first_imgThe distance between Bangalore and Coorg is just over 200 km and barring a few stretches the road surface is quite good. So it’s not hard to imagine why us five drivers, who had been invited by Hyundai to drive the new Santa Fe SUV on that stretch, were stepping on it as often as we safely could.The superbly surfaced roads though weren’t the only reason for such enthusiasm. A lot of it was also generated by the 2.2-litre CRDi engine that lay under the bonnet of the SUV. You see, with 197 horses to get up to a full gallop and 412 Nm of peak torque, which is developed at a lowly 1800 rpm and then sustained till 2500 rpm, the Santa Fe is a pretty powerful vehicle. Not to mention it’s also a very refined unit, with hardly any of the vibrations one would associate with a diesel motor.The car gets an electrical variable geometry turbocharger (EVGT) and Hyundai says this improves low end torque, which, in turn, makes the vehicle quite driveable. Although it’s also available with an automatic transmission internationally, in India the Santa Fe gets a 6-speed manual transmission that works well. It has well sorted ratios and shift quality is good too–precise yet slick, and relatively short throw.To ensure that the Santa Fe is not just about the engine alone, Hyundai has worked on the chassis and suspension enough to give the vehicle a great combination of handling and ride quality. For an SUV, the Santa Fe handles quite well. Admittedly though one also feels the engine is a lot more powerful than what the chassis can handle. The overall effect though is confidence inspiring as this Korean feels planted at speeds and one can push the vehicle reasonably hard around bends too. Inside, the vehicle feels plush and build quality. The fit and finish of the interiors are of a high order. There is lots of room too, especially shoulder room, in this seven seater. The third row though is not of great use to adults. There is however small compensation in the form of AC vents for all three rows and blower controls for the middle as well as the final row of seats. As far as creature comforts go, there is also a 6-CD changer and steering mounted controls for it. One major oversight by Hyundai is the absence of Bluetooth connectivity, which becomes glaring in the light of the fact that the i10 now gets this feature in its top-of-the-line variant.At the end of the day, the Santa Fe is a decent looking vehicle, barring an oddly placed grab handle on the tailgate. It’s roomy with comfortable seats that provide sufficient support while allowing space enough to shift around a bit on long drives. Its middle row and last row seats fold flat in 60:40 and 50:50 ratios respectively, making the vehicle versatile. It is powerful and handles and rides well. Add to all this Hyundai’s widespread service and the Santa Fe looks poised to be a perfect alternative to the Fortuner for those looking for an SUV with a price tag of around Rs. 20 lakh.On the road: From Mumbai to Aamby ValleyOne of the closest, and yet good places to visit over a weekend around Mumbai has to be the hills around Lonavla. It’s about a 100-km drive and the roads leading to the place are equally enjoyable. Now, the road leading out of the metropolis isn’t exactly free of traffic, but once you get through the 40-odd km stretch leading to Navi Mumbai, things start getting pleasant. Once on the outskirts, you can either choose the old highway NH4 or the Expressway. The latter is not only shorter, but an experience in itself. Wide three-laned concrete roads on sides, no intersections and lovely scenery on the sides.It’s a toll road so you would have to shell out a tad under Rs. 100 one way to use it (and for roads leading up to it), but it’s certainly worth the money. The expressway also has a huge fuel station just short of Lonavla and it’s peppered with places to eat. Besides Lonavla itself, there’s also Aamby Valley that is worth visiting in the area. Once you arrive in Lonavla town there’s a well marked turn with clear directions towards Aamby Valley. The road itself is quite a pleasure to be on. It’s a narrow, windy road all the way up and is a delight for those who enjoy driving. It has decent protection on both sides (in most places); just in case one does get carried away. There are a few places en route worth a dekko. First, there’s the Bushy dam. The best time to visit Bushy is during monsoons thanks to a sumptuous waterfall that forms alongside the dam. Mid way from Lonavla to Aamby Valley is Lion’s Point. On a clear day, you can also spot the sole lake atop a hill. One needs prior permission to enter Aamby Valley but, it’s worth the extra effort to get it. The views inside are quite breathtaking.–Vikrant SinghHonda VFR1200fToday, the ideal superbike to buy in our country is the Honda CB1000R. It has everything you can ask for in a superbike–heart-stopping acceleration, vision blurring top speed and cornering finesse that can make you look like a MotoGP star. But mostly, its more upright seating, suppler ride and more relaxed power delivery compared to the likes of the Fireblade or the R1 make it wonderfully suited for India. Not anymore though, because Honda has launched the new VFR1200F in India recently.Now the VFR is a sports tourer. And it looks and feels the part immediately, courtesy its tall stance and relaxed seating. The seat itself is low and wide, the handlebar slightly tall and the footrests though rearset, aren’t exceptionally rearwards or high. For riding in winters, the VFR also sports heated grips. There’s loads of grip and feedback from all quarters and the bike is forgiving. Its highlight, however, is its drivetrain. The engine is a 172 bhp 1237 cc V4 unit.It has a mild note to it at idle, which gets throatier and more purposeful as the revs rise. The real hero of the VFR though is the new DCT or Dual Clutch Transmission, which works very well in Sports mode. The VFR is a brilliant combination of a tourer and a sports bike. It’s both torquey and free revving. And thanks to its size it might not be a great everyday commute machine, but as a superbike for India, it’s near perfect.–Vikrant SinghColumn Courtesy: Auto Bild Indiaadvertisementadvertisementlast_img

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