The New Delhi Auto Expo 2016 has ended with ever more visitors and launches/ unveils than earlier editions. While not amounting directly to an exciting show entirely, these numbers do reflect the growing importance of automobiles within an aspirational society such as ours. In this series of articles, we'll bring to you the top trends across vehicle segments, in line with our objective of offering in-depth content, in addition to the regular updates. We start-off with two-wheelers.
The largest vehicular segment in the country saw a number of launches and unveilings across segments and price-points at this year's Auto Expo. One of the most heartening aspects about Indian riders in recent times has been their willingness to experiment. It's a natural phenomenon for a progressive society to look for options beyond those that serve necessity. Indians are ambitious yet extremely value-conscious people, and there are numerous instances in the last two decades, wherein we've caught up faster than expected, despite starting late. Being the youngest country on the planet only means that this thought approach is bound to progress in the coming years. Glancing through the numerous vehicles on display at the Expo, it was clear that companies – both local and global – seem to have been understood this, and aren't afraid to offer the customer with something that has never/ hardly been sold in the country.
Creating New Segments
A key positive was to see efforts made within India to create products with very few or no parallels globally. A notable one, which caught our attention, was the Honda Navi, which instantly reminded of the Bobby by Rajdoot. Although unlike the Bobby, which was a small motorcycle, the Navi is part scooter, part motorcycle. This is the first product to have been completely conceived, designed, developed and manufactured in India by Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI).
Honda Navi N-Street Concept
Keeping that in mind, the styling and its positioning reflects the confidence of the company to swim through uncharted waters. Developed in about a year from scratch, the Navi is also one of Honda's fastest ever developed products globally. Equipped with the 110 cc, 8 hp engine from the Activa, the Navi is aimed at young buyers and understandably wears bright colours with numerous customisation options. At an ex-showroom, Delhi, price of Rs 39,500, it shouldn't hurt the pockets of the target audience as well. Will it succeed? It's an easy answer – 'It's hard to tell right now'. The ingredients seem to be good but the packaging is all-new and that is what will make the Navi a successful vehicle or stop it from being one. All said and done though, one can't overlook the brave effort of the company to create a new segment than to develop yet another scooter, a segment HMSI already dominates.
Another interesting trend to note is the emergence of mass-market adventure motorcycles – a segment that has got barely any notable history in India. Yet Royal Enfield, the world's oldest production motorcycle company, has chosen this segment for its first-ever ground-up motorcycle since it began operations in India in the 1950s. For a company that's literally on a sales-roll, such commitment of its largest technical effort ever for this segment speaks of the confidence that this segment offers, at least on paper for now.
Royal Enfield Himalayan will be launched in March, 2016
Unveiled a day before the Auto Expo was opened to the media, the Himalayan is a motorcycle engineered to go off-road and isn't just a cosmetically enhanced look alike. The Himalayan is powered by an all-new 410 cc engine, features a first-ever rear monoshock by the company and doesn't share any part with the existing Royal Enfield motorcycles. Most things then seem to be in order for the Himalayan going by first impressions. Unless Royal Enfield gets the pricing wrong and that too by a significant margin, the Himalayan should do reasonably well. Judging the Himalayan by sales, however, is missing the point entirely since the critical element here is the success/ failure of the new technology to entice buyers. In order to fulfil its ambition of being a global leader in middle-weight motorcycles, this is the real litmus test for Royal Enfield and the Himalayan is just the first link in the chain for that.
Honda CRF 1000L Africa Twin will be locally-assembled
Adventure motorcycles continued to make a pressing business-case for manufacturers in the premium segment as well. Bringing the iconic Africa Twin brand back to life is the Honda CRF 1000L Africa Twin all-terrain motorcycle. Powered by a new 998 cc parallel-twin engine, the new motorcycle is a departure from the V-twin configuration of the older NXR 750-based motorcycle. The engine develops about 93 hp and 98 Nm of torque, which sounds adequate yet unintimidating. Unlike the past, where HMSI has been slow to react to the sub-500 cc segment, the company has this time grabbed the opportunity in time. That the opportunity in this segment exists has been well-proven by Triumph's Tiger 800 range. HMSI understands that potential well enough for having decided to locally assemble the Africa Twin, making it the second CKD model after the CBR 650F in an effort to offer competitive pricing in the premium segment.
