Off-Roading 101:

MIAS off-road test drives

A Jeep Wrangler Rubicon spec drives over one of the obstacles at the off-road test section of the 2015 MIAS.

A Jeep Wrangler Rubicon spec drives over one of the obstacles at the off-road test section of the 2015 MIAS.

In line with the 2015 Manila International Auto Show 2015 theme of “Traverese the Great Outdoors,” two segment leaders in the four-wheel-drive recreational field held public test drives of their vehicles during the four-day staging of the MIAS held at the World Trade Center (WTC) in Pasay City. The staging of two brands, side by side, at the front of the WTC clearly indicates a changing lifestyle shift for vehicle buyers.

In the crossover segment, Motor Image Philippines, distributor of the Subaru brand in the country, showcased what their Forester line and XV crossovers are capable of doing, by offering test drives in their Symetrical All-Wheel Drive (SAWD) course — a modular off-road driving simulation of treacherous side ramps, roller equipped rails (sure to make lesser makes fail), articulation ramps that make the vehicle run cross axle, and their X mode hill which simulates a slippery climb and a downhill gradient that highlights the Subaru forester’s X mode feature.

X mode is an off-road driving feature found in the Subaru Forester that in a nutshell harmonizes the various electronically controlled off-road driving aids to increase driver confidence, and optimize off-road capability of its class-leading SUV. These aids are the SAWD, Hill Descend control, Traction Control, Engine Power management and Stability Control–all at a press of the X Mode button.

The test drive was open to the public and hundreds got to experience what a real crossover SUV can do.  Subaru even had a “bring your crossover challenge,” regardless of brand, for the owners to see if their vehicle was up to the challenge of what Subaru was demonstrating. From what I know, no one took up the challenge. Contrary to public perception that crossovers are not really made for off-road work, Subaru proved that at the light to medium side of off-road driving, their vehicles are second to none.

Right beside the Subaru testdrive area, and on the more extreme side of the off-road driving spectrum, the local distributors of the Jeep brand, Auto Nation Group, made a natural off-road track composed of five obstacles designed to demonstrate how easy and safe it is for their brand to tackle very tough and concentration-grabbing terrain. This is in consonance of their tag line “Go anywhere, do anything.” The Jeep brand is synonymous with off-road driving being the pioneer brand in the 4WD segment.

Available for test drives were the legendary Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon spec and the Wrangler Sport edition. It has to be said these two variants of the Wrangler are very competent and are tough off-road vehicles. The Rubicon spec, however, is in the top of its class when it comes to sheer off-road capability, with very minimal off-road equipment upgrades necessary for it to tackle extreme terrain.  Also available for test drive was the Jeep Grand Cherokee, a vehicle designed with very difficult terrain in mind, and yet has all the comfort and luxury of a luxury sedan from its multi-adjustable leather seats and climate control, to its air suspension system that can adjust the vehicle height for easy access in and out of the Cherokee, sports mode setting for some spirited on-road driving, and three settings for off-road driving ground clearance to tackle the most treacherous of terrain.

It needs to be noted that also available for test drive was the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, a descendant of the original crossover SUV, and the Cherokee XJ known for its near-legendary capability. The Trailhawk, like its predecessor, has a unibody design like today’s crossover SUVs, but with off-road and trail capability like no other. This is because it comes bristling with an off-road terrain selector knob for every imaginable off-road driving surface, form rocks to sand, and mud and snow. But wait, it does not end there. The Trailhawk is also equipped with a speed select off-road system that allows the driver to pick what speed to tackle off-road obstacle, from one to nine miles per hour. This system is completely new for a 4WD vehicle. Do expect variations of this system in other brands in the near future.

So there you have it – tomorrow’s off-road capabilities today that were demonstrated at the 2015 MIAS. Hope you did not miss it.


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