[SIZE=3]When I grow up. [/SIZE]
By Cito Beltran
“When I grow up, I’m going to buy me a Ford…”
MANILA, Philippines - As I did a test drive of the latest product offering from Ford, I was reminded of the line that young boys used to say in the late 60s as they drooled over the legendary Mustangs, that have continued to be icons for the Ford Motor Company.
This week that same old aspiration crept over me as I spent three days exploring the tip of the Batangas coastline on the brand spanking new Ford Explorer. “New” is actually an understatement for the Explorer because as a car enthusiast put it, “The New Explorer radically departs from its original and earlier model.”
The New Ford Explorer is a powerful brute and as I sat in it, I got the feeling that I was sitting in my own personalized man-cave with four wheels and power to boot. This car was not made for the timid or faint of heart. On the other hand, if you have no self-control, stay away from this rocket in the form of a modern day tank!
Since I am not a motoring techie, I showed the unit to an Australian friend who is also a fellow car collector and enthusiast. Aside from having some rare Italian sports cars, this Aussie is absolutely into SUVs and “UTEs” or utility vehicles.
For someone who strayed from the blue oval brand, once he saw the New Ford Explorer, it was love at first sight, in fact even his wife loved not only the new style and color but as well as the fact that even a petite driver like her could easily access and operate the SUV without being intimidated by its size.
Just to point how impressive the New Ford Explorer is, my friend and his wife immediately put in a reservation!
As far as styling goes, the New Ford Explorer has a completely new face that is massive, masculine and elegant all at the same time. But unlike the older model SUVs and UTEs from Ford, the New Explorer does not look like an over-sized boat. In fact, most people who saw it got the impression that it was a “lowered” SUV because of the front skirt that’s similar to that of performance cars.
The word “elegant” may sound strange in defining the New Ford Explorer but it is quite apt. Starting with the rounded off body styling that came in a metallic color reminiscent of roasted chestnuts, perforated leather-leather trimmed seating surfaces, keyless entry and key less ignition start/stop as well as a drivers’ seat that automatically forwards or reverses position when you start or stop the engine.
The true test for the unit I had was how user-friendly it would be for my 75-year-old mom, my wife and of course my daughter who is always the “consumer critic” of the team.
When it comes to SUVs and UTEs, getting into such vehicles is always an issue because elderly passengers and women often feel they’re “climbing” into the vehicle instead of getting into the vehicle. But that’s not the case with the New Ford Explorer. Front passenger entry was wide, access height was ideal and the best feature was the front passenger seat could be lowered. My Mom got into the Explorer without having to “climb” into it.
Since my Mom had priority in “Business Class”, my wife and daughter stayed in the back seat. Being European, leg room and seat space in the back often becomes a concern for my wife who eventually becomes the pillow of our daughter. There were no such problems in the New Ford Explorer that was quite spacious even with trip related stuff taking up space.
Speaking of space, the rear part of the New Explorer works as third row seating, which surprised those who saw the vehicle for the first time. With the press of a button, the seats automatically retract and stow flat so the rear end of the vehicle can be used for baggage.
Initially, I did not think that there was enough baggage space especially since there was a third row. But don’t let this fool you because the rear can take what seemed to me was more than a cubic meter of baggage.
With passengers and baggage all snug and in place, we went on a 320 km round trip exploration of many Batangas towns that are hardly mentioned as far as tourist destinations are concerned. From Manila we went to Lipa, Batangas then turned into the towns of Alitagtag, Cuenca, Taal, Lemery, Calaca, Balayan and Calatagan and back.
These are all historical, cultural and interesting locations where visitors learn of a town where houses don’t face the road directly but were slanted so that a plague would not enter their homes. If you love old houses, villas and one of the biggest basilicas in the Philippines, explore the heritage town of Taal.
While my passengers were taking in the sights, I was quietly taking the New Ford Explorer through its paces. The winding roads between Lipa and Alitagtag showed how stable the New Ford Explorer was and no one complained of being car sick.
If you are familiar with provincial traffic on weekends, you know that half of the 320 kilometers was all about over-taking all sorts of vehicles and pedestrians, which was absolutely no problem for the New Ford Explorer.
Because of the smooth yet powerful acceleration of New Ford Explorer, you can easily mistake the vehicle to be packing a behemoth eight cylinder under the hood. Guess again. We had all the power and acceleration we ever needed from the 3.5 L V6 as well as the maneuverability and stopping power.
In terms of ride, the all-terrain 4X4 Explorer electronically sets up for all driving conditions from mud tracks, slippery slopes and even desert or the sand dunes near the beach. I have to confess however that at the end of the day, journalistic responsibility and the fact that this man-pleasing ride was just too pretty kept me from getting it dirty.
Go ahead, Explore it yourself!