DSK Benelli's TRK 502 is expected to be priced under Rs 600,000
Between the Himalayan's expected price of just under Rs 200,000 and the Africa Twin's expected price of Rs 10 lakh, there's a lot of ground left to be explored. This is where DSK Benelli's TRK 502 comes into the picture. Powered by a 500 cc parallel-twin engine, there will be about 45 hp and 45 Nm of torque at the rider's disposal. With the hardware of the motorcycle aimed specifically at adventure touring, the TRK 502 is a motorcycle mechanically true to its positioning and looks. Although official prices haven't been announced, the TRK 502 is expected to be priced well under Rs 600,000, making it a good value-for-money option somewhere in the middle of the segment price scale.
The BMW G 310 R, although officially undisclosed is expected to be launched later this year
Highlighting the growing capabilities of Indian manufacturing and the market's potential was the BMW G 310 R, which has been co-developed by BMW Motorrad & TVS Motor Company and will be manufactured at the Indian company's plant in India. Wearing the design language of the S 1000 R, the G 310 R will be powered by a 313 cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine with 34 hp and 28 Nm of torque on offer. Both BMW and TVS have refrained from speaking about the launch of this motorcycle, but it could hit the showrooms in the later part of 2016. Expected to be priced under Rs 200,000, the G 310 R is attracting a lot of attention from potential buyers for all the right reasons. It's the same aspiration and willingness to experiment discussed in this story that could make the G 310 R a success along with the other discussed vehicles.
Displaying the quickly evolving technology capabilities of Indian two-wheeler makers were some concept models. Concepts at times are a good indication of new technologies, design and features to hit the market in coming times. For Hero MotoCorp, it's even more important to showcase to its consumers its direction as in due course of time it'll need to start off-loading technology sourced from erstwhile partner Honda. At the centrestage of Hero's display pavilion was its theme surrounding sustainability and environment-friendly focus. In line with this focus there was an electric version of the Duet scooter, Duet-E. Displayed specs revealed a lithium-ion battery pack powering a brushless DC electric motor. Given the limited commercial potential of electric vehicles in India, there isn't much chance for a launch soon, of which Hero too hasn't spoken anything. Another important motorcycle on display was the Splendor iSmart 110, the company's first in-house developed product since its separation from Honda.
The XF3 & HX250R offered a glimpse into the design and technical roadmap for Hero MotoCorp
Highlighting the company's new product ambitions was the XF3 Concept, which is designed to be a 300 cc street fighter motorcycle, a segment that offers long-term growth potential along with good margins. Another concept on display was the HX250R Concept, which was developed in collaboration with technology partners Erik Buell Racing and AVL. Although there's no word on the formal launch date, the HX250R again highlights Hero's intentions to create space for itself by bringing interestingly disruptive elements in the segment. Some of these include design elements such as the under-seat exhaust and the geodesic tubular frame, which also leads to an impressive low-kerb weight of 139 kg.
Based on the BMW G 310 R platform, the TVS Akula 310 is a track-oriented concept motorcycle
On pure excitement scales within the concepts, it was TVS Motor Company who stole the show with the Akula 310 concept. Everything about this fully-faired track motorcycle spoke of focussed intent and aggression. Based on the BMW G 310 R, this concept is a glimpse into what TVS engineers plan to do with an existing platform in order to alter the motorcycle's characteristics and its customer base. Featuring carbon-fibre panels, space-frame chassis and USD forks, the Akula 310 surely looked the part as a track-focussed machine. It even featured a tail-mounted camera and a steering damper! Unfortunately, as it is with most concepts, not all of the features will make it to production and that could include the name as well. Akula by the way means shark in Russian and sounds great on a motorcycle of this type and hopefully makes it onto the production motorcycle.
These are all good indications for the two-wheeler sector in the country as emergence of new segments and technologies means a trickle-down effect for mass-market products, the pace of which is getting impressively quick. For example, till a few years back, motorcycles such as the Yamaha R1 came with projector headlamps but today even the Bajaj Pulsar RS200 sports the same technology. While some companies still refrain from offering ABS on motorcycles costing around Rs 500,000, TVS Apache 180 introduced this technology to the masses way back in 2011. The future then seems quite 'adventurous' for two-wheelers in India irrespective of the depth of a buyer's pocket. The desire of the customer for differentiation offers a great opportunity for us to make the country a hotbed of global technology for small and mid-segment two-wheelers. Of course, there are numerous challenges but then again, when we are talking adventure, who wants a smooth ride?
