Tata Nexon EV Max XZ+ LUX Drive Review. Electrifying performance and potential

India’s EV market is growing rapidly and 2023 is already looking to be a watershed year in terms of new offerings and exponential growth. The Auto Expo 2023 earlier this month showed how big manufacturers are betting on this segment, with almost every brand showcasing EV offerings in some shape or form. Though high cost of vehicles and lack of charging infrastructure still remain key deterrents, the growing shift towards sustainability and conscious consumption amongst urban consumers is fuelling unprecedented growth within the segment. Buyers are gaining confidence that EVs and not ICE cars are the way forward over the next decade, and can be a major game changer in making desired lifestyle shifts.

From the industry point of view, driving the push forward in the passenger vehicle segment is non other than Tata Motors. And no other car can be credited for ushering this growth more than India’s very own home-grown Tata Nexon EV. With over 40,000 Nexon EVs already sold, and numbers growing steadily, Tata Motors has a clear head start and is in a good space for now. But competition is creeping in. With a likely face-off with the newly launched Mahindra Electric XUV400 soon, Tata Motors has responded aggressively and reduced Nexon EVs prices, in addition to enhancing the driving range of the flagship Nexon EV Max.

But will this be enough for Tata Motors to retain its current hold over the passenger EV market in India? We spent a week with the range-topping Nexon EV Max XZ+ LUX, and took it for a 500+ km spin to find out.

Nexon EV Max is unarguably, the rising star in Tata Motors’ portfolio. From build quality, safety, driving dynamics, tech features, passenger comfort, ride, handling, and low operating cost, it is an irresistible package and makes immense sense if you have your charging requirements sorted – at home or at work. If you have adequate charging options around your driving vicinity, you can step into a 100% electric lifestyle effortlessly. Tata has a charging app for their EV vehicles – Tata Power EZ App – which can be downloaded for out of home charging. It not only helps locate commercial charging stations (only company owned) around you, but is the only way to charge your vehicle in these stations. The app has limited options though, and does not show charging stations other than Tata’s own. It is sometimes glitchy, but gets the job done nevertheless. There are several third party apps like PlugShare that help locate all charging stations around you, but during our limited usage, we found the Statiq App to be the most convenient – with more fast charging locations within our driving range, and a charging experience that was pretty quick and seamless.

While there isn’t much to distinguish the standard Nexon from its EV counterpart, in terms of vehicle design (form & shape), the visual distinction is the electric blue humanity line and EV badging on the front, rear and sides. The tri-arrow elements at the front and the window-sill cladding are the other indicators that differentiate the Nexon EV from the standard Nexon.

The visual differences between the EV Prime and the EV Max is even less conspicuous. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, and the EV Max stands apart from the standard EV Prime, thanks to the redesigned 16″ diamond cut alloy wheels and the new Intensi-Teal paint option, which looks really good on the road. Overall, Nexon has always been admired as a well designed SUV with compact proportions, an impressive stance and a distinct road presence. It has matured significantly in its design since it was launched almost 6 years back, and the flatter bonnet combined with the angular front headlamps with integrated LED DRLs give it a meaner front fascia. At the rear, the clear tail lamps with the Union Jack-like design are joined together by the electric blue bar, which is one of the most striking indicators of the EV nature of this car. These subtle ‘electric’ touches look good on the Nexon EV range, and add a fair bit of flair to the exterior.

On the inside, the visual similarities to the standard Nexon continue, but the addition of blue accents and inserts across the cabin make a striking difference. The beige leatherette upholstery also does wonders to make the cabin feel spacious and airy, and the familiar tri-arrow elements and blue stitching are subtle reminders of its electric identity. The Nexon’s original three-tiered dashboard design still doesn’t look outdated, although the 7″ infotainment screen with its thick bezel does feel small, compared to other offerings at this price point. Barring its size, the infotainment system is otherwise smooth and intuitive and the piano black dash panel with teal tri-arrow inserts look utterly classy and enhance the premium appeal by several notches. The central console features a redesigned rotary gear selector with an elegant knurled finish and a crisp four stage display – Park (P), Reverse (R), Neutral (N) and Drive (D)- built into it. The gear selector display changes colour depending on the driving mode. Electric blue is the default colour for City mode. In Eco mode the display turns green, and in Sport mode it’s bright red. While the whole thing looks really striking, the shifts engage one step at a time and slow things down a bit. So it really isn’t possible to quickly shift into reverse from drive. You need to first bring it to neutral, and then reverse. Just a minor irritant when you are in a rush. Other features on the top of the line Nexon EV Max XZ+ Lux include a semi-digital instrument display, wireless charger, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an 8-speaker Harman sound system, electronic handbrake with hill hold assist, auto headlamps and wipers, and a built in air purifier with AQI display. 

The front seats are extremely comfortable with arm rest support, good bolstering and lower back support. The addition of ventilated seats on the top of the line variant considerably improves things and takes comfort up a notch. The rear seats are decently comfortable too, but lack under-thigh support due to the raised floor. Legroom is enough for passengers of average height, although taller passengers may struggle a bit. Headroom is good except for the tallest of passengers, and though Nexon EV Max isn’t the widest car, three passengers at the rear is manageable. We even packed in four on a short trip. The small sunroof is refreshing and adds to the airiness of the cabin. There is a decent 350L boot tucked in, and the 60:40 split rear seats can be folded down for more space, whenever required. 

