Mercedes-Benz launches the pulsAting new A-Class in India

Mercedes-Benz is on a royal roll of late. After years of playing catch-up to BMW and losing out to Audi earlier this year in the booming Indian luxury car market, the brand with the three pointed star seems to be back with a bang. Currently in the midst of a new model launching spree that started with the new GL-Class earlier this month, the German luxury car-maker launched the all-new A-Class in the India today. After the B-Class sports tourer that was launched in 2012, the A-Class is the second model from the company's now-famous, front-wheel-drive Modular Front Architecture (MFA) platform.

Available at an introductory price of INR 21.93 Lakhs for the A 180 CDI diesel variant and INR 22.73 Lakhs for the A 180 Sport petrol variant, the A-Class is the most affordable Mercedes-Benz, not just in India but elsewhere as well. Don't let the '180' badging fool you though. While the diesel variant is powered by a 2.2-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 107 bhp of maximum power and 250 Nm of peak torque, the petrol variant carries a 1.6-liter engine that's good for 121 bhp and 200 Nm of power and torque respectively. Given the popularity of automatic transmissions in luxury cars, both the A-Class variants are mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

What strikes us most about the A-Class is its eye-catching design. The front end especially, with those Bi-Xenon headlights, the huge three-pointed star logo and the studded radiator grille with 302 diamond-like pins in it, is a stunner. As with all new Mercedes-Benz models, the profile is an interplay of two sharp character lines that lend the car an aggressive look. It is here that the resemblance with B-Class is clearly obvious. The rear is relatively modest, but still attractive nonetheless. Ever since its global launch, this third-generation A-Class has become a huge success, giving Mercedes-Benz never-seen-before volumes. Undoubtedly, the car's styling has played a big role in it. Its not surprising then that the A-Class has managed to win a host of awards just for its design and styling.

The interiors are similar to the B-Class too, which means the SLS AMG-inspired air-conditioner vents and the sporty, console-mounted infotainment controller with a 14.7-cm colour display are the major attention grabbers. It could be classified a premium hatchback, but that hasn't stopped Mercedes-Benz from loading the A-Class to the gills. Apart from all the regular creature comforts, the A-Class also comes with cruise control, ECO start/stop function, electric parking brake, Antilock Braking System (ABS) with Brake Assist (BA), Attention Assist, Hill Start Assist, Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Acceleration Skid Control (ASR) and a full complement of seven Airbags including a Knee Airbag for the driver. That it comes with segment-defying passenger and boot space for hatchbacks is an added bonus.

It is clear that, with the A-Class, Mercedes-Benz is targeting the young and affluent Indians. As part of it, the company has devised a Total Cost of Ownership for the New Generation Cars (NGC segment) with unique products like Star Ease and Star Care. In addition to the A-Class, the upcoming CLA four-door coupe and GLA crossover are also likely to be part of this.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Eberhard Kern, Managing Director & CEO, Mercedes-Benz India commented, “With the new A-Class, Mercedes-Benz now pioneers the Compact Luxury segment in India which reflects the changing customer trend of compact being equated to cool and trendy. The A-Class embodies the changing preference of the youth in today’s social milieu who increasingly prefer compact luxury. The A-Class is also one of the safest cars with 11 drive assistance systems; and is India’s most fuel efficient luxury car with 1000 kms run in a full tank of diesel, having a Cd (Co-efficient of Drag) of 0.27. The A-Class boasts of endless equipment options including a world-class in-car infotainment system. We are confident that the dynamic design and class leading performance is sure to make the A-Class the choice of the new generation.”

Looking at the car, we don't doubt Mr. Kern's claims at all. But, will the Indian public give the A-Class a thumbs up? Will this baby Benz shake up the traditional Indian mindset that fails to associate hatchbacks with anything more than 8 Lakh Rupees? Will Mercedes-Benz get a head-start in the compact luxury segment against BMW and Audi? A whole lot of questions remain to be answered.


