Can you live with a Mahindra Thar as your daily driver?
Parag is a friend of evo India and, as with all our friends, we got to know him because of his cars — specifically the C 63. The AMG got him connected with fellow sports car enthusiasts which in turn led to the founding of The Speedfest, among the finest collection of sports and super cars in the country. And sharing garage space with the AMG is a spicy RD 350, a sweet Bonnie T120 and a dictator-spec 560 SEL. Parag got delivery of the Thar in November and since then, it has gone from being just another car in the garage to his daily driver. “It’s become our go-to car, everybody in the family uses it more than any of the other cars that we have,” he says with a smile.
Parag is an enthusiast. He is managing director at Rockman Advanced Composites that make high-end carbonfibre parts for global automotive OEMs and race teams. You’ve seen cars with his carbon parts flying through rally stages and screaming round race tracks; you’ve even drooled over bikes that had his carbon body work, but confidentiality clauses prevent me from naming them. What I can tell you about are the cars in his garage. The first is the aforementioned C 63 S. You know the specs and we’ve featured it plenty of times in the pages of this magazine, racing it at drag races, destroying the tyres while drifting it and generally going mental at the fire-breathing twin-turbo V8. The second car is a little more grand, though not as modern — a 560 SEL. The go-to car for the rich and the powerful in the 90s, this generation of the S-Class was also owned by Saddam Hussein, and that should tell you all you need to know about it.
Clearly though, neither of those two cars are ideal for Indian roads, particularly if you’re planning to put in long distances. That’s where the Thar comes in. “I wanted a car that we could literally take anywhere. We used to love doing road trips and we had stopped doing road trips as life caught up, the kids were growing up and work was busy. We wanted to rekindle that passion for being out on the road.”
At evo India, we can attest to the Mahindra Thar’s mile-munching ability, having driven it from Pune to Jaisalmer, and back, and then heading to the desert on the Mahindra Adventure Royal Escape just a few months later. As capable a machine as it is off-road, the new Thar can handle road trips a million times better than the Thar it replaces. And Parag is taking full advantage of that fact having taken it on two proper long haulers so far — once to Chikmagalur and once to Belgaum, both from Mumbai where he lives. He’s also taken it to his friend’s farm a few times and doesn’t fail to mention how everyone wants to be the one driving the Thar there, regardless of what else shows up.
Having used the Thar so extensively, he isn’t blind to its shortcomings. “I think amongst the flaws that the Thar has is lack of luggage space. With four adults on the road trip, one of the first, rather the only concern we had was how are we going to fit all the bags.” But, where there is a will, there is a way. On his trip to Chikmagalur, the Thar fit four plus all the luggage they needed to carry. It wasn’t easy, Parag readily admits that. It took a fair amount of planning, including a test run with all the bags to find the right permutation and combination. “We actually met one night with empty bags and we did a jigsaw puzzle. We carried all the options that we had and everybody got allocated one bag. Someone got a small, cabin-size bag and a haversack, the other got a mid-size suitcase and nothing else. We made this jigsaw puzzle and we fit all the luggage in the boot and between the two passengers, and we figured out what will fit and then took it from there.”
Another part of Thar ownership that surprised him was the attention it gets him. You’d think that he’d be used to it what with two V8 luxury sedans in his garage, but no. The Thar sits in a different league.
“Of all my cars, the one that turns the most heads on the streets of Mumbai is the Thar. Not many bother to turn and look at an AMG going by till they hear it, but everybody turns and looks at the Thar and points and talks about the Thar,” he laughs. And he’s not exaggerating. We were out shooting his Thar early on a Thursday morning in Mumbai, and sure enough, someone pulled up in a BMW X4 and asked him about what it was like to live with and how long he had to wait to get one. Who would have thought!
The Thar though, can do much more than just drive around town and road trip. So that Parag could fully experience the capabilities of the Thar, we took him to the Mahindra Adventure Off-road Academy in Igatpuri and lined up a Thar in an identical spec to his own — a petrol hard-top with the automatic transmission. Here, under the guidance of Mahindra Adventure’s off-road experts, he put the Thar through some really technical tracks. Having been here a few years ago in the old Thar, he was blown away by how easy this new Thar was to drive off-road.
“The obstacles that we saw it take on today were just spectacular, and it almost makes me question the hype around off-roading, because this car makes it look so easy. This Thar takes the effort and the risk out of it. It just goes,” he exclaims! He even got his son Shantanu along, for whom the Thar was bought in the first place. Shantanu, who has only driven the Thar in the city so far, was thrust into an alien environment — driving the Thar up and down rocky slopes, and through articulation pits and in the mud. He couldn’t wipe the smile off of his face.
Another facet of the Thar that surprised Parag was the off-road capability with the turbo-petrol engine. An avowed petrolhead, Parag only considered the Thar because it now has a petrol motor but he was skeptical of its ability off the road, after all that’s where the low-down torque of a diesel really shines. But the ease with which the mStallion motor galloped around the obstacles at the Academy was, in his words, “deeply, deeply impressive”.
Just when he thought he had had enough excitement for one day, we sprung another surprise on him. We were going to visit the Thar’s production line in Nashik, a stone’s throw away from Igatpuri. At the factory, we saw the entire process of the Thar being manufactured — separate panels being joined together to make the body, the marriage of the engine and the chassis, the body getting bolted onto the frame, the interior coming together and even the etching of the iconic serial number plate that says “Made in India, with pride”. It was quite an experience, watching man and machine work together to piece together the Thar.
“The scale and the precision with which the work is being done really stood out for me. Standing in the same factory that my Thar was built in, I felt a lot more connected to it. You can relate to the car a lot more when you’re seeing it being built, and seeing the stages in which it comes together,” he told us as we left the plant.
So then, is the Thar an SUV that you can use daily? Parag certainly thinks so, and has shown that the shortcomings of the Thar aren’t impossible to overcome. “Like I told a friend of mine, the more you drive it, the more you like it. That is what sums up the Thar. I was skeptical and my family was skeptical about getting a Thar, but now it has become our default vehicle that we use. I use it as a daily driver, so the proof of the pudding is always in the eating.”