In terms of safety features, the Nexon EV Max’s top end variant comes with two front airbags, traction control, ESP, ABS with EBD, Hill Ascent and Descent Control, and a rear parking camera. It also has a 5-star global NCAP rating, making it one of the safest vehicles on the street.

Under the hood (metaphorically speaking, as the batteries are actually placed in the floor of the vehicle), the Nexon EV Max comes with a liquid cooled 40.5 kWh high energy density lithium ion battery pack, capable of producing 143BHP of power and 250Nm of torque – an increase of approximately 14BHP and 5Nm of torque over the standard Nexon EV. The car comes with three distinct driving modes – Eco, City and Sport. Tata limits the power output to approximately 97BHP and 170Nm of torque in City and Eco modes to maximise range, while you get to experience the full potential of the electric motors in Sport mode. You also get four distinct levels of regenerative braking, with level 0 providing no generation and allowing the car to coast without sudden deceleration, and level 3 providing maximum regeneration which brings the car to a gradual stop on its own once you lift your foot off the pedal. City and Eco modes proved to be better than expected during our daily commute, and despite the power limitations, the Nexon EV Max provides a zippy and satisfying drive, no matter which mode you select. Of course, the throttle response becomes considerably sharper in Sport mode, making the Nexon EV Max one of the most eager and engaging cars to drive under the INR 20.0 lacs price point. Acceleration in Sport mode is rather quick, with the car hitting 100 km/h from standstill in approximately 9.5 seconds consistently during our testing. Acceleration figures do take a hit in Eco and City mode, with the Nexon reaching triple digit speeds in approximately 14.0+ seconds. The EV Max also sees an increase in its top speed when compared to the standard EV, silently accelerating to a top speed of 137 km/h rather than 120 km/h in the standard model. 

The driving dynamics of the Nexon have always been commendable, but the Nexon EV, and specifically the Max variant, takes it up a few notches higher. In Sport mode, the Nexon EV’s throttle response is sharper and more engaging than almost any other car in the price bracket – EV or not. Put your foot down and the power delivery is smooth and linear. You would hardly be left wanting any more. In fact, you would impulsively tend to slow down a bit, as it flies off the mark in an exhilarating display of electric dynamics. The steering, which is extremely light in Eco and City mode makes city driving and parking an absolute breeze. It weights up nicely when in Sport mode and at higher speeds. While you don’t get a lot of feel and feedback from the steering, the Nexon EV Max manages to provide an engaging drive even on twisty roads. Not for once do you feel out of control. This is thanks in part to the low centre of gravity due to the heavy battery mounted low to the ground, giving the Nexon EV a taut feel around bends. The EV Max adds about 100 kgs of weight over the standard EV, but the suspension does a great job, ensuring that you don’t feel the added weight. While the suspension has been tuned more towards the stiffer side, the Nexon EV doesn’t compromise on ride quality. The car handled most surfaces with utmost ease, gliding over potholes and road irregularities and providing a comfortable ride that is unmatched by many rivals. 

In terms of range, Tata claims that the Nexon EV Max can run for 453 kms on a single charge, although that’s the figure for the updated 2023 model. Existing EV Max owners will get their range extended via a software update. Our test car hadn’t received it yet, therefore its claimed range stood at 437 kms. In the real world though, we managed to get a maximum displayed range of about 300 kms (in Drive mode) with the car on 100% charge. In Eco mode, with the climate control turned off and regenerative braking at Level 3, the range moved up to 317 kms. While 300+ kms is a decent range all things considered, the difference between the claimed range and the real world range must be factored into everyday driving. With the updated driving range, we expect the new Nexon EV Max to do about 340 kms on a single charge. 

In terms of charging, the Nexon EV Max comes with a 3.3kWh AC charger as standard that charges the car from 0-100% in approximately 15 hours, and customers have the option of a 7.2kWh wall-mounted AC charger for an extra INR 50,000 that reduces the charge time to approximately 6.5 hours. Alternatively, the Nexon EV Max can also use a 50kW DC fast charger for a 0-80% charge time of just 56 minutes. During our review, charging from 0-80% took us approximately 80 minutes, and the additional time is something you need to account for.

Despite its less than claimed real world range, it is hard to deny that Tata EV Max is an extremely well packaged electric vehicle that is timed right, and realistically allows you to consider making the shift to electric. The fact that it is also one of the fastest Indian made car on the streets, is a bonus. Nexon EV Max is a well equipped, good looking and comfortable compact electric SUV to begin with, and a slick performer with sorted driving dynamics. The low running cost is the cherry on top. Charging cost can be as low as Re. 1.2/ km for home charging, and go up to Rs. 2.6/ km for out of home commercial fast charging with CCS2 chargers. But this may vary from city to city.

While EVs in general still are a tad pricey to own in India, the recently announced price reductions across the Nexon EV range make it a bit more accessible for those looking for a new kind of motoring experience. The revised prices for Tata Nexon EV Max in 2023 start at INR 16.49 lacs for the base XZ model, and go up to INR 18.99 lacs for the range topping XZ+ Lux. While prices are likely to drop further in the coming years, and Tata Motors likely to launch 10 new EVs over the next 5 years, it is still a worthy shift to make at current prices, if you consider long term gains and the larger good. And once you go for electric, you will find it hard to get back to other powertrains. So go for it.

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