Text: Arpit Mahendra
Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay
The poster car of mobility, Toyota's Prius hybrid continues to be the most popular mass-produced petrol-electric hybrid vehicle in the world, 18 years since it first went on sale in Japan. In this period, Toyota is estimated to have sold close to four mn Prius models, representing almost half of the eight mn hybrids the company has sold worldwide till July 2015. The third-generation Prius is in its last phase, as the company is scheduled to introduce the fourth-generation Prius sometime towards the end of 2015.
We had done an elaborate review of the third-generation Prius in our March 2012 edition, details of which are available here.
Interestingly, at the annual convention of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers in September this year, the keynote address was delivered by Takeshi Uchiyamada, Chairman, Toyota Motor Corporation, who incidentally is also known as the Father of the Prius. It was in January 1996 that Uchiyamada had taken charge Toyota Motor Corporation's Vehicle Development Center 2 as the Chief Engineer, the centre that developed and gave the world, the Prius.
Development of the Prius started in the autumn of 1993, with the objective to create the car for the 21st century, and change the vehicle development process. While setting the goals for the Prius project, codenamed 'G21', the original target was to better fuel efficiency by 1.5 times. That target, however, was deemed too low to develop the 'vehicle for the future'. It was then decided to target an improvement of fuel-efficiency by two times.
The rest, as they say, is history. Today, TMC has hybrid models in all its vehicle categories, including compact, medium and large passenger cars, SUVs, mini vans and commercial vehicles. And in Uchiyamada, Toyota has the strongest advocate of hybrids. In 2013, he told a gathering in Washington DC that the company managed to achieve a 10 % increase in mileage per gallon in each of the previous moves to a new generation. With the fourth-generation Prius, Uchiyamada says Toyota is "committed to beating that record".
So, let us look at what the latest generation Prius is likely to bring to the world. Earlier in September this year, Toyota released details for its fourth-generation Prius with promised improvements in battery, engine, wind resistance and weight – all eventually leading to an even better fuel-efficiency for the top-selling hybrid vehicle in the world.
For starters, the new Prius will be the first vehicle to use the new Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) modular platform, which provides a lower centre of gravity and increased structural rigidity. Dimensionally, the new Prius is 2.4-inch longer, 0.6-inch wider and 0.8-inch lower. The new Prius also adopts a sportier double-wishbone rear suspension, reports suggest.
The new design makes the Prius a lot more aerodynamic compared to the current model. All of this should ideally result in better ride and handling, and make the Prius a lot more agile. Under Japanese tests, the fourth-gen Prius was reported to have delivered 40 km/l, which translates to a 20 % improvement over the current model.
It has been reported that the efficiency of the Prius engine has been beefed up by 40 % with reduced friction and improved combustion. The newly developed batteries are 10 % smaller but better performance by 28 %. The battery has now been moved under the back seat, leading to more luggage space in the boot. It is also likely to feature smaller electric motors, with higher power density than the current Prius motors. The thermal efficiency of the petrol engine has increased from the current 38.5 % to over 40 % in the fourth-generation model. The new Prius is also expected to get a suite of new infotainment and safety technologies, including a package that is designed to prevent collisions.
It would be our endeavour to get you more details about the fourth-generation Prius as soon as it arrives in India. We expect Toyota Kirloskar Motors (TKM) to showcase the new model at the Auto Expo in February 2016. And going by the recent popularity of hybrid vehicles in the market, we expect a launch soon thereafter. However, going by the details that are emerging out of Japan and the United States – the two countries that are likely to be the first couple of markets to get the new Prius – Toyota would only further strengthen its reputation as the manufacturer with the most environmental credentials.
Text & Photo: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
Yamaha R3 First Ride Review
Yamaha had been missing out on the fun in the sub-500 cc sports motorcycle segment in India for long. With the segment growing, and competition making most of the demand, it was only a matter of time before the Japanese motorcycle maker took the dive. The good news is that the company has made good use of the lost time by bringing in a product that seems more suitable for the current times, instead of the R25 mulled earlier. Bringing in the larger YZF-R3 is a right move since the R25 wouldn't have made a good case against the competition from KTM RC390 and Kawasaki Ninja 300.
Launched at Rs 3.25 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi, the YZF-R3 packs in a 321 cc parallel-twin engine producing 41.5 hp @ 10,750 rpm, and 29.6 Nm of torque at 9,000 rpm. The engine is a liquid-cooled, fuel-injected unit and features an aluminium cylinder in favour of lightweighting. The motorcycle features the best front styling in its segment in our opinion and looks more like a 450-500 cc motorcycle.
