What's the first thing that comes to your mind when someone says Mahindra? It surely isn't any young-timer that comes to your mind but a "JEEP". Products like the Armada, Major and the Classic have surely played a pivotal role for the brand.
But then, as the market requirements changed, Mahindra had to adapt to those requirements to stay in the game. But then, they were slowly but surely moving away from the lineage that they'd created. Thankfully, before it was too late, Mahindra re-entered that space with the Thar back in 2010 to stay true to their lineage. 10-years down, the Thar was showing its age and the Indian market was now open to a lifestyle product subject to it being practical to use on your usual work day. Mahindra aims at catering to the needs of those consumers with the second generation of the Thar. This is all what it takes to stand a chance? Read on to find out.
Design Language - Exteriors
There is not an ounce of doubt that the designers at Mahindra had their work cut out for this one. Designing a car from the ground up is one thing, but coming up with a design philosophy that is a breath of fresh air yet manages to stick to the Thar’s rich legacy is quite another.
The front end is dominated by a larger than life slatted grille along with the classic single pod round headlamp setup. The Thar 2020 also gets LED DRLs at the front now placed atop the fenders. What we really liked was the fact that the traditional external bonnet latches have been retained on this generation too. Having said all this, there are a few elements which might play spoilsport here. The silver skid plate at the front which extends upto the headlamps in a weird fashion stands out, and might not be to everyone’s taste. The grille is yet again a point of contention and is too conspicuous with its thin slats, though word has it that aftermarket distributors have already started prepping seven and five slat units as fitments.
The side profile is characterised by chunky 18 inch 5 spoke alloys which look uncannily similar to the pre-facelift Scorpio’s alloys, yet contribute significantly to the butch character of the car. As expected on a purpose built off roader, thick black plastic cladding emerges at the front bumper and runs throughout the length of the car. A rather peculiar design trait to note here is that the front wheel arches are squared off but the rear ones aren’t. The exposed door hinges and the squared off fuel lid (which can only be locked and unlocked externally if we might add) along with the traditional flap type door handle design once again carry the back to basics JEEP theme. The tall and functional ORVMs might look similar to the previous generation, but can now be electrically adjusted.
The rear end once again sports signature JEEP elements such as the tail mounted spare wheel. LED tail lamps are a standard fitment, though they do bare semblance to the much more expensive JEEP wrangler, a car that the Thar shares a lot of common design elements with thanks to the JEEP lineage.
Overall build quality is precisely what you would come to expect of a JEEP. Mahindra has not only made sure that the Thar sticks to its robust and abuse friendly roots, but has also ensured that the 2020 Thar doesn’t lose out on overall fit and finish, something its predecessor was infamous for. Apart from the fact that panel gaps were slightly wider at certain points than we would have liked, it's difficult to fault the build quality and (we are happy to say) fit and finish of the new Thar.
All things considered, we can safely say Mahindra has managed to strike a good balance between sticking to the JEEP legacy and making sure that the Thar doesn’t feel like an obsolete hag in 2020. The new Thar boasts of a design which will please all and offend very few.
Design Language- Interiors
What was really a bone of contention when it came to calling the previous Thar a “lifestyle” vehicle and not a purpose built off-roader were the bare basic interiors. The crudely moulded plastics, lack of equipment and flawed ergonomics made the Thar a niche product when you consider the fact that it was priced in premium hatchback territory.
In that sense, the 2020 Thar is a quantum leap ahead. Gone is the crude, old school dashboard, now replaced by a more contemporary looking one. Overall quality of plastics has also improved vastly, and the interiors of the Thar finally feel like they belong to a 10-15L car. Don’t get us wrong, it's still not in the league of certain C2 segment sedans or crossovers, but no more are the interiors going to be a deal breaker for anyone.
The steering wheel is borrowed from the TUV300, and that is no bad thing. It comes integrated with audio and telephony controls on the left spoke and a very welcome cruise control on the right. The instrument cluster now gets a full colour MID nestled between two contemporary pods housing the tachometer and speedometer respectively. The centre console houses two circular AC vents along with cool aircraft style toggle switches for functions such as the traction control and hill hold. A 7-inch touchscreen featuring apple carplay and android auto support takes precedence here. The screen also throws a plethora of information, most of which has to do with the tilt angle of the car and how the power is being put down.
