FIRST DRIVE – 2020 FORD ENDEAVOUR

Last weekend I got an invite to go Dune bashing in Jaisalmer with the 2020 Endeavour from Ford India. Jaisalmer also called “The Golden City” stands on a ridge of yellowish substance and is crowned by the ancient Jaisalmer Fort. This town lies in the heart of the Thar Desert in Rajasthan.Snapseed 2The drive from the airport to the Jaisalmer Marriot was just a little under 30 minutes. Roads in Rajasthan are without a doubt amongst the best in the country. As we entered the compound of the Jaisalmer Marriot one spotted the 2020 Ford Endeavour, an SUV that has a huge fan base in India.

The 2020 Endeavour has been updated to meet the BSVI norms coming into effect in April 2020. The first thing visible as you walk towards the front of the Endeavour is the all new full LED headlamp cluster. They offer a wider and longer throw over the previous model. One sees a larger chrome laden grille which works perfectly well with the diffused silver paint scheme of the Endeavour we were driving.IMG_4639IMG_4709The Endeavour has always been known for clean lines running across with an upright high stance. These changes while enhancing the appeal add to the timeless design of this SUV.

Under the hood one gets a 2.0 litre Ecoblue turbocharged diesel engine which is BSVI compliant. This engine is more fuel-efficient, with reduced emissions. The Ecoblue engine continues the legacy of Endeavour’s benchmark fun-to-drive credentials, delivering 170 PS peak power and 420 Nm peak torque.IMG_4708IMG_4707Now it was time to experience first-hand the sheer refinement and power this 2020 Ford Endeavour had to offer on our drive to Sam’s Dunes in Jaisalmer. For the 1st 50 odd kilometres of our drive we were driving on flat straight roads. The Endeavour is quick of the blocks and before you know it are already touching triple digit speeds. The 2020 Endeavour comes with the world’s first 10 speed torque convertor. The transmission is extremely intuitive, upshifts and downshifts happen very smoothly.IMG_4706nm0a4213Ford offers a function called Select Shift that makes it possible to skip through gears while accelerating or braking ensuring there’s enough power on tap available to the driver. This gearbox also helps in improving fuel efficiency significantly. There’s also a sport mode on offer that helps in holding on the revs for longer.

The handling and suspension of this car has always been top notch. This new update still sees the Endeavour handle all sorts of road surfaces and conditions with ease.  The Endeavour is known for its sharp handling, which is evident when you throw into corners, while doing quick lane changes. The Endeavour also comes with the Ford Pass suite of connected car features across the whole Endeavour range.nm0a3636Now it was time to get off the tarmac and go off roading in Sam’s Dunes. Sam’s Dunes is one of the most authentic desert dune sites in India, where one will find 30 to 60 meter tall sand dunes. This was the perfect location to enjoy everything that the Endeavour had to offer. After a quick 5-minute presentation by Kapil Sharma, Director Communications Ford India, we were ready to go. There was an instructor sitting with me to help with the experience of dune bashing.Snapseed 4IMG_4640Dune bashing basically means driving at increasing and decreasing speeds over sand dunes. As the surface of the sand keeps shifting, it takes a special skill and SUV like an Endeavour to navigate this terrain. The first 5 minutes went off smoothly over relatively smaller dunes. Now it was time for the real fun to start. This was also when the instructor explained how the Select shift function on this 10-speed gearbox helps to enhance the off roading experience even further on the Endeavour. Snapseed 3The Select shift function allows you to lock in a range of ratios so one doesn’t shift beyond that. This helps in maximising the effectiveness of the Sand mode in the terrain response system, making sure the vehicle doesn’t lose momentum. This is an important aspect of making progress in the sand.

The experience of going down crazy inclines and drops, followed by accelerating full tilt while climbing up was exhilarating… But for the Endeavour this was like just another day in the office.IMG-4642IMG_4644The Endeavour has always been a fantastic SUV with over 60000 customers down the years. In the last year, the Endeavour has racked up impressive numbers which is fantastic, considering the overall industry slowdown.

The 2020 Endeavour prices start at Rs 29.55 lakh for the Titanium 4×2 version and Rs 33.35 lakhs for the Titanium+ 4×4 version. All prices are ex-showroom.

MARUTI SUZUKI VITARA BREZZA-FIRST DRIVE

IMG_4669Maruti Suzuki first launched the Vitara Brezza 4 years ago. It was an instant success and has ever since dominated the compact SUV segment in India. Recently at the just concluded Auto Expo 2020, the new updated Vitara Brezza was unveiled followed by the launch. Last weekend we got an opportunity to review this car during the media drive in Goa.

The Exterior:

The new Vitara Brezza gets an updated chrome grille, headlights cluster, the new LED DRLS which also double up as signal turn indicators, brand new 16-inch alloy wheels, new LED tail lamp. All these changes give the Vitara Brezza a  very posh and premium look. Adding to that is the new bumper design which complete the tough and mean look the Brezza is going for.IMG_4670The Interior:

The cabin inside offers a good sweeping view of the road, seats are plush and comfortable, the infotainment system is the same that we have seen earlier in the S-Presso and XL6. The legroom in the rear seats is decent and it comfortably seats 3 average sized people.The one big change in the new Vitara Brezza is the 60:40 split seats in the rear which now offers you more storage facility in the boot.IMG_4664IMG_4667The New Engine:

The biggest change in the new Vitara Brezza is that of the engine. With Maruti deciding to discontinue the old 1.3 L diesel engine, the new Brezza gets a BS6 compliant 1.5L K-series engine with 103 HP and 138 NM Torque at @4,400 rpm.The transmission choices are between a 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic torque convertor.

