LIVING WITH THE TIGUAN

In the last year, I have spent a considerable amount of time with the Volkswagen Tiguan having driven it on road trips around Maharashtra. Recently I spent 2 weeks with it again. The Tiguan is one of the favourite SUV’s in my family. The space it offers, driving comfort and overall luxury has grown on all of us.

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How was it to drive around daily, in bumper to bumper traffic? Let’s find out…

VW cars all possess a similarity in the design language and driving dynamics of all their models. To start with, they are extremely safe, fuel efficient, and fun to drive. The Tiguan is a car that grows on you, the more time one spends with it.

The first few days with the Tiguan were spent going for meetings across the city. Not once did I feel that one was driving a SUV. The Tiguan is very refined, extremely easy to manoeuvre and hassle free to drive in traffic. Parking too is made easy with the parking assist feature.

2.jpg1The Tiguan comes with a 2.0 litre TDI turbocharged diesel engine with a peak power output of 143 hp and 340 Nm of torque. This is based on Volkswagen’s MQB modular platform, making it lighter than other SUVs in that price range.

The 7 speed DSG transmission in the Tiguan is extremely refined in terms of upshifts and downshifts. Paddle shifters usually come into play, mainly when driving on the highway. In the city I stuck to the automatic transmission which worked perfectly well. The four driving modes available are Snow, Normal, Off road and Individual. The mode one usually uses is normal , which delivers optimum performance with good fuel efficiency.COLLAGE 2 - Copy.jpgSafety is one of the hallmarks of all VW cars. Their cars which I have experienced on the racetrack and in the real world are extremely safe. The Tiguan comes with a feature called the “active hood” which raises itself automatically by 3 inches, in the case of a collision with a pedestrian. This is to ensure the pedestrian doesn’t hit the hard parts of the vehicle in such an accident, minimising the level of injury.

There are 6 airbags, ABS, ESC, Hill Descent and Auto hold available as part of the safety package in the Tiguan.

Lots of SUV’s while large looking and imposing, don’t offer lots of legroom in the rear seat. The Tiguan isn’t one of them. It offers very good legroom which make cross country road trips a comfortable experience for the passengers. Boot space offered is 615 Litres capacity courtesy the reclining 60:40 rear seats split.

While driving the Tiguan I downloaded and installed the VW Connect App on my phone. The VW Connect is an intelligent vehicle assistant that offers a seamless connected car experience for VW drivers. The app works through a “Plug and Play” dongle which is fitted to the on-board diagnostics (OBD) port of the car. After which you connect to it, via Bluetooth to start using the app. The connect app is compatible with both, Android and iOS platforms and is available to download on Google Play and App store respectively.

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This app gave me insights about trip tracking, driving behaviour, location sharing. An SOS call option and fuel cost monitor are also available. Booking service appointments is also made easy using this app.

The 2 weeks with the Tiguan just flew by. Next time I look forward to going on a 1500km-2000 km road trip in this wonderful SUV discovering our beautiful country.

TOYOTA YARIS – DRIVING MADE EASY

Toyota is well known for making solid, efficient cars that last forever. That’s the reason Toyota is amongst the top 3 auto manufacturers worldwide. Their cars have an everlasting brand value about that.

In India so far, the cars that have been bestsellers for them have been the Qualis, Innova and Fortuner. Their range of sedans and hatchbacks haven’t exactly set the sales charts on fire.IMG01.jpgThe Toyota Yaris was first introduced worldwide in 1999 under the name of the Toyota Echo. This was a time when the demand for fuel – efficient cars was on the upswing. In 2005 the name was changed globally to Toyota Yaris. The Yaris quickly became popular establishing itself as one of the top choices in the subcompact car segment.

As soon as you enter the Yaris, the all-round familiarity of a Toyota greets you. The cabin is nice looking, with beige coloured leather seats and black upholstery. The seats are well contoured, comfortable and offer good under thigh support.COLLAGE int 1 copyPress the start button and the car kicks to life quietly. There’s a relaxed tranquility about the way the Yaris sounds like while idling. Shift into Drive mode, press on the gas and the 1st thing you experience is how easy the car feels to drive. Toyota is known for having cars that possess a characteristic of underlying ease in terms of driving. The Yaris is no different.

In the first 10 minutes of driving the car, one thing was obvious… Toyota has designed this car to be the ideal vehicle to drive in the horrendous traffic in the city. The engine is responsive enough, with a smooth CVT transmission. It’s perfectly at home in the stop-go traffic, going about its job in an efficient fashion.

The quality of our roads isn’t the best. That didn’t bother the Yaris one bit. It went over potholes, unpaved, broken stretches of road without any fuss. The ride quality is top notch. The suspension has been perfectly setup for our roads, the relatively tall tyres providing the right amount of cushioning to make the daily drive a hassle-free activity.

So, what makes the Yaris stand out in the crowd?

Toyota understands that driving in the city is a pain. Drivers are looking for a vehicle that goes about it’s task in a smooth fashion. The visibility on offer is very good, the dimensions of the car are compact enough, the design language is sharp. Legroom on offer in the back row is adequate.COLLAGE 2 copy.jpgThe throttle response and braking are sharp and precise, the CVT transmission is very smooth and  probably one of the best in the business.

