And the Gurkha Xplorer does just that. We spent a day with the SUV taking on rocky climbs, slippery inclines, ruts and ditches, and it did it all! Its only chink was the road-based tyres our test car came with. Force Motors however says that the Xplorers being delivered to customers are running more off-road biased rubber, which is great.
So how does the Gurkha beat nature? For one, it gets a new C in C chassis, which is lighter and more resistant to bending. The suspension – front and back – is now a coil over unit that not only aids ride quality on poor roads but gives the Gurkha enough articulation to take on deep ruts. The steering has changed to a rack and pinion setup and that has significantly reduced the vagueness in response. It also requires less effort; a big boon off the road especially if you have to fight many turns lock-to-lock.
As for the drivetrain, the engine is still the same Mercedes unit Force Motors has been using for years on end. But, for the 2017 model, it is now BS IV compliant. It makes 85bhp, so it’s not exactly bustling with power. However, the peak and flat torque of 230Nm coupled with a short first gear ratio gives the Xplorer the fangs it needs to take on steep hill descents and climbs. The engine is now quieter than the older Gurkha too.
And there’s a new gearbox. Gone are the long, vague throws of the old dogleg ‘box. Now, there’s a conventional shifting 5-speed unit, which takes a little effort to slot into first, but thereafter, it’s not too bad. It’s not slick by any margin, but it won’t tire you out either. The Gurkha continues to get a transfer case with low range and diff locks for both front and rear axles.
So, off-road the Xplorer was clearly more capable than me. No matter what direction I pointed it towards or what surface I took it on, it just beat it all into submission. Sure, it needed additional help in the form of 4H and 4L at times but it was unstoppable with its hardware.
On-road, the Gurkha was far less gung ho. It felt loose and floaty at three digit highway speeds; the wind noise was bothersome at anything over 80kmph; the steering didn’t feel half as good as it did off-road; and the brakes, well, the bite always seemed to arrive a tad later than needed. But again, lack of road manners for a vehicle like the Gurkha, isn’t really a turn off.