It's that time of the year again, the time of the year to test the limits of man and machine. What we are going to do is put five SUVs through some of the most difficult tests and see who comes out on top. We are at 19 Degree North at Aamby Valley and welcome to the 2019 Carwale Off-road day.
So what tests are we talking about exactly?
1. Off-road Acceleration - For starters there is the Off-road acceleration. Now this will be a real test of how quickly the SUV can accelerate off the mark even in tricky conditions. The target will be to hit 30kmph from a standstill on a slippery track. This should be interesting.
2. Off-road braking – If it accelerates well, it's got to stop well too and that’s where our braking test comes into the picture. Here we’re going to drop the anchors at 30kmph and see how quickly the SUV comes to a halt. This is where the SUVs' tyre grip and ABS will come into play.
3. Off-road slalom – Acceleration and braking done, it’s now time to check the agility. Slalom tests determine how quickly the vehicle can change directions, and while darting between cones is a tough task on its own, it’s further amplified by slippery conditions. SUVs with a quicker steering response, a grippy front end and a smart four-wheel-drive system will have an edge here. Also, being lighter and smaller might just be an added plus.
4. Trail Test – If it’s an SUV, it should be comfortable and our beaker test will determine which SUV has the best ride quality in these daunting conditions. This one’s sure to make the co-driver a little nervous.
5. Off-road Hill climb – And then there’s the big daddy, our mega hill climb. It’s a nice mix of slippery, rocky, and uneven terrain and all this has to be dealt with while taking on a steep incline.
Our Weapons of choice
Let’s get to our weapons of choice now beginning first with the Isuzu MU-X. It has the most displacement at 2999cc and plenty of torque too.
To tackle the difficult conditions, the MUX comes with terrain command control and what should also work in its favour is that this beast can hit up to 100kmph in four-high mode. With a six-speed AT gearbox and proven credentials, the MUX should be one tough cookie.
Jeep Compass Trailhawk
We had the Jeep Compass in our last off-road day too, but this one is more hardcore; this is the Jeep Compass Trailhawk.
While the engine specs remain the same, the Traihawk gets more focused 4x4 hardware. Its got better approach and departure angles, off-road modes to choose from and importantly a new nine-speed AT gearbox. With plenty of off-road focus, let’s see how the Trailhawk fares.
Our next contender is probably the odd-man-out here. It’s clearly the most road-focused of the lot here but it does come with AWD.
With an intelligent AWD system and a new nine-speed AT transmission, the CR-V should ace the acceleration test, but what about the other hurdles?
Moving on, our next SUV is the Audi Q7. This is the biggest car in the group and not to mention the most powerful by far with 600Nm of torque.
And that’s not all, it also packs in a huge list of electronic hardware that sounds like it will even scale Mt. Everest but that’s on paper. Out in the real world it’s going to take more than just impressive specs.
Renault Duster AWD
Next up is the new Renault Duster AWD. It’s been around for a long time now and makes for an ideal combination of a city and outdoor SUV.
The engine specs remain the same and so does the off-road hardware. No complex electronics, just a regular selector dial to choose between 2WD, 4WD and auto. What should work in the Duster's favour is its simplicity, but in such esteemed company, will it be enough?
Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi.
Click on the links below to find out how these SUVs fared in our tests.