Mahindra Thar review by a Volkswagen Jetta owner

This is a happy car, so happy that the roof whistles at highway speeds. I also like how Mahindra has tuned the torque converter.

BHPian tilt recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Sometime around lunchtime on the day after my birthday in December my phone rings. The voice at the other end says, “Sir, this is XXX from Mahindra Sireesh Auto. There is one un-allotted Rocky Beige Diesel Automatic Hard-Top in transit right now on the truck - do you want it?

My mind came up with many responses, some of which were:

  • Does a bear poop in the woods?
  • Do kids and some adults pee in the pool?
  • Do other people’s eloquent flatulence stink while mine smell like roses?

However, I, ever the gentleman, settled for a courteous and calm “Yes please, thank you” and was further informed that the car would arrive in three days and that I could take delivery after registration on the fourth day.

And then my brain went “Holy moly! This is really happening - I am actually getting a Thar - Oh no, no, no. I have no parking - the car is too tall for the slope leading to the basement - Oh my God! I need to buy a house!"

My brain finally settled down to a steady cruising speed and accepted the fact that I do not need to buy a house and that the Thar had to stay outside on the street. Well, it’s a big boy and can handle it.

The only problem with that is the dire paucity of parking spots around the home and the fact that a car washed in the morning gets so dusty by the evening that it looks like it has been abandoned for six months. Hell, it could pretend to be a fully caked-up garden instrument on Instagram.

I could regale everyone with the long-winded story of the why and how of the decision and booking etc., but that is a story only a mother would have the patience to listen to, so I shall reserve it for those masochists here who would sponsor some non-automotive lubricants.

Suffice it to say that a serendipitous cancellation and my being colour-agnostic helped reduce the waiting from one year (June 2022) to four and a half months (December 2021). I had booked the Grey but did so only because I could not proceed with the booking without picking a colour.

And oh yeah, my current (and soon-to-be-ex) ride is a 2015 facelifted Volkswagen Jetta Highline DSG. Yes, Thar will be my only car. Please remove that expression from your face and I shall pepper this account here and there with how the move feels.

By the way, did I mention that both my wife and I are currently in the stage where our bones have already begun the process of crumbling to dust?

Everybody has already gushed on and on and on about what is likeable and not about the Thar, (same with pictures), so I shall refrain from repeating the same points and see if I can mention things that others may have chosen not to.

Revenge - Sweet, sweet revenge. For all these years that every scooter, auto-rickshaw, and others who brazenly cut into my path or blithely pushed me away by exploiting my fears of getting more scratches or dents in my precious Jetta - losers - I dare you to try that now. Go ahead, I dare ya! You feeling lucky? Go ahead, make my day! My latent and suppressed body-part-where-the-sun-don’t-shine has emerged in glorious majesty.

Hydraulic Power Steering - the car talks to me. I can feel what the wheels are doing. However, the steering feels quite a bit tighter at parking-lot speeds than the EPS-equipped Jetta and also feels like it takes more turns from lock-to-lock. I have not done a comparison, so do not hold me to it.

Also, incidentally, does anyone know the turning circle of Thar? Mahindra seems to want to treat it like the recipe for Coca Cola. All I know is, it seems way bigger than that of the Jetta. Where the Jetta easily turns from one narrow street into another, I have to do a three-pointer in the Thar. Feels odd in a car much smaller than the Jetta in every way but height. There were a few complaints earlier here about the wheel hitting the stabilizer bar at full lock, so maybe Mahindra reduced the running angle of the wheels to solve that issue?

I love the tuning of the torque converter gearbox - it feels closer to the sport mode in the Jetta. Maybe to help in off-road situations to stay in the torque range?

This car is tiny! When an auto-rickshaw and I eye the same parking spot, I can and do get it.

This is, in my opinion, the absolute best car for the city. VW Polos are small, yes, but have the DSG which needs babying in stop-and-go traffic. Other small cars come with the stupid AMT which is, well, stupid. This torque converter, on the other hand, meh, just keep creeping with one foot on the brake.

