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Friday, April 13, 2007

Review: 2007 Nissan Murano


When Carlos Ghosn announced the Nissan Revival Plan in 1999, rarely did he mention about making exciting cars.  All he stressed were improved efficiency and increased cost cuts all in the name of reducing the Japanese company’s debt to zero.  So why does the Nissan Murano exist?  Having a well-balanced knowledge in costing and engineering, Ghosn knew that in order for his plan to succeed, he must change the way people look at Nissan.  After all, it’s extremely difficult to sell a toaster for half a million pesos.  And so, hot after the heels of the highly successful (and profitable) 350Z, it was time for Nissan to concentrate on a more voluminous market: the sport utility vehicle.  In return, they got more than what they bargained for: it forever changed the way people looked at the Nissan brand.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Review: 2007 Hyundai Tucson CRDi


Today’s trendy lifestyle demands something more out of a car.  What was once a means of getting from point A to point B has become a sort of mirror to your own personally—something that ultimately tells the people around you who you are.  The ever increasing compact SUV segment is a testament to this as buyers are beginning to look beyond the three-box compact sedan in favor of something much more stylish and personal.  Of course, it helps having an SUV body style since it offers much more flexibility and utility—something that can’t be said with any sedan.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Review: 2007 Ford Ranger Trekker and XLT


The Ford Ranger scored a major upset earlier this year when it successfully defended its Pickup of the Year title against a couple of larger rivals. That was the previous model. Now a super sized, super powered, and better-equipped Ranger steps into the ring.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Review: 2006 Toyota RAV4


A lot is expected from the all-new Toyota RAV4.  Aside from being the newest offering in the compact SUV segment, this model was responsible for popularizing the concept of the “cute-ute” way back in the 1990s.  The second iteration caused an equal amount of awe with Toyota pushing the RAV4’s styling to a new direction.  Compared to its perennial rival, the Honda CR-V, the RAV4 looked more advanced with its rakish design and exaggerated features be it the Mk. I or Mk. II models.  Having found the right success recipe though, Toyota decided to play it safe with the Mk. III.  Designers and engineers toyed around with the standards set by its predecessor—a good starting point, considering RAV4s were always handsome and always driver-oriented.

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Review: 2006 Mercedes-Benz B 170


Visions of Mercedes-Benz usually involve long stately limousines, flashy roadsters, or Kimi Raikkonen’s own chrome-plated weekend drive.  What to make then of this, a stubby hatchback that proudly displays a large three-pointed star on its snout?  Mercedes’ ad campaign ostensibly states that this car is for everybody—moms, dads, families, lovers, young and old.  That immediately raised the alarm: any such formula usually results in a muddled product suitable for nobody.  Those contemplating a first purchase of a Mercedes via the B-Class can take heart: the ad planners may be sending out mixed messages, but the product itself is well suited for its particular audience.

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Review: 2006 Audi A4


As early as three years into its life, Audi was pressured to come out with a new A4.  When Audi engineers were already beginning to reach the same levels of driver satisfaction and build quality as the E46 3 Series, the new E90 3 Series was already on its way.  Knowing all too well that the goal post was once again moving towards BMW's direction, the folks at Ingolstadt had to work fast.  This was in 2002.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Review: 2006 Hyundai Accent CRDi


“Surprise and delight the customer” may be a common marketing goal these days, but it’s unusual to find a car that genuinely fits the bill.  After all, we expect a Porsche to be fast and an Expedition to have enough room for two basketball teams.  During the six weeks of testing for Car of the Year 2006, one vehicle stands out in my mind long after the dust has settled on the roads of Forest Hills, and it takes the bulbous shape of the new Hyundai Accent CRDi.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Review: 2006 Mercedes-Benz S 350 LWB


Just last weekend, I was checking the classified ads looking for how much a new house might cost these days. After a few flips, I found an interesting middle-class real-estate project with prices that start at P8 million. The units have no furnishings—just painted concrete shells with metal tin roofs. This took place just a few minutes before I got to drive the similarly priced Mercedes-Benz S350. And after spending the better part of the day in the flagship Merc, all I can say is that the house will definitely have to wait.

Review: 2006 Hyundai Matrix CRDi


The moment you set your sights at the Hyundai Matrix, you immediately think: that doesn’t look right.  I don’t blame you.  The rest of humanity doesn’t blame you either.  Whether it’s red or silver or any other color for that matter, the Matrix stands out.  And that’s not a good thing.  It steers clear of everything that’s considered beautiful in automotive design and comes out as something rather, err… unique.  Ah, so the Koreans have done it again—a product that’s literally a design joke, probably penned by blind men in a windowless design studio.  Not quite.  For instance, on the c-pillar reads “disegno Pininfarina”.  Still, having an Italian design studio isn’t any guarantee of beauty or desirability.  In the case of the Matrix though, it relies less on its design studio origin but more on function and get this, performance.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Review: 2006 Mitsubishi L200 Strada GLX


I’ve got this soft spot when it comes to Mitsubishi off-roaders. Call them crude, but there’s something—either with their stance or look that simply makes them ruggedly beautiful.  This is especially true with the likes of the first L200 and Pajero that became Filipino favorites.  Even today, the amount of L200 that you still see plying the roads is a testament to their excellent durability.  As the years past through, these modern day workhorses soon became overfed and overweight.  Soon, the Strada (as what the 4WD model is now called), the L200 gained all sorts of fender extensions, needless interior knickknacks and other hefty accessories that simply penalized performance (if the 2.5-liter 4D56 engine wasn’t already being pushed to its limits).

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Review: 2005 Mazda6 2.3


The engine closes up to 7,000 rpm and the muted sonorous note fills the cabin.  Just before the rev limiter hit, you signal the sequential shifter up a notch.  It responds quickly, almost transparently, pushing the speed even further.  A corner approaches, and without a second thought, you twist the fat three-spoke steering wheel into the direction of the curve.  The car obeys, telepathically taking the line you want.  Your pulse quickens, your breath deepens, and you feel alive once more behind the wheel of the Mazda6.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Review: 2005 Jaguar XJ8


Jaguar’s XJ-series is the epitome of luxury and performance for the British car maker.  And even with Ford money, and the subsequent introduction of new models such as the XK-series, X-Type, and S-Type series models, the XJ-series has remained the company’s all-encompassing product.  The XJ-series, especially in XJ8 form, proves that the British do stand a great chance in toppling the Germans in the ultra-luxury car game.

First Drive: 2005 Porsche 911


Pluck any car enthusiast from the last 40 years, and there is only one car that he will be sure to identify from a hundred paces away.  The upright fenders and windshield, triangular greenhouse profile, and sharply sloping rear can only belong to the Porsche 911.

Monday, March 7, 2005

Review: 2005 Chevrolet Optra 1.8 LT


Enter a showroom, any kind of showroom, and you’ll immediately get whiffs of lies and deceit.  And it’s not the plastered smiles on the receptionists or even the sales personnel.  It goes much deeper than that.  I’m talking about the sales pitch—the kind of talk that promises you a whole new experience.  Cars can promise you performance numbers that rival Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari or deodorants that make girls go ga-ga over you.  But, do they ever happen?  Did the last juicer you purchased give you houses of pulping fun?  Did the last 15-peso burger meal really look like a pound big like it did on the store poster?  I didn’t think so.  This is the sort of harsh reality that faces consumers everyday, and the sort that ultimately leads to a dismayed buying public.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Review: 2005 Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer


Elvis Presley, James Dean, Clint Eastwood—men with very different backgrounds, and yet, all have become at least during a part of their lives, the epitome of American cool.  Despite their varied styles of performing, they’ve managed to engrave themselves into the hearts and minds of one of the world’s finickiest markets: the United States.  Even more remarkable is how their topics of rebellion, realization and self-preservation translate so well even to the Filipino setting.

Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Review: 2005 Toyota Corolla Altis 1.8G


Five to ten years ago, the choice for a first car was as diverse as the colors on a Charlie Chaplin flick: it was either the Toyota Corolla or the Honda Civic.  Sure enough, sales figures and market shares simply swung back and forth, while the rest were just content with whatever table scrap that’s left.  Fast forward to today, and things couldn’t have been more different.  Aside from a resurgence from the likes of Mazda, Mitsubishi and Nissan; these two Japanese automotive giants are facing competition from the Americans, namely Ford and Chevrolet.  Add the fact that there are now excellently built sub-compacts, microscopic SUVs and a zillion other choices all catered to making every buyer happy.  Now, the question beckons: can the Toyota Corolla keep up with the changing market place?

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Review: 2005 Mitsubishi Adventure Grand Sport


The wonder of an effective marketing campaign is that it sticks right in your head, whether you like it or not.  And while Vinchie and the rest of the Parokya ni Edgar strut their stuff, kissing and rapping their way to the beach, I can’t help but imagine a similar scenario climbing onboard the 2004 Mitsubishi Adventure.  While I have no intension of kissing a fellow man, I do have every intension to test this heavily revised AUV in a field it does best: ferrying people.  When the need of carrying 7 people to the Car of the Year Awards – Philippines test venue was raised, guess which one was the vehicle of choice: the Mitsubishi Adventure.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Review: 2004 Ford Escape 2.3L


It’s a fact that ninety-five percent of SUV owners haven’t even thought of going off-road.  They probably avoid the smallest of potholes and slow down to take the highway metal joint.  That said, the discussion of whether to have this or that all-wheel drive system is as important as what color of socks you should wear for the day.

Review: 2004 Mazda3 1.6 and 2.0


A long, long time ago in the Kingdom of the Philippines lived Mazda 323.  It lived simply, toiling around the busy city streets, bringing its occupants and luggage wherever the driver pleased.  It was reliable and complacent, never even once raising its voice in anger, as long as it was fed with premium unleaded.

