I want a pickup. I want a pickup. I want a pickup. I have been bleating like this for years now. You see, I have always dreamt of a pickup truck as my personal vehicle. I think it’s the kind of vehicle for cool dudes to commute, drive and use. Rugged. Masculine. Uncomplicated. Heavy duty. Outdoorsy. Yeah, that more or less describes me, all right.
So how did this love affair with pickups happen? At the beginning of automotive time in India (er, around 1987), my uncle got himself a Tatamobile. Imagine driving around in a pickup at an impressionable age, just when you are allowed to start driving officially. It was the first machine in which I actually slotted a gear lever into fifth. Overdrive... what a sensation! I used to give joyrides to the entire crowd of kids in my building, more importantly, some impressionable young women. The only issue I had with it was its bizarre colour scheme. While the entire body shell was an ugly and highly unsuitable pale blue, the hood and the tailgate were painted the brightest yellow you could get. I think it was the compulsory colour scheme for commercial vehicles registered by the RTOs in Tamil Nadu, who were acknowledged for their highly evolved sense of colour, no doubt. Anyway, the Tatamobile was pretty famous in my locality and made waves wherever I went.
Just like this pickup I am driving now, twenty... (TWENTY!) years later. And making waves literally. The Mahindra Scorpio Getaway is attacking the water head-on and driving through a wall of seawater of its own making. In the process blinding not just me, but Joshua, who’s riding his BMW F650 next to the pickup. The wipers are furiously trying to clean up the water that’s filled the windscreen, but they are hopelessly outclassed. And Josh is completely drenched, right down to his undies (the things we do to get you these pictures). We are at a beach on the outer reaches of Mumbai city, and we thought it would be a swell place to photograph the pickup based on the Scorpio. We added a motorcycle to the equation, to make it look like the stereotyped brochures you would see for a product like this.
Yeah, a beach would be the kind of place to take this machine to. It is a double-cab, which means you can take your entire gang of jokers along with you, and the loading bay can take up your gear. Despite the pictures, it can’t take in a large bike like the F650 of course, but a Pulsar would fit, with room to spare for the booze, towels, and um, undies. Though it was not quite necessary because the sand was tightly packed, I had turned the shift-on-the-fly 4WD knob to 4H for the shots through water and sand. It felt capable then and I knew that I could always manage without major trouble in case I were to get beached. No, don’t for a moment think that just because you have 4L you can extricate yourself... it’s not that easy if the machine is up to its nose in sand, but it’s just nice to know you have the capability. To tell you the truth, we had hoped that Mahindra would manage to give us the Getaway in time for our annual Slush Fest, which you read about in last month’s issue. I swear on my precious scale model of the Jeep from Destination Moon (which has Tintin, Snowy, Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus miniatures) that the Getaway would have been the one machine that would have been everyone’s favourite to bash. The Montero, Endeavour, CR-V and Grand Vitara were all fine, but you always know that there’s nothing that comes close to Mahindra vehicles to take a fair bit of abuse. Too, too bad that the Getaway was not part of our Slush Fest ‘07 celebrations. Otherwise the poster of our last issue would have been the Getaway yumping, and not the Endeavour.Never mind. Back to the pickup. Is it just a Scorpio with a loading bay? Or is there more to it? The answer to that is, yes, it’s just a Scorpio based pickup with a wheelbase that’s been extended by 360 mm – that’s close to one foot, while the overall length has gone up by almost two feet. Which means you have to be really careful while taking turns or while parking. Know what, it really shows that it is a plain extension of the Scorpio, because Mahindra has retained the rear doors of the Scorpio to keep costs down. Hmm... that area of the Getaway looks quite awkward actually. While India gets only the double-cab, international markets will get single-cab versions of the Scorpio pickup. My crib with the Getaway is that seen front on, it does not look any different from the SUV. Mahindra should have made some changes to the front end, at least a different paint scheme (no, not like the TN RTO variety) to distinguish the pickup.
But what that front end does well is that not many vehicles on the road want to mess with it. They keep a clear distance from it, and when seen in the rear view mirror, politely give way. The drivetrain is unchanged from the Scorpio – it’s the same 2609cc common-rail inline-four developing 115 bhp at 3800 revs and 28.3 kgm of torque between 1700 and 2200 rpm. In the pickup application, the motor has to lug around an extra 40 kilos, which shows in the way the Getaway pulls off from standstill. In the Scorpio, the same motor feels much more liberated. Reportedly, Mahindra can up the power of the engine easily by 15 more bhp, but they have not done so. Perhaps it would have helped in the Getaway, if not the Scorpio. Once on the move however, the Getaway does not feel underpowered. In fact, at 100 kph, with the needle hovering between 2000 and 3000 rpm, it is blissful – it’s the zone where you can downshift and overtake without any loss or stay and cruise calmly.
If you are familiar with the Scorpio, then there is nothing new about the Getaway interiors, right down to the thick steering wheel, the spindly gear lever and the little cubbyholes of dubious utility. What you have to get used to are the dynamics and the sheer size of the thing. For one, though it may feature wider/higher profile tubeless radials compared to the Scorpio (235/70 R16 versus the 245/75 R16) and double wishbone independent suspension at front, the rear has semi-elliptical leaf springs. This makes its ride a bit too bouncy, especially when it’s just you commuting alone to your office on good roads. I can’t think of a better way to mix up your breakfast internally, so don’t expect a comfortable ride on city roads. Where you can really enjoy the machine is on rough roads or in no-road situations. The Getaway is perfectly at ease over such terrain and this is where it’s maximum fun. The ground clearance plus the effortless way in which it scrunches bad terrain makes you feel the Getaway is invincible. If you have a hard-to-reach farmhouse somewhere, then this is the machine to have – in fact, if I had a pickup like this, I would try buying myself an inaccessible farmhouse somewhere!
The braking is just about adequate. It may shave off speed at low speeds, but when you try some panic braking stunts, it makes quite a song-and-dance about it. The rubber squeals and the faraway rear end tends to break loose if you overdo it. The vehicle’s dynamic seems to be more tuned to carry some amount of load at the rear and a few people in the cab. Consequently, it is not exactly a machine you should go corner carving in. However, Mahindra has dialled in a better steering feel and it is not as over-servoed as the Scorpio’s, so it is that much more precise to manoeuvre. Still, keep the speeds low in case you are tackling mountain sections and also do remember that it is rather a long vehicle.
So is the Scorpio Getaway the pickup I have been waiting for all my life? Hmm, no, not yet. Though it has the right elements like a rugged nature, 4x4 capability, seats for five and other creature comforts, I would still like some things ironed out. Top of mind is better on-road ride quality, thought-out ergonomics and of course, the new, lighter 2200cc Eagle engine that M&M is developing, which will take care of some of the vehicle dynamics issues. Till then... I want a pickup. I want a pickup.I want a pickup.