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Mahindra Scorpio 2.6 GLX

Broadcast dates : 9th January 2005
13th January 2005

Mahindra is back on the local scene after a toe-in-the-water exercise in the late 1990s. This time the enterprise has direct backing from the Indian parent company in association with a local partner known as African Automotive Investment Corporation.

Those who were unimpressed with the original Jeep-like vehicle might well be surprised at this latest offering.

Overall quality is vastly improved, as our test vehicle, the Scorpio 2.6 GLX proved on a pretty severe off-road test at the Protea Eco Challenge near Mogale City, formerly known as Krugersdorp.

Appearance-wise there has been an improvement too. The Indian off-roader has elements of many modern offerings from Europe and America, including a Jeep-like grille and a high-roofed side profile reminiscent of Land Rover.

What is impressive is that the design hangs together well, with an overall sense of purpose and this goes for the way the vehicle is configured in terms of practicality, and in overall build quality.

As far as off-road practicality is concerned we were impressed with the substantial black plastic bumpers and side panels, making it a real bundu basher.

However we did notice that these panels are not that securely attached, and nor are the bumpers.

We could also do without the chrome steel-tube and alloy plate running boards, which are just waiting to snag an obstacle in an off-road environment.

On the road the Mahindra has a very solid feel, with no rattles or squeaks.

And on a challenging off-road course this holds true over really rough going

It is said that India has some of the world’s worst roads, and it ids obvious that the Mahindra is built to cope with really harsh terrain.

It has really solid suspension and drive-train fixtures. The Mahindra features a separate steel chassis in traditional rugged off-roading practice.

The body is large, with full-time seating for five and fold-away jump seats. With these occasional seats folded away there is nearly 600 litres of luggage space available.

While storage space available for large items is impressive, the Scorpio is lacking in terms of casual-item stash facilities. There are no cup holders and only a couple of small bins for items like sunglasses.

And the driver-seat has no door pocket.

More cruically, the Mahindra is not equipped with airbags and nor does it have ABS braking, so in this important safety department it does lag behind most off-road rivals.

In terms of comfort, the GLX does have electric windows and air conditioning as well as a radio/CD player.

Both front and rear seats come with armrests, but standard upholstery for the GLX is cloth rather than leather. And the pattern design is rather dated, as is the soft velour texture of the cloth.

Another example of practicality over style is the exposed workings of the fuel filler release. Much easier to fix if it breaks, but rather rudimentary in terms of finish.

The engine is a large capacity four-cylinder turbodiesel motor, displacing just over two thousand six hundred cubic centimetres. The engine was designed and developed by AVL an Austrian off-road engine specialist.

The accent is on high torque and reliability, rather than peak power. An indication of this is the very small diameter turbo pipe from the turbo impeller to the inlet manifold. The finish on the motor too is, shall we say, pragmatic, rather than being the high point of craftsmanship.

At just 82 kW peak power is rather low and this shows up on the open road where a realistic cruising speed is 120 km/h tops, speed falling down to 110 km/h or so when steep hills are encountered.

But off road is where it shines. When serious off-road terrain is encountered, the Mahindra has an electronic switch on the console to engage four-wheel-drive and low-range. Strong torque is produced at very low speeds and this pays dividends when negotiating obstacles like rocky ridges, where a slow approach speed is necessary to avoid damaging the undercarriage.

The ground clearance is very good and so is the suspension travel, as well as the chassis rigidity, as this axle twister test at the Protea Eco Challenge shows.

But crucially, the Scorpio does lack a rear diff lock and this sees it spin away its power in extreme conditions.

However the local distributors say that an after-market diff lock will be obtainable at a cost of around R12 000.

Overall our impression of the Mahindra Scorpio was positive. We would have liked a bit more cruising speed, and some of the fitments looked a bit rudimentary.

But the overall solidity of the vehicle appeals. And so does the price.

At R215 000 it has no real rivals in this market, and this is where it will attract a lot of interest.

The fact that it is a serious off-roader will see this Indian newcomer definitely winning a fan-base in South Africa.

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