We get our first taste of the Mahindra XUV700 AX7 at the carmaker’s state-of-the-art testing facility
Words: Neeraj Padmakumar
Mahindra has launched the XUV 700 in India, leaving the entire industry awestruck with the price tags. We put this SUV to rigorous testing at the MSPT, the proving ground where it was originally tested and crafted to perfection. I got to drive three different variants of the vehicle here- XUV 700 AX7 diesel, AX7 petrol, and a really short stint with an AWD-equipped variant which could be based on the AX7. Here are all your answers.
What Is It?
Mahindra XUV 700 slots in as the modern-day replacement for the XUV 500, one of the hugely popular nameplates from the manufacturer. It has quite a number of things that essentially give it an upper hand over the aged predecessor. There are two different trim series for the XUV 700, which further draws it closer to the XUV 500 territory in terms of pricing and kit-levels. Mahindra has given the XUV 700 absolutely disruptive pricing, more of which could be found in our previous story. The prices of just the AX3 and AX5 are known yet. However, it was the fully loaded AX7 that we put to test at the M&M proving ground.
Mahindra XUV700 is underpinned by an all-new monocoque platform. The vehicle measures 4695 mm in length, 1890 mm in breadth, 1755 mm in height, and has a wheelbase of 2750 mm. While the width remains the same as that of the XUV 500, the new vehicle is 110mm longer than its predecessor with 50 mm hike in the wheelbase as well. It however stands 30mm shorter than the 500. Mahindra has not revealed the exact ground clearance of XUV 700. From my rendezvous with the car, I can easily assure you that it has a ground clearance quite befitting for an SUV (Forget figures for now!).
The bumpers and overhangs have been designed keeping terrain-handling in mind. The XUV 700 has approach, departure, and ramp over angles of 22.6, 24, and 20.7 degrees respectively. These proved to be quite confidence-inspiring and usable on the simulated off-road track at MSPT.
The XUV700 gets a contemporary design that clearly depicts its rich lineage. The Mahindra design team has been successful in drawing it close to the popular XUV 500 in terms of the root level design, even while infusing massive waves of post-modern aesthetics and hi-fi styling into the overall shape. This deserves immense appreciation as not doing so would have made this vehicle an ‘absolute stranger’ to most prospective customers.
Mahindra wanted this SUV to have a ‘sharply focussed design’. They made it a point to stick to this all the way from the early sketches to the final product. The XUV 700 has some major design highlights to flaunt, including a few segment-firsts. The fascia looks quite sci-fi and action-ready with the clear-view LED headlamps, long C shaped DRLs, large Mahindra signature 6 slat/ 7 slot grille which houses the brand’s all-new visual identity (The XUV 700 is the first vehicle to get the new logo), and a handsome bumper that neatly houses the LED fog lamps and cornering lamps.
The silhouette resembles that of the XUV 500 in a few areas of design and deviates sharply in the others. The key highlight here is the ‘Smart Door Handles’ that pop out from the SUV’s brawn only when it is unlocked. You guessed it right- this is similar to what we have seen on the Land Rover Velar, new Disco Sport, and the Evoque (Porsches, Lamborghinis and the list goes on!). Obviously, packing these into a sub- 30 lakh car demands some compromising reworks. The XUV 700’s smart door handles are quite fancy, but demand you to use a ‘press’ as a trigger instead of the ‘touch’ you have been used to, on the high-end cars- Quite forgivable an offense going by the segment that this vehicle falls into. In addition to the visual flair, these handles also contribute to the overall aerodynamics of the car. The XUV 700 gets 18-inch (R18) alloy wheels shod with 235/60 rubber.
The rear design is quite eye-pleasing. Our test car in a magnificent shade of Blue looked quite handsome from the rear, Mahindra seems to have nailed the tailgate design, which by the way is made of plastic! The manufacturer claims that using plastic for building the tailgate has had no impact on the structural rigidity, but has instead reduced the overall weight by quite a few kilos. Going by the construction of this chassis, it is hard to disbelieve this ‘no safety-loss’ claim. The arrowhead LED tail lamps look magnificent too. Interestingly there are no ‘faux exhaust tips on the rear bumper’, as is the current trend, which I personally feel to be something laudable.
Talking design, one should definitely take note of how well the new logo looks in flesh. The chrome 3D logo sits majestically on a gloss Black surface at the front and rear of the XUV 700 and directly on the alloy wheels. The glossy Black background does a great job in projecting its layers and the designer’s creative soul the way they deserve to be, under most lighting conditions. (I am desperately waiting to see this on the Thar.)
The XUV 700’s cabin looks tempting and future-ready. It is as plush as it seems to be. There is generous use of soft-touch materials, high-quality leatherette and classy trims and finishes inside the cabin. The dashboard and screens get a clean tile layout which Mahindra claims to have been inspired by outer space. The displays use colors that infuse a deep sci-fi feel in the beholder.
