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+

Top 5 Concepts at CES 2016

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has evolved into more than just a platform for new innovations in the field of technology. Over the past few years, car makers from around the world flock to Las Vegas to showcase their latest advancements in their upcoming cars. CES has given rise to numerous interesting technologies such as Audi’s Piloted Driving, Volvo’s Vehicle to Vehicle Communication System and of course the debut of hyped Tesla rival, Faraday Future. We take a look at the most interesting concepts that debuted at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show.

1. BMW i8 Convertible

BMW’s got its hands in every segment of the auto industry from six seater family MPVs to high performance saloons. The German car maker has various divisions within which some of its most impressive works are born. BMW’s i section is one such division. The i division is to hybrids what the M division is to performance:  a section of the company solely focused on  hybrid vehicles and drivetrains.  With continually restricting emission norms and the loss of power associated with smaller powerhouses, the i division’s opening act was the phenomenal i8, an example of how small engined hybrids can pack a punch strong enough to knock down even the most blue blooded sports cars. For those who felt the i8’s cyberpunk styling and swan doors were not enough, BMW has now revealed an advanced convertible concept of the i8 at CES 2016.

 

bmw i vision future interaction concept
The BMW iVision Future Interaction Concept is a convertible variant of the critically acclaimed i8 hubrd sports car.

Dubbed the i Vision Future Interaction Concept, BMW’s latest concept previews numerous updates that may make it to the next iteration if the i8 hybrid. The dashboard features a large 21 inch display towards the passenger side that acts as the main control unit for various elements of the car. Similar to the Porsche Mission E concept showcased sometime ago, the German sports car features gesture control that allows the driver to interact with the UI. Similar to Tesla’s infotainment system, the German car maker’s AirTouch system eliminates the need for physical input mechanisms such as buttons or knobs. As such, the cabin is far more minimal and is in stark contrast to its exterior design.

2. Chevrolet Bolt

The Chevy Bolt was a welcome surprise at this year’s CES. With GM launching the first ever accessible long range EV, the American automakers has beaten crowd favorite Tesla to the future of mobility. Although the Bolt may not feature radical styling or massive amounts of tech to soothe its passengers, the $37,500 price tag prior to government incentives makes it the very first budget long range electric vehicle to hit the market. The American hatchback currently has no direct rivals. However, Chevrolet will soon have to contend with Tesla’s Model 3.

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.

3. Volkswagen BUDD-e Concept

VW’s presence at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show was heavy on agenda. Following the largely publicized scandal regarding the car maker’s diesel engines, Volkswagen has entered into damage control mode. To regain the faith of the general public, the German auto giant has opted to showcase a dizzying array of concepts and new models that are either eletric vehicles or hybrids to showcase the company’s keen intentions of conserving energy and the environment.

The Volkswagen BUDD-e concept is an all electric concept van. The micro-bus seeks to re-imagine car pooling.
The Volkswagen BUDD-e concept is an all electric concept van. The micro-bus seeks to re-imagine car pooling.

4. Faraday Future FFZERO1

Faraday Future’s FFZERO1 concept stunned eager EV enthusiasts all over the world. Instead of a compact, affordable electric sedan, the public was treated to a cyberpunk themed dedicated racer. While most fans were disappointed in Faraday Future’s choice of concept/model to showcase, the FFZERO1 was one of the few concepts in the past few years to evoke a sense of awe and wonder when revealed.

The FFZERO1 is a dramatic concept designed to express the company's image of itself. The car features a four wheel drive system and is propelled by over 1000 hp
The FFZERO1 is a dramatic concept designed to express the company’s image of itself. The car features a four wheel drive system and is propelled by over 1000 hp

5. Rinspeed Etos

Few can argue that the BMW i8 lacks power and cutting edge technology. However, a boutique Swiss designer feels otherwise. The Rinspeed Etos is a self driving BMW i8 that also features its own drone. The Rinspeed Etos’ interior marks a significant departure from the contemporary approach of the current generation i8. With two 21.5 inch curved display monitors and a foldable steering wheel, the dashboard of the Rinspeed Etos embraces autonomous driving technology like no other manufacturer before it.

The Rinspeed Etos also makes numerous cosmetic upgrades to the i8.
The Rinspeed Etos also makes numerous cosmetic upgrades to the i8.

Porsche Mission E: First Blue Blooded Electric Sports Car

With the onslaught of electric concepts and production vehicles set to hit markets all over the world, electric vehicles are without a doubt the future of the automotive world. While a few manufacturers are exploring other areas such as hydrogen fuel cells and bioethanol, the industry’s keen interest in electricity driven vehicles is likely to give EVs a huge head start in the race to create the first zero-emission fleet.

Porsche, one of the few sports car makers with a hybrid supercar already in the market has showcased its first fully electric sports car concept. Dubbed the Mission E, the new concept serves as a platform for the German carmaker’s new E Performance philosophy. We take a look at Porsche’s take on the electric vehicle.

The Porsche Mission E Concept car is aimed squarely at Tesla
The Porsche Mission E Concept car is aimed squarely at Tesla

Design:

Porsche’s Mission E Concept is not a radical revamp of the German car maker’s design language. Borrowing modern day Porsche elements such as the current gen 918 front end and the 90’s 911 rear, the Mission E is a tantalizing blend of past, present and future. The headlights, composed of four separate units that make up the LED matrix, come fitted with an array of sensors for the various assistance systems. Despite being a four door sedan, the Mission E retains its sports car persona by sitting much lower than conventional saloons. As a result, the car is a mere 1.3 m in height.

