With the re-launch of the
more upmarket Gurkha 4x4, Force Motors aims at a younger, fun-loving audience
that likes to flaunt a macho utility vehicle
The Gurkha is back, after a
hiatus of almost a decade. Treated to a face-lift, the 4x4 utility vehicle
adorns a new face. In place of a dandy metal bumper and a pleasant looking
grille made of plastic, the 2013 Gurkha sports a big plastic grille. A portion
of this plastic also envelopes the head lights, and drops down to include the
skid plate and fog lamp surrounds. Doesn't quite make the Gurkha look
attractive. It also robs it of an amount of presence it generated earlier.
Named after the Gurkha regiment in the Indian Army, the vehicle is positioned
as part of the personal vehicles division that was created in 2011 with the
launch of Force one. Some 400 units of the Gurkha were made in the period
between 2008 and 2010 according to C Prashant Nayar, Senior Manager, Marketing
Communications at Force Motors. Of these, 300 units were exported to Germany.
The buyers of the remaining 100 Gurkhas other than those who bought the Gurkha
and Judo when it was launched in 2002, influenced this Gurkha. A vehicle for
fun-loving people according to Naresh Kumar Rattan, COO (Tractors) and President
(Corporate Sales and Marketing), the 2013 Gurkha is aimed at a younger
audience; an audience that includes those who are serious off-roaders, and lead
an adventurous life. The others include those who would use a vehicle for
practical reasons. People like miners, contractors, coffee and tea estate
owners, beach resort owners, and others. The third type are pseudo users; the
rich and young - the kind who hardly venture off-road.
Structured on a wheelbase of
2400mm, the Gurkha, at 3992mm, is comparable in length with that of a premium
B-segment hatchback. The body is bolted to a ladder frame below. The front
suspension is independent, and includes a torsion bar. The rear suspension is
made up of leaf springs. Available in two versions, a hard-top with forward
facing rear seat and in a soft-top with two rear seats placed longitudinally,
the Gurkha shares the platform with the Trax range of utility vehicles the
company offers. Aimed at the commercial segment with an ability to ferry
anywhere between 8 and 13 people, the Trax range could trace its history to the
1980s when a design was conceived, influenced by the Mercedes Benz Gelandwagen.
Numerous changes over the years have the Trax looking far more upmarket.
Competing with the likes of Mahindra Bolero, the Trax range consists of the
Toofan and Cruiser. Both are capable of ferrying anywhere between 8 and 13
Unlike the Trax, it is the orange lamps at either corner of the
square-ish wings apart from the superimposed bonnet lid that reflects the Gelandwagen
influence rather prominently. An air intake snorkel adjacent to the right
pillar apart from the engine and transmission breathers linked via a tube to a
box presents the Gurkha with 550mm water wading ability. Sharing the line with
the Trax range at Force Motors' Pithampur plant, which also produces the
Traveller 26 van (claimed to be the world's first monocoque body construction
van), the Gurkha, in terms of fit and finish could do with better fit and
finish standards. The current standards pass for its intended use as an
'Extreme Off-road Vehicle' (EOV).
Also found on the original
Trax, the ribs that run along the sides of the Gurkha accomplish the task of
adding more strength. Their job is akin to the ribs that strengthen the roof
panel of the Tata Nano. The plastic wheel arches and lower body moulding
provide an upmarket stance. The China-sourced 16-inch alloys come from Force
The tyres are all-terrain 245/70 R16 of Apollo make. They were chosen over
lug-pattern tyres keeping in mind that this vehicle would be used on-road as
much as it would be used off-road. A plastic bumper with lights into it marks
the rear. The spare wheel is positioned on the tail gate hinged to the right.
Ironically, the rear of the hard-top Gurkha, in terms of design, seems to have
been influenced by that of the Defender. The utilitarian interior of the Gurkha
has the steering wheel angled like a truck rather than an SUV. The dashboard,
shared with the Trax range, is simple and spartan. A superimposed central portion
includes air-con vents and an air-con switch in the centre. Not a very good
idea to add new features for certain. The front bucket seats supplied by
Pinnacle Industries were redesigned, and offer better comfort levels as well as
support. They also come with foldable armrests. The rear seat on the hard-top
version can seat three, making it a five-seater. The soft-top version can seat
six people including the driver. While the ergonomics may not be great, they
are not as bad either. A single lever between the front seats enables the
engagement of four-wheel drive - either 4-high or 4-low depending on the
off-road requirement. For better traction under trying conditions the Gurkha
comes with differential locks on the front and rear axle. Both are independently
operated of each other, giving the driver the choice to use either, or both.
The differential lock levers are located between the transfer case lever and
the gearshift lever.
Power comes from a Mercedes
Benz OM616 derived BSIII compliant 2596cc direct injection, inter-cooled
turbocharged diesel engine. Work on a BSIV version is progressing, and would
take some time. The common-rail diesel motor of the Force One would call for
elongating the front portion of the Gurkha according to Mr Rattan. The current
engine develops 80bhp @ 3200rpm and 230Nm of torque between 1800 and 2000rpm.
Transmission is a Mercedes Benz G1 18/5B derived 5-speed manual unit. Turbo lag
may be felt on-road, off-road it is almost non-existent; especially in 4-low,
the vehicle managing to tackle arduous conditions that include ample axle
articulation. Jumping over rocks, hopping across open pits, and finding a way
out of wet and sticky stretches. To be sold and serviced through 20 (personal
vehicle division) dealers that the company currently has in place, the company,
said Mr Rattan, has the objective to sell 1000 units this fiscal.
Priced at Rs
8 lakh approximately, the Gurkha will come with air conditioning as standard.
Chances of the Gurkha getting anti-lock braking at a later date are high
considering the fact that Force Motors has invested in this technology
according to Mr Rattan. During a conversation at his office in Pune, Mr Rattan
announced that the Force One 4x4 variant with ABS would be launched at the end
of June 2013, or in the month of July 2013. "We have sold over 2000 units till
date, and the Force One has added to the company's knowledge bank," he added.
Confident that the Force One customer is not likely to buy a Gurkha, Mr Rattan
expressed that he does see a possibility of an overlap. Aiming at 40 (personal
vehicle business division) dealers by the end of this fiscal, Force Motors, for
its range of Trax utility vehicles, LCVs and Traveller vans has over 200
dealers across the country.
Very strong in vans,
according to Mr Rattan, the Gurkha is the second offering under the personal
vehicles division. If a compact SUV would follow, Mr Rattan is not keen to
reveal. The attention at the moment is clearly on the Gurkha and the Force One.
The company is working towards launching a stripped down version (EX) of the
Force One. With deliveries of the Gurkha starting in June 2013, the company
plans to offer a range of accessories through the dealers that would enable
Gurkha buyers to further customise their vehicles, with accessories like bull
bars, jerry cans, shovels, winches, etc. In view of this exercise, the company
is talking to accessory manufacturers in India and abroad. While the BSIV
engine for the Gurkha is being worked upon, the aim is to offer a complete
off-roading package. Plans are on to hold off-roading events for Gurkha owners,
including those that seldom venture off-road. For those who don't want to
venture off-road, a 4x2 variant of the Gurkha is available.