Mahindra XUV700 first drive, Tata Safari, Hyundai Alcazar, MG Hector Plus rival driven

We already know the stunning prices of the entry and mid-spec Mahindra XUV700. Here’s the full test drive review of the 200 horsepower, 200kmph 7-seat premium mid-size SUV that will take on the Tata Safari, Hyundai Alcazar, MG Hector Plus and Kia’s upcoming 7-seater MPV
The much awaited Mahindra XUV700 is finally here, sporting the new Mahindra logo on its grille
The much awaited Mahindra XUV700 is finally here, sporting the new Mahindra logo on its grilleRohit G Mane

Few cars have had the same excitement, anticipation, build-up and crazy engagement as the Mahindra XUV700. On our social handles you guys haven’t held back with your comments on the leaked images of the Mahindra XUV700, the 7-seater premium mid-size SUV that is set to take on the Tata Safari, Hyundai Alcazar, MG Hector Plus and even Kia’s upcoming MPV. But now that the wraps are properly off, I have to say that it looks quite good in the metal. This is an SUV that grows on you the more time you spend with it, the more you look at it. And we spent a solid day with the XUV 700, on Independence Day, at the new Mahindra SUV Proving Track (MSPT) on the outskirts of Chennai.

The prices of the Mahindra XUV700

That has to be the headline for the Mahindra XUV 700. And I must also point out that the XUV700 replaces the XUV500, both will not continue together as some had speculated when the 700 name was revealed. Replacing the XUV 500 will be the MX series of the XUV700 which gets the 2-litre 197bhp turbo-petrol while the diesel is specced down to 152.8bhp, both with the manual transmission. The ex-showroom prices are:

MX petrol: Rs 11.99 lakh

MX diesel: Rs 12.49 lakh

The AdrenoX range sits above the MX and that gets the 2-litre mStallion turbo-petrol and the 2.2-litre mHawk diesel that puts out 182.4bhp, both engines getting the option of the 6-speed Aisin automatic. The ex-showroom prices are:

AX3 petrol: Rs 13.99 lakh

AX5 petrol: Rs 14.99 lakh

These are super-competitive prices, of that there’s no question. However prices of the AX7 variants that we are testing aren’t out. And if you look closely you will notice L on the tailgate of the XUV700 we are testing. That’s not for long wheelbase. That denotes the optional pack — so for instance the Sony sound system, or the all-wheel-drive system, will be part of a pack which you buy over and above the top-spec AX7.

The design of the XUV700 looks handsome and refined, with Mahindra's visual DNA present
The design of the XUV700 looks handsome and refined, with Mahindra's visual DNA presentRohit G Mane

Styling of the Mahindra XUV700

We have to address this aspect before getting to the testing, after all this generated tens of thousands of comments when the two pictures were leaked and even had XUV 700 trending across social media.

Honest truth is in the metal it looks good. It clearly has Mahindra’s visual DNA that has been refined and updated. It looks like the big brother of the XUV 500, but it also looks all-new, not like a face lift. Up front the C-shaped DRL graphic first seen on the XUV 300 has been made bolder, more in your face and also more sophisticated. It cuts a distinctive shape on the road and you won’t mistake it for anything else.

The XUV700 gets distinctive C-shaped DRLs which are bound to gain attention
The XUV700 gets distinctive C-shaped DRLs which are bound to gain attentionRohit G Mane

There’s also the new Mahindra logo sitting proud on the grille — this was rushed through in super-quick time and that’s clear when you look at the tailgate, the logo sitting in a frame that’s evidently stuck on and not part of the tailgate design. On the AX7 the lighting is all-LED with sequential turn indicators, something that we first saw on Audis. It gets 18-inch alloys shod with 235/60 MRF Wanderer ecotred Street tyres on our test car. The wheels fill up the arches rather well and it all looks proportionate and, crucially, not over done.

18-inch wheels properly fill out the arches of the XUV700, enhancing the SUV's stance
18-inch wheels properly fill out the arches of the XUV700, enhancing the SUV's stanceRohit G Mane

A very cool touch are the pop-out door handles that sit flush with the body when on the move. This is different from what we’ve seen on the Velar and S-Class where the entire handle pops out, here the trailing edge flips out and you grab that to open the door — easy enough to operate but if you’re walking towards and very close to the car, your clothes (or love handles) can get caught in the door handle so watch out.

