The mighty and muscular Scorpio is back in a new avatar - the first major generational leap in it's 12 year run. The company had provided major upgrades and a new engine in 2006, a facelift in 2008, and now it's an all-new platform for the first time.
The car still looks like the Scorpio we know though. It has a similar silhouette and proportions. The big reason for that is a carryover of the 4 doors, front windscreen and roof from the previous generation. Yes - somewhat like what Tata Motors did with the Safari turned Storme. The company says it was done to help cut down development time, but I am sure it also helped save on costs. So that also meant a limitation on how different the new car's proportions could be.
Some bits on the new Scorpio are over styled, just as they were in the XUV 5OO. The front grille, and the rear door are prime examples. But on the whole I have to say I like the new face. It is edgy, angular and bold. The new headlamp cluster is smart and contemporary, but I wish the LED element used as an eyebrow, was a daytime running light, and not just a parking light. A DRL would have given the Scorpio a stronger signature and identity. I don't quite understand why - given the proliferation of DRLs in the market!
The company has developed a new W105 3rd generation platform for all future body-on-frame vehicles. It's a modular platform so it has the flexibility built in to go extended wheelbase, or be reduced to fit a sub-4 metre vehicle. The new Scorpio is the first vehicle on it, and future products like the Bolero, Xylo, and Quanto replacements - as well as any possible new products - will also use the same platform.
The platform sports a wider track (70mm more in the front, and 50mm more at the rear), and also now uses an anti-roll bar, unlike the outgoing car. The overall emphasis has been to provide a stiffer chassis, and Mahindra claims to have doubled the stiffness as compared to the old Scorpio chassis.
So what does all this mean for the drive performance? Well for starters let me tell you, the engine line-up is unchanged. It's the same 2.2 litre mHawk that powered the flagship Scorpio in the recent past that has been retained. And the 2.5 litre m2DiCR engine is also still in use, but only for the base S2 variant. The new Scorpio is available in 5 variants, topping off with the fully-loaded S10 - which is the variant I got my hands on for the most part.
A brand new addition is an optional on-the-fly 4X4 system. That's a big plus compared to the old Scorpio. The 2.2 litre mHawk is a good workhorse, with plenty of grunt and go. The peak torque of 280 Nm kicks in as low as 1800 rpm, and so driveability is good with less frequent gear shifting. The gearbox is also new, but for now Mahindra is only offering a 5 Speed manual.
The work put in to make a stiffer Scorpio is evident from word go. Body roll has been cut down drastically and in fact, I also had someone else drive for about 30-40 kilometres, so I could climb into the back. And in the rear seat too, the bounce and roll of the old Scorpio is gone to a large extent. The engine mounts have also been redone on the new car, and this results in fewer vibrations and less engine rattle filtering into the cabin.
I must clarify that I got to drive the Scorpio S10 on the test track within Mahindra's Nashik plant, but also had a more extensive drive on what appeared to be an S8 variant. That car was fully covered in camouflage, but that meant I could drive it outside on the open road! I managed to get a good mix of winding, straight and uneven road surfaces to really put the vehicle through its paces. In fact it is during this drive that I also tested the rear seat comfort that I mentioned earlier. I met with some of the engineers who have worked on the new platform, and they told me the key target was to improve handling. That was the right target indeed, given the old Scorpio lacked in that department.
But it does perplex me why Mahindra didn't simply choose to go with a monocoque chassis. Yes its rivals sport both kinds, but a monocoque may have been even more future proof for the company - albeit more costly. Or it would have had to share the XUV's platform, and Mahindra might want to keep that car in a separate league perhaps. So having said that, the work on this body-on-frame has been done rather well.
The seats use the same frames as before, but have been reworked in terms of cushioning and rigidity. This means that longer drives will now result in less fatigue - for driver and passengers, I reckon.
A big USP for me is the way the interior has been reworked. This is miles away from typical Mahindra territory, and I am so glad it is. The trim is finished in a colour palette of light pleasing greys and blue. It is refreshing not to see beige - in fact the cool hue is also refreshing on a hot summer day! I was told that the entire range uses a similar palette though the feature list is most generous on the S10 of course.
On the top-end, there is a touch screen infotainment and navigation system - borrowed from the XUV 5OO, but its interface is redone in blue and violet tones that look nicer. It also seems to have been tweaked and so responds to touch better. The navigation system has display in English, but the voice guidance can be changed from English in a male or female voice, to a female voice in 10 Indian regional languages. Yup it was rather amusing at first to hear commands in Gujarati, Kannada and Marathi for instance. But soon I realised it's a smart move by Mahindra. It will only mean more and more people in our market will suddenly find the use of navigation appealing and not alienating. Nice way to trump the rival Duster with its navi system USP eh?
But I have saved the bit I most definitely love for the end. At the 2014 Auto Expo in New Delhi in February, Mahindra boss Pawan Goenka had promised me, that the company will make safety features optional and available across all variants of any future products. Guess what? He is living up to that promise. Yes the safety option pack comprising dual airbags and ABS is now optionally available to consumers across all 5 variants. Three cheers Dr Goenka and team M&M! The move is a solid one, and will hopefully compel others to follow. But for this first step I salute M&M big time. I hope the marketing chaps can communicate this effectively, so most buyers know that they can opt for the features. Just excellent for our market. And I am thrilled to say the least!
The new platform is also crash-ready; with energy-absorbing crumple zones built into it from the very start. And being modular it is flexible enough to take on crash regulations for other markets as well - which means once India gets cohesive crash norms, this platform is future-ready.
So the new Scorpio is more than simply the same wine in a new bottle. It has had a lot of work that's gone into it, and the good news is that's obvious. The car has been well tuned and is certainly a big improvement on the previous one. It could've have looked better, driven better - sure. But thankfully what it is not - is yet another facelift, and is for once actually a new generation car.