Renault Fluence

Very few things in this world are associated with the words “the good, the bad and the ugly” ; all at the same time

Try Renault : Think of the good – Renault F1 team and its glory days with Fernando Alonso ; The bad – The Logan fiasco ; The ugly – Yet to launch anything, especially when sister company Nissan is all gung ho about its Micra

But then there has to be light at the end of the tunnel and in this case, the light is bright and called the “Renault Fluence”

First Impression : This is one good looking car (very French) and does justice to the segment ( Skoda Laura territory), so lets get to the car

Design : Not revolutionary but very Fresh. The 2010 upgrade follows the new Renault design lines and kind of flows (it certainly deserves a coupe version). The front and rear lamp clusters are wierdly nice. One gets a stare like with the Jaguars but nice indeed

Interiors : Who says Renaults are small curved boxes? Move on and get inside one of these. Its very generous inside the Fluence. The mantra here seems to be love (with plush) at first sight. Considering this is a very important model for Renault as far as developing parts of the blue planet are concerned (It is manufactured and loved in Turkey and Argentina), this is a very nice bet

The openly theme continues with the dash ; Its new and functional, also very neat (Alas there comes the French taste) The rear is comfy too. Add to this the HuGe trunk and the entire thing is packaged in light shades of leather

Engines and Transmission : Renault no matter what have always had great muscle under the bonnet. Its continues for the Fluence – 1.6 and 2.0 litre Petrols generating 110 and 140 horses but the gem in the house is Renaults Diesel offering :- a 2.0 litre dCi developing a varied 85, 90, 105 & 110 bhp (one each for the chauffeur, commuter, wife and the kid inside of you). Its smooth and does the job very well

Transmissions are a 5 speed manual and a nicely deviced 4 speed Auto

Whats in store for us : Firstly, Renault have tied the disaster called the Logan around Mahindra’s neck ; Fluence looks good, has superb diesel options and is coming to India

Appeal : Vibrant…… Speaks for itself (Say no to Japs and Germans)

Bottomline : This is one of the cars for which one says ” I’m in love with this thing” . And sometimes love trumps the realities and specifications . So go for it….  Fall in love

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Mini Countryman

What happens when things go off track

When Nike makes an iPod shoe, Simon Cowell starts speaking or when Mini starts making bigger cars

This very un Mini creation is the most in-news British act apart from the World Cup debacle

Its big (not that big, but then, the reference is the tiny Cooper) and it looks soooo ‘wierdo good’

History : Mini did to us, what Leonardo Di Caprio did in Inception : To plant an idea in our minds. An idea of  “Small is beautiful”

This “Small is beautiful” Cooper has been Mini’s bread and butter for more than 5 decades and suddenly under the leadership of BMW (the current owners of Mini), they decided to break the box and bring the ‘Countryman’

The Car : It certainly is not small. 5 doors, longer wheelbase, higher ground clearance and the optional 4×4. This car is a result of the diversification Mini has initiated using its Clubman concept

Looks : So Mini , yet not so Cooper. A very intelligent attempt from the designers to distinguish the Countryman from its cousin and at the same time give it some character which reminds you of what it still is.

The front grille is more upright, the headlamps compliment the hood and the tall chin adds character. Rear doors have been included in the big yet compact design very precisely. Surprisingly the lack of shoulder crease or wheel arches makes it look lite and simple

Engine and Transmissions : The family of engines will be shared with the Coopers but the one to watch out for is the 1.6 Litre  4cyl, 184bhp which also has a decent 240lb ft of torque. Add the 4WD and a 6 speed auto / manual transmission and its an awesome package for a car of this dimensions

Interior and Practicality : It has loads of space to play with. Comparable with the BMW X1 (though the X1 is smaller as compared to the X3 , but this is a Mini, so any space more than cramped is good) and the BMW aspect is followed with the new bigger & more functional dash. Added colors and latest gadgets

The car is very road worthy as well. It has space, good engines and the 4WD adds value. A very practical proposition in the VW Golf territory with the Mini functionality

Appeal : Smart, grown up and new! And with Mini confirming its WRC ambitions with the Countryman, the car looks poised to attract people through its heroics on and off the track

Bottomline : A perfect combination of beauty (kind of) with brains. A good practical and capable machine from Mini which can also turn a few heads. Totally fresh n Totally worth buying!!


