innova is very expensive?
Of the concepts, Hyundai's HND-14 Carlino stood out as a bit radical, the XUV Aero wowed the crowds and plenty of oohs and ahhs could be heard around Jaguar's F-Pace; it really is all Jag. I also liked the Go Cross, especially the detailing and the stance and the nose does work extremely well with the bulk of the car; but can Datsun really afford those wheels? The best of the bunch, however, was the just spot-on Audi Prologue concept. I've seen it before but wow; did I stare.
So much for the hits, but there were misses too; at least in my book. Yes, the new R8 is stunning and the GT-R is finally here after crying wolf for years, but where were the other genuine, bonafide, super cars? What's a kid going to want to come and see? Where was Porsche? And the holy trinity, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati? No car show is complete without this bunch: it's why we fall in love with cars in the first place. Sure, Ford's iconic Mustang generated enough attention and many would-be owners are awaiting the price, but supercars are supercars. Chevy did bring the stunning new Corvette, but the treatment meted out was sad, it just sat under some spotlights, no mention of the fact that it had just creamed the competition, the best of the best (Porsche, Ferrari and Aston), at the most prestigious race of all; the 24 hours of Le Mans.
And where were the green cars? There were only two hybrids, the new Prius and the Passat GTE. And just one new electric, Reva's e2o Sport. Hello, 'Make in India'? Where's that one eye on the future?
The biggest shock though, especially for a country like ours, was that apart from the Zica, there wasn't a single all-new hatch. Not one. Product life cycles are fine, but not a single new hatch: something's changing. Drastically.
In a lighter vein; Maruti vehemently denyed any of its team are Bacardi fans (imagine how difficult it would be to ask for the flavoured version in a Maruti showroom), Tata has no plan to re-name its new cars 'Tica', despite the chicken dish being a firm favourite in Pune and Force Motors even promised we'd get to see, feel, and test a Force Gurkha: one day.
What was heartening to see was the fact that so many new cars were either partly or wholly designed and engineered in India; and that's a big, big step forward. Designed and engineered in India; probably just as important as 'Make in India'.
“Be careful; it’s like a warzone out there.”
2017 Hyundai Xcent facelift review, test drive
2017 Renault Lodgy Stepway review, test drive
2017 Ford Figo S review, test drive
2017 Volvo S60 Polestar review, track drive
2017 Toyota Corolla Altis facelift review, test drive
Issue: 212 | Autocar India: April 2017
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