The seats get premium leatherette upholsteries which feel quite nice to be on. Considering these, I do believe that many might miss ‘ventilated seats’ in this car during the Indian summers. The car, however, has dual-zone climate control with a dedicated ‘MAX AC’ button to keep things under control. The D-styled steering wheel is leather-wrapped and so is the gear knob.
XUV 700 comes with the largest-in-class panoramic sunroof, which the manufacturer calls ‘Skyroof’. While this might sound (and is) fancy, the humongous size of this glass roof makes the entire cabin very pleasant and airy. It even has its impact on the third row! The Skyroof can be operated via voice commands and a dedicated switch on the steering wheel, and gets an anti-pinch function as well.
Seating And Comfort
The driver seat is motorized and gets three different memory functions. The front seats offer high levels of comfort with their design and cushioning. The second row gets a 40:60 split-bench with comfortable cushioning and recline function. The headroom is decent despite the panoramic sunroof, and the leg and knee rooms are good as well. There is also a clone of ‘Boss mode’ which allows the second-row occupant to easily adjust the co-driver seat to his/her comfort. The third row, however, does not feel the best in the segment. The leg and knee rooms here are hardly adequate for 6-feet adults and the thigh support too is on the lower side. However, the XUV 700 does offer more room and comfort on the third row than its predecessor. The last benchers also get air vents and a couple of storage spaces. With all three rows in use, there is not much boot space on offer. Should you be ok to have the third row folded, the vehicle would comfortably accommodate your airport baggage!
The vehicle is available in both the 5 and 7 seater configurations, of which the former sounds more appealing to me ( purely personal opinion though).
XUV 700 could be called the most feature-packed Mahindra of recent times. It comes with a lot of kit, including many segment-firsts. The cockpit technology is the show stopper here- meet ADRENOX. The ‘X’ in its name apparently stands for the ‘X-factor’, something that this system is all about!
The ADRENOX is a cockpit engine that has a highly polished user interface. It gets two large 10.25-inch displays as its heart and soul- one as the infotainment touchscreen, and the second as a digital instrument cluster with a magnificent UX design. Both these display units are seamlessly integrated into a single free-standing unit, which could remind you of some modern-day Mercs at times. The overall design and layout of these are very aesthetic and equally ergonomic.
These display units are manufactured by Visteon and stand out from the others on sale currently for their technological supremacy. These units get a layer of what they call ‘LOCA’ (Liquid Optically Clear Adhesive) in them. This fluid replaces the layer of air between the touchscreen (the actual outer sheet of glass where you touch) and the actual display unit and minimizes the compromise in image quality caused due to refraction. Thus, you get to experience rich, clear images and videos at all times. This technology essentially bumps up the visibility in sunlight and overall image vibrance by fair amounts and reduces reflection. On a more practical note, I found this instrumentation display to be more ‘all-day usable’ than those of some of the rivals. It goes easy on the eyes and straight into them!
The other features onboard the XUV 700 include dual-zone climate control, wireless charging, air purifier, electronic parking brake, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), blindspot detection, 360 camera, etc.
Best In Class Infotainment And Audio
The infotainment touchscreen offers good touch response and a handsome interface. It gets everything from wireless Apple Carplay/ Android Auto and Alexa integration to connected car tech. The central tunnel also gets a dedicated 4-way joystick control for the infotainment system ( ‘which looks quite similar to the BMW i-Drive’, if I am to describe it a bit too poetically) The audio system on this car is undoubtedly the best in its class. XUV 700 gets Sony’s immersive 3D sound system with 12 speakers (including a subwoofer and 445 Watts Amplifier)
Sony has custom-made the speakers for this vehicle and it is the first time that the consumer electronics giant is doing so for an Indian carmaker. The audio system uses Sony’s patented ‘Sound Building Blocks’ technology to create various spatial sound conditions inside the car. On a more exciting note, this system can convert any stereo soundtrack into 3D audio, meaning you can even stream the radio in 3D, thanks to the 5.1 channel sound reproduction system.
The car lets you choose from a set of 3 different sound fields and further fine-tune the size of the same. The actual impact of this system is phenomenal. Imagine watching a movie in this (which is something that the infotainment here would let you do) and you will feel no different from being in a theatre.
This audio system gets the DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) as well, which converts even compressed audio formats ( mp3, AAC, WMA, mp4 etc) into high-quality audio. There is also Sound Dependent Audio and EQ Control (SDVC) to beef up things further.
Specifications: Platform, Engine, Transmission
The XUV 700 is built on an all-new in-house developed monocoque chassis from Mahindra. The design and construction of this architecture have a high focus on safety, dynamics, and occupant comfort. The chassis makes generous use of High Strength Steel and other materials, that actually keep it light even while providing high torsional and bending stiffness and thus better crash-worthiness. The platform’s ring structure also contributes to this and to improving the overall NVH levels. The XUV 700 has the best in class ‘Light Weight Index’ of 3.96.
The XUV 700 gets two engine options to choose from- a 2.0L T GDi turbocharged petrol (essentially an improved version of the m-Stallion) producing 200 hp and 380 Nm, and a 2.2L m Hawk diesel engine capable of churning out 185 hp and up to 450Nm, on the automatic variant (best-in-class-torque figures).
