I finally got a locking differential for the rear axle. It’s a cable-operated manual locking diff made by Lamda Components of Bangalore and took about two days to fit (they sent their engineers to Mumbai on special request). I like it because I can engage and disengage it at will, which is, in my opinion, a better system than those torque-sensing auto locking diffs over which you really don’t have control. It works very well — the Thar’s off-road abilities have improved by a big margin and it now gets through obstacles as long as one of the rear tyres has grip. The locking diff’s biggest advantage, though, is how it allows you to use minimal throttle, and that gives you a lot of control. With an open diff Thar, you generally have to rev it, use all the momentum you have and attack obstacles. While that looks dramatic, I prefer the locking diff’s way of making obstacle crossings look calm and unstressed (which is how it should be).
ARTICULATION: There are complaints about the front suspension's articulation, but the rear mostly makes up for it.
Even a locking diff can’t help in deep slush though — the Thar digs in with its transverse front suspension arms and then beaches itself. At that point, it’s time to use the winch.
The last couple of months have been unbelievably fun. With the tail-end of monsoon upon us, the off-road community in Mumbai were busy making the most of what was left of the slush. So most Saturday nights (for a night off-road session) or Sunday mornings, the Thar and I would be on the outskirts of Mumbai, slinging mud with other Thars, MMs and Gypsys. Continued..
It’s been great fun in Mumbai as well, as many a rickshaw and taxi will testify. When the roads flooded, I’ve lent a helping hand to those hapless modes of public transport by pushing them out of deep water. The Thar’s snorkel even allowed me to wade through bonnet-deep water under flyovers and beat the chaos that was on them.
Our time with it is up though, and I have a few things to tell you. First, it is stronger than most of the old-school off-road community would lead you to believe. Second, it has a whole breadth of abilities — after carefully abusing it for 28,000km, I can vouch for this.
LOCKING DIFFERENTIAL: THe Lamda manual locking diff seriously improved off-road prowess.
I’ve drowned it (before the snorkel was installed), hammered it over rocks, got it stuck axle-deep in mud, jumped it over crests, tackled impossible terrain, terrified rickshaw drivers and even spent three weeks driving it to the end of India and back.
Through the rigours of off-roading, I’ve broken the steering rack, knocked mirrors off on trees, pulled the exhaust pipe clear off its mounts and knocked the gearbox out of alignment a few times. A few days in the workshop for some inexpensive repairs was all it took to get the Thar back to fighting fit. In fact, most of the time, all I’ve had to do after an OTR session was budget Rs 1000 for a wash (inside and out) and Rs 650 for a new pair of horns. They keep drowning because of their silly placement behind the front bumper. Continued..
Small things like this make me think Mahindra didn’t really think things out when they engineered the Thar. The mix and match of Scorpio and Bolero for the engine, chassis and rear suspension has a downside — the components weren’t really designed for the stresses of off-roading. I spoke to Mahindra about this and they say that engineering specific parts for the Thar would demand re-homologation, and that would in turn push the price further up. Still, I feel Mahindra should go the distance, spend the money and build an even more capable Thar. The company’s heritage lies in rugged Jeeps (not sure if I can call a Thar a Jeep anymore) and Mahindra owes it to itself to make an off-roader that no one can complain about.
For the next Thar, Mahindra needs to look at a few things. Apart from the horns, they need to mount the ECU higher, figure out how to have a flatter underside (to make it less prone to damage) and properly seal the electricals from the elements — driving through deep water drowned the starter motor and I had to rebuild it, albeit for an admittedly inexpensive Rs 3000.
One thing is for sure, despite its limitations in everyday use, the biggest of which was the inability to secure its interiors when I left it parked somewhere (soft top, remember), the Thar has undoubtedly been the most interesting long-termer I have ever used.
Mahindra Thar CRDe
Price Rs 8.51lakh (on-road, Mumbai)
Test economy: 10.6kpl
Rs 2600 (four sets of horns),
Rs 3000 to rebuild starter motor,
Rs 4000 (post-OTR wash x 4)
Faults: Starter motor drowned