Porsche's Mission E Concept will be the first full fledged electric sports car
Porsche’s Mission E Concept will be the first full fledged electric sports car from a mainstream high performance car maker

Aerodynamics play an important role in Porsche’s design and the Mission E is no exception. The sides feature a distinct lack of features to improve air flow. The ORVMs have been done away with for a more advanced camera system. Porsche also claims that additional safety information can be beamed directly onto the images that are projected onto the windshield. The rear features a single taillight that runs through the entire width of the car and is accented by a black glass pane.

The exterior of the Mission E concept from Porsche is a blend of retro and contemporary design methodology
The exterior of the Mission E concept from Porsche is a blend of retro and contemporary design methodology

Interior:

Interiors of the Porsche Mission E are decidedly minimal and retro. Similar to ultra luxury cars such as the Rolls Royce Phantom and Ghost, the Porsche Mission E seeks to make suicide doors mainstream once more. Suicide doors are essentially car doors that hinge at the front instead of the back. While suicide doors ease the process of entry and egress, they pose a greater risk of occupants falling out of the vehicle. However, with the introduction of seat belts and the use of such a system limited to only the rear doors, the risks are greatly reduced. The cabin is divided into two halves by the center console that extends all the way to the rear of the electric sedan. Although this system limits the occupant number to a maximum of four, it allows for advanced seat adjustment features for each car.

Passengers are greeted by suicide doors; a trait largely unseen in full size sports sedans
Passengers are greeted by suicide doors; a trait largely unseen in full size sports sedans

The Mission E’s dashboard sports three different displays. The primary display located on the center console serves as the main control center for the electric sports car’s major functions such as climate control, audio system, suspension setup etc. Porsche has also installed a secondary LCD unit that runs along the dashboard of the EV that broadcasts information in a manner accessible by the other passengers. The driver’s instrument cluster is the third and final display. While configurable instrument clusters are slowly becoming the norm in the industry, the German car maker takes it one step further with a 3D system that tracks eye position and dynamically adjusts gauge readout positions for optimal viewing angles.

Interiors are fairly modern with Porsche adopting a minimalist theme all around
Interiors are fairly modern with Porsche adopting a minimalist theme all around

Under the Hood:

Powering the Porsche Mission E is a pair of PSM (Permanently Excited Synchronous Machine) motors that produce a total of 440 kW (600 hp). With a 0-100 km/h time of 3.5 seconds, the Mission E falls behind the Tesla Model S on its ludicrous mode. However, with fast charging capability that recharges the battery to 80% in a mere 15 minutes, the Mission E seeks to eliminate the hassle of long waits between charges. However, with a range of 500 km, the Mission E seeks to eliminate charging between trips altogether. Porsche also offers the choice between two charging methods: inductive charging (wireless) and the conventional plug in type.

Faraday Future: Does Tesla has future?

The EV industry has been ramping up extensively over the past five years. With mainstream manufacturers such as BMW, Mercedes Benz, VW and GM now focusing heavily on hybrid and electric vehicles, it won’t be long until we begin seeing a large influx of fully electric vehicles that offers levels of convenience similar to that of the tried and tested fossil fuel powered locomotive. Out of all the manufacturers big and small, one name stands out as the leading horse in this race: Tesla Motors

The American automaker has been making major headway in this field with cars such as the Roadster, Model S and the recently launched Model X. With Tesla selling cars in the luxury sedan and crossover markets since 2012, it seemed that the EV industry soon became a one horse race.

However, at CES 2016, mysterious indie electric car maker going by the moniker Faraday Future showcased its first ever vehicle for the public. We take a look at what Faraday Future and its concept, the FFZERO1 hopes to achieve and if its enough to topple EV giant Tesla.

The FFZERO1 is a dramatic concept designed to express the company's image of itself
The FFZERO1 is a dramatic concept designed to express the company’s image of itself

Although the general public and media remained largely clueless about the manufacturer’s plans, a considerable amount of hype was built around the newcomer’s debut earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Expo and was even touted to be a Tesla killer. For the brand’s first big preview, the car maker showcased a futuristic concept that supposedly represents the company.

Dubbed the FFZERO1, the concept has been designed as an exercise in publicity with the actual production model being closer to an affordable mid size sedan than an out and out sports car. While the FFZERO1’s exterior shell is more 2500 AD than 2016, the car does feature numerous components that will make it to the more conventional production ready car.

The car features styling elements that will make it to the car maker's first production model
The car features styling elements that will make it to the car maker’s first production model

The buzzword of the future of automobiles is modular and the FFZERO1 features a modular framework that allows the same underpinnings to be used in a vast array of differing scenarios. Faraday Future claims that its framework can be scaled based on the need to produce front wheel drive sedans to four wheel drive SUVs. Key characteristics of the start up’s Variable Platform Architecture is a layer of batteries found below the floor of the car. Faraday Future claims that the use of multiple batteries eases the burden of swapping or changing batteries.

