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+

Autonomous Car Systems: How Do They Work?

Cars have been around for years now, with one of the earliest cars ever made was back in 1769. Over the course of three centuries, the motor car has evolved into more than just a machine made for convenience. The car as we know it today has transformed into a tool for comfort and competition. While the internal mechanics and general purpose of cars has evolved through the decades, one of the main components of the driving experience i.e. the driver behind the wheel always remained constant. However, the rapid advancements in various technological fields is all set to change that.

Google is one among many corporate giants that have begun developing autonomous cars
Google is one among many corporate giants that have begun developing autonomous cars

The birth of transistors and subsequent developments in the fields of digital computing has led to advanced AI (artificial intelligence) projects from various corporations such as Google, Apple, Boston Dynamics and Honda. Despite the sci-fi legacy of artificial intelligence, we are indeed implementing AI in almost every possible field already. While most real world applications of AI is quite dull, some establishments produce immensely interesting and questionable products such as the very first non-human world chess champion (IBM’s Deep Blue) to a rat brain (The SyNAPSE Project).

The automotive industry too has begun the march towards AI. During the late 20th and early 21st century, contemporary advancements in semiconductor technology disallowed the implementation of AI in cars. These days, premium car makers such as Mercedes Benz, Audi and BMW now fit various AI cores in numerous safety systems. Car manufacturers are now taking the next step into the future: autonomous vehicles.

Mercedes Benz Brabus Rocket 900 Front Three Quarter
The Mercedes Benz S Class is an example of a car with a multitude of sensors and CPUs that constantly monitor the car’s environment as well as its occupants to maximize safety

Autonomous driving in its most basic sense is a vehicle that drives itself with the belief that a inorganic machine behind the wheel should theoretically reduce the number of accidents that occur on the road. While humans fall prey to distractions, rage, carelessness or general ineptitude, a machine specifically designed to manage traffic and navigate itself to a destination does not drop the ball. The CPU or computer of the car manages the steering, brake, throttle and gear position and constantly monitors its surroundings for dangers that lie ahead. Various manufacturers implement driverless cars in various different ways. Currently, Tesla, BMW, Audi and Google have been making headlines for their achievements in the field of autonomous driving.

BMW's take on the autonomous vehicle can even hold a powerslide
BMW’s take on the autonomous vehicle can even hold a powerslide

For an autonomous system to navigate itself, it must first be able “see”. For this, common camera systems are not enough as raw video/image data is near impossible to accurately decipher by our silicon counterparts (this is also the basic idea behind captcha or Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart). For better accuracy and resolution, most autonomous cars implement a combination of 360 degree RADAR & LIDAR systems, ultrasonic sensors and cameras. RADAR and LIDAR systems implement radio waves and laser beams respectively.

These radio waves and lasers are shot in every possible direction and the time taken for them to return is measured. This provides the distance between the point of origin (car) and the obstacle (wall, other cars, pedestrian etc). All these systems help generate a 3D map of the environment and endows the car with “sight”. For a better understanding of what a car perceives as vision, ScanLAB Projects conducted an experiment for the New York Times providing insight into the ocular capabilities of a driverless car.

The on-board computer’s memory may also store map data and high resolution images of streets to compare with its immediate surroundings and determine where it is and where it should be going. The on board computer also contains algorithms on basic road etiquette, ovetaking maneuvers, laws that govern the road and more importantly collision avoidance tactics. To avoid any mishaps on the road, most drivers must have rapid response times. While computer systems these days are immensely powerful, speed is of the essence. As such, developers such as Google make use remote computer farms for computation capability to ensure the on-board systems are under less stress and focus more on immediate responses. The computer then adjusts the steering, throttle and gears to pilot itself to the specified destination.

Numerous manufacturers are now participating in the driverless car generation
Numerous manufacturers are now participating in the driverless car generation

Driving is a skill developed over time. Over the course of many years, a driver learns where the potholes maybe, how reliably his car handles in various weather conditions, estimating possible collision situations and molding (this very human characteristic may prove to be a boon or bane depending on circumstances) his fellow drivers’ mental state, driving standards and etiquette to adjust his driving style. With an autonomous car however, none of these things are possible as these scenarios are decidedly anthropomorphic in nature. The perils of autonomous driving are multiple.

However, the pros far exceed the cons and the rise of general AI will usher in a new era for humans and cars alike.

Eco-Friendly Speed Demons: Hybrid Hot Hatches

We are at a transition period here in the automotive community. The once ridiculed hybrid and electric drive-trains now power some of the most agile machines the world has ever seen. With massive strides in various fields of science and technology, batteries have become increasingly more efficient giving rise to more powerful and economical everyday hybrids. We take a look at some of the most interesting hybrid hatches that offer balance between power and frugality.

5. Smart ForFour:

Smart Automobile was initially a collaborative effort between Mercedes Benz and Swatch. Currently under the ownership of Daimler, the Smart series of cars has developed a reputation for being stylish, compact and city centric vehicles. While the car maker’s initial two seater car proved to be a massive hit, the first generation of the ForFour did not strike a chord with the general public. The latest generation however, has worked on the previous model’s flaws and offers a good mix of power, comfort and fashion.

The Smart ForFour
The Smart ForFour

Currently, the ForFour is available as a petrol powered car only. However, the most recent one-off created by the Lithium Technology Company serves as a preview to what the 2016 electric variant of the four seater city car can be. The plug-in hybrid variant of the ForFour has an all electric top speed of 135 km/h and a maximum range of 32 km. The 68 hp 1.5 l 3 cylinder turbocharged diesel mill is paired with two electric motors.

