Follow Us:

On the highway

Driving from Mumbai to the Rann of Kutch in the Mercedes GLA proved to be memorable in different ways

Dhiram Shah |

It’s 6.30 am on a December morning and I am about to start my longest road trip ever. It’s a 950 km journey from Mumbai to the Rann of Kutch! My vehicle for choice for this endeavour was a stylish and a rather compact crossover — the Mercedes Benz GLA, A car , which though being marketed as an SUV is more like a sport-oriented hatchback or should I say a rugged A-Class.

The model recently got a facelift and the new additions include LED headlights, a revised front bumper, a restyled grille and redesigned tail lamps. All of these with the high wheel arches and the swooping body lines give the GLA a sporty and somewhat aggressive look.

Our route takes us from the heart of Mumbai to the Gujarat border to the industrial town of Ankleshwar to Vadodara all on the smooth tar laden NH-8 highway. The icing on the cake was the overpasses and curves which the GLA took on effortlessly with its tight steering and agile handling.

It made me forget that I was driving a 1.5 ton SUV. Vadodara to Ahmedabad was on the NE1 or the National Expressway 1, which unlike the expressway back in Mumbai is of tar and not concrete.

Ahead of me was 100 kms of a straight road just begging to hit the accelerator. And so I did, under the hood is a 2.1 litre turbocharged Diesel that churns out 170 bhp and 350 nM of torque, the engine is mated with a 7-speed dual clutch gearbox which further smoothes the already refined engine.

It was fun cruising in the GLA. At 110 kms/ hr the car seemed to glide over the roads while the engine slowly hummed at 1800 rpm in the seventh gear. From Ahmedabad to Bhuj we moved through small villages, towns, many windmills and barren deserts that time seemed to have barely touched.

Most of the journey was on a six-lane deserted highway which at times was devoid of man, animal and vehicle right up to the horizon.

The Mercedes GLA sits comfortably high on 18-inch wheels. Having driven for 400 kms in one go, just some stretches followed by a dose of caffeine and all of us in the car were ready to take the next 500 odd kilometers.

The cabin is unmistakably Mercedes, a precise cocktail of polished metal and soft leather. Keeping in sync with the times there is also ambient lighting. At the center of the dash is a 7-inch screen which lets you control the entertainment, navigation, connections and other features of the car.

The updated infotainment system now supports Android Auto and Apple Car Play which lets you seamlessly connect your phone to make calls and stream music. The panoramic sunroof flooded the cabin with soft light as we opened it to catch the beautiful sunsets or just gaze at the clear night sky.

The seats are comfortable and offer good support, knee room can be a bit of a hurdle for the rear passenger especially if the front seat is adjusted for a tall passenger.

Being in the Rann of Kutch we went off the road to experiment with the car. We drove the GLA into a desert on the outskirts of Bhuj. Steep slopes, gravel, muck, it just kept on going, all I had to do was to switch to the off-road mode and I was effortlessly going on terrain which at first sight looked challenging.

The best way to test a car properly is to live with it for seven days. And 2,200 kms later I can say that the GLA is a complete package. It is practical, comfortable, efficient, fun to drive and good looking — the ideal companion on a road trip with family. What more can one want?