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Mahindra’s new showcase flagship will lead to shock and awe

S.Muralidhar | Updated on August 19, 2021

XUV 700 promises to open the eyes of buyers in the premium SUV class and instill confidence in the brand’s potential

The XUV 7OO is the new flagship sports utility vehicle from Mahindra’s stable. It replaces the XUV 5OO and represents much more than a numeric progression for the brand. It is a brand new start for Mahindra, being the first vehicle to sport the all-new 3-D wing logo and has been the first to be extensively tested at Mahindra’s spanking new proving grounds and test tracks at Kanchipuram near Chennai.

Spread over more than 450 acres, the Mahindra SUV Proving Track was the perfect location to launch the first of what the company says will be a range of new-age SUVs. And SUVs it’ll be, since finally that would be its sole focus. But it wasn’t the impressive facility, the 4-lane high-speed track and its 48-degree banking ovals that was the centre of all the attention earlier this week; it was the XUV 7OO.

Design

The first impression for anyone who has followed the Mahindra brand and its recent successes in climbing the automotive evolutionary ladder will be that the XUV 7OO is supremely confident and comfortable in its skin. Shorn of the on-your-face, over-burly stance and instead infused with a mildly crossover profile, this new SUV exudes an uncharacteristic refinement even before I step into the cabin. Novel features like the recessed door handles and progressive turn indicators seem promising. But it is the finer details that catch my eye; stuff like the much shorter gap between the tyres and wheel arch, and the tight shut lines and consistent panel gaps all around the XUV 7OO. The design alludes in part to the outgoing XUV 5OO and seems influenced by some lines from other Mahindras too. The design is also the product of new talent in the department starting from Pratap Bose, Mahindra’s Chief Design Officer. The headlamp design will be the one that reminds most of you of the XUV 5OO, though its light elements and the night time LED signature are completely different. The logo in the middle apart, the grille and its new, angled 6-slat design give the front design of the XUV 7OO a completely fresh perspective.

 

The roofline and the overall height of the new model is lower than any Mahindra has ever been in this size class. Prominent wheel arches with a waistline that curves over and highlights them again reminds me of the XUV 5OO. The shoulder line and waistline rise to form an arch past the rear doors and form strong haunches. The arrow-shaped, split tail-lamps sit on the haunches and contribute to a 3-dimensional, multi-layered tailgate design. The tailgate sports so many sharp corners and surfaces that Mahindra engineers had to fashion it entirely out of ABS plastic, instead of sheet metal. Of course, the other reason was to ensure that it isn’t too heavy. In fact, lightweighting has been a key focus area for the XUV 7OO, and there are a number of places where significant weight savings has been achieved, like the all-aluminium engine, stronger but small profile sub-members and the other plastic replacements in the engine bay.

 

Overall, the design of the XUV 7OO should please most Indian buyers in this segment. Minimalism doesn’t sell well, just as much as design excess wont amongst today’s buyers. This Mahindra attempts to strike a balance even though there may be some elements that are a bit ‘love it or hate it’.

Cabin

If the exterior design of the new XUV 7OO sends out a message of maturity, the cabin manages to take it one up on that metric. At a glance, this cabin could be mistaken for any of the other marque’s 3-row SUVs that have been popular in the segment. There is an air of premiumness thanks to the fit and finish quality and that is not just in comparison to Mahindra’s cabins of the past and their level of finesse. The top trim AX7L (L and T stand for the luxury and tech options packs that customers can choose to add) which I was test driving at the track featured textured plastic for the dashboard top half, with a stitched leatherette fascia and the same material being used for the contoured seats. The near vertical, overly utilitarian dashboard orientation of previous Mahindra vehicles has been replaced by a very sedan-like cascading layout with a dual-tone theme. Flat-bottomed steering wheel with stitched leather and multiple controls looks good with the new logo in the middle and feels great to hold. The luxury class style integrated twin digital screens for the infotainment and instrument cluster takes the cabin’s appeal a notch higher. The screens and their functions now have a sort of interface branding called Adrenox, which will be carried forward into future models. Twin 10.25-inch screens have been elegantly combined and offer a host of features like navigation and music system, in addition to built-in apps. There is a wireless charger tray and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also on offer, though my test mule’s beta stage presentation meant that some of these functions couldn’t be tried out. Blind view monitoring using door mirror cameras is another useful feature, as is 360-degree surround view and reverse assistance (may be available only on top-trim variants). Mahindra has also partnered with Sony for custom integrating a 12-speaker music system. The system also combines Alexa voice commands for a few connected car features. Company engineers told me that some of the bugs in the system were because it is still in beta stage and that they’ll be ironed out before the official launch.

