Mahindra Thar first drive review, now live!

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We reported the launch of the new Mahindra Thar LIVE to you yesterday. Mahindra had arranged for an off-road trail right after the launch event, for the interested motoring journos. And interested, as you would imagine, we always are for such stuff. So we hitched a ride on one of the Scorpios and went all the way to Vasai on the extreme outskirts of Mumbai to get a first-hand experience of this promising new off-roader from Mahindra. Here’s a detailed report on all you want to know about this new off-roader along with our first driving experience
Mahindra Thar – the origin

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Mahindra Thar, as announced by Vivek Nayyar, company’s VP marketing, is another step in the company’s efforts to be present in every segment of the Indian car market. With the Thar, Mahindra wants to address the needs of those who relish off-roading and have a liking for retro styled vehicles. The DNA of the Thar dates back to the World War II where the iconic Jeep brand proved instrumental in helping America emerge victorious in several battlefields. On October 2nd 1945, Mahindra started assembling jeeps in India under license from Willys, USA – and the rest, as they say, is history.
And this is where the rugged DNA of the Thar originated from. The Willys jeeps were designed and developed to endure the unrelenting rigors of a war. They were built to tread untrodden territories, take rough terrains in their stride without a whimper and tolerate persistent abuse. The Thar CRDe is an evolved version of the Mahindra CJ340, the MM 540, the Classic and the Legend.
With that strong a heritage, it was obvious that Mahindra & Mahindra didn’t want to change the looks of the car. So they persisted with the time-tested classic design of the jeep and added some goodies to it to make it more contemporary and driver friendly.
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Mahindra Thar – engine & transmission

Mahindra Thar 2.5-litre CRde engine

The Thar, or the Mahindra ‘jeep’ as it is popularly known in India, in its latest avatar is available with two engine options – a new age CRDE, and a not-so-new-age DI. The CRDe engine is a 2.5-litre turbo diesel good for peak power output of 105PS@4000rpm and 247Nm of peak torque in 1800-2000 rpm band. The DI engine produces 63 horses and 180Nm of turning force. We, however, sampled only the new CRDe engine on our drive. Both the engines are mated to a 5-speed manual transmission, with Borg Warner transfer case for the 4×4 version. The transfer case offers 2 speed gear reduction, 1.0:1 in 4H mode, and 2.48:1 in 4L mode.
The new engine is clearly the highlight of the package. It’s surprisingly smooth and torquey and delivers oodles of torque right from the bottom of the rev range. Right from the time you twist the keys and bring this 4×4 monster to life, there is a marked sentiment of refinement about the 2.5-litre powerplant. Unlike some of the diesel mills on Tata’s MUV and SUVs, this one doesn’t send any jarring vibes to the steering wheel, ORVMs and RVMs. Sufficiently silent and smooth revving, this CRDe mill seems ready for action right from the word go.

Mahindra Thar gearshifter

The smaller shifter lets you choose from the 2H, 4H or the 4Low mode

The most important weapon in the arsenal of an SUV is its low end torque. And this engine delivers that in plenty. We could feel the urgency to pull from as low as 1000 rpm, the vehicle trundles along without you having to step on the pedal at all. Even on steep inclines with loose gravel and some big stones thrown in to make things a little more exciting, we never found the engine lacking in low-end torque. Especially after engaging the 4×4 Low mode, it trampled stones of otherwise disturbing size without us having to even use the accelerator.

There was this small section on the trail which has some slippery muck, with round stones and undulations thrown in for some more action. The Thar marched over the challenge without even the slightest need to use the Low ratios. There wasn’t any hint of slithering or slippage either. Thar’s approach and departure angles of 46 and 30 degree respective make sure that there are hardly any instances where you manage to rub its nose or exhaust with mother earth.

Mahindra Thar Amit Chhangani

As long as you are off the road, the Thar would never fail to put a broad smile on your face

Just for the sake of experimentation, we chose a boulder, as big as the Thar’s clearance, engaged the car in Low and tried to let the wheels on one side of the jeep pass over it. The Thar obliged without a fuss, although we wonder how well it would have performed the same job with the rain gods pouring down and its tyres smeared in sticky muck.

