Mahindra has been keeping the off-road enthusiasts entertained for well over a couple of decades now. The homegrown carmaker started to do so with the licensed Willy's CJ3B Jeep, followed by its successors - MM540, MM550, Classic, Legend, and Thar. While other models have been great at making people follow the sport of going off-road, the Thar has helped the brand with increased accessibility. Thanks to its better everyday usability. Well, after being on sale for around a decade now, the Mahindra Thar has finally received the much-needed generation change. But is this the Thar that we all have wanted to own since forever? Let's find out in this first drive review of 2020 Mahindra Thar.
2020 Mahindra Thar First Drive Review - Exterior
In the new-gen avatar, Mahindra Thar looks modern, while it continues to keep the last-gen model's retro charm intact. This change comes up as a well-perceived evolution. Moreover, some might feel that 2020 Mahindra Thar and the Jeep Wrangler are a cut from the cloth. Well, they are, and they have to, because they carry forward the pedigree of the legendary Willy's Jeep. However, not even one panel of the Thar is identical to that of the American off-roader's.
With the new and upscaled front-end, Mahindra has modernized the Thar. Also, it packs in some Jeep elements, like the round headlamps and a functional radiator grille. The latter, however, looks a little out of place. The bonnet now features some creases and indents. The metal fenders here are a part of the body, and thus, help the 2020 Thar differentiate itself from its distant American cousin. They also house the LED DRLs and turn indicators
On the sides, the silhouette has been updated but looks familiar. Also, it is now available with a hardtop or a convertible soft top. Depending on which the silhouette changes a little. The most welcoming change here, however, are the 18-inch alloy wheels. The bigger rims fill the wheel wells nicely. Also, the wheel arches are of different shape at both the ends. The front ones are squared-off, while the rear ones are circular. To enter the cabin with ease, there are nice-looking footsteps too.
With a 2-door layout, the Thar measures 3,985 mm length. It is 1,855 mm wide and 1,896mm tall. These dimensions help it with some notable road presence. The rear fascia of the 2020 Mahindra Thar packs in the old charm but with a new dual-tone bumper and LED tail lamps. The spare wheel continues to sit on the tailgate, which opens sideways. Interestingly, the rear windscreen on the hardtop variant comes with a defogger as well. The bumper houses parking sensors, but there’s no back-up camera, which is a must on such a vehicle. On the whole, the 2020 Mahindra Thar's design is a great upgrade over the last-gen model. And it won’t be wrong to say that Thar has finally started to follow the route of modernism.
2020 Mahindra Thar First Drive Review – Interior
With a ground clearance of 226 mm, the 2020 Mahindra Thar sits quite high from the ground. Thankfully, kind folks at Mahindra have fitted it with a set of side steps to make the cabin access a bit easier. Once inside, the new cabin impresses with its design and fit-finish levels. The dashboard is a new unit and looks appealing. Also, it boasts of IP54 dust and water resistance rating. In the centre, it houses circular AC vents and right beneath them sits the 7-inch infotainment unit that comes with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and satellite navigation. Also, the climate control knobs sit below the screen, along with an array of toggle switches.
The steering wheel is a direct lift from the TUV300, and therefore, it now houses audio and cruise control buttons. Behind the steering wheel is an easy-to-read instrument binnacle, which also gets a multi-information-display. On the passenger side, the dashboard comes with a grab handle. There is a rather tiny glovebox as well, which is lockable. On the lower part of the dashboard, Mahindra folks have fitted a pair of speakers. And the remaining two units are fixed on the roof. Together, they offer good sound output.
Unlike the last-gen model, 2020 Thar comes loaded with features. The list includes power windows, power-adjustable and foldable ORVMs, remote locking and more. While the ORVM controls on the driver’s door, the power-windows switches are in the centre console. We felt that getting used to their position might take forever. Mahindra claims that the doors on the Thar are removable, and for the same reason the windows switches have been moved. This justification does not sound convincing at all since the mirrors controls are already there on the doors.
In terms of space and seat comfort, the 2020 Thar feels superior as well. Front seats offer generous support to humans of all shapes and sizes. They come with lumbar-adjustment as well. With a tilt-adjustable steering column on board, finding a perfect driving position in the Thar is easy. The second-row seats are designed for two occupants, and they can recline to a pretty decent angle. They sit higher up the floor as well. However, ingress and egress for the second-row occupant is surely a task. Thus, they are better left folded flat to get some additional boot space, because the 2020 Thar doesn’t get any with the second-row of seats in place. In summation, the Thar’s interior is now car-like. It is comfy, and four adults can spend hours here. Moreover, the occupants will stay safe, thanks to the 4-star Global NCAP crash test rating.
