Weekend Warrior

Psst! Weekend Warrior isn't really his name. Chirag is an automotive journalist for TurboZens, one of the fastest growing autoblogs in India. if you can't find him tearing up clubs (his backyard) every weekend, you can always try Google+

FaceOff: Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid vs Toyota Prius

The hybrid car market has finally begun its bloom in recent years. Although manufacturers have been producing hybrid variants of cars already in their fleet, most car makers avoided ground up development of new models due to the sizable sum required for research. This trend has now seen a shift with manufacturers launching all new models designed specifically for hybrid drivetrains. South Korean car maker Hyundai has showcased its desire to break into the still vastly unoccupied market with the all new Ioniq. We pit the all new Ioniq against one of the oldest members of the segment: the Toyota Prius and see how the South Korean car maker fares in its first all-in venture in the hybrid car market.

Design

Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

Design-wise, the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid is a slight deviation from the car maker’s usual works. While the Ioniq adheres to Hyundai’s Fluidic design philosophy, the hatchback brings in numerous new elements that further enhance its aesthetic. The front end features a pair of aggressively designed headlights that flank the now familiar hexagonal grille. Unlike most Hyundai models, the new Ioniq’s grille sports horizontal slats, that strays far enough from Hyundai’s usual design tactics to produce a sense of uniqueness. The rear windscreen slopes at a low angle to integrate directly with the stubby boot giving the Ioniq a coupe-like side profile. Further aiding the Ioniq’s sporty overtones is the large boot mounted spoiler.

The Ioniq ybrid with its Fluidic Design philosophy seeks to make hybrids cool again
The Ioniq ybrid with its Fluidic Design philosophy seeks to make hybrids cool again

Toyota Prius

The Toyota Prius has been around for years now. For the previous generations, Toyota had adopted a more subtle approach to design allowing the Prius to blend in with the traffic. For the latest generation however, the Japanese car manufacturer has launched a more aggressively designed model. The all new Toyota Prius features sharply designed headlights, muscular shoulder lines and a gently sloping roofline that all integrate to create an edgier avatar of the world’s most popular hybrid. While the new Prius is far more striking than previous generations, Toyota’s immense efforts to spark renewed interest in the minds of the public may have taken the hybrid liftback a bit too far. The bulging headlights, disproportionate bonnet length and small wheels do not enhance in the Prius’ visual appeal.

The 2016 Toyota Prius
The 2016 Toyota Prius

Winner: Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

Interior

Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

The Ioniq’s interior presents itself in typical Hyundai fashion with Fluidic Design 2.0 playing a heavy role in shaping its various elements. Similar to most of the mainstream mid-range hatchbacks from the South Korean car maker, the Ioniq features a classy interior with sporty undertones. Passengers are greeted by an all black cabin featuring tastefully designed chrome elements such as the pedals and gear lever that amps up the car’s allure. The dashboard features a well stocked infotainment system that features Google’s all new Android Auto system. With the majority of manfacturers still deploying poorly designed/uninutitive in-house developed infotaiment systems, the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid is well ahead of the curve. Hyundai has also fitted the new hybrid hatchback with a wireless charging dock thus further distancing itself from the competition.

The interior of the upcoming Hyundai Ioniq
The interior of the upcoming Hyundai Ioniq

Toyota Prius

Toyota has adopted an avant-garde approach to the design of the Prius’ cabin. As a result, the Toyota Prius’ interior is rather unique and will definitely garner polarizing opinions. The instrument cluster (now an ultra wide LCD display) has been moved to the center of the dashboard creating an aura of emptiness around the driver. Other notable features include the gloss black finish of the center console and steering wheel and the unconventional placement of the car’s gear stick. Thus similar to the car’s exterior, the interior too is visually striking. However, Toyota’s latest iteration of the Prius fails to make a lasting impression.

Interior of the new Prius
Interior of the new Prius

Winner: Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

Under the Bonnet

Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

Powering the all new Hyundai hybrid hatchback is a four cylinder 1.6 l Kappa engine that churns out 104 hp and a peak torque of 109 lb-ft. The Ioniq hybrid is supplied with an additional 43 hp by the permanent-magnet synchronous AC motor that is powered by a 1.6 kWh battery pack. Power is sent to the front wheels via a dual clutch gearbox.

The Ioniq offers better range than the Prius
The Ioniq offers better range than the Prius

Toyota Prius

Powering the all new Prius is a 1.8 l in-line four cylinder petrol engine that produces 95 hp and 105 lb-ft of peak torque. The engine is coupled with a 71 hp electric motor to send a total of 121 hp to the front wheels through a CVT gearbox.

The Toyota Prius uses an arcane engine
The Toyota Prius uses an arcane engine

Winner: Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

Verdict

The Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid is shaping up to be a major player in the hybrid car market and with engine numbers and features that leaves almost all of its competition in the dust, Hyundai’s upcoming offering looks to be another massive hit. One of the greatest drawbacks of any Hyundai is its driving dynamics. Hopefully the South Korean car maker manages to sort the issues out by the time this model hits the streets.

Formula E: Decoded!

Vehicle racing has been around for decades now. There has always been something magical surrounding the idea of competition. The thrill of the chase, the rush of adrenaline and the glory soon after; All these separate but interrelated sensations all culminate to give birth to an experience inimitable by anything else. And with the invention of the motorcar, this competition was further extended to encompass games involving one’s skill behind the wheel.

Soon after, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) was set up as a governing body to manage numerous auto racing events. Among these events, Formula One is of the highest class and serves as the ultimate proving ground for many a racer. However, over the years, the rising concern for the environment and the fast depletion of naturally occurring non-renewable resources, Formula One has been increasingly looked upon as an indulgence we cannot afford. As a result, Formula E was conceived as a means to satiate our thirst for competition without undue damage to the environment.