Driving Experience:

The 1st day I got to drive the manual. I was lucky to have spent 7 months driving the previous generation Brezza. The gearbox, driving dynamics and overall comfort that it offered were very good. This new model takes that up a notch.2546f9c9-b456-4bfb-9db0-44371255c32aThe new petrol engine offers impressive low-end power, upshifts and downshifts though the gears is very smooth, acceleration is brisk with lots of power on offer. The NVH levels are vastly improved leading to more refined experience for the driver and passengers inside.

The next day I drove the automatic variant. From the onset the engine performed admirably. Maruti has improved their AT gearbox progressively with each new model. One doesn’t experience any lag and the  gearbox responds quickly enough through the gears.IMG_4665The Brezza also gets the Smart Hybrid Technology which is available on the Ciaz and Ertiga.This system offers brake energy regeneration with torque assist and idle start stop features which help in improving fuel efficiency while lowering emissions.

The Brezza was always a good handler, this tradition remains unchanged with the new model. Its quick around corners, handles lane changes quickly and efficiently, there’s no noticeable body roll. The suspension is now set slightly on the firmer side, resulting in a comfortable ride quality over all sorts of roads.

IMG_4671IMG_4668Safety is of the highest standards in the Brezza. One gets ABS with EBD and front dual airbags as standard across all variants. The automatic variants get hill hold assist feature as well.

The Verdict:IMG_4673The new Vitara Brezza looks cooler and meaner, is fun to drive, the new petrol engine is quieter while offering good performance and mileage. If you are in the market for a compact SUV priced between 7.34 lakhs – 11.40 lakhs look no further. The Vitara Brezza is just the car for you.

CITY BEATS WITH THE DISCOVERY SPORT

The Land Rover Discovery Sport is part of a SUV lineage that is legendary. This SUV is the entry level Land Rover on sale in India. The model that I drove was the updated 2019 Discovery Sport Diesel HSE Edition.Snapseed(9)The Discovery Sport is a well-balanced, good looking SUV with excellent finish and an imposing stance. The 2019 update gets the Dynamic Design Pack. This is being offered in the top end HSE Trim. One gets chrome tail pipes, and a recognisable body kit. Otherwise everything is like the previous model.

The first thing you notice as you get into the driver’s seat is how good the all-round visibility is from that position. This seating position offers you a fantastic view while driving, something you come to appreciate while tackling the dense traffic in Mumbai.

Lumbar, under thigh support is top class. The dashboard, the quality of the interiors, fit and finish is classy and premium.  IMG_3749Leg, head and shoulder room in the second row is fantastic. 3 adults can be seated comfortably in this row. The seating position in the 2nd row is a little low compared to the 1st row which translates to more headroom here. The 3rd row is ideally suited for kids as the combination of a low seat and high floor means one would end up being seated in a cramped fashion. Boot space on offer in the Discovery Sport is 280 litres.

Another update to the 2019 model is in terms of the infotainment system. The SUV now gets the upgraded version of the Touch Pro Interface with a 10-inch display that’s available in the HSE Luxury trim. The rest of the variants get an 8-inch Display. The UI is smooth, fluid to use, going through the menu loaded with features is a smooth affair. The switchgear on the steering wheel and doors are premium in fit and finish.IMG_3750The Discovery Sport HSE trim I drove came loaded with features. You get a fixed panoramic roof, power adjusted heated power fold exterior mirrors, xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, 10-way electric front seats, a 17-speaker premium audio system, rear camera, front and rear parking sensors, screens for the rear seats, tyre pressure monitoring system, ABS , ESP, traction control and plenty of airbags.IMG_3751SnapseedThe engine on the 2019 Discovery Sport has gone through a major update. While it’s the same 2-litre Ingenium diesel engine, the power has gone up in the HSE edition. The SUV now puts out 179bhp of power, 30hp more than what is available in the entry level Pure variant.

As soon as you put the Discovery Sport into drive mode it takes off so swiftly making one forget that this is a 7-seater SUV! The steering is well balanced and light enough, making driving the Discovery Sport in the city an easy exercise.  Getting to three-digit speeds is done with utmost ease on the highways. I drove the Discovery Sport over 4 days during this review in the city mainly.Snapseed(2)The biggest standout about the Discovery Sport is the quality of suspension and ride quality on offer. The quality of roads in Mumbai is pathetic post the monsoons, something we Mumbaikars dread every year! Potholes of every size and shape greet you while driving in the city. This can be a back breaking affair! But…This was no challenge for the Discovery Sport. The Discovery Sport handled these roads with utmost ease.

