Mahindra XUV400
Mahindra XUV400Shot by Abhishek Benny for evo India

Mahindra XUV400 first drive review

Mahindra’s first ever electric SUV to be launched in India, the XUV400, promises to be the best made-in-India EV. We drive it at Mahindra’s proving track near Chennai to find out more

2023 is going to be the year of electric vehicles in India. Every car manufacturer is rushing to have mainstream offerings in the EV segment and so, the days of a single EV segment are ending. There will be segments among EVs from cars to SUVs depending on their size and performance. This starts with the XUV400, which enters the C-segment SUV space. And considering the positioning is a step up over the Nexon EV Max, Mahindra promises it to be bigger, more spacious, offer more range, out run it in a drag race and be the better car on the safety front as well. We drove the XUV400 on World EV day at MSPT in its pre-production form to find out more.

Mahindra XUV400 exterior

First things first, the XUV400 bears no resemblance to the line of Born Electric SUVs that Mahindra revealed last month. That’s because this car is a precursor to the big five EVs under the Born Electric SUV range. You don’t have to squint to find its donor car underneath, the XUV300, which is also based on more than half a decade old SsangYong Tivoli, and so the XUV400 looks very familiar, if a little dated. But turn to the side and you will notice it is not a sub-4 metre SUV anymore. It is 4200mm long now, and that puts it firmly in the C-segment. The width and wheelbase are identical with a marginal height increase that could be credited to the rear spoiler. On the design front, you see Mahindra satin copper accents everywhere to signify it is from their electric portfolio. These include the front closed grille, accents on the bumper, the taillights and the roof too painted in the copper colour.

Mahindra XUV400 interior

On the inside, while most of the cluster is functional, it’s not in its production form yet. Some of the switches were blanked off while some seemed to have makeshift positions. The drive shifter got the same satin copper finish as did the aircon knob and AC vent surrounds. It’s better to reserve judgement on the interior till the vehicle is launched, but until then, we hope the XUV400 gets proper climate control and not the four-staged cooling and heating this car had, and a more detailed energy recuperation system with adjustability. Currently, there’s only a mode on the shifter to slot it in L for single pedal driving.

On the comfort front, the front seats really impress. These are very comfortable with good side bolstering to hold you neatly on a winding road. The cushioning is spot on and the blue topstitching on the leatherette seats give it a premium feel. You get 378 litres of boot space, 418 litres if measured up to the roof. Overall, the XUV400 is larger than the Nexon in every aspect.

Mahindra XUV400
Mahindra XUV400Shot by Abhishek Benny for evo India

Mahindra XUV400 motor and specifications

The major talking point about the XUV400 is its claimed 0-100kmph acceleration run of 8.3 seconds. The lack of noises in the cabin means it doesn’t feel fast, but it is, making it easily to 100kmph as 110kW (147.5bhp) of power and 310Nm of torque sent to the front wheels pull it forward. It is the fastest accelerating Mahindra and the fastest accelerating made-in-India EV ever. Keep it in a straight line and the power and torque is well deployed. But bury the accelerator with a slight turn of the steering and the front wheels will give you smokey burnouts similar to the Nexon EV. All wheel drive is the only solution to handle EV torque in corners. With these FWD cars, you have to ease into the throttle pedal at every corner exit.

It will take 50 minutes to get 80 percent charge from a 50kW DC fast charger or 6.5 hours for a full charge from a 7.2kW AC charger. The battery is a 39.4kWh unit, 1.1kW smaller than the Nexon EV Max but it manages to give the XUV400 more range. With a claimed figure of 456km, its 19km more than the EV Max. I suspect this could be due to two things – higher energy density of the battery and fewer losses as the torque is sent to the wheels. There are three drive settings - fun, fast and fearless, similar to Zip, Zap and Zoom on the XUV700, where fearless is the mode with all the performance and fun is the mode with all the efficiency.

The weight of the battery meant Mahindra had to reengineer the suspension. The McPherson struts up front and twist beam set up continues but with Mahindra’s Frequency Dependent Damping (FDD). We’ll have to see how these perform in the real world as we didn’t get to experience the suspension work except for stability at the high-speed track. Speaking of which, the test car did a speedo-indicated 158kmph at the track, which is higher than the claimed top speed of 150kmph. All through, it felt planted on track.

Mahindra XUV400 driving impressions

Just as we experienced with the Scorpio-N, the XUV400 has super light steering, but that doesn’t mean it is all over the place at speed. The problem is that with EVs, there is a disconnect in the pace you are doing with what you feel from behind the wheel. Keeping one eye on the instrument cluster isn’t ideal but that is what you will be doing to get the best range out of the car and stay under speed limits on public roads. Since it reaches the three-figure mark in just 8.3 seconds without any drama, you will have to keep your range and speed in check. With all the bulk of the car set low in the floor, the XUV400 feels nimble on its feet, only robbed by grip due to the torque overwhelming the tyres when you are mid corner. And then you understeer till you lift off and get back to your desired line. FWD EVs can’t escape this, until you put on a set of sticky tyres. The demands are such that EVs also need low rolling resistance tyres to get the best range out of the battery.

Mahindra XUV400 safety

With our homegrown carmakers, it is a matter of pride to see so much focus on safety. Both Tata and Mahindra have been acing the NCAP charts so we’d expect no different with the XUV400. Mahindra will equip the XUV400 with six airbags, ABS with EBD and disc brakes all round. The motor and battery get an IP67 rating and there will be a pyro switch to protect the battery from short circuits. Structurally, Mahindra claims the highest use of high strength steel in the segment.

Mahindra XUV400 price and launch date

Mahindra has announced the launch of the XUV400 towards the end of January. There are no prices for guessing 26th of January as the date considering the company’s recent history with nationally relevant important days. All we don’t know now is the real-world performance of the car and its price. If ex-showroom prices start around the Rs 18.5 lakh mark, the XUV400 should do very well to split market share with the Nexon EV Max. Anything lesser and the Tata EV gets in trouble.

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