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Old 15th April 2007, 00:59   #1
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Talking The very first Team-BHP Test Drive of Force Motor's Trax Gama

Oh yeah, you read it right. This is the first test drive report of Force Motor's Trax Gama on Team-BHP. I may not be the best person to do it, but you will have to settle for me for now. That also means, this one will be looong.

I have always been a car person since I got my first car. Although I have driven many minivans and SUVs in USA, none of them ever caught my fancy. I loved driving Jeep Grand Cherokee, but being a tarmac person, I still preferred driving cars with low CG. But things changed since last year, I live in a semi-rural place now, with frequent forays into rural roads. The roads here get absolutely screwed during monsoons and they don't get repaired until November. Last year found me driving Santro more than Baleno since I didn't want to subject the Baleno to these torturous roads. Besides it is easier to pick my way around potholes and puddles using the Santro. In the last few months I have been thinking about switching to a SUV before facing the next monsoon. Besides, my wife has always liked SUVs and their commanding stance.



But why did I bother about Gama when most guys go for Scorpio, Safari and to a lesser extent Bolero? Scorpio and Safari were designed for urbanites with all the luxuries in mind, and also priced as luxury cars. But the quality related niggles I have heard on the forum, I don't want to face them after paying so much money. I need a SUV to actually drive in rural roads, really terrible rural roads. I want a SUV that I don't mind driving on bad roads. In other words, I don't want a luxury SUV, I need a grunt that can get the job done reliably. While the Bolero falls into this category, I have rarely heard anything good about this jeep, the ride is supposedly very harsh. I basically need a rough and tough SUV which has very good ride quality (on decent and rough roads) and good off-roading ability when I want to try some adventure.

We all have heard about the legendary Trax Gurkha (SWB) and Trax Judo (LWB), the SUVs that can eat other SUVs for breakfast. Some members in Team-BHP have been waiting for years to own one. No current owner wants to sell them. Recently Force Motor announced a limited release of Trax Gurkha and lots of people have booked them and still waiting for the delivery. My first cousin happens to be one of them. I too have considered looking at Gurkha, but the uncertainty of delivery and lack of test drive availability discouraged me. For the uninitiated, both Gurkha and Judo are not openly available from force Motors. Check this thread for more info.



Today my wife commented that she saw couple of Gamas recently and was quite impressed by the looks. That got me wondering, I knew Judo/Gama were essentially same chassis and even shared most parts including the engine. You can get the Gama with 4x4 and very same differential locks as Gurkha/Judo. So I called my cousin who had done extensive research before his Gurkha booking. He said there are 3 major differences:


Feature----------------------------------------Judo/Gurkha-------------------------------------------Gama--------------------
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Wheels-----------------------------------------16 inch rims-------------------------------------15 inch rims----------------
Diff-locks-breather-------------------------safe from water---------------------------------Not safe in water------------
Air-intake--------------------------------------Via Snorkel on top-----------------------------No snorkel-------------------

The wheels can be changed too, the remaining two features are factory install only. In other words, Gama is same as Judo except while fording a river or puddle in 3 feet water. I don't really intend to (at least not intentionally) ford rivers, so Gama should be good enough for me.

With that thought I called up MANGALORE FORCE and booked a test drive at 4PM today. The dealer repeatedly cautioned me that this is not a typical family vehicle with all the bells and whistles. I told him I was aware of it. The entire family of four including myself, wife, two sons (6 years old son and 4 months old son) decided to go for this test drive, after all this could be our next family car. When my father-in-law heard about the TD, he said Gama who??? However he was quite amused that the 4 month old too was going on the TD.

After 85 minutes of drive we reached Force dealership. The owner was not there as promised, but over phone he arranged for the TD. The manager was quite baffled at our entourage, but he got a driver and we started off. The TD vehicle was the basic model with no AC, no PS, and with BSII engine. At first I think he thought I am looking for a driver driven SUV for family trips. But I wanted to see an expert driver drive it first so that I can see its behavior with full concentration. The engine was very smooth, as I heard him move through gears, I could make out there was no strain on it what so ever. That was a good start.

We drove though NH17 first. The ride quality was amazing, we were going through continuous construction area and the road was quite rough, yet every bump in the road was swallowed up without a whimper. I asked the driver to take us to rougher roads so that we can feel the bumps, and he complied by getting off the highway and towards Kavoor. Unfortunately we didn't see any rougher roads, the manager apologized saying all the roads were recently repaired. I guess you can't count on PWD for anything these days, not even bad roads.

After some time I decided to take over the reins. As I sat in the driver seat, I made some observations:
1) The steering is close to horizontal, very very truck like. I asked whether there is a tilt option, I got a dazed look and a negative reply.
2) Just 3 dials, speedo, fuel gauge, temp gauge. I enquired about the tacho, same look again.
3) The dash is actually vertical and is practically empty. There is big enclosure in the bottom of the dash for inserting a stereo head.
4) No power anything. No power steering, A/C, power windows, or central locking or even any foam on the doors. Reminds me of my Maruti 800 days.
5) The seat was upright, so I tried changing it to suit my driving style. Fortunately it did have controls to adjust both seat and back. I hardly noticed any discomfort during the drive. However, the seat is short, doesn't give full thigh support I like.
6) The gear shift is floor mounted even though the front side has bench seat allowing driver+2. The 4x4 version though has driver+1 configuration.
7) All seats are bench style seats, only driver seat has any adjustment controls. The second row has very little leg room. The rear side has 4 side facing seats, but they have ample legroom if no luggage is kept. The regular version has 9+1 seats and 4x4 version has 8+1 seats.
8) Only front two seats have seat belts.

I adjusted the mirrors and started off on 2nd gear. I was told 1st is unused unless you are in some really deep incline. The floor based gear shifts were smooth enough contrary to expectation. That doesn't mean I liked floor based tall gear shift, it has too much travel. However, it does fall clearly into the gears with a click. The gears are little different than regular cars. The Reverse is left up, 1st is left down, 2nd is middle up, 3rd is middle down, 4th is right up and 5th is right down. At one point I was driving at 4th gear and the driver said I am in 3rd. I say no and start out to prove it is at right up. The manager and driver started laughing. Then they tell me that they don't count the 1st gear. Here 2nd is 1st, 3rd is 2nd, 4th is 3rd, 5th is 4th, and there is no 5th. So much for their insider joke. In other words, it is just like a 4-speed car gear shift, but don't push left, start from middle.

This was my first experience driving a diesel SUV, in fact my second diesel vehicle drive, the first being GTO's merc. So I didn't expect my test drive to be very revealing, I was mostly on wrong gears on most speeds. The smoothness I witnessed in every gear during the driver's drive was missing, but that was only to be expected. After not finding any bad roads, I found one uneven muddy area on the side, and so I went off-road for few seconds on that area at 40kmph. I saw everybody jumping up and down on their seat, but it was a smooth launch and landing, not a sharp kick in the butt. I liked the commanding position of the driver, but I should admit I was a little awkward in the beginning at driving this very different vehicle, but it grew on me by the time I reached back to the dealership. Surprisingly, the only time I noticed the lack of power steering was when I tried turning from a dead-stop position. The lack of PS went unnoticed when I took left or right turns while moving. That was very odd, how can this heavy truck feel so light to steer without power steering. The break was responsive, but I didn't try any emergency braking with an infant on board with no seat belts in rear. The NVH was really low, although the windows were down due to lack of AC, we could only hear traffic and not the engine.

After we reached the dealership, I checked the tyres. It has street tyres, the Apollo Duramile 7.00R15LT, which is 7inch wide 15inch tyres for light trucks. The manager and driver weren't much help since they didn't know how to read the tyre specs, I had to translate for them. However they told me 4x4 version comes with a different all terrain tyres.



Pros: Great ride, very responsive engine, apparently very good handler (couldn't test it though), cheap (the basic model is 4.65L)
Cons: Absolutely zero luxury. However, PS and AC can be ordered optionally.

The Trax Gama has four optional items - PS, A/C, BSIII engine and 4x4. Heck, I wanted all four, but they didn't have the price info on a model with all four. Therefore they promised to send a quote in couple of days.

It does come with an impressive 3Lakhs/3years warranty and 12 free services.

The model I tested had BS-II TD-2650F engine 60HP@3200RPM and 158Nm@200-2200. The BS-III TD-2650 FTI has 75HP@3200RPM and 195Nm@1800-2000.

Conclusion. This is a possibility, but the seats have to go. If we buy this, we need to rip off all the bench seats and put in some comfortable seats with ample leg room. With more powerful BS-III some really fat tyre can be considered. It is available in black, but the silly stickers have to go.

Some more photos:





Company website link to the Gama: ...::: Welcome to Force Motors : Products Section :::...
Specifications: http://forcemotors.com/media/downloads/Gama_EIII.pdf

Last edited by Samurai : 17th April 2007 at 18:33. Reason: Adding some missing points.
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Old 15th April 2007, 01:22   #2
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Absolutely enjoyed reading this.... but you aren't going to buy this .. are you?
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Old 15th April 2007, 01:44   #3
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Fantastic review Sam. Its really a nice looking ute and will look better with nice alloys. Make sure you get the one with A/C and PS. Every thing else can be fitted in the after market. It has all the basic stuff needed to turn this into a mini Gelandewagen.

