The ultimate automotive authority

Comparo / 07-01-16

LAST ACTION HEROES


By C! Magazine Staff

 

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Words: Iñigo S. Roces

The 4×4 SUV Shootout

The warehouse. It’s in every action movie, loaded with guns, ammo, armor, provisions, and nearly everything else needed to bring justice to the bad guy. It’s where our heroes plan out and load up before the big battle, and possibly utter some of a movie’s most memorable one-liners before a gratuitous cocking of guns in agreement. It’s sometimes followed by walking towards the camera, side by side, in slow-motion, guns held high.

It’s here too that we find our current crop of 7-seater 4×4 SUVs. For if our current urban chaos is the evil villain’s master plan the movies have warned us about, then these vehicles are our superpowers. Bring the rain and God help any counter-flowing driver that gets in our way.

The milieu

Like the cruel schemes of a mad billionaire, driving in and around the city has become the new nightmare of modern living. What used to be a simple drive to work has devolved into an endless assault of noise and chaos, riddled with slow-moving traffic, flooded roads, or potholed streets. The regime has taken its fair share of innocent hostages too, like our wives, children, and extended family members all caught in the demeaning daily drive to the nearest commercial center or school zone. As such, we helpless citizens have come to gravitate toward the heroes in our lives that can handle it all; the 7-seater / Pickup-based Passenger Vehicle (PPV) SUVs.

In just a decade, what were once viewed as aspirational sport utility vehicles, to be used only on weekends and the occasional drive out of town, have risen to the challenges of being everyday commuters. You could make a training montage out of their evolutions from humble SUVs to veritable luxury car contenders with the number of features they’ve gained each year.

Yes, many new crossover SUVs have come to challenge the practicality and versatility of these traditionally-built vehicles. They’re more compact, easier to drive, and in many cases, more efficient. But in troubled times like these, who wants silk, when the task clearly calls for sinew?

After all, their transformations have not been for naught. Clunky 4×4 stick shifts have transformed into elegant dials and buttons. Entertainment systems boast of capacitive touchscreens, cell phone connectivity and navigation. Power features abound in every nook and cranny that so much as hints of manual labor. Finally, torque has improved too, to rocket us past vehicles of henchmen without a sweat. Interior panels now sport shades of brown and beige, accented with contrast stitching. Best of all, their sophisticated styling can still earn them invites into any mad billionaire’s bal

Origin stories

Before trading punches, it’s necessary to know a little bit about each of our combatants. After all, they weren’t born into the world all muscled and motivated.

 

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The Toyota Fortuner

Taking the reigns from a long line of PPVs is the Toyota Fortuner, carrying the mantle borne by the Toyota Trekker of the 80s and the 4Runner of the 90s. When launched in 2005, the Fortuner found itself late to the melee started by the Mitsubishi Montero Sport, Ford Everest, and Isuzu Alterra. Yet it quickly took the lead, riding on the reliable reputation of the HiLux and with its unique gasoline engine variant. Its Achilles heel was its harsh ride, ancient 4-speed automatic and, towards the end of its life, a lack of tech features.

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This all-new version makes an arrival with a radical change in styling. Slim LED headlights and taillights (for the V model) bring it into the 21st century while the new kink in its window line makes it stand out from much of the crowd.

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Inside, the formerly drab grey interior is given new life with soft touch materials and brown leather. Tech is now in abundance with larger multi-info displays, touchscreen entertainment, gadget connectivity, and neatly integrated steering wheel controls. Behind, a powertailgate eases loading and unloading, while the third row is armed with springs to ease stowing. Beware that it can be a tight fit for passengers unless the second row is moved forward.

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Driving the Fortuner is easy and rewarding. The power is palpable with the new, smooth revving GD engine, with response that is still prompt even in Eco mode. A 6-speed transmission gives it greater flexibility in the city or highway. The ride has been dampened too, but may find itself lacking compared to the other competitors. The front brakes have been uprated to improve its stopping power, so expect some stronger bite the first time you apply them. Nonetheless, it’s a responsive and economical ally that is surprisingly agile.

