When you think of desirable cars America never got, it’s hard not to conjure up images of tightly-wound homologation specials, strange shed-built psychopaths, and fantastic displays of technology. The Mahindra Scorpio-N is a bit different. It’s a very normal-looking Indian-market SUV, but I have a feeling it would make a killing in America. Here’s why.
It’s been two decades since the Hummer H2 personified excess, and America is once again going nuts for body-on-frame SUVs. Ford can’t build enough Broncos to keep up with demand, the Jeep Wrangler is now an everyday family vehicle, and even the Toyota 4Runner is selling at an incredible pace. Sadly, those are the only non-gargantuan body-on-frame SUVs around, which means that this segment is just about primed for a shake-up.
Indeed, the Scorpio-N has the goods, with a proper body-on-frame construction, coil-sprung live rear axle, and available low range 4×4. You can even order it with a locking rear differential as a feather in the Scorpio-N’s off-road cred cap.
Normally you’d expect a vehicle like this to be glacially-slow, and you’d be half-right. The low-output 2.2-liter diesel model churns out just 130 horsepower and 221 lb.-ft. of torque, which should get this relatively heavy SUV to 60 mph eventually. However, the gas and high-output diesel engines sound much more sprightly. Opt for the zestier 2.2-liter high-output oil-burner and you get 172 horsepower and 272 lb.-ft. of torque. Tick the box for the automatic gearbox, and torque climbs to 295 lb.-ft. I’d call that plenty in the grand scheme of things, but the turbocharged two-liter gas four-cylinder is even stronger at 200 horsepower and nigh-on the same torque as the high-output diesel.
Granted, Evo Magazine India estimates a zero-to-62 mph time of around 11 seconds, but that’s still quick enough to not be a hazard. [Editor’s Note: High praise! -DT]. More importantly, the magazine reports that “The ride comfort is really excellent, clearly a step up from other body-on-frame SUVs, and that means you can drive it hard and fast over broken roads without getting thrown all over the place.” Michigan potholes, eat your hearts out.
[Editor’s Note: I agree that this little Mahindra has potential stateside, but not as shown above. You gotta lop off as much of the front and rear overhangs as possible, raise the suspension a bit, wallow out those wheel openings so they can handle 31-inch tires (at least), and then throw the spare tire on the back. Then can talk. -DT].
Here’s a crazy figure: The base Z2 trim starts at just under $16,000 at current conversion rates. Normally you’d expect to get absolutely nothing for that sort of money, and you’d be right. There’s no Apple CarPlay, no four-wheel-drive, no cruise control, and no power mirrors on offer at this bargain-basement price point. However, you do get skid plates, air conditioning, and three rows of seats.
Thinking more practically, the cheapest model suited to America is the so-called Z8 trim because it comes with curtain airbags and a reversing camera. However, it’s still very cheap at roughly $22,037. So what does around $6,000 in equipment look like on a Mahindra Scorpio-N? Well, with automatic climate control, wireless Apple CarPlay, second-row USB-C ports, leatherette upholstery, power-folding mirrors, dusk-sensing projector LED headlamps, telematics, and a built-in navigation system, it looks like any well-equipped American SUV.
If the corners aren’t being cut on capabilities or features, there must be some safety sacrifices, right? Erm, not quite. The Scorpio-N achieved five stars for adult occupants in Global NCAP crash testing, and here’s the footage for your viewing pleasure.
Aside from the lack of side airbags in the low-spec car used for the side-impact barrier test, this all looks weirdly good, right?
All signs are good thus far, which makes you wonder: Where did Mahindra cheap out? Some might argue that the interior looks a bit five-years-ago, but I’d argue that isn’t a problem at all. The current Toyota 4Runner is in its 13th model year, and yet people still buy it, plus the Scorpio-N’s cabin would’ve been lovely five years ago. All that matte trim and all those stitched surfaces look sophisticated, and the seats appear both well-stuffed and well-bolstered. It’s an attractive cabin that matches the rest of the vehicle.
