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Old 30th September 2018, 16:16   #1
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Default Sable The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX

We share a history

The Safari has been in the Indian market for 20 years. 20 years! That's 2 years before Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh were formed, 9 years before the iphone came to India, and 4 governments at the centre. It passed from iteration to iteration. 3.0 Ltr Dicor in 2005, 2.2 Ltr Dicor in 2007, The Storme in 2012, and the Storme Facelift from 2015 till date.

I have been in this world for 37 years. A year after it was launched, a friend's dad bought a Safari. I had just turned 18, and (not content with the family's humble Maruti 800) was begging family and friends for driving their (bigger and better) vehicles. My friend did allow me to drive his dad's Safari. It was a mixed bag. I was in awe of the space, the throne like seats and the sheer road presence of the vehicle. But it was a handful to drive (add my total inexperience in driving diesels and big cars), noisy and crude. After 10 minutes of struggle, gave the controls back to my friend and retired to the passenger seat.

In 2005 we bought a Tata Indica DLS. On our delivery day Lexus Motors Kolkata had just one more vehicle to deliver. A black, top spec Safari. I remember checking out the shiny black monster, peering through the window into the vehicle and murmuring "One day, one day". (Actually I didn't, my mom did. I was recently reminded).

Unfortunately the Indica turned out to be a lemon, and the most problematic vehicle our family has owned. The ownership thread can be found here (2005 Tata Indica DLS, review at 22K kms - The Unloved Child). The complete apathy from Tata Motors service didn't help matters. In the end we vowed never to buy a Tata vehicle again, comfort or no comfort.

In 2012 I sat in a teambhpian's (same year) Safari Storme. Again very impressed by the comfort and space on offer, and noticed that the interiors and refinement had considerably gone up. But a new car wasn't on the horizon, much less a Tata.

Present Day

So for the last 10 years I've been driving a Hyundai Verna CRDI. I call it Predator (also the origin of my teambhp handle) and it is the most trouble–free, fast and cheap to maintain vehicle I've ever owned. I see no reason to sell something that runs like clockwork and satisfies my (make that any middle class Indian's) desire for speed and fuel efficiency. It has run 1.5L kms, and the ownership thread can be found here (My Predator - Ebony Black Hyundai Verna CRDI SX ABS - 100,000 kms update on pg 15).

Except when a friend buy's a new car and invites me to the showroom on the day of the delivery. I sit in the cabin, take in the new car smell, and ponder at the new features that have graced all Indian cars over the last decade. The little boy in me says "Its time you bought a new car. Just for the heck of it. Keep Predator, but get it a companion."

Then 2 things happened that made me take the little boy more seriously. First, the National Green Tribunal declared that diesel cars more than 10 years old need to be taken off the roads. Not that it was implemented everywhere, but it took the resale values of old diesels – regardless of how well maintained they are – totally into the Bermuda triangle. The implementation was looming. A recent chat with a traffic constable in the Delhi police (don't ask how or why) informed me that they hadn't started impounding cars (behind their legal expiry date) as yet. But the system is taking the rule seriously, and it might start in a few months. That meant Predator would have to be taken off Delhi roads soon, for no fault of its own.

Second, I got a new job. The company offered a very lucrative employee lease scheme – 0 down payment, tax saving and all that jazz.

The Alternatives – Sedans

So in July 2018 I sat down to plot a new car purchase. From the long term viewpoint, it had to be Predator's replacement. So definitely a diesel. The initial decision was to go for a sedan. My upper limit was 20L, and I wanted all the bells and features. C segment sedans then.

The following were the alternatives considered:

Hyundai Verna – The foundation of trust, with the brand and the car, has been built over 10 years and 1.5L kms. So TDed my most obvious choice first. And the Verna didn't disappoint. It looks menacing and beautiful at the same time. Loaded with features and superb quality interior plastics. Some features (like the boot release by waving your foot) I found a little gimicky. The diesel engine was silent, refined and ferocious, as expected from Hyundai diesels. The driving experience was a delight – like my own car's with butter and fire on top. The flame orange color seemed straight out of a custom shop.

But there was one bugbear. The seating. I'm 6'2" and generously built (you'll find annoying references to my physical dimensions again and again in this write–up). First there was no way I could sit in the rear seat without craning my neck, thanks to the sloping roof–line. Secondly both front and rear seats seemed to be of soft material, and lagging under–thigh support. I sunk in, and my lower back felt that bit uneasy. My 10 year old Verna comes with much better seats (for the generously built). And if you do long distance travel – seated for 8 hours or more continuously – all this matters like hell.

So with a heavy heart we rejected the Verna.

Honda City – My close friend (non–petrolhead, but loves long drives) owns a 2006 Honda City, the "Dolphin" model. It has run 1.93 lakh kms and been our companion over many a long drive. We sing praises of the car's build quality and reliability. Last year he walked into the Honda showroom to buy a new City, and walked out with one simple sentence – "This car just doesn't feel as solid as my car".

I could see the reason for the blanket statement when I TDed the City. At first sight the packaging impresses you. Wonderful engines (Honda petrols feel smooth as silk, diesel is noisy but powerful), huge feature list, well shaped cavernous boot, supportive seats, adequate head room and leg room. But then you take a closer look. And notice that the build quality feels light. Even tinny, I dare to add. The wheel wells come with partial (in front) and no cladding (in rear). Live in a metro city which has a proper monsoon, and see how useful wheel cladding is after 5 years of ownership. The boot has no cladding either.

