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Old 19th July 2014, 23:13   #1
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Default Scorpio VLX 4x4 Review: 1000 kms in Lahaul-Spiti

Not my usual mode of transport, but thought it was worth sharing this experience:

The charitable hospital in Manali that I sometimes volunteer with was gifted - by the local State Bank of India branch - a new Scorpio vlx 4x4 about a year ago. It was intended as primarily an executive vehicle, to be used on relatively pampered highway drives by our Medical Superintendent and Administrator in their official travels, as well as for an occasional use snow-breaker (not having another 4x4) to get us out of fixes when Manali's winters reduce the roads to slippery Gypsy-and-Jeep-only tracks. But now it would be pressed into service in a different capacity.

Scorpio VLX 4x4 Review: 1000 kms in Lahaul-Spiti-dsc08508.jpg

Upon delivery a year ago, I'd had a look over it (and under it!) and thought it seemed a pretty well-designed vehicle. The hospital also has a first-gen Scorpio that I've spent lots of time behind the wheel of, finding it very capable and fun to drive (if somewhat thirsty) vehicle. The new model sported 4x4 and the mHawk mill which was supposed to be not only more efficient but a lot more powerful. Also a lot more posh, ranging from basic amenities like power windows/locks to things like ABS, electronic low-tyre-pressure warnings, automatic windshield wipers, 4-way-flashers that come on automatically when the bonnet is lifted, etc, etc. On the surface, apart from costing roughly double what the original Scorpio did, the vlx seemed just about the "PERFECT" all-rounder for everything from highway to rough-road Himalayan trekking.

Scorpio VLX 4x4 Review: 1000 kms in Lahaul-Spiti-dsc08494.jpg

But after just over a thousand km spent personally behind the wheel under widely varying conditions, WAS IT?

We were 17 persons including doctors and other staff, all traveling the length of Lahaul/Spiti conducting eight medical camps in twelve days, utilizing four vehicles throughout; so there was scope for some interesting comparisons here, even with vehicles really of a different class entirely from the vlx: We had, additionally: 1) the older Turbo 2.6 Scorpio; 2) a badly smoking/missing 2000-model Sumo SE government mule; 3) a 2005 Force Traveller (low-top) as the primary people/luggage-carrier. Could probably stretch a bit here and compare it to our 2001 Marshal Deluxe 4x4, which is used on roads of similar condition to Lahaul/Spiti's pretty much daily.

Let me briefly outline the vlx's positive properties, IMO:

1) Much quieter / more "civilized" engine than the old Turbo2.6 or any of the others;
2) Softly-tuned full-coil suspension with IFS & good-sized anti-roll bars front and rear makes it a comfy and well-controlled handler on smooth to mildly choppy roads, with minimal body roll;
3) Looks good (if a bit boy-racer-ish);
4) Reasonable fuel efficiency considering vehicle size/weight, and BS-IV compliant;
5) Factory-fitted Bridgestones (on 16" alloys) offer decent A/T grip and should be of better long-term quality (from what I hear and have seen) than the earlier JK Elanzo's.
6) More ground clearance and can do better on a rocky, rough road than your average sedan. Seats are reasonably comfy (no backaches here), and the 4wd does help in really slippery stuff like mud and snow.

Scorpio VLX 4x4 Review: 1000 kms in Lahaul-Spiti-dsc08447.jpg

The negatives (also IMO):

1) Extremely unresponsive engine with basically zero low-end torque, and a highly impractical power-delivery curve, that stuggled (unless resorting to 4x4 low range) to get moving from a standstill up even the milder grades. You often have to seriously abuse the clutch (feather it and rev the engine it like mad) to get it moving; if you don't, you'll likely stall it in the process, if you do, barely-controlled wheelspin (on loose surfaces) is often experienced even with the best efforts; If in the situation you can afford to be more patient and wait for the boost (which could potentially take 5-10 agonizing seconds or more), then when it finally does build, the power rush is so sudden and extreme that it is really quite difficult to drive moderately / comfortably. Moreover, I don't know how the bhp rating could be so much higher than the old Turbo2.6, when it feels no more powerful even at higher speeds / rpm's. The tachometer reads to 5,000 - but despite the electronically-controlled common-rail engine, it was doing more like 3,800 max. (not awfully higher than our old NA MDI3200 Marshal) at Kaza.
Now if all this was just my opinion, it could be brushed off (though I'm not a stranger to turbocharged cars) - but our two professional staff drivers, with cumulatively 50 years experience driving all sorts of vehicles in the hills, who drove the vlx last year on the same roads as well as on other duties, have the exact same opinion: "no power". One noted that to take a 2wd version to Spiti (where grades are steep, altitudes are high, there are large rock obstacles to negotiate, etc), would be seriously problematic. Not saying you couldn't do it. Just saying it would be unpleasant, and would take thousands of km off the life of your clutch components.

