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Introduction: Adventure driving is fast catching up in India and demand for lifestyle 4x4s is on the rise. An increasing number of enthusiasts are looking at investing into proper SUVs that can handle abuse during off-road meets and also do cross country runs into the wild. This is where Force Motors has decided to update the Gurkha 4x4, erasing its biggest shortcoming so far. We drove the new engine equipped Gurkha off the road and here is our verdict.
Looks matter: The Gurkha has always been loved for its old school design and the new one is no different. Do note that the model you see in the images is kitted up with after-market accessories. These can be bought by the customer from the showroom level and makes the vehicle look macho, appealing and intimidating at the same time. We recommend new Gurkha owners to invest into these at any cost.
The aftermarket alloy wheels you see here are shod with Maxxis mud tyres, there is a roof rack and a jerry can holder at the back and of course matt black protectors at places for body parts like the windscreen and front lamps. Looks purposeful, eh?
The new model also gets a 3-inch lift as standard from the factory, giving the Gurkha a higher stance and hence, higher street cred! The snorkel remains a standard fitment. Yes! Overall, there is no denying the fact the Force Gurkha Xtreme can turn more heads than a car that costs double the price. This thing towers over smaller cars on the roads and is the best tool for massaging an owner’s ego.
The cabin: Given the high ground clearance, it takes some effort getting inside the cabin of the Gurkha. But once seated, you will appreciate the view from the throne, err, the driver’s seat and also the space on offer. Let us get one thing clear here - this 4x4 is made for clear cut roles and pampering passengers isn’t one of them. The cabin of the Gurkha will certainly shock a lot of people. It is basic, utilitarian and devoid of any feel-good factors. The only creature comforts you get are a power steering and an air-con, that’s about it.
But it's a functional place. The hard plastics and absence of any electronics means nothing can will go wrong here, no matter the kind of terrains and environmental conditions you subject the vehicle too. There are places to keep your mobile(s) and bottle(s) and the seats do feel comfortable. In fact, there is more legroom than its chief rival, the Mahindra Thar.
The Gurkha gets side facing rear seats that can easily accommodate about 6 adults. The windows are the only source of fresh air here but thanks to huge glass area, the cabin feels airy. No creature comforts for rear passengers either. If you do fold the two benches, usable boot space is mighty impressive.
The heart of the matter: And this brings us to the USP of the Gurkha Xtreme. This trim level now gets a new 2.2-litre engine that is made under license from Mercedes-Benz. There is a 66% jump in maximum power - it goes up from 84 to 140 bhp! Likewise, the new engine helps put out 40% extra torque, which goes up from 230 to 321 Nm. There is a new gearbox too and this unit, the G32 offers better shift quality. Force claims that in order to handle all that extra power, the hubs now have a gear. And then there is a new transfer case that is made by Borg Warner's Indian JV.
The first thing that strikes you are the new-found refinement levels. Fire up the motor and you will be surprised with the way the Gurkha sounds and feels on the inside. Even powering down a muddy stretch ensures unwanted vibrations do not filter into the cabin. And all that extra torque and power come handy when you stuck in a tricky situation.
Like the earlier Xtreme, this one continues to get manually lockable differential locks at both the ends and something I like to call as an anti-stall feature. Slotted in 1st in low ratio mode, the Gurkha climbs up the steepest of inclines without requiring any throttle inputs. This also works as a downhill assist when engine braking keeps the vehicle at the minimum possible speed. These aids do come handy when you are off the road and what to just steer the vehicle without having to worry about brakes and acceleration.
We also took the Gurkha for a quick on-road experience and trust us, this thingy can finally cruise at 100 km/h all day long. The earlier Gurkha used to run out of breath at high speeds but this one ensures you will reach your destination quicker than usual. Overtaking maneuvers too require less pre-calculation.
Is it comfortable: Yes. Remains so and improves further. What Force has done is they have replaced the front independent suspension with a rigid axle. This helps off the road without killing the comfort factor and will be a boon for your co-passengers. Of course, given the weight and size of the Gurkha, it does move about a lot, showing both vertical and horizontal movements.
Back on road, straight line stability is impressive but it does suffer from body roll. It takes time getting used to the Gurkha’s on road manners and you need to be careful with steering inputs, especially at speeds. But all said and done, for a hardcore 4x4, the Gurkha fares good in terms of comfort levels.
Verdict: As a 4x4 SUV that can take you places, the Gurkha remains our top choice under Rs 15 lakh. It also comes with a brutish stance, something that works well for most owners. True it is feature stripped and Force should add in basic safety features but for anyone looking for a hardcore off-roader with a hard top and great performance, the updated Gurkha Xtreme 4x4 will not let you down. It is priced at Rs 12.99 lakh ex-showroom Delhi and don’t forget to keep aside a lakh or two for add-ons!