Turbo-charging the Bolero has given it a new
lease of life but is it enough to help the people-carrier make a move
up in life?
Bolero XL DI-Turbo
Price Rs 5.64 lakh On sale Now
Top speed 115kph
For Fuel efficiency, rough-road ride
Against Performance, refinement
The wonders of the Bharat Stage 3 emission standards. It has forced
manufacturers to upgrade their engines, adopt better technology and
use more sophisticated hardware to keep their exhausts nice and clean.
But all this costs money and manufacturers are constantly looking
for low-cost solutions to meet the tighter emission standards. Mahindra
& Mahindra (M&M) found a pretty low cost solution for its
Bolero. Instead of upgrading its venerable Peugeot XD3P engine currently
in the XLS, it slotted in a turbo-charged version of its MDI 3000
direct-injection engine which was already doing duty in lesser models.
This basic 2.5-litre pushrod diesel has been extensively reworked
to incorporate the turbo. The block has been strengthened to deal
with the higher stress the turbo places on it, there’s a new
exhaust manifold fitted for better breathing, and a bigger radiator
fan installed to help dissipate the extra heat a turbo generates.
The design of the rocker arm cover has also been changed to make the
engine a bit more quiet. Turbo-charging this elderly engine is like
giving your 90-year-old grandfather Viagra but the results aren’t
quite as effective as the wonder drug.
shows its agrarian roots the minute you fire it up. It’s got
the typical diesel clatter and is nowhere near as refined as the XD3P
was. Refinement levels at idle are pretty acceptable but the minute
you get the revs going it begins to get noisy. There’s a strong
resonance or boom at around 1700rpm and this equates to 60kph in fourth
gear or your typical cruising speed. The drone can get fatiguing over
long distances and M&M desperately needs to improve the noise
and refinement level if the vehicle is to pass muster as a private
Driving the Bolero turbo-diesel is a whole new story though. The earlier
naturally-aspirated XD3P engine had a strong bottom end and was thereby
stress-free to drive in traffic. With the addition of the turbo, the
Bolero however is not as responsive and you really have to work the
engine hard to get the best out of this MUV. The strong mid-range
is the best part although power tapers off quickly and the top end
is virtually non-existent with this push-rod motor running out of
steam at 3600rpm.
dash takes an embarrassingly long 53.65 seconds and even in-gear performance
is woefully weak. The trick is to keep the engine firmly in its narrow
power band — it’s a deft art but if you can manage it,
the Bolero canters at a reasonable pace and you can pull off those
overtaking moves before you run out of puff.
The engine’s upside however is vastly improved fuel consumption,
more than 2kpl better than the Peugeot diesel. Mahindra’s direct-injection
diesels have always been wallet- friendly and the Bolero turbo, true
to form, returned 10.7kpl in the city and 12.9kpl on the highway –
very impressive for a vehicle of this size and weight.
The gearshift was surprisingly smooth and required little effort to
swap cogs. Mahindra has developed a new five-speed gearbox with better
synchronisers and the shifter is now linked directly to the gearbox
for improved feel. The only grouse we had was the slightly long throw
but most annoying was the gearbox whine especially in second gear.
The clutch feel has improved and is lighter with a better take-up
action, thanks to a new hydraulic unit.
Bolero is inherently stable and the ride improves the faster you go.
In fact the ride quality on rough roads is one of the Bolero’s
strengths and it was unfazed by the monsoon-wrecked roads on the Mumbai-Goa
highway. Though the ride is thumpy in the rear at low speeds, due
to the heavy and archaic leaf springs, the big wheels and well tuned
spring and dampers mean it is best at tackling potholed roads. Long
wheel travel helps a great deal and it just swallows up the broken
The Bolero feels secure at speeds upto 100kph beyond which it tends
to wander The tall and narrow tyres and the brick-like aerodynamics
don’t help and the Bolero is susceptible to strong crosswinds.
Max speed and cruising speed too are severely affected by head winds,
thanks to the block-like front. Because of its length, the front and
rear behave like they belong to two different cars. Handling is not
well balanced, but grip and body roll are acceptable.
The greatest strength of this Bolero is its ride quality. It feels
solid and one piece too when driven over these roads.
With its ship-like dimensions, the Bolero is difficult to punt around
town and the poor visibility out of the rear makes it tough to park
We had the lower-spec XL and the absence of power steering on this
model was painfully evident every time we drove it. The steering is
very heavy at low speeds, but lightens up considerably once on the
move, to the point of feeling vague around the straight-ahead position.
What disappoints again is the fit and finish of the car. It’s
easy to tell how Mahindra has lengthened the Bolero thanks to the
shoddy-looking weld line, which joins two panels just after the rear
wheel. Fit and finish of the doors is poor and they don’t shut
easily and the poorly designed door latches, inside handles and plastics
reminded us of the early Armada days.
The interiors are reasonably spacious lots of headroom. Poor legroom
for middle row passengers – a longstanding grouse – is
still in an issue in this Bolero. The front seats are reasonably comfortable
but the ergonomics are a disaster.
are awkwardly placed, the oversized steering wheel obscures the instruments
and you need arms the length of an orangutan’s to operate the
sound system (which is not a standard fitment) The rearmost passengers
don’t have too much leg-room to stretch out, mainly due to the
side-facing benches at the rear.
The Bolero XL and XLS are primarily intended for the taxi market,
and therefore fit and finish won’t matter as much as fuel economy
and people-carrying ability. Even the large wheels with the big wheel
caps look the part of a commercial vehicle, but as these are cars
that will primarily be used for the taxi trade it won’t really
So it all depends on how you look at the Bolero. As a family vehicle,
it doesn’t quite make it. It is too rough around the edges,
and too utilitarian and basic for this duty. As a people-carrier,
it is surprisingly good. Decent fuel economy, a good ride and proven
reliability makes it a serious alternative to the likes of the Tata
Spacio and the Tempo Trax.