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Took my Jeep Meridian 4x4 AT on its first ever off-roading experience

The Meridian is definitely a very capable 4x4 machine - there's no doubting that. Much more capable than the likes of AWD monocoques.

BHPian Axe77 recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

I have been meaning to take the Jeep off tarmac ever since I got it but was clear I'd only take it under proper guided supervision for the first time and also use the occasion to learn the technicalities of off-roading from an expert, while at it.

No other name was in my mind except our fellow DBHP'ian Dr. Tejas, who I've had occasion to meet previously as well through a common friend. Decided to finally sign up for his L1 training last Sunday. Took my son as well to make it a nice father - son day long outing.

Dr. Tejas is Asia's first certified I4WDTA trainer - you can read more about him (or actually I4WDTA) here.

This is an old thread however and his school, Learn Offroad is much more recent, active since about 2019 if I'm not mistaken. You can read a wonderfully detailed report by BHP'ian TurboLove on his L1 outing with his Compass at the same location I had visited. You can read the report here.

The day in detail:

The off-roading location was somewhere around Pali. 9:30 am reporting time means we had left Mumbai by about 7:20 am to reach well in time.

The day started with about 90 minutes of a basic theory session around power, torque, workings of the differential, locking the differential etc. Even basics like ideal driving position were covered.

It had been raining a fair bit the whole weekend so the terrain was definitely going to be a tad more "interesting" for L1 levels. I was reading TurboLove's thread again and with my own frame of reference now, it was amazing to see how different the same location and terrain looks and feels between dry season and peak monsoon.

There were a total of 4 cars in addition to Tejas' first gen Thar: these were a V2 Thar diesel A/T; a Gypsy; a LR Discovery Sport and my Meridian.

Tyre pressures were reduced at the beginning itself and we then started off with some basic obstacles including a spotting drill where we teamed up with one learner spotting for another driver and then switching roles. Decided my son will do the spotting drill for me (with some guidance from Tejas from behind him).

From here we moved on step by step to more difficult obstacles before breaking for a late lunch. By the time we wrapped up at the location, it was almost 5 pm.

The Meridian is definitely a very capable 4x4 machine - there's no doubting that. Much more capable than the likes of AWD monocoques but definitely nowhere even close (at the risk of stating the obvious) to the lovely Thars and Gypsies with their insane articulation, ground clearance and even superior crawl ratios. The Jeep will tackle some really difficult obstacles with aplomb but if you're serious about rock climbing every weekend, you really must get yourself a Thar / Gypsy / similar custom built vehicle.

Nothing more to add really. While its the videos that really best demonstrate the day, I'm constrained to leave the rest of the story via pics, some of these from screengrabs from videos shared by Dr. Tejas. These are not all the obstacles we navigated but whatever I could get from the pics / videos from others.

Picture time:

Warm up to off-roading. Typical conditions on some interior roads in Maharashtra.

Above and below. Close to the venue and before time means extra time for some quick pics.

Above and below. Outside our briefing area. Typical setting during monsoons around the Western Ghats. I absolutely love driving during the rains just for the outstanding greenery around.

Part of the lineup for the day.

And we're off and away deeper into the wilderness. Solo pic above and the line up below.

First order of business. Reducing air pressure to about 2/3rd of the default levels.

Above and below. Obstacle number one. Entering and exiting this ditch.

 Obstacle two: Climbing this mini hill to get a feel of the different wheels lifting off the ground. Also emphasizes sideways entry to such hazards.

Obstacle three: Navigating these iron pipes. You'll see this in the thread linked above as well. Note the vast difference in the greenery around during this season.

Above and below. First set of obstacles completed and on our way to the next.

Above and below. Mud patch entry. I tried this multiple times but didn't manage to exit the obstacle cleanly after repeated attempts. Finally had to clamber out from one side of the obstacle and exit via the "chicken” route. This is where the Thars and the Gypsy simply showed their effortless class. The Discovery Sport got similarly stuck like my vehicle. Drier conditions or more off road biased tyres might have improved our chances of climbing out I reckon.

Several attempts later. Absolute battle scarred and mud strewn exterior to the car. I think my car cleaner will expect an early Diwali bonus this month.

Above and next two pics below:

This one was tricky. A steep hill descent followed by a sharp turn and then a steep climb on slippery moss ridden rock face. We had to turn back and return from another side path that had deep ruts. Navigate a turn through that and again climb back on the same rock face. Navigated the entire obstacle only to knock my front bumper while circling around for the second attempt. Cracked the chrome strip at the base of my bumper in the process but I'll take that over what could have been a lot worse.

Wheel in the air before the climb up the slippery rock face.

Final obstacle: driving with the car sloping sideways, one wheel on higher ground and the other in the deep ditch.

Above and below. Exiting the obstacle. Wheel high in the air at some point.

Same obstacle. The LR had slid inside and we got a 101 session on using some recovery tools to bring it out.

The mud ridden car is finally calling it a day. Certificates in hand, we head out for our drive back home.

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