4. Fiat 500E:

One of Fiat’s most popular cars, the 500 has been on sale for years now. Its small size, powerful engine and zany interiors proved to be a smash hit overseas. The most powerful petrol driven variant of the 500 is powered by a shockingly powerful turbocharged 1.4 l unit and produces an oomph not unlike its more exotic distant cousins. Even the standard Fiat 500 with its 0.9 l twin turbocharged petrol mill hits the 100 kmph mark in ten seconds proving once again, the Italians really do know how to make their cars absolutely bonkers.

The Fiat 500E
The Fiat 500E

The Fiat 500E, one of the most eco-friendly variants of the compact hatch is the most powerful of the lot, second to only the mighty Abarth. Powered by a permanent-magnet AC synchronous electric motor, the little Italian electric produces 111 hp and 147 lb-ft of torque and hits the 100 kmph mark in an impressive 8.9 seconds.

3. Renault Zoe:

At first glance, the Renault Zoe may not seem like hot hatch material. The strange styling, tall boy stance and the cyberpunk dash all point to a hatchback that is all too electric. However, the Zoe is one of the few electric cars that has been developed from the ground up. Unlike its competitors such as the Fiat 500E, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Ford Focus Electric, Chevy Spark Electric and various others, the Zoe has been designed and built specifically to take advantage of its electric drivetrain. As such, despite the modest 88 hp that its electric motor puts out, the Zoe hits the 100 kmph mark in an impressive 8.4 seconds. This fast electric hatch provides seating for four and has a bigger boot than the VW Golf.

The Renault Zoe
The Renault Zoe

The car also comes with a special charger that allows the Zoe to be charged by any socket of any voltage. Sadly however, Renault offers a single variant for the Zoe hatch.

2. BMW i3:

One of two models from BMW’s i Division, the i3 is a compact city car designed to be as cheap as it is eco-friendly. However, despite the clever use of recycled materials and tiny 7.1 l fuel tank, the i3 is a bit of a honey badger on wheels. Donning a mid engine, rear wheel drive configuration, the i3 capitalizes on optimal weight distribution. The car’s chassis is also composed of an aluminium and carbon fibre blend that reduces its weight considerably. This allows the combined horsepower of 204 hp to produce a hybrid car that manages the 0-100 kmph time in a blistering 7.2 seconds.

The BMW i3
The BMW i3

1. Volkswagen Golf GTE:

The VW Golf GTE is a hybrid electric derivative of the current generation Golf. Mechanical changes aside, the German hatchback has changed little in other aspects. Powering the Volkswagen Golf GTE is a 148 hp 1.4 l petrol engine that is paired with a 101 hp electric motor for a total of 201 hp. Power is sent to the front wheels via VW’s critically acclaimed DSG gearbox.

The VW Golf GTE
The VW Golf GTE

Face Off: Tesla Model S vs Cadillac ELR

One cannot have a conversation about the future of cars without talking about Tesla and one cannot discuss the history of cars without mentioning Cadillac. In this decade, the two motor companies produce cars that battle it out in the same price brackets in the United States of America. We take a look at what makes the better car: the past or the future?

Exterior

Tesla Model S:

Design-wise, the Tesla Model S is one of the most underrated cars of the 2010’s. Its sleek, uncluttered profile is often missed in the vast swathes of loud, tempestuous designs of current petrol driven sports coupes and luxury cars. The Model S’ subtlety is a welcome breath of fresh air in a cloudy atmosphere of brashness.

Tesla Model S P85D
The Tesla Model S is an elegant, understated super sedan

The smooth curves that define the sedan perfectly integrates the front grille along with the brand’s insignia up front with the gently swooping roof ending in an almost inconspicuous boot-lip spoiler. Unlike electric cars from conventional manufacturers such as Fiat, VW, Mercedes Benz and Audi, the Model S has been designed from the ground up to be an electric car. As such, the four door sedan’s body has been developed to make optimal use of its electric motors to reduce load on the batteries.

Cadillac ELR:

The Cadillac ELR is almost the anti-Model S. While the Tesla sedan plays with themes of minimalism, the very first hybrid Caddy is all muscle and drama through and through. The hybrid Cadillac’s large vertically stacked headlights and even larger grille endows it with a road presence rivaled only by supercars.

The Cadillac ELR is a sumptuous blend of muscle and luxury unseen in this segment
The Cadillac ELR is a sumptuous blend of muscle and luxury unseen in this segment

The rear end of the hybrid Cadillac is far more restrained and complements the raucous front end rather well. Unlike most sedans, the Cadillac ELR sports its reverse parking light as a separate unit found in the center on the lower half of the bumper. The boot-lip spoiler features a secondary brake light that runs along the width of the car further enhancing its road presence.

Winner: Cadillac ELR

Interior

Tesla Model S:

Tesla’s minimalist approach continues on the inside as well. Save for the sterring mounted controls and hazard indicator button, the Model S features no buttons whatsoever. The dashboard features a single large portrait oriented tablet as the main (and only) control panel for the electric sedan’s various features such as air conditioning, driving modes, GPS navigation and even the car manual.

The Model S' interior is very minimal
The Model S’ interior is very minimal

The rest of the cabin is a sleek combination of woodwork, leather and aluminum that provides a sense of luxury without invading the personal space of its occupants. The spacious rear seats even provide a 2+1 seating arrangement aiding in the Model S’ practicality. Similar to high end Bimmers, the touchscreen infotainment system is slightly aligned to the driver’s side producing a more driver centric cabin.

Cadillac ELR:

The Cadillac ELR’s interior is a seductive blend of wood, leather, aluminum and gloss. The dizzying array of buttons, knobs and switches is a far cry from the completely bare Tesla Model S. While the Tesla Model S focuses more on themes of luxury and comfort, the all black interior and aluminium and faux carbon fibre panels of the Cadillac ELR attempts to be a sportier looking model.

