Road presence, go anywhere ability, daily driver, creature comfort
On road dynamics, boot space, four-seater
The all-new Mahindra Thar is finally good enough to be the only car in your garage, especially if you like the way it looks, what it is, and the promise of adventure that it holds. It’s also eons ahead of the Thar it replaces, be it design, quality, engines, performance, interiors, features, and overall comfort levels. But yes, if you are looking at it as just another SUV alternative in the 10-12 lakh price bracket, it might not rock your boat, not with the inconvenience a three-door brings. And the lack of boot space.
The new Thar comes with the option of one petrol and one diesel engine. The petrol is a 2.0-litre, four cylinder that makes 150bhp and 300Nm of torque. This torque rating goes up by 20Nm in the automatic version. Gearbox options meanwhile include a six-speed manual and a six-speed torque converter automatic. The diesel we have here is a 2.2-litre, 130bhp, 300Nm, BS6-compliant engine, and it is lovely. It too comes with the option of a six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic.
Easily one of the main reasons to buy the new Thar are its engines. Both the petrol and the diesel are high on performance, refinement, and drivability. We don’t expect them to be very fuel efficient, but then the focus of the Thar is more towards the enthusiast in any case.
The diesel engine is refined, easy revving, and has a thick spread of torque all across the rev range. Plus, the turbo lag on this diesel is barely perceptible. So, no matter what gear or speed, the lightest prod of the throttle gets the new Thar all perked up and ready to sprint. Floor the throttle, and it gets to 80kmph and then 100kmph in pretty quick time. Not that the Thar’s progress slows down beyond this point; it’s just that the turn of speed isn’t as shocking. Keep the throttle buried and you’d see 140kmph sooner than you expect.
The shifts on the manual gearbox are light and these click into place without effort. And, the clutch operation is light as well. But, there’s a hint of refinement missing as you can hear the shifter clicking in place every time you shift, and you can also hear the drivetrain lash when you let go of the clutch on the move.
Ride quality is well judged. It’s nowhere near pampering or plush, and one can feel its body on ladder roots at slow speeds and over small bumps, with the Thar feeling slightly firm, slightly jiggly, and a little inconsistent at times. But it still has a smothering quality to it. And, as the road disintegrates, the Thar shines through. Plus, once you load it up, its rear stops to kick. And the faster you go over bumps, potholes, craters, the flatter and more absorbent the Thar feels. It has this post-apocalyptic bearing to it, which makes it quite endearing.
The ride is great. The handling, not so much. And therefore, together, the new Thar doesn’t exactly score very high on this front. But again, the ride isn’t exactly magic carpet like, and the handling though detached, isn’t unsafe or awful. More good news is that the Thar is quite easy to live with in the city.
As far as road dynamics go, the Thar isn’t a great driver’s car, specifically on the road, what with its slow steering, pronounced body roll, and its ESP’s irritating need to constantly jump into the picture like an attention-starved child. It’s best then to take it easy around a twisty road with the Thar, because the harder you push the more roll, understeer, and the more hate you will get from your fellow passengers.
Having said that, it is surprisingly easy to handle in the city. The visibility – upfront, through the A-pillar, and even through those non-opening rear side windows – is clear as day. The big spare wheel does hinder the rear visibility somewhat, but those humongous outside rear view mirrors and the parking sensors take some of the uncertainty away. And along with the light steering, parking isn’t that tedious a chore.
The Thar with the front-facing seats is a four-seater. But, the space available to all four occupants is generous. And though it might not look like it, even the rear is a reasonably comfortable place to be in. But, of course, getting there isn’t as easy as it is in a five door SUV. Let’s go by the premise that the new Thar will cost between Rs 10-12.5 lakh. Which means – at least in pricing terms – it will go up against the likes of the top spec Hyundai Venue and Kia Sonet, and their larger siblings like the Hyundai Creta and the Kia Seltos, albeit in low and mid spec versions.
Compared to the aforementioned Koreans, the new Thar’s interior does feel a bit lacking. Now don’t get us wrong, there’s nothing to complain about when it comes to fit and finish, quality of plastic, or even the operability of switches. But, it’s not as upmarket or rich to the look and feel as the Hyundai and the Kia. And as expected, the design is simplistic and slab-like, with function leading form.
Now, for all its girth and towering presence, the new Thar is only a four-seater. Thankfully, all the four seats are comfy and reasonably large. The ones at the front more so, of course. But the rear ones also recline. And there’s enough knee-, leg-, and headroom at the back. The rear passengers also get adjustable headrests and a three-point seatbelt. So that’s safety ticked off as well. Getting into the rear is a bit tedious nonetheless, courtesy the lack of rear doors.
As for the boot, it’s tiny.
Mahindra has packed the top-spec LX trim with just the right creature comforts and safety kit for it to feel apt as a family car. There’s nothing out of the ordinary or innovative here, unlike other SUVs at the same price. Even so, the Thar’s feature list suffices. The LX trim of the all-new Thar we have here gets a rake adjustable multifunctional steering, a height adjustable driver’s seat, usable cup and bottle holders, power windows, and a manual aircon system. It also gets a fancy multimedia system with voice command, Apple Carplay and Android Auto. And it has some nice goodies for off-roading enthusiasts as well.
There’s a detailed driver information system that throws up info on speed, average fuel economy, distance to empty, average speed, and time driven. And on the safety front, the Thar LX gets ESP, a roll cage, ABS and EBD, driver and passenger side airbags, a tyre pressure monitoring system, and reverse parking sensors. But sadly, no camera.
The all-new Thar is certainly worth buying. And even though in terms of pricing, it might go up against the likes of the Venue,Sonet, and even the Creta and the Seltos; in reality, it is in a class of its own. It has its shortcomings, of course. It needs a dead pedal, rear windows that open (especially since it comes with a factory fit hardtop), a bigger boot, and an armrest for a driver. But it remains a car for many reasons. We know it works off-road, but its ability to take on both the highway and the city, while still being an off-road champ, that truly makes it desirable.
In the city on an errand run or while commuting to office, the new Thar never feels cumbersome or tiring. Even on the Highway, it can cruise at 100kmph without bother with the rev needle barely pushing 2,000rpm. And when the roads allow, the Thar can also go past 120kmph in a hurry. And it doesn’t feel nervous or ungainly while at it.
Pictures by Kapil Angane