All said and done, there isn’t a shade of doubt that the Thar is one of the best off-roaders India has. The fact that almost 95 percent of the Thar’s body is made of steel ensures that nothing will break or fall apart even if you subject it to the most serious abuse.

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Mahindra Thar – on the road

 

Mahindra Thar ORVM

 

Nobody said that the Thar would be able to offer the supple ride of a sedan. However, the inclusion of an independent front suspension on the vehicle has gone a long way in smoothening out an otherwise poppy ride in the earlier versions of the platform. However, if you are one of the passengers in the back benches, you’d do well with holding on to those massive bars tight. At speed, the Thar still has the tendency give you a springboard experience on coming across an undulation. This can be attributed to light weight of the rear section and the agricultural (but tough) leaf springs that do duty at the rear as suspension.
Life is much better in the front seats though where you are better protected from the surface beneath the running board. The seats are average with decent thigh support and basic bolstering. The steering feels closer, higher and more erect than your usual cars. You sit upright, and the quality of the plastic on the steering wheel, dashboard and door panels makes it sufficiently evident that this is no toy for mama’s boys. But all that adds to the rugged feel of the vehicle too in a way.

Mahindra Thar steering

The quality of plastics on steering, dash and the center cosole is bare basic

As the engine begins to spin, you fall in love with its unstressed, linear and smooth nature. It’s a delight to hear that engine spinning. The torque is available from idling speeds, and there isn’t any reportable turbo lag. The Thar pulls nicely from as low as 1200 rpm, and comes into its element as the rev needle crosses the 1600rpm mark.

Then there is the gearbox. Very honestly, I expected an archaic, notchy and irritating gearbox on this sort of a vehicle, but was pleasantly surprised to know that the shifts were rather smooth and effortless. Of course, it’s not a ‘at the flick of a finger’ experience – you have to hold that knob firmly in your palm and use some of your forearm muscles to slot into a gear, but it slots-in in a reassuring, slick fashion. There is no rubberiness to the shift action, although the throw is a tad too long. But there’s a charm to that long lever with its able, smaller replica sitting right beneath it. It’s not the epitome of refinement by any measure, but is surely a quantum leap forward when compared of its predecessors. All in all, the whole experience of shifting gears in the Thar is sufficiently convenient while still leaving enough uncouthness to have your male ego massaged.

Mahindra Thar off-road trail

fellow journalists – that smile says it all!

The roadhoalding is good, the steering responses take a little getting used to, as they are not as sharp as that of a usual car. The turning radius, however, is quite appreciable at 5.25 meters, and it shouldn’t be much of a problem maneuvering this monster around in the urban environs. The Thar handles reasonably well for what it’s meant to do, although it would be suicidal to get instigated by a Swift driver around twisties. The Thar is no corner carver.

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Mahindra Thar – the off-roading gear and experience

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At the end of the custom made trail

The CRde engine variant of the Thar is available only in the 4×4 guise. However, if you are not among those who would fancy this machine for genuine off-roading purposes and would be happy flaunting its brawn on the streets, you have the option of going in for the 4×2 version, but only with the DI engine under the bonnet.

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The easiest part of the trail, at the beginning – not that any part of the trail ever managed to pose a challenge

The Thar is being markted by Mahindra as a thoroughbred off-roader. And it really has the goods to deliver potent off-road performance.  The Thar has a proven body on ladder frame setup and is built to military standards. In its 4×4 guise it’s equipped with a Borg Warner transfer case, with 2 Speed gear reduction – HIGH 1.0:1 and LOW 2.48:1. While the High mode is to engage 4×4 for normal or moderate off-road usage for increased traction on all four wheels, it’s the Low range ratio that really pulls you through in tricky conditions. Having a low ratio allows you to have more torque and power (but lower speeds) for any given engine speeds. This helps is climbing obstacles with aplomb, without the wheels spinning away and causing slippage. The Borg Warner transfer case on the Thar does a great job of supplying power and torque to all four wheels in both the modes, as the need may be.