Formula E's official insignia
Formula E’s official insignia

History

Conceived back in 2012, Formula E kicked off its first season in 2014 with official support from the FIA. For the series’ first season, eleven races were held in ten different cities with the last two rounds held in London. The season kicked off on the 13th of Spetember in Beijing’s Olympic Green Circuit. The street track is noted for being one of the longest (3.43 km) in Formula E. The track runs along the circumference of the Olympic Stadium used during the 2008 games. Lucas di Grassi, a part of Audi Sport ABT’s team became the very first race’s winner. ABT Sportsline is an auto tuning and motor racing company headquartered in Germany. Although the team managed to clinch the first spot in the very first race of Formula E, Audi Sport ABT ended the season in the third position.

Nelson Piquet Jr: The world's first Formula E Champion
Nelson Piquet Jr: The world’s first Formula E Champion

The winning team of world’s first Formula E championship was Nelson Ângelo Tamsma Piquet Souto Maior, better known as Nelson Piquet Junior. Son of three time Formula One world champion Nelson Piquet, Nelson Piquet Jr. has had a long history in racing including representing Renault in Formula One. Sadly however, due to a scandal orchestrated by the senior members of the team, Piquet Jr.’s career came to an unfortunate and abrupt end in Formula One.

With the Piquet name bowing out of one of the most prolific race events in human history, Formula E offered redemption. Representing China Racing, the Brazilian stole the championship from Buemi and Di Grassi, the season’s other front-runners. Other notable names that entered the very first season of Formula E was Nicolas Prost, Jarno Trulli and Nick Heidfeld.

The Car

Coming to the actual car, the first season saw every team race with an identical machine. Dubbed the Spark-Renault SRT_01E, the chassis is composed of a lightweight carbon fiber composite with the driver enclosure made of aluminum that offers better crash protection. The entire chassis is designed and built by an Italian firm named Dallara.

The Spark SRT_01E race car
The Spark SRT_01E race car

Similar to most racing cars or track only cars, the steering wheel or “command center” of the Formula E racer consists of a radio button, speed limiter for the pit lane, a button that engages a boost mechanism, a knob for adjusting the electric motor’s power outputs, paddle shifters and a display indicating the current battery levels.

Since the races occur in both tracks and common streets, the SRT_01E features a set of 18 inch wheels designed for all weather performance. The battery pack, consisting of 164 Li-ion batteries was designed by British racing firm Williams F1. Producing 30 kilowatt-hours, the battery pack does not offer more than 20-30 minutes of range. As a result, each team comes with two fully charged cars. Once the battery in one car almost discharges, the driver makes a pit stop and swaps out his current unit with the fully charged unit.

In any electric car, the BMS (Battery Management System) plays a pivotal role in the efficiency and power delivery rates. The BMS is also required to ensure that the battery is in normal working condition and is operating within permissible levels of variation. The task of building a BMS for cars used in high intensity racing brings a whole new level of difficulty due to the rapid charging/discharging of the battery. For Formula E vehicles, the BMS consists of a dizzying number of sensors (far more than any conventional electric vehicles’s BMS). Each second of battery use sends somewhere around 350,000 discrete values regarding the battery to the software that handles the health and performance of the battery pack. The motor, sourced from English automotive heavyweight McLaren is the same motor used in the P1 hypercar.

Current Status

With season 2 currently underway, Formula E has not fizzled out in its opening inning. The electric racing tournament has also seen the entry of English premium car maker Jaguar in the latest season. With Jaguar returning to motorsports, other car makers that had backed out of racing events may soon see a return; Hopefully in Formula E.

Jaguar has made an entry into Formula E
Jaguar has made an entry into Formula E

FaceOff: Nissan Leaf vs Kia Soul EV

Electric vehicles have been around for quite some time now. However, no manufacturer in the budget segment of the industry has managed to launch a vehicle that can actively replace conventional petrol driven vehicles. Cars such as the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Spark EV, Ford Focus Electric and Fiat 500E have made an honest attempt at making their mark in the world but fall short in some department or the other. The latest manufacturer to join the club is South Korean heavyweight Kia. With the upcoming launch of its Soul EV, we may see a winner soon enough. We pit the Nissan Leaf against the newcomer to see how the South Korean electric hatch fares.

Design

Nissan Leaf

The Nissan Leaf was introduced back in 2010. Since its debut, the little electric hybrid has changed little over the years. While the Nissan Leaf’s off-beat exterior may have been appealing a few years ago, it may require a bit of sprucing up to meet the competition. The front end features a pair of large bulging headlights not unlike India’s very own Micra. Nissan has also incorporated the charging port up front for better ease of access. The rear features a pair of long, free-flowing tail lamps that extend from the roof to the bottom of the trunk giving the leaf a bit of zest.

The current generation Nissan Leaf
The current generation Nissan Leaf

Kia Soul EV

Similar to the Nissan Leaf, the Kia Soul EV does not manage to impress. Although the car maker is owned by Hyundai, Hyundai’s Fluidic Design philosophy has not managed to creep into any of its own models. As a result, the Kia Soul EV may not turn as many heads as its Hyundai counterparts. Major differences between the Soul’s petrol driven variant and the electric model are the sealed grille, dual color paint job and revised lower front bumper.

The Kia Soul EV is classified as an UPV (Urban Passenger Vehicle)
The Kia Soul EV is classified as an UPV (Urban Passenger Vehicle)

Winner: Kia Soul EV

Interior

Nissan Leaf

The Nissan Leaf was targeted to be a budget electric hatchback. As a result, the Nissan Leaf does not feature exotic materials or extraordinary design characteristics. However, the Nissan Leaf’s cabin offers the same levels of functionality as its more conventional petrol driven counterparts. The dashboard features a gloss black floating center console that houses a large landscape oriented touchscreen for the infotainment system. Similar to the now discontinued Honda Civic, the Nissan Leaf’s instrument cluster too sports a dual display system. With the primary display housing the details for the battery guage, odometer and diagonostics; the secondary display is a dedicated unit for the speedometer. The three spoke steering wheel features controls for the infotainment system that handles features such as the music system, radio and navigation.

