Now, normally, I’m not someone who goes weak in the knees when I see a set of big attractive wheels. But the Hexa with those alloys had me at ‘hello’. I loved the five-star design – those big solid spokes catch the light perfectly – and the stance of the car was much improved too, compared to the Aria.
I wasn’t part of the Hexa test-drive programme and only drove the car briefly when we compared
and road-tested it. So when the long-term car arrived, I was keen to do a nice long stint.
At first, I struggled with finding the ideal driving position: the seat is always either too close or too far. And that tiny touchscreen didn’t impress either. But then, the more I drove it, the more I found myself singing its praises. You’d think a lumbering elephant like this would be unwieldy in traffic, and initially, it is. But once you get to grips with it, the Hexa is so comfortable with its weight, it dances through traffic with the fleet-footedness of Diego Maradona going through the English defence.
What helps is that the steering is lighter than that of the Innova, and the Hexa changes direction more willingly. The six-speed gearbox and engine work so well together that responses are strong and very quick. In fact, flatten the accelerator and, more often than not (surprise, surprise), you’ll make that gap in traffic with time to spare. The latter is all down to the torque of course, and the responsive nature of the engine. It has a huge 350Nm from just 1,500rpm, and once you are at 1,700rpm, you are already at its peak of 400Nm; so now the Hexa, with its weight penalty all but negated, just goes whoosh. This engine is known as the Varicor 400 after all.
But it was on a quick blast up to Ranjangaon, 70km out of Pune, that the Hexa really blew me away with its ability to handle bad roads. Those 19-inch wheels have tall 55-profile tyres and that means they have an outer circumference of 2,260mm; this is not too far removed from bigger SUVs like the Range Rover Sport. While those SUVs have big 21-inch alloys, the Hexa, with its 19-inch wheels, has plenty and plenty of rubber. And that allows it to chew up huge craters, stretches of broken roads and the rock-strewn verges of monsoon-devastated roads with ease. In fact, the wheels have such a big rolling circumference, the tyres actually dwarf most potholes. Craters that would swallow an Alto wheel whole with a bone-jarring crunch are just skipped over nonchalantly.
Sure, those frequency selective dampers help, but the Hexa is just so comfortable with the rough stuff, we powered on where SUVs like the Brezzas and the Cretas feared to tread; must have passed at least fifty cars on the shoulder of the road. No wonder our new troop carrier is so much in demand. And yeah, the touchscreen may be tiny but that Harman audio system just rocks.