XUV5OO: New and improved, but still work in progress

Sumant Banerji , Hindustan Times
First Published: 00:14 IST(15/11/2013)
Last Updated: 11:13 IST(15/11/2013)
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Mahindra calls it a zero defect SUV. In a way, it is an admission that despite its roaring initial reception, the XUV5OO was not quite as perfect as they had hoped for.

A recall had already been done earlier this year but higher taxes during the Union budget and increased competition from the likes of Renault Duster meant that the XUV needed plastic surgery, urgently. Is it worth the effort? We find out.

Unchanged looks

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The engineers at Mahindra were more concerned with the ride and handling aspects, and less about looks. So there are hardly any visual changes. Ground clearance - a contentious issue, thanks to the increased excise duties - has been lowered from 200mm to 160mm.

But you don't notice it in a vehicle this big. It still sits high on the wheels and gives a very commanding view.

Since its launch in 2011, the XUV has always divided opinion on its looks. Some find its big, robust demeanour exciting while others bemoan the lack of sophistication.

There are not many options if you are in the market for a sub Rs. 15-lakh 7-seater. So while it doesn't look funky, from the front at least it looks distinct. The huge chequered grille, wrap around headlamps and flared wheel arches gives the vehicle an aggressive visage.

The rear, however, is disappointing. As is the quality and fit and finish of the cabin. The big vertical tail lamps have some overt aesthetics embossed on it, but it still looks tacky. And considering the size, the vehicle looks mighty bland from the rear.

The interiors of the car were always below par for a vehicle this expensive, and we would have loved had Mahindra worked on simplifying things. The numerous buttons - 44 of them-make the dashboard look like a Chinese keypad.

In a Quanto or a Xylo, it would have been passable, but in here it is downmarket. The fit and finish and plastic quality also needed improvment. Sadly, nothing has happened on this count.

Where the car scores is on space. The high riding position means getting in and out of the vehicle can be an issue but once inside, there is emough knee and elbow room to seat three adults in both the rear rows. And the third row has space for three mid-size adults in varying degrees of comfort.

Same powertrain, but much better ride
The car is powered by the same 2.2-litre mHawk diesel engine that develops 140 bhp power and 330 Nm of torque. It is more powerful than stablemate Scorpio and there is a substantial gap with the Duster. However, the XUV is also a lot heavier.

Bulk of the attention has been paid to the steering, brakes and suspension set up of the car. These have been perennial problem areas for the company. And it is a job that has been done decently well.

The steering that used to feel dead and heavy is responsive. It is still on the heavy side but is less vague and gives better feedback.

The suspension has gone through an overhaul. It has been tightened to make the car handle better without compromising so much on the ride quality. The lower centre of gravity, thanks to decreased ground clearance, also means less body roll - though it is not completely negated.

The brakes are more efficient now, but remain noisy.

Economy : as frugal as ever
For all their technological deficiencies, Mahindra vehicles are known to be highly fuel economical. The XUV is no different. A full tank will easily last for over 900 kilometres.

That is an economy of nearly 13 kmpl in real world conditions. Given the size and weight of the vehicle, it is highly frugal.

Verdict
Glitch free? Not quite. But even the Ferraris and Bentleys of the world have problems.

The XUV in its slightly re-modelled avataar is a few crucial steps ahead of the outgoing version. It now feels more sure footed and inspires more confidence.

And as a true 7-seater, it is the only vehicle to be had on the other side of an Innova.

The introduction of W4 variant brings the price down to under Rs. 11 lakh and more importantly, puts it toe-to-toe with the Duster. For a few fewer features, the W4 offers terrific value for money under Rs. 11 lakh and more importantly, puts it toe-to-toe with the Duster.


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