Over the years Mahindra's Scorpio has gone on to dominate the mass market SUV segment in the country while also proving its mettle over the most extreme terrains. We take the current avatar of the Scorpio for a spin to bask in its success story
When it was launched back in 2002, the Mahindra Scorpio had only one rival in its segment, the Tata Safari. 11 years later the Scorpio continues to sell in strong numbers while facing competition from new entrants like the Renault Duster. The Scorpio has garnered a massive fan following over the years and is the vehicle of choice for those looking for a budget SUV that is still high on the appeal and status symbol front.
One of the most definitive factors to have mesmerised people about the Scorpio is its exterior design. Its rugged and chunky design consisting of the squarish bonnet with the neatly integrated air scoop, rectangular grille and headlights along with the front bumper that incorporates the fog lamps and a plastic skid plate give it a dominating yet pleasant appearance which is in sync with traditional SUV design norms.
Mahindra has also given the Scorpio 2.2 mHawk a sticker job on the right side of the bonnet that stretches over the right A-Pillar, front apron and over to the end of the driver’s door, the graphic stickers also run along the left rear door all the way to the left half of the tailgate. While stickers can be a clumsy affair, the execution of this sticker job actually works in favour of the Scorpio for it adds some glitz to the otherwise large plain surface areas on the side.
Another design feature that stands out about the Scorpio is its side cladding. Running along the wheel arches and doors is a flared plastic cladding that gives the otherwise flat contour a muscular stance. Going around the back, the Scorpio’s large rear window, tall tail light clusters and the chunky wrap around cladding that neatly incorporates the rear bumper with a foot step never fail to catch one’s attention. Our Scorpio 2.2 mHawk VLX 4x4 also had an integrated tow hook in the rear bumper which we thought was a welcome addition.
Completing the exterior look are the black roof rails, a rear spoiler and a set of ten spoke 16 inch alloy wheels. No doubt, the Scorpio is a stylish vehicle and its looks have won it many followers over the years. While Mahindra continues to tinker with its exteriors, we really aren’t complaining and amongst the budget SUVs in the country, the Scorpio is definitely one of the better looking ones.
Step inside and you are greeted by a welcoming beige interior colour scheme. The centre console and the rear air vent surrounds are finished in faux wood and lend a visual break from the light and dark beige plastics. The plastics themselves are of average quality with some uneven edges at the panel gaps and this is something that Mahindra should look at rectifying for the inferior quality is visually irritating. Having said that, Mahindra has added some nice touches as well including the leather wrapped steering wheel, brushed chrome details and neat airconditioning vents.
In terms of equipment, the Scorpio 2.2 mHawk VLX 4x4 packs a decent amount of kit with features that include a Bluetooth enabled stereo that can play music off CDs, USB devices as well as from an AUX port, power windows all around, electric ORVMs, an illuminated ignition ring, steering mounted audio, phone and cruise control buttons, rain sensing front wipers, power outlets for both front and rear passengers, rear A/C vents, rear parking sensors, rear defogger and wash wipe, remote central locking and a tyre-tronics system that informs the driver about individual tyre pressure on all four wheels. The Scorpio also comes with a voice guidance system that informs you if a door is open and doesn’t fail to remind you to always buckle up!
Over the years the Scorpio has been fitted with active safety features such as dual front airbags, anti-lock braking system and a collapsible steering column. Passive safety features on Scorpio include crumple zones and side impact beams.
As a seven-seater SUV the Scorpio has two rows of front facing seats and jump seats for the third row. There is also an option for a forward facing third row seating. The seats themselves are well bolstered but are a tad too firm, which can get uncomfortable over long drives. Passengers at the front get individual arm rests while rear passengers have a centre armrest that folds away to make way for the third passenger. The biggest drawback of the Scorpio’s interior continues to the rear legroom that is left wanting and tall passengers may have their knees rubbing against the front backrest. The rear jump seats are not the best place to be in either as they tend to get tossed around quite a bit.
