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2022 Mahindra Scorpio N First Drive: Perfect Middle Ground?


How does the latest generation Mahindra Scorpio build on its popularity and fame?

 

In the last two years Mahindra has launched two hugely appealing blockbusters that sit on two ends of the SUV spectrum. On one end is the simple and rugged Thar, which is very off-road focused, while on the other end there is the XUV700, which is sophisticated, packed, and very much road focused. Can Mahindra’s all-new Scorpio N be the bridge between the two by offering a sweet combination of rough and tough while being sweet and sophisticated too? Could it be the perfect middle ground you were looking for in an SUV? 

 

Bully!

Even at a glance, the Scorpio DNA is visible in the characteristic Mahindra grille that’s finished in chrome. The LED headlamps also hark back to the Scorpio. New touches like the LED fog lamps that get a scorpion-tail-like LED DRLs for some added zing. However if you were looking to bully people on the road, the new Scorpio N won’t seem as threatening as the previous gen Scorpio, which was a great persona in our reckoning. This change is brought about by a couple of factors: firstly, the design is more sophisticated and self-assured, and secondly, it doesn’t try to shout through its lines or design elements. It is a vehicle that is likely to appeal to more people than the previous gen did.

 

Dimensions

 

Scorpio N

Classic

XUV700

Length

4662

4496

4695

Width

1917

1820

1890

Height 

1849

1995

1755

Wheelbase 

2750

2680

2750

 

Don’t be fooled though: the Scorpio is even bigger than before, in just about every dimension - length, width and wheelbase. Which brings us to the second point: the height. In this dimension it's 150 millimeters lower than the previous generation Scorpio, which makes it tower less, but strikes a more balanced and handsome look. Keep in mind, you can’t help but look down at the XUV700 and all other SUVs when sat in the cabin of the new Scorpio N. 

In terms of the scorpion elements, the chrome surround for the rear quarter glass is shaped like a curled scorpion tail, which looks cool. The roof rails and the 18” rims with chunky tyres give it a tough look. However, the rear wheel arches could have been flared a bit to give it a bit more muscle when you view it from the rear.  

This brings us to the Scorpio N’s weakest angle, because when viewed from the dead rear, the Scorpio N looks very tall and slabby as the roof remains horizontal and the tailgate extends a long way down. From this angle it looks more van-like, with hints of a Xylo or Marazzo. The Volvo-inspired tail lamps are the highlight here, with the swipe-style LED turn signals, which we liked very much.  

 

Row by Row 

Now, let’s start from the wrong end. And many things seem a bit wrong here. For instance, the tailgate opens outwards instead of upwards, then with the third row in use the boot space can only accommodate backpacks, and there’s no room even for an overnighter suitcase.

Worse still, even with the third row flipped boot space isn’t generous as the seat eats into the floor space. The contours on the floor make accommodating luggage a bit more challenging. The third row should have been removable to improve luggage carrying capacity. Maybe a five-seater Scorpio with a sleeker tail is the answer that Mahindra needs to think about. 

Getting to the third row is easy as the left hand side seat tumbles and folds with the pull of one lever on the bench and the captain seat versions. However, the third row is best reserved for short journeys and for short adults. Firstly, because the second row doesn't slide, the kneeroom is fixed in the third row, which is just about enough for someone who is 5’6”. The wheel arch intrudes into the foot room too. Luckily the under thigh support, the headroom and the adjustable headrests make this an acceptable third row in a pinch. However, the third row misses out on basic conveniences and features. There are no air-con vents, cup holders or  USB charging ports. A 12V socket for the boot is available though. The third row does seem like an afterthought, fit only for occasional use.  

Thankfully, the second row steps things up significantly. Space, be it headroom, kneeroom of shoulder room, is ample. Despite being a volume-hogging ladder-frame SUV, the under thigh support is great, and if you opt for the six-seater version it’s comfier still. The captain seats offer better under thigh support and are contoured better for lateral support. 

In terms of features the second row offers modern day conveniences, but dithers a bit. There’s a solitary USB charger, with dedicated pockets in the seatback. There are aircon vents, with blower controls; however, these are floor mounted, not in the more effective positions on the B-pillar or roof. The door pockets can accommodate a bottle of water and some small objects but are hard to reach with the doors shut. Also, sunblinds for the large windows, a la Seltos, would have been welcome.  

But the sense of welcome gets richer as you move further up. The front seats are comfortable, the dual tone palette for the cabin is handsome and the dash looks premium. There is use of soft-touch materials at the right points. But lower grade plastics keep the cabin from feeling rich, while the small and flimsy glovebox feels positively cheap. 

In terms of equipment the Scorpio packs two USB-A ports (while the rear is a single USB-C) and a wireless phone charger. This is paired with an 8” touchscreen infotainment system that offers wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay; however, the phone mirroring systems didn’t work on our test cars. Understandably, the screen doesnt feel as crisp and sharp as the more expensive system on the XUV, however its lack of brightness and responsiveness is hard to swallow. It seems stranger still when you compare it to the digital color MID, which looks fantastic and provides a host of information from tyre pressure and temperature readouts to drowsiness detection and onboard navigation. 

Thankfully, the 12 speaker Sony sound system from the XUV700 impresses here too, the two-zone climate control system is quick, the powered driver’s seat has 6-way adjustment and the sunroof opens fast.  

But it also misses out on features: there are no ventilated seats or a 360 degree camera. There are front and rear cameras, but the video quality is grainy and jittery.