Interior of the Leaf
Interior of the Leaf

Kia Soul EV

The Kia Soul EV features a fairly standard interior with the center console sporting an infotainment system replete with navigation, Bluetooth telephony and automatic climate control. However, the white/beige color scheme of the Soul EV’s interior does induce a bit of dullness that is not present in its Japanese competitor.

The Kia Soul EV's interior is rather poorly designed when compared to its competitors
The Kia Soul EV’s interior is rather poorly designed when compared to its competitors

Winner: Nissan Leaf

Under the Hood

Nissan Leaf

Powering the Nissan electric hatchback is an 80 kW motor that churns out 109 hp and a peak torque of 187 lb-ft. While the power figures may not be groundbreaking, one must keep in mind that the Nissan Leaf is an electric vehicle that was developed from the ground up. As a result, the Leaf manages to utilize every horse in the most efficient way possible. The total claimed range offered by the Nissan Leaf is 84 miles.

The Nissan Leaf houses a fairly underpowered engine
The Nissan Leaf houses a fairly underpowered engine

Kia Soul EV

Unlike the Nissan Leaf, the Kia Soul EV is derived from a petrol model also sold in Kia’s international range. However, an electric model along with its associated requirements was taken into consideration during the design of the latest generation. As a result, the Kia Soul does not make too many compromises with regards to the space and electric range/power. In fact, Kia’s first electric offering manages to dish out better range (93 miles) than most of its competitors.

Kia's offering may prove to be a hit
Kia’s offering may prove to be a hit

Under the bonnet is a permanent-magnet AC motor that churns out 109 hp and a max torque of 210 lb-ft. Power is sent to the front wheels via a one speed direct drive gearbox.

Winner: Kia Soul EV

Verdict

Althought he Nissan Leaf may sport better styling than the Kia Soul EV and can also boast of being developed from the ground up, the little Japanese electric hatch needs significant rework to keep up with the competition. While the Kia Soul EV manages to win this one, both vehicles are in dire need of a radical revamp to produce themselves as serious competition to GM’s upcoming Bolt, a product heralded as a revolution in the electric automotive industry.

Hyundai’s Genesis G90 vs Mercedes Benz S Class

The luxury sedan segment has always been a three horse race. Unlike other segments, the luxury sedan section of the automotive market has always been more than just about the car itself; Owning such vehicles has now become a symbol or an aspiration one strives to achieve. As such, a luxury car’s features, design and price are not the only factors for purchase.

The insignia too becomes a vital aspect in the appeal of such cars. However, Hyundai begs to differ. The South Korean car maker has launched a new line of luxury cars under the moniker Genesis to showcase its potential as a luxury car maker. While other car makers such as Toyota, Nissan and Honda have attempted this formula in the past, Mercedes Benz, BMW and Audi have remained unshaken and the hierarchy remains to be challenged. For Hyundai to pose a significant opposition, the South Korean car maker will need to bring more than its fair share to the table. We pit the Genesis G90 against the Mercedes Benz S Class to see how the new kid on the block fairs.

Design

Genesis G90

The Genesis G90 serves as the successor to the Hyundai Equus. However, the new Genesis shares little to no resemblance to its ungainly ancestor. Unlike most vehicles in Hyundai’s range, the G90 and its lesser brother G80 follow a highly refined variant of the South Korean car maker’s Fluidic Sculpture design philosophy. As a result, the G90 exterior is calming mix of sharp lines and smooth contours as opposed to the vortex of chaos normally churned out by the car manufacturer. The front end features a large hexagonal chrome grille with LED/projector headlights flanking both sides. Following the Fluidic design methodology, every end point of the hexagonal grille acts as the starting point from which the car’s defining lines emerge. The lower bumper features a horizontal chrome strip that houses the LED DRLs. The rear features a pair of chrome lined exhaust tips adding a bit of sportiness to the overall theme of luxury.

The G90 will be first product under Hyundai's Genesis sub-brand
The G90 will be first product under Hyundai’s Genesis sub-brand

Mercedes Benz S Class

The Mercedes Benz S Class is a metal creature of gargantuan proportions. Sadly however, its size may be the only thing going for the S Class. Unlike previous generations that made use of subtle curves and sharp yet understated power lines, the S Class is an awkward mix of wild twists and turns that ultimately shocks more than it pleases.

mercedes benz s class
The all new Mercedes Benz S Class’ design methodology is a radical departure from previous generations

Interior

Genesis G90

The cabin of the Genesis is just as elegant as its exterior. The vast swathes of leather wrapped around the cabin is punctuated by elegant aluminium embellishments and wood work. While this may be Genesis’ first outing in the luxury full size sedan segment, the car maker has pulled all the stops to ensure that the G90’s occupants are enveloped in the most luxurious interior possible.

Mercedes Benz S Class

Similar to the G90, the Mercedes Benz S Class houses one of the most exquisite cabins in the automotive industry. One may even be bold enough to claim that the S Class’ interior showcases the pinnacle of design and sophistication in its segment. Some of the main highlights of the Benz flagship’s cabin are the brushed aluminium finishing, free flowing dashboard and large instrument panel cum infotainment system display.

2014 mercedes benz s class interior
The cabin of the Mercedes Benz S-Class

Under the Bonnet

Genesis G90

The all new Genesis product is offered with two engines. Lower variants of the G90 will house a 3.3 l twin turbocharged V6 that churns out 365 hp and 376lb-ft of peak torque while top end models will be driven by the more capable 5.0 l V8 that puts out an impressive 420 hp with a peak torque figure of 383 lb-ft. Both engines send power to the rear wheels via an eight speed automatic. However, an all wheel drive system is offered as an option. 

