Get excited, folks. The Tata Safari is coming back!

It wasn't India's first-ever SUV as many believe it to be but was definitely ahead of it's time when launched. It was never a big-seller bringing in the volumes but topped the charts when it came to desirability and appeal. It's reliability was always questionable but in terms of capability - both on and off the road - there was no question. The Safari is an enigma - a legend that thousands of fans swear by, a nameplate that many more aspire to be associated with and an icon the folks at Tata are proud of, quite rightly so!

That's why when Tata broke the news all of a sudden that the Safari is coming back, there was excitement in the air and the whole fraternity was thrilled. In just a matter of minutes, automotive websites, forums and social media handles were buzzing with activity. Almost none, by the looks of it, had forgotten the 'Safari' or the brilliant "Reclaim your life" ad campaign. How can we, really?

I would be lying if I tell I wasn't apprehensive about the prospects of the Gravitas (that's how the Safari was going to be called!). One of the few things Tata did not get right over the last few years was the launch of the Harrier. Though they ironed out the niggles and gave it a new lease of life coinciding with the changes done for BS6 emission norms, the Harrier isn't a runaway success like the Tiago, Nexon and Altroz are. The Gravitas was just going to be a bigger Harrier with similar looks, similar interiors, an additional row of seats and a few incremental features.

Will these small changes be enough to give the Gravitas an identity of its own and let Tata charge a premium? Will the upcoming new Mahindra XUV5OO steal the thunder from the Gravitas, given the latter has no brand recall to speak of? Will Tata's soon-to-be flagship live up to its title?

In one fell swoop, Tata answered all these questions. Whether this was the plan from the very beginning or some smart bloke within Tata had similar concerns and proposed a change of name, we might never know. What we know is Tata pulled off a masterstroke by deciding to launch this as the new Safari.

They made everyone talk. They made the legions of followers feel restless with excitement and anticipation. They made the new Safari get into a lot of people's consideration lists that the Gravitas could've only dreamt of. They've given the car a chance to fight existing and upcoming rivals hard.

While we have to wait to see the results, production of the new Safari has started at Tata's plant in Pune with the first car rolling out yesterday. From the images released, the Safari has clearly come of age in this bold, stylish and modern new avatar. The car is all set for launch on the Republic Day which is when the prices and specifications would be out. An AWD option, sadly, might not be on offer at launch!


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