The ultimate automotive authority

Comparo / 07-25-16

Call Of Duty


By Nicolas A. Calanoc

 

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Words: Nicolas Calanoc – Photos: Jerel Fajardo, Randy Silve-Nieto And Juanito Vinluan

The 4×4 Pick-Up Comparo

The Contenders: Navara, Strada, D-Max, Hilux, Colorado and Ranger
The Battleground: Morong, Bataan
Welcome to the 4×4 Pick-Up Comparo

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The Emergence of the Workhorse
Ever since the dawn of automotive history, it was clear that there was a need for a vehicle able to carry heavy cargo from one point to another. Sure 4-wheeled automobiles were conceived to help people traverse from one place to another, but it was only a matter of time until more cargo capacity was desired.

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In the early days of the automobile, cars were available for sale in chassis-only configuration. It took companies like the Galion Godwin Truck Body Co. to take a Ford Model T chassis and modify it to be able to carry cargo by installing hauling boxes at the rear. Seeing a market for such vehicles, Ford eventually released the Ford Model T Runabout with a pick-up body on April 25, 1925. And so the pick-up was born.

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Just as the only thing constant in this world is change, so too have the needs and reasons for getting a truck. As the 1950s came in, the evolution of the utilitarian vehicle with just enough creature comforts transformed into something that was both off-road capable for recreation yet had luxuries that fit lifestyle needs, something that continues to this day.

Today the ability to carry a heavy load has taken a backseat because with the gadgets all their gadgets, space, and ability to go through even the toughest of terrains, pick-ups have become lifestyle vehicles especially at their highest trim (read: 4×4) levels. But just like safety, the appeal of the pick-up is having all that cargo space that you might need one day. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

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With all this mind, it was about time for us in the C! Team to get our hands on each of the available pickups in the market, just so we can put them through a battery of tests designed to make the best rise above the rest.

Testing: The Whole Nine Yards
The challenge of testing these kinds of vehicles was that we needed to place them in an environment wherein their capabilities as a 4×4 pick-up can be evaluated properly. It had to be in such a way that it was as equally off-road as it was constant, meaning we had to find a way to minimize the uncontrollable variables like weather, road conditions, and the like. We thought testing them by bringing them through muddy terrain, but the problem that would arise was the lack of consistency. Once you cross through muddy terrain, the advantage or disadvantage for the next vehicle could increase or decrease exponentially. So as the C! Team brainstormed, we came across an idea that was the best compromise: Rally-cross.

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After a good number of phone calls and coordination, the C! Team headed out to La Playa in Morong, Bataan. On our transit to the beach, we did our tests for fuel efficiency. To keep the test as reliable as possible, we instructed every driver to cruise at the given speeds required, and the fuel consumption checked afterwards. As much as we wanted to do city fuel efficiency, the different driving styles and traffic situations would have made the results unreliable.

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When we got to the destination, our resident racing driver Georges Ramirez and I started doing the different tests while the C! Photography Team started documenting the comparo. Aside from the usual acceleration, braking and time-attacks, we conducted other tests that had more relevance to actually driving and ownership. The “Overtaking Test” was done in such a way wherein we measured the time it took for the pick-ups to go from a coasting 60 km/h to 100 km/h. The “Pick-Up Stance Test” is where we compared the posture of the different vehicles when empty and when an average of 1000 pounds (or most of the C! Team) was placed at the flatbed of the pick-up. The last test we did after all the hard stuff was the Ownership Test, which involved looking at the car as the sum of its parts. This involved driving around doing everyday tasks, which ranged from parking, waiting at idling, driving, and enjoying what each pick-up had to offer.

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When all was said and done, the C! Team huddle up and discussed our likes, dislikes, and how we felt with the contestants of this 2016 Pick-Up Comparo. It would have been easy to just count votes and declare a winner, but we felt like it would have been unfair to the fights that we felt were really close. Instead we employed a jury-like system wherein beyond the agreements to disagree, and below are our contenders.

