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Every coin has 2 sides, both very different. This is a fact that all of us know, and if this happens to be news for you, it’s a good time to update yourself, all coins have 2 different faces commonly known as “Heads” or “Tails.” I’m not speaking about the two sides like Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde, he is the same person with two completely different personalities. I’m saving that analogy for another story. Most cars we talk about have a fixed purpose, which is getting us from point A to point B. Now they may do it in many different ways, some may do it fast, some may do it by using the least fuel and some may even be able to chart their own path through unexplored territory. The point here is that that each car gets you to your destination because it has one unique specialty. What we are dealing with here is a vehicle with a capability of getting you from your location to your destination quickly as well as excitingly and sometimes even unnervingly.
Yes the Range Rover Sport is that car. A semi-colossal SUV that has finally been upgraded to match Land Rover’s newest portfolio. A car that is capable of making your tweesy spot tingle upon acceleration and at the same time makes you pay 100% attention to the road when navigating the unknown.
Anyway, we decided that taking the Sport to Goa would be a great experience. From what we had heard, the road from Mumbai to Goa- NH-17 was a very scenic route to take hence we set off down that road to see what it had in store for us.
NH-17 passes through Pen and a few other small towns as you exit Mumbai. The road is well paved most of the way but the biggest drawback is that it is a dual lane highway. One for oncoming traffic and the other for on going. This means that you get stuck behind an over-loaded truck and the journey can turn into a slow crawl making the kilometers seem countless. That was a no-brainer for the Range Rover Sport. The easily accessible flappy paddles and smooth linear power delivery from the 3.0L turbo-diesel V6 calls for a quick downshift and an effortless acceleration to pass whatever vehicle may be in slowing us down.
The road to Ratnagiri, our first stop for the trip, included passing through two ghat sections allowing us to experience the Range Rover Sport and it’s cornering abilities. Though this is not the 5.0L supercharged petrol V8 found in the Autobiography and is also missing the track mode the diesel Sport does do a great job in the corners. For a car weighing as much as a rhinoceros it sure does eat up corners without flinching. I mean give it some slack, it is a large SUV so don’t expect it to handle like a super car in the corners, you do feel the wallowing upon straightening out as the suspension corrects itself. It is a small jerk as you come out of the corner and straighten the wheel. It’s as if the car is saying, “Oh! We are done with the corner?” and continues on to readjust itself.
On a road like NH-17 with uncountable goods carriers and daft taxi drivers coupled with the blind corners, trying to really enjoy the Sport became quite a task. One awesome feature that we did get to experience was Corner-Breaking. The car automatically redistributes the pressure on the rear axle by transferring it to the left and right side brakes, allowing the driver to safely maneuver through a bend while emergency braking, a wonderful safety feature to have.
The vermillion iron rich soil coupled with a gorgeous sunset at the sandy Bhatye beach in Ratnagiri was a treat. We drove the Sport on to the sand for a few shots and after calling it a night, rolled down the windows, drew back the sunroof, laid the seats back and camped it out in a very comfortable car.
The next morning we made our way through Malwan via Tarkarli beach. On the way we came across a brick quarry, which we decided to explore. Taking the Range Rover of the tarmac and into the quarry meant raising the suspension to its off-road height, in this height the car is a formidable off-roader. Be it rocks, rivers, mud, sand or snow, the Sport can handle most terrains extremely well. The road from Ratnagiri to Goa didn’t change much. It was still a dual lane road but luckily it was quite traffic-less. Which meant we could put the hammer down and chug along to the Taj Vivanta Holiday Village in Candolim.
The 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine performs very well, the power delivery is extremely linear and there is minimal turbo lag. Put your foot down all the way and the ZF transmission selects the apt gear to shoot you straightforward like a rocket. The torque delivery feels like it is throughout the range. Power is always on tap. I can’t even imagine what the 5.0L supercharged V8 would feel like. Unlike the Range Rover Autobiography that we took to Jaipur, the Sport is much easier and a lot more fun to drive. Yes it is not as comfortable as the Autobiography and misses out on small features like seat A/C and massage, but it makes up for all that in being a fun car to drive on the road.
