2024 Force Gurkha review, first drive - more doors, more toughness?

Tuhin Guha Updated: April 29, 2024, 01:41 PM IST

In a world where the term SUV has been diluted to its extremes, the Force Gurkha stands out by being as traditional a take on an adventure vehicle as there could be. It has had its share of loyal followers but has never quite been able to break into the mainstream. So will a host of new changes and a more practical 5-door body style help widen its appeal?

2024 Force Gurkha 5-door, 3-door dimensions, styling

Few cars, at any price, make as much of a visual impact as a Force Gurkha. You tower over everything else on the road with the body-on-frame architecture while the heavy G-Class inspiration never feels forced. The blocky, flat panels convey this car's intent well as do the bright LED lighting and massive Gurkha badges. But what sets this 4x4 apart is all the functional off-road focused accessories like the snorkel(which takes wading depth to 700mm), side steps and the roof carrier.

Adding to this effect are the new 18-inch wheels that come with this update, and the increased ground clearance that's now an impressive 233mm. But if you want to drive your presence home further, the new 5-door makes for a better bet. It's 425mm longer than the 3-door at 4,390mm and is also 26mm taller (with the roof carrier) at 2,296mm. Width is unchanged at 1,865mm. Pair this with the 400mm increase in wheelbase and the spilt glasshouse profile, the 5-door makes for a more imposing and proportionate look.

2024 Force Gurkha 5-door, 3-door interiors, space, practicality

Both versions of the 2024 Force Gurkha carry over the same broad dash design. So, like the rest of the car, it's an old-fashioned functional space with big round vents and a simple array of buttons and knobs. The shallow design and the flat large glass panels are typical of older ladder-frame architectures and do give this 4x4 an open feel.

But if you are looking to replace your regular hatch or SUV with this, you will have to contend with relatively scratchy and hollow plastics, flimsy controls and a fair few uneven panel gaps. These compromises are to be expected since the Gurkha is the only passenger vehicle that Force Motors makes, but some improvement over the last version would have been welcome.

The improvements come in the form of the infotainment package. You get a new 9-inch Android-based touchscreen that includes quite a few Google functions when you connect it to your phone's Bluetooth. It is a cost-effective compromise that many will probably not mind. It's the same with the new digital instrument cluster. It's not as fluid or configurable as one from a more mainstream carmaker but it does get the job done, although a gear indicator would have been welcome.

You still get that wide central tunnel with the differential lock levers and the many small storage spaces. The slim door panels mean that most substantial items will have to slot in here, for which there's a good degree of space, especially with the deep glove box. You have two Type-A chargers in the front and a 12V outlet for each of the front two rows.

The Gurkha 5-door can be had as a seven-seater. The added wheelbase gives you a bench seat in the second row and two captain seats in the third. As with most body-on-frame vehicles, the outer dimensions don't quite translate on the inside. So the step ladder and handles come quite handy in getting in to the high-set seats. The wide bench has enough room to sit three abreast but long distance comfort will be compromised by the flat shape and thin padding. If you are of average height, there's a fair degree of thigh support and headroom although legroom will be a squeeze given that this row isn't movable and its been pushed forward to free up space in the third row. You do get a roof-mounted blower, that works well with effective air conditioning.

Like the three-door, access to the 5-door's third row is via the boot. Here the captain seats are more supportive with their better contours but you still could do with more knee room. That said, there's quite a good deal of thigh support and headroom here unlike many three-row SUVs. But a compromise to be made is that you have no real luggage space to speak of since these seats don't fold or tumble. We think a two-row, 5-door variant will be a good addition to the Gurkha's line-up for those who might want more practicality.

In our books, the three-door is still a great choice if you don't carry too many people often. Yes, entering the second row is tricky but the vast glass area and the heavy recline angle of the seats make for a more comfortable experience. There's also quite a bit more space for your legs here as well as a fair amount of boot space.

2024 Force Gurkha 5-door, 3-door features, safety

Aside from the screens, the Force Gurkha gives you tilt-adjust steering, power windows, powered window adjustment, LED lighting and central locking.

Safety features include dual airbags, ABS, TPMS, three-point seatbelts for all but the middle second-row passenger and a reversing camera. This has a good angle but is hampered by a great deal of glare.

