Reviews

17 February 2017 Written by Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
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The iconic Honda City, for long Honda Car India’s flagship model in the country, has received a midlife upgrade, primarily to add vigour to its persona. The new City 2017 gets no mechanical changes, but there are significant changes made both to the exteriors and interiors to bring about freshness into the product, which of late has lost market share to newer introductions in the market. Launched in 2014, the current City model is in its fourth-generation and has sold over 2.2 lakh units in the past three years. Whether the City 2017 edition will eventually lead to Honda reclaiming the top spot in the premium midsize sedan segment is for future analysis.
 
With the 2017 edition, Honda has added a new ‘flagship’ ZX variant to the City line-up, one that is aimed to “address customers that want everything in their car.” We drove a petrol ZX variant during the drive organised for the media, and this feature would highlight the changes as well as the new additions made to the popular midsize sedan.
 
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Bulk of the changes in the new City is visible on its front. The bumper has been reworked to give it a wider stance, and the grille is all-new. Honda designers have focussed a lot on the lights – both at the front and rear – to add not just aesthetics but functionality. The integrated LED daytime running lights are being offered as standard across all variants, an industry first.
 
Then, on the ZX variant, there are inline LED headlamps, LED fog lamps, LED rear combination lamps, trunk spoiler with LED stop lamp. The ZX variant also gets LED interior lamps. Headlamps get automatic control with light sensors, and are featured with auto-off timer. Two other additional features on the ZX include automatic rain sensing wipers and rear adjustable head restraints.
 
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INFOTAINMENT
 
The biggest change Honda has brought into the City is in its infotainment system. The DIGIPAD, as the 17.7 cm capacitive touchscreen AVN (audio, video & navigation) system is called, has been designed – in the company’s words – to keep occupants connected to their music and social network. There’s Wi-Fi support to access the internet, voice recognition for media, navigation and phone, standard music playback including two USB ports, one SD card slot, and 1.5 GB of internal storage memory. The navigation system is a satellite-linked 3D set-up with preloaded maps, and during our morning run with the car, it worked fairly well.
 
Surprisingly though, there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The smartphone projection standards developed by Apple and Google are gradually becoming standard features in this segment, as well as segments below the midsize premium sedan segment. The new system is Android-based, and can be customised for various applications. The system gets MirrorLink support aiding smartphone connectivity.
 
With these new additions, and the well laid out functional dashboard, Honda has been able to maintain the overall impressive feel of the City’s interiors.
 
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SAFETY
 
Like most other manufacturers today, Honda too has committed itself to offer more safety features to its customers. The ACE body structure, dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, impact-mitigating front headrest system, and the pedestrian injury mitigation technology are standard across all variants of City 2017. The ISOFIX anchors and tether in the rear seats is a sensible feature on all the variants as well. For the uninitiated, ISOFIX is the international standard for attachment points for child safety seats in passenger cars. The top ZX trim gets six airbags – two front, two side and two curtain airbags. The other notable feature that would add to the safety quotient of the City 2017 is the rear-view camera that offers multiple views – normal, wide and top-down – with guidelines.
 
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POWERTRAIN
 
From a powertrain perspective, there aren’t any changes. The two engines – the 1.5 l i-VTEC petrol as well as the 1.5 l i-DTEC diesel – continue to power the Honda City 2017. The petrol engine gets two transmission options. In addition to the 5-speed manual as earlier, the ZX grade gets a new 7-speed continuously variable transmission (CVT) with torque converter that also gets paddle shifters. The 1.5 l i-VTEC petrol engine, which produces approximately 117 hp of peak power and 145 Nm of torque, delivers a certified mileage of 17.4 km/l in manual mode, and a slightly better 18 km/l in the automatic mode. The 1.5 l diesel engine delivers 25.6 km/l, and produces 99 hp and 200 Nm torque. The diesel engine is paired with a 6-speed manual transmission.
 
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CONCLUSION
 
For close to 19 years, Honda City has enjoyed a premium space in the consumer mind-set. In recent times, as in other occasions in the past, the City has lost out to newer competitors in the market. Currently, it lies in the second position behind Maruti Suzuki India’s Ciaz. Ciaz, incidentally, also benefits from the demand it enjoys for its mild hybrid version.
 