The worst thing you could say about the styling of this thing is that it’s inoffensive. It won’t break the mold, but that’s okay. It’s better to be pleasantly attractive than be a Ssangyong Rexton. From the tasteful grille to the Volvo-esque tail lamps, the Scorpio-N looks handsome in a restrained manner, like it’s wearing a blue polo shirt. It also helps that this thing’s roughly the same length as a Jeep JK Wrangler Unlimited, so it shouldn’t be unwieldy.
So, the Scorpio-N ticks all the boxes. It’s safe, well-equipped, affordable, nicely-appointed, decent to look at, and objectively capable. Still think there’s a catch? If you do, you’d be right. The marketing materials for the Scorpio-N are weirdly sexual, constantly referring to the SUV as “Daddy.” However, if the only snag is seeing phrases like “There’s no match for Daddy” and “Daddy doesn’t usually stop” in the brochure, I feel like that’s something we could get over.
Weirdly, this SUV’s predecessor almost did make it to America. In the hazy days of the mid-aughts, Mahindra announced plans to sell a small selection of pickup trucks and SUVs to Americans by 2008. Autoweek reported that this even included the old Scorpio. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but Mahindra hasn’t given up just yet. Reuters reports that a U.S.-market entry plan isn’t off the table, although CEO Anish Shah said an American sales timeline “could likely be longer than five years because we have to win in some of our key markets first.” By that point, we could be looking exclusively at EVs, which would be a shame because the Scorpio-N looks so resolutely good.
It’s already a solid contender, and I can only imagine how good the Scorpio-N would get if America’s aftermarket got its hands on it. Imagine this with a lift kit, chunky all-terrain tires, and rock rails. That ought to confuse the hell out of Moab locals. So, would you buy a Scorpio-N if Mahindra sold them in America?
(Photo credits: Mahindra)
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They may need to change the name to bring it to the west. Euro ford and Merkur had a model named Scorpio in the late 1980s.
Scorpion sounds cooler anyways
The Scorpio has just launched in Oz with the two topmost trims from AU$42,000 drive away. Say a list price of around AU$38,000.
Early reviews are promising. The only downsides noted are the all vinyl interior and some quirks with the idle stop system. They also note that it doesn’t yet come with AEB and lane keeping capacity despite it being mandated in all new cars in Oz from January 2025.
Mahindra Jeeps were always rugged and utilitarian, think tractors because theyre the worlds largest manufacturer of them. This is the first generation of Mahindra’s that pads crash test norms worldwide and theyve used a whole lot of tech for the first time too. Mahindra and Tata (the other big manufacturer in India) dont need to copy, they just buy the license to build it. Anyone with any doubts about a Mahindra should watch Australian offroading specialist John Roothy talk about his (previous generation) Mahindra Pik-up. I doubt they will come to the US, but if they do, Id be in line because it would be a steal. Theyre built to tackle Indian roads and conditions, they will be fine stateside.
Fun fact: this car was actually engineered right here in the USA by a team of US engineers. The same team that engineered the Mahindra Marazzo, the highest rated car there ever made. It was never meant for the US market though, so many changes would be needed to make it meet our standards. I had the pleasure of being part of this excellent team for a while until the company saw fit to destroy it with random firings and personnel changes. They had a good thing but then decided to screw it up. Shame.
This would make for an interesting Autopian story, unless there’s an NDA prohibiliting it.
For anyone interested in checking out the massive creep factor in the marketing copy, download the brochure here and weep.
Between the pedo and bdsm undertones, and the bizarre inglish, this isn’t exactly a winning example of marketing.
The car itself looks like the knockoff cereal brands you get at the dollar store version of a Forester.
At first I thought maybe it was just a cultural misunderstanding thing, but there’s too much for it to be accidental. They knew exactly what they were doing when they wrote this.
How many sold when Jeep made it first?
