Archives December 2020

NEW DEFENDER SET TO PLAY VITAL ROLE AS LAND ROVER RETURNS TO THE DAKAR IN 2021

December 26, 2020 / 0 Comments / 246 / Car News

   Behind the scenes: New Land Rover Defender will play a vital role at the world’s most extreme motorsport event – the Dakar Rally –  with a pair of production-standard models joining Bahrain Raid Xtreme (BRX) as crew vehicles for its 2021 campaign

  • Durable by design: Pair of Defender 110 models will provide on-event support for the team’s two drivers, medical crew and support staff across the punishing 13-day, 12-stage, 7 646 kilometre event
  • Competition pedigree: Land Rover has a rich association with the event after a Range Rover won the first ever Dakar Rally in 1979, before triumphing again in 1981

Whitley, UK, 21 December 2020 – Land Rover’s most capable and durable 4×4 is taking on the ultimate all-terrain challenge with two Defender 110 support vehicles destined for the Dakar Rally 2021. The rally is one of the toughest sporting events in the world and the production-spec models will support ambitious new Dakar Rally and Prodrive-backed team, Bahrain Raid Xtreme (BRX) throughout the 7 646 kilometre race.

The pair of New Defender 110 4x4s will have to negotiate extreme conditions, traversing desert dunes, mud, camel grass and rocks as they carry vital supplies, crew and equipment for the team and drivers. BRX’s driver lineup includes nine-time World Rally Champion, Sébastien Loeb, from France, and two-time Dakar Rally winner, Nani Roma, from Spain. The showroom-standard models will also provide essential support for crew members, who will camp, eat and sleep in the P400 models across 12 gruelling stages of desert driving.

The Indus Silver models are powered by Land Rover’s 294 kW (400 PS)  straight-six Ingenium petrol engine, featuring Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle technology, and are fitted with the Explorer Pack, which includes an Expedition Roof Rack, Raised Air Intake, Wheel Arch Protection and Exterior Side-Mounted Gear Carrier. In addition, a Deployable Roof Ladder provides easy access to a roof box, which will help BRX carry all the necessary kit.

Finbar McFall, Jaguar Land Rover Customer Experience Director, said: “Land Rover has a unique Dakar pedigree having won the inaugural event in 1979, and the rally remains the ultimate all-terrain endurance test. While the Defenders won’t be competing, they will have a vital role in supporting the team as they navigate their way across thousands of miles of punishing desert terrain. The fact these vehicles are unmodified is testimony to the intrinsic capability and durability of our legendary 4×4, which has undergone the most demanding engineering test and development programme in our history.”

The role of support vehicle will see crew members test the Defender’s expedition credentials to the extremes. With a maximum payload of up to 900 kg and maximum dynamic roof load of 168 kg, each of the vehicles will be loaded with equipment and supplies, while advanced Terrain Response 2 technology, including world-first Configurable Terrain Response, will allow the drivers to fine-tune the vehicle to suit both their driving preferences and the challenging conditions.

World-leading motorsport experts, Prodrive, are behind BRX and Team Principal, Paul Howorth, said: “The crew need to know our support vehicles will be able to carry all of the necessary kit and be relied upon to get to the next service location, whatever the conditions. New Defender provides a unique combination of all-terrain performance, rugged practicality and comfort – a crucial combination for the unpredictable Dakar conditions and after long days behind the wheel.”

Following its world premiere at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2019, Land Rover has experienced unprecedented demand for New Defender alongside worldwide critical acclaim – since its debut, the 4×4 has won 28 international awards.

Land Rover has also introduced its range of powerful and efficient in-line six-cylinder Ingenium diesel engines, featuring mild hybrid technology, and its advanced P400e plug-in hybrid powertrain.

