Automotive

First Drive: Nissan Terra 4×4 SUV

It’s a powerful ride on- and off-road

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When we’re not reviewing the latest smartphones, cameras, or laptops, we go for long drives and that’s exactly what we did earlier this week as Nissan officially introduced its new vehicle.

Having been revealed in China earlier this year with slight differences in specs, Nissan chose the Philippines as the official venue to introduce its new Terra SUV to the ASEAN region.

Delegates were flown in for this two-day event and escorted straight to Clark, Pampanga. Here, the company set up an outdoor space to ensure the new mid-size SUV had a sizable area to play around in.

Terra up close

We had our first encounter with the Terra right after the launch was done. All five variants were there and as soon as the closing remarks were said, media representatives were lured to the vehicles like moths to a flame — only it didn’t burn us.

Although it takes a lot of cues from the Navara, you’ll know the DNA of the popular Patrol has been passed down to the Terra. Standing before it, you’ll be staring at its V-motion grille that has been a signature look of the company for quite a while now.

Boomerang-shaped LED headlamps with daytime running lights also made their way to the new Terra while wheel arches remain bulky just like its pickup sibling. The lamps at the rear are also as eye-catching as the ones in front.

Inside, the layout of the dashboard and its instrumentations are straight up similar to the Navara. I personally like the layout of the truck since it’s simple and I know exactly where to look. Although it might be for the exact same reasons that a potential buyer might get turned off.

The Terra seats seven people (unlike its Chinese counterpart). Now, if you’ve ever ridden on the last row of a seven-seater SUV before, you’re familiar with the effort it takes to flip over the second-row seats just to get in and out of the vehicle. Nissan made things easier with the use of a button right beside the driver. With one press, you can fold and tumble either side of the seats on the second row — no elbow grease needed.

The launch event in itself was already a treat, and though I already knew the second day will be an off-road test drive, I never thought it would be an experience to remember.

Highway cruising

My schedule dictated that I belonged to the last batch of media to drive the Terra off-road. And right before it was our turn, light rain started pouring in. As the rain died down a bit, a fleet of brown, muddy Terras with step boards covered in sand started rolling in to the hotel’s driveway.

We were all given the top variant 4×4 VL Terra with 7-speed AT and as soon as we got inside our designated SUVs, we were off for the trails.

From Clark, getting to the site is via the SCTEx (Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway), so we got to experience the Terra for some highway driving.

One thing everyone in the vehicle immediately noticed was how quiet the ride was. Nissan says they implemented a three-layer dampening system to keep the cabin as quiet as possible and it was evident — at least during the few hours of us riding in it.

Both the new Nissan Terra and Navara pickup share the same 2.5-liter turbo-diesel engine at their cores. The Terra didn’t even break a sweat getting the needle up the speedometer. Stepping on the gas pedal increased the speed effortlessly to the point that I had to be extra aware to keep it within the speed limit.

We also got to try out some of the vehicle’s safety tech from the Nissan Intelligent Mobility suite. Together with its Blind Spot Warning, changing lanes without flipping the signal light will activate its Lane Departure Warning through a series of beeps. These aren’t new features, but we appreciate these models all coming standard with bells and whistles.

Off-road adventure

After having our short drive on the highway, we finally reached our kick-off point for the day’s main adventure.

Aerial view of the site. Can you see the line of Terras?

The site is called Sapang Uwak – Delta V Circuit and is one of the more challenging trails that lead to Mount Pinatubo — an active stratovolcano in the northern Philippines.

We were no longer on paved roads, but we started the convoy on a relatively wide course which quickly escalated to a narrow crawl of uneven terrain. Slow and steady, we inched our way through the first stage. We also transitioned to 4WD and the SUV’s differential lock system was already put to use early on.

The Japanese company has some interesting tech up their sleeves and we’re already quite familiar with the Around View Monitor from when we were at Mt. Malasimbo. It once again proved useful during this trip. The trail was narrow enough for only one vehicle, and its Intelligent Rear View Monitor turned from a normal mirror into a display that shows up to four different angles when you need an extra “spotter” for common blind spots.

One view is through a back-facing camera just beside the third brake light. Nissan says this would help drivers see the rear better at night. There’s also a rear bumper view for backing up, and the Around View Monitor switches between a bird’s eye view of the Terra, as well as a closer view of the right front wheel to completely eliminate blind spots.

We eventually reached the lahar-covered riverbed which is what the area has been known for. In other words, it was when the real fun started.

Lahar, having the same consistency as sand, tends to easily sink big cars and is usually a challenge for off-roaders. There were also shallow bodies of water and huge, sharp rocks scattered along the way. The Terra didn’t back down or show signs of struggle as we followed the trail — no, not even once.

We spent about an hour blazing through valleys with short breaks only to change drivers and take photos. It’s quite impressive, really, since the Terras were taking on the trail like a full-fledged off-road vehicle while running only on factory-fresh stock tires.

One of the driving marshalls even added that we were all driving pre-release models and the batch for dealerships will arrive with slight improvements and tweaks.

Mind you, we were not just crawling throughout the course. The marshall gave me a green light to floor the pedal and I did exactly that during a stretch. Needless to say, the Terra took beatings like a proper SUV and without losing significant traction on the surface of lahar.

