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Old 5th January 2011, 17:55   #1
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Default Mahindra Thar : Test Drive & Review

The Mahindra Thar CRDe has been launched in India at a price of 5.99 lakhs (ex-Delhi).

What you'll like:

• Retro Jeep styling. Butch design & image
• Solid combination of engine, gearbox & chassis
• Oodles of power & torque for effortless highway cruising
• Nippy power steering & zero turbo-lag make light work of driving in the city
• Comfortable ride quality. Stays compliant even on bad roads & jungle trails
• Manual 4x4 shift. Offroad competency will exceed needs of most owners
• A Jeep with warranty, parts & labour support from authorised service stations

What you won't:

• Cheap, appalling interior quality. Fit, finish and rough edges are a let down
• Absence of lockable hardtop makes the Thar impractical for daily use
• Complicated front IFS has offroad limitations. Expensive to repair if damaged
• Driver ergonomics messed up (pedal position, off-center steering etc.)
• Nervous steering feel over 100 kph
• Limited potential for offroad modifications due to independent front suspension
• Inconsistent M&M service support & understanding of 4x4 Jeeps



NOTE: This test report has been jointly compiled by Khan_Sultan and Tejas@perioimpl

Last edited by GTO : 21st August 2013 at 12:06. Reason: Air-con now available
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Old 5th January 2011, 17:56   #2
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Default Mahindra Thar : Test Drive & Review





The experience of buying & owning a brand new Jeep is something not many of us can relate to, though a lot of BHPians have threads on building one. After all, it has been quite a while since the MM540 was sold to civilians. Predictably, when the inklings of a new Jeep, claimed to be a worthy successor to the MM540 lineage, came out in the open, it created tremendous expectation, anxiety, debate, hope and even headache. Surely a kind of buzz that few cars in recent automotive history have created. Jeeps touch the emotional chord in the same way as perhaps, an Indo-Pak cricket match.



The Thar has the promise of bringing an "adventure experience" to customers at an affordable price point. The only real competition to this Mahindra is from the Gypsy. But then, the Gypsy doesn't offer a diesel engine, power steering or decent ride quality. Mahindra is casting the net rather wide in terms of the potential market for this enigmatic 4x4. The target segment includes, but is not limited to:
  • Offroaders who couldn't buy a new 4x4 Jeep earlier
  • The fan who wants an offroad + highway Jeep. Combined
  • Those who need a rugged workhorse for farms, bad roads and jungle trails
  • Enthusiasts who'd like to own a Jeep without the associated headache
  • Newbie offroaders who lacked the time / knowledge / resources to build a Jeep
  • Urban youth who desire a ‘lifestyle’ vehicle
  • Adventurous folk who need a second or third car for their weekend trips
  • People who are magically drawn toward anything to do with a Jeep
The Thar is actually quite versatile and would be perfectly at ease here.....


Here, doing what no other Jeep has done before; eating up highways for breakfast, lunch and dinner:


And here also. Though admittedly, to an extent:


The first thing you notice when you lay your eyes on the Thar is the legendary Jeep styling, the purposeful front stance and a generous helping of chrome. The Thar looks best in metallic shades as they effectively hide the surface imperfections of the antique MM540 derived body shell. A black Thar can look dull, and makes the imperfections too obvious, especially on the RHS of the body. A stock Thar is no chick magnet, but instead made the heads of hot blooded males turn!




Alongside the Classic:


The Thar will not look out of place sharing your driveway with a Fortuner:


That's the Adventure version. Notice its recessed headlamps:


The Adventure wears 31" tyres and has a higher GC (Tejas is showing the difference via his hand position). The clearance between the wheel arches & tyres is substantially more in the Adventure version:


From an offroader's perspective, you can't help but smile upon noticing the rear bumpers, rear foot steps, the side steps and billboard size rear number plate. They won't last more than 10 minutes into a trail:






The Thar is shod with 235/70 R16 H/T tyres. The OEM alloys aren't meaty enough, and don't enhance the Thar's stance at all:


The underbody is pleasantly clean. Not too many unnecessary bits protruding out. Fuel tank is protected:


The Thar's ground clearance measured at various points:










Shocking absence of a sump guard:
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Old 5th January 2011, 17:57   #3
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Default Mahindra Thar : Test Drive & Review

