Mahindra XUV500 Punches Above Its Weight

If you follow the automotive world closely, you would most probably know by now that many new vehicles come straight from India. Renault Duster, Ford Ecosport, Honda Brio, Fiat Punto and pretty much the entire BMW range is manufactured andor assembled at Indian facilities in Chennai.

That’s a pretty impressive list and suggests that having an Indian tag attached to your vehicle does not warrant the stigma attached. In fact, some of the most recent Indian built vehicles we’ve driven have been put together so well, they far surpassed anything we’ve seen from European markets.

So where does this leave the likes of Indian automaker, Mahindra? A good place to start would be their all new XUV500 (Pronounced XUV Five Double Oh), a 7-seater SUV loaded with features. At N$280 000, the mid-level W6 offers some serious kit, but how does it fair against the competition?

The XUV500 is based on Mahindra’s cheetah design and it certainly is striking. The nose is dominated by the latest iteration of the Mahindra family grille that has expanded from the chromed sabre-tooth to a jaw full of canines.

The bumpers have deep slashes below the headlamps which cut down on visual mass while also adding to aggression. These aren’t air vents though, they’re blanked off with the vents being behind the honeycombs on the grille and airdam.

The projector headlamps are similarly highly detailed and this would have been the first Indian SUV with day-time running LED lamps if not for the Force One. It also gets cornering lamps which basically means the fog lamps (which are angled outwards) come on when the steering wheel is turned.

The profile is dominated by the muscular haunches that cover 17 inch alloys. The rear haunch is particularly interesting, a distinctive character line that eats into the shoulder and window line and is supposedly inspired by the haunches of the cheetah ready to pounce on its prey. In fact, a lot of the communication of the XUV revolves around the cheetah whose paws were also the inspiration for the vertical door handles. That’s not it for African themes the taillamps have this strange tribal motif and the colors too were chosen after parking XUVs in the Masai Mara and observing how it looked under the sun and in the wild.

The biggest selling point of the XUV500 is that it’s capable of seating not only five, but seven occupants while retaining more than adequate leg room for both first and second row passengers. It comes as no surprise, though, that the third row is seriously cramped. The XUV500 W6 boasts a seriously impressive spec list which includes six speakers, monochrome infotainment system, park assist, rain sensing wipers, light sensing lights, cruise control, power windows, USB charging points on all three rows, climate control, follow me home headlights, EBD, airbags and a whole host of extra features.

At around N$280 000, that is a mighty impressive list of features, but it comes as no surprise that costs had to be cut somewhere and unfortunately, while the interior is the XUV500 highlight, it’s also the where its biggest issues lay. Panel gaps are tight and these interiors are much, better than any Mahindra so far. Quality standards though are patchy, while first impressions are very positive, some bits do let it down like the flimsy lid for the centre console and coin holders and the nasty serrated edge on the underside of the gear knob of our test vehicle. Turn on the ignition and the needles do a full sweep of the dials like on sports bikes while the infotainment system plays a welcome tune. The dials themselves are terrifically designed and shows just how much thought went into styling the XUV.

For a manufacturer that has built Jeep-based products for its entire existence the XUV’s monocoque chassis marks a major milestone. The benefits are immediately apparent. Despite being 195mm shorter than the Aria the XUV is just as spacious. It’s a significant 440kg lighter. And the dynamics are nothing like you’ve experienced on a Mahindra. Gone is the top-heavy attitude of the Scorpio in the XUV the centre of gravity is much lower and you feel you’re sitting inside the SUV, not on top of it.

The ride quality is a significant improvement over the Scorpio and it works especially well on bad roads. There’s this typical Mahindra indestructible feel to the suspension that gives you the confidence to power through bad roads which the XUV soaks up impressively. Stability is good at sane speeds but take it towards its top end and it starts to feel nervous and in the wet it can be a handful.

In the city she’s not as effortless as a car to potter around but neither is she as cumbersome as an SUV and in that sense she strikes a middle ground between cars and SUVs.

The engine in the Mahindra XUV500 is the same 2.2-litre mHawk four-cylinder common-rail unit from the Scorpio but gets a variable geometry turbocharger to boost power to 103kw developed at a lower (by 250rpm) 3750rpm. Torque is up by 40Nm to 330Nm, coming in 200rpm lower at 1600rpm and staying flat till 2800rpm. The engine retains the intercooler on the top of the cylinder head but there’s no bonnet scoop like on the Scorpio, vents neatly integrated into the bonnet channeling cooling air. Refinement levels are good for its class and with the windows up and engine warmed up there’s not much noise or vibration intruding into the cabin at low to medium revs. The noise levels pick up towards the top and there is a fair bit of turbo whistle. It revs quite smoothly and responds well to throttle inputs. The engine also gets automatic startstop to improve fuel efficiency in city traffic conditions.

Transmission is a new six-speed manual gearbox with overdrive on the top two ratios to improve fuel efficiency.

The Mahindra XUV500 goes a long way to improve perceptions of Indian manufactured vehicles. Fantastic styling, an amazing feature list, spacious and comfy interior and an adequate motor and transmission combination. Materials used may not be of the highest grade, but the Mahindra is amazing value for money and is sure to do for Mahindra what the Cerato did for Kia, mark them as a formidable competitor in a tightly contested market.

Source : The Namibian