The Renault Duster needs no introduction. It is the sort of success story every car maker would love to have on their resume. It entered the Indian market in 2012 with the serious intention of upsetting the competition, and it managed it, brilliantly. Bordering between an overgrown hatchback and a full blown SUV, the Duster was large enough to give you that big car feel and yet compact enough not to cause any serious parking issues. It had decent equipment, a number of engine options, and good performance and fuel economy backing it. And while it always had the makings of a good SUV, the absence of true all terrain ability was felt. Two years into its life cycle, Renault has finally decided to bring an all-wheel drive of 4x4 version of the Duster. We took it for a spin to find out how much of a beating it can take.
Exterior Styling and Design
The new Renault Duster 4x4 or 4WD shares the same look as its front-wheel drive version. Clean muscular lines, bulky headlights, three-slat chrome grille and large wheel arches, all make the Duster look striking and rugged. The all-wheel drive or 4x4 version gets blackened out headlights, gun metal finished alloy wheels and 4WD decals on the side, the C-pillar and the tail gate; just so you don’t miss its special trait. The rear remains unchanged, however. We would have loved to see a little body cladding like in the Adventure Edition, but Renault says that adding that would have had a negative effect on the ground clearance.
Exterior styling and Design – 4/5
Interior & Space
While the changes on the outside aren’t extensive, there are a lot of differentiating factors on the inside. The Renault Duster 4x4 gets a new three-pod instrument cluster, a new steering wheel, dual tone red and grey seats and the centre console from the Duster Adventure Edition. The dashboard has hints of grey as opposed to beige on the regular models and this helps give the cabin an airy feel. The quality of plastic all round though, hasn’t changed.
The Duster is still generous with regards to space. The dual tone red-grey seats are comfortable at the front as well as at the back. There is ample of shoulder and leg room to seat three adults on the rear bench with utmost ease. A massive 475 litres boot means that you can pretty much carry your world wherever you go.
The only grouse with the Duster is its ergonomics. The absence of a dead pedal and the lack of space next to the clutch can get a little irritating. Controls for adjusting the ORVMs are still under the hand brake and that’s not exactly very convenient to operate.
Interior & space 3.5/5
Features and Equipment
In terms of features, the Renault Duster 4x4 or Duster AWD is better equipped than the standard Duster and gets traction control, cruise control, a speed limiter, gear shift indicator, ambient temperature gauge, real-time fuel efficiency display and satellite navigation as standard. This is for the top of the line RXZ model. It also gets an integrated 2 din audio system with USB, AUX and Bluetooth connectivity and steering mounted audio and phone control which are finally on the steering and not on the column as on the regular models. The positioning of the steering mounted controls is still a little odd and takes a while getting used to. In terms of safety, the Duster 4x4 has the works including ABS, EBD, Brake Assist and dual front airbags. While the equipment list is long, we would have liked to see a digital climate control system on the SUV as well.
Features & Equipment: 4/5
Ride and Ease of Driving
When to comes to ease of driving, the Renault has improved the Duster 4x4 significantly. The clutch is lighter than before which makes driving in stop-and-go traffic a piece of cake. The gear ratios have also been tweaked. The first two gears are a lot shorter now which not only makes crawling on off-road trails easy but also makes it a lot simpler to drive in the city. Steering feels nicely weighted and comfortable. Ride quality on all sorts of roads is top notch. Visibility all round is good but the glass on the boot lid is small which might make it difficult to park in tight spaces. Having said that, the parking sensors work well enough to elude the issue altogether.
Ride and ease of driving 4.5/5
Engine and Performance
Underneath the hood, the Renault Duster 4x4 AWD continues to have the same 1.5-litre diesel mill that packs 110PS of power and 248Nm of torque. Shift through the slick 6-speed gearbox and it crosses the three digit mark with ease. We gunned the car around the twisty roads of Lavassa and the car could comfortably take it all in the fourth gear without coughing for power even on steep climbs. A lot of this can also be a result of the fact that the ECU has been remapped to deliver power lower down the rev range. Throttle response is sharp. Push the pedal at any engine speed and the car is eager to please you with its acceleration. Unlike the front-wheel drive Duster, the 4WD is quieter even at high speeds thanks to the improved NVH levels.
Engine and Performance – 4.5/5
Handling & Braking
The Duster was always a good handling SUV, and now with the Duster 4x4 getting independent rear suspension instead of a torsion beam axle, it has gotten even better. While this Renault SUV is an absolute bliss to push round corners, it is equally joyful to crawl on off-road trails with. You can choose between three AWD modes - 2WD, Auto and Lock. While the 2WD mode keeps the car in front-wheel drive, the Auto mode sends power to the rear or the front wheels depending on which has the maximum traction. The Lock mode, keeps sends power to all four wheels till around 60kmph post which it automatically shifts to Auto.
The trail that we drove on consisted of mucky section, water crossings and steep climbs and the Duster 4x4 took it all without throwing any sort of tantrums whatsoever. All of this could be achieved with a lot of help from the 205mm ground clearance. Braking duties are performed well with a combination of ventilated discs/drum combination. Push the brake pedal hard and the car comes to a stop in a considerably short distance especially by SUV standards. The 215/65 section 16-inch Apollo tyres support the brakes well.
Handling & braking – 4/5
Price and Fuel Efficiency
The Renault Duster 4x4 has an ARAI fuel efficiency of 19.72kmpl. In the real world, however, the Duster AWD will certainly return a lesser figure. As or pricing, the Duster 4WD hasn’t been launched yet but we expect it cost a lakh more than the 4x2 Duster RxZ model currently on sale. The Duster 4x4 will also go on sale in the lower RxL variant whichh is expected to be slightly more affordable.
Price and Fuel Efficiency – 3.5/5
Since the time of its launch, the Renault Duster has been an extremely smart offering and now with it becoming a full grown off-roader, it gets a lot closer to the heart as well. Thanks to a great engine, superior handling and a potent off-roading hardware, the Duster 4x4 or AWD is now a lot more than just an urban SUV. Set to go against the upcoming Skoda Yeti and the Mahindra XUV 5OO, the Duster 4x4 has some pretty stiff competition. How it manages to take them on will depend a lot on its pricing, but as an overall package the Renault Duster continues to be well rounded SUV.
Overall Rating 4/5
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