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Isuzu D-Max LS 2.5L 4×4
If this was a competition that entailed living its life always on a full load, with little maintenance, and waiting to see the last pick-up standing; the Isuzu D-Max has a very high chance of winning such a Spartan competition.

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Its secret lies on the engine under the hood. It uses the new 4JK1-TC engine that embodies of the essence of Isuzu: durability, reliability, and fuel efficiency. Its steel timing chain and anti-friction melt-in cylinder liners are unique in the class, which makes it ahead of the durability game. If the other vehicles will need a timing belt replacement when you reach 80,000 kilometers, the D-Max will take more than that to need replacing.

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Despite it being one of the smallest engines paired up with a 5-speed automatic transmission, it was the top competitor when it came to fuel efficiency. Sure it may have felt sluggish when it came to lap times and trying to go fast, but as a daily driver it was easy on the pedals and wheels. It was considerably responsive at the throttle, easy to maneuver in tight spaces, and took potholes smoothly despite it being a bit bouncy when there was no cargo at the back.

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This test unit came with a few goodies that made the travel worth its while like a 7” LCD touchscreen display with a navigation system, leather seats, reverse sensors, and power folding side mirrors. It may not have high-end equipment, but it was armed with the simple things that made driving around so convenient that complemented its size. It was evident that Isuzu stuck to their award-winning formula with the D-Max of durability, reliability, and fuel efficiency. For those focused solely on those 3 attributes, they wouldn’t have to look any further. But in the modern day where pick-ups have to be more than a workhorse, the bar of wants have been set higher than ever before.

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Toyota Hilux 2.8G 4×4
From its name alone, the Hilux is Toyota’s the embodiment of what a modern pick-up should be: high and luxurious. Before it can be judged as a well-appointed pick-up for the modern day, we first had to see if it was good as a working pick-up to begin with.

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Our tests yielded that the Hilux was second to the most efficient in the group, it took podium in many of the other tests, and was the only pick-up able to stop from 80 km/h to 0 km/h in under 20 meters thanks to it having the biggest brakes in the group. It was quick off the line thanks to its ability to put all that power evenly to the ground. Steering felt controlled throughout thanks to a sensitive and active traction control that as long as one is aware of it; he or she can do pin-point accurate turns. So as far as the Hilux is mechanically, it ranks one of the best in the group.

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Lifestyle luxuries though is something that no amount of capability alone can cure. The usual plastics and materials Toyota uses felt sturdy and the 6.5” LCD touchscreen display Bluetooth, USB, AUX, and navigation was useful, but that was just about it when it came to standard equipment. I personally would have forgiven the absence of power seats and paddle-shifts, but this particular test unit had neither reverse camera nor sensor. Considering everyone else had either driving aids and that big vehicles like this would benefit a lot from it, this made moving around and parking a bit of a task compared to the
rest. The absence of a bed-liner was also something that that left most of us desiring more for especially when you consider its price-tag to be the 2nd most expensive in the group.

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Maybe in the dealership level one can get those things that made the package feel missing, but we rate vehicles lent to us as they are. One thing is for sure though: the Hilux is Toyota’s dictation of how a modern pick-up should drive and feel on the wheel made evident on how composed it drove all throughout. At the end of the day the Hilux felt like a great pick-up to drive, but it left an impression of just a modern version of a workhorse pick-up. While the Toyota Hilux played the safe game, the others took a risk and ventured to provide a pick-up that fits the lifestyle-oriented customer.

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Chevrolet Colorado Tracker 4×4 2.8L

Whether you are observing out on the road, in parking lots, or in the recent Manila Auto Salon, one can safely say that the number of modified recreational off-road vehicles has been booming these past couple of years. Since there are more trails than there are racetracks, off-roading starts to make a bit more sense to most people. Such is the way for Chevrolet, as they give a customers a chance to go offroading out-of-the-box with their Colorado in Tracker 4×4 trim.

