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Ages ago – at least it looks like ages now – there was a mighty off-roader called the ‘Jeep’, which was capable of tackling what can be termed a car’s worst nightmares with utmost ease. It was made to achieve just one goal: forge ahead regardless of the terrain! Mahindra and Mahindra can be considered as one of the companies that introduced the concept of off-roading to the ordinary man. The classic off-roaders like the 1949 Willys Overland Jeep, which was built in India by Mahindra, can be considered as the big grand daddy of off-roading. At that time the Jeep was aimed at the rural people, who always wanted a tough and sturdy machine to tackle the rough country terrain. The Jeep and the models that followed it were successful with civilians as well as the armed forces. Sadly, however, as the road conditions in both the urban and rural areas started to improve, people began turning towards cars that were more comfortable and easier to drive. Nevertheless, there were enthusiasts and loyalists who were still interested in such vehicles. The last true-blue desi off-roader came in the form of the MM 540 and the CL 340, which promoted two things: solid off-roading and a rebellious lifestyle. These off-roaders were popular among the youngsters and people who wanted a strong and sturdy vehicle. These machines were also popular lifestyle toys. Unfortunately, the increasingly strict emission norms and standards forced these beasts out of production. However, the need for a lifestyle off-roader still exists and I think that is the raison d’être of Mahindra’s latest 4X4 offering, the Thar.

Named after the great Indian desert in Rajasthan, the Thar is easily reminiscent of the days when many such ‘Jeeps’ ruled the roost (and the roads). Mahindra are promoting the Thar as a modern lifestyle vehicle with a classic design. It is based on the MM 540 and retains many of the elements that remind one of the 540. However, the Thar uses a new 2.5-litre CRDe engine that comes from the Scorpio and a four-wheel drive transmission, which is supplied by Borg-Warner. It develops 105 PS of power and 247 Nm of torque, which is quite okay for an off-roader that weighs more than 1.5 tonnes. On-road performance is not a priority in respect of the Thar as it is mainly meant to be driven off the road. However, we tested the car on tarmac for the sake of the curious bunch and the figures generated were not so impressive. The 0-100 km/h sprint took 18.41 seconds and the overall top speed was 134 km/h. Justly so, for even the Mahindra advert proclaims, ‘Thar hates tar’. So, we can say that its on-road performance is poor. However, it does not disappoint once it goes off the road.

It takes, shall we say, non-brittle nerves to drive a vehicle that does not have a roof, not even a canvas one, and just a roll cage that is fitted with a couple of bolts here and there. Anyway, the true test of the Thar started once we went off the road. The independent front suspension is good for off-roading, but the leaf springs and solid axle set-up at the rear shake up and rattle everything in the cabin. Handling bumps and small obstacles may be easy for the Thar, but, you, the driver, have to be strong enough to handle the shock waves that are transferred to the cabin all the time while off-roading. Power is no issue as the 2.5-litre CRDe engine is quite capable of delivering ample power when needed. The handling of the Thar is also all right. The fuel consumption is fairly okay at 17 km to a litre on the highway and just 10 km to a litre within the city.

 

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