The old Maruti Baleno used to be a regular sight in Indian motorsports like touring cars and rallies due its easy engine tunability. Today, we came across this rally-spec Baleno with a full-time AWD system.
Before Maruti Suzuki used the Baleno nameplate for its premium hatchback in India, it was used for the then flagship sedan in the automaker’s lineup. Launched in 1999, the Baleno was Maruti’s answer to the Mitsubishi Lancer and Honda City, though it sold in much lower numbers compared to the two. Indian consumers didn’t like the Baleno’s oddball styling and the bulbous rear taillights, which remained the same even after mid-life refreshes. But the Baleno found its calling in motorsports, where it is beloved by owners and enthusiasts alike. Its 1.6-litre engine was highly tunable, easily making double the factory spec power outputs. The Baleno is a winner of multiple races and championships in everything from touring cars to rallies. Today we came across this Baleno which has been modified to run an all-wheel-drive system, the only of its kind in India.
The video has been uploaded by Mohit Malik on YouTube, in which we can see this modified Maruti Baleno competing in an off-road event. It belongs to Jagbir Nirwan, who has given this Baleno a thorough and extensive overhaul. Though the exterior may look similar, it has a few changes to make it race-ready. There are quick-release pins for the bonnet, the bumpers have been reinforced for rough conditions, and there’s a roof scoop for ventilation. The interior has been stripped bare to bin all unnecessary things for racing, thus saving weight. In comes a full roll cage system, and a single race seat for the driver with a six-point seatbelt.
Mechanically, the biggest change is that this Maruti Baleno has an all-wheel-drive conversion. The modification was done by Dr Khan, who is one of India’s foremost motorsport tuners and modifiers currently. Being rally-spec, the AWD is most probably running a 50/50 torque split for the best balance in the rough terrain. Though further details haven’t been specified, the engine sounds like it has been tuned as well, and is definitely running on a freer air filter and exhaust.
In stock form, the old Maruti Baleno sedan was powered by a 1.6-litre N/A four-pot engine which made 94 PS and 130 Nm of peak power and torque, which was mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox. The old Baleno also used to come in a station wagon body called the Alturas, though it was short-lived as it didn’t strike a chord with the Indian consumer.