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Driving the Lamborghini Huracan Spyder up Nandi Hills

5th May 2017 10:30 am

We take an Italian bull to visit our very own Indian bull at Nandi Hills. And, in the bargain, we go for a great drive on a really great road.

This is neither the time nor the place, weather gods! As our taxi from the airport splashes through another pool of standing water, wipers battering away sheets of rain from the screen, I can’t help but be overcome by an unsettling wave of panic. The introduction to tomorrow’s story would have to change drastically. “We’re here in Bengaluru to see how well the canvas roof on this Lamborghini Huracán LP610-4 Spyder holds up in the heart of an actual hurricane, and to test the benefits of AWD on a supercar in ankle-deep water.” We checked everything beforehand. But the weather report? It’s March, for crying out loud! I’m dreading the call I’ll inevitably have to make to the boss.

Mercifully, dawn breaks bright through clear skies, the only traces of last night’s torrent being some damp patches of tarmac. Soon our target is in sight. A statue so unassuming, we could easily have driven past it and never noticed. And yet it’s the very reason we’re here. It’s the Nandi Bull, the chariot of the gods, and presented here atop a high plinth at the base of the hill. The hill in question, of course, is Nandi Hills, the summit of which was once home to Tipu Sultan’s summer palace and still is home to ‘Tipu’s Drop’ – a decidedly cheery name for the ominous cliff from where the king would throw his prisoners to their doom. Gulp.

You can see where we’re going with this though, right? The Nandi Bull, the raging Italian bull, the chariot of the gods, a chariot to make us feel like driving gods. Alright, the link may seem a little tenuous, but when offered the chance to drive a Lamborghini in and around Bengaluru, we’d be foolish not to bring it here. Plus there’s the road itself. Forty bends, most of them hairpins, stitched together by 13km of ribbony tarmac which, as I’ve just found out, has been recently resurfaced. Yummy. That’s reason enough, I think.

Even though it’s early on a Tuesday morning, Nandi Hills has already got its fair share of visitors, mostly kids on their bikes or in their cars, probably as eager to hit those corners as we are. They’ll be on their way soon enough, we think. They’ll probably mind their own business and not even notice we’re here. But then the truck rolls up with what can only be described as a triangle wrapped tight in a grey sheet, and oh dear. There goes the peace and quiet. Suddenly the statue of Nandi is surrounded, and high on its pedestal, the bull has a better view than most of its counterpart as the wraps come off. I swear I just heard a shriek from somewhere in the crowd. And I can’t really blame them.

I’ve seen several Huracáns in my day, but whoever was responsible for choosing the spec of this one gets a meaty high five from me. The deep Blu Caelum paint paired with red brake calipers and tan leather upholstery is just right; a superb mix of flashy and classy. And then there are the wheels – Giano Nero Opaco Lucidato is what Lamborghini calls them, but what they are is matte black with white accents on the spokes. Makes it look like each corner of the car is suspended on five floating hexagons.

For a moment, I too am lost among the cameraphone-wielding throng, but then I’m quickly jolted back down to earth by the crew, who remind me that we’d best get moving before the crowd hits critical mass. Off with the roof, flick up the red safety cap, prod the button and fire up the V10 with a whirr and a howl. All the fauna in the vicinity has now run half a mile away, so a flick of the right paddle to select first, and we’re on the move.

Aaaand stop. It seems Nandi would like to stare a while longer, as I pull the toggle that hydraulically raises the nose to clear the one lone speed breaker we’ll encounter the whole day, right at the foot of the statue. It takes a few seconds, but it’s worth it not to gouge that perfect bone structure on every last little bump.

I’ve driven the coupés before, but this is my first time in a Huracán Spyder. Forget the wind in my hair, forget the windscreen that ends a hair’s breadth above my line of sight and forget the fact that I’ve stupidly bathed myself in wiper fluid trying to clean the screen on the move. The joy of the Spyder is in hearing; no, listening to that engine, and I do mean every last sound it makes. I’ve dabbled in the ten-cylinder symphony previously, but never like this; these are noises I’ve never heard before. The rumble and churn that lives beneath 2,000rpm, followed by a burp and a blat as I extend my foot a little more aggressively, and then the barks and pops as I lift off abruptly. And then I pinch the little ANIMA toggle on the steering wheel to go from Strada mode to Sport and in comes a whole new scale of notes, culminating in that all-too-familiar one – the infamous wail as the digital tacho needle nears about 7,000rpm. I was worried about one of the many cocky monkeys on this route jumping in through the roof and being an unwitting passenger next to me, but I doubt that now. They’re clever creatures. Big, loud, blue thing – stay the hell away from it.

The route, of course! Got a bit carried away there, sorry. It climbs through its 1,900ft of altitude change pretty quickly, with a mountain face on one side, bouncing off that incredible noise back into the valley on the other. The scenery down the mountain shrinks away with every passing hairpin, which sort of puts Tipu’s Drop into perspective. The corners, oh the corners! There are a few wide, sweeping ones early on that allow me to let the bull run free a little with full view of what’s coming ahead, but for the most part, they’re tight and blind, and they climb very steeply indeed. In fact, I find myself taking them a bit wide so as to not scrape that nose on the sharply ascending inside line. But the biggest cause for clenching is just how narrow some of the sections are. It may be the baby in the Lamborghini range, but this isn’t a small car. All I see in the wing mirrors are the massive blue flanks and the rear deck behind me is so tall, using the central mirror is all but pointless if you’re as short as I am.

But you know what? It’s not long before I’ve grown into the car. I know where it begins, I know where it ends, both literally and figuratively. I know which gear I need to be in for a corner well before I’ve reached the said corner. I can reach down onto the vast central console and hit the button for the hazard lights without taking my eyes off the road – monkeys appeared suddenly and I had to stop in a hurry. Huracáns can be snappy and dangerous, but that’s only when you overstep the limit. As long as you keep it at eight- or nine-tenths, it’s thoroughly enjoyable and it’s borderline easy.

And easy does not mean boring. There are some critics who have called the Huracán too soft and safe for a Lamborghini, not ‘supercar’ enough to rub shoulders with the latest and greatest, down on power, too slow to 100, and because this is the convertible, more for posing than anything else. Well, to them I say, go take a stroll off Tipu’s Drop, because right here, right now, I don’t know what you’re on about. And as the noise fills my ears one more time and the Huracán rockets towards one of the last few hairpins and the nose carves into the apex and the rear does a slight fidget on the way out, I really don’t care either. This thing is a thousand thrills a minute and it’s all the better with the roof off. And it’s a Lambo – posing just comes with the territory.

The top of Nandi Hills, at first, is a bit of an anticlimax to the road and the car. A handful of cash-grab restaurants and a bit of dilapidated architecture. There’s no Nandi Bull up here like there was at the base, but what there is instead is a stunning view of the valley sprawling out below. I hop out, knees quivering with adrenaline from the drive, and make sure I hold on to the guardrail as I take it all in. It’s a mesmerising sight to behold, one that’s got a lot of history behind it, and something I won’t soon forget. And no, I’m not talking about Nandi Hills anymore. The Huracán is all about a sense of occasion. It’s not about outgunning its rivals with power figures or setting the best lap times (although tell that to the bloke who just shattered the Nürburgring lap record in the new Huracán Performante). We have speed bumps and potholes in India, we have traffic, we have heavily flouted road rules. Not everyone has Nandi Hills at their disposal every day. We need a supercar that flaunts what it’s got. One that’ll put a smile on your face in just a few metres. That this is one of the bestselling supercars in India comes as no surprise at all.


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