The MG Hector should have come with bigger wheels

Every time you look at it, you can’t help but think if it had bigger wheels than what MG provided. An SUV should have big wheels to look the part and somehow the wheels on the Hector make it look like an MPV.  The body is massive it makes the wheels look smaller than they actually are. The are 17 inchers with weedy 215-60R17 tyres which if you read our review, are inadequate for this size of vehicle. The only benefit we can see is that they will be cheap to replace, but you have to live with it everyday. Even if you wanted to upgrade to bigger wheels and tyres, there is only so much you can do with the tiny wheel arches.

So what if MG hadn’t messed up the proportions and given it the right styling cues it really deserved?

BEFORE   AFTER         

 

There you go. Straight away it is better than what we we given. Even with the standard alloy wheels. Next up, we will work on one for the Inspiration section.

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" In the hottest season of midsummer, the small wind blowing just now suddenly stopped, and the suffocating heat returned."

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Why We Don’t Want Another Lexus LFA

Recently, some rumors surfaced the interwebs stating that Lexus is talking about an LFA successor but needs media support to make it happen. “I love it but we need your help. We need strong requests for a new LFA from the media. This can help us proceed”  -said Lexus’ vice president, Koji Sato. There are many things I’m not sure about in my life but I know for sure that we don’t want another LFA. Why? Let me explain.

 

You see, the LFA is not just a random supercar from the Land Of Rising Sun. It’s much more than that. It is the pride of a nation, which has been ridiculed for making soulless cars. It is Toyota’s golden moment in years, standing up, looking down at the established German and flamboyant Italians shouting — There is much more to us than Corollas and geraitric hybrid vehicles. It was a masterpiece, not just Toyota’s but Japan’s. We geeks know that 10 years is plain ridiculous for Toyota to churn out a supercar. But, yeah, it did take them a dreary long 10 years. The LFA was conceived even before the beautiful V10-powered Carrera GT came out and that’s some food for thought right there. 


Some say the LFA was Akio Toyoda’s pet project, but it is actually the sweat of a tiny skunkworks team that was formed inside Lexus. The three suspects include Akio Toyoda, chief engineer Haruhiko Tanahashi, and the late test driver Hiromu Naruse. Haruhiko Tanahashi can be referred to as the father of LFA, it was his vision that led to the supercar. Tanahashi was the chassis engineer for Toyota and was behind the dynamics of cars like the JZX90 Mark II and Celica GT-Four. I don’t think I have to say any further about Tanahashi when there are names of care like these in his resume. Haruhiko approached Toyota’s chief test driver, Himoru Naruse and the duo set towards making the then unnamed LFA a reality. Being Toyota, the project was sure to be scrapped as it involved a fair amount (understatement) of moolah. That is where Akio Toyoda comes in; being an enthusiast at heart, Akio vouched for the project and along with Haruhiko and Himoru rooted for the project to be given a green signal. Akio’s main point being the need for a halo car, something which inspires and uplifts the brand’s status and adds some much needed enthusiasm to it.

 

The LFA was on track with no costs barred utilizing all Toyota had back then. But the biggest turning point in the LFA’s unsung story came later in 2005. Carbon fibre was on the verge of a breakthrough with more supercars using it. It was a newfound enlightenment for supercar manufacturer. And when LFA’s development team came to a deadlock, Akio Toyoda bodly chose to scratch 5 years of development involving an aluminium chassis. Mind you, 2005 was different, carbon fibre was as rare as new BMW cars with appropriate sized grille. Only a handful had the expertise in this light but strong material. Unfortunately Toyota wasn’t one of them. That didn’t stop Akio and his bunch of enthusiasts with the vision of creating a thorough bred drivers car. Toyota’s then defunct Motomachi ( LFA was built in the same facility) was picked to create bespoke carbon fibre parts for the LFA. Don’t forget the financial hurdles Toyota went through by scratching years of progress and going ahead with carbon fibre. The Japanese are a crazy bunch of people, but this was something so bold for one of the biggest carmakers on this planet. So daring that they even went ahead and created a never-seen-before 3D loom for weaving carbon fibre. Toyota, at first didn’t even let anyone photograph it citing various reasons with the main one being competition might nick the technology. 

