ONE CAR TOO FAR

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Isuzu-D-Max20130723IF there was any doubting the author Robert Pirsig’s words—“Sometimes, it’s a little better to travel than to arrive”—it all went away on this trip.

Isuzu Phils. Corp, true to tradition, had recently mounted one of its epically long drives, this time around involving a Manila-Sagada-Manila loop that traversed the Nueva Vizcaya trail on the way up and the Baguio route on the way down. It called for driving Isuzu’s venerable D-Max pickups. The trip, as anyone vaguely familiar with the route knows, meant tackling a little over 500 mostly twisty kilometers going north and around 400 slightly less twisty kilometers going back. It really wasn’t that long distance-wise, but it was butt-numbingly far enough to travel—and this was the good part.

Sagada, for the benefit of those unfamiliar, is a small town in the Mountain Province with just a few residents (less than 11,000) but enjoys a fair number of tourists all year round. Its remote mountaintop location has made it only slightly difficult to reach now, unlike during the Spanish time when it was virtually impossible, explaining why it was the Americans, who came later, that were able to make a dent in the locals’ life (almost all Sagada natives are Protestants). In terms of attractions. . . well, Sagada has coffins and caves.

In the D-Max gig, Isuzu took advantage of the place’s terrain by holding a mountain-biking clinic, which neatly delivered the company’s message that the D-Max supports the needs and whims of an active lifestyle. Certainly, it also helped the pickup’s cause to have had Frederick Farr and Jerich Farr conduct the riding activity as the former is the coach of the Isuzu D-Max Multisport Team, which relies on the truck for numerous purposes.

IPC Senior Vice President for Sales Arthur Balmadrid noted that around 40 percent of the truck’s buyers come from Metro Manila and nearby places, so the D-Max is usually city-bound.


“But as the Sagada trip shows, the D-Max’s capability to traverse any terrain and carry outdoor recreational gear makes it a perfect companion in any active lifestyle,” he said.

Oh, and traverse any terrain the D-Max did. While the large part of the highway system leading up to Sagada is paved, some patches nearing the place were mucky, slippery and downright treacherous, no thanks to chunks of earth habitually deciding to roll down mountain slopes whenever rain falls. Fact is, the roads get terrible as they approach Sagada, improving only at the town’s main artery. The paths that crisscross the town, meanwhile, are happy places for off-road driving nuts, if not for potheads.

Take the usual Baguio route going to Sagada—over scenic Halsema Highway—and the asphalt is nice and mostly unbroken. But the drive here means about three hours to four hours of never-ending bends, a place that the straight rule has forgotten. The road is either climbing or dropping, too, and so the torque—all 294 Newton-meter available from as low as 1,400rpm—provided by the D-Max’s 3.0-liter, turbo-charged, common rail diesel mill was quite useful. It hauled a fully laden truck (with four people on board plus luggage) respectably well, and the grunt it dispensed allowed for keeping the D-Max in third gear mostly throughout the Halsema part (I drove a D-Max with a five-speed manual transmission). The truck’s multimedia toys, for their part, meant tunes and navigation were on hand whenever available. On the road, this is most welcome.

Well, it makes the travel better.

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