More hype than substance, the expo provided few attractions that were of any significance.
As promised in our news item about the Autocar Performance Show 2010, here's the follow-up coverage of the event. While being well-put-together in terms of the organization and attendance, it was rather let down by its lack of scale and absence of direct participation by the auto companies, who for the most part chose to send in their dealers instead. This had a direct effect on the way that visitors were allowed to interact with the vehicles on display, as you will see shortly. On with the show!
[RELATED_ARTICLE]While the expo had reserved part of its first day (18th November, Thursday) for "VIPs", which included the press, I decided to skip that and instead view it from a visitor's perspective. Therefore, I entered the venue on Sunday evening, since that was the time that the bulk of the visitors would attend.
The entrance seemed promising enough, with literally a few thousand vehicles parked outside the venue amid a buzz of activity, which included your usual chanawallas and bhelwallas. Of particular note was a small group of vehicles all decked up with bad-ass sound systems and neon lights, showing off their bling for all the world to see. Smart move, this — don't pay for the overpriced stalls, but instead show your wares by parking them right opposite the entrance!
Right after passing the security check was the first and among the most interesting of the exhibitors. A company called Hobby Central was showcasing its remote-controlled toy cars and helicopters — which, they kept insisting, weren't toys, but for the serious hobbyist. Considering that a chopper cost a cool Rs 40,000, I'd have to agree with them. What was cool about the "toys" was that they were powered with miniature two-stroke engines and not electric motors. They'd even set up a small outdoor "stunt track" complete with miniature ramps and all, which the cars kept crashing off of. Unfortunately, when I came over later to take some videos, they'd shut the show since their remote controllers ran out of power. Oh well.
Right opposite this stall was a stage set up by JBL. It was a good thing it was outside the venue, since they were doing their damned best to shatter everyone's eardrums. Not cool. On the stage, they had an East European chick performing acrobatics while dangling from the trusses above the stage. I'd rather they had a mallakhamb instead, but I suppose you don't have too many blonde chicks conversant with that. Whatever.
In keeping with the tune of things, the guys at the JBL stall nearby tried to the show by getting their friends to bring over their rides. I have no idea what a Suzuki GSX-R1000 or a Harley have to do with car audio systems, but they sure helped in creating a crowd around the enclosure. Also on offer was a spin-the-wheel type game with prizes of candyfloss and a "free gift", but I wasn't going to be caught dead near that thing.
[RELATED_ARTICLE]I'll start off with the best (and only good) part of the show — the Mercedes-Benz booth. I wasn't the only one in thinking this, because going by the number of people that thronged the area, this one was clearly the crowd favourite; and for good reason too. For starters, it had the best selection of sportscars from the few that were on display across the venue: the SL 63 AMG and SLS AMG. More importantly, the people manning the booth were the most friendly across the show, letting a regular stream of visitors have a seat in their top-of-the-line SLS AMG, and even cranking up the engine for a select few. Theirs was the only booth that had a real, live engine roaring out its supremacy. I managed to get a few pics of the cockpit, but since there was a line of people behind me impatiently waiting to get in, I had only a few seconds, hence the blurry images. Kindly excuse.
|The Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG|
|The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG|
Moving on, another item of note was the Honda bikes stall. The only bike manufacturer officially present at the event, Honda had thankfully pulled out all the stops in this segment by showcasing its entire product range, including its recently-launched superbike variants: the VFR1200F, CB1000R, and Fireblade, aka the CBR1000RR. The sight of these monsters arranged next to each other was probably why this area had the second-biggest crowd, after the Merc stall.
|The Honda VFR1200F|
|The Honda CB1000R|
|The Honda CBR1000RR|
In its car section, Honda had the usual Accord, CR-V, Jazz, and Shittyer, City. Honda cars suck, so I'm not going to bother writing about them.
Right. The Nissan booth turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Apart from the usual suspects, it also had its sportscar, the 370Z. What was pleasant about the surprise was that the people there weren't at all anal about visitors getting close to the vehicle. Then again, Nissan probably doesn't have the brand recall of a Mercedes, so there was little chance of the booth getting mobbed by attendees.
Now that we've covered the notables, let's quickly go through the ones that also deserve a mention. First up, representing the Indian manufacturers, there was Mahindra's impressive off-roader, the Thar, reminiscent of the Jeep Wrangler — this is of course due to their shared ancestry. This is the car to own if you want to feel all rugged and rough! Strangely enough, the official site mentions it for sale only in Europe and South Africa. Looks like we're stuck here with the crappy Scorpio. Sigh.
Volkswagen was showing off its Polo Cup, a race-tuned version of its standard Polo model. These cars are identically manufactured, tuned and provided to 20 young drivers each year, who compete for a national championship across six races. The idea here is to identify and nurture racing talent. For more information, visit www.polocup.in
Mitsubishi had its new Lancer Evolution X. That guy posing in the picture is some random jerk who just happened to be there. He was taking so long to get his picture snapped by each of the numerous retarded friends accompanying him, I finally went ahead and took the photos anyway, since there were several more idiots waiting in line to get their picture taken. For what, showing it to your non-existent girlfriends?! Losers.
Finally, rounding off the SUV segment were the new Toyota Land Cruiser, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Skoda Yeti. I have to say that of the three, the Yeti looked the least like an SUV and more like a large station wagon. Also, it's amusing to note how an East European company can't do without East European models. Of all the car manufacturers present at the show, Skoda was the only one who brought in firangs. Guess the Eastern Bloc comes cheaper than home-grown items.
|The Toyota Land Cruiser|
|The Skoda Yeti|
|The Hyundai Santa Fe|
[RELATED_ARTICLE]Now that we've covered the good and OK parts of the show, time to move on to the ones that sucked. Leading the pack by far was BMW, or rather its representative Navnit Motors, which had a booth right across from Mercedes. It wasn't just the fact that the BMWs on display paled in comparison to the AMG beauties. No, that had to be compounded by the ultra-snobbish attitude of Navnit's employees. I very nicely asked a kid in a suit if I could enter the stall to photograph the cockpit of the Z4 sDrive35 is, an enhanced-power version of the Z4 Roadster. He flat out refused. I then told him that I was covering the event on behalf of Digit. He had never heard of it, which immediately identifies him as a retard of the highest order. If that wasn't bad enough, the rooster-biting smacktard then suggested that if I wanted some nice pics, I should get them off the internet. I should've bashed his head in with a tyre spanner right then and there, but there were too many witnesses around. Instead, I tried explaining to him that by his logic, there would be no need to hold any expos at all if it was simply a matter of finding the pics online, but I could see that all reasoning was lost on him. The only sensible thing to do was walk away and take whatever photos I could from outside the booth area, rather then bear the equivalent of banging my head against a concrete wall.
The geniuses at Navnit Motors could really learn a thing or two from their counterparts at the Mercedes booth opposite. While the latter was a hubbub of activity and roaring engines, the atmosphere at the BMW booth was so tepid, you'd think someone just died. Now, this isn't the rant of some Mercedes fanboy, like you might have a rabid Mac enthusiast sounding off on why a Windows-based PC is the devil (it is, but that's a different matter). On the other hand, I actually prefer BMWs, and have always thought that Mercs were for corporate stiffs. What I witnessed at this expo though, put a big dent in that perception.
|The BMW 730Ld|
|The BMW Z4 sDrive35is|
The really surprising thing was that the snobbery displayed at the BMW stall far exceeded that at the Rolls Royce booth, whereas we all know that the latter represents the worst of British pretentiousness. As expected, no one was allowed to go near the RR Ghost on display. However, the suited kid at this booth was nice enough to at least offer to take the photos of the interior himself. That he made a thorough mess of it is another matter altogether — I'm no good at photography myself, and my only experience lies in taking those upskirt pics in Dead Rising. Incidentally, taking upskirt pictures of zombies is a perfectly acceptable practice, according to statement #17 here. However, even I could tell that the pictures he took were no good at all. Oh well, at least his heart was in the right place.
RR's pompousness seems even more ridiculous when you take into account the fact that at 2.5 crores, the SLS AMG is priced evenly with the Ghost, but that didn't stop the guys at the Merc booth from letting people get into the former. And don't even get me started about BMW; none of its cars on display were even half as expensive as the SLS.
Another grand entrant into the hall of suckage was the DC Imperator, a concept designed as a cross between a supercar and an SUV. In trademark DC style, it successfully managed to encompass the worst of both worlds. The salient features of the Imperator are a "world-record beating" 28-inch wheels and "the build of a sports car with the ground clearance and suspension of an SUV". Personally, I felt those wheels were gaudy to the point of being butt-ugly. The only redeeming thing about the Imperator was that it was a concept and therefore not for sale. Thank goodness for small mercies.
