4 x 4 Australia - - Contents -

IT’S a bit left of cen­tre, but the Mahin­dra Pik-up is a well-priced, hon­est and tough 4x4. And I’ve de­cided to run with the “so un­cool it’s cool” tag. It’s been fun ob­serv­ing the sneers of de­ri­sion from those be­hind the wheel of heav­ily ac­ces­sorised main­stream brands dur­ing the morn­ing com­mute. Since when does bolt­ing a high-lift jack and some Max­trax to your rig give you the off-road moral high ground?

Our very red Mahin­dra 4x4 ar­rived with just 60km on the clock and sat re­splen­dent with its pow­der-coated steel tray and bull­bar glint­ing in the sun. I have since added a Big Red light bar and LED spot­ties, for a prod­uct test.

For a shake­down run we headed up the road to Fraser Is­land, to see whether we could keep up with the Max­trax and high­lift-jack-equipped pun­ters.

As you’d ex­pect of an emerg­ing 4x4 that shares its sta­ble with some very pop­u­lar trac­tors, the in­te­rior and spec is a lit­tle agri­cul­tural – it’s more than a cou­ple of gen­er­a­tions be­hind what most ex­pect. Plus, it lacks the elec­tronic anti-crash­ing tech that’s stan­dard fare in to­day’s 4x4 mar­ket.

How­ever, the lit­tle ‘Punjabi Prado’ proved to be a sur­pris­ingly ca­pa­ble lit­tle jig­ger, and a com­fort­able cruiser. The 88kw 2.2-litre com­mon-rail diesel en­gine has all the hall­marks of a great gen-set on pa­per, but it’s ac­tu­ally quite a flex­i­ble lit­tle en­gine off-road. 280Nm would in­di­cate it’s un­likely to pull a sick sapling out of a bowl of por­ridge, but keep the hoof planted and it has an ad­mirable crack at keep­ing up with the big boys.

That said, I’ve en­coun­tered bet­ter gearshifts on min­ing equip­ment, and the gates are that far apart you could un­dergo open-heart surgery (and re­cover) be­tween shifts. And the idle start/stop fea­ture is hor­rid and should be im­me­di­ately dis­abled to dis­cour­age frus­trat­ingly slow restarts at in­ter­sec­tions. Fail­ure to do so may re­sult in you hav­ing your lights punched out by some­one be­hind you in a Max­trax­e­quipped Cruiser.

The run up 75 Mile Beach saw the Mahin­dra stretch its legs in 4x4 High. In fact, I didn’t need low range un­til we hit Ngkala Rocks, which the Ea­ton-au­tolocker-equipped Pik Up han­dled quite well – apart from a lit­tle bull­doz­ing in the sand. Sus­pen­sion damp­ing leaves a bit to be de­sired – hit a wash-out and you’re still bounc­ing for a while af­ter.

The tor­sion bar IFS front end doesn’t have a great deal of clear­ance, but nei­ther did the Navara that got stuck not long af­ter I came through the rocks!

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