The Auto Car Flop Show

Did Audi executives cry themselves to sleep after watching this review of their newly launched SUV?

Indians love SUVs. While for some it’s the flaunt factor, most SUV-owners and aspirants enjoy their vehicle because the real value add lies in the fact that they drive easily through the toughest road conditions – which in India is reason enough to own one.

Whatever be the reason, both international and domestic manufacturers have been competing hard to offer the Indian customer various options. Today there are SUVs of different sizes, power, and distinctive features, spread amongst several price brackets in India to meet this growing demand.

The Audi Q7 has been the highest selling in the luxury SUV segment in India and is a favorite amongst those who can afford it. It is massive, powerful, extremely luxurious, and will soon be introduced to India in an even more epic avatar – the Q7 V12 TDI. To put this in perspective, most Q7s in India carry either a V6 or a V8 engine (refers to the number of cylinders present inside), both of which are tremendously powerful. The introduction of a V12 (first used in airplanes and now, mostly in supercars & top end sedans including Rolls Royces & Bentleys) SUV was bound to create a lot of anticipation amongst enthusiasts to see how much better the new Q7 would perform compared to its predecessors.

Therefore when a new SUV in the market is reviewed on camera, it’s usually tested vigorously through different; road, terrain & weather conditions, on hilly slopes, through deserts & waist deep waters to truly demonstrate its capabilities for the prospective customer watching the review. The geniuses on The Auto Car Show, Bloomberg UTV, though, didn’t think they needed to do ANY of the above while conducting their review.

Deputy Editor of Auto Car India, Mr. Shapur Kotwal, decided that it was time to be on TV and share his two cents (and strange humor) with the world. I’m certain that Audi executives monitoring global marketing cried themselves to sleep after watching his review of their latest Q variant, which happens to be the most powerful diesel SUV ever made.

For starters, Shapur’s ability to ‘present’ a car review was about as strong as an Indian politician’s inclination towards supporting an anti-corruption campaign. Secondly, when reviewing a meaner version of an already very mean SUV, one would usually focus on one of the major premises for which SUVs are built: testing their off road capabilities. Shapur didn’t even talk about that, let alone demonstrate it! He literally drove the Q7 V12 through a smooth highway while describing the different sounds the V12 engine made and how that sound “warmed the cockles of his heart” (sounds a tad creepy doesn’t it?). Moreover, how does a TV review of such a powerful SUV enable its viewers to grasp the force, torque, power and effect of tapping the gas if the camera is focused inside the car instead of from the outside? All the audience got to see was Shapur grunting and groaning as though he were in need of some serious laxatives. And believe me, this review was crazier (or more inadequate) than I’ve described it to be so far. Ultimately that’s why this review bombed; because it wasn’t about the Q7 V12 being reviewed. It was more about displaying on camera: a) Shapur excited about being on TV & b) Driving a ridiculously powerful V12 mammoth on a highway smoother than a baby’s bottom. Instead it should’ve been up the Himalayas or on one of the thousands of broken roads available in abundance in India where he could have demonstrated the car’s power and capability.

His sense of humor didn’t help his cause much either. I assume he was trying to add the Jeremy Clarkson touch to his review, but here’s the thing: Clarkson is funny and focuses on cars instead of himself. Shapur despite being listed as “possibly the most experienced amongst all road testers in the country” on his website, didn’t really do much besides talk about ‘his perspective’. Not very useful to someone who is looking to spend over a crore, presumably to enjoy its adventurous off road features more than worry about the minute changes made to the interior cabin.

The review should have been about how the Q7 V12 was different from its predecessors, the advantages it had over the competition, its shortcomings and so on. Unfortunately none of this was displayed, discussed or demonstrated. When Clarkson reviewed the same Q7 on Top Gear, he displayed and spoke about everything Shapur didn’t. For starters, its usability: He was correct in stating that one reason buyers opt for a diesel engine is to save on fuel expenditure, therefore buying a giant V12 kind of defeats the purpose. “It’s like turning off the heating to save on electricity and warming yourself by burning your Rembrandts”, is how he illustrated his point.

And he said all this from the perspective of someone looking to buy and drive this on open European roads and highways. Shouldn’t Shapur have mentioned this, keeping in mind that in India we rarely get a full minute of open driving space without getting stuck in traffic or maneuvering around water buffaloes? He also forgot to demonstrate the revolutionary features included in this car such as the ceramic brakes (not common on diesel cars) which got the 2 ton + SUV from the speed of light to zero kmph in about a second. Clarkson did so, by demonstrating it for everyone to see.

I understand that in India we are constrained by smaller budgets when producing auto reviews and car shows. But producers of these shows are free to choose their reviewers from amongst real car enthusiasts who not only understand cars, but understand what their audience wants to know and see in detail. And present exactly that, and a little bit more.


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