Another thing I loved about the Terra was that even in these kinds of bumpy drives, ride comfort was still top-notch thanks to the company offering a coil spring rear suspension system. It’s been the same experience with the Navara, so I wasn’t really surprised the Terra inherited this trait.

Thoughts on the way home

After an entire day of being driven by four groups of thrill-seeking media reps and pushing the vehicles to their limits, there’s simply no argument that the Nissan Terra is more than capable of tackling roads less traveled.

We only used it for a couple of hours and though it might not be enough to give a complete verdict, believe us when we say it has a smooth ride on- and off-road, a quiet cabin, power on tap, and is equipped with tech for safe and convenient drives.

Although, since it was lifted from a Navara, similarities are found inside and out. This could either be a good or a bad thing for prospective customers. Another thing is that out of the five variants, only one has a manual transmission and it’s found on the base 4×2 model. The lack of a 4×4 MT variant could potentially drive away off-road nuts that still prefer driving stick.

The Nissan Terra might be facing an uphill battle being late to the game and skipping on features like sunroof or a power tailgate, but it’s a vehicle that specializes in conquering challenging obstacles.

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.

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Automotive

Suzuki Philippines unveils a redesigned Ertiga MPV

This seven-seater could be your next family vehicle

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Suzuki Philippines introduced its all-new 2019 Ertiga at a grand event attended by dealers, partners, and the media. The new seven-seater comes with a fresh design, updated features, and safety tech for the demanding needs within the city and beyond.

The upgraded MPV now features more prominent accents compared to its predecessor. For starters, the wide grille in front easily catches the eye and gives it a sportier look. Just below that, an integrated lower grille is flanked by stylish fog lamps. There are now deeper curves on its sides and lines run through the body, giving it more appeal on the road.

Stepping inside, the new Ertiga offers a more spacious cabin since the length, width, and height have all been stretched. This simply means passengers have more legroom and headspace even in the usually cramped third row seats. Speaking of the passenger seats, both the second and third row have their own AC vents to ensure a comfortable ride.

For bigger hauls, the second and third row seats fold down

The entire interior is fitted with small storage spaces including ventilated cup holders, an improved center console, and door pockets for everyone’s phones and chargers

There are no displays mounted for the rear passengers; however, a 10-inch infotainment touchscreen display in front should be enough to make up for it. Do take note, though, that this is only present in the top variant while a smaller 8-inch touch display is available for the mid-tier models.

With a fresh look comes a fresh engine. It now runs on a 1.5-liter engine compared to the previous 1.4-liter. Transmission remains the same with a choice of either a five-speed MT or four-speed AT.

Apart from the usual array of safety features, this MPV boasts its new generation platform — the HEARTECT. In case an accident happens, collision energy should be distributed across the vehicle frame to minimize damage to the car and protect its passengers.

Available in Pearl Glorious Brown, Metallic Magma Gray, Pearl Burgundy Red, Prime Cool Black, Metallic Silky SIlver, Pearl Radiant Red, and Pearl Snow White, pricing for the 2019 Suzuki Ertiga are as follows:

  • GA – PhP 728,000
  • GL MT – PhP 848,000
  • GL AT – PhP 888,000
  • GLX – PhP 978,000

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Automotive

Nissan’s I2V technology merges two worlds while driving

It combines its Metaverse with our real world

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While other automotive brands promise lengthy distances on one charge for their electric vehicles, or acceleration to jump from zero to 60mph in the shortest time, Nissan goes for empowering drivers by showing them the bigger picture. And this is done through their Invisible-to-Visible or I2V technology.

I2V, as its name suggests, aims to show people what they don’t usually see. With this technology, the driver will know what’s going on in the entire environment — whether it’s a stalled car up ahead or a tree blocking the way at the next block. If you’re manually driving, the safety tech also works during curves with blind spots. An image of the path ahead will come up to better guide the driver.

According to Nissan, I2V will support drivers by merging information from sensors found outside and inside the vehicle with data from the cloud, all in real time. This makes it possible for the system to track the vehicle’s immediate surroundings and anticipate what’s ahead.

What’s interesting is that the technology can be used to connect to what the company calls a Metaverse virtual world. By accessing the Metaverse, the driver and passengers can call their family and friends and they will appear inside the car as 3D avatars! You can watch the video from Nissan (around 2:04 in) if you’re in doubt:

There’s more to the I2V than just turning your friend into an avatar. It can help you look for recommended spots using the Metaverse when you’re in an unfamiliar place, turn rainy weather with poor visibility into a bright, clear day, and finally, Nissan says it can bring you a professional driver from the same Metaverse to get personal driving instructions in real time. You then have a choice if the professional driver would appear as a projected avatar or as a virtual chase car in your field of vision to demonstrate the best way to drive.

In addition, when you enter a parking lot, I2V can scan the area for available parking space and park the vehicle for the driver supposedly even in tight situations.

You can watch this two-minute video to see more of its practical uses in action:

This future that Nissan envisions does sound like a fun and safe way of improving how people will travel. Of course, this is still just a plan, but if this is the future that Nissan is heading towards, then I’m curious to see how it would look when one is driving and arguing with his or her partner in avatar form.

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