And the diesel city is expensive. The OTR price of the VX diesel is 15L in Noida, compared to 14.3 for the Verna CRDI SX. The OTR price of the ZX diesel is an eyewatering 15.6L (15L for SXO). I wasn't impressed by the cost cutting and the build quality, and the price made me decide against it.

Skoda Rapid – Skoda horror stories notwithstanding, took a TD of this vehicle. And it was damn impressive. The diesel engine, though loud, is quite powerful. In real life situations you can't tell that this car has lesser power than the Verna. The ride and handling package is amazing.

I have 2 standard tests for every TD I take – ABS and rough road. There is a strip of service road close to my building which is perfectly paved and empty on weekends. My standard TD routine includes taking the vehicle to 120 and slamming on the brakes. The other is a patch of unmade road adjacent to an under–construction building. When all 4 wheels have to deal with different potholes simultaneously, the true mettle of the suspension comes out.

The Rapid made me a fan by the way it handled both tests. The interiors are very teutonic, and not as exciting as the Verna or the City. But tap on the plastics, push the seats, and it all feels like cut out of a single rock. So does the car's exterior. The car actually feels like a vault. The facelift (and new colors) has added a desirability factor to the Rapid's boring European looks. See a blue Skoda Rapid with the smoked headlamps and DRLs on, and you'll know what I mean. To top it off, Skoda was offering a 70K discount on the top model.

Volkwagen Vento – Take whatever I wrote about the Rapid and insert it here. No seriously! Just take into account LED headlamps, and that VW wasn't offering any discounts (other than on a single top spec car from last year that was in stock).

So by end of July I had made up my mind to procure a Skoda Rapid Style 1.5TDI. Was just about to pay the deposit money, when the call with the City–owning friend happened.

Friend: Dude, so you've made up your mind as yet?
Me: Yep. Going for a Rapid diesel.
Friend: Why not an SUV? Last month I tried to do the Spiti circuit by car. Had to turn back after Rekongpeo, the roads were so bad. With a high GC car, would have been able to complete the circuit. Plus you know how long we've been planning Ladakh.
Me: But SUVs are heavy, and have horrible road manners. You know how I drive the Verna.
Friend: Why don't you TD the duster? Its as nimble as a car, and that high GC helps.
Me (Brain buzzing): Yeah, why not? Let me get back to you. (Click).

And then it hit me. The flexibility of a high GC car would help us over many trails around (relatively) unexplored India. And most of them fit in my budget. Hence the plan to buy a sedan was shelved, and I started exploring SUVs.

The Alternatives – SUVs

The very next day I got a call from the Honda sales rep.

Rep:"Sir, are you still considering the City?"
Me: "Nope. I've decided to buy an SUV".
Rep: "In that case, why don't you take a look at our BRV? Its got 200 mm of ground clearance, same engine as the city, and 7 seats".
Me: "Yeah well, why not? Bring it over next Saturday"

Honda BRV – I have discovered that the BRV is in a class of its own. Its the only monocoque MUV with an SUV–esque ground clearance and 7 genuinely usable seats. Same engines as the city. Overdone styling, even gargoyle–ish in my opinion. But a very impressive package. Why did I reject it? Black, boring interiors, and a very narrow cabin width. But I would still suggest this to anyone looking for a left–field, flexible option in that price range.

Mahindra XUV500 – Remember Morgan Freeman from Bruce Almighty? White suit, white tie and shoe, white shirt, with a halo around him? The XUV that turned up for the TD was white. And after getting into the car, I somehow was reminded of that character.

Mahindra has given the XUV features that would shame even the new Verna. An unbelievable touchscreen (the Mahindra rep actually spent more time explaining the touchscreen and Blue sense app, than he spent on the TD), ice blue lighting, puddle lamps that say "XUV 500" when you open the doors, and many more that I don't recollect now. The core driving experience was also nice. The engine is smooth and powerful, the vehicle drives better than most body–on–frame SUVs, and the cabin was hushed and secure. It comes with all round disk brakes. My Verna has all round disk brakes, and after 10 years I'm convinced of the superiority of this setup in emergency braking conditions.

But for all the likes there were 3 genuine dislikes:

1. I had TDed the XUV when it was first launched in 2011. While the suspension handled solitary potholes very well, take it to a rough road and the vehicle would lose the plot. It would pitch and buckle, throwing the occupants around. I repeated that test with the new XUV (on my previously defined rough road) and came up with almost the same result. Mahindra may have improved the suspension, but it is no Duster.

2. The XUV is like the BRV in being a monocoque with high GC and seven seats. Where it differs from the BRV is that the last 2 seats are not actually usable. Forget my physical dimensions, even a thin 5.5 footer would be uncomfortable here. And there is no luggage space with the third row in place. The only possible solution is to throw out the third row (can you do that on an XUV?) and use it as a 5 seater.

3. The XUV is expensive. Most of the bells and whistles are in the W9 and W11 variants, which cost 18.2L and 19.6L respectively (OTR Noida). I don't buy a car for features, I buy it for the driving experience and the core value proposition. So the XUV was rejected.