Honda has offered a significantly better package on the new City 2017. The company has also offered customers the option of choosing for an extended warranty of five years, with unlimited mileage – a first in the Indian car market.
 
But is that going to be enough, especially with refreshed editions of competing vehicles lined-up for launch over the next few months? At a starting price of Rs 8.50 lakh (S, petrol) going up to Rs 13.57 lakh for the all-inclusive ZX variant (ex-showroom, Delhi), the new City 2017 might look a tad expensive but it does come with a lot of excitement built in, in terms of features and technologies. And with a strong legacy and loyal customer base, there isn’t much reason why Honda won’t pull out a winner with the new City 2017.
 
(Do watch out for our video on the new City next week)
 
TEXT: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
 
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay
16 February 2017 Written by Anwesh Koley
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The Roadster from Harley-Davidson is an addition to the Sportster family of motorcycles from the American motorcycle giant and intends to take its touring legacy forward in one of the world’s fastest growing two-wheeler markets. Being part of the 2017 line up of motorcycles in India, Harley-Davidson intends to offer a sporty retreat for new and existing customers with the new Roadster, who prefer the Harley-Davidson moniker, but want their set of wheels to do more than just cruise.
 
This first step towards this end is the riding position. The rider has to lean a bit forward to reach the bike’s low-set handlebars and the footpegs are positioned higher than the 1200 Custom. Its takes getting used to, but once astride, the bike is easy to ride at all speeds. The Roadster gets a shortened front fender and the engine is done up in an all-black theme, which provides visual mass viewed from any angle. The company says that this has to do with the minimalist fastback design concept adopted for the Roadster, which will appeal to both youngsters and veteran riders alike.
 
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While the rider seat is quite comfortable for long and short hauls, the pillion seat is best suited for short spins, being a narrow unit without much support. The instrument console gets a part-digital speedometer that has readings for speed, odometer, trip meters and a clock, with the tachometer being an analogue unit. The 12.5 litre peanut-shaped fuel tank is slim and provides enough room for the rider to tuck his knees in comfortably. Switchgear layout is kept simple, with the exception of the horn switch, which is not positioned very well and is hard to reach and operate.
 
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ENGINE, TRANSMISSION & HANDLING
 
The Roadster’s 1202 cc air-cooled, Evolution V-twin engine, which features lightweight aluminium heads and cylinders for improved air-cooling efficiency, produces a maximum torque of 96 Nm at 4250 rpm, using a 5-speed gearbox to transmit power to the rear wheel. The Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI) system ensures a smooth ride at the lower ends of the rev range. However, as revs increase, vibrations begin to filter through to the handlebars and the footpegs, which discourages the rider to open up the throttle.
 
This is a pity, since the Roadster’s engine has been tuned for riding at higher speeds and the eager nature of the V-twin is evident across engine speeds. If you can live with the vibrations, cruising at speeds of 80-100 km/h brings the best out of this mill. A seat height of 785 mm should work for most people, and moving this 259 kg motorcycle around does not pose a problem even during heavy traffic conditions. The bike feels planted at all speeds and with a decent ground clearance of 150 mm, chances of bottoming out across undulated tarmac are minimised.
 
One thing that we’ll point out here, which hinders the otherwise effortless mile munching capabilities of the Roadster, is the hard-to-operate clutch, which gets tiring after a while. A smoother unit would have made riding this bike much more fun.
 
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SUSPENSION & BRAKING
 
The Roadster uses a new 43mm upside-down fork up front with triple-rated springs. The fork has a rake of 28.9 degrees, which makes for reasonably quick steering and ensuring that taking slow-speed U-turns is not a chore. The rear suspension comprises of twin shocks, adjustable for preload. The bike also has the most suspension travel of any of the Sportster range, boasting 4.5 inches up front and 3.2 inches at the rear.
 
The twin 300 mm discs at the front are gripped by 2-piston callipers and the bike features dual-channel ABS. Braking capabilities are good and the bike can be hauled down from high speeds with excessive wallowing of the suspension, which helps rider confidence. The Roadster uses Harley-Davidson-specific radial black-wall Dunlop tyres, which provide adequate grip in most conditions.
 
