We drove from Nagpur city to Pench National park a few hundred kilometres away, having a mix of city, countryside, highway and even some off-road time. The 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine here is the same unit from the Kodiaq that produces 147bhp and 340Nm of torque. Thanks to the strong low-end and mid-range, it’s good enough to push this behemoth ahead without feeling much of its bulk. This engine is very refined as compared to other ladder-on-frame vehicles in its segment and the NVH levels provide complete silence once the windows are up.
The motor is paired to a seven-speed DSG automatic transmission that powers all wheels through a torque-on-demand AWD system. This dual-clutch unit provides smooth shifts and is very quick; although if required, one has the paddle-shifters option for manual shifting. From the various driving modes including snow, individual and off-road mode, the throttle response is subdued in the eco mode and feels most responsive in the sport mode. Even the steering response is likable as it doesn’t feel vague at the centre, is light at low speeds and weighs up adequately with increase in speed. While changing directions, the Scout isn’t very sharp but surely feels much better than the ladder-on-frame SUVs and is more car-like to handle.
Even the suspension for that matter is impressive. It might not flatten everything that comes in its path, but absorbs most undulations and doesn’t let the SUV wallow at high speeds like in most of its rivals. The noise is also supressed which altogether makes it a relaxed long-distance tourer. That said, some sharp-edged potholes and road joints, especially on flyovers might be audible, but they are still well-contained. So, there’s some side-to-side movement at low speeds but the high speed ride is flat while the brake feel and bite feel assuring with good straight-line stability.
Now, All-Wheel Drive is offered as standard on the Kodiaq, but this Scout version brings in an additional 'Off-Road' mode which can be used up to speeds of 30kmph. Select this from a button on the centre console and the smart electronics will adjust the throttle response and damper settings depending on the terrain you are taking. When activated, it also shows up different functions on the infotainment display including the compass, the steering wheel angle, the altimeter, and even the oil and coolant temperature. This mode is integrated with a software specially designed for the Scout that adjusts not just the characteristics of the engine, but the electronic assistants like ABS, EBD and stability control systems too.
We tried it with the hill-descent control on, and the SUV descended a steep slope safely without any slippage of the wheel. We didn’t have to provide any throttle or brake input. Also, when there's any loss of traction, an electro-hydraulically controlled multi-disc inter-axle clutch smoothly distributes the torque between the front and rear axles. This ratio ranges between 96 per cent to four per cent and 10 per cent to 90 per cent respectively. More interestingly, this system can transmit as much as 85 per cent of the torque to just a single wheel. Of course, the coupling of the rear axle is automatic, so under normal conditions, the Scout is predominantly front-wheel drive. But under extreme conditions it engages the smart system so that one can enjoy the excellent traction provided by the 4x4 drive.