What is it?
Why would I buy it?
More powerful engine with new six-speeder offers supreme driveability, for its rugged appeal
Why would I avoid it?
Unsettled ride may not suit everybody’s tastes
The Mahindra Scorpio is a familiar sight on our road, in all its various avatars that have been offered over the years. It is the kind of SUV that's still a popular choice among those buyers who prefer a rugged vehicle with a butch stance. But now, Mahindra has decided to upgrade its aging Scorpio. This comes in the form of more power and torque for enhanced performance, a new six-speed transmission, tweaked styling and more features.
Looks first! And let’s focus on what sets this iteration apart from the outgoing model. At first glance, the changes definitely seem subtle. But they have still succeeded in lending this SUV with some more character. The updates include a refreshed front grille with chrome inserts, fog lamps with a chrome bezel, bold chrome inserts inside the headlamps and a new skid plate. In profile, the changes are limited only to a fresh alloy wheel design and turn indicators integrated into the external mirrors. At the rear, the tailgate no longer retains the protruding black cladding from the previous models. Instead, it now comes with a redesigned wiper, LED tail lamps with a red lens, and there’s also a restyled footstep on the rear bumper. Let’s now move on to what makes the new Scorpio tick on the inside.
How is it on the inside?
Once seated in the facelifted Scorpio, I scanned the interior for the updates. What was evident instantly were the artificial leather seats with blue fabric inserts, a new roof mounted sunglass holder, and the reverse camera that’s integrated into the touchscreen infotainment (with GPS compatibility). It doesn’t end there though. An auto window roll-up switch and one-touch lane change indicators have also been thrown into the mix.
The rest is the same. The grey-black textured, upright and compact dash which looks old-school, has been retained. Smart use of light colours now makes the cabin feel airier. Presently, although the dials and screen on the instrumentation look a bit too small for my liking, they depict the details clearly. Storage is taken care of by the adequately sized glovebox, two cubbyholes positioned next to the hand brake, and the slim front door pads.
While quality is not acceptable in certain places for a car at this price point, it is also ergonomically flawed. Everything that you want to view and operate while on the move is placed low, which makes it difficult. That said, what aides the visibility in the Scorpio are the tall seats. The large front ones offer premium cushioning with some contours and ample thigh support. This, combined with the good legroom and generous headroom make for a comfortable driving position.
At the rear, knee-room could have been better since you expect more from a vehicle of this size. On the flipside, the high-set bench coupled with the low-set windows gives occupants a brilliant view outside. The seats themselves are flat with appropriate cushioning, they have superb thigh support, and allow for an upright backrest angle. If you thought headroom in the front was great, then it is simply brilliant at the rear. Seating three passengers here is a breeze, and there are rear air-con vents too, with some uniquely angled cubby space. Thankfully, the rear door pad can accommodate a bottle too.
This brings us to the third row of seats that comprise of two benches facing each other. Although you’ll get ample shoulder room, and adequate headroom, it has a ‘squatting’ seating position that one will have to deal with. Plus these seats aren’t safe since you don’t get seat belts. With these folded upwards, it liberates enough baggage room for at least three medium sized suitcases plus some large soft bags. The facelifted Scorpio we drove was the top-of-the-line S11 variant in 2WD form. It comes loaded with features that you can read more about here.
How does it drive?
This is the same mHawk engine and gearbox that’s been lifted from the XUV500. It has been doing duty in that car for some time now, and while it makes 140bhp and 320Nm of torque, it is also coupled to the same six-speed gearbox. You instantly know the difference when you’re off the mark since the low-end torque seems like it is on steroids. Mahindra claims the sixth-gen Borg Warner turbo charger is the reason behind the peppy drive.
While we entirely agree, we also felt that the six-speed gearbox helps matters. Shifting gears is a huge improvement, thanks to the slicker slotting gates and the light clutch. Not only do the gears slot with a positive feel, they slot accurately even when done in a hurry. The combination of the torquey engine and closely stacked gear ratios makes constant downshifting unnecessary to keep up with unless you really need a serious dose of performance. However, the biggest downfall has to be the reverse gear, which quite frankly, is a pain to actuate and the long throw doesn’t help matters either.
Let’s talk more about the power delivery now. It is linear and there’s an abundance of torque right from the word go. A strong surge can be felt kicking-in at about 1400rpm that sees the rpm needle swiftly reach 3500rpm before tapering off at 4200rpm. While the meaty portion of the power-band is obviously wide, we must add that traction is unmistakeably this motor’s strength, which is quite unlike the 120bhp mHawk engine. Our VBox also confirmed this by clocking the 0-100kmph run in 12.73 seconds. Even the 20-80kmph and 40-100kmph drivability tests, recorded in 9.89 seconds and 15.94 seconds respectively, is more than a second faster than the 120bhp mHawk engine, both in terms of outright acceleration and drivability. Keep the accelerator pedal floored and the revs climb all the way to the motor’s 4700rpm redline, but by that time, the motor gets quite noisy.
That said, it is only at the higher revs where you’ll actually hear the engine (with windows rolled up), since Mahindra has optimised the insulation. However, what dampened our high speed driving experience was the excessive wind noise associated with the upright windscreen position. There aren’t any surprises in the ride and handling department since Mahindra has retained the earlier suspension system. So, it continues to drive with the typical ladder-frame SUV traits.
Although, this time around, we felt that the facelifted Scorpio had a slightly more absorbent ride at lower speeds. But if you go over a speed breaker a little fast or over a sharp bump, the rear kicks and it can get uncomfortable for the rear occupants especially. Then, there are the inherent qualities of pitching, constant up-and-down movement and the side-to-side rocking that are present in the facelifted car too. The ride never seems settled until the Scorpio sees a perfectly flat stretch of tarmac.
Let’s talk about the steering now. It feels slightly vague off the dead centre, isn’t particularly quick, and has quite a few turns from lock to lock (making U-Turns a bit of a hand-job). On the flip side, it makes up for these shortcomings by being decently light and progressive, especially while steering through corners at lower speeds. On the other hand, the braking is better than before and this is thanks to Mahindra’s latest braking system, coupled to the 9.1 Bosch ABS system.
Should I buy one?
It’s time to take a look at how the facelifted Mahindra Scorpio stacks up, and let’s begin with what goes against it. It still remains dynamically flawed, the quality of the interior doesn’t match up to a car of this price tag, there’s too much wind noise at higher speeds, and lastly, the long-throw gearbox with the fidgety reverse gear actuation needs some getting used to.
However, what goes in favour of the new Scorpio is that you still have the presence, the engine is much better, insulation has improved, it comes with more features, and it boasts of excellent visibility.
Where does it fit in?
The Mahindra Scorpio has a sticker price that ranges from Rs 11.53 lakhs to Rs 18.69 lakhs on-road Mumbai. And for this kind of money, it locks horns with cars such as the Tata Storme, Nissan Terrano, Renault Duster, Toyota Innova Crysta, Tata Hexa, and its own stable mate, the XUV500.
Pictures: Kapil Angane