The love for SUVs is perhaps highest in India; and no, it’s not because of their off-road ability but thanks to the abysmal conditions of our roads. Ask any SUV owner if they’ve ever engaged the four-wheel-drive mode or even if they’ve ever seen a mountain trails and the answer will almost always be no. For most, an SUV is only a means to isolate them from the outside chaos – its ground clearance and lofty perch offers owners a worry-free drive and a sense of security over our broken roads and crowded streets.
Thus, in a bid to remind SUV owners that their vehicles can do more than highways, city streets and pavements, Apollo organised a two-day off-road camp, called Bad Road Buddies, and invited us to drive along too. There were over 100 participants with over 50 SUVs, all ready to finally take their off-roaders – well, off-road; and what better venue to begin the drive than from than the country’s party capital, Goa. The actual off-road course was about 200km away in Dandeli, Karnataka, which meant we had a smooth highway drive until we got there. To add to the participants’ delight, Apollo also fitted their SUVs with the Apollo Apterra HT2 tyre – a tyre built for a comfortable highway drive but one that they say also has enough strength for a rocky road.
We started the drive in the morning and the reason for the company’s faith in the Apterras was soon evident. There is very little tyre noise even at speeds of over 100kph and the ride is nice and cushioned. This and, of course, a fairly well-laid-out highway meant we were at the off-road point pretty soon. The claims of strength for these highway tyres would soon be tested here on not one, but four professionally laid out off-road courses which, as we reached, looked daunting, even to the people in the Toyota Land Cruisers. Steep climbs and drops, loose gravel and massive boulders scattered all over, like a land mine explosion had dispersed them; this was no kiddy course.
Wrestling the steering wheel around the courses was tremendous fun and only after you do something this serious, do you understand that off-roading doesn’t just mean smashing through, but is a highly technical exercise. As for the tyres, how did they cope? Quite well, actually, especially considering these were highway tyres. As for their strength, well, none of the cars suffered any major cuts or even a puncture. So yes, if you have an SUV, do remember it can do more than just city streets, if you have the
time do get off the beaten path.