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2020 Autocar India drag race day

9th Mar 2020 8:30 pm

Gather up nearly 7,500 horsepower, find an empty drag strip, and press play! It’s a trend we started back in 2003. We tell you about Autocar India’s very own drag day!


The spirit of competition has existed since the birth of the automobile. And while horsepower figures, top speed and 0-100 times may be great on paper, there is no greater equaliser than a side-by-side drag race to tell you who is faster. This is why we decided to round up some of the hottest cars of the year and put them to the test. Of course, we had a fair idea as to which one would be quick and what sort of time they would do. So we paired up some obvious rivals, and then later, just to make things a lot more interesting, we put some not-so-traditional rivals together. In fact, some of the parings with the modded cars are just nuts. However, one thing is for sure – we had a blast doing it!

Driving the cars would be Autocar India’s Rahul Kakar and Saumil Shah, and we would consider only the elapsed time (time counted from the car moving from the start line to the finish line) and not the reaction time so that the difference in times comes down to the cars only.

Popularity Contest

Kia Seltos Vs MG Hector

1st - Kia Seltos, 1.4 petrol DCT 17.599sec, 140hp.
2nd - MG Hector, 1.5 petrol DCT, 18.747sec, 143hp.

The Kia Seltos and the MG Hector are without a doubt the two most popular cars launched last year, and both of them come with turbocharged petrol engines with a dual-clutch gearbox. Both cars are also similar in terms of power output, with the Kia at 140hp and the MG making 143hp. That said, the first drag race of the day turned out to be a bit of a no contest. The Kia Seltos blitzed the track clocking 17.599sec as compared to the MG. And this was mainly down to the DSG in the Kia being far superior to the one in the MG.

Present vs Future

Kia Seltos Vs Hyundai Kona Electric

1st - Hyundai Kona Electric, 15.974sec, 136hp.
2nd - Kia Seltos, 1.4 petrol DCT, 17.913sec, 140hp
Since the Kia has stamped it’s dominance over the Hector, and is a quick, new SUV, we thought it was only sensible to have it take on the equally performance-oriented Kona electric. Now, although the Seltos gets 140hp and the Kona makes 136hp, the biggest difference between these SUVs is how they took off once the lights went green. With the torque, all 395Nm of it, available immediately as you hit the gas, the Kona just rocketed away from the line and stayed ahead, clocking a quarter-mile time of 15.974sec.

Unlikely Competitors

Honda Civic Vs Toyota Innova Touring Sport

1st - Toyota Innova Touring Sport, 2.8 diesel AT, 17.104sec, 174hp. 
2nd - Honda Civic petrol CVT, 18.664sec, 141hp.

Back in 2018, we lined up a Maruti Suzuki Swift and a Mahindra Scorpio and it turned out to be one of our most popular drag race videos on YouTube! This time around, we decided to up the ante and put up one of India’s favourite MPVs up against the new Honda Civic. When tested, the Civic and the Innova did the 0-100kph sprint in a similar 11.4sec. Who would win? 141hp and 174Nm of the Civic, or the 174hp and 360Nm of the Innova Crysta? And would the gearboxes come into play? The Innova came out on top, with the MPV cracking the quarter mile in 17.104sec, compared to the Civic’s pedestrian 18.664sec! So why the difference? Mainly due to the fact that the CVT gearbox in the Civic just doesn’t like the full throttle acceleration as much as the standard torque convertor in the Innova does. So seven seats beats five!

Sub-four-metre dominance!

Mahindra XUV300 Vs Hyundai Venue

1st - Mahindra XUV300 1.2 petrol MT, 17.746sec, 110hp.
2nd - Hyundai Venue 1.0 petrol MT, 17.763sec, 120hp.

The popularity of sub-four-metre petrol SUVs is fast rising, and among the most popular turbo-petrols are the XUV300 (110hp 1.2-litre) and the Venue (120hp 1.0-litre). Which one is faster? To determine that, we used manual versions of both SUVs in the race. While the XUV300 won the race with a time of 17.746sec, compared to the Venue’s 17.763sec, a difference of just 0.017 of a second shows how close these two really are in terms of performance. This despite the Venue having only a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder unit.

