INDIA’S LARGEST AUTOMOTIVE EVENT - AUTO EXPO 2014 - MARKS A RETURN EVERY TWO YEARS, AND IT RETURNS ONCE MORE WITH A BEVY OF LAUNCHES AND CONCEPT CARS FOR THE BUYING PUBLIC TO DROOL OVER. WE TAKE A LOOK AT SOME OF THE MOST IMPORTANT LAUNCHES AND CONCEPTS TO LOOK FOR THIS YEAR.
Having ended 2013 on a high, with a record performance of over 10,000 units sold in the calendar year, Audi is looking to continue its success into 2014 with the launch of the A3 sedan. Smaller in size than the A4, the A3 promises to further lower the entry price point for customers looking to enter the world of luxury sedans. To be sure, Audi’s growth in the Indian market depends a great deal on the future success of the A3, which is expected to take the mantle of being the best selling car in the Audi lineup in the very near future – so, getting a closer look at this entry level Audi is definitely worth your time.
Easily one of the most dominant racing cars of the past two decades, the 2012 R18 e-Tron is expected to make its India debut at the Auto Expo ’14. The car being showcased at the venue will be the 2012 model – the Le Mans winner that year (and pretty much every other year in recent memory). Needless to say, the e-Tron has not only achieved cult status with motorsports fans across the world, but it’s an integral part of a line up of the most successful endurance racers in history. And you have to see it in real life to see just how imposing it must be hurtling towards slower traffic on the Mulsanne straight in the middle of the night!
3 SERIES GT
The launch of the 5 series Gran Turismo, or GT for short, was actually quite a successful one for BMW India. Customers loved the extra space and luxury on offer, and, in fact, BMW ended up selling way more than the 100 units they had originally planned to sell in India. So, BMW is now planning to keep up the success of the GT models by launching the latest Gran Tursimo to join the range – the 3 Series GT. Expected to be offered in 320d and 335i guises, the 3 GT will offer a similar combination of extra space and luxury for rear seat passengers. In fact, you can read our first drive review of the car in the next issue of the magazine.
2014 marks the return to form of the original luxury SUV – the BMW X5. Now in its third generation, the X5 returns to the market offering a brand new package, which is not only better looking, but also better to drive and much better equipped than the outgoing car. You can read our review of the car in last year’s December issue. Expect the new X5 to shake up the competition in 2014 – providing stiff competition to the popular Mercedes ML, and the now aging Audi Q7.
Born out of the Vision Dynamics concept car that everyone thought was revolutionary, but hardly production feasible – the BMW i8 looks like nothing else in the world. And despite thoughts to the contrary, BMW is very close to beginning production of this radical looking car. Powered by a petrol hybrid combo power plant, the i8 boasts of an impressive 357bhp of power and 570Nm of torque. This, combined with the lightweight carbon fiber construction, means that the i8 performs like a bonafide supercar but sips fuel like a hybrid. And not only will BMW showcase the i8 at the Auto Expo, but it’ll also be launched in India later in the year with a limited number of units available.
Offering a glimpse into the next stage of Mercedes’s plans for India, the GLA concept will offer a look at what the forthcoming small SUV from the German maker will look like. With its launch expected later in the year, the GLA will provide stiff competition to current best sellers like the Audi Q3 and the BMW X1. Mercedes reckons that the GLA will soon be its single largest selling model in the country.
One of the most stylish and hottest selling sedans currently in the world today, the CLA is expected to make its maiden appearance in the country at the Auto Expo in its top-of-the-line guise, as the CLA45 AMG. Powered by a 360bhp engine, the CLA offers a combination of both avant-garde looks and scintillating performance to the discerning customer. And while the launch of the CLA is not expected to happen before 2015 in India, this would be a good time for Mercedes to build hype around a product, which is quickly turning out be a best-seller in markets the world over.
