THE Rubicon Trail it was not, but the terrain was just as crumbly, the location presumably just as iPhone-signal-challenged, the going just as tough. It was somewhere over the laharscape of Pampanga, around Mount Pinatubo, and the only real Rubicon on this trail were the dozen or so Jeep Wrangler Rubicons that were cavorting across the land.
All right, not all were Rubicons, too. Some were standard Wranglers and another bunch was comprised of Jeep Grand Cherokees. Still, everything fits together—rough terrain, tough 4x4s—to form the Jeep Thrills Pinatubo.
An off-road adventure party recently thrown by the Jeep distributor in the Philippines, Jeep Thrills Pinatubo was designed so that Wrangler owners, especially those for whom the toughest obstacle they have taken their vehicles over were the curbs at a mall parking lot, get a vastly broader idea at just how capable off-pavement the things they have forked over around three million pesos for are.
“As part of our commitment to our customers, we are providing them opportunities to meet fellow Jeep owners, as well as venues to experience first-hand what their Jeeps are really built and meant for—go anywhere and do anything,” said Tonette Lee, marketing head at local Jeep distributor Auto Nation Group.
The sales people’s spiel over at the showroom floor about the Wrangler’s Rock-Trac, which selects among two-wheel, four-wheel high and four-wheel low modes; Dana 44 front and rear axles; a front sway bar that could electrically be disconnected for vastly increased axle articulation (for the Rubicon); Tru-Lock, which could lock either or both axles so the Rubicon can claw its way out of tricky surfaces; and plenty of skid plates to protect the vehicle’s underside, is not mere talk to justify the hefty price required to enter Wrangler ownership.
In the case of the cushier Grand Cherokee, things are a bit simpler, thanks to Jeep’s Selec-Terrain feature. It’s controlled via a knob on the console that offers a selection of Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock settings, and all that’s needed is to simply switch the system to the corresponding terrain that the vehicle will tackle. Another switch can raise or lower the Grand Cherokee’s ride height.
At the trails that snake around the foot of Pinatubo—on a course plotted by Fast Times’ resident 4×4 expert Beeboy Bargas—the jumble of Jeeps slithered across soft lahar, hopped over volcanic rocks, forded streams and squeezed their way through claustrophobia-inducing canyons with about the same ease as they would have clambering up curbs at mall parking lots. All right, a lot of the obstacles that littered the trail required significantly more effort, the type that needed a switch to hardcore four-wheel drive low setting, but the Jeeps simply made the drive look easy.
And that’s where the thrill comes from.