Tata Motors missed out on a Harrier automatic in the last iteration; hence, we take it on a drive from Mumbai to Pune for a detailed review. Here’s what we think about it…
Words by: Harshit Srinivas
Photographs by: Aniket Koli and Sairaj Jadhav
All the leading car manufacturers are entering the seven-seater space with their mid-size SUVs, and before getting behind the wheel of the elder sibling of the Tata Harrier, the Safari, there’s no leaving this one behind just because it falls in a now-moderately dense segment. Hence, we thought of testing the Harrier automatic to find out how the improvements in the BS6 transition fell in addition of the auto box, more power, and goodies in this 2020 generation.
Based on the Land Rover-derived D8 platform, the Tata Harrier has remained overall the same in terms of design. There are minor cosmetic changes and technical updates that might result in a small dent in the sales numbers. The Harrier now in its 2020 avatar, be it the automatic variant or a manual one has a long list of updates including increased power output of 30hp from the FCA sourced BS6 compliant 2.0-liter diesel engine, although the torque figures still remain the same at 350Nm. However, the big update that we have all been waiting for and mainly, what I wanted to talk about, is the 6-speed automatic transmission, which was missing in the previous generation and was restricting a majority of prospective buyers to go for the Harrier. But not anymore. Not only that but the next on the list is the huge panoramic sunroof, which is claimed to be the biggest in the segment as per Tata Motors Limited in comparison to its rivals, that is the Hyundai Creta and MG Hector.
And it isn’t over yet. The driver seats are now electronically powered and the ORVMs are revamped to reduce the major concern of massive blind spots that used to be. Now, I am pretty sure that a question must’ve popped in your minds, and that is, how good is the new Harrier to drive with the auto box. Well, let’s see….
Engine and Transmission
To start with, Tata Motors have refined their BS6 compliant engine, which obviously was lagging in the previous generation. The NVH of the new Harrier has significantly gone down to a large extent which is why the new one is much quieter now. The marginal increase of 30hp will let you feel a stronger tug once you get in the meat of the powerband and that is above 2000rpm where the Harrier delivers it smoothly while it propels you forward. Speaking of which, you will experience a turbo lag under that mentioned rpm; but hey! Everything gets better once you cross the mark and how! What strikes a perfect balance for the Harrier is the smooth Hyundai sourced six-speed auto box (Psst! From the previous Tucson). Of course, now the Tucson gets an 8-speed automatic transmission, but like the six-speed from its previous generation matched with its power and torque delivery, things in Harrier are not really different, the engine too never feels out of breath. Now, the Harrier comes with three drive modes, City, Eco, and Sports, which of course change the throttle response. Also, you get an option of a manual shift with the Harrier, which engages the Sports mode automatically, allowing the Harrier to rev all the way up to the redline. Overall, the pairing of the Harrier’s engine with this auto box might not be quick compared to its rivals, but it goes well with the Harrier and the shifts are on par with the manual one and delivers a fuel efficiency that is lesser by a very small margin as compared to the manuals.
Ride and Handling
Surprisingly, not much has changed on the ride and handling front of the Harrier although it still retains the perfect balance between ride and handling, though the ground clearance has dropped by a few millimeters due to the BS6 transition. The suspension setup is slightly on the firmer side, which translates to a sense of stiffness at low speeds in the cabin. But things turn upside down at high speeds on the same broken patches. Speaking of which, the Harrier feels planted on highways inspiring plenty of confidence through those long bends. But on highways, the steering has just the right amount of heft which was reassuring and gave me more confidence behind the wheel. However, it felt slightly heavier when in the city and I was required put a little more effort to move around. What I disliked was the disc/drum brake combination, which could’ve had a bit more of that bite, also, the pedal travel was also not that reassuring since I couldn’t feel the brake force coming back at my feet, but, that doesn’t mean that the brakes aren’t enough, they are, it is just that things could have been better if reworked.
Like on the outside, nothing much has changed on the inside as well. But the fit and finish inside the cabin has improved and it feels a lot more premium than the previous one, which even the existing customers would agree with me on. Overall, the cabin layout remains identical, despite it now gets USB and AUX port in the central console, which was a struggle to access in the previous gen. The semi-digital instrument cluster still takes time to get used to, and the gear indicators are a bit slower than the shifts. The infotainment system throws its output to a JBL subwoofer and makes for a punchy audio system. The rear of the cabin is spacious with super comfy seats, with adequate thigh, back, and lumbar support for someone who stands at 5 feet 7 inch and weighs around 80kg, like our photographer. And as you know it, this Harrier also gets a longer wheelbase compared to its rivals, and hence comes with enough legroom as well, and could account for an ideal choice for a chauffeur-driven SUV.
That said, all these updates did translate to a comfortable drive back home after a hectic day, and if you think that’s not enough, then the Harrier does get heat reduction blinds on the rear windows and a colossal panoramic sunroof, where the former protects you from the scorching heat outside and the latter does account for an airy and spacious cabin to let you relax on a night drive under the stars.
With this, we come to the end of our detailed review, and without addressing the elephant in the room; it would be unfair to end it. Therefore in my opinion prospective buyers willing for something that is reliable and comes with the heritage and legacy of Tata Motors, should go for the Harrier automatic, as it emerges as one of the powerful contenders in the segment. But no petrol engine? Well, fret not, that should not be a matter of concern since Tata Motors Limited has been adapting to the times and the Harrier automatic is no less than a testimony of change, which could mean that the petrol variant of the same isn’t too far from now, and there’s nothing wrong in expecting something like this from Tata, right? Now, coming to the price point, the Harrier automatic starts Rs 17.06 lakh and goes up to Rs 21.01 lakh for the top end, which makes a better choice for you as it is offered with a lot of features, including a bigger engine choice, than most of its rivals in this range. Of course, the more money you put, the more you will get, and that is where its elder sibling comes in, the Safari, which is exactly what we are going to review soon….