THE XYLO: Oddball or Pioneer?

Mahindra’s latest car,which looks like a sporty SUV and is being marketed like a sedan,is high on technology and passenger comfort...

Written by Gayatri Verma | Published:January 18, 2009 2:53 pm

Mahindra’s latest car,which looks like a sporty SUV and is being marketed like a sedan,is high on technology and passenger comfort,but driving it is hardly a pleasant experience
Built with the sturdy sporty look of an SUV and priced like a sedan,the Mahindra Xylo,at least on paper,is an innovative and strategic marvel. Committed to making this the ultimate car in passenger comfort,the designers of the Xylo have made sure that legroom is generously distributed in all sections of the car. There are independent AC vents that come with individual controls for each passenger. The Xylo also sports flatbed front seats. Furthering the car’s apparent desire to be more plane than car,there are foldable trays behind the front seats,individual reading lamps for each passenger and laptop and mobile charging points. With a well-defined centre console housing space and other adapted spaces around the car for CDs,magazines and cups,there is no shortage of utility spaces in the Xylo.

But where the Xylo really scores is the technology it packs—which arguably rivals that of of top-end German cars—at an accessible price.
The Digital Drive Assist System (DDAS) is an alphanumeric display in the centre panel,which sports an onboard computer to calculate mileage,distance permissible,standard information—like the date,time,inside and outside temperature and relative humidity—and a compass. It even lets you know which gear you are driving in and at what speed. The last feature is a bit baffling,given the car only comes with a manual gear box.

Another delight is the Intellipark Reverse Assist,a visual prompt in the rear view mirror which shows you the distance between the rear bumper and any object behind your car in terms of centimetres and a diagram that lets you know the direction of the object in question. These features,sadly,are only available on the higher-end E6 (which has limited DDAS) and E8 variants.

Trouble begins when faced with the prospect of actually driving the Xylo. The car is powered by a 2.49 litre mEagle CRDe diesel engine which delivers a power-packed 112 bhp with a range of 1800-3000 rpm along the lines of the Scorpio engine family,which theoretically can achieve 0-60 kmph in 5.8 seconds. Driving the Xylo cannot be described as an altogether pleasant experience. The engine sounds rough and the torque can constantly be felt sending shivers through the car floor and the gear box that is perennially unstable though it does marginally improve at higher speeds.

The Xylo in its entirety comes across as a car with a deep identity crisis and is replete with several troubling dichotomies. It will undoubtedly make a comfortable ride for long commutes as long as you don’t have to do the driving. While the driver’s seat is ergonomically designed with height and steering adjustment control to maximise comfort on long drives,the absence of any space in the boot,or a boot at all,really makes it impossible to fit a large family and their luggage into this mini van.

The key to understanding the Xylo then is recognising its passenger—not driver—orientation. Xylo’s marketing suggests ambitions of carving out a piece of the sedan segment for itself. But most people who buy sedans also like to drive their own cars so the chances of someone trading in a Honda for the Xylo are slim. In trying to bridge too many segments,Mahindra run the dangerous risk of having created something that may be more oddball than avant-garde.
Then again,it takes time for the public to warm up to a new non-conforming idea. Its four variants aggressively priced between Rs. 6,24,500 and Rs. 7,69,500,one can certainly expect the car to sell well.

It may never become the car of an MUV/SUV-driving owner’s dream like the Sumo Grande (which it sharply resembles) or be as popular as the Mahindra Scorpio. But it shall certainly be welcomed by those who prefer to be driven places and give the Toyota Innovas of the streets a run for their money. Perhaps in the vast milieu of cars in the market,eventually the Xylo too will find a place to call its own.

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