What’s so new about the new Bolero? Well, on the outside, it’s just the front end. The headlamps get more prominent in-built turn indicators, which does jazz things up a bit. And there’s the grille which looks like it’s trying a bit hard to appear sleek and in sync with the rest of the contemporary Mahindra family. The bumper, too, is redesigned and adds a muscular touch to the front end. Apart from these, the exterior changes are nominal — new body graphics, refreshed tail-lamps, and that’s about it.
But step inside and you’ll be taken aback. I’ve spent a good number of years in the first-generation Bolero and am accustomed to the unwelcoming plastic, with plenty of sharp edges, and the overall utilitarian feel of the dashboard. The new Bolero’s dash, however, is not an evolution — it’s a ground-up redesign.
You’ll notice the steering wheel which is a cross between that of the Xylo and the Bolero. Next to catch your eye is the instrument cluster. It is entirely digital — yes, the speedo, tacho, fuel gauge, temperature gauge, et al — and is quite a spectacle. Oh, and there’s the ever-so-helpful information display at one end of the cluster which tells you the on-the-fly fuel-efficiency figures depending on your driving style, kilometres to empty and the time. In terms of visual impact, the instrument cluster gets 10 out of 10.
Other bits of the dash are now smoother and curvier. The glove box is generous and the centre console, with two cupholders, going up to the handbrake shroud, is fairly well finished.
The seats are pretty basic in terms of support zones but can nevertheless be called car-like. Legroom isn’t an issue in the first row and neither is headroom, but the former does take a hit in the second row. I am 6 ft tall and with the driver’s seat in position for a tall driver, there isn’t any legroom in the second row and my knees were properly fouling with the front row backrests. Even a 5’8” person will find the second row a bit cramped and perhaps the only thing that’ll put a smile on his or her face is the air-con. The AC unit in the Bolero is just excellent and, despite the absence of vents everywhere except on the dash, the unit cools all corners of the car, and fairly quickly.
The last row on the ZLX version is a pair of jump seats, and while you could seat two people there, you can forget being on good terms with them more than two hours into a ride.
That said, the ride quality is very impressive. It doesn’t hide its UV dimensions in any way and, on the road, it certainly isn’t what you could call car-like. But it takes on the bad stuff with full conviction and it is only on a light load that the car tends to slide around a bit when pushed to its limit. Body roll is prominent and since we never had a full load of passengers at any point, the roll was even more evident. And on our way to its top speed of 123 kph, we did make a note about handling over-80 kph lane changes gently.
The most important change, however, lies under the hood. Yes, it’s the m2DiCR engine we’re talking about. The 2,523cc, four-cylinder motor is the same unit that powers the recently launched Scorpio EX. However, unlike the Scorpio EX which produces 75 bhp, the Bolero gets a milder 62 bhp power output figure. Less power notwithstanding, the Bolero has an endearing train-like chugging quality to it which Bolero fans tend to swear by. In traffic, with the AC switched on, you can roll ahead from standstill in second gear and that has more appeal to the everyday driver than some funky-looking grille. You can shift into fifth gear at about 40 kph and the Bolero will entertain your request for fuel efficiency while still pulling away steadily, if not very quickly. The worst the Bolero returned was 12.1 kpl in the city (with the start-stop system de-activated) and the best we could extract on the highway was 17.3 kpl, both runs with the AC switched on.
What’s not to like, then? Well, we have a handful of items to list. We’d like it if M&M stuck to the Bolero’s angular design and didn’t insist on adding curves. The Bolero is a decade old and M&M should build on the rugged, mountain goat image (along the lines of the LR Defender/M-B G-Wagen) rather than do the botox drill. While some bits of the interior (the dashboard, prominently) have been really focused on, more important issues like legroom in the middle row are left untouched from previous generations of the Bolero. Finally, the steering wheel is set too high and the seat a bit low, and — here’s the slippery bit — neither is height-adjustable, so it is going to be a bit of a bother if you’re anything shorter than 5’8”.
Prices for the Bolero (ex-showroom, Mumbai) start at Rs 6.12 lakh for the base SLE variant, going up to Rs 6.62 lakh for the SLX and finally, Rs 6.77 lakh for the ZLX. That said, beware of one thing. The Bolero is an extremely reliable vehicle with a brilliant engine with the load-lugging capacity of a train. And hence it is most likely that the Bolero will work its charm and cover up for what it lacks. So don’t tell me I didn’t warn you!