The Tata Safari has been in production since 1998. During these 17 years, the car has managed to gather a fair share of fans as well as critics. The second generation of the car was christened as the Storme and came across as a major improvement on the first generation. Now India’s largest auto maker has launched a 2015 version of the car — it looks a bit different, has a more powerful engine, and scores highly when it comes to being an off-roader.
The biggest highlight on the facelift is a Land Rover inspired front grille. Here, the idea is make the car look premium and bring out the connection between Tata Motors and Jaguar Land Rover. The front bumper has also been tweaked to a certain extent to match with this grille. The profile looks the same as before; there’s hardly any difference even on the rear. This makes you think that Tata motors certainly could’ve done a bit, if not a lot more than what they eventually did. However, Tata took 15 years to move from generation one to two, which gives us a hint that for larger changes we’ll have to wait for much longer.
The changes here, talking purely in numbers, are a lot more than the exterior. The steering wheel is the first take away from the recently launched cars from Tata — the Bolt and the Zest. The wheel is now smaller in size and is good to handle. The beige on the dash has been replaced with black-and-silver and is aesthetically appealing. A Harman system with an LCD screen has been fixed here, but there’s no touchscreen unlike the Bolt and the Zest. The quality of plastics used also feels superior in this version. The 4x4 switch now moves to the central console instead of the gear lever. There’s a rear parking sensor that is a big help as well, but frankly, a rear parking camera is a must for a car of this size. The space remains the same and jump seats continue on the third row.
The Storme still runs on a 2.2 litre Diesel engine. The difference is that now it gives more power than before (150 ps instead of 140 ps). This has made the engine more responsive and even with all the massive weight the car gives a very efficient drive. The torque is delivered in the right manner and the gearshift though not the smoothest, still manages to hold on to its own. The car runs on a five-speed manual transmission and a big improvement now is that the clutch is a lot lighter. The Storme is capable of reaching a speed of 100 kph from stationary in just under 15 seconds.
No changes have been done to the suspension settings of the new Safari Storme, and to be fair to Tata there wasn’t a need. The SUV goes over the bumps and potholes quite easily, most of them are absorbed and hardly anything bothers the car’s occupants. Handling is key in an SUV and this is where features like ABS and EBD aid in a more confident drive. The four-wheel drive system comes with electronic shift on fly and limited slip differential which promises to make the car an able off-roader, and so does a very impressive ground clearance of 200 mm. Tata has increased the capacity of the fuel tank, which means it can now go longer distances.
Unlike earlier, when Safari was the only player in the market, it has now got competition. The likes of Mahindra Scorpio and Renault Duster are breathing down its neck and that makes its task even tougher. The car is priced starting at Rs 9.99 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), and that by no means is aggressive. The car also falls short on the feature list when compared to its rivals. But it’s got its positives too which means that the roller coaster Safari journey will continue. Its fans will swear by it, and critics will keep asking for more.
Shams Naqvi is an anchor/producer for the News X motor show Living Cars.