We have this swanky switchblade key to a bike, but we don’t know where it is parked. As we head into the parking lot, we fiddle with the numerous buttons on the key-body, one after the other. Blimey! It’s a blinking miracle! The indicators on one bike give a couple of winks. Is that our bike? Yes it is!
Meet the latest two-wheeler from the stable of the Mahindra SUVs, the Centuro, a sort of elder sibling to the Pantero though the two share the same engine. At first glance, what impresses one is that it is a neat package. Compact, unobtrusive and --- hold on, what are those brassy things around the engine block? Exhaust pipes? Leg guards? Nope, they’re there just for the effect. At one fell swoop, Mahindra has killed the initial impression.
Let us take a second look. Actually, apart from that metallic mayhem, the first glance is more or less confirmed. If anything, the bike looks rather staid. A full-sized tank, a small windbreaker cowl around the headlamp that is the standard these days, regular mirrors and lights, nothing much to excite. The exhaust pipe looks rather pedestrian, though the rear-end and the tail-light cluster are well laid out.
Start up the engine, and there are no surprises. Refinement could have been better: the growl sounds rather asthmatic. Switch on the headlight, and surprise! The instrument cluster is completely new. Nothing of the Pantero here.
It is a mostly-digital cluster, with just the tachometer analog. What attracts most is the backlight, a neat white LED that offsets the numbers well. Flanking the speedo, there is screen that toggles between distance, trip meter and clock on one end, and a fuel gauge/distance-to-empty on the other. The key-remote also has a small LED light that helps you find the keyhole in the dark, and there is a central locking anti-theft system apart from the 128-bit encrypted flip-key, and an engine immobiliser.
Step on the gas — the gears are all down — and again, there are no surprises. A short first gear, the second slightly longer… we hit the top (fourth) by about 40, for a somewhat sedate ride. This bike seems to be targeted at the older commuter, with the sober ride and the even more sober looks and the muted note.
But let us put it through its paces anyway. Pulling hard at the throttle, one revs away and lo! asthmatic it may be, but this bike can touch the century after all, though it takes its time getting there. Not as namby-pamby as it looks.
Where, then, is the catch? Unhappily, it surfaces soon enough. Brakes. There are only drums on offer, both fore and aft, and that really is not enough for a bike that can get going. Mean to say, what is the point of taking off, if the landing is going to be bottoms-up! We wouldn’t trust these brakes beyond 60-65 kph.
Mahindras, do please put a disk up front, and even at the back if possible, as a higher-end variant. This bike deserves it.
It does well in traffic, in the matter of overtaking, beating potholes — the ground clearance is a nice 173 mm — and in terms of rider comfort. Pushed, it can even corner pretty neatly. The ride is best at about 60 kph, when the engine is relaxed and the shockers unstressed. One would not recommend continuous ripping around, which the Centuro is not really built for: the asthma could well tell on the heart!
Well, should you buy this bike? Honestly, it depends. Mahindras have done well with their scooters, and seem to be determined to do this bike thing well. The bike itself is a good package, though the brakes and the garish pipes up front spoil the effect somewhat. And while laying out features, they seem to have omitted a side-stand alarm. The claimed mileage of nearly 80 kph is excellent, though we could not confirm that, but if it gives anywhere close to 70 kph, this bike is as near a winner as any other.
Do test the bike out for yourself, you may be surprised.