2020 Mahindra Thar Test Drive Review
We do a detailed road test review of the 2020 Mahindra Thar.
Car Tested: 2020 Mahindra Thar LX Diesel; Road Test No. 1228; Test Location: Mumbai
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs 12 – 16 lakhs (est.)
Eye-catchy looks, outstanding off-road capabilites and a modern cabin make the 2020 Mahindra Thar a very desirable SUV
The anticipation for the second generation Mahindra Thar has probably been one of the highest in recent times if we compare its popularity to other vehicles. The first-gen Mahindra Thar was immensely popular for its classic looks and off-road capabilities but the vehicle lacked creature comforts and urban customers didn’t really find it practical for daily usage. With the new Thar, Mahindra has gone a few notches up with additional features, lots of convenience features and even multiple powertrain options! While the prices of the new Thar haven’t been announced yet, we drove the vehicle for a fair bit and even took it to Mahindra’s off-road academy to get down and dirty.
Exteriors – The new Thar’s design is an evolution in a really good way. It looks a bit modern now and yet retains its character. The SUV is less than 4-metres in length but it looks bigger because it is quite wide and the flared wheel arches also add to the appeal. The grille gets a new design and I didn’t like it when I saw it in pictures first but it looks fine in person, more so on darker body colours. The Thar has an immense road presence and the general excitement about this vehicle is so high that lots of people keep gawking at it no matter where you drive. The quality of the body paint does seem quite good and there are some nice colour options available. The Thar is available with three top options – hard top, soft top and convertible soft top and we had the hard top version with us. The SUV gets LED DRLs and LED tail lights but the headlamps are halogen units. The 18-inch grey-coloured alloys suit the Thar very much.
Interiors – Mahindra has done a job too good with the cabin of the new Thar. The older Thar was known for its basic and slightly crude cabin with absolutely no features on offer and this one is quite the opposite. The first thing you notice is the dashboard which now looks well-finished. It seems sturdy enough and the controls are neatly laid out across the centre console. The steering wheel is similar to the one on the TUV300 and the analogue instrument cluster has neat dials. There’s also a MID which displays the usual set of information like DTE, fuel consumption, trip meters, wheel direction, etc. You get circular AC vents which feel slightly flimsy and one of the vents on our test car felt a bit harder compared to the other three vents. There’s a nice 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with a UI that’s again similar to what we’ve seen in some other Mahindra vehicles. The infotainment system also has an off-road menu which shows the incline/decline angle, side tilt angle, gear position and vehicle temperature.
The water-resistant cabin of the new Thar feels modern, ergonomic and well put-together making it more usable and car-like
Towards the bottom of the centre console, you get some aircraft-style switches with the centre one meant for the hazard lights while the ones on the left are for the front passenger airbag and seat-belt reminder. This panel also has three blank switches with no markings on them. The front seats are really nice and supportive and the upholstery is part fabric, part faux leather and Mahindra did the wise thing by offering dark interiors on the Thar. Slightly additional under-thigh support would’ve been even better. The Thar doesn’t get a front armrest and putting a full-sized unit wouldn’t have been possible because of the centre console’s design but probably a slim armrest that fits on the side of the backrest of the driver’s seat would’ve worked well too. The driving position is nice and commanding and you can have a good view of the bonnet too.
Getting into the rear seats is a bit of a task and space is average at best. You can take your kids with you for a road trip but lugging 4 adults in the vehicle for hours might not be the best decision. The rear seat does get adjustable headrests though. Also, boot space is quite limited with the second-row seats up, but fold them down and you get tremendous space for luggage. The LX variant gets front-facing rear seats while the AX trim gets side facing. The LX also gets ISOFIX child seat mounts. The new Thar is feature-loaded compared to its predecessor which was spartan. You get steering-mounted audio and phone controls, cruise control, lumbar support, anti-theft alarm, speed-sensing door locks, manual AC, electric ORVM adjustment, TPMS and even voice commands. The vehicle gets roof-mounted speakers and tweeters and the sound quality is decent. A reverse parking camera would have been a welcome addition since rearward visibility is a bit limited while a rear wiper would have helped matters too, but these features have been probably been skipped to keep a check on costs.
Performance – Mahindra is offering both petrol and diesel options with the 2020 Thar. The petrol engine is a 2.0-litre, turbocharged, mStallion unit making 150 HP and 320 Nm while the diesel engine is the familiar 2.2-litre mHawk unit making 130 HP at 3750 RPM and 300 Nm from 1600-2800 RPM. We had the diesel manual variant with us which gets a 6-speed transmission. This engine is tried and tested and is offered on the TUV300 Plus, Scorpio and XUV500. It is known to be quite reliable and efficient too. Performance is indeed good and the peak torque is now delivered from an early 1600 RPM compared to the older Thar’s 1800 RPM. Turbo lag is present but doesn’t get very annoying. The engine is at its punchiest in the mid-range and I was really happy with the way the SUV was munching miles.
The Thar features the same reliable and punchy mHawk diesel engine as found on some other Mahindra cars
The top-end punch is a bit limited and the Thar doesn’t like to be pushed constantly so keep it in the mid-range and it’ll be happy. Refinement is way better than before and vibrations are also well-contained now. The engine is noisy, yes, but the new Thar doesn’t have the crudeness of the older model. The ARAI figures aren’t out yet but the diesel manual delivers around 12-14 km/l which is fairly decent for the Thar. The gearbox itself is very good and has slicker throws while the clutch is also extremely light. This same engine is available on other Mahindra vehicles in a higher state of tune but I feel this much is enough for the Thar.
Driving Dynamics – The older Thar was known for its back-breaking ride quality and Mahindra has made the new Thar much softer. The ride is somewhat similar to the TUV300, but slightly more comfortable. Being a body-on-frame SUV, the low-speed ride is a tad bumpy yet not as stiff as before. The ride quality improves at higher speeds and you don’t get tired even after driving the Thar for hours. At speeds above 100 km/hr, there is a decent amount of movement than can be felt inside the cabin and the ride tends to get bouncy. The steering itself is quite light, adding to the ease of manoeuvrability. It weighs up gradually but the feedback is quite average, while the older Thar’s steering felt a lot more feelsome. The Thar hates being pushed around the corners and there’s a significant amount of body roll so this is a car that you drive sedately. The Thar gets a standard front disc, rear drum braking setup and the stopping power is average. Works well for day-to-day driving but the bite isn’t very sharp. I know I’m asking too much but rear disc brakes would’ve been another worthwhile addition but that would again lead to an increase in costs.
Off-Road – The new Thar’s approach angle is slightly lesser than before and it now stands at 41.8-degrees for the LX variant while the departure angle is 36.8-degrees. The rampover angle is 27-degrees and the water wading capacity now stands at 650 mm (100 mm gain). We took our test vehicle to Mahindra’s off-road academy and put it through a lot of obstacles like steep inclines and declines, a section full of uneven dips, a section where we could test its articulation and there was a lot of driving involved through narrow and muddy paths. We used 4L all the time and came out thoroughly impressed with this enjoyable experience. In the older Thar, using the 4×4 gear lever was nothing short of a workout and in the new one, it feels like a cakewalk.
We even tried out a cool party trick called Walk The Thar where we slotted the vehicle into 4L and 1st gear and got out of the moving vehicle and steered it from the outside. Of course, this was done under Mahindra’s supervision in a closed environment so please do not attempt this on roads. The older Thar did feel a lot more involving to drive since it had zero electronics and heavier controls. It was also extremely capable and while the new one is also damn capable, it is easier to drive this one in off-road conditions and I believe more and more people will be able to off-road in this because of the ease. The 226 mm ground clearance is more than enough and the SUV barely scraped anywhere.
Safety and After Sales Service – For the first time ever the Mahindra Thar gets dual front airbags, ABS and ISOFIX child seat mounts. The vehicle also gets a crash-safety compliant bodyshell, ESP with rollover mitigation, built-in roll cage with 3-point seat belts for all passengers, Hill Hold and Hill Descent Control. Mahindra’s service network in India is very wide-spread so sales and service won’t really be an issue and hopefully, the new Thar proves itself to be reliable and niggle-free.
Verdict – There is no doubt about the fact that the new Mahindra Thar is a very desirable SUV. It still looks great, has more creature comforts than before and drives well too. The prices will be announced on 2nd October so we’ll get to know then how much of a VFM proposition it really is. Honestly, I know this vehicle will do brilliant sales numbers just because of the desirability quotient and the fact that there aren’t any “real” SUVs in this segment. The Force Gurkha BS6 is incoming but the automaker’s service network just can’t match Mahindra’s while the Maruti Jimny is still some time away. I see a lot of people buying the Thar just for its exclusivity and the fact that it’ll appeal to urban buyers much more than before just tips the scales in its favour. Even if you aren’t into off-roading you’ll consider buying the Thar since it is more of a “want” than a “need”.
What’s Not So Cool
Alternatives – Force Gurkha
Further Reading –