Mahin­dra Scorpio

Evo India - - Driven - WORDS by ANIRUD­DHA RANGNEKAR PHO­TOG­RA­PHY by VIKR ANT DATE

the scorpio has been around for, like, for­ever. Launched in 2002, it marked a mas­sive step up from the mak­ers of the erst­while In­dian jeep, a so­phis­ti­cated SUV to take Bolero cus­tomers up­mar­ket. In fact it was such a mas­sive step up from the Mahin­dras we were used to, that for the long­est time we re­fused to call it an SUV, in­sist­ing on giv­ing it the ‘car’ tag. Up­dated pe­ri­od­i­cally (bet­ter re­li­a­bil­ity, coil springs, a mod­icum of han­dling, stronger en­gine auto tranny, even start/stop), the Scorpio has been a mas­sive suc­cess for Mahin­dra, giv­ing it the where­withal, not to men­tion con­fi­dence, to crank out the XUV500.

Of late it has been cry­ing for an up­grade, par­tic­u­larly when faced with com­pe­ti­tion from the Re­nault Duster, and this is it. It is not all-new but thor­oughly re­freshed.

While the ba­sic body is re­tained, the new Scorpio gets a com­pletely re­vised lad­der-on­frame chas­sis with twice the strength of the ear­lier chas­sis re­sult­ing is bet­ter struc­tural rigid­ity. The track is nar­rower, weight has come down, while the front end has been made stronger for bet­ter crash safety.

What peo­ple will no­tice is the styling and it is noth­ing if not in-your-face. If you ig­nore the Xylo, the styling of all Mahin­dras has been very ma­cho, very ag­gres­sive. The new Scorpio is still dis­tinc­tively a Scorpio, which isn’t a bad thing to be­gin with, but with mod­ern em­bel­lish­ments and de­tail­ing. For me, they have ad­dressed one com­plaint I had with the car, that it looked a bit too rounded.

The new grille is big, bold and mas­cu­line and works well ir­re­spec­tive of the colour you choose. There are new, sleeker-look­ing pro­jec­tor head­lights, with smartly in­te­grated LED eye­brows (a la BMW) as park­ing lights.

An old school for­mula with bet­ter style and mas­sively up­graded me­chan­i­cals

The front bumper too has been up­dated, with a nice alu­minium fin­ish to the lip, lend­ing more character to the al­ready im­pos­ing front. Changes at the back are prom­i­nent, dom­i­nated by a black plas­tic cladding run­ning across the cen­tre of the tail­gate. The tail lights are now LED, but re­main sim­i­lar to the out­go­ing model in terms of de­sign. The new 17-inch wheels, com­bined with the other up­dates, give the Scorpio a clas­sic, pur­pose­ful, and well-pro­por­tioned ap­pear­ance.

The in­te­ri­ors have also got a once-over, re­sult­ing in a fresh in­stru­ment panel de­sign with an all-new in­stru­ment clus­ter and pleas­ant blue back­light­ing. A six-inch touch­screen en­ter­tain­ment/in­for­ma­tion sys­tem dom­i­nates the newly de­signed cen­tre stack that also houses an ex­cel­lent nav­i­ga­tion

sys­tem. There’s now cli­mate con­trol, brusheda­lu­minium ac­cents and soft-touch ma­te­ri­als, as well as a long list of equip­ment to en­dow the Scorpio with a pre­mium feel. One of the other ma­jor changes to the in­te­ri­ors is the mov­ing of the power win­dow switches from the cen­tre, from near the hand­brake and on to the door pan­els (where they be­long). Other giz­mos like the tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem, auto head­lights, wipers and starts­top sys­tem have been car­ried for­ward from the pre­vi­ous model, while also be­ing im­proved. The new in­te­rior has def­i­nitely ad­dressed the dated de­sign and elec­tron­ics of the pre­vi­ous model and now of­fers more than oth­ers in the same price bracket do. The sup­port­ive seats and smartly ar­ranged con­trols make the in­te­rior feel pre­mium and

It’s still dis­tinc­tively a Scorpio, which isn’t

a bad thing to be­gin with, but with mod­ern em­bel­lish­ments and

de­tail­ing

hand­some. From be­hind the wheel the view re­mains com­mand­ing, de­spite a cabin that en­velops you, while there seems to be more space at the rear. The Sa­fari re­mains the class leader in this re­spect though.

Aes­thet­ics aside, the big­gest sur­prise is how well this near two-ton SUV now hauls it­self. The rear sus­pen­sion is now aided by anti-roll bars and there’s sub­stan­tial roll stiff­ness in the sus­pen­sion tun­ing, so the Scorpio rolls less than you might ex­pect. While the roll can never be com­pletely elim­i­nated from an SUV of the size and weight of the Scorpio, it now feels a lot more bal­anced and con­trol­lable. Your co-pas­sen­gers are less likely to com­plain should you de­cide to drive ag­gres­sively (like they were com­plain­ing to me dur­ing my re­cent stint in the old Scorpio in Leh). The

stiffer struc­ture means that the sus­pen­sion can fo­cus on con­trol­ling its high-rid­ing mass and de­liv­er­ing ac­cept­able dy­nam­ics rather than com­pen­sat­ing for tor­sional flex. Body mo­tions are in­deed well-con­trolled in most sit­u­a­tions, even hard cor­ner­ing. That said, don’t ex­pect such a high-rid­ing, body-on­frame SUV to have the roll-free man­ners of a Duster or an EcoSport.

