Review Motoring

Mahindra tweaks its XUV700’s design

Following the success of the second-gen Thar, Mahindra is now looking to emulate the same with the new XUV700. To that end, Mahindra has packed the SUV with a lot of kit, given it a pair of strong petrol and diesel engines and while all prices are yet to be revealed — Mahindra announced prices for a few 5-seater variants — it is being positioned competitively with the entire mid-size SUV segment. So what is it like?

The XUV700 follows the same template as the outgoing XUV500 — a transverse engine layout, monocoque body and designed with three rows of seats. The platform though is brand-new with the company claiming it to be 80% stiffer than the XUV500’s.

Mahindra has also worked to reduce weight, using quite a bit of lightweight high-tensile steel and other weight-saving measures such as lighter engines, which weigh around 70 kilograms less than before. Interestingly, the rear tailgate is made of composite plastic that is also aimed at weight reduction. However, this could pose a practical problem because, unlike sheet metal, which can be easily repaired if damaged in an accident, the tailgate may need to be replaced.

Like with the XUV500, the platform is configured for front-wheel and all-wheel drive options. Although this time round, it is designed to accommodate a 48V mild-hybrid system as well, which could come in the future.

The new platform also makes use of the latest-generation electrical and electronics (E/E) architecture, enabling it to host an advanced infotainment system (from Visteon) and a suite of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). Mahindra is clearly determined to ‘out-tech’ the competition.

Mahindra tweaks its XUV700’s design

The XUV700’s styling is a mature evolution of the XUV500, with cleaner lines and a more balanced look. It sits 30mm lower than its predecessor, comes with a muscular bonnet, and a strong new grille with twin vertical bars, which gives it a lot of road presence. Also sitting proudly in the centre of the grille is Mahindra’s new ‘Twin Peaks’ logo, which interestingly will only adorn the automaker’s SUV range. Some design elements though lack consistency and cohesiveness such as the arrow-shape tail-lights which, while striking, feel like they belong to another car. Other fussy elements include the disproportionately long Daytime Running Lamps and the excessive sculpting of the wheel arches that dwarf the 18-inch wheels. However, the design, though not as refined as the competition, has the required details for those looking for some flash.

The interior design is more straightforward and taking centre stage is a display panel, with dual 10.25-inch screens for the touchscreen and instrumentation, that stretches across half the dashboard. It looks very premium and will be offered on all versions except the base, which will get a smaller 8.0-inch infotainment unit and a 7.0-inch instrument cluster.

The dashboard plastics are pretty good and the leather strip looks quite premium, though the piano black glossy finish feels tacky and the wood finish on the door pads looks cheap and artificial. Overall, the fit, finish and material quality, though pretty good, has some rough edges.

Mahindra has mercifully retained buttons and dials for HVAC controls, and while the cluster is a carry-forward from the 500, it is still welcome. The rotary controller on the centre console means you do not have to use the screen for everything and there is also a neat-looking bank of toggle-like switches for some key functions. A real clever touch are the two shelves in the central console for two phones, one of which is a wireless charger.

The steering wheel feels nice to hold and the buttons, though not slick to operate, give access to a lot of functions. The instrument panel has cheerful colour schemes and perhaps more sober graphics and fonts would been in order, but the information is incredibly rich and there are customisable options for both screens.

The XUV700 debuts Mahindra’s new AdrenoX infomatics system, which is probably the most advanced and feature-packed infotainment systems in not just its class, but also several classes higher. It is crammed with features and options, including built-in local apps such as JustDial and Zomato. However, the segregation and layering of the menu needs a lot of work and it is not really intuitive and easy to find where things are. You end up toggling and fumbling with the menu and sub-menus, and the IP menu does not bring you back to the previous function after you have done with some adjustments. The central screens system though is still in beta stage, so we will reserve comment on how slick it is and how well it functions.

Mahindra tweaks its XUV700’s design

The XUV700 also signals Mahindra’s entry into the premium sound arena, with a superb Sony 3D audio system that uses a 13-channel amplifier powering one subwoofer and 12 speakers: including four in the roof. The SUV also gets Alexa integrated into the connected car experience including an embedded Alexa voice assistant.

Other interesting bits include a powered driver seat with door-mounted switches (inspired by Mercedes), dual zone climate control with an air-purifier system, and connectivity options with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The seats are large and generous, especially up front, and cushioning, though a touch on the firm side, offers good all-round support. The XUV700 comes in 5- and 7-seat configurations, but it is the three-row version we were testing. While the legroom in the middle row may not be as generous as the Hector or Safari, there is ample space for even tall passengers. Despite the 50mm longer wheelbase, third-row room is not that much, and headroom too is very limited. There are, however, dedicated AC vents and the glass area is quite large.

Ergonomics have been a bit of a hit and miss for Mahindra. While the XUV700 has addressed most points, there are a few issues. The gear lever, rotary controller and power window switches feel a little too rear-set and while the third row does recline, the lever is located behind the seat meaning you have to twist around and reach over to pull the handle.

The petrol and diesel engines on offer get both, the 6-speed manual and automatic gearbox options. While the XUV500’s 155hp diesel carries on only in the base version, higher variants get a more powerful version of the 185hp, 2.2-litre mHawk unit, that makes it the most powerful SUV in its class.

The firecracker in this segment, however, is the new petrol engine – Mahindra’s 200hp, 2.0-litre ‘mStallion’ turbo-petrol — again laying claim to the title of being the most powerful in the segment.

Not surprisingly then, driving the XUV700 is an absolute delight. Mahindra concentrated much of the review drive to its massive new test facility, with only a short dash from Mahindra Research Valley to the test centre. We would have liked to drive more in the real world, but the high-speed track really let us experience the strong performance from the engines.

