A lot is riding on the XUV700, which recently went on sale—it follows the success of XUV500 and the more recent Thar. To its makers, M&M, it’s not just a replacement to the XUV500, but an entirely different car, built on a new platform with loads of tech. A lot is new at M&M from the management to designers to a renewed focus on SUVs and even a new logo.
The XUV700 is the first SUV to wear the new badge, which sits in the centre of the slats on the grille that fan outwards to meet the twin DRLs that extend down like fangs. Along with the muscular bonnet and beefy chin, the front has a strong presence. Top variants get 18” alloys, while lower variants get 17” steel wheels. The rear has sharply chiselled lines, a faux diffuser, and arrow headlamps. Dimension-wise, it is longer and lower than the XUV500, but the wheelbase is larger, and ground clearance remains the same.
Inside, there’s an arresting Mercedes-like display panel that stretches halfway across the dashboard. It houses two 10.25” screens, one for infotainment and the other for the digital instrument cluster.
The screens offer sharp graphics and respond well, but the menus are convoluted with too many layers to access functions. The screen rests atop a leather strip that spans the dashboard. It all looks superb—until your eyes land on the cheap wood finish across the doors. A continuation of the leather would have retained the luxe feel. On the door panels, again borrowed from Mercedes, are powered buttons, but only to adjust the driver’s seat; the rest are manual. There are manual controls for the HVAC and toggle buttons for key functions. The central console houses an intelligent storage dual shelf for phones, one of which doubles up as the wireless charger. It is a practical cabin with plenty of space and large comfy seats.
The XUV700 comes in a 5- or 7-seat configuration. The 7-seater offers easy access to the last row from the passenger side with a single-touch flip-and-fold seat. The third row, however, is adequate for smaller people only. Though it is not as spacious as a Safari or Hector, it still and comfortable. While the cabin is impressive, some ergonomics are awkward—the window buttons on the door pads are set too far back and the third-row recline lever is behind the seat.
Safety gets its due—the XUV700 provides a segment-first ADAS, or Advanced Driver Assistance System, which uses camera and radar to provide forward collision warnings, autonomous emergency brakes, adaptive cruise control (ACC), and traffic and lane keep assist. The ACC maintains a steady distance from the car in front, and with traffic assist, it works exceptionally well in congested conditions. The emergency brakes kicked in when a biker threatened to cut across or a pedestrian unexpectedly crossed my path. A unique offering is a personalised safety alert to warn you if you are speeding in the voice of a loved one, an effective tool. Active safety features are driver drowsiness detection, auto high beam assist and booster headlights that increase illumination above 80kph. Seven airbags, including a knee airbag (in the luxury pack), round out the passive safety features.
While the XUV700 is stacked with exciting features, the powertrains are undoubtedly the highlight. The 2.2-litre diesel carried over from the XUV500 gets the same 155hp for the lower variant and 185hp for the higher ones, making it the most powerful in its class. There is a new mStallion 2.0 turbo petrol, a cracker of an engine, putting out 200hp, making it the most powerful in the segment. Both engines feel robust and refined, and are available in manual or automatic options.
The petrol motor has a strong pull when you step on the pedal, and the power kicks in really low in the rev band. Acceleration is surprisingly quick for a two tonner. I clocked 9.32 seconds to 100 in the automatic version. The steering is well calibrated, and offers a nice balance between being light enough for the city and weighing well at higher speeds and cornering.
Driveability at low speeds is good too; while enthusiasts may prefer a manual to extract the best power, the gearbox is not the slickest. The auto, on the other hand, is so smooth you don’t miss paddle shifters, which the XUV700 does not have. The auto would be my pick in the petrol, but it’s the opposite for the diesel. The diesel manual allows you to extract the best of the power and enjoy a spirited drive. The diesel has driving modes—named Zip, Zap and Zoom—that the petrol does not. In Zip, meant for relaxed driving, power is reduced to 155hp, whilst Zap and Zoom get the full 185hp. The only difference between the two modes is a sharper throttle response in Zoom. Once you get past the slight turbo lag the diesel engine is a delight to drive.
Within 57 minutes of bookings opening, 25,000 cars were snapped up, and the introductory prices closed. In two days, M&M says it had over 50,000 bookings. Prices now start at ₹12.49 lakh and go up to ₹23 lakh for 23 variants. What makes the XUV700 a compelling buy is the knockout pricing and the wide range of variants with multiple engine, gearbox and seating options. There is one for everyone.
The writer is Editor, Autocar Show