Off-roading with the Mahindra XUV700: Key observations & AWD experience

I was accompanied by two Mahindra Thar owners. As for the XUV700, it is important to note that the car doesn't have the kind of 4L mode the real SUVs have.

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Got wheels? Must drive... all of them!

It's been a month since got this baby home. It's unusual that there have not been any real trips - only short drives. Drives without destination. 2300Kms on the odometer is still good progress, I think. Earlier on Wednesday got a call from our dear friends with Thar if I wanted to explore some nearby trails and give my AWD a little workout. It was too sweet a deal to say no - two Thars, escorting all the way from beginning to end, what more one can ask for!

@Tilt and @Robimahanta were available for the quick morning drive along with @Zebo - started around 6 am, caught up with everyone just before Ragihalli Forest Gate and together went in around forest area, towards Anekal and then later to Gangadhareshwara Hill. Finally reached Kanakpura Road and back home by 12 noon to resume work. I love these Fridays more than weekends!

Since there were just too many pictures and videos, I stitched them into a clip (auto-generated by iMovie) and uploaded it for a quick view. The top view of the hill can be seen after the 3:10 min mark. Gives you a perspective of the climb as well as the terrain around it.

The route is almost well tarred all around this area with exception of village trail roads. Instead of charting a specific trail, we simply headed into every mud-road we could find and see on Google Maps terrain view to explore. The areas I have been going to using the normal roads, this time tried with dirt and bad road trails. And at the last, we conquered the Gangadhareshwara Hills. The roads to the hilltop go through the villages, they are very very narrow. You would either get stuck or spend too much time navigating through those lanes inside the village. Also, end up disturbing the village life. Instead one should pick the road from the KPR side bypassing the village. The challenge is - there is a lake bund work where the cement pipes are laid halfway - your car must make over them.

Here are some pictures of the trail exploration:

AWD experience

The XUV700 is a soft-roader, period. It is important to note that the car doesn't have the kind of 4L mode the real SUVs have. It's also important to know that this car isn't meant for hardcore offroading. There aren't any driving modes to select. It does offer the HDC - Hill Descent Control. This is a by-product of the ESP system that brakes itself while the car tries to come down violently. You can also manually slot the AT box into the first gear and come down from the hill. Since this is a small hill, AT overheating is a distant possibility. Even in 1M, the speed of the car will be rolling down up to 20kmph, which is a lot. So if you engage HDC, you can control the speed using Cruise set+ and - buttons. Habitually, it's just easier to use the brakes and 1M instead of HDC. I felt more comfortable using 1M + brakes. Of course, brakes can heat up too - but then again this is a small descent, nothing to worry about. Also, the AWD lock was forced manually and the speeds were always lower than 30 kmph.

It basically is a capable car that can do some good speeds on the road, AWD helps avoid torque steer. I have seen on certain sections of the highway, the AWD widget glowing the first two bars even at the speed of 80kmph! I do not know when it starts and when it disengages. All I know and experience is, it kicks in 99% time you want it to. AWD kicks in reality yo.

As you are aware, there is a dedicated AWD button on the driver's console to force the car in AWD mode - how much power goes to the rear wheels is still the car's decision! But when you do, the car shows a different side of it that pleasantly surprises you. While we went on the rocks, drove through mud roads with large potholes, waterways, the car was holding alright. The traction not even once felt to have lost. The power is more than adequate. Climbing on the steep paths is extremely easy. The so-called gizmos for holding on the hill, controlling descent, surround-view - thankfully all worked as expected, except once ESP blinked again for a moment when I wanted it to just shut off.

The articulation of the wheels and body, like you might have seen on the special AWD testing track, isn't really the practical scenario today. But on numerous occasions, one or more wheels went into the air and the car did not feel out of control at any moment. While climbing the gradients, small or large humps, the wheels did not spin out of control - the speed was maintained at the crawling level and the car did the rest. Again note that the car neither has trail-rated shoes nor the terrain needed anything more than 4H for the seasoned off-roaders who were with me, the Thars.

At the last hairpin bend on the way to the hilltop, the ESP yellow blinking light flashed. So all I had to do, was brake and hold for a few seconds, it stabilised the car and then hold on to the line and let AWD do the job. The 450 NM torque easily make the rest of the work look like a cakewalk. Luckily not even once the underbody even touch any obstacle!

While doing these trails, I found below observations, which in my mind needs attention by M&M - if they are reading this:

  • The SVS system automatically stops after 15kmph - during offroading, this is a must-have feature and should be kept streaming the view for at least until 30 kmph speed.
  • Switching between the front and rear cameras isn't a great on-screen UI. It's not easy to choose the cameras in a quick millisecond. You have to stop/ brake and carefully touch the small 4x4mm screen icon, two clicks to switch into cameras. Couldn't it be simpler?
  • The Front Radar module keeps detecting the tall grass as an obstacle and warns you (or brakes if you kept AEBS ON). To ensure these things aren't enabled on the trail. I need a shortcut or one quick hardware button to enable or disable these things!
  • The front radar module is located behind the front bumper at the lowermost part - no idea if it will hold longer during a water crossing. Don't know if there will be any water seepage or damage to it during the monsoon? I guess I will know it only when that happens. Today, no issues though.
  • The car width is not an ideal one to take the narrow trails. I have picked up a lot of battle scars today - the scratches due to the bushes on the trailside. But no regrets, I will paint the whole car in a couple of years! Daag Acche hai, so are the scratches!

As soon as I was back to the urban jungle, got the car washed and ready for the next expedition again.

Have a great weekend and take care of yourself. Keep driving.

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