Big daddy cometh
The Mahindra Axe is big, efficient and is here to redefine what an off-roader should be. Shapur Kotwal takes it on a world exclusive drive
When he suggested we try a steep climb that led to a ledge almost 10 feet above the path below us, I thought all the years in the Army and having tank shells blast next to him had driven the Army man I was with crazy. However, I was there to test the
vehicle I was seated in and if he said I had to attempt the climb, well, I just had to. I pointed the Axe, the car I was in, towards the ridge. I selected four-wheel-drive mode and started up the rocks, the massive tyres clutched to the earth moving forward and after adding more speed and power, we finally made it. Yes, this vehicle is an off-roader but the rock-climbing skills left us really impressed and that’s when we started to get an idea of the brilliance of the Axe and what it is capable of doing.
I have tested several vehicles in the past but this is one of the first prototypes I got to test, that too, of a car that still needs to win a contest before it goes into production. The contest is no ordinary one. It is one in which the car chosen will be the Indian Army’s payload vehicle and the Mahindra Axe is one of the strong contenders. And, the fact is that the Army has a 50 per cent indigenisation clause set by the Army’s Request For Proposal (RFP). To localise and transfer technology from military vehicle makers from the world over is a difficult task given the amount of red tape one would have to cut through. Therefore, the next best option for the contenders is to get the partners to transfer the technology or put the vehicle together bit by bit.
Mahindra Defence Systems chose to do it bit by bit and the result is the Axe, and despite being a military vehicle with massive, forceful exteriors, under the skin, this vehicle is a true race car – a mix of Paris-Dakar prototype and Baja dune buggy.
The man responsible for this vehicle is not an Indian and wishes to remain unknown. But it has to be someone with serious amounts of experience in building off-roaders as well as Paris-Dakar racing prototypes. The Axe uses a space-frame chassis which is typical to race cars and is stiff but light. Most of its engineering was done in India by Mahindra Defence Systems and the project was handled by the engineer responsible for R&D, Commander Narendra Katdare.
Sourced from Mercedes-Benz via SsangYong Motors of Korea, the common-rail diesel motor that powers the Axe is a 173bhp, five-cylinder diesel motor and sends power to the rear or all four wheels via a five-speed automatic box.
The Axe also has a low range, as can be expected, but lockable differentials are not required by the Army. Probably, a maintenance-related deletion.
The interiors of the Axe once again remind us that this is a military vehicle owing to the padded gun racks. In addition, the Axe is so wide; it could easily seat four people in the rear. Even in the front, the passenger next to driver’s seat is at a minimum distance of three feet.
The thrill of driving this massive vehicle is something else! Firstly, owing to its size and road presence, it commands respect. Keeping up with and overtaking traffic calls for a lot of effort from the engine and you have to be flat on the throttle when you want to pass someone. Acceleration isn’t very impressive, except when you drive it flat-out. We actually strapped our V-box onto the Axe as it did the 0-100 kilometres-an-hour sprint; it managed it in under 20 seconds; not bad considering the weight. Of course, the real prowess of the Axe is when it performs off-road. This vehicle can handle bad roads, deep ruts in the road and any kind of terrain without the slightest hitch. Gearbox placed in manually-selectable mode and right foot to the floor, we take off down a wide off-road path. Even though one could not do more than 50kph on a path like this without hurting their SUV, the Axe charged ahead at speeds of over 100kph.
The Mahindra Axe is a great off-roader and will redefine the parameters of what an off-roader is capable of doing. It is sure to provide the Indian Army with an advantage. It does however, need more power and the lockable differentials are essential when traction is a real problem.
Still, this vehicle is quite incredible and the best part is that besides the Army, even you might just be able to get one.
Mahindra Axe 2.7 Turbo Diesel
Price: Not applicable
Engine layout: 5-cyls in line, 2696cc
Max Power: 173bhp at 4000rpm
Max Torque: 34.67kgm at 1800rpm
Top Speed: Not applicable
0-100: 19.63 secs
CFE: Not applicable
Fuel tank capacity: Not applicable
Boot capacity: 600 litres
Ground clearance: 350mm
Send this article to Friends by