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.
Honda’s 2019 Brio RS variant is a sporty subcompact
Dibs on Carnival Yellow!
Honda Cars Philippines, Inc. has introduced the second generation of the Brio. This establishes their entry to the A-segment passenger car category in the country while adding a twist of modern sportiness at the same time.
Being a small vehicle, it could be challenging to make it look sporty. But Honda was able to transform what one would usually call “cute” into something that looks like this.
The 1.2 RS variant boasts a Piano Black front grille, 15-inch alloy wheels, side sill garnish, rear bumper garnish, and tailgate spoiler. Inside, there are noticeable orange accents that go with its black fabric seats with the same highlights — all exclusive to this model.
To top that off, its 7-inch audio system is paired to a six-speaker setup including tweeters. This should ensure that you get a high-quality listening experience.
Now, if you want something more flashy, you can opt to go for the two-tone 1.2 RS Black Top variant. This Brio comes either in an exclusive Phoenix Orange Pearl or Carnival Yellow — both appealing in their own ways.
Apart from the RS and RS Black Top variants, there are two more models in the lineup: the 1.2 V CVT and 1.2 S MT. They’re the same Brio in essence, although they don’t come with most kits and some bells and whistles of the upper-tier models.
The front grille also has a honeycomb design and multi-reflector halogen headlights which then come with LED parking light guides. At the rear, they now have a redesigned tailgate that allows for better rear visibility and also adds to the rigidity of its body. Meanwhile, its tail and brake lights stretch to the edge of the vehicle and highlight the wide stance of the Brio.
Inside, tech features include manual air conditioning with a digital display, Bluetooth connection, and a 7-inch touch display for the 1.2 V CVT. The 1.2 S MT, on the other hand, comes with a 1-Din audio head unit.
In terms of capacity, packing the vehicle shouldn’t feel too cramped with its 60mm extended wheelbase compared to the first generation, in addition to the 90mm extended cargo area. This simply translates to more legroom for the passengers. And if you need to move numerous items, fold down the back seats and you have space big enough to fit a couple of big boxes.
Under the hood of all variants is a new 1.2-liter SOHC i-VTEC engine mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Like the 2019 Civic, the transmission is based on the company’s Earth Dreams Technology for better acceleration and efficient fuel economy. For drivers who still stick to driving stick, there’s the five-speed 1.2 S MT variant for you to consider.
The available colors are:
- Taffeta White (all models)
- Modern Steel Metallic (1.2 RS CVT, 1.2 V CVT, 1.2 S MT)
- Rallye Red (1.2 V CVT and 1.2 S MT)
- Carnival Yellow (1.2 RS Black Top CVT and 1.2 V CVT variants)
- Phoenix Orange (1.2 RS Black Top CVT only)
To further sweeten the deal, Honda is offering a special introductory SRP that will last until the end of June 2019:
- 1.2 S MT – PhP 585,000
- 1.2 V CVT – PhP 646,000
- 1.2 RS Navi CVT – PhP 727,000
- 1.2 RS Black Top Navi CVT – PhP 732,000
The new Brio also achieved a Four Star ASEAN NCAP safety rating, thanks to the company’s G-CON technology. This should enhance impact absorption in case of collisions. It also has dual SRS airbags for the driver and front passenger, while an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) comes as standard.
2019 Honda Civic now with updated style and features
Comes in two engine options
The 2019 Honda Civic is here and it’s sleeker than ever before.
Civic’s 10th-generation sedan comes with a sportier vibe thanks to modifications on its exterior. Up front, it has a newly designed bumper and full LED headlights with integrated Daytime Running Lights (DRL). Overall, it still has that familiar front fascia by the Japanese company.
There are three variants for the 2019 Civic. The top-of-the-line Civic RS Turbo stands on exclusive 18-inch Belrina Black RS alloy wheels. This variant also has leather seats and leather interior trims, adding a premium feel inside to complement its stylish exterior. Meanwhile, the 1.8 E CVT model comes next with a 16-inch Shark Gray Metallic alloy wheels.
Both these models sport a 7-inch touch display that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. They make calls, navigation, and in-car entertainment easily accessible even while driving. Additionally, the instrument panel in front is customizable to show relevant information to the driver.
The last and final variant is the 1.8 S CVT. It is the entry-level offering of Honda that aims to give customers one of the best value for money in the C-segment category. It comes with halogen projector headlights with integrated DRLs, 16-inch two-tone alloy wheels, and a 7-inch touch display audio system.
