Checked out the Mahindra XUV 400 in person: Here’s why I didn’t book it
I loved the product and was willing to overlook the uninspiring interiors in favour of the excellent dynamics.
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Had a brief test drive of the 4OO yesterday.
Being republic day, I had called PPS Mahindra, Kochi, the day before and enquired whether the test drive would be available. Was assured the same and my dad and I decided to go have a look. We reached there by around 3.30 PM. I guess yesterday being a holiday, the staff were not at full capacity. There was hardly anyone at the showroom. We checked out the Napoli black 4OO showcased at the front. The car looks quite good in black with the copper accents, and not as garish as I thought it would be. Don’t think it will be the same for other colors though. The paint quality could have been better. As already mentioned in the official review, the fit and finish is really good. The extra width and length renders a bit more presence than the Nexon EV. It’s not huge, and a Creta/ZS EV still looks bigger, but it manages to look bigger than the Kona, maybe due to the increased height.
Step into the interiors and you might feel meh! Even my dad who is not a techie of any sorts was asking why the interior looks so drab. It is not befitting of a 20 lakh rupee car. The copper accents fail to hide the age of this interior layout, but it does add a bit of flair. The infotainment screen, especially the UI looks prehistoric, although it’s response times are ok. But resolution is unlike the HD ones we have come to see in the Hyundais and Kias.
A question to bhpians – would it be possible to swap this with an aftermarket unit? Would there be a unit which is compatible with all the EV related statistics and stuff that the OEM screen comes with? I believe an upgrade in this regard could breathe some fresh air into the cabin, save for the lower part of the central console.
No automatic climate control, ventilated seats, rear ac vents or cruise control. Only a single USB port and auxiliary power outlet in the entire car. Switchgear is ok for the most part. The good-looking gear lever seems a bit out of place in the otherwise shabby interior. It’s ergonomic to hold, and the markings change as soon as we move through the P,R,N,D sequence, unlike the Nexon EV max’s rotary one, which looks cool but is a bit hesitant. The analogue dials present all necessary info rather well. I felt it was a bit easier to use these to keep track of the regen and boost while driving, as they are always noticeable in our peripheral vision and we don’t necessarily have to look down into them. The MID in between has got a dated layout, but is pretty comprehensive although I’m not sure if TPMS is part of the package.
The interiors are spacious, may be even more than Nexon, owing to the extra width and wheelbase. Rear leg room is good, but some more under thigh support would’ve been welcome. And we can’t really stretch the legs too much underneath the driver seat because of the hard seatback extending till the bottom and the raised floor height. All said, it doesn’t have that cutting edge look in the interiors that we’ve come to associate with EVs, but what is cutting edge is the drive!
Now because this is Mahindra’s first major product in the EV space, one would expect the sales exec to share your enthusiasm, right? But nope! When we initially reached the dealership, the exec present there told that test drives are not possible because the car had ran out of juice! We were bummed and told him that we had called in advance (the exec I talked to previously was not present yesterday) and made sure that the test drive could be taken. That’s why we drove 30 kms on a holiday through dense traffic to check out the car in person. He would not budge and told that other prospective customers also had to return without a drive. Typically showrooms plug in the EV cars after every test drive, so I was not so convinced with his answer. So asked him what color the test drive car was. Upon knowing that it was white, I asked if we could have a look to fine tune our color preferences. He obliged and took us to the back of the showroom where the white 4OO was being charged via a 15A socket. As soon as I opened the driver side door, the MID flashed indicating 73% charge! I pointed this out to the exec who now told me that if they unplug the battery before it’s charged till 100%, there would be damage to the battery. He was clearly trying to shoo us away from the drive. I decided to have some fun and asked if the car can only be used after charging it all the way till 100% wouldn’t that be a major design flaw? Asked him to clear it with his superiors and check whether we could get that promised drive while he’s at it. He disappeared for a while and came back to collect my license details for the TD without any further questions. I also didn’t ask anything further. And nope! The white with copper accents doesn’t look that good, at least through my eyes.
