Mahindra XUV500 (2015) First Drive

10 Mahindra Xuv500 1800x1800

A new version of the Mahindra XUV500 landed on South African shores this week. We gave it a spin.

The Mahindra XUV500 has always enjoyed an essentially pleasing body shape, marred by a few details here and there. Well, it appears as if the Indian company has been listening carefully to feedback since the car was launched in 2011.

The so-called New Age XUV500, as it is tagged in the company’s media release, has bowed in with some fine detailing that moves it up in the taste stakes.

Exterior touch up

First and foremost for us is the wheel choice. The car now wears new 17-inch alloys and Bridgestone rubber of a profile tall enough to handle bad roads, and these are now of a very pleasing pattern, subtle yet still solid-looking. The wheel and tyre combo also fills out the wheel arches nicely front to rear, although if you order the base-spec model, known as the W4, you’ll have to put up with steel wheels and rather off-looking plastic hubcaps that look as if they could be enlarged egg whisks.

But very few people, it seems, order the base-spec models in this category of car, despite the pricing inducements. They want the high-end image and as many of the bells and whistles they can afford. Mahindra, having been around the block a few times, know how to spec a range from base to top-end. This consists of the W4, W6 and W8 in front-wheel-drive form. The W8 is also available as an all-wheel drive model.

The styling refresher includes a bling-diminished grille with metal accents now forming subtle slivers on a black, mesh background, and a restyled bonnet and headlights. The lights are all new with a curved daytime running signature, while the fog lamps are also new, as are the tail lights.

More refined interior

Inside, the big up-grade is the new touch screen, standard on the W8 flagship models. This is a seven-inch fitting with a full-colour display, with features including navigation, music streaming, iPod compatibility and a reverse camera.

The dashboard has also been redesigned to accommodate this and includes a new shroud for the standard instrument clusters. I have to say, though, that at times on the launch drive, reflections spoiled the smart, blue-tinged display of the instruments.

Of course, the Mahindra XUV500 is a vehicle that offers plenty of features for the price, and these include an extra row of seats in a car that is really only lengthy enough to be a full five-seater. But those two extra seats are in place, and they do offer enough space for occasional adult transportation or an extra serving of children.

With those back-row seats erected, however, luggage space diminishes to about 90 litres, or rather, enough space to stash your laptop case in an upright position. With the third row flattened, the luggage space increases to a useful 700-litres or so.

How does it ride?

The changes to the New Age XUV500 are not limited to the purely cosmetic, however. At the launch this week Mahindra staffers spoke of Lotus involvement in developing the suspension set-up. I must say that on the launch drive which, included some tasty dirt road sections, I was impressed with the way the XUV 500 behaved. Apparently the latest Bosch ESP software is also loaded onto the driver-aid system.

On the road it’s okay too. The ride and the chassis build quality seem to have improved on bumpy tar. The steering is still a little on the inaccurate side but acceptable for this class of car.

Single engine

As for the basics, well, all XUV500s come with a 2.2-litre 103 kW four-cylinder diesel engine, driving the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox. The AWD range-topper, of course, also provides drive to the rear wheels, which is not only handy for dirt road excursions but in rainy weather, where all-wheel-drive adds much to the stability of any vehicle.

The torque peak figure of 330 Nm is attained at just 1 600rpm and this means you are rarely likely to rev the car much beyond 3 500rpm. Fuel consumption is claimed at 6.5L/100 km, but I would think you’ll be getting between 8 and 9-litres per 100km in general city use. Working the manual ‘box requires deliberate movement, but not of the strenuous variety.

Not a bad car then, this revamped SUV from India, a motor industry that is reinventing itself faster than even the Chinese can manage at the moment, and growing in size faster than any other car-producing nation on the planet.

Mahindra XUV500 Pricing

Right now, all this means you get good value for money. Prices for the XUV500 range are R262 995 for the base W4 version, R304 995 for the W6 (which has a medium equipment level), R339 995 for the W8, which is our choice, and R359 995 for the W8 AWD.

The prices include a five-year/150 000 km warranty and a five-year/100 000 km service plan.