ABC of off-roading part 3: Level 2 And 3 off-road trails

In part 3 of the ABC of Off-Roading series, we hit Level 2 and 3 trails in the Jimny to explain the challenges that each type of trail brings and how to tackle them using the AllGrip Pro 4x4 system
The Maruti Suzuki Jimny produces 103bhp of power and 134Nm of torque
The Maruti Suzuki Jimny produces 103bhp of power and 134Nm of torqueShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

Go off-roading, they said. It’ll be fun, they said. Well, they didn’t tell me anything about the misery that comes with getting stuck! And so I was stranded with my uncle’s archaic 4x4, on a hill all alone, on a chilly morning with no network reception. Yikes. I had ventured into the wild just a few days after bagging my driving license, a few kilometres away from the city. Off- road know-how? What’s that? I just had some extra confidence accompanying me but that surely wasn’t enough to conquer this silly mountain. I had beached the old thing in thick muck and the only way to get it out was with a tow. Help was two kilometres down at the base, and I had no option but to walk there. On the way down, I encountered a couple of motocross riders and heard them discussing, “It’s a Level 3 trail ahead.” Alien terms to me! After getting back home, that entire evening was spent on the internet studying all things off-road and for this instalment of our ABC of off-roading series, I’m going to break it down for you too. I took our long-term Maruti Suzuki Jimny to Pro Dirt Adventure off-road park near Lonavala to hit Level 2 and 3 off-road trails. To explain the challenges that each of them possess and how to drive them with the help of the Jimny’s capable AllGrip Pro 4x4 system.

The wheels are 15-inch in size with 195-section tyres
The wheels are 15-inch in size with 195-section tyresShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

Level 2 trail

We’re directly moving to a Level 2 trail because I don’t want to bore you about a Level 1 trail. That’s because it’s routine for a lot of us Indians – our pothole ridden city streets could sometimes qualify as one. A Level 1 trail consists of a fairly rough surface, with small pits, that can be tackled with ease without the need for four-wheel-drive or even all-wheel-drive. Easy peasy, nothing too crazy. About time we move to a Level 2 trail then and shift to 4x4.

What is a Level 2 trail, you ask? Well, it consists of loose sand pits, slush ruts, water crossings up to 10-inch deep, and even medium-sized boulders. Here, four-wheel-drive is a must. It might not be required in the dry, but in the wet it is. And man hasn’t yet figured out how to control rain. The Jimny gets a shift-on-fly four-wheel-drive system, which enables you to shift to 4x4 (high) without stopping. All you have to do is move the four-wheel-drive lever from 2H to 4H and voila, the Jimny’s 1.5-litre nat-asp four-cylinder engine is ready to power all its wheels now.

The Jimny gets Maruti’s 1.5-litre K15B 4-cylinder engine
The Jimny gets Maruti’s 1.5-litre K15B 4-cylinder engineShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

But before you start the Level 2 off-road trail, there are a few things that you need to consider. Visibility is a very important factor while off-roading. Before you begin you need to get into a good driving position. You need to sit up high so you get a better view of the path ahead and plan your lines carefully. Also sit close to the steering wheel so you have leverage to turn quickly if required. And when you start driving, your primary goal should be to traverse the path of least resistance. Keep your eyes peeled for the hard surface and place the wheels of your vehicle accordingly. Be smooth with the throttle and the brakes on loose sand and don’t be aggressive, even if you think that the car is sinking. If the vehicle starts to spin its wheels, just stop and try to get away easily. Momentum is the key. You can even try to move your steering wheel side to side so that the front tyres can find better grip.

On a Level 2 trail, you might encounter steep inclines and declines but they can be dealt with using just 4High. If the going gets really tough with rocks and near-vertical climbs, it’s only then that there’s a need for 4Low. But 99 per cent of the time, because of its compliant suspension and compact size tackling a Level 2 trail is like a walk in the park for the Jimny. It soaks up all the ruts and doesn’t throw you off like other SUVs. It stays pliant and that gives you more confidence for your shenanigans. The Jimny’s size makes a huge difference on tight paths. Its narrow dimensions allow you to remain unbothered and its square design (which Suzuki aptly calls ‘functional beauty’) helps you to see the edges of the vehicle and place it with precision. Its lightweight and narrow tyres allow it to cut through mud like a hot knife through butter. The Jimny also has a tall 210mm ground clearance and very short front and rear overhangs that give it amazing approach, departure and breakover angles.

The Maruti Suzuki Jimny has an approach angle of 36 degrees and a departure angle of 47 degrees
The Maruti Suzuki Jimny has an approach angle of 36 degrees and a departure angle of 47 degreesShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

Slush recovery

A Level 2 trail is arguably the most fun because it is challenging but not overly so. However, you can still get stuck and the biggest culprit will likely be the slush pit. These pits are fun – who doesn’t love kicking up a bit of mud. But bad technique, a bad line or even misjudging the depth could have you stuck. That's why you always go off-roading with a friend in another SUV, and also take along some important recovery gear, if there's a need for a tow. Also ensure that you have heavy duty tow ropes and shackles. Attach them to the tow hook of both the cars and start driving out. Remember to take it easy and ask the audience to stay away from the strap because it can cause serious injury if it snaps. Use a damper if you can.

The Jimny gets disc brakes in the front and a drum brake system in the rear
The Jimny gets disc brakes in the front and a drum brake system in the rearShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

Level 3 trail

A Level 3 trail is no laughing matter. These are the toughest, most hard-core trails that you can attempt in a showroom stock 4x4. It consists of rougher terrain including bigger rocks, slushier soil and also things such as deeper water crossings. The obstacles are more extreme and you could do serious harm to yourself and your vehicle. Extreme caution is required to prevent the underbody from getting bashed on rocks. Anything tougher than this would be classified as levels 4 and even level 5, but that would require seriously modified and specialised vehicles. Here, you definitely need to be skilled behind the ’wheel to take on some arduous trails. There’s no point going in there as a noob. If you’re nervous, try some semi-hardcore trails first before turning to Level 3. Also, switch to 4Low now.

The Jimny has a ground clearance of 210mm
The Jimny has a ground clearance of 210mmShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

As the name suggests, it’s essentially a low gear ratio that multiplies the torque available at the ’wheel to give you more grunt at low speeds. If you can travel at 30kmph in first gear in 4High, in the same gear in 4Low, you will be able to travel at 10kmph. But 4Low will allow you to crawl with almost no effort from the engine. It also helps when going downhill by multiplying the engine braking available. You can move really slowly and gently place the car exactly where you want it to be.

To engage 4Low, all you have to do is stop, put the car in neutral and push down on the four-wheel-drive lever and pull it back. Make sure this is done properly and the lever isn’t halfway for the low ratio gears to be engaged properly. The Jimny also gets a 4Low indicator on the cluster and when it is enabled the traction control is also fully suspended.

While out on a Level 3 trail, in certain situations, visibility from inside the car might not be enough; this is where a spotter comes handy. Ask a friend to stand in front and guide you. If possible, get out of the car and walk the trail. Take stock of the situation, and plan your approach. When you’re ready, signal your spotter to let him know. First select the right gear, build some momentum, and slowly climb this obstacle using your own judgement and the spotter’s instructions. Having a spotter makes things very simple but more importantly, safer. Always remember – as fast as necessary, as slow as possible. Off-roading isn’t about speed!

Maruti has fitted the Jimny with features like hill-descent assist and hill-hold control along with an LSD
Maruti has fitted the Jimny with features like hill-descent assist and hill-hold control along with an LSDShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

How to safely conduct a water crossing

Water crossings are fun but only when they’re done right. One wrong step in the stream that you’re crossing and your SUV could turn into a boat and start floating away. Again, before entering the water, get out of the vehicle and gauge the depth. Only enter the water if you are absolutely sure that there is a way out.

Enter the waterbody gently to avoid water splashing over the bonnet. Your bonnet will create a bow wave and this is useful as it artificially lowers the level of the water at the front of the vehicle, crucially around the engine bay and air intake. Look where you want to go because it’s easy to get confused with the flowing current. Don’t stop for pictures when your car is submerged. Keep the revs up to prevent water from getting in through the exhaust. Don’t let the engine stall – while the engine is running the gas pressure will prevent water entering the exhaust pipe even if it’s completely submerged. But if you turn the engine off or stall, the rapidly cooling gas will suck water up towards the engine and can clog up and damage the catalytic converter. If the car stalls, try to start it immediately. If not, just wait to get recovered. As a precaution, keep the windows half open to allow for a quick exit.

The Jimny gets the AllGrip Pro drive system with a low-range transfer case and an LSD to transfer power
The Jimny gets the AllGrip Pro drive system with a low-range transfer case and an LSD to transfer powerShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

And that’s how you tackle Level 2 and Level 3 off-road trails. If you want to get better at off-roading, invest in yourself and in developing your skills. Partake in a few sessions in places such as Pro Dirt Adventure, gradually build up your skills and make progress. With lessons from the experts and a capable vehicle like the Maruti Suzuki Jimny along with its AllGrip Pro 4x4 system at your disposal, you too can master the art of going off the road.

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