 

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The Mitsubishi Montero Sport

Stealing much of the Fortuner’s thunder in the latter half of the last generation’s battle was the Montero Sport. It gained a great deal of real estate from its first generation, and was briefly offered with a 3.0-liter V6. Still, its pricing and a wide array of variants helped it eat away at the Fortuner’s lead. A variable geometry turbo upgrade also gave it a needed boost to contend with the newcomers.

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The new model is easily the most futuristic of the group, bearing the Dynamic Shield design language that Mitsubishi will apply to the rest of its line-up. There are sports car cues all over the body, from the wheel flairs to the tapered window line. It’s only the odd vertical taillight that fails to earn popular approval.

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Inside, the Montero offers a modern dashboard with sweeps and curves, wood accents, and aluminum trim. Buttons abound on a wheel that also bears the dynamic shield, while the center divider has done away with handbrakes and 4×4 stick shifts in favor of the electronic variety. Grab handles are found on each row to ease entry and egress for the elderly. The third row features an unusual two-stage stowing strategy, but this produces a flat cargo area that doesn’t compromise legroom.

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Power will be the first thing you notice in the Montero, gleamed from the sheer torque available from the first moment you step on the throttle. Its new 8-speed transmission also keeps revs very low, and by extensions fuel consumption low, whether simply driving or going off-road. Much of the Montero’s new fancy features make off-roading particularly easy, from the various off-road modes to the dynamic hill-descent control. One feature usable in the city is the Forward Colission Mitigation (FCM) system that applies the brakes if it detects an impending accident.

 

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The Ford Everest

The first of the class both in the last generation and this current one is the Everest; a uniquely ASEAN creation that Ford is only now considering to offer in North America. Some may even remember its pre-common rail diesel days, though timely upgrades have kept it competitive. The few things it could be faulted for was its boxy design, propensity to lean when cornering, and aftersales service. Still, it found favor in many homes and now finds itself as the one emulated.

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Just a few weeks after the all-new Everest was unveiled, Toyota and Mitsubishi had announced plans to fast track the launch of their respective competitors. Some insiders deny any connection, but a glimpse at the current Everest shows why. The Everest’s traditional SUV styling (big grille, large wheel arches, wide tires) somewhat trolls the mind-boggling tech it hides inside.

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That tech is evident from the moment you step in. The dashboard greets you with an abundance of screens and buttons. In spite of the intimidation, it’s all customizable, from the layout of the cluster to what’s displayed on the center screen. Got gadgets? The Everest has you covered with both USB and 220v outlets throughout the vehicle.

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The materials themselves are top-notch, with a variety of leathers, plastics and metals that are both pleasing to the eye and pleasurable to hold. Finally, this variant of Everest is equipped with an array of power-assisted features from the power panoramic moonroof, to the power tailgate and third row.

This is all hauled along easily by the massive 3.2-liter 5-cylinder powerplant that constantly drives all-four wheels. Yes, this SUV is a full-time all-wheel drive with a Terrain Management System preset for every conceivable terrain or obstacle. It all seems like a handful to handle, but its electric steering is light at low speeds and steadily gets heavier with speed. Stability is also kept in check with taut but reassuring body control, and a wide range of driving aids. Finally, this SUV can park and also stop itself.

 

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The Chevrolet Trailblazer

Though somewhat late to the party, the Trailblazer has made the battle much more difficult for the last generation’s early contenders. It’s evident there are some similarities with its cousin, the Isuzu Mu-X, though the Trailblazer makes sure to distinguish itself with its unique styling, competitive amenities, and the most power.

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In many ways, the Trailblazer shaped the terms of this current generation’s battle, being the first to offer projector headlamps, LED taillights, a two-tone interior, and sheer power, thanks to a variable geometry turbo. Even with much of the competition following suit, it still boasts of the most power today.

