TATA Harrier - Rough Road Excellence
Updated: Dec 9, 2019
Cars are evolving faster than fashion and people are allured by things more materialistic than emotional and spiritual when it comes to these machines. We have grown up praising the technology and gadgetry in a car, how easy it makes your daily commute and what image does it put about us in the peers. Image, it is a very strong word today in the world of automobiles. We all buy cars today based more on how our social circle would think about us than our own comforts and utility. Ending up with machines that give us long term reliability issues, safety concerns and maintenance that blows your monthly salary apart.
TATA Motors has been a victim of this stupendous culture of being branded as a truck and bus manufacturer whereas the reality is, they are making much better and safer passenger cars than what this market has to offer coupled with amazing service back-up.
The most heated area in India as of today is the mid-size SUV / Crossover segment. With the launch of cars like the updated Hyundai Creta, the very popular MG Hector and the new Mahindra XUV500, TATA has pitted their brand new car, the Harrier in this plot. But to make things more clear about its claims of having the Land Rover pedigree and to put things in a very realistic way, I took the Harrier to one of the most popular hill stations for explorers than tourists, Chitkul. A small hamlet at 11,000 ft above sea level which is also the last village before the Tibetan border in Himachal Pradesh.
I start this journey from the congested city of New Delhi at peak traffic hours in the evening. My first impressions are pretty good, the ride height is great, you do look over most cars, the steering is chunky and good to hold. The buttons to control various functions on the steering are of very high quality and so are the buttons on the central console. There is faux wood finish on the dashboard which looks that is from cars two segments above. The screen is big enough but I genuinely think that TATA could have used a much bigger display to utilize all the surrounding space. There is Apple Car Play and Android Auto as standard on the top of the line variant and the JBL sound system has an excellent Bass and Treble modulation. Nothing vibrates of jiggles if you are listening to music at a higher volume. There is a semi-digital instrument cluster with the Tachometer in the Screen and the Speedometer in the analogue dial. Although this setup looks neat a fully digital dial in this car is on the cards I've been told. The seats are very comfortable and support the lower back and under-thigh area much better than any car in its segment.
As we cruise up the highway towards Shimla, the Harrier's engine and gearbox setup reward you massively. The gear ratios till the 4th gear are pretty tall and you don't find the need to continuously shift up or down while doing the long highway drives. The turbocharged 2.0-litre engine from the FCA family puts 140 bhp and 350Nm of torque to the front wheels. Although the numbers look low on paper, the best part about this setup is that the top end torque is incredibly useable and pushes up from as low as 1700 rpm which is a boon. The engine has a very linear acceleration and is extremely comfortable to tame in the city or on the highway.
Below 3000rpm the engine is at its comfortable pace, relaxed and powerful enough to take you through an overtake or a fast cruise, but take it any further up the rev range and it will be audible inside the cabin, Although the cabin insulation is quite impressive for a TATA car, the engine comes out to be on the louder side which in the days to come will be improved with the introduction of BSVI fuel. The airconditioning too is very impressive indeed, during our stint through the very hot summers in New Delhi we found ourselves taking shelter inside the cabin most of the time than anywhere outside. The cabin cools down in a few minutes from being baked by the scorching sun.
Talking of the sun, we couldn't find any. There were clouds till the edge of the horizon and with lush green surrounding the Harrier in its Calisto Copper shade looked magnificent. I really appreciate how far have TATA car designs come to. The Harrier is very futuristic to look at with muscle lines thrown at the right places. The almost horizontal bonnet, the large gaping grille with Land Rover elements, very sleek day time running LED lights and headlamps pods will age very slowly. Spend some time around that and a person with OCD to details will fall in love with the way the Harrier is designed. The sharp line that runs from the edge of the bonnet and bifurcates into the tail lamps, the fat wheel arches, the Land Rover-like roof silhouette and that beautiful rear end. It is a very well proportioned designed, unlike the very new Hector which does look out of place aesthetically.
It was raining terribly on our course to Sangla village from Rampur, the steep inclines with less tar and more sort of gravel surface, streaming water on the route and cold mist made things tough for the Harrier. But I switched to the Sport Engine Mode combined with Wet Drive Mode on the rotor in the central console to create the best of traction and power on demand on such terrain and I am happy to report that it was effortless to climb up. Although the Harrier isn't a proper 4x4, the Traction Control System works and overrides brake mechanism to give maximum traction over wet and rough surfaces.
The Harrier is an extremely good car to drive. The Landrover pedigree really comes alive in the way the car handles. The steering is an electro-hydraulic unit which is very communicative, however, the surface may be. We got a chance to savour some fantastic tarmac on our way to Rampur from Shimla. A 90-kilometer stretch that is two-laned and has some of the most wonderful hairpin turns and corners in the valley perhaps. The size of the Harrier virtually shrinks when you pick up speed and drive it aggressively. The tall ratios of the gearbox also come very handily in such a situation and in a package like this, it is a really enjoyable experience, to be honest. I got a chance to push this car hard at some stretches and it is rewarding at every corner. The McPherson struts in the front and Semi-Independent Twist beams at the rear ensure minimum roll and pitch at tight corners. They also create a very flat ride at triple-digit speeds with the subtle and stiff rebound in the dampers.
The brakes are the still not the best in the segment but TATA has improved the quality of brakes quite drastically over the last few generations of cars coming out of their factory. The Hexa, for example, had BOSCH Braking system that was incredibly effective, the similar unit is installed in the Harrier, with triple-cylinder callipers in the front and Drum brakes at the rear. Because of taller gear ratios, engine braking on downshifting is very smooth as well when combined with foot braking in slippery and urgent situations.
The TATA Harrier is a car which exudes the right blend of muscular styling, sophistication and reliable motoring. With the underpinnings from a Land Rover and Mechanical setup from one of the tried tested parts bin, the Harrier is really a 'More Car Per Car', a tagline used by TATA in 1998 for the Indica but stands true for the Harrier as well. It is a brilliant car to drive, the emotional value behind the steering is something that one gets from fewer cars in the market today and surely gets from a Harrier once they actually start living with it. Sadly most of the buyers today are preconsumed by the Image factor and for no reason do they second the TATA cars. But the year 2019, TATA is up with some of the best, safe and reliable cars in the market, the ones you can take to any part of this country and be carefree about the ownership experience. The Harrier really truly is a car I'll take home, period!