good motoring
Machine with raw power
H. Kishie Singh H. Kishie Singh

TO look at, it looks like any other Mahindra 540 on the road. Yes, it does have a Thar badge on the front side panels. Thatís the old bottle. The new wine is what is inside, under the bonnet and out of sight. This is what sets the Thar apart from anything Mahindra has put on the road in the past.

A usual once over is unimpressive, and as a test drive was not available, I managed to talk to Behram Dawar over the phone. Behram was the head of the team that has put the Thar together. He is passionate about what he has put together and his excitement and enthusiasm bubbled out of the phone. This is not a run of the mill Mahindra. The Thar looks like a jeep but that is where the similarity ends! It is a Scorpio in disguise. Sixtynine per cent of the Thar is from the Scorpio and Bolero. The product introduction had a strict order. "Donít change the shape externally!"

The Thar comes as an open vehicle. A soft top is available as an option
The Thar comes as an open vehicle. A soft top is available as an option

The front six vertical slats and drooping front fenders scream Mahindra. As do the park lights (you could have had flush-fitting ones, Behram. These get pulled off at the first encounter with bushes while off-roading). And off- roading is what the Thar is made for.

The Thar uses the Scorpio's ladder frame chassis, which has been strengthened, and the Scorpion engine and drive train have been shoe-horned into the MM 540, which means that the front independent suspension and power steering is the same. The rear end, chassis, suspension, et al, are from the Bolero. Howzat? It is a terrific mix and match.

It helped cut down on production time and costs. Most important.`A0While off-roading, the suspension takes the worst bashing. It will be easy to repair, replace and service at any M.M. dealer.

The ground clearance is 200 mm with an approach angle of 46 degree and departure angle of 30 degree. This will enable the Thar to climb over anything without scraping its belly.

To help its climbing ability, the CRDe engine has been tweaked to pump out 105 bhp at 3.800 rpm and a torque of 182.5Nm (25.18 kgm) at 1.800 rpm. This gives the engine a very flat torque curve. Good for grunt and fast acceleration. Both statistics are almost double of the previous engine. The engine is 2.498 cc, turbo-charged and mated to a 5-speed gearbox. The engine is BS-IV compliant and advance engineering makes sure it can move into BS-V without too much trouble.

The CRDe version is available only in 4-wheel drive. The driver has an option of 2-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive high or 4-wheel drive low. The selector lever, however, is placed almost in the foot-well rather inconveniently. Not ideal for quick shifts from high to low or back.

Slide into the well driver's seat and anyone who has ever sat in a Bolero will feel at home. The dashboard is from the Bolero parts bin. The front seats are comfortable. The rear seats are side facing, a jeep trademark, and very uncomfortable. Any serious off-roader will remove them for off-roading. Ideally, an off-roader should be a two- seater.

The Thar comes as an open vehicle. However, a soft top is available as an option. A hard top will be available sometime in the future. Standard offering is a heater. But who needs a heater in India where temperatures are only hot and hotter.

An A/C will be available as a dealer option. Behram describes the heater as A/C friendly. Translated, it means the A/C can be incorporated into the heater. You will have the option of disconnecting the heater (Why would you want to do that?) and adding the A/C. The heater is housed in the passenger foot-well. Remove it and fit the cooling coil for the A/C. Provisions for the A/C compressor pulley are already incorporated into the engine.

The Thar is shod with 235/70R16 Bridgestone H/T Duelier tyres. One of the best choices available. Suspension upfront is independent MacPherson struts, leaf springs at the rear. Disc brakes upfront, drums at the rear.

The Thar CRDe comes in fancy metallic colours, cherry, rocky beach, silver, black and white. The CRDe is priced at Rs 6.08 lakh.

If you want off-roading kicks for less, there is the DI engine version. The 2-wheel drive costs Rs 4.46 lakh and the 4-wheel drive costs Rs 4.94 lakh. The DI is available only in white.

"At this price there is nothing to compare. It is the best off-roader in the country," says a confident Behram (watch out Gypsy).

Despite the many Mahindra dealerships in the areas, the Thar is on display at Goel Motors only in Mohali.

Happy motoring.