But, there’s a lot more to this SUV than meets the eye and the big changes lie under the skin. Of course, there’s the new electronically controlled 4x4 system, and rather significantly, independent suspension at all four corners. But before we get to that, I’d like to get to the less obvious tweaks that have found place in the new Duster 4x4. What is immediately apparent is that the heavy clutch of the standard Duster has given way to a much lighter unit that’s significantly easier on your calf muscles. Renault has also shortened the gear ratios on the 4x4; especially the first gear which now maxes out at just 30kph. As I realised on the off-road trail, the advantage is that it is easier to ‘crawl’ down steeper slopes. Also helpful in slippery scenarios is the addition of traction control. But what I found most useful were the small tweaks to the ECU that give the Duster 4x4 a better bottom end. We had just driven up a steep ghat last week in the standard Duster and found a noticeable difference in driveability tackling similar roads with this car. Sections that needed a downshift from third to second were comfortably tackled in third by the Duster 4x4. We also found it quite tractable in stop-and-go traffic on the outskirts of Pune.
Now, getting to the real big changes – the addition of all-wheel drive and independent suspension. There are three modes on the AWD selector knob: 2WD, Auto and Lock. 2WD keeps it permanently front-wheel driven, while Auto sends a part of the power to the rear wheels when the system detects the front wheels losing traction. ‘Lock’ keeps the hardware in 4x4 mode up to around 60kph, after which it shifts back into ‘Auto’.
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Issue: 211 | Autocar India: March 2017
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