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Maruti Suzuki XL6 first drive review

Bob Rupani

In the present depressed market situation, the few things that evoke interest and can possibly drive sales, are new models and SUVs or crossovers, and Maruti's latest - the XL6 is both. Based on the popular and successful Maruti Ertiga, the XL6 has several SUV styling elements to distinguish it from its MPV sibling.

The overall profile is the same, but the XL6 is dimensionally slighter larger with its length being 4445mm (50mm more than the Ertiga), width 1775 mm (40 mm more) and height 1700 mm (10 mm more). The wheelbase of both though is the same at 2470 mm.

The XL6's biggest draw or unique selling proposition has to be that it is a six-seater with ‘captain seats' or ‘captain chairs', in the second row. And as cars with captain chairs are usually considered to be luxurious and premium, the XL6 will be sold by Maruti Suzuki exclusively through its more upmarket NEXA showroom network.

In many countries, SUVs or crossovers with captain chairs are the current rage and are getting increasingly fashionable. So far we in India have largely looked at most vehicles as either five-seaters or in case of more seating capacity, as seven-seaters. Over a decade back, Toyota was one of the first and few manufacturers in our country, to reduce the seating capacity and offer a version of their Innova with captain seats. Now Maruti has also done this with the XL6, and more people could realize the benefits of sacrificing one seat, in favour of the extra comfort and convenience of individual captain seats.

The captain chairs in the XL6 are almost exactly the same as the bucket seats in the front, with the only visible difference being the armrests and somewhat narrower head restraints. But these are only centre armrests, and the sides of the seats don't have them. Nevertheless, having two individual bucket seats in the second row, instead of a bench that can seat three, does have several advantages. Interestingly, when fitted in the front they are known as bucket seats, but when offered in the second row, they become ‘captain seats'. Being individual seats, the captain (or bucket) seats generally provide better support and space.

Their overall design and bolstering, contours and shape are such, that they are more comfortable. The fact that they can be individually adjusted makes it easier to find a suitable seating position too. The comfort offered by well-designed buckets seats or captain chairs is superior to that of bench seats and they are more relaxing and less tiring, especially if you spend a substantial amount of time in them. There is also the fact that sitting in such individual armchair like seats while being chauffeured around, makes most people feel important and affluent.

Another reward of captain seats is that they make access to the third row more convenient because they have additional room in the centre, which in most cases is enough for kids to just slip through to the rear. Also being individual seats, you can fold or move just one of them (and not the entire bench), to reach the third row of seats at the rear. And while there is more space on the sides and in the centre for the occupants of the captain chairs to move around, those seated in the last row, also get some additional legroom.

To make the XL6 look like an SUV, the bonnet has been raised and made more upright and it has what Maruti describe as an ‘aggressive grille'. This grille has a prominent chrome garnish running across it, and the XL6 is also adorned with prominent fender arches that along with the bulkier bumpers are integral elements of the body cladding. The cladding panel fixed on the bumper around the fog lights looks nice and infuses a mild dose of aggression, as do the ‘for cosmetic purposes only' skid plates at the front and rear. The roof rails and all-black alloy wheels also set it apart from the Ertiga.

As is to be expected in a product like the XL6, it comes with features like 17.8cm SmartPlay Studio touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. The all-black interior and artificial leather upholstery try to convey an upmarket feel and the XL6 also has things like cruise control, ventilated cup holders, height-adjustable driver's seat, etc. ESP (electronic stability program) with a hill-hold function is offered as a standard feature in the automatic variants only. I also really like the fact that the XL6 comes with a dozen a/c vents. Yes, you get a total of twelve a/c vents in the cabin!

The XL6 is powered by a BS6 compliant 1.5-litre petrol engine, which has the mild-hybrid technology Maruti has also been using in some of its other cars. In fact, this 1.5 petrol engine is also found in the Ciaz and Ertiga and is quite fuel-efficient. It makes 105 Ps and 138 Nm of torque and comes along with either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic (with torque converter) transmission. The XL6 moves and rides just like an Ertiga, with the petrol engine being fairly refined and willing. The delivery of power is quite linear too, but to make any sort of rapid progress, you have to push hard and get the engine higher into its rev range. While the engine is eager to rev, it does get a bit vocal beyond 5,000 rpm.

The XL6 does not have any diesel engine option. Yes, as Maruti have already announced, due to the BS6 norms that become applicable early next year, now onwards they will not be giving diesel power plants in their vehicles. So the XL6 (and the Ertiga) are presently the only ones in their segment without a diesel.

As we have already seen with the Ertiga, the mechanicals and engineering are well-sorted and just like its sibling, the XL6 also drives and rides decently well. The manual gearbox has a light and fairly precise gear shifter and is easy to use. The 4-speed automatic is not the fastest or most seamless of auto transmissions. There is a little lag between shifts and you can also notice the changing of gears.

Interestingly, the 4-speed auto has an L (low) and 2 (second) gear selector slot apart from the regular D (drive). So in case you are going up a steep slope or driving in the hills, you can select either L to lock the transmission in 1st gear or opt for 2 to keep it in 2nd gear. Being a 4-speed auto, the gears have tall or wide ratios and if you lock it in L, you can reach up to 60kmph in 1st and in the 2 positions you easily get past 100kmph and even up to about 105, before the engine rev limiter kicks in. But an indicator light beside the shifter is missing, and you have to look at the display in the dash in case you want to reconfirm what slot or position you have moved the gear selector to.

The XL6 is priced between Rs 9.8 to Rs 11.46 lakhs ex-showroom Delhi, while the Ertiga is available Rs. 7.55 lakhs onwards. While that may be a fair amount more to pay for one less seat, in my opinion, it's well worth it, as you upgrade from economy to premium economy class and get some additional comfort, luxury, interior ambience and of course, the SUV like styling.

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