Mahindra Thar : Roadtest

The Mahindra Thar is finally here and ready to kick-start an off-road tripping trend for Indian enthusiasts. But is it really that good? Muntaser Mirkar seeks the answer.




If you were to ever compile a list of the best off-roaders that have graced the face of the automotive world, the top few names will still be of brands from the latter half of the last century. I say 'brands' and not SUVs, because that was what they were - raw focus on going where it was impossible to go, in the process achieving cult-status for their abilities. Sure, modern SUVs have decent off-road flair as well, but as times have progressed, the aura of the quintessential off-roader has dulled from being pure into being practical - a fact that not many hardcore enthusiasts revel in too much.


They've become more of a tool to show off might on tarmac owing largely to their size - a direct effect of massive cities springing up on every plot of available land. There is still a whole lot of unexplored terrain out there, but would you really want to take your 'over-15 lakh' SUV with loads of bodywork just waiting to be scratched and even smashed for that matter, into the great outdoors? Well, I wouldn't, unless I end up winning a multi-crore lottery or suddenly discover a long-lost uncle who’s left me truck loads of inheritance! And that’s exactly the space that the Mahindra Thar intends to fill up – and how!






Dressed to kill!


Its function precedes form as far as the Thar is concerned and that is asserted the moment you lay eyes on it. The test vehicle came to us sans any kind of roof – hard or soft and that's exactly how Mahindra intends to sell it. So when you buy yourself a top-end Mahindra Thar you’ll get a rugged piece of machinery without the roof, but with the rear roll cage and two transverse benches facing each other, which, by the way should accommodate three adults each or so Mahindra claims. Apart from that the Thar is as customizable as an empty studio apartment – anything and everything can be added or changed as per your tastes. All of that isn’t a bad package mind you – especially considering the attention you’ll command when driving around town which in turn could be both positive and negative depending on how you see things. You’ll either be lauded for being a macho 'Son of the Soil' kinda dude, or regarded as a push-around bully - most of the fairer sex will think you're the former though, so no worries on that front! That aside, the designers have done a nice little no-brainer of a mix-and-match job when it comes to Thar and that has kept its price down in terms of development costs. A Viking-proportion raid of their parts bin has enabled them to integrate an MM540 body with a 2.5 litre CRDe engine and a Borg-Warner transfer case for the 4x4 version but we’ll keep the technical details for later on in the article. The focus for the design team was simple – keep things as retro and rugged as possible and that has been achieved no doubt. The slatted front grille has been replaced with a mesh unit and the headlights and tail lamps now come protected with their own black grilles.






But while that has worked brilliantly well with the exteriors, it's the interiors that have suffered. Basic and utilitarian they may be - just as they should be for a vehicle of this nature, but a little bit of refinement could have been advised. Yes, the Thar has a tachometer adorning the pretty instrument console and bucket seats up front with nice upholstery, but apart from that it is too Spartan not only in the visual but also in the functional departments. The first time you figure that out is when you keep something on the slight depression on the dash and take a turn at decent speed - say bye-bye to whatever you have up there 'cause it's going to roll right off and if you're lucky, drop into the foot well. That said, the glovebox is pretty cavernous, so don't forget to stow everything of value in there when you’re out driving. The indicator and wash-wipe stalks seem a tad tacky in operation - the point being, why not use the Scorpio’s stalks instead? That may not be such a big deal and buyers will learn to live with all the nuances that the Thar has to offer - after all appreciative stares and envious glances both have the effect of inducing pride of possession!



The Mahindra Thar









The underbelly


Under the expanse of the rounded bonnet is a 2498cc intercooled turbodiesel powerplant that puts out 105 PS of power. But what really is impressive the 247Nm of torque that the Thar makes as low as between 1800-2000 rpm. All of this set upon a ladder frame chassis that suspends its front wheels independently and employs both a torsion and a stabilizer bar - standard and necessary off-road equipment. The rear suspension is made of semi elliptical leaf springs for that extra-edge when you’re off tarmac. The front full floating axle with a hypoid ratio of 4.3:1 is capable of handling upto 1100kg while the rear axle is semi floating with the same hypoid ratio and a capacity of 1700kg. The Thar runs on 235/70 rubber on 16 inch rims, which by the way can be interchanged for swankier sets tickable off the custom parts list.


The Thar may be retro for sure, but Mahindra has done away with the manual hub lock system and made life easier by incorporating an auto hub lock keeping with modern times. The four-wheel-drive transfer case is courtesy Borg-Warner and comes with a manually shiftable 4 High and 4 Low modes with gear reduction ratios of 1.0:1 and 2.48:1 respectively. A small note though for when you’re done with your heavy off-roading in $ Low and want to switch back to 4 High or 2WD modes - watch those fingers because the way the lever is positioned you’re bound to get them stuck between the lever itself and the lower part of the centre console. The Thar is a pretty high vehicle in its stance and with a 200mm ground clearance and approach and departure angles of 46 and 30 degrees respectively, coupled with all that technology we just talked about, it can conquer almost anything that you'd want to try getting stuck into. The torque from the engine is massive and with perfectly matched gear ratios for the kind of use Mahindra wants its buyers to indulge in, it just keeps going on and on without even the slightest touch of the accelerator pedal.







A different kind of beast


Performance figures are but purely academic for a vehicle of this nature but for those who like to keep tabs on them, here they are anyway. The Thar will hit 100 km/h from a standstill in 17.58 seconds – and that, considering the 4x4 top-end variant weighs all of 1750kg, is a great time indeed! The quarter mile comes up in 20.94 seconds and it will touch a top whack of 138 km/h according to our instrumented test data. All that torque does show its presence even on tarmac after all – a fact concluded after our roll-on test in which the Thar managed a 60-100 km/h acceleration in fourth gear in just 15.10 seconds. But when you’re in the Thar, do not engage yourself in traffic light GPs – this is a vehicle that you’ll well and truly enjoy simply rolling around town in third gear and enjoying the pull from the 2.5 litre motor at any rpm. As impressive as the acceleration figures may be, the Thar does show its weight when you're braking hard. Getting to a standstill from 60 km/h takes up 19.68m and 2.86 seconds but the drama that ensues is unsettling – all the more reason to just lay back and enjoy the torque if you know what I mean!







Off-roading messiah?


Indian enthusiasts have long been deprived of a good off-road jeep that can conquer everything in its path but can be picked up brand new from the showroom. The only other option was to pick up a used jeep and pimp it up. The Thar attempts to put and end to all that. This here is a vehicle that has the goal to deliver enthusiasts from their misery and bring them closer to getting muddier, slushier and rockier without the added stress of making do with old equipment. Built for purpose, the Thar costs just Rs 5.99 lakh ex-showroom for the top-end 4x4 version. Of course, you’ll have to shell out a bit more if you want a roof, the bull bars, the fog lamps and every other accessory you can think of – including air-conditioning (for which the blower comes installed as standard equipment). It will also give you an overall fuel efficiency figure of 11.17 kmpl in 2WD mode and a range of 670 km from its 60 litre fuel tank which quite obviously will drop when the 4x4 is engaged. If you just like the way it looks and want to add some might to your garage without ever taking the Thar off-road, Mahindra also offers the car in two-wheel-drive configuration with the 3.0 DI engine for Rs 4.77 lakh ex-showroom. But that would just be poser value in the end – after all, the Thar is meant to be taken off-road. That’s where it truly belongs.



Recommended Variant : Thar CRDe

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