2016 Mahindra Bolero Power+ ZLX First Drive Review

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When Mahindra first launched the Bolero way back in 2000 it took the market by storm and in many ways ushered Mahindra into the private vehicle segment. No doubt, their jeeps have been around for decades, however it was the Bolero that showed us the first hints of sophistication from the group with its independent front suspension, plush (at the time) cabin, power steering and a very powerful air-conditioning unit. It was an instant success and it found a lot of takers even in large metros.

Mahindra Bolero Power+ ZLX front three quarter view
Built tough


With the introduction of the Scorpio, the Bolero was sidelined in the metros and while this might have been a downer, the truth is that it found a solid market with customers who lived in B and C category towns (basically rural India). The Bolero went on to become the number one selling UV in India for over 11 years and it still remains the ultimate workhorse in the Mahindra passenger vehicle line up.  Over these years, the Bolero has gone through numerous tweaks and changes; however it has always remained a very competitively priced product that has been built to last.

Mahindra Bolero Power+ ZLX first drive review and road test
Take the Bolero Power+ just about anywhere


In its latest iteration, the Bolero, now known as the Bolero Power+ (Bolero Power Plus) has received a little nip and tuck in terms of design in order to bring its overall length down from 4107mm to a little less than 4000mm and the older 2.5 litre DI engine has been swapped for a new 1.5 litre mHawk D70 unit. These changes now classify the Bolero Power+ as a compact vehicle according to the regulations and thus it attracts a lower excise duty rate which has allowed Mahindra to keep the pricing rather competitive.

Mahindra Bolero Power+ ZLX side profile
The looks really haven’t changed all that much despite making it a little shorter


At a glance it is very hard to tell how Mahindra managed to ‘shorten’ the Bolero Power+, however a closer look reveals that the front bumper is rather flat and the rear bumper has been tucked in to be flush with the rest of the body. The actual body and passenger cabin weren’t affected by this, so in effect, it was an easy fix to get the Bolero Power+ to fit down to 3995mm in length. Apart from that, it retains the same boxy design that we’ve seen on our roads for over a decade – no changes there.

Mahindra Bolero Power+ ZLX interior cabin
The beige looks nice


The cabin has been finished in light colours which visually work to create an airy atmosphere; however the quality of plastics and the fit and finish could do with a little work. I understand that the Bolero Power+ ZLX is built for a very different audience and market need, however a little effort can go a long way in making the dashboard and other elements in the cabin look better without incurring a higher cost. What you do get though is a digital instrument cluster, a basic driver information system and a nice little digital clock. You also get the ‘voice’! Yeah, the Bolero Power+ ZLX comes with this inbuilt feature (much like what we’ve witnessed in the Scorpio) that announces a nice welcome address when you first fire it up, or informs you that you’ve left a door open or haven’t buckled your seatbelt. The seats up front are decent and you can adjust the lumbar support manually, however the rear bench is rather cramped and the jump seats are best used only if you really have to fit two more people on board. Having said that, these are dimensions and elements that haven’t changed between the Bolero Power+ and its predecessor.

Mahindra Bolero Power+ engine mHawk
The mHawk D70 engine that does duty in the Bolero Power+


What has changed though is the engine – and this is really the big story when it comes to the Power+ variant.  The new 3 cylinder 1.5 litre mHawk D70 motor is essentially the same unit that does duty in the TUV300 and NuvoSport, however it’s been tuned to churn out only 70 bhp at 3600 rpm and 195 Nm of torque between 1400-2200 rpm. While the numbers might not sound as appealing, the way this compact SUV drives is a revelation, but more on that a little later. The engine is mated to a five speed gearbox and according to the ARAI test figures; the Bolero Power+ returns a stellar efficiency of 16.5 kilometres to the litre. On my run from Mumbai to Pune, I managed to get 15.5 kmpl on the highway easily and while driving it around town for a few days, the numbers didn’t drop below 14.8 kmpl. I was duly impressed!

Mahindra Bolero Power+ ZLX driving impressions
Driving the Bolero Power+ is fun!


What was even more impressive about the Bolero Power+ was the way this beast drove. Climb into the cabin, fire up that motor, slot it into gear and give it some stick. This Bolero moves like a sprinter when compared to older versions. The peppy nature of the engine has transformed the Bolero Power+ into a fun vehicle to drive around town, yet it offers the low end grunt required for dealing with less than optimal driving conditions.  I’ve driven it on highways, around town, up a broken dirt path to the top of a plateau and even through a field. Not once did the Bolero let me down and the more I drove it, the more I was willing to overlook some of its shortcomings in terms of creature comforts. In fact, the slightly off-centre steering wheel was soon forgotten and so were the cheap plastics. I was having a ball behind the wheel and while this is my opinion from an enthusiast perspective, I don’t see how that would change even for the target customer. After all, having a vehicle that is fun to drive ought to appeal to everyone.

Mahindra Bolero Power+ ZLX rear
A brute of a vehicle


The Bolero’s lineage of being a brute of a vehicle shines through especially when you venture out on rough roads. I took the test vehicle out to my favourite stretch of broken road that includes a rugged rocky climb up a hill to a plateau on the outskirts of Pune. For the Bolero Power+ it was like going for a walk in a park. It is easy to keep at a crawl and you feel like you can take it anywhere. No doubt, a 4×4 version would literally go anywhere, however the Power+ is currently only a rear wheel drive vehicle so don’t venture out into the slushy mucky stuff with it – anything else , it will probably handle.

Mahindra Bolero Power+ ZLX interiors
Basic interiors do leave you asking for more


On the road, the ride quality is decent, and you do get a nice commanding view ahead, however I wouldn’t recommend you taking it above 120km/h on highways. It does go above that, but you have to keep in mind that sits high off the ground and there is a bit of body roll that can be unnerving at such high speeds. Stick to decent speeds and it behaves just fine. Sadly, Mahindra hasn’t kitted out the Bolero Power+ SLX with ABS or even airbags for that matter, but then again, it all goes back to the market segment and audience that the vehicle is designed for. Maybe the next upgrade will get such goodies as well – after all, safety is paramount and regardless of which market segment your product caters to, the basics need to be there.

Mahindra Bolero Power+ ZLX front view
There’s just something about a Bolero!


For the rural customer, the Bolero Power+ is a great deal. Thanks to the fact that it slots in as a compact vehicle, the excise duty cuts and other tax savings have resulted in it being close to Rs 1 lakh cheaper than the regular Bolero. It’s more efficient, yet it retains the DNA that made it India’s number one UV. It has the makings of being a winner and considering the level of trust that these markets have on Mahindra products, you can expect the Power+ version rake in the numbers.

Mahindra Bolero Power+ ZLX
A great vehicle to take out to the boonies


As for the Mahindra enthusiast, the Bolero Power+ is a suitable option as a no-nonsense rugged vehicle that is decent to cruise around in as well. The few creature comforts on board make life easy if you wish to use this as your daily ride. It does have its shortcomings, but on the whole the Power+ is a robust vehicle that has been built to last, and if you are a Bolero fan, then this is the right one to go for.

Mahindra Bolero Power+ ZLX details


Having said that, I do have a wish list from Mahindra. Would it be possible to make a Bolero Power+ version that is targeted at the enthusiast? This version could come with 4×4, better interiors and sell it as a five-seater model with the rear bench pushed further back to allow for better legroom. I believe it would find a lot of takers.


The next vehicle from Mahindra could be the Scorpio Getaway. Check out the spy pictures by clicking here. Or if you are interested in knowing about what we believe they ought to do with the Thar, you can read this interesting story about a make-believe Thar XL.