Why would I buy it?
- Additional features
- Improved infotainment system
- Premium interiors
Why would I avoid it?
- Only available in range-topping variant
- ADAS lacks advanced features
What is it?
The Red Dark Edition of the Safari brings some cosmetic changes over and above the ones you get in the all-black Dark Edition. But more importantly, it’s the first one to debut the two most important updates for Safari (and Harrier). Not only does it debut a newer infotainment screen and driver’s display, but also introduces driver assist hardware. The question is whether the Red Dark Edition is worth buying over the standard version of the Safari.
The Red Dark Edition you see here is only available either in the XZ+ or the XZ+ (O) trim in both manual and automatic versions. But ADAS is offered only in the XZ+(O) trim. For the Red Dark Edition, the red garnishes are done quite judicially and Tata hasn’t gone overboard with the ‘red’ in its name.
Is the cabin of the Safari Red Dark any good?
Once inside, where the majority of changes are, it’s an instant realisation that you are sitting in a special edition with its all-red seat upholstery. Thankfully, it wears rich-looking diamond quilting inlays rather than some generic vague design. The texture of the upholstery isn’t soft and plush but has a tight fit and a long-lasting feel to it. There are more red finishes on the grab handlebar and door handles as well. The red upholstery here reminds us of those fancy supercars with flamboyant colours for their interiors.
Apart from the red upholstery, there are newer feature additions the Red Dark brings to the Safari line-up. However, the most prominent feature added to this cabin is the Harman-sourced 10.25-inch touchscreen along with an all-digital driver’s display. It is leaps and bounds ahead of the older screen. But oddly enough, this new touchscreen looks like a sleek tablet stuck on the panel of the older unit’s frame on the dashboard.
Nonetheless, the interface of the new touchscreen is smooth and runs a dark theme, which is nice. There are vertical tiles which make it easy to navigate through the options and you can find what you need in it easily. Inside the main menu, the icons are well defined but could be difficult to read sometimes, mainly owing to the colour that has been used – ochre yellow on black. But we like the touch response; it’s intuitive and isn’t slow by any standard.
Also, part of the update and screen is the 360-degree camera, which is especially helpful for newer drivers. Its picture quality is good and gives a good view all around the car. It also offers a 3D view which looks fancy but it wouldn’t exactly help you with parking. So, it’s better to use the 2D mode. There’s also wireless smartphone integration and voice commands that support six Indian languages. It was easily able to respond to our accents and can be used for AC and media control apart from other information like trip/navigation and AQI. However, it still cannot perform other comprehensive vehicle control functions yet, like opening the sunroof.
On the downside, our usage revealed some bugs or glitches. This included smartphone integration, which was a problem on some Android devices. Similarly, once or twice, the 360-degree camera had some delay in displaying obstacles. Other times it didn't turn on when in reverse, and then the guidelines and other controls, which popped up when the 360-degree was viewed, were overlaid on the home menu.
Next, we move on to the all-digital driver’s display. Personally, I wasn’t a fan of the half-digital driver’s display the Harrier and Safari came with. Now, this new one, it has so much information on display. You can navigate through the buttons on the right of the steering. To maintain symmetry, it gets digital gauges but they aren’t as easy to read as I initially believed them to be. Once again, it’s the same ochre on black colour here and there’s no way to adjust/change it. It doesn’t change even when switching the drive mode. Tata could have chosen some other colour as this one looks like one of the old monochromatic screens from the 80s that have faded over long usage.
Interestingly, the speedometer doesn't light up entirely now and has an increment of 20kmph. So say you are doing 50kmph, only the 40kmph and 60kmph would show up, while the bar will be full at approx. 50kmph mark. Otherwise, the display keeps up with the time and is easy to read on the go.
Is the Safari Red Dark nice to drive?
Now, the powertrain choices are still the same as before. You have the familiar 168bhp/350Nm, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder Kryotec diesel, which is now BS6 Phase 2-compliant and comes paired with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed torque converter. The engine performance and ride and handling remain unchanged, so it still has heavy controls, which take time to get used to. But once you are comfortable behind the wheel, you can easily do daily commutes or cross-country tours without a second thought.
A Tata-first addition to this Red Dark is ADAS. We experienced it first-hand and the results were a mixed bag. It’s not Level 2 but comes really close to it. It would have been great if the forward collision warning worked in conjunction with the auto brake function, but it doesn’t! The former only warns the driver if the vehicle up ahead is too close for comfort, but won’t brake to maintain a distance. And auto braking works only when there’s some obstacle, jaywalker, or any other car suddenly merging into the lane. It’s not hard panic braking but a good nudge to gain the driver’s attention and slow the speed down.
Secondly, the road sign detection reads the speed sign and prompts it on the MID, unlike in the Astor or XUV700’s system, where it also reduces the speed to match the road sign. Plus, the lane departure and lane change alert warning will only prompt on the MID when you are attempting to change lanes without indication. It doesn’t nudge the steering to get back in the lane. On the upside, when changing lanes, if the rear blind spot detection does spot a car in the merging lane, there’s an alarm that goes off, warning the driver. This alarm is not blaring either, which prevents the driver from panicking. And lastly, the rear cross-traffic alert does indicate nicely on the ORVM and with a similar alarm when, say, reversing out from a parking space.
All the ADAS in the Safari are good hand-holding tools for newer drivers and not a full-fledged driver assist to completely rely on.
Should you buy the Safari Red Dark Edition?
The price difference between the Harrier and the Safari in this Red Dark Edition is Rs. 1.15 lakh (on-road, Mumbai). For the price premium, the Safari offers a third row and many more features. Considering them all, Safari Red Dark gives so much more value for money up and above the Harrier Red Dark.
But this Red Dark edition only makes sense if one is ready to spend extra over the standard version for the red theatrics inside, and newer screens (which are likely to be offered across the range soon). Otherwise, there’s no practical difference between the standard Safari, which is much more price efficient and offers almost all the features while having no difference in driving dynamics. Thus, the Red Dark is for those who want their Safari in its most range-topping version.
Pictures by Kaustubh Gandhi