Renault Duster – Genuinely impressive vehicle, and no surprise that it sells the way it does. The 1.5 Diesel is the most refined (barring Hyundai diesels), fast and frugal. The ride quality is something else. I took it on the rough road stretch. The sales guy didn't bat an eyelid. Neither did the Duster. Just rode like it was on smooth tarmac, keeping us absolutely steady inside the cabin. To test the handling, I kept deliberately unsettling the car at speed, and it managed just like (or should I say better than?) a sedan. I stretched the TD's time and distance, knowing I was close to a decision, and the Duster just kept on surprising me.

Would have signed the cheque that evening, if not for one bugbear. The interiors. The old Duster came with boring black interiors and oddly placed power window switches and audio controls. They have made a conscious effort with the new one's interiors, even giving the switches back their rightful place. But the interiors are still boring, cheap, and unworthy of a 15L car. Another sore point is the word "Duster" splattered on to the interiors in red plastic applique, in SIX spots. Maybe its helpful for an owner with severe amnesia, who needs to be continuously reminded of the name of the vehicle he's driving. But to me it was a laughable attempt at sprucing up the interiors.

So didn't sign the cheque. "Thoda aur dekhte hain".

Renault Captur – The Renault sales rep had sensed how impressed I was with the Duster, and heard my disappointment over the interiors. He quietly disappeared, and appeared an hour later with the Captur. It was the first time I was seeing the Captur up close, let alone driving one.

Allow me a little fantasy–telling here. Imagine you've just hired a new girl as your subordinate. She's incredibly efficient at her work, never complains, works on a low salary, is actually a nice soul and remembers your personal commitments as well. You grow fond of her and give her a greater role. Her only disadvantage, being a woman, is she looks like the farmer's wife from Men in Black 1. She's so ugly, any attempt at make–up just makes her look funnier. You feel sad for her. If not for her looks, the world would have been her oyster.

Then her younger sister comes applying for the role. She's the same brilliant professional package as her elder sibling, equally nice heart and all that. Plus she's very pretty to boot. You're bowled by her. But she asks for a salary that's so high, you don't hire her and continue with the previous sister.

And this story, though unashamedly sexist, sums up the position of the Duster and Captur in the Indian market! The Captur is the same brilliant mechanical package as the Duster. But what looks! The silhouette looks like nothing else in the Indian market, the 17" wheels are the best you can get, and some features (like the Audi–esque swiping indicators and the white on white interior console lighting on the Platine version) made me swoon. But Renault has killed it with the pricing. When it was launched, it was 1L more expensive than the Duster, model–by–model. Then a few months later they slashed Duster prices by another 1L. So now you have to shell out 2L more to buy what is essentially a Duster with better looks and features! No wonder the Captur sells 300 units a month, and the Duster about 10 times that.

But this doesn't end my story. Renault were offering a discount that varied between 1.75L to 2L on 2017 RXZ and Platine models. That means I could get a top spec Captur for the price of a top spec Duster. How confusing is that?

The Safari Storme – They say the lower your expectations, the more you're surprised. The Storme was the last vehicle I TDed, more to do with "I'm unable to choose between the Captur and Duster, so let's TD all other available options in the market". But here came the bucket of surprises.

The Sales Rep from Sagar Motors opened the door and asked me to step in. The first thing I noticed was the space. In other vehicles a man of my size measures available leg room, head room and shoulder room. But this vehicle was simply a room. Space was not needed to be measured here, it was granted!

Second was the comfort. I've always been a fan of Safari seats. In Bhpian JKDS's Bolero LX, we had the stock front seats replaced by Safari seats, which alone did wonders for driving and seating comfort inside the car. (Link here (My First UV Mahindra Bolero LX 4x4). Here I was using Safari seats inside a Safari.

The interiors reminded me that I was actually an old school person, sob sob. I was pleased with the refresh interiors, the silver inserts with the blue stereo light, the round AC knobs that rotated with clicks. Until a friend (who was accompanying me that day) pointed out that the car had no touchscreen and no climate control. Quite unbelievably, it was the only vehicle - of all that I TDed, not to have a touchscreen.

And then I started driving it. The seating position was unbelievably high, higher than any other vehicle I had previously TDed. That and the huge glass area meant I had a commanding view of the road. Driving was very easy. The clutch was soft. The steering (with a little adjustment) became exactly the height & feel of a sedan, and the new gear lever was short. The power steering had enough feedback to remind me of the size of vehicle I was driving, and wasn't over-assisted. There was no vibration from the engine, only slight noise. This was a pleasant surprise!

So I took it to the ABS strip. Accelerated to 90 (didn't have the guts to take this beast to 120) and slammed the brakes. The vehicle stopped with expected nosedive, but didn't veer from the line. "Sir it has disk brakes on all 4 wheels". Oh really? You just told me something I wanted to hear!

Then the rough road strip. First I was driving it slow and gingerly. The vehicle was lurching from side to side and throwing us around. Then the sales rep said "Sir, just increase the speed. Suspension ko apna kaam karne do". So I did, and was astonished to see the beast transform into a magic carpet. Seriously. The suspension just trampled over the potholes, and we were totally steady inside the car. I got reminded of an article I had read in Auto India many years ago, where they said that the Safari (wasn't the Storme back then) with its long travel suspension and weight has the best ride quality this side of 15 lakhs.

Then I took it to a crowded road. With those elephantine ORVMs it was quite easy to judge the dimensions of the car. There were no blind spots. Just the very very long bonnet made me rejudge my braking distances. I giggled when I saw autos and e-rickshaws scampering to make way. At a particular crossing the traffic constable got busier (with his hand movements) in trying to quickly let us through. When you're driving a white safari in UP, these are unexpected benefits.

Finally I started proper high speed driving, corners and all. Here the elephant showed its limitations. The engine supplied enough power (TD vehicle was a VX, but had the old 148bhp engine) and the vehicle made it competently through corners. But you were always aware of the weight and dimensions of the vehicle. Not something that you couldn't live with, actually. As long as you weren't trying something stupid like zigzagging at speed.

So when we got off, my comment went "Dude I can buy this vehicle just for the road presence and the comfort". My friend's comment went "Haan, yeh SUV's ka bullet hai". Starkly different opinions, both true in their spirit.

The Buying Decision, or "Yes, I can live without a touchscreen"

I debated for 2 weeks between the Renault twins and the Safari Storme. Read up all the TD reports, watched all the youtube videos on the 3 cars. The Renaults had amazing ride quality, an internationally proven engine, styling (the Captur) and were basically modern cars. The Duster's downside was its interiors. The Captur's downside was that it doesn't sell well, might get removed from the market any day, and then spare availability and resale will become a nightmare.

The safari had equally amazing ride quality (though it took a different approach to achieve it), unparalleled comfort and space. The engine was fast and refined enough. The driving position was king. The downside was the sheer size and weight, and consequent lower fuel efficiency.

Seek's thread (link here (Tale of a Tata Safari Storme EX. EDIT: 20,000 km update)) helped. Here was a guy using the Safari as a daily driver as well as long distance tourer. And documenting the experience.

Asking friends didn't help. Everyone laughed at my idea of owning a 20 year old design. Some suggested the Duster, some the XUV.

Tata service was also a concern. Called up bhpian PSurelia, a fellow Safari Storme owner and had a long discussion. Apparently Tata has improved both quality and service standards these days. Went down to the Sagar Motors service centre and met the service head. Bugged him with a lot of questions.

Finally one day I visited both the Renault and Tata showrooms again. Did another TD of the Renault Twins first. Then went to Tata, TDed the Storme and gave the booking cheque. There! Heart had won over head. The young man saying "one day" had earned his day.

The debate over variant and color

Had a hard time choosing between the VX and EX variants. VX comes with the new 156 bhp and 400NM engine, and the 6 speed gearbox. Some online reviews were suggesting that the new 6 speed is notchy and giving troubles. So decided to stick to the old engine.

Now the difference in features. For 1.3L more (other than engine-gearbox combo) the VX gets alloys, rear parking sensors (not camera), 2 airbags and a covered parcel shelf on the front dashboard. That's it. The alloys and parking sensors (with camera and screen) could be bought as accessories. The airbags I would miss, but look at the size of the thing! Unless there's a frontal collision with a truck or bus, I doubt I'd need airbags on the beast. And obviously, the covered parcel shelf I could do without.

The color choice was easier. Henry Ford used to say about the model T - you can get it in any color as long as its black. You can get the Safari in any color as long as its white, silver, dark grey or (let's face it) brown. Never liked white or silver cars, NCR is awash with them. The Dark Grey looks brilliant when polished, but otherwise looks as attractive as a wet potato. So Brown (they call it Urban Bronze) was the only sensible choice.

The Booking & Delivery Experience

Sagar Motors Noida took just 11K for booking. They casually reminded me that I'm in UP, and everyone books a white Safari here. I stuck to the Urban Bronze.

Talking numbers, I got a net discount of 1L - 71K of insurance free and corporate discount of 29K. Chose the 3 year Gold AMC - which covers all service and parts replacement cost over the next 3 years for 41K. In accessories, I chose the factory alloy wheels. I'm aware that there are newer and cooler aftermarket designs available for the Storme. But the factory 5 spokes have a timeless design to them. And being solid fat 5 spokes, pretty easy to clean! The other accessories I chose were a rear parking sensor and camera screen set (7.5K) and "Tata" branded cream seat covers. The quality of the latter seemed pretty impressive to the touch.

The detailed cost as well as applicable discount is given below:

Ex Showroom 1,283,895
Insurance (worth 71K, offered free) 0
Registration 135,890
Handling Charges (They still charge that?) 9,500
TCS 12,839
Green Tax 12,839
Alloy Wheels 30,000
3 year Gold AMC 41,800
Reverse Camera with Sensor 7,500
Seat Covers 14,000
LESS: Corporate Discount 29,000
TOTAL 1,519,363

Initially Sagar Motors promised me that the vehicle would arrive from the factory in 2 weeks. My company promised me that the approval process would complete in 1 week.

But as luck would have it, the company approval process took 2 weeks. And the dealer had the car in the stockyard in exactly 1 week!

So by the end of week 1, I paid a visit to the stockyard to check out my new vehicle.

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Those steel wheels would soon give way to alloys.

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A peek into the cockpit.

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Those seats would soon have covers.

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The chassis number for reference.

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The VIN number. It was a March 2018 manufactured vehicle.

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Look who came visiting!

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The payment to the Dealer happened on 23rd August. Unfortunately I was out of town over the next 3 days. So informed the dealer I'd take delivery on 27th August.

The gleaming vehicle standing outside, ready to depart.

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The dealer was very smooth with the delivery process. Accessories had all been fitted and paperwork took barely an hour. They gave me a box of chocolates, and the typical Tata delivery procedure as below:

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Parked it in the basement next to Predator. Was aghast at the difference in height of the 2 vehicles.

