All-new Mahindra Thar unveiled

As India celebrated it's 74th Independence Day yesterday, Mahindra took the opportunity to unveil the all-new Thar. The iconic off-roader - now in its second generation - has been in the making for over three years and one of the most-anticipated new launches in the country.

Does the all-new Thar has what it takes to satisfy expectations and widen its appeal? Let's look at what's good and what's not to find out the answer.

Good: Killer looks. As always.

Mahindra has been a licensed manufacturer of the Willys 'CJ' (Civilian Jeep) since 1947. That explains why the Thar - based on  Mahindra's CJ successors like the MM540 and the Classic - looks like an imitation of the Jeep Wrangler which boasts the original CJ's ancestry. 

That said, there's something about the shape and stance of these vehicles that you can't not like. The new Thar is no different. Mahindra has safely retained the much-loved basic design elements while smartly changing just enough things to differentiate the Thar from the popular Jeep. Speaking of changes, the grille is one of those that turns out to be the only chink in an otherwise shining armour. 

Despite archaic underpinnings, the previous Thar was quite a looker itself. The all-new model, with its wider track, longer wheelbase and macho lines, take it several notches higher. The three-piece bumpers at the front and rear extend on either side in the form of thick plastic cladding that are uniquely squared off at the front and circular at the rear. The long hood lead to a rather short cabin that ends with the B-pillar with a canvas or FRP roof covering the rest of the car. Shod with those striking gun-metal alloys with the roof down, the Thar is sure to attract as much attention on Indian roads as a supercar or exotic would!

Good: Interiors are a quantum leap ahead

We have a Thar in the family and unless you're in the middle of a trail climbing over rocks and crossing water streams, it's cabin isn't likely to evoke positive emotions. If the pictures of the all-new Thar's interiors are anything to go by, it seems the car has taken a quantum leap over its predecessor on this aspect. 

The seats look properly bolstered, the center console gets a factory-fitted touchscreen infotainment system and switches and knobs aren't ergonomic disasters. From lacking basics like power windows, power-folding mirrors and central locking in the previous generation to being equipped with all of them plus steering-mounted controls, cruise control, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity and a colour multi-info display in the instrument cluster, the Thar has sure come a long way. That's not all. With roof-mounted speakers and IP54-rated switchgear, the entire cabin can be hosed clean after a day out in mud and water.

Two other major pain points of the outgoing Thar has been addressed too. Yes, you can now buy a Thar with forward-facing rear seats and a hard top! 

Mahindra's recent launches like the XUV3OO and Marazzo impressed with their safety kit and high scores on Global NCAP crash tests. The Thar appears to be next in-line for that glory. Safety kit includes dual airbags, Anti-lock Braking System with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, ISOFIX child seat mounts, Electronic Stablity Program (ESP) with roll-over mitigation, Hill-start and descent assist, rear view camera and three-point seat belts for the rear passengers. 

Good: Great off-road, quite good on road too!

Thar has always been a king off-road but the same can't be said about it on the road. Neither the car nor the occupants would be comfortable cruising on our highways. The all-new Thar appears to have turned the page. Unlike the previous generations, the new Thar offers more powertrain choices and improved underpinnings.

Powering it is either an all-new 2.0-liter 'mStallion' turbocharged petrol or the familiar 2.2-liter 'mHawk' common-rail diesel engine. The former produces 152 horsepower and 320 Nm of torque while the diesel generates 132 horsepower and 300 Nm of torque. Both these engines can be had with either a 6-speed manual gearbox or a 6-speed torque converter automatic transmission. 

A four-wheel-drive system comes as standard of course along with a manual-shift transfer case. By default, the torque is sent to the rear wheels only while 4H and low-range 4L ratios are available for those jaunts off the beaten path. With an unladen ground clearance of 226 mm, water-wading depth of 650 mm and approach, ramp-over and departure angles of 42, 27 and 37 degrees respectively, the Thar will be at home over such terrain.

In addition to a new and improved body-on-frame chassis, the Thar has finally made the shift from the erstwhile archaic leaf-springs to a multi-link rear suspension. The bouncy ride-quality is hopefully a thing of the past. 

Good: A 'brand-builder' done right

There are a little over 60,000 Thars on Indian roads which isn't a big deal in terms of numbers. But the sheer popularity and brand recall this iconic off-roader boasts has got to be amongst the highest in Mahindra's line-up. There are so many out there who have always wanted a Thar but hasn't bought one due to its niche positioning and several limitations. With the all-new Thar, Mahindra wants to capitalize on this pent-up demand. The new Thar wouldn't look out of place in urban surroundings which can't be said about the previous models.

In short, the new Thar has what it takes to be Mahindra's brand-builder. It could end up doing what the Classic series did for Royal Enfield - sell in hordes, mint money with handsome margins and boost the brand's image. 

Not Good: This can't be your only car

With much-improved interiors, a full suite of active and passive safety features, better road manners, ride quality that's no longer back-breaking and a choice of engines and transmissions to pick from, the Thar is now more mainstream than it has ever been. But, Mahindra's newest still can't be the only car in the family. Here's why.

Firstly, access to the rear seats is not straightforward. The side-facing rear benches on the AX series can be accessed through the trunk as before while the front-facing rear seats in the LX series can only be accessed through the side doors by folding the front seats forward. Once you're in, the space there looks to be strictly limited. Boot space is non-existent with the rear seats up. It's evident the Thar is designed to be a lifestyle product. As a second or third car in the family for weekend fun and off-road outings, this is a no-brainer. As the only car in the family though, the Thar falls short. By a long shot.

But then, for a car that looks so hot, who cares? Frowns from friends and family who frequent the rear seats can be ignored.

The folks at Mahindra are clearly proud of the work they have done on the all-new Thar and it's "Made in India" heritage. Going by the response the car has generated in social media since its unveiling, it seems most of us Indians share the pride. And rightly so. Now, help me plan my finances to bring one home!

No comments:

Post a Comment