Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) has done a Microsoft with its Mahindra XUV500, which means it has debugged its flagship SUV and brought out the XUV500 version 2.0 or, what M&M likes to call, the ‘zero-defect’ vehicle. So, what’s been done? There are a whole host of subtle improvements to enhance the way the car feels and sort out the issues the original car had.
The braking system, for example, has been completely re-engineered to essentially counter the complaint about noisy brakes. M&M has upgraded the whole brake system with better quality brake pads that improve feel and don't groan when used constantly. The brake booster and ABS have been recalibrated too, in the process. Have these changes worked? A short drive in the latest Mahindra XUV500 revealed that though the brakes now work noiselessly and are quite effective, the top half of the pedal travel still feels spongy and hence, the brakes lack initial bite.
M&M has also worked with clutch supplier Valeo to improve the reliability of the oil seals and improve clutch operation. However, this is one area where M&M still needs to work on as clutch operation is still not as progressive as we would have liked and you have to concentrate to engage the clutch smoothly. Also, the gearshift still feels notchy especially when selecting second gear. Plus, there’s still a fair amount of torque steer under hard acceleration which tugs at the steering wheel. This is hard to eradicate thanks to the unduly high half shaft angles (for better ground clearance) that can’t be lowered without major re-engineering.
What truly impressed us is the improvement in perceived build quality. The latest Mahindra XUV500 feels tauter and much better screwed together. M&M has worked hard on eliminating squeaks and rattles by carefully matching different materials and panels on the dashboard and interior trim. But what has really improved the torsional stiffness of the Mahindra XUV500 is closer spot welds in the body-on-white. Though this has increased cost and a bit of weight, it has resulted in a far stiffer body structure, which is essential in our rough road conditions.
The suspension too feels more pliant thanks to better bushes, which have taken the harsh edge out of the ride. However, the Mahindra XUV500 still lags behind its rivals in terms of overall dynamics.
M&M still has more work to do on the XUV500 but there’s no doubt that these subtle changes have resulted in a tangible all-round improvement. All in all, the Mahindra XUV500 still is quite a substantial product and this hugely popular SUV’s strengths like style, space, equipment, performance and value are still as strong as ever while the weaknesses have been subtly improved upon.
When the XUV is not an SUV
With the latest XUV500, M&M has cleverly and cost effectively got around the three percent tax that the government recently levied on SUVs that have a ground clearance of more than 170mm. The fact is that M&M has basically done nothing!
M&M previously used the European 'Arc' system to arrive at a 200mm ground clearance, which undoubtedly looks good on the spec sheet of an SUV. However, in addition to the European system of measuring ground clearance, the regulatory authorities also accept another method which is by measuring the distance from the lowest point of the car to the road. By simply switching to this way of calculating ground clearance, M&M dropped 30mm to bring the XUV500’s clearance to 170mm. A re-profiled stone guard which, in effect, is the lowest point of the Mahindra XUV500 lowered the ground clearance by another 10mm. That’s a small difference which is hard to spot (see before and after pictures) but crucially, it brought the Mahindra XUV500 into the safe zone. It’s a brilliant way to duck out of an idiotic regulation.