It is that time of the year again. That time of the year when we look forward to getting our cars and ourselves dirty. So, welcome to the fourth instalment of the mega Carwale Off-Road Day where we round up our favourite 4x4 and AWD SUVs on one big playground and test them under our unique testing parameters.
Now you have already read about the last three iterations of the Carwale Off-Road Day, but this one has plenty of changes and we have upped the fun quotient too. Also, this year we don’t have any rains and also this is a brand new location which is the Prodirt arena at Kamshet.
Now before I go ahead and introduce you to the cars, you need to know how we are going to test the cars and what is different this year. So, let’s take a look at all the tests.
Acceleration and Braking
How a car can accelerate and brake off the beaten path is down to many things. The traction it generates, its weight, its gearbox, the power it makes and its braking prowess. Since we have combined the acceleration and braking test, we will see how well the car accelerates to 40kmph and then slam on the brakes to see how quickly its manages to come to a halt from 40-0kmph. This should be interesting.
Acceleration and braking done, it’s now time to check the agility. For this, the car goes around a series of cones placed at equidistance. 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 difficult 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.
Hence, slalom is a test to showcase not just the agility, but steering response and how smart the four-wheel drive system is.
This test is all about the comfort of a passenger on a bumpy trail. A beaker full of water will decide how great the car's ride quality is. Lesser the water spills, higher the car's score.
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.
The latest entrant in our tests is the Gymkhana. No it’s not exactly what you have seen in the Ken Block videos, but then the concept is a little similar. So, we built our very own circuit in the dirt and decided to push the cars against time which makes things a whole lot more exciting.
Adding further spice, we decided to make a short-cut too which would reduce time but being the most difficult section on the circuit means the car would also have to be supremely capable and be able to take more abuse. We’re actually quite proud of this one.
So as you can see we have a super exciting session lined up. But now, let’s take a look at the exciting line-up of contenders.
Let’s start with the big daddy of off-roaders, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. Now the Wrangler has been around for a while, but Jeep made a big change recently and started manufacturing the Wrangler in India. So this here is the Made-in-India Wrangler.
Powering the Wrangler is a two-litre petrol engine that makes a very impressive 268bhp and 400Nm of torque. Gearbox duties are handled by an eight-speed automatic transmission. Also, as expected, the Wrangler Rubicon is loaded with a 4x4 hardware like the Rock-Trac full time 4WD system, locking front and rear differentials and an electronic sway bar disconnect too. All this apart from the insane approach and departure angles.
The Wrangler done, now let’s move on to something similar but smaller in scale. Without doubt it’s India’s most popular off-roader, the Mahindra Thar. The new Thar has been flying off the shelves since the moment it was launched and not without reason. It’s got the quintessential ‘Jeep’ design, it’s loaded with features now and you get both petrol and diesel power plants along with an automatic option as well. The new Thar is also a lot friendlier to use in town with Mahindra insisting that the new Thar can be your only car.
What we have here is the diesel manual. So the mHawk engine makes a very impressive 130bhp and 300Nm of torque and transferring all that power to all four wheels is a six-speed manual gearbox. Getting to the 4x4 stuff, the Thar is relatively old-school with a manual shift 4x4 transfer case. You also get low ratio and mechanical locking differential on the rear axle along with brake locking differential. So, it’s definitely got the hardware, but will its new friendly nature make it any less of an off-roader?
Isuzu D-Max V-Cross
Up next is India’s most popular pick-up, the new Isuzu D-Max V-Cross. In its latest avatar, the V-Cross now gets a 1.9-litre diesel as compared to the earlier larger 2.5-litre engine. So now you have 165bhp and 360Nm of torque with a six-speed automatic gearbox or a six-speed manual.
And to help you reach difficult locations, the V-Cross gets a shift on the fly 4WD system along with four-high and four-low modes. Now the V-cross performed extremely well in our very first off-road day, but can it do the same now with a lower displacement engine, its big dimensions and the barrage of new tests that we have lined up for it? Let’s find out…
Our next contender is an SUV that really surprised us with its capabilities in our inaugural off-road day, the Volkswagen Tiguan. Now it might not be like some of the old-school, tough-as-nails SUVs in this mix, but what the Tiguan is, is SMART. Instead of just using brute force and ploughing through the obstacles, the Tiguan makes use of its electronics to get through.
The new Tiguan here is also now armed with petrol power; two-litre TSI engine making 187bhp and 320Nm of torque. Now, that’s some serious grunt. And transferring all that power to all four wheels is a seven-speed DSG gearbox. To tackle the off-road stuff, the Tiguan gets four-motion which distributes power between the front and rear wheels depending on the situation and you get to choose between off-road, off-road individual and snow modes. So can the new Tiguan with its electronic trickery outdo the competition?
Up next, making its debut at the Carwale off-road day is the all-new Skoda Kodiaq. Now this might appear to be a big luxurious SUV made to haul the corporate kind. But make no mistake, the Kodiaq is just as comfortable getting its boots dirty.
The engine and gearbox options are the same as its brother from another mother, the Tiguan. So you get the same 187bhp, 320Nm of torque and the seven-speed DSG gearbox. And similar to the Tiguan you get driving modes here as well along with traction modes. On the 4x4 front, the Kodiaq gets an inter-axle electronically-controlled multi-plate clutch. The coupling of the rear axle is automatic, so under normal conditions, the car can utilise the advantages of the front-wheel drive, and under extreme conditions the excellent traction of 4x4 drive.
A new location, some crazy new tests and with an exciting list of off-road capable SUVs, the 2021 Carwale Off-Road Day is sure to get your pulses racing. It’s going to be the battle of the soft-roader’s vs the off-roader’s. Start placing your bets!
Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi