Purchasing a DSLR camera can be testing for anyone new to the world of photography. There’s a lot to choose from. It’s a bit like walking into your local Starbucks; you can have your coffee with milk, without milk, with or without caffeine, in beige, in black, and with or without whipped cream.
It’s a similar tale of confusion when purchasing a DSLR camera. You’ll first have to pick sides for the Canon vs Nikon war. Then there’s all those pesky model numbers to pick from. Canon’s EOS lineup is roughly divided into 4 categories. You’ve got the pocket-friendly 4 digit, 1000D series, followed by entry level DSLRs which are denoted by 3 digits (EOS 500D, EOS 550D, 600D), then by the mid-range semi-pro DSLRs(50D, 60D) and topped off by the professional single-digit series (7D, 5D and the range topping EOS 1Ds)
At the moment, the EOS 600D rules the roost of Canon’s entry level lineup and here’s why:
- It’s got an 18MP APS-C CMOS Sensor
- 9 point AutoFocus
- 95% ViewFinder
- Full HD 1080p recording at up to 30FPS
- 10xDigital Zoom in video recording (only in 1080p mode)
- Manual control of audio settings
- Canon’s DIGIC 4 image processor
- 3.0 inch Variable Angle LCD screen(1,040,000 pixels)
- ISO range from 100 to 6400 (expandable to 12,800, with boost enabled)
- Continuous shooting of up to 3.7frames/sec
- Live View
- LP-E8 Lithium Ion battery that will last 440 shots (according to CIPA Standards) or 1:30 hours in Video Mode.
Let’s make a list of ingredients for an affordable sports-car recipe. You’ll need – a spirited & occasionally angry engine, looks only a mother could love, an even weight distribution, a quick transmission, low ground clearance, razor sharp rims, a throaty exhaust note, a dash of impracticality & finally – rear wheel drive.
Now let’s make a list of what the 2011 VW Scirocco offers – Front Headlamps that look like something Skynet would make? Check. Turbo Charged Engine? Check. Looks only its mommy would love? Check. Throaty exhaust note? (that pops, on gearshifts!!) Check. Double-Clutch transmission? Check. Slight impracticality? Slight-Check. Rear Wheel Drive? Mafi-Check. (that’s a poor Arabic-mashup for No)
You see, all 210 horses & 280Nms of torque the car is blessed with, hit the tarmac with its front wheels only. Conventional driving wisdom would now point & laugh at the Scirocco. The Scirocco would probably respond by running over conventional wisdom with its 18″ front wheels. You see, despite being FWD the Scirocco suffers none of the deficiencies associated with front wheel drives and handles surprisingly well. It has a 0-60 time of 6.9 seconds, a top speed of 238 Kmph and its exhaust note is grin-inducing. It is a bit of a driver’s car.
Our review car came with a decent tech loadout that included VW’s standard SatNav system, USB/iPod connectivity built into the front arm rests, a panoramic sunroof that filters out UV radiation, HID lights & 18inch Interlagos wheels. Standard equipment on all cars includes 6 airbags, traction control, height-adjustable front seats, leather steering wheel and sport chassis.
That’s the good news. The bad news is the car’s insides. I’m not a huge fan of VW interiors – they’re painfully simple. The Scirocco, despite its flat-bottomed steering wheel and large triangular door handles suffers from a slight case of interior-blandness-syndrome. Which is surprising, because the VW Group enjoys a close relationship with Porsche and actually owns Audi, Bentley, Bugatti & Lamborghini – these are marques with stunning, jaw-dropping interiors. So there’s no reason why VW’s own lineup should not have trend-setting interiors.
On the road, the Scirocco has got a good dual personality. That means you can live with it as your daily driver & turn it into a turbo-charged go-kart should the boy (or girl) in you want to come out and play. Its also comfortable, has rear seats that fold down giving you extra boot space (755 liters to be exact) and is easy to park with its rear-camera system. The rear seats also offer decent leg space, but may give the passengers at the back a case of claustrophobia – due to its tiny windows.
VW Middle East offers the Scirocco in two variants – there’s a 160BHP 1.4 liter version that comes with a 7 Speed DSG transmission and the more powerful 2.0 liter 210BHP version with a 6 speed DSG transmission. Both transmissions also feature Dual Clutches. A Dual Clutch gearbox has two advantages – it eliminates “the jerk” you feel when cars shift from one gear to another, and it leads to super-quick shift times.
Should you not prefer the Golf GTI’s boxy looks; the Scirocco is a great alternative. Its a fun-to-drive, slightly better looking & practical car.
Flagships are typically the fastest, largest, most heavily armed ships in a battle. They also generally lead the charge on the enemy and – as a result have to look spectacularly awe-inspiring. So when Audi sat down to redesign their top-of-the-range-uber-luxury A8, they made sure it looked the part.
Its titanic front grille looks like an incoming steam train – a steam train with a kajillion LED lights. The A8 is one of the first few cars on the planet to feature all-LED exterior lights and Audi has arranged them in the best way possible – to look like wingtips. Its looks are a topic of hot debate among car enthusiasts. Some say its meat-grinder front end is a little too ostentatious for a luxury car, while others rebuke that argument by pointing to the Rolls Royce Phantom. Love it or hate it, the A8 commands road presence; while test driving it – the sheer volume of traffic falling over itself to get out of my way, made me grin.
The car’s V8 engine puts out 372 BHP and displaces 4.2 liters. Torque figures stand at 445Nm @ 3,500RPM. Should you feel that’s not enough, there’s a 500BHP W12 version coming soon to the UAE. The V8 does 0-100 Kmph in a respectable 5.8 seconds. The W12 variant stomps those figures out at 4.7 seconds. The A8 also features Audi’s Quattro (4WD) system which splits torque 40/60 between the front & rear and comes standard with an adaptive air suspension. Despite its size, the A8 is surprisingly fuel efficient (thanks to its all-aluminum frame). It consumes 9.7liters/100Kms – that makes it as fuel efficient as some larger luxury hybrids such as the S-Class or the 7 Series.
Picture this – you’re a Hybrid and it’s your first day of school. You walk into your class and are greeted by a projectile, a chalk – thrown at you by a big bad group of SUV’s lurking at the back of the classroom. They’ve targeted you because you’re different and you have a funny name – CT 200h. You quickly realize that this is how things are going to be for the rest of the year. Finally, one day, fed up of explaining Peak-Oil theory to your petrol powered friends and of all the bullying you’ve endured at the hands of the V8′s & V12′s of the school – you stick up for yourself and there’s an inevitable car chase. If you’re the Lexus CT 200h, you’ll get away, every single time.
Want to know why? Range – lots of it. While everybody chasing you will eventually have to stop for a drink of petrol. Like the Energizer Bunny, you’ll simply keep going – because that’s what Hybrids do.
The Lexus CT 200h is an exceptional Hybrid. With a RSP starting at 130,000 AED it’s also the lowest priced Lexus you can get your hands on. It’s based on the Scion tC platform and has a powertrain derived from the Toyota Prius. It was designed by a guy called Osamu Sadakata – who’s also been responsible for the development of the Lexus RX & LS 600h Hybrids. The man knows a thing or two about putting batteries in cars.
So, has Mr. Sadakata simply created a Prius in a fancy dress? No, not by a long shot. The CT 200h is definitely not a quick car, its 0-60 time is about 10 seconds (in Sports Mode) – so you’re not going to be winning any drag races. Its 134BHP are derived from a combination of a 1.8 Liter, high efficiency Atkinson Cycle Engine & an electric motor mated to 202-volt NiMh Batteries. The Atkinson Cycle engine, while being very fuel efficient lacks low-end torque. To compensate the batteries can be boosted up to 650Volts to give you extra-oomph – and you will need every bit of that extra power to overtake anything going over 120Kmph on the highway.
However, being a Hybrid – what the CT 200h lacks in power, it makes up for in its phenomenal fuel efficiency. The car has a fuel tank capacity of 45 Liters, and a theoretical driving range of around 1098 kilometers. To put that in perspective – you could drive from Dubai to Abu Dhabi and back (a round trip of 240kms) about 4 times before you would have to stop for petrol. That’s an astonishing achievement for a car that comfortably seats 5, comes loaded with SatNav, 17 inch wheels, heated seats, a rear-camera, an electric sunroof, an 8-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat, a sublime audio system & the bullet-proof build quality of a Lexus.
The CT 200h also features CVT – a Continuously Varying Transmission. This type of transmission system uses pulleys instead of gears, and therefore does not require a clutch. This means you won’t ever feel a “gear change” as you accelerate. Also, the lack of clutch makes for a much lighter car.
When the Volkswagen Touareg was a baby – its parents gave it some advice, they said “Baby Touareg, when you grow up, you’re going to be the most sensible SUV to ever roll out of Germany- and baby Touareg’s been driving down the straight & narrow lane ever since. Now all grown up and in its Second Generation – we test drove the new VW to find out how it lived up to its parental advice. We neglected to tell the car that it’s not built in Germany however – Touareg’s are actually made in Slovakia.
But don’t be fooled by its Slovakian heritage though, you see – the 2011 Touareg rolls out with Volkswagen’s new “Design DNA” – and armed with all that German genetic code, evolution has been very kind to this car. The big VW joins the ranks of the Golf & Scirocco with their super-sharp looks. At the front, you get LED running lights, a sportier grille & a more chiseled, aerodynamic look. At the back, you get redesigned taillights and exhaust pipes that look like they’re meant to shoot things. It’s also about 208kgs lighter with a wider wheelbase & rests lower. So when it drives by – the Touareg will probably make a lot of older, rounder SUV’s want to head to Fitness First.
Muzzled behind those new LED’s is the Touareg’s V6 powerplant, which puts you in command of 280 horses & 360 torques and comes in V6, V8– as well as an environmentally friendly SuperCharged-Hybrid variant. Our test car was the V6 FSI – and while it felt a bit under powered on lower revs, it’s engine does come alive past the 3,500RPM mark. So should you feel like overtaking anything that’s not already gotten out of the way of your mean front grille, put your foot down and you’ll have little to complain about. However, to judge the Touareg on its power, would be to miss the point – because, this car is like that unassuming friend who you’ve written-off as a simpleton – until she sits down & plays Mozart on the piano at the karaoke bar. There’s a lot more to the Touareg than meets the eye.
BMW’s 5 series needs no introduction, it has been defining the Executive-Sports Saloon genre since the past decade – but with the departure of Chris Bangle, BMW’s controversial Chief of Design many a fan were left wondering what the new guy – Adrian Van Hooydonk would come up with. Well rest assured fellow petrol heads, the new 5 series not only puts the U in Ultimate Driving Machine but highlights it & sets it in bold.
Let’s start with the statistics: the 550i is powered by a tarmac wrinkling, 407Bhp TwinTurbo V8, that displaces 4.4 liters & spews out 600nms of torque. Its so quick that you could sneeze while driving it & end up with a speeding ticket because your foot involuntarily twitched on the gas pedal.
All that V8 power assaults the road with an 8-speed ZF Steptronic transmission that’s able to change gears in 200milliseconds – non-sequentially. That means, conditions permitting – it can downshift from 8th gear to 2nd directly. All this tech-wizardry makes for a very quick car as 0-100 kmph is achieved in mere 5 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 250 kmph.
All that dramatic power comes packaged in a redesigned exterior that looks cleaner with softer lines than the outgoing E60 – and in back-to-roots BMW styling features a slightly forward leaning grille. The new 5 series does share a lot of features with the 7 series platform, but all the while retains its own distinct identity. The wheelbase has been extended by 10cms & the car now sits on a wider track. It’s also lower and a bit wider than the E60 – and dare I say it, looks more grown up.