For a day, men became boys who dream of being race-car drivers. What followed next was a mad dash to the finish!
What’s the best way to launch a car with a powerful turbo-petrol engine? Simple, you call Gaurav Gill and a bunch of journalists and appeal to their fantasy of beating his time on a temporary set-up course! Hilarious, I tell you. The car in question is the Mahindra XUV300, and if anyone remembers the TGDI line-up of engines that Mahindra showed at the 2020 Auto Expo, the new XUV300 is powered by one of those. The 1.2-litre unit to be precise. The transmission is a 6-speed manual – no automatics here. It’s almost like Mahindra is telling you to have fun with this car. And fun, we did have.
There’s not a lot different here, apart from the engine. You get red inserts on the front grille and air dam, blacked-out ORVMs, a new Blazing Bronze shade, and black upholstery. But enough of that already, so let's get back to the track.
Our objective for the day was simple. Mr Gill was going to set a time on the course, and all of us would then have one sighting lap and three timed laps to beat his time. I don’t know why I keep coming to beating his time, because that wasn’t going to happen, even in fantasy land. But, it’s exciting to even think about doing it, and that was pretty much the theme of the day. It was a tight course, with the first half being so tight that you didn’t get out of first gear, and the second half required you to put together a few fast sections in second gear all the way to the finish line. The track was dusty and required you to use the handbrake liberally. The theory of it was pretty simple. The actual act of doing it wasn’t.
The time to beat was 39.98 seconds, I was third in line. By the time I was ready to set my lap times, one of my colleagues was only 1.4 seconds away from time. If there wasn’t pressure already, it most certainly was there now. To top it all off, as soon as I stepped up to the starting line, it began to drizzle. I left traction control on for my sighting lap just to see how much it would intrude, and immediately I knew it had to go. What was helping me were the steering, clutch, and gear shifts. The steering was a breeze to manoeuvre. I could twirl it around from lock to lock with one hand, and even the clutch action was light and precise. The gear shifts went from first to second like clockwork and with little effort. My first time was somewhere up in the high 44s, with the second one being in the same region. But by now, I had gotten the hang of the car, and my third lap turned out to be my best – a 42.88.
Okay, so that’s far off from the time on top of the timing sheets, but hey, I got to race against Gaurav Gill in one way or another, and for that alone, I am elated. As far as the XUV300 is concerned, well, as Gaurav showed us by setting a new best halfway into the event (a 38.14 in the wet!), it has a lot more to give. Bombay being Bombay, a torrential downpour came down and most of the times were set in the day, and the general consensus was that the XUV300 TurboSport was faster in the wet. After everyone had done their times, I went back out again to test that theory, and while I didn’t set a faster time, the XUV300 felt more fluid around the corners, and in wet conditions, I didn’t really need to use a fistful of the handbrake!
The XUV300 has been around for a long time, and nothing’s really changed on that front. It’s a comfortable cruiser that can munch highway miles for breakfast and has dollops of power. With the TurboSport, Mahindra is taking aim at other SUVs, which have slightly sportier versions in the market, and for a first attempt, the XUV300 TurboSport feels to be a lot of fun.
PS: Anyone looking for a first drive review, I barely got out of first gear, with the second being the highest, while driving it, so I will have to wait to form more concrete opinions when we get the car for a test before running my fingers!