Mercedes-Benz launches the new GL-Class luxury SUV in India

German luxury car-maker Mercedes-Benz is on a royal roll. Just a day after unveiling the all-new S-Class sedan to the world in Germany, the company launched the second-generation GL-Class Sports Utility Vehicle in India today. Doing the honors for Mercedes-Benz was the legendary Boris Becker, the former World No.1 tennis player. Though there are plans to assemble the GL-Class in India later, the only variant that's available on sale at the moment is the "Launch Edition" that is imported as a Completely Built Unit into the country.

Priced at INR 77.50 Lakhs ex-showroom Delhi, this limited edition variant has exclusive features such as AMG body kit comprising front and rear apron, 21-inch AMG light-alloy wheels, aluminium finish running board with LED illumination, flared wheel arches and a 'Designo Exclusive Interior Package' with special leather upholstery, heated seats and temperature-controlled cup holders.

The first-generation GL-Class itself was big. Coming in longer, taller and wider than its predecessor, the new GL is nothing short of humongous. Designers at Mercedes-Benz though have done a nice job as the new GL doesn't look as big and bulky as the previous model. The front end is characterized by the sharp-cut headlights flanking a huge radiator grille with twin chrome strips that houses the three-pointed star. The slim LED Daytime Running Lamps are typical Mercedes stuff. As with most other large SUVs, the profile is nothing spectacular to write about while the rear end with its two piece taillights with fiber optic cables adds to the dynamic and robust appeal of the GL.

All this size translates into an extremely spacious interiors with three rows of seating, the last of which offers ample space to seat full-sized adults comfortably. The interiors are a high-quality affair comprising a mix of leather, metal and wood. As with other models in the Mercedes-Benz lineup, a full gamut of comfort and safety features find their place in the new GL too. The list includes seven Airbags, Antilock Braking System, Electronic Stability Program (ESP) with trailer stabilization, PRESAFE occupant protection system, AIRMATIC suspension package, PARKTRONIC parking assist, Attention Assist, Crosswind Assist, Downhill Speed Regulator and the latest multimedia COMMAND system with Bluetooth interface, hands-free function, 7.0-inch TFT colour display as well as a browser and GPS.

Powered by a 2987cc, V6 diesel engine that produces a whopping 619 Nm of torque, the GL is capable of tackling toughest of terrains and also good for long distance cruising. Coupled with the 7G-TRONIC Plus Automatic transmission, the new GL 350 CDI can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in just 7.9 seconds and reach a top speed of 220 km/h. When we drove the previous GL-Class in Ladakh, we came back thoroughly impressed with its off-roading abilities and we expect the new GL to be no slouch either.

So, will the new GL-Class finally dethrone the hot-selling Audi Q7 as the favourite luxury SUV of India? If the sales performance of the new ML-Class is any indication, there are fair chances of that happening. Let's wait and watch.

Mercedes-Benz takes the wraps off the all-new S-Class

This is it, ladies and gentlemen! One of the most important automobile launches of the last few years happened late evening yesterday, as Mercedes-Benz, after a series of agonizing teasers that made us wait with bated breath, took the wraps off the all-new S-Class sedan at a grand event in Hamburg, Germany. Widely considered the world's best car, the S-Class is the flagship model of the Mercedes-Benz brand and the best-selling luxury car in the world. The all-new model, internally code-named W222, is expected to continue from where its predecessor left, which is at the very top of the luxury car segment.

Looking at the official photographs released by Mercedes-Benz, 'classy' is the word that defines the new S-Class. Starting from the amazingly-detailed headlights, each with up to 56 LEDs, that drops down towards the large, chrome-lined radiator grille, moving across the profile where a couple of dropping character lines oozes athleticism, to the sloping and sexy rear end with striking taillights, each with up to 35 LEDs in three horizontally-arranged fiber optic cables, the S-Class, true to its name, is in a class of its own. The coefficient of drag is just 0.24, making this car a wind cheater. Of course, there would be some who aren't fond of this new design language from Mercedes-Benz, but we aren't one of them. Not only does the new S-Class convey a message of luxury and class, it does so flamboyantly. While the design of the Audi A8 might find favour with those seeking ‘elegance’ and the looks of the BMW 7-Series might cater to those with ‘sporty’ intentions, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, according to us, combines the best of both worlds.

