Force One LX Driven
The big SUV gets four-wheel drive and a BSIII variant. Is it enough to push its sales figures?
It has been nearly two years since the Force One was launched and it is now time for its first major upgrade. Back at its launch, company officials informed us that ABS and four-wheel-drive were being developed and that’s the headline additions to the new LX variant. The ABS is Bosch’s second-generation unit that has been tested and calibrated on the Force One on ice tracks in Mongolia. It was the first thing I tried out, stomping the brakes on the short test track and bracing for… well… there was no need to brace as the Force One brakes straight and true without any drama. Stopping distances too were acceptably short, aided in no doubt by the 245/70 R16 all-terrain rubber which is wider than the 235-section tyres on the SX. As for the four-wheel-drive, it uses the same Borg Warner shift-on-the-fly 4×4 transfer case as we know from the Safari and Scorpio. Having done duty in so many vehicles one can safely assume it to be a reliable piece of equipment and while we didn’t try any off-roading on the brief test drive, the combination of ladder frame chassis, good ground clearance and off-road pattern rubber make the Force One decently capable off the road. Not quite like a Gurkha but sufficiently capable for use in the plantations. The rest of the package also receives improvements. Fit and finish, both exterior and interior, have improved though it still takes a slam to shut the door. What you won’t find anybody complaining about though, is the space which is generous both in the second as well as last row, class-leading in fact. However access to the third row is not very easy as the rear door aperture is not that wide. A big plus point of the Force One is her chunky, bigger-is-better styling that still holds strong appeal among the white-kurta-wearing flag-flying population. At this price nothing is bigger nor commands more road presence, handy now that elections are round the corner.
The 2.2-litre common-rail diesel engine’s main claim to fame is that it has technology licensed from Mercedes-Benz. Not that you’d notice going by the generous NVH levels. Power, at 139bhp is adequate and though there is a VGT turbocharger, turbo lag is quite pronounced and brisk progress calls for much stirring of the gearbox. Which isn’t very slick either. The chassis has been claimed to be tuned by Lotus but there’s nothing sporty about the generous body roll or lifeless steering. The driving position, where you sit far too high, only exaggerates the top-heavy driving impression.
Meanwhile for semi-urban markets there’s a new base variant that gets the direct injection 2.6-litre diesel engine that is a direct descendant of the venerable OM616 engine from the Trax. With just 81bhp to lug around 1860kg performance is leisurely but there’s a strong 230Nm of torque that comes in handy to start the car off in second gear as the ancient dog-leg first gear is enormously difficult to slot. The interiors though are rather fine for a car of this price and the pricing starting at Rs 8.99 lakhs should help it penetrate semi-urban markets. The LX variant is priced at Rs 11.9 lakhs which includes 4×4.