The well-apointed interiors of the XUV700 are lovely to be in. Note the 10.25-inch touchscreens present in a Mercedes-inspired slab
The well-apointed interiors of the XUV700 are lovely to be in. Note the 10.25-inch touchscreens present in a Mercedes-inspired slabRohit G Mane

Interiors and connectivity of the Mahindra XUV 700

You might still have mixed opinions on the styling of the Mahindra XUV 700 and you are entitled to it. Taste is after all subjective. What you won’t find fault with are the interiors, particularly with the Mercedes-inspired slab of digital real estate that sits loud and proud. It comprises two 10.25-inch screens, the infotainment operated via touch and also a joy stick that sits on the centre console that also doubles up as the volume knob. Apart from the fact that the tachometer swings anti-clockwise, the digital cluster is otherwise very well designed and turned out. Sharp clear graphics with three different layouts and a plethora of information on the central MID including the display for the Advanced Driver Assistance Systems and even the blind spot camera which comes on when you put on the indicators.

No dearth of kit on the XUV700, with four driving modes and a 12-speaker 3D sound system on offer
No dearth of kit on the XUV700, with four driving modes and a 12-speaker 3D sound system on offerRohit G Mane

The touchscreen response is good and the infotainment is neatly arranged into titles and has a wealth of connected car features (over 60) along with a bunch of apps. The software architecture is built around twin Android and QNX operating systems and uses a third generation Qualcomm Snapdragon chip developed in collaboration with Visteon. Amazon was also involved, there’s in in-built Alexa for voice control. Sony developed the sound stage for the XUV 700 with 445 watt 3D sound with 12 speakers and 4 virtual speakers. There’s of course wireless Apple Car Play and Android Auto but we couldn’t test that as final certification hasn’t been completed. Other cool stuff includes a lap timer, g-force meter and multiple driver modes (only for the diesel) which also alters the digital cockpit displays. There’s in-built maps, 360-degree surround cameras and I’m sure there’s more stuff that we will need to unearth on a proper road test.

The driving position is very good, aided by steering that adjusts for reach as well as rake on the AX7 variant. The driver’s seat is electrically adjustable with, again, very Mercedes-like controls on the doors along with memory function. And when you switch off the XUV700, the seat slides back to enable ease of ingress and egress. The seats however are leatherette, not leather, and they aren’t ventilated. You don’t get paddle shifters for the automatic gearbox which is a miss.

Space in the second row is good and the XUV 700 is wide so three abreast is also comfortable. The XUV will be offered in 5 and 7-seater variants which means there’s no captain’s seats for now. The second row tumbles easily out of the way with just one lever and access to the third row isn’t difficult. Space is of course tight but fully-grown adults can squeeze in for short journeys and kids will actually be rather comfortable.

Boot space is 220 litres with the third row up and expands to 1025 litres with the seats folded flat into the boot. The tailgate is not power operated but it isn’t difficult to open because it is rather light made as it is of plastic and not metal.

Claimed kerb weight is 1620kg but Mahindra aren’t saying whether this is for the petrol or diesel and which variant.

As for interior quality, it is very good overall save for a few areas like the visible joint that runs the entire length of the hood for the infotainment screen, bang in your field of vision, and doesn’t look well finished. And the top of the door pad is actually higher than the window line which is odd, though doesn’t really affect build quality negatively.

Safety kit on the XUV700 includes a driver fatigue alert, adaptive cruise control and a collision alert with emergency braking
Safety kit on the XUV700 includes a driver fatigue alert, adaptive cruise control and a collision alert with emergency brakingRohit G Mane

Safety and ADAS features on the Mahindra XUV 700

Safety is a major selling point at Mahindra and they will build on it with the XUV700. It starts with the body in white which, Mahindra’s chief of global product development R Velusamy claims, is the most torsionally rigid not only in its class but among SUVs a class above. The AX7 gets seven airbags including a knee airbag for the driver and the curtain airbags extend all the way to the third row. ESP is standard and the electronic suite also includes torque vectoring via the brakes. And then there are the Advanced Driver Assistance Systems which are a first in class and takes the game a massive step forward for the segment.

The first is adaptive cruise control that, once you select a set speed, accelerates, brakes (even to a complete stop) and accelerates back up to the set speed depending on what traffic and the car in front is doing. There’s a driver fatigue alert system. Lane keep assist not only vibrates the steering wheel and puts out an audible signal when you stray out of your lane but also steers the SUV back into the lane. Smart Pilot Assist also keeps the XUV in the middle of the lane and not bouncing between the white lines, but if you keep your hands off the steering wheel it will warn you to get your hands back on the ’wheel and stay alert. There’s collision alert and if it senses an imminent accident it will apply full emergency braking. And there’s traffic sign recognition along with high beam assist which switches on an additional beam (in addition to the regular main beam) that comes on after 80kmph. We will test that when we get the XUV 700 for a full road test. I must also mention you can change the speed buzzer warning, get your partner to record her voice and it will play it out!