2) The soft suspension, while working quite okay in Lahaul (except on bigger potholes / speedbreakers), was completely useless in Spiti. Again, our driver with 35-years' hill experience quoted here: "It's like riding on a ball". The soft, low-frequency coils have the car constantly bouncing in huge arcs, bottoming out the suspensions (especially rear, but frequently front as well), and thus, banging the chassis components countless times on stones and other obstacles in the road. We had to seriously CRAWL - at idle (in 4wd low) through some of the water crossings, even then frequently scraping/bumping under-components; where even the humble, worn, 14-year-old Sumo SE could launch in with wild abandon (using the same Bridgestone radials we had, but in a smaller size) and come out of unscathed. We got stuck at one place, in 4wd low, that all the others (even the Traveller with nearly treadless 14" cross-plys) got through without too trouble, simply because they could keep their momentum up through the rough patches without risking damage to the vehicles, where we could not. The vlx APPEARS to have decent ground-clearance, but most of that disappears when the suspension is bottomed / wildly bouncing, and you end up striking objects in the road that really looked to small to consider a threat. With the horribly-tuned engine / turbo, this car - despite all its poshness and luxury amenities - was seriously hard work to drive on these sorts of roads. A Himachal-registered Renault Duster was, well, seriously leaving us in the DUST on the worst of Spiti's roads. It all seemed an effortless exercise for him, and a very painful one for both myself (the vlx's driver) and its passengers.

Scorpio VLX 4x4 Review: 1000 kms in Lahaul-Spiti-dsc09609.jpg

3) I don't personally find ABS any advantage on these kinds of tracks. I earlier worked for a U.S.-based company that remanufactured (incl. for OE's) Anti-lock braking system components, and did some controlled, measurable testing of vehicles with ABS both enabled and disabled - and found that normally, on anything but perfect, dry tarmac, the ABS-enabled vehicles generally took the longer distance to come to a stop. The idea is that you stop with more control, where the vehicle is still steerable (locked wheels can't). But on loose surfaces / snow / mud, it can sometimes take considerably longer; IMO, when a serious Spitian road obstacle or a cliff-edge suddenly looms in front of me, I just want to STOP - NOW - control or no. And I felt that the vlx in many such cases was just not stopping quickly enough for me to avoid whichever trouble I found myself facing. It should be telling that studies by the insurance companies abroad when ABS-equipped cars were becoming popular in the U.S. actually showed a greater incidence of frontal-impact accidents for ABS equipped vehicles than for those lacking it. And that was evaluated on primarily "good" American roads.

Scorpio VLX 4x4 Review: 1000 kms in Lahaul-Spiti-dsc09548.jpg

4) All the plastic cladding on the later model Scorpios has done something to kind of update the styling vs. the old - I can't deny the immediate visual enhancement and appeal. But that cladding can be a real pain in the long run on rough roads. It comes loose. It breaks. It falls off. It has to be re-riveted back onto four-and-five year old vehicles (I could show you fairly horrifying pics of some of the Rohtang Tunnel Project Safari's). Another negative is that massive amounts of dirt/grit can work its way behind it when running on these unpaved roads, making washing the vehicle very difficult. You scrub the car down nicely, and even after three or four or more rinsings, inaccessible filth keeps pouring out from behind every one of the the multitudinous plastic panels, messing up the car you THOUGHT was clean.

5) The electronic-shift 4x4 / automatic hubs: Often cursed by owners of dysfunctional decade-old units, I do not even find the feature desirable on a new, "properly" functioning vehicle. I suppose that if 4x4 was only used on rare occasions, the negatives would matter less - but as mentioned above, the mHawk's extreme lack of low-end torque means that 4wd low range is going to be required quite frequently if you're running on gradients, especially at altitutde, and don't want to waste your clutch in some remote place hundreds of km's from the nearest Mahindra showroom. And the system is really quite horrible. Engagements / disengagements are unpredictable, sometimes requiring several seconds of waiting, after turning the selector, before everything engages, and very often requiring (as per the owner's manual) an extremely impractical few meters' of reversing to disengage (drivers behind will be cursing YOU by now, as much as you will be cursing your car); Nasty clunking / grinding noises and frightening shudders were experienced on several occasions upon clutch release, when the unit had failed to get into the desired mode (there is an indicator light, but what to do if you've been waiting ten or fifteen seconds and nothing has happened?). Hubs are also clunky, since they don't engage till there is power applied; and moreover (if I'm not mistaken here), they negate the possibility (vs. solid or engaged manual hubs) of real "shift-on-the-fly" since your immobilized front driveshaft / transfer case input shaft cannot mesh with the already spinning other components (no issue with the BW case / our Marshal, for example, which can be shifted - and absolutely immediately as the situation demands - between 2H/4H and back at any speed, once manual hubs have been locked, since front/rear shafts are already rotating at equivalent speeds). I suppose the only "advantage" of the electronic system is that there's no possibility of gear noise being transmitted up through a manual lever, nor via the requisite hole in the floor. But seriously not worth it in my experience.

