It was MotorBash, who brought to you the first ever clear spyshots of a bright red test mule of the new Gurkha. It were we, who shared with our readers the interiors of the new 2013 Gurkha and it was MotorBash who revealed (with a spyshot) that the new 2013 Gurkha will carry a BS3 engine!
Okay enough of bragging about our ‘firsts’, let us get down to business and talk about the off-roader in detail, now that it is in the market for sale. One fine sunny day, we were invited for a test drive of Force Motor’s revamped attempt at creating another niche in the segment; ‘another’ because Force One is the first one from their stables.
Words: Saad Khan
Pictures: Nikhil Sood & Rishabh Shukla
A Little History:
Force Motors launched the ‘Gurkha’ brand in 2008 but it was majorly meant for the export markets. The company sold only 40 units (FORTY only) of the older Gurkha in our Indian market. In a candid chat with a top Force official, we also learnt that the first unit of Gurkha was sold to an enthusiast in Indore, Madhya Pradesh.
When Force sat and began to think, “What different can they do after Force One?”; Gurkha’s name came up quickly. The company decided to revamp the Gurkha and launch it in a fresh new avatar, this time full-fledgedly!
The Pune based auto major called many owners of the older Gurkhas, took a lot of feedback from them regarding what they felt should face the axe and what should be carried over to the new Gurkha. And after a lot of analysis and groundwork, new 2013 Gurkha was born.
What is Gurkha?
‘Gurkha’s’ are warriors and many guys have asked us – What kind of a name is this? We like it! And true to its name Force Gurkha is a hardcore off-roading machine, a brutal one at that! The name defines the utility vehicle perfectly. It also carries the ‘Gurkha’s kukri’ as its logo which also reflects the sharp character of the off roader.
What is 4X4X4 and E.O.V.?
Many of our readers have asked us what are these two alien terms being used to describe/promote Gurkha. These are nothing but marketing lingo to strike a chord with the end customer. Though it does create confusion but it does leave you inquisitive!
4X4X4 signifies Gurkha’s capabilities on 4 wheel drive in all 4 seasons of the year on 4 terrains – sand, water, rock and ice!
While the above full form may leave you bamboozled, E.O.V. is what defines Gurkha. EOV stands for Extreme Off-Road Vehicle which is the basis of new Gurkha.
Force Gurkha’s Looks & Styling:
What Force Motors has done is keep the basic styling of the older Gurkha and lent it with some contemporary touches to make it look upto-the-times! It carries a completely new face which includes clear lens circular headlamps (from the earlier rectangular ones), introduction of a newer grille which has four horizontal bars running across, all done in dark grey plastic! The thickest top bar takes care of the company name and the following one houses Force’s ‘F’ logo.
The earlier Gurkha carried much muted front bumpers and Force has added meatier and beefier bumpers which also house the round fog lamps now. Next prominent added characteristic are the added wheel arches and cladding which does lend Gurkha the ‘now’ looks but use average quality of plastic and lack proper finishing touches.
Gurkha carries the same rugged philosophy at the rear. It has a rear-mounted tyre which is so much an ‘in’ thing these days and being bare, it is also an alloy. The tail lamp cluster reminds us of World War I or II (you decide which ever would have been more traditional). The rear bumper houses all the lamps ie brake lights, reverse gear indicator & the side blinkers. Apart from these it also carries the reflector, number plates and the number plate illumination lights.
There is also a small rear spoiler perched at the top and it appears to be an aftermarket accessory. New Gurkha also carries a full sized metal foot board which was not offered on the older Gurkha (result of the feedback).
In short, Force Gurkha is (very) loosely based on the iconic Mercedes G-Wagen which reflects the epitome of ruggedness and are probably one of the best off-roading vehicles our generations have seen. In fact, Force believes this resemblance is what will win them a few customers also and we echo their thoughts.
Force Gurkha Engine, Performance & Off-Road Capabilities:
If you do not read other sections of this review, ensure you read this one because this is what the USP of Gurkha is!
For the specs-freaks, new Gurkha is powered by a 2596cc OM616 diesel engine which is made under license from Mercedes. It is a turbocharged BS3 compliant engine which means all you metro guys will have to register your Gurkha outside the city limits. It produces 82PS of maximum power output at 3200rpm and more importantly 230Nm of torque which peaks at 1800-2000rpm.
