Category: Boys Toys



The country’s largest car manufacturer, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (MSIL), has firmed up plans to launch its luxury sports sedan Kizashi early next month. The vehicle, to be imported fully from parent Suzuki’s facility in Japan.

Kizashi, meaning ” Powerful” in Japanese will be positioned between the likes of Honda Accord and Toyota Camry at the upper end of Honda Civic, Volkswagen Jetta and Toyota Corolla at lower end. These cars are priced around Rs 12 lakh to Rs 20 lakh.

The car, to be imported as completely built units from Japan, is expected to be priced at Rs 16-18 lakh.

Executives at MSIL declined to comment on the pricing points, but said Kizashi would be the most expensive car in the Maruti portfolio. Kizashi would be officially launched on the second of next month.

Mayank Pareek, managing executive officer (marketing and sales), MSIL, said, “With Kizashi, we will complete the range of products we have on offer. The luxury car segment is not big at the moment. But going ahead, the A4 and A5 segment will grow considerably. This car is our attempt to be future ready.

Kizashi is a crossover luxury sports sedan. It will be positioned between the likes of Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic at the lower end and Toyota Camry and Honda Accord at the higher end of the luxury sedan segment.

Kizashi is powered by a 2.4-litre petrol engine and will be available in both manual and automatic transmission options.

The automatic transmission variant is expected to cost around Rs 1 lakh more than the manual one.

With the Kizashi launch date set for February 2, the company will first focus on the top 11 cities, followed by the top 20, which represent 63 per cent and 80 per cent of the market for such cars.


Positioned as a “luxury sports sedan”, it shares the Grand Vitara’s 2.4 litre petrol engine with power output upwards of 170 bhp.

This product segment represents just one per cent of the car market and has grown 53 per cent in the first three quarters of this fiscal to 13,838 units.

Maruti Suzuki expects the Kizashi sedan to do what the Grand Vitara sports utility vehicle could not, which is to give it a strong foothold in the premium car market.

The vehicle will be imported fully from parent Suzuki’s facility in Japan.

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The first of India’s six C-130J Super Hercules airlifters, considered the world’s most advanced transport aircraft, purchased from the US in a $1 billion deal has been delivered to the Indian Air Force. The first plane was received at a ceremony at manufacturer Lockheed Martin’s Marietta, Georgia, facility Thursday by the Indian Defence & Military Attaché Brigadier Bhupesh Kumar Jain and Air Attaché Air Commodore J.S. Walia.Two of the planes will be flown to India in early 2011, while two more will arrive in early summer and the last two will be delivered in late summer of 2011. Two other aircraft are in flight test prior to deliveries and three more have now reached the final production positions at the Lockheed Martin Marietta facility.

India’s six stretched-fuselage C-130J-30s would provide the Indian Army and Indian Air Force “new special operations capabilities using the world’s most advanced airlifter”, according to Lockheed.Equipped with India-unique operational equipment, including an infrared detection set (IDS), the aircraft for the first time will provide the IAF an ability to conduct precision low-level flying operations, airdrops and landings in blackout conditions.

The C-130J primarily performs the tactical portion of an airlift mission. The aircraft is capable of operating from rough, dirt strips and is the prime transport for air dropping troops and equipment into hostile areas.The flexible design of the Super Hercules enables it to be configured for many different missions, allowing for one aircraft to perform the role of many. Much of the special mission equipment added to the Super Hercules is removable, allowing the aircraft to quickly switch between roles.The C-130J Super Hercules, a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft, is a comprehensive update of the venerable Lockheed C-130 Hercules, with new engines, flight deck, and other systems.The aircraft can also be configured with the “enhanced cargo handling system”. The system consists of a computerised loadmaster’s station from where the user can remotely control the under floor winch.In addition the aircraft is equipped with air-to-air receiver refueling capability for extended range operations. Lockheed Martin will integrate this equipment and other capabilities into the Indian configuration as agreed between the governments.With this India joins the growing number of nations with C-130J fleets including the US, Australia, Canada, Italy, Denmark, Norway and the United Kingdom. The C-130J carries eight 463L pallets, 97 medical litters, 24 CDS bundles, 128 combat troops and 92 paratroops.The Indian Air Force’s new Super Hercules will be the longer fuselage or “stretched” variant of the C-130J, similar to those being delivered to the US Air Force.An unidentified U.S. Air Force pilot walks past an U.S. Air Force C-130J’ Super Hercules’ transport plane in New Delhi. Capable of using unprepared runways for takeoffs and landings, the C-130 was originally designed as a troop, medical evacuation, and cargo transport aircraft. File picture of a US Air Force Lockheed Martin-made C-130J Super Hercules at Le Bourget, north of Paris, during the 48th Paris Air Show. The versatile airframe has found uses in a variety of other roles, including as a gunship (AC-130), for airborne assault, search and rescue, scientific research support, weather reconnaissance, aerial refueling, maritime patrol and aerial firefighting.

A US Air Force Lockheed Martin-made C-130J Super Hercules at the 48th Paris Air Show. The C-130 is also the only military aircraft to remain in continuous production for 50 years with its original customer, as the updated C-130J Super Hercules.

Backdropped by a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo airplane, left, an officer peers out of the cockpit of a US Air Force’s C-130J super Hercules to take pictures of a flight display overhead at the Farnborough aerospace show, in Farnborough, England. Over 40 models and variants of the Hercules serve with more than 60 nations.

In the United States, the U.S. Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, Marine Corps and Coast Guard rely on the C-130J. International C-130J operators include the United Kingdom, Australia, Italy and Denmark with Norway and Canada. Now, India has also joined their ranks.

The C-130J Super Hercules can be flown with a flight crew of two and one loadmaster. There are four variants of the Super Hercules. They are: HC-130J Super Hercules, KC-130J Super Hercules, MC-130J Super Hercules and WC-130J Super Hercules.

Higher: The C-130J flies higher, climbs over the weather and has a 40% greater cruising altitude than the C-130H.

Farther: The C-130J flies much farther with less fuel, provides up to 40% greater range than the C-130H.

The Super Hercules transports 33 percent more payload, using half the crew, while burning less fuel and flying faster, farther and higher than its predecessors.

