Searching for the ultimate all wheeler

This page presents the outcome of the test drive searching for the ultimate all wheeler by the experts of Dunes Club.

Thanks for the car owners who provided us with the four cars below: Daihatsu Terios, Subaru XV, Suzuki Vitara and Renault Duster.

Credits

Many thanks to Dunes Club team: Mohamed Abdallah, Hossam Omar, Mahmoud Hassan, Shady Amin, Aly Kauod, and Adham Mostafa for safely organizing and executing the test.

The Terios

The feeling

The first feeling is a cheap trimmed car, it’s more like a ladies car that is doing some shopping around the block, grocery I would say, the lady happened to find some sand dunes on the way back, lady gets home. That is all.

The power

The car instantly feels under-powered, torque feeling is moderate, pedals respond just like any Japanese car, clumsy, a sponge. Despite that, the light weight can be easily managed with this engine, it’s a no digging for today car, the engine either can or can’t do what is required without any wheel spinning whatsoever.

Suspension

Suspension is soft, we didn’t have the opportunity to measure the exact wheel travel, but, it felt it needs a bit more. Clearance was very ok and can manage lots of dune bashing and dune crossing if you know how to drive.

Every once in a while you will lose a bumper rivet or something, they are a bit low and can catch sand and just go away.

Seating position

A bit high which makes you aware where exactly are you going, just a common seat, no support to mention, a bit narrow space for the driver but it fitted some tall persons easily. Driver view is ok, nothing impressive, it’s ok you can see around.

Transmission

The car tested had an automatic transmission with the ability to stick to the first and then the first and second gear if you want, it was better putting the car in 2 postion of the lever, sometimes 1 when you cross something tricky and need to release the pedal for an instance, transmission is not very accessible while you drive, you need to be clever to shift without looking at the transmission.

Steering feel and stability

The car generally went to where you point, it feels light and shifts direction instantly, it listens to what you say most of the time.

What does this car needs to play with the big boys?

2 cm spacer on the springs, airlift, keep it light and shave the pumpers.

Subaru XV

The feeling

When you first look at the car you feel like why is this car here, and who will call the recovery truck that will take her back home, who have space for the pumpers in case we ripped them off.

The power

Once this car starts moving it’s very very hard to convince her to stop, the engine has some unexpected torque hidden in the boxer engine, she can move, and move and move and move, no high revs even if you try, it just wouldn’t rev high and will keep going, sporty response from the pedals made the job very easy.

Suspension

accurate, tiny travel can be felt, a bit harsh, was never designed for anything but street stability, it feels a bit European though, that’s not the soft Japanese suspension that will take all the beating and end up with you losing control. Suspension was ok, nothing fancy for the application

Seating position

Once you enter the cabin you can only see the steering for an unknown reason, you start moving around and you find all the control in the locations you expected, except for how to operate the wiper J, it consumed sometime, the seat is very comfortable, it’s low so you have all the visibility you need, also the steering wheel can be extended to reach you, at that moment you and the car are now one piece.

Transmission

The smart part of this car, the transmission and how it can handles the all-wheel system, first the transmission have two main forward position, and they are located side by side, you don’t need to look, just feel it and pull it towards you when you insist in having more power, push it away when you need more speed, you can’t put it in neutral or reverse by mistake, how the car handles the distribution is very sophisticated, and it was not doing good, well after you disconnect this system you get into a basic and the smartest system I have ever seen, power all the time to all wheels and only when a tire spins hard, brakes are applied to the spinning tire so the torque still reach the wheels having traction, and the smart part is it does that without lowering the engine revs.

Steering feel and stability

Just goes to where you ask her to, accurate and fast, no lag even on sand, the weight distribution is very good.

What does this car needs to play with the big boys?

It needs a lot of bumper shavings, it’s a car that was never adapted to that style of driving, and literally the front pumper is lower than some of the sedan cars, the car need more clearance, forget the numbers, it has a lot of plastic components that could be easily lost in a bit tough drive. A nice suspension kit and aggressive tires might make a total change to the car that would be a bit costly putting in mind that this was the most expensive out of the 4 being tested.

The Vitara

The feeling

When you look to the car you feel, yaaaa that’s the car for the job, 2 door, wide tires, it’s ready for this, its too bad when you start with high expectations.

The power

It can accelerate, torque is really not in the mood, Mr. torque didn’t show up at many needed times, the engine was not really in a good shape, so we can’t judge that. Many situations required power and it just was not there, the car was fitted with wider and more aggressive tires than it should be, also we lost a belt that drives the power steering due to bad installation. So no engine review today.

Suspension

Suspension was ok, looks ok, feels ok, not hard, not soft, travel is moderate, again no much time was available to test the car properly.

Seating position

It’s good, it was really good, everything is close to you yet you don’t feel like the car is tight and closing on you or something, the seat is fairly ergonomic, not as much as the Subaru and not as bad as the Terios, nice view in there for the dash and the desert in the background J, field of view is great at the front and it gets a bit bad to the sides.

Transmission

Manual, first and second are close which is good so if you get in the second gear and needs to down shift fast and you have no time, stick to the second and it will do the job, but the issue here is that the fist is closer to the second rather than the second is closer to the first if you know what this mean. Shifting was not an issue at any time

Steering feel and stability

The car felt heavy rather than stable, steering feel was ok, it was not light even before we lost the power steering (may be it was starting to go bad), that car had bigger tires than it should so we have no clue how should it respond normally.

What does this car needs to play with the big boys?

NO CLUE, may be a 2000 CC engine matched to an auto transmission. Really no clue.

Dacia/Renault Duster

The feeling

Ok, so you are trying to scare us J. Who are you girl? Who is your daddy? Is he Romanian or French?

You don’t know, ok lets skip this part, the car has plenty of clearance, some nice travel, no shaving needed for the pumpers (so far), nice tires setup, she looks ready, then the test starts.

The power

Moderate, normal, nothing impressive, nothing disappointing, acceleration is good, torque catches fast, doesn’t let go easy, Pedals are really good, except for the clutch it needs to be lowered like 5 cms lower than this, it needs to pickup early, the car never let us down when it came to power.

Suspension

Great, it’s just great, 4 independent tires can actually hide a lot of pumps, and it did, we do need to measure that suspension travel, it looked more than what a car that size should have, it crossed dunes nice and easy, not because of the weight or the power, because of the travel.

Seating position

The first thing you know when enter this car is “ok, so there is a cheaper trim than the Japanese entry level”. Interior of this car is the text book model of the entry level trim, you don’t understand what it means till you are in there. Seats do not fit tall people, when you do your best to, now you can’t see in front of you, field of view is not good, you have to move your head a lot to explore where you are going. Also transmission was a bit far to handle, you need to take a look before you shift, of course that till you get used to it.

Transmission

Gear ratios were good, you have a short first gear then longer second then a third that you shouldn’t exceed, don’t use other gears, stick to those, in situations requiring down shifting, specially to first gear, transmission was very smooth, I actually liked the idea of being able to down shift instantly and get more power from first gear without disturbing the car movement.

Steering feel and stability

Steering was normal, nothing impressive, nothing disappointing, it was hard to get her drifting, the Subaru drifted easy, Terios a bit harder, Duster more hard than Terios then the Vitara never. Directional stability was great, she had more tendency to climb dunes sideways more than any other car.

What does this car needs to play with the big boys?

Actually you have one of two options to get going

  1. Automatic transmission and call it a day.
  2. Ceramic clutch and a very skilled driver.

Disclaimer

No vehicles were harmed during this test!

 

Please check this table out for details on the test as described above.