Genesis will offer only two engines for the G90 sedan
Genesis will offer only two engines for the G90 sedan

Mercedes Benz S Class

Unlike the relatively small range offered by Hyundai for its all new luxury sedan, Mercedes Benz offers the S Class with engines ranging from a mere 255 hp to a whopping 621 hp. Buyers also have the choice between petrol and diesel. The lowest variant of the Benz packs a 3.0 l turobcharged diesel mill that produces 255 hp and an impressive 620 Nm of torque. The smallest petrol variant is propelled by a mammoth 4.2 l that churns out 453 hp @ 5250 RPM with peak torque of 700 Nm coming in at 1800 RPM.

2014 mercedes benz s class engine
Mercedes Benz’s flagship is offered with a varied range of engines

Benz’s top end AMG line of S Class variants include a 577 hp twin turbocharged V8 and the 621 hp biturbo V12 monster: the German car maker’s crown jewel.

Verdict

Although the Genesis has all the makings of an excellent flagship from Hyundai, the car’s limited engine options and lack of brand value may inhibit its growth as a brand. However, that being said, the Genesis G90 is one of the most elegant cars in its segment and poses a sizable threat to the multitude of Japanese and German car makers that populate this segment.

Electric Rivalry: Chevrolet Bolt vs VW e-Golf

Electric vehicles have begun their slow ascent into mainstream markets. With cars such as the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf kicking off the revolution, big players such as Volkswagen and Chevy too have decided to enter the arena. While some car makers have opted to create electric vehicles from scratch, others have retro-fitted existing models with electric drivetrains. Although Tesla was expected to launch the world’s first truly accessible long range electric car, Chevrolet managed to steal the crown by launching its Bolt hatchback.

The Chevy Bolt competes in a segment heavily populated by other major car makers such as Volkswagen, Fiat, Ford and Kia. However, the low range, high cost and lack of infrastructure still does not allow electric vehicles to be explored as a viable alternative to their fossil powered counterparts. However, with its 200 mile range and affordable price tag, the Chevrolet Bolt may just be the car that acts as a catalyst for the EV revolution. We pit the recently unveiled Chevrolet Bolt against another one of its rivals: the VW e-Golf, a popular hatch in its conventional avatar and see if the American car maker’s latest can take on German engineering.

Design

Chevrolet Bolt

Chevrolet’s Bolt hatchback is a surprisingly conventional machine that closely resembles the most recent Spark (recognized as the Beat here in India). The front fascia presents itself with an all black plastic grille with distinct design elements that add a bit of character to the otherwise inconspicuous road presence of the Bolt. Further aiding in the Bolt’s visual appeal is its swept back headlamps, LED DRLs and contrasting black ORVMs. Unlike the wildly zany design philosophies of current generation Toyota Prius or Faraday Future’s FFZERO1 concept, the Bolt has been designed specifically to remain as contemporary and modern with a bit of flavor that ensures the electric vehicle is pleasing to the eye without running the risk of being offensive.

 

2017 chevrolet electric hatch
Front view of the upcoming Bolt hatchback

VW e-Golf

Volkswagen’s Golf hatchback remains one of the most striking cars in its segment despite its old age. The subtle curves and no-nonsense design philosophy lends the e-Golf a bit of sporty elegance. In keeping with the theme of the e-Golf’s new tech under the bonnet, the Golf’s signature red strip that runs along the front grille has been replaced with that of a blue one.

vw e-golf front three quarter
The VW e-Golf has changed little over its life as a petrol hatch

Winner: VW e-Golf

Interior

Chevrolet Bolt

The interiors of the Chevy Bolt is an impressive mixture of tech and style. The dashboard features a fully digitized instrument cluster and a large touchscreen display unit for its navigation and infotainment system while the controls and display unit for the climate control are located just below the screen. Unlike the hatch’s exterior, the rest of Bolt’s cabin is far from dramatic. Chevy has fitted the Bolt with a standard white/gray upholstery with silver finishes all around.

interiors chevrolet bolt
Interiors of the new Chevy Bolt

VW e-Golf

Similar to the exterior, the interior of the e-Golf features a functional approach to design. As such, the cabin of the VW e-Golf features plain beige upholstery and a neatly organized dashboard. The flat bottomed steering wheel and chrome embellishments add a bit of sportiness to the otherwise somber nature of the e-Golf’s cabin. Unlike the Chevy Bolt, VW has fitted the e-Golf with the conventional instrument cluster that features analogue dials for the speedometer, tachometer and digital readouts for the fuel gauge, odometer and tripmeter. While the e-Golf’s restrained design methodology creates a sense of class, the cabin succumbs to the very same problem that plagues most current generation Volkswagen cars: the design feels far too clinical with no sense of passion ingrained into its development.

volkswagen e-golf hatch interior
The e-Golf’s cabin is decidedly VW

Winner: Chevy Bolt

Under the Hood

Chevrolet Bolt

Powering the Chevy Bolt is an electric motor that churns out  200 hp and a peak torque of 266 lb-ft. The 60 kWh battery powering the Bolt’s motor allows the new American hatch to achieve a whopping 200 miles of range; the best in its class. With fast charging capability, the Chevy Bolt can manage upto 50 miles of range with a mere 2 hours of charge. 

rear three quarter of the chevrolet bolt
The new motor and battery offer an impressive 200 miles of range

VW e-Golf

Powering the e-Golf hatch is a front mounted electric motor that churns out 115 hp and a max torque figure of 199 lb-ft. Power is sent to the front wheels via a one speed gearbox. Power is supplied to the motor through the 24.2 kWh battery Li-Ion battery pack. While these numbers may have been impressive during the time of launch, the Bolt’s immense range and greater power proves to be the makings of a better EV.

