The all-new Thar is the outcome of Mahindra’s serious effort to make it a life statement. One that passes off as oh-so desirable in all of its rugged glory. It doesn’t end there though. This iteration is a new generation that’s underpinned by a new platform with fresh drivetrain options. The good thing is that the fit and finish are much better, it certainly looks more modern now, and gone is the utilitarian air it once had about it. As we had the petrol variant with an automatic gearbox for a few days, here’s our detailed experience.
This is by far the most enticing bit that reels most prospective owners to Mahindra showrooms. But unlike its predecessor, the new Thar doesn’t look like an afterthought. Everything that can make it look its best is part of the original package. This also means that you don’t have to drive straight to the aftermarket guys from the dealership for a makeover; barring of course the seriously exotic hardware. That aside, regardless of the angle you look at the rugged Thar, it's love at first or every sight. Hell, even the ladies drool over it!
If you’re familiar with the older Thar, the new one’s cabin layout and finish will startle you, to say the least. A dazzling concoction of a utilitarian design with modern-day features. Nevertheless, its quality levels still can’t match the similarly priced SUVs such as the Creta and the likes. Now, although the visibility off the front and side glass area along with the huge door mirrors is adequate, the spare wheel restricts the view out of the rear glass, and the absence of a rearview camera is sorely felt.
As for the front seats, they offer an overall supportive backrest (with lumbar support) with lavish head and shoulder room. Sadly though, it lacks thigh support and the tiny seat squab can only cling to your butt due to the hefty lateral supports. As expected, the rear twin front-facing seats can seat two passengers, but they could’ve had more padding for comfortable seating, and should have offered more foot room.
On the flip side, the backrests can be reclined, there’s decent leg- and headroom that’s coupled to enormous shoulder room, and since the seats are slightly offset (in the centre), occupants don't have to struggle for a view out the front. Moreover, the twin-opening boot lids use a sideways opening door and an upwards-opening glass lid that’s flashy, but the minuscule boot space can only hold some soft bags.
Jeep lovers can rave about the rexine door restraints, a fuel lid that only opens by sliding the key in, hood fasteners, and enough Thar badging to keep reminding you of what you drive. Then there are the 18-inch alloys, a moulded side footstep, a six-speaker touchscreen infotainment system, tilt-adjustable steering with multifunction controls, electric door mirrors and windows, and cruise control. As for safety, it gets tyre pressure monitoring, rear parking sensors, ESP, ABS with EBD, dual airbags, and a roll cage.
This petrol 150bhp/320Nm 2.0-litre mStallion engine is a gem from Mahindra; smooth, silent, and powerful to be exact. You’ll be extremely surprised to see the utter lack of NVH as it creeps off the mark to go about the regular runabout chores. This motor uses a six-speed torque convertor transmission, which although isn’t a smooth-shifting box, sure gets the transmission duties done.
Be it driving in packed city traffic or at legal highway speeds, driving this petrol Thar is effortless because the power is smacked down on the tarmac from as low as 1,500rpm. To put things in perspective, this powertrain may feel like it pumps out the horses leisurely, but the 0-100kmph sprint takes just 10.17 seconds! So is the overtaking; only 5.80 and 7.80 seconds for the 20-80kmph and 40-100kmph runs.
The gear lever itself has a smooth-shifting actuation with well-defined gates that also makes shifting in a hurry (like reversing) a no-brainer. On the downside, the gear shifts could have been quicker to match the sporty engine because there’s a perceptible lag in kick down as the throttle is floored. Besides that, the only other concern being the below-10kmpl fuel efficiency it returned with a light foot. This later dropped to around 7.7kmpl while driving fast.
Sure, the ride is jiggly like with most ladder-on-frame SUVs, but unlike the older one, the new Thar’s ride quality is way cushier. Like earlier, this one’s rear suspension too hops over sharp bumps or expansion joints, it’s still considerably controlled. But we stress that the ride quality isn’t as accomplished as the Hyundai Creta’s or some. Otherwise, the new Thar feels almost indestructible, treading where others would’ve shied away from far. What we didn’t like though, is the slow steering which has a yawning three and one quarter turns from lock-to-lock. This, mated to the steering’s heft at slow speeds, and a relatively large turning circle means it’s a wrestle to drive and park the new Thar in the more compact situations. Thankfully, as it picks up highway speeds the steering frees up somewhat, and unlike the older one, it hardly gets any of the vibrations either.
It all starts with appreciating the new Thar for the giant leap it’s taken from its predecessor. And even before that’s done, you’re smitten by the dynamics of this petrol automatic. I never expected this Thar edition to be such a fire-cracker that it is; smooth, silent, and just as capable off-road. All said and done, stacking this Thar to similarly priced rivals doesn’t do justice because it still falls short in areas such as fit and finish, some ergonomic and occupant discomfort, and overall frugality. But if there’s anything out there with wheels that simply tugs at my heart, other than the topless ones (pun intended), it’s the Thar for me any day!
Pictures by Kapil Angane