Some are more equal than others

BEAST INTERESTS The Scorpio's got the advantage in fresher looks and a stonking engine. The Safari's space, ride and wellequipped interiors are not to be forgotten, though (bottom)

BEAST INTERESTS The Scorpio's got the advantage in fresher looks and a stonking engine. The Safari's space, ride and wellequipped interiors are not to be forgotten, though (bottom)  

Revisions in price bring the Tata Safari into the Mahindra Scorpio's territory. And even in a world of such parity, one is still ahead in the game. Wheels spots the vehicle with the keener edge

Just as the cola wars are fun to watch, it is also entertaining to see the new tricks Tata and Mahindra pull out of their hats. The one-upmanship game has evolved, and this is its latest iteration - the Safari, with a recent price cut, has suddenly become the object of desire for many. After all, it offers great value for money today. While both machines in question sport common rail diesel motors, they have also undergone facelifts recently, this spruce-up also including interiors.

Design & engineering

While the Safari's familiar but XXL lines look neat and the sparkling round section in the headlamps, the chrome grille and the bumper add finesse to the vehicle, the tail lamps remains unchanged. The Scorpio, on the other hand, looks delightfully fresh in comparison thanks to a minor facelift and a new rear suspension configuration. Both SUVs sit on a ladder frame chassis with the body, engine and suspension bolted to them. The Scorpio easily comes out as the better built of the two, with quality fit and finish and a toughness that is clearly lacking in the Safari.


If space is of paramount importance then your search ends with the Safari. The Safari driver's seat is more comfortable than the Scorpio's, with better thigh support, adjustable lumbar support and adjustable steering rake too. Being wide, reaching the low-set air con controls and CD player is a bit of stretch in the Safari, but thankfully the electrically adjustable outside mirrors come as standard, saving you from leaning over the passenger side and adjusting the mirror manually. The Safari comes with ceiling-mounted air con vents for the middle row passengers but they are set a bit low, which leads to slight problems with tall drivers. The Safari's dashboard is a lot less fussy, though bordering on plain. It is well laid out with large speedo and rev counter dials that are easy to read. The fascia however lacks the practical touches of the Scorpio and the plastic unfortunately feels cheap. The Scorpio's front seats are smaller, less supportive and with not as much legroom. This Mahindra is a much tighter fit, though certainly not uncomfortable. The air con controls are easy to reach, as is the music system, which is easy to operate without taking your eyes off the road. But the new ovoid air con vents don't do a good job directing airflow and the compressor switch is a bit too tiny. In the Scorpio, rear seats don't rank as high on the comfort scale as the Safari's do. Passengers in the Scorpio are not seated as high as on the Safari and visibility is not as good as the Safari's. Also, in terms of luggage space its the Safari that wins.

Powertrain & performance

The Scorpio weighs a little under two tons and the Safari a little over this figure. Hence, both overweight machines need lots of torque to get them to move. The Scorpio's engine produces 28.3 kgm while the Safari comes across with a higher 30 kgm of motive power. Both generate identical max power figures - 115 bhp. But don't let these numbers fool you into thinking these engines are evenly matched. If you can find the roads to cruise at steady speeds, the Safari does a great job. It's not as slow as you would imagine and can keep up with the Scorpio. It can happily cruise all day at 120 kph and can even touch 144 kph, given the road. The Scorpio engine, in comparison, is an absolute joy. It is responsive, refined and has a spring in its step, which makes it such an effortless performer. The refinement levels are truly world class. The gearshift is adequately smooth, but calls for a touch more effort than the Safari's shifter. There's no doubt here - the Scorpio wins this round.

On the road

The relatively compact dimensions, light steering, big mirrors and responsive engine make the Scorpio a breeze to drive in town. It's easy to place, the size is not intimidating and visibility is good. The Safari too has high seats and big mirrors, but its huge dimensions can be intimidating, especially on crowded streets. The turning radius isn't great and the spare wheel cuts rear visibility. Parking the beast is not easy either. It's on the highway that you appreciate the Safari's impressive ride quality. It has the more comfortable ride of the two. The Scorpio's new coil spring rear suspension has improved its road manners and the bouncy ride, which plagued the earlier Scorpio, has been cleaned up a bit. The ride has improved but still nowhere in the Safari's league. It doesn't feel as reassuring or as well planted as the bigger Safari and at higher speed the light steering reduces driver confidence. And while we are on the subject of confidence, we might as well tell you that the Safari's brakes lack feel and don't have enough stopping power. They also tend to fade considerably after hard use. The Scorpio's brakes, though a vast improvement over the earlier model, are no better than its rival - they lack sufficient bite and hard braking tends to unsettle the car. It's time ABS was standard on both these vehicles.

Fuel economy

The Scorpio wins both in the city and on the highway thanks to an engine that requires lesser gear changing. While the Safari returned 9.1kpl in the city, the Scorpio stretched the distance to 9.6kpl. On the highway, despite the Safari's taller gearing, it gave only 12.1kpl to the Scorpio's 13.0kpl.

Buying & ownership

At Rs 8.16 lakh for the Safari EX, the comparable Scorpio is the DX, which retails at Rs 8.02 lakh. In this trim level, the Safari comes with electric mirrors, a CD player, remote locking and front and rear fog lamps. The Scorpio DX is Rs 14,000 cheaper but doesn't come with electric mirrors and has basic interiors. In the long run however, the Scorpio has proved to be much more reliable than the Safari, while in terms of resale value, the Scorpio simply beats the Safari hollow. While the Tata Safari remains unbeatable when it comes to space, comfort and ride, it is also a better long-distance tourer than the Mahindra Scorpio. However, the Safari is beginning to look a bit dated and isn't as well screwed together or trouble-free as the Scorpio. Plus, the DiCor engine is quite a disappointment and lacks the finesse we have come to expect in a luxury SUV. The Scorpio isn't perfect either. While it lacks interior space, we can say that the new suspension, though much improved, hasn't made the Scorpio's ride and handling faultless either. But there is no doubt that it is the better vehicle of the two. The engine is outstanding and definitely better to drive. Also superior build quality, overall refinement and higher resale value undoubtedly make the Scorpio the undisputed winner in this big fight.

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