When it was launched on 2011, Mahindra’s first ever monocoque SUV defied the notion that India is a price sensitive econobox market, as it garnered unprecedented response from the customers, despite its premium positioning. This probably was the first automotive indicator of enhanced purchasing capacity of the Indians and of impending rise of feature rich crossovers in the sub-continent.
After the initial euphoria which saw Mahindra opting to allocate vehicles on a lottery basis, XUV500 settled into a rhythm with a steady monthly sales volume in the vicinity of 4,000 units which eventually diminished to somewhere between 2,000-3,000 units a month of late. Now, the Indian UV specialist has dished out a mid-life refresh for its flagship product with an objective of restoring some of the lost sales momentum.
We got ourselves acquainted with the machine over a few days and here is our 2015 Mahindra XUV500 review.
Exterior design is one of the major traits that earned XUV500 its place in the industry. While it may be considered as too loud by some, it certainly makes its presence felt on the road. With the facelift, Mahindra’s designers have given the crossover a more matured front fascia with a reprofiled bonnet, new detailing for the headlamps complete with signature daytime running lights, revised grille with slimmer chrome accented vertical slats and subtly redesigned secondary airdam. The new bumper with prominent chrome ornament surrounding the foglights is sure to polarize opinions.
Only change in profile comes in the form of the new multispoke alloy wheels in the higher variants. The rear fascia too has been left intact save for new chrome highlight for the license plate enclosure.
Mahindra has also introduced a new exterior color option called sunset orange (the one you see here). Overall, the designers have attempted to refine what was already a well received design and we think they did a good job of it, if we overlook the chrome foglight embellishment that is.
Just like the exterior, XUV500’s interior has undergone minor tweaks. For starters, the dual-tone dashboard gets new color theme with upper half now adopting dark grey and lower half beige. The revised centre console looses its gloss and features a new storage compartment above the AC vents. Touchscreen infotainment system gets a bigger display but looses CD slot and the new fully loaded W10 variant offers a start/stop button.
The design and layout have a contemporary appeal but we are disappointed by the material and built quality. The contoured plastic panels on the dashboard and door pads feel tacky and certain panel gaps are off putting. For instance, the lid of lower glove compartment is so ill fitted that you can actually insert four of your fingers at one end when it’s shut! The buttons on the centre console too lack the level of tactility one would expect from a car that sets you back by nearly INR 18 lakhs (on-road, New Delhi price for W10 AWD).
The height adjustable driver seat offers a commanding position of the road and ergonomics is decent. However, our test car’s hand brake lever tends to get stuck in engaged position and sometimes you need to use both hands to push it down! Again, a quality related issue.
The front seat squabs are slightly revised for enhanced thigh support and overall comfort is impressive. The rear seats too are quite comfy and airy with adequate cushioning and proper seat back recline angle. Leg room, head room and should room on offer should keep even tallest of the passengers happy. Air Conditioning for the middle row passengers come from B-pillar mounted vents.
The third row can be accessed by folding and flipping middle row seat. Like most of 7-seat SUVs, space on offer is barely adequate for adults but the third row should come in handy to transport people on short hops. The third row passengers too benefit from dedicated vents located on the window sills. Both middle and rear most rows fold flat to create generous luggage space.
Features and Safety
An extensive equipment list is arguably the most appealing aspect of Mahindra’s crossover utility vehicle which targets the gen-next. The value for money quotient of the product sees a further push with the latest version, thanks to the addition of a new top-end W10 trim which adds more goodies to the package.
Fully loaded variant comes packed with static bending projector headlamps, electric sunroof, puddle lamps on ORVMs which project ‘XUV500’ on the ground, electrically adjustable driver seat, smart key with start/stop button, micro Hybrid, 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with GPS, reverse parking camera, brake energy regeneration system, voice notification for seat belts, hand brake and door ajar warnings, tyre pressure monitoring system, cooled front armrest storage box, and automatic wipers and headlamps. XUV500 is high on safety too as it offers 6 airbags, ABS with EBD, ESP, hill descent and hill hold control.
While so many features certainly look very tempting on paper, Mahindra should set more stringent quality standards for its suppliers. Our test car had a malfunctioning driver side power window which refused to go up once its fully down.
Engine and transmission
The 2.2-litre mHawk diesel engine has been retained as it its. The motor employs Variable Geometry Turbocharger (VGT) to develop 140 bhp at 3,750 rpm and a healthy torque of 330 Nm at 1,600-2,800 rpm. A 6-speed manual transmission drives the front wheels in case of lower variants and all the four wheels in the W10 AWD variant.
At idling, the motor does send in vibrations that can be felt on the steering wheel but the noise is kept under acceptable levels. Though the motor revs easily till the red line, NVH level raises beyond comfort level as you work past 3,000 rpm mark.
Be it ambling around town, maintaining a steady triple digit speed on the highway or making a quick dash from rest, the mHawk 140 always has enough oomph to keep the driver satisfied. The gear ratios are well matched with the engine, making the SUV very easy to drive under all conditions. The gear shift quality has a good feel to it and is effortless to use.
Ride, handling and braking
Being an SUV, one would expect a smooth ride quality but XUV500’s overall performance on this front leaves a lot to be desired. The suspension system which is constituted by McPherson struts upfront and multilink setup at the rear (both with anti-roll bar) offers decent ride quality at slow speeds but the stiffness can be felt when it’s subjected to sharp undulations and potholes. Too many thuds manage to find their way into the cabin and things don’t improve as speed builds up.
On the flip side, handling is commendable for a car that tips the scales at 2.5 tonne. It rolls a fair bit but it also lets you carry a decent momentum around the corners. Grip levels are very good but the light steering could have been more communicative at high speeds.
XUV500 underwent brake pad upgrade last year and in fact the manufacturer issued a recall of old cars to fix defective brake pads. At best, the braking performance of the car can be termed as adequate and adding to the list of niggles in our test car, the front right disc rotor was constantly rubbing against the pads, making a very annoying and loud cyclic nose.
With this mid-life refresh, Mahindra had set out to enhance the superficial elements of its star product. The revised front fascia certainly improves the style quotient, new color theme for the interior heightens the ambiance and the added features certainly boost its value-for-money quotient.
Despite offering so many gadgets that are hitherto unheard of in this price segment, XUV500 still lacks the feel good factor that would make it a world class product. Mahindra should work on eliminating the niggles, improving the suspension set up, and stepping up its material and build quality inside the cabin.
Having said that, the crossover SUV always offered maximum bang for the buck and it isn’t any different in the case of the facelifted model. Precisely for this reason, 2015 Mahindra XUV500 would find enough takers.
Price (ex-showroom, Mumbai):
XUV500 W4 – Rs 11.12 lakhs
XUV500 W6 – Rs 12.30 lakhs
XUV500 W8 – Rs 14 lakhs
XUV500 W8 AWD – Rs 14.84 lakhs
XUV500 W10 – Rs 14.81 lakhs
XUV500 W10 AWD – Rs 15.84 lakhs
Mahindra XUV500 Engine