I gingerly let the front wheels over the edge and the bonnet of the Tata Xenon I have been driving takes a dive. The view out of the windshield turns from bright blue sky to tree-tops and then to brown clay. Staring at the ground from the top of a sharp drop is unnerving enough as it is – the car is nearly tail-up – and being the first down the steep slope makes it even worse. Why did I volunteer to go first, again? Suddenly I don’t feel very good, the notion of toppling over is running circles in my head, and the thought of the mocking that will follow is making me sick in the gut. Then I remind myself that I have done this before and it all comes back. Lowest gear possible, wheels pointing straight and small jabs on the brakes when required, and the next thing I know, I am at the bottom – and clear of the final obstacle.
We were participating in the first ever Full Throttle Trails – a ‘timed obstacles’ off-road event organised by Tata Motors for owners of its UV and SUV ranges on the outskirts of Chandigarh. The event saw owners bringing out their Safaris, Arias and even Sumo Golds and Grandes. We entered the half-day-long event in a four-wheel-drive Xenon pick-up, but weren’t allowed to compete. Briefing done, registrations complete and cars stickered, we set off toward the off-road trail. For one eager bunch, the fun began the moment we got off the tarmac – a two-wheel-drive Safari got stuck and started throwing loose sand all over the place. Thankfully there were tractors on hand to help.
With the Xenon, we simply switched the shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive system to Four-High and ploughed through. It wasn’t all easy, though – a couple of tough stretches saw even tractors getting stuck trying to extricate the cars. We switched to Four-Low and carried on. A water crossing was another obstacle on the trail, which didn’t bother anybody much, but did make for a good picture. However, not long later, we managed to get stuck behind a stricken vehicle on a narrow path, and by the time the car was pulled out, a long queue had formed behind us. We set off in a hurry the moment the route cleared, right onto a slidey sandy stretch that saw the Xenon lose traction with the slightest steering input. We were having so much fun, we didn’t realise we had lost our way. Missing markers and exuberance on our part were to blame. Later on, we gathered with the rest of the cars on top of the hill where the final obstacle was waiting for us, which as you have read already, wasn’t all that difficult in the end.
For most owners, especially ones trying their hand at real off-roading for the first time, it was an experience worth remembering, going by the number of smiling faces. With twenty more of these events planned across the country and other multi-day events also in the offing, owners can look forward to exploring their car’s capabilities and having a lot of fun in the process. If you’re interested in putting your Tata SUV through its paces, you’ll have to hurry, as the participation numbers are limited.