There’s more to Mahindra than cheap ‘n cheerful utes. As NZ4WD Editor Ross MacKay found at the launch of the XUV500 auto SUV.
Most of us drive cars, utes or SUVs equipped with automatic transmissions these days. So it should come as no surprise that local Mahindra importer put together a press launch dedicated to its new six-speed XUV500 self-shifter. The XUV500 (pronounced five double O) has been available here in six-speed manual form for the past two years and will now sell alongside the auto. Both front wheel drive and (on-demand) AWD versions are available, priced at $36,990 for the front-driver and $39,990 for the all-wheel-capable model. The XUV500 bridges the gap that has so far existed in the local market between small-to-medium two-row, five-seat models like Mazda’s CX5 Honda’s CRV and Toyota’s RAV4 with larger three-row, seven seaters like Hyundai’s Santa Fe and Ford’s Territory. With its distinctive – if a little fussy – mix of curves, edges and minimal overhangs front and rear the XUV500 could pass for a compact, Suzuki Vitara-class SUV. Stand beside one though and you realise it is more Mitsubishi Outlander or Holden Captiva 7, an impression backed up by the wheelbase, which, at 2700mm, is the same as that of a Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Santa Fe. At 1890mm across, it is also wider than a Santa Fe (1880mm) and a Holden Captiva (1849mm) and at 1785mm it is taller than even a Territory (1768mm) and Mazda CX-9 (1728mm). Mahindra here has been waiting for the auto version of the XUV to turn up so they can start building awareness amongst SUV buyers, and local execs believe they can sell as many as 200 (across manual and auto models) a year. On the evidence of a short test drive on the day of the launch that would appear to be a definite possibility. For a start the XUV500 comes across as a practical, well-built and specced SUV with particular appeal to the costconscious buyer. Ticking off the basics, the engine is an eager (if just a tad unsophisticated) 2.2 litre diesel-turbo (t)oiler, which, though modest in its claimed output (103kWs/330Nm) exhibits impressive flexibility in the face of the close to two tonnes (kerb weight of the AWD version is 1915kgs) it has to lug around. The all-new six-speed tiptronic automatic transmission (made by Japanese Borg-Warner partner Aisin and coming complete with steering-wheel mounted change paddles) must also take some of the responsibility for getting the most out of the engine, such is its intuitive sense of what gear is needed when, and slick, polished action. Steering feel and feedback is not particularly sharp or incisive, while suspension action and with it ride and handling also err on the side of solid and dependable, meaning ‘bang-for-your-buck’ is where the ultimate appeal of the XUV500 lies.
Fair enough too, because for (well, in the case of the front-driver) under $40K a buyer gets a veritable mountain of standard comfort and safety features. Standard spec includes three rows of leather seats, with the driver’s electrically adjustable and more than enough room for two adults to use the two seats in the third row (yes I tried!), six airbags, satellite navigation with a seven-inch touch screen complete with ‘pinch-to-zoom’ function, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming connectivity with voice recognition capability, plus a reversing camera with parallel and angle park guidelines. The glovebox is also big enough, apparently, to swallow a 15 inch laptop computer… and the centre console includes a cooler box! On a more serious note the XUV come complete with ESP (Electronic Stability Program) with rollover mitigation, ABS (Antilock Braking System) with EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution) plus the sort of tyrepressure monitoring system usually only seen on vehicles costing at least twice as much. And that’s not forgetting Hill Descent Control (HDC) and Hill Hold Control (HHC), or hill start assist, the only bum note the fact that ANCAP has only awarded it four (rather than the five of most of its competitors) stars. Of course, one swallow a summer does not make, but later this year Mahindra will add an even higher spec (W10-cfm W8) to its XUV500 line-up with keyless entry and start, an electrically adjustable driver’s seat and electric, powered sunroof. After that will come a line of petrolfuelled models and eventually other models developed in conjunction with sister company SsangYong and (no doubt) Pininfarina.
Distinctive lines disguise full medium SUV size of XUV500.
High roof and long wheelbase means XUV is full seven-seater.
Mahindra President and Chief Executive Pravin Shah with the new XUV500 auto.