Friday, October 26, 2007

First long drive -- Jamshedpur to Kolkata

Left Jam at 4.30 AM on 24 Oct and reached Kolkata, just 290 km away, in 8 hours. Why did it take so long? Because large stretches of NH33 in Jharkhand are in a horrible condition – one has to see it to believe it. Even before the monsoons the roads were reported to be bad and this year we had above average rains and the present condition of NH33 has hit rock bottom (literally). About 35% of the 105 km stretch of NH33 between Jam and Chichira border (Jharkhand / West Bengal) is totally gone and the remaining 65% can be described at best as ‘motorable’.

For scores of km one sees only huge craters (calling them potholes would be an understatement) on the ‘highway’ and one has to decide which craters to choose because you cannot avoid them. I had to drive in first gear for scores of km. At a couple of places the car bottom scraped the ground and while negotiating some enormous craters at the Chichira border, the bottom of the front bumper (spoiler / air dam) scraped the ground too.

But the car came out of all this in flying colours. The suspension felt strong and solid and the engine highly torquey even at low RPM’s. On broken roads one has to keep operating the clutch and shifting gears and these felt very smooth and almost effortless. The AC is powerful and a big boon on such dusty roads.

After the Chichira border checkpost, roads (in West Bengal) improved dramatically. And after Kharagpur (52 km from Chichira) we enjoyed the excellent 6-lane dual carriageway (part of the Golden Quadrilateral project of NHAI) for 120 km to Kolkata. Boy, was it fun. But since I’m trying to religiously run-in the car for the first 1000 km, I tried not to accelerate rapidly and did not exceed 100 kmph. But it took much effort to control myself as the car lurches forward like a tiger as you press the gas pedal and at 100 kmph it seems like the engine is just about warming up for better things.

The overall experience with the car during this drive was simply great. This is my first diesel car and at no time did I feel any sluggishness usually associated with older generation diesel engines. As a matter of fact, compared to my earlier car (Maruti Esteem) the engine felt more responsive and powerful at all RPM’s. Of course, the diesel engine is a bit noisier at lower speeds but at higher speeds one can barely hear the engine over the tyre / wind noise.

Now for the icing on the cake. I calculated the fuel consumption fairly precisely and was delighted to find that the car has returned a mileage of 18.59 kmpl over 470 km clocked since I bought the car. As this 470 km includes about 180 km of city driving in Jamshedpur / Kolkata and 40 km of crawling through craters, etc., the mileage obtained on the expressway can be estimated to be 20 kmpl! Not bad, considering that mileage figures are initially lower and tend to improve after the engine is run-in properly. AC was on for about 90% of the time.

Plan to drive down to Delhi from Kolkata, starting 28 Oct. That’s going to be around 1500 km and will give me a much better feel of the car and its capabilities and limitations.

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