It was a roller coaster ride on 21st Jan 2023, when I decided to visit MSPT or Mahindra SUV Proving Track at Cheyyar SIPCOT Industrial area, around 15 KMs from Kanchipuram. I was eager to drive the 4x4 Thar since long and this could be the best chance to stress test it under the guidance of experts. I have driven my Compass from Kaza to Manali via Chandra Taal Lake, a distance of 200KM covering in 10 hours of continuous driving, which was not only challenging but an equally tiring off road experience considering there are absolutely no roads for the entire stretch. While driving the Compass, on 2 occasions I had to engage the terrain selectable 4-wheel drive while climbing through rocky hair pins and the car performed without any grudge. Since then, there has been a constant itch to drive a 4x4 in a tougher but varied terrain and this seemed just the perfect opportunity.
I have been following “mahindraadventure” on Instagram for quite some time and came across this 4x4 drive on Thar organized in January. I booked a slot and drove down to Kanchipuram from Bangalore the previous evening. Mahindra SUV Proving Track (MSPT): <Photography was prohibited inside MSPT and Mahindra Vehicle Development Center>
Finished an early breakfast at hotel and reached the venue at 8.15am. It is a 450-acre massive Mahindra Vehicle Development Centre. There were 14 participants in this batch who were allotted 7 Thars - all MT. Along with the Xtreme Adventure event, there was an additional optional session of MSPT experience (Mahindra SUV Proving Track) where participants were driven around their R&D facility by professionals in their XUV700, Alturas and Scorpio-Ns.
Remember as kids whenever we visited the local fair, we used to be fascinated with the bikes and Maruti800 driving round and round in the ‘maut ka kuan’(well of death)? Well, we experienced it firsthand sitting in the co passenger seat.
The drive at MSPT kicked off with a rapid acceleration to 180 KMPH and our Alturas was on a banking of 45 degrees similar to a velodrome. The car kept spinning at that constant speed for quite some time and trust me it was quite an experience.
Every lane has speed specified at which they had to enter the lane and at which they had to drive at each level of banking to get the exact centrifugal force. It was a breathtaking experience and everyone wanted to try this out which certainly was politely ruled out by the officials.
Post the MSPT, we were taken to various tracks and terrains which are made to stress test vehicles under development. Inclines, twists and turns, highways with potholes, rocky terrain as well as slippery surfaces, trenches filled with waters, artificial showers are prepared to test stability, suspension and braking, electronics, NVH levels etc. I have not visited such a facility earlier, but no doubt this felt like an ideal benchmark where everyone would like to go through to validate their own car's power and performance.
Experience at MSPT lasted for an hour and half and after a short meet and greet with Mr.Veluswamy R (Chief of Global Product Development, Automotive Division) we walked towards our parked Thars around 11:30 am to begin the main Mahindra Adventure event. A short medical checkup was conducted for every participant to make sure parameters like BP, sugar and weight are within permissible limits before the 4x4 drive kicked off. Meeting with Mr. Veluswamy R: Mahindra Xtreme Adventure:
The aptly designed entry gate shows that thrill starts right here. A huge cutout of a tilted Thar endorsed with a writeup “4x4 Explore The Impossible” welcomes the participants to this unknown world of adventure.
There was one lap before lunch and 2 laps after. Every lap had series of obstacles with varying terrains and difficulties. Considering every car was shared by 2 participants, both got a chance to drive on every lap.
There were constant instructions over radio on which direction to maneuver, which saved us the trouble of getting down to inspect the obstacle ahead every time.
I have compiled a video covering the entire circuit. I have tried to show how every obstacle feels from inside the vehicle and outside in consecutive video captures. The video may be a bit long, but hope you enjoy it along with the music.
With every lap, difficulty level kept increasing and it does not only test the Thar but the drivers and co-drivers’ patience, endurance and accuracy too. The driver’s ability to withstand the violent movement of the car is under test, which we rarely get to experience on our weekend off-road drives. The obstacles and the drives:
The first lap of the drive kicked off with a thrilling see-saw challenge.