While things such as a steel swingarm and basic KYB suspension reflect the attempt to keep cost low, India Yamaha Motor Ltd went a step further and decided to use MRF tyres instead of the Michelin ones offered internationally. What's more, the company also took the ABS off the options list! Whether these make a difference is something we'll take up in a matter of a few lines.
Launched at the Buddh International Circuit, we got a chance to do ride the motorcycle for a few laps. Since a smoothly-paved track is far away from real-world conditions, which is where almost all of the YZF-R3's will spend their lives in, we've decided to reserve a review till we test the bike on-road. Instead, we highlight a few of the key things we liked or didn't like about the motorcycle.
Things We Like
i. Undoubtedly, the best bit about the Yamaha YZF-R3 is its engine, which revs to an appreciable 12,500 rpm before the rev limiter kicks in. The engine pulls cleanly and has acceptable low-end drivability, which shouldn't mean too much of work for the left foot in traffic. Performance till about 5,000 rpm is fine but it's somewhere about 7,000 rpm that the engine shows its intent and between 9,000 to 11,000 rpm, it's plainly faultless and more accurately a grin-zone. Acceleration is strong up till about 160 km/h, after which it takes a while to get to the speedo indicated 172 km/h top speed we managed on the back straight at the circuit. The engine is a smooth and refined unit and there are no unpleasant vibrations even when nearing the redline. The only disappointment from the engine was the exhaust note, which isn't bad but given the impressive performance of the engine, we simply expected more.
ii. The YZF-R3's design is clearly striking and follows its elder sibling, the R6, lending it a sharp and dynamic stance. In fact, this looks more like a 500 cc motorcycle and that is something posers will like a lot. Fit and finish is of good standard and plastic quality on the switchgear as well as the fairing is impressive. The steel swingarm and the gear lever though look very ordinary and a bit out of place.
iii. Instrumentation on the YZF-R3 combines digital and analogue displays and the integration has been executed quite well. The displays are adequately sized and are easy to decipher information from in a fraction of second, like we had to at the track. Information on offer includes shift indicator, digital speedometer, analogue tachometer, fuel gauge, temperature gauge, clock, fuel economy indicator, two trip meters and an oil change indicator. That is pretty much at par with most cars, and also the KTM RC390.
Things We Didn't Like
i. The omission of ABS as standard equipment on the YZF-R3 took us by surprise, but not offering it even as an option was appalling! We never felt the need for ABS on the track since braking zones are marked there and a rider's cognitive abilities are differently-focussed. On the road though, the ABS is a must and there's already enough data floating around various countries that proves ABS significantly reduces accidents and fatalities. The good thing is that Yamaha has assured us that they're looking into this matter with an aim to bring an early solution.
ii. The diamond-frame chassis on the YZF-R3 is a cost-saving set-up with a low-weight benefit. That, however, doesn't impede its handling and the motorcycle impressed us with its stability on the straights and its flickability through the corners. What really held back the YZF-R3 from delivering more was a soft rear suspension set-up, and the 140-section MRF Nylogrip Zapper S at the rear and the 110-section Zapper FY upfront. These tyres are clearly aimed at lasting more than sticking through a corner. This meant the YZF-R3 manages to take corners at a good pace but doesn't feel right at home on a race track. On more than two occasions, the rear tyre slid and showed its resistance to high-speed cornering. If you're looking at taking the YZF-R3 to ghats and curvy roads often, good tyres are a critical investment one must look at right out of the showroom.
iii. Brakes on the YZF-R3 comprise of a 298 mm disc upfront and a 220 mm disc at the rear. The brakes offer good stopping power but require some effort and the bite comes in a bit later. Feedback from the front brake is decent but the rear one doesn't send much feedback. One good thing is that the bite remained quite consistent and showed very little signs of fade under hard braking at the circuit.
Text: Arpit Mahendra
With roads getting busier each day, traffic safety has become an issue of critical importance. The road networks of our country though known to play a vital role in contributing to the growth of the economy, does not address the road safety concern. Lives of many innocent people are threatened due to driver's unsafe and irresponsible behavior behind the wheel. Over the years though there were growing apprehensions over road safety, the statistics continued to imply that in India there is one fatal accident in every 4 minutes and yearly number crosses 1.4 lakh. Whereas Japan has 4,500 accident deaths per year, it sells more than double number of cars compared to India every year.
Auto Tech Review recently visited Contidrom, Continental's test track in Germany, for the company's 2015 Tech Show. At the event, we were shown a host of technologies aimed at present vehicles and future vehicles, which would drive on their own. While some of these technologies are not relevant for India immediately, we've rounded up the important ones which could shape mobility globally.