The Yaris comes equipped with roof mounted air-conditioner vents which are a blessing in the peak of summer, offering consistent cooling in 40-degree temperatures. The infotainment system is decent with Bluetooth connectivity, one USB charging port and a CD player. I haven’t seen a CD player in a very long, so it was a pleasant surprise to find a car that comes with this! There are a few 12V mobile charging points available too.

But no review is complete without the mandatory highway test where one gets to experience the full range of the engine’s capacity and performance. The Yaris is a car that takes a tad bit to respond when you start accelerating. While this aspect is fine in the city, on the highway you want the car to respond in a brisker fashion. Overtaking is a bit of a task courtesy the flat mid-range of the engine.

The Yaris is extremely steady and planted at triple digit speeds. The CVT comes equipped with paddle shifters which were used quite often when trying to extract more power out of the 1.5 litre engine. The fuel efficiency figures in the Yaris are very good. Over the 400 kms I drove on this review, it returned an average of 10.5 kpl in traffic. On the highway the efficiency went up with the Yaris returning figures of 16kpl.

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The Yaris is definitely a car I would like to drive again albeit for a longer period. Its smooth, hassle free character is endearing, the size perfect for our roads.

The technical specifications of the Yaris VX CVT that I drove are stated below.

  • Fuel Type: Petrol, Engine(cc):1496, Max Power: 105.5bhp@6000rpm
  • Max Torque: 140Nm@4200rpm
  • Seating: 5 persons
  • Engine Description: 1.5-litre 105.5bhp 16V Dual VVT-i Petrol Engine
  • Transmission Type: Automatic
  • Cargo Volume: 476 Litres

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The pricing for the Toyota Yaris J manual starts at Rs 9.30 lakhs ex-showroom Mumbai, the J model CVT starts at Rs 10 lakhs ex-showroom Mumbai.

TOYOTA INNOVA CRYSTA-THE BESTSELLER

Showcased first at Auto Expo 2016, the Innova Crysta was the start of a new journey for the Toyota Innova which was the most accepted MPV in India ever since it was launched in 2004.

The Innova Crysta launched with a bang. It has managed to clock sales figures of over 2.25 lakhs units to date and counting. The Crysta is the bestseller in the Toyota line-up in India.

The Toyota Innova Crysta commands a market share of 40% in this segment. An average of 70,000 Innova Crysta’s are sold in India annually. It is manufactured as a CKD unit at Toyota’s Bidadi Plant.

Why is it that Indians have taken to this MPV and showered it with so much love and appreciation?

The answer is very simple. The ownership cycle is very relaxing and hassle free. Something an India car buyer places lot of importance on, while buying a car.

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The Crysta has a sweeping look going across from the front to the rear. Toyota has added 17-inch rims and a very prominent crease to the Crysta compared to its predecessor. The hexagonal grille on the front, angular projector headlamps with DRL’s add to the contemporary styling of the car. The Crysta weighs 200 kgs more than the older model. Length wise too its 180mm longer, 60mm wider and 40mm taller than the old Innova.

The cabin inside is spacious, styled well with a nice-looking dashboard. This is like the one available on the Fortuner. There is a single piece of metal strip, which runs across the top of the dashboard giving it a premium look. The visibility on offer from the high front seats is very good.collage int2.jpgThe touchscreen is large and easy to use.  The blue back-lit instrument cluster is a nice addition. USB and aux-in ports are placed in the middle for easy access for both front and rear passengers. The touchscreen offers information like satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, music system, and volume controls.collage int1.jpgThe model we drove was the top end variant which came with brown leather seats. The armrest on the door-pad comes in a soft velvet fabric. The steering wheel is chunky looking, comes in a leather wrapping with control buttons on either side. The contoured front bucket seats are very comfortable, offer good under thigh support. Space in the second row is equally good with lots of legroom on offer. The third row seating is ideal for someone on the shorter side. I drove in extremely hot conditions during this review and was very pleased with the performance of the ac. Cooling was fast and efficient.

The Innova Crysta comes with a 2.8-litre engine, which puts out 174bhp at 3400rpm and 360Nm of torque between 1200rpm and 3400rpm. There are 2 driving modes on offer. Eco and Power. Eco is the mode one would use most times while driving in the city. Power mode comes into play on road trips where you have empty stretches of highway to drive on.

The top end Innova Crysta we drove comes with seven airbags, ABS, brake assist, ESP and hill-start assist. Overall all the Crysta models get three airbags for driver, passenger and driver knee airbag and ABS standard across the range.

HOW IS IT TO DRIVE?

The first thing you notice is how easy the Crysta is to drive. For a car of this size its very light and nimble. Toyota is known for making their cars comfortable to handle, which explains why the car is popular with both private owners and car rental companies.collage ext 1.jpgThe automatic transmission is smooth. Both upshift and downshift happen without any noticeable lag.

I started in Eco mode where the engine was calm and docile. The moment I shifted to power mode, the engine became more free revving, getting to three-digit speeds was done easily. Ride quality and suspension on the Crysta is impressive. I encountered all sort of roads during this review. The Crysta handles smooth and rough roads with equal ease.

The Crysta is a car that one can drive easily in traffic and on highways, returns good fuel efficiency numbers and comes with the Toyota brand of assurance.Toyota cars are always built to last, have great ownership stories attached to them and are always in demand in the used car market.

If these points are the criteria for your next car buy, then the Innova Crysta ticks all the right boxes.

