I was in Goa in early April, just before the second Covid-19 wave achieved monstrous proportions and brought the country to an almost standstill just like last year. The subsequent lockdowns and loss of life throughout the country is why I chose not to pen this story earlier. However, now as the situation is improving and people are looking to take up travel and road trips again, this seems to be an apt time to share this story. During those days in Goa, I was fortunate to have the Mahindra Thar as my drive for a couple of days. It was in these couple of days that I absolutely fell in love with the Thar despite it being far from flawless. These were the days when a love story that will continue for a lifetime brewed. Yes, even with the flaws that the Mahindra Thar has I cannot think of any other vehicle that I would want to trade it for because what most SUVs can do, a Thar would achieve easily but what a Thar can do very few SUVs can.
Now Goa is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country and no matter what time of the year one goes there the streets are always buzzing with people and action. Naturally, one would assume that it would be hard to find less-known places in Goa, right? Well, to a large extent, yes, but that is because most people are happy going to places that are frequently visited. Also, since people flock to these areas, accessibility to these places is easy with good roads and transport options available. This is exactly where the Mahindra Thar comes into the picture because with it the existence of roads is not a concern at all.
With the Thar, I had two options – first, to explore the usual beaches, churches, and tourist spots while the second option was to try and find lesser-known places in Goa but the risk with the second option was that I could end up with no images worthy of publishing and in the process, there might not be any story at all. Still, I went for option 2 as ‘with great risks come great rewards.’
The variant I had was a soft-top Thar diesel with an automatic gearbox. Unfortunately, I couldn’t enjoy much of the topless experience as Goa was scathing hot in early April. At this point, I must say that I was impressed with the cooling capabilities of the Thar even with a fabric and plastic top. At times, I had to leave the car under direct sunlight for an hour or so but even after that, the air-conditioning unit would cool the car to a comfortable point within about five minutes.
For the first day, I went around some places, primarily in North Goa in search of less-visited places but tourists were almost everywhere. It seemed the country was free of Covid-19 despite cases shooting up every day. My prerogative was to avoid any and every crowded place in Goa but that seemed kind of impossible on the first day and with the limited time I had, venturing too far from the city wasn’t a feasible option for me and I had to call it a day without any fruitful discoveries or pictures.
The second day though was a drastic change in terms of fortune and it was this one day that completely changed how I looked at the Mahindra Thar as a vehicle. Close to my hotel was an area with hills and while this area was a popular tourist spot not many people were near the hill itself as there were few shacks and shops around. Getting closer to the hill I realized that any vehicle could make it only to a certain height of the hill through a trail but nowhere close to the top. Beyond a certain point, this clearly was not a territory for cars.
A rough and loose surface on an incline meant that traction was always going to be a challenge and that meant a 4×4 was imperative. The good news is that the Thar I was driving had it and off I drove towards the crest of the hill with confidence that the Thar would make its way up with ease. Reaching halfway was a piece of cake for the Thar as the surface wasn’t entirely loose and there weren’t any major craters around. Beyond the halfway mark though we had to encounter some deep craters and a highly loose surface made mostly from pebbles. This meant we were losing traction rapidly and to make things worse the incline started getting steeper hereon.
The Thar though had a low-ratio transfer case in its arsenal and I quickly deployed it as without it the wheels had started spinning a lot without translating into any movement. In the 4L mode we started making progress again as a slower wheel movement in relation to the engine speed meant there was more torque available to pull us through the tricky terrain without digging into the loose surface.
With a light foot on the throttle, the Mahindra Thar made constant progress with only a couple of situations where I had to stop and change the wheel placement to find a bit more traction in order to get some movement. Eventually, we made it our way up to the crest of the hill and what a sight it was!
The sight of the blue ocean on the horizon from the top of a hill along with no buildings or human activity in sight showed the amazing beauty that nature offers even in places such as Goa, where a large part of nature’s beauty has been lost to commercialization and human activity in the last few years. The lack of people around me and just the sound of waves crashing also gave me time to think about how unique the Mahindra Thar was.
How many vehicles offer great off-road capabilities along with a brilliant and head-turning design and impressive road performance at a price of about Rs 14 lakh? Absolutely none is the answer to this question. Some might counter by saying that the Thar is just a lifestyle vehicle and not practical (hence misses out on many features) but that is not the case with the new Thar. With its forward-facing seats, improved space, modern infotainment system, more powerful and refined powertrain, and massively improved driving dynamics the Thar is far more practical than the previous version.
Of course, it isn’t flawless as the plastic quality leaves room for improvement, the suspension could be more silent over bad surfaces, the squeaks from the soft top could be reduced, the touch screen could be bigger, the tiny boot space could be increased to at least a usable volume and the list just goes on. But all of these combined too cannot rob the Thar of its achievement that there is no other vehicle in a similar or much higher price bracket capable of delivering all that the Thar does with such a strong character and a rich legacy.
No vehicle is perfect and even the new Mahindra Thar isn’t but very few vehicles can become a part of you and not just your lifestyle as the Thar can. It can take you to unexplored places without you having to worry if something is gonna break down and even if it does then it won’t cost a bomb to get it fixed. Try doing something similar in a Rs 1 crore luxury 4×4 SUV and you’ll understand what I mean. All this is what I experienced along with owners of luxury cars/ SUVs requesting for clicking pictures with the Mahindra Thar because that is the kind of character and aura it enjoys. This wasn’t the first time I drove a Mahindra Thar. In fact, I’ve driven it earlier twice but purely from a product analysis perspective. This time, the third time around things were different as explained and it was kind of impossible to not fall in love with an imperfect vehicle commanding a perfect character!
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