Mahindra Thar 2020 drive review: Bad boy with golden heart launched at ₹9.80 L
Thar never really tried to please everyone at all times in its over a decade of being present on Indian roads. It had a boxy appearance with serious off-road capabilities to back it all up with and was more of an SUV than many can ever claim to be. And yet, Thar has been more of an emotion, more a desire here rather than just another name or just another car.
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It never really hit meteoric heights in sales charts because it was felt best admired from a distance for its robust and rugged capabilities. As the saying goes, everyone wants a rebel, just not in their house.
Mahindra is now determined to put a Thar in as many houses as is possible and the 2020 Thar makes a whole lot of promises to potential buyers while staying true to its wild genetics. The real question then is, does Thar 2020 manage to strike that perfect balance being wild and yet being complete? I brought home a review unit to find out. And while most reviews follow a certain pattern - looks, cabin and drive, Thar deserves something a little different, something from the chapter one of journalism - 5 Ws and one H. Hang on, I'll attempt to explain.
What Mahindra has up its sleeves is a Thar that looks every bit as rugged as it ever has. And then some more. The car has a robust road presence and even when standing still, it commands glances galore. There is an almost instant recognition for what the SUV is about - whether it is due to its sloping bonnet, large and round head lights, DRLs, massive wheel arches or really macho-looking 18-inch alloys in my review unit.
The hard-top version of Thar I received contrasted with the red body paint well while the large side windows and massive 226 mm ground clearance clearly put the car on a throne of its own.
The LED tail lights add a dash of contemporary styling and the rear door opens in two parts to allow for convenient loading and unloading options.
Step inside the Thar now and be ready for that one massive change that promises to get it more admirers than before. Smartly understated, the interiors walk a tightrope between offering more comfort than before, more features than before and yet having a rather rustic charm all around. A seven-inch drizzle-resistant infotainment screen won't merit much attention in any other car but here, it stands out as a brave way in which Thar is trying to lure new-age buyers. It supports Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, puts out adventure stats, has navigation and even stores digital user manuals.
There is another 3.5 inch screen behind the steering wheel which puts out drive-related information.
The AC vents and controls are nicely designed and, importantly, are also splash resistant. There are removable drain plugs and washable hard plastic floor mats which can also be removed, hosed and put straight back in.
While a few purists may say Mahindra has forced Thar to go to a beauty saloon, these features do go a long way in making the SUV even more ready for the new-age adventurists who also seek a connected and comfortable drive.
Look up and the hard-top version of this car also gets roof-mounted speakers while the overall quality of the materials used in the vehicle are several steps ahead of the preceding model.
The forward-facing back seats (one can also opt for parallel bench seats) too maintain the nearly same level of comfort. So, the seat cushioning is adequate, the knee and leg room are decent even if the space meant for the feet is encroached upon by the wheel wells, and headroom is generous. It is getting into these seats though which can be a problem. The front seats half fold and have to be pulled forward to carve out some space to take invade from - not ideal for the elderly or those not too fit. For those looking at this version of Thar 2020 as a daily commute option for the family, this may be an important factor to consider.
Also, there are no rear AC vents and the large rear side windows, while allowing plenty of natural light, remain fixed and therefore, the cabin can get a little claustrophobic on a typically hot Indian summer day.
I have already mentioned solo enthusiasts and the family-oriented persons above but it is worth mentioning that Thar 2020 aims to please both. And while the former will have several takeaways, those opting to make Thar 2020 their vehicle of choice for frequent outings with family are highly recommended to take a look at the rear seats in person to come to a conclusion - one way or the other.
The new Thar makes a solid case for itself, especially when compared to the previous model. Does it stamp itself as better than other SUVs (ok, so-called SUVs) when it comes to packing in a family? Not quite there yet.
Thar 2020 is a feature-packed offering that now seeks to have something for everyone but it is its sterling ability to handle roads and no roads at all with characteristic ease that puts the crown over its, well, hardtop in this case.
The options available are almost limitless. Want a petrol engine? There's a 2.0-litre mStallion engine with 149 bhp of power and 320 Nm of torque. All for diesel? Well, say hello to a 2.2-litre mHawk engine which has 130 bhp of power and 300 Nm of torque.
This gets me to the above question - where? The answer: Anywhere.
My diesel engine unit came with a six-speed manual gearbox - there is an auto transmission option available as well. The shifts may not be the smoothest but slot in well nonetheless and while I did have to stretch just a bit to reach the stick - also because I push back my seat to the max extent possible, it was quite fun to engage it on regular roads. Here, the car remains well planted - a bit muted till 1,000 RPM if you will, before truly pressing forward with a sense of solid purpose.
A commanding view of the surroundings further enhances the drive experience and while tight corners may require an extra bit of attention, the steering is balanced enough to handle the urban challenges. That said, while the vehicle has no troubles whatsoever in hitting triple digit speeds, I noticed the steering wobble ever so slightly - a bit un-nerving, frankly.
The suspension set-up on this LX variant - one that is oriented for the urban lifestyle - was also a bit too stiff for city conditions but if you would like to go down the beaten track once in a while, it is the best middle path a car can possibly seek to offer.
At this point, I opted to take another review unit of Thar to its most natural habitat - an off-road track. And the thrill of putting this machine through the tests was no less exciting than being on a roller-coaster at Universal Studios.
A 42-degree approach angle, 37-degree departure angle and 27-degree ramp over angle - all combine to keep the Thar the king of the jungle.
I kept the vehicle in 4 low mode, which increases torque by 2.48 times, at all times and the Thar made mincemeat of everything that the elements tried to put in its path. As for off-road capabilities, there is no breaking news here - the Thar is a winner, still and perhaps always.
So the question really is why buy the Thar? Conversely, why not buy the Thar?
Thar 2020, quite frankly, is a fantastic proposition as a second or third vehicle in the family. It continues to be a bad boy but now has a golden heart. Touring? Sure. Off-roading? Of course. Munching city miles? Totally.
Offered in LX, AX and AX(O) variants, in six colour options, in hard-top, soft-top and convertible top choices, manual or automatic transmission (phew), the choices are aplenty. If you always wanted to drive a Thar but couldn't buy it because it took a whole lot of convincing family members, this new model makes things easier for you.
For the free-willing, adventure-seeking travel aficionado who doesn't want to be limited by terrain challenges, Thar remains an extremely viable option without breaking bank. Just opt for the AX or AX (O) variants - see graphics below.
As for those who want to buy the Thar purely for the show of it or as a primary family vehicle, there are options galore instead to consider at the following price bands.
When: Bookings for Thar are now open. Deliveries will start from November.
Last but hardly the least then, how much will it cost to bring home this wild child? Prices start at ₹9.80 lakh (ex showroom) for the entry AX series variant and goes up to ₹13.75 lakh for the top-end variant in LX series.