When we’ve written about the Mahindra Thar in the past, it’s mostly been in comparison with Jeeps. That makes sense, as the Thar is the development of the Jeep CJ that Mahindra has had a license to build far longer than Jeep’s current owner has been building Jeeps. We’ve usually thought of the Thar (and it’s American-market-but-not-road-legal little brother, the Roxor) as a sort of purer, more back-to-basics Jeep than the Wrangler. With this new version of the Thar, though, that may finally have changed.
The biggest, most dramatic change in the Thar—even if it’s one that’s not really visually obvious to most people—is that it now has independent front suspension. This would be pretty unthinkable on a new Jeep Wrangler, but the Thar, even though springing from the same original source as the Wrangler, is less saddled with the cultural burdens of a Jeep, so when Mahindra decided they wanted something that was more comfortable and quieter on paved roads, this decision makes sense.
The Thar still appears capable off-road, as this little video wants you to realize:
This is really only the first major re-working of the Thar, which was introduced under that name in 2010, though the Thar itself was just the somewhat modernized and re-branded version of the Mahindra Major, which was an update of the old Jeep CJ3B.
As you can see in yet another Mahindra video here, the goals for the new Thar were very much about civilizing its on-road behavior. Noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) have been reduced substantially thanks to the independent front suspension setup, and the interior has been dramatically re-designed to feel much more current.
The exterior looks a lot like the late ‘90s Jeep Wrangler TJ, with the indicators set into little rectangular units on the fronts of the fenders and a lower-profile “face.” The Thar separates itself more from the traditional Jeep seven-slot grille with a rectangular, inset grille that has six vertical chromed thin bars but also crossbars, making a grid-like grille that should keep Stellantis’ lawyers away.
The Thar is also wider than the previous Thar, and with a wider track. The body has more chamfering around the windows and interesting front bumper design that sort of folds up and onto the bodywork.
It still looks unquestionably like something derived from the original Jeep, but clearly much more refined. Unlike American Jeeps, the Thar can also be had with inward-facing rear seats to allow for holding up to six very-friendly-with-one-another people.
There are two engines available now for the Thar, which used to just come with Mahindra’s 2.2-liter, 130 horsepower mHawk diesel; you can also ask for a gasoline 2-liter mStallion inline-four that makes 150 HP, though versions of this engine make up to 190 HP in some of Mahindra’s other cars.
Overall, what we’re looking at here is interesting because it shows that the Indian market is growing in such a way that they’re demanding off-road capable cars that have more comfort and luxury as well.
Where before the Thar’s main selling point was its ruggedness and ability to drive pretty much anywhere, this new Thar is much more focused on commuting and daily driving on actual paved roads. The independent front axle setup certainly helps civilize the Thar, but isn’t quite as capable off-road as the old solid axle setup, at least according to our own David Tracy.
Still, it can be plenty capable, and such a setup isn’t exactly uncommon—the new Ford Bronco uses a similar formula.
Of course, we’re never going to get this here in America, but if we did, its 10 lakh starting price would come to about $14,000, which is just about half of what a new Wrangler starts at, and, while the Thar likely isn’t as safe as the Wrangler, it’s got airbags and stability systems with rollover mitigation and all that, so it’s not like we’re talking about some bare-bones thing anymore.
I’ll admit, the Thar was not a car I’d have expected to see grow up in this way, so I think it’s interesting. It’s like finding out that cousin of yours who lived in a van and made a living by doing rollerblade parkour or some shit now has a dental practice. You’re impressed, and maybe a little bit confused.
Having something that seems so Wrangler-like with IFS is fascinating in itself, too. I’ll see if I can talk David into taking a deeper dive into what an IFS Jeep means, conceptually and practically, because that’s interesting, too.