Opel Astra

Yes its alive and looks an ocean different from the Astra we know

There are some models, which stand apart and become a brand themselves. The Astra is one of them

Opel, which is a major car manufacturer in Europe, decided to go big & came up with the Astra in 1991 ; and never looked back

The Astra which we in India referred fondly to as the common man’s Mercedes was the 1st Gen (yes we got a car in the late 90’s which was launched elsewhere in 91) ,but we still loved it

After GM decided to phase out Opel from India in favor of Chevrolet , the guys at Opel decided to go back to the drawing board to design something very European, and they very did with the current Astra (4th Gen)

Design :- Its a hatch now ; very European ; suave and kind of flows (so do many cars, but a first for Opel) Crease are neat and the two side curves integrate at the rear end . The front is very subtle, kind of inspired from other family members, but still stands out and you can easily make it out. The rear is the most interesting part – – its just awesome (Even Shakira would be jealous) ; This curve bubbled rear is a thing now and since the Fiat Bravo pulled it off some years back, others are catching up and the Astra does not disappoint

Engines / Dynamics :- What the Fact>> Its based on the Chevrolet Cruze (yes the wheelbase is that long) but the Germans have improved the driving dynamics much more than that of the Cruze.

It gets more interesting >> Got 5 engines on offer from a modest 95 to a cool 180 bhp

The three diesels (1.6 , 1.8 and 1.6 Turbo) will however mean more to Opel as the petrols (in this case turbo 1.4 and 1.6 based) have not created much buzz

Transmission :- 5 , 6 speed manual and a very decent 6 speed automatic

Appeal :- Coolest car in town . Its compact, looks good, has loads of engines and is German, some innovative features like the adjustable boot/trunk floor (nice), automated from camera warning system etc add value

A real winner on Opel’s side

Bottomline :- If you have even a little bit of admiration for the Volkswagen Golf and similar cars ; then you’ll crave for the Opel Astra ; Its just so good, so buy it and start rolling

Advertisements
Posted in Cars. Tags: , . Leave a Comment »

Land Rover Defender

There are very few things on this planet which have a loyal following as of the Defender

You see it, and then care least about the latest gadgets and gizmos (better known as the Q7, X5, M-class etc )

You just want to roll in the mud as much as your dog wants to on a rainy day

From the legendary Camel trophies to the numerous  expeditions where even the wildest of the animals would think twice to graze/hunt

The Land Rover Defender has been there and done that, so don’t waste your time thinking of a place it hasn’t been to

The Car :- Initially designed for the British Army after the 2nd world war, this robust and unbreakable piece of machinery  since has had very minimal changes to its soul (does look very classic)

Max gradient is 45 degrees and wading depth of 500mm (you can cross almost any stream of water with ease)

This is very old school territory , so a ladder on frame chassis and 4 wheel drive systems are not negotiable, but the variants are (which we’ll focus on later)

Design :- Very basic ; Take a frame, on which a metal box of a certain shape with head and tail lamps. That’s it , no LED’s , sunroof, bucket seats,  or anything which has no major significance while rolling

Stands tall, Stiff coil sprung suspension and lots of load carrying capacity (no wonder its popular in expeditions)

Variants :- More than the number of players in a cricket team ; Three wheelbase options (90,110,130 inches) on top of Pickup, Station wagon, Utility wagon, Hard top, Double cab pickup, High capacity pickup, Double cab High capacity.

Yes, that is a lllot…but wait some more, there are also the special editions including a Tomb Raider edition and don’t forget the enormous possibilities of customizing

Appeal :- Nothing like it, but then very few get the point of the car. This machine is for the explorer.

The Defender can be seen even in the remotest of the planet ( few places where Coca Cola has not reached yet) to the Times Square… Ambulances, UN vehicles and what not , even an ice-cream van.

