Until the launch of the Indica, Tata Motors was concentrating on making utility vehicles like the Sumo, Sierra and later on followed by the Safari in the latter half of 1990-2000. Tata had then launched its Safari with a 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine that produced 90bhp. Later, on Tata Motors had even introduced an option of 2.1-litre, 135bhp petrol engine on its Safari, which didn't impress many buyers due to its lower mileage. With complains about Safari being under-powered, Tata launched the Safari with a 3.0-litre DiCOR engine, picking up the engine block from Tata 407 and giving it a common rail valvetrain. And now, the Tata Safari comes with a 2.2-litre DiCOR engine.
The Tata Safari has being undergoing facelifts and Tata Motors has retained the same chassis design of its Safari. The Safari design looked fresh and contemporary a few years back, and now Tata Motors is working on an all new Tata Safari which will be launched sometime in mid-2011. Now the question is with Tata owning Land Rover, will the new Safari get some characteristics from any of its British SUVs.
Apart from a few things here and there, the interiors of the Tata Safari have remained almost changed. Later on, Tata began to offer to a trim called the VXI (which is the new top-of-the-line variant) which came with leather upholstery and LCD screens. From the launch of DICOR engines, Tata began to offer dual A/C.
Tata had to make a choice between its 3.0-litre and recently developed 2.2-litre aluminum DiCOR engines. Tata chose the more powerful one, the 2.2-litre aluminum engine, which is a four cylinder unit possessing a double overhead camshaft (DOHC) and 16 valves controlled by a 32-bit microprocessor. This engine is not just light thanks to the aluminum construction and reduced cubic capacity, but also produces 140 horses. The 2.2-litre engine has a shorter stroke length, the engine can rev up to 4500rpm and produce upto 320Nm of torque. The engine is very smooth and responsive.
The gearing on the Safari 2.2VTT is the same as it was on 3.0-litre Safari. The torque bandwidth is higher in lower gears making it easy to overtake. The gears are designed for highway running and it might take the person some time to get used to the shifting. Care should be taken to shift up only after 2000rpm else the engine starts vibrating alarmingly, and it also might stall. The propeller shaft of the Safari is long and hence is noisy and at times the sound of the shaft above 2000rpm becomes uncomfortable. The Limited Slip Differential (LSD) is a boon while off-roading.
Tata continues with its tradition of providing the car with decent handling precision at high speeds. The ride is smooth and the car can easily absorb all shocks without affecting the ride. The Safari handles well, even though it is well heighted, and considering it fat it is a rear-wheel drive. The biggest drawback of the Safari is its long turning radius, which can cause issues while turning or parking in tight slots.
Considering the pricing of the Tata Safari, it is a good value for money SUV, as you get a good peppy engine, spacious interiors with good ride. However, Tata needs to work a bit more on the plastic quality on the inside of the Safari and even on the turning radius of the car to a certain extent.