Naldehra has many delights. The eight-hour drive from Delhi to this hamlet, an hour away Shimla, is delightful; the Mall Road is great for people-watching; and there are noble trees all around. For some people, though, there is another attraction – and that is the almost-a-century-old Naldehra Golf Club which, at 2,200m above mean sea level (MSL), has one of the country’s highest golf courses. The lure of the greens is so strong that, sometimes, on long weekends, one simply exchanges the man bag for the golf kit, thumbs the starter button on the car at hand – in this case, the new Toyota Camry Hybrid – and points its attractive nose away from Delhi.
Get out of the boardroom and hit the greens.
Early morning is a great time to check out how the light bounces off the Camry which, with its creases, 18-inch wheels and that beautifully sloping roof, has tremendous road presence. The road that leads to Naldehra is not without irritants, but there are several stretches on which one can move at a fast clip. Aiding that rapid advance up the hills is the new Camry’s engine and electric motor, which ensures you have 221hp at your command. Life is quiet and extremely comfortable inside the Camry, and those large windows frame views of towns that you leave behind – Karnal, Ambala, Chandigarh – until the mountains finally come into view.
The next morning, the 18-hole Naldehra Golf Course is drenched in sunlight, and presents some becalming views. It was Lord Curzon, the viceroy of India, who oversaw the making of the course; and there is quite obviously a decidedly colonial feel to it. The rhythm and pace of life are slower, and that suits one just fine. Soon, it’s tee time, and a sweet drive, a combination of both precision and power, brings immense satisfaction. Precision and power also reminds one of the automobile that entered Naldehra elegantly the previous evening.
From the way the two sources of power work in tandem, the smoothness exhibited by the e-CVT transmission, to the car’s grip on the road, the Camry is a study in the melding of exactness and power. All it took was a quick dab on the accelerator for the car to make short work of highway traffic, and one was especially glad to note the presence of paddleshifters. Obviously, the engine has a dual role here. Apart from pulling the car forward, it also charges the battery. The latter also gets charged when brakes are applied — that’s what brake regeneration is — and it helps one get sterling fuel-efficiency figures.
The electric motor works seamlessly in tandem with the Camry’s petrol engine.
The rest of the morning is spent getting my swing right and losing many golf balls. There were some hits and many misses; but all in all, it was a good day, which ended early in the evening with a cup of refreshing tea at the lovely club house. There are many things golf teaches you. One of them is that practice – whether in the boardroom or on the greens – makes perfect; and the other is that it’s important to switch off, every once in a while. The caddy had several recommendations regarding Naldehra, and the Camry dipped into and out of small, winding lanes and relatively broader roads to Shaily Peak and the Chadwick Falls. The weather was bracing, and one often paused to enjoy the silence amidst the woods.
The Camry is refined and quiet, and has impeccable road manners.
The drive back to Delhi the next morning was even better. As the car made light of rough patches on the road – the new Camry sports an independent rear suspension, by the way – one wondered what it would be like to sit at the rear. That part of the cabin looked quite inviting, especially with those cosy seats and that touch-operated panel that controls the rear windscreen’s sunshade, backrest recline, and the rear air conditioner.
This Toyota does not lack in space and features, both up front and at the rear.
In the end, one decided that the pleasure of driving an exceedingly well-engineered car, at this point in life, trumped all other attractions. And, as Delhi appeared on the horizon way earlier than expected, one felt vindicated.