Mahindra has gone the whole nine yards with the Alturas G4, but can it find its niche in the premium SUV segment?
With the ever increasing demand for SUVs, more manufacturers are bringing in their iterations of the body-style, making the market space narrow and the competition tough. Consider the case of full-size premium SUVs. There’s the Toyota Fortuner with more than 65 per cent of the market share, and then there’s the Ford Endeavour that holds another 20 per cent. Reliable as Rahul Dravid and tough as Mike Tyson, both these SUVs have long ruled the roost in their price range. Now, in a difficult and tough market, if an SUV is to establish itself, it must bring something extra to the table, something that will leave buyers with no other choice but to notice it. With utmost luxury and features, the new Mahindra Alturas G4 promises to be that offering. But it’s not without a few hold-ups . . .
Although the Alturas is a new offering, it can be called the spiritual successor of the SsangYong Rexton that was briefly sold in India. Mahindra’s intention to go premium with the SsangYong badge didn’t quite go as planned. This time around, they’ve taken a different approach. In the international market, this car is sold as the Rexton G4, however, Mahindra has christened it Alturas G4 for India. And believe me when I say that it isn’t just the name that has changed. Mahindra is also setting up premium zones in their existing dealerships in a bid to offer an upmarket buying and ownership experience to their customers.
When we first took a 360-degree look at the new Mahindra Alturas G4, we found ourselves under the grip of emotions that can best be described as an assortment. Well, it’s longer, wider and taller than the Toyota Fortuner, but it lacks that plumpness, which can be a good thing. The front has the signature Mahindra grille that gives it a bold stance. Sharp lines along the wheel arches and parallel to the door sill add character to its profile. The rear, for the most part, looks neat, but the overly large Alturas badging on the tailgate failed to impress us. While the overall design is neat, it doesn’t quite capture your imagination. Frankly, it’s too conventional for our liking – it’s neither sharp like the Fortuner nor butch like the Endeavour.
This is where the Alturas sets itself apart from the competition. From the dashboard to the seats and upholstery, the Alturas oozes more class than any other vehicle in the segment. And while some of its inspirations are quite obvious, there’s little to complain about, for the end result is impressively unlike anything. The face of the dash, for instance, has been horizontally split, giving the car a roomy and spacious feel. Quality all around is superior to most other cars in its class. In fact, the soft-touch dash with quilted leather finish gives the car a sense of panache that makes the Fortuner and Endeavour look second-rate.
As is the case with any other ladder frame SUV, getting inside the Alturas is quite a climb. Once inside, you’re greeted by an abundance of space – at least in the first two rows. The third-row is a bit problematic, for the seat is so low that you may as well be sitting on the floor. To make things a bit more cramped, there isn’t enough room for the foot. And all of this is a result of the second row that refuses to move forward. Comfort of the third-row passengers is further compromised due to the absence of AC vents on the left. The boot space, with all three rows up, is just good enough for a couple of small trolley bags – we would rather use the third-row space to make the boot more spacious.
From HID headlamps, LED Daytime Running Lamps, heated ORVMs and 360-degree camera with sensors to electrically adjustable driver seat and ORVMs with memory function, the Mahindra Alturas G4 comes with a long list of features. To add to the comfort and convenience quotient, the Alturas also gets ventilated front seats and a smart tail gate. With regards to safety, the Alturas comes equipped with 9 airbags, ABS, EBD and all other acronyms that you can possibly think of.
Hit the start button, and you’d be surprised by how silent the 2.2-litre diesel motor is. There is none of the usual diesel clatter, and the cabin is effectively insulated against the quiet murmur of the engine – something that doesn’t change even when you're on the move, at least until you cross the 3,000rpm mark. The engine puts out just 178 horses and 420Nm, which may seem a bit underwhelming for a car that weighs north of two tonnes, but the Alturas performs reasonably well. It is startlingly smooth, with adequate grunt in the mid-range. The climb up from there, however, isn’t the most spirited. The motor has a very nonchalant character that’s perfect for the city and comfortable highway cruising. Its only when you push it hard that it starts to feel unnerved. Overtaking may also require a bit of planning – especially at higher speeds.
The Alturas comes with a 7-speed automatic transmission that has been sourced from Mercedes-Benz. Shifting between gears is smooth, but it could do with a bit more urgency. You do have the option to take control of the gears via a small switch on the right of the gear lever, but it isn’t an easy affair, given that operating the lever is not very ergonomic. Paddle shifters or the traditional push-pull system would have made things easier.
Bearing in mind the dimensions and the body-on-frame construction, most SUVs aren’t the best cars to drive on the hill. The Alturas is tall and heavy, something that doesn’t go unnoticed when you push it. There’s a considerable amount of body roll too. But even with all these shortcomings, the Alturas feels reasonably confident – as long as you don’t chicken out due to the lateral movement. It’s the steering that is the fly in the ointment here. Although it weighs up nicely, it’s just not communicative enough. What the Alturas lacks in terms of handling, it adequately makes up for in terms of ride quality. You can literally gas it down a broken patch of tarmac, and it’ll just glide through as if you’re snowboarding.
For adventurous souls, the Alturas is a rear-wheel bias 4x4 that promises to tackle a fair bit of off-roading too. Although it doesn’t have a Terrain Response System or a locking differential, the unsophisticated 4x4 system should work well in most situations.
Hits and Misses
The biggest drawbacks are the lack of space in the third row and the conventional design that gives it a rather timid appearance, especially in comparison to the competition. While the SsangYong Rexton offered great value, it couldn’t score as well in terms of quality and finesse. That, however, isn’t the case with the Alturas G4. In fact, it’s easily the plushest premium-SUV out there – something that’s sure to lure a lot of customers. And with Mahindra’s promise of a premium dealership and service experience, things seem to look even more promising for the Alturas. It’s high on features and has a reasonably decent motor. While the product for the most part is impressive, the key here will be the price. If Mahindra manages to undercut its rivals by about 3 – 4 lakh, they would surely be able to carve out a comfortable space for the Alturas in the segment.
- Mahindra Alturas G4
Engine: 2,157cc / 4-cylinder / 16-valves / turbocharged
Transmission: 7-speed AT / Part-time 4x4
Power: 178bhp @4,000rpm
Torque: 420Nm @ 1,600 – 2,600rpm
X-Factor: A long list of features and rich interior give the Alturas G4 an edge over its rivals.
• Unusable third row