Wednesday, 17 December 2014

New Mahindra Scorpio vs Tata Safari Storme comparison

In a grudge match that started over a decade ago, these two brutes have been trading blows year after year. That’s no exaggeration either, as ever since the launch of the Safari and the Scorpio all those years ago, both Tata and Mahindra have made it a point to update them bit by bit, to cater to changing technology, emission regulations and, of course, customer preferences.
A new engine here, a facelift there – it all added up in the end, and for almost every update, we’ve put them head to head. But then in 2012, instead of just the usual minor updates, Tata Motors went and gave the Safari a whole new chassis and suspension setup. Called the Safari Storme, this car went up against the Scorpio and won. Now Mahindra has done the same with the Scorpio, and along with sharper looks and a much better interior, this is the biggest improvement to the popular SUV since it was launched way back in 2002. So naturally, we’ve brought them together once more, to see if the impressive new Scorpio can take the trophy back from the Safari this time.
Make it large:When the Safari Storme was first shown at the 2012 Auto Expo, there was a tinge of disappointment about the fact that it looked far too similar to the previous Safari. Fortunately that’s not quite something you can say of the new Scorpio. The basic shape is the same, of course, but the details are all new, and though some of them are a little gaudy, we think the overall look is a good step forward. The only place the Storme doesn’t look similar to the old Safari is at the rear where the spare wheel has been shifted from the tail gate to under the floor. But nothing tells you that there’s a new chassis and the design doesn’t really turn heads. However, the sheer size does give it a lot of presence.
On to the insides, and let’s start with the new Scorpio, whose interior has come a very long way from the last car’s. Quality is a huge step up, and though there are still some low-rent bits, they’re not right in your face anymore.
Old-school grunt:An area where both these cars haven’t changed is their engines – they both use the same 2.2-litre, four-cylinder diesel engines as before; although the Scorpio is also available in its base trim with the 2.5-litre M2DiCR motor. The Safari’s 138bhp and 32.63kgm edge out the Scorpio’s 118bhp and 28.5kgm on paper, but out on the road, it’s not that black and white. The Scorpio’s mHawk engine has much better responses low down, meaning it’s good for cut-and-thrust city driving, darting forward eagerly at low revs. It’s got a pretty potent mid-range too, but cross 3,700rpm and it starts to become more noise than actual movement. Speaking of which, it’s not the quietest engine, but it edges out the boomy Safari on refinement.
Frame work:This is the area where a new chassis and suspension would really get a chance to prove themselves. The Safari Storme’s lighter, stiffer ‘X2’ chassis borrowed from the Aria did just that two years ago, and was a huge step forward for the big SUV. The thing is, the Scorpio’s feels like an even bigger jump over its predecessor. The old Scorpio was lumpy at low speeds, bouncy at high speeds and flat-out scary around corners, and this new chassis improves on those issues in a big way. Around corners, it’s impressively composed for a tall, boxy, ladder-frame SUV and this is helped by the new steering, which is far more direct and feelsome than before. Stability at highway speeds is much better and the suspension works really quietly to give a soft edge to it. Low speed ride is decent but the downside is that on a less than smooth road, the Scorpio is still quite bumpy. Speedbreakers and sharp edges toss occupants around a fair bit and the rear has a sharp kick which can levitate the luggage in the boot.
Home stretch:Despite sticking with their tried and tested formula of ladder-frame chassis and big, torquey four-cylinder diesel engines, both these cars have come a long way since their humble origins, and are now much better at delivering their original promise of being tough but liveable family SUVs. You’ll like a lot of things about the Storme – the huge presence that comes with its huge size, the space (for five) in the cabin and relaxed cruising ability. But its shortcomings are a bit too big to ignore. It’s looking dated inside and out, the cabin quality isn’t where it should be and it’s a bit cumbersome to drive in traffic.

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