Why would I buy one?
- Because it’s a Thar
- Petrol refinement
- Off road capability
Why would I avoid it?
- Fit and finish in some areas
- Isn’t practical enough
- Efficiency, when driven hard
The petrol Mahindra Thar is simply a dream to drive. Silent, smooth, and feels as capable off-road. Mahindra has done wonders with this engine, which works in favour of its charm. However, comparing the Thar to its price segment contenders doesn’t seem to do justice as owning one is all about a lifestyle-statement. Nevertheless, frugality, fit and finish in several areas, a few ergonomic irritants and some occupant discomfort are the by-products of an otherwise evolved Thar. On the contrary, no other car I’ve driven till date has attracted as much attention as the new Thar.
Engine and Performance
Remarkably, this petrol 2.0-litre mStallion engine is what shines most in this avatar of the Thar. Its simply smooth, silent and powerful. An abundant 150bhp to be exact, which is allied to 320Nm of torque from as low as 1500rpm. Doing transmission duties is a six speed torque convertor gearbox; not one of the smoother shifting ones, but certainly gets the job done. You instantly appreciate how the NVH is supremely sucked out of this cabin. Not just while it creeps strongly off the mark, but also while you’d normally drive around. For me it felt nothing short of calming and soothing. The only instance this engine gets audible is when one revs the nuts off it, which is absolutely unnecessary since most of the usable power is accessible lower down in the rev range.
Regardless of whether one is driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic, puttering around aimlessly or for an errand, or even while out on the highway, driving the petrol Thar is an effortless affair since the motor seamlessly pumps out the horses as the gearbox leisurely shifts cogs. To set the record straight, although 0-100kmph comes up in a swift 10.17 seconds, it surprisingly doesn’t feel so rapid.
Similarly, overtaking is quick too, which is proved in our 20-80 and 40-100kmph runs that took just 5.80 and 7.80 seconds. As for the gear lever, the good thing is that it has a smooth shifting actuation with defined gates that’s accompanied by a positive release button, which makes shifting in a hurry, like reversing, possible.
Now, although gearshifts are reasonably smooth and intuitive (as per throttle input), we only felt that it could have been quicker to match the motor’s enthusiasm. You see, when you floor the throttle on the go, the system takes a noticeable pause to kick-down and offer you the best response to race to the 4500rpm redline in auto mode.
But isn’t that too restricted for a petrol? So, I slotted it into manual mode and stamped the throttle, only to see that the revs were held at the 5500rpm redline. Nice! Now, although we weren’t able to do our regular fuel efficiency run, the instrumentation kept reading around 10kmpl on an average with a light foot. This dropped to around 7.7kmpl while performing the speed runs.
Ride and Handling
Well, undeniably, it rides like a ladder-on-frame vehicle. But when compared to the older Thar, this one is light years ahead! The ride's way cushier than before. Sure it still has that jiggly ride along with the unpredictable rear-hopping tendency over expansion joints, but those traits are oh-so-mellowed-down. Plus, like earlier, be prepared to be thrown about if you miss spotting an edgy pothole.
But that's it. There's no suspension noise and it feels as rugged or bullet proof as maybe, the ‘Hulk’. For all you know it could even compete with the Moon/Mars rovers! In short, although the experience has moved up a few notches, it can’t match the driving comfort of say a Hyundai Creta or the likes. What we would have loved is a quicker steering. But with three and one quarter turns from lock to lock, it’s quite the opposite.
Plus, it feels slightly heavy at slow speeds. These traits coupled with a relatively large turning circle translates into an arm-job to park in tighter spaces. Thankfully, it frees up as the speed increases but what we really took to is the lack of vibrations on the steering regardless of the terrain we treaded upon. As expected, it clambered over rocks and gulped everything the beaten path threw at it, but you will just have to wait for a full-fledged off-road review to know more.
Interior Space and Quality
As was the case earlier, there’s still some climbing needed to board the new Thar. But once in, the new one’s cabin layout and finish will startle you to say the least. Sure the utilitarian design cues remain, which is what attracts after all, but it is finished way better than its predecessor. Nevertheless, since the Thar’s price is now in serious SUV territory like the Creta and company, it still has some way to go in terms of quality and fit and finish, so as to say. Otherwise, I really liked the centre console design with the array of toggle switches lined up like in a Mini Cooper. However, each time I tried to stuff my phone into the storage space underneath it, I’d hit the hazard button almost always. Call it shaky hands or whatever. Now, visibility out of the front windscreen although adequate, feels like peeping out of a NASA spaceship window!
Thankfully, the view out of the side windows isn’t as restrained, the large door mirrors functioning well here too. But I really can’t say the same about the tiny inner-rear-view mirror as it severely lacked angle-adjustments. Adding to the agony is the fact that the spare wheel hinders the view out the back, and although a camera would have been perfect, sensors is what you get.
For the jeep lovers, there’s bucket-loads of traditional bits that you can rave about when raising a toast at the bar. You get a fuel lid that only opens by sliding the key in, fasteners for the bonnet, door restraints in fabric/rexin, and enough Thar badging all across to rub it into your soul.
Which brings me to the front seat. Since its almost hugging the floor, you can forget about any thigh support. The seat squab itself is actually tiny and tries to hold you on via lateral supports that could shame a sports car. I don’t blame the engineers because there wasn’t much space to play around with in the first place, but having my buttocks squeezed together for a three hour long drive wasn’t exactly comforting.
The front backrest though is an altogether different story. There’s good back and lateral support along with adjustable lumbar support. I’d be picky to say that I’d love more shoulder support, but needless to say headroom is tremendous, and shoulder room is generous too. As for the rear, the front-facing twin-seats (foldable), whose backrest angle can be adjusted, can easily seat two without a fuss.
What’s nice is that they are offset (in the centre), so the rear occupants don't need to peep to catch a view out the front. Also, while legroom and headroom is good, shoulder room is superb thanks to the prominent wheel wells that also double up as fake armrests. Having said that though, the seats could have had more cushioning; especially better back and thigh support. Even foot room should have been less restrictive.
When it comes to the boot, it’s basically a split-gate that comprises of a metal sideways opening door and a glass portion that opens upwards with separate twin-dampers. Really snazzy to say, but once open, the tiny boot enclosure can only hold a few sleek soft bags at best.
Features and Equipment
The LX version you see in the pictures has 18-inch alloys, a moulded side footstep, steering with multifunction controls that can be tilt-adjusted, and cruise control. There’s also lumbar support and a height adjustable driver seat, remote central locking along with electric door mirrors and windows. In terms of safety, this off-roader gets tyre pressure monitoring, rear parking sensors, ESP, ABS with EBD, dual airbags and a roll cage.
As for the six-speaker touchscreen infotainment system with bluesense app connectivity, it is reasonably okay in terms of bare-basic graphics and screen frame rates. But it could have definitely been snappier. Additionally, it displays all the off-and-on road info too, like pitch, roll, g-monitor and wheel angle in addition to power, torque and speed to name a few.
Let’s first talk about what doesn’t work in the new Thar’s favour. The fact that this petrol auto hard-top version, with a price tag of Rs 16.26 lakh (OTR Mumbai), costs as much as the Creta, Seltos and others, meaning that expectations run high in terms of quality, fit and finish, and comfort for the family. Which the Thar simply can’t match; especially with the lack of rear doors, the inconvenience brought about by its fixed rear windows, centrally placed power window switches and restrictive rear foot-space. Then there’s also the impractical boot, an unpredictably choppy ride and of course the efficiency in case your enthusiasm gets the better of you.
At the same time, it’s the petrol Thar that brings it closer to its rivals. I mean this engine is seriously a gem from Mahindra, whose zilch NVH and smooth performance (even off-road) will be thoroughly appreciated. It actually makes this Thar that much more desirable, more-so if you don’t drive that many kilometres.
Do I have to say that the new Thar already stands out of the boring crowd? Not just for its pure rugged lineage that allows it to wander off into the wilderness where other cars can’t even dream of, but ironically, because of its true ability to take on the road too! Isn’t life so full of surprises?
Pictures by Kapil Angane