Force Motors has upped the ante of the Gurkha and how! Compared to the utilitarian previous-gen, the 2021 Gurkha is now friendlier and far more comfortable to the occupants. It also has more features on the inside. And yet, it continues to go as the crow flies.
Positioned as a modern-day ‘lifestyle 4x4’, can it be the only vehicle in your garage? We have tried to find an answer to this by telling you five reasons to buy the new and updated Gurkha and two reasons why you should settle for a pseudo SUV instead.
1. Overlanding much?
For the uninitiated, the Force Gurkha gets its name from an elite group of soldiers native to South Asia who have been employed by many contingency and peacekeeping forces in war zones around the world. These soldiers can endure the harshest of conditions and are inherently brave. That’s a perfect name to describe what this 4x4 is capable of, isn’t it? Like any focused 4x4, the 2021 Gurkha is one-dimensional, but it is good at what it’s made to do – go where the roads cease to exist.
To give you a perspective, the Gurkha has a water wading capacity of up to 2.2 feet (700mm, 50mm more than its closest rival), and a ground clearance of 205mm which is one of the highest you can get in India. As for the articulations, it has impressive 35-degree off-road angles. Complete it with snorkel air-intake, metal skid plates both fore and aft, and minimalistic bodywork; the Gurkha is the Indian take on the original and immortal Land Rover Defender.
2. Armaments and Artillery
Powering the updated Force Gurkha is the familiar Mercedes-sourced 2.6-litre turbo-diesel paired to a five-speed manual. In the BS6 avatar now, the 90bhp/250Nm motor runs smoother with lesser vibrations. It is as silent as a petrol motor under idling surprisingly. The output figures might not be outright impressive at first, but spend some time with the Gurkha and you’d realise you don’t need any more when dawdling through thick bush amidst all the mush and muck.
And to make sure even a dunce like me never gets stuck through the trickiest of the situation – there’s a low-range gearbox to go with it. It’s the usual 2H, 4H and 4L and it's all good-old mechanical unit – no electronic gizmology that could go wrong. Just a simple clunk, thump and clomp, and voila all the power is sent to all four corners with reworked gear ratios. Nothing to worry about, even if you’ve got a bare minimum off-roading experience, the Gurkha is perfectly capable of making you feel like a hero, getting yourself unstuck in places that would be bête noire for your every day, road-going quasi-SUVs.
What’s more, it’s got locking differentials, both fore and aft. Now the diesel on the Gurkha is very capable and you can get it through most of the treacherous terrain even in the two-wheel-drive mode. So, it’d be a really challenging task to get the Gurkha so stuck that there’d be a real need to employ the locking differentials in the first place. Yet if such an occasion arise, having the right tool for the job is pretty handy, right?
Since it is much more comfortable than before, the Gurkha should now be fine to be your stead for interstate escapades. Although the pace won’t be something to count on, and when long stretches of tarmac prove to be boring, it’s a 4x4 that can cut the distance short by scaling a mountain or wading a river unscathed.
3. More features, more enticing
The previous-gen Gurkha was as utilitarian as a church bench. But these days we need some basic features in a car to not violate basic humanitarian grounds. And so, in the comprehensively updated Gurkha, you get a decent feature list that reads out LED headlamps with integrated LED DRLs, cornering fog lights, cloth upholstery, electric windows, adjustable steering, and a properly functioning air-conditioning unit.
Apart from that, the Kenwood-sourced touchscreen is a first for Gurkha. It comes with smartphone connectivity like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay with a fairly simple interface and acceptable touch sampling. It’s not the best infotainment system but we appreciate Force Motors for offering it nonetheless and not going for a simple 2-DIN system.
As for safety, it features dual airbags, ABS with EBD, rear parking sensors, TPMS, speed alert system, seat-belt reminder, and a speed-sensing auto door lock function as well. Furthermore, the improved structural integrity, better crumple zone, and the added safety quotient provide a sense of security to the new Gurkha.
4. Improvement both inside and out
Force Motors had placed the older Gurkha next to the new one to compare how far the 4x4 has come. The basic bearing hasn’t changed much as all the 4x4 recipe is right there. Round headlamps (now with LEDs), robust fenders and bumpers (with visible running gear underneath), exposed door hinges, rear-door mounted spare wheel, some iconic design elements like an external snorkel for air intake, boxy stance, and a new grille that reads out its name make the Gurkha simply standout from everyday runabout that prowls the streets. In other words, the Gurkha would simply stand out – both literally and figuratively – every time it’s out on the public roads.
