Mahindra Bolero ZLX

There’s life in the Bolero yet. Mahindra has just upgraded India’s most popular MUV by giving it a low-cost common-rail system. There’s a minor facelift too, along with some interior updates.

The Bolero is powered by the same 2523cc diesel engine as before. Only, now it comes with a common-rail motor to make it more efficient and to improve drivability. At 63bhp and 19.8kgm of torque, power output is the same as the old direct-injection engine, but there is a minor increase in peak torque. What you do get is peppy low-speed responses – the engine pulls cleanly from 1000rpm in third gear – and surprising refinement. Yes, the diesel clatter is audible but it’s not like the old DI engine that would make your ears ring after a long journey.

Out on the highway, the engine runs out of steam pretty quickly, and it gets worse once loaded up with seven people. At just 100kph, you are getting close to the outer edges of the Bolero’s performance envelope, which means overtaking maneouvres need serious planning. Flat out, the Bolero hits 100kph in a yawning 25.61 seconds and, because of its limited power, takes ages to get to its 124kph top speed.

However, given its vintage, the Bolero’s road manners are much better than you would expect. The ride is quite level and absorbent over most surfaces, with only sharp bumps kicking through to the cabin. There’s not much steering feel though and the crisp handling typical of modern SUVs is just not there.

The redesigned dash looks like it’s been lifted straight out of knight Rider. By modern car standards, the digital displays and voice messaging system are pretty cheesy, but we are sure it will have quite an effect in the rural areas, where the Bolero is popular. The digital gauges and trip computer do add some sophistication and the beige fabric brightens things up a bit, but dashboard panel gaps and the general quality are well below par. The poor ergonomics, a time-honoured Bolero problem, persists. The front seats are flat, the steering is too big and too high and the pedals are painful to use after some time. It’s almost like Mahindra benchmarked tractors when finalising the driving position.

Move over to the rear and you are greeted by cramped seats which don’t offer much legroom or good underthigh support.

The Bolero comes with a start-stop system, but there is one problem- when the engine shuts down, so does the air-con compressor (only the blower stays on). Which means that on a hot day, if you catch a series of stop lights, or are stuck in traffic, the car goes from Bolero to bakery oven pretty fast. Of course, when this happens, you could switch the start-stop system off completely, but that simply defeats the purpose.

As a hardy and rugged vehicle for rural areas, the Bolero works well. As a personal car, it is too crude and too compromised. The ageing platform is not that good on safety either.

Priced at Rs 6.96 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) the Bolero in its ZLX avatar is not cheap. It feels dated and it would make more sense to shell out Rs 50k more and go for the Xylo or Scorpio instead.

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