The Mahindra XUV500 has it all — style, space and comfort. But the bigger talking point is the attractive price tag

We've just driven Mahindra's new flagship, the XUV500. This thoroughly modern SUV is the first Indian SUV to be built around a car-like monocoque chassis. This of course means it is lighter than a traditional ladder frame SUV, has a modern car-like independent suspension and most importantly plenty of useable space between the long 2700mm wheelbase as well.

The engine is the familiar 2.2-litre mHawk unit with a variable geometry turbocharger similar to the one in the Scorpio. It now makes more power and torque in the XUV though — 140bhp and 33.33 kgm of torque —and is placed transversely. Mahindra is offering both — a front-wheel drive version and an all-wheel drive one. We drove the latter and we're impressed. The mHawk engine was always known for its responsiveness, strong mid-range power and refinement and there's more of the same here. There is a hint of lag below 1500 rpm, the turbo kicks soon after and the engine pulls cleanly to its redline. The meat of the power though is between 2500rpm to 4000rpm — keep the engine spinning in this range, and you will find effortless performance.

Six-speed gearbox

With its easy to use six-speed manual gearbox, cruising at three digit speeds is a piece of cake and apart from a hint of turbo-whistle the engine is refined. The XUV's lighter weight also helps its sprightly performance and fuel economy. The ARAI fuel efficiency figure for the XUV is a class-leading 15.1kpl.

The XUV gets saloon-like MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link independent set-up at the rear. Unlike the Scorpio's wayward high-speed manners, the XUV feels composed, which is a good thing with so much performance on tap. Straight line stability is good and the steering is confidence-inspiring. The XUV's lower centre of gravity and longer wheelbase goes a long way in making you feel more secure. The XUV uses a full-time all-wheel drive system that detects wheelspin and directs torque to the wheels that have grip, so it feels quite secure around corners as well.

That said, the XUV is no hardcore off-roader — there's no low range transfer case, but it does have a differential lock and hill descent control for light off-roading duty on the four wheel drive version. On the few rough patches during our short drive, the XUV felt both pliant and comfortable. However there is some amount of side to side movement, especially over uneven patches.

The styling is clearly the talking point of the new Mahindra. For a start, the stance of the car is spot-on. Almost Mitsubishi Outlander like in the way it carries its weight, the long wheelbase, tapering roof and rising beltline makes this car look quite dynamic and modern.

Mahindra seems to have overdone a bit on the detailing of the new SUV. The nose especially has too many cuts, the wheel arches are a touch oversized and the rear is especially exaggerated with those fake strakes on the D-pillar. There are some appealing touches though.

The XUV has a tough build. The doors open and close with an impressive thunk, materials have a hard wearing feel to them and the design is quite impressive as well. There's the typically large Mahindra wheel, a pair of impressively detailed deep dish dials and the ‘V' shaped central console has a touchscreen on top. And like any good SUV there's plenty of storage space here too.

The seats are large and supportive, cabin space on all three rows is phenomenal and this makes the XUV a great car to spend long hours in.

The second row bench however is not mounted on rails, so you can't slide it forward to give third row occupants more space. What's nice however is that the floor is flat and the central console does not intrude into the middle passenger's space on the second row. With seven passengers however there's absolutely no luggage space.

Mahindra has packed the XUV with features though. This top-end W8 version gets a unique feature — voice commands for the audio system. Other standard goodies are the reverse parking sensors, air-con vents for all three rows, Bluetooth connectivity and a touch-screen system with satellite navigation (it's got voice guidance in eight regional languages). This top-of-the-line version has plenty of safety features too. There's ESP or anti-skid control, you get tyre pressure monitoring and with six airbags you should be pretty well protected

So the XUV has it all. It is spacious, comfortable and attractive. But there is a bigger talking point — the shattering launch price. The base two wheel drive W6 starts at Rs. 10.8 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) going onto Rs. 11.9 lakh for top end two- wheel-drive W8. There's only one four wheel drive version, the top-end W8, for Rs. 12.88 lakh. However, these are introductory prices and may go up in two or three months. Mahindra now has another winner on its hands.