Fuel consumption figures on the MID do lie, but not as blatantly as the Jetta does. While the actual economy was around 7.6 km/l (city) the MID only said it was between 10.2 and 10.9. And for highway, it said 13.6 while the actual was 12.6. Jetta, on the other hand, just picks a lucky number to make me happy and does not even have the courtesy to pretend to be ashamed when I point out the big lie.

This is a happy car - so happy that the roof whistles at highway speeds. The service folk (upon complaining) said they "aligned the doors", so now I have to see if it behaves the next time I am on the highways.

The reverse parking sensor seems to forget that there is a humongous stepney on the tailgate. I happened to test it on a wall behind me just so that I did not have to test it with some stranger’s car behind me.

The in-built navigation has one very good feature - it shows flyovers with an arrow to tell you to take the service road instead. Google, on the other hand, blithely says “Go straight” and snickers scornfully when you take the flyover instead of the service road and have to drive for miles to find a U-turn.

That said, it also has a schoolmarm mode (or a slowly-getting-angrier-and-angrier mother mode) when you ignore her directions and take a different route. She keeps insisting forever that you make a U-turn and her tone gets eerily calmer and calmer until she addresses you by your full name - first, middle and last. You do not want to be addressed by your full name, trust me.

Oh, and the Thar loves to guilt you. Every time you turn off the car. “Don’t you find me attractive? It has been XXX days and YYY hours since you even touched me. What’s wrong with you? You have all this and you ignore it all?” Me: “Hey cool it, you’re just the 4x4 lever, not my wife”.

This is not a car for people with OCD. All three mirrors vibrate just enough that only people with OCD will notice it.

The high-mounted-stop light was mounted just that little bit crooked - just enough to kick people’s OCD into full force. Looking at it cannot be avoided because it is positioned in such a way that it perfectly covers the long view of the road behind you in the rear-view mirror. The stepney perfectly obscures the short-view immediately behind you. So, they make a great team - the stop-light and the stepney.

The stepney has one wheel-nut that looks different from the others. Possibly to accommodate a lock-nut?

There are two cubby-holes behind the hand-brake lever that aspire to be cup-holders when they grow up. Right now they can hold neither travel mugs nor bottles. I have to throw away my collection of travel mugs and buy a whole new set, but can’t do so because I have to buy a house.

Mahindra has named the glove compartment appropriately indeed. It can hold a glove. “A” glove.

I got used pretty much immediately to turning the indicators on and off; but then I took the Jetta out and kept using the wipers to tell people I wanted to switch lanes. They were quite confused.

Jetta has automatic headlights, so I forgot to turn the lights on in the evening.

Jetta has automatic wipers, so I kept wondering why my vision kept getting blurrier and blurrier.

I have major back issues, but I did not find it uncomfortable in any way, sitting in the Thar for extended periods of time. Certainly, it could be better than it is, and coming from the Jetta there indeed is a marked difference, but my back does not hurt, and that’s the point that confirms that this purchase was not a mistake.

I do miss an armrest though. So does my wife. Right now I lift my Left elbow and drop it into nothing, and my wife does the same with her Right elbow.

None of the aftermarket armrests is good enough because they all look like they belong in a lorry of the eighties; and nobody makes armrests that fit into the sides of the seats and fold up, like in a Scorpio or even a Hyundai i20.

Every single person who reviewed Thar is either a liar or a snowflake - here and everywhere else. The aircon is NOT a chiller at fan-speed 1. Even in Bangalore’s December weather (and seriously more so in Madras’ so-called Winter), it had to be in fan-speed 3 or occasionally even 4 for any cooling to be felt. And yes, I know I am the one and only person in all of India who has this opinion.

That reminds me - there is nowhere one can know what the outside temperature is.

I miss rear doors for just one reason. Remember the bones-turning-to-dust bit earlier? Well, loading bags between the front and back seats requires us to contort ourselves in ways that we get catches in our backs and sides.

There’s enough room behind the rear seats to hold a wallet that is not stuffed with currency - or that’s what I thought. It so happened that even with the seats up, I could carry a large carry-on sized suitcase, a decently large back-pack, a cardboard carton containing the puncture kit, compressor, spray bottle and a large number of microfibre cloths, my CPAP bag and a bag with shoes with no problem.

