2015 Mahindra Thar Test Drive Review
2015 Mahindra Thar CRDe – Click above for high resolution picture gallery

Mahindra Thar CRDe Review

Car Tested: 2015 Mahindra Thar; Road Test No. 634

Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 5.99 – 9.93 lakhs

The Mahindra Thar has splendid off-road ability while boasting of terrific on-road presence

The Thar, an SUV that Mahindra launched a couple of years back as a lifestyle vehicle for the niches and a mature and grown successor to the earlier MM540/MM550 jeeps that were purely known for their off-roading capabilities. When the Thar was first launched, it had a lot of shortcomings and a lot of people dissed it off as a vehicle which is just not acceptable for daily usage. Mahindra then launched an improvised version of the Thar earlier this year and they seem to have made quite a few changes. We were quite curious to know whether the Thar has really improved or not and hence we decided to put the SUV through its paces on the road as the vehicle has mostly been tested off the tarmac.

Motor Quest: The older Mahindra Jeeps like the MM540 and MM550 were a hit with off-road enthusiasts and it was not uncommon to see people always comparing those Jeeps and the Maruti Gypsy together. While the MM550 got discontinued long back, enthusiasts had no diesel off-road SUV option left and hence Mahindra launched the Thar with an aim to cater to those niche buyers.

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Plastic bumpers have replaced the metal ones from the earlier model

Exteriors – When you see the robust looking Thar in front of your eyes, there is only one word that rings across your mind – PRESENCE! The Mahindra Thar has lots of it and even though the vehicle might be far from perfect, it really scores high when it comes to creating an impression. Right from road-side tea stalls to some posh hotels, the Thar took us everywhere and got us a lot of respect, something that even bigger and luxurious sedans couldn’t hold a candle to. The SUV is offered in five colours – black, red, white, silver and beige and we found the paint quality to be just satisfactory and there were quite a few rough patches on the body.

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The new canopy has a slanting rear-end

A lot of new bits have been added but the muscular styling is still retained

The 2015 model gets a number of changes over the previous model. The bumpers carry a slight tweak in design and the new ones are made out of strong plastic unlike the metal pieces earlier. The Thar’s approach angle has also been hiked up from 40 degrees to 44 degrees. Our test vehicle came shod with Maxxis Big Horn MT tyres which are actually offered as optional with the vehicle. They do add a lot of appeal to the overall rugged looks of the car. The headlamps retain the same circular shape but this time they come with clear lens. The side profile might look similar but what we saw is that the Thar now gets new wheel arches. On a closer look, you get to see a lot of panel gaps too, especially between the arches and the front bumper sides.

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The Mahindra Thar screams road presence!

Some other bits worth talking about are the chrome-lined door handles, new lockable fuel lid, new side steps for ingress-egress and most importantly the new soft canopy. The canopy comes with velcros on the side for closure and a zip on either side for opening and closing it. The edges of the canopy are a tad long and hence at high speeds you experience a lot of noise from the soft-top which can get very irritating. Also, the tail-gate is easily accessible by just holding up the edge of the canopy and thus making it a safety hazard, meaning you just cannot risk keeping even the smallest of your belongings in the car while you’re away.

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All-new dashboard looks appealing, many other new bits too

Interiors – Open the doors, climb up the high side-steps while passers-by look at you in amusement and get inside the Thar’s cabin. The first thing that I muttered was, WOW! Compared to the earlier model’s insides, the new one seems to have got a huge leap in improvement. There are a lot of new bits and the all-new dashboard also looks much more appealing. However, my exaggerated WOW immediately went for a toss when I started to have a closer look at the various interior components. The AC vents, door locks and the door-opening levers have completely unacceptable levels of quality and it seems that they will come off at any moment. The AC switches and the window winders have improved but still they feel a bit compromised on the quality front and Mahindra could’ve definitely done better than this.

New dashboard adds some sense of freshness to the Mahindra Thar’s cabin

The seats however are fairly large and while they aren’t as comfortable as those of a C-segment sedan, we can safely say that these seats still offer acceptable levels of support. The seat adjustment travel is pretty long and after fiddling with the levers, you can quickly find your perfect driving position. The view from the driver’s seat is commanding and frontal visibility is also brilliant. The ORVMs have a decent range while rearward visibility is so-so thanks to the thick sides of the canopy and also the thick B-pillar. Certain ergonomics are slightly messed up and we noticed the extra-long gear lever fouling with the handbrake while slotting in 4th or reverse gears. Taller drivers will also notice how the top portion of the steering wheel hides the speedometer from the 60 km/hr to 120 km/hr area.

