Gone But Not Forgotten: Tata Estate
By the time you read this, the wraps will have come off the near-production-ready Tata Sierra EV at the Auto Expo, with the panoramic glass in the profile inspired by the OG Sierra, except without the impracticality of the original’s three doors. In fact one wonders what prompted Tata Motors, or TELCO as they were then known, to be so bold (or foolhardy), to kick off their car-making journey with a three-door SUV. And this is your answer. The Tata Estate.
The Sierra wasn’t planned in isolation. With the 207 pickup platform as the base, the Sierra would be the hero car — the cool, outdoorsy SUV on a shortened wheelbase — but alongside would sit something more sensible and practical, the Tata Estate. With the same 207’s wheelbase, a whopping 425mm more than the Sierra, the Estate was massive — a full 4.6 metres in length, and that meant lots of space for five and lots of space for all their luggage. Even today the Estate looks, feels and is huge. And spacious.
Unlike today, the Estate’s body is built of immensely solid metal. You can stand on the bonnet and it will not buckle. You can punch the body panels and your knuckles will break but the body won’t dent. This is heavy metal, leading to the Estate tipping the scales at a whopping 1.6 tonnes. And to haul all that weight it got, erm, 68bhp. Leisurely doesn’t adequately describe the performance with contemporary tests noting its 0-100kmph time at a yawning 44 seconds.
Lacking the cool quotient of the Sierra, you tend to look at the Estate very objectively. And in the cold light of day, the Estate can best be described as, erm, crude. The gearbox, with the dog leg first, is a slush pit. The engine is deafening. The handling like an oil tanker. The steering sloppy and vague. One expends a fair bit of energy in driving it, in stark contrast to the then-new-fangled Maruti Suzukis. And those Marutis were a million times more reliable.
Not that these were insurmountable hurdles in the ’90s. We were still driving Ambassadors, and the Estate not only looked like one but also drove like a Mercedes-Benz (relative to the Amby of course). This was a luxury car! The ride quality and comfort were terrific. It had power windows and power steering — space age tech in those days. But we Indians, even then, had an aversion for the estate body style. There just wasn’t any emotional appeal. So while the Sierra eventually got the turbo-diesel, the Estate was left to languish on its own until the plug was pulled in 2000. And despite the trend of re-birthing legends from the past, it is unlikely to ever (re) emerge on stage to raucous applause at an Auto Expo.