Indian car giant Mahindra is set for the Australian launch of its new Mahindra XUV500 - a vehicle it manufactured from scratch in less than two years as its first passenger vehicle for the global market.
The Mahindra XUV500 is a medium size, seven-seat SUV that will expand the company’s local automotive line-up beyond farm tractors and the Pik Up ute.
Mahindra has already launched a version of the XUV500 in its home market, where it is built in one of the country’s most advanced high-tech ‘green’ manufacturing facilities, based in Chakan, outside of Mumbai, with considerable success. More than 50,000 deposits for the vehicle were taken across a four-week booking period.
The XUV500 is set for its Australian launch later this month as a fully-loaded all-wheel drive called the W8-spec and comes complete with satellite navigation, full-leather trim, Bluetooth and tyre-pressure monitoring system as standard.
The vehicle offers a full suite of safety equipment, including six airbags, electronic stability control, anti-lock braking with electronic brake-force distribution, rollover mitigation, hill-hold and hill decent control.
Mahindra designed the XUV500 completely in-house and the vehicle is based on an all-new monocoque platform, representing a bold departure from the more rugged ladder frame vehicles Mahindra has traditionally produced.
Initially, the XUV500 will be available in diesel only, but senior executives at Mahindra’s Mumbai head office told CarAdvice they are likely to develop a petrol engine for larger markets such as the US, where diesels are generally not available in the passenger car segment.
The 103kW/330Nm 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine was also developed in-house and benefits from efficiency technologies such as direct fuel injection and variable geometry turbocharging to achieve combined fuel-consumption figure of 6.7L/100km and CO2 emissions of 176g/km.
Mahindra XUV500 sales, however, are likely to suffer with the absence of an automatic gearbox offering, with only a six-speed manual available.
Mahindra’s international boss, Mr Ruzbeh Irani, admitted it could be an obstacle with an automatic version still up to two years away.
“We are currently looking at two options [for an automatic transmission variant], including a six-speed from Australian-based DSI, as well as another six-speed unit from Hyundai,” said Irani.
Mahindra executives were also keen to distance the XUV500 from any direct comparison with low-budget Chinese brands such as Great Wall, which markets the X200 TD in Australia at $26,990 plus on-road costs.
There’s also the Korando, from Korean car maker Ssangyong of which Mahindra owns a controlling stake, that retails for as low as $27,990 for the 2WD petrol model, although it’s smaller than the XUV500 and is only a five-seater.
Mahindra is instead aiming for a more premium market - the XUV500 will position itself against such models as the Hyundai Santa Fe, Holden Captiva and Honda CR-V that served as benchmarks during the Mahindra’s development of the vehicle.
The 4WD W8-specification represents the premium variant in the XV500 model range, but a cheaper 2WD W6-spec model will also be available in Australia in a few months’ time, according to Mahindra.
Expect the W6 version of the Mahindra XV500 to sacrifice features such as leather trim, satellite navigation, alloy wheels and perhaps even some safety equipment for a cheaper entry-level price.
Mahindra is remaining tight-lipped on the exact pricing of the XUV500, but with little or no brand value in Australia and no automatic transmission available, pricing will need to be razor-sharp.
Mahindra is also waiting on crash test results for the Mahindra XUV500 from ANCAP - (Australian New Car Assessment Program), but told CarAdvice that while they would like a 5-star result, they were confident of at least a 4-star rating.
Mahindra currently has around 26 dealers in Australia and plans to double that number over the coming 12 months as a response to the launch of the XUV500.
Starting out in the automotive business back in 1947 building Willy’s jeeps under licence, the Mahindra Group now ranks as the seventh-largest company in India, with an annual turnover of $14.4 billion across a business empire that spans everything from aviation to agriculture.