The wide-opening doors make for a comfortable entry and exit. Climb into the Thar, and the first thing you notice is the off-center steering wheel that forces you to hold it with your hands slightly toward the left. I liked the feeling of spaciousness in the cabin, as well as the commanding view from the driver’s seat. If you pull the seats all the way back, there is acres of space for both, the driver and the co-passenger:


On the flip side, it's tricky to find a perfect driving position. If you slide the seat behind, you'll be stretching out for the steering wheel & gear lever. If, instead, you slide the seat forward, you will have to uncomfortably bend your knees:


There is no place to rest your left leg while driving. The lack of a dead pedal, curves on the sides of the footwell and an intrusive 4x4 lever are to blame here. You have no option but to uncomfortably rest your foot in front of the clutch. Or ride it!!


Overall interior quality is a BIG letdown. The pictures really don't do justice; you have to experience the Thar in person to realize how cheap they are. The moment you look at the dashboard, you refuse to believe that a manufacturer in today's age will give such shoddy interiors in a lifestyle vehicle. All the enthusiasm & excitement I had after appreciating the Thar from the outside, gives way to disappointment on the inside. It's not just the design that's an issue, but also the pathetic quality of parts used. At 6 lakh rupees ex-showroom, without an air-conditioner & hard top, the Thar isn't cheap. Yet, it's bettered by 3 lakh rupee hatchbacks in terms of interior fit, finish and quality. If ever there is a 'recall' on cheap interiors, the Thar will be on top of the list.

Mahindra needs to get its act together and focus on giving a lifestyle product the quality that it deserves:


The front seats have a long fore-and-aft adjustment range. No legroom issues even for those over 6 ft in height. The cushioning is adequate, though under thigh support is poor. This leads to fatigue of the right leg & foot over long drives. Back rest support is strictly average. Thankfully, the headrests are adjustable for height. The awesomely supportive seats of the erstwhile Mahindra Classic would be well-suited to the Thar:


The basic instrument cluster does the job. The MID houses 2 trip meters. Though indicators for 4x4 High / Low are provided, they didn't function throughout our test drive. The tachometer is a welcome addition to the console, but the redline marker for this revv-happy engine is missing. For the record, the engine revvs freely to 4,800 rpm:


The position of the left indicator stalk takes the cake!


The 4x4 Borg Warner manual shifter. We offroaders prefer a manual lever to the rotary-switch type control. Music player console is an obstruction:


Maze of wires in the passenger footwell:


The glove-box has pathetic build quality. It's held together by a plasticky rivet and pops out at the slightest force. No, its not lockable either:




Lockable toolbox under the passenger seat is welcome:


Panel gaps & hacksaw-cut plastic parts disappoint. You wonder if these will cut your fingers one day...


Seatbelt roller mechanism is not protected (or closed). Wonder how long it will last with all the dirt, mud and muck from OTRs. Flimsy plastic cover just pops out when the seatbelt is being rolled:


The rear seats. One behind the driver is shorter than the other. No ways can they (together) accommodate 5. Best fit is 3 passengers at the rear. I suppose many Thar owners will replace these with a single forward-facing seat:


The protruding springs, from the underside of either seat, are a safety hazard. Be cautious else you will get hurt:




Wonder how long the flimsy window roller will last. It takes some effort to roll the windows up. Do this 10 times a day and you are done with your daily quota of exercising:


The roll-over bar's height is below the B pillar and thus, in the event of a roll-over, the vehicle's weight won't come on it. The roll bar is attached to the B pillar with an improvised bracket to prevent vibrations:
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Old 5th January 2011, 17:58   #4
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Default Mahindra Thar : Test Drive & Review

ON-Road Performance

Many a times, one is drawn to a car for one reason, only to be pleasantly surprised by the product excelling in another; could be one you didn't expect it to. The same is the case with the Thar. It is city driving, highway runs & bad road conditions that this vehicle truly excels in. Believe me, it will put a wide grin on your face. The Thar is unlike any other Mahindra Jeep you have driven. It is an extremely powerful, rattle free, vibration free, silent Jeep on the road.



