Petrolheads’ dream garage – five nerve-wracking cars and a bike
Throwing a bike into a conversation has become an occupational hazard for the petrolheads at evo India. We love our motorcycles (most of us at least), but cars and motorcycles barely crossed paths in the past. Then our sister publication Fast Bikes India came along and everyone wanted a motorcycle in every story. I suspect more than anything, Aninda wanted to ride the RSV4 RF and Hrishi Mandke wanted to pull off balancing acts on either of its wheels. Turns out, we were forming a pattern. Each car on this page comes from a want to drive one rather than a need of the story. I had never driven a Ferrari and when the 488 GTB was available, I formed this elaborate plan to get an interesting set of cars together, just to drive that Ferrari (sorry, not sorry, Ed). Aatish is a Porsche fanboy. His childhood poster car was a Carrera GT and yes he wasn’t even in his teens when the car was launched. I seeded the idea of adding the Panamera Turbo to the list of “Fast 6” cars we bring together on the pretext that he’d finally get to drive a Porsche.
Sirish has tremendous respect for the R8 as it was the first supercar (the first gen R8) he drove to his heart’s content in India. The R8 was an easy sell (by the way, that very first R8 was also pitched against a bike, the ‘Busa, so this isn’t a new thing for me – Ed). The Mustang came in because the shoot location was quite a distance away and we wanted a fast touring car to go with the theme. Why the GTI? Well, Gaurav’s demands have to be met. He will sell his soul for it and we love his pictures. So let’s begin to make some sense of the strange situation we, petrolheads, were in with cars (and a bike) that have nothing in common. Except, they are the fastest of their kind.
VW Polo GTI
“Dear evo India, thank you for including me in such august company. I shall put my best foot forward.”
If the Polo GTI wrote us a letter, I suppose it would start like that. The heroics of this hatch go far beyond its size and numbers. There is no doubt of it being the fastest hatch in India, and by that statement, a convincing entrant into this elite group of five. More than anything, when you petrolheads get cars with more horsepower than can be tamed on the winding roads near our farm retreat of Patas in Maharashtra, the GTI’s 189 ponies sit under you like a jockey riding a thoroughbred. When you drive faster cars, your reaction times quicken, and when you have just gotten out of a 660bhp Ferrari, a Polo GTI at its limits is more enjoyable than scary. Tyres howling beyond their limits of grip, DSG shifting frantically through its cogs and yanking the handbrake just to induce playful oversteer, you suddenly possess race-car-driver-like reflexes.
I’m not exaggerating. We’ve known the Polo GTI for a while now and driven it a fair bit over hill climbs and race tracks. Never did we push it to its limits as much as we did on this glorious day. 189 horses felt like a playful 60 and the E-Diff had its job cut out to stay in the game when a Porsche’s all-wheel drive and four-wheel steering were holding a grappler’s grip on the tarmac. That E-Diff works really well to get more traction while powering out of corners and cutting understeer. It corrupts you petrolheads of your knowledge of FWDs, of not going in too hot into a corner and not stepping on the gas too early.
“Overwhelmed a bit for sure keeping up with three times as many horses in a supercar, but it never feels like you’ve fed a fish to the sharks.”
Even with the tyres at the edge of grip, a GTI feels in control. Overwhelmed a bit for sure keeping up with three times as many horses in a supercar, but it never feels like you’ve fed a fish to the sharks. The GTI punching above its weight like powder-taps on your face is a petrolhead’s initiation to the world of fast cars. The world here of the upcoming fast fours you’d want to progress to in the future.
Audi R8 V10 Plus
“Oh boy how the game has moved with the new V10 R8!”
Then you draw a family tree, you wouldn’t put a happy puppy and an Olympic shooter in the same bloodline. Someone, somewhere, strayed and bedded outside the family. That Polo GTI is a close relative of many Audis but finding a link between a GTI and an R8 is looking at the wrong bloodline, because four rings pronounced a Gallardo and an R8 man and, erm, man, over a decade ago and the beautiful children of this union are the current generation Huracan and R8 V10 Plus. Oh boy how the game has moved with the new V10 R8. You all know that.
