The Duster AWD not only gets off-road ability but is now a better car overall, says Faisal Ali Khan of MotorBeam.com
The Duster is Renault's top selling car in India and the automaker has finally launched the AWD version of the vehicle.
The AWD Duster just doesn't get a 4x4 system, there are more changes which accentuate the appeal of this compact SUV.
One of the best selling vehicles in its class, the Renault Duster AWD is aimed at a niche segment since the number of people going off-roading is still very less.
The AWD model is similar to the regular Duster but Renault has given the vehicle some minor changes to differentiate it. The headlights get the blackened out treatment while the alloy wheels now feature a grey finish.
There is also the 4x4 badge on the boot while AWD stickers are offered on the sides, including the lower part of the doors and just near the C-pillar. The car has always looked butch and now it has the ability to match the show.
The interior too gets minor changes. For starters, there is an-all new steering wheel which is much better to hold and it also gets cruise control buttons on it.
The instrument cluster is all new too and the MID screen displays more data. The dashboard is finished in dual-tone black and grey which looks fresh.
The AWD switch is placed on the lower part of the centre console and some buttons have shifted places. Ergonomics are far from perfect and the Duster has just about average quality. Space inside the cabin is generous and the vehicle does feel solid.
The Renault Duster AWD is available with just one engine, the 1.5-litre k9k diesel mill produces 110 PS and 248 Nm. This motor has been tuned to offer better low-end response and the turbolag found on the 2WD Duster is less of an issue on the AWD model.
The motor is more responsive and doesn't lack grunt at the low-end of the power band. The clutch is now lighter and doesn't tire you out even after driving in stop-go traffic.
The Duster AWD offers good mid-range performance but lacks top-end thrust, it revs quickly to its redline and if not careful, you are bound to bump into the rev limiter.
The ARAI certified mileage is 19.72 kmpl but on our test, we got 6.1 kmpl as the car was subjected to an off-road course, being kept in first gear and revved very hard.
There are three modes on offer from the AWD system - 2WD (front-wheel power only), Auto (automatically engages all-wheel drive when it detects the need), Lock (keeps the car in AWD mode till 60 km/hr).
The Duster has a fantastic balance between ride and handling. The AWD model gets an independent rear suspension which further improves the ride quality of the vehicle. The handling is very good and body control is excellent too.
The steering returns good feedback but channels vibrations to the driver when you hit a bad patch while cornering aggressively. Brakes offer good bite.
The car has good approach and departure angles which coupled with its relatively light weight, helps it easily conquer the worst of terrain. It doesn't have a low ratio transfer case but works quite well on most off-road courses.
The Duster AWD is offered in two variants with the top trim RxZ model priced at Rs 15.77 lakh, making it quite expensive. What you do get is a vehicle with reliable mechanics, good performance and fantastic dynamic balance.
The Duster AWD is not only for those who want to go off-road, it's also for those who want a better car as the changes to the low-end power delivery and clutch has made the Duster more appealing on a day to day basis.
It might be priced optimistically but the Duster AWD delivers in spades.