Thursday, 21 January 2016

Ford Focus RS 2016

Originally “Rallye Sport” meant exactly that. The 1970 Escort AVO RS1600 twin cam was built, as Walter Hayes used to say, "to win on Sunday and sell on Monday." Even the Cosworth Escort RS unveiled on a hot night in 1991 at Blenheim Palace was already stage bound. Nowadays, Ford doesn't even rally the Focus and when the sport's administrators realised technical advances were leading to rally cars being faster without a driver, they steered the rules in the opposite direction to that of road cars. With one flap of its leathery wings, Ford's marketing department had taken over the RS badge.

Fortunately in recent years, Ford's engineers ensured that each subsequent Focus RS was more adept and novel. From the 2002 Mark I with its extraordinarily wayward limited-slip differential, to the 2009 Mark II Focus RS, so long in problematic gestation that it seemed like a car built round an exhaust manifold, to this, the Mark III Focus RS (not to mention 30th RS model), which embraces and technically enhances a hooligan tendency, which has never been far distant from a souped-up Ford.

After the stonking Mustang GT350 and awesome Ford GT 2016, this is Ford RS's latest salvo, The Ford Focus RS. 

We're back to four-wheel drive for this family-fun-sized super hatch. Different, though, from its German rivals, with a clever GKN rear axle, which drives the rear axle faster than the road speed, but controls the response with two multi-plate clutches that can close fully to positively power the rear end through corners and provide what's known as a "drift mode".

Drift is the last setting in four driver modes, the others being Normal, Sport and Track. Each successively hardens the responses of the steering, throttle, damping, 4x4 system, stability control and exhaust noise, although Drift softens the steering and damping, but drives the outside rear wheel to unsettle the tail.

Under the bonnet is the 2.3-litre, Mustang four-pot short block, with new liners, an alloy cylinder head and an all-new Honeywell twin-scroll turbocharger breathing through an inlet-charge cooler the size of a butler's sink. It drives through a beefed-up six-speed manual transmission with a shortened gearshift.

All RS models with the exception of the 1988-1990 Sierra RS Cosworth saloons have been two-door shells, but this car is a standard five-door, world-market Focus bodyshell. It's strengthened to suit and the multilink rear suspension and GKN axle occupy the spare normally taken by the spare-wheel well. Brakes are by Brembo, with the massive front monoblock callipers, the biggest they can fit inside the standard 18-inch wheels, though that's just for snow-chain requirements and all Brit-spec RSs roll on 19-inch wheels with over 80 per cent of the 2,000 UK advanced orders specifying £595 forged alloy rims.

After the bewinged and be-ducted appearance of the 2009 RS, the new car is surprisingly muted, with only the front grille and rear valance given the full RS treatment and the rest of the bodyshell looking very similar to the current ST model. We're told the rear spoiler is inspired by the Ferrari F40, but I can't see it. In the cabin there is RS specific Recaros and trim, but it's as remorselessly and unremittingly black as a bad cowboy's hat. If the switchgear and central screen seem quite old hat, that's because they are. The Focus was all new in January 2011 and despite a subsequent refresh, the facia is five years old.

Those Recaro seats hold you like the embrace of the spider woman, but they're as comfortable as a bosun's chair, with just a bit of blue stitching to lift the gloom. And in homage to the original Escort RS models, there's three extra gauges peeking out of the top of the dash like crocodile eyes staring out from the Limpopo River.

Did I mention options list? At under £30,000, the RS is a blue-collar supercar bargain, but add a single thing to it and you blast past 30K with the earth's escape velocity. So it's any colour you like as long as it's black, while optional blue, white and metallic paints run from £250 to £745. Shell backs for the front seats, which are pretty much essential if you want to have any kind of rear-seat leg room are £1,145, the lux pack of power-fold door mirrors, rear parking sensors, cruise control and privacy glass is £1,000, a satnav and Sony stereo is £465 and an electric tilt and slide sunroof (does anyone choose these anymore?) is £575.

"It's easy to position, it's easy to control and it's fast!" says Jurgen Gagstatter, chief program engineer. Yeah and it does doughnuts in car parks at a flick of a switch. Oh sorry, did I write that down? Of course it only does this on race tracks with pro drivers at the wheel dressed in fireproof overalls and serious expressions. Except that most young folk do it in deserted industrial estates at two in the morning before being moved on by the police...

Out of earshot of Ford's minders you can get it on and dial in level two of electronic naughtiness, “Sport”. With a toe to the firewall there's a rasping blare cheekier than the lead trombone in a strip-club band and an almost seamless charge all the way to 6,500rpm. Artificially enhanced but quick, then. There's a bit of delay about the response and it lacks the purity of a naturally aspirated engine, but it certainly does the numbers and if you stroke it, you'll see 30mpg or thereabouts.

Drive it hard and through a long series of bends the RS flows beautifully, but needs precision and determination to turn it in to tighter corners and an accuracy about exactly where you want the wheels to be on the road. Ford has worked hard to ensure it doesn't just plough straight on in corners, but there's a reluctance to change direction if you just saw at the wheel.

The ride is as firm as a six-day-old loaf, though on decent motorway surfaces, it's tolerable. Off the main highway it's choppy and your spine will chafe at the seat back. Go in very hard and the slide on Michelin Pilots is gentle and recoverable, especially with the RS's quick steering rack; it not only makes you feel good, but it makes you look good, too.

On track, and on Michelin Cup tyres, it's still as fast and adjustable, well mannered and while it understeers slightly, the way it barrels out of a corner is something that the German rivals would struggle to match and those progressive and super powerful brakes will have you grabbing your false teeth off the dashboard. I would have liked an “everything-off” setting as it's a benign thing and as Roger 'Albert' Clark used to say of the Escort: "unless you’re looking out the back window, you’re not going to spin it.”

Then there's Drift mode, of which the best we can say is that it works, but isn't the fastest way round a corner and burns up those Michelins faster than you can say Ken Block. While it's likely to be the source of endless fascination on internet chat rooms, the likelihood is that, for most owners, the Drift button will stay firmly unpushed.  

At 1.6 tonnes this Focus RS weighs 900kg more than the old RS1600 and 300kg more than the Escort RS Cosworth. It's the curse of modern safety and emissions legislation, yet the Focus RS Mark III is faster, safer and grippier than any of its predecessors. And if there's a slight lack of exactitude which some previous RS models carried like a red badge of courage, you shouldn't perhaps blame Ford, but celebrate the fact that it's still in the ring and swinging.

For all it's very minor faults, the RS is a mighty, giant-killing, blue-collar supercar.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Indian Chief Dark Horse

Any company that builds cruisers and has a brain for business knows that you get all the expensive hard-parts development done and let that platform ride, filling out the model niches with styling and/or ergonomic changes.

With that in mind, meet the 2016 Indian Motorcycle Dark Horse, your basic Chief Classic that’s been blacked-out from warbonnet to rear fender. Even the Thunder Stroke 111 air/oil-cooled 49-degree V-twin and its six-speed transmission have had their chrome acreage drastically reduced.

The Dark Horse is now the lightest Chief by virtue of elimination of parts and by use of cast wheels (in the same dimensions and with the same Dunlop tires). But in the grand scheme, it’s not exactly light, tipping the scales with claimed dry weight of 751 pounds. The standard 2015 Chief is 778 pounds dry

One of the most notable parts deletions is the passenger seat: Dark Horsemen will roll solo on that black 26-inch-high seat, which, by the way, is vinyl to help lower MSRP (passenger accommodations are available as an accessory).The bike retains remote keyfob ignition, cruise control, and ABS brakes, but drops the analog fuel gauge, oil-cooler, and “driving” lights.