M GUARD EDITION
Following in the Mercedes India tradition of highlighting its specialty cars at every Auto Expo, this year too the German automaker will showcase one of its more exclusive cars aimed at the rich and famous. The M Guard Edition is, in a nutshell, a bulletproof and highly fortified version of the standard M-Class SUV. The M Guard features state-of-the-art technology and safety equipment designed to protect its passengers from everything ranging from bullets to bombs. Needless to say, this is a vehicle aimed at those who can afford to pay the big bucks to safeguard their lives.
Perhaps the finest luxury statement one can make as far as SUV’s are concerned, the latest version of the Range Rover in Long Wheelbase base form takes the game up by several notches. Featuring an increase in length, the LWB edition Range Rover truly offers opulence for the customer for whom money is no object – offering perhaps the finest rear seat currently available on an automobile this side of a Rolls-Royce Phantom.
Having created waves around the world with its launch at the LA Motor Show recently, the F-Type Coupe is the latest must-have sports car in the automotive world. With Ian Callum’s outstanding design work once again making headlines, the F-Type Coupe is expected to be showcased at the Auto Expo prior to its launch in India later in the year. Needless to say, this is one cat we can’t wait to get our hands on.
The other big thing for Jaguar currently, the C-X17 showcases what the first Jaguar SUV is expected to look like when it hits the markets in a couple of years. Given the massive demand for SUV’s of all sizes and shapes, this is expected to be the next number spinner for Jaguar in the near future. We expect Jaguar to showcase the SUV at the Auto Expo to give the Indian consumers a glimpse of the future and to get their interest well and truly piqued.
It is a known fact that Indian consumers did not take very kindly to the Yeti. Partly because of high price tag, and partly due to its crossover looks, the Yeti’s sales never really achieved the levels Skoda had hoped for in India – despite its success in other markets. So, expect Skoda India to showcase the face lifted version of the Skoda Yeti at the expo, as a means of rekindling interest in this rather accomplished mini-SUV. While it won’t be launched at the expo, we can expect the actual launch of the Yeti to take place later in the year.
We recently test-drove the face lifted version of the Superb, and you can read our review of the car elsewhere in this issue. The latest edition of the Superb will be officially launched at the Auto Expo, and you can pour over the many refinements in the design. Offering minor improvements to what is already a very competent package, the Superb is expected to carry on leading its class in terms of sales.
Another competent product that hasn’t resonated with Indian consumers is the Renault Fluence. Well, the updated version, which will be showcased at the Expo, is hopeful of changing this for the French manufacturer. The latest version of the Fluence features updated looks and minor upgrades to the interiors to refresh the aesthetics of the sedan. However, it’s unlikely that the 1.5-litre diesel engine – which clearly lags behind the competition in its segment – will be swapped for a new unit. And that will continue to remain the largest drawback of the Fluence in the face of stiff competition from the German and Korean competition.
The once best-selling Duster has been facing tougher times in India of late – increased competition in the form of the Nissan Terrano, and, more importantly, the Ford EcoSport have meant that the once long waiting periods of this crossover have all but disappeared – customers simply aren’t desperate to have one anymore, like they were a year ago. So, this is perhaps the perfect time for Renault to introduce the face lifted version of the Duster, which has been on sale in Europe for a while now. While most changes are minor and cosmetic in nature, this would be a good opportunity for the company to rekindle customer interest in this competent SUV.
NISSAN & DATSUN
Nissan is expected to launch a face lifted version of its Sunny sedan at the Auto Expo. The car will receive minor changes to its styling and also feature equipment upgrades to give it a renewed sales push. The engine choices, however, are unlikely to be changed and the Sunny will continue to be available with its existing diesel and petrol powertrains.
FRIEND-ME CONCEPT & GT-R GT500
The Japanese manufacturer will also showcase a new concept car at the show, which will herald the future of Nissan’s sedan designs. Alongside, they will also showcase the GT-R GT500 racecar that competes in the Japanese Super GT racing series.
With Datsun’s official debut in the Indian market slated to take place at the Auto Expo, it’s natural that the full strength of Datsun’s brand new product range will be displayed at the show. First among these will be the Go hatchback, which will spearhead the arrival of the revived brand in the Indian market. Expected to provide stiff competition to the Hyundai Eon and the Maruti Alto, the company has high expectation from the Go. The Expo will be a good indication of how the Indian consumer receives it.
A further evolution of the Go platform, the Go+ is an MPV designed to take the battle right to the Maruti Ertiga and the forthcoming Honda Mobilio. Looking to appeal to the Indian consumer who needs more room than a regular sedan, the success of the Go+ could well depend on its price point compared to its chief competitors.
The big news from Maruti will be its small SUV concept, which is expected to provide an indication of the size and styling of a forthcoming compact crossover. While the launch of the production version still some time away, this concept should be sufficient to pique the interest of the Indian consumers for the moment.
The biggest launch from Maruti, however, is expected to be its latest hatchback – the Celerio. Destined to be a replacement for the slow-selling A-Star, the new hatchback, which takes its design cues from the A-Wind concept showcased last year, promises to bring a few radical concepts to the hatchback market. Chief amongst these is the new automated manual gearbox technology, which promises to be both cost effective and fuel efficient along with following the growing trend of clutchless driving, which is a plus in heavy traffic.
A glimpse into an exciting future, Honda’s Vezel is a production SUV that has already been launched in Japan. However, it’s not certain whether this product will actually make it to India – given that its pricing could make it an unfeasible product. So, while Honda is still considering whether to launch it here or not, its presence at the Expo will be a good way for the company to judge the consumers response to it.
Perhaps the biggest announcement from Honda at the Expo, the Mobilio will be showcased for the first time in India. Based on the Brio platform, the Mobilio will seat seven passengers and is aimed directly at the quite successful Maruti Ertiga. Honda aims to launch this MPV later this year, featuring both diesel and petrol power plants.
While the last-gen Jazz failed to click with the Indian consumers, due to the lack of a diesel engine and a price tag that was too high, Honda is hoping that the new Jazz will do just the opposite. Expected to be priced very competitively, the new Jazz will be launched later in the year and will be available in both petrol and diesel avatars.
Perhaps one of the most awaited products from the German manufacturer, the Taigun is their smallest SUV and is expected to hit the market next year. With the small SUV segment growing in India by leaps and bounds, expect this product to make its debut here in the coming years.
Having seen slow sales ever since its launch, the Passat will be launched in India in a refreshed avatar. Mainly featuring styling changes, the new Passat is also expected to offer better value to the Indian consumers in a bid to shore up sales of this luxury sedan.
CAMARO & CORVETTE
To keep consumer interest high and build a buzz around its stall, GM will also showcase the latest Chevy Camaro and the insanely hot Corvette Stingray at the Expo. And while neither of these cars are expected in India, their presence itself should draw a lot of attention at the GM stall. Perhaps GM should reconsider their position though, since rumour has it that Ford is considering launching the latest version of the Mustang in India once its available in right-hand drive.
Having struggled of late, the American manufacturer is expected to make a bang at the expo with the showcase of its Trailblazer SUV. However, the actual launch of this seven-seat SUV is unlikely to happen any time soon.
Having been launched in 2010, the Beat is currently at the perfect time in its lifecycle for a facelift, and GM is going to do exactly that. A refreshed version of the Beat, featuring styling changes to update the look of the car and rekindle consumer interest, will be launched at the Expo.
GRAND i10 SEDAN
Hyundai has definitely struck gold with the launch of the i10 hatchback in India. However, the manufacturer is currently absent from a rather hot selling segment – the sub-4 meter sedan segment. And to remedy this, Hyundai will launch its sedan version of the Grand i10 at the expo. Expected to offer the same combination of class-leading space, efficiency and equipment levels, the Grand i10 is expected to shake up the status quo in the segment and provide some stiff competition to the Maruti Dzire.
Having not had any success yet in the large SUV segment, Hyundai is poised to give this segment another shot with the launch of the latest Santa Fe. Expected to go on sale shortly after the expo, the Santa Fe will be looking to challenge the market supremacy of the Toyota Fortuner.
The latest generation of the evergreen Corolla is also poised to be showcased at the show in a bid to build consumer interest in the new car. Slated for launch later in the year, the new Corolla will look to build on the success of the previous two generations of cars and provide stiff competition to both Skoda and Hyundai, which have eaten into its segment greatly.
With sales of the Etios hatchback and sedan not meeting Toyota’s expectations, the Japanese behemoth will be launching a new version of the Etios to revive consumer interest. Called the Cross Etios, the new version features increased ground clearance and plastic cladding to give it more of an SUV look. Underneath the styling changes however, the running gear and engines are the same ones as the current Etios duo.
STREET 500 AND 750
Everyone will be gearing up to see the latest products from Harley’s stable, and HD will surely be one of the highlights at the Auto Expo. Harley Davidson will showcase two new bikes that feature a new powerplant called Revolution X. The two new bikes that will feature this engine are the Street 500 and Street 750. Harley hopes to attract young urban buyers around the world with these two new products, as they will be affordable and are expected to be high on the fun-to-ride quotient. The all-new engines from Harley-Davidson are liquid-cooled, 60-degree V-twin units and feature chain driven single overhead camshafts. The bikes are visually attractive and follow traditional Harley-Davidson design language. They will be launched in 2014, and pricing is expected to start around ` 4.5 lakh ex-showroom Delhi.
Yamaha showcased a very attractive looking 250cc motorcycle at the Tokyo Motor Show, and we already know that it’ll make its way to India soon. The design of the R25 is heavily influenced from their M1 Moto GP bike. The bike features a parallel twin 249cc engine, but no power figures have been announced just yet. The bike’s engine will also be mated with a 6-speed transmission and the brakes will use discs in the front and the rear. The bike features typical Yamaha attributes, such as telescopic front forks, a tubular chassis and monoshock suspension at the rear. We expect to see an almost production ready version of this bike at the Expo.
AQUILA 250 & GD250N
DSK Hyosung will have a couple of 250cc bikes on display, such as the Aquila 250 and the GD250N. The Aquila will be making a comeback, since it was available in India back in 2003 but discontinued shortly after. The Aquila 250 is cruiser, and has the looks to match. The GD250N, on the other hand, is a naked sports bike and it also features a very attractive design. The Aquila gets a 249cc air-cooled engine with 27bhp, while the GD250N gets a 249cc liquid-cooled engine with 28bhp. Both bikes will be launched at the Expo.
The CBR300 will be the one of most exciting bikes on display at the Honda Motorcycles & Scooters stand. Unlike the 250, which has styling borrowed from the VFR, the CBR 300R will share styling DNA with the Fireblade – to make the bike seem more aggressive and sportier. The engine comes in the form of a 286cc unit and will produce 30bhp, which is still lower than the Ninja 300. However, it’s uncertain if the CBR 300 will replace the CBR 250 all together, or if it’ll be another addition to Honda’s portfolio in India. Along with the CBR 300R, Honda Motorcycles will likely showcase the CBR 1000RR SP Fireblade and the 500cc CBR’s launched last year.
RC 390 AND DUKE 690
The KTM Duke is probably the best model range for entry-level high-performance bikes in India, and their sales success proves as much. Now that KTM has tasted success with its Duke duo, they have even bigger plans in store for India. We already know that KTM will bring in their bigger super bikes for the premium segment, but they have also recently announced that they will expand their Duke model range to include the mid-sized Duke 690. The Duke 690 will make its way to India by 2015, but before that we will most probably get to see the Duke RC 200 and RC390 – the fully faired versions of their respective Duke models.
The Inazuma is a naked performance bike currently being built in China, and priced very competitively in Europe. Unfortunately, it has a very steep price in India – ` 3.1 lakhs, ex-showroom-Delhi – as it’s not being assembled locally. The Inazuma is fitted with a 249cc engine, and will have a power output of around 24bhp, while Suzuki also claims that it’ll be the most fuel-efficient bike in its category. The Inazuma will take on the other 250cc contenders, and is the first naked 250cc sports bike in the Indian market – so go check it out for yourself.
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