Automotive

Right-Hand Drive: My first experience

It’s never too late to do something new

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It was a Friday, my birthday. I, along with the local media team, flew to Hong Kong for an annual event on electrifying cities to achieve a greener environment.

After the warm welcome of the event’s hosts, they started briefing us of the day’s itinerary. We were to use the company’s electric vehicles and drive them through Hong Kong’s three main regions to get a feel of how they ride and put their features to real-world use.

Exciting, right? Thing is, Hong Kong is a right-hand drive territory and I live and grew up in a country with left-hand vehicles. I’ve never driven on the opposite side of the road. I figured I’d just wing it.

I figured I’d just wing it.

They finally sent us out to the cars in pairs and assigned us an official rep either to make sure everything went well or that we didn’t run away with the car — pretty sure it was more of the former.

My partner for this ride was a fellow journalist in the automotive industry. He would always crack jokes on almost anything he saw which somehow took my mind off the fact that I’d be driving in a foreign country with unfamiliar roads during my first right-hand drive experience.

We agreed that I’d take the wheel for the first half of the trip and switch seats halfway so we both could experience the electric vehicle. I grabbed the door handle on the right side, opened it, and gave my weight to its cushioned driver seat.

I was faced with the cockpit of the vehicle. As a person who likes things neat and in order, the buttons, displays, and icons were neatly laid out. I was not overwhelmed.

I spotted a mounted GoPro on the passenger’s side aimed directly at me. I thought it was cool to have a copy of myself driving on the opposite side of the road for the first time.

I kind of felt like I was in a sci-fi movie.

With everyone inside, I stepped on the brake and pressed the ignition button. The motor of the car whirred with a held-back enthusiasm. “I’m still not used to how quiet it is,” I told my companions, explaining that I was already able to drive the car — only the previous year’s model. The absence of a gas-guzzling engine made the vehicle come to life not with the sound of a heavy breathing dog but more like Wall-E‘s Eva powering up. I kind of felt like I was in a sci-fi movie.

Then we were off to take on the gloomy and chilly weather. The hotel’s lobby is elevated so there was a long spiral-like ramp that led in and out of the driveway. Turning towards the ramp was critical for me as it was my first turn to the opposite lane. “Always enter the left lane. Always enter the left lane.” I kept telling myself this over and over just to rewire my mind and unlearn the driving system that I grew up with and adapt to this new setup.

We drove down the ramp, onto the street, and later on into the highway. “So far so good,” I thought to myself. The idea was to drive through a pre-designated route using Google Maps. But, as with most times, things didn’t go as smoothly as planned. The app didn’t work properly for the first 15 to 20 minutes of our trip. It had problems with GPS so I had to listen to the company’s representative seated at the back as he pointed when and where to turn.

But, as with most times, things didn’t go as smoothly as planned.

For a while there, I was like an Uber driver going through the busy streets of Hong Kong.

The vehicle responded very well every time I stepped on the gas pedal. We were discussing that having an electric motor means power is quickly channeled to the wheels so it responds a lot faster compared to internal combustion engines. I also liked how the car didn’t have problems gaining speed whenever I needed to catch up. Basically, exploring the car’s array of features, while driving, helped me eliminate the few anxieties that I had left. Yes, I enjoyed the drive.

It was about 30 to 40 minutes in that I became more confident driving the right-hand vehicle. Entering the left lane every time I turned became more and more natural. Of course, there were times when I’d still forget I was on the opposite side — like that time I was paying at the toll gate and opened the left window instead of the right. Boy, was the teller confused when I did that.

While probably a really simple and obvious solution, one of the things that helped me with the transition was to think of everything in the opposite way. That way, It was easier for me to grasp the entire idea of right-hand driving. If my natural habit was to keep right, I knew that during that moment, I needed to keep left. When it felt natural to flick the turn signal using the left switch, I’d use the right since the left would be for activating the wipers.

If my natural habit was to keep right, I knew that during that moment, I needed to keep left.

That kind of mindset got me through the entire ride right up to the point where I and the other media I was with had to switch for his turn to drive.

I went down, walked around to the other side, and got in the passenger seat. It was weird because since I was back to sitting on the left side, the initial response of my arms was to grab the steering wheel and start the vehicle, forgetting all of a sudden the “brainwashing lessons” I taught myself just half an hour ago.

Seeing the GoPro that was mounted right above me, I reached for it to check if it was still recording. I then noticed there were no blinking red lights. I leaned closer and to my surprise, it wasn’t even turned on. So much for documenting my first right-hand experience, right?

