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Mahindra Scorpio-N diesel AT: GTO's review after 5 days of driving

We have to understand that the brand Scorpio is now 20 years old. A very powerful nameplate, it is to the Rs. 20 – 25 lakh segment what the Fortuner is to the Rs. 40 - 50 lakh segment.

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Mahindra Scorpio-N Diesel Automatic Review

  • Mahindra is closely guarding its utility vehicle fortress. They hit it out of the park with the 2nd-gen Thar, the XUV700 and now, the Scorpio-N. Do note that even the Marazzo was a kickass MPV - extremely competent. It failed only due to non-product-related reasons such as price, marketing, positioning, not having an AT, no petrol, and competition from the Ertiga / XL6 on one side & the mighty Innova on the other, etc.
  • We have to understand that the brand Scorpio is now 20 years old. A very powerful nameplate, it is to the Rs. 20 – 25 lakh segment what the Fortuner is to the Rs. 40 - 50 lakh segment. Brand Scorpio has an enormous following in rural as well as urban India (just like the Fortuner). Hence, Mahindra has smartly gone for evolutionary changes preserving the successful formula, rather than revolutionary ones. It’s still got a lot of the original Scorpio DNA (body-on-frame construction, tough build, 4x4, commanding driving position, etc.), but Mahindra does appear to have brought the SUV up to the times by improving in several crucial areas.
  • Must say this Scorpio-N feels like it’s 2 or 3 generations ahead of the old Scorpio.
  • Here’s an important point = the Scorpio-N is now, a lot more woman-friendly than the original Scorpio. Where the original car had crude interiors, this one has a likeable cabin with most of the expected amenities. It has light steering, an automatic transmission, good-looking interiors, a petrol option, a nice sound system, features (sunroof too, albeit a small unit) and more. The fairer sex cares about these points. My better half was driving the Scorpio-N. She was totally at home within 5 minutes of being in it on the expressway. While women have always influenced car purchase decisions of the house, now there are a lot more women buying 20-lakh rupee cars for themselves too (or contributing to the car’s EMI in double-income families).
  • It’s truly amazing what a long way Rs. 20 lakh cars have come. Frankly, the Rs. 20-25 lakh segment gives you all the car you need with enough power, enough space, enough gadgets and now, enough safety as well. We are seeing some really competent models in this space and one honestly doesn’t need to spend over this price point, no matter whether you are looking at an SUV or MPV or Sedan or Crossover. Any car over 30 lakhs is driven more by desire than need.
  • The AT variant I drove has a stiff premium over the MT. IMHO, Mahindra is clearly going for profits. After all, it is a seller's market, the AT is brilliantly matched to the engine and the truth is, AT customers are less price sensitive. If they want the AT, they want the AT.

Exterior

  • I like the front-end styling, and the side profile is extremely smart too. But the rear is quite boring & seems MPV’ish to my eyes. The Scorpio-N has a presence – is butch too – although it could do with a butt-lift already.
  • Owners will appreciate the Scorpio-N for being abuse-friendly, overload-friendly, rough road-friendly and rough user-friendly. You know this tough SUV has that Mahindra DNA in it and it’s going to take abuse like a champ. In fact, in rural areas, I fully expect to see Scorpio-Ns with 14 people squeezed into them. Like Boleros. Think about it, what better upgrade for a Bolero-driving farmland owner than the relatively luxurious Scorpio-N? We stopped at a local tyre shop and every pedestrian who walked by was turning around and checking the Scorpio-N out. An elderly gentleman asked me what car it is, and even a 10-year-old kid was curious about this new Scorpio-N. Heck, the person filling the air in the spare tyre had 10 questions about the Scorpio-N.
  • We are driving right next to a Mercedes GLS and are as tall as the Benz. We tower over crossovers and sedans. This kind of butch presence and height does have an advantage in India. It has a “feel good” factor too, I got to admit (even as a sedan lover).
  • I’ll go one step further and say that your driving style does change when you are driving a tough body-on-frame SUV. People give you way and you are not as careful as you would be in say, a delicate sedan or softer crossover. This is a “proper Mahindra” in that sense.
  • One thing about the Scorpio is that it finds a lot of interest in urban India as well as rural India. Out in the countryside, it’s one of the ULTIMATE status symbols. That’s not the case with a vehicle like the Skoda Kushaq (just an example), which you can safely assume has its sales primarily from more urban areas.
  • The spare tyre, which is a space saver, was low on air pressure (the TPMS warned me). With the way that it is placed under the car, the tyre nozzle is on the top. There is no way to fill air in it without pulling the wheel down!!! This is a serious fail in terms of useability (not just Scorpio, many other SUVs / MPVs too suffer from this). Imagine, for such a regular & routine maintenance thingie, you have to dislodge the spare tyre. A 10-12 minute exercise easily. The OEMs should figure out a more convenient way to do this.

Interior

  • The Scorpio-N has a superb, tall and commanding driving position like a proper SUV, and not softer crossovers like the Creta, Seltos and gang. Frontal visibility is excellent and the tall seating makes you more confident on bad roads.
  • The A-Pillar is thick and Mahindra is on a safety roll of late. Like the Thar, XUV700 and XUV300, I am more confident about how the Scorpio-N will fare in the GNCAP crash tests (old Scorpio royally flunked the test). But the thicker A-Pillar with the ORVM right next to it creates a blind spot. When you are turning right into a lane, you will want to proceed cautiously to ensure that you don’t miss seeing an object in your way.
  • A crucial area where there is a big, big improvement would be the cabin ambience & interior quality. Another would be space in the driver’s seat. At 5’10”, I could never fit comfortably in the old Scorpio, which was a shame, because it was so big on the outside and so cramped on the inside. In the Scorpio-N, I was comfortable and even with the seat set to my 5’10” driving position, it could slide further back. A 6-footer will fit in here, while 2nd-row space is adequate too. Cabin comfort is way better than the old Scorpio, although the outright room isn’t as much as the exterior dimensions would have you believe and I do find the XUV700 / Safari middle rows to be comfier. The 1st & 2nd seat rows are adequate, while the cramped last row is for kids only. The lack of a sliding middle row & split-folding 3rd row is shocking omissions that will inconvenience owners looking for more flexibility in space management. Boot space is terrible with the 3rd-row up. Roof-top carriers have already reached the neighbourhood accessory store.
  • Even those with a delicate lower back will find the back support to be satisfactory. Has manual lumbar adjustment.
  • One of the USPs of the old Scorpio was the individual armrests on the front seats. Mahindra should have continued with those. Right now, what they are giving (centre armrest) is what every other car offers. Seriously, those individual armrests should have been carried forward. They were like a “signature dish” of the Scorpio and oh-so-comfortable.
  • One thing that Mahindra has missed is a telescopic (reach adjustable) steering. At 5’10”, I was OK with it, although really short people will face ergonomic issues. Not just that, I have a feeling that 6-footers & up will also miss telescopic steering. This car is otherwise so well-equipped with 6 airbags, a 12-speaker sound system and other features, that the telescopic steering feels like a major miss. Another omission that sticks out like an ugly pimple is an auto-dimming IRVM. Why am I spending Rs. 20+ lakhs, and then having to flip a switch at night??? This is unnecessary, cheap cost-cutting.
  • Good sound quality, especially from Mahindra who I feel has never gotten their ICE correct. Will give audio quality a 7 / 10 rating. Satisfactory & fun to listen to, yet not a match to the MG Hector, which I feel still has the best ICE in this price segment.
  • The automatic wipers need fine-tuning because their sensitivity sucks. Mahindra needs to make them more sensitive. Many times, I exited tunnels while it was raining and the wipers started a couple of seconds too late and in torrential rain, they were on the second-fastest speed. I had to manually engage the fastest wiping level. With auto wipers and headlamps, OEMs should err on the side of safety. Rather have them “on” a little more…than a little less.
  • It sure is a climb up into the second-row seats. This isn’t a vehicle that is senior citizen-friendly in terms of ingress & egress. Of course, the side steps help, but it’s not as easy as in crossovers. You have to “climb into” the Scorpio-N.
  • The captain seats in the second row are comfortable. The backrests are adjustable and both seats get individual armrests, which will make travelling long distances that much nicer. However, the last row is not adult-friendly at all (either short adults or better yet, children). If you are frequently going to be carrying 5 adults, go for the bench seat version so that three passengers can sit on the second row comfortably. In this captain seat variant, the fifth person is not going to be happy climbing into the third row. Ingress is tough & the last row is cramped.
  • Excellent glass area! Even though the interiors are dark with a black + dark brown theme, it’s not claustrophobic at all. The rear window is big like my house’s window!! Rear passengers obviously sit tall and they have a fantastic view of all the happenings outside. There’s a healthy amount of light coming into the cabin.

Driving the Scorpio-N Diesel AT

  • In the city, the Scorpio-N is extremely driveable. The engine has good pep and a satisfactory mid-range. It’s a breeze to drive with the light steering, commanding driving position, excellent frontal visibility, smooth AT and no one messing with you.
  • What stands out is how smooth the Diesel AT is. I was driving at 20-40 km/h with the engine spinning at 1,500-1,800 rpm (the typical rev range that you will see in the city) and all I could hear was merely a mild hum. Unlike so many body-on-frame UVs with their loud clattery engines, Mahindra has worked hard on the NVH factor. Refinement is a strong point of the Scorpio-N’s Diesel-AT combination (petrol even more so I guess).
  • On the highway, the Scorpio-N Diesel AT is a great cruiser. You can maintain speeds of 100-120 km/h all day long. It's quite the mile-muncher.
  • Even at 90-100 km/h, all you hear is a mild hum from the diesel engine and it’s a likeable hum. Some diesels sound good, while some sound bad and are clattery; all you hear here is a mild likeable hum. Good stuff.
  • Quick & peppy enough, never feeling underpowered in any situation. Power delivery is satisfactory. That being said, the Diesel AT isn’t F-A-S-T (if you know what I mean).
  • Push the Scorpio-N with the transmission in manual mode and the engine revs to ~4,700 rpm.
  • Who names the driving modes Zip, Zap, Zoom? C-O-R-N-Y! Mahindra should really have stuck to the conventional Eco, Normal and Sport nomenclature. What on earth is Zip, Zap, Zoom? Worse still, you cannot ignore zip-zap-zoom! I chuckled every time I saw that mode displayed on the instrument cluster.
  • I have said this before with the Thar and XUV700 also, I am super happy with how Mahindra and Tata are tuning their AT gearboxes with their engines. They are doing a fantastic job. Tata did a better job with the Harrier / Safari ATs (which use FCA’s 2.0L diesel) than Jeep could manage with its own engine! And this is where they are nailing it. Many competitors don’t offer a Diesel AT combination. Mahindra has gone a step further than Tata by offering a very competent (fuel economy aside) Turbo-Petrol AT too.
  • I appreciate how the automatic gearbox maintains the right ratio most of the time. Sometimes, even if it is at the expense of fuel economy, it will stick to a lower gear if that’s the more apt choice. I appreciate a well-tuned AT gearbox and this is something the Scorpio-N has gotten a spot on. The praise is coming from someone whose daily driver is a ZF-8 speed.
  • Even in Zap mode (not zoom), you will notice that the car doesn’t necessarily freewheel or just shift to a higher gear for the sake of fuel efficiency. On the other hand, to enhance driveability, it will hold on to a lower gear as an enthusiast would prefer in certain conditions. It’s nice to see a focus on driveability and response times from AT engineers.
  • I don’t like automatics that freewheel excessively for economy. I don’t like automatics that are eager to jump into higher gears for economy. This AT is not one of those. It makes an effort to keep the engine in its power band and what’s more, you always have a certain level of engine braking.
  • Perhaps, as a downside of the abovementioned points + the Scorpio’s breadbox aerodynamics + fat weight + power on tap + torque converter AT, the round-trip FE I saw was 11 km/l. Which is just average (pun intended). This included ~400 km of all kinds of driving, but hardly any traffic conditions (perhaps just 50 km of it was in traffic in Pune). City + highway + rural areas. Can tell you a Creta / Seltos Diesel AT would’ve given at least 15 km/l in the same circuit, if not more. 11 km/l was also without really driving hard as the Scorpio-N isn’t a corner carver at all; I would’ve driven a Creta or Kushaq much harder. With the Scorpio, it was more of a relaxed cruise due to its height, weight, body-on-frame road behaviour and heavy rains that week.

Ride & Handling

  • Ride quality is much, much improved over the earlier pogo-stick-like bumpy Scorpio, but it is still a mixed bag. The suspension is compliant in 70% of situations, liveable in most, yet very fussy in some (e.g. bad roads taken at crawling speeds). Additionally, ride comfort is better on the front seats than in the middle row – 2nd-row passengers will find the suspension to be extremely busy, even on the expressway. I jumped on the middle row while the lady was driving; the 2nd-row was never riding “flat” on the highway @ 80 – 100 km/h! Of course, do keep in mind that rear seat ride quality will improve with more load and if all the seats are full (typical of most BOF UVs).
  • At low speeds and in the city, the Scorpio-N’s suspension is now liveable and mostly compliant. That being said, the Scorpio-N has no magic carpet ride like a Renault Duster. Low-speed ride quality in the city is way better than the likes of the Fortuner, I might add.
  • As long as the tarmac is clean, the Scorpio-N rides in a compliant manner. However, on bad roads taken at low speeds, bumps and pothole edges are felt on the inside. And there is some vertical and side-to-side movement as well, where passengers are tossed around.
  • The Scorpio-N's steering is very light at parking speeds and slow speeds. Owners will appreciate this trait on a daily basis.
  • I must say that I much prefer the Scorpio-N's suspension tune to the Fortuner. In fact, even to drive, the Fortuner, at low speeds, has got a heavy steering and bumpy ride. To drive around the city, the Scorpio-N is so much more user-friendly because of the light steering, the refined engine and the less-bumpy ride quality. We are comparing two different segments, but like I mentioned, the Scorpio is to the Rs. 20 lakh segment what the Fortuner is to the Rs. 50 lakh segment.
  • The Scorpio-N rides acceptably well on the expressway, but what’s important is that if you encounter potholes at speed (I crossed one at 90 km/h), you don’t even have to slow down for them. My co-passenger was talking and didn’t even have to pause while speaking. We just flew over the bump. So, at speed, you won’t need to slow down for rough patches. This thing just has that robustness to it and unlike at lower speeds, it dismisses bumps with more composure at highway speeds.
  • While the ride is compliant, it is a busy suspension @ 100 km/h. Even on the expressway, you can feel the joints, there is movement from the bottom, yet it is acceptable. I was sitting in the second row and could feel that the suspension was very busy. The front seats have a distinct advantage in terms of ride quality. This is not a Hexa or even XUV700 for that matter.
  • One differentiator from the XUV700 is that the monocoque XUV feels very urban, whereas the body-on-frame Scorpio feels very rough & tough. It has a feeling of robustness and a feel-good factor to it.
  • This is exactly the sort of vehicle that you want when you are in the middle of nowhere. I was in a corner of MH that was so remote there was no mobile data! There were rough roads, no roads, narrow roads, uphill sections, downhill sections and mid-level water logging at some places. This is just the kind of SUV you will want at such a place.
  • As I mentioned earlier, the Scorpio-N takes broken roads better at 50 km/h than 20 km/h. While making this voice note, I drove through some rough patches at 50 - 60 km/h and we literally flew over them. You just know that, like most Mahindra body-on-frame UVs, you’ll never have to slow down for rough patches.
  • Straight line stability at a cruising speed of 100-120 km/h is satisfactory. The car doesn’t feel nervous, but you are always aware of the vehicle's height and the fact that it’s a BOF construction. So, while the stability is fair, you have got to be very mindful of the higher centre of gravity.
  • A rare test-drive media car that I didn’t drive hard at all. The height, weight & BOF build means you have to take it easy around corners (fear of toppling). While the grip levels are satisfactory, you do feel the top-heaviness. This is not a vehicle you will take corners fast in. Keep your speeds conservative around curves. It's just better to err on the side of caution.
  • When it was dry, I was cruising at 120 km/h, but in the rains, 80-100 km/h is advisable. In an SUV like this one, that’s probably what you should keep it at for comfortable cruising with the family.

Nice car, a Team-BHP tee, lovely weather, great music, awesome company & black coffee. What else does one need in life?

Beautiful MH, Beautiful India. I personally enjoy holidays & road-tripping in India (GA, RJ, KL, etc.) more than most destinations abroad:

These broken patches taken at crawling speeds will have the passengers being tossed about in the cabin. Lots of side-to-side swaying

Found this Scorpio owner's jugaad garage to be very cute. All men love their machines, whether its a Moped or a Mercedes, a Ford or a Ferrari:

The Scorpio-N sure was a head-turner in rural India (perfect upgrade for a Bolero-owning farmer). Interestingly, it was a head-turner in urban India too:

This underpass in Chakan was flooded. Lesser cars were driving through, and the Scorpio-N would easily make it to the other side. But because it's not my property and I didn't want to ruin a great road trip, we turned around and took the long way out (added 30+ minutes to the destination):

Buvachi Misal in Lonavla - you absolutely cannot miss having breakfast or lunch here. One of the few places which serve top quality delicious food at unbelievably reasonable prices:

And super clean too! Never had a bad tummy after eating their yummy misal + vada pav + onion pakora + strong tea (my standard combo-meal there):

Stunning roads & views through & through:

Takes all kinds to fill our roads...

Check out BHPian comments for more insights and information.

 
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