A Tata Harrier Travelogue
It was just another slow and uneventful Friday and I was waiting for the weekend to arrive when I was asked to pick up the Tata Harrier from Thane service centre. I assumed it would be for any of our photo or video shoot, but boy I was in for a wild ride. After collecting the sparkling white Harrier, I was informed that this SUV would be my steed for the entire next week. For the inaugural Bikewale Off-Road Day, we were heading to the Big Rock Dirt Park in Bangalore and although most members of the team were flying down, our veteran photographer Kapil Angane was busy on another assignment so his flight tickets weren’t booked at all. So my task was to get him from Mumbai to Bangalore once he came back from the other assignment on Monday along with other equipment and essentials for the Off-Road Day in the Harrier. So sit back and read on to find out how it all panned out.
We started past eight on a Monday morning even though the initial plan was to leave Navi Mumbai before sunrise. However, Kapil was delayed the previous night while coming back from the other assignment and I urged him to not tire himself out any further by getting ready to leave before 6. Nevertheless, we left a couple of hours late – not the ideal time since we encountered peak rush hour traffic first thing in the morning. Quickly I reached the Mumbai-Pune Expressway as Kapil settled into his much needed nap. I bothered him for breakfast and a quick tank up at the food mall on the expressway. By the time we left with a full tummy and brimmed tank, the sun was blazing hot which reminded me to pack in some more water for our day’s journey.
It must have been 10 already when we hit the road once again. The expressway ended soon and we were into Pune traffic and that’s when I realised, Pune folks aren’t very welcoming when they are in a hurry. Nonetheless, everyone gave way when they saw the imposing chrome-black grille on a large white car in their rear-view mirror. And the Harrier simply whizzed past the buses and motorcyclists without breaking a sweat. Once past Pune, the Harrier effortlessly plodded over the pothole-infested roads with utmost ease. Even though our speed was steady past Pune it wasn’t until Katraj when Kapil said, ‘if we continue at this pace I don’t think we’ll reach Bangalore even in three days’. And soon he dozed off again. So, I put my right foot down and we zipped past swiftly through some scenic and well-paved roads garnished with unrelenting green fields on both sides. One which I thoroughly enjoyed driving on was Khambatki Ghat. It was mostly empty, with wide roads climbing and turning seamlessly as I played along with the low-end grunt of Harrier’s 2.0-litre diesel. It was not only scenic beyond measure but also well paved with long corners and sweeping left- and right-handers. It was fun and I became instantly sad when it ended.
Past that, the roads were arrow-straight as long as the eyes can see. The concrete road was smooth and I was able to keep three-digit speeds in the Harrier without much of a hassle. With soul-touching Hindi songs blasting on the Harman sound system, I kept humming and singing along. But I would be lying if I say that the straight empty roads didn’t start to bore me after a while. But I resisted the urge to engage the cruise control and kept rushing past the slow-moving trucks on the NH48 as we passed through some of the most prominent cities of Maharashtra namely Satara, Karad and Kolhapur. We had already covered around 400 kilometres by now and there was no sign of fatigue thanks to Harrier’s comfortable cabin and well-burnished ride. It was past two in the afternoon, and we both were getting hungry. So I pulled over at the Nippani junction and we simply gorged on some humble yet sumptuous dal-khichdi for lunch.
Once again our tummy and tank was full and we hit the road straight without wasting any time. And again I just fell in love with the roads. They were nearly flawless, smooth like a waveless sea, and ran endlessly without many other road users. I was enjoying these roads so much that each time a toll junction arrived, I was more than willing to pay the toll fare. We were on the NH48 which is a part of India’s Golden Quadrilateral and we had already entered Karnataka. But I was thoroughly enjoying this road and the journey while the Harrier truly embellished it furthermore with its high-speed stability and finesse.
