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Indigo eCS Mileage-Endurance Run

21st Feb 2012 9:34 pm

The Tata Indigo Endurance Run took off from Mumbai. The plan, to touch the four corners of the country in a Tata Indigo eCS.

Mumbai-Ahmedabad

Full of enthusiasm and raring to start on what ought to be an epic drive across India, our team started from Mumbai at six in the morning. An early departure meant traffic was thin and made for a quick egress from the metro. Once out of Mumbai, we got on the NH8 due north.

We made good progress for most of the journey and even at Surat Junction, a known bottleneck, there was little traffic. We ran out of luck at Baruch though, where we were held up by traffic for over half an hour. Thankfully, the fantastic, arrow-straight National Expressway 1 between Baroda and Ahmedabad allowed us to make up for lost time. We reached Ahmedabad and handed over the car to the next team 

Bhuj-Koteshwar-Ahmedabad

The second change-over on the Tata Indigo ECS Endurance Drive took place two hours ahead of schedule, when the next team arrived from Ahmedabad in the middle of the night. However, our onward journey to the western-most part of the country had to wait another hour. Running around in the middle of the night trying to get a police attestation isn’t the most glamourous part of setting records, but a necessary one.

Attestation in hand, we finally got out of the city at about 1am and on to the SH42, a well-paved dual carriageway. We were sure of very light traffic which would work in our favour, and it did – we reached Koteshwar just after four in the morning.

Though we didn’t run into much traffic, we did encounter a fair bit of wildlife en route to Koteshwar. We reduced our pace after a couple of close calls with Nilgai and Indian hare, which had us braking hard. We proceeded back on the NH8A, passing Bhuj and then Ahmedabad, where we handed the cars over to the next team for the leg of the Drive that would take them to Jaipur.  

Ahmedabad-Jaipur

After a short halt, we left Ahmedabad and pointed the Indigo eCS towards Jaipur. Getting out of the city of Ahmedabad was quite slow and painful, thanks to unruly traffic on Sardar Patel Ring Road. And it was just more of the same on the dual carriageway leading up to the NH8.

Smooth and fairly empty roads marked our arrival on the famous Golden Quadrilateral. The driving conditions were just right to extract maximum fuel economy from the Indigo eCS and the car surpassed our expectations with an incredible 34kpl! The car could perhaps have done even better were it not for the massive jam at the Udaipur Bypass that we got stuck in. From there, we took the NH76 and then the NH79 and hit Jaipur at seven in the morning.  

Jaipur-Delhi-Chandigarh

Trying to exit Jaipur to go towards Delhi is a task – all roads seem to lead to Delhi, literally. We had three road signs ahead of us, each pointing in a different direction and bearing the legend ‘Delhi’. This being a very busy signal, we didn’t have much time to ponder. So we took the straight road ahead, as suggested by our GPS, and hit the eight-lane Ajmer Expressway.

Well, it did lead to Delhi, but it was choc-a-bloc with construction, which meant innumerable diversions, which in turn meant heavy traffic. We constantly found ourselves on and off the highway due to the diversions, which slowed us down considerably.

We finally reached Gurgaon, where we tanked up our sturdy Indigo eCS. We then headed out to the Ring Road and on to Karnal to exit Delhi, for Chandigarh. We drove through the night, and it wasn’t easy. There was zero lane discipline, and we had trucks, tractors and bikes heading towards us head-on with headlights at full beam. Overtaking was a task too, with no one willing to change pace or give way. And so, it was with much relief that we reached Chandigarh and handed over the Indigo eCS to the waiting team.

Chandigarh-Jammu

The next stint of the Drive continued after the changeover at Chandigarh, where the team arrived on the night of the 20th from Jaipur. For once, the police attestation was over in a trice – the officer on duty at the Sector 31 police station seemed savvy.