With a price-tag of PhP 1,538,888, the Tracker version of the tried-and-tested Colorado gets a snorkel, a dash-cam, a tire pressure monitoring system, 17” gun-metal colored alloy wheels, a 2” lift, and an aluminum skid plate at the front to complement its Angle of Approach of 32.5°, which is actually the best in this pick-up comparo. For those really serious in getting down and dirty, an additional PhP 60,000 gets buyers the Tracker Pro trim that comes with a 12,000-lb integrated power winch that helps it get out of deep mud, sand or gravel or for climbing steep, slippery slopes on its own.

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On the inside, it had powered driver’s seats, full leather, a reverse sensor with 6 modules, and a 7” LCD display capable of Bluetooth, USB and AUX. We did notice though that some of the plastics and materials on the Colorado felt light and rather rudimentary. Another thing that we noted was the 4” reverse camera display on the rear-view mirror was actually hard to see, rendering the rear view mirror difficult to use as either a mirror or a display.

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At the heart of all this though is a 2.8L Duramax CRDi Engine that cranked out 200 bhp and 369 lb ft thanks to its electrically controlled VGTi. It’s a lot of power, so much so that driving this vehicle on the rally-cross track was a task to keep on the racing line. To use it as a daily driver would be like using a combat knife in the kitchen. It knows it’s for the weekends off the road or for extreme acts-of-god situations that may arise.

Chevrolet doesn’t apologize for that because they know all that power will be useful in an off-road lifestyle that the Colorado Tracker was made to do.

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The Nissan Navara VL 2.5L 4×4
Statistically, there are more pick-ups on the road than off it. Another reality about pick-ups is that most on the road are not carrying anything and are being used as urban daily drivers. With their commanding presence and capability, it is no wonder they are being sold real quick. To fulfill this desire of a city pickup, Nissan brought in the Navara NP300 with a twist. While the rest of the competition utilizes the conventional leaf-spring for the rear suspension, the Navara NP300 uses a unique 5-link rear suspension with coil springs.

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What does that mean? As a pick-up, it means that it will sacrifice its capability of carrying a heavy load, which was evident when we all stood at the back. But the greater reward is it comfort level and drivability. With a suspension system that is sedan-like, it does offer a noticeably more compliant ride compared to the rest of the competition. It does come with some goodies like Hill Decent, USB, AUX, Bluetooth, LED Projector headlights with DRLs that gives it character; but its 5” LCD non-touchscreen LCD display makes you feel that they cost cut the infotainment system for the mechanical advantages the Navara has. This snowballs to the rear view camera wherein what is displayed in the LCD doesn’t give exactly a clear picture when you’re reverse parking. And just like the Toyota, it had no bed-liner as well.

Fear not though, what the Navara may lack in the infotainment is replaceable. What can’t be changed easily are the mechanical things; and boy does it make a difference. Proof is in the pudding with the Navara having the 2nd fastest lap time, despite its performance in the acceleration tests, thanks to its 4WD system, smooth 7-speed transmission, unique suspension system, and predictable handling. On the road, the C! Team agrees that it was notably comfortable to drive compared to everyone else. Nissan could have brought in the leaf-sprung Navara, but they purposely chose this 5-link rear suspension version because they did their homework and saw the big market for a pick-up that fit the modern citydweller. It feels like it was at a cost, but it was a choice that feels well worth it.

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Ford Ranger Wildtrak 4×4 3.2L
The Ford Ranger is no stranger to the competition with it being a facelifted version of the 2012 model. This leaves the question of what changes have been made since then and if those changes make it the best pick-up money can buy since it is also the most expensive one in the group.