> Daddy doesn’t usually stop
OK, no. Absolutely not. It’s not just the creepiest ad copy I’ve ever read, but also you do want “daddy” to stop when the light is red or a car is in the way.
The question, as always, is: how reliable are these? Especially under typical US driving usage and conditions, involving (for example) sustained hours-long fully loaded 85mph highway use with the a/c blasting across states like Texas, from subfreezing up to 120 degrees plus? Or sustained highway towing use in those same conditions?
I handled new India-made Vespa knockoffs at my last dealership service management job, and they were terrible. Brand new in the crate, broken in various ways. All of them. Terrible quality control, shipped with defective parts installed and other parts broken at build that should never have passed final inspection at the factory. And the importer didn’t really give a shit, and didn’t want to pay us labor to fix them.
side note for all of you reading along at home, if the manufacturer doesn’t want to pay the dealership parts and labor for warranty repairs, your warranty is useless and your vehicle is not getting fixed. I sincerely hope if these come to the USA that Mahindra builds them well with quality components and stands behind their warranty with decent dealer reimbursement rates and times.
Apple is moving some iPhone production to India and the reject rate is astronomical. And that’s just the casings!
That’s a really interesting article. I mean, the Chinese were the same, I wonder how fast the Indian manufacturing sector will take to catch up with Chinese quality. I can’t believe we’re at the point where we’re talking about Chinese and Indian quality but here we are.
Would I buy it? I’d at least look at it if I needed something like this. Frankly prices for car are so high right now that a cheap, half decent new vehicle would definitely get a hard look, even from an unknown brand. From what I see on this site, price (regardless of brand), isn’t that concerning for many, but for the rest of us who struggle to keep up, price is the FIRST thing we look at. If I can’t afford it, I don’t even look, what’s the point?
We need cheap cars, regardless of who or where they came from. This is a nice looking vehicle that anyone who may not need an offroading monster could live with.
Re: Editor’s Note:
So, David. I hear you saying you’d think about it if it was a Samurai. Is that about right?
Now correct me if i am wrong Mahindra has been copying jeep making worse than Chinese copies of jeep and a site with DT as an owner building a jeep with all OEM PARTS is suggesting a crap jeep with crap parts is a good idea? Is it even legal? I seem to remember the courts said no
If you’re talking about a Roxor, they aren’t a “worse than Chinese” jeep. They’re a jeep more jeep than Jeep has made in decades, and likely better built too.
Legality? No, the courts decided that it isn’t legal to infringe on Jeep’s slotted grille trademark(never mind that it does not meet the definition of a trademark).
You’re absolutely right, they had the license to produce Jeeps under license from Willy’s for a very long time: https://jalopnik.com/this-is-why-mahindra-can-build-tiny-jeeps-1823472625
A real jeep with real OEM parts is also crap though
I agree, one of these should come over priced $10k under the domestic competition and eat their lunch.
At one time I had hopes for the Bremach Taos, a Russian SUV (UAZ Patriot) that was going to be imported to the US for the 2022 model year, but then they had to go start a war and F all that up. Maybe their loss will be Mahindra’s gain?
With a manual gearbox, it would be a very entertaining tall wagon. And affordable for buyers who are currently only considering buying something used.
When considering a low priced vehicle, is India a better cheap-labor choice than China? I think so, at least we would be supporting a democratic country.
It’s the modern incarnation of the GEO Tracker/Suzuki Sidekick/Vitara/Grand Vitara. Which were fine in their day, but that ship has sailed.
I love this and wanted one of their pickup trucks BUT ‘mericans will think it is bad BECAUSE is does not cost $70K and therefore must be junk (just like they think of colleges) If one of these has ONE quality issue they will be blemished forever, (see Kia/Hyundai). I would love to see these for sale here.
Uhh except Kia didn’t have one quality issue. They had legion quality issues, most notably the ongoing warranty replacements of several hundred thousand short blocks.
