Where Maruti Suzuki makes quality hatchbacks, Mahindra aces where utility vehicles is concerned. Mahindra and Mahindra enjoy a fat 2/3rd out of the MUV and SUV segment. The Company managed to sell 10,000 units of Boleros in September of 2011, and also enjoyed much success for its hugely popular Scorpio. Not forgetting the Xylo which although failed to match Toyota Innova sales and popularity after a lot of hype, the SUV faired averagely.
The Mahindra XUV500 is the product of careful planning and strategy revolving around a budget of Rs.650 crore rupees. The Chakan factory located in Pune, had an initial production capacity of 2000 units per month, which can be intensified to generate 4,000 units in a quarter. Mahindra has reserved 20% of the said figures as its export load, to boost sales and brand identity overseas. With the cost of production being lower in India, and the actual cost being less than it is abroad, this SUV which scales well even as per international standards will do well.
At once, you will appreciate the fact that the XUV500 is well engineered. It has all the works of a contemporary SUV which comes at a great price. The interiors afford a lot of space on the first and second seat rows. Driving this SUV in the city is a breeze and feels smooth and fantastic, and the driveability is equally enjoyable on the highway when clocking at higher speeds. What you also get is mature ride quality with balanced handling making it a good combination needed for executive performance in any SUV. You won’t feel much roll, as it is at the minimum. The SUV XUV500 also has all the looks and technology packed with nice equipment and gadgets. The XUV500 stresses on safety offering 6 airbags, ESP with rollover mitigation, ABS and EBD and all wheel disc brakes.
On looking at the Mahindra XUV500 you can easily tell, that opinions about its design from the front will receive mixed opinions. It is not readily likeable, but there is scope. There are high quality headlamps with LED bulbs to evoke an eye catching effect. There are less dramatic fittings and body designs incorporated to the back and sides of the SUV. Mahindra may have adopted some aspects of designs from Mitsubishi Montero and the Outlander.
Size has to coincide with style, and while the SUV is spacious it isn’t completely a good looker. The XUV is about 3 inches more wide and 6 inches longer than the Scorpio. Even the wheelbase on the former is an inch longer.
The paint on the SUV is really great and has a smooth overall finish. Another great factor in the appearance is the body panel fitment, which is sufficiently tight. The XUV500 may not have been able to take on other SUV’s on its own in relation to design and performance, if it wasn’t for its attractive price. A glaring error is the Company’s decision not to launch an Automatic variant. Perhaps that variant would not have been able to keep the whole appeal of good pricing. Customers are willing to spend 15 lakhs however, for automatics, and at present consumers that come within that bracket do actually drive automatics.
Another noticeable concern is the question of whether Mahindra workshops can handle the complex vehicle. The technology that the XUV500 has been given is of such high quality that perhaps the service personnel may not be competent enough to handle. XUV500 customers would definitely expect preferential service.
The cabin in the XUV5oo is a walk in one and not climb in which makes it easier for the elderly and gentle folk. The quality of the interiors is great though not perfect. Overall, it is good and satisfying but some minor misfits are apparent. Inside, there is a touchscreen infotainment system which is incredible and a great addition. The design doesn’t scream out anything in particular and has been left with neutral aesthetics. There’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple but the problem arises when things get cheap, and cheap is seen in some parts. On the other hand there is a lot of interior space making things very ventilated and roomy. The door pads have soft touch material like that in Skoda’s.
On the steering wheel are some mounted buttons, and handling them is easy since they are placed with enough depth and feel more durable. There are cruise and voice control buttons on the RHS of the steering wheel. The front storage compartments have good lining and are spacious. There is also a certain element of European in the SUV, the lids open in slow motion. When the headlamps turned on the instruments dim out in gradual style. The front seats are also heavily bolstered like the kinds you will see in a German car. Once you explore the interiors you will notice that the USB/AUX compartment lid is made of inferior quality materials. Even the workmanship gone into the glove box and centre storage compartment are substandard. All these are immediate wakeup call like indications that you are in fact seated in a Mahindra and you are not the proud owner of a fancy European SUV. Mahindra has gone with shiny wood finish, the polish of which makes it look cheaper than the effect it was meant to create. The colour used in the plastic panels is also not the right tone of brown, and the interiors feel overcrowded with too many textures applied, possibly up to 18 different ones. So the interiors are make-do, and not classy or rich.
There windows are very large which makes it feel like there is more space, and this is no illusion, there really is a lot of room. The driver seats are considerably high affording more visibility. Visibility of the back is sort of the damper, as it is quite bad and non-existent when the back seats are filled. The interior rear view mirror is just as insignificant. Most admittedly good drivers however use wing mirrors, and they offer good visibility. The tilt on the steering is good, but sort of restricting. The steering reach is fantastic and with the high positioning of the drivers’ seat, makes handling easy. The front seats have great support, even on bumpy rides but during long drives we felt uncomfortable. The controls are all found on the right. The indicator is also easily within reach, and can be clocked on and off without hassle. The drivers’ seat however does not have enough armrest. The seat is firm though.
People seated in the middle row will enjoy a lot of cross-air circulation. The back support is also good. There is enough room to seat 6 footers comfortably at the feet and even over head. The front seats have been positioned a little high, giving more room for the second row. The centre and door armrests are placed well, and afford enough relaxation. The centre console won’t interfere with the knees either.
The XUV500 has a lot of storage cubicles. The front door pockets have an elastic plastic band to roll up and keep the magazines in place, and all four door pockets have the capacity to hold one litre bottles. The rear door pockets are more narrow so, there isn’t much except a sleek and small object that can sit there, and that too, it will knock around making noisy sounds. The centre storage box at the driver armrest has a split level storage facility. The first one has coin holder slots and the other acts as a cooling feature. The air conditioning system is simply fabulous. The climate control quickly chills the SUV despite its vast interiors. There gearbox is a six speed controller.
There is the ICE (In Car Entertainment) System which plays all the new formats. It also has great audibility and the bass has a lot of pump. The mechanicals are great and the braking is strong. However on long trips the engine gets a bit noisy and this can be heard from the front seats a little and a lot from the backseats. Another drawback is the lack of luggage space. For a car that is meant to do the miles, it does not provide requisite space to load up the luggage. The third row seats are not vast enough for adults, and perhaps children only will be happy sitting in it especially over long haul journeys. Reverting to the topic of design of the front end, and only because it Mahindra has really failed to impress here. A bold move to add a lot of character, and make it distinctly different, but the Company has not been able to execute this plan in design. Perhaps, if Mahindra went more little more subtle and just relied on the style quotient of the headlamps itself; the SUV would have looked perfect. Everything else, especially the great electronics is good. Mahindra needs to work on its post sales service though, something premium SUV lovers expect.
The new Mahindra XUV500 is selling at Rs.12.25 lakhs to 14.98 lakhs (Ex-Showroom, Bangalore).
Mahindra XUV500 Road Test Pictures: