Not so long ago, Mahindra and Mahindra were best known for the Bolero. Rewind back a bit more, and the Armada would flash before your eyes. Roll back further and you reach a stage where the only claim to fame Mahindra had, was remaking the iconic Jeep. Over the past decade, Mahindra has taken huge leaps in evolution. And they’ve experimented - a lot! They got into an alliance with Renault and introduced the Logan, ventured into the two wheeler space and continued dominating the commercial vehicle segment. When all of this is a part of a manufacturer’s portfolio, you tend to realize the manufacturer doesn’t really shy away from taking calculated risks. Circa 2011, the Scorpio was the star in the Mahindra portfolio. Going head - to - head with the legend that the Safari is. Queue the XUV5OO. Possibly the biggest calculated risk Mahindra and Mahindra has taken. The initial skepticism included questions like “Did Mahindra really make THAT?” / “More than 10 lakhs for a Mahindra?” / “Are you serious the XUV has all that?”
I think it is sufficient to say that the XUV caused quite a stir when it was first introduced. Loaded to the gills with kit, an all-out love it or hate it approach to styling and a potent engine under the hood. Mahindra meant business with this one and it was evident. I say this is a calculated risk purely because possibly even Mahindra knew that they’d have to up their game if they wanted this gamble to pay off.This meant projecting it as an upmarket offering, setting up a membership based ‘Purple Club’ and being proactive in service. The gamble seems to have paid off considering there are a lakh XUVs on the streets.
Now, four years since it first appeared on the block, Mahindra decided to give the Cheetah some botox. It now gets a new range topping variant, more tech and some cosmetic tweaks. We had the XUV5OO W10 AWD for a couple of days, read on:
Like I said before, the earlier XUV had a love it or hate it design. Most could not digest the plastic panels on the front bumper Mahindra would call ‘whiskers’. I know I couldn’t! The styling was a bit too much on the edgy side back then. With the facelift, the cheetah get’s a suit. And a bright orange one at that! The new XUVs communication color is Sunset Orange - and it does make it stand out in a sea of dull grey, silver, white and black SUVs on the road.
The face is reworked and now gets an all-new bumper. The whiskers have made way for black bezels that replicate a cheetah’s tearducts. Also new, are the foglamps which are now positioned higher and get a generous garnish of chrome for it’s housing. The repositioning of the foglamp is a welcome change, since I found the old ones to be a bit too low, hampering the throw of the light. The projector headlamps have the same shape, although it now gets S-shaped guide lights. Technically these aren’t DRLs, but something you’d otherwise call parking lamps or pilot lamps. It does add a bit of bling to the face and I chose to keep them on even during the day. Hey, why should Germans have all the fun?! You also get the Mahindra signature ‘toothy’ grille with chrome accents. The bonnet has been redesigned since the grille doesn’t cut into it anymore. The grille sits cleanly in line with the headlamps and the bonnet forms a clean curve from headlight to headlight. The hood has fewer creases than before, but gets power bulges at the flanks.
Round to the side, the profile is identical. Changes include the chromestrip running along the windowline, re-designed door handles with a request button for the keyless entry system and the new alloy wheel design. The flared wheel arches are amazing to look at, just make sure you account for that extra width while gunning for that gap in traffic.
The rear is nearly identical to the earlier to the outgoing versions. It gets a wide chromestrip above the numberplate area, that’s all. The tail-lamps have an extremely minor change. So minor that even Mahindra refuse to acknowledge it. If you’re wondering, the tribal motifs that adorned the tail-lamps on the older gen XUV have been deleted. There’s a single motif at the top of either tail-lamp.
Although the XUV is now subtler in comparison, it still has the imposing stance and the muscular build. It looks menacing, especially when it is in your rear view mirror. The upgrade is just what the doctor ordered to rectify the falling sales numbers of the XUV.
