2014 promises to be an exciting year for the automotive industry with a number of launches lined up, especially in the SUV segment. Here is the list of SUVs set for an India launch next year.
Hyundai will launch the new Santa Fe at the Auto Expo, we expect it not earlier but the earth-shattering bit is that the Korean company will assemble it here this time. This will mean a marked drop in price in anticipation of better sales. The new Santa Fe will hence stay away from the likes of the X1 and the Q3 as it has in the past and now go up against the Toyota Fortuner and Chevrolet Captiva. The Santa Fe will come wearing the new company design, from the fluidic elements to the new hexagonal grille. We expect to see the same 2.2-litre diesel as the sole powertrain and it should probably offer only the automatic transmission as before. The Santa Fe will be all-wheel drive using rear wheels for most driving duties but all four-wheels in slippery or challenging conditions. The interiors will be comprehensively updated as well. Expect the new car to rock the Rs 20 lakh SUV market to its foundations.
Image of the current Audi Q7 used as reference
The Audi Q7 owned the luxury SUV segment since it was launched here and despite the 2009 refresh, the Q7 is one of the oldest premium SUVs on sale in India. The Q7 has not received an update in a while because Audi has been working (with VW, of course) on a new SUV platform based on the MLB architecture that can be shared by not just Audi, but also the other VW Group brands, especially Bentley. The first car to go on sale from this platform is to be the new Q7, which is expected towards the end of next year. Among styling and design revisions also expect it to be lighter and more efficient, when it finally comes here it will have lost over 300 kilos. Engines will also be downsized in accordance with Audi scriptures that chart a path for the future. There will also be a hybrid and with sister concern Porsche already charting a brand new course map for SUV hybrids in India with the Cayenne, it should make sense for Audi to introduce the hybrid too.
We have driven the new X5 and the first drive is set for publishing on November 22, 2013. The new car looks similar but received updates in everything but the engines. The new X5 is larger, has all of the new gizmos that the latest BMWs boast and more. The sole new engine is the new 220PS 2-litre diesel from the 525d, the twin-turbo four cylinder matched to the 8-speed automatic. At the launch though, the Indian engines were set to remain unchanged when the X5 rolls into India in the next 3-4 months.
Minor tweaks to the front end and interiors are all that BMW can do to this mammoth SUV, because at the rear there is no changing the Kardashian-esque attention grabber! The new X6 will showcase the same detailing we recently witnessed in the face-lifted 5 Series sedan. That means new grille, bumper and headlamps. Expect minor power hikes while better efficiency and lesser emissions will be par for the course. Really not much to look forward to and that's why fingers are crossed that BMW continues to offer the M version.
The BMW X4 is based on the X3 but adopts the sloping roofline of the X6 to create the X4. That means it will be less practical. But like the X6, the idea for the X4 is to be an alternative to the run of the mill SUVs, something that the X6 has shown can work as a business model. Expect the X4 to be sporty just like the X6 but a more manageable size for our traffic conditions.
2014 Land Rover Discovery
The Land Rover Discovery's most significant feature in the facelift isn't the new headlamps or the other cosmetic changes. Look at the badge above the grille. It doesn't say Range Rover or Land Rover it says Discovery. It appears that the Discover is to be the third brand in the SUV portfolio for JLR and the rumour is that the all-new Freelander when it arrives will be Discovery branded, the second in what is likely to be a bunch of models that will migrate to the Discover brand.
Image of the current Mahindra Scorpio used for reference
The Scorpio desperately needs a full on grounds-up replacement but while Mahindra works on that, they are rolling out a refresh that should keep people happy until the new replacement vehicle is ready for primetime. The third of the Scorpio facelifts will feature a sharper set of head lamps, new bumper and a slightly updated grille as well. We are also expecting the interiors to progress further a bit. The major changes though, will be reserved for the new model that will arrive in 2015.
