A Birthday Present

When it comes to building cars there is no cook book you can follow. It is your own recipe that often works.There has never been a shortage of modified Polos around where we live, but when you get a call from someone saying they got a Polo GT fitted with a Borla exhaust system, you gotta try it out. Meet Mr. Pranoy Saji and his white GT TSI.

Pranoy is 20 years old and is doing his LLB at Mar Gregorios College of Law. He got his car as an 18th birthday gift from his dad. Actually he got to choose what car he wanted and he immediately zeroed in on the Polo GT. They went to the showroom one afternoon and after much deliberation, chose a red TSI. Volkswagen, owing to the demand, couldn’t deliver the car on his birthday, as promised. And to make it worse, the car he actually got was a white one. Still, it was everything an 18 year old could have hoped for and Pranoy was not to complain about the colour or the delay.

He ran it almost stock for some time and then started thinking about a reliable remap. He got in touch with Lap 47 and opted for an Evotech remap. The results were more than good. There was an increase in response and overall power and it wasn’t consuming any extra fuel. He also got the grill and OE wheels painted black around the same time till it was time for his next birthday when he got another gift in the form of some wheels and suspension.

Having the driven the car ourselves, we have to say it is a fine little package now. There is an urgency in the way it accelerates. The exhaust adds a bass note to the engine, which goes a little vocal when upshifting enthusiastically. It is loud, but isn’t as intrusive as one might imagine. The suspension gives it good response and composure in corners. We didn’t push it much, but the car felt agile changing directions. Ride quality hasn’t taken much of a toll, but you do feel the occasional rut and potholes on our roads.

 

Next on Pranoy’s wishlist is uprated brakes and then upgrading to a stage two remap with the addition of an intake. He also has plans to add an aftermarket steering wheel with paddleshifts and may be the LED headlamps from the new GTI. At the moment he is enjoying the car, while being thankful to the guys at Lap 47 for making his car what it is today.

A Bug’s life

If getting noticed is your thing, nothing comes close to grabbing eyeballs as driving a yellow Beetle. Yes, supercars also do the same thing, at several crores, but most of the time, they leave people intimidated and in doubt. Show up in the Beetle and you get smiles everywhere. People see you as friendly and approachable. Even kids and old people are excited to see a Beetle pass. To many, this is the tortoise car and the bug car. To Ms.Simi of Thrissur, it was a surprise gift from her husband Dr. Tenison Chacko.

Now, Tommy, one of our regular readers and a car enthusiast, happens to be a relative of this Doctor. And he lets him occasionally borrow it. But the Beetle had a problem. As much as it was a hit with the fairer sex, in your own circle of car guys, you often got ridiculed for driving a girl’s car.

With permission from its owners, Tommy started doing it up to get a nod of approval from car enthusiasts. The tiny five spoke wheels were the first to go. A racier look was achieved with these Tenzo R 18 inchers. They are wide 9.5 J rims and fill up the curved arches very well. It also meant that the car had to be lowered to look right. A set of Vogtland springs were ordered and soon the Beetle was looking sporty enough. The stance was perfected even further with 8mm spacers at the front and 6mm at the rear. A thin lip was added to the front bumper to make it look even closer to the ground.

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Performance was also improved thanks to a remap from Pete’s. Now remaps on non turbo petrol engines don’t exactly get you sudden wheelspins and shave seconds off your 0-100 times. But it does improve throttle responses and make the engine feel punchier. On the Beetle, it was hard to tell the improvements because of the old school autobox and the big wheels, but it did feel stronger than the stock 2.0 petrol. Helping it sound better and feel faster is the K&N cold air intake. Braking has also been improved with Brembo slotted rotor and pads.

Inside, Tommy has gone for a new black leather upholstery from Vanquish and cleaned up everything. There are a few extra badges here and there and the stock head unit now feeds a Hertz amplifier and a JL Audio subwoofer.It is not an outright performance car or anything, but something that pulls your heart strings very strongly. Some call it the love bug.

Living up to its Name

The Superb is a unique car the way it is positioned in the Indian market. It is the understated luxury car of choice for those who do not want a Mercedes, Audi or BMW. You see, cars like the Audi A3 and Mercedes CLA are aimed at people who don’t mind a small car for the price as long as it wears a premium badge on the bonnet. The Superb is quite the opposite. You spend the same money as an Audi A3, but what you get is something with the creature comforts of an Audi A6. And it doesn’t attract the same kind of attention which is perfect if you are the sort of person who doesn’t want to flaunt your wealth.

The car we have may very well be the first tuned B8 Superb in the country. It is not fitting for a car of this class to slap on an aftermarket body kit or some racing style wheels; so the restraint that has been executed in this one, deserves special mention. It hasn’t lost any of the understated elegance it naturally comes with, while the mods ensure it oozes tonnes of street cred at car meets.

This black beauty belongs to Shemil from Kannur whose X5 with M kit was on our cover a couple of issues back. Most of the cosmetic work and the suspension were done from Lap 47 while the performance side was taken care of by Red Band Racing in association with Tune-o-tronics.

