Force Gurkha: The Alligator
This Pune based company has been growing very steadily in the Indian market. Being the pioneers to get MPVs and MUVs in India, Force Motors has always come up with convincing tough all terrain transport solutions.
The Matador, Traveller and Trax have been extremely popular in their own segments. Force was also flexible to change and upgrade with time. Their product line up ranges from the lightest Trump truck series to the world’s first monocoque body Traveller 26. Being confident about their commercial vehicle section, Force ventured into personal car space with the Force One. Launched in 2011, the Force One clearly proved that the company is serious about the SUV market in India.
In an extension to this, Force re-launched the Gurkha which they claim is built for war. The Gurkha was launched in 2008 but back then the market has not evolved as much as the numbers sold were very few. With the 2013 Gurkha, Force makes up for the demerits of Mahindra Thar.
With a segment first, differential lock technology, the Gurkha clearly scores above the Thar but then is that enough to justify the higher price tag? We test the Gurkha on an extremely tough off-road track prepared in house by Force Motors.
In 2008, the Gurkha was just a shorter looking Trax. The theme of Gurkha is very simple and lucid. There are no curves and lines. This is a pure bred no non sense looking vehicle. It draws its inspiration from the G Wagon and the styling screams the same.
The facia of the Gurkha is identical to the G-Wagon with the straights and corners cut in the same fashion. The round headlamps and fog lamps look very crisp. The only letdown on the front face is the plastic radiator grille. It looks tacky and unfinished. The Gurkha is available in three colors only which include the Copper red, Dragon Green and the Matt black. My favorite is the Matt Black as that is the closest it gets to the G Wagon.
It has turn indicators mounted on the hood which is useful while going through water bodies. It has a flat head bonnet which is very difficult to open especially in hot day conditions. There is also a beefy steel Snorkel planted. Apart from making the vehicle look good, it also helps the engine suck in clean air as well as helps the vehicle wade water of upto 550mm.
The Gurkha is available in both hard top and soft top 3 door versions. Personally, I love the hard top as it has a better profile but for the adventure seekers the soft top will score more. In the hard top, the flat hood line is paired with a taut A-pillar and then a hard roofline. In the Soft top, there is a cover mounted on the roof. There are also grilles mounted on the rear. The straight wheel arches have a body extension cladding which runs uniformly along the lower profile of the body. This cladding is done in Aluminum silver. There are heavy duty provided on both sides and indeed help getting inside the tall cabin.
The doors lack thud and appear tacky. It lacks finishing. The ORVMs and door handles are not body colored. The ORVMs appear small and are not very effective. The new alloy wheel design looks sporty and adding to the macho character are the 245/70 R16 tyres. The Gurkha also has the best ground clearance of 210mm. The area wherein the Gurkha scores heavily is its off-roading capability. It can take on gradients upto 40 degrees. It has an approach angle of 37 degrees and a departure angle of 34 degrees.
Rear profile reminds me of the Land Rover Defender. Spare wheel mounted on the rear door makes it look real tough. The small circular taillamps, turn indicators and reverse lights embedded on the rear bumper give it a very classy look. It also has the new “Gurkha” badge attached on it with the E.O.V (Extreme Off-Road Vehicle) badge on the other side.
Ignoring the tacky plastics, the Gurkha looks extremely good for a all terrain vehicle. It gets you closest to a G-Wagon looking vehicle at a low cost. The Gurkha has no ounce of extra flab on its body. With a military cut design, this design will click with hard core off-roading enthusiasts.
If you spend lot of time grooming yourself, setting your hair, getting the correct tie with the right shirt you might like to excuse yourself from the mighty Gurkha. The Gurkha interiors are bare basics and do very minimal in comforting the passengers.
The instrumental panel is older than basic. It shows little more than the one in Maruti 800. Sadly, in interiors the Gurkha does not climb the fence as the Thar scores heavily with its comparatively better instrumental setup. The seats are decent but can do with more cushioning. Surprisingly, the front row seats are equipped with arms rests which is of huge benefit on long journeys. Headroom is good while the legroom takes a beating.
Since it has 3 doors, the rear passengers can get inside after collapsing the front seats. This entire arrangement is not very comfortable as firstly, it is a tall vehicle to get inside and secondly the front seat collapse levers are not very efficient.
Talking features inside the car, the AC is the only one. It has a flat horizontally mounted unit on the slim dashboard. The vents work if they wish to. The AC cooling is not sufficient and may leave you boiling under the hot sun especially if the wanderer in you decided to take it on challenging terrains.
There are no utility space options. If you wish to carry a bottle of water, cups etc you might want to shove it in your bag. The absence of storage options makes the cabin less practical for mundane usage. The hard top has front facing seats while the soft sop has bench facing seats. The storage area in hard top is generous while that on soft top is enormous.
So interiors and stowage factor is less in the new Gurkha. This is the only area where competition would be smiling. Let’s hope the company takes all these points into consideration while coming out with the second generation Gurkha.
We are talking of a vehicle which is totally military in its approach. It has a chiseled body on outside and the interiors are not lazily comforting. The reason why we are calling the Gurkha, an alligator is because of its go anywhere capabilities.
