First Drive Review - Mahindra XUV700
When you think of high quality, properly engineered, mechanically advance and well-equipped automobiles, cars manufactured in India would be the last on your list. At least, that is what the situation was half a decade ago. Indian manufacturers have taken a pledge to change that perspective of the Indian consumers and they are here to announce that the cars that are Made in India, are better than the cars from European and Asian brands sold here. One such brand, although very popular amongst SUV lovers has lacked innovation and has had an outright image crisis for a few years, Mahindra!
With camouflaged cars running through the country and spy shots taking the internet like a tsunami, the hype Mahnidra created around their new XUV700 has been magnanimous. The XUV700 is here to change the rules of the Indian Automobile Industry and we went to Chennai to the Mahindra Research Valley (MRV) and the newly opened Mahindra SUV Proving Track (MSPT) to understand what makes this SUV special.
In the flesh, the XUV700 looks handsome, The C-shaped double LED strips running around the Clear Lens Full LED headlamps are magnificent to look at, especially in darker shades of the car, if this car is following you, you'll be willing to pull over and let it pass you. There is quite a lot of power and presence in that front end. The 7 slat grille with the opposing kink at the top really truly represents the strength of the motors that are there below the bonnet (which we will talk about later).
The side profile looks unmistakably XUV. A massive bulge below the C-pillar encapsulating the rear quarter of the car gives it the silhouette of an XUV legacy. What is noticeable are the flush door handles, which do look futuristic and something out of an Aston Martin or the new Mercedes Benz S-Class. Flush door handles, however, do have a function dynamically too, as they reduce the drag around the car's body and help the airflow smoothly around the car. The massive 18 inch 10-spoke alloy wheels look astonishing on this top of the line AX7 variant which is also helped by a wide track over the XUV500 which helps it look much wider, the lower AX5 variant gets 17-inch alloy wheels which still look substantially sized.
The wheel arches are much flatter and give the overall side profile a softer appeal, and this element is more prominent in the shade of silver. In fact, this car looks most muscular in the shade of silver as it accentuates all the muscle lines most substantially. I love how the window line kinks at the C-Pillar in a more subtle way giving it a more luxurious appeal that means business.
At the rear, the arrow-shaped tail lamps with LED elements, and a chiselled bonnet line really give the XUV700 a muscular appeal even at the rear. There are no fake exhaust tips, so the real exhaust pipes are hidden under the bonnet in a very clean way. The new Logo sits in a casing that looks like an afterthought, but the lack of Mahindra badging anywhere does give this car a very clean and high-end appeal. The side indicators on the tail lamps just like the headlamps are sequential and do give it a good visual, the reverse lamp however is a standard halogen bulb. A massive shark-fin antenna sits on the top of the roof and it looks perfectly cohesive with all the elements in the design of the XUV700.
The first thing you notice as you step inside the cabin of the XUV700 is the massive 10.25-inch high definition screens. These screens are the copy-paste units from the Mercedes Benz GLE and GLS SUVs with the only differentiating elements being the graphics and UI that the screens are running. The operating system is an Android, QNX and the controller is a 3rd Generation Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ Automotive Cockpit Platform developed in collaboration with Visteon. The screen hosts the AdrenoX system, which fundamentally is artificial intelligence-based infotainment that has the support of Amazon's Alexa which uses natural speech-based commands to control a multitude of tasks onboard, like changing the temperature, opening the sky roof and even ordering food from AdrenoX's inbuilt Zomato App. How cool is that! In addition to all of the above, there is wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Dual-zone climate control is fitted as standard on the top of the line AX7 variant which fortunately does not get the touchpad/touchscreen controls like some other cars in its category and really is more ergonomic when it comes to changing the temperature settings when on the fly. The array of buttons below it is a straight lift from the Thar and the quality of buttons is of good quality. Never will you feel short-changed with the touch and feel factor of either push or rotary controls on-board. The AdrenoX Infotainment system can also be controlled via the rotary dial on the centre console which also has shortcut buttons to a lot of other functions that can be used on the screen. To add up to the premium features game that the XUV700 is so far winning at, there are industry-standard Wireless Mobile Phone Charging Pad, Electric Parking Brake Release and Auto Hold function which does work very well.
There is Faux Wood like a textured panel on the door cards which look good but could have felt less plasticky! The seat adjustment controls are the same ones used in Mercedes Benz cars and come with 3 memory settings to suit all sizes of family members who would be using the car. 2 dummy buttons are accompanying the seat controls which does convey that Mahindra is planning to install a Seat Ventilation system sometime later or as an option on the top of the line variants. The door handles too are a straight lift from Mercedes Benz CLS! I guess I have said more Mercedes Benz than Mahindra in this review so far because this car uses tonnes of parts from their parts bin and it is surprising to see as there is no official parts sharing contract we know of.
The seats are lovely, the most comfortable throne in the business is right here. In the front seats, there is plenty of side bolstering, lower and upper back support and most importantly, protruding underthing support which ups the comfort game. You can easily do a journey of 1000 km in a single day without breaking your body. The driver's seat is electronically 6-way adjustable too and comes with an ingress assist which slides the seat back while you enter or exit the car. The back seat too is equally good and comes with a very healthy recline too. 3 adults can sit abreast for long trips and there is a headrest for all of them. The third row however is where the compromise starts. This is not a proper 7 seater but a 5 + 2. I am 5 ft 8 in tall, which is the standard Indian Male height and I cannot fit in the last row properly, the comfort is compromised. I can do shorter half an hour and hour max of a trip in the last row, but that would be it. There is no way you are stuffing in adults there for road trips.
The XUV700 comes with an array of engine and gearbox combinations. To start with, I have the one which is going to be the more popular choice, The 2.2 litre mHawk Turbo Diesel with the Manual Gearbox. This engine now produces 185 bhp of max power and 420 Nm of max torque. The torque curve peaks at 1800 rpm and goes all the way to the red line in a very linear manner. What is also impressive is the way this car delivers power to the ground. There are 3 modes, namely ZIP, ZAP and ZOOM, and in the ZIP mode, the engine mapping tones down to 155 bhp to give better fuel economy and aid a much smoother highway cruise. ZAP mode, gives access to a full 185 bhp and 420 Nm Torque but keeps it great for fast highway driving. Once you switch to ZOOM mode, the throttle inputs sharpen up, the ESC lets loose a little to gives you extra feedback from the suspension, braking and steering inputs which you're going hard with the car. The Traction Control with Torque Vectoring remains ON all the time and cannot be switched off.
I drove it to the limit on the High Speed Track at Mahindra's SUV Proving Tracks and was surprised to experience how brilliant the engine response is in a straight line. The linear and punchy torque does play a vital role in pulling the car out from a standstill very aggressively. Also, this SUV can do a shade under 200 kmph if given all the beans. The automatic gearbox fitted to the same diesel motor however gives 30 more torques at 450 Nm.
We used a specialist timing app to track the 0-100 kmph sprint on MSPT's Dynamic Track with Surface Friction Coefficient of 0.8 μ (which is higher than standard test dry road surface friction coefficient), took our Diesel-powered XUV700 with the manual gearbox, and we got a timing of 8.4 seconds, even if we consider an electronic error of 0.5 seconds, the timing is still under 9-second marker which is astonishing considering this car is a properly loaded 7 seater SUV.
The Multi-Link Independent Rear suspension with Koni FSD (Frequency Selective Damper) is one of the best setups you can find in the industry right now! At high speeds the suspension flattens out all the minor movements coming from the surface and doesn't let it filter into the chassis, giving you a plush and stiff high speed stability. At slower speeds, the dampers soften up the bumps and articulation in stages, making the experience a very soft riding experience. One can absolutely go off to sleep in the worst road conditions and not be bothered.
The Multi-Link Independent rear suspension does help a lot in providing suppleness in longitudinal direction without affecting the steering. While cornering this experience is even better, as the body roll is very well controlled and so is the pitching while exiting the corners with hard acceleration. The aerodynamically designed body panels with 1:1.618 bonnet length to window rake ratio, wing mirrors and even the flush door handles help minimise the wind noise while doing high speeds. The airflow around the bodylines is very gentle even at high speeds which would result in better highway manners, lower underbelly air-drafting and a higher fuel efficiency
Talking of Fuel Economy, in our initial drive from Mahindra Research Valley till MSPT, a distance of 65 kms which was 20% Rural and 80% Highway, we extracted a maximum fuel economy figure of 16.2 kmpl in the Diesel Manual, which is quite astonishing because we were driving in the ZAP mode which fundamentally gives the full 185 bhp on tap, switching to ZIP for normal highway cruising can save fuel by atleast 20%.
The 2.0 mStallion Turbocharged Petrol Motor gets 200 bhp of max power and 380 Nm of max torque. There are no ZIP, ZAP and ZOOM modes on any of the Petrol variants to be seen here sadly, although this is the motor to be had most fun in with the power output and the ability to do over 200 kmph. Also for the fact that ZIP mode helps save fuel in bumper to bumper traffic, Mahindra could have considered programming that little thing in for added benefit.
The Advanced Driving Assistance Systems come standard in the XUV700, which includes, Forward Collision Warning, Autonomous Emergency Brakes Using, both camera and radar FCW (Forward Collision Warning) will warn of a possible collision and if you don’t react, the AEB (Autonomous Emergency Brakes) system is designed to automatically apply the brakes. ADAS system also features: Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Smart Pilot Assist, Traffic Sign Recognition and High Beam Assist. All of these systems are designed and tested specifically for Indian Road use and in our drive all day long, it worked perfectly.
One of the most important points of discussion in the automotive industry for the decade! The XUV700 luckily is loaded with Safety tech, starting off with the structural strength and the use of materials with the highest torsional value (weight to stiffness). This helps in minimising the flex of the chassis while doing the rough stuff, which also translates to cutting off on body squeaks over some time. There are 2 airbags as standard in the base MX and AX3 variants, 2 curtain airbags get added to the AX5 variant making it 4 and the top of the line AX7 variant gets an additional pair of side airbags that extend till the 3rd-row seats and knee airbags as standard making it the first Indian car to have 7 airbags! Additionally, there is a Driver Drowsiness Detection system that prompts the driver to take a break in case of fatigue is detected and an Auto Booster Headlamp which actuates above 80 kmph to give an extra throw and make the driving experience much easier.
If you like how the XUV700 looks, you'll love the way it drives. Mahindra promised big things and it delivered even bigger. What we are looking at over here is the Indian Automotive Renaissance, these are glorious times where our local manufacturers are making global players sweat in their pants and then some. The Mahindra XUV700 is a true example of this. With the change of the logo and the absence of Mahindra's branding anywhere on the car, the perception towards the brand will change drastically and this would attract even younger and distinguished buyers towards Mahindra products. Mahindra has nailed the packaging and engineering aspect of the XUV700, there is no denying the fact, everyone who has driven it has been scratching their head thinking to themselves 'Is this really an Indian car?'. It's powerful, it's spacious, equipped with the best of goodies to the brim, comes with an attractive looking face and body shape, Mahindra has a winner in its hands and with Rs.11.99 lakh ex-showroom price for the base variant added to that Mahindra's expansive aftersales service network, this literally becomes the Deal of the Decade! Time to rejoice!
Photography : Aryan Juneja