In 2022, Indian carmaker Mahindra debuted its all-new visual identity in the form of a new logo that the brand says was designed exclusively for SUVs and lifestyle bakkies.
Its XUV700 was the first model to sport the Twin Peaks logo in 2022 as a budget-friendly medium-sized SUV that aims to compete in the segment where other well-equipped 7-seaters reside.
As a successor to the lacklustre XUV500 due to its firm ride quality and massive body roll, the XUV700 has been made to erase the past, and it's the most impressive SUV to ever roll out of the Indian automaker's factory.
Its top-of-the-line AX7 L dazzles with its striking proportions, sleek door handles, and bold front fascia, enhanced by LED headlights with stylish C-shaped daytime running lights, fierce-looking taillight clusters and stunning 18" alloy wheels.
With a slightly imposing stature, the AX7 L looks longer and larger than its XUV500 predecessor, thanks to a length of 4,695 mm, width of 1,890 mm and height of 1,755 mm.
All these dimensions have resulted in a more spacious vehicle that buyers of 7-seater SUVs will find attractive.
The XUV700 AX7 L impresses as soon as you enter with features like a panoramic roof, soft-touch materials, a sleek piano black centre tunnel treatment, and white faux leather accents that turn the premium up a notch. Still, not all buyers will love it, including yours truly. A darker option would be the one to go for; especially buyers looking to cart the family around.
All the good thrills inside, such as the Sony sound system, a large panoramic roof and overall build quality, are supplemented by a single widescreen panel that doesn't look out of place and runs across the dashboard. The panel comprises two 10.25" screens – one in front of the driver and the other for infotainment purposes.
The infotainment system dazzled us with its stunning graphics, fonts and booming Sony sound system. But it also frustrated us with its sluggish and unresponsive touchscreen. Sometimes, it would deny us access to the Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity.
To make matters worse, we kept getting an alarming 'Engine Systems Failure' warning that forced us to pull over to restart the car. Was it a glitch in the matrix? We don't know, but Mahindra SA assured us they would investigate and fix the issue.
In its defence, the AX7 L has enough space for seven passengers. With the third row folded down, there is enough boot space for sizeable items for those weekend getaway excursions. Naturally, though with all seats up, the luggage space is compromised – no getting around the physical space paradigm here. Also, It's worth mentioning that the third row of seats is best left for children due to the lack of legroom for taller passengers.
As mentioned, it has decent boot space with all the seats up, yet an electronic tailgate would have been a welcome addition.
When it comes to the drive itself, the Mahindra XUV700 AX7 L is powered by a 2.0-litre mStallion turbocharged petrol engine with 149 kW and 380 Nm paired with a remapped 6-speed automatic transmission that drives the front wheels.
The numbers are not mind-blowing, but they give the car enough pep for daily driving, and it has enough power for overtaking courtesy of a responsive powerplant and the automatic transmission that shifts smoothly.
Though not class-leading, the XUV700's suspension setup makes for a smooth and comfortable ride by soaking up bumps and potholes.
If there are things we dislike here, it would be the amount of wind noise at highway cruising speeds and the somewhat unrefined auto Start/Stop system, which is in no hurry to restart the car.
The XUV700 AX7 L has its flaws, but it's a considerable leap forward from the XUV500 it replaces. If you remember where Mahindra started, you will be impressed by its latest products.
After a week of driving the SUV, we recorded an average fuel consumption of 9.8l/100 km, which is a bit high. A diesel option would be more attractive to customers feeling the pinch of rising fuel prices.
The Mahindra XUV700 AX7 L offers a competitive value proposition for a family SUV at R559,999. It is the most impressive Mahindra I have ever driven, and it further affirms the brand's ambition to challenge the global market against established 7-seater rivals such as the Hyundai Grand Creta, Chery Tiggo 8 Pro, VW Tiguan Allspace and Hyundai Santa Fe, among others.