• Mahindra XUV700

Mahindra’s newest SUV was very impressive on track. Does it impress as much in the real world?

Back in August Ed drove the Mahindra XUV700 at the manufacturer’s freshly laid out, world-class test track near Chennai and came back impressed. I wasn’t so sure though. You see, closed environs usually only reveal part of the picture. The real test lies for automobiles in the real world, they spend their entire lifecycle. Manufacturers do test cars for lakhs of kilometres on various terrain before launching them but for us, nothing compares to getting seat time in a new car in city, on highways and maybe our favourite hill roads too!

I’d only seen the XUV700 in pictures until now and was a little surprised on coming face to face with it in the real world, because it is huge! In fact the day it came to the office, we also had the Volvo XC60 in our parking and the XUV700’s seemed to dwarf it! Despite its tall proportions styling is cohesive and appealing. The XUV700 is quite an attention magnet on road and not just because of its novelty! Most of its appeal lies in the butch front end, given the massive grille and equally large headlamp units. It gets sweeping turn indicators though which ups the premium quotient, as do the flush-fitting door handles that pop out when you unlock the SUV.

The large exterior dimensions result in a very spacious cabin and the white seats, large glass areas and panoramic sunroof accentuate the sense of roominess. I also like the large glass slab on the dashboard housing the instrument cluster display and infotainment screen. The idea to have a single piece of glass instead of multiple displays is brilliant and I am glad Mahindra has adopted the design.

The crisp displays (both are 10.25-inch screens) offer a seamless experience and feel as intuitive as the ones offered in luxury cars and there is no lack of drama either. Be it the way the driver’s display transitions or the stacked, swipeable menus on the infotainment screen, scrolling through the interface is a treat. The infotainment can be accessed via touchscreen or round controller sitting ahead of the armrest. The system is packed with features including wireless Android Auto, Alexa Assistant and even Apple CarPlay (wasn’t active on our SUV oddly). Bluetooth connectivity is seamless and quick and setting up my phone to play my favourite tracks on the brilliant twelve-speaker 3D audio system from Sony only took a few seconds! I really liked the warning chime for the seat belt and speed alert too, that sounds soothing and is not harsh at all, unlike the beepers in most cars. Touches like these are one of the many bits that make the XUV700’s cabin feel special.

The SUV even gets camera and radar-based Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) including Forward Collision Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control, Auto-Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist and Lane Departure Warning. These are all tuned to Indian driving conditions, despite which it took me a few minutes to get used to all these active safety systems reacting around, being used to passive safety systems like airbags. For the matter, the XUV700 gets as many seven airbags! Getting the XUV700 out of the tricky office parking lot was a breeze despite its size. Its 360 degree camera offers the ability to switch between the four cameras for a better view. Then there is the commanding driving position that offers a good view of the corners of the boxy hood. The steering is very light, which helps while parking the SUV but feels too light at speeds and lacks feel. Surprisingly, the petrol version does not get the drive modes the diesel engine powered version gets, which besides other things also alters the steering’s weighted feel.

The 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine feels very refined and also very powerful. Of course, given its outputs of 200PS and 380Nm, the XUV700 is the most powerful SUV in its segment. Acceleration is thus very quick, especially since peak torque is available just 1,750rpm onwards! What’s even more impressive is the way the motor masks speeds. A couple of times I thought I was at 60kmph, but a glance at the speedometer indicated I was a little over 100kmph! Staying ahead of traffic is thus a cinch, be it the city or highway. In fact, I must admit I stunned a few premium sedan drivers given how quickly I was able to overtake them! The Aisin-sourced, sixspeed torque converter offers seamless shifts and feels intuitive, though shifts felt a tad slow when driving enthusiastically. The XUV700 feels planted at highway speeds, thanks to the taut suspension but also tackles uneven road surfaces brilliantly. The ride quality is thus very impressive. At the same time, despite its size, the XUV700 displays minimal body roll around corners too. The chink in its armour, as mentioned before though, is the overly light steering.

Prices for the XUV700 start at Rs 12.49 lakh ex-showroom, though the top-spec, AX7 Petrol Luxury Pack variant here retails at Rs 21.29 lakh ex-showroom! I feel the price is justified though, as SUVs even two segments above do not offer as much space, let alone the nifty features it has. No surprises then, booking numbers for the XUV700 are through the roof!

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