Diesel Duel

Volkswagen Polo GT TDI Vs Ford Figo S

1st - Ford Figo S, 16.988sec, 100hp.
2nd - Volkswagen Polo GT TDI, 17.501sec, 110hp.

The upcoming BS6 norms will see a lot of automakers cutting out diesel powertrain options from their line-ups. As a final hurrah, we put the Volkswagen Polo GT TDI up against the Ford Figo S. And when the lights went green, these torquey little cars went off with their tyres squealing for mercy, leaving puffs of smoke in their wake. The Figo, with 10hp less than the 110hp Polo, clocked a time of 16.988sec, and actually beat the Volkswagen (17.501sec) to the line. How? Well, the Polo has a rev limiter in neutral or when the clutch is engaged, making it impossible to launch the car hard. Also, the Ford’s gearbox is quite superior, which means it does not lose any time going through the gears.

Luxury Showdown

BMW 330i VS Jaguar XE P250

1st - BMW 330i, 14.399sec, 258hp.
2nd - Jaguar XE P250, 15.730sec, 250hp

The BMW 3 Series and the Jaguar XE are the two best driver’s cars in their segment. And now with the XE getting a major facelift, and the 3 getting an all-new generation, it was time to see which one was fastest in a straight line. Both these cars make very similar horsepower. Off the line, the BMW, with its launch control, has the clear advantage in leaping ahead. But it isn’t just the extra 8hp that gives it a clear edge; the new 3 Series’ 8-speed gearbox is far superior than the one on the Jaguar. Shifts on the BMW are quick and with minimal lag, and it shows – a whopping 1.331sec difference at the end of the quarter mile, with the 3 coming in at 14.399sec and the Jaguar at 15.730sec.

Boulevard Brawlers

BMW Z4 VS Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe

1st - BMW Z4 M40i, 12.639sec, 340hp.
2nd - Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe, 12.674sec, 390hp.

If the quarter mile was the runway at a fashion show, these two would be Claudia Schiffer and Heidi Klum. The Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe and the BMW Z4 were most certainly two of the most stylish cars at the Autocar Drag Day, and they also have the hardware to match their drop-dead gorgeous looks. Both follow a similar formula – six-cylinder turbocharged engines – but the BMW has rear-wheel drive and launch control, while the Mercedes-AMG has all-wheel-drive and no launch control. And boy was it close! It was one of the closest races we have seen, with just 0.035 of a second between the two. Victory went to the BMW Z4 at 12.639sec, with the C43 coming in at 12.674sec. While the AMG was faster off the line with all-wheel drive, the BMW’s quicker gearbox and lower weight meant that it eventually nosed ahead.

All-Wheel-Drive Battle

Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe vs Audi S5

1st - Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe, 12.661sec, 390hp.
2nd - Audi S5, 13.460sec, 354hp.

With all-wheel-drive getting becoming the norm for most performance cars out there – especially in sedans and coupés – we decided to put the C43 Coupe up against one of its rivals, the Audi S5 Sportback. Now, yes, the S5 Sportback does get two extra doors and a little less power but will Audi’s phenomenal Quattro all-wheel-drive make up for it? The Audi, even with it’s extra weight, seemed just as quick off the line, if not quicker than the Mercedes. But with more horsepower on tap, the Mercedes C43 Coupe did eventually claw its way back, winning by a margin of 0.799sec and a time of 12.661sec, as compared to the Audi’s 13.460sec.

With that, we wrap up our standard, factory-spec car tests. But that’s not all! This year, we also invited a few tuned performance cars. How would they stack up against the best factory made stuff out there. And of course, there were some interesting pairings!

All about the boost

BMW 745Le vs Skoda Octavia RS

1st - BMW 745 Le, 13.482sec, 394hp.
2nd - Skoda Octavia RS, 13.567sec, 400hp*.

Strange pair, isn’t it? A thoroughbred luxury limousine up against one of the most tuner-friendly sedans in the country today. While the hybrid 7 Series makes 394hp out of the box (which includes 113hp of electric power), this particular APR-tuned Octavia RS here, owned by Sachit Thakkar makes a claimed 400hp, up from the mere 230hp that it originally comes with. With all that power going to the front wheels on the RS, as compared to the BMW getting all-wheel-drive and the instant boost from the hybrid electric system, this was a very close race. With a time of 13.482sec, the 745 Le marginally eked out a win over the RS that clocked a 13.567sec time.

