Mahindra Thar’s Off-Road Adventure With The Stars
A collection of stars #ExploreTheImpossible with the 4×4 Mahindra Thar at the company’s off-road training academy at Igatpuri
For most of us, adventure often takes a backseat in our daily lives. And understandably so; the time and commitment required for adventure is hard to carve out of our schedules. For a long time, Mahindra has tried to make it easy for off-roading enthusiasts with its off-road focused SUVs, particularly the Thar. In its newest avatar, the Mahindra Thar is an extremely desirable 4×4 that combines off-road ability with everyday practicality.
To drive home the point, Mahindra invited us to chronicle the off-road driving experience of a clutch of social media stars. And in the process, we could examine the 4×4 from close quarters too. Here’s what transpired on an epic day with Mahindra’s Thars.
We started the day with an early breakfast at a hotel in BKC, Mumbai. Introductions followed and we 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 Bailye 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. While Diganth has been a bit of a driving nut—having spent 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, the two halves of the @twoticketstofreedom duo. As travel enthusiasts, they have been on some really unique adventures, but this was the first time they were getting behind the wheel to do some off-roading.
As preparations began for the flag-off, all eyes were seemingly glued on the Thars. Even a year and a half after it was launched, the public’s interest in it is palpable, almost as if it is a novelty. Mahindra’s design team has to be commended for bringing out what is clearly among the most distinctive looking automobiles in the country. It isn’t just how it stands apart from everything else on our roads, the Thar is a genuinely attractive SUV and you wouldn’t mind looking at it every single day. Mahindra has cleverly retained the silhouette and the characteristic design elements, while bringing the whole visual identity of the Thar into the future. I got a little carried away staring at the Thar, but the flurry of activity around me reminded me that it was time to leave. We buckled ourselves into the Thars and off we went.
As soon as we hit the road, the differences between the current Thar and the last generation model became evident. While the last-gen model did have some serious off-road chops, it wasn’t exactly the most comfortable on the road. With the 2022 version, the Thar is incredibly good on-road, and unbelievably so. Remember, this a 4×4 off-roader with a low-range gearbox. The ride and handling of the Thar has over our not-so-perfect roads has to be felt to be believed.
While there’s 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 even while delivering loads of power–150hp to be precise. In an SUV that is as light and compact as the Thar, those 150 horses coupled with 320Nm of torque can easily bring a smile to your face when you are behind the wheel. And that’s exactly what happened as our social media stars navigated the light early morning traffic out of Mumbai and stretched the legs of the mStallion on the highway to Igatpuri. With their first taste of the new Thar, they were all smiles at the scheduled rest stop at Shahapur.
After a short stop, 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. The Mahindra team at the centre would guide us through the obstacles that we would be tackling and would also be on hand should the participants find themselves in a pickle. I have to mention here that this wasn’t my first time at the off-road academy. I had been there before for the Global Explorer course and was eager to see how the new Thars went about dealing with the obstacles that the course had to offer.
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. Prince volunteered to go first. Mahindra Adventure’s Ryan Lee helped the car line up for the narrow, steep descent. 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. This, I can attest, can be scary thing to do when you are off-roading for the first time as your natural instinct is to brake.
Prince ventured into the track calmly 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. Diganth and Aindrita took on the course next with Diganth behind the wheel. Ryan’s instructions were followed and the Thar made easy work of the course and Diganth even took a tighter line around the hairpin and emerged on the other side with very little throttle required. Aindrita, sensing the amount of fun to be had behind the wheel, asked to switch and took on 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, but that only resulted in them navigating the course rather smoothly.
With the first obstacle out of the way, it was time to take on the next challenge—the ‘Zig-Zag Hill.’ Named possibly because of the zig-zag motion of the steering wheel while venturing up the steep climb and especially during the monsoons, it can be a fairly difficult course. To add a bit more excitement to the mix, Ryan announced that we would see participants doing the course in both directions. The Zig-Zag Hill comprises of a steep ascent paired with large ditches created by years of SUVs trying to go up with the surface resembling a slush pit. With the summer sun beating down on us, it was still a challenge nonetheless.
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.
Prince was the first to give it a go and was smoother this time when it came to his inputs. He was able to manoeuvre through the track easily and found the second iteration of the Zig-Zag hill to be a breeze too. Diganth and Aindrita followed soon after and found that the capabilities of the Thar made the obstacle easier to tackle. Aindrita, who was a little reluctant to get behind the wheel of the Thar on the off-road course, expressed her desire to go on and sample some of the other obstacles on the course as well.
Prachi and Harsh stepped up to the task of taking on the Zig-Zag Hill. Harsh was a little hesitant on the throttle going up, but soon enough he found the perfect amount necessary and sailed through the rest of the course. Prachi, on the other hand, used her experience riding shotgun, and was able to find the right balance very quickly.
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 Mahindra Thar made it accessible and easy even for those 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 also being in relative comfort. It does have a lot going for it. And our social media stars were quick to urge people to take the Thar for a first drive.