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The Hyundai Verna at the famed stepwell near Narlai village.

The Hyundai Verna and the Rawla Narlai are as different as chalk and cheese. One is an A1 sedan that is built to dominate its segment; the other, a grand 17th century manor located in the shadow of a massive granite monolith in Rajasthan. But there is something that ties them both – in their own way, they offer up indelible experiences. We let that thought marinate in our heads on our way back from Narlai, about 120km from Jodhpur. We just spent two days in Narlai, but the drive to the quaint village and our time there pointed to a simple fact: experiences are more important than things.

The Verna’s well-equipped, tasteful cabin is among the best in the business.

It all began on a crisp weekend morning that was just made for a blistering drive, and the Hyundai Verna gladly obliged on the NH62. Jodhpur to Narlai is barely two hours, but the butter-smooth road demonstrated the stirring advances Hyundai has made with its star midsize sedan. The Verna, which broke cover last year, has made nothing short of a segment shift and you can literally feel it as you floor its pedal.

The Rawla Narlai is a 17th century hunting lodge situated close to the Aravallis.

The 1.5-litre Turbo GDi petrol motor under its hood boasts of best-in-segment numbers – 160PS and 25.8kgm of torque between 1500-3500rpm – and despite that heads-up, it is deceptively quick. All it takes is a tap of the accelerator pedal and the Verna bursts ahead, eager to mow down the miles. Before you know it, you are entering the triple-digit speed zone. The Verna’s turbo-petrol engine delivers power in a linear manner and the slick-shifting 6-speed manual our car was equipped with only enhanced the joy of the drive to a destination that is quite literally off the beaten track.

Class Apart

The Rawla Narlai heritage hotel was once the hunting lodge of the Jodhpur royal family. Situated in the middle of the Aravallis and surrounded by forests, the road to the 400-year-old property is bumpy and sandy, both of which were par for the course for the Verna. Hyundai’s sedan, which displayed excellent high speed composure on the highway, was equally at home on the rutted roads that led to Narlai village. Set against the brown hills, the manor impresses you at first sight. It is an elegant, pleasantly time-worn lodge that is studded with massive rooms and grand arches, pillars, and large windows that open out to becalming views. It is a place that puts you at ease.

The Hyundai Verna’s fastback style roof elevates its handsome looks.

That’s another trait it shares with the Hyundai Verna, which has among the best cabins in the business. And that’s not just because it’s loaded with features. Typical of Hyundais, the Verna comes with the latest in feel-goodies, and these include dual 10.25-inch infotainment and instrument screens, an 8-speaker Bose system, front ventilated seats, a switchable type infotainment and climate controller, and, among others, a lovely two-spoke steering wheel that is adjustable for rake and reach, and features lovely switches with a metallic finish and an upmarket feel.

The Hyundai Verna is as at ease at high speeds as it is navigating less frequented terrain.

But it’s the level of quality of the interiors that elevates the entire experience. Think lots of soft-touch materials, thoughtful touches of chrome, generous amounts of room for passengers, and you’ll get the drift. In short, the Hyundai Verna feels like an automobile that belongs to a segment above it. Add to it the Verna’s 5-star GNCAP rating and the Hyundai Smart Sense – Level 2 ADAS functionality, and you have a proper all-rounder of a car.

Drive & Dine

Early evening is a wonderful time in and around Narlai. We went leopard spotting – and espied one magnificent specimen – lazed by the pool and drove around the little village, with the mellow light falling on the Hyundai Verna’s Parametric Design-inspired lines. With its slim LED light bar that runs across the nose, and sharp angles and edges, the Verna looked dazzling anachronistic in the little village and everyone, as is obvious, peeked out at the handsome visitor.
Rajasthan is among the states in India famed for its ancient stepwells, and the piece de resistance at the Rawla Narlai involves one. In fact, the idea is to have dinner by the stepwell. So, as night descended, we drove down to the step well that was located nearby and encountered a most surreal setting.

The multi-course meal by the stepwell created memories that will last forever.

Hundreds of earthen pot lamps and just as many lanterns lit up the age-old stepwell, while a folk singer prepared to enthrall us with his performance. It was one of the most magnificent sights we’d ever seen. We took our seats by the stepwell and immersed ourselves in the atmosphere. The multi-course meal included laal maas and ker sangri, which we savoured, while strains of music filled the air and the lamps flickered in the gentle breeze. Despite ourselves and our love of fast, capable automobiles such as the Hyundai Verna, we switched, metaphorically speaking, of course, to the slow lane, reflecting on life, the journey to Narlai and the road ahead. When dinner ended, we were full of gratitude for having had the opportunity to encounter a curation that combined history, architecture, food, and light and music in the most delightful way imaginable.

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