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The Innova Crysta is priced at Rs 18.4 lakhs for the 2.7 GX 7 STR Petrol Manual. The Innova Crysta Diesel Manual 2.4 G Plus STR is priced at Rs 19.23 Lakhs, Innova Crysta Petrol Automatic 2.7 GX AT STR is priced  at Rs 19.53 Lakhs  and Innova Crysta Diesel Automatic 2.8 GX AT 7 STR is prices at  Rs 21.35 Lakhs. All prices are on-road Mumbai.

AUDI Q7 – 5 STAR LUXURY!

The advent of summer bought the largest and most luxurious SUV in the Audi India line-up to my doorstep. Having recently driven the smaller Q3, I was looking forward to driving an SUV which is due for a generation overhaul this year. This second generation Q7 is based on the Volkswagen MLB 2 Platform which made it lighter than its outgoing predecessor.

The moment you set your eyes on the Q7 it screams luxury and class all the way. The chiselled sleek shape works well, now you have a SUV that is aerodynamic. How SUV’s have come to be designed in the last few years! The grille at the front is a one-piece hexagonal design, with LED Matrix headlights.C INT 1.jpgWalk around the car and you notice how sharp it looks with its prominent wheel arches with a smooth shoulder line running across. Quattro has been embossed on the inlay strips at the bottom of the door to complete the look. The car drives on 19 inch 5-spoke wheels.

Step inside and you are greeted with a beautifully designed cabin. The front seats are comfortable, plush to seat on and offer very good under thigh support.  The driver’s seat is completely electric adjustable. The tall stance of the Q7 offers a great view to the front seat passengers while driving.C INT 3.jpgThe dashboard carries a walnut brown finish which is highlighted in brush metal. Classy and sophisticated are the words that come to mind when describing the layout.

There are hardly any buttons present on the dashboard. Most of the infotainment operations are managed by a bunch of toggles, a circular dial and touch-pad. The gear knob is as thick as they come. The level of comfort for the 2nd row of passengers with very good leg and shoulder room. The individual seat in this row can slide forward to provide more room to passengers in the 3rd row.

The 3rd row is okay for a passenger who’s short and small in build. Taller passengers wouldn’t be comfortable with the space on offer.The storage space in the boot goes up to 1,995 litres when the second row is dropped down. That more than enough space to carry luggage for a family trip cross country.C INT 2.jpgThe spare wheel is a space saver which is vertically strapped in the boot. This makes most of the 3rd row space unusable, reduces storage space in the boot.

As is the norm with Audi cars the Q7 comes with a slew of features. Large panoramic sunroof; auto ORVM (Outer Rear View Mirror) with dimming, folding and heating system with memory, electrically adjustable front seats, a 4-zone climate control, 7-inch touch-screen that slides out of the dashboard, matrix headlamps with intelligent covering lights, air-suspension, 8 airbags and half a dozen driving modes make up the package the Audi Q7 offers.C INT 4.jpgThe sound system comes with Bose 3D surround music system, rear parking camera, 360-degree view camera, park assist technology. The steering wheel is equipped with multi functions buttons to help the driver navigate around the infotainment system and the Audi virtual cockpit which gives out information about the car, engine, distance travelled, fuel range etc.

Under the hood is a 3.0 litre V6 diesel engine that offers 249PS and 600 NM of torque. The 8-speed automatic gearbox torque converter sends power to all four wheels using Audi’s quattro 4×4 system.C 5.jpgThe moment you press the engine start button and get moving the power this engine offers is obvious. The Q7 can get to 100kmph in under 8 seconds which is terrific considering its size. Its moves sharply, is easy to drive in city traffic. You don’t feel the bulk and size which is testimony to how well Audi has designed this SUV. There are various driving modes on offer such as Comfort, Dynamic, Off-road, All road for different driving conditions.

The V6 engine is refined and very smooth. For the city the mode one would prefer is the comfort mode, where the car moves around in a relaxed and calm fashion to give you a plush driving experience.

The moment you get on the highway and switch to Dynamic mode, the power delivery, steering feedback and suspension setup goes through a transformation. The gearbox as one would expect in an Audi is smooth, upshifts and downshifts are seamless. For the enthusiast who wants to drive in the manual mode you get paddle shifters which are great fun on empty stretches of highway.C7.jpgThe Q7 comes with Hill Decent Control and Hill Start Assist which helps when going down slopes and on an incline. The NVH levels in the car are very good. No noise from outside filters in. The air suspension in the SUV offers brilliant drive quality, adapts quickly to changes in direction.

If 5-star style driving luxury is what you hanker, look no further. The Q7 is waiting for you.C 6.jpgThe Q7 prices start at Rs 73 lakhs ex showroom Mumbai for the 40 TFSI Quattro Premium Plus Petrol and Rs 77 lakhs ex showroom Mumbai for the 45 TDI Quattro Premium Plus Diesel.

BMW X1-SPORTY DELIGHT

COLLAGE 1.jpgI recently drove one of my favourite compact luxury SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle) the BMW X1 M Sport. This is a car that is just the right size for city as well as highway driving. This variant was launched last year as an addition to the second-generation BMW X1.

