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

You might soon have a pickup truck emoji thanks to Ford

Because it’s 🌏 Emoji Day

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Let’s admit it, not a day goes by without us sending out emoji to our family and friends. We all have our favorites, too — from Apple’s pleading face to the pinching hand emoji. But other users noticed there’s something else missing: the pickup truck emoji.

And who would have the authority to propose one but the truck specialist themselves? Ford submitted a proposal to the Unicode Consortium (which is the organization that reviews and approves proposals for new emoji) back in 2018 to include the pickup truck emoji. After some time, it has now been short-listed as a candidate for inclusion in the future.


“Given the F-series’ status as America’s best-selling truck for 42 consecutive years, there’s no one better than Ford to help bring an all-new pickup truck emoji to hard-working texters around the globe,” said Todd Eckert, Ford truck group marketing manager.

If the emoji is indeed approved by early 2020, the design will be customized for all mobile platforms and you can just send a pickup emoji whenever you need a pickup. 😉

 

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Automotive

2019 Honda Brio RS: The sporty baby Jazz

A fun ride through and through

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For today’s millennials and young professionals, choosing which car to buy could be a tough choice to make. For some, it has to pass certain requirements like fuel efficiency, ride comfort, space, if it looks good, and more importantly if it fits the budget. This is what first came to my mind when we got to test the 2019 Honda Brio RS. I think it has all the criteria most of us need for our daily commute and I’ll tell you why.

At first glance, it will give you the impression of a baby Jazz as it follows traditional Honda design cues.  It looks far better than its competing compact hatchbacks and is definitely a big design upgrade than the previous generation Brio.  From the front, this car looks aggressive and masculine for its size. The rear, however, still leans on the conservative side. Together with its sporty side skirts, the side profile is sleek with forward-tilting character lines giving it a sense of action and speed.


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Being an RS variant, there are additional design upgrades which include the black roof, blacked-out honeycomb grille, a rear spoiler with mounted third brake light, 15-inch RS design alloy rims, and of course, the bright red RS badges plastered all over. These positively add to the sportiness of the vehicle.

Its Phoenix Orange Pearl body looked glowing hot when the sun hits and we like it

Hopping in, you will immediately notice the orange accents running through the air vents, glove box, and side panels, plus the orange stitching and patterns on the seats. Next, we see the 7-inch touch-enabled infotainment system at the center of the dash which is connected to six speakers. Although that’s the case, we still weren’t impressed with the sound quality as it felt a bit short on bass.

Whether as the driver or passenger, you are seated in a low orientation and feel very close and planted to the ground. The height of the steering wheel and dashboard takes some getting used to if you always drive tall cars. But don’t get the idea that it’s cramped up inside. The seats up front are spacious with plenty of headroom to spare while at the back we have a decent amount of legroom for the average Asian. The trunk was large enough to carry our equipment along with other stuff. It was impressively spacious for a car this size.

We drove to our favorite scenic route of the Sierra Madre mountains, putting the car through its paces. The Brio is powered by a 1.2-liter SOHC i-VTEC engine which I think is sufficient enough for a car this small. It is then mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with sport mode and the company’s Earth Dreams Technology.

This car gives you a smooth and quiet ride even at high speeds. The cabin is astonishingly quiet with very minimal wind noise and vibrations. Thanks to its CVT implementation, this car is so smooth that I didn’t realize I was already going 90 on a 50kph road.

You cannot ask it to drive like its more spirited cousins, though. It is not the fastest accelerating car and pushing down the gas pedal when overtaking or driving up a steep road takes the CVT some time to adjust and you won’t get that instant punch you were expecting.

The Brio also lacks traction control and other basic features like rear sensors and reverse camera. It doesn’t even have a center console box and an armrest, but these are things we can brush aside. In terms of fuel efficiency, we were able to average 11.1km/liter which is not bad considering we drove it aggressively through the winding and steep roads of Tanay, Rizal. Steering was light and handled tight corners remarkably.  Overall, this car gets the job done. It gets you where you need to go and is reliable, economical, safe, and don’t forget that it’s such a looker.

Will I recommend the Brio RS? In the city, this car would be perfect. Although it’s not the most powerful more so for long drives. I can tell you one thing, though, it sure is fun to drive. I’m actually not a big fan of small hatchbacks but it all boils down to the company’s target market. The Brio is tuned to be sporty and modernly stylish so it might appeal to those looking for something that looks fun and doesn’t break the bank.

With those, I could confidently say that the Brio RS has the edge over its small hatchback competitors in terms of performance and design. You won’t go wrong with this car.

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Automotive

This is Mini’s all-electric vehicle

The latest vehicle on Electric Avenue

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Mini has taken the wraps off of its all-electric car which is set to be available for delivery next year.

The new Mini Electric or Mini Cooper SE looks like the current design the Mini S Hatch is rocking. It has a three-door design with big round headlamps and even a hood scoop — it’s said to be sealed off, though, since its electric motor doesn’t need any airflow.


Under the hood is a 135kW motor that can propel you from 0-62 miles per hour in 7.3 seconds. It has a top speed of 93 mph, a maximum range between 235 to 270 kilometers, and promises a low center of gravity for that nimble handling.

As for recharging, the company says their fast-charging station can top up the Mini Electric’s battery up to 80% in 35 minutes.

Inside, it features a 5.5-inch screen for the driver that shows information like battery level and other EV-related details. For entertainment, there’s a 6.5-inch touch display with Apple CarPlay, real-time traffic updates, and a map that shows nearby charging stations.

Just like Mini’s previous lineup, there will be higher-end models that come with more features like a bigger 8.8-inch touchscreen, wireless charging, park assist, and more.

Interested buyers will be able to pre-order the Mini Electric starting immediately at £24,400 for the standard, £26,400 for the mid-tier model, and £30,400 for its top of the line variant. Deliveries will begin March of 2020.

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