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 Ford Ranger XLS and XLT are perfect for business owners

Capable, reliable, and tough

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When you’re on the market looking to buy a new vehicle, going for the top-of-the-line variant benefits you with the latest features, a more powerful engine, and probably added accessories on its body.

The thing is, one doesn’t always need the best model. Sometimes, you just need something that’s capable, reliable, and tough. This is where Ford’s more affordable Ranger models come into play. The Ranger XLS and XLT variants are characterized by a utility-inspired design with features and capabilities reflecting its hard-working personality.

We took them on a road trip outside the metro to experience how they would fare when used as a utilitarian vehicle for a business owner’s needs.

Here’s a glance on what it offers:

  • Powertrain – The Ranger XLS and XLT variants are powered by Ford’s 2.2-liter TDCI engine. Coupled with a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, it delivers 160PS and 385Nm of torque to suit performance demands.
  • Water-wading – Since it targets customers with workhorse and utility needs, the Ranger XLT and XLS variants boast an 800mm water-wading capabilities.
  • Towing and payload – The Ranger XLS 4×2 variant has a towing capacity of 2,500 kilograms, while the XLS 4×4 manual variant ups the ante to 3,500 kilograms. All variants of the Ranger XLT 4×2 have a towing capacity of 2,500 kilograms. Meanwhile, all Ranger XLS and XLT variants have a 1,200-kilogram payload capacity.
  • Features – Both models are equipped with Ford’s Driver Assist Technologies that ensure a safe and comfortable drive whether on- and off-road. These include an adjustable speed limiter, ABS with EBD, childproof door locks, cruise control, front driver and passenger airbags, and front seatbelt pre-tensioners.

Putting the Ranger XLS and XLT to the test

Our first stop was at a hardware store for construction materials. We loaded one Ranger with almost one ton of dry cement and delivered it to a nearby site. The Ranger performed the task easily and without any hiccups, as expected.

Additionally, while at the site, an architect shared a short testimonial of how her very own Ford Ranger not only helped her transport materials in and out of the city, but it was also able to reliably haul her workers around when needed.

After a short break, we hopped back in the Ranger and drove off to our next destination. This time it was in a milling plant and we loaded the truck with a combination of rice and corn totaling to 800kgs.

I personally drove the loaded Ranger and was surprised at how well it handled the task. I knew it could take on all that load but I was expecting its engine to struggle a bit. But in reality, it was like I wasn’t lugging around almost 1,000kg of payload.

We brought the sacks of corn and rice to a nearby farm and its owner gave another short talk enumerating how the Ford Ranger contributed to the success of his family business. From all its features, what stands out to the successful business owner is the 800mm water-wading capabilities of the truck. Because of it, he’s never afraid of taking on floods which is common in some areas that he’s in.

The Ranger XLS 4×2 offers a towing capacity of 2,500 kgs

While we were here, Ford wanted to show off more of what the Ranger can do. Next thing we know, the XLS variant was towing a tractor which was quite impressive to see in person.

Built Ford Tough

This activity further established the company’s promise that its vehicles are built tough. Though these were not the top of the line models, they proved to be as capable as their more expensive siblings and a reliable daily workhorse. Plus, with the base model priced below PhP 1 million, it’s a perfect choice for business owners who want to try out the advantages of owning a pickup truck.

Pricing for the Ranger 2.2L XLS 4×2 MT is at PhP943,000, while the Ranger 2.2L XLT 4×2 AT and MT variants now come with a cash discount of PhP 125,000.

Ford is currently offering this exclusive deal until December 31, 2019. For more information on the promo, you may visit Ford’s website.

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Automotive

A racing virgin’s experience at the Toyota Vios Racing Festival

Challenging, but something worth doing again

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I love driving. Whether it’s an out of town drive for hours or simply going for a short trip with the wife, one could always count me in for such activities. So when Toyota Motor Philippines extended an invite to their annual Vios Racing Festival, I didn’t think twice and submitted my name.

I thought, “I drive pretty well on the road so this shouldn’t be that challenging. How hard is it to avoid cones, anyway?”

Boy, was I wrong.

The Racing Festival

As a quick background, Toyota Motor Philippines has been organizing Vios motorsport events in the country for six years now. Called the Vios Cup, the circuit race celebrates the spirit of Waku-Doki (shortened from the Japanese phrase “Waku waku doki doki” which translates to a feeling of “heart-pumping excitement”) and features drivers from different backgrounds — celebrities, new Vios owners, and car club members are just some of the individuals invited at this special event.

