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2018 Mahindra Alturas G4 First Drive Review

What is it?

Why would I buy it?

Macho exterior, great interior fit and finish, spacious cabin and powerful diesel engine 

Why would I avoid it?

Bumpy ride quality, uncomfortable third-row seating 

The car you see in the pictures is the new Mahindra Alturas G4 which is basically a rebadged version of the second generation SsangYong Rexton that made its debut internationally in 2017. Replacing the almost two decades-old car, it seems to be a good decision to rebrand SsangYong with Mahindra, as it carries a far more recognizable company name that has a strong SUV brand image in our country. It will be the most expensive Mahindra to go on sale in India and it takes on the might of the Toyota Fortuner and the Ford Endeavour. 

As far as styling is concerned, Mahindra has only tweaked the grille of the Alturas as compared to the international car. As a result you get an SUV that makes a strong impression thanks to its towering size and macho exterior styling. Upfront is the massive signature Mahindra grille that gives the Alturas loads of presence and the stylish headlamps, which give it an air of sophistication. In profile, it looks like a mini Landcruiser thanks to the squared off wheel arches and the large 18-inch alloy wheels look the part too.  Rear styling is attractive as well, thanks to the stylish tail lamps and the muscular tailgate. Despite the massive rear, it doesn’t look too ungainly as the blacked-out lower portion on the rear bumper helps mask some its girth. Overall, the exterior of the Alturas might not be the most stylish, but it definitely catches your eye and makes a strong statement. 

The Alturas G4, like its competition, has a rugged ladder frame chassis. Despite Mahindra using 82% high strength steel (meant to be light and strong) in its body construction, this SUV isn’t a lightweight at 2.2 tonnes. The Alturas G4 will come only in two variants – the-top-of-the-line 4x4 that you see in the pictures, and a 4x2 version which will miss out on some features but also will be much lighter and will have more performance on tap.

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How is it on the inside?

 Open the door of the Alturas and you are in for a big surprise. The heft with which the doors open is reminiscent of old Mercs. And the solid thunk that one hears every time somebody shuts them points to a car that is well built. But getting inside this tall SUV isn’t the easiest as there is no side step to climb in, which its rivals offer. Inside the cabin, the dashboard feels generations younger as compared to the old one. The design is modern and almost all materials in here look and feel premium. The middle portion of the dash is wrapped in quilted Nappa leather and all the touch points like the steering, armrest, controls stalks and gear selector feels of high quality. A large 8-inch infotainment system is placed high up on the centre console. For the most part, it feels modern and gets features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. Here, the physical buttons to scroll through frequently used menus is a big plus as you don’t have to take your eyes off the road to operate them. On the downside, the system is a bit laggy, as it pauses for a second before responding to driver inputs. 

The front seats on the Alturas are large, draped in quality leather and they also feature seat ventilation which is great for our hot weather. The seats are well contoured and there is good space on offer too. The rear seat is at a good height and this reclining bench offers enough thigh and back support to keep you comfortable over long journeys. It also offers best in class space, with 50mm and 80mm more knee room as compared to the Endeavour and the Fortuner. Thanks to the scooped out roof lining, it offers much more headroom as well (30mm and 50mm more than the Endeavour and the Fortuner).  

The third-row is disappointing though. As the middle-row doesn’t adjust for length, one ends up with fixed knee room in the third-row which is cramped for large adults and the low seat gives it an uncomfortable knees-up seating. Headroom too is in short supply and its best to use them only over short distances. Boot space is quite big with the third-row folded but the loading lip is quite high which makes loading big bags a chore. 

As far as equipment goes the Alturas comes well loaded. It might miss out on features like auto park, electric folding third-row seat and panoramic sunroof which the Endeavour offers, but the Alturas gets its own set of unique features like 360 degree parking camera and smart powered tailgate. It also has segment leading safety features like 9 airbags, tyre pressure monitoring, active roll-over protection, ESP, ABS and EBD. 

How does it drive?

Unlike its competition, the Alturas G4 is powered by a smaller 2.2-litre four cylinder diesel engine (Endeavour has a bigger 3.2-litre option while the Fortuner’s diesel displaces 2.8-litre). Despite the capacity deficit, this 2198cc engines produces a healthy 178bhp and 420nm of torque which is at par with the competition. This motor is coupled to a Mercedes sourced 7-speed torque converter transmission.

When you first touch, the accelerator pedal the Alturas doesn’t come across as very peppy but once the torque converter spools up, the Alturas feels surprisingly quick. There is loads of torque past 1800rpm and unlike its rivals, this engine feel quite free revving too. The strong performance is reflected in our Vbox figures as this flagship Mahindra SUV posted some impressive times. The needle scales 100kmph in a brisk 11.06 seconds, which is not only quicker than the Fortuner (more than two seconds) but it also beats the much more powerful 3.2-litre Endeavour by half a second. Praise must also go to the 7-speed auto, which feels quick enough and makes most of the power on tap. This gearbox also is quick to downshift when you need to make a quick overtake. As a result the Alturas’s drivability times of 20-80kmph in 6.36 seconds and 40-100kmph in 8.38 seconds are much quicker than its rivals despite it having the least amount of torque.

Another plus point of this automatic transmission is the fact that when you are off-throttle the Alturas doesn’t start free-wheeling, which is the case in the Fortuner or in the Endeavour. This gives the driver that much needed engine braking in a car that already weighs more than two tonnes. It also gives a better sense of control over the vehicle especially while driving through a ghat section. Unlike its rivals the Alturas doesn’t get any drive modes - just a Manual mode for the gearbox (which also acts as Sports mode). In this mode, the engine is kept at higher revs for better performance and instant acceleration. What we really missed on the Alturas though were paddle shifters, which have been replaced with a fiddly switch on the gear lever which not only looks out of place, is also underwhelming to use.

As far as ride comfort is concerned, the Alturas G4 performs well at low speeds where the suspension does a good job of absorbing small to medium sized bumps. But typical of ladder frame SUVs, one does feel a shimmy every time this SUV goes over sharp edged potholes. Even at high speeds, this Mahindra feels lumpy over uneven tarmac and there’s pronounced up and down motion.

When it comes to handling, the Alturas behaves exactly like a heavy and tall SUV does. The steering is slow and has lot of turns lock to lock and the high centre of gravity results in body roll around corners. On the upside, when driven in an unhurried manner, it surprisingly feels manageable and most importantly, it feels safe and predictable. There is plenty of grip from the wide tyres and the brakes too offer decent bite and enough stopping power. Straight-line stability is really good as well and it rarely gets affected by crosswinds or road imperfections. 

The Alturas in top variant gets 4x4 equipped with a low range gearbox. We didn’t get to try its off-road prowess, but considering the torquey engine and good clearance, it should result in a decent tool when the going gets tough and slippery.

Should I buy one?

As a product the Alturas G4 is at par or in some cases better than the competition. The engine is powerful and refined, the macho exterior has lots of presence, interior quality is really good and the cabin is large with comfortable seating. The biggest hurdle for this Mahindra is the brand image which competitors like the Toyota and the Ford have in spades. So for this car to make its mark in the Rs 30 plus lakh SUV segment, Mahindra has to undercut competition like the Fortuner and the Endeavour by at least Rs 4-5 lakhs (approx Rs 35 lakhs on-road) to create a buzz around this impressive SUV and help make it a success.

Where does it fit in?

The Alturas G4 will compete with the highly successful Toyota Fortuner and the Ford Endeavour. Unlike the Fortuner which also gets a petrol engine option, the Alturas G4 will only come in diesel and two variants. 

Pictures by: Kaustubh Gandhi 

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Mahindra Alturas G4 Price in India

CityOn-Road Prices
Mumbai₹ 33.73 Lakhs onwards
Bangalore₹ 34.81 Lakhs onwards
New Delhi₹ 33.28 Lakhs onwards
Pune₹ 33.31 Lakhs onwards
Hyderabad₹ 33.56 Lakhs onwards
Ahmedabad₹ 31.29 Lakhs onwards
Chennai₹ 33.81 Lakhs onwards
Kolkata₹ 30.55 Lakhs onwards
Chandigarh₹ 31.4 Lakhs onwards
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