After hideos amounts of green paper, research, testing, sweat and sushi, the LFA was finally taking shape. The supercar debuted at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show but was soon the point of criticism thanks to its high price tag making it three times more dearer than the Nissan GTR, which was also faster than the LFA on paper making things worse. In my opinion, the Lexus LFA came out at the wrong time. The car was destined for the future, it was so ahead of time that it took many years after the production run out for the masses to see the brilliance under the sheen. 

The biggest trait of the car is obviously something which I haven’t even scratched yet. I believe we should reserve all the good stuff for the ending — The howling banshee-like 4.8-litre 72-degree bank angle ILR-GUE V10 is and will forever be remembered as one of the best engines ever made. Quite honestly the best sounding production car ever made, the engine, acoustically tuned by Yamaha was nothing short of a musical instrument. One that reminds you of the glorious days of F1, one that makes makes you yearn for unadulterated sounding engines, and the one that you’ll listen to over the years when the electric cars and the unnerving silence takes over. The whole car is a science fest on wheels, and Toyota flexing its muscles, boasting off all the sci-fi bits. The engine, hand built using forged aluminum pistons, forged titanium connecting rods could scream upto 9000rpm. And it could do that within a jaw-dropping 0.6th of a second forcing Lexus to use a digital tachometer as a conventional tachometer looked like a dinosaur here.

 

 

Various renowned auto journos who started to experience  the car began praising it, praise it in such a way that some of them so much as went ahead and said that it is the best car they have driven. Adding more verve to the whole driving experience was the ultra-sharp handling thanks to its carbon fibre monocoque chassis and Lexus’ chassis tuning gained from its extensive time at the ring. Lexus also made 50 Nurburgring editions of the LFA which was also the fastest production car around the ring. Slowly but surely the LFA is starting to get all the acclaim it was missing in the first place. But that doesn’t mean we want another LFA. Don’t get me wrong here, as much as I would love to see one, in the back of my mind, I know that like Jeremy told “ Even the people who made it (LFA) doesn’t know how to make it anymore”. The LFA name should remain sanct, it shouldn’t have a successor. I am pretty sure that in this day and age where electrics and hybrids are catching up, the next LFA will not have a glorious V10, or even a V8 for that matter. I would rather have no successor to the LFA than a hybrid LFA that sounds like a..yes, vacuum cleaner. 

 

 

Then there is the enormous amount of research and passion that went into the LFA that makes it that more special. The automotive industry is not the same anymore, cars are not aesthetically pleasing, fake sounds are the new thing, and driving pleasure can’t even be found in the back seat.  Nobody is saying Lexus shouldn’t develop another supercar, (and they should actually) but the problem here is that we love the LFA so much. Lexus can have all the media support they want for the LFA successor provided they don’t use those three letters.

Euro Fighter

It may be nearing the end of its life, but this generation of the Octavia still looks fresh. And in RS trim, it looks even better. The Mk3 Octavia RS is godsend to anyone who wanted an immensely practical, fast car that is relatively affordable. You could buy one as a family car and daily drive it while being able to hold a candle to many entry level sports cars.

 

This particular one has been done up rather tastefully. The unique ‘b.fifty5 Mesh series’ 18 inch wheels, look perfectly suited for the car’s character. The red and black combination works really for the Octavia RS. The extra stripe running along the sides go well with the rest of the car despite it crossing an upward swept character line on the rear bumper. The front canards are well integrated into the front bumper. The more you look, the more details you will find. There is a Maxton spoiler cap that sits on top of the standard RS spoiler giving it more definition. Also there is a black pin stripe along the shoulder and you know its owner has got taste.

