Branded Content: Fronx vs Champ

Fronx vs Champ; the Nexa Fronx takes on India

How far would you go to have fun? We’d go to the ends of the Earth, provided we have the right set of wheels. Last month, when an opportunity presented itself in the form of the formidable Nexa Fronx, we pushed more pressing tasks onto the backburner, got into one of the most exciting – and capable – SUVs around, and hit the road. Our destination was Ladakh, which vibed well, you’d agree, with the Fronx’s ‘Frontier Next’ philosophy that has also inspired its catchy name.

The Fronx isn't afraid of heights and doesn't shy away from taking corners head on.

But this wasn’t going to be just another road trip. Up in the high-altitude desert, we were going to meet our good friend Kieren Dsouza. Dsouza is India’s best long-distance trail runner and has represented the country at the Trail World Championships several times. He is also the first Indian to finish the Spartathlon, a historic 246km ultramarathon race held annually in Greece. The 29-year-old, who stays in Manali and trains all over the mountains, is the sort of guy who runs up and down mountains, and by the time you read this he will be in Europe, participating in the Wildstrubel – an extraordinary race through Switzerland’s Northern Alps. If the Nexa Fronx is built to be driven, then Dsouza is built to run.

Design of the times

We were not surprised when Dsouza took a shine to the Nexa Fronx the day we reached Leh. All along the 900km route from Delhi to Leh, the Nexa Fronx attracted a lot of attention. But that’s par for the course when you are driving such a good-looking SUV. Maruti Suzuki has nailed the design with the Fronx, which has been shaped by Nexa’s signature ‘Crafted Futurism’ design language. While its aerodynamic silhouette and regal stance deliver loads of road presence, those muscular fenders, chiselled wheel arches, and side body cladding amp up its sporty good looks. The signature NEXWave grille and that deep chin, along with the NEXTre’ crystal block DRLs, complement the Fronx’s aggressive stance, while the connected LED Rear Combination Lamps that run across the width of the vehicle is a classy, uncommon touch.

The SUV's classy and highly ergonomic cabin makes you want to keep going

The Fronx’s exteriors might be a big draw, but its cabin is no less exceptional and the drive to Leh reaffirmed the feeling we had all along. The contrasting Black and Bordeaux colour scheme is both elegant and youthful and complements the SUV’s premium feel. The seats are among the best in its segment, and the space at the rear surprised our camera crew. Other things we like? The well-damped toggle-type aircon switches, the elegantly contoured dashboard that is made with soft-touch materials, and the info-packed Head-up Display. In line with its rugged SUV vibe, the Fronx’s dashboard gets a metal-like matte finish with high gloss silver inserts. Just in case you are wondering about its safety credentials, the Fronx, which has been built on Suzuki’s world renowned HEARTECT platform, uses high tensile and ultra-high tensile steel, comes equipped with 6 airbags (driver, co-driver, side and curtain), 3- point ELR seatbelts, ESP with Hill Hold Assist and rollover mitigation, ABS with EBD, and ISOFIX child seat anchorages, among others.

Power and pace

On our first evening in Leh, we are shooting the breeze with DSouza when he suggested we do something fun. Like what, we asked. How about Fronx versus me, he said. We smiled, we knew where this was going. But how and where? Dsouza knew a desolate pass near Leh. It was not too high, but not a walkover either. He would take the trail, and we would take the long, twisty road down the pass. It didn’t take us too long to agree. Of course, this was a friendly match, but if it meant driving down a series of twisties in an SUV like the Fronx, we were all for it. 

Tools of the trade: Dsouza's trail running shoes and the Fronx's precision cut alloy wheels that enhance its good looks

The next day, a bit after the sun came out and warmed our bodies, the two contenders lined up at the top of the pass. Rahul, our man behind the wheel, and Dsouza studied the terrain closely. The road that led down from the pass was wicked. It twisted and turned, there were rough patches in between, and the bottom of the pass looked like a long way down. Dsouza might be India’s best trail runner, a man who knew the terrain like the back of his hand, but the Fronx, which is built on Suzuki’s well-regarded HEARTECT platform, had serious firepower, too. The SUV’s 100hp, 1.0L K-Series Boosterjet engine, which features Progressive Smart Hybrid technology, is an absolute cracker. It has zilch turbo lag and is brilliantly responsive at low speeds and a fair bit of credit for that should go to the Progressive Smart Hybrid’s Integrated Starter Generator motor that gets into the picture. Once the turbo starts spooling, you can expect a whale of a time.

Power is always on tap with the Fronx's 1.0-litre K-Series boosterjet engine, regardless of whether you are up in the mountains or negotiating city traffic

What makes the whole experience even better is the fact that our Fronx was mated to a smart-shifting 6-speed automatic gearbox. The gearbox is equipped with an extra ratio to help drivers get the maximum out of the engine’s 147.6Nm of torque, and you also get steering-mounted paddle shifters. Obviously, we couldn’t wait to engage manual mode and rev the engine to the rev limit down the mountain road. While Dsouza limbered up, Rahul stared straight ahead, focusing on the road. And, then, without much ado, both took off.

Downhill run

It is not easy to keep track of your opponent when you are driving down a mountain pass. Especially one who simply disappears down into the arid, high altitude wilderness. Every once in a while you’d see a flash of Dsouza’s orange t-shirt and then he’d be gone. So, Rahul did the best thing anyone would do: let the Fronx do its bit. And on that winding, steep gradient, lined with potholes and bumpy patches, the Nexa Fronx was fast and agile. Put your foot down, and power was always on tap. What made it a 360-degree experience was the SUV’s neat and tidy handling. The Fronx is a kind of SUV that is not afraid of heights, but it also does not shy away from taking corners head on. As Dsouza disappeared into the distance, the Fronx encouraged Rahul to drive harder and faster, and thanks to its confidence-inspiring nature, he used more power and speed everywhere.

The Fronx can handle both the Himalayas and your daily commute equally well

Soon, we started clawing our way back into the game and gaining ground on a man who knew what he was doing. Two things worked in our favour. The Nexa’s impeccable ride quality, which allowed us to coast over the rough patches, and its high 190mm ground clearance that allowed Rahul to drive flat out. The rest of the drive was a blur – literally. We’d driven down a couple of thousand metres in double quick time, and streaked past the bottom of the pass where our photographers waited with bated breath. The Fronx had indeed won the race, which was to be expected, of course. But Dsouza arrived not too long after, which, we thought, was amazing as well. All of us high-fived each other, adrenaline coursing through our bodies. The machine was the victor in this friendly duel, but our man had come a valiant second. We doffed our hats to Dsouza. He was a real champion, just like the Nexa Fronx.



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