Well, I did write under the topic "anyone driven a Duster?"
Well, today was the Duster's first big day out. My son was with me, enjoying the ride (at the age of 23!). He's responsible for the car being named "Snowball of Fire". This is based on me saying that the Duster is not slow but it's no ball of fire either. With it being radiant white in colour my comment was duly corrupted.
Our trip, Sunderland (city driving), down the A1M (motorway, obviously), A66 (single/ dual carriageway, lots of gradients), Penrith, Carlisle, B6318 Military Road (awful visibilty, driving rain, part-flooded roads, hills and bends) then home.
The first impression was of being in a comfortable, relaxing and safe place. Quiet too, sufficient to allow normal conversation, no raised voices. The car has sufficient road presence so that other road users give you space and respect. I didn't drive fast, the handbook gives running in instructions advising keeping engine speed below 3,500 rpm for the first 600 miles. However, on the A1(M) other drivers seemed to take forever to overtake. In retrospect I think they were taking their time, asking themselves "What the f**k is that?" At this stage it was dry so I was running in 2WD to conserve fuel. Onto the gradients of the A66, up onto the Pennines. The car coped well. I sometimes got a bit mixed up as to which of the 6 gears I was in but I'm learning fast. It occurred to me that on our dual carriageways and motorways these days you don't need a very fast car, just something relaxing with good road presence to take you from one overtaking truck to the next (elephant racing at 58 mph).
The M6 to Carlisle was more of the same but we went right through the centre of Carlisle, up the London Road, a slow crawl. A nice car to drive, crawling in urban traffic. Low gearing very useful.
The real challenge was the B6318. Absolutely sodden with rain and meltwater from snow. Into 4WD, especially helpful when hitting a flood in the road, unseen in the pitch black, worse with another car coming towards you, headlamps blinding. Still it was better than my short night drive last night. The headlamp adjustment had been set as low as possible, the road a few yards ahead lit but nothing else. In daylight this morning I examined the headlamp adjustment switch and set it to the highest setting. A fascinating system. On most cars today this adjustment is by electric motors. On the Duster, a mechanical system operated by cables stretching through the engine compartment. Ultra reliable!
Despite a potentially dangerous run on the B6318 I left that road feeling relaxed, exhilarated even at the challenge myself and the Duster had conquered. In fact, I found the drag, at 50 mph, round the South side of Gateshead much more stressful, trying to constantly second-guess the driving of other road users. (The Audi driver, texting and smoking out of his window, in front of me stands out in particular).
The car has 250 miles under its belt now. It's certainly livelier than it was at delivery and promises more in the future. I don't have an accurate mpg figure but it looks like a 50 litre tank will take you a little over 400 miles of mixed motoring. I reckon that works out at 35 mpg, the combined figure quoted by Dacia. Not brilliant but I can live with it given that other costs are low.
Hopefully more tales of life with the Duster to follow.
Oh, and my niece loves it. Her ambition is to own a Range Rover and she sees the gleaming white Duster as a halfway house to that ambition. Her dad, my brother, he hates it, still loves his RAV4. Toyota, boring, says it all!
However, having clocked up 1,200 miles in the Duster in 17 days, I've been a bit too busy driving and travelling to write very much.
Suffice to say, although not a fast car, it's a very comfortable and safe-feeling long distance tourer. It was particularly useful on the very narrow, very muddy and very wet country lanes of West Cornwall last weekend. Plenty of road presence when meeting vehicles coming the other way, good views over the hedges and sure-footed on those slippery road surfaces. Whenever you had to drop your nearside wheels into the mud to pass another vehicle you knew you weren't about to get hopelessly stuck. The Cornish roads are really battered and pot-holed just now and the Duster floats over these major imperfections.
The light feel to the front of the car is a bit disconcerting when cornering on sharp, wet bends. It's not dangerous, just encourages you to take a bit more care which is how SUVs should be treated anyhow.
The car looks great in a rural setting. Parked up today at Burrington Combe in Somerset, under the high rocks, perfect. Those massive wheels and tyres look just right for an adventure.
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