 

 

APR is a big name in the European tuning scene and is highly revered among VAG enthusiasts. This Octavia RS has tricklings of APR goodies, thanks to Harmonixx Tuning of Bangalore, who has done over 60 RSes including one with over 500 bhp! The engine gets an enhanced intake system, a performance turbo inlet, a downpipe and resonator delete, a muffler delete – all courtesy of APR. It also gets a Stage 2 APR Performance Tune along with an APR Performance TCU Tune for the dual clutch gearbox.

 

 

The result is an Octavia RS that hasn’t got the memo about the new road fines and wants to reintroduce you to your breakfast that morning. The beauty is all these updates are so matched to one another, they deliver a punch twice as strong as the regular RS230. The wide powerband of the EA888 motor combined with its free revving nature was never short on thrills, but the added bump in power is evident right from when the turbo spools up. You get a lungful of acceleration out of any engine speed and the DSG box is now even faster delivering it to you. The Forge blow-off sounds sweet between every upshift and you can drive this Octavia RS all day and still not get tired of it. The tuners estimate approximately 330bhp and 530Nm and it surely feels that way. We even managed to time it, though not properly, against our Racelogic and it did a 0-100kmph time of 5.9 sec with two people on board, lots of fuel and very, very wet roads. Had it been a cool morning with some dry tarmac, it would have easily been half a second faster, may be more. There are other APR stuff like Dog Bone mounts, an oil catch can etc and these are for longevity.

 

 

The car sits on Eibach Pro-Street S coilovers that makes it a little sharper on anything less than ideal roads. Yes, they lend the chassis with even better response than stock, which coupled with the electromechanical differential, makes it very capable on the twisties. The e-diff, it must be noted, can send upto 100 percent torque to whichever wheel can cope with it, making for lesser scrabble and a tighter line. When this car was being developed, the Octavia RS230 with its e-diff was nearly ten seconds faster at the Nurburgring compared to a standard Octavia RS. This particular car also gets black diamond pads with slotted and drilled rotors. The owner prefers this setup than to commit to a big brake kit and live with the constant squealing that come with it. Those work great for the track, but for street use, these black diamond stuff does the job well.

 

 

All through the story, we haven’t mentioned whose car it was. Well, this belongs to a Doctor in Kochi who doesn’t want to be named. He says the extra performance comes in ‘handy’ for emergencies – when he wants to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. After spending a morning with it, we don’t see why it should be done any another way!

 

 

Kia Seltos

Kia is to Hyundai what Skoda is to VW. It is the more lifestyle division of a main stream brand. Apart from the R&D and few of the top management, both companies don’t share much. Kia has been testing the waters here for a while and now has a full-fledged manufacturing facility in Andhra Pradesh and a reasonably well established dealer network. We were among the first to drive the Seltos, its first offering for the Indian market, ahead of its actual launch.

The Seltos’ styling is sure to please everyone. It is roughly the size of a Creta but is marginally longer. In fact the Seltos is based on the next gen Creta that will hit the Indian markets later this year. It looks very upmarket from the front with LED headlamps and fog lamps whose elements resemble ice cubes. The traditional Kia grill is well finished with a knurled finish and has DRLs extending on to it. The bonnet has a squared off edge giving it a purposeful look. The 17 inch wheels in both the GT Line and Tech Line models fill the arches well. The GT Line has red accents on the alloys along with those in the airdam, sides and rear. The side profile has an upward swept quarter glass while the rear is quite conventional in design and layout.

The interiors are well made too. The dashboard has a pleasing design and overall quality is excellent. Plastics have a nice texture to them and there is a faux leather trim on the dashboard. The buttons have a quality feel, the knobs have a knurled finish and even the speaker grills are designed to look expensive. The dashboard has a Merc look to it with the infotainment screen and gauges being part of one big rectangular console. The 10.25 inch touchscreen offers Apple Car Play, Android Auto, Navigation and voice control along with various Connected car features including a concierge service. You can press a button for a location query and an actual person will answer to whom you can then request to patch the route map to your navigation system. You get wireless charging, tyre pressure monitoring, a 400W Bose system, ambient lighting etc. The lower trims feature a standard Arkamys sound system and we didn’t feel the Bose system was that superior. The steering wheel is great to hold and everything has a well put together feel. What’s also impressive is the driver MID is another 7 inch screen with crisp graphics and cool animations, supplementing two analogue gauges. The GT Line cars get another display in the form of a heads-up on a small retractable screen which shows maps, speed and other important info. Apparently, like with Hyundais, you can’t have the fully loaded variant if you choose an automatic. Kia should have known better.