Now that we know this is an off-road vehicle and all you reading uptil here are definitely interested in some capacity in Gurkha. Off-Roaders can be sub divided into three categories – the majority constitutes of the pseudo off-roader who feel crossing a non-damar road is off-roading and your 1992 Maruti 800 does it with aplomb.
Second category includes all the show-offs who own a 1950’s Willys or even today’s Dusters to tell the public they love off-roading.
And then if you belong to the third category, you better buy the Gurkha! This third category of guys are the real off-road maniacs who “have been there and done that” kind of souls! They know and understand what extreme off-roading is all about. It’s not about crossing half a feet deep & couple of feets wide nullah. This is where Gurkha pitches in and makes a deep impact!
Gurkha was made for a purpose and Force actually developed an extremely daunting off-roading test track inside the company’s premises which had all the capabilities to jolt the toughest of nuts out there! Force offered us the test drive on the same test track which is also used for R&D purposes. So let’s crank up the off-roader and see what it is capable of!
The Gurkha came to life and as soon as I saw what lies ahead as the first hurdle my eyes remained wide open. It was the Articulation track what Force calls it, fondly! The following picture explains what we are talking about.
This track had deep craters depth of which kept on increasing as we proceeded and towards the end it had enough to gulp down your best so-called off-roaders (you know what we mean!). A few metal screeching, metal-meeting-stone sounds and the Gurkha gulps down this track with ease. I believe this was the toughest section of the track and can bet no other sub 10 lakh SUV can cross this in one piece!
Next up was the Down-hill test where the Gurkha had to descend down a supposedly 35 degree slope which that day looked like downward facing 90 degrees! First gear, 4WD, Diff Locks employed, 4 High and here I proceed. As soon as I entered the slope, the front dips down with the road and the rear lifts up! Though it forms a lovely picturesque pose but believe me it is hell scary when you just cannot see any road in front of you. But, Gurkha does it like I am exaggerating like Rakhi Sawant!
Following that was the relatively easier ‘Rock’ Test track which was nothing but small boulders placed on the uneven way. This felt easy after the first two shockers!
As I proceeded, an end of the road greeted me. However, I was asked to proceed over this! It was the 45 degree incline that Gurkha climbed without even a zilch of the use of accelerator: Only crawling gear! This following picture doesn’t do justice to what I am saying but this is exactly the place!
As soon as I climbed up, I had to take a left turn for the balance test. Gurkha had to walk a tilted ramp of a significant inclination.
Following this was again a steep decline which when-constructed was around 35 degrees but over the time after fair bit of usage and eroding, it was over 40 degrees with absolutely loose mud. As soon as I started the descend with brakes on, Gurkha started to slide down, however, it maintained its poise and never appeared to be tipping over.
Following on, the next test for our Gurkha was the ‘Slush’ test through a muddy pond of water which was a favorite for our photographers! And the following pic will tell you why! We repeated this very section quite a number of times just to ensure we had happy photographers and a dirty muddy Gurkha!
After these back to back trails, we had some open ground to drive the Gurkha which carried us to the next break which was the ‘Water Wading’ capability test. The water’s depth was not really high and almost any decent off-roader (or a modern SUV) would have crossed this test. However, when we are on this, let us share with you the claimed capability of Gurkha.
Gurkha can wade through water 550 millimeter deep. And with the snorkel on the body, you just don’t need to care about your engine gasping for fresh air. Don’t believe us? Check out this video of Gurkha which was done by some Force officials some other time.
After this we headed back to the track which allowed us a regular tar road of about half a kilometer or so before entering the first articulation test again! I carried out quite a lot of rounds of this track and every time I reached the track back, I was more confident and Gurkha looked all the more interesting and dirtier! For the records, Gurkha is claimed to do a top whack of close to 120kmph and return fuel efficiency of 11-12kmpl.
Now, you must be wondering what makes Gurkha such a potent off-roader and why are we going gaga over it. The reason lies in its Differential locks! Gurkha comes with differential locks on both front and rear axles which lend it the ability to move forward when one or more wheels are hanging in air or slipping in slush. As soon as you engage the differential locks, the wheel which has more traction pulls the vehicle out.
Apart from this there is the magical Crawling Gear. This enables Gurkha to climb through almost anything without you having to touch the accelerator at all!
Gurkha comes with an advanced transfer case which provides options of 4 High, 4 Low and the regular 2 wheel drive. It also gets a class leading ground clearance of 210mm and add to that the lowermost parts like engine under belly, propeller shaft joints as well as the fuel tank are all shielded by a protective covering to save them of any unwanted hit.
New Gurkha comes with 37 degree approach angle for steep gradients, 34 degree departure angle and 29 degree of ramp-over angle and a maximum gradient climb-ability of 40 degrees, officially. Unofficially, it can do even better than these!
To aid off-roading prowess, new Gurkha comes with all-terrain Apollo Hawkz 16 inch tubeless tyres (245/70) and alloy design shared from Force One.
Gurkha: Interiors & Other Bits
Gurkha is a 3 door 5-seater off-roader which means you only have the front door to get inside. The passenger side front seat is movable and it creates space for an average size adult to sneak in. However, one of our well-built photographers had a bad time getting inside the car. Overall, it’s not the very convenient way of boarding a car, but take one- sportiness or comfort!
On the interiors, Gurkha comes with a dual-tone dashboard which looks and is very basic in design. Quality of plastics is just about okayish however; the positioning of the tachometer (under the AC knob) is something which defies all logics! I don’t remember viewing it even once for the sake of my life even at 10kmph! Its positioning makes it as useless as anything. You better consider it not there!
There is a small lockable glovebox and as many as 6 AC vents – 4 rectangulars in the center and 2 circulars on the sides. We did use the AC for sometime and it appeared to be weak. The truck like steering is what will strike you as soon as you are at the driving seat. However, we were assured by Force Motors that the company has taken the feedback and will replace it with a more car-like one very soon. Seat comfort at both the front seats was pretty good with plenty of support for.. well your everything! Front bucket seats also come with an arm rest which was placed slightly higher to our liking.
The console is nice, plain and visually helpful. It shows your speed, temperature and has a fuel gauge along with other regular indicators.
Now, you have started the Gurkha, how about moving forward. Hey what’s happening this? Why am I moving back? More often than not this is bound to happen for the first timers and crater stuckers! Force has employed a dog-legged gear pattern, as they call it which, they say, helps in rallies! We don’t mind the pattern as it just requires a bit of getting used to, however, it was notchy, had huge travel and required a lot of effort many a times for a simple gear change. Even the 4WD lever as well as Diff-locks were hard to employ. Add to this, the hard-to-the-bone clutch. A few more laps on the Gurkha and I would have come out of the Gurkha with Arnold Schwarzenegger like calves!
Gurkha comes with front two discs and rear drums and braking power was just about adequate to stop this 2.5 tonne (2510kg) monster.
Moving to the rear seat; after cursing you with its ingress, they will not really crib about once inside. The interiors are airy and have fairly decent headspace and good knee space. Rear seat passengers also get sporty head rests, individual lamp and decent thigh support.
The rear door doesn’t cover the complete rear portion and hence, the opening is narrower. But it has ample amount of space to carry all your reasonable sized goods. Both the sides are raised probably due to the rear wheels. How about a Quanto like jump seats to make it a 5+2 seater?
Gurkha is a vehicle which all the souls seeking creature comforts might not like. And frankly speaking, it is not built for them as well. You better buy the Dusters and the EcoSports! However, for those who want a real off-roader, I repeat, a real off-roader, this is your B-E-ST bet out there under 10 Lakhs! Gurkha, because of its diff-locks and other inclusive features, is a more potent off-roader than both the Gypsy and the Thar! Which means, you can cross tougher non-roads in a Gurkha and this is one vehicle which justifies its tag of being an Extreme Off Road Vehicle (E.O.V.).
For a generic individual Gurkha is your hobby vehicle which can climb the steepest of mountains, wade through bonnet-deep waters, break through toughest of boulders and cross the meanest of craters! Obviously it comes with its shares of issues which we have discussed and are also listing down, however, I was sold at the capability of the vehicle. Give it any kind of terrain and it will not even hitch before crossing it. If you are into real off-roading this is your BEST BET. PERIOD!
