What is it?
The Thar has been around for five years now. The recent facelift given to the Thar includes a few cosmetic upgrades on the outside and the addition of a locking differential at the rear.
Up front, the plastic bumper has been designed to clear CMV regulations which state that there cannot be a gap between the front bumper and the body. Owners who had installed spaced-out alloy wheels and off-road tyres on their Thars must have faced the problem of the fenders bending under extreme articulation. This has now also been addressed with scooped-out, wider fenders unless you have gone overboard and used extra large tyres.
The soft-top is also new and made of a different material with better finish and a noticeable forward slant towards the rear. There are new wiper linkages to ensure the wiper blades and motor remain functional (the older car had an issue of the wipers hitting the rubber beading, causing stress to the motor in the long run).
It's a whole lot nicer on the inside, with a new dashboard, the steering wheel from the Bolero, and a lockable glovebox as well. The seats are now from the old Scorpio, which make them more comfortable, the wing mirrors (also from the Bolero) are better, and the instrument panel is new with a backlit odometer.
The dashboard also sits higher and accommodates the front demister to prevent the windscreen from fogging up in wet and cold weather. Also, the position of the steering wheel has been changed. It’s now moved further right, unlike the earlier car which had a slightly left-set wheel. The new steering feels better to hold and the slight shift in position helps the ergonomics as well. However, driving position is still truck-like with the raked steering wheel and high-set pedals, making long journeys quite uncomfortable.
Overall, the quality of materials is now up to Xylo or Quanto levels and it's easier to live with everyday. The quality of plastics on the restyled dash are refreshing, especially for those used to seeing the crude mass of grey on the earlier car. However, this is a far from plush environment but quite a few Thar buyers aren’t expecting many creature comforts either.
What is it like to drive?
With no major changes underneath, the Thar still drives like it used to. The 2.5-litre engine, putting out 105bhp, has enough grunt to pull you over most obstacles, evident by its performance on Mahindra’s off-road track. The addition of the differential lock has made it marginally more capable as the Thar conquers a lot more than before. The Eaton-manufactured differential lock, also used in the export Mahindra Getaways, helps send power to one wheel when the other one is airborne or stuck. However, a centre-diff lock would have added to its capability as the locking differential was of little help while climbing a mucky incline or wading through a slush pit. That said, the course laid-out for us at Mahindra’s off-road academy was not a cakewalk, and our test car shod with Maxxis Bighorn off-road tyres, along with careful driving ensured we didn’t get out of the car even once to push it. But if it were the standard road-biased Bridgestone tyres going through those obstacles, we would have been stuck for a long time. That explains the role of the right tyres while going off-road.
We wish the tiny four-wheel drive lever could have changed places as it is still in the same awkward position and takes some effort to slot in. Also, the five-speed manual gearbox is still not light or easy to use and has an inconsistent feel while slotting into gears.
Should I buy one?
The Thar has always been a functional 4X4 built for real off-roading. Its ability to negotiate rough terrain is genuine, and being tough and durable, it's perfect for the job. An iconic vehicle which has loads of character is now a touch more comfortable to sit in and use as everyday transport. The inclusion of the locking rear differential also makes it a bit more capable. It may not be as practical as a regular SUV, nor is it cheap at Rs 8.03 lakh and Mahindra hasn't really improved it as much as it could have. But as things stand today, the only other serious off-roaders under Rs 10 lakh are the Maruti Gypsy which is nowhere as comfortable on the road and is not available off-the-shelf, and the Force Gurkha which is available only through select dealerships and costs about Rs 40,000 more. So, for those looking for a tough off-roader to use on a daily basis and are willing to accept a few compromises, the Thar is still the best option out there.