INDIAN car-maker Mahindra has priced its new diesel-engined XUV500 SUV at $29,900 driveaway when it hits the Australian market at the end of July, with the all-wheel-drive version priced at $32,900.
While this will make it the cheapest seven-seat SUV on the Australian market, undercutting the equivalent Korean-built Holden Captiva 7 diesel by about $5000, the Holden vitally comes with a standard automatic transmission, which effectively halves the price difference.
Furthermore, Holden is offering the petrol-engined Captiva 7 SX, also with standard six-speed auto, at a driveaway price of $32,990 as part of an end of financial year sale – and with an extra two years of factory warranty, taking it to five years compared with three years for the Mahindra.
Automatic transmissions account for around 90 per cent of sales in this segment in Australia, but the Mahindra is only available with a six-speed manual gearbox and will not get an auto until the first half of 2014.
The new Indian SUV – Mahindra’s first passenger vehicle – will cost $4000 more than the slightly smaller five-seat X200 of developing nation rival Great Wall from China.
Mahindra Automotive international operations product and marketing head Satish Karandiker said the pricing was “in line with our philosophy to make the highest technology available to the most number of people at an affordable price”.
However, he left the door open for a cheaper entry-level model with a lower level of specification in the future.
Mahindra will initially offer a single specification for both the 2WD and AWD versions of the W8-series XUV500, including dual-zone climate-control, leather upholstery, satellite-navigation, an idle-stop system, tyre-pressure monitoring, cruise control, automatic “swivelling” xenon headlights, auto wipers, hill-start assist and parking sensors front and rear.
A reverse camera is available as a dealer-fitted accessory, but Mr Karandiker said this could become a factory-fitted feature depending on the response of consumers.
Power comes from the same 2.2-litre ‘mHawk’ turbo-diesel engine as in the company’s Pik Up ute, but with power boosted to 103kW at 3750rpm and torque to 330Nm between 1600 and 2800rpm.
With official combined fuel consumption of only 6.7 litres per 100km for the front-drive model and 7.2L/100km for the AWD, Mahindra claims best-in-class economy.
Mahindra says the XUV500 – pronounced “five-o-o” for “oomph” apparently – is the first vehicle it has developed specifically for the global market, its previous light commercial-based vehicles having been designed for the Indian market and then offered for sale internationally.
Although designed and developed entirely in India, testing and product validation was also done in a number of other countries, including ABS brake and electronic stability control system testing here in Australia.
Mr Karandiker said that, while the company was pleased to get a local four-star crash rating from ANCAP, the company was looking at what was required to achieve a maximum five-star rating.
He said Mahindra intended to get the five-star safety rating and that it could possibly be achieved in six to 12 months, which suggests it may not require structural changes to improve offset impact deformation.
The XUV500 is its first vehicle with car-like monocoque construction and was engineered with Australia’s towing requirements in mind, resulting in a high 2500kg towing capacity for a braked trailer (750kg unbraked).
With styling based on the African cheetah, the vehicle was first launched nine months ago simultaneously in South Africa and India, both of which are right-hand-drive markets, before coming to Australia. It will later go to other left-hand-drive global markets.
Mahindra International Operations (Automotive and Farm Sectors) chief executive Ruzbeh Irani said it was essential to develop global products.
“The Mahindra XUV500 is a world-class SUV offering an unbeatable combination of aspirational styling, advanced technology and safety features, comfort and convenience,” he said at this week’s Australian media launch.
“For us, it embodies our corporate philosophy of ‘Rise’ as the team deployed alternative thinking to deliver outstanding technology and performance, ensuring great value.
“Customers in India and South Africa have greatly appreciated its strengths and I’m sure that it will prove a worthy contender and find favour in the Australian market as well.”
Mr Irani said customer demand in India had been so strong that the company had been forced to close the order books just 10 days after it went on sale last year.
When it re-opened in January, 25,000 orders were placed in just two days before being closed again and the company conducted a ballot to select 7200 “lucky” buyers of cars designated for local sale.
Mahindra again re-opened the order books in India this week, but Mr Irani said international supply was – for the first time – a priority and would not be affected by the level of demand in the home market.