When talking about the Mahindra brand and its Scorpio SUV, it's fair to say that it has earned its spot as a rugged model that has endured great popularity throughout. However, it only appealed to a sub-set of buyers.
Its position in the market, the way it looks, and its ability to tackle challenging off-road terrain made it stand out in people's minds, that's if 'old-school' bakkie-based SUVs are really your thing. One looks at the Scorpio as a rare breed of bakkie-based SUVs that still holds on to its rugged charm while being a legend in its own right.
The Indian carmaker is finally retiring its Scorpio SUV as it's positioning itself to appeal more to urban buyers – a move that also saw the introduction of the sleek and stylish XUV700.
Called the Scorpio-N, it is tall, has a commanding ride height and retains its iconic two-box shape, but things take a twist here. It dares to break away from the rough-and-tough mould – a welcome change.
According to Mahindra, it now has its sights set on some weighty stalwarts such as the Toyota Fortuner, Ford Everest and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport. Does it have all the thrills? We spent time at the helm of the range-topping Scorpio-N Z8 L to find out.
For the price, you get an interior that is easy to appreciate courtesy of a modern design approach with notable improvements over the outgoing model. It's worth mentioning that the fit and finish and the mixture of faux leather and plastic inside the cabin are excellent.
Mahindra has gone to extra lengths to improve the buttons' and steering wheel's look and feel with the 8" infotainment touchscreen neatly integrated into the dashboard. The system accepts Android Auto and USB ports (two for rear passengers), but no Apple CarPlay.
As the highest-end model in the Scorpio-N lineup, you can enjoy premium features like a high-quality 12-speaker Sony surround sound system, automatic start/stop functionality, and a relatively stylish sunroof.
Regarding space, the Scorpio-N isn't class-leading, yet you get generous amounts of leg and headroom. On the other hand, even when the last row is folded, the luggage area is compromised, with the seats folding and tumbling forward. The result is a luggage area that isn't flat.
Like most 7-seaters on sale today, the one-bench third row is best left for children.
Of late, Mahindra has been making brilliant mHawk diesel engines, and the 2.2-litre turbocharged diesel with 128kW and 400Nm is no exception. Paired with a 6-speed automatic gearbox, the setup provides enough oomph to get around and keep up with moving traffic.
There's still wind noise at highway cruising speeds. Mahindra's aerodynamicists haven't been able to entirely eliminate this.
The ride quality is compliant yet leans more on the firm side both on and off-road. It's better than the standard Scorpio, and while its good ground clearance allows owners to traverse rocky terrain with aplomb, it exhibits some body roll and is not an outright well-handling product. Yet, the refinement levels are tangibly evident compared to the old car.
A short stint off the road revealed how Mahindra has managed to retain the old model's utilitarian stance, and it's no slouch, thanks to the 4x4 system that the Indian marque call 4Xplor. It blends a robust mechanical 4x4 system, low-range gearbox and mechanical-locking differentials with a set of terrain modes accessible via a rotary dial.
With a price tag of R590,000, the Mahindra Scorpio-N represents good value for money and occupies an interesting spot in the SUV hierarchy.
Though it’s an additional R100,000, you can start considering the Toyota Fortuner 2.4-litre GD-6 automatic, but you will be missing out on certain standard features. Add about R250,000 extra, and you can get the Ford Everest XLT.
The Scorpio-N has undergone an upscale transition, introducing much-awaited changes. It soldiers on with a more premium look while retaining the immense road presence that customers expect.
If you understand Mahindra's journey in terms of technology, comfort and refinement, you will admire the Scorpio-N. Sadly, it proved to be a fuel-guzzler with an average consumption of around 9.8l/100km. However, if you can overlook this, it's a bargain on all counts.