The car which started it all, the car which made India familiar with the silhouette of a modern-day SUV. Today we go back in time and talk about one of the most iconic cars in the Indian Automotive history, the Tata Safari.
It was the year 1998 and Tata Motors already had two offerings in the chunky utility car segment, Tata Sierra and Tata Sumo which were considered somewhat of a legend themselves. It was around this time when Tata Motors brought in another contender and the trio went on to coin the popular term, Si-Su-Sa, ‘Si’ being the Sierra, ‘Su’ being the Sumo and new ‘Sa’ being the all-new Safari.
For many Indians, especially the ones growing up in that era, Tata Safari was the first taste of a true 4WD SUV that we got in the country. In fact, it was the first made-in-India 4WD SUV and has evolved to garner tremendous popularity amongst the auto enthusiasts in the country.
Tata Safari over the years
First-gen Tata Safari
Tata Safari made its debut at the 1998 Auto Expo. Its humongous proportions and those manly looks made it an instant hit. The first-gen Safari came with a 2.0 Litre turbocharged diesel engine derived from Peugeot XD88 unit earlier used in the Sierra. It produced 90BHP mated to a five-speed manual. Having a 4WD option, Safari was widely recognised for its off-road capabilities. The massive amount of ground clearance further adding to the that go anywhere factor.
Safari’s strong character was one of its kind back in the day and there wasn’t any other car that could stand toe-to-toe with its stature. The road presence of the car was so strong that it made the traffic around it look petite and insignificant. It was the first time that the Indian market got familiar with the concept of climbing into the car as opposed to the conventional way of sitting in the car. All these factors made it very popular amongst the “movers and shakers” around the country. It was a politician’s favourite ride and has been a part of the PM convoy for a long time.
Its capabilities made it very popular amongst the auto enthusiasts of the time. Tata Motors sold a great number of Safari cars during its initial run despite a price tag of Rs.8.25 lakhs which was considered hefty back in the day.
In 2003, Safari was also introduced with a 2.1 Litre straight-4 N/A petrol engine producing 135BHP.
Second-gen Safari Dicor
The Safari had a great initial run with its popularity increasing along the way. But now arch-rival had also been breathing down its neck in the shape of the Mahindra Scorpio. So Tata Motors in 2005 gave an update to the existing Safari and the Safari Dicor was launched. It came with updated cosmetic changes on the exterior and refreshed interiors.
Under the hood, it housed 3.0 Litre turbo-diesel Dicor engine derived from the Tata 407 commercial vehicle. It produced 116 BHP and 300NM of torque and was mated to a 5-speed manual. It was priced competitively at Rs.6.40 lakhs to take the fight against the Mahindra Scorpio.
In 2007, Tata further updated the Dicor with even fresher aesthetics, new headlamp cluster, new front grille and interior updates. The high-end trim even came with a host of features. These included dual airbags, ABS with EBD and rear AC vents. That’s not all, there was a DVD player with LCD screens at the front headrests for entertainment. It came with an all-new 2.2 Litre version of the Dicor tech engine producing 140BHP and 320NM of torque. This version was on sale from 2007 to 2012.
Tata Safari Storme
The biggest revamp that the Safari got was showcased at the 11th Auto Expo in 2012 named the Safari Storme. The Safari Storme had sharper looks, sporty front and rear profile and the design language based on Tata’s X2 platform was very appealing to the enthusiasts. With the Storme, the Safari got another engine update, a new 2.2 Litre Varicor engine producing 150BHP and 320NM torque.
2015, witnessed the Storme getting a more powerful 2.2 Litre Varicor 400 engine, producing 156BHP and a massive 400NM of torque. This variant also got new styling cues inspired by
the Land Rovers. The Safari Storme came in both 2WD and 4WD options.
The Safari Storme GS800 | Indian Army
After being a commercial success and critically acclaimed vehicle by Tata Motors for several years. The Safari Storme went on to prove its metal and served the Indian Army. Tata Motors was commissioned by the Indian Army to produce special versions of the Safari Storme as the official vehicle for the Army. Named the GS800, it came with bullet-proofing and offered additional payload capacity, power and torque figures to conquer the rough trials and high-altitude roads for the Army.
Phasing out of the Safari
With the emergence of various modern-age mid-size SUVs and transition of the market towards the new and revolutionary compact SUVs, the Safari simply began to seem dated against all the potential the Market had now.
After the emergence of BS6 norms, Tata Motors gradually faded out the Moniker somewhere around 2019. Tata Gravitas which was showcased at the 2020 Auto Expo is expected to take Safari’s place in the Indian car market.
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