Porsche Taycan

December 26, 2020 / 0 Comments / 208 / Upcoming Cars

The Porche Taycan is the first-ever electric vehicle from Porsche which is based on the Mission E concept. This is one of the many electric cars which will mark its debut in India under the Skoda Auto Volkswagen India Pvt. Ltd. The vehicle will be produced at the new factory in Zuffenhausen and it will be introduced in Indi via the CBU route when it arrives later this year.

Mechanically, the Taycan is powered by a high-voltage lithium-ion battery pack with a capacity of 93.4kWh. Porsche claims a range of 280 miles (412km) in Turbo and around 256 miles (approx. 340km) in Turbo S under WLTP cycle. The 800-volt architecture allows quick charging from 5 to 80 per cent in around 22 minutes. In true Porsche fashion, the Taycan is fitted with active air suspension (PASM), chassis Control (PDCC), rear-axle steering, torque vectoring (PTV Plus) and much other hardware and software to make it precise yet accessible. There’s also an affordable trim with 390kW (523bhp) and a range of 250km from 79.2kWh battery pack.

Suzuki Jimny

December 24, 2020 / 0 Comments / 208 / Upcoming Cars

The Suzuki Jimny has remained in production for more than four decades, making space for itself among the longest-running nameplates like the Volkswagen Beetle and the Land Rover Defender. The Japanese carmaker is expected to bring in the fourth-generation Jimny later this year. Soon after its global unveils, the model is also expected to be launched in India too, possibly as the new Gypsy.

Fans of the car have been eagerly looking forward to the new Jimny. Sticking to its roots, this new-generation model will continue to be based on a ladder frame and will come with a 4×4 system. Just like the model on sale currently, it won’t be the most comfortable to drive in the city, but the four-wheel-drive system will surely make it fun to head down the unexplored road. More importantly, the Jimny will now be under 4 metres in length, which means it will make the most of the subsidies that sub-4 metre cars get. This can in fact make it the most affordable 4×4 SUV on sale in India (all other sub-4 metre SUVs are front-wheel drive).

The India-spec model is likely to be offered with a 1.5-litre petrol engine with the choice of a 5-speed manual and a 4-speed automatic. Its output would likely remain the same at 105PS and 138Nm. With Maruti working on bringing back its 1.5-litre diesel engine in the BS6 era, it could be an option for the Jimny too. Maruti will likely offer a 4×2 drivetrain on the India-spec Jimny.

All the additional features and improvement in quality is sure to demand a premium, but then the new Jimny will also receive subsidies. Keeping that in mind, we don’t expect it to be priced much different from what it is currently.

Volvo S60 – The Blind Choice!

December 23, 2020 / 0 Comments / 190 / ROAD TEST REVIEWS

Volvo S60 is the latest offering from the Swedish carmaker and is slated to launch in March 2021. Can it take on the German Trio and the Brit Icon? Let’s find out!

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Mahindra Thar 2020: Heart over Mind

December 4, 2020 / 0 Comments / 348 / ROAD TEST REVIEWS

Mahindra has finally launched the much awaited 2020 Thar. But, can the Thar be the only car in your garage? Let’s find out!

Pros:

+ An absolutely gorgeous head-turner. No kiddin’, the Range Rover sport we drove to Wayanad didn’t turn as many heads like this. Call it the initial euphoria but this still remains a fact

+ Leaps, bounds and LIGHT YEARS ahead than the previous Thar. Plastics, gear levers, refinement levels, safety and literally every damn thing is improved

+ The 2.2 mHawk is an absolute joy to drive. Begs to be pushed harder. Absolutely no nervousness at serious triple-digit speeds on “straight roads” in terms of Thar’s stability

+6 Speed AT is good, if not the best. The manual mode of the automatic is a joy to use as it does not upshift automatically in 1st & 2nd gear, very helpful in off-roading 

+ Feature loaded for a ‘Jeep’. Loved the off-road statistics bundled with cruise control, voice commands, android auto & apple car play

+ A very strong contender for being the only car in the garage. M&M has left no stone unstoned to make it an attractive mass-market proposition

+ The AC is a bone-chiller. Best we have ever seen!

