On road and off-road in the Thar desert with Audi’s cars: Audi Experience x Club Rewards Drive

We take the Audi Experience x Club Rewards Drive to Rajasthan, where select Audi S, RS and e-tron owners get to drive fast Audis and SUVs on the best roads and off the road respectively
You might assume the Bharatmala road is just a monotonous stretch of asphalt, but it's far more engaging than that!
You might assume the Bharatmala road is just a monotonous stretch of asphalt, but it's far more engaging than that!Shot by Rohit G Mane and Avdhoot A Kolhe for evo India

Winter still had a grasp over Rajasthan's unforgiving summer. The sand on the dunes was settled into a calm sleep; camels nonchalantly ran across the desert; the sun was still rising. But nearby, along the Thar desert border, a disturbance was brewing.

Welcome to the Audi Experience X Club Rewards Drive Bharatmala special, a meticulously curated event tailored exclusively for Audi S, RS and e-tron owners. Initially conceived as a straightforward getaway to Jaisalmer, our plan was to extend a warm welcome at the luxurious Marriott hotel, allowing guests to indulge in the finest hospitality before embarking on an exhilarating drive in Audi India’s elite S and RS models along the country’s premier roads. But plans have a way of evolving.

Word soon spread within Audi’s inner circles, prompting our colleagues at Audi India to enhance the experience by providing a fleet of SUVs for an adrenaline-pumping Q drive adventure. After all, it wouldn’t be a desert excursion without some off roading! Furthermore, instead of limiting guests to just one city, we extended our invitation to two: Mumbai and Ahmedabad. What was initially a simple drive on the Bharatmala road morphed into a two-day extravaganza, with guests from two cities converging to savour the allure of Quattro.

Quattro technology stands as a hallmark of Audi’s innovation, reshaping the brand’s identity over four decades ago. The seismic shift occurred in 1980 when Audi unleashed the first-ever AWD passenger car upon the automotive world. The original Audi Quattro burst onto the scene at the Geneva Motor Show, creating ripples of astonishment that reverberated throughout the industry. Its dominance on the rally circuit swiftly translated into road-going success, cementing its status as a trailblazer. This groundbreaking all-wheel drive system, characterised by its lightweight design, compactness, and efficiency, was undeniably ahead of its time.

All Q SUVs enroute on this specially curated trail.
All Q SUVs enroute on this specially curated trail.Shot by Rohit G Mane and Avdhoot A Kolhe for evo India

Fast forward four decades, and Audi ushered in Quattro 2.0 with the advent of electric torque vectoring, marking a bold new era for the brand, both on and off the road. While the S5, RS5 and RSQ8 held their place in the lineup, enthusiasts and Audi owners, having experienced the e-tron SUV, were eagerly awaiting the dynamic performance of the RS e-tron GT. Their anticipation was duly rewarded, as the RS e-tron GT surpassed all expectations, delivering a driving experience that left none disappointed.

Departing from the heart of Jaisalmer, the journey to the famed Bharatmala road presented its own challenges. Negotiating some less-than-ideal tarmac, passing through Sam village, and navigating a narrow connecting road where straying off the shoulder was not an option, we embarked in convoy, led by the capable A8 L, clearing the way for our fleet of S and RS cars to reach the starting point of the Bharatmala Pariyojana. A single right turn unveiled a breathtaking transformation in both road and scenery, revealing stunning, untouched vistas. Carving through the Thar desert, the Government of India’s border road initiative aims to spur economic development across the nation. Our journey would span a mere 100km stretch, linking Sam village to Longewala, within the expansive Bharatmala Pariyojana project, which extends far beyond our route.

With over Rs`7 lakh crore being poured into this extensive network of highways, stretching over 80,000km, exploring this particular slice nestled in the Rajasthan desert posed its own set of challenges. Aatish reminisces about his journey to Rajasthan over a year ago to scout this route, a task familiar to many of us striving to create unforgettable experiences akin to what this Audi drive has delivered. Back then, these roads were quieter but their surface quality remains impeccable, while clear road markings ensure surprises are few, save for the occasional wildlife crossing. The Bharatmala road proves to be a haven for supercars, yet reaching it demands either a bold drive to Jaisalmer or an invitation into the exclusive Friends of evo club.

