The Maruti Gypsy has been the backbone of Indian Armed Forces since 1991. There are about 35,000 Gypsys serving the Army currently. The lightweight SUV is now ageing. In a bid to replace the current fleet with better vehicles, the Army started selecting new SUVs. As many as 15 manufacturers participated in the initial discussion, after which only Tata and Mahindra entered the second round of the selection. Indian Army has now confirmed that the Gypsy replacement vehicles will be the Tata Safari Storme SUV and the Xenon pick up truck.
Better than Gypsy?
Maruti Gypsy is one of the most agile vehicles in mountainous terrain. The light weight of the vehicle can take it to the most unapproachable terrains. Also, the Gypsy boasts of low-maintenance cost and abundant availability of the spare parts across India.
The petrol powered engine of the off roader makes sure that the fuel does not create problems during extremely cold weather. With all the practicality in place, Gypsy sure is a difficult vehicle to replace. The Tata Safari Storme and Xenon, on the other hand, are much more comfortable than the Gypsy.
The hard-top on these vehicles make sure that they remain isolated from the weather. Both the vehicles also come with air conditioning, which the Gypsy misses out on. Given the fact that our soldiers have to operate in extreme weather, AC will make the life much more easier for the soldiers.
Tata Safari Storme and Xenon gets similar drivetrain but the chassis is different. The Safari Storme gets much better double wishbone tyre with coil spring over shock absorber on the front and coil spring type rigid axle suspension on the rear.
The Xenon gets leaf spring suspension on the rear to take on the weight put on its flatbed but the front suspensions are similar to the Safari Storme. The Gypsy, on the other hand, gets the leaf spring which causes bouncy ride and discomfort to the occupants.
Both the cars are much safer too. Whereas Maruti does not offer ABS with the Gypsy, Safari Storme comes equipped with ABS, which means better braking power and much safer in extreme terrains. Also, both the Safari Storme and Xenon offer way better handling than the Gypsy, which can make the long journeys less tiring. Both the vehicles are ordered with airbags too, which is also a vital safety feature missing from the Gypsy.
The best part of the new vehicles is the diesel engine. All the equipment like trucks, buses and artilleries used by the Indian army uses diesel fuel whereas the Gypsy is powered by petrol. The army had to carry fuel, especially for the Gypsy. With the new vehicles, the army would not have to do any special effort to carry different fuel. The new vehicles are also much more fuel efficient that the Gypsy.
The Safari Storme comes powered by 2.2-litre, 4-cylinder diesel that develops a maximum of 148 BHP at 4,000 rpm and 320 Nm of torque spread between 1,700 to 2,700 rpm. The Xenon is powered by a 3.0-litre DICOR engine that generates a maximum of 150 BHP along with 300 Nm of torque. The Gypsy is powered by 1.3-litre petrol engine that develops a maximum of 80 BHP. Even though the Xenon and Safari Storme are way heavier than the Gypsy, both the vehicles get abundant power to negate the extra weight.
But what’s not good?
The Gypsy has become an indisposable part of the army now. The lightweight of the vehicle allowed the SUV to be air dropped at remote areas. The Safari Storme weighs 2,500 kg while the Xenon tips 2.950 kg on the scale. The Gypsy weighs only 1,650 and can be carried around easily. Also, servicing can be a problem.
What is the current situation?
Tata has received an initial order of 3,192 units. The current order price is set at Rs. 400 crore. In the future, the order size will increase by 10 times to replace all the 35,000 vehicles. The Xenon will be used by BSF to supply their Border Out Post. The Safari will be used for patrolling the border areas.
What were the other options?
There were as many as 15 global manufacturers in the race initially. Mahindra vehicles like Bolero Campers and the Scorpio were one of the major competitors against the Tata brand. Ford pitched in with their Endeavours while Nissan offered to come with the Patrol. Tata fought it out with many international brands to come out as the winners of the selection process.