2021 Mahindra XUV500 Automatic: Ownership Experience

However the onset of lockdowns and the utterly reliable nature of the Alto made my push my decision multiple times, till I glanced at the RC and realised if not now, then I will not even get the requisite NOC from the Transport Department to ship the vehicle out.

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Background and Purchase Decision

Owning Japanese origin cars spoil you. You take reliability and a fuss free ownership experience for granted. I currently have a 2007 Alto Lxi (Eowyn) and a 2012 Sunny (XL)(D) (Arwen) in my garage. While both have been running flawlessly, a 15 year car does show its age. The Sunny being a diesel must go because of the 10 year Delhi-NCR Rule. So both the cars shall be bidding me adieu and going off to Pune. The need for a new car was now more urgent than ever. However the onset of lockdowns and the utterly reliable nature of the Alto made my push my decision multiple times, till I glanced at the RC and realised if not now, then I will not even get the requisite NOC from the Transport Department to ship the vehicle out.

Absolutely must have:

  • Automatic Transmission
  • Reliable and Fuss Free with a competent after sales service network.
  • Must have the features already in the Sunny like Climate Control, All power windows, auto folding mirrors etc.
  • Safety-Two airbags, ABS and EBD must. Also a decent build quality.
  • Remote boot release, (tired of removing the key and handing it to the guards in my Alto)

Good to Have:

  • Passive safety features, ESP/Traction Control etc.
  • Sunroof
  • Decent infotainment system and output
  • DIY Friendly or at least FNG Friendly. Not one mechanic in my area is willing to touch the Sunny. They take one look at say “nahi hoga bhai, company le jao”. It’s odd because cabbies love the Sunny, maybe it never sold enough, who knows.

Uninfluenced by:

  • Whether it has alloy wheels or not.
  • Blisteringly quick performance, as long as there is adequate power on tap to power through single lane highways and mountain roads I’m happy.
  • Whether the car is a new launch or been around a while. If I likey, I buy, if not bye bye!

So began the hunt, first thing was to open carwale website to figure out which Bank to rob to gather the funds. I was honestly thinking that robbing a small branch of a cooperative bank would get me enough, oh silly me. Cars are EXPENSIVE. Eye-wateringly expensive. My mom laughed, said for these prices they’d made a down payment on a house in 1996. But, “I’m strong” [Credit to Bassi] and so I persisted. Saw a Yes Bank close to my house, said that’s it, went there, they said they’d already been cleaned out. HDFC Bank, said sure, but we’ll add a GPS Tracker to your loot, free of cost, courtesy our Auto Loan Department. But “I’m strong”, kidney hai na. I don’t understand this, my Sunny cost me 10 lakhs OTR in 2012. For the same set of features, I need to part with at least 15 big ones. Cars under this amount are bare bones, any one seen the Yaris, no music system also. I know that taxes are a huge chunk of the price, but still, separate rant for a separate day.

So dawned one Sunday in Feb, when off we went to Showroom Street. Ok there is no such place, just that all car dealerships are clustered in Okhla and MCIE so in a 5 Km radius you can drive virtually every car sold in India, from your Japan se leke Russia, Australia se leke America, Made in India.

Alternatives considered

Given that we had no preference in terms of a body style or fuel preference, the range was huge. Cross shopping across segments is so easy that you don’t even notice. Go to buy a Baleno you’ll walk out with a Ciaz, go to see the Glanza, you’ll walk out with a Baleno. However, one thing was fixed - not more than 20 Lakhs on road max.

Honda City

It ticked all the boxes. That butter smooth CVT coupled with the I-Vtec made driving effortless. Its as big as the Sunny length wise, not that you’d realise because the interior space is terrible. I din’t fit in it. I’m not overtly tall or healthy. I’m 5.10” and weigh around 80 kg, but I just wouldn’t fit. I opened the sunroof and you could see my hair pop out. Hmm. Still for an asking price of Rs. 16.30 lakhs for the VX CVT we’d get six airbags and the bells and whistles save for that LED Array Headlamps and a few other goodies. What I dint like was that the car did not feel as well built as a Honda should. Cost cutting was evident everywhere, from the bare underbody and wheel arches to the el-cheapo upholstery inside. Also a surprising amount of road noise filtered in, it felt as if the window glass was on some economy grade. However on balance, safety won out and it would have been a strong contender. The fly in the ointment, the absolutely pathetic dealer experience. We went there twice, on both occasions over a span of one hour we were the only ones there, that too on a weekend. The dealer chased me throughout, promising me a great deal, however when it came to putting pen to paper, he point blank refused to match the insurance quote and give me floor mats complimentary. Come on Honda you lost a deal for Rs. 3000 worth of mats. Your numbers are in the tank and your dealers are coasting on past goodwill. Rest on your laurels, because the jester is waiting to steal your thorny crown.

