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Old 31st December 2015, 10:01   #1
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Default Tata Safari Storme Varicor 400 : Official Review

The Tata Safari Storme Varicor 400 has been launched in India at a price of between Rs. 13.26 - 14.60 lakhs (ex-Delhi).

What you’ll like:

• 154 BHP & 400 Nm torque! Excellent driveability, superb refinement & mature power delivery
• Merely a Rs. 15,000 price premium over the Storme 320
• 6-speed gearbox brings superior cruiseability & spread of power
• Solid body-on-frame construction. Substantial size & strong presence
• 1st & 2nd seat rows have enormous space. Nice seats too
• Superb ride quality. Also, the X2 chassis brings better road manners & braking ability
• Low range 4x4 transfer case, limited slip differential and sufficient rear wheel articulation
• 2015 model improvements such as a bigger 63 liter fuel tank, steering-mounted audio controls, double-din ICE, flippy key & LED cabin lamps

What you won’t:

• 400 Nm engine tune only available in the expensive VX (top-end) variant
• The same old body style. Surely shows its age
• Effectively a 5 seater. Side-facing jump seats (3rd row) aren't suitable even for kids
• Not as dynamically accomplished as the XUV500, Duster or its sibling, the Aria
• No MID, navigation, climate control, reversing camera or dead pedal in a Rs. 15 lakh car
• Niggling issues & problems (as per the many Safari ownership reports)
• Tata's after-sales service experience remains a gamble
• 4x4's critical electronic bits & fuel tank are placed too low. No protective plate against splashes either. Massive size & kerb weight negatively affect its offroad performance

This review has been jointly compiled with Tushar. Thanks to him for the expert observations & photography!

Last edited by GTO : 31st December 2015 at 10:24.
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Old 31st December 2015, 10:03   #2
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Since the 2015 Tata Safari Storme has already been reviewed by Team-BHP, this report will only focus on changes to the Varicor 400 variant. For easy reference, here are direct links to the complete road-tests:

Full Review: Link (Tata Safari Storme : Official Review)

4x4 Variant: Link (Tata Safari Storme 4x4 : Official Review)

2015 Facelift: Link (2015 Tata Safari Storme : Official Review)


Last edited by GTO : 31st December 2015 at 10:24.
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Old 31st December 2015, 10:05   #3
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You have to credit Tata with one thing - over the years, they have been continually tweaking & improving their old warhorse, the Safari. The hydroformed X2 chassis (first seen on the Aria) was a substantial update when Tata launched the 2012 Safari Storme. Many had expected the 2015 facelift tsk1979 reviewed in June this year to get the Varicor 400 engine from the Hexa concept (link), given that Storme test mules with the 'Varicor 400' badge had been roaming around since a while. That refreshed Storme didn't get the 400 Nm tune at first, but Tata has finally launched the updated engine now, with 6 BHP and a whopping 80 Nm of torque more. The gearbox too gets updated and is now a 6-speed.

The Varicor 400 commands a premium of just around INR 15-16k over the 320 Nm Storme. It's a no-brainer choice between the two. For the money, you get a lot more torque and an added gear for relaxed highway cruising. The premium is very reasonable and great bang for buck, but this also begs the question - why not make the 400 Nm tune standard across the Storme range? Why offer it only on the top-end VX model which costs nearly 16 lakhs on the road (Mumbai)? The Varicor 400 could have been a model USP. It's the same thing that Tata did with the option of 4x4, by offering it only on the top-end VX trim.

If you ask us, we feel that there are too many 'Safaris' on sale for a model that sells only 600 - 800 units a month. There's the old Safari Dicor, the Safari Storme 320 Nm and now the Safari Storme 400 Nm. Consolidation is the need of the hour, just like Mahindra which has 'one Scorpio' (except the base S2) selling multiple times that of the Safari. The Varicor 400 is the best Safari till date and this is the one that should be standardised across the range. All other versions ought to be discontinued. Further, to widen the Storme 400's appeal, it should also get the 6-speed AT that the Hexa is rumoured to be coming with. Customers with 15 lakhs in their pockets love slushboxes.

Tata Safari Storme Varicor 400 : Official Review-tata-safari-storme-400-specs-prices.png

So, what's new on the outside?

The Safari Storme was facelifted earlier this year. This is Tata's marketing vehicle and the hood scoop, bug deflector & DRLs are accessories (not standard equipment):


400 Nm engine only available in the VX trim. 5 colour options: urban bronze, astern black, pearl white, arctic white and arctic silver:


From the outside, the single way to identify a Varicor 400 is...


...the badge on both front fenders:


The Storme still has a personality, but the old body is showing its age:


Rims are the same. Should've had a more aggressive design:


With the DRLs on. Again, these are add-on accessories:


Watch the same car in action here:

Last edited by GTO : 31st December 2015 at 10:23.
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Old 31st December 2015, 10:06   #4
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So, what's new on the inside?