Engines :- Currently based on Ford’s duratorq family (Land Rover was owned by them for quite some time)

Its a 2.4 liter ,4 cyl, producing 122 horses and a ssuperb 360 Nm  of torque which is available from almost 2000 to 4500 rpm. This said, there are many options available , depending on the specific market and stock

NOTE :- There is also a massive V8 3.9 liter petrol (but you’ll have to ring some numbers to get hold of it)

Bottomline :- You live life for the joy of it, and you do it in a Defender ; No questions asked.

If you want to though, then go for some other car but the Defender…

Turbocharger

Some confusions in the world of wheels..

>>What exactly is a turbo thing that makes your ride get those extra horses under the hood

>>What is the cool thing on the hood of Vin Diesel’s car in the movie “The Fast and Furious”

>>What is a Turbocharger and then what more the hell is a Supercharger ?

Its one of those things that all of us have heard of, yet never got more of an insight into ,something like Winter Olympics…

Lets break it down to get hold of this confusion :

1. Combustion : Anything burning which produces some energy

2. Two basic components to complete combustion : Fuel and Oxygen (Air)

3. Turbo (or boosting/charging , as known in the Automotive world) is basically tweaking the Air part in Step 2.

If this volume of air can be increased at the site of combustion, then there is a very good chance to amplify the combustion process with added fuel to extract more energy (Horse-power in this case)

Turbocharger (technically a compressor) : Is a component (not a machine) which basically does the job of increasing the air-flow to the inlet manifold (This is where all the air enters the combustion chamber in an engine)

And TA-RA ; more power at the press of the pedal..

How it works : Jugaad (Improvisation) ; Yes, that is how it works… We are well aware of the exhaust gases that are released from a vehicle. This very exhaust has some energy (discharge) , and this energy is used to drive a small pump.

This small pump in turn pumps air inside the inlet manifold at increased pressure which eventually helps in better combustion (Technically, the volumetric efficiency is increased)

Implications : More power from the same capacity engine, more efficient as it uses the exhaust itself to increase the power eventually ; But there’s a catch >>

The catch – There is a minimum optimum speed , only beyond which the turbo really starts working. This effect is better known as lag , which all diesel car owners complain of.

NOTE :- The superb-looking thing on the hood of this car (Dodge Charger) is NOT a turbo charger A turbocharger is usually an internal (beneath the hood) component. The Dodge here is having a Supercharger..

Supercharger :- Does the same thing as a Turbocharger. The only difference is how it (the pump) gets the power to operate. Here, it operates through a belt (usually coupled to the crankshaft) and not exhaust gases.

Advantage : As the car goes faster, the supercharger acts faster as well, and more air is delivered, so increses almost linearly with the speed of the car (crankshaft)

Disadvanatage : Since a supercharger is coupled to a mechanical part, it consumes some energy from the final output, and so is less-efficient than a turbocharger.

Ford Focus

Yes, its pretty and its a Ford

Lately Ford has been experimenting with its design cues, and the Focus has been their canvas (which we don’t mind at all)

Focus is always associated with its rallying pedigree and has done the blue oval proud in the WRC over the years but when first introduced in the late 90’s was a family car handcrafted to launch Ford to the masses in Europe (which has some 50 odd cars in each segment, so a super tough job)

It certainly has not disappointed and Ford has also announced the 2012 model (yes they decided to bring the whole apocalypse 2012 thing to an end with a pretty car)

The Car: Currently in its 2nd gen ,& 2nd makeover,a very able coupe/hatch/sport-hatch (hell lot of variants available)

Design:- The new design theme was first showcased by the very James Bond in Casino Royale and has been continued since

The front is very thoughtful, looks subtle here but try one in white and its much prettier. Side and rear are more of worked on previous gen models but still have flowing lines

Engines :- Open Microsoft Excel and start typing : 1.4 , 1.6 , 1.8 , 2.0 , 2.5  ;;  1.6 ,1.8 ,2.0 . No, its not a mathematical series but the Petrol and Diesel options on offer

It would be hours before we get to the details of each and every option, so take this : The petrol Duratec’s are adequate and the 2.5 turbo is a feast but the real deal are the ultra refined diesel Duratorq’s which infact have helped Focus clock awesome sales figures throughout the globe

Interiors: Very nicely designed. The feel inside is cool but could have been little sweeter (we are talking Peugeot, Citroen territory, so need to match the European kids) . Space is decent and so is the boot.

