There’s noth­ing quite like good ride qual­ity and dy­nam­ics when you de­cide to go tour­ing. We delve over it dur­ing our drive to the ASI sites of Ajanta and El­lora


Noth­ing like a road­trip to ap­pre­ci­ate the dy­nam­ics of a car

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN on a bul­lock cart? Large fixed wooden wheels hold­ing up an open cab, the only form of lat­eral move­ment be­ing the arm that joins a hinge that is con­nected to the bul­lock. Now imag­ine the cart hit­ting a pot­hole at 100kmph… Of course it won’t but if it did, you’d be flung in the air, the wheel and in all like­li­hood, the cart it­self would break into pieces. That’s what sus­pen­sions do – main­tain body con­trol over ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in the road so that you can drive at higher speeds. We drove the Creta to Au­rangabad from Pune, just to ap­pre­ci­ate a com­fort­able ride on a mod­ern sus­pen­sion, and to visit the won­der­ful caves of Ajanta and El­lora. Hyundai has launched a CSR cam­paign in as­so­ci­a­tion with the Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey of In­dia to save our her­itage. What bet­ter lo­ca­tion to team up with the Hyundai Creta for a road­trip, than to the ASI sites of Ajanta and El­lora.

Ajanta and El­lora need lit­tle in­tro­duc­tion for their mag­nif­i­cence, but for the unini­ti­ated, these are rock-cut caves that show­case the most im­pres­sive ex­am­ples of In­dian art, cre­ated at a time when mod­ern-day tech­nol­ogy wasn’t avail­able to achieve such en­gi­neer­ing feats. The exquisitely de­tailed caves carved out in rock, and the paint­ings done on the in­side walls of this UNESCO world her­itage site will sim­ply blow your mind. With time and wrath of chang­ing weather, these sites have de­te­ri­o­rated.

Ajanta is 104km from Au­rangabad and El­lora is 29km away in the other di­rec­tion. If you leave early in the morn­ing from Pune, you can make it into Au­rangabad town, which is about 240km from Pune, in around four hours. The dou­ble lane high­way helps you main­tain high tripledigit speeds and with the Creta, it is ab­so­lutely tire­less. The sus­pen­sion is well tuned for the high­way, never giv­ing that soft wal­lowy feel­ing you ex­pe­ri­ence in many cars built in In­dia these days. There are two as­pects to mod­ern sus­pen­sions – springs and dampers, both de­pend­ing on each other to con­trol a ve­hi­cle’s body move­ment. The Creta gets in­de­pen­dent front sus­pen­sion that em­ploys McPher­son struts with coil springs sus­pend­ing the front wheels. The strut type springs hold the car and com­press every time you hit a bump or an un­du­la­tion, and the dampers then come into play to con­trol the speed the springs free up at. The stiff­ness of the spring and the com­pres­sion of the damper can be ma­nip­u­lated to give the ve­hi­cle the ride qual­ity you de­sire. The Creta gets the tune right. It strikes a per­fect bal­ance be­tween city sup­ple­ness and high­way stiff­ness to give you the best of both worlds. At high speeds, the Creta feels poised.

We take mod­ern sus­pen­sion for granted just as we do our her­itage. Why care about some­thing you haven’t built and know lit­tle about right? We don’t re­alise that the lessons learnt in build­ing these caves have evolved over years to the mod­ern architecture you see to­day. The dome in­side the caves, the sky­lights that are strate­gi­cally placed to light up a dark room


dur­ing the day, the spac­ing be­tween col­umns to en­sure the roof doesn’t cave in, the size of the steps, the door open­ings; it all took tremen­dous stud­ies in the ab­sence of cal­cu­la­tors and com­put­ers to know how to build them right.

Car sus­pen­sions too evolved from the early 1900’s leaf springs. They were cost ef­fec­tive and all you needed to do was add leaves to the sus­pen­sion to beef it up for heav­ier ve­hi­cles. But leaf springs are like horse rides. They have to be un­der load to give you an ac­cept­able ride or else the car will gal­lop over bumps. As speeds in­creased and road net­work around the world ex­panded af­ter world war II, most man­u­fac­tur­ers started us­ing in­de­pen­dent front sus­pen­sion with coil springs and dampers. Some con­tin­ued to use leaf springs for the rear and a few do them even now, but ma­jor­ity of cars come with tor­sion beams with coil springs for the rear. The Creta uses this in­de­pen­dent front, tor­sion beam rear set up.

While the type of sus­pen­sion is con­stant, get­ting the tun­ing right takes time and ex­pe­ri­ence. Hyundai were known to of­fer softly set up cars in the past as they catered to a pre­dom­i­nantly city driven mar­ket. But with the ex­pand­ing line-up and fo­cus on driv­ing dy­nam­ics in the re­cent past, cars like the Grand i10, Elite i20 and Xcent started to show a new di­rec­tion for Hyundai.

