Its more than just an ATV and it's not quite a rally car. This is a whole new breed of beast.
When one mentions specifications like three cylinders, 996cc, 70bhp and a CVT transmission, what comes to mind is one of the many regular commuter hatchbacks available in our market. But its a 540kg ATV we're talking about here. And this combination changes everything. Meet the Rage Cyclone. It’s got a 130bhp-per-tonne power-to-weight ratio and isn’t road legal in India yet. With torque sensing limited slip rear differential, disc brakes at all wheels, fly-off handbrake, 13 inches of suspension travel from the Intrax racing shock absorbers, racing buckets with four-point harnesses and off-road tyres — this is definitely not a toy.
On board, it’s a simple dashboard — aluminium pedals, steering wheel and speedometer, and a fly-off handbrake between the seats. There’s no windscreen, so you need a helmet.
Unlike a rally car, the Rage Cyclone is easy to drive from the off and it’s been designed to be that way. So, on the driver’s right is a gearlever that has three positions — forward, neutral and reverse. Crunch into forward (there’s no synchromesh as the CVT doesn’t need one), give it some gas and there’s a calm before the storm. This is because of the way the CVT works, there is some lag when you go through the initial bit of pedal travel. Once the CVT’s belt has hooked up though, there’s a blare from the stainless steel exhaust system and the Cyclone takes off.
I’m careful initially over the car breakers that pass for a dirt track but there’s absolutely no need to be. The Cyclone’s tall struts, the suspension’s setup and the chassis’ inherent strength shrug off mountains like they were molehills .
Ditches that look deep enough to make you worry for the 6.5mm thick front bash plate simply disappear under the 13 inches of shock absorber travel. Jumps that make you brace for a hard impact with the ground are executed with all the drama of a VW Polo tackling a small speed-breaker. Like its namesake, the Cyclone simply flattens everything in its path.
The Cyclone needs to be driven hard, because that’s when its magic shines through. It loves going sideways and thanks to the direct, quick and unassisted steering (1.7 turns lock-to-lock), you instinctively know how much counter steer to apply to keep it pointing in the direction you want to go. I promise you, anyone with even a little bit of talent behind the wheel will find that driving this buggy sideways is child’s play.
Drive it harder and you’ll notice it likes to understeer through corners. What you need to do then is transfer some of the weight of the car onto its nose with a dab of left foot braking, throw it into a corner and start powering out before the apex. That way, the limited slip diff hooks up and rewards you with a beautiful sideways exit out of the corner.
It is a lot of fun, the Rage Cyclone and more so because it is so sorted out — engine, chassis, suspension and sheer build quality. Its motorsports roots shine through in the way it’s so seat-of-the-pants to drive and yet, has the ability to thrill both the amateur driver and the serious enthusiast.
What are the downsides? Well, Rage Motorsports should offer a sequential manual gearbox as an option — we think it would only add to the Cyclone’s appeal. Then there’s the fact that it’s not road legal. Rage Motorsports is trying to get certification for it in India, but as the Indian RTO doesn’t seem to have a category for a vehicle like this, approval might take time. What this means is that the Rage Cyclone is limited to private land and that is a shame, considering that you might need to think of ways to transport it to a dirt track somewhere, every time you want to drive it. As is, it costs approximately Rs 14 lakh depending on where you buy it. For those of you who think that’s expensive, think of how much more expensive a track car will be.
True, the Cyclone isn’t for everyone, but rest assured, if you’ve ever harboured dreams of taking part in rallies but have never been able to do so, maybe you should have a look at the Cyclone.