Perseverance, no matter the criticism or scepticism, has seemingly been Mahindra’s driving force ever since it landed in South Africa amazingly almost three decades ago.
Arriving at a time when focus centered on the emerging Korean automakers, India’s second biggest automaker must have been viewed as a joke for turning up in the late ‘90s with a “copy” of the Jeep Wrangler many at the time didn’t know was, in fact, the Thar albeit under a different name.
How times change
It has transpired though, the joke very much fell on the naysayers as the giggles stopped when Mahindra, after a short spell away, returned in the early 2000s for good with the Bolero and Scorpio.
Fast forward to 2022, the momentum has remained intact thanks in large part to the locally-built Scorpio Pik-Up that has become such a runaway success that demand has outstripped supply.
The XUV 700 though is entirely different as apart from being the replacement for the XUV 500, it debuts not only Mahindra’s new Twin Peaks corporate logo, but ushers in a new manta the automaker calls “authentic and aspirational”.
No diesel: Problem?
Aspect and attributes that will be rolled out more extensively in 2023, the XUV 700, pronounced “seven-double-oh” and not seven hundred”, very much rates as an evolution over the XUV 500 stylistically, but differs in more than a few inside and up front.
In addition, its inclusion highlights a clear split at the top of Mahindra’s SUV line-up. For instance, the marque has omitted all-wheel-drive and a turbodiesel engine – both offered on the XUV 500 – by opting to avail these on the Scorpio-N instead.
As such, the XUV 700 is front-wheel-drive only and powered by a petrol engine as indicated not only by the segment it competes in being overwhelmingly petrol-powered, but also as a way of creating a clearer deafferentation between it as lifestyle vehicle and the more off-road inclined Scorpio-N due out next year.
The first model to ride on Mahindra’ new W601 platform, the XUV 700 made its intentions known right off when the country’s media descended on Grabouw in Western Cape last week to get a first taste.
The work of evolution
While likely to be described by some as nothing but a facelift of the XUV 500 despite being an entirely new model, the XUV 700 is nonetheless a looker that plays the evolution card well thanks to a combination of its imposing new grille, C-shaped LED headlights that cuts into front bumper and a macho stance that ups the rugged factor considerably.
It is, however, all new at the rear where the XUV 500’s flat surface makes way for a concave design of the bootlid flanked by new LED light clusters, an integrated satin silver skidplate at the base of the bumper and a blacked-out D-pillar that provides the now customary floating roof effect.
Perception changes inside
Where the evolution stops though is the moment the pop-out door handles are tugged and the doors opened to reveal a upmarket and almost futuristic interior consisting of a pair of 10.25-inch displays for the infotainment system and digital instrument cluster.
Broken-up by a seemingly cheap-looking aluminium strip that feels anything but plasticky, the minimalistic layout is adorned with soft-touch plastics and feels premium, while also being ergonomically sound and easy to navigate through.
Even more welcome is liberal use of piano-key black detailing on the centre console, but while good looking, concerns are that Mahindra should have opted for a black interior as the standard white will show dirt a lot faster over time.
Nonetheless, it is an inviting environment to be seated in with the standard inclusion of the frankly massive Skyroof panoramic being a further help.
Spanning three models and three trim levels, only the upmarket AX derivative has been allocated for South Africa with the entry-level MX remaining in India.
Bar range-opening AX5 that provides seating for five, the mid-range AX7 and flagship AX7 L are both outfitted with seven-seats with the main difference being the expansive specification sheet that can be viewed here.
As mentioned, all three versions employ the same drivetrain that came as the biggest surprise during the short launch route around the outskirts of Grabouw.
Hooked as standard to a six-speed automatic gearbox, the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine, branded under the mStallion designation, produces 149kW/380Nm, the former being a two kilowatt uptake over the Indian-market XUV 700.
Admittedly somewhat of a contentious issue given the expectancy of a turbodiesel powerplant in a family SUV, the unit pulls with resounding verve and more than enough punch without feeling laggy or underpowered.
The same applies to the transmission that shifts smoothly and without excessive hunting, while the ride was soft and comfortable in spite of the seat cushions being perhaps a bit too hard.
Less sorted is the XUV 700’s ride on gravel that reveals the biggest hint of it being setup for the black stuff.
Simply put, it feels too bumpy with a tendency to “to hit through” whilst also being too jarring on really bad surfaces.
Besides the abrupt way the start/stop system switches on and off with the engine turned-on, the biggest annoyance is the intrusive Lane Departure Warning that cuts-in far to eagerly and without a default button or dial for it to be switched off momentarily.
While likely to be ignored by the majority of buyers, the consensus from my driving partner and I was that such an option should have been present as a default as neither of us found it.
Admittedly, the rest of the XUV 700 is pretty hard fault as it does everything else with such aplomb, that it poses a real threat to the cheaper more crossover inclined Chinese offerings from Chery and Haval.
Despite our time having been limited, the prospects for the XUV 700 look good and definitely worth considering.
The XUV 700’s sticker price includes a five-year/150 000 km warranty as well as a five-year/100 000 km service plan.
- XUV 700 2.0 T-GDI AX5 AT – R474 999
- XUV 700 2.0 T-GDI AX7 AT – R524 999
- XUV 700 2.0 T-GDI AX7 L AT – R559 999