We left the city with a few pre-conceptions about the Dacia Duster. First of all, the 12.8 seconds required to reach 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph) from a stand-still weren't very encouraging, while the top speed of 160 km/h (99 mph) was a bit low considering modern standards. Immediately after we jumped on a highway we realized we weren't wrong about the performance expectations.
Even though all the gears of the six-speed transmission are very short, the engine's 105 horsepower aren't enough to give the Duster the vicious acceleration one might expect and the car struggles whenever you try to make a pass at higher speeds. Corroborating the short gear ratios with the rather small amount of sound proofing and the not-so-good drag coefficient of 0.42 translates into a highly... "auditive" experience at speeds above 120 km/h (75 mph).
On top of it, the same gear ratios are responsible for the car's rev meter showing no less than 4000 rpm at 135 km/h (84 mph). This also probably the main reason for the car achieving between 10 and 10.5 liters per 100 km (US 22.4-23.5 mpg) at highway but legal speeds. Those figures are quite a bit higher than the advertised 7 liters per 100 km/h (US 33.6 mpg). Still, we should mention that these numbers were achieved with the air conditioning unit on, since we were experiencing a tremendously hot weather during our test drive.
In other words, in case you're planning to use the Duster 1.6 16v 4x4 on long stretches of the autobahn you might feel a little bit discouraged by its performance, both in acceleration and sound levels, not to mention the rather poor fuel economy. So, is this an SUV to be used strictly in the city, condemned to only tackle speed bumps and roadside curbs on the way to the mall? We beg to differ, and here is why.
The moment we got off the highway and started cruising the countryside is when the Duster got to show its true credentials, or we should say purpose. Don't get misled by the fact that it doesn't look as off-road ready as a Jeep Wrangler, this thing can literally crawl over mountains if given the correct set of tires.
As soon as you hit what it looks as impassable terrain, all you have to do is turn the on-board switch from "2WD" to "Auto" or, if things get really rough, to "Lock" and you're in business. It still remains a front-wheel drive car in "Auto", but the moment a rear wheel starts losing traction the center differential will almost instantly reroute up to 50% of the torque available to the rear axle, thus helping emerge victorious from the mud you're in.
Helping its true off-road credentials are a ground clearance of no less than 21 centimeters (8.3 inches), an attack angle of 30 degrees, a break over angle of 23 degrees and a departure angle of 36 degrees. Put all that together and add a transmission with very short ratios and you get a highly potent little SUV with which you can really go off-roading.Continue reading
Hold on, Mary would like to say something...
Remember when I was thinking that the Dacia Sandero Stepway is the world's cheapest Sport Utility Vehicle and you guys were telling me I was wrong? Well, I guess the table have turned now and I'm finally right. Well, not about the Sandero Stepway anyway, but about the Duster. Whatever, it's still a Dacia.
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