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Rediscovering the Mahindra Thar

Jun 14 2014, 10:13 IST
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Mahindra Thar CRDe is priced at Rs 7.35 lakh and the Thar DI comes for Rs 4.81 lakh (Delhi prices). Mahindra Thar CRDe is priced at Rs 7.35 lakh and the Thar DI comes for Rs 4.81 lakh (Delhi prices).
SummaryA striking collector’s item, Thar connects Mahindra’s past and future. Does the SUV need to reinvent itself?

I have always wanted to own a Mahindra Thar. After all, any driving enthusiast, and especially an off-road junkie, would go bonkers over this retro modern vehicle that’s got the heritage cult looks and the performance of a modern day SUV. It comes in two variants—the Thar CRDe positioned as a hardcore off-roader for urban dwellers and the Thar DI as its inexpensive cousin positioned as a rural style-seeker. While the CRDe is powered by a 2498-cc engine (105 bhp), the DI comes with a 2523-cc engine (63 bhp). Launched in 2010, the Thar, in FY14, grew over 10% in sales. We spend a week with the CRDe version and here’s what we feel about the SUV.

But before that, a few words on a ‘jeep’. The charm of owning and driving a jeep is not something everyone can connect to. A jeep isn’t as comfortable as a car, a jeep isn’t as fast, and a jeep can be slightly more cumbersome to live with. At the same time, a jeep can easily take you where most modern cars cannot and a jeep, in an urban environment, gives you exclusivity.

Appearance: The Thar CRDe immediately attracts your attention with its butch styling—a wide stance, bulging bonnet and immense road presence. But step inside and the feeling is exactly the opposite. What greets you are boring interiors and bad fit and finish. The driving position, though, is impressive and the upright seat gives you a commanding view of the surroundings. It surely needs better plastic quality, more equipment, and better fit and finish.

On the road: The Thar gets a good combination of engine, gearbox and chassis. The 2.5-litre engine has ample grunt for effortless highway cruising, but runs out of steam beyond 110 kmph. At those speeds, the noise levels too exceed your comfort zone. If it is mechanically possible, we would like to see the Thar powered by the 2.2-litre mHawk diesel engine.

Off the road: The percentage of SUV owners who go off the road is negligible but that won’t be the case if you are in the Thar. In fact, you would want to take your Thar off-roading, as we did, and found that the jeep feels very composed off the road. Throw any kind of terrain at it—loose sand, slush, jungle trail, empty river bed—and the jeep shows what it is capable of. And if you do get stuck, the 4x4 mode comes to help. We didn’t find any problem with the Thar when we went off the road. But one: A customised Thar generally comes with a winch (a motor-driven device fitted at the front used for hauling a vehicle if it gets stuck). But the electronic control for operating that winch isn’t easy to find. Rather than being located at an accessible place (such as on the dashboard), the control is located under the bonnet!

Mathematics: Though numbers don’t do justice to a vehicle such as this, allow me to present you a few calculations I did. The engine is powerful enough to take the Thar from 0-100 kmph in 17 seconds, which is quite commendable for its size and aerodynamics. But what is more impressive is acceleration through the gears—it takes only 13 seconds to go from 20-80 kmph in third gear. The SUV returns 12 km to a litre of diesel.

With the Thar, Mahindra can have a clear winner on its hands. Some things such as the interiors of the standard of the Scorpio, sensible dashboard controls, better insulation, better carpeting, etc, can result in the Thar (at least the CRDe version) transforming into a really fine SUV. If currently only jeep-enthusiasts are curious about the Thar, such additions can make some of the mid-size car buyers also consider this SUV. The Thar CRDe is priced at Rs 7.35 lakh and the Thar DI comes for Rs 4.81 lakh (Delhi prices).

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