Made For Adventure — The Mahindra 4X4 Karoo

Side/Front view of the Mahindra PIKUP 4X4 Karoo Double Cab

True to its catchphrase, the Mahindra PIKUP DC S11 4X4 Karoo Double Cab really is made for off-road adventure. With its 2.2L, 4-cylinder mHawk turbo-diesel engine delivering 103kW at 3750 RPM and an acceptable 320Nm of torque at 1500–2800 RPM, this vehicle compares favourably with others in South Africas’ “bakgat bakkie” segment.

For non-petrol-heads, torque is the ability of a vehicle to perform work — specifically, the twisting force applied by the crankshaft. Horsepower is how rapidly the vehicle can perform that work. Because there is generally a limit on how fast you can spin an engine, having higher torque allows for greater horsepower at lower RPMs.

While power is just one small consideration when buying a new bakkie, it’s one of the first things most buyers tend to ask about. In essence, engine output affects drivability, fuel economy, towing and hauling capacity, how well the truck performs off-road, and so much more.

When it comes to engine size, it’s really a trade off between power and fuel economy. Horsepower is a function of torque and engine speed (RPM), and indicates how much sustained work the car can do. Generally, bigger-displacement engines develop more torque, but small engines can spin faster, which increases their horsepower output.

In essence, an engine with strong mid-range torque (peaking between 2,000 and 4,000 RPM) will have good passing acceleration, while lot of low-end torque (below 1,500 RPM) is useful for towing trailers or driving off-road. The PIKUP Karoo ticks both boxes in this regard.

And then there’s the transmission, seeing as that’s where this power / torque is applied to perform off-road work. Since the PIKUP Karoo is automatic, the 6-speed gearbox selects the best combination for fuel economy and power, so all you have to do is drive the car. And decide when to change from two-wheel to four-wheel high or low drive mode of course.

All this talk of torque is rather pointless without considering the tyres, seeing as that’s where the action makes traction with the road surface.

The PIKUP Karoo comes fitted with India-made JK Elanzo Supra 245/75R16 tyres. These tubeless steel radials are reasonably good for on/off-road driving. The hard rubber compound makes them long lasting but sacrifices the off-road grip that softer compound tyres offer. The tyres are fitted to 16" A-Line Lynx black machine face wheel rims, which add sporty aesthetics to the vehicle.

Getting back to the question of fuel economy — another big consideration for first-time bakkie buyers — Mahindra claims fuel consumption at 7.9l/100km (in 2WD mode), which still needs to be proven (see my next Road Tripping article).

And finally, there’s height. At just under 2-metres tall (1915 mm to be exact), the PIKUP Karoo affords an elevated view, while the minimum ground clearance of 210 mm, and wheelbase clearance of 3040 mm, provides ample space for off-road driving over rocky terrain.

That concludes the tech-talk. But there’s more…

Ample Exterior & Interior Features

Standard PIKUP Karoo exterior features include dual projector “follow-me-home” headlamps (to provide light after the vehicle has been switched off) and ‘eyebrow’ LED running lamps with front fog lamps.

At the rear end, high-level brake lights increase visibility, especially when towing a trailer, while the side step runner, integrated bonnet scoop, and front side mouldings make for a sporty look.

Inside, the PIKUP Karoo comes with keyless entry and an illuminated key ring (with encrypted digital immobiliser), central locking, tiltable power steering, power windows, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, electric mirrors, air conditioner, heated rear window/demister, door puddle lamps, and touch screen infotainment centre with GPS, Bluetooth, USB and AUX, support plus an impressive navigation system. There’s also a 12V charging point on the central bezel and back seat row and convenient steering-mounted selectors for phone, audio, and cruise functions.

Safety Features

On the safety side, standard features include an anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake distribution (EBD), dual front SRS air-bags for driver and passenger, seat belt pretensioner, side impact protection bars, collapsible steering column, and auto-locking doors. It also comes with Isofix child seat attachments and seat belt reminder chime as standard.

Conclusion

Overall, the Mahindra PIKUP DC S11 4X4 Karoo is a serious contender in South Africas’ pickup truck segment. With all of the on/off-road tech specs and features that one would expect, what sets this vehicle apart from competitors is the price. It really is good value for money.

Price: R451,999
Warranty: 4 years / 120 000 km
Service Plan: 5-Years/90 000 km with 20 000 km service intervals
Roadside Assist: 4 years / 120 000 km

Travel & Motoring Journalist specialising in Africa.