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A Red Tree Convergent Media Publication
VOL 1 I ISSUE 4 I APRIL 2008 I www.wheelsunplugged.com
Rule changes make Aussie and Malaysian Grand Prix different
p4 Naveen B.R. finds Bajaj’s sales & service a problem p11
Raring for Lamborghini
JITU NAVLANI PAGE 10
Women determine 90 per cent of all car sales
HONDA’S FULL HYBRID: FCX CLARITY TEST DRIVE: MAHINDRA mHAWK
The world is enough
Read, what women want!
Are all women the same? Well, almost…if you consider their wishlist for cars. Take, for example, the Your Concept Car (YCC). In 2004, Volvo got 120 (sometimes, the numbers went up to 140!) women together to design a car with all the ideal features for women. The result was the fully loaded YCC which had: No hood - no woman really wants to look under the hood. Just as long as the mechanic is able to, she’s fine. Storage space - how do you manoeuvre a guitar into the backseat without hitting anything? The answer is gull-wing doors that gave wider access to the rear space. No gas cap - instead, a roller-ball valve serves the purpose. Similarly the windshield washer fluid is filled through a valve next to the gas valve, since most women said that that was the only reason they went under the hood. Easy clean - the paint and glass were dust repellent and the removable seat covers were machine washable. Easy park - parallel parking a problem? Not any more: the car will take over. Extras - the headrest was ponytail friendly, the tyres were run-flat and the pedals collapsed into the floor in the event of a crash. By the way, the ladies finished the entire exercise in just 15 months at less than US$ 3.3 million, the tightest budget and quickest turn-around for any Volvo prototype! Then there have been surveys like the one conducted by LeaseTrader.com that lists the top five things that women want in their cars: > Fold-down back seats > Bluetooth capability > MP3/iPod connectivity > Automatic open/close hatchback > GPS technology In another study, NewCarBuyingGuide.com discovered the finer touches that go into making a womanfriendly car: > Electric Pedal Extenders that can be adjusted according to a person’s height. > Gentler opening and closing of the hatch. > Height adjustable seats. > Higher quality interior materials. > Gentle curving buttons, knobs and levers. > Mechanical soundness and better reliability. > Package holders for grocery. > Dual climate control so that everyone is happy. > Dual radio, stereo and CD systems. Again, so that everyone is happy. In fact, it was in view of the increasing numbers of women customers that Ford and the other pick-up truck makers in the US added a whole lot of features like smoother automatic transmissions and easy-shift manual transmissions, power windows, leather seats, a softer ride than the traditional rough truck drive, additional air bags, and even rectangular cup holders to accommodate juice boxes. The result, soft offroaders like the successful Ford F-Series and the Chevrolet Silverado.
Believe it or get left behind: women determine 90 per cent of all car sales. What do they look for in their wheels? And are automakers in India ready to pamper the fair sex? Indu Prasad reports
id you know that the Boxster, inspite of being marketed as a male sports car, is bought by more women than men? Or that, way back in 1955, Daimler became the first automaker to customise a car for women? The ‘104 Ladies Model’ came with a cosmetic pack, fitted luggage, an umbrella, and even a shooting stick! Soon after, Dodge introduced the La Femme, a pink car with cosmetic cabinets built into the seats. While only 50 Ladies Models were sold, the La Femme didn’t do too well either. That’s probably because most customers were men
back then. Now, though, things are significantly different. Over 50 per cent of all car sales are made by women and a massive 90 per cent of all car choices are determined by women. Are automakers listening? They have to do a great deal more than add that token vanity mirror to woo the women. We decided to take a look at what women want in cars, and how well manufacturers are responding to their requirements. Beyond the vehicle itself, we also asked women what they expect from automakers so that the buying of a car can be a pleasant experience.
More storage was one thing that most women we spoke to wanted. This, we found, also reflects global trends in what women want in cars. A survey by LeaseTrader.com, conducted in October last, listed ‘Folddown back seats for more storage room’ as the feature they liked best. “It isn’t just that women need more space for shopping bags, extra storage is useful for everything. Like I use the back of my Ford Ikon to carry my sitar to my class every Saturday. I wouldn’t have been able to do that with the Hyundai Santro I had earlier,” says Shylaja Raj,
an employee of a leading media company. “I travel with my 10-monthold and, like with all babies, I have to carry his food, change of clothes/diapers, pram… plus I need to strap him onto the car seat. My Swift, with no airbags in the front, is ideal because it has lots of space in the back for the baby luggage and the passenger seat is perfect for my son’s car seat,” says Uma Subramanian, a media professional. Adjustable seat was another feature which won repeated appreciation. As in the case of Mamatha, who owns a Hyundai Getz, and feels that it
was the best choice for both of them because, “My husband is 6’4” and I am 5’3”. We needed a car that both of us would be comfortable in and the Getz, with its adjustable seats, was perfect.” Safety features are also a crucial factor for women car buyers. “I learned driving rather late and I am still nervous when I have to drive back home after dark,” says Jyoti, a bank employee who has recently bought a car. “Most of the time, it’s my husband who drives. But when I have to, I always use the central locking system. Plus, I am a relatively new driver, so I like to know that our Honda City has airbags, which will protect us in case of an accident.” Ease of cleaning came a close fourth in this survey. Uma, Shylaja and Madhuri Bhat, a marketing professional from Mumbai, all vote for faux leather. “There are ink spills from my son’s school bag, sometimes vegetable stains or even mud in the rains… and washing off regular upholstery fabric is really painful. So the first opportunity I got, I changed my seats to leather. You get these really efficient leather cleaners in fuel bunks, so I don’t have to go look for them either,” explains Madhuri. Power steering and automatic transmission, the two features that most auto makers say women like, were mentioned often as well. “There are two things I can’t do too well navigate well while reversing, and parallel parking,” says Nisha Chandra, creative director at an ad agency. “Sometimes, I would take 15 minutes to park my old car and even then I would leave one end sticking out because, after a point, I just got tired of battling with the steering wheel. So, when I shifted to my WagonR last year, power steering was one thing I needed. And in Mumbai’s traffic, driving during peak hours is hell. I also wear heels to work. There are days when my ankles feel assaulted after I get home. I recently read that they are introducing the Santro automatic again. That is something I want to check out.” Hyundai and Maruti Suzuki are two companies that have recognised the reluctance of women to deal with service stations too often. To make matters easier, they have introduced pick-up and drop facilities for women who want to get their cars serviced but don’t really have the time or patience to get it done. “With a small baby, I hardly have the time to go drop off the car and list out what I
Women on Two Wheels
India has nearly as many women on two wheels as men. In the ‘80s, the ‘female’ bikes were mostly mopeds - the TVS 50 and the Luna. The more enterprising women even tried the Bajaj Chetaks and LML Vespas. The ‘90s brought a revolution of sorts with the first Kinetic and, soon, the rest of the bike manufacturers discovered the latent potential for gearless scooters. Ajinkya Firodia, senior vice president, sales and marketing, at the Kinetic Motor Company says, “Between 99-100 per cent of motorcycle buyers are men. There are many reasons why bikes are just not suitable for women riders. For example, the horizontal petrol tank in the front makes it impossible for a woman to sit in a rider position if she is wearing a dress, skirt or a sari. However, gearless scooters can be, and are, ridden by men as well as women. Pretty much 100 per cent of women riders use gearless scooters; nearly 100 per cent bikes are ridden by men but there are male buyers of gearless scooters also. My estimate is that, currently, the gearless scooter market (overall) is split as 60 per cent female and 40 per cent male.” It isn’t just the ease of riding, it’s the additional features of gearless scooters that attract the women. Like we found in our survey for the March issue (http://epaper.wheelsunplugged.com) women buyers of gearless scooters prefer lighter and smaller build for ease of handling, brighter colours, and storage space under the seat and in the glove compartment. They also appreciated value additions like mobile chargers, front fuelling, under-seat lighting, and magnetic keys for anti-theft locks, instead of considering them gimmicks. BHP or torque, the mainstay of most geared bikes, was rarely mentioned. Explaning this, Firodia says, “Women (and the 40 per cent men) prefer gearless scooters because they offer far greater convenience than bikes - push button start, gearless riding, load carrying, and lower centre of gravity, make them easier to ride, handle, park, etc. Today’s new-age scooters, such as our 125cc Flyte, offer even greater convenience with front-fueling, central locking, mobile charging, bag hooks, and large and lighted storage. They also combine it with strong technology and performance telescopic suspension, excellent ride, handling and braking, and high fuel efficiency.” Firodia says that the heightened interest in gearless scooters is part of a global phenomenon where, “As countries prosper, roads improve and disposable income increases, riders move away from motorcycles to gearless scooters. We are seeing the beginning of that trend, with a drop in bike sales and growth in scooter sales.” For their part, two wheeler companies ensure that gearless scooters are marketed for women. Brighter colours, lighter build, even the advertising and brand ambassadors are chosen carefully to send out the right message. “The Kinetic SYM Flyte is designed to be ideal for women. Our advertising campaign (featuring Bipasha Basu as today’s modern and confident young woman) also directly talks to women riders,” says Firodia. Sometimes, it’s a woman’s world that we inhabit.
The wheels that make Indian women happy
want checked or corrected,” says Mamatha. “Thankfully, the Hyundai people even remind me when my car is due for servicing and they come and pick it up. With my husband away most of the time, that is one thing I really appreciate.” Similarly, Seema, who owns a WagonR and is a website content manager, says that since the time Maruti has introduced a separate servicing board for women, she doesn’t have to wait too long when she goes in. “Someone immediately attends to me and there is this board on which they write out the womens’ names and car numbers, followed by the time at which we can come and pick the vehicle. It feels special and, more importantly, it is so much quicker,” she adds.
the away across town.
VALUE-ADDITIONS... AND A WISHLIST
Other features that women wanted were in the realm of great value additions: a good music system with iPod connectivity, tubeless tyres, power windows, central locking, and a utility space for small knickknacks… In their wishlist, “Rear parking sensors, pleeease,” came from Uma and “Is there anyway in which I can get non-woolly mats on the floor?” Madhuri wanted to know. Seema suggested that, in sedans, the space between the rear seat and the rear windshield, “where most people just keep stuffed toys,” could instead be used for providing some nice, useful storage space.
Bad advertising, most women said, was a turn-off. “The SX4 is a great car. But the ad just screams male, a very 1930s male. It just puts me off. I even went for a test drive in it when we were looking for our second car, but then we finally settled on the Optra,” says Shylaja. For Nisha, the attitude of the sales people determines to a large extent if the company is worth the trouble. “When I was shopping around for my car, I visited Maruti, Hyundai, GM, even Merc! Not that I would buy a Merc but I expected to be treated like a potential customer. It was almost like they decided, “Yeh ladki Mercedes tho nahin kharidegi,” and hardly gave any attention to any of my questions. I got a couple of brochures and that’s it,” she says. For Uma, it was the ease of access that settled the question. Her Maruti dealer is two roads away, she says. So even though she quite liked the Chevrolet Spark, she opted for the Swift since the GM showroom was all
Confirming our findings and the international surveys, P. Balendran, vice president of General Motors India says, “Power steering is extremely wellaccepted. Women drivers do indeed choose to pick cars with power steering as a majority, as it eases vehicle operation and provides comfort with only a marginal increase in fuel consumption.” However, he adds that GM hasn’t introduced any automatic transmission cars yet because the Indian market is wary of high-cost conveniences that affect the fuel economy of the car. Women shop by touch and feel. Recognising this, Indian auto makers have started taking care with the finish of the metal, plastics and fabric in the interiors of their cars. Safety features, which take into account that most cars in India are meant for families rather than individuals, are also highly valued. “We have found that convenience features in a car rate high with women owners - storage space in terms of cubby holes,
cup holders and boot space, and ergonomics that adjust to ease of driving. Other factors that play an important role are overall aesthetics and quality of materials, along with safety features like child locks and seatbelts that take into consideration the family unit, ease of driving and parking, good all-round visibility and cost of maintenance and ownership,” explains Balendran. While this is a start in recognising women as potential buyers, the time, he points out is not yet right for a car that is completely women-centric. “The growth what is happening is a recent phenomenon,” he says. “Having said this, a manufacturer has to keep the overall market considerations in mind and the male car buyer forms the bigger part of the pie. But, in many cases, the car purchase is a joint decision and, therefore, it may not be a pre-requisite (to attempt a women-targeted car).” However, heartening numbers of women-centric schemes and offers have been introduced by automakers and banks - pick-up and drop off servicing facilities from Hyundai and Maruti, special driving schools equipped with hi-tech driving simulators by Maruti (where more than 52 per cent of the students are women), Axis Bank’s special scheme for women who want to avail auto loans, and so on.
It still might not be time to bring back the La Femme, but it is definitely time to move up and hand over the steering wheel (or in most cases, atleast the decision-making) to the woman. And, in the process, if cars get finer touches and more user-friendly features? Well, nobody’s complaining!
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Almost the entire line-up at Ford has seen changes. First, there was the launch of the Ford Endeavour Thuder +, easily the best Endeavour till date. The new 16-valve DOHC 3 liter turbodiesel TDCi engine kicks off a great 380 Nm at a mere 2500 rpm and generates a maximum power of 156 bhp at 3200 rpm. Cosmetically the Endeavour now gets large exterior mirrors with turn indicators and puddle lamps, a spare wheel cover, front bumper over rider, a rear ladder and two-tone graphics. The interiors have also got a make over with camel tone leather, 6-CD changer and MP3 player with six speakers, a new entertainment system with roof-mounted DVD player and dual AC with ceiling-mounted controls. ABS, EBD and engine immobiliser are standards. All this has been packaged at Rs. 1,817,111 (ex-showroom Mumbai). Then Ford launched the Fusion TDCi, complete with ABS, EBD, 15” alloys, electric adjustable outside mirrors, 4-way adjustable driver seat and body-colour nearly everything - handles, mirrors etc. The pricing is attractive too at Rs. 7 lakh (ex-showroom Mumbai).
