The highway was constructed from the ground up in just four years, including the covid period
The highway was constructed from the ground up in just four years, including the covid periodShot by Avdhoot A Kolhe for evo India

Great Driving Roads: Hyundai Tuscon takes on the Delhi-Mumbai expressway

All set to become the most important super highway in India, we’ve driven the first section of the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway, that will connect the two cities and cut travel time in half

Incredible. The rate at which our country’s road network has been developing is just incredible. A whopping 59 per cent, or more than half the roads which exist today, were constructed over the last decade. What has the national highway growth rate over this time been you ask? 300 per cent! That’s quite something, and now the government is concentrating on building more expressways to make travel even faster.

The Delhi-Vadodara
section passes through six major cities
The Delhi-Vadodara section passes through six major citiesShot by Avdhoot A Kolhe for evo India

Because of their sheer size and speed, these accesscontrolled wonders are bringing every corner of India closer than ever before, allowing for even quicker travel, which is why we’ve dedicated an entire series to them. This is the Hyundai Great Driving Roads: Expressways Edition and for its fifth instalment we explored the Delhi-Vadodara section of the DelhiMumbai Expressway. Of course, of course I had to ask the Ed for the keys to our long-term Hyundai Tucson for this journey, because currently, it’s the best car in the evo India fleet to go road tripping in. More on that later. Let’s begin with today’s star of the show first – the upcoming Delhi-Mumbai Expressway. This project will connect the Sohna Elevated Corridor in Gurugram to the Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai, to accelerate trade facilitation between the national capital and the financial capital of the country, including many cities along the way. It will be shorter in length than the existing Delhi-Mumbai national highway (NH8), cutting down the distance from 1450km to 1290km. And because it will be entry controlled, it will reduce the travel time from 24 hours to just a little over 14 hours. Yes, the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway isn’t fully complete yet, but there’s quite a big section of it that’s operational and open to the public now and that’s the part which we drove on. The Delhi-Vadodara bit. Inaugurated by the Prime Minister on October 2, 2023, it has eight lanes, which can be expanded up to 12 lanes and was built at a cost of a cool `11,895 crore. Here’s a fun fact — this road is faster than even the famed Rajdhani Express travelling from Delhi to Vadodara! That isn’t down to the fact that the Tucson’s 2-litre turbo-diesel engine pulls like a train (see what I did there?), it’s because this expressway has decreased the earlier 1000km travel distance to just 845km now. As a result, the travel time has gone down from 16 hours to just 10.

The pair of slashes on
either side of the taillight look really cool and the 18-inch alloys look upmarket
The pair of slashes on either side of the taillight look really cool and the 18-inch alloys look upmarket Shot by Avdhoot A Kolhe for evo India

I never miss a chance to grab the keys to our longterm Tucson, and this instance was no different. The main reason why I chose it to drive to Vadodara from our hometown of Pune and then onto the Delhi-Vadodara Expressway is for its sheer comfort. This car is a fantastic milemuncher. I left Pune at lunchtime, with an ETA of 12:30am. I usually avoid driving after sundown but with the Tucson I didnt need to worry. Its suspension takes everything in its stride and offers superb ride quality. Unmarked speed breakers, undulations, it just dampens out everything so nicely. The other comfort factor comes from its ADAS system, because on longer journeys, this system assists you and that severely reduces your fatigue level behind the ’wheel. The Tucson gets Level 2 ADAS with adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, lane change assist and blind spot monitoring system amongst other features. Despite being a driving enthusiast, I think that ADAS is one of the best things that has ever happened to the automobile. Up until I experienced it earlier this year, I wasn’t convinced by this tech. Now though, I think it should be mandatory on every car. It’s like a helping hand, a second set of eyes which has your back while driving a car. The car does all the primary work for you and that means you can spend a lot more time behind the ’wheel, with fewer stops. You’ve gotta give it to Hyundai, for the Tucson’s ‘SmartSense’ ADAS system has been calibrated very well for Indian roads. And as I found out on this drive, it works seamlessly even at night. The smart cruise control ensures you maintain the set speed while accelerating or decelerating with respect to the traffic ahead, on its own. The lane keep assist makes sure that you stay in your lane with minor steering inputs and the lane change assist warns you about incoming traffic with a warning light in the outside rearview mirrors, even while changing lanes. This system doesn’t feel like it’s controlled by a computer. It feels natural. It brakes progressively, accelerates smoothly and that’s why I’m a fan. So yes, when the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway is eventually completed by the end of 2024, you could allow your Tucson to drive you all the way.

