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Old 28th January 2011, 21:15   #1
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Default Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)

I think it is time that I wrote a review of my safari. My love for safari started with the ‘Reclaim your life’ TV advertisements. I think half of Safari’s success is due to great ads.
Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)-img_1093.jpg

My search for Safari started more than a year back to replace my aging Accent CRDi. The Accent CRDi was a great vehicle and served me well without any hick-ups for 3 years and took me to a lot of places like Kolkata, Wayanad etc from Hyderabad. But quite a bit of engine problems started creeping up at 80,000 kms and so it was time to sell it off.

Faithful Korean servant
Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)-dsc00024.jpg

I had always bought pre-worshipped vehicles and this safari was no different. I was particular about a 4x4 Safari with Airbags which exists only in top-end VX variant of the vehicle. Though I saw innumerable Safari's none of them were 4x4. I continued my search for 2 months after selling of the Accent and I badly needed a replacement vehicle. And none matched my requirements. I thought of buying an old Corolla temporarily until I find the vehicle I wanted. So I settled in for a 2003 Corolla temporarily in Dec 2009. I must say I was very lucky to buy a 6 year old corolla with all papers and service history intact at a great price. Needless to mention I hardly made any loss while selling off the vehicle in October 2010.
Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)-dsc01086.jpg
I must also mention that the corolla was a great vehicle and fell in love with it. The service charges were practically nonexistent, but the petrol bills were taking a toll. That said, I had to be extra careful in my journeys and was very scared to take it if the road was not good. So the search for Safari continued but I was never desperate. If one is willing to wait that extra bit long, I am sure anyone could find a vehicle in great condition at a great price that is too good to be true.

The search for Safari started sometime in September 2009 and it finally ended in October 2010. It took more than a year to find a vehicle in good condition at a great price. I finally found a Safari in the color I wanted at the price I wanted and at most importantly, the condition and year of manufacture I wanted. This beauty was an April 2009 Safari 4x4 VX model that had done 25,000 kms by October 1st 2010, the day it landed in my hands. All the essential things like oil changes etc have been done 5 days prior to the transfer, which implied, no service charges after transfer. And the day it landed in my hands, the first thing I did was put the LTD sticker on it and took it straight to Chennai.
Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)-31102010016.jpg
Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)-31102010009.jpg


From October to January, I had driven it extensively for 15,000 Kms, 14,578 to be exact (With one complete months rest to Safari due to my visit abroad).
I had used it in ghats, highways, bad roads, no roads, beaches and even river beds. I am not an enthusiastic off-roader, but given a chance and if I am sure that the car can take it, I will try that road. This freedom was the main reason I bought the 4x4 beast. Like everyone else, 99.5% of time I dont use the 4x4, but for extra 0.5% that I wanted to do, I wanted the 4x4 - a decision from the heart. and this beast did not disappoint me once. Based on my experiences, my views are as follows

Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)-dsc00662.jpg
First and foremost, the oil burner in this vehicle is a 2.2 liter Common rail diesel engine which churns out a respectable 140 bhp and 320NM of torque which all of TBHPians are aware of. This engine has more than enough pick up and 0-100 speeds for my highway needs. Turbo lag is evident at lower RPMs. I noticed is that this engine does not like to go beyond 3000 RPM which I think is documented somewhere else in this forum (not sure if it is for 2.2). This directly implies this engine does not like speeds in excess of 120kmph (about 2700 RPM if I remember correctly). While we are discussing the speeds, the other deterrent from crossing such speeds is its horrible handling characteristics and steering vibrations. The steering vibrates as if it is begging not to accelerate. But this engine when pushed can attain speeds in excess of 150kmph.


The breaking ability of this vehicle is not so great. Sudden brakes on this vehicle will definitely make the heart skip a beat. I think the dismal breaking has got to do more with the weight of the vehicle rather than brakes themselves. A safari with Rear disc brakes might have helped to some extent. But I am not sure of any technical challenges/cost implications that TATA might have considered in putting disc brakes instead of the drum brakes at the rear.
One of the biggest sore-points which I think that Tata should concentrate on is its steering. Yes, there is a lot of steering play and steering vibration. I felt that the steering is pretty heavy at crawling speeds, but it is very light at high speeds. So there is literally zero feedback from the road. I am not sure if this is a problem with my Safari. This will be a big negative for the enthusiastic drivers amongst us. But this is a Safari and it is not meant to take sharp turns.

Considering the aforementioned limitations, the engine and the vehicle feel comfortable at speeds of 80 – 110 kmph on highways.

The safari is a great vehicle for the highways. If you are not a racer and like freedom, this vehicle will be perfect. It is extremely comfortable with lots of space. Long drives will not break your back even on bad stretches of road. Riding in a Safari will give an illusion that Indian roads are great. The Safari’s cruising ability and ride comfort is second to none. I just wish it had a cruise control button on it sometimes on those 4 laned highways to give my feet a well needed rest. But at speeds crossing 120kmph, the vibrations can be felt inside the cabin and can be very unsettling.

A person who has driven hatchbacks in city conditions will not find at home in a safari especially on twisty roads. One needs to get used to its gigantic proportions and body roll. You need to slow down and treat it like a truck. The 2.5 odd tons of this vehicle should be handled with respect. Otherwise you are bound to have scary moments in this vehicle. And it is quite easy to drift this vehicle thanks to the raw metal underneath. My friend just wanted to try out the safari and he managed to drift this vehicle on the way to jog-falls from Hyderabad.


Turning Radius: Just try to do a U-Turn in a Safari, and you will realize how small the roads in India are. The other thing you will realize that Safari is a truck and built from a truck. I am sure the Land Cruiser can take much sharper U-Turns.

As with any other SUV, the safari also has a long gear stick with huge travel. I had been driving safari for 2 months and then suddenly one day, I had to drive my Swift, and the first thing I did in Swift was start the engine, pressed the clutch and used all my power to push the gear from neutral to first. And the swift did not like the use of such power on its small gentle gear stick. This is what a Safari can do to you. I am sure, the using the gear box alone made my hand much stronger. And then there is the heavy steering at crawling speeds that will add to your upper body workout (Please note, I am comparing this with Swift/Corolla/Accent steering). And then the heavy clutch will make your feet much stronger. Please note that I am not complaining anything here. It is just what the Safari is all about.

Another big plus point for this vehicle is the tremendous space it offers. The front passengers get individual arm rests. No other vehicle has so much space. After getting pampered with so much space, the Aria felt claustrophobic. But make sure to use safari as a 5 seater at the maximum. The last row seats are just for short 10 – 15 minute rides. I cannot think of any use for the last row apart from making an enemy sit in there on long drives.

But all the space comes at a cost. There is no place to keep a 500ml mineral water bottle at all in any of the door pockets. There are just 2 cup holders between the front two passengers and thats all you will get.


Many things have been said in this forum and other reviews about its dismal plastic quality and horrible fit and finish. A look at the plastic near ignition behind the steering will tell this story. If you miss putting the key in the ignition, I am sure key will go into the steering column. And be very careful there as one can cut finger due to the horrible edges near the ignition.
Horrible Fit and Finish near ignition
Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)-dsc00656.jpg

Also the rattles from doors are an integral part of the safari. These rattles and plastic quality do not irritate me much although I always felt it would be nice if Tata had taken care of it much earlier. Moreover the service centers charge around INR 300 for door pad adjustments which I do not like. If anyone is aware of DIY for this please inform me. For now I will not waste the 300 Rs during servicing and bear the rattles which are bound to reappear within a gap of 500 kms after servicing. A non rattling safari is as rare as GTO screwing up a review. (@GTO: Please do not take any offence. Your reviews are simply superb).


Apart from this, there are lots of loose wires hanging around inside the cabin. Open the glove box, you will find a wire. Under the front seats, there are wires that connect to dvd screens openly lying. A peek under the front footwell will show an array of red, green and blue wires. Extra precautions are necessary to ensure that the wires are not pulled during journeys.
Open Wire in Glove box
Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)-dsc00668.jpg
Open wires under front foot well
Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)-dsc00660.jpg
Open wires under the front seats
Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)-dsc00664.jpg
OEM Music System: Although I love listening to loud music, I am not a big fan of music during driving. So a basic OEM system is enough for my needs. Bass. What is Bass?. The OEM music quality is quite bad


Wished my Safari had much stronger headlights. But the safari has high seating position which gives a commanding view of the road. This compensates to some extent the weak headlights. I will not go for a headlight upgrade and I am OK with the current set-up.

Rear View: The IRVM does not give a great view. The Tire mounted on the tail gate causes an obstruction in the rear window. Also the high window sill will make sure that you will not be able to see a Maruti 800 that is extremely close behind.
Wheel on the tail gate blocking the view
Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)-dsc00669.jpg

The ORVMs are large in size and give a great view of things behind.


Remote Lock Issue: If the battery in the remote key dies, then you will not be able to restart the safari. One needs to unlock it using the remote key.TSK has faced this issue on the first day of his Safari Ownership, while I realized it after a photoshoot in rainy conditions in Munnar. Thankfully, there was a battery shop nearby and replaced the battery in the key. So all the safari owners, please make sure that you carry a spare battery for the remote key in those long drives along with extra fuses, first-aid kits, spare tire and spare bulbs.


Problems:
Any safari comes with its fair share of problems. Well, mine had a few too

The biggest problem came was from a faulty turbo. At around 37000 kms, I realized that there was some sort of audible whistle coming from the engine. Such whistle generally comes from a turbo. I immediately went to the service centre to get it checked and also get the service done. It was confirmed by the service guys that the turbo was indeed faulty. A faulty turbo caused the oil to spill inside the intercooler which resulted in a tremendous loss in vehicle’s pick up. Gladly, the turbo will be changed in Warranty.

Tie-rods in the front had been replaced in the warranty as well

Reverse camera started acting according to its wishes. This was changed as well.

Fuel efficiency: On the highways with 100% AC on and most of the time constantly cruising , it gives me around 13 km/liter. However, in city 100% AC on, it is giving me around 11.5 kmpl. (I do not accelerate rapidly and I generally do not drive in congested traffic conditions). Considering this is a 4x4, I am extremely happy with the mileage.
However since the turbo problem, it is giving me around 9 to 10 kmpl in the city.

I will update the service history and costs once the turbo replacement is done.

Some selected pics of my beauty
Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)-30102010061.jpg
Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)-30102010062.jpg
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Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)-img_1513.jpg
Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)-img_2115.jpg
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Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)-img_1115.jpg
Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)-img_1298.jpg
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Old 28th January 2011, 21:52   #2
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Default Re: Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)

Cheers for sharing such an honest review of the Safari. Its without bias and does highlight the issues pertaining to this beast. Well to be true this has always kept my mind thinking on whether its the 4x4 Safari or the Scorpio which is better. I have driven both the safari as well as the Scorpio, with safari the body roll and the turbo lag at lower rpm is always a concern and you are right in saying that Safari is more of the truck made from a truck platform on the other end I find Scorpio more leaner, meaner and faster especially on the hill but it also has its own issues. I am planning to buy a 4wd in next 3 months but i really cant decide whether to go for Scorpio or the Safari.
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Old 29th January 2011, 08:43   #3
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Default Re: Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)

Why are there wires under the seat? There purpose?
Regarding loose wires hanging below the dash and in the glovebox, apparently that is due to poor workmanship of person fitting some gadgets, etc. It does not appear to be OEM issue.

Well. The review is comprehensive and helpful.
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Old 29th January 2011, 15:05   #4
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Default Re: Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)

Quote:
Originally Posted by rajamuneeb View Post
Cheers for sharing such an honest review of the Safari. Its without bias and does highlight the issues pertaining to this beast. Well to be true this has always kept my mind thinking on whether its the 4x4 Safari or the Scorpio which is better. I have driven both the safari as well as the Scorpio, with safari the body roll and the turbo lag at lower rpm is always a concern and you are right in saying that Safari is more of the truck made from a truck platform on the other end I find Scorpio more leaner, meaner and faster especially on the hill but it also has its own issues. I am planning to buy a 4wd in next 3 months but i really cant decide whether to go for Scorpio or the Safari.
Thanks.
I have driven 2wd Scropio on highways and I find Safari much more stable than Scorpio on a highway. Safari is wider and shorter than the Scorpio. Safari feels comfortable at 120. While Scorpio feels comfortable at 100.
On the other hand, I have not seen owners mentioning so many problems with the Scorpio. Scorpio's are niggle free unlike the Safari's
However Scorpio has very less space inside. I did not find a suitable driving position and felt quite cramped even when I pushed the driver's seat all the way back.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ajay0612 View Post
Why are there wires under the seat? There purpose?
Regarding loose wires hanging below the dash and in the glovebox, apparently that is due to poor workmanship of person fitting some gadgets, etc. It does not appear to be OEM issue.

Well. The review is comprehensive and helpful.
Glad you liked the review.
The Safari is in stock condition and no gadgets have been fitted inside. I have seen loose wires even in new Safari's.
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Old 2nd February 2011, 01:35   #5
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Default Re: Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)

@Himavanth - Nicely written and great pictures too! Why dont you fit some hells's as you complained of bad headlights earlier. If not, consider upgrading to HID's. You should not compromise on visibility.
IMHO - The budge guard does not look good. I personally am not a fan of bulky bull bars or nudge guards, but if it does the job for you, thumbs up.

Last edited by DMehta : 2nd February 2011 at 01:38.
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Old 4th February 2011, 16:06   #6
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Default Re: Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)

Excellent review Himavanth and some beautiful shots of the beast. Looks like your wait for a year, did pay off. I loved the pic, with the interior lights on. A neat example of driving an SUV and hatch. Please do share about your service experience and costs as well.
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Old 4th February 2011, 16:53   #7
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Default Re: Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)

Quote:
Originally Posted by himavanth_m View Post
As with any other SUV, the safari also has a long gear stick with huge travel. I had been driving safari for 2 months and then suddenly one day, I had to drive my Swift, and the first thing I did in Swift was start the engine, pressed the clutch and used all my power to push the gear from neutral to first. And the swift did not like the use of such power on its small gentle gear stick. This is what a Safari can do to you. I am sure, the using the gear box alone made my hand much stronger.
I test drove Safari 2.2 VX (4x2) yesterday and my observations on gear shift are as below:
- Although there is lot of play, but the shifting does not require noticeably more effort than a car like Alto/Wagon R (pre-K series).
- The Gears slotting has a bit rubbery feel, again like Alto/Wagon R/Estilo (pre-K series).
- The clutch is also not significantly harder than that of a typical car's.
(Maybe older Safaris or / 4x4 - like yours, required more effort to shift gears.)

Last edited by ajay0612 : 4th February 2011 at 16:56. Reason: correction
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Old 4th February 2011, 17:07   #8
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Default Re: Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)

Excellent review.
Infact, I found it at the right time. I was thinking about a pre-worshipped Safari/Innova.
I always liked Safari, just for the sheer looks of it, and your reviews show the complete characteristic. Except for the interior quality, I would love to own one. But wife likes a "refined" one like Innova.

My thoughts are still at initial stage, and may take a couple of years to materialize, and possibly will have other options by that time. But, just wanted to thank you for the very honest review which is very helpful.
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Old 4th February 2011, 20:48   #9
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Default Re: Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)

Thats indeed a honest straight from the heart review.
Its gonna be really helpfull for future prospective buyers like me.
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Old 7th February 2011, 18:29   #10
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Default Re: Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)

Off late I have been facing a lot of trouble with the service station here(Tejaswi motors, madhapur, Hyderabad). I will update the review once I get back my vehicle.
I would strongly recommend people not to go to Tejaswi Motors here after my horrid experience.
In Short:
Turbo needs replacement. The vehicle is Stuck in service station for 4 days due to inept service personnel at Tejaswi motors in Madhapur Hyderabad.

I gave vehicle about a week ago for turbo replacement. They said they ordered turbo from Tata Motors. When the turbo came to the service station, they called me for the vehicle. I promptly gave them and they said they would give back the vehicle the following day. Then no calls from them. When I called they said the replacement was not approved by TATA motors. I was shocked and I informed them that they should have called the vehicle after getting the approval.
Then the next day, they informed me that approval from TATA failed. I gave a piece of my mind when they obliged and finally got the approval 2 days later.

Then they fit the new turbo and did a test drive (I was not part of this). They only informed me that the new turbo is also faulty. They said they will order another turbo. In the mean time, they said that they will fit the old turbo back and give the vehicle back to me. I am still waiting for an update.

I am very angry with them right now, not because of the second faulty turbo, but because they did not care to update me constantly of the status. They say that they will call back in 10 min. And they never call back. I have to call back after 2 hours or so to listen to the same story.

I do not have good feed back for them.
However, I will provide a detailed update once I receive my vehicle along with the service costs. I will also provide a detailed review of Tejaswi motors, and couple of other service stations that I had to take my vehicle to in Hyderabad and Chennai.
Until then please bear with me for the delayed review of service and the costs.


All I can tell is that please do not visit Tejaswi motors. It is the worst A.S.S I have ever experienced.


Quote:
Originally Posted by DMehta View Post
@Himavanth - Nicely written and great pictures too! Why dont you fit some hells's as you complained of bad headlights earlier. If not, consider upgrading to HID's. You should not compromise on visibility.
IMHO - The budge guard does not look good. I personally am not a fan of bulky bull bars or nudge guards, but if it does the job for you, thumbs up.
Frankly, I have not yet given a thought on upgrading of the lights. I will think of it, once I free up my time.
I agree with you. I am not a big fan of the nudge guards.
The bulky bull bar came with the vehicle. And I do not have a store room at home to remove it and place it. Otherwise, if I can sell it off, that would be the best. For now I am stuck with the bull bar


Quote:
Originally Posted by ajay0612 View Post
I test drove Safari 2.2 VX (4x2) yesterday and my observations on gear shift are as below:
- Although there is lot of play, but the shifting does not require noticeably more effort than a car like Alto/Wagon R (pre-K series).
- The Gears slotting has a bit rubbery feel, again like Alto/Wagon R/Estilo (pre-K series).
- The clutch is also not significantly harder than that of a typical car's.
(Maybe older Safaris or / 4x4 - like yours, required more effort to shift gears.)
Regarding the gear shifts, I mentioned that because the safari gears have a long travel. From neutral to first, you have to push it to left and then engage the first gear. So you get used to pushing the gear all the way. And in swift you will have to slot in the gear gently and the travel for the gear is less.
However, That does not mean it requires too much power to engage first.

