Mahindra’s XUV500 is certainly the flavor in the SUV market. While other manufacturers are struggling to sell their products, the XUV is commanding a large waiting period provided you have made it through the qualifying lucky draw. When I received a call from Mahindra about a track day on the Buddh International Circuit, I was certainly excited, driving on the circuit is a luxury we auto journalists enjoy once in a while. The only thing I was not sure was whether the Mahindra XUV500 was the right car to drive on the circuit, but I was wrong. It was a exciting day and this is how it unfolded.
This event was organized by Mahindra Adventures. Mahindra has been associated with the Buddh International Circuit since day one. The support vehicles which do rounds on the track are Scorpio’s and were seen busy at work during the inaugural Formula 1 race in October last year. The ‘Torque Day’ was organized for select media and Mahindra XUV customers, who had to register to drive their own vehicle on the track. After reaching the track early, we were given a small briefing on the safety instructions and flag rules. The regular set of rules were applied. There would be a pace car upfront which was driven by ace rally specialist Gaurav Gill and a sweep car behind the convoy. There were approximately 15 XUV’s and no overtaking was allowed. There was an extensive briefing session for the XUV owners as they were on the circuit for the first time.
The XUV had won the Dakshin Dare and had finished 1 – 2 in the rally. The drivers and navigators were felicitated for this feat.
Finally the moment I was waiting for, I buckled up in the XUV 500 and was ready to go. I was driving the W8 front wheel drive version and was car number 2 behind the pace car. The pit lane opened and I stepped on the gas. I had last driven the Mercedes Benz E63 AMG on the track but this time it was a completely different game.
Th thrill off driving on the track is unexplainable. For those who think the track is meant only for super cars are sadly mistaken. The track provides a challenge every time and you can have fun behind the wheel of any car. It’s about finding the sweet spot between overdoing it and still being fast around the track and that’s exactly what I did. The first lap was a warm up lap to familiarize those driving on the track for the first time. The pace car floored it after the last corner. I had maintained a decent gap to both the car in front and behind, I did not want to run into the car ahead nor did I want to impede the guy behind me.
On the start finish straight I hit 150 kmph before braking for turn one. Since the event was also for XUV owners who have no track experience, Mahindra had put up braking markers where one was expected to brake for the corners. These markers were put early to ensure safety.
Turn 3 is very challenging and even sitting high up in the XUV, you only see the apex once you have started turning in, just goes to show, yet again, the track is brilliant by design.
The XUV is a mighty heavy vehicle and has its share of body roll. Drive it on the limit around the bends and it tends to understeer, the all wheel drive variant would be certainly better around the track. Luckily, i managed to keep the XUV on the track, thanks to the ESP (Electronic Stability Program). One could easily make out the ESP was working overtime to keep this SUV planted on the track and the 5 laps i drove, seemed to end too quickly.
The XUV, by no means is a track car but driving it around the track only shows the progress Mahindra has made over the Scorpio. This SUV is so much more predictable to drive and if it has a long waiting period, it has earned it on merit.