THAR TO THAR
evo India|December 2020
We spend a week with the new Thar to find out if you can live with it, if it can chew miles on the highway, if it can bash dunes, and if we are still smitten once the initial novelty has worn off
SIRISH CHANDRAN

I’M NOT WHAT YOU’D CALL A THAR-PERSON. I like, nay, demand refinement from my cars. I want to soak in the tunes and make conversation while cruising at triple-digit speeds. I want to do that triple-digit cruise without having my knuckles turn white. I don’t want my passengers screaming at me to slow down over every little bump. And I hate getting muddy.

Oh, I enjoy driving off-road but I absolutely hate having to get out and push when you invariably get stuck. Head to toe in muck ain’t my scene. Not the average Thar person, then, and that’s exactly the person Mahindra wants to draw in with the new Thar. The enthusiast who has gone soft, who has been spoilt by the comfort and convenience of modern cars. And it starts with Apple CarPlay.

Sounds silly, but that’s the first thing I do when I jump into any car. Plug in my iPhone, hit a new playlist and crank it up. The new Thar is sorted on that front. You don’t need anything else in terms of connectivity, just your phone plugged in, a slot to leave it in so it doesn’t fly into your face, another cubbyhole for the sanitiser bottle, and get on with the driving.

Actually I am getting ahead of myself. The whole appeal of the Thar starts from the moment you clap eyes on it. The styling melts your heart. It looks so cool, so desirable, even Porsche owners are working their phones to jump the (very, very) long queue to get their hands on one. And its appeal is universal. City slickers give it the thumbs up. On the highway we were stopped by scary looking guys in white Scorpios, who only wanted to compliment us on what we were driving. In rural India, social distancing went for a toss as villagers mobbed us when we pulled into the pumps. It transcends all class barriers and I don’t think it would be a stretch to call it the people’s car. Think about it — is there another car that has such a universal appeal spanning regions, demographics, income, cities and villages; even gender? The creative consultant of this magazine booked one the day we dropped our first Thar video, a manual ’cause she prefers shifting gears herself.

The initial excitement is understandable, an emotional response to something that looks so bloody cool. But, as the old Thar proved, it can wear off rather quickly. Can you live with the new Thar? Only one way to find out and so, iPhone plugged in, Maps set for Jaisalmer, we hit the road, taking the Thar to the Thar. Turns out, we are the first to do so.

THE THAR IS FANTASTIC TO DRIVE IN THE CITY! Getting to Ahmedabad from our home base in Pune requires hiking across Mumbai, through Thane and the (in)famous Fountain junction at Ghodbunder, and with traffic back to normal, this stretch can be hell. Of course we leave before the crack of dawn to beat the build-up but there’s no escaping traffic in its entirety and that’s where the Thar’s suitability to the city commute comes to the fore. Visibility is great. You sit high up so can look over dinky hatches. People stop to stare at it, giving you gaps to scoot into. And it is easy to drive. I miss the dead pedal but otherwise it is as effortless to drive as, say, a regular compact SUV (the Thar is also under 4 metres in length, hence the parallel). And then when you hit the tail-back leading the Fountain junction you keep to the extreme left, hit the dirt, and off-road your way to the front of the queue.

Can the Thar be your daily-driver? Master the technique of jumping into the Thar (using the running boards for leverage), enjoy the spectacle of your friends struggling to get in and — especially out of — the back, accept the fact that there isn’t much in the way of a boot, that you have to walk around and unlock the fuel filler lid yourself, and you are sorted.

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