2014 has been a tough year for manufacturers in terms of sales. According to latest data from the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), passenger vehicle sales in India slumped by six per cent in 2013-14, marking the biggest drop in a decade despite the cut in excise duty in February. SUVs also saw their share of turmoil as sales fell to 5.25 lakh units, a decline of five per cent. Nonetheless, few vehicles managed to weather the storm with relative ease. The Ford EcoSport, the Renault Duster and their ilk were game changers as they managed to hold sales in hard times, and manufacturers are looking to capitalise on this trend. Ford's sales grew by 9.38 per cent with strong demand for the EcoSport while Renault managed to sell 46,786 Dusters last fiscal year - a gain of 19.4 per cent over last year. Even the exports of utility vehicles showed a mammoth 298 per cent improvement to 41,550 units on the back of the exports of the Ford EcoSport (17,496 units) and the Renault Duster (14,930). Crossovers seem to be the new mantra to which all manufacturers are gravitating. This is partly because Indians love a sense of occasion and presence about their vehicles, and partly because of our tax structures. The government currently offers duty relaxation for vehicles under 4 metres and for diesel engines under 1.5 litres. This enables manufacturers to offer larger vehicles with sufficient ground clearance that are priced extremely competitively. Thanks to this trend, the market sentiment is getting stronger and automakers expect 2015-16 to be far more fertile and productive. Which is why India is going to see an influx of SUVs and Crossovers in the near future. Here are the SUVs that we think you are going to be able to purchase in India 2015 onward.
The Q3 has been highly successful both in India and globally but it now receives new styling, updated engines and a few more features. The new styling is more of a facelift rather than an all new design, and the familiarity continues on the insides as well with the exception of a new steering wheel, instrument cluster and the updated MMI infotainment system. Audi says that all of the Q3's engines receive updates. There are many engines available internationally but for India the diesel Q3 featuring the 2.0 TDI, now called the TDi Ultra, remains the most relevant. There is a 2.0 TFSI petrol that also receives updates and we hope Audi India offers this capable petrol Q3 as well. The new Q3 will be out in India early next year and we expect prices to go up only marginally. 2015 Audi Q3 TDi review
The new generation of the Q7 has been revealed ahead of its January 2015 debut at the Detroit Motor Show, and it is likely to make it to India by mid-2015. Engine duties are carried out by the familiar 3-litre TDi diesel and 3-litre TFSI petrol engines, which are now more efficient by as much as 26 per cent. Power will be delivered to all four wheels through the evolved Quattro system. This new generation Q7 is 37mm shorter and 15mm narrower than before, with an additional 21mm of leg room. It is also lighter by a significant 325kg. Audi's MMI infotainment system now has compatibility with Google Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The initial batches of the 2015 Q7 will be brought to India as CBUs. 2015 Audi Q7 caught testing in India
The Porsche Cayenne changed the perception that sportscar brands can't succeed at making SUVs. In fact, the Cayenne went on to become the highest selling Porsche, so it came as no surprise that luxury car maker Bentley and supercar maker Lamborghini announced that they too would build cars that would take on tough terrains. Bentley's SUV, yet unnamed, was first showcased in 2012 as the EXP 9 F concept, but the company claims that when it does land in 2016 it will be radically different to the 2012 concept. The SUV will be the first Bentley to get a hybrid powertrain, and is expected to compete with the top of the line Range Rover. Lamborghini, however, is no stranger to the concept of an SUV. They built the LM002 between 1986 and 1993 which was also the first four-wheel drive model from the marque. In 2012, the Italian supercar maker unveiled the Urus. Both the Bentley SUV and the Urus will be based on the same platform as the Audi Q7 and the Volkswagen Touareg, but will each stay true to their brand's design.
BMW stated that they will be unveiling an all-new X1 at the Detroit show next year. The updated version is likely to come with a face lift, better interiors and equipment. But the biggest change, to our dismay, is that the new BMW X1 will be a front-wheel drive, which will undoubtedly make it more fuel efficient, but will rob it of the rear-wheel drive fun. The new X1 will be based on the company's UKL1 front-wheel drive platform, as used by the latest Mini hatchbacks. BMW has also opted for a space saving transverse engine layout, which should translate into better space management on the inside. It also means that the X1 will be styled much better in its next generation. The X1 will come with two new 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, alongside the 2-litre ones.
