I received a call from Force Motors Pune one late evening and to my surprise I was invited to take a test ride of the new Gurkha. The very prospect was an exciting one and I couldn't wait for the next 14 hours to check what the new Gurkha had in store.
At the Force Motors Office Pune, I had a very warm welcome and was taken to another section of the company premises.
To my great disappointment, we had to leave our mobiles & cameras at the security counter.
So no photos ,videos etc..
On the way to the testing grounds (FML is a 260 acre property), we saw superb testing facilities for MAN trucks, which apparently are no longer with FML. So coming straight to the point.
We saw the new Gurkha. It was poorly camouflaged; black color and the usual 3 door variant. The exteriors:
The vehicle's original stance is unchanged
Roof ski racks installed
The front grill has been changed and the looks are definitely fresh
The lamps are round projectors
The snorkel is standard
Typical bonnet mounted indicator lamps remain
The fenders are no more iron, but of fiber instead
The cow guard is yet unchanged and present
The skid plate under the front diffs are the same and so also under the fuel tank
The rear looks good due to the new bumper (again fiber) with a different tail lamp assembly and the neat alloy wheel
The side steps are aluminium and rear view mirrors plastic Opened the bonnet
and there was a sigh of relief.
The clutter and untidiness of the engine bay is no longer there. The bonnet underside is now lined with heat and sound absorbing materials.
The EGR valve is here to stay, but now has an EGR cooler unit. This EGR cooler unit will further reduce soot formation and the engine performance.
The turbocharger +intercooler assembly is the same. Battery position is the same.
Front axles have a different housing .
The engine is the same 2.8L Di FTI 4 cylinder. It comes with the same VP37 Bosch ECU.
The GM of R & D Mr.Gurav told us that the power specs have been improved and no more does this engine throw a 56kw (75 BHP) power output the older Gurkhas had. Hastily, he declined to offer me the exact specs. "You will know when the vehicle is launched", he said. Wheels:
Stock size now is 245/70 R16. Comes with Apollo A/T tubeless & alloys. Alloys are decent and look good. The wheel arches are superior to the older ones.
Significant Changes in the transmission line. The crown and pinion ratio is 4.3:1 (as compared with 4.88:1 in the previous Gurkha). The final ratio at the wheels remain almost the same, since the new tire sizes are 245/70 (7.5 R16 in the older versions). The new tyre height is 29.5 inches as compared to the older 31 inches. That brings down the ground clearance and increases the overall rpm at the tyres.
We will see how the above factor transmits into the final performance of the vehicle later.
After all these observations, I decided to enter the cock-pit.
The seats are space age stuff as compared to the older Gurkha seats. Nice, comfortable & adequate back and thigh support. They also sport an arm-rest..Driver side leg room is good.
Co-driver side space is a little cramped if you are taller than 5'10". The rear seats are comfortable too.
The gear shift, both the normal and 4wd are space age material. They slot in smoothly and effortlessly. All past Gurkha owners had to use both their hands to change the 4wd gear shift, once in a while, when the vehicle was new . In this Gurkha, a 10 year old girl can slide the 4wd gear shifter easily .
The steering wheel is the same, but the drive is much smoother. It also gave proper feedback of the road below while driving.
The dash is the same old creepy plastic with an incorporated RPM meter, clock and (I was told) optional GPS. The indicator cluster is the same. EDC light is now housed in the main cluster (and not separately). The air con vents are different, but still appear cheap.
The handbrake is at a much better place. In the center, near the gear shifter, rather than the very inconvenient lateral position of the old Gurkha.
The diff locks are cable operated and have the same turn and pull switch.
The new Gurkha is minus the PTO now . THE DRIVE:
At the turn of the key, the engine started and the noise is far lesser than it was supposed to be.
The drive revealed far lesser NVH levels than I had experienced in my new Gurkha. The ubiquitous rattles for which the Gurkha was known seem to have finally evolved (or atleast in this test mule). The burst of power was amazing. Throttle response was linear and the power was coming on effortlessly without any lag.
Couldn't do a max speed test since the factory did not have an open track to check it. The turbo kicks off very soon in the low rpm range and is active mostly throughout the entire rpm range..a characteristic of the Gurkha.
Braking was excellent.
Then we headed to the Force Motors Offroad testing facility
FML engineers cautioned me that driving on the offroading ground needed extreme skills. A small hillock with steep climbs, descents and an inclined plane was all that FML had for its offroading track. The entire track difficulty could, at best, be described as "medium" for a regular offroader.
The best part of the track however was the diff-lock pit trail, something which amazed me and I couldn't help but profusely appreciate the track designer Mr Gurav .
Enter the offroad trail. I wasn't allowed to drive first. The R&D guys drove the vehicle throughout the track and then offered me a drive.
Put the vehicle in first LOW and let it crawl. The performance was amazing, the vehicle simply carried itself at crawl through all the obstacles, no matter how steep the climb was. I had to engage the rear diff lock at 2 places only whilst going through the articulation pit track. Give this vehicle to a novice with some gall and a brain sound enough to use the steering wheel, and the Gurkha would take him places without any effort.
A major downside : The descend is not that good now and slight braking needs to be applied, otherwise the vehicle comes down rather fast. This is something that Gurkha owners never faced before . Overall conclusion about the drive :
1] NVH vastly reduced.
2] More power available at all rpm ranges.
3] Superb crawl.
4] Better articulation, smaller wheel?
5] Adequate braking on slopes.
6} Superb gradeability.
7] The descends are not that good. One does need to brake, otherwise the vehicle comes down pretty fast. One of the main forte of a Gurkha is its water fording capacity, its crawl and the sure-shot, safe steep descent. With the New Gurkha, the "mantra" for a very steep descend will no longer be "NO ABC". OVERALL IMPRESSION OF THE VEHICLE:
I am in love with the Gurkha again, simply because this is what we had wanted from a Gurkha and which we as current owners did not get.
Better interiors, better workmanship, better material used, a peppier engine, a more serviceable engine bay, an easy to use gear shift, comfortable seats, stock alloys, choice of colors (Red, white and black), both hard top and soft top variants and much more. The A/T tyres provided with this vehicle are much better than the hard JK no-good tyres which used to be the stock tyres of the older Gurkhas. The looks are also better
The downside is the reduced GC, say by an inch, the reduced gear ratios, absence of the PTO and the use of new "rear axles ". I mentioned the last as a downside, since the rear axles on the older Gurkhas were simply indestructible (derived from MB).
Prices and the exact release date were kept classified. However, FML says it will launch the vehicle in the next month. It was learnt that FORCE ONE with the 4wd and ABS
variant is also slated for a launch next month.