Tell me honestly, how many of you have (and how many times have you) got the Thar screaming loudly in panic when you either start the car or shut it down or just hand over the key to someone or take the key from someone? The key fob is designed so badly that it is easier to mistakenly touch the panic button rather than avoid doing so. The sales staff at the dealership also mentioned that this was a constant issue for them during test drives with not just the customer, but also with them themselves triggering this off.

You’d better like the current display on your MID because once you start moving, there’s no safe way without stopping to change it to show some other parameter. You have to “let Jesus take the wheel”, take your eyes off the road and look under the steering wheel to make sure you’re pressing the right buttons. No controls on the steering wheel itself.

Jetta displays the current gear the car is in. Thar says “Meh, what are you going to do with that info? Why do you need to know? I make the decisions anyway, so just shut up and sit.

I like it that I can adjust both the outside mirrors from the driver’s seat, but when I am traversing a very narrow road and there’s a car coming in the opposite direction, I have to unbuckle my seat-belt, open the driver’s door (if there is room), walk around the front of the car to the passenger door, fold the mirror, walk back around the front of the car to the driver's seat, buckle up, squeeze past, stop the car, undo the seat-belt again, walk around the front of the car again, unfold the passenger mirror, walk back around the front to the driver’s seat, buckle up, and then move on.

Just to change things around a bit, I could sometimes walk around the back of the car instead of around the front. Need to make life interesting.

I badly need a leather wrap around the steering wheel. Sometimes when I push the wheel around, my hand turns but the wheel says “some other time, buddy” and stays straight.

The steering does not “return to centre” easily. It sometimes needs help.

Right out of the factory the wheels were all badly out of alignment; the steering wheel pointed towards Calcutta while the wheels were pointed towards Bombay. I took delivery of the Thar and drove straight to Madhu’s (belongs to a fellow member here, NikhilB) for wheel alignment.

And when I was there it was discovered that all four wheels were totally unbalanced, and in fact, three out of the four wheels had so much road force in them that it took around two hours just to try and get them balanced. The fourth wheel could not be balanced at all. All this results in vibrations of the wheels and the steering at anything faster than city speeds. Maybe that’s why my mirrors vibrate too.

One more comparison with my Jetta: on good roads, the Jetta feels smooth, on bad roads I feel the bumps and potholes. In the Thar, bumps and potholes are not felt at all while so-called good roads amplify each undulation. I don’t know if I am just imagining it.

One point where I think Mahindra has done a much better implementation than in the Jetta (where it is a very stupid implementation) is that of how the cruise control gets enabled. Thar does it correctly - all I have to do is hit the "Set" button at the desired speed and voilà, it is on and set. There is a "Cruise Control On/Off" button, but that need not be used. Jetta, on the other hand - I cannot set cruise speed if I do not first turn Cruise on by hitting the Cruise On/Off button. There's actually no need at all for a Cruise On/Off button in any car - just hit "Set" to turn on and set, hit the brakes or clutch to cancel and turn off, hit "Resume" to get back to set speed. Why have an extra button that's essentially redundant?

I have as of now done a mere 1000 kms in the Thar, all on road. I hope to take it off-road soon just to stop it from nagging me.

I love this car as much as I love the Jetta and am now sure that I can live with this as my only car. And oh, is anyone interested in renting from me a soon-to-be-vacant basement parking spot? I could buy another car for that spot but then remember I need to buy a house now to park the Thar.

“Upgrades” done

  • Reversing camera - not the best camera I have used, but serves the purpose of showing something existing just behind me. The lines are static, not dynamic.
  • Mahindra accessories floor mats - Not good. Cannot be stuck properly, the mat and our feet slip. Avoid Mahindra and go third party.
  • Mudflaps - too small to be of any use, but they make the car look good. I did not even realize they were installed - they had to show me for me to notice.

Upgrades planned

  • Leather steering wheel wrap - I prefer that the wheel turns when my hand pushes it.
  • Underbody protection including diff, DEF tank and fuel tank.
  • Not planning on a suspension upgrade just yet - maybe sometime later if I think I really need it.

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