The ESP suite includes traction control, vehicle dynamics control, hill descent control, roll over mitigation, hill hold control, secondary collision mitigation, brake disc wiping, torque vectoring by braking and electronic brake prefill.

ESP cannot be turned off completely in the interest of safety
ESP cannot be turned off completely in the interest of safetyRohit G Mane

Dynamics of the Mahindra XUV 700

At the unveiling of the XUV 700 Velusamy spoke passionately about their focus on ride and handling of the XUV 700 and the work that has gone into it has been immense. The benchmark for the Body In White stiffness wasn’t its class rivals but the Skoda Kodiaq from a clear segment above. And Velusamy claims the torsional rigidity betters that of the VW Group SUV, which is deeply impressive. Next is the control blade rear suspension layout which provides better wheel control, especially curbing the lateral movement when it hits a pothole but allowing vertical movement for cushioning. And finally there are the dampers, second generation of Koni’s Frequency Selective Damping. We first saw this on the Jeep Compass and the dampers of the XUV are a step up on those. Impressive kit then, and it works.

Our drive started from the Mahindra Research Valley and took in mix of highways, small village roads, typically broken tarmac, and a variety of speed breakers on the way to the Mahindra SUV Proving Track. And the XUV delivered a very comfortable ride without compromising on handling. Velusamy makes a particular note of the small bumps and ripples on the Mumbai-Pune expressway that results in a busy ride in most vehicles — something that obviously irritates him immensely. The damping of the XUV 700 has been set up to absorb that unevenness of concrete expressways while keeping body control well in check. It also deal with speed breakers very well and we got to test this out on the MSPT’s comfort tracks with some seriously bumpy surfaces which the XUV dealt with very well.

On the steering pad where you can really push the dynamic envelope you do find body roll but it is not exaggerated and the front end grips quite well. Be aggressive with the steering and you can even get it into a small four wheel drift before ESP cuts in, and there’s no way to switch off ESP completely — that being done for roll over mitigation. Ultimately the XUV ends up understeering, the tyres howling quite audibly, but for an SUV of this size and class the dynamic abilities are very good. It is the best handling 7-seat SUV in the country today, of that there’s no debate.

The only flaw in this dynamic makeup is the steering weight. You get going for the first time and it’s shocking just how light the steering is. Of course it makes parking a breeze but it’s just too light. The speed variable assistance does result in better weighting at speed and post 80kmph it is more composed, but I would have preferred even more weight. This steering weight is what gives you that sense of stability, that sense of confidence, and being so light robs it of that Kodiaq-like planted feel — even though it actually is rather planted no matter what the road surface.

The diesel with the automatic does get drive modes (the petrol has a Continental ECU and I hear configuring drive modes would have cost too much). I’m not a fan of the mode names, Zip, Zap and Zoom — I think Comfort, Sport and Sport+ works much better — but let’s not debate the naming convention. What is evident in Zoom is the steering weight does get better and the engine and gearbox also gets more responsive. That is the default setting I’d like for pottering around in the city. For enthusiastic driving I’d like even more weight, and it will not make the XUV cumbersome or heavy to drive in the city. There’s also a custom mode for setting up individual parameters, just like you can in a Merc, BMW or Audi.

As for the brakes there’s strong retardation and a nice progressive feel through the pedal while the ABS isn’t intrusive. The tens thousands of kilometres of calibration and testing done at this dedicated proving ground has resulted in a properly sorted SUV.

The XUV700 is a Mahindra that does 200kmph!
The XUV700 is a Mahindra that does 200kmph!Rohit G Mane

200 horsepower turbo-petrol engine in Mahindra XUV 700

Spread over 454 acres, designed by IDIADA of Spain and built by L&T (the same agencies also responsible for the NATRAX), the Mahindra SUV Proving Track located in Kanchipuram outside of Chennai cost Rs 540 crores and includes 20 test tracks. The crown jewel, just like the NATRAX, is the High Speed Track with the 43.7 degree banked oval that allows cars to be tested to 200kmph.

We first head there with the petrol XUV 700 that sports Mahindra’s own turbo-petrol. Designed and engineered in-house at Mahindra Research Valley, the 2-litre mStallion direct-injection turbo-petrol engine first debuted in the Thar last year and now it has a huge jump in power to 197.2bhp, developed at 5000rpm. Torque of 350Nm stays flat from 1750-3000rpm and we tested the version with the 6-speed Aisin automatic torque-converter gearbox.

ESP switched off to get a bit of wheel spin off the line and the turbo-petrol XUV 700 gets to 100kmph in 9.51 seconds, as tested with the VBOX on the 2km zero-gradient straight of the HST. 160kmh comes up in 25.89 seconds and the quarter mile takes 16.92 seconds at a speed of 135.5kmph. With safety in mind and also considering there were 67 XUV 700s being tested that day by a whole bunch of people, Mahindra had imposed a 120kmph top speed limit and forbade us from using the top lane of the banking. When no one was looking we did keep the throttle pinned and sneaked up to the top lane of the banking but before we could get a full run at full throttle round the track we were spotted and were red flagged. The top speed the VBOX registered? 197.4kmph, tantalisingly short of the 200kmph mark. And I can confirm that had we got a clear run we would have hit 200kmph in the XUV 700. A 200 horsepower Mahindra that can do 200kmph! How things have changed!

The engine, as we experienced in the Thar, is very smooth and with the better NVH afforded by the XUV’s monocoque, the refinement is only better. There’s plenty of bottom end grunt, the automatic is quick to respond and this engine can chew in the miles fast and easily. Don’t expect great fuel efficiency though.

450Nm turbo-diesel engine in Mahindra XUV 700

The 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine debuted on the Thar last year and this too gets a significant boost in power to 182.4bhp that peaks at 5000rpm. While it is slightly less powerful than the petrol, the diesel has more torque, 450Nm that stays flat from 1600-2800rpm. The manual-equipped XUV700 has a slight lower torque at 420Nm.

The torque ensures that the diesel SUV is almost on par with the petrol in the acceleration runs. 0-100kmph takes 9.88s, as tested with the VBOX and it goes on to 160kmph in 26.11 seconds. The quarter mile takes 17.17 seconds at a speed of 133.8kmph and we clocked a top speed of 191.8kmph before we were, again, red flagged.

In terms of refinement this engine too is every bit as impressive as the petrol and at a steady cruise there’s only a whisper to be heard from the motor. The additional torque makes overtakes even more easy and effortless and of course this will have better fuel efficiency, more range and lower running costs than the petrol. And it will also be more expensive to buy than the petrol.

All-wheel-drive on the diesel-automatic Mahindra XUV 700

The XUV 700 is natively front-wheel-drive. For now all-wheel-drive is only available on the XUV 700 with the diesel-automatic powertrain combo, not the petrol. Now this AWD is not something for hardcore off-roading; it’s more suited to slippery surfaces like ice and snow, sending power to the rear axle when slip is detected at the front. We took it over a series of small axle articulation tests and with one wheel in the air the XUV kept plugging along.

Going by past experience AWD is unlikely to account for more than 5 per cent of overall XUV 700 volumes but one must give credit where it’s due. In giving the XUV 700 the option of AWD Mahindra have stayed true to their SUV heritage. And of course, very soon, you’ll be able to experience the new XUV with AWD on one of Mahindra Adventure’s expeditions in India or internationally. Remember the 100-strong Mahindra Adventure fleet proudly comprises only 4WD and AWD SUVs.

Extremely competitive pricing for the XUV bound to heat up competition with its rivals
Extremely competitive pricing for the XUV bound to heat up competition with its rivalsRohit G Mane

Verdict on Mahindra XUV700

We don’t know the prices of the AX7 variants that we have tested here and with all the option packs and the AWD on the diesel we expect it to nudge 19 if not 20 lakh rupees. And even at that price, with the kind of features and equipment that it has, it still is far more value for money than its rivals. In fact the pricing has absolutely set the cat amongst the pigeons and it will not only eat into the premium mid-size SUV segment but also the regular mid-SUVs like the Creta and Seltos while making life difficult for the new Kushaq and Taigun.

The XUV 700 has been a long time in the making but the wait has been worth it. The engines are smooth, refined and powerful. The gearbox is well matched to the powertrain. The dynamics are top-drawer. The interiors are well styled and loaded with kit. ADAS systems at this price point marks a huge commitment to safety. And all of this is clothed in sheet metal that looks better the more you look at it. Mahindra have a clear winner, of that there’s no doubt. The only problem they will have is dealing with the long, long waiting lists that are sure to follow.

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