This is the all-new Mahindra Thar. New generation, new chassis, new powertrain options, but the same old charm. At least from the looks of it.
In flesh, it is much better finished now. It doesn’t look rudimentary or utilitarian. And it has an air of modernity to it, which the Thar never really had. It’s a lifestyle product, no two ways about it. And up close and personal, it’s both handsome and desirable.
Mahindra says it is based on an all-new platform. Which means a new ladder-frame, new underpinnings, new engines, and as is clear - a totally new top hat. The chassis Mahindra claims is in its third generation. It is lighter, stiffer, and stronger than before. And the new Thar also gets independent front suspension and multi-link rear layout. And the brakes have been updated as well. The focus, without doubt, has been to broaden the appeal.
In terms of drivetrain, there are four options. Two engines - a petrol and a diesel - both mated to a manual and an automatic each. The petrol is a two-litre, direct injection, turbo unit. One that makes 150bhp! And Mahindra says it has been developed in-house. You can have this engine with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic.
What we are driving is the diesel. It is a 2.2-litre, four-cylinder, all-aluminium engine that makes 130bhp. Its peak torque is rated at 300Nm. This too can be had with a six-speed manual or a six-speed torque converter automatic. Our car is the latter.
And it’s a refined and potent engine. Thanks to the automatic, I couldn’t really tell if there was any significant turbo lag. Even in the manual mode, the engine rarely drops under 1,500rpm, if at all. And at 1500rpm, this engine is raring to go.
Now, we only had a short drive - two hours or thereabouts - in the heart of Mumbai city. Which in an off-roader seems like a masochistic recipe for pain and tiredness. But no! The new Thar was effortless. It was quiet. And not a wee-bit cumbersome.
We were constantly moving between 20kmph to hitting 80kmph on the Sealink. And through all the speed changes, all the overtakes, and even through some bumper to bumper traffic, the seamless, powerful, and quiet nature in which the Thar now pulled along was just lovely. The automatic too, though not the quickest shifting, makes driving in the city quite easy. It does get noisy when you floor it. And kickdowns can take a bit longer. But nothing that’s even remotely close to being a turn off.
Then there’s the ride. The Thar is a body on ladder SUV. That means a bit of jiggle comes as part of its low speed ride. However, given the new Thar uses a multi-link rear suspension, we expected a bit more refinement and a little less jiggle. But drive past 30kmph and the ride improves dramatically. It takes on a pliant, absorbent and rounded edge. But, it’s the way it flattens the potholes and bumps and undulations and everything else that the monsoon-ravaged Mumbai roads threw at it, that had us completely floored. This is one car you literally don’t have to slow down for anything!
But that’s only part of what makes the new Thar a more mainstream, more accessible lifestyle off-roader. Compared to the older Thar, there are no ergonomic disasters here. The interior feels well put together. And almost every comfort feature you’d want in your daily driver is now part of the Thar’s armoury. It gets a multi-functional steering wheel; a touchscreen multimedia system with Apple CarPlay and the like; a Driver Information System with all the info you might need; usable cup and bottle holders; wipers that work; power windows; cruise control; and two USB charging ports!
It also gets four properly comfortable seats. The front ones are larger and more supportive. And the driver gets height adjustability as well. But even the second row, though a little tedious to access, didn’t have spilling me out of it. And the knee room or the thigh support wasn’t half bad either. You can spend an hour or two back there. And just in case you are wondering, yes there’s a bit of boot space too. But, only a bit.
Now, just to put things in perspective - the new Thar should come for around Rs 15 lakh. And for that sort of money - if we don’t consider its off-roading or lifestyle co-efficient for a bit - there’s nothing special in terms of layout, features, and the quality of plastic used all round. But for a Thar, it is revolutionary!
We like the new Thar. We might not have driven it a lot, and we haven’t yet seen what it can do on the highway or off the road. But, we know it was no fun to drive in the city. But the new one, it’s become so friendly, so comfortable, and so likeable in the city, and it seems it’s all up and up from here on.
Our only worry is the Thar’s pricing. The whole draw of this off-roader has been a hint of affordability. Take that out of the equation and the Thar’s charm is gone. Given the money Mahindra has spent developing and speccing it, it’s clear the company wants more numbers from it now.
But there’s a genuine fear that it might think too highly of it’s own product and price it out of contention. And we saw that happen with the Marazzo. So, for Mahindra’s, Thar’s and our sake, we hope Rs 15 lakh is the price for the top spec version, on the road.
Pictures by Vikrant Singh