Here’s the ‘megaest’ Mega-Test we’ve ever done: 46 new machines, two-and-half days, one Grand Prix circuit, seven evaluators, and two racers. Let the games begin...
As last year, we’re at the BIC for this mammoth task because it’s the perfect venue to test these machines in a controlled environment. Of course, we don’t altogether mind pounding around the racetrack in the name of science. Speaking of which, we’ve tried to be as sensible about this as possible – so pay attention.
Each car and bike has been rated for quality, comfort, ride, refinement, design, drivetrain, and practicality. A big chunk of points are also given to ‘X-Factor,’ which is that special something that’s inherent to a particular machine. An RS6, for instance, has a high X-factor because it’s a wagon that can embarrass most supercars. A Celerio, on the other hand, has high ‘Value for Money,’ because it’s the cheapest diesel around, but not much X-factor. Sure, it gets the job done but its not particularly desirable. On the two-wheel side, the Yamaha Saluto is great for commuting but really not much else, whereas the Triumph Tiger can take you to the ends of the earth if you so desire – that’s its X-factor!
Value for Money is one of the most important aspects in our market, and, therefore, it gets the most points – both for the cars as well as the bikes. Of course, its not just a case of giving the most inexpensive machine the greatest points – but looking at just what it offers relative to its competition.
The only purely objective field is Lap Time, which is recorded for each machine using the transponders at the track. This gives us a uniform method to determine virtually all the dynamic factors, such as power, high-speed stability, handling, braking, etc. And, well, we all like to drive and ride – so this is important to us.
The fastest car of the bunch was the Mercedes-AMG C 63, while the slowest was the Tata Nano AMT – the two were separated by 77.9 seconds and 15 points, which equates to .19 points per second. For the bikes, the Benelli TNT 1130 and Honda Livo were separated by 81.8 seconds (we dismissed the lap time of the Yamaha Fascino, because it was just too slow) and 5 points, which equates to .06 points per second.
The only car that you see on the cover (and on the facing page) that we didn’t end up including in this test was the Mercedes-AMG S Coupe – because the tyres on our test car weren’t up to doing a lap at full chat in the hands of our professional racing driver, Gaurav Gill. Turn the page to find out more about this hot-shoe and his companion in full leathers.
Putting in benchmark lap times in almost 50 machines over the course of two days isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so we had to rope in the professionals...
Gaurav Gill Winning the 2013 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship made Gaurav Gill India’s first rally driver to win an international rally championship sanctioned by global motorsport’s governing body. By far India’s most prolific rally driver to date, Gill has also been a multiple champion at the national level. Four Indian Rally Championship titles, as well as participation in cross-country rallies and a brief spell of motorcycle rallying go hand-in-hand with being the first Indian driver to score a points scoring finish in the World Rally Championship (in 2009, in the production car class). Gill currently competes for Team MRF in the APRC and for Mahindra in the IRC, while pushing for a campaign in the WRC and international cross-country rallying. Needless to say, Gaurav’s car control is legendary, and sitting next to him while he’s wringing the neck of a high performance machine is something special indeed.
Shankar Sarath Kumar At the age of just 19, Sarath Kumar took a leap of faith (along with Bangalore-based Ten10 Racing) to compete at a MotoGP weekend in the 125cc class. At the time, the gulf between racing in India and at the highest level became apparent as Kumar failed to qualify. Since that baptism of fire, Kumar has raced with success in the Italian Road Racing Championship in the 125cc class with Mahindra. Injuries forced him to miss out on the Spanish Moto3 Championship in 2013, but a regular return to racing, and winning, followed after an association with Honda in the one-make CBR 250 Cup in India and the Asia Dream Cup abroad. Kumar has wrapped up his second CBR 250 Cup crown this year, to add to his 165cc national crown from 2010 – making him one of India’s premier motorcycle racers. Watching Sarath take on the curves of the BIC on some of the most powerful motorcycles in the country was a humbling experience.
