To a lot of us out there, off-roading just DOESN’T. MAKE. SENSE. Why would you deliberately point your vehicle towards mud and get stuck? Why climb inclines or cross rivers that were not meant to? Why incur big bills on a vehicle that feels agrarian when you could rather opt for comfort to smoothen your ride. Who in the world likes a clangy interior that doesn’t seem to hold our phones in place?
Mahindra has appointed a squad in place to address exactly this. A bunch of blokes, who go by the name of Mahindra Adventure, designated to drive vehicles into pits and holes where murderers would dispose of bodies. The team that takes trail adventure to another level, ensuring that the brands 4×4 abilities are demonstrated to the fullest.
Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? I sure was when I heard about The Royal Escape 2021, especially because the kingpin vehicle for this year was the all-new Thar. I got a chance to experience it at Mahindra’s off-road training academy, but the slush and mud wasn’t enough ‘difficulty’ for the insanely capable machine. Eventually, at the end of those five hours, I was left wanting for more. Seems like the team knew what I was craving for, and arranged just that.
What baffled me was the scarcely limited information that was sent along with the invite. Dates corresponding to the name of the cities where we would be, just in case the search and rescue team came looking for us. Having obtained such great details, I was looking forward to the surprise elements that would come my way. We were flown into Udaipur, the city of lakes, for our assembly and from there, the pack of explorers would proceed deeper into the dry region of the state.
I’ve had some experience driving off-road on varied tarmac but what I was completely new to was dune bashing. Driving a 2-tonne vehicle on a surface that proves tricky even to walk – exciting. My initial interaction with fellow publications revealed it wasn’t just me, but many who were looking forward to the same sort of thrill.
The next morning we were united with our SUVs, the diesel manual was our adventure explorer (a.k.a. Adventure 7) for the next few days but I did, very briefly, sample the diesel automatic as well. No matter how many times you’ve seen the Thar or even driven it, you just can’t get enough of its updated towering dimensions. It completely overpowers any other vehicle on the road by its sheer road presence, giving you a feeling of indestructibility from within the cabin.
The attention it gets is dignitary. Partly because of those dimensions, partly due to its relatively fresh face. Also, we were on a roll in a 12-car convoy, turning heads even in the remotest locations. On our way to Jodhpur, we stopped by Lakshyaraj Singh Mewar’s mansion to witness his collection of Mahindras from the yesteryears. Some immaculate and extremely uncommon body types were showcased, along with his newly-possessed all-new Thar. A filling lunch later we headed to Jawai dam, the biggest of its kind in western Rajasthan.
In addition to conserving water for irrigation, the catchment area also serves as a wildlife conservatory area, housing varied types of birds and mammals, including leopards who hunt down sheep brought down for grazing. Absolute wilderness; stuff that Thar eats for breakfast. Its capabilities were showcased in no time as we climbed up an incline to elevate us from ground-level to breath-taking views in a mere few metres. A climb so steep, all I could see through the windscreen was the beautiful sky, with my steering and throttle inputs being directed by the spotter via a radio. Crazy! These are the kind of places that a capable 4×4 can take you. The surprise didn’t end there; the descent was again immediate, but thanks to its amazingly controlled crawling speed that’s entirely mechanically geared, the Thar brought us down with poise and confidence.
The sun was just settling in, dazzling the sky with shades of pink and orange. A scene so picturesque, I wish I could freeze time. It was eerily quiet too and a keen spotter amongst us was able to locate a crocodile on top of a rock, just chilling.
The drive to Jodhpur stretched late into the night, but the well-paved roads of Rajasthan proved helpful to get us there safely. The last time I drove the Thar on the highway, which was also my first, it proved to be slightly unsettled and uncomforting due to excessive pitch and body roll. While these things still remained, I began to see past the demarcation. No, it’s not a road car, it’s not designed or built as one and it isn’t marketed as one either. It’s a true-blooded off-roader and that’s where it delivers. Can it also drive decently on the road and can cover a few hundred kilometres without a hiccup? Yes, it certainly can.