Under the hood, there are two engine options for the new Civic. A 1.5-liter turbocharged DOHC i-VTEC engine runs the RS Turbo, while a familiar 1.8-liter SOHC i-VTEC engine can be found on both the 1.8 E CVT and 1.8 S CVT variants.
Needless to say, both engines are partnered with a CVT which is based on Honda’s Earth Dreams Technology for responsive performance, acceleration, and efficient fuel economy.
Boasting a Five Star ASEAN NCAP safety rating, additional features include an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Vehicle Stability Assist, Hill Start Assist, Electronic Parking Brake with Auto Brake Hold, and dual front driver and front passenger SRS airbags. The RS Turbo CVT variant takes it a bit further with additional front driver and passenger side airbags.
The New Civic is priced at PhP 1,608,000 for the RS Turbo CVT, PhP 1,185,000 for the 1.8 E CVT, and PhP 1,115,000 for the entry-level 1.8 S CVT.
The 2019 Civic will come in five colors depending on the model:
- Cosmic Blue Metallic
- Lunar Silver Metallic (1.8 E and 1.8 S only)
- Modern Steel Metallic (RS Turbo and 1.8 E only)
- Rallye Red (RS Turbo only)
- Platinum White Pearl (additional PhP 20,000)
Ford Ranger Raptor: A gentle beast
Power that comes with comfort
When I began learning how to drive, I practiced with a bulky, under-powered pickup truck. Needless to say, it wasn’t a joyride. However, the added difficulty made driving smaller and simpler cars a breeze down the road, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
If I were to replicate that experience today, it would be near impossible. Not only are pickup trucks more advanced and comfortable than ever, they are also comparable to premium sedans and SUVs. Case in point: Ford’s newest Ranger Raptor is a gentle beast.
There’s nothing subtle about the Raptor. Its towering build and robust front have an imposing presence no matter where it’s taken. Ford claims it’s the first factory-ready, high-speed off-road performance truck. In other words, you can go straight from the dealership to the mountains if you’re itching for action.
For comparison, the Raptor is 150mm wider and 50mm taller than the regular Ranger. This leads to a ground clearance of 283mm and a water wading capacity of 850mm. Combined with the 33-inch all-terrain tires and 2.5-inch Fox racing shocks, you don’t have to do much customization to make this machine battle-ready.
While all these make for a powerful ride, what’s even more impressive is how the Raptor babies its driver and passengers. Never have I felt this comfy in a truck before. Prior to this, I drove an Everest which I’d confidently consider on par with the Raptor’s ease of use — that says a lot.
In addition, Ford’s SYNC system is in place for music playback from any phone, navigation, and simple voice commands. If you need more functionality, you may connect your smartphone through Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Every other feature is reachable through the vast number of buttons on the steering wheel.
With 213PS from the 2.0-liter bi-turbo diesel engine, accompanied by 500Nm of torque and a 10-speed automatic transmission, Ford isn’t kidding when they call this a “super truck.”
I had several days to put this machine to the test, and keeping it on safe asphalt wouldn’t do it justice, so my team took it to off-road trails fit for, well, a Raptor.
We crossed rivers, handled 35-degree inclines and declines, and sped up whenever we could. Unsurprisingly, nothing fazed the Raptor. It always felt like it had more power to deliver, asking me to challenge it even more. It was certainly tempting, especially since the truck made me feel so safe throughout the drive.
On top of the standard 2WD and 4WD modes, the Raptor offers six presets that can be activated depending on your needs. There’s normal mode, sport mode for improved steering response and acceleration, Baja mode for high-speed off-road driving, grass/gravel/snow mode for slippery terrains, mud/sand mode for better handling, and rock mode for increased control over unpredictable rocks.
At the same time, the Raptor is such a smooth ride on city streets. I logged in hundreds of kilometers on it, and there wasn’t a single stretch that I wished I was inside another car. Sure, parking wasn’t a breeze in this thing — although it does come with a handy rear camera assist — but its imposing height and bright LED headlamps kept the Raptor visible from any distance.
If I were to nitpick, my only gripes would be the finicky Bluetooth connectivity for smartphones and lack of compartments around the cockpit. These, however, are common issues with most vehicles I’ve had the pleasure of driving.
More than anything, the Raptor is simply a stunner. I had never felt this confident going from point A to point B, and looking good while doing so. Every stop along the way deserved its own photo shoot.
My team can definitely attest to that.
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