+ Tackled some of the toughest obstacles in off-roading like a cakewalk, rear-diff lock is a boon. Ground clearance, water wading capacity and departure angle are now improved

+ Surprisingly spacious for 4 onboard, squeeze in the kid as a 5th passenger and they won’t complain

+ The entry/exit to the rear seat is fairly easy. Senior citizens will, of course, find it difficult but the Millennials shouldn’t be complaining about it

+ Fantastic braking, better than most of the cars from the M&M’s stable. Really wish the pedal was slightly less spongy though

+ Pretty decent sound clarity from the music system, considering that the speakers are mounted on the roof in an unconventional position. Vocals need improvement though. 

+ The headlamps offer stupendous illumination. Very impressive for OEM standards

+ The steering is calibrated really well. It’s not 100% direct but way better than some of the modern joysticks

Cons:

– Wind Noise at triple-digit speeds is LOUD. Gets worse as the speedo needle rises further

– You need the key every time you want to refuel. A big turn-off. Especially, in such unprecedented times when you want to have minimum contact with the external world

– Absence of dead pedal is a killjoy, especially if you are driving an automatic

– While the absence of a reverse camera is acceptable from the off-roading perspective, most of the buyers will REALLY miss it

– Although our test car was the Hard-top version, it began to squeak when driven over bad roads after day 2 of the drive

– Ride quality, although improved, feels uncomposed when driven at decent speeds over potholes/breakers

– Boot space has been compromised. Stuffing anything more than 2 big duffle bags is a pain. Expect a lot of after-market roof carriers

– The horn-pad needs some effort to operate. Would have preferred something lighter. Blessing in disguise being this should prevent unnecessary honking

– Presence of a USB port at the rear would be very convenient for rear passengers

– On our pre-production test cars (Manual & Auto), the Low air pressure warning light (TPMS) was glowing even after all the tires were refilled with air. Hope this is not present across other production units. 

Exterior

In case you walk into the dealership to check out the all-new Mahindra Thar, you would probably wonder if you walked into one of the 80+ Jeep dealerships across India. That’s the extent of similarity of the new Thar to the Jeep Wrangler. With the old iconic 7 slated grille making way for this make-shift design with radiator and intercooler tucked in, let’s find out if the Thar still retains its charm or has lost significant heritage as it evolved over a decade. 

Mahindra has decided to go the old school way with the Halogens for headlamps and the fog lamps when most of the manufacturers are moving to LEDs. We have nothing much to complain about here because we feel it would be cheaper in replacing them if they are damaged in off-roading. The tiny DRLs are placed above the side-turn indicator console. In our opinion, Mahindra could have spent slightly more bandwidth in designing the front bumper. However, we really loved the retro touches given like the bonnet opener to maintain its Jeep DNA. Small bits like the graphical designs of the camel and cactus add a spark of modern heritage. 

Mahindra has done a stupendous job of adding the hardtop to the Thar instead of a make-shift canopy. The 18 inches blacked-out alloys wrapped in all-terrain tyres in this case, gel very well with the classic design of the Thar and the side steps make the ingress a bit easier. The 4×4 badge reminds you of your quest for adventure. While the new Thar feels modernistic in every way, the old-school way of opening the fuel lid with the key is a big let down especially in these unprecedented times when you want to have minimal contact with the external world

If you have seen the Wrangler closely, the rear of the Thar feels home. The legacy of mounting the spare wheel on the tailgate continues and this occupies a good amount of real estate blocking the rearward visibility and that’s when you really miss the presence of a rearview camera. The tail-lamps are LEDs and this 1 of the 11 Thar badge goes unnoticed. 

The boot is small enough just to stuff 2 big duffle bags. Airport transfers or long-distance road trips mean you would have to fold the rear seats or add a roof carrier. 

