The TVS Ntorq is one of the best scooters available in the market today. We line it up alongside the Ather 450 to see how it stacks up against the future of the scooter
As someone who tests and reviews motorcycles regularly, every once in a while, you come across a two-wheeled revelation that pushes expectations of sets new benchmarks. The TVS Ntorq is one such revelation. It took a staid segment, dunked it in a bucket of cool and set the streets on fire. It\’s got the looks, it\’s got the go and it gave us features we\’d never expected on a bike like this. When pitted against the Honda Grazia and the Aprilia SR125 in a wholly unscientific experiment, it managed to steal their thunder and our attention. It was the new benchmark.
Then there\’s the Ather 450. The first step of a fledgling operation. They\’ve taken something as familiar as the scooter redefined it completely. It may look like a scoot but that is because it is a form that is functional and familiar. Underneath, it\’s space-age compared to the stuff running on the roads today. It really doesn\’t compete directly with any scooter currently on sale; in terms of price, in terms of features, in terms of the whole ownership experience. What it does, is give us a glimpse of urban mobility of tomorrow. Put the Ntorq beside it and you can tell that they\’re from two different generations of thought. But that didn\’t stop us from warping time and bringing them together to see where the scooter is heading.
Let\’s start with what I like about the both of them \— how solid the fundamentals are. There\’s no point giving your scooters fancy gizmos like screens and navigation unless they can take you from one place to another swiftly. These two have got the fundamentals on how to do that down perfectly. They\’re both quick. I\’d like to have known which one was quicker, but the other rider was a good 25kg heavier than me and no matter how many times we swapped bikes, I always seemed to win the drag race. The Ntorq\’s bulbous bum houses a 124.8cc motor. While 9.2bhp and 10.5Nm are figures that sit on the higher side for an engine this size, what really makes the Ntorq enjoyable is how its CVT is tuned. Yes, the elastic band effect is prevalent and that is a constraint of the technology, but it still allows for quick enough acceleration to keep you thrilled. The Ather, meanwhile has a floor mounted battery, with a motor tucked away right above the swingarm mount. Peak power is some 7.2bhp, but it also makes 20.5Nm of torque giving it some great acceleration. Yes, it\’s electric and no, peak torque isn\’t available from 0rpm \– at least not at standstill, else you\’ll just be doing rolling burnouts every time you whack it open at a traffic signal.
Once on the go though, the connection between your right wrist and the motor is so direct. Twist it, and it just goes. No lag, no delay, no waiting for the mechanicals to respond. It\’s addictive, having such direct control over the way you can get it to move. Both have brilliant chassis as well. The Ntorq with a more traditional step-through frame with the motor mounted at the back, telescopic forks up front and an offset monoshock at the rear. The ride is pliant, though biased to the stiffer side \– the upside of that being it is super flickable. We\’re used to riding our scooters with a slight rear weight bias, our muscle memory has accustomed to how such a chassis reacts to inputs. Which is why the Ather feels a bit strange when you get on to it at first.
The fact that they don\’t have to package a massive engine and fuel tank at the back has given them the liberty to redesign the whole frame. So, what they have ended up with is a floor mounted battery that is a stressed member, with a trellis subframe and a 51\:49 front-rear weight balance. It\’s a strange sensation trying to turn it at first \– it seems less responsive to steering inputs, while being supremely stable and confidence inspiring. Ride it around more, and the more naturally dealing with the heavier front end become, and you will soon be zipping through traffic as quickly as any other scooter.
Both these scooters get screens instead of instrument clusters as well. The Ntorq\’s screen was bloody cool when it came out, it was something we had never seen on a scooter ever before. Forget the fact that it was digital, you could now hook your phone up to it via Bluetooth, get prompts on who was calling and messaging you and even receive navigation instructions. It was unique and is still a whole head and neck above anything else anyone is doing in the conventional scooter space. Notice how I specified conventional? That\’s because as good as the system is, the Ather takes it to a whole new level. You can tell that it\’s been designed by hardcore tech guys. It\’s got an LCD touchscreen enabled with an inbuilt sim and GPS so there\’s no need to connect your phone through Bluetooth. It hooks up to Google Maps to give you even more accurate navigation (TVS uses MapMyIndia which is good, but not as good), and instead of just showing prompts it throws the whole map on the screen. The interface itself is easy to use and extremely intuitive. Touchscreens are a bad idea on motorcycles \– anything that forces you to take your hands off the bars are \– but the screen lock touch sensitivity once you\’re on the move and you must come to a halt to use it again. The screen also displays your range in addition to speed and odo, so you can keep track of how much juice you have left. It\’s got plenty of other features including a six-axis IMU and a reverse function.
It sounds all sunshine and daisies \– and it is for the most part, these are two brilliant scooters \– but they both have their drawbacks too. The Ntorq needs petrol and anything that needs petrol needs you to have deep pockets as well. Fuel prices have been rising constantly and well, running your scooter is getting more and more expensive. The Ather, on the other hand, is more than happy charging up on the Ather grid or at a regular plug point. You won\’t have to spend a dime running it after you buy it (Ather will even reimburse the cost of electricity it consumes from your home), but the fact that it has a battery means it comes with a whole other set of drawbacks \– range anxiety being the biggest of them. I had to spend a couple of hundred rupees on fuel for the Ntorq on the day of our shoot but heading a little outside the city meant the Ather ran the risk of running out of charge. It is an urban-only vehicle and will remain one as long as its range is limited to 75km. Even though we were back in the city with enough range, the second it dropped below 15km, alarm bells went off in my head. We managed to finish our photoshoot and hook it up to charge, but it was mentally exhausting to constantly wonder when I would have to stop and wait, in case it ran out. Nevertheless, it charges up at a kilometre a minute up to 80 per cent on the grid, quick enough not to inconvenience you for too long if you need some juice desperately.\
There\’s another major drawback to the Ather \– it is sold only in Bengaluru right now. The company is ramping up production slowly and have only launched in their home market for the time being. They also plan to expand to Pune and Hyderabad soon, small cities with people that are open to new tech. But it still isn\’t widely available. At Rs 1.28 lakh (on-road, Bengaluru), the price sounds rather shocking to begin with, but it isn\’t as bad as it sounds. It is a bit pricey no doubt, but that cost includes a lot of other things. It includes all your running costs including electricity, data services, service and parts (except tyres and brake pads). Unlike a regular scooter which needs regular maintenance, and fuel, the Ather will not require you to spend much more. All this is included in the cost of the scooter for the first year, after which you pay an annual subscription of Rs 8400. It\’s hard to call this value for money, but that price does seem more justifiable now considering how radical the technology is.
What really differentiates these scooters, though, is the way they make you feel. The Ather 450 is clinical. It has a job of getting you from one point in the city to the other, and it will do so effectively and without drama. It\’s packed with features and makes you feel like you are on something from the future \– the Ironman suit-like whine every time you accelerate just adding to novelty. The Ntorq, in comparison, is a hoot. It\’s juvenile, has a naughty exhaust note and will get you where you want to go while having you grin under your helmet. There\’s nothing particularly futuristic about it, but it has taken today\’s formula and absolutely nailed it. It will be unfair to say that one is better than the other, because unless you live in Bangalore with a commute that allows you regular recharging, the Ntorq is the only one that makes sense. That said, the Ather is the first attempt at a scooter, from a company that has never made a vehicle before and what they have achieved cannot be ignored. If that is the first step to the future, I cannot help but be excited.