Lap time: 2minutes 20.58 seconds
Power and weight: 118bhp and 170Nm, 1,260kg (kerb)
Tyres: Front: 215/60 R16, Rear: 215/60 R16
The top agenda for this year's Track Day was to bring in some daily drive cars. No brilliant 1-2 finishers or no pole in some category. Just some popular, yet powerful, everyday commuter cars. Umm…A Tata Nexon? Firstly, an SUV. Secondly, a heavyweight. Then, it's also been here before, and so on. Well, so many reasons for it to be not here. But, it’s still the popular choice. Also, its pre-facelift had thoroughly impressed us at previous track-days with its dynamic abilities. So, with not much hesitancy, the Nexon joined the fray of our two-day programme with a limited seven-car grid.
Race Track Introduction
The Madras Motor Race Track in Chennai is a great place to push the handling envelope of cars. It’s not a track that favours horsepower; instead, a car with great chassis balance is what really shines around this bumpy 3.7-kilometre flowing circuit. Speaking of which, right after the short start finish, straight is the fast and bumpy C1. One must then scrub off a lot of speed for the right-hander C2. The C7, as we found out, is the most difficult corner to master as it’s a long right-hander that is ever-tightening and has a double apex. Getting a great exit out of C7 is important because it leads onto the second of the two really quick sections of the MMRT.
|Lap Time||C5 Apex Speed||C7 Apex Speed||C10 Apex Speed||Top Speed|
Sport mode activated. Still, the Nexon with its three-cylinder engine isn't quick to get off the line, but once the turbo spools up it makes good progress with a strong mid-range. The turbo-boost does help it build speed, but the low-end response makes it take some time. As a result, it could only achieve a top speed of 127kmph, which turned out to be a whopping 10kmph slower than the Brezza, our other SUV at the track. Sure, this Tata has more power now but doesn’t feel as punchy as before. The BS6 tune has dampened the engine performance, limiting its off-the-mark quick acceleration.
So, with a lap time of 2 minutes and 20 seconds, yes, it’s definitely slow. But, demoralising? No! And reasonably so, as it sticks to its line, is confidence-inspiring, and will surprise you with its handling potential. For daily driving comfort, you'd opt for these standard rubber higher-profile tyres offering a good cushioning effect with larger sidewalls. But on a track, this might look like a downside with these sidewalls getting stressed due to the cornering forces. However, keep your lines tidy and the cornering grip you get is fantastic!
Then, the clutch is light but with no feel at all. Again the gearshifts feel a bit notchy and vague but thankfully slot well when needed. Also, the steering is not too light but doesn’t give a feel of what the front wheels are doing. It thankfully doesn't feel dead around the centre and has the much-needed heft. Still, the car's ability to change directions on the track quickly with high levels of grip adds to the thrill. It's almost impossible to unsettle it. Body movements are extremely predictable and it's very easy to drive fast. Yes, the brakes could have had a better bite though they helped in shaving off speed quickly. This is evident at C4 and C8 when you can feel the nose dive a considerable bit on hard braking with the rear wanting to overtake its front. Now, building up speed quickly again is a bit of a challenge for the Nexon, and hence the speeds at C5 (78.03kmph) and C7 (89.12kmph) are a tad slower. Similarly, at C10 where you cut off the speed and have to build it again without running too wide. The Brezza, on the other hand, goes ahead saving more time owing to its light weight.
And there’s no denying the fact that the Nexon is a relatively tall and heavy SUV. So carry too much speed into a sharp corner and its girth is evident. But no, it wouldn't make you throw up with its overall balance being surprisingly neutral. The maximum g-forces recorded were at C10 (0.919g) but it still managed to stay on the track under so much force. We need to give it to Tata for providing impressive agility and body control to this SUV. All of this while staying stable even with quick direction changes. As compared to Brezza, the other compact SUV here, the Nexon is heavier but feels more planted. In sections where I thought it would run wide, it surprised me by sticking to the line and keeping it tidy. They say if a car looks slow and steady on the track, it might actually be doing a faster lap. As with the Nexon, that’s not the case. It neither could catch up speed on the long straights nor did it have great corner exit speeds.
The numbers speak for themselves and the Nexon turned out to be the slowest of the pack. This one’s more powerful than the BS4 Nexon petrol that we had at our previous Track Day, and yet is half a second slower. Now, also to put the lesser powerful Brezza into perspective, the Nexon’s lap time is five seconds slower, which is a huge difference. So, it’s indeed the extra weight and the blunted BS6 tune that has made the Nexon slower than before.
But, consider this. Despite being a hefty SUV, it has managed to close in to those numbers and while being fun-to-drive. There's no doubt it struggles to deliver with its low-end grunt and body weight. With no punch to pack, keeping up a race pace and setting competitive times is difficult. But who would have thought a stubby yet compact SUV like the Nexon would be so rewarding to push in such a predictable manner.
Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi
Click here to read our introduction story for CarWale Track Day 2021
Click here to read our experience with the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza at the MMRT