Mahindra Bolero, the utility vehicle that sells in high numbers got a facelift in 2011. The makeover, besides bringing some cosmetic changes also added refinement to the SUV’s diesel motor. This is with a low cost common rail system for the 2.5 litre 4 cylinder engine. It still churns 62.1 bhp (at 3200 rpm) and 19.8 kgm of peak torque (at 1500-1800 rpm) and is mated to 5-speed manual gearbox. Although power output is the same as in pre-facelift model, the torque has improved a bit after the use of common rail system.
With its tough built for bad roads, the Bolero is very popular in rural and semi-urban areas and also does duty as a commercial vehicle in bigger cities. Mahindra markets BS4 (for metros) and BS3 (for other smaller cities) versions of this SUV and there are four variants – ZLX (top-end), SLX, SLE and EX. The BS4 compliant version of Bolero ZLX also has a micro hybrid system that was jointly developed by M&M and Bosch for fuel savings.
What makes the Bolero a top seller in the Indian car market? How good are its ride abilities on some of the poorly maintained roads? What new features does the 2011 facelift bring for Mahindra SUV? Ecardlr looks forward to answers through its road test of Bolero ZLX variant:
Bolero has an angular and boxy form but its muscular build is inline with the purpose it serves – a rough and tough utility vehicle for roads in India. The hawk-eyed headlamps look better after a redesign through the facelift. Along with the tough signature grille that has Mahindra logo, they give an aggressive stance to the SUV. The muscular, body-coloured front bumper is broad, sturdy and adds to the beefy appearance of Bolero. Round fog lamp are integrated on its sides. The broad bonnet has a flat design.
Moving over to the side you will see projected wheel arches that take in 15 inch wheels with 215/75 R15 tubeless tyres. A grey strip running on the door panels extends between the headlamp and tail light. Metal running boards are also provided to aid in ingress and egress. Decals adorn the doors as a standard feature and the top end ZLX variant has its outside rear view mirrors (ORVMs) in body colour. The door handles have dual tone with a touch of silver on them.
The spare tyre is mounted on the tailgate and is secured by a strong plastic cover that has BOLERO engraved on it. Low mounted tail lights are squarish in shape, apt for the silhouette of this utility vehicle. There is a centrally fitted foot board below the door (tailgate) and so the number plate is on the right side of the bumper. Bolero ZLX also has a high mount safety lamp on the inner side of its rear wind screen.
Body colour choice includes Mist Silver, Toreador Red, Diamond White, Fiery Black, Rocky Beige and Java Brown. M & M also offers customisation options if you want to give your car a sportier, off-roader look with custom built front guard, inset side scoops with mesh, stylised body claddings, body shell in paint of your choice, cargo bay with cover and tailored tail light bezels with LED lamps.
Look and Feel of Interiors
Built on a wheelbase of 2680 mm, the two-tone cabin is simple and complements the exterior looks. While the facelift has brought improvement in quality of dashboard plastic, a further upgrade will refine it for more competence in the segment. But the tone of the cabin now makes it brighter and more pleasant. Faux wood finish around the side air con vents and the centre console will be appreciated by some people.
The beige and brown fabric+ vinyl upholstery of the seats looks nice although the front seats are pretty flat and do not offer good support – you sit somewhat upright. The steering wheel is also too big and cannot be adjusted for rake even in the top-end variant.
The instrument cluster has got some significant changes after the nip and tuck. Instead of conventional dials with needles, you read the speedometer and tachometer in a digital format. The fuel gauge and engine temperature gauge are also displayed digitally. The top-end ZLX trim exclusively gets a driver information system for updates on fuel economy and distance to empty.
Air conditioner with heater is a standard feature and all four windows are powered in Bolero ZLX. The audio system has radio, CD, MP3 player and an Aux-in port is provided. Other convenience elements in this top end version subsume central locking, keyless entry, rear wash & wipe, a 12V charging point and voice alert for seat belt, open door and low fuel warning. In the ZLX BS4 version, Mahindra Bolero gets a ‘Micro Hybrid’ system for better fuel economy.