“It wasn’t recording the entire time!” I exclaimed. It was unfortunate but we had a laugh out of it. I figured I’d just write down the events that happened so that I wouldn’t forget it. I powered up the action camera and started recording for my partner’s sake. With dark clouds and light rain still accompanying us, we started driving back to the hotel.

My key takeaway from the experience was to know what works for yourself.

During our trip back, I reflected on what I just did, from the excitement to the feeling of fulfillment of doing something the first time and succeeding. My key takeaway from the experience was to know what works for yourself. For me, I simply had to do the opposite of what I’m comfortable with to make sure I had clear control of what to do for certain situations.

Of course, it would also help a lot if one would closely study and practice for something like this. I just didn’t have much choice and had limited time to prepare for the drive.

We got back to the hotel, thanked the company’s representative who came with us for being an accommodating guide, and I went straight to my hotel room to freshen up for the night’s welcome dinner.

It was a great experience overall and am still thankful for the brand extending an invite to the event. The fact that I did something for the first time on my birthday only made it more special. To more drives!

Automotive

2019 Suzuki Jimny: A little monster on steroids

We took it to where it truly shines

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What is cute and adorable but also fierce and beastly when set loose? No, the answer is not a rabid puppy — it’s the all-new 2019 Suzuki Jimny.

When we talk about extreme off-roading, normally we would think of big, bulky, expensive SUVs with massive tires, monstrous lift kits, and a gas-guzzling engine. No one will think of a small, Japanese kei car to be a good off-roader, but that’s where most are wrong.

The 2019 Suzuki Jimny is probably one of the most anticipated 4x4s this year and is one capable off-roader in the market today. We were given the chance to bring the 2019 Jimny All Grip Pro to our favorite off-road testing grounds at Jungle Base in Tanay, Rizal — a renowned playground in the off-road community.

Let’s begin with the looks. The styling will not fit everybody’s taste. There is not much to look at with the exterior since it’s basically a box on wheels. Though it stays true to its styling heritage and looks more like a modern second-gen Suzuki Samurai.

Personally, though, I like it. It’s simple, rugged, and I actually find it kind of cute. Being the way it is, there is so much potential to personalize it to your preference and needs and it excites me to see differently customized Jimnys on the road. It’s a blank canvas waiting to be modified.

The interior is also pretty basic and really has no luxury features but we can easily overlook that since this small SUV is not built for luxury; it’s built to be tough. Mounted on the center is a very decent infotainment system. It spans nine inches across but it does not support Android Auto and Apple Car Play.

Other features include Cruise Control, Hill Descent Control with Hill Hold, Traction Control, and Power Windows. You have loads of headroom, decent legroom for the front but a bit cramped at the back. Seats are also fairly comfortable.

On a personal note, I really liked how the B-pillar is placed behind the driver giving you an unobstructed panoramic view of the side of the car — advantageous for offroading.

Driving the Jimny on paved roads felt bouncy and jiggly, while cornering had to be done carefully. Body roll is an issue and being a narrow and tall car, you kind of feel like you could roll when taking on tight corners with speed. It also struggles to gain speed even with a new and more powerful engine. This means you sometimes need to catch the right timing when overtaking.

No one will be buying the Jimny for racing, anyway, as speed is not its best asset. This car truly shines when the pavement ends.

Once we got to the dirt road, we were amazed by how smooth it suddenly felt. Driving at around 40kph on soft gravel felt like driving on butter. It was unbelievably quiet and smooth, gliding through the trail and absorbing the bumps.

Switching to 4-Low when the trail got tougher impressed us even more. The little Jimny tackled large rocks, ditches, and mud effortlessly. Thanks to its trailing arm coil spring suspensions up front and at the rear, as well as its improved approach and departure angles, articulation was beyond impressive.

On paper alone, it even has a better approach, departure, and break-over angles than a stock Jeep Wrangler and I honestly did not expect that much wheel travel.

Its new 1.5-liter K15B DOHC VVT engine produces only 101 horsepower and 130nm of torque which may seem small. Although you have to remember this car weighs only a little over a thousand kilos giving it a better power-to-weight ratio than most SUVs out there.

Even on engine idle speeds, this little monster on steroids crawls without even having to step on the throttle. It has solid axles both front and rear but it lacks any type of locking differentials. However, the vehicle will sense when a wheel is losing traction and will automatically apply the brakes to distribute power to other wheels. It’s not as good as differential locks but it will still get you going.

Its rigid ladder frame can handle any twists and uneven terrain without having to worry. Water wading is a downside, however. Being very light, the Jimny can easily be swept away in strong currents when river-crossing and is highly discouraged. Rollover angle is also very limited since it’s tall and narrow, but not to worry as you get a digital clinometer display to make sure you don’t exceed the limits.

