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Dacia Duster: With the Duster through the desert

A new logo now adorns the models of the Dacia brand, including the successful Duster. We took the compact SUV into the desert.

There is a lot that can be said about the successful model of the Romanian Renault branch. The Duster has been in production since 2010, and over two million units have been sold worldwide since then. Already less known: a tenth of them in Germany. Which makes Germany one of the most important markets for the Duster.

But even fewer people know that the Duster name has already appeared once in the brand's 55-year history: the ARO 10, a small SUV with front-wheel or four-wheel drive from Romania, was sold in English-speaking export markets as the Dacia Duster in the 80s marketed.

More than 1,000 new Dusters every day

Maybe they don't like hearing that from Dacia, because this first Duster acquired an almost legendary, dubious reputation during its construction period (after all, until 2006). That's long forgotten, more than 1,000 new Dusters roll off the assembly line every day in Pitesti's traditional production facility. And with that we are back in the here and now, whereby the here means Marrakech for today. ,

A Duster in Arizona Orange is available for test drives, both as a 115 dCi with all-wheel drive and in the Journey trim level. All-wheel drive is only available in conjunction with a six-speed manual transmission - a thoroughly attractive combination, as it soon turns out.

Off to the desert

Behind us lies the densely packed and confusing city of Marrakech, in front of us the desert, behind them rise the Atlas Mountains. Before you ask yourself, yes, the country of Morocco inherited its name from the city. And the Diercke school atlas the last two syllables of his name from the North African mountain massif. But that's really a different story. ,

The Atlas, i.e. the mountains, not the bound map series, is mostly hidden behind dense veils of cloud today. Two huge low-pressure areas over the Azores and the Mediterranean Sea are shoveling wet, cold northern air over Morocco. It's drizzling lightly as we turn left from the asphalt road into the desert. A day earlier the sun shone out of a deep blue sky over Morocco, Atlas and Duster, which explains the pictures and videos here.

Four-wheel drive from the Nissan X-Trail

The path becomes bumpier and narrower, it winds between small hills, apparently abandoned villages and almost dried-up stream beds. No challenge for the Duster. It famously inherited its all-wheel drive from the first generation of the Nissan X-Trail, which isn't such a bad reference. This is a front-wheel drive, which, if necessary, takes the rear axle with it via a viscous coupling.,

Before you head off on off-road adventures with your Duster: it does all of these things really well, usually offers excellent traction and it even has a lock. It is engaged by turning a knob, which fixes the power distribution between the two axles at 50:50. In this way you can get over quite a few obstacles and climb steep climbs, also because 21 centimeters of ground clearance and an angle of departure of up to 34 degrees and the short overhangs provide good scrambling conditions anyway. In addition, the 4x4 has a very effective, if sometimes insensitive, downhill driving aid.

Well-intentioned off-road ads

Of course, there is no gear reduction. But an extremely short translated first gear and a very narrow overall translation. So you can save the first stage of the six-speed box in everyday life. Or you could switch to third immediately after starting off. That might not fit perfectly on a German autobahn, but it's by no means wrong for most areas of use around the world. In general, the smooth, precise shifting offers its very own driving pleasure. Dealing with the foot clutch and the appropriate gear pairing is a challenge off-road, which was somewhat forgotten in the age of off-roaders with automatic torque converters or dual-clutch transmissions. And which might remind the veterans among us of polecat rides in Sennelager or Grafenwoehr. ,

The additional displays for off-road operation are not absolutely necessary, but are meant to be nice. Inclination angle, roll angle, altimeter and compass can be shown on the media display. Everything can be useful, but today off-road software via Apple Car Play directs us on the right paths. Equipped in this way, the Duster usually strolls effortlessly through the hinterland, only requires the visco lock on very steep climbs and could do a lot more if the all-weather tires didn't quickly become clogged with sand and mud. The 115 hp and 260 Nm strong diesel is also a welcome driver in this race. It is possible that the Dacia with the 150 hp petrol engine was more strange.

And what's new now? The logo

You ask, what's new about the Duster, of which the third model generation will be launched in two years' time anyway? Definitely the logo. The stylized letters D and C now adorn the front grille, wheel hubs and steering wheel. The group's marketing specialists call the new identifier Dacia-Link. It is said to symbolize the interlocking of two mechanical components. In addition, it has a high recognition value and can be recognized from a great distance. Might be. But as a car traditionalist, you can definitely regret it a little - it connected the old trademark to the modern group brand Dacia with its Romanian socialist past. A touch of Dacia 1100 and 1300 was always on the radiator grille.,

The interior is characterized by simple, yet trustworthy, solidly processed plastics. The furnishings appear practical and hard-wearing. This is also appreciated here in Morocco, as evidenced by the many Dusters in different states of use that we meet on the way back to Marrakech.

It starts at 23,000 euros

The drizzle has turned into a heavy downpour, which even an Iceland low over the western Münsterland could hardly do better. The wipers flew the water off the windshield, clearing the view of wet streets, scooter riders wrapped in plastic sheeting and eventually the entrance to the hotel car park. Now we have to look through the atlas, the book this time, to find out where we were today.

By the way, the Duster 115 dCi 4x4 Journey is currently available in Germany from 23,000 euros. The Arizona Orange costs extra: 650 euros. If you prefer the petrol engine with all-wheel drive, the TCe 150 4x4 Journey is available from 23,200 euros. ,

Conclusion

With the new logo and the careful facelift, the Duster continues to develop. It very successfully occupies the market niche of the price-conscious compact SUV with simple but solid quality, sophisticated technology without airs and graces and good off-road properties.

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