Tata Safari Storme SUV Review – 2012 Road Test Drive

The new 2012 Tata Safari Storme SUV is out! The Tata Safari SUV has been around for a long time, almost a decade and a half. First beginning life as a well equipped Indian SUV that has been within the reach of the middle class SUV buyer, the Safari has come to become a cult of sorts with a steady set of owners who swear by their Safaris. Though not as big a seller, as say the Mahindra Scorpio, the Safari has always been that SUV for the discerning buyer who likes to stand out. In that vein, the Safari has had a streak of individuality about it, be it the very first 2 Liter TCIC diesel engined version to the latest 2.2 Liter VariCor turbo diesel motor engined model.

2012 Tata Safari Storme SUV

2012 Tata Safari Storme SUV Front

Constant refreshes and facelifts apart, the Safari has motored on with the basic, if we may add instantly recognizable, shape continuing pretty much unchanged. In its latest iteration, an iteration in which the Safari gets its most comprehensive facelift ever, the  Safari Storme does bring plenty of new stuff to the table. We just sampled the Safari Storme in a variety of conditions, from stomach churning twisties to true blue SUV territory and then some. Here’s how we felt about the now iconic Tata Safari, in the Storme spec. 

On first glance, the Tata Safari Storme has Safari written all over it as the butch design, with loads of street presence continues to dominate the streetscape. But one also does realize that there’s plenty of new stuff in the Safari Storme when it comes to the looks front. Talking of which, Tata Motors has effected a brand new design language on the Safari Storme, which seems to take plenty of cues from the Land Rovers, which Tata now owns. The Safari’s front is now flatter with the bonnet falling sharply at the point where it meets the headlamps.  The headlamps themselves get projectors and flared ends adding aggression up front.

2012 Tata Safari Storme SUV

2012 Tata Safari Storme SUV Profile

The profile though remains unmistakably Safari even as the tail gate is now flatter than ever before, once again subtly hinting at a Land Rover. Unlike the older Safari, the new model sees the spare wheel neatly tucked underneath the car, leading to a cleaner tail. This change has much to do with the Safari Storme now using the hydroformed body-on-ladder chassis borrowed from the Aria. Also, the SUV gets new tail lamps, new cladding and plenty of chrome to add to the effect. All in all, the Safari Storme is one handsome looker with plenty of street presence to boot and Safari fans and prospective buyers won’t be disappointed.

2012 Tata Safari Storme SUV

2012 Tata Safari Storme SUV Rear

Getting a move and stepping into the Safari, one is greeted with a cabin that is a quantum leap over the older model. While the older Safari’s build quality and the quality of materials used on the inside left a lot to be desired, the Safari Storme impressed with a brand new dashboard that gets soft touch plastics, a wood insert running across the dashboard and much improved fit and finish levels. The SUV also gets satin door handles, wood inserts on the doors which also better quality insides. The generous use of leather on the Safari Storme’s seats along with good bolstering means that the Safari’s front seats are very comfortable places to be in.

2012 Tata Safari Storme SUV

2012 Tata Safari Storme SUV Dashboard

Being a Tata Motors product, an airy spaciousness is what that greets you on the Safari Storme and this spaciousness carries on to the middle row of the SUV, which is as high as the front seats. This also means that the middle seat passengers have an equally commanding view of the road and this is a small but crucial detail that will make long journeys a breeze in the Safari Storme. Features wise, the top end variant of the Safari gets a DVD player that should keep the passengers happy while a roof mounted air conditioning vents run by the automatic climate control unit keeps the cabin cool despite the large glass area. While the Safari is a 7 seater, the last two seats placed in the boot are side facing jump seats.

The jump seats are no good for longer distances and are best used for short trips. The 2012 Safari Storme SUV is loaded right from the base EX variant, which gets ABS, an Audio Unit, a Bluetooth Unit and remote locking, which are standard features across the range. The top end variant gets the DVD player, twin airbags, a 4X4 system with electric shift on the fly, reverse parking sensors and a reverse camera which is mounted on the inner rear view mirror. The Safari Storme is well speced but some buyers might want more goodies in the SUV given that Tata is asking no less than 13.66 lakhs for the top end VX 4X4 model. So, this essentially means that the pricing is something that is on the higher side.

2012 Tata Safari Storme SUV

2012 Tata Safari Storme SUV Rear Seat

Coming to how much Tata has managed to refine the Safari Storme over the older Safari, the key lies in the hydroformed chassis that the automaker has used as the underpinnings of the new Safari Storme. This chassis that Tata has borrowed from the Aria and other weight saving changes has enabled Tata to reduce the weight of the Safari Storme by 75 kilograms and this is sizeable number. The chassis mated to a well sorted independent suspension layout endows the Safari Storme with an excellent ride quality that smothers bad roads into submission while delivering a carpet like quality on most other surfaces.

2012 Tata Safari Storme SUV

2012 Tata Safari Storme SUV tackling obstacles

However, the Safari Storme is still a top heavy SUV that does exhibit body roll when pushed hard around corners although this is very well controlled and light years ahead of Mahindra vehicles like the Scorpio or the Xylo and even for that matter, the XUV500. Some amount of pitching is what you still get with the Safari Storme and this perhaps is due to the suspension set up to deliver an excellent ride. In a nutshell, the Safari is a good handler and a superb rider in the Indian luxury SUV world this side of 20 big ones. Also, the new steering system with a wider rack reduces turning radius significantly, to 5.4 meters and this is a big relief for tight U-turns, something that was extremely cumbersome in the older model.

2012 Tata Safari Storme SUV

2012 Tata Safari Storme SUV tackling a steep decline

Slipping into the high, commanding seating position of the SUV and turning the key to start the engine, what is immediately apparent is a smoother idle. Tata Motors has revamped the gearbox casing of the G76 MKII gearbox to ensure that noise, vibration and harshness(NVH) levels of the engine-transmission is reduced to the maximum extent. The result is smoother performance and the Safari’s eager 2.2 Liter turbo diesel engine will be happy to munch miles all day long with enough overtaking power and torque on tap.

The engine of the Tata Safari Storme has seen plenty of working upon by Tata Motors who claim to have reduced friction by coating the engine internals with low friction materials. The 2.2 Liter VariCor turbo diesel engine that is equipped with a variable geometry turbo charger does feel more free revving on the Safari Storme than the DICOR unit of the older Safari. This engine, which produces 138 Bhp of peak power and 320 Nm of peak torque is mated to a 5 speed manual gearbox. Though Tata Motors has claimed that the gearbox is a big improvement, the Safari Storme that we drove came with notchy shifting although the gear throw is now shorter.

The Safari Storme did feel faster than the older model and Tata Motors even claims a 0-100 Kph sprint in 15 seconds, which is very respectable for the Safari’s girth. Expect the Safari to do a top speed in excess of 140 Kph and the cherry on the cake is that the Safari Storme feels very planted at high speeds too. On the fuel efficiency front, Tata Motors claims that the Safari 4X2 will deliver 14 Kmpl with the 4X4 model doing 13.2 Kmpl. We expect this number to be around the 10-11 Kmpl mark in the real world in the city and about 14 Kmpl on the highway when driven sedately.

Braking is more than adequate, what with the ABS working in tandem with all four disc brakes, bringing the Safari to a quick stop. However, you do get some pitching under hard braking as we’ve detailed before and this is a trait that has been carried over from the older Safari. Tata Motors had organized an off roading session that demonstrated the various capabilities of the Safari Storme, which continues to be a true blue SUV that enthusiasts would prefer over the Mahindra Scorpio or even the XUV500 crossover due to the better depth of the Storme’s capabilities off the road.

2012 Tata Safari Storme SUV

2012 Tata Safari Storme SUV Mudplugging

The 4X4 mode with the limited slip differential makes easy work of mud and slush. In fact, this is a major plus point that will drive the enthusiast brigade towards the Tata Safari Storme as the suspension package, 200 mm of ground clearance and the body-on-ladder construction makes it a solid buy for SUV enthusaists who’d like getting down and dirty once in a while.  All in all, the Safari Storme is a big leap over the older Safari and the tribe of this SUV will only grow in the coming years. Meanwhile, here’s the long list of improvements that Tata has effected on the Safari Storme.

* Brand new front end with new headlights, grille and bumper design

* Projector headlamps

* Refreshed, high quality interiors that are a major step up from the current version

* The quality of materials used on the Storme’s interiors are many notches higher than that on the current version

* New G76 MKII gearbox for better gear shifts

* New and shortened X2 chassis, borrowed from the Aria Crossover

* New suspension with double wishbones, again borrowed from the Aria

* New steering from the Aria with a wider track, one which reduces turning radius quite significantly

* Disc brakes all around

* New body cladding

* Wider side foot step

* New dashboard design with new center console

* New tailgate

* New tail lamp design

* Spare tyre now placed under the boot

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