War Of The MUVs – Mahindra Xylo Beats The Tata Sumo Grande Mark ll

Published: 01st March 2010
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Not a lot of you will remember but Tata Motors gave India its first Multi Utility Vehicle (MUV) way back in 1997 which went by the name of Sumo. The Sumo, has since then, been re-christened and upgraded. The first upgrade took place in 2004 but perhaps the most comprehensive upgrade took place in 2008.

Since then, a lot has changed. The Mahindra Xylo has hit Indian roads and it is time for Tata Motors to get back to the drawing board and the result is the Tata Sumo Grande Mark ll. Let us find out what is really different in this new Sumo and how improved this version really is.

'Facelift' is probably the most abused term in the automotive world. Give a car new grille and new stickers and you are looking at a facelift. Give it bigger bumpers and you are looking at a major facelift. Give external indicators in the wing mirrors and what you could be looking at is a whole new model series.

But the Sumo Grande Mark ll, even by the facelift standards is perhaps what you can call 'Ultra ultra mild.' If you think about it, you didn't get to see the chrome horizontal bars in the grille in the original Sumo that you get to see in the Sumo Grande. But this facelift promises to go deeper than the skin. Here Tata Motors have played around with the basics like the chassis and the suspension and the steering and the Noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH). The Tata Motors assures us that the Tata Sumo Grande Mark ll will be way better than the old Grande. Has Tata Motors succeeded in doing so?

It might come as a surprise to many but Tata Motors has listened to customer feedback when it comes to Sumo Grande Mark ll. All the changes made to the Grande are based on Customer Feedback. The first criticism of the old Grande was its handling which was downright rubbish. That has been addressed by front and rear antiroll bars where linkages are new, the stub axle is new and even the steering precision is claimed to be improved by new linkages.

Has it worked?

Well, thanks to the roll reduction package, the body roll has been reduced. The ride quality which was excellent has become even better. The front coil springs and the rear leaf springs have been softened and that makes Sumo a very good riding car.

Under the long hood of Sumo Grande Mk ll is the same 2.2 liter Dicor engine from the old Grande and of course, The Safari. It makes 120 PS of power @ 4000 rpm. But don't get excited by that figure. The Sumo Grande Mark ll big, fat and heavy and it has the aerodynamics of a brick. It all conspires to make the car rather slow. In fact, 17.2 secs to 100 kmph is glacial. It means that if you are a Sumo Grande Mark ll owner, you can go out, buy a pack of popcorn, make the popcorn, come back into the car and it would still be struggling to get to 100. For its credit, this might sound exaggerative. Other MUV's are not much quicker.

As far as Noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) is concerned, all that has been reduced extensively in the new Sumo. In fact, it is very close to Toyota Innova's benchmark and that is rather good.

The interiors in the Sumo Grande Mark ll are also much improved. The steering wheel has become smaller. The diameter has gone down to 380 mm as compared to the 400 mm earlier. That makes it much more manageable and less truck-like.

The ergonomics have improved in terms of the displays and the colours used in the wood trim of the dashboard. But for all the space and the tag of a MUV, where are the cup holders and the bottle holders. There are cup holders inside the glove compartment, but honestly, no one will ever be able to make any use of them. And the panel of the glove compartment will remind you not of the old Grande but rather of the original Sumo. Such little things need to be looked into. Another example could be the wipers. Why do they intrude into the viewing space when they can be hidden behind the bonnet?

One detail Tata Motors never misses out on is the efficiency. With the new gearing, fuel consumption has reduced to 11.5 kmpl in the city and 19 kmpl on the highways. The overall fuel efficiency clocks in at 13.3 kmpl. The value proposition of the Sumo Grande MK ll is as strong as ever with a fully loaded GX variant costing Rs 7.6 Lakhs.

So a lot of changes have been made to the Sumo and it has made for a nice, well-rounded package. But has Tata Motors really cracked it? The only way to find out is to pit it against its closest competitor, The Mahindra Xylo.

Let us review a Mahindra Xylo which has done 40000 Kms. In fact, let us review a Xylo which has done 40000 hard Kms. Xylo is the kind of vehicle which can easily set the record of fastest time from the East to the West of India. By now, we know that the Xylo is very well built. But the first thing that strikes you when you jump out of the Sumo and into a Xylo is that the Sumo feels a lot MUV-like, but Xylo feels very SUV-like. It feels butch, macho, grown-up and powerful. The Xylo is powered by a 2.5 liter MEagle engine that delivers 113 PS of Power. Despite, producing less power than the Grande, the Xylo actually has a better performance. 100 kmph takes 15.9 secs and the top speed is 158.6 kmph. The Xylo does lose out slightly on efficiency. It delivers 12.1 kmpl as compared to the overall fuel efficiency of 13.3 kmpl of Grande.

Starting with the very first Scorpio (which wasn't the best of the vehicles), Mahindra has made bug leaps forward in ride and handling. The Xylo does roll, pitch, under-steer and wallow But the degree of roll, pitch, under-steer and wallow is much better contained than the Sumo. The steering also is not as dead as the Sumo and so is a much better vehicle to drive. Even the gear shift is far better. With Xylo, Mahindra also scores on the Value for Money front. The E8 version might be slightly expensive at Rs 7.8 lakhs. But at that price, you get parking sensors, and Captain's seat in the second row. And Mahindra also offers you the option of ABS and Airbags at an additional Rs. 40000.

The Verdict

As is said, "Fruits in the pudding is in the tasting." After sampling both the Xylo and the Sumo Grande Mark ll, the result is clear. Mahindra clarly walk away with this round.

Tata Motors have worked a lot on the Grande and they have made a lot of improvements over the old Grande. If you are looking for a economical and spacious people mover, Sumo Grande can be recommended. But on all other fronts like performance, driving dynamics and the entire feel of the vehicle, the Xylo scores immensely.

This will leave Sumo fans slightly frustrated. Tata Motors has had access to all the test reports. Moreover, they have had access to a Xylo many months before delivering the Grande Mk ll. But despite all that, they still haven't been better the Xylo. It is a lost opportunity for Tata Motors.

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