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Went to the building office to get a parking sticker. One very lucky gentleman had bought a Mercedes GLS the same day. Here a funny incident occured. The building guards, all locals, obviously didn't know what the GLS was or how much it cost. But everyone knew the Safari. They all came over to me and congratulated me for buying "Raja Gadi" and demanded bakshish. It is amazing how much sense of occasion the Safari was creating.

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The Initial Ownership Experience

Have owned the Safari for exactly 39 days now, in which it has covered 3000 kms. This includes a daily commute of about 45 kms to office, one round trip to Binsar (800 kms) with family, and one round trip to Chandigarh (about 580 kms in all) with a colleague on work.

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Here's a brief review of the elements in the car.


Engine & Gearbox – The 148 bhp Varicor is a mixed bag. It produces enough power and more than adequate torque (perhaps because it has its origins in a truck engine?) to keep the beast rolling. My parking is in basement, and I like to show off to unsuspecting passengers by shifting to second just before the ascent and letting the beast roll up on sheer torque. Like any CRDI engine, it keeps up with city and highway traffic as long as you use the gearbox to keep it on the boil. Otherwise there's tons of lag at the low end and noise as you go higher on the revs.

It is not a very refined engine (I'm comparing it to Hyundai diesels). It accelerates with a rrrrrrr sound, like a box of marbles rolling about inside the Engine. But thanks to superb in–cabin insulation, you get the same noise (not vibration, please note) as you get in a VW sedan.

The gearbox does its job. I didn't find it as notchy as some online reviews suggested. But its got relatively long throws and sometimes baulks while engaging reverse. Nothing to complain though. I guess there aren't any online reviewers left who have engaged reverse in an Ambassador, or any gear in a Matador, at cold.

The clutch is light, lighter than most sedans I've driven. But it's got a long travel. So one one hand individual gearshifts are easy. On the other, when you're driving on a single lane road for a couple of hours, continuously shifting between second, third and fourth depending on oncoming traffic, the long travel does tire your feet out.

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Rating: 6/10


Exterior Styling – The Safari was always an attractively styled vehicle. Just that 2 decades of basic familiarity with the silhouette has made most people stop giving a second look.

The front 3 quarters is the most attractive angle:

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I think the new Land Rover inspired grille is the best styling element on the vehicle. Better than the Mesh on the old storme, better than all previous generations.

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The rear 3 quarters, with the vast glasshouse area and the rear spoiler, does look attractive.

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With the door–mounted spare wheel gone, the head–on rear view looks bland. Like a Bedford milk van. The black plastic strip with the decals brings a little visual relief. The dual inset exhausts are a pleasant detail which most people miss.

On a different note, it had rained the whole day when I drove to Chandigarh and back. After returning home, the rear was caked with mud. Goes to prove, if you have a vehicle with the aerodynamics of a bus, you'll get a muddy rear like a bus!

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Traditional Safari 5 spoke alloys. A rather timeless design, and easy to clean. Note the presence of disk brakes front and rear.

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The projector headlamps not only improve the looks, but also the headlight effectiveness. I had asked the Tata service manager if I fitting 60w Osram Nightbreakers would void their warranty. He said the new Storme headlights are so good, I won't need replacement bulbs.

After 2 night drives, one in pouring rain, I believe him.

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Unlike my Verna, the Storme foglamps are not just ornamental. They actually manage to give good lighting in twilight conditions. They're so small however, that after an hour of driving in rain they get all choked up and stop giving any useful illumination.

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Now that Safari's are no longer available in dual tone paint, the "Storme" decal provides the only visual relief for what is otherwise a bland and bus–like side view.

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I adore the huge ORVMs. They're more functional than stylish, but they provide a total view of the side rears leaving no blind spots. The turn indicators are the only real styling element.

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The rear door chrome strip comes with an arrow, indicating the position of the handle. The guards at malls fumble around for the handle, and I have had to get down on 2 occasions and show them the arrow.

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Rating – 7/10

Interiors & Comfort – You CANNOT get more comfortable and spacious interiors than the Safari below 20 lakhs. There, the blanket statement at the very beginning to close all arguments!

The front seats are like thrones. They are accommodating even for the generously built. The ride height means you sit ON the seats, rather than in them. Thanks to an ageing spine, my father was having problems lowering himself into the Verna (he is 5'11" and generously built) or sitting there for long hours. He did the whole Binsar trip in the front seat of the Safari and enjoyed himself.

Note the Tata branded cream seat covers I had fitted. The seat belts are height adjustable.

Sable  The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX-img_20180930_124002_hdr-copy.jpg

The rear seats are as comfortable as the front. The generous armrest means both occupants can use it without jostling elbows. The cushioning is deep and firm.

Legroom is not an issue in this car. Even with the front seats pushed back to my driving position, a similarly built individual can sit behind me comfortably.

The floor mounted air con unit throws out air from the front. If that isn't enough, you can turn on the roof mounted rear AC (which is an individual unit).

Sable  The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX-img_20180930_124153_hdr-copy.jpg

The flow control for the roof mounted AC resides with the rear light switch. I was delighted to note that both front and rear lights are LEDs. In the night they flood the interior with cool white lighting.

Sable  The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX-img_20180930_123736_hdr-copy.jpg

The rear jump seats are not for human beings. Chimps, or little children who don't mind prancing around, maybe?

The jump seats have been used only on one occasion. We were doing the 14km climb from the Binsar sanctuary gate to the KMVN. There was one KMVN staff waiting at the gate who requested a lift to the top. He opened the rear hatch and climbed in.

