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Old 9th July 2016, 12:52   #1
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Default Mahindra Great Escape - Lonavla, July 2016

Mahindra Automotive is on a roll over the last decade with strong sales of SUVs and a growing product line. Unlike other manufacturers who focus on giving their SUVs the requisite shape & butch look, Mahindra is serious about off-road ability of its products. Many of their products are available with a proper low range 4wd system, are truly off-road capable. This off road brand positioning is similar to what we see with Jeep (FCA) and Land Rover

Since the concept of off-roading was not an organized industry in India, Mahindra took the initiative way back in the mid-90s to put together a professionally managed off-road expedition called the ‘Great Escape’. Over the years the event has grown in both participation & # events and this is a clear testament to its popularity

The introduction of the Thar in ~2010 seems to have provided a boost to off-roading as an activity and to MGE event. Unlike the older Jeeps that were a painful to live with, the Thar can give a modern hatchback a run for its money when it comes to everyday usability. This is attributed to its modern common-rail turbo-diesel with stump pulling torque, strong AC and independent front suspension while retaining the traditional Jeep elements like ground clearance, approach and departure angles and a transfer case with 4x4 low range. For the busy urban executive who doesn’t have the patience to deal with old school Jeep and the time to visit a local mech every month, the Thar allows you to have your cake and eat it too. I haven’t seen any numbers, but I can safely guess that the participation in the MGE has shot up an order of magnitude after that launch of the Thar and this was also evident in the parking lot

My adventure began when Team BHP received an invitation to participate in the MGE in at Thar CRDe. The event was held at 19 Degree North in Amby Valley City, Maharashtra which is a theme park that includes several adventure/’adrenalin-rush’ types of entertainment. ATV rides and jungle safari are a part of the attractions related to off roading. The terrain is mostly natural with some small modifications to make it safer and more exciting

Speaking of the terrain, the event was held against the spectacular backdrop of the Sayhadri Mountains and thanks to the monsoon season, the weather was cool and vegetation lush & green which magnified the natural beauty to a whole another level

The day of the event, mother-nature decided the tank upstairs was getting full and opened the taps all the way for most of the day. It started to come down even as we were driving into Lonavala and never really stopped. It would slow down to a drizzle every now and then but the ground was always wet and slushy. Most of the participants were from either Mumbai or Pune and came well prepared with raincoats, umbrellas, rubber boots, towels and a change of clothes. Yours truly was caught off guard in a t-shirt and shorts & sneakers and went back home soaked to the bone with my favorite shoes fully caked in mud. Luckily Mahindra provided a t-shirt to participants that came in handy for about an hour before I was soaked to the bone again
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Mahindra Great Escape - Lonavla, July 2016-venue-comp.jpg  

Mahindra Great Escape - Lonavla, July 2016-pare-ferme.jpg  

Mahindra Great Escape - Lonavla, July 2016-view-out-jeep.jpg  

Mahindra Great Escape - Lonavla, July 2016-deeps-thar.jpg  


Last edited by Mpower : 11th July 2016 at 08:15.
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Old 9th July 2016, 13:12   #2
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Default re: Mahindra Great Escape - Lonavla, July 2016

The event started in the morning around 9am with paperwork which was quick and brief. It was followed by a nice buffet breakfast which was in a fantastic restaurant which is set up on a raised wooden deck to give a great view of the scenery. It seemed like a bit of time was spent just waiting and hanging around wondering when we start and finally we had a drivers briefing which explained some basic driving techniques for the newbies and some valuable advice as far as dos and doníts

Being a newbie to the world of off-roading, I had my eyes and ears peeled open and picked up some valuable tips. The key ones were to leave it in 4 low pretty much for the entire event and use 2nd gear for most of the route. 1st for very tricky stuff and 3rd for regular dirt roads. We were also told to not use the clutch or to stab the brake pedal. My take was that its key is to feed in inputs smoothly and to get a feel for how much traction you are getting at all times and react to it with either more or less throttle. Initially I was told that I would be sharing the vehicle with one other journo but after the final count it turned out I could have the Jeep all to myself for the entire event !! But it also meant I would have nobody along for company and physiological support , yikes!!

I was mentally prepared to deal with it but about 20 mins before the event, one of the officials asked me if wanted company. No knowing who or what to expect I said yes. He sent over a couple of young chaps and I later learnt that they worked for Mahindra dealer in Mumbai and were here for as part of team building exercise. It was a blessing for me because they would act as the official videographer for the event

So we off went!! I popped it in 4 low and set off. The first half kilometer or so were just dirt driving and gradually the obstacles got harder and harder. One particular section stood out because it was narrow, deeply rutted and had elevation changes and thick shrubbery.
The path had rocks and boulders strewn across that we would drive over. I was running purely on adrenalin at this point and there was just way too much going on

What made me a little nervous was when one wheel would go up on a bank and the Thar would tilt sideways and I did not know how much more it could go before it tips over. As it turned out later, I was underestimating what the Thar could do at every point and it surprised me with how confidently it handled the terrain



It all seems like a blur now but it was like driving through an Amazon rainforest. My window was rolled down and as we drove through the trails, we would cut through the shrubbery and the leaves would smack me in the face which I got a huge kick out of (PS, some are thorny, so please be careful ; ))