Right from childhood, I was never an outdoor adventure freak though I did have my share of fun. Trekking and mountain climbing always seemed to be very challenging. It was not scare but lack of interest I chose to shy away from all these activities.
When Force Motors invited us at their off-roading track, I was skeptical as I have not done such serious off-roading. Seeing the off-road track, it was difficult to imagine to how a vehicle can go through this type of terrain. There were potholes sizing moon craters. Inclines and Steep drops which can make the vehicle topple. Lastly, it was the water wading patch which looked very interesting.
We strapped ourselves in the Gurkha and began our test drive. I was filled with all the technical knowhow about tackling different terrains and the scheme of locking the differentials but then on ground zero, things looked blurry.
I started battling the craters and was supremely impressed the way Gurkha was tackling it. Throw the Gurkha anywhere and it stubbornly stops to halt. The Gurkha keeps on crawling no matter how challenging the terrain is. The moment we got stuck in a ditch and were not able to get out, just pull the particular differential lock (front/rear) and the vehicle is back in motion.
There is also an option of choosing the drive mode. Using the hi-tech transfer case and a lever one can easily shift into 4x2 High, 4x4 High or 4x4 low. The differential lock comes into play once the vehicle is stuck and one of the wheels is in air or on a soft surface. It transfers traction to the wheel on the surface which helps the vehicle evade the necessary surface.
The Gurkha is powered by aOM616 Mercedes Benz TD2650 FTI BS-3 Turbo charged engine. It has a displacement of 2596cc and produces a power output of 82 PS at 3200 rpm and a torque of 230Nm at a range between 1800 to 2000 rpm. It is offered in a 5 speed Mercedes G1-18manual transmission.
The pattern of gear shift in Gurkha is unlike a conventional type. It has a Dog leg layout. Traditionally, this layout was used in cars where in the shifting focus was more from second to third than from first to second. In the Gurkha too, the intention is the same. However, shifting to first is a herculean task. There were some occasions when I was using both my hands to shift it to first. The gear stick is located at a very peculiar location.
Considering the fact that this was a very short track drive, the vehicle has a short turning radius of 5.8m but then it is not easy to maneuver as the steering wheel felt too big. Also, since it is a tall vehicle with such short turning radius, it was losing traction on sharp maneuvers. Brakes did a decent job with twin-pot 4 piston caliper disc brakes in front and drum type for rear.
One thing that really scored was the suspensions. The Gurkha has a solid torsion bar with hydraulic telescopic shock absorbers along with ant-roll bar for front suspensions. The suspensions just refused to give it and performed extremely well. We tried torturing the Gurkha in the most extreme way possible but there was no let down. I am sure if we tried this on any other vehicle, a tow truck would have taken the vehicle back.
|Engine Type||TD 2650 FTI|
|Ground clearance in MM||210|
|Fuel Tank Capacity in Liters||63|
|Tyre Rating||245/70 R16|
|Turning circle radius in Meters||5.8|
|Four wheel drive for all terrain driveability||Yes|
|Differential locks on both front and rear exles||Yes|
|Stainless steel air intake snorkel||Yes|
|Upgraded, spacious and smart dual tone interiors||Yes|
|Ex showroom Price Mumbai in Rs|
|Hard Top (4X4)||8,50,000|
|Soft Top (4X2)||6,25,000|
|Soft Top (4X4)||8,35,000|
Competition All Specs
|Engine Type||TD 2650 FTI||CRDe 4X4|
|Cubic capacity||2596/4Cyl||2498/4 Cyl|
|Ground clearance in MM||210||200|
|Fuel Tank Capacity in Liters||63||60|
|Tyre Rating||245/70 R16||235/70 R16|
|Turning circle radius in Meters||5.8||5.25|
|Ex showroom Price Mumbai in Rs|
|Soft Top (4X4)||8,35,000||6,28,000|
Do the drawbacks in features and finishing influence our decision against the Gurkha? Absolutely Not!! The Gurkha is one of its kinds in the SUV segment. This vehicle is a real Sports Utility Vehicle unlike the pseudo ones which carry the tag as they have flab around their waistline.
After completing the off road track testing, it was proved that the Gurkha can take on extreme terrain without any hassles. It is for someone who won’t think twice before venturing into wild and lost. This one can make Ladakh a playground with its differential lock mechanism.
The Gurkha is available in BS-3 variant and a BS-4 is expected in the next 8-10 months. Force motors is very modest about its products. The other strong reason behind bringing the Gurkha in BS3 is also to support the dealers with more products other than the Force One. The Force One will also be getting two additional variants in the next two months which include the Base version and an ABS 4x4 version.
When asked bluntly if the Gurkha will be locking horns against the Thar, the company officials accepted that it does not intend to as the numbers are very small. With the new Gurkha, the company wants to get a market feedback and learn from the acceptability. Force agrees that as a brand there is lot more to learn and grow. The company is also planning on increasing its dealership across the country.
I would recommend the Force Gurkha very strongly to the hard core off roading junkies. This car is no poser car and is not good for the mundane. However, to break the mundane, the Gurkha should be sufficient. This Alligator won’t take things lying down but instead will gulp anything that comes its way.