Automotive

Audi’s Holoride is a VR experience like no other

Back seat car rides will never be the same again

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It had been a long day, but I could still barely contain my excitement as a fancy car whizzed me down the interstate to a race track on the outskirts of Las Vegas, one chilly evening before the start of the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show. 

While the in-seat back massage made me wish the ride was longer, I also couldn’t wait to get there. Tonight would be my first time in an e-Tron, Audi’s new fully electric SUV, and my first taste of what Audi calls the future of mobility, one with entertainment content at its center.


It’s an interesting proposition, one I’m more than willing to chew on. With self-driving vehicles on the horizon, tonight, instead of getting behind the wheel, I take a back seat, put on a VR headset, and trade my current reality for one that promises to be more exhilarating.

Called “Rocket’s Rescue Run,” it’s the first title in a collaboration between Marvel and Disney and Audi’s new spin off venture Holoride, that aims to make VR entertainment a mainstay in cars of the future.

As the e-tron’s driver steps on the accelerator, in my alternate universe my ship surges through space. I’m joined by my sidekick Rocket Raccoon, and together we team up to help Iron Man take down a mob of Thanos’ space goons.

I’ve had many VR experiences before, but none like this. As soon as the SUV pulls away, the whole experience makes perfect sense. Every twist, every sharp turn, every bit of acceleration or sudden brake is matched by the same sensation in the game. For the entire 5-minute ride, my body is tricked into believing this reality. Not an easy feat for an utterly nitpicky tech journalist, I can only begin to imagine how big of a technical challenge it was to pull off.

I wield my laser gun like a pro, take down an evil mothership, and celebrate our victory with fireworks. The experience ends, and the e-tron stops. Reluctantly, I take off my headset. It feels like I’ve just been on a theme park ride, but from the privacy of my own car — well, not really, but I wish — and without standing in an hour-long line. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that during my adventure the e-tron reached speeds of up to 90mph. We’ve navigated plenty of sharp turns, too, but I don’t feel so woozy.

Supposedly matching the car’s movements to the virtual reality experience helps in mitigating nausea. As I get out, I thank my driver, but also can’t help but imagine a world that’s driver-optional.

At CES, we saw Audi’s vision of the future, a concept car called the Aicon, with an interior that resembles more of a lounge than a current automobile. As with Holoride, the development of Aicon represents a shift in the idea of mobility, one that’s ushered in by a focus on passengers instead of drivers. Together, Aicon and Holoride make perfect sense in a future world of fully autonomous vehicles. If no one is driving, what else are we to do?

Anything you want to, apparently. Cars are now seen as multi-purpose spaces, just another room that we occupy as we travel from place to place: be it a relaxation pod, a meeting room, or your own private cinema.

The team behind Holoride is most invested in the latter, creating entertainment experiences that are just long enough to fill the entire duration of your trip. They’re calling it “elastic content,” VR games and adventures that automatically adjust to congestion and shortcuts, so that you’re never left without something to occupy you.

Together, Aicon and Holoride make perfect sense in a future world of fully autonomous vehicles.”

Soon, Holoride plans to open its technology to more car manufacturers, content creators, and game developers. The goal is for a wide range of immersive experiences, customized to events in the real world like traffic jams or stop lights, and for those experiences to be available in more car brands. Apart from games, like the one I played, the company is also planning movies, interactive features, and educational tours. Indeed, the type of content you could enjoy is limited only by the imagination.

A few minutes later, I find myself getting another back massage inside another chauffeured Audi A8, making our way back into downtown Las Vegas. These days, when I do travel by car, the experience is similar to this, albeit less fancy. I’m bored, maybe antsy or impatient, in the back seat, with only my phone and social media to distract me. I hadn’t given it much thought till today, but in a world where one constantly thirsts for something to capture one’s attention, I can certainly see how “content will be a major driving force for the mobility experience of the future.”

The day is almost over and I am exhausted. I recline my chair, close my eyes, and enjoy the back massage for a few minutes more. I dream I am back in the e-tron, and wonder when this future will arrive, what it would be like if the next Avengers movie was interactive, and most importantly, what it would be like to watch it from the back seat of a fully autonomous Audi.

Automotive

The Range Rover Evoque is a luxury SUV to beat

Making driving so much easier

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Coventry Motors Corporation, the sole authorized importer and distributor of Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles in the Philippines, introduced the All-New Range Rover Evoque. This is Land Rover’s luxury SUV blended with sweet looks and packed with safety tech.

The British car manufacturer takes craftsmanship to the next level with how details all have a purpose to make the Evoque as pleasing to the eye as possible. There’s a sense of familiarity when you first look at the SUV. But at the same time, things are somewhat different — better kind of different.


Up front, sports slim LED headlamps instantly grab your attention. There are prominent wheel arches that shelter its 20-inch wheels and now stands taller while being capable of wading through high waters.

It’s not only taller, but it also has wider and longer dimensions

According to the company, the Evoque now as a new chassis that makes the body stiffer and, in turn, offer that signature Range Rover ride comfort.

With a longer wheelbase, there’s now more room inside for passengers and luggage. The seats are dressed in two-tone Perforated Windsor leather for the top variants and come with 16-way seat controls.

The interior is described as minimalistic and straightforward luxury cabin designed to be more intuitive during drives. Its main hub is a 10-inch touchscreen system connected to a Meridian sound system for an immersive and detailed audio experience.

Land Rover says the Evoque is now smarter than previous models thanks to an updated software sitting behind its infotainment system. The basic idea is to be able to offer class and comfort for modern city living but still able to go off the paved road with its all-terrain characteristics.

