It's not easy to create an annual property so good that automobile journalists from across India wait for its arrival every year, hoping to explore the unexplored. That's exactly what Honda has managed to do with its annual expedition series - Drive To Discover - which has entered its seventh year now. After traversing through the corners of India, Honda decided to explore the central part of the country, known for its wilderness and, more specifically, the mighty Tiger Safaris.
So when Honda approached us for Drive to Discover 7, we felt so lucky that not only we decided to embark on this journey, but also spot one of the tigers in its full glory at the Pench National Park - the park that Rudyard Kipling got inspired from and created the folklore - The Jungle Book. Here's our experience and everything else you need to know about the Honda Drive To Discover 7!
What's This All About?
Honda Drive To Discover is an annual drive event organized by the Japanese automaker Honda, unravelling some of the unchartered territories of India. Entering its 7th year now, Honda Drive To Discover has previously traversed from Rajasthan in West to Jammu & Kashmir in North and Kerala in South. This time around, Honda decided to explore the Central India, passing through some of the scenic routes of Madhya Pradesh.
The route for the Drive To Discover 7 was a rather exotic one, covering 4 of the most enthralling national parks of India. The drive started from Nagpur, which is closer to Pench National Park and moved westwards towards the Kanha National Park. From Kanha National Park, we drove towards Bandhavgarh National Park and our last stop was the famous UNESCO heritage site - Khajurao. Here's the approximate distance of our legs -
Leg 1 - Nagpur to Pench National Park - 150 km
Leg 2 - Pench National Park to Kanha National Park - 200 km
Leg 3 - Kanha National Park to Bandhavgarh National Park - 300 km
Leg 4 - Bandhavgarh National Park to Khajurao - 270 km
If we look at the history of Drive To Discover expeditions, Honda has refrained itself from using the entire fleet cars for drives and usually stuck to 1-2 cars depending on the route and roads. This time around, though, it was a special drive for Honda as the entire fleet of Honda cars was available for the drive. We were told that Mr. Yoichiro Ueno, President and CEO - Honda Cars India was inclined towards letting us drive each and every car in the Honda's portfolio. Here's a list of cars that were available to us for the Drive To Discovery 7 - Honda Brio, Honda Amaze, Honda Jazz, Honda BR-V, Honda City, Honda CR-V, Honda Accord.
We mostly drove the Honda Amaze Diesel, Honda Jazz Petrol and Honda BR-V Diesel for my expedition. Here's my leg-wise analysis of the car's performance-
Leg 1 - Honda Amaze i-DTEC
For Leg 1, we drove the Honda Amaze i-DTEC powered by a 1.5-litre diesel engine, producing 100 PS of power. The road offered us a mix of tarmac and potholes, enabling us to check both the acceleration and top speed along with suspension and ride quality. Needless to say, 100 PS power is one of the best power output in this segment and we were doing illegal speeds even before we knew it. The claimed 25+kmpl mileage figure is among the best too for a car of this size, sadly, we managed to get only 17-18kmpl on highway run. Maybe our constant pushing of the car is the reason for the drop in mileage. While everything else about the car is good, we are still not liking the strong diesel clutter, which was easy to hear in desolate roads of M.P.
Leg 2&3 - Honda Jazz i-VTEC
Our next car was the immensely roomy, premium hatchback Honda Jazz with the 1.2-litre i-VTEC petrol engine producing 90 PS of power and a 5-speed manual gearbox. From the start of our journey (Pench), to the end of our day (Bandhavgarh), Jazz kept us going, even though, we drove more than 500 kms on some of the worst roads in India. On one tankful, Jazz completed the day with an ease, which we doubted any other car could do. But to our amaze, all the cars and their drivers were happy enough, even after a tiresome day.
Khajurao - Honda BR-V
We decided to stick to our Honda Jazz for the Leg 4 of the journey from Bandhavgarh to Khajurao. This finishes our journey from Pench to Khajurao, but we couldn't stop ourselves from getting behind the wheel of BR-V, even though it was for a short time, and mostly for a city ride. The BR-V we drove was powered by a 1.5-litre i-DTEC diesel engine with the same 100PS power output and a 6-speed manual gearbox. We really liked the boot space and legroom inside the BR-V and also the fact that it has a really silent diesel motor.
Obviously, roads are the most crucial aspect when you go out for a drive and for our 1000 odd km drive, we have a strong negative feeling about the road network in M.P. The roads from Nagpur to Pench were not in their best of shape, due to the widening and repairing of certain sections. From Pench to Kanha, roads were a mix of well-laid tarmac and broken patches. It was the impressive stretch of 100 km from Mandala to Shahpura on the way to Bandhavgarh that was the highlight of the drive. From Bandhavgarh to Khajurao, roads are more or less fine, with occasional broken patched near towns.
Things We Did
The Drive To Discover 7 expedition was full of interesting places and worth a second visit. Here's what we saw and liked during our journey-
1. Pench National Park is widely known for the inspiration it provided to Rudyard Kipling for writing the Jungle book and its main protagonist Mowgli. It has some of the best looking road trails and grass lands.
2. We spotted a Tiger in its natural habitat and what an experience it was! From the time we first saw some moment in the bushes, to the Tiger actually standing just a few metres away from our car was no shot of a suspense thriller.
3. The early morning Bandhavgarh Safari in the winters was bone-chilling, but once the morning sun was out, the whole topography became insanely beautiful.
4. The road connecting Mandala to Shahpura, enroute Kanha to Bandhavgarh is one of the most scenic and well-built roads in India. Worth a drive if you are visiting M.P anytime soon.
5. Khajurao temples were not only grand, but had some really enchanting history attached to them. The level of detailing and story-telling each temple depicts, you will be amazed to hear about them. A must watch we would say!
1. Madhya Pradesh roads are filled with cattle all around and one can't be too careful while passing these cows. Special care has to be taken while driving at night. A black cow on black night and black road is a perfect camouflage and can be a trouble if you are driving too fast.
2. People, dogs, goats, cows all live on the road and we mean it. Even after constant honking, no one will get off the road and can be a little annoying at times.
3. The roads are in a very bad condition throughout and can cause exertion if you are driving for long. Try taking breaks every now and then to relive the stress.
4. If you are going for an early morning safari, don't forget to pack an extra layer of clothing in winters. The safari cars are custom built to give an all-around view of the forest and are open, making it difficult to sustain cold winds in the morning.
5. Pench National Park is closer to Nagpur Airport, has a better topography and higher chances of spotting a Tiger.
900 kms of journey, passing through 4 National Parks of India and 4 brilliant fun filled days. The Honda Drive To Discover 7 was one awesome expedition, taking us through the length and breadth of the Central India. The cherry on the cake was the brilliantly engineered Honda cars and all of them took a lot of pounding upon themselves. If you ever get a chance to be part of the Driver To Discover journey, don't loose the opportunity, for it's not always about the destination, but the memories you create while travelling!