Scoop: Mahindra W201 to be initially launched as front-wheel drive only

All those who were hoping for an all-wheel drive W201 from Mahindra, will have to wait a little bit longer.

Mahindra will be launching only a front-wheel-drive version of the World SUV (W201) first, before the all-wheel-drive version. According to a source, who has seen as well as driven the W201, Mahindra will first launch the front-wheel-drive version only. Later Mahindra will introduce the all-wheel drive variants depending on the market response the W201 receives. This could also mean that the base front-wheel drive W201 could be priced as low as Rs. 11.5 lakh. Also read: all you wanted to know about the Mahindra W201 World SUV

mahindra w201 rendering by Autocar India
Mahindra w201 rendering by Autocar India

The World SUV will have a transverse engine layout. As speculated earlier, our source confirmed that power will be from the 2.2 litre mHawk engine producing around 138 bhp, and mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. Justifying its SUV tag, the Mahindra W201 all-wheel-drive will feature a Borg-Warner on-demand 4×4 system that will take care of moderate off-roading. The vehicle’s testing has reached its final stages and hence expect the launch to be during September 2011 or atleast before Diwali. Mahindra will produce the W201 at its Chakan plant in Pune. One source who claimed to have driven the vehicle said it was extremely smooth and handled much better than the Scorpio on tarmac.

We have also got unconfirmed information that Mahindra has been experimenting with a 3-litre diesel engine for the W201 that puts out 180 bhp. This, however, is not likely to see commercial production anytime soon, and Mahindra may consider this for export markets at a later date.

The W201 is Mahindra’s first global model developed on a monocoque platform, a first for M&M. Based on the various spy photographs of the test mules, the new SUV can be expected to be as big as a Chevrolet Captiva in size. The W201 is definitely bigger than anything that Mahindra has built so far, with a wider body and longer wheelbase to ensure its clear-entry into European market. Various rendering images revealed by auto magazines suggest that Mahindra’s W201 will feature Mahindra’s typical seven-slat grille at the front (as seen in its current models like in the Xylo), turn indictors integrated to rear view mirrors, large dual headlamps and LED daytime running lights. The rear of the W201 will have an MPV look. But the width of the vehicle, with carved out wheel arches hides the MPV styling and also hints at a sporty stance.

Earlier, there was speculation that Mahindra will launch many safety features including ABS, ESP, traction control, airbags as standard features. However, now, considering its revised strategy to bring in the two-wheel-drive version first, expect fewer safety features to be standard in order to keep the price competitive. Mahindra W201 will take on the likes of Honda CR-V, Chevrolet Captiva, Skoda Yeti, Tata Aria and might even attract a few luxury sedan buyers.

Tata Aria could be regarded the direct competition for Mahindra World SUV because both the vehicles have pushed the boundaries of the two Indian giants. Tata and Mahindra are foraying into premium SUVs and crossover segment for the first time. Aria’s dismal sales proves that the company’s ambitious pricing despite boasting to have many “first-time in India” features in India’s “first crossover” is not working in Tata’s favour.

Knowing that the majority of SUV buyers seldom go off-roading, Mahindra is taking a safe strategy in launching a two-wheel-drive version of W201 ahead of the four-wheel-drive W201. Will this work in favour of Mahindra? It just might!