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Driven: updated Mahindra Scorpio

Driven November 2017

Driven: updated Mahindra Scorpio

Wait a minute. When did this Scorpio launch?

Er, right now.


No press conference? No event?

No. Mahindra went even better. Instead of all the jazzy lights and other launch shenanigans, they just called me to their plant in the outskirts of Pune, said they have an updated Scorpio, and that they’d be happy to let me drive it, provided I leave soon and not take too much of their time. Which works far better than wasting hours in some hotel while ribbons are being cut, lamps are being lit, pointless pleasantries are being exchanged and some suited gents drone on in turns over a PowerPoint.


To the point, then

Just like we’d like.


So what’s new with the Scorpio? New bumpers?

Now, that you mention it, wait a minute.


What?

I just drove the car and I didn’t notice what’s new cosmetically.


It doesn’t look radically different…

Not externally. But there are quite a lot of changes inside.


Alright? But what’s new outside?

The brochure says there are some changes to the grille, bumpers, fog lamps, headlamps and turn indicators, and the side mirrors have indicators in them.


You had to check the brochure for it…?

Well, I was too busy driving the updated Scorpio. And to be honest with you, if it wasn’t for the brochure, I wouldn’t know what the cosmetic changes were.


So how was the updated Scorpio to drive?

Here’s where the key things come in. Updated power and torque figures and an all new gearbox.
Mahindra Scorpio - Embargo

All new? Automatic?

No. A manual. A six-speed manual. In a Scorpio.


Wow. Never thought…

Exactly. Never thought you’d see the day when a Scorpio would have a six-speed manual.


But must be a pain, going through so many gears…

Absolutely not. The shift quality is very smooth and precise. It was actually a joy to shift gears in this Scorpio. I can’t remember driving any body-on-chassis vehicle and saying that about its gearbox, let alone a body-on-chassis vehicle with a six-speed manual transmission.


Does this updated Scorpio need a lot of gearshifting?

No actually. The 2.2-litre diesel that Mahindra has been calling the mHawk for a while has always been a rather tractable engine. Now, with a sixth cog, the engine still pulls the Scorpio from just over 1000rpm at the sixth gear from about 45-50kph all the way to 140kph.


Wait. You hit 140kph? Where?

In Mahindra’s test track. It was not exactly an enjoyable experience. If the track had a longer straight, perhaps, the Scorpio could have hit a higher indicated speed. But then, the Scorpio has never been an expressway muncher.


Has the ride and handling improved?

Not at all. The track was fairly smooth with only minor undulations on tarmac that you wouldn’t notice in most other cars. But in the Scorpio, it was annoyingly evident. The suspension is set us so softly in the pursuit of comfort, the car tosses and bobs about at close-to-three-digit speeds over the slightest undulations on the road.


And handling?

The only corner the Scorpio surpasses without giving you a fright is one that’s banked. Which, not that coincidently, is just what Mahindra’s test track offers. A banked corner on two ends. On conventional corners, there’s way too much roll and you’d be as confident negotiating a corner at moderate speeds in the Scorpio as you’d be giving your netbanking password to that email that wants to put a dead Uncle’s money into your account.


But the Scorpio has never been about road dynamics…

True, but for all the improvements they have made on other fronts, they need to improve the chassis enough so ride and handling can at the very least be average if not spectacular. The Scorpio is not some farm vehicle. It needs to have better high-speed manners.
Mahindra Scorpio - Embargo

What are the other improvements?

Noise, vibration and harshness, what engineers like calling NVH has substantially improved. There’s none of that shudder and clatter when starting the ignition, or when the vehicle’s simply idling. In fact, there’s none of that agricultural demeanour to the refinement levels of this Scorpio. But there are a couple of ergonomic quirks.


Like what?

The driver’s power window switches are too close to the driver’s elbow making you have to pull your arm back awkwardly to operate it. And the touchscreen interface is located far too low in the centre console and the climate control knobs and display is even further below. Besides, this six-speed gearbox and tractable engine will give you adequate opportunities to cruise at a decent speed and rest your left foot. It would have been nice to have a dead pedal to rest that foot on.


And features?

Apart from the usual dual airbags, climate control and the auto wipers and headlamps, there’s tyre pressure and temperature monitoring for all five tyres. Yes. Including the spare.


So do you like or don’t like the Scorpio?

I do. This is definitely a substantial improvement for what’s essentially a mid-life upgrade for the third genertation Scorpio that’s been with us since 2014. Refinement has been upped quite a bit. And that six-speed gearbox is lovely to engage with. All Mahindra needs to do is understand that a comfortable ride need be so soft that the car bobs and tosses about at speed. If you have always loved the Scorpio, this is the best iteration to get yourself.




Specs: 2179cc, 4cyl, turbo-diesel, 140bhp, 320Nm, 6M, RWD



Verdict: Lovely gearbox, better refinement and more power make for a lot of improvements. But ride and handling still below average.





Sriram Narayanan

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