The FFZERO1's underpinnings is modular and can be implemented on a wide array of body types and drivetrains
The FFZERO1’s underpinnings is modular and can be implemented on a wide array of body types and drivetrains

Visually, the FFZERO1 is absolutely stunning. The concept is a single seater that features completely radical implementations of regular car features such as entry & exit, infotainment system, instrument clusters. The exterior sports a ton of aero bits aiding in the wow factor. Its front end features a horizontal line that wraps around the car that is claimed to be the signature characteristic of all future models. The massive diffusers and spoiler adorning the rear of the FF concept is mildly reminiscent of the ultra rare Veneno from Lamborghini. Drivers enter the cockpit via the fighter jet inspired glass canopy.

Inside, the driver’s safety is managed by the car’s Halo Safety System that is even capable of delivering water and oxygen through his helmet. The carbon fibre steering wheel features a mount for a smartphone that displays instance specific information such as navigation. Similar to recent concepts, the FFZERO1 comes with autonomous driving technology as well.

The actual production model is kept under heavy wraps and will likely stay that way until near production stages
The actual production model is kept under heavy wraps and will likely stay that way until near production stages

The powertrain specifics have not been revealed save for the fact that the car is driven by four motors mounted on each wheel and produces over 1000 hp. Although Faraday Future’s all new car will be of a more conventional type, the FFZERO1 harks back to the times when manufacturers would bring out obscenely dramatic concepts to fuel the ambition and desires of petrol-heads from around the world. For the more grounded of the lot, Faraday Future has also given us a slight sneak peak into what could be their first production ready model.

The car is likely to compete directly with the Tesla Model X with cars such as the BMW X6, Mercedes Benz GLE-Class and Audi Q7 hot on its heels. Let’s wait and watch to whom the future belongs to…

Internet of Things in the Automobiles

The Internet of Things is fast becoming a hot topic and a major field in technology. For the uninitiated, the Internet of Things is a network of physical objects that can be anything from heart monitors to vehicles that are capable of internet connectivity and actively exchange data between one another to achieve various outcomes such as remote monitoring, dynamic warning systems, feedback mechanisms etc. The car is more than just a tool for transportation.

It acts as a platform for mechanical and electronic breakthroughs pushing for better engineering ingenuity. As such, locomotives aren’t that far behind dish washers and thermostats in the implementation of IoT.

IoT in cars has a vast array of applications. We go through some of the most popular (and interesting) concepts currently in production and development.

Autonomous Control & Vehicle to Vehicle Communication

Driverless vehicle technology is the next big thing in the automotive industry. Manufacturers such as BMW, Audi and Tesla have made major strides in this field. However, while their systems do not incorporate IoT in its strongest form, we may see a shift in this mindset soon after self-driving cars become mainstream and the infrastructure allows it. Here, instead of a car operating independently–constantly scanning its surroundings with algorithms running to detect high danger scenarios — IoT will allow for communication between vehicles in real time.

Vehicle to Vehicle Communication will prove to be a useful system in the near future
Vehicle to Vehicle Communication will prove to be a useful system in the near future

As a result, more information regarding a car’s environment and other vehicles within a given area of effect is fed into its main processing units which gives rise to better, more accurate details with which the vehicle can calculate its next move. Consider this situation: an accident has occurred five kilometers ahead in the path of a traveling driver-less car that has resulted in a blockade. Although the car cannot “see” this accident, information regarding the accident has been recorded by vehicles via a host of sensors and on-board computers within the accident area. To prevent further traffic congestion, this information is passed onto cars that are set to use this route to reach their destination. Incoming vehicles receive this information and dynamically alter their routes to keep travel time at a minimum and clear the road ahead for any emergency services that may arrive at the scene.

Smart Sign Posts

Smart sign posts are traffic sign posts that display information via a digital display. The information displayed on the sign post changes dynamically with respect to changing traffic conditions to help drivers optimize driving techniques. Consider the very same example above. Soon after the emergency services arrive and clear the area of any casualties, debris from the accident must then be collected. This usually results in the concerned authorities setting up a small perimeter around the crash site and thereby reducing the number of usable lanes. A smart sign receives information of this act and reduces the speed limit displayed with an additional icon indicating road work ahead. The sign also transmits this data across to cars in its vicinity to let autonomous vehicles adjust current speeds and swap lanes if needed.

Smart sign posts allow drivers to learn additional context based information when on the road
Smart sign posts allow drivers to learn additional context based information when on the road

Over The Air Updates

Recalls happen all the time. While manufacturers test cars extensively, some errors or faults do fall through the cracks from time to time and make it to production. Currently, even if the fault can be fixed by minor changes to software, one must send the vehicle back to a service center for an update. With IoT however, updates can be pushed over the air (OTA) to reduce the hassle of actually driving the car to the service center. OTA updates can also add security fixes to a vehicle’s on-board computer system to reduce the risk of hacking and decrease manufacturer response times for such scenarios. Similar to a smartphone, a car’s infotainment system can also be updated over the air to ensure passengers have the very latest OS on board.

OTA updates improves convenience
OTA updates improves convenience

The concept of Internet of Things provides an almost infinite number of possibilities for the coming generations. IoT offers a future that provides increased safety and comfort unlike anything we’ve seen in the past. However, IoT does have a dark side. With more and more devices connected to the cloud, hackers will no doubt target such devices as well. While one can ensure exhaustive testing is done on security systems, software is never fully secure and will result in relatively harmless acts of mischief or open up a window for high profile terrorist attacks.

