2021 Mahindra Thar Review/First Ride-50,000 bookings milestone, production ramped up due to increased demand

Mahindra & Mahindra’s second-gen Thar has crossed 50,000 bookings, within just 6 months of its launch .Thus, the process of increasing production capacity has been put on speed –mode both at its Nasik facility and at the supplier-end to meet the demand for the Thar and compress the waiting period for customers.This handsome SUV is both, longer and wider, sits a lot more squat and looks more proportionate compared to the older version.

The new Thar is available in two engine options: 2.0-litre mStallion TGDi Petrol engine and 2.2-Litre mHawk Diesel engine. Thar has been rated as the safest off-road SUV by global NCAP with an adult and child safety rating of 4-stars thanks to its sound structure as well as a host of safety features like ABS with EBD, ESP and ISOFIX child seat mounts on the rear seats, to name a few. Mahindra Thar is available in two trim lines: AX and LX, starting at Rs 12.10 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).

The second-gen Thar has a hydro-formed ‘Gen-3’ chassis (same as the Mahindra Scorpio’s) that’s much stiffer than the earlier tubular ladder chassis, and its body shell is a mix of mild and advanced high-strength steel which is lighter, and a lot more rigid. Further, torsional stiffness is added to its structure by the stabilizer bars at the front and rear, apart with an integrated roll cage.

The front grille has been re –designed to avoid any (legal) conflict with Jeep’s signature seven-slat design. The Thar’s grille though not as bold or as powerful at first impression, is a good and appreciated design. Exposed bonnet clips, door hinges, side steps and the body cladding have been very well executed and are rugged touches owners just fall for. The massive 18-inch alloys and 255mm all-terrain tyres (on the LX variant) apart from the full-sized tyre mounted on the tailgate is an intrinsic part of the Thar’s rugged, 4×4 appeal along with the jerry-can shaped LED tail-lamps with Thar branding neatly embossed.

Three roof options are offered– there’s a fixed soft-top (like before), a factory-fitted hard-top, as well as a convertible soft-top. The hard-top for long rides seals off the cabin from road and tyre noise much better than the soft-top options. Owners using the Thar purely as a recreational vehicle use the convertible option for that open-top experience and takes a just a few minutes for a single person to open and close.

The interiors set a utilitarian tone, a step-up over the previous-generation, with a rather basic design and layout, with the exposed screws as a styling feature that lends ruggedness to the ambience and adds character to its interior design. The chassis plate adorning the dashboard is a nice touch proudly flaunting Mahindra’s Indian roots.

The seating is much higher, almost at par with smaller buses and trucks making for a commanding frontal view & evoking an invincible, ego-boosting feeling when behind the wheel.The pillars are slim, and the large outside mirrors cover the sides well. The rearward visibility, however, is hampered due to the spare tyre and the rear headrests. One has to rely on the sensors while parking in tight spots, and a reverse camera is sorely missed. 

The front seats are perfectly fine for medium-sized adults, but larger passengers won’t be too happy with the cup-like shape of the seat base. Also, taller occupants will require more thigh support. One has to trek into the cabin, and the two-step climb will be difficult for senior citizens. Getting into the second row is even more daunting – the front passenger seat tilts and slides forward at the pull of a lever, opening up enough space to squeeze way to the back. Once seated, the backseat is comfortable in terms of knee- and headroom, however, the placement of the front-seat rails reduces the rear foot-room. The seat is wide enough for two adults, and the backrest reclines to a comfortable angle.

For storage, there are bottle holders in the front doors, cup holders in the centre console and a cavity to keep the phone in front of the gear lever. The lockable glove box is, however, too small. A centre armrest console for front passengers, as well as a side armrest, with charging and storage provision, for the rear passengers, was required by utilising the space above the rear wheel wells more effectively. Boot space is scant with the rear seats in place, enough to accommodate a couple of small backpacks. The boot has to be accessed in a two-step process – first, the heavy tailgate needs to be swung open, and then the rear windscreen area has to be lifted up. For long-distance touring with more than two persons, additional roof carrier for cargo, is recommended. 

The Thar has a second-generation 2.2-litre mHawk diesel engine that generates 130hp and 300Nm of torque. It generates 53Nm more torque than before and delivers max torque from just 1,600rpm, and extends till 2,800rpm, which is a 1,200rpm band, compared to the narrow 200rpm (1,800-2,000rpm) band of the first-gen. As a result, the diesel feels extremely drivable and effortless in its operation. Even if engine speed is dropped to 1,000rpm, it will easily gain momentum without any hesitation or judder, without demanding a downshift to move on either. This low-speed drivability works great on-road, and is equally essential in off-road scenarios. In the mid-range performance, it can effortlessly reach highway speeds or make overtakes without any need to work the gearbox. The build-up of speed is quite slow at higher revs. Hence,  it is not advisable to spin this motor past 3,800rpm up to 4800 rpm, in any case

The 6-speed manual with long throws has well-defined gates and a smooth-shifting nature, hence the effort required to slot it in is really low. Also, the relatively light clutch, makes driving around quite easy. To assess the diesel-manual’s performance in perspective, 0-100kph is dispatched in just 13.36sec, and rolling acceleration from 20-80kph in third and 40-100kph in fourth gear takes merely 10.28sec and 13.69sec, respectively.

Transmission duties in the automatic are done by an Aisin-sourced 6-speeder. Overall, shifts are smooth and seamless, and this sophisticated torque converter works well in sync with the diesel engine hiding the slightly lazy responses of this transmission, especially while downshifting. In terms of performance, it sprints from 0-100kph in 13.52sec, as fast as the diesel-manual. The automatic also has a manual mode, and it will hold onto the first two gears (only) in this mode, which comes handy while off-roading. The convenience of diesel-automatic is liked by all users.

The brand-new 2.0-litre, turbo-charged direct-injection petrol engine, the first from the mStallion family, makes its debut in the Thar. With power and torque figures of 150hp and 320Nm, it’s even more refined and stronger than the diesel version and feels surreally smooth for a Thar. It isn’t a particularly high-revving engine with a maximum of 5,500rpm. In the mid-range, max torque is served over a thicker power band, ranging from 1,500- 3,000rpm (300rpm more than the diesel) – and an additional 20Nm of pulling power on tap make the petrol a very potent offering. The 6-speed automatic in the petrol is identical to the one in the diesel, down to the gear ratios. However, shift points have been altered to work best with the engine’s power-band, for seamless performance. The petrol-automatic sprints to 100kph from a standstill in just 10.20sec, so not only is it faster than the diesel, but it is also a quicker sprinter than most turbo-petrol cars under Rs 20 lakhs. Rolling acceleration times from 20-80kph and 40-100kph in kick-down are 1.20sec and 2.81sec, respectively, better than the diesel-automatic.

The hard-top version, in particular, does the best job (among the three options) to cut out ambient and wind noises to a great extent ,considering excessive wind noise, creeping through at speeds above 100kph. In the convertible and soft-top versions, the tornado-like buffeting will require one to maintain lower cruising speeds for a quieter drive experience.

The new Thar has an air of indestructibility and better dynamics when it encounters bad road surfaces, with its ladder-frame construction, a double-wishbone front suspension, a multi-link rear suspension, and a more rigid structure. It feels tighter, more composed and infuses a lot more driver confidence than the first-generation Thar. However, it needs to improve on-road ride comfort and its bump absorption capability. The on-road ride is on the busier side, and there is prominent body movement felt inside the cabin at all speeds. The Thar body-on-frame SUV simply can’t match monocoque levels of flexibility, wherein the shell is made using both the frame and chassis

The hydraulic steering is light and smooth, so it is easy to drive this car through traffic. With nearly 3.36 turns lock-to-lock, while off-roading, the steering position reminder on the MID informs the driver of the position of the front tyres before starting off. The steering kickbacks after hitting sharp potholes or cornering are not as aggressive as before. Its brakes reduce speed comfortably and even under panic braking scenarios, the Thar is composed. However, the brake feel on the automatics is not satisfactory and isn’t as reassuring on the manual. This is because the spring in the brake booster system is differently tuned for the two-pedal layout in the automatics, which results in a pedal feel that is not as linear as in the manual Thar. However, the company is believed to be recalibrating the spring.

The Thar has fat CEAT All-Terrain tyres, and a four-wheel-drive low-range gearbox, and scampers over any terrain effortlessly. This new Thar sits 16mm higher above the ground than the older Thar; its ramp-over-angle has improved to a significant 27 degrees, and even its departure angle, at 36.8 degrees, is far greater than the 27 degrees before. Its front bumper, however, projects out a bit more than before for compliance to pedestrian protection norms, and as a result its approach angle is 41.8 degrees, 2.2 degrees lesser than before. It is capable of traversing through 650mm of a water body without breaking a sweat.

The second-generation Thar uses a modern, double-wishbone setup in the front, and independent coil-springs at the rear. Wheel articulation, as a result, isn’t as generous as before, but because of this new suspension setup and a wider track (front and rear) there’s so much mechanical grip on offer that it simply clings onto the surface and sails through the trickiest scenarios, many where even the highly capable older-gen model begins to struggle. Its ability to overcome sticky situations is enhanced by a host of driving aids including ESP, hill-start assist as well as hill-descent control. The clever inclinometer and other driving information display on the screen as well as the MID are tech gizmos.

Regarding fuel, this petrol version returns just 7kpl in the city and 9.3kpl on the highway.

However, the second-gen mHawk diesel, returns 12kpl and 11.3kpl for the manual and automatic, respectively. The diesel’s highway performance is merely 12.6kpl for the manual and 11.5kpl for the automatic, due to its non-aerodynamic design. The boxy shape actually demands that extra bit of effort from the engine to counter the significant wind drag. The Thar is much more fuel efficient while cruising below 90kph than at triple-digits speeds.

Mahindra’s 7.0-inch touch-screen sports a very user-friendly interface, and touch sensitivity and responses are rather good. This system features physical shortcut buttons as well as a rotary volume control, very convenient to operate while on the move, with inclusion of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay with touch-screen. This system also displays certain on-road and off-road data which are useful

The new Thar includes an array of safety kit features such as ABS with EBD, dual airbags, ESP, hill-launch assist, hill-descent control, ISOFIX child seat mounts, tyre pressure monitor and a roll cage. Basics such as remote key entry, electrically adjustable mirrors and cruise control are also offered. Its doors can technically be removed (for off-roaders), hence, it gets dash-mounted as well as roof-mounted speakers instead. There is no, immersive audio experience, and the sound quality in general leaves a lot to be desired.

For off-roaders there’s an inclinometer in the infotainment system, as well as a tyre position reminder in the MID. However, the rear-view camera, LED headlights, auto-dimming inside mirror, a premium audio system, electric folding mirrors, a driver armrest and a dead pedal (especially for the automatic), standard accessories, are missed.

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