I usually prefer black interiors in a car, but in the Seltos, the Tech Line interiors seemed more appealing than the GT Line. Perhaps it had to do with the stitched pattern of the seats with matching carpets or that the automatic version of the GT we tested, was missing out on the ventilated seats and sunroof. The front seats are comfortable and the driver side gets electric adjustment. The rear seat is reclinable by 6 degrees, gets sun blinds for the sides and is a comfortable place to be. Headroom and legroom though not in the league of the larger SUVs like the Hector, are still good. You wish it offered a bit more thigh support at the rear. Still, the shoulder line is lower than in the Creta, giving you better view and the extra quarter glass at the rear makes the cabin feel airier. You get the same air quality index display above the rear air vents and a charging socket for your mobile phone.

You get a choice of three engines with the Seltos – a 1.5L petrol, a 1.4L turbo petrol or a 1.5L diesel. All three engines come with a 6 speed manual or its own type of automatic transmission option. The basic 1.5L engine gets a CVT, while the diesel gets a 6 speed conventional torque convertor while the top spec 1.4L turbo petrol gets a 7 speed Dual Clutch. We haven’t driven the base naturally aspirated model yet.

 

The 1.5L turbo diesel is soon going to be the mainstay engine in the Kia and Hyundai range and is a brilliant performer. It makes 115bhp and 250Nm – slightly down on power and torque compared to the Creta’s 1.6L with 128bhp and 260Nm. But, on the road, it feels just as good with a much linear nature making up for the sudden bump in the power. Performance is adequate and power stays strong till about 4600rpm. The gearbox is smooth and the clutch is easy to operate.

 

If you are buying the diesel automatic, you’d be surprised to know that the driving experience in much better than in the Hyundai Creta diesel AT. The same six speed gearbox in the Creta used to get confused with full throttle inputs, wrongly selecting second gear where it would often rev the engine out of its powerband before selecting the third gear and accelerating. In the Seltos, the gearbox shift logic has been improved to select the right gear and the wider powerband means there is always ample pulling power after each downshift.

Just as impressive as the diesel is, 1.4L turbo petrol is the engine to have right now. Essentially a 4 cylinder version of the one in the Venue, this direct injection motor with its healthy 140bhp and 242Nm torque is very refined, eager to rev and enjoyable. The dual clutch gearbox doesn’t feel as lightning fast as it does in a VAG car, but does its job brilliantly. It can upshift closer to the red line and even lets you do manual downshifts at reasonably high revs giving you better control over the car. Still, like in the Venue, the DCT gearbox is tuned conservatively to extend its clutch life with gentler shifts. There is even a mode in the driver’s MID to monitor the temp of the transmission.

 

Dynamically, the Seltos also happens to be one of the best SUVs to come from the Korean shores. The ride quality is brilliant and the Seltos soaks all broken patches of roads with aplomb. The suspension has an adequate amount of travel and doesn’t feel as wallowy as in the Creta. Despite the focus on comfort, it somehow manages to grip well too. On the wet roads of Goa, the Kia felt planted and although the steering isn’t the most feel-some around, still feels direct. The brakes which are discs at the rear, manage to stop well too. The GT Line car offers three driving modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport) and traction settings (Mud, Snow, Wet/Sand). While Sport makes the steering stiffer and the throttle a bit more responsive, the traction settings made no noticeable difference to the driving.

