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Old 7th July 2004, 00:47   #1
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Sometime in mid March, one lazy Sunday morning when I walked into Sundaram Motors, I had no serious intention of buying a car but the sheer look of Pininfarina designed Optra (that too in black) pushed me to think otherwise. Promptly I took a test drive, liked the feel of the car and decided to talk to my bank the next day.

Little more than hundred days and my hectic trips to Bombay, refrained me from taking the car anywhere out of town.
Oddometer says 1900km after almost three months. That indicates how little this car has seen the outside world.
I’m not a driver who pushes the car to the limit. On the other hand I’m not a sluggish driver either. Well, that’s what I think of myself.
During it’s 650km odd period I tried a little on empty stretch, pulled myself down to reality after 160km and felt pretty happy. Last weekend out of sheer frustration, took the car out on NH4.
The pretext was to shoot some picture of anything and if given a chance and right location, shoot some car shot also.
After 1900km drive in three months, let me go step by step to describe the car.
First, the feel inside. With my average Indian height of 5/7.5, I can’t see the bonnet. It took some time to get used to it. Driver seat adjustable height control is not enough but the adjustable lumbar support is really good and firm. Steering feels good to grip with its smooth leather wrapping. Audio control on steering is simple and a pleasure to operate. Simple and practical meter console with ‘Timex’ indiglo type lighting and glowing meter needles are great. Fantastic leather upholstery, oodles of small goodies to bring smile even on the greatest pessimist’s face. 5 CD Blaupunkt music system won’t do much for a serious music lover unless one changes/add speakers amp etc. Motors for the window glasses are the best I’ve seen.
NVH seems to be one of the main concerns for GM and the research has paid great dividends. Rear seat is the best in this class and I would say a few notches above the cars of next segment. I tried back seat. Felt funny and great together. One can travel for hours without a stop.
City driving is not exactly a breeze. The car feels far too big than it actually is. This could well be my perception. Shifting is ordinary and far from typical Japanese feel. Positive though, but one would not get that do-what–you-feel of Premier 118’s gearbox.
Brilliant looking headlamps sucks full time. One can manage in city but in highway driving, may pose a handicap. After experiencing much brighter lamps, this is one serious area of concern for me. Brakes are good. Despite hauling a mass of 1260 kg multiplied by whatever velocity, car stops in right place without any fuss. All wheel independent suspension does not feel any great unless one goes high speed. At high (say above100km) speed, this car feels extremely stable. With a mix of suspension and 185/65 tubeless footwear (stock) this car doesn’t allow you to know what’s there on the road surface. 14-inch wheels look smaller to me. I feel 15-inch and 205/65 (if available and not touching wheel arches) would look ideal for a car of this size. The current Goodyear Eagle tread pattern helps the car to be almost noiseless on the run but one can consider those Michelin/Goodyear jazzy sport tyres if tyre rolling noise (if happens) is not a big issue. But it will be essentially for the looks though and let me assure you. Optra’s 1799cc develops 115bhp somewhere around 5800rpm band with 15.9kgm of torque at around 4000rpm. Power to weight would be 90 plus bhp/ton. This according me is good enough for a mass of 1260kg. One can expect a fairly smooth comfortable drive from point A to B. But let me put this straight, if anybody is looking for a smashing performance to gun the engine at a high rpm at every single stage, you will be thoroughly disappointed. VTEC owners especially are surely not the candidates to fall in love with this car.
On the other side, turn the ignition, and engine starts with a mild hum. Shift and drive immediately without talking to anybody standing outside or using your mobile to distract your mind.
A little diverted mind may crank the already running super silent engine again.
There you are, on the roads of Bangalore, heavily infested by millions of autos and bikes of the world. The blessing in disguise is you can do 20 to 30kmph on 3rd gear. The car won’t complain if you’re in 4th and doing 40. I believe that GM has worked extensively on gear ratio to pull down the fuel cost. This gearbox is much shorter now compared to what they had launched with. The new Optra with a short ratio gear box is simply joyous to negotiate in urban traffic but not so on the highway. Till date I’ve taken car out twice on the highway and the last time Shravan913 was with me. I told him to put down his comments so that I can use them as snippets.