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However, one should keep in mind the fact that even the best off-roading vehicles in the world (especially in wet, slippery and mucky conditions) require good off-road tyres for optimum traction. I have experienced the Monteros and the Land Cruisers of the world spinning in place in wet conditions when riding on normal road-use tyres. So if you are really into off-roading, you will have to get those Bridgestones on the Thar replaced with proper lugs / knobblies before you venture out into to wild.
We drove the Thar on an off-road trail which was primarily dry, and didn’t offer too great a challenge to this vehicle as regards traction. There were some steep inclines peppered with big, loose stones, uneven surfaces, and tricky gravel. The Thar took all of it in its stride without as much as a squeak. The 200mm ground clearance goes a long way in making sure you drive over rocks without worrying about the safety of the Thar’s belly. I mostly drove in the 4×4 High mode, which was more than enough to tackle the trail. There were some huge undulations on the track where even a regulation soft SUV would have surely brushed its belly, but with the Thar we didn’t have to as much as think before attacking the terrain with disdain.

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Thar – creature comforts

Mmahindra Thar center console

As basic as it gets! Thank Mahindra for having out the blower and AC knobs

Mahindra have equipped the Thar with power steering, and have made the cabin A/C ready. By That Mahindra mean that they have provided functional blowers, temperature control knobs and fan speed controls. You can easily get an AC retrofitted quickly, but Mahindra won’t do it for you.
As mentioned earlier, the quality of plastics is basic and there are hardly any creature comforts. One good thing that Mahindra have included though is the tachometer. It comes handy to keep the car in the right rev range and helps reasonably while off-roading too. The rear benched can accommodate five – apparently the left bench is slightly longer than the right one.
Apart from these basic features, there is a long list of options and accessories available, which can be ordered from a Mahindra certified retrofitter.

Mahindra Thar door panels

The hinged doors have bare basic panels. No luxuries for mud-plugging junkies

Summing it up

Mahindra Thar
With the Thar, Mahindra are not looking at great volumes. This is more of an effort to cater to the lifestyle audience and to position a Mahindra vehicle in that segment. The Thar comes across to us as a capable machine. It’s bang on the money for its TG. At 6 lakh ex-showroom, it looks slightly pricey, but then again, there is always the cheaper DI option for those who won’t appreciate the virtues of the 4×4 or the power of the CRDe much. It’s quite a package, and should work well towards rekindling the Indians’ romance with Mahindra vehicles as their preferred weapon of choice for treading the unbeaten trail.

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Mahindra Thar – Specification

Specification

Engine:NEF CRDe Turbocharged Intercooled, BS IV
Capacity
Bore x Stroke
Power
Torque
:2498 CC
94 x 90 mm
77.23 kW
247 Nm @ 1800-2000 rpm
Transmission
Transfer case (4WD only)
:5 Speed – Manual
Borg Warner – Manual Shift
2 Speed gear reduction-HIGH 1.0:1,LOW 2.48:1
Axle
Front
Rear
:Full Floating Hypoid Ratio 4.3:1; Capacity: 1100 kg
Semi Floating Hypoid Ratio 4.3:1; Capacity: 1700 kg
Hub Lock:Auto
Minimum turning radius:5.25 m
Wheelbase:2430 mm
Suspension:Independent Front Suspension with Torsion & Stabiliser Bar
Semi elliptical leaf springs with tension sides shot penned
Ground clearance
Approach angle
Departure angle
:200 mm
46º
30º
Brakes
Front
Rear
:113 mm Disc & Caliper
279 drums
Tyres
Wheels
:P 235/70 R 16 Tubeless Tyres
6.5 J X 16 Inches (40.64 cms)
Fuel tank capacity:60 Litres
Dimensions
Front track
Rear track
Overall length
Overall width
Wheelbase
Overall height
:1445 mm
1346 mm
3920 mm
1710 mm
2430 mm
1930 mm
Seating Capacity:7 Seater

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