Monday, October 15, 2007

Tata-Safari DICOR : -
Test date: 9/1/2005


The wait is over. The Safari finally gets more grunt that owners were begging for. And as a bonus, Tata Motors has also given this ageing SUV its first major face-lift since it was launched in 1998. :

The face-lift on the DICOR has slowed down the Safari's ageing process. The new nose grabs your attention while the chrome grille slots in perfectly between the lamps, the bumper protrudes less and the faux chin protector looks quite neat. The taillights are also new with small circular elements and there are stop lights integrated in the bumper. Donít miss the rearview camera, below the numberplate, on the VX version!

The super-tough ladder chassis remains unchanged, the body mounts on the cab have been strengthened to deal with the extra load of the bigger engine. The suspension is now made of stiffer material improving the Safari's ride further. The two-piece driveshaft is shorter due to the longer engine, but other features like the brakes remain unaltered although the VX gets ABS. Build quality is still pretty patchy although the paint job is great. The plastic side cladding has a wavy finish and the heavy doors donít shut with a quality thunk and panel gaps are wide as ever.

Spacious interiors have been one of the Safari's biggest strengths and the DiCOR is no different. The instrument panel now uses legible circular dials. while the refreshed central console has a string of buttons and the rotary controls for the air-con still remains but the gear knob is finished in smart looking aluminium. However, plastic quality remains poor. The steering wheel is of better quality though.

The rear jumpseats are unfit for human use and flipping the rear seats forward releases a huge amount of space. The DiCORís twin blowers work admirably cooling the cabin in a relatively short period. In-car entertainment has scaled new levels with the introduction of a DVD-player with video screens in the headrest being a unique option. The Safari is loaded with other thoughtful details like puddle lamps and an extra electrical socket for the rear.

The Safariís new three-litre Direct Injection Common Rail (DiCOR) engine has been derived from a simple direct injection motor that has done duty in Tataís successful 407 light truck and Sumo-based Spacio. In contrast to the motorís basic architecture, Delphi-TVSís second-generation common rail system which Tata has fitted onto this engine is state-of-the-art.

Fire the motor up and the idle is lumpy with considerable vibration as you release the heavy clutch, which tails off only when the engine finds its breath at around 1500rpm. Power delivery below this is not impressive. One of the culprits for this throttle lag is the electronic throttle control but spin the motor faster and the Safari quickly ditches lethargy hitting the ton in a scant 18.53 seconds.

Given the narrow powerband- it redlines at 3000-rpm- you have to upshift quickly but the gearbox which uses double-cone synchro rings shifts smoothly. The DiCOR does well in the fuel efficiency department with 8.9 kilometres per litre in city use and 12-kpl on the highway.

The ride quality is impressive but the lower profile tyres and stiffer damping on the DiCOR have given it a sharp edge. It has a tendency to pitch and rock from side to side but its long wheelbase and huge mass provide a lot of stability which is quite reassuring.

The steering is not direct and is non-linear as well. However the Safari feels composed in spite of suffering from massive body roll. The brakes however need serious improvement as they cause some anxious moments with the car snapping sideways. The 4x4 system worked well and the electronic shift-on-the-fly system is now relocated on the dash. Unfortunately, a poor turning circle and reduced visibility at the rear make the Safari difficult to manoeuvre.

The DiCOR does provide more power but itís the way the power is delivered that disappoints. There is marginal improvement in quality but there is still some way to go. Itís also too heavy and this takes its toll on the handling. Traditional Safari strengths like comfort and space remain and when you add up all the goodies it comes with, you realise it is still good value for money.
Tata-Sumo : Victa
Ford-Endeavour :
Mahindra-Bolero : XLS
Nissan-X-Trail :
Suzuki-Grand Vitara : XL-7
Honda-Unicorn :
Yamaha-Fazer :
Hero Honda-Karizma :
Yamaha-Libero : LX
Bajaj-Boxer : CT

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