What do you do when you want to relax? This ain’t an interview question but then a general one. Many would say that they watch TV, catch up with friends and blah blah blah. My personal way to unwind is to go on long rides or drives and that too alone. Not everyone gets the privilege to do so. But then your choice of wheels also decide if you are going to office or just unwinding. Think of any car and you would be hard pressed for choices for a set of wheels which would do both the chores with ease. My choice of wheels would have been a Tata Safari. The reason been that it does look like an expensive vehicle which can be taken out on weekends and even regularly for office. Why not a Scorpio? Just because it is too intimidating for everyday use. Just to check the same thing, I got a loan Tata Safari Dicor from Tata Motors. This vehicle was with the Indiandrives team for a week. Now, the Tata Safari Dicor in India needs no introduction since it has been famously associated with carrying many dignitaries as well as not so much distinguished people. So here is the review of the SUV which changed the mindset of the Indian car buying public.
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The Tata Safari 2010 model would be the last one to sport this design. It has been often reported that the Tata Safari 2011 model would be a complete revamp though the engine option will remain the same. The Tata Safari Dicor model that I had was the 2010 model. The looks of the SUV have remained virtually unchanged from the time it was introduced in the Indian market. The grille is the typical chrome unit with the Tata logo on it. The head lamps over the years have become clear lens units. The fog lamps are placed in the bumper of this vehicle and have a unique triangular shape to them. There is an aluminium skid plate located underneath the bumper signifying the SUV’s off-road capabilities.
The ground clearance of 205 mm is amply demonstrated from the side view. The 235/70 R16 tyre size of this SUV fills the wheel arches well. Moreover, the alloy wheel design has also remained more or less the same from yesteryears. The rear end also hasn’t undergone much change, more or less it has become curvy now. There is now a rear wiper. The spare wheel position has changed over the years and now it is back on the rear hatch. The chunky reflectors are now on the bumpers. On the rear climb cladding, there is a camera.
This is where the sea change over the years have happened. If you happen to go over any automobile forums, you would realize that people are complaining of bad quality interiors which have a problem withstanding the rigors of time, bad plastics and the likes, in the Tata Safari. But then, I can tell you that Tata Motors are changing big time. Don’t trust me, have a look at the Tata Aria and you would come to know. Hop onto the interiors of the Tata Safari Dicor 2010 and you would realize that the interiors have actually changed. No, they still have a lot of catching up to do as far as the Germans are considered but I would still consider it as a stepping stone. The leather seats are the best this side of the Honda CR-V. I very much doubt if the Honda would retain its post as having the best seats in the business.
The 4 spoke steering wheel feels good to hold but then unlike the Mahindra Scorpio, it doesn’t boast of steering mounted audio controls. It has got that two slightly oval dials for the instrument cluster. Touch the surfaces and the softness from the materials is evident but then prod them and you would realize that they are made of hard substances. The central fascia boasts of a cheap looking (like the Logan) aluminium inserts. The gear stick lever is housed in a pod surrounded by aluminium inserts. For a 6 footer, adjusting into the seats of any car is a problem. But then not in the Tata Safari. Behind the front head rests for the middle row of passengers, there are DVD screens. The single CD changer system boasts of AUX and USB input. The sound output was good but then if this was my personal vehicle, for a lifestyle image, I would put in more speakers or upgrade the unit. The rear seats are the best in the business.There is a central arm rest now for the passengers. AC vents from the pillars help cool the atmosphere inside pretty quickly. The last row of seats are opposite facing ones with hinges. With all row of seats been used, there is practically only 120 liters of boot space but then fold the seats and tumble down the middle row and you get a humongous 1380 liters of boot space.
Handling and ride quality
The Tata Safari 2010 model has torsion bar up front with independent double wishbones and at the rear, coil spring suspension with 5 links. The Tata Safari in India is built on the body on ladder frame used typically for SUVs. The steering wheel in the earlier Tata Safaris was vague enough but not in the 2010 model. It has got some feedback dialed into it at high speeds. Piloting the Tata Safari around in town is quite a handful. This can be attributed to the heavy front end and the DICOR engine’s weight. If you go with less expectations from this vehicle, the more happy you would be. Due to its top heavy nature, this SUV rolls and then rolls some more while going around a fast corner. Don’t be fooled by its big tyres. I actually saved myself from an accident during one of those hooligan antics that I was trying on this SUV. Thank God. The shift on fly 4×4 mode doesn’t want you to stop the SUV and then engage it. As the name suggests, you can shift it on the go with no speed restrictions.
The best thing that you can expect is the ride quality. It is top notch and all smothering. Be it in the town or on the highway, nothing can ruffle the Tata Safari’s chassis. The best thing is that the engine is also quiet till the 100 kmph mark but then onwards it takes on a gruff note. Unlike the Indigo XL where you put the blower on full speed and it becomes noisy at the rear, the Safari’s unit is muted enough. Under heavy braking duress, the vehicle has a tendency to pitch and bob.
Engine, performance and fuel efficiency
Tata Motors have done well to remove the older 3 liter as well as 3 liter diesel engines, not to forget the 2 liter petrol engine as well from the Tata Safari’s arsenal. It now gets a single 2.2 liter VTT DICOR engine. It is a 16 valve unit which produces 140 Bhp of peak power @ 4000 rpm and a huge 320 Nm of torque from as low as 1700 rpm. It is mated to a 5 speed manual transmission. Gone is the lazy demeanor of the earlier motors, this motor actually shows an eagerness. Where words like the sleeping giant were used for the earlier motors, this one is entirely different. The 0-100 kmph mark is decimated in only 15.8 seconds whereas the top speed that it punches stands at 158 kmph. The best thing that this motor does is, cruise all day long at 100 kmph. The gearshifts are still a bit rubbery as well as long but then the ratios are optimised. To overcome the slight turbo lag, the first three gears are paired shortly whereas the last two are a slight long to help in cruising comfortably. Idle was a bit of gravelly but when the SUV did warm up, the noise vanished.
Brakes, a Tata’s time honored problem has been rectified to quite an extent but then it still remains. The travel is long before anything actually happens. But then shove them hard and the wheels won’t lock up as in the earlier models. This is due to the presence of ABS and EBD. The ABS hasn’t been exactly calibered to be a perfect unit. So relying only on the ABS to sort out things would infact make the situation worse. Safety has gone up notches with 2 air bags, collapsible steering column, tailor banked metal sheets and the 3 point seat belts. Not to forget the reverse camera as well.
Fuel efficiency has increased manifold with the Tata Safari DICOR engine now boasting of 11.2 kmpl in city and 16.4 kmpl on the highway.
The Tata Safari DICOR in India is an example of how a homegrown SUV can take on the likes of foreign ones. It is a complete product and one which boasts of having a feature list long enough to rival the Skoda Yeti. It has that superb off-roading mechanism. The fly in the ointment would be the reliability factor, plastic and build quality. Tata Motors have done well to eliminate most of the turbo lag present in this vehicle and have also got the Tata Safari to have a nice ride quality. The Safari now feels nice to drive. With all this legacy behind it, the Tata Safari 2011 model would have an uphill task. In a bid to clear the existing stock of the old Tata Safaris, the company have slashed prices across the range. The Tata Safari price starts from Rs 7,15,165 to Rs 11,84,504. All these prices are ex-show room, Mumbai. The Tata Safari price would be the single factor as of now due to which it may be selling in good numbers for the company. There are 12 variants of this SUV and all have material as well as 4×4 platform difference.
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