 

Kia’s maiden product for India seems to have got everything right. It has got the style, appeal, space, comfort and is just the right size. It also drives well and there is an engine option for everyone. And Kia offers one of the best warranties in its class, on top of the excellent reliability we have come to expect of new Hyundai products. With entry level model starting from Rs.9.46 lakhs, they even got the pricing right. If we could find a fault with it, it is that the choice of engines, transmission and variants can give you a hard time at the dealership.

 

 

Renault Triber

 The Triber is what Renault thinks India needs at the moment – a compact MPV that can go places. It has the practicality and seating capacity of an MPV, ruggedness and ground clearance of a crossover, yet is under four metres like a small hatchback. Small hatchbacks and MPVs are what Renault is known for worldwide, and this India specific model based on the Kwid platform has a lot going for it.

Sitting 1.7 meter wide, the Triber has a rugged look. The Renault lozenge logo sits right in the middle of the grille that straddles the headlamps. The front end has a Kwid inspired look. The overall styling is very European especially at the rear. There is a particularly interesting kink in the C pillar. And those cleverly designed roofrails may help disguise it, but you can see the roofline rising abruptly after the B pillar, to maximize headroom and give a theatrical seating to every row. There are other clever touches too. To reduce the visual bulk, the tall sides need these black elements on the doors, but to save costs, it is a vinyl sticker than an actual plastic side cladding. And these lovely 15 inch wheels that you see here may look like alloys, but are in fact, plastic wheel caps over a steel rim!

Just like the exteriors, the interiors are every bit as interesting. The dashboard feels good quality and feels more expensive than the sticker price suggests. It is a good design too with a solid European flavour. There is a band of silver trim that runs across the width below which sits the 8.0 inch infotainment system. The AC controls are chunky knobs, the starter button has a shiny bezel around it and there is a dedicated space for your cellphone. There are two glove boxes one of which is cooled and the centre console has another cavernous storage box which is also cooled. The steering wheel is the perfect size and like the rest of the dashboard, feels much better than the ones in more expensive Renaults. The all-digital gauge cluster on the other hand is trying too hard with various circular segments lighting up in white to show engine rpm, fuel, temp etc.

 

The front seats are comfy and are set high enough to give you a commanding view of the road. All the seats are made of good quality fabric and the colour palette used for the whole cabin is pleasant. The second row seats are set higher than the front ones. There is an adequate amount of legroom while headroom is enormous. The seat splits 60:40 and its recline can be adjusted to your comfort.  There are AC vents in the B pillar and their fan speed can be controlled by a knob on the centre console. With doors that open wide and the middle row seat that can be tumbled forward with a lever, access to the last row isn’t that difficult. You do get a reasonable amount of space here too, and it is brilliant considering the car is under 4 meters long.

 

 

The rear most passengers have to make do with non-retractable seat belts and have to sit with their knees up although Renault has provided adjustable head restraints in this row. With all seats in place, the boot is just 84 litres, but you can easily take the last row out and you have 320litres. With the middle row folded down, this becomes 625 litres.

 

The engine is perhaps the least impressive bit in the Triber. It produces 72bhp and 96Nm, and is a development on the Kwid unit that also powers the base Clio and Dacia Sandero in other markets. It is pretty high tech on paper with dual variable valve timing and all, but the performance is rather pedestrian. It also sounds gruff when you rev it, which you have to, considering how weak it is in the midrange. It is adequate for city use, but you will struggle with full complement of passengers or on an incline. The clutch is snappy and the gearshifts feel a little vague.

 

The ride quality is very good as we have come to expect of Renaults. The suspension can cope with bad roads and potholes with ease. There is a good amount of suspension travel and ground clearance of 182mm makes it almost as good as a crossover. There is a hint of firmness in the ride, but it gets better with speeds. Triber rides on 185/65 R15 tyres which are better at dealing broken sections than most other hatches. The handling is acceptable, although the steering isn’t the most communicative around. It understeers a bit when pushed hard, but this isn’t a car which you drive fast anyway. Brakes feel strong enough for the car’s capabilities too.