We were soon on the Chandigarh-Jalandhar highway, and the Map My India guidance system took us out of Chandigarh’s roundabout maze easily. Making our way onto the SH24 Phagwara-Mohali Expressway, we managed good time as maintaining constant speeds on this stretch was effortless with almost no traffic.

However, the road pulled a disappearing act soon after Jalandhar, with unmarked diversions. This, coupled with broken sections of road and rain, delayed us a bit. A quick fill at Pathankot, and we found a brilliant dual carriageway to the Jammu-Kashmir border. Because it was now 4am, the roads were absolutely empty. The only delay we faced was when we were stopped for an apparently customary police ‘hafta’ roadblock. That done, we sped to the hotel, where the next team was waiting for us to take the car on to Srinagar. We managed 365km in six hours – not a bad night’s work.

Jammu–-Srinagar– Jammu

Our drive from Jammu to Srinagar started on a positive note. The Jammu police officers had released the traffic movement towards Srinagar and we easily managed to beat the crowds by starting at 5am.

The road upto Patnitop was enjoyable with numerous hairpin bends and sharp turns dominating the drive. The Indigo eCS did surprise us with its eagerness to march ahead without any fuss and we especially liked its engine’s responsive nature. We crossed various villages on our way to Srinagar, and also went through the famous Jawahar Tunnel – this meant the traffic movement was slower than anticipated. However, cutting through narrow lanes with huge pileups of snow on either side felt dreamlike.

We had a plan for our drive back to Jammu: a) Leave early, which we did, b) Reach Srinagar by afternoon, for which we were three hours late, and c) get back to the Jawahar Tunnel by 6pm before it’s shut. A short-and-sweet rendezvous with Srinagar’s Dal Lake saw us embark on our return journey, where we had to literally battle it out on the NH1A with the truck traffic, errant tourist vehicles, and the not-so-friendly dogs.

Once we managed to hit the open highway, it was a breeze upto the checkpost prior to the Tunnel. It was 7:30pm and we could only hope that the forces manning the tunnel would let us pass through, under the pretext of the significant drive we were on. But they weren’t convinced and this meant spending a cold night in a compact saloon with five passengers onboard. The locals tipped us off that once the officers hit slumber past midnight, we could try our luck and make a move to the Tunnel. It sounded exciting and with appropriate alarms set, we caught up with some lost sleep. Trrringg, ting tong, beep beep – multiple mobile phone alarms went off simultaneously. We woke at 3am only to find that the hundreds of tourist vehicles and trucks parked around us had already left the parking scene. We followed and reached the tunnel’s starting point, and waited for the already posted officers to open the gates. But there was bad news here! Multiple avalanches and landslides meant further delay by 6-8 hours. We were left with no choice but to try and take some more rest in the car itself. By this time, it had been more than 24 hours since we had hit the road. There were no signs of help arriving to relieve us anytime soon.

As per the officials, it would take close to five hours to clear the roads up ahead. Hence we decided to drive back to the Srinagar Tata Motors workshop and get the car checked up thoroughly. By the time we got back after getting the eCS serviced, the cops at the tunnel informed us that we were late and they weren’t allowing movement of any passenger cars towards Jammu. We were shattered – the thought of spending another night in the car and more worryingly, wasting precious driving hours, was disturbing to all.  

We humbly requested the officers to let us drive down to Jammu in order to attempt the record we had set off to achieve. The army jawans finally let us go, along with one of their officers. And along our return journey we saw and realised the magnitude of the avalanches and landslides that robbed us of precious hours.

Driving down the ghats, approaching Ramban, we had no choice but to stop and perform some road-clearance work. An impatient truck driver started honking at us, and the high decibels didn’t go down too well with a huge rock on the slope above – like an angry bird, it pointed itself towards our maroon Indigo eCS, parked just below. The scene scared us out of our wits, but presence of mind and some quick reflexes made us rush out of its way. Phew!!

Finally it was 12am again, 43 hours since we left from our Jammu hotel, and we still had 30-odd-km to reach our destination. Completely drained, starving and heavy-eyed, we managed to reach our hotel unscathed after spending almost 44 hours in the Tata saloon. With no food available in the hotel, we just hit the sack!