Alternate Energy Sources for Cars

Fossil fuels are fast depleting and the automotive industry is rapidly adapting to stricter emission norms and regulations. As such, most cars these days feature smaller displacement engines that produce an increased power output via turbocharging or supercharging.However, in the coming decades, fossil fuels are soon expected to run so low that it might prove far too expensive or even non-existent in some areas. Some manufacturers have already begun research and development into alternate energy sources for cars to ensure their survival in the future. Although electricity is currently the most popular alternate energy source, car makers are still looking for new technologies that provide good range at low costs. We take a look at some of the more obscure but equally relevant fuel sources manufacturers are currently exploring.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Hydrogen was a major element in the construction of zeppelins during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s due to its lightweight properties and simple production techniques. However, the gas was far too volatile and resulted in numerous accidents including the infamous Hidenburgh disaster. The major accident coupled with the poor political and economic conditions of the world during that time resulted in the fall of Zeppelins.

The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell Concept in its production avatar
The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell Concept in its production avatar

Recent advancements in fuel cell technology have resulted in hydrogen resurfacing as a viable fuel source due to its high energy output. Honda, one of the giants of the industry is a major proponent for hydrogen fuel cell technology. The car maker also showcased a production ready model of its Clarity Fuel Cell Concept late last year. The car, expected to be priced around 60,000 USD prior to tax rebates and dealership discounts will be the very first of its kind to hit mass production.

Unlike Toyota’s “look at me” philosophy for its popular hybrid, Honda has adopted a more restrained design language for its Clarity sedan. The Japanese four door saloon is an elegant sedan that draws inspiration from the Honda NSX and the more accessible Accord. Similar to conventional automobiles the Honda sedan’s main source of energy rests within the bonnet of the car. Producing 175 hp and offering 300 miles (483 km) of range between refills, the Japanese hydrogen powered sedan truly is a alternative to traditional fossil fuels. However, the lack of stations around cities still proves to be a major downside.

Biodiesel

Biodiesel can refer to two things, vegetable oil or animal fat based diesel. Biodiesel is unique in the fact that it can be used in conventional diesel engines without any modifications whatsoever. As such, the biodiesel holds a major plus point against most other fuel sources on this list. However, biodiesel does have its drawbacks such as increased wear and tear within the engine, increased viscosity and lower fuel economy.

Most diesel cars can run on biodiesel without the need for any modifications to the engine
Most diesel cars can run on biodiesel without the need for any modifications to the engine

Ethanol

Ethanol is another type of biofuel which is an alcohol created during the process of fermentation of corn, sugarcane and other starch crops. Similar to biodiesel, bioethanol too can be used in regular engines without the need for any mechanical changes. One of the most extreme cars capable of an increased power output with bioethanol as its fuel source is the Koenigsegg Agera.

This hypercar is capable of even more oomph with biofuel
This hypercar is capable of even more oomph with biofuel

LPG

LPG or Liquid Petroleum Gas is a popular alternative to petrol and diesel here in India. Overseas however, the scene is very different. While LPG is a relatively cheaper option when compared to petrol or diesel in this country, the same is not the case for coutries such as the US, UK and Middle East. With fossil fuel prices so low, retro fitting LPG kits to use more expensive fuel is currently not viable.

An LPG system depicted pictorially
An LPG system depicted pictorially

CNG

CNG, otherwise known as compressed natural gas mainly comprises of methane. It is far safer than petrol and diesel in terms of the exhaust chemicals produced and in the case of spillage as CNG is lighter than air, it disperses quickly. However, the use of CNG requires large amounts of storage space for its tank and most retro-fitted units occupy most of the space in the trunk of the car. Certain manufacturers already offer CNG as a variant of some of their cars in their lineup that eliminate this issue by placing the tank underneath the body of the vehicle. CNG is a commonly used source of fuel in South America and Asia. However, countries such as Belgium, Germany and Turkey are also proving to be major markets for such vehicles as the cost of CNG is far lower than petrol or diesel.

A Toyota Prius converted to use CNG
A Toyota Prius converted to use CNG

Compressed Air

Compressed air powered systems have been around for decades now. However, the inefficiency of such engines resulted in the vehicles being used only as concepts. In recent years however, compressed air has gained momentum once more with Peugeot showcasing their Citroën Hybrid Air concept at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show.

While compressed air engines are still quite inefficient, the technology is getting better and better
While compressed air engines are still quite inefficient, the technology is getting better and better

The Hybrid and Electric Automotive Scene in India

The Indian automotive industry has always been a little late to adapt to the changing times. While markets such as America and UK have embraced hybrids and electrics by offering vast tax benefits and infrastructure to promote the use of such vehicles, the Indian government has not yet made alternative fuel powered vehicles as accessible as some of budget hatchbacks currently in the market. However, Mahindra, BMW and a few other car makers are now investing in hybrid and electric vehicles for the Indian market. We take a look at some production models and concepts from manufacturers that showcase the progress in these niche segments.

BMW i8

The BMW i8 was the car that showed us how exciting moderately powered hybrids can be. First showcased at the 2014 Delhi Auto Expo, the i8 made its big debut early last year. Despite being powered by the same 1.5 l three cylinder motor found on newer Minis, the i8 can propel itself from 0 to 100 kmph in a staggering 3.6 seconds. The immense speed coupled with the cyberpunk styling and swan doors, endows the i8 with hypercar levels of charisma. Sadly however, despite its breakthroughs, the i8 is far beyond the reach of the general public.

front view BMW i8
The BMW i8’s high price tag puts it far beyond the reach of common man

Toyota Prius

The Toyota Prius has been on sale here in India for quite a few years now. However, while markets abroad are treated with the all new Prius, Toyota Kirloskar is still selling the older model for the Indian market. Although the Prius is touted as an accessible, entry level hybrid, the staggering price of INR 38 lakhs keeps it out of reach for the majority populace.

