My friends and I had spent countless hours, sitting on the last bench of a classroom, finalizing the finer details of our very own imaginary sportscar (imaginary being the keyword here). It certainly was the best way to escape the lectures while still being physically present, and I’m sure most of you motorheads would be able to relate to that. But for the folks at DC Design, the idea of building the first Indian sportscar was a lot more than just a classroom pastime and they have the Avanti to show for it. Right from the concept presentation stage to homologation of the production model, the new born Indian sportscar maker had overcome several hurdles, both technical and financial, to realize the ultimate dream.
Earlier this year, we visited DC Design’s Gurgaon office to get a quick low-down on the Avanti. Although busy NCR roads don’t make for an ideal setup to test a sportscar, the short drive answered most of our curious questions.
Penned by Dilip Chhabria, the Avanti’s objective is to stand out of the crowd. It features several quirky design elements, multiple surfaces, and accentuated lines to achieve exactly that. The front fascia is composed of a gaping quadrilateral grille, three-part headlamp cluster with integrated LED daytime running lights and a gently contoured hood with a plastic insert in the middle.
The profile looks busy with heavy contouring. The tight fitting black roof, alloy fuel filler cap, massive alloy wheels and air-intake vents behind the doors add to the Avanti’s sportscar credentials.
Coming to the rear, the real estate dispute between the windshield and the ventilated engine cover is clearly won by the latter. Three-piece LED combination lights, hexagonal air-intake and twin chrome exhaust tips round off the exterior design. The overall build quality is decent but the panel gaps could have been tighter.
The DC Avanti’s styling may not be to everybody’s liking but there is simply no denying that it is an eyeball magnet. The low and wide stance makes for a stunning road presence with which it captivates the beholder.
Whereas the Avanti’s exterior design screams for attention, the interior has a contrasting understated appeal to it. The low seating and high dashboard take a bit of getting used to but once you settle in, the cabin offers reasonable comfort and good ergonomics.
The desi sportscar offers a fully digital instrument console which, though limited by low resolution, incorporates some useful features. Most of the dashboard is wrapped in leather with contrast stitching and accents that are coordinated with the exterior color. Our blue test car came with matching centre console which houses AC vents, a touchscreen infotainment system and a series of touch sensitive buttons for AC.
The quality of the plastic components such as the steering wheel, stalks, AC vent flaps, power window buttons and fuel cap/bonnet release levers is disappointing. They clearly belong in a budget hatchback rather than a sportscar.
The leather seats are nicely contoured and offer excellent cushioning, thigh support and side bolstering. It is also fairly easy to find a suitable driving position. However, thanks to the exterior dimensions and low seating position, visibility is a bit of an issue but isn’t that usually the case with cars of this caliber?
To sum in up, Avanti’s interior is not a bad place to be in but has a huge room for improvement when it comes to material quality and hence lacks the feel-good factor that is normally expected of an INR 40 lakh car (approximate on-road price).
Engine and Gearbox
What meets the eye is very much Indian but the stuff under the hood that is responsible for the propulsion has a French origin. After several long talks, DC managed to convince Renault Sport to supply the engine and gearbox for the Avanti. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged mid-mounted transversely oriented petrol engine produces a healthy 250 bhp at 5,500 rpm and 340 Nm of torque between 2,750 and 5,000 rpm. The drive is sent to the rear wheels via a 6-speed manual gearbox.
The motor comes to life with an energetic rumble and feels quick right off the mark. As the revs build up, the cabin is filled with the turbo whistle, so much so that the sporty exhaust note is barely audible in the cabin. The aural pleasure, therefore, is reserved only for the onlookers.
The engine gets into its zone once past 2,000 rpm and has an exciting tug all the way up to the red line. DC says that Renault Sport spent some quality time in tweaking the engine and gearbox combo to suit the Avanti and it shows in the way the car drives. The straight line performance is definitely grin-inducing, thanks to the aggressive acceleration. At the same time, the motor is also up for urban chores without any complaints. The 6-speed manual gearbox has a positive feel to it and is best enjoyed during quick shifts.
DC claims a 0-100 kmph acceleration time of 6.0 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 200 kmph. While we were not able to verify these figures during our test drive, we can certify that the Avanti is a proper sportscar by virtue of its powertrain performance. In fact, the Renault motor is the best thing to have happened to DC’s first ever production car.
Ride, Handling and Braking
Though the Avanti has garnered plenty of orders from overseas market, it’s a sportscar that is made in India for India. So, it’s not surprising that it has a ground clearance of 170 mm (which is more than several hatchbacks) and a sturdy suspension system (double wishbones on all the four corners) which can take the surprises that our roads throw at it. Tackling the infamous Indian speed bumps with the Avanti is not even 10% as tedious as it would be with the other low-slung sportscars.
The overall ride quality can be termed as comfortable by sportscar standards but handling is certainly not one of its strong points. Don’t get me wrong, it’s extremely composed and holds on to its line around high-speed bends but the electric steering system isn’t simply sharp enough, and it always keeps you guessing. It’s a big letdown, especially when the chassis feels competent.
Helping the DC Avanti shed its momentum are 330 mm front and 295 mm rear disc brakes that are governed by Continental ABS. The bite, pedal feel and stopping power are reassuring.
One would expect a sportscar to have a long list of fancy features but in the case of DC Avanti, a major proportion of your hard earned money is channelled into getting the hardware right rather than offering superficial niceties. That said, you do get a fully digital instrument console, engine start-stop button, a touchscreen infotainment system with reverse parking camera, projector headlamps, carbon fibre body panels (not load carrying members) and so on. The timeline for the development of airbag system didn’t match with that of the car’s launch and hence, the initial set of cars is not equipped with them but the company is confident of introducing the safety feature in the Avanti’s next iteration (Avanti 310). The good new is, the existing cars can be retrofitted.
Is it worth the money?
Before coming to that point, DC Design has to be appreciated for pulling off something which has never been achieved before in the Indian automotive history. Yes, the DC Avanti has drawbacks such as a lackluster steering system, and poor plastic quality (nothing that can’t be sorted out in due course), but it has got the crucial ingredients right. It has a talented engine, feels properly quick and it takes to the Indian road conditions like a crocodile to a lake. If all these attributes aren’t convincing enough for you to shell out INR 35.93 lakhs (launch price – ex-showroom, Maharashtra), the DC Avanti’s ability to stop people in their tracks for a moment with its sheer presence should do the trick. In fact, no other car at this price point would earn you as much attention and envy as this desi sportscar.