Jammu– Chandigarh

With the Endurance Drive running a day behind schedule, we were happy to see the car finally arrive by midnight from Srinagar. Just as was the case when we drove down from Chandigarh, we barely encountered any traffic and the four-lane stretch all the way to the State border made it easy to cover ground quickly.

The highway has a large number of small towns and we're sure driving through the day can't be as quick. Security issues in Jammu and Kashmir meant that we were stopped by the local police just as we were entering Punjab. Luckily, we didn't have to pay any 'extra fee', like we had to on the way to Jammu, though a thorough check of our luggage did take a bit of time. Highway network in Punjab too is great, the wide stretches of road bringing us close to Chandigarh via the Jalandar-Chandigarh highway. The last bit of tarmac approaching the State capital is a winding dual carriage way with a few broken bits, though we have seen worse in other places.

Having to catch a flight to the next changeover point meant we were glad to have made it in double quick time. The car was handed over to the next team, who had a long drive ahead to Lucknow.

Chandigarh – Lucknow

We left the Chandigarh police station at Sector 31 at 7.40am, going towards Ambala via NH22 (a smooth, wide four-lane road). Buses being driven on the overtaking lane forced us to overtake from the left, where there were people jay-walking. We then joined the NH1 and turned left towards Ambala cantonment, and then kept driving straight towards Saharanpur on the NH73. The traffic etiquette here was no better – the road surface was poor too, and we also encountered cows calmly crossing roads.

We then entered Jagadhari and from there, headed towards Roorkee, where a lot of valuable driving time was lost driving behind the tractors. Things got even more chaotic as we entered Saharanpur (UP), with even buffalo carts darting across roads. We continued on the NH73, slowing down for potholes and political rallies. At Chhutmalpur, the roads were cramped to the core with cycle ricks, motorcycle ricks, auto ricks, horse ricks, cycles, animals, humans, bikers and huge craters which catch you unaware just when you try to catch up some speed. Not much changed during our drive all the way upto Bahadrabad, a small town on route to Haridwar. Hereon, the roads were smooth till a few kilometres after Haridwar, where the traffic thinned and we picked up some long-earned pace.

We reached Moradabad at 5:40pm and immediately took the Delhi road to go around the city, only to find out that it was blocked by the police. We heard fire-crackers go off but the locals confirmed that it was actually the cops firing at illegal alcohol makers in that town! By the time we got on to the Moradabad NH24 bypass towards Lucknow, it was 6:45pm. The road turned out to be a smooth four-lane highway and we made quick progress. We had some motorists who did take the courtesy of dipping their sunlights (headlights!) when we went temporarily blind.

After passing Rampur, we found ourselves on wide roads, but our drive was slowed down by wedding vehicles that were being driven rather wildly, and by the endless lines of trucks that inched ahead. With 87km more to go before reaching our destination, the Road-God blessed us with well-maintained four-lane highways and we bulleted our way to Lucknow in no time. We reached Lucknow at 3:10am on the 24th.

Lucknow – Patna

Aside from a few puzzled looks over what we could possibly want from them at 3:30am, getting our attestation from the Lucknow police was a cinch; the station was just around the corner from our hotel. We moved quickly once we set off, wanting to make the most of the traffic-free roads. To its credit, the satellite navigation was on top of things, picking a fantastic four-lane highway to take us out of the city. Unfortunately it was a bit too ahead of its time as, a few kilometres in, a handful of carelessly strewn concrete blocks forced us to suddenly step on the brakes, hard – the highway wasn’t finished. We backtracked a bit and, with pure blind luck, ran into a lone Tata Indica, whose driver very kindly pointed us to the old highway. We found the dual carriageway, completely unmarked and largely obscured by the four-lane behemoth, and had to drive about two kilometres before a sign confirmed it was the right road.