Better to fold them up and use the rear loading bay. The high loading lip makes hauling up heavy suitcases a case for a strong back. But the space is more than enough.

Sable  The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX-img_20180930_124300_hdr-copy.jpg

The heavy rear door comes with its own door pockets. It must have weighed a ton on the old Safaris which had the spare wheel mounted on them.

Sable  The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX-img_20180930_124415_hdr-copy.jpg

Last edited by moralfibre : 6th October 2018 at 13:57. Reason: Correcting Storme launch year to 2012 from 2007.
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Old 3rd October 2018, 14:26   #2
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Default Re: Sable The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX

  • The cockpit view. The dull silver on the dashboard is more upmarket than the faux wood on the previous Safari. Goes nicely with the blue LED from the stereo system. I've had 4 people pointing out that the vehicle doesn't come with a touchscreen (This public obsession with touchscreens is maddening) and me replying that I don't care!
  • The steering is nice to hold and the audio controls are mounted on it. The rake angle is like a normal sedan. It is height adjustable. When I adjust the steering for my height, I can't see the speedo anymore! However that's a personal issue, rather than something wrong with the car.
  • The AC rotary knobs operate with a nice, tactile feel. The AC itself is a chiller. It has a very useful Eco mode, and spends most of its time in that mode after 10 minutes of initial driving. The rear AC can be switched on from here.
  • The EX comes with no covered parcel shelf. In fact, it doesn't come with any covered shelf anywhere. So I use a sticky mat on top of the dashboard to keep my phone, and my sunglasses are kept in the phone holder below the center console. Thankfully that space is padded.

Sable  The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX-img_20180930_123653_hdr.jpg

El cheapo mats that the dealer gave for free. In fact there are 2 sets – one beige and one black. Not that I'm complaining. Will go for 3D Mats once these wear out.

Sable  The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX-img_20180930_124043_hdr-copy.jpg

The glovebox is huge, and with a dampened release. While I'm not asking for a cooled glovebox, at least it could have been padded.

Sable  The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX-img_20180930_124804_hdr-copy.jpg

The screen for the rear camera and sensor unit. Since the vehicle does not come with a touchscreen (in the end we'll have prizes for guessing how many times I've mentioned touchscreen) this unit needs to be separately mounted.

Sable  The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX-img_20180930_124824_hdr-copy.jpg

A very low res image of the unit in operation.

Sable  The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX-img_20180930_125613_hdr.jpg

The fuel filler cap is mounted on the driver's door, ahead of the power window switches. Odd placement, but convenient.

Sable  The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX-img_20180930_125447_hdr-copy.jpg

Rating: (Features) 6/10, (Comfort) 10/10

Ride and Handling – People who travel to Kumaon periodically know the stretch of road between Rampur and Rudrapur. Every year that road gets repaired in the winter. In a few months the top layer starts coming off, leaving an absrasive surface. Then small potholes start forming during monsoon. By the time the monsoon ends the road is reduced to the surface of the moon.

In the recent Binsar trip, I tested the Safari's suspension on that road. The combination of weight, fat high–profile tyres and long–travel suspension meant the Safari was travelling faster on that road than any other vehicle around it. And we were seated in supreme comfort. Only the larger potholes, where I had to decelerate and steer, upset its composure. And even when you do get jolted around, you're sitting high up and your legs are more vertical to the ground (relative to a sedan). This means your err, posterior takes the shock of the jolt rather than your lower back. Gives me an idea why Netas in the hinterland prefer the Safari as their official vehicle.

Handling is a totally different kettle of fish. The car handles competently in city conditions, even moderately high speed turns. But a sudden evasive maneuver on the highway, coupled with braking, needs a skilled driver and some nerves.

In the hills its boring. Kumaon mountain roads are narrow and steeply raked. With the Verna's low CG and snarling engine, I had a hoot taking turns on those roads. Tried that in the Safari, and the body roll threw us around the cabin. It gets tiring very soon and you best settle down to a moderate pace and enjoy the view. For once I regretted not going for the Renault twins.

Rating: (Ride) 9/10 (Handling) 4/10

Some points on the driving experience
  • The vehicle is very, very high. It is higher than an XUV, Innova, Fortuner (pic below for reference) and even the GLS (pic in previous post). That gives it a commanding seating position which makes driving it very easy.
  • The NVH levels are well controlled. In fact there is no H. No V almost, just very mild if you touch the gear lever. The sound levels inside the cabin are the same you would get from a diesel VW sedan.
  • Getting used to the Safari helps if you've driven a CRDI sedan before. You already know how to keep the turbo on the boil, and the car becomes a hoot to drive.
  • Delhi NCR has this particular phenomenon of 20–30 kmph rolling traffic. Multiple roads meet at a particular juncture, becoming a bottleneck, and cars keep rolling till this juncture is crossed. This kind of traffic is a pain in the Safari. Due to a short second and tall third, you're constantly switching between the 2 gear ratios. The long travel clutch makes your feet tired.
  • On Indian roads might is always right. Manic autos, e–rickshaws and cabs don't cut across you. When you're in a hurry, a honk (the Safari comes with a powerful horn) dislodges most traffic and clears the way.
  • The driving position is a natural if you're above 6' and heavily built. All the controls will fall at hand, and you'll get that commanding view even with the seat at its lowest.