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CONCLUSION
 
Priced at Rs 9.7 lakh, ex-showroom Mumbai, the H-D Roadster is a comfortable cruiser that provides adequately sporty performance. The engine feels quite capable and the presence of ABS as standard is a step in the right direction. Harley has ensured that quality issues prevalent with a few of its entry-level offerings have been addressed and are not present on the Roadster – what you get here is a potent motorcycle, which provides a mature riding and ownership experience.
 
TEXT AND PHOTO: Anwesh Koley
25 January 2017 Written by Sameer Kumar
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Maruti Suzuki India (MSIL) decided to start 2017 with a bang, by adding an all-new hatchback to its already strong portfolio of small cars for India. This new car, the Ignis, is an urban crossover that’s specifically aimed at millennials – affluent, young, urban buyers who want a car that’s at least as smart as their phone. The Ignis isn’t a run-of-the-mill small Maruti hatchback. Instead, it’s aggressively styled, is very well put together, features tablet-like instrumentation and is available with many options for customisation. 
 
DESIGN & STYLING
 
At the very outset, the Ignis was designed to present a unique driving proposition to millennials, and in addition to the actual driving experience itself, styling was supposed to be the Ignis’ key differentiator. And given the way it looks, we’d say that Maruti Suzuki has pulled it off – the Ignis does look quite cool and is effortlessly stylish.
 
In terms of unique styling elements, notable bits on the Ignis are its LED projector headlamps, LED daytime running lights, subtle chrome inserts in the front grille, exaggerated wheel arches that are properly filled out with 15-inch five-spoke black-painted alloy wheels, blacked-out A- and B-pillars, and understated black finish on the wheel arches and the rear bumper. Even with a wheelbase of 2,435 mm (as compared to, say, the Wagon R, which has a wheelbase of 2,400 mm, or the Swift, which stands at 2,430 mm), the Ignis is still definitely a small, compact car, but due to the design cues used by Suzuki designers, it manages to boast an SUV-crossover design vibe, which its target audience will probably love.
 
If that wasn’t enough already, Maruti Suzuki is also offering extensive customisation options on the Ignis, including various types of roof wraps, black and other colour options for the outside rear-view mirrors, spoilers, fog lamp trim, skid plates and more. For those who love to tinker and personalise, the Ignis seems to have great potential.
 
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POWERTRAIN & TRANSMISSION
 
While the Ignis is, according to Maruti, a premium car and will be sold exclusively via MSIL’s ‘Nexa’ dealerships, it still shares its engines with the rest of Maruti’s small car line-up. MSIL’s tried and tested four-cylinder 1.2 l petrol and 1.3 l diesel engines are available on the Ignis, and both are available with an option of 5-speed manual or 5-speed automated-manual (AMT) transmissions. The engines have been especially calibrated for the Ignis, with the petrol VVT unit producing 82 hp at 6,000 rpm and 113 Nm of torque at 4,200 rpm, while the diesel DDiS engine makes 74 hp at 4,000 rpm and an impressive 190 Nm of torque at 2,000 rpm.
 
The first Ignis variant that we drove was fitted with the DDiS diesel engine, with AMT. (Maruti calls its AMT system ‘AGS,’ or ‘auto gear shift’ and this system also allows clutchless manual shifting, which can sometimes be useful while driving on tricky mountain roads or during particularly spirited driving.) With its AMT slotted in ‘D,’ the diesel-powered Ignis got off the line cleanly, quickly accelerating to a cruising speed of 70-80 km/h without any fuss whatsoever. With its kerb weight of about 960 kg (the Wagon R has a kerb weight of 870 kg, while the Swift weighs 1,060 kg), inherent limitations of the AMT set-up, and the slow-revving nature of Maruti’s 1.3 l diesel engine, this Ignis doesn’t feel particularly eager to get up to speed, but feels competent and is quite capable of keeping up with traffic.
 
While the AMT has been recalibrated especially for the Ignis and does show a marked improvement over similar units used on some other Maruti cars (and also performs better than AMT units found on similarly equipped cars from the competition), it’s still definitely not as smooth and seamless as a conventional torque-converter automatic or a CVT. Overtaking can sometimes require some advance planning, since response from the AMT can be a bit unpredictable.
 