 

The Real Deal 

At the launch, I asked every Mahindra bigwig what the biggest achievement of the Scorpio N was. The answer was the same: ride and handling. That seemed like a very tall claim, but as it turns out, a very valid one too. The R&D team at Mahindra promises to have carefully crafted the Scorpio N to make up for all the misdemeanours of its predecessor. So, the chassis and body, despite being bigger and stronger, is lighter. The drop in height promises to help too, as does the new long-travel suspension with multi-tune valves.  

 

And Mahindra has delivered on the promise; the Scorpio doesn't feel like a big, near-1900kg SUV to drive, instead it feels kind of like a small car. Understandably, that might be hard to digest, so I'll break it up. First and foremost, the steering feels light at low speeds, which makes low-speed maneuvering super easy. Depending on the speed it weighs up just enough to give you a sense of stability and confidence without increasing the sense of effort. Stellar. Then there are the brakes. The pedal doesn't feel spongy, wooden or heavy. Getting the Scorpio N stopped needs light inputs, as the strong brakes bite with confidence, making its weight disappear. 

 

Then there's the suspension, which keeps this Mahindra from nose-diving when braking hard. For a big ladder-frame SUV it is incredibly well mannered. It doesn't bob or bounce uncontrollably. Just like when you hustle it into a corner, you'll find that it rolls just a bit and remains admirably composed for this format of a vehicle. So the Scorpio N will feel comfortable at low speeds, gobble up bumps and speed breakers at city speeds, cruise confidently on the highway, and will feel at home on broken roads too. 

 

Drive Hearty

The familiar bit in this package are the drivetrains, which are derived from the XUV700. The state of tune on the diesel has changed, and it now makes slightly lower power and torque. This, Mahindra says, has been done keeping in mind the different manners of the Scorpio vs-a-vis the XUV. Like the XUV, it is offered with a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. We only had the automatic for the test. 

Specifications: Diesel Engine - Lower Spec 

 

Scorpio N

XUV700

 

Z2, Z4

 

Displacement

2184cc

2184cc

Power

132PS 

155PS

Torque 

300Nm MT 

360NM MT

Gearbox

Manual Only

Manual Only

Specifications: Diesel Engine - Higher Spec 

 

Scorpio N 

XUV700

Displacement

2184cc

2184cc

Power

175PS

185PS

Torque 

370Nm MT

 400Nm AT

420Nm MT

450Nm AT

Gearbox

6MT/6AT

6MT/6AT

 

On the road, the N doesnt feel lacking because of this, if anything it is properly responsive and the gearbox is smooth and quick. So whether you want to just remain in the city or cruise on the highway, the diesel feels very capable. The surprise for me with the Scorpio, though, is the petrol.

 

Petrol Engine

 

Scorpio N

XUV700

Displacement

1999cc

1999cc

Power

203PS

200PS

Torque 

370Nm MT

380Nm AT

380NM MT & AT 

Gearbox

6MT/6AT

6MT/6AT

 

On paper, this engine makes a few extra horses compared to the XUV (203 vs 200), but it is said to be in the same state of tune. The driving experience, though, is more immersive and enjoyable than expected as the engine feels very much at home here. In the rear-wheel drive Scorpio it seems to make better use of its torque, whereas in the front-wheel drive XUV it felt a bit clumsy, spinning up its wheels all too easily. As a result it feels effortless to drive, so much so that you don't miss the drive modes.

 

Daddy loves dirt?

As the more sophisticated offering the Scorpio gets 4Xplor, an electronically actuated four-wheel drive system. This makes changing drive modes just a light twist of a switch, but underneath, the Scoprio N uses 4x4 hardware that is very similar to the Thar, which we know is a very rugged and capable off-roader.  

4WD Options

 

Diesel Low Variants

Diesel High Variants

Petrol

Transmission

6-speed MT

6-speed MT/ 6-speed AT

6-speed MT/ 6-speed AT

4WD

No, RWD Only

RWD / 4WD

No, RWD Only

 

Four-wheel drive fanatics are limited in choice here as this hardware is only offered with the grunty diesel engine. Diesel torque combined with low range ratios and electronics should make the Scorpio pretty potent in the slush and muck. Also, given Mahindra's experience with the Thar, the Scorpio should be pretty reliable here too. But whether it is as bug-free as the Japanese here remains to be seen. 

 

Safety Features

Variant-wise Safety Features

 

Z2

Z4

Z6

Z8

Z8L

ABS

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Airbags

2

2

2

6

6

ISOFIX

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Disc Brakes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

ESP

No

Yes (AT)

Yes

Yes

Yes

Hill Hold

No

Yes (AT)

Yes

Yes

Yes

TPMS

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

 

Unlike the XUV, the Scorpio doesn't get ADAS to keep them from going head to head.

 

Despite everything

So, the bottom line is if you were looking for the perfect middle ground between the Thar and the SUV700, the Scorpio comes pretty close. The slabby rear design, the somewhat disappointing boot, and the basic third row experience dampen its “family car” appeal. Its price point also pushes it squarely against the XUV, and the somewhat iffy plastics and the feature misses make you evaluate the VFM quotient more closely. Not knowing the prices for its four-wheel drive and automatic variants keeps you guessing a bit.  Also, how its longevity will compare to its Japanese rivals is a question worth considering.

 

But, despite all these questions and concerns, the balance hangs in the Scorpio N's favor. The cabin space and the commanding seating position help its case, but mostly it’s the way it rides and drives that swings the balance in its favour. The fluency and ability of the engine, the gearbox and the suspension–the Scorpio N redraws expectations from body-on-frame SUVs. So, despite everything, the Mahindra’s Scorpio N does make you go, “Wow!”

 

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