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Force Gurkha Review - 4x4x4 E.O.V.

  • May 09, 2013
  • 18373 Views
Before we start, lets play around with a teaser video 

[embedyt]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ny239fiPL50[/embedyt]



They say, SUVs separate the men from the boys. True enough though the issue in India is that 95% of mass segment SUVs you and I see on the road are probably best for pot-holes, speed-breakers and the occasions divider. A real SUV ought to have the right mechanicals along with standard 4x4 system but its a shame that ego hungry buyers opt for the 4x2 versions, add in wider tyres and run around flaunting their machines which will probably have their tales between the legs off the road.

This is the bitter truth about the Indian mass segment SUV industry and some manufacturers even go out and launch 4x2 only SUVs. How can a vehicle be termed as a SUV if there is no 4x4 on offer often baffles us! Getting back to our point, if you are a hard-core off-road enthusiast and believe that Ladakh is your second home, the options available in the Indian market are  rather limited. The Maruti Gypsy is hard to get and it sips petrol while the Mahindra Thar lacks proper 4x4 mechanicals like transfer case, snorkel, optimum approach and departure angles etc. The new Force Gurkha hence makes its presence felt and last week, we found ourselves in Pune, having a hell of a time in exploring the limits of this new extreme off-road vehicle under a 40+ degree summer sun. Yes - we did forget to carry sunscreen creams and lotions with us from Pune!



The Gurkha made its appearance way back in 2008 when it was manufactured for export with only a handful of units being given to Indian customers. Fast forward to 2011 and the company rolled out its big offering, the 'One' - the 4x4 version is expected later this year and least to say, we are looking forward to that! The Gurkha in the meantime was revived and over the last two years, much work has gone into improving the good old product in all respects.

The new Gurkha is largely based on the older model - it still makes use of the same chassis and the body. This isn't a bad thing as the original Gurkha was designed on the lines of the legendary Mercedes Benz G Wagon and in the middle of nowhere, this vehicle will surely look appealing. Changes on the exteriors include new bumpers, foot board, grille and that lovely functional snorkel. Alloy wheels are borrowed from the Force One and on avail are both 3-door hard-top and a soft top version. Interesting bits of exterior elements include the two Gurkha badges - one under the front windshield and one at the back. The Gurkha comes standard with front fog lamps and the exhaust outlet in front of the rear right tyre looks unique. The high ground clearance and all-terrain tyres add a touch of 'macho-ness' to the Gurkha.



Step in, or rather, climb in and the first thing that takes you by surprise is the overall up-market feel for a SUV of this segment. The two-tone seats for example match the two-tone colour combination of the interiors. Finished in a mix of black and beige, they also offer high comfort though the arm-rest didn't seem to function properly on our test vehicle. The fascia design has been changed as compared to the older model and looks far pleasing than its main rival, the Mahindra Thar. It also offers a lockable glovebox and the tachometer sits in the middle of the fascia. The standard air-con seems to work well in the 40+ degree heat though the fan seemed to be too noisy at full speed. There is ample space in the foot-well area though a dead pedal would have been appreciated. The Gurkha's speedometer console is basic and easy to read but for first timers, the four different levers between the front two seats might be confusing.



The Gurkha makes use of hard-core 4x4 mechanicals here. The middle of the longest lever is ofcourse the conventional gear lever. On its right sit two smaller levers which are used to lock the front and rear differentials independently. Lastly, the lever on the right of the hand brake is for shifting from 4x2 to 4x4H or 4x4L. The shortcoming here is that it does take some effort for operate all of these levers. The vehicle was brand new and we hope the lever become softer once the vehicle has done a couple of thousand kilometers and a few OTRs - off the road events!

A quick look at the launch video 

[embedyt]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDWPG7ZA0cQ[/embedyt]

The Gurkha still makes use of the same Mercedes licensed OM616 four cylinder unit. Much work has been done to make sure both power and torque take a bump. The 2596cc makes a maximum power of 80PS at 3200rpm along with a maximum torque of 230Nm at 1800 rpm. This is transferred to the wheels via a G1 18/5B gearbox that suffers a bit from long throws. Keep in mind that the Gurkha's gear shift pattern is different than the regular SUVs with 1st gear being down, not up. However, all these shortcomings take a back-seat once you experience what this old school SUV can do where roads don't exist.



Force Motors' specially designed SUV test track inside their Pune plant seemed to be the apt place to distinguish regular SUVs from the hard-core ones. Infact, during my familiarization lap when I sat in the co-driver's seat, my lips were constantly moving due to chanting of my favorite religious verses.  The first stretch included man-made craters which initially started with a depth of a few inches, going deeper into more than a foot at places. When the Gurkha's wheels started slipping, the differential locks were engaged manually and without any throttle inputs, this thing simply danced away through all the craters with one or two wheels being air-bore most of the times. The first lap was done away quickly and the faith Force Motors' officials had in their product, they gave me the keys to the vehicle to start driving on my own. They were confident I wouldn't bog down the vehicle at all and even two hours later, their product lived up to the expectation! The machine surely won and taunted me into pushing it more.



The OM616 engine isn't very smooth or refined. However this could also be blamed on the overall NVH levels. What leaves you impressed is the ECU calibration which allows you to climb steep gradients without any throttle inputs. The engine does the trick automatically and all you need to do is lock the differentials, select 4x4L, slot into first and let off the clutch. This thing will give actually challenge mountain goats up a rocky hill side no matter what terrain it is on! For the uninitiated, the differential lock helps come out of situations when one or more of the wheels are slipping on soft ground or in air due to undulating terrain and unable to generate enough traction to move forward. The 210mm ground clearance and 550mm wading depth further give the Gurkha a complete clear edge over the Thar.

Here's the official drive review video

[embedyt]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_iQBnZxm6w[/embedyt]

Lastly, enthusiasts who love venturing into the unknown like jungle trails, mining areas etc will also love the 37 degree approach angle and 34 degree departure angle - possible due to short overhangs. Uphill climbs of upto 40 degree can be negotiated too and trust me, anything over that and the vehicle will probably tip over.



We did drive the Gurkha on the smooth concrete roads in the plant and it does perform adequately. The low geared steering takes time getting used to but then, this SUV is made for a purpose. Owners will appreciate the comfortable interiors and we are told, given the road, the Gurkha should comfortably do over 120km/h with a cruising speed of 100-105km/h, more or less similar to the Thar. However for a fair idea of how it feels on the road, we would wait for a media vehicle here in Delhi.

To give you an indication on the amount of mechanicals this version has, the 4x2 model will save you over Rs 2 lac and sells for Rs 6.25 lac ex-showroom which suddenly makes this a very good option for wannabes. However, if you are looking for a second vehicle in the family for recreational purposes and one that could pull along other SUVs up a rocky hill, look no further! This vehicle is not for those who look at the Scorpio 4x4 or Safari 4x4 as their next off-road vehicle. The Gurkha will disappoint you in that regard and Force Motors understands that the market for such a niche 4x4 SUV is pretty small. The reason why they have kept a very modest target of only 1000 units in the first year, something that is easily achievable. The icing on the cake is a three-year / 3,00,000km warranty.

Before we end, by the 4x4x4 stands for the various terrains and seasons this vehicle is meant for. First '4' is for 4x4, second '4' is for all terrains and last '4' is for all seasons. E.V.O stands for Extreme Off-road Vehicle. Clever marketing!



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