Posts Tagged ‘TopGear’

New Ford Ka concept surfaces

Posted: November 13, 2013 in News, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , ,

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The Ford EcoSport might be keeping the American carmaker’s cash counters busy, but that doesn’t mean Ford is not planning further products for the near future. Today, a few pictures of Ford’s next-gen Ka concept, a car that, up until now, has been a mainland Europe model only, surfaced on the interweb.

Though details are scarce, we can assure you that the new model will come to India by late next year. What makes the Ka special is the B562 platform underpinning it. This heavily-modified Fiesta platform will also spawn a bunch of new models that will replace the ageing Fords (Fiesta Classic, Figo) in India, and other developing markets.

The new Ka’s design is inspired by Ford’s latest Kinetic 2.0 design theme. Though Ford is calling it a concept, except for the flashy headlights, the model looks production-ready. The design language has been toned down to keep Asian tastes and preferences in mind, though.

With this platform, Ford will also be launching a new line of engines. These will not be a part of the EcoBoost engine family, but an all-new engine family to keep up with tightening emission norms.

So, the new Ka – hot or not?

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330kph is a scary speed. Especially when the object in question is two-foot long, attached to a pole via a bit of wire and hurtling around an oval. Welcome to Tether Car racing: a mixture of mini NASCAR and supersonic swing ball. The centrifugal forces alone are capable of catapulting it into another planet.

It started in America during the 1930s when, because of the depression, money was scarce and people were bored. So to keep entertained, a bunch of people started putting model airplane engines in toy cars, attaching them to some wire and letting them fly around a metal pole at silly speeds.

People are still doing it nowadays with cars that are two foot long and built like Bloodhound. They have mini car bits in them too; including a combustion engine, exhaust pipe, air intake, flywheel, gearbox driveshaft and speedy wheels. At top speed they can pull a cheek-wobble-worthy 91G and look like they’re going to puncture a hole into a new time zone.

We haven’t seen something move this quickly round a pole since The Stig took up pole dancing.

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Electronic rectangle users! We have received word that a racey, karty 3D Angry Birds Go! will soon be dominating the increasingly limited attention span of every commuter in the world. And it’ll be completely free to play.

Those who spend their waking hours peering at said electronic rectangle to the exclusion of girlfriends, wives, food and other key elements of Real Life (TM) will be pleased to hear it features a smorgasbord of modes and features. You can go head to head with your chums in anything from homespun soapboxes to supercars, apparently. And you get to take full advantage of a full range of big-air freestyle tracks and downhill races. And kill pigs, presumably.

The game’ll be available on iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8 and Blackberry 10 on December 11, but if you can’t wait till the official release of what may be the most popular racing game of the year, download the special countdown app at the end of October. In the meantime, here’s a gameplay trailer.

Review: Mercedes-Benz S500 L

Dr Dieter Zetsche, chairman of the Board at Daimler AG admits, in so many words, that no other car stands for the Mercedes-Benz brand promise more than the S-Class. And there’s enough truth in that statement because this car has been the benchmark for the automotive industry, with its array of new technologies and comfort systems. The S-Class is still the benchmark, even compared to cars that are probably built with more exotic stuff or cost as much as the GDP of a small developing nation.

The ‘S-Class’ designation may have been first coined in 1972 but the history of this car began in 1904, when the Mercedes Simplex (no Benz then) broke cover. The beauty of this car was that it came with doors – its passengers had arrived. This whole arrival business is still taken very seriously by the folks at Stuttgart. And there’s no better showcase for this than the S-Class.

In India, the outgoing S is still on sale, although company sources say whatever units are still being assembled or will be assembled – till the new model pictured here reaches India in January 2014 – are already spoken for. Which is why those wanting to buy an S in the future should look at this new car with more interest despite the fact that it’ll be dearer by around Rs 10 lakh over the current model.

Technically, in its tenth generation, the new S-Class has grown marginally. It is longer, wider and taller but the wheelbase remains the same as on the current car. Nevertheless, the cabin is slightly bigger, so there is more head, shoulder and elbow room for the front passengers.

