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BUYERS GUIDE - WAGONS MEDIUM

MAHINDRA SCORPIO
All-new chassis, suspension and bodywork at a very attractive price.

 

The Scorpio wagon is built on an all-new platform, with diesel power, automatic transmission, refined suspension and 4XPLOR terrain management.

 

 

The Scorpio is powered by a 2.2-litre Mahindra diesel engine, producing 129kW and 400Nm, coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission and electric shift-on-the-fly 4WD system, with low-range transfer case and rear differential lock.

The Scorpio was released at an attractive introductory price of $41,990, until the 30th June 2023, for the Z8 4WD variant. 

At 4662 millimetres long and 1917mm wide, the Scorpio fitted in the Large SUV <$70K BOF category as defined by FCAI for 2023.

The Scorpio is the first model for Mahindra in Australia to feature a seven-year/150,000km warranty for private buyers.

Mahindra said the Scorpio endured rigorous six-month testing across Australia. Scorpios were tested in extreme conditions, from driving in snow at altitude in the High Country, to enduring searing heat in the Red Centre and navigating through busy inner-city streets.

A truly global vehicle, the Scorpio was designed at Pininfarina, Italy and Mahindra India Design Studio (MIDS) in Mumbai, India. It was engineered by the teams at Mahindra Research Valley (MRV) in India and Mahindra North American Technical Center (MNATC) in USA. It is manufactured at Mahindra’s state-of-the-art facility at Chakan, India.

The Z8 model features include: electric power steering; 18-inch aluminium wheels; 4EXPLOR with selectable terrain models; ESP; traction control; vehicle and trailer sway control; LED head and tail lamps; auto headlights; fog lamps; hill-holder, hill descent control; driver’s seat height and lumbar adjustment; eight-inch infotainment screen; cruise control; power-fold mirrors; tyre pressure monitoring and cooled glove box. 

The $44,900 Z8L model scores extras that include: 12-speaker Sony audio; front camera; front park assist sensors, six-way powered driver’s seat; driver display and wireless phone charging.

The Scorpio secured a five-star rating in the Global New Car Assessment program’s (GNCAP) crash test protocols, which came into effect on July 1, 2022.  The Scorpio complied with additional tests including pole side impact and pedestrian protection UN127.

The Scorpio suspensions feature Frequency Dependent Damping (FDD) technology and the five-link rear suspension has a Watts linkage for positive axle location

Mahindra hasn’t joined the fashion of rating trailer capacity at 3500kg, but has plated the Scorpio at a much more sensible 2500kg. We wouldn’t couple any of the available mid-sized wagons or utes in the market to a 3500kg trailer, because we reckon that’s the province of dedicated tow-oriented vehicles like the US-derived large utes from RAM, GM and Ford.

The Scorpio’s payload is a modest 510-525kg, so it’s not the machine you’d load to the roof with camping kit. However, it would make an ideal camper-trailer towing machine, we think. Part of its traction control system is trailer-sway mitigation.

 

 

Scorpio test

 

 

As with all our on and off road testing, we didn’t look at the Scorpio specs in detail, because it’s too easy to let foreknowledge colour judgment – a bit like tasting expensive plonk! 

We’ve tested Mahindra vehicles over many years, since the company’s first efforts at reproducing the WWII Jeep quarter-tonner.  The later-edition PickUp ute has had moderate success in this market, but suffers from inadequate front end ground clearance.

Mahindra’s forays into the 4WD wagon market have been in the SUV, soft-roader segment and our repeated requests for test vehicles fell on deaf ears. Maybe they thought we’d be disappointed. However, there was enthusiasm, not reluctance, when it came to honouring our request for a test of the new Scorpio.

Our original test vehicle had been badly operated by someone who drove this part-time-4WD vehicle on hard surfaces in 4WD high range and stressed the transmission, but a replacement test wagon was ours the following week.

The metallic black machine was a top-spec Z8L version, with a forward-facing camera, powered driver’s seat, larger driver’s instrument panel and better sound system. If we were buying a Scorpio, we’d probably opt for the even lower priced Z8 that still had plenty of ‘fruit’, including a sun roof.

 

 

The six-seat Scorpio interior looked different from most of its competitors, because Mahindra Australia chose the ‘captains chair’ second row option as standard, rather than more common three-place second row seating. That may upset some buyers’ criteria, but our passengers loved the comfort of second-row seating in virtual bucket seats, with arm rests.

 

 

The third-row, as with all 4WD wagons, was best reserved for kids, but entry and exit via a tumbling second-row seat was judged among the best in class and the second and third-row leg room was outstanding. Deep footwells in the second row ensured extra comfort.

Second-row captains chairs had a narrow space between them, making it possible to walk through to the third row.

The powered driver’s seat was very easy to adjust and the driving position was excellent. Instrument view was very good and most controls worked intuitively. One exception was the 4WD section push button that was far too easy to bump ‘on’ when not required. This switch needed to be relocated, or given ‘double tap’ activation, to avoid accidental engagement of 4WD.

Electric power steering’s wheel rim effort was low and we’d have preferred a bit more ‘feel’, but it was accurate and provided plenty of confidence when ‘pressing on’ a bit.

Mahindra launched the Scorpio without the full suite of safety gear that was expected in 2023: no adaptive cruise control, lane-change avoidance or emergency autonomous braking. That didn’t worry us, because many of these driver aids on other test vehicles haven’t worked as designed and proved to be bloody irritating!

 

 

The central display screen was easily viewed, except when it was in strong, direct sunlight and we were pleased to see sound system and HVAC control knobs, rather than fiddly touch-screen sections. Forward and rearward facing cameras gave a clear view and Apple CarPlay worked well. The comprehensive map display showed many fire trails in our Southern Highlands NSW region.

