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2013 Force Gurkha Test Drive Review


Text – Dr. Javeid Khan, Pictures – Anannd Sampat

Force Gurkha Test Drive Review

2013 Force Gurkha – Click above for high resolution picture gallery

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.

2013 Force Gurkha Hard Top Review2013 Force Gurkha Soft Top Review

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.

2013 Force Gurkha Review2013 Force Gurkha Test Drive

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.

2013 Force Gurkha Off-Road2013 Force Gurkha 4x4 Review

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.

2013 Force Gurkha Dashboard2013 Force Gurkha Interiors

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.

2013 Force Gurkha Side Seats2013 Force Gurkha Rear Seat

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.

What’s Cool

* Off-roading capability
* Price

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

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  • sandy

    Wow… wat a coincidence. We were having discussion on Indian Army to prefer Gurkha and here it is. It seems everything is taken from Merc which has made it costly; but worthy so far serious off roading is concerned. By the way what is the water wading capacity of this off-roading tool?

    • No One

      Indeed but I guess the engine is very very old generation engine.. See 2.6L with just 230nm torq.. Compare with a MJD which generates similar figure with 1.3L displacement thus I guess surely a lighter vehicle :P

    • http://www.motorbeam.com/ Faisal Khan

      Sandy, 550 mm is the water wading capacity, same as the Ford EcoSport.

      • sandy

        Thanks Faisal. But thats impressive for Ecosports for adapting a limit of one of the benchmark in off-roading called Gurkha. Although this is no Ecosports post but it had put enough light on Ecosports credential of being miniSUV that many are not aware of.

        • http://www.motorbeam.com/ Faisal Khan

          Sandy, truly yes. Lets see if Ford plonk in a 4-wheel drive system in there.

      • Siddhartha

        Is 82 PS of power enough for a vechicle of this class.

        • http://www.motorbeam.com/ Faisal Khan

          Siddhartha, not really. But then its enough for off-road with good amount of torque on offer.

          • Siddhartha

            Well i guess the 2.2 FMTech engine on Force one would have done a splendid job on this machine with 141 ps power and 321 Nm torque it could have been even better.

  • http://www.motorbeam.com/ Aravind Ramesh

    As usual, that’s a great review Javeid. The photography is truly spectacular and takes this review to an altogether different level.

  • Baljinder Singh

    Awesome review javeid…Congrts. Nice clicks and every thing in detail. That open deck picture have a flavor of Gypsy….

    Great.

  • Kedar

    Nice review guys and enjoyed the pictures of this review. Kudos to Anand.

    Indian Army should consider this vehicle instead of Safari and Scorpio.

    • anannd sampat

      thanks kedar .. Anannd Sampat

      • Kedar

        You are welcome Anand.

  • No One

    By the way, Rs. 10L price tag is away more than what Thar offers I guess, which I think Rs. 8L.. Correct me please

    • http://www.motorbeam.com/ Javeid Khan

      Yes, the Thar is cheaper but the Gurkha is better equipped for extreme offroading. The Mercedes-Benz DNA, though dates, certainly helps.

      • No One

        Thar has an AC, does this one too ??

        • http://www.motorbeam.com/ Javeid Khan

          The hard top version gets Ac.

    • http://www.motorbeam.com/ Faisal Khan

      No One, Thar is Rs. 8.45 lakhs in Mumbai. The Gurkha comes cheaper too in soft top version. The Thar only comes with a soft top.

  • Akash

    Superb review… Nice job team…

    This vehicle is only made for hard core off roading…

    The mercedes engine is old. The power and torque figures could have been better…

    • http://www.motorbeam.com/ Faisal Khan

      Akash, they should put the latest Merc engine in there.

      Thanks for the appreciation on the review ;-)

  • ramesh

    no pictures about climbing up…

  • Ben

    The review was superb. But it will never suit indian army. Even though it has good offroad capabilities, it is not lighter and powerful to do great speeds in short period of time during emergency situation. Indian army will also not bare its maintainence costs. The only thing indian army can do is wait for the diesel gypsy.

    • http://www.motorbeam.com/ Faisal Khan

      Ben, also not to forget it won’t be easy to service since Force Motors doesn’t have too many dealerships.

  • Sufian Farooqui

    BS 3 ENGINE……

  • Baljinder

    Faisal can you do a small review on new Mercedes 63AMG 6-wheel drive off-road vehicle……..It looks awesome

  • Rohith reddy

    The new 2013 gurkha is just crap !! Very badly engineering very cheap built quality I visit the workshop almost every week it’s only 20 days I have the vehicle it’s got a broken turbo ecr intake pile ,broken turbo outlet pipe ,engine overheating !!! Faulty odometer !!! Bad wiring the connections to the fuel pump were also faulty the second day after I took the vehicle it didn’t srt because of it and finally the company response is really really bad!! Nothing has been done to rectify the problems!!!!

    • http://www.motorbeam.com/ Javeid Khan

      Rohith, pls email your grievance to me on javeid@motorbeam.com and i will take up the matter with Force Motors.

  • Vimal

    Nice Review! It definitely is well equipped for offroad use. Regarding the ON ROAD performance, how good is it on the highway? Did you manage to do some ON ROAD running as well during the test drive?

    • http://www.motorbeam.com/ Javeid Khan

      Vimal, honestly we did not get a chance to do much driving in routine on road conditions, however, the Gurkha is best suited for Off Road use.

    • http://www.motorbeam.com/ Faisal Khan

      Vimal, Gurkha not a good vehicle for on-road driving, the suspension is too stiff and controls are quite heavy.

      • Vimal

        Thanks for the response guys! True, it seems like its not good enough for regular highway cruising…. Even Force Motors does not want to give a test drive on actual roads! A sub 4-metre vehicle with a go-anywhere capability, with ride and handling matching that of hatchbacks (on tarmac), would be perfect for ppl like me…. Can’t really keep one car for each purpose right :-) Alas!

        • http://www.motorbeam.com/ Faisal Khan

          Vimal, you should wait for EcoSport 4×4.

        • Bikash

          I have test driven the Gurkha at the Force Motors test track and must say that what the Gurkha can achieve is AMAZING. No other vehicle (at least the one a common man can afford) can achieve what this vehicle can. I did get a chance to ride in a friend’s Gurkha while on the way to an off-roading site at Lonavala as well, and found no particular issues that would necessarily implicate that it is “not a good vehicle for on-road driving”. Yes, it is not a yuppy off-roader, which some people may compare it to, but that what separates boys from MEN…

  • Ganesh.chandran

    Do not forget that the engine is covered for 300000 kms warranty and hence it cant be a piece of crap.
    I have been desperate waiting for the vehicle and still no reply from the dealers in kochi.

  • Sivakumar mj

    Hi Faisal,

    Any information on the launch of Gurkha in any parts of India?

    Many are waiting :)

    Best Regards
    Sivakumar mj.

    • http://www.motorbeam.com/ Faisal Khan

      It should be launched soon as they are ready with TVC, etc.