Themes of luxury and sportiness continue inside the cabin as well
Themes of luxury and sportiness continue inside the cabin as well

Unlike the Model S’ four plus five seating, the center console of the ELR runs straight through the middle providing a limousine style travel experience for rear passengers.

Winner: Cadillac ELR

Under the Hood

Tesla Model S:

Here is where the Tesla Model S really comes into its own. The Model S provides unimaginable performance figures for an electric car and rivals that of supercars. Powering the range topping variant is a pair of engines each residing on either end of the car. With a combined total power output of an astounding 691 hp, the Model S holds a zero to hundred time a mere 3.2 seconds. Power is sent to all four wheels via a one speed transmission.

Cadillac ELR:

This is where the Cadillac loses to the Model S. While the Tesla produces numbers that give even current generation supercars a run for their money, the ELR is basically a reskinned front wheel drive Chevy Volt. As such, the hybrid drivetrain produces a meek 217 hp and a peak torque figure of 295 lb-ft. 

Under the Cadillac's bonnet
Under the Cadillac’s bonnet

Winner: Tesla Model S

Verdict

Despite the Tesla Model S losing out in terms of sheer visual spectacle, the power driving the wheels, four wheel drive system and the wide range of variants to choose from puts the electric sports sedan right on top and serves as a benchmark that other manufacturers should follow while developing EVs of their own.

Face Off: Fiat Abarth Punto vs VW Polo GTI

The dawn of the hot hatch segment is finally upon us. With the launch of the Polo GT twins, VW kick started a segment long awaited for by petrolheads of our country. Sadly however, buyers looking to get themselves something fast and hatch-y had their choices limited to the Polo GT alone.

With Fiat finally launching its Abarth sub-brand here in India, we finally have a worthy competitor to the incredibly impressive VW Polo GT. Volkswagen, not one to fall too far behind is already planning to launch another, more powerful variant of the Polo hatchback. This time, the German car maker will bring in the Polo GTI. Today, we compare the upcoming Fiat Abarth Punto and the soon to be revealed Polo GTI to see which hot hatch comes out on top.

Exterior

Fiat Abarth Punto:

The Fiat Abarth Punto borrows its shell from the current gen Punto Evo. As a result, the upcoming car closely resembles its more pedestrian sibling. Visual changes include signature Abarth racing strips along the lower length of the car, Scorpion badging in place of the Fiat logos at the front and back, red ORVMs and scorpion alloys.

At launch, the Fiat Abarth Punto will be one of the fastest hatches in the Indian market
At launch, the Fiat Abarth Punto will be one of the fastest hatches in the Indian market

For the Indian market’s love of flash and chrome, the Italian car maker revamped the Punto’s instantly recognizable, understated character to produce something that appeals to a wider audience. As such, the new Fiat Punto Evo bore a few more sharper angles and a lot more chrome. While some may argue that the new Evo’s bells and whistles allow for greater road presence, the Punto Evo does lose a bit of the classic Punto charm.

VW Polo GTI:

VW’s next big game changer for the Indian market will be the Polo GTI, an even faster variant of the Polo. Volkswagen’s understated design philosophy continues with the Polo GTI as well. Critical changes to the front end include the instantly recognizable GTI badge on the grille, reworked lower bumper and a red accent across the grille.

VW's answer to the Abarth Punto, the Polo GTI will hit dealerships much later and will have to play catch up
VW’s answer to the Abarth Punto, the Polo GTI will hit dealerships much later and will have to play catch up

The rear features chrome plated dual exhaust tips and an all new rear diffuser with a sole chrome GTI badge adorning the trunk of the car. Volkswagen has also endowed the Polo GTI with sporty avantgarde alloys.

While the cosmetic upgrades may not be far too evident, the small changes build on the Polo’s “sleeper” character.

Winner: VW Polo GTI

 

Interior

Fiat Abarth Punto:

The interiors of the Abarth Punto remain largely unchanged with Fiat making subtle changes to the color scheme and badging. The tastefully executed cabin of the Punto Evo is now provided with a touch of sportiness providing occupants with a more enriching experience.

Abarth badges are present all over the interior as well
Abarth badges are present all over the interior as well

VW Polo GTI:

The VW Polo GTI features an all black cabin with red contrast stitching that aid in enhancing the car’s sporty character. The aluminium accented flat bottomed steering wheel and large toucschreen infotainment system add to the premium feel of the cabin. However, similar to most VW cars, the design feels far too clinical and lacks a bit of flair that has come to be expected of high performance cars.

The interior of the VW Polo GTI
The interior of the VW Polo GTI

Winner: Fiat Abarth Punto

 

Engine

Fiat Abarth Punto:

Powering the Fiat Abarth Punto will be a turbocharged 1.4 l four cylinder petrol mill that churns out 140 hp and 200 Nm of torque. The powerful engine is mated to a conventional 5 speed manual gearbox which sends power to the front wheels. To improve handling characteristics, the Abarth Punto sits lower than the standard car and comes with disc brakes for all four wheels and stiffer suspension.

The T-Jet engine that powers the Abarth Punto
The T-Jet engine that powers the Abarth Punto

VW Polo GTI:

The VW Polo GTI houses a 1.8 l turbocharged four cylinder petrol engine that churns out 192 hp @ 6200 rpm and  236 lb-ft (319 Nm) of max torque @ 1450 rpm. International variants of the Polo GTi are offered with both a six speed manual gearbox as well as a seven speed dual clutch automatic gearbox.

VW's tried and tested TSI engine makes an appearance in the Polo GTI as well
VW’s tried and tested TSI engine makes an appearance in the Polo GTI as well

Verdict

The Volkswagen Polo GTI will by far be the more powerful hatch. However, with only a few test mules spotted over the past six months, it is unlikely that the hardcore GTI variant of the Polo will land on Indian shores anytime soon.

Fiat has managed to already showcase the Abarth Punto in its production specifications and will launch the hot hatch sometime during the festive season.

Face Off: Ford Figo Aspire vs Honda Amaze

The sub 4 meter segment has been picking up immense pace here in India. With numerous sedans and even SUVs occupying this sector of the market, buyers have an immense array of vehicles to choose from. Currently,the Honda Amaze is the new leader in the sedan sub-section of the 4m segment with the Hyundai Xcent and Maruti Suzuki Swift DZire hot on its heels. The year 2015 marks the entry of American auto heavyweight Ford into this highly lucrative yet ultra competitive segment of the Indian market. With the launch of the Figo Aspire, Ford hopes to reclaim some of its lost glory from the Koreans and Japanese. We pit the all new Ford Figo Aspire against the highly sought after Honda Amaze to see whether the American sedan has what it takes to come out on top.

Exteriors

Ford Figo Aspire:

The design of the Ford Figo Aspire was first previewed with the Ka Concept car showcased at the 2014 Delhi Auto Expo. Up front we have Ford’s now signature horizontally slatted grille flanked by large muscular headlights. The car evidently lacks a bit of flair however, it is by no means a disappointing design. It is equal parts aggressive and subtle.

The Figo Aspire fights in the same sub 4m segment as the Honda Amaze
The Figo Aspire fights in the same sub 4m segment as the Honda Amaze

Honda Amaze:

The Honda Amaze borrows heavily from the manufacturer’s Brio hatchback. While some may argue that the results are far from appealing, the Amaze manages to produce a harmonious mix of aggressive cuts and effeminate curves. However, the Amaze too falls short in this segment.

The Honda Amaze has been a massive hit among Indian buyers since its launch
The Honda Amaze has been a massive hit among Indian buyers since its launch

Winner: Draw

Interiors

Ford Figo Aspire:

Fans familiar with the EcoSport and Fiesta’s cabin will instantly feel at home inside the new Ford Figo Aspire. The American car maker has employed roughly the same layout for its all new compact sedan. The interiors are a conventional combination of beige and black with the dashboard featuring Ford’s SYNC infotainment system and a three spoke steering wheel fitted with the now common steering mounted controls for audio playback and Bluetooth connectivity. Despite being a budget offering, the large multi-function display and the gloss black finish on the steering wheel and the center console provides the Figo Aspire with an upmarket feel.

The interiors of the Figo Aspire is far more upmarket than its rivals
The interiors of the Figo Aspire is far more upmarket than its rivals

Due to the compact nature of the sedan, rear leg room may prove a little too less for tall passengers. However, the beige color scheme provides an airy feel to the Ford Figo Aspire’s cabin. The interior features numerous cubby holes and compartments for miscellaneous items.

Honda Amaze:

The Honda Amaze features a slightly underwhelming cabin. Honda’s stock music system offers minimal features and the control knobs for the air conditioning system feel far too low-cost. With Honda sticking to a strict budget, the cabin of the Honda Amaze feels a little drab with no striking or radically innovative design elements present. However, Honda has made clever use of slightly thinner seats with more padding allowing for a more spacious cabin than most sub-4m sedans. The increased leg room coupled with the beige interior of the cabin delivers an illusion of mid-size sedan. However, the lack of rear AC vents may result in slightly uncomfortable rides with too many passengers sitting in the rear seats.

Honda has made small adjustments in seat width and choice of materials to provide the maximum space possible for the Amaze's occupants
Honda has made small adjustments in seat width and choice of materials to provide the maximum space possible for the Amaze’s occupants

Winner: Ford Figo Aspire

Under the Hood

Ford Figo Aspire:

Ford offers both petrol and diesel variants for the Ford Figo Aspire. The petrol driven Figo sedan if available in two flavors: a modest 1.2 l four cylinder mill that churns out 87 bhp @ 6300 RPM and 112 Nm @ 4000 RPM and a more powerful 1.5 l unit that produces an impressive 110 bhp @ 6300 RPM and a peak torque of 136 Nm @ 4250 RPM. The American car manufacturer offers a sole diesel engine in the form of a 1.5 l TDCi mill that produces a segment standard 99 bhp @ 3750 RPM and 215 Nm @ 1750 RPM.

Ford offers one of the widest array of engine options to choose from
Ford offers one of the widest array of engine options to choose from

While the base petrol variants and all diesel models of the Figo Aspire are offered with a 5 speed manual gearbox, the range topping 1.5 l petrol variant of the sedan comes fitted with a six speed automatic gearbox.

Honda Amaze:

The Honda Amaze is also offered with petrol and diesel engines. Honda’s familiar 1.2 l i-VTEC motor does duty in the petrol variant of the Amaze while the diesel model houses a 1.5 l i-DTEC engine. The Amaze’s petrol variant produces 87 bhp @ 6000 RPM and a peak torque of 109 Nm @ 4500 RPM and is offered with a 5 speed manual gearbox as well as a five speed automatic. Honda’s 1.5 l i-DTEC engine produces 99 bhp @ 3600 RPM with a peak torque figure of 200 Nm coming in at  1750 RPM.

Honda's EarthDreams diesel engine is now rivaled by that of the Figo Aspire's
Honda’s EarthDreams diesel engine is now rivaled by that of the Figo Aspire’s

Winner: Ford Figo Aspire

Verdict

Though the Amaze set the benchmark for most sub-4m sedans, American car maker Ford has produced a phenomenal rival in the form of the Figo Aspire. The Figo packs in more horses under the bonnet, more features inside the cabin and offers a slightly less mellow design and aesthetics.

The Ford Figo Aspire is guaranteed to become a segment best seller
The Ford Figo Aspire is guaranteed to become a segment best seller

2015 Audi TT vs Mercedes Benz SLK-Class

The 2015 Audi TT is all set to hit Indian shores early next year. Audi first iteration of the TT Coupe garnered critical acclaim for being one of the accessible sports cars available. Its unique design also allowed the first generation TT to become a style icon back in the early 2000’s. For the TT’s second generation, Audi upped the style even further and greatly worked on the sports coupe’s handling characteristics as well. With the Audi TT now a far more balanced product, the German car maker then went on to develop the the coupe as a platform for introducing new tech. We compare what the 2015 Audi TT now offers against one of the most popular luxury coupes currently in the market: the Mercedes SLK-Class.

Design:

2015 Audi TT:

The new Audi TT is more of a transition from the previous gen than an out and out revamp. Although the manufacturer has introduced several new elements for the new generation, the Audi TT retains some of its most recognizable elements such as the rear tail lamp design, short and stout proportions and the gentle cuts and creases that form its evocative design.

 

The all new 2015 Audi TT is an evolution in design.
The all new 2015 Audi TT is an evolution in design.

Up front we have Audi’s new LED DRLs that adds a touch of dynamism that was lacking in the previous generation. The rear is graced by a pair of all LED tail lamps. Audi has also added a third brake light in the form of a strip that runs end to end further enhancing the coupe’s visual appeal. However, like most of Audi’s new lineup, the TT fails to impress on the same level as its predecessors.

Mercedes Benz SLK-CLass:

The Mercedes Benz SLK CLass acts as a less expensive alternative to the manufacturer’s SL-Class. As such, the SLK sports a smaller engine and less aggressive styling. While the 2012 SLK may be a scaled down variant of the SL, the car remains in a class of its own. The all new SLK benefits from the toned down styling that manifests into a more appealing product that walks the thin line between brash and soothing. The mix of bulging, muscular power lines and subtle curves produces a scintillating silhouette.

The Mercedes Benz SLK Class features a milder design language when compared to its bigger brother: The SL-Class
The Mercedes Benz SLK Class features a milder design language when compared to its bigger brother: The SL-Class

Winner: Mercedes Benz SLK-Class

Interior:

2015 Audi TT:

The cabin of the 2015 Audi TT was first previewed at CES 2014. Featuring an all new virtual cockpit, the new TT is a radical departure from current Audi’s. Occupants are greeted by an all black cabin that features a single large screen that acts as both the infotainment system’s display as well as the instrument cluster. Each air vent features a unique display and controls for the automatic climate control system. Despite the intelligent redesign of the TT’s air con vents, the Audi TT’s virtual cockpit system may prove a hindrance to distraction-free driving and the co-passengers may undergo unnecessary hassle while adjusting music controls.

The interior of the 2015 Audi TT was introduced with the German car maker's all new Virtual Cockpit system.
The interior of the 2015 Audi TT was introduced with the German car maker’s all new Virtual Cockpit system.

Mercedes Benz SLK-CLass:

The SLK-CLass serves as a precursor to the more exorbitant Mercedes Benz SL-Class. As such, the car features a largely toned down, cabin that shares numerous elements with the A-Class such as the propeller style air con vents, and the infotainment system. While the CLA and A Class feature a floating display as opposed to the integrated unit found on the SLK-Class, the system’s specs and version remain the same. To keep with the theme of luxury, Mercedes Benz has also fitted an analog clock to the SLK-Class.

The Mercedes Benz SLK-Class is quite low-end on the Benz spectrum
The Mercedes Benz SLK-Class is quite low-end on the Benz spectrum

Winner: Audi TT

Under the Hood:

2015 Audi TT:

Powering the 2015 Audi TT is a 2.0 turbocharged inline four cylinder engine that churns out 220 hp @ 6200 rpm and 350 Nm of torque at 1600 rpm. Power is sent to all four wheels via a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic. Although the new MQB architecture on which the new TT is based off of is front wheel drive biased, the majority of the power is sent to the rear wheels.

Audi's sports coupe is powered by a 2.0 l turbo 4 cylinder engine
Audi’s sports coupe is powered by a 2.0 l turbo 4 cylinder engine

Mercedes Benz SLK-CLass:

The Mercedes Benz SLK-Class is powered by a frugal 1.8 l turbocharged inline four cylinder engine that churns out a modest 201 hp @ 5500 rpm and 310 Nm of torque at 2000 rpm. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a manual gearbox.

The SLK Class is one of the few cars from Mercedes Benz's stable that is offered with a manual gearbox
The SLK Class is one of the few cars from Mercedes Benz’s stable that is offered with a manual gearbox

Verdict:

What the TT lacks in self-expression, it more than makes up for in terms of performance and features. The Mercedes Benz SLK-Class may be Benz’s entry level sports coupe, however, the car fails to impress in terms of interior styling and engine specs.

2015 Toyota Camry vs 2016 Volkswagen Passat

toyota camry rear

The premium sedan segment of the Indian automotive market has come to a grinding halt. With the continued infatuation with SUVs here in India, cars such as the Skoda Superb and Honda Accord have taken a heavy hit in sales. Honda even pulled out of such segments a few years ago to concentrate its resources on the budget segments of the Indian car market. Although many consider this segment to be high risk-low gain segment of the industry, manufacturers such as Toyota and VW continue to press on. We pit the recently launched 2015 Toyota Camry against the upcoming facelifted VW Passat and see whether the Japanese manufacturer can repair its position in the premium sedan segment.

Design:

2015 Toyota Camry:

The Toyota Camry was never recognized for its impressive styling. While the previous generation strove to enhance the sedan’s visual appeal with sharp angles and a bit of chrome, most of the design elements seemed more of an after-thought rather than an integral part of the car’s development stages. For the 2015 model, Toyota has revamped the majority of the car’s cosmetic traits. While the previous generation Toyota Camry was designed to carry a sophisticated, business-like character, the 2015 facelift adds a bit of sporty appeal.

new toyota camry sedan
The all new Toyota Camry seeks to reinvigorate the dying luxury sedan segment.

For the 2015 facelift, he Japanese car manufacturer has ditched the straight angled design language for a more organic approach reminiscent of the autogiant’s cars of yesteryear. As such, the 2015 Toyota Camry now manages to hold a stronger road presence than its predecessors.

2016 VW Passat:

Volkswagen continues its minimalist design philosophy with the new Passat. Despite the large amounts of chrome up front and dual exhaust tips, the 2016 VW Passat exudes an aura of understated elegance. While VW’s design language has matured over the years, its current crop of cars for the Indian car market lacks a bit of charm. The design of the new Passat continues this trend with the shell of the sedan painting a somber feel.

2015 volkswagen passat
The 2016 VW Passat will probably hit showrooms sometime in the second half of 2016

Interior:

2015 Toyota Camry:

The interior of the next generation Toyota Camry fails to grab the same level of attention as its exterior. Toyota’s new Camry dons a conventional beige and black interior with lackluster detailing. Passengers are greeted by a black and beige dashboard. While the Camry’s competitors have opted for an all touch interface for their infotainment system, Toyota has stuck to the conventional physical interface. As a result, the new Camry’s interiors feel dated and a bit too crowded. Drivers may feel the steering wheel may be slightly overloaded with controls as well.

2015 toyota camry dashboard
The interior of thr 2015 Toyota Camry feel a bit dated.

2016 VW Passat:

The 2016 VW Passat blends subtlety and elegance in a manner rivaled only by that of the Skoda Superb. Despite form following function, the Passat manages to execute its minimalist interior with a bit of panache, a trait lacking in the sedan’s exterior.The 2016 VW Passat also comes with an all digital high resolution monitor that provides vital data such as speed and rev count as well as useful information like GPS navigation routes.

dashboard of volkswagen passat
The dashboard of the 2015 VW Passat is an elegant blend of minimalism and sophistication.

Under The Hood:

2015 Toyota Camry:

For the Indian market, Toyota offers the new Camry with traditional petrol as well as hybrid drivetrains. The petrol powered variant of the 2015 Toyota Camry houses a 2.5 l four cylinder mill that churns out 178 hp @ 6000 RPM and a peak torque of 233 Nm @ 4100 RPM. Power is sent to the front wheels via a six speed automatic gearbox.

toyota camry rear
Toyota has adopted a greener philosophy with the availability of a hybrid variant for the new Toyota Camry.

The hybrid model makes use of the same 2.5 l inline 4 cylinder petrol unit that works in tandem with a permanently running electric motor that produces a total of 200 horses. The hybrid setup makes use of a CVT gearbox to transmit the power.

2016 VW Passat:

The 2016 VW Passat is offered in both petrol and diesel overseas. For the Indian market however, prospective buyers may only have a choice of a sole diesel motor. The India-bound VW Passat will likely be powered by a 2.0 l four cylinder engine that puts out 240 hp.

2015 volkswagen passat rear
The next gen VW Passat may be introduced with a slightly detuned variant of the 2.0 l TDI engine currently in use in the international model.

Verdict:

Although Toyota reigned supreme back in the early 2000’s, the car maker’s popularity has been on the steady decline. The arrival of luxury car makers such as Mercedes Benz and Audi into the same price bracket as the Camry and Passat have increased the competition. We have to wait and see how the market reacts.

Face off: Maruti Suzuki S-Cross vs Ford EcoSport

suzuki s cross interior

The crossover craze in India rages on. The year 2015 marks Maruti’s entry into the SUV crossover segment of the Indian market. Set to battle it out with established marques such as Ford, Nissan, Renault and now Hyundai, Maruti’s S-Cross has quite a lot riding on its initial response. Already available for prospective customers to view at malls across India, the Maruti Suzuki S-Cross will make its  big debut in dealerships in the coming weeks. We pit the upcoming Maruti crossover against the popular Ford EcoSport and see how well the pseudo SUV fares.

Design:

Maruti Suzuki S-Cross:

The Maruti Suzuki S-Cross’ exterior is derived from the now discontinued SX4 sedan. The crossover shares numerous elements from the sedan such as the muscular profile and aggressively styled headlights. The upcoming crossover will also feature LED DRLs which are fast becoming the norm. Typical of most crossovers, the S-Cross sports black plastic cladding, raised ground clearance, silver skid plates and discernible muscle lines flowing around it. Although the S-Cross is quite aggressive when compared to its sedan derivative, the car fails to earn the same degree of attention as some of its other rivals.

new maruti crossover front three quarter
The Maruti Suzuki S Cross is the manufacturer’s first crossover SUV for the Indian market.

Ford EcoSport:

The Ford EcoSport was among the first to don the American automaker’s new Kinetic design philosophy. One of the key design elements in the car manufacturer’s design language is the large hexagonal chrome lined front grille; A character trait that makes the EcoSport was one of the most easily recognizable cars on the streets. However, the Ford EcoSport is a sub 4m compact crossover. As such, despite the pseudo off-roader’s raised ground clearance, lower body cladding and SUV silhouette, it fails to flaunt the genre of road presence commonly associated with SUVs here in India. Unlike the Maruti Suzuki S-Cross, Ford has opted for an amalgam of sleek body elements with SUV overtones to create a more balanced package.

ford ecosport
The Ford EcoSport

Winner: Draw

Interior:

Maruti Suzuki S-Cross:

The interiors of the Maruti Suzuki S-Cross is surprisingly upmarket. The Indian car maker has opted for an all black cabin aiding in the S-Cross’ sporty appeal. Silver accents around the A/C vents, center console and steering wheel add a bit of contrast and up the upmarket appeal of the car’s cabin. The crossover’s top end variants also come equipped with an advanced 7 inch touchsreen display. Dubbed SmartPlay, the new system packs conventional connectivity options such as Bluetooth, USB, AUX and also comes with GPS navigation and voice command. 

suzuki s cross interior
Interior of the new Maruti S Cross

Ford EcoSport:

The Ford EcoSport’s interior may have been cutting edge back in 2013. However, while the American car maker has stuck with its old school monochrome display and button interface, other manufacturers have moved on to more contemporary forms of infotainment systems such as touchscreen displays and Android/iOS app interfaces. As such, the Ford EcoSport, with its dizzying array of buttons and knobs on the center console feels a bit dated.

ford ecosport dashboard
Dashboard of the Ford EcoSport

Winner: Maruti Suzuki S-Cross

Engine:

Maruti Suzuki S-Cross:

Powering the Maruti Suzuki S-Cross crossover for the Indian market is a pair of diesel engines. Maruti offers a Fiat sourced 1.3 l DDiS engine for all variants of the S-Cross while only three out of the four trims on offer also comes with a more powerful 1.6 l oil burner. The 1.3 l diesel mill churns out 89 hp @ 4000 RPM and a peak torque of 200 Nm @ 1750 RPM. The four cylinder 1.6 l diesel unit is good for 118 hp @ 3750 RPM and 320 Nm @ 1750 RPM. While the 1.3 l unit is mated to a 5 speed manual, Maruti offers the 1.6 l variants with a six speed stick shift. Currently, Maruti Suzuki has not made any announcements of an automatic variant.

Ford EcoSport:

Ford’s engineering prowess is revered in the automotive community. The manufacturer’s new EcoBoost series of engines have garnered critical acclaim for its practicality and immense potential. For the Indian market, Ford offers a range of diesel and petrol engines including a 1.0 l EcoBoost. Base variants of the petrol EcoSport sport a 1.5 l i-VCT unit that churns out 109 hp @ 6300 RPM and a peak torque of 140 Nm @ 4400 RPM. Power is sent to the front wheels via a 5 speed manual transmission or a 6 speed automatic gearbox.

Diesel variants of the Ford EcoSport are powered by a sole 1.5 l TDCi unit that churns out 89 hp @ 3750 RPM and a peak torque of 204 Nm @ 2000 RPM. While the Maruti S-Cross offers more power engine options, the Ford EcoSport caters to a wider audience.

Winner: Ford EcoSport

Verdict:

The Ford EcoSport’s reign in the crossover segment has come to an end. With the debut of mass volume pushes such as Hyundai and Maruti, the crossover segment just became a whole lot more competitive. Although Ford’s Ecosport remains a good buy, the American car manufacturer’s initial inertia to deliver the first batch of cars permanently damaged the impact of the crossover here in India.

With the S-Cross, Maruti Suzuki has managed to create yet another winner. The premium leather seats, touchscreen navigation and entertainment system and SUV DNA is certain to make the new S-Cross a winner.

2015 Audi Q7 vs 2015 BMW X6

2015 BMW X6 front three quarter

German luxury car makers Audi and BMW are back with all new iterations of their flagship SUVs. While both the Audi Q7 and the BMW X6’s first generation was launched years ago, the car manufacturers will be introducing an all new generation of each SUV for the very first time this year. BMW has gone ahead and launched the all new X6 SUV for the Indian car market, Audi has put its flagship SUV on hold until next year. We pit the mammoth 2016 Audi Q7 against the equally gargantuan 2015 BMW X6 and see which Teutonic SUV emerges victorious.

Design:

2016 Audi Q7:

The 2016 Audi Q7’s design language lies somewhere between a total revamp and an evolution of the previous model’s design methodology. Audi has ditched the sleek, sporty profile of the current gen model for a more boxy, butch exterior. Audi has dropped the traditional projector headlights for a more modern all LED system. The gentle angle at which the windscreen meets the bonnet has been increased giving the front end a far more pronounced look. Audi has ditched the separate housing units for the turn indicators for a conventional setup.

2016 Audi Q7 SUV front three quarter
The all new Audi Q7 has been thoroughly revamped to be better suited for city use.

The rear is graced by a pair of all LED taillamps that adhere to the new design philosophy. The German car maker has also directly integrated the dual tail pipes onto the lower bumper. Similar to the front end, the rear too has lost much of its character with Audi sticking to the straight angles approach.

2015 BMW X6:

The BMW X6 was one of the first cars in the automotive world that popularized the concept of crossovers. BMW melded SUV characteristics to a beautiful coupe body to spawn the first generation X6 and the vicarious birth of the coupe crossover segment. As such, the 2015 BMW X6 is one of the most stunning SUVs currently available in the market. Key changes to the car’s design include larger headlights, a wider kidney grille and the optional full LED headlights. despite its coupe profile, BMW has managed to carve out enough space for the rear passengers.

2015 BMW X6 front three quarter
The all new BMW X6 showcases an evolution in design.

Interior:

2016 Audi Q7:

The 2016 Audi Q7 joins its next generation Audi brethren with a revamped dashboard. Audi offers its new single screen MMI/instrument cluster system as an option. Standard variants of the new German flagship SUV retain the conventional MMI interface with an all digital high resolution instrument cluster. Similar to the Audi TT, the new instrument cluster can provide standard data such as speed and RPM reading as well as convenient information such as GPS navigation and music options. While the front passengers are treated to a host of controls, the rear is left a little lacking.

2016 Audi Q7 Interior
The 2016 Audi Q7 is offered with the manufacturer’s all new all in one infotainment system.

2015 BMW X6:

BMW’s new X6 takes a more traditional route. While the coupe crossover also features an all digital instrument cluster, its large iDrive display handles controls for the suspension setup, drive modes, music and various others. The BMW X6 is available only with the M Sport Package here in India. As such, the new X6 offers a sporty three spoke M-branded steering wheel, nappa leather for the dashboard, seats and door inserts and M badging all around. The al new BMW X6 also offers head-rest mounted touchscreen systems for the rear passengers.

2015 BMW X6 interior
The interior of the BMW X6 is a beautiful blend of leather and wood.

Under the Hood:

2016 Audi Q7:

Audi offers the new Q7 with both petrol and diesel engines. The diesel variant of the new SUV is a turbocharged and intercooled 3.0 liter V6 unit that churns out 272 hp and  a whopping 600 Nm of torque. Petrol powered Audi Q7 variants house a supercharged and intercooled 3.0 liter V6 that produces an impressive 333 hp and 440 Nm of torque. Both engines are mated to an eight speed automatic gearbox with manual shifters.  

2016 Audi Q7 rear
The Audi Q7 wil likely enter the Indian market with a detuned variant of the diesel engine.

2015 BMW X6:

The 2015 BMW X6 is powered by a 3.0 l turbocharged inline six cylinder diesel motor that churns out 300 hp @ 6000 rpm and 406 Nm of torque at 1300 rpm. Power is sent to all four wheels via an eight speed automatic gearbox.

2015 bmw x6 rear
The X6 houses a powerful inline six cylinder engine.

Verdict:

Though the Audi Q7 offers far more in terms of engine options and features, the BMW X6 speaks to the heart. However, at a price tag of a whopping INR 1.15 crore, the BMW X6 remains accessible only to a select few.

Face Off: 2015 Honda Jazz vs 2014 Volkswagen Polo

VW has made quite a big impact in its relatively short time here in India. The Polo has received high praise for its build quality and impressive engines. However, what happens when you pit German precision against Japanese engineering? Well we are about to find out. In this face off, the 2015 Honda Jazz goes toe to toe with Volkswagen’s Polo.

Design:

2015 Honda Jazz:

The Honda Jazz is a rather impressive looking car. Sporting typical Honda styling with angular headlights, sharp cuts and creases across the body, the Jazz makes for an interesting hatch. Honda has gracefully melded a hatchback with MPV characteristics such as a high roofline and long wheel base. As a result, the Honda Jazz offers more space than most of its rivals.

2015 honda jazz front
Front View of the all new Honda Jazz hatchback

VW Polo:

Unlike the Honda Jazz, the VW Polo is all about order. The German hatch makes minimal use of angular design elements to provide a clean silhouette. VW is renowned for its precision engineering however, design is more of an art than a procedure. The Polo feels far too clinical and lacks art in its form.

2015 Volkswagen Polo front three quarter
The VW Polo adopts a more minimal, understated design language.

Winner: Honda Jazz

Interior:

2015 Honda Jazz:

Honda has replicated the City’s cabin for the Jazz. The Japanese hatch features the same interior elements such as the dashboard layout and steering wheel as its sedan brother. This results in the most feature loaded cabin in the hatchback segment. The new Jazz sports a touchscreen infotainment system, touch sensitive A/C settings and steering mounted controls for Bluetooth telephony and music playback. Buyers have an option of choosing between an all black or beige and black interior.

2015 Honda Jazz cabin
Dashboard of the all new Honda Jazz

VW Polo:

The clinical precision of VW continues inside the cabin as well. However, with its latest iteration, VW has provided the Polo’s interior with sporty undertones. The flat-bottomed steering wheel, silver accents around the center console and the glossly black finish found on the gear knob and steering wheel all add a bit of character to the otherwise dull interiors of the German hatch. Volkswagen is yet to provide a significant update to the music system first introduced on the Polo.

2015 volkswagen polo dashboard
Dashboard of the new VW Polo

Winner: Honda Jazz

Under the Hood:

2015 Honda Jazz:

The Jazz has been introduced with an extremely powerful pair of engines. The petrol powered Jazz houses a familiar 1.2 l i-VTEC engine under the bonnet. The four cylinder petrol mill churns out 87 hp @ 6000 RPM and a peak torque of 110 Nm @ 4800 RPM. Honda offers the petrol variant of the Jazz with both a five speed manual as well as a CVT gearbox.

Diesel enthusiasts will welcome the inclusion of Honda’s all new 1.5 l i-DTEC EarthDreams motor. The engine remains identical to the one used on the City sedan and as a result the diesel Jazz produces an impressive 98 hp @ 3600 RPM with peak torque of 200 Nm coming in at 1750 RPM. Power is sent to the front wheels via a six speed manual gearbox.

VW Polo:

Although Volkswagen offers the Polo in high performance petrol and diesel avatars, these variants of the Polo fall into an entirely different price bracket. For the purposes of fair comparison, we are not considering the GT editions of the Polo. The petrol variant of the Volkswagen hatch is powered by a 1.2 l four cylinder unit that churns out 74 hp @ 5400 RPM and max torque of 110 Nm @ 3750 RPM. Power is sent to the front wheels via a five speed manual gearbox.

VW’s diesel Polo is available with a detuned version of the 1.5 l four cylinder mill found on the Polo GT TDI. The oil burner produces 89 hp @4200 RPM and a peak torque of 230 Nm at 1500 RPM and is mated to a five speed manual transmission as well.

Winner: Draw

Verdict:

The Honda Jazz is a force to be reckoned with. Offering more power and features than any of its rivals for the same price, Honda will rapidly demolish the competition. Although VW produced a quality car, the manufacturer skimped on tech and power; two aspects that Volkswagen could have easily provided without bumping up the price tag. The Polo may sell in good numbers however, if VW ever hopes to hit the top spot here in India, it must not underestimate what the buyer is ready to settle for.