Boost is the secret

9th Feb 2017 11:30 am

The Baleno RS’ launch is less than a month away. And I have big hopes for it.

What follows is an excerpt from what our colleagues at Autocar UK wrote about the 1.0-litre Boosterjet engine-equipped Suzuki Baleno. "The Boosterjet is a little cracker. It revs freely and pulls strongly from 2,000rpm, buzzing away pleasantly with an ever-present triple-cylinder rasp. Stretch it beyond 5,000rpm and it gets a little raucous but not enough to stop the enjoyment of giving it a darn good thrashing." Great, right? I, for one, am itching to get behind the wheel of the upcoming Baleno RS that will serve as the launch vehicle for Suzuki’s new turbocharged petrol engine in India. This BoosterJet engine is a 998cc, three-cylinder unit that, in international markets, makes 111hp and 170Nm. I mention international markets because leaked information of the Indian car put the figures at 102hp and 150Nm. A bummer, yes, but it still betters the standard Baleno petrol’s 84hp and 115Nm. But here are the facts of real interest. Turbocharging allows the RS’ engine make max torque from 1,700-4,500rpm while the naturally aspirated engine’s produces max pulling power only at 4,000rpm. A strong mid-range is what our colleagues liked about the BoosterJet engine and the strong mid-range is what I’m most looking forward to.

Here’s the deal. I love naturally aspirated engines. I love winding them up and making use of every last bit of the rev band; Maruti’s 1.2 petrols are amongst the most fun small engines out there for this very purpose. But with traffic growing at the pace it is, finding empty enough roads to open up these cars has become a pain. It’s really frustrated the petrolhead in me. Which is why mid-range thrust has taken the place of top-end rush for me. My appreciation for small turbocharged engines started with the EcoBoost engine on the Ford EcoSport, arguably one of the best small engines in the business. Sure, it lacks the low-end immediacy of a naturally aspirated engine, but once the boost kicks in, it’s immense fun. Other notable entries on the list of small turbocharged engines that have made an impression include VW’s new 1.5 diesel – it’s superb post 2,000rpm – and of course, the Abarth Punto’s 140hp, 1.4 unit. These engines let you get to the good stuff quickly, so there’s some excitement to be had, even if just closing gaps in traffic on the daily evening slog home.

The issue with turbocharged engines and turbo-petrols especially is that they are heavy drinkers. Drive one with verve and you’ll find yourself joining your local petrol pump’s frequent buyer’s club. ‘Official’ fuel economy figures, as you may have learned by now, aren’t achievable in real-world driving conditions and the gap between claimed and achieved fuel economy is even larger in the case of turbo-petrols. In fact, even Maruti insiders we’ve spoken to are concerned about the RS’ real-world fuel economy. So, how does the potentially thirsty Baleno RS fit into Maruti’s ‘efficiency first’ scheme of things? It doesn’t. And that’s what makes it special. Here’s Maruti’s chance to build a genuinely sporty hatchback free from the need to be fuel efficient too. One that puts driving pleasure above all else. The regular Baleno is already a success, so why not go the whole hog with the RS? Spy pics reveal the Baleno RS will get a body kit and rear disc brakes too, but I can only hope it also gets a revised suspension to make handling tighter too. Throw in a more feelsome steering and I think the Baleno RS would have all the right ingredients.  

Maruti has teased us at Auto Expos past with Swift Sports. This could finally be the warm hatch we’ve been promised all these years. And if the buying public responds well, it could also be the start of something special at Maruti.

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