It was only past Hubli did our speed suffered. As the roads were under construction, we had to slow down to crawling speed for many hours. It became painful after a while tackling all the dust clouds. As the sky turned auburn, I drove past some mills sitting prettily on the lengths of the highway. The sun had already made its way past the horizon. Before we reached Davanagere, the weather changed as if Saruman was controlling it himself through his Palantir. Pardon my LOTR reference, but it was dark and rain came pouring down, playing havoc all over the highway. As the visibility was reduced to zero, I saw people stopping mid-way on the highway being clueless where to go. But the powerful headlamps on the Harrier helped me to soldier on as I took shelters of massive trucks to save ourselves from the lashing rain. At 8 in the evening, after covering around 800 kilometres, we called it a day in Devanagere and slept peacefully.
Day two started pretty early. We had tea at a local stall before sunrise and were up and running at the first light. The under-construction roads continued for a few hundred kilometres. But once the paved roads came into our sight, also appeared with them coconut trees lined on either side of the highway for miles on end. The beautiful city of Chitradurga and Tumkur swiftly passed by as we continued to dart on the serene NH48. We did stop for a quick breakfast past Tumkur and we couldn’t help but enjoy the local specialty – idli, dosa and medu vada along with filter coffee. And we covered the remaining 300 kilometres of our journey quickly through narrow roads and rural countryside. We managed to reach the Dirt Park at Kolar even before noon.
The next two days, the Harrier was our mode of transport between Big Rock Dirtpark and our hotel. It was also joined by its sibling Hexa from a self-drive fleet as well. And since the Dirtpark was an off-road course, getting there wasn’t easy either. We had to wade through rough and jagged rural roads. But Harrier managed to trudge there as easily as it prowled the urban jungle. With the worst that Kolar had to throw the Harrier’s way, the Tata managed to come on top every time.
Wrapping our BikeWale Off-Road Day, it was now time to head back home. Before we started from Kolar situated slightly westward of Bangalore, I looked up the maps which directed me to an interior road to skip the infamous traffic of Karnataka’s capital city. This road we took was narrow, passing through the agricultural fields and some actual rural villages where kids came out of their huts to see the white SUV drive past their veranda. Instead of speed breakers, we slowed down for dodging cattle and herd of donkeys. Our way back was pretty much the same with endless straight roads where the Harrier pulled up her skirt and galloped over long stretches of the highway leaving many cities in its wake. What I surely need to mention here was the sheer beauty of the sky we encountered when we were crossing Belgaum. The artistically curated light blue sky was full of white fluffy clouds spread all across the horizon. Capturing it on camera was futile and did not do it justice, so I just drove on, awestruck with nature’s beauty which was bestowed upon us that afternoon.
In the end, the Harrier proved its proficiency in the long-distance commute. If we were to point out the faults of the Harrier, I’d say that my left knee did get uncomfortable and bruised after driving for so long since it was constantly rubbing on the hard plastic of the oddly designed lower dashboard. Which also makes me wonder that the Harrier could do with slightly better driver’s ergonomics as you’d find changing your seating posture more often than required. I’d have preferred a digital speedometer and an analogue tachometer instead of the other way round that you get in the Harrier. And the wing mirrors are large, which is not the complaint here, in fact, they are pretty useful out on the highways. But due to their enormous size, you do constantly hear extremely loud wind noises on the A-pillar at high speeds.
But overall, the Tata Harrier didn’t disappoint us in any of the tasks we asked of it. Be it cruising at triple-digit speeds for prolonged hours, carrying passengers and equipment with ease, trudging where the roads ceased to exist, it did everything with aplomb. In the end, it was indeed difficult to say goodbye to the Tata Harrier. So long, partner.
Pictures by - Kapil Angane
Total distance covered – 2399.4 kilometres
Amount of fuel used – 141 litres
Average fuel efficiency – 17.02kmpl
No. of food stops – 14 as far as we remember
Bugs on the grille – 43. Yes, we counted
Number of people who asked about the Harrier on the entire trip – 6
Number of donkey herds and cattle that blocked our way – 3