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Saturday, 20 August 2011

Force One Review And Test Drive

Force Motors, the maker of Traveller minibuses and the Trax utility vehicle, has taken a whole new direction and moved upwards into the passenger car space with its all-new Force One. Here are our first impressions after driving this Scorpio and Safari challenger.
On the looks front, the Force One’s boxy design looks quite outdated and not in synch with the modern shapes customers expect from SUVs these days. Though the overall shape is inoffensive, the small glass area and horizontal lines give it a 1990s look. A quick search on Google further explains that Force One’s design language is inspired by the Explorer III, a Chinese SUV that finds a mention in Guangdong Foday’s product portfolio.
The Force One uses the same body panels as the Explorer III; they are imported directly from China for assembly in Force Motors’ Pithampur factory in Madhya Pradesh. The chassis, however, has been designed completely in-house. It is based on a sturdy-looking C-in-C ladder frame that supports an independent, coil-sprung, double-wishbone setup up in the front and a non-independent, multi-link suspension at the rear. Force Motors roped in Lotus Engineering UK to fine-tune the chassis and even set up the vehicle specifically for the 235/70 Apollo Hawkz all-terrain tyres it comes shod with.
Power comes from Mercedes-Benz’s 2.2-litre, OM611 common-rail engine that meets BS IV emissions norms and makes a Tata Safari-rivaling 139bhp and 32.6kgm of torque. It drives the rear wheels via the Mercedes-Benz G32 five-speed manual gearbox.
At 4.8 metres, it is a considerable 400mm longer than a Scorpio. And with a wheelbase that’s 345mm longer than the Mahindra, the Force One promises to be very spacious inside. Get into the SUV and you will find the driving position very much similar to the Ford Endeavour’s, thanks to the high floor. The second row seats have Skoda Superb-rivaling legroom and good headroom. But the floor is high and so, thigh support is compromised. The third row too has plenty of kneeroom but again headroom here is quite compromised. It has reasonable space for luggage even with all seats up.
Plastic quality is decent but there are quite a few panel gaps. The air-con controls work well and Force Motors is particularly proud of the 76 features the car comes standard with. It also has air-conditioning for all three rows, a trip computer, a service schedule indicator, electric mirrors, remote locking, projector headlamps, daytime running LEDs and an audio system.
Twist the key and the Mercedes-Benz engine settles into a rather refined idle. Peak torque kicks in at 1600rpm and the engine pulls well all the way to its 4150rpm redline. There is a hint of lag but once the turbo kicks in, performance is sprightly. The only issue is with the gearbox, which needs strong triceps to operate and this is something Force Motors desperately needs to improve.
On smooth roads, the Force One seemed well planted with not too much body roll around corners. But it does feel a tad softly sprung, displaying some pitching over the bumps in the off-road section. That said, you can confidently hammer over bad sections and it feels a lot more stable than a Scorpio.
Force Motors has launched the Force One in only one trim level – the fully loaded variant comes for an asking price of Rs 10.65 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). Given the long list of features, it may seem like good value and there’s no doubt that the SUV scores well in some key areas. It is big, very spacious and underpinned by an indigenously developed chassis which promises decent ride and handling.
But what Force Motors needs to do now is concentrate on bringing the rest of the car up to speed, especially on the fit-and-finish front. The Force One is a good first attempt but to cut it as a serious Scorpio/Safari rival it still has some way to go.
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