Driven #25: 2014 Mahindra XUV500

Mahindra, the Indian corporate giant with interests from hospitality and leisure to tractors and farm equipment, has been in the business of manufacturing and selling automobiles since the forties. But not until 2002 when the Scorpio was launched did it make its presence felt. Designed and developed completely in-house albeit with the help of a few international firms that tweaked the mechanicals, the Scorpio took Mahindra to the big league. But, it was the XUV500 that announced the arrival of Mahindra in style.

Conceived and developed with global ambitions, the XUV500 was stylish, tech-laden and feature-loaded, attributes that aren’t usually associated with Mahindras. That the value-conscious Indian customers lapped it up in thousands despite its ‘more-than-a-million-rupees’ starting price, a price point that Maruti-Suzuki still hasn’t cracked, Hyundai couldn’t impress upon in its first few attempts and Tata has failed miserably so far, was just the motivation Mahindra needed.

Despite its resounding success, the XUV500 had its fair share of issues related to its build quality, electronics and brakes that left some customers unhappy. Being who they are, Mahindra reacted swiftly and embarked on a journey to sort the niggles out. The result is this, an updated model that, Mahindra claims, is troubleshooted. We chanced upon an opportunity to drive the updated XUV500 and here is what we felt.


Ever since its launch, the XUV500 had its share of admirers and critics. While the bold and aggressive lines were appreciated by many, there were quite a few who thought that Mahindra’s designers went overboard while working on this project. They are not to be faulted as Mahindra, in recent years, did just that. The rabbit-tooth grille, for instance, that adorns all new Mahindras including the XUV500 is awful while the Quanto and pre-facelifted Xylo aren’t great lookers either.

But there’s no doubting that the XUV500 turns heads, even today. That’s probably why Mahindra decided to not touch the design and styling of their flagship SUV in this update. Elegant trapezoidal headlights on either sides of a trademark seven-slat grille define the front end of the XUV500, imparting an imposing stance. The larger-than-usual honeycomb mesh, the aggressive detailing in the front bumper and the faux plastic inserts are fussy. We would have preferred a subtler front end, but that’s just us. The same aggression is carried over to the profile with flared wheel arches, rising shoulder line that stands out with a prominent bulge and an upward-sloping window line. The alloy wheels are appealing but, despite being clad with decent-sized rubber, hardly fills the huge wheel wells. At the rear, the beautifully-detailed taillights stand out, more so when illuminated. The twin exhaust pipes and the ribbed rear bumper deserve mention too.

Being a SUV, the XUV500 would obviously be expected to go beyond tarred surfaces. The short overhangs, high ground clearance, the thin plastic cladding that protects the sheet metal from scratches and the optional AWD system takes care of that aspect.

The XUV500 is positioned as a premium SUV and it has the ammunition to proudly say so. The LED  parking lamps, though not as rich as the DRLs found in premium cars, does its job quite well. The projector headlamps with cornering function not only looks fabulous but is highly useful too. Puddle lamps integrated in the rear view mirrors light up the ground that passengers would step onto while alighting from the car. Though none of these features qualify as one to be bragged about, we were surprised how these little things bunched up to increase the feel-good factor surrounding the XUV500.


Walk into the XUV500 and it is immediately apparent that the exterior theme is carried over inside. It looks good and modern but seems to be overdone in some places.

With three distinct shades and textures highlighted by fake wood paneling, the layout of the dashboard is practical. The instrument cluster is tastefully done with two circular pods housing two chrome-ringed smaller dials inside. The LCD screen in between, apart from lighting up the dash with an array of symbols on ignition, displays useful information on the go. The steering wheel is aesthetically pleasing and good to hold with perfectly-positioned thumb recesses. A touchscreen panel, that controls a host of functions including music system, navigation, tire pressure monitor, service alerts and fuel consumption data, dominates the center console. It doubles up as a video player too. Below the touchscreen are neatly laid out buttons and knobs. Among them, the three chrome-ringed knobs that control the air-conditioner and music system are chunky and good to operate. A few things like the shape of the air-vents, the quality of wood panels and positioning of the handbrake lever could have been better though.

Without a doubt, the overall quality, fit and finish of the new XUV500 is miles ahead of other Mahindra models and visibly improved over the earlier model that we drove after launch. But it’s also true that it is still not where it should be. As if to make up for it, the XUV500 features nifty touches like a pull-down conversation mirror, felt lining inside the storage compartments, ambient lighting and Bluetooth functionality that restricts pairing of mobile phones at anything more than pedestrian speed. Also impressive is the sheer list of equipment inside. In addition to the regular stuff, the top-end W8 variant of the XUV500 that we drove came with dual zone climate control, tire pressure monitoring system, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, six airbags, Antilock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Traction Control System, cruise control, hill-hold control, stop-start system and even voice-activated controls. It’s quite possible that new owners might end up spending more time fiddling with the features rather than actually driving the vehicle.

