One’s a brilliant mile-munching GT, and the other a full-on supercar. If the two combined don’t create a memorable day, you don’t have a pulse. We take them through morning rush hour – all the way to the BIC to get ours racing!
There are several things that don’t make sense in this world – to me at least. Human beings may well be the smartest living beings on the planet, but we can also be stupidly idiotic at the same time. How else would you explain a law in Arizona that states that Donkeys can’t sleep in bathtubs? Sure, it’s definitely weird, but illegal? And it gets better – in California, no vehicle without a driver (I’d like to stress one word here – ‘without’) may exceed 60mph. And, here I was stupid enough to think that no vehicle without a driver should exceed 0mph!
The next one’s even more brainless. But please don’t giggle or laugh if you’re reading this somewhere in public – people will think you’re crazy. Waking a sleeping bear to take its photo is strictly forbidden in Alaska. Forget ‘strictly forbidden,’ how about strictly-that’s-the-stupidest-law-ever-imagined? And, while we’re on the topic of stupid – I simply don’t get those assumption-based solutions in Mathematics. How can you assume a solution to anything?
But why am I whining about all this? Well, let me explain. We did something pretty weird ourselves recently. I mean the idea of bringing a magnificent GT together with a full-blown supercar is nothing short of idiocy. Of course, flip the pages of our self-developed dictionary and you’ll find that ‘idiocy’ and ‘exciting’ are synonyms for each other. So, let’s move on with the job at hand.
The idea was simple. We wanted to test the abilities of two of the most impressive examples of motoring available in our market today in the most comprehensive way possible. So, we took them through the rigors of rush-hour traffic in the NCR, then showed them the open road, following which we maxed them out at the BIC – with a track temperature of 60-degrees C no less! So, the aim was to explore how these machines fared when faced with terrible heat amidst the traffic-consumed Delhi roads, and then allow them to stretch their muscles on the chicanes, kerbs, and long straights of the racetrack.
When I first drove the 640d a few months ago, it blew my mind. It’s got the most powerful diesel engine that BMW makes today, and the grunt from this 6-cylinder engine would fool you into believing that it gulps down petrol instead – so glorious is the sound it makes. Back then, I drove the Gran Coupe mostly on broad, winding roads, and it was a completely absorbing experience. However, after driving it in the traffic turmoil of Delhi roads, there was a glaring issue that I made a mental note of. The 8-speed gearbox is terrific, no doubt. But, in city conditions, it works overtime hunting for a higher gear. All of which means that, under normal circumstances, the brilliance of the engine is hidden from you – so you have to work the paddles to really enjoy that remarkable motor.
In the automotive books written by enthusiasts, horsepower has always been mentioned in golden ink, while torque feels deeply left out. Torque is, in reality, the most important. It helps the vehicle move in the first place, and it’s that one vital element that works overtime while getting the best acceleration numbers. Remember the basics? Torque is the pulling capacity of any vehicle – so respect to Nm first, bhp thereafter.
The Gran Coupe is one of those handful of cars that let you experience the true force of torque – there’s so much of it that the tacho needle could be ticking barely past 1,500rpm in third gear, but give the accelerator a sharp dig and the rears will light up in an instant – giving you immense satisfaction, and leaving you with a beaming smile while you’re busy correcting the direction of the car with the steering.
Ever since I first drove it, I’ve said that the Gran Coupe is perhaps the best sedan BMW makes today – and that’s not an exaggeration. But no product in the history of the automobile has been perfect, and the BMW here isn’t without fault either. If I’m driving, Jared will only be able to sit behind me if he chops his head off. I’d really like him to do that – but that’s for very different reasons altogether, and not merely as an excuse to do an objective test report on a car. And the damn thing is just too low for our roads – it scrapes its belly extremely easily, and the act of going diagonally over speed bumps can be a socially embarrassing experience. If we had decent roads, the Gran Coupe would be the most joyous experience. But the truth is that we’ve got hopeless road conditions, which are second only to the Moon.
But, other than these niggling issues, the Gran Coupe is such a gratifying product that you really don’t think you’ll ever need a sports car or supercar to get your daily dose of adrenalin – but that’s only until you take this four-door coupe onto the track and let it loose. This can be a very scary car for someone not entirely ready for the antics it exhibits on the track. The most logical thing to do when driving on a racetrack is to switch all the electronic garbage off – it’s only the engine, the car’s mechanical grip, the dynamic balance, and you. The Gran Coupe, with everything switched off, is like Dash of The Incredibles – always super excited to show it can go fast… really fast. And, in all this excitement to get the power down as fast as possible, it goes rather sideways on all the corners – and then keeps drifting for longer than you can imagine! With this car, the classic formula works very well – slow in, fast out. So, after partaking in some self-indulgent amusement, it was time to keep it clean and put in a proper lap.
The GC is a heavy, and quite a large car – and this shows on the track. The engine and gearbox do a sensational job of moving nearly two-tonnes at speed. The shifts are immediate, and there’s absolutely no lag whatsoever. The brakes are the weakest link here though, as the pedal hardly offers any feel at all. You get on the anchors only to realize that they’re not really working as you’d like – then you press some more, and they finally bite. The weight, and the somewhat soft suspension, makes the Gran Coupe dive under braking, and it also demonstrates a fair amount of body-roll – something that the Audi has none of.
So, you would imagine that the R8 would be terrifying to live with on the road. But, the suspension was shockingly good and offered a very supple ride on regular roads – it didn’t even mind going over small bumps, and maintained its composure at all times. The R8 is extremely nimble too. It’s no harder to drive this 1.8 crore supercar than a big luxury sedan. We expected some drama while sitting in traffic in the blistering heat, but there was none of that at all. But, boy, does it attract attention – big time. Don’t expect to go incognito in this baby. All said and done though, it’s a very forgiving drive in the city – and, as Karun Chandhok recently proved, quite explosive on the track too. Of course, Karun drove the ‘Plus,’ which is an enhanced version (with carbon brakes, more power and trick suspension) of the R8 V10 to clock the fastest time at the BIC for a regular production car. So, it was only natural for us to head to our favourite playground to find out for ourselves just how good it really is on the track.
What strikes you instantly is just how far improved this dual-clutch gearbox really is. The single-clutch R-Tronic was quite clumsy at handling the power properly of this monster motor, but this 7-speed S-tronic takes driving the R8 to a completely different plane. While pushing the R8 on the track, there’s urgency everywhere – that mega V10 is always alert, and the gearbox is ever willing to let you put the power down. Speaking of which, the Quattro provides simply immense levels of grip that you would ordinarily only dream of. But, despite the technological overload, the R8 truly feels alive in your hands. It responds to every input, and allows you to direct the driving experience – playing faithful track-tool every step of the way. If you’re familiar with the layout of the Buddh International Circuit, you’ll know that turns 5 to 11 are very exciting – they’re technical and require precise directional movement.
The exit at turn 4 is crucial too, as it helps build the momentum for the series of two quick left handers that lead on to a short burst of speed while you attempt to maintain speed through the chicane. The R8, obviously, doesn’t lack power – so even a fool can blast down the straight really fast. But this thing is completely flat through the curves, so you can be completely mental even around the really tricky bends. The steering, it seems, is mapped to your brain cells and responds instantly to your thoughts – while the combined traction of the Quattro four-wheel system and the massive 295-section Pirellis give it grip levels that can deform your face around a corner. The R8 is, despite the aluminum construction, quite heavy though – tipping the scales at 1,945 kilograms, but it’s still stupidly fast. Seldom will you have such joy in sharing numbers, while the car exerts severe pain on your kidneys – 0-100km/h in 3.6 seconds, and it’ll cough out its last at no less than 314km/h. That’s serious performance.
It’s hardly believable that this V10 powered nuclear bomb is made by the same guys who excel at doing understeery cars so well. It’s an engineering marvel that makes other supercars look crude and compromised in comparison. The R8 V10 is involving, engrossing and addictive – and it’s the fastest thing we’ve ever tested at the BIC. ‘Nuff said.
- BMW 640d Gran Coupe
- Audi R8 V10
Engine: 2,993cc / 6 Cylinders / 24 Valves / Twin-Turbocharged
Transmission: 8-Speed automatic / Rear-wheel drive
Power: 308bhp @ 4,400rpm
Torque: 630Nm @ 1,500-2,500rpm
Price: Rs.87.2 lakhs (ESTIMATED EX-SHOWROOM, Delhi)
Engine: 5,204cc / V10 / DOHC / 40 valves / Direct Injection
Transmission: 7-Speed dual clutch S-tronic / Quattro permanent all-wheel drive
Power: 518bhp @ 8,000rpm
Torque: 530Nm @ 6,500rpm
Price: Rs.1.80 CRORES (ESTIMATED EX-SHOWROOM, Delhi)