Renault Duster AWD Long Term Review
The Renault Duster AWD is hugely capable both on and off the road
Mumbai. The city of dreams, the city which never sleeps, the city where people flock to make it big, also the city where road contractors take it for granted and the roads literally disintegrate during monsoons. Bad roads to no roads, dry patches to flooded areas, you get to see it all. In such a scenario, it is a routine to see cars struggling. However, the SUV body-type seems to be above all this which is one of the reasons why it has shown some exceptional demand over the years. The vehicle which started the affordable SUV revolution, the Renault Duster, is what we have been using and it’s no ordinary one, it's the 'All Wheel Drive' version. Here is how our Renault Duster AWD has coped in real world conditions.
We have had quite a love-hate relationship with the Renault Duster. Having driven it extensively for months together in the past, including a Delhi-Mumbai drive, there are certain things which we love and certain things which we really hate. The Duster is actually a proper full-fledged SUV with respectable approach, roll-over and departure angles to tackle most types of off-road terrain. High ground clearance and the flared wheel arches give it a powerful character, slot in an AWD and bingo, you've got a true-blue SUV.
While we have been in love with the exterior styling, the interiors have been a let down. Rather, let's just say they don't justify the price you pay for this SUV. Quality is quite average and it just doesn't feel built to last. Renault has time and again done minor improvements, the biggest of them being the addition of a touch-screen infotainment system with navigation. For sure, it is a welcome addition but the screen is a little slow to respond. For example, if you start the car and slot into reverse, you would almost be done reversing before the screen has booted up.
The 110 PS diesel engine in the Duster AWD offers lag-free performance
Under the hood is the trusted 1.5-litre K9K diesel engine which punches out a healthy 110 PS of power and 245 NM of torque. There is practically no turbo lag which means drivability has improved drastically. Driving through stop-go traffic is not a pain anymore and the 6-speed manual gearbox works well, be it on the highway or the city. Keep the car in 2-wheel-drive mode and you would get similar fuel economy as the regular 4x2 Duster. In 'All Wheel Drive' mode, the fuel consumption increases. It is best to leave it in 'Auto' mode where the car will automatically detect if it needs to switch over to 'All Wheel Drive' mode. We got an average fuel efficiency of around 12.2 km/l with our test car.
The Renault Duster offers stupendous ride quality and handling too is predictable, with the steering giving you more feedback than you want. From an enthusiast's perspective, it is a very good thing. The Duster probably has the best driving dynamics in the entire segment. Coming to the AWD part. Honestly, we rarely needed to use the AWD mode. Even on rocky terrain, the 2-wheel drive mode is good enough to ensure that you get going even under difficult circumstances. The only time we did need to slot it into AWD was when we took our Duster on loose sand and slush. It tends to loose traction and had it not been for the AWD mode, we would have been stuck.
The AWD Duster can surprise you with its brilliant ride quality and handling
Now comes the big question, do you really need to buy the AWD version or is the front-wheel drive good enough for you? Well, if you are someone, who often takes their vehicle off tarmac and who wants the capability of a true SUV, you could consider the AWD variant which is highly capable and gives you the option of having an urban SUV which can transform into a true off-roader at the flick of a button. However, if you only use your car on tarmac, even the front-wheel drive variant is good enough for occasional off-road excursions.
Renault currently offers a wide range of engine and transmission options in India with the Duster. One of our favourites is the AMT version to tackle congested city driving that we regularly face in Mumbai. Though it is an AMT unit, it is one of the best we have seen so far. The low-end torque associated with the diesel engine makes it feel less laggy and though it is jerky (which all AMTs are), it works well for someone who wants the comfort and convenience of an automatic. So we have now swapped the AWD version with the AMT and Javeid (Deputy Editor) is currently driving it because of the sheer convenience it offers.
* Rugged design for optimum off-road capabilities
* Generous boot space
* Refined and potent diesel engine
* Fantastic AWD system to tackle the worst of obstacles
* Best ride and handling balance in the segment
What's Not So Cool
* Dated exterior and interior styling
* Limited features on offer as compared to rivals
Further Reading -
2016 Renault Duster Facelift Review
Maruti Vitara Brezza vs Renault Duster - Tug Of War
2018 Renault Duster Detailed Walkaround
2016 Renault Duster vs Hyundai Creta - Comparison Review
Mahindra XUV500 vs Hyundai Creta vs Renault Duster - Comparison Review
Renault Duster AMT Long Term Review – First Report
Renault Duster AMT Long Term Review – Second Report