The Mahindra Thar was inspired by the Jeep Wrangler and is now available in South Africa but its name has nothing to do with America.

It's badged after the Thar desert, a 200 000 square-kilometre sandpit (the world's ninth largest) which lies mostly in the north-western Indian state of Rajasthan, extending into the south of Haryna and Punjab and into the northern part of Gujarat.

The Thar (the car, that is) was shown to the public for the first time at the 2008 Bologna auto show in Italy. It has a 2.5-litre, direct-injection CRDe turbodiesel engine for which Mahindra quotes 78kW at 3800rpm and 247Nm at 2000rpm.

It drives the rear wheels - or all four when required - through a five-speed BorgWarner gearbox and a two-speed transfer box with low range.

The indepenent front suspension uses torsion bars and the live rear axle is suspended on leaf springs. Braking is by discs up front and drums at the rear. Off-road credentials include 200mm ground clearance, a 46-degree approach angle, a 30-degree departure angle and a 150-degree ramp-over angle.

It's available through more than 30 Mahindra dealers throughout South Africa for R169 900, which includes a two-year or 50 000km warranty.

The Thar, which bears more than just a subtle resemblance to Jeep's all-terrainer, can trace its heritage back to the origins of Mahindra which began operations assembling the Willys Jeep in India in 1945. - INL Motoring