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Car reviews - Mahindra - Scorpio


We like
Compliant and controlled ride, tyre pressure and temperature monitoring, plucky and capable off-roader, sweet drivetrain, great headlights
Room for improvement
Lack of safety credentials, third-row seat mechanism, quirky idle-stop system

Can a Mahindra Adventure tour of Moreton Island smooth over a Scorpio’s shortcomings?

30 Apr 2024


GOAUTO was one of the first Australian media outlets to join a Mahindra Adventure event, a series of off-road-focused customer experiences that began in 2019 with an emphasis on exploring the great outdoors but with education about four-wheel drive operation and recovery techniques included. 
For the three-day camping trip to Mulgumpin (Moreton Island) in Southeast Queensland, Mahindra supplied us with a Scorpio four-wheel-drive wagon in top Z8L trim featuring six seats and a long standard equipment list. 
At $45,990 drive-away – or just $41,990 in base Z8 trim – for a proper off-road wagon that drives genuinely well it looks like a bargain, although there are some caveats such as the zero-star ANCAP rating and lack of any modern active safety features such as auto emergency braking or blind-spot monitoring. 
Given it is possible to bring children to Mahindra Adventure events – unlike, for example, Isuzu Ute Australia’s I-Venture Club – we loaded up the Scorpio with camping equipment for our family of four. 
The opportunity to join a Mahindra Adventure event also helped us to answer a burning question: What kind of person buys a Mahindra in the super-competitive Australian market? 