Sable  The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX-img_20180829_224224_hdr-copy.jpg

Some features I like
  • If the front wipers are engaged, the rear wipers come on automatically when you engage reverse gear.
  • The bonnet has a hydraulic strut which makes lifting it very easy.
  • The build quality on this car is amazing. And the wheels come with full cladding. Very appreciated in this age of wafer–thin bodies and cost cutting.
  • The audio system has a speed sensitive volume. Above 80kmph it goes up by 3 notches. Like the Need for Speed Underground console game from many years ago.

Niggles

Tata of 2018 may be very different from Tata of 2005, but niggles persist nevertheless. Here are 3 I've faced in just over a month of ownership.

1. There is a very faint smell of diesel inside the cabin for the first 10 minutes of starting up the car. It goes away on its own.

2. The remote fuel filler switch has stopped functioning. This happened first time when I was in Chandigarh and refuelling for my return trip. The attendant calmly asked me to open the rear hatch. He opened the side panel next to the left jump seat and pulled a wire, releasing the fuel filler cap. The second time I was refuelling in Delhi, and the attendant here too knew how to open the cap. Makes me wonder. Is this problem so common in Safaris that fuel pump attendants everywhere know how to resolve it?

3. Sometimes the car struggles to accelerate, and there is a frrrr sound from the engine bay when I let go of the accelerator. More noticeable when it happens on the highway as you can make out fuel delivery is irregular under heavy acceleration. After 15 minutes it goes away on its own. Could it be a faulty Throttle Position Sensor? Anyway it doesn't affect overall mileage.

Will get all 3 checked in the first service, which is due in 3 months/4500 kms.

Fuel Efficiency

The following are the results of 4 tankfuls of fuel. The first was fully city driving. The others included highway trips of 250 or 350 kms.

Not really thrilled to bits with the FE. But PSurelia tells me the FE will improve after the first service.

Name:  Safari Mileage.jpg
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Stop reading right now if you're looking for facts. The remaining text is just some anecdotes to break the monotony.

The itch to get scratched

The Safari is best avoided if you park in tight spots. My allotted basement parking needs 4 tight turns – 2 left and 2 right, to reach. If anywhere a vehicle is parked with its tail outside, the Safari becomes a handful to go around. And that is how I managed to get the first 2 scratches you see in the pics.

This one from a Creta parked with its tail out. Just wasn't enough space to turn left, and left fender brushed a pillar.

Sable  The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX-img_20180916_124704.jpg

This one from a Dzire parked outside its parking! Turned right and brushed the front bumper.

Sable  The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX-img_20180930_124552_hdr-copy.jpg

This one came while I was standing in the service lane to get into Sector 9 market parking of Chandigarh. A Santro with 4 young men came and bumped into my rear right bumper. Their front A pillar and windscreen was damaged. They even came out, pondered if they should start a fight. But there's only so much you can say when the other vehicle is parked on the side of the road and you hit it! Ultimately they got back into the car and went away.

Sable  The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX-img_20180930_124613_hdr-copy.jpg

This one is rather mysterious. The vehicle was at a mall parking while I was watching a night show. When I came back, saw this little portion of fibreglass ripped off by what could be a heavy blow with a sharp object. Anyway there were no other cars in the vicinity to blame.

Sable  The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX-img_20180930_124530_hdr-copy.jpg

Will need to test a good scratch remover on them. Except the last dent, the others should go away.

UP is Safari Land!

Some interesting pics when I went in to get the permanent registration plates fitted. The Safari may be a slow seller Pan India, but Bhaiyaland will always be Safari territory!

Sable  The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX-img_20180902_135544-copy.jpg

Sable  The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX-img_20180902_141352-copy.jpg

Sable  The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX-pano_20180902_152947-copy.jpg

Some pics of Sable in his territory

Sable  The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX-img_20180908_125331_hdr-copy.jpg

Sable  The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX-img_20180910_215431.jpg

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Oh sorry. The last pic you see is an actual Sable Antelope (pic courtesy Wikipedia) in his territory. He is the inspiration for the name of my new steed, as he is Big, muscular, fast and brown!

Last edited by predatorwheelz : 3rd October 2018 at 16:37.
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Old 3rd October 2018, 16:51   #3
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Default Re: Sable The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX

Mod's note: Moved thread from the Assembly Line to Test Drives & Initial Ownership Reports. Thanks for sharing!

Last edited by theMAG : 3rd October 2018 at 16:53.
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Old 3rd October 2018, 20:26   #4
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Default Re: Sable The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX

Hi predatorwheelz,

Congratulations on acquiring this mammoth of a vehicle! The Safari outshines almost everything this side of Rs. 15 lakhs in terms of space and comfort.

Your review is very well put together. All observations are on point.

However, I disagree with you on this single point:
Quote:
Unless there's a frontal collision with a truck or bus, I doubt I'd need airbags on the beast.
Although the price premium for VX is quite high, you shall never underestimate the value of airbags.

Anyway, wish you a trouble-free journey ahead with the Safari. Do keep the thread updated

Last edited by self_driven : 3rd October 2018 at 20:27.
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Old 3rd October 2018, 22:29   #5
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Default Re: Sable The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX

Many many congratulations Aniket.
A very detailed review and equally good reasoning for selection of Safari. Your thread would certainly convince quite a few to take the plunge but many would consider Hexa instead. My brother recently got the same.

