Mahindra Scorpio

Our first taste of an Indian vehicle of any sorts... and we were pleasantly surprised

Jeep influence is quite evident

The Mahindra Scorpio is an SUV made by automotive division of Mahindra and Mahindra Limited. It is the first SUV made by the company for global market and has been marketed worldwide. It was designed by IIT graduates, as competition for the Tata Safari (and other obvious competitors).

The Scorpio is the flagship product from Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M), India’s foremost Automobile Manufacturing Co., with group sales of more than 2 billion US$. The Scorpio has been successfully accepted in International markets where it has been recently launched.

The Scorpio, a truly world-class vehicle, bridging the gap between style and adventure, luxury and ruggedness, performance and economy. The Scorpio has been conceptualized and designed by the M&M in-house integrated design and manufacturing (IDAM) team, incorporating the most contemporary styling, design and technology. The Scorpio has been the proud recipient of three prestigious awards - the "Car of the Year" Award from Business Standard Motoring, the "Best SUV of the Year" by BBC on Wheels and the "Best Car of the Year" award, again, from BBC on Wheels.

The Making of Mahindra Scorpio

Till a decade back, M&M was a Automobile assembly plant. The company used to manufacture Willy Jeeps and its minor modified versions (modifications carried out in India). In 1996, the company planned to enter the SUV segment with an all new product which can compete even in foreign markets. Since M&M didn't have the know-how of making a new age product, they devised a whole new concept among Indian Auto companies. For their growth, the company roped in new executives such as Dr. Pawan Goenka and Alan Durante who have worked in this industry in Western countries. The company broke the rule that says automakers must design, engineer and test their own vehicles spending millions of dollars in the process. The new Mahindra Scorpio SUV had all of its major systems designed directly by suppliers with the only input from Mahindra being design, performance specifications and program cost. Design and engineering of systems was done by suppliers, as was testing, validation and materials selection. Sourcing and engineering locations were also chosen by suppliers. The parts were later to be assembled in a Mahindra plant under the badge of Mahindra (as Mahindra is a well known brand among Indian in the MUV segment). The company built a brand-new vehicle with virtually 100 percent supplier involvement from concept to reality for $120 million, including improvements to the plant. The product took 5 years to materialise from a concept to the final product.

ours was a 2X4 so we didn't take her too far into the bush

you're perched quite high, so visibility is good, all-round... great vehicle for game viewing

Mahindra says it's investing in South Africa for the long term, and may even set up a local plant. The initial product range, however, is imported.
Affordability is Mahindra's trump-card, at R180 000 for the standard 2x4 DSL, R205 000 for the Scorpio60 Limited Edition 2x4 GLX (reviewed here) and the 4x4 DSL selling for R215 000, the Scorpio is one of the market's cheapest SUVs, whereas rival SUVs such as Jeep's Cherokee, SsangYong's Musso, Toyota's Condor and Land Rover's Freelander start at R250 000. It does, however, have a spacious seven-seater cabin, power windows, a radio/CD and air-conditioning.
Passenger space is impressive: two seats up front, three across the middle and folding, sideways, jump-seats on each side of the luggage bay.
The front seats have folding armrests; adjustment for the external mirrors is via stalks through the doors.
Cabin styling is pleasantly modern with oval instruments and aluminium-look plastic on the centre console. Fit and finish are good but aren't in the Pajero/Cherokee comfort league.
The Scorpio has a rugged, Jeep-like appearance with alloy wheels and protective plastic cladding on the lower body.
While the entire Mahindra range is equipped with 2.6-litre, 77kW/255Nm turbo-diesel engines, a 91kW/183Nm petrol engine - sourced from Renault, will become available soon.
The diesel mill is distinctly agricultural looking compared to other, more expensive models. It vibrates and is quite loud at idle, does get smoother and quieter at higher rpm, but never loses its workhorse sound, so the Scorpio sounds like it is going faster than it actually is.
This is a heavy vehicle - nearly two tons - so forget about life in the fast lane. The 0-100km/h run takes a leisurely 16 seconds and top speed is just over 160 kph, but there's almost no turbo lag so the engine has a user-friendly character.
The Scorpio will easily maintain the 120 kph speed limit on a freeway but speed drops off on steeper hills. The five-speed gearshift is smooth enough, while the brakes, ventilated discs up front and drums at the rear, are adequate, but would be better with ABS, as I found out driving in wet conditions (thank goodness I've done a few Advanced Driving Skills Courses.
The vehicle feels robust, and thanks to a tough ladder chassis, there's little body flex. Its off-road (pavement-climbing) ability is pretty good thanks to its long-travel suspension and reasonable 190mm ground clearance.
The Scorpio is tall and top-heavy (its height is greater than its width) and its suspension is soft, so it wallows through fast corners. The soft springs soak up bumps, though, and it barely feels ripples as it cruises comfortably over rough roads.
The Bottom line is; the Mahindra Scorpio is good value-for-money, but not having ABS is a negative. Although it might be a rough diamond in some respects, the Mahindra Scorpio is a spacious, versatile and affordable family vehicle.

When I took their Scorpio back, Wendy gave me a glimpse of their two new vehicles, and they looked grand. Watch this space....

soft suspension and high ground-clearance made bumpy roads/paths a breeze.

Enormous boot, with jump-seats folded up,

seats down, for passengers six and seven. Check the DVD screen on the roof.

Simple, easy-to-read instruments tells you all the essentials at a glace.

Scorpio Specifications:

Engine: Water-cooled, four cylinder direct injection turbo-diesel displacing 2609cc.
Maximum power/torque: 77kW at 3800rpm / 255Nm at 1800rpm.
Transmission: Five-speed manual, driving the rear wheels.
Suspension: Independent torsion bar suspension in front and leaf springs with anti-roll bar at the rear.
Steering: Power-assisted rack-and-pinion.
Brakes: Ventilated discs in front and drums at the rear.
Wheels/tyres: Alloy 15" rims with 235/75 radials.
Dimensions/mass: Length 4475mm, width 1774mm, height 1916mm. Mass 1981kg.
Capacities: Seven passengers, 55 litres fuel, 528-1664 litres boot volume.
Performance: 0-100km/h – 15 seconds. Top speed - 165 km/h.
Standard items: Seven seats, electric windows, air-conditioning with front and rear vents, radio/CD audio system, remote central locking, front and rear fog lights.
Warranty: Two years or 50 000km, whichever comes first, and optional three-year or 60 000km maintenance plan.
Service intervals: 5 000km oil change, 10 000km major service.
Price - Scorpio60: R204 990.00

Distance covered during test: 576 km
After-sales service is covered by Bosch service centres and Mahindra has a link with AA Fleetcare's 24-hour roadside assistance and service programme to deal with breakdowns. SPECIAL EDITION:

Big-screen movies on the move is available to rear passengers in the limited-edition Scorpio60.
Mahindra is celebrating 60 years of corporate existence and its first year in South Africa with a limited edition model in its Scorpio range.
The Scorpio60 is distinguishable through branding on the wings, unique alloy wheel rims and a bush-bar.
Our test vehicle had grey leather upholstery, a roof-mounted DVD player and a front-loading MP3 player.

Thanks to Wendy Farrell and the guys at Mahindra SA for the use of their limited Edition Scorpio 60