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Mahindra's new flagship SUV driven

2011-10-03 09:39

LOOK OUT: The Mahindra XUV500's fearsome look was inspired by the cheetah.

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Mahindra
Model XUV500
Engine 2.2 litre mHawk 140 common rail diesel with variable geometry turbocharger
Power 103kW @ 3750rpm
Torque 330Nm @ 1600-2800rpm
Transmission six-speed manual with synchromesh
Fuel Tank 70 litres
Fuel Consumption 7.1 litres per 100km
Steering power-assisted rack-and-pinion
ABS with EBD and ESP with rollover mitigation
Airbags up to six
Tyres P235/65 R17
Front Suspension McPherson type with anti-roll bar
Rear Suspension Multi-link type with anti-roll bar
Service Plan three-year/60 000km
Warranty three-year/100 000km
Price from R239 900

Hailey Philander

Mahindra’s new flagship SUV was launched in its home market, India, on Thursday but the following day the big cheeses were in SA for the local reveal - and not a jet-lagged blurry eye in sight.

The XUV500 (that’s five-oh-oh as in the Bond movies) is assembled at Mahindra's Chakan near Pune in India and is an all-new design that champions the first monococque construction and six-speed transmission for the brand.

And, as a special favour to South Africans, this cheetah-inspired SUV comes packed with more luxury and convenience features than you can throw at a limousine.

Mahindra & Mahindra already dominates the Indian market with 53.5% of the utility vehicle market so exports are vital and SA, where it has been present for seven years (and now has 43 dealers), is regarded by international operations boss Pravin Shah as "the most mature and strategic market in Africa”.

Natural, then, that it should spearhead the company's drive into the African continent's and that SA is the first market in which the XUV500 is being exported before making its way to Australia, India's neighbouring markets, and other parts of Asia.

LIGHT WORK: The W6 model driven had the cloth interior and light brown/camel colour combination.


Using customer input from around the globe, the XUV500 is a “low-cost, high-spec” offering that, in its pre-production stages, was subjected to performance and durability testing in Africa (including South Africa), Australia and Europe.

For South African tastes it is shipped, depending on model, with a 15cm colour entertainment touch-screen with MP3, Bluetooth, iPod and USB connectivity and steering-wheel controls, cruise control, all-wheel drive, auto hill descent and hill-holder, front and rear (with camera) parking radar, dual climate control, auto light and rain sensors, a chiller box in the centre console and tyre-pressure monitors.

The XUV500 is also a part-time seven-seater if you’re willing to sacrifice a fair amount of packing space to cart the extra kids.  

Despite the high level of equipment across the models, I found some of the grainy plastic surfaces a bit too hard and the shiny strips running alongside the wood veneer-look centre dropdown a little too reflective. I also couldn’t get the touch screen to respond to fingertip prods... maybe with more practice. However the wagon's cloth seats were comfortable and the doors shut with a reassuring “thump”.


The XUV500 range is powered by a transverse 2.2 four-cylinder turbodiesel engine capable of 103kW at 3750rpm and 330Nm from 1600 to 2800rpm, the latter delivered through a six-speed manual transmission. The all-wheel drive includes a low-range  transfer box and a torque management system switches between two and all-wheel drive according to conditions.

However, only 4x2 units were made available for a short drive so I have not idea how good or otherwise the AWD system is.

Ride height is 200mm, fuel consumption is a claimed 7.1/100 and Mahindra quotes a CO2 emission figure of 180g/km.

First impressions are that, though a lusty operator once on the move, it requires some patience before the torque kicks in at around 1600rpm. And the clutch requires a gentle foot if you’d like it to be jerk-free... I felt Mahindra has missed a trick by not including an auto  vc version, although this is said to be under development.

HANDSOME: The XUV500's upright design and bulging wheel arch detail add character at the rear.


The ride through the independent suspension is rather compliant and the steering through the powered rack-and-pinion arrangement not too vague. The anti-lock brakes come with electronic fluid pressure distribution and emergency pressure assistance and up to six air bags are included, according to model.

The vehicles come with a three-year or 100 000km warranty and a three-year or 60 000km service plan.

Mahindra expects its new XUV500 to compete directly with a number of locally available compact SUV's such as Hyundai’s iX35, Kia’s Sportage, Nissan’s Qashqai and Chevrolet’s Captiva.

The XUV500 and the recently-launched Genio one-ton bakkie range will be the main attractions on the Mahindra SA display stand at the Johannesburg International Motor Show from October 8-16, 2011.

W6 4x2 man – R239 900
W8 4x2 man – R269 900
W8 AWD man – R294 900

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