What Needs Improvement:
Let us ditch the creature comforts for the kind of a vehicle we are talking about. You are not going to use it as your point A to point B vehicle. Let’s list the ones which Force should address and are relatively easier to better!
- Gearbox: As I said, gearbox pattern is not an issue, however, the hardness and notchiness is what Force should be addressing.
- Clutch: We do not expect a car-like clutch but it should not be truck-like hard. It’s a vehicle which needs a lighter clutch.
- Water Seeping In: Since it is being portrayed as a water wading capable vehicle, we will really love to see the water not seeping inside. In our short stint at the not-so-deep waters, small quantity of water did seep inside the cabin.
- Steering: As a first, we will want to change the steering positioning. However, we were informed by Force that production variants of Force Gurkha will come with better inclined steerings.
- Tachometer: I am still clueless as to what, in the whole world, is that rev-counter doing over there. It’s better to take it off! Nonetheless, not a grave issues this.
- Slightly Better On-Road Characteristics: Though Gurkha is the king off the road, we desire a wee bit of better on the road dynamics.
What We Loved:
Frankly speaking, the positives of Gurkha far outweigh its negatives.
- Looks: To me, Gurkha, in its current form looks awesome and its face speaks about its capability.
- Driver & Passenger Seat Comfort: I was impressed with both the bucket seats. They had plenty of support and provided a good view of the outer world
- Basic-Ness: Quite a few might disagree with the basic-ness of Gurkha. But all of them will belong to the second category of species we discussed earlier. With minimalistic offerings, Gurkha ensures that you are saved of huge bills during regular off-road breakings & wear and tear.
- AC & Hard Top: Gurkha is the first vehicle which comes with a factory fitted AC and hard top. While an AC is a necessity these days, the hard top could be a life saver many a times.
- Variants: We will definitely have many Gypsy fans out here reading this and you will not have any hesitations in exchanging your soft-top Gypsies with soft-top Gurkha’s. We will discuss about the Soft-top Gurkha in the variants section below.
- Helpdesk: Force tells us that they have already put in place a toll-free number 1800-2333000 which will come to the rescue when you need any help.
- OFF-ROAD CAPABILITY: This single lone point takes away all the negatives that Gurkha comes along with. If there is an off-road terrain which you will like to conquer, Gurkha is your best chance. Gurkha can do what no other affordable and claimed off-road vehicle can do in India!
Gurkha Colors, Variants & Prices:
New Force Gurkha is offered in 3 color options
- Copper Red
- Dragon Green
- Matt Black
Despite its brightness, I liked the green. It doesn’t shine out in the crowd, instead it has a slight matte appeal to it. Having said that, even the red and black look awesome.
Force offers Gurkha in three variants:
- Force Gurkha 4×4 Hard Top: Rs 8.3 Lakh
- Force Gurkha 4×4 Soft Top: Rs
- Force Gurkha 4×2 Soft Top: Rs 6.3 Lakhs
Yes, Gurkha is offered in soft top as well. It comes with a factory fitted AC and all the remaining bits. The only differences are the inclusion of jump seats in place of the front facing ones on the hard top Gurkha. This means, you can tow in more people on a soft-top and at the same time looking cool and enjoying the natural winds! However, the 4×2 doesn’t come with differential locks and the 4×4 functionality, as is obvious.
Force offers Gurkha with a very impressive 3 years/3 Lakh kms warranty, however, barely a zilch of the Gurkha buying crowd will ever reach close to that figure in 3 years. Regarding the price, Force has kept Gurkha 4×2 at a good entry price, however, there is a huge gap with the 4×4 variants. Yes, obviously, we Indians love and expect anything to come cheaper, however considering the target audience and Gurkha will mainly be owned as a hobby vehicle, prices are not a deal breaker by any means.
With this, I will sign off! Before you put your money on the table for any other off-roader, ensure you take a test drive of Gurkha at least once!
Do share if you like our review and feedback, brickbats are always welcome. If you want to know anything specific which we have not covered in this review, do mail us and we will be happy to talk about it.