|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
Gymkhana with the Chevrolet Sonic
The day started with a specially-prepared gymkhana course at the Cotsworld Village in Tagaytay Highlands featuring the all-new Chevrolet Sonic. Designed to highlight the Sonic’s excellent handling and nimble driving dynamics, the Sonic had to navigate through a series of tight twists and turns while drivers had to complete some physical challenges. All this and you had to be mindful of setting a consistent lap time (the winner must match the 2 minutes and 10 second time—no more, no less). And what made the challenge even more exciting? No timers, stopwatches, or mobile phones were allowed.
Nonetheless, this shouldn’t be a problem for the Chevrolet Sonic which is imbued with “driving fun” from the get-to. At its core, a new 1.4-liter ECOTEC engine which provides efficient power. With 100 horsepower and 130 Nm of torque, it gave the Sonic ample thrust through the tight and hilly course, while the segment-exclusive 6-speed automatic (with manual override, to boot) made the most out of the engine’s power band.
Putting all that power to the road is a European-tuned suspension featuring independent MacPherson Struts upfront and a torsion beam axle with a double-walled V-shaped beam at the back. Although this chassis is already tried-and-tested in the segment, the Sonic sets itself apart by having a stiff and rigid body structure with a unique “flat top frame” cradle that ensures optimal stiffness in the front portion of the car. Plus, the power steering system is surprisingly responsive while the five-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels with generous 205/55 R 16 tires provided excellent grip.
After setting a time of 2 minutes and 11 seconds (which was still not enough to win the challenge), an Oceanic Blue Sonic hatchback was also on-hand for people to get acquainted with. Though the five-door is the sportier, hands down; both models are clearly youthful and eye-catching with a wide and planted stance. Upfront, the Sonic has Chevrolet’s signature dual-port grille and exposed four-cluster headlamps. From the side, the raked body lines suggest movement even when the car is stationary and from the back, the five-door has its rear handles “hidden” in the C-pillar area suggesting the style of a three-door hatchback.
This youthful appeal is carried into the Sonic’s interior which is headlined by the motorbike-inspired instrument cluster complete with a Driver Information System display. The ice-blue lighting and “cobra head” shift knob for the automatic reinforce the sporty feel while the dual cockpit design provides adequate interior space to accommodate five adults. And though the Sonic is already blessed with a large cargo capacity (466 liters for the sedan, 253 liters for the hatchback), the back seats actually fold down in a 60/40 split allowing for an even larger luggage capacity.
Aside from its driver-centric and practical interior, Chevrolet has equipped the Sonic with high-tech convenience features such as Bluetooth hands-free connectivity with audio streaming capabilities. In addition, it has a full-featured multimedia entertainment system with CD, auxiliary input, and even USB ports that allow popular devices such as MP3 players, iPods, and iPhones to be connected. It even comes with a 6-speaker sound system as well as steering wheel mounted controls that offer easy audio management with just the touch of a finger.
Off-Roading with the Chevrolet Trailblazer
The large 12-foot high “Trailblazer” erected at the entrance of Tagaytay Highlands is a sure sign of Chevrolet’s confidence in their new 7-seater mid-sized SUV. With tremendous and continuous growth in this particular segment, Chevrolet has thrown in its hat, bringing their all-new Trailblazer into the fray. Knowing quite well that they needed to set the Trailblazer apart from the competition, Chevrolet has given it class-leading design, features, and safety equipment to make sure would-be owners will be ahead of the game.
Designed by Chevrolet’s South American design studio in Brazil, the Trailblazer is powerful and refined outside with its dual-port grille, projector-type headlamps, flushed roof rails, and power dome hood that all evoke attractive ruggedness. These design cues are further enhanced on the 4x4 model with standard 18-inch alloys (265/60 R 18 tires) and LED tail lamps. All in all, it looks athletic and agile.
While the exterior exudes a certain rugged appeal, the Trailblazer’s interior cocoons its occupants with spacious and comfortable seating clad in either high-quality fabric (4x2) or leather (4x4). These seven seats, particular the second and third row, are designed for true cargo flexibility—tumbling or folding in a 60/40 split—making the Trailblazer the perfect vehicle for family outings, trips to the mall, or even a business hauler. Where the roads (or trails) will take you, the Trailblazer comes equipped with an integrated audio system with CD, auxiliary, and USB inputs as well as Bluetooth functionality. The sound is challenged through an 8-speaker sound system on the 4x4 and a 6-speaker system on the 4x2. Steering wheel-mounted controls allow full control of digital toys and gadgets without distraction.
As handsome as the Trailblazer is on pavement, it truly is a gem when it’s a bit dirty and tackling some challenging terrain. Showcasing the Trailblazer’s standard features, Chevrolet provided two Trailblazer 4x4s for a short off-road driving activity at the Katsura Subdivision of Tagaytay Highlands. Though the trail lasted just 10 minutes long, it highlighted some of the Trailblazer’s commanding features such as Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, and shift-on-the-fly Drive Select Mode 4x4. Even the Double Wishbone/5-Link suspension set-up was given a workout thanks to the undulating surface that consisted of loose sand, gravel, and broken pavement. On the open road, peace of mind is assured thanks to standard Traction Control and Electronic Stability Control on the 4x4. And because the Trailblazer is designed in tandem with the Colorado pick-up truck, it also boasts of a 800-mm wading depth, though this wasn’t tested during the two-day Ride and Drive event.
Of course, all these safety aids work best with the Trailblazer’s greatest asset: the best-in-class 2.8-liter Duramax diesel engine. With common rail direct injection and variable geometry turbo, the Trailblazer 4x4 puts out a robust 180 horsepower and 470 Nm of torque. Mated to a 6-speed automatic (with manual override), the Trailblazer has unparalleled power enabling it to tackle steep slopes. It can even start in the middle of the incline and still have enough power left over.
“This event is a glimpse of what Chevrolet has in-store for the Philippine market this year. We gained a 20% increase in sales in 2012 (from 2011 YoY) and these two new models along with our existing product line puts us on a solid footing to grow a stronger brand and business this 2013. With the Trailblazer and the Sonic leading the way, we hope to capture the market's need and desire for a performance-oriented lifestyle vehicles,” said TCCCI President and Managing Director Atty. Albert Arcilla.
And he’s absolutely right: by catering their vehicle line-up to a very dynamic and discriminating market and by realigning the Chevrolet into a lifestyle-oriented brand, things are certainly looking up for Chevrolet. All in all, Chevrolet’s Ride and Drive activity is a constant reminder to highlight TCCCI’s pursuit to provide more exciting products this year.