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10 August 2016 Written by Deepangshu Dev Sarmah

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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.

INTRODUCTION

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.

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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.

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THE LOOKS

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.

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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.

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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.

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FEATURE RICH

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.

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ROUND-UP

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

14 June 2016 Written by Naveen Arul
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There is a new entrant in the sub-4 metre compact sedan in India, and it comes from Volkswagen Passenger Cars India. The new Volkswagen Ameo ‘4 metre limousine,’ as the company calls it internally, is the newest contender in the compact sedan segment that is being led strongly by the Maruti Suzuki DZire. Other challengers to the Ameo come in the form of the Hyundai Xcent, Honda Amaze, Tata Zest and Ford Figo Aspire.
 
The Ameo is Volkswagen’s ‘Made for India, Made in India’ car that was globally unveiled just before the Auto Expo 2016. It garnered mixed reviews for its boxy rear that does take some getting used to before the lines come together. Could this model bring in new customers for the company and see it providing the market with a cost-effective vehicle with reputed quality? Let’s find out.
 
DESIGN
 
In all essence, the Ameo looks very much like a Polo when viewed from the fore. The main differentiating factor however is the front bumper, which is a newly-designed one with grooves on the edges that integrate into the fender arches to give the car a muscular front-end view. It is also here, on the bumper, that Volkswagen has shaved off 35 mm to maintain the visual proportion of adding a stubby boot to the rear of the car. In every other way, the Ameo is exactly in proportion to the Polo till the C-pillar.
 
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The roof of the Ameo is also slightly different from its hatchback sibling in order to be integrated into the design of the rear boot. The Ameo has the same wheelbase and width as that of the Polo, with the former being about 15 mm taller. The angle of the C-pillar has been increased very slightly to integrate the tapered roof and the stubby boot together neatly. The boot of the Ameo makes an almost 90° angle causing it to be boxy, but is visually tricked by the edge of the boot that is shaped to look like it is equipped with a lip spoiler. The boot also features a pair of diagonal creases on either sides of the number plate housing to offset the straight lines of the lid and the rear bumper. The shoulder crease of the car extends from the front headlight and is well-integrated into the tail lamp.
 
POWERTRAIN AND DRIVING DYNAMICS
 
Volkswagen is using the same 1.2 l, three-cylinder, MPI petrol engine doing duty on the Polo to power the Ameo. This engine puts out maximum power of 74 hp at 5,400 rpm, with 110 Nm of peak torque at 3,750 rpm. The car is available with only a five-speed manual transmission, which is also the same one seen in the Polo. This engine offers the lowest power rating when compared to all the other petrol engines of its competitors in this segment.
 
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The fact that the Ameo has the lowest power rating in its segment is not felt in city driving, but becomes evident when taken on the highway. The car is happiest at a cruising speed between 85 and 100 km/h, with the revs needing to be maintained high to power it beyond. But this results in a lot of engine noise entering the cabin, due to the lack of sound deadening material in the engine bay. While the company puts the Ameo’s fuel economy figure at an ARAI-certified 17.83 km/l, a combination of enthusiastic city and highway driving conditions gave us a fuel efficiency of 13-14 km/l.
 
The Ameo shares the same suspension set up of the Polo, which offers soft cushioning through most potholes it is presented with. The fact that the Ameo is about 10 kg heavier than the Polo works in its favour in providing a planted ride even when pushed beyond the 100 km/h mark. The steering also provides ample feedback in all driving conditions, thereby enhancing confidence while driving.
 
INTERIORS
 
The cabin of the Ameo is one that would be familiar to existing Polo owners, as the dashboard layout is identical, except for the new infotainment system. This system offers multimedia connectivity and puts out very decent sound quality, but misses out on navigation. With OEMs nowadays looking at in-car infotainment as an important aspect of the complete package, the absence of a navigation system – perhaps to keep costs down, may be seen as a key missing feature. However, the build quality of the interiors, including buttons and knobs are all of top notch, showing that the company has not cut costs in terms of the cabin. The ‘Climatronic’ automatic AC in the Ameo also performs well in maintaining the temperature of the cabin.
 
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The car is fitted with a flat-bottom steering wheel that is generally seen in the sportier version of Volkswagen’s cars, with multi-function buttons that are placed very non-interferingly. The Ameo’s steering wheel can be adjusted for tilt as well as reach, which along with the height-adjustable driver seat makes it easily adjustable for all sizes of drivers. Alternatively, since the wheelbase of the Ameo remains the same as that of the Polo, the rear seats offer limited space when compared to other compact sedans. The scooped-out rear of the driver and passenger seats help in providing additional leg room for rear seat occupants, but only minimally. Also, location of the rear AC vent and seat size do not make the car ideal for three passengers in the rear.
 
