One of the most popular badges in automobile history, the Ford Mustang, is officially available in India now. For 52 years, since it was first introduced on April 17, 1964, the Mustang has remained one of the most affordable and iconic classic American muscle cars. And in that, the Mustang has continued to be one of Ford's greatest success stories globally. Albeit short, we got a first-hand feel of the Ford Mustang at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) in Greater Noida recently. Were we impressed? Here's our take on the car.
Despite the global appeal of the Mustang, Ford stayed away from developing a right-hand-drive (RHD) variant of the car until the current sixth-generation. In August last year, the United Kingdom became the first market to receive RHD Mustangs, and it was only a matter of time for the vehicle to come to similar RHD markets, such as India. Incidentally, the vehicle also became the world's best-selling sports coupe in 2015, selling 110,000 units world over, as per IHS Automotive. Since its launch, Ford has sold over 9.2 mn units of the Mustang.
Last year, Ford India had announced its intention to bring the Mustang to India, and followed that up with a showcase of the famed 'pony' car at the New Delhi Auto Show in February, earlier this year. While the excitement among enthusiasts is evident, for Ford, the Mustang is all about enhancing the company's image in the country, with a hope that it would lead customers to its showrooms, and eventually help push its products in the mass market segments.
We don't have the exact numbers, but Ford India executives have confirmed the vehicle has been received "extremely well" by Indian consumers. That, however, is a story we shall bring to you later. Let's get talking about the drive first. Five laps across the 5.13 km-long track was never going to be enough for us to test and check every bit of details on the car, and bring you a thorough review, but the experience was long enough to get you an impression about its traits and behaviour.
At 4.8 m in length and almost two metre in width, the Mustang is a large car. That is about 1.5 inch wider and 1.4 inch lower than the earlier generation car. The roof height has been lowered, and at the front, the trapezoidal grille has grown bigger in proportion. The design therein gels beautifully with the vertically stacked daytime LED lights and projector headlamps. At the rear, there are new 3D, tri-bar tail lamps. The long sculpted bonnet and the short rear deck has been retained, but have been given contemporary treatment. Yet, there is no way the Mustang loses its familiar, raw appeal of the past. If at all, the changes add to the car's aura and persona.
Over 60 % of the vehicle's length is occupied by the long hood, and the front seats inside the cabin, leaving enough space at the rear for two adults to squeeze in. But that shouldn't bother owners, for this car would rarely be used for long, relaxed family weekend getaways. To be fair though, we didn't sneak into the rear seats to have an actual feel of their size and space. The front seats, however, have the best of comfort and support built in. The front seats can be power-adjusted six ways, and are ventilated with heat and cool functions.
Ford engineers have given the Mustang cabin a pleasing, modern feel. The driver is well positioned to reach out to all controls on the dashboard with equal ease. In fact, the cockpit is a busy place, with several tactile switches and knobs running across the breadth of the dashboard unit. There's a mix of components made of metal, leather and plastics. Talking of materials, we felt the Mustang deserved better quality plastics in the dash area, especially on the glove compartment.
UNDER THE HOOD
Under the hood is a 5 l naturally-aspirated V8 engine, with upgraded valvetrain and cylinder heads. Ford has got the most powerful engine in the new Mustang range to India, which delivers peak power of 395 hp, and 515 Nm of torque. And we think that's a good strategy to draw in potential customers. All that power is sent to the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission.
To deliver on the demands of better fuel economy, idle stability and emissions, Ford has introduced a new intake manifold into the engine that breathes better in low speeds. Some critical changes that have been brought into the engine include larger intake and exhaust valves, revised intake and exhaust camshafts, lighter sinter-forged connecting rods that are more durable for high-rpm operations, stiffer valve springs that ensure valves close completely at higher engine revs. Also, piston tops have been redesigned with deeper cut-outs.
Like all powerful sports cars, we expected the Mustang to sound great. But it isn't the most powerful V8 we have in the country, and the sound it produced didn't disappoint. Barring a minimal delay in power to start with, the Mustang has a well-refined engine that pulls well from about 4,000 rpm until about the 6,500 – 7,000 rpm limit. We managed an odo-indicated 220 km/h top speed, but on the fourth and fifth laps, the engine started to seem lethargic, leading to frequent loss of breath.
The Mustang offers four driving modes you can select from – Normal, Sport+, Track and Snow/Wet, of which we tried only two modes – Sport+ and Track. These settings essentially adjust the car's throttle, steering and stability control. We found the auto gearbox somewhat sluggish, and even the paddle shifters weren't energetic. Moving in and out of corners, we experienced negligible body roll. The power delivery was smooth, aided essentially by a limited-slip differential.
Ford has introduced an all-new integral-link independent rear suspension on the Mustang, and that improves road dynamics significantly. Ride and handling is also claimed to have improved thanks to the new aluminium rear knuckles that reduce unsprung mass. A lot of modification and tuning has also been made to the geometry, springs, dampers and bushings, claimed Ford. The front structure has been stiffened by the use of a new perimeter sub-frame, which also helps in light-weighting.
As one would expect in a vehicle of this stature, the Mustang has most of the everyday car comforts on offer, including automatic high intensity discharge (HID) headlamps, dual-zone climate control, rain sensing wipers, DRLs, tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS), navigation, reversing camera, MyKey and SYNC 2 voice control connectivity system with an eight-inch colour touch screen, among others. For the driver and passenger in the front, there are ventilated seats with part electric adjustment. There is also an electronic line-lock, which essentially locks the front brakes and releases the rears to help a willing enthusiast spin and heat up the rear tyres before he/ she launches the car.
Safety gets a lot of prominence on the Mustang. There are eight airbags on offers, and has additional crash sensors located on the front, sides and centre of the vehicle to control the deployment of airbags and safety belt pre-tensioners. These are all part of Ford's all-new inflatable airbag restraint design. Ford has also offered the Securilock passive anti-theft system with perimeter alarm on the Mustang.
The company has decided to sell the Mustang initially in Delhi and Mumbai only, with prices starting at ' 65 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi. That's nowhere affordable, as I mentioned earlier in this report. But one must remember the Mustang would be imported as a CBU from its Flat Rock assembly plant in the US, and that attracts a hefty import duty rate in the country.
At the track, Anurag Mehrotra, Executive Director, Marketing, Sales & Service, Ford India reminded us of the beautiful story about the Mustang's logo. History has it that Phil Clark, the original designer of the logo, was left handed and therefore drew the logo in a way that seemed natural to him. The more fascinating story, however, is that unlike trained racehorses, the galloping horse is shown running the opposite way to depict its wild character, and that represents the free spirit of the car and its customers. Now, if that sounds like you, there isn't another car in India as iconic as the Mustang.
Text: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay
Japanese carmaker Datsun presently has two models on sale in the country – GO and the GO+ – the first being a no-thrills hatchback and the latter being the country’s cheapest seven-seater vehicle. However, despite the unique positioning of these vehicles, none of them has experienced a sales run akin to their name. This is Datsun’s third year in the country, and it is ready with the redi-GO, its third product in the Indian market.
The redi-GO is built on the Renault Nissan Alliance’s CMF-A platform, just like its cousin Renault Kwid, and is being positioned as an urban cross targeted at the A segment. We were recently invited by the company to drive the car in Kolkata. During the drive, we found out if the redi-GO has the missing areas from its siblings covered well, or are there holes in the dyke yet.
First look of the Datsun redi-GO and one cannot help but appreciate the designers for staying largely true to the concept showcased earlier. The idea of merging two body styles – compact crossover and urban hatchback has resulted in a good looking vehicle. The angular grille flanked by swept-back headlamps lends the redi-GO with a funky and distinct front-end.