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Step inside and the Trailblazer offers a truly usable interior with plenty of pockets, compartments, and spaces to store a wide variety of items. It offers the most legroom and headroom in both the second and third rows.

Entertainment is provided by Chevy’s MyLink system, which has remedied the early model’s problem of connectivity with a more standard USB port. It could use some work in the NVH department as the engine is a bit on the noisy side and wind and tire noise intrude into the cabin at highway speeds.

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As for the drive, the steering is rather heavy but offers much more feedback than its competitors. Power is never found lacking. And while it’s not the most agile, there’s no doubt about its off-road ability.

 

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The Isuzu Mu-X

Stepping into the very big shoes of the Alterra is the new mu-X. It’s a difficult vehicle to succeed as the Alterra was the largest of the last generation and easily trumped its competitors in terms of in-car entertainment and comfort. The Alterra may not have been the most sophisticated nor agile, but its creature comforts have helped endear it to many families across the nation.

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Well aware of this, the mu-X doesn’t skip a beat. Some buyers even remark it is the more attractive one of the cousins. Thanks to its more family-oriented approach, the mu-X, does away with most of the chrome trim, large wheels, and trivialties to offer a more practical form.

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The interior is similar to the Trailblazer, though Isuzu opts for the more practical monotone interior, save for a few accents. The most distinct change is the larger, easier-to-read dials, a larger touchscreen entertainment system with navigation, and a drop-down LCD entertainment system for the rear passengers. Behind, the third row is also similar to the Trailblazer, without the utility box that hides the hinges of the seats.

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Nonetheless, the drive is what helps set the Mu-X apart from them all, offering the softest magic carpet ride. It’s supremely comfortable, be it on the highway or even off-road. While on paper, the Mu-X appears to produce the least power, it’s hardly evident from the throttle or response, with no fiddly Eco mode to hamper the torque. Torque comes early and starts to fade above 120 km/h, though that should hardly be a concern for most drivers.

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The aftermath

The challenges of urban living may be far from solved, but with these weapons, battling them on a daily basis has certainly been made easier.

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Had the battlefield been on an open highway or mainly off-road, we would have chosen the Trailblazer as our weapon of choice with its sheer power, ruggedness, and storage space as valuable assets.

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The Fortuner makes a compelling case with its exceptional styling and smooth-revving engine. It falls short however, with its tight confines for the second and third row as well as its sky-high price.

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For the family man, it has to be the mu-X, with the best ride, great entertainment package, and very reasonable price.

Yet when it comes to the overall package, the Montero Sport and Everest are easily the hardest to decide among.

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The Montero has undergone quite a make-over, with its eye-catching styling, high-tech and efficient powertrain, and comfortable yet capable drive. It has its fair share of tech, too, from the FCM, dynamic hill descent and lockable center and rear differentials.

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Nonetheless, the Ford Everest Titanium Premium bundles a mix of tech, power, off-road ability, and sophistication all in a spec-for-spec competitive price. It elevates what we can expect from this class of vehicle to a whole new level, and with some luck, leave any mad villain shaking in his boots.

 

Specification:

2016 Ford Everest Titanium 3.2L 4×4 Premium Package

Engine: Inline-5
Location: Front, Longitudinal
Displacement: 3198 cc
Cylinder Block: Aluminum
Cylinder Head: Aluminum Alloy, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
Fuel Injector: Common-Rail Direct Injection, Intercooled  Variable Geometry Turbocharger
Max Power (bhp @ rpm): 197 bhp @ 3,000 rpm
Max Torque (lb/ft @ rpm): 347 lb ft @ 1,750 – 2,500 rpm
Drag Coefficient (cd): 0.39
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic, Locking Four-Wheel Drive System (2H, 4H, 4L), Selectable Terrain Management System (Normal, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Sand, Rock), Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist
Front Suspension: Independent, Double Wishbone with Coil Over Shock and Anti-Roll Bar
Rear Suspension: Live Axle, 4 bar link, Coil Springs, Anti-Roll Bar and Watts Link
Fuel Capacity: 80 liters (21.13 gallons)
L x W x H (mm): 4,893 mm x 1,862 mm x 1,836 mm
Wheelbase (mm): 2,850 mm
Brakes: Front: 11.9” (302 mm) Ventilated Discs with 2-piston Aluminum Fixed

