Tough, rough and possibly enough

The Enforcer looks like a legit SUV up front, and a legit pickup truck from the back. That’s how versatile it is.

The Enforcer looks like a legit SUV up front, and a legit pickup truck from the back. That’s how versatile it is.

Two years ago, CAC Mahindra, the Philippine distributor of the Indian vehicle maker, created quite a media stir when it secured a huge fleet contract from the Philippine National Police, beating perennial front-runner Toyota. The new police car of choice? The Enforcer utility vehicle, which may be configured as a pickup or as an SUV.

At the time, it was reported that Mahindra had won the bid for the PNP’s initial 560-unit requirement, having agreed to a per-unit price of P895,000. Several months later, it was revealed that Mahindra was to deliver a total of 1,470 units to PNP, worth a hefty P1.3 billion. Do the math and the deal comes out at a slightly lower P884,354 per unit.

The units came with the official PNP livery, as well as basic appointments expected of patrol vehicles—like the siren and the middle-facing bench seats at the back. The amount wasn’t particularly so steep as to raise eyebrows; what made some observers suspicious was the hand-picking of a lesser-known (and untested) brand over a proven one. The move, they said, could prove costlier for PNP (and hence for taxpayers) in the long run if the Mahindra units turned out to be of shoddy quality.

But are they?

Curious, I borrowed a double-cab 4×4 version of the Enforcer (called Bolero in its domestic market) just to see if the vehicle was genuinely worth the consideration.

In a nutshell, the Enforcer feels very spartan, and its construction makes no pretensions to the contrary. It looks like a poor man’s Land Rover Defender, and that’s part of its basic appeal. From its steel wheels to its plastic-and-fabric interior, the Enforcer is forthright in its mission statement: to bring its occupants to their destination with a modicum of comfort and convenience.

The Enforcer for our market is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel mated to a five-speed manual transmission with a tall stick. Rated at 100hp and 240Nm, it feels and sounds like an old Isuzu motor. Given the vehicle’s reason for being, this seems adequate enough for the task at hand.

The cockpit is covered in cheap plastic, with its level of craftsmanship making it appear like Mahindra hasn’t even heard of “fit and finish”—and why it’s important to get it right. Then again, like I said, the Enforcer has the appeal of such utilitarian vehicles as the Defender or even the Suzuki Samurai. It’s not for wimps. It’s for crime-busters who have no need for Bluetooth connectivity and dual-zone climate control.

The cabin’s only concession to “luxury” is a Kenwood audio head unit that plays MP3 files and accepts a jack plug. The aircon vents and switchgear look like they were sourced from two generations ago. Even the pull-out switch for the hazard lights feels like a misplaced afterthought behind the steering wheel. Which only adds to the manliness of the vehicle. The Enforcer is not for urbanized motorists, but it certainly has an austere market it can competently serve.

The cargo bed measures a decent 1,460mm in length, 1,530mm in width and 730mm in height. It’s not as long as the typical Japanese pickup’s cargo box, but it’s deep enough to securely transport a wide range of items.

The unit we tested was 4×4. Combine this with a ground clearance of 235mm and you have a vehicle you can confidently navigate around Metro Manila even during the floody season. Speaking of floods, CAC Mahindra has just introduced a deluge-ready variant called, er, Floodbuster, which adds a snorkel to the package (and P15,000 to the price tag).

I spent a couple of weeks with the Enforcer, but there was no way for me to test the vehicle’s long-term durability. I am happy to report, however, that the distributor occasionally conducts “service caravans” to provide maintenance checks on existing PNP vehicles. I hope they keep this up, if only to help assuage the public’s fears that the fleet of Mahindras now in possession of the police might conk out faster than rogue cops snuff the life out of suspected drug users.

Is the Enforcer ideal for private, personal use? Probably not. Is it good enough for police duties? Yes, it is. Just keeping my fingers crossed that it will at least live long enough to pay for itself.


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