Scorpio VLX 4x4 Review: 1000 kms in Lahaul-Spiti-dsc07655.jpg

6) The roadworthy IFS offers more limited articulation, of course, than a properly set-up live-axle unit might; this could be offset by limited-slip / locking diffs, but our car had neither and not sure of availability. On a road like Spiti's (the Gramphoo-Batal stretch in particular), it actually does manifest itself as a limitation at certain points (like where we got stuck, with one raised front and one raised rear wheel spinning to no effect - and this was on-"road").

Scorpio VLX 4x4 Review: 1000 kms in Lahaul-Spiti-dsc08438.jpg

7) I'm not a big fan of all the electronics. Most of them will fail in time (and be expensive to rectify), but even now (for example) the low-tyre pressure warning repeatedly got confused by bad terrain / raised the alarm when there was no problem; the ABS system also hung (probably for the same reason - unequal wheel speed readings from the sensors), leaving the indicator flashing on the IP till the engine was shutoff and everything reset. Just wondering whether any of this is really necessary / all that helpful.

I guess I could go on, but not much point; The car's limitations, as I see them, have been amply expressed; hopefully I haven't too badly offended any other, happier owners in the process.

To conclude, just FYI and IMO: This is first and foremost a boulevard / highway cruiser, and comfy / capable /roomy enough in that capacity. It is NOT the car for people living in or frequenting the hills. Too bad the original Turbo2.6 was never offered in a 4x4 variant - which could've been a far superior all-rounder - much more torquey, responsive, and business-like engine, with a firmer suspension and none of the less useful frills.

But worse than its limitations are its claims and attempts at self-promotion, which only confirm its status as a poser: The faux hoodscoop. The prominent "Micro-hybrid" badges (besides its being a practically useless system, there is nothing, by any stretch of the imagination, "hybrid" about it); And just as bad, there is the "electronic uncle" who when I turn the ignition key, is wont to welcome me to the Scorpio, reminding (brainwashing?) me about this being my "dream vehicle"; "a powerful car".

You know, there's no such "Uncle" to be found vocalizing in the cabins of better cars like BMWs / Land Rovers / MB's - or even Toyotas, I expect - because owners are quite aware that they're driving good machinery, without having to be repeatedly told so. If the Scorpio 4x4 had truly ever been my "dream car", I'd have been pretty perplexed and disillusioned out there in Spiti, realizing that I was having difficulty keeping pace with something like a fully loaded, decade-old 15-passenger Tempo Traveller. Fortunately, this was not my car, and I did not have to spend any hard-earned cash to buy it - so any disappointments will be fleeting.

But in short, give me a well-maintained Marshal - or even a Sumo Gold - any day... much more "genuine" and purposeful vehicles for the sort of driving we do up here daily; and I'm sure I'll be getting there a lot sooner and less stressfully than whomever's to be found behind the wheel of the vlx.

To end on a more positive note, though, the fact remains that it was a lovely trip, and that the vlx was sufficient to get us there, through some bad patches, without ever having to be pushed / pulled out (which was not the case with a number of other vehicles). Despite all the hits to the undercarriage, nothing was damaged. The doctors in our group had consultations with over 2,000 patients in those eight camps, and plan to go back for surgeries and other follow-ups in the next month or two.

Scorpio VLX 4x4 Review: 1000 kms in Lahaul-Spiti-dsc08625.jpg

I'm wondering now - with more trips to Spiti being planned - whether the hospital's vlx could be fitted with adjustable air-lift shocks on the rear to firm up the back, and stiffer springs from an earlier model on the front. With the suspension worked out, it would actually be a pretty workable car. The low torque can be overcome (not ideally, but practically) by running in 4wd low continuously on Spiti's unpaved, loose, relatively low-speed roads. It is capable of a fairly comfortable 40-45kmph speeds in 5th gear / low range, which is most often enough. All the gear spacings become a lot closer, and the whole package a lot more responsive and manageable.

Whatever the case, I should say that at the end of the day, you don't need the perfect vehicle to have a good time - or, moreover to demonstrate a bit of love towards one's fellow man.

Regards,
Eric
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Last edited by ringoism : 19th July 2014 at 23:18.
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Old 20th July 2014, 00:25   #2
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Default re: Scorpio VLX 4x4 Review: 1000 kms in Lahaul-Spiti

Threads like these deserve a real applause. It was really worth reading every experience you have written and the detail presented.

With the regular herd mentality we Indians have, I was of the opinion that the Scorpio
4x4 should be the ultimate king of the rough terrain, but then your experience has proved it wrong.

I was happy to know about your positive feedback about Sumo Gold and Old Marshal indeed.

The new scorpio which will be launched soon also has softer suspension to make matters worse. The whole intention is to make the vehicle a comfortable passenger carrier on Indian highways.
This intent itself makes the vehicle not so suitable for rough terrain use. Or either a good amount of technicalities need to be taken care to achieve a fine balance between on-road comfort and off-road driveability.

A big thanks again for this eye-opener thread. Threads like this distinguish Team-Bhp reviews from other reviews.
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Old 20th July 2014, 12:13   #3
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Default re: Scorpio VLX 4x4 Review: 1000 kms in Lahaul-Spiti

Thanks for the comprehensive feedback. I guess the reason many of the adventure lovers end up in buying this is the lack of options. For example, your comment on the Sumo is very encouraging but unfortunately TATA will never make a note of it. Some of the complaints about lack of low-end torque are applicable for the THAR as well. BTW, what is your take on the performance of the MDI3200 powered Bolero 4x4 in case you had chance to drive the same in similar terrains.
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Old 20th July 2014, 20:49   #4
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Default re: Scorpio VLX 4x4 Review: 1000 kms in Lahaul-Spiti

Thanks a lot for this review Eric. Indeed, i have experienced this lack of low end torque in the scorpio, specially on the mHawk. The 2.6 CRDe that is powering the getaway feels much better.
Problem is however, the lack of options, as rightly pointed by Soumen. Is there such a turbo lag also in the safari storme?
The other option would be the duster 4wd. I am hoping that they launch it with the 85ps engine. It has lot less turbo lag than the 105ps engine.

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Old 21st July 2014, 21:34   #5
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Originally Posted by starter View Post
Problem is however, the lack of options, as rightly pointed by Soumen. Is there such a turbo lag also in the safari storme?
The other option would be the duster 4wd. I am hoping that they launch it with the 85ps engine. It has lot less turbo lag than the 105ps engine.
I've been wondering the same thing... whether there was really anything out there that's actually very suitable at all (in 4wd variant) for such driving... Let's hope Renault does the right thing with the Duster 4x4... it seems a good package otherwise.

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Originally Posted by Kandisa View Post
Some of the complaints about lack of low-end torque are applicable for the THAR as well. BTW, what is your take on the performance of the MDI3200 powered Bolero 4x4 in case you had chance to drive the same in similar terrains.
I'd mentioned this problem with the THAR in an earlier thread, having driven a friend's in Kinnaur (Puh to Nako, etc) a couple years back. Really the wrong engine for such a vehicle; quiet but no low-end.

Re: the MDI3200TC 4x4 - I suspect this would probably be one of the only truly capable current (?) 4x4 passenger vehicles available out there (though no BS-IV, right?). I've spent a bit of time driving a Bolero pickup with the same engine, and have found it quite satisfying. Perhaps just a little less idle-speed torque than the old non-turbo DI (Marshal), but just off-idle there's plenty. There is virtually no lag at all. Good for hill driving.

It's a lot noisier engine, of course, than the M&M common-rail units, and the suspension is rather hard, too. But given the choice, for me it would be an easy one to make.

-Eric
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Old 21st July 2014, 21:46   #6
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Default Re: Scorpio VLX 4x4 Review: 1000 kms in Lahaul-Spiti

Quote:
Originally Posted by ringoism View Post

1) Extremely unresponsive engine with basically zero low-end torque, and a highly impractical power-delivery curve, that stuggled (unless resorting to 4x4 low range) to get moving from a standstill up even the milder grades.

The tachometer reads to 5,000 - but despite the electronically-controlled common-rail engine, it was doing more like 3,800 max. (not awfully higher than our old NA MDI3200 Marshal) at Kaza.

have the exact same opinion: "no power". One noted that to take a 2wd version to Spiti (where grades are steep, altitudes are high, there are large rock obstacles to negotiate, etc), would be seriously problematic.
While I agree with the mHawk engines lack of Low-end grunt, I own one and have driven to some very extreme places with wild slopes and rock/boulder strewn roads, it does not seem as bad as you have mentioned, on my vehicle.

However, I did face a bit of "power-loss" this year on our Ladakh trip, which was mainly due to a clogged airfilter. Once that was replaced, the spring in the steps of my vehicle was back.

