• Mahindra Scorpio-N first drive review

The Scorpio was always known for its solid presence and butch looks, the new-generation model takes inspiration and takes it to a different level

It's been two decades since Mahindra launched the Scorpio, a true SUV made completely in India. There’s no other SUV that has gained the kind of cult following as the Scorpio. It proved that Mahindra can make world-class passenger vehicles too and is one of their most successful models ever. Over 20 years, Mahindra has sold over eight lakh units of this SUV in India and Internationally too.

While the Scorpio constantly received updates in the form of modern engines, features and even a newer chassis, it had begun to show its age. Mahindra did take notice of this and after years of development, has finally launched the all-new Scorpio-N. Here’s what we think of the most awaited SUV, both on the road and off it.

Also read: Mahindra Scorpio-N launched at Rs 11.99 lakh 

Design and styling

The Scorpio was always known for its solid presence and butch looks, the new-generation model takes inspiration and takes it to a different level. The first thing that one will notice is the sheer size of the SUV and the handsome face. It features dual-barrel LED headlamps that also combine dynamic indicators. The front grill takes centre stage and nicely incorporates the vertical slats and Mahindra’s new twin peaks logo. Look closely and you’ll notice the front camera (on the top variant) neatly flowing down from the logo. A chrome strip runs across the grille and continues into the upper section of the headlamps as well. The front bumper houses a C-shaped DRL that gives the Scorpio-N a distinct look and it also cleverly integrates a small projector fog lamp. 

Move to the side and you know it’s a Scorpio, the silhouette is a throwback to the older model and does it in style. The A-Pillar for example sits more straight than other SUVs that are on sale today. The SUV has grown in size and is now longer, in fact slightly more than the Tata Safari as well. The shoulder line runs parallel to the windows and there’s a slight kink towards the rear too. The window lining on the top variants is finished in steel and runs from the mirror all the way to the upper section of the third-row window mimicking a scorpion sting. The diamond-cut wheels look smart while the cladding offers a dual-tone look. Roof rails also add to the overall height.

Mahindra_Scorpio_N

Vertical taillamps continue to be offered and the design seems to be very Volvo-like. It is the talking point of the rear and also features dynamic turn indicators. The taillight element however doesn’t run the entire length of the lamp unit.

Mahindra_Scorpio_N

The LED isn’t as bright and not as prominent as on the XUV300 for instance. The tailgate continues to open sideways like on the previous-gen model. The rear bumper gets some chrome treatment too but could have been integrated better. While the Scorpio N has grown slightly wider, the tall body and rear section give it a narrower look. I feel the SUV looks the best when viewed from the front and three-quarter view. 

Interior

Step inside the Scorpio-N and it’s a whole new world. There’s nothing similar to the previous models in a positive way. The design is very European, after all, the SUV was designed by various teams in-house at Mahindra and by Pininfarina in Italy. We drove the top variant that features a leather-finished dash finished in a coffee brown colour and houses a striking centre console that integrates an 8-inch touchscreen. The controls get lovely steel finishing and the switches are of great quality too. The leather-wrapped steering is similar to the XUV700 and adds to the modern design.

The instrument cluster in the top variants also get a nice high-resolution 7-inch display that offers all the info one could ask for, including navigation. The brown-black interior theme looks elegant and suddenly makes the Scorpio-N now feel a lot more upmarket and in fact seems like a segment above. There were a few places though where fit was poor and gaps inconsistent. While we did drive the production-spec vehicle, these issues may get sorted out when deliveries begin. The Scorpio-N also features connected technology via the AdrenoX Connect smartphone app that lets you start the engine and turn air-conditioning on remotely besides which you also get Amazon Alexa connectivity with What3Words for navigation. In fact, Mahindra tells us the Scorpio-N is equipped with over 70 connected features. You also get wireless charging and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, besides a 12-speaker Sony music system. The Scorpio-N does not get an auto-dimming inside rear view mirror or ventilated seats though, a feature that’s becoming increasingly common now. 

The driving position is commanding and it’s a very airy cabin thanks to the large greenhouse, something missing in newer vehicles today. The A-pillars are also not very thick, so visibility is never an issue. The front seat can be adjusted electrically and are way better than the older Scorpio. One can be seated for hours thanks to the good thigh and back support, ideal for long drives. Three-row seating makes it ideal for large families. The middle row is nice and wide with a flat centre (despite the armrest), so seating three adults won’t be a problem.

