Words by Aniruddha Rangnekar
Photography by Subodh Phatak
The Mahindra Scorpio is back in a new avatar, receiving its first major upgrade since the third-generation car was launched three years back. Since its launch back in 2002, the company has constantly been improving on this home-grown SUV, providing a major chassis upgrade along with a new engine in 2006, a facelift in 2008 and of course with it’s all-new platform in 2014.
This latest version still looks like the model it replaces, while retaining the same underpinnings, which is a good thing as the silhouette and proportions of the Scorpio are something most buyers are attracted to. There are minor changes made to the front grille, along with minor tweaks to the front end and rear bumper to add some more character to an already bold looking SUV. On the whole I have always liked the design of this new Scorpio, though I wish the LED eyebrow element used as a parking light, was a daytime running light. This would have definitely given the Scorpio even more road presence. There’s plenty of badging all over the SUV, something seen on most new age Mahindra vehicles, while the grille retains its chrome bits with its distinct identity. The big wheel arches accommodate 17” inch wheels, which are standard across all variants, while the top end version we tested gets these refreshed alloys. The tail-lamps have a nice aftermarket look to them, adding some more character to the Scorpio.
The third-generation platform on which the Scorpio runs on a ladder frame chassis, with flexibility to be as extended wheelbase or reduced to fit a sub-4 metre body without compromising on structural integrity. The platform gives overall emphasis to provide a stiffer chassis that is safer, while of course improving passenger comfort and body control. The work put in to make a stiffer Scorpio is evident from word go. If there was one major problem with the older generation Scorpios, it was the way it handled bumps, especially at speed. The new generation has majorly addressed that issue, while this face lifted version further improves where its predecessor left of. The suspension has received a few minor tweaks, making its manners around corners better, while overall stability is also improved, while body roll too has been cut down. All said, it still won’t handle as car like compared to the Renault Duster or Hyundai Creta and it’s main competitor, the Tata Safari still has the edge purely on ride quality.
All this added stability is much needed as the biggest change in the ‘all powerful’ Scorpio as Mahindra is calling it gets a new engine and gearbox package, where it feels superior to the above mentioned competition. The engine retains the same size at 2179cc, but thanks to a bigger turbo, new fuel pump and some tweaking around with cam and crank settings, it now produces 140bhp as compared to 120bhp the older one managed to churn out. Torque is also up by 40Nm at 320Nm, available from as low as 1,500rpm. This makes the Scorpio very drivable at low revs in almost any gear. There is very little turbo lag and this two tonne plus SUV manages to get a moving pretty swiftly. The 2.2 litre mHawk has proved itself in the past to be a good workhorse, with plenty of grunt and enough go. This new version only further improves on that with even better drivability, requiring less frequent gear shifts. But unlike previous Scorpios, now you wouldn’t find shifting gears, on this all new 6-speed gearbox to be a chore. It has a smooth shifting action with positive throws, still a bit long, but much improved neverthless. The added sixth should make it a better highway cruiser, but we could not test it. The NVH levels have also been improved on the new car and this results in fewer vibrations and very little engine rattle filtering into the cabin, even at high revs.
I got to drive the Scorpio on the test track within Mahindra’s plant in Chakan, which gave me a good idea about the engine’s strong performance. I also got the chance to test a camouflaged car in more real world conditions on the roads around the Mahindra plant which gave me a better idea on the improvements made to the Scorpio. I managed to get a good mix of road conditions to put the engine and gearbox through its paces, which it handled really well. There’s good throttle response irrespective of which gear you are all the way from 1,500 to over 3,000rpm. The power delivery is. Ride quality remains more or less the same at low speed, with the suspension soaking up bumps well. While it does get a little choppy as the speeds get higher, especially if you go through a rough section.
The interiors have been a nice place to be in the Scorpio with its airy feel and use of lighter colors to give you a pleasant feel. Things remain more or less the same on the inside with the top end variant we tested coming loaded with dual front airbags, a simple touch-controlled six-inch infotainment system with navigation and newly introduced parking camera which offers great resolution, climate control with rear AC vents, dual-tone seats, some nice silver and chrome touches, start-stop tech, tyre pressure sensors, etc. The steering wheel along with some interior bits have been borrowed from its sibling, the XUV500. The overall fit and finish levels have improved and quality of most materials used feels pretty good. Ergonomically too it is quite well done, with most of the operational equipment at a comfortable distance. The blue-lit dials along with speedo and tachometers, read out the fuel level, engine temperature, trip and gear indication. The dials provide a mix of digital and analogue displays while going well with the overall theme of the SUV. The Scorpio will continue to be available with an optional on-the-fly 4X4 system, which features low ratio as well. There are a couple areas in which the Scorpio could improve. It’s difficult to access and adjust the driver’s seat once you shut the door, something I had to do in both the cars we tested. The other being quality of door locks and their flimsy feel, as you to use these frequently with the absence of a master unlock switch in the cabin.
You could argue that Mahindra could to go with a monocoque chassis, to give the Scorpio better comfort and a more car like fee like most of its rivals and sibling, the XUV 500. But the company has stuck to the tried and tested ladder frame platform, to give the SUV its distinct identity. The work on this body-on-frame has been done well and reminds us the rugged, indestructible feel the Scorpio has given its owners over the years, which this new model should continue to give, with added advantage of powerful engine, improved refinement and even better cruising abilities, while being as capable as the outgoing model in all other aspects.