Sunday Drive by Hormazd Sorabjee: A luxurious steal deal
Fifty thousand bookings in three hours! Never in my 35 years of covering the auto industry have I witnessed such a manic, unprecedented response for a car.
That car, or rather, SUV, is the Mahindra XUV700, the new Indian superstar that has carpet-bombed the market with a mind-boggling array of variants. The XUV700 comes in five and seven seat options, is powered by a strong pair of petrol and diesel engines which can be had with either a manual or automatic gearbox and is packed with a mile-long equipment list which boasts first-in-class features not seen in a car at this price point.
What is that price point? That’s the XUV700’s knockout punch which has got customers to shed their Covid-19 fears and flock to showrooms. The starting price of only ₹12.49 lakh for the base MX petrol five-seat sent shockwaves through the market. The price for the AX7 Luxury AWD seven-seat variant with all the bells and whistles climbs to ₹ ₹22.99 lakh, but when you factor in all the features and tech, it’s still outstanding value. The XUV700 has just redefined the concept of bang for your buck.
But should you still heedlessly book one? The proof of the pudding is always in the driving.
On the road
Let’s start with the 2-litre petrol engine which has a class leading power output of 200hp and won’t leave you wanting for more. The lusty flow of power propels you effortlessly forward and acceleration is quite brisk for an SUV this size. I clocked a 0-100kph time of 9.3 seconds in the automatic and went on to hit a top speed of 190kph on Mahindra’s spanking new test track near Chennai. Between the automatic and the manual transmission, the auto feels much nicer and is the ideal variant for city use.
The all-new 2.2-litre diesel engine is equally impressive and the one to go for if you plan to go on long drives. The strong pulling power of the diesel makes overtaking on the highway a breeze and it’s remarkably refined. The clatter typical of a diesel engine has been well suppressed.
Unlike the petrol which has no drive modes, the diesel has three—cheekily called Zip, Zap, Zoom. In Zip, power is reduced to 155hp and so, this mode is meant for relaxed driving, while Zap and Zoom get the full 185hp this engine produces, which is the highest power output in its class.
The question is, can the XUV700 cope with the power and performance? Its predecessor, the XUV500, had a poor reputation for driving dynamics. But Mahindra has taken this feedback and has transformed the XUV700’s ride and handling with a sophisticated suspension system.
At high speeds, the XUV700 feels sure-footed, the electric steering has the right amount of feel and you don’t have to slow down over poor surfaces for fear of being tossed around. If anything, the XUV700, which still has a high centre of gravity, feels a bit top-heavy and rolls a little on a ghat road. Also, the ride is not quite as settled as some of its rivals.
More importantly, Mahindra has invested a lot in ADAS (Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems), the new buzzword for safety. The XUV700 has a comprehensive ADAS package which uses a system of radars and cameras to offer features like Forward Collision Warning which sounds an alarm when you’re too close to a car and Autonomous Emergency Brakes which automatically applies the brakes to avoid hitting the car in front. It’s amazing how this sci-fi tech is being democratised.
Problem of plenty?
The talking point of the XUV700 is the massive twin-screen panel that stretches across half the dashboard and debuts Mahindra’s new ‘AdrenoX’ infomatics system, which is the most advanced and feature-packed infotainment system. It is crammed with features and options, with built-in local apps like JustDial and Zomato. There’s a problem of plenty. With so many features to play with, navigating through them is not easy and I feel the design of the menus and sub menus should have been better simplified.
Now the hard part for Mahindra begins, which is to ramp up production to fulfil the order bank which may already have a waiting period stretching to a year.
The views expressed by the columnist are personal
From HT Brunch, October 17, 2021
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