Also keep in mind that a vehicle that is setup to carry 9 people will have a jarring ride with just 1 or 2 people in the front seat due to the stiff rear suspension. A couple of sandbags will help though. Also find out if they are going to put the Mercedes OM651 into this vehicle. Would have liked to see some shots of the interior.

Last edited by Mpower : 15th April 2007 at 06:06.
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Old 15th April 2007, 01:49   #4
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Are you actually going to buy this and do all mods.
It will cost you as much as a Safari 4x4 after all this.
If you are talking about rural roads and not fording rivers, might as well go for a comfortable SuV
If you are worried about bad roads, buy the Tata 207. I have seen the double cab do duty in villages hauling twice the company recommended load. I am talking about the truck 207, not the sissy TL.
You get AC and Power steering with bucket seats.
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Old 15th April 2007, 02:16   #5
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Well well I knew this was coming and very well written Monsieur .
Are we by any chance loosing on a Baleno fan ? Hope the Baleno stays home ..

BTW Samurai, are you considering options from the stables of TATA or Mahindra ? Have seen very few Trax's in and around Udupi/Mangalore. Correct me if I am wrong.

My 2 cents, if you by any chance buying the Trax get some killer alloys and tyres.Am sure these will suit the terrain and roads out there.
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Old 15th April 2007, 02:35   #6
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Red face Why not a bolero

Why not a bolero i have one and i love it i don't care where it goes or what under it i have bangged it with a small truck got only a small chip on the bumper
have dragged i mean not drag raced but really dragged a fait onu for a km
have got into small accident and have taken it to my pind to many time and now days its mostly used by my brother and he is a property dealer so he goes to rural area where thier is no road

bolero is one though uv but if you go for a bolero go for the older one new ones

but if you get a Gama for for alloys and wider tyres and it is available in black have seen one
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Old 15th April 2007, 09:46   #7
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Nice review...surprised to hear about small leg room for 2nd row - is that in comparison with other vehicles? Can a person around 6' sit at all?

Any FE numbers thrown around for BSII/BSIII?
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Old 15th April 2007, 10:57   #8
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Nice review Samurai.
One question though, does it still come with that button for coil heater? Where you press a button till coil is heated? Or is it changed and gotten like modern diesel cars now.
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Old 15th April 2007, 11:38   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mpower View Post
Also keep in mind that a vehicle that is setup to carry 9 people will have a jarring ride with just 1 or 2 people in the front seat due to the stiff rear suspension. A couple of sandbags will help though.
I too was concerned about it. But yesterday we only had 4 adults and 2 small kids. The 3 adults were in the front seats. Yet, the ride was very good, my wife was happy with the ride comfort.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mpower View Post
Also find out if they are going to put the Mercedes OM651 into this vehicle. Would have liked to see some shots of the interior.
OM651, I thought that was still under development. Do you mean the OM611 CRDI, not sure about that. I was told that if I ask for too many custom features, I may have to wait like my cousin for long.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tsk1979 View Post
Are you actually going to buy this and do all mods.
It will cost you as much as a Safari 4x4 after all this.
The cheapest 4x4 from Safari costs 9.1 lakhs ex-showroom, that's 3 lakhs more than top of the line Gama. The only major mod I am thinking is seats. I'll be changing tyres no matter what I buy. And I ain't spending 3 lakhs on seats.

These are Bolero SLX seats, how much would these cost after market?


Quote:
Originally Posted by rjstyles69 View Post
Are we by any chance loosing on a Baleno fan ? Hope the Baleno stays home ..
Well, if I get a SUV, the Baleno goes, I can't keep both.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rjstyles69 View Post
BTW Samurai, are you considering options from the stables of TATA or Mahindra ? Have seen very few Trax's in and around Udupi/Mangalore. Correct me if I am wrong.
It may not be as common as Tata/Mahindra, but I see them everyday around here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rjstyles69 View Post
My 2 cents, if you by any chance buying the Trax get some killer alloys and tyres.Am sure these will suit the terrain and roads out there.
Sure, I changed the looks of my Baleno by switching to alloys and fatter tyres. That is given.

Quote:
Originally Posted by manikjeet View Post
Why not a bolero i have one and i love it
I checked the review on Bolero. In the words of Bunny Punia, You cant expect a Mahindra (except for the Scorpio) to have a nice ride. That's a total turn off. In fact my wife took a ride in a fully loaded (8 people) Scorpio last week in Naxalite infested forests, they even went off-riding on riverbed. Her report, very good ride off-road, but bad on-road. It was literally throwing them around on the twisting ghat roads.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ggkg View Post
Nice review...surprised to hear about small leg room for 2nd row - is that in comparison with other vehicles? Can a person around 6' sit at all?

Any FE numbers thrown around for BSII/BSIII?
The leg room is less, but that can be fixed by customizing the seats later. I never asked about the FE, I'll take anything above 10kmpl.
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Old 15th April 2007, 12:10   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Samurai View Post
Conclusion. This is a possibility, but the seats have to go. If we buy this, we need to rip off all the bench seats and put in some comfortable seats with ample leg room. With more powerful BS-III some really fat tyre can be considered. It is available in black, but the silly stickers have to go.
Samurai - I think you're better off with a Safari LX or a Scorpio than this thing. I went through the same cycle before I logged onto my Dicor - bare-bones MUVs are really really bare bones and lack any sort of comfort for someone used to a car. Besides its a myth that they are trouble-free. How many people have spoken here about their Force ownership experiences?

I think the Safari chaps here tend to talk openly about their issues, which gives the impression that the vehicle is really trouble-prone, when none of us have really been left high and dry with a vehicle (except the chap who bought one second hand and had an oil pump failure recently).

I think you're better off with their the Safari or the Scorpio, but then its your choice at the end of the day. However I can guarantee that the Safari takes you through bad roads with more comfort than any of the vehicles mentioned so far. And then some more.

Last edited by Steeroid : 15th April 2007 at 12:11.
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Old 15th April 2007, 12:30   #11
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Steeroid, I agree with your points, but Safari costs 50% more. That is one real concern. Anyway, this is just the first TD. I need to TD Safari and even Bolero next. Wife has ruled out scorpio after her recent trip.
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Old 15th April 2007, 15:04   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steeroid View Post
Samurai - I think you're better off with a Safari LX or a Scorpio than this thing. How many people have spoken here about their Force ownership experiences?
The kind of guys that own Force are the kind that perhaps never heard about this thing called internet.

OM651 is the new Mercedez engine being developed, there is no talk of it being offered to Force - unlikely because it is brand new and not even introduced in advanced markets yet. OM611 is somewhat dated but still used by MB, that is the one Force shows in its web page in 'What's new' section. But I heard even that is many months away from being introduced by Force, if ever.

Last edited by tsk1979 : 15th April 2007 at 17:34.
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Old 15th April 2007, 18:17   #13
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One thing liked about the Gama, it is compact, takes 2% less real estate than the Baleno to park. It is 7mm longer, 30mm narrower than Baleno. The Safari on the other hand takes 31% more real estate than Gama. That's big size difference.

But I didn't understand the weight specs of Gama:

Max permissible FAW : 1090Kg
Max permissible RAW : 1760Kg
Max permissible GVW : 2850Kg

The last one is Gross Vehicle Weight, but what is FAW and RAW?

The GC is really high at 210mm at full load.

BTW, I don't think it is fair to compare Gama with Safari/Scorpio, they target a completely different market segment. I basically started off with the premise that I need a basic SUV with good ride comfort. That it does well. But if one wants all creature comforts, Safari is the way to go.

The Bolero 4WD although it has all creature comforts, it has a very weak engine, just 137.5Nm max torque. The GC is a very low 180mm, lower than many cars. That takes it out of contention.

By now some of you may be wondering what is this fixation with 4WD. Well, I live close to nature, so I want to live a little. What's the point in buying a SUV and then drive it in tarmac? So I want to take it off-road, not 5% of the time, but 50% of the time. These days I take out the Baleno only for highway drives, in monsoon that too would be limited. With a 4wd drive I can confidently take it out at any season and even get off the road with impunity. Further, I want to learn off-roading and do it on regular basis, even my wife wants to do it. As a couple we have a history of going on crazy adventures (Few days close to Heaven: The Dzongri Trek). I hope that explains it.
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Old 15th April 2007, 18:32   #14
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Nice matter-of-fact review, Samurai !
FAW is Front Axle Weight
RAW is Rear Axle Weight
GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) is the total of the two.

I'm sure that you can outfit it with a more comfortable interior, so that the bare bones vehicle doesn't bare your bones!

There's one more aspect to these vehicles and I have had a Mahindra MM540 4x4 for almost eight years. They make for really tiring journeys.
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Old 15th April 2007, 18:44   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ram View Post
FAW is Front Axle Weight
RAW is Rear Axle Weight
GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) is the total of the two.
Thanks Ram, but that doesn't give any idea about the Kerb weight.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ram View Post
There's one more aspect to these vehicles and I have had a Mahindra MM540 4x4 for almost eight years. They make for really tiring journeys.
How was the ride comfort, that is a big thing for us even above creature comforts.
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