Indian Scorpio — what’s it really like?

Mahindra is a name that may not be familiar to most readers, but the arrival of its new Scorpio SUV could see some manufacturers worried.

Scorpio is a six-seat, body-on frame, large SUV and it’s on sale now. Although officially classed as a “Large” SUV, it is considerably shorter than others such as the Toyota Prado and Ford Everest.

In fact, at 4662mm, it is 300mm shorter than either and closer in size to a Subaru Forester. 

The Indian company is promising almost immediate delivery for Scorpio, with two models from which to choose: entry level Z8 is sharply priced at $41,990 driveaway and the better equipped Z8L, at $44,990 driveaway.

These are introductory prices, however, available only until June 30, 2023.

We were unable to clarify what will happen to these prices after that date.

Mahindra has been operating in Australia since 2005, when it began selling tractors and still does to this day.

A few years later, the company launched the Pik-Up, an honest but basic workhorse ute and, in 2012, added the mid-size XUV500 SUV.

Stepping into Scorpio, the first thing you notice is the two-tone upholstery in a mix of coffee and black.

If you don’t like it, tough. It’s the only interior trim offered, but it is attractive and unlikely to offend any but the hard-to-please.

There is quite a lot of hard plastics to be found in the cabin, although most touch-points use soft-touch materials.

Look closely, though, and you’ll see some less-than-perfect fit, such as the trim panels either side of the console.

The seats are leatherette, which is entirely acceptable and probably easier to look after than the fabric of most entry-level competitors.

The Z8L adds a six-way power-adjust driver’s seat.

Unfortunately, the steering wheel is adjustable only for height — not reach.

The seating position is high and combined with an upright windscreen and a bonnet that drops away, the view ahead is excellent.

In addition, the glass-to-metal ratio is high, creating a light, airy ambience that is enhanced by a standard sunroof in both models.

Z8 has a 4.2-inch driver information screen while Z8L gets a larger 7.0-inch colour display.

Both models feature an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system which is adequate, but hardly state-of-the-art.

Both variants have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wired on the Z8 and wireless on the Z8L (the latter also gets a wireless phone charger).

Z8L also benefits from 12-speaker Sony audio with twin channel sub-woofer.

Neither model has satnav, but many prefer smartphone mirroring in any case. There’s no digital radio either.

Oddly, Z8’s dual-zone climate control does not display the temperature. But we’re told this will be rectified with a firmware update.

Currently, Scorpio comes as a six-seater, with individual captain’s chairs for the second row.

The second row doesn’t slide, but space is generous back there and occupants will appreciate dedicated air conditioner controls, with air vents.

The second-row seats fold and tumble (but not into the floor), making access to the third row a little easier.

Like most third rows, these seats are really suitable only for children — despite a raised roof line.

The third row also folds and tumbles, so the boot floor is never flat.

The tailgate opens sideways, so owners will need to keep this in mind when parking in confined spaces.

Opening the door reveals precious little cargo space, especially with the third row in place.

Mahindra claims 686 litres with all three rows in use, or 756 litres with the third row folded — but it feels like less.

With all seats in use luggage space is severely compromised.

Both models are powered by Mahindra’s own mHawk 2.2-litre four-cylinder, all-alloy turbodiesel.

Outputs are 129kW and 400Nm, slightly less than most competitors.

The transmission is a six-speed Japanese Aisin unit, driving a part-time four-wheel drive system.

It features shift-on-the-fly (up to 80km/h) and a low-range transfer case, bolstering Mahindra’s claim that Scorpio is a serious off-road machine.

Fuel consumption is a claimed 7.2L/100km and it has a comparatively small 57-litre fuel tank.

Also welcome is a self-locking mechanical rear differential and a brake-locking differential.

Mahindra’s 4XPLOR terrain system provides the option of Normal, Snow, Mud & Ruts and Sand modes.

Towing capacity is a little less than most of the competition, being rated at 2500kg.

In terms of performance, there is sufficient power and torque to take off with alacrity and keep up with surrounding traffic.

Push the engine to the higher ends of the rev range (it’s red-lined at 3500 rpm) and it does get a little loud — but is never particularly quiet even at lower revs.

We found the steering to be disconcertingly light at low speeds, although it does improve a little at higher speeds. It’s never as communicative as we would like however.

The rear-view camera is quite grainy, as is the Z8L’s front-facing camera.

We were most surprised to find that we could activate the forward-facing camera on the move.

We can’t think of another system that doesn’t deactivate the camera unless stationary or in reverse, due to the obvious distraction.

The suspension set-up can feel a little fidgety over broken surfaces, but large potholes are well absorbed and body roll is minimal.

Scorpio is fitted with a double wishbones at the front and Watt’s link suspension at the rear, in common with many body-on-frame SUVs.

It proved comfortable and compliant on and off the road.

Adding to its ability is Frequency Dependent Damping that keeps the car composed over single bumps with high damping force, but also delivers low damping force for a comfortable ride on bumpier roads.

This was comprehensively demonstrated on a very fast circuit of rutted and dusty tracks.

Off-road, Scorpio proves remarkably capable, although the self-locking mechanical rear differential occasionally thumps into action.

Ground clearance (so important to off-roaders) is a generous 227mm. Very good approach, departure and breakover angles all contribute to it not getting stuck.

We suspect that Mahindra has targeted the Scorpio’s off-road ability over its on-road attributes, but the compromise will be acceptable to most.

Of some concern, the 20-litre AdBlue tank looks exposed, sitting as it does behind the passenger side rear wheel and protected only by a piece of plastic.

We understand the need to trim features in order to come up with a red hot price, but safety features are not acceptable omissions.

Scorpio has absolutely no active safety features.

It scores a five-star rating in the less strict GNCAP (Global NCAP) test, but would certainly not score as highly under the more stringent Australian ANCAP protocols.

There is no autonomous emergency braking (we’re told it will come with a mid-life update), which is hardly surprising since AEB will be mandatory on all new vehicles sold from March 1, 2025.

Scorpio gets front, side and curtain airbags, but the side curtain airbags fall short of reaching the back of the rear windows.

There are also rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and tyre pressure monitoring.

Z8L adds front parking sensors and the previously mentioned forward-facing camera.

Also missing from the safety list is Lane Keep Assist (although this, too, will be mandatory in 2025), Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Reverse Autonomous Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control and Traffic Sign Recognition.

That’s an awfully long list of safety equipment that Scorpio buyers are being asked to forego.

But for most buyers, the price will be very hard to walk away from. It means those on a limited budget can look at a brand-new vehicle, rather than a one-to-two-year-old second-hand vehicle.

Factor in a seven-year/150,000km warranty for private use and it’s easy to see how buyers could be easily seduced.

Unfortunately, those in the market for a seven-seater will have to wait for perhaps two years, as will buyers who aren’t willing to compromise on safety. 


CHECKOUT: Mahindra expands Pik-Up line

CHECKOUT: Refreshing . . . but is it PikUp or Pik-Up?


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *