We try our hand at off-roading with some of Jeep’s best at the first-ever Camp Jeep in Pune. Three SUVs and a challenging trail; enough said
Hitting the dirt for some proper off-roading
C amp Jeep lets owners and prospective customers get a chance to experience Jeep’s prowess in rather extreme off-roading conditions. After being conducted in various parts of India, Jeep set up camp in Pune for a weekend; the first time in the city. When the American SUV manufacturer extended an invitation to get dirty on a Saturday, we heartily accepted.
This edition of Camp Jeep had one variant of each model from Jeep India’s line-up. All cars shared the same course with special sections dedicated to each of them where they could showcase their specific strengths. The organizers had marked out the four-kilometre-long course within a natural off-road trail that became progressively tougher as you drove further in. Additionally, Jeep had also set up steel structures within an enclosure to showcase their cars’ extreme capabilities. This course featured obstacles such as a 45-degree ramp, a water-fording tank, and an axle-buster ramp, among others.
In order to get familiar with the route, I decided to start with the latest member in the Jeep family, the compact Compass. After engaging 4WD Lock and choosing “Sand” mode, I slotted the car into first gear and set out. A vigilant instructor in the passenger seat offered occasional advice as the car crawled along the course. Soon, loose soil and stones gave way to rock and shale. At a steady 1,500 rpm, the 2.0-litre MultiJet II turbo-diesel engine barely broke into a sweat as the Compass dismissed the change of terrain with ease. The car’s compact dimensions and effortless steering made it easy to manoeuvre between thorny bushes and rocks. Rocks that we could not drive around, we drove over; thanks to the car’s impressive ground clearance. After wading through a small stream and cresting a hillock without much ado, we headed towards the man-made course. Built to push these cars to the limit, the obstacles put the Compass to test and it passed with flying colours. A couple of Compass owners were elated to see that their cars were capable of such exploits and vowed to take them off-roading more often.
High on confidence, I traded the Compass for a spin in the Grand Cherokee. The welcoming, airy cabin and luxurious interior made me forget about the sweltering mid-day Pune heat and the arduous (but fun) task of off-roading. Furthermore, the large SUV came equipped with a lot of electronic gadgetry that
made life a lot easier for the driver. The Grand Cherokee course was full of steep rocky gradients that offered no traction at all and similarly daunting descents. Acknowledging the instructor’s counsel, I kept the throttle steadily open and the mammoth SUV dragged itself up the slope with ease, finding grip in places where there was none to be found, thanks to the Selec-Terrain traction control system. The precipitous descents were a walk in the park due to Hill Descent Control.
The Wrangler Unlimited was the most popular car at the event, which meant that there was a long line of people waiting for their turn. When it was my turn, I hauled myself into the burly SUV with a wide grin to take on the toughest course of the lot. The butch stance and meaty look of the SUV promised a good time even before I laid hands on the steering wheel, and it did not disappoint. While the other cars demanded some responsible driving, the Wrangler felt as if it was ready to take on anything. An absolute beast in sketchy terrain, it dismissed most of the course with ease. Then we reached the section that was set aside especially for the Wrangler. The steepest gradients yet, a small stream, and narrow paths strewn with large rocks awaited us. The huge vehicle was easy to manoeuvre and gracefully ran over most of the obstacles, courtesy its great approach and departure angles.
The whole course took nearly 30 minutes to complete in each car. Prospective customers at the event also had the chance to take their family along for the off-road session. For those who had to wait for their turn to drive, Jeep had set up a delightful outdoor lounge, complete with a snack counter, game area, merchandise stalls, and a static display of Jeep vehicles.
those of you who missed it, Jeep have promised to be back with bigger events, and with such capable cars on offer we believe it is only going to get better .