Welcome Back Tata Safari: Looking Back at its Legacy as the Iconic Indian SUV Reclaims its Life

Manav Sinha
·5-min read

The Tata Safari is finally coming back to our market as it is set to be launched on January 26, 2021 by Tata Motors in an all-new avatar. And however the new car may come to be, the Tata Safari has already been crowned as one of that influential car in Indian automotive history.

One look at the sales charts and it is clear that we Indians love SUVs, so much so, that we want one as an option in pretty much every size. Recognizing this trend, almost every automaker sells an SUV across their price range and if you look at recent car launches, most of them are SUVs as well. But if we go back to where it all started then arguably, it goes to 1998 – the year when Tata Motors came out with the Safari. A mid-sized SUV by today’s standard, but when the Safari came out 23 years ago, it was seen as the ultimate form of luxury. In 2020, however, as India has moved to BS-VI emission norms (they had become mandatory from April 1, 2020) the Tata Safari had unfortunately driven into the sunset. And given how everyone’s life was caught up with catching up on the news related to the Coronavirus pandemic, the ‘OG’ could not be given the farewell it deserved.

However, that will not be necessary as it is back. We decided to take a look and catch up on the SUV's legacy.

And just for nostalgia’s sake, we have also listed some of the advertisements of the Safari from back in the day to bring a smile to those who remember seeing it and tell those who haven’t, just how cool these ads were. Trust us, you would want to watch them all.

The launch of the Tata Safari took place at the Auto Expo in 1998 where it initially came with a 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine that made 90 hp and 186 Nm of torque and was priced at Rs 8.25 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai). So yes, it was a bit underpowered given how heavy the car was weighing in at about 2 tonnes, but that did not seem to deter buyers as the biggest draw for the Safari was the road presence that the car had and the comfort that is offered.

This went on for about 5 years post which, Tata Motors added a more powerful petrol engine option in the lineup in the form of a 2.1-litre unit that made 135 hp of power and cost Rs 9.35 lakh. While this definitely offered more power than before, it also meant that the SUV returned a fuel efficiency of 6 km per litre.

Fast forward to the year 2005 and it was time for another diesel engine option to be added in the form of a massive 3.0-litre DICOR diesel engine which came at a time when new, stricter emission norms had come into place. This made 115 hp and 300 Nm of torque offering the perfect mix of power and torque that the SUV had thus far. On top of that, Safari saw a reduction in price too as it was now priced at Rs 6.4 lakh.

It was then, in 2007, when Tata Motors introduced Tata Safari DICOR which came with a 2.2-litre turbocharged diesel engine, which was smaller than the diesel engine it was replacing but made more power and torque than before – 140 hp and 320 Nm torque.

The Tata Safari DICOR came with features like ABS and twin airbags and offered a choice of a rear-wheel-drive variant and even a 4x4 option. This engine was so good that it will go on to power the Safari for the next ten years. What also came with this version of the Safari was not only one of the most popular TV commercials of the Tata Safari but perhaps one of the most iconic ads made by the Indian automotive industry. Take a look at it below.

This brings us to 2017 when the Safari DICOR said goodbye and was removed from the Tata Motors website marking the end of an era. The legacy, however, was carried on by the Tata Safari Storme which was introduced in 2012 but remained as the only available version of the Safari for purchase. At the time of its introduction, the Safari Storme came with the same 2.2-litre diesel engine DICOR engine. This was meant to be the premium version of the Safari.

In 2015, the Tata Safari Storme was updated with the 2.2-litre VARICOR 400 engine that made 156 bhp and a massive 400 Nm of torque.

And then, in 2020, the Tata Safari Storme went off sale. Tata Motors decided to update the likes of the Tata Nexon and the Tata Harrier to BS-VI emission norm but the Safari sadly did not make the cut. However, for those who knew about the Safari for all these many years will know that it was known for comfort, it’s 4x4 capabilities, the high seating position which gave the view of the entire bonnet to the front passengers and also, street presence and street cred that has still not been matched by any other SUV. The upcoming Safari, then, has its work cut out and has big shoes to fill.

The Tata Safari has made a unique spot of its own and here’s a bonus advertisement below which actually sums up the sentiment about the car and is a perfect tribute to what was the ultimate SUV.