The Saluto is a brand-new commuter motorcycle that was launched by Yamaha earlier this year. The bike looks pretty good, but it’s certainly not a head-turner. Read more
Like most of the Benellis we rode on the track, the TNT 899 too clocked a quick time. But when it came to refinement and build quality, the Italian bike-maker must raise its standard – especially when compared with the Japanese competition. Read more
From the time Honda decided to part ways with Hero MotoCorp, the Japanese giant has successfully been able to tap into the mass segment with its iconic CB and Dream series. This has helped Honda close the gap between itself and Hero – and, at the rate it’s going, it seems like it’s getting closer to being crowned ‘market-leader’ with each passing day. Read more
Benelli have been making bikes for a long time, but the TNT 600i is the first bike to come from them since the takeover by Chinese company Qianjiang. The bike was launched globally in 2014, so it’s not really a brand new bike – but it was unveiled in India this year along with the other Benelli products. Read more
The main aim of the TNT 300 is to quench the thirst of a biker who has a limited budget. Now Benelli’s TNT family follows a very flashy and eye catching design, but in the case of the 300 it’s more of an old school naked bike. Read more
We’re a nation that has taken the phrase ‘first impressions lasts the longest’ quite seriously. Where the Hero Honda CBZ still remains in people’s mind as India’s first bike with a front disc brake, the Suzuki Shaolin is still remembered as India’s first motorcycle with a 5-speed gearbox. Read more
The Benelli TNT R is like a whirlwind, as it clocked the fastest lap time on the track – of 2 minutes 26.9 seconds. Now the obvious retort would be that it is a 1,130cc bike with 135bhp of raw, unadulterated power – so it’s expected to naturally achieve this feat.Read more
Like most hardcore motorcycle enthusiasts, all of us bike guys at autoX dreamt of owning superbikes when we were young – but, as we grew older, we started to appreciate naked variants. When the world was waking up to the idea of adventure motorcycling, we also moved on. Read more
The Indian Scout is one gorgeous motorcycle. And though many may mock us for taking a cruiser to the track, our main reason was to have a safe, enclosed environment where there won’t be cattle, dogs and absent-minded people straying across our path when we test the bike. With beautiful retro styling, one can just sit and look at it for hours. Read more
Ducati Monster 821
Ducati has made a splendid re-entry into the Indian market, and they’ve launched some exciting products – the Scrambler being one of them. But the most recent Ducati is the Monster 821. First of all, the bike looks insanely beautiful. It’s definitely the best looking bike we’ve seen launched in India this year – it came closest to scoring a perfect 10 in design!
The Scrambler Ducati sits low, but has good ground clearance. It uses modern technology, but it looks retro and funky. It’s small and compact, but extremely powerful. It’s a game changer, and it really is the most unique motorcycle in the Indian market today. Read more
In terms of performance, build quality and refinement, the GSX-S1000 is flawless. Nothing, seemingly, can make it better than it already is. It’s the most outrageous machine we’ve ridden this year, and that claim is unanimous amongst all of us – including Sarath. Read more
Triumph Tiger 800
When we first rode the Tiger 800 in Spain, we were convinced that this bike would be one of the best bikes of 2015 – and we were right! While it doesn’t grab the number-one spot, it’s in the top-three and one of the winners of our Best of 2015 awards for two-wheelers. Read more
Every time a new Honda motorcycle is launched, it grabs headlines. But in the case of the CBR 650F, you just know that it’s going to be something special. It’s great to see heavyweights like Honda bringing in bikes with mid-range power in India. Read more
It’s been some time coming, but finally the Yamaha YZF-R3 made its debut this year – and, what do you know, it took the top spot in our two-wheelers segment. Even Sarath couldn’t stop raving about the R3’s power delivery and its compactness. Read more
The Tata Nano is attempting to resurrect its legacy. If you go in with high expectations, then you can’t help but notice that it’s crude and basic – and the overall quality is shoddy. But the Nano is a legendary car in its own right, and it created quite a storm in the global auto industry when it was first revealed in 2010. Read more
Maruti Suzuki’s Celerio has been successful as a practical, value-for-money offering. The AMT model has received great response as well. But Maruti decided this wasn’t enough – it wanted to give the Celerio badge another boost. And here it is, the Celerio diesel! Read more
We quite enjoyed driving the Datsun Go+ in the hills of Uttarakhand for the first time at the end of last year. The 67 horses produced by the 1.2-litre three-cylinder seemed surprisingly adequate. Rowing the centre console mounted five-speed manual shifter to keep the car in the power-band was actually quite a lot of fun, and the way the suspension cushioned the rough mountain roads was an absolute revelation.Read more
The first generation Maruti Suzuki Alto K10 was loved for its punchy powertrain. But when Maruti decided to base the second-gen on the Alto 800, the K10’s future was questionable. Read more
If you look at the car market demography, there’s a niche that demands a particular type of car – a true four-seat convertible. And with the E400 Cabriolet, Mercedes is looking to fill that niche. The advantage that the E400 has over most other convertibles is the fact that it has a pair of fairly usable rear seats – which means that, for short journeys at least, four adults can use the car in comfort. Read more
The TUV300 is Mahindra’s all-new compact SUV that’s designed to take on successful models such as the Ford EcoSport. Mahindra knew that, in order to compete against modern rivals, it would need to develop a brand new product. Read more
