by adil jal darukhanawala , Photography : kunal khadse |
September 28, 2011 19:11 IST
Coming our way from the country's leading UV maker Mahindra & Mahindra is this new age, new wave soft-roader, the XUV500 (XUV - Five Double O). The new Mahindra is no softie, keeping in sync with its maker's reputation for the rugged, but in this new baby rugged melds with style and the concoction of the two is deadly delicious! Not many details and information can be divulged right now but our pictures of the car speak louder than words. Adil Jal Darukhanawala lends commentary to Kunal Khadse's photo-artistry
The big bold high tech face of the new Mahindra XUV500. The grille is different while the front end treatment with projector headlamps, LED day-time running lights, large front bumper with streaked air dam and recessed fog lamps make for a menacing look. “Objects in the mirror are closer than you think” would get an altogether new meaning for others in class.
Straight out of Mad Max – imposing yet in the slickest manner possible, the XUV500 dishes out the style drill from practically any and every angle.
The devil is in the details and these are finely carved, but what is of even greater import is the fact that the craftsmanship is of a high order. Panel gaps on the car we drove and inspected were uniform yet close and the metal-plastic-glass medley on the exterior made for delightful aesthetics.
The XUV500 in profile is all muscle and snazzy-style personified – like a strapping athlete in a designer suit! The large pronounced wheel arches with their machined-look plus the character crease at the waist level along with a similar smaller line at the door sill level imparts a good stance when viewed with the sharply raked windscreen and the well penned glass area. In profile one can clearly see some hints, on proportion, from Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Suzuki Vitara et al but overall the XUV500 is distinctive on its own. Another important observation about the new Mahindra is the absolutely clean and sanitized under-vehicle layout with nary any plumbing or wires or ungainly accoutrements spoiling the show or the under-floor air flow.
No one can mistake the XUV500 for anything else, even from the rear though the badging might help those overtaken understand the reason they have had to give way! Note the twin exhausts with oval end cans and the large round silencer boxes.
Mahindra’s XUV500 breaks new ground for the firm in that it is not just its new age offering in this millennium, but also the firm’s first all-monocoque passenger vehicle, its first with a transverse-engine, front wheel drive layout and also one which finally makes the break from its distinct Jeep lineage. And again let it be said that its design was signed off before the Ssangyong acquisition! The sheer dynamism of the design on the move is further heightened by the wedgy swoop of the belt line and the sharply raked windscreen. The subtle roof rails play their own part in the overall aesthetique and by and large thanks to the brilliant surfacing of the external sheet metal, the overall sheen and finish of the XUV500 is magnificent. In fact it puts many Indian-assembled and painted high end luxury cars to shame.
Form follows function they say but here in our smallish first drive, it was great to experience the XUV500 function in a form which should impress not just in class but also those who would have made do with sedans.
Well planted stance, decent manners and a good balance between ride and handling should really pull in the troops to cheer for the XUV500. The meaty 5-spoke alloys are shod with 235 x 65 – R17 Bridgestones and with the underpinnings they do make for the vehicle’s dynamics to bear positively for the occupants – be it the driver or passengers.
The XUV500’s tail light cluster treatment is distinctive yet simple and very effective. Note the manner in which the leading edge of the reflector is also made into a style detail.
The XUV500’s large tailgate flips upwards to reveal large load area with the rear row of seats folded flat. The spare tyre sits below the floor and is easily accessed from below in the same manner as in the Toyota Innova.
The heart which pumps the thrust for the XUV500 is this freshly tweaked 2.2-litre M-Hawk engine which is now in an east-west layout as against a north-south placement in other Mahindra vehicles. This engine develops 140bhp but more importantly has 330Nm of torque to delight its driver. Mated to this engine is another first for an all Indian vehicle – a six-speed manual gearbox, developed in-house by Mahindra itself as is the front wheel drive transfer case. Base models will be front wheel drive while another version will have an all wheel drive layout with a torque on demand mechanism also delivering drive to the rear wheels. More on this later but while we are at it, the under bonnet aesthetics are top class.
Handsome and wholesome the XUV500 is and it also shows in the way it carries itself on its large 17-inch alloys shod with 235-65-R17 rubber. The alloys are striking in their turnout and distinctive to behold. For a vehicle with strong forward thrust, the XUV500 doesn’t skimp on the retardation at its disposal, disc brakes abound on all four wheels and in addition there is ABS, EBD plus ESP to ensure safety and peace of mind. If that’s not all, there are driver and front passenger air bags, start/stop is standard equipment and there is also hill descent control for the top line offering.
That’s the way aha, aha I like it! The interior treatment of the XUV500 is bold, butch and brilliant to behold and use! The central stack has a large touch-screen digital display for GPS, air-con controls, music system and other ancillaries. The steering wheel design is refreshingly modern and really well executed. The controls fall nicely to hand (and foot!), a case in point being the parking brake lever angled towards the driver’s left. Large air vents on the dash direct cool air flow to the front seat hotshots while quality of interior trimming is well defined though it could have been better. Slight irritants abound but by and large the business end of the interior is a fine place to ply one’s craft! While trim is of a high order, colour choice is pretty subjective.
Instrumentation Americana seems to be the theme for the XUV500’s tell-all cluster. Styled like one of the mean muscular Pontiac Firebirds of the 1970s, the twin round instruments pack in the speedo (calibrated to 220km/h) and the fuel gauge on the left while the one of the right has the rev counter lined up all the way to 7000rpm with the smaller central dial having tell tales for temperature and oil. The central console is business personified yet has a good feel to it. The large sized switches plus the rotary controls knobs make access and useage very simple. The digital touch screen is also very user friendly. The chromed strips and that large chromed rotary knob for the audio system and that polished top cover of the dashboard makes for an irritating reflection in the windshield which can get a bit disconcerting for the driver.
Spacious and Ergonomic Seating
Seats are large, well cushioned and profiled, and generally the best of any Indian-built vehicle in the UV space. What further help are the well defined floor height and the large expansive door openings. All put together these make for very ergonomic ingress and egress, something which should delight the family no end. The third row of seats is good and overall the packaging designers and engineers have learnt from rivals as to what not to do and also how to get everything spot-on first time out.
Headliner incorporates many welcome features including interior lighting which is by LEDs, a goggle holder in one flap while another one incorporates a fish-eye mirror giving the driver unimpeded rear vision from pillar to pillar!
Large double decker glove box on the dashboard is just one among a myriad of cubby holes and bottle holders which abound in the cabin. The manner in which the door pads meld with the dashboard provides a fine continuous sweep of line to the interior which is pleasing to behold.
Both front seats have built in lumbar support and the seat backs have netted sections for mags and maps. Nice touch this but the arm rests, for the driver at least, do impede gear shifting. Maybe a repositioning in height could solve this glitch.
Steering wheel is a nice meaty affair and very sporty in its design and feel. A large central pad dominates the senses and the two tiny side stalks also provide the base for the multi-function switches for phone and audio volume on the left along with cruise control settings on the right.