Faster: The C-130J is faster and climbs more quickly, offers 21% more speed. Time-to-climb is slashed by 50% over earlier model C-130s. With Rolls-Royce AE2100D3 engines and Dowty R391 six-bladed composite propellers, the Super Hercules operates in hot climates, handling short, high-elevation airstrips with maximum payload.

The cargo compartment is approximately 41 feet long, 9 feet high, and 10 feet wide, and loading is from the rear of the fuselage. Initially developed for the USAF, this system enables rapid role changes to be carried out and so extends the C-130J’s time available to complete tasks.These combined changes have improved performance over its C-130E/H siblings, such as 40 percent greater range, 21 percent higher maximum speed, and 41 percent shorter take-off distance.

To ensure 80 percent availability of the aircraft at any given time, Lockheed Martin has offered a long-term maintenance contract to the IAF on the lines of the ones it has with the US Air Force and the air forces of Australia, Britain and Canada.

The C-130J primarily performs the tactical portion of an airlift mission. The aircraft is capable of operating from rough, dirt strips and is the prime transport for air dropping troops and equipment into hostile areas.The flexible design of the Super Hercules enables it to be configured for many different missions, allowing for one aircraft to perform the role of many. Much of the special mission equipment added to the Super Hercules is removable, allowing the aircraft to quickly switch between roles.

The C-130J Super Hercules, a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft, is a comprehensive update of the venerable Lockheed C-130 Hercules, with new engines, flight deck, and other systems. The aircraft can also be configured with the “enhanced cargo handling system”. The system consists of a computerised loadmaster’s station from where the user can remotely control the under floor winch.

Best Cars of the Year


As the Ford Figo is named Indian Car of the Year, we bring you the other cars that came close to the coveted title. Here is our list of the best of the year.

Chevrolet Beat

Chevrolet Beat is a promising car from General Motors that has all potential to work wonders not just for the company but also for first-time buyers. Its funky styling, bold lines and motorcycle inspired dashboard have won many fans. The Beat is powered by a 1.2-litre petrol engine that produces 79 bhp of maximum power and 10.91 kgm of maximum torque. The price of the Beat starts at Rs 3.93 lakh.

Maruti Suzuki Wagon R

The Wagon R is the second highest selling car in the Maruti stable next only to the Alto. Ever since Maruti introduced the blue-eyed boy, we mean the new Wagon-R, the sales have been increasing gradually. The boxy looks are now hidden behind the subtle curves and a premium look with good chrome bits in and out. This ‘easy to drive’ city car has a peppy engine under the hood and a class-leading interior space. Wagon R is powered by a 1.0 litre petrol engine that produces 67 bhp of maximum power and 9.17 kgm of maximum torque. The price of Wagon-R starts at Rs. 3.63 lakh.

Nissan Micra

Nissan Micra is the mass market car from one of Japan’s largest auto makers in India. The Micra’s retro looks attract a ‘love it’ or ‘loathe it’ response. It is extremely spacious, user-friendly and comes with gizmos like key-less entry and start-stop engine switch. Micra is powered by a 1.2 litre petrol mill that produces 75 bhp of maximum power and 10.6 kgm of maximum torque. Nissan has upped the ante on the safety front by offering driver air bag as standard. With the Micra diesel the company claims a fuel efficiency of 23 kmpl* (ARAI Test). However, with just 21 dealers network across the country, Micra and Nissan are at a disadvantage. Price of Micra starts at Rs. 4.35 lakh.

Skoda YetiSkoda Yeti has smartly addressed an emerging market of soft-roaders in the Rs. 14 to Rs. 18 lakh range at a time when there is fierce competition in the Rs. 20 lakh SUVs in India. Yeti’s advantages include handsome appearance and an enthusiastic 2.0 litre diesel motor that produces 140 bhp of maximum power and 32.6 kgm of maximum torque. While the Yeti is a good package, it lacks the third row seats and is therefore strictly for those with small families. Or no families! Yeti prices start at Rs. 15.8 lakh.

Tata Aria

Tata Motors has boldly launched a premium vehicle despite its image as a ‘value-for-money’ car maker. Aria which is the first “Indian crossover” has improved interior quality — at least by Tata’s standards — and good looks. It combines the maneuverability of a sedan with the practicality of a SUV. And boy, is it loaded! Cruise control, rain-sense wipers, darkness sensing lights… you name it and Aria has it. Aria is powered by the tried-and-tested 2.2 litre DICOR engine that performs its duty in Tata Safari. This engine has been tweaked to produce 138 bhp of maximum power and 32.6 kgm of maximum torque. The 4×4 option tries to further justify the premium sticker price. The price of Tata Aria starts at Rs. 12.91 lakh.

Volkswagen PoloVolkswagen Polo is the German brand’s trump card for the mass hatchback market in India and so far, it seems to have worked. The safe and solid feel that is so closely associated with all things German are big plus for Polo. Polo is powered by a 1.2 litre petrol engine that produces 74 bhp of maximum power and 11.2 kgm of maximum torque. The 1.6 litre petrol engine produces 105 bhp of maximum power and 15.6 kgm of maximum torque. The 1.2 litre diesel engine produces 75 bhp of maximum power and 18.3 kgm of maximum torque. The engines are not as refined as offered by the rest of the competition. But, the overall package gives a lasting experience in driving the hatch around the town. The price of Polo starts at Rs. 4.88 lakh.

Volkswagen Vento

Vento is born out of the successful ‘boot + hatch = sedan’ formula that had earned success for Maruti Suzuki with its Swift Dzire and Tata Motors with its Indigo Manza model. However, the German engineering stands head and shoulders above in terms of gluing the boot so nicely that we wonder if Vento was designed before the Polo. Vento has caused some dent in sales of Honda City, the market leader which is a reflection on the car’s performance as well as overall package. Vento is powered by a 1.6 litre petrol and 1.6 litre diesel, both producing 104 bhp of maximum power, While the petrol motor produces 15.6 kgm of maximum torque and 25.5 kgm is produced in case of diesel motor. The Vento price starts at Rs. 7.90 lakh.

