Tata Safari Storme road test and review!
Sunday, October 21, 2012
by Devdath Narayan
It wouldn’t be wrong to call the Tata Safari Storme the Amitabh Bachchan of Indian SUVs. It pioneered the SUV spirit in India with its launch in 1998, kindled a yearning for itself in the hearts of millions and even today, emanates a certain charisma, which is difficult to explain, but easy to relate to.
Like the Big B, its fortunes have waxed and waned. From its first avatar which used an 1998cc 90 bhp turbocharged engine to a 3-litre 110 bhp variant and finally to the more refined 2.2 Dicor, introduced in 2007, that was the most well-rounded Safari Tata has offered. However, stiff competition from younger, more vibrant and glamorous offerings like the Mahindra Scorpio and Mahindra XUV500 ensured that this grand old SUV was never a blockbuster on the sales charts. Related: Safari Storme launched
Does the Tata Safari Storme then have the appeal Big B has post his makeover to give the other SUVs a run for their money? We drove the Tata Safari Storme on a short test route in and around Lavasa for this review.
Looks, fit and finish
The Safari was always a handsome SUV. Tata Motors association with Land Rover has ensured that enough cues were borrowed from the Discovery-3 which made the Safari a very handsome vehicle to look at. In today’s context, the Storme looks good but not overly done, like the XUV500 for instance. The Storme’s front end, modified with a new bonnet, projector lenses for headlights and a new bumper considerably looks better in the metal than in pictures. In fact, the grille, which looks like an aftermarket job in the photos, is actually well executed and gels nicely with the vehicle. Also see: Safari Storme vs Renault Duster – a comparison
The profile remains the same, more or less. Of course there are new claddings, new door handles, a new floorboard and different looking grab handles above the last window behind the C pillar. Also, the body colored roof rails attempt to take away some of that top heavy look that the older model had.
The rear too, has had its share of changes like the spare wheel being removed from the door and moved under the vehicle, new plastic and chrome garnishes on the door to reduce the visual bulk, new tail lamps, a twin exhaust combo with a new bumper and a new spoiler.
Overall, the Storme continues to be an unmistakably Safari, which is not a bad thing for most fans, but can these decade old looks draw fresh customers is what remains to be seen.
Pull the far more convenient “pull type” door handles, slide into the extremely comfortable leather upholstered driver’s seat and you are ushered into a different world inside the Storme. This is where Tata Motors have spent a bulk of their time and resources and it shows. Almost everything is new. The steering wheel, the dashboard, the dials, the center console, the arm rests, the sound system (though it continues to be a single DIN unit), the gear lever, the door pads, the switches and buttons are all new. They are of a much better quality and consistency, when compared to, say, the Scorpio for example. Panel gaps are acceptable, the light shades ensure that the already airy cabin feels even bigger and the quality of leather used for the seats is better than the XUV500 or even the Toyota Fortuner.
Most controls fall easily to hand with the gear lever being the only exception. It still feels like it is slightly too far away for people with shorter arms. The steering is nice to hold and the horn pad is responsive though the horn needs an improvement. There is no dead pedal and the pedals themselves are a straight lift from the Sumo, which is not a bad thing but are devoid of that premium feel expected from a top-of-the-line vehicle.
Comfort and features
Tata Motors have equipped the Storme decently with a Bluetooth-enabled single DIN audio unit with average sound quality, unique audio controls on the right side steering column stalk (which is usually used to turn on headlights in most cars), power windows, a smart key with a button to turn the headlights on and off (this is a useful feature and avoids the “follow me/lead me home” wiring changes), central locking, auto-folding mirrors, an illuminated glovebox (no cooling though), reverse parking sensors with the display in the internal review mirror, a center armrest with a storage box and bottle holders for the middle row, charging sockets for all 3 rows and air conditioning vents for the front and the middle rows with a separate fan and compressor control for the middle row. The twin mode (Economy and Normal) air conditioning is effective and silent.
In spite of the above features, the Storme is certainly not a feature-rich vehicle like the XUV500 or even the Scorpio for that matter. There is no cruise control, no climate control, no double DIN audio system (or even a double-DIN slot, making it difficult to upgrade), no reverse camera, no tyre pressure sensors, etc.
But the Safari’s trump card has always been its space and ergonomics and the Storme too plays it well. The front and the middle rows are supremely comfortable and easily beat many SUVs more than twice its price in space, comfort and seating recline angles. Visibility is excellent on all sides except the rear due to the small rear windscreen. Short drivers too can drive the Storme since the driver’s seat is height adjustable now. In the middle row, three passengers can sit abreast for hours without any fatigue whatsoever. Even with the front seats pushed back all the way, my knees never touched the seat back with my 5’11” frame in the rear seat.
The last row of the Safari is not really useful with two jump seats put into service only for short trips. They are not comfortable.
Performance and handling
The Storme’s 2.2 liter 140 bhp / 320 Nm engine feels smoother than before and is reasonably powerful. Though it doesn’t feel as tactile as the XUV’s similar mill, it certainly comes very close. The cabin is well insulated and at high speeds, it is more of wind noise than engine noise that filters through. Even during a cold start, the cabin remains silent.
Gear throws are slightly long and while the shifting is precise, the gears feel like they could have slotted better. Clutch action and feel is average and brakes are good. In fact, at a few occasions, the brakes felt better than the XUV and the Fortuner in terms of bite and confidence. ABS
does its job well and the Storme brakes true and straight.
The Aria’s hydroform chassis used in the Storme shows its caliber on the road by making the Storme a much better handler than the Safari ever was. You can take sharp turns confidently at 80kmph with no top heavy feeling. Straight line stability too is excellent though steering feedback could be improved. Also, the steering feels slightly hard at parking speeds inspite of being an all new rack and pinion setup. Also read: Safari Storme vs. Mahindra XUV500 comparison
The Storme comes out at its best on a broken, rutted road where you can simply fly over potholes and road undulations at three digit speeds while cocooning 5 people in absolute comfort. If you wanted a fast sofa on wheels, this is it!
Off the road, the Storme continues to impress. The shift on the fly Borg Warner transfer case provides three transmission options of 2WD, 4WD High and tractor pulling 4WD Low ratios. Good suspension articulation, strong low-end torque and nice approach, departure and ramp over angles make the Storme a very capable offroader. We came out impressed on all counts.
The Storme has an ARAI certified fuel economy of 14kmpl for the 4×2 variant and 13.2kmpl for the 4×4 variant. We got an average fuel efficiency of 12 kmpl in our 4×4 Vx Storme in our 120km test drive which included around 20kms of off road trails.
What we think
Makeovers have immense potential. The Safari Storme now has a completely new appeal, refinement and charisma. It continues to maintain its evergreen virtues of space, comfort, cruising and off road abilities while being better finished, lighter, and more refined. Will the Storme continue to be the Amitabh Bachchan of today? We think, like the gracefully aging actor, the Storme will continue to stir up fans.
Video review YouTube
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