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Volvo S 80

Think of Sweden for a moment :

They gave us IKEA (which made man evolve from the stone age to a wooden age), Henrik Larsson (more remembered as Celtic and Barcelona guy) and also Volvo

Please ignore the Swedish heavy metal bands which make a lot of noise and fade away very soon

More known for their Buses and Trucks (BTW commercial vehicle division is completely independent of Cars), Volvo cars have always been known for being super practical , to the extent that Volvo’s are usually associated with community purposes (Families with more than 6 kids, Police cars, Pizza delivery and obviously Taxis)

But change all that when you come across their flagship S80

Based on the Ford Mondeo (it was developed when Volvo was owned by Ford) . The S80 was crafted to compete against the Germans (read Audi A6, Merc E and Bavarian 5 series)

Its a “not so fancy” car which is quite unique in the generation of very “loud and sharp” vehicles

Design : Very basic, does the job. Its a wooden tennis racquet  in the age of carbon fibre ones but sometimes wooden ones look better

Engines : This is where the Volvo matches everyone else. Numerous options available in Petrol and Diesel.

Petrols include a fantastic 3.2 Litre straight six developing a cool 238 horses and is coupled with a “All Wheel Drive” from Volvo which is quite different from the Quatrro of Audi’s ,yet interesting and delivers as promised

The other sweet sound option in petrol is the 315 horse V8…… sweet indeed

Diesels are more prefered in a car which is neither supposed to go fast or make a statement and the S80 doesn’t disappoint

Of the 5 diesels on offer, the 2.4 Litre inline 5 is the best and develops a very modest 175 bhp and 420 Nm of Torque

Safety :- Its bloody safer than an Israeli battle tank. There is no point debating its safety as Volvo’s are perhaps  the most safe set of wheels money can buy

Interiors :- S80 strikes big here. Old school but at the same time very functional. Looks cleaner than Monica Geller’s apartment.

Quality is top notch which even the Germans might envy. Its spacious and the rear seats are actually meant to be in for hours. Boot is humongous (You could put in a Mini Cooper inside)

Appeal :- You don’t care about that in a Volvo

Bottomline :- If you don’t believe in destiny, but do believe in salvation,  get a S80…..

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BMW X1

If Apple can shrink their i-Pod into a Shuffle, why not do the same with cars

And BMW did do the trimming (this is what they claim) with their X series of SUV’s

Take a X5, downsize it into a X3, do that again and you arrive at the X1

Its small (officially called a compact SUV), based on the 3 series platform

The Car:- It carries forward the recent shift in consumer interest towards smaller, compact cars. Is a proper BMW but falls short of identity (Neither a proper SUV, nor a grown-up hatch)

Looks :- Surprisingly looks much better than it is .Easy to make out the X dynamics. Sharp features with some added curves give it some much needed presence (got a X in its name)
Front grille has been tweaked a bit, which is nice and so is the controlled swoop in headlamps

But let’s face it – Its still bloody small except the awesome 18′ rims (optional, but who wouldn’t get those)

Engine and Transmission:- : 2 Litre, 4 cyl turbo diesel (143 horses)  Add a twin turbo-charged variant of the same developing a decent 170 bhp (its adequate for a car this size)

A 3 litre 6 cyl US specific heart is also offered, but what’s the point of having compact SUV which guzzles gas

Two transmission options : S-drive (which is a RWD) and X-drive (4WD) both with 6 speed manual or automatic

Ride :- Gets all the fancy BMW gadgets to make sure you’re doing gr8 on road. Keep in mind, its all on road. U go off it, you need a tow-truck to get back home

Appeal:- Honey I shrunk the X5. Its a BMW, so all the fancy comes along ; also a great Sport Package but it still does not convince enough to be a X family member.

Bottomline : Nice, just nice. Don’t expect more .Save some money, get a X3 instead.

