The three-row SUV. The timeless formula for the ultimate family mover. After all the first ever SUVs in the world were fashioned out of station wagons, with added abilities courtesy four-wheel drive powertrains. Fast forward to the present and in India at least, the formula’s been simplified a bit to exclude 4x4. Why? The market doesn’t buy it, apparently. At least not when it comes to going from a keyboard warrior versus actually walking into a showroom. So, with the Tata Safari, a resurrection of one of India’s earliest SUV name tags, we have a three-row adaptation of the Harrier, but minus any form of all-wheel drive… because what the market buys, the market gets. On the other hand, with the Mahindra XUV700, an all-new car that can be viewed as the next-gen XUV500 but named differently to position it over an upcoming new model, there’s a return to the all-wheel drive capability that was once offered on the XUV. And a tonne of tech. Mahindra’s taken their time with the XUV700, and it shows. On the face of it, there’s very little to dislike about the 700. Apart from the way it looks, so that’s as good a place as any to start…
It’s pretty obvious that the 700 was meant to be a next-gen 500, an SUV which never really appealed to me stylistically but I may be in the minority here. I would imagine positioning strategy left a spot for an alternatively branded 5-seater, sort of the reverse of what Hyundai and Tata did with the Creta/Altroz and Harrier/Safari. Some of the ungainly surfaces on the older 500 have been smoothed out (kink in the body line over the rear wheels, I’m looking at you) but there still are a few parts that seem overdone. Like the tail lamps, for example. Though the pop-out door handles are a premium touch, I can’t help but feel contrast finish regular door handles would’ve helped break up the vast door surfaces.
Next to the Safari, the XUV700 doesn’t quite have the same road presence. This, even though the 700 is actually the longer SUV (4,695x1,890x1,755mm), with a marginally longer wheelbase (2,750mm) versus the Safari (4,661x1,894x1,786mm) on a 2,741mm long wheelbase. It could be the fact that the Safari is taller that helps it, or that the leading edge of the hood on the Safari is marginally higher, aided by the layers made up of the grille, air dam and faux skid plate. That said, the 700 does appear to have a larger glass area, versus the Safari’s more aggressive front-rear taper in the glasshouse. The integrated roof rails in the Safari are a nice touch, though. It would appear the wheels play a part here too, with the Safari’s alloy wheels looking more substantial and chunky with the 235/60 18-inch tyres filling out the wheel wells better. The polished/painted spokes on the similarly-sized alloys on the 700 just maybe a little too thin and elegant looking for an SUV of this size. And when viewed from the rear, the LED tail light signature on the 700 are distinctive at night, but the Safari definitely shows its Land Rover genes with its split LED light signature placed high up.
Speaking of lighting, the 700 has a huge advantage in its LED headlights and auto booster tech; these lights are amongst the very best we’ve ever driven with, in turning night to day! The Safari’s halogen projectors are adept by themselves but aren’t in the same league when it comes to throw and reach.
Interior space, ambience and features
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