You climb up the ramp and wait at the fulcrum till the cars own weight pulls you down with a heavy thud on the ground, and then you drive out the ramp. You should follow the instructor’s guidance blindly. They are always at critical points, guiding you to safety.
Once you get the kick, you keep asking for more. On one hand, you see the slush, trenches, road laid out with uneven cement blocks, stones and tires and wonder what should be the best approach to cross it at one go. On the other hand, the adrenaline is running too high to have patience. And that becomes the game changer.
Mahindra team needs a huge applause in designing the circuit where every obstacle is unique and throws a new challenge to the driver. Precision driving was required while driving on cemented rails, drain pipes and 45-degree inclination.
And if you are not attentive and precise enough, you will need to be winched out. Nazar hati, durghatna ghati:
The approach and departure angles of the car had to be taken care while driving into deep trenches.
The wooden bridge or sawtooth cemented ramps requires you to mandatorily stop the car after every step, otherwise the car shakes vehemently and will toss the driver and co-passenger inside the car. However due to the high torque, it requires practice and some strength to bring the car to a halt at every step and restart. Another important aspect of this driving is the way you hold the steering wheel. Placement of thumb on the steering was important while crossing the canal and slushes due to heavy steering feedback which otherwise will put sheer force on the driver’s hand enough to injure him/her.
Similarly, when climbing down the concrete sawtooth, the car will vehemently shake. So, we need to climb down one step and come to a complete halt. Now, to cross the next stair, gently release clutch and slightly release the brake simultaneously. Once the car drops or crosses the next step, press clutch and brake again to stop it. The technique of paddling between clutch and brake is little tricky, and I can’t claim I have mastered it completely, but definitely I could apply learnings from driving my Jeep Compass. It takes practice to get a car rolling only with clutch and brake but without pressing acceleration. Driving on the bridge:
In many obstacles, the driver needs to maintain the momentum of the car to cross it. Driving through alternate trenches was one of them. The trench depth of one side of the car was so deep, that at a certain point only two tires get the traction and if someone loses momentum, the car will get stuck in an odd position. The heavy momentum threw out my phone out of the car while shooting the video but luckily it escaped unhurt. Alternative trenches: Driving through canal:
Definitely the drive was a daunting task. Few inputs from my side: tire pressure was kept low by Mahindra experts. While driving the car, differential was always kept at 4-low and gear was at 1st. The trick is to open the throttle at correct time. No need to rush when getting into an obstacle, but once I felt the car is getting stuck, gradually I increased the pressure on gas and observed how effortlessly Thar helps to cross the barrier. Absolutely no half clutch in the entire drive, when needed to halt, press clutch and brake to stop, that’s the only operation of clutch.
I know there are many 4x4 experts in the forum who must have crossed much more difficult terrains compared to what I did in Mahindra 4x4 track. But, as a beginner, I am really excited to share my experience, and could not resist myself to elaborate a little on what I learnt and implemented on the track day. With Thar: With my co-driver: Driving up the rocky hills: Few shots of the Thar: The SUV proving track: A busy guy helping the participants:
The drive ended around 6 PM. After a round of refreshments and chit chats on how excited we all were on completing the drive we headed towards receiving our coveted certificates. It meant a lot to all of us. Photo Credits:
Photo and video credits goes to Mahindra Xtreme Adventure Team, fellow participants and myself. Summary:
Well, the general questions which I have faced after completing this ride:
“What's the point of these drives?”
As I explained earlier, the need is not to test a Thar, its proven already. The need is to get a kick, by overcoming something which at first glance looks impossible, but eventually you do it and enjoy to the fullest.
“Would you do this with your own car?”
Certainly not, even if Mahindra comes up with a track where the challenges are far mellowed down, I won’t bring my Jeep to do it. I am not undermining my car, but would not like my car to get into some serious damage and regret for it later.
“Is it suitable for all?”
If you love off-roading, this could be a good beginning. You get guidance at every step which gives you a confidence that you are in safe hands. Finally the video: