Porsche 718 Cayman

The Cayman was originally conceived as a more hardcore driver focussed hard-top variant of the Boxster that sat between it and the 911. But these days, with identical chassis and engine, the 718 is priced below the Boxster. It is now the stepping stone to the Porsche sports car range and that means you can have what is arguably the best handling sports car in the world for a little over what you pay for a Mustang.

The 718 Cayman is so practical to live with everyday. Yes, you have to deal with a lot of eyes as you drive along in a yellow sports car and people wanting to click photos with it when you park it – but that aside, it is a perfect daily. The interiors reek of quality, the ergonomics are spot on and the new infotainment unit sits flush with the dashboard and is intuitive. It is easy to see out of, easy to place on the road, very compact and  though it has no rear seats, surprisingly practical with two boots that can swallow a load of stuff. There is good ground clearance, it can tackle most speedbreakers and get on ramps without scraping the front bumper. And the ride quality on the 18 inch wheels, as our test car came shod with, is excellent for a sport car. It is also surprisingly fuel efficient when driven leisurely, giving over 11.5kmpl.  Now that we have got the old man information covered, let’s get on with the stuff that makes it a Cayman.

In this new Cayman, the springs are stiffer, the dampers are uprated and the steering is 10 percent quicker, the rear wheels are half an inch wider and the brakes are better. While the lack of a flat six motor (Porsche is going back to it) is depressing, the 2.0litre boxer does a great job of making the car fast. Does it sound as good as the old flat six? No. Does it sound wrong? No. It’s just different with a near 911 like base note, only ever so slightly discordant because of the missing two cylinders. It turns even better as you wind up the revs, and it is not muted that much by the turbo sitting in the path of the exhaust especially if you have opted for the sports exhaust.

It is essentially a 911 3.0litre flat six with two cylinders removed. The smaller engine also lowers the centre of gravity, but isn’t necessarily lighter. The addition of turbocharger with the relevant plumbing and intercooler means, it is heavier than it would have been with a flat six. Yet, it makes up for it with an extra 35bhp and 100Nm more than the old 2.7L engine. The fixed geometry turbocharger in this one (The 2.5 litre S variant, gets a variable geometry turbo)runs up to 20.3psi with peak torque of 380Nm coming in at just 1950rpm and holding that way till 4500rpm. It puts out 296bhp at 6500rpm, which is good for 0-100kmph in 5.1 seconds. The engine revs up to 7500rpm which is quite lofty for a turbocharged unit. You do get caught on some turbo lag lower down in the rev range, but beyond 3000rpm, the engine does its best to feel like a naturally aspirated unit. The strong throttle response is the result of the engine preconditioning the turbo by retarding the ignition and keeping the throttle partially open.

On a winding road, there is very little that can keep up with a well driven Cayman. There is so much stability you can pile on the speed and yet the crisp adjustability can make it exit corners any way you like. You can be careful and concentrate on exit speeds, or be playful with it and get the tail hanging out. The precise steering, tells you exactly what the front wheels are doing and make delicate adjustments all along. The steering wheel is similar to the one on the 918 supercar and the rack is borrowed from the earlier 911 turbo. The Cayman has near perfect 46/54 weight distribution and the wider rear track borrowed from a Cayman GT4. The bigger brakes are borrowed from the earlier S models (the S now gets the ones from the 911) and feel astonishing.

For sheer driving thrills, you cannot possibly beat a Cayman. It hasn’t got a huge lot of power, but you get what you need to explore the fantastic chassis on our roads. You have to wring its neck and the driving experience is unparalleled. This is a car for keen drivers who aren’t caught up on big exhaust notes and straight line speeds. With Ex.showroom prices starting around Rs.85 lakhs, the Cayman is now better value than ever!

Got Boost

 

When you don’t have the perfect car, you sort of have to build it yourself. For Athul, it has been a long cherished dream come true. He has been wanting to turbo charge a car since his engineering days and it wasn’t until 2015 that he could finally do it. Athul runs Karwerkz Inc. in Kochi -a company that deals with aftermarket tuning stuff.

It is a 2010 1.8V with manual transmission. The Civic comes with Mugen RR kit with more aggressive front bumper, a vented carbon fibre hood and widened front fenders. The side skirts have been modified, the tail lamps are now aftermarket LED units and there is a subtle spoiler on the rear windscreen and the bootlid. The thin Spoon style side mirrors and bumper quick release buttons are other details you wouldn’t want to miss. There is a Mugen style valance on the rear bumper, but the two exhaust recesses are vacant and the two missing tail pipes are obvious. That is because the exhaust now exits on the left hand side of the front bumper through an Akrapovic tip. It is insanely loud to bystanders on the road, but once the turbo comes on boost, you won’t be there to see them protest.