The sedan, measuring 5116 mm in length, 1899 mm in width and 1483 mm in height, is available with two wheelbase options. While the short-wheelbase variant comes with a whopping 3035 mm wheelbase itself, the long-wheelbase variant adds another 130 mm.

Four engine variants are offered initially. The S 350 BLUETEC with a 3.0-liter V6 diesel engine develops 258 hp and 620 Nm of torque and the S 500 with a 4.7-liter V8 petrol engine develops 455 hp and 700 Nm of torque. For the environment-conscious, there is the S 300 BLUETEC Hybrid with a 2.1-liter 4-cylinder diesel engine producing 204 hp and 500 Nm of torque and the range-topping S 400 Hybrid with a 3.5-liter V6 petrol engine that’s good for 306 hp and 370 Nm of torque. More options, including powerful AMG variants, are expected to join the lineup later.

As is the norm with every new generation of S-Class, a host of new technological advancements aimed at pampering and protecting the occupants also made their debut along with the car.

Summarizing bits and pieces from the unbelievably long press release issued by the company, the interiors are a mix of hand-stitched leather, polished metal with 'pearl-effect' paint finish and high-quality wood. There are two high-resolution TFT colour displays in the dashboard that act as the instrument cluster and the infotainment screen. Among the features are a touch-sensitive telephone keypad and LINGUATRONIC Speech Dialog System that can even read out our SMS and e-mails. Large, circular, metallic air vents dominate the fascia as does the unique, two-spoke steering wheel. Individual climate control for front and rear occupants with an "Air Balance Package" that ionizes, filters and perfumes the air entering the cabin is first of its kind in the world. A choice of 5 rear seat variants are offered including a "First Class Rear Seat" that comes with individual seats with ENERGIZING massage function and a rear center console. And then, there is the "Warmth and Comfort Package" that comes with heated seats, steering wheel and armrests. Around 300 LEDs in the cabin offer seven hues, five dimming levels and four dimming zones.

As always, safety is a priority in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Widespread use of aluminium, including the entire outer skin, roof and body-shell ensures that the weight is kept in check despite a high level of safety and rigidity. The ground-breaking PRE-SAFE anticipatory occupant protection system introduced by Mercedes-Benz in the S-Class ten years ago is now more advanced than ever and can prevent collisions with vehicles and pedestrians in front by automatically adjusting and boosting the brake pressure, can defuse rear-end collisions by warning the vehicle behind and applying the brakes firmly to prevent whiplash injuries on impact and enhance the protection offered by seat belts by sensing the situation in advance.

Features such as Active Parking Assist that steers, brakes and parks the vehicle automatically demanding minimum inputs from the driver, DISTRONIC PLUS with Steering Assist and Stop&Go Assist that’s capable of following vehicles in traffic jams automatically, Active Lane Keeping Assist that can detect broken lane markings, Night View Assist Plus that warns the driver of obstructions in unlit areas, Brake Assist Plus with Cross-Traffic Assist that detects traffic and pedestrians in road intersections and boosts braking automatically, Adaptive High-beam Assist Plus that allows high-beams without dazzling oncoming traffic and ATTENTION ASSIST that warns the driver if it detects him being drowsy or inattentive are clubbed together as “Intelligent Drive”.