Interior theme is carried forward from the facelift. Driving position is very commanding:


Instrument cluster remains the same:


Full MID missing (no fuel efficiency or distance-to-empty counters). You only get a digital clock and two trip meters:


The 6-speed shifter gets a matt silver finish, as opposed to the black & chrome of the Storme 320 Nm (link to image). Grip is of a good quality, giving it a premium feel like the Aria's gear lever:

Last edited by GTO : 31st December 2015 at 10:22.
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Old 31st December 2015, 10:08   #5
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Tata has squeezed even more power out of the familiar 2.2L diesel. Engine cover gets "Varicor 400" branding as well:


The standard Safari Storme runs in the same state of tune as the Tata Aria (148 BHP / 320 Nm). The Varicor 400's primary change is under the bonnet of course. Here, the 2.2L, 16-valve diesel with a variable geometry turbocharger produces 154 BHP (4,000 rpm) and as the name indicates, 400 Nm of torque (1,750 - 2,500 rpm). That's 6 BHP & a substantial 80 Nm of torque more than the regular Storme, giving the Varicor 400 the best power & torque-to-weight ratios among 7-seater SUVs from this segment. Another major change is the 6-speed manual gearbox.

Additional details directly from Tata:

Quote:
The cylinder block, cylinder head, injectors, pistons, main bearings and turbocharger have been reworked / upgraded / redesigned, to deliver the additional performance of the 2.2L VARICOR 400. This is in addition to the recent change to the timing belt system (for all VARICOR engines) which enhanced its service life to 150,000 km. Further, there are changes to the chassis to accommodate the new manual transmission. Apart from the associated changes to the engine, transmission and badge, there are no other differences.
Turn the chunky key in the ignition and you'll be pleased with the noise control of the cabin. Yes, you'll instantly know it's a diesel, but Tata has kept its mannerisms dignified (more on that later).

Slot the gear lever into first, ease off the clutch and you'll find the SUV moving forward with no sudden surge or shove (that you'd expect with this kind of torque). Power delivery from the bottom up is linear / gradual / predictable and very easy to get accustomed to. Tata has taken a very mature approach to power tuning the Varicor 400. Such is the low end torque delivery that we started from a standstill in 2nd gear on a slope and there was absolutely no roll back. This is the torque coming into play to add positively to the driving experience. You can upshift early and there's no turbo-lag to fight with.

Driving in the city is a breeze in the regular Storme, so it's no surprise that the Varicor 400 is a very tractable beast too. You never really feel the need to slam the A-pedal because of the low rpm pulling power. Even if you get generous with your accelerator input, there isn't any sudden 'whoosh' or 'surge' when the turbo kicks in. It's linear, well managed and the car feels composed. This is a heavy, rear-wheel drive SUV that delivers its grunt in a smooth manner - the dramatic XUV500 (with its torque steer) is at the other end of the spectrum.

The Storme has always been a great highway cruise ship; the added power & torque of the Varicor 400 make the experience all the more enjoyable. The engine is fairly free-revving for a diesel and Tata says she'll do the dash to a 100 km/h in 12.8 seconds (a full second quicker than the Storme 320). She can cruise comfortably at 100 km/h in 6th gear at 2,000 rpm (100 revvs lower than the Storme 320), with 120 km/h seen at ~2,300 rpm (200 revvs lower than regular Storme). There's plenty of torque available below 2,000 rpm, so downshifting isn't something you'll need to do very often during weekend trips on the highway. The Safari Storme has that old school SUV-like seating position where you can use your vantage point to scan traffic ahead of you, and thus plan the overtakes in a better manner. Additionally, I must mention that the imposing stance of the Storme makes traffic ahead of you move out of the way! The added 6th gear will aid fuel economy as well. Speaking of which, the Varicor 400 delivers 13.9 km/l vs the 14.1 km/l of the standard Storme (both ARAI figures).

Sound deadening within the cabin is very impressive. Road noise is controlled and though the Storme (235/70 R16) and XUV500 (235/65 R17) use Bridgestone Dueler rubber, the tyres make quite a ruckus in the Mahindra, which just isn't the case here. Under most driving conditions, engine noise is muffled well and it's only prominent at higher rpm levels. On the flip side, there is a certain amount of vibration that can be felt through the steering wheel, gear lever, floor pedals and door panels. These are noticeable, albeit not excessive.

