labels: Automotive
A life reclaimed: Tata Safari DICOR 2.2 VTT news
05 December 2007

''''Reclaim your life!'''' – prompts the Tata Safari DICOR 2.2 VTT commercial, and you feel like doing just that when you behold this beauty and beast ride roughshod over life''s little problems. Just be careful that there''s no one in the way.

The Tata Safari exudes presence, the same feeling that a lion conveys when it steps amidst a herd of gazelles – ''''get out of my way, or…''''. However, this is nothing new.

Successive generations of Tata Safaris have managed to convey that sense of power and magnificence ever since it was introduced as far back as 1998 in Turbo Diesel form. It has undergone suitable modifications over the years, most notably in 2005 with the introduction of the 3.0L DICOR engine (which is just another way of saying common rail direct injection; just rearrange the words). However, with regard to its outward appearance, nothing much has changed. But then, ''''if it ain''t broke, why fix it?''''

The Tata Safari may give the impression of being an old warhorse, but so is the AK-47. And as any experienced infantryman will tell you, if you are looking for an inexpensive, maintenance-free, dependable, operational assault-rifle, few can match up to the good old warhorse first introduced to the world in 1947 (hence, the name), by Mikhail Kalashnikov. Such is the case with India''s first homegrown SUV, the Tata Safari.

In its latest avatar, the Safari has had a change of heart, literally. A new engine now pumps oil through its veins  – the highly efficient, very responsive 2.2L DICOR with a specially designed turbocharger using Variable Turbine Technology (VTT). This engine is the USP of this latest offering from the Tata stable, because most of the other features have been carried over from the previous 3.0L model. The new Safari was launched in October this year and has already notched up impressive sales numbers.

What you first notice about the Tata Safari is its distinctive presence. The sole reason that the designer guys at Tata Motors haven''t tinkered with the looks for a decade is simple – it sells! For anyone going for a SUV, looks are definitely important. And by looks, we don''t mean the pretty-boy Orlando Bloom-type, but the rugged, craggy features of the Clint Eastwood of old. And this vehicle almost seems to say, ''''You feelin'' lucky punk? C''mon make my day!'''' The auto-rickshaw drivers we encountered on our test-drive didn''t want to argue the point and swiftly made way for the marauding beast.

Only the Mitsubishi Pajero has comparable road-presence (we will leave the Hummers out of this), and it costs almost double. Among its competitors, the Toyota Innova looks feminine in comparison, and the Mahindra Scorpio seems a wannabe. In this category, the Tata Safari is the clear winner in this segment.

The masculine look is further highlighted by the jazzy spare wheel cover and the new front grill with chrome effect, the chrome sadly lacking in the base LX version. The stylized roof rails and the standard rear spoiler with brake-lamp further lend authority to its dignified presence.

However, as with most of the things in life, and especially with Tata products, not everything is hunky-dory. The department where the Safari loses out to the Innova is the interiors. Sure it offers the maximum room in its class, agreed it has height-adjustable front seats, but the quality of the plastics, or rather lack of it, leaves much to be desired. The interior fittings don''t seem befitting a 10-lakh vehicle – uneven panel gaps, improper positioning of switches and overall lack of refinement are some of the grouses. The wood-finish centre console on the top-end VX version also suffers from a noticeable lack of class. The rear jump seats are distinctly uncomfortable, quite a contrast to the third row in the Innova.

On the positives, the AC is a chiller, and the mid-range EX and top-end VX versions come equipped with rear ACs. The rear AC is not merely a vent but incorporates additional cooling coils, and provides the back seat passenger with a comfortable experience. In fact, the brochure actually states, ''''The front seats may be the centre of the action but the rear seats are where the comfort is''''. With maximum legroom, headroom and shoulder room in its class, a long drive for the rear seat passengers ensconced in their contoured seats is no taxing affair.

As said earlier, the USP is the engine. Giving more ''''bang for the buck'''' than the earlier 3.0L, the 2.2L DICOR delivers an incredible peak power of 140 bhp and a maximum torque of 320 Nm. This not only beats the 115 bhp delivered by the older Safari, but also puts the Scorpio''s 116 bhp and the Innova''s 102 bhp outputs to the shade.
Even allowing for the 2-ton weight, the powerful engine manages to propel the vehicle to 100 kmph from rest in an impressive 16.2 seconds, notching up a top speed of 152 kmph, a full ten more than its earlier avatar.

This remarkable engine is operated by a 32-bit electronic control unit, which also ''''lowers emission and fuel consumption by a few notches'''', or so Tata claims. This claim is borne out by its extraordinary fuel efficiency of 14.4 km/litre on the highway, quite an improvement over the earlier 12.8 km/litre. This matches the Innova''s much-admired fuel-efficiency while at the same time overhauling the Scorpio''s 13.9 km/litre, and confirms to Bharat Stage III emission standards.

As regards safety, the Safari is well equipped for its class. Although ABS (anti-lock braking system) with EBD (electronic brake force distribution), and front dual airbags are offered only on the top-end VX variant, the vehicle comes with ''''anti-submarine seats'''' and three-stage collapsible steering column as standard equipment. It also features side impact bars and crumple zones, and the electric and fuel-feed systems have been so designed as to minimize fires. The Safari has been tested and certified as per 74/297/EEC (European Regulations).

