There are not many cars or SUV’s in India that can claim to be trendsetters. Other than the Maruti Suzuki Swift which made hatchbacks cool, the Mahindra Scorpio is the only other vehicle that comes to our mind (from amongst those which wont drill a hole in your pocket) which would get you noticed. Launched in 2002, the Scorpio has helped to shape the face of Mahindra from a crude Jeep manufacturer to a modern automobile giant. The Scorpio over the years has evolved into both a SUV and a MUV and Mahindra has made timely changes and modifications to the Scorpio to keep it in sync with times. Today the Scorpio is as much in demand in urban India as it is in rural India and its patrons include businessmen, students, politicians and women. With prices starting from Rs7,59,200 to Rs12,40,500 ex-showroom New Delhi, can this Mahindra SUV actually claim to be an international utility vehicle?
Cashing in on the Scorpio’s cult status, Mahindra launched a coffee table book titled ‘The Legend of Scorpio,’ and this is a testament to the success of the Scorpio. After all it’s the SUV/MUV which made everyone change its perception about Mahindra of solely being a Jeep and tractor manufacturer.
Over the years Mahindra has added new metallic graphics to the Scorpio but the original roundish look remains the same. With its huge stance the Scorpio does play to your ego and on the road its presence makes people move away. The multi reflector headlights are now more squarish and merge well with the new grille. The front bumper features integrated fog lamps and the bonnet scoop is sleek and gels with the overall design theme. The side body cladding features an embossed Scorpio tag and the rear remains largely unchanged except for the integrated step on the rear bumper. Build quality too has improved over the years and there is more consistency with panel gaps and shut lines.
The interiors have a pleasant two tone beige finish and Mahindra claims to have improved the seating and cushioning. Another change to the Scorpio over the years has been the dials and improvement in the trim. Ergonomically, the Scorpio isn’t as good as the Toyota Innovar even the Tata Safari. While the seats are supportive and good for long journeys and quality has improved since we first saw the Scorpio, the Interiors still aren’t as good as the Toyota Innova. That said, the overall execution of the interiors is good. In terms of space the Scorpio has more room than the Tata Sumo Grande but middle and third row passengers don’t get as much leg and shoulder room as the Tata Safari and the Toyota Innova.
The base EX variant (with the 2.6litre CRDe engine) gets power steering and an air con. The LX variant comes with tiltable steering, power windows all around, central locking and rear spoiler. The SLE version is equipped with ABS, front fog lamps, electrically operated outside rear view mirrors and rear wiper. On the top of the line VLX variant airbags and 4WD are optional, but there is a tyre pressure management system, rain and light sensors, 2-DIN Audio system with Bluetooth, CD/MP3 player, USB & SD card compatibility, cruise control & audio controls on steering wheel, and alloy wheels.
Engine and performance
The Scorpio has changed a few engines since 2002 and with every new engine the drivability and refinement has improved. The 2.2-litre mHawk all aluminium engine with variable geometry turbocharger, double camshaft and 16-valves produces 122PS@4000rpm and 290Nm of torque between 1800-2800rpm. Compared to the Tata engines (both Mahindra and Tata employ the expertise of Austrian engine manufacturer AVL) the Scorpio’s is freer revving and drivability is pretty good. At high revs though there is a bit of stress that you feel but noise insulation is comparable to international standards. Compared to the other 2.6-litre engine the mHawk’s refinement is immediately noticeable and100kmph is reached in around 17seconds which is the same as the Innova. A top speed of over 150kmph is achievable and power delivery is linear. The ARAI claimed fuel efficiency of 12.88kmpl is only marginally less than the Innova. The Scorpio’s 5-speed manual gearbox lacks the car like slickness of the Innova and despite its long throws its reasonably good.
The base EX version comes with the older 2.6-litre CRDe engine which produces 76PS.
The Scorpio gets the traditional SUV body-on-chassis construction and the independent front suspension gets an anti roll bar while the 4WD variant comes with a torsion bar. At the rear you get multilink suspension and despite the changed suspension setup the Scorpio still has the springiness to its ride. The ride quality though overall is improved and you can drive through broken patches without lifting from the accelerator. With the lighter 2.2-litre mHAWK engine the Scorpio doesn’t feel as nose heavy and handling has improved as a result. While the steering still feels a bit vague, the loss of weight has given the steering a bit more feel.
The Scorpio uses a Borg & Warner 4WD gearbox and you get options between high and low ratios. Mahindra claims that the Scorpio has an approach and departure angles of 30 and 20 degrees respectively.
The Scorpio based alone on its pricing competes with the Mahindra Xylo which leaves the Scorpio red faced with its interior space. Ride quality too of the Xylo is plusher. The Toyota Innova offers car like driving experience and its build quality is best in segment. The engine and gearbox are refined and interior space is more than the Scorpio. The Innova though looks more like van and there is no 4WD option. The Tata Sumo Grande is more spacious than the Scorpio but lacks in build quality, overall refinement and the engine too doesn’t feel as powerful or refined.
There is no denying that the Scorpio is way more improved since 2002. The engine, ride and handling, build quality and overall refinement, all have gone many a step higher and the Scorpio without any exaggeration is good enough to compete with the likes of Toyota and other international manufacturers. The styling remains more or less the same as the original Scorpio and Mahindra has done well to sharpen the edges but that doesn’t take away from its towering presence. The interior space is still an area of concern and despite the suspension changes the Scorpio can’t match the Innova for handling and ride quality.
Quotes from other reviews:
BS Motoring: ‘To me the Scorpio was always an honest, hardworking automobile. It was built strong, took the rough well, could go on cruising from morning to evening without breaking into a sweat and the 4X4 version could take you places. With every improvement Mahindra is taking it into uncharted territory. While it was nice to position it as an alternative to cars, it may not be a good idea to raise the expectation levels of prospective buyers to a very high level. That is exactly what features like the cruise control do’.