Mahindra Thar 2020: Heart over Mind

Mahindra Thar 2020: Heart over Mind

December 4, 2020 / 0 Comments / 241 / ROAD TEST REVIEWS
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Mahindra has finally launched the much awaited 2020 Thar. But, can the Thar be the only car in your garage? Let’s find out!

Pros:

+ An absolutely gorgeous head-turner. No kiddin’, the Range Rover sport we drove to Wayanad didn’t turn as many heads like this. Call it the initial euphoria but this still remains a fact

+ Leaps, bounds and LIGHT YEARS ahead than the previous Thar. Plastics, gear levers, refinement levels, safety and literally every damn thing is improved

+ The 2.2 mHawk is an absolute joy to drive. Begs to be pushed harder. Absolutely no nervousness at serious triple-digit speeds on “straight roads” in terms of Thar’s stability

+6 Speed AT is good, if not the best. The manual mode of the automatic is a joy to use as it does not upshift automatically in 1st & 2nd gear, very helpful in off-roading 

+ Feature loaded for a ‘Jeep’. Loved the off-road statistics bundled with cruise control, voice commands, android auto & apple car play

+ A very strong contender for being the only car in the garage. M&M has left no stone unstoned to make it an attractive mass-market proposition

+ The AC is a bone-chiller. Best we have ever seen!

+ Tackled some of the toughest obstacles in off-roading like a cakewalk, rear-diff lock is a boon. Ground clearance, water wading capacity and departure angle are now improved

+ Surprisingly spacious for 4 onboard, squeeze in the kid as a 5th passenger and they won’t complain

+ The entry/exit to the rear seat is fairly easy. Senior citizens will, of course, find it difficult but the Millennials shouldn’t be complaining about it

+ Fantastic braking, better than most of the cars from the M&M’s stable. Really wish the pedal was slightly less spongy though

+ Pretty decent sound clarity from the music system, considering that the speakers are mounted on the roof in an unconventional position. Vocals need improvement though. 

+ The headlamps offer stupendous illumination. Very impressive for OEM standards

+ The steering is calibrated really well. It’s not 100% direct but way better than some of the modern joysticks

Cons:

– Wind Noise at triple-digit speeds is LOUD. Gets worse as the speedo needle rises further

– You need the key every time you want to refuel. A big turn-off. Especially, in such unprecedented times when you want to have minimum contact with the external world

– Absence of dead pedal is a killjoy, especially if you are driving an automatic

– While the absence of a reverse camera is acceptable from the off-roading perspective, most of the buyers will REALLY miss it

– Although our test car was the Hard-top version, it began to squeak when driven over bad roads after day 2 of the drive

– Ride quality, although improved, feels uncomposed when driven at decent speeds over potholes/breakers

– Boot space has been compromised. Stuffing anything more than 2 big duffle bags is a pain. Expect a lot of after-market roof carriers

– The horn-pad needs some effort to operate. Would have preferred something lighter. Blessing in disguise being this should prevent unnecessary honking

– Presence of a USB port at the rear would be very convenient for rear passengers

– On our pre-production test cars (Manual & Auto), the Low air pressure warning light (TPMS) was glowing even after all the tires were refilled with air. Hope this is not present across other production units. 

Exterior

In case you walk into the dealership to check out the all-new Mahindra Thar, you would probably wonder if you walked into one of the 80+ Jeep dealerships across India. That’s the extent of similarity of the new Thar to the Jeep Wrangler. With the old iconic 7 slated grille making way for this make-shift design with radiator and intercooler tucked in, let’s find out if the Thar still retains its charm or has lost significant heritage as it evolved over a decade. 

Mahindra has decided to go the old school way with the Halogens for headlamps and the fog lamps when most of the manufacturers are moving to LEDs. We have nothing much to complain about here because we feel it would be cheaper in replacing them if they are damaged in off-roading. The tiny DRLs are placed above the side-turn indicator console. In our opinion, Mahindra could have spent slightly more bandwidth in designing the front bumper. However, we really loved the retro touches given like the bonnet opener to maintain its Jeep DNA. Small bits like the graphical designs of the camel and cactus add a spark of modern heritage. 

Mahindra has done a stupendous job of adding the hardtop to the Thar instead of a make-shift canopy. The 18 inches blacked-out alloys wrapped in all-terrain tyres in this case, gel very well with the classic design of the Thar and the side steps make the ingress a bit easier. The 4×4 badge reminds you of your quest for adventure. While the new Thar feels modernistic in every way, the old-school way of opening the fuel lid with the key is a big let down especially in these unprecedented times when you want to have minimal contact with the external world

If you have seen the Wrangler closely, the rear of the Thar feels home. The legacy of mounting the spare wheel on the tailgate continues and this occupies a good amount of real estate blocking the rearward visibility and that’s when you really miss the presence of a rearview camera. The tail-lamps are LEDs and this 1 of the 11 Thar badge goes unnoticed. 

The boot is small enough just to stuff 2 big duffle bags. Airport transfers or long-distance road trips mean you would have to fold the rear seats or add a roof carrier. 

Interiors

It’s a no-brainer that you would spend most of your time inside the Thar than the outside. If you liked the quality of the exteriors then we would iterate that the interiors are light years ahead than the previous one. Although the plastics on the dash feel hard, it’s nothing much to complain about. The steering wheel looks like it’s lifted off the TUV and has multiple controls on it. The speedometer and tachometer look conventional, a sportier touch would be more appealing. But it glows up beautifully at night. There is a small MID for a multitude of options which are controlled through these switches including the headlamp leveller and the headlamps are exceptional for OEM standards.  The AC vents feel like you’re in a sedan with a tweak of carbon fibre like between them and we aren’t kidding, this is the most powerful Air conditioning system we have ever been in. There is a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system for various know-how but one thing that we would love to highlight is the adventure statistics that give information about the off-road parameters of the car like the inclination angle, tilt etc. The glove box feels really small and is nearly useless. There is a grab handle placed on the dash for the front passenger. If there’s something that’s going to fill you with immense pride, it’s the made-in-India badge engraved here. Mahindra deserves applause for finally making the 4WD selector looks much premium than ever before. But, the absence of a dead pedal is something that will hit you hard, more so if you are driving the automatic variant. Not to forget, the floor is washable too. In case you had a tiring day at the off-road academy, there’s dedicated cup holders for your cold coffee, a 12V charging socket for your smartphone and a USB port to delve into the melodies of your favourite artist. The placement of power window switches at the centre pod is a smart move from the off-roading perspective. 

Drive

Mahindra has decided to use Mahindra Thar to debut two of its much-awaited power mills. The 2L turbo-petrol churning 150 bhp and a 2.2 L DIesel producing 130 bhp, with manual and automatic transmission available on both of them. However, our test car was equipped with the Diesel paired with a manual transmission. The engine comes to its full life around 1300 rpm and that’s when it sprints, pushing it further esp around 3000 rpm and it becomes evident that you’re driving the oil burner. The acceleration isn’t as brisk as some of the low-slung cars but the motor feels eager and begs to be revved harder and it’s the mid-range where the joy of driving really lies in.

Mahindra has left no stone unturned to ensure that the Thar appeals to an everyday buyer as a city-friendly car and this was evident in our road trips to pondicherry and Dakshin Karnataka amongst lush green hills and narrow roads. 

Since the Mahindra Thar isn’t a tarmac-focussed leopard, we decided to test the on-road behaviour in a slightly different way. For Example, although we drove the Hardtop variant, we felt that there was a lot of wind noise entering the cabin as we reached triple-digit speeds. More so when I stepped on the gas pedal to raise the speedo needle further. While we were returning from our 3-day drive, we did notice that the hardtop had begun to squeak. Just to reinstate, our test car had clocked just over 2,000 km back then.  

Ride & Handling 

When you push the Thar around the corners, the car reminds you that it’s the body-on-frame construction that is not corner-friendly with some noticeable movement of the chassis affecting the composure. Even a toddler would notice the significant difference in ride quality compared to the previous-gen, but it’s still harsh and it reminds you very often that you’re in a Jeep. The leaf springs at the rear have made way for the coil springs and it’s not even remotely plush to some of the modern crossovers, but the Thar can go places the others can just dream of. In a nutshell, you would prefer to drive over potholes at crawling speeds. With a massive ground clearance of 226 mm, the Thar will never ever kiss the speed breakers. 

The brakes on the Mahindra Thar, the front discs and rear drums, brought a wide grin on our face, it’s one of the best we have seen from the Mahindra’s stable. If we were allowed to be optimistic, We would have preferred a tad less sponginess from the pedal though.  

Conclusion

Can the  Mahindra TharThar be the only car in the garage or is it better as a second car? To answer this we did 2 different kinds of reviews. One – the on-road test and the off-road test in B’lore where we put the thar across various obstacles to check its limits

I can bet my life on it, the all-new Thar is better than the previous one in every possible way. The engine, the features…Had Bought the earlier thar, I would probably be a victim of impulsive buying but that’s not the case with this anymore. I will have absolutely no regrets.

Mahindra had been consistently losing its share of the pie in the Indian SUV segment to new contenders. Will the Thar be the catalyst to the ultimate revival strategy for this homegrown manufacturer? We would leave that to time but if there’s something that’s certainly in their favour, it’s the lack of direct competition with an exceptional overall package that’s biased towards the adventure junkie in you. While the lower variants are a steal for their sticker price, the Mahindra Thar has to be your love-at-first-sight to welcome the top-end variant in your garage as your primary car.  

Click here to read about the incredible Desert Survival experience!

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