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Old 21st November 2007, 00:51   #1
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Trax Gurkha Test Drive on Horrible roads and Off-road too

It finally happened. I finally test drove the Gurkha, the mother of all Indian SUVs.

According to original plan, I was supposed to test drive the Gurkha the past weekend. But nothing has ever happened on time with this Gurkha. My cousin booked the Gurkha around December 2006. The delivery took forever, the delivery date was always month end. It always reset to the next month once that month drew to an end. In May he even moved to UK, but he didn’t cancel his booking, such was his trust in Gurkha. Last month he and his wife become proud parents of a baby boy, but still no Gurkha.

Finally it arrived in Mangalore last Thursday, the PDI was on Friday, the delivery was supposed to be on Saturday and my mild test drive was supposedly on Sunday. But, that didn’t happen. Turned out that the drive from Pritampur to Mangalore was too much strain on misaligned PS/AC belt. Therefore the delivery was delayed by two days. So it was delivered yesterday to my cousin’s friend who will be known as P for the rest of the report. Today he drove the Gurkha to my office arriving around 1.50PM.

Here is a really big image for that closer look.

Now that the Gurkha was in my town, how could I miss the opportunity to test it on horrible roads. Considering this is the toughest SUV in the country, and that it already had 1700Kms on it, I didn’t have to worry about run-in or playing safe. So I took the driver seat, P at passenger seat and my wife on the back seat.

1) The ingress was a climb, my head actually went over the roof before I slid back to the seat. The steering was pressing on my thighs, I had to assume a crab like position with my thighs to avoid pressing it to the steering. The seat was high, giving a commanding view, very similar to Safari. The hood looked so long and wide, it is a little scary, this is not an easy one to drive in a city. The AC was not working. Apparently they could only manage to get a belt for the PS and not for AC. So I had to do this one with windows down. The fuel gauge wasn’t working either. It was not very assuring, by this time I had started wondering how I could have considered this vehicle as a serious purchase.

2) The gear shift is similar to Optra, the reverse on top left and 5th gear at bottom right. The gear shift throw is long, but not as long as Gama, I think they have shortened it a little for Gurkha.

3) I took it through the same horrible roads I subjected both the Safari variants and GV. When I drove through a series of severely broken road (not potholes), the ride was harsh, this was same in Safari 2.2 and GV, the3.0L didn’t suffer this punishment as it was too early in the monsoon. If you are wondering how this is different than the potholes, let me explain. When I say broken road, I mean roads where each tyre is falling into different crevices of varying size and length at a given time. It confuses the hell out of any suspension.

4) Then I took it over (a) potholes and (b)uneven undulated roads, this is when (a) any one tyre falls into a pothole and when (b) the whole road is weaving up and down irregularly. And this is where we were handed our greatest surprise. The ride comfort of Gurkha on potholes and undulated roads far surpassed Safari and GV. I was very surprised and turned towards my wife and asked her about the ride comfort at the backseat, and she too mentioned the same thing, better than Safari, better than GV. And there was no bobbing, no bouncing, no body roll, unlike Safari. It maintained similar composure as GV in such scenarios. P said this was because it has independent front suspension and leaf springs at the back. Anyway, this is a bloody winner when it comes to ride comfort.

5) Once I was done with bad road, I took it to good roads. The same place where I redlined with the Baleno in 2nd gear on the day I sold it. The gear shifts were smooth. However, once I crossed 70kmph, I had a strange sensation. The steering almost lost connection with reality. The power assisted steering on Gurkha is not speed sensitive. One has to learn to use this steering before taking it higher, forget doing small corrections to the steering, it becomes too vague. There was also a creaking noise from the steering, something to do with the new PS belt I was told. The brakes were adequate, I didn’t try any emergency braking though. Finally we returned to my office.

Now was the time for photography, so I asked P to take the Gurkha to the more scenic part of the office grounds.

While I shooting the photos, I noticed that P was checking out the surroundings and had discovered an off-roading opportunity. And he wanted to try it right away and this time my wife was riding shotgun, and I stuck to being photographer.

This is where I realised what makes Gurkha such a competent off-roader. The paper GC of 210mm does not begin to explain the massive ground clearance of Gurkha. It is practically on stilts on those massive tyres. It went over the first obstacle above like nobody’s business, I don’t think GV could have handled that, not enough GC for that.

Then it went on to the bigger challenge, climbing a dry and hard mud slope.

But it couldn’t scale the mud hill. P is an experienced off-roader and owns a Jeep Classic, he has scaled similar hills with his Classic with ease. After a few tries with 4WD and both the diff locks, it failed to scale the hill, the tyres kept slipping. We identified the real culprit soon enough. The Gurkha came with long life radial truck tyres that lacked any off-road grip. Checkout the bland tyre profile that kept slipping like an oiled wheel.

Finally the effort was given up and he turned back, check out the surrounding terrain.

Added: Specifications (since the Force website doesn't show this)



Last edited by Samurai : 21st November 2007 at 11:46. Reason: Added specs
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Old 21st November 2007, 00:52   #2
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Now for the internal photos:

Behold the massive GC:

The tyres were 7.5 x 16 inch LT tyres.

Now to the big question. If I was still in the market, would I buy this?

Hmm, No. Not as my primary transport. Donít get me wrong, Gurkha is a fantastic off-roader, but only an off-roader. It has no creature comforts of any type. The seats are very comfortable, the bad-road ride quality is the best I have seen so far, the GC is so massive, no off-road challenge can scare you. But the vehicle itself is incredibly crude, it is strict no-no for families. Force Motors has no business charging so high (7.2L ex-showroom) and delivering so little.