Drive Impressions 

Proportionally, the Scorpio’s stubby, tall styling comes from the fact it is only a touch longer than a Subaru Forester, although the Mahindra is taller and wider. 
Beefy body-on-frame construction, low-range transfer case and diesel engine also make this Mahindra significantly heavier than the (similarly priced) Subaru but 2100kg is still lighter than most off-roaders and we couldn’t help but make comparisons between the Indian and Japanese cars due to the way both nimbly skip across soft sand while taking bumpy off-road surfaces in their stride. 
It might look a bit top-heavy, but the Scorpio feels far from it. 
Given food always takes up a huge amount of space on such trips, it was a relief that the Mahindra Adventure experience is catered, especially as the Scorpio’s boot is compromised by a third-row bench that does not fold out of the way and has some protruding components that threaten to damage belongings. 
Some of the Scorpio owners on the tour had removed their third rows of seats, liberating plenty of additional storage and enabling longer items to pass between the captain’s chairs of the second row. Even in our test vehicle, this walk-through gap provided useful storage for snacks and drinks to be consumed during the many hours of driving this trip entailed. 
Aside from Scorpios, there was a sizeable contingent of Pik-Up owners on this event. A common theme among all the Mahindra customers GoAuto spoke with was that they appreciated the simplicity of their vehicles and that the lack of “nagging” safety aids was – to our surprise – a selling point. 
One owner even suggested that a lack of such technology appealed to their libertarian streak, which we expected might dissolve should they ever have the injury or death of another road user on their conscience in the case that tragedy could have been avoided had they opted for a vehicle with crash-preventing tech. 
Then again, many Mahindra customers we met on Mulgumpin had traded up from ancient Nissan Navaras, Holden Rodeos and Suzuki Grand Vitaras – some of which predated electronic stability control if not anti-lock brakes. 
On the subject of Grand Vitaras, it has struck us that along with the GWM Tank 300, the Scorpio is one of very few similar new vehicles on sale today given its true 4x4 credentials and relatively compact size when compared to off-road-ready rivals in the price ballpark such as a SsangYong Rexton or Mitsubishi Pajero Sport. 
Another Mahindra customer – who had driven all the way from Melbourne for the Mulgumpin trip – told us they had cross-shopped the Mitsubishi against the Scorpio and that the latter won hands-down for road manners. 
We are inclined to agree there; the Scorpio exhibits none of the typical body-on-frame chassis shudder or lumbering head-toss-inducing dynamic foibles of ute-based wagons. Its steering is also quicker and more direct than most. It is, unlike most 4x4s, a pleasure to drive around town. 
Even the 129kW/400Nm 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine and six-speed automatic transmission combination provide sweeter progress than many similarly capable off-roaders – the GWM Tank 300’s turbo-petrol is also up there – with a peppy, revvy nature and crisp, well-calibrated shifts, especially fit for purpose on Mulgumpin with the four-wheel-drive system’s Sand mode engaged. 
We never found ourselves wanting for extra grunt, even when fully laden while traversing the island’s wild southwestern coast and choppy Tangalooma bypass track. 
Switching between rear- and four-wheel drive can be done on the fly at up to 80km/h (low range requires the vehicle to be stationary) and worked seamlessly during our time on the island. 
We exclusively used the Sand setting, which is one of three off-road calibrations among Grass and Snow, as well as Mut and Ruts. An auto-locking rear differential and differential-by-brake are also included but were not required in the conditions we encountered. 
On some of the more chopped-up inland tracks, we marvelled at the amount of wheel travel and compliance on offer from the Scorpio, as well as a staggering level of body control approaching that of a Ford Ranger Raptor costing twice the price. 
With children onboard, the Scorpio’s suspension setup was an absolute boon. Traction was never an issue, either. 
Changeable weather conditions during our time on the island demonstrated how quickly tracks and beaches can transform, with washouts appearing and ruts filling with water after a deluge. 
None troubled the Scorpio’s modest 500mm wading depth, although some of the softer sand tracks did challenge the vehicle’s also-modest 227mm ground clearance that was further reduced by low tyre pressures plus the presence of four passengers and their camping equipment onboard. 
Airing up the tyres on the Micat ferry during the trip home we discovered a feature of the Scorpio that makes reinflation a walk in the park. When the car’s tyre pressure monitoring system detects that you are pumping in air, the hazard lights flash and the horn sounds when the correct pressure is reached. 
The system also includes tyre temperature monitoring, which is great for managing your tyres on long, fast stretches of sand or corrugated dirt roads. 
In three days, we and the Scorpio – plus several other Pik-Up and Scorpio vehicles – crisscrossed Queensland’s oft-overlooked sand island several times without issue. 
Apart from a deliberate bogging for a recovery demonstration session, just one vehicle got stuck – due to fatigue and inattention on the part of the driver – and every participant on the tour came away satisfied with both the experience and their vehicle. 
Breakfasts and dinners prepared and served at our campsite by a chef operating out of a trailer-based commercial kitchen setup were a game-changer, with several participants joking that the catered aspect “ruined camping for good”. 
Tour guidance, off-road training and commentary provided by the charismatic Gene Corbett – who with co-driver Ben Robinson piloted a Mahindra Scorpio into the Guinness World Record books for the fastest crossing of the Simpson Desert – was also a boon for the less experienced among the group and his swift reorganisation of the itinerary as storms came and went was impressive. 
One of the two Scorpios that crossed the Simpson was also on the tour, bearing several battle scars from that expedition, still going strong as it was thrashed around the island. 
For a vehicle some would expect to have gone to a museum – and with more than 8000 hard kilometres on its odometer – its presence and performance during the Mahindra Adventure trip served as a testament to the model’s toughness. 
If Mahindra can address safety concerns and fix the idle-stop system that has to be deactivated in a particular way, and perhaps have a conventional five-seat layout instead of a compromised six, the Scorpio deserves some mainstream success. 
For now, though, the Scorpio will likely remain a fringe-dwelling off-road hack for enthusiasts. A role suited to the price and evident robustness. And, from our experience on Mulgumpin, access to official Mahindra Adventure advents is also quite the selling point. 
As for the question about who buys a Mahindra, spending time with the brand’s customers was a genuine highlight of the trip. 
The only thing any of them had in common was a decision to buy a Mahindra vehicle but the camaraderie and sense of community that quickly and organically blossomed was such that many of the participants exchanged contact details, said they felt they had made friends for life and, by the end of the trip, were excitedly planning a reunion organised around an unofficial Mahindra Adventure of their own making. 

Whether or not this helps sell more Mahindras or fosters brand loyalty, seeing these friendships forged was definitely good for the soul.

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