Ford FigoFord Figo is the absolute value-for-money car from the American brand. Although based on the Ford Fusion which did not sell well, the car’s fresh design cues and maximum utilization of space with its wider wheelbase makes the car a preferred hatchback for those seeking roominess. This ‘smart car’ is offered in both petrol and diesel engines. The 1.2 litre petrol engine produces 70 bhp of maximum power and 10.4 kgm of maximum torque while the 1.4 litre diesel engine produces 68 bhp of maximum power and 16.3 kgm of maximum torque. While the car is known for its ride and handling, the petrol motor lacks pick up. The price of Figo starts at Rs. 3.92 lakh.

Maruti Suzuki RitzTo begin with, engineers from Maruti Suzuki worked at close quarters with their Japanese counterparts in the development of the Ritz, much like that for the AStar. Bits and pieces here and there come together to make the Ritz a fairly different car as compared to the international Splash. Small modifications on the exterior have been implemented keeping in mind the developing Indian tastes, including a redesigned rear bumper that accommodates reflectors and RR fog lamps. The heart of the car, which is the K12M engine, has been extensively tested, calibrated and tuned specifically for Indian conditions. Apart from this, a reworked gearbox uses gear ratios different from that of the Splash to match its driveability with Indian traffic conditions. Given that unlike in international markets, the rear bench is often used by three and not two adults, special emphasis has been given to the shoulder space and rear seat comfort – a redone seat profile included. To go with the same concept, the Ritz carries a redesigned central console that has also been provided to ease the ingress and egress for rear seat passengers. To take in the sometimes massive potholes in India, ground clearance of the Ritz is a good 30mm higher than that on the Splash. The suspension has been re-tuned for comfort as per Indian roads. A bigger and wider tyre has also been accommodated, along with the body redesigns needed for the same. While the Swift was lapped up all sorts of consumers for its allrounder abilities, it was essentially meant for the young and sporty crowd looking for a fabulous driving experience. The Ritz will be a more sensible car, with the focus lying on space, comfort and driveability.

What will make the Ritz unique from the rest of Maruti Suzuki’s portfolio is the K12M engine. Elder sibling of the earlier K10B engine that powers the peppy A-Star, the K12M carries the same fundamentals of light-weight and hence far lower levels of fuel consumption and NVH.

 

 

Things (Cars) Money Can’t Buy


Fantasizing about gorgeous and exotic vehicles is always a great fall-back for the car fan with time to kill.

A few moments spent gazing into the middle distance, with supercars and luxury saloons filling your head can help the dreariest day go with a swing but if we’re really going to dream about cars, shouldn’t we use a little more imagination?

We’re all only a lottery win away from a stunning new car but some vehicles are beyond the reach even of people with Premier League footballer finances. Far more exclusive than mere hypercars, these are the dream cars money can’t buy.

These incredible cars can be impossibly rare, priceless or both. Some of them may not exist in the strictest sense, but they’re all desirable and fascinating enough to keep car fans in daydream material for years to come.

Batman Tumbler

Batman has a fantasy garage that’s the envy of the superhero world but the awesome Tumbler from Batman Begins must surely be one of the Caped Crusader’s favourites.

With the jutting angles of its bodywork and those huge exposed tyres, it’s not conventionally pretty but there’s nothing better for striking fear into the hearts of the criminal element. Converted from a prototype military vehicle called the Tumbler by Bruce Wayne in the film, this Batmobile is actually powered by a 5.0-litre Chevy V8. It also splits apart at the front so Batman can make his escape on the built-in Batpod motorcycle.

Unless Batman retires and puts his fleet on Auto Trader, the chances of owning one are slim.

Bentley Hunaudieres

In 1999, Bentley gave the car world a tantalising glimpse of what would happen if it veered away from its luxury car principals and got really sporty. The Hunaudieres concept was a four-wheel-drive, mid-engined supercar with 16 cylinders and 623hp. It was said to be based on Lamborghini Diablo underpinnings and looked absolutely stunning but nothing close has ever made production with a Bentley badge.

Ferrari FXX

Someone at Ferrari took the view that the Enzo hypercar wasn’t quite fast or exclusive enough and embarked on the programme that was to result in the FXX. It’s basically an Enzo race car with a raft of modifications designed to produce mind-bending pace on track. With the Enzo’s 6.0-litre V12 bored out to 6.3 litres and power increased from 696hp to a nice round 800hp, it’s quick. All that power plus the lightweight carbon-fibre construction produces a top speed of 243mph.

Ferrari charged around £1.6 million for the FXX and built 30 of them between 2005 and 2007. The catch was that the car was only supposed to be driven at a special series of Ferrari-approved track days. Only specially selected Ferrari customers were given the opportunity to buy and the 30th FXX was given to Michael Schumacher when he originally retired from Formula One in 2006.

Jaguar C-X75

To celebrate its 75th anniversary, Jaguar unveiled the C-X75 concept car and gave the world a hint of what a future Jaguar supercar might look like. While a production car with flowing curves like the C-X75’s is a possibility, it could be another 75 years before anyone gets the chance to buy something with a similar engine. The C-X75 concept is powered by electricity and uses two on-board gas turbines to generate the juice to charge its batteries. It has 580hp and an astonishing 1,180lb ft of torque.

Lightning McQueen

Fans of the 2006 Pixar film Cars will be familiar with the animated exploits of Lightning McQueen. The lovable red race car had the starring role in the movie and gained cult status with large numbers of cartoon-loving kids as a result. The character borrows design influences from the Chevrolet Corvette and Dodge Viper.

Despite lively performance and being able to talk, he probably isn’t a fantasy vehicle for too many adult car fans. Lightning’s inclusion here is based more on the appeal he holds for a younger audience but even the most stony-faced of grumpy old men would have to admit he’s cute.

Pagani Zonda Tricolore

The Zonda supercar from Pagani has been available in so many different guises, it’s hard to keep track but if you want the rarest of the lot, the Tricolore is a good place to start. You could buy this car in theory but with a £1.3million price tag it would be tricky to come by, even if more than one had been made. Its bodywork fashioned from a carbon-titanium weave, the Tricolore was built to mark the 50th anniversary of the ‘Frecce Tricolori’, the Italian air force equivalent of the British Red Arrows display team.

