With a new pacemaker, the old soldier marches on. It is called the Sumo Gold BSIV and comes with a relatively modern common-rail 3.0-litre diesel motor that helps it meet; you guessed it, BSIV emissions norms.
The 2956cc four-cylinder motor, which makes 83.1bhp and 25.5kgm, is essentially the old Safari’s DiCOR unit with a few modifications. That means it’s still got a 3000rpm redline, which gives you a seriously narrow powerband to work with. Its good bits include the almost zero turbo lag and reasonably strong mid-range, so you don’t need to downshift much. This is a good thing. The gaps between the gear slots are so wide; you actually have to move around in your seat to engage first. Move around, shift gears, power on and you’ll see the engine runs out of steam significantly as you cross 2500rpm. It also feels strained and sounds like you’re asking too much of it. With a full load on board, it gets worse because overtaking needs serious planning. Flat-out, the Sumo hits 100kph in a yawning 25.87 seconds but once there, it’ll cruise with relative ease. Press on and it will run into an aerodynamic wall at 121kph thanks to its brick-like shape.
Happily, it still does what it’s always done best, and that is providing stadium-like space for its occupants. There’s so much vertical space, you can climb in with your basket of chickens and not put it down. The interiors are a big step forward from the old car, but it still feels crude and old-school. Ergonomically it’s not perfect either – there is too much space between the pedals and the steering wheel is too high. Fit and finish is decent but the interior bits don’t feel well-built and even a brand new car rattles over rutted surfaces. The seats however, are comfortable, there is enough space in the middle row and the jump seats at the back can just about accommodate four.
Occupants will like the ride though – there is a bit of bounce at speed but it is never uncomfortable. The soft suspension gives the Sumo a pliant ride at low speeds and even sharp bumps are tackled with aplomb. On the highway too, it shows good composure, but road undulations tend to unsettle it.
Through corners, you can feel the Sumo’s bulk and high centre of gravity, but that is expected from such a tall car. The wide dimensions, huge turning circle, heavy steering and hard clutch do not make it ideal for city commutes. The brakes are not too bad even though there is no ABS. Sound insulation is bad too and there is too much road and tyre noise at speed.
For a large family on a budget whose only concern is running costs, the Sumo makes a decent case for itself. At Rs 6.86 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), there are few cars that match its economics. With only the Mahindra Bolero to compete with in this space, the Sumo with its decent engine, people cramming capacity and great ride is the current best in class. Mind you, that’s not saying much.