The 2014 Mahindra Scorpio marks the 12th anniversary of the first generation model. Launched in 2002, Scorpio was also the first SUV from the Mahindra stable built for the global markets. From the company's perspective, it is still a fairly young SUV player, but 12 years is good enough time for the Scorpio to go through a major upgrade. Add to the mix the company's strong growth in its engineering capabilities. So, does Mahindra deliver on the promise? We find out.
The Scorpio has been a hugely successful vehicle for Mahindra, accepted well by a diversified consumer base. Its success has ridden on the back of multiple aspects such as space, exterior looks, operating flexibility, and most importantly low-cost. Over the years, the company has worked extensively on its engineering capabilities, resulting in the evolution of the Scorpio and the development of the XUV 500.
With technology no longer trickling in from the top but flowing down at a healthy pace in the industry these days, it was only a matter of time that the Scorpio got infused with features first introduced in the XUV 500. Doing so has enabled Mahindra to ensure the cost advantage doesn't wither away. However, with inclusion of LEDs, a modern touch-screen infotainment system with GPS, tyre monitoring system, cruise control and much more, we wonder if any compromise has been made to keep the cost low. We tried to find this out during the three days we spent with the vehicle.
The new Scorpio, built on a new platform, feels new from most angles, while retaining the overall silhouette of its predecessor. Everything in this vehicle is new or has been reworked, except the doors and the roof. This could've helped in keeping development and vehicle cost low. The new front design is eye-catching and energetic with many new elements making their way in. The day-time running LEDs in the head lamps have been designed akin to an eyebrow, lending an aggressive look. The head lamp design is reminiscent of the Dodge Charger, which is a compliment and goes well with the muscular look of the vehicle. Elements such as the front grille and the bonnet scoop support the design intent further. The angular bumpers too do a good job of accentuating the muscular looks.
There isn't much of a new look to the side profile with the 17-inch alloy wheels and larger wheel arches being the most visible changes. The LED tail lamps look good, especially in the night but that's pretty much what looks good at the rear. The dual-tone rear with a black panel doesn't come across as an improvement over the older design and looks more like an aftermarket fitment. Overall, the new Scorpio has matured in all areas to come across as a more appealing design, even to the export markets.
The new Scorpio offers a choice of two engines, with just the base model S2 being powered by the 2.5 l, m2DICR turbocharged engine delivering 75 hp of maximum power and 200 Nm of torque. All other variants of the new Scorpio will have the 2.2 l, mHawk engine with variable geometry turbocharger, putting out about 118 hp of power and 280 Nm of peak power. The engine is the same as found in the older model but has been retuned slightly. New elements in the powertrain include clutch assembly, transmission, exhaust and fuel system.
The engine starts off with a slight hesitation but pulls strongly thereon, with the surge coming in at about 2,000 rpm. Ample torque means that pulling away in any gear is quite simple, which was evident on our highway run of over 600 km. The engine is refined as well and the cabin is pretty quiet while cruising at about 100 km/h, owing to NVH improvements. The fundamental challenge with a boxy design and large surface area, however, start showing up at speeds beyond 120 km/h. At this speed, there is some wind-noise and the engine starts feeling rough as well.
The key change herein is the 5MT320 transmission, which is claimed to offer fatigue-free shifting. The unit is a significant improvement over the older one but is still not perfect. Shifting is not completely smooth and requires some effort as well. Even the clutch, despite featuring a new assembly and lighter operation is still pretty heavy to use.
The new Scorpio is much more refined and comfortable than the old model but it's still not the vehicle you'd want to be in when in heavy traffic. There's also an option of a shift-on-fly four-wheel drive for the off-roading enthusiasts, but we weren't able to test these capability of the vehicle.
Overall, the changes in the new Scorpio's powertrain translate into a significantly better driving experience than the older model. There is more refinement and smoother power delivery than the earlier model and the improved gearbox makes things easier too. However, the changes still leave room for improvement, which we're certain of coming soon given the company's quick learning curve.