When the flag drops, the bullshit stops!
Fiat’s outstanding 1.3 multijet diesel engine which had gone into the Swift is finally getting into Palio. At the launch of the Palio Stile 1.3 Multijet Diesel, Rajeev Kapoor, CEO, Fiat India Automobiles Pv Ltd was clear about the road ahead for Fiat when he said, “With this car which is equipped with Fiat’s world-renowned multijet technology, we hope to make further inroads in the B-segment.” The engine has been tuned to produce 75 bhp @ 4000 rpm and maximum torque of 184 Nm @ 2000. The car will come with a 5-speed manual gear box, all speed synchromesh and a front wheel drive. The new Palio Stile will be available in three versions - SD, SDE and SDX costing Rs. 4.37 lakhs, Rs. 4.57 lakhs and Rs. 4.77 lakhs respectively.
Australian & Malaysian Grand Prix races are over. Anamit Sen finds out what really made the difference
TRACTION CONTROL IS A big thing. Without it, 800bhp cars become beasts to handle. The problem is that the rules have changed for 2008 and this is important. The onus has shifted from the car and the technical wizardry that goes into it to the driver. With traction control gone and a common ECU (engine control unit) drivers will have to look after their tyres more carefully, be gentler with the throttle because of the increased possibility of driver errors catching them out on track. Other rule changes involve the gearbox, which will have to last four races failing which the driver will suffer a five-place grid penalty and cars have to run on fuel with a minimum of 5.75 per cent content from biological sources. When people do not have any work, they talk. So with no racing happening over winter, people talked – about the 2007 season, about the driver changes and about the new rules. There was winter testing but the fact is that winter testing never gives a true indication of how the cars are doing, mainly because it is testing. Cars run on differing fuel loads or strategies, so while it may be a Toro Rosso on top of the time sheets one day, it could also be a Renault the next day. A lot of this is also dictated by the need to attract sponsors, so it pays to look good in testing. What is actually important is how the cars do over the race weekend in practice, in qualifying and most importantly, in the race. Qualifying was different too this year - the ‘fuel burn’ laps in the final session have been
Qualifying was different too this year - the ‘fuel burn’ laps in the final session have been done away with, making it more exciting
done away with, making it more exciting. There are changes to the calendar as well, with Valencia for the European Grand Prix, and Singapore coming in. The Singapore GP later in September this year will be Formula One’s first-ever night race. The records show that Lewis Hamilton recorded the first pole position of the year as well as the first win of the year. All the papers in that American aircraft carrier moored of the coast of Europe will be beside themselves, trying to outdo each other in terms of screaming headlines because it was a British driver in a British car (ok, it had a German engine) belonging to a British team that won the first GP of 2008. This is how it happened. Nobody likes to show his hand straightaway, and so the practice sessions are never an indicator of true form. Giancarlo’s Force India Ferrari thus had a good showing, inducing a certain level of comfort in the sub-continent thousands of miles away. But qualifying separated the wheat from the chaff. Force India had to be content with a rearward position, which is not surprising as the car was basically last year’s Spyker chassis with a Ferrari engine. Super Aguri was at the back as expected. Robert Kubica had a surprise up his sleeve as he almost took pole, indicating that BMW had a strong contender, as he set a blisteringly fast time, despite going off onto the artificial grass for a moment. That moment was enough for Hamilton to take pole by a tenth. The Force India attempt at a challenge was snuffed out in the first lap itself but as the race progressed, it seemed that Ferrari was lacking Ross Brawn’s brilliant mind. Stefano Domenicali’s debut replacing Brawn was a disaster and Ferrari fans world over were stunned into silence as the podium did not have even a tinge of scarlet on it. It was as if Michael Schumacher’s
From later this month, the company will be importing the fully-customised cars. The 500, with its 50-year history, created news around the globe last year when it was relauched in its 21st Century avatar. It will come with the highly efficient 1248cc four-cylinder turbodiesel motor that generates a whopping 75 bhp and 14.8 kgm. The car is more about marrying the 500’s retro look - take the metal finish plastics or the instrument console that looks right out of the 1960s - with the driving experience on par with the Santros and Swifts. If nothing else, book yourself a test drive on the car that defined Fiat. Then there is the cool looking hatch, Bravo - complete with a glass roof, grey-black alloys and the trademark Fiat 1910cc turbo diesel motor that develops 150 bhp at 4000 rpm and a fantastic 31 kgm of torque at 2000 revs. More like a sports car than a hatch. Getting the two to India, while boost Fiat’s image, but is not going to be kind to the buyers’ pockets. The cute little 500 will cost Rs. 13 lakhs and the Bravo will go for a whopping Rs. 23 lakh.
Lewis Hamilton, Nick Heidfeld and Nico Rosberg- winners of Formula One Australian Grand Prix 2008
Raikkonen, Kubica and Kovalainen- winners of Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix 2008
tuition on cars sans traction control had gone unheeded as Kimi made a number of mistakes… going off, spinning around and generally making the world wonder if he was just an ordinary driver with a great car to help him. In tennis terms they would be unforced errors! Hamilton ended the race as the winner, despite the numerous safety car incidents Nick Heidfeld was second, 5.4 seconds behind Hamilton, in his BMW Sauber while Nico Rosberg was third, 8.1 seconds behind, in his Williams-Toyota. Both second and third places were encouraging because it gives rise to the hope that the year should be an entertaining one. The amazing fact was that there was no Ferrari in the eight finishers left running on the track. The withdrawal of
traction control resulted in some good racing and surprisingly, the world champion came up looking woefully inept. In the week between the Aussie GP and the Malaysian GP, it appeared as if both Ferrari drivers must have received a talking to by the team and Michael Schumacher on how to drive a car without traction control. For come Malaysia qualifying, both cars were on the first row, with the McLarens demoted several spots for infringements during qualifying. Nothing could be better as far as Italy was concerned and the air was expectant of a one-two finish. But traction control seemed to rear its ugly head again on lap 30 when Massa, this time, found himself going sideways into the gravel and staying put, despite a lot of wheel spinning the Ferrari remained beached.
Out trundled the crane and out climbed the Brazilian seething with disappointment. Back to school for him, then. Raikkonen had obviously heeded his lessons well for he went on to finish the race in first position, with Kubica and Kovalainen behind him Malaysia was good for Force India and Vijay Mallya as Fisichella finished 12th but there was a scare as a Toro Rosso’s Ferrari engine went up in smoke, both teams being users of Ferrari power. One has to say, that the customised Ferrari engines have distinguished themselves with their unreliability. The points table after two races has Hamilton still on top with14, thanks to his points finish in Malaysia with the two Finns, Raikkonen and Kovalainen behind on joint second with 11.
