The Mahindra Thar is a cult icon. It has made off-roading accessible to a large number of people. The Thar’s off-road with the practicality that it affords makes it an unusual SUV. With the 2020 iteration, Mahindra has pushed the envelope further. The all-new Mahindra Thar is now even more accomplished when it comes to its sheer off-road capability, and also when it comes to just how usable it is for the daily commute. To drive home the point, Mahindra recently invited us to chronicle the off-road driving experience of a clutch of social media stars. And in the process, we could examine it all from close quarters too. Here’s what transpired on an epic day with Mahindra’s Thars.
We started the day with introductions, and were soon in the company of social media stars who would later be experiencing the Thar in its natural habitat. Prince Narula, winner of MTV Roadies 12, MTV Splitsvilla 8, Bigg Boss 9, and Nach Baliye 9, was easily the most gung-ho about the prospect of getting behind the wheel of the Mahindra Thar at Mahindra’s Off-Road Training Academy in Igatpuri. His experience doing so in the past and even taking on similar challenges while competing in Roadies made him all the more excited for what lay ahead. Actors Diganth Manchale and Aindrita Ray took the reins of one of the Thars, and swapped driving duties with each other. While Manchale was a bit of a driving nut having spent quite some time taking on the trails in Coorg and Chikmagalur, Aindrita hadn’t really driven off-road yet. A third Thar was commandeered by Prachi and Harsh, two halves of the @twoticketstofreedom duo. As travel enthusiasts, they had taken up some really unique experiences, but this was the first time either of them was getting behind the wheel to do some off-roading.
As soon as we hit the road, the differences between the current model and the last-generation model were evident. With the 2020 version, the Thar is incredibly good on road, unbelievably so. While there the option of a petrol and a diesel engine, we were in Thars powered by the 2.0-litre turbocharged, petrol units. Mahindra calls these engines mStallions, and they feature TGDI technology. What’s truly remarkable is how refined these engines are while delivering loads of power — 150hp to be precise. A spirited drive through Kasara ghat ensued, and we were at our destination soon enough. Our stars were briefed on the off-road ability of the Thars, and the dos and don’ts of off-roading. We were given a rundown of the obstacles that we would be tackling, and would also be on hand should the participants find themselves in a pickle.
After the briefing, it was time to put the Thars into 4Low and head on to the first obstacle course — the ‘Home Run’. Beginning with a very steep downward slope that leads into a trail, the course then demands a hairpin that tests the wheel articulation of the SUV with a large ditch for the right wheel as it comes up the incline. The instructions were clear — put the Thar into first gear and let it roll forward, do not touch any of the pedals, the Thar will do the descent at a controlled speed. Narula ventured into the track, and was able to easily deal with the first half of the course. As the hairpin began, he took a less than ideal (but arguably more fun) line employing a bit of throttle to get him through. Manchale and Ray took on the next, with Manchale behind the wheel. The Thar made easy work of the course, and Manchale even took a tighter line around the hairpin and emerged on the other side with very little throttle required. Ray, sensing the amount of fun to be had behind the wheel, asked to switch and did the course like a boss, beaming with pride. Prachi and Harsh then drove their Thar towards the course. They were a bit more nervous to begin with, but were very deliberate with their inputs, especially Prachi, resulting in them navigating the course rather smoothly.
With the first obstacle out of the way, it was time to take on the challenge of the Zig-Zag Hill. It’s named probably because of the zig-zag motion the steering wheel is put through while venturing up the steep climb especially during the monsoons. To add a bit more excitement to the mix, it was announced that we would see participants doing the course in both directions. The Zig-Zag Hill comprises a steep ascent, paired with large ditches created by years of SUVs trying to go up the hill with the surface resembling a slush pit. As soon as you make your way to the top of the hill, you have to make a sharp left turn — it often turns into a three-point turn — and then let the Thar go down into a deep ditch before you make your way down finishing where you started. The obstacle, when taken from the left, does not require much throttle inputs but does require careful manoeuvring. Taken from the right, however, the sharpness of the ascent makes it impossible to make it without throttle inputs. All the participants found the going harder than the first obstacle, but were able to surmount any teething difficulties rather easily.
As the day drew to a close, one thing was evident. The Thar is equipped like few other SUVs when it comes to tackling off-road terrain. Photos simply don’t do justice to how daunting some of the sections of the obstacle course were. Yet, the Thar made it accessible and easy even for people who were off-roading for the very first time. That, in itself, makes the Mahindra Thar an ideal lifestyle SUV for those looking to explore the unexplored while being in relative comfort.