Mahindra’s roots in the sports utility vehicle market run deep, establishing it firmly as a brand that makes some desirable vehicles. Body-on-frame SUVs have been the mainstay for the brand, and the fans of this body type still crave more. But the one vehicle that completely changed the perception of the Mahindra brand and set the tone for the transformation of the portfolio was the Scorpio. Into its second decade since launch, the Scorpio gets a complete overhaul. Though the attempt with the new Scorpio-N has been to retain the flavour and character of the original, there is nothing other than the emotional quotient that’s been carried forward from the outgoing model. The new Scorpio-N still sports a body-on-ladder-frame construction, though like the XUV 7OO, the underpinnings now include a chassis that sees extensive use of high-strength steel and advanced high-strength steel. The body-in-white and frame are, as a result, lighter and stiffer. Mahindra claims that the new Scorpio-N will meet Bharat NCAP’s expected 64kmph crash worthiness test.
The Scorpio-N has grown in proportions, and while the original was a disruptor in the mid-size car segment (when SUVs weren’t in vogue), the new model is expected to be the disruptor in the C and D SUV segments. Can its better looks, improved refinement, and a long list of new tech and features help the Scorpio-N sting the competition?
The Scorpio-N is unmistakably Scorpio, but its design represents an evolution in the right direction. In place of the earlier overplayed macho, there is now a modern aesthete that makes the Scorpio-N likeable to a larger audience. It is still a large, upright, relatively boxy SUV with a rather straight tailgate. But it now sports simpler, curvier edges and design elements. The front fascia has the most Scorpio likeness with its vertical nose, near straight bonnet line and the 6-slat grille with the new twin-peaks Mahindra logo sitting pretty in the middle. The scorpion-sting LED DRLs on the edge of the fog lamp housing is a design touch that has been neatly executed. The headlamps are also narrower with LED light elements.
The Scorpio-N is longer and wider than the current model and is said to offer a roomier cabin than many of its competitors too. It is said to be better than current benchmarks in both the lower and upper SUV segments. The side profile shows off the changes in body surfacing even more, where the side character line and black cladding are subtler. The highlight of the side design is the 18-inch alloy wheels and the chrome window line that curves at the rear to form a sort of scorpion-sting. The rear of the Scorpio-N is the most different, with the vertical tail-lamp design from the current Scorpio being reinterpreted into a rather Volvo-like housing, though the light elements don’t stretch all along the boundary. It still gets a side-opening tailgate, and inside, the side-facing jump seats are gone, and in its place is a conventional third-row of seats; thankfully, now offered with seatbelts.
The Scorpio-N will be offered in 6 & 7-seater configurations, in four basic variants, with an optional loaded top-spec on the Z8, and, of course, about five powertrains to choose from. The interior of the Scorpio-N seems like a bigger jump in overall quality and appeal. The black and chocolate brown colour theme of the cabin works as a combination. Further, with the large greenhouse, the interior doesn’t seem poorly lit. There is certainly more room in the cabin, and while headroom was not a problem before, there is even more of it now. The vibe that hits me, though, when I get behind the wheel is a big improvement in quality, both for the plastic parts and the electricals. The dashboard is still a very vertical, upright SUV style layout with a waterfall style centre console. The textured plastics feature clean finishes with tightly matched panels and don’t have the shiny, cheap finish of the past. Even the grab holds on the A-pillar and the door are perfectly made. My quibble during the drive was that the door handle (though good to look at in faux aluminium) was a bit too chunky and didn’t allow easy access to an already small door pocket.
Mahindra designers have dipped into the XUV 7OO’s parts bin for some of the controls of the Scorpio-N. The touchscreen infotainment is an 8-inch unit that offers access to most of the controls for media, navigation, and vehicle information. There is a suite of connected car features too now with the AdrenoX app with Alexa integration. The Sony music system has been borrowed from the XUV 7OO, as is the multi-function steering wheel itself. Top variants also get front and rear cameras with multiple surround-view options. The instrument cluster is a digital-cum-analog unit with dials for the speedo and the rpm-meter. The 7-inch digital screen in the middle offers a range of driving-related info, including warnings that, in some cases, are also reflected in an audible voice announcement. The voice announcements themselves are more refined and suave than the relatively raw ones in the current Scorpio.
The Scorpio-N’s seats are comfortable, and the driver’s seat gets 6-way power adjustments. The seat squabs are generous, but I found that the cushioning was a bit softer than I would have liked. The second row of captain seats in my test mule were also comfortable, and the curb side seat folds and tumbles with one touch. The third row of seats is predictably tighter and will be suitable for children. The boot will be extremely narrow and capable of only holding small bags or a couple of cabin-sized luggage. Anything more, you’ll need to fold the third-row seats. Thankfully, the spare wheel is mounted under the vehicle.
The Scorpio-N is being offered with two engine and two gearbox options. These power units are already on offer in the Thar. The Diesel engine is the turbocharged mHawk, 2.2-litre, that delivers a peak power of 175PS and 400Nm of torque (370Nm in the case of a manual transmission). The engine can be specified with either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox. The engine is also being offered at a different state of tune for lower spec variants, which get an output level of 132PS and 300Nm. The petrol engine available for the Scorpio-N is the mStallion, a 2.0-litre turbocharged unit that delivers 203PS of peak power and 370Nm of torque (380Nm for AT). The gearbox options include a 6-speed manual and a 6-speed torque converter automatic.
The powertrain that I could experience extensively during the day was the 2.2-litre mHawk engine paired with the 6-speed auto. The power unit offers loads of low-end torque and a healthy mid-range too. The power delivery is quick, making the Scorpio-N feel nimble and light-footed. The automatic gearbox is smooth and possesses an easy-shifting character. But it is not as quick or as smooth as dual-clutch can be. No steering-mounted paddles, but manual gear selection is possible using the gearstick in +/- mode. There is also the option of choosing from three drive modes-Zip, Zap, and Zoom (Mahindra’s terms for City, Eco, and Sport). My guess is that these are just three different throttle maps. Overall, there is a big jump in refinement levels, leading to a much quieter cabin; a lot of effort has also gone into improving the NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness) levels inside the cabin.
The ride quality also gets a leg up with considerable engineering inputs for the suspension setup and tuning. The front suspension is a double wishbone with coil over shocks and includes frequency dependent damping (FDD) to reduce the impact of bad roads. The rear suspension is a Penta link set up with a watts-link in the middle to match the left-wheel and right-wheel reactions on the road. The overall ride quality is good but, on some surfaces, the feedback from the road is more pronounced. Clearly, though, it can take quite a beating and come out in one piece. Power steering assistance is excellent, and taking u-turns in city traffic won’t be a problem. The 4-wheel drive option is offered in the top two -Z8 and Z8L variants. The 4XPLOR intelligent 4X4 system features a mechanical locking differential and a brake locking differential; it also gets selectable terrain modes including snow, mud and ruts, sand and normal.
The new Scorpio-N also gets a jump in safety features, with two airbags as standard, and top variants getting front and side curtain airbags. The other features that are standard include ISOFIX seats, ventilated disc brakes, ABS with EBD, and parking sensors. Tyre pressure monitoring, brake disc wiping, and a suite of electronic stability and gradient assistance are some of the others.
The new Scorpio-N is a brand new vehicle inside-out and under the skin. This generation has brought the brand up to speed with the best in the competition. There are still some small ergonomics issues and very minor finish quality issues inside the cabin, but nothing that jars the experience of being in it. In terms of on-road performance too, there are places when it feels a little too light-footed and some body roll does set in despite a good effort at keeping it under control. But the message is clear that the new Scorpio-N is out with its claws and a killer price ranging from ₹12 lakh to ₹19.5 lakh. With the current Scorpio being retained to be sold in parallel, the price positioning will need to be reworked.