The road was marble-smooth initially, but seemed to deteriorate gradually as we went along. What started as the odd shallow pothole once every few hundred metres, turned to long stretches of completely broken tarmac by the time we crossed into Bihar later that morning. Still, none of it was enough to really upset the eCS, which ploughed through with aplomb. As a result progress was pretty brisk for the most part, slowed only by the occasional road-hogging truck driver and a few railway-crossing stops – which seemed ridiculously long, but gave us a chance to step out and stretch our legs.

However, once properly in Bihar and now closer to the afternoon, we encountered massive traffic snags in many of the tiny towns leading up to Patna. Each was a case study in what not to do at an intersection, and made your average Mumbai gridlock seem organised. The roads were worse too, descending at one point to a 2kph first-gear rock-crawl. In fact, the last 150km of this leg took almost as long as the 350km before it.

We rolled into a traffic-filled Patna a little behind schedule and navigated the maze of roundabouts in search of our hotel. The next team had the foresight to wait on the road, gear in hand, ready to make a pit-stop-style swap. After the arduous last few hours of an otherwise great drive, we were more than happy to hand over the keys.

Patna – Bagdogra

Leaving Patna took the best part of an hour simply because we couldn’t believe the narrow road we were on actually led out of the State capital. So we kept hunting for wider roads before we got tired and took the narrow-as-a-snail-dirt track that Map My India had been pointing out all along. We hit the Patna bypass, ran into insane truck traffic, got spoken to rudely by a policeman and finally got clear of the mess that NH30 is well past dinnertime.

We were expecting terrible roads all through our leg, but Bihar surprised us with the well-surfaced NH31, which, just as we were revelling in its smooth, but two-lane-ness, all but disappeared. We drove through a boulder field for about 50km, constantly blinded by oncoming drivers who have never heard of the dipped beam. The car took a beating and we were tired. 50km later, we emerged unscathed, luckily, on the other side to find more NH31 beauty. The last 100km into Bagdogra is dual-carriageway mostly, so we made up a lot of lost time and handed the car over to the next team at 4:30 am, three hours ahead of schedule. This despite having to change a blown tyre in pitch darkness.

Some advice on driving in Bihar at night – two closely stacked lights is a tractor, three to six blinding lights is a truck and eight ‘staring-at-the-sun’ blindness is a tourist bus heading for you. Also, use your horn liberally, curse as much as you feel like and punch your steering wheel repeatedly. In Bihar, it is considered polite to drive rashly.

Guwahati-Dibrugarh-Tezu

Shapur’s joined the drive at Guwahati, and gone straight for the wheel. He’s just recovered from chicken pox and the three weeks of forced house arrest have made him unbelievably restless. Unfortunately for him, the first ghat section just outside Guwahati is jammed with trucks.

It took us an hour and a half to clear this jam. Once clear though, it was smooth sailing all the way to the Kaziranga National Park. Yes, the one with the rhinos and tigers. We were hoping to spot some wildlife, given the time of night, but gave up hope as the sun rose over Assam.

The day panned out with the GPS guiding us wrong on numerous occasions. In India’s remote regions, asking your way around is still better than relying on electronic maps. 
Anyway, it was all regular right until we crossed the border into Arunachal Pradesh. With trees as tall as skyscrapers, roads as bad as a WW2 battlefield and cool weather, our spirits rose. But even these paled in comparison to what lay ahead. We came upon a road that led into the Lohit River. All you need to know about the Lohit is that it feeds the mighty Brahmaputra, is pretty dry this time of the year and that we have to cross it on wooden rafts. Yes, that meant the Indigo too. For 250 bucks a car, you cross over into a different world.

Drive off the raft onto the east bank of the Lohit, and you have to negotiate 10 minutes of tricky, dry riverbed before getting back on broken tarmac. We made it to the town of Tezu soon enough though.

