TATA HEXA DRIVING EXPERIENCE – XT 4×4 & XT AT
Last 12 months I was not evaluating cars outside my job. This 2017 new year, I decided to materialize the opportunity TATA Motors thrown in the name ‘TATA HEXA EXPERIENCE CENTRE’. I was eager to look at the design next styling & the much capable off roader The TATA HEXA. Myself & my friend Dileep decided to to see the TATA Hexa on 7th Jan 2017 at Chennai. I was very clear that, I want to drive the car first before looking at the spec, styling, off roading or anything. Immediate after registration we march to the test drive counter and took our token for driving both TATA HEXA – XT 4×4 MT [Manual transmission] & XT AT [Automatic transmission].
After some 20mins of wait, the courteous executive take us to the TATA HEXA. The car have SUV aggression at front & MPV simplicity at the rear. The door handle & door opening attempts felt polite.It was an easy jumping into the car. The seats hugged me well & the commanding position with steering wheel adjustment enabled great visibility in & out. I just quickly got acquainted with the TATA Hexa. I find it difficult to find the opening button of the co-driver side chiller. but some how figured out later. Overall dashboard packaging & materials are class high complementing the nice textured seats. Dashboard controls are in reach and buttons have feedback. It was a very quick spin about 1 km, since there are a lot of potential customers waiting for test drive. Starting the 2.2li VARICOR 400 motor was a breeze. I could sense the NVH upgradation of the car to be a premium SUV.
Steering: The steering wheel is nice in shape and up market in texture. Steering weighted high with a nice on center tightness. Nice progressing off center response & good connected feel. No significant initial phase lag or compliance feel to the steering. But, worst part is when I took a sharp quick turn, the steering started misbehaving, steering effort started increasing unnaturally. Steering effort after a quarter turn is not linear and demanding high & low force. In addition steering wheel is slightly off set to the left on both cars I driven. Since, these are per-production cars, it may be fixed in the production versions.
Suspension: Within the quick drive I could feel the ride is refined & over took TATA Aria. TATA Hexa feels more agile & better in body control. 2nd row seats are equally good as front. In rough roads lateral movements are felt in middle row followed by a bit of head toss. But on highways the car gives a good road holding sensation. Single evnets like bumps are a bit harsh & tactile.
Wheels & Tyres: The 19 inch alloys adding muscle the SUV stance of TATA Hexa. The 235/55 R19 lower aspect ratio tyres are managed to add stiffness in the corners without compromising the ride in rough roads. Tyres shows better grip in the lose sand/mud surfaces.
Manual Transmission: The A-B-C pedals surprised my, they are almost in same plane as I wanted. Clutch is not showing the TATA DNA in heaviness. Clutch was better in launch & engagement. Gear shifting is not so smooth, but the throw is fine considering it’s a 6+R speed SUV. Accelerator is responsive & aids gradual take off. Brake feels poor in the initial bite, slight aggressive brake expected to this heavy car.
Automatic Transmission: Gear shifting is very hard. As in the case steering it may be fixed in the production version of Hexa. Automatic transmission is quick & responsive. Sport mode available in automatic transmission to delay gear shifting rpm. Which is less economical but fun at times when you are adrenaline pumped.
Going forward to the off-road riding experience as passenger in the middle row is a fun but serious event. TATA Motors taken good efforts to showcase what their Hexa is capable of. A series of events created to explains various control systems in the car like EPS, traction control, hill hold & hill descent control. The car for the off road experience is TATA Hexa XT 4×4 put in the ‘ROUGH ROAD’ mode of Super Drive.
Features like Super drive modes, traction control, roll over mitigation, etc are mainly achieved through the combination of engine management & electronic stability program. 4×4 transmission & suspension set ups adds value to these combination. In a nut shell of this technologies, ABS with EBD- prevents wheel slip while braking, traction control- prevents wheel slip while acceleration & ESP – Prevents wheel slips while cornering. These functions are executed by the car electronics, controlling the braking force, braking intervals after sensing a wheel slip predominantly.
Off road experience [Not in driving seat]
- 500mm ramp: On the ramp first rear right side wheel lifts completely in the air, when the lifted wheel loses traction the traction control will kick in and lock the wheel to power the opposite wheel & driver can negotiate the ramp without any hustle. In the 500 mm of articulation we can observe the body control of the car and wheel arch packaging to accommodate amble amount of rebound motion of the suspension.
- 200mm bumps diagonally arranged: To show the 200mm ground clearance of the car.
- Slop with one side rollers and other side normal surface: This also show the traction control, both left hand side wheels will be on the rollers with no grip, still the car can drive up.
- Ramp made on 21 deg approach & 22 deg departure angle: which is just to emphasis on the angle specifications.
- Wooden blocks irregularly arranged: This is to simulate the improper traction. There is no wheel slip or rev changes observed. On this rough terrain there are lateral motions observed followed by a little head toss.
- A muddy and uneven surface made of tyres & watery mud: This also shows the 4×4 usage pattern to announce the cars practicality.
- Gradient with steps: To show the traction & stability program.
- 30deg gradient: Where hill hold control for 3 sec is demonstrated first. Later hill climbing without the car’s momentum also demonstrated.
- Down gradient: Manually switched on hill descent control in demonstrated. Where the car applies brakes itself during the down hill.
- 450mm water trough: people in Chennai will love the car since there Chennai is frequently blessed with flood & storm.
- 40 deg side ramp: Which is show the side lift condition with the roll over limit
Overall TATA Hexa is a feature packed SVU. A lot of refinements in ride & handling, NVH, packaging, infotainment, drivability & new impact design styling. The shell & chassis having limited variation from the TATA Aria. Interior styling & build quality is a class apart from the earlier TATA cars & matching the segment. TATA Hexa can challenge the competitors like Mahindra XUV500, Santa fe, Duster & even Innova Crysta. Hope TATA will clear the slight glitches in the steering & gear shift leaver (AT). All the very best to TATA Hexa..!
Thanks to TATA MOTORS for this opportunity to drive TATA Hexa!
Note: The off road experience track/ramp/slop dimensions are as explains by the driver of the car from Tata Motors.