Appeal :- Here is where it strikes gold. With the Focus gaining a household recognition due to its Motorsport involvement, Ford has pulled off a superb trick of “Race on Sunday, Sell on Monday”.

Also with constant upgradation, Ford is quietly moving from an ‘American passive muscle’ to a ‘practical car’ manufacturer image (And that helps in Europe and Asia)

Bottomline : A decent car, but marketed brilliantly with added suave design. Worth a buy!

Posted in Cars. Tags: , . Leave a Comment »

Nissan Cube

I am sure OMG is the first reaction you have for this car but lets face it, its a Jap way of thinking, so get over it.

Analysis : We all have played with LEGO blocks as kids, so first we make a rectangle, add a dimension and it becomes a cuboid; Now all you need to add are the set of wheels and we arrive at a thing called the ‘Nissan Cube’

Yes, this is a car under production and take a fun fact : Its based on the very much “in” news Nissan MICRA.

Nissan first envisaged this structure in the late 90’s and since then has had a cult following

The Idea: Its based on a very Japanese “small-compact-i don’t care how it looks-practical” car concept, and is kind of fun to look at ( Compare it to looking at Jim Carey, and you’ll appreciate the effort)

Looks:- The guys at Nissan seem to love the Rubik’s Cube so much that they have designed a car which looks like one

Very very symmetric, there is not much to think about, its a shape and not a design. A newer addition to this 3rd generation model (Yes there have been two successful gens of this shape) are the more curved head and tail lamp clusters and the very interesting rims, which more look like flying discs.

Engine and Transmission : 4-cylinder developing 122hp / 127 ft-lbs which is transferred through a CVT transmission. Its a light car weighing just 1270 kg so 122 horses make it a zippy drive which u’ll love to roll inside city limits

Interiors: Take the word practical and find its cube. Very apt to the theme, and importantly does the work, some electronics are shared with the Micra but the package is more neat. Very roomy as well.

Going GRREN : Yes it also has an Electric variant which is soon to be upgraded. The new one should be more a “Nissan LEAF meets a MICRA meets a BOX” car.

Appeal : Proves that there are things and people who believe in simplicity and love symmetric shapes. ( The Cube could have been the official car of the movie trilogy Matrix)

Bottomline : You are very practical to the extent that you teach your dog to meow to scare the rats off. Then the CUBE was built keeping you in mind. Go buy it ; else just admire it the way you do Jim Carey and still don’t watch his movies the first weekend of release.

Posted in Cars. Tags: , . 1 Comment »

Bentley Mulsanne

Man was born with a mission

He built the Pyramids, then he built the magnificent cities in the Inca civilization, followed it up with Rome and Taj Mahal

And then, he built a Bentley

This probably was the last but the first which could move and move like nothing else

Bentley is not new to the ultra luxury coach building business. They have had a great line-up of cars under Volkswagen (Bentley is currently owned by them). From the Arnage to the Continental/Flying Spur

But there was still something which was missing not only in the Bentley line-up but the automotive industry as a whole. And that would be a car which would get a WOW reaction from every person on this planet. Be it the Queen of England to Tom Cruise to Snoop Dog.

And this wish of ours has been fulfilled by the Mulsanne. And I’ll help you understand the WOW

Step 1: Take a look at her

Step 2: Keep doing that

This new WOW machine was first showcased in 2009 at Pebble Beach and since then has had more cover pages than Madonna. Its got some history too; It brings back a name which proved itself in the Le Mans 5 times before the World Wars.