If Ford could succeed with the EcoSport, why can't GM? Globally it sells a compact SUV called the Chevrolet Trax which it could easily bring to India. However it is over 4 metres long and won't qualify for the tax exemption. So GM has to build one specifically for the Indian market, which it is with the Adra. Conceptualised at GM India's Technical Design Centre in Bangalore, the Adra is a compact crossover based on GM's Gamma 2 front-wheel-drive platform. GM is likely to power the Adra using the Fiat MultiJet diesel engine along with either a more powerful version of the 1.2 litre petrol engine from the Beat and U-Va, or the 1.4 litre petrol engine from the Enjoy. The Adra was shown at the Auto Expo in near production ready form and should make it to a 2015 launch.
Fiat unveiled another compact cross over built on a modified version of the Punto's SCCS platform - the 500X, at the Paris Motor Show earlier last year. Like the 500 and the 500L - the 500X also has two iterations - one a stylish urban vehicle and another, more rugged version. The 500X globally has a range of four petrol and three diesel engine options, and also comes with options of an all-wheel drive system and a new 9-speed automatic gearbox. On the infotainment front, the 500X will get equipment from Garmin, and audio technology from Beats by Dre. Interestingly, the 500X shares a lot with the Jeep Renegade as well. Both versions of the 500X are expected to be launched in India along with the Abarth range this year.
The Endeavour has been around for a while now but it's time it was upgraded. The new iteration is set to be much more contemporary in terms of exterior as well as interior styling. The Endeavour is inspired by the new Ranger pickup, from where it borrows its platform. It looks butch and more intimidating than before. Additionally the new Ford Endeavour also gets a sunroof and as many as 30 storage spaces. It is likely that the new Endeavour will come with the option of a 2.2 litre or a more powerful 3-litre diesel engine, with an option for an automatic transmission. You should also expect a 4x4 version to be launched later. Ford is expected to launch the new Endeavour here sometime in 2015. It will come in via the CKD route from Thailand.
Honda Vezel image used as an illustration
Honda built the Brio platform for developing markets like India and they succeeded with it. In 2013, the platform also underpinned the Amaze sedan, which took the market by storm. Last year Honda utilised the platform with respectable success when they launched the Mobilio MPV. With the Vezel turned down for India, the logical move would be to build a compact SUV on that platform. You can expect the compact SUV to be styled quite sharply just as Honda have done with other cars on the platform. The engine options are quite obvious, what with the success of both the i-VTEC and the i-DTEC engines. But since the Brio platform needs extensive work for a compact SUV, it is almost certain that Honda will not be able to launch it before 2016.
Honda took a long time to introduce its first diesel engine in India's diesel crazy market, but when they did launch it with the Amaze and the City, the engine boasted of being the most fuel efficient in their respective segments. And yet, surprisingly, their SUV, the CR-V didn't take advantage of a diesel engine. So finally the CR-V is set to get its newly developed 1.6-litre diesel engine which we expect will create as much of a stir as the smaller engine in the Amaze and the City. The CR-V's styling, despite being unchanged for sometime is still quite contemporary. And while it won't hesitate over most hurdles that you may come across on your daily journey, the CR-V is expected to be a luxury soft-roader. So don't expect a drastic change in design, or a more hardcore 4x4 for the face-lifted CR-V.
Hyundai's weapon of choice for the compact SUV onslaught will be the ix25, which when launched will sport a specific nomenclature for the Indian market (Creta), as we've seen with the Xcent and the Grand i10. The Hyundai Cretawill be based on the new Elite i20's platform but unlike other dressed up hatchbacks, its platform will actually be modified to increase the wheelbase by 20mm. It is unclear whether Hyundai will offer the Verna's 1.6 litre petrol and diesel engines, or its 1.4-litre U2 diesel. We expect that along with the 5- and 6-speed manual gearboxes, Hyundai will offer an automatic option - something it hasn't done with the new i20. The Cretawill be positioned between the i20 and the Verna, and is expected to be priced near the Rs 10 lakh mark.
Jeep's flagship luxury SUV - the Grand Cherokee, is a welcome alternative to German stalwarts like the Mercedes-Benz GL, the Audi Q7 and the BMW X5. And no one's driven it more extensively than OVERDRIVE's own Bert. It runs a capable 3.0-litre V6 diesel that has been designed by VM Motori of Italy which is partly owned by Fiat. It's mated to an 8-speed ZF gearbox, and it will match everything the competition has to offer. The Grand Cherokee feels like a very accomplished package both on and off road and that's probably because underneath the skin, it's based on a modified 2012 Mercedes-Benz ML-Class platform. We expect Fiat to launch the Grand Cherokee between Rs 60 to 65 lakh. That's not cheap, but what you get is a true luxury off-roading vehicle with soul.
