Usually, every year-end I take a leave and try and be as much with family. This year, with all the negativity around, I could afford to be with family without taking a holiday. This also prompted us to think of some nearby driving destinations to satiate the travel buds. Choosing December 31st to drive down or visit a popular tourist destination will be an absolute no-no this time. Precisely why I chose to drive down to a friend’s farmhouse in Alibaug a couple of days before the year-end travel madness begins. The plan was to take two cars along but then as is usually the case, the number of entrants kept dropping.
So, finally, it was me and a bunch of friends along with the new Mahindra Thar. I have been wanting to drive this car for quite some time. So, two and two together, I also tell you in this story more about the Thar, its road-tripping capability and passenger-friendliness. Moreover, if you’re planning to do the Mumbai-Alibaug route, the road condition and other details.
This is a no-brainer. From Mumbai, there are two ways you can go to Alibaug. One is to go to CSMT and then take a Roro ferry. Unfortunately, the ferry has its time limitations and the cost of onboarding a car is too high as well. Nonetheless, its a once-in-a-lifetime experience and everyone should have it. However, this clearly isn’t for the spur-of-the-moment trips. So, we left this option out. The second option is to drive down the entire 104km or so. You take the NH48, get onto NH66 and then onto NH166A. A few years ago, the roads were in pretty bad shape and we assumed them to be the same this time as well. We were in for a surprise though. The roads were neatly laid out and at a small stretch near NH166A, you will get a few bad roads. This is near Vadakal naka.
There were no toll booths for us as we were travelling from Dombivli. Those coming in from CSMT will have to pay the Vashi toll. You will find plenty of petrol pumps though it becomes a trickle after you cross the Vadakal naka. Moreover, to go to Alibaug, there is a small diversion which most of the drivers will likely miss. There is a small signboard and if you end up doing this in the night, then there are chances that you will miss it as the smooth tarmac will beckon you on all the way till Goa.
Alibaug beaches aren’t as clean as the ones in Goa or Gokarna. Hence it is likely you will find dirt and plastic strewn all over. With 60 per cent of Mumbaikars opting for such places, it will likely be crowded and social distancing will be just for namesake. Restaurants here are running in full capacity though we will highly recommend Lilac near the Alibaug bus stand. With New Year’s eve, good luck finding a place to have food from, especially dine-in. This is assuming you have got your stay sorted beforehand. Order for more seafood as this is abundant as well as fresh though you will not be left wanting for the regular vegetarian or non-vegetarian fare.
Mahindra currently sells the two-door and four-seater version of the new Thar. The new Mahindra Thar doesn’t offer seat belts for the middle passenger though there is space for him/her. The rear seats can also be folded though they don’t sit flat. Mahindra offers an excuse of a boot but for a light two-day trip like ours, it could easily accommodate all those laptop and duffel bags. Heck, it even folded to let us put two small drums. Pretty handy.
I also liked the dashboard layout as well as the instrument console. There is driver seat height adjust but ingress for the rear passengers is easier from the shotgun seat. Shorter people will be quite at home in the new Mahindra Thar’s rear seat. The touchscreen infotainment system is easy to use and so are the steering mounted controls. There are okay storage spaces inside the cabin and unlike the previous-gen car that used to bruise its occupants, this one doesn’t have any rough edges.
As discussed before, we drove the car on proper tarred as well as cement roads. The stability is good and so are its road manners. You aren’t constantly fighting the steering wheel neither does the SUV feel skittish. This generation Thar is equally adept on the road and off it as well. Most of the times, you don’t have to slot the car into 4-wheel drive and the stock rear-wheel-drive configuration is enough. Our drive on the beach required us to slot it into 4-wheel low and that’s not because the SUV was getting stuck but our own apprehensions and inexperience at using it. The Thar was the only car as far as the eye could see on the Kihim beach as no other two-wheel drive vehicle could dare tread this tricky surface.
For the driver and co-driver, yes. For the rear ones, not so much. The wheel wells protrude in the cabin and the ingress-egress could be a problem for creaky knees and the not-so-young. Mahindra should also work on the air-conditioning system of the car as even though it was December and the ambient temperature outside was 26-degree, the AC knob was set at its highest point. It doesn’t help that the roof is lined with black plastic on the inside. So, the Thar cannot be your primary family vehicle unless it’s just you and the missus. Add to that a bunch of under-10 kids.
The Thar needs a reverse parking camera as standard or should you buy it now, add one as a necessary accessory. The spare wheel (thankfully, it is a full-size alloy) and the small glass area, hinders vision. Even though the Thar has reverse parking sensors and a display on the instrument console, that ain’t enough. There are a bit of blind spots as well with the rear-view mirrors. The driver, as well as the rear seat passengers, are seated quite high and this helps while spotting any danger on the road or even while overtaking.
Ride quality wise, the new Thar is bouncy if there is just the driver and co-passenger. However, load her up and the ride quality becomes decent. It’s not good or the best but just about decent. The ground clearance is generous and even in fully-loaded conditions, the speed breakers or potholes will do nothing to faze the car. The handling is so-so and while the steering is decently light, it isn’t precise. If you are thinking of the Thar as nothing more than a glorified Brezza, you will be in for a rude shock. It is very much like a Jeep (Willys) to drive though in a refined format.
I had the 2.0-litre turbo diesel, manual with me. This engine makes 130hp of power and 300Nm. The engine sounds a bit gruff than what other BS4 diesels from Mahindra usually are. This being said, it is a pleasant departure from the older Thar’s motor. There are next to no vibrations in the cabin and the gear lever doesn’t vibrate either. The Thar diesel could only give a mileage of 14kmpl in its best behaviour. If you’re relegated to city driving, you will have a fuel efficiency of slightly less than 10kmpl. You can start driving the car in second and this is all the gear you will ever need in traffic. The gear ratios understandably are short stacked and the engine is a tad lazy to spin up as well.
This 6-speed gearbox is quite easy to row though it has a longer throw. For taller drivers though the gear lever might meet the side of your knee. The clutch action is decently light and never once did I stall the car. To start the engine, with the gearbox in neutral, you don’t have to press the clutch.
You won’t believe this but Mandwa jetty where we paused for a photo session saw a crowd coming to look at the car. In fact, I had parking issues as more often than not wherever you leave the car, a bunch of folks will gather and try to peek inside the vehicle. You even get the respect of fellow road-users and traffic policemen. Visually, the car is bigger than the older unit but I feel LED headlights will have truly upped the ante. The current halogens only have a 70-80 metre throw to them. Rest of what Mahindra designers have done is truly commendable.
The 4×4 lever is a bit notchy and if you are someone new to this, then learning it will take a bit of time and patience. There is no internal release for either the boot or the fuel flap. Both times, you will have to get out of the car or hand over the keys to someone else. This car needs diesel exhaust fluid or Adblue as it is known commonly. The reservoir is placed closer to the fuel filler.
The rubber beading on the doors is insufficient to keep the wind noise from seeping in if you are doing highway speeds. Moreover, the hooks holding the bonnet can easily be locked or unlocked from outside. If the hood is open, there is no warning sign either on the MID. The upright windshield glass isn’t cleaned properly by the wipers and the driver gets at least one centimetre of unclean space towards his right.
Given the price point, the Mahindra Thar works out to be quite an expensive proposition. I failed to explain to my friends why this car with just two doors costs this much (Rs 16 lakh, on-road). The very fact that all of us were nearly comfortable in this 200km journey was a testimony that one can do such trips in the new Mahindra Thar. Something that was unthinkable in the previous generation. The benefit that it takes less space to park and is decently maneuverable in the city is also a plus point. You will in fact be known as the “Thar man” because of the currently demand-supply issues. To get your hands on one, there is an eight-month waiting period and test drive requests aren’t taken as enthusiastically as well.
In a nutshell, this is a good car for nuclear families, singles or the adventurous. Stay away if you plan to make this your primary vehicle and have an extended family.
Images: Lijo Mathai
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