Sometime in 2008, an engineer from Mahindra turned up at an off-road meet organised by some enthusiasts. What he was driving looked like a well-maintained Mahindra MM540, a cult vehicle owned and coveted by off-road enthusiasts across the country. When the participants took a break, the engineer drove his vehicle into the track. Everyone present was stunned to see how effortlessly the car went over the tough obstacles. What he was driving was the prototype of what would eventually become the Thar. The gentleman was late Behram Dhabhar. Thus, began the legend of the Mahindra Thar.
That the Thar blazed the Internet on its way to the launch in December 2010 would be an understatement. Enthusiasts talked about the features of the vehicle — the Scorpio-derived powertrain, the DI variant, the independent suspension up front and, of course, the inimitable classic Mahindra looks.
During the launch, the Thar was a very basic automobile that could flare up the passion of the enthusiast as well as someone looking for a versatile utility runabout. The legion of city-based Thar owners who wanted to buy it for the image meant that some improvements were necessary, like air-conditioning. The combination of effortless power steering, air-conditioning, a suspension system that worked off-road, as well as on the road, and the economy of the diesel engine worked like magic, and the cult of Thar was cemented. There was no competition for the Thar, period. A mid-life update saw an improved soft-top, a semi roll-cage, and a revamped interior.
As the Thars rolled out in significant numbers from the Nashik plant, many off-road clubs mushroomed across the country. Thar became the centre of attraction at off-road events. The legend of the indestructible, capable off-roader grew leaps and bounds!
Despite its successful run, there was no escaping the fact that Thar had to evolve into a more modern automobile. Mahindra decided to leave no stones unturned as they began the development of the successor to the Thar, the Project W501, sometime in 2015. Though a few new design directions were explored, soon it was clear that what people wanted was a spiritual successor to the classic Mahindra, yet with modern amenities, dynamics, and safety features.
A modern avatar
While the body-on-frame construction was retained for its virtues, the new Thar had suspension hardware that would give it exceptional handling on the tarmac without reducing its off-road ability. With 150 bhp petrol and 125 bhp diesel engines, good handling was not a luxury but a genuine need. A very capable 4 WD system as well as a mechanical locking differential ensured that it could handle the toughest of the terrain. Prototypes were tested in sand, snow and mud, and the Mahindra Adventure Off-road Academy at Igatpuri was its finishing school.
The result was a no-compromise, world-class on-off roader. A desirable machine with loads of character and heritage. It came with three roof options, manual and automatic gearboxes, and a lip-smacking price tag. The All-New Thar was ready to be launched when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world. Would it affect the launch?
As it panned out, it was the most textbook launch any auto manufacturer could have hoped for amidst a pandemic. Delhi, Mumbai and Kochi were identified for the ‘contactless’ Freedom Drives with media driving the All-New Thar. The media loved the Thar would be another understatement. It broke the Internet as millions watched the Thar being driven in various parts of the country. Following the Freedom Drive, close to 100 media houses and influencers were given a chance to extensively test drive the Thar — on and off-road. A specially curated ‘Her Drive’ was executed to emphasise that not just men can handle the All-New Thar. A nationwide auction was conducted to find the first owner of the All-New Thar. All this frenzy and euphoria converged to October 2, 2020, the big launch, coinciding with the 75th anniversary of the Mahindra Group.
It was evident that the nation was waiting for the All-New Thar as bookings opened. There were queues at dealerships to get a glimpse of the newest blockbuster from the Mahindra stables. Thar bookings crossed 10,000 in just five days flat and doubled that number in one month. The booking spree went on relentlessly and touched the magical 50,000 units in six months’ time!
Mass delivery events were organised across the nation to allay the fears of those who booked early. As we speak, there is a 12-month waiting list for the All-New Thar.
The All-New Thar became very popular with the media, and it started sweeping up awards, including the Autocar India Car of the Year 2020. At the last count, it has won 19 awards from 14 media institutions.
The All-New Thar proved to be an emotion, more than just another SUV. It appealed to a wide spectrum of buyers, including those who would have never gone in for an SUV, let alone a proper 4X4 off-roader. It had the character to stand out in the crowd as well as blend in the daily commute. The new machine ensured that the legend of the Thar would roll on for years to come.
For Mahindra, the All-New Thar is a milestone that connects it with its illustrious past and a glorious future. Mahindra is making critical strides in tune with the global automotive trends, especially with a renewed focus on SUVs. The All-New Thar, with its capability and appeal, forms a strong foundation to build on this theme. So, what’s next? An electric-powered Thar? Well, one shouldn’t be surprised going by its sheer popularity.
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