The 6-speeder's shift quality is rubbery; this still isn't a slick-shifting gearbox. It is liveable though and anyone who has driven Safaris will have no complaint. The gear lever has a medium length throw, but is a bit short in height. I sat with the seat height raised to its highest position and using the gear lever became a stretch. One dives down or leans into the gear lever to shift into first (short drivers, take note). Of course, this goes away if the driver's seat is kept at a lower position. Tata has probably kept the gear lever short on purpose. The 1st gear is already very close to the passenger (if he's tall, you'll be brushing your hand against his right leg). Given the lateral space between the gear gates on the left & right (i.e. 1st & 5th or 2nd & 6th), the gap would be magnified with a longer stick.

The clutch has a light action and the throw - though long - doesn't make the pedal cumbersome to use. By virtue of the torque available, you can cruise through heavy traffic in 1st or 2nd gear with little to no accelerator input. The car's resistance to stalling is noteworthy too. We came close to stalling on some occasions, but the powertrain would always ensure that it stayed running.

The Storme Varicor 400's ride quality is outstanding, planted and tangibly better than the first-gen Storme. It's excellent over imperfect roads and uneven patches, completely defeating bumpy SUVs like the Scorpio and Fortuner. No comparison. I found the ride quality to be superior to even the monocoque XUV500. The Storme flattens broken roads like few other cars can.

It is a bulky SUV and handles like one. The Storme isn't meant to be a corner carver, so don't drive like it's one. Be cautious and always keep the tall center of gravity in mind. Straight line stability is good and body roll is much better controlled now (thanks to the modern X2 chassis). That being said, high speed confidence is superior in the Aria than it is in the Storme Varicor 400. It's not just the engine, it's the way the car is built overall. The chassis is built for the purpose in the Aria...and feels like it has been adapted for the Storme. While you sit tall and look over the bonnet in the Storme, the Aria's dashboard cocoons around you. In terms of high speed confidence, the Aria comes first, followed by the XUV500, Safari Storme, Fortuner and Scorpio. This does indicate the tempting potential on hand with the Hexa!

The steering wheel is the same one as in the 2015 refresh model. Since this is a significant component of the driving experience, it has to be mentioned that, while the hydraulic unit is confidence inspiring at high speeds, it is quite heavy to use and requires a fair amount of effort to operate, especially at a standstill or parking speeds. Suffice to say that it feels nothing like an EPS and can get cumbersome to use in the city. This indirectly ensures that one would not be keeping one's hand on the gear knob for too long. Do note that we drove the 4x4 variant. According to BHPians, the 4x2 variant might have a lighter steering.

Ergonomically, the steering wheel gets a thumbs up. By virtue of its sizing, the way it's placed and how it has been designed, the steering doesn't interfere with your legs while driving, nor does it obscure your view of the instrument cluster (like the old steering wheel did). I noticed some vibrations coming through the steering wheel at speeds in excess of 100 km/h. Don't know whether it's there on all Stormes or just our test car (which was earlier used as a marketing / ad shoot vehicle). This needs to be watched out for as the vibrations will be an irritant in the normal course. Be sure to check it out in your test-drive vehicle too and report on this thread with observations.

The 200 mm of ground clearance is more than enough to take on the mountains that the municipality calls speed breakers. Inexistent roads should pose no problem at all. The Varicor 400 is a proper SUV that can be had with 4x4 (electronic shift-on-the-fly mechanism), a low range transfer case and limited slip differential. If you intend to tour through the country or frequently access rural areas, 4x4 is a must-have option.

This SUV has disc brakes on all four wheels. The braking ability is reassuring. Since you only get the Varicor 400 tune on the top-end VX variant, ABS & EBD come as standard. Nose dive under braking is well managed and easily better than it is in the XUV500.

Last edited by GTO : 31st December 2015 at 15:53.
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Old 31st December 2015, 10:31   #6
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Default Re: Tata Safari Storme Varicor 400 : Official Review

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Official Review Section. Thanks for sharing.

Rating this detailed review 5 stars, ACM & Tushar!

@ ACM, thanks for taking the time out. Your experience & expertise with the Safari & Aria were key to a perfect evaluation of the 400 Nm engine.

Last edited by GTO : 31st December 2015 at 10:34.
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Old 31st December 2015, 10:44   #7
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Thumbs up Re: Tata Safari Storme Varicor 400 : Official Review

This is like a New Year gift! Excellent write-up @ACM

The Storme is a very capable machine, and now with the Varicor 400, it is even more desirable! Hat's off to TATA for introducing it.

I don't understand why they are not providing a full MID for a vehicle costing 15 lakhs. Even the humble Zest has one. Wait, the Nano also comes one!
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Old 31st December 2015, 10:57   #8
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Default Re: Tata Safari Storme Varicor 400 : Official Review

The most comprehensive review of the 400nm storme compared to what's on the other websites rated 5 stars. Was the review done on a 4x4 variant? I drove the 2wd version and I loved the steering on that one, it was quite light and direct.
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Old 31st December 2015, 11:21   #9
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Default Re: Tata Safari Storme Varicor 400 : Official Review

Beautiful Review; and well worth the wait!