The Toyota Prius' older generation is still on sale here in India
The Toyota Prius’ older generation is still on sale here in India

Mahindra e2o

Soon after Mahindra acquired the REVA electric company, the Indian car maker launched the new and improved e2o EV. Unlike the bare bones Reva electric, the e2o features numerous hardware and software features that put the vehicle well ahead of its time. Priced at a reasonable INR 5.96 lakhs, the two door, four seater electric hatchback features interesting features such as full LCD instrument cluster, touchscreen infotainment system and projector headlights. While the electric motor that drives the front wheels produces a meager 26 hp, the car’s lightweight and small size ensure the motor isn’t overworked.

The Mahindra e2o is a much better product than its predecessor
The Mahindra e2o is a much better product than its predecessor

Mahindra Halo

The Mahindra Halo was a concept sports car showcased at the 2014 Delhi Auto Expo. Although Mahindra has made no recent headlines for the future of its Halo concept, the electric sports car showcased the car maker’s plans for the future. Although exact details were not revealed, Mahindra did claim that the Halo concept can reach speeds of up to 200 km/h.  The interiors feature a combination of current and next gen elements such as the conventional glove box, large touchscreen infotainment system and the sporty flat bottomed steering wheel.

Mahindra's Halo concept is an electric sports car capable of 200 kmph
Mahindra’s Halo concept is an electric sports car capable of 200 kmph

Toyota Camry Hybrid

At INR 31.9 lakhs, the Camry Hybrid sedan, is far cheaper and better equipped than the Prius. However, the lackluster styling and overdose of chrome is rather jarring in a segment populated by cars such as the Audi A3 and Mercedes Benz CLA Class. The car produces a total of 158 bhp @ 5700 RPM and a peak torque figure of 213 Nm @ 4500 RPM. Power is sent to the front wheels via a six speed automatic gearbox.

The Camry Hybrid is a fuel saving luxury executive saloon
The Camry Hybrid is a fuel saving luxury executive saloon

Maruti Suzuki Ciaz SHVS

Maruti Suzuki, one of the biggest manufacturers of the Indian car industry has its grasp in almost every segment. However, similar to other car makers, up until now Maruti Suzuki lacked the initiative to launch hybrid or electric vehicles due to their high cost of research and low return. With the 2015 Ciaz SHVS, Maruti Suzuki has taken the first small step into the still niche mainstream hybrid car segment. Unlike traditional hybrids such as the Prius and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, the Ciaz SHVS implements a host of small fuel saving techniques to earn the moniker of a hybrid. Some of the fuel saving features the Ciaz SHVS makes use of are the automatic start-stop system, Deceleration Energy Regenerating function and the Engine Power Assist function. With added bonus of a fairly reasonable price tag (INR 8.23 lakhs) and the exemption from Delhi’s odd-even rule, the Ciaz was one of the most interesting launches of last year.

The Mahindra XUV500 Diesel Hybrid is yet to hit production
The Mahindra XUV500 Diesel Hybrid is yet to hit production

Mahindra XUV5OO Diesel Hybrid

The Mahindra XUV500 is one of the most popular SUVs currently on sale. Its impressive exterior, feature laden cabin and attractive price tag was more than enough to catapult the indigenous SUV to the top. At the 2014 Delhi Auto Expo, Mahindra also showcased the XUV5oo hybrid, which was touted to be India’s first diesel hybrid. However, the XUV500 is yet to reach production stages and hopefully we might see the full fledged hybrid later this year.

Pioneers of Autonomous Cars

The field of driverless cars has been developing at an incredibly fast pace. Up until the early 2010’s, Google remained the sole proponent for fully autonomous cars. However, come CES 2014, BMW soon showcased their advancements in the field as well. As a result, other mainstream manufacturers soon jumped the bandwagon and have begun their in-house development of autonomous cars. We take a look at the current players playing an active role in bringing driverless cars to the general public.

Google

One of the earliest advocates for autonomous driving technology, tech giant Google has been tweaking and testing its driverless car for a few years now. Prior to its current in-house developed super mini, Google made use of existing cars such as Toyota Prius and the Lexus RX450h and retrofitted each of them with sensors, cameras and specialized hardware to allow for autonomous capabilities.

The Google driverless car
The Google driverless car

Soon after, Google developed its very own bespoke car to continue with its experiments and showcase what its fully production ready car might look like. The Google car is a small hatch with a neutral color paint job. Unlike other manufacturers that provide a manual override in the form of a steering wheel and conventional pedals, Google’s driverless car features nothing of the sort. A sign of complete confidence from the maker in its abilities. The car features no distinct features save for two ‘eyes’ and a ‘nose’. The main purpose of the car’s “cutesy” design is to disarm the general public.

The car make’s use of a dizzying array of sensors and cameras to map the road ahead. The on-board computer then processes this information with pre-existing map data to create an inch perfect replica of its immediate surroundings. Some computation is even performed on remote server locations. Each Google car is fitted with sensor equipment worth over $150,000.

