Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Motoring Madness

“Neck-snapping acceleration” and “eyeball-popping brakes” are two of the more popular - and ridiculous – phrases used to describe a car’s performance. Now, if we’re talking 400bhp supercars which weigh about a tonne, well, I’ll give them that. 90-odd bhp booted boxes however, are a recipe for rubbish. The “most-est” car I’ve driven, yet, is the 453bhp Rolls Royce Phantom. A portly 2.3 tonnes she may be, but she possesses a swiftness and stateliness that belies her size. It will be the most expensive car I’ve driven to date, and I don’t think I’ll come around to topping the price factor for a long-long time, but it is the most powerful car I’ve driven till date. I hope to change that soon.
But I digress. This is not a “I’ve driven ABC” story. No, this is a rant against the sheer paucity of anything worth driving here, at home, in India. Yes, we have Porsches, and yes we have Ferrari coming soon, and Bentley’s been around for a bit and blah blah blah. But, we have nothing which is “affordable”. Nothing which is “fun”. We content ourselves with performance hatchbacks which promise neck-snapping acceleration and eyeball-popping brakes. Ooh.
Why can’t we drive Nissan 350Zs and GT-Rs and Mitsu Evos and Scoobies and Mustangs and Chargers for the 15-20 lakh rupees they cost in the developed world? Why, pray, must we drive rubbish econoboxes for god-earthly sums of money? The recently-launched Fabia costs nine lakhs, for example. And has 72 or 73 or 75 bhp or whatever. Yes, it has fine handling, and a nice gearbox. For a hatch. But it’s no sportscar, for crying out loud. It’s not even a sporty car.
But let me get back to the hot hatches. The ones with the neck-snapping acceleration and eyeball-popping brakes. The Palio Stile 1.6 boasts one hundred bee aitch pee. And weighs over a tonne. And accelerates to 100kph in 11 seconds. And returns 8 kilometres to a litre of fuel in the process. Are you serious? Why would you buy this shit? It’s not fast, it’s not fuel-efficient. Which means it’s a rubbish car.
Then there’s the Swift. Very nice to look at, but then you’ll go and paint the mirrors white and plaster the union jack on the roof. And – this phrase is a personal favourite – you’ll bolt on a fruity exhaust. And wring that ancient Suzuki four-pot to get some semblance of a move on. And fry the clutch in the process, coz that’s what all Swifts do. “Why can’t Maruti get the Swift Sport to India?” goes the average coffee-time whine. So you can have 300 cee cee more and maybe another 20 bhp. Well, they have the now-dead Baleno’s 1.6 lying around, don’t they? And while you’re at it, Maruti, how ‘bout a better clutch?
No, we’re confined to a range of rubbish cars. We have choice, sure, but nothing that’s worth buying. Or owning. Or driving. While I’m at it, let me unleash another left-hook. Buy a bike. For thrills, nothing comes close. No power-to-weight computations matter when you have in excess of 150 bhp and a single tyre to put it to the ground. Even if you weigh a 120 kilos yourself. Sure it’s scary, and hell yeah it’s dangerous, but what the fuck, you die only once. At least you’ll die happy. God bless you, Yamaha.