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Renault Duster just got smarter, safer and automatic

By P Tharyan
April 04, 2016 16:54 IST

The AMT variant comes with a turbo charged diesel engine which produces 108.5bhp@4000 rpm and a peak torque of 245Nm@1750rpm

Everybody likes a mid-life correction and the craving for a fresh look is never satiated. In the human world, it’s either the scalpel or plenty of Botox shots. In the world of automobiles, the first to get a makeover are the front and rear ends of a vehicle. As for the innards, they are seldom tweaked beyond a point.

The Renault Duster, which was launched in the summer of 2012, has had its share of minor facelifts in the past, but now it has gone a step further and got itself even an additional transmission.

The Duster, mind you, is a very successful SUV. More than 140,000 of them are running on Indian roads since the launch.

The most prominent change in the vehicle is that now it is being offered with a 6-speed automated manual transmission (AMT) - it’s called Easy-R AMT. This is the first transmission of this kind in the country. Around 32 new features have been added on, some of them cosmetic and the others critical.

The AMT variant comes with a turbo charged diesel engine which produces 108.5bhp@4000 rpm and a peak torque of 245Nm@1750rpm.

So what are the changes to the Duster? There is a new dual winged front grille. There are also new hawk eye cluster headlamps with firefly fog lamps. The top end variants get the exquisite looking gun metal finish 16-inch alloy wheels.

There are also the electrically adjustable and foldable ORVMs (outside rear view mirrors) with turn indicators. The new Duster will also be available in a bright and sporty colour - Cayenne Orange.

The interiors too have undergone a change. The vehicle now comes with a crimson-black interior theme with sporty double spacer fabric for the all-wheel drive and a cedar wood-black interior with premium embossed fabric for other variants. There is also a dual tone soft touch dashboard.

Convenience features include a new rear view camera with guidelines, new automatic air conditioning, new auto-up/down window with anti-pinch, new media nav and new centre fascia. Driving is made a lot safer with the anti-lock braking system, electronic brakeforce distribution with brake assist, dual airbags, as well as ESP and Hill-start assist.

Apart from the visually appealing changes, what I really went out to test was the new 6-speed AMT. Smartly enough, the company has not mated this transmission to the 4-wheel drive variant.  It’s only the 2-wheel drive 1461 cc diesel engine that has got this luxury.

We all know 4X4 buyers are assumed to be a lot more adventurous than their 2-wheel drive counterparts.

The 6-speed AMT is a bit slow on the take. Even when you gun the machine fully, the transmission takes a bit of time to move from the first gear.

Finally, when it settles down at the third gear, everything looks up and the machine starts to roll and the vehicle gathers tremendous speed.

But please remember, the Duster has been a hit among a lot of young Indian families. Safety is their prime concern and none of the customers seems to have a maniacal bent of mind.

Thus, fitting the AMT to a 2-wheel drive variant has been a very sensible step by the company.

For someone who loves speed, and worships it as though there is no other god, this new AMT is a big “NO”. He or she should instead go for the other manual transmission variants.

But then, if AMT is what he or she has decided on, then there is the option of going into the manual model and getting the machine rolling faster.

On the personal front, I liked the new AMT. It makes life a lot easier in heavy traffic and in long distance driving. With this facelift, the Renault Duster has just got a lot smarter and safer.

But then, it was always a good looking, practical SUV.

Apple to apple if it were to be compared to the Hyundai Creta (this is also not a compact SUV), both also have a six-speed automatic transmission. But then the Duster has a 4X4 option.

Photograph, courtesy: Indian Autos Blog

P Tharyan is editor, Motown India

P Tharyan
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