BMW

Although Google may have been one of the first endorsers of driverless vehicles, recent reports suggest that the tech supergiant is not leading horse of this race. Mainstream manufacturers such as BMW may have a higher probability of launching a fully autonomous car for commercial purposes. Unlike the Google car that focused primary on city driving, BMW’s initiative proved a bit more entertaining. The self-driving car in its most advanced avatar was showcased at CES 2014 in the form of a live demo. The Bavarian car maker managed to develop a system that mapped a certain race track and “learnt” the quickest possible routes. Similar to Google’s self-driving car, BMW’s autonomous 2 Series and 6 Series were fitted with a host of sensors that generate a 3D map of the car’s surroundings.

BMW's ultimate "drifting" machine
BMW’s ultimate “drifting” machine

Tesla

Tesla’s entry into the autonomous vehicle industry was rather unexpected. Unlike other manufacturers that advertised the upcoming technology, Elon Musk quietly added an autopilot mode for the Model S in a recent update that allowed near complete autonomous driving. However, human intervention is required from time to time. However, with the addition of the feature, Tesla has officially joined the race.

Tesla Model S P85D
The new Tesla Model S models come with auto pilot

Ford

Ford has had a late start in the autonomous vehicle segment. Ford and one other South Korean car maker are the only two manufacturers on this list that cater to a wider spectrum of car buyers. With Ford’s entry this year, we may see small instances of autonomous driving technologies such as fully driverless parking and retrieval in budget cars such as the Fiesta or Taurus.

Ford has only recently jumped into the driverless car band wagon
Ford has only recently jumped into the driverless car band wagon

Kia

South Korean car maker Kia is the other budget manufacturer to begin testing its autonomous vehicular technology. Although Ford’s and Kia’s development phases have only just begun, 2016 provides far more resources and information regarding autonomous driving technology than all the previous years. As such, the manufacturers are now able to work with more than what most car makers began with.

Kia is a South Korean car maker under Hyundai's ownership
Kia is a South Korean car maker under Hyundai’s ownership

Audi

Audi is one of the only manufacturers on this list to have actually released its autonomous fleet to the media. As part of an event, a few journalists were offered a ride from Las Vegas to CES 2015. An interesting feature of Audi’s system is the inclusion of two cameras that constantly monitor the driver’s eyes. Should the driver close his eyes, the car begins beeping loudly and comes to a complete halt following which the car switches its hazard lights on.

Audi's fleet of autonomous cars ferried journalists from Las Vegas to CES
Audi’s fleet of autonomous cars ferried journalists from Las Vegas to CES

As with most new technologies, the latent complications and ethical dilemmas of various scenarios are yet to be fully explored. Similar to the internet, Einstein’s mass-energy equation and programming, autonomous vehicles are also susceptible to misuse. As such, fears of the public are not unfounded. However, one must progress and the only direction is forwards.

Mahindra TUV300 vs Ford EcoSport

The compact SUV segment of the Indian auto industry is exploding. Similar to the dot com bubble of the ’90s, our country has seen a massive influx of players in this particular segment. Indian manufacturer Mahindra has always been a major player in the SUV segment for years. However, the car maker did not enter the scene until only recently. With the all new TUV300, Mahindra has finally entered the arena currently dominated by cars such as the Ford EcoSport, Hyundai Creta, Renault Duster and the Nissan Terrano. We take a look at how the new 2016 TUV300 fairs against one of the most critically acclaimed cars of this generation: the Ford EcoSport.

Exterior

2016 Mahindra TUV300:

Indian car makers have never been at the forefront of design. Although it has had its fair share of misses (read Xylo), Mahindra has managed to produce some of the best looking cars to ever hit dealerships here in India. However, the TUV300 is a miss. Unlike the XUV5OO or the 2015 Scorpio, the all new TUV300 features a more retro styling with design cues borrowed from the first and the latest generation of SUVs such as the original Jeep Wrangler and the Renegade. However, in a time where sharp sleek bodies are fast becoming the norm, the TUV300 already feels like a relic of the past.

The 2016 Mahindra TUV300 is one of the only crossovers with an actual focus on off-roading
The 2016 Mahindra TUV300 is one of the only crossovers with an actual focus on off-roading

2014 Ford EcoSport:

The Ford EcoSport has always been a good looking vehicle. One of the first cars to don the American car maker’s new design philosophy mainly characterized by its large grille and swept back headlights, the EcoSport still keeps up in the aesthetics department against the likes of some of the best looking cars currently on sale such as the Nissan Terrano and the more recent Hyundai Creta.

orange ford ecosport
The Ford EcoSport is an urban cruiser that offers little in terms of true SUV capabilities

Interior

2016 Mahindra TUV300:

The interiors of the 2016 Mahindra TUV300 more than make up for its drab outer shell. Mahindra has fitted its latest compact SUV with a familiar beige and black cabin that is complemented by a piano black finish for the center console. While the infotainment system does offer all the standard features of top end media systems, it sports a slightly underwhelming display.

Interiors of the all new Mahindra pseudo-SUV is rather underwhelming
Interiors of the all new Mahindra pseudo-SUV is rather underwhelming

Unlike the EcoSport and other rivals, the TUV300 manages to be a six seater with two foldable seats present on either side of the boot. Although the seats’ small size and lack of proper leg space disallows for absolute comfort, the feature provides the TUV300 with a bit of versatility unseen in its segment.

