Auto Buzz: A peek into the exciting motoring events and moments in the region

From sporty cars to state-of-the-art centres, here's what is happening in the Middle East

By George Kuruvilla

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Published: Mon 29 Jan 2024, 6:20 PM

The new year has started strong with automakers organising numerous launches and driving events looking to get ahead of the pack. This counts as a win for the motorhead who yearns for something new in the automotive space and for those who are looking for signs on what vehicle to purchase next. Let’s check out what’s been happening in the month of January.

Škoda Kushaq gets range-topping Monte Carlo variant in the Middle East

Czech automobile manufacturer, Škoda has added the all-new, motorsport-inspired Monte Carlo variant to its Kushaq range in the Middle East. The Kushaq is the first Škoda in the region to adorn the coveted badge and is set to appeal to younger buyers – the everyday explorers – who are looking for an affordable SUV with sporty styling and great overall value.

The Monte Carlo designation has appeared on Škoda vehicles for 86 years. The badge was introduced to commemorate the company’s success and passion for motorsport which started with its maiden victory at the 1936 Monte Carlo Rally. The new variant features exclusive style tweaks to elevate its presence including new 17-inch dual-tone Vega alloy wheels with silver calipers and Monte Carlo badging on the side fenders and scuff plates. It also comes with a radiator grille, front and rear diffusers, and door mirror casings finished in glossy black. The stylish cabin centres around a free-standing, touchscreen infotainment system. In addition, the Monte Carlo adds dual-tone design elements in red and black. It features a 6-speaker sound system, smartphone connectivity, and charging options as well as a new Virtual Cockpit with a red theme. It is also equipped with a host of standard safety features such as six airbags, a tyre pressure monitoring system, park distance control, Hill Hold Control, and a rearview camera.

The compact exterior dimensions make it the ideal urban car for a variety of uses but it also has a cabin large enough to comfortably accommodate five adults and offers a boot space of 385 litres (1405 litres with fully folded seats). Powering all Kushaq models, including the Monte Carlo, is a capable turbo 1.0 TSI engine that develops a healthy 85kW (114 PS). The torque is multiplied using a modern 6-speed automatic transmission and transferred to the road using a lightweight front-wheel drive system. It is claimed to deliver an impressive fuel economy figure of 16.8kmpl.

The name 'Kushaq' is derived from the Sanskrit word which denotes 'King' or 'Emperor' and judging by the versatility offered and its value-driven proposition, the Kushaq has what it takes to rule the roost, in the sub-compact SUV segment. It will go on sale in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE in early 2024 with a starting price of Dh59,900 including VAT* (depending on the market).

All-new MG Whale SUV Coupe makes it to Middle Eastern shores

On January 18, 2024, Inter Emirates Motors, the official distributor of MG in the UAE, launched the MG Whale SUV Coupe. This sporty, lifestyle vehicle expands on MG’s range of sedans and SUVs, and is expectedly aimed at ambitious professionals and young families residing in urban environments, who wish for a “dash of adventure in their lives.”

The daring coupe-like silhouette embodies a youthful spirit and as the name suggests, it comes with a variety of whale-inspired details like its signature Baleen-style front grille and matching DRLs to convey the characteristics of its namesake. Other marine-related cues include whale-fin door mirrors, whale-tail spoiler, and shift lever.

Traits like the two-tone glossy black roof, matte gold bumper accents, chrome dual exhaust pipes, and silver decoration add to the visual appeal of the SUV Coupe. It also rides on stylish 19-inch alloy wheels. The SUV Coupe offers a premium quality cabin that exudes neo-retro vibes and comes equipped with features like dual-zone air conditioning, and power-operated panoramic sunroof. Passengers will also benefit from superlative technologies and features like the 9-speaker BOSE sound system, 256-colour ambient lighting setup, a seamlessly integrated dual 12.3-inch Curved Panoramic Screen, and an HD 360° surround view system.

The Whale is motivated by a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine producing a max. output of 231 PS and 370 Nm torque which is coupled to an 8-speed automatic. The forced-induction motor provides the torque necessary to haul five passengers and their luggage swiftly, while the low-displacement configuration aided by the 8 speeds helps minimise fuel consumption. The all-new MG Whale models come with a six-year/200,000km warranty.

State-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz Brand Centre unveiled in Dubai

Looking for an art-gallery-like ambience with an automotive twist to hold a business meeting or quick catch-up with friends? Then make your way down to Dubai Design District where Gargash Group has unveiled the Mercedes-Benz Brand Centre.

The Brand Centre isn’t just a showroom, it's much more. It is a collaborative space for customers and brand enthusiasts to come to experience the brand through every associated aspect beyond the automobile. At its core, is a large open space called the “Town Square”. Given the prime location, the architecture, and the ability to open up its walls to the great outdoors, this space is expected to host a variety of activities including exhibitions, seminars, entertainment, and the arts.

It also houses ‘The Maybach Lounge’, a pavilion surrounded by curved glass windows that offers a 360-degree experience to delve into personalised options from luxury finishes to bespoke customisation options for its uber-exclusive Maybach range. Adjacent to this is a dedicated space showcasing high-performance Mercedes-AMG models. But the pièce de resistance in my opinion is ‘The Car Wall’, a stacker system that serves as a 76-car display – almost like a life-size shelf for Hotwheels.

Adding to the list of experiences on offer, the premises also includes the region’s first off-road driving adventure, with an upcoming academy that allows off-road enthusiasts to learn and test the capabilities of Mercedes-Benz SUVs on an engineered simulated track featuring extreme terrain conditions.

Sustainability has also been given some thought. Solar panels supply 25 per cent of the facility's electricity. Landscaping with indigenous and drought-tolerant plants aligns with the local climate and minimises irrigation needs. The Brand Centre also showcases the next generation of all-electric Mercedes-Benz EQ models, with 15 on-premises charging stations, of which four have rapid charging capabilities.

For car fanatics, there is a merchandise shop that features a curated selection of exclusive items, ranging from luxury apparel to baby strollers. And finally for that dose of caffeine, sit down at the AMG Kaffeehaus, a café offering a retreat for visitors which also allows for an al fresco experience in the adjacent shaded courtyard and reflective pool.

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