Review: Tata Safari Storme 4x4
The Tata Safari's nearly 20 years old. A good number of surgical procedures that have kept this colossal Indian boat afloat since 1998. Its last major operation was back in 2012, when the SUV got an all-new chassis and some fancy cosmetic bits and bobs. The scalpel-wielding designers at Tata are at it again, and this time around, the alterations are rather subtle.At first glance, the styling changes aren't all that easy to discern. A second look will reveal new projector lamps and a honeycomb grille reminiscent of the now-defunct Land Rover Freelander 2. The insides are much easier on the eye. The variant featured here is the top-of-the-line VX, so naturally, it comes with all the bells and whistles. What catches your attention is the new steering wheel that's a slightly bigger version of the one found in the Bolt. In a car like the Safari, it looks and feels more upmarket than ever before, and the best thing about it is that it now houses the audio and telephony controls, which means that Tata has chosen to bin the quirky stalk-mounted audio controls (a control lever which we, in our universe, would generally use to indicate a turn). The interior is dressed in a new black-and-grey dual-tone scheme that is complemented by black seat fabric. So, the interior now looks way classier than the old beige-brown affair. The Safari's cab is still one of the airiest spaces you will ever come across, with its low-slung dashboard and tons of storage space for all your knick-knacks.Tata has also changed the layout of the centre stack with silver accents around the air-con dials, and there's a new Harman stereo, which sounds great. Although you get parking sensors, we did note the absence of a reverse camera, which would've been helpful.Mechanically, the Storme remains the same, but is a better drive than before. Under the hood, you see the familiar 2.2-litre VARICOR mill, but it's now tuned to produce 148bhp and 320Nm. The 10bhp bump in output means the Safari is more responsive to throttle inputs, and gets up to triple-digit speeds much quicker. The clutch is lighter, and NVH levels have dropped, too. At city speeds, the tall gearing means you don't have to change gears very often, while its handling characteristics haven't changed at all. On the highway, it cruises effortlessly, but there's still some pitch and roll thanks to its high centre of gravity. We couldn't V-box the SUV due to time constraints, but we did note down an indicated 100kph at 2200rpm in fifth gear. Over potholes, this Storme does pass gently, but there is still a serious amount of juddering felt through the wheel over the rough stuff. The Tata retains its old five-speed 'box. It still feels notchy with its long throws, which will take some getting used to. The minute alterations have made the Safari a more polished offering on the whole. However, it doesn't come across as the leader in its class, considering its rivals offer a bit more on every front.The numbers2179cc, 4cyl, diesel, 148bhp, 320Nm, 5M, 4WD, ?9.99 lakh (ex-Delhi)The verdictThe most capable version of the Safari. But still not the best in its class.