Thursday, March 25, 2010

US Mahindra Test Drive Interview, Part I: First Impressions

A few weeks ago, Mahindra Planet was offered the opportunity to travel to Global Vehicles (the US importer of Mahindra vehicles) headquarters in Alpharetta, Georgia. Although Mahindra Planet decided to wait until US-spec vehicles were available to test drive, Jay Keffer of Cleveland, Ohio-based Mahindra dealership, Motorcars Mahindra, did take GV up on their offer and traveled to Georgia for a test drive.

Mahindra Planet interviewed Keffer and got some of his first hand impressions of the Mahindra TR20, TR40, and Scorpio SUV:

Global VehiclesMP: Jay, thanks, so much for taking the time to answer a few questions about your trip to Global Vehicles headquarters and your test drive in the Mahindra pickups they had on hand. First off, what was your first impression of Global Vehicles and the people you met with in Alpharetta?

JK: “The people at GV were great. Being a first time visitor I was really geared up to see the trucks when I arrived. The first thing we did after the introductions was visit the conference room. Across the front of the room they had the Mahindra Heritage wall. This is the wall that all of us dealers have on order that will be placed in the showroom of all the Mahindra stores. Next we watched a video. The video started by showing non-Mahindra trucks jumping through burning buildings, loud music and guys parachuting, much like most of the truck commercials we see today as consumers. Then the music changed and it was a much softer message about a very usable truck that’s very green too. GV was as excited to show me the truck as I was to see it but didn’t lose focus of the company message in all the excitement. They were genuinely kind and interested in what I thought of the vehicles I looked at and drove. Simply put they are, ‘good people’!”

MP: You’ve stated on Mahindra Truck Forum that the GV people have a confident attitude about the Mahindra product. So much so, that they aren’t concerned about the naysayers predicting epic failure for the company. Global Vehicles feel that the product will speak for itself. After your first impressions of the vehicle, do you agree with this?

JK: “Yes, more so than ever. Its one thing to be told the product will speak for itself but once you get to see it for yourself it’s much easier to believe. I really felt that GV is in the same boat most of us are. In other words I got the impression that Mahindra (India) is calling the shots as far as when the trucks will hit and what they will be when they do.”

Driving the trucks
MP: Clearly these weren’t test mules, but they were foreign market trucks that have been in the US for a while. Could you give us an idea of how much mileage was on the trucks you drove, and your general feeling based on the condition of the trucks?

JK: “You’re absolutely right. These were foreign market trucks. The TR20, TR40 & Scorpio I drove had between 8k & 10k miles on them. They weren’t beat up nor did they show signs of excessive wear. In other words they didn’t have wires hanging from the dash or loose garnishes (fit and finish) that gave me the impression these trucks were thrown together to see if they could pull off selling them in America.”

TransmissionMP: It sounds like the drivetrain in the Scorpio you drove was pretty close in spec to the US pickups. What was your impression of the way the paddle-shift transmission operated and felt?

JK: “Both the pickups were of course manual but the Scorpio was in fact automatic. This transmission I was told will be enhanced for the American vehicles. They did not elaborate on this, however, the transmission shifted smooth and solid. This was the only vehicle I was permitted to take on the highway. By the time I got on the highway I was so impressed with the power that I quit paying attention to shift points. As I mentioned on MTF I was going 85 MPH down the highway and knew I had room to accelerate but had to hit our exit. If there was less traffic I would have pushed more. I did manage to get a call off to my wife just to rub it in (she has her heart set on one).”

NVHMP: How was the noise, vibration, and harshness aspect of the trucks you drove? Was there a noticeable difference between the pickups and the SUV (i.e. diesel clatter, road/wind noise, ride quality, etc.)?

JK: “Not driving the pickups on the highway I can’t really speak about wind noise there but the Scorpio was very quiet and I would venture to say the trucks are just as quiet. The diesel clatter is almost non-existent (compared to what we as Americans relate to when we think of our diesels). In fact with the windows up you’re not going to hear much of the engine. Personally, I like the diesel clatter of the big trucks but this is no way comparable to that. I actually rolled the window down in the parking lot while driving the TR20 just to hear what people outside were experiencing as I drove by. When my 7.3 F-350 is cold I can’t hear the person next to me, big difference.”

The rest of the interview including Keffer’s impressions of the Mahindra trucks power and styling, as well as an interesting offer from Motorcars Mahindra continues in: US Mahindra Test Drive Interview, Part II: Power, Style, and a Great Offer

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot MP and JK for this interview. Very glad to hear you had a positive experience with the trucks. I’ve definitely read plenty of positive things on them but driving is the only way to really get a feel for them –looking forward to taking one out for a spin too. Especially glad to hear of the absence of diesel clatter. As a diesel fan, I really hope Mahindra shows truckers that new diesels are miles better than old ones.