Friday, June 28, 2013

The Winning Drive: Subaru XV SubURBAN DRIVE in Cebu

Photos by Ulysses Ang
After conquering the mountainous roads surrounding Sagada earlier this year with the all-new Forester, Subaru’s Philippine importer and distributor, Motor Image Pilipinas, decided to take on a very different challenge: the Subaru XV Suburban Drive. Ultimately, it has one goal: to prove that the XV is the perfect urban crossover. Cebu, the Philippines’s oldest city and a favorite vacation destination, played host to the first leg of the three-leg drive that saw a handful of Manila-based motoring journalists join several Cebu-based ones in driving the popular XV through the city’s various tourists spots.

The drive formally started from Subaru Cebu (Autocentral, Inc.) in A.S. Fortuna Street, Mandaue City. It’s Subaru’s fourth best-selling dealership after Greenhills, Global City, and Alabang. Dealer Principals Brian Chua and Lyndon Go were personally on-hand to welcome the participants and after a brief orientation, divided the group into four XVs.

Settling in as a passenger in the Satin White Pearl 2.0 i-Premium during the first leg, the convoy made its way to the first stop: Fort San Pedro. Located at Plaza Independencia in the Pier Area of Cebu City, Fort San Pedro is the oldest triangular bastion fort built in 1738. On the way there, the Subaru XV impressed with the available rear knee room. Two or three can easily sit abreast in the XV’s rear seats, and this level of comfort is complimented by the adjustable headrests as well as well-bolstered seats. Parking at Fort San Pedro is tight, but thankfully, the XV 2.0 i-Premium came with a rear back-up camera.

From Fort San Pedro, the group made its way to the world-famous Magellan’s Cross and the nearby Basilica de Sto. Nino. After a quick photo-op at what’s considered to be the birthplace of Christianity in the Philippines, the convoy increased its pace by going through the country’s only undersea tunnel—the South Road Properties or SRP Tunnel. From this side of Cebu City, the group toured the new Pedro Calungsod Chapel, a chapel dedicated to the second Filipino saint and the first Cebuano to be bestowed with the title.

After the short tour, the XVs passed through the Fuente-Osmena Circle, which is considered to be the center of uptown Cebu.  The large runabout would have been a challenge to drive-through since Cebu’s jeepney drivers seem to largely ignore signal lights, but thanks to the XV’s excellent visibility, the entire convoy got through fairly quickly to lunch at Zubuchon in Escario Central. For those unfamiliar with Zubuchon, it was deemed as the “best pig ever” by Celebrity Chef Anthony Bourdain. Vegetarians and even those suffering from high-blood pressure may faint at the sight of Zubuchon’s menu which is almost completely consisting of pork served in every manner conceivable.

Once everyone hand a chance to digest their lunch, it was time to increase the pace to Tops, supposedly one of Cebu’s most romantic spots. Taking over as driver, it was time to get behind the wheel of Subaru’s urban crossover. The XV, like the rest of Subaru’s line-up, has a superb driving position with highly-supportive seats. From here, the XV goes from strength to strength with a nicely-balanced ride with tons of mechanical grip. With full-time all-wheel drive as standard, the XV is inspiring to push through the narrow uphill roads.

After the climb up Tops, it was time to head down to Adventure Café, located some 60 kilometers away from Metropolitan Cebu. Like the road going to Tops, the highway going to Adventure Café is nicely paved with several switchbacks, corners, and crests along the way. Cebuanos call it their version of Sierra Madre, and once again, the XV showed off its phenomenal levels of grip, being able to tackle some corners at triple digit speeds. The 150-horsepower FB 2.0-liter engine kept pace very well with the Lineartronic CVT proving to be surprisingly responsive; but more abrupt overtaking maneuvers required a shift to the Sport or Manual mode that uses the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. At Adventure Café, the group relaxed for some merienda of suman and tsokolate while the more adventurous ziplined through the tallest and longest zipline in Cebu stretching some 600 meters.

The day ended with a dinner at Lantaw Native Restaurant in Busay, the highlight of which is yet another roasted pig—this time from Rico’s Lechon, Former Philippine President Joseph “Erap” Estrada’s preferred choice.

Subaru is fast becoming one of the preferred automotive brands in the Philippines and is continuing to grow at a record pace. Event such as the Subaru XV Suburban Drive highlights the brand’s presence not just in Metro Manila but in other metropolitan areas around the country as well such as Cebu (the next leg of this event is in Davao City). And though everyone is getting mighty familiar with the XV, it still manages to remain fresh and exciting. The XV remains youthful and fresh, balancing the right amount of machismo and refinement that wouldn’t make it out of place whether it’s in the great outdoors or at a luxury hotel parking lot.

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