 

The Triber has a lot going for it. The combination of various seat adjustments give it a lot of flexibility and the general cabin quality seems to belong to a class above. The engine and driving experience could have been better, but the Triber claws back lost points with good design, space utilization, ride quality and value. With prices starting from Rs.4.95 lakhs and going up to Rs.6.49 lakhs, the Triber is a practical alternative to a conventional hatchback.

 

 

 

Van-ta-black

Twenty five year old Samuel Abraham from Kochi has a thing for black. He has two Corollas both of which are black. He has this Winger which is black and almost all of his bikes were black. The only shiny colourful things he hold on to, are the trophies he won at various Motocross championships across the country.

Samuel is a super-cross/motocross rider by profession and likes to play in the dirt. He has seen many a podium finishes in various events, with his Royal Enfield Himalayan. His latest weapon of choice is a Kawasaki KX250F with a 249cc, four stroke, DOHC, water cooled, single cylinder engine developing 45hp and weighing 104kg. For a bike that costs Rs.7.7 lakhs, it cannot be registered and hence, cannot be ridden on the public roads. The Tata Winger van you see here is his transportation for the Kawasaki KX250F.

 

The Winger is based off a first generation Renault Traffic van which was made from 1980 all the way to 2001! Tata later bought the license to the design and tooling to make it here as the Winger. Then they fitted it with the 2.0L engine from the old Sumo and sold it here in three trim levels. It is a front wheel drive chassis with proper box styling- closest thing we have to an Indian VW T4, if you like.

 

Samuel chose the Winger for the acres of space it had on offer. He could fit two bikes, the necessary tools and all his gear in the back. He could also take two or more of his mates along on those long trips to various events.  The Winger has individual seats and they are useful when taking a break between races. The roof mounted air-conditioning for all rows, was another huge plus point. He says it returns similar fuel economy as an Innova and it is very effortless when driving long distances. He wishes, it had more power though; but there is only so much you can do to an old school non CRDI diesel engine.

 

 

So instead of pursuing performance, he turned to making it look good. The interiors were upgraded with new upholstery. The redone seats are much better to sit in than the ones that came with the car. For the exterior, he had only one colour choice in mind. It was black; the darker, the better. Heard of BMW making a big fuss about their non-reflective Vantablack coloured X6 recently? Well, this is our ‘Van-ta-black’ a.k.a. ‘the Black Van’. Painting was done locally and Samuel is quite happy with the results.

 

 

He had been in touch with us for modifying his Winger, for a very long time. The biggest challenge was the wheels. The Winger has a very strange 160×4 hole pattern. It was next to impossible to find a replacement wheel that fits this, so Samuel went through the process of having a custom PCD adapter fabricated. It looks odd to see the adapters which convert 160 to 100PCD. But in the end, he could fit these first gen Verna wheels with 195 section tyres. How the tall body of the Winger makes those 16 inch rims look small is another thing altogether.

 

 

For now, this Tata Winger has been the faithful companion for Samuel and an indispensable part in his racing career. It is more than a tool to transport his bike and gear and the two have spent a lot of time travelling to various parts of the country. The van will also serve as a mobile billboard for his future sponsors. He is preparing for the next MRF National Championship in 2020 and is hopeful he would make it to the podium. You will see more of him, his Kawasaki and the Van-ta-black Winger at the next big event near you.

 

Sting Operation

Twenty four year old Emil Manual Aruja works at ADNOC in Abu Dhabi, and has a small burger joint in Kochi called Eat Street. If the reviews are anything to go by, the place serves tasty food. But his best creation is often parked outside the shop – a white Punto Abarth with subtle lowering and 17 inch alloys.

Emil was smitten by the Punto Abarth when he test drove one. He loved the analogue feel it had and that it wasn’t an easy car to get in a go fast. His first mod was the exhaust system complete with the Remus endcan, which made it sound so much better – something that Fiat should have done from the factory on the Abarth. Emil says the exhaust also helped the turbo spool faster but it wasn’t until Wolf Moto remapped his car that the Abarth got it proper sting.

