Wednesday, May 17, 2006

K's honest car reviews II : The 'All-New' Mahindra Scorpio

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!

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi,

Nice review of Scorpio.Keep it up. It would be great if you can publish its breaking capability and safety on the slippery road.

Anonymous said...

The new 2.2 l Scorpio coming next year will be a tough competition evev for the Toyota Innova. The low C.O.G of the new car will drastically improve the ride and handling and will make it even more powerful.

Anonymous said...

With 65000 kms on the odo, ZERO maintenance costs and exceptional service, my Mahindra Scorpio has just proved one fact right, that M & M is by far the best SUV manufacturer of India.Indeed "Nothing else will do".--- Iktej Jabbal , Ludhiana

Anonymous said...

How much scorpio paid you to give fucking idiotic review? Why Innova doesn't want a review from you.
Simple!
They are best!
I doubt wahtyou say is in any way true or real
Can Scorpio walk off road? I doubt
Even innova can go off road
Reply if you are honest and correct
Mahindra is failed company
Scorpio sells decline
Scorpio is last car I would take
People prefer Qualis or Innova inspite of bla bla bla of Mahindra and comfort
Innova is the best even for off road
Try it

K said...

Last Anon - Mahindra is a failed company and Scorpio sales are going down??? Ummm... which fantasy world are you living in?

Anonymous said...

Hi my dear last Anon,
It looks like you may be having an Innova, and it makes sense that u love your car. But that does not make other cars bad. Let's come to point:
1. Innova is a minivan in the truest sense if u like it or not.
2. If one has a 4x4 scorpio it is the nearest to a real SUV in that price.
3. Driving on a unpaved road does not mean off road driving and without a 4x4 makes no car good for off roading so please do not talk of Innova for off roading.
4. Innova is meant to be a good comfortable family car and it does that nicely, it not meant for fun driving or off roading. If you know what off roading means then please be prepared to be stuck with your Innova and same is true for one who is drving a 4x2 Scorpio.
5. Finally both are good cars with their own strengths and weakness.

Anonymous said...

Its a whole lot of metal without much power under the bonnet. The pathetic engine and the terrible rear suspension makes you feel you are sailing a boat - seesawing around at a snails pace. It doesnt even have the power to drag its fat bottom out of a 1' sand hole. Offroader??? Go get a life.......

Anonymous said...

to anon who said Mahindra is going down... come on dude, they are doing good... and scorpio is a real good product.. agreed that it won't stand up to some world class SUVs and still has a long way to become a true SUv, but it is a great bang for your buck.. you get a good responsive engine and the new 2006 improved suspension has really improved the ride and handling... and it has a lot of street presence in terms of looks as well. overall a very good package. and like someone stated earlier innova is also a good vehicle but it is not as fun to drive as scorpio. it is more of a family van rather than being an SUV, better termed Innova is a nice UV.

Anonymous said...

What on earth is the rude anon smoking? Has he actually driven the new Scorpio? I very much doubt it, because i'm sure if he has, his trap full of crap wouldn't be half as wide! I am an ex GX100 landcruiser man from South Africa and know my 4x4 stuff, having 4x4'd extensively through all our mountainous and desert terrein. Having driven many different 4x4's over a 20 year period, the GX was simply in a class of it's own, however, with the rising costs of fuel, I needed something smaller and lighter. After trying all the available SUV's, I opted for the new Scorpio and let me tell you, it is the quickest love affair I have ever developed with any 4x4! You can keep your SUV's with their fancy up to crap traction controls and the likes. Give me the Scorpio anyday, where me as the driver has full control, and not some stupid computer trying to take control of the terrein for me. Mr Anon, get over your small man syndrome and try being a real 4x4 driver for a change

mcqueen said...

Good review. I underestimated this 4x4. Its looks may not that be attractive but upon reading your review, looks like it can really perform well. Maybe it's because of the good body lift kit that is why it excels

Anonymous said...

scorpio is great in everything i mean everything it just has a tiny problem.the brake paddle is a bit close to the accelerator so u have to be watching for where u put ur foot but u will get used to it :D

Anonymous said...

Innova is a good Car from good company but Sad it's more of a Taxi to take BPO guys. Sad but true. Any family person buying for personal use have to swallow that bitter pill of Innova being termed as Taxi.

Scorpio is better for personal use.