2015 vw e-golf engine
VW’s electric motor and battery pack does not offer the same amount of punch or range as its competitor

Winner: Chevy Bolt

Verdict

Although the VW e-Golf is a fairly upmarket hatchback, the car’s few shortcomings (range, power) are also its biggest weaknesses. For an electric car to serve as a replacement for petrol or diesel powered vehicles, the question of range must be answered. As such, the e-Golf fails in this aspect. While the Chevy Bolt may not arrive until 2017, the American hatch has the makings of becoming the catalyst for the electric car revolution.

Lexus LC500 Coupe vs BMW M4

The sports saloon segment in the international market has been completely dominated by BMW over the past several decades. Despite the arrival of various other car makers to this segment, BMW’s M3 remains the benchmark to this day. The years of assimilation and the legacy of previous generations has allowed the BMW M3 to stay well above the competition.

However, Lexus hopes to stir the pot with its all new LC 500 luxury sports coupe. Up until recently, the M3 coupe (now known as the M4) battled it out with its other German rivals: the Mercedes AMG C63 and Audi’s RS5. With the LC 500, Lexus seeks to break into a market populated by car makers that have had years to nurture their products. So how well does the new Lexus fair against Bimmer’s M4? We find out.

Design

Lexus LC 500 Coupe

Leuxs’ LC 500 may be one of the most striking cars in the segment. While Mercedes Benz, Audi and BMW adopt a more subtle approach to design, Lexus has taken a different route. The LC 500’s dramatic design philosophy is reminiscent of Japanese sports cars of yesteryear. Similar to the RC-F launched earlier, the LC-500 too dons the family spindle grille. Unlike most sports cars, the LC 500 features sharp, small headlights accentuated by LED DRLs that generate an aesthetic commonly associated with exotic Italian supercars (read Lamborghini). The theatrical persona of the LC 500 is further increased with the addition of a wide body stance, large air vents on either side and heavily sculpted bodywork.

The Lexus LC 500 is the latest addition to the car maker's sports range
The Lexus LC 500 is the latest addition to the car maker’s sports range

BMW M4

Unlike previous generations, BMW has made significant changes to the coupe variant of the M3. As a result, the M4 features a more aggressive body kit with zany color options. The front end sports a pair of large air vents, chrome grille and a heavily sculpted bonnet. Other notable aspects of the M4’s exterior are the dual pair of exhausts located on either side of the car and the reworked lower bumper. While the aggressive design philosophy may have its fans, one of the major highlights of the previous generations was the subtle approach to the bodywork taken by BMW.

The new BMW M4 is rather brash in design as opposed to the understated elegance of previous generations
The new BMW M4 is rather brash in design as opposed to the understated elegance of previous generations

Winner: Lexus LC 500 Coupe

Interior

Lexus LC500 Coupe

Unlike conventional sports cars that generate an aura of sportiness within, the LC 500 Coupe bathes its occupants in luxurious excess. Every inch of the Japanese sports car’s cabin is bathed in premium leather, suede and aluminium. The cabin also features a distinct divide between the cockpit and the passenger side further laying emphasis of the LC 500’s stance as a driver’s car. Similar to the Lexus LFA, the LC 500 comes with an all digital instrument cluster that features a large central tachometer with auxiliary data displayed on either side. One of the most defining traits of the Lexus LC 500’s interior is the glass bed that encases the infotainment system’s display and analogue clock. While the infotainment system’s display is centrally mounted for easy viewing, the central divide does not allow the passenger complete control of the car’s various features.

The interior of the Lexus LC 500 is a beautiful amalgam of leather, aluminium and cutting edge tech
The interior of the Lexus LC 500 is a beautiful amalgam of leather, aluminium and cutting edge tech

BMW M4

Unlike its Japanese rival, the M4’s cabin sports a slick, all black sporty theme replete with carbon fibre across the dashboard, center console and doors. The driver is greeted by a three spoke leather wrapped steering wheel and an all analogue instrument cluster. Similar to most current generation Bimmers, the M4 also features the familiar iDrive infotainment system.

The M4 features a sporty all black cabin
The M4 features a sporty all black cabin

Under the Bonnet

Lexus LC500 Coupe

The Lexus LC 500 may be one of the few cars still making use of naturally aspirated engines. The front mounted 5.0 l V8 produces 467 hp and a peak torque of 389 lb-ft. Power is sent to the rear wheels via an all new 10 speed automatic gearbox.

Powering the Lexus LC 500 is a now endangered naturally aspirated V8 engine
Powering the Lexus LC 500 is a now endangered naturally aspirated V8 engine

BMW M4

Powering the M4 is a twin turbocharged inline six cylinder engine that produces 425 hp @ 7300 RPM and an impressive 406 lb-ft of torque at 1850 RPM. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a seven speed dual clutch automatic gearbox.

The M4 features a powerful twin turbocharged inline six cylinder engine
The M4 features a powerful twin turbocharged inline six cylinder engine

Verdict

Unlike most cars in this segment, Lexus has opted to give equal focus to both luxury and performance with its LC 500. As a result, the LC 500 may not be able to go head to head with its competitors. However, few can argue that this compromise is a deal breaker. The LC 500 features one of the most beautiful cabins ever fitted into a car let alone a sports car. While enthusiasts will remain loyal to the BMW M4, Lexus will definitely make its mark with the LC 500.

Hydrogen Car Shootout: Toyota Mirai vs Honda Clarity

Investments in alternative energy sources has seen a dramatic increase over the past few years. This is partly due to the mounting concern of the environment and the fast depleting reserves of oils around the world. While most manufacturers have turned to electric or eletro-petrol drivetrains, a few manufacturers have taken a different route. Car makers such as Toyota, Honda and even Hyundai have turned to hydrogen. Although hydrogen was considered a highly unstable source of immense energy back in the nineteenth century, scientists and engineers have managed to store the element within fuel cells; a far safer format. Here, we take a look at Toyota and Honda, two of the biggest Japanese automakers in the world and see how their hydrogen based products fare against each other.

