There’s a Pete’s box in the Thar. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s a small blue box that plugs into the fuel rail and bumps up power by a claimed 15bhp to 120bhp.
The results are quite plain to feel – the CRDe engine’s mid-range is noticeably meatier and if you upshift at the right time, there’s a nice surge of torque to surf on through all the gears. It works well on large throttle openings, not so much on small ones. Also, with the air-con on, turbo lag is a bit more pronounced. I’m now an expert at keeping the turbo spinning all the time via timely gearshifts, so it’s not too bothersome. I haven’t VBOX-ed it yet, but plan to do so soon and will have hard figures by the next report. The only hiccup – the box costs Rs. 28,000.
Now, Pete’s has always maintained that the fatter torque curve helps improve fuel economy, provided you aren’t lead-footed. It’s been hard not to take advantage of the extra power, so I’ve seen fuel economy drop from 8.1kpl to 7.1kpl. On the flipside, I did drive it judiciously once and fuel economy was a stellar 10.36kpl. On the highway. With the air-con on. At a steady 100kph. Not bad for something that has the streamlined properties of a dam.
In other news, I broke the rack-and-pinion steering’s rack. On a recent night off-road session, I went into a hidden rut at speed. The impact weakened the steering rack tube and it finally split open hours later, bleeding power-steering fluid. Luckily, I could still steer with a bit more effort, and that’s how I made it home and then to the workshop. Four days in the workshop and Rs. 22,054 later, the Thar is steering like before.
My greatest disappointment though is that the monsoons are over and Maharashtra has turned dry. It means most off-road tracks are now easy meat for the Thar, especially since it’s equipped with off-road tyres. Still, I wish Mahindra would offer some form of locking differential as standard.
Let me explain. Sometimes, when traction or grip is really poor, the Thar, like any off-roader, spins its wheels freely (it has no traction control either). Get into an even more challenging situation and you will often find one wheel of an axle spinning all the power away while the other that does have traction gets no power. It’s what an open differential does and it’s what can get you stuck. I think this is quite an oversight on a vehicle that chest-thumps its off-road prowess to the extent the Thar does.
Anyway, with Maharashtra dry, I had to find a new challenge, and that challenge presented itself in a 1200km, Mumbai-Goa round trip for the Royal Enfield Rider Mania. There were faster, more comfortable cars in the office parking lot, but I figured the combination of Goa, Royal Enfield and Thar had a nice ring to it. So the Thar it was.
I was genuinely surprised by how comfortable the journey was. I remember driving a Mahindra Classic to Lonavla and that was extremely tiring. The Thar, on the other hand, has a willing engine, an air-conditioned cabin and a reasonably comfy suspension. Sure, there was quite a lot of noise at speed – a bit of canopy flapping mixed with some wind noise and a hint of turbo whistle – but it wasn’t deafening. I took the NH4, which is a four-laner most of the way. It was easy to maintain triple-digit speeds and on its smooth surface, there was little of the high-speed float that the Thar displays on bumpy surfaces. I turned off at Nipani in Karnataka and then headed coastward via the Amboli Ghat towards Sawantwadi and Goa. Luckily for me, there was just 10km of absolutely broken road to tackle and even this bit I could confidently hammer through because the Thar just felt like it could take the punishment. I got to Vagator in nine hours, surprised by the seats, which were more comfortable than I thought they’d be. And I did like the sight of the Thar among the chrome of the six-hundred-odd Royal Enfields that had turned up.
It was functional too – the load bay served to carry a grill for a barbeque stall as well as one huge, hairy biker and two entire sets of riding gear back to Mumbai after the event.
I haven’t been able to spec the Thar up with a few options since the last report, but that’s exactly what I plan to do next. I’m thinking, maybe, a winch. Watch this space.
Price: Rs. 8.37 lakh on-road, Mumbai
Test Economy: 7.1 kpl
Mantainence costs: Rs. 22,054 for steering rack, Rs. 4,446 for second service
Faults: A bit of canopy rattle.