Tata Motors is working on electric variants of the Harrier and Safari SUVs. While the Harrier Electric is tipped for a 2023 debut, the Safari EV is expected to follow a year later. Apart from the electric powertrains these SUVs will obviously feature, another big change could be the inclusion of an all wheel drive layout. Currently, both the Tata Safari and Harrier are front wheel driven. The all wheel drive versions of these SUVs in their electric avatars could make them the first AWD electric SUVs sold in the Indian mass market segments.
This information came from Mr. Shailesh Chandra, the managing director of Tata Motors’ passenger and electric vehicle divisions, who had this to say to ET,
Our focus will be to try and do that (adding 4×4) in the electric vehicles. We are going to work on this in the electric version of our future SUVs. Let us first transition to the new world (electric) and then we will start giving such an option there..if Harrier and Safari sales start going towards electric…then we can have four by four coming there.
While Tata Motors borrowed Land Rover’s LS500 platform, Indianized it and used it to underpin the Harrier and Safari SUVs, the automaker omitted the all wheel drive layout. The decision back then had to do with the cost of adapting the all wheel drive system to the India-spec OmegaArc platform, and also the fact the all wheel drive variants of SUVs sold in the mass market receive very little buyer interest.
All wheel drive/Four wheel drive SUVs are become more common in mass market segments
Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen some automakers bucking the trend and ushering in four wheel drive and all wheel drive SUVs. Mahindra has been at the forefront of this. In 2020, it launched the Thar off roader with a four wheel drive layout across all variants. It followed this up in 2021, with the XUV700, whose top-end diesel trims get an all wheel drive layout. Earlier this year, Mahindra launched the all-new Scorpio-N, which also gets a four wheel drive layout in its top-end diesel trim. Maruti Suzuki and Toyota now offer all wheel drive layouts on the Grand Vitara and Hyryder compact SUVs, and early next year, Maruti Suzuki will offer an all wheel drive layout on the Jimny 5 door off roader. So, the tribe of all wheel drive and four wheel drive SUVs is growing steadily in India even as buying power of the middle classes increases, and as ‘lifestyle buying’ takes center stage.
Four wheel drive layout ruled out in diesel powered Harrier and Safari
Tata Motors’ MD has ruled out a four wheel drive layout in the diesel powered versions of the Harrier and Safari. In fact, he’s gone to the extent of saying that diesel powered SUVs will become a minority in coming years as emission norms get stricter. Electrics, hybrids, CNG and petrol powered cars could replace diesels in most if not all segments.