The fact that the Jeep brand still hasn't been launched has left off-roading enthusiasts quite riled up. The company still hasn't decided on whether India makes sense for the brand at this point. Nonetheless, what better example of the company's ethos than the Wrangler? The Wrangler is believed to be one of the best off road SUVs in the world and when it does come to India, a lot of off roading enthusiasts are going to rejoice. Despite its off roading credentials, the Wrangler is also built with the luxury and quality that you'd expect from a high end SUV. The downside, however, will be the price. Expect the Wrangler to be launched at around Rs 40 lakh. India will undoubtedly get the four-door diesel first, but expect the two-door and the extreme petrol to follow soon.
Land Rover unveiled the new Discovery Sport in September and then showcased it at the Paris show - the first member of the new Discovery family, and a replacement for the current Freelander 2. For the first time, a Discovery badged vehicle will be able to seat seven people in an SUV that Land Rover claim has a footprint no larger than other competing 5-seat premium SUVs. Land Rover attribute this accomplishment in the interior packaging set up to the addition of a new multi-link rear axle - with no increase in overall dimensions. The Discovery Sport will feature the familiar tried and tested 2.2-litre turbo diesel with the new 9-speed ZF gearbox. The Discovery Sport will be produced at Land Rover's facility at Halewood, Liverpool, and will be brought to India as a CBU.
Mahindra's highest selling car the Bolero has done extremely well for the company, but it is time it received its timely product update. And Mahindra have indicated that the new Bolero will go the monocoque way, leaving behind its body on frame construction. This also means that we might see a front-wheel drive Bolero this year. It will also get Mahindra's reputed 2.2l mHawk engine that does duty on the Scorpio, Xylo and the XUV500 but is likely to be tuned for better economy. Much like what we've seen on the new Scorpio, the interiors will see a remarkable upgrade, and are expected to get bits and pieces from the XUV500's interior. Perhaps not that quality but a significant improvement nonetheless. The challenge would be to keep the pricing close to the current model.
It's speculated that Mahindra are working on a mini SUV codenamed S101, which will be positioned as the bottom end of the XUV family and named the XUV300. Unlike the Quanto, the S101's platform is expected to be a monocoque and Mahindra are likely to power it with a small and efficient turbopetrol built in collaboration with SsangYong, and the 1.5l three-cylinder diesel that powers the Quanto. The S101 test mule was spotted on multiple occasions with a dash mounted gear stick and bench seats on the passenger side, always devoid of elements like bumpers and grille, so not a lot can be said about the styling. What we can however recognise from the pictures are round headlamps, a horizontal strip of tail lights and overall stubby dimensions.
Maruti Suzuki, India's largest carmaker intends to make the most of the crossover craze with the S-Cross. The S-Cross was unveiled at the 2014 Auto Expo and caught testing on Indian roads earlier. The crossover's styling is subdued with conservative lines and surfaces and is likely to polarise opinions. In India, the S-Cross is likely to come with the 90PS 1.3l diesel engine and 93PS 1.4l petrol. But the real USP of this crossover is its off-roading capability, thanks to an all-wheel drive system. It is plausible to expect it to be officially sold in India this year. But unlike the Ford EcoSport and the Duster/Terrano, the S-Cross is likely to be positioned on a slightly premium side, perhaps above the newly launched Ciaz, in a bid to improve the brand's perception.
The Grand Vitara, along with the Kizashi, was Maruti Suzuki's attempt to change the company's perception in India to that of a prospective luxury brand. However both models were pulled out after failing miserably, in contrast to other Maruti Suzuki products. The Grand Vitara in the meanwhile was deemed to have a thirsty petrol motor and its lack of features was the final nail in its coffin. The indirect replacement for the Grand Vitara is the iV4 concept or rather, now in production form, the Vitara. It is one size smaller than the Grand Vitara and built on a monocoque platform as opposed to the ladder-on-frame that formed the basis of the now defunct Grand Vitara. The issue that remains to be seen is how Indian customers accept the SUV this time around.
The fact that Maruti-Suzuki are working on two models for the near future should tell you something about the popularity of crossovers. If the concept model showcased first at the 2012 Auto Expo is anything to go by, the XA Alpha is a smart looking compact crossover, and will be a pleasant upgrade from Maruti's conservative styling in the bottom segments. The XA Alpha is likely to get Suzuki's 1.2- and 1.4-litre petrol, and 1.4-litre diesel engines, although it's likely that Maruti will develop a new smaller and fuel efficient diesel engine for this car once their agreement with Fiat for the Multijet diesel engines comes to an end in 2015. The plan to bring in the XA Alpha will probably spill over to 2016 and the prices are expected to be in the range of Rs 7 to 10 lakh.
