Dacia Duster 4×4 rental
In October I had a recce job in Morocco and ended up driving a Toyota Prado TX. It’s been some time since I’ve driven a 4×4 – 2008 in fact: my Mazda in Algeria. Luckily I had an off-road instructor alongside to remind me what to do. I drove a similar route again twice in February 2023.
The Prado TX is a commonly rented vehicle in Morocco – a 3-litre diesel €130/day for a manual or €165 for an auto as here. Auto diesels were very rare in my day but make sense as rental vehicles. The cars had around 100,000km on the clocks but looked in good shape. Part of the brief was to find some challenging tracks which I expected would get too much for the heavy, well-used and softly sprung TXs.
An auto fourbie is a new thing for me, but a great idea in that there’s no clutch to fry or gearbox to hammer. The Prado feels heavy and on the road is a bit of a sluggish overtaker, but off-road that ability to concentrate on wheel placement and braking is a better way of doing things.
One thing I did find was that Low Range 1st was still too high while coming down Route MA6 on Jebel Timouka. It was over patches of rocky terrain more than the steepness which needed easing over, but I constantly had to dab the brakes. I think I should have tried Hill Descent Control (or some such) to slow the car down, though that may have been excruciatingly slow. The gearbox could also be slotted across into manual – ‘S’ – which also helped with control.
I’ve never scraped or thumped a 4×4’s underside so much as I did coming down MA6 in the TX at 5kph for two hours. They were all non-damaging hits but it’s not a good sound. The dash dial would also not lock the central diff the one or two times we thought we might need it. It was probably a faulty ABS sensor but traction-wise, the car managed fine thanks to the fat tyres on soft springs and dry conditions.
I heard later that a couple of months back an HZJ78 Troopy fell over at the bottom end of this route where a wash-out requires driving steeply up/down the river bank. On a few occasions I had to be marshalled over rocks; following the guide’s hand signals to inch left or right. Not done that for years but it’s a system that works very well. Taking it easy, front and rear bumper clearance were not issues.
At one point I had a ‘Specsavers’ moment when a rock jumped out of nowhere and caught the nearside front wheel while driving out along MS9’s riverbeds towards Anezal. We stumbled across that route from another direction and which I’ve also not done since 2008 on an XT660. I’m pretty sure that thump tweaked the steering wheel 5° to the left, though there seemed no damage to the linkages or subsequent vibration in the steering. We also had the age-old problem of dust playing up with the tailgate release locks.
All up, while it was fun to off-road in the Prado and the auto box make light work of the trails, it’s still a big fat, lumbering 4×4 which I’d have no use for elsewhere. I’d sooner do Morocco in a jacked up Audi estate or maybe a rented Duster.
In February 2023 I was back in a Prado, re-recceing the new version of the route above and then driving one the following week on the actual event. Again, one with over 150K on the clock did not light up the diff lock when selected an on this occasion we needed it. The newer Prado on the recce and the one I drove the following week (<20k on the clock) worked fine.
Notably these two cars appeared to have been lifted a couple of inches which made a huge difference to the scraping experienced in October. If you rent one of these for off roading, consider asking whether it has been lifted and hope that the delivered vehicle matches what was requested.