This is achieved through the same Terrain Response technology seen on the full-size Range Rover that automatically detects the surface being driven on and adjusts how it acts accordingly.

It’s also complete with Hill Descent Control, Autonomous Emergency Braking, and Lane Keep Assist that all contribute to help you when driving gets a little bit trickier.

The tech features don’t stop there. Introducing as a segment-first is the ClearSight Rear-View that transforms the rear-view mirror into an HD video screen in case passengers and bulky items block the view of the driver for the rear.

To top it off, the Evoque is also introducing the world’s first ClearSight Ground View technology. In a nutshell, it makes the hood or bonnet invisible by projecting camera imagery onto the upper touchscreen to show the driver a 180-degree view under the front of the vehicle. This, along with its 360-degree surround camera, should come in handy when you literally find yourself in a tight spot!

While we’re on the subject of firsts, the Evoque is the first in its segment to offer a Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle (MHEV) option. It runs on an efficient 48V mild-hybrid powertrain which is designed to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy with no plug-in charging required.

Pricing for the four variants in the Philippines are as follows:

  • SE 2.0 Diesel – PhP 5,090,000
  • R-Dynamic HSE 2.0 Diesel – PhP 5,490,000
  • R-Dynamic HSE 2.0 Petrol – PhP 5,590,000
  • R-Dynamic HSE MHEV 2.0 Petrol – PhP 6,190,000

If you want something more exclusive, the Evoque is also available in Black Limited Edition on the three R-Dynamic models, for an additional PhP 100,000.

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Automotive

A Father’s Day drive up north

Story time!

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We recently got the Ranger Raptor for the second time to use at this year’s STV ARCC and represent Ford Philippines. And since we had a free day before the event itself happened, I decided to use it and take out my dad along with my brother for a road trip. Good thing Mom had an errand to do that day!

Dad wanted to visit a certain theme park restaurant north of Metro Manila so I agreed and went for it. We already brought the Raptor to a 4×4 route for some off-road action, so now we go for long, paved roads with hungry stomachs.


That’s Dad, my brother Kiefer, and me on the road

After four hours of driving from the south, past the traffic metro, and all the way up north, we reached our destination. The place is called Isdaan Floating Restaurant and it’s at the municipality of Talavera in Nueva Ecija in the Philippines. “Isdaan,” when translated, means “fishery” so it already paints you a picture of what to expect. The restaurant is hard to miss as it has a wide, inviting facade fronted with sculptures.

The staff greeted us with a warm welcome and led us to our private floating nipa hut with koi fish swimming around and under us. Looking at the menu, there were lots of choices from appetizers, meat, seafood obviously, and even specialties that you don’t usually see in city restaurants.

“Guarding” the floating nipa huts

We got Bicol Express (spicy stew), Sinigang na Liempo (pork belly soup), and Binukadkad na Plapla (butterflied fish) from the menu. One of their signatures is a Boat Special. Basically, they offer select dishes in a long sizzling plate mounted on a wooden counter-top that resembles a boat. This was how Bicol Express was served which greatly added to the presentation value.

Food was really great especially the soup. While the service wasn’t too snappy and could definitely be improved, the food compensated for it. It has that home-cooked taste that hits the spot after a long drive.

After eating, we decided to walk around the area and check out the theme park side of the place. There were giant statues everywhere — from the Charging Bull similar to New York’s, Big Buddha of Phuket, and even prehistoric dinosaurs. It does make for great photo opportunities as you’ll see in the following photos.

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Apart from the gigantic and humorous characters, another attraction to find here is a corner to vent out all your pent-up emotions. For a reasonable price, you can choose objects like those plates or coffee mugs that you can smash onto the wall. If you ask me, I feel it’s a bit out of place in this family-friendly restaurant but it still does make the place unique.

Those are all fun but what usually entices people to visit this place is the fact that you can dip your feet in this shallow pond and have large koi fish swimming in between your legs. It might sound weird and it’s probably not for everyone, but the novelty of being able to do it was actually fun.

These koi quickly gather around you as you go near the water

Caught this little guy trying to nibble on his watch

Can’t leave the place without this obligatory shot!

After all the photos were taken and a few minor mishaps (one of us slipping trying to get in with the fish, not telling who), we were ready to go back home. It was another four hours inside the Raptor and we ended up exchanging stories and laughing our way through the expressways while the truck was mostly on cruise control. It was definitely a trip to remember.

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Automotive

Mazda Smartphone Mirroring Upgrade Kit now available

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible

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Both Waze and Google Maps are proven navigation apps. This is why vehicles that support Android Auto and Apple Carplay — mirroring smartphone functionalities — are pretty much preferred these days over built-in navigation systems in the car.

Mazda in the Philippines is one of the latest to adapt in integrating smartphone mirroring to its Mazda Connect infotainment system. Through a hardware upgrade kit, your favorite apps like Waze and Spotify are now easier and safer to access while driving.


The upgrade kit can be retrofitted to Mazda vehicles all the way back from 2014 onwards as long as it has a Mazda Connect system. Aside from the new system module, the kit includes higher-capacity USB ports that can not only accommodate smartphone charging, but also transfer data for displaying relevant information on the touchscreen.

An official software update also comes with the kit for seamless communication between the smartphone and onboard system.

The Mazda smartphone mirroring upgrade kit may be purchased for PhP 17,500 plus VAT at all 21 official Mazda dealerships in the country. The price includes installation by trained Mazda technicians to ensure proper fit and integration and comes with a one-year warranty for the newly installed hardware.

ALSO READ: Mazda 6: Not your ordinary mid-size sedan

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