BMW cars in the last decade have pushed the boundaries of design and styling leading to lots of conversation amongst car enthusiasts. Some have liked it, some hate it. So how does the X1 score in that department. Let’s find out.COLLAGE 2.jpgCOLLAGE 3.jpgThe X1 is good looking, well proportioned, elegant enough without being ostentatious. It rides on Y-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels with 225/50 R18 tires that fill out the wheel arches perfectly. The window sills are blacked out with LED headlights tail lamp. The aluminium kidney grille at the front, silver side trim is all in matte finish with well sculpted front and rear bumpers.

BMW cars are known for their luxury. The X1 follows that same line. Step inside and you are greeted with black interiors. The leather seats and wood panelling are of the highest quality, that one has come to expect from BMW. The front seats are fully electric adjustable, the rear seats are split 40:20:40, ambient lighting for exterior door handles and foot well, leather steering wheel with paddle shifters and integrated controls for various functions. The seats are comfortable and very plush. Good under thigh support with shoulder room is available in both the rows. The legroom in the rear seats is adequate. There is a heads up display for the driver, where using the integrated functions on the steering, the driver can control the features of the infotainment system.COLLAGE 4.jpgThe BMW X1 xDrive 20dM is powered by a 1,995 cc, four-cylinder, common-rail turbo-diesel that produces 190 hp at 4,000 rpm and 400 Nm of torque at 1,750-2,500 rpm. The moment you start moving the refinement of the engine is obvious. The NVH levels are very low. Step on the accelerator and you immediately get a sense of the power that’s available. The X1 comes with turbocharging delivering strong mid-range power.

I drove the X1 over 400kms during this review.  Most of my driving was on national and state highways. Due to road repair work which is constantly happening in our country, one also experienced off-roading in the X1. The X1 comes with 3 driving modes. Comfort, Eco and Sport. The mode one would drive in the cities would be a combination of Eco/ Comfort depending on the kind of traffic one encounters. There is enough power to overtake easily while keeping the engine relaxed for an enjoyable city ride. Sport mode only comes into play on highways where traffic is not an issue. The whole character of the car changes, acceleration is very brisk, the suspension setup is more race inspired, everything is the car now is tuned to deliver performance.

The 8-speed Steptronic automatic transmission works efficiently. Upshifts and downshifts are very swift and smooth. Paddle shifters give you the option of shifting gears manually. The only time I used that option was on empty highways. Getting to triple digit speeds is effortless. The X1 feels very planted at high speeds. Shifting lanes or going into corners hard the X1 handles it all with ease. On good roads and highways, the ride quality the X1 offers is very good.  But the moment you get onto a bad stretch of road, the ride quality for people in the rear seats isn’t a very pleasant experience. While these tyres work superbly on good roads, on potholed roads that becomes a challenging exercise.

The X1 comes with a host of safety features. Six airbags, ABS with Brake Assist, Cornering Brake Control (CBC), stability control (DSC) and traction control. The stability control can be de-activated by the driver. The moment the driver does that, an electronic locking function system for the front axle differential is activated. This kicks in during slippery road surfaces preventing wheelspin by diverting power to the other wheel.COLLAGE 5.jpgThe infotainment system comes with Bluetooth connectivity with Apple Car-play, 7 speaker hi-fi,16.6 cm colour display with BMW’s iDrive system. The iDrive system gives you notifications for low tyre pressure, issues with the engine, when the next service is due etc.

A good looking compact SAV that ticks most of the right boxes, is fun to drive and comes with the BMW badge of performance.COLLAGE LAST.jpgThe BMW X1 prices start at Rs. 35.20 Lakh ex showroom Mumbai for the sDrive20d Expedition. Prices for the M Sport sDrive 20d start at Rs 42.40 Lakh ex-showroom Mumbai.

VOLKSWAGEN MOTORSPORT IN INDIA-A DECADE LONG AFFAIR

Volkswagen Motorsport is celebrating a decade’s journey in India. A journey that started with the Polo Cup and has today transitioned to the Ameo Cup one of the most premier one-make touring car racing championships in India.6.jpgTo celebrate this occasion, they have designed a beast of a track car. This was part of their “Winter Project Programme” where in 3 weeks they created the PoloRX! a powerful, rear-engine, rear wheel drive Polo for the ultimate adrenaline rush! The car, built in a Polo body shell, is equipped with Ameo Cup car’s 1.8-litre TSI engine and sequential gear box with paddle shifters. What makes the perfect car for track days is that it’s beyond any limitation of racing regulations.

The evening I landed in Chennai the conversation around the table was about the huge buzz PoloRX had created on social media.

Early next morning we landed up at MMRT. The Madras Motor Race Track is a permanent motor racing circuit located in Irungattukottai, Chennai, India. It was built in the late 1980s and was inaugurated in 1990 and is owned by the Madras Motor Sports Club. A track I have driven before last year in the Ameo Media Cup Race weekend.

After the presentation of the history and achievements of Volkswagen Motorsport worldwide, in India, post the track briefing by Rayomand Banajee, it was time to drive!1.jpgThe 1st car I drove was the INRC -1, VW Motorsport’s entry level car for rallying enthusiasts. Developed to FIA R2 regulations the car is powered by a 1.2TSI engine which puts out 145HP and 205NM Torque. We had a pilot car ahead of us on the track to guide and ensure we behave ourselves on track. The time we were allocated per car was 2 laps on the track. This was the first time I was driving the VW Motorsport Rally cars. The moment we got on the track the fun started. This car is fast, loves being thrown into corners and even if one went off-road the car handled it easily. Our 1st lap was easy paced, to get us familiar with the car and track. Lap 2 onwards was when the fun started. The suspension, driving setup and overall package on offer is fantastic. For a budding  rally enthusiast who’s looking at getting started in the rally circuit, look no further. This is the car for you.

