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17 February 2011

On the trail with the Isuzu Alterra Urban Cruiser

Words by Ferman Lao | Photos courtesy of Isuzu Philippines Corp.
The day started early with a cracking call time at 6:30 in the morning. After receiving a call from Chairman, Isuzu's fondly named car jockey, informing me that they were on the way to pick me up, I hurriedly grabbed my gear and headed towards the agreed pick up point along Banawe Street in Quezon City. Right on the dot, they arrived in a brand-spanking new Alterra Urban Cruiser with Ardie Lopez and brother Third of Auto Extreme on board, whom they've picked up earlier. You see, tardiness shouldn't be in anyone's dictionary, and it definitely wasn't in Isuzu's. 

Having Ardie take the shotgun seat and Third beg off due to a medical emergency meant that, I would be having the back seat all of the Alterra to myself. After the cursory greetings and high fives, I toss my rucksack in and settled in the seat behind Chairman and hunkered down for what I thought would be a long ride.
Smooth Sailing
As Chairman skillfully negotiated the busy streets of the U-belt, Nagtahan, I noticed that the acceleration of the Alterra Urban Cruiser was pretty good and kept smooth with no hints of abruptness, and we found ourselves in SLEX in no time. Credit for this surely goes to the Alterra's smooth shifting automatic transmission and the healthy power output of the robust direct injection turbo diesel engine under the hood. 

Little did I know that the trip wasn't going to take long at all. Even if our departure time placed us right smack in the middle of the morning rush hour, the transport to Tagaytay was rather fast -- a quick hour and twenty minutes to be exact. The drive surely did feel shorter, as the company of friends and comfortable ride of the Isuzu Alterra somehow warped my perception of time. Next thing I knew, we had already arrived at our destination in the chilly City of Tagaytay. And that's exactly when I suddenly remembered that I had left my windbreaker in my house. *sigh*


A quick breakfast at Josephine's Restaurant was joined with a short message from Isuzu Philippines Corp. (IPC) EVP, Mr. Yuki Kato. His welcome remarks were followed by Marketing Manager, Mr. Joseph Bautista's brief spiel about the new features of the Alterra Urban Cruiser. Elite Multi-Sport Resources Inc.'s Andy Leuterio then stepped in and briefed us on what activities we were to expect for the long day ahead. “Trail biking or mountain biking?” Andy asked. With his simple question, the group erupted into a pandemonium as quite a few of our fellow journalists participating in today's activity haven't been on a bike since time could remember, while others had taken to the sport like fish to water. 

After introducing Ms. Villy Jane Bay of Reebok/Teva as one of the day's sponsors and a quick photo op with all the participants, IPC's Ronald Baladad and Timmy Naval-de Leon herded us to our assigned Alterra's and immediately drove off to our next stop. About 90 minutes later, we arrived at Pico de Loro, Hamilo Coast, Batangas where we were welcomed by the resort's courteous and very capable staff. 

A few additional words from EMR Inc. and we dusted off to the trail where Mr. Art Balmadrid, SVP Sales together with flagged off EVP Yuki Kato in the ceremonial ride through the trail course. After which, the journalists from the motoring beat tried their hand at it, albeit with an added activity or two. 

Bike assembly 101!
In the first activity, our primary task was to assemble the bike Isuzu provided for the event. Then, we all rode off through a challenge course that put emphasis on precision, control, power, and endurance - qualities that the Isuzu Alterra had in abundance.

The day ended far too quickly, as everyone took their roles in the activities with gusto and made short work of the challenges. Before long, dinner time came shortly after the closing remarks of IPC President Ryoji Yamazaki. 

Car assignments for the return trip were given out after dinner. We had Inigo Roces of Manila Bulletin and a Reebok staffer join us in the ride home, along with a “ton” of post event logistic supplies. Despite being fully laden with equipment and additional passengers, the Alterra didn't feel bogged down nor crowded during the four odd hours the trip home took. The day ended with an eye opener for me, really. I wouldn't have thought that the ladder framed chassis of the Isuzu Alterra would be that refined or capable; with comfort levels that's at par or better than other more high profile SUV's in its class.