Prized at Rs. 4.49 lakhs and Rs. 5.39 lakhs (ex-showroom Delhi) for the petrol and diesel variants respectively, DZire has all the features that have become the trademark of Maruti in the last year - integrated stereo, steering mounted audio controls, automatic climate control, power windows, dual airbags, ABS with EBD, collapsible steering column, and i-CATS antitheft system. Dzire video link. Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6oI0c7 SpiU
DRIVING HOLIDAY CHANDERTAL
Busy month for Porsche
From fires to inking one of landmark decisions of European automation, it has been a hectic month at Porsche. First, there was a freak fire caused by a gas explosion at the main factory in Zuffenhausen at end of February that forced the production of 911 to stop for a week. However, once the production resumed in the first week of March, Porsche issued a statement that it was could easily make up for the shortfall of 800 vehicles. Later in the month, the company’s Supervisory Board came together to give a goahead for a majority stake in Volkswagen. Though the process might take a couple of months, this is one of the landmark deals of the year and speculations are on about how it will affect the VW brand.
The lake and a quirky Gypsy
Bikes to go CNG
With an eye on the pollution metre, there have been talks of bike makers introducing two-wheelers that will run on natural gas. Now Israel’s Energtek, known for their absorbed natural gas (ANG) technology and Confidence Petroleum, have announced a joint venture to commercialise natural gas for vehicles in South East Asia. Energtek says that it is already in talks with Indian two-wheeler manufacturers like Bajaj, TVS and Kinetic and in addition to India, will also supply to Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and other countries in the region.
Auto Monitor Awards
A couple of months later than the other auto awards but equally important, the Auto Monitor Awards were handed out on March 7. Supported by CII, ACMA and SIAM, the awards were more in line with the industry’s recognition of their best. So instead of the regular Car of the Year or Bike of the Year, you have Young Achiever of the Year and Logistics Provider of the Year and Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative of the Year. And the winners are: Person of the Year: Rajendra K Pachaur Young Achiever of the Year: Saurabh Singh and Rajesh Kumar Gogu of Maruti Suzuki India for their creation, A-Star Auto Components Manufacturer of the Year: Endurance Group, Aurangabad Two-wheeler Manufacturer of the Year: Bajaj Auto C a r M a n u f a c t u r e r o f t h e Y e a r : Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. Commercial Vehicle Manufacturer of the Year: Tata Motors Logistics Provider of the Year: Safexpress Ltd. Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative of the Year: Mahindra & Mahindra - Lifeline Express Human Resources Initiative of the Year: Bajaj Auto Green Manufacturer of the Year: SKF India Waking upto the mirror-still images of Chandertal was a treat
Does high altitude sickness hit vehicles too? I wonder after my Gypsy behaved most peculiarly when we drove to Chandertal, says Indu Prasad
THERE IS SOMETHING special about the first trip of the season. The snow has been cleared on the 13000ft Rohtang Pass and the Other Side is finally connected. The Other Side - Lahaul and Spiti are closed, inaccessible for nearly 7 months in a year from late October to late May or even June. The snow that is so popular with the tourists in Manali, isolates the two regions from the rest of the world, save for a helicopter or two every week that brings in essential supplies. But the winter had passed and Rohtang was ready to let people venture beyond. We were headed to the most beautiful (at least in my opinion) lake in the Himalayas, Chandertal. It was an interesting prospect. The previous two times that I had been there, I had taken a local bus to windy Batal and hiked the 14 km to the lake. This time around, we would be breaking in our brand new Gypsy to the mountains. Well, it was new to us but was really a second hand 2002 model that we had fallen in love with, mostly for its massive alloys and jazzy headlights. Unfortunately, like all vehicles that have stayed with one owner for too long, it had its quirks. It enjoyed throwing in a surprise at us atleast once a week - an oil leak here, a broken bearing there. It had
Over the next two days, we idled on the lake shore, took long walks, even baked a cake
DRIVING HOLIDAY CHANDERTAL
Idyllic days at the lake
CB13 peak gets the last rays of the sun
just returned from the Maruti service station in Mandi where it had been for a good twoweeks. And we were confident that most of the faults had been fixed and it did seem eager to head out. The idea was that three of us - two friends and me would drive with my three dogs to Chattru, a “town” of tent-dhabas, populated only in seasons where we would pick up my husband. We stocked up the Gypsy with sleeping bags and tents and food. Winter had just passed and the lake, at 14,000 ft would be much colder. We started out early, at 6 and climbed the 51 km to Rohtang. There was very little traffic with only the early trucks attempting to get to Ladakh. Past Kothi, as the climb got steep and the road got worse, it became impossible to shift into the third gear. I juggled between first and second and occasionally into the 4WD to negotiate the really bad patches. It was the first time in the Himalayas for my friends, so they were awed by the first sunrays touching the mountain tops. And even for someone who lives there, each day that you catch the sight, is special. So we stopped a couple of times to take in the sunrise, walk the dogs, grab a chai before we reached Rohtang. The pass was still snowbound and bitterly cold but already the honeymooners were there. In their fur coats and gumboots, they were busy playing in the snow. The snow, thankfully was still a brilliant white, a colour that it
Back to hazy summer days in Manali
Chandertal turns aquamarine as the sun goes higher
would lose in two weeks once regular traffic started. Beyond the pass, the road got worse, but because we were descending, driving was easy. All the Gypsy’s minor problems seemed to be fixed and I was glad that it had not given up on us on the climb up. The road was pretty much a dirt track with bits of longago-tarmac on the corners. Once we turned on the Spiti road from Gramphoo, surprisingly enough, the road got worse. We bumped along, crossing streams, leaving the road a couple of times to drive almost over the edge, passing shepherds with their flock on their way to summer pastures. It was an ideal day to be out in the mountains. At Chattru, my husband got
on and took over the wheel. Maybe the Gypsy particularly felt cheeky with him but barely 15 minutes out of Chattru, the engine was heating up and we had to stop at a stream to pour some cold water over it. The coolant was full and there didn’t seem to be any problems in its flow. We started again, but 10 mins later, we had to stop. We drove the remaining 40 odd km with breaks every 15 minutes or so to pour water from streams onto the engine. Going back wasn’t an option. The only thing we could do was drive to the lake and take a good look under the hood. To make matters more interesting, one of the front tyres burst on the last 14 km stretch to Chandertal from Batal.
