We rode the Pantero a few months back during the bike’s media ride event. The review, though comprehensive couldn’t have been exhaustive enough as the bike was with us for a limited time and had to be ridden on a pre-designated course. So we decided to keep the bike with us this time for a week, and ride it for a good 500km to understand the product better. Arjun Dharve gives us an account of his experience with the Mahindra machine which tries to establish Mahindra 2 Wheelers in the lucrative commuter bike segment in India.
The Pantero is the latest offering from Mahindra 2 Wheelers, the two-wheeler wing of one of India’s largest passenger vehicle and tractor manufacturers. It is said that the Pantero is a completely new, ground up design despite it sharing parts with other products from the Mahindra stable, and being based on a now defunct model. Typically targeted at the commuter segment, the audience is likely to be a person who is perhaps buying his first motorcycle after having developed his riding skills on a scooter / moped, or may be a person who wants a point to point commuter, has faith in the Mahindra brand and is happy about the features the Pantero offers for the price. Mahindra`s experiment in this segment with their first ever product, the Stallio launched in 2010 has helped them present a refined product this time.
Design and Styling:
Even though the 100cc segment is crowded enough, the Pantero did manage to attract some glimpses at the traffic signals regularly, and led to surprises at the sight of Mahindra logo on the tank. Since this bike belongs to the 100-110cc segment, factors such as fuel economy, nimble handling, refinement and low running costs take precedence. That said, today the manufacturers are going out of the way when it comes to styling and feature-packing their products to woo the buyer. The Pantero follows the suit here.
Overall proportions of the bike are on the smaller side despite having the longest wheel base. The headlight unit is the now-so-common clear lens reflector with a very sharp and beaky raked design. To be honest, it would have looked a bit better if its aggression was toned down slightly. The good part however is the incorporation of LED pilot lamps with 3 bright LEDs per side, and can be turned without the engine running. Typically commuter style tall handle bars which aid easy riding are based on a triple clamp which has a pseudo ignition key switch and not housed with the instrument cluster. Speaking of which, gives it a breath of fresh air since it has a completely digital instrumentation which is backlit. This happens to be one of the best bits on the Pantero and has good readability and is pleasing to look at during night.
The digital tachometer, speedometer, fuel gauge and trip meters are all housed neatly whereas the tachometer and speedometer are split by the plastic casing which also happens to have silver brushed effect, lovely! This apart it also houses double trip meters and a tiny back lit Mahindra logo. The tank which does disappoint a bit due to its narrowness also has a soft rubber spine strip stuck on it as a tank protector. The tank protector surprisingly has a spanner embossing, why not the Mahindra logo itself?
As Mahindra proudly advertises about the long seat, in true sense this seat although narrow for our liking, is long enough to keep a 5`10-6`00 tall rider happy. The tank sits above a small utility box like the HH Splendor which is lockable and has enough space to store a medical kit, vehicle documents and even a tool kit! This makes living with the Pantero a lot easier, allowing you to store documents to store the documents considering the frequency of checking that is present on the highways these days.
The bike comes with standard switchgear and also houses a choke lever but sadly gives the engine kill switch a skip. The centre panel which houses the battery has dual tone with grill like fake inserts keeping in with the trend. The tail light again surprises us by being full LED, well designed and very effective – no sharp design here. The license plate gets its own dedicated illumination unit like the Bajaj Pulsars. The rear design of the bike makes it look attractive thanks to the LED tail lamp unit but has wide mudguard. As industry standard, it comes with matt black alloy wheels which complement the lustrous black treatment given to the entire lower half of the bike through engine, tubular swingarm, chain cover, leg guard and the saree guard. The only chrome parts on the bike remains the handle bar, the kick starter and the muffler heat shield. Overall, this bike does not have any radical styling and can fairly mixed with other commuters but still manages to catch attention every now and then.
Engine, Clutch and Gearbox
The Pantero boasts of a 106.7 cc single cylinder air cooled sloper engine with MCi 5 technology. The acronym stands for Micro Chip Ignited – 5 curve controlled engine. In layman terms, this technical wizardry is supposed to provide the optimum combustion of fuel and best power to fuel economy under any load and gradient conditions. The test bike however did seem to disobey to the MCI unit occasionally (more on that later).
The gearbox is all up 4 speed unit. Whereas the smoothness and refinement of the engine itself is impressive, the gearbox on the other hand could have been a bit less notchy even though it has a decent shift action. This mill develops 8.4 bhp @ 7500 rpm and maximum torque of 8.5 nm @ 5500 rpm. Thumb the starter button and the engine buzzes to life settling at 1000 rpm idle. Again, Mahindra has done a commendable job with this motor which happens to be developed in-house.
Pull the light action clutch lever and slot it up in to the 1st cog and the bike pulls cleanly. The shift from 1st to the 2nd cog in particular could have been a bit smoother, 3rd and then the 4th cogs which follow later have a decent shift quality. The clutch is light as one would expect on this entry level cubic capacity bike and is a breeze to use in top and go traffic, we would have loved if a bit of progression could be dialed in to tame all that low end torque in a smoother way.
The engine has a strong midrange torque and even with a pillion aboard, the Pantero pulls away cleanly from speeds as low as 25kmph. This underlines the engine`s flexibility and power delivery which produces the required grunt laced with refinement of good levels. The engine`s NVH levels are something I should mention in particular since it revs cleanly and un obtrusively throughout its useable rpm range (readup to 6000 rpm).
Push further ie, beyond 5500-6000 rpm, the engine starts being a bit buzzy however it is well contained until one crosses 7000 rpm where it starts protesting. Coming to the gear ratios, one cannot expect it to have long legs, but in my opinion the Pantero`s gearing is set perfectly for the job it is expected to do, potter around the city. The ratios seem to be a tad short considering other 100 cc bikes breezing ahead on highways with lesser strain on the engine. Not that we expect this to be a high speed mile muncher, but slightly taller gearing would also further aid its already fantastic fuel economy. The bike maintained a 1000rpm idle on cold startups which later rose up to 2500 rpm as the bike engine warmed up, making the low speed shifts a wee bit clunky, we regard this as a minor tuning issue which can easily be fixed by setting the idling.The exhaust note has a mildly throaty in the mid rpm band which is its sweet spot.
The build quality aspect of the Pantero is quite a mixed bag. In some cases it surprises you with the equipment level and in others; it sternly reminds you of its built to cost origins. To start with, we are mighty impressed with the digital instrumentation which also has a tough built, panel gaps are way lot tighter than some bikes which have twice the Pantero`s cubic capacity and price! The plastic panels like the headlight fairing, the mudguard, the fuel filler lid have decent build quality. The handlebar grips are one component that needs a special mention for its lovely feel which is akin to an eraser!
The headlight, apart from having a love it or hate it design could have done with a better beam spread. The bike comes with a standard tube swing arm whereas most of the competition is slowly moving towards box swing arm design. The paint quality is again good on all components including the allow wheels and the engine. Where it reminds you of the costs is at places like the handle bar which suffers a fair amount of flex and does not feel robust enough. In adequately tightened mounts on the triple clamp could also be the culprit here. The switch gear quality though is good, the switches themselves could be slightly better to operate. The overall plastics are quite tough and resistant to rattle or bad roads and have the built to last feel.
Ride, Handling and Braking
Weighing just 120kg works in favor of making this bike a nimble city tool. Coming to one of the best bits on the Pantero happens to be its ride quality, where it clearly excels. What makes it even better is that the Pantero is a softly sprung bike and the minor bumps and undulations are further absorbed by the seat giving it a very plush ride.
Mind you, it does not shout about gas filled shock absorbers or any new age suspension technology or setup, on the contrary it sticks to hydraulic coil over damper shock absorbers at the rear and standard forks up front. Even the surprise sharp ridges on paver block laid roads are handled with aplomb, which would otherwise find me clenching my teeth on other bikes not only in this segment but also higher up.
The seat is not just long but also has soft foam. It finds its mention here because the saddle quality plays a vital role in the overall riding experience which in this case puts a smile on your face. The handling is further aided by the longest wheelbase which endows it with straight-line stability. Make no mistake, despite small proportions and long wheelbase, this bike manages to be a very light and nimble in traffic at the same time exuding stabilityon highways, a trait of a good handling bike. Even with a pillion, speeds up to 60kmph do not affect the it’s flickablility much, be it cross winds or undulations.
The 130mm drum brake set up on this bike makes one ride with caution. The front brake displays minimum braking intentions, while the rear has a good bite offering some confidence. With use however, the front liners have seemed to bed in with the drum and do scrub of a bit of speed at slightly more effectiveness. This shifts the entire braking duty on the rear which along with good rubber, read MRF Zapper V gets the job done just about, and has minimal brake fade. The pillion rider also complemented the bike on its plush ride quality and comfortable seat. It would be unwise to expect a disc brake considering the manufacturing costs, however a bigger drum up front or may be better liner compound could go a long way in improving the overall braking. Summing it up, the Pantero`s handling makes it easy to cut through gaps and dodge pot holes making it effortless to ride in the city.
Considering Mahindra`s experience in the two wheeler industry, and its relative novice experience levels, it should receive big appreciation for this effort and the progress they have made ever since the Stallio. For the offer price, the Pantero will keep most owners happy unless put under a microscope to magnify its few tiny flaws. A slightly better designed headlamp, front brake with touch more bite, lighter gearbox are all it would take to propel this bike to a spot wherein it can be in a position to pose as a serious threat to the competition.
This statement speaks volumes of the commendable job that the boffins at Mahindra have managed to execute. Looking at its recent past, one can be certain that the future products from this manufacturer are bound to be amongst the best. The last part that Mahindra may not be able to manufacture overnight is brand loyalty, popularity and trust which is an uphill task, but the stepping stone is always a good product, and in Pantero, Mahindra has that this time.
106.7 cc Single Cylinder, 4-stroke, Air cooled, Mci-5 engine
Bore X Stroke- 52.4 X 49.5 mm
8.5 PS @ 7500 rpm
Torque- 8.5 Nm @ 5500 rpm
Ignition– Electric Start / Kick Start
Transmission– 4 Speed
Chassis– Double cradle tubular steel
Front- Telescopic , Coil spring
Rear- Coiled 5-step adjustable
Front- 130mm Drum
Rear- 130mm Drum
Front- 2.75” x 18”
Rear- 3.0” x 18”
Headlamp– 12 V 35W/35W Halogen
Tail lamp– LED Type
Dry Weight– 110.5 kg
Length– 2000 mm
Width– 735 mm
Height– 1050 mm
Wheel Base– 1265 mm
Ground Clearance– 165 mm
Fuel Tank Capacity– 13.7 liters
Price– INR 45,199/- (Ex-showroom Delhi)