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Old 1st March 2017, 14:34   #76
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Default Re: Driving Experience: Premium vs Mainstream Cars

This is where I can connect with the proverb 'Small drops make an ocean'. With the cars, I think this is where a bunch of small differences make a large impact.

Whether these small differences are appreciated or acknowledged is a different story because they are mostly incorporated on things that we usually do not give high priority to or aren't as easily noticeable or they may even be things we simply just take for granted.

Functionally, they could be just the same. A 2.0L diesel + 6 speed gearbox with FWD used in a VW Jetta or a Volvo S60 could be just the same with some minor +/- in power output. They would still seat 5. They would still have dual-zone climate control. They would still have the indicator levers on the left.

But seriously, it's impossible to point them out on paper. Because the difference is not often tangible. The differences anchor around the word 'experience'.

It's the ergonomics that offer the most immediate difference - bolstered seats natively offer great lumbar support and thigh support is very generous. They take your weight evenly and distribute the support uniformly. Rear seats in the S60 make a world of a difference.

Then there's the interiors - leather wrapped dashboard to give you the soft touch feel, the quality of plastics being uniform and not deteriorating as you move to the centre portion between the front two seats.

Running sound - cars like the Camry Hybrid even use Yokohoma Decibel to reduce tyre noises. Wind noise is also significantly low in most cars. Sound makes a huge impact when it comes to confidence, higher the ambient sound, lower your confidence as you feel that you're going too fast.

The difference in ride and handling is great, but it's mostly intangible unless you take it to unconventional speeds.

Then I'd say the tech and the features part come in to prove the cost.

But on the bigger picture, I think what I'm trying to say is that these cars have justifiable reasons to command that price tag or make it deserve your money. Problem is that we sometimes tend to dismiss those differences with a 'Hey, those are just seats' or go like 'Leather dashboards - WOW'.
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Old 3rd March 2017, 13:29   #77
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Default Re: Driving Experience: Premium vs Mainstream Cars

Quote:
Originally Posted by smartcat View Post
My questions in this thread are addressed to those who own premium brands like BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Jaguar, Volvo & Land Rover
Thank you for this amazing thread, I have frequently had this discussion with friends on how ‘premium’ cars differ from the regular cars and are they really worth that much more? I have been extremely lucky to have driven or be driven around in some really special cars and hope this gives insight for people who haven’t had a chance to yet.

The difference between a mainstream and premium car:

You approach the car and it comes alive, waiting there looking all angry. Grab the handle and the car unlocks and illuminates the entire interior and exterior (Angel lights, puddle lamps and the mirror/ears open up). Open the door and the rest of interior lights go dim and there is an intense beam of light directed only towards the driver's seat which slides back invitingly. Sit inside and close the soft close doors which close themselves while the seat moves ahead and the steering reaches out, you are in a cocoon. Thumb the starter and suddenly things get busy the instrument cluster lights up and you see the most powerful letter in the world. The headlights do a recce of the runway ahead of you before you prepare for liftoff. Your hand gently pushes the gear lever to engage into a drive, the car reminds you if you’ve missed any important detail in a subtle way. The world fades away and everything is replaced with your favourite soundtrack.


The real difference is how engaging the drive is in premium cars, a good way to describe is that the cars have a much higher ceiling of performance than normal cars. The vehicle is always working to ensure you are in complete control. When accelerating downhill on a flyover in a verna you will find the car completely bottoming out and wallowing all over the place. In the F30 the feeling is like being on a padded gyroscopically suspended platform! When you hit not so good parts of the road (dust on the edge, undulations) you see the traction light come on but the car doesn’t lose composure at-all. This feeling is amplified as you go higher up the food chain with some modern cars having mind-blowing ability to put the power down and shave off speed. (GTR, AUDI RS etc.)

Difference in traffic, highway, short grocery run

These cars are better in traffic thanks to automatic gearboxes coupled with great seats and stereo systems. But cars with low profile tires are just a pain to drive anywhere because of the risk of a blowout. But if you have great roads the ability of them to chew up miles is astounding. My 3 series is completely at ease at 130km/h which is its cruising speed. Would never them during grocery runs because like many others before I have mentioned that parking is always the biggest issue.

Would you say that the driving experience is so significantly better that everybody should own one of these brands at least once in a lifetime?

