Concept cars are brilliant things. Under the spotlights of an auto show, they titillate the imagination, giving us a glimpse into the endless possibilities of what we might see on the road one day. So when you see what you believe to be a concept vehicle being lowered from the back of a lorry on to the road, the excitement it generates is indescribable. And then, from the bowels of what was once just a rolling sculpture, to hear a starter motor crank up a fully functioning powerplant with the car clearing its pipes with a throaty growl for the first time, is enough to make all the hair on the back of your neck stand on end.
But the most exciting part of this amazing vehicle that grunted its way off the flatbed isn’t that it is one of the most striking machines we’ve ever had the opportunity to lay our eyes on. Nor is it the fact that every detail, every crease and every curve on this car just seems to scream “SPEED” no matter where you look at it from. The truth is, the thing that really seems to have gotten our juices flowing is the fact that what we’re looking at is the first Indian-built, and more importantly Indian-developed, sports car. And believe me when I say that it’s way more stunning to behold in real life than even these fabulous pictures from our ace shutterbug Kunal will let on.
Of course, this isn’t the first we (or anyone else for that matter) have seen of the Avanti. Brainchild of legendary auto designer Dilip Chhabria, or DC as he is better known, the Avanti first broke cover at the very beginning of this year at the 2012 Delhi Auto Expo where none other than Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan unravelled it amongst throngs of onlookers. And since then, there has been much anticipation, some scepticism and just a whole lot of wondering about just when one would get to see it again, if at all that is!
After almost a whole year though, the Avanti remains absolutely identical to what we had first seen, except in one extremely critical way. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad thing by any means. The stunning chiselled body riding on those massive 19-inch wheels shod with nothing short of Pirelli P-Zero tyres are all bits we wouldn’t want to change. However, in the time that has passed, the one ingredient that everyone was looking forward to with much ado has finally been added – the Ford sourced EcoBoost motor that forms the heart of this machine.
This engine, situated between the rear wheels and the cabin isn’t some stonking big V8 or even a V6 for that matter, but a more modest 2.0-litre inline 4-cylinder unit that Ford has already put to good use on a whole range of its international sedans and SUVs. But don’t think for one second that this is some wimpy little motor though. Thanks to some clever use of turbocharging and direct fuel injection, a 16-valve top end operated by a twin-camshaft set-up and variable valve timing, what you get is a respectable power output of 240 odd horses, coupled with a meaty 366Nm of torque coming in as low as 3,500rpm. Combine that with a chassis which weighs 1,560kg, and an option of either a six-speed manual or six-speed PowerShift dual clutch gearbox to drive the rear wheels, you’d better believe that the performance figures are going to be something to talk about.
But when you consider that this engine is achieving all this oomph with a litre less of cubic capacity than any other motor would require, another upshot you can expect is better fuel efficiency as well as lowered emissions. With the engine already compliant with stringent European emissions norms, and the option of tuning it a little to even meet upcoming Euro 6 legislation, there is a good chance that the Avanti will find a home in markets outside India as well. And for those who think a four-cylinder engine is a tad too paltry to be the motive force in a mid-engine sports car, DC also has plans for a 3.0-litre Honda sourced V6 powerplant that he promises will output close to 400 horsepower!
The Avanti isn’t just meant to be a gorgeously sculpted body with a quick motor mated to a makeshift chassis. Underneath the skin, this almost concept-looking car sports a rather sophisticated bit of kit. In true sports car fashion, the chassis is a spaceframe design with double wishbones at all four corners to locate the 19” custom designed wheels sporting massive Pirelli P-Zero tyres, which offer a 255/35 profile at the front and an even wider 295/30 profile at the back.
Stopping power comes via four massive 330mm disc brakes at all corners grabbed by AP Racing calipers as a standard fitment, all of which should ensure that the Avanti will have the braking prowess akin to the best sports cars out there at the moment. There is no compromise on the safety front either, considering that automotive safety experts Bosch lent a hand in developing ABS as well as SRS airbags for the car. And if you think all this is overkill, then consider the fact that this is a car that is designed to hit speeds of 250km/h and above!
Based on everything that has gone into the design and engineering of the vehicle, it isn’t a far stretch of the imagination to assume that the Avanti will be an absolute joy to toss around in the twisty stuff. Unfortunately, this isn’t an aspect that we could test just yet as even at this stage, the Avanti remains a work in progress. There are some other things which are yet to undergo the finishing touches as well, such as the interior, which right now is merely a place holder for where things will go in the final product. But the layout itself with its tall centre console and perfectly positioned gear shifter is clearly a nod to classic sportcars such as the venerable Honda NSX. And even in its overall philosophy, the Avanti harks back to the days of genuine sports cars for the masses, a real working class hero, thanks in no small part to the projected price point of just around Rs 30 lakh!
DC hasn’t planned for the Avanti to be some barnyard kit car. Even as you read this, the designer par excellence is testing out four different chassis configurations that will eventually form the final underpinnings of this sports car. And the story doesn’t end there. Making a sports car that stays true to that title requires a vast number of different expertise, and as such, various specialists from all over the world are also been consulted for tuning the different aspects of the car’s dynamics. And yes, while only 300 Avantis are planned for production in the first couple of years of its existence, there are some big plans for the future which would even see that production number hit yearly figures in the range of four digits.
To meet this projected production capacity, the auto designer’s DC Design facility in Pune is being ramped up as well, so it looks like the stage is already being set for Indian roads to see a fair number of Avantis running around on them. Even the ARAI (Automotive Research Association of India), the collection of boffins and babus who assess and approve every car that will roll out of any plant on to our country’s roads, are set to get their hands on the Avanti starting early next year. So the car is all set to be 100 per cent bonafide roadworthy in the very near future, which should leave all sceptics with a really bad case of foot-in-mouth.
The most important development at this stage though is the fact that the Avanti is not just a fancy rolling sculpture, but a full-fledged runner. Granted that there is still some way to go before DC can deliver all that he has promised with this machine, but looking at the way things stand right now, we have no doubt that this will be a reality in the very near future. And once that goal is achieved, we will actually have a true blue sports car that has been designed and constructed indigenously, driven by the vision and efforts of one of India’s greatest contributors to the automotive world, Dilip Chhabria.
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