Thursday, November 4, 2010

W201: The Card Hidden Up Mahindra’s Sleeve

Rumors and renderings of Mahindra’s all-new “world SUV”, codenamed W201, have floated to the surface time and again throughout 2010. Educated guesses, eye-witness accounts, and complete speculation give us a decent overall understanding of the unnamed SUV/crossover despite Mahindra’s official policy to not comment on rumors about new or upcoming models (apparently they employ a similar policy regarding timelines and vehicles destined for the US market, but that is another story). As the rumored 2011 launch (2012 for US?) of the W201 approaches, here are some updates and further speculation served up for your reading pleasure:

Originally thought to be an upgraded replacement for the Scorpio SUV (the body-on-frame sibling of the US-bound Mahindra TR20 and TR40 small diesel pickups), it’s become clear that the larger W201 crossover will be a far more luxurious step above the relatively primitive (by US standards) Scorpio/TR.

The W201 is clearly a project intended to not only extend Mahindra’s global vehicle market reach, but to also stretch Mahindra’s design, engineering, and production expertise. With its unitized construction and apparently transverse engine layout, the W201 represents a significant departure from the last forty years Mahindra has spent slowly evolving the basic body-on-frame construction of the first Jeeps they were licensed to build in India. The last significant technological leap for Mahindra since adding a diesel tractor engine to the Jeep in the 1970’s, was the design of the current Scorpio platform in 2002. It’s obviously time for Mahindra to take their game to a new level.

It’s likely that Mahindra’s familiar longitudinal engine layout with a conventional transmission and part time 4WD transfer case will be dumped in favor of a more compact transverse engine layout favoring a front-wheel-drive/all-wheel-drive configuration for the W201. Mahindra is currently in the process of taking over bankrupt South Korean car maker, Ssangyong Motor. This acquisition should give Mahindra access to further expertise in unitized body design and manufacturing, as well as access to Ssangyong’s gasoline and diesel engine designs. Combine this with Mahindra’s recent acquisition of pure-electric car manufacturer, Reva, and a variety of gasoline, diesel, electric, or hybrid powertrains may eventually be offered in the W201.

In the spirit of Mahindra’s cloak and dagger operations involving the W201, heavily disguised test mules have been spotted several times on Indian roads. Sharp-eyed car guys including our friends at Indian Autos Blog have taken photos of the pre-production SUV, and artists have rendered images of what the undisguised SUV may look like. Photos and renderings reveal the W201’s exterior styling to be somewhere between a Nissan Murano and a Pathfinder which was left in the oven too long. It may not be beautiful, but all around it’s a much more modern look than that of the TR20 and TR40 which seem to pay homage to Japanese pickups of the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Some lucky civilians have gotten up close to the mules and at least one has even had some limited drive time in the W201. The interior has been described as a giant leap forward for Mahindra, but still not likely up to the high expectations of American consumers. Certainly this is something which could be fixed before production begins. Witnesses state that the W201 is loaded safety features commonly found on US-market vehicles such as a complement of air bags, traction control, and stability control. Mules have been observed with 6-speed manual transmissions, but it’s a given that automatic versions are a must for US sales of this type of vehicle.

To continue roasting the same old US launch delay chestnut, it remains to be seen where the W201 fits in with Mahindra’s master plan (or lack of plan) to launch the current generation TR20 and TR40 pickups in the US. The W201 is almost on a different planet than the rough around the edges Scorpio-based pickups. Adding fuel to the fire of controversy is Mahindra’s development of a next generation Scorpio platform also due to launch in 2011. Time will tell what their plan is for sure. In the mean time, we’ll keep on speculating.

Source: IndianAutosBlog, Team BHP, BurnYourFuel


Anonymous said...

Mockups can't be trusted.

You seem to have sourced team BHP images, so you should be familiar with a couple of threads on speculations on upcoming vehicles. It will be instructive to check out a few on models that have been released. They invariably fall short of the mock-ups.

For one, the mock-ups look more spacious that they really are. Then there is the fit-and-finish, which also looks exceptional in mock-ups. The real one always falls short.

I can't believe you guys still think Mahindra is a viable player. The Chinese and Malaysians have cars and trucks light years ahead of anything Mahindra has.

Anonymous said...

Mahindra = long on promises and little on follow through.

Seeing their lack of communication and poor business ethics, I will stay clear of their product line.

Anonymous said...

Mahindra's new SUV 201 will be a revolutionary change to there image they will show the world what they can do . the new SUV will be fully loaded with features . Unheard of in Indian markets . the car is said to be there first global SUV . don't get amused if the car bags all the prizes when it launches i hope it launches in the second half of this year ....

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