Friday, April 9, 2004

Review: 2004 Peugeot 206 1.4


Once upon a time there was a man who loved driving cars.  He wanted a car that was just right for city driving, that didn't eat up too much fuel or the big part of his monthly salary.  That usually meant buying a sedan from the land called Nippon.  Now the small Nipponese sedans that he saw on the road were innovative and pleasant to look at and drive.  There was one he liked called the City, which had a clever CVT and safety features usually found only in more expensive cars.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Review: 2004 Nissan Sentra 180GT and GS


The last time a Nissan Sentra set foot on the Subic International Raceway was when the dollar exchanged for 26 pesos and the president still totted a cigar.  During this time, I was literally wearing shorts and learning about girls for the first time.  This clean-slate attitude probably makes me the most qualified in writing about the 2004 Nissan Sentra.

Review: 2004 BMW 530d


Every Terminator movie has a scene where Arnold Schwarzenegger gets hit with everything the enemy has.  His skin and human attachments rip off, revealing the glowering, gleaming metal underneath.  Imagine that happening to a car, and that's how the new BMW 5 series looks like—as if the attractively beady-eyed countenance of the old 5 gets blown off and out comes The Cyborg.  The angry eyebrows of the front headlamp clusters lead to a pronounced nose section and sharply creased flanks.  The shutlines are all trapezoids and the rear continues the bulky, angular theme.

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Review: 2004 Isuzu Trooper Skyroof Edition


Imagine you’ve been working for a multi-national company, and after sweating it out for a couple of years, you’re about to get promoted.  Great.  Of course, with the additional benefits and cash at hand, there’s no better way to show off than a new set of wheels.  Riding around in your sensible Japanese sedan is fine, but it just doesn’t that x-factor anymore.  Opting for a German sedan is still out of your budget, and the running costs of those gigantic American SUVs still sting the pocket.  So, without sacrificing image, is there a vehicle that could provide everyday practicality, exceptional performance and good comfort?  Luckily for you, there’s the Isuzu Trooper.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

First Drive: 2004 Civic 2.0 i-VTEC


Japanese sedans used to be simple: three sizes with three different strengths: mild (1.3), regular (1.6), and extra strength (2.0).  You could only get the stronger flavor if you ordered the bigger cup.  German brew was much more interesting; they were not averse to serving heady 40-proof in a shot glass.  (Think C43 AMG.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Review: 2004 Ford Escape V6


There are several ways of waking up in the morning, from the unpleasant blare of an alarm clock to the stimulating aroma of breakfast cooking in the kitchen.  A leisurely breakfast is all fine for the weekend, but for rush-hour workdays, a quicker solution is warranted.  That's where coffee usually comes in: one gulp and when the caffeine warms up the veins, so too does the brain.  Now what of us who are not partial to hot Java?  We discovered something just as effective: seeing a bright yellow compact SUV parked in our garage did the trick.

Monday, July 7, 2003

First Drive: 2003 Toyota Vios 1.5G M/T and A/T


Let’s face it—we’re going to be late again.  Rushing through a mid-afternoon’s Metro traffic, our humble Toyota Echo zipped between bigger motor vehicles.  The 1.3-liter engine was clearly given a thrashing as the responsive four-speed auto ‘box gave us much needed accelerating power.  We subjected ourselves to a slightly sore backside for the sake of motoring journalism.

Review: 2003 Nissan Urvan Estate


Given a fixed length, width and height, the most efficient shape to enclose a space is that of a box.  That's something that appliance designers, modern architects and seasoned travelers know only too well—we don't see too many cylindrical refrigerators or triangular office towers.  Passenger vans have to follow the same rule, so don't expect anything other than a refrigerator on wheels when you go shopping for that 12-seater.

Monday, April 21, 2003

Review: 2003 Volvo S40 T4


Now, more than ever, the lines of automotive design and engineering are beginning to blur.  American sedans, once noted for their crudeness are gaining European sophistication; Korean reliability and durability is heading well into contention with the Japanese; the British, for all their pride on identity is starting to get a bit Teutonic.  Even the quiet Scandinavian nation of Sweden isn’t spared from this inevitable global trend, and the new Volvo S40 T4 can attest to this.

Review: 2003 Toyota Revo 1.8 SR


There’s always something alluring with the girl next door.  She may not be the prettiest, sexiest or richest, but somehow she always manages to lift your spirits with her honest to goodness smile.  It seems that you’ve known her all your life—she’s dependable, reliable and trustworthy.  In short, she’s like a Toyota Revo.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Review: 2003 Toyota Camry 2.4V


It seems that Nostradamus is right after all.  Our world may not have ended with the now infamous Y2K debacle or with a Nuclear Holocaust, but continuously watching CNN would have anyone thinking that every day is a disaster.

Review: 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer MX


When a promised gift arrives later than it should, it can be frustrating and exciting at the same time.  The same sense of anxious anticipation pervaded our wait for the 2003 Lancer.   This was not helped by the sight of gray-market Evo VIIs burbling around Manila.  The Lancer's rivals had certainly advanced the 1.6 liter game, and, good or bad, we wanted to know how the Lancer would stand up to the challenge. As the New Year rolled in, Mitsubishi Motors eventually delivered.

Monday, February 3, 2003

Review: 2003 Isuzu Crosswind XUV


Even as Isuzu struck success with its first Isuzu AUV, the Hi-lander, it was already developing its second iteration, the sportier, sleeker Crosswind.  Soon after, Isuzu brought the Crosswind to the next logical step in its evolution, the XUV.