Why would I buy it?
- Visual impact
- Enhanced interior
- Advanced features
Why would I avoid it?
- ADAS available only on select variants
- All-wheel drive not available
Engine and Performance
The 2023 avatar of the Tata Safari retains the same 2.0-litre Kryotec diesel engine mated to a six-speed manual or a six-speed torque converter automatic unit. This motor meets BS6 Phase 2 emissions standards and produces 168bhp and 350Nm of peak torque. The automatic transmission still works very well, with the shifts that remain quick, smooth, and in sync with the engine’s characteristics and power delivery. There is enough torque for pulling from low speeds, and the transmission's responsiveness to both upshifts and downshifts makes the driving experience enjoyable. It also gets paddle shifters, and they respond well, making the driving experience more engaging.
The Eco, City, and Sport driving modes remain unchanged, offering responsive throttle inputs. The Safari has sufficient load-carrying and people-hauling capabilities in both urban and highway settings, and it can overtake effortlessly despite its size and weight. This Tata SUV remains planted and stable at triple-digit speeds, and its performance is not compromised despite being larger and heavier than the Harrier. The terrain mode selector, which efficiently alters the response through software maps, has been retained too. However, some off-road enthusiasts may argue that all-wheel drive (AWD) would have made the SUV more capable in hilly regions and slippery conditions. Nonetheless, our experience suggests that the Safari can tackle trails and rough terrain with poise for the most part.
Ride and Handling
The Safari's high ground clearance, tall stance, and well-tuned suspension allow it to effortlessly absorb bumps, potholes, and ruts on broken roads. Occupants are not unsettled, and there is minimal noise inside the cabin — whether driving at low or high speeds. Its robust build quality and Land Rover underpinnings are evident in its ride and handling.
Previous Safari owners complained about the heavy hydraulic steering, but the new electronic power steering has addressed this issue. It feels lighter at low speeds but adds weight as the speed increases, as is also noticeable in the Sport mode. The ADAS, meanwhile, is not intrusive and gently guides the car back into the marked lane if it starts to veer off. Then, all the disc brakes provide good stopping power and work well with the emergency automatic braking system. Overall, both systems functioned flawlessly, with the adaptive cruise control responding to commands instantly.
Despite being a facelift, the new model has been significantly redesigned, giving it a concept-like appearance and a more upmarket feel than its predecessor. The new single grille is unique, with accents that match the exterior body colour on this version. The connected LED bar is a welcome addition, and the new squared-off headlamp housings on the re-sculpted bumper further distinguish it from the previous model.
Moreover, the new 19-inch wheels have an attractive design similar to the Sierra concept's wheels showcased at this year's Auto Expo. The rear section has been updated with tweaked taillights and a new LED bar that gets the welcome and goodbye animation in line with the front. There's also a faux skid plate on the redesigned bumper with vertically stacked reflectors and reverse light housing.
Interior and Features
The interior has also been updated, but the overall design remains largely unchanged. The most noticeable change is the new steering wheel with an illuminated Tata logo, which was first seen on the new Nexon. Tata has also addressed our previous criticism of this new steering’s horn placement, which was awkward and difficult to use. The horn has now been repositioned and is more responsive to inputs.
The new Safari also features touch controls for the AC. Other major updates to the dashboard include a 12.3-inch infotainment screen and a fully digital instrument cluster. The latter gets readable fonts, fast response time, and high customisability, and is packed with information, including ADAS. The touchscreen is also highly responsive and has a clean UI, but it lacks haptic feedback and knobs for quick control.
The seating layout remains unchanged, with ample space in all rows. However, a major improvement that elevates its interior's premium feel is the high-quality materials used for the upholstery, dashboard, and most surfaces. Nothing feels cheap or out of place, and the cabin remains robust. The Safari has been known for its 'boss mode', and it continues to offer a laid-back seating position with power adjustments. The seats also get adjustable headrests for enhanced comfort. To further delight passengers, ventilated seats are now available in both rows, which will be a blessing in our hot and humid climate.
The carmaker has also taken the safety aspect up a notch. For example, all variants/personas now come standard with six airbags, while the top-spec version gets an additional driver's knee airbag. In addition, the Safari gets a 360-degree camera and a host of ADAS features, including new ones like adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, high beam assist, lane change alert, and lane departure warning. Other ADAS features include door open alert, traffic sign recognition, blind-spot detection, and rear cross-traffic alert. Additionally, other important safety features include rear collision warning, forward collision warning, and autonomous emergency braking, which worked effectively. The SUV also gets disc brakes on all four wheels.
The new Safari is also equipped with a new e-call feature for emergency assistance. With a touch of a button, the breakdown call can notify the roadside assistance service. Other impressive tech features that worked flawlessly include the new TFT cluster, terrain mode selector with TFT screen, audio controls compatible with Alexa, powered tailgate opening, and the connected car experience. Finally, whether you choose the six- or seven-seater version, every variant, from the entry-level Smart to the top-spec Accomplished+, offers a good variety of exterior colour options and material choices.
Tata Motors wants to broaden the appeal of the new Safari with a wider range of exterior colours, including a segment-first dual-tone option, and a plethora of new features. The Safari retains its macho appearance, making it a symbol of authority while offering a premium and spacious cabin. Prospective buyers also get new technology and added connectivity, all while cocooned in safety. Tata Motors also has kept the premium reasonable, making the new Safari an easy choice for buyers, given its many appealing features.
Pictures by Kaustubh Gandhi