Monday, July 23, 2012

Mahindra XUV 5OO - Is it good to OWN or simply DROOL?



What a launch it was !!!

Bookings happening even before price is announced. Sneek peeks, spy shots, predict the price and all sorts of pre launch contests and discussions on almost all automotive discussion forums. People thronging in great numbers to the Mahindra Showrooms to take a glimpse of its new age avatar. Bookings getting closed since M&M did not support long waiting periods. The early birds who got hand on this vehicle were the most sought after feedback agents in traffic stops and on web forums who duly obliged and were enjoying their new found limelight. Further surprises related to this blockbuster came when Mahindra and Mahindra announced the reopening of the bookings along with a draw of lots. Again another surge of bookings and the lucky 10,000 ones got their hands on the vehicle.
By this time the first batch of owners had a reasonable amount of time with their vehicle and service experience. Niggles thread began to appear in web forums. Welcome to the reality of owning the first Blockbuster Indian SUV (I am calling it as an SUV, eventhough it is not a proper SUV).
Now the million rupee question in owning the million rupee Indian SUV - Should I buy it or not?
Should I answer it now or after the review. Well I will answer it now and then continue with the review on how I arrived at this answer.
My answer -
If you are on a 8 to 10 Lakh budget, but can stretch to 14 lakh by mobilizing all your savings to buy this butch looking SUV, I would recommend NO !! Since this SUV will give you lot of moments to think, oh why I put my money on this?

If you are on a 15 to 20 lakh budget, then this is a good buy, the Value for Money proposition suddenly comes to picture. The niggles, if appeared will then be written off with an attitude, "these ought to come as this is a cheap vehicle".


The above answer is based on the experience I had with this vehicle, thanks to my close relative who was one of the "lucky" ones in the draw of lots in the second booking phase.

The Looks
If curves are the sign of a perfect figure then watch this image.

 


The post processed image has revealed all the curves. M&M disclosed that the design of XUV is based on a cheetah making a fast stride to prowl on its prey. The grill also resemebling the face of the fastest "cat" around.

The real side profile - An "Audi" feel?


The side profile has that muscle look, perfectly apt for an SUV. I don't think anyone will dislike this side profile or fall too much in love with side profile either.

The Grill - A wide grin, sure it has road presence.



When the XUV 5OO was launched, most of discussions were centred around the overdone front grill. Mahindra and Mahindra had an earlier experience of designing an ugly front grill which contributed significantly to the downfall of another Multi utility vehicel - Xylo. This time a flamboyant aggressive grill was tried out.Based on the feedback there are more likes than dislikes. If one feels like there are two many bumps and curves in the grill, then choose the black vehicle, these bumps and curves are not visible at all. Personally I like this design and it is a pleasure to watch an XUV on your rear view mirror the sight of which instills some sort of respect.

The LED lights adds significantly to the way the front appears. Switch it on during the day time and command respect just like the Bimmers and the Audis around






Space

I give greater priority to space as I consider this as significant when we go on a long distance touring. I had experienced above 10 lakh vehicles both in the SUV class and sedan class which had very little legroom in the back seats making long distance touring quite uncomfortable.
XUV 5OO has oodles of space in the front and middle row seats, while the third row seat space is pathetic (it can't get any worse than this).

Watch the front row space




The front row leg space is much more than what you see here, since there is ample leg room under the dash too. Even for a six footer there is no need to push the driving seat to the extreme back.
The greatest boon is the middle row space. Here you see the middle row space after putting the driver's seat in position for a six footer.


Add to the oodles of space, the bench also has excellent thigh support. Only effect that is lacking is the wrap around feel of the bucket seats similar to Vernas, Citys or the Ventos. The middle row seats cannot be slided, but it can be reclined.
M&M missed the trick for the third row space though. The third row leg room is simply non existent.



The middle row seat is 60:40 split. The back row passengers can ingress and egress by folding the 40% part of the middle row. The middle row can be folded from the back seat itself using a lever accessible from the back row itself. Considering that the designers put such a thought full addition in the favour of back benchers, I wonder why they didn't provide a slider for the middle row seats, which would have released much more space for the third row as and when the need arises.
The boot space is just a few centimetres with the rear bench up. If the rear bench is folded down then a huge boot is the resultant. Were the M&M designers thinking that the rear bench is only for city rides and for long rides, it should be folded down.

  
Interiors
The dash surely gives a premium feel. M&M has grown up much more than the Scorpio dash, which was plane jane. The infotainment system and its controls looks uber cool especially at night.



The display console doubles up as the rear view display also. The display is black and white for W6 variant. The W8 variant boasts of a color DVD player, integrated navigation system also.


There are AC vents for all three rows and the AC is a chiller. Separate AC control are available for all the three rows.
The front row passengers get a small and useful hand rest.


There is a small storage compartment underneath this hand rest.

The middle row passengers also gets a large handrest with a bottle holder


The glove compartment is fairly large. There is a sun glass holder and a discussion mirror too.

The speedo console is well lit and nicely readable at night too


Ingress and egress at night is made quite easy. Press the unlock button and the park light will come on automatically. Open the doors and the door lights simply lits up the path leading to the door.



Open the driver side door and the stylish scuff plate draws your attentions


There is absolutely no problem in finding the keyhole. Watch how well it is lit.



Interior lights are aplenty, Switch them on and watch the effect




The hand brake design is quite unique too.