In what is yet another world’s first, the S-Class comes with a suspension system that can ‘see’ the road ahead, literally. Yes, if the ROAD SURFACE SCAN detects unevenness in the road through its stereo camera, the “Magic Body Control” sets up the suspension in advance to deal with the road condition. As much as we are astonished with this feature, we are wondering about this system’s effectiveness in India where most roads are almost always uneven. All other regulars such as Antilock Braking System, Electronic Stability Program and a full complement of Airbags that includes an airbag for the seat belts called ‘Beltbag’ and an airbag for the seat cushions called ‘Cushion Bag’ are also available, making the S-Class a top contender for ‘the safest mobile thing’ on earth.

That’s not all, there is more in the new S-Class as detailed in the press release that can be checked out in the global Mercedes-Benz website. Unlike the previous two generations that were only produced in sedan body-style, the new S-Class will also have a “Pullman” limousine that’s intended to be a replacement for the now-defunct Maybach brand and a “Coupe” that might eventually replace the CL-Class. Until then, let’s revel in the glory of the sedan.


Mercedes-Benz S-Class: A look into its chequered history

Automotive journalists are a rare species who, despite doing a seemingly similar job of driving and testing automobiles, come out with starkly different opinions about the same automobile. But, if there is something that they all unanimously agree to, it ought to be the choice of "the best car in the world". Never a point of debate, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class has held onto this unofficial title ever since it made its debut. For decades together, spanning across a series of generations and withstanding a gamut of competition from Cadillac initially, BMW and Audi afterwards and Lexus of late, the S-Class has always been the benchmark against which the automotive industry is measured.

We wouldn't be exaggerating if we advise you to sit in an S-Class today to know what features would be available in our family hatchbacks and sedans a decade down the line. Such advanced has been the engineering aspects, safety features and creature comforts in every generation of the S-Class.

When the next generation model of such an automobile is making its debut in the next few days, it ought to be celebrated. What better way to mark the occasion than looking back at the history of the car itself? That's what we have set out to do. The origin of the S-Class is always debatable. But, to keep things simple, we would restrict this post to models that were officially designated as 'S-Class' and skip those that are considered to be their ancestors.

W116 Series (1972 - 1980)

In September 1972, Mercedes-Benz presented a brand-new premium-class vehicle to the public that, for the first time ever, was officially labelled 'S-Class'. In many ways, this was a ground-breaking model for Mercedes-Benz, one that brought the company's focus on safety to the forefront.

The W116 Series boasts of several 'firsts' in the passenger car industry including padded door trim, heavily padded safety steering wheel with an impact absorber, wind deflectors in the A-Pillars that also served as channels for dripping water in case of rain, wrap-around indicator lamps for better visibility from the sides and ribbed taillights that could prevent soiling in the recessed surfaces. From 1978, a sensational technical innovation called "Anti-lock Brake System (ABS)", that was developed jointly with Bosch, was offered in the W116 S-Class models. Most of these so-called 'premium' features are now standard in even the most affordable hatchbacks.

After a production run of 473,035 units, the last of the W116 S-Class models rolled out in September 1980.

W126 Series (1979 - 1991)

At the IAA in Frankfurt in September 1979, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the successor to the W116 S-Class sedan that was internally designated as W126. This series is instantly identifiable as these cars were the first Mercedes-Benz model ever to have plastic bumpers instead of the metal bumper bars that was the norm then.

That's not all, the W126 S-Class models were the first passenger cars to meet the frontal offset crash criteria, having withstood an offset crash test at a speed of 55 km/h. If it was ABS for the industry in W116, it was the "Supplemental Restraint System (SRS)" in the W126. Though Airbags were introduced by other manufacturers, it was Mercedes-Benz that integrated them with the seat belts and the pre-tensioners, forming a restraint system. At one point, the W126 S-Class had variants powered by a massive 5.6-liter engine (560 SEL and 560 SEC) that were good for 300 hp of power and were the most powerful Mercedes-Benz models on sale.

In just over 12 years, a total of 818,036 units of W126 S-Class sedans were sold to customers, making this the most successful S-Class ever.

W140 Series (1991 - 1998)

In March 1991, a new generation of S-Class internally codenamed W140 made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show. More than anything else, the W140 S-Class will always be remembered for growing enormously in size, in specifications, in features and, of course, in cost as well.

