What better way to test-drive the all-new 2015 Mitsubishi Strada then to do it for a cause. Together with a group of select motoring journalists, we set out on a mission to transport educational materials and assorted supplies for a small public elementary school beside the rice terraces of Batad, Ifugao province. The designated vehicles to tackle the rough, mountainous terrain with the capacity to carry large loads were the 2015 Mitsubishi Strada GLX 4X2 MT, GLX V 4X2 AT; GLS V 4X4 MT and GLS Sport V 4X4 AT variants.
With barely 200 kilometers on the odometer, I was assigned a spanking-new Impulse Blue Metallic, GLS V 4X4 Strada with manual transmission. Initially, I was hoping to get a five-speed automatic knowing we would be traveling around 300 kms of mostly well-paved roads. I told myself this shouldn’t be too bad since the drive would be mostly straight. Little did I know the five-speed manual was the way to go. That, in a while.
Getting acquainted with the controls was straightforward. Inside, stylishly sporty two-tone black/gray interiors with piano black and silver prominent trims are its strong accents. Dead center is a 6.75-inch touchscreen multimedia system filled with various functions from GPS navigation to reverse camera display to a tire pressure monitoring. The instrument cluster features a neat and straightforward display with a large multi-information display sandwiched by the large tachometer and speedometer. Unfortunately, the Strada assigned to us didn’t have USB and AUX ports, but the range-topping GLS Sport V features Mitsubishi’s renowned Super Select 4WD-II system. This technology provides outstanding off-road performance and superior handling with just the turn of a knob on the center console. The Strada also boasts of having the longest cabin in its class at 1,745 millimeters with the most comfortable rear seatback J angle design.
After Mitsubishi’s Arlan Reyes gave a run-down on the schedule including a few safety tips, we started off from the Mitsubishi Balintawak dealership to finally start our three-day, 800-km journey to the boonies and back. We basically drove at our own pace so there were no sprint or eco-runs here.
At the heart of the all-new Strada is an improved version of Mitsubishi’s Di-D engine. The lower variant produces 136 horsepower at 4,000 rpm and 324 Nm of torque at 2,000 rpm. For the higher variant like what we we had, the 4D56 engine produces a maximum output of 178 hp at 4,000 rpm and 400 Nm of torque at 2,000 rpm, thanks to a variable geometry turbo (VGT). Now this is the tricky part to understand how the VGT works, so please, bear with me.
As we piled up kilometers on the SLEX to TPLEX, going through the gears and rpms, it’s the Strada’s torque I got more interested in. As I went through the rpms before reaching the redline, you can hear the turbo start spooling at 1,500 to 1,800 rpm. By 2,000 rpm, you feel the rush of the 400 Nm of torque – making you tend to shift more often. Sometimes, I shifted from 1st to 3rd then to 5th, or even 2nd to 4th then 5th. For a 2.5-liter engine, it surely has a lot of torque.
As you get up the revs to 4,000 rpm, this is where the fun begins. With the high engine speed, you feel some kind of force pressing behind your seat. It may not be blinding speed, but getting from 100 kilometers per hour to 160 ph or more can be achieved without missing a beat. This is how the VGT works. At low rpms, its variable vanes are closed to because of lag, but as the pressure along the vanes open and diameter of the compressor increases, more air gets to flow that corresponds to 178 hp of extra pull (take note all tests were done within legal speeds). Overtaking irate tricycles, slow moving trucks and jeeps on two-way roads was a breeze. Even more heading up the mountains of Ifugao, our trusty GLS V was so sure-footed with the traction control always on. Around the bends, you can hear the tires biting because of the limited slip differential constantly keeping the tires on the road. The fun in driving was back!
Our trip that day ended at the Banaue Hotel where we spent the night.
The visit to Batad
Access to Batad is limited since road construction is ongoing and only extends four of five kms away from the village. The Batad rice terraces, one of the two World Heritage sites in Ifugao, is part of the five well-known rice terraces in the province. The other terraces in the province include Bangaan, Hungduan, Mayoyao, and Nagacadan. Carved into the side of a mountain deep in a valley, the Batad rice terraces has an amphitheater-like feel, almost like stairs reaching to the heavens. It is surrounded by lush vegetation that covers the Cordillera region. Driving from the hotel to the jump-off point to Batad took 30 minutes on rough, dusty roads. From the jump-off point, we then set-off on foot, and started the hour-long trek down toward the Batad village, sitting at an elevation 1,100 meters above sea level.
Upon reaching the Batad Elementary School, Mitsubishi executives headed by Froilan Dytianquin led the turn over of the several sets of LED TVs, iPad notebooks and other schools supplies to school and town officials.
This isn’t the first time Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corporation (MMC) extended help to the Ifugao village. When a series of typhoons that struck northern Luzon in late 2011 to early 2012, a huge landslide damaged the center portion of the Batad rice terraces. Rallied by Mitsubishi’s long-time photographer John Chua, the carmaker, together with members of the media, trekked to the village to spearhead the effort of rebuilding and rehabilitating the damaged rice terraces and paddies.
This year, Mitsubishi accomplished another mission in delivering the much-needed supplies for the school and locals. In appreciation of Mitsubishi’s continued support for the small village of Batad, Dytianquin was formally adopted an Ifugao brother.
MMC, in conjunction with their corporate social responsibility projects, promised to continue supporting the community as well as other areas in the province that needs assistance. Despite the summer heat and aching leg muscles caused by the nearly two-hour hike going up and down the remote village and another three-hour hike down and up to Tappia’s awesome water falls, we found the trip to Batad a very unique experience. Getting captivated by the 2,000-year-old rice terraces with your own eyes and sharing the moment with various Europeans tourists was very well worth the effort.