Want a true blue rugged 4×4 but without the sky-high price tag? The new Scorpio-N might be an interesting choice as it is a body-on-frame SUV being draped with a traditional off-road arsenal. Mahindra sells its pick-ups here in Australia but in India, it is also known for rugged SUVs including the Thar (which won’t come here) to its XUV700. However, the new Scorpio-N has been pencilled for the Australian market for a possible 2023 launch and this is a new SUV that sits below the XUV700 but above the Thar in India.
Here, the Scorpio-N will try to gain a foothold in the competitive entry-level premium space. Its trump card is its off-road-centric underpinnings wrapped around a premium compact body style though, in the flesh, the Scorpio-N is quite big and overshadows many midsize SUVs. Design-wise, the styling is clearly rugged and decked up with old-school 4×4 styling cues with considerable road presence being dialled in. The boxy shape and the chunky proportions are wrapped around 18-inch wheels and it stands tall with broad shoulders.
Compared to the previous Mahindra’s, the new Scorpio-N has a more premium interior but still puts a steely-eyed focus on functionality. A manual handbrake and large grab handles are juxtaposed with a touchscreen infotainment system with soft touch inserts placed liberally on the dash/ door pads. Australian market specifications and the exact equipment lists are yet to be revealed but the India spec Scorpio-N gets Sat Nav, connected car technology, dual front/rear cameras, a sunroof, dual-zone climate control, wireless charging and smartphone connectivity. Top-spec versions also get a 12-speaker Sony 3d audio system.
Despite its body on frame chassis, space is more than decent with the option of a six/seven-seater configuration for the second row. Cruise control and driver-drowsiness detection are there but the Australia spec model might get more driver assist features.
We drove the diesel version equipped with a 2.2-litre unit with 175 bhp and 400Nm. A 6-speed manual is standard while a 6-speed torque converter auto is optional. The diesel version also gets shift-on-the- fly 4×4 with low-range and various terrain modes. The engine is pretty refined at low speeds and the steering is very light which somewhat improves as you faster. The automatic gearbox is clearly easy-going which matches the brawny nature of this relaxed powertrain. There are vast reservoirs of torque that makes progress easy while there are drive modes that help matters – no steering-mounted paddle shifters though. Despite its considerable girth, performance is fairly impressive with a typical diesel torquey shove and it is an able highway cruiser too.
You can’t expect nimble handling from a large 4×4 with a body-on-frame construction but while body roll is there, it isn’t overly pronounced and generally well controlled. Frequency-dependent damping helps a lot to keep it stable under cornering while delivering less of a bouncy ride at low speeds. Excellent ground clearance and a 500mm water wading ability are further stand-out points plus there are terrain-specific off-road modes as well.
Overall, the Scorpio-N is a rugged no-nonsense SUV that aims to full fill a niche for a proper off-road-centric SUV at an attractive price point. Expect Australian pricing and specification closer to its proposed launch next year.