This is where the difference lies. To bump up the power and torque figures of the 2179cc engine, Tata engineers had to strengthen the cylinder block, head, pistons, main bearings and fine-tune the injectors and the turbocharger. As a result, the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine now produces 153.8bhp and 400Nm of torque. Although power has gone up just 6bhp, the torque figure has increased by a massive 80Nm. Tata has mated this motor to a new 6-speed manual gearbox.
The improvements are apparent as soon as you start the car. The idle is quite smooth and vibrations are reduced too. You still experience turbo lag below 1800rpm but it doesn’t feel dead and even the turbo kicks in a pretty linear fashion. Tata has also employed shorter ratios on the new 6-speed gearbox which has reduced the number of gearshifts and has made the Storme less cumbersome at slow speeds. The additional power and a tall sixth gear also means that the Storme feels relaxed on the highway and at 100kph the engine is doing a meagre 2000rpm. The new 6-speed gearbox though a marked improvement over the older unit still feels a bit unpolished and transfers a fair amount of engine vibrations to your palm.
Our VBOX timing gear confirmed the improvements and the Varicor 400 turned out to be faster than we expected. The 0-100kmph sprint took a scant 12.9 seconds which makes it more than a second faster than the old car. In-gear times are even better thanks to the shorter gearing with 20-80kmph in third taking 10.27 seconds (3.1sec faster) and 40-100kmph in fourth coming up in 12.26 seconds (2.2 seconds quicker).
What adds to the overall experience is the Safari’s pliant ride quality. At low speeds, the Safari can easily tackle the biggest of potholes without a fuss and even at high speeds it feels stable. There is more pitching as you go faster but it never gets to the point of feeling uncomfortable. The Safari feels comfortable when driven in a relaxed manner. It's only when you drive it briskly over a winding road that you are suddenly reminded of the Storme’s high centre of gravity. It rolls excessively and over a set of corners it rocks from side to side.
The Varicor 400 variant is available in both 4X2 and 4X4 form. The one we drove was the latter and it also came with a low range gearbox which makes it quite potent when the going gets tough. During our shoot, we did some light offroading and the Varicor 400 felt more than capable thanks to its improved powertrain and shorter gearing. Obviously, a vehicle like a Mahindra Thar will be much better in this respect but still the Safari didn’t disappoint considering its enormous size and weight.