Lets get to the car:

Looks: It looks so much fresh than the Arnage (which it replaces). One can easily relate the front to the golden era of motorcars but at the same time associate it as a 21st century masterpiece. The sides and rear are more or less worked on the Arnage but still look as dominant (read 5.5 meters long) as ever. (Note: It does not have suicide doors)

Interiors: Lets take the Mercedes S class as our reference (long considered the best wheels one can buy)

So apart from everything a S-class has (and its got loads and loads of luxury and gadgets), this one gets more leather, infact 20 German bulls take birth to end up in a Mulsanne. Thick carpets, hand stitched leather,even customized umbrellas attached inside the doors etc etc

There is no point discussing the long list of things possible in the car. If you can think of it, Bentley will put it in for you.

Engine and transmission :- These are the only components a Mulsanne shares with anything else. In this case the VW Phaeton and the Audi R8. Work is done by a proved 6.75 litre (yes that is huge) twin-turbo V8 having 512 horses to its service with a mammoth 1020 Nm of torque. Yes you can travel across the Himalayas with such numbers.

Transmission is the new 8 speed automatic (shared with the Audi R8), so the Schumachers’ among us get the paddle shift as well

Appeal: It makes you feel happy to be the one in it. Not for the money but the history, the hard-work put in to build a machine as precious as Mona Lisa’s smile

Bottomline: There are two for this car

1. U have money, you dont wan’t the glam of a Rolls Royce, and you have the suave taste of life. Then this is the only ride in town, so BUY it.

2. U have money, you look at her…period… you’ll buy it.

Posted in Cars. Tags: , . Leave a Comment »

Nissan Micra

When the buzz around a car overwhelms the car itself, we often tend to address the car as success

And this has very much happened with the new kid in town – The new gen Nissan Micra

Well Nissan is something, which usually relates to Pick ups and some super compact muscle like the 370 Z but this Jap company also has had serious impact in the hatch segment over the years

The Micra was first developed in the 1980’s but lets focus on the newest gen which has hit the roads here in India

The car: – Its easy to recall the Micra as the cute looking hatch from the East which was somewhat like a cross between the VW Beetle and the Daewoo Matiz, a good car indeed.

But then something happened. The recession and the rise of Koreans forced Nissan to rethink the Micra and the all new 2010 model was launched

Looks:- This one looks more mature than its ancestors. Nissan has been very intelligent to use a shade of Orange to promote this car, as it looks bulky and kind of sweet in that color. Try it in Blue and you’ll get  the point

But still the car is proportional , and thank god we got to see something less sharp and more curves. All new hatches these days look like some version of a transformer machines.

Interiors:- It only looks chubby, which it certainly is not. Insides are more comparable to  Suzuki A-star territory and not that of Swift which everyone is speculating. I wish the plastics were better but then you also get push-start button, and for a moment it resembles one in the legendary Nissan GTR. But STOP, compare no more, its a baby hatch.

Seating is comfortable and other aspects very similar to all other hatches. Nothing revolutionary, so please have decent space and comfort expectations and not the ones we have from an Ambassador

Engines:- 1.2 litre three-cylinder petrol generating – 76PS @ 6000rpm ; 104Nm of torque @ 4000rpm. Its adequate and nothing more, so please dont try to bully a Honda Civic when it passes you by on the highway. Stick to the competition (read Maruti, Tata, Hyundai etc )

The better part of the heart is the refinement. Nissan has done a great job to make the ride smooth and press the pedal , and it responds very well. (If the engine had a facebook page, i would “Like” it)

The V Platform : This very weird sounding term is not the railway station platform from Harry Potter fiction, but is the new design and engineering platform Nissan-Renault has developed. So expect more cars (including sedans and Renaults) sharing a lot with the Micra . But for the time being,this is the only V in town

Pricing:-  Inline with the segment. Rs 3.50 – 5.2 lacs (but you dont get alloy wheels in any variant)

Bottomline : Nice car, worth buying but dont mix priorities. Its a very good alternative to Ford Figo, Hyundai i10, and the numerous Maruti-Suzuki’s, but NOT the VW Polo or the Fiat Punto.

PS- Buy one in Black or Orange only (else you’ll look as out of place as a Tata in yellow)

Posted in Cars. Tags: , . Leave a Comment »
%d bloggers like this: