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Bangalore to Lonavala in a Thar: Why I chose the SUV instead of my 320d

Fuel efficiency on mixed city and highway drives is around 8km/l.

BHPian Dr.AD recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

I did another road trip to Pune and Lonavala last week. It was a combination of a work trip in Pune, and on the weekend in between my work events, we had a family vacation in Lonavala.

I could have driven my BMW 320d there, but given that there are some nice hills and trails near Lonavala, I thought I should drive the Thar and see if I could explore some hilly areas there.

It was a solo drive for me from Bangalore to Pune and back. My wife flew into Pune to join us, and my family from Pune and Mumbai came together to meet in Lonavala.

The challenge was that I had to take my parents with me from Pune to Lonavala, and that would mean we would be four people in Thar for that distance. However, since that was just a short drive, I decided to give it a try, and thankfully, it all worked great! My parents are old but thankfully fit enough to climb into the backseat of Thar (they did that with no issues at all), and once in the seat, they found the back seat to be spacious enough for the two of them. So overall we had a fun drive.

Regarding the luggage space, we decided that each of us would carry one small or medium duffel bag. And it turned out that 4 duffel bags can fit in easily with all four seats up! This was a big relief, and this means that a family of four can actually do a short weekend trip in Thar with 4 duffel bags. Any extra small bags (like purses of the ladies) were carried on the seats. Overall it worked out perfectly fine and we had a great drive.

Four duffel bags fit perfectly:

Appeal of the Thar

When we met in Lonavala with our family (my sisters and my nephews and nieces), it turned out Thar was a huge attraction. Somehow Thar received much more affection and interest from my family than my BMW 320d.

Everyone wanted to ride in the Thar and they wanted me to take them out and do some off-roading. Unfortunately, only 4 people can sit in on one trip, so I literally had to do multiple short drives to give people a ride in Thar. It is amazing to see the appeal of the Thar in the young kids as well as older parents generation. From 80 years age group to 15 years age group, everyone loved Thar and they wanted to ride in it.

Now it is given that the ride quality is horrible in Thar. But that does not seem to deter anyone! Somehow everyone who rides in Thar just loves it and they want to join in again and again. Talking about myself and my wife, both of us love Thar drives in spite of the horrible ride quality. There is surely some magic here that makes one look past the things like ride quality and comfort. Maybe it is all in the mind in the end.

Short Drives around Lonavala

I did a couple of short drives around Lonavala (with my family members who wanted to get a taste of some mild off-roading), and we explored some hills and some small trails nearby. It was a wonderful experience. Everyone enjoyed it and we had a great family time.

Parking the Thar in some hilly area where only a Thar could reach, and then getting out to enjoy the fresh air and the surroundings, was a wonderful experience, especially with the family. The kids in the family loved it the most!

Somewhere in the hills near Lonavala:

Quick Thoughts after Completing 7500km:

After this drive, the odometer is at around 7600 km. A lot of this driving (I would say about 5000km) was solo drives. Around 2200km was with me and my wife in the Thar, and about 300km was with four people in the Thar.

Based on this experience, I would like to update some of the opinions I expressed in my initial review. Here are some quick updates:

  1. No plans for removal of rear seats now. Earlier, I had mentioned I would remove the rear seats and make the Thar purely a 2-seater. However, after experiencing that most people (including my parents) can actually go in and out of the backseat, and it is not the deal-breaker I had thought it to be, I have decided to keep the rear seats. On many occasions, the rear seat is OK enough for short-distance trips. And once someone gets in, there is actually decent space to sit comfortably on the rear seats. Of course, Thar can never be comfortable enough for rear passengers for long drives, but it is perfectly fine (with four people and four duffel bags) for short drives like Pune-Lonavala (about 75km). Further, luggage space is fine even with the rear seats in place, for driving with just 2 people (me and my wife). For our 2-person drives, all the luggage we need easily fits in the Thar, and thus, I have no need to do the modifications to make the rear seats fold and tumble. In short, we have learned to live with the seats as they are and we are OK with that now.
  2. Engine Power and Acceleration: It is better than I thought at first. Initially, maybe I was too gentle on the A pedal. But now after having learned to push the A pedal hard, I find the Thar responds very well, and I am quite happy with both the engine power and acceleration. Thar reaches the handling and dynamics limit way before reaching the engine power limit, and any more power will be a total waste. Overall, I have learned to extract maximum performance out of this engine, and I love it now. Even while climbing steep ghats and hairpin bends, the Thar does it easily with a steady input on the A pedal, and never felt short on power even when climbing really steep slopes.
  3. Ride Quality remains bad, no two ways about it. Ride quality is bad for sure, but as I said, it is all in the mind. All of us have accepted the bad ride quality and do not even expect anything better. But having accepted this, we all love to travel in Thar and the bad ride has not even been an issue anymore.
  4. Braking is better than I thought. On highways, the braking is certainly better than what I had initially expected. The brakes lack the initial bite, but beyond that, braking is quite acceptable and the Thar stops well without too much drama for such a heavy body-on-frame vehicle. I did not find much nose-drive on braking that many people talk about. Maybe it is due to the improved suspensions in 2023.
  5. Thar can handle cruising at decent speeds on highways easily. Now after having done many long highway drives (a couple of Pune-Bangalore drives), I find the highway drives not to be as bad as I had expected. I used Cruise Control plenty of times (and it was quite useful), and Thar is quite stable and comfortable if we cruise at decent speeds. Yes, it does take noticeably more time to cover long highway distances compared to my 320d, but once I accept that, the highway drives are peaceful and comfortable.
  6. Mileage: I get somewhere between 9km/l to 10km/l on pure highway drives, and somewhere around 6km/l on the pure city drives. On mixed city and highway drives, I get around 8km/l.
  7. Niggles and issues: Thankfully, nothing major so far. The only issue I have is that sometimes I hear a "kat kat" sound when taking sharp turns in the Thar at very slow speeds in the parking lots. When I move the Thar sharply in and out of parking positions, at crawling speeds, sometimes I hear this "kat kat" sound. I plan to get to get this checked during the 10,000 km service which should be soon. But other than the parking lot manoeuvres, I have never heard this sound on the actual road.

Well, that is all for now. Thank you for reading!

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