After many months of anticipation Mahindra has finally taken the wraps off their latest creation, the quirkily named XUV500 (read five double oh). A glance at the pictures will tell you it's a rather handsome vehicle while a once over of the specification sheet shows that it's stuffed to the gills with kit. But good looks and a fat feature list alone don't make good cars. There's a lot more to it that can only be uncovered by driving the vehicle. These are our impressions after our first drive of the 'five double oh'
Love at first sight?
Well yes and no. When viewed in her entirety the XUV cuts a handsome picture. It's an eye-catching, attractive design with the projector headlamps and aggressive grille being the design highlights up front. The entire front three quarters with the muscular wheel arches looks primed for action, much like the cheetah Mahindra's designers have based the car on. The rear gets large vertical tail lights with tribal motifs on the plastic.
However a closer look reveals several fussy and over-styled elements like the large but fake air intakes under the headlamps and the numerous slashes, curves and bulges all over the vehicle. The bulging haunches over the rear wheel will also divide opinion. However they certainly add character to the rear three quarters.
Life on the inside
Step into the well-appointed interiors and you instantly acknowledge the effort Mahindra has put into this vehicle. The smart centre console is highlighted by a six-inch touch screen infotainment display, the leather seats are comfortable and hold their occupants snugly. The funky twin pod instrument console is an interesting feature. There's a cooled compartment under the central arm rest, a nifty conversation mirror just above the rear view mirror and subtle red ambient lighting that Mahindra calls lounge lighting.
Fit and finish is good for most part but there are some rough edges. The quality of materials used is good but some of the release mechanisms for the central armrest, the glove box don't have a positive action. The gear knob on our car had a sharp edge at its base that kept poking the fingers. It's a problem that can be fixed in a minute but you don't expect to have to file sharp edges off the plastics in your brand new Rs 13 lakh car.
Power comes from the 2.2-litre mHawk that propels the Scorpio except that it's been juiced up to produce 140PS from the Scorpio's 122PS. Torque rises to 330Nm as well and this is down to Mahindra's fifth generation variable geometry turbo. The engine isn't a very quick revving unit, even by diesel standards. However it makes up for that with stupendous low down grunt. The mHawk pulls cleanly from 1000rpm and picks up speed nicely from barely 1300rpm. We even managed to take u-turns in second gear with not a single complaint from the engine. That and the tight turning radius should indicate an easy car to punt through city traffic.
The 6-speed gearbox however could do with some improvements in shift quality. The long throw is customary for an SUV but the gears seem reluctant to slot without a good shove at times. Also the handbrake needs some muscle to disengage. A few remnants of the company's past perhaps?
Does it handle?
The XUV 500 is Mahindra's best effort at handling by quite a bit. It's a significant improvement over the company's earlier products, Scorpio included. The low centre of gravity ensures the car doesn't have a top-heavy feel. There is roll and quite a bit of pitch under hard braking but the car feels stable and confident around corners. The steering doesn't have much feedback but it isn't dead either. The brakes feel spongy though and require a bit of muscle to slow the car down. Overall, it's a good mix between a traditional SUV and a car.
This is just a first look at the XUV500 and we intend to poke and prod it a lot more to find out just how good Mahindra's golden boy really is. Stay tuned...
Click here to watch the walkaround of the XUV500.