Some are trend-setters and others follow them. In this case, we try to find out whether or not Dacia Duster can keep up with a Mercedes G-Class and reach where others don’t even dare to think about.
Off-road vehicles proved their efficiency during and after the war, when the infrastructure was, in many countries, the main cause for a slow and tormenting reconstruction. For 15 years, the outdated technologies have brought to light plenty of mutants, such as Volvo PV831 Sugga or GAZ-72. Later on, the 70s predicted an unprecedented revolution in the automotive industry and not only. Those were the years when the Germans worked on building an extremely capable 4×4 vehicle that could adapt very well, both to military and civilian requirements. With a massive, squarely bodywork and a completely redesigned technology and chassis, the “G” would set a precedent followed precisely by all the main car manufacturers.
A large proportion of that formula is still applied today to the new model. It still offers the rigor and that long gone army feeling, despite the metallic or matte painting and the luxurious accessories. Every fan of this model will notice right away a few details that suffered changes for the “fashion accessories” like the alloy wheels, bright sills or LED daylight. This feeling quickly fades away once you touch the TAB door handle and you get behind the steering wheel. The interior leaves aside the soldierly feeling and instead, it spoils you with everything that a luxury sedan can also provide. The high-quality materials are plentiful and the finishes are the proof that time boundaries have been broken and the G can fit easily among the premium models.
Leather seats, black Alcantara roofline, wood and metal trims. All of these features make you aware of the fact that you’re driving a Mercedes-Benz. In order to keep up with the younger wolves, the G borrowed a load of features from them, but also some stylistic elements like the multifunctional “floating” display. The gearbox shifter is the only element that doesn’t inspire rigor and toughness, as it is similar to the more sporty models from Mercedes range. On the rear seats you can sit like royalty, where the generous space and the intimate ambience provided by the small, dark windows, are contributing to the sensation of driving an armoured personnel carrier.
Travelling up in the mountains takes a lot of time and it’s rather troublesome, so all we have to do is to choose the optimum cruising speed and start listing kilometres. Once we leave the crowded city, the Duster with three passengers and some of their luggage starts losing ground in favour of the old G, that has under the bonnet almost twice the number of horsepower. Even so, the Duster copes very well and covers the distance once the huge mass of the German machinery is brought into relief.
Some of the reasons against the useless exploitation of such car were the sharp corners and the fact that the 2.5 tons of stiff steel are not quite the sporty type, because this vehicle wasn’t conceived for such purposes. The V6 aluminium diesel provides equilibrium to the G-Class. Moreover, the power delivery is exemplary, thanks to the 7-speed gearbox.
Close to Voineasa, 37 km before the starting point of the famous road Transalpina, winter becomes even more fiercely and the roads are merciless and covered in snow. We have to climb 1.200 meters and this is quite frightening and once we are off the main road, the snow becomes even more abundant.
The country road that covers 11 km constantly turns into a narrow bridge of ice and snow, with deep trails full of water. G-Class suspension didn’t have the chance to show off on the road, but now it starts to stand out when dealing with large bumps. The rigid axles, high ground clearance and the four-wheel drive permanent system are part of the technical data irreplaceable on off-roads. The Duster handles well the situation, but it requires close evaluation of the road, because the vehicle happens to hit underneath and our journey is long and full of surprises. The only available settings to enhance Duster’s traction are the traction control and the rotary switch that can commute from 4×2 to 4×4 Auto mode or Lock mode and they proved to be adequate for such conditions.
With three differential locks, reductor and a body separated from the chassis, G-Class is a proffessional off-roader
Mercedes-Benz G-Class has a real technical armoury. In the first place, the car has a classic build as the chassis is separated from the bodywork, with three differential locks and the reductor. Therefore, we can say that it is over-qualified for an almost snow-bounded mountain road. The interior ambience was rather relaxing and we were able to watch the fascinating transition of the Spartan car conceived before the 80s, to the current model, a last generation vehicle. All these improvements were made by Mercedes-Benz engineers, who managed to perfect it while maintaining the same body and massive layout of the interior elements. The road is smooth, time passes quickly and the suspension becomes more pleasant as we switch to off-road, exactly the opposite compared to Duster, and this is not only due to the different architecture, but also to the difference in weight between the two cars.
We finally accommodated to a pension located at the highest altitude in the area, and we find out that we can get there only with snow chains. We apologize for not knowing the situation, and we set out to see how much more we can climb in addition to the 1.250 meters. The road suddenly becomes impassable with more pronounced inclining and hardships that are overcome with increasingly more difficulty by the winter tyres.
One more cable wire for the Duster, another differential lock for the G-Class and we carry on our journey as we reach the destination, at a 1.300 meters altitude that offers in the middle of the winter season a view that makes up for every pain and struggle to get there. The G-Class is far from having wasted all its resources, but the surprises from the second day indicate that our adventure did not end.
The low weight of Duster is an advantage on slippery descending
The way back to civilisation highlights the advantages of a light bodywork that it is immediately felt at Duster in certain situations, advantaging the car at every stop and every slippery descending, where the large weight is not as useful. In order to avoid unnecessary risk for using too early the Casco insurance policy, we slowly descend, closely analyzing all the ice sections. Because we lack snow chains or sand, we had to spread some fir branches on the ground.
Foto: Răzvan Loghin
Without seeking to make a comparison between the two cars that do not share too many technical solutions, I discovered that this time, Mercedes G-Class deserves its place in the hierarchy of the best off-road cars ever built, reputation that can’t be called into question anytime soon, a model that experiences the full effects of a narrowing world, a world that sends it directly to the niche products. On the other hand, I discovered a Duster ready to provide the benefits of a four-wheel drive to a larger audience, thus following the footsteps of those who already have their own chapter in automobile’s history.
Technical data Mercedes G350 BlueTec vs Dacia Duster 1.5 dCI
|Model||G 350 BlueTec||Duster 1.5 dCI 110|
|Engine type||V6, turbodiesel||L4, turbodiesel|
|Max. torque/revs (Nm/rpm)||540/1600-2400||240/1750|
|Transmission||aut., 7 gears||manual, 6 gears|
|Maximum speed (km/h)||175||168|
|Acceleration 0-100 km/h (s)||9.1||12.5|
|Combined fuel consumption (l/100 km)||11.2||5.6|
|Emission CO2 (g/km)||295||145|
|Pre? (euro cu TVA, GER)||87,066.35||18,690|