Space is another USP of the XUV 500. The front and the middle rows are extremely spacious and can comfortably accommodate five well-built adults, thanks to a wide cabin and a flat floor. The seats too are comfy and offer good support at all the right places though we would have preferred a bit more cushioning for the thighs in the middle row. The third row is nowhere near the other two, both in terms of space and in terms of comfort. It is best-reserved for kids on long journeys. To their credit, all three rows get individual air-conditioning vents, charging points and bottle holders.


One of the biggest strengths of the XUV500 has been the m-Hawk engine developed by Mahindra and it hasn’t changed in the updated model. To be honest, we can’t think of any other SUV in this price range that are as quicker or as powerful as the XUV500 and Mahindra didn’t really had to change it.

In this higher state of tune, this 4-cylinder engine generates 140 bhp of maximum power at 3750 rpm and 330 Nm of torque between 1600 to 2800 rpm. There is a bit of lag in lower revs after which this turbocharged mill delivers all the power in a flat manner. The short first and second gears means that we are off the line fairly quick. At the other end, the higher gears are spread out nicely with the sixth proving to be particularly useful while cruising on highways. During the course of the drive, the XUV500 didn't leave us wanting for more, both in the city and on the highway. All it needed was a firm push on the throttle pedal to dispatch slow-moving traffic. The six speed transmission is a big downer though. The shift action is notchy and the gears don’t fall in place smoothly, which brings the overall driving experience down.

Refinement levels are satisfactory at idle and at lower revs but as the revs get higher, the noise from under the hood rises too. In fact, it gets so noisy beyond 3500 rpm that we had to refrain from pushing it further.

With McPherson struts up front and independent multi-link coil springs at the rear, the XUV500's underpinnings are strong. On the road, it translates to an extremely good ride quality, especially at low to moderate speeds. It absorbs mild bumps and potholes with ease but crashes into bigger irregularities on the road. Passing through a rough patch at about 60 km/h, passengers seated in the middle and last rows felt the ride to be particularly bouncy. Unfortunately, this is where the competition excels as the Duster, Terrano and Safari offer exemplary ride quality. The XUV500 is Mahindra's first monocoque crossover and it shows in the way in which it handles. Body roll is well controlled and the XUV500 completes sudden direction changes without unsettling the occupants. A host of electronic features keep constant vigil on the XUV500 and would step in if it detects something is amiss.

Having said that, this isn't a vehicle that can take a twisty road at full speed. The steering wheel, while offering decent feedback, starts getting inconsistent as speed builds up. Braking is excellent though. The way in which the XUV500 comes to a halt without losing its composure on hard braking is commendable, thanks to the combination of disc brakes, ABS and EBD. But the brake pedal lacks bite initially and requires a firm press to respond. With the XUV500, rocks, sand, slush and mud won't pose a problem and the All Wheel Drive variant is known to possess good off-roading skills.

| Engine Type: mHawk |
| No of Cylinders: 4 |
| Displacement: 2179 cc |
| Maximum Power: 140 bhp @ 3750 rpm |
| Maximum Torque: 330 Nm @ 1600-2800 rpm |
| Transmission Type: 6-speed Manual |
| Tires: 235/65 R17 |
| Brakes: Disc (Front & Rear) |


* Aggressive design and styling
* Extensive feature list
* Powerful engine


* Average build quality
* Unproven reliability
* Fussy detailing


Like it has always been, the updated Mahindra XUV500 is an attractive proposition. It turns heads, comes loaded with more features than its owners will ever need, is quick, powerful and is capable of munching miles all day long. It's value-for-money pricing, go-anywhere capability and Mahindra's reputation for good after-sales service are added advantages. Yes, the flaws still remain. The build quality is inconsistent, fussy detailing is unnecessary and despite Mahindra's claims, the long-term reliability of the electronics and gadgetry is still unproven. But, that didn't stop the earlier XUV500 from setting the sales charts on fire and we do not think this situation is going to change with the updated model. We can't wait for the next all-new model from Mahindra to see how big a leap forward do they make

Photography: Arun Varadarajan & Bharath Rengaraj


  1. Mahindra has to improve their dynamics and build quality.

    1. We agree, they have some ground to cover in terms of build quality and dynamics.