Tata Safari has been around for almost 23 years in the market. Launched back in 1998, Safari made a good impression on everyone with its bold, aggressive stance and offroad capabilities. The SUV was one of India’s first indigenously built 4X4 and setting a benchmark for what an Indian SUV should feel and drive like. It was not just a big, strong SUV in our minds, but a synonym for the word SUV for an entire generation back then. 

The homegrown manufacturer had Tata Sierra and Sumo SUVs in their lineup already, the introduction of the iconic Safari strengthen their position in the market and served as a pillar for a long time. For many years Tata made the Safari their flagship product. Everyone wanted to own a Safari back then, including many politicians. The Safari is still part of the Prime Minister’s convoy. In today’s topic, we will discuss the history of India’s most loved SUV

The first generation Tata Safari (1998-2005) 

The Tata Safari was first showcased at the 1998 Auto Expo where it caught a lot of attention. This was the time when SUVs were gaining popularity. The SUV options back in the ’90s were limited to the Maruti Suzuki Gypsy, Mahindra Bolero, Tata Sierra and Tata Sumo. The introduction of Safari with its muscular design, luxurious cabin space and off-road performance made an impact in the market. 

It was offered in one engine option, which was a 2.0L turbo diesel motor producing 90bhp of power and 186nm of torque. The 5-speed manual gearbox SUV was priced at Rs. 8.25 lakh ex-showroom. The sales peaked for the Safari between 1998 and 2003, then Tata decided to introduce the 2.1L petrol engine. This engine produced a power of 135bhp, more powerful than the diesel counterpart. But the downside was the fuel efficiency, which was around 6kmpl. 

The SUV also packed some goodies inside, like the Sony PlayStation 2, which was introduced in the limited edition version with 10 slot CD and VCD changer. It also featured a refrigerator cum cooler, front headrests with integrated LCD monitors and a reverse parking camera covering a 130-degree view.  

Tata Safari second generation (2005-2012) 

The next generation Safari which came in 2005 witnessed a significant change overall -The exterior, interior, the heart of the car. The exterior changes included a new front grille and headlamps, redesigned wheels etc. Inside the cabin, we saw the introduction of airbags and rear AC vents for the passengers to make the ride comfortable. The major change was under the hood, the 2.0L engine was replaced by a 3.0L 4-cylinder Dicor diesel engine which produced 116ps and 300nm of torque which was mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox. 

The new engine had a significant leap in performance, but it lacked engine refinement. So Tata took a step forward and introduced a 2.2L diesel engine which was Euro 4 compliant and more refined. The 2.2L Dicor engine made 140ps and 320nm of torque. To improve the image of the car Tata also introduced features like ABS with EBD, airbags and was offered in a rear-wheel-drive option which also had a 4X4 option.

Tata Safari Strome (2012-2019)

As the years passed the Safari started to age and with competition getting stiffer with the introduction of new SUVs like the Toyota Fortuner and XUV500 Tata had to improve the Safari. Then came the Safari Strome which was showcased at the 2012 Auto Expo. It saw a major improvement in build quality, interior and exterior design details. The reworked Strome had a few cosmetic updates and it was given a sporty stance to go along with the competition. 

The same 2.2L Dicor diesel was continued to the Strome as well. But in 2015 when the Safari Strome went under minor facelift, Tata improved the 2.2L Dicor and replaced it with the Varicor badge. This improved engine now produced 156bhp and 400nm of torque. It was also introduced with a 4X4 system with a limited-slip differential, independent suspension and stable body on frame chassis. 

The Safari was holding on to the competition but it was ageing as the years passed. Tata had placed it below the new Harrier and there was no point in investing in the car. So The company decided to pull the plug on the Safari in 2019. 

The third-generation Tata Safari (2021- present) 

After 20 years in the run, Safari had a huge fan base across the country for many reasons. But the SUV had to cope up with the modern cars which had more to offer. So Tata had to shift towards a new and exciting design language. We saw the new Harrier, Nexon and Altroz which changed the companies position in the market. Then came the new Tata Safari third generation in 2021. It was an evolution of the 5-seater Tata Harrier which was already a popular car among buyers. 

The new Safari is an extended version of the Harrier, which features a full third row instead of the jump seats in the predecessor. The most significant update to the new Safari will the modern aesthetics and driving experience. Tata’s emphasis on safety has also been implemented on the new Safari by providing premium features. 

The new Safari does not seem to be a proper off-road credential. But the new platform is derived from the Land Rover D8 platform which underpins the Land Rover Discovery Sport and Range Rover Evoque. This platform is meant to provide luxury with proper off-road capabilities. 

Tata has seemed to have the right mantra now for the Safari, with modern looks, technology and off-road capability. This should improve Tata’s sales overall and get back the image and popularity of the Safari which it gained earlier. 

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