Perfect Replacement

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BY
VIVEK VENUGOPAL

February 19

Why, you might ask, do someone want to replace his vRS look-alike Laura 1.9TDI with Bilstein suspension, Borbet alloys and a 220bhp remap. With parts costing nearly Rs.7 lakhs and after all that trouble sourcing them, it was indeed tough decision for Peter K Chacko of Pete’s Automotive Pvt Ltd. It has been his daily drive and more than that, a showcase of what Pete’s could achieve. Now, the decision to let go off the old girl, another question sprang up. What do you replace the hottest looking Laura in the country, with? Another one? “Why not?” says Peter. Post the facelift, the Laura has lost some of its character, but Peter has already proven that he know a thing or two about how to win back some of it.

So while he was pepping it up, we waited. And finally, we got to see what the boys at Pete’s have been busy with. They have been swapping parts from the old car – like the wheels, the suspension and most of its interiors and adding new ones. With its flared bumpers, RS badging and rear spoiler it looks like an RS, but actually this is the more sensible 2.0TDI L&K with a city friendly DSG gearbox. The body coloured eyelids take care of cleverly disguising the nasty curve on top of the headlamps. If you look closely, you would see some of the RS bits have been tweaked even further. The front grille that has been painted body colored and the mesh grille replacing the vertical slats. Also the rear spoiler and the B pillar trim are now carbon fibre. Those minor details aside, how does it look better than the standard Laura RS? It’s down to what the Euro scene is all about – stance. It has been properly lowered on Bilstein suspension and it’s a far cry from the raised Burj Kalifa stance of the standard car. The wheels are Borbet XL 17 inchers as in the earlier car, sporting suitably wide 235/45R17 Yokohama Advant Sport tyres. The stance is further improved by lining up the wheels perfectly with the body. This is achieved by fitting H&R 10mm spacers. We wanted to do full justice to its looks, so we chose a plain beach background for the photoshoot, ending up with the Euro feel you see in these pages.

Once inside, you are greeting by the rich perforated leather seats fromStanley, taken over from Peter’s old car. The shapely seats themselves are from an RS, with better side support and a different bolstering than the standard ones. Skoda anoraks would also be able to tell that the standard L&K interiors have beige door pads and dashboard under-halfs. The reason why this car has black interiors is that Peter swapped the beige trim with his earlier car before letting go of it. It’s a win-win situation. Peter got to keep the black interiors which he always wanted and the old car went to its new owner with fresh interiors from a brand new car. What the new car also got was an RS steering wheel with paddle shifts which Skoda didn’t offer even on the L&K.

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Open the hood and there is very little to see, except the frightfully expensive carbon-fibre lithium-ion battery from Braille and the Neuspeed reservoir cap. But the 2.0litre TDI now develops close to 180bhp, thanks to a remap and a Miltek 2.75inch catback system. To ensure the additional power can be well utilized, the Laura is fitted with Bilstein B16 coilovers helped by uprated H&R anti-roll bars all carried over from the old car. Braking is not an issue when you have Tarox ten pot calipers and with 235 section tyres grip was never an issue in the first place.This carry over exercise not only speaks good about the longetivity of quality parts, but also that you can carry most components from one car to another and save a fortune.

So how do you replace the hottest looking Laura in town? You don’t replace it. Instead you swap everything that made the old car so good and drive around in a new car.

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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