In order to resemble a crossover and to offer the segment-leading 185 mm of ground clearance, the redi-GO measures fairly tall even when compared to the existing tall-boy cars in the segment. At 1,541 mm, the redi-GO is 31 mm taller than the Hyundai Eon, the second tallest car in this segment. While this height has its benefits, which we’ll explain in a while, the huge expanse of sheet metal mostly leads to a dull-looking side profile in such cases. Datsun designers have, however, cleverly created a stack of three lines on the redi-GO with varying strength of visibility and angles. These lines, the middle one on the lower part of the doors rises and merges effortlessly with the tail lamp, breaking the monotony of an otherwise large metal area.
The rear, although not as funky as the front, bears a clean design and looks properly modern and graceful. Datsun calls the redi-GO’s design language YUKAN, which in Japanese means brave and bold. Our assessment of the design is pretty much in line with the company’s claim. The redi-GO certainly looks different from existing models and in a good sense.
Step inside the cabin and the redi-GO’s character undergoes a transformation from funky, happy and youthful to the need of meeting basic needs – simple and cost-challenged. The cabin is a mix of hits and misses, space being one of the key hit areas of the vehicle. The space on offer in the redi-GO left us surprised given the expectations from the exterior footprint.
Front seats are wide and accommodating with pronounced side support bolsters, which are effective while going around turns. Space at the rear is best-in-segment and in fact is better than the Maruti Suzuki DZire compact sedan. The extra-long seat offers good under-thigh support and is more comfortable than most of the car's competitors. Headroom too is generous and people over six feet in height too won't have their heads brushing against the roof.
The dashboard bears a minimal yet functional design. However, it lacks the central touch screen as found on the Renault Kwid. We were told the dashboard design of the redi-GO was finalised before that of the Kwid because of which the screen couldn't be integrated. That also implies we could see a variant with the central touch screen at some stage in the future.
While overall space engineering inside the vehicle is appreciable, the front doors have exposed metal above the door pockets, a visible sign of cost-cutting. The door pockets are flat and can't even accommodate 500 ml bottles. The centre console tunnel though can house two bottles.
Plastic quality and build are average and amid exposed bits and joints, we also came across a few plastic bits coming off, such as one plastic part on the front windshield. Datsun officials though assured us that the cars brought for the media drives were pre-production models and the ones sold in the market will have these issues sorted largely.
Our drive was a short one limiting us to stretch the legs of the redi-GO. In traffic, the redi-GO is generally decent and the 0.8 l petrol engine does an acceptable job of moving the vehicle. Driveability through the five-speed transmission is zippy in low-end in first two gears but at speeds beyond 90 km/h the engine struggles to keep the momentum going. Being an urban car this isn't much of a negative though. What could've been better is the NVH proofing since the engine does get quite loud by the time you're around 3,000 rpm.
We couldn't test the handling in the traffic of Kolkata but the redi-GO felt well-balanced for the regular urban commutes and occasional mild off-roading due to its best-in-class 185 mm ground clearance.
Datsun has managed to offer a good looking, practical and spacious vehicle with the redi-GO. While these urban qualities go in favour of the vehicle, there are areas such as build quality, weak mid-range of the engine, fit & finish and pronounced cost-cutting going against it. While these are areas that many consumers might not mind compromising on, the redi-GO's problem is the strong competition it is pitted against, especially the Maruti Suzuki Alto and the Renault Kwid.
The Alto has been the top selling model in the market for years together, and Renault has made a strong entry in the mini hatchback segment with the Kwid. It’s going to be an uphill task for Datsun India to make a dent in their sales, but there are quite a few positives going for the vehicle, as we’ve highlighted earlier. Along with pricing, how the company approaches the market would determine its acceptance among the urban customers in the country.
Text: Arpit Mahendra
Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay
The Ducati Diavel is named after the Devil and it isn't hard to understand why, once you've seen the motorcycle. On the technical and riding front though, it offers the benefits of a cruiser along with the performance of a sportbike. With no actual category classification for the Diavel, it was of great interest for us to find out its identity and if Ducati has managed to give a dark side to the Diavel's character in terms of performance.
