• Sun. Dec 10th, 2023

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Scorpio-N ticks all boxes in the city. Want an old-school offroader? Go for the Thar

It is impossible to talk of the Scorpio-N without talking of the very first Scorpio and that picture of Anand Mahindra standing beside it at Mahindra Towers in Worli exactly twenty years ago in June 2002. The Scorpio was and remains an amazing engineering achievement by a company which had made its name selling a 1940s Jeep for which they had the license for decades. It was Anand Mahindra himself and a team of engineers led by Pawan K Goenka, an IIT-trained engineer who had just returned from Detroit, who made it a success story. So, it was a bit strange to see neither of those two men on stage when the third-generation Scorpio rolled out from Mahindra Automotive’s Chakan factory.

Life moves on. While Anand Mahindra and Pawan Goenka move into semi-retirement, the Scorpio-N picks from the foundations laid by the original Scorpio and its second-generation and builds on it. And it is an excellent achievement in every respect — from engineering to design. This is a good car to drive.

Despite being a great feat for Mahindra, as Anand Mahindra told me in an interview a few years later, Scorpio had its weak points. It was the first time Mahindra had welded a full-roof panel on a vehicle: there were vestiges of Mahindra’s inexperience throughout that car. It afforded you a commanding driving position, when I drove the Scorpio in Delhi for the first time, I was amused at how quickly people moved out of the way when it came from behind. But that car had body-control issues, it rolled in corners and when you braked heavily it ‘dived’. I have memorable experiences with the Scorpio, including a 2006 boy’s trip from Mumbai to Kerala, but I could not recommend it in good faith. The Scorpio got better with time and the car attracted a cult following, something Mahindra Automotive has captured in building its brand.

Also read: India readying Bharat NCAP for safer cars but curbing violations can make big difference too

Longer, wider, taller

But the Scorpio-N, well, it is good from the get-go. It continues to be a body-on-frame construction and a rear-wheel drive car but Mahindra Automotive’s top engineer R Veluswamy made clear that they have worked in making the body stiffer, controlling body roll and making the suspension better. This was evident, not just while speeding down the Mumbai-Pune Expressway but also when driving down the hills above Lonavala. The twisty ghat roads to Aamby Valley were dealt with, not just in terms of body roll but also, given the abysmal condition of some roads; the suspension handled it like a pro. The version I drove was the 175PS two-litre diesel mated to a six-speed automatic and in terms of power delivery and how well the car changed gears on the hills, I had no complaints. Sure, to clarify, this was a brand-new car so it hadn’t seen the rigours of daily usage as yet.

As for the looks, it manages to fulfil that holy grail of automotive design, which is keeping the overall feel hefty with butch looks, and a touch of modernity. The taillight cluster, while clearly inspired by the Volvo XC90 is impressive, the front, with its signature ‘scorpion stinger’ daytime LED lights and new grille, does get the car a second glance (and Scorpio-N = scorpion, get it?). The car is actually longer, wider and taller than the old Scorpio, which incidentally will remain on offer.

When the time came to take the Scorpio N offroading, we moved to the 4×4 version. Now this Scorpio might be better looking but it does have its off-road chops. The 4×4 variant has an electronic system where you can engage four-wheel drive ‘on the fly’ (while on the move) and also a Terrain Response System, through which you can choose the type of terrain you are on and the engine management system will adjust the power delivery and how much the wheels should slip accordingly. Mahindra’s philosophy is simple, if you want an old-school offroader, go for the Thar. The Scorpio N is a large family car, the increase in length means it has a functional third row as well, which can be used when you want a bit of adventure.

Also read: VW Polo driving out of India but not before it put a smile on enthusiasts for over a decade

Interior and pricing

And it does tick all the boxes in the city. The top-end Z8L specification which comes with a sunroof — a first in a Scorpio — adds heft to my belief that Indians are in love with this feature. However, the pitter-patter of driving in rain in the Sahyadris is one of the better experiences. Not only do Scorpio N owners now get an integrated digital display between the dials on the instrument cluster, they also get a very good Sony audio system. The car offers wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a wireless charger and multiple USB charging points, including a USB-C type. It also has a dual-zone air-conditioner. The overall quality of the materials used is superb. Gone are the days of shiny, cheap plastics on the old Scorpio. That is not to say that there are no misses — there are no ventilated seats and the rearview mirror is not electronic.

Mahindra’s management is so confident about the new Scorpio N that when they announced the price, they did it from the top variant down. The top-end Z8L diesel with a manual gearbox is priced at Rs 19.49 lakh, with the equivalent petrol model that features a 200PS engine priced at Rs 18.99 lakh. The base models will be priced at Rs 11.99 lakh for the petrol and Rs 12.49 lakh for the diesel. All these prices are ex-showroom all-India and applicable to the first 25,000 buyers. The additional cost for the six-speed automatic and the 4×4 variant, the latter only coming on the diesel, will be announced in late-July. Unlike the XUV700, which was impacted by the semiconductor shortage, Mahindra management is geared up for the Scorpio-N with the Chakan plant ready to roll out up to 6,000 vehicles every month.

There are over 800,000 Scorpio’s already on the roads, and the Scorpio N is certain to take that number well past a million. Twenty years ago, Anand Mahindra might never have thought that Scorpio would become what it has today. He did dream of it, but Anand Mahindra’s legacy at the venerable conglomerate that bears his name will always be associated with the Scorpio. And the Scorpio-N (or should it be ‘Scorpion’) takes it much further.

@kushanmitra is an automotive journalist based in New Delhi. Views are personal.

(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)


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