The next-generation G-Class is confirmed for 2016 and is expected to be a slightly larger car than the current model. Despite its boxy design, the G-Class remains a highly popular SUV and its sales have tripled in the last five years. Its AMG version, the G63, happens to be the bestselling Mercedes-AMG car in India. The new G-Class will be produced at Magna Steyr, which is to manufacture the Gelandewagen till 2022 as per the contract with Daimler. The vehicle will run updated engines and receive design changes to comply with the new Euro 6 norms. Expect the AMG version to definitely come to India. Hopefully, with the 2016 model, India will get the opportunity to buy and own the regular G-wagens in addition to the intense and expensive G 63 AMG.
The new Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe is the company's take on the BMW X6 and is likely to be launched in India in 2016 along with an AMG variant. After the E-Class, this is the other car to feature the 9-speed transmission as standard. Available with a choice of petrol and diesel engines, the GLE Coupe is slotted between the M-Class (called the GLE as of 2015) and the GL (called the GLS as of 2015). The GLE looks like the CLA sedan on steroids and a gym routine. What it actually is, is a spin-off of the ML-Class SUV. The GLE Coupe will also get an AMG variant called the 450 AMG which boasts of a 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V6, churning out 362PS. Externally there is no surprise that the GLE Coupe actually measures nearly the same as the BMW X6 it will shortly compete with.
The new Mini Cooper hard-tops landed in India last year, and now the upgraded Mini SUV based on the Cooper - the Countryman, is set to come to India. Showcased at the 2014 New York Show, it is likely to go on sale in India this year. This is the last update the current generation Countryman will receive before Mini builds an all-new Countryman on BMW's UKL platform. The key changes to the styling are a revised grille, new alloy wheels, LED fog lights, piano black accents, and new color options. The updated Countryman will also come with the latest MINI Connected infotainment system which offers extensive integration of smartphones in the car, allowing the use of Internet-based services for communication and better driver experience.
The Qashqai was arguably the first car to 'perfect' the crossover concept. Last year, the second generation of the model was unveiled and we'd reported that Nissan are looking into getting it to India. Petrol engine options include the 1.2- and 1.6-litre engines while the diesels are the 1.5- and a 1.6-litre dCi engines. Transmission options are a 6-speed manual and a newly developed Xtronic automatic transmission. Nissan will bring in a larger version of the Qashqai, the +2, to India which will seat seven people. Nissan could bring in the Qashqai either by the CKD route (in which case it is likely to take on the XUV500, the Endeavour and the likes), or the CBU Route (which will position it alongside the Fortuner and the CR-V). We hope it's the latter, of course.
Codenamed L560, the Range Rover Evoque XL is a long wheelbase Evoque sharing the platform with a new family of compact Jaguar models and will be made in the same new facility, currently being built at Solihull. The Evoque XL is also likely to become Range Rover's most economical model, thanks to a combination of the lightweight aluminium architecture and the all-new four-cylinder engines currently being developed by Jaguar Land Rover. The idea of a good looking, economical SUV is a good one for a market like ours and the real question is how Land Rover choose to bring the Evoque XL to India. If they assemble it here like they do the Freelander, there could be a really good price proposition, something a CBU imported Evoque XL will find hard to offer.
Mahindra's SUV plans for 2015 will include another SUV from the SsangYong stable - the new Korando C. Now with the Rexton having warmed up the Indian market to the Korean brand, the time seems ripe for it, especially after its facelift earlier this year. The full-sized SUV will be powered by a 2-litre turbodiesel mated to an automatic transmission and will feature an all-wheel drive system. It will be offered in three trim levels, much like the Rexton, but is likely to be placed lower. Expected to be priced around the Rs 15-20 lakh mark, the Korando will take on the likes of the Skoda Yeti, the Chevrolet Captiva and the Renault Koleos. SsangYong might also introduce a seven-seater MPV based on the Korando called the Rodius as seen at the Auto Expo.
Tata also want to capitalise on the compact SUV/MUV market after seeing the success of the Ertiga and the Mobilio. It was reported almost two years back that Tata were working on a smaller version of the unsuccessful Aria and it seems that the result of that will finally be seen in 2015. The Aria was always on the expensive side and so for the Aria mini to succeed, it would have to be priced around the Rs 10 lakh mark. For that Tata will have to either reduce its overall length to sub 4-metres which seems unlikely, or limit the engine capacity to less than 1500cc for tax exemption. So the current 2.2-litre engine will have to make way for the 1.3-litre Multijet enginefrom Fiat. But the Aria currently weighs over 2.2 tonnes and the engine simply isn't equipped to power that much weight. Hence Tata will have to work on severe weight saving measures on the Aria platform.