After a quick water and biscuit break, I jumped into car no 2, the INRC 2. A car that is developed to FMSCI INRC 2 regulations which allow modifications to engine and gearbox internals. Runs a modified 1.6 MPI engine with modified engine head mated to 5-speed H-gear pattern gearbox with dog internals.2.jpgThere is more power available; the car is setup for the more advanced driver. I requested my pilot driver to drive faster which would give me an opportunity to push the envelope in terms of speed and track time. This time the 2 laps on track were sharper, more focused in terms of overall driving experience, the INRC 2 responded with utmost ease.

One was having so much fun now that the high levels of humidity were quickly forgotten.5.jpgNow it was time to drive the Polo R2, a car that had seen huge success last year in the rally circuit. A 1.6 MPI engine built for FIA R2 regulations this produces 165Hp and 205NM Torque mated to a 5-speed sequential gearbox from SADEV.  Comes with uprated caliper and discs on the front and rear, long travel suspension with custom tubular lower arms.  This was the real deal. Moment I got in and started the engine, one started getting a sense of how brutal and fast this car will be. Driving out of the pits and onto the first corner of the track the R2 was unlike the first 2 cars I had driven. Raw and visceral in character over the 2 laps on the track I got to experience what a rally driver would go through in an actual rally. The braking in this car is hugely different to the previous cars. One had to really press hard on the brake pedal to engage the brakes.

When I inquired about this difference, was told in an actual rally, the rally drivers come hard on the pedals. There’s no downtime. Everything is happening so fast…Thus this suits the drivers better than the conventional style of braking.

It was now time to start with the one make VW cup cars. First one I jumped into was Polo TDI Cup Car, the 1st car in India with a diesel power-train.3This is a 1.6 litre turbo charged engine that produces 130HP. Quick of the block, without ABS this was racing old school style. I was told that this would be a different experience as all the car I have driven so far had driving aids. This didn’t. This car was a hoot to drive. Fast, compact with the super handling characteristics that the Polo is known for everything I threw at the car it responded in equal measure. Now the 2 laps were feeling very less, one wanted to drive more! The gearbox is smooth, refined something one come to expect with VW cars. The size and shape of the Polo makes it the perfect hatch to throw around on a track day.4.jpgNext up was the Polo TSI Cup Car that comes equipped with a more powerful 1.4 litre TSI Engine that produces 180HP and is mated to a 6-speed automatic sequential DQ 250. It comes with a turbo charger and a super charger power unit. This was also the first touring race car to use paddle shifters in Indian Motorsport.  Everything about this car being more powerful was obvious past the first few corners. The automatic gearbox, lots more power made driving this a super enjoyable experience. My racing lines were improving, I was carrying more speed out of the corners. Braking late which is one of the most important skills for being a good track driver is something I need to improve on further.7.jpgThe Vento TSI Cup Car was next on the driving list. Its carries the powertrain from its predecessor the Race Polo TSI. The roll cage was welded in to provide a stiffer chassis. This with a proper race car setup provides a car which is forgiving to the rookies yet fun to drive for the experienced drivers. This couldn’t be truer. From the time I got on the track this car lived up to its reputation. Fast into corners, carrying speed out of them on the straights this became my favourite of all the cars I had driven so far. Rayo who was driving the pilot car ahead also let me drive with more abandon. I wanted to spend more time with this car, but since we were running a tight schedule one jumped into the next.IMG_7126.JPGThe Ameo Cup Race Car I had driven last year in the Ameo Cup Media race weekend. This is the first fully locally produced race car in India under the Volkswagen India Motorsport Programme. Fitted with a 1.8 litre turbo charged engine this car delivers a maximum power of 205HP. With sophisticated MoTec systems in place, this is a car that is on par with most racing series run worldwide. A sequential gearbox with 3MO in conjunction with XAP system provides seamless and very fast gear shifts making this one powerful race car.

This time around having spent more time on the track, I managed to experience everything the Ameo Cup car had to offer. Driving this one could see how the programme has evolved down the years. This is a car that is fast, setup perfectly for the professional race driver with high standards of safety. Sirish and his team have done such a good job at one-tenth of the budgets of most racing cars team worldwide which is truly impressive!8Now was time to drive the Vento ITC, which I had driven at the BIC last year during the VW Motorsport Ameo Cup race weekend. The Vento ITC race car is powered by a 1.8-litre TSI engine, mated to a 3MO sequential gearbox with a manual gearshift lever. Driving this on the track is challenging and exciting at the same time. The Vento has been designed to participate in the Indian Touring Championships. Thus, the whole setup of the car is different from the Ameo Cup car. Its’s lighter than the Ameo the suspension is set up differently.  The Vento ITC c is just the car I would buy for a day out on the track!

The last car I drove was the Track Day Vento car which is setup almost in the same way as the Vento ITC. There are some minor differences in handling, it’s more forgiving and setup ideally for the rookie and recreational track enthusiast.918 laps had whizzed by. Now it was time to take a taxi ride in the car of the moment. The Polo RX. Rayo was driving, from the get-go he showcased how insane and mad this car is. Throw into corners and its so tail happy like asking you to do more. So much power is available, Rayo was just having fun. When I asked him about how hard he drive it, he laughed and said that this was just 30% the actual potential this car has to offer!  I can’t wait to drive it! a sentiment echoed by everyone in the media contingent.10.jpgThe morning just whizzed by. Now it was time to leave.  VW Motorsport had demonstrated how in just a decade they had taken their programme to standards comparable to anywhere in the world. A big thank you to Sirish, Adhish and everyone at VW Motorsport for giving me a day to remember.

People who are interested in buying the Polo RX please get in touch with the VW Motorsport office in Pune. Believe me you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

 

VW POLO-THE HOT HATCH

COLLAGE 1From the time of its launch in India, the Volkswagen Polo has made a mark amongst car buyers and enthusiasts. This is a car that has the distinction of being ranked no 1 for three years in a row according to the J.D. Power 2018 India Initial Study.  I spent 2 weeks with the car and have come back hugely impressed.

HOW DOES IT LOOK

The original design of the Polo while being subtle has moved with the times. It has a certain timeless quality and appeal attached to it. That’s why when I shared posts on social media, one got comments such as “even after 9 years the Polo’s design still looks fresh.

Volkswagen had made changes to the Polo’s exterior design down the years though. The grille, bumper, headlights, integrated fog lamps along with cornering lights were some of the design changes that happened in the last face-lift of the car 2 years back.COLLAGE 4.jpgAll VW cars have clean straight lines and solid design language. The Polo is no different. There is a chrome line running through the intake grille. The rear bumper along with the tail lamp cluster all add to the premium positioning of the car. Integrating the license plate into the rear bumper gives it a cleaner finish. The Polo comes with 15-inch alloy wheels while the lower spec variants get the 14-inch rims with newer wheel covers.

THE CABIN INSIDE

COLLAGE 3.jpgThe premium positioning VW is going with becomes apparent as you step into the car. Starting with the sporty looking flat-bottomed steering wheel that has controls on both sides of the wheel for audio, phone and multi-information display.

The center console has a silver finish on the exterior edges. The dual-tone interiors are contemporary premium in finish. Chrome is prevalent even in the outlining around the air vents. The door mounted armrests have a fabric finish, seats are very comfortable and offer good under thigh support. The side support for the shoulders is good too. The legroom in the back seats is good for someone of average height. Headroom is good overall in both front and rear seats. The Polo is a comfortable car for 4 passengers for long trips. The 5th person may find it a little discomforting courtesy the high tunnel height in the rear.

HOW DOES IT DRIVE

The car I drove was a diesel 1.5 L four-cylinder TDI polo, developing about 88 hp (90 PS) and 230 Nm of torque.Start the engine, step on the pedal and the Polo moves off the line in a smooth fashion. The basic architecture of the engine is the same from the previous model, with a variable geometry turbocharger which force feeds air into the combustion chamber.  There is an initial lag till 1500 rpm when the acceleration starts.  Go past 3000rpm and the car springs to life till 4500rpm.

The cabin is well insulated from engine sound, even while accelerating courtesy good NVH levels. I drove the manual variant. The 5-speed manual unit is top class like typical Volkswagen transmission units. Shifting up and down the gears is a smooth affair. The gear ratio is spread out specifically to help with the fuel efficiency figures the Polo returns.COLLAGE 2.jpgMy driving experience with the Polo was one of sheer joy. After long I drove a hatchback that offered everything one needs to drive in different conditions. In traffic it was easy, power was available when one needed to overtake. The size of the car makes parking an easy affair. The fuel efficiency figures it returned were 15.7 km/l for city driving which is excellent. Safety in the Polo is of the highest standards. ABS and front-dual airbags are standard across its range. An industry first in its segment.

Driving out of town on the weekend in the Polo was when I got to experience the full refinement and power of the 1.5l engine. This is a car that remains planted even at high speeds. Fuel efficiency figures it returned were 18.3 km/l.

The Polo handles all types of roads with ease, something that is a trademark of all VW cars. The suspension is soft enough to assure a comfortable ride quality over long distances. Braking is sharp, which is extremely confidence assuring when pushing the car hard into corners.COLLAGE L.jpgThe Polo is the car that appeals to the enthusiast in every driver.

Prices for the base model 1.5 TDI Trendline (Diesel) ex-showroom Mumbai price start at Rs 7.22 lakhs. The base model 1.0 MPI Trendline (Petrol) ex-showroom Mumbai price start at Rs 5. 7 Lakhs. The top end diesel model GT 1.5 TDI(Diesel) ex-showroom Mumbai price start at Rs.9,70,500. The top end petrol model GT TSI(Petrol) ex-showroom prices start at Rs.9,58,000.

