New 2013 Mahindra XUV500 review, test drive

Autocar India
First Published: 11:58 IST(30/10/2013)
Last Updated: 15:54 IST(31/10/2013)
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The Mahindra XUV500, designed and developed completely in-house, is a quantum leap forward and remains M&M’s first serious attempt at developing a global product that would be as much at home in Melbourne as in Mumbai. The price Mahindra is asking for it is definitely Mumbai though. Prices start at Rs. 10.99 lakh for the upcoming XUV500 W4 variant, going up to Rs. 14.64 lakh for the top-end all-wheel-drive W8 variant.
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With the XUV500, Mahindra has put design at the forefront to make an emphatic styling statement. There’s no doubt the Mahindra XUV500 does turn heads; it’s got a muscular stance, strong road presence and looks every bit a proper luxury SUV.

Dominating the front-end styling is a traditional Mahindra seven-slat grille flanked by a pair of projector headlamps that widen their spread at parking speeds and work as cornering lights on tighter corners. Daytime-running LEDs are part of the standard kit too. We especially like the rising window line and the blacked-out B-, C- and D-pillars which give the Mahindra XUV500 a very modern look.

However, we feel the Mahindra designers went overboard with the detailing. The faux air vents just below the headlights are too fussy and the oversized wheel arches are out of sync with the rest of the design and also make the wheels look small. This is further accentuated by the bulge in the beltline above the rear wheel arch. The rear tail-light also feels a bit overdone with fussy detailing on the lens.Underpinning the XUV500 is a monocoque chassis, a first for M&M that nicely balances stiffness and weight within a long wheelbase. The 4x4 XUV500, which weighs 1865kg and is on par with the smaller Scorpio, could have been lighter. But M&M didn’t want to compromise on chassis stiffness of the SUV, especially since the very generous 2700mm wheelbase subjects it to greater torsional loads. Weight has also been kept in check with the inclusion of elements like a plastic fuel tank and plastic fenders, and the use of high-tensile steel for over 30 percent of the body structure.

The Mahindra XUV500 is equipped with MacPherson struts up front and a luxury car-like multi-link rear suspension. It does not come with hardcore 4x4 vehicle kit like a low-range transfer case, but you do get hill-descent control and hill hold on top-end variants and a differential lock on the AWD model for limited off-road use.What is truly impressive is the manner in which Mahindra has packaged all the mechanicals to achieve a flat floor, making good use of passenger room. In terms of safety, the Indian SUV gets dual airbags as standard across the range with the top models additionally featuring ESP, rollover mitigation and curtain airbags. The new W4 SUV variant gets a more basic infotainment system with four speakers and CD and MP3 compatibility, and no monochrome display screen as seen on the W6 variant of the XUV500. It misses out on kit like rain-sensing wipers, automatic cornering headlamps, front fog lamps, telescopic steering adjustment, automatic climate control, powered wing mirrors, cruise control and steering-mounted controls. However, you still get features like projector headlamps, LED parking lamps, dual airbags, ABS with EBD, disc brakes all round, dual-tone interiors, tilt adjustable steering, six-way adjustable driver’s seat, remote central locking and a price that now makes this version a direct competitor to the Renault Duster.

Occupants will have no trouble entering any Mahindra XUV500 variant. The doors open wide and the not-so-high floor means you don’t have to trek your way up to the seats. But once inside, you’ll notice the plastics come in three different textures and the dash seems to be cramped with too many individual elements. The instrument cluster, with chrome-ringed dials and circular centres, looks great, but is not that easy to read. Other nice bits in the SUV include smart, high-quality air-con vents that work well to direct air flow, the chunky steering that’s quite nice to hold, and the air-con and audio system dials on the centre console that have a high-quality feel. However, the same can’t be said about the other buttons on the centre console, which feel like Scrabble tiles, and the fake wood finish doesn’t look very convincing. The interiors may lack the finesse offered by the competition and the fit and finish may not be the best but it is quite acceptable and something you can live with.

The front seats come with generous bolstering and adjustable lumbar support. However, the cushioning is on the firm side and the backrest feels a bit narrow near the shoulders. The steering column, which adjusts for rake and reach (in W8 trim), is still a tad too high, even at the lowest setting.Middle-row seats in the XUV500 have enough legroom for six-footers to stretch out, even with the front seat pushed back. The seats themselves are very generously cushioned and the flat floor makes this SUV one of the best for travelling three abreast. Third-row passengers don’t have it as good though; the leg- and kneeroom are severely limited and headroom is quite tight too. With all seats in place, there’s practically no luggage space. However, the last and middle rows do split and fold flat to convert the XUV into a serious load-lugger and the relatively low floor makes loading easy.

In the cabin, there’s an abundance of storage space for knick-knacks. The biggest selling point of the XUV500 is its phenomenal list of features. The W8 variants get a colour touch-screen that displays GPS data, radio and AUX/USB settings and also doubles up as a DVD player. There is voice activation too and the top variants also get a handy tyre-pressure sensor. All models feature steering-mounted controls for the audio system, rain-sensing wipers, light-sensing headlights, parking sensors and even cruise control. But the quality of most of the electronic equipment isn’t great and does feel a bit tacky. Also, the blood red mood lighting looks quite tawdry. There were electrical issues with early XUV500's but Mahindra claims to have ironed these gremlins out with the recently updated version.

The Mahindra XUV500 shares its 2.2-litre mHawk engine with the Scorpio, the key differences being the motor’s transverse placement to drive the front wheels via a transaxle. The six-speed manual gearbox is mated to a dual-mass flywheel that minimizes transmission rattle at low speeds. Power jumps from 120bhp to 140bhp, thanks to a new ‘S-vane’ BorgWarner variable geometry turbocharger and a higher-pressure fuelling system. These changes have also bumped up max torque to 32.63kgm available between 1600-2800rpm in the SUV.

There is a hint of lag under 1500rpm at which point the turbo kicks in. Thereafter, there’s a significant surge of power that lasts till about all the way to the 3500rpm. Driveability is quite impressive too, and overtaking slower cars is pretty effortless. The XUV500 sprints to 100kph in a brisk 12.34 seconds; 20-80kph in third gear is dispatched in 12.36sec and 40-100kph in fourth in 13.26sec.

The mHawk engine is one of the strengths of the XUV and the punch it delivers both in the city and on the highway is a good reason to buy it. The short first and second gears make it quick off the line, while sixth gear allows you to cruise lazily all day long. But, the driving experience is hampered, especially in the city, by the notchy ’box that takes a fair bit of effort to drive the gears home and the action feels rubbery as well. The clutch is a bit on the heavier side too and this despite the recent improvements to the system to make it more progressive. The XUV500 scores well with fuel consumption figures returning 10.2kpl in the city and 14.3kpl on the highway. The relatively low kerb weight, tall gearing and some clever engine tuning have made the XUV the most fuel-efficient vehicle in its class. This only adds to its affordable and down-to-earth appeal.

Mahindra vehicles may not be the Gold Standard when talking ride quality, but the XUV500 is a significant step forward for the company. Low-speed ride is pretty good, but sharper bumps can rattle the SUV, which crashes through potholes. At higher speeds, surface imperfections can catch the XUV500 out and it does get ruffled by the odd stretch of broken tarmac taken at speed. There’s a fair amount of suspension movement on uneven surfaces and the ride is never flat or consistent. Also, sharp edges and potholes can be felt and the suspension doesn’t isolate passengers as well as it should. Overall, the XUV bobs and pitches about a bit more than we’d have liked. Handling is a marked improvement over the Scorpio but it is still a long way off from the segment best such as the Renault Duster or Nissan Terrano. While the steering does offer acceptable feel, it doesn’t feel direct and accurate as some of its competitors. The big problem is the way the front-wheel-drive XUV500 behaves under hard acceleration. There’s a fair amount of torque steer when you floor the right pedal and on a loose surface, the steering kickback can be pretty vicious.

Powering out of tight corners, the weight transfer to the rear wheels make the XUV’s steering go a bit woozy. Also, the 235/65-R17 tyres squeal without too much provocation and could do with more grip.

The Mahindra XUV500 features disc brakes all around while ABS and EBD are standard across the range. What is slightly disconcerting, though, is the slightly wooden feel of the brake pedal in the first few millimetres of travel. The brake booster and ABS have been recalibrated on newer cars and this has improved brake feel a bit.

Fact File

Engine
Fuel                      Diesel
Installation             Front, transverse
Type                     4-cyls in-line, 2179cc, turbo-diesel
Bore/stroke           85.0/96.0mm
Compression ratio 16.5:1
Valve gear             4 valves per cyl, DOHC
Power                   140bhp at 3750rpm
Torque                    32.63kgm at 1600-2800rpm
Power to weight       78.43bhp per tonne
Torque to weight      18.28kgm per tonne
Transmission
Type                        Front-wheel drive
Gearbox                  6-speed manual
Dimensions
Length                      4585mm
Width                       1890mm
Height                       1785mm
Wheel base               2700mm
Chassis & Body
Construction              Five-door, monocoque
Weight                      1785kg
Wheels                      7J x 17-inch
Tyres                        235/65-R17
Spare                       Full size
Suspension
Front                        Independent, MacPherson strut, coil springs
Rear                         Independent, multi-link, coil springs steering
Steering
Type                         Rack and pinion
Type of power assist  Hydraulic
Turning circle              11.2m
Brakes
Front                         Ventilated discs
Rear                          Solid discs
Anti-lock                     Yes
Economy
City                           10.2kpl
Highway                    14.3kpl
Tank size                   70 litres


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