There’s also a lot of knee room and headroom on offer and one can also opt for captain seats if required. Getting into the third row is easy thanks to the one-touch tumble split seats. Mahindra claims that the third row is a lot more spacious than its rivals but it still is a cramped area with a low H point. There are no dedicated AC vents in this area, a feature that’s seen in a lot of seven-seater SUVs today. 

Engine and transmission

The distinct highlights of the XUV700 that was launched last year were its brilliant powertrains and the good news is that the new Scorpio is powered by the same petrol and diesel engines. The petrol engine offers an impressive  203PS while the diesel is on offer in two states of tune, the lower one offering a 132PS which in itself is a lot while the higher state of tune is a 175PS output. This really helps the Scorpio drive very impressively on the road and off it too.  We only drove the diesel automatic version and again, the motor impresses with its excellent refinement and low NVH levels, besides the responsive feel.

The Scorpio-N also gets the Zip, Zap and Zoom driving modes, which alter the power delivery and throttle responses. In fact, with its kind of refinement and power delivery, the Scorpio-N’s 2.2-litre engine feels more impressive than the diesel engines in SUVs a segment above it and makes driving the Scorpio a delight. It truly is effortless and makes the Scorpio-N a great mile-muncher. This new engine feels quicker to rev, which adds to its impressive manners. Gear changes from the six-speed automatic transmission are quick and smooth and also do their bit in adding to the driving experience. While we didn’t test the car, expect impressive performance and efficiency. Our test diesel automatic after a day of driving in town and on the highway, the cluster displayed an overall efficiency of 10.5kmpl. 

Ride and Handling

Like before the Scorpio continues to use a ladder frame and is probably the only SUV in its segment to offer one. This all-new 3rd generation chassis along with modern suspension promises to offer excellent ride quality while also being a better handler by a margin when compared to the older Scorpio. Mahindra tells us a lot of effort has gone into the Scorpio-N’s dynamics and is the lightest frame and body in the segment. The body is also all-new and the torsional stiffness is way more than ever and claims to be 9 per cent higher than the D-segment benchmark.

Mahindra also claims that the body is much stronger thanks to the use of ultra and high-strength steel. The double-wishbone front suspension offers a longer travel up to 225mm while the rear gets a Penta-link system that features a Watt’s link for better axle centring. Out on the road, this translates to a very impressive ride over broken terrain and a very relaxed drive on smoother roads. The drive can be a bit stiff over bumpy roads like concrete sections but is never a problem. The electric power steering is very light at slow speeds making it an easy vehicle to drive in town like its predecessor. The steering weighs up as speeds increase and offers decent feedback too. 

After a full day of driving it on highways, country roads and off-road too, I can tell you this one really does impress with its road manners. That said, body roll is pronounced around fast corners, but yes, the Scorpio-N is certainly a far better handler than its predecessor. That’s also courtesy of the lighter overall weight and lower unsprung mass, besides the improved torsional rigidity. The Scorpio-N has a far better balance between ride and handling than the previous generation model. 

We also drove the 4x4 variant and unlike the previous generation, we expect this variant to sell higher numbers. There aren’t many 4x4 SUVs in this segment and it’s nice to see Mahindra offering this variant from launch. The 4x4 system offers a shift-on-the-fly option with low and high-range modes making it one of the most capable SUVs in the segment. The Scorpio-N literally glided over broken terrain and slippery surfaces with ease while the long travel suspension helps with better body articulation and as a result better traction. The light electric steering also makes it easy to drive over tight sections. The off-road trail at Aamby Valley was covered with ease. Stay tuned for a full 4x4 road test very soon. 

Conclusion 

It was quite a day with this new Scorpio, driving it on the road and off the road and we can confirm that not only is this new Scorpio a massive improvement over the previous version, but it also feels like this is going to be a segment disruptor as Mahindra claims it to be. It's brilliant in terms of comfort and space both, is loaded with features and technology, and is powered by a pair of engines that truly impress in terms of refinement and performance.

Prices for the new Scorpio begin from an introductory price of Rs 11.99 lakh ex-showroom and that in our opinion is a brilliant starting point given everything that this SUV brings to the table. The top-end variants also offer a long list of comfort and safety features. Well above all else this really feels like a product that can take the game forward for a long time ahead as a truly butch proper Indian SUV.

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