Launch break


In my mind
The festival season is well and truly upon us. First it was
Nissan with a twin launch – the all-new X-Trail and the face-lifted Teana. If the last generation car is anything to go by, the X-Trail is one seriously capable car that is equally at home inside the city as well as the rough. Powered by a 150 bhp diesel and retailing at around Rs 21-25 lakh, this Nissan should give the likes of the Honda CR-V (petrol) and the Chevrolet Captiva (diesel) a good run for their money. If you are in the five-month long queue for a Toyota Fortuner, you should certainly look at the X-Trail option. Then it was the Land Rover’s turn to launch the all-new Freelander, the affordable (if a Rs 33.8 to 45 lakh price tag can be called that) SUV that is meant to take on the soft-roaders such as the Audi Q5 and the BMW X3. It may not be ‘the’ chic brand, but the Freelander comes with genuine go-anywhere genes. Ensuring that your friendly motoring scribe was putting on more weight was Ford with a surprise unveiling ceremony for the brand new Figo. The American press picked up the Indian launch story and quickly hailed it as Ford’s answer to the Tata Nano – trust the media to create a story when there isn’t one, right? I was whisked away from the Ford venue to the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class launch the same day. That was five cars in the matter of barely a week – who’s complaining. Met, shook hands and even managed to ask some silly questions to Boeing legend Alan Mulally, now president and CEO of Ford. It was the achievement of the week indeed, considering the PR arrangements that stood out for the lack of any.

In my garage
After a long day constituting a 4 am shudder of a wake-up call, a cheap flight to New Delhi at an unearthly hour, two press conferences, one Ford CEO, heavy lunch, mad rush to the airport to catch a not-so cheap flight back to Mumbai should be rewarded with a nice car to drive home, right?
Enter the Skoda Superb. As mentioned here before, I have been enjoying the ample legroom of this car by employing a driver. But this day, the pleasure of coaxing the diesel motor through the paddles was mine and, oh boy, is this car talented or what. M.I.A on the stereo and pedal-to-metal with no regard to the pouring rain… I really like this machine. So what if the day-long parking ticket at Mumbai airport
(Rs 750!) threatens to cost more than two-way taxi rides!

Car of the week
It’s got to be the Ford Figo. The car, which means cool in
Italian, is not really path-breaking in design. Actually, it looks like a small car conceived by fusing together many small European Fords – a little bit of the last-gen Fiesta, tail-lamps that ape the Fusion and so on. But what makes the car important is the fact that it is ready to be rolled out of the Chennai plant that is receiving a $500 million upgrade. And the fact that Ford has beaten both Toyota and Volkswagen to the lucrative Indian B-segment. Way to go.

Bike of the week
October 5, according to the grapevine, is the launch date for the Kawasaki Ninja 250 – a motorcycle I grew old lusting after. I hear it will be “assembled” in India and may cost upward of Rs 2 lakh. Can’t wait for a ride!

Question of the week
How many car plants still fly the Ford flag?
Ninety plants worldwide, with an employee base of 201,000.