The NH8 is a great highway to munch miles on, but has a lot of potholes

Every year during Diwali holidays, we have a family tradition of heading out for a road trip. Now, I’ve been to Udaipur a lot of times but my family had been there just once so this time we decided to drive down to Udaipur during the festive season and unwind a bit. We were just three people and some luggage but decided to take an SUV because our roads can throw unexpected surprises!

Festive season meant the highway was comparatively emptier

The Mahindra XUV700 was my vehicle of choice for this trip and I had the diesel manual AX7L variant with me. I’ve actually driven the petrol auto and diesel auto variants very extensively but I had driven the diesel manual just once during the first drive of the SUV at Mahindra’s SUV Proving Track back in 2021 which is why I wanted to get a proper taste of the diesel MT on a longish drive.

The AX7L variant gets a very exhaustive list of features and tech

We packed our bags, folded the third row seats and set out from Mumbai at a rather late 10:30 AM. I was expecting traffic on the way at the dreaded Fountain junction but it was surprisingly empty (maybe because of the holiday) and we were out of Mumbai quickly. The highway was in pretty average condition at a lot of places and there were more than a few potholes. I had nothing to worry about thanks to the XUV’s sturdy tyres and durable suspension and I didn’t have to slow down a lot every time we crossed a bump.

The XUV700 sportingly went off the road in Gujarat!

The roads started getting better towards Gujarat and I was maintaining a good pace. I had turned off the Lane Keep Assist and AEB features because I personally find them a bit too intrusive; in fact I do this in every ADAS-enabled car that I drive. I had set the cruise control to 90 km/hr (speed limit was 100) and traffic was actually very sparse that day. We stopped in Valsad for lunch around 1:30 PM and then continued onwards to Vadodara where we reached by 5:30 PM. The plan was to stay here for a day or two because of the festivities.

The quality of the roads improves so much once you exit Maharashtra

In the evening, we headed out to a couple of different places for food and six of us were travelling in the car. My cousins found the last row comfortable for an hour long drive and they had good fun playing around with all the tech in the car. I drove for close to 450 kms on day 1 and the fuel tank was still at half capacity. I had stalled the car on a speed breaker in Gujarat and after re-starting, the instrument cluster started showing a “Hill Hold Control Error” warning. I re-started the car and the warning vanished.

Found this lovely spot to click photos just before entering Udaipur

After spending a day in Vadodara we left for Udaipur. I always take the Godhra route via Halol while going to or coming from Udaipur and this time it was no different. The road is in decent shape and though it isn’t very wide and has some local traffic, it really cuts down the travel time compared to the Ahmedabad route. It took us around 5 hours to reach Udaipur with a non-stop drive. Once we entered Rajasthan, the roads really opened up and I must say Rajasthan has some of the best roads in the country. Nicely paved wide highways with smooth curves meant I had a blast driving the XUV700 here. The diesel engine always feels very responsive and power is instantly available at the tap of the throttle.

The XUV700 diesel manual did almost 800 kms on a full tank

The trip meter hit 792 kms and the reserve fuel light came on. The XUV700 actually reached Udaipur without a single fuel stop and the average fuel economy was close to 16.5 km/l which is excellent for such a powerful and heavy SUV. I fuelled up on the highway itself and the tank took in around 45-litres of diesel. We then drove down to our hotel which was bang in the middle of the city, parked the car and relaxed for a bit before heading out.

XUV700 taking a break near Lake Fateh Sagar. Looks beautiful!

I love the food delicacies that Rajasthan has to offer and I wanted to have different chaats in the evening. We drove down to Sukhadia circle, parked the car a little ahead at a safe spot and walked here. It was extremely crowded and the place was bustling with people. I had a quick bite and then we decided to head to one of the nicer restaurants by the lake for a quiet dinner. The drive to Fateh Sagar Lake took around 20 mins and we found a nice restaurant with terrace seating, with a great view of the lake. The ambience was terrific and the climate was also very pleasant. We retired for the day after a sumptuous dinner.

No trip to Udaipur is complete without a visit to JMB

After a late breakfast the next day, we again went exploring in the city and went to the lake too to click some photos. After that, my family wanted to do some local shopping and we had to buy some savouries from JMB which is a very popular sweet shop in Udaipur. Some of the internal roads in Udaipur can get quite cramped during peak hours and finding parking may become difficult, in that case I’d suggest leaving the car at the hotel and using rickshaws for local short trips. Rickshaws don’t ply by the meter here and the drivers quote absurd charges so make sure you negotiate properly.

Apple CarPlay wasn’t activated on our car yet

Later in the day, we left for Vadodara via the same Godhra route but it took us close to 6 hours to reach because of the evening traffic in the city. The XUV700 was keeping all of us comfortable. I was the sole driver throughout this trip and my only grouse is that Apple CarPlay wasn’t activated on the car yet which meant I had to keep looking into my phone while using navigation.

This is the kind of luggage the XUV700 gulped down during a shoot of ours

After spending a day in Vadodara again to wrap up some work, we left for Mumbai. Started at 5:30 in the morning, stopped for a quick bite again in Valsad at 9:00 and then had a fuel stop just after Daman. The vehicle had done 820 kms on a full tank this time (I had fuelled up before entering Udaipur). There wasn’t much traffic as such but there was some congestion before entering Mumbai and we reached home by 12:30 which is decent.

1929 kms of fatigue-free and wholesome driving

My family has some sort of new-found liking for the Mahindra XUV700 after this trip and rightly so. In fact, I really enjoyed the drive too and the next day I had a shoot in Pune for which I ended up taking the XUV700 again because there was a lot of video equipment to be carried with us as we were heading to an off-beat location. All in all, I drove this vehicle for a little over 1900 kms in a span of 7 days. I was initially worried about the manual because I thought it could get cumbersome but the light clutch and the comfy seating position meant there was barely any fatigue even after long hours behind the wheel. I said goodbye to the 700 after returning to Mumbai but I hope to see this car again soon.

Drove the XUV700 on an air strip before exchanging final goodbyes with it