Our weekend began in a lush forest of Narayanghat which was only a short detour from the tarmacked highway. We found ourselves maneuvering through a coarse trail trodden only by army trucks and a few curious wanderers… like us.
After navigating through the forest for a while we found a quiet spot to stop. The grass was crispy under our feet. The aged trees towered around us, like forests of the castle stretching away from the floor. The silence was soul-soothing. Here, under the streaks of golden rays sieving in through the thicket of the woods, stood the Tata H5; Tata Motor’s most important SUV yet.
Tata Motors is like that chubby, skinny boy in high school who transformed completely after hitting puberty. From the mundane and safe designs of the yesteryears that gave us the likes of the Indica and Nano, to the cutting edge designs of the Altroz and H5 (Harrier); Tata motors have come a long way. With the H5X reveal in 2018, Tata Motors turned a new page for the company with its most ambitious SUV project yet.
In many ways, the H5 (Harrier), picks up where it left off back in early 2000. Let’s take a walk down memory lane and jog our memory here. In 1998 Tata pioneered as the first Indian manufacturer to delve into the contemporary SUV market with the Safari. They also had the Sierra and Sumo which were performing very well. However, they decided to drop everything and focus completely on the hatchback and sedan industry. Unlucky for Tata Motors the SUV and compact SUV industry became the hottest segment.
Not one to sit back and wallow in self-pity, Tata Motors rolled up their sleeves and got back to work. The Hexa did not do as well as they would have liked but they hit it out of the park with the Tata Nexon. With the H5 (Harrier), Tata Motors look set to pick things up where they left off. And they have a slick trick up their sleeve. Using the knowledge gathered from their subsidiary, Jaguar Land Rover, Tata Motors used Land Rover’s D8 platform – which underpins the Discovery Sport – to create the Optimal Modular Efficient Global Advanced (OMEGA) Architecture, a monocoque for the H5.
So, does it look like a Land Rover?
To some extent, yes… from some angles.
We had been driving the Tata H5, entrusted to Nepal Drives by Tata Motors Nepal, for about 3-4 hours before we reached the quaint forest where we finally decided to rest. Under the shady glades, the Tata H5 looked stunning, even better than when we first received it the night before.
It is a seriously good looking machine. Tata Motors did not deviate too far from the concept design of the H5X, and the results speak for themselves. The H5 is a stunner and turns heads like nobody’s business.
Featuring Tata’s Impact 2.0 design language, the Harrier looks radically different from any Tata car built before. It commands a dominating presence with dimensions (length and width) edging out its rivals. Built with extensive usage of advanced high strength steel, the Harrier feels robust & solid but is also heavier than the competition.
Styling is precise and purposeful. The slim LEDs play the central role in the design of the front fascia, but they only function as DRLs and turn signal indicators; the actual headlights sit lower on the bumper.
From the profile, the H5 looks stacked. The claddings have been used to accentuate the ground clearance and help it disguise any unruly bulk as dominant heft. Rear and front overhangs are minimal and the 2,741 mm wheelbase is the same as that of the Discovery Sport. Where it really shines, is the carefully crafted rear design, which we think is the best angle to view the H5 from.
Right… where were we? The Forest
The forest. We left for Narayanghat at the crack of dawn and managed to clock in around 140kms before getting there. Apart from one or two bathroom breaks, our drive was mostly uninterrupted and we managed to enjoy the luxury of the open highway. But not before suffering through the atrociously tattered tarmac of Naubise.
For those who haven’t been, the twisties that get you from Nagdhunga to Naubise is the pitch-road equivalent of a pimply-faced teenager. On the bright side, this gave us a chance to appreciate the absolutely supple suspension fitted into the H5. So much so, that it is the most prominent thing etched into our minds from the entire trip. It made life on the remains of the Nagdhunga-Naubise stretch bearable.
On the corners, you will experience significant body roll, which is a given in a car of this body type. Nevertheless, the H5 demonstrates steadfast composure and maintains a tight line through the corners.
