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Mahindra and Mahindra Rexton
    Change Model
Customer Rating
: 4/5
Expert Rating
: 8/10
Warranty
: 2 Yrs / 1,00,000 Kms (Whichever is earlier)
Ex-showroom price in 
Delhi
 help (Rs.Lakhs)
    Change City
19.97 Lakhs-25.05 Lakhs

Strong Areas

  • Powerful engine
  • High on space & comfort
  • Terrific style and design
  • Crafted luxurious interior
  • Tremendous road presence

Weak Areas

  • Unfamiliar brand
  • Poor last row space
  • Cumbersome city handling
  • Average automatic gearbox
Mahindra and Mahindra Rexton
 
 

Rexton complementing Mahindra DNA of rugged UV's and SUV's

Mahindra announced their intention to make a foray into premium SUV segment with the XUV 5OO, Rexton is step two for them. A full blown SUV from their Korean acquired company Ssanying, that catapults Mahindra into premium SUV league and makes them a competent contender of wallet share from those car buyers who are considering the Fortuners, Pajero Sport and Ford Endeavour.

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By

ecardlr.com National

Mahindra Rexton

Over the years, Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M) has diversified into the manufacture of cars (with the Verito), MPVs (with the Xylo) and it’s even ventured into the business of making trucks and two-wheelers. But at the very heart and soul of the company are its rugged utility vehicles and SUVs.

The Mahindra name is almost synonymous with vehicles of this kind, and one look at its line-up is enough to conclude these are still very much a core part of its prouduct mix. While the huge-selling Bolero and recently launched Quanto serve as an entry to the brand and the Scorpio remains popular among SUV buyers, last years’ launch of the well-received XUV 500 marked Mahindra’s move up the price ladder. Now, in an attempt to strengthen its SUV stable and go further premium, the manufacturer has introduced the SsangYong Rexton. In a nutshell, the Rexton is a big, body-on-frame SUV in the mould of the Toyota Fortuner, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and Ford Endeavour, which also comprise its chief competition.

While we always knew the Rexton was on its way to India and even drove the car in the UK for our may 2012 issue, the launch has finally put to rest doubts over whether it would be sold as a SsangYong or a Mahindra. The Rexton, along with future products from the Korean carmaker, will be sold through Mahindra’s existing dealer network. Also, Mahindra had initially planned to bring in the older (Y-289) model here. But it wasn’t much of a looker, so we’re glad to inform you that the Rexton for India is the latest facelifted (Y-290) version. Could there be other surprises in store? We went to Mahindra’s Chakan plant, where the Rexton will be assembled from kits from SsangYong’s mother plant in Korea, to find out.

IN THE FLESH

Long, tall and wide as it is, the first thing we notice about the Rexton is its size. To give you an idea of how bit it is, it’s slightly longer and wider than a Fortuner, which is a large SUV in its own right. But if you subscribe to the view that ‘bigger is better’, you are in for some disappointment. For all its mass, the Rexton lacks the presence of the Fortuner, or even the marginally smaller Pajero Sport for that matter. That’s down to the facelifted Rexton’s sloping bonnet, gently peeled-back headlamps and curvy grille which lend the front a certain softness. Pleasing? Yes. Imposing? Perhaps not.

That’s not to say the Rexton looks non-descript. Far from it. In facelifted form, it easily looks a whole lot better than the earlier model and the comprehensively restyled front in particular makes this decade-old design appear quite contemporary. For those not in the know, the Rexton is not the newest of SUVs on the block and is actually based on the first-generation Mercedes-Benz M-class. That chrome-rich grille gives the front plenty of flash, the headlamps with their projector pods are smartly detailed and those heavily flared wheel arches give the design some much-need muscle. Even the front bumper is well-styled and comes with black plastic cladding on the lower portion to camouflage some of the Rexton’s bulk. The same cladding extends along the length of the car and wraps itself around the rear bumpers as well. But more than anything, you’ll be able to identify a Rexton from a distance by its distinctive glasshouse, the shape of which is dictated by that unique inverted D-pillar that’s a carryover from the original Rexton from 2001. Further back, the wraparound rear windscreen looks quite neat an injects much flair to the tail section. The recent makeover’s also brought with it attractive jewel-effect tail lamps and a restyled tail gate with the Rexton name embossed on it. Like the Fortuner and Pajero Sport, the Rexton positions its spare wheel under the body – a closer look reveals this to be a steel rim rather than an alloy wheel. Perhaps SsangYong and Mahindra have saved some costs there. But there’s no complaining about the Rexton’s first-rate paint job and tight shutlines that are far superior to any car Mahindra has built till date.

IN TIME

There’s more good news right from the instant you open the Rexton’s doors. The cabin looks plush, everything appears solidly put together and the leather seats with their soft cushioning and smart stitching are really inviting. What’s nice is that despite the high floor, which is a trait of body-on-frame SUVs like this, getting into the cabin doesn’t really necessitate the use of the well-finished foot board. Perched on the comfy eight-way-adjustable powered driver’s seat, we study the cabin and find it every bit as good as it looks. Panel fit is excellent and the soft-touch plastics on the dashboard top feel like they’re from an expensive German saloon. Even the piano-black wood finish on the dashboard, steering and doors is convincing and plays a part in making this the most special cabin among SUVs in this segment. It’s also quite practical, with bottle-holders on the front door pockets, a large box between the front seats and five cupholders elsewhere in the cabin. The felt-line glovebox is another bit that shouts quality.

The Rexton’s smart centre console, while not standout in design, neatly integrates the Kenwood touchscreen interface for the audio system, DVD player, Bluetooth telephone function and navigation system. Yes, in true Korean (or shall we say Mahindra?) fashion, the Rexton in its automatic RX7 form comes loaded with features, including a sunroof, climate control, rear parking sensors, automatic headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control and steering wipers, cruise control and steering-mounted audio controls. The stack of buttons on the rake-adjustable steering also includes controls for the gearbox, but we’ll get to that later. It’s when we move to the back that the Rexton’s cabin loses some points. For starters the slightly low-set seats and high floor compromise the seating posture to some extent, though it’s still better than in an Endeavour. The cabin also isn’t as roomy as the large exteriors lead you to believe. Not to say that there’s any shortage of leg-, shoulder – or headroom. It’s just that many other SUVs, Mahindra’s own XUV500 included, offer that little bit more space. You also don’t have the option to slide, the seats back to increases legroom, but the backrest angle can be adjusted to your liking. For their part, the middle row seats are comfortable and the centre armrest is well positioned.

As for the last row of seats, the less said the better. Access through the rear door is poor, that thick D-pillar limits visibility and makes this portion of the cabin fell like a jail cell. Then there’s that awkward seating position. You virtually sit on the floor with your knees pointing towards your chin, and with no headrests for these seats, your neck is left unsupported too. If there’s some consolation, it’s that the rear-most section gets a pair of air-con vents with an individual blower speed control. Still, these seats are best left unused and folded flat to make space for luggage.

With the last and middle row seats folded flat, there is lots of room to store the largest of suitcases but the high loading sill and the luggage bay’s false platform mean loading heavy items will require solid muscle power.

MOVING ON

Internationally, SsangYong sell the Rexton with three engine options, but the car for India will be available with a single 2.7-litre turbo-diesel motor. Interestingly, this in-line five-cylinder DOHC motor is actually an old Mercedes unit. Positioned longitudinally under the Rexton’s bonnet, the engine comes mated to a Mercedes-sourced five-speed automatic transmission. A five-speed manual version is also available. Curiously, the engine is tuned differently for the two gearboxes. As a manual, the engine, called RX270 XDi, has a power and torque rating of 162bhp and 34.7kgm and comes with a torque-on-demand system and low range for more serious off-roading. On the automatic, this engine (RX270 XVT) produces a far more substantial 184bhp and 41kgm. This is the version we drove, and power output apart, it also differs from the manual in its use of a full-time all-wheel drive which channels engine torque to the front and rear axles in the ratio of 40:60. We felt the benefit of the system while testing the car’s performance, where the added grip allowed the Rexton to get off to a clean start and post a quick 0-100kph time of 10.92 seconds. For your reference, that’s a faster time than the automatic variants of the Fortuner and Endeavour.