Tata Harrier

Looks like Chris Hemsworth! Built as strong as Thor too. Except you get close and you see mis-aligned panels, not so good interiors. The seats were nice though and the auto box is a real joy to use. The TD car was a much abused 20k run XZA+ but it was already creaky and whiny. However, its expensive, around Rs. 22 Lakhs for the XZA Version which misses out on quite a few goodies including a sunroof. Trust TATA to goof upon stuff like this. Also the extremely unreliable nature of the product itself was a huge turn off. I’ve owned a TATA before, a V2 Petrol Indica, that car was forged in hell, and was built by the devil himself. You think hell is hot oil and flames? No it was owning that junk heap. Unreliable, thirsty and had a mad hunger, it ate all its tires every year. So TATA went bye-bye. I know many will say that TATA has come a long way, yes they have the Nexon, Altroz are good examples of what a company can achieve when it wants to, but they are just too inconsistent. If I’m spending north of Rs. 15 Lakhs, I want atleast the assurance that the Service Centre is competent to deal with niggles and that is not on offer when you purchase a Harrier.

Kia Seltos

Not much to say about it, nice looks, reasonable kit. I zeroed in on the HTX IVT Version, no fancy DCT for me and the diesel auto versions are simply over-priced and offered no value for money. Even the HTX IVT was around Rs. 16.30 Lakhs back then. I dint like the steering, over-assisted and zero feedback, but the rest of package is nice. Safety is deeply suspect and those terrible images of a Seltos being sliced upon and its bad crash rating put me off. However on balance it was the car in second place. The City actually scored more points in my matrix, but hey, oonchi is the new lambi ya!. So we went to pay the booking amount a day before Holi, surprise surprise the showroom was closed. Soon thereafter the covid wave engulfed Delhi and we never thought of re-booking the car. However the dealers and their arrogance, my word. Kia dealers are apparently doing you a favour by selling you a car. I felt like Oliver Twist. Still persisted and failed to wring out a deal from any of them, take it or leave it. The thing is that we buy a car once every 5 years on an average if not longer and our memories are short-lived. So it’s like a new bakra everyday. Plus, the numbers have gone to their head, no call back, no follow up, no TD cars. The one showroom which had a TD car was using a customer's car which was to be delivered. Sigh! We politely refused and left, to no great regret.

Hyundai Creta

Has everything going for it, save for the looks. Not for me. Couldn't digest the new design. But then again, when you're inside, does the outside really matter? It was voted out strongly by the family. Not a car I'd stop to look back at and so that ended the story. Same for the new Verna, it’s a downgrade over the old one honestly. The old Verna had that little oomph! The new one is so forgettable that I don't remember a single thing about it. Also Hyundai dealers, sigh, no TD cars available (they use unbilled customer cars or ready for delivery cars). However having ruled out these two also, was scratching my head.

Maruti Baleno

At the risk of sounding like a fan boy, what a package! It ticks all boxes. Nice front seats, good legroom at the back too. A smooth CVT gear box. Yes the safety and the build quality is suspect, however at that price point it’s pretty tough to beat it. Interacted with three different dealers and never came away disappointed. Just for the heck of it walked into a Toyota showroom to see the Glanza. The SA deserves a special mention. One of the finest and most polite people I've had the pleasure to meet. I almost booked the car because of how good the SA was. However I held back, not entirely convinced that I should buy a hatch. We finally did book the Baleno from Rana Nexa, nice smooth experience, but as events turned out we cancelled that booking.

Did not consider Skoda/VW since none of their products appeal to me personally and their absolutely pathetic after sales service had me giving them a wide berth. Maybe one day I'll buy a Superb, maybe. The Jeep Compass is just way to expensive and buying a petrol jeep, required me to rob RBI, so not happening. The Ciaz has a four speed auto box that died along with the Dinosaurs but Maruti still flogs it along with its Bold Chrome Grill, which also ruled out all other Maruti Suzuki cars. Hey, but dil se strong ok.

Enter Mahindra

Woke up one day to see an SMS from telemarketers offering some really nice deals on the XUV500. I've always pined a little for the XUV500, those who know me, know that I have had a bit of crush on it. It was always out of budget though. Then came the news of the 7(oh)(oh) [that is if the spy pictures are anything to go by] and some incredibly juicy discounts on offer, led me to a Mahindra showroom.

Let me say this straight up - Mahindra can’t do premium. How they sold the Alturas I don’t know. At this price point, customers expect finesse and demand a pleasant experience. Went to different dealers and most of them were quite happy to negotiate (save and except for one, the Noida Dealer-Avoid). I'm also going to call out the Koncept Mahindra Gurgaon dealer, he ever so subtly padded every head with Rs. 2000 to 5000 and then simply refused to budge. He dint even offer me the official discount amount and skimmed Rs. 4000 of that as well.

