By on April 4, 2012

Rarely does it happen that I get so excited to get up on a Monday morning, especially after a late night on a Sunday. But it was different this Monday, I was driving all the way from Mumbai to Pune early morning to drive a taxi. Yes a taxi, but this is no normal taxi, you see. It’s the iconic cab, made by the London Taxi Company. Popularly called the black cab or the hackney carriage, the London Taxi is a rare sight in India, because there are just six of these in India. I drove a red one.

These London Taxis belong to the Panchshil Realty group, which runs a large number of premium hotels in Pune. Panchshil is one of the premier real estate developers in Pune. The company has developed some premium properties in Pune, including the Marriot, and a few office buildings for companies such as NVIDIA, Suzlon and Siemens. With such high-rolling clientele, it was imperative to have a vehicle which would be unlike any other on Pune roads. With Rollers and Bentleys in short supply, a fleet of London Taxis landed in Pune.

 A Brief History – The London Taxi is made especially for well, London. The vehicle has specifications and features which make it the best taxi for the streets of London, helping drivers maneuver with ease and ferry their passengers in utmost comfort. A taxi needs to be low on maintenance and easy to service, and that is where the London Taxi excels. The vehicle is built extremely well and requires very little maintenance.

In the 1950s, the Austin FX4 came with significant improvements over its predecessor, the, you guessed it, FX3. In 1984, London Taxi International was formed, it changed its name to the London Taxi Company in 2010. The FX4 was in service for 39 years, before it was pulled off the market in 1997 as it had aged. It was replaced by the TX1, a modern taxi, but it maintained the spirit of the London Taxi. It was in use for 5 years and was succeeded by the TXII in 2002. The major difference between the TX1 and TXII was the change of engine from Nissan to Ford.

In 2006, the TXII retired, an was replaced by the TX4. The TX4 is the latest model in the London Taxi line-up. The company has a joint venture with Geely (of Volvo fame) in China to manufacture the TX4, which started in 2008. This led to the London Taxi being manufactured entirely in China and being imported to the UK via SKD units. A passenger version of the TX4 is in the cards as well, it will be called the TXN.

I drove the latest true TX4  taxi model. The design is very retro and attracts enormous attention. The front headlights are rounded, giving the impression of old Bentleys. The side profile is quite bulbous. The rear is typical old British design. The vehicle runs on 175 width, 16-inch tyres and the alloys have 6-bolts on them, to prevent robbery I presume. The antenna is placed at the rear. The rear doors have a provision below them to house a wheel chair tray.

Step inside and you will notice the driver centric dashboard. The center console is positioned towards the driver and there are a ton of buttons on it. The buttons between the AC vents and the audio system are for the interior lights, headlights, hazard lights, fog lights and beam adjustment. Below the audio system are the AC controls and the intercom controls. The left side of the dashboard has the fuse box. The 3-spoke steering wheel houses the LTI name (London Taxi International), the instrument cluster is quite retro and features the tachometer, speedometer, fuel gauge, temperature meter, odometer and trip meter. The driver side door has controls for the door locking and unlocking and front door windows. There is a partition between the driver and the passenger compartment. There is no co-driver seat in the front, the space is meant to keep luggage, because the London Taxi has no usable boot, as they call the trunk where that taxi is in daily use. The left door has a rope, so that the driver can close the door without having to run around the vehicle. The boot stores the spare tire and the wheel chair tray.

I was surprised by the level of comfort and luxury in the rear. There is just one bench, which can accommodate two people in extreme comfort. The seats are placed on the last row and with no middle row, the leg room is extremely good and once can stretch their legs without thinking twice. The rear passengers have their own music system, AC vents, refrigerator, television, etc. There is ample space to keep stuff with lots of places to keep magazines, papers and the like. The Alpine speakers sound extremely good and most of the features here are options (such as the leather seats and the DVD system), which Panchshil opted for. The rear passengers also have their own set of controls for the power windows, door lock/unlock, lights and air-conditioner. There is an intercom connection too, so that the passengers and driver can talk to each other.

Switch on the London Taxi, and its 2.5-litre diesel engine comes to life without any noise whatsoever. The engine is developed by VM Motori and is a 4-cylinder, 16 valve, DOHC unit with a turbocharger, producing 100 BHP of peak power at 4000 RPM and 240 Nm of peak torque at 1800 RPM. The engine is mated to a 5-speed automatic gearbox and is Euro 5 compliant. The gearshift is smooth, but toggling the gear knob from Drive to Park or Reverse does require some effort. A petrol engine is also available with a manual gearbox, but that is only for outside the UK, mainly for China.

