Did you know that the Gurkha name was first used by Force Motors in 1997 when they created an all-terrain off-roader for military use? Then in 2005, it was converted for road use and sold to private individuals. (Gee, that sounds like some other vehicle we all know off, don't we?) Oh, and by the way, since 2005, the brand only upgraded the Gurkha on two separate occasions to improve the overall dynamics. But that isn't the case for 2021, as Force Motors has literally changed every panel of the Gurkha, making it an all-new product. However, while it is all-new, it still tries to retain the previous generation's flair. Has it done wonders? Let us find out.
At first glance, you might ponder if this update is actually an all-new Gurkha or not. But let me state that every single body panel on the 2021 Gurkha is new and made from reinforced metal to help improve the stiffness and rigidity of the body. Even the chassis it sits on is tweaked to make it modular to enhance its off-road capabilities. Force Motors has also added additional kit on the outside, things like all-LED headlamps, fender foglights, prominent Gurkha badging on the front grille and the unique and the iconic 4x4x4 badge on the side fender. Furthermore, throw in the massive 250/70/R16 multipurpose tyres, external metal roof rack and the air intake snorkel, the Gurkha certainly stands out amongst the sea of other namesake SUVs sold in India.
While all the exterior and interior trim pieces of the Gurkha are all-new, what is retained from the previous generation is the 2.6-litre four-cylinder common-rail diesel engine. Even after Force India has updated the engine to meet newer emissions norms, the powertrain continues to produce 89.8bhp and 250Nm of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a five-speed gearbox. Being a true-bred off-roader, the Gurkha also provides four-wheel drive capabilities with high and low gearing ratio, manual diff lockers for the front and rear, independent double-wishbone with coils in the front and a multi-link setup with coil springs for the back. In layman's terms, all those mean is that one can show the Gurkha any terrain and easily conquer it without breaking a sweat.
Everything I mentioned above is just one aspect, but what is really important is how it feels on the road and off the road. Let me tell you this, I was extremely impressed with the way the 2021 Gurkha handled everything I threw it into. It scampers up slushy mountainsides with ease and also adapts to rocky and rough terrain with extreme efficiency. On the other hand, drive it on the tarmac, and you tend to feel the bumps and ruts inside the cabin, and the steering has to be constantly adjusted to keep it running in a straight line. Thanks to its body-on-frame chassis, there is fair amounts of body roll around corners slam onto the brake pedal, and it comes to a halt almost instantly. Yet another feature worth boasting is that the Gurkha has a water wading capacity of 700mm (best for the Mumbai monsoons).
This is yet another element that Force Motors focused its R&D on, unlike in the previous generation, where it felt highly rudimental. Step inside the new Gurkha, and you are welcomed into a decent looking interior. While all the interior panels are dark grey and black plastic, they are pretty robust and durable and can easily be cleaned. Moving to the seats of the 2021 Gurkha, it is offered with 4 individual captain seats with the added benefit of the rear captain seats offering a recline function and armrest. Furthermore, the back seat passengers will not feel cramped or claustrophobic thanks to the huge glass windows. However, the entry for the rear passengers is via the boot, which can make it a task to enter and exit when the boot is loaded with luggage.
Moving along to the driver's seat, you tower over other vehicles on the road. Also, the driver can adjust the ergonomics by adjusting the steering column that offers tilt and telescopic adjustment. In terms of features, the 2021 Gurkha might not be loaded to the gills. Furthermore, it still offers a 7-inch infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, four speakers, rear parking sensors, TPMS and multiple USB outlets for all the occupants. While these features do what they are supposed, what I felt needs to be added is a backup camera as manoeuvring this vehicle while off-road can seem like a task if only relying on the sensors.
Until the previous generation Gurkha, Force Motors stated that it was aimed at pure off-roaders enthusiasts only, but that is not the case with the 2021 update. Instead, force Motors is looking to expand their market and attract more customers who are into off-roading and enjoy long-distance journeys in their vehicles. Now that is what the brand has achieved with this update. It no longer feels like a rudimental farm vehicle or a weekend driver, but now it tries to cater to a larger audience. With these comfortable seats, supple interior space, decent features, and a powerful engine, Force Motors can take on the only other off-roader available in India in this price range: the Mahindra Thar. Now it all depends on what the 2021 Force Motors Gurkha will be priced, which I feel would come with a sub-15 lakh price tag.
Engine – 2.4-litre four-cylinder common-rail diesel Power – 89.8bhp @3200rpm Torque – 250Nm @1500-2400rpm Gearbox – Five-Speed Manual Price – 15 Lakh (estimated)
Photographer – Basil Eldho