Brother vs brother!

Volkswagen Polo GTI vs Audi S5

1st - Volkswagen Polo GTI, 13.025sec, 380hp*.
2nd - Audi S5, 13.465sec, 354hp.

These two cars could not be more different – a sleek and rather sexy Audi S5 up against a hot hatch, the Volkswagen Polo GTI. But while the regular GTI would be no match, this one, owned by Alok Khandelwal and modified by Bengaluru-based eTuners, is tuned to a claimed 380hp!

While the Audi has the advantage of all-wheel-drive, the front-wheel-drive Polo comes to the party wearing the right footwear – a set of slick racing tyres up front. With both these sporting the fantastic DSG dual-clutch automatics, they went off the line like a set of race dogs let loose. And with both, weight and horsepower coming into play about halfway down the track, the Polo crept ahead, winning by 0.440 of a second, with a time of 13.025sec vs the Audi’s 13.465sec. Wow! But isn’t that stock Audi quick!

Axis VS Allied Part 1

Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe vs Ford Mustang

1st - Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe, 12.665sec, 390hp.
2nd - Ford Mustang GT, 13.666sec, 450hp*.

American horsepower vs German horsepower has always been a matter of debate in the car world. While the Americans prefer stuffing in as many horses as humanly possible under the hood, the Germans often end up with cars that have less horsepower but are superior all-rounders. So, how will the Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe fair against a lightly tuned, bright yellow Ford Mustang? While the C43 Coupe makes 390hp, this Mustang owned by Arbaaz Sameer makes a claimed 450hp giving it the power advantage. But, with all-wheel-drive, the Mercedes got off the line, as it had already earlier in the day, without a moment’s hesitation. The Mustang, struggling to put its power down conceded to the AMG, which put out a time of 12.665sec, a full second ahead of the Ford’s 13.666sec time.

Axis VS Allied Part 2

BMW M3 VS Ford Mustang

1st - BMW M3, 11.855sec, 525hp*.
2nd - Ford Mustang GT, 13.053sec, 650hp*.

With the first race going to the Germans, the Americans decided to up the ante – a supercharged Mustang, with a claimed 650 horsepower, owned by Viral Choksi and tuned by RACEtech India. And to match, the Germans got their bigger guns out too – a lightly modified BMW M3, making a claimed 525hp, and owned by Vikram Walia and tuned by eTuners. Both these cars are rear-wheel drive, run some sort of forced induction, are automatic and wear street legal tyres. So, will the extra 125hp in the Mustang be too much for the BMW? As the red lights turned to green, the BMW shot off the line with a perfect launch – using launch control – while the Mustang, with all its extra horsepower struggled to put the power down. The M3 put down an impressive 11.855sec time, compared to the Mustang’s 13.053sec run. So how much horsepower did the Mustang really have? It’s anybody’s guess.

The final countdown

Mercedes-AMG E63S vs Audi RS6 Avant

1st - Audi RS6, 11.182sec, 740hp*.
2nd - Mercedes-AMG E 63 S, 12.022sec, 612hp.

All right then! The one that everyone has been waiting for. The fight for German supremacy – Mercedes vs Audi; AMG vs RS; 4Matic vs Quattro. In the left lane, the Mercedes-AMG E63S, the big daddy sports sedan with 612hp. And on the right, a highly tuned but equally unassuming Audi RS6 Avant making a claimed 740hp, tuned by APR and eTuners. Yes, you read that right, the same amount of power that a Lamborghini Aventador S makes, but in a 5-seat family wagon! As these two rolled up to the line, and bets were placed, it was time to light up the Christmas tree and let them loose! As the lights went green, both cars dug into the tarmac hard enough to make the earth spin backwards. But even with the bi-turbo V8 making the power it does, the AMG was no match for some of the best aftermarket engineering mated to Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive. Setting a blistering time of 11.182sec, the tuned Audi RS6 was 0.840sec faster than the Mercedes-AMG E63S, which set a time of 12.022sec!

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