Put it like this, after two weeks and over 4000kms in the 'All-New' Scorpio (including the jaunt down to Silvassa this weekend) and after having fed that car over Rs 12,000 worth of the heavy stuff, other than a burning hole in my wallet, no other part of my body is in crying need of a massuer.
Which proves two things - firstly this car is very comfortable over long distances - a claim few other cars that are made in India can really boast. Secondly, I'm not getting signs of early arthiritis, which would be quite sad at 27. Now having made this car a constant companion for two weeks, and getting to like it a lot - so much that I drove at least 3000kms on some of India's better stretches of road (and a beach at Muzhipallingad), I have to admit that the 'All-New' incarnation of Mahindra's home grown utility vehicle is far better than the older one. And that is not just because of a better looking tail-light cluster. In fact, the rump on this particular car looks much, much better than the older one - which looked like some in the engineering team told his designers, "Sorry folks, er, we have to chop off the last two feet of the car."
Now, the advertising says that the car has '43 new features', many of them are pointless aesthetic details, to some it might appear that this car is as new as the Indica V2 was back in the day (or the Indica Xeta today). Mahindra's 43 compares with the 23 'Luxury' features that General Motors claims the Optra has (including Keyless Entry - wow!). Honestly, despite Mahindra's engineering team telling me many of them - I can't remember most of them - because they really don't make a huge difference. What does make a difference though is the much improved rear suspension - in fact it makes the biggest difference of all. And for that alone, maybe the 'All-New' tag is justified.
The earlier Scorpio behaved like a supertanker when you tried to take turns - the suspension could not take the immense physical loads the car generated when you tried to tunr it into a corner. The car behaved almost American in its cornering ability. Unlike America, Indian roads do tend to be twisty and how - just try the ghats around Chiplun on NH17, almost as bad as driving to Manali (that is another story altogether).
The new Scorpio does feel a lot more nimble, however, is it still the best-handling vehicle in India? Not by a country mile, thats still the Swift (unless I enter Merc territory), but that was a Apples and Oranges comparison, lets do Apples and Apples. Is the Scorpio the best-handling utility vehicle in India? No. The Honda CRV, the Hyundai Terracan and the Grand Vitara are all superior. OK, so all those cars cost a great deal more than the Scorpio, so comparing it to its price band - the Scorpio is marginally better to ride in that the Chevrolet Tavera but not as comfortable over long distances as the Toyota Innova. However, the almost routine 'avoid getting crushed by a bus' swerve that we had to take constantly in the narrow roads of Kerala (coastal Kerala feels like one endless town at times) and my desire not to have bits of myself being pulled from a Paulo/Neeta/Raj Travels Volvo on the Bombay-Goa stretch meant that the car had to constantly swerve from one side of the 20-foot wide road to the other. And it handled it very well (maybe due to very wide Bridgestone Dueler tyres), as did we inside the car.
But would you take the Innova onto a beach? No. At Muzhipallingad, 10 kms out of Kannur, the Kerala Tourism department has allowed people to drive on the sands of the beach. I'm not questioning the rights or the wrongs here, but it was allowed and I went ahead and drove. And I had a blast.
Of course, there are things you do on a vehicle you get for a test drive that you will not do to a car you own yourself. And instead of the usual runs down Marine Drive or max speed checks on various toll roads near Delhi (heh heh!) taking the car for a swim in the Arabian Sea was fun and different. And just like the cost of a swim in the sea is to have sand everywhere - that is exactly what happened here - the engine bay was full of sand. Yipes!
Though, that said, other than a wonky speedo (only for a bit) there were no ill effects from the cars swim. It even took us up to the hills on some really terrible roads with no major issues. The car gobbled up most of the uncomfortable roads pretty decently. It was a very comfortable ride with a very good aircon (though, often we just let the sea breeze come in, it wasn't as disasterously hot as many people predicted - it was as bad as Bombay at worst). And trust me you begin to appreciate the space that the Scorpio afford you over long distances (including vast amounts of storage) - on the traffic of the Western Express Highway on the other hand the vehicle does feel massively big.
For eight or so lakhs, this vehicle is a lot of metal. I mean a lot of metal, and while it isn't perfec, and milage does leave a bit to be desired - we got around 11-12km/litre of diesel (and if you ever go to Kerala buy Diesel from Mahe, a part of a Pondicherry in Kerala between Kannur and Calicut, its Rs 31/litre there right now). This isn't great milage because I know the Terracan with its bigger (and better engine) gives the same on the highway. But, the common-rail 2.6 litre diesel engine is fairly powerful, and has loads of torque. Top speed is around 140kmph plus on the speedo, but the car isn't exactly gainly above 100-110kmph, to maximise economy stay at around 70-90kmph, a speed at which the car is very comfortable.
And the Scorpio talks back a bit too much - I got sick of that voice - must tell Mr Mahindra that they should ask that chick they use in the advert to give the voiceover. Another problem was the occasional problem of engaging third gear - it didn't happen too often, but it happened often enough (and to all three of us) to rule out driver error. It was a bit frustrating during overtaking, but again, it happened very infrequently, but it is an issue that the company has to look into.
Do I like the Scorpio? Yes I do. Will I buy one? If I had eight and bit lakhs I would. Not in black though.
PS : Thanks to BoingBoing I got to see the most disturbing McDonalds advert ever. And it was illustrated by a Bong sitting in Leo Burnett Delhi. Creepy!