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Luckily the owner of La Playa, Francis Oñate, is an owner of the previous Ford Ranger Wildtrak. Because of this, I knew my impressions of the old and new Ranger would be greatly supported. Those who own or tried the previous Ranger would say that this 2015 version feels like a new pick-up put together. This wouldn’t be a first for Ford. They do have the habit of listening to their customers and making changes later on to better the experience of every vehicle that they update, even if it means they have to change everything.

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The new Wildtrak sports an even more brutish stance with its dark front grilles and 18” wheels. If that wasn’t enough for pride of ownership, getting inside will make sure of it. The materials used inside the vehicle is top of the class with seat patterns, the, Wildtrak accents, double-stitching on the dashboard, steering and panels, and many other aspects that will make anyone feel like they’re in a high-end SUV, not a pick-up.

It boasts of technological advancements with dual 4.2” TFT instrument clusters, a 8″ TFT Touch Screen with Ford SYNC that doesn’t glare against the sun, front and rear sensors together with a reverse parking camera. The Wildtrak gets Forward Alert & Collision Mitigation, and so much more technologies that can be found in the more expensive Ford Explorer. That says a lot when it comes to goodies, or what like George likes to call “koochi-koochies”.

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This was the pick-up that truly spared no expense to make sure it had everything to fuel the lifestyle of the modern man. Beyond the tests, the Ranger is undoubtedly a great pick-up that will leave you wanting to own one yourself; whether it is from the impressive power and handling that got it moving, the comfort levels and amenities it gave in the long trips, the ease of driving and safety features it provided, or the fact it is a pick-up that can be used as a family car. In its pursuit of being a perfect vehicle, it does come at a price, and so it’s the most expensive one here to buy. We think it is worth every centavo, but if you were to buy the Ranger Wildtrak 3.2, such a steep price tag will make one more careful where it goes or what it does.

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Mitsubishi Strada GLS Sport V 2.5L 4×4
The pick-up was born to do hard work and go against the hazards of rough terrain. Luckily, Mitsubishi is accustomed to both of those categories. If the word Ralliart rings a bell, then you know what we’re talking about. For those who don’t know, Mitsubishi is well known for putting together fantastic handling vehicles of different sizes ranging from the Lancer Evolution all the way to the Pajero. In between is the Mitsubishi Strada, with the Ralliart heritage running deep in its DNA.

Having the lowest price, it is easy to make an assumption that the Strada would be the one that would have to make the most compromises in this competition. Once you get in and drive the Strada, you then realize that Mitsubishi didn’t make any trade-offs at all. The longer we drove it on the road, the more the C! Team was left in awe.

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Sure it had a 5-Speed AT and cloth manual seats, but Mitsubishi made sure that the equipment and finishes they did installed were both useful and of sturdy quality. It had the best paddle shifts in the competition and a digital dual-zone climate system.

The dashboard wasn’t pretending to be any other material, as Mitsubishi opted for plastic instead of faux versions of materials like leather. The most useful gadget was the 7” LCD display that had AUX, USB, and Bluetooth that also worked as a reverse camera and navigation system. To top it off, it has HID projectors, keyless entry, and LED DRLs. It is evident that Mitsubishi thought it through on what to put into the car making sure it was useful, durable, and exceptional.

Those are all supplementary to the greatness of the Strada. On its own, it is a pick-up that felt very intuitive to drive. It may not have been the fastest on the time attack which we suspect is because of its 5-Speed AT and small power plant, but watching Georges take the corners quick showed its handling prowess. He told me where he pointed is where the Strada went. We all left with the same conclusion that the Ralliart DNA is still evident in the pick-up. At PhP 1,440,000; the Mitsubishi Strada felt like a complete package that had everything you would need on the road. It had sedan-like handling, was comfortable to drive, had the right amount of useful equipment, and it left an impression that it will last for a really long time.

