CarWale Off-Road Day 2016- Renault Duster AWD

Renault Duster AWD CarWale Off-Road Day 2016

Suppose you have to traverse an unknown and treacherous path and you have five off-roaders to choose from. You know you should be thinking with your head and not with your heart. What would you opt for? The best of the lot isn’t it? My heart still made me grab the keys of the Renault Duster! The car was dismissed as the weak link of the lot, so I challenged myself to take account of its limitations and extract the most of its capabilities. So what eventually? Did I get stuck in the woods? Or did I have a great excursion? Let me take you through what all happened.

Gravel and small stones

Renault Duster AWD CarWale Off-Road Day 2016

First up was the broken road and lot of gravel to reach our first gathering point. Small stones were brushed off easily. Pretty easy task. Then came the rocky patches, which were again fine. I switched from 2WD to auto. I knew I didn’t have the option of engaging the gearbox into low-range, but had the electronically controlled AWD system that had its electronics doing their job in a better way.

Renault Duster AWD CarWale Off-Road Day 2016

But my happiness was shortlived as the first problem came up quite quick with big boulders on the way. Though the Duster has a good ground clearance of 210mm, I felt there was not good enough space between the running body and the terrain to tackle the obstacles. I had the constant fear of damaging the underside of the car while climbing over some big stones and rocks. So rock crawling wasn’t for us, especially when I had no clue about the vulnerable components under the vehicle. I chose a simpler route around that section. Furthermore, I was not at all interested in showing off the flex or axle articulation knowing there were better vehicles to do that there.

Renault Duster AWD CarWale Off-Road Day 2016

Slippery decline

Renault Duster AWD CarWale Off-Road Day 2016

Moving ahead to the next challenge. We had to get down a deep rutted steep descent. To add to the difficulty, rains had made the slope slippery. Then the thought of not having descent control and running on road tyres also gave me the jitters. Anyway, I gathered up the courage to drive down. The vehicle slipped at times, but thankfully the stones helped hold ground. The road tyres gripped well to my surprise. Thanks to the Duster’s shortened gear ratios (utmost credits to the first gear), I didn’t feel the need to continuously brake while crawling down the slope successfully.

Renault Duster AWD CarWale Off-Road Day 2016

Slush pits

Renault Duster AWD CarWale Off-Road Day 2016

Then came the exciting part. In our next section I was splashing around dirt, wheels were spinning fast, but I was still going slowly. That was fine. As long as we were moving, we were good. It was fun throwing the car around the slick spots and green grass, while the ESP light flickered on the instrument cluster. Alas, with the loss in momentum we started to come to a stop. Eventually, the car got stuck! It didn’t budge. I had to get off the gas pedal. I didn’t want the car to dig in further.

Renault Duster AWD CarWale Off-Road Day 2016

The magic switch

Renault Duster AWD CarWale Off-Road Day 2016

I wasn’t deterred. I pulled down the window to check how bad it was, only to hear hundreds of advice and suggestions from colleagues. Pulling up the window to avoid the dirt coming in, I realised it also helped to cut off the voices. I calmly turned the knob to put the ‘4WD Lock’ mode on. This magic switch helps distribute the torque equally to all four wheels for better traction. A little rocking of the car by shifting from first to reverse, while turning the steering back and forth and voila! I was out of the mud pit.

Renault Duster AWD CarWale Off-Road Day 2016

Small hillocks

Renault Duster AWD CarWale Off-Road Day 2016

Moving further we faced some small hillocks. The Duster has a hill start assist that prevented the car from rolling back on a slope for a few seconds. I took advantage of this and didn’t let the car roll back immediately. Thankfully the crests were not sharp. Then the Duster’s approach and departure angle were sufficient enough to ascend and descend those steep slopes without a hitch. Never did I slam or even brush the bumpers against the slope. The great low end torque helped maintain constant speeds while clearing any other obstacles. And all this without putting any pressure on the engine. A soft touch on the pedal was enough to get going.

Renault Duster AWD CarWale Off-Road Day 2016

Water wading

Renault Duster AWD CarWale Off-Road Day 2016

The Duster is high off the ground, precisely 210mm as mentioned earlier. The good visibility and seating position had played a vital role in keeping the vehicle safe till this juncture. It had helped me travel the right lines without a spotter. I could successfully navigate through the tough course. But I still didn’t want to get carried away. After splashing water around vigorously, I was reminded that the air intake was not high enough. I didn’t want it to suck water into the Duster’s engine. That was the last thing I wanted to do. So I simply skipped the deep water wading patch.

Renault Duster AWD CarWale Off-Road Day 2016

Mud plugging satisfaction

Renault Duster AWD CarWale Off-Road Day 2016

So here it is. I feel the Duster AWD won’t make you feel invincible or unstoppable. You will have to think twice before flinging this vehicle anywhere. But to come to think of it, it is such a comfortable off-roader at an affordable price. Its suspension is so well tuned for mud plugging and well-calibrated to take some beating. True, the SUV doesn’t get the most sophisticated AWD systems around, but is quite robust and can tackle some rough patches and tough situations. The need for off-road tyres was felt, but the current ones are good enough for their dual purpose.

Renault Duster AWD CarWale Off-Road Day 2016

I also learnt that it is only the extreme off-road conditions where the going will get tough for the Duster. Otherwise it is a very capable vehicle. Its high ground clearance, robust AWD system, independent suspension and comparatively low weight make it a nimble off-roader. These traits help it to travel places and traverse terrain that any other soft-roader would only imagine of going. But then again, the Duster won’t go as many places. It is not meant to climb over big boulders, go through rivers and ascent ridiculously steep slopes – it is not designed to do that. So forget conquering forts, yet, the Duster AWD will surely show you places in and around these same forts successfully.

Renault Duster AWD CarWale Off-Road Day 2016

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