To top it, since you mention that this vehicle wasn't going beyond 3800 rpm, there is definitely a problem somewhere.

This engine though, is not the one of choice, for extreme hills where the DI engines can actually leave it in the dust. Infact the 2.5 liter engine in the Thar is more low-end friendly. But where the mHawk scores is on the highway/expressways and can manage to haul the 2.5 ton bulk of the brick-like aerodynamic shell quite well beyond the 150kmph mark.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ringoism View Post
2) The soft suspension, while working quite okay in Lahaul (except on bigger potholes / speedbreakers), was completely useless in Spiti. Again, our driver with 35-years' hill experience quoted here: "It's like riding on a ball". The soft, low-frequency coils have the car constantly bouncing in huge arcs, bottoming out the suspensions (especially rear, but frequently front as well), and thus, banging the chassis components countless times on stones and other obstacles in the road. We had to seriously CRAWL - at idle (in 4wd low) through some of the water crossings, even then frequently scraping/bumping under-components; where even the humble, worn, 14-year-old Sumo SE could launch in with wild abandon (using the same Bridgestone radials we had, but in a smaller size) and come out of unscathed.
This is another issue that frequently crops up on the Multilink rear suspension Scorpio's. The link rod bushes give up after sometime and quite frequently, almost every 10,000 kms. But its quite cheap and easy to get checked and replaced. Once the Bushes give up, you have a lot of unwanted roll, bounce and pitch. Even the Dampers tend to have a lower life. But once the whole rear end is uninstalled, inspected, faulty parts replaced, the vehicle manages to get back to acceptable form. The Mahindra workshops will not suggest these, its upto the owners to insist.



Quote:
Originally Posted by ringoism View Post
3) I don't personally find ABS any advantage on these kinds of tracks. I earlier worked for a U.S.-based company that remanufactured (incl. for OE's) Anti-lock braking system components, and did some controlled, measurable testing of vehicles with ABS both enabled and disabled - and found that normally, on anything but perfect, dry tarmac, the ABS-enabled vehicles generally took the longer distance to come to a stop. The idea is that you stop with more control, where the vehicle is still steerable (locked wheels can't). But on loose surfaces / snow / mud, it can sometimes take considerably longer; IMO, when a serious Spitian road obstacle or a cliff-edge suddenly looms in front of me, I just want to STOP - NOW - control or no. And I felt that the vlx in many such cases was just not stopping quickly enough for me to avoid whichever trouble I found myself facing. It should be telling that studies by the insurance companies abroad when ABS-equipped cars were becoming popular in the U.S. actually showed a greater incidence of frontal-impact accidents for ABS equipped vehicles than for those lacking it. And that was evaluated on primarily "good" American roads.
I was not a big fan of ABS. But on Indian highways, where people tend to push their cars, the road surface is usually not restricted to tarmac alone, but debris from construction (sand, stone chips etc), oil spills, slush and you name it. On a vehicle like this, ABS has infact helped me steer clear of an obstacle on emergency braking (from around 80kmph) on suddenly encountering slush around a bend. So I would rather have it, than not.

If you dislike ABS, you can probably deactivate the circuit by taking out the fuse!


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and very often requiring (as per the owner's manual) an extremely impractical few meters' of reversing to disengage (drivers behind will be cursing YOU by now, as much as you will be cursing your car);
We required to do this even on a Nissan Patrol that we had a few years back.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ringoism View Post
Nasty clunking / grinding noises and frightening shudders were experienced on several occasions upon clutch release, when the unit had failed to get into the desired mode (there is an indicator light, but what to do if you've been waiting ten or fifteen seconds and nothing has happened?). Hubs are also clunky, since they don't engage till there is power applied; and moreover (if I'm not mistaken here), they negate the possibility (vs. solid or engaged manual hubs) of real "shift-on-the-fly" since your immobilized front driveshaft / transfer case input shaft cannot mesh with the already spinning other components (no issue with the BW case / our Marshal, for example, which can be shifted - and absolutely immediately as the situation demands - between 2H/4H and back at any speed, once manual hubs have been locked, since front/rear shafts are already rotating at equivalent speeds). I suppose the only "advantage" of the electronic system is that there's no possibility of gear noise being transmitted up through a manual lever, nor via the requisite hole in the floor. But seriously not worth it in my experience.
Get the actuator mechanism checked. On my vehicle, it works fine (touchwood) after almost 92k kms through quite harsh terrain. The problem is that the actuator is sensitive to water ingress and also underbody hits. 2H-4H comes up on the move, requiring to stop for 4H-4L. I did have the malfunction once and Mahindra replaced the Actuator on warranty.


