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Mahindra XUV700 showcases how far Indian automakers have come in terms of offering well-designed vehicles that are formidably stylish to look at and yet offer a premium cabin and a decent drive dynamic. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)
Mahindra XUV700 showcases how far Indian automakers have come in terms of offering well-designed vehicles that are formidably stylish to look at and yet offer a premium cabin and a decent drive dynamic. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)

Mahindra XUV700 Freedom Drive, full review: One SUV to rule them all?

  • XUV700 has the potential to put Mahindra back on top of the SUV hierarchy and is looking at taking on rivals in the Indian car market. Here is our first drive review.

  • Offered with petrol and diesel engines, and in 5- and 7-seat layout, XUV700 is also loaded with features.

Mahindra XUV700 SUV is one of the biggest launches of the calendar year for the Indian automotive industry and market. Looking at making the most of the well-established preference for SUVs here, Mahindra XUV700 is looking at emerging as not just a potent force but a skilled all-rounder in a field of play which has rivals aplenty.

And while Mahindra has had a record of either offering very successful models like the new Thar, Scorpio and Bolero or models which fail to make any mark at all - like Marazzo, Alturas and the likes, it is safe to assume that it is the XUV700 that will now carry the bulk of expectations and will hope to lay an indomitable foundation for next-gen SUVs from the Indian car maker.

(Also see | More pics of Mahindra XUV700 SUV)

The expectations are huge. The promises are even bigger. The prices or at least ones revealed so far are mighty tempting. And the options are a whole lot as well. If one is out in the market with a shopping list titled SUV, it would be near impossible to not walk over to the Mahindra camp to check the XUV700. 

 

Mahindra XUV700 is looking at gaining some of the lost ground that the company ceded to rivals in the SUV space.
Mahindra XUV700 is looking at gaining some of the lost ground that the company ceded to rivals in the SUV space. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)

Why is that? Read the first full drive review of Mahindra XUV700 as we recently took the vehicle out for a spin as part of the company's Freedom Drive experience:

Mahindra XUV700: How does it look?

XUV700 has a dominant exterior profile but one that generously makes use of new-age styling elements.
XUV700 has a dominant exterior profile but one that generously makes use of new-age styling elements. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)

Bring an SUV that looks like an SUV and half the battle is won. And while one may or may not agree with this, a large number of Indian car customers tend to opt for a test drive only if they are taken by the look of a vehicle. On that count, XUV700 ticks almost every box right. Almost.

XUV700 variantPrice
MX Gasoline 11.99 lakh
MX Diesel 12.49 lakh
AdrenoX AX3 Gasoline 13.99 lakh
AdrenoX AX5 Gasoline 14.99 lakh
 Note: All prices above are ex showroom. All prices above are for five-seater XUV700 with MT

Proportionally, the XUV700 is near same as the XUV500 it replaces. Visually speaking, and to me at least, it does look more pronounced thanks to the styling on the newer vehicle. Whether it is the imposing front grille with the all-new Mahindra logo - XUV700 is the first of several SUVs to get Mahindra's new Twin Peaks logo, or the C-shaped DRLs outlining the sharp LED head light units, or the dominant bumper design with twin character lines or even the encased fog lights and the grey front skid plate, the XUV700 looks like Sylvester Stallone from Rocky dressed like Patrick Swayze from Dirty Dancing. Think muscle but think style as well.

The imposing grille, flanked by C-shaped DRLs give XUV700 a purposeful appearance from the front.
The imposing grille, flanked by C-shaped DRLs give XUV700 a purposeful appearance from the front. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)

The rear profile of the XUV700 is more of the same with arrow-head-shaped LED tail lights, XUV700 badge on one side and a grey rear skid plate. There is the Mahindra logo here as well in what is an otherwise clean and complete profile.