Bumblebee

The fifth generation Chevrolet Camaro is a fine-looking coupe in the best American muscle car traditions but is it really rare or exclusive enough to rank amongst our unobtainable dream cars? It is if it transforms into an 18-foot robot with a laser cannon. The Camaro, or more accurately, the 2006 Camaro Concept which previewed the design of the 2010 production car, is the disguise for Bumblebee in the later stages of the Transformers movie.

With distinctive yellow paintwork and black roof stripes, the character is one of the Autobot good-guys who cause huge quantities of special effects carnage in their battles with the evil Decepticons. When the production Camaro finally went on sale in 2010, Chevrolet offered a Transformers special edition with the same paintwork as the Bumblebee character from the film.

Red Bull X1

When the creators of Gran Turismo 5 needed a star car for their Playstation 3 game, they turned to the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team and the Red Bull X1 was born. Strictly a virtual creation, the car nevertheless has the looks and the stats to make car lovers drool. The car is the brainchild of Red Bull’s designer Adrian Newey and Gran Turismo creator Kazunori Yamauchi. The figures speak of two car fans let off the leash with a 1,483bhp twin-turbo V6 that revs to 15,000rpm and will take the car to a 249mph top speed.

The X1’s fantasy performance is enough to embarrass real F1 cars and the styling is inspired by the aerodynamic solutions found on the grand prix grid. At 2,180mm wide and standing only 980mm off the ground, it’s never going to be the most practical transport around town but nobody will ever need to worry about that as the computer generated X1 lives out its life within the confines of Gran Turismo 5.

James Bond Lotus Esprit

The debate will rage on forever about which is the all-time best James Bond car but the Lotus Esprit that converted into a submarine in The Spy Who Loved Me must be one of the favourites. As dream cars go, this one seems to have the lot. There were rocket launchers, a smoke screen and a surface to air missile for Bond to get his teeth into. The submarine scene was just the icing on the cake.

The Esprit’s wedge-shaped lines seemed to lend themselves perfectly to undersea travel and it’s hard to think of a better way to arrive at the beach.

Back to the Future DeLorean

Many people dream of owning a time machine and heading back into the past to right wrongs or place a cheeky bet on the 1971 Grand National. For car fans, there’s only one time machine worth having and that’s the DeLorean from the Back To The Future movies. It flies, it leaves flaming tyre tracks and it has gullwing doors, what more could you ask for in a fantasy car?

Ferrari 599XX

Ferrari gave 29 specially selected customers the opportunity of spending £1.2 million quid on a car that can’t be driven on the road. That car is the 599XX, a 722hp racing version of the 599 GTB Fiorano with weight reduced by 270kg, cutting-edge aerodynamics and an ultra-advanced stability and traction control system.

The 599XX takes 2.9 seconds to accelerate from standstill to 60mph and has a 196mph top speed that would be a lot higher but for the low gearing. It’s said that the 599XX is an amazing 10 seconds faster than the Ferrari Enzo around the Fiorano test track and some of the innovations fitted to the car have since been made available to the general public in road-legal guise on the £300,000 599 GTO.

World’s Top Armoured Cars


Do you ever feel your life is in constant danger? Do you hold a high-ranking ministerial position? Are you a Colombian judge investigating a drugs cartel? In short, is a drive to the local supermarket going to hold all the potential of you being kidnapped or even assassinated?

So what do you do? The answer is simple: you buy a car which can withstand everything up to a small nuclear explosion.

These vehicles are very discreet indeed. There isn’t any hint they are sheathed in enough military armour to successfully fend off a head-on mortar or rocket-grenade attack. To the prying public they appear to be just another executive car.

For obvious reasons, the world of armour-protected cars is shrouded in a heavy cloak of secrecy, however, we’ve managed to infiltrate it and bring you – just in case you were in the market – the top 10 cars favoured by the world’s secret service.

Cadillac The Beast

If it’s good enough for the most powerful man in the world, then it is certainly good enough for you. President Obama’s choice of ride, fondly known as The Beast, was specially commissioned from Cadillac.

The $300,000 seven-seat, eight-tonne Beast has bunker-like protection (obviously). However, the armour is so thick each door weighs the same as a Boeing 747 cabin door. It also comes complete with a separate oxygen supply and a totally sealed interior to protect against a gas attack. Oh, and several litres of the Commander-in-Chief’s blood, too.

Porsche Panamera 4.8 V8 Turbo

The official line from Porsche is, “we don’t armour-plate our cars”. Perhaps they don’t, but they may very well point you in the general direction of JS Armoured Cars of Frankfurt, Germany, who will undertake the conversion.

Recently, JS took a Panamera Turbo and gave it enough protection to stop an M16, 9mm or .44 Magnum fired at point blank range. And, if, by chance, an assailant chose to attack by means of grenade or landmine, then a heavy dose of 3mm ballistics steel added to the roof and floor will further ensure safety.

Range Rover

You’d be forgiven for thinking a Range Rover is pretty much indestructible, but apparently it isn’t until it has had a few more additional factory-fitted options. Bullet resistant glazing, ballistic steel armouring, flat run tyres, self-sealing fuel tank and under-floor protection all go towards ensuring this 5.0-litre V8 Range Rover can withstand an attack by high velocity, high calibre bullets providing optimum occupant protection. That should do it then.

Rolls-Royce Phantom V1 Limousine

Having a very exclusive clientele does mean Rolls-Royce is a little reticent about giving away too much information on exactly what is used in their cars to protect the rich and famous that travel in them. Then again, knowing all their cars are bespoke-made it is a fair assumption they will kit it out with whatever the customer wants.

Specify all-round Kevlar armour, a pair of matching 18-carat gun mounts or a diamond encrusted pepper spray holder and they’ll build them in – obviously, at a price.

Volkswagen Phaeton

Built by Volkswagen R, the special projects wing of Volkswagen, this particular long-wheel base Phaeton is available in a level of individualisation normally only reserved for the likes of Bentley and Rolls-Royce.

Not only will they customise the interior and exterior to suit a customer’s precise requirement, they also have the ability to armour plate and prepare the car to fend off the most brutal of attacks.

