Two days with the ‘Gang of Dusters’

Clint Thomas
News Editor
Full Throttle

India loves SUVs and there are a handful of them that impressed enthusiasts and critics alike. But how many of our SUVs have managed to inspire a cult following? Perhaps, only Duster did. A terrific combination of styling, ruggedness, performance and pricing has won Duster a legion of dedicated fans within one year of its launch.

In an attempt to maintain a special connection with the Duster owners, Renault recently launched the Gang of Dusters initiative. As part of the initiative, Duster owners get a chance to go on adventurous long drives with family, meet other Duster owners, talk to experts, take part in impromptu rallies, attend interactive service sessions and indulge in many fun activities.

The first of many such drives to come, the West Coast Expedition saw 15 Duster-owning families set out to break free from the mundane and drive from Mumbai to Goa and back across five days.

Mumbai to Goa

After months of meticulous planning and a lot of hard work, the Gang of Dusters convoy started rolling and made its way through the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. More participants joined from Pune before the day’s drive ended at Panhala. ‘Know Your Duster’ session by Faisal and Sriram from Renault’s product development team provided the participants with tips on regular check-ups and enjoying their Duster better. Day 1’s activities included a visit to Panhala Fort and a parallel parking competition. Mayur, who parked his car within 18 seconds, emerged the winner and the reason behind his expertise – “living in Ghatkopar, Mumbai!”

Day 2’s journey from Panhala turned out to be more challenging across the broken roads. Needless to say, the Dusters remained unfazed on the rain-ravaged roads, thanks to the rugged suspension and great ground-clearance. Fashion designer Kashish Hans attests this: "If your city is full of potholes, Duster is the car to drive."

The expedition was getting more exciting and adventurous by the day. Coracle ride at the Kali Wilderness Adventure Camp in Dandeli was, perhaps, the most adventurous yet memorable moment for most participants. Getting close to crocodiles in their natural habitat, that too in a coracle… that’s certainly more than adventurous.

After the ‘Know your Duster’ session, everyone seemed more confident behind the wheel and as a cherry on the top, professional rally driver Vikram Mathias demonstrated the capabilities of the Duster and explained what the drivers should do to get the best performance out of their Dusters. Everyone got a chance to drive with Mathias and later, take their Dusters on the off-road track for some great fun.

Goa to Mumbai

I joined the Gang of Dusters in Goa for the last leg, only to realize what I missed in the first three days.

Great enthusiasm lingered everywhere as I met the Gang, shared in their excitement and prepared for the longest drive of the expedition – Goa to Kolad. When I was handed the keys to a 110 PS RxZ Duster, it was hard to contain my excitement, too -- a car I cannot get enough of driving, a road I always wanted to explore and a supercharged team raring to go!

Despite the heavy rains and challenging road conditions, the Dusters darted along the spectacular Konkan roads, thanks to the expertise imparted by Vikram Mathias, Faisal and Sriram. The 110PS K9K is a gem of an engine that never felt lacking in power and pulled well across the rev band. The engines vigorous output coupled with the optimally spread gear ratios made the long drive exponentially more fun.

Winding roads that tore through rain-washed and profusely green Western Ghats finally led us to Empower Adventure Camp in Kolad. Run by ex-servicemen, the Camp is a serene place in the lap of nature. Although military discipline is followed there, it was a wonderful experience for the participants to indulge in many activities such as midnight trekking, target shooting, playing volleyball in the rain, exploring rough terrain on an ATV etc.

White-water rafting in Kundalika River was the perfect way to wind up the expedition. Slicing through rapids and lazing in the calm river thereafter was a cherishable first time experience for many. After a quick lunch at the Camp, the Gang waved goodbye with a promise to meet again.

The West Coast Expedition was an amazing opportunity for Duster customers to meet other Duster owners and share their Duster moments, meet experts and get tips for a better Duster experience and on top of all, enjoy a fun-filled vacation with their families -- which other car offers such a huge boot space to carry all of that holiday clobber?

And for me, as an auto journalist, it was a great chance to know the superhit SUV better, hear reviews of the Duster directly from the owners and moreover, be part of an amazing ‘Gang’.

Watch the following video to witness the excitement

If you are a Duster owner and want to be part of the Gang of Dusters, register yourself for the upcoming expeditions on the Gang of Dusters website.

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Read the Duster Road Test and Review