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Are you a hardcore off-roading enthusiast but never had the chance to actually try it out?
If yes, Mahindra & Mahindra has set up a dedicated facility just for this in the valleys of Igatpuri in Maharashtra — the Mahindra Adventure Off-Road Training Academy.
Recently, we had the opportunity to participate in one session of the training and here's a brief of our experience, plus, why you should definitely attend the course!
The Mahindra Adventure Off-Road Training Academy is spread over 28 acres, complete with lush vegetation but most importantly, broken paths. There is a fleet of Mahindra Thar 4x4 CRDe models at your disposal; all equipped with off-road tyres and roll cages.
The training is headed by Mr Selvin Jose from Mahindra Adventure and his team — a group of experienced drivers who can conquer any challenging terrain from behind the wheel. The team is well-trained and equipped to get you out of any tricky situation.
Starting off, the participants are given a quick briefing about what they will be doing in the course and what all they shouldn't do. It is at that moment when we realise that we have to unlearn everything we follow in normal driving. Off-roading is just a different art of driving.
The Mahindra Thar In A Glance
The Mahindra Thar is powered by a 2.5-litre CRDe diesel engine which makes 105bhp and 247Nm of torque. Power is sent to either the rear wheels or all four wheels in High and Low formats. While the power figures are not the highest out there, the short-ratio between the initial few gears is what which counts.
The short-ratio transmission combined with the 4x4 Low setting ensures that the Mahindra Thar will crawl out from any undulations with relative ease. However, driving an off-roader (or a ‘Jeep' as the majority of us call it) needs some getting used to, even to move it from a standstill for the very first time.
The Mahindra Thar comes at a starting price of Rs 6.48 lakh ex-showroom (Delhi). As per sources, the next-generation Thar is currently under development but you can know all the details of the current Thar — here!
The training session is split into various obstacle courses; each involving humps, dips, mud, water and steep inclines. Throughout the session, the participants will get the hang of how to efficiently use the three pedals and select the right gear.
No matter how much of a driving expert you are on the road, the first plunge into a ditch is quite scary for a rookie. Being an off-roader, the Thar doesn't offer the best of comfort and support to keep you in place but throws you around inside whenever the wheels meet an obstacle. The seatbelts are the only thing which prevents you from getting thrown away.
Furthermore, before driving on any such conditions, it is always recommended to 'walk the terrain' (of course, only if it's walkable). By walking on the path you intend to take the off-roader, you'll get some idea about the traction and the right driving line to choose.
As per the instructions given, the best way to conquer any challenging path is to engage 4x4 Low, put the vehicle in first or second gear and just leave the clutch. The vehicle will then do the rest and the driver just needs to steer it in the right path. If the vehicle reaches a point where it can't move any further, reversing and going forward again is the best option.
But in off-roading, there wouldn't actually be a right path. The ideal passage keeps on changing depending on the soil stiffness and the path taken by the previous vehicle. Since there were around 10 Mahindra Thars for the course we've attended, the terrain transformed with each run (especially the ones which were muddy).
Inclines and declines also play leading roles in the session. Unlike in most modern cars, there is no Hill Climb Assist or Hill Descent Control to ensure a smooth traverse. Instead, it is solely the skill of the driver which is put to test in the entire process. The recommended way to climb a 60-degree incline is to put the Thar in 4x4 Low, engage second gear and gently throttle. While coming down, it's best to leave the vehicle in first or second and just let it roll down on its own.
Another interesting and rather frightening part is when we apply brakes. Unlike in normal cars, hard braking would actually cause the vehicle to go faster the moment you take your foot off the pedal. The reason for this is the activation of the knock sensor when it feels the vehicle is undergoing faulty detonation (when engine lugs if braked without using the clutch). To prevent the car from stalling, the engine is supplied with more fuel and this inadvertently causes the vehicle to move faster.
Even the accelerator should be feathered only if it is absolutely necessary. A first-timer will definitely have some difficulties to navigate the Mahindra Thar through the unfamiliar driving conditions. But with the active assistance of the trainers, each participant could make their way out. Those who got stuck mid-way were either winched out or pushed forward by the trainers.
Wading through muddy water is quite challenging but equally fun too. If not in the ideal traction conditions, the vehicle will get stuck with bonnet-level water. Again, since the team is well-equipped with all the gears and expertise, there is absolutely nothing to worry about.
Chances for the vehicles to topple over are high but the course is set in such a way that there are almost zero possibilities to have a casualty (thanks to the roll cage too). The rugged nature of the Mahindra Thar is also proved during an accident. Even if it topples or rams into something but ultimately ends up on all four wheels, it will still be able to go forward without any trouble.
Articulation of the wheels is also an important factor in off-roading. It is basically the measure of how much a wheel or the axle can tilt with respect to the chassis. Articulation determines the level of contact between the wheel and a tough terrain; aiding traction, in turn.
It isn't entirely the terrain conditions which make off-roading such a demanding task but the shift from the driving pattern we follow on normal roads. Once you can figure out the balance between the two, you'll become good at off-roading.
To sum up, the Mahindra Adventure Off-Road Training Academy is definitely worth a go if you really want to experience the unconventional ways of driving a vehicle. Off-roading is definitely challenging but nothing short of thrilling.
The Mahindra Adventure Off-Road Training Academy offers courses in two levels. Details about the upcoming batch and what is involved in each level are given on Mahindra Adventure's official website. Here is a small summary:
- Level 1 (one-day) — Getting Dirty: Rs 7500 per head
- Level 2 (two-day) — Trail Survivor: Rs 17,500 per head
*prices include food and one-day accommodation (if applicable).
Thoughts On The Mahindra Adventure Off-Road Training Academy
With the training academy, Mahindra Adventure has created an excellent platform for starters and budding motorsport enthusiasts to hone their skills in going off-road. If you have the love for driving and would like to explore another sphere of it in a safe and effective environment, we thoroughly recommend you to register for the Mahindra Adventure Off-Road Training Academy.