We wrap up our report from the opening media day of the 12th Auto Expo at the India Expo Mart in Greater Noida by looking at the significant announcements and launches by the automotive companies on display.
JAGUAR LAND ROVER
Jaguar and Land Rover had a beautiful fleet of cars on display at the Auto Expo. Jaguar showed off the brand new and sophisticatedly stylish new F-Type Coupe, as well as the Range Rover Long Wheelbase.
The F-Type Coupe comes with the same 2995cc and 5000cc engines found in the F-type, with power outputs rated at 340bhp in the base version, 380bhp in the S Coupe and 550bhp in the R Coupe.
The Range Rover Long Wheelbase gets extended by 186mm and will also come with Executive class seats that can be reclined at a greater angle compared to the standard Range Rover. The Extended wheelbase Range Rover will also become the most expensive car from the JLR stable.
There were also announcements of the XJ joining the XF and Land Rover Freelander 2 as the vehicles produced locally in Jaguar Land Rover’s plant in the country.
It was also announced at the Auto Expo that the 2014 Land Rover Discovery would get a fresh design, an eight-speed automatic transmission for all variants and a new single speed transfer box for the revised four-wheel drive on the SE variant.
Also making its debut on Indian soil was the Range Rover Evoque that comes with a better performing 9-speed auto transmission that will increase fuel economy and will also be more responsive. The C-X17 concept vehicle was also on display and looks pretty awesome, and it also hints at what we can expect to see from JLR in the future.
The Japanese car makers also had some important launches and some special showcases. Honda had some interesting things to show us as well, but what really grabbed our attention was the stunningly attractive NSX supercar.
The NSX features a mid-mounted V6 and two electric motors that can pump out some serious power. The most important launch however had to be the new Honda Jazz, which is based on the new City platform. Another important showcase was the Mobilio MPV that is based on the Brio. The Mobilio sits higher than the Brio and will come with the 1.5 litre i-VTEC and the 1.5 litre diesel engines that are currently used in the new Honda City.
The Mobilio will most likely be priced very competitively and will be launched sometime this year, as will the Jazz - in fact Honda said both vehicles will be launched in financial year 2014-15. Honda also showcased the XS-1 concept vehicle that will likely make way for a production ready compact SUV sometime in the near future.
Toyota had one major launch, which was the new Corolla Altis. The new Corolla Altis is now in its 11th generation and has some new design features such as new stylish grille, LED headlamps, LED Clearance Lamps and new 16” Alloy Wheels.
The interiors also get updated with push start/stop button, smart entry, rain sensors, a new generation 7-inch touch screen, one button operation and voice command capable audio. The rear seat leg-room has been increased by 100mm with the increase in the vehicle's wheelbase. The petrol variant will now come with 7-speed auto transmission with paddle shifters, or a 6-speed manual.
MAHINDRA & MAHINDRA
Meanwhile India’s Mahindra & Mahindra Group used the opening day of the Auto Expo to draw attention to its foray into alternative means of vehicle propulsion.
The headline of the Indian auto manufacturer’s stall was all-electric Formula E single-seat, open-wheel race car that will be used by Mahindra Racing and its rivals in the inaugural FIA Formula E Championship from this September.
Ali Russell, the chief marketing officer for Formula E and the team principal for Mahindra Racing in the championship – Dibagh Gill – were on hand to unveil the car along with Mahindra & Mahndra chairman and managing director Anand Mahindra and Pawan Goenka, the president at the company’s Swaraj division.
Following the unveiling of the Formula E machine, Mahindra also unveiled a hybrid version of their XUV 500 sports utility vehicle, albeit to slightly less fanfare than the purposeful looking Formula E car.and an automatic transmission version of their Quanto SUV.
Fiat Automobiles used the opening media day of the Auto Expo to announce its plans for 2014 by showing off the models it would be launching for the Indian market.
Headlining their 2014 portfolio reveal was the face-lifted Linea and the introduction of Fiat’s performance arm Abarth to India with the 160 horsepower Abarth 500; in effect a heavily souped up version of the 500, luxury hatchback.
Chairman and managing director of FIAT Chrysler Automobiles India – Nagesh Basavanhalli – also revealed the Aventura concept compact SUV, which he said would be introduced in the Indian market in 2014 too, no doubt to cash in on the success of compact SUVs like Renault’s Duster and Ford’s EcoSport.
NISSAN AND DATSUN
Nissan and Datsun also had some very interesting concepts to show us as well as a facelift. Datsun is being launched in the Indian market and showcased a new concept called the redi-GO. This concept hints at Datsuns plans to launch a very affordable and compact SYV for the Indian market.
It has a wheelbase of 2350mm and has got good ground clearance with decent interior space, making it perfect for modern middle-income families. Meanwhile, Nissan launched the facelifted version of the Sunny. The compact sedan now gets a fresh new front with a larger grille, and sports newly designed headlamps as well.
There is also a lot more chrome detailing around the body and there is a new alloy wheel design. There are also minors changes in the interior like the new steering wheel and additional features such as Bluetooth connectivity and rear parking camera.
Indian manufacturer Tata showcased 18 new vehicles in all, that also included concepts and commercial vehicles. Their most interesting launch was the new premium hatchback called the Tata Bolt and a sub 4-metre sedan called the Zest. But what really got our attention was the revealing of the Tata Nexon compact crossover concept that will take on the Ford EcoSport once it makes it to production.
The Nexon will also come with some very nice connectivity features, but their other concept vehicle will really be something else. Tata also showcased a very attractive and appealing concept hatch called the Connectnext Concept that features futuristic machine interface systems. It comes with an outlandish Head Up Display system and also has smartphone integration, which means you can control most of the cars functions with your phone.
Volkswagen, meanwhile, focused on revealing its own compact SUV for India by showcasing the Taigun. The car is, however, expected to be in the range of Rs. 9 to 14 lakh ex-showroom.
VW’s sister brand Skoda revealed the face-lifted Skoda Yeti and Superb at the Expo, with both new design iterations of the existing models sporting Skoda’s new design philosophy.
Our take on the face-lifted Superb can be found in this year’s current issue of the magazine (February).
At the Auto Expo, Mercedes chose to build on their continued resurgence in the Indian market. Having achieved over 9,000 sales in 2013, Mercedes grew in India by 32% to complete what was a record year.
And to celebrate this, the company announced what is going to be their most significant product in the Indian market - the GLA SUV. Originally scheduled to be shown in concept form, at the last minute, it was switched to a European production version, which is pretty close to what we'll get in India later in the year. The GLA promises to give tough competition to the existing number spinners in the luxury segment, the BMW X1 and Audi Q3.
The other launches consisted of the uber-hot CLA 45AMG which will also be launched in India soon. Powered by a 360bhp engine touted as the worlds most powerful production 4-cylinder engine, the CLA45 has the performance to match the looks. Also launched at the show was the ML-Class Guard edition bulletproof vehicle, which starts at about Rs. 2.49 crores ex-showroom.
Displaying a mix of concepts and production vehicles, Audi chose to show some stunning and important cars at the same time. Starting the lineup were the 2012 LeMans winning R18 TDI race car and the Quattro concept.
The production aspect was marked with the introduction of the A3 sedan which is widely expected to the be the entry-level vehicle of the Audi range. Thereby, drawing in even more customers, courtesy the luxury badge and lower price.
Audi also showcased the A3 Convertible which is, quite surprisingly, also expected to be launched in India soon.
BMW & MINI
BMW perhaps had the most high-profile press conference of the show till now. Showcasing various new cars, the press conference was headlined with the presence of none other than Sachin Tendulkar himself, who launched the i8 supercar which is expected to hit our roads later in the year.
Also launched were John Cooper Works versions of the MINI range of cars - presumably to keep customer interest going before an all-new generation of MINI cars is launched later in the year.
Big news for BMW - other than Sachin and the i8 - were the launch of the new X5, a super successful vehicle for the company - having sold over 1.3 million units of the car worldwide since it's launch in 1999. The new X5 (you can read our review of the same in the Dec 2013 issue of the magazine) will be launched by the third quarter of this year in India.
The other big news was the launch of the 3-Series Gran Turismo or GT for short. Promising more leg room than a 5-Series at similar cost, the 3GT is almost a no-brainer for those who are mostly chauffeured. Featuring a longer wheelbase compared to the standard 3-Series the 3GT offer more space, a panoramic sunroof and a higher seating position. The 3GT is now available in India at Rs. 42.75 Lakhs ex-showroom.
Then of course, was the announcement of the launch of the M6 Gran Coupe version in India. Featuring stunning looks, the M6 GC now also has the firepower to match it looks with a 552bhp 4.4 liter turbochsrhed V8 engine.
But BMW saved the best for last, with none other than Sachin Tendulkar himself revealing the i8 car, a futuristic Hybrid sports car that will be sold in India later this year. Evidently, Sachin himself is one of the first customers of the technologically revolutionary i8.