Mr.Rajiv Chandran of Wolf Moto has carved quite a name for himself, specializing in good remaps for most European cars. In the Abarth, Rajiv has taken it to another level by making it switchable. Map 1 is the factory map, Map 2 is a performance map designed to work with regular pump fuel while Map 3 is for 97 Octane fuel. How it works is, you turn the key to battery position and press the accelerator pedal all the way. With each press, the tachometer needle jumps a point indicating which map is selected. No extra switch, no ungainly displays, not an extra wire anywhere – it is all designed to work seamlessly with the existing hardware. Genius, huh?

The Abarth still runs the stock IHI VL38 turbo with typical boost around 1.3bar, peak boost around 1.5bar and going down to almost 0.8 bar at redline. It also gets an upgraded GReddy intercooler and a K&N Cold Air Intake. It is easier to drive off, thanks to better bottom end which is good in traffic. The HKS blow off and exhaust provide enough music to the ears without being overtly loud inside the cabin. The midrange has seen even massive improvement. There is very strong punch and it races its way to the red-line even quicker. Performance is more Skoda 1.8 TSI league than anything else, even with the big 17 inch rims and tyres. The bigger intercooler makes sure that performance doesn’t suffer, even on the hot day we tested it. Having driven quite a number of them in various states of tune, I can say, if there is one car that needs a remap it is the Abarth.

Emil’s car runs on Eibach lowering springs which gives it a neat look. The ride quality isn’t that bad for just springs, thanks to the adequate damping the OE shocks have straight from the factory. The car is still a running project and Emil is contemplating a Mitsubishi TD04 turbo upgrade good for over 220bhp. Yes, we have driven one and you will read about it in the months to come.

 

 

Less is More : Polo GT TSI

Remember the Jazz with an L15A engine transplant, couple of issues back? Well, the owner of that car started out with this GT TSI which he modified to a point where it was too valuable and impractical to drive around every day. The Jazz was bought as a beater to fill in, which he then felt was underpowered and hence the engine swap happened. Any way, we promised you a story on his Polo GT TSI then and here it is.

Having featured two of his cars earlier too, Arjun is no stranger to Quarter Mile. For the Polo, he has gone with a ‘less is more’ approach. His Polo GT TSI has a very clean look to it. He has gone for the OEM LED headlamps from a Vento Highline Plus. It goes well with the chrome delete on the front grille and the glossy black bits. The sides are as clean as they could be and the rear gets the LED tail lamps from the facelifted GTI.  There is a custom R Line steering with Nappa leather and carbon fibre finish but the rest of the interiors are bone stock.

It looks right sitting on 17 inch Inforged wheels wearing 205/40R17 Hankook V12 Evo tyres. The car runs on KW variant 3 coilovers. The ride height is quite low, but the wheels are well lined up with the body which coupled with the already clean look of the Polo is hard to beat. To achieve this perfect fitment, Arjun resorted to a pair of 16mm TPI forged spacers at the rear. Peek inside the front wheels and you get a glimpse of the Brembo slotted rotors.

This Polo was his daily driver for quite some time before it was lowered. The GT TSI with its 1.2 litre EA111 is an engineering masterpiece. As the first Indian hatchback to offer direct injection and turbo petrol power, it features a cast aluminium block, an 8 valve head and a die-forged steel crankshaft. The engine in its stock form makes 104bhp at 5000rpm and 175Nm torque from 1500-4000rpm. The engine in this particular car benefits from a Code6 remap, a Forge Motorsports Blow off valve, a BMC replacement filter with Euro Spec air channel and an Automech Decat pipe with a Remus endcan. Needless to say it sounds as good as it goes.

As of now, Arjun also got his hands on a Laura TSI which he is planning to take to the performance to stage 3 levels. Once he has done that, he has plans to plonk that engine into this GT TSI. If that happens, you will have a garage built Indian Polo GTI with five doors and a manual transmission. We promise to bring a feature as soon as it cranks for the first time.

