Once a year we move our focus away from price, fuel economy, comfort, boot space and every other regular car testing parameter that centers around car buying, to look at the most logical parameter concerning cars - Fun!
Now, ‘fun’ might be a small word. But, it takes a lot from a car to be tagged as one. It has to have the speed, the handling, the power, the much-needed oversteery nature, and most of all, the right driver connect. But, with the state of our traffic and roads, and the complete lack on road sense, it only made sense to bring the most fun cars we have tested on the road to a race track. Now, the plan was to see which of these handpicked exciting machines really have that X-Factor.
Welcome to the second edition of the CarWale Trackday at the Madras Motorsport Race Track. And, because we are on a racetrack, tyres were crucial. We needed ones with grip, endurance, and safety.
So, in came Michelin with its range of everyday as well as high-end tyres. But, more on them later. For now, here's a brief introduction to our track toys for 2018...
The high hitters
"SUVs? On a racetrack? And without fancy AMG or RS or M badging? That's just silly."
My thoughts exactly when I first heard we were considering the Ford EcoSport, Maruti Suzuki Brezza and the Tata Nexon for our track day. But, then realisation dawned. These were essentially car platforms. Only with a little more girth, a bit more ground clearance and more weight. Plus, SUVs are a fad today. So, ignoring them wasn’t an option.
Back to the must-haves, and all three here are powered by diesel engines. All three get manual gearboxes. And, these are all front wheel driven. So, in a sense, these are closely matched. But, there are differences in weight, horsepower, and crucially, suspension setup. The latter alone could hand us the ‘best in class’ lap time.
You can read more about how the SUVs did, HERE.
The small turbos
Now, we are talking a bit mainstream; track wise, of course. Hatchbacks; and both with a turbocharger under their hoods. These are still affordable cars, mind. But, both the Baleno RS and the Polo GT TSI are sportier, more powerful, and better setup versions of their lesser twins.
The Baleno has the smaller engine; it displaces 998cc. It also only has three cylinders and it makes 101bhp. The Polo GT TSI’s engine on the other hand has four cylinders, displaces 1198cc, and develops 103bhp. So, in horsepower stakes, the two are very close.
But, there are other big differences that make guessing lap times for the two quite challenging. For instance, the Baleno has a 5-speed manual gearbox while the Polo gets a 7-speed dual clutch automatic. And, the Baleno is lighter, it gets disc brakes on all four wheels, and it runs wider tyres.
For more on the two car’s track performance, click HERE.
The fast FWDs
There were two other special, go-faster cars in this test. Both, with over 200bhp. And both, front wheel driven. The Skoda Octavia RS and the Mini Cooper JCW Pro. Now, the Octavia and the Mini Cooper are already available in fast, dynamically able, and grin-inducing setups as standard. But, the RS and the JCW badges just add that much more charisma and expectation.
Yes, the price difference between the RS and the JCW is huge – almost Rs 20 lakhs. But, with such similarities, we just had to hurl them together. Plus, the two also sport 2-litre, four cylinder, petrol engines. And, both come with automatic gearboxes. Now, I know this doesn’t matter in this test, but the two can also seat five each.
So, how did these fare at the MMRT? HERE is the answer.
The luxurious AWDs
The price difference between the Audi S5 and the Volvo S60 Polestar is almost equally wide. But then, the similarities are equally telling. Forget the fact that the two have a suite of luxury and safety features, or that both cars come with all wheel drive and have four doors. Both the Audi and Volvo also pump out near 350bhp of max power.
The Volvo produces a little more from its smaller 2-litre, four cylinder engine compared to Audi’s V6. And that’s because the Polestar runs both a turbo and a supercharger while the Audi only makes do with a turbo. The Volvo is also lighter and comes with bigger wheels and wider tyres.
For more on these fast, exhilarating luxury sedans, click HERE.
Now, we are done to singles; down to cars that deserve their own dedicated stories for they are that special. The Audi RS7 Sportback is one such car. It’s an RS and that means even though it is big and heavy, it has the fire power to blow your mind.
The RS7 is powered by a turbocharged V8 petrol engine. And its output figures are equally impressive. It makes over 600 horsepower and 700Nm of torque from its 4-litre engine. These figures overcome the car’s near 2 tonne kerb weight and help propel it to 100kmph from a standstill in under 4 seconds.
This should make for one entertaining proposition at the track. And did we mention it sounds fantastic?
More on the car HERE.
Another Audi. And another set of fantastic figures. Mid-engine, all wheel drive, a naturally aspirated V10, and the capability to get to 100kmph in 3.5 seconds. Now, how can this car be anything but ‘super’. Plus, it’s wide, and low, and is designed to go fast from the word go.
The Audi R8 V10 Plus we have here gets a 5.2-litre naturally aspirated engine. It makes over 600bhp and 540Nm of torque. Yes, these figures are comparable to the turbocharged RS7, but the R8 is almost 400kgs lighter. And you just can’t replicate the incredible exhaust note of a NA V10; it’s both deafening and intoxicating at the same time.
HERE’s how the yellow beast from Ingolstadt did.
The RWD hero
From yellow to green. It’s time for the beast from Green Hell. This is the Mercedes AMG GT-R. And according to the company, not only has this long-hood-short-tail masterpiece been developed at the Nurburgring, AMG has also never thrown in so much motorsport technology in a car before.
It is powered by a 4-litre, twin-turbo V8 that produces almost 590 horsepower. And its other headline figures read like this: 0-100kmph in 3.6 seconds. A top speed of 318kmph. And 325-section rear tyres. It was also the only rear wheel drive car in our track test making it twice as special.
More on the German GT-R HERE.
The race car
Finally, a race car.
It might not be an open-wheeled racer; and it might not pack in 500 horses; and it also might just be front wheel driven, but the Volkswagen Ameo Cup car is as close to a race car as any daily driver can get. There’s a roll cage and just the race seat for the driver. It’s difficult to get inside the cabin, and it’s almost impossible to stay there because of the heat. It is loud and requires a million checks before it can get rolling. And when you look at the kind of lap times it manages around the MMRT during the Ameo Cup races, you just have to tip your hat to this 200bhp, mad, and charming compact sedan.
HERE’s how this race car absolutely blew our minds.