Mercedes S600 Pullman State Limousine

The S600 Pullman could never really be described as discreet. It is absolutely enormous.

Everything about this bulletproof, bomb-resistant limo is served in seismic proportions. Firstly, it is over 6.3 metres in length and then there’s the engine; a 5.5-litre V12, bi-turbo power source, able to produce 517bhp and pull an astonishing 612lbs of torque.

As for the price? Expect to pay in excess of $800,000 plus VAT.

BMW 760Li High Security

Apart from being able to withstand a blast from a roadside device, the 760Li is also offered with the option of an intercom system which allows safe communication with people outside the car without the need to open the windows or doors.

An additional safety feature includes irritant gas sensors. When the system detects excess gas levels, it automatically closes all the windows and air vents and then pumps breathable fresh air from its own air supply.

Maserati Quattroporte

Just like every other armour-protected car, the specially prepared Quattroporte is virtually indistinguishable from the standard model. Only the very sharp-eyed will notice this car sits slightly differently due to the suspension modifications which had to be implemented to compensate for the additional weight of the reinforced ballistic-proof body shields.

Audi A8 

In the strictest of secrecy, B7 armour plating – the highest class of vehicle protection currently available – is factory-fitted to the Audi A8.

In true Teutonic fashion, every eventuality has been thought out – even a means to evacuate in an emergency situation. Sited around the windscreen is the thinnest thread of explosives which can be detonated to blow out the glazing and give a safe passage. Keep the kids away from that switch.

Bentley Mulsanne

It takes all the expertise of Bentley coachbuilders, Mulliner, to convert their new flagship, the Mulsanne, into a near-impenetrable, mobile fortress.

None of the anti-terrorist armour plating is retrofitted; all the conversion work is undertaken during the Mulsanne’s initial build stage, limiting any loss of performance or handling to a minimum.


Brawny, bold and brilliantly quick, muscle cars revolutionised the American motoring industry in the 1960s when they roared onto the scene with their big-cube V8s and blistering acceleration. Sadly the muscle cars’ glory days lasted less than a decade with skyrocketing fuel prices, thanks to the US energy crisis, signalling their untimely demise. The data and the pictures have been sourced from the respective company websites.

But what classifies a model as a muscle car? Bar a few exceptions muscle cars are a uniquely American phenomenon that followed a very simply recipe – shoehorning the burliest and largest displacement V8 mill into a generally inexpensive two-door mid-size car that could barely cope with such power and speed. An electrifying mix by any standard.

Muscle cars have always been more about straight-line acceleration and tearing down the drag strip than they have been about handling or refinement. Dazzling top speeds were also of secondary importance. And the cars we have picked for this list, all meet this recipe.

Some modern models have emerged, retaining key elements, such as flared wheel-arches and roaring V8s of course, but the most memorable of the muscle cars inevitably all come from the vintage stable and those are the models this line-up pays tribute to. So fasten your seatbelt as we tear through 10 of the most memorable pieces of muscle iron.

Mercury Cougar Eliminator

Positioned at the top of the Cougar line-up (Mercury’s version of Ford’s Mustang), the 1970 Eliminator was built on a Mustang platform stretched by three inches for a more boulevard-like ride. With its blacked-out grille, concealed headlights and side stripe it certainly looked the part, while a 335bhp 7.0-litre V8 made sure it had the go to match the show.

Chevrolet Camaro SS

Concerned about the roaring success of Ford’s Mustang, Chevrolet launched the Camaro as a direct rival in 1967 and debuted the brilliantly quick Super Sport version just one year later. Courtesy of a 325bhp 6.5-litre V8, the SS could storm to 62mph in just 6.6 seconds and on to a top speed of 130mph.

Dodge Challenger T/A

With a wave of successful muscle cars sweeping across the US, Dodge needed a successful rival to the Mustang and Camaro. Enter the Challenger. The fastest model was the “Trans Am” Challenger – powered by a beefy 290bhp 5.6-litre V8 – which could thunder to 62mph in just 5.8 seconds. Unfortunately the Challenger fell somewhat short on build quality.

Pontiac Trans Am SD

With the US haemorrhaged by the energy crisis, muscle car fans only really had one model to consider in the early 1970s – the rorty “Super-Duty” version of Pontiac’s Firebird. Whereas many of its competitors had grown soft over the years, the Pontiac was a proper old-school muscle car with a super-thirsty 7.5-litre V8 thumping under its bonnet.

Dodge Charger

Forget about its unassuming looks, the Charger is a full-blooded muscle car – especially with Dodge’s chunky 7.0-litre Hemi V8 pounding under the bonnet. Its fastback styling and razor grille with concealed headlights and indicators helped set the Charger apart not only as a serious performer capable of 62mph in 5.3 seconds, but also as a real head-turner.

Chevrolet El Camino SS

Although the El Camino’s history stretches back to 1959, this pick-up only truly turned muscle car in 1970 when a 360bhp 7.4-litre V8 was stuffed under its bonnet. Based largely on that other mighty Chevy, the Chevelle, the El Camino made sure most of its power reached the blacktop thanks to an optional Positraction limited slip differential.

Pontiac Tempest GTO

With a name borrowed in part from Ferrari’s 250 GTO, this legendary Pontiac was always going to be about one thing: explosive speed. GM rammed a 360bhp 6.5-litre V8 under its scooped bonnet, enabling the GTO to storm to 62mph in a whopping 6.4 seconds – explosively quick for 1963.

Ford Fairlane 427

Positioned as a larger sibling to the Mustang but smaller than Ford’s Galaxies, the Fairlane’s engine bay had to be widened to accommodate its super hot 7.0-litre 427 V8. If the 425bhp/480 lb/ft figures didn’t do the trick to win the public’s admiration, the Fairlane’s impressive performances at NASCAR certainly did. Only a few hundred of this top-of-the-range beast were ever built.

Plymouth Hemi Cuda

Originally launched as the Barracuda, it is the later generation (known simply as the Cuda) with its understated sporty looks and legendary engine that gets our nod. Powered by a fearsome 620bhp/655 lb/ft 7.1-litre Hemi V8, the race-bred Cuda could thunder to 62mph in a dazzling 4.3 seconds and on to 137mph.

