To anyone in the market for a serious off-road SUV, the Force Gurkha is an easy recommendation. For it is, after all, something that’s proven itself not just in the highly modified competition-ready form but also in the standard guise. The constant improvement over the last few years has seen this SUV shine despite it being a slightly less than adequate performer on well-surfaced tarmac. With the latest iteration, Force Motors has tried to widen the Gurkha’s abilities, to turn it into a better road car, without taking away its off-road credentials. While at it, Force Motors has also introduced a model that was being awaited with bated breath: one with a longer wheelbase, two more doors, and an extra row of seats. We sample both the 3-door and the 5-door model to see if it can make space in this fairly niche segment, and more importantly, to gauge if Force Motors is indeed ready for when Mahindra launches the five-door iteration of the Thar. 

The Gurkha can wade through water up to 700 mm deep and is equipped to tackle gradability of 35 degrees

The Gurkha can wade through water up to 700 mm deep and is equipped to tackle gradability of 35 degrees | Photo Credit: Amit Naik 


The Gurkha isn’t a new player in this game, it first arrived in 1997 with a slightly longer name, ‘Trax Gurkha.’ A thoroughly updated model was brought out in 2013, which is also when they began using the slightly over-the-top ‘4x4x4’ monicker. It has since found a day job not just with the Indian armed forces but also in various countries in Africa, while being the off-roader of choice of keen enthusiasts. For a non-mass-market car to have such an impressive Curriculum Vitae isn’t common, but then the Gurkha isn’t the one to follow conventions. 

Having said that, with a 5-door/seven-seat model, Force Motors offers an SUV that fits the conventional definition of an everyday SUV well, too. It’s no short on size: at 4390 mm long, 1865 mm wide and with its roof carrier in place, at over two metres in height. The design on the outside isn’t too different from the 3-door sibling, although it doesn’t get the large non-opening side glass panel. The 5-door also has a longer wheelbase, but the 3-door wins in the looks department. Regardless of how many doors your chosen Gurkha might have, it’ll still be offered with the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen-esque overall design, large 18-inch wheels, flared arches, windscreen guard and even a snorkel. 


Between the two models, there isn’t a huge difference in the interior based on the looks, equipment, build and the excellent view from the driver’s seat. The 5-door model is offered with the ability to seat seven people in total: the second row is a bench whereas the 3rd row is comprised of two individual captain chairs. The 3-door model, on the other hand, doesn’t have the luxury to seat as many people and has just a row of individual captain seats at the back. Surprisingly, though, the 5-door Gurkha’s second row isn’t the most comfortable and if the front seats are pushed back (not even completely), the second-row occupants will find it difficult not just to sit there but also to get in and out of the car. The third row isn’t too bad; it doesn’t lack in either space or comfort and as long as you are all right with climbing aboard from the rear. Similarly, in the 3-door model, the rear seats can be accessed via the back door, although the head room can be inadequate for some. Where the 3-door excels again over the 5-door model is with the ability to carry more luggage — its boot space is rated at 500 litres, whereas the 5-door has not much space left in it with the last row up. 

The list of equipment is long enough to not make the Gurkha appear under-equipped: there’s a powerful AC (the 5-door gets vents for the second row, too), a 9-inch touchscreen infotainment system, dual airbags, TPMS, cornering lamps, ABS with EBD, steering adjust for both reach and rake and even a high-res digital instrument console, among others. That said, in terms of fit and finish, the Gurkha is far from ideal. A bit rough around the edges, the Gurkha’s cabin isn’t free from uneven panel gaps and surprising for a new car, a handful of rattling bits already. 

Vehicle dynamics

Following customer feedback, Force Motors wanted to change two things about the Gurkha: its low power output and the car’s less-than-ideal vehicle dynamics — which is how it behaved on the road. Tackling the first issue, Force Motors has managed to extract more juice out of the Mercedes-Benz-sourced 2.6-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine. It now makes 138 bhp and 32 kg-m, a hefty increment over the previous 90 bhp or so. To improve the Gurkha’s handling, Force Motors has given it an all-new independent front suspension. To see if the mentioned changes have made any difference to the Gurkha, we drove both the 3-door and 5-door models, over a variety of terrain. The first impressions aren’t bad, as the car feels quite robust on the move, although you can feel the heft in its control weights, too: the clutch, steering and gear lever, all need some effort. Quite the opposite is the engine’s behaviour, which, with more power than before, has made the Gurkha more tractable, especially with the peak torque available between 1400 and 2600 rpm. This reduces the need to shift gears constantly, while reaching highway speeds and cruising is improved drastically, too. 

Driving experience

The Gurkha showcases great improvements in the way it handles corners. This is the 3-door model; the 5-door version doesn’t feel as docile — it’s like an old SUV, with a fair bit of unwanted body movements. At over 300 kg lighter than the 5-door, it’s understandable why the 3-door gets our vote among the two, as far as driving goes. Thankfully, both absorb road undulations equally well, giving a hint that if you want to enjoy your Gurkha to the fullest, an off-road trail is where you ought to be heading... 

There’s no questioning the Gurkha in terms of its off-road prowess, regardless of the model you choose. The 3-door model seems more fitting, with its slightly shorter wheelbase, but the 5-door is also well-equipped. There’s shift-on-the-fly 4WD (which means you can engage 4WD on the move), two lockable differentials (front and rear), and even 4-low gearing for even more challenging situations. Force Motors claims that the Gurkha can wade through water up to 700 mm deep, it has 233 mm of ground clearance, and even the various off-road-focused specs are impressive. It has an approach angle of 39 degrees, a departure angle of 37 degrees and a ramp break over angle of 28 degrees. In addition to that, the Gurkha is equipped to tackle gradability of 35 degrees. 

Value proposition

Now comes the most important question pertaining to the Gurkha and that is whether or not it can be a good everyday car. Priced at ₹16.75 lakh onwards for the 3-door and ₹18 lakh onwards for the 5-door, the Gurkha isn’t going to be a cheap car to buy. In its favour are its off-road capabilities, which to a large extent, justify the premium over what you’d pay for the Thar, considering the Thar doesn’t come as well-equipped in terms of off-roading gear. The upgrades made to the Gurkha haven’t just made it easier to live with, they’ve also widened the car’s appeal, which is further aided by the introduction of a 5-door model. All this combined, the Gurkha, which was never on its back foot when it came to tackling rivals, seems readier than ever. The more important question now is: are you ready to take the proverbial leap of faith? 

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