The Autocross Challenge

This season, TMP has added the Autocross Challenge that runs alongside the main event. It’s a timed competition where participants race through an obstacle course and finish with the quickest lap time possible. Basically, the company presents it as an amateur-friendly way to get into the world of motorsport.

The Experience

Unlike the main event where participants spent months training for the circuit race, I and my fellow media participants only got one day of practice driving around the obstacles before the event. The cars were provided by Toyota — a souped-up Vios OMR fit for the track — complete with manual gearbox and loads of torque. We were also given tracksuits and helmets so apart from keeping me safe, I looked like a legitimate race car driver wearing those.

As the title states, I had no experience whatsoever in racing cars. After the briefing, I was basically given the suit and the car and thrown into the track to get a feel for how to make the fastest lap time possible.

So I got in the car, drove up to the starting line, lodged the transmission to the first gear, and gave the engine a full rev. As soon as I was given the go signal Fast-and-Furious-style, I was off — complete with tires screeching.

The obstacle consisted of multiple chicanes and we needed to slalom our way past them. To make things more interesting, there were sharp u-turns and a 540-degree turn at one point and it was where I spun out since I made the mistake of applying brakes while making the turn. It felt like I was in a movie, though, like Ansel Elgort in Baby Driver.

After finishing the first lap, I made mental notes of how I can improve my time for the next practice run. The problem here wasn’t how to avoid obstacles. It’s how to avoid obstacles with speed to be able to finish with the quickest time.

Good thing there were seasoned racers with us and they were able to give me some tips. One could say that taking on the Autocross challenge is similar to dancing — you have to know exactly when to shift, when to brake, and when to turn. These are key elements that I needed to keep in mind, pretty much like memorizing dance steps. I did better time during my second attempt and that concluded our practice day.

Then came the race day itself. After breakfast, I was just in my hotel room sitting down and pretending to drive while thinking about the track. I saw the racing movie Rush a few years back and that’s where I got the idea of imagining yourself on the track, taking on the obstacles and practicing gear shifting at the right moment.

After the opening ceremonies and the main event kicking off, it was our time to compete. To cut some of the details, I finished with a time of 1:01 with the top 10 finalists finishing at 0:58. Considering it was my first time doing something like that, I was pretty happy and satisfied with my performance.

End of Day Thoughts

As someone who’s always into trying out new things, participating in an Autocross Challenge was definitely one for the books. It’s a great initiative from Toyota Philippines to continuously hold events like this to keep the spirit of motorsport alive in the country.

The racing festival itself, even if you’re not a participant, was a really enjoyable event even for the entire family. It’s also worth recognizing TMP’s efforts to bring new blood into the sport every year as it’s not exclusive to Vios owners only. In fact, they’re also opening the Autocross Challenge for the public through their social media pages.

So if you want to get into the adrenaline-pumping world of racing, head to their official pages and see how you can be part of the next Toyota Vios Racing Festival.

If you’re still reading up to this point, it just means you’re one interested fellow and you might want to check out the event next year when it makes a comeback.

You’ll enjoy it. I know I did!

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Automotive

Get a chance to drive the all-new Mazda CX-30 and CX-8 this weekend

Plus other models from Mazda’s lineup

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The all-new Mazda CX-30 and CX-8 have recently been unveiled in the Philippines and interested buyers can get up close and check out these new vehicles for themselves this coming December 6 to 8 at the Bonifacio High Street Big Bear Oval.

Both the 2020 Mazda CX-30 compact crossover and the 2020 Mazda CX-8 three-row crossover head the expanded CX family lineup of premium, stylish, and dynamic crossovers. They’re definitely one of the best-looking vehicles in the country today and heading to this three-day event will allow you to learn more about the lineup Mazda has to offer.

The Mazda Premium Experience will give customers the opportunity to drive not only the new models from the company but also select models from the rest of their lineup. Apart from the CX-30 and CX-8, the all-new Mazda3, Mazda6 Turbo sedan, CX-5 5-seater crossover, and CX-9 7-seater crossover will also be at the event.

Additionally, a special weekend-only offer featuring up to PhP 180,000 cash savings is available for Mazda’s award-winning 2019 CX-5 AWD Sport Diesel.

“Mazda customers can experience and feel for themselves the premium difference in design, interior quality and driving feel of the Mazda car and crossover range this weekend. Aside from just driving Mazda vehicles around BGC, we will have an in-depth tour of the new Mazda design philosophy as well as showcase the superior craftsmanship and class-leading safety technologies that can be found in our latest models for those who visit the display,” shares Mikko David, Senior Manager for Marketing and PR of Mazda Philippines.

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