The 2019 Discovery Sport is a good looking, solid and premium SUV. It offers fantastic ride quality, drives and handles well in all driving conditions. This is a SUV that appeals to a buyer who’s looking for a comfortable and luxurious everyday city vehicle, as well for someone who likes to go off-roading on weekends.Snapseed(4)The Discovery Sport Diesel Pure edition 5-seater (base variant) is available for Rs 44.68 Lakhs ex-showroom, the Discovery Sport Diesel Pure edition 7-seater (base variant) is available for Rs. 52.47 Lakhs ex-showroom. Prices for the Diesel HSE Edition 7-seater starts at Rs.56.57 Lakhs ex-showroom. Prices for the Petrol SE 7-seater starts at Rs. 51.37 Lakhs ex-showroom.

Review : Jaguar XF Petrol

I first drove the Jaguar XF at the Jaguar Art of Performance customer experience events. Post which I spent a day driving it in the city. I was hugely  impressed with what the XF offered in terms of features and drivability. Last weekend I got the opportunity to spend a few days with the XF Petrol during this road test review.Snapseed(19).jpgIMG_1909.jpgThe XF is a good-looking car which oozes class. The design is classically Jaguar with the long bonnet and XE like headlights and grille design. One gets lots of chrome on the front bumper, the window line and the boot-lid. Accompanying this are 9 inch spoke alloy wheels which complete the premium and luxurious look of the XF.

The inside of the car is like the rest of the models in the Jaguar line-up. The dashboard is designed with a lot of horizontal surfacing. The rotary gear selector rising from the centre console is now a JLR trademark along with the side air vents that roll up as well. IMG_1907.jpgIMG_1908.jpgOne gets a 10-inch display for the infotainment system which supports smartphone mirroring, a sunroof, ambient lighting, leather seats, electrically adjustable front seats, a rear view camera, premium audio system, digital instrument console, four-zone climate control and keyless entry part of the features package. The front seats are large, comfortable and offer good under thigh and lumbar support. Leg and shoulder room in the rear seats is good as well. The XF is  ideal as a 4 seater, 3 adults in the rear seats may get a little uncomfortable.IMG_1906.jpgThe XF Petrol 20T gets a 1997cc, four-cylinder engine that makes 200bhp and 320NM of torque. The biggest worry one has while driving cars in this category is how will they drive in city traffic. Will they be easy to manoeuvre?  The XF immediately puts you at ease in these departments with its sharp handling and manoeuvrability. Going through the gears with the ZF 8-speed gearbox is a breeze. There is no discernible lag during upshifts and downshifts. Snapseed(14).jpgThe real fun of driving a luxury sports sedan is on the highways. That’s where such cars come into their own. The XF is no exception. Once on the highway getting to 100kmph happens fast and smoothly. Shift the XF into Dynamic mode and immediately you can tell the difference in the sharpness of the throttle response and gearbox. The handling of the XF is top notch courtesy the excellent chassis setup. Throw it into corners, change directions the XF handles this with utmost ease. The ride quality on the XF is excellent at most time. The only time one feels a bit of bother is while travelling over extremely bad roads. But then again, the XF is not meant to be driven over such terrain.Snapseed(18).jpg

Snapseed(30).jpgI drove it over 300 kms during this review. One thing that is consistent about all Jaguar cars is the attention they get from passer-by’s and fellow drivers. The Jaguar philosophy has always been about grace, space and race which is perfectly exemplified in the XF. The Jaguar XF  stands out in a crowd, is premium and luxurious in performance, comfort and ownership experience.

The Jaguar XF 20t Prestige Petrol version is priced at Rs 54.36 Lakhs ex-showroom and Rs 49.77 Lakhs ex-showroom for the Pure Diesel  version. All prices are ex-showroom Mumbai.

MARUTI SUZUKI S-PRESSO FIRST DRIVE

Quirky, conversation starter, different looking is not how usually one describes small cars. Maruti did that with the Ignis a few years back, Now again with the S-Presso.Snapseed(18)The S-Presso is the mini SUV that Maruti has just launched. Priced very competitively and built on Suzuki’s latest next – gen Heartect platform, the S-Presso promises to be a game changer. How was it? Let’s find out.

DESIGN AND STYLINGSnapseed(42).jpgThe S-Presso has the kind of design that starts a conversation. The first thing you notice is that the ground clearance is relatively high. The S-Presso comes with upright pillars and high set bonnet giving it a SUV like appearance. Viewed from the front the S-Presso comes with a prominent grille with angular headlights and LED daytime running lights. The chunky cladding on the bottom portion of the bumper, completes the SUV look.IMG_1713.jpgIMG_1712.jpgThe wheel arches are high and come with standard 14inch wheels. One gets the option of machined alloy wheels as part of the accessories package that Maruti is offering. Walk to the back of the S-Presso and you see simple looking tail lights and lots of cladding on the rear bumper that complete the look.

THE CABIN:

First thing one sees stepping into the S-Presso cabin is the instrument cluster bang in the middle. The speedometer sits on the top of the circular centre console. This is funky to look at and doesn’t take too much time getting used to. The speedometer comes with a large font that makes it easy to read.

