One test drive never really gives you an opportunity to get to know a car. And I was glad when Mahindra decided to let me have the XUV5OO (W8) for a weekend. I used the car from Friday to Monday doing all I normally do. Trips to the gym in crawling traffic, to visit my cousin who lives near a pothole ridden road( some of them one foot deep) and for late night drives on empty roads to have ice cream. I think I got to know it well.
To begin with, I like the futuristic styling- in particular the front grill. It looks sporty and mean. Like a Sports Utility Vehicle SHOULD. I am not a fan of cars masquerading as SUVs.
The indicator lamps on the side view mirrors( that fold away when you lock the car) is a nice touch. The door handles are different and funky. Once inside the car – I am impressed by the seats. Great support and very well contoured. The leather looks durable. Like all SUVs one sits high with a commanding view of the road. And the commanding view (just like in battle) is required. Because driving on our roads IS a battle , and since in battle one needs protection therefore, air bags in the front as well as on the side are much appreciated!
The instrument panel is , well , very muscular in a Mustang GT way. Not sure if it works for an SUV. I haven’t been able to make up my mind about whether I like it or not, though lots of people I spoke to, like it. The panel gives all the required information from the usual sensors. It also tells you what gear you’re in. Now you might think it is a feature redundant in manual cars but given how low the noise vibration levels are and the impressive low end torque(more on the drive later) you might be in a different gear from what you THINK you’re in.
The LCD touch screen is a big win, a bigger win is the mapmyindia powered GPS navigation system. Very few cars in this segment provide navigation and many even two segments above, don’t.
The screen allows you to move from media to navigation to the phone and to car information. I like how the tyretronic read outs not only give you the status of the four tyres but also of the spare wheel. Saves you a walk around and a trip to the filling station before a long drive. Being able to stream music from the phone via blue tooth is another user friendly feature.
The entertainment system comes with a remote -finally giving back seat passengers an opportunity to take control of the music they get to hear.
There are lots of interesting nick nacks- cubbyholes all over, lots of room for storage including a temperature controlled ‘cooler’ for cold drinks. There is a mirror near the sunglass storage area(above the rear view mirror) allowing you to keep track of what’s happening in the back seat. The follow home lights , plus the lounge lights are quite neat. I also like the LED string in the head lamps. The backseat room is adequate – even with the driver’s seat pulled all the way back. The back seat backrest is too straight perhaps but acceptable in an SUV. I didn’t try the 3rd row- I was happy to see it fold flat along with the 2nd row giving lots and lots of room at the back. From a space point of view it equals the Toyota Innova.
The drive is impressive and a major improvement from the Scorpio. One is able to take corners slowly in 3rd gear and the engine doesn’t seem to protest- in fact that’s when I thought I was in 2nd and the the instrument panel said otherwise. The low end torque gives it a good pick up and the 140 bhp( an advancement on the 2.2 L Scorpio M Hawk engine ) gives it great performance out in the open. There is fair degree of wheel travel indicating that it won’t do too badly on dirt tracks or on our pot hole infested roads – even though Mahindra has pegged it as a soft roader meant for the city.
There are a few things that I hope will improve. Interior plastic quality could be better- it appears flimsy in places. The lids of storage compartments need refining are not so comfortable to open and close. The touch screen at times is a tad slow to react and sometimes stays on in the previous menu for a bit. Then again at this cost I am happy to overlook it- while hoping the next generation will have all this fixed.
The XUV is a great value for money car. And it’s packed with features to the hilt. I think it will give cars in the 18-20 lakh bracket- particularly the Toyota Fortuner, some stiff competition . It is, after all, half the price and has twice the features. One request to Mr Anand Mahindra- please introduce an automatic version soon !!!!
(check out this experimental video I made with my iPhone – in a single shot)