All the launches this festive season (updated)



If there is a slowdown of any sort, that doesn't seem to  be the case. Ask manufacturers and they are preparing a slew of launches in the coming months, this very month of October being a pretty important one to be precise.

In this month alone, there are over half a dozen launches, some updates, some all new cars and in certain cases entirely new brands. The strategy for all seems to be simple - keep the launches going and the momentum will shift upwards, one way or another.

So here is the list of cars and bikes that are up for launch in the next six months. Starting from the first one on October 10th, going all the way up to April 2013. Clearly, this is a list you must not miss, especially if you are in the market for a new bike or car. Stay glued.



When?: October 10th
How much?: Rs 52 to 55 lakh (est.)

They may have become the number three brand in their segment, but the aggression doesn't seem to be waning. Mercedes-Benz India is ready to launch the ML 250 CDI, a smaller-engined version of the ML in a bid to become a prominent player in the luxury SUV segment. We first reported about this variant back in May in our story here:

The third-generation ML that was launched in May this year is currently offered with a 3.0-litre turbocharged diesel, badged the ML 350 CDI. But come October 10, the first ML to roll out of their new Rs 200 crore plus new paint booth will be the ML 250 CDI.

The ML 250 CDI is a four-cylinder, 2,143cc diesel motor producing about 204 bhp at 4200 rpm and 51 kgm of peak torque at 1600-2500 rpm. This motor is assembled by Force Motors for MB India and is also offered on the C-Class and E-Class. Torquey and reasonably refined, the engine is also known for its decent economy figures.

With the India assembly of the ML beginning, Mercedes-Benz will look to price the ML 250 CDI somewhat lower too. We also expect this variant to be devoid of certain features to keep the price rather competitive. The current ML 350 CDI is priced at Rs 65 lakh, ex-showroom, but we wouldn't be surprised if Mercedes price the ML 250 CDI around Rs 52 to 55 lakh. That should take it closer to the likes of the six-cylinder versions of the Audi Q5 and BMW X3, a strategic move considering Mercedes-Benz don't offer the GLK in India since it's designed to be left-hand drive only.



When?: October 11
How much?: Rs 1.4 to 1.5 lakh (est.)

Royal Enfield, the Chennai-based manufacturer of motorcycles that exude an old world charm, first showed the Thunderbird 500 at the Auto Expo in January. And now it is ready to launch the motorcycle - finally!
The Thunderbird has always been the tool of choice for those who persevere to ride into the sunset and this one will get you there a whole lot faster, all thanks to that unit constructed and fuel injected 500 cc motor that makes good for a wholesome 27.2 bhp.

Available in 3 shades of black for the body work and a blackened engine with polished fins, the motorcycle also features a redesigned seat to compliment the new positions for the meaty footpegs. Speaking of seats, the pillion pad can now be removed to accomodate more expansive panniers.

The handlebars have been tweaked to improve ergonomics, the forks are a girthy 41 mm and finally now you have hooks to er, hook up your bungee cords to tie down those bags, rather than looping them around the tail light bracket or such. Oh, and the forks have grown in girth to end up at 41 mm.

The headlights are really important on our roads and more so for the touring folk. Royal Enfield has endowed the Thunderbird 500 with a new headlight that incorporates a 55W projector lamp for the low beam and for the high beam, it works in conjunction with a 55W halogen. Also adding to the safety factor, the new T'Bird 500 features a disc at the rear, so when you do spot something in your way, you now have an increased capability to stop.

To keep you riding further with the least amount of discomfort, the comfortable riding position works very well with the increased capacity 20 litre petrol tank.

The Chennai based company has also launched its own line of riding kit and clothing, all of which will appeal to fans of the marque.



When?: October 15
How much?: Rs 10,000 to 15,000 more than current price

Ford's great Indian success story, the Figo is up for an update, two and a half years since it went on sale. And it may just be what the doctor ordered.

Our friends at managed to snag some juicy details about the facelifted Figo and to quote them, the changes include new headlamps, bumper, grille and minor tweaks to the fog lamps as well as small revision to the tail lamps. The Titanium version now gets a new alloy-wheel design, first seen on the Fiesta sedan. On the inside, the car gets a pod behind the steering wheel that houses controls for the audio system - ala Renault Fluence, Koleos and Duster.

There are small changes to the door trim as well and the biggest mechanical changes are to the ECU for revised power delivery and better fuel efficiency - figures which we should get to know by October 15.




When?: October 15. *Updated: Now October 23
How much?: Rs 10,000 to 15,000 more than the current one

This car has been around for nearly six years with not as much as a facelift. Not that sales have been much to write home about. And so, having realised its folly, on the backdrop of falling overall sales through 2012, GM India are ready to launch the facelifted Spark.

On the inside, the dash may get a couple of minor updates as well as changes to the instrumentation. Expect changes to the trim combination as well. Power and torque is from the 1.0-litre, four-cylinder motor is likely to remain unchanged, though we expect a small improvement in economy. Prices will see a small change - to the tune of Rs 10,000 to 20,000. Will these help change the fortunes of the Spark? We'll have to wait till the 15th to find that out.



When?: October 16
How much?: Rs 2.4 to 3.2 lakh (est.)

The Alto has been Maruti's largest selling car and while it's seen a few changes here and there over the years, the Alto 800 is the most comprehensive upgrade yet. We're going to give you a quick walk around of the car here. You can also read our full review of the car here!

The Alto 800 looks more or less like a completely new car. You'll see some design cues from the outgoing car in the profile, if you squint a little, but other than that, the aeging lines now make way for much more modern curves. From the side, the car is a whole 100mm shorter than the outgoing model, but the wheelbase remains the same, so you won't feel the pinch in the passenger compartment. In fact, the other dimensions remain the same but height has been increased to give the passengers more head room as well.

New headlamps and tail lights are pretty much expected, and along with those, you also get new bumper and grille designs as well, to give it that new car feel. In this process. The rear of the car ends up looking very similar to the A-Star
The somewhat plain Jane looks of the older car are now replaced with character lines and creases accenting the sies. The 796cc engine may not make supercar levels of power, but the hood still has a power bulge to give it some visual bulk. So, overall, it's a nice looking car that will certainly turn heads the first few times on the road. Proportionally, it looks a little under-tyred, but that's more of an aesthetics thing rather than a safety issue, so you don't have to worry about it as it comes standard with 12-inch tubeless tyres.

The Alto faces fierce competition from the likes of the Hyundai Eon and when it comes to interior design and packaging, they blew the Alto out of the water. Well, this upgrade can certainly hold its own against the competition now, with a completely redesigned, modern interior that manages to look premium on a budget.

It's still a pretty basic design, the colours and materials look better, plus the use of silver accents around the car help set it apart.  There's plenty of cubby holes to store knick knacks and such, with a cup-holder integrated into the central console as well.

The window switches have been moved to the central console for easier access to the passenger as well, they say, but unless you're used to it, you'll be fishing in the door pads to get your window down.

They've made the door pads thinner and the roof higher to liberate a lot more room inside for the occupants. That plus the use of one-piece front seats with scooped out back-rests make the rear seat a much more comfortable place to be. Overall, it's definitely a much better place to be, the inside of the new Alto 800. On the LXi trim, there's even the option of brown trim instead of the standard grey, too.

Here's a quick rundown of the spec sheet, the car comes in three trim levels, the Standard, LX and top-end LXi available in a choice of both petrol and CNG fuel options.

The same 796cc three-cylinder engine sits under the hood of the new car, but it's been significantly reworked to deliver better torque and smoother running as well, the connecting rods and the crankshaft have been lightened which gets you better fuel economy. That brings it up to a phenomenal 22.7 kmpl as per ARAI. The CNG version is rated at 30.46 km/kg too, if you're interested in a factory fitted CNG car.

Even on the safety front, the Alto 800 surges ahead of the older one with better construction techniques, more torsional rigidity and even an optional driver's airbag on the top-end model.

So, there you have it, then. The new Alto 800 is a huge improvement over the existing car and is definitely worth looking into.



When?: October 17
How much?: Rs 9 to 12 lakh (est.)

First shown at the 2012 Auto Expo, the Safari Storme is larger and  even lighter than the current avatar. In fact, Tata Motors will not just build the Safari Storme, but it will continue to offer the existing Safari as a cheaper option. Some of the top-end variants of the Safari Storme could be priced in parallel to the lower variants of the Aria, ensuring that Tata Motors has an offering at every step from Rs 7-7.5 lakh all the way to Rs 16-17 lakh.

Production of the Safari Storme, as pictured here has already begun. Built on the same platform as the Aria, which itself uses a hydroformed body-on-ladder chassis, the Safari Storme has the same length as the current vehicle and even the same wheelbase. What the Safari is touted to have is a smaller turning radius – of 5.4 metres instead of the current car's 6 metres making it rather useful in tight spaces and during off-roading.

The Safari Storme, like the current model should come in both two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive guises, with the latter being fitted with a Borg Warner, shift-on-the-fly system. With a wider track at the front and double wishbones instead of a torsion beam, the Safari Storme should handle better than before.

On the inside, quality levels have been upped to quite an extent, with better plastic trim, more plush fittings and panel gaps with smaller tolerances. The Safari Storme continues to remain a seven-seater, with jump seats at the rear, though the spare wheel is now placed under the rear tail gate instead of on it.

Powering the Safari Storme is a 2.2-litre, DiCOR motor that is similar to the one found on the Aria. This motor is more refined and torquier than the regular 2.2 and also has a newer iteration of the G-76 gearbox that is slicker shifting. Rated at 140 bhp at 4000 rpm and 32.6 kgm@1700-2700 rpm, the Safari Storme stacks up well, when compared to traditional rivals like the Mahindra Scorpio 2.2 mHawk.

Pricing for the Safari Storme is expected to hover in the Rs 9 to 12 lakh bracket, with the current Safari being pushed into the Rs 7 to 9 lakh range. While the Safari Storme doesn't break much ground in terms of design, one does hope that it is a better car on the whole, what with competition from the likes of the Renault Duster as well. Keep watching this space as we get you more on the Safari Storme, including our first impressions on it.



When?: October 17
How much?: Rs 17 to 19 lakh

Mahindra & Mahindra, India’s leading SUV manufacturer, on Wednesday announced it would be launching the Rexton, its first product under Ssangyong stable in India, on October 17.

The Rexton has always had solid underpinnings, borrowed from the Mercedes-Benz M-Class from a few generations ago, but it lost out a lot in the looks department. Unveiled at the Busan Motor Show in Korea in May, the new Rexton is a third-generation model that is based on the W163 M-Class chassis.

The new Rexton, dubbed the Rexton W, gets a completely new front-end, with new headlamps, fog lights and a wider, chrome-lined grille. The entire front bumper assembly also appears to be new. At the rear, new tail-lamps and a new bumper round out the deal. The other details of the car remain the same though, but the wheel-arches of the car are much better integrated this time around and don't look like after thoughts.

There will also be new powerplants on offer. The old 2.7-litre turbo-diesel engine that currently does duty in the Rexton has been replaced with a 154 bhp, 2.0-litre engine. This one is an in-house creation as opposed to the older engine which was derived from a Mercedes-Benz unit.

Mahindra hopes to offer both a 5-speed automatic as well as a manual version of the Rexton and is likely to be priced in the Rs 17 to 19 lakh bracket.



When?: October 18
How much?: Rs 60,000 to 70,000 more than equivalent trim in manual

Honda's small car for India, the Brio has had a steady innings so far. Making do with four trims and a single gearbox option for its 1.2-litre i-VTEC petrol motor, the Brio has managed to somewhat help Honda Cars stage a comeback in the Indian market. With more variants of its other models lined up, including a CNG version of the City, Honda is looking to regain its lost marketshare and improve its position domestically.

Having put the Brio on the showroom floors a year ago, Honda now wants to put its second variant, the automatic too in the spotlight. The automatic Brio comes with a 5-speed automatic transmission that currently does duty on the City as well. This is a change from the car sold in Thailand that is offered with a 4-speed CVT unit. The 5-speed unit, according to our testers works beautifully with the Brio and there's little by way of performance and economy loss.

The Brio automatic is expected to be priced around Rs 60,000 to 70,000 more than the equivalent trims offered on the manual Brio. This does make it pretty good value, taking the fight firmly to the Hyundai i10. Will it succeed? Only time will tell.