The photos I shot today didnít come that well because of the lighting conditions. I had to shoot under sweltering sun, very harsh light for photography. The sky is burnt out in most shots since I was trying to expose a black vehicle. This last shot was even more difficult since I had a black and a white vehicle in the same frame. So I didnít try too hard to get it right. Besides, none of us including P had had our lunch and it was already 3PM. We said farewell at this point and P drove away.

That ends the saga of Gurkha test drive on horrible roads and off-road.
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Old 21st November 2007, 01:08   #3
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Samurai I have to confess I was reading the other thread and was waiting for you to put up the report with pics.

You never let me down, wonderful pics I must say.

The beige interiors blend well for the Gurkha's character , for 7 lacs couldn't they provide a better console for the speedo. Damn !!

What about the AC ?
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Old 21st November 2007, 03:33   #4
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There's it! Samurai does it again. Wow!
Thanks for those in depth writing and beautiful pictures.
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Old 21st November 2007, 03:47   #5
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Nice write-up,Samurai. As always,superb pics.
I haeard that the Gurkha was going to get a facelift,and the interiors would be done up pretty well.Looks like none of that has happened. Well,a Gurkha is a Gurkha..and its meant to kept off the roads..(rather,its meant mainly for off-roading/handling the worst road conditions).
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Old 21st November 2007, 04:05   #6
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Force Motors really needs to step-up their act to make a decent competitor to the Mahindras.
Taking so long to deliver a new vehicle and having quality issues even after delivery is a problem.
Glad you avoided those hassles by going in for the Suzuki.

The car looks good and even the interiors seem to have improved from the old (Tempo) days. Love the snorkel exhaust!

The rear seat does look comfy and some decent off-road tyres will really help the cause. The vehicle has an impressive presence - the close-up shot looks great. If I'm not mistaken, the Tempo-time models were shod with Michelins.

Last edited by aah78 : 21st November 2007 at 04:09.
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Old 21st November 2007, 06:29   #7
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Samurai San,
The comment on ride quality is a surprise. 10 years back I took a ride in Tempo Trax, all the way upto Tsango Lake near Gangtok. I was shaking and aching even after a day.

The snorkel exhaust should let you explore the rivers in western ghats that are at a stone's throw away(for you).

Last edited by prasadee : 21st November 2007 at 06:30.
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Old 21st November 2007, 07:27   #8
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I forgot to mention diff locks yesterday. This one has both front (is it center?) and rear differential. There are two knobs on the floor to lock each differential independently. The whole thing completely manual. I didn't operate them, so I am not too clear the operation.

The GC is so massive, P told me that he crawled the entire length of the underbody from front to back to checkout for any visible scratches that morning. Imagine that.

Originally Posted by rjstyles69 View Post
What about the AC ?
As I have mentioned, the only PS belt was replaced. Today it is going to get the AC belt too. Or it is a longer belt that handles both PS and AC. Anyway, I couldn't test the AC because of that.

Originally Posted by Nitin View Post
and the interiors would be done up pretty well.Looks like none of that has happened.
The seats are definitely better than Gama, so they have done something.

Originally Posted by prasadee View Post
The comment on ride quality is a surprise. 10 years back I took a ride in Tempo Trax, all the way upto Tsango Lake near Gangtok. I was shaking and aching even after a day.
From what I have heard, even the older Gurkhas had good ride quality. Some existing Gurkha owner like Ram/Gurkha can confirm.

Originally Posted by prasadee View Post
The snorkel exhaust should let you explore the rivers in western ghats that are at a stone's throw away(for you).
I'll leave that to the owner of the Gurkha.
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Old 21st November 2007, 08:04   #9
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Engine specs et al

nice pics & write-up on the m/c samurai. any links on a site to the manufacturers available? also could you possibly post something on the specs on the m/c. thanks.
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Old 21st November 2007, 08:47   #10
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Actually, wonderful pics, but I *AM* disappointed.

I was expecting to see gurkhas and GV take on the challenge

So Samurai san, when do we get to see you pitting the GV in the best of the bad-roaders?!!

hopefully, by then, P would've replaced tyres too.

and did P find any scratches during the crawl?

edit: You need to teach boys like Driving the Tata Safari as well!
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Old 21st November 2007, 09:30   #11
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Nice detailed write up Samurai. And now you know what I said and why about Gurkha.
Originally Posted by Samurai View Post
2) The gear shift is similar to Optra, the reverse on top left and 5th gear at bottom right.
Fifth gear is on top right.
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Old 21st November 2007, 09:39   #12
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@San. Good exposures. Like you rightly said, wherever you went for the blue skies, the car has turned out a wee bit
Its atrocious that such a Force motors is charging 7+ for a crude vehicle that looks like its straight out of the soviet era . The other shocking thing is that the vehicle parts are failing even during delivery!!! If it cannot even hold itself together at delivery, how is it going to hold up in all the rough use it is going to be subjected to?
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Old 21st November 2007, 09:41   #13
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Fantastic report samurai as always . Yeah we wud also love to see the GV and Gurkha head to head on same condition with your as usual detail photos.
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Old 21st November 2007, 10:26   #14
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Great review! Explains perfectly why there are hardly any takers for this most competent SUV.
Indeed a lot better off-roading test than the shameful one of the Safari at the rediff site.
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Old 21st November 2007, 10:30   #15
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Fantastic report Samurai. I think your pics have come out awesome, especially the first one.
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