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Stretching it a bit

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PLAYING A-LONG The Indigo XL's wheelbase extrusion liberates generous legroom for rear seat passengers
PLAYING A-LONG The Indigo XL's wheelbase extrusion liberates generous legroom for rear seat passengers

We take the new long-wheelbase Indigo XL out for a short spin

Performance is really close, and will come down to no more than riding skills when pushing the limit Guess you are trying hard to figure why at all we have a Tata Indigo on these pages. And the reason for this? It's important enough - this is the long wheelbase version of a car Tata launched quite a while ago, and we got to drive one of only two prototypes Tata Motors readied for the Auto Expo. The car we cantered around in is not the final car - there are bound to be changes before the final spec is frozen for production. And yet, let us tell you, this car comes with a whole lot of goodies - leather-clad beige interiors, a DVD player, independent air-conditioning for the rear and enough legroom to keep an NBA pro at ease. True, it doesn't sound too exciting, and come to think of it, it doesn't look very stand-apart either - but remember, the idea is to simply come up with a longer-than-usual Indigo. In this respect, we can't deny the sense it makes - it's a simple car with Merc S space for what we hope will be Hyundai Accent money.

Comfort zone

The interiors, even in the proto, were quite tasteful, with the beige tone lending a very mellow feel to the ambience. The steering and instrument console are reminiscent of the Indigo SX, while the dash the centre console and the air-con vents have been sprinkled with touches of brushed-aluminium. Even the gear-knob's finished in beige leather, with baseball stitching. While the seats are plush and comfortable, we think the additional legroom at the rear can now afford a longer seat base cushion, for better under-thigh support.

Run of the mill

The surprise though was the engine. While an intercooled turbodiesel is a possibility, the hallmark is the 1.4-litre petrol we drove. This is a dual-cam unit, breathing through 16 valves and putting out a whole 100 bhp. While we didn't exactly put the engine through its paces, it turned out quite eager to rev and is a marked improvement over the current petrol-sipper. Needless to say, this is what Tata has readied to also do duty in the Indica and the Marina, in the near future.

The engineering

The long-wheelbase concept's been a long time coming. Surely, the process wasn't all that simple - the key to the entire exercise was the scale of extension. From what we observed, the Tata engineers wanted to add as much room as they could, without ending up with a disproportionate looking car. Sure enough, you can just about notice the difference from outside, but the 200 mm addition to the wheelbase shows its generosity at the rear seat, as you get to stretch yourself without restraint. Engineers started off with computer-aided rendering of the design. The rear-doors and the roof around the C-pillar were lengthened and the cant-rail above the wheel wells were reinforced. To account for the increased length, torsional rigidity was enhanced. It gets the same suspension set-up as the Indigo and the Marina, and will be fine-tuned further. The Indigo XL should appeal to people who want lots of comfort and enough luxury without complexities like parking sensors and wireless-fidelity. Even the private taxi trade and fleet managers in star hotels should be queuing up for some. The trump card up this Indigo's sleeve is the sheer value proposition it makes and for Tata, it makes perfect sense - it opens the Indica platform to yet another niche in the market.SRIRAM NARAYANAN

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