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Ford GT

Flashback :- Its the 1960’s. Formula One is still new. But there is another way to prove your point – Its called the Le Mans 24 (24 hours of continuous racing). Also there is a word ‘ Ferrari ‘

Come the late 60’s , the word has been changed to ‘Ford’. Out of nowhere Ford builds a car (The GT 40) which not only trumps Ferrari but does that 4 times in a row (1966-69)

Back to the future :- The early 2000’s and the world least cares about the Ferrari’s, Porsche, Lambo’s or the Mclaren. The world is waiting for the re-incarnation of the Ford GT (40).

And wow, time has stood still for more than 3 decades. The Ford GT (they cut the 40 out of the name due to a trademark issue) looks all the history it has and yet is a masterpiece of engineering

Design :- Retro , Muscle and Sport car rolled into one. Ford pulled off ‘the keep it old and new together’ very well (as did BMW with the Mini Cooper and Fiat with 500). Big headlamps, hood scoop and the aggressive stance look awesome

Add the superb rims and the paint job with racing stripes ; Awesome again

Engines and Transmission:- All aluminium 5.4 Liter V8 beast which guzzles fuel to produce 550 hp and 680 N-m of torque. Some components are shared with the equally potent Ford Mustang Cobra. Transmission is a 6-speed manual which makes the 400 meter dash a delight. (0-100 kph in 3.5 secs)

Appeal :- Though it is American muscle , but still makes its presence felt as much as the Italian or British supercars. Not for the uber-luxury exotic car lover, but for a serious race car enthusiast.

And it certainly will turn heads ; Given the stripes and the retro look, the heads always tend to finish the note with a WoW

>>> Its is unfortunate that the GT is no longer manufactured. The last GT was rolled off in 2007 but is still a cult favorite among car collectors and super rich “i’ll buy anything cool” guys.

Bottomline :- You cannot buy a new one, so keep admiring. But if you do get a chance to get one somehow, don’t loose it, cos there’s nothing like it….  (keep in mind you need to own an oil well to feed the thirsty GT)

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Aston Martin Rapide

‘Drooling over’ is an expression usually associated with exotic cuisines

But update some of your vocab ; Becoz here is a Machine to drool over : The Aston Martin Rapide

Aston’s have always been the show stoppers of Car Shows over the years, so what makes the Rapide more spicy than the other siblings

ANS- Its a 4 door car. And that indeed is a BIG WOW!

I always wondered why this segment was carved out inspite of having GT’s and other forms of wheels, but the Rapide laid my doubts to rest forever and it did so in a statement like never before

Design – Very and very Aston but prettier than anything else (Even Mona Lisa could save a smile for this). 4 door sleek machine have been around for sometime (read the Merc CL, Porsche Panamera, Maserati Quattroporte), but not the way Aston did it.

The two extra doors have been accommodated precisely , so its easy to notice the Aston Martin lines ,profile and at the same time its longer (12 inches than the DB9) , perfectly balanced with the shoulder lines and cool 20′ rims. Front and back are more familiar territory carried over from the DB9 theme

Interiors:- Plush with some awesome gadgets as in all sport cars. Add two more bucket seats and a 1,000-watt, 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system (Put on some AC/DC and rock n roll ain’t noise pollution)

Lets face the fact that this being a sport car, space is not the primary agenda, so not really cozy for the taller homo-sapiens in town but still a great place to hang out

Engine and Transmission :-  470-horses to your service through a V12 6.0 Liter and a torque of 443 lb-ft. Transmission is a  six-speed automatic (Aston is planning a more refined 8 speed automatic by next year), which takes you right in the middle of  awesome cars territory considering it is a heavy beast weighing 2 tonnes

NOTE:- Dig this – 0 to 60 mph in 5.1 secs

Appeal – You step in that car, and Brad Pitt envies you. Need more?!

Bottomline – You always loved the Maserati Quattroporte , but too Italian for you ; then you fell in love with the Porsche Panamera , but was ugly , and with those many Mercedes’s sleek stars on roads, is there a choice.

If you smile reading the bottomline, the Rapide is waiting for you…

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

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