Daimler knows that gone are the days when the S was predominantly sold in Europe, and its owners were more often behind the wheel. Today, the S is extremely popular in Asia, where its strong sales numbers warrant that the rear passengers get as much, if not more than the driver. This is one reason why, for the first time in the S-Class’s history, the long-wheelbase version was designed first and the short-wheelbase made out of it.

Compared to some of the radical designs we’ve seen on new Mercs lately, the S-Class looks conventional. The silhouette is typically S – a swooping roof with a coupe-style slope at the C-pillar. The front now sports a wider and taller grille with the three-point emblem on top. The headlamps are less tapered at the edges, more wrapped around the corners in a sweep.

While Mercedes was among the first to fit electric headlamps on motorcars more than a century ago, it has now done away with them entirely. The new S-Class doesn’t have a single electric bulb. Instead it has LEDs all around – headlamps, tail lamps, even the interior. In profile, it has more seamless muscular flanks in place of the bulbous wheel arches of the current car.

The shoulder line now drops a bit at the rear along with the roof, rather than moving upwards as it does in the current car. The new design looks more seamless and adds a bit of grandeur, which is both, old-school and modern. That explains why it is not outright radical.

But that’s not to say the S-Class is conventional. Because apart from design, everything else on this car is radical. Despite the increase in overall size and the addition of a whole range of gizmos (more on those later), the weight of the car is actually down by more than 100 kilograms. A lot of this weight reduction came from the chassis, which now has more aluminium than the S-Class ever did. Of course, as a safety measure, the passenger shell is still high-tensile steel, but almost all of the car’s sheet metal, including the roof bits and bonnet, are aluminium, resulting in massive weight reduction. And despite that, torsional rigidity is up almost 50 per cent.

When it gets launched in India, the S-Class will be available in two variants – S350 and S500. These will essentially have the same engines as the current model but now with uprated power and torque figures. Not to mention, better performance and efficiency. Speaking of which, there are also plans to launch at a later stage a diesel-electric hybrid with claimed fuel efficiency figures of just over 25kpl (as per European testing cycle), which should encourage those with a green heart.

For those with a stronger heart and a tendency to get behind the wheel, we must say the S behaves in a way befitting royalty. When needed, the S-Class can be all poise and grace, which it is what it does best. The acceleration is seamless. The seven-speed automatic transmission is definitive and precise, if not the quickest in the business, and swiftly gets power going from the engine to the rear wheels.

In S350 guise, the car is capable of leaping to 100kph from standstill in 6.8s, while the S500 can beat that time by a full two seconds. Obviously, the timings are better than the outgoing models’ thanks to a combination of increased power, lower weight and better aerodynamics.

Around corners, the S-Class almost belies the fact that it’s a rear-wheel drive. There’s only a hint of understeer but you don’t really feel the weight of the big car – just the sense that you’re driving a nimble set of wheels with enough power to light up a small mansion. The engine note is a powerful grunt but never obtrusive, just something hammering away in the distance.

The air suspension comes with adaptive damping, which makes sure passengers don’t feel minor potholes and road joints. In most cases, they won’t hear them, either. Make no mistake, the S-Class can be driven on the limit and its engineers have made sure it’s not just a comfortable limo. For example, when speed crosses 120kph, the car lowers by around 20mm for a more planted feel.

Driving the S500, if you’re worried about missing an odd speed bump at that speed, well, there’s good news and bad. The car is additionally equipped with Magic Body Control. This uses a combination of a stereo camera and multi-frequency radar units to scan the road surface ahead and prepare the AIRMATIC suspension in real time to handle any dips or bumps.

The result is that the car maintains its composure as if it were going on a flat patch of road. Particularly helpful if the rear passenger’s drink is up to the brim. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the frequencies set into the S cannot be used for civilian purposes in India, yet. Hopefully, that’ll change soon. Of course, the system has its limitations. For example, if the camera fails to detect road variations because of similar surface colours, or because of the angle of ambient light, the magic may not happen. But when it does, prepare to be amazed.

More than a decade ago, the S was one of the first cars to get PreSAFE technologies for a safer drive. Mercedes-Benz engineers have kept improving on that, and the new car has even more helpful bits added to the existing Driver Assist systems – among other things, it can automatically keep the car in its lane or virtually ‘latch’ on to a vehicle ahead and slow down or accelerate automatically, which should reduce driving stress.