“We are targeting a younger guy with this bike,” says Indian Motorcycle Sr. Product Manager Ben Lindaman. “We’re targeted more around the 40-year-old instead of the 55-year-old. We’re doing that with the look and with the pricing so that we have a more entry-level bike for heavyweight Indian.”

Ofcourse, its main competition will be from Harley Davidson, especially the Electra Glide.
Triumph's bully, the Rocket 3, too will battle with it, along with the Thunderbird

Lindaman adds that there are about 40 accessories designed with the bike. Most obvious in the photos are the black ape-hanger bars and airfilter. There is also a blacked-out exhaust/heat shield available.

MSRP for the 2016 Indian Dark Horse is $16,999. For comparison, the 2015 base-model Indian Chief in gloss black is $18,999.

Monday, 18 January 2016

TVS Apache RTR 200 4V

The TVS Apache RTR 200's specifications and official images have been leaked ahead of its launch on January 20, 2016. The details of the new Apache 200 have been leaked in Indonesia, where as well the product will be launched the same day.

The TVS Apache RTR 200 will be powered by a 197.75cc, air-cooled, single-cylinder with with 4 valves. This engine, mated to a 5-speed gearbox, develops 20.23bhp at 8,500rpm and 18.1Nm at 7,000rpm. Weighing 148kg, the vehicle can achieve the 60kmph mark from standstill in 3.9 seconds at a top speed of 130kmph.

It will compete with the likes of the Pulsar 200 NS, RS, the KTM Duke 200, Yamaha R15, Honda CBR250R, among others.

Coming to design, the TVS Apache RTR 200 4v will get LED daytime running lights at the front, LED tail-lamp, clip-on handle bar, spilt seats. Other interesting features will include disc brakes both at the front and rear, dual channel anti-lock braking system (ABS), and multi-spoke alloy wheels with TVS tyres.

Expected to be priced around Rs 1 lakh, the TVS Apache RTR 200 4V will be made available in 6 colours - Silver, Red, Yellow, Black, Matte Black and White. The vehicle will take on the likes of the KTM Duke 200, Yamaha R15 and other 200-250cc bikes. Interestingly, the bike will only be made available with an electric start function, as there is no manual kick start option.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Mini John Cooper Works Convertible

Mini has officially revealed the John Cooper Works Convertible that will reach UK showrooms in April this year. Like the hatchback version, the Mini John Cooper Works Convertible too is powered by the same 2.0-litre TwinPower Turbo engine which makes 234PS and 320Nm of torque. The manual transmission version can accelerate from 0-100kmph in 6.6 seconds and can reach a top speed of around 240kmph. The automatic version is quicker by one-tenth of a second, says Mini.

Like its predecessor, the new John Cooper Works Convertible also features a fully automatic textile roof, including a heated rear window and a high-quality liner acoustic insulation. The roof can be opened and closed in just 18 seconds, even while travelling at speeds of up to 31kmph.

The new Mini John Cooper Works Convertible comes equipped with McPherson struts at the front and a multilink rear axle. The front axle gets aluminium swivel bearings while the wishbones are made of high-strength steel. At the rear axle, a larger proportion of highly rigid steels ensure increased stiffness combined with reduced weight. Braking duties are taken care of by the 4-piston fixed caliper disc brakes that have been designed in collaboration with Brembo.

he standard safety kit includes Dynamic Stability Control, Electronic Differential Lock Control and Performance Control, which supports agile turning when taking bends at speed. Buyers also get the option of Dynamic Damper Control, which provides two set-ups for either sporty or more comfort-oriented driving situations.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Ducati XDiavel S

Ducati fired the first salvo of novelties at a pre-EICMA show event held in a theater in downtown Milan, and the ammunition was abundant and mostly of heavy caliber. It was a one-man show, Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali unveiling “his” new creations with the pride of a father. Those emotions were well justified: For the first time in its 89-year history, Ducati delivered in excess of 50,000 motorcycles, a record for the Bologna-based manufacturer. And this is just the beginning of a new phase of expansion. Not that Ducati is diverting from its tradition; it is just expanding into new categories.

That happened before with the Diavel, and it is happening again with the new XDiavel 1262. The X is a leaner, meaner evolution of Ducati’s unique interpretation of the power-cruiser concept. It is powered by a new edition of the tried-and-true Testastretta 11° 1198cc V-twin, enlarged to 1262cc by stroking it from the standard 67.9 to 71.5mm while retaining the 106mm bore. With DVT variable valve timing it is the most flexible Ducati motor, delivering 156 peak horsepower at 9,500 rpm, but with peak torque up to 95 lb.-ft. at a mere 5,000 rpm for super-smooth driveability and instantaneous throttle response. The rich electronics suite also includes launch control to aid in super hard launches. For the first time on a Ducati, final drive is by toothed rubber belt.

This is Ducati's latest product after the Panigale 959. Ducati also makes the super fast 1299 and 1299S, the 'standard' Diavel, the Monster among others.
To underline its cruiser inspiration, the X features forward foot controls, a front end raked-out to 30 degrees, and a fat 240/45-17 Pirelli Diablo II rear radial. As on the Monsters, the engine acts as a stressed member in the short front trellis frame while a new, compact exhaust system is tucked underneath the engine.

Ducati's 2016 XDiavel brings something new to the cruiser market. Built to bring the excitement of a cruiser and the riding capacity of a sport bike together. With an incredible lean angle, a ton of power, and 60 ergonomic fit options, we're waiting to see a part of the new XDiavel we don't like.

Ducati enters the Cruiser domain and does so in its own inimitable way, presenting a true Cruiser with all the design, technology and performance one expects from a Ducati thoroughbred. Called the XDiavel, it brings together two worlds: the Cruiser world - low speeds, relaxed riding, long journeys and feet forward ergonomics - and the Ducati world, characterised by Italian style, refined engineering and unparalleled performance.

If the 1199 Superleggera was Ducati tearing down racetracks, this is Ducati munching on the miles on a relaxed ride. 

The XDiavel ensures the “low speed excitement” typical of a Cruiser and the adrenaline rush of sports riding that Ducati has made its own. That's what the X in XDiavel stands for: the merging of two apparently separate, distant worlds on one bike, a superb combination where both are accomplished without compromise.

5,000, 60, 40. Three numbers that sum up the XDiavel concept.

5,000 as in the rpm at which the twin-cylinder engine achieves maximum torque (13.1 kgm). Extremely low revs for a Ducati engine but perfect for a Cruiser. Moreover, at 2,100 rpm the XDiavel power unit already ensures a torque of over 10 kgm, with an extremely flat curve all the way to the rev-limiter. Yet the engine remains a Ducati engine through and through, with a maximum power of 156 hp and thrilling performance across the rev range.

To obtain that performance Ducati engineers pushed the Testastretta engine through its ultimate development phase to create the Ducati Testastretta DVT 1262. Increased engine displacement, together with the DVT (Desmodromic Variable Timing) system, results in delivery of full yet fluid torque at low revs, but ensures sports bike performance when the throttle is twisted wide open. Moreover, the design work on the Ducati Testastretta DVT 1262 has been meticulous: for example, relocation of the water pump inside the intra-cylinder V means the cooling system pipes are no longer visible on the left.

60, as in the number of different ergonomic configurations for the rider. The XDiavel provides vast scope for personalisation thanks to 4 different footrest positions, 5 different seats and three different handlebars. It's also possible to fit a comfier passenger seat, even with a small backrest. All this, then, because comfortable riding means full “low speed excitement”.

Lastly, 40, as in the maximum attainable lean angle. The XDiavel is a Ducati and as such ensures dynamic performance and the thrill of a sports bike, but only when you really want to push it to the limit. Frame, suspension, brakes and the chassis set-up have been designed to maximise sports-style riding fun, but without compromising on the comfort and easy handling that are essential when exploring the highways at a more relaxed pace.

The XDiavel is the first Ducati to use belt-type final transmission. A must within the Cruiser world, this system has been developed for the XDiavel by Ducati engineers to ensure reliable, secure transmission of the power provided by the Ducati Testastretta DVT 1262. Belt drive offers the advantages of more silent running, cleanliness, reduced maintenance and the fluid throttle response one wants from a Cruiser.

Ducati 959 Panigale

Ducati is planning to launch the latest 959 Panigale in India by July 2016, a source in Ducati India has revealed to The Ducati 959 Panigale was unveiled at the EICMA show in Milan in October and will be the global replacement for the 899 Panigale.
Officially, Ducati has refused to divulge an exact date for the 959 Panigale's launch in India.

Ducati also makes the 1299 and 1299 S rockets, the manic 1199 Superleggera, the Diavel and the Monster.
Ducati will also release the smacking XDiavel.

"Th ere is no confirmation on a launch date yet. The production schedule and delivery timeline has yet to be finalized at our Thailand facility," a Ducati India official told

The 899 Panigale had to be completely reworked to meet new Euro 4 noise and emission laws, which will come into effect in 2017. The brief was to improve performance and efficiency, at the same time reduce engine and exhaust noise. The result is the 959 Panigale, with 57cc more displacement than the current 899 Panigale, 9bhp more power and 8.4Nm more torque.

Aesthetically too, the 959 Panigale gets a wider snout with bigger air intakes and now weighs 7 kg more than the outgoing 899 Panigale, most of that extra weight accounted for by the two side mounted shotgun-style exhaust end cans and sound deadening material inside the engine and fairing panels.

The most significant change, at least visually, on the UK veersion, are the side mounted exhausts. Those are something which Ducati can't do without, to meet Euro 4 norms, and compared to the underbelly exhausts on the 899, the end cans on the 959 don't quite gel with the overall Panigale look we are so accustomed to.

The 955cc Superquadro engine delivers 157bhp power and 108Nm of torque. Like the 899, there are a lot of hi-tech features - traction control, racing ABS, riding modes and a quickshifter. Other cycle parts on the 959, like the cast aluminium 'airbox' chassis, Showa suspension, Brembo brakes, and Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa rubber remain the same as the 899. There's a new slipper clutch though, which will be helpful in quick downshifting and less wheel lock while tackling corners.

Mahindra KUV100

Mahindra has launched their all new SUV, the KUV100 in India at Rs 4.42 lakh, ex-Pune. The Mahindra KUV100 comes in seven variants and is the smallest SUV in the company’s product portfolio.

The KUV100 looks like a pseudo crossover hatchback. It has a bold grille with wraparound headlamps and LED DRLs integrated into them. The turn indicators are also integrated into the headlamps. An all-new alloy wheel design also debuts on the KUV100. The rear door handles are recessed into the C-pillar like the Chevrolet Beat. At the rear, the lamps remind one of the Grand i10. Mahindra have also integrated a roof spoiler on the top trims of the KUV100.

The steering wheel and the meter console is a typical Mahindra affair while the layout of the central console is an all-new approach. Mahindra have mounted the gear-lever on the central console and above it sits the music system as well as AC controls. There is also ambient mood lighting available. The Mahindra KUV100 also offers two different styles of seating- a bench in front with a 6-seater overall configuration and a regular 5-seater option.

Two new engines debut on the Mahindra KUV100. The petrol is an 82PS dual variable valve timing all aluminium motor. The diesel is also a 1.2-litre turbo unit which is good for 77PS/190Nm. Both the engines are 3-cylinder units and are mated to 5-speed manual transmissions, with power being sent to this monocoque SUV through the front wheels. Mahindra says both the engines are BS4 compliant but can easily be updated to suit the proposed upcoming BS6 norms.