There is no doubt that the best part of the Thar lies under the hood. The engine is a gem churning out 104 BHP and 247 Nm of torque (starting from 1,800 rpm). Interestingly, the cubic capacity & the bore / stroke of the NEF engine block are the same as that of the XD3P (2498 cc and 94 / 90 mm). However, this is where the similarities end. The two are as different as chalk and cheese, this is evident the moment you switch the CRDe on. The Thar's common-rail diesel is smooth and silent. Little engine noise is audible inside the cabin despite the lack of sound damping under the bonnet. Over regular city / highway driving, the engine is barely audible to the driver. The Thar is one of the very few open vehicles that you can have a conversation in, comfortably, without shouting yourself hoarse.



Running a length of 3,920 mm & width of 1710 mm, the Thar is shorter than several hatchbacks (it’s shorter than the shortest sedan – the Indigo CS), and exactly as wide as an i20. These proportions, combined with the 104 horses, endless torque and minimal turbo lag make it a super fun-to-drive city car. The NGT 530R V4 gearbox slots nicely, while the nifty and responsive power steering makes maneuvering in traffic a breeze. The front IFS soaks bumps and potholes nicely. Even the handling is not something you will complain about. The whole mechanical package of the Thar seems to come together beautifully, working in harmony towards making your daily driving a pleasure. In fact, the Thar is such fun to drive (by Jeep standards) that you will have a tough time keeping your right foot off the accelerator pedal.

Relative size comparison with the i20, Indigo CS & Gypsy:


The absence of an A/C & lockable hardtop is a weak point and are sorely missed in our hot, dusty Indian driving conditions. These two factors, along with the appalling interiors, are deal breakers in what could have been a perfect, sensible replacement for your existing daily-drive car.

On the highway, the Thar can eat tarmac whole day long without complaining. Yes, you can even cruise at 3 digit speeds for hours on end. The 1st gear is good till 40 kph, 2nd 60, 3rd 80, 4th 120 and the 5th will max out at 140 kph. The steering is light & overtaking is a breeze, with power available at the slightest tap of the accelerator as long you are in the power band (~ 1800+ RPM). Body roll, though present, is negligible & very controllable. We tried to induce body roll by moving the steering aggressively at speed. Still, the Thar stayed reasonably firm. The single fly-in-the-ointment at expressway speeds is the steering. It's not confidence inspiring at all and feels super-light. Even a slight twitch will make the vehicle change direction.

The Thar is a superb platform to build your great cross country tourer on. It will allow you to do things you couldn’t have dreamt of in the older Jeeps. For example, traveling without fear (of breakdowns & overheating) or fatigue over long distances. The Thar will encourage you to travel to far flung places without having to perform an endless list of preventive checkups (as in the case of previous generation Jeeps). Just take the keys, get a full tank of diesel and you are ready for your adventure in the countryside. We drove quite a lot on dirt roads, gravel tracks, broken interior village roads and the Thar was shining in all of these conditions. The Thar's braking ability is par for the course and does the job. Note that front-end dive is pronounced under braking. This was noticeable at all speeds, even in the city.

The independent front suspension keeps your ride smooth:


Nifty, responsive power steering mechanism:


Thar as seen from an ORVM. Looks impressive. We noticed that other road users usually gave way to a fast approaching Jeep:

Last edited by GTO : 19th January 2011 at 09:02. Reason: IndigoCS = Indigo CS
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Old 5th January 2011, 17:59   #5
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Default Mahindra Thar : Test Drive & Review

OFF-Road Performance

If you are a Jeeper, the first thing you will notice after engaging 4x4L is the absence of the old school Jeep's "torque wall" hitting you. The Thar doesn't feel like a diesel Jeep in 4x4L mode at all. It actually feels like a stock gypsy with lot more power. The crawling speed of the Thar is a lot faster than the MM540's and as a Jeeper, you don't feel comfortable over obstacles that require a tick over/precise movement & placement of the wheels. With a 4.3 differential ratio, the crawl ratio of the Thar is ~40 compared to the ~48 of the MM540. Even with a 4.88 differential, the crawl ratio of the Thar would come to ~45 (less than that of the MM540).



Comparison for approach, departure & break over angles:


We tried doing the EXAMM day 1 (Click here to know more about the EXAMM (EXAMM/AKC - A Passenger's report)) first obstacle. Tejas made it look easy with the Thar. I was next. The Thar was lifting the wheels due to lack of articulation, and the open diff had the wheels spinning. In the end, Tejas did it again using the Thar's brute power. Some amount of pitching (and the front end dipping) was noticed here.





Video of the same obstacle:


Video from the 2010 EXAMM OTR for comparison. Do notice the stance of the vehicle that came there, vis a vis the production Thar:


The continuous back-and-forth resulted in the useless bits getting bent (rear bumpers & steps mainly):




We moved on to the long descent of the EXAMM day 1, and did a timed 'NO ABC' crawl of both, the Thar and the Classic one by one. Either Jeep used 1st low for the descent. Here is a video showing the side by side comparison:


It is in the long climbs & ascents that the Thar shows it's true colors. With the sheer power & torque, it can go on and on. Read = Even after the old school Jeeps have given up gasping for breath. There is power available at the slightest tap of the accelerator pedal. We did the EXAMM day 1 long ascent (the descent in reverse) and the Thar was a lot smoother than the Classic accompanying us:


Testing in slush was next on my agenda. However, with the stock H/T tread tyres, we were wary of the Thar in slush. Our fears came true when it got stuck and had to be rescued by the Classic. With better tyres, the Thar should do a lot better in slush. However, one has to be careful of rocks hitting the IFS:



Oooppssss... one needs to be extra cautious. This does play at the back of your head:






Time to be pulled out by it's big brother, the Classic:




CAUTION 1: In a 4x4 Scorpio, with the front wheels stuck, the ease of the power steering can cause severe stresses on the front CV Joints. These are known to snap. The Thar shares a similar setup and one needs to be very careful.

CAUTION 2: The Thar with it's sheer power & torque can take off on short climbs with the front wheels in the air!! The landing back on surface can cause damage to IFS aggregates.

Our first 4x4 outing with the Thar had left us with mixed feelings and a realization that most of the time, it is the sheer power of the Thar that will overcome obstacles. Is that the best way to handle all terrains? What about slow & precise boulder crawling? What about the articulation? On the second day, we found a place to test out the IFS articulation. Baby boulders were up first.

For crawling over boulders, you need precise control over where your wheels are and tick-over crawl speeds. With a "NO ABC" approach, we were not able to crawl and place the Thar wheels where we wanted. The crawl speed of the Thar was simply too much. However, when we started controlling the crawl speed using the clutch, we were somehow able to pinpoint the vehicle to the exact spots & desired speed. Using just the brakes (and no clutch) did not yield the same results. Is crawling using the clutch a good option? I leave that to you to decide, but it's certainly not something that comes naturally to Jeepers. Gypsy owners? Probably.







We felt that the Thar should articulate more, and this made us test her out on another mud mound. This mound maxed out the IFS articulation capabilities of the Thar:








Notice how the leaf springs are flexing:


Front tyre rendered immovable:


The maxxed-out rear shocks:





We also took the Thar to a dry river bed and here is the video.


4WD H slush run in a lakebed


The Thar can do more than 90% of the current Indian off-road trails 90% of the time, and that should be good enough for most Thar owners. Purist & hardcore off-roaders may find several shortcomings in the Thar, but this 4x4 is not aimed at the minuscule number of diehard offroaders either. For them, the Thar MDI platform could be an option, or there always is the existing route of building a customized 4x4.

Look at the brighter side: If you don't care about warranty & can afford the repair bills, you can drive straight to a Mahindra service station, after the OTR, and ask them to fix things. No longer waiting for that elusive nut/bolt combination (as you had to for old school Jeeps).

So, is the Thar a good platform to build your monster offroader on? Looking from a practical angle, maybe not! The cost & resources available to modify & strengthen the IFS, capability to add lift, fit in bigger tyres, lockable differentials & increase front articulation are still not clear.

On the other hand, and again, the Thar will easily meet or exceed the offroading needs of most of its buyers (that's 90% of the target segment). It is in the balance of superb on-road performance + acceptable offroad skill that the Thar is king.

Last edited by khan_sultan : 5th January 2011 at 23:55.
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Old 5th January 2011, 18:00   #6
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Default Mahindra Thar : Test Drive & Review

The Smaller yet Significant Things:

The Thar comes with breather pipes for both, the front as well as rear diffs:




The stock air intake pipe position is perfectly suited to 'suck' in water. The fender below that has no cladding, & the visible panel gaps, will allow water in while splashing:


The inside of the front wheel arches has a 'baggage x-ray' type curtain to prevent muck from coming into the engine bay:


Sharing parts from the family siblings should have resulted in keeping the ex-showroom costs down. Or providing an A/C & hardtop at this price point:


The 'For Export' labels on the underside:


The wipers behave like that of a 'true jeep' and don't come back to the 'zero' position after switching them off:


A/C readiness and dummy attachment will make way for the air-con parts:


The only cubby holes that you get are 2 ashtrays on the driver and passenger side (can’t be removed for cleaning). Cigarette lighter is missing:


The hard-to-reach rear tailgate opener:


Recessed rear seats (to make way for the rear rollbar) further reduce knee / leg area for rear passengers:


Carpeting inside the vehicle & engine bay firewall will retain water like crazy. As most Classic owners did, remove them on delivery


Front windshield doesn't fold down. Although hinges are provided, the front windscreen helps hold the dashboard in place via an "adapter" plate (which is crudely camouflaged with a rubberized beading cover that keeps coming off):


The clutch slave pipe / mount is protruding below the chassis. Question of 'when' and not 'if' for it to get damaged in off-roading:
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Old 5th January 2011, 18:02   #7
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Default Mahindra Thar : Test Drive & Review

Other Points:
  • By the end of day 2 of our test drive, we could hear the odd rattle from the door panels, and also a squeaking noise from the underbody. It felt like a Jeep then & there. Here is the video:
  • There is no MLD (locking diffs) for the Thar as yet, not even as an accessory.
  • An immobilizer should be provided along with the Thar, considering that it is an open / soft-top vehicle.
  • The auto locking hubs engage with a distinctive ‘click’ sound when you engage 4WD.
  • Handbrake is extremely hard to use, and barely has an inch of travel.
  • The horn is pathetic. Sometimes you don’t know if it’s you honking or a small car near you.
  • AC vents can be completely closed. Helpful in OTR situations where you do not want dirt clogging the plumbing up.
  • Surprisingly, no drain holes provided. We searched very hard, yet could not find a single one.
  • The front & rear axles of the Thar are rated for 1100/1700 Kgs respectively, compared to 907/1134 Kgs for the MM540.
  • On a lighter note, the Thar kept us waiting for a long time. So much so that a BHPian went ahead & created this MUST-WATCH Video :

Last edited by GTO : 6th January 2011 at 19:58. Reason: Adding a fun Thar Video
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Old 5th January 2011, 18:03   #8
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Default Mahindra Thar : Test Drive & Review

Quick Comparison with the MM540:

Comparisons to the legendary MM540 are inevitable, but we need to understand that the Thar is NOT an MM540 with a CRDe engine. The body shell design & dimensions are the only things it carries over from the 540. The engine, chassis, gearbox, suspension, transfer case, axles, braking and cooling system are all different from the 540s of the bygone era.

The 540 body shell has been mounted onto the Thar chassis by adding new mounting points to the shell. Getting ideas for that NGCS Chassis!


The rear leaf perches:


And here is the lowdown on a few critical areas on how the Thar compares with the legendary 540:
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Old 5th January 2011, 18:03   #9
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Default Re: Mahindra Thar : Test Drive & Review

Khan & Tejas : Lets get one thing out of the way....I am BLOWN away at the attention-to-detail in your Thar review! The way that you guys were preparing for the test-drive was an indication of things to come, yet the end product is at a completely different level. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your unbiased, straight-forward take on M&M's new 4x4. Thanks for this one, guys. Rating the thread a well-deserved 5 stars.

I've already commented what I think of the Thar in other threads, nevertheless here goes:

PRICE: I still think that the Thar is well-priced. For a mere 70,000 over the Gypsy, I get a diesel engine + power steering + better ride quality. C'mon, you really can't expect a modern Jeep with a common-rail engine for less than 5.99 lakhs ex-showroom.