Conclusion
Rising Above

This might have been our toughest comparo yet, with all the personalities that have come up on stage to compete. All the contenders match up closely – the modern workhorse Toyota Hilux, the spartan Isuzu DMax, the off-road starter kit known as the Chevrolet Colorado Tracker, the comfort-oriented Nissan Navara, and the bang-for-buck Mitsubishi Strada versus the fully-loaded Ford Ranger Wildtrak. All it takes is that one detail to tip the scales.

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At the end of the day, we have to hand it to the Mitsubishi Strada for pulling off the difficult balancing act of putting together a well-rounded pick-up that is fit for the demands of modern living, load bearing capabilities, as well as the rigors of off-road adventure. All throughout the testing, the Strada performed decently, but at the end of the day, it’s very affordable price tag gave it just the boost it needed to emerge as the victor of our 4×4 Pick-Up Comparo.

You get just the right amount of everything you will ever need for 2016 and for many years to come in the Mitsubishi Strada GLS Sport V 2.5L.

2016 Isuzu D-Max LS 4×4 AT  
Engine: Inline-4, 2499 cc, dohc, 16V, CRDi, Turbo, 5-Speed AT
Max Power: 134 bhp @ 3400 rpm
Max Torque: 236 lb ft @ 1800 – 2800 rpm
Length x Width x Height: 5295 x 1860 x 1795 mm
Wheelbase: 3095mm
Tires as Tested: Bridgestone Dueler H/T 255/65R17
Price as tested: PhP 1,487,000

2016 Toyota Hilux 2.8G 4×4  
Engine: Inline-4, 2755 cc, dohc, 16V, CRDi, Turbo, 6-Speed AT
Max Power: 175 bhp @ 3400 rpm
Max Torque: 330 lb ft @ 1400 – 2600 rpm
Length x Width x Height: 5335 x 1855 x 1815 mm
Wheelbase: 3085 mm
Tires as Tested: Bridgestone Dueler A/T 265/65R17
Price As Tested: PhP 1,685,000

2016 Chevrolet Colorado Tracker 4×4 2.8L  
Engine: Inline-4, 2776 cc, dohc, 16V, CRDi, Turbo, 6-Speed AT
Max Power: 200 bhp @ 3800  rpm
Max Torque: 369 lb ft @ 2000 rpm
Length x Width x Height: 5347X x 1882 x 1790 mm
Wheelbase: 3096mm
Tires as Tested: Bridgestone Dueler A/T 265/70R17
Price As Tested: PhP 1.538.888

2016 Nissan Navara VL 2.5L 4×4  
Engine: Inline-4, 2488 cc, dohc, 16V, CRDi, Turbo, 7-Speed AT
Max Power: 190 bhp @ 3600 rpm
Max Torque: 332 lb ft @ 2000 rpm
Length x Width x Height: 5255 x 1850 x 1840 mm
Wheelbase: 3150 mm
Tires as Tested: Toyo H/T Open Country 255/605R18
Price As Tested: PhP 1,490,000

2016 Mitsubishi Strada GLS Sport V 2.5L 4×4  
Engine: Inline-4, 2477 cc, dohc, 16V, CRDi, Turbo, 5-Speed AT
Max Power: 176 bhp @ 4000 rpm
Max Torque: 295 lb ft @ 2000 rpm
Length x Width x Height: 5280 x 1815 x 1780 mm
Wheelbase: 3000 mm
Tires as Tested: Toyo A28 Open Country 245/65R17
Price As Tested: PhP 1,440,000

2016 Ford Ranger Wildtrak 4×4 3.2L
Engine: Inline-4, 3198 cc, dohc, 20V, CRDi, Turbo, 6-Speed AT
Max Power: 197 bhp @ 3000 rpm
Max Torque: 347 lb ft @ 1750 – 2500 rpm
Length x Width x Height: 5354 x 1849 x 1848 mm
Wheelbase: 3220 mm
Weight: 3200 kg
Tires as Tested: Bridgestone Dueler H/T 265/60R18
Price As Tested: PhP 1,699,000