A common question with reference to the new Thar has been with pertains to interior space and whether it can be a daily driver. While the latter is definitely something that we can answer in the affirmative with, the former is a point of contention. While space at the front is more than ample, the rear seat has two things going against it. Firstly, the entry to the rear seat isn’t what we would call very convenient. Secondly, one look at the rear bench and its quite obvious the seat is best suited for 2 adults and not 3. The good part is that the 2 adults who do manage to fit in won’t find themselves cramped for legroom. Under-thigh support and knee-room are both available in reasonable amounts too. What might be a turnoff for those who like their expeditions to last long though is the fact that boot space is at a premium with the rear seats in place.
Another unique touch (among many others) is the fact that the speakers are mounted on the roof, such that the doors can be detached easily. What is by far one of the biggest improvements on the Thar 2020, are the ergonomics. The front seats are well bolstered and can easily fit in folks even with a large frame. The placement of the gear lever and ABC pedals in relation to the driver is precisely where you would want them to be, with the only sore point being the lack of a dead pedal, especially in the AT variants. All in all, the contemporary interiors, fit and finish which is par for the course for this price bracket, improved ergonomics and added features (especially on the LX variant) expand the Thar’s appeal and make sure that potential customers seeking a lifestyle vehicle which can be daily driven don’t end up being disappointed.
Performance- Engine & Gearbox
The Thar now comes with two engines to choose from; a 152-horsepower 2-litre Turbocharged Petrol and a 132-horsepower 2.2-litre Turbocharged Diesel. Both these engines can be had with a 6-speed Manual Transmission or a 6-speed Automatic Transmission from Aisin. We got to drive the 2.2-Litre mHawk Diesel paired with a 6-speed Manual Transmission.
The diesel engine too is new, which get a lightweight all-aluminum block. On paper, the mHawk may seem unexceptional, but again the way this diesel drives, the numbers seem insignificant.
What stands out about this engine is the wide torque spread. It pulls cleanly from around 1,000rpm in a fairly smooth and linear way. There’s no sudden spike of power, but just a consistent and even shove all the way to the pretty high 4,700rpm rev limit. The engine is rather refined too and at low revs, you can only just tell there’s a diesel under the big hood. It’s when you stretch the motor beyond 3,000rpm that the diesel’s distinctive drone makes itself heard.
The 6-speed manual gearbox has a light shift, but the long throw doesn’t encourage shifting in a hurry. But you don’t need to. The ample torque lets you shift gears lazily, be it in town or on the highway. True to its DNA, both the petrol and diesel versions of the Thar have 4x4 gear with a low-ratio transfer gearbox for some serious off the road detours. We didn’t have a chance to test the new Thar’s off-road capabilities, which we hope to do when we properly test the car.
Performance- Ride, Handling & Drivability
The new Thar ditches the older model’s tubular ladder chassis and gets the company’s 3rd Generation of body-on-frame chassis. As a result, the suspension configuration is the same as the Scorpio too – a coil-sprung, independent double-wishbone front, and a coil-sprung, multi-link live axle at the rear, replacing the old Thar’s setup that consisted of a torsion bar or leaf-sprung front (depending on the engine) combined with a leaf-sprung rear.
The beefed-up suspension has made the low-speed ride quite lumpy and though it crushes potholes without even flinching, you do get tossed around a bit, especially over expansion joints and sharp edges. The ride is not flat or settled like a soft-roader, but it’s not uncomfortable either for everyday use.
On the expressways, the new Thar is certainly a lot better than the outgoing Thar. That said, it's meant for relaxed cruising and for those who employ a spirited driving style who're into sudden lane changes will be a bit disappointed. The overall dynamics of the car don't inspire one to attempt a quick lane change either. What's also a concern is the steering. It's a bit too vague and you really have to stay cautious while attempting a quick lane change on an expressway. What we did find a big issue with was the brakes ; they grab suddenly and you need a lot of pedal travel for them to bite.
There is not an ounce of doubt about the fact that Mahindra have done their homework on the Thar. While the previous generations of the Thar were restricted to a niche segment of the market due to a number of reasons, its pleasing to see that M&M have broken the mould and come out all guns blazing this time round. It's safe to say, hardcore off-roaders are not the only ones who are going to consider this SUV.
Of course, no car is perfect and the Thar still has a few traits which aren’t as contemporary as your average C-segment crossover, something which might not go down well with people who are looking to cross shop between the two. Having said that, this is precisely what sets it apart and also makes it do justice to its lineage if we might say so.
Although prices haven’t been revealed yet, its glaringly obvious Mahindra is onto a winner. A proper 4x4 with butch looks, loaded to the brim with features, powered by capable engines and with the option of an automatic tranny on both the petrol and diesel trims is something which is going to catch the fancy of many folks.