To win this most prestigious and coveted of awards, the game the manufacturers have to play is one of pushing boundaries and exceeding expectations. With a firm emphasis on credibility and integrity, a fool proof evaluation process had been crafted for the jury members of the Times Auto Awards in association with evo India and Fast Bikes. Two full days had been set aside for the jury to put the four-wheelers and two-wheelers through intensive testing and evaluation on the 3.7km long Madras Motor Race Track (MMRT) in Chennai. To keep the playing field level and to remove any ambiguity, vehicles that were not sent for evaluation were summarily disqualified. In effect, this ensured that all jury members evaluated the same vehicles.
In each category, the jury members ranked the contenders in descending order with the winner of each category becoming the contender for the overall Car of the Year and Two-Wheeler of the Year awards, which would be decided on the basis of points allotted to each contender by the jury members. Needless to say, the winner of the overall Car of the Year award and the Two Wheeler of the Year award would be the one with the maximum points.
Four wheeler winners are –
Hatchback of the year
The Ignis is a brave car from Maruti Suzuki with its unconventional styling. But underneath those clothes lies a perfect city car – surprisingly spacious, ridiculously easy to maneuver, with the option of an automatic gearbox and – what our jury found to their surprise – fun to drive as well.
Compact Sedan of the year
Not for nothing is the Compact Sedan class also called the Dzire category. This new Dzire takes everything that Indians loved about the outgoing model and made it better. The light weight means better power and fuel efficiency, there’s more space efficiency, better driving dynamics, nicer interiors, nicer exterior styling – it’s better in all respects and easily trounces the competition.
Premium Sedan of the year
Now in its 3rd generation in India the new Hyundai Verna represents a massive leap forward on the dynamic front while improving on styling, features, performance and refinement. In fact the evo team like it so much they drove down to the Expo in the Verna and that’s the ultimate seal of approval.
Luxury Sedan of the year
For 20 years the Mercedes-Benz E-Class has set the benchmark for luxury in India and with this new generation Mercedes shifts the goalposts by a huge margin. Debuting in long wheelbase form the new E has acres of space, phenomenal interiors, a new engine, fantastic comfort and is still good fun to drive. It is the luxury benchmark, and by a huge margin at that.
Compact SUV of the year
The Nexon might be late to the party but that’s actually its trump card for Tata Motors has understood what Indian buyers want in this segment and delivered with strong engines, good interiors, excellent road manners, great space and wrapped it all up in absolutely striking lines that turns heads twenty to the dozen.
SUV of the year
To say the Jeep Compass is a transformational product would be the understatement of the decade. The Compass has single handedly turned around the fortunes of FCA in India, pumped fresh vigour into the dealer network and wowed customers with its blend of fantastic styling, brilliant dynamics, great interiors and true-to-its-roots Jeep DNA.
Luxury SUV of the year
The Discovery is the SUV that crossed tropical jungles and mighty rivers on the iconic Camel Trophy events, the SUV that conquered the Dakar and now, in its latest generation, has lot none of that mighty 4×4 capabilities while adding massively on the luxury quotient. This is one luxury SUV that doesn’t mind – hell – it actually loves getting muddy.
UV/MPV of the year
Marrying the best parts of an SUV with the space and practicality of an MPV the Hexa really is in a class of its own. It is comfortable but has that rugged feel of an SUV from behind the wheel, it can take 7 people but with 4×4 engaged it can climb up snow-covered Himalayan passes, it has a powerful engine with an automatic transmission, it has appropriately muscular styling and the biggest wheels in its class, it is the best of all worlds.
Performance/Supercar of the year
While speed and performance are criticial sportscars are all about balance, precision, engagement and the seat of the pants feel and nothing delivers that sensory thrill than the new Porsche 718 Cayman. It may only have a 2-litre motor but thanks to turbo charging and even more so the beautiful chassis the Cayman is an utter joy, whether on road or on track. And for the first time a Porsche is sensibly priced, adding the cherry to the cake.
Thrill of driving award
RS! Two alphabets that put a mighty wide smile on the face of any enthusiast. In terms of price to performance, or smiles per horsepower nothing comes close to the Skoda Octavia RS. It is all the car you will ever need with performance, space, practicality, features – everything. and it doesn’t ground its belly on speed breakers.
Two-wheeler winners are –
Motorcycle of the year upto 160cc
A class of bike which was for years the entry level sporty segment is now fast becoming the preserve for an emerging breed of executive commuters and in this category the winner with an avant garde style and configuration of motorcycle is the Suzuki Intruder!
Motorcycle of the year upto 250cc
This is the new sporty performance class that exemplifies an emerging India and given its maker’s Ready to Race tag line, the KTM 250 Duke is the winner in this very exciting class.
Motorcycle of the year upto 500cc
One of the most important categories of motorcycle in the country with many new and established brands fighting for a slice of the pie, this class in 2017 was again jam packed with great bikes from Benelli and Bajaj Auto but in a close finish it was the India-made KTM 390 Duke that bested all to win the class.
Scooter of the year
Commanding a near 40% chunk of the Indian two-wheeler market, scooters are the most affordable and convenient form of personal mobility for our masses. Not content with dominating the mind with its Activa which is now the best-selling two-wheeler brand in the country, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India continues to innovate and deliver different options in this category and one of the newest and also very welcome yet different applications seen on our roads for a very long time is the Honda Cliq, our Scooter of the Year!
Neo-retro motorcycle of the year
Classic styled motorcycles with modern mechanicals and impeccable handling and dynamics determines this category of motorcycle and making its presence felt for the first year with its legendary boxer-twin cylinder engines is BMW which walks away with honours for its awesome R NineT!
Cruiser of the year
This is a category of the heavyweights and also one which emanated from the USA so fittingly this year an American motorcycle emerges from the fray to carry away this award. Put your hands together to welcome our Cruiser of the Year, the all new and very exciting Harley-Davidson Fat Bob.
Sport naked bike of the year
The title might seem to be a misnomer but this is the large sized equivalent of the small compact performance sports category and one which is now getting filled with every OEM entering new offerings to grab a sizeable chunk of the pie. In such a rarefied class of motorcycle the bike which walks away as the winner this year is the Triumph Street Triple RS.
Adventure bike of the year
This is a category that is gaining traction with each passing year and this year the winner in this category reflecting its global leadership is none other than the BMW R 1200 GS, the machine with which every adventure bike in the world is measured.
Superbike of the year
Always one of the hottest categories of the year with many a brand unleashing their horses for outright performance glory, this year’s deserved winner in class is the awesomely supreme Suzuki GSX-R 1100R.
Motorsport award of the year
Gaurav Gill is not just India’s best rally having won the INRC for a record fifth time this year, he is not only Asia’s best rally driver but he is the best rally driver in the entire Asia Pacific region having won the APRC title for a third time in 2017. This guy deserves to head to Europe and fight it out with the best rally drivers in the world and he needs the support of the Indian automotive industry.
Motorsport award of the year
It’s rare to hear the Indian national anthem play out an international race meets but Mahindra Racing has been doing exactly that winning races in the all-electric Formula E championship against the best and strongest teams in the world. Nobody gave them a chance but having finished second runner up in Season 4 they’re now firmly in the championship hunt in season 5, flying the flag for the nation.
Bikesport award of the year
This is one category that highlights an emerging trend of major Indian bike makers, nearly all of them home-grown taking their creative and technological strengths to compete on the global stage against the world’s best. In recent years we saw Mahindra Racing fly the tricolour with aplomb on the Moto3 Grand Prix circuits while in recent years we have had Hero MotoSports and Sherco-TVS do it on the tough dirt tracks the world over. Not unnaturally this year’s winner comes from the latter two and our winner is none other than Team Hero MotoSports for its outstanding performance and showing in desert rally raids.
Design of the year
What is design if it does not evoke an emotional response? That’s something the Tata Motors design team have been able to evoke brilliantly with the Nexon – it looks eye catching, has those typical Tata Motors styling cues and looks like a concept car that rolled off the Expo floors and into showrooms. Expect to see very many of them on the roads in the days to come, marking a revival for Tata Motors.
Bikemaker of the year
We have been monitoring the performance of all our bike makers now for well over the last three and a half decades and in this aspect we once again looked at some of the best performing two-wheeler OEMs but our winner was decided on the basis of having:
The right balance of product and passion.
The right balance of scooters and motorcycles.
The right balance of global quality standards and home-grown ingenuity.
The right balance of sales and service experiences.
The right balance of physical and digital interfaces.
The right balance of ambition and ethics.
We are delighted to announce that TVS Motor Company has won our Bike Maker of the Year for 2017!
Carmaker of the year
Maruti Suzuki is a brand that needs no introduction in the country. Known to have made budget friendly and conventional cars in the past, the Maruti Suzuki has surely set that tag aside with the launch of interesting Nexa products. The carmaker has its own inimitable ways; everything is admirable, aspirational and ambitious, continues to defy conventional logic and continue to deliver a terrific consumer experience.
Luxury carmaker of the year
Mercedes-Benz was one of the first few luxury carmakers which started manufacturing in the country back in the 90’s. Being in the country for over two decades, Mercedes-Benz surely has understood the market and consumer. The carmaker continues to deliver a terrific consumer experience in terms of sales and service , innovates and executes initiatives like StarLease and focuses to grow its customer base.
Bike of the year
From all our class winners put into the final mix, what emerged this year was an overwhelming bias and thrust towards performance. In a field that had some of the best vying for outright honours the Times Auto Awards Bike of the Year is the KTM 390 Duke!
Car of the year
The Nexon marks a new era at the venerable Tata Motors – a compact SUV to take on the best in the world and come out on top. No longer does Tata Motors have to be apologetic for anything for its quality, its ride and handling balance, its interiors and most of all its styling is right up there with the best while at the same time not forgetting that value for money factor that has always been crucial with Tata Motors. Congratulations Tata Motors, we can’t wait to see the Nexon swamp our roads.