It was once regarded as a Jack of all trades – a benchmark for a premium hatchback. But, in time, the market matured, the competition stepped up their game, and, honestly, somewhere along the way, Honda missed a golden opportunity – it could well have been the market leader. Read more
The S-Cross spearheaded the Nexa initiative for Maruti-Suzuki, and it’s generated a fair bit of interest. Soon it’ll have company in the form of the new Baleno, which could see more walk-in traffic at the growing network of Nexa showrooms around the country. Read more
The CLA was the first all-new vehicle launch from Mercedes this year, and we were captivated by its good looks as soon as we set eyes on it at the media drive in Goa. It really is a beautiful car, and even though it’s based on the A-Class, it shares more styling cues from the CLS. Read more
The Hyundai i20 Active is not that much different from the Elite i20. Of course, its crossoveresque styling gives it a more rugged appeal, and crucially the i20 Active has a higher ground clearance of 190mm – versus the Elite i20’s 170mm.Read more
It’s no secret that the D-segment for sedans is in a difficult phase in the Indian market right now. Customers in India – as is the case worldwide – are now increasingly getting drawn towards SUVs rather than sedans.Read more
The new Mini, in its 5-door form, is a polarising machine. We quite like, and understand, the concept behind the five doors – it’s infinitely more practical than its 3-door sibling, and actually offers quite a usable proposition. Read more
Our love affair with the Mini Cooper dates back to the days of Sir Alec Issigonis. So, of course, we were delighted when BMW (current owner of the brand) decided to bring Mini to India in 2012. In fact, one of the most fun features that we’ve ever done was when we raced a Mini Cooper S around the Kolhapur karting track against a high-performance Rotax go-kart. Read more
Ford’s Figo was a car that seriously moved the company up the sales charts. The first-gen Figo was an extremely well built car for its segment – it drove very well, and its ride comfort and driving dynamics were exemplary for its segment. Read more
The Audi A3 Cabriolet has many positives going for it – it’s stylish, and, as with all Audis, it’s very well built. And, of course, it’s a convertible at a relatively affordable price – which is perhaps its biggest selling point. Read more
The Volvo S60 is truly a great package. It looks fantastic, with its simple and crisp design cues that are typically Scandinavian. Our T6 test car looked especially good in this Polestar blue. On the inside, well, what can you say about Volvo cabins other than the fact that they have the most comfortable seats this side of a Rolls-Royce. Read more
Truth be told, the GLA 45 is one of our favourite AMG’s. What – over an E63 or SLK 55? Okay, so choosing between AMG’s is a little like choosing between your children. Let’s just say that we love the GLA 45. Why? Well, because it’s one of the few AMG’s that you can take to Mashobra – in January! Read more
The Figo Aspire is Ford’s attempt at targeting a segment that’s unique to the Indian market – that of the sub-4m sedan. This segment commands such massive sales volume in our market that it’s impossible for any manufacturer that wants to be a major player in the Indian market to ignore. Read more
At first glance you may struggle to spot the changes to the updated A6. But look a little closer and you’ll find that they actually make quite an impact. Immediately, the front end looks more striking. The added chrome on the signature Audi grille makes it looks sharper, while the new headlights make it look almost sinister. Read more
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is the first car to break into our top-ten. And it’s a top ten that’s separated by just 3.1 points. So, clearly, it’s pretty competitive at the top. Read more
The Audi TT is the only dedicated sports car here, and the fact that it’s in the top-ten is pretty admirable. And the primary reason for that is because it’s an incredibly usable sports car. It doesn’t thump through potholes like its predecessor – and yet it’s also very handy on the track, something that Gaurav was able to attest to as well. Read more
The i-program from BMW is an audacious one. Not only does it aim to make the eco-friendly genre far more mainstream than it’s been thus far (with the i3 primarily, which isn’t sold in India) but it also intends to make it sexy (with the i8 of course, which is sold here). Read more
The Audi RS 6 Avant came agonizingly close to making it into the top-five. In fact, our professional test driver, and complete gear-head, Gaurav Gill, said that this is the one car that he would like to take home. In fact, this car is now officially on his Christmas List. Audi: set your sales people after him…Read more
s Maruti Suzuki is all set to enter the premium hatchback segment, we decided not to waste a single moment as we took the all-new Baleno to the track to truly test its mettle. The new design concept, “Liquid Flow,” makes it look very contemporary indeed with its V-shaped grille, LED lamps and overall curvaceous shape. Read more
The Hyundai Creta has caused quite a stir in the mid-size SUV space. To most eyes, the Creta is a good-looking SUV. It certainly makes its presence felt with its large chrome grill up front and sharp creases. In fact, we had it lined up between a couple of Audis and Mercs in the pit lane of the BIC and it didn’t look out of place at all. Read more
Maruti Suzuki rules the roost in the small car segment. Despite the best efforts of the likes of Hyundai, Tata, Datsun, General Motors, and secretly probably every other mass-market manufacturer out there, Maruti has simply been untouchable in the entry-level small car space. Until now! Read more
This mega-test took quite a bit of doing. As you can imagine, assembling all these machines in one place is quite a task. And so, after a long day at the track, ideally you want to drive home in something comfortable. Something serene. Read more
Last year, our overall winner was the (then) brand new S-Class – simply because it took the “Best car in the world” and made it better. In terms of style, design, quality, and technology, it demonstrated that Mercedes-Benz was back to its best. Read more