Mahindra Xylo E8: impressively Indian
One of 2017’s biggest automotive surprises is the Mahinda Xylo E8. Bear with me and please don’t think this article to be lip service to appease a manufacturer.
The Xylo E8 is actually, honestly, very good to drive. It is surprisingly very capable, feels good on the move, offers impressive interior space, and crucially, a tall riding and driving position akin to an SUV.
You feel confident driving it on the highway or in tightly packed city streets as you can see far ahead.
The 5-speed manual is positive in feel, the engine is powerful and well matched to the ratios, the clutch is decent in effort, and the steering is pretty good as MPVs and minivans go.
Power comes from a 2.2-liter CRDi and VGT equipped engine codenamed mHawk, delivering a very decent 120 hp at 4000 rpm and 280 Newton-meters of torque from 1800-2800 rpm making the Xylo sprightly and agile on its feet given its wide power band even at low rpm.
Pop open the hood and what greets you is a huge top-mount air-to-air intercooler that helps chill compressed induction air even on the hottest and most humid of days.
When pushed hard, the Xylo doesn’t run out of steam until 130 km/h thereabouts, which means no nagging concerns of whether it feels and drives like a properly engineered modern MPV.
The 5.4-meter turning radius gives it surprisingly good maneuverability in tight spots, and the gummy thick 215/75 R15 wheels and tires, coupled with the independent front and multi-link rear suspension give it great comfort and compliance on very rough roads without sacrificing control and feedback.
Clearly, driving conditions in India are far more similar to Philippine conditions than we can imagine, making the Xylo a perfect candidate for our poorly paved roads.
It’s also surprisingly packed with safety features. ABS brakes are standard, as well as dual airbags up front.
The interior is covered in faux leather, and is versatile with second rear bucket seats that slide forward and back as well as recline for added comfort.
The third-row seat is a solid bench type that tumbles forward and flat to the floor. Think Toyota Innova V, but with an Indian accent.
Admittedly, the plastic trim used—which resembles cheap plastics used in equally cheap toys—could have been of higher quality.
At least, you get a 2DIN audio system that plays CDs, MP3s, and your music via SD Card. It also offers a USB slot.
An in-car trip computer displays fuel consumption averages as well, and even has a gear position indicator, making it surprisingly high-tech by allowing you to monitor engine stats and matching your driving style accordingly.
On the highway, the Xylo feels composed and confident. No problems caused by long periods of driving at 100-120 km/h.
The diesel engine offers comparable levels of refinement with the Japanese brands, is just as tractable, and crucially, very fuel efficient.
My stint with the Xylo saw me driving it during a typhoon: with not so many cars on the road, I averaged close to 10 km/liter.
Out on a long drive down south on my usual route on weekends, I averaged 14 km/liter, but due to bad weather, I wasn’t able to drive at a higher average speed, which could have improved fuel consumption.
On winding roads, the suspension soaked up all the ruts and bumps well, and the steering provided accurate and decently fulsome response, with a natural, intuitive self-catering ability.
The brakes are well-weighted, being neither overly-assisted or unnaturally heavy, allowing you to modulate them perfectly as you guide the large MPV through the bends.
When traffic is bad down south, I usually take the Carmona-Silang Highway, which is actually a two-lane provincial road that has a variety of surfaces, from asphalt, cement and broken tarmac.
It’s winding, with large undulations and patches of dirt sections that gives a really good test of a car’s abilities in Philippine settings. Through these roads, the Xylo felt perfectly at home.
In the city, the Xylo is an oddity. I never saw another on the road, which is a shame, given the overall package, its price, and driving dynamics.
The best way to imagine a Xylo is as the Indian version of Toyota’s ubiquitous Innova, which is high praise, a compliment to the Xylo.
It is the type of vehicle that the average Filipino needs, especially if you have a large family and see the vehicle as a source of income, be it as a UV Express/PUV/shuttle service or a vehicle for SMEs.
Suffice to say, it drives confidently, and the tall seating position, combined with the impressive powertrain and agile steering plus sure-footed suspension along with the confident brakes, make it a natural, slicing through traffic and navigating through slower-moving vehicles.
The lack of an automatic transmission option is a huge factor in the Xylo’s lack of appeal and desirability.
Thankfully, because of its Indian origin, the dual a/c system with blowers up front and in the middle, provide enough cooling air to chill you to the bones. Now that’s something we can all appreciate in our typically hot and and humid climate.
The headlights are simple halogen units, which are cheap but still effective, and come with fog lamps as standard.
Step boards make entry and exit easy, and roof rails allow the possibility of installing a roof rack to increase cargo carrying capacity further.
It even has a tow-hitch installed as an option, which means Mahindra built the chassis tough enough for serious towing duties.
I tried searching for its actual towing capacity but couldn’t find any. Hmm, maybe this would be a perfect vehicle to tow my Supra project car to the race track on a trailer loaded with extra gear.
I can also imagine potential owners installing a bull bar with auxiliary LED lights to make it even more capable on long night drives on provincial highways—because the Xylo just loves the open road.
As you can see, I am very much impressed with the Mahindra Xylo but there are some niggles: aside from the interior plastics that look and feel cheap, they also scratch very easily.
The 5-speed manual transmission is a bit noisy when its cold, and you need to warm it up and shift gingerly, otherwise you hear some snatching until it is fully warmed up.
A change to higher quality gear oil such as Motul might help.
The flywheel is a single-mass unit so you can feel driveline vibrations a bit, and the brakes when cold are surprisingly very grabby, making smooth braking a chore until they are also fully warmed up. These are concerns you don’t realize or take for granted with most Japanese brands.
The Xylo’s shape is also quite comical. Perhaps, Mahindra needs to hire some designers from the US or Europe to give its next line of vehicles more style.
Overall, the Xylo impresses far more than a China-made vehicle with its spec, driving manners, and crucially, build-quality and reliability.
It is a true alternative to the Japanese brands, and represents far better value for money.
That Mahindra invested in a very capable chassis, superb suspension for rough roads, and an impressive CRDi engine in an MPV package is just foresight, making the Xylo future-proof for years to come to a new generation of motorists.
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