Archive for December, 2009

The Jeep has arrived

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

We have finally bought our vehicle for the journey. It is a Jeep Cherokee 2.5 litre Sport (petrol engine). There were many factors that we had to consider before making up our minds on the right car for the journey. The most important ones being that the car had to be tough, rugged and reliable as a lot of our driving will be on dirt roads, steep hills and in icy conditions. Breaking down in the middle of nowhere with no cars or people in sight…. God, we hope not!

Another important factor was the cost of the vehicle. While looking at cars we had to keep in mind that the carnet de passage document (more details about this in the journal titled – Visas and permits for man and machine) cost would be 15% of the vehicle value. The more expensive the vehicle the more we spend on the carnet.

I tried many 4×4s before choosing the Jeep. I drove a 5 door Suzuki Grand Vitara but thought the car was a little small for our needs. The ride was bouncy and the steering and gear box felt hard. However, Grand Vitaras enjoy a reputation for being good off roaders and they are good on fuel economy.

Next, I tried a Honda CRV. Though it is mostly considered to be a family 4×4, I still decided to try it just to appreciate the difference between a CRV and a Grand Vitara. I found the car to be a really smooth drive. It was very spacious, good on fuel economy and very easy to manoeuvre; something that even Pooja could easily drive. However, even though I was tempted to buy one, Pooja made me realise that it may not be the best choice for us because CRVs are not really considered off roaders. Or as Pooja described it, “A Honda CRV is just a saloon in a big box”. (No offence to CRV owners).

I also considered a Land Rover Freelander. But before I could even go try one, the reviews on the internet completely put me off the car. Apparently, Freelanders have a very bad reputation due to their head gaskets blowing off frequently. Most reviews I read had given it a very low rating on reliability. Infact, I even found a web site that was totally dedicated to the Freelander head gasket problem where Freelander owners could share their misery with each other. That was enough for me to rule out this one.

Finally, I tried a Jeep Cherokee. Instantly I knew that Jeep was going to be the car for our journey. The drive was smooth as was the steering and gearbox (6 speed gear). The boot was spacious and it came with roof rails. It also had a power point in the boot that could be used to plug-in any electronic appliance such as a cooker or a mini fridge. I think it is important to consider these little things as they do come handy later on.

The car looked tough, had a good ground clearance and I knew it had a good rating on reliability. Well, we bought it and I hope it lives up to its reputation of being an excellent off roader and takes us through to India without giving too much trouble.

Yes, there are a whole lot of other very good 4×4s that we could have considered (Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi do many) however, the above were the only ones that I thought ticked all the boxes for us which included cost, fuel economy, age and size of the car and reliability.

Looking at the Jeep parked outside makes us feel that the trip is finally taking some shape. Now we have to start the process of applying for permits for China and Tibet which can take up to 2 months and start the application for the carnet de passage document.

Will keep you posted on our progress. Thanks for reading!