Mahindra XUV 500 : Road Test
The heart which pumps the thrust for the XUV500 is this freshly tweaked 2.2-litre mHawk engine which now resides 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 have a front wheel drive option, indicated by the transversely mounted engine – again a first for Mahindra - while the higher version has an all-wheel drive layout with a torque on demand mechanism which delivers drive to the rear wheels in situations where the traction gets tricky. While we’re at it, the under bonnet aesthetics are top class too – clearly Mahindra has left no stone unturned to the visual appeal of the XUV500, even if it is the hidden view under the hood.
Speaking with Rajan Wadhera, who spearheaded the engineering and product development team, the mHawk has been optimised even further to try and deliver more from less. This 16-valve engine employs the latest Bosch common-rail direct injection technology and uses a fifth generation S-type variable geometry turbocharger supplied by TurboEnergy. In fact this is the first application of this type of a turbocharger which thanks to its vane geometry reduces the back pressure in a massive way resulting in smoother power delivery, better torque thrust and the boost pressure can also be hiked to take advantage of newer advances in CRDi technology.
The mHawk engine was designed from the outset with thin wall castings, the aim being not just to enhance power density but also sustain that over long operating periods. With injection pressures constantly on the upswing from 1800 bar to 2000 bar and now moving on to 2200 bar the entire focus shifted to heat management and the engine team within Mahindra came up trumps. Given that the high boost pressures could get the much needed power one had to take care that this didn’t come in the way of the engine’s structural integrity for the diesel engine is subjected to greater stresses than a petrol motor so internal strengthening had to also take place but overall a combination of detail modifications helped make the engine deliver power smoothly and consistently without the torque petering off. The multi-point injection system now features four injections instead of the three in the engine’s previous avatar and along with other friction busting measures the torque comes on thick and smooth across the powerband.
As mentioned earlier, the six-speed manual gearbox on the new car has been developed indigenously by M&M, and leaves behind the company’s earlier gearboxes in the dust, not just in terms of delivery and pull but also when it comes to feel. Given the under-bonnet packaging constraints, Wadhera’s team working with FEV devised a three-shaft transaxle instead of the more common two-shaft layout but other mods have helped the gearbox to effect transfer of power to the front wheels quite efficiently and without much shunt. The engine also utilizes a dual mass flywheel which goes a long way to scrub off primary vibes from engine and transmission from making their way into the cabin and this has been a great NVH detail on the vehicle.
The throw of the gearstick itself is not too long which makes great sense for urban use, but engagement is positive and chunky, very much in line with the robust but sophisticated feel that the SUV carries around itself. Feedback from fellow ZigWheelers was that the throw of the clutch is slightly long, and the cogs refuse to slot cleanly unless it is completely depressed, but this is more of a driving style fault than a design or engineering flaw.
The base XUV500 comes with front-wheel drive only but there is an all-wheel drive version which with the torsen type central diff administers torque to the wheels with the most grip so as to make for safe and sure motoring. Add to that the hill hold and hill descent control functions and you have the making of a loaded up to the gills vehicle capable of decent driving on the dirt though mud-plugging or wadi bashing or rock climbing is something we wouldn’t recommend.
The gear ratios are very sensibly plotted out and employ the six speeds over the engine’s functional rev range to great effect. Just to put things in perspective, the gearbox allows the engine’s ample torque to be let out on the street even at low revs, including idling in second gear. Accelerating from speeds of around 30km/h in second gear though creates an unhealthy vibration from the big diesel, which percolates into the cabin to some discomfort. Apart from this, the grunty engine accelerates the XUV to 100km/h from standstill in a Rapid 13.85 seconds, and the sixth gear allows for a top speed in excess of 180km/h. For a vehicle of its size, those are striking figures. For those who value sense (which would be all of us in these times of unannounced and vulgar fuel price hikes) fuel efficiency numbers are also impressive given that our test car averaged 11 kilometres to a litre of diesel within city limits, and batted out a figure of 16kmpl on the highway.