The Guangde Proving track was really intimidating. We
were not allowed to use our cameras, mobile phones or any other recording
devices at the plant. It was as though we were at a top secret facility of SAIC
SAIC’s Guangde Proving Ground, which completed
construction in 2012, is the largest such facility in the ASEAN region. Spread
over 5.67 square kilometers, it is renowned for rolling out vehicles that meet
the highest levels of safety, quality, performance, and durability. The proving
ground has a total length of more than 60 kilometers of test roads and more
than 70 kinds of typical pavements. SAIC vehicles have been tested over a
mileage of 20 million kilometers here.
According to Rajeev Chaba, President & Managing
Director of MG Motor India, this facility in Guangde was built at a cost
equivalent to around Rs 1600 crore. Other rival brands in China can use this
facility at a rent of around Rs 50 to Rs 80 lakh for testing their own cars
The whole proving ground consists of eight major test
items, including hill test, oval track, environment test, durability test, long
straightaway, ride & handling, vehicle dynamics and low adhesion
coefficient. We had to confine ourselves to only three venues here which
included a racing track, ring track and a simulated ice and high speed
I got to drive four different cars in these three
separate venues. No, this was not a review exercise at all but a touch and feel
kind of drive. Each of the drives barely took a few minutes and we had to hop
out for the rest of journalists waiting eagerly for their turns.
Before I give you my impressions on the MG and Roewe
brands of SAIC Motor Passenger car division let me confess to you that I had
entered the proving ground with a terribly misconstrued conception that Chinese
car makers, no matter how big they are, cannot match the big names of the West.
All that changed the moment I was behind the wheels of the sporty MG6 hybrid on
the race track and rotated the big knob on the centre console that put the car
into the drive mode. At speeds above 80kmph, I cornered the car and sped
between the various cones marked on the ground. Despite the sharp cuts and
corners, the car was so grounded and its suspension so top notch that I could
barely feel the car stray. It was spot on at the corners. The straight line
acceleration, high speed cornering, U turn, slalom and S cornering brought out
the finer points of the vehicle, be it its engine power, steering perfection, tyre
grip, traction and suspension.
Obviously, I chose the Sport mode for my sole track
experience. The car has a length of 4695mm, a width of 1848mm and a height of
1458mm. This 1 litre petrol hybrid produces around 225hp and a peak torque of
622Nm. This car’s got an electric drive unit and has ternary lithium battery.
It’s a low slung car, ideal for zipping on smooth open roads. The interiors too are plush in the car with a
very sporty steering wheel.
After that I was transported to the North & South
Ring track where on slightly bumpy tracks of both asphalt and concrete, I drove
three cars, the Roewe Marvel X, Roewe ERX5 and the MG HS model. The Roewe
vehicles are pure electric SUVs with their own abilities. I climbed on to the
Roewe Marvel X, the internet car. The term Internet car refers to the
next-generation of vehicles based on internet of things (IoT) technologies. The
physical elements of the RX5 are designed and developed by SAIC Motor. It is
marketed and sold under SAIC Motor’s Roewe brand. Alibaba, on the other hand,
provides the operating system for the vehicle’s infotainment system–the AliOS.
This SUV comes in both a 2 wheel drive and a 4 wheel
drive. With a huge panoramic sun roof, this car excites you the moment you sit
on the driver’s seat. The large screen reminds you of the interiors of a top
end Tesla car. With a length of 4678mm, a width of 1919mm and a height of
1618mm, this car has almost a coupe like shape with a sloping roofline. The
electric motor here draws its energy from ternary lithium battery which can
enable the car to travel 500km provided one drives around 60kmph. For an
electric vehicle that’s outstanding. Producing around 297hp and a peak torque
of 665Nm, this SUV handled pretty well on the track. It can accelerate from 0 to 100 kmph in 4.8
To give you a simple example of what AliOS does, you can
through voice command open the sun roof of the car, but where technology comes
into play is when the car’s intelligent system goes through the real time weather
forecast and warns you that it’s best not to open the roof as it could begin to
rain any moment.
Well, the first impression I got of the Roewe ERX5 was
that it was a lot more subtle compared to the Marvel X. Here the touch screen
was a lot smaller and also in terms of dimensions this was a bit small.
This too was a treat to drive around the track at speeds
between 50kmph and 80kmph. We went on some bumpy tracks both on asphalt and
concrete. I was impressed by the way this vehicle handled on the track and its
chassis stability including body flexibility.
The Roewe ERX5 has a length of 4554mm, a width of 1855mm
and a height of 1716mm. It has a permanent magnet synchronous motor with
ternary lithium battery. The car offers a NEDC comprehensive mileage of 320km
on a single charge. The power produced
by the electric motor is 114hp and a peak torque of 255Nm. This vehicle can
only do a top speed of 135kmph. With plush interiors, comfortable seats and a
large sunroof, the cabin of this vehicle is quite spacious.
Now it was my turn for the simulated ice and high speed
slalom. On this track, I got my hands on the steering of the 2-litre turbo MG
HS model. The experience here was like
driving through rain as I had to accelerate on a track where water came down
from both sides like a fountain. Here the active safety control system of the
car comes into play as you accelerate, which basically prevents the car from
sliding all over and going off course.
Traction control and ABS of the car was fully tested. Once I was out of
the shower, I pushed the car hard for the high speed slalom experience. Boy,
was I impressed by the car’s ability to stick to the road and prevent being
It has a dimension of 4574mm length, 1876mm width and
1685mm height. The 2 litre petrol turbo engine is embedded with SAIC Motor
Netblue high efficiency engine technology, churning out around 228hp and a peak
torque of 360Nm. Mated to a 6-speed automatic, the car reaches a top speed of
210kmph. This car too is an automatic but has a gear lever to shift into the
drive mode. The interiors of this vehicle are very sporty and as for the
steering wheel, it’s seems to be inspired by the world of motorsport.
My time with the cars at the Guangde proving ground was
very limited. Though a lot was revealed to me about the superior build and
technology of both the MG and Roewe cars, I felt the time was too short for a
real experience. After all, with us Indians, it’s always Dil Maange More! I am
sure when MG Motor India finally introduces its SUV in the Indian market in the
second quarter of 2019, it will have the best of technology and features
influenced by not just the MG and Roewe brands but the handful of other global
brands it has in the kitty of SAIC Motor Corporation.