Both these engines can be had with a 6-speed manual and 6-speed torque converter automatic gearboxes. The petrol produces the same figures with both these boxes. However, the diesel engine has either 155hp/ 360Nm or 185hp/ 420Nm with the manual boxes, and 185 hp and 450Nm with the automatic. It was the diesel automatic that we spent most of our time with.
How Does It Drive?
The diesel engine feels punchy and has a great low-end grunt. You get access to up to 225 Nm at 1000 rpm. The mid-range is quite strong. It is also 70 kilograms lighter than the previous M-Hawk and offers up to 16.8 km/l. But it cannot be called silent by any standards. It is decently loud, especially when played hard. However, the supreme cabin acoustics mean that the occupants remain detached from the distractions caused by the engine growl. (You also miss the turbo whines in the process!)
The 6 AT by (Japanese) AISIN is quite peppy in nature and won’t get you bored with lame shifts. Floor the gas and the transmission would act accordingly. It uses a stiffer torque converter than other ATs in the segment. However, should you wish to go for manual shifts on the AT, the lever is your only option as there are no paddle shifters.
The XUV700 has three different drive modes on offer, which essentially alter the throttle response, gear mapping (on the AT alone), steering response, etc. The preset modes are -Zip, Zap, Zoom (pretty fancy names indeed), where Zoom equals the familiar ‘Sport’ mode, Zap is for the city and Zip is the most-down tuned. Plus, there is also a custom mode that lets you choose your own settings for the above parameters.
0-60 kph comes in quick, and the vehicle feels very planted at three-digit speeds. I pushed it to 180+ kph on the High-Speed Track and still felt at home! There are no disturbing vertical movements or other dynamic undulations.
In the light of the short sorties I had with the petrol-powered XUV 700, the gasoline engine feels much refined, and significantly peppier than the diesel. It gets dual valve technology and has a lightweight construction as well. It uses a new generation turbocharger and is claimed to be more efficient, delivering 13.5 km per liter. 200 hp feels quite enthusing and there is a usable low-end grunt as well.
The XUV 700 gets a highly reworked suspension setup. The front axle has tougher MacPherson struts while the rear gets an independent multi-link with high degrees of reworks gone into it, something which Mahindra calls ‘Controlled Blade’ suspension. The new XUV’s suspension comes with a revolutionary technology called ‘Frequency Selective Damping’, which improves both the handling and ride quality alike. It provides a planted ride in corners and on the highways even while providing a comfortable ride on rough patches These dampers now use tougher bearings and have an FSD valve as their heart. . Think of this as the best form of mechanical suspension available. Better still would be just air suspension and electronic dampers!
Corner-manners of this vehicle are incredible. I could push the XUV 700 into banked corners of the high-speed test track, at speeds north of 120 kph with ease. The vehicle felt very planted and comfortable. Owing to the high ride height, there sure is some body roll, but the vehicle stays in control at most times. The tyres also offer commendable grip. The electronic power steering feels connected and responsive, thanks to the bigger motor. It feels light as a feather at low speeds but proactively puts up weight with speed and offers more connection with the roads.
ADAS- Level 2 Autonomous Driving
Mahindra XUV 700 comes with ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System), something which we had first seen on the MG Gloster. While the Gloster had Level 1 autonomous driving, the XUV gets Level 2, meaning the car gets steering assist (though highly controlled) as well. The vehicle uses a camera unit and radar to detect obstacles in front and adapt its speed and direction accordingly. The system offers functions like Forward Collision Warning, Auto Emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, Smart Pilot Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Traffic signal Assist ( which detects speed limit warning and adapts to it automatically), and high beam assistance.
The ADAS on the SUV 700 is sourced from the Korean supplier Mando. This system feels more suited for the Indian traffic scenario than the one we had seen previously on the Gloster. Everything from the detection and the way the vehicle reacts to the situation seems to be fine-tuned for the Indian roads.
The XUV 700’s overall structure feels quite crash-worthy. Plus, there are other safety equipment on offer like 7 airbags (including driver knee airbag and a rear curtain airbag that extends till the last row), ABS, ESP, driver drowsiness detection, 4 disc brakes etc.
Price And Rivals
The XUV 700 is placed into a highly competitive segment. It would face its major competition from the Tata Harrier/Safari, MG Hector/Hector Plus, Kia Seltos, and Hyundai Creta/ Alcazar. The prices of the base MX and lower AX variants are highly aggressive. It is undoubtedly the most tech-packed and best-driving vehicle in its segment, at the moment, and the one with the most affordable entry-spec variants. With the Alturas out of business, it does have additional pressure on its shoulders for being the worthy flagship for the brand and that of being the forerunner of the future Mahindra lineup. From what we have come to know yet, there is no reason to complain so far. We also know that more variants and more colors are coming, the prices of which would obviously be higher. Let’s just hope they don’t shoot too high.
Contributing Photographer (s): Basil