Safari's clutch is definitely harder than most hatches and sedans.

My review in this regard is mere comparisons and do no take them literally. Sorry if I gave a wrong impression with the review.


Quote:
Originally Posted by sriturl View Post
Excellent review.
Infact, I found it at the right time. I was thinking about a pre-worshipped Safari/Innova.
I always liked Safari, just for the sheer looks of it, and your reviews show the complete characteristic. Except for the interior quality, I would love to own one. But wife likes a "refined" one like Innova.

My thoughts are still at initial stage, and may take a couple of years to materialize, and possibly will have other options by that time. But, just wanted to thank you for the very honest review which is very helpful.
All the best and hopefully you will realise your dream.
Also please note that a safari will eat up a lot of time because of its niggles. And if you are willing to do that, then only consider a safari.

Quote:
Originally Posted by shantyrocks View Post
Thats indeed a honest straight from the heart review.
Its gonna be really helpfull for future prospective buyers like me.
Thanks for your appreciation.
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Old 7th February 2011, 19:43   #11
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Default Re: Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)

Quote:
Originally Posted by himavanth_m View Post
Turbo needs replacement...
What went bad with the existing turbo? I am assuming you are under extended warranty.

Quote:
Originally Posted by himavanth_m View Post
I do not have good feed back for them.
Please shoot a detailed e-mail to TATA MOTORS Customer care. I have done that before when I was bugged with one of the A.S.S-es and it was interesting to see how quickly TML tightened them up.

Good luck with your turbo!!

Last edited by cool_dube : 7th February 2011 at 19:44.
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Old 7th February 2011, 19:58   #12
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Default Re: Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)

@coll_dube: Forget about extended warranty, the vehicle is still in Normal company provided Warranty
and yes, the vehicle is in extended warranty. It is a must for any Tata Vehicle.
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Old 7th February 2011, 19:59   #13
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Default Re: Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)

40K is kinda early for a Turbo failure. Any update on what happened? I religiously idle for 30 seconds before shutting of the engine on any of my vehicles with Turbo..
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Old 7th February 2011, 20:07   #14
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Default Re: Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)

Quote:
Originally Posted by himavanth_m View Post
The vehicle is Stuck in service station for 4 days due to inept service personnel at Tejaswi motors in Madhapur Hyderabad. I gave vehicle about a week ago for turbo replacement...In the mean time, they said that they will fit the old turbo back and give the vehicle back to me. I am still waiting for an update. I am very angry with them right now

I feel, please collect your vehicle back with the old turbo. Such delays cause needless waiting stress.

You could always take the vehicle back to them when the correct spare arrives.

Hope your problem gets resolved
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Old 8th February 2011, 00:59   #15
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Default Re: Tata Safari VX 4x4 - Ownership review (at 40,000 kms)

I am not familiar with the technical details, but some issue with the turbo is causing the oil to be spilled into the Intercooler. This is what I was informed by the service advisor.
Due to this, the pickup has drastically dropped and the turbo is making quite an audible whistling sound.

Today the Tejaswi motors guys have reached to a new level. The service advisor who dealt with me is on leave today. So I called someone else from the same service station and these guys were equally unresponsive. They promise to call back in 10 min and they never will. After 2 or three such incidences, they did not even bother to answer my phone call. After a while, when again I call them, they cut the phone and send me an sms they will call back in 10 min. I never get the call. I just do not know how to deal with these guys.

Could any send me any contact number for TATA motors customer care? Any help would be highly appreciated in this regard

@4x4 addict: Yes, unless I have something urgent, I generally keep the vehicle idle for 20 to 30 sec before turning off. Moreover, I do not rev hard on highways. I like to go at constant speed of 80 to 90 in 5th gear.
But as you said 40k is just too early. Hopefully it is a one off case with the vehicle.

@mooza: I am going to pick up my vehicle tomorrow. Today, they did not bother to even answer me. I was just too busy today to go to showroom in uncertainty of getting back the vehicle. I have freed up my time tomorrow so that I can go there and check whether they atleast left my beauty in one piece.
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