Once you cross Au­rangabad and take on the sin­gle-laned high­way to Ajanta, the road sur­face springs quite a few sur­prises on you. The Creta’s good ride qual­ity helps you to keep the pace up and there is enough punch in the 1.6-litre diesel en­gine to not feel strained when you can stretch its legs on a long enough road. A small hill road just as you near Ajanta caves lets you ex­pe­ri­ence the Creta’s body con­trol. It’s an SUV with 190mm of ground clear­ance so the roll into corners is nat­u­ral, but there’s good grip in the tyres and never at any point, even when you hus­tle the Creta through a se­ries of corners, does it feel out of its el­e­ments.

Ajanta has a set of 30 rock-hewn caves carved by Bud­dhists. A horse­shoe shaped rock at the edge of a river that now only flows when the mon­soons hit the re­gion, seems to have been picked for its prox­im­ity to the wa­ter body. Sum­mers in this re­gion can get pretty hot but step into the caves and you will no­tice the drop in tem­per­a­ture. The ven­ti­la­tion in­side is also a rev­e­la­tion. It’s fresh and cool in the 40-de­gree sum­mer heat. Ajanta is also known for its bold paint­ings of well en­dowed women, art that is rare to find in mod­ern In­dia. Our her­itage shows how ex­pres­sive our an­ces­tors were and how we’ve sup­pressed this over the years.

The Ajanta caves were carved out in a com­pact space but El­lora is far more spread out. Un­like the fully Bud­dhist in­flu­ence at Ajanta, El­lora dis­plays three var­ied styles – Bud­dhism, Brah­man­ism and Jain­ism. The first 12 caves are Bud­dhist, 13-30 be­long to Brah­man­ism and the fi­nal four have been built by Jains. It’s a long walk and many of the caves have been par­tially ru­ined with time so the best ones to visit are cave no 5, 10, 15, 16, 21, 29 and 32.


We took the Creta for the drive to Ajanta and El­lora and en­joyed its tire­less driv­ing man­ners, but a lot of the SUV DNA the Creta gets is from the Santa Fe. The Santa Fe comes with an AWD ap­pli­ca­tion too and all-wheel drive SUVs come with multi-link sus­pen­sion at the rear, as this set up in­creases their abil­ity when you drive off the road. The Santa Fe is more road-bi­ased but the ben­e­fits of the multi-link rear sus­pen­sion can be seen on road as well. Each wheel of the Santa Fe is in­de­pen­dently sus­pended, giv­ing it not only bet­ter ride but also aid­ing in corner­ing.

Multi-link sus­pen­sion is a mod­ern take on the dou­ble wish­bone set up. It comes with four or more con­trol arms that in­crease the com­plex­ity of the unit but give it more flex­i­bil­ity to dif­fer­ent loads than joined sus­pen­sions like tor­sion beams. An­other fea­ture in the Santa Fe that im­proves driv­ing dy­nam­ics is flex steer that of­fers three steer­ing modes – nor­mal, sport and com­fort. Nor­mal gives medium weight to the steer­ing, sport is when it weighs up more for en­thu­si­as­tic driv­ing, and com­fort makes the steer­ing light for driv­ing in thick traf­fic.

More tech in the Santa Fe that makes it a bet­ter driver’s SUV is the Ad­vanced Trac­tion Corner­ing Con­trol (ATCC) sys­tem, which es­sen­tially is a torque vec­tor­ing sys­tem that sends more torque to the wheels that of­fer the best grip in a cor­ner. It also ap­plies mea­sured brak­ing to the in­side rear wheel to tighten the line and pre­vent the SUV from un­der­steer­ing.

Hyundai’s SUVs have come a long way since the launch of the Ter­ra­can and Tuc­son in the last decade. The im­prove­ment in these years is tremen­dous and the com­pe­tency of the Creta and the Santa Fe makes us very op­ti­mistic about the up­com­ing new gen­er­a­tion Tuc­son. SUVs are made for the high­way, for trips out of town and be it the Creta or the Santa Fe, both are very com­fort­able com­pan­ions when you de­cide to go tour­ing.

At the end of the day the Creta was a fan­tas­tic fa­cil­i­ta­tor to get to the caves. These her­itage sites have such amaz­ing his­tory to show­case yet get very lit­tle at­ten­tion be­cause un­less you step into these caves, you don’t re­alise the ef­fort gone into mak­ing them. From the out­side they are meant to be hid­den, they are caves af­ter all. But in­side, you will be awestruck.


Left: All the caves of Ajanta and a ma­jor­ity of El­lora caves show Bud­dhist in­flu­ence. Be­low: Just ham­mers and chis­els built all of this

Above: The horse­shoe shaped rock face in which the 29 caves have been carved out. Right: The Creta’s sure­foot­ed­ness makes it an ex­cel­lent SUV on high­ways

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