Engine Performance and Handling
The tried an tested workhorse in Scorpio is doing all the work under the bonnet. It is a gem of an engine with good low end torque. Turbo lag is non existent. The short throw gears are simply awesome, gives the feel of driving a sedan. But it is clutch which spoils all the party. The clutch is hard and there is a long play.
Braking manners is simply too good for this big vehicle. The cruise controls simply adds to the effortless driving during high way cruising.
The body roll is significantly lesser than Scorpio. Taking turns or applying brakes had a long standing effect on a Scorpio. But XUV is leagues ahead in this department.
The vehicle is shod with 17 inchers. The factory fitted alloys are OK, but to get the real character out just get some aftermarket butch alloys and the look simply enhances.





Service

After sales service is as expected from Mahindra and Mahindra. Eventhough it was said that XUV customers will be treated differently, all such offerings will fade out once you enter the showroom.

The first service delivery experience gave me ample evidence of how ineffective the system is. The dealer calls and informs that vehicle is ready for delivery. I came to the showroom exactly one hour after this intimation after once again confirming whether everything is ready. Reached the showroom at 4.00 clock and the vehicle which was given for first service was delivered at 6.30pm. All sorts of trouble happened in between. I could overhear complaints of other XUV owners for not checking the problems which they reported, some were complaining about the new niggles introduced, some were complaining about the non availability of parts and for keeping the vehicle at service centre for such a long period.
The service advisor was all the time trying to speak a few words to me, just to give me a feel that I am attended to. But what matters the most is the efficiency to deliver at the promised time. I see a process failure here. What Mahindra should have done is to have separate staff and procedures for dealing the premium customers. Instead they just tried to adopt the existing system to a new one. Naturally all the flaws of existing system got adopted too.


  
A comparison with some other vehicles and the conclusion

Why you should buy this vehicle? 
  • PRESENCE, PRESENCE AND MORE ROAD PRESENCE !!
  • Value for money when you compare the features offered in SUVs a good 5 lakh rupee more
  • Excellent Engine. Drive a Toyota Innova just after a drive in XUV 5OO. We will feel like the Innova is not having enough power.
  • A stable ride, Not in the league of Innova though, But almost comparable.
  • Extremely Comfortable seating for 4 (with the middle hand rest down). Comfortable for 5 passengers too
  • Excellent under thigh support and oodles of space for front and middle row passengers.
  • A premium feel when compared with competitor vehicles. The dash feels upmarket when compared with Toyota Innova. It is ages ahead of Tata Safari. I am not comparing with TATA Aria, since it is going to oblivion with a weak sales report month after month.
  • A pride of ownership !!!


Why you should not buy this vehicle?
  • Niggles, niggles and niggles can appear at any time. Some of the niggles may even make you stop midway through a journey. Recently one of my acquaintance had to tow his XUV 5OO around 450 Kms to reach Chennai. He had to abandon his trip and lost almost 2 full days in this process. All this happening for a 15lakh vehicle can get to your nerves. 
  • The more the features, the more failure prone it is. So better to opt for W6 than W8.
  • You need to be really patient with the after sales service guys. You tell them a problem in the morning and evening they will return the vehicle without attending it. The lesser said about time management, the better.
  • Eventhough ride through good roads, curves and partly damaged roads is good, the big potholes are not very neatly dealt with. A thud results when we take the vehicle through such roads. An Innova driven at the same speed through such a patch gulps the damaged road more comfortably.
If you give weightage to the pros in the first part more than the cons in the second part or if the decision is from the heart, GO and BUY IT !!

else

If you can't live with the niggles and the decision is made by the head, keep drooling at this butch looking beast until M&M sorts things out or check out the Renault Duster :).
Some more pictures of this looker




Disclaimer:
All the views expressed are purely personal. These views can differ from person to person.
The service centre experience is based on the service center near my dwelling city. It can be a different experience at your place. If time permits just visit the service centre during evenings when customers will be taking delivery of their vehicles and see how existing customers are dealt with. You can even talk to some of them and get a direct feedback. Kindly take a proper test drive before buying this vehicle.






4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Awesome review!
@subu - reading your product reviews, one feels like they have already tried/tested it...great work!

Anonymous said...

good blog. My bro too thinking about booking one but only inhibition is the worst after sales service. he owns Xylo since last 2-3 years and feels visit to mahindra workshop for service is a torture bc of the poor quaility of work done there.

Harsha Hegde said...

Well balanced review. I have the XUV since past month and have driven for a thousand Kms. And am already experiencing the niggles:
- the 'wobbling' feeling in second gear
- silencer leak
- rough gear shift
- bad wheel alignment and unbalanced tires (this was the easiest to get fixed, but not what you expect in a new vehicle)
- inside rear view mirror kept falling. India Garage guys fixed it easily with fevikwik :). Good God, Pidilite makes quality products, unlike Mahindra.

The ride quality isn't good on bumpy, pot holed roads. XUV just throws off passengers seated in middle and third row seats. Of course, the road grip is great even at 140 kmph. But, there are very few roads in India where one can maintain that speed for a major stretch of journey. Most roads barely have asphalt left on them after a rainy season.

I can't help compare the ride quality and driving experience to an Innova and a Honda City since I get to drive them as well, frequently. Innova is a closer competition to XUV and definitely handles the ubiquitous pot holes and bumps much more gracefully than the XUV. Overall, Honda comes out on top, in terms of quality of the vehicle and driving experience; no wonder Honda vehicles are world class. In spite of Toyota's quality problems in the US last year, Toyota vehicles are way ahead of Mahindra.

Though XUV is loaded with features not found in most other vehicles in Indian auto market, the "value for money" feeling quickly evaporates once you find out quality was compromised. Mahindra has a long way to go in making quality automobiles that are globally competitive. I sincerely hope Mahindra pays as much attention, if not more, to XUV quality as they do to its features.

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