The Safari Storme has completed a month in our garage and the first thing I did was to take it for a week-long 1500km long trip on a well surfaced road. That’s what SUVs are for. Of course, there were some broken roads and a few ditches strewn sparsely and I had to take it off the road across the wild grass to wash her in the pond so that she was ready for the picture above. I could have done most of it in my decade-old sedan, but guess what, it certainly wouldn’t have been so comfortable and stress-free.
There is loads of space for everyone, except for the two facing each other in the third row. The front seats are large, firm and accommodating and there was enough thigh support for the nine-hour drive. There is enough room for three on the bench – shoulder room, head room, legroom et al. It would have been great if the rear split bench could recline as the seat back seems to be a bit upright for long hauls. The split foldable rear seats are handy when you have to stow the luggage of your extended family while they enjoy a good night’s sleep in the Indian railways.
The music system was my companion through the night and sounds decent for a four-speaker plus tweeters setup. The integrated music system does look and function old-school but works perfect with the steering-mounted controls. Touch and feel of the cabin is tough thanks to the hard grainy plastics but it creaks randomly like the seats. The headlamp unit, though, is phenomenal. The span and spread of the projector units lights up the road and provides you good visibility even on large highways with oncoming traffic. The high beam can be employed only when you have to look far ahead or cut the on-coming high-beamer to size.
The drive down the NH4 was largely undramatic – surprisingly empty roads and a large 320Nm torque diesel mill pumping out 140bhp of power. Having such torque meant that I hardly had to shift down to fourth, unless I dropped below 50kmph. The car would then take its own time to pick up pace till the rev-meter read over 1500rpm where it came to life again. Like the Varicor 400, Tata should get the six-speed box on the 320 because that will certainly improve the average fuel economy of 12.75kmpl (121 litres for 1543kms) I could extract across the trip. It includes driving on country roads in the Western Ghats, running errands and of course, the 500km cruise.
I would say the Storme handles well for a Safari. You can slot it into third and carve through any mountain road albeit for the occasional second for the really tight ones. While it rolls and pitches and yaws as well, what it does best is soaking that occasional unexpected pothole or piece of broken road. The all-four disc brake setup is good and does slow down the two-tonner effectively, but you have to be deft with the steering to keep her in check when you step hard on them. Of course the ABS kicks in whenever needed to help you not to lock up.
Overall, I would say the Safari is a mile-muncher. It is comfortable and spacious and a typical old-school SUV. It has almost everything except for the latest fancy gadgets but then you can hide it under the charm of owning an old-school SUV. Lined up next for the Storme is the city test. Stay tuned for our next report to find out how the Storme fares in city traffic.