Flagship variant of the W140 S-Class (600 SEL) had the distinction of being powered by the first series-produced 12-cylinder engine in the history of Mercedes-Benz with specifications that read 6.0 liters of displacement, 408 hp of power and 580 Nm of peak torque. With a price that was almost 25% more than its predecessor, the W140 S-Class boasted of features such as double-pane window glazing, self-closing boot lid and doors, power windows that could detect obstacles, power mirrors that could not only open and close but also capable of adjusting the angles with the touch of a button and rear parking markers that extend out from the rear fenders once the reverse gear is selected. In 1996, yet another innovation was gifted to the automotive industry with the introduction of "Brake Assist" system that was able to recognize panic braking and boost brake power, thus shortening stopping distances. Think of it, a premium hatchback like the i20 now comes with these features and much more. 

Another significant occurrence with the W140 series were the new model designations introduced by Mercedes-Benz that put the class of the car ahead of the numbers. For instance, the 500 SE became the S 500 and the new naming nomenclature remains unchanged to this day.

Despite such big innovations, just 406, 532 W140 S-Class sedans were produced, which is just half of what the W126 series managed.

W220 Series (1998 - 2005)

Making its debut at the Paris Motor Show in 1998, the W220 S-Class marked a departure from the boxy styling that the S-Class traditionally had. Despite being smaller than the W140 series, the W220 S-Class somehow managed to offer similar interior space to the occupants, thanks to some brilliant packaging.

What didn't change though was the practice of introducing technical innovations, with the W220 S-Class boasting almost 30 such features. It included the DISTRONIC autonomous intelligent cruise control, navigation system with integrated congestion warning, AIRMATIC air suspension system, Active Ventilated Seats with fans inside for circulating air through pores, a cylinder shut-off system called Active Cylinder Control in the S 500 V8 variant and the fantastic PRE-SAFE preventive occupant protection system that's capable of recognizing an impending accident and prepare the vehicle accordingly. The W220 Series also had the AMG touch with a 6.0-liter, 612 hp, V12 twin-turbo engine that made the S 65 AMG variant not only the most powerful S-Class ever, but also the world's most powerful production sedan.

Such technical innovations meant that the W220 S-Class sedans took a hit in their reliability ratings, with fans across the world remarking that the W140 S-Class was the last of the traditional-virtued Mercedes-Benz models. In its 7-year life span, a total of 485,000 units of the W220 S-Class sedans were produced.

W221 Series (2005 - Present)

Making its debut at the 2005 Frankfurt Motor Show, the W221 series replaced the W220 series. Just like its predecessor, this series is also produced only in sedan body-style as the coupes are labelled under 'CL' nomenclature. Unlike its predecessors that were either over-engineered and expensive (W140) or lost out in reliability (W220), the W221 struck a perfect balance in terms of design, engineering, size and cost.

Despite being bigger than the W220 series, usage of aluminium in the hood, trunk lid, doors and front fenders meant that the W221 S-Class models weren't as heavy, thereby reducing fuel consumption and increasing agility. As usual, high-tech features like LCD instrument panel, Night View infra-red camera for spotting objects in the dark and advanced versions of Brake Assist Plus, DISTRONIC Plus and PRE-SAFE systems ensured that the S-Class remained at the top of its game. Though a number of power-train options including Hybrid and Diesel variants were offered, the strikingly quick S 65 AMG, capable of accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h in just around 4.2 seconds remains the hot favourite amongst enthusiasts.

The W221 S-Class continues to rule the world of luxury cars to this day, but it is not going to last long. Once the next-generation model (internally code-named 'W222') debuts, the W221 S-Class series would slowly be pulled out of production lines, making way for the more promising, more pleasing and, quite possibly, more technology-laden W222 series.

Here is a teaser picture of the W222 S-Class released by Mercedes-Benz. Though a fully revealing picture and the full brochure of the new S-Class has already leaked online, we wouldn't want to break the ice until the company does it themselves. Wait for it!