A look at the rear profile of Mahindra XUV700.
A look at the rear profile of Mahindra XUV700. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)

It is on the side where the overall profile of the XUV700 appears a tad too similar to the XUV500. At a quick glance, the resemblance is uncanny but beyond first looks, there's plenty to like. The auto door handles are what will seek to impress instantly and it is great that Mahindra opted to think out of the box. To use, it doesn't feel as premium as one would imagine but that said, it isn't remotely cheap either. I even yanked at it just to be sure it doesn't come off. It didn't. That said, the handles and the slim chrome strip on the window line do tend to attract fingerprints and can eventually look a bit untidy unless you are frequent with microfiber wipe schedules.

Mahindra says the idea to ditch conventional door handles came from suggestions made by Anand Mahindra, chairman of Mahindra Group. It does help the SUV have a slightly different take on practicality and styling.
Mahindra says the idea to ditch conventional door handles came from suggestions made by Anand Mahindra, chairman of Mahindra Group. It does help the SUV have a slightly different take on practicality and styling. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)

Mahindra XUV700 sits on 18-inch alloy wheels in the upper variants while the lower variants will come with 17-inch steel wheels. The wheel arches are sufficiently big and help the vehicle complete quite a commanding exterior profile.

Mahindra XUV700: How does it feel on the inside?

Step inside the XUV700 and the vehicle just doesn't seem like it is one from the Mahindra camp. I mean barring an Alturas, I don't remember getting inside any Mahindra vehicle and being pleasantly bowled over by the cabin. Till this one here.

XUV700 benefits from large windows and an enormous sunroof. Wood trim on the doors also increase the premium quotient even if the white upholstery may be a tad tedious to maintain.
XUV700 benefits from large windows and an enormous sunroof. Wood trim on the doors also increase the premium quotient even if the white upholstery may be a tad tedious to maintain. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)

The car I received for the entire day was in seven-seat layout although there is a five-seat layout on the XUV700 as well. And the first thing I decided to find out was how much space is on offer on that last row. Now while getting in and out is a bit tedious even though the click and fold operation in the middle row does open up space, there is adequate room for a person of average height and build. The kneeroom and headroom is satisfactory while the level of cushioning is as good as one can expect in a car in this segment. Of course, the boot space takes quite a hit with all three rows up - much like in Tata Safari and unlike in the Hyundai Alcazar. But as has become quite the norm, there are AC vents here with controls for blower speed, as well as 12V charging socket and cupholders on either side.

The tumble down feature in the second row is the usual fare and helps create a passage for entry to the third row. The rear seats also fold completely flat, and in 50:50 split, to create additional boot space.
The tumble down feature in the second row is the usual fare and helps create a passage for entry to the third row. The rear seats also fold completely flat, and in 50:50 split, to create additional boot space. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)

As with three-row SUVs, it is the middle-row that would be the place of choice for most. All the seats inside my test unit were a premium shade of white and the upholstery stitching was top notch. There is also generous space for placing feet under the first row seats and kneeroom as well as under-thigh support is generous too. Aided well by windows which are respectably large and a mammoth sunroof - Mahindra calls it Skyroof, the interplay of elements filtering in is a treat for the senses. The usual fare of a central armrest with cupholders, AC vents and Type-C charging point are present and yet another highlight is that the center console does not jut back to eat into feet space for the middle passenger in the middle row. 

The cushioning and back support on the middle-row seats in the XUV700 is generous.
The cushioning and back support on the middle-row seats in the XUV700 is generous. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)

If the last row is satisfactory and the middle row is generous, the front row would best describe the XUV700's modern character.  This modern character is primarily underlined by two 10.25-inch screens which seek to steal the spotlight. One is the main infotainment unit and the other, connected seamlessly to the first, is the all-digital driver display.

The entire unit's surface is claimed to be shatter-proof and made by Asahi Glass in Japan. But as much as we tried to believe the claim that it resists fingerprints and isn't too reflective, we couldn't. Under direct sunlight, the otherwise gorgeous infotainment unit is quite difficult to read and it also reveals fingerprints better than the camera of a forensics team.

