Mahindra gets a new fortune

Written by Vikram Chaudhary | Updated: Jan 13 2013, 06:12am hrs
With the Rexton, Mahindra enters the segment ruthlessly dominated by Toyota Fortuner. Its priced right, but is that enough to make the Rexton shine

In India, not many had heard about SsangYong until Mahindra & Mahindra acquired a 70% share in the Korean SUV major in February 2011. In fact, I doubt many would be even able to pronounce SsangYong correctly! With SsangYong in Mahindras kittywhich obviously takes the utility major closer towards its goal of becoming a global SUV player and provides the company the much-needed diesel engine technologywe look forward to some exciting times in the SUV market in India, beginning with the Rexton that Mahindra launched recently in two versions, RX5 and RX7. For our review, we pick the RX7 automatic.

Although an entry-level SUV globally (it is present in over 70 countries), in India the Rexton sits alongside the likes of Toyota Fortuner, Ford Endeavour, Chevrolet Captiva, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Hyundai Santa Fe, etcessentially the premium SUV segment. And this means ruthless competition, especially in the form of the Fortuner, which has that one feature almost all Indians look for in an SUVmassive road presence.

Now, the Rexton, at 4,755mm x 1,900mm, is the longest and widest SUV in its class, and though that results into massive interior space, the SUVs slanting bonnet lines and wraparound headlamps dont quite give the Rexton the brute frontal looks of the Fortuner. But that softness diminishes once you look at it from the side. The sheer length of the SUV combined with muscular wheel arches, huge 235/75 R16 wheels mounted on alloys, side footboards and a blackened out B-pillar give it a tough, go-anywhere appeal.

At the rear, the wraparound windscreen looks quite neat. The small roof-mounted antenna also looks good. Probably because the name is new to India, Mahindra has badged Rexton at all possible places on the body, even inside the headlamps! The rear bumper also has a small by Mahindra badge.

On the inside, the impression the SUV creates is even better. The cabin is plush, plastic quality is superb, dual tone interiors look smart, and seat fabric and cushioning seem from a class above. Getting inside the Rexton is quite easy and the SUV is loaded with features such as the illuminated keyhole, touchscreen Kenwood audio system, Bluetooth telephony, GPS navigation, climate control, automatic sunroof, rear parking sensors (but no rear camera), automatic headlamps, steering-mounted controls, paddle shift, cruise control, bright cabin lights and more. Then there are a number of intelligent storage spaces inside the cabin. In fact, everything seems solidly put together.

The legroom at both front and middle is aplenty and the middle seat easily accommodates three large persons. The third row of seats, as expected, isnt very comfortable and come with limited legroom and no headrest. But once folded, the third row results into a massive amount of boot space.

The climate control feature works well and you get the desired interior temperature in a matter of minutes. Mention must be made here of the melodious wind-chime warning bell that keeps ringing until you put on your seatbelts or if any of the door is open while the SUV is on the move.

Unfortunately, once the SUV is on the move, it does lose some brownie points, primarily because the 2.7-litre, in-line, five-cylinder diesel motor is noisy, and gets progressively louder as you rev up the engine. Fortunately, the engine itself runs like a dream. RX7s RX270 XVT engine produces a maximum power output of 184bhp@4000rpm and a maximum torque of 402Nm@1600-3000rpm (RX5s RX270 XDi produces 162bhp@4000rpm and 340Nm@3250rpm, respectively). RX7s Etronic AT, having 5 gears, comes with a permanent all-wheel drive feature, making it a true SUV. You also have the option of using the manual mode in the AT version. The automatic box is not really responsive, especially at low engine speeds, but once above 2000rpm, the SUV simply takes off. The slow start and a weight of over two tonnes means the Rexton isnt able to break the 10-second barrier to a ton in either the AT or the MT mode. (We took 11 seconds to reach 100kmph from standstill.) The power delivery, though, is smooth and linear. Since the Rexton is based on the old generation Mercedes M-Class (courtesy the technology collaboration SsangYong had with Daimler-Benz in 1991), it means you dont have many ride and handling issues either. And a huge ground clearance of 252 mm means the SUV is at home even on the worst of the roads. The company-claimed maximum speed is 194kmph and the ARAI-certified fuel consumption is 11.18kmpl.

In the segment the Rexton is going to compete, what is most important is pricing. And the SUV doesnt fail here. At R18,08,371 (RX5) and R20,22,879 (RX7), ex-showroom Delhi, M&Ms new flagship gets a serious edge over its rivals and, to many, will be a value-for-money proposition.