Being a tubeless tyre, the huge rip it got meant that we would have to junk it once we got back to Manali. For now, the spare would do the job. When we finally reached the lake, the Gypsy seemed to be as relieved as us. It was late afternoon and we decided to give the engine heating a night’s rest. The blue waters of the lake were inviting and within half an hour had almost made us forget the problems we had had to get there. Over the next two days, we idled on the lake shore, took long walks, even baked a cake. Occasionally, other tourists joined us for a cup of tea. A trio from Mumbai who had driven up in their Ford Endeavour had had a tyre burst as well and joined us in
venting over tubeless tyres. On the second day we took another look at the coolant, the tube and the engine and everything seemed in good order. We ran the vehicle for a while and it didn’t seem to be heating up. We figured that it might have been a temporary block - probably caused by an air bubble. On the third day, we set out. After three days in pure mountain air with no one else for company, we were in great spirits and got into travel song mode. From Kishore to Rafi to Shankar Mahadevan, we sang all our favourite songs and before we knew, we were back in Chattru. And the most surprising bit, the Gypsy hadn’t heated up even once. Maybe it was happy to get back as well.
We were concerned on the climb to Rohtang Pass, but even there it was perfectly behaved. We got to Manali, called our mechanic and told him about the erratic behaviour of the Gypsy. But like how your computer miraculously starts working the minute you call the technician, the Gypsy refused to heat up for the mechanic. It purred contentedly, drove smoothly, cooled perfectly… Nearly a year later, we are still wondering what it was that made it heat up on the way to Chandertal. Maybe we have our own version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with a mind of its own?
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TEST DRIVE SCORPIO mHAWK
Happy B’day, Chevy!
Hawking the Scorpio mHAWK
A new engine and a intelligent gadgetry makes the Scorpio mHAWK a class apart in performance-oriented vehicles
INTELLIGENT GADGETRY that is what is taking everyone’s fancy right now. Automatic parking sensors, automatic headlights, automatic wipers, automatic this and automatic that. So what happens when one of the country’s leading auto manufacturer offers to package a whole lot of gadgetry in their bestseller? It’s a sure recipe for success or atleast for generating lots of interest.
THE LATEST SCORPIO
March marked the fifth anniversary for GM’s flagship brand Chevrolet in India. Remember the very first Chevrolet ads that went with the slick tagline “For a Special Journey Called Life”? Five years hence, the Chevy celebrations included the President and Managing Director, Karl Slym and brand ambassador, Saif Ali Khan. As part of the celebrations, GM has announced the unique Cashless Ownership Offer where the labour cost, parts for all services, maintenance and running repairs will be free for a period of 3 years or 45,000 km, whichever comes first. GM also aims to expand its sales and service centres to 125 and 135 respectively by this year end. In the meantime, GM is adding the finishing touches to its new 140,000 unit capacity Talegaon manufacturing facility that will start production by this year end.
Tata goes Ford-ing
Post Nano’s Geneva debut, Ratan Tata has had no rest. Like it has already been reported widely, the much-anticipated Tata-Ford deal for Jaguar and Land Rover came through. While the official press release only states that, “It has entered into a definitive agreement with the Ford Motor Company for the purchase of Jaguar Land Rover, comprising brands, plants and Intellectual Property Rights. The transfer of ownership to Tata Motors is expected to close by the end of the next quarter, subject to applicable regulatory approvals.”
Launched in December 2007, we waited a couple of months before we decided to test Mahindra’s Scorpio mHAWK. It had generated quite a lot of expectations for the past year when internet forums and auto news websites were rife with rumours of a next-generation Scorpio that would have a much better, lighter engine and would come with a whole lot of goodies. Remember, Scorpio had
When they have perfected something, why meddle with it? The mHAWK keeps to the Scorpio lines entirely. The two changes you will notice on the exterior are the metallic graphics that is (unfortunately) not optional. The mHAWK is meant to be an improvement on the Scorpio, so why ruin good solid colours with the graphics that you would associate with some silencerhacking-nut-whom-youcurse-on-road-for-blaringhorns? The new-look 16-inch alloy wheels look good though. Other than that, there are no other changes externally. Once inside, you would expect leather seats atleast for a vehicle that costs nearly Rs. 10 lakhs. But Mahindra has decided to stick with all-fabric. That apart, what makes for nice changes are the wood finish for the AC vents, the DESIGN FUNDAS steering-mounted controls, Mahindra is a safe player. the new placement of the gear
been plagued with a heavy (though highly reliable) 2.6 engine that made the front very heavy and stable. But while steep cornering, it was always possible that the lighter, rear of the vehicle would swing widely if not anchored down with people and luggage. So the new 2.0 was excitedly awaited. The engine itself, according to these reports, was that which would go into the Ingenio, to be launched later in 2008. In the class of the Toyota Innova, the Ingenio would have to match the Innova in both smoothness and performance. So, having it on the new Scorpio seemed like a good test drive. The name going around at the time was Scorpio Eagle. When Mahindra finally launched it, they decided to vary from the rumours, going with the ‘mHAWK’.
lever, arm rests for the front seats, adjustable middle row seats (that was sorely needed in the older Scorpio). Another welcome addition is the tiltable steering column.
Now to the bit that explains the hefty price tag for an otherwise-economical vehicle. The mHAWK comes with a bunch of gizmos: > Anti-pinch windows on the driver’s side that stops the glass from going up fully if any obstruction is detected. > The Kenwood music system which is now thankfully compatible with SD cards and USB drives. The steering mounted stereo controls are precise and just what was needed with the great system > Illuminated key hole, theatre-style interior lights that fade in and fade out, adjustable reading lights.
WHAT WE LIKE The new lighter engine The improved suspensions Parking assist ABS Cruise Control Steering-mounted controls Automatic headlights Automatic wipers Tyre pressure warning system
Woman power on Flyte
The Bullets go to Khardungla and the Marutis go to the Thar. So why should gearless scooters be left behind? Kinetic Motors is organising a 24 hour, 100 mile rally to commemmorate the 150th anniversary of Jhansi Rani Laxmibai’s flight from Jhansi to Kalpi, to escape the British forces who had laid seige to Jhansi. The riders, all women from Pune, will ride their latest offering, the Kinetic SYM Flyte on the rally on April 4. Announcing the unique rally, Kinetic’s Sulajja Firodia Motwani said that Laxmibai was a personal heroine and “to honor the memory of her achievement, we are organising this unique rally.” Thirty five riders have been shortlisted from over 300 applicants and have undergone training from bike guru Dilip Bam.
TEST DRIVE SCORPIO mHAWK
Parking assist, or Intellipark as Mahindra calls it, that comes with sensors on the rear bumper and displays the figures on the rear view mirror with vocal warnings. > Once you start the engine, the mHAWK has a built in voice reminder to put on your seat belt since it’s a powerful car. The first couple of times, it is useful… then, err, it is irritating, aint it? > An extremely useful tyre pressure monitor on the instrument console, that along with the pressure in each tyre also gives you a temperature, leakage and low pressure alerts. > Automatic rain sensing wipers and automatic headlights. Though very handy, there have already been reports of them misfunctioning. > Anti-lock Braking System Specifications (ABS), again very useful and the first for any Engine 2179 cc CRDi engine Mahindra vehicle Power 120 bhp @ 4000 rpm > Engine immobiliser. Torque 290 Nm @ 1800-2800 rpm > Cruise control, one thing Transmission 5-speed manual that is welcome in a Suspension Front - 2 WD Independent, Coil Spring, powerful vehicle like the Anti-Roll Bar, Rear - Independent, mHAWK. Torsion Bar, Multilink Coil Spring They make for a fabulous list. But in putting lots of intelligent gadgets, Mahindra seems to have overlooked a couple of very simple ones electrically controlled outside wing mirrors (even the new Safari has it!), climate control and independent AC vents for the rear passengers.
an exceptionally reliable vehicle. The mHAWK continues the legacy and improves on it. A large part of the difference in the drive quality is from the newer lighter engine. Combine that with the better suspension set-up (which is a result of Mahindra’s work with UK’s Lotus) and the drive is improved manifold. Cornering is precise and handling feels lighter. On potholed roads, the vehicle does get bumpy if not weighed down with people or luggage. But on smooth roads, the vehicle is perfect. The powerful engine is raring to go; it feels stable and hardly stressed even at high speeds. The speed performance is impressive with 0-60 kmph in 5.7 seconds while it takes 15 seconds to touch 100 kmph on the speedo. The V-Series also has a respectable top speed of 150 kmph. While the numbers themselves may not be very exciting, it is the quality of drive that makes the mHAWK worth it. The earlier Scorpio could reach the same numbers but with a number of lurches and pitches and some hesitancy when gears were changed. The new engine keeps the power coming smoothly so that you hardly feel the gear shift. Add to that, the ABS makes braking the mHAWK effortless and sure-footed.
The part of the Scorpio VSeries that has got the most newsprint, the engine is worth all the hype it received. The new 2.2 litre engine has been developed in collaboration with AVL Austria. It displaces all of 2179 cc and comes with 16 valves and a turbo charger with a top-mounted intercooler that is fed through the air scoop on the bonnet. The engine produces a healthy 120 bhp @ 4000 rpm and 29 kgm of torque @ 1800-2800 rpm. It’s not just the numbers that are impressive. Start the engine and even at idle you can make out it is smoother and more refined. The Bosch CRD-i is effective and delivers power uniformly. The new 5-speed gearbox that is paired with the engine is responsive and superior to the older one.
ON THE ROAD
Mahindra has played a positioning gamble with the mHAWK. Given that so many staid sedan owners fell in love with the original Scorpio. Mahindra positioned the mHAWK with its multitude of gadgets as a temptation for the mid-range sedan owners, those who would opt for the Skoda Octavia or Chevrolet Optra. With improved suspension and engine, the drive quality, they have made sure, is as good as any of the sedans. So, yes, the mHAWK does set high expectations at Rs. 9.33 lakhs (ex-showroom Delhi) and delivers most of it. It’s the smaller touches that Mahindra needs to fix now climate control, electrical adjustable outside mirrors and AC vents for the rear passengers. And maybe think of an option with 4x4 and minus the metallic graphics on the exterior.
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The Scorpio has always been
C e l e b r i t y I n t e r v ie w JITU NAVLANI
Some people wear their passion on their sleeves… and some, drive them at 260 kmph. We met one such in Jitu Navlani, the partner of the Mumbai club Play. A motoholic to the core, Jitu vociferously defends his favourite brands and explains why cars are such a turn on for him
REPORT AUTO SHOWS
The big cheese (and apple)
Raring for Lamborghini
How car crazy are you on first time you drove a car? How was the experience? a scale of 1-10? Oh, it was so long ago. I have 10 on 10! been driving since when I was What would you prefer - 10. I started out with the good ol’ 800. I got my very first cars, SUVs or bikes? I prefer cars, fast cars, sports sports car when I was 16, a Toyota Celica. It was way back cars, powerful cars. in 1990-91, when you just What do cars or bikes didn’t see such cars on the mean to you - just a mode roads. It got a lot of looks and of transport or your own felt great to be driving it. little space or passion on Do you have any favourite wheels? For me, cars are pure boys toys. roads for long drives? The range, the power, the The Mumbai-Pune freeway, I speed… those are things that guess. It is close-by and I have you can just go on and on managed to hit 260 kmph with about. For me, cars are the best. my Mitsubishi on that road. What car do you drive currently? Why did you choose it? I have a sports car, Mitsubishi 3000 GT and a Lexus LS460. The Lexus that I have was introduced just last year. Infact, I have had every Lexus that was introduced since 1996 the 400, 430. I think Lexus cars are far superior to Mercedes or BMWs. The drive is amazing, it’s easy to maintain. The LS460 that I have has even won the Car of the Year when it was introduced. What is your dream car/ bike? Has to be the Lamborghini Murcielargo. For offroading, I think the Range Rover is pretty good. I am not really into bikes, but the Ducati 999 would be pretty cool to have. But yes, I am a car guy. How difficult is it to maintain the high profile imported models in India? These cars are all pretty much low maintenance. But getting a Lamborghini right now might be an issue because for any maintenance, I will have to get a mechanic from Dubai or get the car flown over there. Would be a lot easier if they were officially available here.
Anamit Sen & Indu Prasad look at the highlights of the recently concluded Geneva and New York Motor Shows
THE 78TH INTERNATIONAL Geneva Motor Show or 78th Salon International de l’Auto took place at the Palexpo convention centre close to Geneva airport. While a little later, the New York Auto Show took place at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. Both show are significant and watched closely for prototypes and concept cars. While the more flashy European makers choose Geneva as their show-off ground, New York marks the best on offer across the Atlantic. So if you had Koenigsegg, Renault, Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce at Geneva. New York was where Linclon, Hummer, Scion and Dodge made their mark. Yes, the Tata Nano aroused a lot of interest at Geneva and so did the natural gas/environmentally friendly fuels theme at New York. Here’s what...
THE BEST OF BOTH
What other cars/bikes have you had before? I have had a BMW, a Toyota Celica, all Lexus cars for the last 12 years. I even had a Yamaha R1, but I sold it because having such a big bike in a city like Big cars are increasingly getting shunned as fuel Mumbai is pretty pointless. guzzlers. What do you What has been the most think of the hydrogen fuel memorable incident on cell or hybrid cars? wheels/drive? They are a very good move. I would say it was when I drove Lexus brought out the LS600 the Lamborghini Murcielargo which is a hybrid soon after I in Miami, USA. It was simply bought mine. If not, I would great. have definitely gone for it. It’s good that you get the technolDo you remember the very ogy and power and save fuel.
Chevrolet was present in both Geneva and New York with a 3door Aveo, but what caught the eye was the retro HHR estate powered by the fuel of the immediate future, LPG. The Hyundai stall had the i10, which is built in India and replaces the Atos in Europe, the new Matrix
mini-MPV and the HED-5 concept car. The Hyundai Genesis garnered quite a bit of attention in New York where two of the girls present on the podium were not models but super star stunts(wo)men. Cadillac’s big draw at Geneva was the new, wedge-shaped CTS Coupé while New York was treated to the sedan. Nissan’s Infiniti, Murano and the concept Pivo2 created a buzz in Geneva but it showed a whole new, sporty face with 350Z, Altima, Rogue and Sentra at New York. Maserati’s Grand Turismo S made its world premiere in Geneva and then went on to New York along with the cult Quattroporte. Ferrari was all about the 40th anniversary of the Daytona GTB4 at Geneva, but took on an aggressive stance at New York with the 599 GTB Fiorano. Audi played it safe in both places with the new estate version of the A4, a concept R8, along with the V12 Q7 Tdi SUV, the one that brought Audi victory at Le Mans. Bentley too had a new baby on show - the Brooklands attracted a lot of attention. At Toyota there was what seems like a competitor to the Tata Nano in the more expensive iQ. There
were also Toyota regulars - Landcruiser, 4Runner, Prius, Yaris. Ford had the all-new (European) Fiesta’s world debut in Geneva in three- and five-door form, as did the Kuga crossover. In native NY, Ford was in full force with everything from the E-Series to Harley Davidson Super Duty. Suzuki had both the Kizashi concept and the SX4 Crossover and Sport versions. Honda showed the CR-Z concept, a sort-of hybrid sportscar that got a lot of eyeballs. Porsche as always was all about speed, power and performance with the new Cayenne GTS, 911 Carrera and Boxster RS60 Spyder models were on display along with the wicked 911 GT2 and a LM02 RS Spyder Le Mans racer. Mercedes had the new C-class as the star of both Geneva and NY. Arch-rivals (enemies even) BMW had the new 1 Series Cabriolet, the new M3 Cabriolet and the manyX’ed 400bhp X6 xDrive 50i X-over at Geneva. New York was more staid with the 3-Series and Alpina.
Geneva, as always, was the playground of the European biggies who didn’t go across the Atlantic to NY. So you had Rolls-Royce with
REPORT AUTO SHOWS
MY SAY NAVEEN B.R.
Pulsar 150: Great power, lousy after-sales service
the new Phantom Coupé, the MINI with the new Clubman and Lamborghini with the stillmore-powerful Gallardo LP560-4. Making a splash was Rinspeed’s Squba which is basically a Lotus Elise that one can drive it on land, on water and under it too up to a depth of 10 metres. Fiat did it with an Abarth version of the little Cinquecento hatchback packing 135bhp of power. Alfa Romeo continued to impress by presenting the 8C Competition Spider. Giving it competition was a Bugatti Veyron Fbg by Hermès. For those looking at exclusivity, Swedish company Koenigsegg launched the Edition (only 10 of which will be made), with over a 1000bhp and cloaked in carbon-fibre. Motorcycle manufacturer KTM did a Bajaj by showing a car, albeit one for the track. Meanwhile Renault had four new models on display - the 133hp Twingo by Renaultsport, the Koleos 4x4 crossover vehicle, the Laguna GT with four-wheel-steering and the Mégane Coupé Concept. Romanian Dacia chose to show the exciting Sandero, which could make it to India provided the price is right. Along with the Sandero was India’s Peoples’ Car (though that name was first given to the Maruti 800 when it was first launched), the Nano.
NEW YORK DEBUTS
Which bike do you have and how long have you had it? I have a Pulsar 150, bought in December 2006. Why did you choose the bike? I test rode the bike along with the TVS Apache (the pre-RTR version) and Hero Honda CBZ. I opted for the Pulsar because I really liked the new torque chamber that gave great pickup even on high gear. I rode at 25 kmph on the 5th gear and the engine hardly pitched. Besides, I liked the looks, the electricals, especially the digital metre, the alloy rims, the tyre, the sealed battery that was new then and the electric start. Has the Pulsar lived upto all that you had heard? The vehicle is great but for few problems - for the power it delivers, it has a noisy gearbox which is not smooth. Everytime I change gears, there is a loud noise and sometimes it shifts to false neutral or back to the gear I was in. And the chain is loose. Apart from that, the bike has never broken down. What has been disappointing is that Bajaj didn’t live upto the name. The whole experience pre-sales, after-sales and service since then has been pathetic. They don’t treat customers well and even the quality of service is not great. My last service, which was a free service (that I need to get if I want to avail the warranty) was more a sabotage than service. They probably hope that we will bring back the bike to get the faults that they created, repaired and pay a huge amount for it. I had to get the bike re-serviced at Castrol. What do you have to say about the overall performance of the bike? I am satisfied with the bike other than for minor hitches. Is there any particular tech spec or feature of the bike that you treasure? The braking. It’s very effective,
The Big Apple show has always been the launchpad of America’s most significant wheels. This year too saw a spate of announcements and launches, starting with the Acura TSX and the sleek Beemer, Concept CS. BMW also unveiled the M3 Convertible while Chevrolet did it with the Volt. Dodge did a come-back of sorts with the semi-cult car, the V6 250 bhp Challenger while Honda went with the redesigned Fit, one of their most successful models in the US. Hyundai went beyond the practical and for the first time attempted to woo the enthusiasts with the 310 hp V6 Genesis Coupe. Cousin Kia offered the Koup Concept that seems to have finally garnered the attention the Korean company deserves. With the same 2.0 liter turbo four that does service in the base Genesis model, there is little that can go wrong. Nissan chose to re-emphasize its best by relaunching the Maxima with underpinning from the Altima and Murano, taking the car to the D-segment. Pontiac was in full force with the launch of both G8 Sport truck, Solstice and GXP. Then there was Audi that officially launched the A4 Avant while Mercedes Benz introduced the cool looking ML Class. Yes, there were more cars and innovative products, more concepts and great ideas in both shows. But those were some of the highlights and one hopes the reader will be sufficiently charged up to go and visit at least one of the shows next year.
Despite segment-leading bikes, Bajaj after-sales and service leaves a lot to be desired, feels Pulsar owner Naveen B.R., sales specialist, Softcell Technologies
thanks to the wider tyre and hurts yours rear) Suspensions - Just right longer wheelbase. Brakes - Excellent Keeping its mileage in Design - Excellent mind, do you think it makes Tank capacity - Just right for a good executive class Stability - Not excellent, but bike or performance bike? very good It’s an everyday bike. I get Road grip - Fair enough about 55 and 65 km per litre After sales - Far less than exin cities and highway, respec- pectation! (I have to wait two hours just to give my bike for tively which is fair enough. servicing even after I get there Where is the Pulsar at its at 7.45 AM) Service - Far less than expecbest, cities or highway? On the highway, naturally. I tations can easily touch 110 kmph with the rpm still below 8000 Technically, what feature and the bike will be rock steady. about the bike do you think is its best selling point? How would you rate the Definitely the torque chamber bike on the following pa- and braking. rameters: If you were to recommend Riding position - Just right the bike to anyone what Seat - Could be better Option of colours - Just right would you say? Considering the current trend, Dashboard - Excellent I would say, “Go for (TVS Headlights - Excellent Pillion rider space, position Apache) RTR 160 and if you and comfort - Could be better are not satisfied, only then go (because you sit high and for the Pulsar.” wide, you are cramped after even a 10 minute ride. Plus, If you could add any one the rear seat is not thick, so feature to the bike, what would it be? I would like some utility space, added such that style quotient doesn’t come down. Then, black alloys, 220 type-headlamps or xenon headlamps, blue neons on the wheels, engine cover… Along with the regular graphics. Do you have any particular concernproblem with the bike that you think the company should know about? The after-sales and servicing. They should really work on that so that we don’t end up going to someone else for servicing. Bajaj says: Research is on to make the bikes better. Large scale studies are undertaken to understand customers’ needs. And the bikes will accordingly keep getting better. Maruti’s take on our previous My Say column with Tarun Hukku is awaited.
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DREAM CAR HONDA FCX CLARITY
Honda’s Clear Vision
One of the biggest deals in automobile history with more history!
Nirmal Kumar Sharma Editor WheelsUnplugged March has been a significant month for us. Our previous cover story – a dipstick of what people like or dislike and what do they wish for in their vehicles - proved to be enormously popular. Our hits were over 20,500 with more than 8,000 page views and over the month we have gathered more than 11,000 registered users, not just from India, but from as far as Holland and Russia. It is good to note that on an average, people are spending 10.36 minutes on Wheels Unplugged. For us, that is an indication that we are putting up the kind of material that people want to read. A big ‘Thank You’ for all our readers for the encouragement, suggestions, advice, criticisms and compliments. In the Indian auto world, March was the month of the financial year closing, the month of board meetings, the month of International Women’s Day and a month of one of the biggest deals in its history. First the news then. The Tata’s purchase of Jaguar and Land Rover is probably the biggest step in marking India auto makers’ entry into the international arena. With brands as premium as Jaguar and Land Rover, the Tatas are now among the Hondas and Toyotas but with more history.The one thing that all of us are waiting for is to find out what the deal translates into for the Indian market and consumer. On March 8, while the rest of the world celebrated the International Women’s Day, we got cracking on a celebration of womanhood, Unplugged style. We spoke to various women to find out their take on cars. Evidently, they look for finer things than horsepower and torque. Our aim was to find out what would make the Indian woman a satisfied car buyer. For the Test Drive, we took the Scorpio mHawk for a spin and came away feeling mostly satisfied and a little shortchanged. A drive up to the beautiful lake of Chandertal in a temperamental Maruti Suzuki Gypsy, a report on the Australian and Malaysian GP... all this in this issue of Wheels Unplugged. Read on.
We introduce you to the FCX Clarity that is set to change the game
A NEW AUTO REVOLUTION is taking place, this time, across the Pacific in Japan, at Honda in the form of the FCX Clarity, built in the true next generation style - not with electricity or even semi-hybrid, but a fully hybrid, hydrogen fuel cell car, whose only emission will be water.
powerful. With Honda now finishing the paperwork to convert it into the world’s first mass produced hydrogen fuel cell car, the FCX Concept has been christened FCX Clarity.
It was the company’s former CEO and Supreme Advisor, Nobuhiko Kawamoto, who way back in 1986 authorised Honda’s first research into automotive fuel cells. A few years later he did the unthinkable, split the company’s F1 budget into two, giving one half to the fuel cell development team. Though viewed with skepticism early on, today everyone will vouch for his visionary decisions.Today, he vehemently campaigns against Honda’s F1 presence and says it should instead THE TECHNOLOGY dedicate all its research funds The simplified version of the into the fuel cell technology. super futuristic fuel cell technology is this - hydrogen gas THE ORIGIN is pumped into the stack (that The very first FCX made its is placed beneath and debut in 1999. With a between the two front seats) primitive proton exchange which consists of layers of fuel membrane, it made a neat cells. Within each cell, concept, but nothing more. Hydrogen gas reacts with Three years later Honda was Hydrogen electrode that ready with the 2002 FCX ionizes the hydrogen atom. Concept to be test driven on This ion then reacts with the streets of Los Angeles. En- oxygen to form water, which couraged by this, Honda in turn circulates through the developed the 2006 FCX stack to keep the membranes Concept - much sleeker, more damp before being emitted
How green is the FCX Clarity? The car’s AC has built-in fans to blow thermoelectrically cooled air, so there are no ozone depleting CFCs to give you a cool ride. Corn has been used to make bio-fabric seats which emit 30 per cent less CO2, plus they never sag like polyester to retain their characteristic silky feel always. The exterior is all aluminum, with even ultra light 5-spoke forged aluminum wheels. To look at, the FCX Clarity looks like a stylised Accord, but every little detail that has received the ‘green’ tag marks the difference.
from the tail pipe. This series of reaction powers the electric motor, which drives the car. The entire package has been shrunk by 30-40 per cent from the earlier prototype so that now it is as big as any hybrid car. What’s more, the set-up gives lots of space in the interior as well a very healthy boot space. The car also comes with an auxiliary lithium ion battery to store the extra power that you generate while driving that will come in handy when you start the motor or drive hard and fast. Surprisingly, like any good Honda car it performs well. As you easily touch the 100 kmph mark on the 3-D dash. According to Honda, the car performs like any 2.4 litre internal combustion engine which translates to 134 bhp with a top speed of 160 kmph. The only difference is the 434 km limit on one tankful of Hydrogen.
THE SMALL TOUCHES
It is also equipped with omni directional crash protection to protect the hydrogen and electrical setup in case of a collision. You can stay unconcerned about hydrogen leak too, since there are sensors placed through out the car to detect any leak. If a leak occurs, a ventilation system comes into play and an automated system comes into play to cut off the main hydrogen valve. Then there is the 3-D dash with a multi-colour backlight that goes from blue (for low output) to amber (for high output). Also, make note of the fabulous Honda satellitelinked navigation system that even finds you the nearest hydrogen filling station. A rearview camera that assists in parking and USB and auxiliary input jacks in the glove compartments are priceless too.
BEST OF ALL…
Honda hasn’t spared anything to lure the prospective green car owner. Six airbags, ABS, Stability Assist, Electronic Brake Distribution and superb Collision Mitigation Braking System (which simply means a system that detects a potential crash and gets the car ready for it - tightens seat belts, gives visual and audio alerts, retracts the front seats and applies automatic brakes to reduce speed) are all in place.
Is that while everyone around you is driving internal combustion or even hybrid cars, that still produce CO2, you can be zipping down the highway in the coolest of all green cars, dripping just water from the back. With the Clarity ready to be leased out in LA and Japan this year, get set to welcome the Model T of this century.
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Vol 1 Issue 4 April 2008
Editor and Publisher : Nirmal Kumar Sharma Managing Editor: Indu Prasad Contribution: Anamit Sen Design: Sunil Dang Head Advertising: Anirban Mukherjee
Published from BMS Centre, 2 Gujarat Vihar, Vikas Marg, Delhi-110092 by Nirmal Kumar Sharma for and on behalf of Red Tree Convergent Media Private Limited Write in at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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