Sitting on the high-set seat of the Jeep Wrangler, the only instructions I got were, “Drive as gently as you can and keep the acceleration steady, when required.” That’s all the instructor said before I set off to experience the Rs 71.59 lakh Jeep Wrangler and the Rs 1.03 crore Grand Cherokee. Jeep also sells the performance-oriented Rs 1.12 crore Grand Cherokee SRT in India, but was not a part of the Camp Jeep experience, it being a more street-special unit.
The event was held to give the media and prospective buyers an experience of driving a Jeep “in its natural habitat”. The specially prepared track was around 2km long, located on the outskirts of Mumbai and comprised seven different challenges.
Both the Jeep models on sale in India and made available for the experience come with rugged 4WD tech. The Grand Cherokee SUV offers capable off-road prowess in a more comfortable environment, whereas the Wrangler is the more hardcore off-roader with an iconic old-school character.
The track first started with a steep downward incline showcasing the Wrangler’s superb Hill Descent Control (HDC) capability. To engage this feature, one has to put the gearbox in neutral, select 4L (4-low) on the transfer case of the Wrangler’s Command Track part-time 4WD system and hit the HDC button on the centre console. To move the vehicle, the driver has to again engage Drive on the gear selector to start moving. Once HDC is engaged, it senses the terrain and the gradient which the vehicle is being driven on and adjusts its speed automatically depending on the gear, bringing the vehicle to a safe and controlled descent. We tried this on the incline and the Wrangler was moving downwards at a speed of close to 5kph on its own. The driver can override this HDC function and take control if he wishes to, by pressing the brake which disengages HDC.
The next stage on the track comprised some tricky axle twisters. The Wrangler Unlimited comes with well-known heavy duty Dana 30 axles up front and the beefier Dana 44 axles at the back which make the vehicle gobble up such obstacles quite easily. The whole motive of this demonstration was to show that the wheels that are in the air do not get any power while all that power is transferred to the ones that are on the ground, so that the vehicle can move out without any problem. Next up were some steep climbs which included some sharp angular turns as well, which demonstrated another important feature, the Hill Hold control. This feature automatically comes into play when the vehicle stops during its climb. It prevents the SUV from rolling back and holds it at the same place without the driver having to press the brakes.
Further down the track, we went through some specially designed rock and stone patches showcasing the SUV’s ground clearance. There were also specially designed patches along with another set of steep 50 degree inclines, which were designed to demonstrate the SUV’s approach and departure angles. For the record, the Jeep Wrangler offers a 42.2 degree approach angle and 32.5 degree departure angle which make climbing up and coming down steep inclines a cakewalk. Finally, there was the specially prepared “stairs” which again demonstrated the Jeep’s strong off-road capability where the transfer of power to the front and the rear wheels gets managed automatically during a very high degree of incline.
Overall, the experience was enjoyable to say the least, and while the course was specially prepared keeping in mind the Jeep’s abilities, the manner in which the cars tackled the obstacles leaves you in no doubt that that the Wrangler Unlimited and the Grand Cherokee diesel can handle much more. Jeep will be launching its more affordable Compass SUV later this year, which Jeep assured us, will also be adept at off-roading.
(All prices, ex-showroom, Delhi)
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