The infotainment system is placed in the circular centre console. The top end models of all Maruti cars comes with their latest Smart Play Studio system. The UI is very nice looking and responsive, very smartphone inspired in the way it looks and works. The menu is well laid out and it comes with Android Auto and Apple Car Play. Below that are the knobs/buttons for the AC and heater.IMG_1711The overall cabin quality is very impressive for the category the S-Presso falls in. The material quality, fit and finish are very good. The dashboard is nice looking, there are body-coloured embellishments around the centre console and air-conditioning vents. The headroom and legroom are super, seats are comfortable, offer good lumbar and under thigh support. The high seat positioning helps with the overall visibility outside when seated in the front cabin.The legroom in the back row is very good. There’s ample knee and headroom for tall occupants on offer. Its’s ideally suited for 2 passengers behind.

There are 2 cupholders, one bottle holder at the rear bottle holder on each of the front doors and a shelf above the glove box as part of the storage package. The boot space available is 240 litres. Folding the rear seat backrest will offer you more space if required.

The safety package in the S-Presso includes ABS, a driver side airbag, speed warning system, seat belt reminder and rear parking sensors. A passenger side airbag is available as a Rs 5000 option on the STD, LXI and VXI trims and is part of the package on top-spec VXI+ versions.

DRIVING THE S-PRESSO

The S-Presso comes with a three-cylinder, 1.0-litre petrol engine which puts out 68hp and 90Nm figure. Switch on the car and the 1st thing you notice is how quiet this BSVI K10 engine is  while idling and driving. The performance is smooth, power delivery is good and getting to higher speeds is done in a refined fashion. It’s extremely easy and hassle free to drive in heavy traffic which will appeal to customers of the S-Presso.Snapseed(3).jpg The 1st day I drove the manual S-Presso from Jodhpur to Khimsar over 100 kms. It doesn’t take too much effort going through the gears, the clutch is well weighted and light to use. On the highway getting to three digit speeds was done with relative ease. The braking is sharp and smooth enough which we got to experience a few times on this drive.

Next morning, I drove the 5-speed AMT Auto. This is an area in which you see the maximum evolution from the days of the Celerio to now. The gear box is smooth, the shifts are well timed. The typical lag one experiences in an AMT is barely felt here. The moment you shift the AMT to manual mode, the gearshifts are far quicker,  making driving the S-Presso a fun experience.Snapseed(43).jpgSnapseed(45).jpgSteering feedback is good, its light and easy to twirl around. The ride quality overall is good and over the 200 kms we drove the S-Presso none of the passengers in the car experienced any discomfort. The S-Presso while essentially an urban commuter also makes for an able long-distance companion on road trips. The mileage the S-Presso offers is fantastic. On our drive the car returned an average of 20-22 kms per litre.

BUYING THE S-PRESSO

The S-Presso is an interesting looking car that offers good driving experience in terms of efficiency, mileage and comfort. It comes with the assured badge of a Maruti in terms of service efficiency and resale value.4863E1D2-F31A-414E-AEAD-4CBC58CA2A4D.jpgPrices for the S-Presso start from Rs 3.69 Lakhs for the Standard Manual Variant and Rs 4.68 lakhs for the VXi AGS (automatic) Variant. The top end variant of the S-Presso VXi Plus AGS is yours to buy for Rs. 4.91 Lakhs. All prices are ex-showroom Delhi.

#MONSOON TRAILS – VOLKSWAGEN TIGUAN

This is the 4th time in the last one year, that I got an opportunity to spend time with one of my all-time favourite SUV’s the Volkswagen Tiguan. This is a car that is universally loved by whoever drives it…Snapseed(1).jpgAs part of our ongoing series #MonsoonTrails, we reviewed the Tiguan this time around. Over the course of 5 days we put it through different kinds of road conditions and terrain. How did it fare? Let’s find out…But before we do that, lets reacquaint ourselves with what the Tiguan is all about.

The hallmark of VW cars is how simple and clean the design always is. The Tiguan follows the same design language. Starting with the front you have the 3-slat chrome grille on which sits the VW badge. Accompanying that are the LED headlights and LED DRL’s which complete the look.Snapseed(3).jpgSnapseed(2).jpgWalk to the side and you see the silver finish 18-inch alloy wheels which offer a ground clearance of about 200mm. The shoulder line that runs from the front right to the rear reflect  the elegant design of the Tiguan along with LED tail lamps in the rear.IMG_5954.jpgThe 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 all black interiors are rich and premium in feel and finish. The centre console comes with a host of features, colour touch screen, Apple car play and Android auto. The seats in the front offer good support and the cushioning is high quality. The Tiguan comes with a huge and panoramic sunroof which when fully opened offers a great view. The legroom and shoulder room in the rear is terrific. The headroom is good courtesy the design of the roof. The rear seats have a reclining feature with a 60:40 split.  There is 615 litres of boot space on offer in the Tiguan.IMG_5952.jpgIMG_5953.jpgThe 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. The four driving modes available are Snow, Normal, Off road and Individual. The mode I started with in the city was Eco. In this mode the engine is tuned to deliver optimum efficiency in terms of overall engine performance. Once on the highway I switched between Normal and Sports depending on the traffic conditions there.Snapseed(6).jpgThere are 6 airbags, ABS, ESC, Hill Descent and Auto hold available as part of the safety package. 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.

The whole of last month Maharashtra has seen the kind of monsoons that haven’t been experienced in a long time. The roads are in pathetic shape, highways have huge craters in place of paved roads… All this can make driving on such roads a pathetic experience.Snapseed(5).jpgBut did this matter to the Tiguan? Not at all. It handled every kind of road thrown at it with the utmost ease. I was travelling with 3 other passengers in the car, not once did anyone complain about any discomfort. The handling of the Tiguan in and out of corners is very sharp, steering feedback is good. Overall visibility from the front cabin is impressive. The fuel efficiency numbers the Tiguan returned during this review were very good.Snapseed.jpgThe Tiguan is a SUV that offers comfort, safety, has excellent suspension, very good fuel efficiency and is fun to drive.

The Tiguan is available for 28 Lakhs ex-showroom Mumbai for the Comfortline(base) variant and 31 Lakhs ex-showroom Mumbai for the Highline variant.

 

#MONSOONTRAILS – LAND ROVER DISCOVERY SPORT

As part of monsoon trails this year, I have best reviewing SUV’s which are ideally suited to the conditions one encounters during this time of the year.IMG 1.jpgThe Land Rover Discovery Sport is part of a SUV lineage that is legendary. This SUV is the entry level Land Rover on sale in India. The model that I drove was the updated 2019 Discovery Sport Diesel HSE Edition.

HOW DOES IT LOOK?ex 14.jpgCOLLAGE 2.jpgThe Discovery Sport is a well-balanced, good looking SUV with excellent finish and an imposing stance. The 2019 update gets the Dynamic Design Pack. This is being offered in the top end HSE Trim. One gets chrome tail pipes, and a recognisable body kit. Otherwise everything is like the previous model.

HOW IS IT INSIDE?

The first thing you notice as you get into the driver’s seat is how good the all-round visibility is from that position. Lumbar and under thigh support is top class, something we have come to expect in all LR/RR vehicles. The dashboard, the quality of the interiors, fit and finish is premium. Another update to the 2019 model is in terms of the infotainment system. The SUV now gets the upgraded version of the Touch Pro Interface with a 10-inch display that’s available in the HSE Luxury trim. The rest of the variants get an 8-inch Display. The UI is smooth, fluid to use, going through the menu loaded with features is a smooth affair. The switchgear on the steering wheel and doors are premium in fit and finish.COLLAGE 1.jpgLeg, head and shoulder room in the second row is fantastic. 3 adults can be seated comfortably in this row. The seating position in the 2nd row is a little low compared to the 1st row which translates to more headroom here. The 3rd row is ideally suited for kids as the combination of a low seat and high floor means one would end up being seated in a cramped fashion. Boot space on offer in the Discovery Sport is 280 litres.COLLAGE 3.jpgThe Discovery Sport HSE trim I drove came loaded with features. You get a fixed panoramic roof, power adjusted heated power fold exterior mirrors, xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, 10-way electric front seats, a 17-speaker premium audio system, rear camera, front and rear parking sensors, screens for the rear seats, tyre pressure monitoring system, ABS , ESP, traction control and plenty of airbags.

HOW DOES IT DRIVE?

The engine on the 2019 Discovery Sport has gone through a huge update. While it’s the same 2-litre Ingenium diesel engine, power has gone up in the HSE trim that I drove. Now it puts out 179bhp of power, 30hp more than what is available in the entry level Pure variant.

ex 21.jpg

As soon as you turn on the car and put it into drive mode, one gets a sense of the power on offer. The Discovery Sport takes off so swiftly and smoothly, you forget momentarily that this is a 7-seater SUV! The steering is well balanced and light enough, making driving the Discovery Sport in the city an easy exercise.  Getting to three-digit speeds is done with utmost ease on the highways.

ex 18.jpgex 2.jpgI drove the Discovery Sport over 4 days during this review over a combination of city roads and highways. The biggest standout about this SUV was the quality of the suspension and ride quality. This is by far the best ride quality I have experienced in any SUV so far. Bad roads, large potholes, off road terrain, nothing was a challenge for the Discovery Sport. The Discovery Sport handled these roads with such aplomb and finesse; one actually forgot the pathetic quality of the roads encountered during this review.

THE VERDICT

The 2019 Discovery Sport is a good looking, solid and premium SUV. It offers fantastic ride quality, drives and handles well in all driving conditions. This is a SUV that appeals to a buyer who’s looking for a comfortable and luxurious everyday city vehicle, as well for someone who likes to go off-roading on weekends.

ex 11.jpgex 16.jpgThe Discovery Sport Diesel Pure edition 5-seater (base variant) is available for Rs 44.68 Lakhs ex-showroom, the Discovery Sport Diesel Pure edition 7 seater (base variant) is available for Rs. 52.47 Lakhs ex-showroom. Prices for the Diesel HSE Edition 7-seater starts at Rs.56.57 Lakhs ex-showroom. Prices for the Petrol SE 7-seater starts at Rs. 51.37 Lakhs ex-showroom.

FIRST DRIVE – MARUTI SUZUKI XL6

An invitation to visit Rajasthan is always welcome. Lovely topography, colourful people, delicious food and the best driving roads in the country. It’s no surprise that Rajasthan plays host to multiple media drives each year.

FIRST.jpgLast weekend we were in Jaipur to drive the new Maruti Suzuki XL6. Maruti’s new premium MPV, which is being retailed through the Nexa network.

HOW DOES IT LOOK?

The XL6 is a good looking MPV. Raised bonnet lines, larger grille, a scuff plate, full- LED headlights are what one sees when viewed from the front.

Car 1.jpgCOLLAGE outside.jpgCladding has been added to the front and rear bumpers and on the sides. This gives the XL, kind of a SUV look. 15-inch wheels sit under the exaggerated wheel arches. As you walk around the side towards the rear, you will notice the roof rails, a rear scuff plate and dual tone tailgate.

We were told at the product presentation that these are exclusive to the XL6. The XL6 is available in 6 colour options.

HOW IS IT INSIDE?

Step inside, and the familiarity of a Maruti car greets you. Slide into the driver’s seat and the first thing you notice are the all-black interiors theme the XL6 cabin comes with. This makes it look plush and premium.

COLLAGE INT.jpgAdding to that experience are the faux black ash wood finish, leatherette seats and the knitted roof lining. The front seats are comfortable and offer good under thigh support.

The biggest change in the XL6 over the Ertiga is in the middle row. The bench has been replaced by captain seats. The seats are very comfortable and offer good under thigh support. Legroom is impressive; the second-row passengers can incline the seats to a fair degree for further comfort.

To get into the third-row seats one must push the second-row backrest forward. Getting in doesn’t take too much effort. Leg and headroom on offer are decent. One can incline the backrest further to make it more comfortable. These 3rd row seats split and fold completely, thus increasing the luggage capacity from 209 litres to 550 litres.

The XL6 comes in Zeta and Alpha trims with loads of features on offer. Starting with Maruti’s next generation Smart Play studio infotainment system. The User interface is smooth and fast and easy to surf.

COLLAGE INT 01.jpgIt comes bundled with Android Auto and Apple Car Play. Keyless entry, auto climate control, electric fold mirrors cruise control, reverse camera makes up the list of features in the XL6.

Suzuki Connect can be added as an option. This is an E-sim based connected tech which offers features such as geo-fencing, vehicle alerts, live vehicle status, vehicle tracking and driving behaviour analysis.

The XL6 is powered by a BS6 compliant 1.5-litre petrol updated to BS-6 specifications. It comes with mild-hybrid technology that Maruti offers in some of its other cars as well.

car8.jpgThe first evening I drove the auto version of the XL6. Easy to drive, the moment you put it into drive mode the XL6 feels familiar. That’s because this is the same petrol engine that Maruti uses in the petrol Ertiga and Ciaz. Acceleration is smooth and linear, there’s enough power going through the gears. Once you go past 3000rpm the engine sounds throatier.

car18.jpgThe XL6 gets to three digit speeds easily. The automatic transmission on duty in the XL6 is a 4-speed torque convertor.  There’s an OD button on the side of the gear knob. Switch that off and the car converts to a 3-speed. This is very useful when climbing steep slopes, driving in hilly terrains, driving in smaller places where you want more power to overtake.

Next morning, I got my hands on the manual transmission XL6. The 5-speed manual gearbox is refined, upshifts and downshifts are very smooth, the clutch is light enough to use.

car22car12.jpgThe ride quality of the XL6 really impressed me. The roads I drove on in Jaipur during this media drive were a combination of national highways, off road stretches, bad stretches of city roads. That made no difference to the XL6.The suspension handled everything thrown at it with ease. Extremely well planted at all times, the XL6 has the best ride quality in its class.

THE VERDICT

car19.jpgcar 6.jpgThe XL6 offers comfort, great ride quality, is very easy to drive and is priced well. The size of the car makes it just right as a family car. This is a car which can be self-driven, be chauffeured in, something every adult member of the family would enjoy driving. If you are in the market for a premium 6-seater at an affordable price, look no further. The XL6 is just the car for you.

car13.jpgThe XL6 pricing starts at 9.8 Lakhs ex-showroom Mumbai (inclusive of GST) for the Manual Zeta Petrol. The Auto Zeta petrol starts at  10.9 Lakhs ex-showroom Mumbai(inclusive of GST)

KIA SELTOS – SENSATIONAL START

Goa in the monsoons in one of the most magical places to be in India. The beauty of this state in western India reaches another level in this season.

Kia Motors India chose Goa as the destination to showcase its first offering in India last week. Media personnel from across the country converged in Goa to experience what the Seltos had to offer as part of the Kia Motors Seltos VIP Media Drive.26.jpgBefore we get into the Seltos, let’s talk about….

WHO IS KIA MOTORS?

Kia was founded in December 1944 as Kyungsung Precision Industry, a manufacturer of steel tubing and bicycle parts, eventually producing Korea’s first domestic bicycle, the Samchully, in 1951. In 1952, Kyungsung Precision Industry changed its name to Kia Industries, and later built Honda-licensed small motorcycles (starting in 1957), Mazda-licensed trucks (1962) and cars (1974).Kia Seltos GT.jpgToday Kia Motors headquartered in Seoul, is South Korea’s second-largest automobile manufacturer, following the Hyundai Motor Company, with sales of over 3.3 million vehicles in 2015.

KIA IN INDIA

We in India first laid our eyes of the Seltos when it was known as the SP Concept. The mid-size SUV segment which the Seltos is placed in, is one of the fiercest and most competitive segments in the automobile industry.The name Seltos is derived from “Celtos”, the son of Hercules in Greek mythology. Kia Motors and Hyundai both fall under the umbrella of the Hyundai Motor Company. The Seltos is built on a new platform. This will also be the platform on which the second-generation Hyundai Creta will drive on early next year.

HOW DOES IT LOOK?22.jpgCAR grille.jpgThe Seltos is a good-looking mid-size SUV with a commanding presence about it. Take a walk around and what you notice immediately is the level of detailing that comes across in the Seltos design. Near-vertical front-end upright pillars, impressive looking grille with chrome surround, large headlights and a sleek looking bumper. When viewed from the back one notices the bumper with a scruff plate, signature LED taillights, glasshouse that’s tapers towards the rear. The Seltos sits on 17-inch wheels which give it a strong and confident profile.CAR TYRE.jpgCAR LIGHTS.jpgOne gets full LED headlights, Kia signature heartbeat shape LED DRL and ice cube LED fog lamps. We got to experience the lights immediately on Day 1 of the media drive, as conditions were dark and gloomy.

ENGINE OPTIONS

The Seltos engines are all  BS6 emission norms compliant.  One has lots of options to choose from. One gets a 115hp, 1.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine, a 115hp, 1.5-litre diesel, and a 140hp, 1.4-litre turbo-petrol. The 6-speed manual transmission options in the Seltos are all the same standard. In terms of automatic transmissions, the Seltos comes with different options. The 1.5 petrol gets a CVT, the 1.5 diesel is available with a 6-speed torque converter auto, while the 1.4 turbo-petrol comes with a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

TECH LINE AND GT LINECAR EX 1.jpgThe Kia Seltos will be available in Tech line and the GT line which each one having its own trims. The 1.5 litre petrol and diesel version will be available in the Tech line.  The GT line which is the sportier option is exclusive to the 1.4 turbo-petrol version. The GT Line models get crystal-cut alloy wheels, GT line badging and red accents on the bumpers and sides

HOW IS IT INSIDE?CAR INT 1.jpgStepping in and out of the Seltos is very easy and comfortable. Courtesy the height of the cabin. The moment you sit on the plush leather seats one immediately feels a sense of comfort and familiarity. The seats offer superb under-thigh and lumbar support. This is very important as most Kia customers will be driving the car in the congested stop-go traffic conditions in our cities. Sitting in a car that doesn’t tire you at the end of the daily commute is a big plus. The level of quality in the interior rivals that of more expensive European cars. The fit and finish in the Seltos cabin is of the highest standard. Everything from the flat-bottomed leather wrapped steering wheel, the design pattern on the leather seats, the panels on the door and dashboard have a premium feel about that. The Tech Line versions get black-on beige interiors. The sportier GT Line gets an all-black interior with red stitching on the steering wheel, gear lever and the leather seat to complete the look.GT 1.jpgThe infotainment system sits high up in the driver’s line of sight. The Base models comes with a 2-DIN audio system, the mid-range versions get an 8.0-inch touchscreen, while higher-spec versions get a 10.25-inch touchscreen. The UI on the touchscreen is one of the best I have ever used. Like a premium modern-day mobile phone, the touchscreen is fast, well laid out and good to look at. It offers a split screen mode which came very handy while we are reviewing the car in Goa. The voice activated functions that we tested on the review performed admirably. The top spec Seltos gets a multi-info display in the information console while the GT Line GTX versions comes with an 8.0-inch heads-up display that shows speed and navigation details. The steering mounted buttons let you answer calls, adjust the music volume amongst other features.CAR INT 2.jpgLegroom in the rear cabin is very adequate, with enough width and head room to fit 3 people comfortably. Under thigh support is good making travel in the rear seats a comfortable exercise for the passengers. The rear windows are large with manually retractable sun visors with a backrest that can be reclined by 6 degrees. The Seltos offers ample room in the boot with a storage capacity of 433 litres. If that isn’t enough, then you can fold the 60:40 rear seats flat to create more space.CAR BOOT.jpgLots of equipment is on offer in the Kia. More than any other car in this segment. The top end versions i.e. the Tech Line and GT line get auto and LED headlights, electric sunroof, ventilated front seats, powered driver’s seat, ambient lighting, 400W Bose sound system (which is very impressive), wireless phone charging and tyre pressure monitoring system. The level of detailing and research Kia Motors has done about the Indian market is evident, as the Seltos comes with an onboard air purifier with three fragrance options to choose from. Android Auto and Apple Carplay comes bundled with the infotainment system.

The Seltos comes equipped with Kia’s E-Sim based UVO connected car system. This app offers 37 features such as live location, geo-fencing, remote engine start/stop amongst others. Since this is a mobile network dependent system, this may not work in areas where network coverage is poor.

