The Safari showed up at the Autocar office with just 150km on the clock and that means one thing — we have to run the engine in properly. There’s a line of thought that says modern engines with their closer tolerances don’t need as much care during the run-in period. Still, doing so does allow it to bed in better and give you better long-term performance.
I usually find the entire running-in process quite frustrating. But I must say, over the past few days in Mumbai, I find driving the Safari at middling speeds quite a nice experience. The 2.2-litre DiCOR motor is torquey enough at low revs and I had forgotten what a commanding view the Storme affords its driver. The driving position is, in fact, far better than an XUV500 and even a Fortuner because the seats are high, the dashboard and bonnet are low, the pillars are slim and the windows are, frankly, massive.
I’m also excited that our Storme is the 4x4 version, complete with a low-range transfer case and, like all Tatas that use a part-time 4WD system, comes equipped with a Limited Slip Differential at the rear. The Safari’s off-road prowess is a mystery to me as I haven’t ever taken it to the limits I have managed with the Thar. But it should be interesting despite the long overhangs, the rampover angle and the weight.
For now though, plans for the Storme are limited to on-road duties and that, I’m guessing, will involve plenty of Mumbai traffic and a few highway trips. I know it’s a competent highway car — I drove one from China to India on the return leg of the last BCIM rally and I know that the Safari is quite stable at speed, as long as you don’t demand extreme direction changes from it.
Other initial impressions are of a notchy first gear, the absence of a dead pedal and ergonomics that are a bit off. The power window switches, for example, are placed a tad too far back on the armrest.
Our VX 4x4 costs Rs 16.2 lakh on-road in Mumbai, and that is expensive. For that price you expect more sophisticated interiors. Tata has kept the interiors simple, and a bit too simple at that. You expect more than the ancient-looking single-DIN audio that comes standard with it, you expect climate control and, if you’ve been in its competition, you expect a lot more features. The audio system in this one, for example, has Bluetooth connectivity, but not the ability to play Bluetooth audio.
There is a bright side though. Tata has a list of accessories for the Storme and I’ve already asked for a few. The nudge guard for the front looks good, and I’m planning to get a pair of foglamps mounted on it (I’m not a huge fan of the new grille and the foglamps will cover it partly). I also want that nice 2-DIN touchscreen system that, I think, adds features like the reverse camera and Bluetooth audio streaming.
For now though, I’m reacquainting myself with all the things I’ve always loved about the Safari and getting a feel of the brand-new Aria-based chassis. Will keep you updated.
Maintenance costs: None