As part of the experience, a desert trail was charted for the Q drive, and adjacent to the starting point, we gathered in our S and RS cars. Taking the spotlight was the RS e-tron GT, the crown jewel in Audi India’s collection, offering drivers the opportunity to switch between cars during the drive, providing a taste of each vehicle at our disposal.

RS e-tron GT on Bharatmala road.
RS e-tron GT on Bharatmala road.Shot by Rohit G Mane and Avdhoot A Kolhe for evo India

Mihir Dharkar from Mumbai was pleasantly surprised by the experience, remarking, “I’ll be honest, I initially thought this would be just another event. I mean, who’s heard of this road before? But as I soaked in the vastness and the meticulous planning behind every detail, with each kilometre, it dawned on me that this was the best automotive event I’ve ever attended. I’ve never had this much fun at any other car event.”

Pawan Shetty from Mumbai echoed Mihir’s sentiments, saying, “We didn’t know what to expect when we received the itinerary, but we were pleasantly surprised.” Driving on the Bharatmala road wasn’t your run-of-the-mill jaunt. Although currently closed to the public, we were granted exclusive permission to hit the road and push our high-performance Audis to their limits. Each driver underwent scrutiny for their skills before being entrusted with the keys, understanding full well that without speed limits, the responsibility for safety rests squarely on their shoulders. As we rolled in convoy, drivers had the liberty to wring out their machines harder than they would dare on public roads, showcasing the unrivalled stability, grip and handling of the S and RS cars under our command.

You might assume the Bharatmala road is just a monotonous stretch of asphalt but it’s far more engaging than that. Winding through the dunes, twisting and turning, the terrain fluctuates dramatically, presenting challenges worthy of these remarkable cars.

Anoop Frank, another fervent Audi enthusiast, marvelled, “Never knew roads like these existed. This is a nice long drive and I’m enjoying it.” Parag Rajda, stepping out of the RS5, remarked, “It effortlessly reaches triple-digit speeds. I was just cruising in comfort mode. Didn’t even need to switch to Sport.” While the Bharatmala road showcased its splendour, an additional treat in the Club Rewards Drive for Rajasthan was a romp in the dunes with the Q3, Q5, Q7, and e-tron SUVs. “The off-roading was the highlight for me. It’s something I’ve never experienced before, so I had an absolute blast,” beamed Anant Mittal from Ahmedabad.

Q5 and e-tron SUV 
enjoying the dust trail.
Q5 and e-tron SUV enjoying the dust trail.Shot by Rohit G Mane and Avdhoot A Kolhe for evo India

Shalin Koticha couldn’t contain his excitement over the array of cars at our disposal. “We had an amazing lineup, got to sample the entire range!” His partner Aayushi, captivated by the sunset amidst the dunes, exclaimed, “With such a stunning sunset behind us, this has been an incredibly memorable experience!”

The Thar desert serves as the ultimate proving ground for Quattro’s prowess. It transcends the notion of mere grip on asphalt, elevating Audi’s SUVs to unparalleled heights by seamlessly manipulating torque to extract maximum traction on unpredictable terrain. Nowhere is this capability more crucial than in the unforgiving expanse of the desert, where a single misstep could leave even the most capable SUV stranded. But with Quattro at the helm, dynamically adjusting torque distribution with split-second precision, our guests navigated through the shifting sands with confidence, effortlessly reaching our designated tea spot amidst the dunes.

In an adventure, your vehicle should be a reliable companion, not the source of your worries. Every Audi showcased in these pages provided our guests with the steadfast support they needed. Whether tearing down the tarmac at exhilarating speeds, requiring sudden braking or evasive manoeuvres, or gracefully gliding through the loose sands of the dunes, our guests felt reassured by the unwavering performance and stability of these Audis.

The Audi Experience X Club Rewards Drive Bharatmala special transcended the ordinary, delivering a once-in-a-lifetime experience to all who participated. It offered a harmonious blend of Audi’s excellence on both road and sand, leaving each participant enriched with unforgettable memories that will stand the test of time. From heart-pounding drives to tranquil moments amidst the desert’s vastness, every aspect of the journey epitomised the essence of Audi’s commitment to excellence and adventure.

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