Apart from the discounts from Mahindra's end, Rs. 90k off, corporate discount, willingness to match insurance, waiver of handling charge etc., the pieces were slowly falling in place. All the dealers offered me an exchange bonus as well and were valuing my Alto at 1.10 Lakhs (that's stupendous given that its old and has a 1 lakh plus reading and also the fact that I bought it pre-loved for Rs. 1.75 Lakhs with a mere 18,000 on the ODO). Almost closed the deal with a dealer in Lajpat Nagar, however the SA disappeared on me.

So off I went in search of another dealer, and ended up in Dee Emm Gurgaon. The dealer experience was underwhelming. The SA had committed to giving us mats complimentary, however when we went to pay the booking amount, he flat out refused. We walked out (almost) because when he saw us ready to bounce he caved. I ask, why did it have to come to that, the mats cost 2000 rupees. The follow up communication post the booking was also pathetic. So bad that despite me asking every day, the dealership had no clue as to the dispatch status. Then I was told on a Thursday that the car was billed and in transit. Radio Silence, after 10 days of today, tomorrow, back I went to Gurgaon with every intention of pulling the gun. Reached there, had a huge row, in steps the GM of the place and my word, it transpired that the car had been unloaded and was sitting at the stockyard for the past two days, but the chaps in the dealership had no clue.

Had it not been for my family, I would have called the deal off, I think even the GM sensed it and immediately offered me PDI at the stockyard and told me to take a pick since 2 W9 AT cars had been delivered. However, one had the odo. at 92 and that was straight away ruled out especially since a proper explanation was not forthcoming. The other had 22.1 Kms on the ODO so went ahead with the PDI, told the SA to fix the issues and proceeded. Also I don't know if it’s a good thing or bad, but the dealer was willing to let me pay the RTO amount directly. They claimed that their payment gateway was blocked for some reason. Strange but it inured to my benefit since the actuals were charged without any extras. This dealer is fine, the SA’s are ok, but the overall experience was a bit meh! Even the actual delivery day was a very blah affair. They did not have that red cloth to enable me to unveil the car for my mother, despite me telling them a day in advance that I wanted it. So no delivery day pics.

Credit where credit is due though, they were very transparent about the loan process and did not charge me anything extra. It's a different story that I didn’t avail of the sanctioned loan but in all a very pleasant finance experience.However if Mahindra is targeting a premium customer they are going to have invest in upping the showroom experience. It's been 5 days, yet to get a feedback call from Mahindra.

The W9 AT

I’ve seen numerous queries of the thread asking whether one should buy the XUV500 in its current avatar, especially since Mahindra has pulled the plug on it. Across dealers the common refrain was that the XUV sells 15-20 copies every month, most of them being either the W9 Auto or the W11 Manual, so clearly there is a market for the vehicle yet. As a buyer though it does not bother me that production will be stopped because the same engine is being used in the Thar. The Service Centres have a goodly amount of exposure to the faults of this car and quite adept to fixing issues. Mahindra is also decent in honouring warranty claims when pushed hard enough. This is not to say that I don’t expect niggles but I have enough confidence that things will be taken care off (fingers crossed). Also at this price point, you’ll be hard pressed to find a 7 seater that is as good as the XUV500. The last row is a joke for normal sized persons, however if you don’t want it, keep it folded. It has its share of cons and is not the most modern vehicle out there, but its been around the block a few times and is by and large a trusty companion. The facelift has mellowed the cheetah quite a lot. Gone are the menacing looks of the 1st Generation and is replaced by a front end that aims at a more upmarket look and feel. Strider has become Aragorn!

Head to head against the Harrier or the Innova Crysta, it holds its own. It’s not as blingy as the Creta or the Seltos, but then again to me personally, mechanically sound vehicles win over gizmo stuffed computers on wheels. The Creta and the Seltos both suffer from numerous serious QC issues likes brake failures, paint finishing etc. and yet do not seem to given proactive attention. I remember many years ago, I think the “speed alloys” of the XUV500 suffered catastrophic failure, I wasn’t even a customer, but an email to Mahindra from me solicited a reply stating that the entire batch had already been recalled and affected customers were being notified.

What You'll Like

  • A nice and smooth TC box, there is a slight jerk on the downshifts between 3-2.
  • Interiors with a tan, beige, black theme and supportive seats with lumbar support.

  • Steering wheel that comes wrapped from the factory, just a size too thin for my liking. Also the horn pad is a bit of a stretch.