The 4 cylinder Kryotec diesel engine works wonders on the H5, the 1956cc engine churning out 138BHP and 350Nm of torque and gets an electronically-controlled variable geometry turbocharger sourced from Fiat. The motor used is the same as the one in the Jeep Compass and the torque figures are identical, but it loses out 33 horses.
Stats and numbers aside, driving the Tata H5 put a smile on our face. It moves off the line briskly. Low-end power is great and extremely useful, as you’d expect from a 2.0 Liter diesel. However, if you let the revs run too low, the H5 stalls to a complete halt. This characteristic isn’t typical of a diesel motor but we quickly got used to it.
The mid-range is where we had the most fun. On the highways, the H5 is a mile muncher and can cruise along in 6th gear all day. If you require a little more pep on your journey, switch to the sports mode and the engine turns into a completely different animal. To be clear, we didn’t really switch back to city mode once we tried sports mode. Response to your throttle input is immediately enhanced and you get to rev the motor up all the way to 5000rpm. That means, if you find the right stretch of road, you can enjoy the scenic hillside roads in a flash of orange.
In terms of safety features, the H5 is packed to the gills. It is equipped with dual front airbags, ABS+EBD, rear parking sensors, seatbelt reminders for the front seats and speed-sensitive auto-door locking as standard. The top variant gets 6 airbags, ESP, ISOFIX child seat mounts and a reversing camera. Although the H5 has not been tested by independent entities like the NCAP, going by the 5-star rating received by Tata’s Nexon, we are certain the H5 will be right up there.
The only gripe, if we had any, would be with the steering. It is too light, especially for an SUV of this size. In the city it’s alright, but on the highway, it feels a little too sensitive and twitchy. You can’t help but think that an emergency situation maneuver could result in a dangerous situation.
Once we reached the foliage-covered rocky terrain in the woods, we simply switched to rocky mode (which you can do with a turn of the dial in the center console). The 205mm clearance came in pretty handy. In fact, we were getting a little too reckless inside the jungle. Luckily the H5 cooperated and did not land us in any trouble.
From the thick forest, we somehow ended up on the river banks of the Narayani river. We raced the setting sun and spit up some sand as we delved in some hooliganism on the riverside. After we had our fill of fun we stopped for a bit and breathed in the cool air of the evening. Across the river, on the opposing bank, echoed the distant jingle-jangle of bells accompanying the sermons and prayers.
The sun was quietly descending in the horizon behind the Narayani bridge and casting an orange blanket across the skies. It wasn’t long before the only thing illuminating the shore was the headlight on the H5 which was when we took some time to reflect on our experience with it.
It has a lot resting on its shoulders, especially in terms of what the H5 represents for Tata Motors. Currently, it is the most important product for Tata Motors. The H5 is the culmination of years of experience and knowledge that Tata has put into one SUV, with the hopes of kick-starting a new era and reaching past the perceived crescendo.
The future for Tata seems promising, with massive changes in the designs, technology and some serious dominance in the safety proving grounds. With the H5 we could definitely see a new page-turning for the Indian car manufacturer. The fact that the H5 has been so constantly compared to bigger cars from higher up on the automotive ladder is a testament to their advancements.
However, the H5 is not without fault. In terms of design, there we have little to no complaints. One thing that does come to mind is the ORVMs. They are massive and work great to let you know what’s happening behind you. But it also turns out to create a massive blind spot and chances are you will not be able to see what’s happening behind the mirrors. The steering too felt a little too light. And as much fun, as we had driven the H5, we couldn’t help but think how great it would have been with AWD. That would have made the H5 an even greater proposition. Lastly, the electronics did seem slightly askew and did not work according to our liking. But it should be fixed with a software update.
Apart from that, we can’t mind much to complain about. There are so many positives to the H5 that all the shortcomings can be easily overlooked. We grew to love the H5 through and through. It is an SUV that would fit in perfectly to a family, perfect for city driving and weekend getaways. And you get all of that at a price of 76.99 Lakhs.