Design

Toyota Mirai

The Toyota Mirai is one of the most striking sedans currently available in the market. The front plays host to sleek, sporty all-LED headlights and vertically stacked LED daytime running lights and a heavily sculpted lower bumper that sports chrome accents along the fog lamp enclosures. The sharp contours and aggressive design language remains close to Toyota’s current philosophy and provides the Mirai with an aura of sportiness mixed with futurism. The side features flared wheel arches that flow into rear and integrate with the tail lights. The singular brake light strip that runs along the width of the Mirai and its taillight cluster design brings to mind a more cyberpunk theme than that of a contemporary one.

The Toyota Mirai
The Toyota Mirai

Honda Clarity

The Honda Clarity’s exterior is far more conventional than the Toyota Mirai. However, despite the unassuming silhouette, standard bonnet and orthodox ORVMs, the front grille features a sliver accent that runs along the entirety of the Honda Clarity’s front end to integrate directly with the headlights. This atypical design style coupled with the vertically stacked LED DRLs provide the Clarity with some much needed personality. The full size sedan also features the headlight design commonly seen on more upmarket models from the Japanese car maker marketed under the moniker Acura.

Honda's Mirai rival, the Clarity
Honda’s Mirai rival, the Clarity

Winner: Toyota Mirai

Interior

Toyota Mirai

The interior of the Mirai sedan plays host to one of the most advanced dashboards ever fitted on a Toyota. With a primary display for the infotainment system and a smaller secondary display unit for the climate controls, the Mirai allows for easy access for the most commonly used features in a vehicle. Both units are controlled by capacitive touch keys while the primary display serves as a touchscreen as well. Similar to a few models available here in India, Toyota has adopted a centrally mounted instrument cluster rather than the more conventional driver side position. The instrument cluster features three separate displays. With the first display feeding the user a summary of important data such as driving mode, fuel gauge, current speed and fuel economy; The secondary display produces a “green” score indicating the efficiency of the user’s driving style while the third display is a conventional LED digital clock.

Interior of the Mirai
Interior of the Mirai

While the dashboard of the Mirai is extremely striking to look at, the rest of the cabin is far more conventional. The all black interior accentuated by silver finishes provides a sporty feel with luxurious undertones.

Honda Clarity

Similar to its exteriors, the Honda Clarity’s cabin is fairly conventional. The all black cabin features a conventional infotainment system and  digital displays for the instrument cluster and climate control. The main unit is a touchscreen system that allows control over climate control and the music system. However, unlike most manufacturers that offer in-house developed music systems, the Clarity comes with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Winner: Toyota Mirai

Under the Hood

Toyota Mirai

Powering the Toyota Mirai is a front mounted synchronous AC motor that is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. Power is sent to the front wheels via a one speed gearbox. Despite its immense weight and the meager 152 hp dished out by the hydrogen fuel cell powered electric motor, the Mirai manages the 0-100 kmph milestone in an impressive 9.4 seconds.

The Mirai's produces only water as exhaust from the engine
The Mirai’s produces only water as exhaust from the engine

Honda Clarity

The Honda Clarity is also powered by a synchronous electric motor that churns out 134 hp and 189 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels through a single speed gearbox.

The Clarity is one of the few rivals to the Mirai
The Clarity is one of the few rivals to the Mirai

Winner: Draw

Verdict

Although the Honda Clarity fits more people in its cabin, the Toyota Mirai beats its competitor in almost every other conceivable way. The cyberpunk aesthetic, upmarket interiors and LED/projector headlights produce a feeling of luxury and a road presence stronger than even most entry level sports cars. The Mirai is a sign of a bright and interesting future.

Fisker Automotive: The Karma Hybrid and VLF Force 1 V10

Fisker Automotive was an American hybrid car manufacturer from California. The California based car maker introduced the Karma and was pivotal in creating the industry’s premium hybrid car segment. Despite the Karma receiving positive reviews, the company was unable to generate enough profit to stay afloat and CEO and co-founder Henrik Fisker resigned from the company.

Soon after Fisker filed for bankruptcy as well. Prior to its acquisition by Chinese conglomerate Wanxiang Group, Fisker focused on developing premium hybrids that made clever use of unique materials such as wildfire hardwood and premium animal free leather. We take a look at what Fisker aimed to be as a car maker before and after its acquisition by Chinese auto part conglomerate Wanxiang.

 

Fisker Karma

Design

Henrik Fisker was originally a designer and played a pivotal role in the designs of iconic cars such as the Aston Martin Vantage V8, the DB9 and the BMW Z8. As a result, the Fisker Karma has been endowed with a beautifully sculpted shell. The front end’s notable characteristics include a chrome accentuated large split grille, solar panelled roof and a chiseled bonnet. The roof slopes gently into the rear end that features all LED taillights and an auxiliary brake light mounted in the middle of the trunk.

Front thee quarters of the Karma hybrid
Front thee quarters of the Karma hybrid

Interior

Passengers are greeted by a tastefully designed cabin replete with leather, aluminium and wood work. The center console features a large touchscreen infotainment system that controls most of the Fisker Karma’s features such as the air conditioning, safety mechanisms and entertainment system. Drivers are treated to a premium leather wrapped three spoke steering wheel that features aluminium accents and a fully digitized instrument cluster. The combination of various shades of hazel leather, wood and minimal use of aluminium creates an pervading tone of luxury with sporty undertones. In keeping with the theme of reduce, reuse and recycle, the Fisker hybrid features an interesting mix of components that include rescued California wildfire hardwood, fossilized leaves and recycled metal.

Interiors of the Fisker Karma
Interiors of the Fisker Karma

Under the Bonnet

Although the Fisker Karma does house a petrol powered engine, it merely serves to power the electric motor that actually drives the car. The permanent synchronous motor sends 235 hp to the rear wheels via a 1 speed direct drive gearbox. However, the Fisker Karma’s electric motor can work in tandem with the inline turbocharged 4 cylinder petrol engine to bump up the horse power numbers to an impressive 402 hp and 959 lb-ft of peak torque.