Now that you know all about the S-Class, don't forget to remember this car the next time you encounter an ABS-enabled panic stop or enjoy the comforts of a rear parking sensor with display in the center console. Just like most others, we at Anything on Wheels just can't wait to get behind the wheels of the W222 S-Class, but let's see if we have the fortune of doing so.

Data Sources:

* Daimler Press Release "The Mercedes-Benz S-Class: Always impeccably dressed" dated May-2009

* Mercedes-Benz Facebook Page


Chevrolet launches Enjoy MPV in India

China and India might be totally different on a lot of parameters, but when it comes to automobiles, what’s working in the former will most definitely work in the latter. No, we aren’t making this statement. Rather, General Motors seems to have adopted this strategy when it comes to planning new models for the Indian market.

Not long after introducing the Sail U-VA hatchback and the Sail sedan, GM is continuing its launch spree as it introduced the Enjoy multi-purpose vehicle in India today. Following a policy similar to that of the Sail twins, the Enjoy is an ‘adapted for India’ version of a top-selling Chinese model that was developed out of a joint-venture between GM and SAIC. Sold under ‘Wuling’ brand in China, the Enjoy is badged a Chevrolet in India and will be up against the likes of Maruti-Suzuki Ertiga, Mahindra Xylo and Nissan Evalia.

Offered with both petrol and diesel engine options, the Chevrolet Enjoy is going on sale with 4 variants each – LS (8-seater), LS, LT and LTZ. While the petrol variants are priced at INR 5.49 Lakhs, 5.54 Lakhs, 6.31 Lakhs and 6.99 Lakhs, the diesel variants retail for INR 6.69 Lakhs, 6.75 Lakhs, 7.42 Lakhs and 7.99 Lakhs respectively. Looking at these ex-showroom Delhi numbers, it is evident that GM is pretty bullish about selling this product.

The diesel variants are powered by the familiar 1.3-liter, 4-cylinder engine that pumps out 77.5 PS of maximum power at 4000 rpm and 188 Nm of peak torque at 1750 rpm. The 1.4-liter petrol engine on the other hand is good for a maximum power of 104 PS at 6000 rpm and a peak torque of 131 Nm at 4400 rpm. Both the engines are mated to a 5-speed manual transmission.

Multi-Purpose Vehicles aren’t usually expected to look good and the Chevrolet Enjoy takes this to its advantage. With a conservative design approach, the Enjoy neither offends nor attracts. Of course, the chrome-lined grille, the leaf-shaped fog-lamps, the kink in the headlights that extend as character lines on both sides and the huge, vertical taillights add some spice to the otherwise bland looks of the Enjoy. Going by the pictures released by General Motors, the story inside doesn’t seem to be dissimilar. The dashboard and the rest of the interiors are strictly conservative too, with the center console and steering wheel bordering on looking outdated.

The Enjoy redeems itself to some extent with the features on offer though, with even the base LS variant getting power steering, power windows, tachometer, air-conditioning for the second and third rows, body-colored bumpers and captain seats with adjustable hand-rests in the first two rows on the 7-seater variant. The LT variant adds all other essential features such as tilt steering, power mirrors, integrated audio system with USB and Aux-in slots, adjustable head-rests on all rows, reverse parking sensor and rear wiper and washer. The top-end LTZ variant comes equipped with the driver and passenger airbags and ABS with EBD (Electronic Brake-force Distribution).

Though the Sail U-VA has failed to take off in India, the Sail sedan is managing respectable numbers and Chevrolet would be hoping to do the same with the Enjoy. Despite its conservative looks inside and out, the spacious interiors, flexibility of seating three rows of passengers and adequate features on offer makes it an attractive proposition. Will the Indians enjoy the Enjoy? Let's wait and watch.