Under shade or inside covered spaces like here, the infotainment screen inside XUV700 is absolutely gorgeous. Under natural light, there however is a whole lot of glare and reflection.
Under shade or inside covered spaces like here, the infotainment screen inside XUV700 is absolutely gorgeous. Under natural light, there however is a whole lot of glare and reflection. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)

That said, Mahindra has packed much on the two screens. The tile-like layout is clean and easy to comprehend and puts out a long list of information related to the vehicle as well as for AV purposes. So whether one wants to use navigation or control music or even make use of around 60 connected apps, there's a whole lot of time that one can spend fiddling with this main screen. Of course, there were 12-speakers' Sony sound system inside this top-of-the-line XUV700 with 3D sound effect that is better heard than read in a review like this.

The entire unit is controlled by AdrenoX which allows, among many of its features, hands-free access to entertainment and information details. There is also support for voice commands using Amazon Alexa and this can be used to control the sunroof, set temperature, control volume and change tracks, operate the window on the driver's side and even switch on the ignition. 

XUV700 gets the largest-in-segment sunroof.
XUV700 gets the largest-in-segment sunroof. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)

While there's much to like for those inclined towards checking on in-car gizmos, those more aesthetically inclined will appreciate the soft-leather on the dashboard, the white upholstery and the use of piano-black finish on the center console and door handles. 

MX SeriesAdrenoX Series | AX3AdrenoX Series | AX5AdrenoX Series | AX7
 (offered over MX)(offered over AX3)(offered over AX5)
20.32 cm (8“) InfotainmentDual HD 26.03 cm (10.25“) Infotainment and 26.03 cm (10.25“) Digital ClusterSkyroofAdvanced Driver Assistance System
17.78 cm (7“) ClusterAmazon Alexa Built-InR17 Diamond Cut Alloy WheelsDriver Drowsiness Alert
Android AutoWireless Android Auto and Apple Car PlayCurtain AirbagsSmart Clean Zone
Smart Door handlesAdrenoX Connect with 60+ Connected featuresLED Clear-view HeadlampsDual Zone Climate Control
LED Taillamp6 Speakers and Sound StagingSequential turn indicatorsR18 Diamond Cut Alloy
Steering mounted SwitchesLED DRL and Front fog LampsCornering lampsR18 Diamond Cut Alloy
Power Adjust ORVM with Turn IndicatorR17 Steel Wheels with covers Leather Steering & Gear lever
Day Night IRVM  6-Way Power seat with Memory
R17 Steel Wheels  Side Airbags

The dashboard and seats, I fear, could be quite difficult to maintain but the onus would be on the owner and not Mahindra. For its part, the car maker has done a great job in offering a premium experience, aided also by electronically-adjustable driver seat which also has three-position memory function. The center console is also well laid out with a dial for volume and screen selections. There are cupholders with a covering tray and an armrest for driver with a decently-sized storage space under it. There is also an option to charge phones wirelessly and a USB Type C port here.

The driver seat can be electronically moved forward or back and reclined back or forward. Height of the seat, though, needs to be adjusted manually.
The driver seat can be electronically moved forward or back and reclined back or forward. Height of the seat, though, needs to be adjusted manually. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)

On the flipside, the door hinges - and all four doors on the side - appeared slightly less than solid. Time will tell if there will be squeaks and groans.

Mahindra XUV700: How does it drive?

The move to go at rivals with both petrol and diesel engine options in the XUV700 could ensure that Mahindra is able to target a wide field of rivals.
The move to go at rivals with both petrol and diesel engine options in the XUV700 could ensure that Mahindra is able to target a wide field of rivals. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)

Mahindra just does not want to let go off any prospective buyer at all, whatsoever. Want a petrol XUV700? There's a 2.0-litre mStallion gasoline engine. For diesel lovers, there's the 2.2-litre mHawk ready to perform. Then there is a toss up between six-speed manual as well as a six-speed AT. For varying driving needs, one can choose between three modes which are named rather quirky - Zip, Zap and Zoom. And then there is a custom drive mode as well which allows the driver to tweak individual drive traits. Oh, and All-Wheel Drive comes optional.