Front passenger seat can be controlled via buttons
on its side. It's called the Boss mode!
Front passenger seat can be controlled via buttons on its side. It's called the Boss mode!Shot by Avdhoot A Kolhe for evo India

The next morning I pointed my steering at the start of the Delhi-Vadodara Expressway and headed out to see what the fuss was all about. You know what’s really commendable? This highway was constructed from the ground up in just four years, including the Covid period. And it truly is world-class, just like all the new highways that our government is constructing. It’s mainly made of concrete, for utmost durability and has some epic views that some of us wouldn’t have seen before. And that answers a question which I’ve been getting a lot — how can an expressway be a great driving road? To be honest, when we first started this series even I raised that very question, but here’s the thing, all these new expressways are being built on uncharted territories. These new roads are changing the travel template that many of us have been accustomed to all our lives and Driving Roads in my book. The Delhi-Vadodara Expressway passes through the Ranthambore Sanctuary and the Mukundra Hills wildlife reserve — two of the most beautiful national parks of our country — and therefore has lush green forests on either side which are a sight to behold. To ensure that wildlife isn’t disturbed in this area, the government has deployed underpasses, overpasses and even tunnels allowing safe passage for our animal friends. While the expressway has a speed cap of 120kmph, you’d definitely want to go a lot slower and take in the gorgeous views on either side, just like I did. The Tucson gets a good, large greenhouse and that coupled with that huge panoramic sunroof makes its cabin feel roomier than it already is. Not only does it allow for a good view of the outside, but it also gives you a good view of the traffic around you and that’s always a big thumbs up when it comes to safety. I was expecting the Delhi-Vadodara Expressway to be smooth and that it was. But what surprised me the most was its wayside amenities, and their sheer size. It wouldn’t be wrong to call them small townships. They’re present at 40-minute intervals and have it all – fuel stations, restaurants, ATMs, food courts, retail shops, rest areas for truckers and huge parking lots. It’s the first expressway in India to have helipads and fully equipped trauma centres every 100km for accident victims. The government is also planning to develop a stretch of this expressway as an e-Highway (electric highway) where electric trucks and buses can run at a speed of 120kmph, which will bring down their logistics cost by as much as 70 per cent. That seems like an interesting idea and will be a first in India. There are even electric car chargers being set up so that you can roadtrip in your EV. But that’s the future. For now, good ol’ dino juice remains the go-to choice for traversing this expressway. And that brings me to the Tucson’s diesel mill. Its 2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder is a gem. It proves why diesels are still relevant and why they remain the go-to option for mile-munching on highways. Because of its good low-end and mid-range torque, this engine provides effortless acceleration while being fuel efficient.

2-litre turbo-diesel mill generates a big
turbo whistle when you let go of the throttle
2-litre turbo-diesel mill generates a big turbo whistle when you let go of the throttleShot by Avdhoot A Kolhe for evo India

I was getting 18kmpl while cruising at 110-120kmph, fully loaded, which is incredible. For a diesel engine, it’s fairly refined too, audible only at higher revs and doesn’t pass on a lot of vibrations to the cabin or the steering wheel. Stomp the floorboard-mounted fast pedal and this SUV picks up speed really well. The eight-speed torque converter automatic responds with fast shifts when you’re gunning it and mellows down when you’re in the mood to cruise swiftly. The Tucson’s steering is light but all you have to do is switch it to Sport mode if you want more weight. The Sport mode also sharpens throttle response and asks the gearbox to hold the revs higher. Its HTRAC AWD drive system puts down power with no drama at all. The Tucson isn’t just a good car to drive, it’s an equally good car to be driven around in. To enjoy the views and chill for a while, I handed over the ’wheel to our shutterbug Avdhoot and he was happy to oblige. I put on some Ben Böhmer on the Bose sound system and stretched out in the back seat with the backrest reclined all the way. Being chauffeured around will arguably be one good way to travel on the Delhi-Vadodara Expressway. Better still, I’m very eager for the full DelhiMumbai project to conclude, for in our home state of Maharashtra, it will run closer to the coastline, ensuring sea views in a few places. Wow! When it is eventually completed, the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway will play a big role in easing traffic congestion on older highways and is estimated to save 320 million litres of fuel and reduce 850 million kilos of CO2 per year. It’s going to bring the two megacities, and many more small cities along the way, closer while generating new economic avenues for Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and even Haryana. But most importantly it will enable us to drive more easily, a lot more often, than taking alternative modes of transport, like a flight or the railway, between Delhi and Mumbai and that is the biggest win in my book. With this expressway it’s another one in the books for the National Highways Authority of India. It’s onto finding the next one now.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Evo India