 

The space in the cabin is big; the second row knee room is more than many vehicles in the compact SUV segment. Third row was expectedly cramped, but can still seat two adults, and they both get 3-point seatbelts and dedicated aircon vents. Driver seat gets electrical adjustments with memory function and like in the luxury class retract when I switch off the engine to step out. The space in the boot is narrow with the third row in use, but can still manage a couple of suitcases and backpacks; folding the third row opens up a lot more room for luggage.

 

Performance

The XUV 7OO will be offered with the mStallion 2-litre petrol engine and the 2.2-litre mHawk diesel engine. We have seen this class and its potential in the Thar. The turbocharged diesel engine is being offered into two states of tune for the lower and higher variants. Mahindra officials expect more than half of the XUV 7OO sales to come in from the petrol; it is a good thing then that the turbocharged, direct injection engine feels surprisingly refined. Paired to either a 6-speed manual or a Aisin-sourced 6-speed torque converter gearbox, the engine feels seriously quick. Generating 200PS of power and 380Nm of torque, this powertrain can easily be the majority’s choice. I tested the automatic, and even though it didn’t have any drive modes, except for the manual +/- stick shift option, there is enough power on tap right from about 1,700rpm. I missed steering mounted paddles; would have made it more engaging.

The diesel engine paired with the manual gearbox I tested was the higher state of tune delivering 185PS and 420Nm of torque. This too is a good marriage, making the powertrain quite the one to choose in this vehicle segment. All effort that has gone into isolating the cabin is evident, except for a mild vibration at the shift stick. The diesel AT powertrain will be the only one getting a AWD (all-wheel drive) option. It also gets three drive modes - zip, zap and zoom - for possible city, overtake and highway situations.

Ride and handling

The XUV 7OO has been built on a new platform that is based on the XUV 5OO. The new flagship isn’t significantly bigger or heavier than the outgoing model. Instead with an increase in wheelbase by 50mm, the 100mm increase in length has been provided for speaking just in terms of the size and how that might affect the physics. Light-weighting has contributed to the XUV 7OO feeling nimble and not a front heavy hulk. There is also the finely tuned suspension involving a multi-link independent rear suspension and frequency selective dampers for both front and rear. It shows in the calm demeanour of the XUV 7OO across driving conditions, whether it is high speed stability, taking sweeping corners or going over bad sections of the road. The ride quality and the improved insulation keep the cabin quiet, and only in the diesel engine version and only when the needle neared the 3,000rpm mark did the roar of the engine seep in.

 

The XUV 7OO gets a bevy of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) with the help of a grille-mounted camera and a radar behind the rear view mirror. Features like adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assistance, lane departure warning and auto emergency braking worked like a charm. These features are part of optional additions. Emergency braking did cut in annoyingly when I tried a few quick overtakes; will take a bit of getting used to in Indian driving conditions.

Bottomline

In my view, the XUV 7OO represents a huge leap for Mahindra. It certainly ticks all the major boxes and some more when it comes to taking on the current competition in the compact SUV segment. There are a few spots in the cabin where the plastic quality, especially the black shiny bits, which may not age well and do sort of point to the XUV 7OO’s price positioning. But, the number of segment firsts, and the list of novel features that genuinely attempt to democratise luxury for Indian buyers are just fantastic. Prices start from an affordable ₹12 lakh for the base 5-seater and could go up to ₹18 lakh for the top-trim 7-seater. Competitors should be worried.

Published on August 19, 2021

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