The great thing about your cars or thread is longevity and upkeeps, be it service or modifications. Will look forward to same here as well.
Rated well deserved 5 star.

Last edited by Wanderers : 3rd October 2018 at 22:34.
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Old 3rd October 2018, 22:55   #6
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Default Re: Sable The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX

Congratulations!
You just made up my mind for the replacement when I have to give up the Tucson.
She looks lovely, and I'm glad you didn't buy the white one. They have a tendency to get stolen around election times in our Pradesh.
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Old 3rd October 2018, 23:16   #7
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Default Re: Sable The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX

Heartiest Congrats on getting the beast home and welcome to the club buddy!!

Thanks for such a nice and detailed write-up; reading it felt so familiar, I could relate to many thoughts I myself had felt when I got mine in 2016, specially the selection process. This is one car which tugs at your heart like no other, even after 2 decades!! Wish you a million happy and trouble free miles with Sable; drive safe!

Quote:
In other vehicles a man of my size measures available leg room, head room and shoulder room. But this vehicle was simply a room. Space was not needed to be measured here, it was granted!
I'd a hearty laugh reading the above; no better way to sumup the space inside a Safari.
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Old 4th October 2018, 00:27   #8
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Default Re: Sable The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX

Congrats for your new SUV. Wish you 1,000's of happy miles. Quite a detailed and comprehensive ownership report.

As a kid i used to love the tag line of the Tata Safari add - 'Make your own road'.



If not like the above add, it will certainly make it's own road at-least in the NCR traffic! The auto's and the cabs will give enough space to the Safari to pass through!

Do you plan to touch-up the minor scratches, as its a new car or planning to keep them as it is for the unruly traffic?
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Old 4th October 2018, 01:25   #9
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Default Re: Sable The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX

Congratulations on your new Safari! That colour looks fantastic!

Without a doubt one of the best options in the price range in my opinion, and that road presence is nearly unparalleled even after all these years! Wishing you many safe and happy miles!
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Old 4th October 2018, 02:58   #10
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Default Re: Sable The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX

Congratulations Predatorwheelz! That is a very detailed write-up about the buying decision that is straight from the heart. I never thought you would buy a Tata after all the discussions that we have been part of
I wanted to buy a Safari in 2011 but Tata dealer messed up, could not even provide a TD vehicle. I wanted to buy the Storme in 2014 but the 4x4 was beyond my budget Hope I will get another opportunity.
Wish you many kilometres of trouble free experience. Keep updating the thread!
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Old 4th October 2018, 04:55   #11
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Default Re: Sable The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX

Lovely write up! I remember when Safari was launched and I saw it for the first time in a showroom, I was gobsmacked. There is nothing else that I wanted more at the time. It still pulls away at my heart strings but I am not in India anymore. Perhaps, if I decide to come back, I know what car I am buying.

P.S. I don't care about touchscreen, powered seats yada yada. Safari is a pure heart's purchase.
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Old 4th October 2018, 05:38   #12
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Default Re: Sable The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX

I must say that you are a brave man to buy a Safari today. Nothing wrong with it and I see why it appeals even today. The design still has a lot going for it, if you are in to SUV's. Its also relatively simple to sort with hardly any electronics aside from electronic engine control.

The Sierra, Estate era was nothing but truck engineering that went into a car. Outright crude, horribly put together vehicles. The noise the power window motor made reminded me of the noise of our legendary Sumeet mixer grinder, albeit running a lot slower. TATA's first attempt at cars clearly had no direction or concept of quality. They got their designs alright but they never understood the expectations of personal car ownership. I dread to think what it would have been like heading into a TATA service station 20 years ago.

The company has come along way. What they manufacture today are cars built with R&D. I bet some of that has gone in to keeping the Safari refreshed and a bit relevant even today.

Great read.

Last edited by sandeepmohan : 4th October 2018 at 05:41.
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Old 4th October 2018, 07:37   #13
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Default Re: Sable The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX

Congrats on making your childhood dream a reality.

Reading through the posts, it seemed that this decision to get the safari was an 'all heart' decision', something achieved by a man, the 'magic carpet', which had him awestruck since he was a school going kid.

Only a couple of things did not gel with me - why did you chuck out the VX with the newer engine + safety kit when it was well in your budget? Was it just due to the gearbox? Also - a big car does not need safety tech is not a right statement IMO - we do see a lot of these big SUVs in the accidents thread ending up in sorry state.

Wishing you endless miles of nothing but pleasureful drive with your new steed.
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Old 4th October 2018, 07:55   #14
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Heartiest Congratulations Predatorwheelz. Nice writeup, good pics sums up your passion for the car.

Sigh. My that "one day" dream is yet to realize. Since the time I knew about wheels, Safari had been my dream car. I have always considered the Safari to be the real SUV when compared to the recent explosions in the SUV segment. The car looks butch, has huge road presence and more importantly an Indian one.

I felt the tyres to be a wee bit undersized for the car, any plans of upgrading them? How is the body roll. Asking this coz a few days back I did see a Storme with a lot of body roll on the a broken patch, the guy wasn't able to negotiate the overtaking too. Any such experiences.

Happy driving and mile munching. Drive safely.
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Old 4th October 2018, 08:16   #15
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Default Re: Sable The ownership thread of my 2018 Tata Safari Storme EX

Congratulations on getting the beast home. Urban Bronze is pretty rare, like you mentioned safari = white color is pretty common.

TATA should have provided ABS and Airbags as standard across variants.
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