  • Spacious on the inside, good road presence, fun to drive with the bumped up power figures.
  • Finally gets Passive Entry and Start (fully keyless), simply walk up to the car with the smart key in your pocket and press the request sensor), also has a push button start (my Ashok leyland school bus had this 20 years ago ), however the super busy console is going to take some time to get used to. The touchscreen is really nice to use and is smooth. Navigation by MMI is laggy. However it comes with android auto so, I guess it will only be used in low network situations.

  • Flat second row floor
  • Sunroof, its a size small for a car this size but still helps the car look very premium and airy.

  • Reclining second row seats. No fore/aft adjustment but the seat back tilts a few degrees, sure to make those long drives comfortable.

What You Won't

  • Missing curtain and side airbags, Mahindra has removed them from the W9. Guess the removal of the AWD from the W11 left very few differentiating factors.
  • That ridiculous gated transmission control shifter.

  • Average sound quality from the speakers. Really lets down the nice infotainment system and Android Auto experience. I believe its Arkamy's but the positioning of the speakers so high in door is to blame. I have a simple Sony kit in my Alto, which was installed by Driven all those years ago and even that sounds much better that this.
  • WIERD ergonomics, the power window switches are too far back to use comfortably. Sit in the drivers seat and the brake pedal is at an angle to the left. Its not evident initially, but look down and you'll see that the pedal is a little further left than where you'd have expected it.
  • Cheap cost cutting. No auto dimming mirror, instead a manual day/night mirror has been given. It's baffling because the XUV300 gets one, but then the olero Neo gets arm rests and the Thar does not. Hydraulic struts have been removed from the bonnet and its a pain to lift the cover, they cost around Rs. 1800 for a pair.
  • No mirror on the driver sun visor, its there on the passenger side, subtle sexism or plain bean counting at work? I mean I comb my hair, ensure my band is properly centre aligned and the collar is not scrunched, before getting into court. Don't I deserve a mirror? For all Mahindra cares, I want to check out my teeth as a good luck ritual.
  • The third row is for hobbits, and luggage space with all rows up, let me put it this way, my cat took one look at it and hopped off to the middle seat.

Driving the Automatic Version

Press the start button with the brake pedal pressed and the engine thrums to life and settles at the 700 rpm mark. Slot the gear into the D and you'll hear just a faint buzz as the AT wakes up. Thereafter its seamless. The car creeps forward at around 8 km/h which is good for bumper-to-bumper traffic. Hustle it and the car responds, however it holds the 2nd and 3rd just a few seconds longer than what you expect and progress is not very fast. I don't know if its just a feeling but if you want an upshift, just come off the gas pedal (like how one does in a manual) and the box immediately shifts up. Its not fast, definitely slower than the Harrier's box but its not bad at all. You feel a slight jerk during down shifts however especially between 3-2nd. I still haven't pushed the car since I'm running it in, but have taken it to 80 km/h and it was smooth. It masks its speed really well and 50 feels like walking speed.

The combination of the gear box and the engine makes light work of city traffic. You need a very light foot to keep up with city traffic. The delivery of power is linear to a large extent. However it's not fast off the line, but once it gets going, it picks up speed quick. Mash the pedal however and it growls and skids before taking off, watch out for that torque steer, that beast still lurks around. On the open road its a relaxed affair, but those speed warning alerts are very very annoying.

I used the manual mode once, and there is a definite lag between your input and the box responding. Having said that the box is very well tuned.

It has Hill Hold Control but I think I've yet to figure out how it works. I use the Barapullah every day and its bumper to bumper till the on-ramp. Have been using "N" and the hand brake. Haven't as yet used the Hill Descent Control or the Cruise Function.

The bits and bobs

The driving position is nice. You sit high in the car with a commanding view of the road ahead, however the car has massive blind spots near the third row glass on both sides. Check before you change directions. The front seats are supportive and the fabric finish with knit pattern provides a bit of breathability. I wish Mahindra had given bum cooling, but hey its still a lot of car.

The MID should be renamed the TMI-D. It is so clustered that the TPMS warning has been squeezed in the tacho console. The multitude of warning lights is confusing and the potential to miss something is really high.

The infamous left pulling issue is already present in my car and it will go for alignment as soon as it comes back from a detailing session. Also the AC is not very strong and I've already marked it down for a check up in first service. The blower gets noisy from 3 and up. Also that annoying pop-up on every change, while using auto ac really detracts from the user experience. Its on Auto, do your thing I don't care. Sad part is most owners have stopped using the auto mode due to this. Talk about cutting off the nose to spite the face.

NVH is fine, road and engine now is well controlled, the Bridgestone's are noisy regardless of surface or speed.

Currently returning around 9.4 km/ltr. Hoping however that post the 1st service things will become smoother.

One funny thing, the dual spindle wiper causes the passenger side wiper to move a little slower than the driver side wiper. Very incongruous visually.

I know I'm short on pictures, but I've only done 182 Kms till now.

Until next time, till then I dream:

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