The Fisker Karma employed a hybrid drivetrain
The Fisker Karma employed a hybrid drivetrain

Fisker VLF Force 1 V10

Design

With a change in time comes a change in priorities. Although Fisker originally started out as an hybrid manufacturer that focused on building earth friendly products, the all new Force 1 V10 is a far cry from what Fisker Automotive originally sought to achieve. Developed in conjunction with VLF, an American luxury car maker, the Force 1 V10’s design is based off the Dodge Viper. As such, the Force 1 V10 sports a long bonnet, numerous air scoops, exaggerated wheel arches, a massive front air dam and heavily sculpted bodywork. The dramatic persona of the Force 1 V10 is further enhanced by its large 21 inch wheels, concave front end and muscle car like proportions.

Front three quarters of the Fisker VLF Force 1 V10
Front three quarters of the Fisker VLF Force 1 V10

Interior

Fisker has endowed the Force 1 V10 with a beautifully crafted cabin. With ultra luxury components such as bespoke quilted Alcantarra seats, suede and champagne bottle holders, the interior is stark contrast to the track focused outer shell of the Fisker VLF Force 1 V10. The large center console that runs along the length of the cabin plays host to a large touchscreen infotainment system and controls for various aspects of the car such as the climate control mechanism, alternate driving modes and others. The driver is greeted by a leather wrapped three spoke steering wheel that sports gloss black accents.

Interiors of Fisker's latest creation
Interiors of Fisker’s latest creation

Under the Bonnet

Powering the Fisker VLF Force 1 V10 is a massive 8.4 l V10 engine borrowed from the Dodge Viper. While the stonking V10 produces a mere 645 hp, the folks over at VLF have managed to churn out a whopping 745 horsepower and a peak torque of 638 lb-ft.  The massive V10 is mated to an six-speed manual and an optional six-speed automatic with paddle shifters. Fisker VLF claim its latest creation manages to hit the 100 km/h mark in under 4 seconds with a top speed of an unimaginable 350.83 km/h.

The V10 is derived from the Dodge Viper
The V10 is derived from the Dodge Viper

Although Fisker started out as a manufacturer seeking to re-imagine hybrids as suave vehicles of comfort and opulence, the car maker was marred by legal hassles, budgetary constraints and overall poor inital reception of its maiden product. As a result, the once promising hybrid manufacturer has ditched its eco-friendly efforts and moved on to developing products in a segment that is populated by prospective customers looking to indulge and shows no signs of slowing down.

Chevrolet Bolt: World’s First Accessible Long Range Electric Car

interiors chevrolet bolt

Electric vehicle technology has not seen the same levels of adoption as hybrids from major automakers. This is partly due to the ungodly sum required for the ground up development of such cars and the general lack of infrastructure supporting such vehicles in most countries. However, with mounting fuel prices and the governments offering vast tax benefits for EVs, the race to build the first truly accessible long range electric vehicle was on.

With names such as Tesla and BMW being experts’ favorites, GM surprised the world by unveiling the Chevy Bolt earlier this month at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show and beat its rivals to showcase the world’s first accessible long range EV. We take a look at what the Chevy Bolt offers and whether the American hatch can really replace its petrol powered rivals.

 

The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle provides 200 miles of range and is priced well below any other close rival.
The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle provides 200 miles of range and is priced well below any other close rival.

Design

The upcoming Chevy Bolt is a stylish hatchback similar in many aspects to the Spark (better known as the Beat here in India). The front fascia sports an all black plastic grille that features tastefully inserted detailing. Both the grille and the bumper lack the conventional air dams in most fossil fuel driven cars to improve aerodynamics. While petrol and diesel driven vehicles require cooling in the form of air flow to the engine bay, the Bolt’s electric drivetrain allows for a more interesting front fascia design.

 

GM beat electric giant Tesla and newcomer Faraday Future by delivering the world's first truly accessible long range electric vehicle.
GM beat electric giant Tesla and newcomer Faraday Future by delivering the world’s first truly accessible long range electric vehicle.

The rear plays host to a pair of full LED tail lamps with a heavily sculpted bumper better suited on more muscular cars such as the Colorado or the Canyon. The mix of muscle and urban sport makes for an extremely attractive electric vehicle.

 

The Chevy Bolt is a four door compact hatchback comparable to the Beat or Suzuki Swift
The Chevy Bolt is a four door compact hatchback comparable to the Beat or Suzuki Swift

Interior

The interior of the Chevy Bolt is far more modern than any of its conventional rivals. The dashboard plays host to a large landscape oriented display for the infotainment system with controls for seat adjustment and climate control located beneath it. Chevy has done away with analog displays for the instrument cluster and has replaced it with a high res multi function LCD display. The driver is greeted by the instantly familiar three spoke Chevy steering wheelWhile the dashboard is one of the best in the hatchback market, little else within the cabin is pleasing to the eye. The dull gray/white upholstery is rather conventional and is a far cry from the Bolt’s exterior and dashboard design. Chevy has also managed to fit in numerous cubby holes around the interior to further increase usability. Although the Bolt sports a seemingly ordinary cabin for an revolutionary product, one must keep in mind that the Bolt is to be an accessible EV.

 

The interiors are fairly standard and the Bolt is as well equipped as its petrol powered rivals
The interiors are fairly standard and the Bolt is as well equipped as its petrol powered rivals

Under The Hood

Powering the Chevrolet Bolt’s motor is a 60 kWh lithium ion battery. The motor produces an impressive 200 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque, 59 horsepower more than Chevy’s other electric hatch: Spark. However, the new Bolt is a whopping 290 kg heavier than the Spark. Chevy’s electric hatch can also deliver upto 50 miles of range with 2 hours of charge on a 240 V socket. The American automaker also stated that with a 480 V DC power supply, the Bolt hatch can get 90 miles of juice in half an hour. While the Bolt does not feature record breaking performance stats, the car’s main selling point is its range. Chevy claims that the Bolt EV can manage 200 miles on a single charge, one of the longest in the market.

Powering the Bolt is a 60 kWh battery that offers over 200 miles of range.
Powering the Bolt is a 60 kWh battery that offers about 200 miles of range and a mere half an hour of charge offers 90 miles of range.

With a base price of 37,500 USD prior to any incentives that may be applicable in the US, the Chevrolet Bolt is one of the most accessible electric hatchbacks money can buy. Although the BMW i3 provides a more futuristic experience, the Bolt aims at being an affordable, comfortable car that also avoids terrorizing the atmosphere.

With its snazzy exterior, well equipped interior and high range, the Chevrolet Beat makes for more than just an impressive EV; it makes for an impressive car in general
With its snazzy exterior, well equipped interior and high range, the Chevrolet Beat makes for more than just an impressive EV; it makes for an impressive car in general

Petrol vs Electric: Tesla Model X vs Audi Q7

Hybrid and electric vehicles are increasingly bridging the gap between themselves and conventional petrol or diesel driven vehicles. Cars such as the recently unveiled Chevy Bolt and the more upmarket Tesla Model S showcase the extent to which electric cars have matched their fossil fuel counterparts. The most recent launch from Tesla, the Model X is the company’s and the world’s first fully electric luxury SUV. We compare it to one of the giants of the segment, the 2016 Audi Q7 and see how the American crossover fares against a fully loaded, heavy duty SUV.

Exterior

Tesla Model X:

The Tesla Model X features one of the cleanest designs of current gen crossovers. With only a few distinct lines defining the entire body, the Model X seeks to reduce the aerodynamic drawback of being an SUV. However, Tesla has made no compromises on design. The dynamic spoiler, low-angle wrap over front windscreen and falcon doors make for substantial road presence. Little is borrowed from the Model S sedan. Despite its relatively small size, the Model X is even capable of seating six to seven passengers.

The Tesla Model X
The Tesla Model X

2016 Audi Q7:

The 2016 Q7 is the long awaited revamp of the first generation Audi Q7. Audi’s latest flagship SUV has adopted a few crossover elements to be a better all-rounder than its predecessor. Based off VW’s second generation MLB platform, the all new Q7 has been constructed with more aluminium and revised suspension to offer a more dynamic ride.

The all new Audi Q7
The all new Audi Q7

Visually, the Q7 adopts the same design philosophy as the Audi Q3 and Q5. As such, the new Q7 ditches its slick, sports car avatar in favor of a more conventional butch character. The prominent chrome lined hexagonal grille is flanked by large horizontally stacked full LED headlights provides a towering presence on the streets. Unlike the previous model, the fog lamp enclosures located on the bumpers actually feature fog lamps.

Interior:

Tesla Model X:

Similar to the Model S, the Tesla Model X’s cabin takes a mimalist approach. The interior is a luxurious blend of gloss black plastics and premium white leather. No buttons, knobs, multiple displays or levers adorn the dashboard save for the familiar portrait mounted touchscreen tablet and the fully digital LCD panel that acts as the driver’s instrument cluster. Despite its crossover category, the Model X seeks to seat six to seven passengers with three rows of seats. Unlike conventional middle row seats, the Model X’s middle row rests on movable pedestals to allow easy mount/dismount to and from the third row seats.

Interiors of the new Model X SUV
Interiors of the new Model X SUV

One of the most striking aspects of the Model X are its door mechanisms. Not only can all four doors be opened and closed remotely from the main center console, the rear passenger doors open upwards rather than the concentional side hinge layout. Dubbed falcon doors, Tesla’s implementation is quite unique. Unlike almost all door systems that uses hinges at a single point, Tesla’s falcon door system feature double hinged doors with sensors embedded within the sheetmetal to scan the outside environment. Should the Model X be placed in a tight spot, the doors dynamically adjust the angles at which they unfold to ensure that occupants can exit no matter the circumstance. As the Model X is electric, the SUV features luggage space both at the front and the rear offering the most space in its class.

2016 Audi Q7:

The 2016 Audi Q7’s cabin is a rich mixture of wood, aluminium and premium leather. The dashboard sports two displays for various purposes. While the secondary display is mainly used to view current climate control settings, the larger primary pop up unit displays common infotainment system details such as navigation, music and also doubles up as the rear view camera feed. The driver is greeted by a sporty leather clad three spoke steering wheel fitted with the now conventional steering mounted controls. Similar to most high end luxury vehicles, Audi has replaced the conventional analog instrument cluster with a large 12.3 inch LCD display. Better known as the Virtual Cockpit, the display feeds information to the driver based on context. As such, the instrument cluster can display current route on navigation, speed, tachometer and various other aspects of the environment or car. This configurable display is already in use on the latest TT and R8 sports car models.

The cabin of the 2017 Audi Q7
The cabin of the 2017 Audi Q7

Under The Hood:

Tesla Model X:

The Tesla Model X is a fully electric vehicle that at launch, will be offered with all wheel drive only. Based on the variants, the Model X will have varying degrees of power sent to all four wheels with the range topping P90D model powered by a whopping 762 hp and 713 lb-ft of torque.

The Model X features four wheel drive for now
The Model X features four wheel drive for now

2016 Audi Q7:

The Audi Q7’s range topping model SQ7 variant houses a diesel powered V8 TDi that will be one of the first cars in the market to feature electric turbochargers. However, despite the new technology, the Audi Q7’s total power output ( hp) is still far below the Model X.

The new Q7 has an updated engine
The new Q7 has an updated engine

Verdict

The Model X is easily one of the most impressive cars ever made and serves as a brilliant alternative to gas guzzling full size SUVs such as the Audi Q7.

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