What happens when you take a SUV to a Formula 1 race track? We drive the Mahindra XUV500 on Buddh International Circuit
Before I may begin, let me clarify that this story won’t talk about the cubby holes, ride quality, leather upholstery, music system and so on. No, wait! Music system goes out of this list. This review is something special and definitely very personal to me. Regular readers here might be aware that I have always been more of a car guy than a biker. However, do not get me wrong, I do love biking but being the so called ‘cager’ has always appealed more to me. Anyway, after a lot of silent and not so silent prayers to the Almighty and my dear editor respectively, I finally got a chance to drive on the Buddh International Circuit, the Indian venue for Formula 1 races.
Now, track is where I always wanted to be and I have had dreams (surely wet ones) of piloting a fast car on the sacred tarmac. Lady luck finally smiled at me, albeit, wickedly. I surely had a rendezvous with the track but this is just half the story. The other half is that I ended up being at the right place in a wrong car. As luck would have had it, I found myself behind the wheel of a diesel car on a F1 track. What is more? It was a SUV. I had a little laugh (at myself) and decided to be all game to figure out how sticky a situation I was in. The next few minutes turned out to be the most exciting of all 21 years of my life. Interested to know how? Read on.
The Mahindra Torque Day event that I recently participated in was held to give us media folks a feel of the latest hot seller’s dynamics and poise. We also had rally prepped SUVs with Gaurav Gill, Sunny Sidhu and Lohit Urs at the event but more of the event in the next article. This one will speak of my experience with the 500 on track.
I can proudly say that I am one of the few drivers out there who have tested a not so low slung 2.5 ton diesel vehicle on a race track. As I climbed into the car with a lot of doubts in my mind, the first thing I discovered was that the car being provided was NOT an all wheel drive variant. This was surely as funny as Mahindra could have got but I decided to be a part of the fun. It was easy to adjust the seat to a good driving position, with Mahindra trademark commanding view of front, and the ignition was turned on. With helmet and seat belts on duty, the 500 was slotted into the first cog. Funnily enough, and thanks to growing up at Chandigarh, the music system was switched on too and volume was turned up to max! Adhering to the pit lane speed limit of 15kmph, I rolled off to hit the track. The gas pedal got a neat shove the moment I left the pit lane and what quickly followed was some squealing from the rubber’s struggle to get a grip on to the tar. Talking about squealing, I was quick to discover that the Bridgestones seemed to be in an affair with the squeals. With full throttle and dreams of The Stig like lap times, I shifted to the second. In this ratio, the car is good for speeds a little north of 75kmph, above which all that happens is the engine becoming more audible without the speedo needle climbing. The first corner appeared by the time I was in fourth and I got ready for my first ever corner on the track. Taking the outside, I slotted the car in third for some engine braking and eased off the gas pedal. With fears of skate board like feeling that I have experienced on the Scorpio, I aimed for the apex and decided to trust the car. Luckily, it didn’t let me down and I easily powered my way out of the corner. A quick glance on the speedo and I wasn’t doing a bad job on the circuit. By the time I had dealt with a couple of corners, I was hooked to all the engine braking, understeer and the tire squeals. As expected, the car had a considerable amount of body roll but not once did the car felt like it was going to turn turtle. The steering was surely on the lighter side and would had made life easier with more communication on offer but again, no Scorpio like feeling of disconnection with wheels was felt. Another handling aspect is that thanks to the rear weight bias, the car seemed to be a tad confused in the tight corners. That said, it was no big deal to tackle the understeer on offer and I appreciate the fact that the car was very predictable in the high speed corners.
XUV could had felt better if the set up wasn’t this spongy. One thing that needs to be mentioned here is that I would like Mahindra to have a look at seat bolstering if it wants us to have more track days in the 5-oh-oh. While the seat is not very hard and will be found comfortable on most occasions and applications, I found myself sliding on the seat and hanging on to the steering for the dear life. By the time I had completed a couple of laps, I had become comfortable with the car and was enjoying every moment on the track. The fact that XUV has a monocoque instead of ladder-on-frame surely made life much easier for me. Suddenly, taking a SUV to the track did not appear all that wacky.
This, until the greedy side of me decided to take over and have some more fun. Making sure that no car was driving close to me, I decided to go power sliding in the corners. Approaching the corner at constant speed of 120 kmph, I slotted into third for some engine braking and aimed for the handbrake. This is where everything went wrong. Thanks to the not so conventional handbrake engaging mechanism, my concentration got a hit and I could no more visualize the perfect line and went really wide and almost off the track. However, I must say that it was easy to make the car comfortable again and with more determination, I aimed for the next corner. The result that followed was same as earlier and that is when I decided to put a rest to my urge to powerslide.
A good half an hour later, it was time to get out of the car. On stopping, I was quick to take off the helmet and balaclava and found myself drenched in sweat. The car? It surely had a rough time with smell of burned rubber everywhere around me. However, not once did the car over heat and thankfully, I ended up keeping the rubber side down and did not topple the car. The Mahindra XUV is surely not built for track days. However, on that one day in a year when you wish to play Mark Webber and check out the sassy pit girls waving at you, Mahindra XUV 500 will work extra hard to paste that smile on your face. A day that began with a lot of doubts ended up with considerable satisfaction and pleasure. The XUV500 can surely handle the odd day on track. As for me? Well, let us just say that I had the time of my life. While I might forget my first kiss, my first track day will remain etched in memory.
MAHINDRA XUV500 SPECIFICATIONS-
Engine- mHawk140, Direct injection diesel engine5th generation Variable Geometry Turbocharger (VGT)
Cubic Capacity- 2179 cc
Max Gross Power- 140 Bhp(103kW) @ 3750 rpm
Max Gross Torque – 330 Nm @1600-2800rpm
Gear Box – 6 speed synchromesh manual
Ground Clearance – 200 mm
Tyres – P235/65 R17, Radial Tubeless
Suspension – Independent Suspension
Front – McPherson type with anti-roll bar
Rear – Multilink type with anti-roll bar
Brakes- All Disc brakes
Front- Disk & Caliper type
Rear – Disk & Caliper type
Fuel Tank Capacity- 70 Litres
Turning Circle Radius- 5.6 m
Gross Vehicle Weight- 2450 Kg
Wheelbase, mm – 2700
Overall width, mm – 1890
Overall length, mm – 4585
Overall height, mm – 1785