DESIGN & BUILD
Design is a subjective matter but one can more or less make out whether a design will find acceptance among potential consumers. The Diavel, already a menacing-looking motorcycle, looks meaner in the Carbon variant, which we tested. The differentiator between the standard and Carbon variant is the inclusion of carbon-fibre body parts and more importantly the forged wheels, which lend a weight-saving of about five kg from the unsprung-mass.
Viewed upfront, the Diavel Carbon comes across as a muscular motorcycle, partly due to the design of the LED headlamp and more so due to the laterally-mounted radiators. The scooped seat, nestled between the massive fuel tank and the cowl cover at the rear, lend the Diavel Carbon with a feeling that it needs to be piloted than ridden. The split instrument cluster looks fabulous and the top handlebar-mounted unit offers readouts such as rpm, speed, temperature, odometer/ trip meter and warning signs. The lower part displays the gear, fuel level and most importantly the riding mode selection among a few other details.
The vertically-stacked twin exhaust pipes are finished in stainless steel and the exhaust manifolds are coated in Zircotec ceramic coating, which Ducati claims to help increase efficiency. In the real world, this coating acts as a thermal barrier between the exhaust manifold and the nearby engine components, helping maintain a lower temperature overall, which in turn leads to increased efficiency of the system and the engine.
A key highlight of the Diavel Carbon is its weight, which contrary to visual perception is light. At a kerb weight of 234 kg, it somehow manages to dwell just outside the borderlines of superbike territory. Ducati's 959 Panigale, for example, has a kerb weight of 200 kg and is marketed as the perfect balance between track performance and road safety.
While the entire design language of the Diavel Carbon speaks of sheer dominance and looks futuristic, Ducati being Italian has brilliantly combined art with the rest of the laboratory-derived bits. The art herein are the gorgeous Marchesini forged wheels, sporting a massive 240-section rear tyre. This huge tyre flanked by vertical blinkers is the perfect conclusion to the demonic appearance of the motorcycle, starting from the headlamp. What stood out for us in the Diavel Carbon was the seamless manner in which Ducati engineers were able to take science and garnish it with art and dress it in the part of mythology that defines the Diavel's character.
ENGINE & PERFORMANCE
Tucked in neatly is the heart of this devil, a Testastretta 11o L-Twin, liquid-cooled, dual-spark engine with 4 Desmodromically actuated valves per cylinder displacing 1,198.4 cc. A desmodromic valve is a reciprocating engine valve that is positively closed by a cam and leverage system, rather than by a more conventional spring.
Aided by a high compression ratio of 12.5:1, this engine develops a mammoth 162 hp and 130.5 Nm of torque @ 8,000 rpm. A highlight of this engine, as Ducati puts it is the 11o, which refers to the degree of crankshaft rotation at the time of valve overlap (the time window when both the intake and exhaust valves are open). Opposed to the 41o on the engine used in the 1198, which this engine is based on, the lower angle results in reduced effect of exiting gases on the fresh inlet charge, leading to better combustion and improved smoothness. In the interest of efficient power, the engine uses a secondary air system, which burns off any remaining fuel molecules exiting the combustion chamber.
Another highlight of this engine is ride-by-wire technology, which opens access to riding modes and different levels of traction control, all of which play a huge role in giving the experience that the Diavel manages. There's a six-speed transmission that transfers the engine's power to the rear wheel through a chain. The transmission pairing with the engine is impressive but there is some lack of smoothness and finding the neutral can be tricky at times. The clutch is light to use and offers slipper function.
There are three riding modes available – Urban, Touring and Sport. Urban as its name suggests is for city usage and in this mode throttle response is gentler and power is limited to 100 hp. The power, nonetheless, is more than you'd mostly need in the city and Ducati Traction Control (DTC) is at its highest setting in this mode. The Touring mode gives access to all 162 horses but throttle response is smooth and power-delivery is progressive. DTC's intervention is reduced herein, striking a midway balance between safety and fun. The Sport mode is where the Diavel is in its element as suggested by its name. With full power available, throttle response is sharp and programmed for maximum acceleration. DTC too goes down to its lowest setting, which means the computer would kick in only when you're feathering the boundaries of traction, which is hard to overcome courtesy the sticky Pirelli rubber. The combination of mechanical and electrical engineering here works remarkably well and offers the rider only with functionalities aimed at improving the riding experience and not having a longer brochure.
