It's been nearly a fortnight since I laid hands on my Duster and I'm liking it a little more each time I take it out for a drive. I never looked at it as a replacement for my hatch, the Fiat Punto. I still drive it and love it as I did the day I got it home.
The Duster was for a purpose. Our outdoor trips were restricted due to the limited ground clearance of the hatch & sedan I own. I wanted something that would allow me access to places I couldn't go to because of the fear of damaging my car. My desire is a 4x4 but a front wheel drive compact SUV with a ground clearance that is better than a lot of full size SUVs is a good option till I have pockets large enough to go for one such big 4x4!
Palakkad isn't really the place for off roading but since I wasn't used to sitting idle on Sundays I decide to make do with what was around me. So my son Skanda and I drove of to explore the Duster's capabilities after breakfast.
First stop was Malampuzha. Only a week ago, I had reversed the Duster into a hole in the ground and struggled to get it out. Mind you, that wasn't the Duster's fault but mine. I should have checked out where I was going to put the wheel into but was too lazy to get out of the car to do it. This time my son was accompanying me so I was not going to make the same mistake again.
We walked into the reservoir up to our knees to check the 'underwater' status of the ground beneath. It was more sandy than slushy, which we knew from our summer visits, but the sand was firm and our feet weren't sinking into it. Since the Duster is front wheel drive car I reversed it into the water till front wheels had reached the edge. Then I drove it out. No problem at all.
The next step was to get all 4 wheels into the water. So I backed up till my son felt that the silencer was going under the water. I wasn't sure how deep I should go. The Brazilian site says that the Duster has a water wading capacity of 400 mm but I wasn't sure if that was applicable to the Indian version so I didn't push things. The Duster seemed to be enjoying my discomfiture because she did not show any sign of having a wheel stuck. She just rolled out as she would on land!
That done, the next plan was to go into the water front first. So the same experiment of checking the depth and the firmness of the invisible earth was completed and then the car was lined up to go forward. After a quickly mumbled prayer I stepped on the pedal and let her roll into the water.
It wasn't much of a test but there was no slipping wheels despite a not so heavily buttoned MRF Wanderers. I still have some reservations about the choice of OE tyres. Perhaps something designed like a Bridgestone Dueler would have been better.
The original track that leads to this spot was submerged in the water so as we drove out we thought we'd just shoot one final series of pictures before we left to our next test zone. Instead of pictures my son decide it would be more dramatic shooting a video!
After lunch we drove off in the exact opposite direction of Malampuzha. There were no peacocks in sight, not even their loud squawking. Ideal time to do some off-roading without being blamed for 'road kills'!
The idea was to go down butt first. The slope was not too much but there was no place to turn at the bottom.
After a lot of thought we decided it was better go down nose. The slope was about 40 degrees with no loose rock or gravel at the bottom or on the slope. Considering that the turning circle was small for the Duster I though I'd give it a try.
It wasn't much of an effort here but I was getting the hang of manipulating this car. It was behaving in a very refined manner and the car went where I wanted it to go.
We returned after a long day outside. Life would take a turn now for us. This car was going to take us to places the were previously inaccessible to us. Meanwhile I have to take it on a few more rounds of testing over terrain that we'd be really doing. That would mean a longer weekend or during holidays.
A WORD ABOUT FUEL EFFICIENCY:
700 odd kilometers is too early to comment about fuel efficiency but I did two tankfuls in the last 10 days. The first one was after I got the car. The subsequent round trip to Cochin and back was a total of 426 kilometers. I refilled to full tank with 18 liters. That returns an mileage of 23.6 km/ltr on the highway. I don't know whether I got my calculation wrong but I know that no other refueling was done. The trip to Malampuzha & Mayiladumpara shows a fuel comsumption figure of 15.8 km/liter on the on board fuel efficiency calculator but I'll update the actual figure after I top up.
Meanwhile keep an eye on this space