Audi A8 L to Hampi | Exploring the luxury of time
TIME. The first time I tried to understand it properly, my brain hurt. The whole theory of relativity went so far above my head that it was probably in deep space, just like Einstein intended. So I just went back to the simple, colloquial understanding we have of it. Seconds. Minutes. Hours. Days. Tick, tock, tick, tock. And then my brain started to hurt again. Because the fact that time is a finite resource — the ultimate finite resource — became more and more apparent. All of us have an hourglass. And no warning of when all of the sand will hit the bottom. Morbid, you say? Well, too bad — life isn’t always sunshine and daisies. That’s until you meet the Audi A8 L. 5.3 metres of speed and luxury, built to pamper you from the moment you step inside. Actually scratch that, it pampers you even before you step inside, rising up a whole 50mm when you open the door to ensure your knees don’t creak when you drop yourself into one of the seats. This is Audi’s flagship and brand shaper; it defines everything that follows, from its SUVs right down to its smallest cars. That letter and number — A and 8 — come together with a certain heft. They have a weight to them. They symbolise the pinnacle of luxury, and for good reason.
It’s 6:30am and first light breaks somewhere deep in the Karnataka countryside. I’m in the driver’s seat of the A8 L, my backside being warmed by the seat heaters, I cruise along. You can really, properly cruise in this car. I’m completely isolated from the outside, to the point that it feels like I’m gliding. Nothing as ungainly as noise and vibrations are allowed to enter the cabin. Blemishes on the surface of the road are dealt with by the air suspension before they even reach me. The V6 is barely audible, quietly going about its business of keeping us moving. The intelligent digital matrix LEDs light up the road ahead as the sky continues to get brighter. The 3D sound B&O is turned off for now. It’s silent. So silent, I can hear myself breathe. It’s a mildly meditative experience, this.
So much is said about wellness these days. Both mental and physical. Conversations have opened up around therapy, about eating right, and how many steps you should be putting in every day. But there is something far more fundamental than any of that. The first step to wellness. To happiness. Taking time out for yourself, doing the things you love, spending time with the people you love — this is crucial. And this is exactly what I’m doing. Something I love. Driving.
Google Maps wakes me up from my little trance. ETA to Hampi is two hours, she says. Time to get moving — lunch is waiting at Evolve Back, Hampi. Tug the left paddle and the V6 shakes itself out of its slumber, now poised for some hustling. The A8 L might be a massive land yacht but it will indulge the driver in you. With 355bhp at your beck and call, and the brilliant quattro system deploying itself to the road, the A8 L really hustles along. The bow barely rises when you floor it (predictive active suspension working its magic, more on that later), and you’re propelled ahead with seemingly relentless thrust — the automatic barely interrupting things as you move forward. It sounds surprisingly nice too! Sporty but dignified
Music is another passion of mine and the A8 L does more than indulge me there, with the brilliant Bang and Olufsen sound system. It’s a rich sound, with a strong bass but incredible definition to every note. It’s hard to enjoy music in another car after you’ve been in the A8 L, everything else just sounds like a compromise. I try to take time out to listen to some music every day — my noise cancelling cans offering up a great experience on the go but I haven’t picked them up since the day the A8 L came my way. If you want to listen to some great music while travelling, this is the only way to do it.
As we get closer to Hampi, the landscape shifts. The unique rock formations of these parts start appearing. They look incredible, rocks of every shape and size scattered around in what seems like intentional mounds — a play-pit of the gods, if you will. I’ve been to Hampi thrice but they never cease to amaze me. The reason for their formation is very interesting though. The rocks in these parts are granite bedrock, formed by cooling magma that came from volcanic eruptions. These rocks were then weathered over millennia — wind, water and rain eroding them. The smaller rocks are formed when a massive monolith develops a crack, and then the forces of nature go to work making it deeper and deeper, until they break off completely. These formations are called inselbergs, island mountains in German. Inselbergs were formed with time. Plenty of it. And they are a constant reminder of how beautiful things can be if you do give them time.
When was the last time you looked after your body’s well being? Imagine if we focused as much on staying healthy as we did on our jobs. The world we live in doesn’t allow us to do that — we’re committed to spending most of our day at work. But the A8 L allows you to take back control. At the touch of a button, the co-driver seat moves forward, and flips out an ottoman, leaving you to properly stretch out. The touchscreen in the armrest gives you complete control of everything in the car at your fingertips — the air-con, the matrix reading lights, the audio system, everything. A little more digging reveals that I can get a massage here, I highly recommend the stretch function. There’s even a heated foot massage, and I kick off my Jordans and feel my feet getting kneaded. The massagers really, truly relax you and elevate the cabin of the A8 L from that of a mere car, to nothing short of a sanctuary. Sinking in to the backseat is properly indulgent. Every commute, every journey in the A8 L is nothing short of an experience. A relaxing one at that. You leave the A8 L fresher than you were when you got in.
En route to Evolve Back, I stop by the Vittala temple — one of the most important in Hampi. This temple is one of the many left over from the Vijayanagar empire. They are dated between the 15th and 16th century and provide a great insight into our medieval history. Hampi was massive in its heyday — travellers from around the world likened it to Beijing, as it was a centre for trade and travel in the subcontinent. There’s plenty of mythology surrounding this place too, it is believed to be Kishkinda, the mythical land that Hanuman is from. It is also believed to be where Lord Rama and Laxman spent the monsoons when they were looking for Sita, after she was abducted by Ravana.
Immersing yourself in history is always enriching, it stimulates the mind, makes you aware of where things come from and, eventually, where we are headed. The ruins of Hampi are also a spectacular contrast to the hills around them. Of how man tries to impose his will on nature, but nature always has the last word. Humbling. As we approach the last 5km to Evolve Back, Hampi, it’s worth talking about the most impressive trick the A8 L has hidden inside those wheel arches. The predictive active suspension. Cameras are constantly scanning the road ahead and reacting to it before you hit it. It controls pitch when you accelerate and brake, keeps the body flat and level over bumps, limits the amount of roll in corners, and can even lift itself up 50mm to avoid a speed breaker completely. It’s some seriously complicated engineering but it’s very welcome (and rather effective) on Indian roads. It all adds to the luxury quotient of the A8 L, making it one of the most comfortable cars you can buy today, period
Pulling into Evolve Back, Hampi, I can immediately tell that this place will complement the A8 L. The architecture, ‘earthitects’ they call themselves, has taken inspiration from the ruins of Hampi, and it is a proper oasis in this little town. The rooms are lavish. The Jal Mahal suites offer you over 4000 square feet of private space including your very own private pool. There are four restaurants serving up everything from Nawabi cuisine to local fare. The spa is among the most highly rated in the country, with a masseuse that will probably outdo the A8 L’s seats. It’s a great place to come to with the people you love — your partner, or your family — and unwind. The hotel offers so much more than just a place to stay; they have a naturalist to show you the wildlife around, historians who will show you around Hampi, a reading room and shops with local handicrafts. Coming to Evolve Back is more an experience than anything else. It affords you the luxury of time. And that is what the Audi A8 L gives you. It allows you to live your passions every single day. It allows you time to rest, and recover. It pampers you, takes care of you. And takes you places that reinvigorate you. It gives you back control of your time, allowing you to do with it what you will. That hourglass I was talking about? It’s far easier to look at when you’re in the cabin of an A8 L.