The latest avatar of the Mahindra Scorpio is powered by a 2.2 litre mHawk common rail diesel engine that is turbocharged and intercooled. The 2179cc four cylinder engine develops 121PS of power @ 4000 RPM and 290Nm of torque between 1,800-2,800 rpm. Fire up the Scorpio and there aren’t any excessive vibrations or clatter from the diesel engine. What you do notice is how lively and refined the engine is right from idle. At parking speeds the Scorpio can surge forward without a hassle and you will be hardpressed to notice any turbolag. Power to the wheels is delivered in a linear manner and the Scorpio easily makes its way up to three digit speeds. The engine is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox that has a fair bit of travel between shifting gears but its nothing unlike a regular SUV. Slotting through the gears is a tad notchy but the light clutch ensures shifting gears isn’t a task in bumper to bumper traffic. The ARAI claimed mileage figure for the Mahindra Scorpio is 12.05 kmpl, which is rather healthly for this category of vehicle.
Acceleration is brisk through the gears and the engine pulls strongly all the way to 3,000 rpm mark, above which it does begin to feel slightly strained. Engine and road noise of the Scorpio are kept in check and cabin noise is decent for a diesel SUV. It’s only above 3,200 rpm that a fair bit of engine noise seeps inside the cabin. Gathering speed with the Scorpio is a joyful experience with the refined engine generating enough grunt as long you stay in the right gear and keep the turbo spooling. The gear ratios are well spaced and ensure that there is no need to constantly shift gears at city speeds. Once past 70 km/h you can slot into fifth gear and cruise all day long. The needle easily crosses over the 120 km/h mark with the power still coming in strong. As long as straight line speeds are concerned the Scorpio has it all covered.
Stopping power comes via double calliper disc brakes at the front and drums at the rear. Brake force is adequate and the ABS kicks in nicely when required. However, sharp braking can dip the nose of the Scorpio to alarming degrees, this is largely down to the nose heavy characteristics of the SUV that weighs 2,510 kg. That being said, there is nothing to worry about as the Scorpio comes to a halt without generating too much drama.
It’s when the going gets twisty that the Scorpio gets tricky to handle. Carrying anything above 60 km/h around a nice smooth bend causes the tall SUV to lean quite a bit and it is advisable to avoid any sharp manoeuvres as the vehicle can easily be unsettled. It is best to also avoid carrying high speeds over undulations on twisty tarmac as the Scorpio generates a fair bit of lift which requires quick and accurate steering corrections and this can be a tricky affair. The reasons for the Scorpio’s unnerving cornering dynamics can be attributed to its steering that does not weigh up as the vehicle’s speed climbs (a light steering is a boon in city traffic but it is a nightmare at high speeds), the ladder frame chassis and its soft suspension setup that has an independent coil spring setup with a torsion bar at the front and multilink coil spring setup at the rear which causes the vehicle to bounce quite a bit over bumpy tarmac and undulations. The only saving grace are the large tyres fitted on 16 inch rims shod with 235 / 70 section rubber which provide adequate traction at all times and hold the road rather well.
Drive off the tarmac and the bouncy ride gets even worse with the suspension generating serious vertical and sideways movement that can put passengers at discomfort. The 180mm of ground clearance is adequate for going off-roading and tackling rocks and obstacles on its path, however remember to remove the side steps if you intend on indulging in any serious off-roading activities. Those are usually the reason for you to get beached. The 4x4 system of the Scorpio is a shift on the fly system that is equipped with high and low ratios for those times when the going gets slippery, however we highly recommend that if you are shifting between 4x4 and 4x2 modes it is best to do so with the vehicle at standstill.
Despite its flaws, the Scorpio still continues to mesmerize a large audience and there is just something about the vehicle that ticks all the right boxes in your heart if not your mind, and this is truly where the Scorpio scores. No doubt, the Scorpio has been updated over the years and is a vastly improved product from what rolled out of Mahindra’s factory in 2002. We just wish that Mahindra would pay a little more attention to the details to significantly improve the next avatar!