The interiors have the same layout as before. You still get the same chunky steering wheel, a plethora of switches on the center console and three rows of seats. There are a couple of tweaks on the dash. For one, the hood for the instrument cluster is now integrated into the dash and isn’t a separate floating unit like before. Also, the surrounds for the centre console now have a matte finish. They were silver in the previous version and created an awful reflection on the windscreen. This one reflects on the windscreen too, just not as much. The backlights for the switches, dials and the instrument cluster has been changed to Ice Blue from the earlier red. This really goes well with the interiors which now come in a beige and black combo. The top half of the dash and the centre console is black and everything else is beige, including the seats. I’m not entirely convinced that is a bright idea - the beige is a tad bit too light in my opinion and gets soiled very, very, easily. Beige is used in the door sills and will be the first things to get dirty. The illuminated scuff plates looks pretty cool in the night, and frankly, Mahindra could’ve done without the logo-projection puddle lamps on the mirrors. The earlier yellow puddle lamps were simple, and more importantly - had function.
The driver now gets a 6-way power adjustable seat - you can adjust the seat height, angle and reach electrically. The lumbar support however is still manually adjusted with a circular knob on the flank of the seat.
The steering retains its tilt and telescopic adjustment and makes it pretty easy for a driver to find a comfortable driving position. The enormous glasshouse on the front coupled with the high seating position is ideal for long journeys. The front seats hug you nicely, but I’d have liked a bit more of lower back support. It should’ve been better considering the XUV is meant to tour long distances. There’s a central armrest, which flips open in two stages. It has a chilled compartment and a flat space for your tickets and coins. Speaking of storage spaces, the XUV gets a couple of gloveboxes, couple of cup holders and bottle holders in the doors.
The earlier generation had even more storage spaces, but they have been sacrificed in the W10 variant to accommodate the new start-stop button. There’s a 12V charging socket in all three rows - a well thought inclusion. The infotainment system is all new as well. It features a 7 inch touchscreen unit that acts as the display for the media, car information (viz. tyre pressure, distance to empty, due services etc.), navigation as well as the reverse camera. The touch sensitivity on the screen itself is slightly vague. Although it works perfectly well for music or for placing calls, typing in a destination for navigation is an absolute pain. You can play music off your phone via Bluetooth, or use the USB or Auxiliary input. There’s no CD player on the top-spec W10 variant, while the lower W4 and W6 variant get them coupled with a smaller 6 inch monochrome display. The big Mahindra gets automatic climate control too, and has big circular knobs for manually controlling the temperature or fan speed.
The music and the media can be controlled via Bluetooth using Mahindra’s ‘BlueSense’ app. It works just perfectly and is a boon to the owner who wants to be chauffeured around in the XUV. The space on the rear bench is rather generous and even six footers will feel at ease in the rear bench. The XUV should’ve had a sliding second row, which would have at least given a choice to liberate more legroom for the third row passengers. In the current setting, the third row is best left to kids. The third row can be accessed by flipping down the passenger side seat in the second row. Ingress and egress is extremely difficult for an adult and the seats themselves aren’t exactly what you’d call comfortable either. The biggest addition remains the electric sunroof. The switches for the sunroof sit in place of the older XUVs ‘conversation mirror’.
The cabin of the XUV is a good place to be in. As long as you aren’t in the third row that is. The boot space with all three rows in place is non-existent. We could barely fit in our laptop bags. It’s a paltry 93 litres if you want the numbers. Tuck the third row away and you get a healthy 702 litres of boot space. I believe, the Mahindra is much suited for a small family that loves driving to different parts of the country together.
