Volkswagen Polo GT TSI on an Airstrip

The Polo GT, teaches our resident mad mac a thing or two about respect

Words: Dipayan Dutta
Photography: Vikrant Date

Sirens are going off in my head, every fibre of my being is telling me to get off the throttle and slam the brakes. Not today. Right foot stays pinned to the floor. The end of the runway hurtles forward. The numbers keep climbing, 167,168, 170 … 180. Shutterbug Vikrant whizzes past. (Yes. Vikrant is the human brake marker, and he thinks he’s in it for the shot). Time to brake. A yellow light on the instrument panel lights up in protest of the current circumstances. Not bad for a first run. The car is the Volkswagen GT TSI, the place is an airstrip just outside Surat in Gujarat. We’re here to celebrate the Thrill of Driving and what better way than on a private airstrip in the country’s first, proper, hot hatch.

Did we pick the Polo GT TSI just because of the GT badge? Hell to the no! We picked it because really is the first car in the country that is unashamedly performance oriented. Direct- injection turbocharged petrol motor developing 103 horsepower and 175 Nm of torque (which peaks at a low 1500 rpm). Diesel like torque, is the ‘proper’ term, I’m told. All that in a car that weighs a smidgen over a tonne and shares its chassis with the Indian Rally Champion. And the World Rally Champion! Did I mention that it comes with a GT badge? If that hasn’t sold you, step on the pedal, and you’ll hear the turbo start to whistle which in turn will get the adrenaline flowing. I guarantee it.

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Onto the veggies, the Polo GT TSI does come with an automatic gearbox. The 7-speed dual- clutch Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) which it shares with its more premium cousins. To be honest, before I got behind the wheel of the GT TSI, I was all prepared to be disappointed that it was an automatic and claim that the Sport mode was a sham. You know the usual petrol head rant against automatics. There again the Germans had me, they seem to have perfected the art of automatics – with even quicker shift times and more ratios. The shifts in manual mode are super-quick, not to mention seamless. Although, if nitpicking had to be done, the gearbox does shift up automatically when the revs hit the redline, which makes holding a gear through a corner a bit complicated. Sport mode is absolutely impeccable, it holds on to gears longer, downshifts at a higher rpm so you’re always in the meat of the power band and stretches the revs right up to the limiter. You also get the added advantage of engine braking. Which is a big thing for us enthusiastically inclined folk.

However we did have an airstrip all to ourselves for the entire day. And while facts and figures are great, we know all too well how sometimes they just don’t add up. It was time to get serious. ESP off. VBOX mounted to the windshield. It was time to see how the GT moves. Launching the TSI isn’t really what you would imagine from the word launch. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad in any way, it’s … eeerrmmm … interesting. You go according to plan. Left foot on the brake, right foot on the gas, revs at 1000rpm (this happens automatically, the German brain refusing to let the engine over- rev). Countdown in your head, get off the brake and the Polo just about breaks into a trot. For a second it disorients you, your brain tells you that you need to be moving faster, you begin to wonder whether something has gone wrong. Half way through that thought you notice the needle creeping past 1500 rpm, and then it hits you. 175 glorious newton metres pushing you back in the seat. Blink and you’ve hit 80kmph and in just over ten seconds the GT demolishes the ton. Ah. Torque. Breakfast of champions.

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There was a slight bit of a problem, our air- strip which is used by smaller aircrafts meant maxing out the Polo was not just improbable but also quite retarded. (Not much in the way of run off areas). Nonetheless, I hadn’t driven all the way up to Surat to go home without maxing out the Polo on the airstrip. Having convinced the brake marker .. I mean .. Vikrant that we needed a longer shot and having displaced him a few meters further down, I drove back to give it one last shot. You’d think driving in a straight line was easy, until you have to do it in limited space. Did it launch right? Is there too much wind? Are the brakes getting too hot? All this, while hurtling down the runway fighting the urge to chicken out and slam the brakes. I was up to 160 by the time I realised it and our lensman, oblivious to his true function, was fast approaching. There is a saying ‘wide open till you see god, then brake’. Being the way I am I was expecting his horned colleague to show up to do the needful. 170. All your senses are tingling. Your brain is shouting ‘brake!!! you crazy b***tard, brake!!’. Ignore that, keep right foot firmly pinned. 185. Ten more to go. 191. Vikrant comes and goes. Brake. The TSI leans forward like you wouldn’t believe it, the steering squirms, the brake pedal pulses, I hold on for dear life and grim death. And it stops. Literally, one inch from the edge of the tarmac. I need new boxers.

That’s the thing about the GT TSI, you’d think that 103bhp isn’t that much power. Until you are left alone in a closed room with it. Numbers are great but more often than not, where performance cars are concerned, they’re as meaningless as the plot of a porno. What matters is what those numbers add up to. Much like our little GT TSI which seems like it would want for more power, but leaves you breathless and craving an energy stick. Most of all, from the first time you drive the Polo GT TSI, what it earns is your respect.

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