I have always been a fan of the new Ford Endeavour and have never doubted its capabilities. In fact, ever since it first came out earlier this year, I was quite keen to take it off-road. When I had the vehicle for a few days for a review, we managed a small amount of off-roading, which was hardly a challenge for the Endeavour. It needed more. Much more. More mud, more slush, more drops, more climbs, more sand, more ruts and more fun! Now I have been going on off-road drives quite regularly with a group of like-minded off-roaders – Terrain Tigers. These folks are always enthusiastic about trying varied terrain in their 4x4 vehicles and have become really good at their craft. (Disclaimer: I drive a humble Mahindra Scorpio 4WD, so please excuse any parallels drawn in this narrative). Ford, has always wanted to show off the off-road prowess of the Endeavour, and it was just a matter of time before Ford Endeavour + Terrain Tigers = The Great Ford Endeavour Off-Road Drive happened. Also read: Ford Endeavour vs Competition
What make the Ford Endeavour 3.2 4x4 Titanium so capable off road? Before we get into what all the Ford Endeavour was to conquer, let’s just step back and examine the off-road credentials of this mammoth SUV. It comes with a huge 3,198 cc (3.2 litre), five-cylinder diesel engine that puts out 197 bhp of power at 3000 rpm and a locomotive 470 Nm of torque from 1750 rpm onwards. This power is transmitted through a six-speed automatic transmission and mated to an intelligent four-wheel drive system that has multiple modes for various sorts of terrain, aptly called a Terrain Management System.
The Terrain Management System has four modes: Normal Mode: In this mode power from the engine is transmitted to all four wheels with a 60:40 rear bias, which means 60% of the torque goes to the rear and 40% to the front at all times. However, when traction control kicks in, it can quickly alter that power delivery. This mode is more than enough for trail driving. For tough terrain, you can also use this mode with Low-Range and you can also lock the rear differential in this mode. Shifting to Low Range requires you to stop the vehicle, shift the transmission to N, and then press the Low Range button. Grass, Gravel and Snow Mode: Switching the dial to this mode alters the behavior of the engine. The accelerator pedal becomes less sensitive and it upshifts earlier and downshifts later so as to prevent too much torque going to the wheels and getting them to spin. It allows for gradual starts and the traction control also keeps cutting power as needed. Sand Mode: This is the fun mode for me at least! The throttle becomes very responsive and allows the wheels to slip freely with massive bursts of torque so as to maintain momentum on power soft sand or slush. The gears hold high rpms and it downshifts early to keep the revs up. Rock Mode: Switching to rock mode requires you to stop the vehicle, shift to N, press the low range button and then shift to rock mode. This is the crawl mode, where the mighty Endeavour will just pussy foot over any sort of rocky terrain at snail speed. In addition to this it has a selectable low-range gearbox, hill descent control and an electronically lockable rear differential. Add to that 225 mm of ground clearance, short front and rear overhangs (which means good approach and departure angles) and chunky all-terrain 265/60 R18 tyres on 18-inch wheels and you see why this vehicle seems capable of devouring just about anything in its path.
Now when you have such a capable vehicle, you need a pretty challenging track to throw at it. And that’s where Terrain Tigers came in. Making of the Great Ford Endeavour Off-Road Drive track The Bhanwari region just beyond Gurgaon is part of the Aravalli range and has lots of ups and downs, with mud, sand, grass, slush and a few rocks thrown in. It is a favourite with various off-road groups, including Terrain Tigers. This group has a mix of off-roaders including vehicles like the Maruti Gypsy, Mahindra Thar, Toyota Fortuner, Toyota Landcruiser, Mitsubishi Pajero, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Mahindra Scorpio, Tata Safari, Tata Safari Storme and lately a few new Ford Endeavours too.
Most buyers who buy the new Ford Endeavour would hardly use about 50% of its capabilities. Hence, the track had to be set up in such a manner so as to be able to showcase every mode of the Endeavour and throw it something challenging.
A handful of volunteers from the group (who in their normal lives are all senior professionals from various fields) got down and dirty planning the track, getting JCBs and shovels to work to set up the obstacles for the Endeavour. Various SUVs were tested on the track, including the new Ford Endeavour. The Tigers had to keep altering some bits of the track as the Endeavour found most of it quite easy – literally a drive in the park! (In comparison, my poor Mahindra Scorpio did have to huff and puff, slip and slide its way across some of the obstacles as it doesn’t have as much gizmo trickery or torque as the Endeavour does. One has to resort to the old-school way of off-road driving with it.)
The Great Ford Endeavour Drive – Obstacles Overcome I had the pleasure of being on both sides of the story (plus side: a lot more off-roading for me, yipee!). Ford invited me and other media personnel to come and experience the Ford Endeavour on this track on October 7. We all assembled at 8 am at one of the farmhouses bordering the Bhanwari region.
Neeloy Sarkar from Terrain Tigers briefed the drivers on what to do and what not to do on the track, as well as explained the various modes to be used with the Endeavour.
There were seven 3.2 litre 4x4 Titanium Ford Endeavours to be driven on this course. Each of these would have an instructor from Terrain Tigers sitting beside the driver to advise on the mode to be used and strategy to be employed to overcome obstacles on the track. Each journalist would get two laps of the track – and believe me as the day wore on, the track became very challenging, leading to some pretty dramatic photos of slushy Endys and a couple of rescues, where the driver didn’t quite use the right technique. But hey, what’s the fun of off-road driving if you don’t get stuck once in a way? The beauty of it is that the Endeavour is pretty forgiving and is easy to get out of a sticky situation.
Obstacle 1: The 60-degree downhill drop followed by a 45-degree sandy uphill dash (that later got quite rutted). Mode to be used: Rock mode, with 4x4 low range and Hill Descent Control (which automatically applies brakes selectively).
After driving out on the trail in normal mode and getting a visual feel of the length and width of the Endeavour (it has a pretty long imposing bonnet up front), I stopped just before the top of the drop to shift into Rock Mode, engage 4x4 low and switch on hill descent control. (My instructor / co-driver was Siddharth from Terrain Tigers). You just have to trust your vehicle in such situations – let the electronics do the work, let go of all pedals, no accelerator, no brake (and in manuals, no clutch). I did just that and the mighty Endeavour just crawled down the slope with no drama.
Then I got out of rock mode (this is too slow for a climb), but kept 4x4 low range engaged, hit the electronic differential lock button and stepped on the accelerator to charge up the sandy climb, bouncing across the ruts with the diff lock kicking in and traction control helping keep the Endy moving. We reach the top with absolutely no drama. Now, I’ve done the exact same slope in my Mahindra Scorpio – and it took a couple of attempts to clear it, using 4x4 low and third gear, with much steering input and some momentum to get up. The Endeavour didn’t hesitate to climb this at all. Obstacle 2: A quick dash on a mud track – the Raid. For this, I switched out of low range, back to normal mode and let the all-wheel drive system do its work. It quickly steps in to provide traction on the track. Even if you overcook a turn the traction control keeps things under control and power is quickly re-assigned to the driving wheels.
Obstacle 3: Green-laning through elephant grass and sand. Switch the dial to sand mode to get more aggressive power. Switch to low range for better torque and lower speeds. A small drop and a small climb were dispatched with ease, as if the Endeavour was just pulling into a driveway. The short overhangs front and rear ensure it doesn’t scrape its bumpers.
Obstacle 4: Slush pit. You need steady throttle input on this. It’s best to switch to the mode that handles slippery sections best, the grass, gravel and snow mode. Keep a steady foot on the throttle (switch the diff lock on if you want more confidence, but it wasn’t really necessary) and just power through the ruts and slush. The Endeavour hardly slipped at all, but it did redecorate the bodywork with slushy designs.
Obstacle 5 & 6: Downhill, right hand tilt followed by left hand 40-degree tilt. If you take the right turn in quite sharply on this obstacle, the left rear wheel will leave the ground, and it’s a nice rocking sensation that you get. Mode to be used, normal mode with Hill Descent control and low range engaged. As soon as I finished the descent, the course provided a left hand tilt to 40 degrees that is a scary angle, giving one the feeling of the vehicle flipping over, but with the Endeavour’s dimensions – where width (1860 mm) is more than height (1837 mm) – it is pretty safe.