Legroom is not generous in the second row and while there is a push-back armrest provided on this bench seat, it is not very ergonomically designed and does not provide the support expected. Two people can sit on the rear face to face seats but again they will feel somewhat squeezed in on long journeys as there is hardly any space to recline. Small kids will be more comfortable here or you can simply use the space as a loading cove for your bags. These seats can be folded down to create a flat luggage space.
Engine, Transmission and Performance
Now that the 2523 cc 4 cylinder m2DiCR engine has a common rail head, it makes lesser noise than before. The power generated by the motor is the same as in the pre-facelift version but the torque has improved marginally to 19.88 kgm. And this gives it the forte to carry a load of people.
You will appreciate this SUV on its part-throttle responses and the ease of driving it provides in city traffic. The engine can pull cleanly from 1000 rpm and does it in a much refined manner. Even though the diesel jangle can be heard, it is not bothering as was in the previous model. So Bolero is now a peppier SUV to drive in the city. Its dimensions are neat and give you adequate visibility of road ahead and traffic behind. What’s more, thanks to its intimidating build, impatient bikers in a massive jam do not stick very close to it!
Speeding up on the highways, you feel the engine running out of breath. The 0-100 km/hour in this SUV comes in 26.7 seconds. With only 67 bhp on tap it takes really long to reach the top speed of 125 km/hour – if at all you have an open road to test it to those limits. Overtaking attempts require some planning and timely downshifts. Bolero does 20-80 km/hour in 3rd gear in 16.5 seconds and 40 -100 km/hour in 4th gear in 24.2 seconds.
The gearbox is notchy and takes out the pleasure from your drive, especially in stop and go traffic. But it is tad better than what the pre-facelift car had. The wipers work well even though they have limited functionality in heavy downpour so you need to keep the speed in check.
To review its performance, the Bolero is not really a highway cruiser – it is bought for its hardiness and practicality on the poorer roads which we review more thoroughly in the next section.
Ride and Handling
Bolero has better road manners than you would expect from it. The ride is pliant and absorbent over minor road undulations and it is only the sharp bumps that filter into the cabin. This is what gives the SUV its mild off-roading abilities and makes it an ideal vehicle for unpaved roads in rural areas. The straight line stability is appreciable. There is controlled body roll around the corners – but don’t force this car to change directions at speed.
The light steering wheel makes Bolero easy to maneuver in traffic and out of cramped parking spaces but this steering lacks a feel at speed on the highways. Brakes require some effort to activate. Nevertheless, they are effective in bringing the muscular SUV to a halt.
The Micro Hybrid system is a nice addition and improves the fuel economy marginally if used on traffic signals and in jams. When the car is in neutral mode and you have your foot off the clutch pedal, the system waits for 10 seconds and then switches off the engine automatically with a slight shudder. There is a flashing light on the instrument console to tell you that Micro Hybrid is active. Then you just need to step on the clutch and the engine will start back for you to slot in the first gear and move. The system works pretty well and does not cause you any delay in restarting in traffic.
Mahindra Bolero has ARAI certified mileage of 15.4 km/litre. In our road test it gave 10.5 km/litre in the city and 13.2 km/litre on the highways.
It is quite obvious that the Bolero is successful in India chiefly due to its ruggedness and eventual practicality for unpaved/ ill maintained roads. It looks muscular if not appealing, and it has a seven-seater cabin even if not very spacious. The bottom line is that it does what it was designed to do – move ahead confidently notwithstanding poor road conditions and even if it rubs shoulders with a rickshaw or bike amidst heavy traffic, you need not worry about scratches or big dents.
This SUV is a rather premium mode of transport in rural India where large families still like to travel together. It also does a good job in remote desert or hilly terrains where armed forces need a vehicle with heavy, rough and tough built. Even if it breaks a part or two, repairs will not cost much and spares are available in almost all parts of the country.
Prices begin at Rs 6.18 lakhs (for non AC, BS4 EX variant) and the top end ZLX (BS4) is tagged at Rs. 7.60 lakhs. Mahindra also launched a special edition of ZLX (BS4) priced at Rs. 7.80 lakhs (all prices ex showroom, Delhi). So it is not really a cheap SUV but is ready to serve its owners well for a long time.
Value for Money: 3.5/5