Mahindra Bolero Neo: Neo World Order
In a world of pseudo compact SUVs, the new Mahindra Bolero Neo comes across as the most rugged and manly offering, one that exudes a macho appeal. It looks bold and comes with proven, robust underpinnings while ensuring that even the longest of journeys are passed off comfortably. And this is why we picked the Neo as a perfect companion for our weekend escape into the unexplored Konkan belt this September. Our plan was to drive down from Mumbai to Goa but with a scenic twist - move away from the usual four-lane highway and drive past the beautiful countryside of West Maharashtra while taking stop-overs at secluded beaches.
Getting out of Mumbai is never an easy task for most but the Bolero Neo's high seating and oodles of low-end torque make commuting a piece of cake. Leaving the city's towering landscape behind, we took the first of many ferry rides coming our way. This one was the biggest and longest, with M2M's luxury RoRo ferry getting us from South Mumbai to Mandve, almost touching down near Alibaug.
Once we touched down at Mandve, the initial half-hour wasn't travelogue friendly with a lot of slow-moving traffic from local, small towns. It was best to let the Neo coast along and appreciate the premium, dual-tone interiors. Only when we crossed over to the other side of Alibaug was when the narrow state road opened up, allowing us to increase our pace. We wanted to explore virgin and lesser-known places on this coastal escape with the Bolero Neo and this is where our first stop came in the form of the Revdanda fort followed immediately by a beach you would have not heard of - the Tarabandar beach. Access to this isolated seaside viewpoint wasn't car-friendly but the Neo's high stance ensured we got here easily.
Our drive continued down South through winding roads, snaking through lush green ghats. Pottering around at 30-40km/h in the 3rd gear is an easy task and a simple tap on the right pedal makes the Neo lunge forward. This is down to the fact that peak torque of 260Nm comes in at just 1750 rpm - this is among the best in the segment. Moving on, we took a short break at the 500-year-old Khokari tombs of the early rulers of the erstwhile Janjira state. A sight like this in the middle of our countryside sojourn definitely seemed worth it - tall Areca trees, blue waters of the Arabian Sea and traces of the Western Ghats around. Perfect!
Our visual delights continued as we drove towards other beaches from Diveagar to Aaravi. The route wasn't tarmac-friendly but the Bolero Neo's proven underpinnings and a compliant suspension set-up meant I didn't have to slow down much. Even dropping two wheels off the road for letting on-coming traffic pass us didn't shake up the Neo either. And then we came across a secluded patch of grassland, on the edge of a rocky cliff, overlooking the sea. Trust us on this, getting here for a picture-perfect shot would have been impossible in a conventional car. Bolero's short overhangs and high clearance infused much confidence and in the end, a high angle shot from our drone captured the essence of the place. This location also offered us the sight of not one but three beaches together - Kondvli, Mayureshwar and Aravi. Told you, our Coastal Escape was special in many ways and this was the perfect way to end day number 1. Do keep an eye out on this travelogue's video that will soon be online on our channel - it is a visual treat!
The second day of our coastal escape started pretty early. Thanks for an overnight shower, the air was nippy and with low hanging clouds leading to misty surroundings, we took it easy. This is where we also noticed how well the Bolero Neo cocooned us from the outside world. Extremely low NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) levels combined with plush interiors and a great stock audio set-up - just what you need for unwinding on a road trip like this. Playing our favourite tracks via easy to pair Bluetooth function also brought forward the crisp and well-balanced tones from the stock speaker set-up.
Today's plan was not only to venture into faster countryside highways but also explore unpaved rural roads. One such place saw clouds showering a light drizzle around us, thus making the entire grassy patch slippery. However, this didn't deter us as we had full faith in our Neo N10 (O)'s MTT (Multi Terrain Technology) which is what M&M calls its mechanical locking differential technology. As you can see in the last double spread image, the Rocky Beige Neo looked fab surrounded by shades of green and the overcast blue sky. Its authentic SUV design stands out and this is the only vehicle in the segment to come with a boot-mounted spare wheel. Adds to the aesthetics we say!
By early noon, to fasten up our pace, we eventually hit the famous NH17 (now NH66) that has now been transformed into a fast paced four-lane highway post Chiplun. With less traffic by our side, it came naturally that I finally let the Bolero Neo stretch its legs on this highway that is known for long flowing curves and lush green mountain sides around. The 1.5-litre turbo diesel unit, with 100 horses on offer, feels at home even at triple-digit speeds. This mile-munching ability along with the availability of peak torque lower down in the rev range lends the Neo a versatile touch for a variety of usage patterns. Just to add, the onboard display was registering an average fuel economy of over 15kmpl since our start from Mumbai, more than impressive.
Before Oros, we left the main highway for our drive to Maharashtra's last big city in this part of the state. Malvan isn't a very touristy place and post negotiating the town's narrow lanes, the Bolero Neo drove into a peaceful beach for an (almost) end to our comfortable Coastal Escape. Yes, the experience was still not over as we wanted to pit the Neo against a set of twisties that truly showed us the other side of Goa. India's 24x7 party capital was still a couple of hours from Malvan but comfortable ergonomics ensured inspite of driving for two days, we reached Goa without any fatigue setting in.
Say hello to the Chorla Ghats. With curves and hairpin bends snaking their way up to the Karnataka border, these mountain roads bring out the best in you. And for a vehicle to give your grinning moments, it ought to have a mix of torque, power and dynamics. While most may assume the tall and heavy (built) Neo not be a driver's delight, trust us on this, once you get a hang of the vehicle, pushing it towards your abilities becomes easy. Plus the (rare) rear-wheel-drive set-up just gives you more confidence while powering out of uphill bends. Even an enthusiastic shift to the 2nd cog ends up spinning the rear tyres around tight bends, filling the valley around with chirping of the wheels.
This weekend coastal escape through the lesser taken route and unexplored parts of this Konkan belt showed us all the strengths of India's true compact SUV. The Bolero Neo does justice to the 'SUV' badge while ensuring that your and your loved ones remain cocooned in comfort and safety over a variety of roads. And no roads.