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xBhp was born more than 16 years ago and since then we've had a chance to ride or drive hundreds of machines running on two wheels or four wheels, and sometimes even three wheels. We are not done yet, and this list is still growing. In these pages, we take a deep dive in the treasure trove of our ride experiences and bring you all that we have ridden or driven.

Mahindra Thar: Is this the one that can stir a biker’s heart?

Being motorcyclists, we rarely veer towards cars. And the ones that we feel a certain way about are also supercars. But Mahindra Thar is a name that almost every petrolhead worth his salt has heard about. Naturally, that includes us as well. While we have been ‘aware’ of it, we did not pay much heed to it for the most part. That was until now… We recently got to drive the new 2020 Mahindra Thar and while it may be very difficult, we’ll try to sum up our feelings.

Before diving into the first drive experience, here’s a video of the Mahindra Thar with heartfelt words from a biker…

Sometimes it happens that a certain object brings about a halt in your journey, the destination of which you are so eager to reach. An object with a presence so utterly magnetic that you are willing to share with it a chunk of your time, every bit of which you hold so dear. In our case, it has happened both literally and figuratively. Literally in the thousands of kilometres that we have travelled, and figuratively as in the journey of xBhp? Well… right now.

xBhp is all about motorcycles but supercars have always caught our fancy and we have never missed a chance to experience one. But only supercars. The one we have with us is not a supercar in terms of the astronomical power figures and even higher bank balance figures they need. It is a supercar in spirit and that is simply because of the grandeur that it possesses. And the grandeur starts right from the name- Thar! 

Rarely has an indigenous vehicle carved a niche of its own and boasted of following which can be referred to as cult. Ruling the landscapes from treacherous terrains to urban jungles, it has left a mark on the market and the aftermarket as well. It has been a lifestyle icon for quite a while now and the modularity of the platform ensured that the buyers could project some of their own personality through the might of the Mahindra Thar.   

The Thar that we know and adore so much only came out in 2010 but it is much more deep-rooted than that. The spiritual predecessor of the Thar, the very first one, can be traced back to 1949. Mahindra’s first off-roader as they began producing the Willys CJ3A Jeep. And since then, Mahindra has never looked back as they became the premier SUV and off-roading car manufacturer in India with a presence globally pronounced. 

But during their rise to the top, Mahindra never forgot where they started from and kept building on the original Willys Jeep. All the iterations that came afterwards, were synonymous with strength and the ability to deal with tougher terrains than tarmac. There is a reason why it was a perennial law enforcement vehicle. The car itself was enough to enforce the law. Such was its mettle, that armoured versions of it are still in use in the Indian Army. 

But the very first commercial success for this line of cars from Mahindra came with the 1996 Classic. Right after the launch, it became an icon. A true macho car and a staple of Indian pop culture with pronounced and frequent appearances in music videos and in movies. Building on that very success, Mahindra introduced the Thar in 2010 amidst much fanfare. It did all that the Classic did for Mahindra… and then some. 

But time and tide wait for none and no one is immune to the adverse effects of ageing be it man or machine. The Thar was the most popular off-roader in the Indian market for a while but newer, hungrier contestants were already on the prowl. Fortunately, Mahindra did not wait too long to give it the much needed shot in the arm. And so, the prodigal son returns in the form of the 2020 Thar. 

Mahindra has done an amazing job with the new Thar by retaining the silhouette of the original but adding a modern touch to it. The car is wider, looks more poised, the edges have been softened just a little and the wheels… Those 18” wheels with exquisite design and all-terrain tyres scream the intent of the car out loud. 

Mahindra has built this car from the ground up, the design, the chassis, the grill, the engines, the gearboxes, the cabin, the instrumentation… everything is new. And kudos to Mahindra for still being able to salvage almost all of the things that made the previous Thar iconic.

About the colour that we have here, we have only this to say; A car does not choose ‘Red’, ‘Red’ chooses the car. While some may feel that the modern-ness has diluted some of the classic touches, we believe that the car still looks purposeful and deserving of that fabled off-roading capability! 

Step inside the car and it is not a Thar anymore and we mean that as a compliment. In the old Thar, the cabin possessed only bare-essentials and that too… barely. It was very salvation army but the new one… oh no no no. This is a proper car now. But some of it is also variant dependent. There are two, AX and LX. AX is more biased towards off-roading while the LX tries to give you the best of both worlds. 

The LX gets stuff like an 8-way adjustable driver’s seat, a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, LED DRLs, dual-tone bumpers, ESP… and even a tyre pressure monitoring system. In the LX, you have the choice of either a Petrol (Automatic), Diesel (Automatic), and Diesel (Manual) with options for either a soft-top or a hardtop. We have here, the more… Human… Thar. LX with a hardtop and a Diesel Manual. 

The driving fun that we have had in the new Thar is courtesy of the new all-aluminium block 2.2 mHawk engine. 132 bhp and 300 Nm are the official numbers but a brochure can never define a vehicle. The way the new Mahindra Thar drives is exceptional. The spread of torque is even throughout the rev range and the Thar pulls cleanly.

There are no spikes or drops, just clean linear-pull which does not fade till you hit the lofty rev-limit of 4,700 rpm. And it is uncharacteristically refined too for a diesel! Sorcery. The gearbox is not the quickest out there but that much torque tuned for fantastic delivery, you don’t need that.

And now, about the forte, there’s a 4×4 low-ratio transfer gearbox and you know what that is meant for. Serious mud-slinging and we cannot wait to try that. The tarmac is not its natural habitat and yet, it drinks its pride, and the disdain it has towards you for treating it this way and behaves. A truly civil-on-the-road Thar… it is a new day indeed. 

We are loving what we have been able to do with the car so far and we’ll continue having some more fun with it and bring to you more of the 2020 Mahindra Thar. And weirdly enough, even if we have a plethora of cars, and even supercars surrounding us, we may still look to the Thar for the pure, visceral, guttural fun and the dauntless character that it so proudly displays.

After all,  the Thar had a following because it had an attitude and that too in spades. The new one is overflowing with it! Probably that is why it comes with a removable drain plug for the cabin and a drizzle-resistant touchscreen… or maybe, it is for something more rugged and sinister. 

A biker’s car?- Sundeep Gajjar/MotoGrapher

I am a biker and you know, bikers are a little different. We’re a little eccentric and crazy. 

“Biking makes you one with the elements”- we have used this extensively to make fun of those who like cars. But it’s all good, they’re also our brethren, just with two extra wheels. So is there any car which can make me happy? 

Not supercars, I can’t burn a hole through my pocket.I don’t have the capacity to spend crores, and even if I did, I couldn’t possibly take them through mud, dirt and all kinds of terrains. But I don’t like commuter cars either.

I have the world’s fastest bike and I am on the lookout for a car that suits my personality. Something that can go wherever I want, something that can ‘wander at will’. Frankly, I’ve never liked any of the cars made till date, especially Indian made and neither had any car stirred me emotionally.  

There is nothing wrong with them, they’re technically perfect but they’ve all lacked a certain attitude, a character I wanted but could never find- dominating, majestic, tough and badass! A car which wouldn’t look out of place as I step out on the porch of a five-star hotel. A car which I can take out for a ride in the rain. It should look muscular, it should have that attitude. Do you understand what I’m getting at? 

I knew about Thar. I mean it’s next to impossible to be a petrolhead in India and to not know or to not have seen a Thar in real life. It had become a cult, a lifestyle. A lot of my friends, with big cars and big money, also had it. People say that the 4×4 off-roading world is entirely different. I am very far removed from that universe; my world has supercars, superbikes, and gadgets. 

However, Thar is the kind of car that inspires the same admiration from a BMW or Audi owner as from people in the rural areas of India. It is perhaps the only car which bridges the gap between the rich-urban, the middle class and the rural villages and this is a very incredible thing. It isn’t something which can be planned, it’s something that happens on its own and can often take years. 

15th August 2020. I was lost in my own world of fast bikes and supercars. Then, Mahindra dropped a bomb. Thar had only been in my peripheral vision and suddenly, the new Thar became this incredible object of desire. I tell you, it just blew my mind! I’ve never felt a desire to own a car like this except the Lamborghini Aventador or the BMW X6 M. 

But this is within my reach, without breaking the bank, and this car will elevate and complement my personality. Slow clap for Mahindra- you took a cult classic and made it even more beautiful and desirable for the urban millennials.

150 bhp, insane torque, automatic air-conditioning, a big touch screen- it has all the creature comforts. And what can I say about the looks! In the 3 days, half the population on the road went crazy just looking at the car- something that doesn’t happen even with an expensive luxury car. 

Perhaps, it’s because this car is approachable and the person inside, who is driving the car, is deemed to have a certain pleasing, no-nonsense personality that embraces the free independent spirit of the Thar itself. 

It has a tremendous presence on the urban roads, especially the hardtop, and when you take it to the villages, it seems like everyone is your friend. Even the cows and buffaloes feel close to it. In villages across India, people have been enjoying the Thar experience for years. 

So, if you want a technical review, you can find many others. I can only show you its beauty through pictures and tell you how I feel about it as a biker. It goes fast and the ride can feel bumpy but most importantly, it appeals to the biker in me. I swear, there’s no car like this in India. 

If you have 30 lakhs to spare, buy one superbike and then, Thar… The world will be at your feet.

tags
2020 Mahindra Thar
2020 Thar
Mahindra Thar