Quote:
Originally Posted by ringoism View Post
6) The roadworthy IFS offers more limited articulation, of course, than a properly set-up live-axle unit might; this could be offset by limited-slip / locking diffs, but our car had neither and not sure of availability.
I do have a Mechanical Locking Diff from Mahindra on mine.


Quote:
Originally Posted by ringoism View Post
It is NOT the car for people living in or frequenting the hills. Too bad the original Turbo2.6 was never offered in a 4x4 variant - which could've been a far superior all-rounder - much more torquey, responsive, and business-like engine, with a firmer suspension and none of the less useful frills.
There was a 4x4 on 2.6 Turbo, one of our forum friends had one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ringoism View Post
But in short, give me a well-maintained Marshal - or even a Sumo Gold - any day... much more "genuine" and purposeful vehicles for the sort of driving we do up here daily; and I'm sure I'll be getting there a lot sooner and less stressfully than whomever's to be found behind the wheel of the vlx.
I took a 8000km round trip to Ladakh from Calcutta. The first 2000kms or so was on the plains, where the vehicle just munched up miles comfortably on the first 2 days. A Sumo Gold or a Marshall would have finished the passengers right at the start!

Even on our trips to Sikkim, we do spend 700kms of diverse driving on the plains, that would result in all passengers being rattled if they would travel in a Sumo Gold or a Marshall and then encounter some real challenging terrain that Innova's cannot think of tackling.

So there you have it, the relative positioning of the Scorpio with respect to the sophistication of the Innova on one side and the capability of the Marshall on the other.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ringoism View Post
the vlx was sufficient to get us there, through some bad patches, without ever having to be pushed / pulled out (which was not the case with a number of other vehicles). Despite all the hits to the undercarriage, nothing was damaged.

Regards,
Eric
Yes! Thanks! Quite a bit to say, given that the engine did not pull and the suspension was all over the place!! Probably the credit goes to the driver.

However, since you mentioned that the vehicle never had to be pushed/pulled out, what about the situation below, did the Scorp get stuck? How was it recovered?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ringoism View Post
We got stuck at one place, in 4wd low, that all the others (even the Traveller with nearly treadless 14" cross-plys) got through without too trouble, simply because they could keep their momentum up through the rough patches without risking damage to the vehicles, where we could not.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ringoism View Post
I guess I could go on, but not much point; The car's limitations, as I see them, have been amply expressed; hopefully I haven't too badly offended any other, happier owners in the process.
Yes you have!! However, like any ownership, the one for Scorpio comes with a few checkpoints that one needs to ensure. Clutch slave cylinder being one! But that's more or less true for many vehicles. Thus company/office maintained vehicles do tend to develop ailments over time that privately owned vehicles do not.

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Old 22nd July 2014, 11:57   #7
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Default Re: Scorpio VLX 4x4 Review: 1000 kms in Lahaul-Spiti

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...Let's hope Renault does the right thing with the Duster 4x4... it seems a good package otherwise.
The price may just be the negative factor.

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Originally Posted by ringoism View Post
Re: the MDI3200TC 4x4 - I suspect this would probably be one of the only truly capable current (?) 4x4 passenger vehicles available out there (though no BS-IV, right?)....
...It's a lot noisier engine, of course, than the M&M common-rail units, and the suspension is rather hard, too. But given the choice, for me it would be an easy one to make.
I somehow could anticipate your comment Yes it is BS-III and not available off the shelf, but there are few examples around (including Blackpearl's white Tusker) showing its not impossible to procure if one is determined to do so. The problems will be the highway manners, not the top speed but the overtaking and stuffs, and crude suspension as you have mentioned.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ringoism View Post
Too bad the original Turbo2.6 was never offered in a 4x4 variant - which could've been a far superior all-rounder - much more torquey, responsive, and business-like engine, with a firmer suspension and none of the less useful frills.
It was available but not such a common entity like its mhawk counterpart. BTW, this makes the Getaway which still comes in 2.6 variant, a decent choice if one is ok with the 'pick-up' factor.
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Old 22nd July 2014, 16:45   #8
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Default Re: Scorpio VLX 4x4 Review: 1000 kms in Lahaul-Spiti

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Originally Posted by ringoism View Post
...the original Turbo2.6 was never offered in a 4x4 variant...
Among others, BHPians Roshun and anupmathur have the 2.6 CRDe Scorpio in 4x4 guise, and a friend of mine has a 2003 4x4 Scorpio with the DI engine where the camshaft was gear-driven. The 4wd versions of Scorpio had always been there since the beginning, except that there were never many buyers earlier.

It was interesting to read your take of the 4x4 Scorpio in the hills, Eric, as well as 1100D's response to you. And no, even as another Scorpio VLX 4x4 MHawk owner (in fact, the first on this forum) (Hawk-On-Fours® (H-4®) with a tail - Scorpio mHawk 4WD), you have not offended me.
Quote:
...hopefully I haven't too badly offended any other, happier owners in the process.
However, as someone who's driven the vehicle over 112,000 km already over varied terrain from Ladakh to Bangalore and Gir forest to Kolkata, let me point out (as 1100D already has) that your vehicle needs some attention as far as its engine, ABS system, suspension and 4wd shift mechanism are concerned.

Quote:
Quote:
...wait for the boost (which could potentially take 5-10 agonizing seconds or more)...
Quote:
...power rush is so sudden and extreme that it is really quite difficult to drive moderately / comfortably
Quote:
...it was doing more like 3,800 max.
Quote:
A Himachal-registered Renault Duster was, well, seriously leaving us in the DUST...
Quote:
give me a well-maintained Marshal
Going by what you report, the vehicle is showing the first symptoms of failure of its turbo / EGR vacuum modulator unit(s), an Achilles' heel for the vehicle (and I've been through the experience twice). The MAF sensor might also need cleaning / checking.

The poor handling and body roll is (as 1100D pointed out) due to worn out suspension bushes, which need to be replaced (and can be done pretty quickly).
Quote:
the ABS system also hung (probably for the same reason - unequal wheel speed readings from the sensors), leaving the indicator flashing on the IP till the engine was shutoff and everything reset.
Again, you also need to check the ABS wheel sensor connections - they do tend to work loose at times or collect dust and mud, and you get the ABS warning lamp lighting up.
Quote:
...it is capable of a fairly comfortable 40-45kmph speeds in 5th gear / low range
Not advisable to run >40 km/h in 4L mode, and definitely not continuously for long distances in 4wd mode on twisty roads. This will result in transmission windup even with loose gravel on parts of the road.
Quote:
The faux hoodscoop...
...is not faux at all - the intercooler draws air from it.

However, in response to your statement...
Quote:
This is first and foremost a boulevard / highway cruiser, and comfy / capable /roomy enough in that capacity. It is NOT the car for people living in or frequenting the hills.
...I would say that there are no other 4wd vehicles with low range gearbox, at the price range of the Scorpio in this country, except the Safari / Storme, that is suitable for family use, and that can travel deep into the Himalayas without breaking a sweat, and come back unscathed. The Thar with soft top and shorter wheelbase doesn't qualify as a family vehicle, and the Duster isn't sold as a 4wd yet (and even when it would be, there wouldn't be low range gearing there). The Marshal / Bolero - well, I like all my teeth to stay put in their original sockets in my jaws when travelling at 120 km/h!

I did my research then, and almost 5 years later today, I still don't see any other replacement options for that price.

So there we are - fix your Scorpio, and enjoy driving it in the hills too!

And can we have some more photographs of the trip and terrain you covered?

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 22nd July 2014 at 16:56.
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Old 22nd July 2014, 18:02   #9
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Default Re: Scorpio VLX 4x4 Review: 1000 kms in Lahaul-Spiti

Brilliant presentation Eric. This is indeed an eye opener, I always thought paying extra money and buying a 4X4 can lead you anywhere no matter how bad the roads are. This review is definitely going to affect the potential buyers.
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Old 22nd July 2014, 18:55   #10
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Default Re: Scorpio VLX 4x4 Review: 1000 kms in Lahaul-Spiti

Hi Eric,
Even I have a Scorpio mHawk VLX 4WD but it has never been to serious off roading yet. I do that mostly in my Thar CRDe

Great review and lovely pictures. And most importantly the noble cause! Treating hill people, thank you and you are doing it in my country.

On my part I am also doing what I can to support girl child education in Mangoli where I go to enjoy quiet holidays away from newspapers and often phone, also no cable tv there just a DVD player and a small tube tv.

Last month I took my Scorpio for a mountain run on the Kaladhungi - Nainital road, tarmac now. On most hill climbs it needed to drive in 2H 2nd gear. It ran out of steam frequently in 3rd gear.

During the unpaved portion on the climb up the ramp and approach to my Mangoli cottage which is a narrow grass track I engaged 4H and 1st gear.

There is another property we had purchased in Ramgarh. It has a very steep climb indeed. I went mostly in 4H 2nd and 1st gear and on decent 4Low 2nd or 3rd.

When I stopped the car went into nuetral and engaged to 4L what a grinding noise it made.

Not very happy with the torque it churned out.

Pics - My brother Kaiser an MP in Lok Sabha now enjoying the last of the great Sal forests we once had.

Me and my wife peeking from behind the Scorpio!
Attached Thumbnails
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Scorpio VLX 4x4 Review: 1000 kms in Lahaul-Spiti-dsc_0355.jpg  

Scorpio VLX 4x4 Review: 1000 kms in Lahaul-Spiti-dsc_0354.jpg  


Last edited by desertfox : 22nd July 2014 at 19:20.
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Old 22nd July 2014, 19:45   #11
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Default Re: Scorpio VLX 4x4 Review: 1000 kms in Lahaul-Spiti

But it was a good fun filled trip.

On the way back driving through the rain in the night and I found the O/E bulbs giving out insufficient light in the pelting rain.

Need to upgrade it to 140 watts philips luminaries.

The Delhi Moradabad road has excellent eateries. McDonalds, KFC, Dominos Pizza, Sagar Ratna, Udupiwala, even a couple of 3 star hotels closer to Moradabad and numerous good Dhabas, No other highway in India would have such a selection I am sure.
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Old 22nd July 2014, 21:20   #12
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Default Re: Scorpio VLX 4x4 Review: 1000 kms in Lahaul-Spiti

Thank you for this excellent review.

I have started to look for 4WD (with low range) alternatives, to be on road, as well, as on off-road trips. Your review sheds a lot of light and a different perspective on the Scorpio.

However, the lack of low end torque, and the comparo with the old 2.6 turbo motor is concerning. I have a Jeep with a Turbocharged Nissan SD25 engine. I wouldn't want my road car, to be any less powerful than that, at whatever rpm's.

So, could you please check on SS-Travellers points on how to make the engine perform optimally, and revert? Thanks!
Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
The 4wd versions of Scorpio had always been there since the beginning, except that there were never many buyers earlier...

...Going by what you report, the vehicle is showing the first symptoms of failure of its turbo / EGR vacuum modulator unit(s), an Achilles' heel for the vehicle (and I've been through the experience twice). The MAF sensor might also need cleaning / checking....
SST, can you please do a short comparo between the older 2.6 turbo engine, and the 2.2 mhawk, in a mildly difficult offroad terrain. Thanks!
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Old 23rd July 2014, 11:17   #13
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Default Re: Scorpio VLX 4x4 Review: 1000 kms in Lahaul-Spiti

Excellent thread! and quite an eye-opener.

Anybody has any thoughts or actual experience on how the Safari or Storme 4X4 would have performed in similar terrain and situations?

Please do share, as I am planning to buy one shortly, and one of the main reasons is to go to those locales in the Himalayas where I havent gone in my SX4
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Old 23rd July 2014, 11:50   #14
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Default Re: Scorpio VLX 4x4 Review: 1000 kms in Lahaul-Spiti

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Originally Posted by KrishD View Post
Excellent thread! and quite an eye-opener.

Anybody has any thoughts or actual experience on how the Safari or Storme 4X4 would have performed in similar terrain and situations?

Please do share, as I am planning to buy one shortly, and one of the main reasons is to go to those locales in the Himalayas where I havent gone in my SX4
Yes. I have. Its not very pleasant. Same old common rail problems. Not enough low end torque.
And then reliability is an issue with the 2.2 Safari. Storme may be better(appears better when we see the current ownership reviews).

The biggest problem with both the Safari and Scorpio is their aversion to water. The electronic contacts at the bottom are prone to malfunction if you drive through deep water(even not so deep water).

So always engage 4WD before venturing into water.

VLX also suffers from a Slave cylinder premature failure issue. Unlike the Safari, changing it requires a lot of effort and time.

On the suspension front, 2.6 and 2.2 scorpio both have this bush problem. Change them every 10,000kms and you are fine(if you do rough roads regularly).

Last but not the least, the scorpio is a boat. You get thrown around here and there. Storme is the best of the lot when it comes to ride quality and handling

The Safari 2.2 is poor on handling front, but ride quality is superb.
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Old 23rd July 2014, 12:28   #15
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Default Re: Scorpio VLX 4x4 Review: 1000 kms in Lahaul-Spiti

Thanks all for your comments.

Unfortunately, as SS-T put it, there are few options if one wants a family tourer that is 4x4 capable.

I test drove a Scorpio 2x4 last July with the intention of buying a 4x4 (they didn't have one to test drive). I was amazed at the low-end torque and how readily it jumped forward when I popped the clutch - no turbo lag at all.

I did quite a lot of reading here before considering it as my #1 choice, since for me it was the best 4x4 option that was available in my budget. I knew it's pluses and minuses and warts. In the end, I didn't buy it for other reasons - especially the wife, who is petite and wondered how she would clamber in and out of it when wearing a sari. But she liked the vehicle, though.

In the end, my experience with the Scorpio was just a test drive, and I defer to those who own / have driven it on rough terrain.

I do follow threads like 1100D's and SS-T's avidly.
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