The passengers can lounge in ventilated seats with inbuilt massagers. The rear seat has the option of being either a fixed bench or two individual recliners. Even with the latter, in top-of-the-line spec, the seats recline up to 43.4 degrees. That’s more than the 37 degrees that they do otherwise.

The rear passengers get individual screens, plus the option of airplane-style trays that fold into the centre console. The S-Class also takes the business of interior safety rather seriously, with seat belts that don’t just tighten when they sense an impact, they also inflate for added safety.

Most carmakers will talk about being focused on safety and comfort. As does Mercedes-Benz, across its product range. But when it comes to the S-Class, you know it’ll be a no-holds-barred barrage of engineering that borders on magical, in a car that still announces that its owner has arrived. The new S delivers nicely on both counts.

The numbers
4,663cc, V8, twin-turbo, 455bhp, 700Nm, 7A, RWD, 5.6kpl (estimated), 0-100kph 4.8s, top speed 250kph, Rs 1.4 crore (estimated, on-road)

The verdict
With added gizmos and oodles of comfort, the new S-Class has upped the stakes in the luxury limo game.

 

 

 

No, wait, we’ve not gone crazy. Sure, one of the cars that you see here is a hatchback and the other an SUV. So why are they in this comparo? Because despite the difference in body type, both have a few things in common. First is size. Both are just about four metres long.

Even with that, the i20’s cabin is a bit cramped and the high window line makes the rear passengers feel claustrophobic. As for boot space, the i20’s measures 295 litres while the EcoSport can take in 346 litres of luggage.

While the i20 loses out on space, it has the upper hand when it comes to creature comforts. Both these cars get Bluetooth connectivity, parking sensors, keyless entry, steering-mounted controls and climate control, among other features, but the i20 also gets a reversing camera and a cooled glove compartment.

Like the EcoSport, the i20 rides well over bad roads, but the EcoSport’s 200mm of ground clearance means it’ll not scrape its underside while going over those bad roads.

In the handling department, the i20 is no star. The steering is light, which helps in city driving, but lacks any kind of feel at high speeds. The soft suspension setup results in a lot of pitching and rolling.

Like the EcoSport, the i20 gets lots of engine and gearbox options. For now, the 1.4-litre oil burner is pegged against the EcoSport. This engine churns out a good 89bhp and 220Nm of spin. The figures are not the problem here. The problem is the way it puts this power down to the road. The blower comes into play only at 2,000rpm and the power band ends at 4,000 revs. After which there’s only noise and no power.

 

To make sure you stay in the meaty end of the power band, you need to keep shifting through the six-speed manual gearbox. Luckily, the shifts are smooth and precise. If you shift right, the i20 can be quite quick – as proven by the 11.91sec that it takes to 100kph. And it’s efficient too. It goes 13.3kpl in the city and 16.2kpl on the highway. But even with that, it’s half a kilometre less than the EcoSport.

Secondly, what’s also common between the two cars is the pricing – the i20 diesel starts at Rs 8.09 lakh, and if you go for all the features, it’ll cost you Rs 9.31 lakh (all prices on-road, Mumbai).

With such similar pricing and size, you may want to look at the EcoSport before you go to the Hyundai dealership. And as you work on your decision, you’ll find the EcoSport makes more sense, with its higher ground clearance and extra space adding to practicality, despite lacking a couple of features, which you wouldn’t mind.

Hyundai i20 CRDi
Price: Rs 9.31 lakh (on-road, Mumbai)
Engine: 1,396cc, 4cyl, turbo-diesel
Power: 89bhp
Torque: 220Nm
Gearbox: 6M
0-100kph: 11.91sec
Mileage: 14.7 (overall) 
TopGear Rating: 6/10

Ford EcoSport 1.5 diesel
Price: Rs 11.12 lakh (on-road, Mumbai)
Engine: 1,498cc, 4cyl, turbo-diesel
Power: 90bhp
Torque: 204Nm
Gearbox: 5M
0-100kph: 13.24sec
Mileage: 15.1 kpl (overall)
TopGear Rating: 8/10