Shelby Mustang GT500

Deciding on whether to include the Mustang in this list is the easy part. Indeed, a much more challenging task is picking just one model from a raft of Shelbys, Bosses, GTs, Bullits and Machs. The GT500, however, has to be the finest of this original model with a mighty 7.0-litre V8 and uprated suspension setting it apart from lesser GT350s.

Tata Aria – The New Tata


Tata Motors of today are very different from the erstwhile TELCO. From the maker of utility vehicle-derived passenger automobiles to an established car manufacturer, it has been a journey with a few bumps along the way, but a good journey nevertheless. The new Aria is in many ways the culmination of this journey, a springboard for the company to a new future.

Design and Style

The Aria as we know it today has its genesis in the Crossover concept, displayed at the Geneva Motor Show in 2005. The name Aria, however, first adorned a little two-door, two-seater roadster at the same venue five years earlier, in 2000. It’s taken a while for the car to go into production and, in its final avatar, the design is very similar to the 2005 concept, the notable changes being the headlights and the addition of chrome striping on the sides. This side striping has alleviated some of the slab-sidedness and given the car visual relief, especially when viewed from three-quarters. There’s no escaping the fact that it does seem to have borrowed some inspiration from Mercedes’ R-Class, visible notably in the treatment of the D-pillar and the alloy wheel design. The large 17″ wheels themselves look good and fill up the wheel arches substantially.

At the rear, the Christmas tree theme of the tail-lights continues, which immediately identifies it as a Tata offering. It does seem a touch bland, though, but then there are limitations to what a designer can do with what is essentially one large flat panel.

Interiors and Comfort

The Aria is a quantum leap ahead of the Safari and much better than anything we’ve seen from Tata before. The jury’s out on the design and layout of the dashboard, but the inescapable truth is it’s much better built than any other Tata to date. The fit, finish and feel are vastly superior and the highest spec ‘Pride’ version that we drove came with two-tone leather seats and trim on the dashboard. Of course, the reddish-brown (‘plum’ in Tata-speak) and black combo wasn’t to everybody’s liking, but then the fact remains that Tata does offer more than one colour option.

The infotainment system takes pride of place on the dashboard and also acts as the screen for the reversing camera. The infotainment system is operated by buttons on the centre console, but the navigation option isn’t easy to use. It took more than a few attempts for us to get it right. Tata should look at the interface and software navigation function to make this system easier to use. The steering wheel is strangely shaped and doesn’t fit comfortably in your hands. The steering-mounted buttons foul with your palms as well. The front air-conditioner vents are awkwardly placed, which means most of the draught is directed towards one’s knees and knuckles than cooling much else of the cabin. Higher placed vents would have been more useful, especially given the space available on the dashboard.

The front seats are ample and quite comfortable and the middle row can seat three abreast with ease. The third row is a bit cramped, though, and is best reserved for children or adults of a small stature.

The middle row can be adjusted back and forth too to help liberate a bit of legroom for the third row.

However, given the Aria’s sheer size and long wheelbase, the available interior room isn’t what could have been maximised from the same footprint. Part of the problem lies in the packaging; the engine itself has been pushed back against the firewall, presumably for better weight distribution, but then a lot of space has been lost in the bargain. For a family carrier, that’s not an ideal solution.

The row of storage boxes in the roof may attempt to add to practicality, but the reality is that they’re quite flat and shallow and do not offer too much by way of storage.

The Aria boasts of good ride quality over broken tarmac and its good ground clearance means it won’t be challenged even by a spot of off-roading. However, at higher speeds the Aria has a tendency to feel as if it’s boating a little bit, which can be disconcerting. True, it rides better with more people on board, but its high speed manners don’t inspire as much confidence as behind the helm of an Innova.

Drivetrain and Performance

The 2.2-litre engine is the same as we’ve seen on the Safari DiCOR, producing an identical 140 PS and 320 Nm of torque. It copes well enough with the weight of the vehicle and you don’t feel as if you’re lacking in power. There’s a slight bit of lag low down the rev range, but it disappears quickly enough, meaning the Aria motors competently. It attains 100 km/h in 15.35 seconds, which is not bad for a vehicle of this size. The drivability is pretty good, too, and the engine doesn’t feel too stressed on the highway. The gears shift smoothly, better than on the Safari, in fact, and there is a lightness to the controls which belies this vehicle’s size. Braking is similarly composed and the Aria stops dead from 100 km/h within 46.94 metres, taking 3.27 seconds in the process.

One of the Aria’s unique features is that its default mode is four-wheel drive with a torque vectoring system which automatically directs torque to the front wheels as and when required (Tata have dubbed this ‘Adapterra’). The two-wheel drive can be selected by pressing a button on the dashboard, which decouples the output to the front wheels, making for better fuel economy.

The Aria manages a respectable 10.6 kpl overall, which isn’t segment beating, but is quite competent none the less. Interestingly, the Aria has a sticker on the windscreen with recommended in-gear speeds, which indicates that for high-speed cruising one would be well advised to leave the four-wheel drive system ‘on’.

Safety

The Aria comes with a host of safety features, including six airbags, an electronic stability programme (ESP) with traction control (TC), which together make it one of the safest vehicles in its class. The ESP and TC should ensure that you never get into a tight spot, but if you do, you have the reassurance of six airbags, including curtain bags that stretch the length of the cabin.

Value

The Aria is available in three versions – Pleasure, Prestige and Pride – with prices ranging from Rs 13 lakh to Rs 15.8 lakh (ex-showroom). At these prices, it isn’t cheap and, although the four-wheel drive system comes as standard, it’s hard to justify the price in the light of the competition. All three versions are well kitted-out, but the mid-level Prestige seems to be the best value for money, offering everything from the Pride save the reverse camera, ESP and the curtain airbags.

Mercedes SLS AMG


This blog is an excerpt from the review by Adish Alwani for Auto Car, who gets a taste of supercar power as he drives the Mercedes-AMG SLS AMG on the de-restricted autobahns of Germany.