The massive amounts of rainfall meant that many parts of the trail were mini ponds and rivulets and driving through them added to the excitement level. My co-driver shot several in-car videos so rather than me describe in a 1000 words, I will let the videos do the talking and describing





The other key piece of hardware that all the media Thars had were the Maxxis Big Horn tires. These are not the stock and I did notice that it was very popular with the other Thar owners as well. Iím led to believe that even though it may not be the best, its good value for what it costs. It worked very well under the wet slushy conditions and I found myself chugging along at points where other Jeeps ahead of me on stock(ish) tires were slipping and sliding. For anyone doing regular off-roading with their Thars, I would definitely recommend that they do their research and look into the option of a tire swap

For a newbie like me, what was hugely beneficial was the fact that we were in a convoy and I could clearly see the 2 Jeeps ahead of me. I would watch how they did and what lines they took and try to follow that. If it seemed like they struggled, then I would choose a different line. Driving all alone by myself would have been impossible for me to feel comfortable or even achieve what I was able to achieve
The event consisted of 3 groups. The 4x2s, the 4x4s and a bunch of them who were a part of a competetion called 'Mahindra off-road TRophy 2017'. The 4x2 had a completely different route and after the initial flagoff, I never got to see them. I wouldíve liked to drive that route to get to see the level and difficulty and write about it but the idea came to me only after a couple of days

My Thar for the day was a facelifted version with the now standard MLD (auto locking rear differential). This means that the differential locks the left and right rear wheels when it detects one of them slipping which allows the wheel with grip to push the vehicle along. Because itís automatically controlled (electronically), I did not have to worry about anything other than managing throttle inputs. I am pleased to report that it works very well to the point that average driver will not even feel the locking and unlocking especially with all the drama surrounding him at that point


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Old 9th July 2016, 14:59   #3
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Default re: Mahindra Great Escape - Lonavla, July 2016

The 4x4 and the off road completion participants did the same trails as a convoy after which the participants had to clear about 4-5 obstacles one by one. The judges would observe and rate them based on how well they cleared it
The trail drive lasted for about an hour after which the convoy regrouped and lined up to tackle the first obstacle which was part of the competition. At this point, it was optional for the 4x4 MGE guys to either keep going or hang around and watch the competition. The way the competition worked, the participants lined up their vehicles and the participants and their navigators/guests made up the audience that watched the vehicles try the obstacle one after the other


There was a post lunch part of the trail which we ended up missing because we were engrossed in watching the competition
I was told that I could give it a shot if I felt comfortable and this came as a surprise at which I was both nervous and delighted. I decided to watch and then decide if I could do it. Out of the 5-6 events, I decided I could do one or two. The most exciting one was the river or the pond crossing. It was an exciting and heart in the mouth moment when the Thar sunk deeper and deeper into the pond before it settled to a level just around a foot below the door. It was an exhilarating 45 seconds before I exited the pond without any major drama. I could see that there was some water in the footwell area that was draining through the drain holes provided. The door seals worked as designed and did not let any water trough so I was pretty impressed by that
The next event involved a steep mountain climb that pretty much no vehicle could even go even 10% up the climb. I think the one that got the most points was the one that went furthest which was around 20%

A lot of vehicles got stuck at this obstacle and had to be towed out. This resulted in the event getting delayed and I very quickly decided I was not going to attempt it. As that part was wrapping up, we decided to call it a day so that we could hit the highway and make it back to Mumbai at a decent hour
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Mahindra Great Escape - Lonavla, July 2016-img_5206.jpg  


Last edited by Mpower : 10th July 2016 at 08:53.
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Old 10th July 2016, 08:51   #4
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Default re: Mahindra Great Escape - Lonavla, July 2016

Although, I gained a huge amount of respect for the Thar, it’s not without its small irritating flaws. Under the wet conditions I found that my foot would keep slipping from the clutch pedal while releasing it which would end up stalling the engine. This is despite the fact that I was wearing sneakers with grippy rubber sole. Both the times its happened, It made me a little nervous because the vehicle was balanced precariously on a slope already. For conditions like these a more grippy aluminum type of clutch pedal is called for

Thanks to the constant rain, the windshield was fogged up and the HVAC system was not able to clear the screen completely. Surprising because the glass area is about one third of a typical C segment car (1/4 of a Honda Civic). There is a heater but the knobs and buttons are not conventional and thanks to being soaked I was freezing inside without heat

The gear shift feel was actually good under normal shifting speeds but during the event I found myself in the wrong gear and had do a quick downshift which would result in a crunch from the gearbox. For example when you are on a severe downhill in 3rd and need to quickly drop to 2nd

The thar I had was a soft-top and proved 100% leak free during the non-stop rains. I did not miss having metal roof even one although admittedly my drive was entirely low speed. The bigger problem was the fact that the only lockable compartment was the somewhat tiny glovebox which was OK for holding valuables the size of a mobile phone. I had a laptop bag that I left in the Jeep and was a little worried because it wasn’t truly locked

Keep in mind most of my driving was on loose surface and in 4x4 low. The MGE has made me a fan of off-roading and a fan on the Thar and am already thinking about how to own or rent one and participate in more events. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone looking for an hassle free mild OTR event

Last edited by Mpower : 11th July 2016 at 08:12.
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