HOW IS IT TO DRIVE?

The first day we got to drive the 1.5 litre Diesel automatic. Right off the block the Seltos was easy to drive, engine was extremely refined, upshift and downshifts went off smoothly without any lag. The NVH levels are very good. What impressed me right away was the handling of the Seltos. It slides very easily in and out of corners. Step on the accelerator and you are cruising at 3 digit speeds in no time. I got to experience stop-go traffic at one point in the drive. Here again the Seltos is extremely relaxed and one doesn’t feel tired in such conditions.29.jpg12.jpgNext morning, I started with the Diesel manual. The performance was identical to the automatic. The manual transmission is very refined with the gear ratios perfectly tuned for our driving conditions and driving styles.

The suspension setup and drive quality in the Seltos are top notch. Bad roads and potholes were handled without any difficulty. The Seltos is not the kind of car one would go off-roading in though. This is a true-blue urban SUV that’s perfect for city and highway driving.25 C.jpgThen I got my hands on the 1.4 turbo petrol GT manual. This engine offers 140Hp and 242Nm of torque. The difference was evident right away. The car took off swiftly, the revs quickly went past 6000 rpm, the handling was sharper. The engine is smooth, quiet  and equally at home in slow traffic conditions as well. Going up and down through the gears is a smooth exercise. This variant is definitely the one, enthusiasts are going to line up to buy.

Next I drove the 1.4 turbo petrol DCT automatic. The automatic transmission is excellent, with upshifts and downshifts synced well to offer the sportier performance the driver wants from this engine. I threw it into corners, simulated stop-go driving conditions, the DCT automatic handled it without a stutter.

The 1.4 litre turbo petrol GT Line offers everything you want in a sports SUV.

THE VERDICT385.jpgThe Seltos is a stylish looking, well built, premium mid-size SUV. Its offers so much in terms of performance, features and driving comfort. Kia has so far got an advance booking of 23000 in 3 weeks since bookings were officially open.

Kia Motors India has got everything right on point with the Seltos so far. I am sure the pricing will be something that will make the Seltos a winner from the get-go.

 

#MONSOONTRAILS – TOYOTA FORTUNER

July has been the wettest month in the last 110 years, for areas in and around Mumbai, Thane and Pune. Which is great news! Because the moment Maharashtra doesn’t receive enough rainfall, all sorts of prayers and rituals are observed by the local population to please the rain gods! That’s how much reverence we give to the rains in India.6The monsoons are also a great time to test and review SUV’s. Vehicles that are designed for all weather driving. As part of my series #MonsoonTrails this week I travelled out of town with the Toyota Fortuner. A SUV that was launched in India in 2009. It was instantly lapped up by the customers and hasn’t looked back since then.

Tall stance, imposing in looks the Fortuner is built on the Hilux Pickup Truck Platform. It is sold in different markets world over under different names.10.jpgToyota has played a big role in redefining the way modern SUV’s are designed and manufactured worldwide. With everything Japanese, the emphasis will always be on manufacturing vehicles that are extremely efficient and easy to maintain.

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 in the monsoon season. While the drive to a tea estate was a short round about trip of just 200 kms, one immediately got an idea of the capabilities of the car. Driving it over wet hilly terrain, where the roads are narrow with tight sharp bends was a fun experience. Having owned a Qualis in the past for 3 years, I have experienced first-hand how good Toyota cars are.74.jpgThis model of the Fortuner is sleeker looking 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.COLLAGE-4-2.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-5-1.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.2.jpg8.jpgThe Fortuner is one of the easiest SUV’s I have ever driven. This is testimony to how Toyota designs its cars. The engine isn’t high stressed and maneuvering one’s way in bumper to bumper traffic is easy; but the highway is where the Fortuner comes into its own.

The gearbox is a bit slow to respond. The reason is like all Toyota vehicles, the Fortuner has long gear ratios. 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.

I spent a lot of time driving on hilly terrain with lots of sharp bends during this review in extremely wet conditions. The Fortuner negotiated these easily without any noticeable body roll one would expect in cars that are this tall and big.

The road conditions in the monsoon can go from good to worse in a matter of minutes. Potholes of all sizes and shapes appear out of nowhere. I also drove over lots of off-road sections. Did this make any difference to the Fortuner? Not at all!

The SUV handled these conditions with consummate ease with the suspension setup working efficiently to ensure the passengers in the car feel no discomfort.9.jpgThe 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. So, it’s no surprise that the Fortuner sells the most numbers in its category. The competition is a fair distance away to challenge the Fortuner’s dominance in the Indian market.

Toyota Fortuner prices for the2.8 2WD MT(Diesel) (Base Model) start at Rs.29,84,000/- ex showroom Mumbai and 2.7 2WD MT(Petrol) (Base Model) starts at Rs.27,83,000/- ex-showroom Mumbai.

Prices for Automatic Transmission start at Rs.33,60,000 ex-showroom for the 2.8 4WD AT(Diesel) (Top Model) and Rs.29,42,000 for the2.7 2WD AT(Petrol) (Top Model).