Mahindra Thar Facelift Review
Car Tested: 2015 Mahindra Thar CRDe
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 9,92,881/-
The Thar gets refreshingly desirable with the new interiors while also being more capable
For the most part, off-roading was largely pursued by those passionate few who managed to get their hands on a ‘jeep’ and had the guts to take it off-road. Come December 2010 and Mahindra launched the Thar in India as a modern alternative to the Jeep, but possessed all the qualities of the former including the design. Naturally so, the only of its kind readily available off-roader paved its place in the market gaining immense popularity with the masses. Now, a little over four years since its introduction, Mahindra has launched the upgraded 2015 Thar in a bid to appeal to its new age customers that vary from a rustic off-roader in the mountains to a set of corporate individuals from the city that want to get closer to nature in their own way. In a bid to understand what the new Mahindra Thar is capable of, we were summoned to Mahindra’s off-roading facility in Igatpuri, near Nashik to wade through some treacherous trails complete with undulations, steep inclines, sludge, deep waters and most of all unpredictability. So is the new Thar really better? We found that out in the most amazing way possible.
Exteriors – It is hard to complete a sentence about the Mahindra Thar without including the word ‘Classic’ in it and the same applies for the design as well. Retaining most of the classic lines seen on the older CJ7, the biggest change on the 2015 Thar facelift comes with the all-new bumper at the front and rear that is neatly integrated with the existing styling. However, it will take some time to grow on you. The bumper looks rugged and neatly merges into the front fender without too much fanfare and lends a wider appearance to the Thar. While a few purists will shrug it off, you do get the option of replacing the stock unit with an all-metal one. In addition, the Thar gets new clear lens headlamps for better illumination; while the gap between the grille and bumper gets ‘Thar’ embossed into the metal piece.
The classic styling on the Thar is an attention grabber and the facelift grows on you quickly
Move to the sides and the utilitarian profile has been retained on the Mahindra Thar facelift but gets extended wheel arches that will easily accommodate a larger tyre, should you choose to upsize. Also new are the blackened footsteps and the soft top canopy that gets a slight kink towards the rear and gives an agile profile to the Thar. The canopy here is a removable unit, which should be experienced on a sunny day. We love the new alloy wheels on the Thar that you can see here, but unfortunately they do not come as standard. Instead, the stock model gets steel rims with wheel covers on offer. At the rear, changes are minimal with the same rectangular tail lights carried over from the pre-facelift model as well as the side opening tailgate.
Interiors – With the exteriors retaining the old-school charm, it is a completely different story inside the cabin. Climb inside (in the literal sense) and the interior feels to have moved forward by 20 years on the timeline. The beige and black dashboard looks premium and gets ‘Thar’ embossed in the centre, in what is actually space for a 2-DIN audio unit (sold as an accessory). The three-pod instrument cluster is a giant upgrade over the outgoing model and looks premium and displays the rev range, speedometer, fuel gauge and engine temperature gauge. There is a small MID unit in the centre for the ODO reading, while you also get the indicators for high beam, check engine light, parking brake, turn indicators, seat belt warning, low fuel as well as 4WD mode and 4Low mode that light up when engaged.
The beige and black dashboard lights up the cabin, you sit at a commanding position
The three-spoke steering wheel comes from the Bolero and is a sizeable unit that fits well for the purpose. The grainy plastic also provides a good grip to hold. The air-con vents are now circular and get brushed silver bezels to further induce the premium feel. The air-con buttons are located right below the vents and now gets a demister added to the controls. The plastic quality is about average and on par with what you find in most modern day Mahindra vehicles. The gearshift knob and 4×4 lever are new, covered in faux leather and feel nice to hold. The glovebox is a lockable unit this time and while not a spacious one, it will hold up the car’s papers and smaller bits with ease. There is also a grab handle on the dashboard for the passenger and it does not feel flimsy to hold.
The cabin also gets cup holders this time with two located at the extreme front, and the others behind the handbrake lever. The front seats have improved in terms of comfort with softer cushioning and get upholstered in faux leather, whereas the rear seats continue with a side-facing layout. You sit higher and upright with decent legroom as well as under thigh support and get a good view of everything outside, courtesy of the commanding driving position. The door pads continue from the pre-facelift model and we would have appreciated if Mahindra had opted for new grab handles instead of the mediocre old ones. An ergonomic issue we faced was when shifting the gear knob to second as your hand collides with the handbrake lever. We would have also appreciated a dead pedal that comes in handy over long journeys. Overall, Mahindra has done a splendid job with the interiors that will appeal to a more city dwelling audience who cares as much about looks as they do about utility.