2024 Force Gurkha 5-door, 3-door driving impressions

For many of you, the compromises that the Gurkha asks for will fade away as soon as you start driving it. You sit high off the road, almost at the same level as some small trucks and the expansive view out is a great ego boost. The G-Class-like fender indicators make placing this SUV in tight situations easier than expected and you have a few more creature comforts too. There's a substantial armrest now for the front passengers and a dead pedal, although the armrest can get in the way of you changing gears. Some other ergonomic oddities include a gear lever that's quite a reach and if you have a big torso or legs, it'll be a tight squeeze between the large steering wheel and seats.

One of the more notable changes with this update is that the 2.6-litre turbo-diesel now makes 140PS and 320 Nm. Keen enthusiasts will remember that Force Motors did offer this option in the BS4 Gurkha for a limited time. The higher outputs have done quite a bit to tackle the laboured performance of the previous version. The big 4x4 is now much more manageable on the road because of this, especially in the case of the new 5-door with its 3.1-tonne gross weight.

In other respects, this older-style engine is still reasonably refined given the masses of insulating material in the engine bay. Aside from a few vibrations and a distant rattle, it's never uncomfortably gruff. And if you are coming from a regular easy-revving petrol crossover, you'll be quite taken aback by the functional performance this engine delivers. Stalling this engine takes some doing, you have a steady stream of torque right off the move and this continues in a measured but robust sense till up to 3,000 rpm. You get the sense that the Gurkha will pull quite a bit more than just its weight and you find yourself surprised at times by the speed that the car manages quite unassumingly.

So the engine does make good work of traffic, although the five-speed manual seems more attuned to off-road situations. This still means that you move along peacefully at crawling speeds and on the highway but you do have to work the gearbox at middle city speeds to keep things from getting too peaky. As for the shifts, the clutch isn't too heavy and has a progressive feel. The shift action, however, could have been crisper and required a bit less effort.

As before, broken roads are not an issue for the Gurkha. The ladder frame architecture lets you breeze over these and the suspension set-up also manages to keep the inherent jitters and shake that you might experience in such a car within acceptable levels. That said, the live rear axle isn't as good over faster, paved undulations where you do feel like the SUV could be better controlled. It's a bit better with the 5-door's longer wheelbase and inherent stability that brings.

The Gurkha behaves in the way something this high and heavy would on the road. Around bends, it's best to keep things civil. The steering isn't especially direct and there could have been a bit more precision on centre, which is most noticeable when you go a bit faster around turns than the Gurkha likes. A sense that seemed heightened in the new version probably because of its rearranged front suspension and more accessible performance. It's otherwise good enough to make for a steady feeling in other driving situations. The 5-door may feel more stable but the turning radius makes for interesting times during u-turns.

2024 Force Gurkha 5-door, 3-door off-roading

The Gurkha feels most at home once the tarmac ends. It's one of the best geared 4x4 machines you can in the country with its low-range transfer case. The new shift-on-fly knob makes engaging four-wheel drive especially simple. Going further are front and rear differential locks. In keeping with its mechanical theme, you don't have fancy, and sometimes intrusive, traction control systems to contend with. As from the impressive wading depth, the Gurkha has a 37-degree departure angle and 28-degree breakover angle putting it between the Thar and Jimny in these respects.

We did put the Gurkha through a prepared off-road course but this wasn't especially challenging for the 4x4. It more or less drove itself over 30-degree inclines and side slopes in its low-range 4x4 mode. That said, in our previous experiences with the Gurkha, we've put it through rocky hill climbs and deep slushy trails, all of which it has managed to do without finding itself in a spot. Effectively, you'll have to go very far in the rough before the Gurkha gives up on you. The new one with its torquier motor and much higher 233mm of ground clearance will probably do it better still.

2024 Force Gurkha 5-door, 3-door price, verdict

With this update, the Force Gurkha keeps doing what it does best. It's not a car you make sense of. It's more of a lifestyle choice but Force Motors has done its bit to widen this 4x4's appeal. The new features make life a bit easier on the move as does the more potent engine. As for the five-door, it should have had a more thoughtful cabin layout but you can't argue with the dollop more presence it brings and the added seating capacity.

Images by Anis Shaikh

Price (Ex-Delhi)
Starts Rs 13.59 Lakhs
Max Power(ps)
Max Torque(Nm)

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