Imagine driving a luxury SUV amidst lush green and winding roads. You are the only thing sitting behind a fancy wheel meeting admiring eyes. Imagine a black Mercedes GLC, imagine roads running parallel to the beach, imagine Andaman. And this same imagination led us to travel to the union territory of India, which is of great strategic importance but a land less travelled. With its 567 islands, Andaman is not on top of anyone’s mind to go and shoot content with luxury cars. It’s expensive, cumbersome and complicated.
The GLC, with its immersive Burmester surround sound system, is a pure symphony to ears and the KEYLESS-GO Comfort package is a boon, and it helps so much so that in between beach hopping, the key does not need to pop out of your zipped pockets. One can drive the GLC to its full potential and explore the dynamic body control and its innovative telematics, which can endure the car almost under all conditions. It’s a strong car with excellent interior space and an engine with enough grunt to sail it through sand, mud or broken roads and still silently screams “luxury”. Mercedes Benz GLC is for sure the best choice of a luxury SUV when you are about to go on an adventurous voyage.
We got gawking and admiring eyes wherever we took the GLC. Though it’s a navy base, shooting is permissible, and locals and police extend their full cooperation, but things get dangerous when you have to fly a drone. We had managed to secure permission for that. Apart from BBC TopGear India, Magazine being the first publication to get a luxury SUV like Mercedes GLC to the island, there are many other firsts of Andaman. For Example, Jal Hans, India’s first commercial seaplane, was launched in the Andaman Islands. Katchal, a tiny island near Nicobar, was the first inhabited place on earth to catch the rays of the sunlight in the Pacific ocean in the Millennium year of 2000. The roads in and around Port Blair are simply breathtaking. It’s an absolute treat to the eyes. The whiff in the air is so pure that if I had to explain it in words, it would be like Pure oxygen dipped in fresh plants and then soaked through fresh seawater – and when you add that clear blue sky on top of it. It’s absolute bliss and brings a lot of tranquillity to your senses. And then driving around with the GLC with its 19-inch rims and the new steering wheel with all touch control buttons and the new walnut open-pore wood trim in front of you completes your seven senses. Add to that the crisp 10.25-inch HD touch display with CONNECT 20 – MBUX system flawlessly navigating you and seamlessly connecting to your smartphone and orchestrating chart-busting music or hands-free conversation is the delight factor in the GLC drive.
Our first stop had to be Cellular Jail, which was why Andamans delivered fear and anxiety and is now known as a paradise. And what better way to explore this paradise than a car that truly understands the essence of freedom? The cellular jail is one of the key highlights of this tropical paradise. It contrasts the rest of the landscape and ambience. After paying our respects and soaking in some torturous history, it was time we set all the 192 horses free from this inline-four motor and began our exploratory trails.
Port Blair is like most small coastal cities with narrow two-lane roads and little trails leading into different locations through its jungles. The beautiful coastal roads that give you a scenic taste of the clear blue waters and endless ocean on the horizon stand out as a key highlight. The comfortable ride quality on the GLC does a fantastic job and keeps you cushioned. The mobile network is broken and not seamless. Fortunately for us, Andamans have a pretty simple road system, so getting lost will not be easy. Thanks to the satellite navigation in the GLC that comes as standard, getting lost would require extraordinary efforts.
Our Next Stop was Mount Harriet [now renamed mount Manipur], around 459 metres above sea level. We had to mount the GLC on top of the Vessel ferry, but with a ground clearance of 201 mm, it was not something that we had to worry about. Once the ferry started, it was a good 30 minutes voyage and another 15 minutes of driving to the top. You are greeted with an unadulterated 360-degree view of Andaman. The temperatures are lower and give respite from the heat of Port Blair. However, the luxury cabin cushioned us. The classic rock music we had belting fit well with the lush green drive on the top of the mountain. Later we learnt that you could also live there in a tent on the mount Harriet and my team was quite kicked about it till I showed them the signboard which visualised the kind of snakes you can be greeted with!
Commercial fishing & chewing Tobacco is banned in Andaman; that’s why perhaps you get the most spectacular coral reefs, the enormous crabs and most giant turtles. There are still islands where you can go in convoy but can’t photograph tribals who have remained aloof from all civilisation of the last 100 years. The only active volcano, the Barren Island, is present in the Andaman Islands. There are two local beaches in Port Blair, Chidiya Tapu Beach and Wandoor beach, and both are in opposite directions. And we ended up choosing the Wandoor beach, which had blue, clear water, white sand and a pristine beach. The GLC, with its 550 litres of boot space, was enough to carry snorkelling gear and scuba diving equipment, along with my travelling bags, though we had kept those activities for Havelock beach.
White sand, clear blue water and sipping on 1.5-litre of water from the colossal coconut were things I hadn’t done in some time. After playing in sand water and some deep thinking, I returned to the parked GLC, started the front massage and looked up in the clear sky through the panoramic sunroof and was about to begin my dream of a good life – that’s when thors’ hammer pounded in the shape of thundershowers. The tropical weather mood swing had begun. The sunny day changed in an hour into a cloudy sky with thunderstorms. It was like a torpedo had struck us; a severe cyclone was about to hit Andaman, and all ships sailing were halted for the next six days. The catastrophic mayhem of the tsunami was still lingering, and officials could not take any chances. It also meant our plans to go to the famous Havelock islands. Northbay & ross islands got washed away in that Cyclone warning.
The worst was still to come since we were parked on the beach some 10-15 metres away from the water, and that’s when I realised that this diesel-powered GLC, which also comes equipped with a Mercedes off-road engineering package that ensures getting stuck in some mud and sand wouldn’t be an easy affair. It has the exterior off-road package too. We started our drive back to the hotel in this overtly cloudy sky, and the Mercedes adaptive LED headlamps lighted up the road ahead. At the same time, the ambient lighting had created a luxurious aura on the inside. We had missed the direction and had to take a U-turn. I was amazed at the crisp and precise 360-degree on the 12.3-inch screen and the short turning radius moving a large car like the GLC had set off a round of clapping from other team members sitting on the support car.
Our plan of scuba diving, snorkelling and taking the GLC to havelock had been crucified. The worst was flights cancelled, so I bowed out and just managed to get one seat on the last flight to almost a nail-biting finish to the airport. Once again, GLC drove with all the luggage and navigated through broken roads like a champ.
My team had to stay back in Port Blair for six more days before taking a flight home since all flights were cancelled. But they had their rejuvenated break and had the GLC to give them company. Andaman is unpredictable, that’s why it’s a land less travelled. This first time was one of the most adventurous times I had spent in the excellent company of the Mercedes GLC.