KIA MOTORS LAUNCHES TRIAL PRODUCTION IN INDIA

Kia Motors, the world’s eighth largest automaker, today commenced trial production at its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Anantapur, in the state of Andhra Pradesh. This important step not only signifies the completed construction of the new 536-acre manufacturing facility, but also marks the arrival of Kia’s new flagship car for India, the Kia SP2i – an exciting new SUV based on the Kia SP Concept, first showcased at India’s Auto Expo 2018. The Kia SP2i will bring Kia’s exacting standards for quality to the Indian market, as well as the brand’s reputation for cool, modern design and cutting-edge in-car technology. Trial production of the SP2i will enable Kia to synchronize and fine-tune the brand’s manufacturing equipment and technologies before series production commences later in 2019.Shri N Chandrababu Naidu and Mr. Bonkil and Mr. Han Woo Park test drive the SP2i Prototype.JPGKia marked the start of trial operations with a launch ceremony at the Anantapur plant, in the presence of the Honorable Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Shri N. Chandrababu Naidu and Mr. Shin Bongkil, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to India. The ceremony was also attended by Mr. Han-Woo Park, President & CEO of Kia Motors Corporation, and Mr. Kookhyun Shim, Managing Director and CEO of Kia Motors India.
Kia also consolidated its Future Mobility Partnership with the government of Andhra Pradesh by handing over an example of the new Kia Soul EV (electric vehicle). The new EV is part of Kia’s growing portfolio of advanced, eco-friendly powertrains. This partnership reinforces Kia’s commitment to supporting the Andhra Pradesh government in promoting the uptake of EVs and developing a local EV charging infrastructure.

Commenting on the brand’s latest production milestone, Han-Woo Park – President & CEO of Kia Motors Corporation said, “India will play a singularly important role in expanding Kia Motors’ global footprint, and today feels like the start of another chapter in our Indian success story. Commencing
trial production is a significant moment that we have been preparing for as we take on thechallenges of future mobility across the country.”Kia’s new Anantapur manufacturing facility. Kia’s new Anantapur manufacturing facility occupies 536 acres and is capable of an annual.production capacity of up to 300,000 units, boosting Kia’s global manufacturing capability. The plant is poised to create more than 3,000 direct and 7,000 indirect jobs across the Andhra Pradesh region.

A US$2bn investment by Kia and its vendor partners ensures the availability of world-standard technologies and the development of high-quality local manufacturing skills.
An integrated automotive production facility, the new Anantapur plant employs the latest production technologies, with more than 300 robots automating the press, body and paint shops.The plant houses a five-acre training facility that offers a Basic Technical Course (BTC) in automobiles in collaboration with the Andhra Pradesh State Skill Development Corporation (APSSDC), helping develop manufacturing skills among young people. Safety performance during vehicle production is another highlight of the facility.Kia Motors India hands over Kia Soul EV to the Andhra Pradesh Government.JPG“Today represents a moment of pride and reflection for us as we officially commence trial productionof Kia’s new Indian manufacturing plant. This is the latest important step in our entry into the Indian automobile market. We started construction of the site just a couple of months more than one year ago, and to have started manufacturing operations here so soon is testament to our bold plans and strong commitment to India.”, Kookhyun Shim – Managing Director and CEO of Kia Motors India commented. “Globally, Kia constantly seeks out new ways to reduce consumption and minimize waste across the entire automotive life-cycle, and we believe in constantly monitoring results to
ensure we remain clean and green. Here in Anantapur, we have created one of the most technically advanced, cost-effective and labor-efficient manufacturing facilities in the world. Today, we officially begin our journey to becoming one of the top five automakers in India by 2021, with a new model that will appeal to forward-looking and outgoing Indian buyers.”, he added. Reducing the environmental impact of car production
In addition to world-class production competencies, the plant is equipped with high-end robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. Kia Motors is committed to meeting the socio-economic and ecological needs of humanity, and the plant uses environmentally-conscious techniques, such as 100% water recycling, to fulfil the company’s responsibilities for developing sustainable and
mutually-beneficial production practices.

 

CONVERSATION WITH SIRISH VISSA – HEAD VW MOTORSPORT INDIA

I recently caught up with Sirish Vissa, where he shared what Volkswagen Motorsport India plans for the 2019 season. 

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2018 was a great year for Volkswagen Motorsport in every regard, what are the new initiatives and changes we will see this year?

2018 was indeed an excellent year for us at Volkswagen Motorsport India in both Customer Sport programme as well as our one-make Ameo Cup.  Volkswagen Polo and Polo R2 together secured 37 podium positions and 10 victories altogether in Overall, INRC 1, INRC 2 and INRC 3 categories in the 2018 season.

We will follow the same direction in 2019 and continue to participate and prove the excellence of Volkswagen Polo cars in rallying through our Customer Sport programme. For 2019, we are further developing and updating our Polo R2 to make it even more competitive.

In terms of power, setup and development what changes will we see in the 2019 Ameo cup car compared to last year’s model?

We are always keeping ourselves busy with constant development – even if there are no major upgrades. In 2019, the Ameo Cup race car will see a few minor tweaks and fine tuning to the overall setup, especially in terms of suspension. The Ameo Cup racecar has been built in a way that it is friendly to newcomers and challenging to the pros as well. It is a fine balance that we have already achieved and there is not much we would like to change in it at the moment.

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Volkswagen motorsport saw success in the Indian rally circuit. Are we going to see the team participate in more events this year? Also, when do we see a full blown national level Volkswagen rally like the Ameo Cup?

Our Customer Sport programme is an extremely important initiative for us through which we support privateers and their teams with technical and spares support during INRC. We will continue being present at all the rounds of the INRC even this year and not compromise on any support that we extend to our customers.

A full blown rally series on the lines of Ameo Cup is something that we are not exploring. We want to stay in open competition and not restrict it in any way. Also, a factory team itself in the national rally championship is something we are consciously staying away from.

