But we wanted to do more than just have fun with these machines on a wet, slushy, and slippery day. So, we brought in some science disguised as tests.
Test 1. Off-Road Acceleration
When there's deep slush to fight or a slippery incline to climb, one needs as much momentum as one can get. But off road, space is at a premium. So, it's important that an off-roader get up to speed real quick.
In this test, we will find out how much time and distance an SUV takes to get up to 30kmph from a standstill on a wet and slippery track. Needless to say, the lesser the time and distance, the better.
Test 2. Off-Road Braking
As with acceleration, here too, the lesser the time and distance, better the score. But instead of getting to 30kmph, the off-roader must come to a complete stop from that threshold.
We expect this test will reveal how good or bad an SUV's tyre grip is, as well as how smart its ABS is when working off road. After all, all five come with some sort of off-road mode.
Test 3. Off-Road Slalom.
Slalom is all about getting through a series of equidistant cones in the quickest time possible. Our test was no different. The only twist was that we would do this on a wet, slippery and relatively narrow track. And the SUVs would be powered on all fours.
This test is to showcase agility; something one would need when negotiating trails while off-roading. SUVs with good steering response, a grippy front end and a smart four-wheel drive system will have an edge here. Also, being light and small might just be an added plus.
Test 4. Beaker test.
Comfort isn't something that comes up in an off-roading conversation. But, if you have to spend a day taking on bumpy trails – and chances are you won't be doing it all alone – the last thing you want is a sore neck, a splitting headache or vomit in your lap. Ride quality then, cannot be discounted.
So, we decided to run a beaker test. The co-driver will sit holding a beaker full of water in his lap. The SUV then will be driven at a constant 20kmph. And it won't matter if the trail throws up water puddles, a rocky ride, or unplanned, miniature and completely natural axle twisters, there would be no slowing down.
The only thing the co-driver can hope for to avoid wetting his pants is great ride quality from the SUVs, and that the driver doesn't hold a grudge against him. Here, the lesser the water spills, the higher the SUV scores.
Test 5. Off-Road Hill Climb.
Negotiating steep inclines is an integral part of off-roading. And if that climb is slippery, rutted and strewn with rocks, well, the challenge becomes that much more unconquerable.
That’s exactly how our hill climb challenge turned out to be. And to make things even more difficult, we added a slow speed direction change to the mix as well. SUVs with low-range gearboxes, good approach and departure angles, handsome ground clearance, and more off-road bias tyres, will have a strategic advantage here.