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Review: Force One LX 4x4

Driven September 2013

Review: Force One LX 4x4

Not too long ago, Force Motors took a step up the ladder in the passenger vehicle segment with the Force One SUV. It wasn’t a bad start for the company – the big, spacious One came with a mechanical package sourced from Daimler, while the underpinnings were developed in-house by Force with assistance from Lotus Engineering UK. Still, it didn’t have the means to take on its immediate rivals – Mahindra’s Scorpio and Tata’s Safari.

More than the gaps in the product itself, Force took a hit owing to its limited pan-India reach as far as its passenger vehicles were concerned. But now, the company has begun addressing the issues, both on the number of dealerships and the product.

And that brings us to the updated One, which comes with new 4x4 hardware and safety kit. Force has just revived its One line-up with the launch of a new base EX variant (BSIII) and added ABS and EBD to its existing SX variant. The LX 4x4 will be its new top-of-the-line variant and will hit showrooms later this month.

We got our hands on the off-roader variant for a short stint and we liked it. From a distance, it’s hard to tell the old one from the updated variant. But viewed in profile, the LX stands out from the rear-wheel driven SX, with its bold 4x4 decals. We liked the decals, which break the monotony of the otherwise sober-looking XL-size SUV. The 4x4 and ABS badges on the tailgate wind up the visual changes.

As with any typical SUV, you need to hop into the One, you don’t slide into it – unless you’re on the other side of 6’, 10”. Once you’re in, the legroom and the sheer size of the cabin take you by surprise. There’s good legroom on all three rows, but not enough headroom on the last row. The seats are comfortable, but there’s insufficient under-thigh support, especi-ally at the rear – not ideal on long drives.

While there is scope for improvement in plastics quality, we liked the new grey panels used on the centre console, around the gear lever, AC vents and door trim. Fit and finish is average, and panel gaps are uneven in some places. Still, the leather used for the seats and door trim does lift the cabin’s premium quotient by a bit.

The LX continues to be powered by the Mercedes-sourced 2.2-litre FM Tech common-rail diesel motor that is good for 139bhp and 321Nm. This is coupled to a five-speed manual gearbox. In addition, the LX also gets four-wheel drive hardware and a limited-slip differential. And the driving modes can be shifted from RWD to four-wheel drive (high and low) via an electronic switch. All this additional hardware means the LX has gained around 200kg of extra weight and ironically, this off-roading variant also loses 5mm of ground clearance.

Start the motor and it quickly settles into a refined idle. On the move, there is some initial turbo lag but the pace improves once the power starts coming in at around 1700rpm. It’s got decent mid-range punch, with the motor pulling nicely up to 4,000rpm. However, you feel the need to shift gears constantly to keep the engine boiling at the right speed, especially going uphill.

And that’s when you realise the gearbox lacks refinement. It doesn’t exactly feel crude to use, but the shifts aren’t seamless either – you do need to put in effort every time you change gears.

No such complaints in the ride department, which is its biggest strength. The combination of independent, double-wishbone, coil spring upfront, and multi-link suspension at the rear does a splendid job of ironing out most of road bumps.

However, you do feel the engineers have gone for the softer setup that’s obligatory for Indian road conditions. Which isn’t a bad thing, but it becomes pronounced when you go into a corner hard and the One shows a fair bit of body roll. Good that the feedback from the steering wheel is reass-uring and you’re not clueless about what the SUV is up to. We tested the two-wheel drive and the LX variants one after the other and it was clear that the extra weight on the front axle makes a difference in the way the One behaves. But that’s not alarming and you can live with it.

Since this two-tonne SUV came with a four-wheel drive and LSD option, we put them through a small test as well. As with any other low-range transfer case with LSD, the One got us out of slippery situations and tackled gradients with equal flair. But we did notice the LX’s lower ground clearance, which will take quite a beating if it goes off the road. However, we’re assuming not many Force One buyers will take it out into the wild – and for everyday driving, the LX just adds in that extra bit of safety.

In the wet, slippery and overcast conditions that we had that day, testing the ABS wouldn’t give us the real picture. Still, the combination of discs upfront and drums at the rear, along with ABS and EBD, meant we avoided getting into the bushes unintentionally.

At Rs13 lakh, estimated, ex-showroom, Delhi, it’s a steep price to pay for an SUV with a Force badge. But this big, brawny SUV comes loaded with features, and now gets the option of four-wheel drive as well. In terms of cabin quality, the One needs to catch up with its rivals. But compared to the Scorpio, it’s got better cabin space and ride and handling.

The numbers
4cyl, 2,200cc, diesel, 139bhp, 321Nm, 5M, 4WD, Fuel tank: 70 litres, ground clearance: 202mm, Rs 13 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi, estimated)

The verdict
An XL-size SUV with great cabin space and features. Good ride quality, can now wander into the wild with 4x4 option as well.

 



Devesh Shobha

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