Interiors

It’s a no-brainer that you would spend most of your time inside the Thar than the outside. If you liked the quality of the exteriors then we would iterate that the interiors are light years ahead than the previous one. Although the plastics on the dash feel hard, it’s nothing much to complain about. The steering wheel looks like it’s lifted off the TUV and has multiple controls on it. The speedometer and tachometer look conventional, a sportier touch would be more appealing. But it glows up beautifully at night. There is a small MID for a multitude of options which are controlled through these switches including the headlamp leveller and the headlamps are exceptional for OEM standards.  The AC vents feel like you’re in a sedan with a tweak of carbon fibre like between them and we aren’t kidding, this is the most powerful Air conditioning system we have ever been in. There is a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system for various know-how but one thing that we would love to highlight is the adventure statistics that give information about the off-road parameters of the car like the inclination angle, tilt etc. The glove box feels really small and is nearly useless. There is a grab handle placed on the dash for the front passenger. If there’s something that’s going to fill you with immense pride, it’s the made-in-India badge engraved here. Mahindra deserves applause for finally making the 4WD selector looks much premium than ever before. But, the absence of a dead pedal is something that will hit you hard, more so if you are driving the automatic variant. Not to forget, the floor is washable too. In case you had a tiring day at the off-road academy, there’s dedicated cup holders for your cold coffee, a 12V charging socket for your smartphone and a USB port to delve into the melodies of your favourite artist. The placement of power window switches at the centre pod is a smart move from the off-roading perspective. 

Drive

Mahindra has decided to use Mahindra Thar to debut two of its much-awaited power mills. The 2L turbo-petrol churning 150 bhp and a 2.2 L DIesel producing 130 bhp, with manual and automatic transmission available on both of them. However, our test car was equipped with the Diesel paired with a manual transmission. The engine comes to its full life around 1300 rpm and that’s when it sprints, pushing it further esp around 3000 rpm and it becomes evident that you’re driving the oil burner. The acceleration isn’t as brisk as some of the low-slung cars but the motor feels eager and begs to be revved harder and it’s the mid-range where the joy of driving really lies in.

Mahindra has left no stone unturned to ensure that the Thar appeals to an everyday buyer as a city-friendly car and this was evident in our road trips to pondicherry and Dakshin Karnataka amongst lush green hills and narrow roads. 

Since the Mahindra Thar isn’t a tarmac-focussed leopard, we decided to test the on-road behaviour in a slightly different way. For Example, although we drove the Hardtop variant, we felt that there was a lot of wind noise entering the cabin as we reached triple-digit speeds. More so when I stepped on the gas pedal to raise the speedo needle further. While we were returning from our 3-day drive, we did notice that the hardtop had begun to squeak. Just to reinstate, our test car had clocked just over 2,000 km back then.  

Ride & Handling 

When you push the Thar around the corners, the car reminds you that it’s the body-on-frame construction that is not corner-friendly with some noticeable movement of the chassis affecting the composure. Even a toddler would notice the significant difference in ride quality compared to the previous-gen, but it’s still harsh and it reminds you very often that you’re in a Jeep. The leaf springs at the rear have made way for the coil springs and it’s not even remotely plush to some of the modern crossovers, but the Thar can go places the others can just dream of. In a nutshell, you would prefer to drive over potholes at crawling speeds. With a massive ground clearance of 226 mm, the Thar will never ever kiss the speed breakers. 

The brakes on the Mahindra Thar, the front discs and rear drums, brought a wide grin on our face, it’s one of the best we have seen from the Mahindra’s stable. If we were allowed to be optimistic, We would have preferred a tad less sponginess from the pedal though.  

Conclusion

Can the  Mahindra TharThar be the only car in the garage or is it better as a second car? To answer this we did 2 different kinds of reviews. One – the on-road test and the off-road test in B’lore where we put the thar across various obstacles to check its limits

I can bet my life on it, the all-new Thar is better than the previous one in every possible way. The engine, the features…Had Bought the earlier thar, I would probably be a victim of impulsive buying but that’s not the case with this anymore. I will have absolutely no regrets.

Mahindra had been consistently losing its share of the pie in the Indian SUV segment to new contenders. Will the Thar be the catalyst to the ultimate revival strategy for this homegrown manufacturer? We would leave that to time but if there’s something that’s certainly in their favour, it’s the lack of direct competition with an exceptional overall package that’s biased towards the adventure junkie in you. While the lower variants are a steal for their sticker price, the Mahindra Thar has to be your love-at-first-sight to welcome the top-end variant in your garage as your primary car.  

Click here to read about the incredible Desert Survival experience!

Kia Sonet : The Affordable Seltos

December 4, 2020 / 0 Comments / 436 / ROAD TEST REVIEWS
Road-Test review of the Kia Sonet:

Pros:
+ Feature packed to the brim and more. Equipped with features such as 6 airbags, sunroof, rear AC vents, ventilated seats which even cars of one segment higher can just dream of
+ The iMT gearbox is responsive a delight to use. Takes the convenience to a whole new level. Makes city driving extremely easy
+ Top-notch quality of interior trims. The control stacks feel they are built to last forever
+ Great forward visibility of the road from the driver’s seat. The seat has a healthy range of height adjustment
+ Massive 10.25 inch infotainment system is great to use, neat, clutter-free and really responsive
+ Great amount of safety kit on offer including 6 airbags, ABS, EBD, ESC and HAC
+ Hello Kia, open the driver side window! Say this and the driver side window rolls down instantly, will certainly help in toll booths
Cons:
– The 3 cylinder engine deserves better refinement levels, it gets really vocal at higher RPMs
– Ride quality is average for a car in this segment. Bumps and potholes can be easily felt inside, drive over the potholes little faster and you can notice the suspension making a ‘thud’ sound
– Although the car is built well in most of the places, the doors certainly lack the thud. The plastic quality on the door pads is hard, shiny and average
– The iMT gearbox lagged 1/10 times on an average. You do feel a bit of jerk in such instances especially when you are changing gears in an un-orderly fashion
– The Bose music system does not live up to the Bose standards. Said it in the Seltos and will say it again, it’s not properly tuned. It starts to get unpleasant in very high volumes which is surprising

India is one of the most dynamic auto markets in this world that has been home to more than 30 brands some of which have established their footprints since decades. Last year a Korean manufacturer made its debut here and since then it has taken the market by storm. We are talking about KIA motors which is now the 4th highest selling carmaker in India. The Seltos was a blockbuster success, the Carnival helped them to gain the premium tag and this new kid on the block will help them boost their volume by a significant margin. Thanks to the overall package on offer in what we expect to be competitively priced.

With the automotive market showing signs of improvement after a long time,  KIA is here with its latest player which is the sub 4m compact SUV segment in the form of Sonet, which btw is an abbreviation for Social network. 

 Exterior

One thing that instantly catches your attention is the large distinct Tiger Nose grille which has a 3D geometry kind of finish and is inspired by Indian step wells. The crown jewel LED headlamps and the heartbeat DRLs with integrated side turn indicators gives it a wild stance. The fog lamps are placed below and not to forget we get the front parking sensors too which are a first in the segment and are a boon in the Indian driving conditions. We really love the way the beautiful grille is integrated with the air dams that truly gel with the wild character of the Sonet. Although the side stance does look imposing for a car of this size, small bits like the piano black finish on the rear quarter glass gives it a premium touch. The side mirrors are electrically adjustable with neatly integrated turn indicators on them. Not to forget, the roof rails are inspired by much bigger SUVs and give a sense of tough look to the car, although the roof rails are just show and no go. Just like the one in Seltos, the beautifully crafted crystal cut alloys of the Sonet does not fail to impress us. At the rear, the tail lamps are connected with a unique reflector garnish, imparting a wider look and sports a very unique design of the tail lamps that goes very well with the overall design language. The thin red stripe running between the mufflers goes well with the wilder design philosophy of this sub-4-meter compact SUV.

When you decide to venture into the wild, you get three engine options to choose from, the naturally aspirated 1.2Lpetrol, 1.0 L, 3 cyl Turbo Gdi petrol which is our test car for the day paired to a 6-speed iMT gearbox that churns out 120 bhp of power and 172 nm of torque and 1.5L diesel  

Interior:

Once you step inside the car, you are spellbound by the supreme quality offered on a car of this competitive price bracket. Sensibly designed keeping the comfort of the driver and the passengers in mind, the Sonet’s interiors have been crafted to give a refreshing, unique and enjoyable ambience in the compact SUV segment. The GT Line trim comes equipped with red stitching on the steering wheel, seats and door armrest with controls for the infotainment system and cruise control. The steering too gets the GT line branding on it. The design is also complemented by many first in segment features including the driver and passenger ventilated seats, a feature that will be very useful in the hot and humid weather and will be loved by Indian consumers. The show-stopper on the dash is the largest-in-segment 10.25-inch Touchscreen with Infotainment and Navigation system. To bring alive a concert-like sound ambience, the Sonet offers premium audio experience from the house of BOSE via the 7-speaker system with Subwoofer. The small and stylish console with buttons running around has access to many first-in-segment features.

In case your smartphone’s battery is draining down after a long day of continuous usage of your flagship device, do not worry about fiddling with the cables as the smartly placed wireless charging pad will juice it up while you are going wild in the jungle. 

While we really love the classic analogue instrument cluster of the Seltos, the one in the Sonet did not impress us a lot. While we could still live with the digital speedometer, the quirky tachometer seems short of an ergonomic design. But, we aren’t complaining much because designs are subjective. 

The rear seats offer a centre armrest with cup holders for your piping hot cup of masala chai. The attention to detail on the red collar running across the cabin of Sonet is definitely something to appreciate. The rear AC vents will be a boon for the rear passengers in the scorching summers of our tropical country. In case the premium music system did not uplift your spirit, the mood lighting should do justice for you. If you feel claustrophobic with the limited space inside you could fulfil your daily dose of vitamin-D by pressing this button to open the sunroof. In the unprecedented times of Covid-19, an air purifier with virus protection is the need of the hour and looks like KIA has worked out to add this feature along with an in-built perfume dispenser. We believe this is something that should be adopted by other manufacturers too.

Once I moved here from the driver’s seat I was slightly disappointed due to the limited space on offer. Although the legroom is satisfactory, you would end up complaining if you are headed on a long road trip. Thankfully, the seats offer decent support in terms of under-thigh support and back support. The Sonet offers 392 L of boot space which should be enough for your airport runs or the weekend getaways.

Driving

Every car has distinct characteristics in terms of driving dynamics. While some are really good to drive some offer decent ride and handling characteristics. The Sonet is a blend of both the worlds in fair composition. It’s not the car that will drop your jaws when you push it around the corners but you won’t have much to complain about it either.

Once you tap the throttle, you do acceleration kicking back. The low-end grunt is fine but the mid-range is where you actually go wild with the Sonet but at the same time, you are restricted by the vocals coming from the hood, thanks to the 3 cylinders which are craving for better refinement levels. The steering feels light on the lower speeds but weighs fine and is fairly direct on speeds. 

The most interesting bit in this particular variant of the Sonet is this, the iMT gearbox which is the intelligent manual transmission which is nothing but a blend of manual and automatic. The difference is that there is no physical clutch present here but there is one secretly placed inside this gearbox that is intelligent enough to sense that you are changing gears and it operates by itself. The best part is you really don’t have to take your foot off the clutch while changing gears and you can change the gears while the throttle is completely pressed. The turbo-lag is negligible if you are shifting the gears progressively. But you do get a noticeable lag when you shift from 2nd to 4th or 3rd to 5th. 

Let’s get the fact straight that it is not even remotely responsive as a manual gearbox and it’s slightly slower too but it’s more about offering the convenience of an automatic at a premium of just 20,000 rupees. Having said that, it leaps and bounds ahead of the AMT counterparts. 

Ride quality 

The suspension is on a stiffer side. We drove the Sonet through some of the rough roads and it’s definitely not the most comforting ride we have had. You can actually feel the bumps at various speeds. Considering that this is going to be a mass-market car we would have certainly appreciated if the ride quality was less bumpy. Having said that, the Sonet does show any kinds of nervousness when pushing it hard around the corners are decent triple-digit speeds.

Safety 

Sonnet’s body structure constitutes more than 2/3 high strength and advanced high strength steel – this translates to a lightweight but robust structure for the compact SUV.

The hosts of safety features giving a peaceful ownership

experience are as follows:

  • Six Airbags
  • ABS with EBD,
  • ESC, HAC, VSM and Brake assist
  • Front & Rear parking sensors
  • Projector Fog lamps
  • Highline tyre pressure monitor
  • Auto headlamps
  • Isofix child anchor

Verdict

The Korean carmaker, Kia, is one of those brands that does their homework really well before launching a new product. Sonet is among them as it ticks most of the boxes right. It looks good, drives pretty decent, does justice to the ride & handling and comes loaded with all the bells & whistles one could expect at this segment. While we do not have any info on the pricing front, from the KIA’s pricing trends, we expect it to be priced very aggressively in the sub 4m compact SUV space. If that’s the case, We are confident that this will help them boost their overall sales by a significant margin and establish their strong footprints in the most dynamic automotive market in the world.

Once it’s launched, we expect the Sonet to lock horns with the likes of Hyundai Venue, Tata Nexon, Mahindra XUV 3OO and the segment leader Maruti Vitara Brezza.

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 : Comfort Redefined

December 3, 2020 / 0 Comments / 380 / ROAD TEST REVIEWS

Pros:

  • Excellent rider comfort. Rode it all day and night, yet no signs of discomfort
  • The engine feels refined up to 100 kmph mark. Leaps and bounds ahead of the Classic era
  • Great riding position. Perfect for long rides and twisted roads
  • Tripper navigation is the icing on the cake, very very helpful. Worked flawlessly
  • The windscreen does a good job of redirecting wind, looks stylish too
  • Over 5 lakh customisation options available. An interesting proposition! 

Cons:

  • Fuel meter on our test bike was faulty. Hope this is resolved ASAP
  • Vibrations still evident beyond 100 kmph mark, a comfortable cruising speed of 90 kmph is too less for a modern motorcycle
  • No backlit switches. Found it difficult to operate them on the highway at night
  • The clutch felt slightly hard for city commute
  • Headlight illumination is average. After-market upgrade highly recommended if you intend to ride it on the highway often 

Looks

Once you look into the Meteor 350, you may feel Nostalgic if you have been around the Machismo. Thanks to the large touring visor which can be adjusted using an Allen key. Royal Enfield has decided to stick on with the old school halogen headlamps and LED for the DRL surrounding the headlamps. Although the low beam offers decent throw the intensity distribution of high beam could have definitely been better. The 15-litre fuel tank sports a dual-tone paint scheme. Although the front discs do a good job in dry braking conditions, we felt they lacked the bite as we rode the bike in rain. The ABS works well on good roads and a bit of broken patches. The alloy wheels are wrapped in safer tubeless tyres. Moving to the rear, the bike gets a retro-classic look which feels slightly deviated from the otherwise modernistic theme. The number plate gets a bit of illumination from a small lamp above it. 