Tezu – Kibithu

Our drive from Tezu started out at about 14:30, and immediately the stark natural beauty of the land made us gasp. Trees as tall as eight-floor-high buildings, dense tropical vegetation and plenty of ghat roads. “The journey will take you around 10 hours,” said the sentry at the guard post, but we were puzzled. Why 10 hours for just 182km, we asked. But it was soon clear. The ghat road was  completely broken in several places, every kilometre was peppered liberally with at least a dozen blind corners (that brought us down to a crawl), and many a time the road was so narrow we had to back up to a wider place in the road to let trucks pass.

Then, as we went higher and higher, dense tropical forests gave way to towering Himalayan peaks and wide floodplains, scoured out by glaciers of the ice age.

They say the North-East is as beautiful as Himachal Pradesh or Kashmir, and they're right. An extension of the Himalayas, the easternmost point of India is a land that has the same relief and the same topography as the mighty Himalayan range. And the natural beauty here is virtually untouched. We almost felt like a bunch of explorers as we made our way through the serpentine road from Tezu to Kibithu, criss-crossing several ranges of mountains and crossing over narrow metal bridges built by the army's engineers.

We reached our destination in approximately seven-and-a-half hours. Through this drive, what impressed us the most was the Indigo which, despite being fully loaded, took to the bad roads like a pro, with very little bobbing, pitching or nose gouging on the poor roads.

Kibithu-Tezu-Dibrugarh-Guwahati

After an overwhelming experience of the North-East (Tezu-Kibithu), we reluctantly began our journey towards the west of the Brahmaputra. After the men and machine were shipped from the east to the west coast of the Lohit, it was an exciting task to find our way through the dried-up river-bed; going sideways on dry sand being particularly pleasurable!

The roads leading up to the Arunachal Pradesh-Assam border weren’t the best we had come across on this trip, and the tarmac up to Dibrugarh wasn’t spectacular either. There are limited fuel stations on this stretch, so it’s advisable to tank up near Chowkam.

Dual-carriage way, shoddy patchwork and several busy junctions meant our progress was on the slower side. But once we passed Dibrugarh and drove down on the NH37 towards Guwahati, our average speed had picked up. However, the heavy truck traffic left us with a lot of overtaking business, with several blind corners and unmarked speed-breakers making matters worse.

We did come across a freshly laid four-lane express highway around 130km before Guwahati, but it lasted for comparatively fewer kilometres. You can manage good triple-digit speeds here, but look out for occasional diversions as some parts of the highway are still under construction. The main road leading to the city was under construction too and the broken tarmac lasted for around 10km. Since it was a well-planned drive, we could manage to complete the Tezu-Dibrugarh-Guwahati stretch of about 700km in less than 12 hours.

Our Indigo eCS’ nose now points towards Kolkata, via Bagdogra.  So far, the Tata saloon has shown no real signs of fatigue apart from minor rattles and a couple of punctures. Great going, baby Indigo!!

Guwahati - Bagdogra

So we know the road. We just drove it two days ago. Or was it three? This team has been in the car for four days straight, so it’s a bit disorienting. Apologies.

Anyway, we started back to Bagdogra from Guwahati at 6 am and the drive was pretty uneventful. We skipped Guwahati’s traffic thanks to the early hour, hit NH31 again and maintained pedal-to-the-metal pace as long as there was a decent stretch to do so. Somewhere near the Assam-Bengal border, we got stopped and told that today was an all-India ‘bandh’ and we would have to wait the day out. We explained that we were journalists and that we were going in to do a story on the issue. It worked, and we were on our way. HAH!

Thanks to the bandh, there was absolutely no traffic and we made fantastic time right upto where we got stopped by some people carrying those infamous red flags. We didn’t feel like stopping, and swerved past them.

We needn’t have worried though. The army and the police had the situation covered, and they swiftly cleared these roadblocks. It meant the bandh was, at most, the fine print at the end of a news page. We hope it is.

Anyway, that apart, we got lost, wandered onto SH12, drove through some of Assam’s atrocious roads, found our way back to NH31 and were back in Bagdogra by 4pm. We’ve made up most of the time lost so far at Jammu and Kibithu. The race is on.  

Bagdogra-Kolkata

The tea estates flanking the road out of Bagdogra looked serene and the temptation to stop and take photographs was quite strong. Like a double-edged sword, the bandh loomed over us. Since the two-lane road was virtually deserted, we could move quickly, but the threat of any stray rock being used as a missile kept us on tenterhooks. We only heaved a sigh of relief when we hit the highway.

In Bagdogra we had been told that the four-lane highway would stretch all 609km to Kolkata and we could scarcely believe our luck. As the sky darkened we made a quick stop to wipe the muddied headlamps and windscreen and got set to tackle the long night ahead. Despite many hours of night driving ahead of us, we were confident of getting to the City of Dreams before schedule. And 60km later, everything changed.

Our dreams of an early arrival flew out the window as the GPS directed us onto a narrow, seemingly war-ravaged highway. The two-lane SH12 was a collection of craters, trenches and tarmac patchwork. However, the bumps that could slam, shake or rattle the cabin were muffled by the Indigo’s well damped, long travel suspension to mere thuds.

It was a weary lot that finally drove the Indigo eCS onto smooth roads, the GPS showing Kolkata as only 100km away. By then, the long night had taken its toll, and with rain streaming down, we had little energy to speed up the pace. Not so for the tireless Indigo eCS – it had Vizag in its sights next.

Kolkata-Vizag

In Kolkata, everything from the rosogulla to the language they speak is sweet. So the kind of aggressive driving that takes place in the city of joy came as quite a surprise. Take our word for it, tackling the horrible traffic and suicidal driving was no more joyful than a nightmare. One and a half hours later, we did manage to get out of the city, taking the new Howrah Bridge.

Next on agenda was to search for a fuel pump to start the first of the two scheduled fuel efficiency runs on the Indigo eCS. A four-lane stretch with barely any traffic and a baby-bottom-smooth surface helped us – the Indigo returned exemplary economy figures. Driving in a fuel-efficient manner for more than 350km cost us time – it was late night and we had more than 450km still to go. The roads did deteriorate a bit past the State capital of Bhubaneswar, with the four-lane highway suddenly pulling a disappearing act. Traffic too seemed to have built up suddenly. With the next team already waiting for us in Vizag, we put the proverbial pedal to the metal to reach in time.

Putting the actual pedal to the metal, however, is not recommended, given the number of diversions that came up. Entering Andhra Pradesh did bring up some good roads and we picked up pace. It was almost sunrise when we met up with the next team at Vizag.

Vizag-Chennai

The drive from Vizag to Chennai started with a lot of enthusiasm. It was slated to be one of the longest drives of the trip, 850km in 18 hours, but we did not fret as the well laid-out Golden Quadrilateral formed a major part of the drive.

Although we started early in the morning, we were surprised to find truckers for company all the way till Chennai. As expected, the drive was a breeze once out of the city limits and the good tarmac helped us cruise at triple-digit speeds without any fuss. The first four hours saw us cover 350-plus kilometres and this gave us hope for an early arrival at Chennai.

Things changed as we neared Vijaywada; the traffic thickened and hampered our progress. The traffic sense in this part of the country requires a special mention. Up till now we thought only driving through States like UP and Bihar was stressful, thanks to cars, trucks, buses, pedestrians and cattle literally pouncing on you from all corners. But driving through this part of Andhra Pradesh was no different. Small cars move at their own sweet pace in the middle of the driveway, the trucks hog the majority of the right lane, bikers seemed to be Dhoom-inspired and jay-walking is very popular with the population here. The only saving grace was that the livestock of the region did not believe in the ‘grass is greener on the other side’ theory and kept away from crossing the streets.

Also in this part of India, along with engine displacement, bhp and torque figures, your car horn plays an important role in determining how fast you can reach your destination. And our Indigo eCS had ticks in all of the above boxes.

We stopped to tank up, and then embarked upon the final 200km drive towards Chennai. Next-up, the cars are heading to Kanyakumari, Bangalore and, from there, towards the final destination – the Autocar India office in Mumbai.

Chennai-Kanyakumari

It was 10:30pm, Chennai. We were waiting for the team to arrive from Kolkata, to drive the Indigo to the southern-most tip of the country. Thanks to heavy city traffic, they got to us only at 11:30pm. Given the time of night and us being close to the highway, exiting Chennai was an easy task. A short drive of about a kilometre saw us on the NH45.

Having driven to Kanyakumari a few times before, we had a fair idea of what to expect. The well- paved, divided, four-lane highway helped us make it in good time to Madurai. By sunrise we joined the Madurai ring-road to get onto the NH7, which continues to be a four-laner all the way to Kanyakumari. We reached the southern-most tip of India in the afternoon and handed the car over to the next team, who would now make their way to Bangalore.

Kanyakumari - Bangalore

From the southern-most tip of the mainland, the Endurance and Mileage Run headed back north towards the State capital of Karnataka – the IT city of Bangalore. Quick progress was made on the terrific stretch of NH7, which passes through the historic city of Madurai.

The Indigo eCS didn’t seem bothered by the high speeds and was at ease cruising at triple-digit speeds. We just wish the brakes were a little more progressive and had a bit more bite. By sundown we had already covered more than 200km and, given that we only managed to start late afternoon, it was quite commendable.

The NH7 has a large number of flyovers throughout and while this could have affected the fuel efficiency run that we undertook after Madurai, the figures the car returned were quite consistent. Traffic too kept building up as we neared Bangalore and about 45km outside the city limits, we found ourselves stuck in a massive jam. We were stationary for about 15 minutes before things got moving again. It was almost 3:00 in the morning when we met up with the next team, who was all set to embark upon the last and final leg of the run to Mumbai.

Home Run: Bangalore-Mumbai

So here we are, all raring to jump into our Indigo eCS and start the final drive of our breathtaking journey, which started from Mumbai around 14 days ago. Although the digital clock in the Tata saloon reads 3am, we’re not in a mood to wait for sunrise. And off we go!

It had become the norm – leave early morning, beat city traffic and clock as many miles as possible before the truckers hit the highway and hamper our progress. No reasons to defy the formula then, and by the time we switched off our headlamps, we had already shaved off 250km from the 998km target for the day.

Bangalore-Mumbai has always been a dream run of sorts, thanks to the billiard-table-smooth highway all the way to Panvel, where the Mumbai-Pune expressway ends. And a dream it was!

We cruised all the way to Belgaum by noon and post that, it was less than 500km that separated us and the record. The roads narrowed to two lanes and got back to four lanes again. This continued a couple of times more, but that did not slow us down.

The open stretch near Kolhapur also tempted us to push the Indigo to its limits and we did take it past 140kph on the speedo. However, we took it easy from thereon as it was the final day of the 15-day drive and we feared our enthusiasm would ruin the otherwise glitch-free 13,500km drive.

By 4pm, we hit our home stretch, the Mumbai-Pune expressway, and from there on it was a breeze till we reached the Vashi toll gate. It took us close to 90 minutes to cover the final 25-odd kilometres, and some street-smart moves to beat the bottlenecks at various points. And, by 6pm, we entered our starting point – the Autocar India office premises – and concluded the epic Tata Indigo eCS Endurance and Mileage Run.

The drive that started on February 18 from Autocar India’s Mumbai office saw the team travel to the western-most part of India, Koteshwar, before visiting places like Jammu-Srinagar in the North, Tezu and Kibithu in the North-East, Kanyakumari in the South and finally back home on March 3. Over the past 15 days, the baby Indigo served us well, surpassed our expectations and gave us a bag full of memories to treasure for a lifetime.

 

 

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