If your life is stuck in a rut, here’s something that will help you get out of it — literally and figuratively. In front of me is a narrow jungle trail, strewn with rocks and gravel. It is the kind of surface you wouldn't take your soft-roader on, let alone your humble sedan. But here I am, not-so-gingerly powering the new Mahindra Thar on the trail, mixing equal doses of throttle and steering input with a hum on my lips. And I have not even engaged the four-wheel drive! This is the vehicle that you need to get the outdoors closer to you, to go beyond your boring everyday existence.
If it looks familiar, well, it is. What you see is the MM540’s classic lines — the tapering bonnet, the rounded fenders and the drop-down windshield (which is there for effect, but doesn’t move an inch). But it’s a good thing because there aren’t too many people around who would think that the 540 wasn’t a looker even today.
Speaking of the powertrain, this motor is a far cry from the older Peugeot diesel engines. Making nearly double the power and torque, 105 bhp@3800 rpm and 25 kgm@1800 rpm, the 2498cc motor is from the Bolero Storm CRDe where it was a bit restricted in comparison. Let’s do the arithmetic, shall we? The older jeeps made conquering rugged terrain a rather small order. Now, considering their capacity of sustaining abuse with the older, more rudimentary engines, you can imagine what kind of potential the Thar truly has.
Now, your leisure antics are paid for with your working time and I understand that. So does Mahindra and Mahindra, it seems. Driving a jeep as your daily commute used to require a very obsessive character trait and a severe aversion to basic creature comforts like well-padded seats and a glove box. But the Thar can conquer the urban jungle for you as well. The cabin is AC ready (meaning that the blower is fitted but fitting the other components like the compressor, condenser, etc is up to you) and power steering is standard for the CRDE version. The idiosyncrasies of the Thar's jeep heritage shine through, with the steering wheel slightly offset to the left. I call that character.
The Thar’s ride quality on the road is predictably jumpy. The suspension of the Thar is calibrated towards the offroad side of things and, hence, is set up really soft. The front axle sports independent suspension through a torsion bar while the rear is taken care of by a traditional leaf spring setup. So if you want to be wafted around everyday, better look elsewhere.
What sets the Thar apart from most other SUVs is its 4x4 system. Sure, almost all SUVs now sport a 4x4 system but the Thar’s Borg-Warner transfer case means business. Only the most arduous terrain warrants the use of the 4x4 Low which will get you out when all others have failed. Another aspect about the Thar that endows it with a mountain goat-like ability is what jeep enthusiasts call the ‘crawl ratio’. This basically is the vehicle’s ability to lug through dirt, with 4x4 engaged, without even the slightest touch of the throttle nor the harsh half-clutching that other vehicles might need. You can simply roll over at a dead slow pace and concentrate on where the front wheels are heading, rather than working the clutch and the gears to get past the hardest parts.
If you want a vehicle that can accompany you to your sojourns to the back and beyond and then trounce the city traffic as well, the Thar will gladly satiate that thirst. With an ex-showroom price of Rs 5.99 lakh, this is certainly a new year’s resolution you absolutely will not break. Yes, I meant that both literally and figuratively.