Text – Dr. Javeid Khan, Pictures – Anannd Sampat
Force Gurkha Review
Car Tested: 2013 Force Gurkha 4×4
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 10,11,500/-
The Force Gurkha is an extremely capable yet affordable off-road vehicle.
It’s not often a manufacturer launches a vehicle for a selected audience. The number game may be the key tournament in the market but there are still a few companies which cater to the enthusiastic crowd. Recently Volkswagen launched the new powerful avatar of the Polo and now there is something to rejoice for the hardcore off-road junkie. The Force Gurkha makes a return and is now better than before. We take the Gurkha for a spin around Force Motors treacherous off-road track to find out whats so special about this extreme off-road vehicle.
Before we get to the Gurkha, it will be worthy to go back into the history of Force Motors. The company was started as a joint venture with Bajaj. Bajaj Auto and Bajaj Tempo were two companies run in collaboration by the Bajaj and Firodia family. Bajaj Tempo later became Force Motors. Shri NK Firodia, the founder of Force Motors was a freedom fighter and a visionary who believed that the industrial revolution was essential for economic stability of an independent nation. Force Motors is one of the top commercial vehicle supplier’s in the country and has manufactured vehicles such as the Tempo, Matador, Trax and Traveller. The Traveller currently commands 70% market share in its segment.
Previously Force Motors had manufactured only forty Gurkha’s which were sold to select customers. At that time the interiors, seats, etc were similar to the Trax. Later Force Motors manufactured 300 Gurkhas for a special order which was shipped to Germany. Due to its immense popularity amongst the off-roading community, Force Motors is now relaunching the Gurkha in the market. To make the product better, the guys at Force Motors went back to old Gurkha customers and conducted a survey in order to improve the vehicle. The general feedback stressed on including comfortable seats and air conditioning.
The Gurkha derives its lineage from the old Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. The exterior design does remind you of the G-Wagen. The new Force Gurkha gets fog lamps which were absent in the earlier produced models. Side indicators have now been placed on the hood. The front grille houses the company’s logo and the bumper is made of a special toughened material so that it can withstand the Gurkha’s gruesome excursions.
The Gurkha’s signature is its snorkel type air intake which rises upto the roof. Not only does it look classy, it also prevents water from entering the engine while navigating through deep water. The silver cladding runs throughout the sides and adds muscle to the wheel arches. Side step has been provided for ease of ingress. The Gurkha comes only in two door guise. Entry to the second row is via the front and the second row gets sliding windows.
The rear profile is enhanced by the spare wheel, giving a true SUV feel. Force Motors is offering the Gurkha in three different combinations. The hard top, soft top and open top.
There are a few changes on the inside too and its evident once you step in. The seats are now more comfortable and have two-tone leather upholstery. The hard top version gets air-conditioning, however only at the front. The interiors continue to be bare bones and the dashboard is quite flat. The instrument cluster is basic and dials are analog. Comfort levels are still not up there but considering you wont be using it to cruise around, it can be let off. The air-conditioning could have been better too. The rear passengers will vouch for it the most. All said and done, the target customer will only care about its off-roading capability and that’s where the Gurkha will impress.
The hard top variant gets the usual all front facing arrangement for rear seats and can seat total five people including the driver. The Soft top has two longitudinal rows of rear seats and has a seating capacity of six people in total, including the driver.
The Force Gurkha is powered by a 2.6-litre TD2650 Mercedes OM616 derived direct-injection turbo-charged diesel engine with an intercooler. This engine belts out 82 PS at 3200 RPM and a torque of 230 NM between 1800 – 2000 RPM. Mated to this engine is a Mercedes derived G1-18 5-speed manual gearbox. What’s really unique to the Gurkha is independently locking front and rear differentials and an advanced transfer case which can engage this off-roader into 2H (2-wheel Drive), 4H (4-wheel high speed, low torque) and 4L (4-wheel high torque, low speed) modes.