The engine has decent performance and never feels sluggish. Being a taxi, seldom does high end performance matter and if need be, the London Taxi has the goods to get you to the airport on time. The fuel efficiency is 12 km/l, which is quite good. An electric version is in the cards as well. The brakes are servo assisted with a split hydraulic system. There is electronically controlled ABS as well. Pedal feel is a little disappointing with very little play. One has to stand on the brakes with all force to stop quickly. The reason for the brakes performing so poorly can be attributed to the near two ton weight of the vehicle. The London Taxi uses double wishbone coil-springs with anti-roll bar suspension at the front and solid axle coil springs in the rear. Ride quality is good, but some bumps do filter into the cabin.

The best feature of the London Taxi is its 3.8-meter turning radius. One can simply take a U-turn on a two lane road, without having to reverse.

While driving the London Taxi, I was so amused by the turn radius, that I started to take so many U-turns that our support car was lagging far behind, reversing a couple of times to catch up with me.

This turn radius comes to you courtesy of the Savoy Hotel in London. The Savoy has a famously small roundabout at its entrance. This resulted in all London Taxis legally requiring a tiny little turn radius.

The TX4 is put together very well and requires very little maintenance. The panels are bolt-on making replacement extremely cheap. The body is made of hydroformed ladder frame with a separate body. There is a service center in Pune, which does service the TX4, so Panchshil does not have any problems with the upkeep of their London Taxi fleet.

The vehicle looks unique, retro and easily stands to grab attention like no other vehicle on the road. The rare sightings of this vehicle only means that on-goers gawk at you like you are in a Rolls-Royce Phantom. Hotels get around the sky-high Indian import duty through a special rule that gives preferred treatment to automobiles used in the tourist trade. The law says those low duty tourist cars must be white. Sure they do.

Whats Cool

  • Street Presence
  • Turning Radius
  • Passenger Comfort
  • Reliability

Whats UnCool

  • Brakes

Faisal Ali Khan is the owner/operator of MotorBeam.com, a website covering the auto industry of India.

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31 Comments on “Review: London Taxi TX4, Test-Driven In India...”


  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    My 06′ Jeep Liberty has the 2.8L VM-motori diesel engine. Awesome engine, plenty of power, simple, great mileage.

  • avatar
    Acubra

    …the London Taxi is a rare sighting in India, because there are just six of these in India.

    The facts are interesting, but it is not English.
    This piece is very low quality and is riddled with so many stylistic errors that my eyes started to bleed.

    Why noone on TTAC editorial board bothered to edit and clean this text prior to publishing?

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I wouldn’t think this cab would be as distinctive in India, where they still sell Hindustan Ambassadors. The loss of jump seats make this design less interesting to me. It seems like whenever I need a cab now, I am always with one more person than can ride in a regular taxi. The already hated new NYC taxi can at least handle four passengers. I don’t like to say it, but apparently Bloomberg could have picked a worse vehicle than he did. It doesn’t mean that the decision of what cabs to use shouldn’t have been left up to the operators that understand what is really important in a taxi though.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Grammar police aside, I dug the article. Cool read.

  • avatar
    Robert Gordon

    “The best feature of the London Taxi is its 3.8-meter turning radius.”

    To use the english vernacular….Bollocks!

    Turning radius actually describes, when applied to cars, what is actually the distance across the throat of minimum u-turn a vehicle can make. In other words it is not a radius it is a diameter. The term is largely obsolete for this reason, most people refer to the ‘turning-circle’. When you thing about it diameter is really the measurement that you want to know. Knowing what half the circle I can turn around in is, is of no practical use what so ever.

    All Hackney carraiges must have a maximum turning circle of 25ft btw.

    • 0 avatar
      CRConrad

      3.8 meters being about 12 ½ feet, I’d guess it is in fact the radius of your 25-foot turning circle.

      Better go learn some elementary maths before you next go shouting “bollocks!” when it’s clearly not.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert Gordon

        Difficult to spell it out any plainer. I’ll try…

        Turning Radius, even though the name implies it, does not actually measure a radius. It is synonomous with Turning Circle. It actually measure diameter. In other words the term is technically incorrect, but nonetheless well understood to mean the minimum curb-to curb turn achievable.

        Such technically incorrect terms that have come into being are not uncommon. Radiator for example is another.

        Using the true geometric radius would actually be pretty useless since it is does not have practical application. For instance what good would knowing what half the minimum road distance you can turn around in is be?

        The makers themselves even refer to to the minimum curb to curb dimension.

      • 0 avatar
        CRConrad

        If it’s difficult to spell it out any plainer, then here’s a tip: DON’T try.

        Since you’ll be wrong anyway, I mean. NO WAY 3.8 m is the turning circle diameter. Even twice as much, i.e. 7.6 m, is a very very good curb-to-curb distance, so the quoted 3.8 pretty much HAS to be half the diameter, i.e, the RADIUS.

        Yeah, yeah, it might not be YOUR preferred terminology; and yeah, I can even agree that in practical use, it seems a less relevant and useful measure than the diameter — but none of that means it’s not A) perfectly legitimate for other people to use the terminology of their choice, and B) in this case, the technically correct identifier of the quoted measure.

        (None of which has anything to do with whether no, some, many, or all people never, sometimes, often, or always mistakenly use the word “radius” when they actually mean “diameter”. That’s quite possible, though I wouldn’t know; in both my native languages the customary term is diameter. But those generalities weren’t what was at question here: This “London Taxi” and its 3.8 m — 12 ½ ft — were.)

        So please get down off that high hobby-horse of yours and stop lecturing people on things they know at least as well as you do; it’s a really annoying habit.

        Thank you.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert Gordon

        Who pulled your chain pete? Ad-hominums usually mean a week argument and are agains the site rules.

        As for the terminology discussion at hand, even wikipedia agrees with me:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turning_radius

        “The turning radius or turning circle of a vehicle is the size of the smallest circular turn (i.e. U-turn) that the vehicle is capable of making. The term turning radius is a misnomer, since the size of a circle is actually its diameter, not its radius. The less ambiguous term turning circle is preferred.”

        In any case when you are doing a car review it is generally incumbent upon the reviewer to use standard metrics and terminology. I am not having a go at the reviewer, merely pointing out the incorrect use of terminology. 3.8 metres is of course too small to be a diameter which is the very reason I pointed it out as incredible.

        “Turn diameter” is a term that is seldom if ever used, ‘turning circle’ and ‘Turn radius’ (used technically incorrectly) are used to appraise how tight a car can turn so I agree the matter of confusion is moot.

        The reviewer misused the term ‘turning radius’ believing it to refer to a geometrically correct radius, when consensus deems it to refer to a diameter. I merely pointed that out.

        I also didn’t resort to name calling, merely a jovial exortation unlike some others who seem to have even higher equines.

      • 0 avatar
        CRConrad

        “Who pulled your chain pete?”

        You did.

        “Ad-hominums usually mean a week argument”

        And “Bollocks!” is a whole month argument?

        “3.8 metres is of course too small to be a diameter which is the very reason I pointed it out as incredible.”

        But you seemed to miss — STILL seem to be missing — that HE DIDN’T CLAIM it was a diameter; he called it a radius, and the measure he gave for the radius is NOT incredible *as a radius*. Which is the very reason I pointed out that your “Bollocks!” were, in fact, bollocks. Which they still are.

        “The reviewer misused the term ‘turning radius’ believing it to refer to a geometrically correct radius, when consensus deems it to refer to a diameter. I merely pointed that out.”

        A) “Consensus deems that ‘radius’ refer to a diameter”?!? But didn’t you just say that calling the diameter “a radius” was “technically incorrect”? Make up your mind, willya… B) The measure he supplied obviously DID refer to an actual radius, not a diameter; it seems even you are now agreeing to that. So he did NOT “misuse” any term. _I_ merely pointed _that_ out…

        Here’s a free tip (worth every cent you’re paying for it): Since it’s your (American?) “consensus” of calling a diameter a radius that is technically fucked-up [as the technical term goes], change that in stead of trying to dictate Indian and international terminology. If you can’t get people to call a diameter a diameter in stead of “a radius”, then why don’t you just do what your own Wikipedia quote says and start talking about a “turning circle” like most motoring magazines I’ve ever read; that way people are free to *think* of any circle-related measure they want, regardless of its actually being a diameter.

        And then here’s an even more radical idea: When people supply an actual radius you can refrain from busting their chops for calling it what it is. That’s all I’ve been saying, and I really can’t understand how *you* get to be all poo-widdle-insulted-me here. History recap: He called a radius a radius; you yelled “Bollocks!”; I said it isn’t; *you*, the “Bollocks!”-yeller, climb onto a new high horse of ad-hominem injured-party (Or, well, tried to; seems you got huld of its lame bruther in stead). Doesn’t add up.

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    The original Austin FX4 London cabs look SOOO much better than any of these other ones.

  • avatar
    JohnnieE

    Hello Faisal,

    I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your article.

    As far as comments concerning the quality of your written English go, I have just checked the Oxford English Dictionary, and was unable to find Acubra’s spelling of the word “noone” – indeed I think I might go so far as to say that “no one” will be able to find this entry!

    On a more serious note though, I was surprised to see the taxi you have shown had only two passenger seats. The black cabs I know and love here in Britain all have two fold down seats behind the driver’s partition so that four people can comfortably be accommodated.

    You are (pedants aside) also correct in noting their unique image. I remember many years ago when I worked in Poland during the mid-nineties the BBC had an old cab for it’s Warsaw office to zip around the country in. It was obviously a lot cheaper than a Rolls Royce, but in those early post communist days, it may have helped the Beeb fly the flag and get it’s journalists to just as many stories as a car with the spirit of ecstasy on it’s bonnet (or hood) would ever have done.

