The Tata Hexa comes with just one diesel engine. But, one can have it with either a 6-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual. The engine is the same 2.2-litre, four-cylinder, diesel that powers that Safari Storme. But unlike the Storme the Aria only gets the more powerful Varicor 400 version. It makes 156bhp and 400Nm of torque and as the figures suggest there’s no dearth of pulling power.
The only catch is – and we are talking about the manual here – the lag before the variable geometry turbocharger reaches maximum boost. The manual Hexa feels lethargic and heavy and unwilling till the rpm needle crosses the 2,000rpm mark.
Beyond this, and before the engine hits 3,500rpm, the Hexa is on song. It pulls strongly, reacts well to throttle inputs and the engine sounds and feels reasonably refined. Past 3,500rpm, however, things get loud and a bit vibey. The good news is, the acceleration still refuses to let off, and the Hexa continues to gather momentum without bother very close to its redline. It’s not a character one generally associates with large, heavy SUVs. It was pleasantly surprising.
The automatic sounds and feels exactly the same in the mid and top end. But, it’s at slow speeds that the auto beats the manual version hollow. First, the gear shifts on the manual are notchy, long in the throw, and not very precise. The automatic’s shifts in contrast are smooth, predictable, well judged and barely cause any shift shock. But, it is the way the auto ‘box covers for the turbo lag that had us impressed. It just makes the Hexa feel more alive and quicker on its feet.
It is also a smart auto ‘box this. It learns your style of driving, ensures there’s hardly any lag between throttle input and response, and in manual mode and Sport modes, it feels as connected as a manual equipped car should. But, because it doesn’t come with the four driving modes the manual gets – Auto, Comfort, Dynamic and Rough Road – it isn’t the one for the serious adventure seeker.
More on the Tata Hexa’s Super Drive Modes here
The manual with its Rough Road mode that alters ESP and ABS responses and gets customisable hill descent program just makes more sense when the road runs out. It also has a smart all-wheel-drive that can send up to 40 per cent of the torque to the front wheels if the rear axle begins to lose grip.
As far as ride and handling go, Tata Motors has revised the dampers on the Hexa giving it a more settled ride. The Hexa might feel a little stiff at slow speeds now but nothing that will put you off. The upside is, there’s reduced side-to-side movement, the rear is more planted over broken surfaces and while exiting undulations, no matter what speed.
And when you throw the Hexa into a corner, it does roll and pitch – one cant run away from the weight – but it isn’t exaggerated in your old-school SUV way. In fact, the Hexa loads up on its side in a linear and predictable fashion when in a corner, never feeling hairy or sloppy. It is also willing to make direction changes without throwing too much of a tantrum.