2019 marks the 10th year of Volkswagen Motorsport in India. Anything special planned to mark this occasion?

Of course! Volkswagen Motorsport India is entering its 10th year in 2019 and the idea is to stay committed to the Indian motorsport fraternity. We will continue the premium one-make series Ameo Cup in the same format as before. We are expanding our Customer Sport programme, which initially started only with rally cars and was limited to a segment, to proper involvement with variety of specs for different categories. We are also in Indian Touring Car championship now with cars that have the potential to be front runners. All in all, we have grown across different forms and series of motorsport in India and will continue with our commitment.

How soon can we expect different OEM’s to start competing with each other at the national motorsport level?

This is more of a question for other OEMs!  We have been participating in both rallying and in the Indian Touring Car Championship (ITC) where the idea is to compete with other manufacturers.  We would love to see others join in as this will make the sport more exciting for the spectators, and also add to the sport.  The new ITC regulations as well as the turbo regulations in the INRC are both forward looking and are intended to make it viable for manufacturers to bring in current and future generation cars.  I believe that we will start to see some changes within the next year.

TOYOTA FORTUNER – THE CROWD FAVOURITE

Toyota has played a big role in redefining the way modern SUV’s are designed and manufactured. With everything Japanese the emphasis will always be on manufacturing vehicles that are extremely efficient and easy to maintain. Having driven quite a few Toyota SUV’s when I was living in Canada I can vouch for their quality and efficiency.COLLAGE 1.jpgThe Fortuner was launched in India in 2009. Toyota tasted great success with the Qualis and the Innova. When they launched their first SUV in the market expectations were high. And those were met. The Fortuner was an instant success and has remained one ever since.

Tall stance, imposing in looks it was easy to drive with ample features on offer. Built on the Hilux Pickup Truck Platform this SUV is sold in different markets world over under different names.

The latest version of the Fortuner extends upon that. My first experience with this model of the Fortuner was at the media drive in Cochin over 2 years back. Then one drove it over 200 kms from Cochin to a tea estate. It had impressed me immensely then, so was looking forward to spending time with it again. I have owned a Qualis in the past, for 3 years which gave me a first-hand experience of how good Toyota cars are.COLLAGE MOVE 1.jpgThe first thing you notice how sleek this model of the Fortuner looks in comparison to its predecessor. It comes with two engine options 2.7 litre petrol and 2.8 litre diesel.  Manual and automatic transmission are standard to both petrol and diesel variants. The one I drove was the 2.8 litre diesel automatic. You start the engine and immediately the grunt of the powerful 2.8 litre that makes 175 bhp and 45.8 kgm of torque can be felt.

The Fortuner is such an easy car to drive. Which is testimony to the way Toyota designs its cars. The engine is not high stressed and manoeuvring one’s way in bumper to bumper traffic is easy. But the highway is where the real joy of driving the Fortuner lies. The gearbox may feel a tad slow to respond but that’s because Toyota is known for its long gear ratios. There are paddle shifters on offer. The Fortuner comes with 2 driving modes. Eco and Power. Power, is the mode one would tend to use on empty stretches on the highway where the engine responds in a more urgent fashion. Eco mode is the one most will drive in the city for a more efficient and relaxed driving experience.COLLAGE MOVE 2.jpgI spent a lot of time driving on hilly terrain with lots of sharp bends during this review. The SUV negotiated those easily without any noticeable body roll you expect in cars that are tall and big. The terrain shifted from good to bad and one also encountered lots of off-road sections. The Fortuner handled all these different roads with ease. For the enthusiast who enjoys off-roading look no further. This is just the SUV for that. You get to experience all the features Toyota has packed for just this reason.COLLAGE 4.jpgThe infotainment system comes with Bluetooth, apple car play and android auto connectivity. The upholstery is of good quality and finish. Seats are very comfortable with good lumbar and under thigh support.  There is ample leg room in the second row. The third row is a little tight in terms of leg room, its ideal and comfortable for a person of average height.COLLAGE 5.jpgThe Toyota Fortuner comes loaded with a plenty of safety features such as dual front SRS airbags (driver + passenger), anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) system, 15-inches front disc brakes, GOA (Global Outstanding Assessment) body, Vehicle stability control (VSC), shift lock system, immobilizer, back sonar, seatbelts (front – 3-point ELR x 2 with adjustable anchor, 2nd row – three-point ELR x 2 + 2-point NR x1 and 3rd row – 3-point ELR x2), multi reflector quad headlamps and high mounted LED tail lamps.COLLAGE 3.jpgThe Fortuner sells the most numbers in its category. Having driven it over 300 kms the last few days I can understand the reasons for its popularity and appeal.

The SUV ticks all the right boxes in terms of drivability, comfort and luxury along with the fact that Toyota cars are built to last. Upgrading to the latest model is not a problem too. The Fortuner commands a great resale value and is easy to sell.

Toyota Fortuner prices for the2.8 2WD MT(Diesel) (Base Model) start at Rs.29,59,000/- ex showroom Mumbai and 2.7 2WD MT(Petrol) (Base Model) starts at Rs.27,58,000/- ex-showroom Mumbai.COLLAGE LAST.jpgPrices for Automatic Transmission start at Rs.33,28,000 ex-showroom for the 2.8 4WD AT(Diesel) (Top Model) and Rs.29,17,000 for the2.7 2WD AT(Petrol) (Top Model).