A turn of the key is all it takes to establish the fact that this new common-rail diesel engine under the hood of the Laura is leagues ahead of the earlier Pumpe Düse (PD) one. It’s much smoother, the machine-gun rattle heard during cold starts is missing and the Elegance variant we are driving comes with 138bhp (instead of the 110bhp on the manual variants). The common-rail system allows for more injections per stroke, allowing combustion to be smoothened out, and an increase to 16 valves allows the motor to breathe much better.
Here, only a hint of clatter reveals the presence of a diesel engine under the hood. Put the automatic DSG ’box in drive and there is some turbo lag to start with; DSGs have no torque converter, so there’s no help during step-off. But after a slight hesitation the Laura catches its breath and accelerates with enthusiasm. This motor feels less strained, the engine is much more flexible due to the wider powerband, and overtaking is now much easier. It’s much more free-revving too and does not feel out of breath on top like the earlier motor.
Performance, as a result, is much stronger with 0-100kph coming up in a swift 9.72 seconds, a full 1.35sec quicker than earlier and the Laura feels much more at home overtaking on the highway. It’s also a great car in which to cover ground, a sort of private intercity express. Refinement is very good, performance is now ample and this, coupled with the car’s good ride, makes it a fine highway car. The DSG gearbox works even better with this motor. It responds quickly to the change in position of your right foot at all times and ensures you are in the right gear at the right time. This ’box has enhanced the fuel efficiency too. The Laura now delivers an impressive 10.1kpl in the city and 16.2kpl on the highway. That should give this car a theoretical range of 723km on the highway.
All the upgrades carried out on the Laura prior to the facelift prevail. The now-softened suspension delivers a good compromise between ride and handling, the interiors are well built and very comfortable and the steering accurate and well-weighted.
At Rs 16.64 lakh, the Laura is more than a couple of lakhs expensive than the Cruze automatic. Also, you’d expect this car to be packed with features, but steering-mounted audio controls and CD changer are missing. Nor is there anything to identify the upgraded car visually. So it’s expensive, but very capable. A diesel automatic if you can stretch your budget a bit.