Hyundai Venue to Tamhini Ghat: Great Driving Roads
It just never gets old, does it?” exclaimed Rohit, evo India’s chief photographer, holding on to the grab handle for dear life, during a rather lovely, spirited drive on one of our favourite stretches of twisties at the Tamhini Ghat. Before the fabled Mutha Ghat at Lavasa and the splendid hills of Aamby Valley city near Lonavala, driving freaks and riding enthusiasts used to come here to brush up on their skills. I’m talking about the late nineties and the early to late 2000s. A veteran auto journo once told me that Tamhini was their Isle of Man, their play-place. It connected you from Pune to the Konkan coast and offered you gorgeous and breathtaking views while doing so. It also happens to be absolutely spectacular in the monsoons. The grey clouds, the smell of the soil, the nip in the air. It seems like Mother Nature is revitalising. The tarmac gets washed to a lovely black. It’s the perfect weather to go out for a drive. So this time around on our Great Driving Roads series, we are visiting this old friend. The road, the legend. One that has been proving grounds for many talented drivers and riders. Some of whom are absolutely killing it in the Indian motoring journalism scene.
I have known the roads of Tamhini for over two decades now. My earliest memory of this wonderful road is watching the lush scenery from inside our Santro, holding the dashboard, peeking up to get a good view back in 2003-2004. It was during the monsoon that my mother used to bring me here on picnics, driving one of her favourite cars. Mom liked it and so did I. The Santro had character. It was almost like a family member, accompanying us everywhere. And that is why this edition of the Great Driving Roads is special to me. Here I am driving on the very same roads, in a Hyundai! Our steed is the new Hyundai Venue, more importantly its turbo-petrol plus DCT combo, for our Tamhini Ghat shenanigans. Tamhini Ghat is lovely, smooth and has a lot of flowing corners. The views, oh my god, they are incredible! While heading towards the coast, you have the hills on your left, covered with waterfalls and on the right is a reservoir of the Mulshi dam sitting pretty. Back then our Santro used to feel sluggish and honestly a little underpowered on these hills, but I feel none of that today. The pace of progress is real and Hyundai has come far. From India’s favourite hatchback to its first mass market turbo-petrol car ― the Venue.
This turbo-DCT combo is a joy to pilot. Although the power plant is carried over from the pre-facelifted Venue, with 118bhp and 172Nm of torque, Hyundai has overhauled the DCT for snappier shifts. The DCT responds faster and feels much better suited to the engine now. The icing on the cake with the new Venue is that it now also gets paddle shifters for you to take control, without taking your hands off the wheel. I must tell you, the Venue Turbo is the variant to have if you love driving. This engine is a gem, it has enough low end to pull you out of corners and it pulls hard until the redline. But it is also smooth and quiet when you want it to be. Hyundai has also given the Venue three driving modes — Normal, Eco, Sport — and there’s a noticeable change in all three of them. The roads leading up to Tamhini Ghat though aren’t too great and you’ll probably need an SUV such as the Venue to get there. It has 190mm of ground clearance so potholes, big or small, aren’t a hassle. But the bad roads are only for a short stretch and then begins the real deal. Tamhini Ghat starts once you pass the town of Tamhane (if you’re going away from Pune and towards the coast). It begins with a set of fast, flowing corners which then pass through a thick forest and ultimately take us to the main ghat which won’t look out of place in a certain Japanese drift manga series. The road is wide with sections that can see high speeds and wide corners that open out to views that make your jaw drop.
The Venue is an absolute joy to drive on these roads. You can chuck it into these flowing corners and because they are fairly wide here, you can also carry some extra speed into them. Being a compact SUV, the Venue feels planted in these flowing corners. It has a wonderful chassis and sure there is a bit of a body roll, as you’d expect from an SUV but it does a very good job of flattening all the undulations on the roads, helping you drive even more enthusiastically. But one thing that you should be aware of is oncoming traffic. Although over the years, the road has become much wider, you have to drive carefully and well within limits for safety. Speaking of safety, the Venue has a plethora of safety kit including six airbags, ABS, ESC and even traction control. Not only do these systems make driving safer but also that much easier. On wet roads, they make the car feel surefooted and provide peace of mind. Then there’s the stuff to keep you entertained. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a fabulous six-speaker sound system and even a sunroof that lets more light in making the cabin feel airy.
One advantage of Tamhini Ghat being a popular tourist place is that there are plenty of eateries and beautiful stays to spend the weekend at. As you climb up the hill, there are plenty of view points you can trek up to. A lot of travel agencies offer camping stays and there are a lot of small trails going to the top of hills. One thing to be noted though is the fact that Tamhini does get a bit crowded over the weekend, so plan to leave a little early. Or head there on a weekday! At just under two hours from Pune and a little over four hours from Mumbai, the Tamhini Ghat and the area surrounding it is a great weekend getaway for anybody who lives in this part of the country. It is an old gem that has been given a new lease of life by the authorities with fresher and wider tarmac and it continues to be high up on our list of Great Driving Roads which we visit to enjoy cars, clear our minds and just not care about the hectic place that is this world. Moreover, there’s a lot to see here and with something like the Hyundai Venue at your disposal, there’s a lot to explore too. A must-visit before the rains disappear this year!