Appearances can be deceiving. If you think the Pantero is a Stallio with different stickering, you couldn't be more wrong.
Sure, the Pantero might share a lot of visual attributes of the Stallio. But there is where the similarity ends. And here is where the new story of motorcycles from Mahindra 2 Wheelers begins.
Almost as soon as the Stallio was pulled out, Mahindra had to do something worthy of bearing its marque, and it had to be done fast. The white coats at the firm's R&D facility in Pune swung into action.
It was decided that the Stallio's specs were decent, but that aside, everything else was to be redone. The engine, still a 106 cc sloper, was redesigned thoroughly - everything from the design of the piston to the lubrication is all new.
And it is a wonderful motor, I might add. Gun the throttle, and the pipe lets out a nice crisp note while the engine propels you forward smoothly. Once you are on the move and picking up steam, even two up, there's not much that can unfaze the Pantero's 8.4 bhp.
Those ponies get to the rear wheel through a 4-speed gearbox which is light-years ahead of the medieval wooden cogs that the Stallio had to do with. With the Stallio, it took the acumen of Aryabhatta and the strength of Goliath simply to get it to shift into neutral. On the Pantero, however, being a Kyle was enough to make working the gears a trivial matter. Simply tap down to engage a lower gear and heel up for a taller one. No stress, no panic and definitely almost no effort. Splendid, this one!
There is one attribute of the Stallio that I remember fondly, and that was the ride comfort. That bike simply too bumps into its stride without sending too much into the rider and I'm glad to see that the Pantero has decided to imbibe that trait. The Pantero's suspension is set up perfectly, offering a supple ride over the rough stuff and firm enough to stop it from pogoing or skipping when squeezed through corners. You really can lean this Mahindra motorcycle to quite an angle around corners, and those grippy MRF Zappers bite down like pitbulls onto the tarmac.
In terms of stopping power, the Pantero desperately needs a disc brake up front and sadly, that isn't available even as an optional extra as of now. The rear stopper is adequate but the front drum will go on fading at a rapid rate to an extent of things getting hairy. Mahindra should really be thinking of plonking a disc brake on to the Pantero, at least as an option so that wise people willing to spend a little more on improved braking, could get what they want.
The build quality of the Pantero has improved by leaps and bounds when compared to the Stallio. Now, every plastic component of the same colour shares the same texture and finish, unlike the Stallio parts which all seemed to be made in different factories with absolutely no consistency. Some bits, though, could do with some sprucing up. The welds on the frame could have been cleaner and some of the brackets could have been better hidden. Case in point, the brake pedal height adjuster.
All in, I don't think the Pantero is a step up for Mahindra 2 Wheelers. What I actually think is that they've taken the escalator with this one. It actually deserves to be distanced from the Stallio, so much so that it should be regarded as character assassination to put both of them in the same sentence. Mahindra has a good product on its hands with the Pantero, and the Centuro, also based around the same platform is to be launched soon enough.
The prices haven't been announced yet, but I reckon them to be quite competitive, say something between Rs. 44,000 to 47,000 ex-showroom.