THE MAHINDRA XUV500 Automatic had almost become a mythical character. We’d been hearing about it right since the time the XUV500 went on sale in 2011 but every few months the only update was that its launch was delayed. The good news is it’s finally appeared and it's now available at a Mahindra dealership near you. The XUV500 Automatic as it’s called features a new six-speed torque converter automatic gearbox that’s mated to the same 138bhp, 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine as the manual model. The auto gearbox in question is different to the one on the recently-launched Scorpio Automatic. The XUV500’s is a far more modern Aisin unit rather than the Scorpio’s DSI-made one. Like the manual XUV, the Automatic is available with standard front-wheel drive and the option of all-wheel drive. So, how is it to drive?
That the automatic gearbox does away with the need to work the XUV’s notchy manual gearbox and jerky clutch is reason enough to like it. But even as automatics go, the gearbox is rather nice and feels well in tune with the engine’s characteristics. In full auto mode,gear shifts are smooth, timely and quick enough. The gearbox also feels responsive to sudden changes in throttle input. Drive with a light foot and the gearbox will upshift at as low as 1,500rpm. Step on the throttle and it will hold till 3,500-4,000rpm.In fact, so able is the gearbox in automatic that you won’t really feel the need to use it in manual mode. Given that the electronics won’t let you hold revs at the limiter in Manual, there’s no great reason to do so anyway. For its part, the gearbox executes manual inputs without delay. Do note, there are no paddle shifters here and manual gearshifts aren't Effected by tugs at the gear lever either. Rather you have to rely on the flimsy ‘+/-’ toggle on the gear lever which is far from satisfactory to use. Also, gear lever movement through the old-school shift gate isn’t as smooth as it could be.
Performance, however, is more than agreeable. Its 0-100kph time of 13.16 seconds puts the XUV behind other automatic SUVs like the lighter Hyundai Creta on one hand and more powerful Toyota Fortuner on the other. But more relevantly, in kick down the XUV is actually fastest, albeit by a small margin. In town, you’ll also like the jerk free slow speed movement courtesy the gearbox’s creep function. The gearbox is also designed to automatically shift to neutral at long halts should you forget to do so yourself and shift back to gear as you press down on the accelerator; a clever way to ensure longevity.
On other fronts, the XUV500 Automatic feels no different to the manual one. The engine remains on the noisy side with a clatter at idle and coarse note elsewhere in the rev range. There’s also plenty of understeer at the bends, kickback from the steering and vertical movement from the suspension. Away from the oily bits, there’s only an ‘Automatic’ badge on the boot to distinguish this version from the manual. The XUV, as you may recall,was updated inside and out earlier this year, and the Automatic carries the new look. Just wish Mahindra could have further improved fit and finish in the spacious cabin.
In true Mahindra tradition, the XUV500 Automatic comes loaded with features. ESP, hill hold and hill descent control, six airbags, leather seats and a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system are part of standard equipment on the front-wheel drive W8 version. The top-spec W10 (available in all wheel drive form as well) versions further get a sunroof, powered driver’s seat and reverse camera with dynamic guidelines. Curiously though the XUV500 Automatic doesn’t get keyless go, brake energy regeneration, a start/stop button or Mahindra’s micro hybrid technology.