Tata Motors has incorporated some innovative, helpful new features in the Tata Safari DICOR 2.2 VTT. One of these is the attractively named ''''Follow-me-home'''' feature, which keeps the headlights on for 30 seconds after the car is locked remotely, thus ensuring that ''''you aren''t left in the dark''''.

Another useful addition is the ''''Parking lot car-locator'''' which switches on the roof light when the car is unlocked remotely. These features are part of standard equipment on all variants. The top-end VX version has an additional weatherproof camera mounted below the rear licence-plate that provides a clear view to the rear of the vehicle, with the image showing up on a part of the internal rear view mirror. They call it the ''''Reverse Guide System'''' and it proves to be very useful when manoeuvering a behemoth like the Safari in congested parking spaces.

The Safari is available in two-wheel and four-wheel drive versions, with the latter exhibiting considerable off-roading capability. With its high ground clearance and high departure angles, potholes on Indian roads do not pose much of a problem. With the 4X4 version, a ''''Shift-On-Fly'''' mechanism engages the four-wheel drive and the ''''Limited Slip Differential'''' mechanism enables the axle to provide traction on muddy roads. This beast is also available in a gamut of innovatively named colours – mountain green, passion red, arctic white, pearl white, light gold, cycus grey, quartz black, arctic silver and steel blue.

The vehicle is quite steady at high speeds owing to its huge weight, but the slight roll, which has been the bane of the Safari, has not yet been fully eliminated. However, the handling is excellent, almost matching up to the refined driving characteristics of the Innova.

One possible problem is the low steering feedback, which, though quite comfortable in city limits, may pose dangerous during highway cruising. With this Safari, Tata Motors has returned to the usual position for the reverse gear, something it had changed in the older version. The vehicle comes with a new improved warranty of two years or 75,000 km, whichever comes earlier, extendable by two more years at an additional price of Rs.6000 odd.

The Tata Safari DICOR 2.2 VTT is attractively priced at Rs7.50 lakh (LX), Rs8.65 lakh (EX), and Rs10.62 lakh (VX) for the three variants in Mumbai, ex-showroom. These prices are for the 4X2 versions. The 4X4 versions of the EX and VX variants cost a lakh more approximately. If you are looking for a SUV with a considerable presence but one that won''t leave a considerable hole in your pocket, one that will eat up potholes but not drink too much fuel, then this is definitely the vehicle to go for. The high sales figures seem to indicate that people are rushing to ''''reclaim their lives''''.

A comparison of the base versions of the Tata Safari and its two main competitors, the Mahindra Scorpio and the Toyota Innova, is given below:

Parameters Tata Safari 4X2 LX DICOR 2.2 VTT Toyota Innova 2.5 EV MS Mahindra Scorpio W Turbo 2.6 LX
Overall length 4810 mm 4555 mm 4495 mm
Overall width 1810 mm 1770 mm 1817 mm
Overall height 1925 mm 1755 mm 1975 mm
Wheelbase 2650 mm 2750 mm 2680 mm
Ground clearance 195 mm 176 mm 180 mm
Front track 1500 mm NA 1450 mm
Rear track 1470 mm NA 1450 mm
Front headroom 1000 mm 950 mm 965 mm
Front legroom 2020 mm 1028 mm 1090 mm
Boot space 981 litre 758 litre 460 litre
Kerb weight 2040 kg 1545 kg 1910 kg
Fuel tank capacity 65 litre 55 litre 60 litre
Fuel efficiency      
Mileage (city) 10.7 km/litre 10.6 km/litre 9.4 km/litre
Mileage (highway) 14.4 km/litre 14.4 km/litre 13.9 km/litre
Mileage 11.6 km/litre 11.6 km/litre 10.4 km/litre
Maximum speed 152 Km/Hour 151 Km/Hour 149 Km/Hour
0-100 kmph 16.2 seconds 17.6 seconds 19.2 seconds
80-0 kmph NA 29.7 metres 44.6 metres
Engine type 2.2L 16-V DOHC VTT DICOR 2.5 Liter, 4-cyl, 16-V, DOHC, Turbo CRDe, 4 stroke, Turbo, Intercooled
Displacement 2179 cc 2494 cc 2609 cc
Power 140bhp@ 4000 rpm 102bhp@ 5600 rpm 116bhp@ 3800 rpm
Torque 320Nm@ 1700 rpm 200Nm@ 3400rpm 277m@1700rpm
No. of cylinders 4 cylinder 4 cylinder 4 cylinder
Transmission type Manual Manual Manual
Gears/Speeds 5 Gears 5 Gears 5 Gears
Front suspension Independent double wishbone with torsion bar Independent, coil spring, double wishbone, with stabilizer Independent, coil spring, anti roll bar
Rear suspension 5 link suspension with coil springs 4-link coil springs Compound link crank-axle with coil springs, anti-roll bar, gas shock absorbers
Front brakes Ventilated discs Ventilated discs Ventilated discs
Rear brakes Drum Drum Drum
Wheel type Steel Steel Steel
Wheel size 16inch 15inch 16inch
Tyres 235/70 R16 105S 205/65 R 15 tubeless 235x70 R16 tubeless
Price (Mumbai) Rs.7.50 lakh Rs.7.20 lakh Rs.7.31 lakh

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A life reclaimed: Tata Safari DICOR 2.2 VTT