Rear: 11.6” (295 mm) Solid Discs with 1-piston Aluminum Fixed Calipers

With ABS, EBD, ESP, RSC, Traction and Stability Controls

Wheels: 20″ x 8″ Aluminum Alloy
Tires: Goodyear Efficient Grip SUV 265/50R20
0-100 km/h [0-62 mph](sec): 10.0 sec.
Top Speed (km/h): 200 km/h (124mph)
Fuel Milage (km/L): 12.20 km/L
Price as Tested (PhP): PhP 1,999,000.00

 

Specification:

2016 Chevrolet Trailblazer LTZ 2.8L 4×4

Engine: Inline-4
Location: Front, Longitudinal
Displacement: 2776 cc
Cylinder Block: Iron
Cylinder Head: Aluminum, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
Fuel Injector: Common-Rail Direct Injection, Intercooled Variable Geometry Turbocharger
Max Power (bhp @ rpm): 200 bhp @ 3,600 rpm
Max Torque (lb/ft @ rpm): 369 lb ft @ 2000 rpm
Drag Coefficient (cd): 0.42
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic Gearbox with DSC, Locking Four-Wheel-Drive System (2H, 4H and 4L)
Front Suspension: Independent, Double Wishbone, Coil Springs, Shock Absorbers and Anti-Roll Bar
Rear Suspension: Live-axle. 5-link, Coil Springs, Shock Absorbers and Anti-Roll Bar
Fuel Capacity: 76 liters (20.08 gallons)
L x W x H (mm): 4,866 mm x 1,882 mm x 1,848 mm
Wheelbase (mm): 2,845 mm
Brakes: Front: 11.81” (300 mm) Ventilated Discs with 2-piston Aluminum Fixed Calipers

Rear: 12.52” (318 mm) Solid Discs with 1-piston Aluminum Fixed Calipers

With ABS, Traction and Stability Controls

Wheels: 18″ x 7.5” Aluminum Alloy
Tires: Bridgestone Dueler H/T 265/60R18
0-100 km/h [0-62 mph](sec): 10.1 sec.
Top Speed (km/h): 200 km/h (124 mph)
Fuel Milage (km/L): 11.0 km/L
Price as Tested (PhP): PhP 1,748,000.00

 

Specification:

2016 Isuzu mu-X LS-A 3.0L 4×4

Engine: Inline-4
Location: Front, Longitudinal
Displacement: 2999 cc
Cylinder Block: Aluminum
Cylinder Head: Aluminum Alloy, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
Fuel Injector: Common-Rail Direct Injection, Intercooled Variable Geometry Turbocharger
Max Power (bhp @ rpm): 161 bhp @ 3,200 rpm
Max Torque (lb/ft @ rpm): 280 lb ft @ 1,800 – 2,200 rpm
Drag Coefficient (cd): 0.42
Transmission: 5-Speed AT with Rev-Tronic Sequential Shift and Grade Logic, Locking Four-Wheel Drive System (2H, 4H, 4L)
Front Suspension: Independent, Double Wishbone, Coil Springs, Shock Absorbers and Anti-Roll Bar
Rear Suspension: Live-axle, 5-link, Coil Springs, Shock Absorbers and Anti-Roll Bar
Fuel Capacity: 65 liters (17.17 gallons)
L x W x H (mm): 4,825 mm x 1,860 mm x 1,840 mm
Wheelbase (mm): 2,845 mm
Brakes: Front: 11.81” (300 mm) Ventilated Discs with 2-piston Aluminum Fixed Calipers

