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HomeIndustry NewsPutting the Mahindra Scorpio-N to the ultimate 4×4 test
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Putting the Mahindra Scorpio-N to the ultimate 4×4 test

The Mahindra Scorpio-N is one of the most affordable 4x4s you can get in South Africa, but don’t let this fool you into thinking it’s any less capable than its more expensive peers.

With its all-new 4Xplor intelligent terrain response system and a turbo-diesel powertrain with plenty of grunt, you don’t have to sacrifice abilities for a wallet-friendly window sticker when picking up this seven-seater.

The Mahindra is equipped to take on moderate to the most demanding of 4×4 trails and obstacles, and it has no qualms keeping up with the best of the best.

Setting the benchmark

The Scorpio-N is the rugged option in Mahindra’s SUV family next to the city-slicker XUV700, and the automaker’s intent to create a competent off-roader shines through all aspects of the vehicle.

Its design is characterised by upright and blocky dimensions coupled with a high seating position which makes the SUV easy to position accurately – whether you’re crawling into a parking bay or lining it up to a rocky incline – and complementing this is its ultra-light steering that requires little effort to be pliant.

Equipped with a torque-happy diesel engine that serves up 129kW and 400Nm, you can dig deep into the 2.2-litre mill before it runs out of puff and the abundance of pulling power has you covered on serious climbs, through thick bogs, and over rocky patches.

The Scorpio-N’s arsenal is bolstered with a shift-on-the-fly 4×4 system that brings heightened adaptability to the SUV.

At the press of a button, the powertrain can be switched from rear-wheel drive to four-wheel high up to speeds of 100km/h, and when the going gets tough, simply shift it into Park/Neutral and switch to four-wheel low.

It boasts a mechanical locking differential on the rear axle and an electronic brake-locking differential that controls wheel slip in low-traction conditions; in addition to technologies such as downhill descent control that assists in limiting engine speed when driving down an intimidating slope, giving novice pilots more confidence off the beaten track.

The 4Xplor system also brings Normal, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Rut, and Sand drive modes that alter power delivery according to the terrain and are each selected with the simple turn of a dial accompanied by an animation in the digital driver’s cluster.

As I was testing the Mahindra’s mettle at an off-road facility that hasn’t seen much upkeep in recent years it became evident that we brought the right car for the job as no faux-4×4 would have survived the excursion.

One of the more daunting obstacles was an uphill axle twister that after years of heavy rains and erosion turned into an extreme version thereof, and there was no option to sidestep it.

One wheel in the air then another, the differentials immediately kicked in to manage grip and the terrain response system kept all four wheels turning merrily, and the twisters quickly disappeared in the rear-view mirror.

Coming down a steep decline with ruts and loose rocks aplenty, a swift press of a button on the centre console had the live feed from the Mahindra’s front camera projected onto the central 8-inch display and suddenly there was no need for a spotter as I could see everything I needed to avoid an impact directly from the driver’s seat.

The software even has a function that allows you to take photos of what the forward-facing camera sees, albeit slightly lacking in quality, and save the images to the onboard 1.9GB hard drive so that you can show off to your friends the tracks you traversed.

If I was forced to find a drawback with the Scorpio-N on this extreme off-road course, it would be the 187mm ride height – which is slightly lower than other SUVs in this class.

This provides for slicker and smoother handling on the road, but can lead to a few scrapes on the bottom plate when going over hardcore terrain. Fortunately, this did not stop us from enjoying a 4×4 rampage.

Fortunately, the new Adventure Edition model with bespoke suspension and larger off-road tyres will provide buyers with both options to consider.

Taking it all in, the Scorpio-N sets the benchmark for what an affordable, full-size 4×4 should be capable of.

There may be other vehicles in this price bracket that boast some form of four-wheel propulsion, but this doesn’t mean that much once you’re faced with a tough track that doesn’t take kindly to low bumpers and side skirts.

What’s more, if they do have proper 4×4 they usually don’t come close to the size of the Mahindra. Take, for example, the Suzuki Jimny 5-door which measures just 3.82 metres long compared to the Scorpio-N’s 4.67m.

Throw on top of that seven seats that are standard in all versions of the Scorpio-N, and you have an enviable offering in the adventure SUV segment that is difficult to find a true rival for.