Enabling the Force Gurka to tread treacherous terrain is an impressive approach angle of 37 degrees, departure angle of 34 degrees and ramp over angle of 29 degrees. The Gurkha can also tackle gradients upto 40 degrees without toppling over. To better understand what this means in the real world, we drove the Gurkha at Force Motors off-road test track which simulates almost every possible scenario one can get subjected to.
The first part of the track had extremely deep craters and one look into it makes you wonder if any vehicle can actually go through it. We got into 4L and activated the rear differential lock and were amazed by the Gurkha’s axle twisting capability. Once you lock the rear differential, torque is supplied to the wheel which is on the ground. With even two wheels of the ground, there was enough torque on hand to get the job done. In 4L mode, with the rear differential locked, the Gurkha’s ‘Crawling’ ability ensured that we need not even get onto the gas. Brakes are decent and bite fairly accurately.
We next went down a 30 degree slope. It is a bit scary once you start going down but it was no big shake for this off-roader. Two wheels on the ground and all the locked differentials played their role in getting us out without breaking into a sweat. Climbing up was easy again, the only difference was that we we were on the throttle this time, instead of the brake. The Gurkha also made it sideways on a gradient of more than 30 degrees. Wherever the additional torque was not required, we used the transfer case to get into 4H mode. Driving through slush and bonnet deep water was much easier than it looks. The high mounted air intake (snorkel) ensures the engine stays clear of the water at all times.
Driving on the regular road, the Gurkha has a top speed of 120 km/hr and delivers a mileage of about 12 km/l. During extreme off-road conditions the mileage may drop to around 8 km/l, which is pretty good for a vehicle of this capability. Independent front suspension and two staged semi-elliptical leaf springs in the rear assisted by double acting telescopic hydraulic shock absorbers not only give it extreme off-road capability but also provide a compliant ride on the road. However it is naturally on the stiffer side and thus the Gurkha is a vehicle more suited to off-road driving than on-road, where the stiffness is easily felt.
So how did the Force Gurkha fare? It left us totally impressed. Force Motors likes to call it an Extreme Off-Road Vehicle and that’s exactly what its made for. 4 x 4 x 4 implies 4-wheel drive which can conquer all 4 terrains (rock, sand, ice and water) in all four seasons of the year. The only hitch is that while the competition (Mahindra Thar) offers a Common Rail Diesel Engine, the Gurkha is still only BS III compliant. This means it cant be registered in BS IV compliant cities like Delhi and Mumbai. The BS IV compliant engine is still a year away. However, the mouth watering price and the Mercedes-Benz lineage makes an awesome combination. Force Motors is so confident of their product that they are offering a best in class 3 years and 3 lakh Km warranty. It’s a dream come true for the hard core extreme off-roading enthusiasts.
* Off-roading capability
What’s Not So Cool
* Limited market for such vehicles
* Not BSIV compliant
2013 Force Gurkha Specifications
* Engine: TD 2650 FTI BS III Turbo Charged with Intercooler
* Power: 82 PS @ 3200 RPM
* Torque: 230 Nm @ 1800-2000 RPM
* Transmission: 5-speed Manual
* Transfer Case: Single lever selective 4 x 4 with High – Low options.
* Front Axle: (4WD) Live independent with diff lock
* Rear Axle: (4WD) Live rigid with diff lock
* Top Speed: 120 km/hr
* Fuel Consumption: 12 km/l
* Fuel Type: Diesel
* Suspension: Independent front suspension (Front), Two staged semi elliptical leaf springs in the rear assisted by double acting telescopic hydraulic shock absorbers (Rear)
* Tyres: 240/70/16 Tubeless Radials
* Brakes: Dual Circuit Hydraulic Vacuum assisted with Auto Wear adjuster and LCRV; Front Disc, Rear Drum
2013 Force Gurkha Dimensions
* Overall length x width x height: 3992 mm X 1820 mm X 2055 mm
* Wheelbase: 2400 mm
* Front/Rear Track: 1485/1440 mm
* Ground clearance: 210 mm
* Turning Radius: 5.8 metres
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 63-litres