Rear: 12.52” (318 mm) Solid Discs with 1-piston Aluminum Fixed Calipers

With ABS, Traction & Stability Controls

Wheels: 17″ x 7” Aluminum Alloy
Tires: Bridgestone Dueler H/T 255/65R17
0-100 km/h [0-62 mph](sec): 10.6 sec.
Top Speed (km/h): 180 km/h (112 mph)
Fuel Milage (km/L): 11.76km/L
Price as Tested (PhP): PhP 1,708,000.00

 

Specification:

2016 Mitsubishi Montero Sport GT 2.4D 4WD

Engine: Inline-4
Location: Front, Longitudinal
Displacement: 2442 cc
Cylinder Block: Aluminum
Cylinder Head: Aluminum, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, MIVEC, Intercooled Variable Geometry Turbocharger
Fuel Injector: Common-Rail direct Injection, Intercooled Variable Geometry Turbocharger
Max Power (bhp @ rpm): 176 bhp @ 3,500 rpm
Max Torque (lb/ft @ rpm): 317 lb ft @ 2,500 rpm
Drag Coefficient (cd): 0.45
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic with Paddle Shifters, Super-Select II Four Wheel Drive (2H, 4H, 4HLc, 4LLc), Hill Descent, Off-Road Mode
Front Suspension: Independent, double wishbones, Coil-Over Dampers, Anti-Roll Bar
Rear Suspension: Live-axle, 3-link, Coil Springs and Dampers, Stabilizer
Fuel Capacity: 68 liters (17.98 gallons)
L x W x H (mm): 4,785 mm x 1,815 mm x 1,805 mm
Wheelbase (mm): 2,800 mm
Brakes: Front: 12.0” (305 mm) Ventilated discs with 2-piston Aluminum Fixed Calipers

Rear: 11.50” (292 mm) Drum-in-Discs

With ABS, EBD, BA, Electronic Parking Brake, Brake Override, Traction and Stability Controls

Wheels: 18″ x 7.5” Aluminum Alloy
Tires: Dunlop AT20 265/60R18
0-100 km/h [0-62 mph](sec): 10.1 sec.
Top Speed (km/h): 200 km/h (124 mph)
Fuel Milage (km/L): 12.20 km/L
Price as Tested (PhP): PhP 1,998,000.00

 

Specification:

2016 Toyota Fortuner V 4×4

Engine: Inline-4
Location: Front, Longitudinal
Displacement: 2755 cc
Cylinder Block: Iron
Cylinder Head: Aluminum Alloy, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, Intercooled Variable Geometry Turbocharger
Fuel Injector: Common-Rail Direct Injection, Intercooled Variable Geometry Turbocharger
Max Power (bhp @ rpm): 175 bhp @ 3,400 rpm
Max Torque (lb/ft @ rpm): 332 lb ft @ 1,600 – 2,400 rpm
Drag Coefficient (cd): 0.40
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic, Gate Type Shifter with Manual Select Mode, Locking Four-Wheel Drive System (2H, 4H, 4L)
Front Suspension: Independent, Double Wishbones, Coil-Over Dampers. Anti-Roll Bar
Rear Suspension: Live Axle 4-link, Coil Springs and Dampers, Stabilizer
Fuel Capacity: 80 liters (21.13 gallons)
L x W x H (mm): 4,795 mm x 1,885 mm x 1,835mm
Wheelbase (mm): 2,750 mm
Brakes: Front: 13.3” (338 mm) Vented Discs with 4-piston Aluminum FIxed Calipers

Rear: 13.0” (330 mm) Leading-Trailing Drums

With ABS, EBD, BA, Traction and Stability Controls

Wheels: 18″ x 7.5” Aluminum Alloy
Tires: Bridgestone Dueler H/T 265/60R18
0-100 km/h [0-62 mph](sec): 10.2 sec.
Top Speed (km/h): 210 km/h (130 mph)
Fuel Milage (km/L): 12.05 km/L
Price as Tested (PhP): PhP 2,126,000.00