Racer Narain Karthikeyan gets into cars belonging to different segments on the Irungattukottai racetrack and gives his verdict.
Auto experts and Indian race-ace Narain Karthikeyan head down to Madras Motor Sports racetrack in Irungattukottai, Chennai, with 11 of India’s mid-engined supercars, scorching fast coupés, and even some luxury cars for fun-in-the-sun testing.
The line-up comprised Honda’s new 112bhp City; Skoda’s sharp Laura 1.8 TSi; the astounding Accord V6; the gentle giant Mitsubishi Outlander; the dynamic BMW 530d; Audi’s super-quick (and supercharged) A6; BMW’s classy 650i coupe; a beastly twin turbo Bimmer X6; Merc’s intelligent SL 63 AMG; the sensational Audi R8; and, the cherry on top, a razor-sharp Lamborghini Murcielago LP 640.
The objective here is not to directly compare the lap times of these cars that come from varying segments, but rather test their limits on track.
It’s also important to remember there is a great deal of variation in conditions between these cars’ performance on track and performance on the road. A racelogic V-box tabulated the numbers generated by this test. The device collects data throughout the lap and allows you to ‘play back’ a real-time lap with the line taken by the car, speed, four axis g-force, and, of course, lap times. We can later introduce as many splits as we need and compare laps directly as well, making it an analysis and telemetry tool unlike anything else.
Narain was in top form during our two-day track test, and sank his teeth right into the cars, throwing each of them around the circuit in his characteristic style, and without deviating from the ideal line by even a foot. Here are the excerpts of the test.
With its strong top-end performance, quick gearbox and good overall balance, the new City posts a very impressive lap time. Where it loses out is in the tyre department — due to the tyres’ flex — and the electric steering gives just about acceptable amounts of feedback when the car is sliding around. While the brakes work pretty well, with the progressive ABS system cutting in nice and late, the seating position is high and distinctly unsporty. We feel that a pair of aftermarket tyres would surely make a great difference here.
Price Rs 9.76 lakh
Engine1497cc,4 cyls in-line
Tyres 175/65 R15
Top speed (track) 140.1kph
HONDA ACCORD V6
With its suspension set up to pamper chauffeur-driven individuals, the Accord feels a bit too soft for the track. The car dives a fair bit under hard braking, and the relaxed gearbox gives you the feeling that you’re not completely exploiting the potential of the engine. But what an engine this is! The Honda Accord recorded a maximum speed of 152kph on the track. Its 2minutes and 13.8 seconds time is also seriously quick, especially when considering the number of corners on this track. Narain just loved the way the motor pulled very strongly all the way to the redline.
Price Rs. 29.12 lakh
Engine 3471cc, 6 cyls in-V
Tyres 225/50 R17
Top speed (track) 152.4kph
SKODA LAURA 1.8 TSI
If you look at price to overall performance and driving fun, the Laura TSI has everything licked. The lap time is seriously impressive too. It’s only a second or so behind the BMW 530d, and cornering speeds are also very high. Apart from an ABS system that cuts in too early and a slightly notchy gearbox, this is a car that does everything really well. The handling is crisp, body roll is well-contained, the motor pulls very strongly from anywhere in the powerband and the steering has great feel.
“What the car is doing comes through the steering rather than just through the seat of your pants,” is what Narain says. It lived up to the high expectations we had — the times it recorded are up there with cars twice its price.
Price Rs. 14.97 lakh
Engine1798cc 4 cyls in-line
Tyres 195/65 R16
Top speed (track) 149.5kph
We almost forgot there was a lap time to be recorded in this car. A lot of the corners were taken sideways and the heavy torque from the motor made it really easy to break traction at the rear.
A real driver’s car, despite being a diesel, Narain was immediately impressed by the really strong straight six, the direct steering and the “amazing handling”.
Price Rs. 51.05 lakh
Engine 2993cc, 6 cyls in-line
Tyres 225/50 R17
Top speed (track) 158kph
AUDI A6 3.0
The Audi’s instant throttle responses and massive lunges of power are thrilling. The strong midrange helped massively and so did the typically well-sorted Audi gearbox.
The Quattro four-wheel-drive system helped it put its power down nicely, as can be seen from its very strong 109kph exit speed at C6 and its lap time of 2m08sec is very good, its pace more down to brute force and traction.
Price Rs 44.66 lakh
Engine 2995cc, 6 cyls in-V
Tyres 255/50 R17
Top speed (track) 157.3kph
The 650i is actually a big GT car. Its cabin is large and luxurious, the car comes loaded with features and this makes for a great cruiser. The naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 has a good midrange, the chassis has a nice balance and bite to it and the amazing brakes allow you to really stand on them.
It’s a BMW, so there’s tonnes of oversteer and excitement as well. Like most BMWs though, it slowed down a tad by a bit of slack in the gearbox.
Price Rs. 96.40 lakh
Tyres F& R 245/40R19;
Top speed (track) 170.9kph
MERCEDES-BENZ SL63 AMG
AMG, Merc’s official chop shop, has used its most potent 6208cc V8 to make a monster of the otherwise civilised SL. Genuine supercar performance as well as GT comfort are the result.
The brakes are good, the steering feel is super and the pulling power and grunt from the engine is huge.
It even managed to be slightly quicker than the R8 at some places, such as the exit from C1 and the entry to C8, a huge achievement for a front-engined car. And, it ducked under the two-minute barrier as well!
Keep in mind, you also need a PhD in ‘slideonomics’ to be able to catch it on the limit.
Price Rs 1.67 crore
Engine 6208cc, 8 cyls in-V
Tyres 255/35 R19; 285/30
Top speed (track) 182.7kph
LAMBORGHINI MURCIELAGO LP 640
By the grace of God and Lamborghini’s designing excellence, this hair-raising Lambos pumps put a blistering 640bhp!
It sounds like a deranged animal as it charges towards the horizon. Even on this short stretch, we recorded a knee-trembling 197kph.
Grip in long corners is sensational too. We got a 107kph at the exit onto the straight that rear 335 tyre helping for sure. It carries massive momentum into corners and that, along with the massive weight of the huge motor being tossed around at the rear, requires you to be alert when pushing the car’s limits.
What’s more? This car was by far the quickest we tested at the track.
Price Rs 3 crore
Engine 6496cc, 12 cyls in-V
Tyres F&R 245/35Zr18;
Top speed (track) 197kph
Keywords: Narain Karthikeyan, Madras Motor Sports racetrack, Irungattukottai, Honda, 112bhp City, Skoda, Laura 1.8 TSi, Accord V6, Mitsubishi Outlander; BMW 530d, Audi A6, BMW 650i coupe, Bimmer X6, Merc, SL 63 AMG, Audi R8, Lamborghini Murcielago LP 640