Volkswagen (VW) India has been up to a lot of frenetic activity these days. On April 29 this year, the German company launched a new version of its famous hatchback, the Polo, in a new avatar, known as the VW Polo 1.2 GT TSI. This is powered by a 1.2 litre engine, which generates a maximum power of 104 bhp. The company also makes its presence felt in Motorsports every year, through the VW Polo Cup. A 1.4 litre TSI supercharged petrol engine is fitted in the Race vehicle, which generates a spectacular power output of 180 bhp and a torque of 250 Nm. I jumped up with joy after getting the opportunity to drive this powerful hatch on the Buddh International Circuit (BIC), Greater Noida.
For the uninitiated, this is the same track that is used for Formula One every year, in India. 5 laps of this 5.14 kilometre circuit were to be covered in a Polo 1.4 TSI. Three of us were in different cars and had to follow a person from the VW team.
Nothing that I have heard so far can match up to the roar that these vehicles produce upon revving. A 7.speed DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox) was used to power this vehicle. In comparison to the current vehicle, the previous 1.6 TDI diesel racing version of the Polo used Manual Transmission. DSG is much more smoother and also shifts faster, allowing greater delivery of power in turn. Mechanically, the car is switched on by moving down a switch on the dashboard and then starting the vehicle with the pressed brake pedal. Surprisingly, no handbrake lever on this vehicle!
It is clear that every possible measure has been taken to reduce weight in the car. No carpets at the bottom, no upholstery and no compressor in the fitted AC. In addition, the vehicle has been reinforced with a roll cage on the inside, which prevents injury from taking place if the car happens to roll over. This is a standard safety fitting for any race or rally vehicle.
Seating in the vehicle is quite tight, which, I am told, helps an individual to be secure during tight corners. It is quite an effort to get into the driving seat, having to save my head from the top of the roll cage. Once inside, I checked my seating position and the two pedals to be used- the brake and the accelerator. the left foot is not required and it can rest on a dead pedal.
Enough about the vehicle, here’s what transpired on the track. While following the vehicle, I fell back a bit from the lead car to try and accelerate harder, after the first corner. Though there was significant vibration inside the vehicle, it was always in control. It sticks to the ground due to a low center gravity. But on a few corners in the circuit, my braking was not adequate and the car happened to overshoot the corners.
On the gearshift, there are two modes of driving- either Sport mode or Drive Mode. In the Sport mode, rapid transition from one gear to another takes place automatically. When brakes are pressed, the car makes a booming rev sound, as it realizes that the driver is trying to brake. In my eagerness to shift from the Sport to the Drive mode, I put the car into Reverse by mistake, due to which the vehicle tried to brake very hard. Thankfully, there was no one behind!
After 5 laps, it was time to get back into the Pit lane. I was definitely not in a mood to get the car back into the Pit lane, but soon realized that my rounds of dun had come to an end. It was certainly a great driving experience, one that has never been experienced by me in a hatchback. I hope other car manufacturers in India take a cue from this and build their own race-specs cars too!