Before we get in to how it drives, I have to tell you, it needs some more fine-tuning. One has to be careful with the throttle inputs, anticipate how much one needs for any given speed. Give it too much and it jerks and hesitates, confusing the ECU, often bogging you down.  It took some getting used to before I could drive it fast. Not surprisingly, Athul had no issues when he was driving it because he knew his way around the problem. And when you get it right, it pulls strongly like the R18A engine has no right to be. Where the standard engine feels lacking in midrange, this one has a strong shove. The top end, as expected, isn’t healthy, so you upshift early and ride the wave of torque in the next gear.

The car runs a T04 turbo with custom stainless steel boost pipes running between a Thar CRDI intercooler. It runs a rather conservative 6.5psi on stock internals. An AEM FIC 6 channel unit takes care of the fuel management while a Walbro 225LPH fuel pump (225 litres per hour) delivers the fuel it needs. There is an HKS boost controller and blow off valve. HKS oil cooler and oil filter help extend the oil life and preserve the life of everything. The custom exhaust now exit the sides, which in combination with the short turbo manifold length makes for better spools around 1800rpm. All the work has been done at Magnum Motors in Kochi, by Mr. Dipu and Binil dealing with fabrication and Mr. Joe of Blackworks, Bangalore giving his inputs. When we tested it, they hadn’t finished doing their work.

The car rides on D1 spec adjustable suspension, with strut braces from D2 racing. The ride is a bit stiff, but then, this isn’t an everyday car. It grips well in corners and gives you enough confidence when dealing with the extra horsepower. It also gets cross drilled rotors front and rear for better stopping power. The car runs 235/40 R18 Nankang NS 20 tyres on 18×9.5J 22 offset Karwerkz inc. rims.

Inside, the Civic has been modified too. The seats have been re-upholstered and reshaped to give better support. The black and white contrast stitching is a theme carried over to the door cards as well. The lower part of the dashboard, door pads, pillars, roofline, centre console etc has been painted black to create an all black theme in place of the beige one earlier. There are extra gauges for various readouts like AFR, boost, oil pressure, water temp etc. and a colourful array of small hotwheel cars on the dashboard – injecting some fun to an otherwise serious business side of things.

For Athul, this car has been a learning curve where he figured out what stuff goes together and what doesn’t. He remembers the long hours he spent patiently waiting for the fabricators to finish their job before piecing everything back together. And how disappointed he got when things went wrong and how excited he was when they got it right. Many of us can relate to the struggle, can’t we?

The Ultimate Grocery Getter.

In a perfect world, we would all have one car each for every occasion – a hatchback for daily use, a sports saloon for fun drives, a ute/pickup for hauling stuff. But we don’t live in the perfect world and the Octavia Combi RS is perhaps the closest you can have to one car that can do it all.

Octavia in Latin means ‘Born Eighth’ and it is only fitting that we have one on our cover for the 8th Anniversary Special. It was their 8th car after World War-II and to symbolize that, Skoda decided to name that 1959 model, the Octavia. With 59 years of proud heritage, it is one of the longest standing brand names in automotive history.

 

The Mk1 Octavia, such as this, was the first model developed from scratch after VW took over Skoda. It was essentially a Jetta with better design. The Skoda Octavia was well received in India after its launch in 2002. 44900 were sold and in 2004, Skoda launched the Octavia RS which soon became the performance yardstick for cars. This Combi Estate was launched in petrol and diesel around the same time, and met the fate of most estate cars in India. Not many were sold, but the fast ones with the turbo petrol engine, ended up in the hands of enthusiasts like Dr. Joseph Manuel.

 

 

This 2008 Octavia Combi started off in life as a silver car. Joseph and his brother John owns J Garage, a Performance shop and Detailing shop which is another Pete’s subsidiary in Kochi. After the performance mods were in place, it was off to a complete paint job. It was painted Nardo Grey before that became a thing and one has to say, the wagon does manage to pull off the colour so well. The BBS CH 18 inch rims do look the part and are offset well against the body line with sufficient lowering to match. The front bumper gets a splitter and two Milotec bumper vents on either side. The interiors are bone stock save for some extra audio equipment. The leather trimmed seats feels as supportive as they were, when I first sat in one, 14 years ago. The roof box is there if the big wagon boot isn’t sufficient enough. Whatever stuff you carry though, is guaranteed to reach in the shortest amount of time.

 

 

Under the hood, it has a 1.8litre AGU block developing 150bhp and 210Nm torque. That is before Pete’s Performance had their hands on it. A Pete’s Custom Stage 2 Remap made its way in, along with an ABD induction system and a full Milltek exhaust. It has an APR R1 divertor valve, Spec Stage 2 clutch, Gates Kevlar timing belt and ECS tuning flywheel and pulleys. The extra grunt is obvious the moment you set off. Let go off the slightly heavy clutch, the low end only feels just about adequate. Once the turbo comes on, it goes like a scalded cat. The midrange is great and it revs all the way past 6000rpm. It is not blistering fast as the cars that came after it, but it is still addictive.