On-Road behaviour:I've driven the Thar only on tarmac and completely agree with your views. She drives like no other Jeep. In fact, she drives even better than the Scorpio (lesser body roll). Stunning engine, zero turbo-lag, nippy power steering, F-A-S-T (by Jeep standards) and feels great even at 100 kph. What pleasantly surprised me is the ride quality, including on the back seat. Fact is, the Thar is 10 times easier to live with, compared to previous generation Jeeps.

Off-road behaviour: I don't think either of you, or Arka, will be happy with the Thar's offroad performance. However, I do think that the Thar has more offroad capability than 95% of its owners will ever subject her to. Needless to say, her 4x4 skills will be more than enough for 950 out of every 1,000 Thar buyers out there.

What I DON'T Like: Front IFS + potential repair bills, driver ergonomics and interior part quality. I can live with the ergonomics (used to the Classic) but the interiors are INEXPLICABLE. @ Mahindra : PLEASE sort this out. You'll be breaking a lot of deals in your showrooms.

If I didn't have a Classic in my garage, I would have already made a downpayment on the Thar. But between the two, it's the Classic for me anyday.

What the Thar offers (in terms of onroad + offroad balance) simply doesn't exist in the market today. As an offroader, I'm just glad to see that the Thar finally made it. End of the day, owning a Jeep is owning a Jeep. To those who don't....well, it's a Jeep thing. You'll never understand . Give me a Thar over any 6 lakh rupee hatchback or sedan any which day.

Last edited by GTO : 6th January 2011 at 09:56.
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Old 5th January 2011, 18:18   #10
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Default Re: Mahindra Thar : Test Drive & Review

Amazing report as usual even though I am not an enthusiast after reading all that I feel like ditching a hatchback and going for this considering it is easy to use it in the city as it has a hatchback like dimension.. Will go and surely TD this before buying a hatchback

I do know that there are few things missing but owning a jeep has always been there at the back of my mind.. Rating the thread a well deserved 5 star..

Just one question.. How is the turning radius of the car??

Last edited by psbali : 5th January 2011 at 18:23. Reason: General
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Old 5th January 2011, 18:20   #11
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Default Re: Mahindra Thar : Test Drive & Review

This is the most comprehensive review, even by Team-BHP standards. Answers most of the questions that were lurking in our minds. Great job, Khan and Tejas.

Sending the most famous Gypsy owner along with a mad-mad-mad Jeeper to review Thar is a masterstroke.

PS: Some said diesel tank didn't have lock, but I see the keyhole in the diesel tank cap.
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Old 5th January 2011, 18:23   #12
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Default Re: Mahindra Thar : Test Drive & Review

Amazingly detailed review. The amount of torture the vehicle has undergone shows the comprehensive nature of the test and feedback!

Thumbs up!
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Old 5th January 2011, 18:25   #13
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Default Re: Mahindra Thar : Test Drive & Review

What a fantastic review Khan and Tejas. One of the best and detailed reviews so far on the forum. Though Im a newbie when it comes to off roading terms, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Super attention to detail.

I like the way the Thar looks and the CRDe unit must have provided adequate juice. But after seeing the picture of the Classic and Thar together, I must say that the Classic still hold its own even today

Rating this review 5 stars.
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Old 5th January 2011, 18:26   #14
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Default Re: Mahindra Thar : Test Drive & Review

Somebody has warned me against making any comments on this report, so i will keep quite naaaaaaaaaahhhhhh.

Khan saab & Doc very detailed and well written review! Atleast for me lot of unanswered questions were taken care by this report! I think i will also pen my logical conclusion to the Dilemma Thread in a day or two.

For me as a general buyer (keeping the offroader in me away), when i visit the showroom, i expect few things minimum, if i have to sign a cheque for 7.3 lakhs. Phew!

- Good quality interiors, either old school bare bone stuff. If thats not possible according to CMVR, give me decent plastics, similar to that comes in hatch's
- AC (make this a wish list, but still at this price??)
- Hard/er top which can be locked

Once again superb job! Let the thunder begin!

Last edited by Jaggu : 5th January 2011 at 18:29.
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Old 5th January 2011, 18:32   #15
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Default Re: Mahindra Thar : Test Drive & Review

Awesome review King and Tejas! This should define the Thar for what it truly represents, after an elongated pregnant wait.

Last edited by theMAG : 5th January 2011 at 18:37.
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