One giant leap
VIC OLIVER gives us his driving impression of the new Tata Prima.
Driving the new world-class Tata Prima vehicles at the launch of this exciting range of extra-heavy commercial vehicles, which was held at the Gerotek vehicle testing facility, was an awesome experience.
I was afforded the opportunity to drive three of the models. The 6×4 truck tractors were coupled to both tridem-axle and interlink trailers. The 6×4 tippers were fitted with end-tipping bodies.
Unfortunately, none of the vehicles were loaded, so a true driving experience of these units was not possible.
The good-looking and stylish cabs fitted to this range of vehicles immediately reflect the high quality of the product. The cab interior is, again, world class and one can see that Tata Motors has taken cognisance of the importance of driver comfort and safety.
From the moment I climbed into the cab and engaged first gear, I experienced the excellent build quality and world-class engineering of the vehicle. Good strong steps, wide-opening doors and sturdy grab handles make the entrance and exit from the cab easy and safe for the driver.
The new Tata Prima range of vehicles is extremely driver-friendly and easy to drive, with light foot-pedal controls, good visibility, an easy-to-read instrument panel, cruise control, factory-fitted air-conditioning and a good music system.
The driver’s suspension seat is fully adjustable. However, I found that the seat was hard, which may cause some discomfort to the driver on a long journey.
Once on the road, the first thing that one notices, as a driver, is the very low noise level and total absence of engine and drivetrain vibration. There is also very little wind noise at high speed, thanks to the fact that the cab has been well designed and built.
Gear selection and change of the manual transmission is very smooth and easy to operate. When cruising at 80 km/h in top gear in the truck tractor models, the rev counter is in the middle of the green band. This proves the gear ratios are correct and that the vehicle has been designed to meet the maximum speed restriction set in South Africa for this class of vehicle.
The brakes, which are fitted with the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), work extremely well. To demonstrate the short stopping distance and the excellent control that the driver has under a severe emergency stop, the vehicles were driven at high speed then braked hard causing the ABS system to function. At the same time, the driver was able to change lanes. It was amazing to see how easy it was to complete this task, thanks to the ABS system that allows the driver to remain in full control of the vehicle.
The engine valve brake – also known as the Jake Brake – works well, and is another safety feature that Tata has fitted to some of the Prima models.
With engine technology from the United States of America and Europe, gearbox expertise from Germany and Europe, chassis knowhow and design from Mexico and cab design from Italy, this Tata Prima range of vehicles is truly world class.
Tata can proudly call its Prima “The World-Smart Truck”, and this new range of vehicles represents a giant step forward for the company in South Africa.
Please note that this is not a comprehensive truck test, but rather a report on Vic Oliver’s driving impressions. The short distance of the tracks at Gerotek and the fact that the vehicles were not loaded make it impossible to file a scientific truck test – Ed.
One of this country’s most respected commercial vehicle industry authorities, VIC OLIVER has been in this industry for over 50 years. Before joining the FOCUS team, he spent 15 years with Nissan Diesel (now UD Trucks), 11 years with Busaf and seven years with International.