Being a vegetarian, food is always a problem when I travel overseas. It wasn’t any different this time too. The lunch, like all meals in the past four days, consisted of veg pasta with an additional delicious mushroom sauce. And though it was the best meal since I left India, it did not delight me as much as it should have.

The reason?

Well, frankly, the Mercedes SLS AMG’s key lying on the table kept me distracted and I was unable to concentrate fully on the meal before me!

The SLS AMG is the first completely independent project undertaken by AMG since the tuning firm came under the Mercedes umbrella back in 1999. No doubt, AMG did a lot of homework before they started scribbling on the paper and came up with the concept of the SLS. The principles were clearly laid out: make it blisteringly fast, outrageously stunning, thoughtfully practical and profoundly futuristic, without, of course, forgetting the three-pointed star’s roots.

To start with, Mercedes AMG decided to go futuristic with the design but, at the same time, were inspired by the 300 SL Gullwing. Thus came the Gullwing doors that grab your attention more than anything else, which is a little weird for a car that goes from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds (just about 0.4 seconds slower than something like the Ferrari 458 Italia).

But are these Gullwings all show and no go? Not really. They are made of lightweight aluminium and operate perfectly if you learn the trick of closing them while getting into the car instead of trying to reach out for the handle once sunk deep in to the bucket seat. Also, don’t expect the option of pressing a button to close them electrically, because that mechanism would have just added the weight of electric motors on the roof – not an idea likely to sound great to the engineers.

The SLS’ long bonnet, small cabin and short tail give the car a killer profile from the side. The broad grille with the bold three-pointed star stuck on it reminds me of the classic design concepts of the 1950s and 60s. But make no mistake; this one has been interpreted for the 21st century and flawlessly at that. The interior is neat and clean with carbon fibre laid out generously. And though I was going to spend most of the time sitting in that awesome cabin, I was more interested in what was resting the long bay in the front.

A V8 6,208-cc engine, the same one that does duty in various other cars, powers the SLS AMG. Obviously, in SLS, it has been tuned to perform far better. It has also got a dry sump instead of a wet sump, which facilitates a lower centre of gravity and reduces oil drag. The engine is at the front, but behind the front axle, and drives the rear wheels, thus making the SLS an awesome front-mid engine and rear wheel-driven sportscar configuration.

The 6.3-litre (yes, it’s called 6.3-litre, though it displaces only 6.2-litre – it’s just Mercedes nomenclature) pumps out 579 PS of peak power at 6,800 rpm and a colossal amount of torque, rated at 650 Nm at 4,750 rpm. The engine has been mated to the AMG SPEEDSHIFT seven-speed double-clutch transmission that moves between cogs in as little as 100 milliseconds.

Now, the interesting point to be noted here is that you get several drive modes on the SLS like C (controlled efficiency), S (sport), S+ (sport+) and M (manual). In the C mode, the car starts moving in the second gear for achieving better efficiency. While the S and S+ modes give quicker shifts through the gears, the M mode along with Race Start (can be toggled on/off with a button near the gear selector) ensure berserk acceleration from standstill that you never anticipated.

It was elected to drive on narrow, country roads first before getting on to the no-speed-limit autobahns to try the car’s flat-out acceleration. However, the flavour of AMG’s 579 PS motor can be distinctly experienced from the moment you got your right foot working. The roar with which the SLS comes to life is phenomenal. And when you have the pedal floored, there is an extreme possibility of you getting a little frightened as the car darts forward with a wagging tail. The SLS is like a pile of dynamite that is ready to explode at the very slightest input at the throttle. But this mind-boggling stuff is available primarily when the throttle is being used viciously. At lower revs, the SLS might feel a little slow as compared with the high rev experience, which is a good thing in case you are to face slow-moving traffic.

Another point to be noted is that if you are in the M mode, the transmission is aggressively moody, in the sense that if you are moving at, say, about 45 km/h and decide to shift up to the fourth gear, it will simply refuse to do so.

Getting round corners is a different experience altogether. First of all, look at the spaceframe chassis and body, both built with aluminium mostly, which ensures light weight and good strength. The double wishbone suspension at the front as well as the rear ensures great handling. However, even in the normal suspension set-up, the car felt a little bouncy on country roads. As you build up speed, though, you realise the advantages of the stiffer suspension. The steering is quick, really quick, precise and sharp. It is well weighted, too, be it at high speeds or at slow parking speeds. The well-balanced chassis aids the handling and so do other factors such as the dry sump, which allows the engine to sit really low and thus help in lowering the centre of gravity. With rear transaxle and 47:53 weight distribution front:rear, steering with throttle input is also possible.

”Having driven enough on the country roads where I could experience initial acceleration up to 80 km/h due to speed limits, I got into the navigation system, searched my way to the autobahn and headed straight for the zone with no speed limits. This was the time I had been waiting for and the wait was worth everything.” says Adish.

”As soon as I hit the autobahn, I turned the rotary dial to the S+ mode and got on to the gas. The deep bass from the exhaust notes struck my eardrums as the V8 made better music than anything I had experienced before. And, within seconds, the speedometer was reading figures in excess of 250 km/h. If only the traffic had shown a little mercy, the Affalterbach would have travelled all the way to 317 km/h before hitting its electronic limit. And even at speeds a little shy of the 300 km/h mark, the SLS maintains its calm and composure. It shifts lanes as per the driver’s commands and with ease that we mortals can only imagine.”

Ahhhh… The navigation warned me of heavy traffic heading into Stuttgart and I had no option but to face it. This is where I panicked a little because of the size of the car. By no means is this SLS small. It’s long and quite broad at the same time. To put it in perspective, at 1,939 mm, it’s broader than the S-Class. While getting through the tight traffic, moving slowly and crawling through the narrow lanes until the hotel, the last thing that I wanted was to get a scratch anywhere on the car. But the ease with which the engine purred around as also the ease with which the car responded to the steering was phenomenal, which brings me to a very important point.

How is this car to live with? Look at it as a supercar, it feels far more practical than what you would think of it. It’s not too stiff to drive, has more than adequate juice to do 0-317 km/h in about 35 seconds, drives well at slow speeds and has enough space in the boot for the weekend trip luggage. As for me, it was the most exhilarating drive I had ever done. Long live AMG!


