• Special Feature: Highway Star

Road tripping in the monsoons, along India’s western coastline, exploring one of the most scenic highways in the country!

Highways contribute more to a nation’s growth than we think as they connect various regions to each other, enabling transport of goods, essential commodities and more. So it’s easy to see why our highways are upgraded constantly – two lanes to four, four to six and so on. The NH66, previously known as the NH17, is one such important highway, though many perhaps only think it connects Mumbai to Goa! NH66 runs along the western coastline starting from Panvel in Maharashtra and goes down to Kanyakumari, passing through Goa, Karnataka and Kerala before ending in Tamil Nadu.

That makes it a crucial connector for various cities in the aforementioned  states. Without  the  NH66 it would also be difficult to imagine connectivity between the south and western parts of the country, especially to states like Maharashtra, Gujarat or even Rajasthan. The government has given the NH66 a major overhaul recently and we just had to explore it! Driving along the western coastline in the monsoons, beautiful beaches on one side and the western ghats on the other was reason enough too! We needed a set of wheels that match the vigour of the NH66 and the new Hyundai Venue that’s grander, more premium and more tech-laden seemed perfect.

It embodies Hyundai’s global design language of ‘Sensuous Sportiness’, packing in a new grille, new LED DRLs and LED projector headlamps that make for an unmistakable road presence. Then there’s the smart-looking, 16-inch diamond cut alloy wheels, roof rails and dual-tone paint job besides the swanky new rear end. The connected LED tail lamps use a premium design that’s in sync with the Venue’s positioning as a youthful, urban and sporty SUV. Completing its look are the sportier bumpers, with skid plates to enhance its appeal.
We started from Maravanthe, one of Karnataka’s most scenic beaches and one of the only points where the NH66 is right next to the beach. Driving up we would pass famous beaches like Murdeshwar, Karwar and Gokarna before entering Goa. And with the 120PS and 172Nm 1.0-litre T-GDi turbocharged petrol engine mated to Hyundai’s revolutionary six- speed iMT or intelligent manual transmission, the new Venue was an excellent companion.

Nowhere else will you find the kind of views offered by this section of the NH17. And most of it is now a four-lane highway with dividers, also reducing the risk of head-on collisions. The Venue stretched its legs well on the highway while also feeling composed and well-planted, despite the torrential rains, as July is when it rains heavily in the region. Progress was rapid though thanks to the Venue’s affable road manners, besides which the latest version of Hyundai’s Bluelink ensured we had the latest weather updates on the 8.0-inch HD infotainment screen. The Venue now features over 60 Bluelink features and is thus is one of the most advanced SUVs in its segment. So, you can ask the Alexa or Google Voice Assistant  virtual  assistant at home to turn your Venue’s air-conditioning on, sync your calendar to your Venue, get sports and news updates, check vehicle status remotely  via the Bluelink app, use Valet mode while parking in hotels, issue various voice commands, set driver profiles and more. The new infotainment system supports 12 Indian languages, so you can switch to a language of your choice for the interface! The system also features pre-programmed nature sounds and you can choose from snowy mountains, rain sounds, sea waves and many more.

I found myself taking frequent stops to enjoy the scenic views of the Arabian sea and the lush green forests. Road trips also allow you to soak in local cultures and enjoy local cuisines and as a nation, India boasts one of the most diverse cultures, making every road trip exciting. Small detours help you explore further. Besides its strategic connectivity, the NH17 is also unique for passing through dense natural forests, bridges and river backwaters, adding to its charm.

Being a neighbouring state the distance from Karnataka to Goa wasn’t much but the countryside and detours meant I was taking longer than usual, something I was enjoying. Road trips being about the journey as much as they are about the destination holds true for the NH17! Covering distances was a cinch thanks to the Venue’s brisk performance and the upgraded highway. I was able to get to the Goa-Karnataka border early in the evening where the state greeted me with smooth tarmac, though roads are narrow and snake through dense forests. After its impressive highway manners, the Venue impressed here too, feeling nimble, agile and surefooted. Gear changes were far and few in between on the highway but the six-speed iMT’s convenience came to the fore in Goa as my left leg continued to remain relaxed. You see, the iMT is a manual gearbox but without a clutch pedal!

As the sun went down, I couldn’t help but reflect on my day behind the wheel of the Venue. The distance I drove may not have been long but driving along the country’s western coastline had been a mesmerizing experience. And that’s what road trips are about, exploring new places, soaking in the surroundings and enjoying views that you possibly cannot from the window of a train or plane! The NH17 and beaches lining it are ones I hadn’t seen before and the Venue helped me explore new ‘venues’ too. Ending the roadtrip in Goa was of course the cherry on top, as it is a preferred party venue and is known for its lit life!

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