Absolutely, if you are a petrolhead there is nothing else that will make you happier than owning your dream car. On those high-stress work days or when nothing seems to be going right. I’ve mentioned this in my ownership thread as well, a car is like the only true friend you will ever have. It will always be there by your side and happily sacrifice itself to save you. Such an intense relationship or feeling will never exist with a ‘plain’ car. The car doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive for it to be good.

Looking at the numbers, one significant advantage of premium brands is the availability of 200 BHP+ cars. But these days, many mainstream models can crack the sub-11 sec 0 to 100 kmph mark. And premium models manage to touch 100 kmph in 8 to 10 seconds. So, is there a significant difference between a 130 BHP (mainstream) car and 180 BHP (premium) car in real world city and highway conditions?

My 328i does the 0-100 run in 5.5sec with launch control, and even in the 320d yes you feel a significant difference in almost every-way with the car squatting on a hard launch and the sports gearbox kicking you in the back during a redline upshift. Heck, I would go as far as saying that it has too much power, usually, this happens when you are trying to overtake someone and drop a few gears to enjoy the acceleration and before you know if you are doing north of 150 and have to let go of the throttle. In a normal car, you accelerate and wait for it to move. In powerful cars, you need to be always 100% even watching the back because others can’t brake as hard or change direction as quickly as you. I've gotten rear ended because people are just not paying attention to the road. One of the most annoying things is when you see a gap and you know you’ll easily make it but the others on the road don’t realise it and cut you off. This situation is compounded with an increase in power because of the momentum you are carrying. Also, this is not always a good thing, my wife doesn’t like the acceleration in my car and I have to drive very sedately when she is on-board. Being a passenger is palatable up to 400hp in my books, I’ve been in cars with more power than that and its almost always exclusively not a pleasant experience unless you are in the driving seat.

Fatigue

Absolutely, these cars have a world of difference in terms of ergonomics and comfort.

Are there any mainstream models that can offer 90% of driving experience (power, refinement, acceleration, steering feel & feedback, features, build quality, ride quality, noise insulation) at 50% of the cost?

Yes, there are a few, but most of them excel in one department and have tradeoffs in other places to compensate. But here comes in the beauty of lateral upgrades. Best example would be what you mentioned initially. XUV500 costs 20 lakhs which is how much I paid for the 328i.

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Old 4th March 2017, 08:00   #78
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Default Re: Driving Experience: Premium vs Mainstream Cars

Having owned a Honda Civic MT (daily drive) and an Audi Q5 (dad's car) and driven both of them considerably, I can give some input on this though the Honda Civic is almost a generation behind compared to today's mainstream brand models in the 20 lakh price bracket.

1) How significant is the difference in driving experience (power, features, build quality, ride quality, NVH, acceleration etc) ?

The Q5 is a 2 litre diesel and does 0-100 kph in around 8.1 seconds which is also delivered really well with the 7 speed DSG gearbox. It's a breeze to reach triple digit speeds and keep going. Overtaking is also very easy if you shift to the sport mode on the gearbox. The electric steering is light and weighs up well at high speeds.

The features it offers are all comparable to the ones offered in the 20 lakh bracket except for a few like the motorized blinds for the panoramic sunroof, cruise control stick, triple zone AC, etc. The build quality is definitely better, feels plush, rich and it's hard to find places where cost cutting is blatant. NVH levels are definitely better as the vehicle is isolated from outside sounds well, vibrations are almost zero and only the sweet part of the engine clatter is still audible.

Compare all this to a 2008 Civic MT and its age is immediately evident. A six CD changer is no longer relevant. But, the Civic sits on an IRS at the back unlike many cars in the 20 lakh bracket today which use torsion bar suspension in the rear to cut costs. The Civic's petrol engine is free revving and it's gb slots well. The clutch is on the harder side and the steering is hydraulic. But I'm not complaining. So it depends on what one's looking for.


2) Do you experience this difference in all conditions? In heavy traffic? On a short grocery run? On the expressway? While overtaking a fast moving car on a state highway? In the ghats?

Yes. In my case, the difference is more pronounced since one is a crossover and an automatic. The auto is no doubt a lifesaver is heavy traffic. But in Indian heavy traffic, you are always worried about dents and scratches if you are driving a luxury vehicle. Also, the Q5 feels fairly big to handle in heavy traffic owing to its long bonnet and width.

On an expressway, in the ghats, I'd prefer the Q5 anyday. Though overtaking is easy, one should be aware of the time taken by the auto to downshift once you floor the accelerator.

3) Would you say that the driving experience is so significantly better that everybody should own one of these brands at least once in a lifetime? Only interested from driving experience point of view, and not additional benefits like prestige/image etc nor issues like high sticker price/ maintenance costs
/reliability etc.


When you compare it to the Civic, yes definitely.

Since the Q5 is an SUV/crossover, in this segment i would still stick with yes. This is because most of the comparable SUV/crossovers in the 20 lakh bracket behave like proper SUVs. The XUV500 for example, though built using a monocoque chassis still doesn't inspire sedan like confidence while going around corners, power delivery and acceleration. It feels like a proper heavy SUV. But this gap is soon being bridged by cars like the new Hyundai Tucson.

Generally speaking, gone are the days where those luxury brands had an entirely different driving appeal. Most premium brands are catching up and catching up fast. But, there is always something amiss in the premium segment vehicles. Be it the power delivery, the gearbox, some glaring quality compromises, suspension setup, etc. IMO, 90% of the people out there wouldn't notice those differences and hence, you need not own a luxury brand model to experience the ultimate driving experience.

4) Looking at the numbers, one significant advantage of premium brands is the availability of 200 BHP+ cars. But these days, many mainstream models can crack the sub-11 sec 0 to 100 kmph mark. And premium models manage to touch 100 kmph in 8 to 10 seconds. So, is there a significant difference between a 130 BHP (mainstream) car and 180 BHP (premium) car in real world city and highway conditions?

Performance wise, the gap is very narrow in the real world. A 130bhp premium segment car can hold it's own both in the real world city and highway conditions.

The key difference would be the feel good factor. We all have seen people reaching destinations faster than an Audi in a beaten down Tata Sumo. Unless you're doing 140+ kmph runs with lots of slowing down and accelerating back to a 140+ speed, you would not feel a 130bhp mainstream car is lacking anywhere.

5) On highways, do you actually get to a destination faster? And with less fatigue in a premium car?

In my case, yes. But that's primarily due to the MT and a hard clutch.


6) Are there any mainstream models that can offer 90% of driving experience (power, refinement, acceleration, steering feel & feedback, features, build quality, ride quality, noise insulation) at 50% of the cost?


IMO, the Skoda Octavia 1.8 TSI AT, VW Jetta TDI AT come close to their Luxury car rivals in the parameters mentioned above.

I feel the Hyundai Tuscon diesel AT (180bhp variant) is the only one that comes close to the luxury brand SUV/crossover models.
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Old 27th March 2017, 05:25   #79
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Default Re: Driving Experience: Premium vs Mainstream Cars

So, I've driven a 'luxury' brand (Audi, BMW, Merc, Lexus), but I've graduated from an Alto k10 and a Maruti Suzuki Baleno in my college days in India to a Nissan Altima (Comparable to a Honda Accord) in the US.
And while the Nissan is more or less what you'd commonly see on the roads in the US, it would fit into the executive bracket of cars in India. It might not be premium but I'm going to talk more about the differences in jumping up the segments.

1. How significant is the driving experience:
In one word: Very. Sedans in the US are not as pliant as their Indian counterparts because the roads tend to be nicer on this side of the earth, but the drive feels a lot more comfortable. You get features like 'Zero gravity foam' seats which keep you comfy on 6+ hour drives and cruise control and a responsive CVT make the drive enjoyable. The car is also more athletic than an entry level sedan, and the space in the cabin is just a lot more. Materials are way better, and the features you get(voice recognition, infotainment system, park assist, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning) tend to pamper you.

2. Do you experience this difference in all conditions?
I'd have to say no. Speed limits are strictly followed here, so mostly in the city, I'd be driving sedately and not really pushing the 190hp 2.5L 4 cylinder. My Nissan hits 0-60mph (thats almost 0-100kmph) in 7.8 seconds, which is 'normal' for cars here but a huge step above what people normally drive in India. And I'd experience that only on highways while merging, when I need a quick burst of power. I'll put the transmission into sport mode and the car just surges forward. Thats something I really notice after 4 years of driving a 68hp 3 cylinder Alto.

3. Is this experience worth the upgrade?
Yes. There really isn't any way to explain the feeling of finally owning a nice car. While its pretty normal here in the US, you do feel accomplished when you look back at what you used to drive. I do plan to upgrade to a Lexus or an Audi in about 4 years, and I'm looking forward to that next step just from experiencing the jump I've made so far.
However, reliability of certain German brands are questionable. I've seen 3+ year old BMW's giving owners a lot of trouble, especially with leaking valve cover gaskets and head gaskets. German cars have higher maintenance costs, and in a country like the US, I'd rather drive a Japanese luxury brand than risk it with a BMW or a Merc, though Audi has really worked on their game and are really upping their reliability ratings.
4. On highways, do I get to my destination faster
Not really. I usually do 10 above the speed limit at max, and highly advise everyone else out here to stick to safe driving no matter what car you're in or how powerful it may be.
Do I get to my destination with less fatigue? Hell yes. In my Alto, I'd max out after 3 hours behind the wheel. In my Nissan, I could do a 6 hour drive and still feel fresh as a daisy.
6. Mainstream alternatives?
I've looked at the Suzuki Baleno, it looks pretty impressive for the price point. And there's always the Honda City. Tech on cars is becoming cheaper and cheaper over time.
If you want a hint of luxury, the Skoda Octavia looks really nice. The VW Jetta drives great. And Hyundai just came out with a nice new Elantra. These are all entry level sedans but they compete with more expensive cars on features.
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Old 28th March 2017, 01:48   #80
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Default Re: Driving Experience: Premium vs Mainstream Cars

Quote:
Originally Posted by smartcat View Post
My questions in this thread are addressed to those who own premium brands like BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Jaguar, Volvo & Land Rover - but preferably, those who also own & drive a mainstream brand car (like Hyundai or a Toyota) daily or on weekends.

1) How significant is the difference in driving experience (power, features, build quality, ride quality, NVH, acceleration etc) between a Rs. 20 Lacs
mainstream brand/model (Eg: XUV 500) and a Rs. 50 Lacs premium brand/model (Eg: Audi Q3)?


2) Do you experience this difference in all conditions? In heavy traffic? On a short grocery run? On the expressway? While overtaking a fast moving car on a state highway? In the ghats?

3) Would you say that the driving experience is so significantly better that everybody should own one of these brands at least once in a lifetime? Only interested from driving experience point of view, and not additional benefits like prestige/image etc nor issues like high sticker price/ maintenance costs
/reliability etc.

4) Looking at the numbers, one significant advantage of premium brands is the availability of 200 BHP+ cars. But these days, many mainstream models can crack the sub-11 sec 0 to 100 kmph mark. And premium models manage to touch 100 kmph in 8 to 10 seconds. So, is there a significant difference between a 130 BHP (mainstream) car and 180 BHP (premium) car in real world city and highway conditions?

5) On highways, do you actually get to a destination faster? And with less fatigue in a premium car?

6) Are there any mainstream models that can offer 90% of driving experience (power, refinement, acceleration, steering feel & feedback, features, build quality, ride quality, noise insulation) at 50% of the cost?
I have a XUV500 and a X1
Here are the pros and cons for both

X1 Wins on;
- While on paper, the X1 is only about 30% higher in bhp ratings , the actual power delivery is far superior and the Beemer easily feels 2x better in terms of acceleration and power delivery (the weight is approx similar for both)

- The handling - On the downhill loops from Pune to Mumbai, I never feel comfortable on the XUV unless I drop the speed drastically while the X1 fares significantly better

- Front seat ride - My wife and I have swapped cars (the XUV is hers) while we are expecting- She feels a lot more comfortable and less fatigued in the X1 (per her, it is the lack of sideway motion on the X1)

- Ergonomics: Everything on the X1 seems to have been designed with usability in mind while the XUV despite more feature loaded doesnt see the aforementioned features being used (touchscreen while driving..seriously?)

XUV
- Much Much more space than the X1 at half the price

- Worry free ownership - I have no hesitations taking the XUV out on terrible roads or riding it roughshod - If in case something fails, it won't dent my pocket to get it fixed


PS: For what its worth, the image/prestige factor has not been a consideration in any car purchase for me so far
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