Travelogue #10 - Chennai to Pitchavaram

The deadly tsunami that hit the southern states of India along with many other south Asian countries was an eye-opener of sorts on what nature is capable of unleashing on us humans. It also proved how nature’s own creations could help save us from such catastrophes as well. Pitchavaram, located in the Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu and home to one of the world’s largest mangrove forest cover, is a classic example.

As ironical as it may sound, Pitchavaram actually shot to fame after the 2004 tsunami as the villages in and around miraculously escaped the devastation that the tidal waves effected elsewhere in Tamil Nadu and the rest of India. The thick forest cover, with roots so dense and interspersed across a huge area, acted as a dampener, reducing the intensity and velocity with which the waves hit the shore, saving precious lives.

A chance to drive along the scenic East Coast Road is something that we wouldn’t miss on any given day. Combine that with the added advantage of exploring a destination as promising as Pitchavaram and it becomes a double delight. We might have said this earlier, but we are saying it again and, most probably, would say it sometime in the future as well. Driving in ECR is so much fun with the smooth road surface, the scenic coastline and the numerous curves all along providing a great driving experience. Remember to exercise caution though and stay within your limits.

Having planned this drive on a Sunday, starting early was the only way we could beat the mad weekend traffic on the ECR. The boat house in Pitchavaram opens at around 08:30 AM and the best bet is to reach the place before that. Remember, summer in Tamil Nadu could be unforgiving and the earlier we reach the place, the better. As planned, we drove along the ECR up to Cuddalore and then turned on to NH 45-A towards Chidambaram. Strangely, almost until we reached the place itself, we couldn't spot even a single signboard telling us about Pitchavaram. Located just 15-odd kilometers before Chidambaram, the Pitchavaram mangrove forest is located between two estuaries formed by the Vellar and Coleroon rivers.

No amount of stories that you hear about it or the research that you do in the internet would prepare you for the visual feast at the location. You will have to see it in person to truly understand the depth and intensity of this unique biotope that is said to be supporting the existence of a number of varieties of fishes and birds. As you start venturing into the backwaters, the mangroves that appear as a distant speck at first gradually grows dense and, at some point, is all around you. Its quite an experience to trundle along in the artificial caves formed by the mangroves, using the roots to move forward. Remember, the dense growth of roots around would render the rows of the boat unusable.

A couple of hours into the ride takes us to a secluded beach, something that we rarely see these days. We are allowed to spend time on the beach while our boatmen wait for us to start the return journey. Overall, we quite liked what we saw and are sure that you will like it too when you visit the place.



* Total No of Days: 1 (28.04.2013)
* Vehicle Make & Model: Honda Civic

* Odometer Start Reading: 50774 km
* Odometer End Reading: 51193 km
* Total Distance traveled: 419 km
* No of Toll Booths: 1
* Money spent on Toll & Parking: Rs. 140

* Total Quantity of Fuel filled: 34.34 l
* Average Fuel Consumption: 12.20 km/l
* Money spent on Fuel: Rs. 2310

* Destinations Covered: Pitchavaram
* Route Followed: Chennai-Puducherry-Cuddalore-Pitchavaram



The Honda Civic, which has now become our trusted partner for many a long drives, made for a perfect companion to this journey. While the smooth i-VTEC engine ensured that we never ran out of power for those overtaking errands, the superb handling made us feel at home in the tight and twisty ECR. If only the rear suspension was a bit stiffer and the ride quality was more absorbent, the car would have been just perfect on all aspects.

If you are in Chennai and looking for a place to go on a day's outing, Pitchavaram is an ideal destination. Remember, you will have to overcome the lure of ECR's many picnic spots and Puducherry on the way. Unless you are either extremely lucky or you have planned your trip during the monsoons, brace yourself to face the scorching sun. When we were there at Pitchavaram, the infamous Tamil Nadu summer was at its peak, but that didn't stop us from having as much fun as possible.

Staying at home and resting in air-conditioned comfort might be the idea of a perfect weekend for some, but not for us. For those of you who are like us, happy driving!