[RELATED_ARTICLE]Next up was the Lamborghini Gallardo, hyped as one of the highlights of the show. Enclosed in the centre of an area that could have comfortably accommodated four cars, it was clear that the dealer didn't want anybody getting near the thing. Ergo, I didn't even bother to ask if I could enter the booth. I resisted the strong urge to ask the dealer standing nearby, "Kitna deti hai?", and instead walked away.
One thing that struck me was the low ground clearance. I wondered how on earth you could drive this thing on Bombay's roads, but I was given the answer as I was walking out of the grounds towards the end of the show and saw the beast roar past by me. I sure hope there weren't any speedbreakers between here and wherever this guy was going.
Finally, there was the Jaguar booth. On display were its XJ 5.0L V8 and XKR 5.0L V8 Supercharged models. As before, not wanting to be subjected to another dose of British haughtiness, I quietly took whatever photos I could and walked away. Too bad they didn't park a couple of Tata Indicas next to them. That would've made a statement.
|The Jaguar XJ|
|The Jaguar XK|
[RELATED_ARTICLE]Well, that about sums up the cars on display. There was a second, smaller hall adjoining this one that was dedicated to the secondary industry, as in accessories, tuning, custom paints, etc. There was even a booth by Navnit Motors displaying a six-seater speedboat, and adjacent to that one was the "supercar gallery". Basically, the chaps at Autocar got a few of their friends who owned performance cars to come over and park their rides for a few days, quite like an afterthought. What an epic fail.
As for the accessory stalls themselves, there wasn't much of note. Pidilite was hawking its range of car care products, which included engine oil additives and oil flushes. If you have even the slightest bit of sense, you should realize that oil additives make little if any difference to engine performance, while adding a couple hundred ml of kerosene to your oil will achieve the same effect as a flush. If you don't believe me (and there's no reason why you should), read the following excellent articles here and here. As for products like perfumes and tyre cleaners — well, they're purely personal choices that have nothing whatsoever to do with vehicle performance, so to each his own.
Also present was MapMyIndia.com, displaying its new range of GPS devices, including the Zx150 Deluxe. While Google Maps is a lot faster in terms of speed, I still like these guys, since they were among the first to offer online directions in India.
Among the other stalls, Neo Wheels was hawking its range of alloy rims, while next to it were a couple of "custom modders" showing off their cheap vinyl paint jobs starting from Rs 40,000. What a scam.
In the car audio segment, Pioneer had a Swift on display, whose entire boot space was taken up by a sound system. Honestly, there are few things I can think of that are dumber than giving up your storage space and spending a few lakhs to install speakers whose max output you can't ever get close to without shattering something.
PowerBass seemed to have taken a more logical approach to the whole thing. Going by the system set up in its booth, its philosophy is that if you're spending this much money to perforate your eardrums, might as well get blinded along the way too! At least, that's what the multitude of neon lights in the boot area seems to suggest. Thankfully, its system at least didn't take up the whole trunk, and considering I'm a sucker for LED readouts, the dual voltage readings on its neon thingummy certainly seems to make it better looking than Pioneer's offering.
Just outside the exit was Mahindra's over-hyped "dirt track", which basically consisted of a steep up and down ramp with steps, and a pool of mucky water. My 10-year-old rustbucket Fiat Uno could've completed the course with little trouble, so I don't know what they were trying to prove driving a 4x4 over it. Directly opposite that was the Honda motorcycle "stunt area". I don't know if they had professional stunt bikers perform there, but when I passed by, they were holding a competition where you had to ride along a narrow plank for the longest time possible without putting your foot down. Since it was open to the public, this area had a considerably larger crowd, and I suppose it was a lot more fun than watching a bored Mahindra driver keep going in circles across that "dirt track". Whatever.
Basically, that's about it. If you'd expected something that could at least be compared to the Delhi Auto Expo, you'd be in for a huge disappointment. The whole floor could be covered in less than 30 minutes, and that's with taking your time over the exhibits. If this is supposed to be Bombay's "biggest and most exciting motor show", then I say just call the whole thing off and take the trouble of travelling to Delhi in January 2012 for the next edition of the country's biggest auto expo. Meh.
Booths That Rocked
- Hobby Central
- Honda Motorcycles
- Fiat (only because I'm a fanboy)
Booths That Sucked
- BMW (MAXIMUM SUCKAGE!)
- Rolls Royce
- DC Designs
- Supercar Gallery (WHAT A SCAM!)