A wise man once said, “Get Out! See the World.” His wisdom is evident from the fact that he said nothing after that and disappeared to practise what he preached. Since we are devout followers of that man’s teachings, after a chaotic week at the Auto Expo this year, it was time to take a break, unwind, and hydrate our concrete-filled vision with some pleasing sights. But first, we had to borrow a car. Something which could indulge our weary bones in premium comfort, had big wheels which could keep things relaxed inside the cabin, big space, sorted springs, and a punchy engine. Why all this? Because all of it makes a World of a difference when there are four adult occupants in a car and there’s only one person driving for nine hundred kilometres to be covered in one shot. We asked, and Audi India very generously offered us the Q5 2.0 TFSI as a companion for the drive.
Where were we headed? To a cosy house by the beach, next to the Kaup lighthouse near Udupi in Karnataka. Having acclimatised ourselves with the controls of the Q5, tripmeters were reset, playlists were picked, and the driving mode was set to ‘Efficiency’ since we knew the Q5’s long legs will have to tiptoe until we got out of the city. The plan was to start driving around 10 pm when the traffic becomes thin and reach the destination in the morning or by maybe by noon. But if you have a plan, trust Indian roads and the traffic to splash icy cold water on your face. Four hours later, we had only managed to cover about 100 kilometres. We found ourselves stuck in traffic at Lonavla, on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, inching forwards on an incline, behind struggling trucks.
Beyond that point though, it was just the road and the Audi’s brilliant LED lights as the engine released its 252 HP and 370 Nm of goodness through the night. By 7 am, we had covered about 470 kilometres in five hours and took a little break next to a lake which was inked in the colours of the rising Sun. It was also time to refill the 70-litre tank and a little math surprised us with the fact that the 2-tonne SUV had consumed 65 litres of the good stuff to cover 580 kilometres, averaging 8.93 kilometres for every litre. An impressive number, considering the speed it maintained through the night. And while doing that, the Q5’s cabin remained stable enough for the rear passengers to sleep undisturbed.
We had hit daylight at the right time as we turned right from the Pune-Bangalore highway at Dharwad and proceeded to cut through the forest to join the NH66 near Gokarna. Which made us realise how even B-roads in Karnataka were fantastically constructed. Since everyone in the cabin was now awake, the Q5 was charging towards the west coast through a dense growth of all kinds of green and with that sight refreshing the driver’s vision, we joined the scenic NH66 in no time.
A four-lane road now all the way from Gokarna till Mangalore (Except for a tiny patch near Bhatkal), the coast-hugging highway is a scenic road to drive on, as it cuts through eye-pleasing backwaters pretty often, also offering a glimpse of the Arabian sea on one side. Those teasers reveal the full picture at Maravanthe, where for a few kilometres, the sea actually rushes towards the highway on one side, and soothing backwaters provide a contrasting calm when you turn the neck.
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A little further, we stopped at the Shetty Lunch Home in Kundapura to savour their World famous chicken ghee roast and once our fingers were licked clean, we realised it’s famous for all the right reasons. An hour later, we arrived at our destination, with the Audi Q5’s trip computer conveying that I was behind the wheel for 15 hours and 37 minutes and all of us were 902 kilometres away from where we started. Surprisingly, I was simply sleepy after the heavy lunch and my body relayed no signs of fatigue even after being in the driver’s seat for a long time and working against its normal sleep cycle. The magic of engineering does work we must say.
Since the other occupants were fresh as daisies, they immediately got out to explore the pretty house, which is not next, but right on the beach. And since all of us were there to park ourselves for three days and do nothing, the plan to make a quick dash towards Coorg was voted out. Which meant the Audi remained parked for those days, bathing in the rotating flash from the lighthouse through the night and raising its eyebrows for brief moments during the day, when dolphins would come close to the shore and pop out to dive back in again. At all other times, (since there was no internet or TV thankfully) all of us would simply stare into the vastness of the Sea and observe its changing colours through the day, with our bodies sunk in beach chairs and our minds surfing the waves of time. I felt like I must do something. So with a picture-perfect background and a water pipe for company, I indulged in the therapy of washing a car!
During our stay, we wanted to drive along the coast, on a narrow road which goes towards a fishing town called Malpe, from the lighthouse. During our previous stays, we had driven on this road and it was fun to watch the residents of villages which dot the road throw a fishing net and manage to haul a fresh catch. The people here are so simple, polite and welcoming, they would invite us to help ourselves pick whatever we wished and would laugh hard for no reason when we offered to pay for it. However, this time the road was shut for maintenance and we couldn’t experience the hospitality and those vistas.
So we hopped across bridges which crossed the backwaters and bought loads of spices from the market nearby. Since the major spice growing area of India is close to this place, every time we visit here, we never miss bringing back a fragrant, pure and flavourful stash of cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom and clove. This time, we got along some Sakleshpur chillies too! These are cherry-shaped and are somewhere in the middle when it comes to the ‘Hotness’ scale. But the taste is unlike any other chilly out there.
Three days went by in a jiffy and it was time to head back. Since we were starting during the day, to make the most of the vistas outside, the panoramic sunroof’s cover was opened for the first time. We were taking the same route to return and decided to skip on visiting the temple town of Murdeshwar (which you must), in order to see a little more of the forest which we were about to cut through on our way back.
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After turning right again from Gokarna, a little further, we took the Haliyal-Dandeli road, which is a delightful patch of tarmac that allows you to properly soak in the sights of the Jungle. Here, there are plenty of ant hills on the sides, langurs crossing over, and we even caught a wild dog stare at us before disappearing behind the bushes.
After navigating some under construction B-roads, we were back on the Pune-Bangalore highway and gunning it towards Kolhapur for early dinner. We stopped at a place which looked hygienic and upmarket, but the food was forgettable in terms of taste and the next morning, reminded all of us about what we ate. We were then dodging plenty of two-wheelers, trailers carrying sugarcane to the factories without any taillights, and buses which were in a hurry to get to their destinations. The Audi’s gearbox got busy through its seven ratios as never even once until Pune could we settle into a comfortable cruise. And for all those wondering if the FasTag attached on our windscreen helped? It worked in terms of detection and allowed a quick release once we were at the gate, but getting there through a maze of oddly queued vehicles was always a task. The dedicated lanes which are reserved for those with the tag were free for all and since these are still early days, we hope proper implementation makes things smoother in the coming days.
We were back home a little after 3 in the morning and in total, the Audi Q5 had covered 1,854 kilometres with a driving time of 33 hours and 36 minutes, averaging 55 km/h for the entire trip and consuming a litre of petrol for every 9.5 kilometres. As I offloaded the many bags which travelled with us in the massive boot, my mind was full of thoughts which appreciated the magic of engineering. Because to be honest, it takes a while to understand the true brilliance of a machine and after spending these long hours in the Q5, there was a hat of clarity I wore above my grey cells.
The light steering wheel, which we otherwise as auto journos wish that it offered more feedback, had isolated my arms from fatigue. Because when you travel long distance with passengers in the car, there is no way you are going to be driving like a ghost. Even if you are on your own, your racing driver instincts will die down after some time and all you will wish for is a fast, comfortable cruise. Then there’s that gearbox which does all the hard work in a deft manner when you are busy with the throttle and the brakes. Those seats, which are so well engineered, not one bone or muscle in my body complained, and the same was true for the passengers. That petrol engine delivers its punches in a progressive, quiet and strong manner. And not only did its efficiency surprise the wallet but it also never made me miss the torquey performance of diesel power, which I thought I might. Which makes me conclude with all honesty that the Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI is a great GT car, especially for the kind of roads we drive on. It will take you to all the faraway pretty places effortlessly and keep you as pretty as you were at departure, once you get there.