This is probably the first 4X4 review (in the 400 NM tune) as almost all the short reviews posted on the forum so far were of the 4X2 guise; only the latter was available at the various dealerships for test drives. Thanks ACM and Tushar; this will definitely be a big help for folks contemplating the 4X4 version.

I loved the deflector and DRLs; the hood scoop is overdone IMO! Wondering, if both of these can be had at least as dealer-end accessories? And if they would do a good job of installing the DRLs as it definitely looks like it'll involve precise cuts on the bumper for the installation; do we know how much would they cost?
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Old 31st December 2015, 11:48   #10
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Default Re: Tata Safari Storme Varicor 400 : Official Review

Dear ACM and Tushar,

Your review is really good. Now I do not look at anything that is not automatic! Still, your review makes the Storme Varicor 400 sound tempting.

Do you have any idea if they are at least planning AT in this?

Girish Mahajan
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Old 31st December 2015, 12:21   #11
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Default Re: Tata Safari Storme Varicor 400 : Official Review

Quote:
Originally Posted by damodar View Post
Was the review done on a 4x4 variant? I drove the 2wd version and I loved the steering on that one, it was quite light and direct.
Yes it was a 4x4. A point to be thought about.
The steering though only felt heavy at near standstill speeds.

Quote:
Originally Posted by avinash_m View Post
Beautiful Review; and well worth the wait!

This is probably the first 4X4 review (in the 400 NM tune) as almost all the short reviews posted on the forum so far were of the 4X2 guise; only the latter was available at the various dealerships for test drives.

I loved the deflector and DRLs; the hood scoop is overdone IMO! Wondering, if both of these can be had at least as dealer-end accessories? And if they would do a good job of installing the DRLs as it definitely looks like it'll involve precise cuts on the bumper for the installation; do we know how much would they cost?
The DRLs were well installed on the exterior and looked good. In my view an essential accessory if dealer fitted. The internal wiring was average neither a factory fit nor too messy it could have been installed a bit better.

The Hood Scoop accessory had a poor appearance and did not match the look. It also hindered visibility.

The Bug Deflector looked quite good to me and added to the imposing looks.
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Old 31st December 2015, 12:21   #12
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Default Re: Tata Safari Storme Varicor 400 : Official Review

Thanks ACM and Tushar for such wonderful review. The review gives me more confidence in going for one. I waited alot for this car and would have owned one by now if it was not banned in NCR. My decision to wait for 400nm looks worthwhile now. It definitely is a great SUV to drive and the commanding driving position ensure that you do not have problems when shifting from a hatchback. Hope I will have it in April now.
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Old 31st December 2015, 13:03   #13
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Default Re: Tata Safari Storme Varicor 400 : Official Review

Great review ACM, Tushar and right on time as GTO promised. The Safari always has been a poster boy for me and this updated drivetrain definitely does not disappoint. Though many would want to see the design evolve, I for one like the boxy proportions and want the legend to stay true to its roots. If someone wants a flashy modern design, they can visit the nearest Mahindra dealership.

The updates that would have made sense was front facing last row of seats and cruise control. Having made its name and fame as a highway barge, cruise control is a mandatory requirement. Apart from this the legend will still rule in the hearts of the enthusiasts. I drove the XUV500 around 3000 kms in Rajasthan earlier this month and had serious complains about the super light steering. Safari definitely trumps the Mahindra in terms of steering manners. Kudos to Tata, for sticking with an hydraulic unit in the era of EPS.

And, I agree with ACM wholeheartedly, on the huge blunder Tata is making with restricting the new engine / gearbox (along with 4x4) to only the top trim. They need to realise not all enthusiasts are rich.

Last edited by GTO : 31st December 2015 at 15:12. Reason: Typo
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Old 31st December 2015, 13:04   #14
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Default Re: Tata Safari Storme Varicor 400 : Official Review

Great, comprehensive review! Rated a well-deserved 5 stars.
I don't understand why Tata can't give a full MID with fuel efficiency, DTE, etc. in the Storme. After all, its a 15 Lakh SUV! The center console too feels a bit dated now, compared to the competition. A very capable SUV, but Tata still needs to improve the small but significant things.

Last edited by GTO : 31st December 2015 at 15:12. Reason: Typo
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Old 31st December 2015, 13:36   #15
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The 400 Varicor further builds on the Storme 's strengths and cruise control would have been a very good addition. I've missed this in most of my highway trips. Also plastic quality in the Storme is superior to competition. With the all black interiors it just takes it to a different level.

ACM good review. But not sure why you have mentioned about niggles and issues from "various safari ownership threads ". As such not many Storme ownership reports in the forum and I haven't noticed any niggling issues. Would be curious to know what those are.
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