Performance – Mahindra has retained the 2.5-litre four-cylinder CRDe diesel engine on the Thar from the pre-facelift model that continues in the existing state of tune, producing 105 HP and 247 Nm of torque. There is ample of power for long highway trips, while torque kicks in at a healthy 1800 RPM making movement off-tarmac hardly an issue, especially since there is almost no turbo lag felt. We drove the Thar around some serious off-road trails complete with inclines, sludge, gravel as well as 4-5 feet deep water bodies and there wasn’t a moment when the Thar felt out of breath. The BorgWarner 4×4 unit continues to do duty and serves its purpose well when slipped into 4Low. Power is sent to all four wheels and the Thar just climbs steep inclines in first gear with absolutely zilch throttle input required.
The rear locking differential has made the Thar far more capable in its off-roading abilities
The high point though was the new rear locking differential that did come into its element once we found some serious undulations. The Eaton unit only controls the rear wheels though but eases out the trail even in the trickiest situations. Essentially, the mechanical differential lock works automatically as it senses a difference of 100 RPM between the left and right rear wheels, equalizing the same to gain maximum traction. The rear differential lock is a boon in a majority of situations, unless the vehicle is in a front biased weight scenario with the front wheels impaled. The 5-speed manual gearbox does a good job but still feels a bit notchy when shifting gears, while the clutch pedal has long travel and is a bit heavy, something that’s bothersome in city conditions.
Driving Dynamics – Given the tall stance of the Mahindra Thar and its heavy body, the off-roader isn’t the most dynamic SUV there is and it would be wrong to expect the same of it. What you do get though is an extremely stable off-roader that can do triple digit speeds with ease while the chassis makes it feel pliant even in the most remote situations. The power steering on the Thar feels responsive and is extremely light at low speeds, which makes tackling the rough terrains extremely easy. It is also chunkier now and feels car-like to hold, making maneuvering a far more pleasant experience
The Thar takes on every terrain without any effort
The suspension setup comprises of an independent unit at the front and leaf spring setup at the rear and is on a stiffer side. Not something we are complaining about though. The 44-degree approach and 27-degree departure angles are complimented by the 200 mm ground clearance, ensuring that the underbelly never scrapes. Even some tough inclines can be handled with ease given the off-roader’s sorted chassis. While the stock Thar will be sold with 235/70/R16 Bridgestone Dueler HT (Highway) tyres, our test vehicle came shod with 245/75/R16 Maxxis BigHorn tyres to match the terrain requirements and provide ample of grip as we waded our way through the sludge.
Safety and After Sales Service – While the Mahindra Thar facelift boasts of a rugged build and potent off-roading capabilities, it still retains that bare bones stature in a lot of departments including safety. Unlike the regular hatchbacks and sedans at the same price, the Thar lacks airbags, ABS and all sorts of safety gear. You do get three-point seatbelts though for the front passengers. That said, the new bumper is a safety feature that tries to minimise damage to pedestrians in case of a collision. Coming to after sales and service, Mahindra has a strong network pan India and parts too are quite easily attainable. In addition to new owners, the advent of the Thar has also created a supply base of parts for older models, much to the respite of most loyal owners.
Verdict – Desirability has always been the strong point of the Mahindra Thar that captivates everyone from a true blue off-roader to that IT guy looking for a desperate break over the weekend. With the latest update, Mahindra has worked its way to appeal to the latter part of the audience as the off-roader has turned more urban inside the cabin while its classic lines continue to be extremely beautiful. The cabin also feels well insulated this time and there is a certain amount of refinement added to the engine, despite no changes in terms of power output. With the slew of changes, the Thar CRDe appeals to the urban individual that can use this off-roader as a daily driver while slipping into 4Low over the weekends. At almost Rs. 10 lakhs (on-road, Mumbai), the Mahindra Thar facelift is a brilliant alternative over any C-segment sedan that will make its owner stand out quite literally.
The Mahindra Thar is best enjoyed off-tarmac and you have more than enough power to handle the most challenging terrains with ease. The low-end torque also makes it easy to drive within city conditions making it an apt daily driver. Moreover, there will always be that gauging reaction from everyone when you arrive in a Thar that no run of the mill C-segment sedan will be able to provide at the same price.
* The off-roading capabilities are extremely potent and the Thar is sound enough to be driven every day
* There is almost nothing similar available in the same space for urban conditions
* Absolutely nothing comes close to the Thar in terms of old-school charm and modern mechanicals
* The interiors have vastly improved and feels more car-like with better carpeting and cupholders
* Cabin insulation levels have improved, you do not feel much of the motor with the windows rolled up
What’s Not So Cool
* The absence of safety features is still bothersome
* The alloy wheels should have been offered as standard for the price
* The headlights need to offer better illumination, especially for highway runs
Alternatives: Force Gurkha, Tata Safari
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