As much as I wanted to have the freedom on Freedom Drive to try every combination on offer, it was decided it be best to focus on the XUV700 with the diesel engine at its heart and with the AT.

The Mahindra XUV700 gets three drive modes, apart from a Custom mode as well.
The Mahindra XUV700 gets three drive modes, apart from a Custom mode as well. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)

Weaving my way towards Mahindra's new proving and test track for its SUVs from Mahindra Research Valley -  a distance of around 65 kilometres - it was evident that the latest from the company is a bulky vehicle with drive traits of a vehicle more planted to the ground.

Steady on open highway stretches and nimble through narrow village roads, the XUV700 may seem imposing on the outside but to drive, it has a very reassuring feel about it. The din from the diesel motor under the hood was well under control, road noise also quite well in check while power delivery was nearly instantaneous.

A powerful engine always needs a solid transmission unit to be its best mate and the one inside the XUV700 fared well through and through - no lag, no rubber-band effect and response ever ready. And completing the troika of mechanical highlights is a well tuned suspension set up that managed to get the vehicle to roll over every speed breaker that came my way.

Through the drive to the proving grounds, I also tested the Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) and Adaptive Cruise Control. Both left me mighty impressed. Features like Lane Keep Assist and Lane Departure Warning worked flawlessly while the Adaptive Cruise Control allowed me to set the max speed and leave it on to the XUV700 to monitor the traffic in front and automatically adjust speed and braking intensity. One thing of note though is that when each time the vehicle detected a two-wheeler, it braked a bit too strong for my comfort. Better safe than sorry? Umm, sure.

After about an hour of driving the XUV700, or letting it drive me, it was time to hit the test tracks. Here is where we put the vehicle to almost every serious challenge there is in the real world and it fared quite well through and through. On the fast-speed circuit, I did around 10 laps at a constant speed of 140 kmph - even going up to 170 kmph twice. Not once, I repeat, not once did I feel any need to recheck my adrenaline rush because of how just how steady the steering wheel remained throughout. Minimal body roll on high speed curves, good straight-line precision and just a bid of road noise at really high speeds - this SUV has a spirited heart and a precise car-like trait.

Mahindra XUV700 manages to mix best of all worlds in a package that could be tempting to at least test and consider strongly.
Mahindra XUV700 manages to mix best of all worlds in a package that could be tempting to at least test and consider strongly. (HT Auto/Sabyasachi Dasgupta)

The one significant glitch encountered though was when we tried to use the physical button to change drive modes - it had a mood of its own and worked at times and just didn't on others. Perhaps an error on just my test unit but to encounter it means to report it.

Mahindra XUV700 rivals and verdict:

Mahindra XUV700 is an SUV that appears well suited to satiate every desire and meet with every expectation that a diverse Indian market may have. Starting at 11.99 lakh (ex showroom), it is priced extremely aggressively. But it doesn't seem like a vehicle that cuts corners to cut price tag.

On the one hand, it has declared war on the likes of Hyundai Creta, Kia Seltos, Tata Harrier and the new European boys - Skoda Kushaq and Volkswagen Taigun. On the other hand, it is also squarely facing off against three-row SUVs Hyundai Alcazar and Tata Safari. The decision to offer both petrol and diesel engines, load the car up with plethora of features and lend it a solid drive trait will only help its case. One SUV to rule them all? XUV700 is a solid proposition and deserves to be considered regardless of its India and Made-in-India connect which, in its own right, is impressive as well.

 

 

 

  • First Published Date : 18 Aug 2021, 09:58 AM IST