Dual Personality

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BY
VIVEK VENUGOPAL

February 15

On the face of it, things are very well toned down and discrete with this silver Laura 1.8TSI done by Pete’s Automotive. There is the RS front bumper and the spoiler, but the wheels are very classy AG Forge 17 inchers and the exterior mods stop right there. It must be quite a step down for its owner Mr. Oommen Philip, whose previous car was a shouty 300bhp black Octavia RS with Milotec bits enhancing the already boy racer-ish looks and lots of stickers all around. They have however got the stance right on the Laura with a lowered ride height and a set of H&R wheel spacers that push the wheels to their extremes. It looks purposeful, but not in your face and is perfect for a gentleman, who now likes to blend in. But open the hood and you would be amazed to find a plethora of stickers most of which have funny quotes on them. “I had always had a soft corner for stickers from my childhood. Because I can’t display them outside, considering my age, I put them inside” says Oommen. This dual personality goes a long way in the way it drives too.

Driving around the city, looking for an empty place to stop for our photo session, the car was unbelievably sublime and civilized. The engine was barely ticking over idle, the clutch was light and despite the copious amounts of turbo-lag till about 2700rpm it was quite drivable. The engine had enough low down grunt to keep up with moving traffic and close gaps and was running third gear at nearly crawling speeds, without any complaints. It was like the exteriors, very subtle and quite well mannered. And you could drive around in the city not knowing that there is a dark side to it just a couple of revs away.

What belies the sense of calm is an engine waiting to pounce after you have patiently waited for the engine to gather revs. 320bhp is what its tuners have aimed for and from the reverse calculations by the V-box factoring in the car’s weight, this has to be close. It did 0-100kmph in 7.18seconds which is nearly a second and half from the standard car’s time. 140kmph comes up in 12.02 seconds which is almost five seconds faster. Behind the wheel, it feels much faster, mainly because the turbo delivers all its punch in one go after 2700rpm all the way till you near redline. Acceleration is savage in second gear and a quick gear change to third puts you back in the powerband where it starts all over again.

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To get to this level, the engine has got some serious mods starting with the turbo upgrade. At Rs. 4.68lakhs, the JBS05 turbo kit is a costly upgrade, but that along with the rest of the mods, puts you close to sportscar territory. The car also gets a Milltek catback exhaust, a decat stainless steel down pipe and a Forge piston diverter valve. It has a phase 2 Custom Code remap that takes all the new hardware into account and bumps up the power from the 160bhp of the stock car. To handle the extra power, Pete’s have also fitted the car with H&R coilovers, Bilstein B6 dampers, uprated H&R anti-roll bars and Tarox G88 rotors and pads.

Oommen has owned the car for about a year now and says it is very different in feel to the souped up Octavia he owned before that. He likes the refinement and everyday usability of this one and intends to keep it this way for long. Until the day, a Porsche 911 comes along, that is.

Get the turbo on boost and it is a different story altogether. The car accelerates forward in proper tuned car fashion. There is no let up in power till 5500rpm and though most enthusiasts complain about the rev limit being lower on turbocharged cars, but there is no denying they are fast in every gear. This particular Laura sounds rorty thanks to its uprated Miltek exhaust system I got to throw around Ketan’s car on the same twisty bits where I did the Honda BRV that morning. Not only could I carry almost double the speed through a follow through, it still felt like child’s play in the Laura. The combination of good grippy tyres and the Bilstein B14 coilovers is hard to beat in the corners. Yes, these track focussed coilovers are a bit stiff for daily use, but it offers supercar levels of grip in the corners. The chassis feels even tighter thanks to Eibach antiroll bars and polyurethane bushes all around. And the Tarox G88 brakes with Strada pads are so confidence inspiring, you soon forget you are doing silly speeds all the time.

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BY VIVEK VENUGOPAL

ASSISTANT FASHION EDITOR

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