The Scorpio hasn’t achieved bet­ter ath­letic abil­i­ties by sac­ri­fic­ing smooth ride qual­ity, which is the other most sig­nif­i­cant up­date – its im­proved ride. Over the mostly smooth roads we drove on, the stiff sus­pen­sion and big­ger wheels helped it glide over rough sur­faces and speed-break­ers, with­out get­ting un­set­tled or un­set­tling its pas­sen­gers much. The sus­pen­sion set-up has helped out the ride qual­ity over some of the bumps we en­coun­tered – there was a lot less crash­ing and bang­ing than the out­go­ing model. There are the oc­ca­sional quiv­ers trans­ferred via the chas­sis on rough stuff, as the sus­pen­sion needs to con­trol the mass mov­ing up and down. Over­all, how­ever, the ride qual­ity has be­come more car-like.

Another area in which the Scorpio’s score goes up is the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Its top heavy na­ture as­serts it­self in han­dling dy­nam­ics, of course, but it’s far less pro­nounced. The hy­drauli­cally-as­sisted steer­ing, with a new steer­ing wheel bor­rowed from the XUV, feels a bit slow to be­gin with, but makes for re­laxed cruis­ing abil­i­ties and a com­fort­able driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. As al­ways with the Scorpio, the high driv­ing po­si­tion makes it rather easy to drive for some­thing of this size and bulk. The steer­ing could have been a bit quicker-act­ing as this would have helped ma­neu­ver the Scorpio’s bulk more eas­ily at park­ing speeds.

Hus­tling the big Scorpio has never been an is­sue. Pow­ered by the same 2.2-litre mHawk unit as its pre­de­ces­sor, the power and torque re­main un­changed at 120bhp and 290Nm, but it is more re­fined. And it feels quicker thanks to the re­vised ra­tios in the new fivespeed man­ual gear­box. More no­tice­able is how much slicker the gear­box is, though the throws re­main long. Brake specs re­main un­changed (discs up front, drums at the rear, with ABS) but it feels more sta­ble and planted on the brakes.

We were also im­pressed by the qui­eter pas­sen­ger com­part­ment, which ben­e­fits from a host of new noise-erad­i­cat­ing mea­sures and the use of bet­ter sound-damp­ing ma­te­ri­als

The in­te­ri­ors have got a once-over, re­sult­ing in a fresh in­stru­ment panel de­sign with an all-new in­stru­ment clus­ter and pleas­ant blue back­light­ing

in the cabin. It feels a lot more re­fined and is de­void of the slight agri­cul­tural feel that the pre­vi­ous Scorpio mod­els had. While thirst was never a big is­sue with the Scorpio, ex­pect an im­prove­ment on this new model.

In a com­pet­i­tive price seg­ment full of ‘cars’ dressed up like off-road­ers, the Scorpio does feel dif­fer­ent. No, not like an off-roader — although with its ca­pa­ble chas­sis and op­tional 4x4 driv­e­train, it will hold its own when the go­ing gets rough. At­ti­tude mat­ters in this game, and this new Scorpio has an im­pos­ing pres­ence. There are other rea­sons too for rec­om­mend­ing it beyond its bel­liger­ent styling and vo­lu­mi­nous in­te­rior, such as its easy-to-use and help­ful tech­nolo­gies, friendly er­gonomics and more ag­ile and com­fort­able new chas­sis.

If your need a ve­hi­cle with loads of in­te­rior space and ef­fort­less cross-coun­try trav­el­ling abil­ity in a tra­di­tional SUV pack­age, the re­booted Scorpio de­serves a se­ri­ous look. After years of liv­ing with flaws from its bodyon-frame build, the Scorpio is now re­assert­ing it­self not only as a ri­val, but also as a true con­tender for the do­mes­tic SUV crown, an SUV with plenty of home­grown ge­o­graph­i­cal pedi­gree and cred­i­bil­ity.

While roll can never be com­pletely elim­i­nated from an SUV of the size and weight of the Scorpio, it now feels a lot more bal­anced and con­trol­lable

THE GT TWINS ARE back. Off the radar for a bit, they now get the ex­tremely mild de­sign up­dates that the rest of the Polo range got a cou­ple of months ago. To be hon­est, we did miss them while they went off the mar­ket – they are after all, the only warm hatch­backs avail­able in In­dia.

As with the old GT, there has been no rad­i­cal surgery. To tell a GT from an ‘aam-aadmi’ Polo, you have to look for the black gloss fin­ish on the wing mir­rors and the spoiler and of course, GT badges on the grille and bootlid. That aside, show me some­one who can spot the one other tiny dif­fer­ence and I’ll show you some­one with time on their hands. It is dis­ap­point­ing that the sub­tle up­dates don’t con­vey the fact that th­ese are the quick­est, most ex­pen­sive hatch­backs (if you ex­clude the A-Class and its ilk) in the coun­try. And they are ex­pen­sive – both the GT TSI and the GT TDI cost nearly ` 8 lakh and that’s ex-show­room.

Right: Look for black-fin­ish

mir­rors and rear spoiler to dis­tin­guish GT from reg­u­lar Po­los. Be­low left: GTs get classy all black dash. The diesel avail­able only with 5-speed man­ual, the TSI

with 7-speed DSG

Clock­wise from top left: Strik­ing new LED eye­brows are park­ing lights. Body roll still very ev­i­dent, but feels more con­trol­lable. Smart new 17” inch wheels. Power win­dows fi­nally move to the door pan­nel on driver’s side

Above: Rear gets dis­tinc­tive new styling, dom­i­nated by the black plas­tic cladding run­ning across the tail gate and new LED tail lamps. Left: Parked next to the old car, the new de­sign looks mod­ern and more ag­gres­sive

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