The petrol and diesel engines get the same 6-speed manual and 6-speed auto options, but it is the 200hp petrol that is quite the firecracker. Put your foot down and the XUV700 lunges forward with power coming in thick and fast from as low as 1,400rpm. The engine revs to a high 5,800rpm, thus allowing you to really wring out all that the engine has. What is nice is that the turbo-petrol unit has a nice and strong torquey, diesel-like character at the lower end too. Acceleration is brisk with our preliminary tests recording a 9.32 sec 0-100kph time in the automatic — very impressive for a near 2 tonne SUV. Keep your foot down and there is no let-up in acceleration, and on Mahindra’s test track it was quite easy to hit upwards of 190kph.

However, neither the auto nor the manual are what you would call quick shifters: the manual is not super slick, and the auto has a discernible pause between shifts. That being said, this is only when you are flat out rushing it. Everyday driving and even slightly spirited runs are just fine. What is also nice is that despite the high torque, both manual boxes have a light clutch, though the engagement could have been more progressive.

The auto box’s shift logic is also well sorted. While we had limited time in real-world traffic, it never felt like it was in the wrong gear and at no point did I try and reach for the (missing) paddles for manual intervention. Refinement within the cabin is expectedly vibration free.

The gearing on the petrol-manual is a bit on the tall side, which is great for cruising. Overall refinement of the petrol is just superb. For those wanting a smooth and effortless drive, you just cannot have it better than the XUV700 for the money.

The 2.2-litre diesel too is superbly refined, and while the engine note is audible at higher engine speeds, it is not really harsh or intrusive. Unlike the petrol, the diesel gets three drive modes — cheekily called Zip, Zap, Zoom, which alter engine and steering settings. In Zip, power is reduced to 155hp and this mode is meant for relaxed driving, whilst Zap and Zoom get the full 185hp. The only difference between the two is a sharper throttle response in Zoom.

Performance is something the diesel XUV700 has no shortage of. There is a bit of a turbo lag, but this is only in relation to the strong performance that comes in at the 1,400rpm mark, which from then on stays strong and linear till about 4,000rpm. On the whole, its performance is clearly a strong point, and we registered a 0-100kph time of 10.34sec in the auto.

Drivability is good too and there is ample torque, making the engine tractable, and the manual can easily pick up pace cleanly from as low as 1,200rpm in sixth. Work the box properly though and you will be rewarded with a spirited drive. The gear ratios are well spaced but seem a tad shorter geared, more for performance rather than efficiency, which should work out just fine as the diesel engine is inherently efficient.

The biggest area of improvement over the XUV500 is the dynamics. Gone is the jittery ride, the torque steer and the sloppy handling, which is replaced by a sure-footed composure and easy and predictable handling. The key to the XUV700’s transformed ride and handling is the suspension system.

The XUV700 uses frequency selective dampers, like the Jeep Compass, where two parallel oil flow paths are tuned to deliver a different and optimal damping rate for both, high and low frequency ranges. The rear linkages also include an additional control blade link to better define individual wheel movement and it all works well.

Road grip is good and cornering is quite sharp. The power steering also has just the right amount of feel; it is light enough at low speeds but feels secure and stable at higher speeds. Out on the highway, you can also hold your speed over slightly broken surfaces with a good degree of confidence. Speaking of confidence, on the high-speed track, the XUV700 felt quite composed at high triple-digit speeds.

If anything, the XUV700, which still has a high centre of gravity, feels a bit top heavy and rolls a little when pushed hard. Also, the ride is not quite as settled as some rivals.

The company has also invested a lot into active safety, and in what is unique in the segment, the XUV700 has a very comprehensive ADAS package.

The system uses both, camera and radar, which when linked to Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Autonomous Emergency Brakes (AEB) work very well; we simulated this on the test track. Also impressive is the Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), which enables you to safely follow a car ahead, and the Smart Pilot Assist or traffic assist (AT only), which can manage stop-start crawls too. The tuning is spot on and changes in pace are quite smooth and natural. The only aspect that needs fine-tuning is the Lane Keep Assist, which works well in corners but does not keep the car centred on straights.

Mahindra tweaks its XUV700’s design

Other active safety features are driver drowsiness detection, auto high beam assist and booster headlights that increase illumination above 80kph; Mahindra says the lumens and spread do not exceed the permissible limit. ABS and ESP round off the active safety bits, while seven airbags, including a knee airbag, bring up the passive features.

It is impossible to ignore prices for the XUV700 and while Mahindra has only released details for four of the lower trim, 5-seater manual cars, the pricing has rocked the market. At ₹11.99 lakh for the MX petrol-manual, the entry XUV700 is priced like a sub-four-metre SUV, and at ₹14.99, the mid-level AX petrol-manual is still brilliant value.

Mahindra will also have on offer pretty much every powertrain combination and plenty more variants too, so it is clear then that the company is throwing everything it can into the XUV700. This is the model with which Mahindra is plotting its fightback, after the specialist SUV maker lost ground to Tata Motors, Hyundai and even new entrants like Kia. In that sense, the XUV700 comes in at the right time.

Variants and prices aside, the XUV700 still comes across as a very compelling package. Yes, there are some cheap bits inside, it does miss some features like cooled seats and the infotainment system could have been more logically designed. However, these niggles are insignificant in the light of its strengths. The brilliant engines just blow the competition away, it is easy to drive and live with, and if that is not enough to wow, the incredible features list and tech certainly will. The XUV700 is best-in-class in so many areas, and when you factor in the knockout prices, it is clear that Mahindra is not just here to play, it has come for the kill. The competition had better run for cover.


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Printable version | Oct 18, 2021 2:10:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/motoring/mahindra-tweaks-its-xuv700s-design/article36031253.ece

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