What you don’t know is how it feels to get out of the comfy driver’s seat of a Polo GTI and hop into the snug buckets of the Audi, press the red starter button on the steering wheel and turn the sport exhaust on. If a flat out drive through the hills in a GTI can tickle your spine, going pedal to the metal in the R8 with its glorious V10 shrieking at 8700rpm behind your ears will shake the nearby villages out of its slumber. You shave four seconds off the 0-100kmph sprint in this game of musical chairs, and the corresponding attack on your reflexes gives you a stronger adrenaline rush than a bucket of a winged energy drink.
It’s louder and more sonorous than the 488 GTB and when you drive the R8 on the same day as the 488, you drive it with the kind of fearlessness that would never ever come back to you in your lifetime. It’s definitely not calm, but it feels so collected and in tune with the road surface, handling the irregularities with great poise. Can you imagine that! We were driving an R8 V10 Plus hard on a road in the interiors of Maharashtra somewhere on the way to Baramati that was never made for a supercar – just Google it to know where we were – yet it not only took it all in its stride it was driven back home to Mumbai. And yes, the 488 came on a flatbed to our shoot location if you were wondering.
So is the R8 V10 Plus the fastest of its kind – all-wheel drive naturally aspirated supercar on an Indian winding road? Without a doubt. Yes you get a similarly quick Huracan with the same powertrain that could pose a challenge, but hey, you could own a Mustang in addition to the R8 for the same price. More than anything though you wouldn’t dare take a Huracan so far and push it the way you could an R8 V10 Plus. The Audi R8 V10 Plus is the common man’s supercar, and that is very, very high praise. That brings us to the protagonist of this story.
Ferrari 488 GTB
Fast as F**k
I would kill to drive an F40. I’d bend over for a 250 GTO and well, there are so many unmentionables I’d allow done to myself to drive a Ferrari that Kevin Spacey’s ears would perk up. So when the opportunity presents itself to drive a 488 GTB, hatching a plan for my selfish gains without submitting myself to the wrong kind of attention required absolutely no motivation. You have read a lot about this car at evo India, how it feels to get a 488 Spider sideways in Dubai, how a tuned 488 GTB tears up tarmac on a drag strip and much more. The 488 GTB is the hard act that followed the 458 Italia and it had to prove itself to a sceptical world of petrolheads that refused to keep pace with our turbo’d times. Most of the 488’s initial life has gone in proving that there’s still a glorious future left at Maranello despite force-fed air, feeding its Italian cylinders. But time has got it out of the 458’s shadows and the 488 GTB has an identity of its own now.
“When it’s time to drive a Ferrari, you better have steady hands.”
I don’t know what it’s like to drive its predecessor and only know what it sounds like. So fresh thoughts on a 488? Give me three seconds. Alright I’ll take more than three seconds because I am in the 488 GTB, popping my Ferrari cherry, so I sit in the sculpted driver’s seat which is a lot larger and more comfortable than I’d imagined, soak in the view, the ridiculously raked A-pillar, the 488 GTB badge on the dashboard framing itself centrally in the view to the left of the driver and the rather spacious cabin, allowing so much space near my left foot. I get my seating position right, and turn the Manettino dial to CT Off. I have ogled enough, my jaw has dropped to the carpet and my pupils are fully dilated. But as they say, when it’s time to drive a Ferrari, you better have steady hands.
Years behind the wheel of hundreds of cars brings you to such a moment, and on our roads, there’s barely a shot at experiencing the Ferrari to its potential. What an anti-climax. But I was not letting go of a good launch and a few following minutes with it. So I switch CT Off, put my foot on the brake, tug the right paddle to get it to first gear, press the Launch Control button on the central spine till Launch appears on the display and that’s how I get my first quickie. The 488 limits revs to 7500rpm in the first three gears to control the torque surge and go (and feel) like a naturally-aspirated car, but those 7500 revs come in so quick that I’ve called in third in a short stretch, the car has thankfully stayed on the road and I’ve got a smile the length of the main straight at Monza plastered on my face. The surge of turbocharged torque is never, never, never ending. Three seconds in the 488 GTB, I’ll never forget my first F… Ferrari.
“When you put a writer and a driver in the ring, the driver always wins.”