We really wish the switches were backlit as it was quite a task in operating them when riding the bike at night on the highway. The quality of the engine start-stop switch felt slightly flimsy. The Meteor also gets an unusual hazard lamp switch. The Speedometer display speed both in kmph and mph. The Instrument cluster has service reminder, trip meter, DTE and a clock. But the architect of the victory is the inbuilt turn-by-turn tripper navigation that uses Google Maps and is connected to your smartphone through the Royal Enfield app via Bluetooth. Expected it to be offered on the other Royan Enfield motorcycles as an accessory.  

If there is one thing that we really loved in the Meteor 350 it’s the excellent rider seat comfort. After riding it for 500 km throughout the day and night I had nothing to complain about from the comfort levels. It’s definitely one of the best we have seen on an Indian Motorcycle. The pillion might however get ambitious of pushing the backrest behind as it eats up into space.

Riding Position 

The riding position feels good for an individual of average height and you will love the way everything falls into place including the handlebar position and switches, we would prefer the horn switch to be slightly larger in size it was a bit of a challenge to use it. Some may prefer the footpegs to be placed slightly closer to the rider. After riding it for 500 km, I had nothing to complain about in terms of shoulder/elbow discomfort. 

 Performance

Before we get to the riding dynamics, let’s check out if the thump lives up to the expectations from a Royal Enfield. The all-new engine is smoother as compared to the UCE engines found in its siblings like the Classic 350. While the Meteor replaces the Thunderbird, these are some of the advantages. The Meteor is the brand’s first motorcycle in the 350cc segment to feature a double-cradle frame which replaces the single-cradle frame found in its siblings.

Once you start the Meteor you will be surprised with the smoothness of the engine at idling. It’s not the Royal Enfield that will push you back  as you raise the throttle, the 650 cc twins do a better job with that. But the Meteor is all about comfortable cruising. The power from the engine is delivered in a linear and smooth manner which goes will with the cruiser characteristics of the bike. Thanks to the fantastic low end torque, you could comfortably ride the bike at low speeds in comparatively higher gears. It takes almost 18 seconds to reach the 100 kmph mark but the Meteor feels out of life just above the 120 kmph mark.

The old pushrod-valve system has been replaced by a SOHC two-valve head. A new balancer shaft has been added to increase the usable range of torque simultaneously reducing the vibrations. The gearshifts are smooth in most cases but there were some rare cases where the gears refused to upshift quickly, The clutch felt slightly heavier for city ride. Royal Enfield’s have always known to be heavy. At 191 kilograms, its still a heavy machine to move around when its turned off. But when it’s on the move you really dont feel the weight making the riding experience easier.

With the full tank method, the mileage with mixed riding conditions of 80% highway and 20% city was 33.5 kmpl

Ride

Although the new suspension is better, It’s not soft and the most comforting of all. Potholes are dealt well at crawling speeds but if you plan to get ambitious with the throttle input, you would be disappointed. 

Inspite of the low seat height, the cruiser motorcycle boasts 170 mm of Ground clearance. This should be good enough to tackle most of the large uninvited speed breakers

The handling characteristics of the all-new chassis is much better than before and is confident inspiring. This is one of those rare Royal enfields in which you won’t think much to push around some the corners, but we highly recommend that you check out the close proximity of the foot peg with the road when doing so.

Customisation

If you love customisations You can choose from a huge list of accessories, including eight different road-legal exhausts, seats, covers, visors and plenty of color options.  Infact RE plans to redefine customisations with upto 5 lakh options and the best part? This could be done from the comfort of your home.  Pretty Helpful, especially in such unprecedented times of covid-19.

Conclusion

After riding the RE for 500 km it doesn’t really feel like one. That’s because its surprisingly biased towards being a relatively refined bike unlike the earlier models. The RE classic was a game changer for this home grown manufacturer which was a catalyst in soaring the stocks beyond the sky. The 650 twins gave a very clear message that the brand is capable of producing excellent engines. The Meteor adds more sophistication, refinement levels better fit & finish and great convenience from the Tripper navigation 

 

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