And long blocks, because there aren’t any short blocks. I asked if they do the engine rebuild at the dealership when mine was replaced. They said nope. Heck, KIA even told them to replace my 6MT because it was leaking, instead of just replacing the seals(after they jacked it up putting in the new engine).
it would never get tot he stage you are talking about, and with the required emissions and safety equipment it would require to safely allow it to travel the streets of the US, the price would very likely be close to 35-40K. the Roxor would have been street legal if not for those hurdles. it is certainly more efficient and as safe as the old willy’s jeep it aped, and those are still technically legal to drive on the road.
So once I saw a Roxor close up and looked under it and everything, it was not at all the “jeep lookin’ side by side” that all the magazines called it.
It is an honest to goodness cj7. Including Dana axles and transfer case, a frame identical to a CJ frame, a body tub that will literally fit on a Cj, a CJ interior, lights, everything.
So no, not the jeep it aped. The jeep it literally is. They are new production cj7s, titled as side by sides for legal reasons only. The ones they continue to make are still literally a cj7, just with a different grille.
Yeah Americans are eating up body on frame SUVs, but is it because they’re body on frame? Of course not, most car buyers don’t know what that means. Most Wrangler, Bronco, and 4Runner sales are purely for the look. The cool factor. Not for the construction style, not for the off-road capability, but for the appearance of off-road capability. They buy Wranglers because that’s what jeep guys in Moab drive.
So does the Mahindra scratch that itch with its 2016 Highlander styling and XC90 taillights? Does it have a reputation for being great off-road?
I don’t think this brings anything to the average 4runner buyer that the aforementioned highlander and Volvo doesn’t already.
Like David said, with some improved angles, 31s, a spare carrier, and a very visible front skid plate(maybe a snorkel too?) it would lack the reputation, but it would have the look, and I have no doubt that that would be enough to sell these for $50k all day long.
These would not be a hit in the US, and here’s why:
It’s foreign, but not a Toyota.
This concludes my Ted Talk
Toyota is revered for its consistent quality and durability. That is paramount over every other consideration for many people. If it were a domestic automaker, they would sell in even higher numbers.
Y’all. I worked on the abortive launch of the Mahindra Scorpio and PikUp in ’08-09. This is not going to happen. Two words: “Chicken Tax.”
Also, with Jeep winning their trade dress suit and requiring Mahindra to re-design the Roxor’s front end, this is double not going to happen.
Still, cool to dream.
I (and I imagine, other Autopians) would love to hear more about that launch if your NDA is over!
So much sads. I was super interested in the PikUp back then and signed up to be notified when those would hit the US. I stalked all news I could until it fizzled out. Chicken Tax and US safety requirements were both too harsh to overcome for that simple little beast. I wanted one sooooo bad.
I remember that well. What I recall was that it was initially supposed to be dirt-cheap and diesel, which was super appealing to me. But by the time it was configured for US safety and emission standards it was going to cost around $26k, which was a lot back then for a unknown to the US brand small econo truck
Can you shed some light on the perverts who write the brochures?
With car prices the way they are, we’re probably overdue for a Yugo-style startup to come in and disrupt things, a lot of consumers who want new cars are literally priced out of the market (and a lot of consumers who should be priced out of the market are buying anyway, on ridiculous loans).
Figured it was most likely going to be some Chinese company, but it could just as well be Mahindra or Tata.
Wait, does that chrome window trim look like a scorpion’s tail, or is it just me?
As do the fog light surrounds on the front bumper. Sharp!
I noticed that too. Looks great.
Like David said, lop off some of the back. Make it a 2 row. I’m all in. However, it would never sell at that price here. It’d be $10K more
The fact that the place where cost-cutting isn’t immediately obvious almost makes it worse, because rest assured you’ll find it eventually.
But what I would do is design and sell a matching badge for the rear liftgate that says ‘Hank’.
I bet that’d play well in the hammock district.
That’s on 3rd.
This would do so well as a rental car