That said, the Ignis’ AMT works in a reasonably unobtrusive manner, especially if you learn to modulate the throttle in a way that minimises jerks and hiccups. It’s a cost-effective solution that works, bringing the convenience of an automatic at a lower price point, and without hurting fuel economy. Speaking of fuel economy, Maruti claims a figure of 26.80 km/l for the diesel Ignis, which should compensate for the fact that the 1.3 l DDiS, with its 74 hp output, won’t win any ‘hot hatch’ competitions. It works equally well in city traffic and out on the open highway, with strong torque delivery and NVH levels that are quite acceptable, but delivering excitement is not its forte.
 
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While the 1.3 l diesel will definitely be the sensible option for many, the more fun-to-drive Ignis is definitely the petrol-engined version, which we drove next, and which was also fitted with a 5-speed manual transmission. While 82 hp may not sound very impressive on paper, Maruti Suzuki’s four-cylinder 1.2 l petrol engine, with variable valve timing, is a free-revving unit that loves to be pushed. Freed from the mechanical limitations of an AMT and operated via a slick 5-speed manual transmission, the petrol engine delivers the ‘zing’ that you would expect from a car that looks as funky as the Ignis.
 
Low- to mid-rpm power delivery is energetic and if you use its slick, smooth 5-speed gearbox aggressively, the Ignis scoots and hustles through traffic with remarkable alacrity. Out on the highway, the power delivery does taper off a bit at higher revs, but we have to remember that this is, after all, a city slicker that’s best for tackling the urban gridlock. It’s definitely more fun to drive than the 1.3 l diesel, but we’ll note here that claimed fuel efficiency for the petrol engine is 20.89 km/l, which is about 22 % less than the figure claimed for the diesel engine.
 
We also had an opportunity to sample an AMT-equipped petrol-engined Ignis, which felt a bit smoother than the similarly equipped diesel Ignis. Maybe it was the gear ratios or maybe the calibration software, but the AMT unit felt more in sync with the petrol engine’s power and torque delivery, resulting in a smoother driving experience. So there you have it – opt for the petrol manual if you want full, complete control and the ‘fun to drive’ element, and go for the diesel AMT if you prefer the diesel’s fuel economy, combined with the sheer convenience of an automatic.
 
RIDE, HANDLING & SAFETY
 
The Ignis rides on 15-inch alloy wheels, shod with 175/65 R 15 rubber. Suspension set-up is McPherson strut at the front and torsion beam at the back, and both ends seem to have been very well optimised for Indian roads and driving conditions. Spring and damper rates aren’t overly firm and ride quality remains fairly supple at most times. We won’t call it ‘plush,’ but the Ignis does handle rough terrain with fair aplomb and, for the most part, remains comfortable over most roads.
 
The electric power steering is light and keeps the car manoeuvrable in all driving conditions. There isn’t really a great deal of feel/ feedback from the steering, but at least it doesn’t feel over-assisted. In fact, the Ignis remains quite calm and composed during lane change manoeuvres at moderate to high-ish speeds, and actually seems to enjoy cornering at a rapid pace. While it’s definitely not a ‘hot hatch,’ the Ignis almost has go-kart-like enthusiasm for spirited driving, and enjoys being pushed hard – something that driving enthusiasts will appreciate.
 
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In terms of safety, the Ignis is equipped with dual airbags at the front and has anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution (EBD). Based on Maruti’s new ‘A’ platform, the Ignis’ monocoque structure has been designed to absorb and disperse crash energy in the event of an impact. The car also cares for pedestrians and features collapsible wipers, energy-absorbing headlamps and a hood panel designed to minimise injury to pedestrians, in the event of a low-speed collision. Front seatbelts with pre-tensioners and force limiters, and ISOFIX child seat anchorage means that the Ignis is kitted out with some world-class safety features, which is commendable.
 
