There are few cars that are as iconic as the Tata Safari. Being one of India’s first indigenously built 4×4 SUV, the Tata Safari set the benchmark for what an Indian SUV should feel and drive like. For many of us, it was the definitive SUV. As the Tata Safari faded in the face of modern competition, we prepared to say farewell to an SUV that punched well above its weight. Or so we thought.
Tata Motors is set to revive the Safari badge in 2021. The upcoming 7-seater SUV Tata has been showcasing for a while has gone through several name changes. It was the Buzzard before it became the Gravitas and now it becomes the Tata Safari.
As we prepare for the new Safari to arrive, this is the perfect opportunity to revisit the 20 year history of this iconic 4×4 SUV, before seeing how the new Tata Safari fits into this heritage.
An Icon is Born [1998-2012 Tata Safari]
The Tata Safari was introduced at a time when Indian SUVs were gaining popularity. If you were looking to buy an SUV in the 1990s, you could choose between the Maruti Suzuki Gypsy, the Mahindra Bolero, and three Tata SUVs – Tata Sierra, Tata Sumo, and Tata Safari.
The Tata Safari, launched in 1998, was instantly popular. The muscular design and the European SUV aesthetics helped differentiate the Safari from its competitors. With optional 4WD and a very generous ground clearance, the Tata Safari quickly become the preferred SUV for many.
The Tata Safari that truly established it as the SUV to own, came in 2005. Several improvements included the addition of airbags and rear AC vents made the refreshed Tata Safari more comfortable to travel in. Two new Dicor engine options in the form of a 3.0-litre (116 PS and 300 Nm) and a 2.2-litre (140 PS and 320 Nm) diesel engine gave the Safari more than enough grunt to conquer India’s unforgiving roads.
Bringing the Storme to the Safari [2012-2019 Tata Safari Storme]
As the years rolled on, the ageing Tata Safari faced stiffer competition from new entrants. The Toyota Fortuner and the Mahindra XUV500 introduced better interiors and more updated designs to steal the attention away from the Tata Safari. In response, Tata launched the Tata Safari Storme in 2012.
Compared to the first generation Safari, the Safari Storme significantly improved the build quality while updating the iconic SUV for the new competition. The wood accents added a more premium interior experience when you headed off to explore the great outdoors.
To further enhance the experience, the 2.2-litre diesel engine was carried over to provide a powerful driving experience. The 4×4 system along with limited slip differential, independent suspension, and the stable body-on frame chassis further enabled a premium off-roading experience. Even today, there is a reason you find Tata Safari Stormes in many off-road clubs and in the Indian Army as well.
A New Chapter [2021 Tata Safari]
Even with success, mounting competition and new BS6 norms meant that the Tata Safari was gradually phased out by Tata Motors in 2019. In its 20 year run, the Tata Safari built a cult following for providing unmatched off-roading capabilities while still being accessible for many.
As the Tata Safari continued to sell in its old avatar, Tata Motors underwent a complete shift towards a more modern and exciting design language. The Tata Gravitas was touted to be a new product that would provide Tata a foothold in the 7-seater SUV space. What many didn’t expect was the revival of the Tata Safari as Tata’s new 7-seater SUV challenger.
The new Tata Safari will be an evolution of the Tata Harrier and should feature a full third row instead of the jump seats of past Safari’s. The most significant update will be a more modern aesthetic and driving experience. You can also be sure to expect Tata’s emphasis on safety to be complemented with its focus on providing premium features across its range.
On paper, the new Tata Safari does not seem to be following in the off-road credentials of its namesake. However, Tata’s OMEGARC platform is derived from the Land Rover D8 platform, which is found on the Land Rover Discovery Sport and the Ranger Rover Evoque. Both capable 4WD luxury SUVs. This bodes well for a 4×4 Tata Safari to arrive in the future to honour its namesake.