A three-hour-long drive from Mumbai and you’re in Igatpuri, comfortably outside city limits, ready to get on all fours, literally.
The only organised off-road academy running in the country, this five-hour-long (the basic level) adventure is a first-time enthusiast’s Disneyland. Though you can sign up for these drives throughout the year, the rains are this off-roading monster’s (the Thar CRDe 4x4 Trainer Vehicle) functional muse.
The second-gen vehicle that is used for the adventure activities, is an improvement on its predecessor. The first-gen vehicle was a basic one, no frills at all. As a result, the off-road response was crazy. The new car is more tamed, and a lot more idiot-proof. You can make a mistake and it can still pull you through. Here’s our documentation of the thoroughly adrenaline- thumping experience…
Part time 4x4, full time beast
The vehicle in question is a part-time 4-wheel drive, which means you cannot drive this in 4x4 on the road. Under the hood, the current gen Thar is essentially the old Scorpio, though a far more comfortable version of it. Part-time 4-wheel drive is more practical in terms of fuel economy and the price of the vehicle, because 4-wheel drive can be activated when you want to. Besides, a full-time 4-wheel drive comes with a lot more components that make the car more expensive.
This powerful beast of a machine generates so much torque, it virtually drives itself from standstill in any gear. The only time it gives trouble is when you start driving and try to control it off-road. Thar is mastering that surge of power, with its turbo-lag area below 2000 RPM, so the sweet spot is 2000-2500 revs. The lower you are in the rev range in whatever gear you’re driving, the more reserve you have. Don’t follow your instinct and gas it, because it compromises on the reserve play.
The technicalities involved
The major difference between a part-time and full time drive is the fact that there is no 2-wheel mode on the full-time 4-wheel drive. The modes on the part-time vehicle are 2H, 4H and 4L, where the number and letter stands for the number of wheels being driven and ratio.
2H means the rear axle is powered and the vehicle is ready for tarmac. The high ratio remains common in 4H and all four wheels are powered. If your two wheel drive gives you 40kph in the first gear, you’ll still get 40kph out of your four wheel first gear, because the ratios don’t change. Between 2H and 4H one can go up and down without stopping the car. The ratios are a lot shorter in 4L, so you have to stop the car, slot it into gear and then drive off. 4H is generally used in in terrains like snow, ice and sand, where you’re going to carry a lot more momentum.
Lower ratio mode is used while driving on rocks and slush ‘cos it gives a lot more control over the car. The slower you go, the more time you have to control the car. Besides, the vehicle has a mind of its own. It will not do what you want to do because it is driving itself along the terrain. No matter what you do, if the terrain is making you go left, the car will go left. There’s a lot of torque and acceleration in 4L mode and you run out of gears pretty fast. You can achieve a maximum speed of 60kph in the 5th gear, which isn’t a lot, but off-roading doesn’t require you to go fast, unless you’re in the dunes.