Beetle Mania

The Beetle may be gone without a successor but this iconic car will always have its retro charm. It is one of the most recognisable automotive shapes ever. And for many, like this one who likes to remain anonymous, looks are a big part of its appeal. “There was very little else to do, than put some nice alloys on it” he said.

It rides on 18 inch Rotiform TMB rims shod with 225/40R18 Michelin PS4 tyres. Even the standard ride height wasn’t so bad. The Beetle may only have a 1.4Litre turbo petrol engine, but it gets the 148bhp state of tune as the Octavia and not the 120bhp setup in the Jetta. And unlike the Octavia which only comes in a manual, this one gets the 7 speed DSG. Although flat-out acceleration to 100kmph takes around 9.1 seconds from standstill, it feels quite brisk. There is a decent amount of poke for everyday driving and that gearbox is very quick to respond to a downshift or upshift when you need it.

This particular gen Beetle uses the older PQ35 platform than the newer MQB. It has good grip and the chassis is somewhat engaging to drive. The ride quality is also very good for the Beetle to be a daily driver. The dashboard is part retro with body coloured panels, retro glove box, hooded cluster etc. with modern VW bits thrown in.

Last year, VW decided to axe the Beetle without a replacement any time soon. But we know this one will come back as an electric, some day.

Crossbow : S Cross

The S Cross is a car for enthusiasts as much as it was for the family man. We know, because we ran one for about a year as a long termer in our fleet. It made for the perfect support car, keeping up with fast and much more expensive machinery during photoshoots. It could also go where the roads didn’t exist, during off-road events. And it was quite at home parked in the hotel portico as was at picking up the weekend shopping at the supermarket. It is a multi talented car whose appeal was only understood by a relatively small group of car buyers. After starting a small club for S Cross, we started meeting many owners and they all have this ‘we know something that the others don’t’ look about their purchase.

Manu Mathai from Kochi, wanted something different for his next car beyond the usual hatchbacks, sedans and SUVs. The S Cross was seen as the combination of all three – a crossover that is larger than a hatch, drives like a sedan, yet can tackle broken stuff like a crossover. It was a year back I spotted him with his car on the road. He was in the middle of some family errands but once we started talking, he didn’t want to stop. I insisted that he should keep going, so with numbers exchanged and a few photographs taken, we went our separate ways until recently he bought the car down for a drive. This feature thus, has been a long time coming. Good news is, it had more modifications by then.

What impresses you most is how different it looks from other S Crosses on the road. The ride height is much lower and the stance is near perfect. Giving the lowered feel is the body coloured lower part of the car which are usually black. Manu has painted the wheel arches and other trim in matching premium silver colour to give it a more street focussed look. The 18 inch ADV.1 style wheels are another pointer and they fill the arches so much nicer. The rims were later painted black and they looked even better when they were hyper silver the first time we saw it. This is a base Sigma variant which comes without roof rails and that adds to the lowered look. The blacked out grille, black mirrors, blacked out badges etc are details you wouldn’t miss. We have said this before that starting out with the basic model in the Nexa range is a clever move, because you get everything like power windows, ABS and airbags etc, but with loads of spare cash for mods.

The famed 90bhp 1.3MJD gets a remap that tremendously improves the way it behaves. There is no lag and performance is now closer to an S Cross 1.6. There is no sudden rush of power as the focus here is on drivability and you can potter around in third gear for the most part. The turbo spools so much faster, thanks to a custom downpipe and a full exhaust system. It also gives out a rorty note, which is still unmistakably diesel, but has a sporty feel to it.

The car runs on custom made springs that are a bit bumpy which along with the 18 inch wheels means you have to be careful on our roads. The car rides on 245/45 18 tyres. Manu has also addressed the interiors with artleather seats that were retrimmed for better support. A Pioneer touchscreen music system with speakers was added too. Manu says, “being a niche car it was difficult and most of the parts have to be custom made as aftermarket ones aren’t available”.  But that is what makes it so different, isn’t it?

 

 

Petrobug