Thanks to a little bit of massaging, this Mahindra Pik-Up is one functional and tough workhorse.
The Mahindra Pik-Up was first sold in Australia in 2007 and was updated in 2011 with a new engine and the addition of Eaton (mechanical-style) locking rear diff. What we are driving here isn’t however a standard Pik-Up but one that’s been enhanced by Modern Motors of Dungog, a Mahindra dealer and, among other things, a supplier of Mahindra Pik-Ups to the mining industry.
To tell the truth we weren’t aware that this particular Pik-Up wasn’t a stock vehicle when we arranged the road test. When we first saw it sitting ready for collection, the winch bar, snorkel and rock sliders were obvious non-standard items but then we often get otherwise standard test vehicles decked out with bolt-on accessories, so that was nothing unusual.
Even starting up the Pik-Up didn’t reveal anything out of the ordinary although it did sound a bit noisier and throatier than expected. But then again we hardly expected Range-Rover levels of noise abatement and refinement. The Pik-Up is, after all, a working ute.
Once out on the road however we knew straight away that something was up. Even with the relatively short gearing from the five-speed manual, no way did the engine feel like a 90kW/270Nm unit given the Pik-Up weighs more than 2100kg and has a blunt, tall nose that would do nothing for its aerodynamics. It just devoured the hills between Sydney and the NSW Southern Tablelands, all in top gear, most of the time with the standard cruise control set to 110km/h. Impressive, to say the least.
It turns out this Pik-Up has an aftermarket ECU chip and pipe fitted by Modern Motors and the engine output is around 30 per cent higher than the stock numbers. That means somewhere around 120kW.
This is a modern engine that lends itself to tuning. Going under the name mHawk it runs second-generation Bosch common-rail injection with 1600bar injection pressures, an electronically controlled variable geometry Borg Warner turbocharger and is intercooled. It meets Euro V emissions standards and, aside from the slightly louder aftermarket exhaust, it offers impressive levels of refinement. On test, the Pik-Up used 11.8 litres/100km, which means a pretty handy range from the standard 80-litre fuel tank.
However, you would have to say that the performance of the chassis, at least on the road, falls a little short of the strong performance of the retuned engine. But, then again, the test vehicle was fitted with aggressive Hankook Dynapro Mud Terrains so the steering response wasn’t as sharp as it could be. Likewise, the rear suspension was fitted with heavy-duty springs and without any load in the tray, the ride was on the firm side. It’s still more than respectable however; it’s just that modern passenger-style dual cabs, like the Ford Ranger/Mazda BT-50 twins and the Volkswagen Amarok, have significantly raised the bar in terms of on-road ride and handling.
No such complaints off road. The Pik-Up has plenty of clearance and the Hankooks come into their own when the going gets tough. The Eaton locker that was added in 2011 is also an off-road bonus. This is an automatic mechanical locker that reacts to a 100rpm difference in wheel speeds across the rear axle but won’t lock when cornering at road speeds. The Pik-Up doesn’t come with electronic traction control but with the locker and decent wheel travel it does just nicely, thanks very much.
The only negative off road is that the engine is a little soft just off idle, so you need to be a bit careful with gear selection in difficult off-road conditions. At least the overall gearing in low range is reasonably low with a 42.7:1 crawl ratio.
Top marks for the Pik-Up cabin, which is roomy and surprisingly comfortable. This is a tall, truck-like cabin that’s more akin to a Toyota 79 Series dual cab than something like a Hilux. The front seats, with their fold-down armrests, are particularly agreeable while the rear seat is good for three adults. No side or curtain airbags however and only a three-star ANCAP rating. The big 1.75m x 1.65m tray is also a bonus as most dual cabs are more like 1.5m square.
For the price, the Mahindra looks like good shopping. It feels tough and is now well proven on the Australian market. The big, roomy cabin gets top marks and the engine, with the retune as tested here, is strong and willing. It’s also a capable off-road performer.