The second-generation Gurkha is Force Motors’ attempt to emulate the appeal of the vehicle that inspired the Gurkha – the G-Wagen. But, given its off-road bias, is the Gurkha an SUV that you can drive daily?
I don’t think that there is a better role model than the G-Wagen for a new SUV. So, it seems that the Force Gurkha is already off to a good start, considering its intentions of emulating the G. But a product doesn’t exist in isolation, it exists amidst competition and, this brings us to the tremendous response that the Mahindra Thar has received, something that folks at Force Motors couldn’t ignore. And perhaps that’s why the folks at Force were egged on to tap into the ever-growing lifestyle vehicle space in the Indian market.
Shades of G
The influence of the G runs deep in the Gurkha – there are significant design touches that emulate the G’s iconic design language. So, if you’re a G-Wagen fan, the bonnet resting on boxy fenders, with round headlamps, and the indicators mounted on the bonnet edge will instantly catch your eye. In profile, the Gurkha’s design looks quite balanced, with its 2,400mm wheelbase and short front and rear overhangs. The large fixed rear windows, which transmit a lot of light into the cabin, is a useful touch. Overall, the Gurkha looks purposeful.
Now, one of the challenges that a small volume manufacturer, like Force, faces is to offer a great interior, for good interior quality and the latest features can be a very costly exercise. Keeping that in mind, you can look at the Gurkha’s interior in two ways. If you look at it charitably, you could say that the interior is a massive upgrade over the last-gen Gurkha and is quite functional and practical. However, if you take the cynical approach, it won’t make sense for a vehicle demanding north of ₹16 lakh (on-road) to have an interior with extremely basic quality and equipment. Now before you jump to the conclusion, let me add in the Gurkha’s defence that it does get four comfortable bucket seats, cubby holes for storage, a 7.0-inch multimedia system with Apple CarPlay, dual airbags, ABS, and LED headlamps.
An interesting feature of the Gurkha is a walkable passage between the rear seats, which can be used via the rear door. This means that you can simply walk into the cabin from the rear door rather than trying to be a contortionist in using the gap behind the front passenger seat. Those large rear windows also add to the overall comfortable ambience.
The seats are well designed and quite supportive, and there is ample room for four adults to comfortably fit in. Additionally, there is a large boot space behind the rear seats, which means going on long trips in the Gurkha with loads of luggage will not be an issue.
However, there are two things that need to be pointed out. With its chassis design and high ground clearance, getting into the front seats of the Gurkha is a task in itself, which necessitates the use of the footstep and the A-pillar mounted grab handle. Second, let’s be honest, despite the fact that the new Gurkha’s cabin is perfectly functional and a major upgrade over that of the previous-gen model, it is still a very basic and utilitarian cabin. So, don’t expect any luxury.
Powering the Gurkha is Force’s 2.6-litre turbocharged diesel engine, which, produces 91bhp and 250Nm of torque from just 1,400rpm. In terms of transmission, it comes with a 5-speed manual. There is also off-road gear as standard, which includes selectable four-wheel drive and front and rear differential locks. In fact, with the standard-fit snorkel, the Gurkha has a water-wading capacity of 700mm, which is quite impressive.
Interestingly, during the test, we also had an older version of the Gurkha, which we fired up to compare the difference in the NVH levels of the two generations. And believe me, the difference is huge. The engine of the new Gurkha is much better insulated, and even the in-car NVH levels are significantly better. You do feel a bit of vibration through the pedals and gear lever, but it’s nothing more than what you’d find in other ladder-frame SUVs. Of course, there is no comparison with an urban SUV, like the Creta or the Seltos.
On the road, the suspension setup of the Gurkha really stands out. With its dual wishbones and multi-link rear suspension, the Gurkha remains stable and irons out bumps very effectively. Sure, you can feel the heft of its two-ton weight, but the ride quality has a surety to it. The engine, on the other hand, is excellent at lower speeds – given its low-down torque, you can put the Gurkha into 2nd or 3rd gear and cruise comfortably. On the highway, the Gurkha can attain speeds of 80 – 90km/h comfortably, but beyond that, you begin to feel the limitation of its relatively low 91bhp, high weight, and brick-like aerodynamics. This means that cruising at three-digit speeds is a difficult task and will be an issue on long road trips.
But off-road, the Gurkha works fantastically well. We tried it on slush and rocky paths, and with its stout off-road hardware, the Gurkha tackled everything with ease – here, the low-down torque is really useful. In fact, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that the Gurkha feels right at home off-road.
For Serious Off-roaders Only!
So, I would say that despite all the refinements, more space, better materials, and improved drivability, the Gurkha is still suited for those who love to go off the beaten path. Sure, it’s a lot better to drive than the last Gurkha, but on long road trips, it certainly leaves you wanting more power to cruise at higher speeds and, also, an automatic transmission.
Now, all these missing features, according to the folks at Force, could be available in the future. But for now, there is no doubt that at its price point, the Gurkha is the off-road king, with decent on-road ability. However, I think it needs more refinement and creature comforts before it can be called a lifestyle vehicle of choice.
- Force Gurkha
Engine: 2,596cc / Inline-Four / Common Rail / Turbocharged
Transmission: 5-Speed Manual / Four-Wheel Drive
Power: 91bhp @ 3,200rpm
Torque: 250Nm @ 1,400 – 2,400rpm
Price: ₹13.59 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)
X-Factor: A phenomenal off-roader at a relatively affordable price!
• Well priced
• Too basic for most people