Engine and Performance
Powering the XUV5OO is the same 2.2 litre mHawk engine that produces 140 BHP of power and 330Nm of peak torque. However, the good folks at Mahindra have played around with the ECU and altered the gear ratios to help it sip fuel a bit more consciously. The ARAI tested fuel economy has gone up to 16km/l. That is pretty high considering the bulk of the vehicle. Couple the claimed mileage with the 70 litre fuel tank and what you get, is a vehicle that can go from Mumbai to Goa in a single tank. While we weren’t the most sedate drivers, the XUV returned a figure a shade under 11km/l. This included crawling through Mumbai’s fabled bumper to bumper traffic and a quick getaway to the outskirts of Mumbai. Crawling through the city isn’t the XUV’s forte though. While the clutch is light and doesn’t require a lot of effort, the travel of the clutch pedal is a bit too much on the longer side. Also, when you depress the clutch all the way in and turn the steering to the left, the steering column tends to graze the top of your big toe. This was common in the old-gen XUV as well and I really wish that Mahindra had fixed that issue with the refresh. The brake pedal response leaves a lot to be desired too. The feedback from the pedal isn’t really proportional to the rate at which the vehicle is slowing down. More often than not, you realize that you have actually gone a bit too hard on the brakes, making the XUV drop its anchors in a fuss. It’s a matter of getting used to, really. The XUV gets disc brakes on all four corners and they do a good job of bringing the cheetah to a dead halt. However, we witnessed a strange noise emanating from the front right disc brake about 50kms into the test drive. This noise was properly irritating and we had to resort to bumping up the volume on the music system to get our minds off it. The only pedal that brings a silly grin to your face is the accelerator pedal.
Stomp on the pedal and the XUV literally pounces. There’s a lull for a second and a half after which it pushes you back into your seat. The term linear acceleration doesn’t exist in the XUV’s books. It develops all of it’s 330Nm of torque at as low as 1600rpm. The way it picks pace, especially when you mash the throttle in either 3rd or 4th is amazing to say the least. It does break into triple digit speeds rather easily and is rock steady while doing so. The steering weights up beautifully as the speeds climb. Changing lanes at high speeds isn’t a problem either. It does so without breaking a sweat. The XUV features Bosch’s updated ESP9 programme, that helps it maintain its line nicely. Never did I feel the XUV wagging it’s tail out or misbehaving even when pushed hard across a series of corners. The Mahindrais a based on a monocoque construction and isn’t your standard ladder-on-frame SUV. There is a slight bit of body roll, but that is expected considering the sheer size of the vehicle.
Also, we got our hands on the AWD version of the XUV. Needless to say, some mudplugging was in order. We found a deserted piece of lush green, in the middle of nowhere and decided it was time for the XUV to get down and dirty. Let me begin by saying that when your tyres and the front of the car aren’t pointing in the same direction, an audio warning saying ‘Careful’ doesn’t help. The XUV is a soft-roader at best. Look elsewhere if you need a proper 4x4. We got stuck in some slush after we got slightly carried away with the XUV, and it needed some good ol’ manpower to get it out of the sticky situation. The AWD lock is built for purposes like these, wherein it transfers power to the wheel with the most traction. The highway tyres will disappoint you when you drive around in slush, but broken roads won’t really deter it. The tyres are slightly noisy too, and you will hear an evident drone from the tyres once you clock triple digit speeds.
Crawling in the city isn’t exactly it’s strong point. The long travel on the clutch isn’t ideal for bumper-to-bumper. It is extremely fun on the highways, where it remains rock steady and gives you enough feedback to even tempt you to push the throttle in more. While it isn’t a driver’s delight, the XUV still remains the capable highway cruiser it always was.
Here’s how the XUV fared, when timed against the clock:
|0 -100 km/h||13.7 secs|
|3rd Gear (40 - 80km/h)||13.7 secs|
|4th Gear (40 - 100km/h)||13.8 secs|
|5th Gear (50 - 100km/h)||18.7 secs|
|100 - 0 km/h||3.85 secs (in 52.9m)|
Well, the new age XUV5OO remains exactly what it was 4 years ago. A showcase of what Mahindra is capable of. Begs the question, is that good enough for the masses? The top end W10 AWD retails for 15.99 lakh rupees ex-showroom. Such pricing means it comes within touching distance of better established and more engaging to drive D-Segment sedans. The answer to my question? A resounding YES. But that doesn’t mean Mahindra should lay back and takes things easy. Our virtually brand new test drive vehicle had problems like fogging in the rear tail-lamp, driver door keyless entry request sensor not working, flickering in the interior illumination and ofcourse, that awful noise from the disc brake. A slightly stringent QC process won’t hurt, really. Anyone upgrading from a hatch or an entry-level sedan will find it very easy to adapt to the dimensions of the XUV. The learning curve isn’t very steep and you get used to the giant rather easily. The Mahindra comes across as one of those big cars that you can actually live with on a daily basis.