Whosoever be Worthy

It’s been fifteen long years since I reclaimed my life. And I’ve been doing so with gay abandon over potholes, dusty roads, terrain and city traffic. It all started with a love for the macabre when I bought the 2.2 VTT. The Safari VTT is almost theatrical in its demeanour and can change moods very quickly leaving you quite perplexed in its wake. It’s almost like the car has a mind of its own. 

The engineers at Tata not only gave us our first indigenously developed SUV, but also in the dead of night, fitted the Safari VTT with a mind that was programmed to work in a direction opposite to that of the driver. The Safari has helped me find God and made me a devout humble person. I didn’t really believe in God until I actually got behind the wheels of my Safari and till date, he has not let me forget that there is a power greater than car control and brake horsepower.

In over our decade of mixed companionship,I have gently caressed the wings of angels every time I’ve cornered in speeds in excess of 80kmph and have had my friends and family dive either port or starboard every time I did that. Not only have I become saintlike, but I have also helped so many understand the presence of God. My friends and I have said more prayers in the car than in all temples put together.

But then, there is something that always draws you towards the inexplicable. And that feeling just gets deeper with every passing day. My Safari and I have had disagreements every time I felt throttle happy (something that we sorted out by downshifting vigorously and dancing on the brakes every time a road-hump showed up unexpectedly). But yeah, we have also shared our emotions, judgement (better or worse), joy, happiness and our love for bad roads since our first drive together. Who cares about infotainment systems and hill assists when you have two minds working as one? We have together conquered treacherous roads, ungainly city traffic and doubting Thomases who believed that the VTT is for the thickheaded. 

Rigged out with an outstanding driving position, where you could see eye to eye with any truck driver dopey enough to get in your way, assloads of space, shift-on-the-fly 4-wheel-drive with a decent enough engine to help you get through most obstacles, the Safari was my go-to machine for over a decade.

Cut to 2021, and now we have the New Tata Safari, or the Buzzard, or the Gravitas, or the something-like-safari launched in the Indian market. I meet the New Safari who, on closer look,  has a smiling grill and a rather cheerful disposition. The eyes seem distanced from the smiling grill, but they do a much better job of helping you find your way around the dark than its older sibling. The fog lamps help as well. The newer fellow seems to have retained the step-up roofline and the space within seemed almost similar to the VTT, who, by the way, had developed an ugly sneer by now. 

Also, what I noticed was that it was an automatic. Driving the new Safari was a lot easier than my VTT. It was almost car-like when compared to the old beast. The new motor seems more than adequate to get you through most situations without any mindless revving. It does retain its customary lag while throttling, but that’s not worth mentioning as most will not even feel it, unless of course, you are trying to pick bones when there is so much meat to be had. It packs in quite a few bells and whistles while I still see a lot of experts talking about the 8.8 inch display. Well, if i wanted a television, I’d rather have bought a Sony. It has what a new age SUV should and does so with an extremely well balanced ride and serves up a sumptuous array of gadgetry in line with the best in the class. Space and comfort have been the hallmark of the Safari and with the panoramic sunroof the new Safari has a lounge like feel. 

That said, the ‘Boss Mode’ is a gimmick and fools no one. 

But the Safari’s original ‘Boss Mode’ was always behind the wheel and the new Safari does justice to that. You ‘boss’ over potholes and bad roads just as in the old fellow, but with lesser churn in your stomach. This is great as I now have to make lesser spew-stops on highways. The new Safari feels solid and will not have you breaking sweat over precarious conditions that we call roads. 

Now, to the questions. Does the new badging do justice to the legendary mile muncher? Is it really the Safari re-born? I personally don’t think so as I believe it was more of a marketing afterthought than a conscious re-design of my old buddy. But, for what it is, it’s a great car and an absolute value for your money. And, like it or not, it will be called the ‘Safari’. God will once again be forgotten. Angels will just be imaginary creatures in fairy-tales. The sheer ecstasy of terror at 100kmph will be lost. The spectacular view from the driver’s chair will be something inscribed in journals and no longer felt.

The new Safari definitely brings the curtains down on the revered old machine that brought so much joy to all the thickheads and helped reclaim so many lives! The smiling new grill of the Safari 2021 enfolds testimony to that. On that note, it’s time that I crank up my old buddy, the mighty Dicor 2.2 VTT, who might have just found a worthy replacement and head off into the sunset.

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