An important note to remember is that the Jimny has quite a small tank. When over landing, make sure you bring enough extra fuel for the trip the back. Consumption on average is 12-15 kilometers per liter and around nine kilometers per liter when offroading.

Priced at PhP 1,095,000 pesos for the GLX All Grip model, the Suzuki Jimny is probably the most affordable off-road SUV that is truly capable. Now that I’ve driven and tested it, I want one for myself more than ever. It’s extremely fun, tough, efficient and I highly recommend it.

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Automotive

WOCEE 2019: Nissan Intelligent Mobility Tour 2.0

Armed to make driving safer

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Car safety is a top priority in this generation of automobiles.

This is why automotive manufacturers have been developing and innovating all kinds of systems to make their cars safer and easier to drive. And because of these efforts, customers are more confident in their daily commutes.

This year at the Nissan Intelligent Mobility Pop-up Booth at the World of Consumer Electronics Expo in the Philippines, the brand was able to showcase their latest technologies in car safety through demos, interactive displays, and 3D projection mapping simulations. The Nissan Intelligent Mobility (NIM) tour aims to educate the public about the new features they have to offer.

The tour — albeit quick — was informative, educational, and gives you a glimpse as well as a first-hand experience into Nissan’s aim to build safer and more intelligent cars. Here are some of the things we learned:

Nissan is truly a class-leader when it comes to safety and driver-assist features. It helps you see the things happening around you with the use of cameras, sensors, and radars.

At the interactive area using NIM Digital Table Top Simulator, we learned of these highlighted features: Nissan’s Intelligent Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection warns the driver of potential danger. There’s also the company’s Intelligent Forward Collision Warning with Intelligent Emergency Braking which can detect the difference between pedestrians, animals, cars, and other obstacles. This feature can bring the car to a full stop when the driver fails to do so. Blind Spot Warning and Lane Departure Warning, on the other hand, lets the driver change lanes confidently at high speeds.

Nissan boasts its new Intelligent Rear View Mirror available in the new Terra. This gives you a clear unobstructed HD view of what’s behind with just a flip of a switch. Additionally, an Intelligent All-Around View Monitor gives you a 360-degree bird’s eye view of your vehicle and its surroundings. This system has selectable split-screen close-ups of the front, rear, and curbside views that help you navigate through tight spaces. We had the chance to experience these features through the use of their 3D projection-mapped driving simulation. Moving Object Detection, cross-traffic alert and pedestrian crossing with auto braking are just some of the helpful features we need when driving around the city.

Are you bad at parking? Not to worry, NIM also features automatic Parallel Parking and Perpendicular Parking assist. Basically, you just have to let go of the steering wheel and the car will steer itself for you. Intelligent Cruise Control with Distance Control Assist is adaptive and keeps you at a safe distance at high speeds or even in traffic while automatically applying the brakes to maintain a safe following distance.

To end the tour, we were given the chance to test these features in real-world scenarios by driving the latest Terra and Navara around the area. With Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility features, driving was really effortless.

Experience the Nissan Intelligent Mobility Tour 2.0 happening nationwide To learn more, visit Nissan Philippines website at www.nissan.ph

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Automotive

This is what a Ferrari-powered SUV looks like

Goes up to 300kph

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For those who demand speed but prefer the comfort and spacious offerings of an SUV, look no further. The Maserati Levante Trofeo has arrived in the Philippines sporting an engine from a Ferrari 488 GTB.

Starting from the looks, it’s got the familiar Levante aesthetic with just some fresh updates for its front bumper. Larger intakes and a front grille carrying aggressive lines are what greets you head-on.

While at the rear, things are not as aggressive, but it still features premium-looking taillights and accents. It’s also got new shoes in the form of larger 22-inch forged aluminum wheels.

The engine is a 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 that outputs 590 horsepower and a whopping 730Nm of torque. It can go from 0-100kph in as fast as 3.9 seconds and has a top speed of 300kph. The company’s Q4 Intelligent All-Wheel Drive System delivers power to all its wheels.

Maserati says it also sports new suspensions that have been tweaked out to support all the extra horses from the engine and provide better handling and comfort. It also boasts a low center of gravity and a 50:50 weight balance that they’ve come to be known for.

Step inside and you’ll see some signature Maserati design like its analog clock mounted on the central dash. However, the interior now has an extra sporty vibe going on — it’s been equipped with sculpted sport seats and matte carbon fiber trims have been applied to the dashboard and paddle shifters.

No official pricing has been announced during the launch but to see this beauty up close, you may head over to the Maserati and Ferrari showroom at Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, Manila.

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