It’s one of those days when my thoughts on the car take a while to catch up to the speeds I am doing, there is way too much to process right away. Three seconds takes me past the hundred mark and I think, wow that is fast. ‘Wow that is fast’ is three seconds for you, and then you aren’t prepared for the next three seconds where usually things slow down a bit in most cars. But – ‘Wow that’s still fast, ok there’s more, hold on tight. Think of more words, damn it!’ When you put a writer and a driver in the ring, the driver always wins. It’s my first time in a Ferrari and by now, the gear I am in doesn’t restrict revs to 7500. It’s the full turbocharged 8000rpm punching my backside. I just wouldn’t dare any further. The straight finishes much faster than it did when I floored the other cars a while ago and the flowing right and left ahead bring with it a bumpy camber. I’m not worried about making the turn with the grip levels of the 488, I am worried about the undulations breaking the 488’s suspension, cracking the rims and putting me on permanent Ferrari community service for the rest of my life (maybe it’s not too bad). But just before the corner as the tarmac reveals its scarred face, something magical happens. The 488’s magnetorheological dampers take on Patas and convert it to a sweet Italian back road. Magnaride is the future of performance car suspension tuning, your personal engineer on call to set the car up for the drive. It learns the surface and your driving style quicker than you can imagine and sets damping rates accordingly. It makes driving a Ferrari easier and less intimidating if you can handle the speed.
Petrolheads in the business long enough will tell you that you’d be scared to the bone to drive a Ferrari or any other supercar like that just over a decade ago. I don’t doubt that. Driving a fast car relatively fast is easy, but driving a Ferrari at the edge of grip? I’ll wait for a day on the track for this. I would like to experience Slide Slip Control 2 that lets you pull long smoky slides while controlling the dampers and the drift angle, I’d like to look like a driving god one day before I become one, but not today, not on these roads and just because a Ferrari deserves the respect in this new friendship.
Head out on the highway
“The joy of driving a Mustang is creaming the V8 on a highway with its light rumble on loop.”
The euphoria of driving a Ferrari for the first time in my life was not going to die down any time soon, but the adrenaline rush needs a soothing follow-up. Honestly, there’s no better soul-soother in the world than the Ford Mustang GT. You may say there’s a big V8 up front and the guys at Ford have line-lock feature in this car just to shred the rear tyres so violence is the name of the game, but, on the contrary, the joy of driving a Mustang is creaming the V8 on a highway with its light rumble on loop. The Mustang is a sweet, sweet thing between 1000 and 2000rpm, almost spa like, with those big ’ol American buckets, high set dash and even higher set bonnet, painting a romantic picture of a roadtrip in your mind. Its other name would be freedom.
So soothing it is that stabbing the firewall with the right foot after the sensory overload in the 488 feels wrong. But it’s a part of the fast five and one must find out how fast. So I stab it and, in its defence, the pony raises its nose, lowers its rear haunches and gallops with the grace you don’t associate with Americans. The rumble of the V8 gets louder and a series of bends later we hit the highway. Mustang territory.
If there’s one car that made the boring straight highway a fun piece of stretch to drive, it is the Mustang. Shades on, setting sun, Highway to Hell on loop and a cocky smile on my face, every time I drive a Mustang I have to repeat this clichéd picture. As far as fast cars go, find me a faster car to go cross country. The Mustang has compliant suspension, a big V8 engine, is a comfortable cruiser and has a boot big enough for a roadtrip. Ford detuned the engine to handle our fuel quality which may seem to short change you at first but it’s a smart move as Ford recently proved by getting us, petrolheads to drive the Mustang across the country without a fuel issue whatsoever. Without an issue whatsoever actually. When was the last time you drove the length of the country in a sportscar? My guess is never, but you can with the Mustang, and at speeds you never would have imagined. For grand touring there’s nothing like it.
Aprilia RSV4 RF
“For the boys who want to be a man.”
Have you ever wondered what it is that separates boys from men? In my world I’d say a fast motorcycle is what separates a man from boys in their fancy sportscars. Sure, those four-wheelers are fast but there isn’t a hope in hell that they can provide the same sensory experience that a fast bike can. Neither can they outrun the bike from a standing start. Of course, there are enough petrolheads to tell you that cars can outbrake a bike, which is great for laptimes around a track but when your whole story is about going fast and not slowing down quickly, I’d say the bike has the upper hand. More so when you talk about a fast Italian superbike then the whole game moves up a couple of notches. And today we aren’t just talking about your everyday Italian superbike. We have a very special superbike – the Aprilia RSV4 RF.
