Driving our favourite road in the Volkswagen Virtus 1.0 TSI

The monsoons are nearly here, and soon our favourite driving roads will be in disarray. Before that happens, we’re taking one of our favourite driver’s cars out for a quick pre-monsoon drive
Driving Virtus through one of the amazing roads near Pune!
Driving Virtus through one of the amazing roads near Pune!Shot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

People often say that you don't know what you've got until it’s gone, usually referring to lost love over a couple of drinks. It's true — we tend to take many things for granted while they are around only to repent once they are gone. Humans are hardwired to yearn for what they don’t possess while ignoring what is right in front of them. In an automotive context, many of us dream about driving supercars in the south of Spain, while forgetting that India itself offers some amazing driving roads.

Having spent several years of my life in a foreign country with beautifully paved, but dead straight roads, I seize every chance to drive on the wonderful winding roads around Pune. With the monsoon fast approaching, I was eager to have one last drive to Lavasa before wet roads, landslides, and fallen obstacles start to pose questions that my driving skills can't answer. Thankfully, last weekend the opportunity presented itself in the form of a Carbon Steel Grey Volkswagen Virtus, and with practically everyone else out of the office, I didn't even have to compete for the keys. No prizes for guessing where I'm heading.

In my opinion, the best time to head to Lavasa is just before sunrise. The sleepy villages along the way are still asleep and therefore traffic is light. The Virtus I was driving was equipped with the 1-litre TSI engine mated to a six-speed automatic. While a manual would have been more engaging, the automatic is a lot better in the stop-and-go traffic that I was sure to encounter on my way back. And it's not like the automatic is without its tricks. As the road begins to climb, I switch the transmission to Sport mode, which makes it eager to hold onto a gear and keen to downshift. There is even a manual mode with steering-mounted paddle shifters, allowing you to play pretend rally driver while downshifting for hairpins — of which there are plenty on the way to Lavasa.

I first learned about Lavasa in 2010, when I saw pictures of a road winding through a lush green forest leading to what appeared to be a European town. The writer gave it such a glowing review that I just had to come see what the fuss was all about — and I wasn’t disappointed. This road was once ‘the’ road in the area — beautifully paved, barely trafficked, with stunning views at every turn. Today, two of those three qualities still hold true — the views remain pristine, and traffic is still light before sunrise, but sadly, the road itself is slowly deteriorating.

At this point, I’d normally tell you how beautifully the Virtus soaks up the bumps while still deftly cornering at silly speeds but you already know that — every review of the Virtus unanimously agrees. Instead, what I can tell you is that the 1-litre TSI Virtus brought as big a smile to my face as the Virtus GT did just a month ago. With 113bhp and 178Nm, the car is quick enough to keep the seasoned enthusiast entertained, while being approachable enough for the novice driver. If I had a teenage kid, this is exactly what I would get them — not some electric rocketship. The fact that it combines that quintessential German sense of solidity with every conceivable feature I could possibly want is just the icing on the cake.

At the top, the sunrise is magical, the forest much greener than just a month ago, and the rolling fog is mesmerising. This is exactly where I want to be and what I want to do on a weekend. Yet, it seems I'm alone in this thought, as I rarely encounter other enthusiasts here. While there are occasional bikers, fellow four-wheeled aficionados are few and far between. In my opinion, this is a significant oversight — we're truly missing out.

California has a whole sub culture dedicated to waking up early on a Sunday, driving down your favourite canyon road just for the joy of driving, and perhaps stopping for breakfast. ‘Cars and coffee’ is one of the numerous names people have coined but you get the idea. It not only supports local businesses and provides a social setting for like-minded enthusiasts, but also gives the authorities the incentive to maintain the frequently used roads. Not to mention the fact that you get to indulge in the Thrill of Driving. Lavasa could be the perfect place for a similar movement to start, a ‘Cars and Chai’ if you will. But we'd better get going. As they say, you don't know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

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