For a long time now the new Mahindra XUV700 has been in the news and finally, we got a chance to drive this new SUV through the city of Chennai and on Mahindra’s new proving test track or MSPT as the company calls it. During this test, we drove the new XUV700 on highways, narrow and broken streets, congested traffic, and on various obstacle courses including a high-speed track at the test facility where we pushed the vehicle close to its handling and engine limits. In the end, the XUV700 left us wondering because it delivered on multiple fronts what wasn’t really expected.
The Mahindra XUV700 is an all-new vehicle but has elements that can be easily traced to the XUV500 and XUV300. The overall styling is sharp but appears a little too busy to be called cohesive. The double ‘C’ shaped headlamps with LED DRLs, a wide grille with vertical slats, and the new Mahindra logo give the front a dynamic, aggressive, and premium appeal. On the side, the simple yet elegant alloy wheels and the XUV500 like waistline over the rear wheel arch give the vehicle a proper ‘Big SUV’ look and the sharp styling continues at the rear too with sleek LED tail lamps and a tailgate with a big contour. In fact, the curves on the tailgate are so sharp that it was proving hard to transfer them onto metal so Mahindra went in for a plastic tailgate. yes, you heard it right. A plastic tailgate!
In a nutshell, the new Mahindra XUV700 definitely makes a visual statement and will make heads turn wherever it goes. That said, would I say it looks pretty? No.
Inside the cabin, the new Mahindra XUV700 has a lot to offer and to keep occupants happy. I quite like the dashboard layout and the soft-touch materials used therein for adding a premium feel. The biggest visual attraction though is the single-element screen with two displays including the instrument cluster and the infotainment screen. The screen design and even the driver seat electrical controls reminded me instantly of Mercedes-Benz vehicles. The AdrenoX OS system powered infotainment system offers a fully connected experience with an embedded sim card and access to a host of features that can be operated from your smartphone. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are supported and there’s Alexa voice command as well. The sound system is from Sony with impressive quality from the speakers and it would be safe to say that the sound quality is among the best in the segment.
The feature list is quite extensive with climate control, wireless smartphone charging, 360-degree camera, blind view monitoring system, smart air filter, and the largest panoramic sunroof in the segment. That said, I would’ve wanted to have all windows with the one-touch operation but what you get is one-touch closing only on the driver’s side. Material quality and build quality is the best I’ve seen on a Mahindra so far but the piano black finish in the centre console and the steering wheel is a dust and fingerprint magnet and the quality too could have been better.
The XUV700 will be available in five and seven-seat versions but sadly no six-seat variant for now. Space in the middle-row is good with ample legroom, knee room and headroom. The seat bench offers good cushioning with decent side support and enough width to seat three people. Storage space all around the cabin is good with multiple cubby holes and decently large door pockets.
Space in the third-row is average and as the seat is quite low the occupants will have their knees pointing upwards with little under-thigh support. Also, the headroom in the last row will bother anyone taller than 5 feet 6 inches. To put in perspective, the XUV700’s last row is at par with most of its rivals or slightly better but falls a bit short of the one in the Tata Safari.
This is one area where the Mahindra XUV700 has built a significant advantage over its rivals. Powertrain options include a new 2.0 L petrol motor developing 197hp and 380Nm of torque between 1,750 to 3,000rpm. There are also two diesel engines to choose from including one with 153hp of power and the higher-spec unit offering 184hp. Manual and automatic gearboxes are available with both diesel and petrol units. Our drive though was mostly with the petrol version, which offers the highest power in the segment.
The engine, right from the time it comes to life is refined and impressively quiet. We drove only the AT versions of both fuel types and the transmission does a good job masking any lag from the motor. Once past 1,800rpm the going gets smooth and the engine offers quick yet lateral acceleration. Reaching speeds of 150kmph and beyond is effortless, translating into a great highway machine. Even at highway speed, wind noise and tyre-roll noise is well insulated from the cabin resulting in a quiet cabin. In the diesel version, the sound is expectedly louder and more intrusive but at par with most segment players.
The only negative point I have to report from the powertrain department is the fact that the automatic transmission, even when in manual mode will not allow you to hold onto a gear beyond 4,750rpm and upshifts automatically. This takes away some of the driving fun from an otherwise powerful motor but I was told this has been done in favour of better reliability for the gearbox.
As a large and comfortable SUV, one would expect the XUV700 to offer a good balance between comfort/ dynamics and it delivers more than expected. Broken surfaces and potholes are dealt with ease keeping occupants largely insulated and in comfort. Even on undulating surfaces at medium and high speeds, there is little side to side vertical movement translating into a comfortable experience. The suspension is inclined a bit more towards comfort, which is good for city driving but in no way would you experience any compromise in terms of handling.
At early triple-digit speeds, the XUV700 is rock steady in a straight line and even around corners it doesn’t mind going around at high speed. While testing the car on the track we drove it on the banked curves of the high-speed test track and were able to go through at about 165kmph without any signs of nervousness. There is loads of grip available and the ESP and traction control do a good job of keeping things safe in varied conditions.
My only issue with the powerful and stable XUV700 is that it offers little driving engagement. The steering is too light and although it weighs up as velocity builds there is no feedback. Same is the story with the brake pedal, which feels spongy and lifeless although braking performance is good. So for the larger customer base of an SUV like the XUV700, I think most requirements are met completely.
Ladies & Gentlemen, you’ll be happy to know that the Mahindra XUV700 safety package is class-leading and miles ahead of its rivals, especially in the Active safety area. This is the first production vehicle by an Indian carmaker to have Level 1 autonomous driving technology. The ADAS ( Advanced Driver Assistance System) comprises of Adaptive cruise control system, automatic emergency braking system, fatigue detection, lane assist and blind-spot detection system. Using camera and radars the XUV700 can automatically decelerate when approaching a slower vehicle and accelerate once the obstruction is out or the lane has been changed. In case of an imminent collision, the system warns the driver with audio beeps and vibrations on the steering wheel. In case there’s no response from the driver the vehicle will brake automatically to avoid a crash.
In terms of passive safety, the XUV700 is equipped with seven airbags (higher variants) and also claims of higher torsional rigidity in the structure compared to the XUV500.
What we journalists thought to be an unveil event ended up in being a partial launch event as the company announced prices of four variants. The all-new Mahindra XUV700 pricing starts at a shockingly low Rs 11.99 lakh, ex-showroom. Other variants too have been priced aggressively and feature a good number of features too. With these prices, the XUV700 is already a game-changer in its segment and beyond. In fact, at the present prices, the XUV700 is now a threat even to vehicles such as the Skoda Kushaq, upcoming VW Taigun, Hyundai Creta and Kia Seltos. This is in addition to direct rivals such as the Tata Safari, Hyundai Alcazar and MG Hector Plus. Now only if Mahindra can price the remaining variants equally aggressively we will see a big change in two segments. From compact SUVs to larger 5 to 7 seat SUVs could see a significant price-cut if they want to be relevant in the market.
In the end, I’ll close this story by saying that the Mahindra XUV700 is not just an impressive example of Make in India vehicles but a symbol of pride. For me, the XUV700 is clearly the most advanced vehicle made by an Indian carmaker ever and it’s bloody impressive even from a global perspective. This is why the Mahindra XUV700 is a proud symbol of the progress made by the Indian suppliers and Mahindra in the last few years!
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