INTERIORS & CONNECTIVITY
 
Its interiors are one area, where the Ignis truly shines – everything feels very well put together and build quality is very good indeed. Suzuki’s designers have made excellent use of body-coloured elements (which look like metal but are actually high-quality plastic) in the car’s interiors, which is complemented by the use of carbon fibre-like detailing on the dashboard. The toggle switches, elevated and centrally positioned tablet-like infotainment system (with steering wheel-mounted controls), and features like push-button start, reverse parking sensor with camera, and full Android Auto and Apple Car Play compatibility, with seamless smartphone pairing for full internet connectivity, means that MSIL has left no stone unturned when it comes to infotainment.
 
The cabin itself is reasonably roomy and well appointed, with soft-touch plastics having been used in most places, along with seat upholstery material that feels acceptably nice. The car features a 265 l boot, which can be further extended by folding down the car’s 60:40 split rear seats. Overall, it’s quite comfortable for four medium-sized passengers, and you shouldn’t really be trying to squeeze in more people in a compact hatchback like this!
 
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CONCLUSION
 
The Ignis is available in Sigma, Delta, Zeta and Alpha versions, with the petrol manual Sigma (base model) priced at Rs 4.59 lakh and the petrol Zeta, with AMT, priced at Rs 6.30 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi. Prices for the diesel manual start at Rs 6.39 lakh, going up to Rs 7.46 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) for the top-end diesel automatic. If you can live without the bigger infotainment tablet and fancy toggle-type switches that the top-end variants get, we’d say that the mid-level variants of the Ignis represent best value for money. The best part is that the safety features (ABS, airbags etc.) are standard fitment on all versions, including the base models, which also get full smartphone connectivity. 
 
Either way, the Ignis really does seem to represent the beginning of fresh, innovative thinking at Maruti Suzuki and their next-generation of smart, safe and connected compact cars will likely be nothing like we’ve ever seen before. 
 
TEXT: Sameer Kumar
 
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay
13 January 2017 Written by Sameer Kumar
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Based on the C-Class sedan, the 2nd generation mid-range SUV from Mercedes-Benz, the new GLC replaces the older GLK model globally and is a big step forward for the German brand in terms of performance, driving dynamics and safety. Mercedes-Benz claims to have reduced fuel consumption by close to 20 % as compared to the GLK, while the GLC’s revamped suspension, dynamic transmission modes and 4MATIC permanent all-wheel-drive represent a significant improvement in ride quality, handling prowess and off-road capability. ATR recently drove the petrol-engined Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 and here we take a closer look at the elements that make this vehicle really stand out from the crowd. 
 
DESIGN & INTERIORS
 
The GLC 300 is, undeniably, a handsome SUV, with its traditional SUV-spec high-riding stance, short front and rear overhangs and a taut, lean profile that clearly means business. The vehicle rides on 18-inch alloys and while its curvy styling is a world apart from the butch, angular aggression of older G-Class SUVs, the GLC conveys a sense of refinement and style that few of its competitors can match. 
 
Coming to the interiors, there’s the usual attention to detail that you’d expect from Mercedes-Benz and build quality is top-notch. The leather, wood and metal trim used inside the 5-seater cabin feels good to the touch and with fancy ambient lighting, panoramic sunroof, electrically-operated tailgate and large, centrally-mounted colour display for infotainment-related functions, the GLC’s spacious interiors are as luxurious as you’d expect a vehicle that costs Rs 55.90 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) to be.
 
In addition to looking good, the new GLC is also very aerodynamic, with a Cd value of 0.31, which compares well with the 0.34 figure for the older GLK. According to Mercedes-Benz, it was meticulous attention to small details, like the sealing of radiator and headlamp surrounds, a radiator shutter, extended roof spoiler and optimised underbody panelling, which allowed the company to achieve such a low Cd for the GLC. (Admittedly, the low Cd figure will not do much for performance or fuel economy at low speeds in the city, but should certainly help when travelling out on open expressways, at higher speeds.)
 
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ENGINE, TRANSMISSION & AWD
 
While both petrol and diesel engines are available on the India-spec GLC, it was the turbocharged petrol-engined GLC 300 that we drove, and came away fairly impressed with this unit. The turbocharged, intercooled 2.0 l DOHC 16-valve inline-four, with all-aluminium construction and direct fuel-injection, produces 242 hp at 5,500 rpm and 370 Nm of torque at 1,300 rpm. Mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission, the engine feels smooth and very responsive across its rev range, while producing particularly strong mid-range power delivery that continues to build right up until the redline. Claimed performance figures for the GLC 300 are 6.5 seconds for the zero to 100 km/h sprint, and a top speed of 222 km/h, both of which we’re sure the vehicle can achieve without much effort.
 