The boot of the Ameo offers 330 l of space that is one of the smallest in its segment. However, the boot offers an almost rectangular area for storage with very little protrusions, which makes all 330 l well-usable. Another area where cost-cutting is evident is in the omission of any cladding or carpeting on the inside of the booth lid, although this does not particularly affect the occupants.
 
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Additionally, with Volkswagen harping on safety time and time again, all three variants of the Ameo are offered with ABS, as well as airbags for the driver and front passenger as standard. The car is also offered with first-in-segment features that include cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, front and rear one-touch up/down anti-pinch windows, static cornering light and front arm rest. While all these features can be of additional assistance to the driver, we found the centre arm rest to be intrusive, especially for taller drivers, when changing gears frequently.
 
ROUND-UP
 
The Volkswagen Ameo was recently launched in three trims – Trendline, Comfortline and Highline, with prices starting from Rs 5.14 lakh, ex-showroom Mumbai. The Comfortline and Highline variants of the Ameo are priced at Rs 5.88 lakh and Rs 6.92 lakh, ex- showroom Mumbai, respectively. This would be the first time that a Volkswagen vehicle is effectively competing in a segment with regards to pricing, and the Ameo looks to be at the right spot here.
 
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However, this could be only aspect of the Ameo that is presented well, since existing contenders offer more in terms of engine performance and interior space. We will have to wait for Volkswagen to launch the diesel variant of the Ameo, which is expected in the festive season around October, to see if the company has any additional tricks up its sleeve. The Ameo petrol would definitely be in the consideration list of regular customers looking at purchasing a compact sedan, and that itself could work in favour of Volkswagen, which until now saw customers mainly in the form of enthusiasts.
 
Text: Naveen Arul
Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay
09 June 2016 Written by Arpit Mahendra
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Historically, Ducati has launched motorcycles focussed on a particular purpose or form of riding, be it the Panigale or the Multistrada range. Capturing the essence of a yesteryear icon, the Scrambler from 1960s, and pitching it to young riders looking at fun and a motorcycle with versatile capabilities was quite surprising. We borrowed the Scrambler from Ducati India for a few days to find out if it’s still one of those ultra-desirable Ducatis and if it manages to straddle the line between a retro design and modern technology. Let’s check how the Scrambler feels to the different senses of a rider. 
 
FOR YOUR (AND EVERYONE’S) EYES ONLY
 
Our test motorcycle was the Icon version in an eye-catching shade of yellow, which is a head-turner. With a retro design lineage in mind, the Scrambler has a minimal design language and none of the modern scientifically-derived body work that adores most modern motorcycles. The slim and long fuel tank is the largest panel on the bike in yellow, with a smaller share going to the front mudguard and under-seat panel. 
 
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The front comprises of an offset single-pod instrument cluster sitting on top of a circular headlamp, very much in line with the retro theme of the motorcycle. There is a modern touch though integrated into the headlamp subtly in the form of a LED daytime-running light, the cross-like design of which represents the 1970s practice of applying adhesive tape to off-road motorcycle headlamps. The rear LED tail lamp is another indication of this motorcycle having modern internals wrapped in a beautiful retro design. 
 
The finish quality all over is top notch except for the plastic switches, which aren’t bad but aren’t as good as the rest of the bike. The single-instrument pod is a fully-digital unit utilising an LCD display screen. This screen provides readouts for rpm, speed, trip & mileage odometers, low-fuel warning, air temperature, service schedule and clock. Using the toggle switch on the left handlebar, one can switch off the ABS. Interestingly and unlike many other motorcycles, the ABS doesn’t get automatically activated on restarting the ignition. This has been done in line with the focus on off-roading, where riders mostly prefer to switch-off the ABS; being activated can be more of a risk than saviour.
 
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The engine with its visible L-twin configuration and the exhaust pipes stemming out like the horns of a fighting bull give the Scrambler a purposeful character amid the funky design. By looks purely, the Scrambler is what many modern motorcycles aren’t. Its unintimidating design invites even new riders to swing their legs across and the mechanical charm of the design gives one simple message – this motorcycle was simply made for fun-filled riding for anyone and everyone. 
 
TWIST OF THE WRIST & FLICK OF THE FOOT
 
The Scrambler is powered by an oil-cooled Desmodue L-twin two-valve 803 cc engine, which has been derived from the Monster 796 but has been reworked in favour of low and mid-range response. Power output is rated at 75 hp, while torque is a healthy 68 Nm at 5,750 rpm, all welcoming numbers for new riders.
 
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Thumbing the starter brings the engine to life with a sound that seems restrained. Since the Scrambler is aimed at riders of all types, the engine uses Ducati’s 11 valve-overlap angle, which according to the company helps offer a linear power delivery. However, the fuelling on the Scrambler is contrary to its overall intent of being an easy to ride motorcycle for new riders. At low engine speed, fuelling is abrupt leading to an unexpectedly quick spike in acceleration, which can be a bit unnerving for new riders. However, it’s only a matter of few minutes before one gets a hang of the throttle and fun then becomes an inseparable part of the Scrambler package. Off-road however, this sharp throttle response can be a problem so one needs to be very mindful of the throttle input while going over loose sand, wet surfaces or inclines.
 
Acceleration is brisk and mid-range is where the Scrambler’s engine is at its absolute best. The exhaust note though seems suppressed and the feeling is present even close to the redline, although much lesser. The motor itself is impressively smooth and coupled with the bar-end weights, vibrations hardly creep through to the handlebars even when going fast. 
 
EFFECT ON SENSES WITHIN ‘RIDER TRIANGLE’
 
The term ‘Rider Triangle’ refers to the triangle formed between the following three positions of the rider’s body – wrist, foot and hips. These are also the main three sensory interaction points between a motorcycle and rider, which we also term as ride & handling in general. On this front, the Scrambler is a potent machine, which is impressively capable both on and off-road. The only limitation in its off-road abilities is the lack of an underbelly shield, which restricts the rider from harnessing the ability of the motor and chassis at times. 
 
Initially, the semi-knobby tyres gave us an impression the Scrambler might not feel at home on the tarmac but we couldn’t have been more wrong. The grip from the Pirelli rubber is massive and the light weight of the motorcycle comes in handy as well. Tall and wide handlebars are comfortable over long rides and contrary to common perception, they do not impede manoeuvrability in any way. Fast corners are dealt with in great confidence and before one might realise, the exhaust starts to scrape against the tarmac as the Scrambler is easy to lean into corners and maintaining a desired line through them.
 
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The suspension too has been set up nicely so neither does the Scrambler wallow or squish under hard cornering nor does it want to throw you off the seat over potholes and craters. Brakes consist of a 330 mm disc upfront and a 245 mm unit at the rear with radially-mounted Brembo callipers. This might sound inadequate but one must keep in mind that the Scrambler is a light motorcycle so the present brakes do a good job of bringing it to halt. ABS offers the extra net of safety but is very progressive in its activation so the pulsations passed on to the fingers aren’t unpleasant even when braking hard.
 
ROUND-UP
 
The Scrambler despite its benefits is not the only motorcycle in the country offering a mix between retro style and modern technology. The Triumph Bonneville, especially in its new generation, is a strong competitor. Although it does cost more than the Scrambler, price is not the basis of decision for most buyers in this segment. It comes down to personal preferences. So, who is it that the Scrambler would win over?
 
Those looking for a retro design, technology that keeps them in line with the world and who wants to be in total control, will love the Scrambler. There are no electronic aids that cut in every time you make a mistake and that makes it more fun as it takes one closer to real motorcycling and the joys associated with learning the basics and mastering them. Add to that an iconic design true to its roots and ample technology to keep you away from the ‘legacy only’ tag, and the Scrambler makes a compelling proposition for riders of most kinds.
 
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The Ducati Scrambler Icon Yellow Edition we rode is priced attractively at Rs 678,000, ex-showroom, Delhi. For the price you get a motorcycle that is a hoot to ride, great to look, versatile in nature and most importantly true to the roots of the bond between a rider and the motorcycle.
 
Text & Photo: Arpit Mahendra
18 May 2016 Written by Arpit Mahendra

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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.

EXTERIOR DESIGN

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.

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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.

CABIN EXPERIENCE

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.

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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.

DRIVING EXPERIENCE

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.

Datsun redi-GO IMG 0410

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.

ROUND-UP

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.

Datsun redi-GO IMG 0326

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

17 May 2016 Written by Arpit Mahendra

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

RIDING EXPERIENCE

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.

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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.

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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.

CONCLUSION

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



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