There are a few great things to come from India.
Besides historical monuments like the Taj Mahal, Sachin Tendulkar, and a vast range of delectable spicy dishes, they have a hidden gem in Mahindra.
The brand first placed its roots in South Africa back in 2004, delivering its first offerings to the public with the Bolero Pik-up and seven-seater Scorpio SUV. In 2020, they’re launching the automatic version of their popular Pik Up bakkie, called the S11.
South Africa is the first country on a global scale to launch the bakkie officially and, with that, reaffirms Mahindra's good standing locally. After tough years in the beginning stages, Mahindra has become the fastest-growing OEM brand in the country, with a 28.7% growth in 2019. What a milestone and needless to say, they have gone from strength to strength.
The Pik Up was first introduced back in 2017, very much a new kid on the block. When you think bakkie, the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger comes to mind as they are well out in front and setting the pace in the segment. The aim with the Pik Up is not to overthrow those stalwarts in one go, but to consistently snap up new or existing customers and eat into the market share, as well.
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New and improved
So more on the star of the show. The very first thing that catches your eye is the design tweaks compared to the previous model. The black-infused chrome grille and front bumper grab your attention from the off with headlights continuing the design flow upfront.
The Karoo version features a bit more visual appeal with extras like ‘Karoo’ side door decals, a lockable roller deck system, nudge bar, rubberised load bay, and beefier black and chrome wheels, which is priced at R399 999 for the 4x2 and R429 999 for the 4x4. Mahindra first launched the Karoo Special Edition late in 2018 to celebrate the successful opening of its local assembly facility in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.
The model we drove on launch was the double cab S11 AT 4x2 mated to the brand-new six-speed automatic gearbox. Under the bonnet lies the capable turbocharged 2.2-litre mHawk engine with an output of 103kW and 320Nm, which is used in each model in the line-up. As far as fuel consumption goes, it uses 7.9-litres of fuel every 100km, according to Mahindra SA.
Heightened seating position
Once you find yourself perched on the driver seat, you get a heightened seating position and full view of the road. The 210mm ground clearance translates to a more robust stance and would be put to the test in a bit of off-road testing in the mountains.
On the inside, you are greeted by a leather-wrapped, multi-function steering wheel and a dashboard section with plastic finishes that houses a seven-inch touch screen infotainment system that offers Bluetooth connectivity turn-by-turn navigation as standard. For the first time, the S11 also sees the addition of a new reverse camera.
Added safety and convenience features include automatic climate control system, cruise control, two airbags, 12V power points for the front and rear occupants, traction control, electric windows with an automatic up/down mode on the front windows and automatically locking doors.
How does it drive?
Right from the get-go, the first test was to see if the new gearbox was up to the test, and on a long stretch of tar road, it impressed. The transition between gears is smooth and refined, no lag of any sort, and puts down the power, so you feel every inch of that 320Nm.
After spending about an hour on tar, it was time to see if the Pik Up could puff its chest in some of the most treacherous off-road terrain. With protruding rocks and deep trenches lying in wait around every corner, it just kept going, and this was in a 4x2. Its heavy-duty Cushion suspension took the hits, and mechanical differential lock (MLD) comes to the fore when a loss of traction is experienced. It boasts a carrying capacity of 995kg in the 4x4 and 1095kg in the 4x2.
When asked about an electric version for the local market, Mahindra CEO Rajesh Gupta says there are plenty of factors that have to be considered, but as of yet, there is nothing imminent in the pipeline for SA.
Both S11 models come with a standard four-year / 120 000km technical warranty and free Roadside Assistance plan. It also has a comprehensive service plan for five-years or 100 000km.