The Duster AWD succeeded in proving its capabilities in this drive & found a new fan
We automotive journalists love going for long road trips, exploring new locations and routes. Renault organised the 2015 Gang Of Dusters Great Western Adventure from Mumbai to Kolad on 18th and 19th July and I was a part of it. The itinerary included a lot of driving along with some adventure activities and off-roading. We all gathered at the Renault dealership early morning where participants started trickling in. I was quite surprised to see that over 40 participant families had taken part in the drive. Apart from that, there were 3 media cars and 5 crew cars. Renault had also hired the services of an ambulance and a flat-bed towing truck which gave us company throughout the journey and this was really thoughtful on the company’s part.
So we took off from Jogeshwari at 8.30 AM with me sitting in the front passenger seat while my media colleague from another publication decided to take the wheel first. I immediately tried to connect my Apple iPod to the audio system via Bluetooth but the system just refused to detect my iPod and hence we had to make do with FM radio. I found the seat and ride very plush and comfortable but what caught my attention was the fact that the interiors just didn’t seem like they’re from a car that costs Rs. 15 lakhs. I was a bit disappointed with the quality but loved the ride! So we headed towards the Mumbai-Pune Expressway through Airoli and since it was a Saturday, we encountered a lot of traffic.
The whole convoy stopped on the Sion-Panvel highway for a regroup and it was amusing to see a lot of people in other cars slowing down to check out what’s going on, well of course, there were 50 Renault Dusters parked in a line! Once we got onto the expressway, we again took a small halt where Arun and I switched seats. I quickly found a nice driving position and we just took off! The SUV performed brilliantly and it doled out enough power to crunch miles with ease. We encountered a lot of traffic again at the Khalapur toll. It was also raining quite heavily. We got onto the ghats which was again crowded thanks to the weekend rush. Getting inside Lonavla and driving towards Tiger Point took almost an hour. After Tiger Point, the roads were completely empty and we drove the Duster at moderate speeds and made it to 19 Degree North.
The Duster’s strong mechanicals & off-road ability are big USPs
There was a mild yet tricky off-road track at the venue where I first got a round as a passenger. I was quite amazed to see the vehicle’s capabilities, especially since the company’s officials were driving it in 2WD mode all the way. Then it was my turn to attack the off-road track. I was accompanied by a company official and was made to wear a helmet. I too drove in 2WD mode and had a lot of fun taking tight corners whilst doing handbrake turns. At the finish of the track, there was a lot of empty space to just circle the car around and make donuts and that was the most fun part! I slotted the car in reverse, pushed pedal to the metal and pulled the handbrake and managed quite perfect donuts. Renault Duster owners were surprised to see that their vehicle is capable of doing such things since most of them wouldn’t have ever tried all this.
Then participants went for a go on the off-road track and other activities like rock climbing while we had a quick lunch. The convoy then headed towards Aamby Valley, where we were let in after a lot of strict checking. I quickly checked in to my room and dozed off. Got up a few hours later and coordinated with a few others to head to the auditorium for dinner. The weather felt quite awesome and we all went to bed a bit early since we had to be up by 5 AM the next day!
Inspite of the pleasant climate and the comfy bed, I did manage to wake up before time and quickly got ready. Everyone gathered at the convention centre where a packed breakfast was handed over to each one of us. It was pouring cats and dogs and the scenery was just too beautiful. The convoy was formed again and slowly everyone left Aamby Valley for Kolad. The route to Kolad was a very scenic one. The road was narrow with lots of greenery on both the sides. The surface had broken roads, no roads as well as smooth tarmac. The pliant ride of the Duster made sure we a traveled in comfort.
We drove the Duster in a very enthusiastic way on all these road surfaces and were strikingly surprised when we noticed how the vehicle handled everything. The mini SUV took tight corners confidently while it also remained very much stable when we were doing high speeds on completely broken patches. The ride remained comfy all along and there was no reason to complain. Everyone gathered again at one point and again moved on steadily. This time we were at the front and the empty twisties were very inviting.
I took to the wheel again and pushed the Renault Duster through every corner with a wide grin on my face. The way it slid across the long corners was fun. The traction control went ballistic on certain stretches but never ever did the car feel out of control. Initially I had a lot of dislike for the Duster but after driving over all these terrains and experiencing its capabilities, my respect for the vehicle only grew more and more. So while other participants went rafting at the Kundalika river, we decided to go further down the road.
After driving around for a long time, we caught up with the others at the rafting point and then we all headed to Empower Resort for lunch. Had some nice Paneer Mutter with Naans and Gulab Jamuns and I was full. Found an empty ground which was quite big in size and it was donut time again! The Renault guys then handed certificates to all us and it was time to head back to Mumbai. The Duster gave us a fuel efficiency of 12-14 km/l throughout the journey which is very good considering the fun that we had with it. All in all, it was a great trip that allowed us to refresh ourselves while also having lots of fun driving the Renault Duster across varied terrains. Renault’s Gang of Dusters initiative is surely paying off as many owners are participating, thereby helping them understand and use their cars better.