The UK has a big history of world speed record attempts, both on the water and on land. But a new effort by the team behind the Bloodhound SSC could see the current world land speed record being smashed if plans to hit 1,000 mph on land come off.

The Bloodhound design has gone through ten evolutions in the last year and has now settled on a plan that has overcome initial obstacles. The initial 200kg power rocket was deemed insufficient and a new hybrid rocket weighing 400kg has now been fitted.

Check out the gallery for some amazing facts and pictures.

The Bloodhound design has gone through ten evolutions in the last year and has now settled on a plan that has overcome initial obstacles. The initial 200kg power rocket was deemed insufficient and a new hybrid rocket weighing 400kg has now been fitted.

Wheels were designed by Lockheed Martin UK to withstand forces of 50,000 radial g at the rim and support a 6.5 tonne car travelling at 1,050mph (1,690km/h). As for thrust, a total of about 212kN (47,500 lb) is produced from both the rocket and the installed EJ200 jet engine taken from the Eurofighter Typhoon. That is about the same as what 180 Formula One cars make.

The extra power and aerodynamic challenges posed by the new plant called for redesigns which are now believed to be sufficient to keep the whole car on land without destabilising it. The interior was designed to resemble a fighter jet cockpit to which the SSC is compared on the graphical presentation in the video.

The record attempt needed a straight, flat surface covering at least 10 miles (16km). After much research and study, the Hakskeen Pan in South Africa’s Northern Cape province was chosen as the ideal location. It has a 12 mile (19km) long flat track with a surface that, although currently covered with some debris, will be cleaned up in time for the record attempt.

The current world record stands at a relatively measly 763mph (measly certainly in comparison to the target set by the Bloodhound SSC Team) and the technical obstacles the Bloodhound team has had to overcome to get their record attempt on target have been substantial.

The record attempt is now planned for 2011 and Bloodhound have lined up 166 sponsors so far and received public donations of £137,000. Piloting (for that’s the only real way to describe ‘driving’ this 135,000bhp rocket on wheels) the Bloodhound will be fighter pilot Andy Green.

Now more pictures…………………………

Now that’s what I would call a car!!!!

My secret wish is to drive this car!!! hope to catch the actual videos of this in the next Bond movie !!!!!

Cadillac One – The Beast!!


Most of us now know that the POTUS (President of the United States) flies in a giant of an aircraft called Air Force One. Not many (at least I think) would have known that any vehicle – on road, water, air, the POTUS or Eagle travels gets the call sign ONE. This is one of those ONES – Cadillac One – the car that the President Of USA travels. In short – this is a tank that thinks it is a car!!!!

Obama’s India tour had its highs and lows. There were moments of awe: Air Force One touching down at Mumbai’s airport; the black-clad secret service officers accompanying the First Couple we only saw in movies; but one feature, indeed one of the most crucial, that escaped the limelight was Obama’s Cadillac.

What’s so great about the car, you might ask. Well, Obama’s limousine is special, very special.

For starters, it’s been nicknamed ‘The Beast’ – one look at its enormous size, and there’s no doubt why. Because the Secret Service keeps details of the limo understandably private, even the most knowledgeable security experts don’t really know how much gadgety tech is being installed in the ride. But it’s not stopping them making a few informed guesses.

In an interview with CNN, security expert Ken Lucci says rubber gaskets likely protect the car against chemical weapons and that the body is made out of a tougher material than before. The most recent limo used by President Bush used some combination of a dual hardness steel, aluminum, titanium and even ceramics to break up possible projectiles. And there are usually steel overlaps that cover any gaps a door might leave.

Despite the immense secrecy, reports have leaked that the limo also comes with a 10-CD changer, which will inevitably end up playing Obama favourites like Steve Wonder and Bob Dylan.

Add to that all the cool features that the limo actually has, no wonder it’s touted as the coolest car on the planet.

Read on to find out why Obama’s Cadillac is actually a tank that thinks it’s a car.

Fact File

Price: Rs 2.15 crore
Length: 18ft
Height: 5ft 10inches
Engine: 6.5-litre diesel
Max speed: 60 mph (100 km/h)
0-60mph: 15 sec
Mileage: 8mpg (3.4 km/l)

Chassis

A reinforced five-inch steel plate runs under the car for protection in the unlikely event of a bomb placed underneath.

Bodywork

Combination of dual hardness stell, aluminium, titanium and ceramic to break up possible projectiles.

Doors

Armour-plated, eight inches thick and heavier than a cabin door on a Boeing 757 jet. A lock safety mechanism seals the car like a bank vault in case of an emergency.

Tyres

Kevlar reinforced, shred- and puncture-resistant with steel rims underneath enabling the car to escape at speed even if tyres are blasted away. The car runs on 19.5-inch Goodyear RHS tyres (same as super tough trucks).

Petrol Tank

Armour-plated and filled with a specially designed foam which prevents it from exploding even if it suffers a direct hit.

Boot

Holds an oxygen generating system and a firefighting system.

Defence Accessories

Equipped with night vision cameras and pump-action shotguns. Also armed with tear gas cannons. Bottles of the president’s blood kept on board in case he needs an emergency transfusion.

Driver’s Window

Tough enough to withstand armour-piercing bullets. The only window in the limousine that opens – by just three inches – so the driver can pay toll or talk with sercret service agents running alongside.

Driver’s Compartment

Standard sterring wheel, but dashboard contains a communications centre and GPS tracking system.

Chauffeur

Trained by CIA to cope in most demanding of driving situations.

Rear Seats

Obama’s seat has an executive package featuring a foldaway desktop, laptop computer with wi-fi, state-of-the-art satellite phone and a direct line to the vice president and the Pentagon.

Rear Compartment

Seats four passengers with a glass partition – only Obama has a switch to lower it. Windows are larger than on previous presidential cars and a panic button has been installed for Obama to summon help.

Windows

According to Presidential vehicle experts, the limo is a beast-like General Motors truck-based Cadillac that is so tough it’s like a ‘rolling tank with windows’ – 5-inch-thick windows at that!

No wonder this is called THE BEAST!!!!