Intro: The Thar comes with a lot of badges but the most well versed identity is that of being India’s most seasoned off-roader. It embodies the spirit of the original Jeep and is not shy of proclaiming freedom, which is why we got first glimpses of the car on India’s Independence day. First impressions, it looks more modern and bigger than the outgoing model. Also, that it resembles the Jeep Wrangler surely speaks of the rich heritage it is coming from. Everything on the 2020 Thar is brand new, there are no carry-overs from the previous generation Thar. The Thar will also feature Mahindra’s latest engines, a 152 hp, 2.0 litre, direct injection turbo petrol and 132 hp, 2.2 litre diesel. What stands out the most is the way the new Thar looks, although more modern, it still retains the classic look.
Interior: The Thar no longer sports that dated cabin, replacing it is a modern cabin that houses a touch screen, and a new dash which looks very modern. The quality of materials and fit and finish is a huge improvement over the previous gen Thar. Below the chunky centre console are buttons and switch gears that are very easy to operate. There is a storage space below the centre console and the buttons for the power windows are placed between the two front seats, the reason being that the doors are removable. In front of the front passenger is a nice and chunky grab handle and a metallic plaque. There is also a glove box to store smaller items. Also featuring in the Thar are steering mounted controls to operate the infotainment system, there is also cruise control, but the instrument cluster looks pretty ordinary. Front seats are large and offer Lumbar support on the LX trim. Getting into the back seats is not easy. It means you have to squeeze your way to the back seat. At the back, forward facing seats are a first for the Thar, but it can seat only two. It is not particularly comfortable at the back. However you do get decent legroom, but the low seating compromises on comfort. The Thar will be offered both as a hard top and a removable soft top, there is also a permanent soft top available too. The soft top becomes noisy when you go past 60 km/h, and zoom past 100 and the sound does feel bothersome. The hard top is the desirable option if you want to cut out cabin noise. The new Thar has a permanent roll-over bar at the B-pillar, it also gets – Hill Hold, Hill-Descent Control, and a tyre pressure monitoring system. It also houses a 7.0 inch infotainment system, which comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The new Thar will come in two variants – AX and LX. The AX trim will come with – fixed soft top, side-facing rear seats, 16-inch white steel wheels, a mechanical locking differential, power windows, power steering, a manual air-con, central locking and rear parking sensors. The LX on the other hand will offer more creature comforts like an 8-way adjustable driver’s seat, the 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system and LED DRLs. You’ll also find dual-tone bumpers, fog lamps, ESP, the tyre pressure monitoring system and 18-inch alloy wheels shod with 255/65 R18 all-terrain tyres on this version. The LX gets a choice of petrol-auto, diesel-manual and diesel-automatic powertrains, and of a convertible soft-top or hard top.
Engine: The biggest surprise comes under the hood, the 2020 Thar has a 2.0 litre, ‘mStallion’turbo-petrol engine, seen for the first time under the Thar’s hood. It is a fantastic engine that can push the heavy Thar like a hot hatch, thanks to the fantastic response from the engine. On part throttle, the Thar feels very spirited reminding you that it has a surplus of power. At full throttle, you will notice a lag because it takes a little time for the Turbo to kick in. The engine is not tuned for high-end performance, but that’s okay bearing in mind that the Thar is an off-roader. The 6-speed Aisin automatic ensures that shifts are smooth, at full throttle the shifts might be delayed but give it some time and upshifts are rather smooth.
The diesel engine is all-new and brings in an all new range of diesel powered Mahindra’s. The 2.2 mHawk in the Thar churns out 132 hp and 300 Nm of torque. The torque spread is generous, it pulls very well from the 1,000 rpm mark. There is no sudden spike of power, the engine is refined too, and only when you rev it past the 3,000 mark will you hear the diesel clatter. The 6-speed manual has a light shift, and the large torque spread allows you to change gears lazily. Both the petrol and the diesel, get a 4×4 gear, with a low ratio transfer gearbox for serious off-roading. The beefed up suspension ensures that the Thar be used for urban commuting as well, although it can zoom past udulations and potholes, it can leave passengers unsettled at sharp corners.
Verdict: The country awaits to know how the 2020 Thar performs off-road which is the Thar’s major strong hold. But the major take-away is how the Thar has moved on from being a no-frill off-roader to a lifestyle product. Enthusiasts are eager to know how this new Thar will be positioned and come October 2nd the prices also will be known.