Shravan’s comment:
"Initially, I was a little sceptical about the Optra's performance but boy oh boy all it took was one helluva driver (who pushed the car beautifully through the gears) to change my view…I was pinched myself a couple of times just to prove to myself that, yes I am awake and I am sitting in an Optra which is belting it out on the roads. Once on the crowded NH-4, the Optra started to reach speeds I have never seen before in real time…doing 150-160 k's an hour even with regular traffic and since I was on the back seat, behind the driver I couldn't see what’s was the Speedo reading…well, I initially expected it to be around 120 mark, but, when I inquired with my friend, he said it was 160, with big stunned eyes(imagine this guys' state….he would be happy to see his Premier Padmini move….then suddenly he is sitting in a car which is doing about 160 k's an hours) …I was surprised too .. Never expected a luxury car and that too a former Deawoo to do so well on the highway…the car was absolutely rock steady not a single niggle… it was simply superb…and the driver was still better and he put the brakes to the test when a cycle walla crossed the NH…the tyres did squeal a bit but the car almost came to a complete halt from 100 k's an hour, with good few meters to spare…the driver was impressed
with the braking and so was I…After a good distance of highway belting….overtaking cars…….trucks…buses(oh yeah, including
a Volvo)etc."



From a stand still position when you gas down, there’s a clear protest from 1.8 Holden engine like ‘don’t push me hard. I’ll take my time’ type. It may do 0 to 100 sprint in 11.1sec (Autocar test, July 2003) but nowhere close to Corolla (9.8sec) but the magic starts after that. I could not believe for a car, which carries more criticism than praise to behave like this. I’ve touched a little more than 170kmph on 5th at 4500rpm. Yes, I’ll keep a sensible buffer of 10 to 15 km for speedometer error. At a speed of 140 kmph + Optra feels like a dream. It soaks up all the impurities of the road surface with a small buzz and that’s all the complaint you can expect from an Optra. Higher the speed, better the mannerism, that looks like what Optra believes. Brakes are positive and I’m not going to spend a huge amount for rear disk fitment, which I had thought earlier. I’ve taken fairly sharp curves without touching the brakes and Optra did oblige. At the same breath, I must also admit that GTO’s VTEC on our trip was taking much sharper corners at higher speeds. This could be well because of smaller body size of VTEC but I would like to give GTO’s VTEC a benefit of the doubt cause it has stock tyres. I would like to see his car with Eagle F1 handling the corners. Tyres do change a car’s characteristics. I would expect a blistering performance from VTEC and a little more flamboyance from an Optra.
Mileage in terms of city and highway driving is nothing to feel excited about. I would have been really surprised had I got 13km after gunning the car at 150+. I get a conservative figure of 8.5 in city and 11.5 on highway. I’ve no idea if it improves over a period of time. Ask me if I’m happy with my Optra, the answer is yes.

Shravan’s comment:
"My friend and I went back praising the car and the driver. This one drive changed my view of the Optra as an average performance car…as a pure Luxury car. Now I look at the Optra as a Performance luxury car.It gained my respect. I salute Rudra's choice! Now, it has found the top spot for our next car change…."
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Old 7th July 2004, 01:47   #2
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Rudra

Chevrolet was probably thinking of you as their stereotypical target buyer when they decided on launching the Optra. Its very very spacious (especially at the back), has some really rich looking and fully optioned interiors, a 0 - 100 timing of 11.1 seconds is awesome (I wasnt aware its this fast), ride quality is exemplary, looks great and is backed by the largest automobile manufacturer in the world! As per our conversations in Panchgani, just the kinda car you were looking for.

A very important part of your review is the bit on the revised gear ratios. Not too many Team-BHPians, myself included, were even aware of GM's move on this. And from what I hear, the new ratios have made a tremendous difference to the Optras sprinting and driveability factors.

If you dont mind me saying this, and no offence to your previous level of automotive knowledge - But Team-BHP has surely educated you on all things cars. I mean, look at your review now. Its got numbers relating to power/weight ratios, 0 - 100 timings, what torque at what rpm and holy grail...you noted the engine rpm while doing 170 km/hr!!

Awesome stuff, Rudra. Thanks for sharing a review and photo of your car with us.

GTO

P.S: When can we hear about your 1.8 Ambassador experiences?
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Old 7th July 2004, 01:49   #3
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Fantastic review ! And as usual excellent picture of your car Mr.Sen. Its good that the Optra feels very stable at 160-170kmph. I've driven my Honda at those speeds on the Expressway at those speeds & believe me its not good...anything less than perfectly manicured roads are enough to unsettle the Honda at speeds above 130kmph. Guess thats the price you have to pay for performance
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Old 7th July 2004, 01:54   #4
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I think only one word comes to my mind.

AWESOME!!

Great work Rudra. Would also love to hear ur Amby and 800 experience. And maybe that odd merc

Revv
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Old 7th July 2004, 12:00   #5
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Hats off to you Rudra for such a fabulous review

By george !!! couldn't have been better

~A
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Old 7th July 2004, 16:59   #6
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Hey Rudra,

That was a very extensive and informative review!
Any comparisons between the 1.6 and the 1.8 ? Have u test driven the 1.6? Would love to know about that.

Awesome pic as always...!
cya
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Old 7th July 2004, 17:45   #7
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Hey Rudra, amzing review.

Each and every aspect of the car has been covered here. There's nothing better than a long term review of a car by it's owners.

Even i was surprised to know that you actually recorded the rpm at 170kmph. LOL.

Nice pic to support the review. Taken between 11:30 am and 1:00 pm i guess......

Regards...
Shan2nu
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Old 7th July 2004, 17:51   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [b
Quote[/b] (Rehaan @ July 07 2004,15:29)]Any comparisons between the 1.6 and the 1.8 ? Have u test driven the 1.6? Would love to know about that.
No Rehan not as yet. Sundaram Motors offered me to have a test drive. I'm yet to get my free time in Bangalore. May after the C-Class launch.
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Old 7th July 2004, 17:54   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [b
Quote[/b] (Shan2nu @ July 07 2004,16:15)]Even i was surprised to know that you actually recorded the rpm at 170kmph. LOL.

Nice pic to support the review. Taken between 11:30 am and 1:00 pm i guess......
Yes Shan2unu I did manage to see the RPM gauge at that speed. You need only a second to see that. Don't you?

Pic taken around that time. You're right.
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Old 7th July 2004, 17:59   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [b
Quote[/b] (Rudra Sen @ July 08 2004,02:24)]Yes Shan2unu I did manage to see the RPM gauge at that speed. You need only a second to see that. Don't you?
Well, it's just that none off us really thought of it before. We usually look at the speedo and rest our case.

But yeah, the next time i'm up there, i'll make sure i check out the rpm and let yo'll know.

Regards...
Shan2nu
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Old 7th July 2004, 20:56   #11
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Nice write up Rudra...
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Old 7th July 2004, 21:15   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [b
Quote[/b] (Shan2nu @ July 07 2004,16:29)]Well, it's just that none off us really thought of it before. We usually look at the speedo and rest our case.

But yeah, the next time i'm up there, i'll make sure i check out the rpm and let yo'll know.

Regards...
Shan2nu
Well Shan2nu,
here goes my logic and reason. I understand the fifth gear as the cruising gear where you put less strain on the gearbox and in turn for the engine. The reason for getting the best possible mileage on fifth gear is also the same, and of course within a reasonable speed limit. Since the fifth gear is supposed to maintain the already generated flywheel’s RPM, one would like to (this case me) see how it increases with the speed.
Just for observation though and to share it with all of you. Over and above the road was free.

160kmph is not the kind of speed I recommend under any situation, let alone in India.

Warm regards
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Old 9th July 2004, 00:21   #13
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went to national garage and i see at the entrance the top line 1.8 optra banged to death from the front. i have pics but uploading here is something here i havent got hold of.
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Old 9th July 2004, 04:21   #14
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Jesal,

Check this post on How to post photographs on TBHP

cya
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Old 11th July 2004, 03:10   #15
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optra lover will be upset for sure

http://img22.exs.cx/my.php?loc=img22&image=OptraB1.jpg
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