Force Gurkha vs Mahindra Thar: Which is the better 4×4?

Force Motors recently launched its Gurkha 4×4 based on the legendary Mercedes G-Wagen and priced it at a slight premium to the Mahindra Thar at Rs. 8.35 lakh for the soft-top and Rs. 8.50 lakh ex-showroom for the hard top.

Considering the Mahindra Thar costs Rs. 6.98 lakh ex-showroom for the CRDE 4×4 variant, it does seem better value at the outset. But is it really the better 4×4 overall? Here’s a comparison of the merits and demerits of the Mahindra Thar CRDE 4×4 vs the Force Gurkha 4x4x4.

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Thar retains classic looks, Gurkha sports too much plastic

When you look at both the Gurkha and the Thar, the Gurkha is slightly longer and slightly wider than the Thar, which makes it slightly roomier. Both vehicles sport all-steel bodies, but the Gurkha has a bit too much plastic around, especially in the front, where the entire grille, headlamp shrouds and bumper are plastic. What makes the Gurkha stand out though are the classic G-Wagen lines, and that stainless steel snorkel looks like it means business (it does too).

Fit and finish on both the Thar and the Gurkha are nothing much to write home about, with ill-fitting plastics on the dashboard in both the vehicles. The Thar’s layout looks slightly more modern, but the Gurkha’s is plain and functional. Ergonomically though, the Gurkha is better as it has a better seating position and better placement of controls than the Thar (especially the 4×4 shifter lever – which is placed too close to the clutch and almost under the dash in the Thar, but is more easily accessible between the seats in the Gurkha).

So if traditional, basic functionality is what you want, the Thar will serve it up. However, there are some compromises on space and driving comfort. The Gurkha on the other hand is ergonomically better than the Thar. Also read: Force Gurkha launched at Rs. 6.25 lakh  

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Gurkha has better functionality and features

The Mahindra Thar and Force Gurkha are both bare-bones basic in terms of features. However, it’s the Gurkha that trumps the Thar for its features. Both vehicles have standard AC and power steering. However, the Gurkha also adds alloy wheels and fog lamps as standard on all variants. And that stainless steel snorkel, is actually a functional one that improves the vehicle’s water fording abilities, making it much easier to take the Gurkha water fording than a Thar.

If you add up the costs to make the Thar as functional as the Gurkha (Rs. 70,000 for a hard top, Rs. 25,000 for alloy wheels, Rs. 20,000 for a snorkel, Rs. 5000 for fog lamps etc), the Thar and the Gurkha hard top end up at the same price point. And that’s where the Gurkha scores – as it is factory built with all these features, while the Thar would require all this to be added aftermarket.

Thar has better highway manners

Now Mahindra has smartly engineered the Thar to provide good on-road manners as well as off-road ability. The Thar is powered by a 2.5 litre common-rail diesel engine that puts out 104 bhp of power and 247 Nm of torque, with a five-speed manual transmission. The engine is free-revving and effortlessly pulls the Thar to three-digit speeds. Even at high speed, the independent front suspension and improve chassis help keep the vehicle stable.

The Gurkha on the other hand still does not have a BSIV compliant engine. It comes with a 2.6 litre direct-injection diesel engine that puts out 82 bhp of power and 230 Nm of torque with a five-speed manual transmission. Given that the Gurkha is nearly 250 kg heavier than the Thar and has lower power, it isn’t likely to be as quick on open tarmac. It is comfortable enough though, as it too has independent front suspension and leaf springs at the rear like the Thar.

But off-road, it’s a different story. Also read: India’s best off-roaders below Rs. 25 lakh

Gurkha has good off-road prowess, let down by power

The Mahindra Thar has a manual 4×4 transfercase with high and low range. Low ratio multiplies available torque by about 2.48 times, making it quite capable off-road. However, the Thar has open differentials on both the front and rear axle, which means, if you get into a situation where one wheel in the front and one wheel at the rear are skidding, it will get stuck.

That’s where the Gurkha has some tricks in its transmission. It too has a manual 4×4 transfercase with high and low range. Low-ratio multiplies available torque 2.04 times, still falling below what the Thar offers. But, in sticky situations, the Gurkha has manual differential locks – separate ones for the front and rear axle, which can lock both wheels together on the same axle, providing traction when needed, and it has a greater probability of getting out of a sticky situation than the Thar (hence the additional 4 in 4x4x4 – meaning it’s a true 4×4 when needed). The Gurkha also has better ground clearance at 210 mm compared to 200 mm for the Thar.

It’s a pity it just doesn’t have enough grunt though, especially when it needs momentum for situations like scaling sand dunes – it’s let down by its weight and lack of torque.  If you are one who expects to drive more in slush and snowy conditions than for dune bashing or high-speed runs, the Gurkha would make sense. Also read: Mahindra Thar 4×4 off-road test

Mahindra has better service network, Force better warranty

The Mahindra Thar also benefits from its larger service network, which means easier access to spares and service when needed. Force only has about 14 dealers in the country now and the service network is quite sparse. However, Force is giving a terrific warranty of three-years or 300,000 km on the Gurkha – which would make sense for those who expect to clock high mileage in rough conditions.

What we think

Overall, the Mahindra Thar is slightly cheaper and a better performing vehicle than the Gurkha when it comes to regular driving conditions, but doesn’t have some of the standard features the Gurkha has. However, for specific off-road situations the Gurkha has an edge, and would have been even better if it had a better power-to-weight ratio. It’s a compromise one would have to make. Build quality wise – neither are really anything to talk about.

Which one would you choose?