DME x Volvo
To say Volvo is the embodiment, the flag-bearer of automotive safety would not only be absolutely accurate but also a huge understatement. The kind of legacy Volvo has created around its commitment to safety is simply unparalleled and it continues, as ever, to push the boundaries of how much safer vehicles can get – for occupants, pedestrians and the world in general. It was, therefore, an obvious association to make, when the opportunity arose for the CarWale team to drive down the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway. It just had to be in a Volvo. Or five of them, to be precise.
This is, undoubtedly, a milestone moment for Indian motoring. A brand-new expressway, stretching out over 1200km, connecting the administrative and financial capitals of the country; it would be fair to call this India’s most ambitious roadways project yet. The Delhi-Mumbai Expressway promises to be India’s road to the future.
It was only apt that spearheading our drive, therefore, was the Volvo XC40 Recharge, the brand’s electric SUV based on the XC40, which offers the best of all worlds – the environment friendliness of an EV, the safety suite of a Volvo and all the goodness of an SUV. Flanked on either side by its siblings from within the Volvo family, the XC40 Recharge looked ready to play its part in flagging off the day’s drive.
So far, only the Sohna-Dausa (effectively, Gurugram to Jaipur) leg has been opened to the public, which meant we had roughly 180km of the DME to ourselves. The XC40 Recharge, having arrived with a 100% charge, could easily do the drive both ways! Couldn’t have asked for a better start to the morning, right? With that thought, we lined it up as the lead car in a convoy of five. The XC40 petrol mild hybrid, XC60, S90 and the XC90 would stay in its compact wake. The future of motoring in India, with a car from the future – it just makes so much sense, right?
The XC40 Recharge made a clean start, darting ahead with a noticeable punch as the numbers on the speedo shot up. The dash to 80kph was unbelievably quick and the subsequent 100 and 120 came up in a similarly effortless way as well. The cabin was peaceful – an eerie silence, perhaps amplified by the barren expanse on either side of the DME – and this, for a moment at least, felt a bit other-worldly. How could you be travelling so fast, so smoothly and not hear anything more than perhaps a hint of tyre noise? Come to think of it, it hadn’t even felt as quickly because the DME is four lanes wide, layered with impeccably smooth tarmac, and stretches almost quite literally into the horizon. The sensation of speed drops significantly in a setting of this sort. Honestly, 80kph feels pedestrian.
Seeing as we were here not to incorrectly use this premier expressway as a playground, we in fact slowed down from the 120kph speed limit, so as to be able to satiate our curiosity around this long-awaited project. This expressway is just an incredible feat of engineering, not just for how insightfully it has been designed but also for its sheer scale. The first twenty-five kilometres came up in no time, at which point we were introduced to the first of the many rest areas. These spaces are elaborate complexes devised with the vision of providing rest, entertainment and services that cater to both, private car owners as well as freight transporters. It’s all just larger than life and you’ll have to see it to believe it.
The XC40 Recharge still felt fresh, had barely lost charge and though the temptation to drive the other Volvos was growing, a switch didn’t seem necessary as yet. We rapidly swallowed distances, making light work of it in the pleasant confines of the Recharge, aided by the omnipresent silence. The next 75km were just an experience of uninterrupted driving bliss, the sort you’d so far only associate with elsewhere in the world.
At the 100km mark, we pulled into the services and finally gave in to temptation. You couldn’t be on a fast, flowing expressway – the best in the country by several miles – and not enjoy it in a flamboyant, low-slung sedan, the only one of its kind in this gathering. The S90 did not dishonour the attention showered upon it as it shot off swiftly towards the remainder of the expressway, almost making us forget about the other cars present, momentarily. As Volvos go, the S90 is perhaps the embodiment of everything the brand represents – an understated flamboyance, composure, comfort of a warm kind and yet enough performance to keep you involved. The XC60 is another favourite, with it offering so much wholesome SUV character in a typical Volvo package, and its stability down this high-speed expressway is certainly something you must aspire to experience.
Our day was soon to end, though. We’d spent an entire day filming and photographing the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway for a journey that’s going to take you a couple of hours at max. As the light began fading, Volvo’s flagship SUV, the XC90 became our preferred choice for no greater reason than just how surreal it is. With the setting sun for a view, the XC90’s ostentatious cabin for a perch and some good old 70’s rock for a background score, our time with the DME had truly reached a crescendo.
Those of you who may have done this journey before, via the NH8 perhaps, are really going to appreciate the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway. It’s not just a time-saver, it’s also a whole lot less effort-intensive. Out here, you can focus on enjoying the drive, rather than implementing survival skills. In our case, with a fleet of Volvos to bring us back home safely, this element was only further amplified.
As we drove back towards the capital in the darkness, the realisation of what we had experienced – the true future of road travel in India – began to settle in. It’s a nice feeling to know that, for all the advancements cars have been showcasing, we now have a road to match them too. A true milestone moment, celebrated in a befittingly memorable way, wouldn’t you agree?