While the GLC 300’s 2.0 l engine is undoubtedly a masterpiece, it certainly gets a fair bit of help from the vehicle’s 9-speed 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission, towards delivering superlative performance on the road. Featuring nine forward gears and a hydrodynamic torque converter, the GLC’s 9G-TRONIC offers swift, decisive gear changes that are barely perceptible to the driver. During hard acceleration, as the GLC’s turbocharged engine spools up to deliver its 242 hp, this close-ratio 9-speed transmission is more than capable of keeping up with the momentum and ensure seamless power delivery to all four wheels.
 
If a nine-speed automatic was enough already, Mercedes-Benz has also provided another trick on the GLC 300, which is its ‘DYNAMIC SELECT’ feature that allows a driver to choose between COMFORT, SPORT and SPORT+ driving modes, which in turn affect engine, transmission, suspension and steering characteristics. While COMFORT mode offers more relaxed suspension settings, softer power delivery and better fuel economy, SPORT mode firms up the suspension and delivers more aggressive responses from the engine and transmission. As you would expect, SPORT+ delivers even more of the same, with the engine’s power delivery and the transmission’s shift points being optimised for maximum acceleration.
 
Overall, the GLC 300’s 2.0 l turbo-petrol and 9-speed automatic transmission work in perfect sync with each other, offering class-leading performance in a brilliant mechanical package. However, there’s another important element in the GLC’s performance equation – its independent multi-link suspension set-up on all four wheels, along with the 4MATIC permanent all-wheel-drive, which definitely plays a big role in defining the vehicle’s on/off-road performance. On the GLC, 4MATIC offers a basic drive torque split of 45 / 55 % between front and rear axle. Working in conjunction with the GLC’s electronic stability control and anti-slip systems, the AWD set-up provides safe, predictable handling on slippery tarmac as well as in extreme off-road driving conditions. The GLC’s off-road driving programs also help the driver get the most out of its 4MATIC, with modes especially designed for driving on slippery terrain, ice, mud, gravel etc., and up steep inclines, without missing a beat.
 
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VEHICLE LIGHTWEIGHTING & SAFETY
 
According to Mercedes-Benz, the GLC boasts an 80 kg weight reduction compared to the outgoing GLK, despite the new vehicle being bigger and better equipped. The primary reason for this, according to the company, is the GLC’s all-new body, which makes extensive use of aluminium, combined with high- and ultra-high-strength steel. With the intelligent use of materials, Mercedes-Benz has been able to make the GLC’s body 50 kg lighter compared to the older model, which is a remarkable achievement. A further 12 kg weight reduction was achieved with the use of a new, compact, transfer case made of magnesium alloy for the 9G-TRONIC transmission.
 
Apart from vehicle lightweighting, Mercedes-Benz has also put in a huge amount of effort towards ensuring that the GLC is one of its safest SUVs ever. A high-strength passenger compartment, which is surrounded by specially designed and extensively tested controlled-deformation zones, forms the basis of occupant safety on the GLC. This is supplemented by seven airbags and 3-point safety belts with pyrotechnical and reversible belt tensioning (with belt-force limitation) for driver, front passenger and outer rear seat occupants.
 
Apart from the above, there’s also a host of electronic safety systems, the first of which is ATTENTION ASSIST, a drowsiness detection system that monitors the driver’s steering behaviour. If the system detects any signs of drowsiness and / or loss of attention, it provides audio-visual warnings to the driver, thereby averting possible loss of control. The GLC also features an ADAPTIVE BRAKE control system, which keeps the brake discs dry in wet conditions and automatically prevents the vehicle from rolling backwards on uphill inclines. The PRE-SAFE occupant protection system on the GLC identifies potentially dangerous situations and imminent crashes, and in the event of such a situation, automatically tightens occupants’ seat belts, closes the side windows and primes the brakes for extreme application. On the convenience front, the GLC’s PARKTRONIC system provides active parking assistance and, when activated, can automatically steer the vehicle into perpendicular and parallel parking spaces, with steering and braking being handled by the vehicle’s on-board computer and only throttle input required from the driver. 
 
