Revisiting India’s First Indigenous SUV From The 90s
Back in 1991, most cars sold in India were either hatchbacks or sedans. But there was one company that thought differently. That was TELCO i.e. Tata Engineering and Locomotive COmpany. They thought of Launching a three-door SUV based on the Telcoline pick-up. That’s the ‘Tata Sierra’.
Based on Tata’s X2 platform, it was the first off-road SUV produced by Tata. But it is way more than just a regular SUV. Even though it was later replaced by Safari, the Sierra still maintains its legendary status. Let’s see what makes it great:-
Tata Sierra: The ‘Not Owned, But Possessed’ SUV
Its Unique looks surely turn heads even today. It is like a closed version of the Telcoline pickup. The main unique feature of the Sierra is the big glass window. This Glass-house design gave cool looks to the car. Its spare wheel was mounted on the rear, which gave it a more off-roader-like look.
Engine and Transmission
The Tata Sierra is mainly a front-engine rear-wheel-drive SUV. But Tata provided an optional four-wheel-drive system. Its first-generation got a 2.0-litre inline-four, naturally aspirated engine. Whereas the second one got a bit better, turbocharged version of the same diesel engine. It generated 87 Horsepower.
Interior & Other Features
The First-gen gen Sierra featured a front collapsible passenger seat for letting the rear passengers enter. The seats were initially provided by Harita Grammar Ltd. and then by Tata Johnson Ltd. Nothing at its time could match the levels of interior space it provided. The Tata Sierra is the first car made in India with power windows, air-conditioning, adjustable steering and a tachometer. All these features became standard in the cars after the Sierra. Its soundproofing improved over the Telcoline.
The car was exported to European countries under the name Tata Sport or Tata Telcosport. The turbodiesel model changed its name to Tata Grand Telcosport. In Italy, it came in the base version and Italy-specific ‘Orciari’ version. In the UK, the Sierra was called Gurkha with dealers aggressively marketing it as being cheaper than a used Land Rover. The Sierra sold there well due to the market demand for lifestyle vehicles.
The fact that Telco didn’t update the Sierra with time turned it into an old horse. Many people wanted a five-door Sierra, but that would’ve meant that Tata will have to redesign the whole car from scratch. This was not a good decision to make. Its price was also a concern as at Rs. 5 Lakhs, many modern cars were available. At that time, the company was shifting its focus towards Indica and Safari. Though the company revised their strategies again and again; the sales never picked up. Eventually, it was discontinued in 2003 with the all-new Safari replacing it.
After that, the ‘Sierra’ moniker disappeared without a trace. But to everyone’s surprise, Tata showcased the ‘Sierra EV Concept’ at the Auto Expo 2020. This model takes cues from the original Sierra and modernizes many things. The most notable feature is the modern take on the old school glass-house design. It is yet unknown if there will be a production version. But one thing is for sure, the Sierra is back with a bang!
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