20 years or so ago, the Tata Safari was the first big bad SUV for the Indian market. In all respects, the Safari was India’s first premium SUV. 20 or so years hence, the Tata Safari is still around and somehow still manages to be relevant. In fact, if you look back into the history of Tata motors, you would realize that Safari has forever been the point of reference for the brand. Yes, there was India's of old, but the true blue Indian still connect the brute presence of Safari with Tata and it’s Over all these years, Tata has kept on doing enough to keep this iconic nameplate alive in the market. In its latest avatar, this still big burly SUV is called the Tata Safari Storme Varicor 400.
The Safari was updated in its current form in 2015 when Tata decided to introduce the then new 2.2 liters inline four-cylinders turbocharged diesel engine. This engine made a decent 155bhp and a peak torque rating of 400Nm, and it was called Varicor 400. The same engine eventually came out with the Tata Hexa and the Safari was basically the test bed to fine tune it for Tata’s big-ticket Hexa.
You can still find huge similarities between the original Safari from 20 plus years back and the present day one. The designers and engineers at Tata have to manage to keep the old SUV’s behemoth size and street presence alive. However, over the years, a lot has changed underneath the skin and the Safari has lived on in search of brighter pastures. The exterior is still butch, the bonnet is still high and is bestowed with a huge front grille that still gets the thick chrome strip with Storme engraved in it. The new headlight that now has projectors look sleek and lend purposefully and mean stance to the SUV. The rear remains close to the classic minimalist design, it does not offend anyone nor does grab attention. There is no doubt that Tata iconic lines of the Safari still command attention and look handsome. However, you still can’t get away from the fact that it’s a 20-year-old design. Had it not been for Tata’s constant but minor updates and our love for its lines, it was effectively equal to a relic.
Inside the cabin, the Safari Storme greets you with a known ambiance. Even though there aren’t any modern touches and gimmicks around, you will not feel let down by a simple uncluttered dashboard design. The cabin ergonomics of the Safari had always been decent and there is nothing specific to complain about here as well. The hugely effective Tata ac is still around with the knobs to control it being big and handy. Though not very modern, the Storme’s dashboard land the protruding central console does look uncluttered and ergonomics are decent. The protruding center console is neatly designed and the large air-con knobs are easy to use. The music system, placed in the lower compartment of the console is provided by Harman and ha a decent sound quality output. However, newer humans would find the urge to look out for some touchscreens to play with, sadly they will be disappointed. The steering Safari Storme Varicor 400 is the same one that I used on the Tata Bolt. It is small in diameter and adds sporty appeal to the interior. The meters are clean and easy to the eyes. The advances in Tata’s fit and finish jobs are evident since the cabin quality is surprisingly much better than one would expect. In fact, when compared to its only direct rival, the Mahindra Scorpio, the Safari’s cabin is indeed a far better place to be in. Since it is a Tata Safari, everything is big about it. The seats are large and comfy and offer great support for long-haul drives. The driver's viewpoint still remains perched high and in command. The view outside itself remains clear and big owing to the high seat and low dash combination. The middle row is as vast as it can get and makes one wonder why the Safari still carries on to be among the best long-haul vehicles in the price bracket. The jump seats at the back are, however, cramped, torturous and are meant for emergency situations only. That’s aid, fold the middle row and you still can shift a bachelors pad easily across the country in it. Gladly, Tata offers dual airbags and ABS as standard on all variants.
The new Varicor 400 engine brings with it an increase of just 6bhp but gets a massive 80Nm boost over the previous diesel mill. The outputs stand at 155bhp and a staggering 400Nm of peak torque that arrives as early as just 1750rpm. This new engine also arrives with a new 6-Speed manual gearbox as well. The gear ratios are shorter on this new engine thereby reducing the need for lesser shifts at slow speeds. On the other hand, the gearing for the top gear is pretty tall helping this two-ton-plus SUV do 100kmph at just 2000rpm. That said, a bit of engine vibration due creep into your hands through the lever. It is also more than a second faster in terms of 0 to 100kmph times.
On the ride quality front, the Tata Safari was always the king of the road, the Safari Storme even more so. This continues with the latest Varicor 400 as well. It flows over most small undulations on the roads as is it is hovering over them. The high speed, especially in straight, still remains stable and firm. As far as you don’t get too excited to enter a corner bit too fast, you will do well with the Safari’s handling and ride quality. Another factor that one must not forget is that the Safari was not just for the roads, it was for when there were none. For the same Tata still offers a proper four-wheel drive on the safari Storme variants while the standard two-wheel drive variants are still available.
Available in a choice of two or four wheels drive, the Tata Safari Storme is sold in a total of four variants. The prices start from INR 10.40 Lakhs for the base model and go up to to the top spec four-wheel drive model that retails at INR 16 Lakhs. It competes with Mahindra Scorpio, Renault Duster, and Mahindra XUV500 among others.
Iconic nameplate. Still commands respect. Still got street presence. Brilliant Ride Quality. Powerful Engine.
Too long in the tooth now. Deserves a brand new grounds up redesign. A bit expensive.