 

 

The engine was Mahindra’s own 2.2-litre turbo-intercooled diesel that was given a power and torque boost for the Scorpio and mated to an Aisin six-speed auto box. It was a Euro 6 engine, which meant it relied on diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), more commonly known as AdBlue, to operate its selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system. 

That requirement has been avoided by many 4WD importers, who took advantage of the fact that Australia is one of only a very few countries not to have adopted Euro 6, but we thought Mahindra was wise to take the full emissions package, because diesel particulate filters have proved to be less troublesome with Euro 6 engines than they are with Euro 5 ones.

We think the reason is that a Euro 6 engine can have hotter combustion than a Euro 5 engine and that reduces the amount of soot and particulate matter (Pm) that can clog a DPF. Of course, that hotter combustion produces more oxides of nitrogen (NOx), but those gases are ‘scrubbed’ by AdBlue injection in the SCR muffler.

 

 

We ran two tanks of fuel through the Scorpio engine and the DEF level was still above 70-percent. In any case, topping up with AdBlue is no big deal these days, because heavy trucks have been using it for years and there are AdBlue pumps everywhere.

Another plus for a Euro 6 engine is better fuel consumption and our Scorpio didn’t disappoint, with a brilliant test average of 12-14km/L ( 7 – 8L/100km). That economy makes the tiny 57-litre fuel tank less intimidating, giving a range of around 700km.

Performance was excellent, with the engine showing quick response to driver inputs and the six-speed auto shifting seamlessly. The Scorpio came with engine stop-start and it worked just fine. For those who don’t like it, the function can be cancelled easily by flicking a dashboard switch.

We hadn’t gone far on secondary roads before we cottoned onto the fact that the Mahindra Scorpio hid a secret under its high strength steel body and chassis. It handled more like a sports sedan than a six-seater 4WD. Part of the secret was weight saving, but much more significant was its suspension.

 

 

Class leading suspension

 

 

Our testing has shown that there is not one body-on-frame 4WD wagon that leaves the factory with suspension suitable for typical Australian bush-travel conditions. Almost everyone venturing off the tarmac in a new 4WD wagon opts for after-market suspension and factors that cost into the buying equation.

We’re sure that won’t be necessary for Scorpio buyers, because the standard suspension was spot-on, out of the box. The only aspect we couldn’t test was response to tow-ball weight, because the test vehicle lacked a tow bar.

 

 

Detail in the Scorpio’s suspension shows twin wishbones up front, with a very tall steering knuckle and a Watt’s Linkage controlling rear-axle movement. You get that rear axle control linkage on some high-performance utes, such as Ford’s Raptor, but not on most wagons. A Watt’s Linkage provides much more sideways rear axle control than a Panhard rod and the Scorpio’s operates in concert with a low-mounted roll bar.

We took the Scorpio on our favourite motorcycle test road and were suitably impressed with its ride quality and road-holding: it was the best-handling stock 4WD wagon we’ve ever tested.  That aplomb was matched by very powerful ventilated disc brakes, with emergency pre-fill for rapid stops.

 

 

The other significant contributors to the Scorpio’s sure-footed handling were its Tenneco Frequency Dependent Damping (FDD) shock absorbers. This 2022 FDD development was shared with Mahindra via US-based Tenneco’s manufacturing facility in India.

Tenneco designed the FDD shocker to provide variable damping,  suiting different road conditions. When the emphasis is on the best possible comfort, a lack of road-holding seems to be a consequence with conventional shock absorbers. 

FDD technology uses integrated hydraulic valving inside each damper, to end the compromise between comfort and road-holding and no additional cables, sensors or any electronic devices are needed to operate the system.

For those who like shock absorber dynamometer graphs the accompanying diagram shows the variable ‘bump’ rates that the FDD shock can achieve – low damping on rough surfaces and high damping on smoother surfaces – resulting in good wheel control and a comparable ride overall. A conventional shock absorber has a single line, like the single rebound line below.

The ride quality was always on the firm side and we loved that, but people looking for a plush ride might find it too stiff.

Standard tyres are 255/60R18 and there’s not a lot of free space inside the wheel arches for anything much taller – maybe 245/70R18 that would give an 18mm lift in ground clearance.

 

 

Off road

 

 

Our off-road testing was limited to fire trails, because of the street-oriented tyres fitted, front spoiler and vulnerable side steps. Bush travellers could fit tougher rubber and remove the spoiler and side steps.

For serious off-road exploration we’d also fit some underbody protection panels. We don’t know of a snorkel kit for the Scorpio yet, but in the meantime the forward-facing engine air intake scoop needs some masking before attempting any deep-water crossings.

 

 

The engine bay was well laid out for off-road activities, with the drive belts protected by a plastic cover and high-mounted turbo and alternator, to minimise any water-splash risks. The engine intercooler was also mounted out of harm’s way.

There was space for a second under-bonnet battery, after a little relocation of  some engine bay components.

Given that we didn’t need to use low range very much, the Scorpio showed that its excellent suspension control preserved traction even on wet, loose surfaces. Traction control, mechanical rear diff lock and differential axle braking were needed only when we deliberately tried to break traction.

 

 

With some proper preparation, we’d happily take a Mahindra Scorpio anywhere  in Australia, but we’d pack some vital spare parts, because remote-area dealer support isn’t Mahindra’s long suit. Of its 55 dealerships, as at mid-2023, 32 were in NSW and the ACT, but the ranks in other states were gradually swelling.

 

 

Summary

 

Mahindra’s Scorpio is a quantum leap for this Indian vehicle maker and puts this excellent wagon right at the forefront of the mid-sized segment. Equipment levels are adequate and pricing is very keen, so that should attract plenty of buyers, if Mahindra’s dealers can get enough appreciative bums in seats.

 

 

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