While that’ll surely win Rexton owners some bragging rights, they’ll also have to contend with quite a few of the powertrain’s weakers points. Topping the list is the engine’s average refinement. Vibrations are well-contained but it’s a pretty noisy motor that gets progressively louder as revs rise. The nine-blade radiator fan is responsible for most of the racket. When it kicks in (it works with a viscous coupling) you’d think there’s a hurricane brewing under the hood. Then there’s the slow-witted gearbox that takes much away from the driving experience. It takes its own sweet time to respond to sudden changes in throttle position, so progress isn’t as quick as the timings suggest. To be honest, the Rexton’s fairly impressive performance is more a function of the engine’s reasonably wide spread of power than the gearbox’s responses. You can change gears manually via buttons on the steering wheel and also a switch on the gear lever, but even then the gearbox is so slow you’ll probably just slot it back into full auto mode out of frustration.

In auto mode, the gearbox will shift up as high as 4000rpm if you keep the throttle mashed to the floor, but lift-off has the engine quickly upshift to the highest gear in the interest of fuel economy. But going by the Rexton Auto’s 11.8kpl ARAI-tested figure, it has the makings of being quite the diesel guzzler. On a more positive note, power delivery is nice and linear and for relaxed driving in the city or highway, the engine should cope well enough.

SOFT SERVE

Weighing in at around two tonnes, the Rexton is just as heavy as its body-on-frame contemporaries. Its suspension, which is a combination of double wishbones in the front and coil springs and a live axle at the rear, is also similar to what you’ll find on the Fortuner and Pajero Sport. Sadly, ride and handling don’t match up to the Fortuner’s, let alone the dynamically superior Pajero Sport. Driving around Mahindra’s test track, we found the Rexton too softly sprung to derive any pleasure out of driving it with enthusiasm. Steering feel, for one, isn’t great, there’s an irritating frontal pitching motion when you as much as dab the brake pedal, the ride never feels settled and there’s lots of roll at the slightest of provocation. The Rexton also exhibits a resistance to change direction quickly and even when you do try, the squealing tyres give up the plot first. However, the high profile 235/75 R16 tyres
do absorb a lot of the road shock and in that sense works admirably to shield you from smaller surface blemished. To its credit, the suspension works without much noise and isolates you well from the happenings underneath. The confidence of those big tyres, 252mm of ground clearance and solid build also allowed us to drive the Rexton with some gusto over the small makeshift off-road section on the track. But to really judge the Rexton’s off road-ability, we’ll have to test the SUV outside the safety of a test track.

VALUE BUY

So how good is Mahindra’s new flagship? Well, the Rexton certainly makes for an interesting product. It’s smart-looking, well-build and comes loaded with features. And that premium cabin gives it a serious edge over its rivals. But on the flipside, the Rexton has some equally strong weaknesses in its noisy engine, slow auto gearbox, bumpy ride and mediocre handling. But to tip the scales back in the Rexton’s favour, Mahindra has launched it at a mouth-watering price. At Rs 19.75 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), the Rexton Auto is a few thousands more expensive than the Endeavour 4x2 Auto and a full Rs 2 lakh cheaper than the Fortuner Auto. The lesser-equipped RX5-spec manual Rexton (see box) is an even more appealing proposition with a price of Rs 17.75 lakh, which makes it the most affordable SUV in this class, by far. At these prices, buyers are likely to gloss over the Rexton’s not-so-good aspects and think of it more as a value buy. Mahindra has successfully played on the VFM card before, so there’s no denying the potential of the Rexton to strike a chord with Indian buyers.

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