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Now, this feels like a flagship

S Muralidhar | Updated on March 19, 2020 Published on March 19, 2020

The 2020 Tata Harrier is far more refined, gets an auto gearbox and offers buyers what they’ve been asking for

Last year when I first test drove the Harrier at Tata Motor’s track in Pune, I was pleasantly surprised at the way this midsize sports utility vehicle had been put together. It looked like a million bucks minus one, met Tata’s age-old ‘more car per car’ promise and was endowed with the right DNA from the Land Rover gene pool.

Yet, the Harrier had a tough time taking on competition in the ₹10-20 lakh price segment where buyer interest had already started peaking. More have joined the race in the time since the Harrier was first introduced, including the latest entrant - the Volkswagen T-Roc. But, the Harrier’s design, the butch stance and the fact that it has been built on the ‘Omegarc’ platform which itself has been derived from Land Rover’s famous D8 platform are factors that really worked in building its reputation. They contributed to the evolution of the brand in the minds of buyers. But, the Harrier’s inability to post higher sales numbers was possibly due to multiple reasons, including last year’s slowdown in car sales; and maybe buyers were reluctant to consider a Tata vehicle in the higher price category. But, another key factor was a lack of drive refinement that must have proved to be a mismatch to the quality that the Harrier’s exterior exudes.

A lot of these issues have been ironed out in the new 2020 Harrier and it also gets a few more features to make it feel special. Has it finally got what it takes to set the cash registers ringing? I headed to Pune last week, even as the shadow of the Coronavirus was expanding, to test drive the Harrier 2020.

Design upgrades

 

The key upgrades to the Tata SUV are focused on the powertrain. It now gets an automatic transmission, something that it should have been launched with in the first place. The engine gets an upgrade to become BS VI compliant, and also gets a power boost with a 20 per cent increase in output. But there are some upgrades to the exterior and interior too. The Harrier’s design was one of its biggest strengths with that muscular styling and unique features at the front. The nearly concept-like grille framed by the LED daytime running lights on either side while the main headlamps are placed lower in the front fender makes the Harrier’s front design very different from any other vehicle in this segment.

 

The big wheel arches used to feature a rather ordinary looking set of alloys, that has now been replaced with much better looking dual-tone, polished, 17-inch rims. The shoulder line of the Harrier is set high contributing to its burly, rugged demeanour, the 2020 model gets chrome trim to highlight this line. And there is more chrome used for the door handles, the fog-lamp housing, door frame etc. It is the rear of the Harrier where more of the Tata design lineage can be seen in the shape of the split tail-lamps. The tailgate and its thick black connecting panel accentuate the width of the vehicle. The rear fender and the faux twin exhausts are some of the other elements that continue in the 2020 model.

Cabin

The cabin of the Harrier remains nearly identical to last year’s BS-IV model   -  S Muralidhar

 

The two features inside the Harrier’s cabin that I noticed first was the massive panoramic sunroof that literally now leaves the remainder of the roof looking like it is part of a thick roll-cage. The greenhouse is not small, but with the sunroof open it is a deluge of light in the cabin. During summer it could also mean that the heat will radiate into the cabin, even though the sunroof glass is tinted. But, what is claimed to be the widest sunroof in the segment is rain-sensing, auto-closing and anti-pinch, all of which are practical features. The other change that is visible from the outside, but the benefit of which is really felt most in the cabin are the new door mirrors. The long stalked ones of last year’s model are gone and in its place are ones that are hinged at the base of the À-pillar clearing up the blind spot of the previous model.

 

The cabin of the Harrier remains nearly identical to last year’s BS IV model. Minor changes to the quality of materials makes it look much better overall, though there are a few trim elements that stand out as being a bit disproportionately big. Also the slightly fiddly, slightly unwieldy aircraft thrust lever-style parking brake handle is still there. The floating island infotainment system, the matt oak brown faux wood panels on the dashboard and the neatly finished centre console are all features that were appreciated and make it into the 2020 model too. With a majority of owners apparently self-driving their Harriers and their average age being 35 years, it is a good idea to have added a 6-way power adjustment for the driver’s seat. Top trim variants now also get auto-dimming in-cabin rear view mirrors and rain-sensing wipers. Space inside the Harrier’s cabin was already good; that doesn’t change, including the 425-litres of boot space. The seats are wide and comfortable, even at the rear. Top trim gets perforated leather upholstery.

Performance

 

What the Harrier really missed was an automatic gearbox to go with the Kryotec 2-litre turbocharged diesel engine. The engine was also a bit too ‘clattery’ and uncomfortably audible inside the cabin. This has been rectified in the 2020 model by boosting the output enabling quicker acceleration at the lower engine rpm levels and by significantly improving the NVH characteristics thanks to higher noise isolation measures inside the engine bay. The engine’s injection timing has also been changed. The Kryotec now produces 170PS of peak power (up 30PS), while peak torque continues to be 350Nm available from 1,750 to 2,500rpm.

The jump in power is immediately evident whether it is the manual or the new automatic gearbox. Just past the bit of initial turbo-lag, the Harrier surges ahead, without any signs of the engine getting raspy and raucous. In fact, I could talk softly and still be audible to my co-passenger like we would have been in a regular room. The Harrier’s ride quality was already good with a firm bias, no changes there. It’s flex-free body gets a leg up from Land Rover’s platform. You can nonchalantly go over potholes and bad roads, and there is no rattling or unsettled ride, though it can feel a bit firm at times. The Harrier’s steering feels great at high speeds and the vehicle feels stable and planted. But, the hydraulic setup is less assisted at slow speeds and is not as accurate as some of the other vehicles in the segment.

Bottom Line

Tata design lineage can be seen in the shape of the split tail-lamps   -  S Muralidhar

 

The 2020 Harrier’s new 6-speed, torque-converter auto gearbox sourced from Hyundai is the most notable change and is a pleasant surprise to see how well matched it is to the engine. It is not super responsive, and there is a noticeable delay during kick downs and even during manual gear selection; but shifts are clean and acceleration progressive if you are measured with the throttle. There are three driving modes - City, Eco and Sport - that’s been a standard in all Tata vehicles of the recent past. You can also choose from three different ‘Terrain Response’ modes - Normal, Rough and Wet - with just a turn of the rotary knob (available in the top two trims). These are essentially a cocktail of electronic aids to assist in improving stability.

It is good to see Tata Motors making safety a priority. Two airbags and ESP, in addition to other features like Hill Hold, Traction Control, corner stability and roll-over mitigation are standard across variants.

Overall, the new Harrier is a much improved vehicle. There are very few ergonomics issues in the cabin; but an already good design has been improved upon, refinement levels are up, the powertrain feels much more responsive and the auto gearbox is a good fit. Prices start at ₹13.7 lakh for the Harrier XE. No petrol engine, yet.

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Published on March 19, 2020
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