2014 Nissan X-Trail
You could be forgiven for forgetting that the X-Trail remains on sale in India. The X-Train also happens to be an extremely likeable SUV but sales so far have not done justice to its ability. Part of the problem has been its pricing. Nissan said at the Frankfurt show when they unveiled the new X-Trail that it will tackle these issues and restore the glory that the X-Trail should have had from the word go. The new X-Trail looks dramatically different from the current one we get and it looks more muscular, more filled out and more butch. All good things in the Indian SUV books! This one will seat seven and the interior also sees a marked change upwards in terms of the quality of materials and finishes. The new X-Trail is based on the new Common Module Family (CMF) platform, as in the same platform will spawn more models and vehicles. Nissan is expected to announce local assembly for the X-Trail in India as well. This also makes tremendous sense since it primary competition's price advantage comes from duties and taxes as well. The local assembly will also make it easy for Nissan to introduce other CMF-platform vehicles into Indian assemble going forward which means Nissan's upper-end vehicle line will probably expand in India quickly over the next few years.
2014 Nissan Qashqai
The Qashqai is the flip side to the X-Trail. Having encountered dismal sales Nissan isn't entirely confident of the X-Trail doing well in the Indian market if it is revived. The only way Nissan can succeed in the premium SUV segment is by assembling the SUV here which makes it more affordable and a stronger competitor. Another approach to the premium SUV segment is to introduce an entirely new SUV that carries no baggage and that is where the Qashqai steps in. It is a large 7-seater SUV that is more attuned to ride comfort over solid and stable handling. We drove one recently in the USA but weren't too impressed with the interior quality which presumably is undergoing certain modifications to make it appear more contemporary. The exteriors too should see some minor changes to make it appear more handsome. The Qashqai will still need to be assembled here to make it price competitive else Nissan could lose the plot al over again.
Since the Cayenne, almost literally, saved Porsche's bacon and then went on to power the German sportscar company to becoming the most profitable automaker in the world, the value of having SUVs in the lineup has not been lost on Stuttgart. And now, Porsche is almost ready to expand it's one-SUV lineup with the addition of the Macan, this is the official teaser image, which will take up position below the Cayenne. The Macan is to be roughly the size of the Q5 and in fact shares some of the basic platform with it. From that point on, Stuttgart has worked on the engines, the chassis etc to ensure what you're getting is a genuine Porsche rather than a souped-up Audi. The design echoes the Cayenne as expected but the engines will be different. The top engine is to be the 3.6-litre turbo V6 while a non-turbo version will power the Macan S. The base engine will be a 2-litre petrol inline four making 220PS and a 190PS diesel. Porsche will bring the Macan to India, of course, and we expect it to enjoy great popularity, possibly even surpassing the Cayenne - which is as Porsche expects it to be.
Dacia has just launched the facelifted Duster globally and given the yawning gap from the smart Terrano to the now familiar Indian Duster, we expect Renault to be working overtime to roll the updated, flashier Duster out. The changes aren't significant in terms of function but you cannot help but notice that the complicated headlamp design, more detail grille etc all contribute to making the car look fresher.
Range Rover Evoque 9-speed
The Evoque looks brilliant and the update coming will not mess with that and focus instead on the powertrain, specifically, the new 9-speed automatic which will become available on the car. The new gearbox will aid economy as well as powetrain response but the significant thing is that the vehicle will leapfrog other JLR cars that will transition to the 9-speed via the ZF-sourced 8-speed first. Also expect to see a smaller engine in the near future, specifically a 2-litre 4-cylinder petrol that should make it more affordable and therefore more popular.
The Koleos is due for a minor refresh and given that it is a CBU import, the Indian Koleos will receive this update shortly as well. Among the changes are minor updates to the grille and bumper. Inside the changes are even fewer, including a new infotainment setup (which nowadays seems to automatically mean a touchscreen) and a new brown tone for the dashboard. The Koleos hasn't been a sales star for Renault and since this isn't a sizeable update, we can't see it turning the fortunes of this car around either.