Now coming to the drive. It is just sublime! If you need reasons to overlook the boring interiors of the 4OO, I will give you 2 – Drivetrain and suspension. I started off the drive in ‘fun’ mode. The range at 73% was showing 273 kms. As the TD would be short as informed by the exec, decided not to waste any time and straightway shifted to ‘Fearless’ mode. The range now showed a measly 161 kms with 73% charge remaining. Floored the throttle and boy, does this thing fly! It urges forward with such vigour that stays true to its 8.3 second 0-100kph time. The one thing that attracts me towards EVs more than the cheaper running costs is the democratisation of performance and the 4OO is no exception. The brisk acceleration and the heavy battery’s weight distribution ensures a confident build-up of speed that could only be experienced with cars costing several times its value. In spite of being a not so large car, the solidity of the 4OO’s chassis gives a feeling that you’re driving something substantial, yet not so cumbersome. Wheel spin was well-controlled. The car we drove was shod with Apollos. The NVH was good as is the case with EVs. The motor gives a faint whine that’s kind of enjoyable. The brakes felt supremely confident. Even with the peaky nature of the ‘Fearless’ mode, the braking was spot on. Good braking capability is actually a necessity for something with this much performance on tap and I’m glad that Mahindra didn’t skimp on it. One of the negatives with the 4OO was said to be the lack of adjustable regen. But there is a work-around available. Each driving mode has got its own preset regen level. But if you’re looking for even more regen, you can slot the gear lever into L mode. This works across all modes and there’s a difference in the way the car slows down. That means by default, there are 2 regen modes for each driving mode- a preset one and a more aggressive one with the L mode. Agreed, a dedicated adjustable regen button would have provided that much more flexibility, but the L mode is a big relief for those who want to do one pedal driving.
Another major miss for the 4OO was said to be the lack of hill hold assist. The exec also wasn’t sure if that was available or not, so decided to test it on an incline. Stopped the car on an incline and released the brakes. It barely started to roll back and stopped. This was in contrast to the hill hold in my 5OO where even that minimal roll back was absent. I guess it was the torque from the electric motor, and not a dedicated hill hold system, which was preventing the roll back. I could be wrong on this, but stopping on an incline was not a problem. Gentle dab on the accelerator and the car moved on.
The next biggest plus of the 4OO is its suspension. I am not sure if it’s the weight of the battery pack, or the FSDs or the tuning of the suspension by M&M, or a combination of all these, this has to be one of the best riding cars that I have experienced so far in the way it balances ride quality and dynamic capabilities – very Compass like IMO. There’s a hint of stiffness, but the way it easily dismissed the same rough road patches upon which my XUV5OO jittered and crashed was an eye opener for me. Mahindra has really come a l-o-o-n-g way in suspension tuning.
Thanks to the drive train and suspension, the quality and feel of the drive is just awesome. The car as a whole feels like it’s catered more towards an enthusiast than a general customer. It feels sprightly to drive, but misses out on some features compared to the competition. I just couldn’t stop grinning the entire time I was behind the wheel! I am happy to be proved wrong on my earlier statement that this was a jugaad attempt by Mahindra in the EV space. Anyone who is planning on dismissing this car for the styling/interiors, do take a test drive – it might surprise you. Regarding the range, I assume it can do 200 kms on hard driving and if one is light with the throttle, 300 to 350 seems possible.
So did I book one? The answer is no. I loved the product and was willing to overlook the uninspiring interiors in favour of the excellent dynamics. I visited the showroom with the intention of booking one as well. But my experience with Mahindra service with respect to my XUV5OO was a mixed bag. In instances where higher up Mahindra officials were involved, it was exceptional, but in others it was sub-par. Electric vehicles are still in a nascent stage in our country and there is a real lack of expertise when it comes to dealing with associated problems. We have a number of threads in team-bhp itself where EV problems take its own sweet time to get diagnosed, let alone be rectified. Unlike an ICE vehicle where we could at least consult an FNG with respect to the problems, owners of electric vehicles are at the mercy of dealership ASS for things to get sorted. The unwillingness to even provide a promised TD for a prospective customer for what is essentially a long-awaited mainstream EV from the manufacturer doesn’t really inspire much confidence, at least in my books. If this is how things are even before a sale, how would it be after? With that question lingering in my mind, I decided to withhold my booking and wait a little longer.
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