 

 

The Combi also gets KW variant 2 coilovers which transforms the way it drives. The turn-in is much sharper and the car feels glued to the road no matter the speed. Handling is good enough to qualify for a sportscar, let alone an estate car. There are stiffer KW anti roll bars at the front and rear, which make it feel more playful. It also feels tighter thanks to Powerflex PU bushes. It also benefits from EBC brake pads which improve the stopping power immensely. This car has seen some track use in its life and the owner does know a thing or two about driving fast.

 

 

Whether it’s setting down lap times, showing off at car meets or hauling groceries home- the Combi has never missed a beat. The owner says he has no intention of selling it and wants to keep it forever. We asked him, what mods he has planned for the Combi next and he said “it’s sort of complete”. For now – may be.  Knowing him,  I have a feeling, there is more to come.

 

Mercedes E63 S AMG

Well, super saloons have been there for ages. Taking supercar levels of power and combining it with the practicality and everyday usability of a sedan has been a popular formula ever since the German autobahns were opened. Over the years, we had come to a point where these are so good, you don’t know where they would go next. Well, thanks to the times we live in, you can now have a 600bhp all wheel drive four door sedan with a Mercedes badge up front. Enter the E63 S AMG – one of the fastest four door sedans you can buy on the planet.

The Mercedes E63 S we tested came in stunning Selenite Grey Magno matte paint. It looks swell next to the regular E class that is only available in the V213 long wheelbase guise. Then there is the AMG GT style bonnet line with extended bumper that wraps up around the twin slat grill giving it a meaner look. The fenders are 11mm wider, the air dams are very aggressive and there are strong bulges on the bonnet that allude to the power house underneath. The 20 inch forged rims fill the arches so well and are fitted with massive 265/35R20 and 295/30R20 tyres – front and rear. Things are much more subtle at the rear where there is a subtle lip spoiler on the bootlid and quad exhausts like there should be in an AMG.

Inside, it has all the business side of going fast, well taken care of. The seats are proper AMG sport buckets, the steering is great to hold and because it is an E class, it has all the gadgets and gizmos to keep you entertained. The twin screens dominate most of the dashboard and the controls are logically laid out. You can dive deep into the menu to find an option to tweak everything, that little bit better, or use the easy access toggles in the centre console. The rear seat may not have the huge legroom of the regular E class, but it is still plenty.

 

Mercedes has replaced the old 5.5 litre V8 in the previous E63, with a 4.0 litre twin turbo M177 V8 mated to a new slick 9 speed automatic. In the E63S, it produces 604bhp and 850Nm –mind-blowing figures for a family sedan. It has two ‘hot’ BorgWarner turbos which sit within the V, than on either side. While in theory, that may not look good for centre of mass or turbine temperature, the short runner length makes them extremely quick to spool. Every time you prod the accelerator, you get a mad rush, accompanied by a gravelly V8 noise that only AMG can manage from a turbocharged engine. It hurls you from one corner to the next and the Ceramic composite brakes are just as good at shedding speed as the engine is at building up. The exhaust crackles and pops like gun shots every time you get off the gas pedal. Mercedes claims a 0-100kmph time of 3.4 seconds and to think that this one weighs 1955kg!

For years, you wanted an all-wheel drive track focussed car for grip and a rear wheel drive tyre shredding hooligan to go sideways. Finally thanks to a clever 4Matic all -wheel drive system in the E63, you can have both. It is quite like a Nissan GTR in the way it sends it power. It always feels rear biased and non-intrusive. It lets the steering angle dictate how far the rear end slides, before correcting it. You can also get it in full rear wheel drive Drift Mode followed by some very expensive tyre bills later. Whatever mode you choose, there is a newfound precision in the E63 AMG that you will enjoy. The E63 S uses an electronically controlled limited slip differential at the rear. The steering is very well weighted and there is a sense of urgency in the way, the big saloon changes direction. It is so controllable and poised, it would shame most supercars. The E63 uses air suspension all round and although ride quality is a bit edgy you can’t fault the grip and traction it has.

 

The E63 AMG retails for Rs.1.5 Crores Ex.showroom. That might seem a lot of money, but its breadth of abilities is immense. It can be the perfect unassuming sedan to arrive at a business meeting and later that day you can take the whole family out for dinner in it. It can cross continents with ease and then do some fast laps on a race track of your choice over the weekend. And when you are happy with the time you set, celebrate it with some very long drifts. All that while being accompanied by that glorious V8 rumble that announce to the world that you have arrived.

 

Petrobug