Another alternative for Tata in the compact SUV segment would be the production version of the Nexon concept that we saw and admired at the 2014 New Delhi Auto Expo. The compact SUV in its concept stage showcased Tata's future design philosophies and technology which they call ConnectNext, as part of their HorizoNext approach. The Nexon is based on the same X1 compact car platform that forms the base for the Zest and the Bolt. Of course, the production version will have the styling toned down and all the gadgetry and sci-fi details might not make it to the final cut but we hope the connectivity technology does. The Nexon may not be ready for launch before 2016, but Tata might just pull one out of the hat towards the end of the year.
Sources tell us that the Tata Safari Storme update is due and the facelift has been re-engineered based on feedback from internal staff, customers and people in the know. Spy images of the new Storme show a revised bumper and grille while the silhouette of the SUV overall remains the same. Inside is where major revisions are said to take place. The new Safari will have updated infotainment, dashboard and upholstery. Spy shots on the internet also suggest five-seater variants. Under the hood, the new Storme will borrow the Aria's more powerful 150PS/320Nm engine. There will be no automatic variant in the offing though. Tata Motors are also said to have worked on the vehicle's chassis to improve its ride and handling, especially the latter in the city.
Tata are currently working on two SUVs along with their sister brand Land Rover. But Indians, don't rejoice just yet. These SUVs are meant solely for the export markets initially, and Tata might launch them later in India. However, our sources tell us that these two SUVs - most likely five- and seven-seaters - are based on an all-new platform that will be shared between Tata Motors and Jaguar Land Rover. Also possible is the deployment of the Ingenium engines. Which is rather interesting because it should give Tata Motors the technology and proficiency they need create worldclass products and leapfrog their current level of skill and products. Stay tuned to OVERDRIVE for more information. Remember, you heard about this here first.
After the Innova, the Toyota Fortuner will be the next car to get updated, and it is likely to come to India by early 2016. There have been many spy shots of mules from Thailand. Toyota will stick with the ladder-frame setup and the TNGA or Toyota New Global Architecture, which has augmented the durability and ruggedness that the Fortuner is already associated with. From the images, we can guess that the all-new SUV has what seem like wrap-around tail lamps and a car like window rake. The new Fortuner is expected to have a larger footprint. Toyota may give the 3.0l diesel a power update from the current 171PS. The SUV will also get updated interiors and the usual 5-speed manual and automatic transmissions with two-wheel and four-wheel drive options.
If Toyota intend to capitalise on the popularity of compact SUVs they would probably have no option but to rely on their existing compact SUV - the RAV4. Building a new car ground up was out of the question for two reasons - one was that they had already invested heavily in the indigenous Etios project and secondly, it wouldn't leave them a lot of time with other manufacturers launching their compact SUVs this year itself. It is understandable then why Toyota would turn to a right hand drive version of the existing RAV4. Although it is a compact SUV, the RAV4 doesn't benefit from being sub 4-metre and neither does it have an engine below 1500cc. So Toyota will have to bank heavily on a competitive pricing strategy for the RAV4. But the RAV4 might not be launched in 2015, you can expect it a bit later.
After speculating for long about the introduction of the Taigun in India, OVERDRIVE was told by a source that it's the T-Roc that's going to make it to India instead. The T-Roc is a compact, two-door SUV concept with a removeable roof based on Volkswagen's new MQB platform. Power comes from a 2.0-litre TDI diesel that makes 182PS, sent to all four wheels. The T-Roc is early in the concept stage but the production car it spins off could be a compact four-door SUV with a small and efficient petrol and diesel powertrain, which would make it perfect for India. While bringing in the MQB process to India would mean big input costs, it would also mean huge benefits. And in that case, the T-Roc would make more sense than the Taigun.
Volvo's flagship SUV was one of the first offerings in India when it went on sale in 2008. However, the vehicle was already available in international markets for quite some time and hence wasn't as modern and competitive when compared to its segment rivals. All that is about to change as Volvo has confirmed the introduction of the next-generation XC90 in India by March 2015. The luxury SUV is built on all-new platform and features new powertrains too. While India will not get the petrol and hybrid options, the diesel variant will make it here. The D5 twin-turbo diesel puts out 225PS of max power/ 470Nm of torque and is mated to Volvo's new 8-speed geartronic transmission. In terms of design, the SUV features the new Volvo design language but is a lot more subtle and clean compared to the XC60. The interior is classy and modern - what strikes the eye is the tablet inspired centre infotainment screen and a virtual instrument console. Expect the price to go up significantly compared to the outgoing model.