Obstacle 7, 8 and 9: A 70-degree sharp drop, into a 45-degree right hand tilt followed by an ascending sandy climb offset at the top (higher on one side than the other). Mode to be used – rock mode, low range, and electronic differential lock engaged. This obstacle requires a spotter to tell you if your wheels are lined up right. Again, with the right mode and at absolute crawl speeds, the Endeavour took the drop effortlessly followed by the right hand tilt. For the climb, it is best to switch on the electronic differential lock, because opposing wheels lose traction at the top (cross axle) and that extra shove you get from the other wheel on the same axle helps in clearing this obstacle without too much momentum. Again, for reference, the same obstacle had to be cleared by using a lot of momentum in low range third gear in the Scorpio 4WD – that can be hard on the suspension, as you do get a wheel up at the top.
Obstacle 10: Water wading. The Ford Endeavour has a water wading capacity of 800 mm, which means it can easily ford water crossing that have water flowing above its bumper level. Now this was a tricky obstacle, because just beyond the water was a muddy climb that had become really slushy and needs momentum to get up. Mode used: Sand mode (for that burst of power) with low range and differential lock switched on. I went down really slow into the water and mid-way through gave it moderate power just enough to clamber up the slippery slope. Phew! A couple of others didn’t follow instructions to the T and did manage to bog down on this slope. If you just power it too hard, your tyres dig themselves into the slush and it will need winching out. It’s fairly easy hooking the Endeavour up though, as the tow eye is easily accessible under the front left portion of the bumper. Front and rear towing points are a very essential part of off-roading kit, and the Endeavour has really sturdy ones.
Obstacle 11: Rumble strip. This is not your average on-road speed breaker. These rumblers make the vehicle bounce up and down, testing the suspension out completely. It can be done in normal mode with steady throttle, or switch to low range if you want crawl speeds over this.
Obstacle 12: Chicken holes. These are alternating pits, nearly 1.5 feet deep, which tests the articulation of the vehicle. It also ensures that quite often, wheels on either the front or rear axle will lift off the ground and lose traction. For this it’s best to use normal mode with low-range and differential lock turned on. That way, there is absolutely no loss of traction. For the Ford Endeavour, even lifting a wheel meant it didn’t get stuck and just kept going through, with power quickly switching from side to side. It was almost like a drive through one of Gurgaon’s many poorly kept interior lanes.
With the first lap of the course done, it was back to the beginning of the trail for a repeat, again with no dramatics. Oh, did I mention that the super-chill climate control was on all through this drive, helping us keep our cool? This drive of the Ford Endeavour has just reaffirmed my faith in the vehicle. No obstacle is too challenging for it. Like I said in my review earlier, it is the ideal SUV for all terrain and cross-country touring. Plus, it is loaded with features (park assist, panoramic sun roof, cruise control, SYNC system etc) making it pretty good value for money. (Detailed Video follows) Photos by NikilSJ
Roshun Wow , that looks fun. And this is how a SUV should be road tested. With all the soft roaders being sold as SUVs, things like this make the real difference. Also, it's great that you also took pictures of the track preparation. There is a lot of planning and work that goes into making a tough and challenging track which most people don't give much credit to. With the powerful engine and robust chassis, I am sure the Endeavor would have zoomed past and asked for more. Being able to do it with AC is another advantage.I didnt see many people out assisting the drivers. Was that not needed?
Arjun There were spotters at two key obstacles. But for most part the instructions from the co-driver / navigator were enough. The obstacles were such that you could judge them well enough from inside the car, and it was well marked out as well. Here are a couple of videos from Ford of the track: [facebook_video]https://www.facebook.com/FordIndia/videos/1227591957292751[/facebook_video] And this one has yours truly also in it :-) [facebook_video]https://www.facebook.com/FordIndia/videos/1222729534445660[/facebook_video]
And here is the video I put together from the event. It shows off the various modes in the Ford Endeavour and the terrain it had to tackle. It's 6.30 mins long. Enjoy! [youtube_video]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iM1ddxPW3cM[/youtube_video]