Back in high school, I had a senior who seemed rugged, stocky and ungainly—until he entered the boxing ring. No one could touch him—he had stability yet was able to slide side-to-side, dodging opponents with ease and throwing them off their A-game. The new Mahindra Scorpio N reminds me in many ways of that effective pugilist who often seemed awkward outside the ring.
Most cars, across categories, improve with every iteration but it is all the more striking when the improvements aren’t just cosmetic but actually address lacunae. The Scorpio’s pain points were its less than comfortable suspension, its heaviness and instability, unappealing interiors, and low-tech electronics and entertainment system.
All that has changed with the new Scorpio N, which began taking bookings at the end of July. The Mahindra Scorpio’s fan following cuts across socio-economic lines: It is as popular with farm community entrepreneurs in the north as it is with young tech workers in the south, organisers of political rallies in the east, and the armed forces in the mid-west. The Scorpio’s versatility is what makes it incomparably popular, despite its weight and clunky handling.
It has all been addressed with a body that is almost 40kg lighter and a frame that’s lost 20kg. The suspension is brand new—a penta-link suspension normally used in higher end cars—and a category first. The old Scorpio had a heavy hydraulic steering, while the new, feather-touch steering is electric-powered and makes it way easier to drive. Company officials say the Scorpio N has only carried over 2% of the old car.
That makes it pretty much “all new”. New versions now include petrol—the Scorpio was earlier a diesel-only vehicle. Combined with the four-wheel drive (4WD) in some variants, the petrol version makes it suitable for all-terrain as well as city driving. While some older Scorpios had a 4WD option, they didn’t have different driving modes as the Scorpio N does, which allows it to manoeuvre through mud, sand and snow. That makes it a rugged people-mover with seating that can be configured to carry as many as seven occupants, and tough enough to withstand adverse conditions or rough handling. Mahindr a’s rebranding is evident with the new twin peaks logo that all its recent releases sport, signifying that the group is now firmly focused on refinement and comfort while holding on to their core DNA of rugged dependency. The carmaker is now aiming to take on competitors such as the Toyota Fortuner and Ford Endeavour. Clearly, the new facilities at the Mahindra Research Valley, which has 12 types of tracks, are going a long way in helping the company make much better cars.
The new Scorpio N—no doubt, to cater to its many kinds of users—comes in over 10 variants when factoring in the drive train combinations as well as fuel-type. Of course, the prices range from ₹12 lakh all the way up to ₹20 lakh (ex-showroom). It has received design upgrades—the grill, new logo and softer lines come together to make what was a chunky jeep-derivative more sophisticated. This is a good thing since it still looks like a Scorpio at first glance with the iconic accents retained but with overall design that is sleeker.
On the interior, there is generous usage of chrome trim, leatherite upholstery and plastic components that look better, fit better and feel better than they ever did. The grab handles are more prominent and well designed. The new transmission gear, although a tad large, is easy to use. Front seats are comfy and perched high, the middle row has ample room, and can seat three easily. The front-facing third row is a new addition compared to cramped, uncomfortable side seats of yore. The overall length of the vehicle has increased by about 8 inches, which means better legroom for everyone. Clearly, the new Scorpio is being repositioned as a more refined, high performance, safer city SUV.
The rear also has AC vents with blower control and USB-C ports in the centre console. Other bells and whistles include a sunroof, automatic wipers and headlamps, different drive modes for the off-roader versions and mechanical power adjusters for the driver’s seat, which ought to be mandatory for all cars. For audiophiles, there’s a high-quality Sony music system. In sync with the government’s recent statements on ensuring higher safety norms for all cars, the Scorpio N has parking sensors and cameras, six airbags, and a tyre pressure monitoring system, among other safety systems.
I drove a top-of-the-line Z8L variant with a 2-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine and geared for a top speed of 175 kmph. Of course, I didn’t test that limit but given its weight—just a shade under 2,000kg—one cannot expect quick acceleration. It does have respectable get-up-and-go for both city and highway usage. And there’s no denying a Scorpio’s on-road presence: A Ferrari may turn heads out of curiosity but a new Scorpio does the same because its easily recognised.
Powered by the mStallion petrol engine (mHawk for diesel), first introduced in the Mahindra Thar about two years ago, the engines are aluminium, which has made the vehicle several kilos lighter. The Scorpio N sits high on the road and feels a little bouncy at first rev but settles down as get to higher speeds. Once in a groove, it is easy to manoeuvre and the engine pulls along smoothly although the slight wobble stays, no doubt a result of the fact that it is built on a ladder-frame as opposed to a monocoque chassis. To put it simply, a ladder-frame is cheaper and easier to build, can carry heavy loads and has off-road superiority. A monocoque, or single shell in which the chassis and frame are fused, is lighter and great for ride and handling superiority. Cornering, which was always tricky at higher speeds in a Scorpio with the risk of rolling over, has improved.
The takeaway: tough punches don’t need to have intimidating origins.
Pavan Lall is a Mumbai-based journalist and author of Forging Mettle: Nrupender Rao And the Pennar Story. Write to us at email@example.com