Text – Aravind Ramesh; Pictures – Arun Varadarajan, Bharath Rengaraj

2014 Mahindra XUV500 Test Drive Review
2014 Mahindra XUV500 – Click above for high resolution picture gallery

2014 Mahindra XUV500 Review

Car Tested: 2014 Mahindra XUV500 W8 AWD

Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 16,72,620/-

The updated XUV500 sees improvements which go a long way in boosting customer satisfaction.

In more ways than one, the XUV500 is an achievement for Mahindra. It was the first global model conceived and developed from scratch by the Nashik based manufacturer, had features and technology that’s probably more than all previous Mahindra models put together and, more importantly, succeeded big-time in India despite sporting a price tag north of a million rupees. That’s a price point where even the biggies, Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai included, struggle to create an impression. And then there is Tata Motors, a company with similar resources and development curve as Mahindra, that failed miserably with the Aria. So, while the XUV500 was undoubtedly a feat that Mahindra can take pride in, it wasn’t flawless. Issues related to build quality, brakes and electronics left several customers with less-than-perfect ownership experiences and bolstered egos vis-a-vis their comrades who went in for Japanese or European models. Mahindra seemed to have listened to those complaints and worked on them all. What you see here is the updated, much-improved Mahindra XUV500 that, the company claims, is devoid of problems that plagued earlier models. How’s the new XUV500 to live with? Does the improvements make their presence felt? Or, do we just have to live with it believing what Mahindra says? We spent a couple of days with the SUV to find out.

Motor Quest: Mahindra launched the XUV500 in September 2011 and it was an instant hit, resulting in the bookings being closed immediately after launch. Mahindra sold 35,000 units of their flagship vehicle in the first year itself.

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The XUV500 draws contradictory opinions from lookers, it’s a love it or hate it design

Exteriors – When the XUV500 was launched, it split opinions like no other. With such a polarizing design, it’s not hard to understand why. While many felt that the car looks bold and aggressive, there were many who thought that the XUV500 was cluttered and fussy. In reality though, this monocoque SUV is a mix of both. And it hasn’t changed in the three years it has been on sale. While some design cues are extremely likeable, there are some that could have been given a miss. The rabbit-tooth grille and the faux black inserts in the front bumper, for instance, are a couple of them.

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Some of the design elements on the XUV500 have been massively overdone

Up front, the XUV500 looks busy with a whole gamut of design touches vying for attention. Standing out are those trapezoidal headlights with inbuilt projectors and LED parking lights. The grille that’s placed a wee bit higher than the usual position to open up space below and the bumper with its busy detailing do their bit to grab eyeballs, not always in a positive way though. Move over to the profile and that’s where the XUV500 shows its dynamism. With a steeply-rising windowline, flared wheel arches and sheet metal that sports a concentric arc above the rear wheel arches, it creates an impression of flexing its muscles standing still. The blackened pillars, the paw-shaped door handles and the wrapround tailights are impressive. What’s not are those tiny wheels that, despite the nice design of the alloys themselves, are dwarfed by those massive wheel arches. The big and beautifully-detailed tail lights at the rear completes an impressive job done by Mahindra’s designers.

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The tyres on the XUV appear a bit puny compared to the massive wheel arches

Agreed, they went overboard on many places, but that can be excused given that this is the company’s first effort in modern times. Attention to detail is terrific all around. The headlights, for instance, not only look fabulous but are extremely functional too, with cornering function that helps negotiate turns at night and a spread that widens automatically at parking speeds. Similarly, the puddle lamps that illuminate the ground you are about to step on to, the thin layer of plastic cladding that runs the full circumference, the twin exhaust pipes and the ribbed rear bumper are the other noticeable touches.

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The dashboard of the Mahindra XUV500 has a long and vertical centre console

Interiors – For those who are used to Mahindras of yore, the XUV500 will be a revelation when stepped into. The doors open wide and the just-perfect body height ensures that ingress and egress aren’t a problem. The nicely-contoured steering wheel with recesses that fits the thumb to a tee and three distinct shades sets us up nicely and hints at what’s in store. Right behind it, the superb instrument cluster with two circular pods housing chrome-ringed dials inside is very attractive too. More so when the ignition key is turned on, as a plethora of signs light up the MID between the dials.

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The instrument cluster is loaded with a ton of things to display, looks good

At a time when swoopy centre consoles are the norm, the tall, near-vertical one in the XUV500 stands out. Dominating the console is a touchscreen that’s home to a host of controls. Stacked beneath it neatly are buttons and controls for the music system, air-conditioning and other features. The knobs that controls the volume and the air-conditoner are chunky to hold and operate while the other buttons aren’t and look flimsy. The vast expanses of fake wood paneling are just about average in looks and build and the air vents could have been shaped better too. Though the overall quality, fit and finish show definite signs of improvement compared to the earlier models, they are still not up to what we have come to expect from cars at this price point.

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The rear seat has ample amount of room and offers excellent cushioning too

What is impressive though is the space and comfort on offer. The front and middle rows can seat five well-built adults in utmost comfort while the seats themselves are almost perfect. They are shaped well, offer support at all the right places and the perforated leather aids ventilation. The flat floor, air-conditioning vents built into the A-pillar and acres of legroom make the middle row a nice place to relax on the go. The same can’t be said about the third row that, despite featuring dedicated air vents, charging point and bottle holders, fall short on legroom. Two adults can still squeeze in there, but not for long distances. With all three rows in place, boot space is non-existent. But the split seats in second and third rows offer a lot of flexibility.

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Flipping the last row of seats down results in the XUV being a 5-seater with a big boot

A big USP of the Mahindra XUV500 was its long list of standard features. That hasn’t changed in the updated model and the top-end W8 variant that we drove came with all the features that we wanted and more. Apart from the usual stuff, the XUV500 gets cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, hill hold function, tyre pressure monitoring system and ambient lighting. The touchscreen houses a host of controls that include music settings, fuel efficiency figures, Bluetooth function, GPS navigation, tyre pressure monitor, general alerts and service updates. Electrical issues were a cause of concern for owners of the older models. In the two days we spent with it, the updated XUV500 performed flawlessly. We would assume that Mahindra has managed to sort out the niggles altogether.

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2.2-litre mHawk powerplant has good performance on offer but is loud post 3500 RPM

Performance – The XUV500 continues with the 2.2-litre mHawk engine from the earlier model. This 4-cylinder, turbo diesel mill belts out 140 horsepower at 3750 RPM and a 330 Nm of torque between 1600 to 2800 RPM. Refinement is good at low revs but the engine gets really noisy past 3500 RPM. It gets so loud and crude that you don’t feel like pushing beyond it. Power delivery is linear and the XUV500 accelerates forward with decent urgency. After a bit of hesitation, the turbo kicks in at about 1500 RPM and the progress thereafter is quick. Once you get the short first and second gears out of the way, the XUV500 comfortably ambles around in third gear. Be it inside the city or out on the highway, overtaking is effortless thanks to the punch offered by the engine.

2014 Mahindra XUV500 Road Test
The XUV500’s gearbox is very notchy, power delivery is linear and there is ample grunt

The 6-speed manual transmission though is a bit notchy and the gears don’t reassuringly slot in place, which spoils the overall driving experience a bit. Despite its high kerb weight and impressive power output, the XUV500 returned a respectable fuel efficiency figure of 12.5 km/l. The last leg of the journey in which we pushed the car regularly to higher revs saw us recording just 9.8 km/l but that’s not how most of us drive on a daily basis.

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The XUV500 offers decent handling and road holding but body roll is quite evident

Driving Dynamics – In keeping with its global ambitions, the XUV500 comes with McPherson struts up front and independent multi-link coil springs at the rear. As a result, the ride quality is a big step forward compared to the likes of the Scorpio. Even then, the irregularities in the road filter into the cabin quite sharply and though the ride improves upto moderate speeds, this isn’t a vehicle that will sail through a rough patch at high speed without intimidating its occupants. The Duster and Safari offer much better ride quality than the XUV500. Built on Mahindra’s first monocoque chassis, the XUV500 is endowed with decent handling. Body roll is present but the XUV500 doesn’t get unnerving as a Scorpio does under sudden direction changes. That said, the smaller crossovers like Duster, Terrano and EcoSport are a whole lot better when it comes to road handling.

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Brakes of the XUV500 lack bite and also feel a bit lifeless, hindering stopping power

The steering wheel offers decent feedback but becomes a bit inconsistent as speeds build up. Visibility up front is great while at the rear, things get worse. The thick pillars and the small windscreen means that motorcycles parked immediately behind can be absolutely invisible to the driver. Disc brakes all around, combined with ABS and EBD, ensures that the XUV500 sheds speed quickly. But the brake pedal lacks bite and feels lifeless for some distance before responding to the pressure applied. Another minor irritant was the steering rod that often intruded while moving the legs between the pedals. The pedals themselves are spaced out well enough and the dead pedal proves to be boon while on the highway.

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Mahindra hasn’t skipped on safety and all variants come with front airbags and ABS

Safety – Mahindra has rightfully been quite liberal in ensuring safety of passengers and the XUV500, in all its trim levels, offers dual airbags and Antilock Braking System with Electronic Brake force Distribution as standard. The top variant features six airbags, hill descent control, Electronic Stability Program and Rollover Mitigation, making this SUV one of the safest in its class. And it shows as the XUV500 has received 4-star safety rating in ANCAP, the new car assessment program in Australia.

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Mahindra has offered a value for money option for SUV buyers in India with the XUV

Verdict – Like it was before, the XUV500 is an attractive proposition. It’s stylish, powerful, safe, comes loaded with more features than you will ever need and can tackle the occasional dive in sand and slush with aplomb, especially in its AWD avatar. Yes, the fit and finish isn’t consistent and the reliability of some of these electronics isn’t all that great. But that shouldn’t stop those looking out for a crossover to plong their money on the XUV500. The claimed improvements in electronics, brakes and build quality only makes the package all the more attractive.

The Mahindra XUV500 is an attractive package, offering value to buyers with its long equipment list and powerful engine. While it doesn’t offer the best quality, the reliability of the vehicle has improved thanks to multiple changes.

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Build quality has improved on the updated XUV500 but still not up to the mark

What’s Cool

* Spacious interiors
* Aggressive styling
* Powerful engine
* Decent handling

What’s Not So Cool

* Inconsistent build quality
* Long-term reliability
* Notchy gear shifts

Alternatives: Tata Safari Storme, Renault Duster, Nissan Terrano

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The XUV500’s LED parking lights look cool in the night, they aren’t DRLs

2014 Mahindra XUV500 Specifications

* Engine: 2179cc, mHawk 140, Direct injection with VGT
* Power: 140 BHP @ 3750 RPM
* Torque: 330 Nm @ 1600-2800 RPM
* Transmission: 6-speed manual
* Top Speed: 175 km/hr (Claimed)
* 0-100 km/hr: 12.5 seconds (Claimed)
* Fuel Consumption: 15.1 km/l (As per ARAI test)
* Fuel Type: Diesel
* Suspension: McPherson struts (Front), Multi-link coil springs (Rear)
* Tyres: 235/65/R17
* Brakes: Disc (Front, Rear), ABS with EBD
* Safety: Six Airbags, ESP, TCS, Hill Hold Function, Rollover Mitigation

2014 Mahindra XUV500 Dimensions

* Overall length x width x height: 4585 mm X 1890 mm X 1785 mm
* Wheelbase: 2700 mm
* Turning Radius: 5.6 m
* Ground clearance: 160 mm
* Boot Volume: 703-liters (with third row folded)
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 70-litres
* Kerb Weight: 1740 kg