Here, mull on this for a while. The Ferrari you have drooled all over in the previous pages puts out 660bhp and tips the scales at just 1370kg (dry). Effectively, a fearsome power-to-weight ratio of 481.75bhp per tonne. The RSV4 RF’s engine produces 198bhp and has to push… wait for it… 180 kilos (dry). That means you’re playing with a p-t-w of 1100bhp per tonne! Get the picture? And that’s precisely why this motorcycle gets to lock horns with some of the fastest set of wheels you can find in our country.
In fact, acceleration from a standing start is so brutal that it will have you rocketing skywards without Aprilia’s complex electronic trickery. The sheer force of the propulsion when you open up the taps and let that screamer of an engine rev to a crazy 13,000 revs can rip your arms off their sockets. And if you forget to crouch and tuck in behind the windscreen, 15 seconds is enough to give you a serious neck injury. Make that four for tunnel vision.
“Her feral howl when you cane her can make you do stuff that even Playboy might not print.”
There is something visceral about this machine. Here, there are no safety nets, no spaceage carbon tub that will distribute impact forces if you fall foul of lady luck. Here there is only a stretch of kangaroo leather between your precious skin and black top. And then there’s that sound. Her feral howl when you cane her can make you petrolheads do stuff that even Playboy might not print.
Now, I’ve ridden the regular RR and that feels magnificent. That rabid engine note, the ferocious power delivery and the agility of a gymnast make for an unbeatable experience. But the RF? The RF has a completely redesigned front end, the new triple headlamp (even though it doesn’t look very different from the old), new Ohlins shock absorbers and the new V4-MP multimedia platform. Even though you still get the RR’s liquid-cooled 999.6cc 65-degree V4 housed in the aluminium dual beam frame, mated to a six-speed cassette type transmission featuring Aprilia’s Quickshifter and ride-by-wire. As a result, if the RR is as sharp as a knife edge, on the RF it offers the precision of a rapier. Turn in is almost telepathic. Forget all that stuff about looking where you want to go. On the RSV4 RF you only need to think where you want to put your wheels. The bike will do the rest of the job. Quite frankly the Italians might just have nailed it when it comes to the pronouncement that this is their most profound advancement.
Porsche Panamera Turbo
“One car to ride them all”
No one wants a jack of all trades. It’s another way of saying it’s nice, but mediocre. I double dare you to call the Panamera Turbo that. It is the king. It doesn’t trade, it owns. I could spit the Panamera’s superfluous numbers at you, but Porsches just don’t roll that way. They are more about providing a soulful driving experience than impressing your mates at the bar (or your followers on Instagram) with horsepower figures. That doesn’t take away from the Panamera Turbo’s ability to smoke supercars – it will do that, while ventilating and massaging your bum, and keeping your two kids firmly cushioned in the rear seats.
There’s a V8 under that long bonnet, hooked up to two turbochargers giving it more performance than you’d ever need for the morning school run. But the Panamera isn’t on the school run today – it is in elite company, and must behave so. With Sport mode engaged then, the car sitting squat on its air suspension, exhaust flaps fully open and that ultra-cool wing deployed, it’s time to prove that adding doors doesn’t slow you down.
This was a long time coming. From the time I ironed out the creases on my Carrera GT poster and stuck it up on my wall, I dreamt about what it would be like to sit in the driver’s seat of a Porsche. To have those iconic five dials behind the steering wheel at the mercy of my foot. And it was finally happening. I wasn’t sure whether I should start out easy or floor it – and when in doubt, flat out. So floor it I did, all four wheels clawed at the tarmac and the Panamera hurtled savagely off the line, the V8 bellowing and barking with every gear the PDK gearbox called upon. Now this I had expected.
What I hadn’t was how clinical it would feel around bends. Anand wasn’t holding back in the R8, and to have the Panamera to keep up with him? Mind = blown. The Panamera is packing so much tech – the all-wheel steering enhances its agility and the torque vectoring on the rear axle means all that punch from the engine is being converted into forward propulsion. Trust Porsche to make a two tonne, four-door luxury car feel like a proper sportscar.
And when you’re done pretending like you’re at the Targa Florio, just press a button and the Panamera will shake off its battle armour, don a velvet overcoat and cosset you all the way home. As petrolheads, it is hard not to succumb to the aura of the Panamera Turbo. It is all the car you (and your family) will ever need. It is without doubt the fastest of its kind, and then some.