The Audi Club India Getaways were introduced in 2014. In its fourth edition, Audi took the club members for a drive from Mumbai to Mahabaleshwar.
Hotel Trident at the Bandra-Kurla Complex in Mumbai was the starting point. After a hearty breakfast, the participants were briefed for the journey ahead by Audi driving experience instructors Rayomand Banajee and Rohitaaz Kumar and each of the 23 Audis was allotted a serial number to keep track of the car on the journey.
Abbey Thomas, head of product and marketing, Audi India, flags off the convoy
The group comprised of Audi owners from all walks of life - Anupama, a physician who'd driven down all the way from Ahmedabad in her Audi Q3 along with her enthusiastic son Kabir; Sanjoli Manchanda, an interior designer who had participated in the Lavassa Women's Drive, with her husband Rohit, in their new Audi A3; Ashish Dhole from Solapur, who runs an automotive components manufacturing firm, in his Audi Q7; Ashwajeet and his wife who joined in the troupe from Indore in their Audi Q3. The list goes on. It was this eclectic mix that headed out to Mahabaleshwar via the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.
Rayomand Banajee instructs the group on the dos and don'ts of a road trip
An unplanned fuel stop at the Expressway past the first toll booth was an opportunity for an impromptu photoshoot. The first official pit-stop, though, was the Audi showroom in Baner, Pune - one of the largest Audi outlets in the country. The display area had nearly every car from the manufacturer including the fantastic new Audi TT sportscar. After a sumptuous brunch there, four more cars joined the entourage - one was a sporty Audi TT (an older generation car) owned by club member Nirmit Parekh. The other two cars - the new Audi Q3 and the A3 Cabriolet, both recently launched in India - joined the convoy, much to the participants delight. And the Getaway was the perfect occasion to showcase these attractive new offerings from Ingolstadt.
The impromptu photo session at the Mumbai-Pune Expressway
Audi had planned the stops well in advance so that those who were driving stayed relaxed and didn't push their limits. These stops, like the one at the Essar petrol pump before the Wai Ghats on the way to Mahabaleshwar, were great opportunities for the club members to interact and get to know each other.
The Audi cars take a breather 50km before the Wai Ghats
Once the convoy hit the ghats, the drive got even more exciting. Sunroofs were opened and photographs were taken. The Cabriolet also followed the fleet with its top down along with the new Audi Q3. The roads on this route are smooth and well surfaced, but a tad narrow. The members who had up till this point been continuously interacting with each other on the radio, were now quietly taking in nature's beauty at its best. There was the intermittent drizzle to go with wind in the hair experience. The group members, mostly city dwellers, were delighted by the greenery and fresh air. After another quick stop at a small restaurant in Wai, the entourage headed out to the final destination - Mahabaleshwar.
Pure mountain air, interspersed with the mist is characteristic of hill stations. This, however, presents a problem for those piloting the machines. The clouds interfere with the vision and speeds automatically drop to allow more cautious driving. The Audi convoy though had little trouble, thanks to the brilliant lighting systems that the cars come equipped with. The radio crackled to life a couple of kilometres before we were to reach the destination. Rayomand asked everyone to keep the windows and sunroofs open to soak in the fresh air. He also instructed us to be careful there were some road patches which were broken that could cause some low-slung Audi sedans with a full load to scrape their bellies. The Q range of vehicles though could easily maintain their pace. Fortunately, ground clearance was no problem for any of the Audis.
Audi customers learn to make pizza and pasta from the chefs at Little Italy
Our stop for the night was the recently opened Hotel Le Meridien in Mahabaleshwar. While the road leading to it was narrow, once we were inside, it was a sprawling property, lush green as far as the eye could see. The rooms themselves were well appointed and luxurious. The later part of the evening saw Audi bring on East India Comedy's Kunal Rao and Sapan Verma who had everyone in splits at the gala dinner that was organised at the Le Meridien.
A fun-filled evening after a day of hard driving
Performers from East India Comedy had the crowd in splits
The following day started with everyone meeting up at breakfast around 6.30am. The day's agenda included visiting nearby scenic points which Mahabaleshwar is famous for. However, heavy downpour the previous night had resulted in some areas of the place being inaccessible. Nevertheless, Harrison's Folly, located 15km away from Le Meridien was where the convoy headed. Legend has it that a British national had built his home at the edge of the plateau. However, due to frequent natural calamity, his home was repeatedly destroyed. Maybe he just wasn't a very good house builder but the story became a part of the local folklore.
One big happy Audi family at Harrison's Folly, Panchgani
Before the drive to Harrison's Folly, the new Audi A3 Cabriolet was showcased to the club members. This provided for a wonderful photo-op for those who were awed by its sheer beauty.
A no overtaking rule was followed religiously in this convoy
The drive to Harrison's Folly saw the convoy again taking to the winding roads. Enroute, the participants had a good look at jam and jelly manufacturer, Mapro's gardens which are famous for their strawberry farms. Though this wasn't the season for the delectable fruit, the various machines used to crush strawberries and other fruits were on display. Once at Harrison's Folly, all the participants were taken in by the spectacular beauty in front of them and were engrossed with taking endless photographs to ensure a lifetime of memories.
The new Audi Q3 joined the convoy from Pune, much to the delight of the participants
Ever the enthusiastic Audi Club members, the Khanolkars pose with the gorgeous Audi A3 Cabriolet
While returning to the hotel, for lunch we stopped at Little Italy, an Italian restaurant. Here, we were taught how to make pizza and pasta by culinary experts. There was quite a lot of fun to be had as some struggled to learn stuff while others were quick to pick up the tricks of the trade. The final dishes were out of this world and even the desserts were equally delicious. The evening back at Le Meridien was capped by a live musical performance prior to which the participants were honoured with interesting titles like the 'liveliest guest', the 'most loved couple' and so on. After this, the guests partied on till the wee hours.
Audi says that this is the only exclusive customer-oriented club that any luxury car manufacturer has in India. These events serve as an excellent platform where the members and the brand get to interact with each other. The next getaway is planned for Agra. If you are an Audi car owner, you can register at www.myaudi.in to join the club.
The requirements A full tank of gas, a nominal registration fee and a good dose of enthusiasm.