There is one thing though which we thought could've been better and that's the exhaust sound. While the decibel level is high enough to mark your entry/ exit from a distance, this is the only element which falls short of having a demonic character.
With the power-to-weight ratio falling in a shade below modern superbikes, the Diavel Carbon by no means is a cruiser. Blistering performance through the gears and riding modes, which totally change the performance on tap put it closer to a sportbike with the comfort of being able to tour on it. Even in traffic, the motorcycle is easy to manoeuvre but the engine heat gets bothersome after a few minutes. We managed to get a 3.2 s time for the 0-100 km/h sprint on a handheld GPS device. ABS can be turned off on the Diavel but surprisingly the user interface is complex and needs some time to get used to.
One of the key aspects of the Diavel that sets it apart from other powerful cruisers is the riding position. Unlike the laid-back posture on cruisers the rider's mass is biased more towards the front, translating into better feedback from a motorcycle that impresses around corners. The Diavel has 50 mm front forks fully-adjustable for spring pre-load, compression and rebound damping. A 28o steering rake and 130 mm of trail along with 41o of lean angle means the Diavel doesn't compromise on agility, which comes in handy not only through curves but also while encountering traffic. At the rear, a horizontal Sachs unit offers compression and rebound damping. On broken surfaces, the suspension performs well and can be softened or hardened through a simple knob on the left side.
The huge rear tyre makes the motorcycle a little reluctant to tilt down into corners but once you've got the hang of muscling it into corners, the Diavel Carbon holds its line impeccably well and this is the point where the Diavel distances itself from the likes of the Triumph Rocket III, which have somewhat similar power ratings but less eager around corners.
Brembo brake set-up on the Diavel consists of radially-mounted 4-piston monobloc callipers pressing against twin 320 mm discs. At the rear, a 265 mm disc is anchored in by a twin-piston calliper. The bite from this set-up is sharp and brings this motorcycle to stop in an impressive manner. The feedback from the brakes is good and we particularly liked the subtle intervention of the ABS, which doesn't transmit a vibration overload to the fingers through the brake lever.
The Diavel is comfortable to ride and the scooped out seat offers good space and comes in really handy under hard acceleration as it helps the rider stay in his/ her place firmly. Over long distances too, the seat is comfortable but larger riders might find it a bit uncomfortable as it could make them feel stuck. While it's a great motorcycle to go touring and have a ball on the curves during the travel, the limitation of the Diavel for this purpose is its fuel tank capacity, which is just 17 l on a motorcycle of this size. Based on our achieved fuel-efficiency of 12.6 km/l in city cycle, one can expect a range of around 240 km on the highway. Standalone, the number is quite respectable for a motorcycle with such power and it's largely due to its lightweight but it's hard to not give into the desire to use the right wrist, hurting the economy even more.
Ducati India says the Diavel is one of their best-selling motorcycles and it's not hard to understand why. While it isn't exactly affordable at Rs 18.15 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi, for Rs 14.81 lakh, one could get a standard Diavel, which misses out on the carbon-fibre bits and the forged wheels. At both price-points, there is no other machine in the country that can offer such a combination of intimidating performance along with the safety net of modern electronics, all without compromising on comfort or attention-seeking abilities.
What we haven't been able to decode is the identity dilemma of the Diavel range, falling in none of the established classes of motorcycles. Based on our test, we conclude that the Diavel Carbon's identity dilemma is its true strength. Creating a niche within the motorcycle space, the Diavel Carbon is the kind of identity dilemma many riders would love explaining to their jealous counterparts.
Text: Arpit Mahendra
Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay