Home / Reviews / First Drive / Mahindra Thar First Drive Review: Taming the Thar

 

The 2020 Mahindra Thar is mere days away from launch, and we’ve already put it through its paces in the city, on the highway, and far off the beaten track. Read on for a detailed review.

Story: Anosh Khumbatta
Photography: Sanjay Raikar and Apurva Ambep

The 2020 Thar brings Mahindra’s tried and true three-door SUV form into the 21st century with a modern redesign, feature-loaded cabin and powerful engine options. This Mahindra Thar is loaded with creature comforts, but retains the butch, go-anywhere nature of its predecessor with some serious off-road ability. Should you buy one? Read on to find out.

All-new design

While the 2020 Mahindra Thar gets a fresh, modern look, the designers have been wise to retain the familiar proportions and a silhouette that will be instantly recognisable in the deepest corners of rural India as belonging to a Mahindra. The front bumper is meatier, the bonnet isn’t as flat as it used to be and the A pillars and windscreen now slope back a bit more than before. While the outgoing Thar continued to sport the legendary seven-slot grille inherited from Mahindra’s days building Willys Jeeps, this grille design hasn’t been carried forward as it is now a registered Jeep trademark. The grille on the new Thar is now smaller with a few horizontal slats, differentiating it from the Jeep grille; this should keep Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, owners of the Jeep brand, from raising any objections.

Moving over to the side, the doors aren’t as slab-sided as before, although it’s nice to see that the squarish windows, external door hinges, squared-off front wheel arches and rounded rear wheel arches have been retained, and with them the Thar’s butch, no-nonsense profile. The wheel arches get filled up by 255-section Ceat rubber on attractive 18-inch alloys, while the rear gets a modern touch with the spare wheel mounted dead-centre on the tailgate and those classy LED tail lamps sporting the Thar logo.

While critics have been quite vocal about how the new Mahindra Thar resembles the Jeep Wrangler, I must point out that Mahindra have their roots in building licensed CJ3A Jeeps since back in the 1940’s. This design, over the years, evolved into the Mahindra CL340 Classic, then into the company’s MM540 and MM550 models that were discontinued around the turn of the century, and finally into the Mahindra Thar launched in 2010. The 2020 Thar is the natural progression of this iconic design and, considering it shares a common ancestor with the Jeep Wrangler in the form of the WW2 Willys Jeep, there is bound to be some resemblance even after all these decades.

The cabin

While off-road-biased SUVs like the original Thar and its predecessors were known for being bare-bones, utilitarian machines with no frills and completely washable interiors, stepping into the 2020 Mahindra Thar I find myself in a modern and well-appointed cabin. The driver’s seat is comfortable, supportive and fully-adjustable, and I am faced with a pair of attractive round clocks with a full-colour, multi-function display between them.

Steering-mounted buttons manage media, telephone and cruise control functions, and the entire dashboard is extremely well laid out, with a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment display, sturdy air-con controls and large round vents with attractive chrome accents and a carbon-fibre finish around them.

My only complaint from the driver’s seat is that the buttons to control the central MID are obscured by the steering wheel, and one needs to momentarily take their eyes off the road to toggle between trip meters or the fuel efficiency display. The 2020 Thar is also equipped with a modern suite of driver aids, including ABS, EBD, traction control, ESP, rollover mitigation, hill hold, hill descent control and more, while on the safety front it gets dual airbags and a sturdy roll cage. The screen and all the controls on the dashboard get an IP54 rating for water and dust resistance, the carpets and mats are all rubberised and the speakers are placed on the roof, so you can hose down this interior after a day playing in the mud, just like with the outgoing Thar.

 Under the hood

The 2020 Mahindra Thar is available with either petrol or diesel motors, with the option of either a six-speed manual or six-speed torque-converter automatic transmission. Our test car was powered by the 2.2-litre mHawk diesel motor mated to the manual ‘box, and its 132 hp at 3,750 rpm and 300 Nm of twist between 1,600 and 2,800 rpm gets the Thar from a standstill to 60 km/h in under seven seconds, with the 100 km/h mark coming up in just under 15 seconds. I registered a top speed of just under 160 km/h, however wouldn’t advise driving at these speeds as the tall SUV does start feeling somewhat jittery and prone to body roll at the slightest steering input. The Thar feels a lot more settled when cruising at around 120 km/h, with enough punch in reserve to execute an overtake or two when needed. The engine feels extremely refined and smooth, while NVH levels are low in the well-insulated cabin. Acceleration is strong and linear, and every input with my right foot was met with predictable responses. The six-speed ‘box is a pleasure to use, and delivers extremely smooth and positive shifts every single time.

The driving experience

Driving the Thar in the city is a dominant experience, as you sit up higher than most with clear views all around, and other vehicles tend to stay out of your way. The punchy motor makes usable torque right off idle, meaning the Thar is always ready to get up and go. Out on the highway, triple-digit cruising speeds in the higher gears feels absolutely effortless, and the 2020 Thar would feel a lot more comfortable over a long road trip than its predecessor.

Off the beaten track

All this refinement and versatility haven’t compromised the Mahindra Thar’s off-roading prowess, and a day of crawling over rocks and sliding through slush prove just that. The 2020 Thar features a 42-degree approach angle, which is on par with the outgoing car, however the 37-degree departure angle is miles ahead of last year’s Thar’s 27 degrees. This combined with a 27-degree breakover angle, class-leading 650-mm water wading capability and ultra-low 42:1 crawl ratio, the new Thar clambers over and through just about anything in its path, once again cementing its place as a highly-capable off-roader for the masses. The independent front suspension works extremely well with the new multilink layout at the rear, and the 4×4 system does a great job of directing torque to the wheels with the most available traction.

Verdict

The Thar has moved on from being a weekend-only adventure vehicle to an SUV that can be driven to work every day, loaded with all the creature comforts you would expect from a modern car. It is extremely comfortable, refined and well-equipped, while retaining its DNA and identity with a sharp design, familiar proportions and excellent ability off-road. We’re suitably impressed.

 

About the author: Anosh Khumbatta

 

 

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