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Mahindra Scorpio-N: Not just for 4×4 trails – It can tame a track, too

The Mahindra Scorpio-N is touted as an adventure 4×4 perfectly suited to spend most of its time in the great outdoors, but a one-trick pony it is not.

The bakkie-based SUV is nearly as comfortable on a tarmac track as it is on a dusty trail, proving itself to be surprisingly responsive on a recent excursion to the Gerotek dynamic handling track on the outskirts of Joburg.

Here, the Scorpio-N ate up narrow twists and turns that were built to test the handling prowess of much smaller cars, immediately after parading its versatility by making light work of daunting 4×4 trails.

Light on its feet

To get it out of the way, the Scorpio-N is not a track weapon by any stretch of the imagination but it can hold its own far better than we expected it to.

Endowed with a turbocharged 2.2-litre diesel engine with 129kW and an impressive 400Nm; the SUV is not terribly rapid out of the blocks but in the mid-to-high rev ranges the speedometer climbs with ease and it had no protests being pushed deep into the hundreds on our closed-off course.

Its penta-link rear suspension supplied a comfortable enough ride for a ladder-frame SUV on and off-road as only the more serious bumps reverberated through the seats, and body roll was minimal through the S-bends despite the vehicle’s tall, narrow profile and thick wheels.

What is very noticeable is the Mahindra’s incredibly light steering and tight turning circle which afford an agility that belies its size. It can turn on a dime and be controlled with the tip of a finger while the all-terrain tyres and traction control systems keep it steadfast in adverse conditions.

The driveline is light on juice, too. After four hours of 4×4 and on-track exercises which are usually not that kind to fuel economy, the consumption reading stood at a reasonable 9.2l/100km.

Over the entire week with the Scorpio-N which entailed a variety of mixed driving, it registered an average usage of 8.4l/100km which equated to a range of roughly 600km on one tank.

The overall package

The R608,199 Scorpio-N Z8L is a highly-attractive entry into the 4×4 SUV segment, and comes in at a lower price than its spiritual rivals like the Toyota Fortuner and Ford Everest.

Even with the lower price tag, it does not forgo what buyers want from a modern SUV – the majority of its panels are solid to the touch, noise and vibration levels are not distracting, and it delivers all of the amenities one could ask for.

This includes a 7-inch digital driver’s display with numerous menus for different data points, an 8-inch touchscreen wired to an excellent Sony sound system, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, Coffee-Black leatherette upholstery, an electric driver’s seat, cruise control, front and rear cameras, and hill-start and descent assist.

The wireless smartphone charger is also particularly well considered as it topped up my phone at an impressive pace in a pinch whilst keeping it in the correct spot with rubber holders so that it didn’t slide around; and the front parking sensors tell you how far away you are from an object, which enabled me to safely park the big SUV inside the garage at home with centimetres to spare.

The power and capability aspects are there in full force as well, with nary a compromise to speak of.

The Indian SUV also has the looks to finally win over the status-sensitive South African buyer, I would say.

It boasts a muscular but not overly loud design underscored by a chrome grille, dual-barrel LED headlights with slick C-clamp daytime-running lights, silver roof rails, fashionable alloy wheels measuring 18 inches, distinctive LED taillights that hug the C-pillar, and a Scorpion-Tail motif blended into the metallic window lining.

Where the old Scorpio had a love-it-or-hate-it type of effect, the new generation appeals to a much wider crowd with its contemporary aesthetic that isn’t likely to go out of style soon.

The Scorpio-N has its flaws, but I would not call them dealbreakers. The positives far outweigh any small niggles and this Mahindra should have the more established 4×4 players at least a little, if not very concerned.

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