The night was spent at the beach hotel in Candolim. The Holiday Village is a 28-acre property right on Sanquerim beach, which makes it a prime property for visitors in the “Holiday State.” With visitors getting access to their own cozy villas the property really gives you a feel of the plush Goa life. The restaurant serves traditional Goan food along with freshly caught seafood. It truly is a comfortable experience and is a must experience for anyone and everyone visiting Goa. A relaxed night at the Holiday Village was much needed after the long drive from Mumbai.
Now that we had driven the Range Rover Sport on a great road we were in the mood to see it in action off-road. We decided to take the car to Dudhsagar Falls but unfortunately we were told that private vehicles were not allowed in the national park.
Disappointed, we made our way towards our venue for the night. A small adventure resort tucked away in the Chorla Ghats on the border of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa, about 50kms from Belgaum. To our amazement the road was just fabulous. Even better than what we had experienced on the way to Goa. From Goa to the Wildernest resort was honestly one of the best roads that we have experienced and the Range Rover Sport was a great choice for it as well. As the sun was setting at the horizon it the valley was lit up into beautiful hues of red, orange and yellow. With 13kms of winding road in front ot us we made it to the Wildernest by dinner time. Exhausted after a long day but at the same time elated by the road that we got to drive on.
Located in the heart of the Chorla ghats the Wildernest resort is nothing less that what someone that loves adventure could ask for. Nature walks, bird watching, star-gazing, rock climbing, rappelling, jumaring and even relaxing in an infinity pool that over looks the valley are some of the few things that one can experience at the Wildrnest. With a Machan style of accommodation the Wildernest really does make you feel one with Nature. Wooden structures and open balconies with jaw-dropping views of the valley are a normal sight for visitors there. The food was nothing less than scrumptious and all hand made from scratch for every meal. You can see that there is a lot of effort put in to make the guests feel as comfortable as possible.
The Wildernest also has about 15 acres of land on the neighboring mountain where they have their convention centre located and where we could really take the Range Rover Sport off road to a stone plateau over looking a valley encompassing the tri-state border. The view was spectacular.
The journey back from the Wildernest to Mumbai was even better than what we experienced to Goa from Mumbai. National Highway 4 (NH-4) is a extremely well paved road and smooth as a baby’s bottom. Twisting through the trees and the contours of the ghats the road takes you to Belgaum from where a four-lane highway takes you directly to Pune. Here we set the car to cruise at 100km/h and racked up the miles to Pune. This is by far the quickest way to get to Goa from Mumbai.
No doubt NH-17 was very scenic and enjoyable to drive, it was a lot more stressful as compared to the ease of driving on NH-4. Being able to use the cruise control for nearly the whole way was a boon, but the same time working the throttle and transmission and being on your toes the whole time on the coastal road was a different experience in its own way. NH-4 allows you to reach your destination (Goa) quickly. It’s the no nonsense way, straight to the point with a few thrills like being able to reach 220km/h on some of the straight stretches and enjoying the wonderful corners of Chorla Ghat in Karnataka. On NH-17 the road is continuously curvy and goes right by the sea at a few places allowing you to get off the road and enjoy the sunsets on beaches that are dotted along the way.
Just like two different sides of the same coin the Range Rover Sport gave us two different experiences, be it on the two different roads or on the two completely different terrains of road, but no matter what it was still the same car that we love and had an unforgettable experience in. On the tarmac the Range Rover Sport is like a racehorse. She can buckle down and gallop on command and at the same time can trot along to cover the miles without too much of an exertion. Off-road, the Sport has a completely different character. Like an Ibex it hops around through the various different kinds of terrain and nimbly makes it way through the shrub allowing you to explore areas that few vehicles venture through. Over all the Range Rover Sport is just like that coin, one body, and two faces. The perfect amalgamation of a sporty SUV and a very capable off-roader. That’s the reason why I joke around calling it the offspring of the stylish Evoque and the ominous Range Rover Autobiography.