Off-roading as a culture in India has matured in recent times, reason being, encouraging events like Mahindra Great Escape, easy availability of capable 4×4 vehicles and keen interest of people to test their driving skills. Mahindra Great Escape organizers have themselves witnessed a good buildout in recent times. Initially, the participation of 4×2 vehicles was more than 4×4 vehicles. Out of 100, 98 vehicles participating were 4×2 but now the situation has reversed. Mahindra Adventures had organized the 108th edition of the Great Escape in Gurgaon, where more than 40 vehicles participated, including us.
Maximum participation was naturally seen from the Thar and other vehicles included a couple of Scorpios, Boleros and surprisingly a SsangYong Rexton AWD Automtatic! The fleet of Mahindra Thars consisted of modified vehicles as well as pure stock vehicles. The Mahindra Great Escape rally flagged off from Fortune Park Boulevard, Chattarpur. Our weapon of choice was a red Mahindra Thar equipped with off-road tyres sans side steps for optimum ground clearance.
On the move we realised that our steering wheel was off-centre on the straight line, we could hear constant squeaks and rattles from the cabin, the clutch was heavy and the gearbox notchy. Under the hood was a 2.5-litre CRDe diesel engine that produces 105 HP of power with 247 Nm of torque, mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox. The 4WD transfer case was a Borgwarner manual shift with low reduction gear that needed some effort to engage.
On the outskirts of Gurgaon, XSO (Extreme Sports Organization) had arranged a well laid out off-road track that involved steep inclines and scary declines with loose sand. The participants were assembled at the starting line for a briefing and the environment out there was energetic and full of enthusiasm. All you could hear around was roaring diesel engines. The 4L mode (4×4 low range) was the suitable setting to negotiate obstacles. The lower gear ratios provide bulky low end torque, which is twice or even thrice than that of regular high gear ratios at slow speeds.
The 4×4 low range enabled the Thar to tackle inclines steadily without a hitch. Similarly on declines, the lower ratios helped the Thar crawl down at a stable pace without using the brake or accelerator. Most of the time people have a mindset of riding the clutch while attending an incline so that the car doesn’t stall. In the 4×4 low mode, this situation can be easily avoided and is also recommended because the clutch is prone to burn and that is a mechanical torture to the car. There is minimal engine knocking at low revs and you can make the vehicle crawl without breaking a sweat.
The initial sets of obstacles were relatively trouble-free with the Thar because of neat and tidy descents and inclines. Most of the Thars managed to pass them seamlessly as they had high approach and departure angles. However, the Scorpio and Rexton were found scraping the front/rear bumpers. Gradually the obstacles demanded concentration and technique. Now, the steep inclines needed some momentum to approach and precise throttle input. Momentum to build up the force and precision of power so that the wheels don’t spin if overpowered or the vehicle doesn’t climb because of lack of enough power.
We cleared the obstacle smoothly while some of them had a bumpy ride. The Rexton was having a tough time here because its automatic transmission lacks low ratio gears and it was equipped with stock tyres. Eventually, a Thar had to give it a pull to clear the obstacle. Next up was a drop dead descent that tested the Thar’s ground clearance, approach and departure angles. This obstacle was avoided by the Scorpios, Boleros and of course the Rexton.
The rally was conducted in a serene way without any flat tyres or breakdowns. The Mahindra Adventure instructors ensured proper safety and smooth movement of the convoy. Then there was a gradient coupled with loose sand that was visually easy to do but actually it was tricky. This needed good momentum to tackle the incline, precision of throttle input so that the tyres don’t spin on the loose sand and steering inputs to keep traction. We had to redo it because we didn’t provide proper steering input at the first attempt.
The final obstacle was pretty interesting, which had a steep L-shaped descent with undulations and we had to manoeuvre the vehicle in between. This was a thorough test for the Thar that involved high wheel articulation for optimum traction on all four wheels to conquer the undulations along with manoeuvring. While cornering, the Thar also needed extra power to jump off the humps. This was quite tricky but with every passing vehicle, the obstacle became smooth and easy and we went through all without any complication, thanks to the extreme capabilities of the Mahindra Thar.
The 108th Mahindra Great Escape concluded successfully and it was a magnificent experience. The thrilling event was organised by Mahindra Adventure in association with MAXXIS Tyres. Such events encourage off-roading culture in India and are a good medium for Mahindra vehicle owners to explore the capabilities of their machines and test their off-roading skills in a safe and secure manner. Certainly the vehicles are abused to some extent but that’s the part of the game and 4×4 vehicles are meant for such thrilling off-road activities.