2015 Mahindra Thar Road Test
The rear seats are uncomfortable for tall passengers

The rear seats, however, aren’t half as comfortable as the front seats. The seating position is a bit uncomfortable and there are no seatbealts at the rear. Mahindra has provided a couple of handles hanging from the roof though and these are the soft ones made out of cloth. There is nothing much to talk about features since the Thar misses out on power windows, central and remote locking, audio system and so on. It does get an AC which is effective in cooling the cabin but my colleague Aman did complain that the AC was spewing out hot air randomly. Mahindra has also equipped the vehicle with a digital immobiliser which is a pretty good thing considering how easy it is to break open the Thar and probably run away with it.

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2.5-litre CRDe engine has lots of grunt

Performance – The 2015 Mahindra Thar CRDe is powered by a 2498cc, NEF TCI diesel engine that pumps out 105 horses at 3800 RPM and 247 Nm of torque from 1800-2000 RPM. The engine is mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox and the SUV also gets a Borgwarner 4WD transfer case with high and low reduction gear that should come in useful for all your off-road shenanigans. The CRDe engine produces more than enough power for city and highway usage alike. The torque is good enough for chucking the vehicle around the city and the throttle response is also quite swift. The engine is also quite silent and doesn’t produce annoying vibrations. The oil-burner cruises at 100 km/hr in 5th gear at 2500 RPM.

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The Mahindra Thar can munch miles all day long

The Thar can take you places with its powerful engine & off-road prowess

The turbo kicks in at a notch below 2000 RPM and the peak torque has a very short range of 1800-2000 RPM where you can feel the surge if you’re going all out on the throttle. This car is no drag racer and it takes its own sweet time of 20.28 seconds to reach the ton but no Thar buyer in his right mind would consider the 0-100 km/hr sprint as a deal-breaker. The engine has enough juice to reach 120 km/hr after which it feels a bit strained but still manages to max out a tad higher than 140 km/hr. NVH levels are decent and you can hear the engine noise creeping in only at very high RPMs.

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Decent NVH levels, less vibrations and engine noise

The Thar loves to munch miles and it makes for a very fun-to-drive vehicle, something that I really hadn’t expected from it. Stay in the power band and you can carry out overtaking manoeuvres with utmost ease. Another plus point is that the Thar looks so imposing that most cars automatically give way if they see this SUV lurking in their mirrors. I’m not a hardcore off-roader at all but I still tried some off-roading and the Thar quite impressively climbed over all the uneven piles of rocks, slippery gravel surfaces and the lot. It remains a proper off-roader and the combination of the short length and the powerful engine is splendid. The gear throws are very long and our test vehicle sometimes felt difficult to slot into reverse but otherwise the gears slot cleanly with a slight hint of roughness. A fuel efficiency of 10 km/l is what we got during our test.

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The Thar is a joy thanks to its fun handling character

Driving Dynamics – The Mahindra Thar comes with an electric power steering, something that almost all Jeeps of the bygone decades were missing. The steering wheel feels very responsive and though it isn’t as smooth as that of a conventional car in the same price bracket, it still does its job pretty well. One thing we noticed is that the wheel is slightly off-centred and isn’t in line with the three pedals. The Thar handles quite well for a jeep but there is tons of body roll. The vehicle remains stable under triple digit speeds but the soft top vibrates like crazy once you hit the ton and not only makes noise but also makes the vehicle feel nervous. One needs to keep a firm hand on the light steering at high speeds because even a slight turn of the wheel can cause the vehicle to turn significantly.

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Decent high speed stability, ride quality is good but bouncy

The Thar comes with an independent front suspension and it does its job quite well but is very stiffly set-up. The SUV absorbs bumps very nicely at low speeds and the suspension is strong enough to fight potholes, craters, broken village roads and every road surface you throw at it, all day long. At higher speeds, the stiffness can be felt while the ladder frame means some bounciness when the load is light. Things are slightly different at the rear, the ride is even more bouncy over potholes and when Aman drove over a speed breaker at 50 km/hr without warning, I flew in the air and hit my head against the roof while Faisal who was driving the Maybach S600 behind us was chuckling. The Thar has decent brakes but the pedal has an extremely long throw and it also feels very spongy in its action.

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The Mahindra Thar gets nothing more than seat belts

Safety and After Sales Service – Well, let me think for a moment here. I was just going through the 2015 Mahindra Thar’s brochure and realised that there is nothing written related to the vehicle’s safety and security. The SUV comes with seatbelts for the front passengers and there is a lockable glovebox and a digital immobiliser and that’s about it. Mahindra has a very good after-sales network across the country and Thar owners won’t face any issues in getting their vehicles serviced. Still some parts might not be readily available due to the limited sales of this vehicle.

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A much-improved SUV but still a long way to go for the Thar

Verdict – The 2015 Mahindra Thar is a highly-improvised version of the previous model and a lot of positive changes are seen. But, it is still lacking in a lot of areas and Mahindra could’ve definitely done a better job than this. If you’re looking for a daily runabout then there are a lot more options available in this price range and the Thar is best suited as a second vehicle or a vehicle which you could use for your weekend out of town trips or definitely some serious off-roading. What the Thar offers above the older Jeeps is the fact that it is much more reliable and easy to live with. It won’t require as many visits to the garage nor will it break down anywhere without warning. Mahindra also offers a ton of customisation options for those who would be interested in jazzing up their SUVs. All in all, the Thar makes for a great fun vehicle and its powerful engine never disappoints.

The Mahindra Thar is very powerful and has amazing off-road capabilities too. The 2015 model comes with a lot of improvements and the unique customisation options offered by Mahindra can give your vehicle an exclusive look if you want to standout further.

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The Thar is a good choice for those seeking a reliable off-roader

What’s Cool

* Striking road presence, rugged body can take a lot of abuse
* Engine has more than enough power for cities and highways alike
* Extreme off-road abilities are brilliant

What’s Not So Cool

* Many inconsistent bits like panel gaps and cheap quality parts
* Lack of features like central/remote locking, power windows
* Soft top makes high speed driving difficult

Alternatives: Force Gurkha

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Mahindra’s customisation options help make the vehicle look exclusive

2015 Mahindra Thar CRDe Specifications

* Engine: 2498cc, CRDe, 4-cylinder, Turbocharged, DOHC, 16V
* Power: 105 HP @ 3800 RPM
* Torque: 247 Nm @ 1800-2000 RPM
* Transmission: 5-speed manual
* 0-100 km/hr: 20.28 seconds
* Top Speed: 140 km/hr
* Fuel Consumption: 10 km/l
* Fuel Type: Diesel
* Suspension: Torsion and stabilizer bar (Front), Semi-elliptical leaf spring (Rear)
* Tyres: 235/70/16
* Brakes: Front two discs (226 mm), Rear drums (282 mm)
* Safety: Seatbelts

2015 Mahindra Thar CRDe Dimensions

* Overall length x width x height: 3920 mm X 1726 mm X 1930 mm
* Wheelbase: 2430 mm
* Ground clearance: 200 mm
* Turning radius: 5.75-metres
* Boot Volume: 600-litres
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 60-litres
* Kerb Weight: 2000 kgs (est.)

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A practical daily car? No! An enthusiast’s car? Yes

Testers’ Note:

“Unless you are a very patient person, the Mahindra Thar is best bought for late night drives and weekend adventure. This car is out of sync for daily city use with the ride getting bouncy on certain kind of tarmac and the driving effort being akin to gymming. But it turns heads and how. People look at you and at the toll booth, the person even complimented the vehicle by calling it ‘mast gaadi’. For those who want to make a statement on four wheels, the Thar is one of the cheapest ways to do so.” – Faisal Khan, Editor, MotorBeam.
“Mahindra has definitely improved the Thar a lot as compared to what we had a few years ago. Lack of basic creature comforts was a big turn off for many enthusiasts but now these guys have nothing to complain. Personally speaking, the Thar is too rugged for me and I would prefer something which is comfortable and yet has decent amount of off-road prowess. Therefore, the Duster AWD is the car which comes to mind. It is certainly pricier but fits rather well in my struggle to strike a balance between urban life on weekdays and some off tarmac activity on the weekends.” – Javeid Khan, Deputy Editor, MotorBeam.
“I am not much of a fan of SUVs and never in my wildest thoughts did I expect that I would rather like the Mahindra Thar so much. Yes, it misses out on a lot of features and it just cannot be a practical car for everyday use. But it is still fun to drive and can make for a great second vehicle. It it also much more reliable than the older used Jeeps available in the market. Jazz it up with some accessories and the Thar will serve you as the perfect lifestyle SUV you could lay your hands on!” – Parth Gohil, Road Tester, MotorBeam.
“The Thar is a different vehicle. Can it be a practical daily drive? No, it can’t be one. But can it be a great fun vehicle? Hell yeah! The engine has good grunt to get you to your adventure destination fast. And once you are at the destination, the fun multiplies. The basic interiors and exteriors ensure that you don’t have to worry much about things getting dirty. There are no electronics to bother about and even the interiors can be washed by a pressure washer. Off-roading in the Thar is great fun and very satisfying. The dirtied up car at the end of it looks the part too.” – Aman Sancheti, Correspondent, MotorBeam.
“The moment I got into the Mahindra Thar it felt like a tank. You sit very high, the hood goes wide and there’s good space for the driver. The fun in the Thar is when the mighty Mahindra engine kicks in all the torque and 4×4 setup is ready to get this tank moving really quick. The Bighorn tyres gripped very well and the Thar does handle good. Good torque and great manoeuvrability, only thing to be taken care is that the brakes are spongy and the Thar doesn’t stop! It just wants to take someone down first, pun intended. You don’t drive the Thar fast, you ride it calm and it grabs all the extra attention you don’t even intend to have.” – Dhanil Vira, Correspondent, MotorBeam.

Picture Editing – Sri Manikanta Achanta

Further Reading

2015 Mahindra Thar Off-Road Experience