Mahindra Thar off-road experience
The June-July period in my part of the world is one where once the monsoon sets in, transforms the area all around the western belt of Maharashtra into a lush green playground. I use the term playground because the myriad possibilities of tackling diverse terrain, whether on foot or horseback, not just to take in the terrain and the exercise but also experience the joy of soaking in the stunning vistas of countryside is unparalleled. However what is even more intoxicating for petrol heads like us all, is the sense of adventure once the rains thunder in gets magnified and you do want to get off the road and tackle the rough and tumble countryside, hill and dale, stream and rivulet.
Mahindra's Great Escape at Lonavala last month was a major catalyst in steering me towards doing more than the official escape from the humdrum regular. Held in the lush game park slam bang in front of the high profile Aamby Valley, it was all about hitting the forest trails with the rains pouring down, making it ultra slippery on rocky terrain and slushy in the muddy sections while also deep and dangerous in streams which had transformed into raging rivers. Ideal situation tailor-made for dedicated off-roaders armed with a variety of Mahindra’s - Scorpios, CJs of various hues and also of course the ubiquitous Thar.
My former colleague Bijoy Kumar Y who now heads the very successful Mahindra Adventure outfit tasked with putting the company's hardy vehicles in environs conducive to their intended application for lay persons to experience had been badgering me to really get off the beaten path. He not only promised me a most adventurous sortie out into the wilds where the rain is one of the heaviest there is in the country but just as importantly a very involving experience with a properly sorted out Thar. Now I had driven the Thar quite extensively at the time of its launch and while I had found it capable to get off tarmac, I had found it rather harsh and not too comfortable for the daily grind in the urban jungle.
I was therefore surprised when Dilip Desai and myself trooped into the Great Escape boot camp at Lonavala and Bijoy was there with a butch and beefy Thar, obviously breathed upon and looking its part, not just with its day-glo orange paint job but also because of the big boots it wore, the substantial roll cage it sported along with other off-road accessories. Now I have seen and experienced many Jeeps and off-roaders from other makes with just this sort of cosmetic makeovers so I was not about to burst into applause, simply for the fact that if not thought out the car’s handling deteriorates and is a liability instead of an asset over the rough and the difficult. However, to further brighten my spirits on a day with dark clouds and the rain steadily beating down, this orange Thar was the only open-to-the-sky vehicle in the Great Escape, I knew Bijoy has that impish sense of humour and who better to lay it on then yours truly!
All worries about handling or the lack of it along with heavy and cumbersome steering effort all flew out of the reckoning when the engine fired up and the Thar started to show what it was capable of. Ever since this vehicle had been re-invented in the mind so to speak by the product think tank within Mahindra, the back to basics approach of a honest mechanically activated 4 x 4 system has brought back the capability of such a frugal simple vehicle for the outdoors. A capability which was honed first on the battlefronts during World War II and then applied to more enjoyable and less violent pursuits like sport and pleasure.