What better way is there to introduce a new vehicle variant than with a drive around the beautiful island of Busuanga, Palawan. Isuzu Philippines Corporation (IPC) did just that last week to introduce a new variant of their flagship model, the Isuzu mu-X.
Isuzu has always made it a point to hold their ride and drive events outside Metro Manila and bring their vehicles much closer to roads it is truly familiar with—rural roads. Another aim of IPC in holding the events out of town is to promote tourist destinations all across the land. Since 2002, IPC has brought the motoring media to over 60 ride and drive events held all over the country, from Pagudpud in Northern Luzon down to General Santos City in Mindanao. This time, Isuzu returns to Palawan, but in a different part of this majestic chain of islands.
This year’s second ride and drive event brings the motoring journalist to the island of Busuanga, which is at the northern-most tip of Palawan.
The brand-new fleet of mu-X sport utility vehicles (SUV) had earlier been shipped to Busuanga via 2GO Freight, which is the official shipping partner of Isuzu for most of its test drive events in the Visayas and Mindanao.
With 24 participants in tow, the group, headed by IPC president Hajime Koso, took a commercial flight from Manila to Busuanga. The flight, although a little bit delayed because of airport congestion, was smooth all the way, thanks to the excellent summer weather. Upon arrival, our group had a surprise as Joselito Arzaga, the terminal manager of the Francisco B. Reyes Airport Terminal, prepared a warm welcome for us complete with the traditional lei and artists beating on the bongos playing the island beat.
The airport manager was even kind enough to allow the new Isuzu mu-X’s to be parked right in front of the terminal while waiting for our group’s arrival—a gesture that is very much appreciated.
Following the routine group photos outside, the group proceeded with the day’s journey heading toward the much talked about island safari of Calauit onboard the 2016 Isuzu mu-X 3.0L VGS— with its powerful 4JJI-TC (Hi), known to deliver 163 PS (160 horsepower) and 380 Newton-meters of torque. Koso-san, as well as IPC Executive Vice President Takashi Tomita, Senior Vice President Arthur Balmadrid and marketing head Joseph Bautista all boarded different mu-X units to accompany the media participants during the ride and drive event.
On the road with the mu-x 3.0-liter
The drive would take more than two hours over 75 kilometers of dusty dirt road leading to the northernmost point of Busuanga, which is Calauit. We used the eastern part of the circumferential road that was mostly made of uneven dirt with short patches of concrete. Although the road seemed to be a bit rough, it was there that the mu-X’s true worth was put to the test. Its suspension system worked with superiority, affording all the passengers a very smooth ride both on and off the road.
The mu-X’s engine performance was also proven during the steep ascents toward the mountainous portions of the island. The common rail direct injection and an intercooled Variable Geometry System (VGS) turbocharger power train made the 2016 Isuzu mu-X 3.0L VGS respond better even at low speed. The lag during turbo boost has also been eliminated. With that, the Isuzu mu-X 3.0L VGS wowed the participants on its capability to run smoothly and efficiently no matter the course of the road.
When the group finally reached the northernmost point of the island, we hopped onboard a small banca then sailed toward the 3,800-hectare Calauit Safari Park. The island was declared a wildlife sanctuary and game preserve by former President Ferdinand Marcos back in 1977. We learned that Kenya had requested the Philippines to adopt several species of wild animals from Africa to save them from extinction. Calauit was found to have closest characteristics of a Kenyan savannah, which was the reason why it was chosen. A total of 104 animals that included giraffes, zebras, and six types of antelopes that included the impala, gazelle, bushbuck, eland, waterbuck, and tobi were brought there. To date, only the girraffes, zebras and gazelles remain together with a number of deers that are endemic to the region.
A native spread was prepared for our group for lunch. And after our feast, it was our turn in trying to give the animals a feast of their own.
After the safari tour, our group proceeded with the drive toward Concepcion Town in the western part of the island, which was about 80 kilometers away. During that segment of the drive, we were able to sample the mu-X’s latest in safety and infotainment technology including the Cruise Control, Hill Start Assist and eight-inch Audio/NAVI/WIFI System.
The other new features of the 2016 mu-X include the new sporty rear spoiler and chrome interior garnishes.
Besides introducing new variant features on the LS-A Automatic Transmission variant, IPC also announced the entry of a the LS-A Manual Transmission 2.5L variant that pretty much has the same features as the LS-A AT 3.0L; the Passive Entry and Push Start/Stop System; Instrument Multi-information Display; Cruise Control; Hill Start Assists; seven-inch Entertainment System; chrome radiator grille; door handles and side view mirrors; 17-inch alloy wheels; and Automatic Climate Control System.
After another two-hour drive, we reached the posh Busuanga Bay Lodge in Concepcion Town, with still a lot of energy to spare. But instead of getting into the various water sport activities the resort offered, most just enjoyed the infinity pool that offered a spectacular view of the bay.
On the second day, while wearing their sporty summer shirts provided by Reebok, the group experienced the serene and placid waters of Palawan and took an island tour going to Siete Picados for snorkeling before visiting Kayangan Lake for a cool dip. Famished from all the swimming, the group proceeded by boat to the Atwayan Beach where a seafood barbeque boodle-fight awaited. It was the first time for the Japanese executives to eat using their hands, more so eat boodle style, wherein everyone grabbed rice from just one heap. It was definitely a delightful experience for the Japanese execs as they willingly partook in the grabbing, or sharing rather, of the food from all directions of the spread.
When it was time to head back to the resort, the participants were able to appreciate the grandeur brought by the whole-day island tour, taking advantage of the picturesque view and the relaxing environment while onboard the big outrigger. But aside from the smooth ride that the boat offered, most of us wished that we were onboard the mu-X, which offered a more relaxing and comfortable ride.
During dinner back at the resort, Koso expressed firm belief that the event provided the 2016 Isuzu mu-X 3.0 VGS a new avenue to show its capability that would make it the perfect summer getaway vehicle, making it close to the heart for every thrill seeker.
“This event, mainly complemented by the 2016 Isuzu mu-X 3.0L VGS and this province, has proven its point: that the vehicle is eyed to be close to the heart of every traveler and that its power would keep one’s heart at beating fast,” he said.
“We are proud that this vehicle was brought along this side of the world so that many can enjoy its perks and abilities,” Koso added.