2020 Mahindra Thar First Drive Review – Engine & Gearbox
Like the exterior and interior, the engine options on the 2020 Mahindra Thar are new as well. The Thar is now available with a total of two engine choices – 2.0L mStallion turbo-petrol and 2.2L mHawk oil burner. The turbocharged petrol motor is capable of putting out a peak power output of 150 Hp and max torque of 320 Nm. However, the oil burner develops 130 Hp against 300 Nm. In comparison to the last-gen model’s 2.5L oil burner, the power and torque outputs are bumped up by 25 Hp and 53 Nm, respectively. The transmission options include a 6-speed MT and 6-speed AT. Interestingly, it now comes in a 4X4 configuration only. Also, a mechanically-locking rear differential comes as a standard part of the package.
At our disposal, we had the diesel-manual trim of the Thar. Well, it came as a blessing in disguise. This time around, the diesel motor feels refined. And there aren’t super-annoying vibrations to complain of either. The engine starts with some movement, and then it settles down into a vibe-free idle. Under the 1500 rpm mark, it feels sleepy. But once the turbo spools up the engine with high-density charge, it has enough grunt to climb a near-vertical wall. In-gear roll-on acceleration has improved as well. Now, the mid-range is more pronounced, and the 6-speed MT has better gear ratios in comparison to the last-gen Thar. While the initial 4four gears are good at gaining the speed, the last two are designed for cruising only.
At speeds of around 80 kmph, the rev counter needle stays around at 1,800 rpm mark. With speed exceeding to 100 kmph, the needle moves up to the 2,000 rpm mark. Overall, the Thar is a much-more relaxed cruiser now. On the trails, the engine felt torquey. It managed to pull the Thar on the steepest of the climbs. While the clutch feels soft and travel isn’t long either, the gearbox is a typical Mahindra unit. It has long throws but is not rubbery. And gear shifts are smooth too. Also, when the going gets tough, 4H and 4L can be engaged, depending upon the requirement. The low-ratio transfer case is the best we’ve come across till date in sub-15 lakh rupee car since it’s a smooth unit to operate.
Overall, the 2020 Mahindra Thar has improved a lot on the powertrain and drivetrain front. The gearshifts are a little heavy, but the process packs in the much-needed mechanical feel and connect, which is missed in the modern-day crossovers. Driving the new-gen Thar thus comes up as a joyful experience.
2020 Mahindra Thar First Drive Review – Ride & Handling
In this department, the 2020 Mahindra Thar is a step-up over the car it replaces. On all-four ends, it uses coil springs with dampers. However, the axle designs differ at both the ends. At the front, Mahindra has used the double-wishbone setup for independent front suspension geometry. However, a solid axle is used at the rear. With the coil springs, the ride on the 2020 Mahindra Thar is very car-like. There are no vertical movements to complain of either. Since it is a tall body-on-frame vehicle, the body roll is evident.
The suspension is tuned on the softer side, and hence, the Thar can absorb bumps from potholes, road undulations, and speed breakers with grace. Even at low speeds, the ride feels cushy. With the 18-inch alloy wheels, there’s not a lot of unsprung weight on the Thar this time. These rims are shod with 255 section Ceat CZAR all-terrain tyres that offer adequate grip in all the conditions.
Talking of the steering, it feels lively. Also, at city speeds it feels a little heavy, making it cumbersome to make 3-point turns. On highways, the heft acts as a positive attribute. With disc brakes at the front and drums at the rear, Thar has a capable braking setup. Dropping the anchors down doesn’t require extra efforts either. Moreover, the added safety net of ABS with EBD helps a lot in getting the job done. For the aggressive steering inputs, there’s vehicle stability control to take care of the things. That being said, driving a Mahindra Thar is not risky now. Out in the wild, the traction control can be switched off or better used, as it controls the brake-locking front axles.
2020 Mahindra Thar First Drive Review – Verdict
The 2020 Mahindra Thar has evolved to a great extent from its last-gen counterpart. This evolution can be compared with that of an ape to a human when compared with the Willy’s CJ3B Jeep. The 2020 Thar is a much better car on the highway, around the sweepers, and in the tight city roads. Moreover, with a no-more crude interior, it can be a good daily driver. While the looks are subjective, none would deny the fact that it is one of the best-looking Mahindra cars to ever go on sale. With the option of a petrol motor and an automatic gearbox, it has become more accessible now. However, it still has some rough edges that Mahindra needs to iron out. There’s no reverse parking camera, and the boot space is almost inexistent with all seats in place. So if you can live with these issues, you should consider buying one. But Mahindra folks, if you are reading this, then launching the 5-door iteration of Thar should be on your priority list. Extra doors and the increased trunk volume are much-needed amenities in the near-perfect Mahindra Thar.