2014 Ford EcoSport:

The 2014 Ford EcoSport’s interior is a standard affair. The car features the American car maker’s familiar SYNC infotainment system complete with steering mounted controls and standard connectivity options. However, the EcoSport has aged considerably and the small monochrome display and plethora of buttons make the EcoSport feel rather obsolete.

ford ecosport dashboard
The dizzying array of buttons on the center console may prove tiresome to use during travel

The American crossover offers ample head room and an acceptable amount of legroom. However, larger passengers may feel slightly uncomfortable in the back seat.

Under The Hood

2016 Mahindra TUV300:

Powering the 2016 Mahindra TUV300 is a sole 1.5 l m_HAWK diesel engine that produces 84 bhp @ 3750 RPM and 230 Nm @ 1500 RPM. Surprisingly, unlike the EcoSport and other rivals, power is sent to the rear wheels via a 5 speed manual with an option five speed automatic as well.

The TUV300 is one of the only comapct SUVs to provide rear wheel drive
The TUV300 is one of the only comapct SUVs to provide rear wheel drive

2014 Ford EcoSport:

Ford offers a multitude of engines with the petrol range starting with the 109 hp 1.5 l naturally aspirated unit to the 1.0 l EcoBoost engine while diesel enthusiasts have to make do with a sole 89 hp 1.5 l TDCi engine.

Ford's EcoBoost engine is one of the best in the market
Ford’s EcoBoost engine is one of the best in the market

Verdict

Despite the eyeball-grabbing design and wide range of engines available on the EcoSport, the dated interiors and features fail to impress. Although the TUV300 is almost on par with EcoSport in terms of cabin features and fails mostly as a style icon, the TUV3oo’s tried and tested m_HAWK engine and rear wheel drive ensures that the car is enjoyable on the streets.

Top 7 Hybrid and Electric Cars

The fossil fuel era is slowly coming to an end. Although we might not see mainstream full electric or hybrid vehicles crowding the streets of Bangalore and Delhi for a few more decades, mass production manufacturers as well as boutique car makers are now exploring the possibilities offered by hybrid and electric mechanics. While most high end electric and hybrid vehicles are still well beyond the reach of the majority population, the following cars will serve as a preview to what’s in store for the rest of the world in a few decades:

Mercedes Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive:

One of the very first high performance fully electric sports cars from a major name in the auto industry, the Mercedes Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive employs a four motor system that produces a combined total output of a whopping 740 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque. Despite its electric roots, the gargantuan power figures puts the SLS AMG Electric Drive right at the top as the German car maker’s most powerful two door coupe ever made. Sadly however, the total claimed range of German electric sportscar is a mere 155 miles (250 km) and most cars do not offer the exact same range as stated.

Mercedes Benz SLS Amg ED
The Mercedes Benz SLS Amg Electric Drive

BMW i8:

The BMW i8 was heralded as a technological milestone and has gained international critical acclaim since its debut. Initially premiering as a concept in the form of the BMW Concept Vision Efficient Dynamics, the i8 hybrid retains the majority of its prototypes’ pantomime exterior while working in legal requirements such as rear view mirrors, appropriate ride height and mass production spec wheels.

front view BMW i8
The BMW i8

Powering the hybrid Bimmer is a tiny 1.5 l turbocharged three cylinder petrol engine that works in tandem with a pair of electric motors that produce a combined total of 357 hp with a peak torque figure of 420 lb-ft. The i8 makes use of two transmission systems. While on only electric mode, a two speed transmission is available and on hybrid mode, the six speed automatic with manual shifting comes into play.

Tesla Model S (P85D):

The Tesla Model S is another milestone in the automotive community. One of the first electric sedans to combine the practicality of a full size sedan with the performance of a AAA sports car, the Model S is easily the best all rounder on this list. The American car’s large multi-function touschreen infotainment system eliminates the clutter on the dashboard commonly associated with high end cars. As a result, the four plus one seater sedan gives rise to a cabin that is both airy, spacious and high tech.

The Tesla Model S
The Tesla Model S

Porsche 918 Spyder:

The Porsche 918 Spyder was part of the holy hybrid trinity that was launched last year. Although the 918 may be low on power when compared to its McLaren and Ferrari counterpart, the Porsche is the most well equipped of the lot. The 918 is also the only model in the hypercar trio that is a cabriolet as well. The 918 Spyder also features four wheel drive and four wheel steering providing better control for the less experienced.

The Porsche 918 Spyder
The Porsche 918 Spyder

McLaren P1:

The McLaren P1 is the long awaited successor to the legendary F1 supercar. Thus he P1 does for this decade what the F1 did for the 1990’s: redefine speed. Powering the hybrid supercar is a tiny 3.8 l twin turbocharged petrol engine that produces a not so tiny 727 hp and 531 lb-ft of torque and is paired with a 176 hp electric motor for a combined total of 903 hp. Similar to the Porsche 918, the McLaren P1 can also operate solely on electric power alone.

The McLaren P1 in Bahrain
The McLaren P1 in Bahrain

LaFerrari:

Revered by the automotive community as the pinnacle of mechanical and electrical engineering, the LaFerrari is the most powerful mass production supercar from Maranello ever made. The LaFerrari is to the Enzo what the McLaren P1 is to the F1, the official successor as the brand’s flagship product. With a name that literally translates to “The Ferrari”, the Italian car maker has endowed its most powerful machine with a moniker that conjures up an image of the last spartan, the Omega. With the launch of the 488 GTB, a turbocharged successor of the 458 Italia, Ferrari is now slowly but definitely moving with the times and the LaFerrari may well be the final naturally aspirated V12 from the manufacturer’s stable.