Move inside and it’s not a bad place to be in. You’d surely be taken back in time with all the analogue-ness in this digital age, but that’s the real charm of the Gurkha. The plastic quality used all around is tawdry but made to last. Even the ergonomics isn’t something to brag about, but everything is straightforward and functional. And the features seem like they belong to yesteryears compared to what’s on offer in a modern-day SUV. But the Gurkha isn’t about features and equipment – rather about going where no one can.
What’s more, even though the second-row captain seats only get a recline movement, they are comfortable to sit in. Of course, there are a few niggles – the armrest on both of them are borrowed from Force bus, and in case the Gurkha takes a strong jump, the passengers’ head might crash straight into the unsoftened roof. Yet, we can see ourselves going places in the two seats that have a good view of the wilderness. And if the space around the seats is utilised properly, it has the potential to double up as a mobile abode too.
5. Pricing and Personalisation
Now, we come to the most crucial part on which the Gurkha’s success depends – the pricing. With a single trim on offer, the 2021 Force Gurkha can be yours for an ex-showroom price of Rs 13.59 lakh. That’s the exact amount that Mahindra is asking for the Thar’s LX 4-STR Diesel Manual (with a Convertible body style). Where Gurkha stands with limited options on offer, the prospective buyer is spoilt for choices with the Thar.
Let’s keep the Thar out of the equation for a bit. At this price, the other so-called SUV one can buy includes names like Hyundai Creta, Kia Seltos, Renault Duster, Nissan Kicks, Skoda Kushaq, VW Taigun, and a few variants of the MG Hector and the bold, new Mahindra XUV700. Now, none of these SUVs has the firearm for venturing where the Gurkha treads. Sure, Gurkha can live in the city where the aforementioned quasi-SUVs make their nests. But these SUVs can only dream of going to places where Gurkha has already stomped its tyre marks.
Lastly, for a proper 4x4 SUV like this, there are loads of personalisation options, so much so that it has the potential of wearing the ‘built-not-bought’ sticker. Some of the accessories offered by Force Motors are really good and purposeful, and can completely transform the persona of the Gurkha. Otherwise, the owners can take inspiration from old-school 4x4 icons like the Camel Trophy, BAJA, or Dakar Editions, to name a few.
1. Urban Legend
Try to remember a Force Motor showroom you have seen. Right, there aren’t many. For the previous generation, Gurkha was sold at the carmaker’s commercial vehicle showroom. Although, for this new Gurkha, things are promised to change for the better. And this 4x4’s Achilles’ heels is its availability. More importantly, the masses’ perception of the Gurkha needs to change as well.
It being sold alongside the Traxx won’t help it one bit. Efforts are being made by Force Motor to establish better sales and service networks for the Gurkha – but it will take some time before we can see it as frequently on the streets of SoBo or Jor Bagh as a Lamborghini or Ferrari.
2. Still a little rough around the edges
Despite all the advancements made, the Gurkha still lacks the finesse which comes so easily in the Mahindra Thar. Both these SUVs’ previous generations were equally utilitarian and offered nothing in terms of creature comfort. But with changing times, the Thar has evolved better than the Gurkha in every possible manner. It’s even got a petrol engine and automatic gearbox now, making it a complete package. Something the Gurkha can only aspire to be. But that’s not the metier of the Gurkha in the first place. It could have done with slightly better on-road dynamics, but Force decided that it would be a trade-off for off-road dexterity and decided against it. Like black coffee without sugar, it’s an acquired taste.
Where the older Force Gurkha felt like a bivouac shelter, the new one is comparable to a fallout shelter, if not more. It also goes like a mountain goat and is as good a steed as a Geralt’s Roach. But can it be your new choice of 'Lifestyle 4x4'? It certainly can. It's got a capable and refined diesel. And will tread where roads cease to exist. There are loads of customisation options too. India's very own overlanding vehicle after the chalet-like Mahindra Thar. Now, to buy a house in the mountains with the new Gurkha in my one-car garage.
Pictures by Kapil Angane