Notably, the Mercedes-Benz GLC has a 5-star Euro-NCAP safety rating, which says something about the sheer effort that the German manufacturer has put in towards the safety aspect.
 
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SUMMARY
 
With an on-road price of about Rs 60.50 lakh, the Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 certainly isn’t an SUV for everyone. However, for those who can afford one, it offers superlative engine performance, a high-tech 9-speed transmission that’s possibly the best in its segment, solid build quality, luxurious and well-appointed interiors and a spacious cabin that can comfortably seat five adults. In addition to its on-road performance, which is excellent, the GLC 300 also offers genuine off-road capability – its multi-link independent suspension, 4MATIC all-wheel-drive and off-road driving modes work together to ensure that this SUV keeps going in the rough stuff, though you should probably remember that extreme off-road use isn’t the GLC’s primary forte. For ferrying your family around in the city however, in an SUV that’s luxurious and extremely safe, the GLC 300 might just be one of the best options available in India right now.
 
TEXT: Sameer Kumar
23 December 2016 Written by Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
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In what is its second foray into the Indian market, Hyundai Motor India Limited (HMIL) recently launched the third-gen Tucson SUV. The globally popular SUV brings together a host of positive traits – comfort, space, performance, convenience and safety features and technologies. But are these good enough for the company to ensure the Tucson has a successful return to India? We were invited by the manufacturer to Chandigarh recently to experience the vehicle. Here is what we think.
 
INTRODUCTION 
 
Hyundai Motor India (HMIL) had stepped into the SUV domain many years back – 2003 to be precise – with the Terracan. Two years later, the Korean automaker had introduced the first generation Tucson SUV. At that point in time though, it appeared the Indian consumers weren’t ready to accept SUVs as a mode of vehicle. Both the Terracan and the Tucson were received with limited success, and the company decided to phase them out of the market. 
 
Then came the Santa Fe in 2010. Although the product didn’t set the sales charts soaring for the company, Hyundai learnt what the Indian consumer truly desired from an SUV. In 2015, HMIL brought in the Creta, its smallest and most compact SUV yet. Consumers lapped up the Creta unlike any other product in the market, so much so that the company had to ramp up production for the product to 13,000 units a month in over a year’s time, from the 5,000 units it started with at launch. 
 
Buoyed by the phenomenal success of the Creta, HMIL has now re-launched the third generation Tucson SUV, slotted in between the Creta and the Santa Fe. For now, the company’s SUV line-up seems complete. However, it sees opportunities abound in the SUV segment, and now has announced it will bring in a sub-four metre SUV by mid-2019. 
 
For its positioning in the market, the Tucson doesn’t have many formidable rivals in the market to compete against. In fact, it just has the Honda CR-V to account for, since the others in the segment – the Chevrolet Captiva and the Renault Koleos – are no longer sold in the country. That seems easy, but Hyundai still has a fight to put up against slightly larger SUVs such as the Toyota Fortuner and Ford Endeavour. Is the Tucson capable of bringing for Hyundai the same kind of success it tasted with the Creta? We find out.
 
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THE LOOKS
 
One look at the Tucson and you can’t miss Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design imprint. In the front, the Tucson is given dual barrel LED headlamps – LED cluster for the low beams, and a halogen set-up for high beam – and that sits aside a large three slat hexagonal grille surrounded by generous amount of chrome. The headlamp cluster also gets a daytime running light (DRL) strip right over the lamps, while a secondary LED DRL is placed just below the fog lamps. The slim wraparound LED rear combination lamps sit well in a well-proportioned rear. The side profile too gels well with the front and the rear design, despite the irregularly shaped wheel arches. There are silver finished rails on the roof in addition to a shark fin antenna. 
 
The cabin looks and feels plush and premium. Hyundai has offered for the first time in the segment, an eight-inch audio video navigation (AVN) system with voice recognition feature. The infotainment system supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and is designed well with easy-to-use on-screen buttons. The odometer panel gets a 4.2-inch colour LED screen that displays all the required information with great clarity. 
 
