Exuberance guaranteed with XUV500

Exuberance guaranteed with XUV500

Power play It is the first Indian-made sports utility vehicle with many class-leading technologies

Indian auto major Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) created history in the Indian automobile market last October, when the company suspended bookings of a new vehicle within 10 days after its launched. No, it was not that the company suddenly discovered a major flaw in the vehicle.

Picture by the author.

On the contrary, M&M was forced to take the decision to lower the waiting list as the booking was so overwhelming that the company sold out its four months production of 8,000 units. The vehicle we are referring to was the XUV500, a sports utility vehicle (SUV) M&M launched on September 30, 2011, without much fanfare. After three months of suspension, the company has opened the booking again on January 1, 2012.

Why was this unprecedented rush for a passenger vehicle in the market, when the overall car sales are sluggish? The reason is that M&M has delivered an Indian-made global quality SUV at a price 40 per cent lower than its imported peers. The ex-showroom price of XUV500 starts at around Rs 11 lakh and goes up to Rs 13 lakh for the fully-loaded one. 

The production for the XUV500 is as per schedule and the company is also in the process of ramping up production at its plant in Chakan, enabling the company to re-open bookings. To understand this craze for the XUV, specially from the Indian buyers who prefer owning a sedan over an SUV, I recently took it out for a two day, on a 400 km test drive, where some patches on the road were full of potholes, ideal to test the endurance of an SUV.  

Powerful yet smooth

The driving experience of XUV, I am happy to admit, was more than what I anticipated in terms of power, manoeuvreability and driving comfort. Though M&M had earlier launched two SUVs - Scorpio and Xylo, the XUV500 is the first one to be built around a car-like chassis, which has made it seem lighter than a traditional SUV, according to experts.

The XUV, the alphabets in the name is linked with youth and style, was entirely designed and developed in-house by Mahindra. The company claims its bold and glorious lines trace the world’s most agile animal in action, namely the cheetah, contributing to the overall elegant styling and visual impact. The macho look and muscular wheel arches, all add to what seems to be the vehicle’s innate desire to pounce, M&M said.

The engine under the XUV’s hood is the familiar 2.2-litre mHawk CRDi engine with a variable geometry turbocharger similar to the one on the Scorpio. However, M&M has added more power and torque to it. The engine delivers a power-packed 140bhp with 330Nm torque, aiding quick pick up when needed and also a gradual acceleration on a higher gear from a low speed or just the opposite. “The engine is meshed with a 6-speed transmission and the 5th generation variable geometry turbocharger which takes the XUV500 from 0-60kmph in a mere 5.4 seconds,” the company claims. Under ideal testing conditions, the XUV has been certified by ARAI to give a mileage of 15.1 km per litre. Even in congested city driving, high torque at low engine revs allows the vehicle to handle traffic with ease.

The XUV comes in two versions: two-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. The all-wheel drive (AWD) lets the driver tackle tough roads with consummate ease as the Interactive Torque Management (ITM) system automatically redistributes the torque between the front and rear wheels to manoeuvre the vehicle out of any challenging situation. The sporty suspension allows sharp cornering, turning driving to a fun-filled activity.

The XUV500 is a contemporary car not just because of its design, but also because it is packed with many high-tech yet user-friendly features you see today on very advanced, imported cars. Be ready, it will take you quite a while to figure out all the features. It has a 6-inch LCD touchscreen on the dash providing various useful information including a GPS-based navigator. The music system has a DVD player, CD/MP3, FM, Bluesense technology, full i-pod connectivity and 6 speakers with built-in tweeters for an excellent audio experience.

The fully-loaded GPS navigation system covers over 1.5 million kilometres of road across 1,200 cities with a turn-by-turn voice guidance system in eight regional languages. The system also gives the driver access to over 5 million touch points of interest including restaurants, ATMs, fuel pumps and movie theatres. The integrated Driver Information System reports all the vital information about the car, like telling you how far the existing amount of fuel can take you, is air pressure and temperature in each tyre fint and so on.

The XUV500 steering wheel features Voice Commands, Cruise and Audio Controls and steering-mounted controls also allow you to control your Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone through the infotainment system in the XUV500 using Blue Sense technology. This allows you to access your phonebook, as well as make and receive calls.

Excellent safety features

The onboard Cruise Control system makes driving stress-free and fatigue-free, especially on long highway drives. It maintains the speed of the XUV500 at a preset level using the steering wheel controls, and also allows you to make small changes to the speed without having to use the accelerator.

Few Indian-made vehicles are as fortified with safety features as the XUV500. It is fitted with the Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), which constantly monitors the movement and direction of the car. In case of sudden braking or panic steering to avoid a collision, ESP automatically applies brakes with different force allowing the driver to steer clear.

When ESP detects loss of control, brakes are automatically applied and torque to the relevant wheel is reduced till vehicle stability is restored.

Rollover Mitigation in the XUV closely monitors a range of parameters and identifies potentially dangerous driving conditions that could lead to the vehicle rolling over. Well before the situation becomes threatening, it causes the ESP system to intervene and control the vehicle speed, thereby restoring stability. The vehicle equipped with 6 airbags (front, side and curtain airbags) and the vehicle’s body also comes with side impact beams.

The ABS (anti-lock braking system) with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) reduces braking distance substantially and enhances the safety of the driver and passengers. Its Hill Descent Control (HDC) identifies steep inclines and engages itself to assist the vehicle down the slope with caution, while Hill Hold Control prevents the vehicle from rolling backwards when starting from standstill on an incline. Another safety feature is the sight headlight beams that automatically get activated when the vehicle is turning on winding roads. This feature is extremely useful in hill driving in the night when the straight beams from headlights are not enough to see what is there on the sides.

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