    The cost of a black cab is I believe much greater than the cost of one of New York’s equally famous yellow taxis. I believe there was a moment some years ago though when the company that makes the London black cabs was seriously considering New York as a new market, so that if successful, New York’s famous taxis would be practically the same as our London black cabs in everything but colour.

    Unfortunately. I think the city of New York has a limit for either the age or mileage of it’s taxis which meant that the initially high cost of a black cab could never be recouped. I think that is a pity, because if they are well maintained, the black cab really is a very good way of being taxied around, and many of them enjoy a long and profitable life for their owners!

    Thanks again though for your interesting article – it’s your country’s success at cricket, not the quality of your English, that gives me cause to be concerned :)

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks JohnnieE for your kind words. The London Taxi that you see here has been modified for use by the hotel, I guess they have removed one row of seats to make it extremely comfortable for the passengers. This Taxi is less of a Taxi and more of a luxury shuttle for the guests.

      The cab you are talking about, which the BBC used in the 90s, could it be the Austin FX4? Because that vehicle was in service for 39 years!

      As far as using the London Taxi in New York goes. I think the NY State has strict requirements with respect to safety and I am not too sure on how well the London Taxi fares in that regard. The Nissan NV200 van on the other hand is a Euro NCAP 5 rated vehicle. The NYC Taxi costs around $30000, while the London Taxi costs roughly $40000 (as per today’s exchange rate).

      Can you give me a some ideas about what articles related to Indian automobiles you would like to read here at TTAC?

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        Ideas about what articles could be interesting.

        I’d be curious to know the vehicles that are considered aspirational by the average Indian, what engines are considered big/powerful (since all things are relative. In the US, big = V8 and above; in England, big (for the average driver) = 2.4L and above … I think…), what do the heads of companies drive/be driven in. I enjoy reading Marcelo’s (spelling?) take on vehicles in Brazil because the tax structure and perceptions are so different from here in the US.

        Thank you for the article.

      • 0 avatar

        Tankinbeans, general ideas about what Indian automobile related articles you would like to read.

        As far as the current scenario about luxury. Most Indian heads of companies like to be driven around in cars, rather than driving themselves. Nobody really cares much about the engine power and capacity, all they want is diesel (cheaper fuel, higher mileage and better resale).

        The craze is for Audi and BMW, while the Mercedes-Benz craze has declined severely. Mercedes-Benz is present in India since 1994, while Audi and BMW entered in 2007. Indians are bored of Mercedes and the styling of Mercedes vehicles doesn’t appeal to the youth. All these German cars are priced quite high as they are not locally manufactured and brought in as CKD (Completely Knocked Down) or CBU (Completely Built Unit) from outside. CKD and CBU attract heavy duties, with CBU attracting close to 134%, making these cars very very expensive.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    “One has to stand on the brakes with all force to stop quickly. The reason for the brakes performing so poorly can be attributed to the near two ton weight of the vehicle.”

    Can it? I’ve driven two-ton cars with excellent braking, including a B8 S4 and SRT-8 Challenger.

    Interesting read though. Thanks, Faisal.

    • 0 avatar

      rpn453, the Challenger is a different vehicle altogether with very strong brakes and sound aerodynamics. The London Taxi on the other hand is top heavy and that does not help braking matters much.

      • 0 avatar
        Banger

        That phenomenon known as weight transfer is a killer. Makes a hurried stop in a top-heavy vehicle feel…exciting, shall we say? Witness the difference in hitting the brakes too fast and too hard on a low-slung cruiser-style motorcycle (which more than likely will result in a “low-side” or, at worst, a tank-slapper) and hitting the brakes too fast and too hard on a taller-saddled sport-touring motorocycle (which will probably throw you over the handlebars, or at best, result in another tank-slapper).

        You’re right, the Challenger is a completely different vehicle, which has, might I say, a much lower center of gravity.

      • 0 avatar

        Banger, you said it, center of gravity is the crucial thing. The London Taxi’s brake feel is also terrible, you literally have to push your foot on the brake pedal to actually stop.

  • avatar
    Manic

    When J.Clarkson tested London Cab (same model) for Sunday Times(of London) 08/2009 he wrote that he understood why many cabbies are so angry and rude. Additionally to bad brakes the cabin ergonomics were just awful, steering wheel and seat positioning etc. were totally wrong and very uncomfortable. Basically his opinion was that the faster the taxis move away from that type, the better. Review is unfortunately behind the Times’ pay wall now.
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/driving/jeremy_clarkson/article743518.ece

  • avatar
    daviel

    Why anyone would gripe about the “style” of this article is a mystery. These types just like to flount what they think is their superior handle on writing. As is this case, they are usually wrong. I thought the piece was interesting and very well done. Keep up the good work! [is that a sentence fragment?]


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