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The New Superb based on the MQB platform is 28mm longer, 47mm wider and has a wheelbase that has grown by a significant 80mm. It is also 75kg lighter than the earlier model and looks much sleeker thanks to better proportions. There are beautiful crystalline details inside the headlamps that pay homage to the ancient Czech glass making industry. There are subtle chrome embellishments throughout, but none too excessive. It is one elegant and timeless design that will appeal to everyone. The chrome wheels once did duty in Shemil’s Audi TT and were the ideal replacements for the OE wheels the Superb came with. They offer the perfect stance and look just right without erring on the bling side.

The interiors are left stock and about as lavish as you would get for this price. The front seats have 12 way adjustment and hold you well in the corners. The rear seats have Mercedes S class – rivalling legroom and a suitably sloped floor for that perfect seating posture. It is a little short on headroom compared to the old Superb and twin-door boot mechanism is gone too. It still offers a whopping 620 litres of cargo space.

The 2.0 litre diesel with 174bhp and 350N-m comes only as an automatic but this is the more reliable 6 speed twin clutch automatic. Refinement levels are fairly adequate and this engine has always been a willing performer. It has great low end torque and is quite at home in the city where the gearbox is eager to shift up to higher gears quite fast. Press hard on the accelerator pedal and you can often see the traction control light coming on. It revs up to 5000rpm and with the remap, it just darts forward. There is enough performance to worry some big capacity German diesels. The 6 speed box isn’t quick to deliver downshifts as the 7 speed one in the petrol variant, but it doesn’t stand in the way of driving pleasure.

At nearly 5 metres long this 1500kg car isn’t one you’d buy to derive driving pleasure out of, but the new Superb feels surprisingly light around its feet. With KW suspension, it begs to be hurled into corners. It feels as nimble as smaller Octavia and manages to stay focused and neutral. The front MacPherson and rear multi-link setup is common to all models, unlike the Octavia which gets an inferior non-independent rear setup for the diesel. Steering lacks feel, but is quite precise and the brakes have good bite.Shemil has no big plans for the Superb now than to use it as his daily. He enjoys driving the Superb as much as his other car, which includes a GLA45 AMG. If ever he had a complaint, it is with the roads in his area. He says the lowering is a bit too much for the speedbreakers and plans to raise it a bit after our photoshoot. Glad we got to capture it at its best.

Nissan Kicks

The Nissan Kicks is Nissan’s foray into the premium compact SUV market after the Terrano. It is for those who want a more modern looking, stylish crossover to suit their urban lifestyle. We got to sample one just as our last issue went to print, so this report is coming to you a little later than we would have liked.

Unlike the Kicks sold abroad, ours is based on the Duster platform. It is an Indianised version of the Renault Captur – with similar looks, but with more cost effective underpinnings. You can tell the Indian car from its much more sloping windscreen and side claddings that go all the way to the bottom of the door sills. It is also longer than the international Kicks, but certainly not as sharp looking. The Kicks is larger than the Captur and the Creta. The styling is quite good, with the Nissan SUV grille flanked by slim headlamps, a contrasting roof and large 17 inch alloys. The edgy styling goes all the way to the rear where striking tail lamps extend into a very uniquely shaped boot lid.

 

Inside, it is a better deal than the Captur, with better quality and more space. The cabin looks plush with chocolate brown leather covering all the important bits, including the dashboard. The seats also get quilted leather and the steering is nice to hold. The 8.0 inch touch screen unit looks well designed and is feature packed. The Kicks comes with first in segment 360 degree surround camera, four airbags, hill hold, vehicle dynamic control, automatic 

headlamps, rain sensing wipers, cruise control, climate control etc. Certain things like the climate control and meter console are carried over from the Captur.  The ergonomics aren’t perfect, with the arm rest fouling with your elbow or wrist when shifting gears or pulling the handbrake lever. There is no dead pedal, the foot-well is slightly cramped and the steering only adjusts for rake. There aren’t any cup-holders in the centre console and there is just one USB connector for the whole car. Still, the front seats are large and accommodating and visibility is good. The rear seats are wide and have good headroom and legroom. The door bins are large and the boot is a very usable 400 litres.

Powering the Kicks is the familiar 1.5 litre Renault K9K diesel with 110bhp and 240Nm. It is an old engine, but this is by far, the best application we have seen it in. The refinement is immediately better and the engine has better drivability than ever. There is a useable amount of midrange power and it feels more energetic than a Captur. The six speed manual is easy to use and the clutch action is positive.

The Kicks has good handling giving you plenty of confidence. There is good amount of steering feel and it doesn’t lose its composure mid corner if you hit a bump. Straight line stability is excellent and it doesn’t get fazed by the road surface underneath. Brakes are good too, with the Kicks coming to a dead stop in a straight line with no drama at all.

The Kicks starts from Rs.10.85 lakhs going all the way to Rs.14.65 lakh for the diesels. There is also a petrol variant powered by a 1.5 litre engine which we are yet to sample. You can tell that Nissan has worked hard on the Kicks. It looks good, feels robust, has good space inside, drives well, has a frugal diesel engine and is easy to live with every day. Although Nissan has missed out on an opportunity by not launching an automatic variant, the Kicks has almost everything else to trade punches with its established competition.

Petrobug