"Stylish and powerful"
LaFerrari, Ferrari’s magnum opus

Koenigsegg Regera:

Koenigsegg is a little known manufacturer outside the automotive community. Despite being in the industry for several years now, the bouteique hypercar maker is yet to garner mainstream fame partly due to the reserved nature of its founder and the rather confusing Swedish name.

Koenigsegg_Regera_fronttwist

The automaker’s cars however are far from reserved and its latest creation, the Regera is a hybrid plug in that completely obliterated the holy trinity in terms of sheer power alone by producing a tantalizing 1500 hp with an all new special one speed transmission system.

2016 Toyota Fortuner vs 2016 Ford Endeavor

The SUV craze seems to show no signs of fading. As such, the Indian car market has seen a massive influx of SUVs and pseudo-SUVs since the advent of the 2010’s. To allow for a wider audience, car manufacturers such as Renault, Ford and Nissan have been launching off-roaders in the sub 15 lakh category. Toyota and Ford, two of the earliest entrants in the SUV segment of the Indian market have now launched the latest iterations of their flagship SUVs overseas. Although no news of the exact launch dates for either cars has made it to the internet, expect a 2016 launch for both products. Before the heavyweights clash in the market next year, we take a look at who might come out on top.

Exterior:

2016 Toyota Fortuner:

The 2016 iteration of the Fortuner introduces a radical revamp of its design, both inside and out. Toyota has employed a more contemporary design language not unlike Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture. However, while Hyundai has moved on with Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 which aims at refining its design and introducing an element of sophistication, Toyota’s latest design language is still in its infancy and requires a bit of polish. With the new design philosophy, Toyota has swapped out the SUV’s butch, overtly dominating exterior with that of a stylish, city oriented design. The front is graced by a large Toyota badge, flanked by sleek, swept back projector headlights. Chrome is present all around in the form of fog lamp accents, grille embellishments, door handles and rear number plate housing. While one might argue that the volumen of chrome may be a little on the higher side, it aids in the already substantial road presence of the new Fortuner. The only remnant of the original Fortuner is its boxy silhouette.

The all new Fortuner
The all new Fortuner

2016 Ford Endeavor:

The Toyota Endeavor sticks to its roots and exudes an aura of virility and capability lacking these days in most SUVs. The boxy frame, muscular haunches, large 20 inch wheels and the rather large all chrome grille allows the Ford off-roader to distinguish itself as the company’s flagship SUV. However, the rear feels rather mellow when compared to the aggressively styled front end. Despite its size, the American car maker has managed to keep the drag coefficient at 0.389 allowing the car to reach higher top speeds with reduced risk.

The Ford Endeavor aka Everest
The Ford Endeavor aka Everest

Interior:

2016 Toyota Fortuner:

The 2016 Toyota Fortuner’s interior is a far cry from the current model. With the addition of a large touchscreen infotainment system, silver and gloss black accent elements and a more modern design approach, the Japanese automaker has managed to significantly improve the upmarket feel of the cabin lacking in the previous generations. However, the use of faux wood panels do feel slightly dated. As with previous generations, the upcoming Fortuner SUV provides oodles of space with foldable seats allowing for increased luggage space.

Interiors are more contemporary than the previous model
Interiors are more contemporary than the previous model

2016 Ford Endeavor:

The interior of the 2016 Ford Endeavor is far more contemporary when compared to the Toyota Fortuner. Similar to the previous model, the next gen Ford SUV features a beige cabin with black and chrome finishes all around. A massive touch screen display unit adorns the center console with controls for the traction control system and various drive modes resting beside the gear lever. Ford wears the Endeavor (Everest) moniker with pride evident in the car’s badging across the passenger side dashboard.

The Everest features an upmarket interior with plush materials adding to the luxurious feel
The Everest features an upmarket interior with plush materials adding to the luxurious feel

Under the Hood:

2016 Toyota Fortuner:

Powering the all new Toyota Fortuner is a pair of diesel motors only. Lower models house a 2.4 l four cylinder engine that produces 150 hp from the manufacturer’s all new GD series of engines while higher models are graced with the 177 hp four cylinder 2.8 liter unit from the same family of engines. Although Toyota offers its customers with the choice of a six speed manual or automatic, only the Fortuner’s 2.8 l models are equipped with a four wheel drive system. 

Toyota SUVs have always been renowned for their off-road abilities
Toyota SUVs have always been renowned for their off-road abilities

2016 Ford Endeavor:

The 2016 Ford Endeavor is also offered with two engine options only. Entry level trims are powered by a 2.2 l four cylinder oil burner that puts out 158 hp while higher variants are powered by an impressive 197 hp 3.2 l five cylinder diesel mill. The Endeavor too is offered with a six speed manual or automatic with all wheel drive available only with the 3.2 l engine.

Verdict

While the Toyota Fortuner has been dominating the Indian car market in the premium SUV segment for quite some time now. Partly due to its towering presence and the lack of competition. This time however, the Japanese face stiff competition from the Americans. Ford’s new Endeavor packs a powerful left hook and the current heavyweight champion has lost quite a bit of its muscle. Although this was a close match, the Endeavor manages to win by knock out in the penultimate moment of the final round.