In terms of convenience, Hyundai has packed the Tucson with a lot of features, including dual zone climate control system with a cluster ioniser air purifier system. There is auto defogger and rear AC vents on the top of the line GLS variant we drove. The rear seats come with the reclining function, and can be split in a 60:40 ratio. The seats overall are leather-wrapped with the driver seat getting power controls (including lumbar). The rear view mirror inside the cabin features a digital compass, while the ORVMs have a segment first heating function to keep them clear in cold conditions. 
 
There is generous amount of room inside the Tucson cabin, and fit and finish overall is top notch. Like in the Elantra, Hyundai has continued to offer the smart-open feature on the tailgate. In the event of someone approaching the rear of the vehicle, the sensor recognises the key in your pocket, and in three seconds, the boot lid pops open automatically.
 
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POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
 
The new Hyundai Tucson comes with the choice of a 2 l petrol engine as well as a 2 l diesel engine. Both these engines can be paired with either a manual transmission or a six-speed automatic gearbox. The top-of-the-line GLS variant, the one we drove during the media drive, is only available with the diesel engine. We shall soon bring to you a detailed review of the petrol engine on the Tucson. 
 
The ‘R’ 2 l diesel engine is completely new. The four-cylinder, common rail, double overhead camshaft (DOHC) engine is fitted with an electronic variable geometry turbocharger (e-VGT). The engine produces maximum power of 185 hp at 4,000 rpm and peak torque of 400 Nm at around 1,750-2,750 rpm. We loved the refinement of this engine. It is smooth and powerful, with torque available right from the lower rev range. The six-speed automatic gearbox gets two driving modes – sports and eco. In both modes, the vehicles drive smoothly with no jerks or lag experienced during gear shifts. 
 
Hyundai claims to have the best power to weight ratio in the diesel engine. It delivers 18.42 km/l with the manual transmission, while with the automatic unit, mileage stands at an ARAI-approved 16.38 km/l. 
 
The overall performance of the Tucson diesel is very impressive, and so is the vehicle’s NVH level. Engine noise doesn’t pass into the cabin, and harshness and vibrations are fairly controlled. Compared to the 1.6 l diesel unit in Hyundai’s stable, this one felt a little louder, but once inside, it wasn’t intrusive. We loved the way the steering behaved in most situations, including the short drive through a hilly terrain. There was some body roll during corners, but it isn’t something that will scare even amateur drivers. One must note that the new Tucson is only being offered with a front wheel drive option. 
 
Overall, from a ride and handling perspective, the Tucson scores highly in our books. The suspension set-up – McPherson strut with coil springs in the front and multi-link with coil springs at the rear – do a very good job of offering a pleasant drive and ride comfort. Also aiding the Tucson’s overall drive feel are the brakes.
 
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SAFETY FIRST!
 
Hyundai has always had high priority on safety. The Tucson body structure, for instance, is made using 51 % of advanced high strength steel. Hyundai has also added significantly more structural adhesives on the Tucson compared to earlier products, measuring 102 m in length.
 
In terms of safety technologies, the Tucson gets ABS and EBD along with traction control and two airbags as standard. The GLS variant is fitted with six airbags for heightened safety, and also gets electronic stability control (ESC), hill start & brake assist, and downhill brake control. One appreciable feature on the Tucson is the retractable roof mounted seatbelt for the middle passenger on the rear seat, instead of the lap seatbelts offered on most vehicles. Add to that list front and rear parking sensors, a reverse camera, height adjustable front seat belts and impact sensing auto door-unlock.
 
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ROUND-UP
 
The SUV segment currently is the fastest growing segment in the Indian industry, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 32 % between 2015 and 2019. As per Global Insight, in the same time period, the high SUV segment – where the Tucson is slotted – is likely to grow at a CAGR of 51 %. Hyundai is well poised to take advantage of the opportunity and has priced the Tucson rather well. It is not expected to be a runaway success in terms of numbers, but at a starting price of ` 18.99 lakh for the petrol manual, going up to ` 24.99 lakh for the top GLS diesel automatic (all prices ex-Delhi), Hyundai has offered potential buyers with a compelling proposition. 
 
TEXT: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
 
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay
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