The cabin of the Scorpio is a transformed place compared to the older model. A six-inch colour touch-screen now sits in the centre console with a small digital display for climate control below. The dual-tone dashboard looks nice and goes along well with the theme of the steering wheel and the centre console. The new instrument cluster also features an appealing design and offers clear information.
While all these improvements add up to the overall cabin quality, there are certain problem areas that are quite noticeable. The front seats, for example, leave no space between the doors when closed, which means one needs to open the door to use the seat backrest adjuster. Moreover, the doors offer a small and narrow pocket, which cannot hold water bottles of any size. Then comes up the inconsistent quality of materials used in the cabin. While the dashboard and centre console feature decent quality material, the one used on the door levers feels cheap.
The front seats offer good support and cushioning and also help make more space available at the rear by being slimmer than earlier. The rear seat offers good support but felt a bit upright to us. The jump seats in the cargo area are quite small and would not suit even kids, who in the first place shouldn't be sitting in last rows anyways and at any time.
As an overview, the new cabin is definitely a step forward with inclusion of new features such as a touch-screen with in-built GPS, reverse parking sensors with distance readout, tyre monitoring system and much more. What hampers it from being an even better place is the inconsistency in material quality and ergonomics. Ergonomic issues might be hard to address due to design challenges but the material quality should be improved soon.
DYNAMICS & SAFETY
Ride and handling has been a problem area for the Scorpio since its introduction in the market. Over the years, the company has offered multiple updates on the Scorpio, but has left many desiring more. Keeping this in mind, Mahindra engineers worked hard on the chassis and suspension and the effects are quite evident. Within a few moments of driving the new Scorpio, one can feel the changes, although the body-on-frame architecture continues.
The new chassis features a lightweight construction, which owing to hydroforming has also gained rigidity. Some might remember that Tata Motors also uses the same process for a lighter and stiffer structure on the Safari Storme. The suspension too has been changed and now features improved damping and an optimised design. Engineers have also incorporated an anti-roll bar in the front to reduce body-roll.
Dimensionally, the chassis hasn't changed much and hence the wheelbase stays same. The only dimensional change though is a critical one as the track width has been increased in favour of more stability. With such an extensive change, we expected vastly improved dynamics and to a large extent the Scorpio delivered. Ride quality has improved significantly and road undulations are handled in a much better manner now. Applying the brakes brought about a welcome change as the Scorpio dived much lesser than its predecessor. On the highway, stability is good till about 110 km/h, beyond which the comfort level starts withdrawing.
Put the Scorpio through some corners and it's easy to make out the effects of the increased rigidity of the chassis and the changes to the suspension. The Scorpio handles corners much better now and feels more confident tackling a series of quick turns. Body-roll, despite the inclusion of a front anti-roll bar, is fairly evident although mildly better than the older model.
Safety kit includes dual airbags upfront, ABS, new crumple zones, panic brake indication, collapsible steering column, anti-inch window on driver side and much more.
The new Scorpio tells many things about Mahindra as a company. One, the company has a serious intent to develop cost-effective yet functionally adequate technologies, which is the right approach for this market. Many such new features in the Scorpio reflect the same. Second, being an exporter and eying international recognition, the company needs to make improvements in areas that attract constant/ frequent visual contact from the occupants.
Technically, the Scorpio is packed with enough features to give some of the more expensive vehicles a run for their money. From an engineering perspective, the popular approach of diving into parts bin often leads to better technologies at lower cost. In this case, the Scorpio benefitted from the features of the XUV 500. Overall, the new Scorpio is a much better vehicle than the older model and has partly addressed some of the key issues in its predecessor.
At the launch of the new Scorpio, Anand Mahindra, Chairman and Managing Director, Mahindra Group said that the product was a tremendous leap of faith for the company 12 years ago. That it surely was, given the company's lack of experience and a steady flow of foreign brands into the country. The good thing is that today that leap has also resulted in a leap of technology. The package surely has its flaws but compensates partly with a competitive pricing of Rs 7.98 lakh, ex-showroom, Mumbai for the base model and Rs 11.46 lakh for the top-variant. With the new platform being capable to handle smaller vehicles, the future surely is interesting for the company and the UV segment in the country.
Text: Arpit Mahendra
Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay