Words: Ouseph Chacko
Images: Omer Sherif
There are two steps to this. Step one. Take around Rs 40 lakh, take aim and throw it out of the window. Step two. Open that window a little wider, aim even better and chuck a few more bundles of cash out. Done? Happy? If not, wake up early one morning like I did and go for a long spin in either one of these cars. It is the only way you will see what these two are about. You see, cars like these – the VW GTI and the Mini Cooper S – make as much sense as the beef ban and should not be viewed on those lines. Think instead on the lines of – there’s nothing out there for the same money that will give you the bang for buck that these two can.
These two are all about making you grin like a Cheshire cat every time you get behind the wheel, they are about strapping fireworks to your bum and lighting them all up every time you floor the loud pedal. They are about turning your mood around. And then you let Pete loose on them.
The sun hasn’t raised its head over the horizon when I strap myself into the white GTI. Yes, it is not in the pictures but because I’ve not driven a stock GTI before, Pete’s got me one to sample. I do the typical journalist thing – I’m blown away by how quick it is, how comfortable it manages to be and how it goes about covering the distance between Kochi and our first liaison point, forty kilometres away. I am disappointed by how quiet the standard car is – a GTI should make enough noise to scare the milk out of cows no? I think VW has been uncharacteristically adventurous by launching this car in India, they should have been more adventurous with the pipe. I’m also thinking that the standard car is bloody quick. Does it really need more power? We wait for the others.
The familiar chirrup of a Forge blow-off valve disturbs the peace as Nishant Jacob, the owner of the Pete’s Tuned GTI comes charging over the far crest on this road. In his wake is the beautifully tuned rumble of a Milltek full system exhaust and the angry driver of the poor Santro he just blew into the weeds. Nishant steps out and tells me that the car is a bit too mad now. This is going to be good.
Ok, before I hop in, here are some stats. The standard car makes 192bhp and 250Nm of torque from its 1.8-litre TSI petrol. Pete’s remap, the free flowing exhaust and the higher boost it is running (up from 9.5psi to 14psi) help Nishant’s car make a claimed 240bhp and 340Nm of torque. Mild? Yeah right!
Unsurprisingly, the up in power stands up and kicks me in the face. This thing is insane – well, not Aventador insane but for a three-door hatchback, it is ballistic. I don’t have a VBOX with me but I don’t need one to tell you that the mid-range is crazy and the top-end (it’ll pull to 7000rpm versus the stock car’s 6500rpm) is mental. This car is great at disguising speeds and it is only when I take a quick glance at the speedo that I realise that for the same throttle inputs as the standard car, this car is going 20-30kmph faster over the same piece of road!
Pete’s also thrown in a Bilstein B14 system and lowered the car by 25mm and amazingly, I think this car rides better than the standard car. There’s real compliance in the suspension and I think this is also letting the car absorb and move over bumps rather than get kicked off line by them. That LSD is pretty clever too – it’s allowing the car to put down the power with only the occasional chirp from the tyres. The only small blemish in this whole package is with the bigger 17-inch wheels and the lowered suspension and how they contribute to the tyres touching the wheel arches over the bigger bumps. Nishant tells me it is okay but I still can’t help but grimace every time it happens. This is a really nice package and I love how complete and neat it looks. There’s no mod car feel about it – it actually feels like something that the VW factory makes and that is something I’ve always loved about Pete’s cars. The only problem then is the other car standing next to it.
The Cooper S
Spec for spec, the Cooper S isn’t that much more expensive than the GTI but it feels way more special. Get in that cabin, select the ‘Maximum Go-Kart feel’ driving mode and hang on. Off the line, this Cooper S feels even madder than the GTI. The bottom end is super strong, the mid-range is even stronger and it is only when the engine is revving near the 6000rpm redline that it doesn’t feel as ballistic as the VW motor. Okay, so this one is running a claimed 250bhp and 380Nm of torque, up from the standard Cooper S’s 189bhp and 280Nm of torque, a massive difference. Part of this is down to the remap and some credit must be given to the 20psi boost pressure it is running (compare that to the standard car’s 9psi). Then there’s a Forge intercooler and intake and a totally open Milltek decated downpipe and a John Cooper Works exhaust. That exhaust is evil. It makes you push hard. It eggs you on. Its machine-gun rat-a-tat overrun scares the daylights out of the locals. It is definitely too loud.
It also helps the 2-litre turbo petrol feel like a Tyson sucker punch. Slightest throttle input, leap off the line. Pair that with the usually stiff Cooper S and you get a car that really feels lively. Where the GTI’s suspension allows you to pick your line and breathe over imperfections, the Cooper S with its hyper talkative steering and Pete’s adjustable rear tie bars bring with it skips and minor slides through every corner. I’m on alert. I feel like Kris Meeke driving through Kielder. I don’t know which one I prefer more.
What I’m not a huge fan of is the Tarox brakes – they seem to fade a bit after a hard run down the hill road we drove up in the morning. Nishant tells me it is much better than the standard brakes that are on his Cooper S. I’ll take his word for it.
The money bit
This is the bit you’ve been waiting for haven’t you? That bit where I lay out big numbers and drop your jaws at the enthusiast’s excess. Well, all the mods to the GTI ring in at Rs 3.77 lakh and on the Cooper S, you’ll spend Rs 3.03 lakh to unleash its soda bottle energy. Now, I want you to think about this in percentages. The cost of upgrades are, roughly, ten percent of the price of the car. Ten percent outlay for a twenty five to thirty five per cent up in power. Damn! That’s a damn good deal isn’t it?