Now with a sting in its tail

The recent local introduction of the new Scorpio-N has elevated the Mahindra brand to a new level of refinement, capability and all-round appeal. After attending the launch event on the West Coast, Liana Reiners explains why.

When Mahindra first entered the South African market in 2004, nobody would have predicated the impressive sales success it would achieve. Yet, here we are, almost 20 years later, and it is one of the fastest-growing vehicle brands in the country. Its range of authentic, reliable and competitively priced models continues to woo buyers and some – like the Pik Up and the Scorpio – have attained virtual cult status.

Taking its onslaught on the market a step further, Mahindra has now added some spice to its line-up with the introduction of the Scorpio N and believe me when I tell you that it will forever change your perception of Indian vehicles. The all-new Scorpio-N is designed and engineered to global standards. Its creators had their sights firmly set on building the best possible vehicle in terms of performance, capabilities, technology, sophistication, ride and handling, NVH, interior, appearance and – of course – safety.

In the looks department

There’s not a single hint of boxy, angular or unrefined in the styling of the Scorpio-N. It’s bigger, bolder, more powerful, and more sophisticated than anything we’ve ever seen from Mahindra.

The Scorpio character is omnipresent as the tall, stacked taillamp design creates a commanding stance when viewed from on the rear. A metallic Scorpio tail element is integrated into the beltline, swinging all the way to the top of the window, giving it more of a sting, so to speak.

The commanding nature of the design effortlessly translates into the front as well, where Mahindra’s new ‘Twin Peaks’ logo takes pride of place in the centre of the attractive and imposing grille.

A premium interior

Think comfort and class… that – in a nutshell – describes the cabin of the Scorpio-N. The entire space is well laid out and the finishes are top notch. Standout features include the coffee/black leatherette upholstery, comfortable seats and a commanding driving position and a well laid-out dash and instrument cluster. Of course an advanced infotainment system is also part of the standard package, as are all the normal bells and whistles one would find in a vehicle in this segment.

I was struck how much room there is, even for passengers in the rear. The addition of foldaway seats to accommodate a sixth and seventh passenger does hamper the luggage capacity in the back slightly, but we still managed to fit all our luggage in with ease.

Performance on tap

While driving from Cape Town up the West Coast to our overnight stop at Port Owen, the Scorpio-N revealed its great on-road manners. Under the bonnet is brand’s proven 2.2 four-cylinder mHawk turbo diesel engine, which is mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox and 4×4 as an option.

The Scorpio-N comfortably cruises at 120km/h, but willingly gives more when you step on the pedal. This makes overtaking a breeze. I was also impressed by how quiet the engine was, which can – in part – be ascribed to the great work Mahindra has done to improve NVH levels.

Impressively capable

Like the decal on the rear says, the Scorpio-N was made 4XPLOR (see what they did there?). That name refers to its intelligent terrain management technology, which makes off-road driving virtually idiot-proof. With the touch of a button and the twist of a knob the electric shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive system transforms the Scorpio-N into a very capable 4×4 beast.

During the launch the guys from Mahindra were determined to prove that the Scorpio-N is the real deal when it comes to off-road capability. So, they took us to Klein Tafelberg 4×4 near Velddrif on the West Coast. If you’ve ever been there you’ll know that this is no Mickey Mouse off-road trail. In fact, one of the sections – aptly named Milkshake Hill (I’m not going to go into any details) – is probably one of the most bone-jarring, axle-twisting obstacles I have ever come across. The Scorpio-N handled it like a pro. At times I thought we were going to bounce right off the track but the vehicle kept its line, remained composed and made it all the way to the top without incident.

Tech, safety and more

The Scorpio-N features six airbags and is fitted with disc brakes on all four wheels, as well as an Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) with an automated brake wiping system that cleans the brakes of debris every few seconds in wet conditions.

The Scorpio-N also comes standard with driver drowsiness alert, ISOFIX child safety anchorage points and a host of other safety features. In fact, it achieved five- and three-star ratings for adult and child occupant safety respectively. Moreover, it also complied with additional tests, including pole side impact and pedestrian protection, to become the first body-on-frame SUV to achieve a five-star rating in the new GNCAP crash test protocols.

The verdict

Truthfully, I never expected to like the Scorpio-N as much as I did. It boasts a unique and rugged new look, a very comfortable interior, good on-road performance, impressive off-road abilities and a competitive price to boot. Its 2.5-tonne towing capacity is also rather impressive. Would I buy one? In a heartbeat.

Model line-up & pricing

• Scorpio-N 2.2D Z4 6AT 4×2: R465 000

• Scorpio-N 2.2D Z8 6AT 4×2: R510 000

• Scorpio-N 2.2D Z8 6AT 4×4: R560 000

• Scorpio-N 2.2D Z8L 6AT 4×4: R590 000

*All Scorpio-N models come with a 5-year/150 000km warranty and a 5-year/100 000km service plan.

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