Cruise control, rain sensing wipers, automatic headlamps, tyre pressure warning system, parking assist…if you happen to come across the above list without context, you will get a picture of a swish luxury sedan in mind, right? Bingo. That was exactly the idea.
It is not a secret that Mahindra is developing a monospace vehicle in the mould of Toyota Innova. We have seen some ‘scoop’ images and we think, like the Scorpio, the Ingenio (that is the rumoured name; one can only hope that it gets a better name) will be an extreme value for money vehicle that will be adored by the people-mover set. But challenging a Toyota product is not an easy job – every nut and bolt of a Toyota vehicle reflects the quality philosophy of the new world number one and it reflects in the way new vehicles are designed, developed, evaluated, sourced, built, sold and serviced. And if anyone knows that, it is Mahindra. Sure they’ve had a good run with the Scorpio – we Indians lapped it up and the segment-buster campaign was a masterpiece. I personally know many prospective car buyers who succumbed to the SUV temptation and bought the Scorpio. The product was reliable, comparatively refined, reasonably economical and even good looking in its own way.
Not content to rest on their laurels, Mahindra introduced the common-rail diesel engine version soon and played around with trim, paint and a bit of electronics. The flashy yellow Sportz job was er…too flashy, though. What was never really sorted out was the handling. They sent a team to Lotus in UK to fine-tune the suspension setup and find the optimum tyre technology. In the meanwhile, an all-new, smaller yet more powerful engine was being developed. One that would eventually power the Innova-baiter sooner rather than later. But before it starts powering the Ingenio, the engine needed to be fine-tuned and what better application than the Scorpio to do that. My good friends at Mahindra may not agree with the above theory – yet, ladies and gentlemen, welcome the mHawk powered Scorpio V-series. At Rs 9.33 lakh ex-showroom New-Mumbai, this is no value for money proposition. For VFM seekers the 2.6 CRDe powered Scorpio will co-exist with the V-series for some more time. Instead Mahindra want the Octavia/Optra Magnum/Corolla buyers to take a serious look at the Scorpio as an alternative. Hence the feature list that is almost endless. And yes, the limited numbers will ensure that the service stations get familiar with the new engine.In short, what we are getting to premiere here is not just the mHawk-engined Scorpio but this is also a sneak preview into the next model from Mahindra. On with the road test, then. Externally, there is nothing more than new graphics and new alloys to differentiate the V-series. And the new-age metallic graphics are an acquired taste and unfortunately are the default choice for the car. While some liked it, some others asked me why I ‘removed’ all the stickers – well, let us leave it at that. Once inside, the car talks – as irritatingly as ever – and informs you that it is a powerful vehicle and requests you to wear a seatbelt. If none of the luxury car makers have gone for this rather simple technology, it is because it is annoying, right? The new additions to the feature list include steering-mounted entertainment system controls that work exceptionally well and cruise control which we found difficult to test thanks to our road conditions. The parking assist worked well too and is a welcome addition to any SUV.
Turn the ignition key and you start appreciating the V-series. You can make out at idle itself that this is a more refined powerplant. The mHawk motor displaces 2179cc and features a 16-valve setup to develop a healthy 120 bhp and 29 kgm of torque (Safari Dicor 2.2 owners need not worry on the number front). But again, it is not just about numbers. This engine could have easily come from a Japanese car maker. The engine uses the second generation Bosch common-rail direct injection system to feed the requisite amount of fuel into the aluminium head. The engine is mated to the updated five-speed gearbox. Maybe the test car was too new and needs to be driven more to get the best out of the gearbox but notchy shifts were responsible for the 6.4 second run to 60 kph during the tests (5.7 seconds is the claimed figure). Standstill to 100 kph takes 17 seconds and the mHawk propels the Scorpio to a decent 150 kph top speed.
We did compare the figures churned out by the V-series to that of the 2.6 Scorpio and found that the gains are minimal when it comes to outright performance. But what was impressive is how much more linear the power delivery through the gears is – the earlier car used to hesitate and pitch excessively as you changed gears – and the engine is at its best in mid-range operation (80-120 kph in 14.7 seconds). The lack of noise and refinement is in another league altogether. While the ride quality over bad terrain remains as good as ever – the car feels less sorted out on good tarmac and improves only when the car has a minimum of four passengers and their luggage.The V-series comes equipped with ABS (anti-lock braking system) which is a first for any vehicle produced by the Mahindra stable – not even the Logan has it! The car behaved impeccably in our 0-100-0 runs (23.1 seconds) and there was little brake fade to talk about even after the full road test. And never did the rear of the car step out. At least one road tester said that the steering felt more accurate and positive – directly attributed to a lighter front-end thanks to the new engine. To me the Scorpio was always an honest, hardworking automobile. It was built strong, took the rough well, could go on cruising from morning to evening without breaking into a sweat and the 4X4 version could take you places. With every improvement Mahindra is taking it into uncharted territory. While it was nice to position it as an alternative to cars, it may not be a good idea to raise the expectation levels of prospective buyers to a very high level. That is exactly what features like the cruise control do.
To sum up, it is heartening to note that the Scorpio now goes and stops better than ever before and Mahindra engineers can take credit for that. And I sincerely hope the new engine, ABS and steering controls trickle down to the more accessible models sooner rather than later. And yes,I cannot wait to get behind the wheel of an Ingenio.