The All-new Mahindra Thar is one of the most exciting new launches of 2020 and for all the good reasons. When we first drove it, by the end of the day, our conclusion was all that hype was indeed real. The first drive might have ensured that but we were still waiting to spend some more time with the Thar to find some more answers. The time finally came and we found ourselves behind the wheel of the all-new Mahindra Thar, for a longer time. This time around, we also get to drive the automatic mStallion petrol unit, to see how it fares on an off-roader. The findings were indeed interesting.
The Mahindra Thar comes with a new 2.0-litre ‘mStallion’ petrol engine that gets a 6-speed manual gearbox as standard and also the option of a 6-speed automatic. It’s capable of producing 152bhp of power and 320Nm of torque. Also available as an option is a 2.2-litre mHawk diesel engine, paired with a 6-speed manual gearbox as well a 6-speed torque converter automatic, producing 132bhp of power and 300Nm of torque. We had already driven the diesel engine powered Thar before, a detailed video review of the same is embedded down below. So we are going to focus on the different bits now which made their presence felt when we spent some more time with the Thar.
The mStallion motor is the star of the show!
Firstly, over the time when we drove the automatic-petrol Thar, we couldn’t get over the fact that how amazing the engine is. We could have gone ahead and chosen some other not-so-mainstream adjective for it but trust us, the petrol-mill justifies the tag. Despite being a petrol mill, the character is very torquey. So much so that one doesn’t miss a diesel-burner under the hood. It’s a good thing when an engine is powerful, and it’s a good thing if the engine is torquey but this is what makes the petrol unit stand apart the most, it’s actually both. It dispatched the 0-100 kmph run in just a little more than 10 seconds which is quite respectable for a vehicle with such generous proportions.
Being an RWD vehicle, the Thar puts a wide grin on your face, in the same manner, you expect a decently powerful RWD car to. Turn the traction control off, launch the Thar with a heavy foot on the pedal and feel the rear wheel sliding away and gaining traction again. Nirvana! The fact that you can have this amount of fun from an off-roader in a not-so-familiar environment, goes a long way in cementing the fact that the petrol unit is indeed fun! It shines, even more, when things turn even more elemental and the tarmac goes missing underneath. The reason why off-roaders are preferred with a diesel powertrain is because of their torquey nature. You don’t need your trusted companion to clock high speeds when you are off the road, you need it to get you out of tricky situations. And the petrol Thar manages to do just that. Even when the engine is burbling at low rpms, there’s enough torque to mask the absence of a diesel motor.
6-speed Auto Gearbox
The 6-speed automatic gearbox which the petrol mill is mated with is developed by Mahindra only. What impressed us was its smoothness. The automatic tranny manages to mask the jerks pretty well but isn’t the quickest of the lot. Then again, for an Indian manufacturer to develop a gearbox so smooth is certainly worth every praise. When slotted in manual mode, the limiter kicks in at 5500 rpm and the Thar manages to hold the gear even at the higher spectrum of the rev-range. This comes in handy when you are off the road too, when you want the transmission to hold onto the gear it is in and not go all haywire while deciding which gear is best suited for the situation. Talking about the fuel efficiency, the petrol-powered Thar managed to return around 8 kmpl when it was driven in the city, dealing with all the urban elements. When the Thar got out on the open roads, fuel efficiency shot up to 11-12 kmpl.
Ride and handling
Let’s get one thing out of the equation first, this is not your regular compact-SUV with car-like road manners. This is a homegrown off-roader whose natural habitat lies in the wild. Coming to its road manners now, the steering feel is a little vague and it behaves in the same manner you would expect an off-roader to. It lacks the involvement which might disappoint an enthusiast. But if you are one, you very well know what you are signing up for. Courtesy of a light steering wheel, the overall drive doesn’t feel connected. The ride does feel smooth as long as you are belting it on smooth surfaces. The suspension remains taut and composed but things change when the Thar hits a rough patch.
Because of its rugged suspension setup, one can feel the vertical movement of the chassis. This isn’t a nice feel and this is when you start realizing that the Thar isn’t meant to negotiate uneven surfaces at high speeds. Its actual capabilities lie in the wild where other road-biased compact SUVs might as well take their last breath. Although the cabin is well insulated, one can feel the wind noise creeping in when the speedometer crosses the 90 kmph mark. It isn’t something which would hamper the overall driving experience though.
Other important bits
We have already discussed the Thar’s looks and all the features it packs inside the cabin in the embedded first drive video above. But there are some other important bits which need to get out of the way in order to form a clearer picture. The Thar has to make do with conventional halogen headlamps upfront. Their illumination is adequate and that’s about it. Mahindra should have included projector headlamps because one needs a clear vision ahead when you are stuck in the middle of nowhere and the natural light is non-existent. As we mentioned, the illumination is adequate but it could have been better. A special mention has to be given to the CEAT tyres the stock Thar comes shod with. They might be not that impressive when it comes to outright grip but these bad boys sure are durable! A durable set of tyres go a long way in ensuring that you reach home with a wide smile on your face after negotiating some nasty trails.
The Thar boasts of some impressive off-road specs on paper. The front now gets independent suspension while the rear gets mechanical locking diffs and gets rid of leaf springs in favour of a multi-link setup. The new Thar can wade through 650mm of water and offers an unladen ground clearance of 227mm and approach, ramp-over and departure angles of 42 degrees, 27 degrees and 37 degrees. According to the company, the Thar now offers 33% more traction than before. Its crawl ratio stands at 42:1 which makes it far more capable than many expensive machines. All technical bits make all the more sense when the going gets tough. The Thar is a thoroughbred off-roader and we are soon going to bring you a detailed off-road review of the Thar.
One of the most asked questions about the all-new Thar has been the removal of the hard-top. It might look that it can be taken off by doing a simple DIY job but it’s much complicated as compared to changing the air filter of your vehicle. One needs to go to a proper workshop to get the hard-top removed. Mahindra might have loaded the Thar with modern-day tech but missed out on some important bits. Take the rearview camera for an instance, which has been given a miss here. It would have made a huge difference in making the Thar more accommodating off the road. Another major omission is the rear wash and wipe. Keep a dirty rag handy to wipe off all the muck which will get accumulated while you go dirty-dancing with the Thar.
The All-new Thar is priced at INR 9.8 Lakh and the top-spec diesel 4-seater hard-top variant goes up to INR 12.95 Lakh. It is full of character and if its character matches your lifestyle, then the pricing is right. Sure, one can get a feature-loaded compact-SUV for the same amount. It will keep you content on the road but for the price the Thar is currently retailing at, the pricing makes absolute sense. We often get asked which engine-transmission is the best of the lot. Though all the engine-gearbox combos are capable, the automatic-petrol seems the best bet of the lot. If you can ignore its road-going manners, the Thar will manage to reserve a place in your heart and that place will be forever occupied.