Indian giant Mahindra is taking its most serious shot yet at the Australian market, with three models in its range to consider including the new Scorpio (aka Scorpio-N in some markets)
In addition to the recently-launched XUV700 and PikUp ute, the company has spent decades winning over the hearts and minds of Indian buyers in its home market and wants to draw in more Australian buyers with its compelling price-point and reliable reputation.
To illustrate how serious the company is about this goal, Mahindra took a Scorpio across the Simpson Desert in July and broke the record for fastest time for crossing the inhospitable territory.
Does this new model have what it takes to make a dent in the 7-seat SUV category? We tested it on and off road and found it to be one of the most interesting vehicles we have reviewed all year. Read on to find out the good and not-so-good.
2023 Mahindra Scorpio Z8L: Specifications
Output: 129kW@3500rpm / 400Nm@1750-2750rpm
Gearbox: Six-speed auto
Drive type: Part-time RWD/4WD
Wheels: F & R: 18×7.0, 255/60
ANCAP: Not tested
Kerb weight: 2100kg
Power-to-weight: 16.27:1 (kg:kW)
Official consumption: 7.2L/100km
Our consumption: 7.3L/100km
Fuel tank/Fuel type: 57L/Diesel
0-60km/h: 5.11 seconds*
0-100km/h: 11.55 seconds*
60-110km/h: 8.74 seconds*
1/4 mile: 18.16 seconds at 122.6km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.598g*
100-0km/h braking: 43.64m in 3.53 seconds*
Max deceleration: -1.098g*
Decibel at idle (/sport mode): 49*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 83*
Starting price: $45,990
*Figures as tested by Driving Enthusiast on the day. Manufacturers’ claims may be different
2023 Mahindra Scorpio Z8L: How much does it cost?
Available in two configurations, the $41,990 Z8 and $45,990 Z8L as tested here (drive-away), the Scorpio is touted as a separate chassis, proper 4×4, with strong off-roading credentials.
The entry level model features cruise control, second-row climate control, three rows of seats, power folding mirrors, cooled glovebox and diamond-cut 18-inch alloys, six airbags and reverse camera.
Forking out for the more expensive of the two gives you the addition of a forward camera, 7.0-inch colour TFT display in the instrument cluster, power sunroof and most notably, a fantastic 12-speaker Sony stereo with sub-woofer. The driver’s seat also features six-way power adjustment.
A seven-year/150,000km warranty is offered with seven years of roadside assistance, while capped-price servicing varies between $370 and $728, with intervals of 10,000km or 12 months. You can find a more comprehensive summary of service costs at Mahindra’s website here.
2023 Mahindra Scorpio Z8L: Interior & packaging
Is the 2023 Mahindra Scorpio a true seven-seater? Well, we would say it sits somewhere in the middle. A lot of large SUV class entrants are more like 5+2 than true 7-seaters.
The Scorpio makes clever use of its boxy dimensions to provide reasonable third row space, but it cedes outright class honours to vehicles such as the LDV D90, Ford Everest, Isuzu MU-X and Toyota Fortuner. First and second row occupants are decently catered for, however.
For the number crunchers out there, the Scorpio measures 4662mm long, 1917mm wide with a height of 1857mm and a wheelbase of 2750mm. It has a kerb weight of 2100kg and can tow up to 2500kg (braked).
We should give credit to Mahindra for creating an interior which feels and looks premium, with nice-feeling switchgear and contrast between the piano black infotainment cluster and brown trim surrounding the dash, seats and doors. The 8.0-inch infotainment screen also incorporates (tethered) Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
A swathe of rubber toggle switches on the fascia are pleasant to the touch. The aforementioned stereo produces a nice and punchy level of bass, with reasonable enough clarity but this stereo system is worth the price of admission alone.
There are a few minor gripes, however, with the infotainment screen taking longer than expected in this day-and-age to load up, with a pretty low resolution for the reversing camera. At least it features static and dynamic guidelines to help with parking.
2023 Mahindra Scorpio Z8L: Powertrain & handling
Mahindra makes a big song and dance about its 2.2-litre ‘mHawk’ turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine. It produces 129kW at 3500rpm and 400Nm between 1750 and 2750rpm. Adequate but not class-leading by any stretch of the imagination. It is backed by a six-speed automatic transmission.
The engine is surprisingly quiet and refined, even on cold starts. It’s also pleasantly responsive, working with the gearbox most of the time, rather than against it. One thing we don’t enjoy is the hint of driveline shunt when backing off the accelerator above 80km/h.
This might be acceptable in an old AU Falcon ute, but not in a vehicle made in 2023. Another bugbear is the stop-start system completely cutting the engine off if you switch it off before the engine restarts. We are not sure if this is an issue specific to this test car or not. But it’s quite frustrating.
Additionally, the ride is pretty firm. The company says the SUV was subjected to 120,000km of testing across a variety of Australian conditions, and features frequency dependent damping (FDD). At town and city speeds, there is no noticeable problems and the Scorpio acquits itself well.
Once the speeds increase, it does tend to shimmy across corrugations at 110km/h and above. Again, this is something we might expect in a Suzuki Jimny or Jeep Wrangler – neither of which have independent front suspension. This isn’t severe enough to recommend against considering the vehicle, however, especially given its low starting price.
While we would like a bit more compliance from the dampers, the steering is reasonably direct and feelsome. We did not have the opportunity to test its ability to handle emergency manoeuvres but the ESC calibration seems a bit late to intervene in the wet and it can cut engine power in a sudden and crude manner.
Scorpio’s off-road credentials are espoused in Mahindra’s hyperbolic press release, and it delivers well here. The ‘4XPLOR’ system incorporates five selectable terrain modes ( normal, snow, sand, mud and ruts), as well as a mechanical diff lock. It is hard to discern whether the Scorpio has a genuine transfer case or just uses first gear as a crawler gear for its ‘low range’ system. But either way, it gets through boggy situations very well for what it is.
2023 Mahindra Scorpio Z8L: Key attractions/reasons to buy
The interior of the Z8L offers genuine wow factor for its price point when you first look inside and its standard equipment levels are impressive. It has an interesting design and genuine off-road ability. The fuel consumption on test impressed us, staying close to the official 7.2/100km average for most of our time with the vehicle. Build quality as well as fit-and-finish are great as well.
It is a very affordable way into a true ladder-frame, turbo-diesel seven-seater SUV. The only other choice is the LDV D90 – which offers superior third row space, but it is turbo petrol only unless you go for the $52,095 Executive Bi-Turbo diesel.
There’s plenty to commend, including the thumping stereo and nice-looking interior, but there some things to consider on the other side of the ledger as well.
2023 Mahindra Scorpio Z8L: Key considerations before you buy
At the time of writing, the Mahindra Scorpio is yet to be tested by ANCAP. It did score five stars in the Global NCAP equivalent. But, in Australia there is no autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist, forward collision warning, blind-spot assist or rear cross-traffic alert, at all.
This dearth of ADAS features would prevent the Scorpio from achieving a five-star ANCAP result. Passive safety seems to be fine based on its crash test performance in other markets, but this could be a deal-breaker for some.
We would also strongly urge Mahindra to examine the behaviour of the stop-start system, ESC calibration and perhaps a more forgiving damper calibration. Other than that, the Mahindra Scorpio offers plenty of attractive qualities and undeniable showroom appeal.
2023 Mahindra Scorpio Z8L: Video
How does it rate against its rivals?
A solid effort and promising sign of things to come from the Indian manufacturer, provided it can squash some of the pesky bugs we’ve experienced in this example.