Branded Content: Up and above with the Hyundai Alcazar


From atop the Atal Setu, Panaji looks exaggeratedly serene. The ritzy waterfront, accentuated by impeccably maintained old-world structures, looks even more postcard-esque. It’s a view as stunningly panoramic as it can get. It’s also an unusual perspective, seeing as the Atal Setu forms a crucial link on the 1,608km NH66 that connects Panvel, on the outskirts of Mumbai, to Kanyakumari and, as such, is almost always populated with motorists driving across. A moment’s solace on this perch was, therefore, no less than a privilege.

The Atal Setu towers over the old Mandovi bridge and over Panaji’s skyline.

As recently as 1970, the only way to get across the gracefully expansive Mandovi river was by boat. The original bridge that sprung up couldn’t hold its own beyond 1986, however, and was soon rebuilt. A parallel bridge spawned over an entire decade later, in 1998. With Goa’s ever-rising popularity, and that of road travel, the twin Mandovi bridges, however, soon proved inadequate. Frequent traffic jams and a narrow width (the old bridges are two lanes wide, each allowing bi-directional movement) dictated the need for a megastructure – a truly future-ready solution to aid not just the people of Goa, but those from its neighbouring states as well. The Atal Setu, or the third Mandovi bridge, was the answer. The bridge, construction of which began in 2014, was opened to the public by Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport and Highways, in 2019.

A close look at some of the 88 high-strength steel cables that form the bridge’s core.

Driving over the 5.1km bridge in the Hyundai Alcazar feels like an occasion. The grandeur of the cabin, layered tastefully in leather and metallic accents, is complemented by the view from the windscreen through the enormous panoramic sunroof. Saying the Atal Setu is a magnificent structure is an understatement as big as the bridge itself. The cable-stayed format is, of course, an engineering feat that its makers – the Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation and Larsen & Toubro – have executed to perfection, but what’s charming is the deliberate use of beautifully ornate street lamps that establish a pleasant cultural association with Goa’s heritage. It also appears, well, larger than life. Of course, all bridges are ‘larger than life’ but it is, perhaps, Panaji’s modest skyline that makes it appear so even more. For now, with the Alcazar effortlessly gliding over the Atal Setu, the feeling of driving at a great height makes for a mesmerising experience – even at the regulated speed of 50kph!

An arresting view from a spectacular cabin. Even a dull sky doesn’t take away from the Atal Setu’s presence!

The Alcazar, for its generously roomy three-row cabin, probably feels weightless to the Atal Setu’s structure as it cruises along, but from behind the wheel, it feels tough. The bridge, on the other hand, weighs as much as 20,000 Alcazars, perhaps more! Built using 1 lakh cubic metres of high-strength concrete, around 13,000 tonnes of corrosion resistant steel, 32,000 square metre of structural steel plates and 1,800km of high-tensile pressing strands, the Atal Setu isn’t just an example of great architecture but a proper engineering marvel designed to allow a high volume of vehicular movement, well into the future.

Alcazar’s sunroof makes for great viewing from every seat.

A week after we returned to Mumbai, however, the Atal Setu, a showpiece for the state government, was in the news. Keith Fernandes, a resident of Panaji has witnessed the landscape of the city evolve dramatically, and describes the Atal Setu as “a great move by the authorities, which truly makes life easier.” “However”, he explains, “while it has eased getting across the Mandovi, and has resulted in time and cost savings, along with adding to the visual splendour of the city, one wishes the road surface was perfect all the time.” Vivaan Joshi, an 8th grader fascinated with everything automotive, says: “The Atal Setu just makes me go ‘wow’ every time my parents take me for a drive over it. In fact, on most evenings I convince them to take me on a drive just so I can enjoy that amazing view.” A clear giveaway of his enthusiasm appears when he hastens to add “I can’t wait to get my driver’s licence, just so I can drive across the Atal Setu on my own!”. Aiming truly high, young fellow! It’s hard to disagree with that!

As the sun nears the horizon at the far end of the Mandovi, we drive along Panaji’s peripheral road, watching large party boats tidy up for an evening of revelry. In the Alcazar, the mood is no less festive, with its tastefully illuminated cabin imparting an air of premiumness. The captain’s seats in its middle row are certainly the best in the business and offer an even nicer view, courtesy the sunroof, but life behind the wheel is relaxing, too, with the refined petrol engine ensuring the hushed cabin experience stays uninterrupted. In the full-size SUV universe, the Alcazar makes a distinct impression with its rough-road-ready underpinnings and car-like mannerisms. Out here, in this aesthetically indulgent moment, it makes air travel seem pedestrian.

The Atal Setu is a proper engineering marvel designed to be future-ready.

Just as the Atal Setu grows larger in the Alcazar’s windscreen, it lights up vividly. Its 88 cables, along with the beltline of the bridge, glow an inviting crimson and, almost magically, transitions to green, then blue, then yellow. It’s a spectacle to remember, surely, and one that makes for terrific photography, too. It’s almost poetic, come to think of it, that just like most of Goa’s cultural hotspots, the Atal Setu looks even better at night.

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