2014 Skoda Yeti
Skoda is busy rolling out their sharp new styling to all of their cars and the Yeti is also in line. The refresh for the Yeti has already been announced globally and as you can see from the image, it makes the familiar silhouette looks fresher, sharper and cleaner. The big round driving lamps did not make the refresh, which makes the Yeti look more normal which is a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. That said, the chrome on the grille looks neat and the Yeti looks rather smart. Skoda will offer a chromed urban design for the Yeti as well as a more rugged looking design billed "Outdoor." The jury is still out on which of the two will be offered in India though. Inside, the interior looks familiar and minor updates include the same steering wheel as the new Octavia plus new textures, materials and colours. The engine under the hood will not change - that is the 2-litre TDI. Will Skoda offer the option of the DSG gearbox in the car? It certainly makes sense given that across the VW group, the DSG gearbox has already made appearance in vastly cheaper cars already. We expect the Yeti to be locally assembled, sporting a better price tag and hopefully a DSG option when it arrives in the middle of 2014.
The XC90 will be styled based on the Coupe Concept shown here
Volvo have a new platform in the Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) which is to be a modular base on which vehicles of various sizes and roles can be built. The company also has a new line of turbo-fours that will power a range of new vehicles. The first of the SPA-based models is to be the XC90, Volvo's top SUV. At launch, the new XC90 will also introduce new exterior and interior styling, the tenets of which will be used on subsequent Volvo products. From what we heard at the Frankfurt show, Volvo is set to introduce touch surfaces in a big way in the new interior design. Powering the new XC90 will be one of the new inline-four turbo engines, both petrol and diesel and there is talk of hybrid versions also.
It's touted to take Maruti into a segment that it has seen little action in, in well over a decade since the Gypsy began its decline. The XA-Alpha however will not replace the ageing Gypsy as it still has a strong following and is highly sought after by the armed forces as well. The XA-Alpha will target a whole new breed of consumers looking for style and value based engineering combined with a low cost of ownership proposition. The engine line-up will see both petrol and diesel powertrains that will focus on fuel efficiency more than outright performance. The K-series of petrol engines will continue to find place in this lineup but with displacement going up to around 1.4-litres. The more popular choice will however remain the diesel though the big question is if Maruti continues to use the Fiat sourced 1.3 diesel seen in the Ertiga and other Maruti cars. The XA-Alpha we believe will be positioned against the Ford Ecosport. This also means the XA-Alpha will not have a all wheel drivetrain but will resort to a front wheel drive architecture. And givens Maruti's low cost manufacturing advantage pricing could start from well under Rs 8 lakh.
More and more SUVs are being spawned off sedan and hatchback platforms and simultaneously, the SUV has rapidly become the most popular kind of car for Indians - in terms of aspirations and opinion already though not yet in sales terms. So Honda's move to introduce an SUV based off the Honda Brio's platform is hardly a surprise. We understand that the car is slotted for the end of next year and will take on the likes of the Mahindra Scorpio and its ilk in price, space and market segment. The Brio platform will also give us the Mobilio MPV and we expect the SUV to be priced and positioned above the MPV as is the norm in India right now. Given Honda's usually excellent products, great brand reputation and the tremendous popularity of SUVs in India, we expect this new Honda to be a great sales success in India. Expect the SUV to share powertrains with the Amaze, which means the 1.5-litre petrol and diesel engines. Don't expect all wheel drive whose inclusion could see prices climb north while efficiency travels south.
2014 Mercedes GLA
The Mercedes-Benz GLA will be many things to many people. Based on the CLA coupe, the one thing it probably won't be is large or spacious. But this compact, extremely good-looking SUV will have reasonable interior space, good dynamics and good ground clearance. If you were looking for a practical, reasonably affordable, premium SUV, the GLA will appeal to you strongly when it goes on sale towards the end of the 2014. Expect to see the same engines and transmission as the CLA - the 1.8-litre turbo petrol and 2.2-litre diesel with the 7-speed dual clutch automatic. Stylish and practical? Yes, the wait is going to kill you but will probably be worth it.